Running blind, p.3
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       Running Blind, p.3
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         Part #4 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
Chapter 3

  THEY PARKED UNDERGROUND someplace south of mid-town and forced him out of the car into a white-painted garage full of bright light and dark sedans. The woman turned a full circle on the concrete floor with her shoes scraping in the silence. She was examining the whole crowded space. A cautious approach. Then she pointed toward a single black elevator door located in a distant corner. There were two more guys waiting there. Dark suits, white shirts, quiet ties. They watched the woman and the sandy guy all the way in across the diagonal. There was deference in their faces. They were junior guys. But they were also comfortable, and a little proud. Like they were some kind of hosts. Reacher suddenly understood the woman and the sandy guy were not New York agents. They were visitors from somewhere else. They were on somebody else's turf. The woman hadn't examined the whole garage simply because she was cautious. She had done it because she didn't know where the elevator was.

  They put Reacher in the center of the elevator car and crowded in around him. The woman, the sandy guy, the driver, the two local boys. Five people, five weapons. The four men took a corner each and the woman stood in the center, close to Reacher, like she was claiming him as hers. One of the local boys touched a button and the door rolled shut and the elevator took off.

  It traveled upward for a long time and stopped hard with 21 showing on the floor indicator. The door thumped back and the local boys led the way out into a blank corridor. It was gray. Thin gray carpet, gray paint, gray light. It was quiet, like everyone except the hard-core enthusiasts had gone home hours before. There were closed doors spaced along the corridor wall. The guy who had driven the sedan down from Garrison paused in front of the third and opened it up. Reacher was maneuvered to the doorway and looked in at a bare space, maybe twelve by sixteen, concrete floor, cinder-block walls, all covered in thick gray paint like the side of a battleship. The ceiling was unfinished, and the ducting was all visible, square trunking made from thin flecked metal. Fluorescent fittings hung from chains and threw a flat glare across the gray. There was a single plastic garden chair in the corner. It was the only thing in the room.

  "Sit down," the woman said.

  Reacher walked away from the chair to the opposite corner and sat on the floor, wedged into the angle of the cinder-block walls. The cinder block was cold and the paint was slick. He folded his arms over his chest and stretched his legs out straight and crossed his ankles. Rested his head on the wall, forty-five degrees to his shoulders, so he was gazing straight at the people standing by the door. They backed out into the corridor and closed the door on him. There was no sound of a lock turning, but there didn't need to be, because there was no handle on the inside.

  He felt the faint shudder of footsteps receding through the concrete floor. Then he was left with nothing but silence floating on a whisper of air from the vents above his head. He sat in the silence for maybe five minutes and then he felt more footsteps outside and the door opened again and a man stuck his face inside the room and stared straight in at him. It was an older face, big and red and bloated with strain and puffy with blood pressure, full of hostility, and its frank stare said so you're the guy, huh? The stare lasted three or four long seconds and then the face ducked back out and the door slammed and the silence came back again.

  The same thing happened over again five minutes later. Footsteps in the corridor, a face around the door, the same frank stare. So you're the guy. This time the face was leaner and darker. Younger. Shirt and tie below it, no jacket. Reacher stared back, three or four seconds. The face disappeared and the door slammed.

  This time the silence lasted longer, somewhere around twenty minutes. Then a third face came to stare. Footsteps, the rattle of the handle, the door opening, the stare. This is the guy, huh? This third face was older again, a man somewhere in his fifties, a competent expression, a thatch of gray hair. He wore thick glasses and behind them his eyes were calm. Serious speculation in both of them. He looked like a guy with responsibilities. Maybe some kind of a Bureau chief. Reacher stared back at him, wearily. No words were spoken. No communication took place. The guy just stared for a spell and then his face disappeared and the door closed again.

  Whatever was happening outside kept on happening for the best part of an hour. Reacher was left alone in the room, sitting comfortably on the floor, just waiting. Then the waiting was over. A whole crowd of people came back together, noisy in the corridor, like an anxious herd. Reacher felt the stamp and shuffle of footsteps. Then the door opened and the gray-haired guy with the eyeglasses stepped into the room. He kept his trailing foot near the threshold and leaned his weight inside at an angle.

  "Time to talk," he said.

  The two junior agents pushed in behind him and took up station like an escort. Reacher waited a beat and then he jacked himself upright and stepped away from his corner.

  "I want to make a call," he said.

  The gray-haired guy shook his head.

  "Calling comes later," he said. "Talking comes first, OK?"

