Die Trying Chapter Forty Six

REACHER MADE A twirling signal with his hand to tell the helicopter pilot to keep the engines spinning and ran through the noise and the eddying dust to take the Barrett back from Garber. He waved the others toward the machine. Hustled them up the ladder and followed them in through the sliding door. Laid the Barrett on the metal floor and dumped himself into a canvas chair. Pulled his headset on. Thumbed the button and called through to the pilot.

’’Stand by, OK?’’ he said. ’’I'll give you a course as soon as I've got one.’’

The pilot nodded and ran the engines up out of idle. The rotor thumped faster and the noise built louder. The weight of the aircraft came up off the tires.

’’Where the hell are we going?’’ Webster shouted.

’’We're chasing Stevie, chief,’’ McGrath shouted back. ’’He's driving the truck. The truck is full of dynamite. He's going to explode it somewhere. Remember what the Kendall sheriff said? Stevie always got sent out to do the dirty work? You want me to draw you a damn picture?’’

’’But he can't have gotten out of here,’’ Webster yelled. ’’The bridge is blown. And there are no tracks through the forest. They closed them all.’’

’’Forest Service guy didn't say that,’’ McGrath yelled back. ’’They closed some of them. He wasn't sure which ones, was all. What he said was maybe there's a way through, maybe there isn't.’’

’’They had two years to spy it out,’’ Reacher shouted. ’’You said the pickup had spent time on Forest Service tracks, right? Crushed sandstone all over the underside? They had two whole years to find a way through the maze.’’

Webster glanced to his left, east, over to where the forest lay beyond the giant mountain. He nodded urgently, eyes wide.

’’OK, so we got to stop him,’’ he yelled. ’’But where has he gone?’’

’’He's six hours ahead of us,’’ Reacher shouted. ’’We can assume the forest was pretty slow. Call it two hours? Then four hours on the open road. Maybe two hundred miles? Diesel Econoline, hauling a ton, can't be averaging more than about fifty.’’

’’But which damn direction?’’ Webster yelled through the noise.

Holly glanced at Reacher. That was a question they had asked each other a number of times, in relation to that exact same truck. Reacher opened up the map in his head and trawled around it all over again, clockwise.

’’Could have gone east,’’ he shouted. ’’He'd still be in Montana, past Great Falls. Could be down in Idaho. Could be in Oregon. Could be halfway to Seattle.’’

’’No,’’ Garber yelled. ’’Think about it the other way around. That's the key to this thing. Where has he been ordered to go? What would the target be?’’

Reacher nodded slowly. Garber was making sense. The target.

’’What does Borken want to attack?’’ Johnson yelled.

Borken had said: you study the system and you learn to hate it. Reacher thought hard and nodded again and thumbed his mike and called through to the pilot.

’’OK, let's go,’’ he said. ’’Straight on south of here should do it.’’

The noise increased louder and the Night Hawk lifted heavily off the ground. It swung in the air and rose clear of the cliffs. Slipped south and banked around. Dropped its nose and accelerated hard. The noise moved up out of the cabin and settled to a deep roar inside the engines. The ground tilted and flashed past below. Reacher saw the mountain hairpins unwinding and the parade ground sliding past. The knot of tiny people was breaking up. They were drifting away into the trees and being swallowed up under the green canopy. Then the narrow slash of the rifle range was under them, then the broad stony circle of the Bastion. Then the aircraft rose sharply as the ground fell away so that the big white courthouse slipped by underneath as small as a dollhouse. Then they were over the ravine, over the broken bridge, and away into the vast forested spaces to the south.

Reacher tapped the pilot on the shoulder and spoke through the intercom.

’’What speed are we doing?’’ he asked.

’’Hundred and sixty,’’ the pilot said.

’’Course?’’ Reacher asked.

’’Dead on south,’’ the pilot said.

