Reacher set his bottle on the table and shook his head.
"No," he lied.
The old guy's shoulders slumped a fraction in disappointment. He shot his cuff and checked his watch. Moved his bulk forward on the chair like he was about to get up, but then he sat back, like suddenly there was time to spare.
"Five after four," he said.
Reacher nodded. The guy waved his empty beer bottle at the bartender who ducked around with a fresh one.
"Heat," he said. "Gets to me."
Reacher nodded again and sipped water.
"You know a Jack Reacher around here?" the guy asked.
"You got a description?" he asked back.
The guy was into a long pull on the second bottle. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand and used the gesture to hide a second discreet belch.
"Not really," he said. "Big guy, is all I know. That's why I asked you."
"There are lots of big guys here," he said. "Lots of big guys everywhere."
"But you don't know the name?"
"Should I?" Reacher asked. "And who wants to know?"
The guy grinned and nodded, like an apology for a lapse in manners.
"Costello," he said. "Pleased to meet you."
Reacher nodded back, and raised his bottle a fraction in response.
"Skip tracer?" he asked.
"Private detective," Costello said.
"Looking for a guy called Reacher?" Reacher asked. "What's he done?"
Costello shrugged. "Nothing, far as I know. I just got asked to find him."
"And you figure he's down here?"
"Last week he was," Costello said. "He's got a bank account in Virginia and he's been wiring money to it."
"From down here in Key West?"
"Every week," he said. "For three months."
"So he's working down here," Costello said. "Has been, for three months. You'd think somebody would know him."
"But nobody does," Reacher said.
Costello shook his head. "I asked all up and down Duval, which seems to be where the action is in this town. Nearest I got was a titty bar upstairs someplace, girl in there said there was a big guy been here exactly three months, drinks water every day at four o'clock in here."
He lapsed into silence, looking hard at Reacher, like he was issuing a direct challenge. Reacher sipped water and shrugged back at him.
"Coincidence," he said.
"I guess," he said quietly.
He raised the beer bottle to his lips and drank, keeping his wise old eyes focused tight on Reacher's face.
"Big transient population here," Reacher said to him. "People drift in and out, all the time."
"I guess," Costello said again.
"But I'll keep my ears open," Reacher said.
"I'd appreciate it," he said, ambiguously.
"Who wants him?" Reacher asked.
"My client," Costello said. "Lady called Mrs. Jacob."
Reacher sipped water. The name meant nothing to him. Jacob? Never heard of any such person.
"OK, if I see him around, I'll tell him, but don't hold your breath. I don't see too many people."
"I dig swimming pools," he said.
Costello pondered, like he knew what swimming pools were, but like he had never considered how they got there.
Reacher smiled and shook his head.
"Not down here," he said. "We dig them by hand."
"By hand?" Costello repeated. "What, like with shovels?"
"The lots are too small for machinery," Reacher said. "Streets are too narrow, trees are too low. Get off Duval, and you'll see for yourself."
Reprinted from TRIPWIRE by Lee Child by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Lee Child. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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