Jack Reacher Series, Book 24eBook - 2019
“Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of.”—Ken Follett
“This is a random universe,” Reacher says. “Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.”
This isn’t one of those times.
Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher wants to make it right.
An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.
Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice . . . the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.
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“No particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there.”
The city looked small on a map of America. It was just a tiny polite dot, near a red threadlike road that ran across an otherwise empty half inch of paper. But up close and on the ground it had half a million people. It covered more than a hundred square miles.
Reacher could practically see the gears spinning in the back of his head. Coming up cherries.
He looked a little unsteady. His shoulders were slumped. He looked old and tired and worn out and beaten down. He had no enthusiasm. He looked like he was en route between two points of equally zero appeal.
Reacher arrived, at a clumsy run, six feet five of bone and muscle and 250 pounds of moving mass, against a lean kid just then coming up out of a crouch. Reacher slammed into him with a twist and a dip of the shoulder, and the guy flailed through the air like a crash test dummy, and landed in a long sliding tangle of limbs, half on the sidewalk, half in the gutter. He came to rest and lay still.
‘The kindness of strangers,’ Reacher said. ‘Makes the world go round. Some guy wrote a play about it.’ ‘Tennessee Williams,’ Shevick said. ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ ‘One of which we could use right now. Three blocks for a nickel would be a bargain.’
‘Where are you headed?’ ‘Someplace else. Often depends on the weather. I like to be warm. Saves buying a coat.’ The barman glared again, still from far away. ‘Let’s go,’ Reacher said. ‘A person could die of thirst in here.’
He considered himself a modern man, born in the twentieth century, living in the twenty-first, but he also knew he had some kind of a wide-open portal in his head, a wormhole to humanity’s primitive past, where for millions of years every living thing could be a predator, or a rival, and therefore had to be assessed, and judged, instantly, and accurately. Who was the superior animal? Who would submit?
‘You got a smart mouth.’ ‘I can only hope,’ Reacher said. ‘Sometimes I worry I’m just pedantic.’
‘Tell me about the lawyers.’ ‘They’re working for free,’ Shevick said. ‘How good can they be?’ ‘Sounds like another country song.’
The government fund is taxpayer money. The legislation is unpopular. Therefore the government will want the insurance fund to pay. The insurance fund is shareholder money. Bonuses depend on it. Therefore the insurance fund will bounce it back to the government, over and over again, as long as it takes.’
A waitress came by. She fit the 1950s music. She was petite and gamine, maybe in her late twenties, neat and slender and dressed all in black, with short dark hair and lively eyes and a shy but contagious smile. She could have been in an old-time black and white movie, with jazz on the soundtrack. Probably someone’s sassy little sister. Dangerously advanced. Probably wanted to wear pants to the office.
Reacher ordered two glasses of tap water, two double espressos, and two pepperoni pizzas. She asked, ‘Is someone joining you?’ ‘I’m worried about malnutrition,’ he said.
Rule one, set in stone since he was a tiny kid, back when he first realized he could be either frightened or frightening, was to run towards danger, not away from it. Which right then gave him his pick of forward or backward.
Her own story was shorter, because she was younger. Born in a suburb in Michigan, raised in a suburb in California, loved books and philosophy and theatre and music and dance and experiment and performance art. Came to town as an undergraduate student, and never left. A temporary gig waiting tables for a month turned into ten years. She was thirty-two. Older than she looked. She said she was happy.
Organized crime’s traditional staples were usury, narcotics, prostitution, gambling, and protection rackets.
‘Someone once told me that every day a woman should do something that scared her.’ ‘She could join the army.’
Ukrainian girls were very beautiful. Many of them were tall and slender and very blonde. None of them had any chance of advancement at home. In the old country they had nothing ahead of them except a lifetime of mud and drudgery. No fine clothes, no high-rise apartments, no Mercedes-Benzes. They knew that. So they were happy to come to America. They understood the paperwork was complicated and the process expensive. They knew they would have to reimburse their helpers, for the upfront outlay, just as quickly as they could.
‘Makes us look weak.’ ‘No,’ his guy said. ‘It makes us look like the grown-ups, playing the long game, with our eyes on the prize.’
I would like you to drive up behind the Lincoln and nudge it in the back bumper at about walking pace.’ ‘Why?’ ‘The doors will unlock. For the first responders. The car will think it’s in a minor accident. There’s a little doo-dad in there somewhere. A safety mechanism.’ ‘So then you can open the doors from the outside.’
On the one hand, omerta. Also Italian. A code of absolute silence. A code to live by, and to die for. On the other hand, they were currently in deep trouble. Personally and individually. In the real world, in the here and now. Dying for a code was all well and good in theory. In practice things were different. Right then number one on their to-do list was not honourable or glorious sacrifice, but living long enough to drive home afterwards.
‘Are they dead?’ ‘We might need to give them another minute. Depends how fast they’re bleeding.’
‘You killed two people.’ ‘I warned them. I told them not to. All my cards were on the table. It was more like assisted suicide. Think of it that way.’
Six chances before the week is over, Reacher thought.
‘I agree there will be an element of challenge.’ ‘More like impossible.’ ‘No such word.’
The driver was a small woman with short dark hair. In her twenties or thirties, and dressed all in black. Her passenger was a huge guy, about twice her size. He was older, easily six-five and two-fifty, built like a brick outhouse, and dressed like a refugee.
‘No one likes you. No one would piss on you if you were on fire.
You’re a dead man,’ the guy said. ‘Not so far,’ Reacher said. ‘In fact right now you’re closer to that unhappy state than I am. Don’t you think?’
A dogface, just like you.’ ‘Army?’ ‘Stands for, aren’t really Marines yet.’ ‘Like Marine stands for muscles are requested, intelligence not expected.’
Last year a federal project ran a set of integrated numbers from all across the nation, and it turned out the two most law-abiding populations in America were the Ukrainian and Albanian communities right here in town. They don’t even get parking tickets. That suggests a very close relationship with all levels of law enforcement.’
The best fights are the ones you don’t have. Even Marines understand that.’
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