Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (24 page)

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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“Yes,” Betty agreed, smiling. She didn’t like that I insinuated she was using Drew for her own purposes. It was true, but she didn’t want him to know that. She tugged on his arm to get his attention and gave him an intimate smile. “Shall we find a seat?” She hoped I’d take the hint and leave them alone.

“Hey, save me a place, will you?” I asked. She wasn’t going to get rid of me that easily, especially since it looked like she was Keith’s long-lost partner, and it was going to break Dimples’ heart. “I’m going to look around some more, but I’ll come find you.”

“Sure,” Dimples said, thinking he’d go along with whatever I wanted. He trusted me, and now that he could look at Betty a little more objectively, his instincts were kicking in, telling him that something wasn’t quite right. Like she was probably using him.

I gave him a big smile, glad to know he could see through her. I hurried over to the table with number twenty-seven on it, only to find a few pieces of underwear on display. I glanced behind the table and sighed with relief to see the crates stacked next to the wall. I studied the crates, trying to figure out where Keith had hoped to hide the money. It didn’t look promising, but if the money was hidden inside, maybe there was a false bottom or something.

“Shelby?”

I turned to find Emily from Novelty Creations. “Hi. Good… you made it.” I noticed an older gentleman with glasses and salt-and-pepper hair standing behind her. “You must be Dean,” I said. “I’m Shelby Nichols, the consultant the bank hired to find the stolen money.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dean said. “Emily told me about you. Sorry I never called you back.”

“That’s okay,” I answered. “I’m glad you could come today. Does that look like your inventory?”

He glanced at the crates. “I don’t think so. Emily told me you thought they were ours, but there’s nothing in the ledgers to say we’re missing any crates, so how could they be?”

He was lying. He knew they were his.

“Our shipments usually come in boxes,” Emily added. “Not crates like that.” She examined the underwear on the table. “But this is the same brand we sell.” She shrugged. “What do you think?” she said to her uncle. “Should we bid on them?”

“Why not?” he glanced at me. “Are you going to bid?” He thought maybe I was, since I probably figured the stolen money might be in the crates.

“No,” I said. “But there is someone else here that is.” I turned to Emily. “You remember Betty’s Bra Bar?” Emily nodded, and I continued. “The owner’s here to bid on them.”

“Really?” Emily said.

Dean straightened, his attention focused sharply on me. “Who’s this?”

“Betty,” I said. “She’s right over there, on the end of the third row.” I pointed in her direction, but all we could see from here was the back of her head.

Waves of excitement rolled from Dean. He was thinking this might be it. He never imagined Keith’s partner was a woman. All this time, and he could never figure out who it was. He shook his head. It had finally paid off to leave the crates with the police. Now he’d know who’d turned Keith to a life of crime. At least he’d outsmarted her. Was she ever in for a surprise. “Let’s find a seat.”

“Okay,” Emily said, confused at her Uncle’s behavior. “See you after,” she said to me.

I watched them walk away, shocked at my discovery. Keith’s father knew where the money was, and now, so did I. He wanted to be there when Betty opened the crates, but that probably wouldn’t happen. If she thought the money was in them, she’d wait until she was alone to open them. How was I going to get her to admit to any of it? I had to come up with something, or Dimples might get killed, and Dean might do something stupid.

The bidding began, and I tried to tune it out, wracking my brain to come up with a reason to look in the crates with Dimples there. Then it hit me. Why not use my job as the investigator for the bank? Once she had the crates, I could mention it to her and ask to look inside. She couldn’t refuse without looking suspicious. It could work.

“Interesting company you’re keeping.”

I jumped, surprised and dismayed to find Rob Felt standing behind me. “What are you doing here?” I thought I’d seen the last of him.

He snickered. “Following you, of course. It looks like you have a pretty good lead here. I mean…look at those crates of underwear.” He’d seen me talking to Emily and her uncle. “Is that where Keith hid the money?”

“If it was, why would I be standing here?”

