Authors: Stuart Woods
Faith came back to the airplane after a trip to the tower. “Okay,” she said. “I’ve talked with both the center and tower crews, and the Gulfstream did land here, refueled and took off again.”
“Where did they file for?”
“Midway, but ten minutes after takeoff they changed their destination to Oahu.”
Stone was stunned. “
“Back to Oahu.”
“It’s clear that they’re trying to lose us, and they’ve gone to great lengths to do so,” Faith said.
“Do your people need a night in a hotel?”
“No, I’ve got a fresh crew who got a solid eight hours on the
way from Midway, and by the time they’ve flown half the route to Oahu, the backup crew will be fresh again. We’ve no problem for taking off for Oahu as soon as we can refuel and clear out. Customs will be aboard any minute, so hide any weapons you may have.”
“All right, that’s our plan,” Stone said, taking off his jacket and slipping out of his shoulder holster. He took Dino’s two pistols and holsters, went aft, and locked them in the airplane’s safe, then he went back to his seat and hung up his jacket. Dino was already reading yesterday’s
New York Times
. “There’s a copy for you on your seat,” Dino said.
Customs arrived, checked their passports, and asked the usual questions. The girls all left to stretch their legs.
“This is crazy,” Dino said. “You know that.”
“I’m satisfied that Zanian is on that airplane, or they wouldn’t go to so much trouble to evade us.”
“Also,” Dino said. “They know that we’re not Jack and whatever you named me, or we wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep up.”
“You have a point,” Stone said.
“When we get back to Oahu, I vote we hunt down the son of a bitch and shoot him.”
“I don’t think the ten-million-dollar reward is for ‘dead or alive.’ ”
“Shit, I forgot about that. All right, let’s file our claim for the reward, then shoot him.”
“We’ll talk about that later, when you’re not so angry.”
“I think I’m going to be angry for a long time.”
Faith returned to the airplane with another customs crew, this one to check them for heading outbound. All this went without incident.
“You’re sure you’re fresh enough to fly?” Stone asked Faith.
“Our quarters are very comfortable,” she said. “We all had showers ashore. Are you ready for takeoff?”
“One question, have we got enough fuel for Oahu, nonstop?”
“Sure. You’ve got 6,800 miles of range, and Oahu is only 5,300. And the winds are good for us.”
“Then let’s do it.”
The crew went forward, and soon they were taxiing.
One of the crew came back and said to Stone, “Pick up the satphone, line one.”
Stone picked it up. “Hello?”
“It’s Joan. Are you alive or down in the Pacific somewhere?”
“Alive and nearly airborne. We’re about to take off from Manila for Oahu.”
“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” Joan said.
“Believe me, I’m aware of that. We’re in pursuit, and that’s where our quarry is taking us.”
“What’s Manila like?”
“I’ve no idea. We never got off the airplane.”
“Do you want me to let anybody know?”
“Yes, call Viv Bacchetti and leave a message on her phone if she’s not there. Tell her Dino will call her tomorrow.”
“Okay, anybody else?”
“Yes, call Brio Ness at the FBI and tell her I said that she can probably pick up what’s-his-name at the Royal Hawaiian tomorrow. He’s traveling with a man, a woman, and a Labrador retriever.”
“I’ll tell Bob. He’ll be jealous. Anything else?”
“You can reach me on the satphone, if necessary. And tell Brio I’ll take a check.”
“Okay, happy flying.”
As Stone hung up, he was pressed back in his seat from the acceleration. On the way to altitude, he caught a glimpse of the island of Corregidor. He would tell Dino about that to keep him from getting bored.
Stone settled in with yesterday’s
New York Times.
Later, Dino woke from a nap and had a look out the window. “Why don’t I see any ships in the Pacific?”
“Because we’re flying at fifty thousand feet, and that makes them too small. I don’t think you could spot an aircraft carrier. I left a message for Viv from you, saying that you are alive and your feet are dry.”
“She’ll be comfortable to know that. I hope we’re staying at the Royal Hawaiian again,” Dino said.
“Because I sent my laundry out there and forgot to get it back.”
“That’s as good a reason as any to stay there.” Stone picked up the phone and pressed the intercom for the cockpit.
“Yes, sir?” a female voice said.
“Tell Faith to make the same arrangements at the Royal Hawaiian as before.”
“And tell her to tell the hotel to have Dino’s laundry on his bed when we check in.”
Stone hung up. He pulled the cashmere blanket up to his chin and went back to sleep.
They landed at Oahu and, after clearing customs, borrowed a golf cart and searched the FBOs for the other Gulfstream. Nothing.
The good news was that, when they checked into the Royal Hawaiian, Dino’s laundry was on his bed.
“Feel better?” Stone asked.
“You bet your ass.”
“Do you want the music and menu of the main dining room, or something more intimate?”
“I want a steak,” Dino said.
They found another restaurant in the hotel and ordered steaks.
