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Santa Fe Rules
Chapter OneWolf Willett remembered too late that Flaps had always had a cold nose. Now it found the back of his neck, and with a girlish shriek, Wolf sat bolt upright in bed and regarded her with bleary eyes. There was only a faint glow of daylight from outside.
"Got me again, didn't you?" he said to her.
Flaps grinned. This grin had always been one of her great charms, and it did not fail to do its work now.
Wolf melted. "Time to get up, huh?"
Flaps laid her head in his lap and grinned again, looking up at him with big brown eyes.
"Right now?" he asked, teasing her.
Right now, she replied, thumping her tail against the bed for emphasis.
"All right, all right." He moaned and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
Flaps celebrated her triumph with a little golden retriever dance, throwing in a couple of squeals of happiness.
"Okay," Wolf said, standing up, "but me first." He headed for the bathroom, but somehow one leg seemed shorter than the other; he missed the bathroom door and bumped into the wall. "Whoof," he said to Flaps. "What did I have to drink last night?" He shook his head and stretched his eyes wide open, but the dizziness, not an unpleasant sensation, remained. He groped his way into the bathroom, using the walls for support, and peed, holding on to the toilet with one hand.
Flaps rewarded him with a little kiss on the ass.
"Jesus!" he screamed, jumping away and grabbing the sink for support. "You really know how to wake a guy up, don't you?"
Flaps grinned and did her little dance.
"Just a minute, all right?" He splashed some water on his face, brushed his teeth too quickly, andtossed down a couple of vitamin C's with a glass of very cold water from the tap. He grabbed a bathrobe from the hook on the door and headed back to the bedroom in search of slippers. He was navigating better now, but as he proceeded out of the bedroom and across the living room he found himself moving slightly sideways, crablike, in order to maintain his course. Light was creeping across the valley below the house, across the suburbs of Santa Fe, but the interior of the house was still dimly lit, and in the kitchen he turned on the lights, squinting against the glare.
Flaps waited impatiently for him to get coffee started, then watched, rapt, as he poured her a dish of dry dog food. She ate daintily, as befitted her gender, while he got an English muffin into the toaster and rounded up butter and jam. He drank directly from a plastic container of fresh orange juice and returned it to the refrigerator, sighing as the sweet juice made its way down.
"Want to go out now?" he asked her.
To his surprise, she trotted across the room and scratched on the door that led to the guest wing of the house.
"That's not the back door, dummy," he railed at her, shaking his head. "It's this way, remember? The way you've gone out every day of your life?"
She scratched on the guest wing door again.
Wolf kept that part of the house closed and unheated until a guest arrived. "I think you must be as hung over as I am this morning." He slapped his thigh and whistled softly.
Reluctantly, Flaps followed him to the outside kitchen door and, when he opened it, bounded outside.
Wolf left her to roam the hillside, sniffing for coyote markings among the pi¤ons, and returned to his breakfast. He ate slowly and with a nearly blank mind. He did not think of the night before, did not try to remember what he drank, did not think of anything much until he remembered that he had to go to Los Angeles this morning. He looked at the clock on the microwave: just after seven. He calculated the time to the airport, time for the trip, time for the ride to the office. He'd be in L.A. by eleven; time for a sandwich at his desk before his meeting at two. It was Tuesday; he'd get six or seven hours of work in with the editor today and a full day tomorrow, then on Thursday he and Julia would have Thanksgiving dinner with their friends the Carmichaels.
Flaps, her ablutions completed and her survey of the property concluded, scratched on the back door.
He let her in, and she went straight to her cedar-shavings bed and settled in for her morning nap; she was as much a creature of habit as he.
Wolf shaved in the shower, using the mist-free mirror, then toweled himself dry and used the hair blower on his thick, graying hair. He still felt a light buzz, felt oddly free of worry; they were approaching completion of the new film, and he was usually nervous as hell at this point in a production, but today he couldn't think of anything to worry about. He was on automatic pilot as he dressed, doing the things he did every day. He slipped into freshly starched jeans and into the soft elkskin cowboy boots that added an inch and a half to his five-foot-nine-inch frame. He was the same height as Paul Newman, he told himself automatically, as he did every morning of his life, and, he reminded himself, the same age as Robert Redford. He wondered for a moment whether he would rather be the same height as Redford and the same age as Newman. It was a close call.
He slipped into a silk shirt and a cashmere sweater and, on his way back to the kitchen, retrieved a sheepskin coat from the hall closet. It would be a chilly morning, but he would shed both the outer garments before arriving in L.A. He took along a light blazer for the city.
As he came back into the kitchen, Flaps hopped out of her bed and went again to scratch on the guest wing door.
"What could you possibly want in there?" he demanded, and got a grin for an answer. "Listen, you," he said, shaking a finger at her, "I'm leaving Maria a note telling her you've already been fed, so don't try and get another breakfast out of her, you hear?"
Flaps looked suitably guilty, but she knew very well she'd be fed again by the housekeeper, who melted at the sight of her.
"Be good," he called out to her as he left by the kitchen door, "and don't eat the mailman." If an intruder ever actually got into the house, Wolf knew her plan would be to kiss him to death.
He opened the garage door, tossed the blazer onto the passenger seat of the Porsche Cabriolet, then eased into the car. It was like climbing into a deep freeze. He started the engine, and as he let it warm up, he thought of going back into the house and seeing what the dog wanted in the guest wing; it was unusual for her to display an interest in that part of the house when there were no guests on board. Oh, the hell with it, he thought. He backed out and started down the driveway, taking it slowly, since there was still snow there from the last bit of weather they'd had. The four-wheel drive of the car kept it nicely in the ruts of the driveway, and the main road out of Wilderness Gate had been plowed days before. He passed through the gate of the subdivision and headed down into the town.
There was little traffic at this hour of the morning, and Santa Fe looked beautiful with the low sunlight on the adobe houses and shops. Everything was adobe in Santa Fe--or, at least, stucco painted to look like adobe--and it reminded him a little of an English village in which all the houses were built of the same stone. The common building material gave the little city a certain visual harmony.
Wolf always felt grateful that he had chosen Santa Fe as a second home instead of Aspen or one of the other movie-colony favorites. It was harder to get to from L.A., but that kept out the riffraff, and anyway, he had his own airplane to get him there and back faster than the airlines could. Never mind that Julia didn't like the single-engine airplane and usually insisted on taking the airlines, when she couldn't hop a ride on somebody's jet; he liked flying alone. Today he would think about L.A. Days, the latest Wolf Willett production, written and directed, as usual, by Jack Tinney. The film wasn't right yet, and, since shooting had ended and the sets had been struck, it was going to have to be fixed in the editing, as it nearly always was with Jack's films.
As he drove, he used the car's telephone to get a weather forecast from F.A.A. Flight Services and to file an instrument flight plan from Santa Fe to Santa Monica Airport. He always flew on instrument flight plans, even in clear weather; it was like being led by the hand, especially when arriving in L.A. airspace, which was always smoggy and crowded. Santa Fe airport was virtually deserted at this hour of the morning. He drove along the ramp to his T-hangar, opened it, parked the Porsche behind the airplane, and pulled the airplane out of the hangar with a tow bar, then locked up. Normally, during business hours, he would simply call ahead and Capitol Aviation, the F.B.O. (fixed base operator--a name left over from flying's barnstorming days), would bring up the airplane for him, but today he was too early for them. Anyway, he liked the idea of the Porsche being locked in the hangar instead of being left in the airport parking lot for days on end. Santa Fe Rules. Copyright © by Stuart Woods. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.