Matchup, p.36
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       MatchUp, p.36

           Lee Child
 

  Metal.

  “Don’t touch it,” Nabila said.

  “Been doing this twenty years.”

  He took out a handkerchief.

  “I know what I’m doing.”

  Then he freed the metal from the ground.

  A tire iron.

  He winked at Harper. “Never doubted you.”

  “Can we head back to town now?” Harper said. “I really need to see about Tolliver. He might want something to eat by now.”

  Hauck grinned. “I think we can do just that.”

  THEY WERE ALL GOING HOME in the morning.

  Hauck to D.C. through London. Harper and Tolliver on their return trip through Frankfurt. Their work was done here. Stephanie’s body had been found. Razi had been detained by the police. Whether or not there was enough evidence to convict him in a country like Egypt, a place of influence and power and family, who knew? Hopefully, they would find his fingerprints on the tire iron they’d uncovered. And it would be missing from his own car. Nabila promised she would press the case aggressively. Her eyes had definitely been opened in the past two days.

  And so had Hauck’s.

  He’d said his good-byes over plates of spaghetti at the hotel’s restaurant. Tolliver wolfed down the food like he hadn’t eaten a meal in weeks.

  “If you’re ever in Greenwich, look me up.”

  He shook Harper’s hand.

  “We never seem to get that far north,” Tolliver said.

  “If you ever need a recommendation”—he laid his card on the table—“you know who to call.”

  He went upstairs, packed, and made a few calls. He left a message for Naomi he’d return by tomorrow night. Around eleven he came back down for a nightcap and thought he’d take a walk.

  Experience the city one last time.

  “American bourbon,” he told the Egyptian bartender. He pointed. “That Woodford’ll be fine.”

  “Interesting business in Alexandria?” the bartender inquired.

  Hauck chuckled and savored a long sip. “You’d never guess.”

  “Then relax, sir, and enjoy yourself.”

  He sat back and let his mind drift to what lay ahead. At home he had a lot of choices to make, and Naomi was at the center of most of them. Greenwich or D.C.? As he was finishing his bourbon and thinking of going to bed, he spotted someone through the lobby, leaving the hotel.

  Harper.

  Alone.

  Dressed in her jean jacket and college sweatshirt. It was going on midnight, not safe for a woman to be out alone. Especially a Western woman.

  He signed the bill and ran after her.

  On the street, she made a right turn toward the harbor with a fifty-yard head start. He followed. The night was bright, the moon exceedingly large. A warm breeze blew in from the Sahara to the south.

  A sirocco, he recalled.

  Harper kept for the harbor at a good pace, as if she knew precisely where she was going. At this late hour she certainly wasn’t catching up on some last-minute souvenir shopping. He wanted to make sure she didn’t find any trouble. Stephanie already proved what could happen.

  Harper kept walking.

  As if drawn, never looking back.

  The streets were mostly dark and empty. The open markets shut up, the shops closed. Occasionally a café leaked music.

  But Harper continued on her way.

  As she neared the water, it began to grow cooler. The wind picked up. There were more hotels, cafés, and modern businesses. The new Alexandria library was out on the point, the previous one, one of the wonders of the ancient world disappeared centuries ago.

  Finally she came to land’s end at the seawall.

  Nothing in front of her but the dark harbor.

  She walked along the wall, the Mediterranean quietly lapping against it. Past a hotel and a restaurant, everything dark and quiet at this late hour.

  At the end of the harbor, she stopped.

  Something seemed to be guiding her.

  She held out her arms.

  The wind kicked up, brisk and warm, whipping her hair. She stepped closer to the water’s edge. For a moment, he was worried she was going to do something crazy. He edged closer, now only about ten feet from her. He didn’t want to scare her.

  He was about to ask if everything was all right when she spoke.

  “He wants to be found now, Mr. Hauck,” she said, without ever turning around to acknowledge he was there. “He’s ready.”

  More wind blew her hair. The moon bathed her in an eerie, almost holy kind of light.

  “They brought him here, after he died. It was his favorite among all his cities. The city of his dreams. And it became so. He said it would unite the East and West.”

  “You’re speaking of Alexander?”

  “He was so young, but he had accomplished so much. There was so much more he wanted to do.” She turned around. “I feel it in his bones.”

  “How?” he asked her.

  He wanted clarity.

  “I can feel his thoughts at his death. It’s perfectly clear.”

