Table of Contents
Who wanted to kill her? And why?
“We need to start treating you for arsenic poisoning,” said Dr. McQueen.
Betsy stared at her. “You mean Godwin was right? I've been poisoned?”
“I don't know who Godwin is,” said Dr. McQueen, “but if he was the one who insisted your food be tested, you need to thank him. One sample contained arsenic, and that urine sample was also positive.”
Betsy rolled over gingerly and tried to relax. But alarm over possible side effects took most of her attention. And there were two other thoughts rabbiting through her mind.
Who wanted to kill her?
Praise for Monica Ferris's other Needlecraft Mysteries
, Crewel World
Framed in Lace:
“A wonderful amateur sleuth tale ... Hobbyists and amateur sleuth lovers will enjoy the novel due to the deep, believable characters that provide local color to an interesting story line.”
“Abounds with tidbits of information about knitting, needlepoint, and the art of creating needlework ... [A] very entertaining book with a good dose of suspense.”
âAffaire de Coeur
“Filled with great small town characters ... A great time!”
“Fans of Margaret Yorke will relate to Betsy's growth and eventual maturity ... You need not be a needlecrafter to enjoy this delightful series debut.”
does a good job of informing as well as entertaining.”
Williamson County (TX) Sun
Needlecraft Mysteries by Monica Ferris
FRAMED IN LACE
A STITCH IN TIME
A MURDEROUS YARN
HANGING BY A THREAD
SINS AND NEEDLES
PATTERNS OF MURDER
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either 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.
A STITCH IN TIME
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime edition / July 2000
All rights reserved.
Copyright @ 2000 by Monica Ferris.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced
in any form without permission.
For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-49571-1
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published
by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME
design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.
I can't imagine doing this series without the help of both friends and willing strangers. Luci Zahray, toxicologist and poison guru, terrified me with how easy it is to poison someone. Chad Eschweiler knows about bankruptcy estate sales. The people of the real Excelsior, Minnesota, remain sanguine about my use of their beautiful town as my settingâand I want to add that all of these crimes and their perpetrators are entirely fictional. The members of rctn, the internet newsgroup, are a godsend to people as ignorant as Betsy Devonshireâand me.
On the actual writing end, I sincerely thank my official editor, Gail Fortune, and my unofficial editor and dear friend, Ellen Kuhfeld.
ohn Rettger regarded the bustle and noise in his church hall with pleasure, hope, and concern. He was short, with mild blue eyes and ears that stood out beneath a circle of white, fluffy hair. He sat on a hard wooden chair, his offer to help gently but firmly refused, partly because he was the loved and respected rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, and partly because he was clumsy.
Renovation would begin after the Christmas holidays. A columbarium would be added, something that had been talked about since before he became rector over ten years ago. The library would be expanded, the administrative offices reworked and redecorated, and the long hall between the old chapel and the new church upstairs would have a magnificent hammer-beam roof and a tile floor installed.
But first, the church hall would be gutted and redone. The haphazard collection of small rooms that over the years had halved its size would be removed, and a modern kitchen installed. The antique and dangerous wiring would be replaced, the plumbing updated, the walls and ceiling repaired and repainted, the floor refinished, and new furniture brought in. The only thing unchanged would be the big, functional fireplace.
He turned from the volunteers for a moment to look at the fireplace. It had a native pink limestone surround deeply carved with apple treesâthe Wealthy apple was first grown in Excelsior. Beside it was a magnificent fir tree eight feet tall, the annual gift of a Christmas tree farmer. Still on it were a few construction-paper ornaments, made by poor families in the area. Parishioners had been selecting one or two during Advent to buy something suitable for the person described on the ornament. They'd wrap their gift and bring it to Trinity by the last Sunday in Advent, which, this being Thursday, was three days off. The gifts would be delivered Christmas eve.
As Father John watched, three men came to tilt the tree, then lift and carry it up to the big hall outside the nave of the church. The instant they touched it, it shed needles as an alarmed cat sheds fur. He smiled to himself : fir tree, furry cat.
