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Carol Higgins Clark

A frantic phone call from an old friend leaves private detective Regan Reilly to investigate two bizarre deaths and the disappearance of a diamond cache.

Carol Higgins Clark


The fifth book in the Regan Reilly series, 2001


I am pleased to acknowledge the people who have been “gems” in offering their encouragement and support in the writing of this book.

Special thanks to Roz Lippel, my editor and friend, who has guided me with her insight and advice every step of the way.

I’d also like to thank my agent, Nick Ellison, and foreign rights director, Alicka Pistek. I am continually grateful to my publicist, Lisl Cade.

Praise goes to art director John Fulbrook, associate director of Copyediting Gypsy da Silva, and copyeditor Carol Catt.

Finally, thanks to my family and friends, especially my mother, Mary Higgins Clark, who knows how joyous it is to finally reach the point of writing the acknowledgments.

You’re all flawless diamonds.

For my mother, Mary Higgins Clark,

and my stepfather, John Conheeney,

with love


Regan Reilly glanced out the window of the plane she’d been on for the last five hours, thrilled to finally spot the skyline of Manhattan. It’s great to be back, she thought. This is where I belong. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which was her new beau-the head of the Major Case Squad in New York City -one Jack Reilly, who thank God was no relation.

A private investigator in Los Angeles, thirty-one-year-old Regan was planning to attend the crime convention that her mother, mystery writer Nora Regan Reilly, had organized with a handful of her fellow authors. Regan’s father, Luke, the owner of three funeral homes in New Jersey, would be there too. It was at Christmastime, when her father had been kidnapped, that Regan had met Jack Reilly. They’d been involved in a coast-to-coast romance for three months.

“I’d do anything that would result in your happiness, Regan,” Luke had joked-more than once since he was safely home-“even be kidnapped.”

Yes, Jack makes me happy, Regan mused as the wheels of the plane smoothly hit the pavement and the pilot taxied to the gate with no delays.

At the baggage claim Regan was inordinately pleased that for once her suitcases were among the first to be spit down the chute. She hoisted them onto the cart she’d rented and hurried out to grab a cab. There was only one person on the taxi line. This is all so easy today, Regan thought. Too easy. Something’s got to go wrong. But even though it was after five o’clock on a Thursday, her cab made great time getting into the city.

As they passed the Plaza Hotel and headed across Central Park South, Regan smiled. Almost there, she thought. She’d be joining her parents at the convention’s opening cocktail party and then for dinner. Jack had an awards ceremony he had to attend out on Long Island, but she’d see him tomorrow.

Life was a regular bowl of cherries.

At her parents’ apartment, Regan felt the familiar sense of comfort that she always experienced when she walked through the door. She quickly showered, changed into a black dress, the nighttime uniform in the city, and hurried out. The cocktail party was still in full swing. Nora spotted Regan the minute she arrived, her maternal instinct on its usual red alert.

“Regan, you’re here!” Nora exclaimed happily as she hurried over to greet her only child.

Several hours later, Regan, Nora, and Luke were finishing a festive dinner at the Gramercy Tavern. All the tables were filled, and the bar was bustling.

“That was delicious,” Regan said as she looked around the busy restaurant. “This is the perfect place to kick off the weekend. I don’t get down to this neighborhood enough.”

Little did she know that, less than two blocks away, a crime was taking place. A crime that would bring her back to Gramercy Park much sooner than she expected.

Nat Pemrod sat at the antique desk in the living room of his splendid penthouse apartment and sighed happily. A few feet away, the door to his safe was open, and all its contents were spread out lovingly in front of him. With a hint of mist in his eyes, he gazed down at his deceased wife, Wendy’s, engagement and wedding rings; the pearls he had given her on their first anniversary; the silly little ring they’d gotten out of a Cracker Jack box that Wendy had always treasured even more than her real jewelry. All the bracelets and earrings and necklaces and pins he had bought her over the years were here. Each and every bauble and trinket, cheap or expensive, held a special memory.

Nat had been a jeweler for fifty years. A few days ago, he and his buddy and fellow jeweler Ben had decided to donate the proceeds from the sale of four precious diamonds they’d owned secretly for almost half a century to their ailing Settlers’ Club in honor of its one hundredth anniversary.

They’d both been “Settlers” since their early thirties, and Nat had been in residence at the club for most of his life. The club, founded by an eccentric for “pioneering people with spirit,” and located on beautiful Gramercy Park in New York City, had in its heyday been a favored gathering place for social, political, and artistic leaders, a mecca for cultural events. Its membership of “pioneers” had consisted of men and women with a broad range of occupations and personalities, and included a fair share of oddballs. But now the club was suffering the fate of many similar clubs and was in danger of closing. Membership was down, the place was in disrepair, and funds were low. It was sneeringly referred to by some as the “Settled Down Club.”

With the anniversary party coming up, Nat and Ben had decided they should put their money where their hearts were, so to speak,

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