Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(7)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(7)
Author: Lee Child

"I already booked your room."

"Booked it or paid for it?"

"It's on my card."

"I won't be able to pay you back."

"Get over it."

"This place has got to be hundreds a night."

"I'll let it slide for now. Maybe we'll take some spoils of war down the track."

"If the bad guys are rich."

"They are," Neagley said. "They have to be. How else would they afford their own helicopter?"

She left the key in and the motor running and opened the heavy red door and slid out. Reacher did the same thing on his side. A guy ran up and gave Neagley a valet stub. She took it and tracked around the hood of the car and took the steps up to the back of the hotel's main lobby. Reacher followed. Watched her move. She floated, like she was weightless. She ghosted through a crowded dogleg corridor and came out in a reception area the size and shape of a baronial hall. There was a check-in desk, a bell desk, a concierge desk, all separate. There were pale velvet armchairs with beautifully dressed guests in them.

Reacher said, "I look like a bum in here."

"Or like a billionaire. Nowadays you can't tell."

She led him to the counter and checked him in. She had reserved his room under the name Thomas Shannon, who had been Stevie Ray Vaughan's giant bass player back in the day, and one of Reacher's favorites. He smiled. He liked to avoid paper trails, whenever possible. He always had. Pure reflex. He turned to Neagley and nodded his thanks and asked, "What are you calling yourself here?"

"My real name," she said. "I don't do that stuff anymore. Too complicated now."

The clerk handed over a key card and Reacher put it in his shirt pocket. He turned away from the desk and faced the room. Stone, dim chandeliers, thick carpet, flowers in huge glass vases. Perfumed air.

"Let's make a start," he said.

They started in Neagley's room, which was actually a two-room suite. The living room portion was tall and square and stately and had been done up in blues and golds. It could have been a room in Buckingham Palace. There was a desk in the window with two laptop computers on it. Next to the laptops was an empty cell phone cradle and next to that was an open spiral-bound notebook, new, letter-size, the kind of thing a high school student might buy in September. Last in line was a thin stack of printed papers. Forms. Five of them. Five names, five addresses, five telephone numbers. The old unit, less two dead and two already present.

Reacher said, "Tell me about Stan Lowrey."

"Not much to tell. He quit the army, moved to Montana, got hit by a truck."

"Life's a bitch and then you die."

"Tell me about it."

"What was he doing in Montana?"

"Raising sheep. Churning butter."


"There was a girlfriend."

"She still there?"

"Probably. They had a lot of acres."

"Why sheep? Why butter?"

"No call for private eyes in Montana. And Montana was where the girlfriend was."

Reacher nodded. At first glance Stan Lowrey had not been an obvious candidate for a rural fantasy. He had been a big-boned black guy from some scruffy factory town in Western Pennsylvania, smart as a whip and hard as a railroad tie. Dark alleys and pool halls had seemed to be his natural habitat. But somewhere in his DNA there had been a clear link with the earth. Reacher wasn't surprised he had become a farmer. He could picture him, in a raggedy old barn coat, knee-high in prairie grass, under a huge blue sky, cold but happy.

"Why can't we raise the others?" he asked.

"I don't know," Neagley said.

"What was Franz working on?"

"Nobody seems to have that information."

"Didn't the new wife say anything?"

"She isn't new. They were married five years."

"She's new to me," Reacher said.

"I couldn't interrogate her, exactly. She was on the phone, telling me her husband was dead. And maybe she doesn't know anyway."

"We're going to have to go ask her. She's the obvious starting point here."

"After we try the others again," Neagley said.

Reacher picked up the five sheets of printed paper and gave three to Neagley and kept two for himself. She used her cell phone and he used a room phone on a credenza. They started dialing. His numbers were for Dixon and O'Donnell. Karla and Dave, the East Coast residents, New York and D.C. Neither one of them answered. He got their business office machines instead, and heard their long-forgotten voices. He left the same message for both of them: "This is Jack Reacher with a ten-thirty from Frances Neagley at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Get off your ass and call her back." Then he hung up and turned to where Neagley was pacing and leaving the same kind of message for Tony Swan.

"Don't you have home numbers for them?" he asked.

"They're all unlisted. Which is only to be expected. Mine is, too. My guy in Chicago is working on it. But it's not easy these days. Phone company computers have gotten a lot more secure."

"They must be carrying cell phones," he said. "Doesn't everyone now?"

"I don't have those numbers either."

"But wherever they are they can call in and check their office voice mail remotely, can't they?"


"So why haven't they? In three whole days?"

"I don't know," Neagley said.

"Swan must have a secretary. He's an assistant director of something. He must have a whole staff."

"All they're saying is that he's temporarily out of the office."

"Let me try." He took Swan's number from her and hit nine for a line. Dialed. Heard the connection go through, heard Swan's phone ringing on the other end.

And ringing, and ringing.

"No answer," he said.

"Someone answered a minute ago," Neagley said. "It's his direct line."

No answer. He held the phone at his ear and listened to the patient electronic purr. Ten times, fifteen, twenty. Thirty. He hung up. Checked the number and tried again. Same result.

"Weird," he said. "Where the hell is he?"

He checked the paper again. Name and number. The address line was blank.

"Where is this place?" he asked.

"I'm not sure."

"Does it have a name?"

"New Age Defense Systems. That's how they've been answering."

"What kind of a name is that for a weapons manufacturer? Like they kill you with kindness? They play Pan pipe music until you save them the trouble and slit your wrists?" He dialed information. Information told him there was no listing for New Age Defense Systems anywhere in the United States. He hung up.

"Can corporations be unlisted, too?" he asked.

Neagley said, "I guess so. In the defense business, certainly. And they're new."

"We have to find them. They must have a physical plant somewhere. At least an office, so Uncle Sam can send them checks."

"OK, we'll add that to the list. After the visit to Mrs. Franz."

"No, before," Reacher said. "Offices close. Widows are always around."

So Neagley called her guy in Chicago and told him to track down a physical address for New Age Defense Systems. From the half of the conversation Reacher could hear it seemed like the best way to proceed was to hack into FedEx's computer. Or UPS's, or DHL's. Everyone received packages, and couriers needed street addresses. They couldn't use post office boxes. They had to hand stuff across the transom to actual people and get signatures in return.

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