In this thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Manhattan cop-turned-lawyer Stone Barrington is back on his home turf caught between a filthy rich conman and a beautiful prosecutor...
Not long after Stone and his ex-partner Dino make the acquaintance of Billy Bob—a smooth-talkin’ Texan packing a wad of rare two-dollar bills—someone takes a shot at them. Against his better judgment, Stone offers Billy Bob a safe haven for the night but almost immediately regrets it. The slippery out-of-towner has gone missing and someone has been found dead—in Stone’s town house no less. Now, Stone is now stuck between a stunning federal prosecutor and a love from his past, a con man with more aliases than hairs on his head, and a murder investigation that could ruin them all.
Release date: April 12, 2005
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Print pages: 368
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Two Dollar Bill
ELAINE’S, LATE. For some reason no one could remember, Thursday nights were always the busiest at Elaine’s. Stone Barrington reflected that it may have had something to do with the old custom of Thursday being Writer’s Night, an informal designation that began to repeat itself when a lot of the writers who were regular customers gathered on Thursdays at the big table, number four, to bitch about their publishers, their agents, the size of their printings and promotion budgets, their wives, ex-wives, children, ex-children, dogs and ex-dogs.
The custom had withered with the imposition of smoking rules, when Elaine figured that number four needed to be in the smoking section, and since the new, no-smoking-at-all law came into effect, Writer’s Night had never been revived. Anyway, Stone figured, every night was Writer’s Night at Elaine’s, and that was all right with him.
On this particular night, every table in the main dining room was jammed, and the overflow of tourists and nonregulars had filled most of the tables in Deepest Siberia, which was the other dining room. The only times Stone had ever sat in that room were either when Elaine had sold the main dining room for a private party, or when he was in deep shit with Elaine, something he tried to avoid.
Tonight, however, Elaine was fixing him with that gaze that could remove varnish. He had been to a black tie dinner party and had stopped by for a drink afterward, just in time to secure his usual table, the last available. Now he was sitting there, sipping a brandy, and not eating dinner. Elaine strongly preferred it if, when one sat down at a table, especially on a night as busy as this, one ordered dinner. She didn’t much care if you ate it or not, as long as it got onto the bill.
To make matters worse, Dino had wandered in, having also dined elsewhere, and had sat down and also ordered only a brandy.
Suddenly, Elaine loomed over the table. “You fucking rich guys,” she said.
“Huh?” Stone asked, as if he didn’t know what she meant.
She explained it to him. “You go out and eat somewhere else in your fucking tuxedos, then you come in here and take up a table and nurse a drink.”
“Wait a minute,” Dino said, “I’m not wearing a tuxedo.”
“And I’m not nursing this drink,” Stone said, downing the rest of his brandy and holding up his glass, signaling a waiter for another. “And you may recall, we were in here last night, eating with both hands.”
“A new night begins at sunset,” Elaine said. “Now get hungry or get to the bar.” She wandered off and sat down at another table.
“You feeling hungry?” Stone asked.
“Yeah, a little,” Dino replied.
Stone handed the waiter his glass. “Bring us an order of the fried calamari,” he said, “and get some silver and napkins on the table, so it’ll look like we’re ordering.”
“You think that’ll work?” Dino asked, looking sidelong at Elaine.
“Maybe she’ll get distracted,” Stone said. “Bring us a bottle of the Frascati, too, instead of the brandy,” he said to the waiter. “And some bread.”
“The bread is a good move,” Dino said. “You don’t think she really meant that about going to the bar, do you?”
The bar crowd and the restaurant crowd at Elaine’s were occupied by different tribes, each of whom acknowledged the presence of the other only when eyeing their women. Neither Stone nor Dino had ever had a drink at the bar.
“Nah,” Stone replied. “It’s just her sense of humor.” He looked up and was elated to see Bill Eggers, the managing partner of Woodman & Weld, the law firm to whom Stone was of counsel, coming in the front door. Stone waved him over and pumped his hand.
“Sit down and order dinner,” Stone said.
