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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(23)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(23)
Author: Lee Child

She paused a beat, and then she limped and padded towards me. She reversed the shoe in her hand and held it like a weapon. She stopped. She said, ‘I don’t know enough about it. This is ceramics technology. This is the science of strong materials.’

‘Datsev and Kott and Carson aren’t scientists either. Do it by instinct.’

I saw her glance at one spot after another. She raised the shoe, tentatively, and moved it a little, as if involuntarily, as she rehearsed different alternatives in her mind. I said, ‘Talk me through it.’

She said, ‘Nowhere close to the edge. I think it would just chip, nothing more, like a small bite out of a large cookie.’

‘OK.’

‘Not dead centre, either. I feel the shock of the impact would kind of spread out uniformly, and equally, and then maybe bounce back internally, off the edges, and kind of cancel itself out. It might just flex, like a drum skin, if I hit it in the centre.’

‘So where?’

‘Somewhere off-centre but not too far off-centre. So the shock would be kind of asymmetrical. So the internal stresses would help.’

‘Show me.’

She gave it one last look, and raised the shoe, and mimed a big swing, and ended up with the heel on the paint just inside the upper left quadrant, such that if the size of the door was scaled up to the size of the bulletproof shield in Paris, then the spot she was marking would be a little over five hundred millimetres in from the left, and a little over seven hundred millimetres down from the top.

I said, ‘The second shot was supposed to kill the guy. Not the first. The first shot was supposed to break the glass. That’s all. Therefore it wasn’t a miss. It was dead on target.’

Casey Nice hopped around near the door and got her shoe back on, and then we sat down again. I said, ‘I think Khenkin understood all this from the start. What the DGSE had figured out made it more likely it was Datsev, not less. He came to Paris hoping his boy was in the clear, but everything he saw told him he wasn’t.’

Shoemaker said, ‘Any one of the three could have made that shot.’

‘But what about the next shot? I think that’s what was on Khenkin’s mind. Because whoever was shooting had to jump his aiming point about six inches up and to the right to get the guy. Real fast, too. Which is a hell of a thing to do, on the fly, from fourteen hundred yards. It meant the muzzle would have to move about seven-thousandths of an inch. Not more, not less, and fluently, and fluidly, and very precisely, but also calmly. There was no time to settle and check and breathe. If the glass had shattered, the French guy would have been in the wind more or less immediately. At least he would have been hopping around like crazy. As it was he was buried in agents about two seconds later. Think about it. You shoot, you move the muzzle seven-thousandths of an inch, and you shoot again, all way faster than I can even say it. That would have taken supernatural skill. And Datsev was supernatural, according to Khenkin.’

O’Day said, ‘OK, we’re making progress here. The shooter was Datsev.’

I said, ‘Khenkin certainly thought so. I was watching him. He was a tough nut, but there was a soft side to him. He was grumpy in the morning, because he had gotten up too early. But he was happy, too. At that point it was just a fun day out in Paris. It was someone else’s problem. Mine, probably. He paid for my breakfast, even. Then the chips started to fall, and then it wasn’t such a fun day after all. Because now it was his problem. He was going to have to go home and break the bad news. He didn’t want to do that. There was a bit of the bureaucrat in him.’

‘But then Datsev shot him and saved him the trouble.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘Datsev didn’t shoot him.’

TWENTY

I SAID, ‘YOU have to think about that second shot. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Get on the phone and call our five best snipers. The Recon Marines, the SEALs, Delta Force, wherever. I’m sure you could do that. I’m sure you’ve got them all on speed dial. I’m sure they all work for you, really, the same way Datsev worked for the KGB.’

Shoemaker said, ‘The KGB was history a long time ago. Now it’s the SVR.’

‘Old wine, new bottles.’

‘What’s your point?’

‘Ask our best guys about that second shot. Ask them about two trigger pulls, like a fast double tap, with nothing in between except a six-inch deflection at fourteen hundred yards. All with a rifle over five feet long, that weighs more than an iron bar.’

‘What would they tell me?’

‘They’d tell you hell yes sir, they could make that shot blindfolded.’

‘So what’s the problem?’

‘Problem is, then you’d say, stop with the rah-rah bullshit, soldier, and tell me the truth, and to a man they’d swear that shot was impossible.’

‘Apparently Khenkin didn’t think so.’

‘He believed his own hype. Datsev is human, just like you or me. Well, me, anyway. He couldn’t have made that shot. No one on earth could have made that shot.’

‘So what are you saying?’

‘There were two shooters.’

The room went quiet at that point, and I used the time to finish my coffee. I said, ‘One of them was either Datsev or Carson, and the other one was John Kott.’

O’Day raised his head, slowly, like an old grey turtle coming up out of the sand, and he said, ‘You just told us quite emphatically that Kott wasn’t there.’

‘I said he wasn’t on the balcony. He was in the dining room, prone on the dining table, the end part of which was about the size of an eight-by-four sheet of plywood. He was aiming over his partner’s head. Think about it. Two snipers. One is cross-legged behind the planter. The other is prone on the table. They’ve been there thirty minutes. They’re in the zone. They’re breathing slow. They’re just floating along. The French doors are open. The one behind the planter is set up on the glass shield. He’s chambered with an armour-piercing round. He’s chosen the exact same aiming point Ms Nice did. Purely by instinct. Above and behind him, the one on the table is chambered with a match-grade bullet. He’s set up on the French guy. On his temple, probably. Maybe the guy’s wearing body armour under his suit. Not much of an impediment, probably, but why risk an unknown factor? The head is better. So it’s right there in the scope. He’s just waiting for the glass to break.’

‘But it didn’t.’

‘So they beat feet and get the hell out of Dodge. But Kott stays in Paris. He’d prefer to stop the investigation right there. He camps out and watches that balcony, day after day. Or maybe he’s tipped off by the French. You should check. But whichever, finally he gets his chance. Three investigators show up. When he saw me in his scope he must have thought he’d won the lottery. His little heart must have gone pit-a-pat. Then he calmed down and pulled the trigger.’

‘And hit Khenkin by mistake?’

‘Not by mistake. He got me centre mass, a dead-on bull’s-eye, a no-doubter, an Olympic gold medal right there. I was a dead man from the moment he pulled the trigger. But the bullet was in the air nearly four seconds. And there was a gust of wind. I remember seeing it. I remember the muzzle flash, and then the snap of a flag, and then Khenkin got hit. Because the wind moved the bullet. Only about a foot and a half, over sixteen hundred yards. It nudged it just a little, right to left as it flew, from my chest to his head.’

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