Read an Excerpt
Stone Barrington stood at the bar at P.J. Clarke's, already half a drink ahead of Dino Bacchetti. He and Dino had been NYPD detective partners many moons ago, when they were young and reckless, until it had been suggested by his superiors, with emphasis, that Stone's talents lay elsewhere (anywhere but the NYPD) and he had decamped to the law. He already had a law degree from NYU in his pocket, and an old classmate brought him aboard at the firm of Woodman & Weld, while he crammed for the bar exam. Dino had opted for the whole thirty years and now found himself the police commissioner of New York City. They dined together often.
Not this evening, though. Stone's iPhone buzzed in his pocket, and he reached for it. "It's Stone."
"It's Dino. It's not happening tonight. Big emergency, hands to hold. Tomorrow?"
"Sure, but at Patroon. I'm already at Clarke's."
"At seven." They both hung up.
"Dumped again?" a female voice said from somewhere below him. "He or she?"
He looked down to find a small, dark-haired young woman in a sharp black dress, complete with cleavage, newly perched on a stool he had marked for himself.
"He," Stone replied. "Emergency."
"That's what they all say," she said. "Does that make you available for a drink?"
"I've already got one," Stone replied.
"What is your pleasure?"
She swiveled toward the bartender. "Knob Creek on the rocks," she said, and it appeared in a flash. She raised her glass to Stone. "Your liver," she said.
"I'll drink to that and yours, too, since you have such good taste in bourbon."
"Do you possess a name?" she asked. "And if so, what is it?"
"I do, and it is Stone Barrington. What about you?"
"I do, as well. Tink Dorsey, a gift from my older brother who liked to say that I was no bigger than a Tinker Toy. I'm five feet, two inches tall. Wasn't that your next question?"
"Well, no," Stone said.
"Then 36-C," she said. "That would have been your second question."
"I thought about it, then decided it was more polite not to ask."
"Ah, an explorer," she said, getting a laugh. "In what vineyard do you toil?"
"The law, though my partners often question how hard. Your turn again."
"I'm about six chapters away from being a novelist," she said. "Previously I have written only for money."
"And will again, I'm sure. After all, you're only six chapters away."
"And many miles," she said.
"You've just got a slight case of first-novel-itis."
"A critical case."
"You'll handle it."
"We'll see. Does your phone call mean you're free for dinner?"
"Yes. How about you?"
"If you're buying."
"I could not fail to feed a starving writer." He ushered her back to the dining room, where the headwaiter found them a table and menus.
They had finished their dinner and a dessert.
"Would you like a cognac?" Stone asked.
"Yes, thank you, but I'd like it at your place. I want to see how you live."
Stone did not drag his feet. "Certainly," he said, signing the bill.
Outside, he hailed a cab, since Fred, his factotum, was off for the night. Shortly, they were deposited at Stone's front door.
The beeping started as Stone was turning on lights.
"Want me to enter the code for you?" Tink asked.
"Sure." He gave her the code, and the beeping mercifully stopped. "Living room," he said. "Dining room beyond that."
"I hadn't expected a whole house," she said. "Nobody I know has a whole house."
"I inherited it from my great-aunt, my grandmother's sister," he said. "And then I spent every penny I had renovating it. Did most of the work myself."
"That must have taken years," she said.
"Centuries, or so it seemed. Come see the study. We'll find brandy there." He led her across the living room and into the smaller room, then he lit a fire, poured brandy, and pointed her at the sofa.
"What are these four paintings?" Tink asked, pointing.
"Those are by my mother, Matilda Stone. She became very well-known after her death."
Tink walked over and tried to tilt one. "Oh, I thought it wasn't quite straight."
"It's firmly fastened to the wall. They were stolen once, and when I got them back I took pains to see that it wouldn't happen again."
She pointed at a small bronze sculpture. "May I pick this up?"
"What is it?"
"It's a sculpture of a horse soldier by Frederic Remington, called The Sergeant."
"Very handsome." She replaced the bronze, then went and sat down and accepted a cognac. "What a nice room!"
"Thank you." He sat down beside her
"I trust you can see my cleavage from there?"
"Indeed, and a lovely sight it is."
"I'm told it's my best feature."
"I'll have to have a look at your other features before I can decide," he said.