“Because you don’t know for sure. Maybe you want to see who bids on them, and then you’ll know who Keith’s partner is. Not that I care. I just want the finder’s fee.” He was thinking he’d make sure he got a look inside the crates. Long before whoever bought them could leave. This might be his only chance. He inched in that direction.

“Don’t you even think about it,” I said, grabbing his arm. “You can look inside the crates when the bidding is over, and not one second before.”

He jerked his arm away and frowned. “Fine. I’ll wait. But I’m not going anywhere until I see what’s inside them.”

“Just stay out of my way, and let me handle this. You could ruin everything, and I’m not going to let that happen.”

“As long as I get to see inside, I’ll keep my distance, but if you push me out, you’ll be sorry.”

“Not as sorry as you,” I said, fingering my stun flashlight in my purse. I wanted to stun him right then and there, but the auctioneer holding up number twenty-seven caught my attention.

“Hey,” Felt said in a hushed whisper. “Isn’t that Betty, from Betty’s Bra Bar?” He was thinking how he’d checked up on a couple of her clients, and had finally identified them a few hours ago. They both had bounties on their heads. He was planning to take them into custody and collect, but he had to wait for the right moment. If Betty was bidding on the crates, that might explain her involvement with those men. Maybe they were part of her crew.

At her uncle’s prodding, Emily placed a higher bid than Betty, and the bidding wars began. “Is that the girl from Novelty Creations?” Felt asked. “If they’re bidding against each other, does that mean they both know the money’s in the crates?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, wishing he’d shut up. The bid amount rose until Dean shook his head, and Emily ceased bidding, leaving Betty with the final bid. The gavel slammed down, and the word ‘sold’ echoed through the auditorium.

A collective sigh came from the crowd, and Betty smiled in relief. A few minutes later, the auction was over, and Betty gathered her ticket to pay for the underwear. She disappeared down the hall to the cash register.

Dimples joined me beside the crates, glancing questioningly at Felt. He recognized him a second later, and swore under his breath. He was wondering what Felt was doing here. If Felt messed up this investigation, Dimples would do what he could to get his license revoked. He then imagined smacking Felt around a few times, and I had to smile, knowing exactly how he felt.

As we waited for Betty, I noticed Dean and Emily standing nearby. Dean was hoping to get a chance to confront Betty about what she’d done to his son. He wanted to tell her how she’d ruined Keith’s life, and that Keith had been a good person until he’d met her. He wanted her to admit that she’d had him killed, even if he had to threaten her with his gun. His son never would have done what he did if it hadn’t been for her. If Dean didn’t do anything, she’d probably go free, and he couldn’t live with that.

Yikes! Dean had a gun? He could end up in jail if he hurt Betty. He wasn’t thinking straight, and I had to stop him. The only way to do that was to out Betty myself. But how? I wasn’t sure asking her to let me look at the contents of the crates would make her admit to anything.

The minutes stretched out, and most of the people who’d bought items were long gone. What was taking her so long? Dimples glanced in my direction. “I’d better go see where she went,” he said. He turned to leave but stopped when the double-doors at the back of the hall opened. I caught sight of a van backing into the space and realized it was a loading dock. Two men climbed the stairs through the doors and headed toward the crates.

They looked slightly familiar, but I couldn’t place them. Felt tensed, thinking these were the guys with the bounties on their heads. With Dimples here for backup, now might be the perfect time for him to nab them and collect the money. As they knelt to pick up the crates, Dimples stopped them.

“You can’t take those,” Dimples said. “They belong to Betty.”

“It’s all right,” Betty said, coming in from the double-doors. She leaned against the loading dock. “They’re with me. They do all the heavy lifting for me, so I called them to bring the van.”

They picked up the crates, but Felt stepped in their way. “That’s far enough,” he said, pulling a gun. “These two are wanted felons with bounties on their heads, and it’s time to collect.” He slapped handcuffs on the wrist of the man nearest him. Before he could blink, the man neatly backhanded Felt across the face without losing his hold on the crates. Felt staggered back, trying to gain his balance, and brought his gun up.  

