The hard way, p.5
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       The Hard Way, p.5
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         Part #10 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child

  but now it was dull with tarnish and pitted by corrosion.

  That's the one, Reacher thought. Got to be.

  He turned east a block later on Broome and then backtracked north on Greene Street, past shuttered boutiques that sold sweaters that cost more than first-class airplane tickets and household furniture that cost more than domestic automobiles. He turned west on Prince and completed his circuit around the block. Walked south on West Broadway again and found a doorway on the east sidewalk. It had a stoop a foot and a half high. He kicked garbage out of his way and lay down on his back, his head cradled on his folded arms, his head canted sideways like a somnolent drunk, but with his eyes half-open and focused on the dull red door seventy feet away.

  Kate Lane had been told not to move and to make absolutely no noise at all, but she decided to take a risk. She couldn't sleep, obviously. Neither could Jade. How could anyone sleep, under circumstances like theirs? So Kate crept out of her bed and grasped the rail at the end and inched the whole bed sideways.

  "Mom, don't," Jade whispered. "You're making a noise." Kate didn't answer. Just crept to the head of the bed and inched it sideways. After three more cautious back-and-forth movements she had her mattress butted up hard against Jade's. Then she got back under the sheet and took her daughter in her arms. Held her tight. If they had to be awake, at least they could be awake together.

  The clock in Reacher's head crept around to six in the morning. Down in the brick and iron canyons of SoHo it was still dark, but the sky above was already brightening. The night had been warm. Reacher hadn't been uncomfortable. He had been in worse spots. Many times. Often for much longer. So far he had seen no activity at the dull red door. But the early people were already out and about all around him. Cars and trucks were moving on the streets. People were passing by on both sidewalks. But nobody was looking at him. He was just a guy in a doorway.

  He rolled onto his back and looked around. The door he was blocking was a plain gray metal thing. No exterior handle. Maybe a fire exit, maybe a loading dock. With a little luck he wouldn't be disturbed before seven. He rolled on his side and gazed south and west again. Arched his back like he was relieving a

  cramp, then glanced north. He figured whoever was coming would be in position soon. They clearly weren't fools. They would aim for a careful stakeout. They would check rooftops and windows and parked cars for watching cops. Maybe they would check doorways, too. But Reacher had never been mistaken for a cop. There was always something phony about a cop who dresses down. Reacher was the real thing.

  Cops, he thought.

  The word snagged in his mind the way a twig on a current catches on a riverbank. It hung up just briefly before spinning clear and floating away. Then he saw a real-life cop, in a car, coming north, going slow. Reacher squirmed upright and propped his back against the gray door. Rested his head against the cold hard metal. Sleeping horizontally in public seemed to be against the city's vagrancy laws. But there seemed to be some kind of a constitutional right to sit down. New York cops see a guy lying down in a doorway or on a bench, they blip their siren and yell through their loudhailer. They see a guy sleeping upright, they give him a hard stare and move on.

  The prowl car moved on.

  Reacher laid down again. Folded his arms behind his head and kept his eyes half-open.

  Four miles north, Edward Lane and John Gregory rode down in the Dakota's elevator. Lane was carrying the bulging leather duffel. Outside in the gray dawn light the blue BMW waited at the curb. The man who had ferried it back from the garage got out and handed the keys to Gregory. Gregory used the remote to open the trunk and Lane dumped the bag inside. He looked at it for a second and then he slammed the lid on it. "No heroics," he said. "Just leave the car, leave the keys, and walk away."

  "Understood," Gregory said. He walked around the hood and slid into the driver's seat. Started the motor and took off west. Then he turned south on Ninth Avenue. This early in the morning, he figured the traffic would be OK.

  At that same moment four miles south a man turned off Houston Street and started down West Broadway. He was on foot. He was forty-two years old, white, five feet eleven inches tall, one hundred and ninety pounds. He was wearing a jeans jacket over a hooded sweatshirt. He crossed to the west sidewalk and headed for Prince. He kept his eyes moving. Left, right, near, far. Reconnaissance. He was justifiably proud of his technique. He didn't miss much. He never had missed much. He imagined his gaze to be twin moving searchlights, penetrating the gloom, revealing everything.

  Revealing: Forty-five degrees ahead and to the left, a man sprawled in a doorway. A big man, but inert. His limbs were relaxed in sleep. His head was cradled on his arms and canted sideways at a characteristic angle.

  Drunk? Passed out?

  Who was he?

  The man in the hooded sweatshirt paused at the Prince Street crosswalk. Waited for the light, even though there was no traffic. Used the time to complete his inspection. The big guy's clothes were garbage, but his shoes were good. Leather, heavy, solid, proper stitched welts. Probably English. Probably three hundred dollars a pair. Maybe three-fifty. Each shoe on its own was worth twice the price of everything else the guy was wearing.