She laughed that pleasant little laugh again. "A little more cognac, and I'm sure that can be arranged." She tilted her head back, so he could lean down from his height and kiss her. When he did, she placed a hand on the back of his neck and pulled him into the kiss. Neither of them let go for some time.
She finally came up for air. "Your tour is incomplete," she said. "You haven't shown me your bedroom, yet."
He took her hand and pulled her to her feet. "That, too, can be arranged."
Much later a slight rustle of bedclothes woke him. "Must you go?"
"Yes, I must, but we can do it again. Zip me."
He felt his way, then zipped.
"I left my card on the bedside table." She kissed him and pulled up the covers. "Now, you go back to sleep." She left the door open, and he could hear her footsteps down the stairs. He drifted off.
He was awakened by the bell of the dumbwaiter, bringing breakfast, but he had to run for the bathroom first. That work done, he got into a light robe and got back into bed, noticing that her card was not on the other bedside table. Never mind, he'd find her.
At mid-morning, he showered and shaved, then dressed and went downstairs to his office. On the way, he passed the study and noticed that the lights were still on. He walked in and checked his mother's paintings, a nervous habit he'd acquired after they had been stolen and recovered. They were still in place.
He turned toward the light switch, and as he did, he stopped. Something was missing. He checked the paintings again, then turned his attention to the bookcase. The Remington bronze was gone.
Stone slid in behind his desk, picked up the phone, and speed-dialed Dino.
"I want to report a robbery."
"Normally, I would transfer you to burglary, but my interest is piqued. Who robbed you?"
"A small, dark-haired woman with wonderful breasts-wonderful everything, actually."
"I hope you got something of value in return."
"You know the little Remington bronze in my study?"
"The Sergeant? I've coveted it for years."
"What is its value?"
"I paid twenty-five grand for it, at auction, some years ago."
"I suppose you didn't get that much for it, in exchange for services rendered."
"You could say that. I mean, it was spectacular, but not that spectacular."
"Does this robber have a name?"
"Let's put it this way, she used one: Tink Dorsey."
"I don't suppose you have a photograph."
"We didn't get that far."
"So, shall I put out an APB for a short, dark-haired woman with great tits, carrying a small but expensive sculpture?"
"You think that would get some action?"
"I think a lot of street cops would be on the lookout for the tits."
"Yeah, you might need to rephrase."
"I think we'd better just post it on our stolen art page. The art boys probably even have a photograph of it on file."
"We still on for dinner at Patroon?"
"I don't suppose you'll be bringing Tink Dorsey."
"Not unless you capture her." They both hung up.
His secretary, Joan Robertson, buzzed him.
"Someone who says her name is 'Tink' is on two."
Stone hesitated, then decided not to bring up The Sergeant. He pressed the button. "Good morning!"
"I trust you slept well for the rest of the night."
"I did. I would have called to thank you, but I couldn't find your card."
"Oh, shit. I forgot. I used them all up, gotta get some reprinted. Here's my number." She gave him one with a 917 area code, a cell phone.
"Am I interrupting anything?"
"Only the practice of law. You want to join a friend and me for dinner?"
"The friend who dumped you last night?"
"One and the same."
"Can we meet at Patroon?" He gave her the address. "Seven?"
"See you there. How are we dressing?"
"I'm wearing a necktie."
"Then I won't."
"It would just get in the way of what some have called your best feature," he said.
She laughed and hung up. He did like that laugh.
Stone got there first, then Dino walked in right behind Tink, who was already laughing. They put her in the booth between them.
"Did you two get introduced?"
"We did not," she said.
"Tink Dorsey, this is Dino Bacchetti."
She shook his hand. "Oh, I know that name. Aren't you the DA, or something?"
"I'm the police commissioner for the City of New York," Dino replied, flashing his badge, "and you're under arrest."
She laughed. "And what for? I haven't had time to steal the silver yet."
"For the theft of a valuable work of art," Dino said. "A small Remington sculpture called The Sergeant."
She reached into her bag. For a moment, Stone thought she might come up with a gun, but instead she came up with the Remington and set it on the table. "You mean this?"
"That's what I mean," Dino said. "I take it you're confessing."
