Family Jewels:Rose Gardner Investigations #1(7)

By: Denise Grover Swank

I pushed out a heavy sigh and realized it wasn’t worth the effort to correct her. “So what do you know about Raddy Dyer?” I asked.

“Nothin’ good,” I heard a male voice say behind me.

I spun around in surprise to see my former boyfriend. “Joe.”

He was wearing his tan sheriff’s uniform, and I had to admit he was stunningly handsome in it. But at the moment, he also wore a frown. “Why are you asking about Raddy Dyer?”

I gave Neely Kate a look that said, This is your idea, so you take this one.

Instead, she smiled ear-to-ear and threw her arms around his neck. “It’s my favorite brother.”

He gave her an affectionate hug.

A lump swelled in my throat at the sight of them. They were both, to their shared disgust, the children of J.R. Simmons. They had only learned that they were half-siblings back in February. Joe had left town soon after and ignored Neely Kate for a couple of months. But he’d finally reached out to her when he came back to Henryetta around the first of May, and they’d started making up for nearly twenty-five years of lost time. After Neely Kate’s mother’s abandonment, Neely Kate needed a family member who was truly there for her.

Joe grabbed a strand of Neely Kate’s hair and gently tugged. “And it’s my mischievous sister. What are you two up to?”

Neely Kate stepped back, and her eyes widened in mock innocence. “We’re getting coffee, of course. What are you doin’?”

His eyes darkened. “I just got done taking the new DA to task for caving with one of your divorce attorney’s clients.”

“Carter Hale?” Neely Kate asked in surprise.

He lifted an eyebrow in mock annoyance. “You have more than one divorce attorney?”

It was her turn to scowl. “I’d hire a dozen if I thought any of them could find my missing husband.”

Since Neely Kate was Carter Hale’s only divorce case, I presumed that Joe was referring to a criminal client.

Joe’s shoulders dropped. “I’ve been looking, Neely Kate.”

“You and everyone and his brother,” she said sarcastically. “We’re not meant to find him.” But he’d been gone a long time, and her phrasing told me that she suspected he was dead.

Joe had returned to his chief deputy sheriff position a month ago, and one of the first things he’d done was launch an investigation into the whereabouts of Neely Kate’s missing husband, Ronnie. He’d left her months ago, and Neely Kate and I had later discovered that he had some bad connections—ones that had tied him, however peripherally, to J.R. Simmons. When J.R. Simmons’ empire had come tumbling down, it had taken plenty of lives with it. I knew Neely Kate believed Ronnie had been one of the casualties, and the evidence seemed to support it. It was like he’d fallen off the face of the earth, and so far, Joe and Carter’s multiple private investigators hadn’t turned up a single clue.

She shook her head. “You did the best you could.”

He grimaced and looked over his shoulder, as if he might get lucky and find Ronnie right behind him, before turning back. “If I’d only looked sooner …”

“No. Joe. It’s not meant to be.”

Worried Neely Kate would feel down, I changed the subject. “Why were you upset with Carter Hale?”

“When am I not upset with him?” Joe asked. “His passion in life seems to be undermining my work. He represents sleazeballs. And he often wins.”

Neely Kate lifted her chin in defiance. “Which is why I hired him.”

Joe sighed. “For the umpteenth time, let me hire you an attorney from Little Rock.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. “Carter’s doin’ just fine. Besides, you know I can’t afford a hotshot Little Rock lawyer, and I’m not letting you pay for it.”

Joe looked like he wanted to dig his heels in, but he shook his head. “I like how you tried to deflect my question about Raddy Dyer.”

Neely Kate cocked her eyebrow. “I think the real question is what do you know about him? I went to high school with Raddy, and he’s never been one to stir up trouble.”

Joe gave her the side-eye. “I’m pretty sure he’s a good five years older than you.”

“So he’s a bit slow.”

“How recently have you had contact with him?”

Neely Kate shrugged. “I see him from time to time.”

“Well, steer clear of him. We’ve been called out to his property and his estranged wife’s house multiple times over the last month for domestic disturbances. His wife kicked him out, but he keeps trying to get into the house. He seems to be becoming more desperate and more violent in his attempts, so I don’t want you anywhere near that nonsense.”