Make me, p.35
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       Make Me, p.35
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         Part #20 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child

  the world. He was no doubt attracted by the money on offer. He had no qualms. The cash was real. He was breaking no laws. He was protected by the Second Amendment.

  He delivered in the late afternoon, by which time everything else was nailed down. They had rehearsed, and brainstormed, and gamed it all out. They had probed, and questioned, and sometimes started over. They had played it from the bad guys’ side, and scoped out their options. They had pondered the wild cards. What if it rained? What if a tornado blew in? All that remained was for Reacher to approve the purchases.

  There were three main items. That was all. The temptation had been to go crazy, like kids in a candy store. Then logic had chipped away, and they had ended up where Reacher liked to be anyway, with everything they needed, and nothing they didn’t. All three selections were Heckler & Koch products. A P7 pistol for Westwood. Like Hackett’s back-up gun. Point and shoot. Nine millimeter. Smaller than an average handgun. To go in his hiking boot, in an ankle holster, also supplied.

  The other two items made a matched pair. Two identical MP5K sub-machineguns. One for Reacher, and one for Chang. Bigger than an average handgun, but not by much. Some revolvers were longer. Pistol grips, matching front grips, fat and bulbous. A futuristic design, much loved by SWAT teams and counterterrorist squads everywhere. Single shot or full auto, and full auto could hit as high as nine hundred rounds a minute. Which was fifteen bullets a second.

  Hence the rest of the delivery was ammunition. All nine-millimeter Parabellum, interchangeable between all three weapons, but at that point pre-loaded into four P7 magazines and twenty-four MP5 magazines. More would have been hard to carry.

  Reacher took the guns apart and put them back together again, and dry-fired them, sometimes with his little finger, which he felt was more sensitive to mechanical nuance.

  All three worked.

  Plus a small bag of stuff from a hardware store.

  “Everything OK?” Chang asked him.

  “Looking good,” he said.

  “You OK?”

  “Feeling good,” he said.

  “Happy with the plan?”

  “It’s a great plan,” he said.

  “But?”

  “Something we used to say in the MPs. Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”

  Westwood checked his watch. A complex thing, made of steel, with many dials. It was five o’clock in the afternoon. He said, “Seven hours left. We should eat. I’m sure the restaurant is open.”

  “You go ahead,” Reacher said. “We’ll get room service. We’ll knock on your door when it’s time.”

  Chapter 52

  From the metal walkway on top of the old concrete giant the dawn was vast, and remote, and infinitely slow. The eastern horizon was black as night, and it stayed that way, until at last a person with straining wide-open eyes might call it faintly gray, like the darkest charcoal, which lightened over long slow minutes, and spread, side to side and wafer-thin, and upward, like tentative fingers on some outer layer of the atmosphere, impossibly distant, the stratosphere perhaps, as if light traveled faster there, or got there sooner.

  The edge of the world crept into view, at least to the straining wide-open eyes, limned and outlined in gray on gray, infinitely dim, infinitely subtle, hardly there at all, part imagination, and part hope. Then pale gold fingers probed the gray, moving, ethereal, as if deciding. And then spreading, igniting some thin and distant layer one molecule at a time, one lumen, lighting it up slowly, turning it luminous and transparent, the glass of the bowl, not white and cold, but tinted warmer.

  The light stayed wan, but reached further, every new minute, until the whole sky was gold, but pale, not enough to see by, too weak to cast the faintest shadow. Then warmer streaks bloomed, and lit the horizon, and finally the sun rose, unstoppable, for a second as red and angry as a sunset, then settling to a hot yellow blaze, half-clearing the horizon, and throwing immediate shadows, at first perfectly horizontal, then merely miles long. The sky washed from pale gold to pale blue, down through all the layers, so the world above looked newly deep as well as infinitely high and infinitely wide. The night dew had settled the dust, and until it dried the air was crystal. The view was pure and clear in every direction.

  The Cadillac driver was on the walkway, with the Moynahan who had gotten hit in the head and had his gun taken. The guy was still feeling bad, but there was a schedule to keep. He was wearing an old-style leather football helmet in lieu of a splint. For his cheekbone. The Cadillac driver was facing west, with the new sun weak on the back of his neck. Moynahan was squinting east against the glare, watching the road. He had seen no nighttime traffic. No headlights. Everything else was wheat. Then came the curvature of the earth.

  Same in the west. The road, the wheat, the far horizon. No nighttime traffic. No headlights. No excitement. The third morning. Directly below in the plaza early risers were heading for breakfast. Like ants. Trucks were parking, like toys. Doors were slamming. Folks were calling good morning, one to the other. All familiar sounds, but dull and indistinct, because of the vertical distance.

