Night school, p.33
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       Night School, p.33

         Part #21 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
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  They walked four abreast, at Griezman’s pace, which was slow. They passed the next building and kept on going. In the distance the speck on the bench got up and wandered away. Break over. Back to work. They walked on, between the last two buildings, toward the old dockyard crane. Beyond it the footbridge skipped ahead to the next pier, and then there was a choice of two bridges, half left or half right, to two more piers, each one different in the way it had been restored, with different sculptures, like different rooms in the same museum. From those piers the number of footbridges doubled again, two choices on the left, and two on the right, fanning out like fingers. The piers were massive granite constructions, worn and black and slimy, and the bridges were new and light and airy, spidering their way from one to two to four and onward. Whimsical. Like a maze, but not exactly. The city had spent some money.

  But not enough. Beyond the last sculptures in the far distance were weeds and broken brick and clusters of swaybacked old buildings. Back there the footbridges were old iron affairs. A dismal panorama, covering acres.

  A lot to search.

  But logical.

  Reacher said, “He wouldn’t want to park on the other side of town. He’d want to keep it local. These footbridges help him out. He’s got a hundred derelict warehouses within walking distance. Maybe a thousand. I bet half of them have no owners. He could move right in. Change the locks, and the place is his.”

  Sinclair said, “Is that where we’ll find it?”

  “It would make a lot of sense. It’s close at hand. It’s a short drive to the port, when the time comes.”

  They walked back to the car. The surveillance vehicle had arrived. It was a good one. It blended in well. They got in the Mercedes and drove out of the complex, around the new traffic circle, and back to the crossroads, with the high brick buildings. They turned right, on the road Reacher knew, past a body of water, some kind of a deep-water dock or a basin, and then they turned right again, on the narrow cobblestone track that led to the boxy metal bridge Reacher had seen in the moonlight.

  Beyond the bridge were the ruins of a lost civilization. Longshoring, nineteenth-century style. There were cobbled streets wide enough for flatbed trailers with iron rims and teams of horses. There were sheds and warehouses of every old-time style and size, some of which had fallen down, and some of which were about to. Walls bulged, and small trees grew in the rainwater gutters. There were side streets everywhere. It was like a city within a city. A lot to search.

  Griezman said, “I could check the rental records, for the name Kempner.”

  “He probably paid cash,” Reacher said. “Off the books. Or he’s squatting.”

  “I’ll check anyway. There might be reports of unusual activity. We can’t do this at random. It’s too big.”

  Griezman turned around in the gap between a rope maker and a sail loft, and drove away again, over the boxy metal bridge.

  “We need a car at the bridge,” Reacher said. “It’s a basic requirement. This bridge is the only way in or out. He can’t drive his van to the port any other way.”

  Griezman said, “The mayor’s office hasn’t released my men.”

  “You got one out.”

  “I can’t get two.”

  Reacher said nothing.

  Griezman said, “I suppose I could ask the traffic division. They’re not involved at the hotel garage. I’m sure Deputy Chief Muller would be willing to do us a favor.”

  “Tell him in German,” Reacher said. “His English is lousy.”

  —

  By that point Wiley was more than two miles away. A fast walk in the opposite direction, and then a short ride in a bus. He had gotten a very strange feeling. Not exactly a fright, but a powerful sense of something. He had seen the four tiny specks come out of the building and stand by their car. But then they had started walking toward him. Slowly and ominously. Past the next-door building and onward. He started to make out detail. Two men, two women. Somehow staring at him. As if they knew. Either the women were tiny or the men were huge. One was wearing gray and the other was wearing khaki. Faraway, nothing more than a grainy thumbnail smear of color, but the shape looked boxy. Like a Levi’s jean jacket. Like his own. One of which he had seen, not long ago, in a park, from the bus. With the chuckleheads from the bar.

  Impossible.

  He was invisible.

  Wasn’t he?

  He got up and walked away. Slowly, not a care in the world. Until he was out of sight. Then he hustled.

  Now he crossed the street to a mid-grade Turkish coffee shop and went to the phone on the wall. He had plenty of coins. A waste, almost certainly, because it was too early, but he was suddenly nervous. The guy in the jean jacket had upset him. Staring, like he knew.

  He dialed Zurich, and he gave his passcode number.

  He asked, “Has there been a deposit to my account today?”

  A keyboard pattered.

  There was a pause.

  “Not yet, sir,” was the answer.

