Of course you want to know about the Martha’s Vineyard incident, with the yacht and the swimsuit models who sidelined in piracy. But that was blown out of all proportion and I don’t want to bore you with the details. Instead I’ll go back to the beginning, to Orange County, California, and tell you about the theft of the Josephine Necklace and how instrumental I was in recovering it.
That’s the opening of The St. Regis Affair, the first short story in the Tom Giles series. Tom is independently wealthy, English and a fan of lovingly made martinis. I’d wanted to write something light and funny; something that was a throwback to screwball comedies such as Some Like it Hot or the lightening sharp social farce of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Sitting around a hotel pool one day, I began daydreaming what might happen if a diamond was stolen, the hotel guests were the suspects and a rather charming man with a brutal hangover had to try and recover it.
This first story finds him staying in the luxurious The St. Regis Hotel in Orange County, California. The hotel is awash with diamonds, but none match the grandeur of The Josephine Necklace, on display at an exclusive event. When Tom wakes the morning after to discover it has been stolen, he finds himself attempting to recover it before scandal ensues.
He must work through a monstrous hangover and a rogues gallery that include a glamorous magazine owner, a Russian oligarch, an aspiring entrepreneur, a collector of small dogs and a painter with a highly memorable technique.
Newly arrived from London is Tom’s new chauffeur, James, who is drawn into helping keep Tom out of trouble, and may just know more about jewel theft than he cares to admit.
Here’s another extract, where Tom discovers the necklace has been stolen:
It was perhaps six the next morning when, accompanied by the sun, an early morning swimmer woke me with his self righteous mutterings. I was on a lounger around the pool, there was an empty bottle of Veuve beside me and a sensation in my skull reminiscent of a 64 piece orchestra being tied together and rolled down a hill. I went through the quick morning inventory. I’d had the foresight to fall asleep in my sunglasses and a quick TSA style pat down of my suit jacket reassured me that my phone and wallet had both survived the night. My shoes were neatly placed to the side of the lounger and, with a meticulous attention to detail, were perfectly parallel. Less meticulous was the way my shirt had been crumple into a ball and dumped on the floor next to them.
The swimmer watched me disapprovingly, casting judgment each time he bobbed above the surface. I dressed and turned out my pockets in search of a breath mint. There were no mints, but there was a receipt for a staggeringly expensive pair of diamond earrings and an accompanying choker necklace. A second, more thorough, search of my pockets failed to produce either of these pieces of merchandise. I looked around the pool. It was a very nice pool and the morning sun caught it beautifully, but it was distinctly lacking in a beautiful woman wearing jewelry I had recently purchased. I gently lifted myself from the lounger and headed toward the hotel. I’ve always found optimism to be a valid lifestyle, and if a bejeweled model was not in my near future then I was willing to settle for aspirin, a shower and breakfast.
In my haze, my walk toward the room was leisurely bordering on indirect. It took in views of early breakfasters, several function rooms and wide staircases until I passed the coffee shop where I gratefully purchased the largest cappuccino it was possible for them to produce. The barista was in her early twenties, but when I asked her if I’d happened to give her diamonds the night before she said that I had not. Which was a shame, because right then I would have been willing to marry on the spot anyone who gave me coffee.
I was sipping from the blisteringly hot cup as I passed the room where we had seen the Josephine Necklace the night before. That was when I became acutely aware of someone jamming knitting needles into my ears and trying to force my brain out through my eyes.
That was my first assessment of the situation, at least. After swatting madly to fend off a non-existent attacker I took a second guess. I tilted my head in a series of unnatural and nauseating angles until I realized the source of my pain was a sound, and that sound was coming from the room next to me. It was a high, forlorn noise. If I had been in a more poetic frame of mind, I might have described as the noise of happiness ending, without the possibility of return. But I was not in a poetic frame of mind so it just sounded bloody awful. I opened the door to investigate, holding my coffee before me as a shield.
The room had been mostly cleared of glasses and bottles from the previous night, but it still contained a reasonable amount of clutter, furniture, sculpture and such. It also contained Curtis. It was from him that the god awful noise omitted. I approached him; cautiously, as he sounded like a propane tank in a forest fire. I touched his shoulder tentatively then leapt back a few feet, watching for any sign of combustion.
He turned to look at me with sunken eyes. I instantly felt sorry for the man; he looked as bad as I felt.
“It’s gone,” he said, his voice flat.
I stared at him encouragingly, hoping he would say a little more. He did not. I tried a little more hope. Still nothing. Those two words seemed all he was able to summon. I looked around for some clue as to the source of his paralysis. I braced myself to see a dead body, pretty sure I was in too fragile a state to handle anything like that.
There was no body, thankfully. But there was glass. Fragments of glass were strewn across the floor. The stuff was everywhere. The morning light streamed into the room and cascaded quite prettily across it. It was a nice effect, assuming you weren’t the one who had to clean it all up.
I looked at the windows but none seemed broken. As I scanned the rest of the room nothing suggested itself to me. Chairs were neatly stacked on tables. Trays of unused glasses waited to be collected. A four foot high plinth stood empty and unobtrusive against one wall.
I looked at the plinth again. On closer examination it seemed to be surrounded by more glass than anything else. And it wasn’t just empty. Now I looked at it, it was conspicuously empty. Embarrassed at how empty it was. That was when I realized it was the plinth on which the Josephine Necklace had been displayed the previous evening. A glass security case would normally have enclosed it, but that had been removed for the party.
I looked again at the numerous pieces of glass scattered across the floor. I could see it was spread in an arc around the plinth.
“Ah.” I said as the cogs of comprehension slowly clicked into place.
“It’s gone,” Curtis repeated. “The Josephine Necklace. It’s gone.”
Not really sure what I could do that was constructive, I put my hand reassuringly on his shoulder and patted it a few times. “I’m going to take you to the bar,” I said.