JODIE WOKE EARLY that morning, which was unusual for her. Normally she slept soundly right up to the point when her alarm went off and she had to drag herself out of bed and into the bathroom, sleepy and slow. But that morning, she was awake an hour before she had to be, alert, breathing lightly, heart racing gently in her chest.

Her bedroom was white, like all her rooms, and her bed was a king with a white wood frame, set with the head against the wall opposite her window. The guest room was back to back with her room, laid out in exactly the same way, symmetrically, but in reverse, because it faced in the opposite direction. Which meant that his head was about eighteen inches away from hers. Just through the wall.

She knew what the walls were made of. She had bought the apartment before it was finished. She had been in and out for months, watching over the conversion. The wall between the two bedrooms was an original wall, a hundred years old. There was a great balk of timber lying crossways on the floor, with bricks built up on top of it, all the way to the ceiling. The builders had simply patched the bricks where they were weak, and then plastered over them the way the Europeans do it, giving a solid hard stucco finish. The architect felt it was the right way to do it. It added solidity to the shell, and it gave better fireproofing and better soundproofing. But it also gave a foot-thick sandwich of stucco and brick and stucco between her and Reacher.

She loved him. She was in no doubt about that. No doubt at all. She always had, right from the start. But was that OK? Was it OK to love him the way she did? She had agonized over that question before. She had lain awake nights about it, many years ago. She had burned with shame about her feelings. The nine-year age gap was obscene. Shameful. She knew that. A fifteen-year-old should not feel that way about her own father's fellow officer. Army protocol had made it practically incestuous. It was like feeling that way about an uncle. Almost like feeling that way about her father himself. But she loved him. There was no doubt about it.

She was with him whenever she could. Talking with him whenever she could, touching him whenever she could. She had her own print of the self-timer photograph from Manila, her arm around his waist. She had kept it pressed in a book for fifteen years. Looked at it countless times. For years, she had fed off the feeling of touching him, hugging him hard for the camera. She still remembered the exact feel of him, his broad hard frame, his smell.

The feelings had never really gone away. She had wanted them to. She had wanted it just to be an adolescent thing, a teenage crush. But it wasn't. She knew that from the way the feelings endured. He had disappeared, she had grown up and moved on, but the feelings were always there. They had never receded, but they had eventually moved parallel to the main flow of her life. Always there, always real, always strong, but not necessarily connected with her day-to-day reality anymore. Like people she knew, lawyers or bankers, who had really wanted to be dancers or ballplayers. A dream from the past, unconnected with reality, but absolutely defining the identity of the person involved. A lawyer, who had wanted to be a dancer. A banker, who had wanted to be a ballplayer. A divorced thirty-year-old woman, who had wanted to be with Jack Reacher all along.

Yesterday should have been the worst day of her life. She had buried her father, her last relative on earth. She had been attacked by men with guns. People she knew were in therapy for much less. She should be prostrate with misery and shock. But she wasn't. Yesterday had been the best day of her life. He had appeared like a vision on the steps, behind the garage, above the yard. The noon sun directly over his head, illuminating him. Her heart had thumped and the old feelings had swarmed back into the center of her life, fiercer and stronger than ever, like a drug howling through her veins, like claps of thunder.

But it was all a waste of time. She knew it. She had to face it. He looked at her like a niece or a kid sister. Like the nine-year gap still counted for something. Which it no longer did. A couple aged fifteen and twenty-four would certainly have been a problem. But thirty and thirty-nine was perfectly OK. There were thousands of couples with gaps bigger than that. Millions of couples. There were guys aged seventy with twenty-year-old wives. But it still counted for something with him. Or maybe he was just too used to seeing her as Leon's kid. Like a niece. Like the CO's daughter. The rules of society or the protocol of the Army had blinded him to the possibility of seeing her any other way. She had always burned with resentment about that. She still did. Leon's affection for him, his claiming of him as his own, had taken him away from her. It had made it impossible from the start.

They had spent the day like brother and sister, like uncle and niece. Then he had turned all serious, like a bodyguard, like she was his professional responsibility. They had had fun, and he cared about her physical safety, but nothing more. There never would be anything more. And there was nothing she could do about it. Nothing. She had asked guys out. All women her age had. It was permissible. Accepted, even normal. But what could she say to him? What? What can a sister say to a brother or a niece to an uncle without causing outrage and shock and disgust? So it wasn't going to happen, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.

