Not a Drill: A Jack Reacher Short Story

Not a Drill: A Jack Reacher Short Story by Lee Child Page B

Book: Not a Drill: A Jack Reacher Short Story by Lee Child Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lee Child
Tags: thriller, Mystery
suitcase, not a backpack. Henry and Suzanne were stockier, and tousled, and wind-burned. But not older. Maybe they had all been college friends together, still a threesome more than five but less than ten years after graduation.
    Henry said, “The woods are actually awesome, Helen.”
    He said it kindly, full of enthusiasm. No hint of confrontation or scolding. Just a guy who loved the woods, unable to understand why his friend didn’t. He seemed genuinely intrigued by the possibility that he could walk where no other human had ever trod, in all of history. Reacher asked where they were all from originally, and it turned out that Henry and Suzanne were from the suburbs, of Toronto and Vancouver respectively, and it was Helen who was the real country girl, from what she called the trackless wastes of northern Ontario province. In which case he figured she was entitled to her opinion. She had earned it, presumably.
    Then they asked where he was from, and his bio filled the next few miles. The Marine family, always moving, the dozen elementary schools, the dozen high schools, then West Point, then the U.S. Army, the military police, always moving all over again, some of the same countries, some new, never in one place long enough to notice. Then the drawdown, and the discharge, and the wandering. The hitched rides, the walking, the motels. The aimlessness. No particular place to be. Henry thought it was all very cool, Suzanne less so, Reacher thought, and he figured Helen didn’t think it was cool at all.
    They slowed and turned left onto a narrow rural two-lane that speared straight west through the trees. There was a rusted enamel sign that said
Naismith 40 miles
. It was possible the road had once had shoulders, but they were long overgrown with underbrush and broadleaf trees that reached forty feet tall. In places their branches met overhead, so that for hundreds of yards at a time it was like driving through a green tunnel. Reacher watched out the windows, left and right. Either side he could see not more than five or six feet into the vegetation. He wondered how much more primeval woods could get. Brambles and brush were tangled thigh high, and the air looked dank and still. The ground looked soft and springy, densely matted with leaf litter, damp and fecund. The blacktop ribbon ahead had turned gray with age, and the heat it was holding made the air above it thick with tiny insects. After five miles the windshield was soupy with slime, from a million separate impacts.
    Reacher asked, “Have you been here before?”
    “Once,” Henry said. “We walked south to Center Mountain. Which was boring, man. I like to stay below the tree line. I guess I’m a forest dweller.”
    “Are there animals in there?”
    “Bears for sure. Plenty of small stuff, obviously. But the underbrush never gets eaten, so there’s no deer. Which is interesting as to why. Predation, most likely. But by what? Mountain lions, maybe. Or wolves, but no one ever sees them or hears them. But there’s something in there, that’s for sure.”
    “You sleep in a tent?”
    “Pup tent,” he said. “No biggie. Double-bag your food, wash around your mouth in a stream, and there’s nothing for the critters to smell. Bears like to eat, but if you don’t lay out a picnic for them they’ll leave you alone. But you know all this, right? I mean, doesn’t the army train everywhere? I thought you got sent out in every kind of terrain.”
    “Not in a forest like this,” Reacher said. “Can’t move through it, certainly can’t move vehicles through it, can’t shoot through it. Clearing it with napalm and explosives would take forever. So we’d have to maneuver around it. Best kind of natural barrier there is.”
    They drove on, over a surface that got progressively worse. The encroaching brush had nibbled out fist-sized bites of blacktop on both sides, and then tree roots had punched out deeper holes, and the winter freezes had elongated the cracks,

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