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Authors: Stuart Woods

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BOOK: Criminal Mischief
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29

The doorbell rang, and Stone opened it. Margot Chase fell into the room, dragging a suitcase on wheels behind her.

“I made it,” she said.

“Not in half an hour,” Stone replied, “but we’ll let that pass.”

“There was something important that I couldn’t bring,” she said.

“What was that?”

“A book where Viktor has recorded the money he’s taken and where he’s sent it.”

“Was it too heavy?”

“I couldn’t find it. It’s usually in a desk drawer, but he must have taken it with him.”

“Never mind that for the moment. Go have your reunion with Felix.”

She did so.

Stone dug out Brio Ness’s phone number and dialed it. A male voice answered, “Yes?”

“Brio Ness, please?”

“Who’s calling?”

“Stone Barrington.”

“Does she know you?”

“Ask her.”

“Special Agent Ness is not available at the moment.”

“What a shame,” Stone said. “And she was so looking forward to arresting Viktor Zanian and finding all his money.”

“What?”

“Wake her up, if necessary, and tell her to call me immediately, if she wants Zanian’s head on a platter. Oh, and I’d hate to be you, if she doesn’t get the message
right now
.” Stone hung up.

“How long do you think?”

“Half a minute,” Stone said, checking his watch. At twenty-eight seconds his phone rang. “Hello,” he said.

“This is Special Agent Ness.”

“Funny, you don’t sound like Special Agent Ness. Convince me.”

“Stone,” she said, “what the fuck do you want?”

“I want Viktor Zanian’s head on a platter. What do you want?”

“Tell me what I need to know.”

“I’m in Honolulu and all times will be Hawaiian. You’ll have to figure out what time it is where you are.”

“All right.”

“Viktor Zanian is registered at the Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu, under the name of George Martingale. He’s in suite 850, on the ocean side. His airplane is parked at Hilo and will pick him up
in Oahu, at seven
am
tomorrow morning. They will depart shortly after that. Destination: known only to Zanian. He’s traveling with a notebook containing an accounting of all the money he’s stolen and a list of all the banks where he has hidden it.”

“What if we can’t make a raid happen that fast and miss him?”

“Then I’m sure you can find a nice, cozy law firm in some darling small town where you can eke out a living defending domestic abuse cases.”

“I can’t just snap my fingers and produce fifty special agents in Honolulu,” she said.

“Then you’d better find somebody who can. Start with your director, and if he can’t do it, see if you can get the president on the phone.”

She made a furious noise.

“Oh, by the way, Zanian travels with a team of assassins, one each male and female, who are middle-aged, innocuous-looking, and are known by the names of Dad and Mom. You might want to shoot them first and read them their rights later.”

“I understand he also has a female companion and a dog.”

“I’ve already detained both of them. I’d haul in the whole outfit, but I don’t want to get shot.”

“That’s selfish of you.”

“It is my nature in a conflict to die last, if at all. Will you let me know how this turns out, or will I have to read about it in the Honolulu
Pineapple Picker
?”

She hung up.

“How did she sound?” Dino asked.

“Ungrateful. You do all the work for those people, and they still can’t seem to make an arrest.”

“What’s your plan?” Dino asked.

“Funny you should mention that,” Stone said. “I have no fucking idea.”

“Well, don’t you want to be there to witness the whole thing?”

“I’d love to kick in the Gulfstream’s door for them, but I didn’t bring my bulletproof underwear. How about you?”

“I’d just as soon wait until everybody runs out of ammo,” Dino replied.

“Good idea. Now, we should be packed and ready to get out of here before dawn’s early light. I’ll get Faith working on that now.” He picked up the phone.

“Any idea of our destination?” Dino asked.

“Teterboro. Probably without a fuel stop. I intend to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night.”

“Alone?”

“To be determined,” Stone said.

Margot came over. “Do I get a vote on that?”

“Yes, please. How do you vote on the motion?”

“What’s the motion again?”

“Do I sleep in my own bed, alone, tomorrow night.”

“I vote no,” she said. “And if it somehow passes, I’ll veto it.”

“I think that answers your question, Dino.”

“Did you call Faith?”

“Yes, and I left a message.”

After some time, Stone’s phone rang. “Yes?”

“It’s Special Agent Ness.”

“Hi again.”

