Authors: Stuart Woods
BOOKS BY STUART WOODS
Son of Stone
Santa Fe Edge
Loitering with Intent
Santa Fe Dead
Beverly Hills Dead
Shoot Him If He Runs
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
A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland (1979)
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
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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
Collateral damage : a Stone Barrington novel / Stuart Woods.
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
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.
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?”
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.”
“Come over and I’ll make you some pasta.”
“Me, myself. I can cook, you know.”
“There was a rumor, but I never believed it.”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”