Turbulence (Stone Barrington #46)

Turbulence (Stone Barrington #46)

Stuart Woods


STONE BARRINGTON set down his Citation CJ3-Plus smoothly at Key West International Airport and taxied to the ramp. The lineman waved him to the right, toward a large hangar next to the Fixed Base Operator’s own huge hangar. Stone followed the lineman’s hand motions until he got the crossed-arms signal from the lineman, then he shut down the engines, ran through his final checklist, turned off the main switch, and struggled out of his seat.

He opened the door and put down the folding stairs.

“Afternoon, Mr. Barrington,” the lineman said. “Do you want her in your new hangar?” He pointed to the large one, now behind the airplane. Stone had closed on the sale a few days before.

“Yes, please,” Stone replied.

“And your car was delivered,” the lineman said. “They have the key at the front desk.” George, the caretaker of the house that Stone had just bought, had left it there for him.

“If you want to drive your car onto the ramp, you’ll have to stop in at the sheriff’s office near the main entrance and get yourself a security badge that will allow you and your car onto the ramp. Right now, I’ll cart your luggage out there for you.”

“Thanks very much,” Stone said. “I’ll pick up the key and meet you there.”

“You want fuel now or later?”

“Later, please.” It would be hot in the hangar, and he didn’t want the fuel to expand and leak out of the vents. Stone walked into the FBO lobby, introduced himself, and retrieved his car key. Then he met the lineman outside at his car, a Mercedes S550 Cabriolet, which had been included in the purchase of the house from his business associate, Arthur Steele, of the Steele Group of insurance companies. Arthur had cleverly rented him the house through an agent, knowing that once Stone had stayed in it, he would want to buy it. Stone’s great weakness, along with attractive women and 100-proof bourbon, was houses, of which he now had too many.

He tipped the lineman generously, to make a good first impression.

The lineman closed the trunk. “Just give us a call when you want your airplane, and we’ll roll her out for you.”

“Thanks very much.” Stone got into the car, started it, turned on the air-conditioning, and put down the top. He drove out of the airport and turned down South Roosevelt Boulevard, along Smathers Beach. A ten-minute drive later he was turning into his driveway, which was right next door to a “gentleman’s club” called Bare Assets. He pulled into the carport, as opposed to the garage, and George came out of his small house and helped Stone in with the luggage. They had first met on Stone’s last visit to Key West for the Steele Group’s board meeting, when he had been a tenant. A housekeeper, Anna, was also part of the deal.

The main house had once been three houses on separate lots. A previous owner had moved the smallest one over a dozen feet or so and bolted it to the center house, which contained his study, the dining room, living room, kitchen, and bar. The master suite was in the freestanding third house, which had been completely renovated.

Stone had just deposited his luggage in the master suite when his builder, Cal Waters, turned up to walk him through the house and show him the projects he had completed since Stone had bought it. He showed Stone the new laundry room, the alterations to the kitchen, and his study with its new bookcases, one of them being a secret door to a kitchenette where there was room for the safe he had ordered. Then he saw the new bar and video room, just completed.

“It’s beautiful, Cal,” Stone said, “and I appreciate your fast work on the place.” Cal was semiretired and their mutual attorney, Jack Spottswood, had persuaded him to do the project.

“We aim to please,” Cal said. “Your boat has had her bottom cleaned and repainted and is back in her berth at the Key West Yacht Club.” Jack had just happened to have a recently widowed client whose late husband’s newish Hinckley T43 Jet Boat was for sale, and Stone had fallen for that, as well as the house.

Cal took him into the study and showed him how the hidden television set rose out of a cabinet, and switched it on. “Same thing in the master bedroom. By the way, have you seen the weather lately?”

“Nope,” Stone said. “Just my flight weather for the trip down, which was beautiful.”

Cal switched to the Weather Channel. “This isn’t so beautiful,” he said. Way down in the Caribbean somewhere was a large, angry red spot, labeled HURRICANE IRMA.

“Well, that’s a long way off, isn’t it?”

“About a week, maybe less,” Cal replied. “There are several possible routes showing, and at least one of them is right toward Key West. You’d better call your insurance broker and make sure your coverage is in effect. Same for your boat.”

“I’ll do that,” Stone said, staring at the monster, whose winds were labeled as 185 mph.

Cal shook his hand and left, and Stone wandered through the house again, thinking about what a great decision he’d made. Except, maybe, for the fucking hurricane. He went back into the study and looked at the hurricane again. It didn’t look any better. He switched off the TV, and it sank back into its cabinet.

Stone’s cell phone rang and he took it from his holster. The caller’s name was blocked. “Hello?”

“Hello from Havana,” Holly Barker said. Holly was the secretary of state in President Katharine Lee’s administration and was there for the ceremonial opening of the remodeled and enlarged United States embassy.

Stuart Woods's Books