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Stone Barrington is back in the exciting new adventure from perennial fan favorite Stuart Woods.
It’s not often that Stone Barrington finds a woman as accustomed to the jet-set lifestyle as he, so he’s pleasantly surprised when he meets a gorgeous pilot who’s soon moving to New York, and available for closer acquaintance. Their travels together lead them from Wichita to Europe, but trailing them is some unwanted baggage: his new lady love’s unstable, criminal ex-boyfriend.
And while Stone is fending off his newest adversary, trouble is brewing on the international stage. Several enemy operatives are at large, and only a coordinated intelligence effort will have any chance of stopping their deadly plot. But the clock is ticking . . . and time has nearly run out.
From the Hardcover edition.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Stuart Woods is the author of more than fifty-five novels, including the New York Times–bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker 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 New York City, Florida, and Maine.
From the Hardcover edition.
STONE BARRINGTON STOOD on a wide expanse of tarmac, leaning into thirty knots of icy wind, holding his hat on his head, his trench coat inadequate to the task of keeping his body temperature in the normal range. It was January in Wichita.
He watched as a thing of beauty made a turn and rolled toward him. It bore his tail number, but not on the tail—on the engine nacelles. Its white fuselage bore stripes of blue and red, sweeping back to a night-blue tail, emblazoned with stars. It was his brand-new Citation M2, for which he had waited two years. The form of the delivery pilot, a man named Pat Frank, could be seen in the pilot’s seat, having flown the twenty-minute flight from the factory, in Independence, Kansas.
A lineman ran forward and chocked the nosewheel, and the pilot cut the engines, their dying whine leaving the howl of the wind as the only noise on the ramp.
Stone had spent the past sixteen days in the classroom and the simulator; the content of his life had shrunk to sweating out instruction all day, then ordering room service at night and falling asleep in front of the TV. He wanted the real airplane and he wanted New York. Now.
The door of the airplane swung open and a figure kicked the folding steps down, and Stone got his first surprise of the day. The ferry pilot descended onto the tarmac, and her blond hair streamed with the wind. “Hi,” she said, holding out a hand. “I’m Pat Frank. Can we get out of this wind?”
“Follow me,” Stone said, running for the airplane and climbing the steps. He glanced into the cockpit, which was completely familiar to him, since the three fourteen-inch screens of the Garmin 3000 avionics and the accompanying switches and throttles were identical to those in the simulator. He sank into one of the four comfortable passenger seats and waved Ms. Pat Frank to a seat facing him. “So you’re the hand-holder my insurance company sent to make my first flight with me,” he said.
“I am that,” she replied. “At the very least. You may recall that you paid me to do the acceptance flights and inspections for you, too.”
“And I thought I was signing checks to some grizzled veteran of the airlines, corporate flying, and, maybe, FedEx.”
“I’m all that, except the grizzled part,” she said, smiling, revealing perfect teeth set off by her red lipstick. The soft, goatskin leather jacket, zipped up against the weather, could not conceal her ample breasts. “All we need is fuel and a flight plan filed.”
“I’ve taken care of both.”
“I hope to God you don’t want to do the walk-around inspection in this wind,” she said. “I’ve already done it this morning in a nice warm hangar, and if you want to get me off this airplane you’re going to have to drag me.”
A lineman stuck his head into the cabin. “Fuel’s on the way,” he said. “You want me to stow your bags, Mr. Barrington?”
Pat Frank handed him a key. “Up front, please, and kindly remove the ten bags of lead shot first.”
“Lead shot?” Stone asked, baffled.
“Weight and balance,” she said. “My hundred and twenty pounds weren’t enough to get us into the envelope. With you aboard, no problem, unless you have plans to have some slip of a girl fly the airplane alone.”
“Can’t think of one,” Stone replied.
“Well, if you’ve already been to the can, let’s button this thing up, then climb into the cockpit and see if we can make it fly.”
“After you,” Stone said, stripping off his trench coat.
She pulled up the steps, closed the door, and swung the lever that locked it. In a moment, she was in the copilot’s seat.
Stone went forward and, with some difficulty, managed to get his six-foot-two frame into the pilot’s seat.
Pat helped him with adjusting the seat. “It’s snug, but you’ll get used to it,” she said. “For some reason, Cessna puts all the room in the rear, where the passengers sit—not where the owner-pilots for whom this airplane was intended fly the thing.”
She read out the pre-start checklist, he flipped the appropriate switches, then he turned on the power and the three glass panels slowly came to life, along with the two smaller screens just ahead of the throttles, called the GTUs. These were the iPad-like units with which most of the airplane’s systems were operated. Stone had spent a week playing with a computer-simulated version, memorizing the patterns and trying to forget the old G-1000 in his former airplane.
