Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(15)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(15)
Author: Lee Child

The guy on the right uncrossed his arms.

The guy on the left said, “Are you going to be a problem?”

“I’m already a problem,” Reacher said. “The question is, what are you going to do about it?”

There was a pause, hot and lonely in the middle of nowhere, and then the two guys answered by brushing aside their coats, in tandem, casually, right-handed, both thereby showing black semi-automatic pistols, in pancake holsters, mounted on their belts.

Which was a mistake, and Reacher could have told them why. He could have launched into a long and impatient classroom lecture, about sealing their fates by forcing a decisive battle too early, about short-circuiting a grander strategy by moving the endgame to the beginning. Threats had to be answered, which meant he was going to have to take their guns away, because probing pawns had to be sent back beaten, and because folks in Mother’s Rest needed to know for sure the next time he came to town he would be armed. He wanted to tell them it was their own fault. He wanted to tell them they had brought it on themselves.

But he didn’t tell them anything. Instead he ducked his own hand under his own coat, grabbing at nothing but air, but the two guys didn’t know that, and like the good range-trained shooters they were they went for their guns and dropped into solid shooting stances all at once, which braced their feet a yard apart for stability, so Reacher stepped in and kicked the left-hand guy full in the groin, before the guy’s gun was even halfway out of its holster, which meant the right-hand guy had time to get his all the way out, but to no avail, because the next event in his life was the arrival of Reacher’s elbow, scything backhand against his cheekbone, shattering it and causing a general lights-out everywhere.

Reacher stepped back, and then he checked on the first guy, who was preoccupied, like most guys he had kicked in the groin. The guns were Smith & Wesson Sigma .40s, which were modern part-polymer weapons, and expensive. They were both fully loaded. Both guys had wallets in their hip pockets, with about a hundred dollars between them, which Reacher took as spoils of war. Their driver’s licenses both showed the last name Moynahan, which meant they could indeed be brothers or cousins with an uncle in common. One had been christened John, and the other Steven.

Reacher carried the guns back to the little green Ford. Chang’s window was down. He put one gun in his pocket and passed the other to Chang. She took it, a little reluctantly. He asked, “Did you hear any of what they said?”

Chang said, “All of it.”

“Conclusions?”

“They might have been telling the truth. The motel might have been their only beef. On the other hand, it might not.”

“I vote not,” Reacher said. “The room has been paid for. Why get so uptight?”

“You could have been killed.”

Reacher nodded.

“Many times,” he said. “But all long ago. Not today. Not by these guys.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Or competent.”

“So now what?”

Reacher glanced back. The guy on the right was about to transition from unconscious to concussed. The guy on the left was squirming halfheartedly and pawing at everything between his ribcage and his knees.

Reacher said, “Shoot them if they move.”

He walked ten yards to their truck and climbed in. The glove compartment had registration and insurance in the name of Steven Moynahan. There was nothing else of interest in the cab. He got straightened up behind the wheel and put the truck in gear. He steered for the shoulder and parked straddling the gravel, with the left-hand wheels safely out of the traffic lane, and the right-hand wheels deep in the wheat, and the nose pointing back toward town. He shut it down and pulled the key.

He dragged the guys one by one into the shade ahead of the front bumper, and sat them up against the chrome. Both were awake by that point. He said, “Watch carefully, now,” and when he had their attention he took their key and balanced it on his palm and tossed it underhand into the field. Forty or fifty feet. It would take them an hour to find, even under the best of circumstances, even after they were operational again. Which might be a supplementary hour all by itself.

Then he walked back and got in the Ford, and Chang drove on. From time to time he turned around and checked the view. The parked truck stayed visible for a long time, dwindling to a tiny dull pinprick in the far distance, and then it fell below the northern horizon and was lost to sight.

It took nearly three more hours to get to the highway, and then the distance markers promised another two to Oklahoma City. The drive was uneventful, until a point about ninety minutes out, when all kinds of chiming and beeping started coming from the phone in Chang’s pocket. Voice mails and text messages and e-mails, all patiently stored and now downloading.

Cell service was back.

Chapter 15

Chang drove one-handed and juggled her phone, but Reacher said, “We should pull off the road. Before the tourist lady gets in a wreck for real. We should get a cup of coffee.”

Chang said, “I don’t understand how you drink so much coffee.”

“Law of gravity,” Reacher said. “If you tip it up, it comes right out. You can’t help but drink it.”

“Your heart must be thumping all the time.”

“Better than the alternative.”

A mile later they saw a sign and took an exit that led to a standard linear array of pit-stop facilities, including a gas station, and bathrooms, and an old-fashioned plain stone building in a federal style somewhat disfigured by bright neon signs for modern chain store coffee and food. They parked and got out and stretched. It was the middle of the afternoon, and still warm. They used the bathrooms and met in the coffee shop. Reacher got his usual medium cup of hot black, and Chang got iced, with milk. They found a corner table, and Chang put her phone down. It was a thin touch-screen thing about the size of a paperback book. She swiped and dabbed and scrolled, first through the phone options, and then the text messages, and then the e-mail.

She said, “Nothing from Keever.”

“Try calling him again.”

“We both know he won’t answer.”

“Stranger things have happened. Once I had three police departments and the National Guard looking for a guy, and all of a sudden he showed up, fresh back from a vacation out of state.”

“We know Keever isn’t on vacation.”

“Try him anyway.”

Which she did, after a long reluctant pause, first on his home number, and then on his cell number.

There was no reply on either.

Reacher said, “Try the Los Angeles number again. From the piece of paper with the two hundred deaths.”

Chang nodded, keen to move on. She dialed, and held the phone to her ear.

This time the call was answered.

She said, a little surprised, “Good afternoon, sir. May I know who I’m speaking with?”

Which question must have been answered in the obvious manner, the same way Reacher had, with a previous inquiry: Who’s asking?

She said, “My name is Michelle Chang. I’m a private detective, based in Seattle. Previously I was with the FBI. Now I work with a man named Keever. I think he might have called you. Your number was found in his motel room.”

Reacher had no idea what was asked next, all the way out there in Los Angeles, but he pretty soon realized it must have been an inquiry as to how to spell Keever, because Chang said, “K-e-e-v-e-r.”

 

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