Home > 61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(9)

61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(9)
Author: Lee Child

Peterson nodded, reluctantly.

'Can't argue with that,' he said.

Five minutes to ten in the evening.

Fifty-four hours to go.

Seventeen hundred miles to the south, inside the walled compound a hundred miles from Mexico City, Plato was eating too, a rib eye steak flown in all the way from Argentina. Nearly eleven in the evening local time. A late dinner. Plato was dressed in chinos and a white button-down shirt and black leather penny loafer shoes, all from the Brooks Brothers' boys' collection. The shoes and the clothes fit very well, but he looked odd in them. They were made for fat white middle-class American children, and Plato was old and brown and squat and had a shaved bullet head. But it was important to him to be able to buy clothes that fit right out of the box. Made-to-measure was obviously out of the question. Tailors would wield the tape and go quiet and then call out small numbers with studied and artificial neutrality. Alteration of off-the-rack items was just as bad. Visits from nervous local seamstresses and the furtive disposal of lengths of surplus fabric upset him mightily.

He put down his knife and his fork and dabbed his lips with a large white napkin. He picked up his cell phone and hit the green button twice, to return the last call he had received. When it was answered he said, 'We don't need to wait. Send the guy in and hit the witness.'

The man in the city villa asked, 'When?'

'As soon as would be prudent.'


'And hit the lawyer, too. To break the chain.'


'And make sure those idiots know they owe me big.'


'And tell them they better not bother me with this kind of shit ever again.'

Halfway through the pot roast Reacher asked, 'So why was that street blocked off?'

Peterson said, 'Maybe there was a power line down.'

'I hope not. Because that would be a strange sense of priorities. You leave twenty seniors freezing on the highway for an hour to guard a power line on a side street?'

'Maybe there was a fender bender.'

'Same answer.'

'Does it matter? You were already on your way into town by that point.'

'That car had been there two hours or more. Its tracks were full of snow. But you told us no one was available.'

'Which was true. That officer wasn't available. He was doing a job.'

'What job?'

'None of your business.'

'How big is your department?'

'Big enough.'

'And they were all busy?'


'How many of them were busy sitting around doing nothing in parked cars?'

'You got concerns, I suggest you move here and start paying taxes and then talk to the mayor or Chief Holland.'

'I could have caught a chill.'

'But you didn't.'

'Too early to say.'

They went back to eating. Until Peterson's cell phone rang. He answered and listened and hung up and pushed his plate to one side.

'Got to go,' he said. 'You wait here.'

'I can't,' Reacher said. 'This place is closing up. It's ten o'clock. The waitress wants us out of here. She wants to go home.'

Peterson said nothing.

Reacher said, 'I can't walk. I don't know where I'm supposed to go and it's too cold to walk anyway.'

Peterson said nothing.

Reacher said, 'I'll stay in the car. Just ignore me.'

'OK,' Peterson said, but he didn't look happy about it. Reacher left a twenty dollar bill on the table. The waitress smiled at him. Which she should, Reacher thought. Two pot roasts and a cup of coffee at South Dakota prices, he was leaving her a sixty per cent tip. Or maybe it was all tip, if Bolton was one of those towns where cops ate for free.

The Crown Vic was still faintly warm inside. Peterson hit the gas and the chains bit down and the car pushed through the snow on the ground. There was no other traffic except for snow-ploughs taking advantage of the lull in the fall. Reacher had a problem with snowploughs. Not the machines themselves, but the compound word. A plough turned earth over and left it in place. Snowploughs didn't do that with snow. Snowploughs were more properly bulldozers. But whatever, Peterson overtook them all, didn't pause at corners, didn't yield, didn't wait for green lights.

Reacher asked, 'Where are we going?'

'Western suburbs.'



'In a house?'

'On the street. It's a Neighbourhood Watch thing.' No further explanation. Peterson just drove, hunched forward over the wheel, tense and anxious. Reacher sprawled in the seat beside him, wondering what kind of intruders could get a police department's deputy chief to respond so urgently to a busybody's call.

Seventeen hundred miles south the man in the walled Mexico City villa dialled long distance to the United States. His final task of the day. Eleven o'clock local time, ten o'clock Central Time in the big country to the north. The call was answered and the man in the villa relayed Plato's instructions, slowly and precisely. No room for misunderstanding. No room for error. He waited for confirmation and then he hung up. He didn't call Plato back. No point. Plato didn't understand the concept of confirmation. For Plato, obedience followed command the same way night followed day. It was inevitable. The only way it wouldn't happen was if the world had stopped spinning on its axis.

Chapter Six

PETERSON HAD HIS DASHBOARD RADIO TURNED UP HIGH AND Reacher picked out four separate voices from four separate cars. All of them were prowling the western suburbs and none of them had seen the reported intruders. Peterson aimed his own car down the streets they hadn't checked yet. He turned right, turned left, nosed into dead ends, backed out again, moved on. There was a moon low in the sky and Reacher saw neat suburban developments, small houses in straight rows, warm lights behind windows, all the sidewalks and driveways and yards rendered blue and flat and uniform by the thick blanket of snow. Roofs were piled high with white. Some streets had been visited by the ploughs and had high banks of snow in the gutters. Some were still covered with an undisturbed fresh layer, deep but not as deep as the yards and the driveways. Clearly this current fall was the second or the third in a week or so. Roads were covered and cleared, covered and cleared, in an endless winter rhythm.

Reacher asked, 'How many intruders?'

Peterson said, 'Two reported.'

'In a vehicle?'

'On foot.'

'Doing what?'

'Just walking around.'

'So stick to the ploughed streets. Nobody walks around in six inches of snow for the fun of it.'

Peterson slowed for a second and thought about it. Then he turned without a word and picked up a ploughed trail and retraced it. The plough had zigzagged through main drags and cross streets. The snow had been sheared thin and low and white. The excess was piled high to the sides, still soft and clean.

They found the intruders four minutes later.

There were two of them, shoulder to shoulder in a close standoff with a third man. The third man was Chief Holland. His car was parked twenty feet away. It was an unmarked Crown Vic. Either navy blue or black. It was hard to say, in the moonlight. Police specification, with antennas on the trunk lid and concealed emergency lights peeping up out of the rear parcel shelf. The driver's door was open and the engine was running. Twin puddles of black vapour had condensed and pooled in the thin snow beneath the twin exhausts. Holland had gotten out and stepped ahead and confronted the two guys head on. That was clear.

The two guys were tall and heavyset and unkempt. White males, in black Frye boots, black jeans, black denim shirts, black leather vests, fingerless black gloves, black leather bandannas. Each had an unzipped black parka thrown over everything else. They looked exactly like the dead guy in the crime scene photographs.

Peterson braked and stopped and stood off and idled thirty feet back. His headlights illuminated the scene. The standoff looked like it wasn't going well for Holland. He looked nervous. The two guys didn't. They had Holland crowded back with a snow bank behind him. They were in his space, leaning forward. Holland looked beaten. Helpless.

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