  Reacher shrugged. The problem with getting your rights abused was that somebody had to witness it for it to mean anything. Somebody had to see it happen. And the two young agents were seeing nothing. Or maybe they were seeing Moses himself coming down and reading the whole Constitution off of big tablets of stone. Maybe that's what they would swear to later.

  "So let's go," the gray-haired guy said.

  Reacher was crowded out into the gray corridor and into a big knot of people. The woman was there, and the sandy guy with the mustache, and the older guy with the blood pressure, and the younger guy with the lean face and the shirtsleeves. They were buzzing. It was late in the evening, but they were all pumped up with excitement. They were up on their toes, weightless with the intoxication of progress. It was a feeling Reacher recognized. It was a feeling he had experienced, more times than he cared to remember.

  But they were divided. There were two clear teams. There was tension between them. It became obvious as they walked. The woman stuck close to his left shoulder, and the sandy guy and the blood pressure guy stuck close to her. That was one team. On his right shoulder was the guy with the lean face. He was the second team, alone and outnumbered and unhappy about it. Reacher felt his hand near his elbow, like he was ready to make a grab for his prize.

  They walked down a narrow gray corridor like the bowels of a battleship and spilled into a gray room with a long table filling most of the floor space. The table was curved on both long edges and chopped off straight at the ends. On one long side, backs to the door, were seven plastic chairs in a line, well spaced out, with the curve of the table edge focusing them all across toward a single identical chair placed in the exact center of the opposite side.

  Reacher paused in the doorway. Not too difficult to work out which chair was his. He looped around the end of the table and sat down in it. It was flimsy. The legs squirmed under his weight and the plastic dug into the muscle under his shoulder blades. The room was cinder block, painted gray like the first one, but this ceiling was finished. There was stained acoustic tile in warped framing. There was track lighting bolted to it, with large can-shaped fixtures angled down and toward him. The tabletop was cheap mahogany, thickly lacquered with shiny varnish. The light bounced off the varnish and came up into his eyes from below.

  The two junior agents had taken up position against the walls at opposite ends of the table, like sentries. Their jackets were open and their shoulder holsters were visible. Their hands were folded comfortably at their waists. Their heads were turned, watching him. Opposite him, the two teams were forming up. Seven chairs, five people. The gray-haired guy took the center chair. The light caught his eyeglasses and turned them into blank mirrors. Next to him on his right-hand side was the guy with the blood pressure, and next to him was the woman, and next to her was the sandy guy. The guy with the lean face and the shirtsleeves was alone in the middle chair of the left-hand three. A lop-sided inquisition, hunching toward
him, indistinct through the glare of the lights.

  The gray-haired guy leaned forward, sliding his forearms onto the shiny wood, claiming authority. And subconsciously separating the factions to his left and right.

  "We've been squabbling over you," he said.

  "Am I in custody?" Reacher asked.

  The guy shook his head. "No, not yet. "

  "So I'm free to go?"

  The guy looked over the top of his eyeglasses. "Well, we'd rather you stayed right here, so we can keep this whole thing civilized for a spell. "

  There was silence for a long moment.

  "So make it civilized," Reacher said. "I'm Jack Reacher. Who the hell are you?"

  "What?"

  "Let's have some introductions. That's what civilized people do, right? They introduce themselves. Then they chat politely about the Yankees or the stock market or something. "

  More silence. Then the guy nodded.

  "I'm Alan Deerfield," he said. "Assistant Director, FBI. I run the New York Field Office. "

  Then he turned his head to his right and stared at the sandy guy on the end of the line and waited.

  "Special Agent Tony Poulton," the sandy guy said, and glanced to his left.

  "Special Agent Julia Lamarr," the woman said, and glanced to her left.

  "Agent-in-Charge Nelson Blake," the guy with the blood pressure said. "The three of us are up here from Quantico. I run the Serial Crimes Unit. Special Agents Lamarr and Poulton work for me there. We came up here to talk to you. "

  There was a pause and the guy called Deerfield turned the other way and looked toward the man on his left.

  "Agent-in-Charge James Cozo," the guy said. "Organized Crime, here in New York City, working on the protection rackets. "

  More silence.

  "OK now?" Deerfield asked.

  Reacher squinted through the glare. They were all looking at him. The sandy guy, Poulton. The woman, Lamarr. The hypertensive, Blake. All three of them from Serial Crimes down in Quantico. Up here to talk to him. Then Deerfield, the New York Bureau chief, a heavyweight. Then the lean guy, Cozo, from Organized Crime, working on the protection rackets. He glanced slowly left to right, and right to left, and finished up back on Deerfield. Then he nodded.

