The hard way, p.30
The Hard Way, p.30Part #10 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
"Where is he now?"
"My guess is England. I'll know soon."
"The best you ever saw." Or they'd have nailed you in the army.
Lane handed back the photographs and said, "He must have had a partner."
"For the phone calls. Someone with an American accent. Who was it?"
"You'll have to ask Taylor that."
"I don't suppose he'll be coming back here anytime soon."
"I want you to find him for me."
"I want my money."
Lane nodded. "You'll get it."
"I want it now."
"Ten percent now. The rest when I'm face-to-face with Taylor."
"Twenty percent now." Lane didn't answer.
Reacher said, "Or I'll cut my losses and walk away. And you can stroll down to Barnes and Noble and buy a U.K. map and a pin. Or a mirror and a stick."
Lane said, "Fifteen percent now." Reacher said, "Twenty."
"Seventeen and a half."
"Twenty. Or I'm out of here."
"Jesus Christ," Lane said. "OK, twenty percent now. But you'll leave now, too. Right now, tonight. You can have one day's start. That should be enough for a smart boy like you. Then we'll follow you
twenty-four hours later. The seven of us. Me, Gregory, Groom, Burke, Kowalski, Addison, and Perez. That should be enough. You know London?"
"I've been there before."
"We'll be at the Park Lane Hilton."
"With the rest of the money?"
"Every penny of it," Lane said. "I'll show it to you when you meet us at the hotel and you tell us where
Taylor is. I'll give it to you when I've got actual visual contact with him."
"OK," Reacher said. "Deal." And ten minutes later he was back in the subway, heading south, with two hundred thousand U.S. dollars in cash wrapped in a plastic Whole Foods shopping bag.
Reacher met Pauling at her apartment and gave her the bag and said, "Take out what I owe you and hide the rest. It's enough to get Hobart started with the preliminaries at least."
Pauling took the bag and held it away from her body like it was contagious. "Is this the African money?" Reacher nodded. "Direct from Ouagadougou. Via Edward Lane's closet."
"Show me money that isn't."
Pauling paused a beat and then opened the bag and peeled off some bills and put them on the kitchen counter. Then she refolded the bag and put it in the oven.
"I don't have a safe here," she said.
"The oven will do," Reacher said. "Just don't forget and start to cook something." She took four bills from the stack on the counter and handed them to him.
"For clothes," she said. "You're going to need them. We leave for England tonight."
"Your guy got back to you?"
She nodded. "Taylor was on British Airways to London less than four hours after Burke put the money
in the Jaguar."
"Apparently. As far as we can tell. He was seated next to some British woman. Doesn't mean he didn't have a partner who checked in separately and sat somewhere else. That would have been a fairly basic precaution. There were sixty-seven unaccompanied adult American males on the flight."
"Your guy is very thorough."
"Yes, he is. He got the whole manifest. By fax. Including the baggage manifest. Taylor checked three bags."
"No. He was in business class. They might have let it slide." Reacher said, "I don't need four hundred dollars for clothes." Pauling said, "You do if you're traveling with me."
I was an MP, Reacher had said to Hobart. I've done everything before. But he hadn't. Thirty minutes later he was doing something he had never done in his life. He was buying clothes in a department store. He was in Macy's on Herald Square, in the men's department, in front of a cash register, holding a pair of
gray pants, a gray jacket, a black T-shirt, a black V-neck sweater, a pair of black socks, and a pair of white boxer shorts. His choices had been limited by the availability of suitable sizes. Inseam, arm length, and chest. He was worried that his brown shoes would be a color clash. Pauling told him to buy new shoes, too. He vetoed that idea. He couldn't afford them. So she said brown shoes would be just fine with gray pants. He shuffled to the head of the line and paid, three hundred and ninety-six dollars and change, with tax. He showered and dressed back at Pauling's apartment and took his creased and battered passport and Patti Joseph's envelope of photographs out of his old pants and shoved them in his new pants. Took his folding toothbrush out of his old shirt pocket and put it in his new jacket pocket. Carried his old clothes down the corridor to the compactor room and dropped them in the garbage chute. Then he waited with Pauling downstairs in the lobby, neither of them saying much, until the car service showed up to take them to the airport.
