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Stone Barrington had already had a drink and had almost given up on Dino Bacchetti. It was unlike his former NYPD partner, now the lieutenant in charge of the detective squad at the 19th Precinct, to be late for eating or drinking. Stone was signaling a waiter for another drink and a menu when Dino trudged in.
“Why are you trudging?” Stone asked.
“I’m trudging because I’m depressed,” Dino said, waving at a waiter and making drinking motions.
“And why, pray tell, are you depressed?”
“Mary Ann and I have just split.”
“Yeah, sure,” Stone said. “Just sleep on the sofa tonight, and everything will be fine in the morning.”
“Not this time,” Dino replied, drinking greedily from the glass set before him. “Words were spoken that can’t be taken back.”
“Take it from a lawyer,” Stone said, “the only words spoken that can’t be taken back are ‘Guilty, Your Honor.’”
“Those were pretty much the words,” Dino said.
“And who spoke them?”
“Who the fuck do you think?” Dino asked. “You think she would ever cop to anything?”
“What did you plead guilty to?”
“To the new desk sergeant at the precinct.”
Stone’s eyebrows went up. “Dino, are you switch-hitting these days?”
“A girl desk sergeant.”
“So the sofa is not an option?”
“Nah. I guess I’m moving in with you.”
Stone blinked loudly.
“Relax. It’s only ’til I can find a place.”
“Stay as long as you like, Dino,” Stone said, patting his arm and hoping to God it wouldn’t be more than a day or two before Mary Ann relented and let him back in the house.
“Thanks, pal, I appreciate it.” Dino nodded toward the door. “Look who’s coming.”
Stone looked toward the door to find Lance Cabot and Holly Barker approaching.
“May we join you?” Lance asked.
“Sure.” Stone waved them to chairs. Lance was in charge of some sort of New York CIA unit that Stone didn’t really understand, and Holly had left her job as a chief of police in a small Florida town to work for him. Both Stone and Dino were contract “consultants,” and Stone didn’t really understand that, either, except that Lance sometimes asked him to do legal stuff. Stone and Holly were, occasionally, an item.
Lance ordered drinks.
“Why do I perceive that this isn’t a social visit?” Stone asked.
“Because your perceptions are very keen,” Lance replied.
“Tell me everything you know about Richard Stone.”
Stone blinked. It was the second time that day that Dick Stone’s name had come up. “He’s my first cousin,” Stone replied.
“I said everything you know,” Lance pointed out.
“Okay, he’s the son of my mother’s older brother, now deceased; he grew up in Boston, went to Harvard and Harvard Law. I think he’s something at the State Department.”
“How long since you’ve seen him?”
Stone thought about it. “We had dinner eight, nine years ago, when I was still a cop. Last time before that was a little more than twenty years ago.”
“Did you know him as a boy?”
“Okay, let me tell you about it. The summer after I graduated from high school my parents sat me down and told me I was going to spend the summer in Maine with some relatives of hers. This came as a surprise, because my mother’s relatives had stopped speaking to her years before I was born, because she had married my father, who had been disowned by his family, because he was a Communist. He didn’t seem too happy about my spending the summer with a bunch of Stones.”
MALON BARRINGTON WAS, indeed, unhappy. “Why would you want your son to spend ten minutes with those plutocratic sons of bitches, let alone a whole summer?” he asked his wife.
“Because Richard was my brother, and Caleb and Dick Jr. are Stone’s cousins, and he ought to take advantage of the opportunity to get to know them,” Matilda Stone replied. “They have that very nice place on Islesboro, in Penobscot Bay, and it’s a wonderful place to spend a summer.”
“Stone was going to work for me in the shop,” Malon said. Malon was a maker of fine furniture and cabinets.
“You’re going to have to hire somebody when Stone goes to NYU in the fall anyway,” Matilda said, “so it might as well be now as then.”
Malon made a disgruntled noise.
