Home > 61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(14)

61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(14)
Author: Lee Child

'I've heard of stranger things.'

'We need to know. Chances are we're going to need to go out there and make a hundred arrests. We need to know what we're dealing with.'

'Call somebody. Call the Department of the Army.'

'We have. We've called, the county board has called, the state government has called.'


'Nobody ever got a reply.'

'How old are your older people?'

'Does that matter?'

'I'm asking when the place was built. Did they see all these engineers for themselves? Or just hear stories about them from their parents or grandparents?'

'The place is about fifty years old.'

'How long since soldiers were seen out there?'

'Never. The place was never used.'

Reacher shrugged. 'So it's an abandoned Cold War facility. Maybe never even completed. One day it seemed like a good idea, the next day it didn't. That kind of thing happened all the time, way back when, because strategy was fluid. Or because nobody had the faintest idea what they were doing. But it's no big deal. A stone house is going to be more resistant to small-arms fire than a hut or a trailer, but I'm assuming you're not planning on a shooting war out there anyway.'

'We need to know for sure.'

'I can't help you. I never served here. Never heard any talk.'

'You could make some back-channel calls. Maybe you still know people.'

'I've been out a very long time.'

'You could go west and take a look.'

'It's a stone building. Army stone is the same as anyone else's.'

'Then why the hundreds of engineers?'

'What's on your mind?'

'We're wondering if it's an underground facility. Maybe the stone building is just a stair head. It could be a warren down there. Their lab could be down there. Which would explain the lack of fires and explosions in the trailers. They could have turned the whole place into a fortress. There could be food and water and weapons down there. This whole thing could turn into a siege. We don't want that.'

Peterson stood up and stepped over to the desk and took two fresh bottles from the refrigerator. Which told Reacher they were only halfway through their conversation. Maybe only a third of the way through, if there was a six-pack in there.

Peterson said, 'There's more.'

'No kidding,' Reacher said.

'We've got their top boy locked up, but command and control is still happening. They're still functioning.'

'So he's got a deputy.'

'Gangs don't work like that.'

'So he's still communicating. Cell phone or smuggled notes.'

'Not happening.'

'You know that for sure?'


'Then it's through his lawyer. A private conference every day, they're pretending to discuss the case, your guy is really issuing verbal instructions, his lawyer is passing them on.'

'That's what we guessed. But that's not happening either.'

'How do you know?'

'Because they have concealed video and audio in the conference rooms.'

'For privileged discussions between lawyers and clients? Is that legal?'

'Maybe. It's a brand-new prison. And there's a lot of fine print in some of the new federal legislation.'

'He's not a federal prisoner.'

'OK, so no, it's probably not entirely legal.'

'But you're doing it anyway?'

'Yes,' Peterson said. 'And we haven't heard a single instruction or business detail. No notes passed, nothing written down.'

'You ever heard of the Fourth Amendment? This could screw your case.'

'We're not planning on using anything we hear. The prosecutor doesn't even know we're doing it. We just want advance warning, that's all, in the police department, in case they decide to move against the witness.'

'She'll be OK. You've got her buttoned up tight. It's only a month. You're on the hook for a little overtime, but that's all.'

'We competed for that prison.'

'Holland told me. Like a Toyota plant. Or Honda.'

'It was a give and take process.'

'It always is.'

'Correctional staff get tax breaks, we built houses, we expanded the school.'


'Final item was we had to sign on to their crisis plan.'

'Which is what?'

'If there's an escape, we have a preassigned role.'

'Which is what?'

'The whole of the Bolton PD moves up to a prearranged perimeter a mile out.'

'All of you?'

'Every last one of us. On duty or off. Awake or asleep. Healthy or sick.'

'Are you serious?'

'It's what we had to agree. For the good of the town.'

'Not good,' Reacher said. 'Not good at all,' Peterson said. 'If that siren goes off, we drop everything and head north. All of us. Which means if that siren goes off any time in the next month, we leave Janet Salter completely unprotected.'

Chapter Nine


'Only in reality,' Peterson said. 'Not on paper. The Highway Patrol is theoretically available to us as back-up. And the feds offered us witness protection for Mrs Salter. But the Highway Patrol is usually hours away all winter long, and Mrs Salter refused the protection. She says the bikers are the ones who should be locked up miles from home, not her.'

'Problem,' Reacher said.

'Tell me about it,' Peterson said.

Reacher glanced at the moonlit view out the window and said, 'But it's not exactly ideal escaping weather, is it? Not right now. Maybe not for months. There's two feet of virgin snow on the ground for five miles all around. If someone gets through whatever kind of a fence they have out there, they'll die of exposure inside an hour. Or get tracked by a helicopter. Their footsteps will be highly visible.'

Peterson said, 'No one escapes on foot any more. They stow away on a food truck or something.'

'So why form a perimeter a mile out?'

'Nobody said their crisis plan makes any sense.'

'So fake it. Leave some folks in place. At least the women in the house.'

'We can't. There will be a head count. We'll be audited. We don't comply to the letter, we'll get hit with federal supervision for the next ten years. The town signed a contract. We took their money.'

'For the extra cars?'

Peterson nodded. 'And for housing. Everyone lives within ten minutes, everyone gets a car, everyone keeps his radio on, everyone responds instantaneously.'

'Can't you stick Mrs Salter in a car and take her with you?'

'We're supposed to keep civilians away. We certainly can't take one with us.'

'Has anyone escaped so far?'

'No. It's a brand-new prison. They're doing OK.'

'So hope for the best.'

'You don't get it. We would hope for the best. If this was about random chance or coincidence, we wouldn't be sweating it. But it isn't. Because the same guy who wants us out of Janet Salter's house has the actual personal power to make that happen, any old time he wants to.'

'By escaping on cue?' Reacher said. 'I don't think so. I know prisons. Escapes take a long time to organize. He would have to scope things out, make a plan, find a truck driver, build trust, get money, make arrangements.'

'There's more. It gets worse.'

'Tell me.'

'Part two of the crisis plan is for a prison riot. The corrections people move in off the fence and we take over the towers and the gate.'

'All of you?'

'Same as part one of the plan. And prison riots don't take a long time to organize. They can start in a split second. Prisons are riots just waiting to happen, believe me.'

There was no third bottle of beer. No more substantive conversation. Just a few loose ends to tie up, and a little reiteration. Peterson said, 'You see? The guy can time it almost to the minute. The wrong thing gets said to the wrong person, a minute later a fight breaks out, a minute after that there's a full-blown riot brewing, we get the call, ten minutes after that we're all more than five miles from Janet Salter's house.'

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