WEST STREET BECOMES Eleventh Avenue right opposite Pier 56, where the westbound traffic spills out of Fourteenth Street and turns north. The big black Tahoe was caught in the congestion and added its horn to the frustrated blasts cannoning off the high buildings and echoing out over the river. It crawled nine blocks and made a left at Twenty-third Street, then swung north again on Twelfth. It got above walking speed until it passed the back of the Javits Convention Center, and then it got jammed up again in the traffic pouring out of West Forty-second. Twelfth became the Miller Highway and it was still solid, all the way over the top of the huge messy acreage of the old rail yards. Then the Miller became the Henry Hudson Parkway. Still a slow road, but the Henry Hudson was technically Route 9A, which would become Route 9 up in Crotonville and take them all the way north to Garrison. A straight line, no turns anywhere, but they were still in Manhattan, stuck in Riverside Park, a whole half hour after setting out.

IT WAS THE word processor that meant the most. The cursor, patiently blinking in the middle of a word. The open door and the abandoned bag were persuasive, but not critical. Office workers usually take their stuff and close their doors, but not always. The secretary might have just stepped across the hall and gotten involved in something, a quest for bond paper or a plea for help with somebody's copying machine, leading to a cup of coffee and a juicy story about last night's date. A person expecting to be absent two minutes might leave her bag behind and her door open and end up being gone a half hour. But nobody leaves computer work unsaved. Not even for a minute. And this woman had. The machine had asked him DO YOU WANT TO SAVE THE CHANGES? Which meant she had gotten up from her desk without clicking on the save icon, which is a habit just about as regular as breathing for people who spend their days fighting with software.

Which put a very bad complexion on the whole thing. Reacher was through in Grand Central's other big hall, with a twenty-ounce cup of black coffee he had bought from a vendor. He jammed the lid down tight and squeezed the cash roll in his pocket. It was thick enough for what he was going to have to do. He ran back and around to the track where the next Croton train was waiting to leave.

THE HENRY HUDSON Parkway splits into a tangle of curling ramps around 170th Street and the north lanes come out again labeled Riverside Drive. Same road, same direction, no turn, but the complex dynamic of heavy traffic means that if one driver slows down more than the average, then the highway can back up dramatically, with hundreds of people stalled way behind, all because some out-of-towner a mile ahead became momentarily confused. The big black Tahoe was brought to a complete halt opposite Fort Washington and was reduced to a lurching stop-start crawl all the way under the George Washington Bridge. Then Riverside Drive broadens out and it got itself up into third gear before the label changed back to the Henry Hudson and the traffic in the toll plaza stopped it again. It waited in line to pay the money that let it off the island of Manhattan and away north through the Bronx.

THERE ARE TWO types of trains running up and down the Hudson River between Grand Central and Croton-Harmon: locals and expresses. The expresses do not run any faster in terms of speed, but they stop less often. They make the journey last somewhere between forty-nine and fifty-two minutes. The locals stop everywhere, and the repeated braking and waiting and accelerating spin the trip out to anywhere between sixty-five and seventy-three minutes. A maximum advantage for the express of up to twenty-four minutes.

Reacher was on a local. He had given the trainman five and a half bucks for an off-peak one-way and was sitting sideways on an empty three-person bench, wired from too much coffee, his head resting on the window, wondering exactly where the hell he was going, and why, and what he was going to do when he got there. And whether he would get there in time to do it, anyway, whatever it was.

ROUTE 9A BECAME 9 and curved gracefully away from the river to run behind Camp Smith. Up in Westchester, it was a fast enough road. Not exactly a racetrack, because it curved and bounced around too much for sustained high speed, but it was clear and empty, a patchwork of old sections and new stretches carved through the woods. There were housing developments here and there beyond the shoulders, high timber fencing and neatly painted siding and optimistic names carved into imposing boulders flanking the entrance gates. The Tahoe hustled along, one guy driving and the other with a map across his knees.

They passed Peekskill and started hunting a left turn. They found it and swung head-on toward the river, which they sensed ahead of them, an empty break in the landscape. They entered the township of Garrison, and started hunting the address. Not easy to find. The residential areas were scattered. You could have a Garrison zip code and live way in the back of beyond. That was clear. But they found the right road and made all the correct turns and found the right street. Slowed and cruised through the thinning woods above the river, watching the mailboxes. The road curved and opened out. They cruised on. Then they spotted the right house up ahead and slowed abruptly and pulled in at the curb.

REACHER GOT OFF of the train at Croton, seventy-one minutes after getting in. He ran up the stairs and across and down to the taxi rank. There were four operators lined up, all nose-in to the station entrance, all of them using old-model Caprice wagons with fake wood on the sides. The first driver to react was a stout woman who tilted her head up like she was ready to pay attention.

"You know Garrison?" Reacher asked her.

"Garrison?" she said. "That's a long way, mister, twenty miles."

"I know where it is," he said.

"Could be forty bucks."

"I'll give you fifty," he said. "But I need to be there right now."

He sat in front, next to her. The car stank like old taxis do, sweet cloying air freshener and upholstery cleaner. There were a million miles on the clock and it rode like a boat on a swell as the woman hustled through the parking lot and up onto Route 9 and headed north.

"You got an address for me?" she asked, watching the road.

Reacher repeated what the assistant in the law firm had told him. The woman nodded and settled to a fast cruise.

"Overlooks the river," she said.

She cruised for a quarter hour, passed by Peekskill and then slowed, looking for a particular left. Hauled the huge boat around and headed west. Reacher could feel the river up ahead, a mile-wide trench in the forest. The woman knew where she was going. She went all the way to the river and turned north on a country road. The rail tracks ran parallel between them and the water. No trains on them. The land fell away and Reacher could see West Point ahead and on his left, a mile away across the blue water.

"Should be along here someplace," she said.

It was a narrow country road, domesticated with ranch fencing in rough timber and tamed with mowed shoulders and specimen plantings. There were mailboxes a hundred yards apart and poles that hung cables through the treetops.

"Whoa," the woman said, surprised. "I guess this is it."

The road was already narrow, and now it became just about impassable. There was a long line of cars parked up on the shoulder. Maybe forty automobiles, many of them black or dark blue. All neat late-model sedans or big sport-utilities. The woman eased the taxi into the driveway. The line of parked cars stretched nose-to-tail all the way to the house. Another ten or twelve cars were parked together on the apron in front of the garage. Two of them were plain Detroit sedans, in flat green. Army vehicles. Reacher could spot Defense Department issue a mile away.

"OK?" the woman asked him.

"I guess," he said, cautiously.

He peeled a fifty off his roll and handed it to her. Got out and stood in the driveway, unsure. He heard the taxi whine away in reverse. He walked back up to the road. Looked at the long line of cars. Looked at the mailbox. There was a name spelled out in little aluminum letters along the top of it. The name was Garber. A name he knew as well as his own.

The house was set in a large lot, casually landscaped, placed somewhere comfortable in the region between natural and neglected. The house itself was low and sprawling, dark cedar siding, dark screens at the windows, big stone chimney, somewhere between suburban modest and cozy cottage. It was very quiet. The air smelled hot and damp and fecund. He could hear insects massing in the undergrowth. He could sense the river beyond the house, a mile-wide void dragging stray sounds away to the south.

He walked closer and heard muted conversation behind the house. People talking low, maybe a lot of people. He walked down toward the sound and came out around the side of the garage. He was at the top of a flight of cement steps, looking west across the backyard to the river, blue and blinding in the sun. A mile away in the haze, slightly northwest to his right, was West Point, low and gray in the distance.

The backyard was a flat area cleared out of the woods on the top of the bluff. It was covered in coarse grass, mowed short, and there was a solemn crowd of a hundred people standing in it. They were all dressed in black, men and women alike, black suits and ties and blouses and shoes, except for a half dozen Army officers in full dress uniform. They were all talking quietly, soberly, juggling paper buffet plates and glasses of wine, sadness in the slope of their shoulders.