“Stop!” yelled Betty. “Don’t shoot anyone!” She jumped in front of the crates. “At least wait until they get the crates loaded. After that, you can take them in.” She couldn’t let anything stop her now. Once the men had the crates in the van, they could drive away before Felt could stop them.

Dimples had seen enough. If he let them get the crates into the van, he might never see them again. “Hold it right there!” he said, pulling out his gun. “Let’s slow down a minute and figure this out. Betty, move away from the crates. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

With two guns trained on them, the men stopped, and Betty’s brows drew together. He couldn’t do this to her. She edged away from the crates, but closer to the van, in case she had to make a quick getaway.

“Put the crates down, and lift your hands up,” Dimples commanded. “Felt…now would be a good time to use those handcuffs.”

Felt holstered his gun, and pulled their arms behind their backs to cuff them. That accomplished, he took his gun back out and made them sit on the floor with their backs against the wall.

“Let’s see what’s in here, shall we?” Dimples said. He put his gun away, and pulled off the lid. He started throwing underwear every which way until it piled up on the ground.

“Wait. What are you doing?” Betty hurried toward the crate. “You’ll get everything dirty.”

As he emptied the crate, I decided to block Betty’s escape by moving to the double-doors. I knew she was ready to run, but couldn’t resist the pull of finding the money. Now at least if she bolted, she’d have to get past me.

Dimples knocked on the wood at the bottom. “Sounds funny,” he said. “Could there be a false bottom in here?” He pulled the crate apart, and the flimsy wood gave way, revealing an inner compartment. “Would you look at that?”

Betty ran to his side, and her breath caught. “It’s empty! Where…” She glanced at Dimples, realizing she’d nearly given herself away.

“Let’s check the other one,” he said.

As Dimples pulled the other crate apart, Betty stood back, her face going pale. Finding the same false bottom in it, he motioned her over. “Come take a look.”

She hurried over and glanced inside. “Nothing’s there,” she said. Shrugging her shoulders, she tried to act like she didn’t care. “That’s strange. I wonder what could have been in them?”

“Do you?” Dean asked, stalking toward her. “I think you know exactly what was supposed to be in there. The money. That’s where Keith put it. He was going to ship it to you, but something stopped him. Maybe he found out that you were using him all along, and he needed some leverage in case you tried to take it all for yourself.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Betty said, backing away.

“Oh, I think you do,” Dean continued. “You let him take the fall for the death of that hostage, even though it was you who shot her. While he was in prison you looked everywhere for the money, but he’d hidden it too well, and you couldn’t find it. When his trial began, he’d had enough. He was ready to tell everyone about you. But you had him killed before he could. You finally tracked down the crates to the police department, but you couldn’t get near them until now. But it was all for nothing. You still don’t have the money.”

“You don’t know anything,” she said.

“But I do,” he answered, his voice low and husky. “I know where the money is.”

She saw the truth in his eyes and snapped, going for the gun concealed in her jacket. She pressed it tight against Dean’s neck, and jerked his arm behind his back. “Good. Then you’ll take me to it,” she ordered. She wrenched his arm hard, and he stiffened in pain. Then pulled him toward the double-doors.

Dimples made a move toward her. “Stay back,” she yelled. “Or I’ll shoot him.”

She didn’t know I was behind her, and I had my stun flashlight ready. As soon as she started moving toward me, I shoved it under her arm and pushed the button. She jerked a few times before her limbs gave way, and she slid to the ground in a wilted heap. Kind of like she was melting.

Dimples rushed to her side and, with immense satisfaction, cuffed her. Looking me in the eye, he smiled. “Nice work.” He was thinking I was the best damn partner he’d ever had. I anticipated her move and was ready. Of course, on second thought, that might have something to do with my premonitions. But still, he was impressed.

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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