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Authors: Betty Hechtman

If Hooks Could Kill

BOOK: If Hooks Could Kill
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Berkley Prime Crime titles by Betty Hechtman








If Hooks Could Kill



Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

Copyright © 2012 by Betty Hechtman.

Cover art by Cathy Gendron. Cover design by Rita Frangie.

Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are registered trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

November 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hechtman, Betty, 1947–

If hooks could kill / Betty Hechtman.—1st ed.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-425-25279-6

1. Crocheting—Fiction. 2. Murder—lnvestigation—California—Tarzana—Fiction. 3. Television programs—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3608.E288137 2012




Thank you once again to Sandy Harding for being a wonderful editor. My agent Jessica Faust is the best. Thank you to Natalee Rosenstein for making Berkley Prime Crime such a great place to be. The Berkley Art department keeps coming up with fabulous covers.

Thank you to Delma Myers and Crochet Guild president Amy Shelton for being my buddies at the Crochet Guild of America’s summer and fall shows. Suzann Thompson gave a great class on the bullion stitch.

Thanks to Lee Lofland for putting on the Writer’s Police Academy. Where else could I have asked an ATF officer about how to make a silencer, or been able to try on a Kevlar vest, or felt what it was like to be handcuffed or in a jail cell?

Roberta Martia provided the inspiration for the wedding hankie idea and a sample. Dr. Howard Marx offered medical information and Appellate Defender Judy Libby answered legal questions.

A special thank-you to Linda Hopkins for all of her generous help with the crochet patterns and everything else.

Thank you, Thursday knit and crochet group—Rene Bie


I have done a lot of embarrassing things, but this morning I topped even myself. . . .

I watched as the detective walked out of the small blue stucco house down the street from my best friend Dinah Lyons’s house. Everything about him gave off the vibe of somebody who’d been up all night chasing down evidence. His face featured a day-old beard, his tie was pulled loose from the collar of his pale blue dress shirt, and he gave out a weary sigh as he sauntered down the three steps to the front walk and moved toward the black Crown Victoria parked at the curb.

He was almost to the street when a man in a hooded sweatshirt with a baseball cap on top of the hood darted out from behind a large red oleander bush. The morning sun glinted off the gun in his hand. As he raised his arm and took aim, something triggered in my mind, really someone, namely Barry Greenberg. I’d given up trying to find the right title for Barry. It was enough to say he was my ex-boyfriend, he was a homicide detective and he’d recently been shot. I wasn’t about to let that happen to someone else.

Without a second of hesitation, I rushed up behind the guy with the gun. If all the adrenaline hadn’t been pumping I never would have had the force to knock him over. And maybe I would have noticed a few things like the detective’s shirt had no wrinkles. And he was definitely wearing makeup. And there were cameras, lights and lots of people standing around.

“Cut,” a tall man in black jeans and a loose taupe-colored tee shirt yelled as he rushed onto the grass. He glared at me and waved to the uniformed officer hanging by the curb. “Get her out of here,” he muttered, pointing to me as I rolled off the presumed assailant. The man I had tackled got up and dusted himself off, and the throng of onlookers surrounded me as I got back on my feet. But they parted for the officer who came through the crowd, linked his arm with mine, and pulled me to the edge of the sidewalk.

“Pink, what have you done now?” Adele Abrams rushed up behind me as Dinah Lyons started explaining to all who would listen why I had done what I’d done. No, this wasn’t some kind of bad dream, though at the moment I was wishing it was and hoping I’d wake up twisted in the sheets of my own bed. I admit to often finding myself in trouble, but usually it’s for something real. This was all make-believe.

It was summer in the San Fernando Valley and the area had become a back lot for TV and film productions. Caravans of white trucks were on streets all over the Valley. Street corners had yellow signs with arrows to direct the cast and crew to the location. They always disguised the real name of the production with some cryptic phrase, so no one would have guessed by the sign on Ventura Boulevard that the area around Dinah’s house had become the set for
L.A. 911

If this were a TV show or movie, it would freeze-frame right now. Then I’d step forward and explain that my name was Molly Pink and that after my husband Charlie died, I’d started a whole new chapter in my life that included getting a job as the event coordinator at the bookstore Shedd & Royal Books and More, which was just up the street from all this activity. I might mention that I was also in charge of the yarn department we had recently added.

You might wonder about a yarn department in a bookstore. The yarn department was added because the local crochet group, the Tarzana Hookers, met at the bookstore and quite frankly the owners, Mrs. Shedd and Mr. Royal, were looking for more revenue streams. I think that’s the right term. Actually, with a crafting table and available yarn, the Hookers didn’t just meet at the bookstore—they almost lived there. Mrs. Shedd liked to joke that if we had cots, the group would probably sleep there, too.