A funeral. He was gate-crashing a funeral. He stood there awkwardly, looming against the skyline in the gear he had thrown on yesterday in the Keys, faded chinos, creased pale yellow shirt, no socks, scuffed shoes, sun-bleached hair sticking out all over the place, a day's beard on his face. He gazed down at the group of mourners and as if he had suddenly clapped his hands they all fell silent and turned to look up at him. He froze. They all stared at him, quietly, inquiringly, and he looked back at them, blankly. There was silence. Stillness. Then a woman moved. She handed her paper plate and her glass to the nearest bystander and stepped forward.

She was a young woman, maybe thirty, dressed like the others in a severe black suit. She was pale and strained, but very beautiful. Achingly beautiful. Very slim, tall in her heels, long legs in sheer dark nylon. Fine blond hair, long and un-styled, blue eyes, fine bones. She moved delicately across the lawn and stopped at the bottom of the cement steps, like she was waiting for him to come down to her.

"Hello, Reacher," she said, softly.

He looked down at her. She knew who he was. And he knew who she was. It came to him suddenly like a stop-motion film blasting through fifteen years in a single glance. A teenage girl grew up and blossomed into a beautiful woman right in front of his eyes, all in a split second. Garber, the name on the mailbox. Leon Garber, for many years his commanding officer. He recalled their early acquaintance, getting to know each other at backyard barbecues on hot, wet evenings in the Philippines. A slender girl gliding in and out of the shadows around the bleak base house, enough of a woman at fifteen to be utterly captivating but enough of a girl to be totally forbidden. Jodie, Garber's daughter. His only child. The light of his life. This was Jodie Garber, fifteen years later, all grown up and beautiful and waiting for him at the bottom of a set of cement steps.

He glanced at the crowd and went down the steps to the lawn.

"Hello, Reacher," she said again.

Her voice was low and strained. Sad, like the scene around her.

"Hello, Jodie," he said.

Then he wanted to ask who died? But he couldn't frame it in any way which wasn't going to sound callous, or stupid. She saw him struggling, and nodded.

"Dad," she said simply.

"When?" he asked.

"Five days ago," she said. "He was sick the last few months, but it was sudden at the end. A surprise, I guess."

He nodded slowly.

"I'm very sorry," he said.

He glanced at the river and the hundred faces in front of him became a hundred faces of Leon Garber. A short, squat, tough man. A wide smile he always used whether he was happy or annoyed or in danger. A brave man, physically and mentally. A great leader. Honest as the day is long, fair, perceptive. Reacher's role model during his vital formative years. His mentor and his sponsor. His protector. He had gone way out on a limb and promoted him twice in an eighteen-month span which made Reacher the youngest peacetime major anybody could remember. Then he had spread his blunt hands wide and smiled and disclaimed any credit for his ensuing successes.

"I'm very sorry, Jodie," he said again.

She nodded, silently.

"I can't believe it," he said. "I can't take it in. I saw him less than a year ago. He was in good shape then. He got sick?"

She nodded again, still silent.

"But he was always so tough," he said.

She nodded, sadly. "He was, wasn't he? Always so tough."

"And not old," he said.


"So what happened?"

"His heart," she said. "It got him in the end. Remember how he always liked to pretend he didn't have one?"

Reacher shook his head. "Biggest heart you ever saw."

"I found that out," she said. "When Mom died, we were best friends for ten years. I loved him."

"I loved him, too," Reacher said. "Like he was my dad, not yours."

She nodded again. "He still talked about you all the time."

Reacher looked away. Stared out at the unfocused shape of the West Point buildings, gray in the haze. He was numb. He was in that age zone where people he knew died. His father was dead, his mother was dead, his brother was dead. Now the nearest thing to a substitute relative was dead, too.

"He had a heart attack six months ago," Jodie said. Her eyes clouded and she hooked her long, straight hair behind her ear. "He sort of recovered for a spell, looked pretty good, but really he was failing fast. They were considering a bypass, but he took a turn for the worse and went down too quickly. He wouldn't have survived the surgery."

"I'm very sorry," he said, for the third time.

She turned alongside him and threaded her arm through his.

"Don't be," she said. "He was always a very contented guy. Better for him to go fast. I couldn't see him being happy lingering on."

