Standup Guy: A Stone Barrington Novel

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9780451466877: Standup Guy: A Stone Barrington Novel

Stone Barrington’s newest client brings mayhem in his wake in this “edge-of-your-seat adventure”* in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

After giving some legal advice to a walk-in client, Stone Barrington thinks he’s done with the man. But several people are keenly interested in John Fratelli’s activities and how they relate to a long-ago crime...and some of them will stop at nothing to find the information they desire.

On a hunt that leads from Florida’s tropical beaches to the posh vacation homes of the Northeast, Stone finds himself walking a tightrope between ambitious authorities and seedy lowlifes who all have the same prize in their sights. In this cutthroat contest of wills, it’s winner-takes-all—and Stone will need every bit of his cunning and resourcefulness to be the last man standing.

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About the Author:

Stuart Woods is the author of more than sixty 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 New Mexico.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

Stone Barrington made it from his bed to his desk by ten AM, after something of a struggle with jet lag. Granted, the three-hour time change between Los Angeles and New York was not a killer, but it mattered. As soon as he sat down his intercom buzzed.

“Yes?” he said to his secretary, Joan Robertson.

“You have a visitor,” she said, “name of John Fratelli. Says he’s a friend of Eduardo.”

“Send him in,” Stone said. Any friend of Eduardo Bianci’s was a friend of his.

A vision of the mid-to-late twentieth century appeared in the doorway.

“Mr. Barrington? May I come in?”

“Of course,” Stone said, rising to greet his visitor, who was wearing a boxy, light gray flannel suit, a starched white shirt, and what appeared to be a clip-on bow tie. He was carrying a salesman’s suitcase and a porkpie hat and had a haircut that had probably been accomplished entirely with electric clippers—short sides and a Brylcreemed top. “Come in and have a seat, Mr. Fratelli.”

“Thank you,” the man replied. “It’s nice of you to see me.” This was delivered in what appeared to be an old-fashioned Brooklyn accent, the likes of which had not been heard for many years from a man as young as Fratelli, who appeared to be no older than fifty. He came in and took the proffered chair across the desk and set down the suitcase.

“How may I help you?” Stone said, hoping the man was not a salesman.

Fratelli stood again, reached into a pocket, and pulled out a wad of bills; he peeled off five hundreds and placed them carefully on Stone’s desk.

“All right,” Stone said, “you’ve paid for a consultation and bought yourself some attorney-client confidentiality.”

“Good,” Fratelli said, sitting down again.

“I should inform you, though, that if you confess to a crime and I end up representing you in court, I will not be able to call you to the stand to testify on your own behalf.”

“Why not?” Fratelli inquired.

“Because I cannot call a witness to the stand who I know will lie under oath.”

“I understand,” Fratelli said. “That’s reasonable, I guess.”

“How is Mr. Bianci?” Stone asked, by way of getting the man to relax.

“Who?”

“Did you not tell my secretary that Eduardo had sent you to me?”

“Oh, I meant Eduardo Buono.”

“Not Bianci?”

“No, Buono.”

“I don’t know anyone by that name,” Stone said.

“Well, he knows you.”

“How does he know me?”

“He read an article about you in a magazine—Vanity Fair.”

That magazine had published an excerpt from a book about Stone’s late wife, Arrington. “I’m afraid I—”

“Eduardo says you’re a standup guy.”

“Well, as kind a characterization as that may be—”

“Eduardo and I shared a living space for twenty-two years.”

“I’m happy for you both, but that still doesn’t—”

“Eduardo was a very smart man, even if he did get caught.”

“Ahhhh,” Stone said. Now he understood. “Where did you do your time, Mr. Fratelli?”

“Sing Sing.”

“And when did you get out?”

“Yesterday afternoon.”

“How long were you away?”

“Twenty-five years, to the day. I did my whole sentence, no parole.”

“What was the rap?”

“Armed robbery. I did it, no excuses. That’s why I didn’t apply for parole.”

“Then you, not I, are the standup guy, Mr. Fratelli.”

Fratelli actually blushed. “Thank you,” he said softly.

“Now, please tell me, how can I help you?”

“Eduardo left me two million dollars,” he said. “And change.”

“Congratulations, but if you’re looking for investment advice, I’m not—”

“I’m looking for advice on how not to go back to prison,” Fratelli said.

“That’s fairly simple, Mr. Fratelli—don’t commit another crime.”

“Oh, sure, but—”

“Oh, I think I see. Did Mr. Buono acquire your inheritance by extralegal means?”

“Exactly.”

“Did he rob somebody?”

“Exactly, but Eduardo said the statue was done.”

That stopped Stone in his tracks for a moment, then he figured it out. “Do you mean the statute? The statute of limitations?”

“That’s it!”

“Well, the statute of limitations for robbery is five years, so if you and Mr. Buono were cellmates for twenty-two years . . .”

“So it’s mine, then?”

“I wouldn’t go as far as that,” Stone said. “It’s problematical.”

“I was afraid you’d say something like that.”

