Yet you’re asking me all kinds of questions. Not surprising. Both looked fit and competent. He stumbled in through the door, his back thickly coated with snow, his pants soaked to the thigh.”Usually it makes people want to shoot me in the face.’The woman said: ‘Annie Ness. Everyone loved Christmas.”Like Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid,’ Reacher said. The woman had short black hair, cut in a bob that just missed her collar. Maybe due at Irwin for a training exercise.
Or Mexico, one year, after the State Department found it convenient to renew his passport.By October at the latest he would start heading south.”We don’t. ‘Nothing you can do about it, soldier.”Is he?”Depends what happens next. ‘The Nato net needs a plane in the air.’They’re at Fort Irwin,’ Reacher said.Ness asked: ‘What’s DCR 120?”A solid gold promise he’s about to get a medal and a promotion.”Says you.’The guy ducked down to a silent refrigerator and put a long-neck bottle on the bar. Which suggests your duties are more urgent than a joint training exercise..
I’m not looking for a guy. She seemed equal parts excited and worried about the helicopter, which arrived five minutes early, dropping low where the road was buried, kicking up a whole new blizzard, hovering with its wheels in the snow, but not set down, because who knew what the snow was hiding?Reacher floundered out to meet it, keeping low, and he ushered the older lady past him, and turned back into the artificial blizzard for her husband, so he didn’t see the same blizzard catch the older lady’s scarf, and flap it up, thereby for a split second exposing a small round tattoo in the pit of her throat, the size of a silver dollar, of a Christmas wreath complete with leaves and bows and candles, all surrounding the black silhouette of a scorpion.He said: ‘What have you got?
The guy said: ‘Beer. He said a Black Hawk would be there in 20 minutes.Reacher took a table.’ Her accent was from somewhere in England.Around Barstow no one called it anything, because the power went out immediately, and the phones went down, and the cell towers went off line. He was sure of that, too.. The candles were all set on porcelain saucers, all the same, white and sturdy, like hotel ware crockery. Bad show.Military, Reacher thought. Not romantically involved at all.”That’s going to be difficult. I would have aroused no further suspicion. Reacher knew the British Army.”Unless he got stuck somewhere along the way. No smile. And there were lots of them.’Jackson looked at the transceiver, down in his lap. We spun off but they didn’t see and they drove on.”Really?”For my sins. There is no food, and no adequate heating.The woman said to him: ‘This gentleman was in the 110th over here. We think it’s the name of an operator or an agent. We were in the trail car. And we should take them anyway. There are no facilities here.Jack Reacher was happy to play the hand he was dealt, semi-automatic cookie machine and to live life the way it came. Except they weren’t American.Reacher said: ‘What’s so urgent up at Irwin?’Jackson asked: ‘Can you help us?”How could I? I’m retired. The Florida Keys, sometimes. A super-secret meeting. Or Tucson, Arizona. ‘Who do you think I am?”We need to find our guy. And about you, as well. Both were in worn denim jeans and T-shirts and old leather jackets.’The guy said: ‘When?’Reacher said: ‘Back in the day. The old guy at the other table coughed to get attention, and looked over, optimistically, hoping for good news. No suits or wrinkle-free fabrics. Is Tom Cruise moving into this Florida penthouse owned by.’Perhaps you have a large and capable vehicle. They all looked like they had arrived not long before, the same way he had, huffing and puffing and stamping and clapping.”It’s about saving lives.’The guy came back on the line. Some kind of bar or roadhouse.Reacher looked out of the window. No signal.’Annie Ness glanced both ways and hunched forward and whispered: ‘We’re a close protection detail.”We can’t assume,’ Ness said, and then she said nothing more. Now the same thing was happening way to the south. Not decorative candles.”Possibly exaggerated. Whatever you’re late for ain’t happening anyway, because it’s snowing at Irwin, too. ‘On Christmas Eve?”Exactly. Presumably updating her on his progress. This is a state of emergency.’Who are you?”You first,’ she said. ’Happy Christmas,’ Reacher said.Jackson said: ‘We could search with the helicopter.’Ness said: ‘Our Minister of Defence. harrogateinternationalfestivals. They still tell stories. Which was good, because saucers implied cups, and cups implied coffee, which was what he wanted, black, no sugar.’Excuse me,’ he said. Once upon a time I was 110th MP. There were icicle lights hanging from the ceiling.”Jack Reacher.’The woman didn’t answer. The guy stuck out his hand and said: ‘Tony Jackson.”Then how did you get here?”Hitched a ride, and walked the last two miles. Share this article Share The younger couple weren’t married. They were utility items, made of greasy white wax, from the hardware store, next to the dish mops and the kitchen matches. Or liaison officers from friendly forces, out of uniform, maybe off duty. There were two couples already in there, a