Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(13)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(13)
Author: Lee Child

“Who else would pass through here with two hundred deaths on his mind?”

“Who says they did? Even if it’s Keever’s, it could have been an old case. Or a different case. Or it could have been a liability lawyer a year ago, chasing ambulances. How could there even be two hundred deaths here? That’s twenty percent of the population. Someone would have noticed. You wouldn’t need a private investigator.”

“Let’s call the number,” Reacher said. “Let’s see who answers.”

Reacher locked up the room, and they went down the metal stairs, and a hundred feet away the one-eyed guy came out of his office and bustled across toward them, waving and gesturing. When he arrived he said, “Excuse me, sir, but 215 is not your registered room.”

Reacher said, “Then amend your register. The room was paid for by an associate of ours, and I’m going to be using it until he returns.”

“You can’t do that.”

“No such word.”

“How did you get the key?”

“I found it under a bush. Just lucky, I guess.”

“This is not allowed.”

“Then call the cops,” Reacher said.

The guy said nothing. He just huffed and puffed for a moment, and then he turned around and headed back, without another word.

Chang said, “Suppose he does call the cops?”

“He won’t,” Reacher said. “He would have made a big point of telling us he was about to, yes sir, right there and then. Plus the cops are probably fifty miles away. Or a hundred. They wouldn’t come out for a room that was already paid for. Plus if these people have something to hide, the last thing they’ll do is call the cops.”

“What will he do instead?”

“I’m sure we’ll find out.”

They stepped out to the wide street and walked past the front of the diner, to the general store. The sun was up and the town was quiet. No activity, and no big crowds. There was a pick-up truck fifty yards ahead, making a turn into a side street. There was a kid throwing a tennis ball against a wall, and hitting the rebound with a stick. Like baseball practice. He was pretty good. Maybe he should have his picture in a magazine. There was a FedEx truck crossing the rails on the old trail, and heading into town.

The general store was a classic rural building, a plain flat-roofed structure end-on to the street, with a fancy gabled frontage made of lap boards painted dull red. There was a sign, painted in circus letters colored gold: Mother’s Rest Dry Goods. There was a single door, and a single window, which was small, and purely for light, rather than for the display of tempting goods. The glass was covered with decals, all with names Reacher didn’t know. Brand names, he assumed, for arcane but vital country stuff.

Inside the door was a boxed-in vestibule, which had a pay phone mounted on the wall. No acoustic hood. Just the instrument itself, all metal, including the cord. Chang fed coins in the slot, and dialed. She listened for a spell, and then she hung up without speaking.

She said, “Voice mail. The phone company’s standard announcement. Not personalized. No name. Sounded like a cell phone.”

Reacher said, “You should have left a message.”

“No point. I can’t get calls here.”

“Try Keever again. Just in case.”

“I don’t want to. I don’t want to hear him not answer.”

“He’s either OK or he isn’t. Calling him or not calling him doesn’t change anything.”

She used her own cell to look up the number, but she dialed on the older technology. As before, she listened for a spell, and then she hung up without speaking. She tried a second number. Same result.

She shook her head.

She said, “No answer.”

Reacher said, “We should go to Oklahoma City.”

Chapter 13

The train would have been faster, but its departure was still eight hours away, so they drove, in Chang’s rental car. It was a compact Ford SUV, green in color. Inside it was bland and unmarked, and it smelled strongly of upholstery shampoo. They were out of town within a minute, on the old wagon train trail, and then they turned south and west and south again, through the immense checkerboard of endless golden fields, until they found a county road that promised a highway entrance two hundred miles ahead.

Chang was driving, in her T-shirt. Reacher had the passenger seat racked back, and he was watching her. She had one hand low on the wheel, and the other resting in her lap. Her eyes were always moving, to the road ahead, to the mirrors, back to the road ahead. Sometimes she half-smiled briefly, and then half-grimaced, as thoughts ran through her head. Her shoulders were rolled forward an inch, in a tiny hunch. Which Reacher took to mean she wanted to be a smaller person. Which ambition he could not endorse. She looked exactly the right size to him. She was long-limbed and solid, but not where she shouldn’t be.

I think I’m a nice person, but I know I’m not the reason.

He said nothing.

She looked in the mirror again, and she said, “There’s a pick-up truck behind us.”

He said, “How far back?”

“About a hundred yards.”

“How long has it been there?”

“A mile or so.”

“It’s a public road.”

“It came on real fast, but now it’s hanging back. Like it was looking for us, and now it’s found us.”

“Just one?”

“That’s all I can see.”

“Not much of a posse.”

“Two men, I think. A driver and a passenger.”

Reacher didn’t want to turn around to look. Didn’t want to show either guy the pale flash of a concerned face in the rear window. So he hunched down a little and moved sideways until he could see the image in Chang’s door mirror. A pick-up truck, about a hundred yards back. A Ford, he thought. A serious machine, big and obvious, keeping pace. It was dull red, like the general store. There were two guys in it, side by side, but far from each other, because of the vehicle’s extravagant width.

Reacher sat up again and looked through the windshield. Wheat to the right, wheat to the left, and the road running dead straight ahead until it fell below the far horizon. The shoulders were graveled for drainage, but there were no ditches. No turns, either. The fields were endless. Almost literally. Maybe the same field ran all the way to the highway ramp. Two hundred miles. It looked possible.

There were no other cars in sight.

He said, “Did you train for this stuff at Quantico?”

She said, “To a certain extent. But a long time ago. And in a different environment. Mostly urban. With traffic lights and four-way stops and one-way streets. We don’t have many options here. Did you train for it?”

“No, I was never any good at driving.”

“Should we let them make the first move?”

“First we need to figure out what they’ve been told to do. If it’s surveillance only, we can lead them all the way to Oklahoma City and lose them there. The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.”

“What if it’s not surveillance only?”

“Then they’ll do it like the movies. They’ll bump us from behind.”

“To scare us? Or worse than that?”

“That would be a very big step for them to take.”

“They’ll make it look like an accident. Tourist lady fell asleep on the long straight road and crashed. I’m sure it happens all the time.”


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