One shot, p.9
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       One Shot, p.9

         Part #9 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
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Chapter 9

  Reacher didn't go to the airport. He knew better. Senior military personnel spend a lot of time flying small aircraft, either fixed wing or rotary, and they don't like it. Outside of combat, more military personnel die in plane crashes than from any other single cause. Therefore, given a choice, a smart Brigadier General like Eileen Hutton wouldn't ride a puddle jumper down from Indianapolis. She would be happy enough with a big jet out of Washington National, but she wouldn't contemplate a twin-prop for the final leg of her journey. No way. She would rent a car instead.

  So Reacher walked south and east to the library. Asked the subdued woman at the desk where the Yellow Pages were stored. He went where she pointed and hauled the book out onto a table. Opened it to H for Hotels. Started looking. Almost certainly some JAG Corps office grunt had done the equivalent thing the previous day, but remotely, probably online. Hutton would have told him to book her a room. He would have been anxious to please, so he would have turned first to the street map and found the courthouse and the road in from the north. Then he would have chosen a decent place convenient for both. Somewhere with parking, for the rental car. Probably a chain, with an established government rate accessible by a code number.

  The Marriott Suites, Reacher thought. That's where she'll be headed. Off the highway, south toward town, an obvious left turn east, and there it was, three blocks north of the courthouse, an easy walk, breakfast included. The office grunt had probably printed out driving directions from the internet and clipped them to her itinerary. Anxious to please. Hutton had that effect on people.

  He memorized the Marriott's number and put the book away. Then he walked out to the lobby and dialed the pay phone.

  "I want to confirm a reservation," he said.

  "Name?"

  "Hutton. "

  "Yes, we've got that. Tonight only, a suite. "

  "Thank you," Reacher said, and put the phone down.

  She would take an early flight out of D. C. After two decades in uniform she would be up at five, in a cab at six, boarding at seven. She would be in Indianapolis by nine, latest. Out of the Hertz lot by nine-thirty. It was a two-and-a-half-hour drive. She would arrive at noon. In about an hour.

  He stepped out of the lobby and looped through the plaza and headed north and east through a thin crowd of people, past the far side of the recruiting office, past the back of the courthouse. He found the Marriott easily enough and took a corner table in its coffee shop and settled down to wait.

  Helen Rodin called Rosemary Barr at work. She wasn't there. The receptionist sounded a little embarrassed about it. So Helen tried Rosemary's home number, and got her after the second ring.

  "Did they let you go?" she asked.

  "Unpaid leave," Rosemary said. "I volunteered for it. Everyone was acting awkward around me. "

  "That's awful. "

  "It's human nature. I need to make a plan. I might have to move. "

  "I need a list of your brother's friends," Helen said.

  "He doesn't have any. The true test of friendship is adversity, isn't it? And nobody's visited him. Nobody's even tried. Nobody's called me to ask how he is. "

  "I meant before," Helen said. "I need to know who he saw, who he hung out with, who knew him well. Especially anyone new. "

  "There wasn't anyone new," Rosemary said. "Not that I'm aware of. "

  "Are you sure?"

  "Pretty sure. "

  "What about old?"

  "Have you got a big piece of paper?"

  "I've got a whole yellow pad. "

  "Well, you aren't going to need it. A matchbook cover would do it. James is a very self-sufficient person. "

  "He must have buddies. "

  "A couple, I guess," Rosemary said. "There's a guy called Mike from the neighborhood. They talk about lawns and baseball, you know, guy stuff. "

  Mike, Helen wrote. Guy stuff. "Anyone else?"

  There was a long pause.

  "Someone called Charlie," Rosemary said.

  "Tell me about Charlie," Helen said.

  "I don't know much about him. I never really met him. "

  "How long has James known him?"

  "Years. "

  "Including the time you lived there?"

  "He never came around when I was in. I only ever saw him once. He was leaving as I was coming in. I said, Who was that? James said, That was Charlie, like he was an old pal. "

  "What does he look like?"

  "He's small. He's got weird hair. Like a black toilet brush. "

  "Is he local?"

  "I guess so. "

  "What was their point of contact?"

  Another long pause.

  "Guns," Rosemary said. "They shared an interest. "

  Charlie, Helen wrote. Guns.

