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Authors: Stuart Woods

Criminal Mischief (23 page)

BOOK: Criminal Mischief
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2

Fred delivered Stone and Dino to the Strategic Services hangar at Teterboro that morning at ten. Stone climbed the airstairs door while the ground crew dealt with his luggage. He found a large man with a lump under his arm standing guard over the door to the third compartment.

“The ground crew will need to get in there to stow the luggage aft,” he said to the man, who thought about it, then opened the door a crack, said something, and closed it again. “The person is in the toilet,” he said. “Your people may enter with the luggage.” He opened the door and stood back.

“Thank you so much,” Stone said, motioning the ground crew aft toward the luggage compartment. During the process, which took about a minute and a half, the guard remained, his back against the restroom door. When the luggage was stowed, he rapped twice on the toilet door, then stepped back into cabin two and closed the door behind him.

The airplane began to move, being towed by a tractor onto the ramp outside.

“We’re about to start engines,” Stone said. “Your work is done.”

The man opened the door again, said a few words, then closed it and left the airplane.

Stone went to the cockpit door. “Start engines,” he said, then took his seat opposite Dino. Viv was winging her way somewhere else.

“Any news on the cargo?” Dino asked.

“Not until we’re out of New York air space,” Stone reminded him.

“I forgot. The suspense is killing me.”

“Yeah. Me, too,” Stone replied.

Shortly, the airplane turned onto runway one and began to pick up speed. Seconds later, the pilot lifted off and the airplane climbed. At a couple thousand feet they got a vector and turned east.

“When does New York air space end?” Dino asked.

“I’m not sure. Let’s call it Montauk.”

“Okay with me.”

As they passed Montauk Point, the eastern tip of Long Island, the airplane was climbing through fifteen thousand feet, according to the display screen on the forward bulkhead. It continued to climb.

“Okay, that’s it,” Stone said. He unbuckled, got up, and walked to the third compartment door and knocked. There was a delay, then the door opened.

Stone knew her from somewhere. Model, he thought, but not recently. She wore pants and a silk blouse and had a sweater tied around her shoulders. “Yes?” she said.

“My name is Stone Barrington,” he said. “I am your host. Would you like to join a friend and me up front? It’s more comfortable there.”

“Give me a minute or two,” she replied, then closed the door.

Stone returned to his seat. “Okay,” he said to Dino. “Female, fortyish, five-ten, beautifully dressed. I know her from somewhere, but I can’t remember where. She’ll join us shortly.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all I’ve got. You can grill her.”

The woman came forward, her hair brushed and her makeup refreshed. Now she looked thirty-ish. “Good morning,” she said tentatively. I’m Jenna Jacoby.”

“Jenna, this is Dino Bacchetti.”

“You’re a policeman, aren’t you?” she asked, shaking his hand.

“Dino is
the
policeman,” Stone said. “New York City’s police commissioner.”

“Ah, yes,” she said, taking a seat. “And, Mr. Barrington, who are you?”

“Please call me Stone.”

“I’m sorry. I meant to ask,
what
are you.”

“I am an attorney, with the law firm of Woodman & Weld.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“We like to think so.”

“Of course.”

“You are a model, are you not?”


Was
a model, some years ago.”

“How have you occupied yourself since then?”

She started to speak, then stopped. “I nearly said, ‘Housewife,’ ” she said, “but that would not be accurate. My occupation, until this airplane passed Montauk Point, was the care and feeding of a United States senator.”

Stone’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know of a Senator Jacoby.”

“That’s my maiden name, which I have readopted,” she said. “His name was—is—Wallace Slade, Republican of Texas.”

Stone tried not to make a face. “Oh, yes.”

“I understand. Many people find the mention of his name distasteful,” she said. “I am one of them.”

“I see. Is that why you are . . . traveling with us today?”

“Not just the fact of being married to him. That’s bad enough. But there have been two attempts on my life since I announced my intention to divorce him.”

“What was the nature of those attempts?” Stone asked. “If you will pardon my asking.”

“No pardon necessary. On the first occasion, I was driving my car, a convertible, and another car drew alongside of me and threw a considerable amount of a liquid into my car. I braked and got behind him, then I noticed that the seat fabric next to me was smoking and being eaten into. I got to a gas station, called a friend, and abandoned the car. The second time was when a man approached me in the parking lot of a shopping mall and fired a shot at me.”

“What was the result of that?”

“I shot him dead,” she replied, matter-of-factly. “One round just above his left eyebrow. He collapsed and didn’t move again.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes. The first thing they asked me was why didn’t I call them after the first attempt.”

“What was your reply?”

“I told them the truth: I was too shaken to remember to do that.”

“What period of time elapsed between the two attempts?”

“Ten days, two weeks.”

“And were you in Washington at the time? Or in Texas?”

“I was at our ranch in Texas, where a phone call from my husband is enough to steer any investigation in whatever direction he wishes. The second attempt was outside Neiman Marcus, in Dallas.”

“What was your husband’s reaction when you told him about the attempts?”

“A failure to seem surprised.”

Stone nodded. “Would you like some breakfast or lunch?”

“Lunch, please. Then I’ll tell you the rest.”

To learn more about and to buy
A Safe House
, please visit
prh.com/asafehouse
.

About the Author

Stuart Woods
is the author of more than eighty-five novels, including the #1
New York Times
-bestselling Stone Barrington series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry.
Chiefs
, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in Florida, Maine, and Connecticut.

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BOOK: Criminal Mischief
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