Diner Knock Out (A Rose Strickland Mystery Book 4)
look around. There are sodas and coffee down the hall.” Then he strolled off, in search of more lucrative prey.
    I shifted from one foot to another, waiting a good five minutes before a middle-aged man in an expensive light gray suit appeared. He was neither attractive nor unattractive. With more salt than pepper in his lacquered hair, he had the polished veneer of a televangelist. A gold pinkie ring flashed as he held out his hand.
    “Al Bosworth.”
    “Rose Strickland.”
    Acknowledgment flared in his nondescript brown-gray eyes. “You’re John and Barbara Strickland’s daughter?”
    “I am. My mother said that Mr. Carlucci could help me find a car.”
    “Will doesn’t do that anymore. He leaves the day-to-day operations of the business to me. But I’ll be happy to show you anything you want to see, Rose.”
    Damn. Getting access to Will Carlucci was proving to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. Asking my mom for help might be in the cards after all.
    Since I’d thrown her name around, I now had to extract myself from this situation gracefully. And graceful wasn’t really my strong suit. “Actually, I’m just starting my search. I’m not sure what I’m looking for.”
    As though that was a problem he heard often, Al Bosworth nodded vigorously. Not one hair on his head moved. Amazing. “I’ll get you some information about the different models, and you can start comparing. Do you have any idea of what kind of vehicle you’re looking for?”
    I batted my eyes. “Blue?”
    He laughed, as though my simple-minded answer was charming. Oh, silly women and their lack of automotive knowledge. “Come with me.” He sailed down the hall, and I followed to his office. The pale blue walls were covered with awards.
    “These are impressive,” I said.
    He smiled—all teeth—and sat behind his desk. “We’re proud of our success.”
    “Have you known Will long?” If I could gather a few facts on Carlucci, maybe this trip wouldn’t be a complete failure.
    “Years and years,” he said, rummaging through the bottom drawer of his desk. “We grew up together.”
    I moved across the room and sat in one of the guest chairs. “Really? Now you’re working together.”
    “We’ve always worked together.” He dropped a handful of colorful brochures on his desk and picked up a framed photograph. “This is the two of us on our first lot.” He handed it to me. “B&C Auto. Right off Junction Road. It was a great experience.”
    I glanced at the photo and smiled. Both men wore their mullets loud and proud. Carlucci even sported a thick mustache. His suit was Miami Vice pink. They stood side by side in front of a row of used cars and one minivan. I handed it back. “You’ve come a long way.”
    “You’re not kidding. Eight dealerships, including three luxury lines.”
    I stood and moved to a grouping of photos on his file cabinet. I picked up a framed snapshot. Carlucci, Al, and a pretty woman with curly brown hair. “Did you ever think about doing this on your own? Without Will?”
    “I did, as a matter of fact.” His tone turned wistful. “Bought Will out of that first lot and tried to make a go of it myself. But the damn highway got rerouted, which cut off direct traffic to the lot, and that was that.” He rose to join me. “This is Will’s first wife, Deb. Prettiest girl in our class. They were a great couple.” He took the frame from my hands and placed it on his desk. “Will and I make a better team anyway. Close as brothers. So, Rose, would you like to take a spin? Maybe a Mercedes convertible? An Infiniti sedan?”
    “I’m not sure. Do you have color chips?”
    “You bet.” He handed me a booklet along with the brochures. “Here you go. Pick your favorite color and we’ll go from there.”
    After tucking them into my bag, I tilted my head in an attempt to appear helpless. “Thanks for your time. Sorry I’m scattered. There’re so many to choose from.”
    He placed his hand on the

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