“Make some coffee. You’ll read all night.” Lee Child
Impatient with FBI Special Agent Kim Otto’s lack of progress, her boss seeks to show her how it’s done.
Cooper drags Otto to Dallas where he sets a trap to lure Jack Reacher with three carrots: challenge, revenge, and pride.
When a full scale riot breaks out at the prominent politician’s funeral, Otto uncovers a Machiavellian plot to execute his political rival.
A plot Reacher unwittingly put in motion.
Ten years ago, in Lee Child’s Echo Burning, Reacher was recruited to kill a stranger. He refused the mission but teamed up with two women to expose stomach-churning mass slaughter.
Now, Otto and Michael Flint race to find the executioner who refuses to relinquish his ill-gotten legacy.
Filled with twists and turns to keep you breathless until the explosive finale, can Otto and Reacher work together to stop the heinous assassins before it’s too late?
Lee Child Gives Diane Capri Two Thumbs Up!
"Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too. Kim Otto is a great, great character – I love her." —Lee Child, #1 World Wide Bestselling Author of Jack Reacher Thrillers including The Killing Floor, Echo Burning, and No Plan B.
The Hunt for Jack Reacher series enthralls fans of John Grisham, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, John Sandford, and more:
"Diane writes like the maestro of the jigsaw puzzle. Sit back in your favorite easy chair, pour a glass of crisp white wine, and enter her devilishly clever world." —David Hagberg, New York Times Bestselling Author of Kirk McGarvey Thrillers
"Expertise shines on every page." —Margaret Maron, Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Award Winning MWA Past President and MWA Grand Master
Readers Love the Hunt for Jack Reacher Series and Diane Capri:
"All Child fans should give it a try!"
Award winning New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author DIANE CAPRI Does It Again in another Blockbuster Hunt for Jack Reacher Series Novel
Release date: October 25, 2022
Print pages: 360
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Lone Star Jack
Saturday, May 21
Remote Southwest Texas
Mateo Lopez hid in the trees, watching the house, willing the woman to turn off the lights and go to bed. He saw her silhouette cross the light from the window as she moved around inside her bedroom.
He had no idea what she looked like. How old she was. Whether she had friends and family. None of that mattered to him. He didn’t even know her name.
She was the target. This was a job he’d been forced to do. He didn’t need to know anything else.
When Mateo completed the work, his family would be safe. Nothing mattered more.
Even in the darkness, without the unrelenting sun overhead he’d endured all day, the outside temperature was uncomfortably hot for late May.
Mateo had lived in Mexico his whole life. He was used to the heat and the hot breezes and the dust. So much dirt. He shook his head.
But this was spring in Texas, the rainiest month. He’d dressed in warm clothes, expecting cooler temperatures and even a bit of rain so far north. Now he was sweating like mid-August back home and fighting to breathe.
Briefly, he considered stripping off his clothes. He didn’t.
He inhaled the warm air and held it in his lungs, like a drag on a cigarette. Good thing he’d quit smoking before he’d set off with his family from Mexico. If the artist happened to glance outside while he was grabbing a smoke, she might have seen him. One less worry.
The artist would die, as he’d promised. But she would die in her sleep. She wouldn’t suffer. Which mattered to him. He would kill her. That should be enough. He drew the line at torture.
He’d walked miles from where he’d parked the old sedan on the dirt road south and west of here, lugging enough gasoline to create and feed a raging hot fire. The closest neighbors were miles away, too. Farther away than the car.
He wondered why she’d chosen to live in such a hell hole. Whatever her reasons, the location made his job easier. The old dry wood-framed house, filled with the woman’s painting supplies, should burn fast and hot long before anyone noticed the fire. No firefighters would reach this place to prevent total destruction.
The gas cans were heavy and awkward, and he could only carry two at once. Progress was slow. Sweating, breathing hard, watching his step in the gathering darkness.
The last thing he needed was to trip and fall and spill the gasoline.
Finally, he’d managed to bring eight full cans to the edge of the clearing.
Only nocturnal animals had noticed him. He was sure of that.
He squatted and sat on the dirt in the shadows to rest, wiping the sweat from his face with his shirt. He wasn’t a young man anymore. He had a wife, two children. Soon, they would join him here. José had promised.
“Work hard, Mateo. Do this one thing. Do it well. Your family will be okay. You have my word,” José had said.
Mateo believed the comforting words because he was desperate. He could do this terrible thing, and then his family’s new life could begin.
This woman was nothing to him. She lived alone, here in the dusty nowhere. She probably didn’t even have a family. Not like Mateo’s, anyway.
He’d been a laborer all his life, like his father before him. Mateo was no stranger to hard work. He was familiar with fire, too.
His young son had been badly burned when he fell into a fire pit near their home in Mexico years ago. Mateo had pulled the boy from the fire and burned his own hand, which was now scarred and painful.
He’d been too slow to react. His boy had died. Mateo and his wife were devastated.
