I figured with a name like Gold, I’d better be a jeweler.” Edward Gold laughed as he poured two drinks from the schnapps bottle. They were in a well-lit office above his shop on West Forty-seventh Street.
“But I have a friend named Taylor who can’t sew on a button,” Regan countered, smiling at him as he handed her a glass.
“That’s a good one. Come to think of it, I have a friend named Baker who’d need a compass to find the kitchen.”
They clicked glasses. Regan didn’t really feel like drinking the schnapps, but she figured she’d better show a spirit of camaraderie. It might entice Edward to talk. He looked to be in his mid-sixties, with a shock of pure-white hair, a little slash of a mustache, and big brown eyes that conveyed amusement. He was about five feet nine inches tall and had a thin frame. Regan got the feeling he was always in motion. He had a habit of pulling on the left shoulder of his sweater every few seconds.
“To Nat and Ben,” Edward said seriously. “May they rest in peace.”
I don’t think they’re going to rest in peace until the diamonds are found, Regan thought, but she took a tiny sip of the potent liquid, winced slightly, then cleared her throat. “I didn’t want to tell you on the phone, Edward. But the diamonds are missing.”
His eyes bulged and his face fell. “Missing?”
There goes his commission, Regan thought. “Missing,” she repeated. She told him the whole story. “They might have been stolen with Ben’s wallet. If that’s the case, a pickpocket got very lucky. Or they might have been taken from Nat’s apartment. I thought that if I talked to you, you might have some useful information for me. I just have a few questions…”
Edward poured some more schnapps for himself as he shook his head and pulled at his sweater. “Ask away.”
“Did you see these guys often?”
“Once every couple of months the whole card group would come up. We’d have a drink in the office and then go out to lunch. It was fun. They called themselves ‘the Suits.’”
“I heard about that.”
Edward nodded. “Nat, Ben, Abe, and Henry. Hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds!Friends for life. I tell ya, I wish I had a close-knit group like that. I have a lot of friends, mind you, but to have a group of four that spent fifty years together… They had a lot of history. They lived through children, grandchildren, divorces, wives’ deaths, occasional bickering. But every week they played cards. After Abe and Henry died this past year, Nat and Ben did a lot of soul-searching. They felt really bad about losing their friends. Neither one of them needed the money from the diamonds, and neither one wanted to spend it alone. The one hundredth anniversary of the club seemed the perfect solution. They figured they’d have more fun donating the money to the Settlers’ Club and telling them what to do with it.” Edward looked truly distressed. “They were so excited about the party tomorrow night.”
“Do you think they talked about the diamonds to other people?”
Edward shook his head. “They said it was their secret. But you know how secrets are.”
“Indeed I do,” Regan said.
“They used to call Ben ‘Big Mouth Ben.’”
“He would sit at the bar at the Settlers’ Club and yap away. There was nothing too trivial for him to talk about. Nat was the quiet type, although he liked to tell jokes. Anyway, he and his wife, Wendy, were very calm and placid. Maybe all those sheep rubbed off on them. You’ve seen the sheep?”
“Oh yes,” Regan said.
“Crazy, huh? Some people get attached to their pets. They got attached to their stuffed animals.”
“Everyone gets attached to something,” Regan said. “Now, I understand all four guys belonged to the club.”
“That’s right. Nat was the only one who lived there. But it was like their fraternity. They broke bread many times together in the dining room. Drink your schnapps.”
“It’s good,” Regan said as she took a small sip. “Did Nat talk about having a girlfriend?”
Edward’s eyes widened. “A girlfriend?”
Regan was evasive. “If he was seeing someone, he might have told her about the diamonds.”
“A girlfriend?” Edward waved his hand. “Nah! He was a little bit of a flirt with the ladies. The waitresses at lunch always loved him. But I don’t think he was seeing anybody. If he was, he sure never told me.”
“This might have been very recent.”
“Oh, I get it!” Edward said. “A girlfriend wouldn’t be too pleased if she heard he was giving away diamonds. After all, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” He laughed but quickly became serious again. “That’s not appropriate. Nat is dead, after all.”
Regan thought that the schnapps was having a little bit of an effect on Edward. “Is there anything you can think of about Ben that might help me? Any of his habits? Anything that might not seem important but really is?”
“Hmmmm,” Edward said. “You know we all went to his house once. It was his birthday, and we surprised him. He was in the bathroom when his cleaning lady let us in. His journal was out on the dining room table. Boy, was he embarrassed. The guys really razzed him about that.”
“He kept a journal?” Regan said.
“At least up until then. That day he’d been writing a poem. It was pretty bad.”
“The cleaning lady was there?” Regan asked.
“She came in on Mondays. Ben said he could spend the rest of the week messing up the place.”
I want to get into his apartment, Regan thought. If he was still writing in that journal up until he died…
“I’m going to put an alert out to other jewelers about these diamonds,” Edward said. “They’re very high quality and will be easy to recognize. Although I bet they’ll be taken overseas to be sold.”
“Thanks.” Regan figured what the hell and drained her glass. When she stood up, her mouth was tingling from the peppermint taste of the schnapps.
“Let me know what happens.” Edward wrote his home number on a business card. “I live out on the Island. I’ll be home all weekend. I’ll have to tell my wife we’re not going to the party.”
“Somehow I don’t think the party’s going to be much fun,” Regan said.
Edward came around from behind his desk. “Regan, you know the only good thing about this whole thing? Nat and Ben would have been lost without each other. Neither one had to hear that the other one died. Can you imagine what it must have been like when they met up in heaven?”
Regan smiled. “It is a comforting thought.”
“I bet there’s some card game going on up there now. Maybe when I die they’ll finally let me play.”
“I’m sure they will,” Regan said.
“Now don’t forget, if you do find those diamonds, I’ll give you the best deal. The check’s already made up. Certified too.”
“I won’t forget,” Regan said. I should be so lucky as to find them, she thought as she walked out the door.