The next morning, Sarah stopped by to see if Rose wanted to go shopping. Rose suspected the invitation was an attempt to cheer her up. Sarah could always be counted on to be there, regardless of the situation. She could also be counted on for an honest—sometimes too honest—assessment of the problems at hand.

“Yes, it was a waste of time, Rose,” Sarah was saying, as the two ladies made their way down the streets of the shopping district, “but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea. Your memory is phenomenal, but even you can’t see and hear everything!”

“I suppose,” Rose replied, “but I wish I could figure out what was still bothering me about that night.”

“Well, the fact that Lord Shrewsbury died is a little bothersome,” Sarah said bluntly.

Rose rolled her eyes. “That is not what I meant and you know it!”

Sarah had the grace to look sheepish. “I rather suspected that, yes.”

“Then why did you say it?”

“Why do I say anything I say?” Sarah replied with a shrug. “It just…comes out.”

Rose giggled at that, because she had very little doubt it was true. “Thank you, Sarah.” Rose sighed gratefully. She felt as if she hadn’t smiled in days.

“Thank you for what?”

“For making me laugh. I really needed that.”

“You’re wel— Oh, Rose, look!” Sarah exclaimed suddenly. “Aren’t those earbobs lovely?”

Rose was still grinning as she turned to look at the jewels Sarah had found. She followed Sarah’s finger to the emerald earbobs, which would, quite frankly, look grand with her red hair.

“Yes, those are love—” Rose broke off mid-sentence and just stared at the window.

“Rose?” Sarah said. “Are you all right?”

Rose turned slowly and said, “The ring.”

Sarah looked in the window again and Rose pointed. Just to the right of the earbobs was a large ornate ring. It appeared to be the kind that opened to reveal a tiny area to hold a small trinket or whatnot inside.

“Yes, I see it,” Sarah said. “You are talking about the really ugly one next to the earbobs, correct?”

Rose just gave her a look.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t mean ugly as in not attractive, I…uh…oh dear,” Sarah finished lamely.

“As it happens, I was not pointing out the ring because I liked it, but rather because it reminded me of something. Something very important.”

Sarah sagged in apparent relief. “I knew it wasn’t your style!” she said. “Wait…what do you mean by very important?”

“I mean we need to go home—now!” Rose said as she grabbed Sarah’s arm and began pulling her back in the direction from which they came.

“But we haven’t finished our shop—” Sarah began, tripping clumsily after her friend.

Rose stopped suddenly, causing Sarah to crash into her with a shriek, thereby ending her sentence quite succinctly. Once they had both righted themselves, Rose said ominously, “Sarah, I think I have just discovered the clue to Caleb Collicott’s undoing. Don’t you think that is a bit more important than buying a couple of new ribbons?”

“Well, when you put it that way…”

“Good, now come along.”

Rose once again turned them toward home. If they hurried, they could reach their neighborhood in Mayfair within the hour. Rose hoped it would still be early enough in the day to get a note off to Simon so that they could meet immediately.

There really was no time to waste.


 

Excerpt:
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