Matilda got down an atlas and found Maine. “Here,” she said, tapping her finger on a large body of water. “This is Penobscot Bay, the largest bay in Maine, and this long, skinny island is Islesboro. The Stones live here, in the village of Dark Harbor. I spent a couple of summers there in their big, drafty old house, which isn’t insulated. It’s one of those rambling summer ‘cottages’ that’s unusable before June or after Labor Day.”
“Sounds swell,” Stone said dryly.
“AND THAT WAS IT,” Stone said to Lance. “I took a train to Bangor, where I was met by a retainer in a 1938 Ford station wagon. We drove to Lincolnville, then took a twenty-minute ferry ride to Islesboro.”
“Dick had a brother named Caleb?”
“Yes. He was two years older than Dick, who was my age, and Caleb was a pain in the ass; he was a bully and a general all-round shit. Dick was a nice guy: smart, good in school, good athlete. All Caleb ever did in school was wrestle, and he liked nothing better than to grab Dick or me and get us in some sort of stranglehold. This went on until the day I kicked him in the balls and broke his nose with an uppercut. His mother almost sent me back to New York. When I left after Labor Day, she made it pretty clear that I wouldn’t be invited back, and I wasn’t.”
“What did you do that summer?” Lance asked.
“We sailed and played golf and tennis. The Stones lived near the yacht club, and there was a nine-hole golf course and a tennis club. We didn’t lack for activity.”
“Did you and Dick keep in touch?”
“We exchanged a few letters over the next year or two, but that petered out. I didn’t hear from him again until he turned up in New York and called me at the precinct and invited me to dinner. We went to the Harvard Club, I remember, and I was impressed.”
“What did you talk about that evening?”
“About our work: He was stationed in Rome, as I recall—he was the agricultural attaché, or something—and I was working homicides with Dino. I remember he asked me if I was interested in government service, and I said I was already in government service. I asked him what he had in mind, but he was vague. I didn’t hear from him again until this morning.”
Lance nearly choked on his drink. “This morning?”
“Yes, I had a letter from Dick—a package, really—by FedEx. There was a letter saying that he wanted me to put the package, which was sealed, in my safe and not to open it, except in event of his death. There was a check for a thousand dollars, too, as a retainer. He wanted to formally hire me as his attorney. Why do you find it so odd that I heard from him this morning?”
Lance put a hand on Stone’s arm. “Because, my friend, yesterday your cousin, Dick Stone, shot his wife and only daughter, then put a bullet in his own brain. At his house in Dark Harbor.”
STONE UNLOCKED THE front door of his house and let everybody in. “Dino, put your stuff on the elevator, take it up to the third floor and put it in the big guest room. We’ll be in my office.” Dino complied.
Stone led the way downstairs to the basement and switched on the lights in his office. “Have a seat,” he said to Lance and Holly. They did so. Stone went to his safe, punched the combination into the electronic keypad, removed a package and set it on his desk.
Lance bent over and looked at the package, then smiled. “Smart boy, Dick.”
“Look at how he’s done this: The package is one large sheet of heavy paper, cut so that four corners come together and are sealed with wax and Dick’s signet ring.”
“Why?” Stone asked.
“Because it’s impossible to open and reseal the package without his ring and without being detected. I think you should draw up a document saying that Holly, Dino and I witnessed your opening the package.”
“Okay by me,” Dino said, joining them.
Stone switched on his computer, typed out a brief statement, and the three of them witnessed his breaking the seals and opening the package. Then Stone put the package back into his safe and locked it.
“What are you doing?” Lance asked.
“It’s your turn to answer some questions,” Stone said. “What is your interest in my cousin Dick?”
“I don’t have to answer your questions, Stone,” Lance said.
“And I don’t have to show you what’s in Dick’s package,” Stone replied.
“All right, I guess we’re all family here,” Lance said. “Dick Stone wasn’t with the State Department. Until recently, he was Assistant Deputy Director for European Operations for the CIA. Two weeks ago, he arrived with his family in Washington to replace Hugh English as Deputy Director for Operations—that’s the top job on the operations side, reporting to the Director of Central Intelligence. After thirty years on the job, Hugh is retiring at the end of the summer. You remember when you and I met in London a couple of years ago?”
