Matchup, p.49
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       MatchUp, p.49

           Lee Child

  But he wasn’t listening to his phone.

  She looked back over her shoulder, relieved to see that no one was on the slope behind her. She turned on her flashlight and waved it around.

  Finally, the man on the shore saw her, stopped, and turned toward her.

  He called out, “Bennie?”

  They ran toward each other in the moonlight, like lovers in a three-hankie movie. As they got closer, she saw that Corey was a good-looking man, tall and with the unmistakable air of a lifetime spent in law enforcement, but this wasn’t the time for biographical details. She slowed her pace, caught her breath, and began to stand down. As he approached, she saw that he was wearing a gray sweatshirt, baggy cargo pants, and old running shoes. Most federal agents dressed more buttoned up, but he seemed relaxed. She shut off the flashlight, reached him, and put out her hand.

  “Bennie Rosato.”

  He took her hand and said, “John Corey.”

  Then he added, “At your service.”


  She was either wearing elevator sandals or she was as tall as he was, about six feet. Her bare arms and legs were extremely well toned, like an athlete’s. Whoever had been chasing her was lucky they didn’t catch up. He thought her blond hair looked like it had been combed with an eggbeater, but maybe her sprint through the woods had messed up the coif.

  He focused on her face.

  Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight and were the color of her lips. Blue. She must be cold. She had good cheekbones, a slightly jutting chin, and an aquiline nose. She wore little makeup and probably didn’t need much. And finally, he noticed that she filled out her T-shirt.

  Actually, he noticed that first.

  All in all, an attractive woman with a striking presence.

  “Are you okay?”

  She was sweating and still breathing hard.

  “I think so.”

  He glanced back up at the slope. “Were you followed?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “The woods are deceiving at night.”

  “I know what I saw, Mr. Corey.”

  “Right. Please call me John.”

  “Are you really a federal agent?”

  “I am.”

  “I’m a lawyer.”

  “What else could go wrong tonight?”

  She frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “Just joking.” He further explained, “My ex-wife is a lawyer. And my estranged wife is also a lawyer, and an FBI agent.”

  “You’re a lucky man.”

  She tossed him a half smile.

  He wanted to tell her his joke about him marrying lawyers so he could screw a lawyer rather than vice versa, but he didn’t know her well enough. Maybe later. Instead, he said, “Let’s go to my place.”


  “So I can get my gun.”

  She hesitated. “Do you have any ID? A badge?”

  “My creds and badge are with my gun. You can see them all in my cabin. We shouldn’t be standing here in the open.”

  “I think we should call 911. We’re not going to cowboy this out alone.”

  “I already called. No connection.”

  She hit the 911 feature on her phone, but it didn’t connect.

  He tried 911 again too, but couldn’t get a connection. “Service sucks. By the way, you left the slider open in your cabin.”

  “It’s not my cabin. I won a Woodsy Weekend Getaway.”


  “I should have stayed in Philadelphia.”

  “Right. A weekend in Philadelphia seems like a month.”

  “Not funny.”


  “Are you from Washington?”

  “New York.”


  He couldn’t resist and said, “So second prize is two weeks in Philadelphia, and third prize is four weeks in Phila—”

  “I’m going to my cabin, getting my dog, and going home.”

  “You’re leaving me alone with terrorists?”

  She shot him a look.

  “I know,” he said. “I’m a wiseass.”

  She started to walk away, then hesitated. “Look, I don’t like to admit I need help, but this is the life-or-death exception. Walk with me, would you?”

  “My gun is in my cabin.”

  “Why do you need a gun, if you don’t believe me about the terrorists?”

  “Why do I think I can outtalk a lawyer?”

  “Are we having a power struggle?”

  “No, a divorce.”

  She shook her head.

  He said, “Look, Bennie, I think you saw something. I don’t know what you saw and neither do you. But I’d like you to come to my cabin and you can tell me what you saw and we’ll keep trying 911, and if we can’t get through, we’ll go to the nearest police station. Okay?”

  She didn’t appear like someone who surrendered control easily, but she also was scared.

  That was clear.

  “All right.”

  They scrambled down the edge of the slope to the lake and began walking quickly along the rocky shore toward his cabin.

  Not exactly hand in hand.

  But shoulder to shoulder.

  He crossed his back deck, slid open the glass door, and without waiting for Bennie went inside the cabin and made straight for the kitchen. His Glock was still on the table where he’d left it, stuck inside his pancake holster. Only an idiot or a rookie would have left the gun out in plain sight. What was he thinking? Then he remembered. It was the dog’s fault. Or maybe the scotch.

  He was aware that Bennie was behind him and knew she was looking at the gun. So, as casually as he could, he picked up the holster, lifted his sweatshirt, and clipped it onto his belt in the small of his back. Then he said to his houseguest, “My mother told me that a gentleman should never pull a gun on his date.”

  “This isn’t a date.”

  “It could be.”

  “No, it couldn’t.”

  He reached inside a suede jacket hanging on a chair and pulled out his credential case, which he handed to her.

