"My home away from home," Stone said. "What's up?"
"I've got a client in the car that you have to see tomorrow morning."
"Bring him in. I'll buy him a drink."
"He won't come in."
"Who is he?"
"No names, for the moment."
"You have secrets from us, Bill?" Elaine asked.
"You bet I do," Eggers replied. "Ten o'clock sharp, Stone?"
"Ten o'clock is fine; sharp depends on the snow. Your office?"
"Penthouse One, at the Four Seasons. He doesn't want to be seen with you."
"Tell him to go fuck himself," Stone said.
"Stone," Eggers said, "get this thing done and get it done right, and you could end up a rich man."
"Ten o'clock, sharp," Stone said.
STONE LEFT his house in Turtle Bay early. Eighteen inches of snow had fallen the night before, and the city was a mess. Cabs were few, and he would have to hoof it to 57th Street and the Four Seasons Hotel.
He was clad in a sheepskin coat, cashmere-lined gloves, a soft, felt hat and rubber boots over his shoes. The sidewalks on his block had not been cleared, but the street had been plowed, and he walked up the middle of it all the way to Park Avenue, unmolested by any traffic. The city was peculiarly quiet, the silence punctuated only by the occasional blast of a taxi's horn and, twice, the sound of car striking car. He made it to the Four Seasons ten minutes early.
It was said to be the most expensive hotel in the city, a soaring, very modern skyscraper set on the broad, crosstown street between Madison and Park. A gust of wind propelled him into the lobby, and he was immediately too warm. He found a checkroom and unburdened himself of his outer clothing, and shortly, the elevator deposited him on a high floor. He rang the bell beside the double doors and, immediately, a uniformed butler opened the door.
"My name is Barrington. I'm expected."
"Of course, sir, please come in."
Stone was ushered through a foyer into a huge living room with a spectacular view of the city looking south, or what would have been a spectacular view if not for the clouds enveloping the tops of the taller buildings.
Bill Eggers came off a sofa by the windows and shook his hand. "Sit down," he said, "and let me brief you."
Stone sat down, and immediately he heard another man's voice coming from an adjoining room through an open door. "Bill?" the voice said. "Come on in."
Eggers stood up. "I'm sorry," he said to Stone, "but there's no time. Just listen a lot and follow my lead. Say yes to anything he says."
"Not if he propositions me," Stone said, but Eggers was already leading the way into the next room. Stone followed, and a very tall, very slender man in his mid-thirties came around a desk and shook Eggers's hand. "How are you, Bill?"
"Very well, Thad," Eggers replied. "Let me introduce a colleague of mine. This is Stone Barrington. Stone, this is Thad Shames."
"How do you do?" Stone said, shaking the man's hand. He knew just enough about him to know who he was, but no more than that. Software came into the equation and multimillions. Stone didn't follow finance or business very closely.
"Good to meet you, Stone," Shames said. "Bill says you can solve my problem?"
Stone glanced at Eggers. "Yes," he said, more confidently than he felt. Shames was dressed in a nicely cut dark suit, but his shirt seemed to have been laundered but not pressed. His tie was loose, and the button-down collar's tips were not buttoned. Shames waved them both to a pair of facing sofas and, as he sat down and crossed his legs, revealed that he was also wearing a battered pair of suede Mephisto's, a French athletic shoe. His blond, nearly pink hair was curly and tousled and had not been cut for months. He was clean-shaven, but Stone doubted that he could raise a beard.
Copyright Stuart Woods 2001. All rights reserved. Reproduced by the permission of the publisher, Putnam Publishing.
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