Even now, Mateo’s hand burned and ached as if the wound were fresh. He had lost one child. He couldn’t lose the others. He’d do anything to give them a better life. Anything.
Mateo knew what to do and he knew how to do it. Even as he knew murder was wrong, he also knew his family was worth it.
He frowned when the thought surfaced that his wife would be appalled by his actions. He shrugged. Sofia would never know.
While he waited, Mateo went over the plan in his head again. First, he’d break into the house. Which would be easy, José said, because the woman never locked the doors.
She lived a solitary life, remote from people. She’d implemented no security measures, probably because she didn’t expect trouble.
José told Mateo to enter through the kitchen door in the back of the house because it was closest to the stairs. Her bedroom was one flight up, directly above the kitchen.
“She doesn’t close her bedroom door,” José had said. “No reason to. You won’t even need to use the doorknob. But wear your gloves, just in case.”
Mateo had raised his eyebrows in question. “In case of what?”
“You don’t want to leave fingerprints. Forensics men are smarter in Texas. They might be able to identify you. You don’t want that, amigo,” José replied.
Mateo nodded. He intended to destroy the house and reduce it to charred rubble. He didn’t believe there would be any way to gather evidence against him from the ashes, even if he made a mistake.
But José was the boss here. Mateo had already pulled on the latex gloves, as instructed.
“You just walk into the bedroom. Be careful not to shine a light or wake her up,” José had instructed. “Put the pillow over her face and smother her. Then burn down the house. That’s it. Simple, no?”
Mateo had nodded again, throughout the instructions. Things were almost never as simple in the execution as they sounded during planning. Mateo knew that much.
So did José.
But it didn’t matter. The plan was as good as they could make it, under the circumstances.
“See you when you’re done, amigo,” José said, patting him on the shoulder. “We’ll go to pick up your family together. I’ll drive you to California personally. Get you settled into your new home. New job. We’ve already set up your banking and the cash payout we promised. You’ll be all set.”
They shook hands.
José went back into the bar.
Mateo headed out to the middle of nowhere. To kill a woman he didn’t know so that his family could live in peace and prosperity.
How had his life come to this?
Mateo shook his head and glanced upward again.
The light in her bedroom on the second floor finally shut off, snuffing the last ambient illumination from the black night.
He’d been staring into the light when it disappeared. A ghostly image lingered on his retina for a moment.
He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he saw only the blocky shadow of the building across the short distance from his position under the trees.
Mateo waited to give the woman time to fall asleep. He didn’t have a watch. He guessed the time was about two thirty in the morning and judged he’d waited long enough.
He stood and knocked the dust off his clothes. He grabbed two of the gasoline cans and humped them into the backyard, dropping them close to the door so he could grab them easily.
Four trips, hustling back and forth, to move all eight cans to his staging area.
Mateo patted his pockets again to be sure he had the disposable butane lighters within easy reach. He took a deep breath of the hot air and exhaled again to steady his hands.
Sweat ran down his face and from his armpits. He wiped his face with his sleeve, closing his eyes against the stinging wetness.
“Now,” he said quietly under his breath.
He turned the knob silently and pulled the back door open. He stepped inside, waiting a moment for his eyes to adjust to the even darker interior of the kitchen.
The staircase was exactly where José had told him it would be, which seemed like an affirmation of José’s word, somehow. Maybe the other things José had said about saving his family were also true.
Mateo climbed the stairs as quietly as he could, given his heavy work boots. At the second floor, he turned toward the open bedroom door.
She had a nightlight turned on in the bathroom in the hallway. It provided weak illumination, but enough to see her silent body lying on the bed under a thin sheet. He paused to focus his vision. Her chest rose and fell gently in regular rhythm. Her curly yellow hair was splashed across her pillow like a fluffy halo.
As if he were approaching a sleeping rattler, Mateo approached the woman with as much stealth as he could muster.
He grabbed a pillow and pushed it down over her face, applying all of his weight through his heavily muscled arms.
She thrashed her body and grabbed at his wrists, trying to free herself. Mateo kept his force even and steady and strong.
Until she stopped struggling.
He held the pillow another full minute. To be certain the job was done.
When he finally pulled the pillow away, her eyes were open and as lifeless as the chickens he’d beheaded for special dinners back home.
He checked her carotid pulse, like José had shown him to do. He felt nothing. No beating. No breathing. No seeing.
“It’s done.” He nodded once. She was as dead as he could make her.
He glanced upward, as if he could see her spirit rising from her body. Softly, he said, “Thank you for your gift of life to my children.”
Mateo turned and hurried downstairs to collect the gasoline.
He splashed the first two cans over her bed, soaking the body and the bedding. Four more cans to cover the bedroom floor, the hallway, and the staircase. The gas fumes irritated his eyes and his nose and made him cough.
He used the seventh can liberally in the kitchen. Then he opened the eighth can and pulled three hand towels from his pocket. He stuffed one of the hand towels into the top of the eighth can.