“I’ve managed to put together a team of twenty-five people by borrowing sheriff’s deputies and fruit inspectors.”

“Good, what will the fruit inspectors be armed with? Spray guns?”

“We’ll loan them shotguns.”

“By the way, if you have any intention of impounding Zanian’s Gulfstream, you’d better be careful what you shoot at it. It’s a twenty-five-million-dollar airplane, new. And who knows, you may even want to fly the thing home.”

“How did you know I’ll be there?”

“I didn’t. Where are you?”

“I just departed San Francisco on a government aircraft.”

“Trust me, you’d enjoy Zanian’s Gulfstream more. It has actual windows that you can see out of, and probably has dirty movies available for viewing.”

“As jolly as that sounds, I have to put the idea of just getting there and back first.”

“As you wish. Can you tell me what time you and your fruit inspectors are going to bust down the hangar doors? We’re trying to take off out of here at eight
am
, local.”

“I can’t promise you a time. I’ll call you when everything is secure. Don’t leave for the airport until then. How many crew and passengers on your airplane?”

“Eight crew and four passengers, one of whom is a Labrador retriever.”

“Is that Zanian’s dog? If so, I’ll have to impound him.”

“No relation,” Stone said. “He belongs to an acquaintance of mine, so you keep your paws off him.”

“All right, I’ll take your word for it.”

“It’s about time you took my word for
something.
By the way, I hope you’ve got the ten million on you.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” she replied. “We’ll have to get you certified, first, before you can even pat me down.”

“Sorry, in my enthusiasm I forgot about government red tape.”

“Amateurs always make that mistake. Remember, stay where you are, until I give the all clear.”

“Just one other thing: there are two Gulfstreams involved here. Mine is the one in the hangar at Signature Aviation. Don’t go anywhere near it. Zanian’s is in Hilo and probably can’t take off before dawn. I suggest you take his airplane on the ground there, then make the crew fly you to Honolulu. That way you can surprise Zanian when he comes aboard, and you can avoid a shootout.”

“That’s a very good idea. When this is over I’m going to recommend you for a junior special agent’s badge, which you can wear on your pajamas.”

“My heart is full.”

She hung up.

“Okay,” Stone said, “everybody relax. We’re going to stay here until they’ve bagged Zanian.”

“All three of us?” Dino asked.

“Felix, as well.”

30

Early the next morning, Stone got Faith on the phone and brought her up to date. “We can’t fly away until the FBI gives us the all clear, but I don’t see why you and your crew shouldn’t go out there right now, do your preflight inspection and get everything ready to go.”

“Okay.”

“And you can take our luggage and get it aboard.”

“Will do.”

“One thing: do not, on any account, let anyone take the airplane out of the hangar. We don’t want them to confuse our G-500 with the one flown by the bad guys.”

“Got it,” she said. “The airplane stays in the hangar.”

They hung up.

“I think I’ll go for a walk,” Dino said. “Felix, you up for that?”

Felix assented.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Stone said. “We have no idea where Zanian is, and he might spot the two of you and follow you home. We can’t have that.”

“So, I have to go by myself,” Dino said.

“It would be better if you didn’t go at all,” Stone replied. “That way you can stay out of trouble.”

“Sorry about that, Felix,” Dino said. “Let’s see if we can find a good movie on the TV. You like Lassie?”

“Well,” Margot said, stretching and yawning. “I think I’ll have a nap.”

“Need any help with that?” Stone asked.

“I’ll scream, if I get into trouble,” she said and headed for the bedroom.

“So, it’s you, me, Felix, and Lassie,” Dino said to Stone, switching on the TV.

“Pass on the Lassie movie,” Stone said. “My apologies, Felix.” He thought that, if he tried hard, he might hear Margot screaming for help.


They had exhausted each other twice, when Margot’s handbag started ringing. “That can be only one person,” she said, “or a wrong number.” She got out of bed and shook the phone out of her bag, still ringing. “Hello? . . . Well, of course it’s you. Where are you? . . . I’m not there, and I’m not telling you where I am, until I get some answers . . . Well, for a start, what is our next destination? A girl likes to know these things . . . My bags aren’t there because
I sent everything to be laundered and dry-cleaned. Everything smelled of tropical sweat.”

Stone was regaining consciousness now, and tuning in to her conversation.

