Unbound, page 1
BOOKS BY STUART WOODS
F I C T I O N
Quick & Dirty†
Fast & Loose†
Below the Belt†
Sex, Lies & Serious Money†
Cut and Thrust†
Doing Hard Time†
Son of Stone†
Santa Fe Edge§
Loitering with Intent†
Santa Fe Dead§
Beverly Hills Dead
Shoot Him If He Runs†
The Prince of Beverly Hills
The Short Forever†
Worst Fears Realized†
Swimming to Catalina†
Dead in the Water†
Santa Fe Rules§
New York Dead†
Under the Lake
Run Before the Wind‡
Barely Legal†† (with Parnell Hall)
Smooth Operator** (with Parnell Hall)
T R A V E L
A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland (1979)
M E M O I R
Blue Water, Green Skipper
*A Holly Barker Novel
†A Stone Barrington Novel
‡A Will Lee Novel
§An Ed Eagle Novel
**A Teddy Fay Novel
††A Herbie Fisher Novel
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
Copyright © 2018 by Stuart Woods
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
Ebook ISBN: 9780735217195
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Woods, Stuart, author.
Title: Unbound : a Stone Barrington novel / Stuart Woods.
Description: New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017036717 | ISBN 9780735217171 (hardcover)
Subjects: | GSAFD: Mystery fiction. | Suspense fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3573.O642 U49 2018 | DDC 813/.54—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017036717
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Books by Stuart Woods
About the Author
TEDDY FAY STARED into the smog-filtered rising sun and set his speed control to seventy-five miles per hour. The road seemed for a moment to rise into the flaming ball, then, as he crested what passed for a hill, it fell back into its proper place. He reached into the center armrest, fumbled for his Ray-Bans and put them on. No need to drill a hole into his corneas.
Teddy, who for some time had been called Billy Barnett, had done all the right things. He had identified his wife’s body in the morgue, though he had winced at her injuries. The instrument of her death had been a huge SUV, driven down Rodeo Drive at an incomprehensible speed by a woman who had, reportedly, just finished a three-cosmo lunch with some friends. His wife’s only participation had been to go shopping and to cross with the light in her favor. She had been the definition of innocence, and her killer had been the definition of murderer. Apparently, as he’d been told by police, the woman was the wife of one of Hollywood’s most famous producers, who specialized in the kind of mayhem inflicted by his spouse on that sunny, sunny L.A. day.
Teddy Fay had done the right thing. He had engaged an undertaker, sat through a well-attended memorial
Teddy had then packed a couple of bags, tossed them into the rear of his new Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which had, seemingly of its own accord, found its way onto I-40, pointed east, toward Oklahoma City. The car may have known the way, but Teddy had no idea where he was going.
An hour after sunrise, Teddy surprised himself by feeling hungry. He had not eaten for nearly two days. He got off the interstate and found a small-town diner—he didn’t know which town—and ate a big breakfast. He gassed up and got back onto I-40. He passed exits to places with familiar names, but none of them had any life for him.
He spent the night in a motel and continued at dawn the next day. He was in the western outskirts of Albuquerque when he saw a sign for Santa Fe. The name resonated for Teddy; he had visited, even lived there when he had been on the run from most of the law and intelligence services in the United States. He took I-25 north. It might be a nicer place since he had been presidentially pardoned for his many sins—more than the President knew about, but all covered.
He was at five thousand feet of elevation at Albuquerque, the same as Denver, the Mile-High City, and as he drove north the landscape rose before him, until his GPS told him he was nearing seven thousand feet. He knew the name of a hotel there: the Inn of the Anasazi. He had always liked the name, and now he phoned ahead for accommodations. He noted several calls received on his iPhone, but the ringer had been off, and he didn’t feel like returning them.
• • •
HE LAY STARING at the beamed ceiling for a long time before he fell asleep.
• • •
STONE BARRINGTON WAS at his desk in his home office in New York when Joan, his secretary, buzzed him. “Your son is on line one.”
They normally talked once a week, and it had only been three or four days since their last conversation, so Stone was immediately worried. He picked up the phone. “Peter?”
“You sound sad. Is anything wrong?”
“It’s Billy Barnett,” Peter said.
“Is he ill?”
“No, his wife was run down and killed by a drunk driver in Beverly Hills a few days ago, and now he’s missing.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. I liked her. What do you mean, ‘missing’?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound ominous. I just mean that he asked for some time off, and I haven’t been able to reach him since. I went out to his house in Malibu this morning. His car was gone, and the place was locked up.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me,” Stone said. “Billy was a loner before he married, so maybe he just wants to be alone again for a while.”
“But Billy has become more gregarious over the past few years, in his quiet way, of course. I wouldn’t have expected him to just walk away from everyone he knows here.”
“Peter, people don’t always do what you expect them to, even when you think you know them well. Give him a while, then try calling him again, or just send him a text saying that you’re thinking about him and you hope to hear from him soon.”
“You’re right, that’s what I should do.”
“When you hear from him tell him he’s in my thoughts, and if he finds his way to New York he’s welcome at my house.”
“I’ll do that, Dad.” They said goodbye and hung up.
