Stuart Woods

Fresh Disasters

Book 13 in the Stone Barrington series, 2007

This book is for



Elaine’s, late.

Stone Barrington sat at his usual table with Dino Bacchetti and Bill Eggers. Dino was his old partner from when he had been on the NYPD, and Eggers was the managing partner of Woodman and Weld, the law firm for which Stone was of counsel, which is to say, he did the work that the firm did not wish to be seen to do, sometimes for clients the firm did not wish to be seen to represent. He did this work from a distance, at his home office in Turtle Bay.

Stone took his first sip of his second bourbon, while Dino and Eggers did likewise for their second Scotch.

“I’m hungry,” Stone said. “How long since we ordered dinner?”

Eggers glanced at his watch. “Twenty minutes.”

“I should have my green bean salad, hold the peppers, by now,” Stone said.

“Look around,” Dino said. “It’s a busy night.”

It was a busy night, Stone reflected, and then it got even busier. The front door opened, and in walked Herbert Q. Fisher with two hookers. Stone knew they were hookers, because renting was the only means by which Herbie Fisher could acquire company so attractive, not that they were all that attractive.

“Oh, shit,” Stone said.

“Shit what?” Dino asked.

“It’s Herbie Fisher.” Stone looked away from the door, so as not to catch Herbie’s eye. It didn’t work.

Herbie stopped at Stone’s table, picked up his hand and pumped it. “Hey, Stone, baby!” he yelled, forming his words carefully enough that he appeared drunk. “How’s it hanging?”

“Hello, Herbie,” Stone said. “How are you?” He immediately regretted the question.

“Well, I’m a lot better than okay,” Herbie said. “I passed the bar today.”

Stone squinted at him. “You’re going to be a bartender?” Visions came to mind of customers clutching their throats and gagging.

“No, no-the bar. You and I are now brothers in the law.”

“You’re drunk, Herbie. Go away.”

Herbie began searching for something in his inside coat pocket. “No, I’m not kidding. I’ve got it right here.” He came up with a page from a newspaper and unfolded it to reveal a list of many names in small print. A circle was drawn around one of them. “See? Right here!” Herbie pointed helpfully.

Stone looked at the name. “This is a list of night students who got their GEDs, right?”

“No! Look up at the top of the page.”

Stone followed Herbie’s finger. “Candidates Successfully Completing the Bar Examination of the State of New York,” read the title.

“It’s a joke newspaper,” Stone said.

“No, it’s not!” Herbie said indignantly.

“You’ve never been to law school,” Stone pointed out.

“I most certainly have,” Herbie said, “for the past nineteen months, at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Internet College of Law. I graduated summa cum laude.”

“Herbie, go away,” Stone said.

“Oh, let me introduce you to my ladies,” Herbie said, sweeping an arm toward the two hookers. “This is Suzette and Sammie. Ladies, this is the distinguished attorney-at-law Mr. Stone Barrington. He and I have worked together in the past and, hopefully, will be working together in the future.”

“Herbie,” Stone said, “you’re hallucinating. The notion that you graduated from any established law school and passed the bar is insane, and the idea of working with you in any capacity is repellent. If you don’t go away, I’ll have a waiter throw you out.”

“Nice to see you, too, Stone,” Herbie said with a wave. He took the arms of his two companions and steered them toward a table in Siberia, where a waiter was frantically beckoning.

“Who the hell was that?” Eggers asked.

“You remember that time when you wanted to catch a client’s husband in flagrante delicto, and you asked me to find a photographer, and Bob Cantor, who usually does that sort of work for me, was out of town and recommended his nephew, and the nephew fell through the skylight while taking the photograph?”

“Oh, yeah, I remember that.”

“Well, that was Herbie Fisher.”

“Holy shit, didn’t you have that guy shot?”

“I wish.”

“And now he’s a member of the bar?”

“No, it’s just one of Herbie’s fantasies, probably cooked up to impress the hookers.”

“How do you know they’re hookers?” Eggers asked.

Dino spoke up. “Just take a look,” he said, nodding in the direction of Herbie’s table.

One of the girls was sitting close to Herbie, exploring his ear with her tongue, while the feet of the other, toes pointing downward, could be seen to protrude from under the tablecloth. Herbie wore a beatific expression.

“If Elaine sees that,” Dino said, “she’ll grab somebody’s steak knife and kill them all.”

“Okay,” Eggers said, “they’re hookers. But that page of names he showed you was from the Legal Review, and they published the names today of those who passed the bar.”

“Then somebody took the bar exam for him,” Stone said.

“Probably the same guy who took G. W. Bush’s exams at Yale and Harvard,” Dino said.

Their first course arrived, and they dug in.

Elaine came over and sat down. “You ordered the porterhouse?” she said.

“Right,” Dino replied.

“For three of you?”

“It’s a big steak.”

“It’s a steak for two; you can carry home the leftovers, like always.”

“Elaine,” Stone said, “what’s the difference if three of us finish the thing here?”

“The difference is one main course,” she said. “Do the arithmetic.”

Stone was about to argue with her when two very large men walked through the front door, looking around like wolves seeking out a wounded animal. “What’s this?” Stone asked.

Dino glanced over his shoulder. “Wiseguys,” he said. “So what?”

“They don’t look like they’re here for dinner,” Stone replied. “At least, not for anything on the menu.”

The two very large men walked the length of the restaurant, then homed in on Siberia, where the girl under the

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