Okay, all you amateur sleuths, here’s the third installment of my reader-solve mystery. How you doing so far? Starting to form a few suspicions? Read on, and  maybe you can refine your thinking. 

Episode 3 – Gone in a Flash

Girl friends at a party

No Elizabeth didn’t come right out and say someone stole the ring. And also, no, there wasn’t a chance in hell of her keeping me here if I really wanted to leave. I can safely guarantee that went for Rochelle too.

The cousins got a little pouty.

But here’s the thing—I didn’t want to leave. Not just because we were waiting on the stripper (the totally ripped, awesome stripper, thanks to me), but because I was more than curious. Where the heck had that ring gone?

At least things were swinging back to a bit of fun. Though everyone seemed to be keeping their eyes peeled for the ring as we chatted away, made jokes, ate around Bieber’s hairless chest.

Then Rhianna was suddenly hit with a notion: Why don’t we let go, and let it come back. Trust the universe to bring that ring back to Elizabeth.

Dix Dodd is here—make way for the hero! She’ll find the diamond ring for us!

Okay, that second part is not exactly what Rhianna said, but hey, we all knew that was what she meant.

There was a knock at the door.

“Finally!” Rochelle said. “Bring on the stripper man!”

Shelby squealed. “I hope he’s hot. Like fireman hot!”

I jumped up to answer the door. If there’s one thing I’m good at … wait, there are so many things I’m good at…

“Nope, not a fireman, but definitely H.O.T.” In full dramatic wait-and-see mode, I held the door open wide. “Ladies, may I present–”

I pulled the door wide.

“Dylan?” Oh shit, that’s right—the pigs-in-a-blanket.

Elizabeth took one look and snorted into her freshly topped-off champagne glass—she knew Dylan. As did Rochelle. But Alyssa, Rhianna and Shelby had never met my PI partner, the tall and handsome Dylan Foreman.

“Oooooh!”Shelby grinned widely. “You went for the cowboy stripper! Oh, ride em’, cowboy—giddy up!”

Cowboy? They thought my boyfriend was a freakin’ cowboy?

Well, all right!

It was the motorcycle chaps, of course. He must have ridden over on the bike. Shelby must have thought they were for riding—

“I’m the range! I’m the range!” She shouted, laughing.

Yeah, that.

Rochelle reached and snapped to life the iPod on the table, and the unmistakable beat of stripper music filled the hotel suite.

“Pole dance for us!” Rhianna shouted as she jumped to her feet and started to shimmy-shudder up toward my boyfriend.

“This is a hotel suite, not a bar,” Alyssa said. “There’s no pole here.”

“No pole here?” Rhianna glanced south. “Well there’s a challenge if I ever heard one.” She stared at Dylan like she meant to take up that challenge.

Dylan held the tray of food protectively in front of him. Then I held something protectively in front of him.


“Sorry to disappoint, ladies,” I said, though frankly I was thrilled to disappoint. “But this isn’t the stripper. This is my boyfriend … West. West Texas. Bull rider. Ranch owner.”

I glanced up at Dylan—and appreciated the smirk on his face. Oh good—he’d play along. “Why, howdy ladies,” he drawled.

Wow! If we put all those sighs and shudders together, would we have a complete orgasm? Ah, me and math.

“Give me a break!” Elizabeth said. But at least she was smiling.

“Oh you poor baby–”Rhianna said, advancing still.

“Did I mention he’s my lonely cowboy? Yes, yes, I think I did.”

Rhianna stopped dead in her tracks.

“Lucky you.” She grabbed the food tray from Dylan, turned on her heel, and rejoined the others in the center of the suite.

I stood by the door with Dylan. 

“Thanks for that,” I whispered.

“No problem,” Dylan said, his tone low. “But do you think you might have oversold that cowboy thing, Dix?”

Hmmm, oversold…? I’d barely started. Loudly enough for all to hear, I said, “What’s that, West? You’ve been longing for the comfort of a woman in your arms for how long?”

Astute guy that he was, he rolled with it. “You’re right, Miss Dix. I’m powerful lonesome after that long … um … trail ride.”

“Oh, poor, lonesome cowboy. Is there anything I can do to ease or comfort you?”

His eyes glinted, and it was only partly humor. “I can think of a few things.”

I batted my eyes at him.

To the delight of the girls, he lifted me off my feet and hauled me outside the hotel room, closing the door behind him. Then he kissed me silly in the hallway, the squeals and hoots of the girls clearly audible through the door.

