Hit List (Stone Barrington #53) - Stuart Woods


It was a list of names: ten of them; half men, half women.

John H. Williams

Sheila Barton

Randall Carver

Bethany Holmes

Ariana Charles

Mark Wiseman

Helena Tree

Richard Cianelli

Trisha Marshall

Stone Barrington

Neatly printed on heavy, pale yellow stationery. Stone Barrington didn’t know any of them, except the last. He held it up to the light and found a watermark: Strathmore. He buzzed his secretary, Joan Robertson.

“Yeah, boss?” she asked, setting a cup of coffee on his desk.

“There is a list of names on my desk. Who are they?”

“Beats me. I found it in the mail when I got to work—some time ago.”

“Don’t be arch, it doesn’t suit you. Do you still have the envelope?”

She brought it to him; a plain, manila envelope, available at any store that sold plain manila envelopes. Not as distinctive as the stationery. He looked into the envelope and saw that it still had a card inside; he shook it out onto his desk. Same stationery, but card stock. One line, printed:

Dead, no special order, starting soon. Figure it out.

“Is this one of your jokes?” Stone asked.

“What jokes? I don’t have any jokes, just witticisms.”

She had him there. “Did you see who delivered it?”

“No, it was already there when I arrived.”

“Did you enter from the street?”

“No, I took the shortcut.” Joan lived in the building next door, which housed Stone’s staff.

“Joan, without touching either of these two pieces of paper, see if you can scan them and e-mail them to Dino.” Dino Bacchetti had been his partner when they were detectives with the NYPD, many years before. Now Dino was the police commissioner for New York City, and Stone was an attorney at the firm of Woodman & Weld. In the beginning, he had handled the cases the firm did not wish to be seen handling; now he was a senior partner.

“Yes, sir.” She left the room and came back in, pulling on a pair of latex gloves.

“You keep latex gloves in your office?” he asked.

“Yep. You never know when you might not want to touch something or leave any fingerprints.” She picked up the two pieces of paper and left his office, closing the door behind her.

* * *

Stone had finished half his coffee when his cell phone rang. “Yes?”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Dino asked.

“I don’t have any jokes, just witticisms,” he replied, stealing a line.

“Tell me how you got them, and why, and no witticisms.”

“A plain manila envelope was found by Joan when she came to work this morning. It contained both pieces of paper. There’s a watermark on the letter paper: Strathmore. It’s common enough, but high quality. We use it here.”

“Do you know any of the names on the list?”

“Only one: guess which.”

“I’m familiar with two of them: yours and that of Randall Carver.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s an adman, director of account services at Young & Rubicam.”

“How do you know, or know of, him?”

“The name is at the top of a form that landed on my desk about ten minutes before yours did.”

“What form?”

“Homicide report. Carver’s name is at the top. He was shot once in the head at the corner of Madison Avenue and Forty-second Street by a man on a bicycle, we think. A silencer was used; we found the bicycle around the corner, leaning against a dumpster. It was clean.”

“You’ll find my prints and Joan’s on the paper, when you receive the originals; any others are fair game.”

“You sure you don’t know anybody on the list?”

“Only myself.”

“My guess is whoever sent this killed Carver just to get our attention and start us working on the case. Now we have to figure out who all these people are, and that will be no picnic. The first name on the list is John Williams. I’ll bet we can find two hundred of them in the phone book, if such a thing still exists.”

“He has a middle initial, so it won’t be too bad.”

“Bad enough. It would have been nice if the killer had given us street addresses. Dinner tonight?”

“Why not.”

“Viv is on the road, so it will just be me. P.J. Clarke’s at seven?”

“Done.” Stone hung up and buzzed Joan. “Please book me at P.J.’s for two at seven, then wrap up these two pieces and the envelope, while wearing your latex gloves.”

“Consider it done.”

“I will, when it’s done.”

* * *

After work, Stone went up to his fifth-floor master suite, to his dressing room. There were two—his and one for the putative woman. He opened his safe and took out a Colt Government .380: small, slim, light,