Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(18)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(18)
Author: Lee Child

‘Seen enough?’ Khenkin asked.

Bennett nodded and I said nothing, and Khenkin clicked the mouse and a street map of Paris popped up. It had a red arrowhead marked A on the front steps of Les Invalides, and another red arrowhead marked B some distance away, amid a thicket of small streets near the Boulevard St-Germain. The two red arrowheads were joined by a thin red line, which was marked 1273 metres, which was fourteen hundred yards in real money.

Bennett said, ‘Les Invalides is the old military hospital.’

‘I know,’ Khenkin said. ‘A monument now. Quite grand.’

And a logical place for a big political speech. An emotionally significant location, an open area in front, big enough for a decent crowd, small enough not to be embarrassing if not many people showed up, spacious enough for media trucks and satellite dishes. The Boulevard St-Germain location would be the apartment house. A long, long shot, more or less due west, over low-rise buildings and plenty of open space, nearly parallel with the river, and not more than a thousand yards from where we were right then. Very close to home, for anyone with anything to do with the government.

Khenkin clicked on a symbol and the next picture we got was an after-action photograph of the president’s podium and its bulletproof glass shields. The podium was a sturdy affair, presumably designed for quick assembly and disassembly and storage in between, and the glass shields were half-invisible panels, each maybe seven feet tall and four feet wide, and possibly five inches thick, standing parallel with each other, boxing in the podium at a discreet distance, like the sides of a spacious phone booth.

‘OK?’ Khenkin said.

Bennett nodded and I said nothing and Khenkin clicked onward, to a close-up photograph of the spot where the bullet had hit the glass. It was nothing more than a tiny white chip, with thin cracks maybe an inch long, running away like spider legs. Khenkin clicked through a series of ever-enlarging close-ups, all the way to a shot through an electron microscope that made the pit look like the Grand Canyon, even though the embedded data said it was less than two millimetres deep. The last picture went back to normal size, the same as the first picture, but it was set up to animate, with the same kind of video technology they use on TV sports shows, where they freeze the action and then spin it around to examine it from a different angle. Accordingly the photograph rotated until we were looking at the glass shield more or less directly from the side, and then the viewpoint elevated slightly until we were looking at it a little from above. The shooter’s-eye view, I figured, through his sniper scope, from the apartment balcony fourteen hundred yards away.

At normal size the tiny white chip was barely visible, but then a bright red dot appeared, to mark it, and then thin red lines sprouted from it, measuring its distance from the perimeter of the shield. It was a little over five hundred millimetres in from the left, and a little over seven hundred millimetres down from the top.

Khenkin looked upset about those measurements.

He leaned in and stared and said, ‘Do you see what I see?’

Bennett said nothing, and I said, ‘I don’t know what you see.’

Khenkin turned around and glanced left and right until he saw the dark-haired woman, and he said, ‘Can we go to the apartment now?’

The woman said, ‘Don’t you want to see the rest of the presentation?’

‘What’s in it?’

‘Forensics, trace evidence, ballistics, metallurgy, things like that.’

‘Do they tell us who the shooter is?’

‘Not precisely.’

‘Then no,’ Khenkin said. ‘We don’t want to see that shit. We want to see the apartment.’


WE WENT TO see the apartment in the same police department minivan, driven by the same whiny cop. The dark-haired woman came with us, with two of her laptops, and a senior Police nationale guy came too, an old grey veteran in a blue battledress uniform. The drive was short and easy, from the 7th arrondissement to the 6th, on the Boulevard St-Germain all the way, and then into the back streets off rue Bonaparte, to a fine old building that stood blank and quiet in a row of similar places. It was a solid Beaux Arts pile, with double-height carriage doors on the street, which would lead past a concierge’s hutch to an interior courtyard, which would have staircases and rickety old iron elevators in each corner. I had been in such buildings before. There would be the smell of dust and cooking and floor wax, maybe the muffled tinkle of a grand piano somewhere, and a child’s sudden laugh, and then grand but faded apartments, with gilt and cherry wood, and threadbare Aubusson carpets, and old Empire furniture lovingly polished.

The driver roused the concierge, who opened the double doors, and we drove in and parked in the courtyard. We used the stairs in the back left corner and walked up five flights to a door that was closed and locked but otherwise unmarked. No police tape, no prosecutor’s seal, no official crime scene notice.

I asked, ‘Who owns this place?’

The old Police nationale guy said, ‘She died two years ago.’

‘Someone must own it.’

‘Of course. But there were no heirs. So it’s complicated.’

‘How did the shooter get in?’

‘Presumably there were keys in circulation.’

‘The concierge didn’t see anything?’

The old guy shook his head. ‘Nor the neighbours.’

‘Are there cameras on the street?’


‘And no one saw the shooter getting out again?’

‘I think everyone was watching the mayhem on television.’ The guy took out a key that looked freshly cut and jiggled it in the lock until the door swung open. We stepped into a tall formal lobby, and onward into a tall formal hallway. The floors out there were black and white marble, worn dull and undulating by the passage of thousands of feet. The air was cold and still. There were double doors here and there, all of them eleven or twelve feet tall, some of them standing half open, with dim rooms beyond. The old guy led us into a salon, and through it into a dining room about forty feet long. There was an immense mahogany table, partly covered with an old white sheet, and twenty chairs, ranged ten to a side, and a tiled fireplace fit for a castle, and spotty old mirrors, and marble busts, and dark landscape paintings in heavy gold frames. The end wall had three floor-to-ceiling French windows, all inward-opening, all facing west. The huge dining table was lined up with the centre window, and the other two windows had marble-topped buffet tables near them. Classic old style, calm, restful, symmetrical, pleasing to the eye.

Outside the windows was the balcony.

It ran the whole depth of the room, and was about eight feet front to back, with a flagstone floor and a low stone balustrade. There was a long line of stone planters filled with powdery dirt and the dried-up remains of dead geraniums. There were two iron café tables, each with two iron chairs, set against the outside walls between the windows.

Beyond the balustrade, in the far, far distance, was a side view of Les Invalides’ front steps. Three-quarters of a mile. Barely visible at all.

Bennett asked, ‘How did you trace this location?’

The old guy said, ‘The president saw the muzzle flash, which gave us the general direction. After that it was a simple ballistics calculation, which gave us four potential possibilities, all of them neighbouring properties in this building. Three of them were occupied by innocent families. This one was empty. And there were fresh disturbances in the dust here. We’re completely confident this is the scene.’

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