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Home > Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(14)

Personal (Jack Reacher #19)(14)
Author: Lee Child

‘Where was Carson last seen?’

‘At home, a month ago. A routine drive-by, by Special Branch.’

‘What about Datsev?’

‘Similar, in Moscow. About a month ago. The difference is neither one has been traced to a fourteen-hundred-yard practice range. I have a bad feeling this one is down to us.’

‘Carson or Datsev could have trained overseas. They wouldn’t need as long as Kott. He had catching up to do. Maybe they all got together somewhere. Maybe there was an audition before the audition. Maybe there was a three-way competition, winner gets the job.’

O’Day said, ‘Maybe a lot of things.’

I said, ‘Do we have photographs?’

He opened a red file folder and took out four head shots, all colour. He slipped one out of the pile and discarded it. A curly-haired guy, with a tan and a guileless smile. Rozan, presumably, the Israeli, no longer a suspect. He skimmed the remaining three across the table, in my direction. First up was a shavenheaded guy of about fifty, with a face as blank as a two-by-four, and dark eyes that tilted slightly at the outer corners. Mongolian blood in there somewhere.

‘Fyodor Datsev,’ O’Day said. ‘Fifty-two years old. Born in Siberia.’

Then came a guy who might have started out pale, but who had gotten lined and darkened by sun and wind. Short brown hair, a watchful gaze, a busted nose, and a half-smile that was either ironic or threatening, depending on how you chose to look at it.

‘William Carson,’ O’Day said. ‘Born in London, forty-eight years old.’

Last up was John Kott. Some people got bigger with age, bloated and doughy, like Shoemaker for instance, but Kott had gotten smaller, wirier, boiled down to muscle and sinew. His Czech cheekbones were prominent, and his mouth was a tight line. Only his eyes had gotten bigger. They blazed out at me.

O’Day said, ‘That’s his prison release picture. The most recent we have.’

An unsavoury trio. I butted the photographs into a stack and slid them back.

I said, ‘How are the Brits doing with their moat?’

Scarangello said, ‘They’re not going to enforce a mile perimeter. You know how densely populated Great Britain is. It would be like emptying Manhattan. It’s not going to happen.’

‘So what next?’

O’Day said, ‘You go to Paris.’

‘When?’

‘Now.’

‘As bait or a cop?’

‘Both. But mostly we need eyeballs on the crime scene. In case something was missed.’

‘Why would they show me anything? I’m nobody.’

‘Your name will get you in anywhere. I called ahead. Anything they’d show me, they’ll show you. Such is the power of O’Day. Especially now.’

I said nothing.

Shoemaker said, ‘You speak French, am I right?’

I said, ‘Yes.’

‘And English.’

‘A little.’

‘Russian?’

‘Why?’

‘The Brits and the Russians are sending people too. You’re bound to meet. Get what you can from them, but don’t give anything away.’

‘Maybe they’ve been given the same instructions.’

O’Day said, ‘We need a CIA presence,’ and Casey Nice sat forward in her chair.

Joan Scarangello said, ‘I’ll go.’

THIRTEEN

THEY GAVE US the same plane, but a fresh crew. Two new guys in the cockpit, and a new flight attendant, this one a woman, all of them in air force fatigues. I got on board straight out of the shower, in my new clothes from Arkansas, and Scarangello followed me five minutes later, showered too, in another black skirt suit. She had a small wheeled suitcase with her, and a purse. It was going to be an overnight flight, seven hours in the air plus six time zones, which would get us in at nine in the morning, French time. My usual armchair had been laid flat and butted up against the armchair opposite, which had also been laid flat, to make a couch. The same thing had been done to the pair of chairs on the other side of the cabin. There were pillows and sheets and blankets. Two long thin beds, separated by a narrow aisle. Which worked for me. Scarangello didn’t look so sure. She was a woman of a certain age and a certain type. I think she might have appreciated a little more privacy.

But first we had to sit on regular chairs, at a table, for takeoff, and then we stayed there, because the flight attendant told us there were meals to be eaten. Which didn’t match the surroundings. They were not the culinary equivalents of butterscotch leather and walnut veneer. They were not army issue, either. Or air force. They were burgers, in cardboard clamshell boxes, reheated in the on-board microwave, unrecognizable and off-brand, presumably bought from a shack near Pope’s main gate. Maybe right next to the Dunkin’ Donuts.

I ate mine, and then half of Scarangello’s, after she left it. Then she started working out how to get herself into bed without embarrassment. I saw her eyes darting all around, checking angles, looking at the lighting, figuring out where I would be and what I might see.

I said, ‘I’ll go first.’

The bathroom was through the galley, all the way in back, ahead of the luggage hold, where they had stashed her bag. I used the head and brushed my teeth, and walked back to the bedroom area, and chose the bed on the starboard side. I took off my shoes and socks, because I sleep better that way, and I lay down on top of the blanket, and I rolled on my side and faced the wall.

Scarangello took the hint. I heard her go, all stiff swishing from wool and nylon, and then later I heard her pad back, softer, probably in cotton, and I heard her get in bed and arrange the sheets. She made a little sound, somewhere halfway between a sleepy murmur and a cough, which I took to be an announcement, like OK, thanks, I’m all set now, so I rolled on my back and looked up at the bulkhead above me.

She said, ‘Do you always sleep outside the covers?’

I said, ‘When it’s warm.’

‘Do you always sleep in your clothes?’

‘No choice, in a situation like this.’

‘Because you have no pyjamas. No home, no bags, no possessions. We had a briefing about you.’

I said, ‘Casey Nice told me that.’ I rolled back towards the wall a little, adjusting my position for comfort, and something dug into my hip. Something in my pocket. Not my toothbrush, which was in my other pocket. I lifted up and checked.

The pill bottle. I cupped it in my palm, and looked at the label, in the dim light, purely out of interest. I guess I was expecting allergy medicine, perhaps carried in anticipation of spring pollens in the woods of Arkansas, or else painkillers, perhaps carried after dental work or a muscle strain. But the label said Zoloft, which I was pretty sure was for neither allergies nor pain. I was pretty sure Zoloft was for stress. Or for anxiety. Or for depression or panic attacks, or PTSD, or OCD. Heavy duty, and prescription only.

But it wasn’t Casey Nice’s prescription. The name on the label wasn’t hers. It was a man’s name: Antonio Luna.

Scarangello said, ‘What did you think of our Ms Nice?’

I put the bottle back in my pocket.

I said, ‘Nice by name, nice by nature.’

‘Too nice?’

‘You worried about that?’

‘Potentially.’

‘She did fine in Arkansas. The neighbour didn’t get to her.’

‘How would she have done if you hadn’t been there?’

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