Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher #12)(17)


by Lee Child

"Recent."

"May I see your driver's license?"

"Why?"

"Something I need to check."

"I don't know."

"I already know your name isn't Anne. I know you don't go to school in Miami. My guess would be UCLA. This photograph looks like it was taken somewhere around there. It has that LA kind of feel."

The girl said nothing.

Reacher said, "I'm not here to hurt you."

She paused and then slid her wallet across the table. He glanced at her license. Most of it was visible behind the milky plastic window. Her name was Lucy Anderson. No middle name. Anderson, hence Anne, perhaps.

"Lucy," he said. "I'm pleased to meet you."

"I'm sorry about not telling you the truth."

"Don't worry about it. Why should you?"

"My friends call me Lucky. Like a mispronunciation. Like a nickname."

"I hope you always are."

"Me too. I have been so far."

Her license said she was coming up to twenty years old. It said her address was an apartment on a street he knew to be close to the main UCLA campus. He had been in LA not long before. Its geography was still familiar to him. Her sex was specified as female, which was clearly accurate, and her eyes were listed as blue, which was an understatement.

She was five feet eight inches tall.

Which made her husband at least six feet four. Maybe six feet five. He towered over her. He was huge. He looked to be well over two hundred pounds. Maybe Reacher's own size. Maybe even bigger. His arms were as thick as the palm trunks behind him.

Not the guy in the dark. Not even close. Way too big. The guy in the dark had been Lucy Anderson's size.

Reacher slid the wallet back across the table. Followed it with the photograph.

Lucy Anderson asked, "Did you see him?"

Reacher shook his head.

"No," he said. "I didn't. I'm sorry."

"He has to be there somewhere."

"What's he running from?"

She looked to the right. "Why would he be running from something?"

"Just a wild guess," Reacher said.

"Who are you?"

"Just a guy."

"How did you know my name wasn't Anne? How did you know I'm not in school in Miami?"

"A long time ago I was a cop. In the military. I still know things."

Her skin whitened behind her freckles. She fumbled the photograph back into its slot and fastened the wallet and thrust it deep into her bag.

"You don't like cops, do you?" Reacher asked.

"Not always," she said.

"That's unusual, for a person like you."

"Like me?"

"Safe, secure, middle class, well brought up."

"Things change."

"What did your husband do?"

She didn't answer.

"And who did he do it to?"

No answer.

"Why did he go to Despair?"

No response.

"Were you supposed to meet him there?"

Nothing.

"Doesn't matter, anyway," Reacher said. "I didn't see him. And I'm not a cop anymore. Haven't been for a long time."

"What would you do now? If you were me?"

"I'd wait right here in town. Your husband looks like a capable guy. He'll probably show up, sooner or later. Or get word to you."

"I hope so."

"Is he in school, too?"

Lucy Anderson didn't answer that. Just secured the flap of her bag and slid off the bench sideways and stood up and tugged the hem of her skirt down. Five-eight, maybe one-thirty, blonde and blue, straight, strong, and healthy.

"Thank you," she said. "Good night."

"Good luck," he said. "Lucky."

She hoisted her bag on her shoulder and walked to the door and pushed out to the street. He watched her huddle into her sweatshirt and step away through the cold.

He was in bed before two o'clock in the morning. The motel room was warm. There was a heater under the window and it was blasting away to good effect. He set the alarm in his head for six-thirty. He was tired, but he figured four and a half hours would be enough. In fact they would have to be enough, because he wanted time to shower before heading out for breakfast.

16

It was a cliche that cops stop in at diners for doughnuts before, during, and after every shift, but cliches were cliches only because they were so often true. Therefore Reacher slipped into the same back booth at five to seven in the morning and fully expected to see Officer Vaughan enter inside the following ten minutes.

Which she did.

He saw her cruiser pull up and park outside. Saw her climb out onto the sidewalk and press both hands into the small of her back and stretch. Saw her lock up and pirouette and head for the door. She came in and saw him and paused for a long moment and then changed direction and slid in opposite him.

He asked, "Strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate? It's all they've got."

"Of what?"

"Milk shakes."

"I don't drink breakfast with jerks."

"I'm not a jerk. I'm a citizen with a problem. You're here to help. Says so on the badge."

"What kind of problem?"

"The girl found me."

"And had you seen her boyfriend?"

"Her husband, actually."

"Really?" Vaughan said. "She's young to be married."

"I thought so, too. She said they're in love."

"Cue the violins. So had you seen him?"

"No."

"So where's your problem?"

"I saw someone else."

"Who?"

"Not saw, actually. It was in the pitch dark. I fell over him."

"Who?"

"A dead guy."

"Where?"

"On the way out of Despair."

"Are you sure?"

"Completely," Reacher said. "A young adult male corpse."

"Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack."

"Why didn't you tell me last night?"

"I wanted time to think about it."

"You're yanking my chain. There's what out there, a thousand square miles? And you just happen to trip over a dead guy in the dark? That's a coincidence as big as a barn."