Night school, p.32
Night School, p.32Part #21 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
“We just figured it out.”
“What kind of bombs?”
“Nuclear bombs,” Reacher said. “Atom bombs as big as Hiroshima.”
“Are you serious?”
“As lung cancer.”
“Ten of them?”
“In a crate.”
Orozco was quiet for a long, long moment.
Then he said, “I would want to bring my sergeant.”
Reacher said, “I would expect nothing less.”
“I’m on my way,” Orozco said.
Reacher hung up and took the stairs back to the regular office. The phone rang as soon as he got there. Sinclair put it on speaker. Not the White House. Not new orders from NATO. It was Griezman. Who said, “There are five Herr Kempners in Wiley’s development. Four look unlikely based on age. The fifth is a strong possibility. His lease expires in less than a month. He has no employment records. The source of his funds is unclear. He is registered as Isaac Herbert Kempner.”
“That’s him,” Reacher said. “That’s the guy who founded Imperial Sugar. The exact same name. We found Wiley.”
“I’ll pick you up in five minutes,” Griezman said. “But please, just you, Sergeant Neagley, and Dr. Sinclair. No CIA. I haven’t told Berlin yet. I’m out on a limb with this.”
Sinclair killed the call.
She looked at Reacher, and said, “Congratulations, major. Another medal.”
Reacher said, “Not yet.”
Muller closed his office door and called Dremmler from his desk phone. He said, “Griezman is checking city records for a guy named Kempner. In the new development where they think Wiley lives. Where they had the unmarked car.”
Dremmler said, “It’s a common name.”
“I looked for myself and found five in that neighborhood. Three are old men. One is a student. The fifth is thirty-five years old. He has a driver’s license. Which gives me access to his record. Which is completely empty. There’s nothing there. No speeding tickets, no parking tickets, no warnings or cautions, no insurance claims, no witness statements, no nothing. No contact whatsoever with the bureaucratic world. That’s not normal for a thirty-five-year-old. I don’t think he’s real. I think Kempner is Wiley’s new name.”
“You have the address?”
“We should think ahead. Griezman will go to the apartment. It will be inaccessible to us. But think like a traffic cop. He has a long-wheelbase panel van. Where does he park it? Not on the street, because my guys have been looking for it, and they haven’t found it. And not in a garage, either, because it’s the high-roof model, as well as too long. So it’s in a large shed, or possibly a small warehouse. Near enough to where he lives to be convenient. It’s there right now. Just waiting for us. It’s what we want. Not Wiley himself.”
“You need to ask the people you know. Did anyone rent out an old shed or a warehouse? Possibly for cash, certainly to someone they never saw before, who had some type of vague bullshit story for why he needed it. It’s the kind of thing you people talk about, right? A guy who knows a guy who knows a guy?”
Dremmler said, “I’ll make you chief of police.”
Bishop led the way to his office, which had an old-fashioned combination safe in the corner, as big as a basement washing machine. He spun the dials and turned the handle and opened the door. Inside was a mess of stuff, including four handguns stored butts-up in a long cardboard box. He took out three and passed them around. One for Sinclair, one for Reacher, and one for Neagley. They were Colt Government Model .380s. Seven-shooters, blued steel, plastic grips. Short barrel, but accurate. They were loaded.
“Try not to use them,” Bishop said. “And if you do, for God’s sake don’t shoot anyone but Wiley. The legalities would be a nightmare.”
Reacher said, “Tell Orozco where we are and what we’re doing, as soon as he gets here. Tell him to stand by.”
Bishop said, “Sure.”
Sinclair put her gun in her bag. Reacher and Neagley put theirs in their pockets.
Good to go.
Griezman stopped on the same curb as the day before, and Sinclair climbed in the front of the car. Reacher and Neagley climbed in the back. Then Griezman took off and threaded through the center of town, on a road Reacher remembered. Eventually they came to the crossroads. High brick buildings on every side. The champagne store was a right turn, and the new urban village was a left.
They turned left.
They drove around the brand-new traffic circle and took the middle exit, straight ahead into the apartment complex. The buildings looked high-rise in their surroundings, but none was more than fifteen stories tall. Exterior panels that in America would have been glass or mirror were sometimes metal painted bright simple colors. As if the dwellings had inspired or been inspired by a child’s construction toy. Or maybe children were supposed to feel at home there. Reacher couldn’t see how. He had been a serious kid. He felt the relentless cheerfulness would have driven him mad.
Griezman slowed the car.
He said, “It’s the next building on the left.”
Which was an identical structure, like a giant shoebox laid on its side, piebald with colored panels, peppered with windows, which were smaller than they might have been, and which had thick, efficient frames. The lobby was a bite out of the lower two floors, like a grand arcade, presumably with entrances right and left. Two elevator banks.
Griezman said, “Should we park and walk, or drive right up?”
“Drive,” Reacher said. “Let’s get this done.”