When they got back to their suite, there was an envelope slipped under the door. Written on Royal Hawaiian stationery, it read:
I want more cookies.
It was signed,
. Stone handed it to Dino.
“They’re here?” Dino asked.
“Apparently, but under what name?”
“What was the name last time?”
“Marty and Frances, but I can’t remember their last names. Can you?”
Stone dug out his notebook and looked up a number.
“Who are you calling?” Dino asked.
“Does he have his own phone?”
“He has his own number.”
A woman answered. “Yes?”
“I was looking for Felix,” Stone said. “Isn’t this his number?”
She laughed. “Well, now that you mention it. Felix is indisposed at the moment. He’s walking Marty on the beach.”
“How long does this operation usually take?”
“Half an hour, but they’ve already been gone for twenty minutes.”
“Poor planning on my part,” Stone said. “Perhaps lunch tomorrow?”
“May I bring Felix?”
“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
“Where and when?”
“In my palatial suite.” He gave her the number.
“Will Fred be there?”
“Not if I have anything to say about it, and I will. Noon?”
“Felix and I will look forward to it.” She hung up.
“I take it I’m persona non grata at lunch tomorrow,” Dino said.
“You’re very perceptive.”
“She’s bringing Felix?”
“You’d better remember to order him something from room service. He’s very persistent, as I recall.”
“You have a point.”
Dino yawned. “I don’t know when to get sleepy anymore.”
“I think now is a good time,” Stone said. “Good night.”
The following day, Stone called room service and ordered two lobster salads, a bottle of good chardonnay, lunch for a dog, and a bag of dog treats, all for delivery at, and not before, one
. “Don’t be early,” he said to them.
At one minute past noon, Stone’s doorbell rang, and he opened it to find Frances and Felix standing there. He let them in, gave Felix a treat, then snaked an arm around her waist and kissed Frances, getting a much warmer reception than he had expected.
“What time is lunch?” she asked, a little breathlessly.
“Not before one o’clock,” he said, hanging out the
do not disturb
sign and locking the door. He followed her directly to
the bedroom, where she flung back the covers, then undid something and her wraparound dress unwrapped.
Stone was in bed to greet her when she finished. “We couldn’t manage this last time,” he said.
“I was sorry about that,” she replied, taking him in her hand, “but now we can make up for it.” She squeezed. “Oh, that was quick.”
“No, you were quick. It’s just following instructions.”
Frances rolled over and pulled him on top of her. “New instructions,” she said.
A few minutes before one, Stone unlocked the front door and removed the
do not disturb
sign from the doorknob, then he found them both robes. “Let’s not shock the room-service waiter,” he said.
“I’ll leave that to you,” she said. “I’m having lunch right here, and I’m not dressing for the occasion.”
The doorbell rang precisely at one o’clock. Stone received the tray on wheels, signed the check, and handed it back. “I’ll take it from here,” he said to the waiter, replacing the sign and locking the door.
He wheeled the tray into the bedroom. “We won’t be disturbed,” he said. He served Felix first, then piled up some pillows and handed Frances her lobster salad. “I hope you’re not allergic to shellfish,” he said, then served himself and poured two glasses of wine and slipped in beside her.
“How long are you here for?” she asked.
“That depends on how long you’re here for,” Stone replied.
“Only a day or two,” she said.
“Then I’ll be here a day or two. What is your last name?” Stone asked.
“You pick one, and that’s who I’ll be,” she replied.
“I don’t have a preference, as long as I can reach you through Felix. Where will you go from here?”
“To be determined by Marty,” she said.
“What is Marty’s last name?”
“Whatever you choose for me.”
“Is he running from somebody?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because his routing is odd.”
“So is yours. What brought you back here?” she asked.
“I got bored with flying long legs, and when I discovered that it was going to take a week of paperwork to get into Hong Kong, I said, ‘The hell with it, let’s go back to the States. I’ve got enough suits.’ ”
“Why are you interested in Marty?”
“Because where he goes, you go.”
“That’s very flattering,” she said.
“Why don’t you just switch Gulfstreams and come with me?”
“First time I’ve had an offer involving two Gulfstreams.”
“Does it appeal to you?”
“It does, but there’s a hitch.”
“So what? There’s always a hitch. They’re there to be unhitched.”
“This one is financial. When I met Marty, I let him invest all my money.”
“Uh-oh,” Stone said. “This is beginning to sound familiar. Has he been in the news lately?”
“Oh, that’s right, you never get the news.”
“I get the occasional
International New York Times
“Is there something in it about Marty today?”
“I haven’t read it yet,” Stone said. “All I could think about was lunch with you.”
“Are you interested in the reward for Marty?”
“How much is the reward?”
“Ten million dollars.”
“I don’t need another ten million.”
She laughed. “Good answer.”
“How much are you into Marty for?”
“Two million, plus.”
“What are your chances of getting it out of him?”