  Donna Bianca spent some time on her cell phone and mapped out the flight schedules between D. C. and Indianapolis. She knew the onward connecting flights left on the hour and took thirty-five minutes. She figured a person with a courthouse appointment at four o'clock wouldn't aim to arrive on anything later than the two thirty-five. Which meant leaving Indianapolis at two, which meant getting in there at about one-thirty, latest, to allow for the walk between gates. Which meant leaving Washington National at eleven-thirty or twelve, latest. Which wasn't possible. The last direct flight from National to Indianapolis was at nine-thirty. There was a morning cluster and an evening cluster. Nothing in between.

  "She'll come in on the twelve thirty-five," she said.

  Emerson checked his watch. Quarter to twelve.

  "Which means Reacher will be here soon," he said.

  At ten to twelve a courier arrived at Helen Rodin's building with six large cardboard cartons containing the defense's copies of the prosecution's evidence. The discovery process, mandated by the rules of due process. By the Bill of Rights, as interpreted. The courier called from the lobby and Helen told him to come on up. He had to make two trips with his handcart. He stacked the boxes in the empty secretarial pen. Helen signed for them and he left. Then she opened them. There was a mass of paperwork and dozens of photographs. And eleven new VHS cassettes. They had labels with numbers neatly printed on them that referred to a notarized sheet that described them as faithful and complete copies of the parking garage's security tapes, made by an independent third-party contractor. Helen took them all out and stacked them separately. She would have to take them home and use her own VCR to look at them. She didn't have a VCR in the office. Or a television set.

  There was a television set in the Marriott's coffee shop. It was mounted high in the corner, on a black articulated bracket bolted to the wall. The sound was off. Reacher watched an advertisement that featured a young woman in a filmy summer dress romping through a field of wildflowers. He wasn't sure what product was being advertised. The dress, maybe, or makeup, or shampoo, or allergy medicine. Then a news banner popped up. Noon Report. Reacher checked his watch. Twelve exactly. He glanced toward the reception desk in the lobby. He had a clear view. No sign of Hutton. Not yet. So he glanced back at the television. Ann Yanni was on. She seemed to be live on location, downtown, out on the street. In front of the Metropole Palace Hotel. She talked silently but earnestly for a moment and then the picture cut to tape of dawn twilight. An alley. Police barriers. A shapeless form under a white sheet. Then the picture cut again. To a driver's license photograph. Pale skin. Green eyes. Red hair. Just under the chin a caption was superimposed: Alexandra Dupree.

  Alexandra. Sandy.

  Now they've gone too far, Reacher thought.

  He shivered.

  Way too far.

  He stared at the screen. Sandy's face was still there. Then the picture cut again, back to tape of the early hours, to a head-and-shoulders shot of Emerson. A recorded interview. Yanni had her microphone shoved up under Emerson's nose. He was talking. Yanni pulled the microphone back and asked a question. Emerson talked some more. His eyes were flat and empt
y and tired and hooded against the bright light on the camera. Even without the sound Reacher knew what he was saying. He was promising a full and complete investigation. We'll get this guy, he was saying.

  "I saw you from the desk," a voice said.

  Then it said, "And I thought to myself, don't I know that guy?"

  Reacher looked away from the TV.

  Eileen Hutton was standing right there in front of him.

  Her hair was shorter. She had no tan. There were fine lines around her eyes. But otherwise she looked just the same as she had fourteen years ago. And just as good. Medium height, slim, poised. Groomed. Fragrant. Feminine as hell. She hadn't put on a pound. She was wearing civvies. Khaki chino pants, a white T, a blue oxford shirt open over it. Penny loafers, no socks, no makeup, no jewelry.

  No wedding band.

  "Remember me?" she said.

  Reacher nodded.

  "Hello, Hutton," he said. "I remember you. Of course I do. And it's good to see you again. "

  She had a purse and a key card in her hand. A rolling carry-on with a long handle at her feet.

  "It's good to see you again, too," she said. "But please tell me it's a coincidence that you're here. Please tell me that. "

  Feminine as hell, except she was still a woman in a man's world, and you could still see the steel if you knew where to look. Which was into her eyes. They ran like a stock ticker, warm, warm, welcome, welcome, with a periodic bright flash: Mess with me and I'll rip your lungs out.

