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Authors: Stuart Woods

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5

Stone called Dino.

“Bacchetti.”

“You get anything on Viktor Zanian, yet?”

“I’ll tell you about it over dinner.”

“Do we have a dinner date?”

“We do now. Caravaggio, at seven.”

“Who’s buying?”

“You are.”

“Didn’t I buy last time?”

“Picky, picky, picky. See you at seven.” Dino hung up.


Stone’s drink and Dino arrived at the same moment, and it took only another moment to find Dino’s Scotch. They drank.

“So,” Dino said, “whaddaya hear from Tink Dorsey?”

“This isn’t about Tink,” Stone said.

“It is now. She’s why you want to know about Zanian.”

“Am I supposed to tell you something about Tink, or are you supposed to tell me something about Zanian?”

“You first.”

“I checked with Charley Fox about Zanian and he gave the guy a bad report,” Stone said. “So, I wrote a letter for Tink’s signature, pulling her out of his fund, but she wouldn’t sign it. Said she spoke with Zanian this morning, and he said everything was fine. And she believed him, because she’s a ‘great judge of character.’ ”

Dino laughed aloud. “Tink really said that?”

“She really did.”

“And I bet you’re not getting laid anymore.”

“That hasn’t come up yet.”

“Don’t worry, it will.”

“You have a dark outlook, Dino,” Stone said.

“That’s because I’m a great judge of character.”

Stone winced. “Whose character are we discussing at the moment?”

“Yours.”

“Why mine?”

“You’re the one who’s trying to manipulate Tink.”

“No, that would be Zanian.”

“But he’s a good guy. Tink said so.”

“Whose judgment would you trust between Tink and Charley Fox, who worked at Goldman when Zanian got fired?”

“Does that make Charley a superior judge of character to Tink?”

“Charley was working on information gained in the same workplace. Tink is relying on charm.”

“Isn’t that how you got her into the sack?” Dino asked.

“That’s different. We’re talking money here.”

“You think money had nothing to do with your getting Tink in the sack?”

“We didn’t discuss money. At that time.”

“Stone, any woman who took a stroll around your house would think you were awash in money.”

“Now we’re on the subject of my tastes in interior design?”

“Why not?”

“We were talking about Zanian.”

“I thought we were talking about Tink,” Dino said.

“We were talking about getting Tink and her money out of the clutches of Zanian, who is running a Ponzi scheme. At least, I was talking about that. And am. Do you want to see Tink lose all her hard-earned three hundred grand?”

“That brings up another matter. How did Tink earn the three hundred grand?”

“Dino, I don’t care how she earned it. I just don’t want her to lose it.”

“As far as I can tell, the woman has no visible means of support.”

“All the more important for her not to lose what she’s got. And what do you care about the visibility of her support?”

“Do you think she’s a high-priced hooker?” Dino asked.

“Do you know how long it would take a high-priced hooker to turn three hundred grand’s worth of tricks?”

“No, do you?”

“No, and I don’t care.”

“But you care so deeply about Tink. Or, at least, about her three hundred grand.”

“I don’t care about her money.”

“Then why are you so interested in protecting it?”

“I’m interested in protecting Tink. It’s the same thing.”

“I could argue that point,” Dino said, “but not without another drink.”

Stone raised a finger, and a waiter leapt into action.

Dino took a swig. “Where were we?”

“I’ve no idea,” Stone said.

“Have you ever heard of somebody named Sean Delaney?” Dino asked.

“I may be a little confused by now,” Stone said, “but I’m absolutely certain we were not talking about somebody named Sean Delaney.”

“Why are you so certain we’re not talking about Sean Delaney?”

“Because I’ve never heard of him.”

“That doesn’t mean we couldn’t be talking about him.”

“Is he related to Tink Dorsey?”

“You could say that.”

“No,
you
could say that. I’ve never heard of him, so I can’t say that.”

“He’s Tink’s old man.”

“In what context?”

“What do you mean, ‘in what context’?”

“Is he her sugar daddy or her rich uncle?”

“Neither. He’s a very slick con man.”

“Why do I care?”

“Because you care about Tink.”

“Is he trying to con her?”

“Of course not, why would he do that? He’s her father.”

Stone blinked. “Tink’s father is a con man?”

“How do you think she got so good at it?”

“Are you saying that Tink is a con girl?”

“Con woman would be more au courant,” Dino said, “not to mention woke.”

“Why do you think this?”

“She could be in cahoots with Viktor Zanian.”

“ ‘In cahoots’? She’s his victim or is about to be.”

“Maybe.”

“ ‘Maybe’? Do you know something I don’t know?”

“Stone, I know one hell of a lot that you don’t know.”

