MatchUp, p.12Lee Child
“How thorough was your examination of Calder Massee’s remains?”
“What, now you think I’m incompetent too?”
“Did you limit it to the head?”
“Of course not. I examined the whole skeleton.”
“Any broken bones?”
“Did you read the original German report from 1987?”
“Of course I did.”
“Any contusions, lacerations, or other injuries?”
“Therefore, your report also proves he wasn’t badly beaten while in custody. Believe me, I know how that goes. I’ve seen the results. But Warwick needs to believe it. It’s important to his story. In his opinion the government’s motive is its embarrassment over mistreating the wrong guy. Maybe Yeow told him to cool it on that. Maybe Yeow showed him the original German report. Which diluted Warwick’s narrative. Maybe a couple other details too. Yeow might have been a little more scrupulous than Warwick. He was with the Post, after all. That might still mean something.”
“You think they argued?”
“Maybe worse than that.”
“Warwick strikes me as the type who wouldn’t like his grand design to be watered down. And he wouldn’t like someone contradicting him in public afterward.”
“Is that enough reason for homicide?”
“That’s what they asked on the radio,” Reacher said. “About you. The consensus was stranger things have happened and professional ruin is a great motivator.”
“He said losing Yeow helped him.”
“But only a little, surely. They have their basic story. A couple of extra lies won’t make much of a difference. Not enough to kill someone for.”
“I didn’t like his gloves.”
“Look at it from Yeow’s point of view. He’s standing in his kitchen, the bag goes over his head, it’s wrapped tight around his neck, and the world starts to go fuzzy. What does he do?”
“He scrabbles at the killer’s hands, to break the seal. Data show that in cases of strangulation or suffocation, it seems to be an almost universal reaction.”
“Human nature,” Reacher said. “But dumb. Better to use your thumbnails to tear a breathing hole. Or grab the guy’s nuts. But people grab their hands instead. They haul and scratch and scrabble. They leave marks.”
“Hence gloves the next day.”
“That’s a long shot. I don’t see enough motive.”
“He might not need much. He seems very intense. I expect he has the soul of an artist. But overall I agree. It’s a long shot. But it’s the kind of long shot a person wants to cross off the list. Human nature.”
“So go take his gloves off.”
“I will. But this is a big deal. As your legal counsel I would advise if we screw this up, we’re dead and buried. We need to be fireproof. I need you to get a look at Yeow’s autopsy notes. No point finding scratches on Warwick’s hands if they didn’t find skin under Yeow’s nails.”
“I can’t get a look at his notes. They’re probably not even transcribed yet.”
“Can you phone whoever did the autopsy and ask for a favor?”
“They might not take my call.”
“You probably trained them. They must know this is bullshit. They’ll help. Ask about the nails. We’re going to have Szewczk and Dupreau all over us. Better to have both ends of the deal in place. One scratches, and one gets scratched. The whole story, right there.”
“This evening. Under the radar. I’ll go back to Crystal City and speak to Warwick, and when you get the news from your medical friends, you can call me there with the outcome, and then either I’ll bring Warwick in, or I’ll give him his gloves back and pat him on the head and disappear.”
“You don’t have a cell phone.”
“I’m sure they have a switchboard. It’s a production company. Someone will put you through.”
“While you’re holding Warwick hostage, after hours?”
“I won’t be. Unless he has scratches.”
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1825 EST
NOT WANTING TO PROVIDE A close-up for some carrion-eating reporter with a superzoom lens, Brennan got another Uber and had the driver take her to Cantina Marina in the district’s Southwest Waterfront area. She ordered the fried clam and shrimp basket and a Diet Coke, then settled at a table in a far back corner.
Her first call was to Bernie Rodriguez, a forensic anthropologist consulting to both the D.C. and Baltimore ME offices. She and Rodriguez had known each other since grad school. Still, she worried about his reaction. If he even answered.
Her worry was unfounded. Rodriguez picked up on the first ring, said he’d seen the media swarm, assured her that everyone in the section thought the accusations were rat shit. From the background hubbub she guessed he was still at the Marriott.
Brennan asked who’d done the autopsy on Jonathan Yeow. Rodriguez didn’t know, promised to check and ring back.
She was finishing her last mollusk when he did. The pathologist was Helen Matias. Brennan knew Matias. They’d taught body recovery protocol together when such courses were still offered at the FBI Academy in Quantico. Matias was impartial, skilled, and kick-ass smart. The two women shared a mutual respect. And a love of George Carlin.
Rodriguez offered Matias’s cell number. Brennan said she had it, thanked him, and disconnected.
Brennan checked the time. Six twenty-five. Not good. The ME office was undoubtedly closed for the day.
Four rings, then she was rolled to voice mail. She left a few words. Mainly her name.
Brennan looked around the cantina. It was packed with office workers in suits and ties and panty hose and trench coats. With locals in running gear and sweats. With tourists in sneakers and ball caps with cameras and guidebooks.
Matias called exactly four minutes after Brennan left her message.
“You’ll do anything to get your name in the papers.” The voice was low slung, the vowels broad and languorous. Definitely not New York.
“I’m thinking of dancing naked outside the White House.”
“Might work. How the hell are you?”
