The tenth book in the Stone Barrington series
The fourth book in the Holly Barker series
This book is for Harry and Gigi Benson.
Stone Barrington had just walked through the door when his cell phone vibrated in his jacket pocket. He dug it out, while Gianni led him back to his usual table. Dino wasn’t there yet.
“Stone?” An unfamiliar female voice.
“It’s Holly Barker.”
It took only a nanosecond for Stone to display her image on the inside of his eyelids-tall, light brown hair, sun-streaked, well put together, badge. “Hello, Chief, how are you?”
“How can I help?”
“I’m in a taxi, and I don’t know where to tell the driver to take me. Can you recommend a good hotel, not too expensive?” “In what city?”
“In New York. I’m headed for the Midtown Tunnel, I think.”
“Why don’t you stay at my house? There’s a guest room.”
“I have a friend with me.”
“Male or female?”
“My secretary is there right now, working late. I’ll call and tell her to expect you.” He gave her his Turtle Bay address. “There are three guest rooms-two with king beds and one with twins, all on the top floor. You choose.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”
“No trouble at all. That’s what the guest rooms are for.”
“When will I see you?”
“Have you had dinner?”
“Drop your luggage, freshen up, and meet me at Elaine’s-Second Avenue, between Eighty-eighth and Eighty-ninth.”
“Sounds great. We’re at the tunnel now. How long should it take me?”
“If you’re quick, half an hour, but you’re a woman…”
“Half an hour it is, and don’t ever put a ‘but’ in front of that statement.” She hung up.
Gianni put a Knob Creek on the rocks in front of him, and Stone took a sip. “Better get him something, too,” Stone said, pointing at Dino, his partner when he had been an NYPD detective. Dino spoke to a couple of people at the front tables, then came back and pulled up a chair. His drink had already arrived.
“How you doing?” Dino asked.
“Not bad. You?”
“The same. You’re looking thoughtful.”
“I was just trying to remember everything about my trip to Vero Beach, Florida, last year, when I was picking up my Malibu at the Piper factory.”
“I was in a bank in the next town, a place called Orchid Beach, getting a cashier’s check to pay for the airplane, when a bunch of guys wearing masks walked in and stuck the place up.”
“Oh yeah, you told me about that. They shot a guy, didn’t they?”
“Yes. A lawyer with a funny name-Oxblood, or something like that.”
“How did you remember that?”
Dino tapped his temple. “I do The New York Times crossword every day. Calisthenics for the brain.”
“Funny, it doesn’t seem to have muscled up.”
“I remembered the name, didn’t I? While your brain has apparently turned to mush. Why were you thinking about the bank robbery?”
“Not the robbery so much, the woman.”
“Ah, now we’re getting to the nub of things. I’ll bite. What woman?”
“She’s the chief of police down there, name of Holly Barker. She was supposed to marry Oxenhandler that very day. I met her at the police station.”
“You went to the police station?”
“I was a witness, and I didn’t have a shirt.”
“You’re losing me here.”
“I took off my shirt and held it to Oxenhandler’s chest wound, not that it did much good. He died shortly after reaching the hospital.”
“So you were bare-chested in Orchid Beach, and you met this girl?”
“Woman. We’re not supposed to call them girls, remember?”
“A cop loaned me a shirt. Holly arrived and took over the case. I remember how cool she was under the circumstances.”
“Pretty bad circumstances.”
“Yeah. After I came home I called her with some information, and we had a couple of phone conversations after that.”
“So why are you thinking about this… person?”
“She’s in town. In fact, she’s at my house right-Jesus, I forgot to call Joan.” Stone dialed his office number and got his secretary on the phone. “There are a couple of women coming to the house-one is named Holly Barker; I don’t know the other one. Will you put them in whichever of the guest rooms they want, and give them a key?”
“You’re doing two at a time now, Stone?” Joan Robertson asked.
“I should be so lucky. Just get them settled. I’ll explain later.”
“Whatever you say, boss.” She hung up.
“What’s she doing up here?” Dino asked.
“She didn’t say. She called from a taxi on the way in from the airport.”
“Nice of you to offer her a bed,” Dino said slyly.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Did you offer the two of them your bed?”
“I offered them a guest room; that’s it.”
“So far. Well, I guess it’s how you keep your weight down, isn’t it?”
Gianni put some menus on the table.
“We’ll be two more,” Stone said. “And we’ll order when the ladies arrive.”
Gianni brought two more menus and a basket of hot bread. Stone tore into a slab of sourdough.
“Carbing up for later?” Dino asked.
“Get off it. I just want to get something in my stomach with the bourbon.”
“Mary Ann and I worry about you, you know.”
“Mary Ann has enough to worry about with you on her hands.”
“We want to see you settled with some nice, plain girl.”
“You just want to drag everybody down with you,” Stone said. “And what do you mean, ‘plain’?”
“A beautiful woman demands too much of a man.”
“You’re married to a beautiful woman.”
“I speak from experience. Their care and feeding is a full-time job.”
“Mary Ann cares for and feeds both of you, and without the slightest help from you, as I recall.”
“She’s an exceptional woman,” Dino said. “You’ll never do that well.”
“Thanks a lot.”
They finished their drinks and had just ordered another round, when Dino nodded toward the front door. “I’ll bet that’s your lady cop,” he said.
Stone looked up to see a tall woman, more striking than he remembered, striding toward them, smiling.
“Hey, there,” Holly said, offering her hand.
Stone and Dino were on their feet, getting her chair.
“This is my friend Dino Bacchetti, my old partner. He runs the detective squad at the Nineteenth Precinct.”
“Where’s your friend?” Stone asked.
“Oh, Daisy’s exhausted,” Holly replied. “I put her to bed.”
“Can I get you a drink?” Stone asked.
“What are you drinking?”
“That will do nicely,” she said.
Gianni brought her the drink.
“So what brings you to the big city?” Stone asked.
“I’m in hot pursuit of a fugitive,” Holly said.
Stone handed her a menu. “Let’s order dinner, then you can tell me about it.”
THEY WERE HALFWAY through their first course, a salad of French green beans, mushrooms, and bacon.
“Tell us about your fugitive, Holly,” Dino said. “Maybe I can help.”
“That would be nice, Dino,” Holly replied. “First, a little background: Not long ago, I wrapped up a case in my jurisdiction that involved a man named Ed Shine; his history is interesting. He came to the U.S. from Italy, as a teenager, and his original name was Gaetano Costello.”