"It's good, Stone. It isn't like with you and me, but that could never last."
"Why not?" Stone demanded, stung. "Oh, it's been great. I arrive in town, move in with you; we go to Elaine's and the theater, and around. We fuck our brains out for a week or two, then I go back."
That was exactly what they did, he reflected, but he wasn't going to admit it. "I thought we had more than that going," he said.
"Oh, men always think that," she said, exasperated. "There are things Thad can give me, things I need, things you can't . . ." She left it hanging.
"Can't afford?" he asked. "I live pretty well. Of course, I'm not worth five billion dollars, but I didn't think Thad was, anymore, not after his new stock offering collapsed, and with the way the market has been."
"It's true," she said. "Thad was hurt badly. Now he's only worth three billion."
"What a blow," Stone said. "It's not the money," she said. "All right, maybe that's part of it. God knows, I'll never have to draw another anxious breath."
"Not about money, anyway." "Won't you try and understand?" "What is there to understand? I'm out, Thad's in. It's your life; I can't tell you how to live it."
"If only you'd . . ." She stopped. Stone didn't want to hear the rest, anyway. "I think it's a little late for if only,' " he said. "Clearly, you've thought this out, I'm not going to try to talk you out of it."
"Thank God for that," she muttered, half to herself. They sat silently for a moment, then, without another word, Callie got up and headed for the door, nearly knocking down Dino, who had chosen that moment to walk in.
Dino turned and watched her rush out the door, then he walked over to Stone's table and sat down. Dino Bacchetti had been Stone's partner when he was still on the NYPD; now he ran the detective squad at the Nineteenth Precinct. "So," he said, "I see you managed to fuck up another relationship."
"Jesus, Dino, I didn't do anything," Stone said. Dino motioned to Michael for a drink. "That's usually the problem," he said. The drink was placed before him, and he sipped it.
"You want some dinner, Dino?" Michael asked. "Whatever he's having," Dino replied. "Caesar salad and the osso buco?"
"Good." He turned to Stone. "After a while, women expect you to do something."
"She's marrying Thad Shames." Dino's eyebrows shot up. "No shit? Well, I'll admit, I didn't see that one coming. I guess Thad isn't broke yet."
"Not yet, but he's only worth three billion now." "Poor guy; couple months, he'll be living on the street. Still, he got the girl."
"Don't rub it in." "It's what I do," Dino explained. Stone's cellphone, clipped to his belt, began to vibrate. "Now what?" he said to nobody in particular. "Hello?"
"Stone, it's Bill Eggers." Bill was the managing partner of Woodman & Weld, the prestigious law firm for which Stone did unprestigious jobs.
"Yeah, Bill." "You sound down." "Just tired; what's up?" "You got anything heavy on your plate right now?" "Nothing much."
"Good; there's a guy coming to see you tomorrow morning at nine, with some work. Do whatever he says."
"Suppose he wants me to kill somebody." "If this guy wanted somebody killed, he'd do it himself. His name is John Bartholomew, and he's major, in his way."
"I'll be glad to see him." "You got a passport?" "Yes." Not that he'd used it for a long time. "Good. You're going to need it." Eggers hung up. Elaine came over and pulled up a chair. "Callie left in a hurry," she said. "I guess you fucked it up again."
"Don't you start," Stone said.
Reprinted from The Short Forever by Stuart Woods by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Stuart Woods. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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