Die trying, p.25
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       Die Trying, p.25
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         Part #2 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
Chapter Twenty-Five

  THEY CAME FOR him an hour after dawn. He was dozing on his hard chair, hands cuffed in his lap, Joseph Ray awake and alert opposite him. He had spent most of the night thinking about dynamite. Old dynamite, left over from abandoned mining operations. He imagined hefting a stick in his hand. Feeling the weight. Figuring the volume of the cavity behind Holly's walls. Picturing it packed with old dynamite. Old dynamite, rotting, the nitroglycerin sweating out, going unstable. Maybe a ton of unstable old dynamite packed in all around her, still not so far gone it would explode with random movement, but gone bad enough it would explode under the impact of a stray artillery shell. Or a stray bullet. Or even a sharp blow with a hammer.

  Then there was a rattle of feet on shale as a detachment of men halted outside the hut. The door flung open and Reacher turned his head and saw six guards. The point man clattered inside and hauled him up by the arm. He was dragged outside into the bright morning sun to face five men, line abreast, automatic rifles at the slope. Camouflage fatigues, beards. He stood and squinted in the light. The rifle muzzles jerked him into rough formation and the six men marched him across the diameter of the clearing to a narrow path running away from the sun into the forest.

  Fifty yards in, there was another clearing. A rough scrubby rectangle, small in area. Two plywood-and-cedar structures. Neither had any windows. The guards halted him and the point man used his rifle barrel to indicate the left-hand building.

  "Command hut," he said.

  Then he pointed to the right.

  "Punishment hut," he said. "We try to avoid that one. "

  The six men laughed with the secure confidence of an elite detachment and the point man knocked on the command hut door. Paused a beat and opened it. Reacher was shoved inside with a rifle muzzle in the small of his back.

  The hut was blazing with light. Electric bulbs added to green daylight from mossy skylights set into the roof. There was a plain oak desk and matching chairs, big old round things like Reacher had seen in old movies about newspaper offices or country banks. There was no decor except flags and banners nailed to the walls. There was a huge red swastika behind the desk, and several similar black-and-white motifs on the other walls. There was a detailed map of Montana pinned to a board on the back wall. A tiny portion of the northwest corner of the state was outlined in black. There were bundles of pamphlets and manuals stacked on the bare floor. One was titled: Dry It, You'll Like It. It claimed to show how food could be preserved to withstand a siege. Another claimed to show how guerrillas could derail passenger trains. There was a polished mahogany bookcase, incongruously fine, packed with books. The bar of daylight from the door fell across them and illuminated their cloth spines and gold-blocked titles. They were standard histories of the art of war, translations from German and Japanese. There was a whole shelf with texts about Pearl Harbor. Texts that Reacher himself had studied, elsewhere and a long time ago.

  He stood still. Borken was behind the desk. His hair gleamed white in the light. The black uniform showed up gray. Borken was just staring silently at him. Then he waved him to a chair. Motioned the guards to wait outside.

  Reacher sat heavily. Fatigue was gnawing at him and adrenaline was burning his stomach. The guards tramped across the floor and stepped outside. They closed the door quietly. Borken moved his arm and rolled open a drawer. Took out an ancient handgun. Laid it on the desktop with a loud clatter.

  "I made my decision," he said. "About whether you live or die. "

  Then he pointed at the old revolver lying on the desk.

  "You know what this is?" he asked.

  Reacher glanced at it through the glare and nodded.

  "It's a Marshal Colt," he said.

  Borken nodded.

  "You bet your ass it is," he said. "It's an original 1873 Marshal Colt, just like the U. S. Cavalry were given. It's my personal weapon. "

  He picked it up, right-handed, and hefted it.

  "You know what it fires?" he said.

  Reacher nodded again.

  "Forty-fives," he said. "Six shots. "

  "Right first time," Borken said. "Six forty-fives, nine hundred feet per second out of a seven-and-a-half-inch barrel. You know what those bullets could do to you?"