She stretched out in her bed and brought her hands up above her head. Laid her palms gently against the dividing wall and held them there. At least he was in her apartment, and at least she could dream.

THE GUY GOT less than three hours in the sack, by the time he sailed the boat single-handed back to the slip and closed it down and got back across town to bed. He was up again at six and back on the street by six-twenty, with a quick shower and no breakfast. The hand was wrapped in the plastic, parceled up in yesterday's Post and carried in a Zabar's bag he had from the last time he bought ingredients and made his own dinner at home.

He used the black Tahoe and made quick time past all the early-morning delivery people. He parked underground and rode up to the eighty-eighth floor. Tony the receptionist was already at the brass-and-oak counter. But he could tell from the stillness nobody else was in. He held up the Zabar's bag, like a trophy.

"I've got this for the Hook," he said.

"The Hook's not here today," Tony said.

"Great," the guy said, sourly.

"Stick it in the refrigerator," Tony said.

There was a small office kitchen off the reception lobby. It was cramped and messy, like office kitchens are. Coffee rings on the counters, mugs with stains on the inside. The refrigerator was a miniature item under the counter. The guy shoved milk and a six-pack aside and folded the bag into what space was left.

"Target for today is Mrs. Jacob," Tony said. He was now in the kitchen doorway. "We know where she lives. Lower Broadway, north of City Hall. Eight blocks from here. Neighbors say she always leaves at seven-twenty, walks to work."

"Which is where exactly?" the guy asked.

"Wall Street and Broadway," Tony said. "I'll drive, you grab her."

CHESTER STONE HAD driven home at the normal time and said nothing to Marilyn. There was nothing he could say. The speed of the collapse had left him bewildered. His whole world had turned inside out in a single twenty-four-hour period. He just couldn't get a handle on it. He planned to ignore it until the morning and then go see Hobie and try and talk some sense. In his heart he didn't believe he couldn't save himself. The corporation was ninety years old, for God's sake. Three generations of Chester Stones. There was too much there for it all to disappear overnight. So he said nothing and got through the evening in a daze.

Marilyn Stone said nothing to Chester, either. Too early for him to know she had taken charge. The circumstances had to be right for that discussion. It was an ego thing. She just bustled about, doing her normal evening things, and then tried to sleep while he lay awake beside her, staring at the ceiling.

WHEN JODIE PLACED her palms flat on the dividing wall. Reacher was in the shower. He had three distinct routines worked out for showering, and every morning he made a choice about which one to use. The first was a straight shower, nothing more. It took eleven minutes. The second was a shave and a shower, twenty-two minutes. The third was a special procedure, rarely used. It involved showering once, then getting out and shaving, and then showering all over again. It took more than a half hour, but the advantage was moisturization. Some girl had explained the shave was better if the skin was already thoroughly moisturized. And she had said it can't hurt any to shampoo twice.

He was using the special procedure. Shower, shave, shower. It felt good. Jodie's guest bathroom was big and tall, and the showerhead was set high enough for him to stand upright under it, which was unusual. There were bottles of shampoo, neatly lined up. He suspected they were brands she had tried and hadn't liked, relegated to the guest room. But he didn't care. He found one that claimed to be aimed at dry, sun-damaged hair. He figured that was exactly what he needed. He ladled it on and lathered up. Scrubbed his body all over with some kind of yellow soap and rinsed. Dripped all over the floor as he shaved at the sink. He did it carefully, right up from his collarbones, around the bottom of his nose, sideways, backward, forward. Then back into the shower all over again.

He spent five minutes on his teeth with the new toothbrush. The bristles were hard, and it felt like they were doing some good in there. Then he dried off and shook the creases out of his new clothes. Put the pants on without the shirt and wandered through to the kitchen for something to eat.

Jodie was in there. She was fresh from the shower, too. Her hair was dark with water and hanging straight down. She was wearing an oversize white T-shirt that finished an inch above her knees. The material was thin. Her legs were long and smooth. Her feet were bare. She was very slender, except where she shouldn't be. He caught his breath.

