Read Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors Online

Authors: Alex Ames

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - Hollywood

Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors (3 page)

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
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The singer offered Rip and me a cigarette. We declined, and he tried to light it with a Zippo that turned out to be empty.

“You got a light for me?”

Rip held up his hands to indicate his non-smoker status.

I said, “I think I have an emergency matchbook somewhere, just a second,” and opened my small Vinci purse.

And. Time. Stood. Still.

Just like in a cartoon movie, I did a totally illogical and completely useless reality check loop. I closed and opened the purse once more in order to verify the visual outcome. Same as before. Outcome verified. Panic rising.

Rip noticed my hesitation and blood-drained face and took a peek into the purse, too. Then my face grew beet red, my ears filled with blood-pressure-induced white noise, and my throat became dry and scratchy. Rip whistled nearly inaudibly, looked at me with a shocked expression, and then glanced around for the nearest policeman.

In my purse lay Pretty McAllister’s million-dollar Van Winkel necklace.



For the next half hour, nothing happened, except for some more media people arriving. Each newly arriving crew tried their luck with the police guards. Spotlights went up, interviews were attempted and met with utter silence from the cops. Then the spotlights went out, the crew moved back behind the line and set up their spotlights and reflectors to record a piece for the morning shows.

But of course, something was up.

The secret was out after the first guests emerged from the estate and had to make their way past the reporters and cameras toward the valet service on the opposite side of the street. Most of Hollywood’s celebrities showed up in the steady trickle of people.

Peter Jamison had switched on the car radio and fiddled with the controls—and, of course, one of the local stations was covering the event live: a drug bust ongoing on at Swan Collins’ Academy Awards after-show party!

Finally Peter couldn’t hold back. “Aren’t we here for the jewels? Hollywood parties have lots of jewelry, you know. What are we doing at a celebrity drug bust?”

Fowler at first gave no indication that he had heard the question, but after about ten seconds simply shrugged.

And then, as if on cue, one of the guests interviewed talked about Pretty McAllister’s missing necklace worth ten million dollars.

Peter simply stared at Fowler. “Ten million dollars for a necklace?”

Fowler sighted. “One million. But that’s probably not enough for a good Hollywood story.”

“But how did you know?”

“Cats are pests,” Fowler muttered.


An Unexpected Customer

Basically it all began with a good unexpected sale one week earlier. I was crafting away in my little workshop in the back of my shop, the Moonstone, and could tell immediately that something was wrong in the front store. Usually, after the soothing
of the door wind chimes announced a new customer, my useless but charming New Wave shop assistant Mrs. Otis started yapping away with her typical mixture of sales pitch and customer ignorance. But not this time. The chimes tinkled, and a hushed silence drifted over to my workbench.

I looked around the corner and saw the reason for the non-commotion. Mrs. Otis was sitting timidly on the bar chair behind the counter, staring transfixed at the beautiful woman that was browsing the displays together with a bored man and a handbag-fitting white dog that was prone to develop rat-envy. The woman was actress Nicole Berg, the man at her side star photographer Allan Sturgis, and the dog was Brutus; it always paid to read
magazine. Nicole Berg came over to Mrs. Otis, studied her for a second to see whether she was for real, and asked her if she could try out a bracelet. Annie Otis opened her mouth, but nothing came out, at first. I stepped into the shop, which took all my courage—even though I had spoken with the queen of the Netherlands once—and walked up to my customers.

“Mrs. Berg, Mr. Sturgis. What can I do for you? My name is Calendar Moonstone. Welcome.”
Without either stuttering or blushing. Well done, Calendar girl.

Nicole Berg gave my useless shop mannequin an amused glance and actually offered me her hand. “Hi, you have a splendid style on display. Would you mind showing me some of your pieces?”

Under the eyes of a bored star photographer, a frozen employee, and a whining micro-dog, I took Nicole through the highlights of my collection. As it turned out, she had seen a piece of my work in last month’s
magazine, where a super model had featured a sexy combination of D&G, Holland’s, and Moonstone’s. Nicole accepted a coffee, her friend, too, and they left after a purchase of a very nice pink diamond bracelet. Rent paid for the rest of the quarter, and it was only February!

I closed the shop door behind them and watched them vanish in a dark British Bentley limousine. After spending a minute wondering whether to slap Mrs. Otis or to dismiss her for the rest of the day, I simply ruffled her pink-and-black hair, and she gave a small jolt.

Notting Hill
!” Annie Otis uttered suddenly.

“Excuse me?” I asked, bewildered but happy that Mrs. Otis was back among the living and her old confused self.

Notting Hill
, the movie? The bookshop scene, Julia Roberts as the famous actress in Hugh Grant’s rundown travel bookstore.”

“And your role would be…?” I tried to hold back my laugh.

