This is it, folks! This is the final episode wherein I solve the mystery of the disappeared diamond engagement ring.
I want to thank everyone who participated in the reader-solve element. We had lots of entries, and many of you guessed right. I’ll post the winner’s name in a separate post. For now, read on for the solution!
Episode 5 – The Conclusion of Gone in a Flash
“That’s amazing, Dix Dodd,” a light and lyrical female voice sang out. “You’re the most amazing private investigator ever. Like, ever. How do you do it? They should build a monument to you in downtown Marport—”
“God, Dix,” Elizabeth said. “Quit doing that with your voice.”
Yes, that voice ringing out was mine. Humble’s overrated. So are low-riding skinny jeans, but that doesn’t matter right now.
I got the twerking sisters to set themselves back on one of the sofas. Alyssa sat down beside Elizabeth. Rochelle stood by the door, looking more amused than anxious to leave. Dickhead stood beside her.
“This’ll just take a couple minutes,” I said.
“Go for it, Dix,” Rochelle said.
As much as Rochelle and I love to tease each other, we’re always in each other’s corner—but that’s women for you.
“Should I be taking notes?” Richard said.
“No, I think the twerking lessons are done for the day.”
He ground his teeth in that delightful way.
“What I meant was, if charges are going to be brought—”
“I knew what you meant.” I turned to the bride-to-be. “Elizabeth, that was one hell of a ring Hugh bought you. I’m guessing he paid … a few grand.”
She cast me a disbelieving look. “Try a hundred grand. That diamond is four and a quarter carats!”
“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “And, clever you, already having it insured.”
“Dix, if you’re going to accuse me of stealing my own—”
I held up my hands in a stopping gesture—because, hey, this was my thunder. “Of hiding the ring to claim the insurance money? Tucking away the original? Was that what you were going to say?”
“That’s a crime.” Richard said. Whoa, genius cop in the house.
“Ohhhh, ladies,” I said. “He even sounds like a real cop.”
“First one to touch that music gets arrested,” Head proclaimed.
Shelby spoke up. “Handcuffs and everything?” She sounded tempted.
“Ah, more shiny for your bling collection, Shelby?” I said. “Another bangle for your wrist. I’m guessing you’re always looking to add a bit more jewelry to that collection. Like say, a nice ring…”
“Whoa!” Shelby said, suddenly sober-ish. “I wear the costume stuff. And yes, I like it, but there’s no way I’d steal anything—especially not my cousin’s engagement ring.”
I turned to her sister. “What about you, Rhianna?”
“Come on, Dix! You think I stole the ring? Impossible!”
“You were the one who gathered all our coats, tossed them onto the bed. You were the keeper of the ring.”
“Right,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I stole it. Every one of us was in that room at some point, even if it was just to explore the suite, or chasing after that dog or fixing their make-up.”
“That’s true.” I took a bead on Alyssa. “Even you. Alyssa.”
“This is getting juvenile,” she said. “First I get strong-armed by Kenny into attending this bachelorette party. Then it turns into some sort of … organized crime thing.”
“Geez, what’s up your ass?” Rhianna said. “That was totally rude.”
“I know what’s up her ass,” I said. “Salmon, beef, or duck.”
Ohhh, gross! That didn’t sound right even to me.
“Wait … those are the menu choices for my wedding!” Elizabeth said.
Having already gotten my invite, I knew that.
“Are you going somewhere with this?” Dickhead asked.
“Indeed I am.” I turned back to Alyssa. “You never did want to come to this party—you’ve made that clear.” The rest of it, I guessed. “And you sure as hell would rather be spending next weekend with Slash than working for your brother catering Elizabeth’s wedding.”
“You listened in on my phone call!” she accused, her expression cold … like it was a bad thing.
“Listened in on your call and heard you complaining about your sore throat every chance you got. But when Rhianna offered you a lozenge earlier, you didn’t take one.” I repeated that last part for emphasis. “You didn’t take one.”
Elizabeth’s patience was wearing thin. “So what? She didn’t take one.”
“So I’m guessing Rhianna shoved them back into her pocket,” I said. “With that diamond ring.”
“That’s right,” Rhianna said. “I put them in my coat pocket and—oh shit! When we searched the coats they were gone.”
Ah yes, there it was, that dawning of understanding that was about to —
“Someone stole my lozenges too!” she said. “We have two thefts on our hands.”
Okay, maybe not so much with the dawning.
“Um, not quite,” I said.