“Mr. Fratelli, let me put this hypothetically, since you and I do not want to discuss a real crime.”

“Okay, I get that.”

“If prisoner A committed a crime, and the statute of limitations has run out, then he can mention prisoner B in his will.”

“It wasn’t exactly like that,” Fratelli said. “There wasn’t—I mean, in this story prisoner A didn’t have a will, he had a safe-deposit box. He, hypothetically speaking, had a bank account, and every quarter for twenty-five years, the bank deducted the rental of the safe-deposit box from his account. From time to time, his lawyer deposited funds.”

“And prisoner B has access to the box?”

“Prisoner A told me—ah, him—where to find the key.”

“And has prisoner B visited the box?”

“You could say that.”

“And he emptied the box?”

“About an hour ago,” Fratelli said. “Just as soon as the bank opened, prisoner B was there with the key.”

“Did anyone see what he removed from the box?”

“No, he was in a little closet, and he had brought a suitcase. He just walked out with the money.”

“I see.”

“His question is, what’s he going to do with it?”

“Whatever he likes,” Stone said. “As long as no one knows he has it.”

“Does prisoner B have the money legally?”

“A better question might be, is anyone going to be looking for the money? A widow? A nephew? A bookie?”

“He didn’t have any of those, and nobody knows about the money. Hypothetically.”

“How about the lawyer who made the bank deposits?”

“He died three weeks ago.”

“Then, Mr. Fratelli, prisoner B is laughing.”

Fratelli laughed.

“His first move should be to go to a bank—a different bank—open a checking account with less than ten thousand dollars, then rent another safe-deposit box. After that, he could remove enough money periodically to support himself. Lashing out with large amounts could get him into trouble, as you might imagine. People will steal, after all.”

“Yes, they will,” Fratelli said.

“Ten thousand dollars is the magic number. If prisoner B banks that much, a form reporting it goes to the Internal Revenue Service, and, although they are said to have stacks of those forms, which they never read, it’s not a good idea to generate such a form. After all, they may start reading faster, or they may teach a computer how to read them.”

“That’s good advice,” Fratelli said.

“One other thing: if you should seek legal advice again, it might be in your interests to go to an attorney who has not heard this hypothetical story.”

Fratelli stood up. “Thank you, Mr. Barrington,” he said, offering his hand.

They shook, Fratelli left, and Stone opened a desk drawer and raked the little stack of hundreds into it.

Joan came in a moment later. “While you were talking to Mr. Fratelli, a secretary to the president of the United States called. You’re invited to dinner tomorrow evening with President and Mrs. Lee at their apartment in the Carlyle.”

Stone had not heard from the Lees in months. “Call back and say that I accept, with pleasure.”

“You may bring a date.”

Stone’s current squeeze, the fashion designer Emma Tweed, had returned to her native London for a few weeks. “Say that I will come alone.”

2

Stone wore a dark suit and a tie, because he didn’t know who else was invited. He entered the Carlyle Hotel and got off the elevator at the penthouse level, where he was greeted by two Secret Service agents to whom he identified himself. That wasn’t good enough; they went over him with the wand.

Katherine Rule Lee, now retired as director of Central Intelligence, answered the door. She was wearing tight jeans and a sweater, and she looked good in both. “Oh, Stone,” she said, offering both cheeks to be kissed and giving him a hug, “nobody told you to dress down?”

“I didn’t get that part of the message,” Stone said, “but I’m not in the least uncomfortable.”

“Will’s watching the news. Knob Creek?”

“Perfect.”

She pointed him at the living room, then went to the bar, while he continued.

Will Lee stood up and offered his hand. “Good to see you, Stone.”

“And you, Mr. President.”

“It’s still Will.”

“Good to see you, Will.”

The president waved him to a chair, and Kate brought him his drink.

“They’re showing excerpts from last night’s Democratic campaign debate,” Will said.

The three of them watched in silence until the program ended, then Will turned off the TV. “What did you think?” he asked Stone.

“I think there are at least three guys and one woman in that field who would make a good president.”

“And?”

“And not one who could win against Taft Duncan,” Stone said, referring to the Speaker of the House and presumptive Republican nominee.

“I’m afraid I agree,” Will said. “What have you been up to Stone?”

“I’ve just come back from Los Angeles, where my son, Peter, who recently graduated from Yale, has established himself on the Centurion Studios lot as a director. Dino’s son, Ben, is his partner, and Peter’s girlfriend, Hattie Patrick, writes the music for their films.”

“I’ve met them all, last year at the opening of The Arrington,” Will said. “Remember?”

“How could I forget?” Stone said.

They all shared a laugh.

“And what does the next year hold for you?”

“My year seems oddly empty, with Peter on the other side of the country, so I guess I’ll have to think about practicing some law. Bill Eggers is making broad hints about my absences from the firm.”

“Ah, yes, the partners won’t want to share income with one of their number who is an absentee.”

“Well, I have made a lot of rain,” Stone said, “so I don’t think I have to worry about them ganging up on me. What brings you to town?”

