"It was the real Wild West," she said. "A long time ago, of course. The Texas and Pacific Railroad put a stop there. So there were saloons and all. Used to be a bad place. It was a word, too, as well as a town. A verb, and also a place. To pecos somebody meant to shoot them and throw them in the Pecos River."
"They still do that?"
She smiled again. A different smile. This smile traded some elegance for some mischief. It eased her tension. It made her appealing.
"No, they don't do that so much, now," she said.
"Your family from Pecos?"
"No, California," she said. "I came to Texas when I got married."
Keep talking, he thought. She saved your ass.
"Been married long?" he asked.
"Just under seven years."
"Your family been in California long?"
She paused and smiled again.
"Longer than any Californian, that's for sure," she said.
They were in flat empty country and she eased the silent car faster down a dead-straight road. The hot sky was tinted bottle-green by the windshield. The instrumentation on her dashboard showed it was a hundred and ten degrees outside and sixty inside.
"You a lawyer?" he asked.
She was puzzled for a moment, and then she made the connection and craned to glance at her briefcase in the mirror.
"No," she said. "I'm a lawyer's client."
The conversation went dead again. She seemed nervous, and he felt awkward about it.
"And what else are you?" he asked.
She paused a beat.
"Somebody's wife and mother," she said. "And somebody's daughter and sister, I guess. And I keep a few horses. That's all. What are you?"
"Nothing in particular," Reacher said.
"You have to be something," she said.
"Well, I used to be things," he said. "I was somebody's son, and somebody's brother, and somebody's boyfriend."
"My parents died, my brother died, my girlfriend left me."
Not a great line, he thought. She said nothing back.
"And I don't have any horses," he added.
"I'm very sorry," she said.
"That I don't have horses?"
"No, that you're all alone in the world."
"Water under the bridge," he said. "It's not as bad as it sounds."
"You're not lonely?"
He shrugged. "I like being alone."
She paused. "Why did your girlfriend leave you?"
"She went to work in Europe."
"And you couldn't go with her?"
"She didn't really want me to go with her."
"I see," she said. "Did you want to go with her?"
He was quiet for a beat.
"Not really, I guess," he said. "Too much like settling down."
"And you don't want to settle down?"
He shook his head. "Two nights in the same motel gives me the creeps."
"Hence one day in Lubbock," she said.
"And the next day in Pecos," he said.
"And after that?"
"After that, I have no idea," he said. "And that's the way I like it."
She drove on, silent as the car.
"So you are running away from something," she said. "Maybe you had a very settled life before and you want to escape from that particular feeling."
He shook his head again. "No, the exact opposite, really. I was in the army all my life, which is very unsettled, and I grew to like the feeling."
"I see," she said. "You became habituated to chaos, maybe."
"I guess so."
She paused. "How is a person in the army all his life?"
"My father was in, too. So I grew up on military bases all over the world, and then I stayed in afterward."
"But now you're out."
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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