Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher #12)(5)


by Lee Child

"You're under arrest," he said.

5

Reacher stood still and asked, "On what charge?"

The cop said, "I'm sure I'll think of something." He swapped the gun into one hand and used the other to take the handcuffs out of the holder on his belt. He held them on the flat of his palm and one of the guys behind him stepped forward and took them from him and looped around behind Reacher's back.

"Put your arms behind you," the cop said.

"Are these guys deputized?" Reacher asked.

"Why would you care?"

"I don't. But they should. They put their hands on me without a good reason, they get their arms broken."

"They're all deputized," the cop said. "Especially including the one you just laid out."

He put both hands back on his gun.

"Self-defense," Reacher said.

"Save it for the judge," the cop said.

The guy behind him pulled Reacher's arms back and cuffed his wrists. The guy who had done all the talking opened the cruiser's rear door and stood there holding it like a hotel doorman with a taxicab.

"Get in the car," the cop said.

Reacher stood still and considered his options. Didn't take him long. He didn't have any options. He was handcuffed. He had a guy about three feet behind him. He had a cop about eight feet in front of him. Two more guys three feet behind the cop. The riot gun was some kind of a Mossberg. He didn't recognize the model, but he respected the brand.

"In the car," the cop said.

Reacher moved forward and looped around the open door and jacked himself inside butt-first. The seat was covered in heavy vinyl and he slid across it easily. The floor was covered in pimpled rubber. The security screen was clear bulletproof plastic. He braced his feet, one in the left foot well and one in the right. Uncomfortable, with his hands cuffed behind him. He figured he was going to get bounced around.

The cop got back in the front. The suspension yielded to his weight. He reholstered the Mossberg. Slammed his door and put the transmission in drive and stamped on the gas. Reacher was thrown back against the cushion. Then the guy braked hard for a stop sign and Reacher was tossed forward. He twisted as he went and took the blow against the plastic screen with his shoulder. The cop repeated the procedure at the next four-way. And the next. But Reacher was OK with it. It was to be expected. He had driven the same way in the past, in the days when he was the guy in the front and someone else was the guy in the back. And it was a small town. Wherever the police station was, it couldn't be far.

The police station was four blocks west and two blocks south of the restaurant. It was housed in another undistinguished brick building on a street wide enough to let the cop park nose-in to the curb on a diagonal. There was one other car there. That was all. Small town, small police department. The building had two stories. The cops had the ground floor. The town court was upstairs. Reacher guessed there were cells in the basement. His trip to the booking desk was uneventful. He didn't make trouble. No point. No percentage in being a fugitive on foot in a town where the line was twelve miles away in one direction and maybe more in the other. The desk was manned by a patrolman who could have been the arresting officer's kid brother. Same size and shape, same face, same hair, a little younger. Reacher was uncuffed and gave up the stuff from his pockets and his shoelaces. He had no belt. He was escorted down a winding stair and put in a six-by-eight cell fronted by ancient ironwork that had been painted maybe fifty times.

"Lawyer?" he asked.

"You know any?" the desk guy asked back.

"The public defender will do."

The desk guy nodded and locked the gate and walked away. Reacher was left on his own. The cell block was otherwise empty. Three cells in a line, a narrow corridor, no windows. Each cell had a wall-mounted iron tray for a bed and a steel toilet with a sink built into the top of the tank. Bulkhead lights burned behind wire grilles on the ceilings. Reacher ran his right hand under cold water at the sink and massaged his knuckles. They were sore, but not damaged. He lay down on the cot and closed his eyes.

Welcome to Despair,he thought.

6

The public defender never showed. Reacher dozed for two hours and then the cop who had arrested him clattered down the stairs and unlocked the cell and gestured for him to get up.

"The judge is ready for you," he said.

Reacher yawned. "I haven't seen my lawyer."

"Take it up with the court," the cop said. "Not with me."

"What kind of a half-assed system have you got here?"

"The same kind we've always had."

"I think I'll stay down here."

"I could send your three remaining buddies in for a visit."

"Save gas and send them straight to the hospital."

"I could put you in handcuffs first. Strap you to the bed."

"All by yourself?"

"I could bring a stun gun."

"You live here in town?"

"Why?"

"Maybe I'll come visit you one day."

"I don't think you will."

The cop stood there waiting. Reacher shrugged to himself and swung his feet to the floor. Pushed himself upright and stepped out of the cell. Walking was awkward without his shoelaces. On the stairs he had to hook his toes to stop his shoes falling off altogether. He shuffled past the booking desk and followed the cop up another flight. A grander staircase. At the top was a wooden double door, closed. Alongside it was a sign on a short post with a heavy base. Same kind of thing as the restaurant sign, except this one said: Town Court . The cop opened the left-hand panel and stood aside. Reacher stepped into a courtroom. There was a center aisle and four rows of spectator seating. Then a bullpen rail and a prosecution table and a defense table, each with three wheelback chairs. There was a witness stand and a jury box and a judge's dais. All the furniture and all the structures were made out of pine, lacquered dark and then darkened more by age and polish. The walls were paneled with the same stuff. There were flags behind the dais, Old Glory and something Reacher guessed was the state flag of Colorado.

The room was empty. It echoed and smelled of dust. The cop walked ahead and opened the bullpen gate. Pointed Reacher toward the defense table. The cop sat down at the prosecution table. They waited. Then an inconspicuous door in the back wall opened and a man in a suit walked in. The cop jumped up and said, "All rise." Reacher stayed in his seat.