“Well, Kate is supposed to have an informal meeting with the board of Strategic Services tomorrow evening.”

“Yes, I know, I’ll be at the dinner.” Kate had been invited to join the board of directors after Will left office.

“Our other reason for being here is to see you,” Will said.

That puzzled Stone. “Oh?”

A man in a white jacket appeared and announced dinner, so they all went to a table with a spectacular view of the New York City skyline. Stone took a sip of his wine and waited for the president to finish his thought.

“Stone,” Will said, “the day before yesterday I received a bundle of twenty letters, each of them written by a Democratic Party bigwig or a major campaign contributor, all individually composed but with the same subject. Can you guess what that subject was?”

“Well, it seems a little late in the game to get a constitutional amendment passed that would allow you to run for a third term.”

“Thank God for that,” Will said. “What they wanted was what they see as the next best thing.” He sat silently and waited for the penny to drop.

It took Stone a moment. “Kate,” he said finally. “They want Kate to run.”

“Terrible idea, isn’t it?” Kate said. She had been quiet until now.

“I think it’s a terrific idea,” Stone said. “But we’re halfway through the primaries.”

“My very point,” Kate said, “but Will doesn’t think that is an impediment.”

“And I think Stone can figure out why,” Will said.

“Because it looks like none of the candidates is going to have anything like a majority of the delegates going into the first ballot at the convention.”

“Right you are.”

“So, for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, we’d have a brokered convention?”

“Since 1952,” Will said, “when Adlai Stevenson got the nomination. We’ve had some close brushes since, but not the real thing. The primary process usually works to nominate a candidate.”

Stone thought about that. “I was just thinking about Gore Vidal’s play The Best Man, which dealt with that subject.”

“Do you remember what each candidate needed to get the nomination?”

“Yes, the support of an earlier president, a Trumanesque figure.”

“Right.”

“Well, I don’t think Kate would have any trouble getting the support of the sitting president, would she?”

“I’m trying to get him to withhold that support,” Kate said.

“Actually, she doesn’t have to try,” Will said. “It would be politically impossible for me to support her.”

“The Republicans would say you’re trying to create a dynasty,” Stone said.

“Not just the Republicans,” Will replied. “A lot of Democrats, too, especially the three or four leading candidates.”

“So, you’d have to sit back, clam up, and wait for the convention to sort it out—after the first ballot.”

“Exactly,” Will said.

“You don’t really think anybody’s going to buy that, do you?” Stone asked.

“Of course not. All the commentators and not a few of the delegates will say I’m pulling all the strings.”

“And how would you handle that?”

“By not pulling any strings.”

“You mean you’d actually sit out the nomination without showing the slightest support for Kate?”

“Not so much as a nod or a wink,” Will replied. “And not a word of advice to her or any of her supporters on obtaining the nomination. If she gets it, then I’ll shoot my mouth off at every opportunity, of course, but after tonight, I won’t say a word to her or anyone else on the subject, except ‘no comment.’”

“You see how crazy this is?” Kate said.

“Kate,” Stone said, “let me ask you a question: do you think you’d make a good president?”

“I think I’d make a sensational president,” Kate said.

Stone turned to Will. “And, Will, do you think she can beat Taft Duncan?”

“In my last word on the subject, yes,” Will said. He looked at his watch. “I’d better hurry,” he said. “I’m sneaking into the Blue Note to hear Chris Botti’s last set.”

“Can I come with you?” Stone asked. “I’m a big Chris Botti fan.”

“No, you have a meeting to attend.”

“What meeting is that?”

“In about an hour the twenty people who wrote me those letters are arriving here for a drink with Kate, so I can’t be here. But you can.”

Will got up and shook Stone’s hand. “Hope to see you soon, Stone, but when I do, I don’t want to hear a word about Kate’s plans.”

“Gotcha, Will.” He and Kate watched him disappear out the door, two Secret Service agents close behind him.

“Well,” Kate said, heaving a sigh. “Now I have only you to help me greet the throng.”

“What are you going to say to them?” Stone asked.

“I think it’s better if you hear it at the same time they do,” she said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get into something more presidential.” She got up and left Stone to contemplate his dessert.

3

Kate came back at five minutes before the hour and handed Stone a sheet of paper....

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Book Description Signet Book, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reissue. Language: English . Brand New Book. Stone Barrington s newest client brings mayhem in his wake in this edge-of-your-seat adventure * in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. After giving some legal advice to a walk-in client, Stone Barrington thinks he s done with the man. But several people are keenly interested in John Fratelli s activities and how they relate to a long-ago crime.and some of them will stop at nothing to find the information they desire. On a hunt that leads from Florida s tropical beaches to the posh vacation homes of the Northeast, Stone finds himself walking a tightrope between ambitious authorities and seedy lowlifes who all have the same prize in their sights. In this cutthroat contest of wills, it s winner-takes-all--and Stone will need every bit of his cunning and resourcefulness to be the last man standing. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780451466877

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