When he turned me loose, I’m pretty sure my eyes had a sparkle of their own.

“Can you get away early?”

Could I ever. I looked at my watch. I knew Rochelle was determined to be out by eleven, with or without Elizabeth’s blessing, and that was close to an hour away. “Come back in an hour.” I knew I’d be drinking so hadn’t brought my car. I had planned on calling a cab, but this worked better.

Dylan thought so too.

“See you later, cowboy,” I breathed into his ear.

“See you later, Miss Dix.”

Damn, that sounded hot.

He rapped on the door, then smiled down at me. When Rhianna yanked the door open, the other gals, including Rochelle, were right behind her. “Evening, ladies.” With a nod, he ambled off, doing his best cowboy impression. It was pretty damned good.

Rhianna hauled me inside. “Damn, girl, where did you find him?”

I smiled mysteriously, tugging the hem of my dress, which seemed to have crept up from all that action, back down to a more modest level. “You know, some gin joint.”

“Gin joint?” Rochelle snorted. “Wrong genre, Dix. Saloon, maybe.” To the other girls, she said, “He’s her PI partner.”

“Partner with benefits, I presume?” Shelby asked.

I smiled wider, but now that Dylan had left, they’d lost interest.

“When’s the stripper coming?” Rhianna asked.

She and Shelby made their way back to the sofa, Rochelle went to uncork another bottle of champagne, and Elizabeth plunked herself in a big wingback chair. I took a seat on one of a matched set of white leather club chairs.

Bolt headed for the sofa. I expected him to jump up between Rhianna and Shelby, but he didn’t. Hell, maybe he couldn’t jump that high. He was a little … stout. He heaved himself up so his front paws rested on the sofa and looked expectantly at Shelby. She set a foot under his puggly little butt, and with what had to be a practiced lift, helped him up onto the couch. Bolt turned around in three clockwise circles before he settled on the cushion. Then he stared at me.

We had a moment.

And in that moment—niggle, niggle—my intuition kicked in. But kicked in on what? I knew I had to pay attention.

Was Bolt trying to tell me something? About Rhianna? Shelby?

Okay, yes, I was a little tipsy. I don’t usually look to canine conversation, but the way that dog eyed me as he sat there with Rhianna on one side and her sister, Shelby, on the other was … well, strange.

Don’t get me wrong—I do love dongs, I mean dogs. But it was more than that. As Bolt sat there between these two sisters, why did I get that intuitive nudge? Had Rhianna actually stolen the ring, then cried to me that it was missing, hoping to draw me into her corner? Or had bling-crazy Shelby snagged it?

I broke eye contact with Bolt (okay, but he blinked first) only to find that Shelby was looking at me. Hard. Then, quick as anything, she broke into smiles and giggles again.


I glanced over at Rochelle. She’d refilled her champagne flute and was leaning back in a wingback chair that matched Elizabeth’s. She had her head back, eyes closed. Not asleep, but really enjoying the champagne. And I hope enjoying the night, despite the ring fiasco. She did come as a favor to me, after all.

“Good choice on the champagne, Rochelle,” I said. “It’s really–”

“Ha, ha, you said her name!” Rhianna was delighted to point this out.

“Oh … okay.”

I tipped up my champagne glass and drained it.

Rochelle opened her eyes. “It’s easy to select excellent champagne when someone else is paying.” She leaned in to take one of the hors d’oeuvres Dylan had brought. “These are great, ladies,” she told the others. “As good as the stuff the hotel sent up.”

I made a mental note. Don’t tell Dylan the party was catered by the hotel. He might get the idea I’d asked him to do bring the pigs-in-a-blanket just so I could show him off. Which I totally did.

“Hey, they are good,” Rhianna said.

And I had to wonder: Hey, why wasn’t I eating?

I grabbed a napkin imprinted with DRINK UP, BITCHES! and piled a half dozen of the treats Dylan made onto it.

And then there were four pigs-in-a-blanket.


Just that quickly—and yeah, I do mean quickly—Bolt had jumped down from the couch, dashed past my chair, and grabbed two of the treats right off the napkin. He ran into the bedroom with his booty, and with a might bound, actually managed to leap onto the bed. What a little actor! He could have easily jumped onto the sofa, which was much lower than the bed.

Bolt lay down with his stolen goodies and looked at me.

What are you trying to tell me, little doggy? Well, besides the fact that you really can jump. And that everyone likes pigs-in-a-blanket.

Are you ready for Episode Two? Here it is! Happy sleuthing! And check back next Wednesday for the third installment.


