“I’ll check with you tomorrow.”

“Don’t bother; I’ll call you when Dattila sends us a check.” He hung up and buzzed Joan.


“I’m sort of sore and tired; I’m going to go upstairs and take a nap.”

“But you never take naps.”

“Today is the exception.” He hung up and walked to the elevator. He didn’t feel like climbing stairs.

Stone woke up in his darkened bedroom and looked at the bedside clock: nearly eight. He rolled out of bed and into a shower.

At eight-thirty he walked into Elaine’s, feeling somewhat more human. The Knob Creek was on the table as soon as he sat down.

“You’re looking a little rough,” Frank, one of the two headwaiters, said. “What happened to your face?”

“I bumped into something.”

“It’s turning a funny color.”

“It is?” Stone got up, went into the men’s room and checked the mirror. It was, indeed, turning a funny color. He went back to his table, where Dino had arrived and was taking a sip of Stone’s drink.

“I don’t know how you drink that bourbon stuff,” he said, making a face.

“It’s the patriotic thing to do,” Stone explained, “instead of drinking that foreign gunk you’re so partial to. Bourbon is our only national whiskey these days. Do you know why it’s called Knob Creek?”

“I give up.”

“Knob Creek is the birthplace and boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. You see how patriotic that is?”

“How do you know this stuff?”

“I am a student of American history. Also, it’s on a little tag that comes with the bottle.”

“Your face is turning blue,” Dino said.

“Don’t change the subject.”

“Maybe you ought to get it X-rayed.”

“It’s not broken, just bruised.”

“That was a pretty big guy who hit you.”

“Yeah, but look what I did to his door.”

“Well, you really cleaned that door’s clock, but I still think you ought to get your face X-rayed.”

“Dino, when I start relying on you for medical advice, I’ll already be dead.”

“And I’ll be there to say I told you so.”

“I know, I know.” Stone flexed his neck and shoulders.

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m sore from hitting the pavement,” Stone said. “I think I need a massage; you know a masseuse?”

“Well, I heard about this place down on First Avenue.”

“Not that kind of masseuse.”

“I’ll check my Rolodex when I get back to my desk.”

“Thanks, pal.” Stone looked up to see a very beautiful woman enter the restaurant. Frank caught his eye and laughed. A moment later, he seated the woman at the table next to Stone’s.

“Good evening,” she said as she sat down.

“Good evening,” Stone responded. He turned back to his bourbon, again flexing his shoulders and neck.

“You look a little stiff,” the woman said. “You should have a massage.”

“You know, I was just telling my friend here that very thing when you walked in.”

She opened her purse and produced a card, handing it to him. It read:



Stone smiled. “This is providential. If you’re alone, would you like to join us?”

“Thank you, yes,” she said, rising.

Stone held a chair for her. “My name is Stone Barrington; this is my friend, Dino Bacchetti.”

“I’m Marilyn,” she said.

“Marilyn what?”

“Just Marilyn; it’s easier that way.”

“May I get you a drink?”

“I’d love an appletini,” she said.

Stone ordered the drink.

“Now,” she said, after her first sip. “Let’s get business out of the way.” She produced a notebook. “I’m free tomorrow morning at ten,” she said.

“By an odd coincidence, so am I,” Stone replied. He handed her his card.

“Will it upset anyone at your office if you are naked on a table?” she asked.

“Not in the least,” Stone replied, handing her a menu.


Marilyn had ordered and was on her second appletini.

“So, what do you gentlemen do?” she asked.

“I’m an attorney,” Stone said, “and Dino isn’t a gentleman.”

She laughed. “I’m sure that isn’t true,” she said soothingly to Dino.

“Of course not,” Dino replied. “I’m a police officer. Stone used to be, but since he retired he thinks he’s a gentleman.”

“I make no such claims,” Stone said. “That was Marilyn’s characterization.”

“You look awfully young to be retired,” she said to Stone.

“He was retired by popular demand,” Dino said.

“You were kicked off the police force?” Marilyn asked, looking shocked.

“I took a bullet in the knee; it was a medical retirement.”

“How long were you a policeman?”

“Fourteen years. It was long enough.”

“And what kind of law do you practice?”

“The shady kind,” Dino interjected.

“I resent that,” Stone said.

“You go right ahead.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Marilyn said. “You strike me as an ethical person.”

“You are an excellent judge of character,” Stone said, patting her hand.

“I am,” she agreed. “I rely on first impressions.”

“You must be disappointed a lot,” Dino said.

“Not at all.” She turned back to Stone. “And what sort of cases are you working on right now.”

Dino burst out laughing. “Tell her, Stone.” He turned to Marilyn. “You’re going to love this.”

“It’s a personal-injury suit,” Stone said, glaring at Dino.

She reached over and touched his swollen jaw. “Were you the person injured?”

“Not initially.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Stone served a summons on a nefarious character today, and another nefarious character took a swing at him. And connected,” Dino said.

“And how did you respond?” she asked Stone.

“Stone hurt the guy’s front door,” Dino explained, “while flying through it.”

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