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30

Fleeced

Nats answering machine light was flashing when Regan got back to the apartment. She pressed the PLAY button.

Nat, this is Edward Gold. What happened to you and Ben? You never showed up today. We made a blowup of the check for the party tomorrow night. Give me a call.

Regans eyes widened. She replayed the tape again. Who is Edward Gold? she wondered. And why didnt he leave a number? Was this a check for the diamonds?

She quickly called information. There were three Edward Golds in Manhattan. Regan called each of them. One was home. He didnt know what she was talking about. The other two calls she made were picked up by answering machines. One called himself Eddie and the other Teddy. It was clear from their voices that neither one of them was the man Regan was looking for.

She was sitting at the counter in the kitchen. The Yellow Pages must be around here somewhere, she thought. In the second drawer she opened she found them. She pulled the heavy volume out, placed it on the counter, and opened it up to the Jewelers section. There were several pages of ads for jewelry buying, selling, repair, custom design, and appraisals. Estate jewelry bought and sold. Ear-piercing services. And then she found it. The ad for Edward Gold Jewelers, located on West Forty-seventh Street.

Regan picked up the phone and placed the call. In a minute she was speaking to Edward Gold. She told him who she was and the news about Nat and Ben.

I cant believe it, he said. They were in here just the other day. We appraised the diamonds and were going to give them the check today. Tomorrow night we were going to bring the diamonds to the Settlers Club so everyone could take a look at them, and we had a blown-up replica of the check like they do for lottery winners. It was going to be such a blast.

You actually saw the diamonds.

I just told you, I appraised them! Theyre beautiful. I even have someone who is interested in buying them. Its his fortieth wedding anniversary, and he was going to have them made into earrings for his wife.

Some earrings, Regan said.

I feel terrible.

Did you know Nat well? Regan asked.

I knew that whole group who played cards together. What a bunch of characters. Can you imagine throwing a valuable diamond in a pot and leaving it there for all these years? Last one alive gets to keep all four. Those guys were funny. What a shame.

How long did you know them? Regan asked.

About ten years. I met them at a jewelry show. They all retired a few years later. Sometimes theyd come up to the office for a chat.

Regan thought about Buttercup. She wondered if by any chance Nat had confided in Edward.

What is going to be done with the diamonds now? Edward asked. They were both so excited about donating the money to the Settlers Club.

Regan hesitated. This guy sounded on the level. She looked at her watch. It was four-thirty. Im not sure, she said. Do you think I could drop by your shop?

Now?

I know its late on a Friday, but since the party is tomorrow night, and for the moment Im handling Nats affairs, Id love to talk to you for a few minutes.

Come on over. Ive got a bottle of schnapps I was going to crack open with Nat and Ben. Maybe we should have a drink in their memory.


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