Pug dog on white background

Needless to say the drinking game was suspended.

Well, the game part anyway.

I’d thought Rhianna had been fa-reaking out. Her mini-hysterics were nothing compared to Elizabeth’s major ones. “That’s a four and one-quarter carat, emerald-cut diamond ring in a platinum setting!” She wasn’t only freaking out at Rhianna (though the redhead was getting the brunt of it), but at all of us. As if collectively we were responsible.

Or as if one of us had taken it.

And unfortunately, that was a possibility. But who? I looked around the room.

Rochelle? Pfft? Not in a million years. But I couldn’t vouch so assuredly for Alyssa, Shelby and Rhianna. Hell, I couldn’t even really vouch for Elizabeth.

We spent the next thirty minutes looking everywhere in that suite: the bedroom, our purses, pockets and sleeves. I myself searched the cushions on the sofa and chairs. Shelby and Rhianna cleaned out the minibar in case it had fallen in. The ice bucket was checked. The pillow cases. Alyssa looked under the bed and every other piece of furniture.


Suffice it to say, the mood of Elizabeth’s bachelorette party had definitely gone downhill.

How sad was it? Someone had actually used their finger to draw a sad face on Cake Bieb. I licked the icing off said finger, and was glad that it was mine.

Um, did I mention we were still drinking?

“Well that was a waste of time,” Shelby said.

“I think there must be dust under the sofa,” Alyssa said. “My throat’s even sorer now.”

“I told you I had lozenges,” Rhianna said. “If you wanted–”

She shook her head.

“Oh crap, boy! Not here!” Shelby said.

I looked down to see Rhianna’s little pug going at the pillow again.

Bolt reluctantly disengaged when she wagged a finger in his face. She picked the pillow up (so carefully at the edges) and flicked it toward a corner of the room, away from guests. Bolt gave her a look of disdain, then bolted right after the flying cushion. Well, as much as Bolt ever seemed to bolt. Which is to say he yawned, scratched himself, sniffed his butt, then moseyed over to the corner.

Yep, definitely a boy dog.

At least the pillow should keep him busy for a while.

I watched as Shelby sat back again and readjusted herself. You’d think one good shake and it would all go back into place. Don’t get me wrong, I love my bling. Bring it on. But there was a fine line between rocking it and wearing too much. Shelby Bee was leaning into Mr. T territory. I could barely discern the leopard pattern of her figure hugging tank top beneath the glitter.

“The ring is insured, isn’t it?” Alyssa asked suddenly. “I mean … you’ll just get a new one, right?”

Elizabeth sniffed. “Of course it’s insured.”

That didn’t surprise me. This was Elizabeth Bee we were talking about—for all her faults she was a pretty savvy character.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Rochelle pushed herself up off the sofa and strode toward the oversized ice bucket. “If the ring has to be replaced, it can be. I know that would suck, but it could be so much worse.”

Ah, good old Rochelle, dispensing logic. Logic and liquor … the combination of champions! She selected one of several bottles of excellent champagne from the ice bath it had been chilling in, uncorked it, and started pouring for each of us.

“I still don’t want to lose the ring,” Elizabeth said. “Hugh will not be impressed.”

Hugh Drammen, the geriatric groom-to-be. No, I didn’t imagine he would be thrilled about the missing ring, or with the explanation as to why it went missing in the first place. The whole ‘keeper’ thing. He’d want to know why Elizabeth felt it necessary to remove the ring.

“Oh, no.” Alyssa sat forward as she spoke. “He wouldn’t cancel the wedding or anything, would he? I mean, Kenny’s got a lot of money tied up in this. Food and drinks ordered. He everyone on staff has to work that day—no exceptions.”

Elizabeth groaned. “God, Alyssa! What a thing to say. Of course he won’t cancel the wedding.”

Alyssa opened her mouth to protest when Rhianna cut in with an elbow jab to Elizabeth. “You said her name—” She pointed at Alyssa. “Drink up.”

Elizabeth paused for a moment before she reached for the small glass Rochelle had poured. Then she downed it like a pro. Or like someone who meant business. “I’m sure the ring will turn up. I walked in with it—I’ll walk out with it. And no one is leaving here until I do just that.”

She gave us all the hairy eyeball stare. Gross.

“Yes, drink up, ladies,” Elizabeth said. “It’s going to be a long night.”


