Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(7)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(7)
Author: Lee Child

Herald Square had people in it. Where Broadway cut across, at 34th Street. Most of them were out in the middle of the triangle, away from the buildings, trying to see the sky. Some of them were formed up in moving bunches, like sports fans leaving the stadium after a win, with the same kind of boisterous energy. But Macy’s windows were all intact. So far.

They kept going all the way to West 38th, crawling past the dead traffic lights and the cross streets, unsure every time whether they should yield or keep on going, but it turned out there was no real danger of either fender benders or confrontation, because everyone was moving slow and acting deferential, all after you, no, after you. Clearly the spirit so far was cooperation. On the roads, at least. Reacher wondered how long it would last.

They went east on 38th and turned on Fifth four blocks north of the Empire State. Nothing to see. Just a broad dark base, like both sides of every other block, and then nothing above. Just spectral darkness. They parked on the Fifth Avenue curb, on the block north of 34th Street, and got out for a closer look. Thirty-fourth was a double-wide street, with a clear view east and west, dark all the way, except for an orange glow in the far distance above what must have been Brooklyn. Fires were burning there.

“It’s starting,” Reacher said.

They heard a cop car coming north on Madison, and they saw it cross the six-lane width of 34th Street one block over. Its lights looked amazingly bright. It drove on out of sight, and the night went quiet again. Chrissie said, “Why did the power go out?”

“Don’t know,” Reacher said. “Overload from all the AC, or a lightning strike somewhere. Or the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear explosion. Or maybe someone didn’t pay the bill.”

“Nuclear explosion?”

“It’s a known side effect. But I don’t think it happened. We’d have seen the flash. And depending where it was, we’d have been burned to a crisp.”

“What kind of military are you?”

“No kind at all. My dad’s a Marine, and my brother is going to be an army officer, but that’s them, not me.”

“What are you going to be?”

“I have no idea. Probably not a lawyer.”

“Do you think your FBI friend was right about riots and looting?”

“Maybe not so much in Manhattan.”

“Are we going to be OK?”

Reacher said, “We’re going to be fine. If all else fails, we’ll do what they did in the olden days. We’ll wait for morning.”

They turned onto 34th Street and drove over as close as they could get to the East River. They stopped on a trash-strewn triangle half under the FDR Drive, and they stared through the windshield over the water to the dark lands beyond. Queens dead ahead, Brooklyn to the right, the Bronx way far to the left. The fires in Brooklyn looked pretty big already. There were fires in Queens, too. And the Bronx, but Reacher had been told there were always fires in the Bronx. Nothing behind them, in Manhattan. Not yet. But there were plenty of sirens. The darkness was getting angry. Maybe because of the heat. Reacher wondered how Macy’s windows were doing.

Chrissie kept the engine running, for the AC. The gas was about half full. The tails of her shirt hid her shorts completely. She looked like she was wearing nothing else. Just the shirt. Which looked great. She was very pretty. He asked, “How old are you?”

She said, “Nineteen.”

“Where are you from?”

“California.”

“You like it here?”

“So far. We get seasons. Heat and cold.”

“Especially heat.”

She asked, “How old are you?”

“I’m legal,” he said. “That’s really all you need to know.”

“Is it?”

“I hope so.”

She smiled, and turned off the engine. She locked her door, and leaned over to lock his. She smelled of hot clean girl. She said, “It’s going to get warm in here.”

“I hope so,” he said again. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close and kissed her. He knew how to do it. He had more than three years of practice. He put his free hand on the curve of her hip. She was a great kisser. Warm, wet, plenty of tongue. Closed eyes. He pushed her shirt up a little and ducked his hand under it. She was lean and firm. Hot, and a little damp. She brought her spare hand over and put it under his shirt. She smoothed it up over his side, over his chest, and down to his waist. She put the tips of her fingers under his waistband, which he took to be an encouraging sign.

They came up for air, and then they started again. He moved his free hand to her knee, and slid it up the wondrous smooth skin of her thigh, on the outside, with his thumb on the inside, to the hem of her shorts, and back again, to the other knee, and up her other leg, just as smooth and luscious, his fingers on the inside this time, his thumb on the outside, all the time trying to imagine anything more splendid than the feel of a warm girl’s skin, and failing. And this time he went a little further, until his leading finger was jammed against the hard seam between her legs, at the bottom of her zip. She clamped hard on his hand, which at first he took as an admonition, but then he realized she had another purpose in mind, so he kept his hand there, pushing hard as she ground away, almost lifting her off the seat. Then she sighed and gasped and went all rubbery, and they came up for air again, and he moved his crushed hand to the buttons on her shirt, and he tried to make his fingers work. Which they did, reasonably well, one button, two, three, all the way down until her shirt fell open.

They kissed again, the third marathon, and his free hand went to work in a different area, first outside a silky bra, and then inside, from below, until it was all pushed up and her small damp breasts were his. He moved his mouth to her neck, and then to her nipples, and he put his hand back where it had been before, and she started grinding again, long and slow, long and slow, breathing hard, until for a second time she sighed and gasped and fell against him, as if she had no bones in her body.

Then she put a hand on his chest and pushed him away, back toward his window, which again he took as a reproach, until she smiled like she knew something he didn’t, and unbuttoned his pants. Slim brown fingers took care of his zip, at which exact point for the first time in his life he truly understood the phrase died and gone to heaven. Her head went down into his lap, and he felt cool lips and a tongue, and he closed his eyes, and then he opened them again and stared about, determined to remember every last detail of his situation, the where and the when, and the how, and the who and the why, especially the why, because his conscious mind could find no logical path between the Port Authority bus terminal and what had to be some kind of enchanted kingdom. New York, New York. It’s a wonderful town. That was for damn sure. So he stared around, locking it all in, the river, the formless boroughs beyond, the distant fires, the wire fences, the bleak concrete pillars holding up the road above.

He saw a man standing thirty yards away in the dark, silhouetted against the glow coming off the water. Mid-twenties, maybe, judging by his posture, medium height, thick in the upper body, a geeky shape to his head, because of uncooperative hair. He had the kind of hair that should have been cut much shorter, but it was 1977. He was holding something in his right hand.

Chrissie was still busy. She was unquestionably the best ever. No comparison. None at all. He wondered if Sarah Lawrence was coed. He could go there. Just as good as NYU. Not that they were likely to get married or anything. But maybe she had friends. Or a sister. In fact he knew she had friends. The two blondes. They’ll wait. That’s part of the deal. They had two hours until midnight, which suddenly seemed like nothing at all.

 

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