"Enjoyable...This is a good entry point for newcomers to this long-running series."--Publishers Weekly
In the latest action-packed thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Stuart Woods, Stone Barrington faces down a persistent rival.
Stone Barrington is nearing his New York City abode when he stumbles into trouble. As it turns out, a new client is in danger—and with both business and the safety of the city at stake, he has no choice but to get involved.
When it soon becomes clear that a complicated scheme is being hatched, Stone will need to use his expertise and connections to unravel the clever plot. Though the source remains unknown, it’s just a matter of time before he and Stone must each show their hands. From ritzy Manhattan high-rises to the lush serenity of the Connecticut countryside, the game of cat and mouse can end with only one victor….
"Enjoyable...This is a good entry point for newcomers to this long-running series."--Publishers Weekly
Stone Barrington was headed down Second Avenue in the heaviest rain he could remember. Fortunately, he was in a taxi. He was also about a third of a block from his street. The traffic on the cross street had come to a complete halt, and thus, so had Second Avenue, and Stone had an appointment with a new client in five minutes.
"I think I'd better get out here," he said to the driver.
"What's that? I can't hear you." The rain was hammering on the cab's roof, making a horrific noise.
"I'm going to get out!" Stone shouted, shoving some money through the plexiglass screen.
"You're gonna drown!" the driver shouted.
"I have an umbrella!" Stone shouted back, opening the rear door. He stuck the umbrella out first and got it open, then he stepped into the street and kicked the door shut behind him. He was ankle deep in water, but he made it to the sidewalk, which was marginally better.
As he rounded the corner, the traffic on the cross street suddenly began to move, and turning onto his street, he looked up the block and saw a man kicking something on the sidewalk. His vision was not helped by the rain, but it looked as though a dog was being abused. Stone simultaneously started to trot and close his umbrella, wrapping the tab around it and securing it, while the rain began drumming on his hat. Then he realized that the lump on the sidewalk was a man.
"Hey!" Stone shouted at the kicker. The man looked up at him; he was wearing a ski mask. Stone ran at him-giving little thought to the size of the man, which was large-and drew back the umbrella. He swung at the man, connecting with his left arm, near the shoulder, and heard a shout of pain. The umbrella was golf-sized and had a thick wooden shaft, topped by a heavy, brierwood curved handle. Stone swung again, aiming at the head. The handle caught the man on the chin, but not solidly, since he was now withdrawing.
Stone thought of pursuing him, but the man on the ground let out a loud groan, gaining Stone's attention. He opened the umbrella and held it over the victim. "Can you hear me?" Stone shouted.
"Yes," the man said, nodding. Blood was being washed off his face by the rain.
"If I help you, can you get up?"
Stone held out his left hand, and the man grabbed it and struggled to his feet. "Hold on to my arm," Stone said. "It's just a few doors." They shuffled up the street together, taking small steps. At the door, Stone found he couldn't ring the bell without letting go of the umbrella, so that was what he did. He leaned on the bell and heard a continuous ringing.
A moment later, Joan Robertson, his secretary, opened the door, sized up the situation, and took the man off Stone's hands. He grabbed the umbrella, closed it, and stepped inside.
"What happened?" Joan asked. "This man is bleeding."
"Just get him inside, make him as comfortable as you can, then call 911 and ask for an ambulance. Tell them a man has been beaten up, and ask for the cops, too."
By the time help arrived, Joan had the man out of his raincoat and jacket, his tie was loosened, and he was sitting up in a chair in StoneÕs office, sipping from a mug of tea with an electric heater blowing on him. The EMTs arrived first and gave him a quick going-over.
"I don't think anything is broken," said the woman in charge of the team, "but it's a good thing you arrived when you did, or the man might have killed him."
The two cops stood by. "Our turn now?"
"Sure," the woman said. "He doesn't need to be transported. Whatever the lady put in that tea is probably as good for him as anything we've got in the wagon."
Stone walked them to the door, while the cops started asking questions and taking notes. Soon they finished and took their leave.
All that Stone had heard of the conversation was the man's name. "You're Shepherd Troutman, is that right?"
"He's your eleven o'clock," Joan said. "He was on time, too." She had tucked a blanket around him.
"He looks like he's about the same size as Peter," Stone said, referring to his grown son, who lived in Los Angeles. "See if you can find him a robe in Peter's closet."
Joan headed upstairs to Peter's room, and Stone sat down on the sofa, across the coffee table. "Mr. Troutman, do you feel like talking a bit?" he asked.
"I guess I can rub a few words together and make simple sentences," he said. "But don't ask me to do any math."
"That's okay with me," Stone said, "but with all the excitement, I can't remember why we're meeting. Who sent you to see me?"