  After twenty minutes the sun had pulled clear of the horizon, and was already curving south of east, setting out on its morning journey. Dawn had become day. The sky had gotten brighter, and bluer, and perfectly uniform. There was no cloud. New warmth stirred the air, and the wheat moved and eddied, with a whispered rustle, as if waking up. From the top of Elevator Three to the horizon was fifteen miles. A question of elevation, and geometry, and the flatness of the land. Which meant the guys on the walkway were at the exact center of a thirty-mile circle, floating high above it, the whole visible world laid out at their feet. A golden disk, below a high blue sky, cut in equal halves top to bottom by the railroad line, and side to side by the road. From the walkway both looked narrow and crowded by the wheat. Like thin pencil lines, to the naked eye, scored completely straight with a ruler. The lines met at the railroad crossing, directly below them. The center of the disk. The center of the world.

  The Cadillac driver was sitting with his knees up, to steady his binoculars. He was watching the far end of the road, all the way west. If something was coming, he wanted maximum warning. Moynahan had his right hand up, to blot out the sun, and his left hand held his binoculars to his eyes. A little shaky. Not easy, with the helmet. His technique was to scan back and forth, near to far. He wanted to make sure he hadn’t missed anything.

  Their walkie-talkie hissed at them. Moynahan put his binoculars down and picked it up. He said, “Go ahead.”

  The man with the jeans and the hair said, “I need you boys to stay up there until the morning train. Your replacements are late.”

  Moynahan looked at the Cadillac driver. Who shrugged. The third morning. Panic had turned to routine.

  Moynahan said, “OK.”

  He put the walkie-talkie down.

  He looked at his watch and said, “Twenty minutes.”

  He picked up his binoculars and raised his right palm against the sun.

  He said, “I got something here.”

  The Cadillac driver took a last look at the empty west and turned around. He put his right hand up for shade. The binoculars shook a little. The eastern horizon was bright. The sun was still low enough to roil the air. Worse, with the telephoto optics. There was a tiny square shape on the road, somehow rocking from side to side, but in place. No apparent forward motion. An optical illusion, because of the binoculars. It was a truck, doing maybe forty-five miles an hour. Mostly white. Coming straight at them.

  The Cadillac driver said, “Keep an eye on it. Make sure there’s nothing behind.”

  He turned back west and pulled up his knees.

  He steadied his binoculars.

  He said, “Shit, I got something too.”

  Moynahan said, “What is it?”

  Best guess, it was a red car. Just a dot, tiny in the distance, with low sun winking in its windshield. Close to fifteen miles away. Same thing as the east,
rocking in place, no forward motion. An illusion.

  He said, “How’s yours doing?”

  “Still coming on.”

  “Nothing behind it?”

  “Can’t tell. Not yet. It could be a whole convoy.”

  “Mine too.”

  They watched. Distant vehicles on a dead-straight road, head-on, the image magnified but flattened by the binocular lenses. Roiling air, urgent side-to-side rocking, no forward motion, plumes of dust.

  Moynahan picked up the walkie-talkie. He clicked the button and when he got the go-ahead he said, “We’ve got incoming vehicles east and west. Moderate speed. Probable ETA about the same as the morning train.”

  The man with the jeans and the hair said, “This is it. No brainer. They want us worried about three things at once.”

  The Cadillac driver turned and checked east, because Moynahan was on the radio. The truck was still there. Still square, still rocking. No apparent forward motion. Mostly white. But only mostly. There were flashes of other colors.

  Familiar purples and oranges.

  He said, “Wait.”

  Moynahan said, “Wait one, boss.”

  The Cadillac driver said, “It’s FedEx. For me.”

  Moynahan said, “East is clear, boss. It’s only FedEx. West is still unknown.”

  The man with the jeans and the hair said, “Keep an eye on it.”

  “Will do.”

  Moynahan put the walkie-talkie down. He checked on the FedEx truck, just briefly, and then turned to look west. Maybe two heads would be better than one. The car was still coming. Still far away. Just reflected sun and flashing chrome, and a hint of red. Weak new thermals off the blacktop ahead of it, and a low billow of dust behind it. It could have been anything.

  The Cadillac driver broke off and checked the railroad line. Nothing in the north. No walkers. No self-propelled machines. But the southern horizon was winking silver. The morning train, fifteen miles away. Coming up from Oklahoma City. A tiny pinprick disturbance in the air.

  He checked east. The FedEx truck was still there, rocking in place.

  He said, “I just realized. I’m going to miss the delivery. I’m stuck up here.”

  Moynahan said, “Long way to come back tomorrow.” Then he gestured west, with his chin. “This is the slowest car in the world.”

  “It’s not slow. They’re timing it. They want to get here with the train. So our attention is divided two ways. Which is why they’re coming in from the west. They don’t need to use the crossing.”

  “How far is the train now?”

  “The car is closer.”

  “But the train is faster.”

  The Cadillac driver didn’t answer. It was like the crap they asked in high school. If a car is twelve miles away and traveling at forty-eight miles an hour, and a train is fifteen miles away and doing sixty, which will get here first?