  "OK," he said. "Pleased to meet you all. So what about those Yankees? You think they need to trade?"

  Five different people facing him, five different expressions of annoyance. Poulton turned his head like he had been slapped. Lamarr snorted, a contemptuous sound in her nose. Blake tightened his mouth and got redder. Deerfield stared and sighed. Cozo glanced sideways at Deerfield, lobbying for intervention.

  "We're not going to talk about the Yankees," Deerfield said.

  "So what about the Dow? We going to see a big crash anytime soon?"

  Deerfield shook his head. "Don't mess with me, Reacher. Right now I'm the best friend you got. "

  "No, Ernesto A. Miranda is the best friend I got," Reacher said. "Miranda versus Arizona, Supreme Court decision in June of 1966. They said his Fifth Amendment rights were infringed because the cops didn't warn him he could stay silent and get himself a lawyer. "

  "So?"

  "So you can't talk to me until you read me my Miranda rights. Whereupon you can't talk to me anyway because my lawyer could take some time to get here and then she won't let me talk to you even when she does. "

  The three agents from Serial Crime were smiling broadly. Like Reacher was busy proving something to them.

  "Your lawyer is Jodie Jacob, right?" Deerfield asked. "Your girlfriend?"

  "What do you know about my girlfriend?"

  "We know everything about your girlfriend," Deerfield said. "Just like we know everything about you, too. "

  "So why do you need to talk to me?"

  "She's at Spencer Gutman, right?" Deerfield said. "Big reputation as an associate. They're talking about a partnership for her, you know that?"

  "So I heard. "

  "Maybe real soon. "

  "So I heard," Reacher said again.

  "Knowing you isn't going to help her, though. You're not exactly the ideal corporate husband, are you?"

  "I'm not any kind of a husband. "

  Deerfield smiled. "Figure of speech, is all. But Spencer Gutman is a real white-shoe operation. They consider stuff like that, you know. And it's a financial firm, right? Real big in the world of banking, we all know that. But not much expertise in the field of criminal law. You sure you want her for your attorney? Situation like this?"

  "Situation like what?"

  "Situation you're in. "

  "What situation am I in?"

  "Ernesto A. Miranda was a moron, you know that?" Deerfield said. "A couple of smokes short of a pack? That's why the damn court was so soft on him. He was a subnormal guy. He needed the protection. You a moron, Reacher? You a subnormal guy?"

  "Probably, to be putting up with this shit. "

  "Rights are for guilty people, anyway. You already saying you're guilty of something?"

  Reacher shook his head. "I'm not saying anything. I've got nothing to say. "

  "Old Ernesto went to jail anyhow, you know that? People tend to forget that fact. They retried him and convicted him just the same. He was in jail five years. Then you know what happened to him?"

  Reacher shrugged. Said nothing.

  "I was working in Phoenix at the time," Deerfield said. "Down in Arizona. Homicide detective, for the city. Just before I made it to the Bureau. January of 1976, we get a call to a bar. Some piece of shit lying on the floor, big knife handle sticking up out of him. The famous Ernesto A. Miranda himself, bleeding all over the place. Nobody fell over themselves rushing to call any medics. Guy died a couple minutes after we got there. "

  "So?"

  "So stop wasting my time. I already wasted an hour stopping these guys fighting over you. So now you owe me. So you'll answer their questions, and I'll tell you when and if you need a damn lawyer. "

  "What are the questions about?"

  Deerfield smiled. "What are any questions about? Stuff we need to know, is what. "

  "What stuff do you need to know?"

  "We need to know if we're interested in you. "

  "Why would you be interested in me?"

  "Answer the questions and we'll find out. "

  Reacher thought about it. Laid his hands palms up on the table.

  "OK," he said. "What are the questions?"

  "You know Brewer versus Williams, too?" the guy called Blake said. He was old and overweight and unfit, but his mouth worked fast enough.

  "Or Duckworth versus Eagan?" Poulton asked.

  Reacher glanced across at him. He was maybe thirty-five, but he looked younger, like one of those guys who stay looking young forever. Like some kind of a graduate student, preserved. His suit was an awful color in the orange light, and his mustache looked false, like it was stuck on with glue.

  "You know Illinois and Perkins?" Lamarr asked.

  Reacher stared at them both. "What the hell is this? Law school?"

  "What about Minnick versus Mississippi?" Blake asked.

  Poulton smiled. "McNeil and Wisconsin?"

  " Arizona and Fulminante?" Lamarr said.

  "You know what those cases are?" Blake asked.

  Reacher looked for the trick, but he couldn't see it.