• • •
TEDDY AWOKE LATE and had breakfast. As noon approached he thought he’d take a stroll around the Plaza, which was a few steps from the inn. He passed through the large group of Indian craftspeople selling their silver jewelry under the portico of the old Governor’s Mansion and immediately thought of buying something for his wife but brought himself up short. He forced himself to walk on.
He was approaching some sort of commercial building when a familiar figure suddenly appeared a few yards ahead, leaving its front door. The figure was unmistakable, since he was something like six feet, eight inches tall and, further, wore a large Western hat that added another half a foot to his height. Teddy walked a little faster to catch up.
Then he saw a second man, and there was something furtive in his posture and movement. He had fallen into step behind the tall man, and there was something in his right hand, bumping against his leg.
“Ed!” Teddy shouted. Then louder, as he began to run. “Ed Eagle!”
Eagle turned and looked over his left shoulder but didn’t stop, missing sight of the man, who was behind and to his right.
Teddy lunged at the man, striking him in the lower back with his forearm and knocking him to the ground. Teddy was climbing the man’s back, reaching for the wrist of the hand that held the long blade, when Eagle turned around and, seeing what had happened, stomped on the wrist and kicked the knife away.
“Billy?” Eagle said. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on?”
Teddy had the man’s left arm behind his back, his wrist shoved up between his shoulder blades.
“I think you’d better ask this guy,” he said to Eagle, “but maybe you’d better call a cop first.”
TEDDY SAT AT the dining table in Ed Eagle’s home, with Ed and his wife, the actress and writer Susannah Wilde, as well. The business on the sidewalk outside Eagle’s offices had been handled with dispatch by the Santa Fe police, and both Ed and Teddy had given statements.
“I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s death,” Eagle said.
“Thank you, Ed,” Teddy replied, “I was sorry to hear about it myself.”
“Of course. What brings you to Santa Fe?”
“Four wheels and a wandering nature,” Teddy replied. “For some reason I suddenly craved the open road.”
“I’m glad it brought you our way,” Ed said. “Otherwise, I might be on a slab down at the morgue.”
“I didn’t get a chance to ask you,” Teddy said, “who was the guy, and what was his beef?”
“His name is Sanchez, and his beef was that I talked his brother into taking a plea bargain of thirty years, instead of what would almost certainly have been the death penalty. Now his brother will be out in fifteen years or so, and the other Mr. Sanchez, the one with the sword, will likely be serving life, since he opposes plea bargains.”
“It was a sword?”
“A Roman sword, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Last year Mr. Sanchez was an extra in a sword and sandal opus being shot somewhere out in the hills, and the company went back to L.A. one sword short. Except for you, they would have located it between my shoulder blades.”
“I’m glad I was there,” Teddy said.
“I’m glad you were, too,” Susannah offered. “Mind you, I’ve occasionally been tempted to do much the same thing to Ed with a steak knife, but I must have a bit more personal restraint than Mr. Sanchez.”
“If I’d known you were here,” Ed said, “you’d be occupying our guesthouse instead of the inn. It’s not too late to make the move. We’d be delighted to have you.”
“Thank you, Ed, but I think I’ll move on in a day or two, so I won’t trouble you.”
“Do you have a destination in mind?” Ed said.
“Do you intend to pursue justice with Mrs. Dax Baxter?”
“She’s Dax Baxter’s wife? I didn’t know. In any case, I’ll let the law have its way with her.”
“I’ve made a couple of calls to L.A., and I’m afraid the law appears to have lost interest in Mrs. Baxter,” Ed said. “She was unconscious when
“So she will just walk away from killing another human being?” Teddy asked incredulously.
“That seems very likely,” Ed said. “Dax Baxter is well acquainted with the wheels upon which his city rolls and knows how and which ones to lubricate.”
“Then perhaps I should consider a civil suit?”
“Perhaps, but you should know that Mrs. Baxter, in her previous incarnation as Willa Mather, was a well-regarded actress, until her husband decided, given her history of substance abuse, that she should confine her career to red-carpet appearances in his company. She would probably regard taking the stand in her own defense as an opportunity for a comeback, and she would be a formidable witness.”
Teddy nodded. “I remember her work, and I tend to agree with your opinion of her.”
“I’m sorry I can’t be more encouraging, Billy.”
Susannah spoke up. “Or,” she said, “you could just shoot them both in the head.”
Ed smiled. “I’m afraid my wife, though she is a brilliant actress, a fine screenwriter, and an ace producer and director, would make a poor attorney. She lacks the patience.”
“Tell me, Ed,” Susannah said sweetly, “how would patience improve Billy’s situation?”
Ed shrugged. “Improvement can be hard to come by, but patience is time, and time, though it may not heal all wounds, heals some of them and usually ameliorates the rest.”
“My husband is so wise,” Susannah said with a smile.
“I appreciate both your points of view,” Teddy said, “though perhaps not equally.”
• • •
THE FOLLOWING MORNING Ed Eagle made a phone call east, where it was two hours later.
“Hello, Stone, it’s Ed Eagle.”
“Ed! How are you?”
Other author's books:
- A Delicate TouchKisserHot PursuitQuick & DirtyCapital CrimesLoitering With IntentGrass RootsScandalous Behavior
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