Night school, p.19
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       Night School, p.19

         Part #21 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
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  “Sir, what I am permitted to know is, we accept your price.”

  Wiley closed his eyes. Bigger than Rhode Island. Visible from outer space. His new Swiss friends would be delighted, too. It was double what he had told them. He had never expected to get it all. He would have plenty left over. A massive fortune. He would have a portfolio. Guys in suits would call him on the phone.

  He opened his eyes.

  He said, “When?”

  The messenger said, “I believe you agreed on a delivery date. Your friends in the east expect you to honor it.”

  “No problem,” Wiley said. “As agreed is fine.”

  “Then that is the response I will carry back.”

  “Tell them it’s a pleasure doing business. And tell them thanks for the extra gift. Much appreciated.”

  She said, unsure again, “Sir, I brought nothing with me.”

  “You brought yourself,” Wiley said. “You’re the gift. Right? I mean, get with the program. Why else would they send a girl with the good news? You’re the icing on the cake. Like when you get a bottle of Scotch when you buy a car.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  “You like this place?”

  On the stage a naked woman was lying on a plastic sheet. Three men were urinating on her face.

  The messenger said, “It seems very popular.”

  “We could go to a hotel.”

  She had been coached.

  She said, “Sir, this is a business arrangement. It can’t proceed any further until I get home safe and sound.”

  “OK,” Wiley said. “I get it. But you got to give me some little thing. We’re friends. We’re celebrating here. I’m giving you people something you never had before. One more button.”

  “What?”

  “On your shirt. Right here. Like a token. To seal the deal.”

  Great struggles require great sacrifices. And it was a small enough price, she thought. The room was dark. No one was looking. They were all watching the stage. She undid the third button. She parted the seams. Wiley looked and smiled.

  He said, “I knew I could make you do it.”

  She walked away, through the crowd, ignoring the grabbing hands, up the stairs, past the doorman on the stool, out to the street, where she walked twenty paces and flagged down a cab. She settled in the back seat and said in carefully practiced German, “The airport, please. International departures.”

  Chapter 23

  In a different club two miles away two men were having dinner. The club was small, but paneled in oak. The tables were cramped, but the cloths were linen. More wine was served than beer. Lamb chops were on the menu. One of the men was an importer of shoes from Brazil. He was a solid figure, about forty-five years old. His hair was blond, going gray, and his face was red, also going gray. His name was Dremmler. He was in a suit, with a high lapel.

  The other man was similar in appearance. Mid-forties, bulky, a little redder, a little less gray. He was also in a suit, a chainstore label, but not cheap. His name was Muller. He was a policeman.

  Dremmler said, “One of our members is a man named Helmut Klopp. He saw an Arab talking to an American and reported it. Guess what happened?”

  Muller said, “Nothing, probably.”

  “Two secret investigators came here from America. In a big hurry. Your chief of detectives was kissing their ass.”

  “Griezman?”

  “So evidently what Klopp saw was a very important meeting. They questioned him for hours. He says they showed him two hundred photographs, but he recognized none of them. So they made a sketch, from the description he gave them.”

  “That’s a lot of work.”

  “Exactly,” Dremmler said. “Therefore something is going on. Of great importance to the Americans. One of their own is talking to an Arab. We’d like to know what about. Is one buying and the other selling? We need you to see if Griezman wrote anything down.”

  “Why?” Muller said. “Why help either Griezman or the Americans?”

  “We’ll be helping ourselves,” Dremmler said. “Don’t you see? We could get in the middle of this. There will be money going one way and something else going the other. Either of which we could use. Or both. And we could use them better than they could. Even part of it could help us make a statement. They’ve got their cause, and we’ve got ours. May the best man win.”

  “We’re planning a hijack?”

  “We should at least consider it.”

  “OK,” Muller said. “I’ll see what I can find.”

  A waiter in a short jacket took their plates away.

  Dremmler said, “One more thing.”

  “Yes?” Muller said.

  “We have four youth members who were beaten up outside a bar. They were quite badly hurt. They say their attacker was a very big man. An American, holding to a pro-occupation position. He was with a dark-haired woman.”

  “And?”

  “According to Helmut Klopp, those were the secret investigators from America. The descriptions match exactly.”

  “OK.”