“What’s our schedule? . . . When are we getting out of here? . . . Felix is at a groomer. He got into something awful, and the smell was unbearable. He should be back soon . . . Now, where are you, and where are we going? . . . What is Lanai? All right,
where
is Lanai? . . . And it has a runway long enough for the Gulfstream? . . . How on earth did you get there? All right, all right, don’t tell me anything! Except one thing. I want my money back today. No, no, Viktor, no more delays. I want it wired to my bank at the hour of opening for business, and I’m not budging from Honolulu until that happens . . . Well, then, stick to masturbation. At least you’ll be doing it with somebody you love! . . . Okay, it’s an old joke, but it has the virtue of being true . . . I’m tiring of being on the airplane with those creeps, Dad and Mom. I have trouble falling asleep with them on the same airplane . . . They are not harmless! She told me they have killed more than two dozen people and never been arrested! . . . Now, I’ve drawn the line: this is where you come through or where I get off. Take your pick. All right, don’t call me again until the money is in my bank and I’ve spoken to the manager there. You have all the account information. Two and a half million dollars . . . I’m not going to quibble with you over change, just do it!” She hung up.

“Well,” Stone said, “
that
was an interesting conversation. I think I can fill in his lines. Did he say anything I couldn’t figure out?”

“He says he’s going to wire the funds first thing this morning.”

“In what time zone?”

“New York.”

“Do you think he’ll really do it?”

“Possibly. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Are you going to stick to your guns?”

“You’re damned right I am. I have a better chance of sharing in the reward than I have getting it back from him.”

“The reward will take longer,” Stone said.

“Then I’ll just have to be patient. I’ve got enough from my parents’ estate to keep body and soul together until they come through. Thank God Viktor never got his hands on that!”

“Good for you.” Stone found a tourist map of the islands. “Here’s Lanai,” he said, pointing to an island south of Oahu. “That’s where he is?”

“He said he plans to leave from there.”

“So, that’s where the airplane is?”

“He didn’t say, exactly. For all I know he could be downstairs in the bar.”

“That’s a big help.”

“What I need is a long soak in a hot tub,” she said, kicking off the covers.

“Can I watch?”

“You can help,” she said. “You can scrub my back.”

“I prefer your front.”

“That, too.”

“You go get started,” Stone said. “I’ll be along shortly.”

She left the room, and he heard the tub running. Stone called Brio Ness and got the same annoying young man he’d spoken to last time. “Call her on the airplane and tell her to call me,” he said.

“And who is this, again?”

“It’s Stone Barrington, and you can tell her I have an update on what’s happening here.” He hung up. Ten minutes later his phone rang. “Yes?”

“It’s Ness. Do you know how hard it is to get to sleep on an airplane?”

“Yes, and it’s not particularly hard, if you have a clear conscience.”

“And why wouldn’t I have a clear conscience?”

“I’m not absolutely certain you have a conscience at all,” he said. “Do you want more info?”

“Yes!”

“There’s another Hawaiian airport in play.”

“ ‘In play’?”

“He may not be in Honolulu, and his Gulfstream may be on its way to Lanai.”

“Isn’t that a Hawaiian front porch?”

“No, it’s an island off Maui that’s owned mostly by a tech wizard, and it has a runway long enough for the Gulfstream.”

“Are you sure it’s there?”

“No, but Zanian just called somebody and hinted that he was, and that he might be leaving from there.”

“Leaving for where?”

“No idea.”

“So, let me get this straight; I’ve got people at Hilo and Honolulu and both he and the airplane might be on Lanai?”

“Possibly.”

“I don’t want to hear about possibly! I want certainty!”

“Do you know anybody at any government agency who can
produce a live satellite shot of the airport at Lanai and who can identify a Gulfstream 500 on sight? Who can read the tail number?”

“Probably.”

“Then you’d better get ahold of him right now and put him to work! Where are you now? What’s your ETA to Honolulu, or somewhere?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she said, ignoring his question, then hung up.

Stone, muttering to himself, went looking for a bath.


An hour later, leaving Margot in a pristinely clean state, he heard his phone ringing in the bedroom and went there to answer it. “Hello?”

“It’s Faith,” his pilot said. “Your airplane is gone.”

BOOK: Criminal Mischief
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