Today's Reading

"So we'll fight each other tomorrow. Today we'll respect the agreement. I'm sorry to have brought you embarrassing news. But I embarrassed myself also. In front of you. I hope that counts for something. We share this predicament."

Dino nodded. Said nothing. Gregory said, "I have a question."

"Then ask it," Dino said.

"Would you have told me, like I told you, if the spy had been yours, and not mine?"

Dino was quiet a very long time.

Then he said, "Yes, and for the same reasons. We have an agreement. And if we both have names on their list, then neither one of us should be in a hurry to get foolish."

Gregory nodded and stood up.

Dino's right-hand man stood up to show him out. Dino asked,

"Are we safe now?"

"We are from my side," Gregory said. "I can guarantee that. As of six o'clock this morning. We have a guy at the city crematorium. He owes us money. He was willing to light the fire a little early today."

Dino nodded and said nothing.
 
Gregory asked, "Are we safe from your side?"

"We will be," Dino said. "By tonight. We have a guy at the car crushing plant. He owes us money, too."

The right-hand man showed Gregory out, across the deep shed to the low door in the roll-up gate, and out to the bright May morning sunshine.

***

At that same moment Jack Reacher was seventy miles away, in a Greyhound bus, on the interstate highway. He was on the left side of the vehicle, toward the rear, in the window seat over the axle. There was no one next to him. Altogether there were twenty-nine other passengers. The usual mixture. Nothing special. Except for one particular situation, which was mildly interesting. Across the aisle and one row in front was a guy asleep with his head hanging down. He had gray hair overdue for a trim, and loose gray skin, as if he had lost a lot of weight. He could have been seventy years old. He was wearing a short blue zip jacket. Some kind of heavy cotton. Maybe waterproof. The butt end of a fat envelope was sticking out of the pocket.

It was a type of envelope Reacher recognized. He had seen similar items before. Sometimes, if their ATM was busted, he would step inside a bank branch and get cash with his card from the teller, directly across the counter. The teller would ask how much he wanted, and he would think, well, if ATM reliability was on the decline, then maybe he should get a decent wad, to be on the safe side, and he would ask for two or three times what he normally took. A large sum. Whereupon the teller would ask if he wanted an envelope with that. Sometimes Reacher said yes, just for the sake of it, and he would get his wad in an envelope exactly like the one sticking out of the sleeping guy's pocket. Same thick paper, same size, same proportions, same bulge, same heft. A few hundred dollars, or a few thousand, depending on the mix of bills.

Reacher wasn't the only one who had seen it. The guy dead ahead had seen it, too. That was clear. He was taking a big interest. He was glancing across and down, across and down, over and over. He was a lean young guy with greasy hair and a thin goatee beard. Twenty- something, in a jeans jacket. Not much more than a kid. Glancing, thinking, planning. Licking his lips.

The bus rolled on. Reacher took turns watching out the window, and watching the envelope, and watching the guy watching the envelope.

***

Gregory came out of the Center Street garage and drove back into safe Ukrainian territory. His offices were in back of a taxi company, across from a pawn shop, next to a bail bond operation, all of which he owned. He parked and went inside. His top guys were waiting there. Four of them, all similar to each other, and to him. Not related in the traditional family sense, but they were from the same towns and villages and prisons back in the old country, which was probably even better.

They all looked at him. Four faces, eight wide eyes, but only one question.

Which he answered.

"Total success," he said. "Dino bought the whole story. That's one dumb donkey, let me tell you. I could have sold him the Brooklyn Bridge. The two guys I named are history. He'll take a day to reshuffle. Opportunity knocks, my friends. We have about twenty-four hours. Their flank is wide open."

"That's Albanians for you," his own right-hand man said. "Where did you send our two?"

"The Bahamas. There's a casino guy who owes us money. He has a nice hotel."

***
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