Night school, p.15
Night School, p.15Part #21 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
“No,” Sinclair said. “It’s a can of worms. Too much political risk.”
At that moment the new messenger was in the immigration line, at the Hamburg airport. There were four booths operational, two labeled for European Union passports only, and two for other passports. Hers was Pakistani. She was fifth in line. Not nervous. No reason to be. She was a clean skin. Brand-new. She was in no databases. She had never been anywhere. Never seen, never fingerprinted, never photographed except literally once in her life, for the passport she was carrying. Which was completely real, except for the name, and the nationality.
Now she was fourth in line. She could see her reflection in the glass of the booth. Her hair was mussed, and her eyes were sleepy. Vulnerable. Her explorer shirt was still white and crisp. All treated and antimicrobial. Unbuttoned two down. Never three, she had been told. Unless it looks accidental. Pick a line with a male official.
Now she was third in line.
Reacher and Neagley left Sinclair in her room. They leapfrogged Reacher’s billet and went to Neagley’s, so they couldn’t be heard through the wall. Reacher said, “I don’t know why she came. She won’t watch the safe house.”
“She’s here because slim is better than none.”
“Except she’s deliberately opting for none.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Never mind,” Neagley said. “Take a break. The East Coast won’t be up and running for another hour. We’ll get together then. I’m sure a conference call will cheer us up.”
Reacher went out for a walk. He found himself in a street full of menswear shops. And belts and gloves and watches and wallets. Clothing and accessories. Like an unofficial outdoor mall. He stopped in at a basic place and bought fresh underwear and a new T-shirt. The T-shirt was black, and spun from a fine grade of cotton. It cost about four times what he was accustomed to paying. But it fit. Germans were tall, on average. Not as tall as the Dutch, who were world champions, but taller than Americans, as a whole.
He changed in the store’s cubicle and dumped his old stuff in the trash. Like Neagley had said. A million small things missing. An olive drab undershirt, right there, once issued, never returned or reported missing or destroyed, and therefore now suddenly subtracted from an inventory that as a consequence would be out of balance forever.
He walked on. Halfway down the street there was a barbershop, like the centerpiece of the unofficial mall. It was tricked out to look like an old-time American place. Two vinyl chairs, with more chrome than a Cadillac. A big old radio on a shelf. Not a marketing plan, but a tribute. There was no large number of U.S. military nearby. And the PX barber was always cheaper. To Reacher’s practiced eye the place looked more like a diner than a barbershop, but it was a brave attempt. Some of the accessories were good. There was a visual chart taped to a mirror. An American publication. Reacher had seen hundreds of them in the States. Black-and-white line drawings, twenty-four heads, all with different styles, so the customer could point, instead of explaining. Top left was a standard crew cut, then came the whitewall, and the flat top, and the fade, and so on, the styles getting a little longer and a little weirder as they approached the bottom right. The Mohawk was in there, plus a couple of others that made the Mohawk look a model of probity.
A guy inside beckoned Reacher in.
Reacher mouthed, “How much?”
The guy held up his hand, fingers and thumb all extended.
Reacher mouthed, “Five what?”
The guy came to the door and opened it and said, “American dollars.”
“My regular barber is cheaper.”
“But I’m better. You get your uniforms tailored, right?”
“Do I look like I wear a uniform?”
Reacher said, “Five bucks? I remember when five bucks got you two hamburgers and the back row of the movies. Plus car fare for her, if you fell out along the way. A shave and a haircut was two bits.”
“Was that an homage?”
“Did you say that deliberately?”
“Sometimes I let things out by accident, but generally only one syllable at a time.”
“Therefore you said it deliberately. It was an homage. You were building the energy.”
“What was I doing?”
“You like this place.”
“Then support it by paying the full five bucks.”
“I don’t need a haircut.”
The guy said, “You know the difference between you and me?”
Reacher said, “What?”
“I can see your hair from the outside.”
“You need a haircut.”
“For five bucks?”
“I’ll add a shave for free.”
