Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(10)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(10)
Author: Lee Child

“I’ll sleep OK. But I’m going to double lock the door and put the chain on. We have no idea what’s happening here.”

“No,” Reacher said. “We don’t.”

“I like your haircut, by the way.”

“Thank you.”

“What were your reasons?”

“For the haircut?”

“For staying.”

He said, “Curiosity, mostly.”

“About what?”

“That thing with Penn State in 1986. It was really well done. It was a superb act. I’m sure he’s done it before, and I’m sure he’s practiced, and rehearsed, and critiqued himself, and relived his successes in his mind, and therefore I’m equally sure it’s completely inconceivable he doesn’t know there has to be a handshake in there. I bet every other time he’s shaken a hand. But not with me. Why was that?”

“He made a mistake.”

“No, he couldn’t force himself to do it. That was my impression. Even to the point of compromising his art. He’s into something, and right now it’s under threat somehow, and he feels the people posing the threat are literally too loathsome to touch. That’s the impression I got. So I was curious about what kind of a thing could make a person feel that way.”

“Now I might not sleep OK.”

“They’ll come for me first,” Reacher said. “I’m downstairs. I’ll be sure to make plenty of noise. You’ll get a head start.”

Chapter 10

Reacher sat in a chair in his room, in the dark, six feet back from the window, invisible from the outside, just watching. Fifteen minutes, then twenty, then twenty-five. As long as it took. The one-eyed guy in his plastic chair was a pale smudge in the gloom, about a hundred feet away. He had gotten comfortable. He was tipped back a little. He was maybe asleep, but lightly. Noise or movement would alert him, probably. Not the best sentry Reacher had ever seen, but not the worst, either.

Above the guy and to the right, up on the second floor, the center room had a rim of light around the drapes. Room 203. The guy from the train, probably. The recent arrival, no doubt unpacking his little leather bag, and getting all his ducks in a row. Unguents and potions in the bathroom, some things in the closet, other things in the drawers. Although the size of the bag was a serious issue, in Reacher’s opinion. It had looked like a high-quality item, well used, but not battered or destroyed. Heavy pebbled leather, brown in color, with brass fitments. A classic shape, presumably formed by hinges and some kind of an internal skeleton structure. But not large. And the guy was in town for at least twenty-four hours. Maybe more. With a bag too small for a spare suit, or spare shoes.

Which was unusual, in Reacher’s experience. Most civilians carried spare everything, in case of spills, or changes in the weather, or unanticipated invitations.

Ten minutes later the rim of light clicked off, and room 203 went full dark. The one-eyed guy stayed where he was, tipped back, maybe watching, maybe not. Reacher gazed back from the shadows, fifteen more minutes, as long as it took, until he was sure there was nothing doing. Then he stripped and folded his clothes the way he always did, the same pants under a new mattress, and he took a brief shower, and climbed into bed. He left the drapes open, and set the alarm in his head to wake him at six in the morning, or if there was noise or commotion in the night, whichever came first.

The dawn was silent, and it was golden again, but infinitely pale. The elevators threw weak shadows long enough to hit the motel. Reacher sat up in bed and watched. The plastic chair was still there, on the sidewalk under the office window, a hundred feet away, but the one-eyed guy had gone. At four in the morning, Reacher guessed. The lowest ebb. To a couch in the back, no doubt.

Room 203’s drapes were still closed. The guy from the train. Still asleep, probably. Reacher got up and came back from the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He opened his window. For the air. And for the sound. He could hear vehicles on the wide street. Regular gasoline V-8s, and thick tires pattering on the rail lines embedded in the blacktop. Pick-up trucks, probably. Heading for breakfast in the diner. People were up with the sun.

He sat and watched, without coffee. He ran a pleasant fantasy through his head, of calling the diner and ordering a pot from the waitress, his new best friend, and having her show up with it minutes later. Except he didn’t have the diner’s number, and there was no phone in his room. And he wasn’t dressed. A hundred feet away across the horseshoe there was light in the office window. But no movement. Just a faded old motel, two-thirds empty, not long after dawn.

He sat and watched, patiently, expecting to be rewarded eventually, and eventually he was, after almost an hour. First the one-eyed guy came out his office door, and stood and sniffed the air, the way people do in the morning. Then the guy glanced all around, at the inside perimeter of his little domain, and his parking spaces, and the sidewalk passing the first-floor rooms, and the walkway passing the second-floor rooms, a leisurely visual inspection, born mostly of duty, Reacher thought, but with a small slice of pride in there somewhere. Then the guy remembered the unexamined territory directly behind him, and he turned around to check, and he saw his misplaced lawn chair. He dragged it back to 102, and left it lined up in perfect uniformity with all its ground-floor equivalents, which were all directly underneath their second-floor counterparts.

Which made it more duty than pride. Because he hadn’t bothered the day before. He had left the chair any old place it had wanted to be. Wherever it hung its hat was its home. But this new day was different. Somehow. The guy was acting like a nervous CO ahead of a one-star’s visit.

Reacher waited. The shadows retreated, yard by yard, as the sun climbed higher. He heard the seven o’clock train. It rolled in, and vibrated, and rolled out again.

He waited.

The drapes opened in room 203. The window was sideways to the sun, and like everything else the glass was covered in crop dust, but even so Reacher saw the guy clearly, in his suit, standing with his arms held wide, his hands still on the drapes, staring out at the morning, as if in wonder, as if it was a big surprise the sun had come up again. As if it had been maybe fifty-fifty at best. The guy stood like that for a whole minute, and then he turned away and was lost to sight.

A white sedan drove into the lot. A Cadillac, Reacher thought. But not new. It was from a previous generation. It was long and low, all road-hugging weight and boulevard ride. Like a limousine. Therefore an unusual color, outside of Florida or Arizona. An unusual sight in any case, in farm country. It was the first sedan Reacher had seen in about three hundred miles. It was pretty clean. Recently rinsed, at least, if not actually washed. Reacher couldn’t see the driver. The glass was too dark.

The car swooped right and backed left and reversed into the slot below room 203. It had no front license plate. The driver didn’t get out. Above the car, room 203’s door opened, and the man in the suit stepped out. He had the brown leather bag in his hand. He stood still for a long moment, and did the air-sniffing thing. As if in wonder. Then he snapped out of his trance and headed for the stairs, definitely gaunt but light on his feet, and a fluent, fluid mover, not muscle-bound like an athlete, but graceful like a dancer, or a stage actor. He came down the stairs, and the driver got out of the Cadillac, to greet him.

The driver was a man Reacher hadn’t seen before. He was about forty, tall and well built, not fat but certainly fleshed out, with a full head of hair, and a guileless face. Another junior executive, possibly. The man in the suit shook his hand, and ducked into the back of the car. The driver carried the brown leather bag to the trunk, and placed it inside, like a little ceremony. Then he got back behind the wheel, and the car pulled forward, and drove away.

 

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