man and a woman somewhere north of 60, and another man and woman somewhere south of 40. Which made sense, with Irwin a hop one way, and Edwards the other.’No answer. Which imposed some kind of shape on his year.The older lady tightened the scarf around her neck, and buttoned her coat.”Our briefing made it sound like the fate of the world hangs in the balance.But not that particular year. You might still know someone. Or stuck somewhere along the way. You could ask Irwin to send a helicopter. Most of it coherent. She was practically poking and prodding. But obviously the guy is a superstar. You’re 1st RMP, and you don’t like that I can’t really explain why I came here. She was tall and lithe and she had a great smile. They were going to be stranded overnight, and they didn’t like it. Some subtle thing. They talk about him like Lionel Messi.He was the fifth refugee. There are lots of men with guns. He trained with us. They were foreign contractors, maybe. This will blow over in an hour, surely.Scroll down for video Jack Reacher is a tough former US military cop turned drifter who carries nothing but a cash card, a toothbrush and an unflinching sense of right and wrongThat particular year the plan worked as normal. He handed the transceiver to Reacher, who said: ‘Look up DCR 120 in your code book, and call me back on this frequency.’The guy got up and came over, just the same, tall and lithe. Not hard, but not to be messed with, either.”Soccer,’ Ness said. Bodyguards, basically. He saw a lone low building up ahead.’He clicked off. Spelled with a letter c.”You think he’s going to starve, too? I bet the aide put a sandwich in his briefcase. There were candles burning on the bar, and one on every table. No way of getting in touch. They were colleagues of some kind.”Are you from Fort Irwin?”Is that where you’re headed?”We’re supposed to be there now,’ she said. Who would expect it?”Is he on his own?”He went in the lead car.”Who is he?’Jackson said: ‘Can’t tell you. No beds, no food. But no smile.”Why?”It started snowing and the guy refused to go any further. We got separated from our principal.The woman got up and came over to his table. This guy is top five in the world. They’ll tell the papers the military evacuated us but not them. He wanted to talk to his aide in private. That’s what those guys are for.’She didn’t answer.His creator, Lee Child, 63, published his first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, in 1997 after being made redundant by Granada Television, the Manchester-based broadcaster where he worked for nearly 20 years. It liked to be reliable, if nothing else.”That’s a fairly big deal. ‘Barcelona.’ Jack Reacher: Who is the military man turned drifter? Jack Reacher is a tough former US military cop turned drifter who carries nothing but a cash card, a toothbrush and an unflinching sense of right and wrong..’Comms failures happen all the time,’ Reacher said. The guy had short brown hair, neatly brushed.Except the power was out. To which I say best of luck, and to save you time, I’m not the guy you’re looking for.”You know of a specific threat.”You could call the MP barracks.”But still,’ she said. Except for one strong preference: he liked to be warm in winter. RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Jack Reacher author’s thrill at chairing world’s biggest.There was a guy behind the bar, a lugubrious fellow, maybe 70 years old. Always either tropical or desert.”A super-secret meeting with who?”Your Secretary of Defense, spelled with a letter s.”Get the CO in the MP barracks. British Army, he thought. The sky was lightening. Anyway, communications are down.She asked: ‘What kind of vehicle have you got? Ours is what they gave us at the airport.’They sat down at his table, half lit by the window, half by the candle.He thought the older couple looked a little upset.’I would have laid low at that point. I would stay here.”Works for me. The snow had stopped falling. The older couple fussed and stopped and started, as if they weren’t sure whether to blame each other, or reassure each other.Once he had read a newspaper story about homeowners in the north-east having such elaborate Christmas displays they needed new breaker panels. Except the guy in the Santa suit, who was liable to pass out from heat exhaustion. The rocky tan desert was replaced by a smooth white blanket, as far as the eye could see. Usually the end of December would find him at his most distant point.”How far back?’You were in high school.”Annie,’ she Semi-automatic cake machine said.”He was ours. It’s a secure facility. Without power they looked like strings of dull grey pearls. It wasn’t working.He said: ‘First we need Nato.’ Lee Child, 63, published his first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, in 1997 after being made redundant by Granada Television, the Manchester-based broadcaster where he worked for nearly 20 yearsThe woman turned back and said: ‘Tony, come here.’I don’t have a phone,’ Reacher said.co.”Did you know Andrew Parker?”British guy.’Jackson nodded.’Jackson looked down and said: ‘Nato is back. Or the workhouse, or whatever you had over there. ‘My wife wondered if you were perhaps discussing a way out of here. But he knew both places from days of old, especially Irwin, which was a gigantic army training ground, where he had spent many a happy hour. At the other table the older lady seemed to be urging her husband to go do some particular thing. But tough. Roads were invisible.When his clothes get dirty, he throws them away and buys cheap replacements.com Advertisement Read more: The Midnight Line: (Jack Reacher 22): Amazon. ‘They’ll be OK. Reacher was sure of that.’ Tom Cruise stars as Jack Reacher in the Paramount Pictures big screen version of Lee Child’s book series’There’s been some internet chatter.Cars were buried.”I don’t have a vehicle,’ Reacher said. We think he’s at Irwin without us. There are no beds. If so, she wondered if you would perhaps include us in your party.”Is this about saving face? That train left the station long ago.”You’re kidding,’ Reacher said.’Tony Jackson said: ‘You would say that anyway. I wonder which I would get first?”This is serious, Reacher. Annie Ness was pretty. Warm, dry, and reliable.”Who?”Football player. He nodded a rueful all-in-the-same-boat greeting, and they all nodded back.”We need a helicopter,’ Jackson said. I’m sure that makes people want to help.She asked: ‘Do you have service on your phone? Maybe you’re on a different network. No reaction. Not cricket.’Jackson said: ‘We need to get out of here.The younger two stared at their phones, and fiddled with a larger device they tried to keep hidden, but which Reacher recognised as a Nato transceiver tied to a joint command network. Eventually the guy got up and crossed the room and came to a stop at Reacher’s table, with Ness on his left, and Reacher dead ahead, and Jackson on his right.”What’s the name?”The Christmas Scorpion.His latest novel, The Midnight Line, went straight to number one in the bestseller lists when it was published last month..”There is no helicopter,’ Reacher said. © Lee ChildThe Midnight Line by Lee Child is out now Lee Child is the 2018 Programming Chair of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, 19-22 July. Like business travellers, except they weren’t dressed like it. Which suggests you’re looking for a guy. Maybe embarrassed they were late.Reacher whispered: ‘We can’t leave them behind.Since then Child, Coventry-born but now living in Manhattan, has written 22 Reacher books that have sold more than 100-million copies around the world – or one every nine seconds. Or maybe not, because they looked just as upset as the older couple. Each table also had a Christmas tree on it, about a foot high, made of feathery green plastic dusted with silver glitter.”Why not?’Jackson didn’t answer.Reacher got inside as soon as he could. And a million dollars in cash. I’m some other guy. But if we figure something out, you’ll be the first to know, OK?”Thank you,’ the old guy said, and he turned and walked back to his own table, where he sat down and whispered to his wife. He liked the climate. On Christmas Eve Reacher arrived in a small town near Barstow, California, out in the desert halfway between Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin. Maybe buy myself a bag of potato chips. The guy agreed. Not as far south as usual. They’ll cause a scandal.’Right now I’m nobody. ‘Sorry.’Exactly. He called out: ‘Get you something?’Reacher glanced around. I bet half the people supposed to be there are stuck somewhere else. He liked the emptiness. Especially when the snow was wet and heavy and 3ft thick on the ground. When he finished she nodded once, but she didn’t look any happier.”We can’t stay here.”I would have stopped talking after I told Ms Ness I don’t have a phone.’Jackson did, after a lot of back and forth.”What kind of physical characteristic would that be? What does a Christmas scorpion even look like?”We don’t know.The power was out.’Now I’m changing my mind,’ Reacher said. Always the same in every language, as if it’s more of a description than a name, as if it derives from a physical characteristic.In recent years he had seen more Christmas lights strung up in palm trees than fir trees. Reacher asked for everything short of the dinner date and the million bucks in cash. They looked pretty good, especially at night. They’ll get one back up. No sleighs or reindeer. He heard them whisper.”Let’s assume he didn’t. ‘About the climate, obviously.”How would you do it?”I wouldn’t. There’s been a name repeated over and over. They work for the Queen. What also arrived on Christmas Eve was snow, in huge quantities, in what media elsewhere were quick to call a one-time freak once-in-a- lifetime storm of the century. Reacher took it. He was a lunatic. They were going to be stranded overnight, and they didn’t like it. My wife feels we’ll freeze to death, or starve. Like BBC radio. You could mention the 110th.”I meant, why here?”Because it’s supposed to be warm and dry.Reacher said: ‘This is serious, isn’t it?”I told you it was. He huffed and puffed, and clapped his hands together, and stamped on the mat. He has no phone, no permanent home, no family and no long-term romantic attachments.uk: Lee Child: 9780593078181: Books Harrogate International Festivals – The Home of Festivals. And he knows about the meeting. ‘Sorry.”You’re 1st RMP?’Royal Military Police