Authors: Stuart Woods
Stone tucked his weapon under his slicker to keep it dry and inside his waistband to keep it handy. Dino was wearing a shoulder holster.
They stepped off the back porch into a steady, heavy rain. There was an occasional flash of lightning, followed quickly by a crash of thunder. Gusts of wind occasionally blew. They walked, sometimes waded, along the fifty-yard gravel path to the yacht club. Stone could hear an occasional thump, and as they got nearer to the entrance, he could see the right half of the French doors, banging against the side of the building. Most of its glass panes were broken.
Dino got inside first, and Stone saw his flashlight come on. “Jesus Christ!” Dino yelled. Stone switched on his own flashlight and stepped inside, waving it around, “Oh, shit,” he said, as splashes of blood and gore on the walls came into
view. He moved the light’s beam down and began to see bodies on the floor—torn and twisted.
Dino was going from man to man and looking closer. “All of them are dead,” he said, feeling an occasional wrist or throat. “And cold. A couple of hours, maybe.”
“Freeze!” a man’s voice shouted.
“Bill?” Stone called.
“Stone Barrington and Dino Bacchetti. Don’t shoot us.”
Bill Wright, followed closely by Claire Dunn, came into the room, weapons drawn. “What the hell happened?” Bill asked. “We just got here on the ferry.”
“We just got here, too,” Stone replied. “Dino says they’re all dead, maybe for a couple of hours.”
The two Secret Service agents made their own quick check. “Where is Peregrine?” Bill asked, using Holly’s Secret Service code name.
“Upstairs at my house, with Viv Bacchetti.”
Bill made a move in that direction.
“Hold on!” Stone said.
The agents stopped.
“They’re both armed, and since they’re both ex-cops, they know how to handle themselves, so identify yourself before you go inside. Wait, I’ll let you in the back door.” Stone led the group back to the house and opened the rear door with his key. “Holly!” he shouted. “Where are you?”
“Upstairs!” Holly called back.
“Bill and Claire are with us. Don’t shoot anybody, it’s safe.”
“The hell it is,” Bill said.
Holly and Viv came down the stairs cautiously, guns in hand. “What’s wrong?” Holly asked.
“Everything,” Stone replied.
Bill grabbed the landline and started dialing numbers.
“Stone,” Holly said, “what’s going on?”
“There’s been an attack. Bill,” Stone said, “you’d better make your next call to the state police. This is their jurisdiction. I’ve got the number.” He began searching his contacts list.
“Fuck ’em,” Bill said, dialing another number. “Our people are federal employees, so the FBI has jurisdiction. I’ll do what I can, until they show up.” He went back to his phone call. “Jerry, this is Bill Wright, Secret Service. My detail for the president-elect has been attacked: six dead, no wounded.” He gave the man their location and directions, then hung up. “The FBI are getting their people down here from the state capital. Should be here in an hour.”
He made another call. “I want you to get that ferry over to the island stat,” he said into the phone. “If the crew has left for the day, roust ’em out and get them over here, but don’t make more of a fuss than you have to. We don’t want to call attention to ourselves.” He hung up.
Stone checked the weather radar on his cell phone. “Uh-oh,” he said. “When did anybody last look at the weather?”
“Last night,” Dino said. “Are you talking about Hurricane Zelda?”
“She’s going to pass east of Newfoundland.”
“Not anymore, Bill. She’s taken a left, and the eye will now pass west of Nova Scotia. That’s why we’re getting all these bands of rain.”
“We’re going to be in a hole, a quiet spot, in an hour or so, and the FBI chopper can’t leave until then. You’ve got some time to call whoever else you have to.
“The first order of business is to keep the president-elect safe,” Bill said.
“Accomplished,” Stone said. “There are six guns in this room, and whoever made that mess at the yacht club is gone. They must be in a boat, because the ferry has been inop. How did you get here?”
“They agreed to make a run when the wind dropped,” Bill said.
“What’s your plan?” Stone asked.
“We’ve got an unmarked helicopter at the airport, but it can’t fly until the weather passes, so we’re going immediately by car. You people pack your bags, and we’ll get everyone in our vehicles.”
Seth Hotchkiss came into the room. “Evening,” he said. “What time would you like dinner?”
“I don’t think we’re going to have time for dinner, Seth,” Stone said. “We’ll be leaving shortly.”
Seth nodded and left.