Reacher had a flash in his mind of the old Garber, bustling and raging, a fireball of energy, and he understood how desperate it would have made him to become an invalid. Understood too how that overloaded old heart had finally given up the struggle. He nodded, unhappily.

"Come and meet some people," Jodie said. "Maybe you know some of them."

"I'm not dressed for this," he said. "I feel bad. I should go."

"Doesn't matter," she said. "You think Dad would care?"

He saw Garber in his old creased khaki and his battered hat. He was the worst-dressed officer in the U.S. Army, all thirteen years Reacher had served under him. He smiled, briefly.

"I guess he wouldn't mind," he said.

She walked him onto the lawn. There were maybe six people out of the hundred he recognized. A couple of the guys in uniform were familiar. A handful in suits were men he'd worked with here and there in another lifetime. He shook hands with dozens of people and tried to listen to the names, but they went in one ear and out the other. Then the quiet chatter and the eating and the drinking started up again, the crowd closed around him, and the sensation of his untidy arrival was smoothed over and forgotten. Jodie still had hold of his arm. Her hand was cool on his skin.

"I'm looking for somebody," he said. "That's why I'm here, really."

"I know," she said. "Mrs. Jacob, right?"

He nodded.

"Is she here?" he asked.

"I'm Mrs. Jacob," she said.

THE TWO GUYS in the black Tahoe backed it out of the line of cars, out from under the power lines so the car phone would work without interference. The driver dialed a number and the ring tone filled the quiet vehicle. Then the call was answered sixty miles south and eighty-eight floors up.

"Problems, boss," the driver said. "There's some sort of a wake going on here, a funeral or something. Must be a hundred people milling around. We got no chance of grabbing this Mrs. Jacob. We can't even tell which one she is. There are dozens of women here, she could be any one of them."

The speaker relayed a grunt from Hobie. "And?"

"The guy from the bar down in the Keys? He just showed up here in a damn taxi. Got here about ten minutes after we did, strolled right in."

The speaker crackled. No discernible reply.

"So what do we do?" the driver asked.

"Stick with it," Hobie's voice said. "Maybe hide the vehicle and lay up someplace. Wait until everybody leaves. It's her house, as far as I can tell. Maybe the family home or a weekend place. So everybody else will leave, and she'll be the one who stays. Don't you come back here without her, OK?"

"What about the big guy?"

"If he leaves, let him go. If he doesn't, waste him. But bring me this Jacob woman."

"YOU'RE MRS. JACOB?" Reacher asked.

Jodie Garber nodded.

"Am, was," she said. "I'm divorced, but I keep the name for work."

"Who was he?"

She shrugged.

"A lawyer, like me. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"How long?"

"Three years, beginning to end. We met at law school, got married when we got jobs. I stayed on Wall Street, but he went to a firm in D.C., couple of years ago. The marriage didn't go with him, just kind of petered out. The papers came through last fall. I could hardly remember who he was. Just a name, Alan Jacob."

Reacher stood in the sunny yard and looked at her. He realized he was upset that she had been married. She had been a skinny kid, but totally gorgeous at fifteen, self-confident and innocent and a little shy about it all at the same time. He had watched the battle between her shyness and her curiosity as she sat and worked up the courage to talk to him about death and life and good and evil. Then she would fidget and tuck her bony knees up under her and work the conversation around to love and sex and men and women. Then she would blush and disappear. He would be left alone, icy inside, captivated by her and angry at himself for it. Days later he would see her somewhere around the base, still blushing furiously. And now fifteen years later she was a grown woman, college and law school, married and divorced, beautiful and composed and elegant, standing there in her dead father's yard with her arm linked through his.

"Are you married?" she asked him.

He shook his head. "No."

"But are you happy?"

"I'm always happy," he said. "Always was, always will be."

"Doing what?"

He shrugged.

"Nothing much," he said.

He glanced over the top of her head and scanned the faces in the crowd. Subdued busy people, substantial lives, big careers, all of them moving steadily from A to Z. He looked at them and wondered if they were the fools, or if he was. He recalled the expression on Costello's face.