"Morning, Reacher," she said.

"Morning, Jodie," he said back.

She was looking at him. Her eyes were all over him. Something in her face.

"That blister," she said. "Looks worse."

He squinted down. It was still red and angry. Spreading slightly, and puffy.

"You put the ointment on?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"Forgot," he said.

"Get it," she said.

He went back to his bathroom and found it in the brown bag. Brought it back to the kitchen. She took it from him and unscrewed the cap. Pierced the metal seal with the plastic spike and squeezed a dot of the salve onto the pad of her index finger. She was concentrating on it, tongue between her teeth. She stepped in front of him and raised her hand. Touched the blister gently and rubbed with her fingertip. He stared rigidly over her head. She was a foot away from him. Naked under her shirt. Rubbing his bare chest with her fingertip. He wanted to take her in his arms. He wanted to lift her off her feet and crush her close. Kiss her gently, starting with her neck. He wanted to turn her face up to his and kiss her mouth. She was rubbing small gentle circles on his chest. He could smell her hair, damp and glossy. He could smell her skin. She was tracing her finger the length of the burn. A foot away from him, naked under her shirt. He gasped and clenched his hands. She stepped away.

"Hurting?" she asked.


"Was I hurting you?"

He saw her fingertip, shiny from the grease.

"A little," he said.

She nodded.

"I'm sorry," she said. "But you needed it."

He nodded back.

"I guess," he said.

Then the crisis was past. She screwed the cap back on the tube and he moved away, just to be moving. He pulled the refrigerator door and took a bottle of water. Found a banana in a bowl on the counter. She put the tube of ointment on the table.

"I'll go get dressed," she said. "We should get moving."

"OK," he said. "I'll be ready."

She disappeared back into her bedroom and he drank the water and ate the fruit. Wandered back to his bedroom and shrugged the shirt on and tucked it in. Found his socks and shoes and jacket. Strolled through to the living room to wait. He pulled the blind all the way up and unlocked the window and pushed it up. Leaned right out and scanned the street four floors below.

Very different in the early daylight. The shiny neon wash was gone, and the sun was coming over the buildings opposite and bouncing around in the street. The lazy nighttime knots of people were gone, too, replaced by purposeful striding workers heading north and south with paper cups of coffee and muffins clutched in napkins. Cabs were grinding down through the traffic and honking at the lights to make them change. There was a gentle breeze and he could smell the river.

The building was on the west side of lower Broadway. Traffic was one-way, to the south, running left to right under the window. Jodie's normal walk to work would give her a right turn out of her lobby, walking with the traffic. She would keep to the right-hand sidewalk, to stay in the sun. She would cross Broadway at a light maybe six or seven blocks down. Walk the last couple of blocks on the left-hand sidewalk and then make the left turn, east down Wall Street to her office.

So how would they aim to grab her up? Think like the enemy. Think like the two guys. Physical, unsubtle, favoring a direct approach, willing and dangerous, but not really schooled beyond the point of amateur enthusiasm. It was pretty clear what they would do. They would have a four-door vehicle waiting in a side street maybe three blocks south, parked in the right lane, facing east, ready to swoop out and hang the right on Broadway. They would be waiting together in the front seats, silent. They would be scanning left to right through the windshield, watching the crosswalk in front of them. They would expect to see her hurrying across, or pausing and waiting for the signal. They would wait a beat and ease out and make the right turn. Driving slow. They would fall in behind her. Pull level. Pull ahead. Then the guy in the passenger seat would be out, grabbing her, opening the rear door, forcing her inside, cramming himself in after her. One smooth, brutal movement. A crude tactic, but not difficult. Not difficult at all. More or less guaranteed to succeed, depending on the target and the level of awareness. Reacher had done the same thing, many times, with targets bigger and stronger and more aware than Jodie. Once, he had done it with Leon himself at the wheel.

He bent forward from the waist and put his whole upper body out through the window. Craned his head around to the right and gazed down the street. Looked hard at the corners, two and three and four blocks south. It would be one of those.

"Ready," Jodie called to him.