Which turned out to be a luxurious experience. The water was warm, and the lather was creamy. The steel was perfect. It hissed through, on a molecular level. The mirror was tinted, so the finished job looked tan where it was probably pink. But even so, it looked pretty good. Call it a buck, Reacher thought. Which leaves the haircut costing four. Which is still outrageous.
The guy swapped the razor for scissors and started in on Reacher’s hair. Reacher ignored him and looked at the visual chart instead. The twenty-four styles. He went through them in order, only his eyes moving, carefully, as if studying them, from the plain number-one at the beginning, all the way to a fantastically elaborate DA at the other end of the scale.
He looked back at the Mohawk.
The guy said, “What do you think?”
Reacher said, “About what?”
“Your new haircut.”
Reacher looked in the mirror. He said, “Have you done it yet?”
“Are you in doubt?”
“It doesn’t look like it’s just been cut.”
“Exactly,” the guy said. “The best haircut looks like it was done a week ago.”
“So I pay five bucks for a haircut that already looks grown out?”
“This is a salon. I am an artist.”
Reacher said nothing.
He looked back at the Mohawk.
Then he dug in his pocket and gave the guy five American dollars, and asked, “Do you have a phone?”
The guy pointed at the wall. An old Ma Bell pay phone. All metal. For outside a gas station rather than inside a barbershop, but points for effort.
Reacher said, “Does it work?”
“Of course it works,” the guy said. “This is Germany. It was rewired as a normal telephone.”
Reacher dialed the number on Griezman’s business card. From the envelope with the fingerprint. He got ring tone. The phone worked. Germany. Rewired.
Reacher said, “We’re just simple detectives, you and I, hoping for favors, one to the other.”
Griezman said, “You’re going to run the print.”
“If you do something for me.”
“Two somethings, actually. Put some guys in cars around that bar. Where Klopp goes. With radios. Watch for the guy in the sketch. But don’t be obvious about it.”
“There’s an apartment five streets away. Same thing, cars and radios. Not obvious. Sooner or later a Saudi kid is going to show up. He’s going to stay home for a spell, and then he’s going to come out again and head for a rendezvous. I need to know where he goes, in real time.”
“That’s a lot of people and a lot of cars.”
“This is Europe. What else do you need them for?”
“That won’t be possible. It will take time to arrange.”
“Do you want me to run the print or not?”
Griezman was quiet for a second, and then he said yes, he did, and he said it with a l
Reacher said, “You do your best for me, and I’ll do my best for you.”
Griezman said, “OK.”
Then Reacher called the hotel and asked the desk for Neagley. She was in her room. He said, “I need Orozco. Right now. And then five minutes after that you and I need to meet with Sinclair.”
“She’s looking for you anyway. She has something for you.”
“I don’t know. Something Vanderbilt did. She’s all excited.”
“Tell Orozco I’m in a barbershop three blocks from the hotel. Tell him to be quick.”
“What have you got?”
“I know who the American is.”
The hairdresser guy made coffee, and Reacher sat in the barber chair, and the guy asked him questions about his childhood memories of old-time America. Hoping to build the energy, Reacher figured. Truth was Reacher had spent virtually his whole childhood outside the continental United States. He was the son of a Marine officer who had served all over the world. Reacher had gone with him, with his brother and his mother, as family. The Far East, the Pacific, Europe. Dozens of bases. Which helped, in a way. Old-time America had always been a myth to Reacher. So he repeated the same made-up crap he had lived on then, about bubblegum machines and Cadillacs with fins, and endless sunshine, and drive-in movies and waitresses on roller skates, and cheeseburgers and cold Coca-Cola in green glass bottles, and baseball on AM radio, out of Kansas City, static and all. The hairdresser guy’s smile got wider and wider, as if the energy in the room was indeed building to a satisfactory level.
Then Orozco’s sedan squelched to a stop on the street outside, and Reacher hustled out to join him. He got in the passenger seat. Orozco said, “Nice do, man.”
Reacher ran his fingers through his hair. He said, “You can tell?”
“Picks up your cheek bones big time. The ladies will love it.”
Reacher took out Griezman’s envelope.
He said, “I want you to run this print.”
“Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. But very quietly.”