"I was just in the Keys," he said. "Digging swimming pools with a shovel."

Her face didn't change. She tried to squeeze his forearm with her hand, but her hand was too small and his arm was too big. It came out as a gentle pressure from her palm.

"Costello find you down there?" she asked.

He didn't find me to invite me to a funeral, he thought.

"We need to talk about Costello," he said.

"He's good, isn't he'?"

Not good enough, he thought. She moved away to circulate through the crowd. People were waiting to offer their second-layer condolences. They were getting loose from the wine, and the buzz of talk was getting louder and more sentimental. Reacher drifted over to a patio, where a long table with a white cloth held food. He loaded a paper plate with cold chicken and rice and took a glass of water. There was an ancient patio furniture set, ignored by the others because it was all spotted with little gray-green botanical droppings from the trees. The sun umbrella was stiff and faded white. Reacher ducked under it and sat quietly in a dirty chair on his own.

He watched the crowd as he ate. People were reluctant to leave. The affection for old Leon Garber was palpable. A guy like that generates affection in others, maybe too much to express to his face, so it has to all come out later. Jodie was moving through the crowd, nodding, clasping hands, smiling sadly. Everybody had a tale to tell her, an anecdote about witnessing Garber's heart of gold peeping out from under his gruff and irascible exterior. He could add a few stories. But he wouldn't, because Jodie didn't need it explained to her that her father had been one of the good guys. She knew. She was moving with the serenity of a person who had loved the old guy all her life, and had been loved back. There was nothing she had neglected to tell him, nothing he had neglected to tell her. People live, and then they die, and as long as they do both things properly, there's nothing much to regret.

THEY FOUND A place on the same road that was obviously a weekend cottage, closed up tight and unoccupied. They backed the Tahoe around behind the garage where it was hidden from the street, but ready for pursuit. They took the nine-millimeters out of the glove box and stowed them in their jacket pockets. Walked back down to the road and ducked into the undergrowth.

It was hard going. They were just sixty miles north of Manhattan, but they might as well have been in the jungles of Borneo. There were ragged vines tangled everywhere, grabbing at them, tripping them, whipping their faces and hands. The trees were second-growth native broadleafs, growing wild, basically weeds, and their branches came out of them at crazy low angles. They took to walking backward, forcing their way through. When they got level with the Garber driveway, they were panting and gasping and smeared with moss and green pollen dust. They pushed through onto the property and found a depression in the ground where they were concealed. They ducked left and right to get a view of the pathway leading up from the backyard. People were heading out, getting ready to leave.

It was becoming obvious which one was Mrs. Jacob. If Hobie was right and this was her place, then she was the thin blond shaking hands and saying good-bye like all these departing people had been her guests. They were leaving, she was staying. She was Mrs. Jacob. They watched her, the center of attention, smiling bravely, embracing, waving. People filed up the driveway, ones and twos, then larger groups. Cars were starting. Blue exhaust haze was drifting. They could hear the hiss and groan of power steering as people eased out of the tight line. The rub of tires on pavement. The burble of motors accelerating away down the road. This was going to be easy. Pretty soon she was going to be standing there all by herself, all choked up and sad. Then she was going to get a couple of extra visitors. Maybe she would see them coming and take them for a couple of mourners arriving late. After all, they were dressed in dark suits and ties. What fits in Manhattan 's financial district looks just about right for a funeral.

REACHER FOLLOWED THE last two guests up the cement steps and out of the yard. One was a colonel and the other was a two-star general, both in immaculate dress uniform. It was what he had expected. A place with free food and drink, the soldiers will always be the last to leave. He didn't know the colonel, but he thought he vaguely recognized the general. He thought the general recognized him, too, but neither of them pursued it. No desire on either part to get into long and complicated so-what-are-you-doing-now explanations.

The brass shook hands quite formally with Jodie and then they snapped to attention and saluted. Crisp parade-ground moves, gleaming boots smashing into the blacktop, eyes rigidly to the front, thousand-yard stares, all quite bizarre in the green stillness of a suburban driveway. They got into the last car left on the garage apron, one of the flat green sedans parked nearest to the house. First to arrive, last to leave. Peacetime, no Cold War, nothing to do all day. It was why Reacher had been happy when they cut him loose, and as he watched the green car turn and head out, he knew he was right to be happy.

