"No, not really."
Reacher said, "I'm thinking that if I don't know the person who made the deposit, then it's a thousand and thirty bucks' worth of a mistake. But if I do know the person, it might be a call for help."
"I still don't understand."
"Look at how it's written. It might be a ten-thirty radio code, not a thousand and thirty dollars. Look at it on paper."
"Wouldn't this person just have called you on the phone?"
"I don't have a phone."
"An e-mail, then? Or a telegram. Or even a letter."
"I don't have addresses for any of those things."
"So how do we contact you, usually?"
"A credit into your bank would be a very odd way of communicating."
"It might be the only way."
"A very difficult way. Someone would have to trace your account."
"That's my point," Reacher said. "It would take a smart and resourceful person to do it. And if a smart and resourceful person needs to ask for help, there's big trouble somewhere."
"It would be expensive, too. Someone would be out more than a thousand dollars."
"Exactly. The person would have to be smart and resourceful and desperate."
Silence on the phone. Then: "Can't you just make a list of who it might be and try them all?"
"I worked with a lot of smart people. Most of them a very long time ago. It would take me weeks to track them all down. Then it might be too late. And I don't have a phone anyway."
More silence. Except for the patter of a keyboard.
Reacher said, "You're looking, aren't you?"
The woman said, "I really shouldn't be doing this."
"I won't rat you out."
The phone went quiet. The keyboard patter stopped. Reacher knew she had the name right there in front of her on a screen.
"Tell me," he said.
"I can't just tell you. You'll have to help me out."
"Give me clues. So I don't have to come right out with it."
"What kind of clues?"
She asked, "Well, would it be a man or a woman?"
Reacher smiled, briefly. The answer was right there in the question itself. It was a woman. Had to be. A smart, resourceful woman, capable of imagination and lateral thinking. A woman who knew about his compulsion to add and subtract.
"Let me guess," Reacher said. "The deposit was made in Chicago."
"Yes, by personal check through a Chicago bank."
"Neagley," Reacher said.
"That's the name we have," the woman said. "Frances L. Neagley."
"Then forget we ever had this conversation," Reacher said. "It wasn't a bank error."
Excerpted from Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child Copyright © 2007 by Lee Child. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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