THEY RODE DOWN ninety floors together to the underground garage. Walked through to the right zone and over to the bays leased along with Hobie's office suite.

"We should take the Suburban," the enforcer said. "Bigger."

"OK," Tony said. He unlocked it and slid into the driver's seat. The enforcer hoisted himself into the passenger seat. Glanced back at the empty load bed. Tony fired it up and eased out toward the ramp to the street.

"So how do we do this?" Tony asked.

The guy smiled confidently. "Easy enough. She'll be walking south on Broadway. We'll wait around a corner until we see her. Couple of blocks south of her building. We see her pass by on the crosswalk, we pull around the comer, get alongside her, and that's that, right?"

"Wrong," Tony said. "We'll do it different."

The guy looked across at him. "Why?"

Tony squealed the big car up and out into the sunlight.

"Because you're not very smart," he said. "If that's how you'd do it, there's got to be a better way, right? You screwed up in Garrison. You'll screw up here. She's probably got this Reacher guy with her. He beat you there, he'll beat you here. So whatever you figure is the best way to do it, that's the last thing we're going to do."

"So how are we going to do it?"

"I'll explain it to you real careful," Tony said. "I'll try to keep it real simple."

REACHER SLID THE window back down. Clicked the lock and rattled the blind down into position. She was standing just inside the doorway, hair still darkened by the shower, dressed in a simple sleeveless linen dress, bare legs, plain shoes. The dress was the same color as her wet hair, but would end up darker as her hair dried. She was carrying a purse and a large leather briefcase, the size he had seen commercial pilots using. It was clearly heavy. She put it down and ducked away to her garment bag, which was on the floor against a wall, where he had dumped it the previous night. She slid the envelope containing Leon's will out of the pocket and unclicked the lid of the briefcase and stowed it inside.

"Want me to carry that?" he asked.

She smiled and shook her head.

"Union town," she said. "Bodyguarding doesn't include drayage around here."

"It looks pretty heavy," he said.

"I'm a big girl now," she replied, looking at him.

He nodded. Lifted the old iron bar out of its brackets and left it upright. She leaned past him and turned the locks. The same perfume, subtle and feminine. Her shoulders in the dress were slim, almost thin. Small muscles in her left arm were bunching to balance the heavy case.

"What sort of law you got in there?" he asked.

"Financial," she said.

He eased the door open. Glanced out. The hallway was empty. The elevator indicator was showing somebody heading down to the street from three.

"What sort of financial?"

They stepped across and called the elevator.

"Debt rescheduling, mostly," she said. "I'm more of a negotiator than a lawyer, really. More like a counselor or a mediator, you know?"

He didn't know. He had never been in debt. Not out of any innate virtue, but simply because he had never had the opportunity. All the basics had been provided for him by the Army. A roof over his head, food on his plate. He had never gotten into the habit of wanting much more. But he'd known guys who had run into trouble. They bought houses with mortgages and cars on time payment plans. Sometimes they got behind. The company clerk would sort it out. Talk to the bank, deduct the necessary provision straight from the guy's paycheck. But he guessed that was small-time, compared to what she must deal with.

"Millions of dollars?" he asked.

The elevator arrived. The doors slid open.

"At least," she said. "Usually tens of millions, sometimes hundreds."

The elevator was empty. They stepped inside.

"Enjoy it?" he asked.

The elevator whined downward.

"Sure," she said. "A person needs a job, it's as good as she's going to get."

The elevator settled with a bump.

"You good at it?"

She nodded.

"Yes," she said simply. "Best there is on Wall Street, no doubt about that."

He smiled. She was Leon's daughter, that was for damn sure.

The elevator doors slid open. An empty lobby, the street door sucking shut, a broad woman heading slowly down the steps to the sidewalk.

"Car keys?" he said.

She had them in her hand. A big bunch of keys on a brass ring.

"Wait here," he said. "I'll back it up to the stairs. One minute."

The door from the lobby to the garage opened from the inside with a push bar. He went through and down the metal steps and scanned ahead into the gloom as he walked. Nobody there. At least, nobody visible. He walked confidently to the wrong car, a big dark Chrysler something, two spaces from Jodie's jeep. He dropped flat to the floor and looked across, under the intervening vehicles. Nothing there. Nobody hiding on the floor. He got up again and squeezed around the Chrysler's hood. Around the next car. He dropped to the floor again, jammed up in the space between the Oldsmobile's tailgate and the wall. Craned his head down and looked for wires where there shouldn't be wires. All clear. No booby traps.