“A hooker was killed. Local cops figure this is the guy who did it.”
“Any reason to believe he’s American military?”
“None at all, but I need a favor.”
“We can’t do it.”
“Which is why I said quietly. Your eyes only. Then mine. Then it’s on me.”
“The words court and martial spring to mind.”
“Hasn’t happened yet.”
Orozco sat still for a long moment. Then he took the envelope. But he said nothing. He made no promises. Deniability, from the start. Always a good idea. Reacher got out and Orozco drove away. Reacher hustled for the hotel.
They met in Sinclair’s room again. Her big news was that Vanderbilt had been struck by a bolt of proactive initiative and had taken the faxed sketch of the American to Bartley, over at the Fort Myer Visiting Officers’ Quarters. The lieutenant colonel, who had refused to say where he was on the day in question. The guy bleeding equity out of the family home, ahead of divorcing his unsuspecting wife. He recognized the face in the sketch. He said he had seen the guy at the Zurich airport. On his last-but-one trip. They had been on the same flight back to Hamburg. Exactly two weeks before the first rendezvous. The guy had been carrying a glossy multi-pocketed folder with a bank logo on it. The kind of thing you got when you opened an account. The lieutenant colonel had one of his own, from a year before, when he had rented his safety deposit box.
“It’s not definitive,” Sinclair said.
“But it’s suggestive,” Reacher said. “Klopp has seen the guy, and Bartley has seen the same guy. I think the sketch is a good one.” He took out his own copy. Unfolded it. The brow, the cheek bones, the deep-set eyes. The hair. The color of hay or straw in the summer. Quite normal at the sides, Klopp had said, but much longer at the top. Like a style. As if he could flop it around. Like Elvis Presley.
Reacher said, “How do you get hair like that?”
Sinclair said, “I guess first you grow it long all over, and then you tell the stylist how you want him to shape it.”
“Or you start with a Mohawk, and you let it grow out. Four months later it’s normal on the sides and long on the top, because the top got a running start. Early on you wear a hat, until it stops looking weird.”
Neagley said, “You wear a ball cap with a red star on the front.”
“Probably the Houston Astros, because Texas is where you’re from. Your name is Wiley, and four months ago you walked away from an air defense unit hundreds of miles east of here.”
Sinclair said nothing.
Neagley said, “And you bought a new passport, so you never have to use your own. Which means the MPs will never find you.”
Sinclair said, “That’s a big bet on a hairstyle.”
Reacher said, “Order up his personnel jacket. Show his photo to Klopp.”
At that moment the new messenger was knocking on the apartment door. It was the first apartment door she had ever knocked on. It was the first apartment door she had ever seen. But she knew how it would feel. She had been coached. It would feel like a long time, but really it was nothing more than counting from one to five. She had been coached about everything. She had taken the bus into town. First time ever. She saw paved roads for the first time ever. But due to long hours of stream-of-consciousness briefing from the others she knew how to do it. She was prepared. She didn’t stand out. She stumbled once or twice, but so does every weary long-distance traveler. Perfection would have stood out worse.
One, two, three, four, five.
The door opened.
A young Saudi guy said, “Who are you?”
The new messenger said, “I seek sanctuary and haven. Our faith requires you to provide it. As do our elders and betters in this venture.”
The Saudi boy said, “Come in.”
He closed the door after her, and then stopped and said, “Wait a minute. Really?”
The new messenger had been coached. She said, “Yes, really. The tall one sets the strategy, and the fat one works the angles. In this case including a messenger no one could possibly suspect is a messenger, because she’s female.”
“The fat one?”
“On the left. More flies around him.”
She had been coached.
“OK,” the kid said. “But wow. Although I guess we always knew this was important.”
“How?” she said. She was in her first apartment ever, but not her first danger ever, of bungled alliances, or outright betrayal. She was from the tribal areas. She said, “How do you know this is important?”
The kid didn’t answer.
She said, “Did the first messenger tell you?”
“He told us the price.”
“He’s dead now. They killed him. They sent me instead. They told me not to ask the price. They don’t like it if someone knows the price. So
Night School by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5.3 out of 5 / Based on48 votes