Running blind, p.27
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       Running Blind, p.27
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         Part #4 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
Chapter 27

  "WHAT THE HELL'S going on?" she asked.

  He shook his head.

  "I can't say it out loud," he said. "You'd think I was completely crazy. You'd just walk away from me. "

  "What's crazy? Tell me. "

  "No, I can't. Right now, it's just a house of cards. You'd blow it down. Anybody would blow it down. So you need to see it for yourself. Hell, I need to see it for myself. But I want you there, for the arrest. "

  "What arrest? Just tell me. "

  He shook his head again. "Where's your car?"

  "In the lot. "

  "So let's go. "

  REVEILLE HAD BEEN 0600 the whole of Rita Scimeca's service career, and she stuck to the habit in her new civilian life. She slept six hours out of twenty-four, midnight until six in the morning, a quarter of her life. Then she got up to face the other three quarters.

  An endless procession of empty days. Late fall, there was nothing to be done in the yard. The winter temperatures were too savage for any young vegetation to make it through. So planting was restricted to the spring, and pruning and cleanup was finished by the end of the summer. Late fall and winter, the doors stayed locked and she stayed inside.

  Today, she was scheduled to work on Bach. She was trying to perfect the three-part inventions. She loved them. She loved the way they moved forward, on and on, inescapably logical, until they ended up back where they started. Like Maurits Escher's drawings of stair-cases, which went up and up and up all the way back to the bottom. Wonderful. But they were very difficult pieces to play. She played them very slowly. Her idea was to get the notes right, then the articulation, then the meaning, and then last of all to get the speed right. Nothing worse than playing Bach fast and badly.

  She showered in the bathroom and dressed in the bedroom. She did it quickly, because she kept the house cold. Fall in the Northwest was a chilly season. But today there was brightness in the sky. She looked out of her window and saw streaks of dawn spearing east to west like rods of polished steel. It would be cloudy, she guessed, but with a halo of sun visible. It would be like a lot of her days. Not good, not bad. But livable.

  HARPER PAUSED FOR a second in the underground corridor and then led Reacher to the elevator and up into the daylight. Outside into the chill air and across the landscaping to her car. It was a tiny yellow two-seater. He realized he had never seen it before. She unlocked it and he ducked his head and folded himself into the passenger seat. She glanced hard at him once and dumped her bag in his lap and climbed down into the driver's seat. Shoulder room was tight. It was a stick shift, and her elbow hit his when she put it in gear.

  "So how do we get there?"

  "We'll have to go commercial," he said. "Head for National, I guess. You got credit cards?"

  She was shaking her head.

  "They're all maxed out," she said. "They'll get refused. "

  "All of them?"

  She nodded. "I'm broke right now. "

  He said nothing.

  "What about you?" she asked.

  "I'm always broke," he said.

  THE FIFTH OF Bach's three-part inventions was labeled BWV 791 by scholars and was one of the hardest in the canon, but it was Rita Scimeca's favorite piece in all the world. It depended entirely on tone, which came from the mind, down through the shoulders and the arms and the hands and the fingers. The tone had to be whimsical, but confident. The whole piece was a confection of nonsense, and the tone had to confess to that, but simultaneously it had to sound utterly serious for the effect to develop properly. It had to sound polished, but insane. Secretly, she was sure Bach was crazy.

  Her piano helped. Its sound was big enough to be sonorous, but delicate enough to be nimble. She played the piece all the way through twice, half speed, and she was reasonably pleased with what she heard. She decided to play for three hours, then stop and have some lunch, and then get ahead with the housework. She wasn't sure about the afternoon. Maybe she would play some more.

  YOU TAKE UP your position early. Early enough to be settled before the eight o'clock changeover. You watch it happen. It's the same deal as yesterday. The Bureau guy, still awake, but no longer very attentive. The arrival of the cold Crown Vic. The flank-to-flank pleasantries. The Buick starts up, the Crown Vic turns in the road, the Buick rolls away down the hill, the Crown Vic crawls forward and settles into its space. The engine dies, and the guy's head turns. He sinks low in his seat, and his last shift as a cop begins. After today, they won't trust him to direct traffic around the Arctic Circle.

  "SO HOW DO we get there?" Harper asked again.

  Reacher paused.

  "Like this," he said.

  He opened her pocketbook and took out her phone and flipped it open. Closed his eyes and tried to recall sitting in Jodie's kitchen, dialing the number. Tried to remember the precious sequence of digits. He entered them slowly. Hopefully. He pressed send. Heard ring tone for a long moment. Then the call was answered. A deep voice, slightly out of breath.

  "Colonel John Trent," it said.

  "Trent, this is Reacher. You still love me?"

  "What?"

  "I need a ride, two people, Andrews to Portland, Oregon. "

  "Like when?"

  "Like right now, immediately. "

  "You're kidding, right?"

  "No, we're on our way there. We're a half hour out. "

  Silence for a second.

  "Andrews to Portland, Oregon, right?" Trent said.

  "Right. "

  "How fast do you need to get there?"

  "Fastest you got. "

  Silence again.

  "OK," Trent said.

  Then the line went dead. Reacher folded the phone.

  "So is he doing it?" Harper asked.

  Reacher nodded.

  "He owes me," he said. "So let's go. "

  She let in the clutch and drove out of the lot, into the approach road. The tiny car rode hard over the speed bumps. She passed by the FBI guard and accelerated into the curve and blasted through the first Marine checkpoint. Reacher saw heads turning in the corner of his eye, startled faces under green helmets.

  "So what is it?" she asked again.

  "Truth, and lies," he said. "And means, motive, opportunity. The holy trinity of law enforcement. Three out of three is the real deal, right?"

  "I can't even get one out of three," she said. "What's the key?"

  They cleared the second Marine checkpoint, traveling fast. More swiveling helmeted heads watched them go.

  "Bits and pieces," he said. "We know everything we need to know. Some of it, we've known for days. But we screwed up everywhere, Harper. Big mistakes and wrong assumptions. "

  She made the blind left, north onto 95. Traffic was heavy. They were in the far outer echoes of D. C. 's morning rush hour. She changed lanes and was balked by the cars ahead and braked hard.

  "Shit," he said.

  "Don't worry," she said. "Scimeca's guarded out there. They all are. "

  "Not well enough. Not until we get there. This is a cool, cool customer. "

  She nodded and dodged left and right, looking for the fastest lane. They were all slow. Her speed dropped from forty to thirty. Then all the way down to twenty.

  YOU USE YOUR field glasses and you watch his first bathroom break. He's been in the car an hour, swilling the coffee he brought with him. Now he needs to unload it. The driver's door opens and he pivots in his seat and puts his big feet down on the ground and hauls himself out. He's stiff from sitting. He stretches, steadying himself with a hand on the roof of the car. He closes the door and walks around the hood, into the driveway. Up the path. You see him step up onto the porch. You see his hand move to the bell push. You see him step back and wait.

  You don't see her at the door. The angle is wrong. But he nods and smiles at something and steps inside. You keep the field glasses focused and three or four minutes later he's back on the por
ch, moving away, looking over his shoulder, talking. Then he turns ahead and walks back down the path. Down the driveway. Around the hood of his car. He gets back in. The suspension eases downward on his side and his door closes. He sinks down in his seat. His head turns. He watches.

  SHE FLICKED THE tiny car right and put it on the shoulder. Eased the speed up to thirty, thirty-five, and hauled past the stalled traffic on the inside. The shoulder was rough and littered with gravel and debris. On their left, the tires on the stationary eighteen-wheelers were taller than the car.

  "What mistakes?" she said. "What wrong assumptions? "

  "Very, very ironic ones, in the circumstances," he said. "But it's not entirely our fault. I think we swallowed a few big lies, too. "

  "What lies?"

  "Big, beautiful, breathtaking lies," he said. "So big and so obvious, nobody even saw them for what they were. "

  SHE BREATHED HARD and tried to relax again after the cop went back out. He was in and out, in and out, all day long. It ruined her concentration. To play this thing properly, you needed to be in some kind of trance. And the damn silly cop kept on interrupting it.

  She sat down and played it through again, a dozen times, fifteen, twenty, all the way from the first measure to the last. She was note-perfect, but that was nothing. Was the meaning there? Was there emotion in the sound? Thought? On the whole, she reckoned there was. She played it again, once, then twice. She smiled to herself. Saw her face reflected back from the glossy black of the keyboard lid and smiled again. She was making progress. Now all she had to do was bring the speed up. But not too much. She preferred Bach played slowly. Too much speed trivialized it. Although it was fundamentally trivial music. But that was all part of Bach's mind game, she thought. He deliberately wrote trivial music that just begged to be played with great ceremony.

  She stood up and stretched. Closed the keyboard lid and walked out to the hallway. Lunch was the next problem. She had to force herself to eat. Maybe everybody who lived alone had the same problem. Solo mealtimes weren't much fun.

  There were footprints on the hallway parquet. Big muddy feet. The damn cop, ruining everything. Spoiling her musical concentration, spoiling the shine of her floors. She stared at the mess, and while she was staring, the doorbell rang. The idiot was here again. What the hell was the matter with him? Where was his bladder control? She stepped around the footprints and opened the door.

  "No," she said.

  "What?"

  "No, you can't use the bathroom. I'm sick of it. "

  "Lady, I need to," he said. "That was the arrangement. "

  "Well, the arrangement has changed," she said. "I don't want you coming in here anymore. It's ridiculous. You're driving me crazy. "

  "I have to be here. "

  "It's ridiculous," she said again. "I don't need your protection. Just go away, will you?"

  She closed the door, firmly. Locked it tight and walked away to the kitchen, breathing hard.

  HE DOESN'T GO in. You watch very carefully. He just stands there on the porch, at first surprised. Then a little disgruntled. You can see it right there in his body language. He says three things, leaning fractionally backward in self-defense, and then the door must be closing in his face, because he steps back suddenly. He looks wounded. He stands still and stares and then turns around and walks back down the path, twenty seconds after walking up it. So what's that about?

  He walks around the hood of his car and opens the door. Doesn't get all the way in. He sits sideways with his feet still out on the road. He leaned over and picks up his radio mike. Holds it in his hand for thirty seconds, looking at it, thinking. Then he puts it back. Obviously he's not going to call it in. He's not going to tell his sergeant, Sir, she won't let me pee anymore. So what's he going to do? Is this going to change anything?

  THEY GOT TO Andrews by driving most of the way on the shoulder and pushing in and out of the inside lane when necessary. The base itself was an oasis of calm. Nothing much was happening. There was a helicopter in the air, but it was far enough away to be noiseless. Trent had left Reacher's name at the gate. That was clear, because the guard was expecting them. He raised the barrier and told them to park at the Marine transport office and inquire within.

  Harper put the yellow car in line with four dull olive Chevrolets and killed the motor. Joined Reacher on the blacktop and followed him to the office door. A corporal stared at her and passed them to a sergeant who stared at her and passed them to a captain. The captain stared at her and told them a new transport Boeing's flight test was being rerouted to Portland instead of San Diego. He said they could hitch a ride on it. He said they would be the only passengers. Then he said takeoff was scheduled in three hours.

  "Three hours?" Reacher repeated.

  " Portland 's a civilian airport," the captain said. "It's a flight plan problem. "

  Reacher was silent. The guy just shrugged.

  "Best the colonel could do," he said.

 
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