Before the renovation began in earnest, all the movables in the church hall had to be taken away. The valuable things had already been removed, and the volunteers who ran the thrift shop had emptied their area. But there were long tables (some with legs that used to fold, the rest with legs missing), a pair of grubby wing chairs, two very shabby couches, an army of bent folding chairs, assorted broken hand tools, old Sunday school texts, a half dozen dim and ugly landscape paintings in cracked frames, an enormous collection of
House and Garden
magazines, a shoe box full of broken mouse traps, on and onâthings needing hauling to recycling centers or a landfill.
As the rooms had taken haphazard bites of the church hall, odd little corners had developed. Some were turned into closets or storerooms that were later closed off. The very farthest had a floor that had never been finished.
Phil Galvin, a retired railroad engineer, came from that newly reopened room. In his arms was what Father John first took to be a piece of carpet or a small rug. The smell of mildew was strong.
“What have you got there?” asked Father John, his nose wrinkling.
Phil was short and gray, but his manner was biisk and his voice loud and a little harsh, as if he had spent his life shouting orders in all weather. “I dunno. But it's probably been back in there a hundred years.”
Phil looked around and saw an elderly card table still standing. He unrolled his find across it. The rug was about four feet wide and long enough to hang off both sides of the table. It reflected its wadded-up past in uneven creases. “Well, looky here! It's a tapestry! And hand stitched, too. Betcha it was done by the women of the parish.”
Father John came closer. “Why, it's the Good Shepherd,” he said. The tapestry depicted the Savior in a white tunic with a dark orange mantle draped over it. He was carrying a lamb on one forearm and held a shepherd's crook in the other hand. A bright metallic double halo surrounded his dark head and beard, and six grayish-white sheep huddled close to his knees, their black legs making a complicated crosshatch over the bottom of the tapestry. The design seemed unsophisticated, the figures without shading or perspective, and the background a lightly mottled tan. But every line of it was drawn boldly, by a real artist. Something about the sheep said they felt safe, and by his expression, Christ was pleased to have found the lost lamb.
“Nice, ain't it!” barked Phil. “I was wrong, it's not old, that design's too modern.”
It was nice, very nice. But it was also dirty and odorous with mildew. The stitching appeared to have worn away in several places. A long strand of tan yarn hung off one edge.
Phil, his head turned sideways as he studied it, said suddenly, “Say, I bet this is Lucy Abrams's work!” He explained, “She was Father Keane Abrams's wife. Father Keane was your predecessor. She liked big needlework projects and designed some of her own.”
“Ah,” nodded Father John. He had never met his predecessor's wife. She had died of a heart attack the same day her husband suffered a severe and unexpected stroke. By the time Father John was called to be rector, months later, he had been greeted by an interim priest. Now, eleven years later, Father Keane still lived, but he lay helpless in a nursing home, beyond any ability to understand what had happened to him.
“Say, Mrs. Fairland!”
yelled Phil suddenly. Father John jumped, then realized the man was summoning her, and he turned to look.
Patricia Fairland was a member of the vestry, a beautiful, talented, and intelligent person, one of those upper-middle-class women who intimidated Father John effortlessly. But apparently not Phil, by the way he'd shouted and was now gesturing impatiently at her.
She was in khaki slacks and a cotton sweater and had wrapped her hair in a complicated way with a silk head scarf. Though she had been working hard for hours, she looked fresh. She came toward them with an inquiring look, pulling off cotton work gloves.
“What's up, Phil?” she asked. “Oooh, where did you find this?”
“Back room,” said Phil, pointing. “What do you think?”
“Attractive,” she said. “I don't remember ever seeing it before. Moths have been at it, though. And uh-oh, it reeks of mildew. If I get a vote, mine is for tossing it.”
“I think this was designed and stitched by Lucy Abrams.”
“You do?” Patricia looked at it with more interest, though she didn't come any closer. “Why do you think that?”
“Well, I know she was working on a big project just before she died. She and Donna Claypool and Margeâoh, what was her name, I can't rememberâand maybe some other ladies. I never saw it, and I thought she hadn't finished it. But here this is, and it's like some other designs she made. I'd look close for her initials, but it stinks pretty bad.”
“Her initials?” said Father John.