  “I can’t let such a thing go unpunished. Klopp says the man’s name is Reacher and the woman’s name is Neagley. I would like to find them. I’m sure your chief of detectives knows where they’re staying. I need you to see if he wrote it down.”

  “OK,” Muller said again. “I’ll see what I can find.”

  —

  At ten o’clock in the evening Hamburg time Ratcliffe approved plan B. At eleven o’clock Reacher gave up on it. The messenger had not come home. She was never planning to. That was clear by then. Griezman said she could have taken any one of twenty or more international flights in the last few hours. Or flown domestic to Berlin, where the whole world was a hop and a skip away. Or driven to Amsterdam. Or taken a train to Paris. Or gone to another safe house in the city, which was a separate nightmare all by itself.

  Reacher and Sinclair were in Sinclair’s room, all showered and dressed long ago. Neagley was back. They had brought her up to speed with the whole sorry mess. The missed cues, the wrong assumptions, the late connections. Which led inevitably to a debate about next steps. Which led inevitably to a debate about the fingerprint. Sinclair said, “Wiley has Sixth Amendment rights to a speedy trial for the homicide. Which he wouldn’t get, because we would tie him up for years about the other thing. And we can’t let the Germans have him first, because we might never get him back again.”

  Neagley said, “We could negotiate that ahead of time.”

  “We can’t be in a position where we have to ask the Germans for permission to run our own national security the way we want to.”

  “We’d be giving up all kinds of capabilities. The clock is really ticking now. It’s getting loud.”

  Sinclair said, “Reacher?”

  He said, “I think it’s fifty-fifty. A physical search of the city would be a waste of time. Even if they could eyeball a thousand faces a day, it would take nearly five years to cover the whole population. But their records could be useful. Wiley came to town not more than four months ago. We know that for sure. So we have a hard start date. Obviously he rented a place, because he killed the hooker in her apartment, not a hotel room. So he has a lease somewhere. And then a new name, probably German, to go with his new passport, probably also German. He has utility bills. Probably a telephone. We have no access to those databases. That’s where Griezman could help us.”

  “Yes or no?”

  “I’m biased,” Reacher said. “I owe the guy.”

  “He did nothing for you. He didn’t find Wiley, and he didn’t find the messenger.”

  “He tried.”

  “What did you think of Mr. Bishop, from the consulate?”

  “The head of station?”

  “The CIA veteran.”

  “He’s not bad for an old guy.”

  “Obviously our older German-speakers were trained under the previous system. For duty in East Germany, not the civilized west. They like to know ev
erything about everybody. For recruitment, back then, and for blackmail, and for a better understanding of the local inside stories. They have extensive files. Not all of them in the official cabinets.”

  “And?”

  “Chief of Detectives Griezman was the dead hooker’s client about a year ago. Four times. We know this for sure. He spent his kids’ college fund. Therefore my guess is he wants to close the case so no one goes poking and prying too far back. My guess is his noble quest for justice is not so noble after all.”

  Reacher paused a beat.

  “OK,” he said.

  “So yes or no?”

  “Wiley still walks on the homicide.”

  “We can’t hang him twice.”

  Reacher paused again.

  Then he said, “Griezman was stupid.”

  “Overcome by lust,” Sinclair said. “It happens.”

  “He was stupid because of what you’re going to realize about five seconds from now. Only because you’re a nicer person than me.”

  Sinclair didn’t answer.

  Then she said, “Oh.”

  Reacher nodded. “We can sidestep the fingerprint issue completely. We don’t need to trade. We can get everything we want by blackmailing the guy.”

  “I hope so,” Sinclair said.

  “Except I don’t want to do that. So not yet, OK? Wiley is an AWOL soldier in the same city as me. It’s money in the bank.”

  “How much time would Griezman save you?”

  “He’s a last resort either way around. I don’t want to get bogged down in databases. There are other ways. I was trained under the previous system, too. So Griezman’s zipper problem doesn’t matter yet. There’s nothing he can do for us right now.”

  “Are you saying that because you owe him?”

  “I’m saying it because it’s true.”

  “What are the other ways?”

  “We get to know the guy. We find him from the inside.”

  —

  By then Neagley had the transcripts from the original AWOL file, so she and Reacher left Sinclair in her room and headed down to Neagley’s, to read them. The physical chronology was straightforward enough. Wiley had failed to return from a routine ninety-six-hour pass. Simple as that. He had never been seen again. He had mentioned nothing in advance to his crewmates about where he was going on the pass. Best guess was Frankfurt, where the hookers were plentiful and inventive, because of the convention business. Did Wiley like hookers? No more than the next guy, was the answer.

