Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(15)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(15)
Author: Lee Child

"Franz?" Reacher said. "Are you kidding? A guy like Franz latches onto a word that means something to him and he sticks with it forever."

Neagley clicked the oldest memory unit into the port and waited until the corresponding icon appeared on the screen. She clicked on it and tabbed the cursor straight to the password box.

"OK," she said. "You want to nominate a priority order?"

"Do the people names first. Then the place names. I think that's how it would have worked for him."

"Is Dodgers a people name?"

"Of course it is. Baseball is played by people."

"OK. But we'll start with music." She typed MilesDavis and hit enter. There was a short pause and then the screen redrew and came back with the dialog box again and a note in red: Your first attempt was incorrect.

"One down," she said. "Now sports."

She tried Dodgers.


"Two down." She typed Koufax.

The hard drive inside her laptop chattered and the screen went blank.

"What's happening?" Reacher asked.

"It's dumping the data," she said. "Erasing it. It wasn't Koufax. Three down."

She pulled the flash memory out of the port and tossed it through a long silver arc into the trash can. Inserted the second unit in its place. Typed Jennifer.


"Four down," she said. "Not his puppy."

She tried Panama.


"Five down." She tried Brooklyn.

The screen went blank and the hard drive chattered.

"Six down," she said. "Not his old hood. You're zip for six, Reacher."

The second unit clattered into the trash and she plugged in the third.


"Your turn. I seem to have lost my touch."

"What about his old service number?"

"I doubt it. He was a words guy, not a numbers guy. And for me anyway my number was the same as my Social Security number. Same for him, probably, which would make it too obvious."

"What would you use?"

"Me? I am a numbers guy. Top row of the keyboard, all in a line, easy to get to. No typing skills required."

"What number would you use?"

"Six characters? I'd probably write out my birthday, month, day, year, and find the nearest prime number." Then he thought for a second and said, "Actually, that would be a problem, because there would be two equally close, one exactly seven less and one exactly seven more. So I guess I'd use the square root instead, rounded to three decimal places. Ignore the decimal point, that would give me six numbers, all different."

"Weird," Neagley said. "I think we can be sure Franz wouldn't do anything like that. Probably nobody else in the world would do anything like that."

"Therefore it would be a good password."

"What was his first car?"

"Some piece of shit, probably."

"But guys like cars, right? What was his favorite car?"

"I don't like cars."

"Think like him, Reacher. Did he like cars?"

"He always wanted a red Jaguar XKE."

"Would that be worth a try?"

A man of interests and enthusiasms. Full of affections and loyalties.

"Maybe," Reacher said. "It's certainly going to be something special to him. Something talismanic, something that would give him a feeling of warmth just recalling the word. Either an early role model or a longstanding object of desire or affection. So the XKE might work."

"Should I try it? We've only got six left."

"I'd try it for sure if we had six hundred left."

"Wait a minute," Neagley said. "What about what Angela told us? The way he kept on saying you do not mess with the special investigators?"

"That would make a hell of a long password."

"So break it down. Either special investigators, or do not mess."

A memory like an elephant. Reacher nodded. "We had a good time back then, basically, didn't we? So remembering the old days might have given him a warm feeling. Especially stuck out there in Culver City, busy doing nothing much. People enjoy nostalgia, don't they? Like that song, 'The Way We Were.'"

"It was a movie, too."

"There you go. It's a universal feeling."

"Which should we try first?"

Reacher heard Charlie in his mind, the little boy's piping treble: You do not mess.

"Do not mess," he said. "Nine letters."

Neagley typed donotmess.

Hit enter.


"Shit," she said.

She typed specialinvestigators. Held her finger over the enter key.

"That's very long," Reacher said.

"Yes or no?"

"Try it."


Neagley said, "Damn," and went quiet.

Charlie was still in Reacher's mind. And his tiny chair, with the neat branded name at the top. He could see Franz's steady hand at work. He could smell the smoking wood. A gift, father to son. Probably intended to be the first of many. Love, pride, commitment.

"I like Charlie," he said.

"Me too," Neagley said. "He's a cute kid."

"No, for the password."

"Too obvious."

"He didn't take this kind of stuff very seriously. He was going through the motions. Easier to put in any old thing than to reprogram the software to get around it."

"Still too obvious. And he had to be taking it seriously. At least this time. He was in big trouble and he was mailing stuff to himself."

"So it could be a double bluff. It's obvious but it's the last thing anyone would think of trying. That makes for a very effective password."

"Possible but unlikely."

"What are we going to find on there anyway?"

"Something we really need to see."

"Try Charlie for me."

Neagley shrugged and typed Charlie.

Hit enter.


The hard disc spun up and the memory unit erased itself.

"Nine down," Neagley said. She pitched the third unit into the trash and plugged the fourth one in. The last one. "Three to go."

Reacher asked, "Who did he love before Charlie?"

"Angela," Neagley said. "Way too obvious."

"Try it."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm a gambler."

"We're down to our last three chances."

"Try it," he said again.

She typed Angela.

Hit enter.


"Ten down," she said. "Two to go."

"What about Angela Franz?"

"That's even worse."

"What about her unmarried name?"

"I don't know what it was."

"Call her and ask."

"Are you serious?"

"At least let's find out."

So Neagley thumbed through her notebook and found the number and fired up her cell phone. Introduced herself again. Small-talked for a moment. Then Reacher heard her ask the question. He didn't hear Angela's answer. But he saw Neagley's eyes widen a fraction, which for her was about the same thing as falling on the floor with shock.

She hung up.

"It was Pfeiffer," she said.



"Are they related?"

"She didn't say."

"So try it. It's a perfect twofer. He feels good twice over and doesn't have to feel disloyal at all."

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