Eggers sat down. “I already ate,” he said.
“Shhh, Elaine will hear you. Order something for Christ’s sake.” Stone shoved a menu at him.
“You want to drink at the bar?”
Eggers opened the menu. “I guess I could eat some dessert.”
“I’ve been out with a new client,” Eggers said. “He’ll be here in a minute; he went to get his limo washed.”
“He wants to make sure it’s hand washed,” Eggers explained, “and he doesn’t trust his driver to do it right.”
“And you want this guy for a client?”
“Actually, you want this guy for a client, because he wants you for his lawyer.”
“You mean he asked for me?”
Eggers nodded. “Go figure.”
A new client did not usually ask for Stone; he first came to Eggers with some embarrassing, awful problem: a private detective in the employ of his wife had photographed him in bed with a bad woman; his son had been accused of the date-rape of his headmaster’s daughter; his wife, drunk, had driven his Mercedes through a liquor-store window. Like that. Eggers then hunted down Stone, whose lot it was to handle the sort of thing that Woodman & Weld did not want to be seen handling. In return for this service, the firm would occasionally hand him a nice personal-injury suit that could be settled quickly.
“What’s his problem?”
“He doesn’t have one, that I know of,” Eggers said. “He’s a rich Texan, which may be redundant; he’s a good-looking guy who attracts women like blackflies on a May day in Maine; and he’s unmarried.”
“What kind of problems could he possibly have?” Dino asked. “Has he killed somebody, maybe?”
“Not that he mentioned.”
“How’d you come by him?” Stone asked.
“He was recommended by another Texan client, a very valuable one, a client you are not to go anywhere near.”
“And he just asked for me, out of the blue?”
“Out of the clear blue. He said, and I quote,” and here Eggers lapsed into a broad drawl, “ ‘I hear you got a feller, name of Barrington, does some stuff for you. I want him to handle my little ol’ account.’ ”
“He must be planning to kill somebody,” Dino said. “Maybe drum up some business for me?” Dino was the NYPD lieutenant in charge of the detective squad at the 19th Precinct, sometimes called the Silk Stocking Precinct because it covered the Upper East Side of New York City. He had been Stone’s partner, back when Stone had been a police detective.
“Here he is now,” Eggers said, nodding toward the front door.
A man of about six-four and two hundred and twenty pounds, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, wearing a western-cut suit and a broad-brimmed Stetson, filled the front door.
“He looks like one of the Sons of the Pioneers,” Dino said.
Stone hated him on sight. “Make sure he orders dinner,” he said to Eggers.
THE TEXAN had a bone-crushing handshake. “Hey,” he said to the table, then he started crushing bones. “I’m Billy Bob Barnstormer.”
“That’s Lieutenant Dino Bacchetti of the New York Police Department,” Eggers said, “and that’s Stone Barrington.”
“Did you say ‘Barnstormer’?” Stone asked incredulously.
“Yep,” Billy Bob replied. “My grandaddy was a pilot in World War One, and after that he barnstormed around the country for a while, before he started up Southwest Airlines.”
“I thought Herb Kelleher and Rollin King started Southwest,” Stone said.
“Them, too,” Billy Bob replied blithely. “Like I said, he was barnstorming, and his name was originally Barnstetter, so it made sense to make the change while he was doing that work. He got used to it, I guess, so he had it changed, legal-like.”
Dino looked nervously at Elaine and slid a menu across the table. “Have some dinner.”
“Thanks, me and ol’ Bill, here, already ate.”
“Bill is having dessert,” Dino said.
“I think I’ll have some bourbon for dessert,” Billy Bob replied. He turned to the waiter. “What you got?”
“We’ve got Jack Daniel’s and Wild Turkey and Knob Creek, but Stone is the only one who drinks that, except for that writer.”
“I’ll have me a double Wild Turkey straight up,” Billy Bob said, then turned his attention to Stone, giving him a broad, pearly smile. “I heard some good things about you,” he said.