  Then there were background questions, to build up a picture of the guy. Hobbies, interests, enthusiasms, things he talked about. He was from Texas, and sometimes he talked about beef cattle. He was proud of his home town. Sometimes he got all excited and said things he seemed to regret later. Other times he was quiet. One time he said he had joined the army only because an uncle had told him stories about Davy Crockett. He liked beer better than hard liquor, and he didn’t smoke. He was unmarried and had never talked about a partner back home. He was extremely happy where he was. He liked his posting and gave the impression he had aimed for it.

  “That’s weird,” Neagley said. “Most AWOLs aren’t extremely happy where they are. That’s kind of the point.”

  Reacher said, “And who would aim for a Chaparral unit on an abandoned front? The guy is still a private. Always will be. He must have known.”

  “Was Davy Crockett even in the army?”

  “Not this army. It was the Lawrence County militia, in Tennessee. And then he was at the Alamo, of course. Which was a heroic story, for sure, but dying besieged and hopelessly outnumbered is not exactly the image of glory we want recruits to bring in with them.”

  “We should find the uncle. Maybe they’re close.”

  “You think Wiley is sending him postcards?”

  “He might have told him something. Apparently he blurts things out and then regrets them later. Maybe that’s why he killed the hooker. I’ve heard of that happening. Guys boast about what they’re doing, because they feel good in the moment.”

  “OK,” Reacher said. “Find the uncle. And check with his commanding officers from three years ago. Basic training, and then Mother Sill. Did he really aim for Germany? As in, aim specifically, like a target? That would change my thinking. That would make this whole thing feel planned, not purely opportunistic.”

  “Three years is a very long game.”

  “Worth it for a hundred million dollars.”

  “We don’t have anything worth a hundred million dollars.”

  “Make the calls,” Reacher said. “I’ll be back later.”

  “Where are you going?”

  “For a walk.”

  “I noticed Dr. Sinclair seemed more relaxed tonight.”

  “Did she?”

  “She had a definite glow.”

  “Maybe she does yoga.”

  “Or deep breathing.”

  Reacher said nothing.

  —

  The man named Muller stopped in at the central police station. It was where he worked. He was second in command in the traffic division. Not ideal for access to Griezman’s office, but the place was quiet at night. Griezman’s floor had spacious suites with secretarial stations outside. They were all deserted. All the bosses were basically paper-shufflers. They wrote things up and their secretaries did the filing, once at lunchtime, and then again first thing the next morning.

  Griezman’s secretary’s in-box was piled high.

  Muller was not a brave man, but he was a loyal comrade-in-arms. He made a deal with himself. He would read through the in-tray, but he wouldn’t search Griezman’s desk. A sensible compromise. He felt all reasonable people in the movement would agree with him. Information was important, but so was keeping a guy in a job at the highest level. Or close to it.

  He clamped the pile of papers between his palms and carried them away, down the hallway, to the fire door, and down the fire stairs, to his own floor, and his own hallway, and his own office.

  —

  Neagley called Landry in McLean, Virginia, and asked him about Wiley’s family. His uncles, specifically. Possibly one in particular, who maybe lived close by, and had an influence on the kid growing up.

  Landry said, “Wiley has no uncles.”

  “You sure?”

  “Both parents were only children.”

  “Great-uncles?”

  “I’ll take a look.”

  “What was the state of the parents’ marriage?”

  “The father took off early and was never seen again. The mother raised Wiley as a single parent. No brothers or sisters. Just the two of them.”

  “Did the mother get a boyfriend later? He might have been called an uncle in front of the kid.”

  “Could have been one after another. Could have been a lot of uncles.”

  “Can you check?”

  “We’d have to find the mother and get some agents to pay a call. That kind of thing has to be done face to face. It takes time. Old boyfriends aren’t in the databases. And some aren’t happy memories.”

  “It might be worth it. If the great-uncles don’t pan out.”

  “Could take days. You nearly had the guy.”

  “He’s still in the city.”

  Neagley killed the call and checked the AWOL file for the crewmate who had mentioned the uncle. She dialed the Frankfurt MPs and told them
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