Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher #12)(16)


by Lee Child

"They just wanted me out of there."

"Where do you go to school?"

She paused. Glanced to her right.

"Miami," she said.

Reacher nodded. Wherever she went to school, it wasn't Miami. Probably wasn't anywhere in the East. Was probably somewhere on the West Coast. Southern California, possibly. Unskilled liars like her often picked a mirror image, when lying about geography.

"What's your major?" he asked.

She looked straight at him and said, "The history of the twentieth century." Which was probably true. Young people usually told the truth about their areas of expertise, because they were proud of them, and they were worried about getting caught out on alternatives. Often they didn't have alternatives. Being young, it came with the territory.

"Feels like yesterday to me," he said. "Not history."

"What does?"

"The twentieth century."

She didn't reply. Didn't understand what he meant. She remembered maybe eight or nine years of the old century, maximum, and from a kid's perspective. He remembered slightly more of it.

"What's your name?" he asked.

She glanced to her right. "Anne."

Reacher nodded again. Whatever her name was, it wasn't Anne. Anne was probably a sister's name. Or a best friend's. Or a cousin's. Generally people liked to stay close to home with phony names.

The girl who wasn't called Anne asked, "Wereyou unfairly accused?"

Reacher shook his head. "A vagrant is exactly what I am."

"Why did you go there?"

"I liked the name. Why didyou go there?"

She didn't answer.

He said, "Anyway, it wasn't much of a place."

"How much of it did you see?"

"Most of it, the second time."

"You went back?"

"I took a good look around, from a distance."

"And?"

"It still wasn't much of a place."

The girl went quiet. Reacher saw her weighing her next question. How to ask it. Whether to ask it. She put her head on one side and looked beyond him.

"Did you see any people?" she asked.

"Lots of people," Reacher said.

"Did you see the airplane?"

"I heard one."

"It belongs to the guy with the big house. Every night he takes off at seven and comes back at two o'clock in the morning."

Reacher asked, "How long were you there?"

"One day."

"So how do you know the plane flies every night?"

She didn't answer.

"Maybe someone told you," Reacher said.

No reply.

Reacher said, "No law against joyriding."

"People don't joyride at night. There's nothing to see."

"Good point."

The girl was quiet for another minute, and then she asked, "Were you in a cell?"

"Couple of hours."

"Anyone else in there?"

"No."

"When you went back, what people did you see?"

Reacher said, "Why don't you just show me his picture?"

"Whose picture?"

"Your boyfriend's."

"Why would I do that?"

"Your boyfriend is missing. As in, you can't find him. That was Officer Vaughan's impression, anyway."

"You trust cops?"

"Some of them."

"I don't have a picture."

"You've got a big bag. Probably all kinds of things in there. Maybe a few pictures."

She said, "Show me your wallet."

"I don't have a wallet."

"Everyone has a wallet."

"Not me."

"Prove it."

"I can't prove a negative."

"Empty your pockets."

Reacher nodded. He understood.The boyfriend is some kind of a fugitive. She asked about my job. She needs to know I'm not an investigator. An investigator would have compromising ID in his wallet. He lifted his butt off the bench and dug out his cash, his old passport, his ATM card, his motel key. His toothbrush was in his room, assembled, standing upright in a plastic glass next to the sink. The girl looked at his stuff and said, "Thanks."

He said, "Now show me his picture."

"He's not my boyfriend."

"Isn't he?"

"He's my husband."

"You're young, to be married."

"We're in love."

"You're not wearing a ring."

Her left hand was on the table. She withdrew it quickly, into her lap. But there had been no ring on her finger, and no tan line.

"It was kind of sudden," she said. "Kind of hurried. We figured we'd get rings later."

"Isn't it a part of the ceremony?"

"No," she said. "That's a myth. I'm not pregnant either, just in case that's what you're thinking."

"Not for a minute."

"Good."

"Show me the picture."

She hauled the gray messenger bag into her lap and rooted around for a moment and came out with a fat leather wallet. There was a billfold part straining against a little strap, and a change-purse part. There was a plastic window on the outside with a California driver's license behind it, with her picture on it. She unpopped the little strap and opened the billfold and riffled through a concertina of plastic photograph windows. Slid a slim fingertip into one of them and eased a snapshot out. She passed it across the table. It had been cut down out of a standard six-by-four one-hour print. The edges were not entirely straight. It showed the girl standing on a street with golden light and palm trees and a row of neat boutiques behind her. She was smiling widely, vibrant with love and joy and happiness, leaning forward a little as if her whole body was clenching with the onset of uncontrollable giggles. She was in the arms of a guy about her age. He was very tall and blond and heavy. An athlete. He had blue eyes and a buzz cut and a dark tan and a wide smile.

"This is your husband?" Reacher asked.

The girl said, "Yes."

15

Reacher squared the snapshot on the tabletop in front of him. Looked at the girl across from him and asked, "How old is this photo?"