  Reacher shrugged.

  "Depends if they hit me or not," he said.

  Borken looked blank. Then he grinned. His wet mouth curled upward and his tight cheeks nearly forced his eyes shut.

  "They'd hit you," he said. "If I'm firing, they'd hit you. "

  Reacher shrugged again.

  "From there, maybe," he said.

  "From anywhere," Borken said. "From here, from fifty feet, from fifty yards, if I'm firing, they'd hit you. "

  "Hold up your right hand," Reacher said.

  Borken looked blank again. Then he put the gun down and held up his huge white hand like he was waving to a vague acquaintance or taking an oath.

  "Bullshit," Reacher said.

  "Bullshit?" Borken repeated.

  "For sure," Reacher said. "That gun's reasonably accurate, but it's not the best weapon in the world. To hit a man at fifty yards with it, you'd need to practice like crazy. And you haven't been. "

  "I haven't?" Borken said.

  "No, you haven't," Reacher said. "Look at the damn thing. It was designed in the 1870s, right? You seen old photographs? People were much smaller. Scrappy little guys, just immigrated from Europe, been starving for generations. Small people, small hands. Look at the stock on that thing. Tight curve, way too small for you. You grab that thing, your hand looks like a bunch of bananas around it. And that stock is hundred-and-twenty-year-old walnut. Hard as a rock. The back of the stock and the end of the frame below the hammer would be pounding you with the recoil. You used that gun a lot, you'd have a pad of callus between your thumb and forefinger I could see from here. But you haven't, so don't tell me you've been practicing with it, and don't tell me you can be a marksman without practicing with it. "

  Borken looked hard at him. Then he smiled again. His wet lips parted and his eyes closed into slits. He rolled open the opposite drawer and lifted out another handgun. It was a Sig-Sauer nine-millimeter. Maybe five years old. Well used, but well maintained. A big boxy grip for a big hand.

  "I lied," he said. "This is my personal weapon. And now I know something. I know my decision was the right one. "

  He paused, so Reacher could ask him about his decision. Reacher stayed silent. Clamped his lips. He wasn't about to ask him about anything, not even if it would be the last sentence he would ever live to say.

  "We're serious here, you know," Borken said to him. "Totally serious. We're not playing games. And we're correct about what's going on. "

  He paused again, so Reacher could ask him what was going on. Reacher said nothing. Just sat and stared into space.

  "America has got a despotic government," Borken said. "A dictatorship, controlled from abroad by our enemies. Our current President is a member of a world government which controls our lives in secret. His federal system is a smokescreen for total control. They're planning to disarm us and enslave us. It's started already. Let's be totally clear about that. "

  He paused. Picked up the old revolver again. Reacher saw him checking the fit of the stock in his hand. Felt the charisma radiating out of him. Felt compelled to listen to the soft, hypnotic voice.

  "Two main methods," Borken said. "The first is the attempt to disarm the civilian population. The Second Amendment guarantees our right to bear arms, but they're going to abolish that. The gun laws, all this beefing about crime, homicides, drug wars, it's all aimed at disarming people like us. And when we're disarmed, they can do what they like with us, right? That's why it was in the Constitution in the first place. Those old guys were smart. They knew the only thing that could control a government was the people's willingness and ability to shoot them down. "

  Borken paused again. Reacher stared up
at the swastika behind his head.

  "Second method is the squeeze on small business," Borken said. "This is a personal theory of mine. You don't hear it much around the Movement. But I spotted it. It puts me way ahead of the others in my understanding. "

  Borken waited, but Reacher still stayed silent. Looking away.

