Running Blind

Chapter 2

  GARRISON IS A place on the east bank of the Hudson River, up in Putnam County, about fifty-eight road miles north from Tribeca. Late on a fall evening, traffic is not a problem. One toll plaza, empty parkways, average speed can be as high as you dare to make it. But Reacher drove cautiously. He was new to the concept of driving a regular journey from A to B. He was new to even having an A or a B. He felt like an alien in a settled landscape. And like any alien, he was anxious to stay out of trouble. So he drove slow enough not to be noticed and let the late commuters in their fast sedans scurry past him on the left and the right. The fifty-eight miles took him an hour and seventeen minutes.

  His street was very dark, because it was buried deep in an underpopulated rural area. The contrast with the brassy glow of the city was total. He turned into his driveway and watched his headlight beams bounce and flick over the massed plantings crowding the asphalt. The leaves were turning dry brown and they looked vivid and unreal in the electric light. He rounded the last curve and the beams swung toward the garage door and washed over two cars waiting nose-out in front of it. He jammed to a panic stop and their lights came on and blazed in his face and blinded him just as his mirror filled with bright light from behind. He ducked his head away from the glare and saw people running at him from the side with powerful flashlight beams bouncing in front of them through the dark. He swiveled and saw two sedans crunching to a stop behind him, headlights swinging and blazing. People were spilling out and running toward him. His car was pinned motionless in a bright matrix of light. People were flashing through light and darkness, coming at him. They had guns and dark vests over their coats. They were surrounding his car. He saw that some of the flashlights were strapped to shotgun barrels. The crowding people were lit from behind by the harsh beams from their cars. Fog was drifting up from the river and hanging in the air. The lights were cutting through the fog and the beams were crisscrossing in crazy moving horizontal patterns.

  A figure stepped close to his car. A hand came up and rapped on the glass next to his head. The hand opened. It was a small hand, pale and slim. A woman's hand. A flashlight beam turned directly on it and showed it was cupping a badge. The badge was shaped like a shield. It was bright gold. There was a gold eagle perched on the top of the shield with its head cocked to the left. The flashlight moved closer and Reacher saw raised lettering on the shield, gold on gold. He stared at it. It said Federal Bureau of Investigation. U. S. Department of Justice. The woman pressed the shield against the window. It touched the glass with a cold metallic click. She shouted in at him. He heard her voice coming at him out of the darkness.

  "Turn off the engine," she was shouting.

  He could see nothing except beams of light aimed at him. He killed the motor and heard nothing but fog hanging in the air and the crunch of restless boots on his driveway.

  "Place both hands on the wheel," the woman's voice shouted.

  He placed both hands on the wheel and sat still, head turned, watching the door. It was opened from the outside and the light clicked on and spilled out over the dark woman from the restaurant. The sandy guy with the fair mustache was at her shoulder. She had the FBI badge in one hand and a gun in the other. The gun was pointed at his head.

  "Out of the vehicle," she said. "Nice and slow. "

  She stepped back, with the gun tracking the movement of his head. He twisted and swung his legs out of the footwell and paused, one hand on the seatback, the other on the wheel, his weight ready to slide his feet to the ground. He could see a half-dozen men in front of him caught in the glare of headlights. There would be more behind him. Maybe more near the house. Maybe more at the mouth of the driveway. The woman stepped back another pace. He stepped down to the ground in front of her.

  "Turn around," she said. "Place your hands on the vehicle. "

  He did as he was told. The sheet metal was cold to the touch and slimy with night dew. He felt hands on every inch of his body. They took his wallet from his coat and the stolen cash from his pants pocket. Somebody pushed past his shoulder and leaned in and took his keys from the ignition.

  "Now walk to the car," the woman called.

  She pointed with the badge. He half turned and saw headlight beams trapped in the fog, missing his legs by a yard. One of the sedans near the garage. He walked toward it. He heard a voice behind him shouting search his vehicle. A guy in a dark blue Kevlar vest was waiting at the car near the garage. He opened the rear door and stepped back. The woman's briefcase was upright on the rear seat. Imitation leather, with a clumsy coarse grain stamped into its surface. He folded himself inside next to it. The guy in the vest slammed the door on him and simultaneously the opposite door opened up and the woman slid in alongside him. Her coat was open and he saw her blouse and her suit. The skirt was dusty black and short. He heard the whisper of nylon and saw the gun again, still pointing at his head. The front door opened and the sandy guy knelt in on the seat and stretched back for the briefcase. Reacher saw pale hairs on his wrist. The strap of a watch. The guy flipped the case open and pulled out a sheaf of papers. He juggled a flashlight and played the beam over them. Reacher saw dense print and his own name in bold letters near the top of the first page.

