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

  "NO, IT WASN'T me," Reacher said.

  Blake smiled. "That's what they all say. "

  Reacher stared at him. "You're full of shit, Blake. You've got two women, is all. The Army thing is probably a coincidence. There are hundreds of women out there, harassed out of the Army, maybe thousands. Why jump on that connection?"

  Blake said nothing.

  "And why a guy like me?" Reacher asked. "That's just a guess, too. And that's what this profiling crap comes down to, right? You say a guy like me did it because you think a guy like me did it. No evidence or anything. "

  "There is no evidence," Blake said.

  "The guy didn't leave any behind," Lamarr said. "And that's how we work. The perpetrator was obviously a smart guy, so we looked for a smart guy. You saying you're not a smart guy?"

  Reacher stared at her. "There are thousands of guys as smart as me. "

  "No, there are millions, you conceited son of a bitch," she said. "But then we started narrowing it down some. A smart guy, a loner, Army, knew both victims, movements unaccounted for, a brutal vigilante personality. That narrowed it down from millions to thousands to hundreds to tens, maybe all the way on down to you. "

  There was silence.

  "Me?" Reacher said to her. "You're crazy. "

  He turned to Deerfield, who was sitting silent and impassive.

  "You think I did it?"

  Deerfield shrugged. "Well, if you didn't, it was somebody exactly like you. And I know you put two guys in the hospital. You're already in big trouble for that. This other matter, I'm not familiar with the case. But the Bureau trusts its experts. That's why we hire them, after all. "

  "They're wrong," Reacher said.

  "But can you prove that?"

  Reacher stared at him. "Do I have to? What about innocent until proven guilty?"

  Deerfield just smiled. "Please, let's stay in the real world, OK?"

  There was silence.

  "Dates," Reacher said. "Give me dates, and places. "

  More silence. Deerfield stared into space.

  "Callan was seven weeks ago," Blake said. "Cooke was four. "

  Reacher scanned back in time. Four weeks was the start of fall, seven took him into late summer. Late summer, he had done nothing at all. He had been battling the yard. Three months of unchecked growth had seen him outdoors every day with scythes and hoes and other unaccustomed tools in his hands. He had gone days at a time without even seeing Jodie. She had been tied up with legal cases. She had spent a week overseas, in England. He couldn't recall for sure which week it had been. It was a lonely spell, his time absorbed with beating back rampant nature, a foot at a time.

  The start of fall, he'd transferred his energies inside the house. There were things to be done. But he'd done them all alone. Jodie had stayed in the city, working her way up the greasy pole. There were random nights together. But that was all. No trips anywhere, no ticket stubs, no hotel registers, no stamps in his passport. No alibis. He looked at the seven agents ranged against him.

  "I want my lawyer now," he said.

  THE TWO LOCAL sentries took him back to the first room. His status had changed. This time they stayed inside with him, one standing on each side of the closed door. Reacher sat in the plastic garden chair and ignored them. He listened to the tireless fluttering of the ventilation inside the exposed trunking in the ceiling, and waited, thinking about nothing.

  He waited almost two hours. The two sentries stood patiently by the door, not looking at him, not speaking, never moving. He stayed in his chair, leaning back, staring at the ducts above his head. There were twin systems up there. One blew fresh air into the room and the other sucked stale air out. The layout was clear. He traced the flow with his eyes and imagined big lazy fans outside on the roof, turning slowly in opposite directions, making the building breathe like a lung. He imagined the spent breath from his body floating away into the Manhattan night sky and out toward the Atlantic. He imagined the damp molecules drifting and diffusing in the atmosphere, catching in the breeze. Two hours, they could be twenty miles offshore. Or thirty. Or forty. It would depend on the conditions. He couldn't remember if it had been a windy night. He guessed not. He recalled the fog. Fog would blow away if there was a decent wind. So it was a still night, and therefore his spent breath was probably hanging sullenly in the air right above the lazy fans.

  Then there were people in the corridor outside and the door opened and the sentries stepped out and Jodie walked in. She blazed against the gray walls. She was wearing a pastel peach dress with a wool coat over it, a couple of shades darker. Her hair was still lightened from the summer sun. Her eyes were bright blue, and her skin was the color of honey. It was the middle of the night, and she looked as fresh as morning.

  "Hey, Reacher," she said.

  He nodded and said nothing. He could see worry in her face. She stepped close and bent down and kissed him on the lips. She smelled like a flower.

  "You talk to them?" he asked her.

  "I'm not the right person to deal with this," she said. "Financial law, yes, but criminal law, I've got no idea. "

  She waited in front of his chair, tall and slim, head cocked to one side, all her weight on one foot. Every new time he saw her, she looked more beautiful. He stood up and stretched, wearily.

  "There's nothing to deal with," he said.

  She shook her head. "Yes, there damn well is. "

  "I didn't kill any women. "

  She stared at him. "Of course you didn't. I know that. And they know that, or they'd have put you in handcuffs and leg irons and taken you straight down to Quantico, not dumped you in here. This must be about the other thing. They saw you do that. You put two guys in the hospital, with them watching. "

  "It's not about that. They reacted too fast. This was set up before I even did the other thing. And they don't care about the other thing. I'm not working the rackets. That's all Cozo's interested in, organized crime. "

  She nodded. "Cozo's happy. Maybe more than happy. He's got two punks off the street, no cost to himself. But it's turned into a catch-22, don't you see that? To convince Cozo, you had to make yourself out as a vigilante loner, and the more you made yourself out as a vigilante loner, the more you pushed yourself into this profile from Quantico. So whatever reason they brought you in for, you're starting to confuse them. "

  "The profile is bullshit. "

  "They don't think so. "

  "It has to be bullshit. It came up with me. "

  She shook her head. "No, it came up with somebody like you. "

  "Whatever, I should just walk out of here. "

  "You can't do that. You're in big trouble. Whatever else, they saw you beat on those guys, Reacher. FBI agents, on duty, for Christ's sake. "

  "Those guys deserved it. "

  "Why?"

