Authors: Betty Hechtman
Praise for the Crochet Mysteries
“A gentle and charming novel that will warm the reader like a favorite afghan. Its quirky and likable characters are appealing and real.”
—Earlene Fowler, national bestselling author of
The Road to Cardinal Valley
“[A] charming mystery. Who can resist a sleuth named Pink, a slew of interesting minor characters and a fun fringe-of-Hollywood setting?”
bestselling author of
Knit Your Own Murder
“Crochet fans will love the patterns in the back, and others will enjoy unraveling the knots leading to the killer.”
“[These] characters are so unique that they are not easily forgotten! They are witty and charming, a perfect group of crafters to have an armchair adventure with . . . Absolutely stunning.”
—Open Book Society
“Betty Hechtman does it all so well: writing, plotting and character development.”
“[An] enjoyable series with likable characters.”
—The Mystery Reader
“Crocheters couldn’t ask for a more rollicking read.”
“Betty Hechtman has written an enjoyable amateur sleuth featuring a likable lead protagonist who has reinvented herself one stitch at a time.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
“Combining a little suspense, a little romance and a little hooking, Betty Hechtman’s charming crochet mystery series is clever and lively.”
HOOKED ON MURDER
DEAD MEN DON’T CROCHET
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
A STITCH IN CRIME
YOU BETTER KNOT DIE
BEHIND THE SEAMS
IF HOOKS COULD KILL
FOR BETTER OR WORSTED
SEAMS LIKE MURDER
Yarn Retreat Mysteries
YARN TO GO
SILENCE OF THE LAMB’S WOOL
WOUND UP IN MURDER
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
SEAMS LIKE MURDER
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2016 by Betty Hechtman.
Gone with the Wool
by Betty Hechtman copyright © 2016 by Betty Hechtman.
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eBook ISBN: 9780698187580
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / May 2016
Cover art by Cathy Gendron.
Cover design by Rita Frangie.
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.
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.
It can’t be easy starting out with the tenth book in a series, but my editor Julie Mianecki did an amazing job. My agent Jessica Faust as always is there with advice and help.
Molly has been almost arrested a number of times, and I’ve had to imagine how she was handcuffed to a bench. No more. Lee Lofland once again put on a fabulous event called Writers Police Academy at the Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. They actually had a whole mock-up of a booking area, and I got to see firsthand what that bench looks like. I also went into the cell she might have ended up in.
Thank you to crocheter extraordinaire Amy Shelton of Crochetville.com for including me in the NaCroMo blog tour. What a way to celebrate National Crochet Month. Her talents inspire me. Delma Myers, another crocheter extraordinaire, has been my guide to the yarn world and keeps me posted on what’s going on.
Linda Hopkins is my crochet angel. She helps with the patterns and so much else.
Thanks to my knit and crochet group Rene Biederman, Alice Chiredijan, Terry Cohen, Trish Culkin, Clara Feeney, Sonia Flaum, Lilly Gillis, Winnie Hineson, Linda Hopkins, Reva Mallon, Elayne Moschin and Paula Tesler for all the yarn fun. Roberta and Dominic Martia remain my cheerleaders. And hugs to my family—Burl, Max and
“No!” I yelled as the small gray terrier mix took off across my living room with a ball of blue yarn in his mouth. Cosmo, a black mutt who resembled a mop, was on Felix’s tail, and I was running after both of them. The lid was off the plastic bin I had so carefully packed, and balls of yarn in blues, greens and lavenders were all over the wood floor in various stages of unravel.
A growling Cosmo caught up with the offender, and the terrier dropped his trophy at my feet. Not long ago I’d been concerned that my life was too quiet, and now it had gone in the opposite direction. This chaos was just an example.
“Felix, you’re adorable but completely naughty,” I said, shaking my head at the gray dog. “It wouldn’t be so bad if this yarn was mine,” I added as I began to retrieve the colorful balls of fiber and rewind them, checking for damage. Yes, I could certainly afford to lose a few skeins from my overabundant stash. Actually, overabundance was an understatement.
“But this belongs to the bookstore,” I continued, picking up the ball of royal blue mohair. Was it my imagination, or did the dog give me a quizzical look? Did he wonder what a bookstore was doing with yarn?
It all started when my husband, Charlie, died and I’d had to start a new chapter in my life. I’d gotten a job at Shedd & Royal Books and More as the event coordinator. Soon after, I discovered that a group of crocheters, the Tarzana Hookers, met at the bookstore. They offered just what I’d needed—friendship and something else to do with my hands besides ferrying homemade caramel corn to my mouth.
In those days, the “More” in the shop’s name referred to things like journals, writing supplies and a small array of chocolates. But my boss, Mrs. Shedd, was always looking for new revenue streams, and she realized that the crocheters bought yarn and attracted yarn buyers to the bookstore. The next thing I knew, we had a yarn department and I was in charge. Then we started putting on crochet parties, in addition to all the author events and writers’ groups I was already running. I suppose it was only natural to come up with our newest offering: the Yarn University. Yarn stores often offered series of classes that included making a project. I’d observed how they handled things, and the idea for Yarn University had been born.
