Family Jewels: Rose Garder Investigations #1(12)

By: Denise Grover Swank

Neely Kate grabbed my arm and turned me back to face her. “Rose. What are you doin’?”

I pulled loose and looked Raddy square in the eyes. They were bright blue, and the contrast with his startlingly orange hair momentarily distracted me. Was it natural? I shook my head, then started my interrogation. “What exactly do you expect us to do?”

Raddy glanced over his shoulder, then nodded his head sideways toward the back of the store. “We can’t talk here. We’ve gotta head out back.”

We followed Raddy until he stopped beside an end-cap display of PVC joints.

“What’s the big secret?” I asked, already deciding this case wasn’t worth all the cloak-and-dagger intrigue.

He leaned back and glanced over his shoulder down the aisle before straightening his posture. “No secret. I just can’t be seen talking to you.”

“Me?” I asked in surprise.

“Yeah.” He gave me a look that suggested I was naïve and then some. “My grandmother died a few years ago,” he said, “and since I’m the oldest grandchild, I got some of her jewelry.”

“What kind of jewelry are you talkin’ about?” Neely Kate asked. She’d pulled out a small, pink, glittery spiral-bound notebook and was taking notes with a sparkly pink pen with a pink pom-pom at the tip.

“A sapphire ring. A ruby pin.”

“Like a brooch?” Neely Kate asked.

He made a face and gestured to his chest. “The kind of thing you wear on your chest. It was shaped like an owl, and the eyes were rubies. There were a couple of necklaces too. One of those is missing.”

“Which one?” I asked. “What’s it look like?”

“Here’s the thing,” he said, leaning closer. “I thought the necklace was costume jewelry, so I didn’t think much of it.”

“So it’s gaudy?” I asked.

“Yeah. Some big stones—they look like diamonds, but I thought they were crystals. Anyway, I let my lady wear them and didn’t think much of it.”

“But then she kicked you out?” Neely Kate asked, narrowing her gaze. “Cause you were sleeping with Hilda Ratner.”

Raddy lifted his hands in defense and took a step backward. “Now, hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute. I wasn’t sleepin’ with Hilda.”

“No? Then how come you were seen coming out of a room with her at the Easy Breezy Motel?”

A sheepish grin twisted his mouth. “We weren’t sleepin’ . . .”

“No kiddin’,” Neely Kate groaned, looking at her notepad. “So Rayna kicked you out and tossed your clothes in the yard and lit a big ol’ bonfire.”

“Well, there’s no need to get into that . . .”

“And then you broke into the house two days later and took a chainsaw to her clothes.”

“An eye for an eye, the Good Book says.”

Neely Kate put a hand on her hip and gave him the stink eye. “And I’m pretty sure the Good Book says something about fornicatin’ and adultery too.”

He waved his hands. “Okay, okay. So I’ve made a mistake or two.”

“So Rayna’s holding your grandmother’s jewelry hostage?” I asked.

“When Rayna kicked me out, Momma went over and demanded Rayna give her all the jewelry.”

“And how’d that go?” I asked, pretty sure that accounted for domestic disturbance number three.

He grimaced. “Let’s just say that Momma and Rayna have never gotten along, so there was a bit of a disagreement. But Momma walked away with the jewelry. Well . . . everything but the one necklace.”

“I take it that it’s not costume jewelry after all,” I said.

“No. The stones in the necklace are white sapphires. It’s worth some big bucks.”

“Did Rayna know it was real?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. I didn’t find out until after Momma went to get it.”

“So ask Rayna to give it back to you,” I said. “Or ask for it in the divorce.”

He looked surprised. “We ain’t gettin’ divorced.”

“Rayna’s fool enough to take you back?” Neely Kate asked.