“Did you have a Mustang before?”
“Yep, I gave it to my son.”
“I hope he’s older than eight,” she said. “That’s quite a toy.”
“He’s twelve, or so, and he’s already type-rated.”
She shook her head. “I never heard of a father giving his son a jet airplane.” She watched as he managed to tap a flight plan into the GTU, then run the system checks. “Not bad for a first flight,” she said.
“They drilled me well in class. Don’t worry, I’ll need your help before long.”
Outside, the fuel truck drove away, and the lineman signaled that the chocks had been pulled. Stone pulled the hand brake and started the engines. When all systems were running smoothly, he listened to ATIS, the tower’s recorded weather report, then called clearance delivery, adjusting the microphone attached to his Bose headset. “Wichita clearance delivery, November One Two Three Tango Foxtrot is IFR to Tango Echo Bravo. Do you have a clearance for me?”
They did, and Stone copied it down and read it back. It included a departure procedure, and he inserted that into his electronic flight plan, then called for permission to taxi. “Thank God that wind is right down the runway,” he said. “I don’t feel like fighting it.” He taxied to the end of the runway, and Pat read out the pre-takeoff checklist. With every switch in its proper position, he asked permission to take off and was cleared. He rolled onto the runway, lined up with the centerline, centered the heading bug, flipped on the pitot heat switches, and pushed the throttles to the firewall.
“Airspeed’s alive,” Pat said after a few seconds, then, “Seventy knots . . . aaaand rotate!”
Stone put both hands on the yoke and pulled back until two V-bars on the display in front of him mated, showing that he had achieved the proper climb angle.
“Positive rate of climb,” Pat said.
Stone raised the landing gear flaps.
“Four hundred fifty feet,” she said.
He pressed the button that turned on the autopilot, then removed his hands from the yoke. They were given an initial climb to ten thousand feet, and he was told to switch to Wichita departure. The frequency was already entered into the G-3000; all he had to do was tap the glass panel at the proper spot. “Wichita departure, N123TF with you out of three thousand for one zero thousand.”
“N123TF, cleared on course. Climb and maintain flight level 410.”
Stone repeated the instruction and pressed the NAV button to tell the autopilot to follow the flight plan, then he dialed forty-one thousand feet into the computer, pressed the Flight Level Control button, and sat back.
He put behind him the claustrophobic previous two weeks and room-service food, and reveled in his new airplane as it climbed quickly to FL 410.
“Does your wife fly?” Pat asked.
“I’m a widower,” Stone replied. “For some years.”
“Thank you. Why don’t you delay your return to Wichita, and let’s have dinner tonight?”
“I’m moving into a new apartment tomorrow in New York,” she said, “and I’d love to.”
THE FLIGHT was predictably smooth for the first hour. They grilled each other, this being more of a first date than a qualifying flight for the insurance company. Pat was from a small town in Georgia, Delano, which somehow had a familiar ring for Stone. She had started flying after college, had flown air taxi and package delivery, then corporate jets, then for an airline. By the time that went bust, she had made captain, and she took herself to another airline. Finally, she had made the break.
“I’m starting a business,” she said. “I’m calling it The Pat Frank Flight Department, something that the charterers and the corporates have as a matter of course, but not the owner-flown jets. I’ll do all the paperwork, keep the maintenance schedule, update the logbooks weekly, et cetera, et cetera.”
“I could use a service like that,” Stone said. “My secretary has been doing all the work, but since she knows nothing about airplanes, it’s hard for her. You’re hired.”
“Great! My first client! Of course, I can’t have dinner with you tonight, for professional reasons.”
“You’re fired,” Stone said.
“Well, I guess I can make an exception, your being my first client and all.”
“You’re rehired.” Stone looked at the multi-function display before him. “There’s the weather the forecast predicted,” he said, pointing at a green mass ahead of them that was dotted with yellow areas. “We’ll fly over the bulk of it, but when we start our descent on the arrival procedure, we’ll have to contend with it and maybe with some ice, too. And we’ll need an instrument approach.”
“Your airplane is equipped to deal with it,” she reminded him.
Stone tapped an icon or two and brought up the weather at Teterboro. “Six-hundred-foot ceiling, six miles of visibility, wind 040 at twelve, gusting twenty,” he read. “No problem. We’ll keep an eye on it, though.”
“There was some light snow in the forecast, too,” Pat said.
They entered into the arrival procedure, a loop to the north, then back to the south, that the air traffic controllers used to line up and keep distance between the conga line of airplanes that would be landing at TEB. ATC gave them a lower altitude, and Stone turned on the ice prevention systems that heated the leading edges of the wings and tail and the windshield. Five minutes later they were in Instrument Meteorological Conditions and blind, except for their instruments. They continued their descent on the arrival, and at the end of it they were vectored to the Instrument Landing System for runway 6 at Teterboro. ATIS told them that the weather had deteriorated to three hundred feet and two miles of visibility, with blowing snow.