  Chapter 38

  Muller called Dremmler from his office. He said, “Griezman’s division has asked mine for a favor. Their people are all tied up at the hotel. They want one of my officers to watch the bridge, right where the warehouse is. They already know about it.”

  “They don’t,” Dremmler said. “Only that the van is in there somewhere. If they knew exactly where, they’d have it already. All they can do is watch the bottleneck.”

  “How long do you need until you’re ready?”

  “I don’t know. I suppose half an hour would be good.”

  “I can’t delay half an hour. That’s a lifetime. Griezman might check. I already didn’t do the thing south of Hanover.”

  “How much time can you give me?”

  “None at all,” Muller said. “I’m supposed to do it right away.”

  “Then do you have a reliable officer?” Dremmler said.

  “Reliable in what sense?”

  “I mean one of us. Someone who might be persuaded to be selective about what he reports. For the good of the cause.”

  Muller said, “That’s possible, I suppose.”

  “Tell him I’ll make him deputy chief,” Dremmler said.

  —

  Reacher met Griezman’s secretary outside his office. She was indeed a pleasant woman. Griezman spoke to her rapid-fire in German, and she bustled off and came back at intervals with men in suits from the city planning department, each one bearing sheaves of maps and plans and historic surveys. Griezman laid out the best and most relevant on his conference table. One map was of the new footbridge arrangement. Another was a brittle sheet from the archives showing the area in the olden days. Another showed how beautification was planned to march on outward, in a shape like a slice of pizza. No doubt one day it would be finished. But not soon. So far the pointed end was pretty well covered, and a couple inches more, but the bulk of the pie hadn’t been touched in fifty years, since hungry postwar women in tattered clothing had hauled bricks and made repairs.

  There were eight new footbridges at the outer extremity of the urban park, and clearly the idea was to use one, sniff the air, then turn around and come right back. But there were also circuitous onward routes, if desired, using old iron bridges, and catwalks, and doglegs, and detours. Not part of the park. But a person could get to the ghost town.

  Eight final footbridges. Eight onward options, plus a couple of left-right choices, and then more. An additive effect. In the end there were close to twenty possible itineraries. Close to twenty possible end-points. Each one of which was a five minute walk to block after block of sheds and garages and storehouses. The cumulative total was the size of a town.

  —

  Wiley took the same bus, in the opposite direction, and got off where he had gotten on. He walked over the footbridge, but used a different footpath, that led him behind a neighboring building, to its corner, where he could see his own stretch of curb from cover.

  The suspicious Mercedes was
gone.

  But now closer to him was another Mercedes. Brand-new. The top model. A limousine. It was deep black, polished to an infinite shine. There was a driver with gloves and a peaked cap in the seat. An upmarket service for sure. Wiley knew about cars. A bank, maybe. Giving a junior executive a taste of the high life. To keep him hungry. To keep him in line. Or a couple with an anniversary. Going to Paris. Cars at both ends. Maybe the guy had done something wrong. Maybe he was making an effort.

  Wiley came out around the neighboring building and walked down to his lobby. Both elevators were on the ground floor. The middle of the day. Nothing going on. He rode up to nine and took out his key.

  —

  Out on the curb the limousine driver keyed his radio and said, “Wiley has come home. I repeat, Wiley is home.”

  His dispatcher said, “Stay on the air. I’m supposed to call Griezman.”

  There was dead air, and then the dispatcher came back, and said, “Griezman says sit tight, and he’ll be there as soon as he can. With the Americans. Four in total. In Griezman’s car.”

  “Understood,” the limo driver said. He hung up his microphone and re-adopted his pose, cap low, nose high, hands on the wheel at the ten and the two, even though the engine was off and the car wasn’t moving.

  —

  Wiley unlocked his yellow door and stepped inside. He went straight to the bedroom and grabbed his bag. Then straight to the kitchen. He folded his map on its original creases, and smoothed it out, and zipped it in the pocket of his bag. With the paper wallet from the travel agent. With the airplane ticket. He picked up the phone and dialed Zurich. He gave his passcode number.

  He asked, “Has there been a deposit to my account today?”

  A keyboard pattered.

  There was a pause.

  “Not yet, sir,” was the answer.

  Wiley put the phone down.

  Then he stood a second. Looked around. He had a weird feeling. The air was disturbed. Something had happened.

  What?

  Who cared? He was never coming back. He closed the door behind him and walked to the elevator. It opened right away. It had waited there. To save energy, he supposed. The Germans were all over that.

  He pressed the button and the doors closed and he rode down to the lobby. He walked out to the path and turned toward the water. Toward the old dockside crane, and the footbridges beyond.

