I stared in awe at the glittering butterfly brooch crusted with emeralds, diamonds, rubies, and amethysts. It was spectacular, just one of the myriad pieces at the Jewelry Extravaganza that my friend Brooke Carter Crocket had arranged. She’d begged and borrowed from the finest museums and jewelers – Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels – to stage this special black tie presentation. And everyone from the hoi-poloi of Charleston, South Carolina was here tonight to drink champagne and gasp at these magnificent antique and collectible gems.
Of course, I’d have to sell about a million scones and serve another million cups of Darjeeling tea at my Indigo Tea Shop to even begin to afford one of these pricey baubles. Still, a girl could dream.
But as champagne corks popped and bone china teacups clinked, there was a sudden earsplitting crack. What on earth, I wondered? Glancing around, I feared some hapless guest had fallen headlong into a glass case. Instead, what I saw stunned me. Like a knife slicing through butter, the shiny chrome grill of a black SUV shoved its way right through the showroom’s front window.
Shards of glass flew everywhere, nicking and slashing the guests. Surprised cries turned to terrified screams as everyone lurched and fought to get out of the way. Even more frightening, the enormous black truck relentlessly powered its way into the shop, all cylinders firing, its engine roaring like a runaway locomotive.
Like special effects in an action flick, two more panels of glass exploded inward like a hail of bullets. Everyone shrieked in terror again and I felt the sting of glass and plaster as it rained down upon the back of my neck.
Scrambling on hands and knees now, I ducked behind the sales counter, figuring it might offer better protection than an all-glass display case.
Still, the situation was horrible. People were injured and screaming for help. Careful, fearful of what I might see, I peered around the end of the counter.
The jewelry shop was pure chaos, a war zone. The black SUV was all the way inside the shop, its throaty engine still rumbling. Slivers of glass lay everywhere while guests crouched on their hands and knees, cut and bleeding. My first thought was, “Who’s hurt?” and “How can I help?” Then my gaze shifted and I found myself staring directly into the blazing eyes of a red demon!
But no, the more rational part of my brain told her it was someone, a person, wearing a hideous demon mask. A terrorist? Here in little old Charleston?
Quick as a snapping turtle’s bite, two more demons tumbled out of the black truck, all dressed head to toe in black clothing and looking like hellish clowns in some bizarre circus act.
“Down! Down! Everybody down!” one of the demons screamed.
I was pretty sure the screamer carried a snub-nosed pistol in his right hand, so I ducked behind the case again. A split-second later, a surge of adrenaline kicked in and I realized I was probably smack dab in the middle of a highly orchestrated, smash and grab robbery. It was the kind of bold robbery I’d only heard about – the kind that took place in Paris or Monaco where daring vandals slammed vehicles directly through storefronts and made off with millions of dollars worth of diamond jewelry or Chanel handbags.
I snuck another look just as one of the demon invaders pulled a silver canister from his jacket pocket.
“Go!” the demon shouted to his companions.
Now all three robbers pulled gas masks over their demon faces. The leader twisted the lid, there was a loud pop, and black smoke billowed from the canister. A smoke bomb!
The vandals, all wearing rubber gas masks that made them look like high tech versions of the Elephant Man, went straight to work like practiced professionals. Brandishing crowbars and shiny hammers, they methodically smashed every showcase, grabbing pearls, diamonds, and gold jewelry from their black velvet nests. Every precious piece of jewelry was snatched up and all I could do was watch, scrunch down, and dial 9-1-1 on my cell phone.
It seemed like forever before I heard the blaring sirens of the police cruisers and ambulances arriving on the scene. By that time, the jewelry was gone and so were the robbers. Dear lord, what a way to end the day!
Devonshire Scream is the 17th book in the Tea Shop mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime, March 2016.
In this cozy-thriller, tea shop maven Theodosia Browning tries to track down a gang of jewel thieves who stage a daring “smash and grab” raid during a fancy soiree at Heart’s Desire Fine Jewelry in Charleston. Could it be the wealthy yacht broker, transplanted European, motorcycle-riding tough guy, or mild-mannered professor? The FBI thinks international jewel thieves are at work, but when the Heritage Society decides to put a priceless Faberge Egg on display, Theodosia takes matters into her own hands and investigates. From New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, Devonshire Scream delivers a gripping, realistic murder that also includes tea tips and recipes for Cranberry Cream Scones, Shortbread Squares, and Waldorf Tea Sandwiches.
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About the author
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty-eight mysteries, including the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Little Girl Gone, the first book in her new Afton Tangler Thriller Series, hits bookstores July 5. Laura is the former CEO of her own marketing firm, has won dozens of TV and radio awards, written three screenplays, and produced two reality TV shows. She and her college professor husband enjoy travel and their two Shar-Pei dogs. Visit Laura at www.laurachilds.com and Facebook
Giveaway: Laura is giving away a hardcover copy of Devonshire Scream to one lucky winner. Leave comment below for your chance to win. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end March 22, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.