Jodie stepped sideways to him and linked her arm through his again.

"So," she said quietly. "That's that."

Then there was just building silence as the noise from the green car faded and died along the road.

"Where's he buried?" Reacher asked.

"The town cemetery," she said. "He could have chosen Arlington, of course, but he didn't want that. You want to go up there?"

He shook his head.

"No, I don't do stuff like that. Makes no difference to him now, does it? He knew I'll miss him, because I told him so, a long time ago."

She nodded. Held his arm.

"We need to talk about Costello," he said again.

"Why?" she asked. "He gave you the message, right?"

He shook his head.

"No, he found me, but I was wary. I said I wasn't Jack Reacher."

She looked up at him, astonished. "But why?"

He shrugged.

"Habit, I guess. I don't go around looking for involvement. I didn't recognize the name Jacob, so I just ignored him. I was happy, living quiet down there."

She was still looking at him.

"I guess I should have used Garber," she said. "It was Dad's business anyway, not mine. But I did it through the firm, and I never even thought about it. You'd have listened to him if he'd said Garber, right?"

"Of course," he said.

"And you needn't have worried, because it was no kind of a big deal."

"Can we go inside?" he asked.

She was surprised again. "Why?"

"Because it was some kind of a very big deal."

THEY SAW HER lead him in through the front door. She pulled the screen and he held it while she turned the knob and opened up. Some kind of a big front door, dull brown wood. They went inside and the door closed behind them. Ten seconds later a dim light came on in a window, way off to the left. Some kind of a sitting room or den, they guessed, so shaded by the runaway plantings outside that it needed lights on even in the middle of the day. They crouched in their damp hollow and waited. Insects were drifting through the sunbeams all around them. They glanced at each other and listened hard. No sound.

They pushed through to the driveway. Ran crouched to the comer of the garage. Pressed up against the siding and slid around to the front. Across the front toward the house. They went into their jackets for the pistols. Held them pointed at the ground and went one at a time for the front porch. They regrouped and eased slowly over the old timbers. Ended up squatting on the floor, backs pressed against the house, one on either side of the front door, pistols out and ready. She'd gone in this way. She'd come back out. Just a matter of time.

"SOMEBODY KILLED HIM?" Jodie repeated.

"And his secretary, probably," Reacher said.

"I don't believe it," she said. "Why?"

She had led him through a dark hallway to a small den in the far corner of the house. A tiny window and dark wood paneling and heavy brown leather furniture made it gloomy, so she switched on a desk lamp, which changed it into a cozy man's space like the pre-war bars Reacher had seen in Europe. There were shelves of books, cheap editions bought by subscription decades ago, and curled faded photographs thumbtacked to the front edges of the shelves. There was a plain desk, the sort of place where an old underemployed man does his bills and taxes in imitation of how he used to work when he had a job.

"I don't know why," Reacher said. "I don't know anything. I don't even know why you sent him looking for me."

"Dad wanted you," she said. "He never really told me why. I was busy, I had a trial, complex thing, lasted months. I was preoccupied. All I know is, after he got sick he was going to the cardiologist, right? He met somebody there and got involved with something. He was worried about it. Seemed to me he felt he was under some kind of a big obligation. Then later when he got worse, he knew he would have to drop it, and he started saying he should find you and let you take a look at it, because you were a person who could maybe do something about it. He was getting all agitated, which was really not a good idea, so I said I'd get Costello to locate you. We use him all the time at the firm, and it felt like the least I should do."

It made some kind of sense, but Reacher's first thought was why me? He could see Garber's problem. In the middle of something, health failing, unwilling to abandon an obligation, needing help. But a guy like Garber could get help anywhere. The Manhattan Yellow Pages were full of investigators. And if it was something too arcane or too personal for a city investigator, then all he had to do was pick up the phone and a dozen of his friends from the military police would come running. Two dozen. A hundred. All of them willing and anxious to repay his many kindnesses and favors that stretched right back through their whole careers. So Reacher was sitting there asking himself why me in particular?