So if you’re here, ready to read this episode of GONE IN A FLASH, I presume you’ve read the rules of the contest here. If you haven’t, please do. Basically, I’ll post an installment every Wednesday from now through March 5. To enter the contest, email me at dix@dixdodd.com with your guess as to who dunnit no later than MARCH 11. On March 12, I’ll post the final episode in which I solve the mystery. On the line, a honking big $100 Amazon gift card.

Without further ado, I give you Episode 1.




N.L. Wilson

 Episode 1 of 5

Diamond ring

I was in charge of hiring the stripper. Ah, if I had a nickel for every time I volunteered for that duty …I’d spend it on better-looking strippers.

But I digress.

Why the happy volunteering?

First, I hate making cheese trays. Second, no one ever trusts me to pick up the cake (people usually liked for it to arrive whole, not with a well-iced end cut off). And third, I get to pick out the stripper

And I was throwing in pigs-in-a-blanket too.

The hors d’oeuvres! What kind of a party did you think I was talking about here?

Sounds like a fun evening, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

So then why was I currently sitting in the bedroom of this luxury suite of Marport City’s poshest hotel? And why was there a crying young woman in a sparkly gold mini-dress beside me?

’Cause I’m Dix Dodd. And trouble seems to find me.

I pulled in a breath, and drew up my patience. “Tell me again what happened.”

My statement was directed at the semi-hysterical, totally tipsy redhead beside me—Rhianna Bee. All of twenty two, the girl was sobbing into her hands. To tell you the truth, I would be a little freaked out myself if I were her.

It wasn’t every day that a ginormous and horribly expensive diamond ring went missing, and you were the last one to have custody of it.

Beyond the closed bedroom door, I heard the sounds of happy laughter. Oh yes, the small party was in full gear. They were playing a shots game. Every time someone said the name of someone else in the room, she took a drink. By the sounds of the rising hoots out there, someone had just set themselves up to tip one back. Yes, we had been at it for a while and I was a little tipsy myself, but hey, it was a bachelorette party.

Who’s bachelorette party?

The one and only Elizabeth Bee’s.

Elizabeth had snagged herself a wealthy old guy—Hugh Drammen. The courtship had been brief and the engagement short; the wedding was next weekend. Did I mention Hugh was really old and really rich? He’d insisted his bride-to-be have a ‘little do with the girls’ before the wedding, on his dime. Thus, this bachelorette affair was thrown together, pretty damn quickly.

There were just a handful of us there: me, Elizabeth’s cousins from Michigan—Rhianna and Shelby Bee, Rochelle—whom I’d invited, and Alyssa Kent. Alyssa was Kenny Kent little sister. Kenny Kent was the caterer in charge of the wedding. Little sis had brought along the tastiest cake—yes, complete with mile high icing. It was … um … inappropriately decorated. That’s right. The bakery had airbrushed a picture of a bare-chested Justin Bieber on the top.

Alyssa was working for her brother now, and that was how she’d snagged the invite. Or rather the invite had snagged her. Kenny Kent had gotten the ginormous and lucrative contract to cater the Bee-Drammen wedding. As clear as it was that Elizabeth needed ‘fillers’ for this party, it was just as clear that Alyssa was such a filler. Oh, and even more obvious: Alyssa Kent did not want to be here. Argh! And she never stopped complaining: I’m getting a cold; I have such a sore throat; stop elbowing me, Dix Dodd. Blah blah blah.

Me? Well, at least Elizabeth and I knew each other. We weren’t close close, but then again, was anyone close to the mysterious Elizabeth Bee? Rhianna and Shelby, though more than happy to be flown in, pick out party dresses, and stay at this luxury suite Hugh Drammen had arranged for the night, they were definitely more interested in the partying than they were in the party-ee, namely their cousin.

From the contented smile that had been on Elizabeth’s face all evening, I knew it didn’t bother her one bit that this gathering Hugh had insisted upon turned out to be small and decidedly not intimate.

But from what Rhianna was telling me now, that smile might very well soon vanish.

I handed Rhianna a wad of tissues and she wiped her nose. “What am I gonna do, Dix?”

Yes, I could’ve pointed out that saying my name would cost her a drink. But I didn’t. More for me later on.

“Start at the beginning,” I said. “Tell me every little detail and—get off my leg!”

The latter direction wasn’t for Rhianna, but for Bolt, her sister’s overzealous, happy-to-meet-me pug who’d started romancing my leg.