“Seth and his wife crossed on the ferry with us,” Bill said.
“All right,” Holly said. “Nobody’s going anywhere until I’ve been told what’s going on, so stop ignoring me. What mess at the yacht club?”
“Holly,” Stone said. “The rest of your detail has been shot and killed at the yacht club. How many, Bill?”
Holly stood, openmouthed. “We’d better get packed, then,” she said, finally.
A half hour later, the six of them were jammed into a large, three-rowed SUV, their luggage in another behind them, all waiting for the ferry to show. The weather had passed, for the moment, and visibility was fair.
“Where are we going, Bill?” Holly said.
“To our backup location; about a forty-five-minute drive from Lincolnville. We’ll do it in less than that.”
“You have a backup location already?”
“We’ve had it since I first heard about this trip,” he replied. “It was on a list we keep for possible hideouts. Don’t worry, you’ll be very comfortable there.”
The ferry hove into view, and minutes later they were crossing. Bill wouldn’t let anyone get out of the car on the crossing, and when they were ashore, the cars turned right, keeping their speed down until they were out of sight of Lincolnville.
“As soon as this hurricane passes, I’ll have to go to Washington,” Bill said.
“On the carpet?” Holly said.
“You guessed it.”
“Bill, you haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I’ve put the president-elect of the United States in jeopardy and lost six men.”
“It was a planned attack,” Stone said. “You couldn’t have foreseen that.”
“It’s my job to foresee, and I failed.”
The car sped up, and Stone saw the speedometer at eighty.
“I’m more concerned with how these people found us,” Stone said. “This was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and nobody could have known where we were going.”
“Somebody knew,” Bill said.
Everybody went quiet, and the big vehicle hurtled on through the night. They drove off the main highway and along a series of back roads, then made a right onto a larger road and crossed a short bridge. Stone looked around. “This is Mount Desert Island,” he said. Bill said nothing.
They drove through the village of Somesville, so Stone knew that Somes Sound was to their left. Shortly after leaving the village they turned left, in the direction of the water, and drove very slowly along a winding road with signs proclaiming a 15 mph speed limit.
Finally, they came to a gate, and another SUV, blocking it, drove out and parked in order to allow them to drive through. They climbed a cobblestone driveway and came to a halt before a columned entrance.
“Welcome to Broad Cove Cottage,” Bill said, and they all dismounted.
Right on cue, it began to rain again, and the wind was rising.
Stone and Holly were shown upstairs to a large master suite, with separate baths and dressing rooms. They showered and changed, then went downstairs, through a comfortable living room with many pictures, and into the kitchen, where Bill Wright sat at the kitchen table, making notes. There were two thick porterhouse steaks on the grill, sizzling, tended by an agent they hadn’t seen before.
“Come in and sit down, please,” Bill said. “That’s Jim,” pointing at the cook, “who’s in charge of feeding us. Dinner’s in about twenty minutes. Would you like a drink?”
Stone spotted a wet bar tucked into a corner and, after a nod from Holly, poured them both a Knob Creek on the rocks, then sat down.
“Let me try to bring you up to date,” Bill said. “First of
all, I spoke to my chief. I’m not being sacked; I’ll be with you for the duration.”
“The duration of what?” Holly asked.
“Of the hurricane, at the very least. Also, we can’t leave here until we have an operational plan to get you out of here.”
“To where?” Holly asked.
“Wherever you need to go. By the way, I spoke to the president a few minutes ago, and she’d like you to call her after dinner.” He gave her a slip of paper with a number on it and an iPhone. “This is your new phone. Much like the one you used at State, you can scramble when you speak to her.”
Holly tucked the phone and number into a jacket pocket.
“Now,” Bill said, “to address your question, Stone, about how our adversaries found us. It might not have been so hard. They could have followed us from the hotel. They could have had people at Teterboro who spotted you; same at Rockland, since you’re known to have a house up here. There’s no leak in our detail, because most of us are dead; Claire and I would have been, too, if we hadn’t been on the mainland.”
“That makes sense,” Stone said. “I suggest that, as soon as weather permits, we get Faith and your pilot, who are staying on the mainland, to move my airplane to Bar Harbor Airport, which is fifteen minutes from here. I have a hangar there. If anyone sees them leave Rockland, it won’t be obvious where they’re going. They won’t file a flight plan, and there’s no tower there.”
“Good idea. I’d rather fly out of here in your airplane than in a helicopter.” He checked his notes: “We have a detail of twelve here, and six, including Claire and me, will travel with you. We’ll be met at the other end, wherever that is, with a fresh team.”
“We can seat up to twelve,” Stone said. “That okay with you, Holly?”
“I expect so. Ask me sooner to the time.”
“Please, ma’am,” Bill said. “Please remember that—and I say this with the best intentions in the world—you’re not president yet, and I won’t take orders from you unless I agree with them.”
“Of course, Bill. I don’t mean to seem imperious.”
“Plenty of time for that later,” Bill said, smiling.
Claire came in through the rear door of the house and greeted them all.
“Now,” Bill said. “Commissioner and Mrs. Bacchetti are in the garden room, downstairs, and two agents are in the room next to theirs. Each has its own bath. Our off-duty people are in the guesthouse, and we’ve got two dogs, too; they’re out patrolling now.”
There were footsteps on the stairs and Dino and Viv came in and took seats at the table.
“We’re stuck here for a while,” Stone said.
Dino picked up a remote control and turned on the large TV next to the wet bar, then tuned in the Weather Channel and muted the sound. “Holy shit,” he said, looking at the mass on the screen.
“Exactly,” Bill said.
The cook/agent asked them to move while he set the table, and shortly, they were served the beef, roast potatoes, and green beans. Bill uncorked two bottles of wine. “We were told by the owners to help ourselves to their cellar,” he said.
They had a very good dinner, without much conversation, then Holly looked at her watch and said, “I’d better make that call.” She got up and took her phone into the living room next door.
Hello, Holly,” President Katharine Lee said.
“I’m relieved to hear that you’re all right.”
“Thank you, so am I.”
“You’re in good hands with Bill and Claire. They’ve been on the White House detail for some time now. Listen to them, and don’t countermand them unless you’re sure you’re right.”
“You’ve got good company in Stone and the Bacchettis, too, so you won’t be short on brains. Except for my husband and you, I value Stone’s judgment more than anyone else’s I can think of.”
“Thank you, Kate. Are Will and Billy all right?”
“They’re very well, thank you, and very concerned about your safety.”
“Thank them for me.”
“We’re going to withhold any announcement of what happened on Islesboro, in the hope that we can make progress in the investigation early on, so you won’t be seeing anything about it on TV. The weather and the small number of people on the island helped, too. Most of the winter residents left because of the hurricane, and by the time they get back, the yacht club will have been restored to its original condition.”
“That’s all to the good.”
“There’s no need to emerge from your seclusion for the time being. Go wherever you like, weather permitting.”
“I’ll say good night, then. Continued good luck.”
“Good night, Kate.” Holly hung up and went back to the kitchen, where she found blueberry pie being served.
“Everything okay?” Stone asked.
“Fine,” Holly replied. “They’re keeping all of this from the public for as long as possible. That will make it easier for us to move around.”
“I spoke to Faith and she and her copilot will move the airplane to Bar Harbor as soon as weather permits.”
From somewhere outside, they could hear the barking of a dog.
“Not to worry,” Bill said, “he’s not angry, just enthusiastic.”
“How can you tell?”
“You get to know their voices after a while, like that of an old friend.”
Stone woke a little before seven, as was his custom, and ran a finger down Holly’s spine. She turned and came into his arms. There was no talking, just plain, hungry sex, until they were both exhausted.
“I asked for breakfast up here at seven-thirty,” Holly said.
“You know me too well.”
“Why is it so dark at this hour?”
Stone got up, found the cord, and swept open twelve feet of curtains. It didn’t get much brighter in the room. Rain was still falling, sometimes traveling horizontally, and the large trees outside were bending with the wind. At the bottom of the large rear garden, which swept down to Broad Cove, he could see a dock, where a Hinckley motor yacht was moored, at times obscured by rain. The cove was sheltered
enough that the wind did not disturb it unduly, just created whitecaps.
“Wow!” Holly said, sitting up on the side of the bed. “So that’s what a Maine hurricane looks like.”
Stone turned on the TV and found the Weather Channel. “It’s not the whole thing, just the western edge.”
There was a knock at the door and a male voice shouted, “Breakfast!”
“Just a moment, please!” Holly shouted back. They both found robes in their respective dressing rooms, then she went to the door and let Jim, carrying a large tray, into the room. “Just set it on the bed, Jim,” she said, and he did, then left.
“Seven-thirty sharp,” Stone said.
They got back into bed and used their remote controls to raise them into sitting positions. Stone found a morning program and they listened to the news, while they tucked into their sausages and eggs.
Toward the end of the half hour, a good photograph of Holly appeared on-screen, and the young news reader said, “President-elect Holly Barker continues her disappearing act, having not been spotted anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard, or elsewhere for that matter. You go, girl!”
Holly got a laugh out of that.
“What do you want to do today?” Stone said.
“Oh, I don’t know, how about a long walk?”
Stone laughed. “Check in with me when you get back.”
“You mean you don’t want to be soaking wet and windburned?”
“I mean exactly that.”
“Well, there’s plenty to read,” she said, indicating the bookcase surrounding the TV.
“And there are more on the shelves on the landing, outside our door, and there’s a study somewhere downstairs.”
The lights and TV suddenly went out, but five seconds later they came back on.
“There’s a generator, just like at my house.”
The satellite TV took a minute or two to reset before the picture was restored.
There was another knock on the door.
“Come in!” Holly shouted.
Dino and Viv walked in. “Tennis, anyone?” Dino said.
“Water polo, more likely,” Stone replied.
“Viv has put a gun to my head and demanded a walk. So we’re going to take some boots and slickers from the mudroom two floors down and wander down the road, see who we see.”
“Better you than me,” Stone said.
“I’ll come,” Holly said. “Give me five minutes.” She headed for her dressing room with Viv tagging along.
Dino turned around one of the two armchairs facing the TV and sat down. “Well, it’s not exactly what we’d planned, is it?”
“None of it,” Stone said. “I think Holly’s still depressed about what happened to her detail. Thanks for suggesting the walk. I think trying not to drown will put her mind at ease for a while.”
“It is goddamned awful out there. Maybe I’ll let the two go by themselves.”
“There’ll be at least four agents along,” Stone said, “and maybe a dog. The summer people have gone, but maybe there’s a year-round resident or two. Tell her not to get recognized.”
“I think they should send an agent ahead to warn them if somebody pops up. Then they can turn back,” Dino said.
The women came back. “Ready, Dino?”
“I’m chickening out,” Dino said. “Send up a pot of coffee, will you? Maybe Stone and I can find an old movie on TV.”
As he said that, the picture on the TV seemed to shatter into pieces.
“Satellite TV doesn’t like heavy precip,” Stone said. “You’d better find a book.” He pointed at a long line of small books on the top shelf over the TV. “There’s the complete works of P. G. Wodehouse; that should keep you in laughs for a few weeks.”
“Suit yourself,” Holly said. “Oh, there’s something I want to show you, Stone, if you can get out of bed long enough.”
Stone struggled to his feet. “Lead on.”
She led him out of the room to the landing, where there was a pair of wing chairs and a bookcase covered a wall. “All World War II history and biography,” Holly said.
“Wonderful!” Stone enthused.
“But that’s not what I wanted to show you.” She took hold of the center of the bookcase and pulled. The case swung open, revealing a kitchenette and laundry room behind it.
“Ah, a good place for Dino and me to hide, if the bad guys show up.” She closed it again, making it a seamless bookcase again.
“We’re off,” Holly said, and she and Viv went downstairs. Stone and Dino went back into the bedroom, turned the chairs toward the TV, and pulled up their ottomans. Jim came in with a pot of coffee and cups and set it all on the table between them, then went back downstairs.
Dino poured them a cup each. “I’ve been talking with Bill Wright about who the assailants were on Islesboro.”
“He got a call from the FBI while we were talking. The Bureau thinks we’re dealing with some sort of militia—white supremacists, probably.”
“I suppose it could be.”
“They could be misogynists, as well,” Dino said. “The reasoning is that while having a woman as president was bad, having two in a row is intolerable. At least one group has been suggested by a watchdog group in Alabama, but nobody has taken credit.”
“Well, thank God for that,” Stone said. “If somebody takes credit, the media will know it happened and go nuts. That would make it a lot more difficult for us to move around, assuming we want to.”
“I think we should stay here for as long as everybody can stand it,” Dino said.
“Okay with me,” Stone said, “but eventually, cabin fever will set in, and we’ll have to find a new cabin.”