Table of Contents
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, August 2008
Copyright (c) Sally Goldenbaum, 2008
All rights reserved
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Death by cashmere: a seaside knitters mystery / Sally Goldenbaum.
p. cm. -- (An Obsidian mystery)
eISBN : 978-1-436-23532-7
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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The seaside knitters (and the author) would like to acknowledge those who have helped bring the knitters' story to life. My sincere thanks to:
Cindy and the entire staff of The Studio Knitting & Needlepoint in Kansas City, and especially Sarah Kraly, who showed me what life in a knitting shop is all about--lovely yarns, generous help, friendship and laughter, and a cozy place to be on a cold winter day.
Kristen Weber, for gracious, smart, and generous editing; Andrea Cirillo (for
of encouragement); and Kelly Harms (whose passion for knitting and life fueled the Sea Harbor women every step of the way).
My dear porch-writing friend Nancy Pickard, who understands it all.
And to my amazing family, the Cape Ann McElhennys: Aria, John, and Luke, who sent books on lobstering and quarry history, walked with me on breakwaters, through museums and seaside towns, and who shared with me their love of the sea. And the KC Goldenbaums: Todd, Danny, and Claudia, who are ever-present, fixing broken computers, building Web sites, and salving the spirit. And a special thanks to Don, for thirty-eight years of reasons.
Late Thursday night, Sea Harbor, Massachusetts
North of the Harbor Road shops, a mile or two up the coast--past the Canary Cove artist colony and the ocean-view vacation homes, some of which had been turned into enviable residences with wide seashell drives and two-story carriage houses--the land curved sharply like a sea serpent's tail.
When the moon was full, the sky a whitewash of stars, and the breeze a warm embrace, the beach on the tail and the stalwart breakwater were perfect places to walk on a summer's night. But tonight the weatherman had predicted rain, and the winds were gusty, discouraging evening strolls and lovers' trysts.
At the far end of the tail, beyond the yacht club and private homes, the wide stone breakwater jutted out into the ocean, protecting the waters from the ocean's vagaries. Not many people would be out on the breakwater tonight, or on the public beach just north of it, no one with good sense at least. Not fishermen or lovers or teenagers with six-packs stuffed in their backpacks. It would be the perfect place to have a drink, a talk, or whatever the encounter required.
On one side of the breakwater, the waves pounded hard against the structure. Foam, like beer from a tap, danced high against the black night. The breakwater--fifteen feet high or more, depending on the tide--was built of wide granite blocks, one on top of another, and it ensured calm
waters for anchoring sailboats, small fishing vessels, and the smooth beach where young children built sandcastles on the tended shore.
Tonight no one sat on the beach. The expanse of windows in the clubhouse revealed warm flickering lights, visible from the height of the breakwater. Most of the families were gone at this late hour, but some couples remained, sitting at white-clothed tables and feasting on chunks of fresh lobster baked in crisp, buttery pastry and drinking the club's fruity cocktails. In the lounge, a few couples danced to a local band. Outside, the wind whistled through the needles of the pine trees.
A small sitting area on the edge of the property, across a stretch of beach from the breakwater, held two stone benches and a table--a perfect place for drinks at sunset on a pleasant evening. Or a place to sit in private tonight, with only the low lights of the dock illuminating the lone figure's deliberate stance. Calling her was risky, but it couldn't go on any longer. It had to end. And this would be a smart meeting place to iron out problems, to settle demands in whatever way was necessary.
Two figures sharing a drink, even walking out on the high breakwater, should it come to that, would appear as shadows against the sky to anyone who stepped out on the clubhouse's veranda for a smoke or a breath of air--nondescript, vague, undefined shadows. And the couple's voices would be carried away on the wind.
It didn't have to be like this, of course. Life was about compromises. Negotiations. Forgiveness. Not betrayal and disloyalty and idiocy.
Peering into the blackness but seeing nothing--no one--the lone figure felt a sudden slice of fear, almost painful in its intensity. It began deep in the pit of the stomach and churned painfully up until it was overpowering, an ugly acid taste.
No! A sharp command calmed the body and the mind. It wasn't the time to be afraid, not a time for cowards. Steady, deep breaths, an inner voice dictated. A long drink from the silver glass did its magic. And as always, the fear slowly resided.
