Authors: Stuart Woods
Stone called Dino.
“I haven’t heard the announcement from the FBI about the reward for Viktor Zanian. Is that still on?”
“Far as I know. I . . . Hang on.” There was a brief pause. “It’s on CNN now.”
“Hang on.” Stone switched on the TV. He got the last of the announcement and jotted down the phone number. “Got it.”
“Do I get half?” Dino asked. “I’m the one who gave you the tip.”
Stone didn’t have to think about it. “Yes, you get half, but you have to work for it.”
“ ‘Work’? What does that mean?”
“I know you are only fleetingly acquainted with the concept, so let’s get started. Who’s running the case at the Bureau?”
“Brio Ness,” Dino replied without hesitation.
“Is that a boy Brio or a girl Brio?”
“Female. I’m not allowed to say ‘girl’ at the office. She reports directly to the director.”
“That cuts a lot of red tape, doesn’t it?”
“It also allows the director to take a lot of the credit, when they put the cuffs on Zanian.”
“Of course it does. I’ve got more info coming on the possible whereabouts of Zanian. I’ll call Ms. Ness when I have that.”
“Up to you, pal, just don’t mention my name in connection with the reward. As far as she’s concerned, you’re getting the whole sausage.” He gave Stone her direct line.
“Gotcha. Dinner later?”
“Viv has booked us for seven o’clock at the Carlyle. Bring Kitty, Viv would like that.”
“Will do.” Stone hung up and was immediately buzzed by Joan. “Bob Cantor holding on two.”
Stone pressed the button. “Yeah, Bob.”
“You’ll like this: Zanian’s Gulfstream changed destinations and landed at Waterbury-Oxford Airport, in Connecticut. This morning it departed for Aspen with two passengers on board, a Mr. and Mrs. Taylor.”
“Okay, good news. Who’s the corporate owner of the airplane?”
“The Woodchip Corporation, of Wilmington, Delaware.”
“Okay, keep me posted.” Stone hung up and called Brio Ness’s number.
“Special Agent Ness,” a smooth voice said.
“Agent Ness, my name is Stone Barrington. I’m an attorney with Woodman & Weld.”
“I’ve heard your name from Bill Eggers,” she said. “What can I do for you?”
“Are you accepting hot leads on Viktor Zanian?”
“With both hands,” she replied. “Whaddaya got?”
“Zanian didn’t fly to Rio, but his airplane did, then it turned around and flew north again, filed for Teterboro, then redirected to Waterbury-Oxford Airport, Connecticut. The airplane’s ownership was changed to a Delaware company, the Woodchip Corporation.”
“Very interesting. What evidence do you have that Zanian didn’t get off in Rio?”
“He wasn’t on board. If you put your tech people on the film of him landing there, they will learn that it’s faked. The film was shot at Teterboro, then doctored.”
“And where is Mr. Zanian now?”
“His airplane left Oxford this morning, filed for Aspen. That’s all I’ve got for the moment.”
“Well, that’s quite a lot, if any of it is true.”
“I have every confidence that all of it is.”
“I don’t suppose you have any interest in the ten-million-dollar reward.”
“On the contrary, I’m very much interested in it. I would appreciate a text from you, confirming the details that I gave you.”
“Okay, Mr. Barrington, your information is noted, and you are now standing in line for the money.”
“How far back in the line?”
“Pretty far, but I’ll tell you this: your information is more interesting than anything I’ve heard so far. Now, you must excuse me while I get the wheels of justice turning.”
“You are excused,” Stone said. He hung up.
Stone called Kitty. “Are you awake?” he asked.
“Fairly,” she said.
“How about dinner with the Bacchettis at the Carlyle, at seven?”
“I’ll meet you there. It’s just around the corner.”
“See you then.”
Stone was early, so he dropped into Bemelmans Bar for a drink. The little jazz group was just warming up, and he enjoyed listening. The bartender, momentarily idle, walked over to Stone. “Your name Barrington?”
“Friend of mine says you’re working on getting peoples’ money back who invested with a guy named Zanian. That so?”
“Not really. I know a couple of people who lost some money, but the FBI is doing all the investigating. Did he take some of your money?”
“Friend of mine lost a bundle.”
“How much is a bundle?”
“Three hundred grand.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“I don’t want to say.”
“What do you want to say?”
“Forget it. I was just curious.”
“The FBI is offering a ten mil reward, you know.”
The bartender brightened. “I heard.”
“If you know anything about where Zanian is, they’re the people to talk to.”
“Well, you never know. You hear a lot of stuff tending bar at a place like this,” the man said.
“What’s your name?”
“Good luck, Tim.” He put some money on the bar and walked across the hall to the dining room where the Bacchettis awaited.
“You were in the bar, weren’t you?” Dino asked.
“I was early and thirsty.” They all ordered drinks and looked at the menu.
“Strange. Just now the bartender knew my name and asked me if I was working for some of Zanian’s victims.”
“Then you must be famous,” Viv said.