“I was working for Dick at the time. I’ve been assigned to investigate the deaths of him and his family.”
“All right,” Stone said, “now everybody go sit in my waiting room while I read what’s in the package.”
“Why?” Lance asked.
“Because I’m representing Dick as his attorney and what passes between us is confidential, unless I determine that it doesn’t need to be.”
Lance stared at him for a moment, then got up and left the room, followed by Holly.
“You, too, Dino,” Stone said. Dino got up and left the room.
Stone opened the safe, took out the package and spread its four flaps. On top there was a letter from Dick Stone and beneath was a will. Stone read the letter:
My Dear Stone,
First of all, I wish to hire you as my attorney, and I enclose a check for $1,000.00 as a retainer. Of course, I know that your fees will surpass that amount, should I require services, but that will be taken care of in due course.
Barbara and I have written a will, which is enclosed, and I have had it properly witnessed by four people, whose names and addresses are noted. I have appointed you as our sole executor and, should it be necessary, guardian for our minor daughter, Esme, who is now eighteen, until she reaches her majority. She is entering Oxford this fall. I have also appointed you as her trustee, as she stands to inherit a lot of money if Barbara and I should both walk in front of the same oncoming bus.
You will note that, apart from a few bequests to distant relatives on Barbara’s side of the family, there are none to members of my family. My only close relatives are Caleb, his wife and their twin sons, now twenty-one years old and seniors at Yale this fall. I have specifically excluded them from inheriting any of my property. I have provided for our caretaker in Dark Harbor, Seth Hotchkiss (you’ll remember him), and his family.
You will also note that, in the highly unlikely event of Barbara, Esme and me dying simultaneously, as in a plane crash, you would become a beneficiary, along with the foundation mentioned in the will. I say highly unlikely because we always travel on different airplanes.
Next time we meet, I will explain why I have made the decisions I have regarding our estate. In the meantime, I ask you to follow my wishes as you understand them.
It is not inconceivable that, should I die anytime soon, my employers may express an interest in my affairs, and I authorize you to cooperate with them to the extent you deem advisable.
Finally, I have attached a joint financial statement, giving account numbers, phone numbers of brokers, etc., which you would find useful in the event of our deaths. I should explain that most of our combined assets come from Barbara, inherited from her father.
I thank you for your kind attention to this matter, and the next time I find myself in New York, I’ll take you to dinner again—it’s been too long—or, alternatively, perhaps you might find some time to spend with us in June in Islesboro. I built my own house there four years ago, and you’ll find it more comfortable than the old family barn, now occupied by Caleb and his ménage.
Stone put the letter aside and read the will and the financial statement, then he called the group back into his office.
“All right. I have Dick’s permission to talk with you about the package. Let me summarize: It contains a letter to me, his and his wife’s will and a financial statement.”
“What ” Lance began.
Stone held up a hand. “It’s all very simple,” he said. “If Dick dies first, Barbara gets everything; if she dies first, he gets everything; if they both die, their daughter, Esme, gets everything in trust. I am appointed their executor and their daughter’s guardian and trustee.”
“What happens if they all die?” Lance asked.
“Apart from a few bequests to Barbara’s relatives and to a family retainer, the bulk of the estate would go to the Samuel Bernard Foundation. I would inherit the use of the Islesboro house for the life of myself and my heirs, along with the proceeds of a trust, set up to pay the expenses of maintaining and running the house. If I don’t want the place, it would be sold, and the proceeds would go to the same foundation. Dick has specifically excluded his brother and his brother’s family as heirs, and if I sell the house, I am instructed to entail the deed in such a way that Caleb could never buy it.”
“Sounds like some hard feelings between the two of them.”
“Given my experience of them in their youth, I’m not surprised,” Stone said. “I know Sam Bernard, of course, but what is the foundation?” Samuel Bernard had been a law-school professor of Stone’s and had remained a mentor who had historic connections to the CIA.