Yes, that’s right, a dog in this outrageously expensive, elegant hotel room. Apparently Shelby Bee couldn’t come unless her beloved pug could accompany her. When she’d checked in, she’d told the desk clerk that Bolt was some sort of service dog, a completely unnecessary and transparent lie. Considering that Hugh Drammen had booked the suite personally, I’m guessing Shelby could have brought three lamas and a lame goat in here and no one would complain.

“Bolt, leave it!” Rhianna commanded. The little dog backed himself down off my leg. “Go … go eat or something.” Shelby pointed to the exquisite china bowls the kitchen had sent up for the dog’s food and water. “Typical male—one or the other always on their mind.”

For a dog named Bolt he wasn’t exactly the fastest moving beast on four legs. When he went to the closed bedroom door and whined, I got and let him out. He sauntered out the door to join the party in the living room. I sat back down on the bed and watched as he made a straight line to the coffee table to steal a piece of cheddar left on a napkin. Then he turned to a decorative pillow that had fallen off the couch and started humping it.

Yup. Boy dog.

“The ring was right there in my pocket.” Rhianna pointed to the pile of coats in the corner. We’d all met at the bar downstairs, then come up to the room together, and tossed our coats on the suitcase rack in the corner. That once near-tidy pile of coats.

Rhianna and I had just spent a few frantic minutes going through the pockets, shaking those coats out.  Lipsticks and coins and keys.

Not a damn thing of interest hit the floor, and that was the scary part.

And certainly no honking big diamond ring had.

I double-checked Rhianna’s coat pocket myself and found it damp. Well, I guess I’d have sweaty palms too if I’d just lost a ring that probably cost tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe more. Maybe a lot more. Rhianna must have checked and re-checked that same pocket a half-dozen times, hoping against hope she’d somehow missed it.

“Why the hell would Elizabeth take it off?” I mumbled.

“Hello? The whole bachelorette/one-last-free-night thing,” Rhianna said. “It’s a family tradition. Diamonds off. Easier to party, you know? Guilt free. She passed her ring to me at the bar—I was supposed to be the official keeper. I’m the oldest cousin and it’s–”

“Family tradition,” I said.


Wow and yikes rolled into one. No way would I have let such a rock out of my sight had I been responsible for it.

But the rest of it made perfect sense. Tuck away the diamonds, pull out the booze and bring on the stripper. Last hurrah before the ring goes on permanently. Oh yeah, I totally got it. It was a night to leave the menfolk home.


Dylan would be along any time. Like I said, I committed to bring pigs-in-a-blanket. Who did you think was making them?

Rhianna continued. “So I came in here to check my make-up in the mirror.”

“Why didn’t you use the bathroom mirror?” I asked. “Better lighting, isn’t it?”

“Alyssa was in there. God, like forever!”

Fair enough. “Okay, so you came in here and–”

“I thought I’d better check on the ring. I just had this funny little feeling, you know what I mean?”

As the undisputed Queen of Intuition, I so knew what she meant.

“When Elizabeth gave me the rock, I slid it into my coat pocket. And I know I had it when we all left the bar. I checked. But now … now…” Words drowning in the sobs, she pointed to the mess of coats on the floor. “I freaked out when I couldn’t find it. Fa-reaked. That’s when I opened the door and waved at you to come in.”

“And you called me in because…?”

She reached into her bra and pulled out a card. The nine of hearts. (That’s right, the strip poker game hadn’t exactly gotten off the ground.) Then she pulled out my business card. But it wasn’t one of my new cards. It was definitely an older one. Oh yes, I remember that motto; Dylan had picked it out: There’s power in the truth. Let Dix Dodd empower you.

“This was in Alyssa Kent’s pocket when I searched the coats,” Rhianna said. “I … I saw you were a PI and thought maybe you could help.”

God, I hoped so.

Rhianna put her head down into her hands. I put my arms around her. No, dear God not for comfort (that’s Dylan’s role in our dynamic duo). But like, I said, she was a little on the tipsy side, and I didn’t want her to tip right off the bed.

’Cause I’d have to pick her up.

“There, there,” I said. Hey, that sounded almost sincere. Borderline natural. So I said it again. “There, there …. there.” Wow, this was easier than I thought! I was killing this comforting thing!”

Or not.

Rhianna started to cry all the harder. “Elizabeth will kill me when she finds out.”

“Finds out what?

Rhianna and I both looked up. Oh, God, the bride-to-be was standing in the doorway. Earlier, whenever I’d looked in Elizabeth’s general direction, my eyes had been drawn like magnets to the incredible gravity-defying feats her tiny, strapless black and gold dress was pulling off.

Now, however, her facial expression commanded all of my attention.