It was then that Bolt decided to rejoin our party. He was moving even slower than his normal saunter, and he bypassed every single leg and hump-able cushion. The dog sat down at Shelby’s feet and started whining. He looked up at her with anxious eyes. Make that, anxious, guilty eyes.
“Soon, Bolt,” Shelby said. “Walkies in a minute.”
“Okay, time to cut the bullshit, Dix Dodd.” Elizabeth snapped. “Did someone here take my ring or not?”
“Yes,” I said. “He did.”
All eyes went to Richard Head, whose eyebrows soared. “May I remind you all that I just got here?”
“I wasn’t talking about Detective Head,” I said. “I’m talking about a four-legged thief: Bolt.”
“What? Why the hell would Bolt take a diamond ring? What would he do with it?” Shelby looked confused. Oh hell, everyone looked confused.
So I explained.
“Rhianna you offered Alyssa some throat lozenges.”
“Yeah.” She shrugged. “So what?”
“You shoved them back into your pocket. And Bolt—being a dog,” I glanced at Dickhead. “A boy dog—helped himself to what he must have thought was a tasty treat. Typical male: either you hump it or—”
“Ah,” Rochelle said. “I had a pack of gummies in my pocket. They’re gone now too.”
“That would explain the soggy twenty you gave me,” I said. “When he was snuffling around and digging out the gummies, he got the money wet.”
“Oh damn.” Elbows on knees, Elizabeth lowered her head in her hands. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
I was indeed. “Bolt ate the lozenges right out of Rhianna’s pocket, and the ring along with them. He’s the jewel thief.” I smiled in that I’m-so-smart/wait-for-it way. “That’s right, folks. It’s a diamond in the ruff.”
Elizabeth groaned all the louder.
Rochelle and Richard were waiting outside the hotel with me when Dylan pulled up in the SUV. I was very glad of the change in mode of transportation. I said goodnight to my bestie and her beau, then hopped in the vehicle. I glanced over at his conspicuously western attire. He must have raided a tack shop. He wore a blue plaid snap fastened western shirt, his regular jeans and a pair of ancient, scuffed cowboy boots he’d either dragged out of a closet or snagged at the Sally Ann.
“Howdy, ma’am,” Dylan drawled. “I’m West. West Texas. I just rode into town and am looking for the right woman to share my bunk tonight.”
“Well, handsome, I think we can arrange something.”
He grinned at me. “Fun night?”
Yeah, it had been a fun night. Any time I get to drink up, solve a case, and eat cake, I’m happy.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, Dix.”
“Ha ha, you said Dix.”
He didn’t get it.
“You said my name. That means you have to kiss me.”
Dylan looked skeptical. Pleased, but skeptical. “Are you sure that’s how the game goes.”
“It is now, Dyl … I mean, West.”
He pulled me into his arms and I went up on tiptoes to meet his lips. Damn, he was good at this. We were good at this.
I broke the kiss and burrowed against his chest. He smelled so good, so masculine, and I loved feeling the heavy thudding of his heart beneath my ear. I smile.
“What the hell?” he said.
I pulled back. “What?”
“Over there.” He gestured with a nod of his head.
I turned to see a masked man in a flowing black cape walking into the building.
“It’s about time,” I mumbled.
Dylan looked at me with a smirk on his face.
“That’s right,” I said. “This is a job for Stripper Man. Or rather, it was a job for stripper man.”
The problem was, he’d lost his audience. No, not just me and Rochelle, but Elizabeth and the rest of the gals. They were currently out there with flashlights borrowed from hotel security, walking Bolt around the hotel parking lot, waiting for him to do his business. Oh, I suspected they’d be doing that for a day or two.
Strangest bachelorette ever.
“Want to head back in?” Dylan said. “You could have Stripper Man all to yourself while Bolt does his business.”
“Hmm.” I tilted my head as if considering. “That’s a generous offer, but I’m in the mood for some cowboy company tonight. Think you can smuggle me into your bunkhouse?”
“Oh, I think we can manage that, Dix.”
“Ha! You said my name again.”
“I did indeed.”
He kissed me and I shivered.
“You know,” I said huskily, “I think the rules are that you have to kiss me somewhere different every time you say it.”
Smiling, he leaned in close to say my name again. And again and again.
* * * * *
So there you have it, folks. Bolt ate the diamond ring. For those of you who guessed right, check back for a post announcing the winner.
For everyone who played, thank you! I hope you enjoyed this little short story. If you want to try something longer, The Case of the Flashing Fashion Queen (Book 1 in the Dix Dodd Series) is currently free on all platforms.