And then the sound of footsteps on the rocky shore, just barely heard above the rising, crashing waves, caused a strange relief. A figure walked
slowly and purposefully toward the stone table. Tall and unafraid and brash.
It was almost as if two friends were meeting for a private talk or a business deal, a drink shared--except for the fierce anger that charged the air, calmed only by a slow, deliberate breath, and a long swallow of scotch.
It was time. Two glasses. A flask. A walk along the breakwater. To talk and reason. Or not.
Early Thursday evening
Izzy Chambers stood with her hands on her hips, staring hard at the ceiling. Crashing thumps from the floor above sent tiny flecks of paint floating to the floor. The music was loud, too-- screeching, unrecognizable words and a freight train-loud bass that Izzy could feel in the pit of her stomach.
Behind her, Nell Endicott, thirty years Izzy's senior, felt the same vibrations, but perhaps with more weight. Had she been back in Kansas, there'd be no doubt in Nell's mind that a tornado was pummeling down to crush her niece Izzy's small knitting shop.
But neither she nor Izzy was in Kansas. They were in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, and tornadoes were rarely spotted in the sleepy oceanside town.
"Maybe she's Rollerblading," Izzy said. She grimaced at the continuing noise.
"Rollerblading is a lot better than some of the thoughts that passed through my head."
"Oh, phooey. Let's not worry about it," Izzy said, spinning around on her newly knitted socks and facing her aunt. "Angie's rambunctious, that's all. She's usually not so noisy."
A new sound--a series of heavy clunks--caused the track lighting to quiver and brought Mae Anderson rushing in from the front of the knitting store.
Izzy held up her hands to shush her sales manager before she could say anything. "Mae, it's just a little music."
music, Izzy, made Laura Danver's baby cry--that's how loud it is up at the cash register. And Laura left without buying the yarn she'd been waiting weeks for."
Izzy sighed. "I'll drop Laura's yarn by her house later, Mae."
Nell could feel Izzy's frustration--the young mom wasn't Izzy's most patient customer, but she was certainly one of Izzy's best, and Izzy couldn't afford to offend her.
The bell above the front door jingled, and Mae hurried off to help a new customer, but her eyes told Izzy that she needed to do something--and soon. Priding herself on her senior status, Mae didn't hesitate to tell her young boss how things should be done.
Nell looked up at the ceiling again. The music was softer now, but heavy shoes--boots, maybe--clunked back and forth across the floor above.
"Thicker carpet," Izzy said, half to herself.
"No, sweetie," a lilting voice from the doorway chimed. "Thicker skin. That's what you need. Angie Archer needs to move on."
Birdie Favazza, the oldest member of the Thursday-night knitting group, stood in the doorway. A diminutive woman of nearly eighty, Birdie stood straight, her chin lifted and her eyes bright. A short cap of silver hair outlined her small, fine-boned face. "Landlords need to be tough, darlin'," she said, and walked on into the room.
"She's a good tenant, Birdie. She's probably just had a rough day at work." Izzy scooped up stray pins and measuring tapes and tossed them into a wicker basket on the table.
Birdie shook her head in clear disagreement and walked briskly across the room to a worn leather couch. Her bulky backpack landed on the floor. A bottle of wine protruded from the top of the pack and Birdie pulled it out, putting it on the coffee table in front of her. "I'm here to knit and snack and share a glass of this very fine Muscadet, Izzy. Not to judge you, dear. But--"
"--you told me not to rent the apartment to Angie."
"And you're not quite ready to admit I'm right," Birdie said in a distinct accent that blended fine breeding with a salty touch inherited from a sea captain grandfather. She tugged her bright yellow cable-knit sweater closer around her diminutive frame and tenderly pulled a ball of qiviut yarn from her bag. She fingered its softness with still-nimble fingers and pondered aloud whether to make a shawl or a scarf out of the luxurious wild-berry yarn.
"A shawl," Nell suggested. She looked around the studio. Nell knew exactly why Izzy liked having Angie living above the knitting shop. When they had turned the broken-down bait shop into the Seaside Knitting Studio the winter before, Izzy had decided to move into a cozy New England cottage a short bike ride away, leaving the apartment space above her shop empty.