“It’s set up to provide for the families of Agency officers killed or disabled in the line of duty,” Lance said. “How much did Dick leave the foundation?”
“A million dollars,” Stone said, “in the event of his own death. As I said, in the event of the whole family dying simultaneously, most of the estate goes to the foundation.”
“And how much is that?”
“Thirty million dollars, give or take. Dick’s wife was a very wealthy woman.”
Lance drew in a quick breath. “That is astonishingly generous,” he said.
“Lance,” Stone said, “what reason do you have for thinking that Dick murdered his family and killed himself?”
“That is the opinion of the sheriff and the state police in Maine,” Lance said. “My superiors would like for you and me to determine if he’s right.”
“Do you think Dick was mentally ill? You’ve seen him more recently than I.”
“I have no reason to think so, and certainly the contents of his letter to you and his will are lucid and make him seem sound of mind.”
“So the sheriff wants us to believe that a man who has spent his career handling intricate intelligence matters and who has just received the promotion of a lifetime is so nuts and despondent as to murder his family and commit suicide?”
“At this date, I suppose the sheriff’s conclusions are preliminary and based only on the physical evidence.”
“And what is the physical evidence?”
“I have no idea.”
“Then I guess we’d better go to Maine,” Stone said.
Posted August 28, 2008
This novel, in the Stone Barrington series, is better than many reviews would lead one to believe. Tony Roberts does a fine job of reading the book and providing a variety of voices to the characters. The story isn't bad. It may not be Mr. Woods's best novel but it keeps a fair amount of suspense, as one wonder's if Holly (one of the characters) is going to be found alive or dead. is also good.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2009
This is a pleasant enough read, but the plotline is pretty simple. Better writers create stories with numerous twists and turns, hidden clues, surprises, and clever writing. You won't find any of that here. You just go to the Dark harbor, meet some nice people, learn who the bad people are, and then live happily ever after.
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Posted May 14, 2006
Posted July 26, 2012
Posted February 13, 2008
I have read about every book Mr.Woods has wrote. This one is okay, but has some very slow parts in it. Repeats the same thing time and time again. As Mr. Woods ages, so does his sex scenes.......big snoozer's!! (and they never get up and wash afterwards...yuck!) but, all in all, I am still a fan of his work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 23, 2006
I'm sad to say it, but it appears that Stuart Woods is on 'auto pilot'. His last two efforts have been dissapointments. I don't know if it has anything to do with it, but I'm not a big fan of bringing the characters from three separate series together. A slight nod or acknowledgement is clever, but co-mingling has lost any appeal to me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2006
Posted May 24, 2006
I have read all of the Stone Barrington series and this is one of his worst yet. The plot was uninteresting and he should just retire Stone Barrington! Add in Holly Barker and Lance Cabot and it becomes a mish mosh of his book series. It was a fast read which was a plus since I could not wait to finish it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2006
This book appears on the NY Times best seller list? Let me let you down gently. The book has about as may curves and twists as the NJ pike. Don't even know if the author has ever been to the area as Rockland ME has no airport. Owl's Head is the closest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2006
I waited eagerly for Stuart Woods next Stone Barrington novel but was highly disappointed. First, my Stone would never end a phone conversation with 'bye-bye' especially in light of a murder of family and the kidnapping of his bed mate Holly. Arrington had no business in this novel. Her character has become very shallow and no six year old uses a vocabulary that Peter did in this book. Second, Stone requested that Dino bring Holly's dog to the Maine compound. I'm sure that all readers figured that his intent was to help find Holly but when Ham suggested that they use the dog for this purpose Stone slapes his head and wonders why he didn't think of that first! The ending was very predicable with little intregue. I love Stuart Woods books and will buy the next one but hope that he gives me back my 'macho man' Stone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2006