  She halfway smiled.

  Now Hauck’s blood surged with excitement. “Where, Harper?”

  “You know what used to be here, don’t you?” She pointed. “The Pharos. The famous lighthouse from ancient times. A beacon to the entire world. That’s where he is.”

  In the moonlight, Harper’s skin was eerily white, like alabaster. “He wants to be found now, Mr. Hauck. He said it’s time. He’s ready. There’s a lot of water all around him.”

  She walked to the edge, so close for a moment he thought one more step and she would fall into the sea.

  But then she stood still, the water lapping over the wall, the wind taking her hair, and she pointed, to the earth that had buried so many civilizations, so many worlds.

  “Dig here.”

  LISA JACKSON AND JOHN SANDFORD

  LISA WANTED TO USE DETECTIVE Regan Pescoli from Grizzly Falls, Montana, in this story. The character is central to her ongoing To Die series. One of John’s most popular characters is Virgil Flowers. He’s an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but he’s also an avid fisherman and sportswriter.

  So John had an idea.

  Send Virgil on a fishing trip to Montana, Regan Pescoli’s home turf, where a crime would draw the two characters together.

  Lisa freely admits that John started the story and ran with it. They didn’t toss it back and forth, or pit one scene against the other. John wrote the entire draft, then Lisa added scenes, filled in details, and tweaked. She’s a huge fan of John’s Lucas Davenport series, but she’d never read any of the Virgil Flowers books. To prepare herself, during the months between agreeing to write the story and actually finishing it, she devoured five Virgil Flowers’s novels.

  Here’s another interesting detail.

  At the end of Lisa’s 2017 novel, Expecting to Die, a pregnant Regan Pescoli finally has a baby. But when this short story was written (in 2016), Lisa had no idea of the child’s sex, as that was to be determined through a contest her publisher was running. Since this story would be released a few months after Expecting to Die, Lisa had to go ahead and make Regan a lactating mother of a newborn, sex unknown.

  A final thought.

  Lisa loved the way John ended the story. It actually provided her with some great grist as she continues the Regan Pescoli series.

  Now it’s time to found out just who—

  Deserves to Be Dead.

  DESERVES TO BE DEAD

  VIRGIL FLOWERS AND JOHNSON JOHNSON sat on the cabin’s narrow board porch, drinking coffee and looking out at the empty golf course. A fine mist was sweeping down from the mountains and across the tan grass of the first fairway. The dissected remnants of three newspapers lay on the table between them. Four fly rods hung tip-down from a rack on the wall.

  Two other fishermen, whom they’d met the day before, wandered by in rain jackets, aiming in the general direction of the bar, and Johnson s
aid, “We got like a gallon of hot coffee.”

  “We’ll take some of that,” Rich Lang said, the shorter of the two guys.

  He looked soft around the middle with about a week’s worth of graying stubble on his face. The two guys took the other chairs on the porch, and the four of them sat around talking about fish and politics and personal health, as they admired the rain.

  The other guy, Dan Cain, said, “Shoulda gone to Colorado.”

  “Can’t afford Colorado,” Lang said. “Besides, the fish are bigger here.”

  The personal health issue involved Cain, who’d taken a bad fall on a river rock the day before, shredding the skin on his elbows and upper arms. Nothing serious, but painful, and his arms were coated with antiseptic cream and wrapped in gauze.

  “Pain in the butt,” he admitted.

  “That’s what happens when us big guys fall,” Johnson said to Cain. They were both six six or so, and well over two hundred pounds. “Virgil falls down, it’s like dropping a snake. I fall down, and it’s like Pluto rammed into the earth.”

  “Pluto the planet, or Pluto the dog?” Virgil asked.

  It went back and forth like that for twenty minutes, Lang and Cain browsing halfheartedly through the abandoned newspapers.

  Cain eventually said, “It’s looking lighter in the west.”

  Virgil, Johnson, and Lang said, almost simultaneously, “Bullshit.”

  Johnson checked his cell phone and a weather app for a radar image of the area.

  “We won’t get out this afternoon,” he said. “It’s rain all the way back to Idaho.”

  “What about tomorrow?” Lang asked.

  “Thirty percent chance of rain,” Johnson said. “When they say thirty percent chance of rain, that usually means there’s a fifty percent chance.”

  “We could go into town, find a place that sells books,” Virgil said. “Check the grocery store, get something to eat tonight.”

