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Authors: Maggie Sefton

A Killer Stitch

BOOK: A Killer Stitch
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A Killer Stitch
Knitting Mysteries by Maggie Sefton

KNIT ONE, KILL TWO

NEEDLED TO DEATH

A DEADLY YARN

A KILLER STITCH

A Killer Stitch
Maggie Sefton

BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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

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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

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 © 2007 by Margaret Conlan Aunon.

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.

The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sefton, Maggie.

A killer stitch / Maggie Sefton.

     p. cm.—(Knitting mysteries)

ISBN: 978-1-1012-0729-1

1. Knitters (Persons)—Fiction. 2. Knitting shops—Fiction. 3. Ranchers—Crimes against—Fiction. 4. Triangles (Interpersonal relations)—Fiction. 5. Colorado—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3619.E37K55 2007

813'.6—dc22

2006103153

Acknowledgments

I want to thank Shirley Ellsworth, the multitalented and enthusiastic owner of Lambspun of Colorado yarn shop in Fort Collins for letting me sit in on several of her spinning classes. Watching beginning spinners try to master the wheel and listening to Shirley's patient instruction were both enjoyable and educational. And thank you, Shirley, for inviting me to accompany you to the spinners' retreat, SOAR, in Lake Tahoe, California.

Thanks also to all the spinners I encountered at Lambspun and elsewhere who willingly answered all my questions. Sitting with the spinners is always a treat for me, whether I'm chatting with them or simply knitting quietly beside them.

And thanks to Mark Sloniker, the marvelous jazz pianist at Jay's Bistro in Fort Collins, Colorado—where the martinis are icy and the jazz is hot.

A Killer Stitch
One

“That's
it, Megan, keep it up. Do a little bit and send it in, a little bit and send it in,” the pretty, dark-haired instructor said as she hovered over her student.

Kelly Flynn watched her friend, Megan Schmidt, frown in concentration as she fed the fluffy pink wool onto the spinning wheel's constantly turning bobbin. Slowly the pink wool slid between Megan's fingers, changing from soft and fluffy to a neatly twisted strand of pink yarn, winding around and around the maple wood bobbin.

“How am I doing, Lucy?” another spinner asked, focusing on the indigo blue wool feeding onto her wheel.

Lucy Adair moved beside the neighboring spinner who was struggling with the fleece in her lap. Instead of the smooth, slow motion Megan was managing, this spinner's fingers moved in fits and starts. Consequently, there was less blue yarn accumulating on the bobbin of her spinning wheel.

“Relax, Ellen,” Lucy coached as she leaned over the wheel, her straight brown hair falling in a curtain beside her face. “Let me draft some more of the fleece for you.” Reaching into Ellen's lap, Lucy gently pulled sections of the blue fleece apart, stretching the fibers into what spinners called batten or roving. “Now, loosen your fingers a little, so the twist will form smoothly. Not too much. If your fingers open too much, the twist jumps right through and winds the roving.”

To her surprise, Kelly watched the yarn do exactly that. The twisted strand feeding onto the wheel seemed to bend back on itself, and then the fluffy roving in Ellen's lap started twisting. Imagine that, Kelly thought in amazement. Jumping yarn twists. Who would have thought?

“Ohhhh, noooo!” Ellen wailed, as her fluffy pile curled up like a garden snake.

Ellen loosened her fingers completely then, and the docile yarn snake suddenly writhed and twisted into a misshapen blue mass of fiber.

“Don't worry. We all do that when we start,” Lucy said, her soft voice reassuring as her hand stopped the turning wheel. “It's hard to remember to keep our fingers and our feet moving at the same time.”

“You're telling me,” another spinner grumbled from her spot farther down the classroom. “I'm never going to finish this pile. I cannot get my hands and feet to work together. What's wrong with me?”

“Nothing at all, Anne,” Lucy said as she expertly unwound the blue fibers in Ellen's lap. “It takes a while to get the rhythm of moving your feet and your hands at the same speed. If your fingers slow down and your feet speed up, then the yarn will get overtwisted and start to corkscrew.”

“Like this,” Ellen complained as she helped Lucy loosen the misshapen mass.