“What did you hear?” Dino asked. “We never hear anything good about him.”
Stone shot Dino what he hoped was a withering glance.
“Well, even back in Texas we get some news from the East ever now and then. Can I buy you fellers a drink?”
“We’ve got one already,” Stone said. “What sort of problem have you got, Billy Bob?”
Billy Bob looked puzzled. “Problem?”
“Why do you need a lawyer?”
“Well, shoot, everybody needs a lawyer don’t they?”
“Hard to argue with that,” Eggers agreed.
“You planning to murder anybody?” Dino asked hopefully.
“Not this evenin’,” Billy Bob replied, flashing his big grin again. “They got a pissing place around here?”
“Through the door, first on your left,” Stone said, pointing.
Billy Bob got up and followed directions.
“That ol’ boy has either the best teeth or the best dental work I’ve ever seen,” Dino said.
“How did you come up with this guy again?” Stone asked Eggers.
“I told you, he came recommended by a good client in Texas. Stone, just talk to the man, will you?”
Billy Bob arrived back at the table simultaneously with his bourbon. He peeled a bill off a fat roll and handed it to the waiter.
The waiter looked at it. “A two-dollar bill? I haven’t seen one of these in years.”
“Coin of the realm, my friend,” Billy Bob said.
“The Wild Turkey is eight dollars,” the waiter said.
“That’s on my bill,” Eggers said.
“And the Jefferson is for you,” Billy Bob told the waiter.
The waiter pocketed the money and went away shaking his head.
“Jefferson?” Dino asked.
“Thomas Jefferson is on the two-dollar bill,” Stone said.
“I thought he was worth more than that,” Dino said.
“Me, too,” Eggers interjected. “Madison is on the five-thousand-dollar bill, except there isn’t one anymore. I don’t know who’s on the ten-thousand-dollar bill.”
“Chase,” Stone said.
“There’s no president named Chase,” Eggers replied.
“Salymon Portland Chase,” Stone said. “Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”
“How do you know that?” Dino asked doubtfully.
“I know a lot of stuff,” Stone replied.
“So, Billy Bob,” Dino said, “is that whole wad in your pocket two-dollar bills?”
“Naw,” Billy Bob said. “I got some hundreds in there, too.”
Stone’s calamari and Eggers’s dessert arrived. Billy Bob tossed down his Wild Turkey and ordered another.
“When did you get into town?” Stone asked, trying to keep a conversation going.
“This evenin’,” Billy Bob replied. “My GIV sucked a bird in a engine out at Teterboro, so I’m going to be here a few days while they stick a new one on it.”
“I always wanted a Gulfstream Four,” Eggers said wistfully.
“Sell you mine when my Gee Five gets here,” Billy Bob said. “I got one on order.”
“What’s the difference?” Dino asked.
“The Five is bigger, faster, got more range. Shoot, I can go from Dallas to Moscow on that thing, not that you’d want to. Don’t know why anybody would want to go to Moscow. Freeze your balls off.”
Everybody nodded gravely. Conducting a conversation with Billy Bob Barnstormer was not going to be easy.
“What business are you in, Billy Bob?” Stone asked.
“Why, whatever turns a two-dollar bill,” Billy Bob replied. “You name it, I’m in it. Me and Warren Buffett got a little start-up goin’, but I cain’t talk about that, yet.”
Stone tried again. “What’s your main interest?”
“Can you be more specific?”
Eggers jumped into the breach. “Stone, most of our clients are in more than one business. Sounds like Billy Bob, here, is an investor.”
“I like that,” Billy Bob said. “An investor. Yeah.”
“Where you staying while you’re in town?” Dino asked.
“Well, usually I take the presidential suite at the Four Seasons,” Billy Bob said, “but all their suites are booked up for some kind of convention, so I guess I got to scare up some other accommodation.”
“New York hotels are tight this time of year,” Dino said. “Stone, why don’t you put up Billy Bob at your house? You’ve got a lot of room.”