  "More Supreme Court decisions," he said. "Following on from Miranda. Brewer was 1977, Duckworth 1989, Perkins 1990, Minnick 1990, McNeil 1991, Fulminante 1991, all of them modifying and restating the original Miranda decision. "

  Blake nodded. "Very good. "

  Lamarr leaned forward. The light scatter off the shiny tabletop lit her face from below, like a skull.

  "You knew Amy Callan pretty well, didn't you?" she asked.

  "Who?" Reacher said.

  "You heard, you son of a bitch. "

  Reacher stared at her. Then a woman
called Amy Callan came back at him from the past and slowed him just enough to allow a contented smile to settle on Lamarr's bony face.

  "But you didn't like her much, did you?" she said.

  There was silence. It built around him.

  "OK, my turn," Cozo said. "Who are you working for?"

  Reacher swung his gaze slowly to his right and rested it on Cozo.

  "I'm not working for anybody," he said.

  "Don't start a turf war with us," Cozo quoted. "Us is a plural word. More than one person. Who is us, Reacher?"

  "There is no us. "

  "Bullshit, Reacher. Petrosian put the arm on that restaurant, but you were already there. So who sent you?"

  Reacher said nothing.

  "What about Caroline Cooke?" Lamarr called. "You knew her too, right?"

  Reacher turned slowly back to face her. She was still smiling.

  "But you didn't like her either, did you?" she said.

  "Callan and Cooke," Blake repeated. "Give it up Reacher, from the beginning, OK?"

  Reacher looked at him. "Give what up?"

  More silence.

  "Who sent you to the restaurant?" Cozo asked again. "Tell me right now, and maybe I can cut you a deal. "

  Reacher turned back the other way. "Nobody sent me anywhere. "

  Cozo shook his head. "Bullshit, Reacher. You live in a half-million-dollar house on the river in the Garrison and you drive a six-month-old forty-five-thousand-dollar sport-utility vehicle. And as far as the IRS knows, you haven't earned a cent in nearly three years. And when somebody wanted Petrosian's best boys in the hospital, they sent you to do it. Put all that together, you're working for somebody, and I want to know who the hell it is. "

  "I'm not working for anybody," Reacher said again.

  "You're a loner, right?" Blake asked. "Is that what you're saying?"

  Reacher nodded. "I guess. "

  He turned his head. Blake was smiling, satisfied.

  "I thought so," he said. "When did you come out of the Army?"

  Reacher shrugged. "About three years ago. "

  "How long were you in?"

  "All my life. Officer's kid, then an officer myself. "

  "Military policeman, right?"

  "Right. "

  "Several promotions, right?"

  "I was a major. "

  "Medals?"

  "Some. "

  "Silver Star?"

  "One. "

  "First-rate record, right?"

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Don't be modest," Blake said. "Tell us. "

  "Yes, my record was good. "

  "So why did you muster out?"

  "That's my business. "

  "Something to hide?"

  "You wouldn't understand. "

  Blake smiled. "So, three years. What have you been doing?"

  Reacher shrugged again. "Nothing much. Having fun, I guess. "

  "Working?"

  "Not often. "

  "Just bumming around, right?"

  "I guess. "

  "Doing what for money?"

  "Savings. "

  "They ran out three months ago. We checked with your bank. "

  "Well, that happens with savings, doesn't it?"

  "So now you're living off of Ms. Jacob, right? Your girlfriend, who's also your lawyer. How do you feel about that?"

  Reacher glanced through the glare at the worn wedding band crushing Blake's fat pink finger.

  "No worse than your wife does, living off of you, I expect," he said.

  Blake grunted and paused. "So you came out of the Army, and since then you've done nothing much, right?"

  "Right. "

  "Mostly on your own. "

  "Mostly. "

  "Happy with that?"

  "Happy enough. "

  "Because you're a loner. "

  "Bullshit, he's working for somebody," Cozo said.

  "The man says he's a loner, damn it," Blake snarled.

  Deerfield 's head was turning left and right between them, like a spectator at a tennis game. The reflected light was flashing in the lenses of his glasses. He held up his hands for silence and fixed Reacher with a quiet gaze.

  "Tell me about Amy Callan and Caroline Cooke," he said.

  "What's to tell?" Reacher asked.

  "You knew them, right?"

  "Sure, way back. In the Army. "

  "So tell me about them. "

  "Callan was small and dark, Cooke was tall and blond. Callan was a sergeant, Cooke was a lieutenant. Callan was a clerk in Ordnance, Cooke was in War Plans. "

  "Where was this?"

