Nothing to Lose
Child is the master of the hardboiled revenge fantasy... A relentlessly thrilling puzzle, the best adrenaline-fueled escapism...
Two small towns in the middle of nowhere Colorado: Hope and Despair. Between them, nothing but twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher can’t find a ride, so he walks. All he wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets are four hostile locals, a vagrancy charge and an order to move on.
They’re picking on the wrong guy.
Reacher is a hard man. No job, no address, no baggage. Nothing at all, except hardheaded curiosity. What are the secrets that Despair seems so desperate to hide?
With just one ally—a mysterious woman cop from Hope—and many enemies, Reacher goes up against a whole town, hunting the rich man at its core, cracking open his terrifying agenda, asking the question: Who has the edge—a man with everything to gain, or a man with nothing to lose?
There were eleven customers eating. Three couples, a threesome, and two singletons. One waitress. No front of house staff. Nobody at the register. Not an unusual ratio. Reacher had eaten in a thousand similar places and he knew the rhythm, subliminally. The lone waitress would soon glance over at him and nod, as if to say I'll be right with you. Then she would take an order, deliver a plate, and scoot over, maybe blowing an errant strand of hair off her cheek in a gesture designed to be both an apology and an appeal for sympathy. She would collect a menu from a stack and lead him to a table and bustle away and then revisit him in strict sequence.
But she didn't do any of that.
She glanced over. Didn't nod. Just looked at him for a long second and then looked away. Carried on with what she was doing. Which by that point wasn't much. She had all her eleven customers pacified. She was just making work. She was stopping by tables and asking if everything was alright and refilling coffee cups that were less than an inch down from the rim. Reacher turned and checked the door glass to see if he had missed an opening-hours sign. To see if the place was about to close up. It wasn't. He checked his reflection, to see if he was committing a social outrage with the way he was dressed. He wasn't. He was wearing dark gray pants and a matching dark gray shirt, both bought two days before in a janitorial surplus store in Kansas. Janitorial supply stores were his latest discovery. Plain, strong, well-made clothing at reasonable prices. Perfect. His hair was short and tidy. He had shaved the previous morning. His fly was zipped.
He turned back to wait.
Customers turned to look at him, one after the other. They appraised him quite openly and then looked away. The waitress made another slow circuit of the room, looking everywhere except at him. He stood still, running the situation through a mental database and trying to understand it. Then he lost patience with it and stepped past the sign and moved into the room and sat down alone at a table for four. He scraped his chair in and made himself comfortable. The waitress watched him do it, and then she headed for the kitchen.
She didn't come out again.
Reacher sat and waited. The room was silent. No talking. No sounds at all, except for the quiet metallic clash of silverware on plates and the smack of people chewing and the ceramic click of cups being lowered carefully into saucers and the wooden creak of chair legs under shifting bodies. Those tiny noises rose up and echoed around the vast tiled space until they seemed overwhelmingly loud.
Nothing happened for close to ten minutes.
Then an old crew-cab pick-up truck slid to a stop on the curb outside the door. There was a second's pause and four guys climbed out and stood together on the sidewalk outside the restaurant's door. They grouped themselves into a tight little formation and paused another beat and came inside. They paused again and scanned the room and found their target. They headed straight for Reacher's table. Three of them sat down in the empty chairs and the fourth stood at the head of the table, blocking Reacher's exit.
The four guys were each a useful size. The shortest was probably an inch under six feet and the lightest was maybe an ounce over two hundred pounds. They all had walnut knuckles and thick wrists and knotted forearms. Two of them had broken noses and none of them had all their teeth. They all looked pale and vaguely unhealthy. They were all grimy, with ingrained gray dirt in the folds of their skin that glittered and shone like metal. They were all dressed in canvas work shirts with their sleeves rolled to their elbows. They were all somewhere between thirty and forty. And they all looked like trouble.
"I don't want company," Reacher said. "I prefer to eat alone."
The guy standing at the head of the table was the biggest of the four, by maybe an inch and ten pounds. He said, "You're not going to eat at all."
Reacher said, "I'm not?"
"Not here, anyway."
"I heard this was the only show in town."
"You need to get going."
"Out of here."
"Out of where?"
"Out of this restaurant."
"You want to tell me why?"
"We don't like strangers."
"Me either," Reacher said. "But I need to eat somewhere. Otherwise I'll get all wasted and skinny like you four."
"Just calling it like it is," Reacher said. He put his forearms on the table. He had thirty pounds and three inches on the big guy, and more than that on the other three. And he was willing to bet he had a little more experience and a little less inhibition than any one of them. Or than all of them put together. But ultimately, if it came to it, it was going to be his two hundred and fifty pounds against their cumulative nine hundred. Not great odds. But Reacher hated turning back.
The guy that was standing said, "We don't want you here."
Reacher said, "You're confusing me with someone who gives a shit what you want."
"You won't get served in here."
"Not a hope."
"You could order for me."
"And then what?"
"Then I could eat your lunch."
© Lee Child
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The year's first red-hot beach book.... Colossal. Earthshaking. Stupendous.... Reacher's minimalist character is perfect.... One of the most enduring action heroes on the American landscape.
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- With his powerful sense of justice, dogged determination and the physical and mental skills to overcome what to most would be overwhelming odds, Jack Reacher makes an irresistible modern knight-errant.
What is it that makes these action-fantasies so satisfying? [W]e find ourselves responding on a deeply emotional, archetypal level...Reacher lets us experience what it would be like, just once, to slap every last one of the fools aligned against us upside the head and then, pausing only to pack our toothbrush, hit the highway.
—Booklist, starred review