Make me, p.11
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Make Me, p.11
Download  in MP3 audio

         Part #20 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child

  “It isn’t working today.”

  “You got your own phone in back?”

  The guy said, “You can’t use it. You’re not welcome here.”

  “OK,” Reacher said, “I get the message.” He checked the tags on the items in front of him. A dollar for the socks, a dollar for the undershorts, a dollar for the T-shirt, nineteen ninety-nine for the pants, and seventeen ninety-nine for the shirt. Subtotal, forty dollars and ninety-eight cents, plus probably seven percent sales tax. Total damage, forty-three dollars and eighty-five cents. He peeled off two twenties and a five and butted them together. He creased them lengthwise to correct their curl. He placed them on the counter.

  He said, “Two choices, pal. Call the cops and tell them commerce has broken out in town. Or take my money. Keep the change, if you like. Maybe put it toward a shave and a haircut.”

  The guy didn’t answer.

  Reacher rolled his purchases together and jammed them under his arm. He followed Chang out the store and stopped in the vestibule to check the pay phone. No dial tone. Just breathy silence, like a direct connection to outer space, or the blood pulsing in his head.

  Chang said, “Coincidence?”

  Reacher said, “I doubt it. The guy probably disconnected the wires. They want us isolated.”

  “Who did you want to call?”

  “Westwood, in LA. I had a thought. And then another thought. But first I think we better check the motel.”

  “The motel guy won’t let us use his phone.”

  “No,” Reacher said. “I think we can pretty much guarantee that.”

  They approached the motel’s horseshoe from the south, so the first thing they saw was the wing with the office in it. There were three things on the sidewalk under its window. The first was the plastic lawn chair, unoccupied, but still in its overnight position.

  The second thing was Keever’s battered valise, last seen in room 215, now repacked and waiting, all bulging and forlorn.

  The third thing was Chang’s own suitcase, zipped up, its handle raised, also repacked and waiting.

  Chapter 21

  Chang stopped walking, like a reflex, and Reacher stopped alongside her. He said, “No room at the inn.”

  She said, “Their next move.”

  They walked on, getting closer, changing the geometry, seeing deeper inside the horseshoe, seeing groups of men, just standing around and waiting, filling the empty parking slots, kicking the curbs, standing in the traffic lanes. Maybe thirty guys in total, including whichever Moynahan it was who had gotten kicked in the nuts. He looked a little pale, but no smaller than before. His hapless relative wasn’t there. Probably still in bed, dosed up on painkillers.

  Reacher said, “We’ll go straight to my room.”

  Chang said, “Are you nuts? We’ll be lucky to get as far as the car.”

  “I bought new clothes. I need to change.”

  “Bring them with you. You can change later.”

  “It was already a concession not to change in the store. I don’t like carrying stuff around.”

  “We can’t fight thirty people.”

  They moved on, and stopped twenty feet from the staircase they needed. There were three guys near it. All of them were looking toward the office, where the one-eyed guy was coming out, and hustling across, waving and gesturing. When he arrived he said, “Mr. Keever’s booking has come to an end. As has his associate’s, therefore. And I’m afraid they can’t be renewed. At this time of year I take empty rooms out of circulation for a day or two, for necessary maintenance. Ready for the harvest.”

  Reacher said nothing. We can’t fight thirty people. To which Reacher’s natural response was: Why the hell not? It was in his DNA. Like breathing. He was an instinctive brawler. His greatest strength, and his greatest weakness. He was well aware of that, even as he ran through the mechanics of the problem in his mind, one against thirty. The first twelve were easy. He had fifteen rounds in the Smith, and wouldn’t miss with more than three. And assuming Chang took the hint, she could add another six. Or thereabouts. She was white collar, but on the other hand the range was short and the targets were numerous. Which would leave maybe twelve remaining, after the guns jammed empty, which was more than he could remember taking on before, all at once, but which had to be feasible. A lot would depend on shock, he supposed, which would be considerable, presumably. The noise, the muzzle flashes, the shell cases arcing through the bright morning sunlight, the guys going down.

  It had to be feasible.

  But it wasn’t. He couldn’t fight thirty people. Not at that point. Not without better information. He had no probable cause.

  He said, “When is check-out time?”

  The one-eyed guy said, “Eleven o’clock,” and then he clammed up, visibly, like he wished he had never spoken.

  Reacher said, “And what time is it now?”

  The one-eyed guy didn’t answer.

  “It’s three minutes to nine,” Reacher said. “We’ll be gone well before eleven o’clock. That’s a promise. So everyone can relax now. There’s nothing to see here.”

