Reacher stood still and watched him roll away. He heard a motorcycle exhaust in the distance, coming closer, getting louder, heavy as a hammer. An eighth Harley came around the corner, as slow as gravity would allow, a big heavy machine, blatting and popping, the rider lying back with his feet on pegs way out in front. He leaned into a turn and slowed on the gravel. He was wearing a black leather vest over a black T-shirt. He parked last in line. His bike idled like a blacksmith hitting an anvil. Then he shut it down and hauled it up on its stand. Silence came back.
Reacher said, "I'm looking for Jimmy Rat."
The guy glanced at one of the other bikes. Couldn't help himself. But he said, "Don't know him," and walked away, stiff and bow-legged, to the door of the bar. He was pear shaped, and maybe forty years old. Maybe five-ten, and bulky. He had a sallow tan, like his skin was rubbed with motor oil. He pulled the door and stepped inside.
Reacher stayed where he was. The bike the new guy had glanced at was one of the three with silver runes. It was as huge as all the others, but the footrests and the handlebars were set a little closer to the seat than most. About two inches closer than the new guy's, for example. Which made Jimmy Rat about five-eight, possibly. Maybe skinny, to go with his name. Maybe armed, with a knife or a gun. Maybe vicious.
Reacher walked to the door of the bar. He pulled it open and stepped inside. The air was dark and hot and smelled of spilled beer. The room was rectangular, with a full-length copper bar on the left, and tables on the right. There was an arch in the rear wall, with a narrow corridor beyond. Restrooms and a pay phone and a fire door. Four windows. A total of six potential exits. The first thing an ex-MP counted.
The eight bikers were packed in around two four-tops shoved together by a window. They had beers on the go, in heavy glasses wet with humidity. The new guy was shoehorned in, pear shaped on a chair, with the fullest glass. Six of the others were in a similar category, in terms of size and shape and general visual appeal. One was worse. About five-eight, stringy, with a narrow face and restless eyes.
Reacher stopped at the bar and asked for coffee. "Don't have any," the barman said. "Sorry."
"Is that Jimmy Rat over there? The small guy?"
"You got a beef with him, you take it outside, OK?"
The barman moved away. Reacher waited. One of the bikers drained his
glass and stood up and headed for the restroom corridor. Reacher crossed the room and sat down in his vacant chair. The wood felt hot. The eighth guy made the connection. He stared at Reacher, and then he glanced at Jimmy Rat.
Who said, "This is a private party, bud. You ain't invited."
Reacher said, "I need some information."
Jimmy Rat looked blank. Then he remembered. He glanced at the door, somewhere beyond which lay the pawn shop, where he had made assurances. He said, "Get lost, bud."
Reacher put his left fist on the table. The size of a supermarket chicken. Long thick fingers with knuckles like walnuts. Old nicks and scars healed white against his summer tan. He said, "I don't care what scam you're running. Or who you're stealing from. Or who you're fencing for. I got no interest in any of that. All I want to know is where you got this ring."
He opened his fist. The ring lay in his palm. West Point 2005. The gold filigree, the black stone. The tiny size. Jimmy Rat said nothing, but something in his eyes made Reacher believe he recognized the item.
Reacher said, "Another name for West Point is the United States Military Academy. There's a clue right there, in the first two words. This is a federal case."
"You a cop?"
"No, but I got a quarter for the phone."
The missing guy got back from the restroom. He stood behind Reacher's chair, arms spread wide in exaggerated perplexity. As if to say, what the hell is going on here? Who is this guy? Reacher kept one eye on Jimmy Rat, and one on the window alongside him, where he could see a faint ghostly reflection of what was happening behind his shoulder.
Jimmy Rat said, "That's someone's chair."
"Yeah, mine," Reacher said.
"You've got five seconds."
"I've got as long as it takes for you to answer my question."
"You feeling lucky tonight?"
"I won't need to be."
This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.