Reacher nodded. Closed his eyes and started to calculate. It was like being back in grade school. He's two hundred miles ahead, doing fifty miles an hour. You're chasing him at a hundred and sixty. How long before you catch him? Grade school math had been OK for Reacher. So had fighting in the yard. The fighting part had stayed with him better than the math. He was sure there must be some kind of a formula for it. Something with x and y all over the damn page. Something equaling something else. But if there was a formula, he had long ago forgotten it. So he had to do it by trial and error. Another hour, Stevie would be two hundred and fifty miles from home. The Night Hawk would have done one hundred and sixty. Way behind. An hour after that, Stevie would be three hundred miles out, and the Night Hawk would be three hundred and twenty. Overshot. Therefore they were going to catch him somewhere near the top of the second hour. If they were headed in the right direction.

Flathead Lake came into view, far ahead and far below. Reacher could see the roads snaking across the rugged terrain. He thumbed the button on his mike.

’’Still south?’’ he asked.

’’Dead on,’’ the pilot said.

’’Still one-sixty?’’ Reacher asked.

’’Dead on,’’ the pilot said again.

’’OK, stick with it,’’ Reacher said. ’’Hour and fifty minutes, maybe.’’

’’So where is he going?’’ Webster asked.

’’San Francisco,’’ Reacher said.

’’Why?’’ McGrath asked.

’’Or Minneapolis,’’ Reacher said. ’’But I'm gambling on San Francisco.’’

’’Why?’’ McGrath asked again.

’’San Francisco or Minneapolis,’’ Reacher said. ’’Think about it. Other possibilities would be Boston, New York, Philly, Cleveland, Richmond in Virginia, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City in Missouri, or Dallas in Texas.’’

McGrath just shrugged blankly. Webster looked puzzled. Johnson glanced at his aide. Garber was motionless. But Holly was smiling. She smiled and winked at Reacher. He winked back and the Night Hawk thumped on south over Missoula at a hundred and sixty miles an hour.

’’CHRIST, IT'S THE Fourth of July,’’ Webster said suddenly.

’’Tell me about it,’’ Reacher said. ’’Lots of people gathered in public places. Families, kids and all.’’

Webster nodded grimly.

’’OK, where exactly in San Francisco?’’ he asked.

’’I'm not sure,’’ Reacher said.

’’North end of Market,’’ Holly said. ’’Right near Embarcadero Plaza. That's where, chief. I've been there on the Fourth. Big parade in the afternoon, fireworks over the water at night. Huge crowds all day long.’’

’’Huge crowds everywhere on the Fourth,’’ Webster said. ’’You better be guessing right, people.’’

McGrath looked up. A slow smile was spreading over his bruised face.

’’We are guessing right,’’ he said. ’’It's San Francisco for sure. Not Minneapolis or anyplace else.’’

Reacher smiled back and winked. McGrath had gotten it.

’’You want to tell me why?’’ Webster asked him.

McGrath was still smiling.

’’Go figure,’’ he said. ’’You're the damn Director.’’

’’Because it's the nearest?’’ Webster asked.

McGrath nodded.

’’In both senses,’’ he said, and smiled again.

’’What both senses?’’ Webster asked. ’’What are we talking about?’’

Nobody answered him. The military men were quiet. Holly and McGrath were staring out through the windows at the ground, two thousand feet below. Reacher was craning up, looking ahead through the pilot's Plexiglas canopy.

’’Where are we?’’ he asked him.

The pilot pointed down at a concrete ribbon below.

’’That's U.S. 93,’’ he said. ’’Just about to leave Montana and enter Idaho. Still heading due south.’’

Reacher nodded.

’’Great,’’ he said. ’’Follow 93. It's the only road goes south, right? We'll catch him somewhere between here and Nevada.’’