  "Callan was at Fort Withe near Chicago, Cooke was at NATO headquarters in Belgium. "

  "Did you have sex with either of them?" Lamarr asked.

  Reacher turned to stare at her. "What kind of a question is that?"

  "A straightforward one. "

  "Well, no, I didn't. "

  "They were both pretty, right?"

  Reacher nodded. "Prettier than you, that's for damn sure. "

  Lamarr looked away and went quiet. Blake turned dark red and stepped into the silence. "Did they know each other?"

  "I doubt it. There's a million people in the Army, and they were serving four thousand miles apart at different times. "

  "And there was no sexual relationship between you and either of them?"

  "No, there wasn't. "

  "Did you attempt one? With either of them?"

  "No, I didn't. "

  "Why not? Afraid they'd rebuff you?"

  Reacher shook his head. "I was with somebody else on both occasions, if you really want to know, and one at a time is usually enough for me. "

  "Would you like to have had sex with them?"

  Reacher smiled, briefly. "I can think of worse things. "

  "Would they have said yes to you?"

  "Maybe, maybe not. "

  "What's your best guess?"

  "Were you ever in the Army?"

  Blake shook his head.

  "Then you don't know how it is," Reacher said. "Most people in the Army would have sex with anything that moves. "

  "So you don't think they'd have rebuffed you?"

  Reacher kept his gaze tight on Blake's eyes. "No, I don't think it would have been a serious worry. "

  There was a long pause.

  "Do you approve of women in the military?" Deerfield asked.

  Reacher's eyes moved across to him. "What?"

  "Answer the question, Reacher. You approve of women in the military?"

  "What's not to approve?"

  "You think they make good fighters?"

  "Stupid question," Reacher said. "You already know they do. "

  "I do?"

  "You were in ' Nam, right?"

  "I was?"

  "Sure you were," Reacher said. "Homicide detective in Arizona in 1976? Made it to the Bureau shortly afterward? Not too many draft dodgers could have managed that, not there, not back then. So you did your tour, maybe 1970, 1971. Eyesight like that, you weren't a pilot. Those eyeglasses probably put you right in the infantry. In which case you spent a year getting your ass kicked all over the jungle, and a good third of the people kicking it were women. Good snipers, right? Very committed, the way I heard it. "

  Deerfield nodded slowly. "So you like women fighters? "

  Reacher shrugged. "You need fighters, women can do it the same as anybody else. Russian front, World War Two? Women did pretty well there. You ever been to Israel? Women in the front line there too, and I wouldn't want to put too many U. S. units up against the Israeli defenses, at least not if it was going to be critical who won. "

  "So, you got no problems at all?"

  "Personally, no. "

  "You got problems otherwise than personally?"

  "There are military problems, I guess," Reacher said. "Evidence from Israel shows an inf
antryman is ten times more likely to stop his advance and help a wounded buddy if the buddy is a woman rather than a man. Slows the advance right down. It needs training out of them. "

  "You don't think people should help each other?" Lamarr asked.

  "Sure," Reacher said. "But not if there's an objective to capture first. "

  "So if you and I were advancing together, you'd just leave me if I got wounded?"

  Reacher smiled. "In your case, without a second thought. "

  "How did you meet Amy Callan?" Deerfield asked.

  "I'm sure you already know," Reacher said.

  "Tell me anyway. For the record. "

  "Are we on the record?"

  "Sure we are. "

  "Without reading me my rights?"

  "The record will show you had your rights, any old time I say you had them. "

  Reacher was silent.

  "Tell me about Amy Callan," Deerfield said again.

  "She came to me with a problem she was having in her unit," Reacher said.

  "What problem?"

  "Sexual harassment. "

  "Were you sympathetic?"

  "Yes, I was. "

  "Why?"

  "Because I was never abused because of my gender. I didn't see why she should have to be. "

  "So what did you do?"

  "I arrested the officer she was accusing. "

  "And what did you do then?"

  "Nothing. I was a policeman, not a prosecutor. It was out of my hands. "

  "And what happened?"

  "The officer won his case. Amy Callan left the service. "

  "But the officer's career was ruined anyway. "

  Reacher nodded. "Yes, it was. "

  "How did you feel about that?"

  Reacher shrugged. "Confused, I guess. As far as I knew, he was an OK guy. But in the end I believed Callan, not him. My opinion was he was guilty. So I guess I was happy he was gone. But it shouldn't work that way, ideally. A not-guilty verdict shouldn't ruin a career. "

  "So you felt sorry for him?"

