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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(8)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(8)
Author: Lee Child

O’Day nodded. ‘That’s Plan B, and it’s already drafted. Plan A is to find John Kott. And to hope that London and Moscow and Tel Aviv meet with similar success.’

‘Do we know anything about their guys?’

‘We know all about them. The Brit is an ex-SAS operator named Carson. In uniform he had more than fifty kills around the world, not that anyone will admit it, one of them at two thousand yards, documented and verified. The Russian is a guy called Datsev. His first instructor was at Stalingrad, which was a hard school. The Israeli is called Rozan. Best they ever saw with a fifty-calibre Barrett, which is really saying something, for the IDF.’

‘They all sound better than Kott.’

‘No, they sound about as good as. Fourteen hundred yards was nothing to Kott. Pure routine. Until you busted him, that is.’

‘You sound like you think I shouldn’t have.’

‘He was worth more to us than the grunt he killed.’

I said, ‘Where is the G8 meeting?’

‘London,’ O’Day said. ‘Technically just outside. A stately home, or an old castle. Something like that.’

‘Does it have a moat?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘Maybe they should start digging one.’

‘The idea is not to let it get that far.’

‘I can’t help you there anyway. My passport is expired.’

O’Day said, ‘You should speak to the State Department about that.’ Then he looked up, and Casey Nice put her hand under her jacket again, the same way she had when she showed me the embassy report, and she came out with a slim blue booklet, which she slid across to me. It was warm, like before.

It was a passport, with my name and my face in it, dated yesterday, good for ten years.

SEVEN

AFTER THE CONFERENCE ended, I was asked to go to Rick Shoemaker’s office, where he asked me to start detailed tactical planning for a trip to Arkansas. Which was ridiculous. Arkansas didn’t need detailed tactical planning. And it was the wrong direction. I said, ‘He’ll have stayed in Europe, surely. He’s probably already in London. If it’s him at all.’

Shoemaker said, ‘Joan Scarangello told us you fully understand your role.’

All I am is bait.

I said, ‘Are you serious?’

He said, ‘It’s no big deal. As you point out, if Kott’s the guy, he’s unlikely to be there himself. But if he is the guy, then they might have someone there to monitor our progress. It’s an obvious first stop. It’s one we should make anyway. We need to confirm he took up shooting again. If he didn’t, we’re home and dry. Yoga and meditation get you only so far. You need some trigger time too. They might be expecting us to check. They’ll be low-grade people. No problem for you. But we might get something out of them.’

‘If it’s him.’

‘And if it isn’t, you’ve got even less to worry about.’

‘Why me? There are plenty of federal agents in the world. They would work as bait. Better than me, probably. They could show up with lights and sirens.’

‘You know how many Americans have top secret security clearances now?’

‘No idea.’

‘Nearly a million, and half of them are civilians. Executives and business people and contractors and subcontractors. And best case, out of any million people a couple hundred will be seriously bent.’

‘That’s O’Day talking.’

‘He’s usually right.’

‘And always paranoid.’

‘OK, cut it in half. We’ve got a hundred traitors with top secret security clearances. National security is completely out of control. It has been for a decade. Therefore right now this is a closely held project. This information is not being widely distributed. At the moment General O’Day prefers people he knows he can trust.’

‘I can’t even rent a car. I don’t have a driver’s licence or a credit card.’

‘Casey Nice will go with you,’ Shoemaker said. ‘She’s old enough to drive.’

‘Then she’ll be bait too.’

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

In the end the detailed tactical planning came down to grabbing my toothbrush from my bathroom, and copying down Kott’s last known address, which was a rented place miles from anywhere in the bottom left corner of the state, where Arkansas becomes either Oklahoma or Texas or Louisiana. Casey Nice went into her white box wearing her black skirt suit and came out again five minutes later wearing blue jeans and a brown leather jacket. Which I agreed was better for the bottom left corner of Arkansas.

They gave us the same plane. Same crew. I let Casey Nice precede me up the steps, which was the only rational thing to do, when one of you is a twenty-something girl in jeans, and one of you isn’t. I sat in the same chair, and she sat opposite. This time the steward knew all about where we were going, which was Texarkana. A civilian field, with car rental. Not a Great Circle route. Just west and south, over Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi. One pot of coffee would do it, probably, unless Casey Nice wanted a cup.

I said to her, ‘Shoemaker told me you know what you signed up for.’

She said, ‘I think I do.’

‘Which is what?’

‘It’s a theory they have. You’ve seen how it is. We’re all working together. The theory is in the future we’ll merge completely. Behind the scenes, that is. So we have to get exposure. Which is fine. I need to be ready. Most of my career is in the future.’

‘What kind of exposure have you gotten so far?’

‘I’m not worried about this, if that’s what you mean.’

‘Good to know,’ I said.

‘Should I be?’

‘You ever been in a hotel with one of those real big beds? About seven feet long? If we’re ever out in the open, that’s how far you should be from me. Because best case here is Kott has nothing to do with any of this, and he was away on a fishing trip when your drones came over, and now he’s back home again, with a long straight driveway and a loaded gun by his kitchen window. Depending on how excited he gets, the first shot might miss by six feet. But it won’t miss by seven.’

‘I don’t think he’s home. I think he’s in London.’

‘Why him? The others sound better.’

‘Datsev was Red Army as a very young man, and then Russian Army. Until five years ago. He left the state’s employ. Rozan has been out of the IDF even longer. Carson the Brit has been out of the SAS longer still. But Paris was a brand-new profile. Why would Datsev or Rozan or Carson wait so long before going into business? This feels like a guy who just spent a year tuning up ahead of hanging out a shingle. A guy whose retirement only just began.’

‘You should still stay seven feet away. Datsev and Rozan and Carson could have been otherwise employed. Private armies or security, or maybe they were running organic bookstores, but times went bad. Or maybe their pensions just ran out. Or maybe they just got out of jail for unconnected offences. Kott could have been on the freelance market longer than any of them, even if it was only a year.’

‘Then they’d pick him first, because he’s the most experienced. He’s in London. I’m sure of it. I’m not worried about Arkansas.’

Neither was I, at first.

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