Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (9 page)

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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“Me too,” Emily said. She was thinking the layout looked a lot like her store, and it was making her mad. Had Keith set up a store just like hers, using her inventory? This was outrageous!

“I don’t think it’s as nice as your store,” I said. “And it looks pretty small too. Plus, they probably just sell bras.”

“Yeah, maybe.” She sniffed. She was eager to go inside and see who was running the place. The parking to all the shops was in the back, and we found a place by some dumpsters.

“Before we go in, we need a game plan,” I cautioned. “We should pretend we’re customers, and we’re checking the place out. Let’s not give ourselves away, or have any confrontations. Okay?”

“Sure,” she agreed, eager to proceed.

We went inside to the familiar sound of a bell jingling over our heads. A pretty woman with dark hair and eyes came out from the back. “Hi. Can I help you?” she asked.

“We were just driving by and noticed your store,” I answered. “We thought we’d come inside, and take a look at what you’ve got.”

“Well, take your time. The tables and racks have all the sizes you’d need.”

“Thanks,” I said.

She smiled, and rearranged the papers and pencils on the counter. She hadn’t been expecting her client for another half hour, and was relieved that we were real customers. She hoped one of us would buy something. It made things more legitimate that way. “That table in the middle is fifty percent off today and tomorrow,” she called, acting on impulse. “It’s a great bargain if you find something you like.”

I smiled, and moved to the middle table to check it out. There were some pretty nice things here, and at fifty percent off, I could get a good bra for less than fifteen dollars. When I found the push-up bras, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. These looked like the bras that sold for fifty dollars at another store.

I picked a couple of them up, and took them back to the counter. “Do you have a fitting room where I can try these on?”

“Yes,” she smiled. “Right over here.” She ushered me to a small room in the back corner, and I hurried inside. A twinge of guilt went through me as I caught the thought from Emily that I was a turncoat, but her thoughts ended when I shut the door. Oops, probably not the best move on my part.

I tried them on as fast as I could, worrying what Emily might do or say without me there. I came out of the room, barely put together, and found things just as I left them. The proprietor was still standing behind the counter, and Emily was looking through the racks.

“How did those work for you?” the woman asked.

“Good…really good,” I said. “They fit perfectly. I’ll take them.”

She smiled, hoping she’d made a customer out of me. At the same time, she shouldn’t be selling her inventory so cheap. But it was worth it for a sale. She could easily fix the books to look like I paid the proper amount, and supplement it with the earnings from her real job.

She swiped my credit card, and I signed the receipt while she bagged my bras. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Emily. What was she doing? I glanced over my shoulder to find Emily with nearly the whole table of bras in her arms. She had done the math, and knew that buying these bras at fifty percent off was better than the cost she could get from her supplier. If this lady was stupid enough to sell them for that price, she wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to dish out some serious pain to her competitor.

“I’ll take all of them,” Emily said, dropping them on the counter.

“Oh…I’m so sorry,” the owner responded. “I forgot to tell you the deal is limited to three bras per customer. I hope you understand.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Emily sighed with defeat. She knew it was too good to be true. What was this lady up to? “Since she bought two, I’ll buy four. That should even it out.” She smiled, but her eyes held a challenge in them.

“Sure,” the lady nodded. Maybe her little ploy had been too overboard. She should have said they were only twenty-five percent off. Since she priced them low to begin with, she was now stuck with selling six bras that she had to make up the money for. Good thing she had plenty to cover it. She didn’t know how anybody could make it in this business.

Glad we were done, she rang up Emily’s purchases. Her client would be there any minute, and it was always best not to have any witnesses. Emily took her purchases, and we walked to the door. “Thanks for coming in,” the woman said with a cheerful wave.

“That was weird,” Emily said. “She won’t make any money selling her stuff that cheap. I wonder what’s really going on.”

“Me too,” I agreed. “Let’s drive around the block and park across the street for a minute. I want to see who her next client is.”

“What next client?” Emily asked.

Oops. “I just want to see if she has more clients, and if no one comes after a few minutes, we can go.”

“Okay,” Emily sighed, thinking I was kind of odd. It was like I was making things up just to stick around. “But only for a few minutes. I have to get back to my store.”

After she parked across the street, we sat quietly. “So…did any of those bras look like they came from your inventory?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “But they looked like knock-offs from Victoria’s Secret. Either that, or the real thing. I don’t know how she does it, unless they were stolen or something.”

“Look,” I said, motioning toward the store. “Someone’s going in.”

A man dressed in jeans with a jacket, baseball cap, and dark glasses rounded the corner from the parking lot, and entered the store. A minute later the shop owner glanced out the window, and turned the open sign to closed.

“I don’t know what she’s doing,” Emily said. “But it’s not selling bras.”

What if her store were a front for something else? That might explain the reason she wanted to sell some bras to us. But what did she do? I could imagine all kinds of things, but I wouldn’t know for sure unless I got close enough to hear the thoughts of that guy who’d gone in.

“We’d better get back,” I said. “I don’t know what’s going on over there, but I intend to find out.”

“When you do, will you let me know?” Emily asked. “It’s got to be related to Keith somehow. And I’d like to know what’s going on.”

“Sure, but I can’t guarantee anything.”

We got back to her store in less than ten minutes, and I was hoping I could make it back to the shop before the man left. I figured that if I stood in front of one of the shops beside Betty’s Bra Bar, I could follow him to the parking lot and hear his thoughts. He could get in his car, and I could get in mine. It should work as long as he didn’t suspect me of following him.

I exited from the front door of Novelty Creations, and hurried to my car,  making it back to Betty’s Bra Bar in record time. Pulling into the parking lot, I hoped I hadn’t missed him already. I jumped out, and walked around the back of the store beside Betty’s to the front sidewalk. This was a hardware store, with lots of knobs and handles. I glanced next door, and was relieved to see the closed sign still up. That meant he was still there.

I leaned over, examining the display in the window with great care. From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the man leaving the shop. He walked straight toward me, instead of going to the parking lot. As he passed I ‘heard’ him thinking how funny it would be to give my butt a swat since it was sticking out so far.

I straightened, but kept my indignation to myself, and waited until he was a few yards ahead before I started following. I didn’t know how long I could stay behind him before he noticed, but my luck held out as he turned toward the convenience store on the corner. This was perfect. I could get a Diet Coke, and listen to him at the same time.

There were several other people in the store, but I concentrated on him and tuned the others out. He moved to the cooler and grabbed a six-pack of beer, thinking it was time to celebrate. What he had in his pocket held his freedom, and it was worth every penny.

He noticed me standing nearby and grew suspicious. Was I following him? I grabbed the package of beef jerky in front of me, and made my way to the soft drink dispenser. After filling my cup with Diet Coke and two squirts of cherry flavoring, I stood in line to pay. He stayed in the back of the store watching me. He’d noticed me looking in the hardware store window, and was thinking that if I was following him, or knew what he was up to, he might have to kill me. He knew from experience that if I stuck around, it was almost a sure thing. Out of habit, he stroked the knife in his pocket.

I quickly paid and hurried out, practically running to my car. Out of breath from hurrying so fast, I jumped inside, and immediately locked the car doors. As I fastened my seat belt, I watched to see if he was following. With no sign of him, I started the car, and pulled out of the parking lot. I had to stop at a red light, and there he was, waiting to cross the street. I kept my face forward, only turning my eyes to see if he recognized me. Before I could tell, the light turned green, and I pushed on the gas. Watching him in my rearview mirror, I noticed his head turning to follow my progress.

A chill went down my spine. That was too creepy. It was probably best from now on to concentrate on the lady in the shop and leave her clients alone. If only I knew what she was up to. The client had thought something about his freedom being worth the cost of what she had given him. But what could that mean?

I checked the time to find it was nearly twelve-thirty. Usually, court was recessed anywhere between noon and one for the lunch hour, so this was my chance to stop and see if I could talk to Chris. If David Barardini was there, I could also check on him, and hear what he was thinking. For Chris’ sake, it would be helpful to know what was going on.

I got there just in time. The gavel sounded, and the judge dismissed everyone for one hour. Chris was seated in the front with his client, and I had to fight against the crowd to get to him. His head was bent toward the defendant, who had to be Adam Webb, and there was another man I didn’t know seated next to him.

I slowed my steps, not wanting interrupt, and worried that Chris wouldn’t be happy I was there. I should probably wait until they got up to leave before I barged in on them. Sliding into a back seat, I tried to untangle their thoughts amid those of everyone else in the room.

The man next to Chris was thinking the trial was going well, and the evidence from the books corroborated his story. There was a glitch that no one had picked up on, but if the prosecuting attorney found it, he was prepared to set his plan in motion. It would be better if he didn’t have to though, because he hated framing an innocent man. Of course, it was better than the alternative.

This guy had to be David Barardini. He looked just like Nick, only with graying hair. I wondered if Chris knew anything about this ‘glitch’ in his defense. I couldn’t pick up what Adam Webb and Chris were talking about as easily. It was something to do with…food? Ah…where they were going for lunch. It was a safe bet I could probably interrupt them now.

I stood just as Chris and Adam slid their chairs back. The courtroom was nearly empty by now, and Chris spotted me when he turned around. Surprise at seeing me turned into pleasure, and I smiled with happiness. His left brow lifted, and he smiled slowly, thinking I looked hot in my outfit.

Adam and David noticed his slow perusal, and turned curious stares in my direction. David wondered who I was, running through a list in his head of who I could be; never once thinking I was Chris’ wife. Adam was more perceptive, thinking I looked even better in person than the photo in Chris’ office. He totally understood why Chris was happy to see me. I gave him a bright smile in response, and decided I liked him.

Chris greeted me warmly, and introduced me to David and Adam. David smiled, keeping his surprise to himself. Then his eyes narrowed as he remembered that I was ‘that Shelby’ who worked for Uncle Joey. He hoped I wouldn’t give him away to Chris. That might complicate things. Oops, too late for that.

“Do you mind if I borrow Chris for a moment?” I asked. “I won’t keep him long.”

“Not at all,” Adam said.

“I’ll meet you in the food court,” Chris assured him, and turned toward me with a questioning glance. “What’s up?” he asked.

“I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. How’s the trial going?”

“Pretty well,” he said. “It’s a good thing I’ve been so involved with the case already, otherwise I could be in trouble.”

“Have you heard anything about who beat up Gary or why?” I asked.

“No. In fact, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Chris answered. “I’ve been trying to think who would gain if we lose, and the only thing I can come up with is someone with a personal grudge against Adam.”

“But if Adams loses, won’t that put Webb Enterprises on the line? You should ask Adam who his competition is, or find out if he has any enemies. But you’re right. It could be a personal thing too.”

“That’s a good idea,” Chris said. “I’ll ask Adam what he thinks.”

“You should include David as well. He might know better than Adam, especially since he has connections with Uncle Joey.”

“Umm…yeah, I forgot about that.” Chris considered what I said, but was convinced that David knew what he was doing with the books. It was all legal and admissible in court. He checked his watch and scowled. There wasn’t much time to eat and he was starving.

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
5.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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