  So who was he?

  A bum who had stolen a pair of fancy shoes? Or not?

  Not, thought the man in the hooded sweatshirt.

  He turned ninety degrees and crossed West Broadway against the light. Headed straight for the doorway.

  Gregory blew past a small traffic snarl at 42nd Street and caught green lights all the way to the back of the Post Office at 31st. Then the lights and his luck changed. He had to stop the BMW behind a garbage truck. He waited. Checked his watch. He had plenty of time.

  The man in the hooded sweatshirt stopped one quiet pace north of the doorway Held his breath. The guy at his feet slept on. He didn't smell. His skin was good. His hair was clean. He wasn't malnourished.

  Not a hum with a fair of stolen shoes.

  The man in the hooded sweatshirt smiled to himself. This was some asshole from some million-dollar

  SoHo loft, been out for some fun, had a little too much, couldn't make it home.

  A prime target.

  He shuffled half a pace forward. Breathed out, breathed in. Leveled the twin searchlights on the chino pockets. Scoped them out.

  There it was.

  The left-hand front pocket. The familiar delicious bulge. Exactly two and five-eighths inches wide, half an inch thick, three and a quarter inches long.

  Folding money.

  The man in the hooded sweatshirt had plenty of experience. He could call it sight unseen. There would be a bunch of crisp new twenties from an ATM, a couple of leathery old fives and tens from taxi change, a wrapping of crumpled ones. Total: a hundred and seventy-three dollars. That was his prediction. And his predictions were usually pretty good. He doubted that he would be disappointed. But he was prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

  He bent at the waist and extended his arm.

  He used his fingertips to lift the top seam of the pocket. To make a little tunnel. Then he flattened his hand, palm down, and slid his index and middle fingers inside, light, like feathers. He crossed them, like scissors, or a promise. His index finger went under the cash, all the way to the first knuckle. His middle finger went over the cash. Over the fold. Like a pincer. He used light pressure. Used the pad of his middle finger to press down through the wad to the nail of his index finger. Used a brief subtle tug to break the fiber-on-fiber bond between money and pocket. Started the slow, smooth extraction.

  Then his wrist broke.

  Two giant hands seized it and snapped it like a rotten twig. One shattering sudden explosion of motion. A blur. At first there was no pain. Then it kicked in like a tidal wave. But by then it was too late to scream. One of the giant hands was clamped over his mouth. It was like being hit hard in the face with a first baseman's mitt.

  "I've got three questions," the big guy said, quietly. "Tell
me the truth and I'll let you go. Tell me a lie and I'll break your other wrist. We clear on that?"

  The big guy had hardly moved. Just his hands, once, twice, three times, fast, efficient, and lethal. He wasn't even breathing hard. The man in the hooded sweatshirt couldn't breathe at all. He nodded desperately.

  "OK, first question: What exactly are you doing?" The big guy took his hand away, to enable the answer.

  "Your money," the man in the hooded sweatshirt said. His voice wouldn't work properly. It was all strangled up with pain and panic.

  "Not your first time," the big guy said. His eyes were half-open, clear blue, expressionless. Hypnotic. The man in the sweatshirt couldn't lie.

  "I call it the dawn patrol," he said. "There's sometimes two or three guys like you."

  "Not exactly like me," the big guy said.

  "No."

  "Bad choice."

  "I'm sorry."

  "Second question: Are you alone?"

  "Yes, I am."

  "Third question: Do you want to walk away now?"

  "Yes, I do."

  "So do it. Slow and natural. Go north. Turn right on Prince. Don't run. Don't look back. Just disappear. Right now."

  Gregory turned left off Hudson Street onto Houston and waited at the light at the bottom of Seventh Avenue. He was a block and a half from the fireplug and about eight minutes early. He figured he would pull in at the curb before he got to Sixth. He figured he should try to time it exactly.

  Reacher's heart rate was back to normal within about fifteen seconds. He jammed his cash deeper in his pocket and put his arms back behind his head. Let his head fall sideways and let his eyes half-close. He saw nobody near the red door. Saw nobody even glance at it.

  The man in the hooded sweatshirt cradled his broken wrist and made it as far as Prince. Then he

  abandoned the slow and natural walk and just ran east as fast as he could. Stopped two blocks away and threw up in the gutter. Stayed there for a spell, bent at the waist, panting, his good hand on his knee, his bad hand tucked in the sweatshirt pocket like a sling.