He unlocked the door and slid in. Fired it up and eased into the aisle. Backed up level with the bottom of the stairs. Leaned across inside and sprang the passenger door as she came through from the lobby behind him. She skipped down the steps and climbed straight in the car, all one smooth fluid movement. She slammed the door and he took off forward and made the right up the ramp and the right on the street.

The morning sun in the east flashed once in his eyes, and then he was through it, heading south. The first corner was thirty yards ahead. Traffic was slow. Not stopped, just slow. The light caught him three cars back from the turn. He was in the right lane, and he had no angle to see into the mouth of the cross street. Traffic poured right to left out of it, ahead of him, three cars away. He could see the far stream was slowed, spilling around some kind of obstacle. Maybe a parked vehicle. Maybe a parked four-door, just waiting there for something. Then the sideways flow stopped, and the light on Broadway went green.

He drove across the intersection with his head turned, half an eye ahead, and the rest of his attention focused sideways. Nothing there. No parked four-door. The obstruction was a striped sawhorse placed against an open manhole. There was a power company truck ten yards farther down the street. A gaggle of workmen on the sidewalk, drinking soda from cans. The traffic ground on. Stopped again, for the next light. He was four cars back.

This was not the street. The traffic pattern was wrong. It was flowing west, left to right in front of him. He had a good view out to his left. He could see fifty yards down the street. Nothing there. Not this one. It was going to be the next one.

Ideally he would have liked to do more than just drive straight by the two guys. A better idea would be to track around the block and come up behind them. Ditch the jeep a hundred yards away and stroll up on them from the rear. They would be craning forward, watching the crosswalk through the windshield. He could take a good look at them, as long as he wanted. He could even get right in their car with them. The rear doors would be unlocked, for sure. The guys would be staring straight ahead. He could slip in behind them and plant a hand on the side of each head and bang them together like a bandsman letting rip with the cymbals. Then he could do it again, and again, and again, until they started answering some basic questions.

But he wasn't going to do that. Concentrate on the job in hand was his rule. The job in hand was getting Jodie to her office, safe and secure. Bodyguarding was about defense. Start mixing offense in with it, and neither thing gets done properly. Like he had told her, he used to do this for a living. He was trained in it. Very well trained, and very experienced. So he was going to stay defensive, and he was going to count it a major victory to see her walking in through her office door, all safe and secure. And he was going to stay quiet about how much trouble she was in. He didn't want her worrying about it. No reason why whatever Leon had started should end up giving her any kind of anguish. Leon would not have wanted that. Leon would have just wanted him to handle everything. So that was how he was going to do it. Deliver her to the office door, no long explanations, no gloomy warnings.

The light went green. The first car took off, then the second. Then the third. He eased forward. Checked the gap ahead of him and craned his head right. Were they there? The cross street was narrow. Two lanes of stopped traffic, waiting at the light. Nothing parked up in the right lane. Nothing waiting. They weren't there. He moved slowly through the whole width of the intersection, scanning right. Nobody there. He breathed out and relaxed and faced forward. There was a huge metallic bang. A tremendous loud metallic punch in his back. Tearing sheet metal, instant violent acceleration. The jeep was hurled forward and smashed into the vehicle ahead and stopped dead. The airbags exploded. He saw Jodie bouncing off her seat and crashing against the tension of her belt, her body stopping abruptly, her head still cannoning forward. Then it was bouncing backward off the airbag and whipping and smashing into the headrest behind her. He noticed her face was fixed in space exactly alongside his, with the inside of the car blurring and whirling and spinning past it, because his head was doing exactly the same things as hers.