  She let the case fall open, revealing his FBI photo ID and badge. She handed the case back to him. “This seems to be my lucky day.”

  “The day’s not over yet. You want a drink?”


  He smiled, plucked two glasses from the cupboard and made one water and one scotch and water. “Sorry, no ice.”

  “I don’t need ice.”

  “Did anyone ever tell you you’re kind of uptight?”

  She smiled. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re not uptight enough?”

  He smiled back.

  They clinked glasses and she said, “Cent’anni.”


  They drank, then he led her into the living room and indicated an armchair. He locked the sliding doors, then sat in a creaky rocker.

  She looked around. “This is worse than my place. Did you win a Woodsy Weekend too?”

  “I lost a bet.”

  They both laughed.

  She asked, “Do you have a landline phone here?”

  “I don’t even have ice.”

  “Let’s try 911 again.”

  They both tried on their cells, but neither could get a connection.

  He pointed out, “It could take an hour for a local cop or the State Police to get here anyway.”

  “Then let’s get out of here.”

  “First tell me what you saw in the woods.”

  “We can do that on the way to the police station.”

  He looked at Bennie Rosato. She’d gone from lady in distress to ball-busting lawyer in ten minutes. “We’re going to take separate cars out of here. In case we’re not coming back. So tell me what you saw.”

  She sipped on her water and told him. He listened. As with most attorneys her narrative was clear and concise, though he suspected she hadn’t been as cool and col
lected when she was lost in the woods, finding what she thought was a terrorist facility.

  When she finished, he said, “Something was going on there. Maybe criminal activity. Maybe some poachers. Maybe a meth lab or maybe park workers or environmental scientists doing something good for humanity.”

  “They were speaking Arabic.”

  “Other than from watching Homeland, would you know what Arabic sounded like?”

  “I think so. And don’t forget the camouflage netting.”

  “Right. What were these guys wearing?”

  “Black pants and dark jackets.”





  “Describe the crate.”

  “Long and narrow.”


  “Both men had to carry it.”

  “Were there other crates in the truck?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “How big was this shed?”

  “Are you taking my deposition?” She set down her water. “This is crazy. Let’s just go to the police.”

  “I think I have enough for us to file a report.” Then he let her know, “You’re a good witness.”

  “I grill witnesses for a living.”

  “Me too.”

  “So we have that in common.”

  “That makes it a date.”

  “No, it doesn’t.”

  “It’s datelike.”

  “Whatever that means.”

  She smiled, and he found himself admiring her crossed legs.

  “You a runner?” he asked.

  “Rower.” She headed for the door. “If we’re not coming back here, I need to get Max.”

  He stood. “I’ll get my stuff. We’ll drive to your place, collect your dog, and you’ll follow me in your car. There’s a State Police barracks in Ray Brook, about an hour from here. I worked with those guys once. They’re good.”

  “We should try to call them from the car. They can meet us halfway. I don’t want these men to get away.”

  “They’re already gone.”

  She frowned, disappointed. “What makes you say that?”

  “Bitter experience. Are you willing to go with the State Police and try to find this place?”

  “If you come with me.”

  He figured it was that life-or-death exception, striking again. “You’ll need better hiking clothes.”

  “Look who’s talking.”

  He smiled again. He liked her. “So are you enjoying your Woodsy Weekend Getaway?”

  “No. Are you?”

  “Actually, I am.”

  “You weren’t chased by terrorists.”

  “There’s still hope.”

  “Mister Macho.”

  “My middle name. Let’s move out.”

  He grabbed his small duffel bag, and she shut off the lights, then they went out to his Jeep Cherokee. She got into the passenger seat as he set his bag in the back, opened it, took out four loaded magazines, and shoved them into his cargo pockets. He slammed the hatch shut and jumped behind the wheel, starting the engine and engaging the four-wheel drive. He used only his parking lights to navigate the dirt driveway. His driveway ended and he turned onto the one-lane gravel road that connected the cabins around the lake.

  “Did you cross this road when you were lost?” he asked her.

  “I think so. Why?”

  “I’m trying to determine where this place was that you saw.”

  “I think I did cross this road.”

  “Did it occur to you that you were heading uphill, away from the lake and away from my cabin?”

  “I was upset about Max. I was just following the lights.”

  “Follow your senses.”

  “You forgot your gun.”

  “Your dog distracted me.”

  “Again with the dog blaming.”

  He liked women who didn’t take his crap. That was why he’d liked Robin, his first wife, and Kate, his future ex-wife. But maybe he should lay off lady lawyers for a while. “Do you think you could find this place again?”

  “Maybe. Maybe they can find us. You should go faster.”

  “We’re almost there.”

  He looked at the thick forest that hugged the narrow road and listened to the sound of the tires crunching over the gravel. He saw the lights of her cabin off to his right and slowed down.

  She said, “The driveway is between those big pines.”

  He found the entrance and turned into it. The dirt drive continued downhill for a few hundred feet into the clearing around her cabin and he stopped the Jeep behind her BMW.

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