  "It's obvious, right?" Borken said to him. "World government is basically a communistic type of government. They don't want a strong small-business sector. But that's what America had. Millions of people, all working hard for themselves and making a living. Too many just to murder out of hand, when the time comes. So the numbers have to be reduced in advance. So the federal government was instructed to squeeze the small businessman. They put on all kinds of regulations, all kinds of laws and taxes, they rig the markets, they bring the small guy to his knees, then they order the banks to come sniffing around with attractive loans, and as soon as the ink is dry on the loan papers they jack up the interest, and rig the market some more, until the poor guy defaults. Then they take away his business, and so that's one less for the gas ovens when the time comes. "

  Reacher glanced at him. Said nothing.

  "Believe it," Borken said. "It's like they're solving a corpse-disposal problem in advance. Get rid of the middle class now, they don't need so many concentration camps later. "

  Reacher was just staring at Borken's eyes. Like looking at a bright light. The fat red lips were smiling an indulgent smile.

  "I told you, we're way ahead of the others," he said. "We've seen it coming. What else is the Federal Reserve for? That's the key to this whole thing. America was basically a nation founded on business, right? Control business, you control everything. How do you control business? You control the banks. How do you control the banks? You set up a bullshit Federal Reserve system. You tell the banks what to do. That's the key. The world government controls everything, through the Fed. I've seen it happen. "

  His eyes were open wide. Shining with no color.

  "I saw them do it to my own father," he screamed. "May his poor soul rest in peace. The Fed bankrupted him. "

  Reacher tore his gaze away. Shrugged at the corner of the room. Said nothing. He started trying to recall the sequence of titles in Borken's fine mahogany bookcase. Warfare from ancient China through Renaissance Italy through Pearl Harbor. He concentrated on naming the titles to himself, left to right, trying to resist the glare of Borken's attention.

  "We're serious here," Borken was saying again. "You may look at me and think I'm some kind of a despot, or a cult leader, or whatever the world would want to label me. But I'm not. I'm a good leader, I won't deny that. Even an inspired leader. Call me intelligent and perceptive, I won't argue with you. But I don't need to be. My people don't need any encouraging. They don't need much leading. They need guidance, and they need discipline, but don't let that fool you. I'm not coercing anybody. Don't make the mistake of underestimating their will. Don't ignore their desire for a change for the better. "

  Reacher was silent. He was still concentrating on the books, skimming in his mind through the events of December 1941, as seen from the Japanese point of view.

  "We're not criminals here, you know," Borken was saying. "When a government turns bad, it's the very best people who stand up against it. Or do you think we should all just act like sheep?"

  Reacher risked another glance at him. Risked speaking.

  "You're pretty selective," he said. "About who's here and who's not. "

  Borken shrugged.

  "Like unto like," he said. "That's nature's way, isn't it? Black people have got the whole of Africa. White people have got this place. "

  "What about Jewish dentists?" Reacher asked. "What place have they got?"

  Borken shrugged again.

  "That was an operational error," he said. "Loder should have waited until he was clear. But mistakes happen. "

  "Should have waited until I was clear, too," Reacher said.

  Borken nodded.

  "I agree with you," he said. "It would have been better for you that way. But they didn't, and so here you are among us. "

  "Just because I'm white?" Reacher said.

  "Don't knock it," Borken replied. "White people got precious few rights left. "

  Reacher stared at him. Stared around the bright, hate-filled room. Shuddered.

  "I've made a study of tyranny," Borken said. "And how to combat it. The first rule is you make a firm decision, to live free or die, and you mean it. Live free or die. The second rule is you don't act like a sheep. You stand up and you resist them. You study their system and you learn to hate it. And then you act. But how do you act? The brave man fights back. He retaliates, right?"

  Reacher shrugged. Said nothing.

  "The brave man retaliates," Borken repeated. "But the man who is both brave and clever acts differently. He retaliates first. In advance. He strikes the first blows. He gives them what they don't expect, when and where they don't expect it. That's what we're doing here. We're retaliating first. It's their war, but we're going to strike the first blows. We're going to give them what they don't expect. We're going to upset their plans. "

  Reacher glanced back at the bookcase. Five thousand classic pages, all saying the same thing: don't do what they expect you to do.