HE STARTED WORRYING near the top of the second hour. Started worrying badly. Started desperate revisions to his grade school calculations. Maybe Stevie was driving faster than fifty. He was a fast driver. Faster than Bell had been. Maybe he was doing nearer sixty. Where did that put him? Three hundred and sixty miles out. In which case they wouldn't catch him until two hours fifteen minutes had elapsed. What if he was doing seventy? Could that Econoline sustain seventy, hour after hour, with a ton in back? Maybe. Probably. In which case he was four hundred and twenty miles out. A total of two hours forty minutes before they overhauled him. That was the envelope. Somewhere between one hour fifty minutes and two hours forty minutes, somewhere between Montana and Nevada. A whole fifty minutes of rising panic. More than a hundred miles of concrete ribbon to watch before he could know for sure he was wrong and they had to peel off hopelessly northeast toward Minnesota.

The helicopter was flying nose down, top speed, straight along U.S. 93. The seven passengers were craned forward, staring down at the road. They were over a town called Salmon. The pilot was calling out information like a tour guide. The giant peak of Mount McGuire, ten thousand feet, way off to the right. Twin Peaks, ten and a half thousand feet, up ahead to the right. Borah Peak, highest of all, twelve and a half thousand feet, way ahead to the left. The aircraft rose and fell a thousand feet above the terrain. Hurtled along lower than the surrounding peaks, nose down to the highway like a bloodhound.

Time ticked away. Twenty minutes. Thirty. The road was pretty much empty. It connected Missoula in the north to Twin Falls in Idaho, three hundred miles to the south. Neither was a booming metropolis and this was a holiday. Everybody had already gotten where they were going. There was an occasional automobile and an occasional trucker working overtime. No white Econoline. There had been two white vehicles, but they were both pickups. There had been one panel truck, but it was dark green. That was all. Nothing else. No white truck. Sometimes the road was empty all the way to the horizon in front of them. The time was ticking away. Like a bomb. Forty minutes. Fifty.

’’I'm going to call Minneapolis,’’ Webster said. ’’We blew it.’’

McGrath waited, hoping. He shook his head.

’’Not yet,’’ he said. ’’That's a desperation move. Mass panic. Can you imagine the crowds? The evacuation? People are going to get trampled.’’

Webster peered out and down. Stared at the road for a full minute. Fifty-four minutes into the fifty-minute envelope.

’’Get worse than trampled if that damn truck's already up there,’’ he said. ’’You want to imagine that?’’

Time ticked away. Fifty-eight minutes. An hour. The road stayed empty.

’’There's still time,’’ Garber said. ’’San Francisco or Minneapolis, either one, he's still got to be a long way short.’’

He glanced at Reacher. Doubt and trust visible in his eyes, in approximately equal measures. More time ticked away. An hour and five minutes. The road still stayed empty, all the way to the distant horizon. The speeding helicopter reeled it in, only to reveal a new horizon, still empty.

’’He could be anywhere,’’ Webster said. ’’San Francisco's wrong, maybe Minneapolis is wrong, too. He could be in Seattle already. Or anywhere.’’

’’Not Seattle,’’ Reacher said.

He stared forward. Stared on and on. Fear and panic had him by the throat. He checked his watch again and again. An hour and ten minutes. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. An hour and fifteen minutes. He stared at the watch and the empty ribbon below. Then he sat back and went quiet. Chilled with terror. He had hung on as long as he could, but they had reached the point where the math went absurd. To be this far south without passing him, Stevie would need to be driving at a hundred miles an hour. Or a hundred and twenty. Or a hundred and fifty. He glanced at the others and spoke in a voice which didn't sound like his own.

’’I blew it,’’ he said. ’’It must have been Minneapolis.’’

Then the thump of the engines faded and for the second time that day the huge bass roar of the bomb came back. He kept his eyes wide open so he wouldn't have to see it, but he saw it anyway. Not Marines this time, not hard men camped out in the heat to do a job, but soft people, women and children, small and smaller, camped out in a city park to watch fireworks, vaporizing and bursting into a hazy pink dew like his friends had done thirteen years before. The bone fragments coming out of children and hissing away through the burning air and hitting other children a hundred yards farther on. Hitting them and tearing through their soft guts like shrapnel and putting the luckiest ones in the hospital for a whole agonizing year.