"Who was the person he met at the cardiologist?"

She shrugged, unhappily.

"I don't know. I was preoccupied. We never really went into it."

"Did Costello come up here? Discuss it directly with him?"

She nodded. "I called him and told him we'd pay him through the firm, but he was to come here and get the details. He called me back a day or two later, said he'd discussed it with Dad, and it all boiled down to finding you. He wanted me to retain him officially, on paper, because it could get expensive. So naturally I did that, because I didn't want Dad worrying about the cost or anything."

"Which is why he told me his client was Mrs. Jacob," Reacher said. "Not Leon Garber. Which is why I ignored him. Which is how I got him killed."

She shook her head and looked at him sharply, like he was some kind of a new associate who had just done a piece of sloppy drafting. It took him by surprise. He was still thinking of her as a fifteen-year-old girl, not a thirty-year-old lawyer who spent her time getting preoccupied with long and complex trials.

"Non sequitur," she said. "It's clear what happened, right? Dad told Costello the story, Costello tried some kind of a shortcut before he went looking for you, whereby he turned over the wrong stone and got somebody alerted. That somebody killed him to find out who was looking, and why. Makes no difference if you'd played ball right away. They'd still have gotten to Costello to ask him exactly who put him on the trail. So it's me who got him killed, ultimately."

Reacher shook his head. "It was Leon. Through you."

She shook her head in turn. "It was the person at the cardiology clinic. Him, through Dad, through me."

"I need to find that person," he said.

"Does it matter now?"

"I think it does," he said. "If Leon was worried about something, then I'm worried about it, too. That's how it worked for us."

Jodie nodded quietly. Stood up quickly and stepped over to the bookshelves. Pincered her fingernails and levered the thumbtack out of one of the photographs. Looked hard at it and then passed it across to him.

"Remember that?" she asked.

The photograph must have been fifteen years old, the colors fading to pale pastels the way old Kodak does with age and sunlight. It had the harsh bright sky of Manila above a dirt yard. Leon Garber was on the left, about fifty, dressed in creased olive fatigues. Reacher himself was on the right, twenty-four years old, a lieutenant, a foot taller than Garber, smiling with all the blazing vigor of youth. Between the two of them was Jodie, fifteen, in a sundress, one bare arm around her father's shoulders, the other around Reacher's waist. She was squinting in the sun, smiling, leaning toward Reacher like she was hugging his waist with all the strength in her skinny brown frame.

"Remember? He'd just bought the Nikon in the PX? With the self-timer? Borrowed a tripod and couldn't wait to try it out?"

Reacher nodded. He remembered. He remembered the smell of her hair that day, in the hot Pacific sun. Clean, young hair. He remembered the feel of her body against his. He remembered the feel of her long, thin arm around his waist. He remembered screaming at himself hold on, pal, she's only fifteen and she's your CO's daughter.

"He called that his family picture," she said. "Always did."

He nodded again. "That's why. That's how it worked for us."

She gazed at the photograph for a long moment, something in her face.

"And there's the secretary," he said to her. "They'll have asked her who the client was. She'll have told them. And even if she didn't, they'll find out anyway. Took me thirty seconds and one phone call. So now they're going to come looking for you, to ask you who's behind all of this."

She looked blank and put the old photograph on the desk.

"But I don't know who."

"You think they're going to believe that?"

She nodded vaguely and glanced toward the window.

"OK, so what do I do?"

"You get out of here," he said. "That's for damn sure. Too lonely, too isolated. You got a place in the city?"

"Sure," she said. "A loft on lower Broadway."

"You got a car here?"

She nodded. "Sure, in the garage. But I was going to stay here tonight. I've got to find his will, do the paperwork, close things down. I was going to leave tomorrow morning, early."

"Do all that stuff now," he said. "As fast as you can, and get out. I mean it, Jodie. Whoever these people are, they're not playing games."

The look on his face told her more than words. She nodded quickly and stood up.

"OK, the desk. You can give me a hand."