The twin impacts had torn his hands off the wheel. The airbag was collapsing in front of him. He dragged his eyes to the mirror and saw a giant black hood buried in the back of the jeep. The top of a shiny chrome grille, bent out of shape. Some huge four-wheel-drive truck. One guy in it, visible behind the tinted screen. Not a guy he knew. Cars were honking behind them and traffic was pulling left and steering around the obstruction. Faces were turning to stare. There was a loud hissing somewhere. Steam from his radiator, or maybe ringing from his ears after the enormous sudden sounds. The guy behind was getting out of the four-wheel-drive. Hands held up in apology, worry and fright in his face. He was folding himself around his door, out there in the slow traffic stream, walking up toward Reacher's window, glancing sideways at the tangle of sheet metal as he passed. A woman was getting out of the sedan in front, looking dazed and angry. The traffic was snarling around them. The air was shimmering from overheated motors and loud with horns blasting. Jodie was upright in her seat, feeling the back of her neck with her fingers.

"You OK?" he asked her.

She thought about it for a long moment, and then she nodded.

"I'm OK," she said. "You?"

"Fine," he said.

She poked at the collapsed airbag with her finger, fascinated.

"These things really work, you know that?"

"First time I ever saw one deploy," he said.

"Me too."

Then there was rapping on the driver's-side window. The guy from behind was standing there, knocking urgently with his knuckles. Reacher stared out at him. The guy was gesturing for him to open up, urgently, like he was anxious about something.

"Shit," Reacher yelled.

He stamped on the gas. The jeep struggled forward, pushing against the woman's wrecked sedan. It made a yard, slewing to the left, sheet metal screeching.

"Hell are you doing?" Jodie screamed.

The guy had his hand on the door handle. His other hand in his pocket.

"Get down," Reacher shouted.

He found reverse and howled back the yard he'd made and smashed into the four-wheel-drive behind. The new impact won him another foot. He shoved the selector into drive and spun the wheel and barged left. Smashed into the rear quarter of the sedan in a new shower of glass. Traffic behind was swerving and slewing all over again. He glanced right and one of the guys he'd seen in Key West and Garrison was at the window with his hand on Jodie's door. He stamped on the gas and hurled the jeep backward, spinning the wheel. The guy kept tight hold, jerked backward by his arm, flung off his feet by the violent motion. Reacher smashed all the way backward into the black truck and bounced off again forward, screaming the motor, spinning the wheel. The guy was up again, still gripping the door handle, jerking and hauling, spare arm and legs flailing, like he was a wrangler and the jeep was a wild young steer in a desperate fight out of a trap. Reacher mashed the pedal and angled out forward close to the rear comer of the woman's wrecked sedan and scraped the guy off against the trunk. The fender took him at the knees and he somersaulted and his head came down on the rear glass. In the mirror Reacher saw a blur of flailing arms and legs as his momentum carried him up over the roof. Then he was gone, sprawling back to the sidewalk.

"Watch out!" Jodie screamed.

The guy from the truck was still there at the driver's window. Reacher was out in the traffic stream, but the traffic stream was slow and the guy was just running fast beside him, struggling to free something from his pocket. Reacher swerved left and came in parallel to a panel truck in the next lane. The guy was still running, skipping sideways, holding the door handle, coming out with something from his pocket. Reacher jammed left again and thumped him hard against the side of the truck. He heard a dull boom as the guy's head hit the metal and then he was gone. The truck jammed to a panic stop and Reacher hauled left and got in front of it. Broadway was a solid mass of traffic. Ahead of him was a shimmering patchwork of metallic colors, sedan roofs winking in the sun, dodging left, dodging right, crawling forward, fumes rising, horns blasting. He hauled left again and turned and went through a crosswalk against the light, a crowd of jostling people skittering out of his way. The jeep was juddering and bouncing and pulling hard to the right. The temperature gauge was off the scale. Steam was boiling up through the gaps around the buckled hood. The collapsed airbag was hanging down to his knees. He jerked forward and hauled left again and jammed into an alley full of restaurant waste. Boxes, empty drums of cooking oil, rough wooden trays piled with spoiled vegetables. He buried the nose in a pile of cartons. They spilled down on the wrecked hood and bounced off the windshield. He killed the motor and pulled the keys.

