Jackknife(4)
Author:William Johnstone


    “Well, she doesn’t want to go with you, so I think she should just give you your money back and we’ll all just 22

    say that the deal is off.” McCabe looked at Lindy. “How about it?”

    She was sullen and obviously reluctant to part with the money. “What if I don’t give it back?” she wanted to know.

    McCabe shrugged. “Then I’ll go on inside and get that cup of coffee I’ve been wanting for the last hundred miles, and you can work things out with these gentle-men on your own.”

    Before Lindy could say anything else, Goatee said,

    “You just don’t get it, mister. We don’t want the money back. We want the girl.”

    “Yeah,” Red said, grinning.

    Lindy looked at the three of them, then started to open the little purse she carried. “All right, all right, I’ll give them the damn money.”

    “Now hold on,” Baldy began.

    “That’s the deal,” McCabe interrupted. “You boys get your cash back, and you leave the lady alone.” Red said, “Who died and left you in charge, hoss?”

    “I’m tired o’ this shit.” Goatee started to reach past McCabe. “Come on, bitch—”

    McCabe put a hand on the man’s broad chest. “She said she’d give the money back. That’s it. Deal’s off.”

    “What the hell’s wrong with you, old man?” Goatee demanded. “You in the mood to get your ass kicked or somethin’?”

    McCabe knew what they saw when they looked at him—a guy on the wrong side of forty, with some gray in his dark hair and a decent enough build in his work clothes but nothing special. Just another truck driver, and worn out from a long day on the road.

    True enough, he supposed, but it wasn’t all the story.

    They didn’t know the places he’d been, the things he’d done.

    23

    Goatee thrust his jaw out and said, “I asked you a question, you sumbitch. You lookin’ to get your ass kicked or somethin’?”

    “Or something,” McCabe said.

    Then he punched Goatee in that belligerent jaw, as hard as he could.

    Goatee went backward. Not far, just a couple of steps, because he was a big man with a lot of weight to move. But that gave McCabe enough room to operate.

    He half-turned to the left and snapped a kick with his right foot into Baldy’s belly. The guy’s gut was as soft as McCabe had figured. Baldy doubled over so fast that his cap went flying. He stumbled backward and collapsed on the pavement, curling up in a ball.

    Red came at McCabe with fists flying. He was fast and strong and McCabe was no miracle worker. One of the punches got through and clipped him on the side of the head. The impact stunned him.

    But instinct and training had taken over by now.

    McCabe could take some damage and keep functioning.

    He had taken a lot worse than a punch to the head before. He stepped inside Red’s mad rush and brought the base of his left hand up under the man’s chin.

    McCabe overcame his instincts and pulled the blow at the last second so that it wouldn’t break the guy’s neck and either kill him or leave him a hopeless cripple for the rest of his life. Instead, it just sent Red flying off his feet to crash down onto the concrete on his back.

    Goatee had recovered his balance. With a roar he lunged at McCabe and got his arms around the smaller man. Those arms were like tree trunks, and they closed with bone-crushing force.

    McCabe broke Goatee’s nose with a head butt. Goatee screamed, then screamed again as McCabe’s knee 24

    smashed into his groin. He let go of McCabe, stumbled around in a wobbly, bent-over circle for a second, and then folded up like a puppet with its strings cut.

    McCabe was breathing a little hard. He turned to see Lindy cowering against the rig. “You . . . all right?” he asked her.

    “How . . . how did you . . . there were three of them!” Her eyes were wide with amazement.

    The commotion had drawn some attention. Several men approached from the direction of the truck stop.

    They were all drivers, and McCabe recognized a couple of them.

    One of the men let out a low whistle as he looked around at the three bodies sprawled on the parking lot in various stages of semiconsciousness. He grinned at McCabe and said, “Should’ve known you’d be mixed up in this trouble, Jackknife.”

    “It was their idea,” McCabe said. “Tried to get ’em to back down, but they were stubborn about it.”

    “Damn fools, if you ask me,” the other man said.

    McCabe turned to Lindy. “Why don’t you call it a night and go home?”

    She still looked a little dazed by what she had seen.

    After a moment, she nodded and said, “Yeah. Yeah, I might just do that.”

    “Before you go, though,” McCabe said, “get out the money they paid you.”

    That brought her back to earth. “You mean I really have to give it back to them?”

    “Seems like that would be the fair thing to do, considering.”

    “Do you know what those bastards wanted to do to me?”

    25

    McCabe shook his head. “Nope. And I don’t want to know. Just get out the money they paid you.” Grumbling, she dug several wadded-up bills from her purse and tried to give them to McCabe. He pointed to the driver who had greeted him earlier and said, “Give it to Roy here. He’s honest, and he’ll see to it that the money gets back to its rightful owners.” Grudgingly, Lindy handed the bills to the driver called Roy. “Now what?” she asked McCabe.

    “Now you go home and don’t be around when these fellas recover from our little dance. And I go get some coffee and something to eat and some sleep for what’s left of the night.”

    Lindy watched him go and said, “I don’t get it. He was worried about me being here when those guys wake up, but he’s staying.”

    “That’s because he knows he can take care of himself,” Roy told her. “Those dumb bastards picked the wrong guy to tangle with.”

    Lindy frowned. “He’s just a truck driver, isn’t he?”

    “Just a truck driver?” Roy laughed. “Honey, that’s Jackknife McCabe. Ex-Special Forces. He was in Desert Storm, then went back to Iraq years later, after stopovers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and probably half a dozen of those other ’istan places that used to be part of Russia.

    Lord knows where-all he’s been and what he’s done, because he won’t talk much about it. But I’ll tell you this much . . . those fellas who were hasslin’ you, they’re lucky to be alive right now. I reckon a lot of bad guys who’ve run up against ol’ Jackknife . . . ain’t anymore.”

    Israeli Jets Hit Iranian

    Nuke Facilities

    WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 16, 03:42 PM, US/EASTERN, ASSOCIATED PRESS. Sources at the White House and the Pentagon, as well as in Tel Aviv, confirm that Israel has launched an air strike against the Iranian nuclear facility in Bushehr. Israeli fighter jets armed with conventional missiles and bombs attacked the facility before dawn this morning. Sources within the Israeli air force say that the target was completely destroyed. However, a spokesman for the Iranian government issued a statement claiming that damage was minor and that the only casualties were innocent civilian workers.

    The facility has long been rumored to be an important part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Israeli intelligence officer said, JACKKNIFE

    27

    “We have set them back at least five years with this action.”

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