From his high school ROTC until his ill-health demobilization Leon Garber had done almost fifty years of military service of one sort or another. It showed right there in his desk. The upper drawers contained pens and pencils and rulers, all in neat rows. The lower drawers were double height, with concertina files hanging on neat rods. Each was labeled in careful handwriting. Taxes, phone, electricity, heating oil, yardwork, appliance warranties. There was a label with newer handwriting in a different color: LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. Jodie flicked through the files and ended up lifting the whole concertina out of each drawer. Reacher found a battered leather suitcase in the den closet and they loaded the concertinas straight into it. Forced the lid down tight and snapped it shut. Reacher picked up the old photograph from the desk and looked at it again.

"Did you resent it?" he asked. "The way he thought about me? Family?"

She paused in the doorway and nodded.

"I resented it like crazy," she said. "And one day I'll tell you exactly why."

He just looked at her and she turned and disappeared down the hallway.

"I'll get my things," she called. "Five minutes, OK?"

He stepped over to the bookshelf and tacked the old picture back in its original position. Then he snapped the light off and carried the suitcase out of the room. Stood in the quiet hallway and looked around. It was a pleasant house. It had been expanded in size at some stage in its history. That was clear. There was a central core of rooms that made some kind of sense in terms of layout, and then there were more rooms off the doglegged hallway he was standing in. They branched out from arbitrary little inner lobbies. Too small to be called a warren, too big to be predictable. He wandered through to the living room. The windows overlooked the yard and the river, with the West Point buildings visible at an angle from the fireplace end. The air was still and smelled of old polish. The decor was faded, and had been plain to start with. Neutral wood floors, cream walls, heavy furniture. An ancient TV, no video. Books, pictures, more photographs. Nothing matched. It was an undesigned place, evolved, comfortable. It had been lived in.

Garber must have bought it thirty years ago. Probably when Jodie's mother got pregnant. It was a common move. Married officers with a family often bought a place, often near their first service base or near some other location they imagined was going to be central to their lives, like West Point. They bought the place and usually left it empty while they lived overseas. The point was to have an anchor, somewhere identifiable they knew they would come back to when it was all over. Or somewhere their families could live if the overseas posting was unsuitable, or if their children's education demanded consistency.

Reacher's parents had not taken that route. They had never bought a place. Reacher had never lived in a house. Grim service bungalows and army bunkhouses were where he had lived, and since then, cheap motels. And he was pretty sure he never wanted anything different. He was pretty sure he didn't want to live in a house. The desire just passed him by. The necessary involvement intimidated him. It was a physical weight, exactly like the suitcase in his hand. The bills, the property taxes, the insurance, the warranties, the repairs, the maintenance, the decisions, new roof or new stove, carpeting or rugs, the budgets. The yard work. He stepped over and looked out of the window at the lawn. Yard work summed up the whole futile procedure. First you spend a lot of time and money making the grass grow, just so you can spend a lot of time and money cutting it down again a little while later. You curse about it getting too long, and then you worry about it staying too short and you sprinkle expensive water on it all summer, and expensive chemicals all fall.

Crazy. But if any house could change his mind, maybe Garber's house might do it. It was so casual, so undemanding. It looked like it had prospered on benign neglect. He could just about imagine living in it. And the view was powerful. The wide Hudson rolling by, reassuring and physical. That old river was going to keep on rolling by, whatever anybody did about the houses and the yards that dotted its banks.

"OK, I'm ready, I guess," Jodie called.

She appeared in the living room doorway. She was carrying a leather garment bag and she had changed out of her black funeral suit. Now she was in a pair of faded Levi's and a powder blue sweatshirt with a small logo Reacher couldn't decipher. She had brushed her hair, and the static had kicked a couple of strands outward. She was smoothing them back with her hand, hooking them behind her ear. The powder blue shirt picked up her eyes and emphasized the pale honey of her skin. The last fifteen years had done her no harm at all.

They walked through to the kitchen and bolted the door to the yard. Turned off all the appliances they could see and screwed the faucets tight shut. Came back out into the hallway and opened the front door.

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2024