They were all staring at him. He realized tears were rolling down his cheeks and splashing onto his shirt.

’’I'm sorry,’’ he said.

They looked away.

’’I got calls to make,’’ Webster said. ’’Why is it Minneapolis now? Why was it ever San Francisco?’’

’’Federal Reserve branches,’’ Reacher said quietly. ’’There are twelve of them. The nearest two to Montana are San Francisco and Minneapolis. Borken hated the Fed. He thought it was the main instrument of the world government. He thought it was a big conspiracy to eliminate the middle classes. It was his special theory. He said it put him ahead in his understanding. And he believed the Fed ordered his father's bank to finagle the old guy into taking a loan so they could deliberately default him later.’’

’’So Borken's attacking the Fed?’’ Johnson asked urgently. Reacher nodded.

’’Twin blows,’’ he said. ’’In the war against the world government. Attack the old system with a surprise move, like Pearl Harbor. At the same time as setting up a brand-new system for converts to flock to. One bird with two stones.’’

He stopped talking. Too tired to continue. Too dispirited. Garber was staring at him. Real pain in his face. The beating of the engines was so loud it sounded like total silence.

’’The declaration of independence was only half of it,’’ McGrath said. ’’Double decoy. We were supposed to be focused up there, worried about Holly, worried about a suicide pact, going crazy, while they bombed the Fed behind our backs. I figured San Francisco because of Kendall, remember? I figured Borken would target the nearest branch to where his old man's farm was.’’

Webster nodded.

’’Hell of a plan,’’ he said. ’’Holiday weekend, agents on leave, big strategic decisions to make, everybody looking in the wrong place. Then the whole world looking at the bombing while Borken secures his territory back up there.’’

’’Where is the Fed in Minneapolis?’’ Johnson asked urgently.

Webster shrugged vaguely.

’’No idea,’’ he said. ’’I've never been to Minneapolis. I imagine it's a big public building, probably in a nice spot, parks all around, maybe on the river or something. There's a river in Minneapolis, right?’’

Holly nodded.

’’It's called the Mississippi,’’ she said.

’’No,’’ Reacher said.

’’It damn well is,’’ Holly said. ’’Everybody knows that.’’

’’No,’’ Reacher said again. ’’It's not Minneapolis. It's San Francisco.’’

’’Mississippi goes nowhere near San Francisco,’’ Holly said.

Then she saw a giant smile spreading across Reacher's face. A final gleam of triumph in his tired eyes.

’’What?’’ she said.

’’San Francisco was right,’’ he said.

Webster grunted in irritation.

’’We'd have passed him already,’’ he said. ’’Miles back.’’

Reacher thumbed his mike. Shouted up to the pilot.

’’Turn back,’’ he said. ’’A big wide loop.’’

Then he smiled again. Smiled and closed his eyes.

’’We did pass him,’’ he said. ’’Miles back. Right over his damn head. They painted the truck green.’’

The Night Hawk swung away into a high banked loop. The passengers swung their gaze from window to window as the landscape rotated below.

’’There was paint in the motor pool,’’ Reacher said. ’’I tripped over the cans. Probably camouflage base coat. They slapped it on this morning. Damn stuff is probably still wet.’’

They saw a Kenworth they had passed minutes ago. It was snuffling along a thousand feet below. Then a long stretch of empty pavement. Then a white pickup. More empty road. Then a dark green panel truck, speeding south.

’’Down, down,’’ Reacher was calling through.

’’Is that it?’’ McGrath asked.

The gap between the panel truck and the pickup in front was lengthening. The truck was falling back. There was nothing behind it, all the way to the horizon. The Night Hawk was losing height. It was dropping toward the truck the way an eagle heads for a baby rabbit.