Stone aimed a kick under the table at Dino, but Dino was too quick for him. “Well, I think Billy Bob is looking for a higher level of service than I’m able to offer,” Stone said.
“It would be very kind of you, Stone,” Eggers chimed in. “After all, it’s very late, and Billy Bob is a client.”
Stone looked desperately for an out.
“Why, thank you, Stone,” Billy Bob said, sounding truly grateful. “That’s the nicest thing anybody ever did for me. And I thought all New Yorkers was tight-assed sons of bitches.” He shook his head in wonder.
“Oh, not all New Yorkers,” Dino said. “Stone is a prince of a fellow.”
“He certainly is,” Eggers agreed, pursing his lips to suppress a laugh. “A king, even.”
“If I were a king,” Stone said, “neither of you two would have a head.”
“Now, Stone,” Dino said, “that’s unkind. And just when Billy Bob was thinking well of you.”
“I still think well of him,” Billy Bob said, tossing back another Wild Turkey. “Well, I think I’m about ready to hit the bunkhouse. You ready, Stone?”
“Yes, I guess I am,” Stone said, rising. “You get the bill,” he said to Eggers.
“Sure thing, Stone.”
“C’mon, boy, I’ll give you a ride in my limousine,” Billy Bob said.
Stone followed him toward the door, stopping at a table to give Elaine a peck on the cheek. “Good night, Elaine.”
“Good riddance,” she said.
STONE STEPPED OUT into the bitterly cold night and turned up his overcoat collar. Billy Bob joined him, overcoatless, and pointed at an absurdly long white limousine at the curb.
“Just hop in there, boy,” he said.
As he climbed into the enormous car, Stone tried to remember the last time someone had called him “boy.” Probably when he was a boy, he concluded.
Billy Bob climbed into the car and settled in beside him, then, simultaneously with the slamming of the door, the window beside Stone suddenly crazed over, apparently because of a bullet hole in its center. This was followed quickly by two more bullets, and this time, Stone could hear the gun. He had not even had time to duck. He looked out the now-absent window in time to see a black Lincoln Town Car turn left onto Eighty-eighth Street, against the light, and disappear down the block.
He turned to speak to Billy Bob and found him no longer there. Stone hipped his way across the seat and got out of the curbside door, looking for Billy Bob. The Texan stood in the street, holding an old-fashioned Colt Single-Action Army six-shooter with a pearl handle, looking for a target.
“Are you nuts?” Stone yelled at him.
“Huh?” Billy Bob asked, noticing Stone for the first time.
Stone snatched the pistol out of his hand. “Give me that!”
“Hey, what are you doin’?” Billy Bob demanded.
Stone stuck the weapon into his inside overcoat pocket. “You can get three years at Riker’s Island just for holding that thing in this town.”
“You mean New York won’t support a man’s Second Amendment right to bear arms?”
“Let’s just say that the New York Police Department has a different interpretation of the Second Amendment than you do.”
Stone walked back toward Elaine’s.
“Where are you going?”
“To get the police,” Stone called over his shoulder. “Somebody has just tried to kill you, and if I were you, I’d get out of the street before they come back.” He went back into the restaurant and walked back to the table he had just left. “You’d better get some people over here,” he said to Dino. “Somebody just took a few shots at Woodman & Weld’s newest client.”
“What!!!” Bill Eggers shouted.
“Yeah, you can really pick ’em, Bill.”
Dino got on his cell phone and called the cavalry.
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER, Dino’s detectives were conducting their preliminary investigation of the incident, and a criminalist was searching the car for bullet fragments.
One of the detectives walked over to Billy Bob, notebook in hand. “You’re Mr. Barnstormer, is that right?” the detective asked.
“That sure is right,” Billy Bob said.
“You got any identification, sir?”
Billy Bob produced a Texas driver’s license.
“Is this your current address?” the detective asked, checking the license.
“It sure is.”
“Are you armed, Mr. Barnstormer?” the detective asked.