“I know two people who lost money to Zanian. One of them is coming through the door right now.” He nodded toward Kitty, who spotted them and headed for the table. Stone and Dino rose to meet her, and air was kissed.
“We were just talking about Zanian,” Viv said.
“Everybody’s talking about him,” Kitty replied. “I had a phone call from somebody I didn’t know, asking if I’d like them to get my money back.”
“That’s a scam,” Stone said. “Next time, just hang up on them.”
“How much did they want?” Dino asked.
“Ten thousand now and ten percent of what they recover.”
“Yeah, it’s a scam artist. They’ll be coming out of the woodwork with ten million out there.”
“How would he know my name?” Kitty asked.
“Has it been in the papers?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Kitty,” Stone said, “you don’t read the papers. You could have been a headline in the
, and you wouldn’t know.”
“I just had a bartender ask me if I was trying to get peoples’ money back from Zanian.”
“Did he know you?”
“He’d heard of me. His name is Tim Deal.”
“Looks like we’re all getting famous,” Kitty said. “What did you say to Tim?”
“I told him if he knew anything to call the FBI.”
They ordered, and Kitty, who was sitting next to Stone on the banquette, put her hand on his thigh and whispered, “My place is just around the corner. Later?”
“As soon as possible,” Stone whispered back.
“I know what that was about,” Viv said. “You two are embarrassing us.”
“I’m not embarrassed,” Dino said.
Stone followed Kitty into her apartment, which was spacious, elegantly designed and decorated, and dimly lit.
“Bedroom is this way,” Kitty said, a little breathlessly.
Two minutes later they were stretched out next to each other, caressing body parts.
“This is better than dessert,” Kitty said.
Stone moved down her body to the delta. “This is dessert,” he said, exploring.
“You’re right,” she said, opening up and pulling him into her by his hair. “Don’t ever get a haircut,” she said. “This is so convenient.” She suddenly came, and he moved on to other places.
Kitty rolled him over. “Your turn to be dessert,” she said.
They spent an hour pleasuring each other then fell asleep, entwined.
The following morning, Kitty threw on some clothes and left the apartment for a few minutes, returning with freshly baked croissants and other pastries. She made a pot of coffee, poured some freshly squeezed orange juice into a pitcher, and brought it all to the bed where Stone was sitting up, waiting.
“I had a call on my cell phone while I was standing in line at the bakery,” she said. “An acquaintance of mine asked me if it is true that you are trying to get my money back from Zanian.”
“I’m hearing a lot of that, and it isn’t true. What did you tell your friend?”
“That I know you, but the rumor is not true.”
“Thank you for that. Another hundred people would have heard it by lunchtime. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.”
“Perhaps some fame would be good for your practice.”
“Not rumor fame. It just eats up time that should be billing at a thousand dollars an hour.”
“Is that what you get?”
“It’s what all the senior partners at Woodman & Weld get.”
“Is Herb Fisher a senior partner?” she asked.
“Not yet. Soon, though.”
“Oh, good. Why are you such a good lover?” she asked.
“Not I, you. You bring it out in me.”
“You are kind.”
“I am truthful, and the truth is not always kind.” He looked at the bedside clock. “The truth is, I’d better be going. I have to shower and change before work.”
“I don’t want you to go, but I understand.” She kissed him tenderly in a nice place.
Stone was back at his desk to take a call from Bob Cantor. “What are you hearing?”
“I’m hearing how you’re going to get everybody’s money back.”
“From whom are you hearing that?”
“From everybody I talk to.”
Stone looked at the stack of phone messages Joan had left on his desk. “It’s infesting my workspace, too. Anything new to report?”
“Zanian’s Gulfstream is still at Aspen, and it’s snowing out there, so I expect they’ll be grounded for a day or two.”
“Thanks, gotta run.” He hung up and buzzed Joan. She walked in. “What am I to do about all these calls from Zanian victims and the press on that subject?”
“Tell them each the same thing: that while I am acquainted with a couple of victims, I am not seeking to recover funds for anyone. Refer them to the FBI.”
“And sound convincing.”
“Okay, I’ll try.”
“You know how to sound convincing when you want to.”
She closed the door behind her. The line continued to ring all morning, and Stone shut off the bell. Just before lunch, Joan announced that Bill Eggers, the managing partner of Woodman & Weld, was on the phone.
Stone picked it up. “Good morning, Bill. And no, I have not
found, nor am I searching for, the treasure of Viktor Zanian. I don’t know how that rumor got started.”
“I suspected you weren’t,” Eggers said. “Are you searching for the reward on Zanian?”
“That’s different, but I’m not having any success.”
“So, you are going after the reward?”
“Who in his right mind, if Zanian fell into his lap, would not welcome him and turn his ass in to the FBI?”
“But your lap is empty?”
“Would that it was not so.”
“My wife has a friend who had a few million with Zanian,” Eggers said.
“My condolences to her. Refer her to Herbie Fisher. He has a lot of spare energy for that sort of thing.”
“Not a bad idea.”
“Success would catapult him into a senior partnership, would it not?”