PAULING HAD BOOKED them business class on the same flight that Taylor had taken forty-eight hours previously. It was maybe even the same plane, assuming it flew a round-trip every day. But neither one of them could have been in Taylor's actual seat. They were in a window-and-aisle pair, and the Homeland Security manifest had shown that Taylor had been in the first of a block of four in the center.
The seats themselves were strange bathtub-shaped cocoons that faced alternating directions. Reacher's window seat faced aft and next to him Pauling faced forward. The seats were advertised as reclining into fully flat beds, which might have been true for her but was about twelve inches shy of being true for him. But the seats had compensations. The face-to-face thing meant that he was going to spend seven hours looking directly at her, which was no kind of a hardship.
"What's the strategy?" she asked.
"We'll find Taylor, Lane will take care of him, and then I'll take care of Lane."
"I'll think of something. Like Hobart said, everything in war is improvisation."
"What about the others?"
"That will be a snap decision. If I think the crew will fall apart with Lane gone, then I'll leave the others alone and let it. But if one of them wants to step up to the officer class and take over, I'll do him, too. And so on and so forth, until the crew really does fall apart."
"Compared to what?"
"Taylor won't be easy to find," she said.
"England's a small country," he said.
"Not that small."
"We found Hobart."
"With help. We were given his address."
"We'll get by."
"I've got a plan."
"You know any British private investigators? Is there an international brotherhood?"
"There might be a sisterhood. I've got some numbers."
"Is that your plan? Hire a London PI?"
"Local knowledge," Reacher said. "It's always the key."
"We could have done that by phone."
"We didn't have time."
"London alone is eight million people," Pauling said. "Then there's Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds. And a whole lot of countryside. The Cotswolds. Stratford upon Avon. And Scotland and Wales. Taylor stepped out the door at Heathrow two days ago. He could be anywhere by now. We don't even know where he's from."
"We'll get by," Reacher said again.
Pauling took a pillow and a blanket from a stewardess and reclined her seat. Reacher watched her sleep for a while and then he lay down too, with his knees up and his head jammed against the bathtub wall. The cabin lighting was soft and blue and the hiss of the engines was restful. Reacher liked flying. Going to sleep in New York and waking up in London was a fantasy that could have been designed expressly for him.
The stewardess woke him to give him breakfast. Like being in the hospi
you up to feed you. But the breakfast was good. Mugs of hot coffee and bacon rolls. He drank six and ate six. Pauling watched him, fascinated.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Five to five," he said. "In the morning. Which is five to ten in the morning in this time zone."
Then all kinds of muted bells went off and signs went on to announce the start of their approach into Heathrow Airport. London's northerly latitude meant that at ten in the morning in late summer the sun was high. The landscape below was lit up bright. There were small clouds in the sky that cast shadows on the fields. Reacher's sense of direction wasn't as good as his sense of time but he figured they had looped past the city and were approaching the airport from the east. Then the plane turned sharply and he realized they were in a holding pattern. Heathrow was notoriously busy. They were going to circle London at least once. Maybe twice.
He put his forehead against the window and stared down. Saw the Thames, glittering in the sun like polished lead. Saw Tower Bridge, white stone, recently cleaned, detailed with fresh paint on the ironwork. Then a gray warship moored in the river, some kind of a permanent exhibit. Then London Bridge. He craned his neck and looked for Saint Paul's Cathedral, north and west. Saw the big dome, crowded by ancient winding streets. London was a low-built city. Densely and chaotically packed near the dramatic curves of the Thames, spreading infinitely into the gray distance beyond.
He saw railroad tracks fanning out into Waterloo Station. Saw the Houses of Parliament. Saw Big Ben, shorter and stumpier than he remembered it. And Westminster Cathedral, white, bulky, a thousand years old. There was some kind of a giant Ferris wheel on the opposite bank of the river. A tourist thing, maybe. Green trees, everywhere. He saw Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. He glanced north of where the palace gardens ended and found the Park Lane Hilton. A round tower, bristling with balconies. From above it looked like a squat wedding cake. Then he glanced a little farther north and found the American Embassy. Grosvenor Square. He had once used an office there, in a windowless basement. Four weeks, for some big-deal army investigation he could barely recall. But he remembered the neighborhood. He remembered it pretty well. Too rich for his blood, until you escaped east into SoHo.