“I’m not sure. He keeps saying he’ll give it to me whenever I want it, but then he dodges.”
“Why don’t you just tell him to give you your money, or you’ll turn him in for the reward?”
Frances sighed. “Because then he’d kill me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we travel with a pair of assassins aboard.”
“I had not noticed,” he said, wondering how he could have been so stupid. Stone set their clean dishes on the tray, then pushed it out of the room and into the hallway. When he came back, she had kicked off the covers and was spread-eagle on the bed.
Stone put Marty right out of his mind.
Stone woke from a deep sleep to find Frances bending over him. He kissed her back, then he got out of bed, took her into the living room and sat her down. “How much time before Marty is back in the hotel?”
“Maybe a couple of hours, or he could already be back. He can be unpredictable.”
“It’s time for you to get out,” he said.
“Of Marty’s clutches.”
“I agree. Only the promise of my money has kept me with him.”
“Can we agree that he’s not going to give you your money back?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Yes. I’ve been foolish to stick with him this long.”
“Do you understand that, if he thinks you’re leaving him, he’ll kill you?”
“Yes. More likely, he’ll have Mom and Dad do it.”
“His parents are traveling with him?”
“Mom and Dad are the assassins,” she said. “They’re ordinary-looking people, probably in their fifties. They look like half the people in this hotel. They never sit with us. They hover nearby, and they’re always armed.”
“Whose dog is Felix?”
“Mine, but Marty loves him dearly.”
“So, he wouldn’t hurt Felix.”
“Nor order one of his assassins to do it?”
“How long would it take you to get your necessities together and to this room?”
She thought about it. “Half an hour.”
“What do you need to take with you?”
“My jewelry and a couple of changes of clothes.”
“Are you ready to make a move in my direction?”
“Then, for a start, let’s stop all the horseshit. My name is Stone Barrington, and I’m a New York attorney. My friend is Dino Bacchetti”—he spelled it for her—“and he’s the police commissioner of New York City.”
“Is he on duty?”
“No, he just likes to travel. Now, it’s your turn.”
“Margot, with a—
—Chase. I’m a New Yorker. I mostly live on the income from a bequest, now in Viktor’s hands.”
“Good to have that out of the way.”
“What do you want me to do?” she asked.
“Go get the minimum amount of stuff that you need, and bring it back here. Leave Felix with me. If you get back and Marty shows up, drop everything and come back here. Tell him Felix rolled in something dirty, and you’re having him groomed, and you have to pick him up. Can you handle that?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“About your money: if I get the reward, I’ll make you whole from the proceeds.”
“What if you don’t get the reward?”
“I’ll see that you’re not left destitute.”
“So, I’ll have to trust you?”
“It’s either that, or trust Zanian.”
“I choose you,” she said.
“What name is he traveling under?”
“It varies from day to day.”
“What name did he use when he checked in here?”
“George Martingale. I’m his wife, Gilda.”
“Suite 850, on the ocean side.”
“All right, I’ll wait until you’re safely back here before I call it in.”
“What’s your plan after that?”
“Back to New York. We’ll get out of here in the middle of the
night and take off as soon as the airport is open; I don’t know what time that is, but my pilot can find out.”
“Where is Zanian’s airplane?”
“At Hilo. When he’s ready to go, he’ll call his crew and have them fly back here to pick us up.”
“He won’t tell me until we’re aboard.”
“And you won’t be aboard,” Stone said.
“I’d better go, then. You stay here, Felix. I’ll be back, sweetheart.” She gave him a treat.
Stone walked her to the door and repeated his cell number twice, making her recite it to him. “If I forget, I’ll ring Felix. Answer him.”
“Okay, now go, and move fast,” he said, closing the door behind her.
As soon as the door closed, Dino emerged from his room. “Don’t bother explaining,” he said, “I’ve been listening. You really think you can pull this off?”
“Well, if she makes it back here alive, then I guess that’s half the battle.”
“At least half,” Stone said.
“You’re going to give her two million of the reward?”
“Without her, we couldn’t collect the reward,” Stone said. “She’s got it coming.”
“If you say so.”
“And you’re still getting your five million,” Stone said.
“You bet your ass I am. Hey, Felix.”
Felix came over and gave him a big kiss.
“Just what I always wanted,” Dino said. “Lots of big, wet tongue.”
Half an hour later, Stone had briefed Faith. The airport opened for takeoffs at seven
, and he and Dino were worrying.
“She said half an hour, didn’t she?” Dino asked.
“Did you ever know a woman who said ‘half an hour’ and stuck to it?”
“Are we including my wife?” Dino asked.
“No, I haven’t.”
“We can’t panic because she’s not here yet,” Stone said.
“When can we panic?”
“Maybe after an hour.”
“What do we do when we panic?”
“Call the FBI, tell them about, ah Margot Chase and George Martingale, then get to the airport.”
“That depends on what happens,” Stone said.