  Reacher had no watch but he figured when he saw Gregory it must have been between eight and nine minutes after seven o'clock. Below Houston the north-south blocks are long. Eight or nine minutes was about right for the walk down from the fireplug on Sixth. So Gregory was right on time. He came in on Spring from the west. He was walking briskly. His hand was in the pocket of his suit coat. He stopped on the sidewalk outside the dull red door and turned with military precision and walked up the three short steps, light and easy, balanced on the balls of his feet. Then his hand came out of his pocket and Reacher saw the flash of metal and black plastic. Saw Gregory lift the mail slot's flap with his left hand and shovel the keys through with his right. Saw him drop the flap back into place and turn and walk away. Saw him make the left onto West Broadway. He didn't look back. He just kept on walking, playing his part, trying to keep Kate Lane alive.

  Reacher kept his eyes on the red door. Waited. Three minutes, he figured. Five million bucks was a lot of money. There would be a certain degree of impatience. As soon as the one guy confirmed that Gregory was safely distant, the other guy would be in through the door. And they would figure one long block plus a crosswalk was safely distant. So as soon as Gregory was south of Broome, the call would come.

  One minute.

  Two minutes.

  Three minutes.

  Nothing happened.

  Reacher laid back, stayed relaxed, stayed casual. No outward sign of his interest. Or his concern.

  Four minutes. Nothing happened.

  Reacher kept his eyes half-closed but stared at the door so hard that its details etched themselves in his mind. Scars, nicks, streaks of dirt and rust, graffiti overspray. He felt that fifty years in the future he would be able to draw a picture as accurate as a Polaroid.

  Six minutes. Eight. Nine.

  Nothing happened.

  There were all kinds of people on the sidewalks now but none of them went anywhere near the red door. There was traffic and there were trucks unloading and there were bodegas and bakeries open for business. There were people with newspapers and closed cups of coffee heading for the subway.

  Nobody stepped up to the red door.

  Twelve minutes. Fifteen.

  Reacher asked himself: Did they see me? He answered himself: Of course they did. Close to a

  certainty. The mugger saw me. That was for damn sure. And these other guys are smarter than any

  mugger. They're the type who see everything. Guys good enough to take down an SAS veteran outside a department store were going to check the street pretty carefully. Then he asked himself: But were they worried? Answered himself: No, they weren't. The mugger saw a professional opportunity. That was all. To these other guys, people in doorways were like trash cans or mail boxes or fire hydrants or cruising taxis. Street furniture. You see them, you see the city. And he was alone. Cops or FBI would have come in a group. Mob-handed. There would have been a whole bunch of unexplained people hanging around looking shifty and awkward with walkie-talkies in brown paper bags made up to look like pints of liquor.

  So they saw me, but they didn't scare.

  So what the hell was happening?

  Eighteen minutes.

  Fire hydrants, Reacher thought.

  The BMW was parked on a fire hydrant. Rush hour was building. NYPD tow trucks were firing up

  and leaving their garages and starting their day. They all had quotas to make. How long could a sane person leave five million bucks inside an illegally parked car in New York City?

  Nineteen minutes.

  Reacher gave it up after twenty. Just rolled out of the doorway and stood up. Stretched once and hustled north, and then west on Prince all the way to Sixth Avenue, and then north again across Houston to the curb with the fireplug.

  It was empty. No BMW.

  CHAPTER

  8

  REACHER HEADED SOUTH again, all the way back to Spring Street. Six blocks, moving fast, seven minutes. He found Gregory on the sidewalk outside the dull red door.

  "Well?" Gregory said.

  Reacher shook his head.

  "Nothing," he said. "Not a damn thing. Nobody showed up. It all turned to rat shit. Isn't that what you

  SAS guys call it?"

  "When we're feeling polite," Gregory said.

  "The car is gone."

  "How is that possible?"

  "There's a back door," Reacher said. "That's my best guess right now."

  "Shit."

  Reacher nodded. "Like I said, rat shit."

  "We should check it out. Mr. Lane is going to want the whole story."

  They found an alley entrance two buildings west. It was gated and the gates were chained. The chains were secured with a padlock the size of a frying pan. Unbreakable. But reasonably new. Oiled, and frequently used. Above the gates was a single iron screen covering the whole width of the alley and extending twenty feet in the air.

  No way in.

  Reacher stepped back and looked left and right. The target building's right-hand neighbor was a chocolate shop. A security screen was down over the window but Reacher could see confections the size of babies' fists displayed behind it. Fakes, he guessed. Otherwise they would melt or go white. There was a light on in back of the store. He cupped his hands against the glass and peered inside. Saw a small shadowy figure moving about. He banged on the door, loud, with the flat of his hand. The small
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