Persuader by Lee Child

Book: Persuader by Lee Child Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lee Child
Tags: Fiction, Thrillers
in the army.”
    “You got a problem with that?”
    “I don’t like officers.”
    I nodded. They had checked. They knew what rank I had held. They had some kind of access.
    “Why not?” I asked. “Did you fail the OCS exam?”
    He didn’t answer.
    “Let’s go find Duke,” I said.
    He put his glass of water down and led me out to a back hallway and through a door to a set of wooden cellar stairs. There was a whole basement under the house. It must have been blasted out of solid rock. The walls were raw stone patched and smoothed with concrete. The air was a little damp and musty. There were naked lightbulbs hanging in wire cages close to the ceiling. There were numerous rooms. One was a good-sized space with white paint all over it. The floor was covered with white linoleum. There was a smell of old sweat. There was an exercise bicycle and a treadmill and a weights machine.
    There was a heavy bag hanging from a ceiling joist. There was a speed bag near it.
    Boxing gloves on a shelf. There were dumbbells stored in wall racks. There were free weights stacked loose on the floor next to a bench. Duke was standing right next to it. He was wearing his dark suit. He looked tired, like he had been up all night. He hadn’t showered. His hair was a mess and his suit was creased and wrinkled, especially low down on the back of the coat.
    Paulie went straight into some kind of a complicated stretching routine. He was so muscle-bound that his legs and arms had limited articulation. He couldn’t touch his shoulders with his fingers. His biceps were too big. I looked at the weights machine. It had all kinds of handles and bars and grips. It had strong black cables that led through pulleys to a tall stack of lead plates. You would have to be able to lift about five hundred pounds to move them all.
    “You working out?” I said to Duke.
    “None of your business,” he replied.
    “Me either,” I said.
    Paulie turned his giant neck and glanced at me. Then he lay down on his back on the bench and shuffled around until his shoulders were positioned underneath a bar resting on a stand. The bar had a bunch of weights on either end. He grunted a bit and wrapped his hands around the bar and flicked his tongue in and out like he was preparing for a major effort. Then he pressed upward and lifted the bar off the stand. The bar bent and wobbled.
    There was so much weight on it that it curved way down at the ends, like old film of Russian weight-lifters at the Olympics. He grunted again and heaved it up until his arms were locked straight. He held it like that for a second and then crashed it back into the stand. He turned his head and looked straight at me, like I was supposed to be impressed.
    I was, and I wasn’t. It was a lot of weight, and he had a lot of muscle. But steroid muscle is dumb muscle. It looks real good, and if you want to pit it against dead weight it works just fine. But it’s slow and heavy and tires you out just carrying it around.
    “Can you bench-press four hundred pounds?” he called. He was a little out of breath.
    “Never tried,” I said.
    “Want to try now?”
    “No,” I said.
    “Wimpy little guy like you, it could build you up.”
    “I’m officer class,” I said. “I don’t need building up. I want some four-hundred-pound weight bench-pressed, I just find some big stupid ape and tell him to do it for me.”
    He glowered at me. I ignored him and looked at the heavy bag. It was a standard piece of gym equipment. Not new. I pushed it with my palm and set it swinging gently on its chain. Duke was watching me. Then he was glancing at Paulie. He had picked up on some vibe I hadn’t. I pushed the bag again. We had used heavy bags extensively in handto-hand combat training. We would be wearing dress uniforms to simulate street clothes and we used the bags to learn how to kick. I once split a heavy bag with the edge of my heel, years ago. The sand dumped right out on the floor. I figured that would

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