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

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

"But what kind of a thing can disappear six people? Six of our people?"

"I hate to think," Reacher said, and then he went quiet. In the past he would have put his people up against anyone. Many times, he had. And they had always come through, against worse opponents than you normally find among the civilian population. Worse, because military training tended to enhance a criminal's repertoire in several important areas.

Neagley said, "No point standing here. We're wasting time. We're not going to find anything. I think we can assume they got what they came for."

Reacher said, "I think we can assume they didn't."


"Rule of thumb," Reacher said. "This place is trashed from top to bottom and side to side. Totally. And normally, when you find what you're looking for, you stop looking. But these guys never stopped looking. So if they found what they came for, by chance they found it in the very last place they chose to look. And how likely is that? Not very. So I think they never stopped looking because they never found what they wanted."

"So where is it?"

"I don't know. What would it be?"

"Paperwork, a floppy disc, a CD-ROM, something like that."

"Small," Reacher said.

"He didn't take it home. I think he was separating home and work."

Think like them. Be them. Reacher turned around and put his back to Franz's door as if he had just stepped out to the sidewalk. He cupped his hand and looked down at his empty palm. He had done plenty of paperwork in his life, but he had never used a computer disc or burned a CD-ROM. But he knew what one was. It was a five-inch round piece of polycarbonate. Often in a thin plastic case. A floppy disc was smaller. Square, about three inches, maybe? Letter-size paperwork would tri-fold down to eight and a half inches by about four.


But vital.

Where would Calvin Franz hide something small but vital?

Neagley said, "Maybe it was in his car. He drove back and forth, apparently. So if it was a CD, he could have kept it in his auto-changer. Like hiding it in plain sight. You know, maybe the fourth slot, after the John Coltrane stuff."

"Miles Davis," Reacher said. "He preferred Miles Davis. He only listened to John Coltrane on Miles Davis albums."

"He could have made it look like stuff he had downloaded. You know, he could have written Miles Davis on it with a marker pen."

"They'd have found it," Reacher said. "Guys this thorough, they'd have checked everything. And I think Franz would have wanted more security than that. Plain sight means it's right there in front of you all the time. You can't relax. And I think Franz wanted to relax. I think he wanted to get home to Angela and Charlie and not have things on his mind."

"So where? A safe deposit box?"

"I don't see a bank here," Reacher said. "And I don't think he would have wanted to take much of a detour. Not with this traffic. Not if there was some kind of urgency. And a bank's lobby hours don't necessarily suit a working stiff."

"There are two keys on the ring," Neagley said. "Although it's possible the smaller one was for the desk."

Reacher turned again and looked through the gloom at the drifts of trash and wreckage. The desk lock was in there somewhere, presumably. A small steel rectangle, torn out of the wood and dumped. He turned back and stepped to the curb. Looked left, looked right. Cupped his hand again and looked down at his empty palm.

First: What would I hide?

"It's a computer file," he said. "Got to be. Because they knew to look for it. Any kind of handwritten paperwork, Franz wouldn't have told them anything about it. But probably they took his computers first and found some kind of traces that told them he'd been copying files. That happens, right? Computers leave traces of everything. But Franz wouldn't tell them where the copies were. Maybe that's why they broke his legs. But he kept quiet, which is why they had to come out here on this wild-assed search."

"So where is it?"

Reacher looked down at his hand again.

Where would I hide something small and vital?

"Not under any old rock," he said. "I would want somewhere structured. Maybe somewhere kind of custodial. I would want someone to be responsible."

"A safe deposit box," Neagley said again. "In a bank. The small key has no markings. Banks do that."

"I don't like banks," Reacher said. "I don't like the hours and I don't like the detour. Once, maybe, but not often. Which is the issue. Because there's some kind of regularity involved here. Isn't there? Isn't that what people do with computers? They back stuff up every night. So this wouldn't be a one-time thing. It would be a matter of routine. Which changes things somewhat. A one-time thing, you might go to extraordinary lengths. Every night, you need something safe but easy. And permanently available."

"I e-mail stuff to myself," Neagley said.

Reacher paused a beat. Smiled.

"There you go," he said.

"You think that's what Franz did?"

"Not a chance," Reacher said. "E-mail would have come straight back to his computer, which the bad guys had. They'd have spent their time trying to break down his password instead of busting up his building."

"So what did he do?"

Reacher turned and glanced along the row of stores. The dry cleaner, the nail salon, the pharmacy.

The post office.

"Not e-mail," he said. "Regular mail. That's what he did. He backed up his stuff onto some kind of a disc and every night he put it in an envelope and dropped it in the mail. Addressed to himself. To his post office box. Because that's where he got his mail. In the post office. There's no slot in his door. Once the envelope was out of his hand it was safe. It was in the system. With a whole bunch of custodians looking after it all day and all night."

"Slow," Neagley said.

Reacher nodded. "He must have had three or four discs in rotation. Any particular day, two or three of them would be somewhere in the mail. But he went home every night knowing his latest stuff was safe. It's not easy to rob a mail box or make a clerk give you something that doesn't belong to you. USPS bureaucracy is about as safe as a Swiss bank."

"The small key," Neagley said. "Not his desk. Not a safe deposit box."

Reacher nodded again.

"His post office box," he said.


But United States Postal Service bureaucracy cut two ways. It was late in the afternoon. The dry cleaner's was still open. The nail salon was open. The pharmacy was open. But the post office was closed. Lobby hours had ended at four o'clock.

"Tomorrow," Neagley said. "We're going to be in the car all day. We have to get to Swan's place, too. Unless we separate."

"It's going to take two of us here," Reacher said. "But maybe one of the others will show up and do some work."

"I wish they would. And not because I'm lazy." For form's sake, like a little ritual, she pulled out her cell phone and checked the tiny screen.

No messages.


There were no messages at the hotel desk, either. No messages on the hotel voice mail. No e-mails on either one of Neagley's laptop computers.


"They can't just be ignoring us," she said.

"No," Reacher said. "They wouldn't do that."

"I'm getting a real bad feeling."

"I've had a real bad feeling ever since I went to that ATM in Portland. I spent all my money taking someone to dinner. Twice. Now I wish we had stayed in and ordered pizza. She might have paid. I wouldn't know about any of this yet."

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