Adele Abrams, the person who just called me Pink, worked at the bookstore, too. There was a little tension between us. She thought she should have been promoted to event coordinator instead of Mrs. Shedd hiring me. As a consolation prize, she had been given the children’s department to oversee. Adele didn’t really like kids, though she did like to dress up in costumes for story time.

Then, when the yarn department was added, Adele thought she should be in charge of it. Adele, Dinah and I were all part of the crochet group, and no one would dispute that Adele was far superior with a hook, but she had this small problem. All of the Tarzana Hookers thought crochet was the best of the fiber arts, but Adele took it a step further. If you so much as showed her a knitting needle she would throw a hissy fit. Personally, while I know she had a real reason for being nuts about knitters (she’d had a bad stepmother who was a needle head, as Adele called her), I thought it was time she accepted a world where hooks and needles could get along.

Having a needle hater running a yarn department wasn’t a good idea—not if you wanted a knitter’s business. So, even though I was somewhat of a novice at crochet, Mrs. Shedd wanted me to handle the yarn department.

But none of that explained what I was doing hanging out at a TV shoot. Actually it wasn’t planned. Adele, Dinah and I were on our way to one of the newer Hooker’s houses to pick up some crochet stuff. Her house was around the corner from Dinah’s and we’d had to pass the caravan of trucks and trailers to get there. Even though seeing a set on the street wasn’t new, I still found it exciting. It was fun to see what they’d done to the front of the modest stucco house they were using for a location. They’d carted in trees and bushes and arranged them so that the other houses on the block weren’t visible and so you couldn’t see the open-air tent set up down the street that was acting as a dining room for the cast and crew. A catering truck was parked in the street and the smell of the barbecue wafted down the block.

This is where the freeze frame would end and the action would pick up again. The uniform who’d grabbed my arm had gotten me to the edge of the crowd. Adele followed close behind. “Pink, you’d better thank my boyfriend Eric for saving your skin.” Now that we’d reached the sidelines, Eric let go and apologized if he’d been too rough.

“It was fine,” I said to the barrel-chested man who towered over me. Eric Humphries was an LAPD motor officer and was using his vacation time to work security on the production. In case there was any doubt, he was also Adele’s boyfriend. “Thanks for saving me from the angry mob,” I said looking back at the crew as they tried to set up the shot again. Adele glanced around, saw that no one was watching and touched Eric’s arm in a possessive manner. He responded by beaming a big smile her way. It was embarrassing to watch them making googie eyes at each other. But at least this time the romance wasn’t all in Adele’s imagination.

They made an unusual pair. Adele, with her wild clothes and say whatever attitude, was a sharp contrast to the very proper and polite motor officer. He rode his motorcycle with ramrod straight posture and took his security work at the set very seriously. “Cutchykins,” he said, winking at her. “I’m glad you stopped by. You look lovely as always.”

My eyes started to roll on their own. Didn’t the man have eyes? Adele was wearing a one shoulder sundress made out of multicolored granny squares with a red crocheted flounce at the bottom. She looked like she was wearing an afghan. And Adele had crocheted herself a big brimmed cream-colored hat. It had turned out to be a little too floppy in the brim area, and kept dipping down and cutting off her line of sight.

Dinah rejoined us and Eric went back to his post. “Don’t worry, I took care of everything,” she said. I had no doubt she had. Dinah was a community college English instructor and her specialty was freshman English. She knew how to take charge of an unruly group, no matter who they were. I figured she’d done the same with the production group. “As soon as I explained about your connection to Barry and how he was a homicide detective, and that he’d been shot, and that you were still so sensitive to the whole thing that you’d lost your mind temporarily, they all understood. That North Adams was particularly nice,” she said sending back a glance to the seasoned, tall, dark-haired actor who played the homicide detective I’d tried to save. “He even offered to talk to you and help you with ‘this difficult time,’ as he put it. And the guy who played the shooter seemed to take it as some kind of compliment to his acting ability.”

“You said I lost my mind?” I said, skipping over everything else she’d said. “Great, now they think I’m crazy.” Normally I might not care what strangers thought of me, but I was probably going to see these people again. The bookstore was just up the street and even though the production was self-contained, providing meals and snacks, the cast and crew still drifted up to the bookstore to hang out, buy books, get coffee drinks and scoop up our barista’s great cookies.

“We better go,” I said. “We’ve still got to pick up Kelly’s crochet items.”

“We don’t all have to go,” Adele said, reminding us that she was more or less in charge of the crochet group. It was more in her mind and less in reality. CeeCee Collins was technically the leader, but her acting career was so busy right now it was hard for her to handle the group as well. So Adele had jumped in as de facto leader.