  —

  The limo driver hit his radio hard and said, “Wiley is out again. Repeat, Wiley has left home again. He was in there less than five minutes. Now he’s walking away from me carrying a bag.”

  His dispatcher said, “Griezman and the Americans are currently en route. Can you follow?”

  “No. Wiley is on a footpath and I’m in a car two meters wide.”

  “Can you follow on foot?”

  “I’m restricted to vehicular duty only. It’s a disability posting. I hurt my back.”

  “Can you at least see where he’s going?”

  “He’s walking toward an old dockside crane.”

  “How far away is he now?”

  “About two hundred meters.”

  “No sign of Griezman?”

  “Not yet.”

  —

  Griezman was stuck in traffic. A fender bender, at the crossroads with the high brick buildings all around. He bumped up on the sidewalk and squeezed through whatever gaps he could find. Sinclair was next to him in the front. Reacher and Neagley were in the back. At that point they were impatient, rather than anxious. Until finally they made the turn, and drove around the new traffic circle, and pulled up behind the surveillance unit, and got the news from the driver.

  Griezman said, “How long ago?”

  “Ten minutes.”

  “He’s gone.”

  “With his bag,” Sinclair said. “Which means he ain’t coming back.”

  Reacher stared ahead, at the old crane, and beyond. Twenty itineraries. Twenty end-points. Block after block of sheds and garages and storehouses. A cumulative total the size of a town.

  “No one’s fault,” he said. “I’m sure we all imagined he had come home for lunch. We were entitled to expect thirty minutes at least.”

  “You’re very cheerful,” Sinclair said.

  “He’s on a man-made island with one road out. The situation is contained. Now all we need to do is hunt him down. Most likely we’ll find him with his vehicle. Two birds with one stone, right there. Our winning streak continues.”

  “This is winning?”

  “That really depends on what happens next.”

  “It’s a very large area. There are twenty ways in.”

  “Twenty ways out,” Reacher said. “Only one way in. Because it’s a very large area. He must have scouted it by car. I’m sure he got a four-day pass every time he did volunteer duty at the storage lager, which would have given him plenty of time for reconnaissance, but even so, he was coming all the way from the Frankfurt area. He would need a car. Rented, or borrowed. Or stolen, I guess. So think about it from his point of view. One day he’ll need to hide a truck. He drives in over the metal bridge. What does he look for?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Not the first thing he sees. This is a very big deal. At this point he’s thinking hard, but he’s also listening to his subconscious. He wants secrecy and isolation. He wants a dark furtive corner. Above all he doesn’t want to stand out. He doesn’t want to be the nearest or the farthest or the biggest or the smallest.”

  “He wants to be in the middle.”

  “Now it’s not such a large area. We just narrowed it down.”

  Neagley said, “He would want solid construction. And a live phone number for the rental. He wouldn’t squat. Too insecure for a very big deal. Anything could happen. He’d want to do it face to face. With a big wad of cash. He’d let himself get taken for a little extra. Like a rube. Because then he’s the golden goose. They’ll leave him alone in the hopes of coming back for more at the end of his term. So we’re looking for a solid door, with an inquiries number thumbtacked to it.”

  Reacher said, “Now we narrowed it down some more.”

  Sinclair said, “Still no decision from the White House.”

  “Why not?”

  “Perhaps the complexities surpass human understanding. Or perhaps they haven’t admitted to the world what happened yet. Too embarrassing. In the hopes that in the meantime the problem will go away, because of us.”

  “Which is it?”

  “I feel like I’m supposed to know. But I don’t.”

  “I think it’s the latter. My guess is they want us to continue.”

  “Are you advocating immediate action?”

  “Let’s go park the car at the bridge,” Reacher said. “Let’s at least do that. Then we’ll see what happens next.”

  Chapter 39

  The old dockside quarter still had telephone booths, and being German they still worked. Wiley dialed Zurich, and paid the toll, another long stream of foreign coins, and he gave his passcode number, and he asked if a deposit had been made to his account that day.

  A keyboard pattered.

  There was a pause.

  “Yes, sir,” was the answer. “A deposit was made.”

  Wiley said nothing.

  “Would you like to know the amount?”

  Wiley said yes.

  “One hundred million U.S. dollars and no cents.”

  Wiley said, “There’s a plan in place.”

  “I see that, sir. The project in Argentina. Shall we execute immediately?”

  “Yes,” Wiley said.

  He closed his eyes.

  His place.

 
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