Die trying, p.26
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       Die Trying, p.26

         Part #2 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
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Chapter Twenty-Six


  "HIS NAME IS Jack Reacher," Webster said.

  "Good call, General," McGrath said. "I guess they remembered him. "

  Johnson nodded.

  "Military police keeps good records," he said.

  They were still in the commandeered crew room inside Peterson Air Force Base. Ten o'clock in the morning, Thursday July third. The fax machine was rolling out a long reply to their inquiry. The face in the photograph had been identified immediately. The subject's service record had been pulled straight off the Pentagon computer and faxed along with the name.

  "You recall this guy now?" Brogan asked.

  "Reacher?" Johnson repeated vaguely. "I don't know. What did he do?"

  Webster and the General's aide were crowding the machine, reading the report as the paper spooled out. They twisted it right side up and walked slowly away to keep it up off the floor.

  "What did he do?" McGrath asked them urgently.

  "Nothing," Webster said.

  "Nothing?" McGrath repeated. "Why would they have a record on him if he didn't do anything?"

  "He was one of them," Webster said. "Major Jack Reacher, military police. "

  The aide was racing through the length of paper.

  "Silver Star," he said. "Two Bronzes, Purple Heart. This is a hell of a record, sir. This guy was a hero, for God's sake. "

  McGrath opened up his envelope and pulled out the original video pictures of the kidnap, black-and-white, un-enlarged, grainy. He selected the first picture of Reacher's involvement. The one catching him in the act of seizing Holly's crutch and pulling the dry cleaning from her grasp. He slid the photograph across the table.

  "Big hero," he said.

  Johnson bent to study the picture. McGrath slid over the next. The one showing Reacher gripping Holly's arm, keeping her inside the tight crush of attackers. Johnson picked it up and stared at it. McGrath wasn't sure whether he was staring at Reacher, or at his daughter.

  "He's thirty-seven," the General's aide read aloud. "Mustered out fourteen months ago. West Point, thirteen years' service, big heroics in Beirut right at the start. Sir, you pinned a Bronze on him, ten years ago. This is an absolutely outstanding record throughout. He's the only non-Marine in history to win the Wimbledon. "

  Webster looked up.

  "Tennis?" he said.

  The aide smiled briefly.

  "Not Wimbledon," he said. "The Wimbledon. Marine Sniper School runs a competition, the Wimbledon Cup. For snipers. Open to anybody, but a Marine always wins it, except one year Reacher won it. "

  "So why didn't he serve as a sniper?" McGrath asked.

  The aide shrugged.

  "Beats me," he said. "Lots of puzzles in this record. Like why did he leave the service at all? Guy like this should have made it all the way to the top. "

  Johnson had a picture in each hand and he was staring closely at them.

  "So why did he leave?" Brogan asked. "Any trouble?"

  The aide shook his head. Scanned the paper.

  "Nothing in the record," he said. "No reason given. We were shedding numbers at the time, but the idea was to cull the no-hopers. A guy like this shouldn't have been shaken out. "

  Johnson switched the photographs into the opposite hands, like he was looking for a fresh perspective.

  "Anybody know him real well?" Milosevic asked. "Anybody we can talk to?"

  "We can dig up his old commander, I guess," the aide said. "Might take us a day to get hold of him. "

  "Do it," Webster said. "We need information. Anything at all will help. "

  Johnson put the photographs down and slid them back to McGrath.

  "He must have turned bad," he said. "Sometimes happens. Good men can turn bad. I've seen it myself, time to time. It can be a hell of a problem. "

  McGrath reversed the photographs on the shiny table and stared at them.

  "You're not kidding," he said.

  Johnson looked back at him.

  "Can I keep that picture?" he said. "The first one?"

  McGrath shook his head.

  "No," he said. "You want a picture, I'll take one myself. You and your daughter standing together in front of a headstone, this asshole's name on it. "

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