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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(31)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(31)
Author: Lee Child

Casey Nice whispered, ‘He’s seen us.’

I said, ‘That’s his job.’

‘We can’t just walk away again. That’s suspicious behaviour.’

‘So let’s go talk to him.’

I strolled over, and stopped, not too close, with the kind of body language we have all learned to use: Don’t give the man with the gun a reason to worry about you. I said, ‘We were hoping to get in here.’

The man with the gun said, ‘Were you, sir?’

His accent was local, and his tone was flat, and the way he said sir was deliberately neutral, as if he was really saying, I’m obliged to use this word, but I don’t mean it.

I said, ‘I might have been misled, I suppose. My guidebook is very old.’

He said, ‘What guidebook?’

‘My father gave it to me. I think his gave it to him, before that. It’s kind of a family heirloom, I suppose. It says certain days of the year you can get in here and see the house and the gardens for sixpence.’

‘You should take that book to the antique dealer.’

‘I figured the sixpence might have gone up with inflation.’

‘This place hasn’t been a private house for thirty years. And at the moment it’s closed anyway. So I would appreciate it if you would move along now.’

‘OK,’ I said, and we did, slowly, with long and detailed glances, to the left, to the right, behind us, eye level, upward, at trees, and row houses, and two-family houses, and squat square apartment houses, and gas stations, and convenience stores, and traffic, and sky. Our minicab had gone, so we kept on walking. Casey Nice said, ‘What next?’

She looked tired, so I said, ‘We go back to the hotel and take naps.’

Which we didn’t get, because of a phone call from O’Day, which among other things made me wish I was a gambling man. Scarangello had asked, Who’s in the frame for the second spot? I had said Carson, which turned out to be right. Because Datsev had been found. Arrested, in fact. The news was just in from Moscow. More than three weeks earlier he had been hidden in the trunk of a car in a garage under a nightclub, and driven out of town, to a private airfield, and flown four thousand miles east, where he had set up and waited patiently, like snipers do. When the time was right he had fired a single round through the head of a guy who owned a bauxite-smelting operation. Twelve hundred yards, O’Day said. Business as usual, in the world of privatized natural resources. With one pull of the trigger Datsev’s paymaster had become the second-biggest aluminium guy on the scene.

Which wasn’t quite enough, unfortunately. The biggest guy naturally felt threatened, and naturally saw an opportunity for further consolidation, and he had friends in high places, all bought and paid for. So law enforcement made an uncharacteristic attempt to enforce the law. Which was helped by the weather. Spring in the far east of Russia was not the same thing as spring in North Carolina or Paris or London. There were freezing temperatures and late snow. The newly-second-biggest guy’s plane had been grounded. His entourage had all been found holed up in a local hotel. Datsev was with them. A spell of old-wine-in-new-bottles KGB-style interrogation had gotten to the heart of the matter fairly quickly, and Datsev was in custody. O’Day figured he would be given a choice: go back to work for the SVR, no bitching and moaning, or go to jail. Which was really no choice at all, he said, for anyone with a working knowledge of the Russian prison system. He had already moved Datsev’s file out of the freelance column and into the employed. What the future would bring, he didn’t know, but he was clear about the past: Datsev hadn’t been in Paris on either occasion, and wasn’t in London now.

We clicked off the call. We were still in our hotel lobby. Casey Nice said, ‘It just got harder. Because Carson is local, and Kott speaks English too.’

‘Want coffee?’ I said.

‘No,’ she said.

‘Hot tea?’

‘Decaf, maybe.’

So we left the hotel again in favour of a bare-bones café on the other side of the street, and a little ways down the block. Not an international chain. Nothing like the coffee shop in Seattle. Just a traditional London place, with chilly fluorescent light and damp laminate tables. I got coffee, and she got decaf, and I said, ‘Close your eyes.’

She smiled and said, ‘Shoes on or off?’

‘Think about what we saw, walking away from Wallace Court. Picture it. Tell me the first thing that pops into your head.’

She closed her eyes and said, ‘Sky.’

I said, ‘Me too. It was a low-built environment. Some threestorey row houses, some four- and five-storey apartment houses, but mostly regular two-storey two-family houses, some of them with attic bump-outs.’

‘Which adds up to about ten thousand upper-storey windows within a three-quarter-mile radius.’

‘Not ten thousand. It ain’t Manhattan or Hong Kong. It’s Romford. But a few thousand, sure. Of which a few hundred might be really good choices. What would you do, if you were in charge of security?’

She said, ‘I’d have to defer to the Secret Service.’

‘Suppose you were in charge of the Secret Service?’

‘I wouldn’t change anything. I’d tell them to keep on doing what they’re doing.’

‘Which is what? Have you seen the president arrive somewhere?’

‘Of course I have. An armoured limousine drives into a closed street, and then into a large white tent attached to the destination building. The flap of the tent is closed behind it. The president is never exposed. He’s safe in the armoured car, and he’s safe in the tent. From a sniper, at least. The sniper doesn’t know exactly where or exactly when the president is getting out of the car. He can’t see, because of the tent. He could fire randomly, I suppose, but what are the odds? Best guess in the world would miss by twenty feet and two seconds.’

I said, ‘And the Secret Service will bring that system, right? They always do. Their own armoured limousine and their own tent, in an air force cargo plane. Doesn’t matter what the Brits say about running their own show. If you want the President of the United States at your party, the Secret Service tells you how things are going to be. You’re going to have a tent on the side of your house, whether you like it or not. And the president is not going to say the others can’t use it. He’s not going to say, sorry guys, but you have to go to the tradesmen’s entrance.’

‘They don’t all have their own armoured limousines.’

‘Doesn’t really matter. A couple of Mercedes sedans would work. With dark windows. Which one is the prime minister in? Which one has the aides and the staffers? It’s the same principle as the tent.’

‘So what are you saying?’

‘If I’m John Kott, I’m not liking it. Or William Carson. Against me I’ve got obvious and infallible security precautions that will inevitably be used, and a low-built environment, and a very flat trajectory, and prime firing positions numbered only in the low hundreds. I mean, if the Brits broke open the overtime budget they could put a cop in every single bedroom.’

‘You think an attack is not possible?’

‘Where could it be? The limousine drives into the tent.’

She said, ‘You’re forgetting the photograph.’

TWENTY-SIX

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