“Hold it, Billy Bob,” Stone said, placing a hand on his arm. “My name is Barrington. I’m Mr. Barnstormer’s attorney,” he said to the detective. “I’d like to point out that your question is inappropriate, in the circumstances, since Mr. Barnstormer is the intended victim here, and I instruct him not to answer. I will tell you, though, that Mr. Barnstormer is not carrying a weapon.”
“Okay,” the detective said, making a note. “Anybody see the car?”
“I did,” Stone replied. “I was sitting next to the shot-out window, and I saw a black Lincoln Town Car make a hard left onto Eighty-eighth Street, running the light. It had New York plates, but I couldn’t get the number.”
“Okay,” the detective said. “Mr. Barnstormer, can you think of anyone in New York City who might want to cause you harm?”
Billy Bob looked at Stone.
“You can answer that one,” Stone said.
“No one at all?”
Billy Bob looked at Stone again, and he nodded.
“Do you know anybody in New York, Mr. Barnstormer?”
“Sure, I know lots of folks. I know Lieutenant Bacchetti over there, and I know a feller named Mr. Michael Bloomberg.”
“You know the mayor?” Stone asked, surprised.
“Yep, we’re real tight, Mike and me.”
“I think that’s all I need to know for the moment, Mr. Barnstomer,” the cop said. “Where are you staying?”
“You can reach him through me,” Stone said, handing the detective his card. “Can we go now? You through with the car?”
The criminalist walked over.
“You find anything?” the detective asked him.
“No bullet fragments,” the young man said, “but I found some residue on the broken glass.”
“What kind of residue?”
“Whoever did the shooting used frangible ammo, the kind of stuff you use at the firing range. The slugs disintegrated on impact with the glass, which is why the window on the opposite side of the car didn’t take any hits. Looks like you’ve got an environmentally conscious shooter.”
“A real citizen,” Stone said. “Is the car released?”
“Sure,” the criminalist said.
“Are you through with Mr. Barnstormer?” Stone asked the detective.
“For the moment.”
“Thank you and good night,” Stone said, climbing into the car. “Let’s go, Billy Bob.”
The car pulled away from the curb, and Stone gave the driver the address before turning to his new client. “All right, Billy Bob,” he said, “what the fuck was that all about?”
“How the hell should I know?” Billy Bob responded.
“You don’t know who your enemies are?”
“I don’t have no enemies, to speak of.”
“What about the ones not to speak of?”
“Well, you know, you do business, you piss off a few people along the way.”
“You do much business in New York?”
“Now and again.”
“You do business with anybody of a criminal nature?”
“Well, you never know what folks do in their spare time.”
“You know anybody with connections to organized crime?”
“I do business with businesspeople, that’s all,” Billy Bob said, sounding defensive.
“You piss off anybody in New York?”
“Not that I know of,” Billy Bob said.
Stone was having trouble speaking, now, since he was sitting next to the blown-out window and the icy air was blowing in his face at thirty miles an hour, and his lips didn’t want to move. He put his gloved hands over his face and waited for the car to reach its destination.
THE CAR PULLED UP in front of Stone’s town house in Turtle Bay, and everybody got out. The driver went to the trunk and began unloading luggage, while Stone, in amazement, counted. Eight pieces of black alligator luggage with brass corners were disgorged. Stone reckoned there was fifty thousand dollars’ worth of reptilian baggage there. It took all three of them to get it up the front steps of the house and into the entrance hall.
“Pick me up at nine o’clock in the morning,” Billy Bob said to the driver, “and get me a car with a back window.”
“I’d advise you to travel in something less conspicuous,” Stone said, “since people are shooting at you. Try a black Lincoln, like the shooter; there are thousands of them in the city.”
“Okay,” Billy Bob said to the driver, “something shorter and blacker.” He tipped the man and sent him on his way.
Stone and Billy Bob humped the luggage into the elevator, and Stone pushed the button for the third floor. “Left out of the elevator, first door on your right,” he said. “I’ll walk up; we wouldn’t want to break the cable.”
“What time do you get up?” Billy Bob asked. “I fix a mean breakfast.”
“Not early,” Stone said. “Kitchen’s on the ground floor; help yourself.” He let the elevator door close and headed for his own room, thinking only of how to get the man out of his house at the earliest possible moment the following morning.
STONE WAS WAKENED by the smell of seared meat. He rolled over and checked the bedside clock: 8:30 A.M. He had overslept. He struggled out of bed, got into a robe and walked downstairs to the kitchen.
Billy Bob Barnstormer was standing before the Viking range, turning over a thick strip steak on the integral gas grill, while stirring something in a saucepan on an adjacent burner. He looked over at Stone. “Hey! G’mornin’! I didn’t wake you up, did I?”
“You did. What are you doing?” Stone looked at the steaks; he had bought them at Grace’s Marketplace, at hideous expense, with the idea of cooking them in the company of a woman he knew.
“Why, I’m just rustlin’ up some grub for us,” Billy Bob said. “I had to go with what I could find in the icebox, ’cept for the grits. I brought those with me.”
“You travel with grits?” Stone asked.
“Only when I go north,” Billy Bob explained. “You cain’t get ’em up here. How you like your beef cooked?”
“Medium to medium rare,” Stone said, annoyed with himself for cooperating in this endeavor. “I’m not sure I can eat a steak at this hour of the day.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll have the grits and some eggs to cut the grease. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, y’know.” Billy Bob picked up a bowl of what looked like a dozen eggs, whisked them briefly with a fork and dumped them into a skillet holding a quarter pound of melted butter. “Have a seat,” he said. “Oughta be two minutes, now.” He turned the steaks again.
Stone got a container of fresh orange juice out of the Sub-Zero and poured two glasses, put some coffee on, then set the table and sat down. Reconsidering, he got up and found two steak knives, then sat down again.
Billy Bob forked the steaks onto the two plates, then scooped out some grits, then filled the unoccupied portion of the plates with scrambled eggs. He took a bottle of Tabasco sauce and sprinkled it liberally over his eggs, but when he tried for Stone’s plate, Stone snatched it away.
“Hold the Tabasco,” Stone said. “You’re trying to put me in the hospital, aren’t you?”
“Aw, it’s good for you.” Billy Bob sat down and sawed his steak in half. It was blood rare, blue in the middle.
So was Stone’s. He got up and put it back on the grill, then sat down and started on his eggs and grits.
“You like your meat burnt, then?” Billy Bob asked through a mouthful of food.
“I like it medium to medium rare,” Stone said, getting up and flipping the steak. He waited another couple of minutes, then removed the meat to his plate.
“Real nice morning out there.” Billy Bob said. “I brought in your paper.”
“The forecast for this morning was six degrees Fahrenheit,” Stone said.
“Yeah, I guess it’s about that,” Billy Bob agreed.
“You call that a real nice morning?”
“Well, the sun’s shining bright,” Billy Bob said. “That’s good enough for me.”
“Did you come to New York without an overcoat?” Stone asked.
“I never really needed one,” Billy Bob said. “I spent a week in Nome, Alaska, on an oil deal once, in the middle of the winter, and I got by all right without one. What’d you do with my gun?”
“I locked it in my safe,” Stone said. “You can have it back when you’re on your way out of town.”
“You folks sure are fussy about what a man carries,” Billy Bob said.
“It’s not us folks; it’s the NYPD.”
“You’re my lawyer; get me a license for the thing.”
“You have no idea what you’re asking,” Stone said. “The process is so long and drawn out that most people stop when they see the forms. And in the end, you only get it if you can prove you carry diamonds or large amounts of cash.”
“How large is a large amount of cash?”
“I don’t know, fifty grand, maybe.”
“Well, shoot, I’m carrying that right now. I mean, it’s in my briefcase. That’s pocket money where I come from.”
“In New York it’s an invitation to get hit over the head. You think that had anything to do with your getting shot at last night?”
“You know, I’ve been thinking on that, and you know what? Them bullets was fired at your side of the car.”
Stone stopped eating. ̶
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