Family Jewels:Rose Gardner Investigations #1(3)

By: Denise Grover Swank


Files and papers were scattered everywhere—the floors, the chairs, and the desks. Not one inch had been left uncovered. And in the middle of the chaos stood a woman with long blonde hair, cut-off jean shorts, and a lavender-colored tank top.

She spun around to face us, and a frown tugged on her lips. “You just ruined the surprise.”

“That a tornado came through?” I asked in dismay.

She laughed. “Don’t be silly, Rowena. I’m redoing your filing system.”

“But Neely Kate fired you,” I said.

She waved her hand and rolled her eyes. “She was always such a kidder.”

“I wasn’t kidding!” Neely Kate’s voice rose as she stepped around me. Her foot slipped on a folder, and I grabbed her arm to keep her from falling on her booty. “What else did you do?” Neely Kate asked.

Marci put a hand on her hips and gave us an impressive pout. “I was only trying to help.”

“I told you that you are not auditioning for Plant or Die!”

Marci lifted her chin and gave Neely Kate a defiant look. “That wasn’t it. It was something else entirely.”

“What was it?”

“It’s something you love to do anyway,” Marci said with attitude. “You’ve said so a million times.”

Neely Kate crossed her arms. “What TV show did you think you were on this time?”

“Not me,” she said. “You.” Then she pointed to me. “And Rowena.”

“Her name is Rose!” Neely Kate shouted. “Who doesn’t get their own boss’s name right?”

“Are you sure it’s Rose?” Marci asked, giving me the once-over.

“Yeah,” Neely Kate said. “I think I’d know since she’s my best friend. Now, what did you promise?”

“That poor man needed help. He was desperate.”

“What man?” Neely Kate asked.

“Radcliffe Dyer. His grandmother’s jewelry is missing.”

A shiver ran down my spine, but Neely Kate perked up. “Why did he come by here?”

“He heard that you and Rowena were good at finding things.”

“Rose,” I said with a sigh.

Marci shook her head. “He’s not looking for roses. It was jewelry.”

Tipping her head back, Neely Kate released a loud groan. “What did he say, Marci?”

“He said, ‘I need to talk to the two girls who work here,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re lookin’ at one of ’em.’”

I gave Neely Kate an exasperated look. Had we really let this girl represent our business for ten hours?

“Why did he want the two girls who worked here?” Neely Kate asked.

“He said,”—Marci’s voice lowered into a deep bass—“‘I need them girls to find my grandmammie’s jewelry for me. My ex-wife has something to do with ’em going missing, and I want to get to the bottom of it.’”

Neely Kate put a hand on her hip again and waited. When Marci didn’t continue, she asked, “What else did he say?”

“He said,”—she lowered her voice again—“‘Sorry to hear about your yellow dress. When do you think they’ll be back?’”

Neely Kate turned back to me. “She obviously left out what she said to him, but I’m scared to ask what it was.”

“Agreed.”

Neely Kate turned back to her. “What did he say when you told him when we’d be back?”

“Oh, I told him I had no idea when that would be. So he gave me his number …” She spun in a circle, scanning the room. “Now where did I put it … ?”

“Never mind,” Neely Kate said. “I know where to find Raddy. Now tell me why all those files are spread everywhere.”

“Oh!” Marci said, clapping her hands. “I was reorganizing your filing system.”

“By spreading them out on every horizontal surface?” Neely Kate demanded.

“I just set out the files,” she said defensively, then waved to Muffy. “That overgrown daisy was the one to mess ’em all up.”

Muffy let out a low growl. I stroked her head to quiet her.

Neely Kate shook her head. “You were fired, Marci. Fired. I fired you yesterday. Now get your purse and get out of here. Now!”

Marci looked offended. “Does that mean I’m not getting my thirty-five hundred dollars?”

“You’ll be damn lucky to get the seventy dollars we owe you for yesterday.” When Marci started to protest, Neely Kate held up her hand. “And if you think we’re paying you for creatin’ this mess today, you’re plum crazy. Now get out of here!”