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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(26)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(26)
Author: Lee Child

I nodded. ‘Which raises questions about travel. He didn’t fly commercial, or you’d have a paper trail. He couldn’t check a fifty-calibre rifle and a box of bullets without someone noticing.’

‘Two possibilities,’ Shoemaker said. ‘A cargo ship out of Mobile or Galveston, or a private plane out of practically anywhere. Customs checks at private fields in Europe are basically nonexistent.’

‘Private plane for sure,’ O’Day said. ‘These people are throwing money around. I mean, ten grand for a toothless hillbilly in Arkansas? That’s way over the odds. The guy would have been happy with a couple hundred, surely. They’re not looking for value. They’re looking for easy solutions, and they have the budget to make them happen.’

Casey Nice asked, ‘How did they get to London today?’

Scarangello said, ‘Train, probably. Through the tunnel. There’s a passport check in Paris, but apart from that it’s fast and easy, city centre to city centre.’

‘How did they transport their rifles?’

‘Golf bags, maybe. Or ski bags. Lots of people carry weird luggage.’

‘How did they know who to hook up with in London, in terms of local support?’

‘Prior research, I assume. Prior negotiation, perhaps.’

‘We’ll know more in the morning,’ O’Day said. ‘Take the rest of the evening off, and we’ll reconvene at breakfast tomorrow.’

I went down the stairs and headed out the red door, but once again I heard the click of good shoes and the swish of dark nylons behind me. I turned around and found Joan Scarangello coming after me. She was looking at me with some kind of bleak emotion in her eyes. She said, ‘We need to talk.’

I said, ‘About what?’

‘You.’

‘What about me?’

‘I don’t want to talk out here.’

‘Where, then?’

‘Your quarters. They feel unoccupied. Like neutral space.’

So we walked over together and I opened up and we sat like we had before, with me on the sofa and her in a chair, with our angles adjusted, so that we were looking at each other face to face. She asked, ‘Did you enjoy your dinner?’

‘Not bad,’ I said. ‘You?’

‘I spent it arguing with generals O’Day and Shoemaker.’

‘About the quality of the food?’

‘No, about your role in London.’

‘What about it?’

‘London won’t be the same as Paris. The Brits are different. They’ll be running their own show. They’ll accept advice and information, but they won’t let us actually do anything. Not on their turf. And we have to respect that. They’re important to us in many ways.’

‘So?’

‘My position is you should go as an acknowledged asset.’

‘But O’Day argued against that, because then I wouldn’t be able to do anything.’

Scarangello nodded. ‘He wants you there as a private citizen. Not acknowledged by us. Which means if you get caught choking some random senior on the sidewalk, there will be absolutely nothing we can do to help you.’

‘I’ll be careful.’

‘I’m serious,’ she said. ‘General O’Day is talking about things that are blatantly illegal. Your being there in the first place will be blatantly illegal. A very dim view is taken of unacknowledged assets inside an ally’s jurisdiction. If you screw up, you’ll be a common criminal, nothing more. Worse than that, in fact. The embassy checks up on common criminals, but no one will check up on you. They’ll run a mile in the opposite direction. Because we’ll tell them to.’

‘I’ll be careful,’ I said again.

She said, ‘I read into the John Kott file.’

I said, ‘And?’

‘You did a very nice job with the interrogation.’

‘Thank you.’

‘You gave him the rope and he hung himself. He was arrogant, and he couldn’t bear to be challenged.’

I nodded. ‘That was about the gist of it.’

She said, ‘I think you’re just as bad as he was.’

I said nothing.

She said, ‘This is where you tell me you never cut anyone’s throat.’

‘I would if I could.’

‘I think it’s too big a risk to send you to London in any capacity.’

‘Then don’t.’

‘Meaning you’ll get yourself there anyway?’

‘Free country.’

‘I could take your passport back.’

‘It’s right here in my pocket. Come and get it.’

‘I could cancel it in the computer. You’d be arrested at the airport.’

‘Your decision,’ I said. ‘No skin off my nose. Kott will come home sooner or later. I’ll get him then. Amid all the paralysis, and the crashing markets, and the recession, and the people starving, and the wars starting, and the whole world falling apart. None of which will bother me in the least. I can look after myself. And I don’t have a real big portfolio.’

She said nothing.

I said, ‘You need the best help you can get. Anything else would be negligent. I seem to remember those words from somewhere.’

‘And you’re the best help?’

‘That remains to be seen. Either someone will get the job done, or not. That someone might be me, or not. The future’s not ours to see. But my track record is reasonable, and I don’t see how I could hurt.’

‘You could hurt by getting arrested inside the first five minutes. Then we’ve got a diplomatic incident on top of a security emergency. I’m not sure I can trust you.’

‘Then come with me,’ I said. ‘You could sign off on my every move. We could confer, shoulder to shoulder. Not seven feet apart.’

She nodded. ‘That’s the compromise I agreed with O’Day.’

‘Really?’

‘Not me,’ she said. ‘Casey Nice will go with you. Unacknowledged. She’s not on their radar. She’s far too junior. And right now she’s not CIA, anyway. She’s State Department.’

‘Rules of engagement?’

‘You do exactly what she tells you.’

Scarangello left after that, leaving the scent of soap and warm skin in the air, and I waited a minute and then headed out too, back to the red door. I went up the stairs to Shoemaker’s office, and found him at his desk. I said, ‘Scarangello told me about your dinner conversation.’

He said, ‘Happy?’

‘Yeah, I’m turning cartwheels.’

‘Look on the bright side. You’ll need updates and intelligence. We’ll give them to Nice, she’ll give them to you. You’d be in the dark without her.’

‘Has she operated overseas before?’

‘No.’

‘Has she operated anywhere before?’

‘Not as such.’

‘Do you think this is a good idea?’

‘It’s a necessary compromise. It gets you there. You don’t have to listen to what she says.’

‘But I have to take care of her.’

‘She knows what she signed up for. And she’s tougher than she looks.’

‘You said that before.’

‘Was I wrong?’

I thought about her pal Tony Moon, and I said nothing.

Shoemaker said, ‘Walk away if you want to, Reacher. You don’t owe me shit. The statute of limitations ran out years ago. It was O’Day’s idea to take that route. A psychological insight, he called it. He said it was the only thing likely to work.’

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