’’Is that it?’’ McGrath asked again.

’’That's it,’’ Reacher said.

’’It sure is,’’ Holly whooped.

’’You positive?’’ McGrath asked.

’’Look at the roof,’’ Holly told him.

McGrath looked. The roof was streaked with dark green paint, but he could see it was peppered with tiny holes. Like somebody had fired a shotgun right through it.

’’We stared at those damn holes for two whole days,’’ Holly said. ’’I'll remember them the rest of my life.’’

’’There are a hundred and thirteen of them,’’ Reacher said. ’’I counted. It's a prime number.’’

Holly laughed and leaned over. Smacked a joyous high five with him.

’’That's our truck,’’ she said. ’’No doubt about it.’’

’’Can you see the driver?’’ McGrath asked.

The pilot tilted down and rocked sideways for a close look.

’’It's Stevie,’’ Holly shouted back. ’’For sure. We've got him.’’

’’This thing got weapons?’’ Webster asked.

’’Two big machine guns,’’ the pilot called through. ’’But I'm not going to use them. That I can't do. Military can't get involved in law enforcement.’’

’’Can you fly this thing straight and level?’’ Reacher asked him. ’’Fifty miles an hour? Maybe sixty? Without asking too many questions?’’

The pilot laughed. It came through the headsets tinny and distorted.

’’I can fly this thing any old way you want me to,’’ he said. ’’With the General's permission, of course.’’

Johnson nodded cautiously. Reacher leaned down and picked the Barrett up off the floor. Unfastened his harness and stood up into a crouch. Waved to Holly to change seats with him. She crawled across in front of McGrath and Reacher eased into her place. He could feel the Night Hawk slowing and dropping in the air. He put some length into Holly's harness and fastened it loosely around his waist. Stretched back for the door release. Tugged at the handle and the door slid back on its runners.

Then there was a gale of air coming in as the slipstream howled through the opening and the aircraft was turning half sideways, sliding through the air like a car skids through snow. The green truck was below and behind, maybe two hundred feet down. The pilot was stabilizing his speed until he matched the truck's progress and tilting the aircraft so that Reacher's eyeline was pointing straight down at the road.

’’How's this?’’ the pilot asked.

Reacher thumbed his mike button.

’’Dead on,’’ he said. ’’Anything up ahead?’’

’’One vehicle coming north,’’ the copilot said. ’’When that's through, you got nothing at all for ten miles.’’

’’Anything behind?’’ Reacher asked. He saw the north-bound vehicle streak by below.

McGrath stuck his head out into the gale. Ducked back in and nodded.

’’Clear behind,’’ he said.

Reacher raised the Barrett to his shoulder. Put a round in the breech. Shooting at a moving vehicle from another moving vehicle is not a great recipe for accuracy, but he was looking at a distance of less than seventy yards and a target about twenty feet long and seven feet wide, so he wasn't worrying about it. He put the crosshairs on a point two-thirds of the way down the length of the roof. He figured the forward movement of the truck and the backward movement of the air might put the bullet dead center through the load compartment. He wondered vaguely whether the three-foot mattress was still in there.

’’Wait,’’ Webster shouted. ’’What if you're wrong? What if it's empty? You're only guessing, right? This whole thing is guesswork. We need proof, Reacher. We need some kind of corroboration here.’’

Reacher didn't glance back. Kept his eye on the scope.

’’Bullshit,’’ he said, quietly, concentrating. ’’This is going to be all the corroboration we need.’’

Webster grabbed his arm.

’’You can't do this,’’ he said. ’’You could be killing an innocent man.’’

’’Bullshit,’’ Reacher said again. ’’If he's an innocent man, I won't be killing him, will I?’’

He shook Webster's hand off his arm. Turned to face him.

