Authors: Amanda Lee
PRAISE FOR AMANDA LEE’S EMBROIDERY MYSTERIES
Thread on Arrival
“Lee is clearly a story wizard.”
“A great series with enough suspense and smart sleuthing to hook readers every time.”
“A fun, fast-paced mystery that will be hard to put down.”
—The Mystery Reader
“Entertaining. . . . Readers will enjoy spending time with the friendly folks of Tallulah Falls as well as Marcy’s adorable Irish wolfhound.”
“Fun, full of suspense, and . . . a satisfying conclusion—readers can hardly ask for more!”
The Long Stitch Good Night
“Lee’s fourth Embroidery Mystery is well planned and executed. . . . Marcy’s keen sleuthing and tenacious personality allow her to solve this solid mystery with smart thinking and style.”
“Smart and interesting, well patterned and deftly sewn together.”
—Once Upon a Romance
“Lee’s latest Embroidery Mystery will hook readers with its charming setting and appealing characters. Plenty of spunk and attitude follow Marcy as she solves this well-crafted mystery in a close-knit town full of colorful characters.”
“A fun mystery with compelling characters.”
Stitch Me Deadly
“The writing is lively, and the pop culture references abundant . . . a smartly written cozy that neatly ties up all the loose ends surrounding the murder but leaves the reader wanting to know more about the amateur detective, her friends, her life, and her future.”
“A well thought-out, free-flowing story that captures your attention and keeps you interested from beginning to end. The comfort of being in a craft store seeps through the pages as Marcy shows her sleuthing side to figure out the town’s newest murders.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“There are plenty of threads for readers to pick up and those who pick up the right thread will have the mystery sewn up in short order.”
—The Mystery Reader
The Quick and the Thread
“Lee kicks off a cozy, promising mystery series . . . a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”
“Lee gives her Embroidery Mystery series a rousing start with a fast-paced, intriguing who-done-it that will delight fans of the cozy mystery genre.”
“Stands out with its likable characters and polished plot.”
—The Mystery Reader
“If her debut here is any indication, Lee’s new series is going to be fun, spunky, and educational. . . . Marcy Singer is young, fun, sharp, and likable. Readers will be looking forward to her future adventures.”
Also by Amanda Lee
Cross-Stitch Before Dying
Thread on Arrival
The Long Stitch Good Night
Stitch Me Deadly
The Quick and the Thread
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
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Copyright © Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014
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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.
For Tim, Lianna, and Nicholas
A special thank-you to the Prairie Schooler (prairieschooler.com), who so generously allowed Marcy to sell her products in the Seven-Year Stitch! I’d also like to give a special shout-out to all the Irish wolfhound lovers out there who so adore Angus (especially you, Ann P. in the Netherlands)!
t was almost lunchtime on Friday, and I was pacing. The museum exhibit I’d been anticipating for two months was finally opening that evening! My boyfriend, Ted; my friend Rajani “Reggie” Singh; her husband, Manu; and I were all going together. The guys weren’t overly excited about the Padgett Collection textile exhibit, but they knew we were—and they were great guys, so they were taking us. Reggie was the library director for Tallulah Falls’s one and only library, Manu was chief of police, and Ted was his head detective. I almost felt that we should be VIP guests, given the extra security Reggie and I would be bringing along.
Angus, my Irish wolfhound, could sense my excitement, and he paced with me. I perched momentarily on one of the red club chairs that helped make up my embroidery shop’s sit-and-stitch square, and he sat and placed his head on my lap.
“It’s all right,” I said soothingly as I scratched his head. “I’m just excited about tonight. Reggie will be here to see you soon. Yes, she will! She’s bringing lunch!”
His shaggy gray tail wagged, but he kept his head in my lap and enjoyed the scratching.
I smiled as I glanced around my little store. I owned the Seven-Year Stitch embroidery specialty shop, and it had been especially busy this morning. A busload of seniors had stopped by quaint Tallulah Falls on their way along the Oregon coast. They’d blown in and out like a storm, but I’d made several sales and had been able to tidy up the shop again within an hour of their departure. The candlewick-embellished pillows had been plumped and rearranged on the two navy sofas that faced each other across an oval maple coffee table, the ottomans had been returned to the fronts of the red club chairs, and the red-and-blue braided rug that lay beneath the table had been swept. In the merchandise part of the store, I’d dusted and restocked the shelves, straightened the embroidery projects that lined the walls, and righted Jill’s straw hat, which had somehow been knocked askew.
Jill was a mannequin who looked an awful lot like Marilyn Monroe. She stood near the counter of the Seven-Year Stitch, silently greeting patrons—although I had heard more than one shopper speak to
on occasion. I couldn’t blame them. She was pretty realistic-looking. I often dressed her in embroidered outfits to match the season or the current weather. It was a way to make her look trendy and an excuse to make and display more of my embroidery. Today she wore a pair of white shorts emblazoned with crewel sea turtles along the slash pockets, a green tank top, and a sun hat. It was the second week of June, and Jill appeared to be getting ready to hit the beach.