He had put it too close to the wall for Jodie's door to open. He grabbed her briefcase and her purse and threw them out through his door. Squeezed out after them and turned back for her. She was scrambling across the seats behind him. Her dress was riding up. He grabbed her around the waist and she ducked her head to his shoulder and he lifted her through the gap. She clung on hard, bare legs around his waist. He turned and ran her six feet away. She weighed nothing at all. He set her on her feet and ducked back for her bags. She was smoothing her dress over her thighs. Breathing hard. Damp hair all over the place.

"How did you know?" she gasped. "That it wasn't an accident?"

He gave her the purse and carried the heavy briefcase himself. Led her by the hand back down the alley to the street, panting with adrenaline rush.

"Talk while we walk," he said.

They turned left and headed east for Lafayette. The morning sun was in their eyes, the river breeze in their faces. Behind them, they could hear the traffic snarl on Broadway. They walked together fifty yards, breathing hard, calming down.

"How did you know?"

"Statistics, I guess. What were the chances we'd be in an accident on the exact same morning we figured there were guys out looking for us? Million to one, at best."

She nodded. A slight smile on her face. Head up, shoulders back, recovering fast. No trace of shock. She was Leon's daughter, that was for damn sure.

"You were great," she said. "You reacted so fast."

He shook his head as he walked.

"No, I was shit," he said. "Dumb as hell. One mistake after another. They changed personnel. Some new guy in charge. I never even thought about that. I was figuring what the original pair of assholes might do, never even thought about them putting in somebody smarter. And whoever that guy was, he was pretty smart. It was a good plan, almost worked. I never saw it coming. Then when it happened, I still wasted a shitload of time talking to you about the damn airbags deploying."

"Don't feel bad," she said.

"I do feel bad. Leon had a basic rule: Do it right. Thank God he wasn't there to see that screwup. He'd have been ashamed of me."

He saw her face cloud over. Realized what he'd said.

"I'm sorry. I just can't make myself believe he's dead."

They came out on Lafayette. Jodie was at the curb, scanning for a cab.

"Well, he is," she said, gently. "We'll get used to it, I guess."

He nodded. "And I'm sorry about your car. I should have seen it coming."

She shrugged. "It's only leased. I'll get them to send another one just like it. Now I know it stands up in a collision, right? Maybe a red one."

"You should report it stolen," he said. "Call the cops and say it wasn't there in the garage when you went for it this morning."

"That's fraud," she said.

"No, that's smart. Remember I can't afford for the cops to be asking me questions about this. I don't even carry a driver's license."

She thought about it. Then she smiled. Like a kid sister smiles when she's forgiving her big brother for some kind of waywardness, he thought.

"OK," she said. "I'll call them from the office."

"The office? You're not going to the damn office."

"Why not?" she said, surprised.

He waved vaguely west, back toward Broadway. "After what happened there? I want you where I can see you, Jodie."

"I need to go to work, Reacher," she said. "And be logical. The office hasn't become unsafe just because of what happened over there. It's a completely separate proposition, right? The office is still as safe now as it always was. And you were happy for me to go there before, so what's changed?"

He looked at her. He wanted to say everything's changed. Because whatever Leon started with some old couple from a cardiology clinic has now got halfway-competent professionals mixed in with it. Halfway-competent professionals who were about half a second away from winning this morning. And he wanted to say: I love you and you're in danger and I don't want you anyplace I can't be looking out for you. But he couldn't say any of that. Because he had committed himself to keeping it all away from her. All of it, the love and the danger. So he just shrugged, lamely.

"You should come with me," he said.

"Why? To help?"

He nodded. "Yes, help me with these old folks. They'll talk to you, because you're Leon's daughter."

"You want me with you because I'm Leon's daughter?"

He nodded again. She spotted a cab and waved it down.

"Wrong answer, Reacher," she said.

HE ARGUED WITH her, but he got nowhere. Her mind was made up, and she wouldn't change it. The best he could do was to get her to solve his immediate problem and rent him a car, with her gold card and her license. They took the cab up to midtown and found a Hertz office. He waited outside in the sun for a quarter hour and then she came around the block in a brand-new Taurus and picked him up. She drove all the way back downtown on Broadway. They passed by her building and passed by the scene of the ambush three blocks south. The damaged vehicles were gone. There were shards of glass in the gutter and oil stains on the blacktop, but that was all. She drove on south and parked next to a hydrant opposite her office door. Left the motor running and racked the seat all the way back, ready for the change of driver.

