MatchUp, p.10Lee Child
Tuesday morning. Where were you during those hours?”
“Asleep in my room at the Marriott.”
“Can anyone verify?”
“That’s a rather personal question.” Icy.
“Murder is a rather personal crime.”
“I was alone.”
“Your prints were on the plastic bag used to asphyxiate Yeow. That bag came from a CVS pharmacy. You were caught on surveillance video at four fifteen Monday afternoon at a CVS pharmacy on Connecticut Avenue.”
“It’s illegal to buy toothpaste?”
“Did you retain the bag that held your”—Dupreau hooked quotation marks—‘toothpaste’?”
“I keep all my trash. Don’t you?”
“Can you explain how your prints came to be on that bag?”
Luong jumped in. “My client has a busy schedule. Can we move this along?”
“Your client’s attitude is causing me to lose patience.” Little eyes drilling Brennan. “You don’t want that.”
Brennan took a breath to respond. Luong hushed her with a raised palm.
“Have you anything else, Special Agent Dupreau? An eyewitness? Evidence of contact between Dr. Brennan and the victim? Cell-phone records? E-mails?”
“The investigation is ongoing.”
“Were Dr. Brennan’s prints found elsewhere at the scene?”
“Was Dr. Brennan seen near Mr. Yeow’s home? Caught on Yeow’s security system? That of a bank? A school? A parking lot? A neighbor?”
Things moved behind the little eyes, but Dupreau said nothing.
“I take that to mean no,” Luong said.
“The investigation is ongoing.”
“I see. Will you be charging my client at this time?”
“I thought not.” Luong rose. Brennan rose. “My client has nothing further to say.”
Luong grabbed her briefcase, Brennan her purse. Both headed for the door.
Dupreau spoke to their retreating backs. “Dr. Brennan.”
She turned, one hand on the knob.
“Until further notice, you are to remain in Washington.”
“I’ll cancel my trip to Chernobyl.”
They left Dupreau gathering his meaningless papers.
REACHER WAS IN THE HALL. Luong left Brennan standing on her own for a minute. She walked over and Reacher said, “How was it?”
Luong said, “It was good, but not real good. I’ve seen people go to prison for less. Sometimes things go crazy. Nothing you can do.”
“But they still didn’t arrest her.”
“Got any paralegal work for me?”
“Yes,” Luong said. “You know the law from a cop’s point of view. You’ve got to stop her giving them a reason. You’re her personal legal counsel. Don’t let her say the wrong thing.”
Luong walked away, and Reacher stepped across the hall to where Brennan was waiting.
She said, “What?”
He said, “Apparently I’m your personal legal counsel.”
She didn’t reply. Just walked. Reacher followed. They exited onto the small red plaza. The sky was leaden and appeared to be contemplating snow. Maybe sleet.
Brennan thumbed her phone for an Uber. The app promised Miguel in a Honda in seven minutes. He pulled up in six. They were back at the Marriott by ten.
Neither Brennan nor Reacher had eaten. Both were hungry. They crossed the football field lobby and found a restaurant that was serving breakfast.
Every table was full, but two women were leaving. Each wore a pantsuit made of polyester born at the dark end of the spectrum, solid shoes. Each carried a canvas bag bearing the AAFS logo and wore a neck lanyard dangling a badge. One identified its owner as S. Miller, the other as T. Southam. Colored ribbons hung from the badges. Miller had more than Southam.
Brennan ordered a cheese omelet. Reacher got pancakes with eggs and bacon. Both asked for plain coffee. Which seemed to disappoint Marsha, the waitress. Her badge was bronze and pinned to her ample chest.
“What is it you intend to do, Mr. Reacher?” When Marsha was out of earshot.
“Let’s go at it differently. Why are you here?”
“I believe you’re going to need it.”
“So you’ve said.”
“That’s why you’ve agreed to work for Luong.”
“I’m doing it for the money.”
Brennan didn’t laugh.
“Being employed by Luong legitimizes my presence,” Reacher said.
“I didn’t fudge data or make a mistake,” Brennan said. “Massee shot himself.”
Their food arrived. They peppered and salted and accepted refills on the disappointing coffee. Which was pretty good.
“How did you learn about Yeow’s murder?” Brennan asked, when Marsha had again withdrawn.
“A radio news report.”
“A Washington station?”
She waited for Reacher to elaborate. He didn’t. But she grasped the implication. Media coverage wasn’t just local. Not good. The story would catch fire, the press would go raw dog and she would end up their meat.
“You really think the DOD plans to make me a scapegoat?”
“I think it’s a strong possibility.”
“To hide the fact that it ordered Massee’s execution.”
“To stop people talking about it.”
“Did the report say I’d been arrested?”
“It implied that was coming.”
“Now that you’ve heard the evidence against me, will you move on?”
“Do you think I should?”
A man wove toward the table beside theirs. Brennan and Reacher both tracked him. Same reflex. Same discreet eyes.
“What if the radio hadn’t been on?” Brennan asked, voice even lower than before.
“I read yesterday’s papers.”
