Family Jewels: Rose Garder Investigations #1(13)

By: Denise Grover Swank

“No. We were never married.”

“Wait.” Neely Kate blinked theatrically. “You had a big fancy church wedding five years ago.”

He shrugged again. “Rayna wanted a wedding, so I gave her one.”

“And she didn’t care if it was real or not?” I asked.

“I forgot to mail in the wedding license.”

“And Rayna didn’t care?”

“Nah. She just wanted the dress and the presents.” A sheepish look crossed his face. “And she didn’t find out until she said she wanted a divorce.” He glanced over his shoulder and then back at the two of us. “But I need that necklace pronto. The sooner the better.”

“Been playin’ the horses again, have ya?” Neely Kate asked.

His jaw set, but the look in his eyes gave him away. “No, ma’am.” She lifted her eyebrows, looking feral enough that he corrected himself without further prompting. “I mean miss.”

She relaxed. “Then what’s the hurry?”

“That’s for me to know. Now are you gonna help me or not?”

“That depends,” Neely Kate said. “How much are you payin’?”

“You want money?” he asked in dismay.

“You bet your sweet patootie,” she said, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “Even an accordion-playing monkey wearing a blindfold could tell you’re gonna sell it, so if you want it bad enough, you’re gonna pay up.”

“Five hundred dollars.”

Neely Kate shook her head. “A thousand.”

My mouth dropped open. Was she crazy?

But to my shock, Raddy grumbled, “Fine. This is what it looks like.”

He took out his phone and pulled up a photo of a gaudy necklace with translucent yellowish stones. The big oval stone in the center was surrounded by multiple smaller round stones.

Neely Kate gasped as she leaned forward for a closer look, then pulled out her phone and snapped a photo. “How much is this sucker worth?”

“Dunno. I need to get my hands on it to know for sure, but my buddy says it’s probably worth twenty large.”

Neely Kate’s mouth dropped open. “Twenty thousand? And you had it slidin’ around in your underwear drawer?”

“I didn’t have it in my underwear drawer,” he protested. “It was in my junk drawer.”

“Even better,” she muttered.

“Hey! I didn’t know it was worth anything. But I need it back. So are you gonna look for it?”

Neely Kate glanced over at me, and I could tell she really wanted to find it, although only the Lord knew why. While the landscaping business wasn’t rolling in money, things were looking up, and it was pretty clear she had a dim view of Radcliffe Dyer. Maybe it was just the thrill of the chase. But if Joe came back from New Orleans with news that Ronnie really was shacking up with some woman, I wanted Neely Kate to have this. So with great reluctance, I gave a slight nod.

She turned back to him and held out her hand. “Raddy Dyer, you’ve just hired yourself the services of Sparkle Investigations.”

I started to cough, while Raddy made a look of disgust. “Sparkle? What am I gonna tell the guys?”

I found myself in the unfortunate position of agreeing with our new client.

“You’re not gonna tell them anything,” I said, grabbing Neely Kate’s arm and giving it a slight tug. “But if we’re doin’ this, we’re gonna need a deposit.” Raddy had the look of a runner all over him.

“Fine.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. “Here.”

Neely Kate snorted. “You think we’re fresh off the turnip truck? We’re gonna need more than that.”

“Like four hundred and eighty dollars more,” I said. “Half down. Half when we turn it over.”

“But what if you don’t find it?” he asked, wide-eyed.

“Then you’re outta luck,” I said. “We’re not doin’ this for our health. We’re takin’ time from our payin’ customers at the landscaping office to look for your misplaced jewelry. So five hundred—even if we don’t find it, and five hundred more if we do.”

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