Authors: Stuart Woods
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?”
? 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
“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
. 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
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?”
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 didn’t 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
“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.”
“So, you got rich honestly?”
“I’m afraid so. Do you find that surprising?”
“Sort of. I always thought rich people were sort of crooked.”
“A lot of rich people are, I guess.”
“About fifty-fifty, in my experience.”
“How do you tell the difference?”
“The dishonest ones try to get you to be dishonest. They always have a hot stock tip or a horse race or a law that’s fixed, or so they tell you. Sometimes they’re running a Ponzi scheme.”
“It’s named after a man named Ponzi. What he did was to talk people into investing with him, then sending them a fat check every month, but he wasn’t investing their money. He was using the money of new investors to pay the old ones, and he kept a lot of it for himself.”
“How can you tell if you’re investing in a Ponzi scheme?”
“If you’re getting a fat check every month, you’re a victim. No investment company can return ten or fifteen percent.”
“Suppose I invested in a company like that. Should I pull out?”
“As fast as you can.”
“What if they won’t return my money?”
“Oh, they will, but it will be the money of other investors. If they fail the payout, then you’ll tell all your friends and they’ll tell their friends, and pretty soon the Ponzi guy is either in jail or on a plane to Rio. He wants to keep the ball rolling.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Tink, have you invested in something that sounds like that?”
“Tell me about it.”
“You just told me. It sounds just like that.”
“Do you get a monthly statement from these people?”
“Yes.” She got out of bed, found her handbag, rummaged in it and brought Stone an envelope.
Stone looked at the return address:
One Vanderbilt Avenue
“Uh-oh,” he said, and took a sheet of paper from the envelope.
“Just a minute.” Stone ran a finger down a column of figures. “You’ve got over three hundred thousand dollars invested with these people?”
“Not people, just the guy.”
Stone looked at the letterhead.
Zanian Growth Fund, One Vanderbilt Avenue.
“His name is Viktor Zanian. He’s from an old New York Dutch family.”
“Did you ever look him up in the phone book?”
“What phone book? There’s no phone book anymore.”
“Did you look on the Internet?”
“Yeah, he’s got a sort of hidden website.”
“I’ll bet he does.”
“Do you think he might be crooked?”
“Oh, yes, I think he might just be very crooked.”
“For all the reasons I just told you, and one more.”
“Do you know what One Vanderbilt Avenue is?”
“An office building?”
“One Vanderbilt Avenue is the street address of Grand Central Station. This is a mail drop.”
“It’s a mailbox—a private service. You can rent one and use that address. Just don’t ever try to visit his office.”
“Oh, my God,” she muttered.
Once at his desk, Stone called Charley Fox, with whom he was a partner in an investment firm, Triangle Investments, along with Mike Freeman, CEO of Strategic Services, the world’s second-largest security firm.
“Morning, Charley, it’s Stone.”
“Charley, have you ever heard of a guy named Zanian?” He spelled it.
“I knew a guy named Viktor Zanian, who was at Goldman Sachs when I was.”
“How would you characterize him?”
“Tricky,” Charley replied. “I’d call him worse, if I had the evidence.”
“What do you mean?”
“He left Goldman under a cloud, as they say, but I never understood what kind of cloud. There were rumors, all of them unfavorable, but I never got the whole story. Why are you asking?”
“A young lady of my acquaintance has an investment account with him, and she gets a fat check every month, more than her investment, three hundred grand, would support.”
“Uh-oh. Sounds as though old Vik is running a Ponzi scheme.”
“That’s pretty much what I said when I heard. How do I get her out, clean?”
“Tell her to write him a letter on her printed letterhead, instructing him to close her accounts and wire the funds to her bank account. I’m assuming she has one. Tell her to make it friendly and nonconfrontational, just to say that she needs her funds immediately, but that she may be able to reinvest them with him later. She should send the letter by registered mail.”
“And if there’s no response, or an unsatisfactory one?”
“Tell her to call and write the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement department, but not to hold her breath. Also, if she gets her money back, tell her not to spread any rumors about Zanian. If she does, he’ll trace them back to her.”
“Is he the type to exact revenge?”
“He’s the type who knows people who’ll do it for him.”
Stone hung up, dictated a letter for Tink’s signature and told Joan to craft a letterhead for her and print it out for use. Then he called Tink.
“Hey, there,” she said. “Missing any valuables?”
“I haven’t checked, yet. But I’d like you to come by my office and sign a letter that I have written for you, getting you out of Zanian’s fund.”
“Oh, I won’t be needing that.”
“I talked to Mr. Zanian this morning. He assured me that everything is running normally, and I had no need to be concerned about my investment with him.”
“I’m sorry you did that, Tink. I did some checking on Mr. Zanian this morning, and it’s important that you get out immediately.”
“What did you hear?”
“Let’s call it a case of worst fears realized.”
“Oh, Stone, you’re such an alarmist. I’m a very good judge of character, and Mr. Zanian is the genuine article.”
“The genuine what?”
“Article. Good as gold.”
“Do you have anyone’s word for this, except that of Mr. Zanian?”
“I don’t need that. I told you, I’m a great judge of character.”
“That’s what people always say when they are poor judges of character.”
“Well, that’s insulting.”
“Please regard it as merely intuitive. Tink, if you’re at home in bed, and the fire alarm goes off in your building, what would be your first move? Two choices: leave the building immediately or unplug the alarm?”
“You’re just annoyed because I won’t take your advice.”
“I have a secondary recommendation.”
“Oh, good. What is it?”
“When Mr. Zanian vanishes and your money with him, report it immediately to the Security and Exchange Commission’s enforcement department. Oh, and don’t call me.”
“Goodbye, Stone,” she said cheerfully, then hung up.
“SHIT!” Stone yelled into the ether.
“I beg your pardon?” Joan was standing in the doorway.
“Someone has just refused to take my advice.”
“The person for whom you’ve typed up the letter.”
“What shall I do with it?”
“Mail it to her, along with a stamped envelope addressed to Mr. Viktor—with a
—Zanian, One Vanderbilt Avenue.”
“You know that’s not a real address, don’t you? It’s a mail drop.”
“It’s where Mr. Zanian gets his mail, as far as I know.”
“You know, I have an old college friend who’s investing with that guy.”
“Type her up a copy of the same letter and send it to her. The sooner she’s out, the better.”
“Do you have any evidence for this?”
“Charley Fox suspects him.”
“Oh. In that case, I’ll send her the letter.” She left the room.
“SHIT!” Stone shouted again.