  "Sit down," Reacher said. "Let's have lunch. "

  "Lunch?"

  "It's what people do at lunch time. "

  "You were expecting me. You've been waiting for me. "

  Reacher nodded. Glanced back up at the TV set. Sandy's driver's license picture was on the screen again. Hutton followed his gaze.

  "Is that the dead girl?" she asked. "I heard it on the radio, driving down. Sounds like a person should get combat pay, coming here. "

  "What did the radio say? There's no sound in here. "

  "Homicide. Late last night. Local girl got her neck broken. A single blow to the right temple. In an alley outside a hotel. Not this one, I hope. "

  "No," Reacher said. "It wasn't this one. "

  "Brutal. "

  "I guess it was. "

  Eileen Hutton sat down at the table. Not across from him. In the chair next to him. Just like Sandy, at the sports bar.

  "You look great," he said. "You really do. "

  She said nothing.

  "It's good to see you," he said again.

  "Likewise," she said.

  "No, I mean it. "

  "I mean it, too. Believe me, if we were at some Beltway cocktail party I would be getting all misty and nostalgic with the best of them. I might still, as soon as I find out you're not here for the reason I think you're here. "

  "What reason would that be?"

  "To keep your promise. "

  "You remember that?"

  "Of course I do. You talked about it all one night. "

  "And you're here because the Department of the Army got a subpoena. "

  Hutton nodded. "From some idiot prosecutor. "

  "Rodin," Reacher said.

  "That's the guy. "

  "My fault," Reacher said.

  "Christ," Hutton said. "What did you tell him?"

  "Nothing," Reacher said. "I didn't tell him anything. But he told me something. He told me my name was on the defense's witness list. "

  "The defense list?"

  Reacher nodded. "That surprised me, obviously. So I was confused. So I asked him if my name had come from some old Pentagon file. "

  "Not in this lifetime," Hutton said.

  "As I found out," Reacher said. "But still, I had said the magic words. I had mentioned the Pentagon. The type of guy he is, I knew he would go fishing. He's very insecure. He likes his cases armor-plated. So I'm sorry. "

  "You should be. I get to spend two days in the back of beyond and I get to perjure myself from here to breakfast time. "

  "You don't need to do that. You can claim national security. "

  Hutton shook her head. "We talked about it, long and hard. We decided to stay away from anything that draws attention. That Palestinian thing was very thin. If that unravels, everything unravels. So I'm here to swear blind that James Barr was GI Joe. "

  "You OK with that?"

  "You know the army. None of us is a virgin anymore. It's about the mission, and the mission is to keep a lid on the KC thing. "

  "Why did they delegate you?"

  "Two birds with one stone. No good to them to send someone else and still have me out there knowing the truth. This way, I can't talk about it ever again, anywhere. Not without effectively confessing to perjury one time in Indiana. They're not dumb. "

  "I'm surprised they still care. It's practically ancient history. "

  "How long have you been out?"

  "Seven years. "

  "And clearly you don't have a subscription to the Army Times. "

  "What?"

  "Or maybe you never knew. "

  "Never knew what?"

  "Where it went back then, up the chain of command. "

  "Division, I supposed. But maybe not all the way to the top. "

  "It stopped on a certain colonel's desk. He was the one who nixed it. "

  "And?"

  "His name was Petersen. "

  "And?"

  "Colonel Petersen is now Lieutenant General Petersen. Three stars. Congressional liaison. About to get his fourth star. About to be named Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. "

  That could complicate things, Reacher thought.

  "Embarrassing," he said.

  "You bet your ass embarrassing," Hutton said. "So believe me, this is one lid that is going to stay on. You need to bear that in mind. Whatever you want to do about your promise, you can't talk about what happened. Any more than I can. They would find a way to get to you. "

  "Neither of us needs to talk about it. It's a done deal. "

  "I'm very glad to hear it. "

  "I think. "

  "You think?"

  "Ask me how they really got my name. "

  "How did they really get your name?"

  "From James Barr himself. "

  "I don't believe it. "

  "I didn't believe it, either. But I do now. "

  "Why?"

