Home > Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(8)

Make Me (Jack Reacher #20)(8)
Author: Lee Child

But Reacher stayed where he was, in the dark.

The spare-parts guy carried the leather bag and led the man in the suit toward the exit gate. The train doors sucked shut, and the cars whined and shuddered, and the train moved away again, slowly, slowly, car after car.

The spare-parts guy led the man in the suit out of sight.

Reacher stepped out to the ramp and watched the tail light dance away in the distance.

From the shadows Chang said, “They’re heading for the motel.”

Reacher said, “Who are?”

“The man from the train, and his new pal.”

She stepped into the light.

She said, “You didn’t go.”

He said, “No, I didn’t.”

“I thought you would.”

“So did I.”

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

Reacher said nothing.

Chang said, “That came out wrong. I’m sorry. Not that kind of reason. Which is presumptuous anyway. I mean, no reason I should be that kind of reason. And now I’m making it worse. I mean, you didn’t stay just to help me out. Did you?”

“Did you see those guys shake hands?”

“Of course.”

“That’s why I stayed.”

Chapter 8

Reacher led Chang into the silent waiting room and they sat on a bench, side by side in the dark. Reacher said, “How would you characterize that handshake?”

Chang said, “In what way?”

“The narrative. The story. The body language.”

“It looked like a junior corporate executive had been sent to meet an important customer.”

“Had they met before?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I agree. And it was nicely done, by the local guy. Wasn’t it? A whole subtle performance. Deferential, but not obsequious. Different from when he shakes his buddy’s hand, I’m sure. Or his father-in-law’s. Or the loan officer at the bank. Or an old friend from high school he hasn’t seen for twenty years.”

“So?”

“Our local guy is a man with a wide variety of handshaking styles at his command, and we can assume he’s comfortable about using all of them. It’s part of his shtick.”

“How does this help us?”

“I saw that guy this morning. He runs a store with spare parts for irrigation systems. I walked by his window, and he jumped and went for the phone.”

“Why would he?”

“You tell me.”

“How paranoid do you want me to be?”

“Somewhere between common sense and a little bit.”

She said, “I would think nothing of it, if it wasn’t for Keever.”

“But?”

“You look like Keever. In a general way. Maybe Keever’s been snooping around, and people have been told to keep an eye out for him, or anyone like him.”

Reacher said, “I wondered about that, too. Didn’t seem very likely, but unlikely things happen. So I went back later, to check. I asked the guy, why did you react? He said he recognized me, from college football in 1986. At Penn State. Apparently there were photographs of me in the magazines. He said he didn’t make a telephone call. He said maybe his hand was moving because the phone was ringing. He said it rings all the time.”

“Was it ringing?”

“I couldn’t hear.”

“You played football at Penn State?”

“No, I went to West Point and played football only once. Not very well, I’m afraid. I’m pretty sure I was never in a magazine.”

“Could have been an innocent mistake. 1986 was a long time ago. Your appearance would have changed considerably. And you look like you could have played football for Penn State.”

“That was my conclusion. At the time.”

“But now?”

“Now I think he was covering his ass. He was hiding behind a bullshit story. Maybe it’s a trick he learned. Don’t waste time with awkward denials, but jump right in with a plausible excuse. Some guys might find it flattering. Maybe they wanted to be football stars. Who wouldn’t? Maybe their heads get turned and the problem goes away. Plus he calibrated it to make me younger than I am. Which is flattering too, I suppose. I was already in the army in 1986. I graduated in ’83. The guy put on a whole big performance.”

“That’s not evidence of anything.”

“First up, I asked him, have we met? He said no.”

“Which was true, right?”

“But a guy like that, a fan who remembers college players from thirty years ago, if I had asked him if we’d met, he’d have said, no, but I’d sure like to shake your hand, sir. Or as I was leaving. There would have been a handshake in there somewhere. This is a handshaking guy. It’s important to some people. I’ve seen it before. Better than an autograph or a picture. Because it’s personal. It’s physical contact. I bet there’s a whole long list of people, when this guy sees them in the newspaper or on TV, he thinks to himself, I shook that guy’s hand once.”

“But he didn’t shake yours.”

“Which was a slip on top of a slip. He knew I wasn’t a famous football player. So now I’m back with your version. People have been told to keep an eye out for nosy strangers. Including maybe the weird kid from this morning. Plus no Keever on the train. Where the hell is he? So I stayed. One more night, at least. For the fun of it.”

“Who was the guy in the suit, who got off the train?”

“I don’t know. An outsider, I guess, here to do business of some kind. Not staying long, because of the small bag. Rich, probably. People that thin are usually rich. We live in strange times. Poor people are fat, and rich people are thin. That never happened before.”

“Good business or bad business? Is it a coincidence the Penn State guy picked him up, or is he also connected to whatever Keever’s looking for?”

“Could be either thing.”

“Maybe he’s just an irrigation manufacturer. The CEO of a big corporation.”

“In which case I think the travel would have been the other way around. Our guy would have gone to a trade show somewhere. Maybe he would have met the big boss at a cocktail reception. Thirty seconds, maybe less. During which time he would have shaken the guy’s hand. That’s for damn sure.”

“I’m getting worried about Keever.”

“You should, I guess. But only a little. Because how bad can this be? With all due respect, this is a private investigator taking cash or grubby checks from a lone individual. Who may or may not be nuts. Your own words. And such a guy would always go to the cops first. After trying everywhere else from the White House downward. But apparently neither the White House nor the cops were interested. So how bad can this be?”

“You think cops always get everything right?”

“I think they have a threshold, where they at least take a look. If the guy had said the warehouse was full of fertilizer bombs, I think they would have come right over. If he’d said the elevators were broadcasting to his root canals, maybe not so much.”

“But the point is it seems to have been one thing, and now it’s another. Hence the call for back-up. Maybe now it’s over the threshold.”

“In which case Keever can dial 911 like anyone else. Or he could call the FBI direct. I’m sure he still knows the number.”

 

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