  “Or find a casino, lose some money in the slots,” Johnson said. “Did I ever tell you about the casino up in Ontario? I was up there last month with Donnie Glover, and it was raining like hell.”

  Johnson launched into a rambling story about a Canadian casino in which the slot machines apparently never paid anything, ever.

  The four of them were at WJ Guest Ranch outside of Grizzly Falls, Montana, possibly the smallest dude ranch in the state at seventy acres. Sixty of those were dedicated to a homemade, ramshackle executive golf course. The other ten acres had nine tiny chrome-yellow cabins, a barn with four rentable horses, the equine equivalent of Yugos, the owners’ house, a larger cabin with a bar that had six stools, three tables, one satellite TV permanently tuned to a sports channel, and a collection of old books and magazines that smelled of mold. The place had two secret ingredients. Access to a trout stream stuffed with big rainbows and browns, and price. The WJ was cheap.

  They were all half listening to Johnson’s story when a girl started screaming, her shrill voice rising from the owners’ house.

  Not screaming in fear. She was out-of-control angry.

  Johnson broke off the story to say, “That’s Katy.”

  “Sounds a little pissed,” Cain said.

  Katy was the oldest of the owners’ kids, a skinny blond fifteen-year-old about to start high school. She was in charge of horse rentals and, on sunny days, ran a soda stand on the fifth hole of the golf course. At night, she worked illegally as a part-time bartender. They hadn’t had much contact with her, but from what they’d seen, she wasn’t a girl you’d want to cross.

  “More than a little pissed,” Lang said. “Hope she doesn’t have a gun.”

  The angry screaming, peppered with a few choice swearwords, continued, and Jim Waller, the owner, stuck his head out of the bar, then trotted over to his house, holding a piece of cardboard box over his balding head to fend off the rain. Tall and lean, he disappeared into the house, where the shouting got louder.

  Two minutes later, the side door exploded open and Katy charged out, heading straight for their cabin. Rain splattered the ground around her, creating puddles, but she didn’t seem to notice. A moment later her father ran out behind her, trying and failing to catch her. She climbed up on the porch, looked straight at Johnson, and demanded, “Did you steal my money?”

  Jim Waller arrived, shouting. “Katy. Stop it.” And to Johnson Johnson and Virgil he said, “I’m sorry, guys.”

  “I want to know,” Katy said, her eyes snapping fire. “Did you?”

  “Shut up,” her father shouted.

  “You shut up,” she yelled back.

  Johnson Johnson jumped in. “Whoa. Whoa. Why do you think I stole your money?”

  “We know everybody else here, and they wouldn’t do it, and you look like a crook,” she said.

  “What?”

  “You heard me.” Her hair was damp, darkening the blond strands, rain drizzling down her face.

  Jim Waller grabbed his daughter’s arm and tried to drag her off the porch.

  Virgil shouted, “Hey, hey. Everybody stop.”

  He could see Waller’s wife, Ann, and another one of the kids, a girl, peering at them from the screen door of the owners’ house.

  He was loud enough that everybody stopped for a moment, so he said, to Katy, “Johnson does look like a crook, but check his truck. It’s a Cadillac. He’s rich. He owns a lumber mill. He doesn’t need your money. And I’m a cop.”

  Johnson turned to Virgil. “Wait a minute, did you say—”

  Virgil said to Johnson, “What can I tell you, Johnson?” And to Katy, “What about this money?”

  She was still boiling. “My pop money. From selling soda pop all summer. More than six hundred dollars and it’s all gone.” She was getting mad again, glaring at the men.

  “Somebody took it out of her chest of drawers,” Jim Waller said.

  Then Katy asked Virgil, “What kind of cop are you?”

  “I’m an investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.”

  “It’s like a state version of the FBI,” Johnson added.

  Katy didn’t care. She just seized on the word cop and focused on Virgil. “Could you find out who took the money?”

  Her father said, “Katy, goddarnit, he’s here to fish.”

  “We’re not fishing with this rain,” Cain said.

  Johnson nodded. “He’s right: Why don’t we take a look, Virgie? It’s something to do.”

  Damn that Johnson.

  They were all looking at him, and Virgil said to Katy, “You know, it’s enough money that you should call the local cops.”

  “That’s not gonna help,” she said. “The deputy we got out here, he couldn’t catch a cow on a golf course. His main job is giving speeding tickets to tourists.”

 
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