The Tarzana Hookers were loaded with talent and all ready and willing to be teachers. Strike that—all but one were ready, willing and able. I had talked Sheila, the youngest Hooker, into teaching a class on her special technique, which incidentally had the most people signed up. Since she had no experience teaching, my best friend and fellow Hooker Dinah Lyons had worked with Sheila to come up with a plan. Everything seemed to have been okay, but now that it was getting close to the actual beginning of the class, Sheila was getting
cold feet. Actually, more like frozen feet. She was shy and had anxiety issues, and thinking about being in front of a group of strangers was freaking her out.
“This yarn is for Sheila’s rehearsal,” I told the dogs, examining the ball of yarn in my hand for damage. I’d come up with a plan to have her do a practice class, hoping it would calm her down. Secretly, I hoped it would calm me down as well. Since I’d talked her into it, I felt personally responsible. And there was something else, too—Mrs. Shedd had no idea there was any problem. I picked up another ball of yarn out of the bin.
“Can’t use this one, either.” Somebody had pulled the ball apart, and the fine yarn was a tangled mess. I looked at my two cats, who were perched on the back of the reddish brown leather couch. They blinked and closed their eyes, as if to proclaim their innocence. Cosmo danced around my feet, trying to show off that he’d rounded up the offender.
My other dog, Blondie, had just come into the room. Her strawberry blond, wiry hair might say terrier mix, but her personality didn’t at all. She didn’t mingle with the others much and spent most of her time in a chair in my room. She glanced at the rest of the animals, sensed something was going on, and retreated to her spot.
After I’d placed all the usable yarn back in the bin, I closed the top, this time making sure it was completely secure. I picked up the bin and started across the living room, followed by a parade of pets who knew what was going on.
Here we go again
, I thought.
“I’m sorry, but I have to leave.” I said it without looking back. I couldn’t bear to see the looks on their faces. Sometimes I wondered how I’d ended up the mistress of this menagerie.
It had just been me and Blondie at first. After Charlie died
and I was feeling very alone, Blondie and I sort of found each other at a dog rescue. I was pretty sure she had been adopted and returned—when I first saw her, she looked totally woebegone, and she seemed to feel as abandoned as I did.
I quickly found out that she was the Greta Garbo of dogs—she preferred to be alone. She’d already returned to her spot in my room and wasn’t part of the parade that was trailing behind me.
The rest of my pets pretty much chronicled the changes in my life. Cosmo really belonged to Barry Greenberg, my ex. I refuse to say ex-boyfriend, because it just seems weird to call a homicide detective in his fifties a boyfriend. It figured that a cop’s dog would be the one to catch up with the yarn offender.
Barry’s son, Jeffrey, still came by once a week or so and acted like Cosmo’s owner. The dog seemed to play along, but as soon as Jeffrey left, Cosmo made it clear he was all mine.
The two cats’ names were Cat Woman and Holstein, which at some point had morphed into Cat and Mr. Kitty (don’t ask). They’d come courtesy of my son Samuel, who had moved in and out a few times, eventually just leaving the cats here.
And finally there was Felix, the gray terrier who, unlike Blondie, definitely knew he was a terrier. He’d arrived with Samuel the last time he moved back in with me, when he and his girlfriend Nell broke up. Thank heavens Samuel had stayed this time. Managing all these animals on top of everything else was a little much. Though at the moment, my son was on the road. His day job was head barista at a coffee place, but at heart he was a musician.
My mother was part of the She La Las, a girl group from back in the day who had one hit—“My Guy Bill.” The group had turned the public’s nostalgia for the song into a gig as part of an oldies show touring performing arts centers across
the country. Samuel had been hired as their musical director and roadie.
I got to my kitchen and set the bin down. The air smelled of the freshly baked biscuits that were cooling on the counter. Thankfully Felix hadn’t learned yet how to get up on the counter, or they would have been history.
“Presentation is everything,” I told my animal audience as I put a checkered cloth napkin in a basket and loaded it with biscuits before covering them with another napkin. I also had several small brown paper bags on the counter—I used a couple of paper napkins to line them, making sure the white corners showed at the top before adding biscuits to each. Finally, I loaded everything into a recycled plastic shopping bag.
This was the hardest part. “Sorry, guys, but I have to go.” I picked up the yarn bin, balancing the bag of biscuits on top, and took it all outside. When I came back in to get my jacket and purse, my pets were gathered near the door with sad faces. Guiltily, I reached for the treat jar and gave a biscuit to each of the two dogs and a tiny cat treat to each of the cats. My plan was to hustle out the door while they were eating. It had also been my plan to have them associate me going out with them getting a treat. Unfortunately, neither plan worked very well—they’d finished chewing before I’d slipped on my jacket, and when I looked behind me through the glass door, Felix had his paws up, as though pleading to go along. I steeled myself—I had places to go and people to see.
It was March in Southern California, and the winter rains had left everything green. The orange trees were in full blossom, and their wonderful fragrance perfumed the air as I hurried across the yard.
It took just a few minutes to drive to the heart of Tarzana. Once upon a time the whole area had been part of a ranch
owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Creating the Tarzan character was his main claim to fame, so it made sense he would name the area after him.