“If we got to keep the reward, sure.”
“Tell him that, and he’ll make the search his first priority.”
“Okay, I’ll do that right now.”
“Thank you, Bill, and discourage rumormongers, will you? I don’t have the time.”
They both hung up. The light on the incoming line continued to flash every minute or two.
Stone was wrapping up for the day when Joan buzzed that Bob Cantor was on the line.
“Put him through,” Stone said.
“Stone? I’m glad I caught you.”
“What’s up, Bob?”
“I had a sneaking feeling about Zanian’s airplane, so I called all the FBOs in Aspen and found the one he was using. The manager told me they refueled and took off just as the snow was starting.”
“Bound for where?”
“I checked the records, and they filed for San Jose, California.”
“That’s interesting,” Stone said, “but I don’t know why.”
“Most private jets headed for the West Coast are going to file for Oakland, if they’re going to San Francisco, or to one of the L.A. area airports.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. So, what reason would an aircraft’s pilot have for filing for San Jose?”
“Well, San Jose is the last refueling you would have if you were headed for the Pacific.”
“Where in the Pacific?”
“Gotta be Hawaii. You couldn’t make Midway or Manila without a fuel stop.”
“So, you’re telling me that Zanian could be headed for anywhere in the world’s largest ocean?”
“As long as he keeps refueling. I mean, the Gulfstreams are perfect airplanes for the long-distance stuff, but they drink Jet A, just like everything else.”
“What else of interest is in San Jose?” Stone asked.
“So where do you think Zanian is taking off for?”
“We won’t know that until he takes off.”
“Stay on this, Bob, and let me know that destination.”
Stone thought about it for a minute, then called Brio Ness.
“Well, hello there,” she said. “Have you called to claim the reward?”
“Not just yet,” Stone replied, “but I’m working on it.”
“Tell me about your work.”
“Well, Zanian’s airplane took off for Aspen.”
“We looked into it and you were right. Didn’t he get snowed in?”
“Wrong. They took off again before the snow became unmanageable, filed for San Jose, California.”
“What would Zanian want in San Jose?”
“Fuel for Hawaii,” Stone said. “He’s headed for somewhere in
the Pacific, but he’d have to refuel in Hawaii to make any of the other island destinations.”
“Which airport in Hawaii?”
“We won’t know that until he files his flight plan.”
“You mean, the airplane hasn’t left San Jose?”
“Not as of a few minutes ago.”
“I’ll scramble a team,” she said. “Either we’ll pick him up in San Jose or in Hawaii.”
“Yeah, but at which Hawaiian airport? There’s Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, maybe Hilo, probably more. Take your pick!”
“I can’t cover half a dozen airports with the manpower we’ve got in the islands.”
“Well, if I were flying the airplane, I’d file for some place like Oahu, then half an hour out of there, I’d call air traffic control and change my destination to another airport, say Hilo.”
“You’re a big help.”
“I’m doing the best I can. Is anybody else doing better?”
“You have a point. I’d better call a raid on San Jose right now.”
“Remember, there will be half a dozen FBOs there.”
“What’s an FBO?”
“A fixed-base operator. A filling station to you.”
“How do I find out which one they’re at?”
“I believe a gentleman named Bell invented the telephone some time ago. Surely the FBI has got enough nickels.”
“I’ll get right on it,” she said, then hung up.
Stone was locking his desk when Cantor called again. “Hang on to your hat,” he said. “They’ve filed for Hilo, and they’re starting engines.”
“Any guesses on where from Hilo?”
“Hilo’s the closest airport to the U.S., but I don’t think he’s going there. I mean, who goes to Hilo for anything but fuel? He’s got plenty of range for any airport in the islands.”
“Where would he go from there?”
“Midway, Manila, Christmas Island?”
“Christmas Island? What the hell for?”
“Fuel for Australia. It’s on the route.”
“Oh, shit. I’d better warn the feds.” He hung up and called Brio.
“Now what? The airplane is at Landmark Aviation. Two SWAT teams are suiting up.”
“Hold on. The Gulfstream has filed for Hilo. They’ll be gone before your people get there.”
“What am I going to tell two SWAT teams?”
“Tell them to unsuit, and better luck next time.”
“Shit!” she said. “God, I could use a drink.”
“When do you get off?”
“That’s a leading question, but I finished work five minutes ago.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Upper East Side.”
“Stop by my house for a drink, then.”
“Let me get everybody to stand down, then I’ll see you about six.”
He gave her the address.
“Turtle Bay. I’ve always wondered about that neighborhood.”
“All will be revealed,” Stone said. “We’ll see how you feel about dinner after your first drink.”
“You’re pushing your luck, but I’ll see you at six.” She hung up.
Cantor called back. “They’ve taken off,” he said. “Eight people and a dog aboard.”
“Six of those will be two flight crews and two attendants. They’re geared up for long-haul flights, and the crew has to sleep sometime.”
“Sounds that way.”
“Call me on the cell when you’re sure where they’re landing.”
Stone called Helene to see what kind of dinner she could put together on short notice.