  "Go look at the map," Borken said.

  Reacher thrust his cuffed hands forward and lifted himself awkwardly out of the chair. Walked over to the map of Montana on the wall. He found Yorke in the top left-hand corner. Well inside the small black outline. He checked the scale and looked at the contour shading and the colors. The river Joseph Ray had talked about lay thirty miles to the west, on the other side of high mountains. It was a thick blue slash running down the map. There were enormous brown heights shown to the north, all the way up to Canada. The only road ran north through Yorke and terminated at some abandoned mine workings. A few haphazard tracks ran through solid forest to the east. To the south, contour lines merged together to show a tremendous east-west ravine.

  "Look at that terrain, Reacher," Borken said quietly. "What does it tell you?"

  Reacher looked at it. It told him he couldn't get out. Not on foot, not with Holly. There were weeks of rough walking east and north. Natural barriers west and south. The terrain made a better prison than wire fences or mine-fields could have. He had once been in Siberia, after glasnost, following up on ancient stories about Korean MIAs. The gulags had been completely open. No wire, no barriers. He had asked his hosts: but where are the fences? The Russians had pointed out over the miles of snow and said: there are the fences. Nowhere to run. He looked up at the map again. The terrain was the barrier. To get out was going to require a vehicle. And a lot of luck.

  "They can't get in," Borken said. "We're impregnable. We can't be stopped. And we mustn't be stopped. That would be a disaster of truly historic proportions. Suppose the redcoats had stopped the American Revolution in 1776?"

  Reacher glanced around the tiny wooden room and shuddered.

  "This isn't the American Revolution," he said.

  "Isn't it?" Borken asked. "How is it different? They wanted freedom from a tyrannical government. So do we. "

  "You're murderers," Reacher said.

  "So they were in 1776," Borken said. "They killed people. The established system called that murder, too. "

  "You're racists," Reacher said.

  "Same in 1776," Borken said. "Jefferson and his slaves? They knew black people were inferior. Back then, they were exactly the same as we are now. But then they became the new redcoats. Slowly, over the years. It's fallen to us to get back to how it should have stayed. Live free or die, Reacher. It's a noble aim. Always has been, don't you think?"

  He was leaning forward with his great bulk pressing tight against the desk. His hands were in the air. His colorless eyes were shining.

  "But there were mistakes made in 1776," he said. "I've studied the history. War coul
d have been avoided if both sides had acted sensibly. And war should always be avoided, don't you think?"

  Reacher shrugged.

  "Not necessarily," he said.

  "Well, you're going to help us avoid it," Borken said. "That's my decision. You're going to be my emissary. "

  "Your what?" Reacher said.

  "You're independent," Borken said. "Not one of us. No ax to grind. An American like them, an upstanding citizen, no felony convictions. A clever, perceptive man. You notice things. They'll listen to you. "

  "What?" Reacher said again.

  "We're organized here," Borken said. "We're ready for nationhood. You need to understand that. We have an army, we have a treasury, we have financial reserves, we have a legal system, we have democracy. I'm going to show all that to you today. I'm going to show you a society ready for independence, ready to live free or die, and just a day away from doing so. Then I'm going to send you south to America. You're going to tell them our position is strong and their position is hopeless. "

  Reacher just stared at him.

  "And you can tell them about Holly," Borken said quietly. "In her special little room. You can tell them about my secret weapon. My insurance policy. "

  "You're crazy," Reacher said.

  The hut went silent. Quieter than silent.

  "Why?" Borken whispered. "Why am I crazy? Exactly?"

  "You're not thinking straight," Reacher said. "Don't you realize that Holly counts for nothing? The President will replace Johnson faster than you can blink an eye. They'll crush you like a bug and Holly will be just another casualty. You should send her back out with me. "

  Borken was shaking his bloated head, happily, confidently.

