Paul Swan, Iyer's character from her novel Indiscretion, travels the world buying exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but underneath his believable cover is a first-class, never-been-caught diamond thief.


When he sees a picture in the Charleston newspaper of a magnificent diamond necklace on the wife of a visiting South American strongman, he can't resist the temptation to steal it. Paul doesn't anticipate what he finds in the hotel room's safe besides the jewels. Now he has to figure out how to stop a political catastrophe without exposing himself as the thief who stole the diamonds, and he has three people complicating his effort: a sexy TV reporter angling for a story, a suspicious cop eager for an arrest, and a rogue mercenary bent on ending his life.

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Chapter One

Scouting Expedition

 

Paul Swan stopped into his favorite diner for an early dinner after spending the afternoon playing ball with some teens at the Boys Home. Mentoring was his way of helping kids avoid turning out like him.

He ordered a Sam Adams with the Friday specialmeatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beansthen picked up the Post and Courier someone had left on the table. The photo of South American president Carlos Ramirez at a gala last night in New York, covered the front page. But it was his wife’s diamond necklace that caught Paul’s attention. The center stone had to be close to twenty carats, and the surrounding diamonds were nothing to sneeze at. He’d seen photos of the exquisite gems before, but now they’d be in Charleston.

Diamonds were easily transportable, consistently valuable, and highly saleable if you knew how to steal them and where to sell them. Paul did.

What he wouldn’t give to get his hands on those stones.

He’d have them plucked from the setting and sold as soon as they cooled down.

Ramirez was coming to the city for a trade conference with state and local leadership. Politics sure made strange bedfellows. No surprise there. Paul read further. What a nerve. The guy was passing himself off as the savior of his country.

Savior, my foot.

Paul was basically apolitical, but it didn’t take a political junkie to know that Ramirez had padded his pockets with the profits from cocaine and oil production. His police forcesor gestapo might be a better wordsuppressed any opposition at the many protests around his country. In recent weeks, scores had been hurt or killed.

Ramirez’s itinerary left little time to breathe. He and his party arrived tomorrow morning for a two-day stay at the Oceanview Inn, the most exclusive hotel in the city. The agenda began with a twelve-thirty lunch at his country’s consulate, the conference at three, and in the evening, Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce was hosting a formal dinner at the Mills House. Sunday, some big business types had arranged a tour of the area with informal talks to discuss mutual trade opportunities. Clearly, it was okay to do business with tyrants these days.

A shiver of excitement passed through Paul. He’d never pulled any jewel heists locally or in the state, confining his activities mainly to Europe. But these diamonds were worth the risk of breaking his rules. Nothing like the thought of a heist to get the adrenaline surging.

Mrs. Ramirez would most likely wear the necklace tomorrow night. That left sometime Sunday to pull off the theft. He usually took more time planning a job, but being a resident of Charleston gave him an advantage. He knew the hotel, had eaten there numerous times, attended functions, and wouldn’t stand out as someone who didn’t belong. He also knew their key card system was easy to breach. The big question was whether Ramirez would use the hotel safe for his wife’s jewels or if he was foolish enough to use the room safe. If the former, Paul could kiss the caper goodbye. There was only one way to find out.

According to the newspaper, the South American president had reserved the entire top floor for his staff. Yeah, nice way to spend your people’s hard-earned money, you murdering crook. Expensive hotels and diamonds.

He expelled a small chuckle. He had a lot of nerve calling Ramirez a crook. The locals knew Paul as a buyer of exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but his car business doubled as a cover to travel the world and part rich people from their diamonds. England and Italy were excellent sources for cars…and for beautiful women decked out in precious stones. But unlike Ramirez, Paul had never so much as laid a finger on anyone. Violence wasn't his style.

He had until tomorrow to develop a plan. An idea formed, but first he had to arrange his alibi. He tapped a speed dial number already on his phone.

“Marcus, how about meeting me tonight at the Oceanview for a drink? Say seven?”

◊◊◊◊

A Friday night at a popular watering hole drew the crowds, and the Oceanview Bar was no exception. It was a place to be seen. Though the drinks were outrageously priced, the polished mahogany, gleaming brass accents, and burgundy leather provided a warm, welcoming ambience.

Dressed in a charcoal gray Hugo Boss suit and a white open collar dress shirt, Paul looked the part of Old Charleston. He nodded to a few people he knew, clients mostly, and took a seat at the bar. “Jake, how are you?”

“Doing well, Mr. Swan. What’ll you have?”

“Macallan neat.”

“Coming up.”

If he was going to pay an outrageous price for a drink, he might as well have a good one.

Marcus Feininger, goatee perfectly groomed, slipped onto the barstool next to Paul. “Bet I know what you’re doing here.” The accent was as southern as sweet tea, with a slow, lazy drawl. Marcus, as usual, dressed in clothes no straight man would ever wear, but on him the eclectic style worked. He sported gold-tinted glasses, two diamond stud earrings, and a silver encrusted pinky ring with an onyx stone the size of a golf ball.

Marcus owned one of Charleston’s swankiest antiques gallery on King Street. He was an expert authenticator and appraiser of eighteenth century French art and antiques and a restorer of fine art, though the latter sometimes treaded ethical lines. The store’s mailing list contained every wealthy South Carolinian with any taste. Paul was one of the few people who knew what went on in the secret basement.