"My banker," Troutman said. "I'm new to the city, and I opened an account with him."
"Who sent you to the banker?"
"A guy who went to college with him, who was my last banker."
"What's the new guy's name?"
"Barton Crisp," he said.
"He's my banker, too, or one of them. You did well there."
"That was my instinct."
"Where'd you come to New York from?"
"My family springs from that area," Stone said. "Hence my surname."
"Great Barrington? I'm from Lenox."
"Welcome to New York," Stone said. "We're normally more cordial than your reception this morning. Do you know who your assailant was, or why he attacked you?"
Troutman shook his head. "Right out of the blue. Never saw him before. Not that I saw him, with that mask on. I can't think of why anybody would attack me, except to rob me. I have a few hundred dollars in my pocket, but he didn't get that far before you came along. I haven't thanked you properly. I'm very grateful for your help."
"I'm glad I was there," Stone said. "Why the move to New York?"
"I've never lived anywhere but Lenox, but my father died a few months ago, and I sold the family business for a lot of money, so I thought I'd make a fresh start."
"Divorced, nearly two years ago."
"Might your former wife want to come at you again for more money?"
"No, she got a very favorable settlement at the time, and she's remarried."
"Where are you living in the city?"
"At the Carlyle Hotel, for the moment, but I want to find an apartment to buy."
Joan came back with a cashmere robe. "Mr. Troutman, if you'll change into this, I'll get your other things dried and pressed. There's a powder room where you can change right over there."
Troutman took the robe and excused himself.
Stone turned to Joan. "New client, new in town. Run off a copy of the list for him, will you?"
"Sure thing." She went back to her desk, printed out the document, and returned to Stone's office as Troutman did.
Stone took the document and handed it to his new client. "This is a list of names and addresses of people you might need to see or talk to at some point-doctor, dentist, insurance agent, financial adviser, real estate broker, etcetera."
Troutman looked through the list. "Thank you. I'm sure this will be very useful. I probably should see the financial adviser first, since I'm sitting on a lot of cash."
"If I may ask, how much did you derive from the sale of the business?"
"Two hundred sixty million, give or take," Troutman replied, "after taxes. And I got about that much from my father's estate. I was his only heir."
"In that case, I'll recommend a different financial adviser," Stone said, taking the list from him and writing in the name, address, and number of Charley Fox, his own adviser. "Charley is accustomed to dealing in larger sums than most brokers, and he's more creative in selecting investments. He handles all of my money."
"I'll call him today."
"There's another attorney on the list, Herbert Fisher, who works with me, and is usually available if I'm not. He works at our firm, Woodman & Weld, in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue at Fifty-Second Street. I work here, mostly."
They chatted for another half hour, then Joan brought Troutman his dried clothes, and he changed again.
"The rain has let up a lot," Stone said, handing him an umbrella, "but you'd better take this. Are you going to the Carlyle, now?"
"Joan, ask Fred to drive Mr. Troutman."
"That's very kind of you."
"We wouldn't want you to get all wet again, Mr. Troutman."
"Call me Shep," he said, shaking hands.
"Joan will put you in the car."
Joan came back a moment later. "Dino on one for you."
Stone picked up the phone. "Hey." Dino Bacchetti and Stone had been partners on the NYPD many years before. Now Dino was the police commissioner for the City of New York.
"My computer says that some of my uniforms just made a house call at your place. Tell me about it."
"I got out of a cab around the corner, made the turn, and saw a man-large, wearing some sort of raincoat and a ski mask and, come to think of it, a black baseball cap, kicking a man who was down. I hit him on the arm with my umbrella, then once on the chin, nearly missing, and he ran. The victim was my eleven o'clock appointment. Joan and I got him inside, and the rest is about as you would imagine."
"How badly was the victim injured?"
"He's ambulatory, but if I had gotten there a little later, he could have been dead. Are you keeping a watch on my place?"
"Not exactly. There's a note in the computer that says call me if a visit is made there or at my place."
"Also, there was another such beating, about the same time-same description as the attacker at your place, but on the Upper West Side."
"Maybe. I don't like coincidences."
"I seem to recall that."
"Well, it's too soon to panic. Dinner at P. J. Clarke's, seven?"
"Done." They both hung up.
Joan came in. "How'd it go with the new client?"
"Very nicely. I sent him to Charley Fox for advice."
"Oh, good. Sounds like he can pay our bill."
"He most certainly can."
"He said he's at the Carlyle. For how long?"
"He wants to look for an apartment."
"For a while, then. He's all alone in the big city?"
"Yes. Tell you what. Call him and ask him if he'd like to have dinner at P.J.'s at seven."
"Okay." Joan came back in a couple of minutes. "Yes," she said.
"Did you tell him where it is?"
"Yes, I remember that he's new in town."