  "No," he said. "That won't happen. There's more to Holly than who her father is. Hasn't she told you that?"

  Reacher stared at him and Borken checked his watch.

  "Time to go," he said. "Time for you to see our legal system at work. "

  HOLLY HEARD THE quiet footsteps outside her door and eased off the bed. The lock clicked back and the young soldier with the scarred forehead stepped up into the room. He had his finger to his lips and Holly nodded. She limped to the bathroom and set the shower running noisily into the empty tub. The young soldier followed her in and closed the door.

  "We can only do this once a day," Holly whispered. "They'll get suspicious if they hear the shower too often. "

  The young guy nodded.

  "We'll get out tonight," he said. "Can't do it this morning. We're all on duty at Loder's trial. I'll come by just after dusk, with a jeep. We'll make a run for it in the dark. Head south. Risky, but we'll make it. "

  "Not without Reacher," Holly said.

  The young guy shook his head.

  "Can't promise that," he said. "He's in with Borken now. God knows what's going to happen to him. "

  "I go, he goes," Holly said.

  The young guy looked at her nervously.

  "OK," he said, "I'll try. "

  He opened the bathroom door and crept out. Holly watched him go and turned the shower off. Stared after him.

  HE LOOPED NORTH and west and took a long route back through the woods, same way as he had come. The sentry Fowler had hidden in the trees fifteen feet off the main path never saw him. But the one he had hidden in the back-woods did. He caught a glimpse of a camouflage uniform hustling through the undergrowth. Spun around fast, but was too late to make the face. He shrugged and thought hard. Figured he'd keep it to himself. Better to ignore it than report he'd failed to make the actual ID.

  So the young man with the scar hurried all the way and was back in his hut two minutes before he was due to escort his commander down to the tribunal hearing.

  IN THE DAYLIGHT, the courthouse on the southeast corner of the abandoned town of Yorke looked pretty much the same as a hundred others Reacher had seen all over rural America. Built early in the century. Big, white, pillared, ornate. Enough square solidity to communicate its serious purpose, but enough lightness in its details to make it a handsome structure. He saw a fine cupola floating off the top of the building, with a fine clock in it, probably paid for by a public subscription held long ago among a long-forgotten generation. More or less the same as a hundred others, but the roof was steeper-pitched than some, and heavier built. He guessed it had to be that way in the north of Montana. That roof could be carrying a hundred tons of snow all winter long.

  But this was the third morning of July, and there was no snow on the roof. Reacher was warm after walking a mile in the pale northern sun. Borken had gone ahead separately and Reacher had been marched down through the forest by the same six elite guards. Still in handcuffs. They marched him straight up the front steps and inside. The first-floor interior was one large space, interrupted by pillars holding up the second floor, paneled in broad smooth planks sawed from huge pines. The wood was dark from age and polish, and the panels were stern and simple in their design.

  Every seat was taken. Every bench was full. The room was a sea of camouflage green. Men and women. Sitting rigidly upright, rifles exactly vertical between their knees. Waiting expectantly. Some children, silent and confused. Reacher was led in front of the crowd, over to a table in the well of the court. Fowler was waiting there. Stevie next to him. He nodded to a chair. Reacher sat. The guards stood behind him. A minute later, the double doors opened and Beau Borken walked over to the judge's bench. The old floor creaked beneath his bulk. Every person in the room except Reacher stood up. Stood to attention and saluted, as if they were hearing an inaudible cue. Borken was still in his black uniform, with belt and boots. He had added a large holster to hold his Sig-Sauer. He held a slim leatherbound book. He came in with six armed men in a loose formation. They took up station in front of the bench and stood at rigid attention, gazing forward, looking blank.

  The people sat down again. Reacher glanced up at the ceiling and quartered it with his eyes. Worked out which was the southeast corner. The doors opened again and the crowd drew breath. Loder was pushed into the room. He was surrounded by six guards. They pushed him to the table opposite Fowler's. The accused's table. The guards stood behind him and forced him into the chair with their hands on both his shoulders. His face was white with fear and crusted with blood. His nose was broken and his lips were split. Borken stared across at him. Sat down heavily in the judge's chair and placed his big hands, palms down, on the bench. Looked around the quiet room and spoke.

