Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(25)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(25)
Author: Lee Child

‘Not really,’ I said. ‘They’re in the public record.’

‘It would bother me.’

‘Head to head I’m one-zip in front. He should gloat over that.’

‘Thanks to a gust of wind.’

‘I was born lucky.’

‘Plus you stood upwind of the others.’

‘That, too.’


‘Ingrained. Which is a form of deliberate, I suppose.’ Up ahead I saw lights strung through the trees, and then a clearing in the woods, with a tumbledown shack in the centre, and tables and chairs set out all around it on gravel and dirt. The shack had a chimney, and I could see heat and smoke coming up out of it. I could smell slow-cooked meat.

Casey Nice said, ‘OK?’

I said, ‘My kind of place.’

She began the process of slowing the truck, which involved stamping hard on the brake pedal and then pumping it like crazy. She turned the wheel and bumped into the lot and came to a stop. She switched off and pulled the key. The engine ran on for a whole minute, and then shuddered and died. We squeezed our way out and found a table. The place had no name. And no menu, really. There was a choice of meat, with either Wonder bread or baked beans on the side, and three kinds of canned soda to drink. Polystyrene plates, plastic forks, paper napkins, no credit cards accepted, and a waitress who looked about eleven years old. All good.

We ordered, ribs and bread for her, pork and beans for me, with two Cokes. The sky was clear and the stars were out. The air was crisp, but not cold. The place was about half full. I dug in my pocket and took out the pill bottle. I put it on the table, with the label facing away. I said, ‘You should have this back. Eating lint from your pocket can’t be doing you any good.’

She left it where it was for a moment. Then she dug in her own pocket and came out with her pills cupped in her hand. Seven of them. Fewer than before. She blew dust off them, and picked up the bottle, and popped the lid with her thumb, and shovelled the pills back inside.

I said, ‘Who is Antonio Luna?’

‘A friend of mine,’ she said. ‘I call him Tony Moon.’

‘A co-worker?’

‘Just a guy I know.’

‘Who had an empty bottle just when you needed one?’

She didn’t answer.

‘Or who fakes some symptoms and then gives you the prescriptions he gets, all because you can’t talk to your company doctor?’

She said, ‘Is this any of your business?’

I said, ‘None at all.’

She put the bottle in her pocket.

She said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’

I said, ‘Good to know.’

Then our food arrived, and I forgot all about pills, legit or otherwise. The beans were beans, and the Coke was Coke, but the meat was sensational. Just a no-name clearing in the North Carolina backwoods, but right then there was nowhere I would have rather been. Casey Nice looked like she shared my opinion. She was sucking the meat off her ribs and smiling and licking her lips. All good, until her phone rang.

She wiped her fingers and answered and listened and hung up. She said, ‘We have to go back. Something just happened in London.’


WHAT HAD HAPPENED in London was that someone had died. Which was not news in itself. London’s population was about eight million, and the UK’s death rate was over nine per thousand per year, so on any given day a couple hundred Londoners would breathe their last. Old age, overdoses, degenerative illnesses, cancers of every kind, car wrecks, fires, accidents, suicides, heart attacks, thromboses, and strokes. All normal.

Getting shot in the head by a high-powered rifle, not so much.

We chugged back to Bragg in the ancient patched-up Bronco, and we found O’Day and Shoemaker and Scarangello waiting for us in the upstairs room. Shoemaker gave us the facts. There was a big-deal Albanian gang leader in London, name of Karel Libor, very rich, very brutal, very successful, running drugs and girls and guns. Like most very rich and very successful big-deal gang leaders, he was also very paranoid. He had a lot of guys looking after him, and would go nowhere unless his destination had been checked and secured. Even the trip from his door to his car was protected. But apparently not from a .50-calibre round fired from a thousand yards away. Mr Libor’s head had exploded and splashed all over the armoured Range Rover he was getting into.

‘Conclusions?’ O’Day asked.

Shoemaker sat back, as if the question wasn’t aimed at him, and Scarangello glanced at Casey Nice, who shrugged and said nothing. I said, ‘Kott and Carson are in London already. They’re hiring local support. But not with money. Apparently the help wanted payment in kind this time. As in, the elimination of a rival.’

O’Day nodded. ‘A rival otherwise very difficult to get to, at street level. But raise your eyes, and London’s skyline is densely developed now. Lots of opportunities at a thousand yards, one imagines. And a thousand yards is nothing to Kott. Practically point-blank range.’

‘Or Carson,’ I said.

‘Or Datsev,’ he said. ‘Carson is only your opinion. We must keep an open mind.’

‘Did anything like this happen in Paris?’

O’Day nodded again. ‘I think it did. Not that we ever put two and two together, because there was no rifle involved. About a week before the attempt on the president, an Algerian gang leader was knifed to death in Montmartre. A very big cheese, as the French might say. And looking back at it now, you’d have to say the Vietnamese were plausible beneficiaries.’

Casey Nice asked, ‘Who benefits in London?’

‘I’m awaiting a definitive report,’ O’Day said. ‘But ballpark estimates put two in the frame. A Serbian outfit in the west of London, and an old-fashioned English gang in the east. Karel Libor was a thorn in both their sides, according to MI5.’

I said, ‘Where exactly is the G8 location?’

‘In the east of London.’

‘Then if local really means local, they’re palling up with the old-fashioned Brits.’

‘For what exactly?’ Scarangello asked.

Shoemaker said, ‘Part of the payment in kind would be considered an old-fashioned tribute, to be allowed to operate there at all. Like a toll or a tax, almost. The rest will be for logistics, places to stay, places to hide, and then on the day itself, sentries and other security close up, and a cordon out at a distance. Like we just saw in Paris.’

‘That makes it harder for us.’

I shook my head.

‘It makes it easier,’ I said. ‘We’re not looking for two guys any more. We’re looking for about fifty-two guys. They say local support, I say breadcrumbs.’

O’Day said, ‘You were right about Kott’s neighbour, by the way. The FBI found most of ten thousand dollars in cash. But not in the back of his closet.’

‘Where, then?’

‘In the washing machine in his front yard.’

‘Smart,’ I said. ‘I should have checked. Who gave it to him?’

‘He won’t say. And waterboarding is out of fashion at the moment.’

‘He’s too scared to say. Which might be significant.’

‘And the French found the bullet that killed Khenkin. From this morning. Badly deformed against the wall of the apartment house, but the chemistry is the same as the fragments you brought back from Arkansas. The same batch, quite possibly.’

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