Best-selling author Lee Child has written an exclusive Jack Reacher story for Country Life's Christmas double issue. You can read an excerpt here – and the entire thing in our 232-page magazine.

Maybe they have a tradition

by Lee Child

It started on a freezing Christmas Eve night in New York City, in a bar on Bleecker Street, in the West Village. Jack Reacher walked by, huddled in his coat collar and he heard the thump of interesting rhythms inside. He pushed through the door into warmth and noise and found a saxophone player and two sidemen up on a stage about the height of an orange box. But more importantly, he found a blonde woman alone at a table for two. She was following the music. Turned out, she was from Holland. She was about 30 and over 6ft tall. They talked when the band took a break. She spoke English very well.

She was a cabin attendant for KLM, which was the Royal Dutch Airlines. She said she couldn’t chat for long. In fact, she had to leave in 20 minutes exactly. The crew bus was coming by. She was working the night flight to Amsterdam. They talked some more and, after 20 minutes exactly, she asked him to come with her. To Amsterdam. No charge. She had a coupon. Like a staff benefit. It was Christmas Eve. There would be empty seats.

Reacher said yes. He had no particular place to go and all the time in the world to get there. Christmas Day in Amsterdam would be fine. He had his passport in one pocket and his folding toothbrush in another, and his ATM card and a wad of cash in a third.

All he needed. As ever, he was ready to go. They got to the airport and she was called into an emergency pre-flight briefing, and that was about the last he ever saw of her…

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Read the complete, 3,000-word story in the Christmas double issue of Country Life – on sale now

Or download a digital copy of the magazine here.

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