"Of course you do."
"He says he'll wear dry clothes."
"I liked him," Joan said. "Seems like a good guy."
"So did I. That's why I asked him to dinner."
"He's going to need to meet women," Joan said.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Stone said. "Anyway, when word gets around that he has as much money as he has, he'll be swamped."
"That much, huh?"
Stone got to Clarke's a little early, and Dino arrived a little later. The bartender had already brought drinks for both of them.
"I invited somebody to have dinner with us," Stone said.
"What's her name?"
"That doesn't sound like a her."
"That's because it isn't. He's a new client."
"And you wanted to impress him that you know the police commissioner, is that it?"
"That's not it. How about we just tell him you're a cop."
"Okay. Why'd you invite him?"
"He's new in town and alone, and he got beat up this morning outside my house. I thought he might enjoy dining with a view of something besides the inside of a hotel room."
"Okay, you're a prince," Dino said.
Stone looked toward the door. "Here he comes, I think."
He caught Troutman's eye and waved him over and introduced him to Dino. "Dino's a cop," Stone said. "He's the guy you call when you need some parking tickets fixed."
"I'll keep that in mind," Shep replied, shaking hands.
"You look a lot better than you're supposed to," Stone said. "How'd that happen?"
"Well, I was short on underwear, so I asked Fred to drop me at Bloomingdale's, where they have what I want."
"Okay," Stone said. "What does underwear have to do with your appearance?"
"After I got the boxer shorts, I started out of the store, and a woman at a makeup counter waved me over and said, 'You need help.' She held up a mirror, and I saw that she was right. So she spent about ten minutes doing stuff, and I looked human again, so I bought whatever she had used, so I can look human again tomorrow."
"Good idea," Dino said. "I heard about your incident this morning. On behalf of the NYPD, I apologize."
"Oh, I thought New York greeted everybody that way," Shep said.
"You seem pretty cheerful for somebody who got mugged recently."
"A couple of painkillers helped. They made me a little fuzzy around the edges for a few minutes, but I got over it. Oh, Stone, I may have found an apartment to buy."
"The one I'm living in now."
"In the Carlyle?"
"The manager told me it was for sale."
"How much was he asking?"
Shep told him.
"I hope you didn't snap it up at that price," Stone said. "Look around a bit. Start with what else they've got for sale, and if you still like the one you're in, offer him less."
"How much less?"
"A third. He'll counter, then you'll finally agree. How big is it?"
"Two bedrooms, study, living room, kitchen, lots of closet space, beautifully furnished, including a grand piano."
"Do you play?"
"A little. The guy who owned it was a big-time Broadway producer. He died a couple of months ago."
"So the estate is selling it, not the hotel?"
"What's the monthly maintenance?"
"Maid service is included."
"No-real estate taxes, repairs, utilities, use of the gym, like that. Every apartment you would own has a monthly fee that covers those things. In hotels, it's particularly high, because of the services available."
"I guess I'd better ask about that."
"You might also offer to rent it for a few months, to give you time to get the lay of the land."
"Maybe." Shep looked across the room, where two nicely dressed women were being shown to a table. "Funny, I saw one of those ladies walking through the lobby when I left. She smiled at me."
“That’s something else every high-end hotel has,” Stone said. “Not that they’d ever admit it.”
Shep’s eyebrows went up. “No kidding? That good-looking?”
“Like your suite, they’re very expensive, too,” Stone said.
“After dinner, you two come by for a drink; see what you think of the place.”
They finished their apple pie and coffee and went outside.
“Shep,” Stone said, “You ride with Dino; maybe he’ll let you play with his siren.”
They saddled up and drove to the Carlyle, at 76th and Madison Avenue. Shep led them into an elevator, slipped his key card into a slot, and the elevator closed and went up fast.
“I’m going to get a nosebleed,” Dino said.
The car stopped, and they stepped into a handsome vestibule, facing double doors. Shep let them in.
“Wow,” Dino said.
“That goes for me, too,” Stone said. “You undersold the place.” The rooms were large and the ceilings high. They walked across the living room, Shep pressed a button, sliding doors slid, and they stepped onto a broad terrace, with handsome outdoor furniture scattered about. The view was spectacular - south over Manhattan, and all the lights were on. “Great place for cocktails before dinner,” Stone said, “with the sun setting slowly into New Jersey.”
They toured the other rooms, and they were beautiful. Stone particularly liked the study/library. “Lots of showbiz titles,” he said, looking closer.
“Those come with the place,” Shep said. “The manager said only things the estate took out were some museum-quality paintings, which their decorator replaced with good, but less expensive pieces.”
Shep led them back into the living room, pressed another button, and a mirror slid up, revealing a well-stocked bar. He poured them drinks.