Anyway, I’d had a great start to, hopefully, an even better day and evening. The bells over the shop door jingled, and Angus and I jumped up in unison. It was Reggie with lunch—chicken salad croissants from MacKenzies’ Mochas. MacKenzies’ Mochas was just down the street from the Seven-Year Stitch and was owned and operated by my best friend, Sadie MacKenzie, and her husband, Blake. In addition to coffee, they served delicious baked goods and deli items. The chicken salad croissants were my absolute favorite.
I hurried over to help Reggie before Angus knocked her down in his enthusiasm over seeing her.
“I’m sorry, Reggie. I should’ve put him in the bathroom before you got here,” I said.
“If you had, I’d have been angry,” she said, handing me the food boxes and bending to hug Angus. “He’s precious. Yes, he is . . . part of the family . . . just a sweet little baby.”
I smiled. Weighing in at around a hundred and fifty pounds, Angus was called a “little baby” by only a few people. Reggie and I were two of them.
I took the food boxes into my office and set them on my desk. “If you don’t mind, grab us a couple drinks from the mini fridge. I’ll post on the door that I’ll be back in thirty.”
“Diet soda?” she called over her shoulder.
“Yeah, that’ll work.” I took my tiny cardboard clock from behind the counter and moved the hands to indicate that I’d be back in half an hour. I didn’t lock the door, but I hoped the sign would allow Reggie and me to eat undisturbed.
“What are you wearing tonight?” I asked as I returned to the office and sat down across from Reggie.
“A coral sari,” she said.
“That’ll look gorgeous,” I said. “And Manu?”
She shrugged. “Black suit.”
Unlike Manu, Reggie preferred her native Indian style of dress.
“What about you and Ted?” she asked.
“Ted is wearing a navy suit, and I’m wearing a royal blue dress. It’s a short dress but long-sleeved, with the sleeves and top portion of the bodice made of lace.”
She smiled. “You’ll look great.” She opened her box. “Sorry to make you feel as if I’m rushing you, but I have to get back to the library to make sure everything is taken care of for the weekend.”
“Of course.” I opened my box and picked up half my croissant. “I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I smelled these.” I took a bite. Chicken, mayo, white seedless grapes, pecans, basil, sea salt, buttery bread . . . delicious.
“We had a little lull this morning, and I looked—for about the thousandth time—at the Web site for the exhibit,” she said.
“I’m so thrilled our tiny museum managed to score such an elaborate collection,” I said.
“Me, too. Most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing the kilim rugs.” She sipped her soda. “They have a vintage Sivas kilim with threads in varying shades of orange, brown, blue, and lavender. I’m sure the Web site photo doesn’t do it justice.”
“Sivas . . . that means the rug is from Turkey?” I asked.
Although often lumped together with Oriental rugs, kilim rugs were actually very different. Oriental rugs were pile rugs, whereas kilim rugs were made by interweaving designs into wefts and warps to create a flat weave. Common patterns woven into kilim rugs included the ram’s horn, hands on hips, fertility, eye, star, dragon, amulet, comb, burdock, running water, and scorpion. If my memory of the exhibit’s Web page was correct, the Sivas kilim featured the ram’s horn design.
In addition to floor coverings, kilim textiles included wall hangings and even furniture. All of the kilim rugs that would be on display at tonight’s exhibit were to be hanging, probably behind thick glass . . . which would be good, considering how badly textile lovers like Reggie and me enjoyed feeling the texture of the pieces.
I tore off a piece of my croissant and tossed it to Angus, who was waiting patiently. “Did we decide to meet at the museum or at my house? I recall our going back and forth, but it’s been such a crazy week that I’ve totally forgotten.”
“We decided to meet at the museum and then return to your house afterward,” she said.
I smiled. “That’s right. For coffee, dessert, and gossip.”
She chuckled. “Right. Is Vera coming to the exhibit’s opening?”
“I believe so. I haven’t seen her yet today, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be there,” I said. “There isn’t much happening in Tallulah Falls that Vera misses out on.”
“That’s true. She has certainly broken free from her cocoon and learned to spread her wings,” said Reggie.
When I’d first moved to Tallulah Falls, Vera Langhorne was a dowdy woman under the thumb of her manipulative husband. Now widowed, she’d had a complete makeover and was enjoying a much happier life. She was even dating again. Her boyfriend, Paul Samms, was a journalist.
Reggie and I finished our croissants, and then she hurried back to the library. I tidied my office back up and went to take the clock off the front door. Not ten minutes after I’d done so, a young woman came in to buy some needlepoint canvas.
“Do you mind if I ask what you’re making?”
“Not at all,” she said. “I’m making some coasters for a friend.” She frowned. “On second thought, should I get plastic instead of canvas?”
“Either will do fine,” I said. “But the plastic would be sturdier.”
She nodded, obviously still contemplating which would be the best.
“I’ll show you both, and maybe looking at them will help you make up your mind.” I led her to the needlepoint supplies.
“Are you going to that museum exhibit tonight?” she asked.
“I am,” I said with a smile. “Are you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t particularly care for the guy who runs the place. My older sister went out with him once or twice. Shame, though. I’d like to see those vintage fabrics.”
