"Never been there," he said.
She went quiet and waited at a light. Took off again through a wide junction and hugged the right lane. He watched her thigh move as she pressed on the gas pedal. Her bottom lip was caught between her teeth. Her eyes were narrowed. She was tense about something, but she had it under control.
"So, did you explore Lubbock?" she asked.
"I saw the Buddy Holly statue."
He saw her glance down at the radio, like she was thinking this guy likes music, maybe I should put some on.
"You like Buddy Holly?" she asked.
"Not really," Reacher said. "Too tame for me."
She nodded at the wheel. "I agree. I think Ritchie Valens was better. He was from Lubbock, too."
He nodded back. "I saw him in the Walk of Fame."
"How long were you in Lubbock?"
"And now you're moving on."
"That's the plan."
"To wherever," she said.
"That's the plan," he said again.
They passed the city limit. There was a small metal sign on a pole on the sidewalk. He smiled to himself. City Police, the shield on the cop car had said. He turned his head and watched danger disappear behind him.
The two men sat in the front of the Crown Victoria, with the tall fair man driving to give the small dark man a break. The woman sat in the back. They rolled out of the motel lot and picked up speed on I-20, heading west, toward Fort Worth, away from Dallas. Nobody spoke. Thinking about the vast interior of Texas was oppressing them. The woman had read a guidebook in preparation for the mission that pointed out that the state makes up fully seven percent of America's land mass and is bigger than most European countries. That didn't impress her. Everybody knew all that standard-issue Texas-is-real-big bullshit. Everybody always has. But the guide book also pointed out that side-to-side Texas is wider than the distance between New York and Chicago. That information had some impact. And it underlined why they were facing such a long drive, just to get from one nowhere interior location to another.
But the car was quiet and cool and comfortable, and it was as good a place to relax as any motel room would be. They had a little time to kill, after all.
The woman slowed and made a shallow right, toward New Mexico, then a mile later a left, straight south, toward old Mexico. Her dress was creased across the middle, like maybe she was wearing it a second day. Her perfume was subtle, mixed into the freezing air from the dashboard vents.
"So is Pecan worth seeing?" Reacher asked, in the silence.
"Pecos," she said.
"I like it," she said. "It's mostly Mexican, so I'm comfortable there."
Her right hand tensed on the wheel. He saw tendons shifting under the skin.
"You like Mexican people?" she asked.
He shrugged back. "As much as I like any people, I guess."
"You don't like people?"
"You like cantaloupe?"
"As much as I like any fruit."
"Pecos grows the sweetest cantaloupe in the whole of Texas," she said. "And therefore, in their opinion, in the whole of the world. Also there's a rodeo there in July, but you've missed it for this year. And just north of Pecos is Loving County. You ever heard of Loving County?"
He shook his head. "Never been here before."
"It's the least-populated county in the whole of the United States," she said. "Well, if you leave out some of the places in Alaska, I guess. But also the richest, per capita. Population is a hundred and ten souls, but there are four hundred and twenty oil leases active."
He nodded. "So let me out in Pecos. It sounds like a fun place."
From Echo Burning by Lee Child. (c) June 2001, Putnam Pub Group, used by permission
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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