She thought for a second, still dazed and confused. “The shy gay shop assistant, of course.”

“As far as I remember, Hugh Grant managed to say at least three silly things to Julia. And spilled OJ on her breasts. With you, I counted about…zero?”

Annie Otis shrugged, ruffled and sorted her feathers. “Sorry, it was kind of overwhelming. What was she doing in our shop?”

“Shopping. She left us with an average monthly revenue by buying my most expensive bracelet.”

“She bought the Panamericana bracelet?” she asked in awe.

“Mrs. Otis, you were here. Were all of your sensory inputs temporarily disabled?”

“Seems like I missed most of the details. I was concentrating on her aura. Wow, I got something to tell the Dude tonight. Even he will be impressed.” The Dude was her useless surfer bum husband. Her functions were returning to normal, and she started cleaning up the coffee cups and saucers, pausing for a minute when she saw Nicole Berg’s lipstick impression on the rim.

In my boss’ voice, I warned her, “Don’t even think about it!”

Annie Otis actually gave a small blush and put the cup into the small dishwasher after a quick rinse. “I don’t know what you mean.”

I walked back into my workshop and told her over my shoulder, “I could see ‘Sell it on eBay’ etched on your forehead, Annie.”

Later, I caught her rubbing her forehead with her hand in front of the dressing mirror.

That had been our short introduction to the shopping style of the very rich and very famous. I filed the episode under “only in LA” and bragged about it in front of my parents and friends. My wannabe-lover-reduced-to-best-pal Mundy got my okay to use the incident for a small piece in the local paper, which made us Redondo Beach people feel like we were in the middle of Tinseltown.

I would have never expected an encore or a sequel, but “only in LA” had even stranger coincidences in store for me. Nicole Berg’s shopping day had been the Monday before the Oscars that usually fell on a Sunday in March. The Wednesday paper featured Mundy’s piece, and in the days that followed fans found their way into my shop, half of them just browsing my expensive and less expensive collections, the other half asking about Nicole Berg directly without any pretenses. Annie and I were polite and firm and pointed out that we didn’t give out information about customers. We ended every encounter by asking if there was anything that might interest them and in some cases there were actually some low- and mid-price purchases.


London Rain

Fowler Wynn was at ease when he entered his boss’ office. Some of his colleagues feared the old man, but Fowler had no reason to. He had the best track record of any investigator and had saved the company billions of British Pounds in insurance payouts. He respected the old man who had developed Limes & Limes Underwriters to what it was today. During the booming art-craze and art-bubble years of the 1980s and 1990s it had become clear that the art stars of the fifties and sixties actually were worth more than the canvas and the wild splashes or prints of tinned soup, forcing owners to obtain insurance for their beauties.

“Fowler, good to see you. Come in.” Sir L. indicated the chair on the other side of the desk.

“Thanks, how are the horses?” Fowler asked politely, and the two men made idle chit-chat about the successes and failures of Sir Limes’ steeple jumpers, his only passion besides running his company.

Fowler let his eyes roam the skyline of London’s financial district and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ultra-modern building of their fiercest competitor Lloyd’s of London in plain view as a permanent reminder to be vigilant and aggressive at all times.

Sir L. followed Fowler’s gaze and smiled. “Let them play with their ships and planes and factories. We’ll stick with our art and our jewelry and make a good deal of money. Ever look back at your years over there?”

Fowler shook his head. “No, no really, they were good years, made my mark there. But you know where my strengths lie….”

“How can I not take this brilliant opening to come to the point?” laughed Sir L. He pressed the button on his telephone. “Sybil, can you send in James Cowler, please?”

Sybil showed in a fat, sweating man in a gray pinstripe suit that had to be tailored because it had a perfect fit despite the man’s proportions. Fowler shook the sweaty hand and forcefully stopped himself from wiping it on his own trousers. He had met James Cowler before as James led the underwriter syndicates for the American market.

Cowler put some copies and photos on the table and stated his case. Fowler listened, just asking for clarifications here and there. He knew that Sir L. preferred to keep discussion to a minimum and things in linear sequence.

When Cowler made his proposal, Fowler involuntarily said, “No!” with much more exclamation and desperation than intended. He almost put his hand over his mouth out of embarrassment.

Cowler was taken aback, looking at Fowler aghast. “Did I say something wrong?”

Sir Limes raised his hand and gave Fowler a sharp look. “Fowler, I know your infatuation with that American woman. And I am perfectly aware that you had already made her your primary mark in Cowley’s case. I could see it in your eyes.

Fowler said nothing; so far, his boss had been right on all points, so he merely nodded.

“And I know that this woman sometimes gets in the way of your instincts,” Sir L. continued, “but try to keep an open mind on this one, please. There is a lot at stake for our colleagues in the West. It is your investigation as of now. Cowler will forward you all the material.”

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
6.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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