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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(13)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(13)
Author: Lee Child

‘Who are they going to arrest?’

‘Some patsy or other. They’ll find some guy willing to play a wild-eyed terrorist for three weeks. In exchange for favours elsewhere. I imagine they’re casting the role right now. Which will give us time and space to work.’

‘It’s fourteen hundred yards,’ I said. ‘That’s what matters. Not which one is shooting. They need a perimeter. Call it at least a mile.’

‘Or they could hide in holes in the ground. Which they might have to, sooner or later. But until then we prefer a proactive approach. We need John Kott in custody. Certainly we don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t get his guy.’

‘How are the others doing?’

‘You heard what O’Day said this morning. They have names and photographs and histories.’

‘Is that all?’

‘They’ve got what we’ve got. It’s a level playing field so far.’

We drove on, and eventually returned the truck and hiked over to a wire gate in a wire fence, and then a golf cart picked us up and drove us to our plane. Two hours later we were back at Pope, where we found out the playing field wasn’t level any more.

TWELVE

THE PLAYING FIELD wasn’t level anymore because the Israelis had found their guy. Mr Rozan had been located. He had been on vacation. The Red Sea. The watchers had missed his departure. But now he was back. His movements had been traced and all kinds of bar staff and restaurant workers had confirmed his story. It was watertight. He had not been in Paris. He was not a possibility. He was off the list.

‘Which makes our task slightly more urgent,’ O’Day said. He liked afternoon conferences too. We were all in the same upstairs room again, with the pushed-together tables. O’Day, Shoemaker, and Scarangello, all in position, with me and Casey Nice as late arrivals, jet whine still whistling in our ears. We told them what we had found in Arkansas, and we gave them the dust and the grit, in an evidence bag, not the pill bottle. Shoemaker was disappointed there had been no just-in-case surveillance. He had wanted the bait ploy to work. And then O’Day said he figured Kott’s obsession with me was understandable.

I said, ‘I’d like to know how he got my file.’

He said, ‘A friend in the bureaucracy, presumably. It’s a routine file in routine storage in Missouri.’

‘He has no friends in the bureaucracy. He didn’t even have friends in his unit. None of them would lie for him.’

‘Then he bought the file.’

‘With what? He was just out of Leavenworth. And then he went out in his back yard and fired about a thousand fifty-calibre rounds, which can be five bucks a pop. Even in Arkansas. Where did he get that kind of money?’

‘We’ll look into it.’

‘How? You’re not equipped. Enough with the national security bullshit. This is a police inquiry now. He had a fourteen-hundredyard practice range and a fourteen-hundred-yard money shot. Is that a coincidence? Or was that apartment balcony in Paris selected long ago? Did he train for it specifically? In which case this could be a conspiracy already dating back most of a year. We need data. As in, for a start, who owns that apartment in Paris?’

‘Are you volunteering to be our policeman?’

‘I thought I was bait.’

‘You could be both.’

‘I never volunteer for anything. Soldier’s basic rule.’

‘Maybe you should. You won’t rest easy. Not after seeing what you saw.’

‘There could be a dozen people in the world still real mad at me. Why would I care? None of them is ever going to find me.’

‘We found you.’

‘That’s different. You think I would answer an ad from Kott?’

‘You’d leave him out there?’

Socratic.

I said, ‘I’m not his parole officer.’

He said, ‘You’re in pretty good shape for your age, Reacher. No doubt because your chosen lifestyle gives you plenty of opportunity for exercise. Walking, mostly, I suppose. Which is the best kind of exercise, they tell me. But my guess is it’s not really a chore. It’s part of the appeal, isn’t it? Open roads, sunny days, far horizons. Or the city, with noises and lights, and hustle and bustle, and a freak show everywhere you look. You like walking. You enjoy the freedom.’

I said, ‘What’s your point?’

‘It’s not the same with a sniper out there.’

Joan Scarangello looked straight at me, daring me to disagree.

O’Day said, ‘Especially with a sniper so batshit crazy he does yoga for fifteen years and then draws a picture on his bedroom wall.’

I said nothing.

He said, ‘What type of police inquiries would you make?’

‘He left his truck at home. Therefore he was picked up. Not by a car service, because he has no phone and there’s no cell signal. It was prearranged. As was everything, obviously, which means people have been up and down that driveway for months. Someone must have seen something.’

‘The neighbour didn’t.’

‘So he says now. He’s been paid off. And coached.’

‘You think?’

I nodded. ‘He had to admit knowing his neighbour. Too weird not to, for Arkansas. But he was told to clam up about the comings and goings. As soon as I asked about foreigners hanging around, he changed the subject. He insulted the Marine Corps and started leering at Ms Nice.’

O’Day turned to Casey Nice and said, ‘Is that what happened?’

She said, ‘I dealt with it.’

‘What did he say about the Marines?’

‘Showboating glory hunters.’

‘Was he a navy man?’

‘Air force.’

O’Day nodded sagely and turned back to me. He said, ‘Conclusion?’

I said, ‘The neighbour’s got a bag of cash in the back of his closet.’

‘Untraceable.’

‘Maybe, maybe not. But he knows who gave it to him. And more of the same cash is in some ammo dealer’s register. Who will remember selling a thousand fifty-calibre rounds. That’s a big order.’

‘Could be he went to many different dealers.’

‘Exactly. And it could be many different folks made the buys, to keep it clean. And the more guys, the more flights in and out of Little Rock and Texarkana, and the more car rentals, and the more gas bought at the local stations, and maybe speeding tickets and parking tickets and video in cop car dashboards, and the more breakfasts and lunches and dinners bought in the local restaurants, and the more nights spent in the local motels. All these things should be checked out. As well as what the neighbour knows.’

O’Day worked his mouth, opening it and closing it like he was rehearsing different answers, but in the end all he said was, ‘OK.’

I said, ‘I can’t go do it. I have no status. No one would talk to me.’

‘The FBI will do it.’

‘I thought this thing was top secret. Or closely held.’

‘Divide and conquer,’ O’Day said. ‘They can all have a small piece of it. As long as no one has enough to see the whole.’

‘Then I recommend they start yesterday.’

‘Tomorrow’s the best I can do.’ He made a note on a piece of paper. He said, ‘The Russians are getting nowhere. Comrade Datsev has disappeared completely. The British think their boy Carson is travelling on a passport recently and fraudulently acquired. So they’re looking at people with brand-new passports who travelled to Paris during the relevant time frame. Trains, planes, automobiles and boats. They have nearly a thousand names.’

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