Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(14)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(14)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher said nothing.

“We can’t outrun them,” Chang said. “Not in this thing.”

“So let them get close and then switch to the other lane and hit the brakes. Send them on ahead.”

“When?”

“Don’t ask me,” Reacher said. “I failed defensive driving. I lasted less than a day. They made me go qualify on something else. When they get big in the mirror, I guess.”

Chang drove on. Two-handed now. One minute. Two. She said, “I want to see their moves. We need to force their hand.”

“You sure?”

“They’re the home team. We need to shake them up.”

“OK. Speed up a bit.”

She hit the gas and he turned around and stared out the back window. The pale flash of a concerned face. He said, “Faster.”

The little green Ford jumped ahead, almost two hundred yards, and then the pick-up reacted, and its grille rose up, and it came charging closer. Chang said, “Give me a real-time distance countdown. I can’t judge in the mirrors.”

“They’re at eighty yards now,” Reacher said. “Which gives us about eight seconds.”

“Less, because I’m going to slow down. This thing might tip over.”

“Sixty yards.”

“OK, I’m clear ahead.”

“And behind. It’s just the two of us on the road. Forty yards.”

“I’m slowing some more. We can’t do this over sixty.”

“Twenty yards.”

“I’m going to do it at ten yards.”

“OK, now, do it now.”

And she did. She swerved left and braked hard and the pick-up came within an inch of clipping her right back corner, but it missed, and it sped on ahead, braking hard but much later. Meanwhile the little green Ford did a lot of side-to-side rocking and tipping, but soon enough it was stopped dead, safe, back in the correct lane, a hundred yards behind the pick-up truck, their relative positions completely inverted after a noisy few seconds.

Chang said, “Of course, this begs the fairly obvious question, what now? We turn around, they turn around. And then they’re chasing us all over again.”

“Drive straight at them,” Reacher said.

“And crash?”

“That’s always an option.”

But the pick-up moved first. It turned around in the road and came back toward them, but very slowly, just creeping along, barely more than idle speed. Which Reacher took as a message. Like a white flag.

“They want to talk,” he said. “They want to do this face to face.”

The truck stopped ten yards ahead and both doors opened. Two men climbed out. Sturdy individuals, both about six feet and two hundred pounds, both somewhere in their middle thirties, both with mirrored sunglasses, both with thin cotton jackets over T-shirts. They looked cautious but confident. Like they knew what they were doing. Like they were the home team.

Chang said, “They must be armed. They wouldn’t be doing it this way otherwise.”

“Possible,” Reacher said.

The two men took up position in the middle of the no-man’s-land between the two vehicles. One was on the left of the center line, and one was on the right. They stood easy, just waiting, hands by their sides.

Reacher said, “Run them over.”

“I can’t do that.”

“OK, I guess I’ll go see what they want. Any problems, take off for Oklahoma City without me, and best of luck.”

“No, don’t get out. It’s too dangerous.”

“For me or for them? They’re just a couple of country boys.”

“We should assume they have guns.”

“But only temporarily.”

“You’re nuts.”

“Maybe,” Reacher said. “But never forget it was Uncle Sam who made me this way. I passed every other course, except driving.”

He opened his door, and stepped out.

Chapter 14

The little green Ford had regular front-hinged doors, like most cars, and the doors had a restraint about two-thirds of the way through their travel, so stepping out meant stepping back too, which improved Reacher’s angle. It put the engine block between him and the two guys. If they drew down immediately and started shooting from the get-go, he could hit the deck behind a bulletproof shield. If they had guns. Which was not proven. Except even if they did, he couldn’t imagine why they would start shooting from the get-go. Which was gone anyway. They could have fired through the windshield. That was the real get-go. Unless they wanted to preserve the car for a convincing accident. It would be hard to explain bullet holes in the glass, if the tourist lady had merely fallen asleep at the wheel. In which case how would they explain bullet holes in the dead passenger? And they would have to get his body back in the car. Which wouldn’t be easy. He would be a lot of dead weight.

He figured they weren’t going to shoot.

If they had guns.

He said, “Guys, you’ve got thirty seconds, so go ahead and state your case.”

The guy on the right folded his arms high across his chest, like a bouncer at a nightclub door. A show of support, Reacher figured, for the other guy, who was presumably the spokesperson.

The other guy said, “It’s about the motel.”

His hands were still by his sides.

Reacher said, “What about it?”

“That’s our uncle who runs it. He’s a poor old handicapped man, and you’re giving him a hard time. You’re breaking all kinds of laws.”

His hands were still by his sides. Reacher stepped out from behind the door and moved up next to the Ford’s right-hand headlight. He could feel the heat from the engine. He said, “What laws am I breaking?”

“You’re in another guest’s room.”

“Who isn’t using it right now.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

His hands were still by his sides. Reacher took a step, and another, until he was level with the Ford’s left-hand headlight, but much further forward, on a diagonal. Which put him ten feet from the two guys, in a narrow triangle in no-man’s-land, the guy with the folded arms on one corner, and the spokesperson on another, and Reacher all alone at the thin end.

The guy on the left said, “So we’re here to collect the key.”

Reacher took another step. Now he was seven feet away. Now they were in an intimate little cluster. No other cars in sight. The wheat moved slowly, in waves, like an immense golden sea.

Reacher said, “I’ll return the key when I check out.”

The guy on the left said, “You’re already checked out. As of right now. And you won’t get a room if you come back again. Management reserves the right to refuse admission.”

Reacher said nothing.

The guy on the left said, “And there’s nowhere else in Mother’s Rest. My uncle’s place is the only game in town. You getting the message?”

Reacher said, “Why is it called Mother’s Rest?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where is the message coming from? Purely your uncle, or the other thing?”

“What other thing?”

“Something I heard about.”

“There is no other thing.”

“Good to know,” Reacher said. “Tell your uncle no laws have been broken. Tell him he’s been paid for the room. Tell him I’ll see him later.”

 

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