  Both of them. It was coordinated. It was a no brainer.

  The car kept on coming. The train kept on coming. Vectoring in. Collision course. Way below them in the plaza folks were reporting for duty, scurrying like ants. Guys were coming out of the diner. Getting into their trucks. Smart move. They were sending out a holding party. A roadblock, maybe a mile out. Always better to deal with a problem somewhere else. Unless the car was a decoy. Maybe they were on the train. Like an old Western movie. The sides of the cars fall open, and all kinds of sheriffs burst out on horseback. There would be four guys on the ramp to meet them. Plus one on the blind side, just in case. Should be enough. You all know the plan. You all know it works.

  Now the train was big enough to see. It was sunlit on one side, and shadowed on the other. Like the truck and the car it seemed to be jerking side to side, without actually going anywhere. The air was boiling all around it, like a luminescent slipstream.

  The car was still coming. Two pick-up trucks were ready to meet it. About a mile out of town, parked side by side, one in each lane. Lined up exactly. Proud. Almost ceremonial. Like stone lions at a mansion gate.

  Then they heard the whap-whap-whap of rotor blades.

  Chapter 53

  Moynahan and the Cadillac driver danced around like crazy men, twisting and turning, like men attacked by bees, looking up, searching the sky for the helicopter. And finding it in two different places.

  There were two helicopters.

  They were coming in nose down, fast and low, one from the north and east, which was half to the right, and one from the north and west, which was half to the left. Whap-whap-whap. Both looked to be painted black. Glassy cabins, but smoked windows. Below them the wheat was thrashing and boiling in long straight lines, the start of a massive letter V, where the tip of the V looked to be right where they were. The top of Elevator Three.

  The car was still coming. The train was still coming.

  Their walkie-talkie hissed. The man with the jeans and the hair said, “Stay eyes-on at all times. I need to know what gets out of these things. And where.”

  Then the call cut off. They could see the guy far below, tiny and truncated in shape by the downward perspective. His was striding around, his radio up at his face.

  Whap-whap-whap.

  The car was still coming. The train was still coming. Both getting close. No need for binoculars. Not anymore. The rotors were getting louder, beating out of sync, and the scream of the turbines was breaking through.

  Everything getting very close.

  Less than a minute, maybe.

  A whole bunch of things happened. Moynahan and the Cadillac driver spun around and around, trying to see it all. Trying to stay eyes-on. First the right-hand helicopter pounced ahead on a wide track to the east, sliding in again behind the town and heading due south, full speed, which was pretty damn fast.

  Toward the farm.

  Then the car reached the roadblock and stopped. It was a red sedan. Domestic. Cheap but supernaturally clean. Therefore a rental. Two of the guys from the diner were leaning down, talking in through the window.

  Then the left-hand helicopter pulled away west, and hovered in place, like it was waiting, and then it came back again. Right over the plaza. Hovering low. Real low. Lower than the old concrete giant. They were looking down on it. The noise and the updraft tore at their clothes and knocked them about. The downdraft blasted dirt and crap everywhere. Like a dust storm, right there on Main Street.

  Then the FedEx truck crossed the railroad crossing, about thirty yards ahead of the train. Thirty yards from getting T-boned by a thousand tons. The guy didn’t even speed up. It was his regular route. He knew what he was doing.

  Then way in the south the right-hand helicopter dropped over the far horizon. On approach to the farm, they guessed, because what else was there?

  And then right at their feet the train came in, loud and long, hot and brutal, hissing and clattering and humming and grinding, but for once in its life drowned out by the thump of the blades and the whine of the jets.

  The guys from the diner were still talking through the car window.

  The train doors opened.

  Whap-whap-whap.

  No one got out.

  Nothing on the blind side.

  Whap-whap-whap.

  The train doors closed.

  The train moved away, sliding out from under their feet, slowly, slowly, car after car.

  The guys from the diner were still talking.

  The last car rolled away and grew smaller, rocking, as tired rails yielded an inch.

  The jets screamed and the helicopter rose up high.

  The FedEx truck crossed the railroad crossing again and headed home. Moderate speed. ETA whenever.

  The helicopter wheeled away, and banked over, so its downdraft blew sideways, pushing them across the walkway, blasting them with airborne dust and deafening noise. In the south the other helicopter came over the horizon and mirrored the same maneuver. Up, and then over, and then away. Nose down, low and fast. Getting smaller all the time. Flying a brand-new V, where the new t
ip was pointed far away.

  It got suddenly quiet. There was nothing to hear, except the wheat. And the wheat was soothing.

  Their walkie-talkie hissed.

  Moynahan got it and said, “No one got out of the helicopter. It didn’t even land. No one got out of the train either. Nothing on the blind side.”

  Out on the road the guys from the diner were backing their trucks away. The red sedan was nosing through. Coming to town.

  Moynahan said, “What’s up with that?”

  The man with the jeans and the hair said, “He claims he’s a customer.
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