Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(3)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(3)
Author: Lee Child

If she was calling for urgent assistance, it wasn't because she had lost her car keys.

She worked for a private security provider in Chicago. He knew that. At least she had four years ago, which was the last time he had come into contact with her. She had left the army a year later than he had and gone into business with someone she knew. As a partner, he guessed, not an employee.

He dug back in his pocket and came out with more quarters. Dialed long distance information. Asked for Chicago. Gave the company name, as he remembered it. The human operator disappeared and a robot voice came on the line with a number. Reacher broke the connection and redialed. A receptionist responded and Reacher asked for Frances Neagley. He was answered politely and put on hold. Altogether his impression was of a larger operation than he had imagined. He had pictured a single room, a grimy window, maybe two battered desks, bulging file cabinets. But the receptionist's measured voice and the telephone clicks and the quiet hold music spoke of a much bigger place. Maybe two floors, cool white corridors, wall art, an internal phone directory.

A man's voice came on the line: "Frances Neagley's office."

Reacher asked, "Is she there?"

"May I know who's calling?"

"Jack Reacher."

"Good. Thank you for getting in touch."

"Who are you?"

"I'm Ms. Neagley's assistant."

"She has an assistant?"


"Is she there?"

"She's en route to Los Angeles. In the air right now, I think."

"Is there a message for me?"

"She wants to see you as soon as possible."

"In Chicago?"

"She'll be in LA a few days at least. I think you should go there."

"What's this all about?"

"I don't know."

"Not work related?"

"Can't be. She'd have started a file. Discussed it here. She wouldn't be reaching out to strangers."

"I'm not a stranger. I've known her longer than you have."

"I'm sorry. I wasn't aware of that."

"Where is she staying in LA?"

"I don't know that either."

"So how am I supposed to find her?"

"She said you'd be able to track her down."

Reacher asked, "What is this, some kind of a test?"

"She said if you can't find her, she doesn't want you."

"Is she OK?"

"She's worried about something. But she didn't tell me what."

Reacher kept the receiver at his ear and turned away from the wall. The metal phone cord wrapped around his chest. He glanced at the idling buses and the departures board. He asked, "Who else is she reaching out to?"

The guy said, "There's a list of names. You're the first to get back to her."

"Will she call you when she lands?"


"Tell her I'm on my way."


Reacher took a shuttle from the bus depot to the Portland airport and bought a one-way ticket on United to LAX. He used his passport for ID and his ATM card as a debit card. The one-way walk-up fare was outrageous. Alaska Airlines would have been cheaper, but Reacher hated Alaska Airlines. They put a scripture card on their meal trays. Ruined his appetite.

Airport security was easy for Reacher. His carry-on baggage amounted to precisely none at all. He had no belt, no keys, no cell phone, no watch. All he had to do was dump his loose change in a plastic tray and take off his shoes and walk through the X-ray hoop. Thirty seconds, beginning to end. Then he was on his way to the gate, coins back in his pocket, shoes back on his feet, Neagley on his mind.

Not work related. Therefore, private business. But as far as he was aware she had no private business. No private life. She never had. She would have everyday trivia, he guessed, and everyday problems. Like anyone. But he couldn't conceive of her needing help with any of that kind of stuff. A noisy neighbor? Any sane man would sell his stereo after one short conversation with Frances Neagley. Or give it away to charity. Drug dealers on her corner? They would end up as a line item on an inside page of the morning newspaper, corpses found in an alley, multiple knife wounds, no suspects at this time. A stalker? A groper on the elevated train? Reacher shuddered. Neagley hated to be touched. He didn't really know why. But anything except brief accidental contact with her would earn a guy a broken arm. Maybe two broken arms.

So what was her problem?

The past, he guessed, which meant the army.

A list of names? Maybe chickens were coming home to roost. The army seemed like a long time ago to Reacher. A different era, a different world. Different rules. Maybe someone was applying today's standards to yesterday's situations, and complaining about something. Maybe a long-delayed internal inquiry had started up. Reacher's special investigations unit had cut a lot of corners and busted a lot of heads. Someone, maybe Neagley herself, had come up with a catchphrase: You do not mess with the special investigators. It had been repeated endlessly, as a promise, and a warning. Deadpan, and deadly serious.

Now maybe someone was messing with the special investigators. Maybe subpoenas and indictments were flying around. But in that case why would Neagley compromise him? He was as close to untraceable as a human being in America could get. Wouldn't she just play dumb and leave him be?

He shook his head and gave it up and got on the plane.

He used the flight time figuring out where in LA she would hole up. Back in the day it had been part of his job to find people, and he had been pretty good at it. Success depended on empathy. Think like them, feel like them. See what they see. Put yourself in their shoes. Be them.

Easier with AWOL soldiers, of course. Their aimlessness gave their decisions a special kind of purity. And they were heading away from something, not toward something. Often they would adopt a kind of unconscious geographic symbolism. If their route into a city was from the east, they would hole up on the west. They would want to put mass between themselves and their pursuers. Reacher would spend an hour with a map and a bus schedule and the Yellow Pages and often he would predict the exact block he would find them on. The exact motel.

Tougher with Neagley, because she was heading for something. Her private business, and he didn't know where or what it was. So, first principles. What did he know about her? What would be the determining factor? Well, she was cheap. Not because she was poor or a miser, but because she didn't see the point in spending a buck on something she didn't need. And she didn't need much. She didn't need turn-down service or a mint on the pillow. She didn't need room service or tomorrow's weather forecast. She didn't need fluffy robes and complementary slippers heat-sealed in cellophane. All she needed was a bed and a door that locked. And crowds, and shadows, and the kind of anonymous low-rent transient neighborhoods where bartenders and desk clerks had short memories.

So, scratch downtown. Not Beverly Hills, either.

So where? Where in the vastness of LA would she be comfortable?

There were twenty-one thousand miles of surface streets to choose from.

Reacher asked himself, Where would I go?

Hollywood, he answered. A little ways south and east of the good stuff. The wrong stretch of Sunset.

That's where I would go, he thought.

And that's where she'll be.

The plane landed at LAX a little late, well after lunch. There had been no meal service on board and Reacher was hungry. Samantha the Portland prosecutor had served him coffee and a bran muffin for breakfast, but that seemed like a long time ago.

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