“Don’t change the subject. We were on Viktor Zanian for a minute there.”

“You didn’t catch the six-thirty news tonight, did you?”

“No, I was coming here at that time. What did I miss?”

“You missed a very nice shot of the front door of Viktor Zanian’s offices, if he has one, with a big chain and padlock on it, not to mention a warrant taped to the glass.”

Stone started to say something, but Dino held up a hand. “The feds fell on Zanian from a great height,” he said.

“When?”

“About the time you were tying your necktie.”

“Has Tink heard?”

“I’ve no idea.”

Stone’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and he fished it out and peered at the screen. “It’s Tink,” he said.

“Uh-oh.”

6

Stone pressed the button. “Hello?”

“ ‘Hello’? Is that all you’ve got to say?”

“So far,” Stone replied. “What’s up?”

“You can say that to me?”

“I just made the attempt. Listen, we’re just sitting down to dinner. Can we talk later?”

“ ‘Later’? You think that will do?”

“Tink, this is your phone call. What is it about?”

“Did you watch the evening news?”

“No, I was dressing to go out about that time.”

“What kind of lawyer are you, anyway?”

“One who dresses before going out to dinner.”

“Where are you?”

“I’d tell you, if you promised not to come here, but you’d come anyway, wouldn’t you?”

“In my current state of mind, yes, probably.”

“What is your current state of mind?”

Tink searched for a word. “Bereft,” she said, finally.

“Have you been left in a basket on somebody’s doorstep?”

“This is no time to make bad jokes.”

“I’m doing the best I can with the straight lines I’m being given. Toss me another one, and I’ll try to improve.”

“You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?”

“What has happened? Sorry, I’m working without a net here.”

“Zanian has happened.”

“I messengered you an envelope at midafternoon. Have you opened it and read the contents?”

“Not yet.”

“This would be a good time. Call me back when you’ve read and digested it.” He hung up.

“How bad is it?” Dino asked.

“Bad. I can’t get her to speak the words.”

“Hard to imagine her at a loss for words.”

“Not exactly a loss. She just can’t bring herself to speak them in the proper order.” His phone rang. “Hello?”

“This is so typical,” she hissed.

“You haven’t known me long enough to know what is typical for me.”

“Trying to weasel out of it. Typical lawyer.”

“Did you read the document?”

Silence.

“The one with my signature at the bottom?”

More silence.

“I believe I expressed my concern that you were dealing with a
dishonest person and should extricate your funds from his grasp at the earliest possible moment.”

“I don’t see the word ‘dishonest’ in this document.”

“I believe I gave you the best advice I could in the circumstances, but you assured me that Mr. Zanian is ‘good as gold.’ I believe that was the expression you used.”

“I knew you would throw that back at me.”

“Then you’re a better judge of character than I realized.”

“That, too.”

“How can I help you, Tink? Right now, I mean.”

“I need a course of action.”

“I believe my recommended course of action was included in my letter.”

“That’s useless to me now.”

“Perhaps it would have been more useful to you at two o’clock this afternoon, when you signed for the letter then didn’t bother to open and read it.”

“It’s useless.”

“Good legal advice is always useless, until it is employed. If you ignore it, as you did, bad things can happen.” Stone held his hand over the phone and said to Dino. “I think tears will happen about now.”

Tink began to bawl. “You bastard!” she screamed.

“Tink, please get some rest and call me tomorrow, and we’ll see what can be done. Good night.” He hung up and switched off the phone.

“What can you possibly do tomorrow?” Dino asked.

“Absolutely nothing, but maybe she’ll be in a better frame of mind to deal with it.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Dino said, handing him the menu.

“I’ll have the risotto del mare,” Stone said. “And I will choose the wine, because I’m paying for it.”

“I’ll be happy with the Montrachet,” Dino said.

“My purpose in life is not to make you happy,” Stone said, “at least, not
that
happy. You can get just as drunk on a nice California chardonnay.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To get me drunk?”

“Not particularly, but you drunk is better than Tink sober.”

7

She waited until he was in the middle of breakfast to call.

Stone picked up the phone. “Not until after breakfast,” he said, then hung up and finished breakfast.

She rang again.

“I’m not even dressed yet,” he said.

“I don’t care. I need to know what to do.”

“I included instructions about that in my letter. They still apply.”

“What is the SEC going to do for me?”

“Put you on a list—a longer list than it would have been yesterday—and if they ever convict Zanian and get some of the money back, you’ll get some of it.”

“How long will that take?”

“A year or two, depending on how long it takes to catch Zanian and how much money he has left.”

“Isn’t that hopeless?”

“Maybe not. Would you rather have a third of your money back or none at all?”

“What kind of choice is that?”