’’Think about it, Webster,’’ he said. ’’Relax. Be logical. The proof comes after I shoot, right? If he's hauling a bomb, we'll know all about it. If he's hauling fresh air, nothing bad will happen to him. He'll just get another hole in his damn truck. Number one hundred and fourteen.’’

He turned back to the door. Raised the rifle again. Acquired the target. Out of sheer habit, he waited for his breath to be out and his heart to be between beats. Then he pulled the trigger. It took a thousandth of a second for the sound of the shot to hit his ear, and seventy times as long as that for the big heavy bullet to hit the truck. Nothing happened for a second. Then the truck ceased to exist. It was suddenly a blinding fireball rolling down the highway like a hot white tumbleweed. A gigantic concussion ring blasted outward. The helicopter was hit by a violent shock wave and tossed sideways and five hundred feet higher in the air. The pilot caught it at the top and slewed back. Steadied it in the air and swung around. Dropped the nose. There was nothing to see on the highway except a roiling cloud of thin smoke slowing into a teardrop shape three hundred yards long. No debris, no metal, no hurtling wheels, no clattering wreckage. Nothing at all except microscopic invisible particles of vapor accelerating into the atmosphere way faster than the speed of sound.

THE PILOT STUCK around at a hover for a long moment and then drifted east. Put his craft gently down on the scrub, a hundred yards from the shoulder. Shut the engines down. Reacher sat in the deafening silence and unclipped his belt. Laid the Barrett on the floor and vaulted out through the open door. Walked slowly toward the highway.

A ton of dynamite. A whole ton. A hell of a bang. There was nothing left at all. He guessed there were flattened grasses for a half-mile all around, but that was it. The terrible energy of the explosion had blasted outward and met absolutely nothing at all in its path. Nothing soft, nothing vulnerable. It had blasted outward and then weakened and slowed and died to a puff of breeze miles away and it had hurt nothing. Nothing at all. He stood in the silence and closed his eyes.

Then he heard footsteps behind him. It was Holly. He heard her good leg alternating with her bad leg. A long stride, then a shuffle. He opened his eyes and looked at the road. She walked around in front of him and stopped. Laid her head on his chest and put her arms around him. Squeezed him tight and held on. He raised his hand to her head and smoothed her hair behind her ear, like he had seen her do.

’’All done,’’ she said.

’’Get a problem, solve a problem,’’ he said. ’’That's my rule.’’

She was quiet for a long time.

’’I wish it was always that easy,’’ she said.

The way she said it, after the delay, it was like a long speech. Like a closely reasoned argument. He pretended not to know which problem she was talking about.

’’Your father?’’ he said. ’’You're way, way out of his shadow now.’’

She shook her head against his chest.

’’I don't know,’’ she said.

’’Believe it,’’ he said. ’’That thing you did for me on the parade ground was the smartest, coolest, bravest thing I ever saw anybody do, man or woman, young or old. Better than anything I ever did. Better than anything your old man ever did. He'd give his front teeth for guts like that. So would I. You're way out of anybody's shadow now, Holly. Believe it.’’

’’I thought I was,’’ she said. ’’I felt like it. I really did. For a while. But then when I saw him again, I felt just the same as I always did. I called him Dad.’’

’’He is your dad,’’ Reacher said.

’’I know,’’ she replied. ’’That's the problem.’’

He was quiet for a long moment.

’’So change your name,’’ he said. ’’That might do it.’’

He could feel her holding her breath.

’’Is that a proposal?’’ she asked.

’’It's a suggestion,’’ he said.

’’You think Holly Reacher sounds good?’’ she asked.

His turn to stay quiet for a long time. His turn to catch his breath. And finally, his turn to talk about the real problem.

’’It sounds wonderful,’’ he said. ’’But I guess Holly McGrath sounds better.’’

She made no reply.

’’He's the lucky guy, right?’’ he said.

She nodded. A small motion of her head against his chest.

’’So tell him,’’ he said.

She shrugged in his arms.

’’I can't,’’ she said. ’’I'm nervous.’’