  "Because they were picking on somebody who didn't need picking on. "

  "See? Now you're making their case for them. A vigilante, with his own code. "

  He shrugged and looked away.

  "I'm not the right person for this," she said again. "I don't do criminal law. You need a better lawyer. "

  "I don't need any lawyer," he said.

  "Yes, Reacher, you need a lawyer. That's for damn sure. This is for real. This is the FBI, for God's sake. "

  He was silent for a long moment.

  "You have to take this seriously," she said.

  "I can't," he said. "It's bullshit. I didn't kill any women. "

  "But you made yourself fit the profile. And now proving them wrong is going to be tough. Proving a negative always is. So you need a proper lawyer. "

  "They said I'm damaging your career. They said I'm not an ideal corporate husband. "

  "Well, that's bullshit too. And even if it was true, I wouldn't care. I'm not saying get a different lawyer for my sake. I'm saying it for yours. "

  "I don't want any lawyer. "<
br />
  "So why did you call me?"

  He smiled. "I thought you might cheer me up. "

  She stepped into his arms and stretched up and kissed him, hard.

  "I love you, Reacher," she said. "I really do, you know that, right? But you need a better lawyer. I don't even understand what this is about. "

  There was a long silence. Just ventilation flutter above their heads, the faint noise of air against metal, the quiet sound of time passing. He listened to it.

  "They gave me a copy of the surveillance report," she said.

  He nodded. "I thought they would. "

  "Why?"

  "Because it eliminates me from the investigation," he said.

  "How?"

  "Because this is not about two women," he said.

  "It isn't?"

  "No, it's about three women. Has to be. "

  "Why?"

  "Because whoever's killing them, he's working to a timetable. You see that? He's on a three-week cycle. Seven weeks ago, four weeks ago, so the next one has already happened, this past week. They put me under surveillance to eliminate me from the investigation. "

  "So why did they haul you in? If you're eliminated?"

  "I don't know," he said.

  "Maybe the timetable fell apart. Maybe he stopped at two. "

  "Nobody stops at two. You do more than one, you do more than two. "

  "Maybe he fell ill and took a break. Could be months before the next one. "

  He was silent.

  "Maybe he was arrested for something else," she said. "That happens, time to time. Something unconnected, you know? He could be in jail ten years. They'll never know it was him. You need a good lawyer, Reacher. Somebody better than me. This isn't going to be easy. "

  "You were supposed to cheer me up, you know that?"

  "No, I was supposed to give you advice. "

  He stared at her, suddenly uncertain.

  "There's the other thing too," she said. "The two guys. You're in trouble for that, whatever. "

  "They should thank me for that. "

  "Doesn't work that way," she said.

  He was silent.

  "This is not the Army, Reacher," she said. "You can't just drag a couple of guys behind the motor pool and beat some sense into them anymore. This is New York. This is civilian stuff now. They're looking at you for something bad and you can't just pretend they're not. "

  "I didn't do anything. "

  "Wrong, Reacher. You put two guys in the hospital. They watched you do it. Bad guys, for sure, but there are rules here. You broke them. "

  Then there were footsteps in the corridor outside, loud and heavy. Maybe three men, hurrying. The door opened. Deerfield stepped into the room. The two local boys crowded his shoulder. Deerfield ignored Reacher and spoke directly to Jodie.

  "Your client conference is over, Ms. Jacob," he said.

  Deerfield led the way back to the room with the long table. The two local agents sandwiched Reacher between them and followed him. Jodie trailed the four of them through the door. She blinked in the glare of the lights. A second chair had been placed over on the far side. Deerfield stood and pointed at it, silently. Jodie glanced at him and moved around the end of the table and sat down with Reacher. He squeezed her hand under the cover of the shiny mahogany slab.

  The two local boys took up station against the walls. Reacher stared forward through the glare. The same lineup was ranged against him. Poulton, Lamarr, Blake, Deerfield, and then Cozo, sitting isolated between two empty chairs. Now there was a squat black audio recorder on the table. Deerfield leaned forward and pressed a red button. He announced the date and the time and the place. He identified the nine occupants of the room. He placed his hands in front of him.

  "This is Alan Deerfield speaking to the suspect Jack Reacher," he said. "You are now under arrest on the following two counts. "

  He paused.

  "One, for aggravated assault and robbery," he said. "Against two persons yet to be definitively identified. "

  James Cozo leaned forward. "Two, for aiding and abetting a criminal organization engaged in the practice of extortion. "

  Deerfield smiled. "You are not obliged to say anything. If you do say anything, it will be recorded and may be used as evidence against you in a court of law. You are entitled to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you by the state of New York. "

  He leaned forward to the recording machine and pressed the stop button.

  "So did I get it right? Seeing as how you're the big expert on Miranda?"

  Reacher said nothing. Deerfield smiled again and pressed the red button and the machine hummed back into life.

  "Do you understand your rights?" he asked.

  "Yes," Reacher said.

  "Do you have anything to say at this point?"

  "No. "

  "That it?" Deerfield asked.

  "Yes," Reacher said.

  Deerfield nodded. "Noted. "

  He reached forward and clicked the recording machine to off.

  "I want a bail hearing," Jodie said.

  Deerfield shook his head.

  "No need," he said. "We'll release him on his own recognizance. "

  Silence in the room.

  "What about the other matter?" Jodie asked. "The women?"

  "That investigation is continuing," Deerfield said. "Your client is free to go. "

 
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