  "No, I felt sorry for Callan. And I felt sorry for the Army. The whole thing was a mess. Two careers were ruined, where either way only one should have been. "

  "What about Caroline Cooke?"

  "Cooke was different. "

  "Different how?"

  "Different time, different place. It was overseas. She was having sex with some colonel. Had been for a year. It looked consensual to me. She only called it harassment later, when she didn't get promoted. "

  "How is that different?"

  "Because it was unconnected. The guy was screwing her because she was happy to let him, and he didn't promote her because she wasn't good enough at her job. The two things weren't connected. "

  "Maybe she saw the year in bed as an implied bargain. "

  "Then it was a contractual issue. Like a hooker who gets bilked. That's not harassment. "

  "So you did nothing?"

  Reacher shook his head. "No, I arrested the colonel, because by then there were rules. Sex between people of different rank was effectively outlawed. "

  "And?"

  "And he was dishonorably discharged and his wife dumped him and he killed himself. And Cooke quit anyway. "

  "And what happened to you?"

  "I transferred out of NATO HQ. "

  "Why? Upset?"

  "No, I was needed someplace else. "

  "You were needed? Why you?"

  "Because I was a good investigator. I was wasted in Belgium. Nothing much happens in Belgium. "

  "You see much sexual harassment after that?"

  "Sure. It became a very big thing. "

  "Lots of good men getting their careers ruined?" Lamarr asked.

  Reacher turned to face her. "Some. It became a witch-hunt. Most of the cases were genuine, in my opinion, but some innocent people were caught up. Plenty of normal relationships were suddenly exposed. The rules had suddenly changed on them. Some of the innocent victims were men. But some were women, too. "

  "A mess, right?" Blake said. "All started by pesky little women like Callan and Cooke?"

  Reacher said nothing. Cozo was drumming his fingers on the mahogany.

  "I want to get back to the business with Petrosian," he said.

  Reacher swiveled his gaze the other way. "There is no business with Petrosian. I never heard of anybody called Petrosian. "

  Deerfield yawned and looked at his watch. He pushed his glasses up onto his forehead and rubbed his eyes with his knuckles.

  "It's past midnight, you know that?" he said.

  "Did you treat Callan and Cooke with courtesy?" Blake asked.

  Reacher squinted through the glare at Cozo and then turned back to Blake. The hot yellow light from the ceiling was bouncing off the red tint of the mahogany and making his bloated face crimson.

  "Yes, I treated them with courtesy. "

  "Did you see them again after you turned their cases over to the prosecutor?"

  "Once or twice, I guess, in passing. "

  "Did they trust you?"

  Reacher shrugged. "I guess so. It was my job to make them trust me. I had to get all kinds of intimate details from them. "

  "You had to do that kind of thing with many women?"

  "There were hundreds of cases. I handled a couple dozen, I guess, before they set up special units to deal with them all. "

  "So give me a name of another woman whose case you handled. "

  Reacher shrugged again and scanned back through a succession of offices in hot climates, cold climates, big desks, small desks, sun outside the window, cloud outside, hurt and outraged women stammering out the details of their betrayal.

  "Rita Scimeca," he said. "She would be a random example. "

  Blake paused and Lamarr reached down to the floor and came up with a thick file from her briefcase. She slid it sideways. Blake opened it and turned pages. Traced down a long list with a thick finger and nodded.

  "OK," he said. "What happened with Ms. Scimeca?"

  "She was Lieutenant Scimeca," Reacher said. " Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The guys called it hazing, she called it gang rape. "

  "And what was the outcome?"

  "She won her case. Three men spent time in military prison and were dishonorably discharged. "

  "And what happened to Lieutenant Scimeca?"

  Reacher shrugged again. "At first she was happy enough. She felt vindicated. Then she felt the Army had been ruined for her. So she mustered out. "

  "Where is she now?"

  "I have no idea. "

  "Suppose you saw her again someplace? Suppose you were in some town somewhere and you saw her in a store or a restaurant? What would she do?"

  "I have no idea. She'd probably say hello, I guess. Maybe we'd talk awhile, have a drink or something. "

  "She'd be pleased to see you?"

  "Pleased enough, I guess. "

  "Because she would remember you as a nice guy?"

  Reacher nodded. "It's a hell of an ordeal. Not just the event itself, but the process afterward, too. So the investigator has to build up a bond. The investigator has to be a friend and a supporter. "

  "So the victim becomes your friend?"

  "If you do it right, yes. "

  "What would happen if you knocked on Lieutenant Scimeca's door?"

  "I don't know where she lives. "

  "Suppose you did. Would she let you in?"