Once established on the ILS, Stone watched the indicator for the glide slope and put down the landing gear. The three green lights that indicated that the tricycle gears were down did not come on. “Uh-oh,” he said, then recycled the gear switch. “I guess we’re going to have to blow the gear down.” There was a tank of nitrogen aboard that could be used to force the gear down in the event of a hydraulic failure.
Pat reached forward and twisted the knob that selected night or day flying to “day,” and the three green gear lights appeared. “Some ass turned it to ‘night,’” she said. “And the daylight washed out the dimmed lights.”
“That’s a relief,” Stone said.
She read out the landing checklist, and the autopilot flew them down the glide slope; all Stone had to do was control the airspeed. At three hundred feet they broke out of the clouds, into light snow, and the runway lay directly ahead of them. At 160 feet, Stone turned off the autopilot and landed the airplane smoothly by hand.
“And your first landing is a greaser!” Pat said. “You’ve just passed your insurance check ride!”
Stone called ground control, requested taxi to Jet Aviation, where he kept the airplane, and was given the route. Five minutes later Pat was reading the shutdown checklist, and he was shutting down the engines and switching everything off. He noted the flight time on the Hobbs meter and entered it into his logbook. “We’re home,” he said.
Pat left the cockpit, opened the airplane’s door, and kicked down the steps, which lowered themselves gently into place. Stone went to the rear luggage compartment, switched off the battery to conserve power, and handed a lineman the engine and pitot covers for installation. He locked up and went to the forward luggage compartment, removed his and Pat’s bags, and handed them to another lineman, who put them onto a cart.
“Put her in the barn,” Stone said to the other lineman, then he and Pat followed their luggage through the Jet Aviation terminal and out to where Stone’s factotum, Fred, waited with the Bentley.
“Good flight, sir?” Fred asked.
“A great one, Fred. This is Pat Frank.”
Fred tipped an imaginary cap, and they got into the car.
Pat produced her phone. “I didn’t book a hotel for tonight,” she said.
“Don’t bother,” Stone replied. “I have guest rooms.”
“How kind you are!”
“Saves picking you up for dinner.”
Half an hour later they were in the garage, and while Fred dealt with the luggage, they took the elevator to the third floor. “We’ll put you in here,” Stone said, showing her to the largest guest room. “I’m right down the hall.” He looked at his watch: “You’ve got two hours to get gorgeous,” he said. “We’ll meet in my study for a drink at seven—it’s on the first floor.”
“How are we dressing?” she asked.
“You mean you have more than one dress in that little bag?”
“The option is jeans.”
“Wear the dress. See you at seven.” He walked down the hall to the master suite.
AT SEVEN he was reading the New York Times in his study when she walked in, clad in a tight LBD and sporting pearls and very high heels.
“You got gorgeous,” Stone said. “What would you like to drink?”
“What are you drinking?”
“Bourbon. Knob Creek. I have gimlets and martinis already made and in the freezer, and most other drinks, but I can’t make a banana daiquiri.”
“I’m a Georgia girl,” she said. “I’ll have the bourbon.”
He poured them both a drink. “Some friends are meeting us at the restaurant,” he said. “Dino and Vivian Bacchetti. She’s called Viv.”
“In my extreme youth I was a cop, and Dino was my partner. Now I’m a failed cop, and Dino is the police commissioner of the City of New York.”
“How did you fail?”
“I got shot in the knee, and I disagreed with my betters on the handling of an important case. They used the knee as an excuse to dump me.”
“And how did you go about becoming a lawyer?”
“I was already a law-school graduate. I took a cram course and passed the bar, and an old school buddy had a job waiting for me.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“I was lucky. I had inherited this house from a great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister, and I was renovating it, doing most of the work myself. I was more than a year into the job, my savings were gone, and I was in debt to the bank and a lot of building suppliers, when I ran into my old friend Bill Eggers, of Woodman & Weld. The rest, as they say, is history.”
“A pretty successful history,” she said, looking around. “The place is beautiful.”
“Fairly successful. When my wife died I came into some money that had been made by her first husband.”
“Thus, the gift of a jet to your son.”
“Thus. How do you happen to be moving into an apartment in New York tomorrow?”
“My sister got married and moved to the suburbs. She owned an apartment and rented it, until I could clear the decks for the move. The tenant’s lease is up tomorrow. I’ll probably buy the place from my sister, eventually.”
“Good idea.” Ston...
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