  "We should have lunch. We really need to talk. Because I think there's someone else out there who knows. "

  Emerson and Bianca called it quits at twelve-fifty. Reacher never showed. The feeder flight came in on time. Nobody that could have been a female Brigadier General from the Pentagon got off. The two cops waited until the arrivals hall emptied out and went quiet. Then they got in their car and drove back to town.

  Reacher and Hutton had lunch. A waitress came over, happy to get some business out of her corner table at last. The menu was coffee-shop-basic. Reacher ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and coffee. Hutton went with chicken Caesar and tea. They ate and talked. Reacher ran through the details of the case. Then he ran through his theory. The perverse choice of location, the presumed coercion. He told Hutton about Niebuhr's theory of the new and persuasive friend. Told her that Barr claimed he had no new friends, and very few old ones.

  "Can't be a new friend anyway," Hutton said. "Because this is a multilayered setup. There's the contemporaneous evidence, and the historical parallels. Second story of a parking garage fourteen years ago in KC, second story of a parking garage here and now. Virtually the same rifle. Boat tail sniper ammunition. And the desert boots. I never saw them before Desert Shield. They're suggestive. Whoever scripted this for him knew all about his past. Which means it isn't a new friend. It can't be. It would take years and years before Barr would feel like sharing anything about KC. "

  Reacher nodded. "But obviously he did, eventually. Which is why I said there's s
omeone else out there who knows. "

  "We need to find that person," Hutton said. "The mission is to keep the lid on this thing. "

  "Not my mission. I don't care if this Petersen guy gets his fourth star. "

  "But you do care that a quarter million veterans don't get their reputations trashed. The scandal would taint all of them. And they were good people. "

  Reacher said nothing.

  "It's easy enough," Hutton said. "If James Barr doesn't have many friends, you don't have a very big pool to search through. One of them has to be the guy. "

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Two birds with one stone," Hutton said. "You get to the puppet master and the army gets to relax. "

  "So why doesn't the army do it for me?"

  "We can't afford to draw attention. "

  "I've got operational problems," Reacher said.

  "No jurisdiction?"

  "Worse than that. I'm about to get arrested. "

  "For what?"

  "For killing that girl behind the hotel. "

  "What?"

  "The puppet master doesn't like me being here. He already tried something on Monday night, with that same girl as bait. So I went to see her yesterday, twice. And now they killed her and I'm sure I'm her last unexplained contact. "

  "Have you got an alibi?"

  "Depends on the exact timing, but probably not. I'm sure the cops are already looking for me. "

  "Problem," Hutton said.

  "Only temporary," Reacher said. "Science is on my side. If her neck was broken by a single blow to her right temple, then her head rotated a little, counterclockwise, which means the punch was thrown by a left-hander. And I'm right-handed. If I had hit her in the right temple I would have knocked her out for sure, but I wouldn't have broken her neck. I would have had to do that separately, afterward. "

  "You sure?"

  Reacher nodded. "I used to do this stuff for a living, remember. "

  "But will they believe you? Or will they figure you're big enough to have done it with your weak hand?"

  "I'm not going to risk finding out. "

  "You're going to run?"

  "No, I'm going to stick around. But I'm going to have to stay out of their way. Which will slow me down some. A lot, in fact. Which is why I said I've got operational problems. "

  "Can I help?"

  Reacher smiled.

  "It's good to see you, Hutton," he said. "It really is. "

  "How can I help?"

  "My guess is there'll be a cop called Emerson waiting for you after you're done with your deposition. He'll ask you about me. Just play dumb. Just say I never showed up, you didn't see me, you don't know where I am, all that kind of stuff. "

  She was quiet for a spell.

  "You're upset," she said. "I can tell. "

  He nodded. Rubbed his face, like he was washing without water.

  "I don't care much about James Barr," he said. "If someone wanted to set him up so he took the punishment he should have taken fourteen years ago, that was OK with me. But this thing with the girl is different. It's way out of line. She was just a sweet dumb kid. She meant no harm. "

  Hutton was quiet for a moment longer.

  "Are you sure about the threat to Barr's sister?" she asked.

  "I don't see any other leverage. "

  "But there's no sign of a threat. As a prosecutor I couldn't see entering it as a separate charge. "

  "Why else would Barr have done what he did?"

  Hutton didn't answer.

  "Will I see you later?" she asked.

  "I've got a room not far away," he said. "I'll be around. "

  "OK," she said.

