Every year around this time, a few of us bolder 'Reacher Creatures' post our Annual Jack Reacher Christmas Stories (Fan-Fiction) over at Lee Child's Forum. This year, they have a new Forum apparatus which I can't seem to get the hang of - my story just won't make it through the mysterious ether from my file to Lee's forum. So I'm posting my story here and linking to the Forum so that everyone over there can come over here and take a look. Of course, if you're not familiar with Lee Child's Jack Reacher character and his amazing books, this story probably won't mean much to you. Except that I hope it will pique your interest in Jack Reacher and cause you to run right out and get your hands on one of the best series of books by one of the best - if not THE best - thriller writers in the business: Lee Child. (We thank his forbearance in putting up with our stories every year. I liken us to a bunch of little pugs yapping playfully at a big and powerful and awfully tolerant English Bulldog.)
You can see all of Lee's book titles at his website, of course.
So, without further ado, here's my 2010 Jack Reacher Christmas Fan-Fiction: Please remember that this is purely an amateur effort meant in the spirit of the season, as an accolade to Lee Child's creation. (In the past my stories have had Reacher in Wonderland, Reacher as a figure in a snow globe and Reacher involved in a back alley brawl saved in the nick of time by the timely arrival of Santa on a sled, so you see, I have no shame.)
PICKWICK GROVE: Another Reacher Christmas Story
This time he'd made sure to be on the fast track out of town before Christmas had a chance to oppress him with incessant yo-ho-ho's and happy hosannas. Not that Jack Reacher was against Christmas per se, it was just that he had no family and no special place to be - by his own choice - so the Holiday spirit had a way of eluding him.
And yet strange things had a way of happening at this time of year, no matter how stealthily he tried to maneuver under the radar. But at 6'5" and 250 pounds, it was, admittedly, a bit hard to blend in unnoticed wherever he chose to go. The very physical size that kept others at bay most of the time, had a way of attracting those very others during the season of supposed 'good cheer'. Reacher had long ago given up playing the game of logic with an universe that defied it.
So, here he was, already on the outskirts of Pituitary Gland, Illinois - well, he shrugged, that wasn't really the town's name. It was actually called Pickwick Grove because Dickens himself had once stopped there overnight to read pages from A Christmas Carol to an adoring crowd - but Reacher simply could not bring himself to think in Pickwickian terms.
The town, not much more than a village nestled in a valley, had made him uneasy. He'd spent a grim few days there allowing a knife wound in his side to heal - the result of a knock-down, drag-out with six guys and a Doberman one town over. (The Doberman was the only one who'd survived intact. Reacher liked dogs.) The stitches in his side were healing nicely but it was Pickwick Grove (what a name!) itself that had made him more than ordinarily watchful. Everything about the town rankled. If he didn't know better, he'd think he'd stumbled into a theme park - some sort of Williamsburg type thing.
The citizens were just too damned cheerful, for one thing. It wasn't difficult to distrust people who smiled all the time; Reacher's antenna had immediately gone into full alert mode. But it was the town itself that set off every interior alarm: On almost every street corner there had been a lamppost rigged out in evergreens, a Santa clone ringing a silver bell, a bunch of kids singing carols or, unbelievably, an old guy selling warm chestnuts from a cart.
Chestnuts, I ask you, thought Reacher - what was that all about? They'd been damn good, though. And the Christmas trees, he thought, shaking his head in wonder. Don't get me started on the Christmas trees. The whole town looked like a forest of evergreens strung out on lights. There were trees in front of every house, every store, every building - the police station even had a twenty footer decked out in flamingo pink lights. PINK!
What kind of cop shop allows pink lights on their Christmas tree? Though if push came to shove, he'd be forced to admit they didn't look half-bad.
And by the way, what kind of town had a toy store on every block? Didn't these people know about malls and the ubiquitous scourge of the Super Store? Well, okay, maybe he exaggerated a bit, maybe there hadn't been a toy store on every street, but it sure as hell looked like it: store windows decked out with lights and garlands and brightly colored whatevers and giant wreaths on every door. And when was the last time he'd seen people walking, actually walking and carrying red and green shopping bags filled with wrapped packages? And don't get me started on the tinsel and mistletoe, thought Reacher with a grunt of disfavor.
He looked up the road as a car came into view out of the darkness. Reacher waited patiently for the driver to size him up and make the decision. The driver - couldn't really blame him - decided to pass. So Reacher kept walking.
Even the old army/navy store he'd gone into back there in town had been decorated with strings of lights, red and flashing khaki green. A small Christmas tree near the register had twinkled merrily as Reacher walked up front to pay for a sweater and some pants. The heavy-set guy behind the counter wore a red flannel shirt and sported a white beard (yes, I know, but that's how it was). He stopped twining what looked to be a wreath made of dried reeds and holly to take Reacher's money, smiling all the while.
"You sell those?" asked Reacher, pointing at the wreaths.
"Yup. Fifty percent off tonight - ten bucks. The money goes to the orphanage outside of town."
"I'll take one," said Reacher handing him a twenty and declining the change. "For the orphanage."
Subsequently, Reacher found himself walking around town with an arm hooked through a wreath and a 'what just happened here?' expression on his face.
That same evening he'd stopped at the busy town diner (silver twinkling wreaths in every window, a big red bow on the front door), filled with happy, tired shoppers, for a turkey dinner and a chat with two accommodating waitresses named Ruby (wearing candy cane earrings) and Flo (wearing Santa hoops). He wound up hanging around when three State Troopers came in bundled up in winter gear. But all they were there there for (after casing Reacher with some fairly friendly cop glances) was their evening meal and a bit of wordplay with Ruby and Flo. Ruby especially got all giggly-wiggly when the big red-headed cop laughed (disproportionately, Reacher thought) at one of her witticisms. Reacher looked around for an escape hatch, but the coffee was too good and he thought he could tolerate the fun and games if it meant another cup from the same pot and a big slice of apple pie.
"You want it zapped and a slice of cheddar?" asked Flo.
"You remembered," said Reacher with a grin. He loved apple pie with cheddar.
Flo flashed him a smile, her earrings glittered.
In the end though, had come the final straw: When he left the diner after practically having to tear himself away from all the good wishes and Happy Holidays, he saw that it had started to snow and from somewhere in the distance he could hear Christmas carols being sung by a choir. He looked around, just snow showers he felt sure, but it was joyous to behold.
There and then, Reacher decided to move on.
So, that's where he was at this very moment, trudging along an empty road carrying a wreath, a red shopping bag with his pants and sweater (he'd forgotten to change and ditch his older stuff) saying goodbye to a too friendly town that had given him the willies. When he realized it was actually Christmas Eve, he turned around to take one final bemused look at Pickwick Grove, but found it wasn't there.