“I’ve been better,” Brennan said.
“Yeah. This whole Yeow thing’s a real pants pisser.”
So Matias knew.
“I didn’t kill him.”
Matias didn’t reply.
“I understand you did the autopsy.”
“I did.” Revealing nothing.
An awkward silence filled the line while Brennan thought and Matias waited. Brennan decided to dive straight in.
“I’m wondering if there’s any way I could—”
“I’d like you to take a look at him.”
“Yeow. I found troubling marks on his shoulders.”
Brennan gave Matias room to expand. She didn’t.
“You want my opinion.”
“Unofficially, of course.”
“401 E Street. That’s in Southwest. I’ll meet you in the lobby at eight.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Tempe. No one can know that you’re viewing the body.”
“Good. Because a leak could get both our faces on the eleven o’clock news.”
BRENNAN KILLED TIME SIPPING COFFEE. After the diet coke, with refills, the last thing she needed was more caffeine. But the restaurant was crowded and she wanted an excuse to stay.
By googling the address on E Street, she learned that the distance from her current location was about three-quarters of a mile. Bristling with pent-up energy, she decided to walk.
In her mind, she visualized the attack. The killer placing the bag over Yeow’s head. Pulling down hard and gathering the plastic tight. His hands slamming Yeow’s neck and shoulders. Maybe his chest.
Or her hands.
She reasoned that a tall assailant would leave marks resulting from an impact coming directly down on the deltoid. A shorter assailant, stretching in a more upward direction, would leave marks farther toward the front or rear, depending on his or her position relative to Yeow. She concluded that it might be possible to rule Warwick in or exclude him based on his height.
At E Street, she turned left. D.C.’s Consolidated Forensic Laboratory stretched the entire north side of the block. Multistory, lots of steel and glass grillwork. The same hopeful landscaping as at the cop shop on Indiana Avenue. Less dog shit. Identical flags.
A Hyatt faced off from the opposite side of the street. Government buildings sat at the remaining two corners. Thanks to Google she knew the behemoths housed, among other entities, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USDA Economic Research Service, the Surface Transportation Board, and Casey’s Coffee. Hot capitol damn.
Pulse humming, she opened the door to the CFL and entered.
REACHER KEPT THE FIRST UBER and tracked back to Crystal City. The charge would go straight to Brennan’s credit card. No tip was required. Apparently that was how Uber worked. Which was fine with him. He had the military habit of assuming everyone he met was richer than him.
He got out a block from the shared TV building and moved to where he could watch the door. He stood in the cold February shadows and waited. People came out in ones and twos, dressed in jeans and puffy winter jackets. He saw Samuel Rye leave. But not Massee or Warwick. They were still inside. Still discussing their cutting-edge program, he thought, and how it was all the stronger now Yeow was dead. Disgusting, Brennan had said. He liked her for that reaction. There was a purity to it. As a forensic anthropologist she must have seen some pretty bad things done for some pretty bad reasons, but she wasn’t cynical. Not totally. Which was unusual. Like her name. She was unusual all around.
By ten of eight he figured the building was as quiet as it was going to get. Massee and Warwick still inside. He went in and found the right corridor. Saw the right door up ahead. But it opened before he got there and Ian Massee stepped out.
He stopped and said, “You.”
Reacher said, “Yeah, me.”
“What do you want?”
“None of your business.”
“This whole thing is my business.”
“This whole thing is bullshit.”
“My brother was not a spy.”
“Your brother was a piece of shit.”
“In the end they said someone else was the spy. It’s in the record.”
“Were you out sick the day they taught thinking? There were two spies. Your brother and the other guy. Working together.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes, it is. I know for sure.”
“I watched him do two dead drops and meet with an East German government official. I was young, and I was army, not air force. He wasn’t watching out for a guy like me. Which is why they sent me, I guess.”
Massee was quiet a beat.
Then he said, “So he was executed.”
Reacher said, “No, he wasn’t. He put the gun in his mouth all by himself.”
“We have the order.”
“Do you have the response?”
“They will have been paper-clipped together in the file. The order, and the response. The order said kill him, and the response said he was already dead when I got there.”
“Except that wasn’t quite true. He was alive when I got there. We sat in his car and talked. I laid out the situation. He begged me to let him shoot himself. He wanted to spare his family the disgrace. I was okay with that. But then you went and dug it all up again. You should have let sleeping dogs lie.”
“You were there?”
“Afterward I was deaf in my left ear for a week.”
Massee went quiet again.
Went red in the face.
Wound himself up like a clock and swung a clumsy right hook at Reacher’s jaw, powered by nothing but rot and bloat and furious anger. Reacher caught the fist in his left hand like a softball and crashed a low right into Massee’s ample gut, which folded him up like a pocketknife, gasping and staggering on uncertain feet. Reacher waited until he stabilized and brought his knee up into Massee’s lowered face. After which Massee collapsed, half backward and half sideways, onto the floor, and lay still.
Reacher stepped over him and stepped through the door.
Warwick was in the room. Evidently he had heard the commotion. He said, “What the hell is going on out there?”
Reacher closed the door and said, “Take your gloves off.”
“Take them off, or I’ll take them off for you.”
MatchUp by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes