The hard way, p.13
The Hard Way,
Part #10 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
The doorman at the Majestic called upstairs and pointed Reacher toward the elevator. Three minutes later he was shaking hands with Brewer, the cop. Patti Joseph was in the kitchen, making coffee. She had changed her clothes. Now she was wearing a dark pant suit, prim and proper. She had shoes on. She came
out of the kitchen with two mugs, the same huge Wedgwood items she had used before. She gave one to Brewer and one to Reacher and said, "I'll leave you guys to talk. May be easier if I'm not here. I'll go for a walk. Nighttime is about the only time it's safe for me to be out."
Reacher said, "Burke will be coming out of the subway in about an hour."
Patti said, "He won't see me."
Then she left, with a nervous glance back, as if her future was at stake. Reacher watched the door close behind her and turned and took a better look at Brewer. He was everything anyone would expect a New York City detective to be, except magnified a little. A little taller, a little heavier, longer hair, more unkempt, more energetic. He was about fifty. Or forty-something and prematurely gray.
"What's your interest here?" he asked.
"I crossed paths with Edward Lane," Reacher said. "And I heard Patti's story. So I want to know what
I'm getting into. That's all."
"Crossed paths how?"
"Lane wants to hire me for something."
"What's your line of work?"
'I was in the army," Reacher said.
"It's a free country," Brewer said. "You can work for whoever you want."
Then he sat down on Patti Joseph's sofa like he owned it. Reacher stayed away from the window. The light was on and he would be visible from the street. He leaned on the wall near the lobby and sipped his coffee.
"I was a cop once myself," he said. "Military police."
"Is that supposed to impress me?"
"Plenty of your guys came from the same place as me. Do they impress you?"
"I guess I can give you five minutes," he said.
"Bottom line," Reacher said. "What happened five years ago?"
"I can't tell you that," Brewer said. "Nobody in the NYPD can tell you that. If it was a kidnap, that's FBI business, because kidnapping is a federal crime. If it was a straightforward homicide, then that's New Jersey business, because the body was found on the other side of the George Washington Bridge, and it hadn't been moved postmortem. Therefore it was never really our case. Therefore we never really developed an opinion."
"So why are you here?"
"Community relations. The kid is hurting, and she needs an ear. Plus she's cute and she makes good coffee. Why wouldn't I be here?"
"Your people must have gotten copied in on the paperwork."
"There's a file," he said.
"What's in it?"
"Cobwebs and dust, mostly. The only thing anyone knows for sure is that Anne Lane died five years ago in New Jersey. She was a month decomposed when they found her. Not a pretty sight, apparently. But there was a definitive dental identification. It was her."
"Where was this?"
"A vacant lot near the Turnpike."
"Cause of death?"
"Fatal GSW to the back of her head. Large-caliber handgun, probably a nine, but impossible to be precise. She was out in the open. Rodents had been in and out the bullet hole. And rodents aren't dumb. They figure they're going to get fat on the good stuff inside, so they widen the hole before they go in. The bone was gnawed. But it was probably a nine, probably jacketed."
"I hope you didn't tell Patti all of that."
"What are you? Her big brother? Of course I didn't tell her all of that."
"Anything else at the scene?"
"There was a playing card. The three of clubs. Shoved down the neck of her shirt, from the back. No forensics worth a damn, nobody knew what it meant."
"Was it like a signature?"
"Or a tease. You know, some random crap to make everyone go blind trying to figure it out."
"So what do you think?" Reacher said. "Kidnap or murder?"
Brewer yawned. "No reason to look for complications. You hear hoof beats, you look for horses, not
zebras. A guy calls in that his wife has been kidnapped, you assume it's true. You don't start assuming it's a complex plot to do away with her. And it was all plausible. There were real phone calls, there was real
cash money in a bag."
Brewer went quiet for a moment. Took a long pull on his mug of coffee, swallowed, exhaled, rested his head back on the sofa.
"Patti kinds of sucks you in," he said. "You know? Sooner or later you have to admit it's just as plausible the other way around."
"I just don't know," Brewer said. "Which is a weird feeling in itself, for me. I mean, sometimes I'm wrong, but I always know."
"So what are you doing about it?"
'Nothing," Brewer said. "It's an ice-cold case outside of our jurisdiction. Hell will freeze over before the
NYPD voluntarily books another unsolved homicide."
"But you keep on showing up here."
"Like I said, the kid needs an ear. Grief is a long and complicated process."
"You do this for all the relatives?"
"Only the ones that look like they belong in Playboy magazine."
Reacher said nothing.
What's your interest here?" Brewer asked again.
"Like I said."
"Bullshit. Lane was a combat soldier. Now he's a mercenary. You're not worried about whether he offed someone he shouldn't have five years ago. Find me a guy like Lane who didn't."
Reacher said nothing.
"Something's on your mind," Brewer said.
Silence for a moment.
"One thing Patti told me," Brewer said. "She hasn't seen the new Mrs. Lane for a couple of days. Or the kid."
Reacher said nothing.
Brewer said, "Maybe she's missing and you're looking for parallels in the past."
Reacher stayed quiet.
Brewer said, "You were a cop, not a combat soldier. So now I'm wondering what kind of thing Edward
Lane would want to hire you for."
Reacher said nothing.
Brewer said, "Anything you want to tell me?"
"I'm asking," Reacher said. "Not telling."
More silence. A long hard look, cop to cop.
"As you wish," Brewer said. "It's a free country."
Reacher finished his coffee and stepped into the kitchen. Rinsed his mug under the tap and left it in the sink. Then he leaned his elbows on the counter and stared straight ahead. The living room in front of him was framed by the pass-through. The high-backed chair was at the window. On the sill was the neat surveillance array. The notebook, the pen, the camera, the binoculars.
"So what do you do with the stuff she calls in? Just bury it?"
Brewer shook his head.
"I pass it on," he said. "Outside the department. To someone with an interest."
"A private detective, downtown. A woman. She's cute, too. Older, but hey,"
"NYPD is working with private detectives now?"
"This one is in an unusual position. She's retired FBI."
"They're all retired something."
"This one was the lead agent on the Anne Lane case."
Reacher said nothing.
Brewer smiled. "So like I said, this one has an interest."
Reacher said, "Does Patti know?"
Brewer shook his head. "Better that Patti doesn't. Better that Patti never finds out. It would make for a bad combination."
"What's this woman's name?"
"I thought you'd never ask," Brewer said.
REACHER LEFT PATTI Joseph's apartment with two business cards. One was Brewer's official NYPD issue and the other was an elegant item with Lauren Pauling engraved at the top and Private Investigator under the name.
Reacher tossed Brewer's card in a Central Park West trash can and put Lauren Pauling's in his shoe. Then he took a circuitous route back toward the Dakota. It was close to one o'clock in the morning. He circled the block and saw a cop car on Columbus Avenue. Cops, he thought. The word hung up in his mind the same way it had down in SoHo. The way a twig on a swirling current catches on a riverbank. He stopped walking and closed his eyes and tried to catch it. But it spun away again. He gave it up and turned onto 72nd Street. Turned in to the Dakota's lobby. The night crew doorman was a dignified old guy. He called upstairs and inclined his head like an invitation to proceed. On five Gregory was out in the corridor with the door open and ready. Reacher followed him inside and Gregory said, "Nothing yet. But we've got seven more hours."
The apartment was dead-of-night quiet and still smelled of Chinese food. Everyone was still in the living room. Except Burke. Burke wasn't back yet. Gregory looked full of energy and Lane was upright in a chair but the others were slumped in various tired poses. The lights were low and yellow and the drapes were drawn and the air was hot.
"Wait with us," Lane said.
"I need to sleep," Reacher said. "Three or four hours."
"Use Jade's room," Lane said.
Reacher nodded and headed off through the interior hallways to Jade's room. The nightlight was still burning. The room smelled faintly of baby powder and clean skin. The bed was way too small for a guy Reacher's size. Too small for any guy, really. It was some kind of a half-sized piece, probably from a specialized children's boutique. There was an attached bathroom carved out of another maid's room. A sink, a toilet, a tub with a shower over it. The shower head was on a sliding pole. It was set about three feet above the drain hole. The shower curtain was clear plastic with yellow ducks on it.
Reacher slid the head all the way to the top and stripped and took a fast shower, with a cake of pink soap shaped like a strawberry, and baby shampoo. No tears, the bottle said. I wish, he thought. Then he dried himself on a small pink towel and put the tiny fragrant pajamas on a chair and took the pillow and the sheet and the comforter off the bed and made himself a bivouac on the floor. He cleared bears and dolls out of his way. The bears were all plush and new and the dolls looked untouched. He moved the desk a foot to one side to make room and all the papers fell off it. Drawings, in crayon on cheap paper. Trees, like bright green lollipops on brown sticks, with a big gray building beyond. The Dakota, from Central Park, maybe. There was another of three stick figures, one much smaller than the others. The family, maybe. Mother, daughter, stepfather. Mother and daughter were smiling but Lane was drawn with black holes in his mouth like someone had punched half his teeth out. There was a picture of an airplane low in the sky. Green earth below, a stripe of blue above, a yellow ball for the sun. The plane's fuselage was shaped like a sausage and had three portholes with faces in them. The wings were drawn as if from above. Like the plane was in a panic turn. The last picture was of the family again, but twice over. Two Lanes close together and side by side, two Kates, two Jades. It was like looking at the second picture again with double vision.
Reacher restacked the papers neatly and switched out the nightlight. Burrowed into the bedclothes. They covered him from his chest to his knees. He could smell baby shampoo. From his own hair, or from Jade's pillow. He wasn't sure. He set the alarm in his head for five in the morning. He closed his eyes,
breathed once, breathed twice, and fell asleep, on a floor made hard and dense and solid by three feet of
Central Park clay.
Reacher woke as planned at five o'clock in the morning, uncomfortable, still tired, and cold. He could smell coffee. He found Carter Groom in the kitchen, next to a big Krups drip machine.
"Three hours to go," Groom said. "Think they're going to call?"
"I don't know," Reacher said. "Do you think they will?"
Groom didn't reply. Just drummed his fingers on the counter as he waited for the machine to finish. Reacher waited with him. Then Burke came in. He looked like he hadn't slept. He didn't say anything. Nothing pleasant, nothing hostile. He just acted like the previous evening had never existed. Groom filled three mugs with coffee. Took one, and left the room. Burke took one and followed him. Reacher drank his sitting on the counter. The clock on the wall oven said five-ten. He figured it was a little slow. He felt it was closer to a quarter past.
Time for ex—Special Agent Lauren Pauling's wake-up call.
He stopped in the living room on his way out. Lane was still in the same chair. Immobile. Still upright. Still composed. Still stoic. Real or phony, either way, it was one hell of a display of endurance. Gregory and Perez and Kowalski were asleep on sofas. Addison was awake but inert. Groom and Burke were drinking their coffee.
"I'm going out," Reacher said.
"Another walk?" Burke asked, sourly.
"Breakfast," Reacher said.
The old guy in the lobby was still on duty. Reacher nodded to him and turned right on 72nd and headed for Broadway. Nobody came after him. He found a pay phone and used coins from his pocket and the card from his shoe and dialed Pauling's cell. He figured she would keep it switched on, top of her nightstand,
near her pillow.
She answered on the third ring.
"Hello?" she said.
Rusty voice, not sleepy, just not yet used today. Maybe she lived alone.
Reacher asked, "You heard the name Reacher recently?"
"Should I have?" Pauling asked back.
"It will save us a lot of time if you just say yes. From Anne Lane's sister Patti, through a cop called
Brewer, am I right?"
"Yes," Pauling said. "Late yesterday."
"I need an early appointment," Reacher said.
"Yes, I am. Half an hour, at your office?"
"You know where it is?"
"Brewer gave me your card."
"Half an hour," Pauling said.
And so half an hour later Reacher was standing on a West 4th Street sidewalk, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a doughnut in the other, watching Lauren Pauling walk toward him.
The Hard Way by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on41 votes