’’Don't be,’’ he said. ’’He might have something similar to tell you.’’

She looked up. He squinted down at her.

’’You think so?’’ she asked.

’’You're nervous, he's nervous,’’ Reacher said. ’’Somebody should say something. I'm not about to do it for either of you.’’

She squeezed him harder. Then she stretched up and kissed him. Hard and long on the mouth.

’’Thank you,’’ she said.

’’For what?’’ he asked.

’’For understanding,’’ she said.

He shrugged. It wasn't the end of the world. Just felt like it.

’’Coming?’’ she asked.

He shook his head.

’’No,’’ he said.

She left him on the shoulder of U.S. 93, right there in Idaho. He watched her all the way back to the Night Hawk. Watched her climb the short ladder. She paused and turned. Looked back at him. Then she ducked up and in. The door closed. The rotor thumped. He knew he would never see her again. His clothes tore at him and the dust swirled all around him as the helicopter took off. He waved it away. Watched it until it was lost to sight. Then he took a deep breath and looked left and right along the empty highway. Friday, the Fourth of July. Independence Day.

SATURDAY THE FIFTH and Sunday the sixth, Yorke County was sealed off and secret Army units were moving in and out around the clock. Air Artillery squads recovered the missile unit. They took it south in four Chinooks. Quartermasters went in and recovered all the ordnance they could find. They collected enough for a small war.

Medical corpsmen removed the bodies. They found the twenty men from the missile unit in the cave. They found the skeletons Reacher had crawled through. They found five mutilated bodies in another cave. Dressed like workmen. Like builders or carpenters. They took Fowler out of the command hut and Borken from the road in front of the courthouse. They brought Milosevic down from the mountain bowl and Brogan out of the small clearing west of the Bastion. They found Jackson 's rough grave in the forest and dug him up. They laid eighteen dead militiamen and one dead woman side by side on the rifle range and helicoptered them away.

One of Garber's military investigators flew in alone and took the hard disk out of the financial computer and put it on a chopper for transport to Chicago. Engineers moved in and dynamited the mine entrances. Sappers moved into the Bastion and disabled the water supply and tore down the power lines. They set fire to the huts and watched as they burned. Late Sunday night, when the last of the smoke was rising, they marched back to their choppers and lifted away south.

Early Monday morning, Harland Webster was back in the off-white parlor inside the White House. Ruth Rosen was smiling at him and asking how his holiday weekend had been. He was smiling back at her and saying nothing. An hour later, the morning sun was rolling west to Chicago and three agents were arresting Brogan's girlfriend. They grilled her for thirty minutes and advised her to get out of town, leaving behind anything he had ever bought her. Then the same agents took Milosevic's brand-new Ford Explorer out of the Federal Building 's parking lot and drove it five miles south. They left it on a quiet street, doors unlocked, keys in. By the time it had been stolen, Holly Johnson was arriving at the knee clinic for an early appointment. An hour after that, she was back at her desk. Before lunch, the missing money from the bearer bond robbery was following a route of her own choosing out of the Caymans. Six o'clock Monday evening she was home and packing. She threw her bags into her car and drove north. Moved into McGrath's house up in Evanston.

Tuesday morning, there were three separate stories on the National Militia Internet. Refugees from an isolated valley in Montana had drifted south and west to new settlements with reports of a recent world government maneuver. Foreign troops had wiped out a band of militia heroes. The foreign battalion had been led by a French mercenary. He had succeeded only because he had used classified SDI technology, including satellites and lasers and microchips. Journalists picked up on the story and called the Hoover Building. Late Tuesday evening, in a prepared statement, an FBI spokesperson denied all knowledge of any such events.

Early Wednesday morning, after five hitched rides and four buses through seven states, Reacher was finally in Wisconsin. It was where he had aimed to be exactly a week before. He liked it there. It struck him as a fine place to be in July. He stayed until Friday afternoon.


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