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Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(6)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(6)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher said, "That was all a long time ago."

"We have to do something," Neagley said. "All of us. Collectively. You do not mess with the special investigators. Remember that?"

"That was just a slogan."

"No, it was true. We depended on it."

"For morale, that was all. It was just bravado. It was whistling in the dark."

"It was more than that. We had one another's backs."

"Then."

"And now and always. It's a karma thing. Someone killed Franz, and we can't just let it go. How would you feel if it was you, and the rest of us didn't react?"

"If it was me, I wouldn't feel anything. I'd be dead."

"You know what I mean."

Reacher closed his eyes again and the picture came back: Calvin Franz tumbling and cartwheeling through the darkness. Maybe screaming. Or maybe not. His old friend. "I can handle it. Or you and I together. But we can't go back to how it was. That never works."

"We have to go back."

Reacher opened his eyes. "Why?"

"Because the others are entitled to participate. They earned that right over two hard years. We can't just take it away from them unilaterally. They would resent that. It would be wrong."

"And?"

"We need them, Reacher. Because Franz was good. Very good. As good as me, as good as you. And yet someone broke his legs and threw him out of a helicopter. I think we're going to need all the help we can get with this. So we need to find the others."

Reacher looked at her. Heard her office guy's voice in his head: There's a list of names. You're the first to get back to her. He said, "The others should have been a lot easier to find than me."

Neagley nodded.

"I can't raise any of them," she said.

8

A list of names. Nine names. Nine people. Reacher knew where three of them were, specifically or generically. Himself and Neagley, specifically, in a Denny's on West Sunset in Hollywood. And Franz, generically, in a morgue somewhere else.

"What do you know about the other six?" he asked.

"Five," Neagley said. "Stan Lowrey is dead."

"When?"

"Years ago. Car wreck in Montana. The other guy was drunk."

"I didn't know that."

"Shit happens."

"That's for damn sure," Reacher said. "I liked Stan."

"Me too," Neagley said.

"So where are the others?"

"Tony Swan is Assistant Director of Corporate Security for a defense manufacturer here in southern California somewhere."

"Which one?"

"I'm not sure. A start-up. Something new. He's only been there about a year."

Reacher nodded. He had liked Tony Swan, too. A short, wide man. Almost cubic in shape. Affable, good-humored, intelligent.

Neagley said, "Orozco and Sanchez are out in Vegas. They run a security business together, casinos and hotels, on contract."

Reacher nodded again. He had heard that Jorge Sanchez had left the army around the same time he had, a little frustrated and embittered. He had heard that Manuel Orozco had been planning to stay in, but overall it wasn't a huge surprise to find that he had changed his mind. Both men were mavericks, lean, fast, leathery, impatient with bullshit.

Neagley said, "Dave O'Donnell is in D.C. Plain-vanilla private detective. Plenty of work for him there."

"I guess there would be," Reacher said. O'Donnell had been the meticulous one. He had done the whole unit's paperwork, pretty much single-handed. He had looked like an Ivy League gentleman, but he had always carried a switchblade in one pocket and brass knuckles in the other. A useful guy to have around.

Neagley said, "Karla Dixon is in New York. Forensic accounting. She understands money, apparently."

"She always understood numbers," Reacher said. "I remember that." Reacher and Dixon had spent the occasional hour trying to prove or disprove various famous mathematical theorems. A hopeless task, given that they were both rank amateurs, but it had passed some time. Dixon was dark and very pretty and comparatively small, a happy woman who thought the worst of people, but inevitably she had been proved right nine times out of ten.

Reacher asked, "How do you know so much about them?"

"I keep track," Neagley said. "I'm interested."

"Why can't you raise them?"

"I don't know. I put calls out, but nobody's answering."

"So is this an attack on all of us collectively?"

"Can't be," Neagley said. "I'm at least as visible as Dixon or O'Donnell and nobody has come after me."

"Yet."

"Maybe."

"You called the others the same day you put the money in my bank?"

Neagley nodded.

"It's only been three days," Reacher said. "Maybe they're all busy."

"So what do you want to do? Wait for them?"

"I want to forget all about them. You and I can stand up for Franz. Just the two of us."

"It would be better to have the old unit back together. We were a good team. You were the best leader the army ever had."

Reacher said nothing.

"What?" Neagley said. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that if I wanted to rewrite history I'd start a lot further back than that."

Neagley folded her hands together and rested them on the black binder. Slim fingers, brown skin, painted nails, tendons and sinew.

"One question," she said. "Suppose I had gotten ahold of the others. Suppose I hadn't bothered to try that thing with your bank. Suppose you found out years from now that Franz had been murdered and the six of us had just gone ahead and fixed it without you. How would you feel then?"

Reacher shrugged. Paused a beat.

"Bad, I guess," he said. "Cheated, maybe. Left out."

Neagley said nothing.

Reacher said, "OK, we'll try to find the others. But we won't wait forever."

Neagley had a rental car in the lot. She paid the diner check and led Reacher outside. The car was a red Mustang convertible. They climbed in together and Neagley hit a button and dropped the top. She took a pair of sunglasses from the dash and put them on. Backed out of her slot and turned south off Sunset at the next light. Headed for Beverly Hills. Reacher sat quietly beside her and squinted in the afternoon sun.

***

Inside a tan Ford Crown Victoria thirty yards west of the restaurant a man called Thomas Brant watched them go. He used his cell phone and called his boss, a man named Curtis Mauney. Mauney didn't answer, so Brant left a voice mail.

He said, "She just picked up the first one of them."

Parked five cars behind Brant's Crown Victoria was a dark blue Chrysler sedan containing a man in a dark blue suit. He too watched the red Mustang disappear into the haze, and he too used a cell phone.

He said, "She just picked up the first one of them. I don't know which one it is. Big guy, looks like a bum."

Then he listened to his boss's reply, and pictured him smoothing his necktie over the front of his shirt, one-handed, while he held the phone with the other.

9

Like its name suggested, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel was on Wilshire Boulevard, in the heart of Beverly Hills, directly opposite the mouth of Rodeo Drive. It was made up of two large limestone buildings, one behind the other, one old and ornate, the other new and plain. They were separated by a valet lane that ran parallel to the boulevard. Neagley nosed the Mustang into it and stopped close to a knot of black Town Cars and Reacher said, "I can't afford to stay here."

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