Mr. Woods would have us believe that rudimentary historical accuracy is no concern of ours when he has a high-ranking CIA officer refer to some clandestine meeting and an overheard conversation that occurred at a card game 'last week in East Germany.' Huh? Thinking this was just some weird time warp thing that would all be explained later, this reader let it pass. But, whoops, there it was again a few pages later. East Germany. As some history buffs will no doubt remember, The Wall came down in 1989. In 1990, East Germany and West Germany were united. There is no East Germany today. Full stop. We don't need to get the thread counts on the sheets right, but, c'mon, a CIA guy says this? Beyond the pale. Some editor is taking way too much Ambien.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2009
This makes the 12th in author Woods popular Stone Barrington series - each one better than the last. Woods has the ability to add new dimensions to this character we thought we knew, thus continually piquing our interest in Barrington, a high priced lawyer in the Big Apple. Actor Tony Roberts has read several of the Barrington books. Can't say that each narrative is better than the last because they've all been first-rate. What else would we expect from this stage and film veteran and two time Tony nominee? With Dark Harbor Barrington temporarily exits the concrete canyons of New York for a small town on the Maine coast. Barrington hasn't visited the town, Dark Harbor, in years nor has he had contact with his cousin, Dick Stone, a CIA agent. Now, he suddenly finds that he has inherited a house from his cousin. He's told that Dick Stone has murdered his wife and daughter then killed himself. A tidy package? Barrington doesn't believe a word of it. So, with the help of his former partner, Dino Bacchetti and Lovely Holly Barker Barrington sets out to discover the truth about his cousin's death. Poking around Dark Harbor proves dangerous - especially for Holly as she is kidnaped. Barrington believes a psycho may be on the loose but what is the tie with his late cousin? Once again, Woods weaves a suspenseful tale and Roberts delivers it with panache. - Gail CookeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 14, 2006
Outstanding read, I kept turning the pages and actually put the book down several times so I could savor the read only to find myself with the book back in my hands and reading feverishly! I feel like the charaters are my personal friends! What a fantasic read! Thanks Stuart Woods, a master!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2006
Not his best book, but still enjoyable. I'll always read anything Woods writes and hope for more Stone Barrington books. I don't know why he had to bring boring Arrington into this book. It was a waste of pages and added nothing to the story line. I thought maybe Peter copying the writing from the diary might help them, but it went nowhere. I thought for sure Stone brought Daisy to the island to help in finding Holly. If not for that reason, why would he have wanted her? Some unanswered plots....why were the the two housewives killed...just to add to the story? This book was still worth reading and I look forward to Stone and Dino being back in NY and at Elaine's.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Attorney Stone Barrington dines with his former NYPD partner Dino Bachetti when CIA operative Lance Cabot and Agents Holly Barker arrive at the restaurant. Lance asks Stone what he knows about his first cousin Dick Stone, Jr. Stone says not much as they have seen each other once in the last two decades and that was eight or nine years ago. He said that following graduating high school he spent a summer with Dick and his family, but that was about it except for a package he received this morning. Lance informs Stone that the Isleboro sheriff department and the Maine State police believe Dick, recently appointed the CIA Deputy Director for Operations, murdered his wife Barbara and their eighteen years old daughter Esme before killing himself. Stone and Lance are to uncover the truth.----- They start with the package, which contains a letter of instruction, two wills, and a finance statement. From there the quartet travel to Dick¿s home in the village of Dark Harbor on Isleboro, an isle in Penobscot Bay, Maine. As they dig deeper into what happened, the evidence piles up that a double murder suicide occurred, but Stone finds it too perfect and wonders if his cousin¿s work as an operative or his estrangement with his brother Caleb led to what he believes is the homicides of three people.------ This delightful police procedural with espionage overtones hooks the audience from the moment that Stone and Lance discuss his cousin and never slows down until the final twin confrontation. The long running series is refreshed with Stone explaining aspects of his past but smoothly as part of the present investigation. This tale is a must for series regulars while newcomers will understand why the accolades for this very talented writer.---- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2010
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Posted May 3, 2011
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Posted September 5, 2012
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Posted August 28, 2009
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