Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(4)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(4)
Author: Lee Child

“To get your attention. And for credibility. I’m a private investigator now. But not the sort that takes pictures in hotels. I need you to understand that.”

“Why?”

“I need to know why you came here.”

“You’re wasting time. Whatever else your problem is, I’m just a coincidence.”

“I need to know if you’re here to work. We could be on the same side. We could both be wasting time.”

“I’m not here to work. And I’m on nobody’s side. I’m just a passerby.”

“You sure?”

“Hundred percent.”

“Why would I believe you?”

“I don’t care if you believe me.”

“Look at it from my point of view.”

Reacher said, “What were you before you joined the Bureau?”

Chang said, “I was a police officer in Connecticut. A patrol cop.”

“That’s good. Because I was a military cop. As it happens. So we’re brother officers. In a way. Take my word as a gentleman. I’m a coincidence.”

“What kind of military cop?”

Reacher said, “The army kind.”

“What did you do for them?”

“Mostly what they told me to. Some of everything. Criminal investigation, usually. Fraud, theft, homicide, and treason. All the things folks do, if you let them.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jack Reacher. Terminal at major. Late of the 110th MP. I lost my job, too.”

Chang nodded once, slowly, and seemed to relax. But not completely. She said, but softer, “You sure you’re not working here?”

Reacher said, “Completely.”

“What do you do now?”

“Nothing.”

“What does that mean?”

“What it says. I travel. I move around. I see things. I go where I want.”

“All the time?”

“It works for me.”

“Where do you live?”

“Nowhere. In the world. Right here, today.”

“You have no home?”

“No point. I’d never be there.”

“Have you been to Mother’s Rest before?”

“Never.”

“So why now, if you’re not working?”

“I was passing by. It was a whim, because of the name.”

Chang paused a beat, and then she smiled, suddenly, and a little wistfully.

“I know,” she said. “I can see the movie in my head. The end shot is a big close-up of a leaning-over cross in the ground, two boards nailed together, with an inscription done by a hot poker from a camp fire, and behind it the wagon train clanks away and grows tiny in the distance. Then the credits roll.”

“You think an old woman died here?”

“That’s how I took it.”

“Interesting,” Reacher said.

“How did you take it?”

“I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe a younger woman stopped to have a baby. Maybe rested up a month and moved on. Maybe the kid became a senator or something.”

“Interesting,” Chang said.

Reacher pierced a yolk and took a dripping forkful of breakfast.

Thirty feet away the counterman dialed the wall phone and said, “She came back alone from the train station, and headed straight for last night’s guy, and now they’re deep in conversation, plotting and scheming, you mark my words.”

Chapter 4

The diner got less busy. The breakfast rush was clearly a crack-of-dawn thing. Farming, as bad as the military. The waitress came by and Chang ordered coffee and a danish, and Reacher finished his breakfast. He said, “So how does a private investigator like you spend her time, if you don’t get to take photographs in hotels?”

Chang said, “We aim to offer a range of specialized services. Corporate research, and a lot of on-line security now, of course, but personal security too. Close personal protection. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and that’s good news for the bodyguard business. And we do building security. Plus advice and background checks and threat assessments, and some general investigations, too.”

“What brings you here?”

“We have an ongoing operation in the area.”

“Against what?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“How big of an operation?”

“We have one man in place. At least I thought we did. I was sent as back-up.”

“When?”

“I arrived yesterday. I’m based in Seattle now. I flew as far as I could and rented a car. It was a hell of a drive. These roads go on forever.”

“And your guy wasn’t here.”

“No,” Chang said. “He wasn’t.”

“You think he left temporarily and is coming back by train?”

“I hope that’s all it is.”

“What else could it be? This isn’t the Wild West anymore.”

“I know. He’s probably fine. He’s based out of Oklahoma City. It’s entirely possible he had to run back for some other business. He’d have used the train, because of the roads. Therefore he’ll come back by train. He’ll have to. He told me he doesn’t have a car here.”

“Have you tried calling him?”

She nodded. “I found a land line in the general store. But there’s no answer at his home and his cell is off.”

“Or out of range. In which case he isn’t in Oklahoma City.”

“Would he have gone further afield? Around here? Without a car?”

“You tell me,” Reacher said. “It’s your case, not mine.”

Chang didn’t answer. The waitress came back and Reacher got a jump on lunch by ordering a slice of peach pie. With more coffee. The waitress looked resigned. Her boss’s bottomless cup policy was taking a beating.

Chang said, “He was due to brief me.”

Reacher said, “Who was? The guy that isn’t here?”

“Obviously.”

“Brief you as in update you?”

“More than that.”

“So how much don’t you know?”

“His name is Keever. He works out of our Oklahoma City office. But we’re all on the same network. I can see what he’s doing. He’s got a couple of big things going on. But nothing out here. Nothing on his computer, anyway.”

“How did you get the back-up assignment?”

“I was available. He called me personally.”

“From here?”

“Definitely. He told me exactly how to get here. He referred to it as his current location.”

“Did it feel like a routine request?”

“Pretty much. It observed the protocols.”

“So procedure was followed, except the case isn’t on his computer?”

“Correct.”

“Which means what?”

“It must be a small thing. Maybe a favor for a friend, or something else too close to pro-bono to get past the boss. No money in it, either way. So it stays under the radar. But then I suppose it got to be a bigger thing. Big enough to justify the call for back-up.”

“So it’s a small thing that’s gotten bigger? Involving what?”

“I have no idea. Keever was going to brief me.”

“No idea at all?”

“What part don’t you understand? He was working on a hobby case, privately, in secret, and he was going to tell me all about it when I got here.”

 

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