  The one-eyed guy stood still, deciding. Eventually he nodded. The three men near the stairs stood back, just half a pace, but their intention was clear. They weren’t going anywhere, but they weren’t going to do anything, either. Not yet.

  Reacher went up the stairs behind Chang, and unlocked his door, and stepped inside his room. Chang said, “Are we really leaving? At eleven o’clock?”

  “Before eleven,” Reacher said. “In ten minutes, probably. There’s no point in staying here. We don’t know enough.”

  “We can’t just abandon Keever.”

  “We need to go somewhere we can at least use a phone.” He dumped his new clothes on the bed, and opened the plastic packets and pulled off the tags. He said, “Maybe I should take a shower.”

  “You took a shower two hours ago. I heard you through the wall.”

  “Did you?”

  “You’re fine. Just get dressed.”

  “You sure?”

  She nodded and locked the door from the inside, and put the chain across. He carried his stuff to the bathroom and took off the old and put on the new. He put the Smith in one pocket and his toothbrush in the other, and his cash, and his ATM card, and his passport. He rolled up the old stuff and jammed it in the trash receptacle. He glanced in the mirror. He smoothed his hair with his fingers. Good to go.

  Chang called through, “Reacher, they’re coming up the stairs.”

  He called back, “Who are?”

  “About ten guys. Like a deputation.”

  He heard her step back. He heard pounding on the door, angry and impatient. He came out the bathroom and heard the lock rattling and the chain jiggling. He saw figures outside the window, on the walkway, a press of guys, some of them looking in through the glass.

  Chang said, “What are we going to do?”

  “Same as we always were,” he said. “We’re going to hit the road.”

  He walked to the door and slid the chain off. He put his hand on the handle.

  “Ready?” he said.

  Chang said, “As I’ll ever be.”

  He opened the door. There was a surge outside, and the nearest guy stumbled forward. Reacher put the flat of his hand on the guy’s chest and shoved him back. Not gently.

  He said, “What?”

  The guy got set on his feet again, and he said, “Check-out time just moved up.”

  “To when?”

  “Now.”

  Reacher hadn’t seen the guy before. Big hands, broad shoulders, a seamed face, clothes all covered with dirt. Chosen in some way, presumably, to be the point man. To be the spokesperson. The pick of the local litter, no doubt, according to popular acclaim.

  Reacher said, “What’s your name?”

  The guy didn’t answer.

  Reacher said, “It’s a simple question.”

  No response.

  “Is it Maloney?”


  “No,” the guy said, with something in his voice. Like it was a stupid question.

  Reacher said, “Why is this place called Mother’s Rest?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Go wait downstairs. We’ll leave when we’re ready.”

  The guy said, “We’re waiting here.”

  “Downstairs,” Reacher said again. “With two ways of getting there. The other is headfirst over the rail. Your choice. Either method works for me.”

  Below them the one-eyed guy was staring upward. Their suitcases had been moved nearer their car. They were side by side on the blacktop, next to the tailgate door. The guy with the big hands and the dirty clothes made a face, part shrug, part sneer, part nod, and he said, “OK, you got five more minutes.”

  “Ten more,” Reacher said. “I think that’s what we’ll take. OK with you? And don’t come up the stairs again.”

  The guy got a look in his eye, like some kind of mute challenge.

  Reacher said, “What do you do for a living?”

  The guy said, “Hog farmer.”

  “Always?”

  “Man and boy.”

  “Same place?”

  “Near enough.”

  “No military service?”

  “No.”

  “I thought not,” Reacher said. “You let us take the high ground. Which was dumb. Because thirty guys don’t mean squat if they have to come up a staircase two by two. You know we’re armed. We could pick you off like squirrels. From inside a cinder block building. Which you can’t hurt unless you’re packing grenade launchers, which I don’t think you are. So don’t come up the stairs again. Especially not in the lead.”

  The guy said nothing in reply to that, and Reacher stepped back and closed the door on him. Chang said, “If our aim is to get out of here alive, I don’t think you should be antagonizing them.”

  “I don’t agree,” Reacher said. “Because as soon as we’re gone, they’re going to be asking themselves a question. Are we coming back? It’s going to be the subject of a big debate. If we’d gone all meek and mild, they’d have known we were faking. Better to let them believe their stonewalling worked.”

  “It did. Like you said, we don’t know anything.”

  “We know something. I said we don’t know enough.”

  “What do we know?”

  “We know the clerk just called in a situation report. He told his boss we’d be gone by eleven o’clock, but that wasn’t good enough for the guy. The compromise wasn’t acceptable. He wanted us gone right now. Hence the ten guys with the new message. Which was a message we didn’t get last night. Last night we were welcomed with open arms. So what changed?”

