smartly. The place was congested. I dodged and sidestepped and kept on going. People looked at me every step of the way. The hair, and the beard. I stopped at a water fountain and bent down and took a drink. People passed me by. Sixty feet behind me the four spare DPS guys were nowhere to be seen. But then, they didn’t really need to tail me. They knew where I was going, and they knew what time I was supposed to get there.

I straightened up and got going again and turned right into radial number three. I made it to the C ring. The air smelled of uniform wool and linoleum polish and very faintly of cigars. The paint on the walls was thick and institutional. I looked left and right. There were people in the corridor, but no big cluster outside bay fifteen. Maybe they were waiting for me inside. I was already five minutes late.

I didn’t turn. I stuck with radial three and walked all the way across the B ring to the A ring. The heart of the building, where the radial corridors finish. Or start, depending on your rank and perspective. Beyond the A ring is nothing but a five-acre pentagonal open courtyard, like the hole in an angular doughnut. Back in the day people called it Ground Zero, because they figured the Soviets had their biggest and best missile permanently targeted on it, like a big fat bull’s-eye. I think they were wrong. I think the Soviets had their five biggest and best missiles targeted on it, just in case strikes one through four didn’t work. The smart money says the Soviets didn’t always get what they paid for, either.

I waited in the A ring until I was ten minutes late. Better to keep them guessing. Maybe they were already searching. Maybe the four spare guys were already getting their butts kicked for losing me. I took another big breath and pushed off a wall and tracked back along radial three, across the B ring, to the C. I turned without breaking stride and headed for bay fifteen.

Chapter 3

There was no one waiting outside bay fifteen. No special crew. No one at all. The corridor was entirely empty, too, both ways, as far as the eye could see. And quiet. I guessed everyone else was already where they wanted to be. Twelve o’clock meetings were in full swing.

Bay fifteen’s door was open. I knocked on it once, as a courtesy, as an announcement, as a warning, and then I stepped inside. Originally most of the Pentagon’s office space was open plan, boxed off by file cabinets and furniture into bays, hence the name, but over the years walls had gone up and private spaces had been created. Frazer’s billet in 3C315 was pretty typical. It was a small square space with a window without a view, and a rug on the floor, and photographs on the walls, and a metal DoD desk, and a chair with arms and two without, and a credenza and a double-wide storage unit.

And it was a small square space entirely empty of people, apart from Frazer himself in the chair behind the desk. He looked up at me and smiled.

He said, “Hello, Reacher.”

I looked left and right. No one there. No one at all. There was no private bathroom. No large closet. No other door of any kind. The corridor behind me was empty. The giant building was quiet.

Frazer said, “Close the door.”

I closed the door.

Frazer said, “Sit down, if you like.”

I sat down.

Frazer said, “You’re late.”

“I apologize,” I said. “I got hung up.”

Frazer nodded. “This place is a nightmare at twelve o’clock. Lunch breaks, shift changes, you name it. It’s a zoo. I never plan to go anywhere at twelve o’clock. I just hunker down in here.” He was about five-ten, maybe two hundred pounds, wide in the shoulders, solid through the chest, red-faced, black-haired, in his middle forties. Plenty of old Scottish blood in his veins, filtered through the rich earth of Tennessee, which was where he was from. He had been in Vietnam as a teenager and the Gulf as an older man. He had combat pips all over him like a rash. He was an old-fashioned warrior, but unfortunately for him he could talk and smile as well as he could fight, so he had been posted to Senate Liaison, because the guys with the purse strings were now the real enemy.

He said, “So what have you got for me?”

I said nothing. I had nothing to say. I hadn’t expected to get that far.

He said, “Good news, I hope.”

“No news,” I said.


I nodded. “Nothing.”

“You told me you had the name. That’s what your message said.”

“I don’t have the name.”

“Then why say so? Why ask to see me?”

I paused a beat.

“It was a shortcut,” I said.

“In what way?”

“I put it around that I had the name. I wondered who might crawl out from under a rock, to shut me up.”

“And no one has?”

“Not so far. But ten minutes ago I thought it was a different story. There were four spare men in the lobby. In DPS uniforms. They followed me. I thought they were an arrest team.”

“Followed you where?”

“Around the E ring to the D. Then I lost them on the stairs.”

Frazer smiled again.

“You’re paranoid,” he said. “You didn’t lose them. I told you, there are shift changes at twelve o’clock. They come in on the Metro like everyone else, they shoot the shit for a minute or two, and then they head for their squad room. It’s on the B ring. They weren’t following you.”

I said nothing.

He said, “There are always groups of them hanging around. There are always groups of everyone hanging around. We’re seriously overmanned. Something is going to have to be done. It’s inevitable. That’s all I hear about on the Hill, all day, every day. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. We should all bear that in mind. People like you, especially.”

“Like me?” I said.

“There are lots of majors in this man’s army. Too many, probably.”

“Lots of colonels too,” I said.

“Fewer colonels than majors.”

I said nothing.

He asked, “Was I on your list of things that might crawl out from under a rock?”

You were the list, I thought.

He said, “Was I?”

“No,” I lied.

He smiled again. “Good answer. If I had a beef with you, I’d have you killed down there in Mississippi. Maybe I’d come on down and take care of it myself.”

I said nothing. He looked at me for a moment, and then a smile started on his face, and the smile turned into a laugh, which he tried very hard to suppress, but he couldn’t. It came out like a bark, like a sneeze, and he had to lean back and look up at the ceiling.

I said, “What?”

His gaze came back level. He was still smiling. He said, “I’m sorry. I was thinking about that phrase people use. You know, they say, that guy? He couldn’t even get arrested.”

I said nothing.

He said, “You look terrible. There are barbershops here, you know. You should go use one.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I’m supposed to look like this.”

Five days earlier my hair had been five days shorter, but apparently still long enough to

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