“Well, none of us really has to go,” I said. “Kelly doesn’t know we’re coming and we can just wait until she comes to one of our meetings.”

Adele snorted. “Maybe you can wait, Pink, but CeeCee and I have our doubts about Kelly’s crochet ability. She keeps saying she’s going to come to a meeting and she keeps saying she’s going to make things for our booth at the Tarzana fair, but I haven’t seen anything to make me believe it’s true.”

“What about the scarf she showed us that she was making?” I said.

“Okay, so she can make a scarf, and so she came to a couple of meetings, and so whenever we see her at the bookstore she says she’s been making stuff at home for the fair. But I want to see proof.”

It was useless to argue with Adele, so Dinah and I traded nods and kept silent. It was just a short walk up the street to Dinah’s house, which was on the corner. Kelly lived around the next corner on the street that paralleled the one the production company was using. As soon as we got on the other street, it was much quieter. The houses were set on orderly little plots, close to the street. This part of Tarzana had sidewalks and seemed more like a neighborhood than where I lived.

“I don’t know why Kelly has to be so difficult,” Adele said with a harrumph in her voice. It was all Dinah and I could do to keep from laughing. Adele practically wrote the book on causing a ruckus. Apparently immune to our stifled laughs, Adele continued. “If she’s going to be one of the Hookers, she ought to follow the rules.”

“Rules?” Dinah repeated with surprise. “What are they, the ten commandments of crochet?”

“I don’t know if there are ten, but there should be something that says if you join the Hookers, you have to go along with the group, and show up to the meetings,” Adele said as the breeze caught the brim of her hat and pushed it down, covering her eyes. She flipped it up and tried to make it stay. Go along with the group? Did Adele hear what she was saying? She never went along with anything.

As we continued down the block, I noticed that the street was crowded with cars and commercial vehicles. Generally it was empty at this time of day. But then I realized they were all part of the production and probably just being kept there until they were needed. I noticed a truck with open slats up ahead, parked in Kelly’s driveway. The back of the truck was filled with greenery in pots and two men in jeans were standing next to it.

Since Dinah’s house was just up the street from Kelly’s, which made them neighbors, my friend knew more about Kelly’s business than the rest of us. “She’s got her hands full,” Dinah began. “You know both she and her husband have kids from previous marriages. It’s always a changing cast of characters in that house. His kids, her kids, no kids. You can’t just pick up and hang out at the yarn table when you have kids out of school for the summer, and you have to cart them around to activities.”

Adele spent some more time fighting with her hat as we got closer. She didn’t seem impressed with Dinah’s explanation. “And there’s her husband’s business,” Dinah continued. “Maybe she helps out at his store.”

The store was Hollar for a Dolllar, Tarzana’s first dollar store. Dinah had heard that Kelly’s husband was hoping to make the one location into a big success, so he could develop it into a chain. “He went up and down the block and gave us all goodie bags of merchandise and ten-percent-off coupons to entice us to go into the store.”

I’d seen the goodie bags. The specialty factor of Hollar for a Dollar seemed to be that it had almost name-brand stuff. Dinah’s goodie bag had contained Uncle Len’s rice, Suckers strawberry jam and Wiggly’s spearmint gum.

As we got closer, I noticed a woman standing on the sidewalk, watching the action with the truck. She had her hand on her hip and you didn’t have to be a body language expert to know she was annoyed. As soon as she saw us, her expression sharpened and she stepped toward us.

“Coming to complain, aren’t you,” she said focusing on Dinah. “Well, I’m with you. It’s not enough that we have that production company around the corner, but thanks to Kelly Donahue, its going to be on this side of the block, too. That is, unless we do something to stop it.”

I knew not everyone found having a production company on their street exciting. To some it was nothing but a nuisance. Apparently this woman was one of those.

Dinah nodded a greeting at her. “Hi, Nanci. I don’t think you’ve met Molly Pink and Adele Abrams.” Nanci’s angry expression broke for a moment as she acknowledged us, and Dinah told us that Nanci Silvers was Kelly’s next-door neighbor and PTA president-elect at Wilbur Elementary.

Nanci definitely acted the part of PTA president. In all the years my sons had gone to school, the names and faces of the PTA presidents had changed, but the personas had stayed the same. The words bossy and controlling came to mind. Nanci’s champagne blond hair was cut severely short with asymmetrical long dagger-shaped strands on the side that did nothing to soften her sharp features. There was something businesslike in her attire. The black slacks and short-sleeved jacket seemed like a suit. The jacket was embellished with a cluster of bloodred crocheted flowers. I noticed she’d started tapping her toe as one of the jean-clad men pulled a palm tree in a big black pot out of the truck. He nodded a greeting at our little group before continuing down the driveway toward Kelly’s backyard.

BOOK: If Hooks Could Kill
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