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Authors: Stuart Woods

Collateral Damage

BOOKS BY STUART WOODS

FICTION

Severe Clear

Unnatural Acts

D.C. Dead

Son of Stone

Bel-Air Dead

Strategic Moves

Santa Fe Edge
§

Lucid Intervals

Kisser

Hothouse Orchid*

Loitering with Intent

Mounting Fears

Hot Mahogany

Santa Fe Dead
§

Beverly Hills Dead

Shoot Him If He Runs

Fresh Disasters

Short Straw
§

Dark Harbor

Iron Orchid*

Two-Dollar Bill

The Prince of Beverly Hills

Reckless Abandon

Capital Crimes

Dirty Work

Blood Orchid*

The Short Forever

Orchid Blues*

Cold Paradise

L.A. Dead

The Run

Worst Fears Realized

Orchid Beach*

Swimming to Catalina

Dead in the Water

Dirt

Choke

Imperfect Strangers

Heat

Dead Eyes

L.A. Times

Santa Fe Rules
§

New York Dead

Palindrome

Grass Roots

White Cargo

Deep Lie

Under the Lake

Run Before the Wind

Chiefs

TRAVEL

A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland (1979)

MEMOIR

Blue Water, Green Skipper

 

*A Holly Barker Novel


A Stone Barrington Novel


A Will Lee Novel

§
An Ed Eagle Novel

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa), Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa • Penguin China, B7 Jiaming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2013 by Stuart Woods

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. Published simultaneously in Canada

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Woods, Stuart.

Collateral damage : a Stone Barrington novel / Stuart Woods.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-60913-2

1. Barrington, Stone (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Private investigators—New York (State)—New York—Fiction. 3. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. 4. Mystery fiction. I. Title.

PS3573.O642C67 2012 2012037742

813'.54—dc23

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.

Contents

Also by Stuart Woods

Title Page

Copyright

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Elaine’s, late.

Stone Barrington opened the taxi door. “Wait for me,” he said. “I won’t be long.” He got out of the cab and looked around. The yellow awning was gone, but “Elaine’s” was still painted on the darkened windows. A film of soap obscured the interior, but Stone found a bare spot and put his hands up to shield from the glare. What he saw was, in short, nothing.

The book jackets, photographs, and posters that had adorned the walls for forty-seven years were gone. The bar and mirrors behind it were still there, but there were no stools. The dining room contained no tables or chairs and no blue-checkered tablecloths. The two old pay phones still hung on the wall near the cashier’s stand at the bar; they had always been the only phones in the place.

For a tiny moment Stone could hear the babble of a crowded room, chairs scraping, people calling the length of the room to say hello to a friend. Then a passing bus obliterated the sounds and returned Stone to the present. He got back into the cab and gave the driver his home address.

His cell phone buzzed at his belt. “Hello?”

“It’s Dino. Where are you?”

“At Elaine’s.”

A brief silence, then: “You shouldn’t do that.”

“You’re right,” Stone said. “The memory is better than the reality. Have you had dinner?”

“I was just thinking about it.”

“Where’s Viv?”

“She’s working.”

“Come over and I’ll make you some pasta.”

“You, yourself?”

“Me, myself. I can cook, you know.”

“There was a rumor, but I never believed it.”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Okay. Oh, how are we dressing?”

“Unarmed,” Stone said.

“I’m always armed.”

“Then you can check your gun at the door.”

“Whatever you say.”

“How late is Viv working?”

“Until ten.”

“Tell her to come over after, and I’ll save her something.”

“I’ll see if she’s brave enough.”

“See ya.” Stone hung up.


At home, he shucked off his jacket in the kitchen and checked the fridge. It was stuffed, as usual. Helene was an overshopper, and she liked to be ready for anything.

Stone found some Italian sausages, some mushrooms, some broccoli rabe, and some garlic. He sliced the sausages and tossed them into a skillet with a little olive oil, and they began to sizzle. He ran some water into a pot and put it on to boil for the pasta. He found some ziti in a cupboard and tossed it into the boiling water, then he chopped some onion and the garlic and tossed them into the pan with the sausages, followed by the mushrooms and rabe.

Dino came into the kitchen and tossed his coat on a chair. “Jesus, that smells pretty good,” he admitted.

“Be ready in ten, fifteen minutes,” Stone said. “Pour us a drink.”

Dino went to the kitchen bar, filled a pair of glasses with ice, then filled one with his usual Johnnie Walker Black scotch and the other with Stone’s Knob Creek bourbon, then handed it to Stone. “Okay, what was the place like?”

“Bereft of all humankind and Elaine. Bereft of everything, come to that.” The contents of the place had been sold at auction, along with Elaine’s personal effects. Stone had bid on some books but didn’t get them.

“You know,” Dino said, taking a bite of his scotch, “I think she’d be happy that we can’t find a new place.”

“She wasn’t that mean-spirited,” Stone pointed out.

“She was about other joints. I’m still afraid to go to Elio’s.” Elio was a former Elaine’s headwaiter who had opened his own restaurant a couple of blocks down Second Avenue.

“Yeah, me too. I only went once, just to say hello to Elio, but I never let her find out. She would have stabbed me with a fork.”

“Or worse.”

Stone found a hunk of Parmigianino-Reggiano in the fridge and dug the grater out of a drawer. He drained the pasta, forked some onto two plates, dumped some sausage onto the plates and grated a lot of the cheese over them, then he set them on the table and got a bottle of Amarone out of the wine closet and opened it. “Sit yourself down,” he said.

Dino did, and they both ate hungrily.


When Viv showed up, they hadn’t even cleared the table; they were just sitting there, drinking and talking.

“Just like Elaine’s,” Viv said. “Without Elaine.”

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