These days, the ranch feel of the area was long gone, and the grasslands where sheep had grazed were all filled with houses. A few holdout areas still had a rural feel, though, complete with horses and chickens. Tarzana was quirkier than the surrounding San Fernando Valley communities, which suited me just fine.
Shedd & Royal Books and More was located on Ventura Boulevard, the main drag, which zigzagged along the south end of the Valley. I pulled into the parking lot behind it and fished through my stuff for my ever-present canvas tote and one of the small brown shopping bags. The smell of the biscuits made my mouth water—it had been all I could do not to sample them when I’d taken them out of the oven. I was saving them to share with Dinah, who was already waiting outside the store. She eyed the small bag in my hand, and I opened it for her inspection.
“Those smell heavenly. I’m glad one of us still cooks,” she said, licking her lips. Dinah was somewhere in her fifties, though she wouldn’t say exactly where, even to me, since she was convinced that people judged you once they knew your exact age. I always thought she was brimming with so much energy and such a sense of adventure that no one could possibly think of her as over-the-hill. Besides, didn’t Liam Neeson just say that sixty was the new forty?
Now that Dinah had joined the crochet group, she made all of her long trademark scarves herself. They were all skinny, and sometimes, like today, she braided two together. Today’s combination was burnt orange and turquoise.
“Before we go in, let me drop off these.” I pulled out a stack
of flyers about Yarn University that listed the classes and our upcoming event to promote them. I’d added photos to illustrate some of the class projects. The crochet hook with a strip of single crochet stitches done in pale blue cotton yarn was for the beginning crochet class. A small red bag with a navy blue flower showed off what felting was all about. The basket of coasters and pot holders in bright colors was from our quick and easy class. Finally there was a hazy green, blue and lavender piece that we were calling “a Hug” from our specialty class. I’d already left some flyers at most of the stores on the street, but I hadn’t been able to connect with the new nail salon on the corner.
We walked past the bookstore and continued to the corner. A “Grand Opening” banner hung above the entrance of the Nail Spa, but the sign on the glass door declared it closed. I checked to see if there was a list of their hours but didn’t find one.
“I’ll have to come back,” I said as we turned to retrace our steps. “It just seems like the perfect place to leave some flyers. People are thinking about their hands when they go in there, and we’re offering something else for them to do with them.”
“Good thinking,” Dinah said with an approving nod.
We headed back to the bookstore, and as I crossed the store on my way to the café, I stopped to adjust the poster near the cashier stand promoting Yarn University. It was similar to my flyers and was positioned in front of a display of knit and crochet books. I made a mental note to add another poster in the yarn department and straightened a copy of
Hooray for Crochet!
as I let out a worried sigh.
“Don’t fret. There will be lots more sign-ups, and the classes will all work out.” Dinah grabbed my hand and pulled
me toward the café. “The world will look rosier after you have a red eye.”
“I swear, nobody makes coffee at home anymore,” I said when I saw the long line to the counter. Bob, the barista, looked up with an apologetic smile.
“That’s because we’re all hooked on lattes and espresso drinks,” Dinah said. “A cup of plain coffee seems so yesterday.” I had to admit the smell of brewing espresso was intoxicating, and a shot of it definitely offered more of a jolt than a plain cup of coffee.
“Thanks for all you’ve done with Sheila already,” I said, thinking of our newest teacher. “At least she has a class plan, but I wish you were going to be there this morning. Just in case she has trouble.” Dinah was an English instructor at the local community college. She was known for taking freshmen who were still immature—big babies, as she put it—and turning them into real college students.
“I doubt anybody in a crochet class is going to give her problems like my students. They insist on wearing their baseball hats in class and throw fits when I tell them to put away their phones. Sheila just needs to be in front of a group and have it go well, then she’ll be fine for the actual class.”
“I’m sure you’re right. Or I hope so. Sheila’s class has the largest number of sign-ups.” It was easy to see why. Even in the small photo on the flyers, the beauty of her project was evident. It wasn’t that the shawls and scarves she made had intricate stitch patterns—it was all about the colors. She mixed shades of blues, greens and lavenders, and the results were pieces that had a soft, hazy coloration similar to an Impressionist painting.
“Anyways, I’d rather be spending the time hanging out with the Hookers than giving a pop quiz to my class. Can you
believe that they keep asking for do-overs? All I can say is I hope none of them become surgeons.” As soon as Dinah stopped speaking, her expression faded and she seemed upset.
“What’s wrong? Can’t think of what to order?” I teased as the line moved up a bit. “It looks like we’ll have plenty of time to decide.” I glanced past the people ahead of us as a man in white shorts and white cable-knit sweater draped over his shoulders stepped up to the counter.
True, it was March and the weather had gotten milder, but the mornings were still chilly, and I shivered seeing his bare legs and arms. The man leaned on the counter and scratched at his arms. Even from this distance, I could see he had a rash. Bob saw it, too, and instinctively backed away. The man picked up on Bob’s reaction and seemed annoyed.
“Relax, man. It’s just an allergy. You’re not going to catch anything,” the guy in shorts said.