Home > 61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(10)

61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(10)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher saw why.

The holster on Holland's belt was unsnapped and empty, but there was no gun in his hand. He was glancing down and to his left.

He had dropped his pistol in the snow bank.

Or had it knocked from his hand.

Either way, not good.

Reacher asked, 'Who are they?'

Peterson said, 'Undesirables.'

'So undesirable that the chief of police joins the hunt?'

'You see what I see.'

'What do you want to do?'

'It's tricky. They're probably armed.'

'So are you.'

'I can't make Chief Holland look like an idiot.'

Reacher said, 'Not his fault. Cold hands.'

'He just got out of his car.'

'Not recently. That car has been idling in place for ten minutes. Look at the puddles under the exhaust pipes.'

Peterson didn't reply. And didn't move.

Reacher asked again, 'Who are they?'

'What's it to you?'

'Just curious. They're scaring you.'

'You think?'

'If they weren't they'd be cuffed in the back of this car by now.'

'They're bikers.'

'I don't see any bikes.'

'It's winter,' Peterson said. 'They use pick-up trucks in winter.'

'That's illegal now?'

'They're tweakers.'

'What are tweakers?'

'Crystal meth users.'


'Methylated amphetamine. Smoked. Or to be technically accurate, vaporized and inhaled. Off of glass pipes or busted light bulbs or aluminum foil spoons. You heat it up and sniff away. Makes you erratic and unpredictable.'

'People are always erratic and unpredictable.'

'Not like these guys.'

'You know them?'

'Not specifically. But generically.'

'They live in town?'

'Five miles west. There are a lot of them. Kind of camping out. Generally they keep themselves to themselves, but people don't like them.'

Reacher said, 'The dead guy was one of them.'

Peterson said, 'Apparently.'

'So maybe they're looking for their buddy.'

'Or for justice.' Peterson watched and waited. Thirty feet ahead the body language ballet continued as before. Chief Holland was shivering. With cold, or fear.

Or both.

Reacher said, 'You better do something.'

Peterson did nothing.

Reacher said, 'Interesting strategy. You're going to wait until they freeze to death.'

Peterson said nothing.

Reacher said, 'Only problem is, Holland will freeze first.'

Peterson said nothing.

'I'll come with you, if you like.'

'You're a civilian.'

'Only technically.'

'You're not properly dressed. It's cold out.'

'How long can it take?'

'You're unarmed.'

'Against guys like that, I don't need to be armed.'

'Crystal meth is not a joke. No inhibitions.'

'That just makes us even.'

'Users don't feel pain.'

'They don't need to feel pain. All they need to feel is conscious or unconscious.'

Peterson said nothing.

Reacher said, 'You go left and I'll go right. I'll turn them around and you get in behind them.'

Thirty feet ahead Holland said something and the two guys crowded forward and Holland backed off and tripped and sat down heavily in the snow bank. Now he was more than an arm's length from where his gun must have fallen.

Half past ten in the evening.

Reacher said, 'This won't wait.'

Peterson nodded. Opened his door.

'Don't touch them,' he said. 'Don't start anything. Right now they're innocent parties.'

'With Holland down on his ass?'

'Innocent until proven guilty. That's the law. I mean it. Don't touch them.' Peterson climbed out of the car. Stood for a second behind his open door and then stepped around it and started forward. Reacher matched him, pace for pace.

The two guys saw them coming.

Reacher went right and Peterson went left. The car had been a comfortable seventy degrees. The evening air was sixty degrees colder. Maybe more. Reacher zipped his jacket all the way and shoved his hands deep in his pockets and hunched his shoulders so that his collar rode up on his neck. Even so he was shivering after five paces. It was beyond cold. The air felt deeply refrigerated. The two guys ahead stepped back, away from Holland. They gave him room. Holland struggled to his feet. Peterson stepped alongside him. His gun was still holstered. Reacher tracked around over the thin white glaze and stopped six feet behind the two guys. Holland stepped forward and dug around in the snow bank and retrieved his weapon. He brushed it clean and checked the muzzle for slush and stuck it back in his holster.

Everyone stood still.

The shaved snow on the street was part bright white powder and part ice crystals. They shone and glittered in the moonlight. Peterson and Holland were staring straight at the two guys and even though he was behind them Reacher was pretty sure the two guys were staring right back. He was shivering hard and his teeth were starting to chatter and his breath was fogging in front of him.

Nobody spoke.

The guy on Reacher's right was more than six feet tall and close to four feet wide. Some of the bulk was goose-feather insulation in the black winter parka, but most of it was flesh and bone. The guy on Reacher's left was a little smaller in both directions, and more active. He was restless, moving from foot to foot, twisting at the waist, rolling his shoulders. Cold, for sure, but not actively shivering. Reacher guessed the twitching was all about chemistry, not temperature.

Nobody spoke.

Reacher said, 'Guys, either you need to move right along, or one of you needs to loan me a coat.'

The two men turned around, slowly. The big guy on the right had a white slab of a face buried deep in a beard. The beard was rimed with frost. Like a polar explorer, or a mountaineer. The smaller guy on the left had two days of stubble and jumpy eyes. His mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish pecking at the surface. Thin mobile lips, bad teeth.

The big guy on the right asked, 'Who are you?'

Reacher said, 'Go home. It's too cold for foolishness on the street.'

No reply.

Behind the two guys Peterson and Holland did nothing. Their guns were holstered and their holsters were snapped shut. Reacher planned his next moves. Always better to be prepared. He anticipated no major difficulty. He would have preferred the bigger guy to be on his left, because that would have maximized the impact from a right-handed blow by allowing a marginally longer swing, and he always liked to put the larger of a pair down first. But he was prepared to be flexible. Maybe the jittery guy should go down first. The bigger guy was likely to be slower, and maybe less committed, without the chemical assistance.

Reacher said, 'Coat or float, guys.'

No answer from the two men. Then behind them Chief Holland came to life. He stepped forward one angry pace and said, 'Get the hell out of my town.'

Then he shoved the smaller guy in the back.

The smaller guy stumbled towards Reacher and then braced against the motion and spun back and started to whirl a fast one-eighty towards Holland with his fist cocking behind him like a pitcher aiming to break the radar gun. Reacher caught the guy by the wrist and held on for a split second and then let go again and the guy staggered through the rest of his turn all unbalanced and uncoordinated and ineffectual and ended with a weak late swing that missed Holland entirely.

But then he turned right back and aimed a second swing straight at Reacher. Which in Reacher's opinion took the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing right off the table. He stepped left and the incoming fist buzzed by an inch from his chin. The force behind it spun the guy onward and Reacher kicked his feet out from under him and dumped him face down on the ice. Whereupon the bigger guy started wading in, huge thighs, short choppy steps, fists like hams, trumpets of steam from his nose like an angry bull in a kid's picture book.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology