Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(2)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(2)
Author: Lee Child

“The train passed through. Not you. You got out.”

“You know anything about this place?”

“Not a thing.”

“Have you seen a museum or a gravestone?”

“Why are you here?”

“Who’s asking?”

She paused a beat, and said, “Nobody.”

Reacher said, “Is there a motel in town?”

“I’m staying there.”

“How is it?”

“It’s a motel.”

“Works for me,” Reacher said. “Does it have vacancies?”

“I’d be amazed if it didn’t.”

“OK, you can show me the way. Don’t wait here all night. I’ll be up by first light. I’ll knock on your door as I leave. Hopefully your friend will be here in the morning.”

The woman said nothing. She just glanced at the silent rails one more time, and then turned around and led the way through the exit gate.

Chapter 2

The motel was bigger than Reacher expected. It was a two-story horseshoe, a total of thirty rooms, with plenty of parking. But not many slots were occupied. The place was more than half empty. It was plainly built of stuccoed blocks, painted beige, with iron stairs and railings, painted brown. Nothing special. But it looked clean and well kept. All the light bulbs worked. Not the worst place Reacher had ever seen.

The office was the first door on the left, on the ground floor. There was a clerk behind the desk. He was a short old guy with a big belly and what looked like a glass eye. He gave the woman the key for room 214, and she walked out without another word. Reacher asked him for a rate, and the guy said, “Sixty bucks.”

Reacher said, “A week?”

“A night.”

“I’ve been around.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ve been in plenty of motels.”

“So?”

“I don’t see anything here worth sixty bucks. Twenty, maybe.”

“Can’t do twenty. Those rooms are expensive.”

“Which rooms?”

“Upstairs.”

“I’m happy with downstairs.”

“Don’t you need to be near her?”

“Near who?”

“Your lady friend.”

“No,” Reacher said. “I don’t need to be near her.”

“Forty dollars downstairs.”

“Twenty. You’re more than half empty. Practically out of business. Better to make twenty bucks than nothing at all.”

“Thirty.”

“Twenty.”

“Twenty-five.”

“Deal,” Reacher said. He took his roll of cash out of his pocket and separated a ten, and two fives, and five singles. He laid them on the counter and the one-eyed guy swapped them for a key on a wooden fob marked 106, taken from a drawer, with a triumphant flourish.

“In the back corner,” the guy said. “Near the stairs.”

Which were metal, and which would make a clanging noise when people went up and down. Not the best room in the place. Petty revenge. But Reacher didn’t care. He figured his would be the last head to hit the pillow that night. He didn’t foresee any other late arrivals. He expected to be undisturbed, all the way through the silent plains night.

He said, “Thank you,” and walked out, carrying his key.

The one-eyed guy waited thirty seconds, and then dialed his desk phone, and when it was answered he said, “She met a guy off the train. It was late. She waited five hours for it. She brought the guy here and he took a room.”

There was the plastic crackle of a question, and the one-eyed clerk said, “Another big guy. A mean son of a bitch. He busted my balls on the room rate. I gave him 106, in the back corner.”

Another crackling question, and another answer: “Not from here. I’m in the office.”

Another crackle, but this time a different tone and a different cadence. An instruction, not a question.

The one-eyed guy said, “OK.”

And he put the phone down and struggled to his feet, and stepped out of the office, and took the lawn chair from outside 102, which was empty, and dragged it to a spot on the blacktop where he could see his own door and 106’s equally. Can you see his room from there? had been the question, and Move your ass somewhere you can watch him all night had been the instruction, and the one-eyed guy always obeyed instructions, if sometimes a little reluctantly, as at that point, as he adjusted his angle and dumped his bulk down on the uncomfortable plastic. Outside, in the nighttime air. Not his preferred way of doing things.

From inside his room Reacher heard the lawn chair scrape across the blacktop, but he paid no attention. Just a random nighttime sound, nothing dangerous, not a shotgun jacking a round, not the hiss of a blade on a sheath, nothing for his lizard brain to worry about. And the only non-lizard possibilities were a lace-up footstep on the sidewalk outside, and a knock on the door, because the woman from the railroad seemed like a person with a lot of questions, and also some kind of expectation they should be answered. Who are you and why have you come here?

But it was a scrape, not a footstep or a knock, so Reacher paid no attention. He folded his pants and laid them flat under the mattress, and then he showered away the grime of the day, and climbed under the bedcovers. He set the alarm in his head for six o’clock in the morning, stretched once, yawned once, and fell asleep.

The dawn came up entirely gold, with no hint of pink or purple. The sky was a rinsed blue, like an old shirt washed a thousand times. Reacher showered again and dressed, and stepped out to the new day. He saw the lawn chair, empty, oddly placed in the traffic lane, but he thought nothing of it. He went up the metal stairs as quietly as he could, reducing the likely clang to a duller pulsing boom, by placing his feet very carefully. He found 214 and knocked on its door, firmly but discreetly, like he imagined a bellboy would, in a fine hotel. Your wake-up call, ma’am. She had about forty minutes. Ten to get going, ten to shower, ten to stroll up to the railroad again. She would be there well ahead of the morning train.

Reacher crept back down the stairs and headed out to the street, which was wide enough at that point to qualify as a plaza. For farm trucks, he guessed, slow and clumsy, turning and maneuvering, lining up ahead of the weighbridges and the receiving offices and the grain elevators themselves. There were train tracks embedded in the blacktop. It was a whole big operation. Some kind of a hub facility, presumably, serving the locality, which in that part of America could have meant a two-hundred-mile radius. Which explained the large motel. Farmers would come in from far and wide, and spend the night before or after a train ride to some distant city. Maybe they would all come at once, at certain times of the year. When futures were for sale, maybe, in faraway Chicago. Hence the thirty bedrooms.

The wide street or the plaza or whatever it was ran basically south to north, with the railroad track and the shiny infrastructure defining the eastern limit, on the right, and what amounted to a kind of Main Street defining the western limit, on the left. The motel was there, and a diner, and a general store. Behind those establishments the town spread out in a loose westward semicircle. Low density. Sprawl, country style. A thousand people, maybe less.

Reacher headed north on the wide street, looking for the wagon train trail. He figured it would come in across his path, from east to west, which had been the whole point of wagon trains. Go west, young man. Exciting times. He saw a crossing fifty yards ahead, after the last of the elevators. A road, perpendicular, exactly east to west. On the right it was bright with the morning sun, and on the left it was long with shadows.

 

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