  "We all know why we're here," he said.

  HOLLY COULD SENSE there was a big crowd in the room below her. She could feel the faint rumble of a body of people holding themselves still and quiet. But she didn't stop working. No reason to believe her Bureau contact would fail, but she was still going to spend the day preparing. Just in case.

  Her search for a tool had led her to the one she had brought in with her. Her metal crutch. It was a one-inch aluminum tube, with an elbow clip and a handle. The tube was too wide and the metal was too soft to act as a pry bar. But she realized that maybe if she pulled the rubber foot off, the open end of the tube could be molded into a makeshift wrench. She could maybe crush the tube around the shape of the bolts holding the bed together. Then she could bend the tube at a right angle, and maybe use the whole thing like a flimsy tire iron.

  But first she had to scrape away the thick paint on the bolts. It was smooth and slick, and it welded the bolts to the frame. She used the edge of the elbow clip to flake the top layers. Then she scraped at the seams until she saw bright metal. Now her idea was to limp back and forth from the bathroom with a towel soaked in hot water. She would press the towel hard on the bolts and let the heat from the water expand the metal and crack its grip. Then the soft aluminum of the crutch might just prove strong enough to do the job.

  "RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT OF the mission," Beau Borken said.

  His voice was low and hypnotic. The room was quiet. The guards in front of the judge's bench s
tared forward. The guard at the end was staring at Reacher. He was the younger guy with the trimmed beard and the scar on his forehead Reacher had seen guarding Loder the previous night. He was staring at Reacher with curiosity.

  Borken held up the slim leatherbound volume and swung it slowly, left to right, like it was a searchlight and he wanted to bathe the whole of the room with its bright beam.

  "The Constitution of the United States," he said. "Sadly abused, but the greatest political tract ever devised by man. The model for our own constitution. "

  He turned the pages of the book. The rustle of stiff paper was loud in the quiet room. He started reading.

  "The Bill of Rights," he said. "The Fifth Amendment specifies no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime without a grand jury indictment except in cases arising in the militia in times of public danger. It says no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law. The Sixth Amendment specifies the accused shall have the right to a speedy public trial in front of a local jury. It says the accused has the right to assistance of counsel. "

  Borken stopped again. Looked around the room. Held up the book.

  "This book tells us what to do," he said. "So we need a jury. Doesn't say how many. I figure three men will do. Volunteers?"

  There was a flurry of hands. Borken pointed randomly here and there and three men walked across the pine floor. They stacked their rifles and filed into the jury box. Borken turned in his seat and spoke to them.

  "Gentlemen," he said. "This is a militia matter and this is a time of public danger. Are we agreed on that?"

  The new jurymen all nodded and Borken turned and looked down from the bench toward Loder, alone at his table.

  "You had counsel?" he said.

  "You offering me a lawyer now?" Loder asked.

  His voice was thick and nasal. Borken shook his head.

  "There are no lawyers here," he said. "Lawyers are what went wrong with the rest of America. We're not going to have lawyers here. We don't want them. The Bill of Rights doesn't say anything about lawyers. It says counsel. Counsel means advice. That's what my dictionary says. You had advice? You want any?"

  "You got any?" Loder said.

  Borken nodded and smiled a cold smile.

  "Plead guilty," he said.

  Loder just shook his head and dropped his eyes.

  "OK," Borken said. "You've had counsel, but you're pleading not guilty?"

  Loder nodded. Borken looked down at his book again. Turned back to the beginning.

  "The Declaration of Independence," he said. "It is the right of the people to alter or to abolish the old government and to institute new government in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. "

  He stopped and scanned the crowd.

