Authors: Stuart Woods
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
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
Blue Water, Green Skipper
A Holly Barker Novel
A Stone Barrington Novel
A Will Lee Novel
An Ed Eagle Novel
A Stone Barrington Novel
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS NEW YORK
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.)
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Copyright © 2012 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
Unnatural acts: a Stone Barrington novel / Stuart Woods.
1. Barrington, Stone (Fictitious character)—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3573.O642U56 2012 2011049447
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Book design by Stephanie Huntwork
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.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
This book is for Carole Casseus
It was as late as it was ever going to get at Elaine’s. Elaine had died nearly six months earlier, and the restaurant couldn’t make it without her. This was its last night.
“You know,” Dino said, gazing at the mob jammed into the place, “if half these people had had dinner here once a week after she died, this joint would still be thriving.”
“You’re right,” Stone said, “but I guess the place could never be the same without Elaine to hold it together.”
“I feel sorry for the writers,” Dino said. “There isn’t another joint in town that gives the best tables to writers. They’ll be wandering up and down Second Avenue, looking for someplace to eat.”
“And think of all the book deals that won’t get made here,” Stone said. “Where else do writers and publishers mingle?”
All the tables had temporary tops that seated ten people, and Stone and Dino were jammed against the wall, so close to the next table that if they wanted to get to the men’s room, they would
have to stand on their chairs and walk across the table. There were two hundred people lined up on Second Avenue, waiting to get in.
Bill Eggers, the managing partner of Stone’s law firm, Woodman & Weld, spoke up from across the table. “Never mind the writers,” he said, “where are you two guys going to eat?”
“I have no idea,” Stone said. “There just isn’t another place in the city that has what Elaine’s had. Forty-eight years she was here.”
Somebody with a video cam elbowed his way up to the table and panned around the group. Herbie Fisher and his girl and Bob Cantor and his wife were there. Holly Barker had flown up from Washington for the occasion and was staying with Stone. The cameraman moved on. Stone looked around and saw plenty of regulars: Gay Talese, Frederic Morton, David Black, Nick Taylor, Carol Higgins Clark—all writers; photographers Harry Benson and Jessica Burstein were taking pictures; Alec Baldwin, with shaggy hair and a full beard, had found a video cam somewhere and was using it; Josh Gaspero, retired publisher, and his Thursday-night regulars were at their regular table. Gianni and Frank, the headwaiters, and all the waiters, were still there; none had left for another job before the end.
It was just like every other night at Elaine’s, except for the three hundred extra people.
Stone had ordered the most expensive wines, because he knew Elaine would have loved that. She had liked nothing better than flogging a few bottles of Dom Pérignon of an evening.
Holly hugged Stone’s arm. “I’m sorry, Stone, I know how you loved Elaine and her joint.”
“That’s what she always called it,” Stone said, “her joint.”
Dino poured himself another Johnnie Walker Black from the bottle on the table.
“Can I get you a straw for that?” Stone asked.
Dino handed him a bottle of Knob Creek. “And for this?”
A good-looking redhead Stone didn’t recognize struggled past his table, heading for either the bar or the front door. Stone was still watching her a moment later when she was stopped by a man who had planted himself in her path. He leaned over and shouted above the din into her ear. She drew back her right hand and punched him squarely in the face. He fell, scattering drinkers, and Stone could have sworn she stepped on him as she continued out the door.
The man was helped to his feet, swearing, his nose bloody, shouting unpleasant descriptions of the redhead to anyone who would listen.