Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(4)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(4)
Author: Lee Child

He didn't stop to eat. Just headed out to the taxi line and got a Korean guy in a yellow Toyota minivan who wanted to talk about boxing. Reacher knew nothing about boxing and cared less. The sport's obvious artificiality turned him off. Padded gloves and above-the-belt rules had no place in his world. And he didn't like talking. So he just sat quietly in the back and let the guy ramble on. He watched the hot brown afternoon light through the window. Palm trees, movie billboards, light gray traffic lanes striped with endless twin tracks of rubber. And cars, rivers of cars, floods of cars. He saw a new Rolls-Royce and an old Citroen DS, both black. A bloodred MGA and a pastel blue '57 Thunderbird, both open. A yellow 1960 Corvette nose-to-tail with a green 2007 model. He figured if you watched LA traffic long enough you would see one of every automobile ever manufactured.

The driver took the 101 north and exited a block from Sunset. Reacher got out on the off-ramp and paid the fare. Hiked south and turned left and faced east. He knew Sunset had a dense knot of cheap places right there, both sides of the boulevard, covering about three-quarters of a mile. The air was southern California warm and smelled of dust and gasoline fumes. He stood still. He had a potential mile-and-a-half walk ahead of him, down and back, and a dozen motel desks to canvass. An hour-long task, maybe more. He was hungry. He could see a Denny's sign ahead and on the right. A chain diner. He decided to eat first and work later.

He walked past parked cars and vacant lots boxed in by hurricane fencing. Stepped over trash and softball-sized tumbleweeds. Recrossed the 101 on a long bridge. Entered the Denny's lot by cutting across a grass shoulder and the drive-through lane. Walked past a long line of windows.

Saw Frances Neagley inside, sitting alone in a booth.


Reacher stood for a moment in the parking lot and watched Neagley through the window. She hadn't changed much in the four years since he had last seen her. She had to be nearer forty than thirty now, but it wasn't showing. Her hair was still long and dark and shiny. Her eyes were still dark and alive. She was still slim and lithe. Still spending serious time in the gym. That was clear. She was wearing a tight white T-shirt with tiny cap sleeves and it would have taken an electron microscope to find any body fat on her arms. Or anyplace else.

She was a little tan, which looked good with her coloring. Her nails were done. Her T-shirt looked like a quality item. Overall she looked richer than he remembered her. Comfortable, at home in her world, successful, accustomed to the civilian life. For a moment he felt awkward about his own cheap clothes and his scuffed shoes and his bad barbershop haircut. Like she was making it, and he wasn't. Then the pleasure of seeing an old friend swamped the thought and he walked on through the lot to the door. Went in and stepped past the Please Wait to Be Seated sign and slid straight into her booth. She looked up at him across the table and smiled.

"Hello," she said.

"To you, too," he said.

"Want lunch?"

"That was my plan."

"So let's order, now you're finally here."

He said, "You sound like you were waiting for me."

"I was. And you're about on time."

"Am I?"

Neagley smiled again. "You called my office guy from Portland, Oregon. He saw the caller ID. Traced it to a pay phone at the bus depot. We figured you'd head straight for the airport. Then I figured you'd take United. You must hate Alaska Airlines. Then a cab ride here. Your ETA was easy enough to predict."

"You knew I would come here? To this diner?"

"Like you taught me, back in the day."

"I didn't teach you anything."

"You did," Neagley said. "Remember? Think like them, be them. So I was being you being me. You'd figure I'd head for Hollywood. You'd start right here on Sunset. But there's no meal on United from Portland, so I figured you'd be hungry and want to eat first. There are a couple of possible places on the block but this one has the biggest sign and you're no gourmet. So I decided to meet you here."

"Meet me here? I thought I was tracking you."

"You were. And I was tracking you tracking me."

"Are you staying here? In Hollywood?"

She shook her head. "Beverly Hills. The Wilshire."

"So you came out here just to scoop me up?"

"I got here ten minutes ago."

"The Beverly Wilshire? You've changed."

"Not really. It's the world that has changed. Cheap motels don't do it for me anymore. I need e-mail and the internet and FedEx service now. Business centers and concierges."

"You make me feel old-fashioned."

"You're improving. You use ATMs now."

"That was a good move. The bank balance message."

"You taught me well."

"I didn't teach you anything."

"Like hell."

"But it was an extravagant move," Reacher said. "Ten dollars and thirty cents would have worked just as well. Maybe even better, with the period between the ten and the thirty."

Neagley said, "I thought you might need the airfare."

Reacher said nothing.

"I found your account, obviously," Neagley said. "Wasn't too much more trouble to hack in and take a look. You're not rich."

"I don't want to be rich."

"I know. But I didn't want you to have to respond to my ten-thirty on your own dime. That wouldn't have been fair."

Reacher shrugged and let it go. Truth was, he wasn't rich. Truth was, he was almost poor. His savings had eroded to the point where he was starting to think about how to boost them back up again. Maybe a couple of months of casual labor were in his future. Or some other kind of a score. The waitress came over with menus. Neagley ordered without looking, a cheeseburger and a soda. Reacher matched her for speed, tuna melt and hot coffee. The waitress retrieved the menus and went away.

Reacher said, "So are you going to tell me what your ten-thirty was for exactly?"

Neagley answered him by leaning down and pulling a black three-ring binder out of a tote bag on the floor. She passed it across the table. It was a copy of an autopsy report.

"Calvin Franz is dead," she said. "I think someone threw him out of an airplane."


The past, which meant the army. Calvin Franz had been an MP and Reacher's exact contemporary and pretty much his equal all the way through his thirteen years of service. They had met here and there in the way that brother officers often tended to, rubbing shoulders in different parts of the world for a day or two at a time, consulting on the phone, crossing paths when two or more investigations had tangled or collided. Then they had done a serious spell together in Panama. Quality time. It had been very short but very intense, and they had seen things in each other that left them feeling more like real brothers than brother officers. After Reacher had been rehabilitated from his temporary demotion disgrace and given the special investigations operation to build, Franz's name had been near the top of his personnel wish list. They had spent the next two years together in a real unit-within-a-unit hothouse. They had become fast friends. Then as often happened in the army, new orders had come in and the special operation had been disbanded and Reacher had never seen Franz again.

Until that moment, in an autopsy photograph punched into a three-ring binder laid flat on a sticky laminate table in a cheap diner.

In life Franz had been smaller than Reacher but bigger than most other people. Maybe six-three and two-ten. Powerful upper body, low waist, short legs. Primitive, in a way. Like a caveman. But overall he had been reasonably handsome. He had been calm, resolute, capable, relaxing to be around. His manner had tended to reassure people.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology