The Diamond Affair

By: Carolyn Scott

CHAPTER 1


Ruby Jones had thought she was alone with her diamonds. She was wrong. Someone was in the hallway beyond her workshop door. The tap tap of footsteps on the floorboards was loud in the silence, louder even than her rapidly beating heart.

She froze. At ten p.m, visitors to her first floor workshop were only there for one thing.

To steal her gems.

Maybe, just maybe, her presence would scare off the opportunistic thief. "Is that you, Aaron?" she called out, though the footsteps didn't belong to her assistant. After working together for four years, she knew his light, rapid step. These footsteps were heavier, slower, as if the person were being cautious. Or trying to sneak.

Ruby sat very still, straining to hear over the blood rushing between her ears. Silence. Maybe she'd been mistaken. After all, there was more than enough jewelry in the downstairs store safes to keep him occupied. Why would anyone need to venture upstairs at all?

Bolstered by logic, she got up to investigate. She picked up the slim jeweler's knife, just in case logic proved fallible, and eyed the telephone on her desk. If she called the police based on footsteps alone, she'd sound paranoid. But she had heard something. Better to be safe than sorry.

She reached for the phone just as the door swung open and crashed back against the wall. She gasped. A gorilla of a man stood in the doorway holding a gun.

She knew him.

"Don't touch the phone," he growled. He waggled the gun, directing Ruby away from the desk. "Drop the weapon."

Ruby obeyed although her shaking body didn't want to move out of reach of the phone. But she knew the consequences if she didn't do as ordered. The intruder had a reputation for ruthlessness. His boss even more so.

But the boss had no reason to rob her, or send his goon around to wave a gun in her face. He was insanely rich, he didn't need to resort to petty theft. What was going on?

"You're Frank, aren't you?" she said, trying to keep her voice steady. "Guy Beauvoir's employee?"

"Head of security actually." He thrust out all of his chins, making the ruddy flesh wobble. ‘Fat Frankie' his boss had called him yesterday, but only after the gorilla left them alone in Guy's office. Even Beauvoir didn't want to insult him to his face.

She swallowed and waited, torn between talking to him and keeping her mouth shut. His gaze darted around the small room, taking in her equipment and tools before settling on the small diamonds lying loose in the tray on her workbench. His gaze flicked back to her.

"What do you want?" she asked, unable to keep quiet any longer.

"Where is it?" he said from the doorway.

"Where is what?" She shrugged. "If it's gems you're after there's some in that tray, the rest are in the safe." She indicated the sturdy safe squatting in the corner. "Take what you want. I'm insured."

"Open the safe."

She hesitated and he pointed the gun higher, aiming at her head. One shot and she was dead. Ruby didn't doubt for a second that Fat Frankie would have any qualms about pulling the trigger. Panic and bile rose in her throat as she fumbled with the combination lock.

The door opened and she pulled out tray after tray of diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other precious and semi-precious stones. Some were still in their raw form, others cut, polished and ready to be crafted into jewelry pieces by herself or Aaron. It broke her heart to think all their hard work was about to be snatched away by the sausage fingers of Fat Frankie simply to fill the vaults at Guy Beauvoir's mansion.

She had no idea why one of Australia's richest and shadiest men wanted her stash of gems, but she wasn't about to argue with his right-hand man. Not when he was reported to be trigger-happy and fiercely loyal to his boss.

Damn it, why had she accepted Beauvoir's offer to visit him yesterday against her better judgment? Frankie's presence must be connected. But how? If only she'd refused the invitation.

There was no point speculating because she would always have accepted his offer to view the Florentine diamond. No matter that she knew he must have procured it through the black market. It had been a once in a lifetime opportunity. She didn't regret it, even now.

She knelt in front of the safe, holding the trays, Fat Frankie standing over her. He clicked his tongue. "It's not here." He kicked the nearest tray, scattering her stones—her precious, beautiful gems—all over the workshop. It would take her forever to find them all.