So Griezman accelerated again and then coasted to a stop outside Wiley’s lobby. There were young trees planted in the shoulders. There was another building dead ahead, and then two more in the distance, with a wide footpath running between them, to the preserved part of the cityscape, and then to a footbridge made of teak and steel. It looped over the water, and away.
They opened all four doors at once and got out of the car. According to his unit number Wiley’s lobby was the left-hand option. There were two elevators serving that half of the building. Both cars were waiting on the lobby level. The morning rush to work was over. Wiley’s unit was on the ninth floor. SOP for an apartment raid was to send people up in every elevator simultaneously, plus more on the stairs. A full-court press, to prevent a lucky escape. Reacher had known it to happen. He had seen security video, of a guy strolling out his door and getting in an elevator, literally half a second before the cops burst out of another elevator. Unfortunate timing. A teaching moment. Reacher figured Griezman would get a heart attack if he had to climb nine floors, so he suggested he ride in one car, with Sinclair in the other. Neagley took the stairs. Reacher went with Sinclair. Her gun was still in her bag. Not good practice. Getting it out would be slow, and the Government Model’s only real weakness was a prominent magazine release near the trigger. A fumble in a bag could unload it. Not ideal.
The elevator doors closed on them. The car moved up. Sinclair said, “How do you feel?”
Reacher said, “Personally or professionally?”
“I saw him on the liquor store video. He looked as quick as an outhouse rat. And he has a gun. And he’s about to do the deal of the century. But that’s OK. I like a challenge.”
“We’ll arrest him as soon as he opens the door. He won’t have time to do anything.”
“Suppose he doesn’t open the door? Suppose he looks out the peephole and waits in the bedroom?”
Sinclair didn’t answer.
The elevator stopped.
The doors opened.
Griezman was already out. Apart from him the corridor was empty. There were doors every thirty feet. Unit numbers were marked on narrow vertical panels next to the doors. The panels had an integrated wall sconce above, and the number below. They were all different bright colors. The numbers were written like a book from elementary school.
There was no peephole in the yellow door. Instead there was a head-height plastic eye on the green panel, the size of an egg, bulging out, smoky gray. A camera. Presumably with a screen on the wall inside. A big fish-eye picture. Below the camera at elbow height was a doorbell button. A visitor who got close enough to ding the bell would have his face right in front of the camera. Which made sense.
Neagley tapped her chest. I’ll go first. She kept close to the wall, approaching the fish’s eye at a ninety-degree angle, and when she was an arm’s length away she clamped her left palm over the lens, and took out her Colt, and used the muzzle to press the bell.
There was no response. Neagley pressed the bell again. Reacher heard a soft chime inside the apartment. Gentle, melodious, not urgent.
Neagley stood back.
Griezman said, “We need a warrant.”
Reacher said, “Are you sure?”
“In Germany it is essential.”
“But he’s American. And we’re American. Let’s do this the American way.”
“You need a warrant also. I have seen it in the movies. You have an Amendment.”
“And credit cards.”
“What for? To buy something? To pay someone off?”
“For ingenuity and self-reliance. That’s the American way.”
Neagley asked Sinclair for a credit card, and got a government Amex in return. She took it to Wiley’s door, and stood sideways, her back to the hinge, her inside hand on the handle, her outside hand holding the card, fingertips only. She pressed on the door with her shoulder, and hauled straight back on the handle, against whatever extra compression the hinges could give her, and she slid the government Amex into the frame and touched it to the tongue of the lock. She dabbed it and tapped it, and moved the door a fraction one way by pushing with her shoulder, and a fraction another way by hauling on the handle a degree more or less, trying random combinations, until finally the lock snicked back and the door came open. At which point she ducked low, because she knew Reacher would be aiming center-mass at anyone standing behind it.
There was no one there.
There was no one anywhere.
They cleared the place room by room, first with hasty left-right glances over iron sights, and then again patiently, and slower.
Still no one there.
They gathered in the kitchen. There was a map folded open on the counter. Large scale, plenty of detail. The center section of a country. Ocean to the left, ocean to the right. A perfect square rubbed greasy by a finger. The city of Buenos Aires in the top right corner.
“Argentina,” Reacher said. “He’s buying a ranch. Has to be a thousand square miles. He changed his money for pesos at the railroad station. He’s going to South America.”
Neagley opened cupboards, and checked the dishwasher, and pulled drawers. She reached into the recycle bin and came out with a dark bottle with a thin neck. Rinsed and empty. A dull gold label. Dom Perignon. Then she checked the trash. Crusts and rinds and coffee grounds. And a bloody shirt, and spattered pants, and a red file folder. Made of stiff board covered in vinyl, with four rings inside, and pre-punched pages with lines of handwritten code, in five separate columns.
“That’s Schlupp’s,” Griezman said. “That’s all the evidence I need.”
Sinclair came back from the bedroom.