  "You all understand what that means?" he said. "The old laws are gone. Now we have new laws. New ways of doing things. We're putting right two hundred years of mistakes. We're going back to where we should have been all along. This is the first trial under a brand-new system. A better system. A system with a far stronger claim to legitimacy. We have the right to do it, and what we are doing is right. "

  There was a slight murmur from the crowd. Reacher detected no disapproval in the sound. They were all hypnotized. Basking in Borken's bright glow like reptiles in a hot noontime sun. Borken nodded to Fowler. Fowler stood up next to Reacher and turned to the jury box.

  "The facts are these," Fowler said. "The commander sent Loder out on a mission of great importance to all our futures. Loder performed badly. He was gone for just five days, but he made five serious mistakes. Mistakes which could have wrecked the whole venture. Specifically, he left a trail by burning two vehicles. Then he mistimed two operations and thereby snarled up two civilians. And finally he allowed Peter Bell to desert. Five serious mistakes. "

  Fowler stood there. Reacher stared at him, urgently. "I'm calling a witness," Fowler said. "Stevie Stewart. " Little Stevie stood up fast and Fowler nodded him across to the old witness box, alongside and below the judge's bench. Borken leaned down and handed him a black book. Reacher couldn't see what book it was, but it wasn't a Bible. Not unless they had started making Bibles with swastikas on the cover.

  "You swear to tell the truth here?" Borken asked.

  Stevie nodded.

  "I do, sir," he said.

  He put the book down and turned to Fowler, ready for the first question.

  "The five mistakes I mentioned?" Fowler said. "You see Loder make them?"

  Stevie nodded again.

  "He made them," he said.

  "He take responsibility for them?" Fowler asked.

  "Sure did," Stevie said. "He played the big boss the whole time we were away. "

  Fowler nodded Stevie back to the table. The courtroom was silent. Borken smiled knowingly at the jurymen and glanced down at Loder.

  "Anything to say in your defense?" he asked quietly.

  The way he said it, he made it seem absurd that anybody could possibly dream up any kind of defense to those kinds of charges. The courtroom stayed silent. Still. Borken was watching the crowd. Every pair of eyes was locked onto the back of Loder's head.

  "Anything to say?" Borken asked him again.

  Loder stared forward. Made no reply. Borken turned toward the jury box and looked at the three men sitting on the old worn benches. Looked a question at them. The three men huddled for a second and whispered. Then the guy on the left stood up.

  "Guilty, sir," he said. "Definitely guilty. "

  Borken nodded in satisfaction.

  "Thank you, gentlemen," he said.

  The crowd set up a buzz. He turned to quell it with a look.

  "I am required to pass sentence," he said. "As many of you know, Loder is an old acquaintance of mine. We go back a long way. We were childhood friends. And friendship means a great deal to me. "

  He paused and looked down at Loder.

  "But other things mean more," he said. "Performance of my duties means more. My responsibility to this emerging nation means more. Sometimes, statesmanship must be put above every other value a man holds dear. "

  The crowd was silent. Holding its breath. Borken sat for a long moment. Then he glanced over Loder's head at the guards behind him and made a small, delicate motion with his head. The guards grabbed Loder's elbows and hauled him to his feet. They formed up and hustled him out of the room. Borken stood and looked at the crowd. Then he turned and walked to the doors and was gone. The people in the public benches shuffled to their feet and hurried out after him.

  Reacher saw the guards walking Loder to a flagpole on the patch of lawn outside the courthouse. Borken was striding after them. The guards reached the flagpole and shoved Loder hard up against it, facing it. They held his wrists and pulled, so he was pressed up against the pole, hugging it, face tight against the dull white paint. Borken came up behind him. Pulled the Sig-Sauer from its holster. Clicked the safety catch. Cocked a round into the chamber. Jammed the muzzle into the back of Loder's neck and fired. There was an explosion of pink blood and the roar of the shot cannoned back off the mountains.

 
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