  "Search warrant," the woman said to him. "For your house. "

  The sandy guy ducked back out and slammed the door. The car went silent. Reacher heard footsteps through the fog. They grew faint. For a second the woman was backlit by the glare outside. Then she reached up and forward and clicked on the dome light. It was hot and yellow. She was sitting sideways, her back against the door, her knees toward him, resting her gun arm along the seatback. The arm was bent, with the elbow on the parcel shelf so the gun was canted comfortably forward, pointing at him. It was a SIG-Sauer, big and efficient and expensive.

  "Keep your feet flat on the floor," she said.

  He nodded. He knew what she wanted. He kept his back against his own door and shoved his feet underneath the front seat. It put an awkward sideways twist in his body that meant if he wanted to start moving he would be slow enough at it to get his head blown off before he got anywhere.

  "Hands where I can see them," she said.

  He straightened his arms and cupped his palms around the headrest on the seat in front of him and rested his chin on his shoulder. He was looking sideways at the SIG-Sauer's muzzle. It was rock-steady. Beyond it her finger was tight on the trigger. Beyond that was her face.

  "OK, now sit still," she said.

  Her face was impassive.

  "You're not asking what this is about," she said.

  It's not about what happened an hour and seventeen minutes ago, he said to himself. No way was this all organized in an hour and seventeen minutes. He kept quiet and absolutely still. He was worried about the whiteness in the woman's knuckle where it wrapped around the SIG-Sauer's trigger. Accidents can happen.

  "You don't want to know what this is about?" she asked.

  He looked at her, blankly. No handcuffs, he thought. Why not? The woman shrugged at him. OK have it your own way, she was saying. Her face settled to a stare. It was not a pretty face, but it was interesting. Some character there. She was about thirty-five, which is not old, but there were lines in her skin, like she spent time making animated expressions. Probably more frowns than smiles, he thought. Her hair was jet-black but thin. He could see her scalp. It was white. It gave her a tired, sickly look. But her eyes were bright. She glanced beyond him, out into the darkness through the car window, out to where her men were doing things in his house.

  She smiled. Her front teeth were crossed. The right one was canted sideways and it overlaid the left one by a fraction. An interesting mouth. It implied some kind of a decision. Her parents hadn't had the flaw corrected, and later neither had she. She must have had the opportunity. But she had decided to stick with nature. Probably the right choice. It made her face distinctive. Gave it character.

  She was slim under her
bulky coat. There was a black jacket that matched the skirt, and a cream blouse loose over small breasts. The blouse looked like polyester that had been washed many times. It spiraled down into the waist-band of the skirt. She was twisted sideways and the skirt was halfway up her thighs. Her legs were thin and hard under black nylon. Her knees were pressed together, but there was a gap between her thighs.

  "Would you stop doing that, please?" she said.

  Her voice had gone cold, and the gun moved.

  "Doing what?" Reacher asked.

  "Looking at my legs. "

  He switched his gaze up to her face. "Somebody points a gun at me, I'm entitled to check them out head to toe, wouldn't you say?"

  "You like doing that?"

  "Doing what?"

  "Looking at women. "

  He shrugged. "Better than I like looking at some things, I guess. "

  The gun moved closer. "This isn't funny, asshole. I don't like the way you're looking at me. "

  He stared at her.

  "What way am I looking at you?" he asked.

  "You know what way. "

  He shook his head.

  "No, I don't," he said.

  "Like you're making advances," she said. "You're disgusting, you know that?"

  He listened to the contempt in her voice and stared at her thin hair, her frown, her crooked tooth, her hard dried-up body in its ludicrous cheap businesswoman's uniform.

  "You think I'm making advances to you?"

  "Aren't you? Wouldn't you like to?"

  He shook his head again.

  "Not while there are dogs on the street," he said.

  THEY SAT IN crackling hostile silence for the best part of twenty minutes. Then the sandy guy with the mustache came back to the car and slid into the front passenger seat. The driver's door opened and a second man got in. He had keys in his hand. He watched the mirror until the woman nodded and then fired up the motor and eased past Reacher's parked truck and headed out toward the road.

  "Do I get to make a phone call?" Reacher asked. "Or doesn't the FBI believe in stuff like that?"

  The sandy guy was staring straight ahead, at the windshield.

  "At some point within the first twenty-four hours," he said. "We'll make sure you're not denied your constitutional rights. "

  The woman kept the SIG-Sauer's muzzle close to Reacher's head all the way back to Manhattan, fifty-eight fast miles through the dark and the fog.