“Then go,” I urged. “Don’t let someone else deprive you of something you’d enjoy. You don’t have to associate with the curator.”
“You really think so?” She tucked a wayward strand of her long light brown hair behind her ear.
“I know so. There’ll be a lot of people there. You can just blend into the crowd,” I said. “Or, better yet, look for me. I’m going with friends, and we’ll make sure no one harasses you.”
She gave me a shy smile. “Well, I might just do that. Even though I don’t think he’d harass me . . . I’d prefer to avoid him. Thanks.”
In the end, she chose a light blue canvas and said she’d buy some corkboard tiles on which to mount her finished designs. She said the blue background would save her some work and complement her pattern. I told her it sounded as if she’d made a wise choice. As I rang up her purchase and slipped it into a periwinkle Seven-Year Stitch bag, I wondered to myself just what the museum curator could have done to the young woman’s sister to make her want to avoid him. Was he a love-’em-and-leave-’em kinda guy? Or maybe too clingy? Now I was eager to meet the man.
“There’s an interesting story there,” I told Angus after the young woman had left.
He woofed. At first, I thought he was agreeing with me. But then he ran to the window, and I could see that his excitement was caused by Vera Langhorne approaching the shop. Tail wagging, Angus pranced back and forth from the window to the door until Vera came in.
“Good afternoon, Angus,” she said. “Sit down, and I’ll give you the treat I brought you.”
He dutifully plopped his behind onto the floor, and Vera dug in her large purse and brought out a granola chew bone. She gave it to him, and he went running to the sit-and-stitch square with it.
I laughed. “You’ve made his day.”
“I’m glad. How are you, Marcy, dear?”
I stepped out from behind the counter. “I’m great.” I gestured toward my office. “May I get you something to drink?”
“I’d love a mango juice, if you have one.” She set her purse on the floor and dropped into the red club chair closest to the counter, smoothing out her crisp white linen slacks.
I hurried into the office, grabbed a bottle of juice, and then rejoined her.
“Thank you,” she said as she accepted the juice. “It’s mighty warm out there today. Now, tell me what’s so great about you . . . as if I didn’t already know.”
“I’m so excited about the textile exhibit opening that I can hardly stand it.” I sat on the navy sofa facing the window. Near my feet, Angus lay crunching his granola bone contentedly. “Are you going?”
“Are you kidding?” Vera asked. “Of course I’m going. Get this: Paul managed to speak with the owner of the collection for an article he’s working on to correspond with tonight’s event, and the owner might—just
be willing to part with a piece or two.”
“Wow. It’d be wonderful if the museum could afford to buy even one to keep on permanent display.”
Vera’s brown eyes widened. “The museum . . . Of course.”
“Isn’t that what you meant?” I asked.
“I was thinking it could be a good opportunity for a personal collector, but sure, the museum would really benefit from being able to hold on to a piece of history, too.”
I hid a smile. Vera’s late husband hadn’t allowed her free rein with the finances, even though the bulk of their wealth had belonged to her. She’d been making up for that ever since his death.
“I can’t afford to buy,” I said. “I’ll be happy to simply look.”
“The prices were more reasonable than you might think,” she said. “I was surprised really. If there’s anything that strikes your fancy, let me know so I can get the owner to quote a price for you.”
“All right,” I said, knowing full well that Vera’s idea of a reasonable price and mine were as far apart as Mexico and Canada.
“Anyway, I’m wearing an elegant white dress,” she said, brushing a lock of her beautifully highlighted chin-length blond bob behind her ear. “It has spaghetti straps, so I’ll need to get a spray tan when I leave here.”
“Tan or no tan, I’m sure you’ll look fantastic,” I said.
She leaned her head back against the chair and gazed up at the ceiling. “I love getting all dressed up and going to parties. John never went in for that sort of thing.” She sighed.
I wondered—but didn’t dare ask—if she ever missed her husband. There had been a lot of animosity between them before he died, but she’d loved him once. I wondered if the good memories ever outshone the bad.
As quickly as the melancholy had descended, Vera sent it packing with a resolute smile. “I really had better get going. I just wanted to drop in before going to the tanning salon . . . and then on to the beauty salon.”
“You’ll be the belle of the ball,” I said with a grin.
“I doubt that.” She winked. “But I won’t be half-bad.” She stood. “See you there!”
“See you, Vera!”
Angus left his granola bone long enough to see his friend to the door. She turned and hugged him before stepping out into the balmy afternoon.
After quite a bit more pacing and waiting on a few more customers, I heard my phone ring.
“Good afternoon! This is the Seven-Year Stitch. How may I help you?”
“Have you heard from Ted?” asked Reggie.
My heart dropped. “Don’t tell me they’re canceling on us!”
“No,” she said. “But Manu just called and said he’d heard from the FBI. The bureau is sending someone down from their Portland office because they suspect a known art thief will show up at the exhibit.”
“Why would an art thief bother with an antique textiles exhibit in an itty-bitty town like Tallulah Falls?”
“Who knows?” Reggie huffed. “But they’ve sent down photos of the guy so that Manu and Ted—along with the rest of the department—can be on the lookout for him at the exhibit tonight.”