“He packed a bag,” she said. “But it’s still in the closet. He’s still in town.”
At that moment Wiley was nine floors below them, in the lobby. But not yet approaching the elevator bank. He was standing in the middle of the floor, half turned, looking back at the car parked on the curb. He knew about cars. He had been a broker. Other people stole them, he sold them. To Mexico, mostly. Sometimes the Caribbean. He was a good judge of value. It was a price-sensitive market, the same as anything else. The car on the curb was a Mercedes, about three or four years old. It looked well maintained and very clean. But under the polish it was worn and scuffed. It had done a lot of city miles. It had an antenna on the trunk lid. Like a taxi or a town car. But it was not a taxi or a town car. No light, no meter. As a town car it was too old to be from an upmarket service. If it had been sold on secondhand to a downmarket service, it would be covered in stickers and phone numbers.
And it wasn’t a town car because the driver’s seat was crushed way back into the rear passenger space. No date night couple would tolerate that.
It was a cop car. Not a plain vanilla detective’s ride, but a sheriff’s, or a captain’s. Why? Not for him, surely. He was invisible. He was confident of that. So who? There were nearly two hundred apartments in the block. There had to be a bad guy in one of them. Statistically certain, in the new Germany.
He needed his bag, obviously, and he wanted his map. He planned to have it framed. He planned to hang it on a fieldstone fireplace, in a great room with a soaring cathedral ceiling. Where it belonged. It was of great sentimental value to him. It had gotten him through many a long night. It was his inspiration. He couldn’t just leave it. He could re-buy the stuff in the bag if he needed to. That would be a trivial task. Although he would have to change pesos back to marks, which would be a nuisance. But he couldn’t abandon the map. Apart from anything else it was a clue. A penciled square, rubbed away with his fingertip. He had killed the hooker for less. So he had to get it.
But later, he thought. Not now. Just in case. The cops could be on his floor. There was a one-in-fifteen chance. He didn’t want to get involved with witness statements. What could he say? He didn’t know his neighbors. Which would be taken as weird. So he turned back and walked out of the lobby, to the footpath toward the water, past the next building, between the last two, to a bench set at the feet of a preserved dockside crane. He sat down and slid along until he had a clear line of sight back the way he had come. About three hundred yards. The car was a speck. Therefore so was he, from the other direction. He waited.
Dremmler made his calls from his fourth-floor office, and the people he called made calls of their own, like a cascade through a certain section of society, where the deals were done, where everyone knew a guy who could get it cheaper, where everyone knew who was up and who was down. Then calls came back, like distant sonar pings, and a consensus grew around a guy who would never admit it. Because it stemmed from failure. The guy had bought some dockland south of St. Georg. He was going to sell it for apartments. But the city fathers developed St. Pauli instead. The guy was left with nothing but a bunch of tumbledown warehouses. Having paid a premium price. He was embarrassed.
But Dremmler was a leader, and like all leaders a man of charisma, so he called the guy and asked for the story. And sure enough he got it, after five minutes of obfuscation and delay, all because it was a cash deal. The warehouse guy was hiding it. His creditors were all over his bank accounts. But he needed walking-around money. So no questions asked. Wiley had shown up seven months ago. They met face to face. Wiley had a red ball cap and his chin tucked low. And wads of cash. He was impatient, as if the clock was ticking on an urgent plan. He paid well above the market rate. He didn’t think twice.
The guy told Dremmler where the warehouse was located. Dremmler knew the spot. He knew the boxy bridge. He thought, you honestly believed they would put apartments there? No wonder you’re bankrupt.
He said, “Thank you so much for your help. When the time comes, your service will not be forgotten.”
They debated waiting in the apartment for Wiley to come home, but Sinclair said since Helmsworth’s testimony the game had changed, and the long-wheelbase high-roof panel van was now the new number one priority. Not Wiley himself. He was now the number two priority. So Griezman made a call on Wiley’s phone, and kidnapped a surveillance unit from the mayor’s
They stepped out to the sidewalk. To the left was a footpath toward the water. In the distance Reacher could see an old dockyard crane, repainted black and gold, stooped like an ancient carnivore. There was a park bench at its feet, and maybe a guy sitting on it. Too far to see. Just a speck. Beyond the crane was a footbridge, to the next pier, which had two more, like a branching tree.
He said, “What happens over there?”
“At first it’s like an urban park,” Griezman said. “Then farther out it’s undeveloped.”
Reacher glanced around and lined himself up, north, south, east and west. He looked straight ahead, beyond the crane, into what would be a fan-shaped spread, first of neat urban parkland, and then of derelict lots. Which had to be the same fan shape he had seen from the side, the night before. If his mental map was correct. Beyond the boxy metal bridge. Where he turned back. He remembered moonlight on black water.
Places to hide a long-wheelbase panel van.
He said, “We should go take a look.”
Night School by Lee Child / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5.3 out of 5 / Based on48 votes