  "Unless I'm already in jail. "

  The waitress came back and they ordered dessert. Reacher asked for more coffee and Hutton got more tea. They kept on talking. Random subjects, random questions. They had fourteen years to catch up on.

  Helen Rodin searched through the six cartons of evidence and found a crisp photocopy of a sheet of paper that had been found next to James Barr's telephone. It was as close as he had gotten to a personal phone book. It had three numbers on it, written in neat and careful handwriting. Two were for his sister Rosemary, one at her condo and the other at work. The third number was for Mike. The neighborhood guy. Nothing for anyone called Charlie.

  Helen dialed Mike's number. It rang six times and cut to an answering machine. She left her office number and asked for a return call on a matter of great importance.

  Emerson spent an hour with a sketch artist and came up with a pretty good likeness of Jack Reacher's face. The drawing was then scanned into a computer and colorized. Dirty-blond hair, ice-blue eyes, medium-to-dark tan. Emerson then typed the name, and estimated the height at six-five, the weight at two-fifty, the age between thirty-five and forty-five. He put the police department's phone number on the bottom line. Then he e-mailed it all over the place and set the printer to churn out two hundred color copies. He told every prowl car driver to take a sheaf and give one to every hotel clerk and barman in town. Then he added: every restaurant, diner, lunch counter, and sandwich shop, too.

  James Barr's friend Mike called Helen Rodin back at three o'clock in the afternoon. She asked for his address and got him to agree to a face-to-face interview. He said he was home for the rest of the day. So she called a cab and headed out. Mike lived on James Barr's street, twenty minutes from downtown. Barr's house was visible from Mike's front yard. Both houses were similar. All the houses on the street were similar. They were 1950s ranches, long and low. Helen guessed they had all started out identical. But a half-century's worth of adding on and reroofing and re-siding and ongoing landscaping had made them diverge in appearance. Some looked upmarket and some still looked basic. Barr's place looked worn. Mike's place looked manicured.

  Mike himself was a tired fifty-something who worked the morning shift at a paint wholesaler. His wife arrived home while Helen was still introducing herself. She was also a tired fifty-something. Her name was Tammy, which didn't suit her. She was a part-time dental nurse. She worked two mornings a week for a downtown dentist. She ushered Helen and Mike into the living room and then went away to make coffee. Helen and Mike sat down and started out with an awkward initial silence that lasted minutes.

  "So, what can I tell you?" Mike asked eventually.

  "You were Mr. Barr's friend," Helen said.

  Mike glanced at the living room door. It was open.

  "Just a neighbor," he said.

  "His sister called you a friend. "

  "We were neighborly. Some folks might call that friendly. "

  "Did you spend time together?"

  "We would chat a little if he walked by with his dog. "

  "About what kind of thing?"

  "Our yards," Mike said. "If he was decorating he would ask me about paint. I asked him who fixed his driveway. Things like that. "

  "Baseball?"

  Mike nodded. "We would talk about that. "

  Tammy came in with three cups of coffee on a tray. There was cream and sugar and a small plate of cookies with them, and three paper napkins. She put the tray on a low table and sat down next to her husband.

  "Help yourself," she said.

  "Thank you," Helen said. "Thank you very much. "

  They all served themselves and there was silence in the room.

  "Were you ever in Mr. Barr's house?" Helen asked.

  Mike glanced at his wife.

  "Once or twice," he said.

  "They weren't friends," Tammy said.

  "Was it a surprise?" Helen asked. "That he did what he did?"

  "Yes," Tammy said. "It was. "

  "So you don't need to feel bad about mixing with him before. It wasn't something that anyone could have predicted. These things are always a surprise. Neighbors never know. "

  "You're trying to get him off. "

  "Actually
I'm not," Helen said. "But there's a new theory that he didn't act alone. I'm just trying to make sure that the other man gets punished, too. "

  "It wasn't Mike," Tammy said.

  "I don't think it was," Helen said. "Really. Not for a moment. Not now that I've met him. But whoever the other man is, you or Mike might know him or have heard about him or even seen him coming and going. "

  "Barr didn't really have friends," Mike said.

  "Nobody?"

  "Not that he spoke about to me. He lived with his sister until she moved out. I guess that was enough for him. "

  "Does the name Charlie mean anything to you?"