"OK," she said. "You'll pick me up here, about seven o'clock?"

"That late?"

"I'm starting late," she said. "I'll have to finish late."

"Don't leave the building, OK?"

He got out on the sidewalk and watched her all the way inside. There was a broad paved area in front of the building. She skipped across it, bare legs flashing and dancing under the dress. She turned and smiled and waved. Pushed sideways through the revolving door, swinging her heavy case. It was a tall building, maybe sixty stories. Probably dozens of suites rented to dozens of separate firms, maybe hundreds. But the situation looked like it might be safe enough. There was a wide reception counter immediately inside the revolving door. A line of security guys sitting behind it, and behind them was a solid glass screen, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with one opening in it, operated by a buzzer under their counter. Behind the screen were the elevators. No way in, unless the security guys saw fit to let you in. He nodded to himself. It might be safe enough. Maybe. It would depend on the diligence of the doormen. He saw her talking to one of them, head bent, blond hair falling forward. Then she was walking to the door in the screen, waiting, pushing it. She went through to the elevators. Hit a button. A door slid open. She backed in, levering her case over the threshold with both hands. The door slid shut.

He waited out on the paved area for a minute. Then he hurried across and shouldered in through the revolving door. Strode over to the counter like he did it every day of his life. Picked on the oldest security guy. The oldest ones are usually the most sloppy. The younger ones still entertain hopes of advancement.

"They want me up at Spencer Gutman," he said, looking at his watch.

"Name?" the old guy asked.

"Lincoln," Reacher said.

The guy was grizzled and tired, but he did what he was supposed to do. He picked a clipboard out of a slot and studied it.

"You got an appointment?"

"They just paged me," Reacher said. "Some kind of a big hurry, I guess."

"Lincoln, like the car?"

"Like the president," Reacher said.

The old guy nodded and ran a thick finger down a long list of names.

"You're not on the list," he said. "I can't let you in, without your name on the list."

"I work for Costello," Reacher said. "They need me upstairs, like right now."

"I could call them," the guy said. "Who paged you?"

Reacher shrugged. "Mr. Spencer, I guess. He's who I usually see."

The guy looked offended. Placed the clipboard back in its slot.

"Mr. Spencer died ten years ago," he said. "You want to come in, you get yourself a proper appointment, OK?"

Reacher nodded. The place was safe enough. He turned on his heel and headed back to the car.

MARILYN STONE WAITED until Chester's Mercedes was out of sight and then she ran back to the house and got to work. She was a serious woman, and she knew a possible six-week gap between listing and closing was going to need some serious input.

Her first call was to the cleaning service. The house was already perfectly clean, but she was going to move some furniture out. She took the view that presenting a house slightly empty of furniture created an impression of spaciousness. It made it seem even larger than it was. And it avoided trapping a potential buyer into preconceptions about what would look good, and what wouldn't. For instance, the Italian credenza in the hallway was the perfect piece for that hallway, but she didn't want a potential buyer to think the hallway wouldn't work any other way. Better to just have nothing there, and let the buyer's imagination fill the gap, maybe with a piece she already had.

So if she was going to move furniture out, she needed the cleaning service to attend to the spaces left behind. A slight lack of furniture created a spacious look, but obvious gaps created a sad look. So she called them, and she called the moving and storage people, too, because she was going to have to put the displaced stuff somewhere. Then she called the pool service, and the gardeners. She wanted them there every morning until further notice, for an hour's work every day. She needed the yard looking absolutely at its best. Even at this end of the market, she knew curb appeal was king.

Then she tried to remember other stuff she'd read, or things people had told her about. Flowers, of course, in vases, all over the place. She called the florist. She remembered somebody saying saucers of window cleaner neutralized all the little stray smells any house generates. Something to do with the ammonia. She remembered reading that putting a handful of coffee beans in a hot oven made a wonderful welcoming smell. So she put a new packet in her utensil drawer, ready. She figured if she put some in the oven each time Sheryl called to say she was on her way over with clients, that would be timing it about right, in terms of aroma. Copyright 2016 - 2024