  "I don't know. "

  "Would she recognize you?"

  "Probably. "

  "And she'd remember you as a friend?"

  "I guess. "

  "So you knock on her door, she'd let you in, right? She'd open up the door and see this old friend of hers, so she'd let you right in, offer you coffee or something. Talk a while, catch up on old times. "

  "Maybe," Reacher said. "Probably. "

  Blake nodded and stopped talking. Lama
rr put her hand on his arm and he bent to listen as she whispered in his ear. He nodded again and turned to Deerfield and whispered in turn. Deerfield glanced at Cozo. The three agents from Quantico sat back as he did so, just an imperceptible movement, but with enough body language in it to say OK, we're interested. Cozo stared back at Deerfield in alarm. Deerfield leaned forward, staring straight through his glasses at Reacher.

  "This is a very confusing situation," he said.

  Reacher said nothing back. Just sat and waited.

  "Exactly what happened at the restaurant?" Deerfield asked.

  "Nothing happened," Reacher said.

  Deerfield shook his head. "You were under surveillance. My people have been following you for a week. Special Agents Poulton and Lamarr joined them tonight. They saw the whole thing. "

  Reacher stared at him. "You've been following me for a week?"

  Deerfield nodded. "Eight days, actually. "

  "Why?"

  "We'll get to that later. "

  Lamarr stirred and reached down again to her briefcase. She pulled out another file. Opened it and took out a sheaf of papers. There were four or five sheets clipped together. They were covered in dense type. She smiled icily at Reacher and reversed the sheets and slid them across the table to him. The air caught them and riffed them apart. The clip dragged on the wood and stopped them exactly in front of him. In them Reacher was referred to as the subject. They were a list of everything he had done and everywhere he had been in the previous eight days. They were complete to the last second. And they were accurate to the last detail. Reacher glanced from them to Lamarr's smiling face and nodded.

  "Well, FBI tails are obviously pretty good," he said. "I never noticed. "

  There was silence.

  "So what happened in the restaurant?" Deerfield asked again.

  Reacher paused. Honesty is the best policy, he thought. He scoped it out. Swallowed. Then he nodded toward Blake and Lamarr and Poulton. "These law school buffs would call it imperfect necessity, I guess. I committed a small crime to stop a bigger one happening. "

  "You were acting alone?" Cozo asked.

  Reacher nodded. "Yes, I was. "

  "So what was don't start a turf war with us all about?"

  "I wanted it to look convincing. I wanted Petrosian to take it seriously, whoever the hell he is. Like he was dealing with another organization. "

  Deerfield leaned all the way over the table and retrieved Lamarr's surveillance log. He reversed it and riffed through it.

  "This shows no contact with anybody at all except Ms. Jodie Jacob. She's not running protection rackets. What about the phone log?"

  "You're tapping my phone?" Reacher asked.

  Deerfield nodded. "We've been through your garbage, too. "

  "Phone log is clear," Poulton said. "He spoke to nobody except Ms. Jacob. He lives a quiet life. "

  "That right, Reacher?" Deerfield asked. "You live a quiet life?"

  "Usually," Reacher said.

  "So you were acting alone," Deerfield said. "Just a concerned citizen. No contact with gangsters, no instructions by phone. "

  He turned to Cozo, a question in his eyes. "You comfortable with that, James?"

  Cozo shrugged and nodded. "I'll have to be, I guess. "

  "Concerned citizen, right, Reacher?" Deerfield said.

  Reacher nodded. Said nothing.

  "Can you prove that to us?" Deerfield asked.

  Reacher shrugged. "I could have taken their guns. If I was connected, I would have. But I didn't. "

  "No, you left them in the Dumpster. "

  "I disabled them first. "

  "With grit in the mechanisms. Why did you do that?"

  "So nobody could find them and use them. "

  Deerfield nodded. "A concerned citizen. You saw an injustice, you wanted to set it straight. "

  Reacher nodded back. "I guess. "

  "Somebody's got to do it, right?"

  "I guess," Reacher said again.

  "You don't like injustice, right?"

  "I guess not. "

  "And you can tell the difference between right and wrong. "

  "I hope so. "

  "You don't need the intervention of the proper authorities, because you can make your own decisions. "

  "Usually. "

  "Confident with your own moral code. "

  "I guess. "

  There was silence. Deerfield looked through the glare.

  "So why did you steal their money?" he asked.

  Reacher shrugged. "Spoils of battle, I guess. Like a trophy. "

  Deerfield nodded. "Part of the code, right?"

