Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(9)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(9)
Author: Lee Child

"You're very kind."

"It's how it was. I admired him tremendously."

"He told me about you. All of you, I mean. Many times. Sometimes I felt like a second wife. Like he had been married before. To all of you."

"It's how it was," Reacher said again. "The service was like a family. If you were lucky, that is, and we were."

"Calvin said the same thing."

"I think he got even luckier afterward."

Angela smiled again, automatically. "Maybe. But his luck ran out, didn't it?"

Charlie was watching them, Franz's eyes half-open, appraising. Angela said, "Thank you very much for coming."

"Is there anything we can do for you?" Reacher asked.

"Can you raise the dead?"

Reacher said nothing.

"The way he used to talk about you, I wouldn't be surprised if you could."

Neagley said, "We could find out who did it. That's what we were good at. And that's as close as we can come to bringing him back. In a manner of speaking."

"But it won't actually bring him back."

"No, it won't. I'm very sorry."

"Why are you here?"

"To give you our condolences."

"But you don't know me. I came later. I wasn't a part of all that." Angela moved away, toward the kitchen. Then she changed her mind and turned back and squeezed sideways between Reacher and Neagley and sat down in the living room. Laid her palms on the arms of her chair. Reacher saw her fingers moving. Just a slight imperceptible flutter, like she was typing or playing an invisible piano in her sleep.

"I wasn't part of the group," she said. "Sometimes I wished I had been. It meant so much to Calvin. He used to say, You do not mess with the special investigators. He used it like a catchphrase, all the time. He would be watching football, and the quarterback would get sacked, something real spectacular, and he would say, Yeah baby, you do not mess with the special investigators. He would say it to Charlie. He would tell Charlie to do something, and Charlie would moan, and Calvin would say, Charlie, you do not mess with the special investigators."

Charlie looked up and smiled. "You do not mess," he said, in a little piping voice, but with his father's intonation, and then he stopped, as if the longer words were too hard for him to say.

Angela said, "You're here because of a slogan, aren't you?"

"Not really," Reacher said. "We're here because of what lay behind the slogan. We cared about one another. That's all. I'm here because Calvin would have been there for me if the shoe was on the other foot."

"Would he have been?"

"I think so."

"He gave up all of that. When Charlie was born. No pressure from me. But he wanted to be a father. He gave it all up apart from the easy, safe stuff."

"He can't have done."

"No, I guess not."

"What was he working on?"

"I'm sorry," Angela said. "I should have asked you to sit down."

There was no sofa in the room. No space for one. Any kind of a normal-sized sofa would have blocked access to the bedrooms. There were two armchairs instead, plus a half-sized wooden rocker for Charlie. The armchairs were either side of a small fireplace that held pale dried flowers in a raw china jug. Charlie's rocker was to the left of the chimney. His name had been branded into the wood at the top of the back, with a hot poker or a soldering iron, seven letters, neat script. Tidy, but not a professional job. Franz's own work, probably. A gift, father to son. Reacher looked at it for a moment. Then he took the armchair opposite Angela's and Neagley perched on the arm next to him, her thigh less than an inch from his body, but not touching it.

Charlie stepped over Reacher's feet and sat down in his wooden chair.

"What was Calvin working on?" Reacher asked again.

Angela Franz said, "Charlie, you should go out and play."

Charlie said, "Mom, I want to stay here."

Reacher asked, "Angela, what was Calvin working on?"

"Since Charlie came along he only did background checks," Angela said. "It was a good business to be in. Especially here in LA. Everyone's worried about hiring a thief or a junkie. Or dating one, or marrying one. Someone would meet someone on the internet or in a bar and the first thing they would do is Google the person and the second thing is they would call a private detective."

"Where did he work?"

"He had an office in Culver City. You know, just a rental, one room. Where Venice meets La Cienega. It was an easy hop on the 10. He liked it there. I guess I'll have to go and bring his things home."

Neagley asked, "Would you give us permission to search it first?"

"The deputies already searched it."

"We should search it again."


"Because he must have been working on something bigger than background checks."

"Junkies kill people, don't they? And thieves, sometimes."

Reacher glanced at Charlie, and saw Franz looking back at him. "But not in the way that it seems to have happened."

"OK. Search it again if you want."

Neagley asked, "Do you have a key?"

Angela got up slowly and stepped to the kitchen. Came back with two unmarked keys, one big, one small, on a steel split ring an inch in diameter. She cradled them in her palm for a moment and then she handed them to Neagley, a little reluctantly.

"I would like them back," she said. "This is his own personal set."

Reacher asked, "Did he keep stuff here? Notes, files, anything like that?"

"Here?" Angela said. "How could he? He gave up wearing undershirts when we moved here, to save on drawer space."

"When did you move here?"

Angela was still standing. A slight woman, but she seemed to fill the tiny space.

"Just after Charlie came along," she said. "We wanted a real home. We were very happy here. Small, but it was all we needed."

"What happened the last time you saw him?"

"He went out in the morning, same as always. But he never came back."

"When was that?"

"Five days before the deputies came over to tell me they had found his body."

"Did he ever talk to you about his work?"

Angela said, "Charlie, do you need a drink?"

Charlie said, "I'm OK, Mom."

Reacher asked, "Did Calvin ever talk to you about his work?"

"Not very much," Angela said. "Sometimes the studios would want an actor checked out, to find out what bodies were buried. He would give me the showbiz gossip. That's all, really."

Reacher said, "When we knew him he was a pretty blunt guy. He would say what was on his mind."

"He stayed that way. You think he upset someone?"

"No, I just wondered whether he ever got around to toning it down. And if not, whether you liked it or not."

"I loved it. I loved everything about him. I respect honesty and openness."

"So would you mind if I was blunt?"

"Go right ahead."

"I think there's something you're not telling us."


Angela Franz sat down again and asked, "What do you think I'm not telling you?"

"Something useful," Reacher said.

"Useful? What could possibly be useful to me now?"

"Not just to you. To us, too. Calvin was yours, because you married him, OK. But he was ours too, because we worked with him. We have a right to find out what happened to him, even if you don't want to."

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