To die for . . .

Ramirez excused herself and went outside. Just a cigarette break or was she up to something like knocking on doors to interview my neighbors, asking things like, “Does Ms. Jewel practice martial arts in the patio behind her house?” “Does she hang out with lowlifes?” “Does she throw loud parties while wearing stolen shoes?” “Would she kill for a pair of Louboutin shoes? Manolo Blahniks? Roger Viviers?”

Now I was alone with sexy detective Jack Wall. The room seemed smaller. The atmosphere heavy with unspoken questions. Mine and his. Finally he spoke. “Regarding the shoes Ms. Jensen was wearing. Any idea what happened to them?” he asked. “Do you know anyone who would murder someone to get a pair of shoes?”

“Most women love shoes. I’m no exception,” I confessed. “But murder? I can’t imagine going that far. Although they were silver.”

“Were they worth stealing?” Jack asked.

I shrugged. What was the right answer? I had no idea. “Depends.”

“Worth killing for?”

I blinked. What could I say?


With thanks to my wonderful agent, Jessica Faust, for her unwavering support, sense of humor and always helpful suggestions.

A special mention for a devoted reader and expert bridge player, my neighbor Dorothy Greenberg.

This book is for my editor, Emily Rapoport, without whom I would never have met Rita Jewel: fashionista, solver of crimes and super salesgirl. Thanks, Emily!


When I arrived in steamy Miami Beach that morning, it was already ninety degrees with matching humidity. Before I melted away, I headed straight for Collins Avenue and bought a vintage Lilly Pulitzer floral halter dress and wedge sandals with studded leather accents. After stuffing my old clothes in my Heys USA Exotic polka-dot carry-on bag, I walked out of the store in my new outfit feeling more like a native and less like a clueless tourist from San Francisco. In fact, I was there on business. To pick up a pair of shoes from a shop in South Beach for my boss Dolce of Dolce’s Boutique.

The stilettos for her special customer were on hold at an exclusive atelier tucked between two other stores on a side street. The dazzling handmade silver shoes were safely wrapped in yards of white tissue paper, stowed in their box in a large shopping bag. Dolce had told me not to let them out of my sight.

“Must be a very special customer,” I’d said, trying not to act too curious, which I was. Especially after I saw the hand-spun silver heels. How many people could afford gorgeous, expensive, one-of- a-kind shoes like these?

“All my customers are very special,” Dolce had told me. Why all the secrecy? Dolce followed a code of ethics when it came to her customers that rivaled anything the AMA required. She expected me to do the same. No one was supposed to know what any customer bought, wore or how much they paid for it. But she couldn’t stop the customers from talking among themselves, comparing shoes and jewelry, which I was sure they did. The important part of my mission to South Beach was to get the shoes back to San Francisco in time for the annual Golden Gate Garden Benefit tomorrow night—the event that kicked off the fall social scene.

I made time to stop off at the popular Not Your Mother’s Underwear Shop where the clerk talked me into the latest trend, high-waisted undies inspired by a popular TV show that takes place in the 1960s, along with some other to-diefor lingerie I couldn’t resist. She assured me my selections “will make you feel beautiful even if no one knows you’re wearing them.” Given my Spartan social life, no one would. But I’d know, I thought as I put all the intimate items into my black-and-white polka-dot carry-on. Then I was back at the airport on my way home. San Francisco had been my home for only half a year during which I’d been lucky enough to land my dream job through a friend of my aunt back in Columbus—which was selling clothes and accessories to the rich and well connected at Dolce’s.

Five hours, two glasses of Chardonnay and a bag of complimentary pretzels later I stood outside the San Francisco Airport Arrivals waiting for Dolce to pick me up. I was shivering, wishing I’d had time to change back into my old clothes, when my phone rang. It was my boss.

“Rita, I can’t believe this. Some idiot just ran into me on Van Ness. My car is totaled.”

“What? Dolce, are you all right?” I asked anxiously.

“I’m okay. Just shaken up a little. Get in a cab and go straight home. See you first thing in the morning. Eight o’clock or earlier. And don’t let those shoes out of your sight.”

I hung up, unzipped my bag, pulled out a cashmere scarf and wrapped it around my shoulders. Poor Dolce. She sounded really upset. Who wouldn’t be? Now, of all times. I just hoped she wasn’t injured. Sometimes you’re in shock and you don’t know how badly you’re hurt until later.

From out of nowhere a tall, rakish-looking guy pulling a Prada men’s rollaway crashed head-on into me. I stumbled, and my open carry-on bag banged into his, flipped over and spilled my lingerie on the sidewalk.

“Damn, damn, damn,” I cried as the one-of-a-kind silver shoes popped out of their shopping bag, broke out of the shoe box and skidded away in opposite directions.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Sorry? Sorry doesn’t do it,” I blurted. My face flamed, my eyes smarted with angry tears. First, I went after the shoes. They must be worth at least a half year’s salary and were only available from that one shop in South Miami Beach. After I retrieved them and put them carefully into their box inside the shopping bag, I scooped up my new sexy underwear from the ground and shoved it back into my carry-on bag. When I looked up, I realized how many people had stopped to stare as if they’d never seen lacy thongs or an underwire bra spilled at a taxi stand before. Miffed at the invasion of my privacy, I muttered, “I hope you all miss your connections.” What a way to end an overnight business trip. My first and probably my last.

“Can I help you?” the guy who’d bumped into me asked in a strong foreign accent.

“You could help by watching where you’re going,” I said. But it wasn’t his fault, not completely. I was the one who hadn’t zipped up my bag when I took out my scarf. And he was pretty hot looking in a trench coat, knockoff designer jeans and wraparound shades. He could have been a member of Interpol or an international spy if his accent was genuine. So many guys faked it these days, their background, their education, their jobs. You never knew.

I gave him points for having politely averted his eyes from my underwear and focused on the shoes instead. They were definitely eye-catching. He looked genuinely concerned at my plight.

“Let me help you,” he said.

What could he do? I’d already stowed the shoes back in the box and zipped my bag shut.

“You are going in to the city, yes?” he asked.

“Yes. I’m going to take a taxi.”

“Me too. We can take together. It would be for me my pleasure.” With that, he picked up my bag, bypassed the line and whistled for a taxi, which screeched to a halt two feet from the curb. It did occur to me as I got into the cab that he might be a homicidal maniac looking to kidnap innocent women like myself and sell them into slavery in his country. But avoiding that official taxi line was especially appealing given that I was on the verge of

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