Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(5)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(5)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher said, “In other words they’re exactly the same as the Marine Corps. I know how to deal with people like that. I’ve been doing it all my life.”

“How do you plan to deal with them?”

“By making the likely cost too high. Which it already is, frankly. They can’t do anything in here, because they’d be arrested, either by you or the NYPD. Which is too high of a cost. It would mean lawyers and bribes and favors, which they won’t spend on me. I’m not worth it. I’m nobody. Croselli will get over it.”

“You can’t stay in here all night.”

“He already tried it on the street, and he didn’t get very far.”

“Ten minutes from now he’ll have six guys out front.”

“Then I’ll go out the back.”

“He’ll have six guys there too.”

Chrissie said, “You know when I asked you to stick close by me?”

Reacher said, “Sure.”

“You can forget that part now, OK?”

Reacher said, “This is nuts.”

Hemingway said, “You hit a made man in the head. What part of that don’t you understand? That just doesn’t happen. Get used to it, kid. And right now you’re in the same room as one of his goons. Who just got off the phone.”

“I’m sitting next to an FBI agent.”

Hemingway said nothing in reply to that. Reacher thought: NYU. Sarah Lawrence. Hemingway had never confirmed it either way. He had asked her: How long have you been with the FBI? She had answered: Who says I am?

He said, “Are you or are you not?”

She said nothing.

“It’s not real hard. It’s a yes or no answer.”

“No,” she said. “It really isn’t.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s yes and no. Not yes or no.”

Reacher paused a beat.

“What, you’re freelancing here?” he said. “Is that it? This isn’t really your case? Which is why there was no back-up van? Which is why you were using your little sister’s tape player?”

“It was my tape player. I’m suspended.”

“You’re what?”

“Medical grounds. But that’s what they always say. What it means is they took my badge, pending review.”

“Of what?”

“Like you said. The lawyers and the bribes and the favors. They’re weighing me in the balance. Me against all the good stuff.”

“This was Croselli?”

Hemingway nodded. “Right now he’s fireproof. He had the investigation shut down. I figured I might get him to boast about it, on the tape. I might have gotten something I could use. To make them take me back.”

“Why wasn’t Croselli armed in the city?”

“Part of the deal. They all can do what they want in every other way, but the homicide figure has to come down. Give and take. Everyone’s a winner.”

“Does Croselli know you’re suspended?”

“Of course he does. He made them do it.”

“So in fact the goon in the same room as me knows it too, right? Is that what we’re saying here? He knows you’re not about to pull a badge. Or a gun. He knows you’re just a member of the public. Legally, I mean. In terms of your powers of arrest, and so on. And less than that, in terms of your credibility. As a witness against Croselli’s people, I mean.”

“I told you to go see your brother.”

“Don’t get all defensive. I’m not blaming you. I need to make a new plan, that’s all. I need to understand the parameters.”

Chrissie said, “You shouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.”

“Why not?”

“At Sarah Lawrence we would say it was uncomfortably gender normative behavior. It was patriarchal. It spoke to the paternalistic shape of our society.”

“You know what they would say in the Marine Corps?”

“What?”

“They would point out you asked me to stick close by, because you think the Bowery is dangerous.”

“It is dangerous. Twelve guys are about to show up and kick your butt.”

Reacher nodded. “We should go, probably.”

“You can’t,” Hemingway said. “The goon won’t let you. Not until the others get here.”

“Is he armed?”

“No. Like I said.”

“You sure?”

“Hundred percent.”

“Do we agree one opponent is better than twelve?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Wait here,” Reacher said.

Reacher walked across the dim room, as graceful as a bulked-up greyhound, with all the dumb confidence a guy gets from being six-five and two-twenty and sixteen years old. He moved on through the bar, toward the restroom corridor. He had been in relatively few bars in his life, but enough to know they were superbly weapons-rich environments. Some had pool cues, all neatly lined up in racks, and some had martini glasses, all delicate and breakable, with stems like stilettos, and some had champagne bottles, as heavy as clubs. But the CBGB bar had no pool table, and its customers were apparently indifferent to martinis and champagne. The most numerous local resource was long-neck beer bottles, of which there were plenty. Reacher collected one as he walked, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Croselli’s guy get up and follow him, no doubt worried about rear exits or bathroom windows. There was in fact a rear exit, at the end of the restroom corridor, but Reacher ignored it. Instead he stepped into the men’s room.

Which was perhaps the single most bizarre place he had ever seen, outside of a military installation. The walls were bare brick covered in dense graffiti, and there were three wall-hung urinals and a lone sit-down toilet all exposed up on a step like a throne. There was a two-hole metal sink, and unspooled toilet rolls everywhere. No windows.

Reacher filled his empty beer bottle with water from the faucet, for extra weight, and he wiped his palm on his T shirt, which neither dried his hand nor made his shirt appreciably wetter. But he got a decent grip on the long glass neck, and he held the bottle low down by his leg and he waited. Croselli’s guy came in seconds later. He glanced around, first amazed by the decor, then reassured by the lack of windows, which told Reacher all he really needed to know, but at sixteen he still played it by the book, so he asked anyway. He said, “Do we have a problem, you and me?”

The guy said, “We’re waiting for Mr. Croselli. He’ll be here in a minute. Which won’t be a problem for me. But it will be for you.”

So Reacher swung the bottle, the water kept in by centrifugal force, and it caught the guy high on the cheekbone and rocked him back, whereupon Reacher whipped the bottle down again and smashed it on the lip of a urinal, glass and water flying everywhere, and he jabbed the jagged broken circle into the guy’s thigh, to bring his hands down, and then again into his face, with a twist, flesh tearing and blood flowing, and then he dropped the bottle and shoved the guy in the chest, to bounce him off the wall, and as he came back toward him he dropped a solid head butt straight to the guy’s nose. Which was game over, right there, helped a little by the way the guy’s head bounced off the urinal on his way to the floor, which all made a conclusive little head-injury trifecta, bone, porcelain, tile, good night and good luck.

Reacher breathed in, and breathed out, and then he checked the view in the busted mirror above the sink. He had diluted smears of the guy’s blood on his forehead. He rinsed them off with lukewarm water and shook like a dog and headed back through the bar into the main room. Jill Hemingway and Chrissie were on their feet in the middle of the dance floor. He nodded them toward the exit. They set off toward him and he waited to fall into step. Hemingway said, “Where’s the goon?”

 

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