In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pleased to Meet You.”
Jack Reacher strode into Mario’s Bar with a scowl on his face and his Luger at the ready. He had no time to lose. The killer had seen him leave the boat and was already on his way.
He stood at the entrance, taking in the scene. Mario was talking to a woman. Strange, ghostly, all in purple. Her face hidden by a veil attched to her hat by a ribbon. Reacher glanced at her, puzzled. He’d never seen her before, but he knew straightaway she shouldn’t be there. He groaned inwardly. Was she another target? Would he have to rescue her too?
He couldn’t. Not now. The killer was on his heels. His only chance now was to find Daisy.
He strode over to Mario. ‘Where is she?’ he barked. ‘Tell me!’
Mario cowered behind the bar, stammering. ‘She’s… she’s with Shoeshine!’
Reacher cursed. Of all the double-dealing desperadoes she could have made off with, she had to choose Shoeshine. ‘Has she got the code?’
‘I don’t know. She –’
A hail of bullets smashed into the bottles behind the bar. Reacher wheeled round, firing from the hip as customers fled in all directions and Mario dived for cover. He caught a glimpse of the killer, framed for a moment in the doorway before he dodged out of sight again. A moment later, two shots rang out and he heard a woman screaming on the patio.
‘Daisy?’ he yelled, and ran outside, just in time to see the killer drag her towards the street. He started to give chase but a voice behind him, calling out for help, made him turn.
‘Shoeshine… Oh, Jesus!’ Reacher knelt by the dying man, clasping his hand. ‘Did you see his face? Who is he?’
‘Don’t let him … get away …’ Blood was seeping from Shoeshine’s shoulder and Reacher had to lean close to catch his words. ‘If Daisy …’
‘If she what? Shoeshine!’ He shook the Mexican savagely. ‘Has she got the code?’
A squeal of tyres pierced the night and Reacher looked up to see Daisy being bundled into a pick-up. He levelled the Luger and fired, but the bullet whined off the bodywork. In a cloud of smoking rubber, the pick-up skidded out of sight.
Reacher looked down at the man on the patio. Shoeshine’s eyes were bulging wide as he strained to get out the words. ‘She … went to see … Voodoo Poppy … I told her not to … She wouldn’t listen … She said she was going to … tell Poppy everything.’
‘Shit! You let her go? Has Poppy got the code now too?’
‘I had the killer after me … I couldn’t …’ The Mexican’s head drooped to the side. A dribble of blood spilled from his mouth. He gave a final shudder and was gone.
Biting his lip, Jack Reacher stood up slowly and walked to his car. He sat for a moment in the driver’s seat, staring impassively ahead. Then he took out his phone. ‘Grayson? Meet me at the Crucifix in fifteen minutes. We’re going to see Voodoo Poppy.’
A tap came at the window. He turned to see the strange woman from Mario’s. The ribbon had come undone and her hat was dangling to one side. Her face was pale and haunted. ‘Forgive me,’ she said. ‘but I am in need of some assistance. I had an appointment with… an acquaintance. But I fear I may have come to the wrong place.’ And performing a little curtsy, she added, ‘My name is Emma Bovary.’