  Mike just shook his head.

  "What did Mr. Barr do when he had a job?"

  "I don't know," Mike said. "He hasn't worked for years. "

  "I've seen a man over there," Tammy said.

  "When?"

  "Now and then. Occasionally. He comes and goes. All times of the day and night, like a friend would. "

  "For how long?"

  "Ever since we moved here. I spend more time at home than Mike does. So I notice more. "

  "When was the last time you saw this man?"

  "Last week, I think. A couple of times. "

  "Friday?"

  "No, earlier. Tuesday and Wednesday, maybe. "

  "What does he look like?"

  "He's small. He's got funny hair. Black, like hog bristles. "

  Charlie, Helen thought.

  Eileen Hutton walked three fast blocks south from the Marriott and arrived at the courthouse at one minute to four exactly. Alex Rodin's secretary came down to escort her up to the third floor. Depositions were taken in a large conference room because most witnesses brought their own lawyers and court reporters with them. But Hutton was on her own. She sat down alone on one long side of a large table and smiled as a microphone was placed in front of her and a video camera was focused on her face. Then Rodin came in and introduced himself. He brought a small team with him. An assistant, his secretary, a court reporter with her machine.

  "Would you state your full name and title for the record?" he asked.

  Hutton looked at the camera.

  "Eileen Ann Hutton," she said. "Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General's Corps, United States Army. "

  "I hope this won't take long," Rodin said.

  "It won't," Hutton said.

  And it didn't. Rodin was trawling in a sea he hadn't charted. He was like a man in a darkened room. All he could do was dart around randomly and hope he bumped into something. After six questions he realized he was never going to.

  He asked, "How would you characterize James Barr's military service?"

  "Exemplary without being exceptional," Hutton said.

  He asked, "Was he ever in trouble?"

  "Not to my knowledge," Hutton said.

  He asked, "Did he ever commit a crime?"

  "Not to my knowledge," Hutton said.

  He asked, "Are you aware of recent events in this city?"

  "Yes, I am," Hutton said.

  He asked, "Is there anything in James Barr's past that might shed light on the likelihood or otherwise of his having been involved in those events?"

  "Not to my knowledge," Hutton said.

  Finally he asked, "Is there any reason why the Pentagon might be more aware of James Barr than any other veteran?"

  "Not to my knowledge," Hutton said.

  So at that point Alex Rodin gave up.

  "OK," he said. "Thank you, General Hutton. "

  Helen Rodin walked thirty yards and stood on the street for a moment outside James Barr's house. It had police tape across the entryway and a plywood sheet nailed over the broken front door. It looked forlorn and empty. There was nothing to see. So she used her cell phone to call a cab and had it take her to the county hospital. It was after four o'clock in the afternoon when she arrived and the sun was in the west. It lit up the white concrete building with pale shades of orange and pink.

  She rode up to the sixth floor and signed in with the Board of Corrections and found the tired thirty-year-old doctor and asked him about James Barr's condition. The doctor didn't really answer. He wasn't very interested in James Barr's condition. That was clear. So Helen just walked past him and opened Barr's door.

  Barr was awake. He was still handcuffed to the cot. His head was still clamped. His eyes were open and he was staring at the ceiling. His breathing was low and slow and the heart monitor was beeping less than once a second. His arms were trembling slightly and his handcuffs were rattling against the bed frame. Quiet, dull, metallic sounds.

  "Who's there?" he said.

  Helen stepped close and leaned into his field of view.

  "Are they looking after you?" she asked.

  "I have no complaints," he said.

  "Tell me about your friend Charlie. "

  "Is he here?"

  "No, he's not here. "

  "Did Mike come?"

  "I don't think they allow visitors. Just lawyers and family. "

  Barr said nothing.

  "Are those your only friends?" Helen said. "Mike and Charlie?"

  "I guess," Barr said. "And Mike's more of a neighbor. "

  "What about Jeb Oliver?"

  "Who?"

  "He works at the auto parts store. "

  "I don't know him. "

  "Are you sure?"

  Barr's eyes moved and his lips pursed, like a man searching his memory, trying to be helpful, desperate for approval.

  "I'm sorry," he said. "I never heard of him. "

  "Do you use drugs?"