“And you felt duty bound to come.”
Brennan chewed on that. And her eggs. Reacher dabbed yolk with his toast. Around them people argued chain of custody and DNA and bitemark analysis. Some consulted programs. Some talked on cell phones.
“You said you were in the army in March of 1987. Stationed in Germany.”
“I was,” Reacher said.
“Did you know Calder Massee?”
“I knew of him.”
“I don’t like drama, Mr. Reacher.” A note of something. Annoyance. Frustration. Unease.
“I don’t do drama.”
“There are things you are unwilling or unable to share.”
“Yet here you are.”
“What can you share?”
“You were right.”
“Massee shot himself.”
“How could you know?” Dubious.
Reacher laid down his fork, bunched his napkin, and leaned into his chair back.
He said, “I was there.”
Over more plain coffee, Brennan and Reacher agreed on three main points.
A media frenzy would destroy Brennan’s career. Maybe get her charged, perhaps convicted.
Dupreau and Szewczk were under pressure from forces far up the pay scale. She could expect no help from that quarter.
To clear her name, and avoid jail, she needed to find Yeow’s killer on her own.
Reacher repeated his desire to help. Brennan admitted her skill set was better suited to the lab than the streets. Reacher assured her he had that end covered. That her analytical thinking would be their biggest asset.
For the first time that day, Brennan smiled. She li
That made four points.
They debated options. Concurred that a logical starting point was Yeow’s editor.
She ordered an Uber and they headed for the lobby.
BRENNAN AND REACHER PUSHED THROUGH the glass doors and stepped out under the portico. The air was cold and heavy with moisture off the Potomac. The clouds, though darker and more bloated than earlier, still refused to commit.
A babble of voices and car horns caught their attention.
To their left, portable barriers stretched across the drive sweeping up from Woodley Road. Hotel personnel were checking vehicles before waving them on to the broad paved area used for loading and unloading guests.
Brennan and Reacher glanced right.
Same improv security.
A nanosecond of surprise, then understanding.
Beyond the barriers, a Barnum and Bailey scrum of cameras, mikes, booms, and journalists was expressing its discontent at being denied access to the hotel.
Figuring the sharks were sniffing the blood of some politician caught banging his intern, or a starlet not A-list enough to be at the Ritz, and that their driver hadn’t a chance of reaching them, Brennan and Reacher decided to head downhill on foot.
“That’s her!” As they approached the barrier. “That’s Brennan.”
Word spread through the scrum. Cameras popped onto shoulders. Lights ignited. Booms shot toward their mouths.
“Dr. Brennan. Ted Sanders, CNN.”
“Would you care to make a statement?”
“Did you kill him?”
“Did you go along with the fake suicide? Or did you just blow it?”
“Are you about to be arrested?”
Brennan stopped short, face saying she’d shoot if she had a gun. Reacher took her arm and steered her back up the drive. Though bristling, she let him. Questions hammered their retreat.
“We’ll wait thirty minutes, then go out through the kitchen,” Reacher said when they were in the lobby.
“Bastards,” she said.
“Yes,” he said.
“It’s all bullshit,” she said.
“Yes,” he said.
“I expected calls from the press, but this—” Arm arcing toward the door. “This is insane.”
“Yeow was a journalist,” Reacher said.
“They have the sensitivity of lice.”
“Lice don’t avenge their own.”
“That must be it,” she agreed.
They were both very wrong.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1345 EST
FOR DECADES THE WASHINGTON POST loomed like a giant gray hive at the corner of Fifteenth and L. Its new address was 1301 K Street. Or One Franklin Square. The paper and the postal service were still hashing that out.
Yeow’s editor was a guy named Albert Thorsten. A directory told them Thorsten’s office was seven floors above the lobby with its zillion-inch screen. Brennan and Reacher ascended in a noiseless elevator and proceeded down a corridor flanking a newsroom the length of the U.S.-Canada border.
Five yards, then they saw Thorsten through an expanse of glass, seated at a desk that matched everything else in the building. The door was open. Brennan and Reacher entered. Both did their habitual scan.
The room wasn’t big, wasn’t small, wasn’t drab, wasn’t bright. Despite the fish tank wall, an overabundance of papers, printouts, files, and books made the unexceptional space feel tight and claustrophobic. A warehouse print hung behind Thorsten’s head—a wooden pier, gulls, and a boat. It blended well with the blah.
Thorsten looked about fifty going on heart failure. Gray hair, saggy eyes, saggy gut. He raised skeptical brows on seeing Brennan. Apparently Luong had mentioned only her paralegal. Or maybe it was Reacher’s size. Or gender.
“The lady of the hour,” Thorsten guessed. Or knew, from press photos. Then the questioning eyes slid to Reacher.
“I’m the paralegal.”
“Sure you are.” Thorsten pointed at the two chairs facing him. They looked like the desk, except they were chairs.
Reacher sat. Brennan sat. Thorsten directed his next comment to her.
“Word is you burned one of my reporters.” Voice dry and flat as the Kalahari.
“And I’m blessed with your presence because?”
MatchUp by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes