Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(12)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(12)
Author: Lee Child

He said, “What was Keever, before he joined the Bureau?”

Chang said, “He was a police detective, with a night-school law degree.”

Which meant he had searched motel rooms, too. Which meant he wouldn’t have used anywhere obvious. He knew the tricks. Not that the room offered many opportunities. It was not architecturally complex.

Chang said, “We’re fooling ourselves, surely. The motel clerk could have been in here half a dozen times already. Or let someone else in. We have to assume this room was searched long ago.”

Reacher nodded. “But how well? That’s the question. Because we know one thing for sure. Keever was in this room at one point, and then he left. He had three possible ways of leaving. First, he left on an innocent errand that turned bad later. Second, he was dragged out of here kicking and screaming by persons unknown. Or third, he was sitting here on the bed, running things through his mind, and he made a sudden random connection, like a real oh-shit moment, and he stood up and hustled over to the pay phone in the general store to call 911 without further ado. Except he didn’t make it.”

“Didn’t make it? What are you saying?”

“I’m saying the guy is missing. Tell me where and why, and I’ll close down the other theories.”

“None of those three ways of leaving means we should expect to find something in this room. Something that everyone else missed.”

“No, I think the third one does. Just possibly. Imagine the moment. Oh shit. You’re stunned. And as of that split second you’re in grave danger. The danger is so bad you need to run straight for the phone. But you’ll be exposed. This is not the same as using a cell behind a locked door. This is a walk in the open air. Which carries a risk now. So maybe you’re tempted to leave a marker behind. You scribble a note and you hide it. Then you go for the phone.”

“And don’t make it.”

“That’s what the math says. Sometimes.”

“But this note is hidden so well no one has found it. But not so well we won’t find it. If there is a note at all. If it was the third of the three possibilities. If it wasn’t something completely different.”

“It was a sequence,” Reacher said. “Had to be, right? It was two oh-shit moments. A small one, maybe the day before, after which he calls you for back-up, and then the big one, after which he goes to call the cops.”

“After leaving a note.”

“I think it’s worth considering.”

When Reacher searched a room, he started with the room, not the contents. Hiders and therefore seekers tended to ignore the physical structure, which was often rich with possibility. Especially for a sheet of paper. An under-window HVAC unit could be opened up, and nine times out of ten there was a plastic pocket expressly designed to hold paperwork, often an instruction manual or a warranty card, among which an enterprising person could conceal dozens of pages.

Or if there was forced-air heating and cooling, there would be grills, easily unscrewed. Pocket doors were good for hiding papers. Ceilings had removable panels for maintenance purposes. A folding door on a closet had an inside face no one ever saw. And so on.

Only then came the furniture. In this case a bed, two night tables, an upholstered chair, a dining chair at the desk, the desk itself, and a small chest of drawers.

They looked everywhere, but they found nothing.

Afterward Chang said, “Worth a try, I guess. In a way I’m glad we didn’t find anything. Makes it less final. I want him to be OK.”

Reacher said, “I want him to be in Vegas with a nineteen-year-old. But until we get a postcard, we have to assume he isn’t. Just so we stay sharp.”

“He was a cop and a special agent. How far is it from here to the general store? What could have happened?”

“It’s about two hundred feet. Past the diner. Lots of things could have happened.”

Chang didn’t answer. Reacher’s hands felt dirty. From moving furniture, and touching surfaces not regularly cleaned. He stepped into the bathroom and flipped up the tap to wet his hands. The soap was a new cake, still wrapped in tissue paper. Light blue, all pleated and stuck down with a gold label. Not the worst place Reacher had ever seen. He pulled off the paper and balled it up. The trash can was under the vanity. The vanity was deep. A kind of underhand through-the-slot change-up was required. Left-handed, too. Which he executed. And then he washed his hands, the new soap hard at first, and then better later. He dried his hands on a fresh towel, and then his conscience got the better of him, and he bent down to check his tissue-paper spitball had in fact hit the target.

It hadn’t.

The trash can was round, like a short cylinder, but it was jammed up in a left-hand corner, which meant there was a shallow space behind. The kind of space that got ignored, especially by maids with mops. Not for two-dollar tips. It was the kind of space that ended up the graveyard of errant throws.

Three of them.

One was his own spitball. He could tell by the dampness. One was an older version of the same thing. Bone dry. A previous cake of soap.

And one was a piece of furred paper, like junk from a pocket.

Chapter 12

The paper was a stiff white square, about three and a half inches on a side, with one gummed edge. A sheet from a memo block or cube. Reacher had seen such things before. It had been folded in four, and it had ridden in a pocket for a month or more. The folds were worn, and the corners had deteriorated, and the surfaces were rubbed. Reacher guessed it had been flicked toward the trash can, maybe two-fingered like a trick with a playing card, but it had sailed too far, and hit the deck in no-man’s-land.

He unfolded it and smoothed it flat. What could be called the outer face was blank. Just a rub of grime, and faint indigo staining, probably from denim. From the back pocket of a pair of blue jeans, he thought.

He turned the paper over.

What could be called the inner face had writing on it. Ballpoint pen, a hurried note. A scrawl, really. There was a phone number, and the words 200 deaths.

Reacher asked, “Is this Keever’s handwriting?”

Chang said, “I don’t know. I’ve never seen Keever’s handwriting. And it isn’t a great sample. So we can’t be certain. Think like a defense attorney. There’s no unbroken chain of custody. Anyone could have left this here. At any time.”

“Sure,” Reacher said. “But suppose it’s Keever’s. What would it be?”

“Be? A note, probably made during a phone call. In his office. His spare bedroom, anyway. Maybe an initial contact, or a follow-up call. High stakes, with two hundred deaths, and a phone number, which might be either the client, or a source of independent corroboration. Or a source of further information.”

“Why would he throw it away?”

“Because later he wrote it up in longer form, so he didn’t need it anymore. Maybe he was standing here at the mirror, checking himself over, like people do. Maybe he dumped his old Kleenex and took new, and maybe he checked his other pockets at the same time. Maybe he hadn’t used those pants for a while.”

The phone number’s area code was 323. Reacher said, “Los Angeles, right?”

Chang nodded and said, “Either a cell or a land line.”

“Two hundred deaths. That would qualify as serious danger.”

“If it’s Keever’s. If it was about this current case. It could be anybody’s about anything.”

 

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