“One where you have some money and another where you have none.”

“You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?”

“I won’t entertain that question. Anything else?”

“No.”

“Then you’d better start communicating with the SEC.”

“Will you do that for me?”

“You can’t afford my services. Do it yourself.”

She hung up more quietly this time. Stone got into a shower.


Back at his desk, Joan buzzed him. “Dino on one.”

Stone pressed the button. “Yo.”

“What does that mean?”

“Nobody knows. It doesn’t mean yes; it doesn’t mean no.”

“I suppose you’ve heard from Miss Tink this morning.”

“Yes.”

“Is she any better?”

“I think she has finally grasped the reality of her situation, and that’s probably something new for her.”

“I guess that means she really was conned. Did you see the CNN shots this morning of Zanian getting off a Gulfstream in Rio?”

“I missed that. Did he steal enough to buy a Gulfstream?”

“The little one, which isn’t so little.”

“Anything on how much he walked away with?”

“There was less than half a million in his New York bank account, which means he moved it offshore early on.”

“Yeah,” Stone said. “Gulfstream won’t give you an airplane if you give them a bad check.”

“I guess he could have bought a used one, like you.”

“I guess, but it wouldn’t be as nice as mine. Has anybody tried to kidnap Zanian yet?” Stone asked.

“Nothing out there about that. You think he’s a candidate for kidnapping?”

“I’d bet there’s a team being assembled now, not that it would do them any good. The money is probably in Macao or the Dutch East Indies by now.”

“Well, they could have the fun of torturing him for the account numbers,” Dino said.

“Tink would gleefully join in that activity.”

“Well, after all, he told her he was a good guy, didn’t he? The memory of all that will light her fuse. Are you going to help her?”

“What can I do, apart from joining the kidnap team?”

“Isn’t there some lawyer thing you can work?”

“It’s hard to sue a guy who’s in a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S. About all you could do is shoot him, and you can’t extradite a corpse or its money, either.”

“This just in,” Dino said. “Reuters is reporting that Zanian could have got away with as much as six hundred million dollars.”

“Then he could afford a
new
Gulfstream.”

“He probably borrowed the money,” Dino said.

“If that’s the case, his bank already has people out there looking to steal the airplane back, although they’d call it a repo. No, if Zanian is smart enough to steal that much money, then he’s smart enough to hide it, and in an airplane is a good place.”

“What would he do for ready cash?”

“A ready bank down the street from wherever he is. Also, he would have bolted a concealed safe to the airframe, so he can bribe his way into his next destination. I had a client once who was a director of a big pharma company, and they sent him on a tour of their African branches with three hundred grand in a safe, just for bribes. There wasn’t much left when he got back.”

“Well,” Dino said. “It’s nice to hear that the American dollar is still good for
something
.”

“Of course, he’s probably bought a lot of Bitcoin,” Stone said.

“What do you know about Bitcoin?”

“Not a thing. I don’t understand it. I just threw that in because it sounds good.”

“Just as I thought.”

“I just thought of something,” Dino said.

“Dare I ask?”

“How are you going to get laid, if you can’t get Tink’s money back?”

“I was afraid you’d bring that up.”

“What are the chances?”

“Pretty near zero right now.”

“Well, you can always consult the little black book and dredge up somebody from the past.”

“The past is past; I’d rather keep looking ahead.”

“That’s a good excuse for not scoring. Viv has a friend she keeps
talking about hooking you up with,” Dino said. “She gets home tomorrow. Want me to ask her about it?”

“Not yet. Let’s wait until I’m really desperate.”

“You sound really desperate now.”

“All right, mention it to her. Does this woman have a name?”

“Kitty Crosse, with an
e
.”

“Sounds like a sex position.”

“That’s up to you two. I’ll see what Viv can do.”

“See ya.” Stone hung up.

Immediately, Joan buzzed him. “Tink for you on one.”

“Tell her I had a heart attack and died.”

“She said that she promises this will be her last call to you.”

“That might be worth taking,” Stone said. He pushed the button. “You promise this is the last call?”

“It is. I just want to apologize for hanging all this on you. You tried to help me, and I blew you off. I want you to know I’m sorry. You gave me good advice, and I ignored it.”

Stone was taken aback. “You’re serious?”

“I am. Can we have dinner soon?”

“What for?”

“Well, if you won’t see me, who am I going to fuck?”

“Tink, as much fun as that sounds, I’m going to have to pass. I’m seeing someone else now.”

“Oh, really? Who?”

“I’d rather not bring her into this conversation. I appreciate your apology, and I wish you well with getting your money back. Goodbye.”

“Whaaa

?”

Stone hung up before she could finish the word.

BOOK: Criminal Mischief
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