  "No," Barr said. "Never. I wouldn't do that. " He was quiet for a beat. "Truth is I don't really do much of anything. I just live. That's why this whole thing makes no sense to me. I spent fourteen years in the world. Why would I throw it all away now?"

  "Tell me about Charlie," Helen said.

  "We hang out," Barr said. "We do stuff. "

  "With guns?"

  "A little bit. "

  "Where does Charlie live?"

  "I don't know. "

  "How long have you been friends?"

  "Five years. Maybe six. "

  "And you don't know where he lives?"

  "He never told me. "

  "He's been to your place. "

  "So?"

  "You never went to his place?"

  "He came to mine instead. "

  "Do you have his phone number?"

  "He just shows up, here and there, now and then. "

  "Are you close?"

  "Close enough. "

  "How close exactly?"

  "We get along. "

  "Well enough to tell him what happened fourteen years ago?"

  Barr didn't answer. Just closed his eyes.

  "Did you tell him?"

  Barr said nothing.

  "I think you told him," Helen said.

  Barr didn't confirm or deny it.

  "I'm surprised that a man doesn't know where his friend lives. Especially a friend as close as I think Charlie is. "

  "I didn't push it," Barr said. "I was lucky to have a friend at all. I didn't want to ruin it with questions. "

  Eileen Hutton got up from Alex Rodin's deposition table and shook hands all around. Then she stepped out to the corridor and came face-to-face with a guy she assumed was the cop called Emerson. The one Reacher had warned her about. He confirmed it by handing her a card with his name on it.

  "Can we talk?" he asked.

  "About what?" she asked back.

  "About Jack Reacher," Emerson said.

  "What about him?"

  "You know him, am I right?"

  "I knew him fourteen years ago. "

  "When did you last see him?"

  "Fourteen years ago," she said. "We were in Kuwait together. Then he shipped out somewhere. Or I did. I can't remember. "

  "You didn't see him
today?"

  "He's in Indiana?"

  "He's in town. Right here, right now. "

  "Small world. "

  "How did you get here?"

  "I flew into Indianapolis and rented a car. "

  "Staying overnight?"

  "Do I have a choice?"

  "Where?"

  "The Marriott. "

  "Reacher killed a girl last night. "

  "Are you sure?"

  "He's our only suspect. "

  "That would be very unlike him. "

  "Call me if you see him. The station house number is on my card. And my direct extension. And my cell phone. "

  "Why would I see him?"

  "Like you said, it's a small world. "

  A police black-and-white crawled north through the building rush hour traffic. Past the gun store. Past the barbershop. Any Style $7. Then it eased right and turned into the motor court. The cop in the passenger seat got out and walked to the office. Gave the clerk a flyer. Laid it flat on the counter and swiveled it around and slid it across.

  "Call us if this guy shows up, OK?" the cop said.

  "He's already here," the clerk said. "But his name's Heffner, not Reacher. I put him in room eight, last night. "

  The cop stood still. "Is he in there now?"

  "I don't know. He's come and gone a few times. "

  "How long did he book for?"

  "He paid one night. But he didn't give the key back yet. "

  "So he's planning to be here again tonight. "

  "I guess. "

  "Unless he's already here. "

  "Unless," the clerk said.

  The cop stepped back to the office door. Signaled his partner. His partner shut the motor down and locked the car and walked over.

  "Room eight, false name," the first cop said.

  "In there now?" his partner asked.

  "We don't know. "

  "So let's find out. "

  They took the clerk with them. They made him stand well back. They drew their weapons and knocked on room eight's door.

  No response.

  They knocked again.

  No response.

  "Got a master key?" the first cop asked.

  The clerk handed him a key. The cop put it in the lock gently, one-handed. Turned it slowly. Opened the door a half inch and paused and then smashed it all the way open and stepped inside. His partner stepped in right behind him. Their guns traced left and right and up and down, fast and random and tense.

  The room was empty.

  Nothing in there at all, except a forlorn little sequence of bathroom items lined up on a shelf above the sink. A new pack of throwaway razors, open, one used. A new can of shaving foam, with dried bubbles around the nozzle. A new tube of toothpaste, twice squeezed.

  "This guy travels light," the first cop said.

  "But he hasn't checked out," his partner said. "That's for sure. Which means he's coming back. "

 
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