Mateo looked at his handiwork, satisfied that the towels would do the job.
He ran back upstairs, lit the first towel, and tossed it onto the bed. The whoosh flashed the fumes pulsing up from the gasoline-soaked bedding and began to burn hot and bright.
He turned and ran toward the staircase. He dropped the second towel onto the wet carpet before he hurried down the steps. He felt the heat on his back all the way to the bottom and into the kitchen.
Mateo bent over the eighth gas can and ignited the towel sticking up from its neck. He believed he had a full minute. Maybe two to reach safety outside.
He was wrong.
He turned to dash out the still open back door.
The strong, hot wind blew into the back door and caught the fire exactly the wrong way.
Mateo heard the gas fumes ignite behind him.
The explosion blasted into the night air, hard, high, and hot.
Pressure threw Mateo across the room and dropped him on the floor, six feet from the exit.
His last prayer was that Sofia would be comforted to know that he didn’t feel a thing.
He didn’t suffer.
He wasn’t tortured by the flames that consumed him.
Sunday, May 29 (one week later)
Cesar Baez stood, master of all he surveyed, admiring the sunset from the veranda of his villa. The distant rolling hills led to the dusty pasture surrounding the ranch buildings in a single, cohesive whole.
He owned it all. He’d worked for it. His father had left him nothing.
Cesar had fought to acquire every square inch of what he owned, and he held on with a tight-fisted fierceness few men would care to master. Even fewer made the attempt.
He was still dressed in his expensive riding clothes, holding his third tall glass of sparkling water. He looked more like an Englishman back from the hunt than a ruthless Capo.
Diego Baez, Cesar’s father, had embodied the Capo depicted by every Hollywood cliché. Diego came up off the streets. He was vicious. Cruel. Effective.
Diego had built the family business from Durango. For two decades, the Baez Cartel had inspired fear and obedience and enjoyed massive prosperity throughout Mexico.
Cesar came from that world.
But unlike his brothers, Cesar no longer lived there, in body or soul.
Cesar left Durango and the old ways of the family business behind before the old man died.
His brothers ran the original illegal activities of the Baez Cartel now, including the bigger and better legitimate enterprises the family had transitioned into these past two decades.
As the youngest, Cesar had been cast aside, assigned to mind the smaller branches of the family business in the hinterlands of Ojinaga.
Cesar had no regrets. He had created an empire of his own, better in every way than the old Baez Cartel.
Cesar’s carefully cultivated public façade resembled film roles played by the young Ricardo Montalbán. He was clean shaven. Well trimmed curly hair swept back. Always well dressed, always a gentleman whenever he appeared in public.
Grace under pressure, Cesar reminded himself often.
As a child, Cesar had watched hours of old films starring Montalbán, the handsome Mexican actor. He’d learned to mimic Montalbán’s body movements. Their common Mexican heritage informed not only Cesar’s appearance, but his speech and mannerisms as well.
Cesar’s desire to move from the shadowy criminal underworld he grew up in fueled the persona he’d adopted completely when he left Durango for college.
The transformation was accepted now by all who knew him.
Diego Baez had been a street thug and a smuggler and a killer. Both of Cesar’s brothers were carbon copies of the old man.
Cesar Baez was not.
Or so his savvy colleagues professed to believe. Those who publicly declared otherwise had been removed.
A current observer would see Cesar admiring his property and waiting patiently for his business manager to appear, exhibiting control and class. As Montalbán would have done.
Yet, Cesar’s nostrils flared and the heat of his Latin temper threatened to erupt without warning. He controlled himself with the same iron will he applied to life in general.
José Del Campo was late.
Tardiness was a character flaw Cesar rarely tolerated.
He expected employees to wait for him, not to keep him waiting.
As with so many other innate characteristics, Cesar Baez was his father’s son.
Had any employee dared to keep the old man waiting for even five minutes, retribution came swift and hard and sure.
The old man had a sadistic streak, too.
Life was cheap in Durango when Cesar was a boy. Employees were little more than chattel. His father had disciplined them harshly every day of the week for relatively minor infractions.
Secretly, Cesar believed the old man enjoyed torturing them, because he fought those impulses in himself.
For tardiness, his father’s response was swift and crude amputation.
Five minutes waiting time and one of Diego’s sicarios would lop off the miscreant’s finger with a dirty machete brought in from the fields. Fifteen minutes tardy would cost a hand. And so on.
What would Diego do when a worker simply didn’t show up at all?
Cesar didn’t know. Employees never missed an entire day of work. They didn’t have the nerve.
Cesar shook his head. At fifteen, Cesar had rebelled against his father’s ways. They had argued.
Knowing too well his father’s cold heart, Cesar had skipped emotional appeals. Instead, he said maiming employees was impractical because it interfered with their job performance.
“Just the opposite,” Diego had replied, without a trace of humor. “The penalty for poor performance is death. Solves the problem every time.”
Cesar had controlled the shudder the old man’s unwavering ruthlessness inspired. ...
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