"Well, I was listing to the right when I left Stone's house last night, and I needed some ballast."
It was Dino's turn to laugh.
"Really, Stone, I only borrowed it for the night, just so I could look at it some more. You didn't need to call the cops, let alone the police commissioner."
"I always go directly to the top," Stone said.
"I like that in a man."
Dino barged in. "Are you dropping the charges, Stone?"
Stone hefted The Sergeant in his hands and inspected it thoroughly. It had the right number stamped into the bronze. "I guess I have no alternative," he said.
"Gee, thanks," Tink said. "What a compliment!"
"You were a bad girl, and you gave me a fright," Stone explained.
"I guess I was, but my heart's in the right place."
"I can't deny that," Stone said.
Fred was waiting outside with the Bentley, and it was raining. They piled in.
"This is gorgeous," Tink said, stroking the leather. "If I'd known you drove a Bentley, I would have stolen the car, instead."
"Home, Fred," Stone said. "Tink, that's Fred in the front seat. Fred, she's Tink Dorsey."
"Good evening, Ms. Dorsey."
"So far," she replied.
"Can you manage to stay the whole night?" Stone asked.
"What's the matter, you afraid I'll steal something else?"
"Only my heart."
"I was aiming farther south, but I'll take what I can get."
Fred pulled into the garage.
"An indoor Bentley!" Tink said. "This gets better and better!"
Upstairs, they went to their respective dressing rooms and emerged simultaneously, equally naked. Stone yanked the covers back, and they fell into bed.
"Just think of this as a continuation of last night," Tink said. "Pretend I never left."
Stone's position muffled his reply.
"Don't talk, sweetie," she said. "You're doing just fine," she breathed.
It took half an hour to wear themselves out, then they slept. Tink woke up first; her head was in his lap, so she didnÕt have far to go.
Stone made a noise.
She stopped. "Sorry about that."
"I think it was Helen Lawrenson who said, by way of instruction, 'It's like eating a banana, without leaving any teeth marks.'"
"I'll remember that," she said, then returned to her work.
Stone came explosively.
She crawled up and put her head on his shoulder. "I'll bet you think you're done for the night," she said.
"Don't count on it."
The dumbwaiter bell went off. Tink sat bolt upright and wide-eyed. "Is the house on fire?"
"No, that's breakfast."
"Breakfast makes a noise?"
"Every morning about this time," Stone said. "It's best to just get used to it. Changing it would mess up everything." He pushed the cart over to the bed and put a tray on her belly.
"What am I having?"
"English scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, half a Wolferman's English muffin, orange juice, and coffee. If you want something else, you have to place your order at bedtime."
"I was busy at the time," she said.
He reached across her, took a remote control from the bedside chest and pressed a button. She rose to meet her tray. "Fantastic," she said. "What are English scrambled eggs?"
"Cooked very slowly with lots of butter until they're creamy, but not runny. Americans overcook eggs, and they lose most of their flavor."
She took her fork and tried them. "Mmmmm," she said. "What a surprise." She tried a sausage. "You know what I'm having next time?"
"Wait, I'll get a pencil."
"Don't bother, I'm having exactly this."
Stone switched on the TV, to Morning Joe.
"What is this?" she asked.
He explained to her about MSNBC.
"Don't you get Fox News?"
"I can, but I don't like being lied to."
"I thought it was MSNBC that did all the lying."
"That's because you were being lied to."
"Okay, it's your TV. I'll go along."
They gobbled down their breakfast.
"Who are all these people on TV?" she asked.
"People who don't appear on Fox News."
"Wait a minute, I get it. You're a Democrat?"
"Wrong. I'm a yellow-dog Democrat."
"A Democrat who'd vote for a yellow dog before he'd vote for a Republican."
"Oh, well, I hardly ever vote, anyway," she said.
"Thank God for that."
"Something I don't get."
"You're rich, but you're a Democrat?"
"Well, there's me and George Soros and Warren Buffett and a few others."
"How'd you get all the money?"
"I got it the old-fashioned way. I inherited it."
"Your parents were rich?"
"No. I had a wife who had been married to a very rich man before me, and when she died, I inherited a chunk of her estate."
"What did she die of?"
Her face fell.
"Not mine. It belonged to a former lover of hers."