Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(10)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(10)
Author: Lee Child

"Why do you think I'm hiding something?"

"Because every time I get close to asking you a question, you duck it. I asked you what Calvin was working on, and you made a big fuss about sitting us down. I asked you again, and you talked to Charlie about going out to play. Not to spare him hearing your answer, because you used the time you gained to decide you don't have an answer."

Angela looked across the tiny room, straight at him. "Are you going to break my arm now? Calvin told me he saw you break someone's arm in an interview. Or was that Dave O'Donnell?"

"Me, probably," Reacher said. "O'Donnell was more of a leg breaker."

"I promise you," Angela said. "I'm not hiding anything. Nothing at all. I don't know what Calvin was working on and he didn't tell me."

Reacher looked back at her, deep into her bewildered blue eyes, and he believed her, just a little bit. She was hiding something, but it wasn't necessarily about Calvin Franz.

"OK," he said. "I apologize."

He and Neagley left shortly after that, with directions to Franz's Culver City office, after further brief condolences and another shake of the cold, fragile hand.

The man called Thomas Brant watched them go. He was twenty yards from his Crown Victoria, which was parked forty yards west of Franz's house. He was walking up from a corner bodega with a cup of coffee. He slowed his gait and watched Reacher and Neagley from behind until they turned the corner a hundred yards ahead. Then he sipped his coffee and speed-dialed his boss, Curtis Mauney, one-handed, and left a voice mail describing what he had seen.

At that same moment, the man in the dark blue suit was walking back to his dark blue Chrysler sedan. The sedan was parked in the Beverly Wilshire's valet lane. The man in the suit was poorer by the fifty bucks that the desk clerk had accepted as a bribe, and therefore correspondingly richer in new information, but he was puzzled by the new information's implications. He called his boss on his cell and said, "According to the hotel the big guy's name is Thomas Shannon, but there was no Thomas Shannon on our list."

His boss said, "I think we can be sure that our list was definitive."

"I guess we can."

"Therefore it's safe to assume that Thomas Shannon is a phony name. Obviously old habits die hard with these guys. So let's stay on it."

Reacher waited until they were around the corner and out of Franz's street and said, "Did you see a tan Crown Vic back there?"

"Parked," Neagley said. "Forty yards west of the house, on the opposite curb. A base model '02."

"I think I saw the same car outside of the Denny's we were in."

"You sure?"

"Not certain."

"Old Crown Vics are common cars. Taxis, gypsy cabs, rent-a-wrecks."

"I guess."

"It was empty anyway," Neagley said. "We don't need to worry about empty cars."

"It wasn't empty outside of Denny's. There was a guy in it."

"If it was the same car."

Reacher stopped walking.

Neagley asked, "You want to go back?"

Reacher paused a beat and shook his head and started walking again.

"No," he said. "It was probably nothing."

The 10 was jammed eastbound. Neither one of them knew enough about LA geography to risk taking surface streets, so they covered the five freeway miles to Culver City slower than walking. They got to where Venice Boulevard crossed La Cienega Boulevard, and from there Angela Franz's directions were good enough to take them straight to her late husband's office. It was a bland storefront place in a long low tan strip that was anchored by a small post office. Not a flagship USPS operation. Just a single-wide store. Reacher didn't know the terminology. A suboffice? A satellite? A postal delivery station? Next to it was a discount pharmacy, and then a nail salon and a dry cleaner's. Then Franz's place. Franz's place had the door glass and the window painted over from the inside with tan paint that reached head-high and left just a narrow strip above for light to come through. The top of the paint was banded with a gold coach line edged in black. The legend Calvin Franz Discreet Investigations and a telephone number had been written on the door in the same gold and black style, plain letters, three lines, chest-high, simple and to the point.

"Sad," Reacher said. "Isn't it? From the big green machine to this?"

"He was a father," Neagley said. "He was taking the easy money. It was his free choice. This was all he wanted now."

"But I'm guessing your place in Chicago doesn't look like this."

"No," Neagley said. "It doesn't."

She took out the keyring Angela had parted with so reluctantly. She selected the bigger key and tripped the lock and pulled the door. But she didn't go in.

Because the whole place was trashed from top to bottom.

It had been a plain square space, small for a store, large for an office. Whatever computers and telephones and other hardware it had contained were all long gone. The desk and the file cabinets had been searched and then smashed with hammers and every joint and subassembly had been torn apart in a quest for concealed hiding places. The chair had been ripped apart and the stuffing had been pulled out. The wall boards had been crowbarred off the studs and the insulation had been shredded. The ceiling had been torn down. The floor had been pulled up. The bathroom appliances had been smashed into porcelain shards. There was wreckage and paper strewn everywhere down in the crawl space, knee-high throughout and worse in places.

Trashed, from top to bottom. Like a bomb blast.

Reacher said, " LA County deputies wouldn't be this thorough."

"Not a chance," Neagley said. "Not even close. This was the bad guys tying up the loose ends. Retrieving whatever Franz had on them. Before the deputies even got here. Probably days before."

"The deputies saw this and didn't tell Angela? She didn't know. She said she had to come over and bring his stuff home."

"They wouldn't tell her. Why upset her more?"

Reacher backed away on the sidewalk. Stepped to his left and looked at the neat gold lettering on the door: Calvin Franz Discreet Investigations. He raised his hand and blocked out his old friend's name and in his mind tried David O'Donnell in its place. Then a pair of names: Sanchez amp; Orozco. Then: Karla Dixon.

"I wish those guys were answering their damn phones," he said.

"This thing is not about us as a group," Neagley said. "It can't be. It's more than seventeen days old and nobody has come after me yet."

"Or me," Reacher said. "But then, neither did Franz."

"What do you mean?"

"If Franz was in trouble, who would he call? The rest of us, that's who. But not you, because you're way upscale now and probably too busy. And not me, because nobody apart from you could ever find me. But suppose Franz got himself in deep shit and called the other guys? Because they were all more accessible than the two of us? Suppose they all came running out here to help? Suppose they're all in the same boat now?"

"Including Swan?"

"Swan was the closest. He would have gotten here first."


"Likely," Reacher said. "If Franz really needed someone, who else would he trust?"

"He should have called me," Neagley said. "I would have come."

"Maybe you were next on the list. Maybe at first he thought six people were enough."

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