  Chang said, “The woman in white.”

  “Exactly. The same guy who wants us gone right now didn’t want the boat rocked while she was on the premises. But now she’s gone, so it’s back to business as usual.”

  “Who was she? And where did she go?”

  “We don’t know. We don’t know about the man in the suit, either. Except they were important somehow. As in, everyone had to be on best behavior when they were around. I saw the clerk tidying up before the car came for the man in the suit. He lined up all the chairs. Before the guy got a look at the place in daylight.”

  “They weren’t investors. Not the kind that actually go inspect an investment, anyway. They didn’t have the vibe. I spent a lot of time with investors.”

  “So what were they?”

  “I have no idea. Someone’s important guests, or someone’s best customers. Or something. How are we supposed to know? Maybe they’re fugitives from justice. Maybe this is an underground railroad. But a niche market. Club class only. Peace and quiet and a good night’s sleep guaranteed, and all road transfers by Cadillac. For white-collar criminals.”

  “Would the woman dress up for that?”

  “Probably not.”

  Reacher said, “I agree it has a railroad feel. They get off the train, they spend the night in the motel, they move on the next morning by car. It feels very transient. It feels kind of one-way, too. Like this is a stop on a longer journey.”

  “From where to where?”

  Reacher didn’t answer.

  Chang said, “So what now?”

  “We’ll head west and figure that out when your phone starts working.”

  After ten minutes exactly they opened the door and stepped out to the walkway. The thirty guys were still there below them, still corralled together in small independent groups, twos and threes and fours, collectively surrounding the little green Ford in a rough and distant semicircle. The nearest was the hog farmer, about ten feet from the car. Next to him was the queasy Moynahan. Both of them looked tense and impatient. Reacher put his hand in his pocket, his palm and three fingers lightly on the Smith, and he started down the stairs, with Chang right behind him. They got to the bottom and she blipped the remote and the car unlocked with a ragged thump that sounded very loud in the silence.

  Reacher stepped around the hood and looked at the hog farmer and said, “We’ll go as soon as you put our bags in the trunk.”

  The hog farmer said, “Put them yourself.”

  Reacher leaned back against the Ford, with his hands in his pockets, and his ankles crossed. Just a guy, waiting. All the time in the world. He said, “Apparently you felt comfortable packing them up and hauling them here. So I’m guessing you don’t have a constitutional objection to touching our stuff. Or an allergy. Or any other kind of disqualifying impediment. So now’s the time to finish the job. Put them in the car, and we’ll get going. That’s what you want, right?”

  The guy said nothing.

  Reacher waited. The silence got worse. He could hear wheat stirring in the wind, a hundred yards away. No one moved. Then a guy looked at the next guy, who looked back, and pretty soon everyone was looking at everyone else, short jagged stares, a furious silent argument about trading dignity for results. Put them in the car, and we’ll get going. That’s what you want, right?

  Put them yourself.

  Eventually a guy behind the hog farmer broke ranks, and stepped forward. A pragmatist, clearly. He walked to the car and lifted the hatchback and put the bags inside, one by one, first Keever’s, then Chang’s.

  He closed the hatch and stepped back.

  “Thank you,” Reacher said. “I hope you all have a great day.”

  He opened the passenger door and slid into the seat. Beside him Chang slid behind the wheel. They closed their doors as one and Chang fired up the engine. She backed out of her slot, and turned the wheel, and took off forward, out into the plaza, and then north past the diner and the store, to the old wagon train trail, where she turned left and headed west, with the road running straight on ahead of her, forever, until it disappeared in the golden haze on the horizon, at that point as narrow as a needle.

  She said, “Are we coming back?”

  Reacher took his hand off his gun, for the first time since leaving the motel room.

  He said, “I expect we’ll have to come back.”

  Chapter 22

  They drove three hours, and then stopped for gas and food. Still no cell signal. They figured they might not find one until they were all the way over near the I-25 corridor, deep into Colorado. Another four hours, maybe. In which case they might as well head straight for Colorado Springs, which was where the Ford had been rented, and where planes to LA took off on a regular basis. They agreed LA was next. The telephone was a wonderful invention, but sometimes inadequate. Which meant airport security was in their future, so they stripped the Smiths and dumped their constituent parts in separate trash cans all around the rest stop. Easy come, easy go.

  Then Reacher drove the next spell, unlicensed and illegal, but in two hours they saw only two vehicles, neither of which was a cop car. Then Chang took over again, and they drove on, until the golden horizon darkened to gray, which meant civilization was on its way. They talked
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll