Authors: Stuart Woods
A Delicate Touch*
Quick & Dirty*
Fast & Loose*
Below the Belt*
Sex, Lies & Serious Money*
Cut and Thrust*
Doing Hard Time*
Son of Stone*
Santa Fe Edge
Loitering with Intent*
Santa Fe Dead
Beverly Hills Dead
Shoot Him If He Runs*
Two Dollar Bill*
The Prince of Beverly Hills
The Short Forever*
Worst Fears Realized*
Swimming to Catalina*
Dead in the Water*
Santa Fe Rules
New York Dead*
Under the Lake
Run Before the Wind
(with Parnell Hall)
(with Parnell Hall)
The Money Shot**
(with Parnell Hall)
(with Parnell Hall)
(with Parnell Hall)
A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland
Blue Water, Green Skipper
*A Stone Barrington Novel
An Ed Eagle Novel
A Holly Barker Novel
A Will Lee Novel
**A Teddy Fay Novel
A Herbie Fisher Novel
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Publishers Since 1838
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Copyright © 2021 by Stuart Woods
A Safe House
copyright © 2022 by Stuart Woods
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780593331729
Ebook ISBN: 9780593331736
Cover illustration: Mike Heath
Cover image: Patrick Poendl / Shutterstock
Book design by Laura K. Corless, adapted for ebook by Maggie Hunt
Title page: Desert landscape © kamin Jaroensuk / shutterstock.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is for Stephanie Walters, with
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
“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.