  "I guess. "

  "You play to your own rules, right?"

  "Usually. "

  "You wouldn't mug an old lady, but it was OK to take money off of a couple of hard men. "

  "I guess. "

  "When they step outside what's acceptable to you, they get what they get, right?"

  "Right. "

  "A personal code. "

  Reacher said nothing. The silence built.

  "You know anything about criminal profiling?" Deerfield asked suddenly.

  Reacher paused. "Only what I read in the newspaper. "

  "It's a science," Blake said. "We developed it at Quantico, over many years. Special Agent Lamarr here is currently our leading exponent. Special Agent Poulton is her assistant. "

  "We look at crime scenes," Lamarr said. "We look at the underlying psychological indicators, and we work out the type of personality which could have committed the crime. "

  "We study the victims," Poulton said. "We figure out to whom they could have been especially vulnerable. "

  "What crimes?" Reacher asked. "What scenes?"

  "You son of a bitch," Lamarr said.

  "Amy Callan and Caroline Cooke," Blake said. "Both homicide victims. "

  Reacher stared at him.

  "Callan was first," Blake said. "Very distinctive MO, but one homicide is just one homicide, right? Then Cooke was hit. With the exact same MO. That made it a serial situation. "

  "We looked for a link," Poulton said. "Between the victims. Not hard to find. Army harassment complainants who subsequently quit. "

  "Extreme organization at the crime scene," Lamarr said. "Indicative of military precision, maybe. A bizarre, coded MO. Nothing left behind. No clues of any kind. The perpetrator was clearly a precise person, and clearly a person familiar with investigative procedures. Possibly a good investigator himself. "

  "No forced entry at either abode," Poulton said. "The killer was admitted to the house in both cases, by the victims, no questions asked. "

  "So the killer was somebody they both knew," Blake said.

  "Somebody they both trusted," Poulton said.

  "Like a friendly visitor," Lamarr said.

  There was silence in the room.

  "That's what he was," Blake said. "A visitor. Somebody they regarded as a friend. Somebody they felt a bond with. "

  "A friend, visiting," Poulton said. "He knocks on the door, they open it up, they say hi, so nice to see you again. "

  "He walks in," Lamarr said. "Just like that. "

  There was silence in the room.

  "We explored the crime, psychologically," Lamarr said. "Why were those women making somebody mad enough to kill them? So we looked for an Army guy with a score to settle. Maybe somebody outraged by the idea of pesky women ruining good soldiers' careers, and then quitting anyway. Frivolous women, driving good men to suicide?"

  "Somebody with a clear sense of right and wrong," Poulton said. "Somebody confident enough in his own code to set these injustices right by his own hand. Somebody happy to act without the proper authorities getting in the way, you know?"

  "Somebody both women knew," Blake said. "Somebody they knew well enough to let right in the house, no questions asked, like an old friend or something. "
<
br />   "Somebody decisive," Lamarr said. "Maybe like somebody organized enough to think for a second and then go buy a label machine and a tube of glue, just to take care of a little ad hoc problem. "

  More silence.

  "The Army ran them through their computers," Lamarr said. "You're right, they never knew each other. They had very few mutual acquaintances. Very few. But you were one of them. "

  "You want to know an interesting fact?" Blake said. "Perpetrators of serial homicide used to drive Volkswagen Bugs. Almost all of them. It was uncanny. Then they switched to minivans. Then they switched to sport-utilities. Big four-wheel-drives, exactly like yours. It's a hell of an indicator. "

  Lamarr leaned across and pulled the sheaf of papers back from Deerfield 's place at the table. She tapped them with a finger.

  "They live solitary lives," she said. "They interact with one other person at most. They live off other people, often relatives or friends, often women. They don't do much normal stuff. Don't talk much on the phone, they're quiet and furtive. "

  "They're law enforcement buffs," Poulton said. "They know all kinds of stuff. Like all kinds of obscure legal cases defining their rights. "

  More silence.

  "Profiling," Blake said. "It's an exact science. It's regarded as good enough evidence to get an arrest warrant in most states of the Union. "

  "It never fails," Lamarr said. She stared at Reacher and then she sat back with her crooked teeth showing in a satisfied smile. Silence settled over the room.

  "So?" Reacher said.

  "So somebody killed two women," Deerfield said.

  "And?"

  Deerfield nodded to his right, toward Blake and Lamarr and Poulton. "And these agents think it was somebody exactly like you. "

  "So?"

  "So we asked you all those questions. "

  "And?"

  "And I think they're absolutely right. It was somebody exactly like you. Maybe it even was you. "

 
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