Costello nodded again. Suddenly looked very satisfied.
"Then you probably won't know this Reacher guy," he said. "According to Mrs. Jacob, he was an Army officer. So I checked, and she was right. He was a major. Medals and all. Military police bigshot, is what they said. Guy like that, you won't find him digging swimming pools with a damn shovel."
Reacher took a long pull on his water, to hide his expression.
"So what would you find him doing?"
"Down here?" Costello said. "I'm not sure. Hotel security? Running some kind of a business? Maybe he's got a cruiser, charters it out."
"Why would he be down here at all?"
Costello nodded, like he was agreeing with an opinion.
"Right," he said. "Hell of a place. But he's here, that's for certain. He left the Army two years ago, put his money in the nearest bank to the Pentagon and disappeared. Bank account shows money wiring out all over the damn place, then for three months money wiring back in from here. So he drifted for a spell, then he settled down here, making some dough. I'll find him."
"You still want me to ask around?"
Costello shook his head. Already planning his next move.
"Don't you worry about it," he said.
He eased his bulk up out of the chair and pulled a crumpled roll from his pants pocket. Dropped a five on the table and moved away.
"Nice meeting you," he called, without looking back.
He walked out through the missing wall into the glare of the afternoon. Reacher drained the last of his water and watched him go. Ten after four in the afternoon.
An hour later Reacher was drifting down Duval Street, thinking about new banking arrangements, choosing a place to eat an early dinner, and wondering why he had lied to Costello. His first conclusion was that he would cash up and use a roll of bills in his pants pocket. His second conclusion was that he would follow his Belgian friend's advice and eat a big steak and ice cream with another two bottles of water. His third conclusion was that he had lied because there had been no reason not to.
There was no reason why a private investigator from New York should have been looking for him. He had never lived in New York. Or any big northern city. He had never really lived anywhere. That was the defining feature of his life. It made him what he was. He had been born the son of a serving Marine Corps officer, and he had been dragged all over the world from the very day his mother carried him out of the maternity ward of a Berlin infirmary. He had lived nowhere except in an endless blur of different military bases, most of them in distant and inhospitable parts of the globe. Then he had joined the Army himself, military police investigator, and lived and served in those same bases all over again until the peace dividend had closed his unit down and cut him loose. Then he had come home to the United States and drifted around like a cheap tourist until he had washed up on the extreme tip of the nation with his savings running out. He had taken a couple of days' work digging holes in the ground, and the couple of days had stretched into a couple of weeks, and the weeks had stretched into months, and he was still there.
He had no living relatives anywhere capable of leaving him a fortune in a will. He owed no money. He had never stolen anything, never cheated anybody. Never fathered any children. He was on as few pieces of paper as it was possible for a human being to get. He was just about invisible. And he had never known anybody called Jacob. Never. He was sure of that. So whatever Costello wanted, he wasn't interested in it. Certainly not interested enough to come out from under and get involved with anything.
Because being invisible had become a habit. In the front part of his brain, he knew it was some kind of a complex, alienated response to his situation. Two years ago, everything had turned upside down. He had gone from being a big fish in a small pond to being nobody. From being a senior and valued member of a highly structured community to being just one of 270 million anonymous civilians. From being necessary and wanted to being one person too many. From being where someone told him to be every minute of every day to being confronted with three million square miles and maybe forty more years and no map and no schedule. The front part of his brain told him his response was understandable, but defensive, the response of a man who liked solitude but was worried by loneliness. It told him it was an extremist response, and he should take care with it.
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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