He asked Pauling, "Have you been here before?"
"We did exchange training with Scotland Yard," she said.
"That could be useful."
"It was a million years ago."
"Where did you stay?"
"They put us up in a college dormitory."
"You know any hotels?"
"Not the sort where they let you in wearing four hundred dollars' worth of clothes. Mostly the sort where you wear your shoes in bed."
"We can't stay anywhere close to Lane and his guys. We can't be associated with him. Not if we're going to do something to him."
"That's for sure."
"What about somewhere really great? Like the Ritz?"
"That's the opposite problem. Four hundred dollars is too shabby for them. And we need to stay
low-profile. We need the kind of place where they don't look at your passport and they let you pay cash. Bayswater, maybe. West of downtown, a clear run back to the airport afterward."
Reacher turned to the window again and saw Windsor Castle slide by below. And a wide six-lane
east-west highway with slow traffic driving on the left. Then suburbs, two-family houses, curving roads, tiny green back yards, garden sheds, and then acres of airport parking full of small cars, many of them red.
Then the airport fence. Then the chevrons at the start of the runway. Close to the ground the plane seemed huge again after feeling cramped for seven hours. After being a narrow tube it became a two-hundred-ton monster doing two hundred miles an hour. It landed hard and roared and braked and then suddenly it was quiet and docile again, rolling slowly toward the terminal. The purser welcomed the passengers to London over the public address system and Reacher turned and looked across the cabin at the exit door. Taylor's first few steps would be easy enough to follow. After baggage claim and the taxi rank the job would get a whole lot harder. Harder, but maybe not impossible.
"We'll get by," he said, even though Pauling hadn't spoken to him.
THEY FILLED IN landing cards and had their passports stamped by an official in a gray suit. My name on a piece of English paper, Reacher thought. Not good. But there was no alternative. And his name was already on the airline passenger manifest, which could apparently get faxed all over the place at the drop of a hat. They waited at the carousel for Pauling's bag and then Reacher got stopped in Customs not because he had suspicious luggage but because he had none at all. Which made the guy stopping him a Special Branch cop or an MI5 agent in disguise, Reacher thought, not a real Customs guy. Traveling light was clearly a red flag. The detention was brief and the questions were casual, but the guy got a good look at his face and was all over his passport. Not good.
Pauling changed a wad of the O-Town dollars at a Travelex booth and they found the fast train to Paddington Station. Paddington was a good first stop, Reacher figured. His kind of an area. Convenient for the Bayswater hotels, full of trash and hookers. Not that he expected to find Taylor there. Or anywhere close. But it would make a good anonymous base camp. The railroad company promised the ride into town would be fifteen minutes, but it turned out to be closer to twenty. They came out to the street in central London just before twelve noon. West 4th Street to Eastbourne Terrace in ten short hours. Planes, trains, and automobiles.
At street level that part of London was bright and fresh and cold and to a stranger's eyes it seemed full of trees. The buildings were low and had old cores and sagging roofs but most of them had new frontages tacked on to disguise age and disrepair. Most things were chains or franchises except for the ethnic
take-out food stores and the town car services, which still seemed to be mom-and-pop operations. Or cousin-and-cousin. The roads had good smooth blacktop heavily printed with instructions for drivers and pedestrians. The pedestrians were warned to Look Left or Look Right at every possible curb and the
drivers were guided by elaborate lines and arrows and crosshatching and Slow signs anywhere the direction
deviated from absolutely straight, which was just about everywhere. In some places there was more white on the road than black. The welfare state, Reacher thought. It sure as hell takes care of you.
He carried Pauling's bag for her and they walked south and east toward Sussex Gardens. From previous trips he recalled groups of row houses joined together into cheap hotels, on Westbourne Terrace,
The Hard Way by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on41 votes