“There, now,” Lucy said, handing the wool back to Ellen. “You'll want to draft some more before you try again.”

Ellen gently pulled the blue fibers apart, stretching the twisted pile into roving once more. “Okay, three times is the charm, I hope.”

“You'll get it, don't worry,” Lucy said with a smile, giving Ellen a pat on the shoulder. “You're all doing wonderfully well for your first lesson. Just remember, keep your hands and feet moving together. If your fingers stop moving, those feet better stop right away.” She gave a little laugh.

“Boy, it's a good thing I'm not one of your students, Lucy,” Kelly said as she leaned back into her chair and swirled the last of the coffee in her ever-present mug. “I would never get it. I swear I wouldn't. That yarn would twist so fast, it'd wrap all of us in a knot.”

“Stop that, Kelly,” Megan chided. “Don't make me laugh while I'm spinning.”

“I'm not trying to be funny,” Kelly said after she drained her coffee. “I'd screw up the wool so badly, the spinning wheel would break. And Burt would never speak to me again.”

“Why wouldn't I speak to you, Kelly? Have you been messing with my spinning wheel?” Burt spoke from the classroom doorway that led into Kelly's favorite knitting shop, House of Lambspun.

Kelly turned to see Burt Palmer, retired cop and now spinner par excellence, grinning as he carried a huge bag of multicolored fleeces into the adjacent room.

“Your spinning wheel is safe from me, Burt,” Kelly said as she crossed her heart. “Knitting provides enough challenges. Heck, I still discover new mistakes to make.”

“All right, that's enough for today,” Lucy announced. “You should be proud of yourselves. You've done really well. Keep practicing. I have two more classes this week, so drop in anytime.”

“Hey, I can't quit now,” Anne said with a good-natured laugh. “I've finally got my feet and hands together.”

Kelly joined the others' laughter as she checked her watch. A quick review of her mental daytimer reminded Kelly she could visit with her friends for a little longer before racing across the driveway to her cottage and back to client accounting demands.

She'd learned that consulting had its definite benefits as well as its pitfalls. And the ticking clock inside her head that kept her on schedule all those years in the CPA firm was still ticking now that she was working on her own.

“Got time for more coffee?” Megan asked as she stuffed the pink wool and bobbin into her knitting bag.

“I've always got time for coffee.”

“I haven't seen you before, Kelly. Have you been in town long?” Ellen asked as she placed the bobbin from her wheel into her knitting bag.

“Well, not exactly,” Kelly replied. “I grew up in Fort Connor and came back last April for my aunt's funeral. I've been here ever since.” She gave a short laugh. Had it really been only nine months since she'd returned to her childhood home? It seemed like much longer. So much had happened.

“We refused to let her leave,” Megan said, shifting her bag to her shoulder. “Plus, she plays on our softball team during the season, so she's committed now. This is home, right, Kelly?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, nice to meet you, Kelly,” Ellen said with a bright smile, extending her hand. “I'm Ellen Hunter, and I'm new to this shop. Lucy told me about the spinning class, and I decided to join. We met in a neighborhood coffeehouse one night when we both brought our knitting.” Ellen brushed her wavy blonde hair off her face as she laughed. “I was afraid to try spinning, but Lucy is such a good teacher, I figured I'd give it a try. She's helped me a lot with my knitting.”

“Lucy's a wonderful teacher,” Megan said as she headed through the doorway, Kelly and Ellen following. “She's as good as Burt and almost as good as Mimi.”

“Whoa, high praise,” Kelly said. Mimi Shafer was the knitting shop owner and resident yarn and knitting sage. In her late fifties, Mimi also took a motherly interest in Kelly and her friends, especially in Kelly's frequent forays into investigative activities. “Sleuthing,” Mimi called it.

Ellen turned in the doorway and waved at Lucy, who was still helping Anne. “See you later, Lucy. Why don't you call me tonight? Unless you've got another hot date, that is.”

Lucy glanced up, and a bright pink flush colored her cheeks. She gave a quick wave and turned back to her student.

“Sounds like a boyfriend,” Kelly said as they entered the knitting shop's central yarn room, noticing it was more crowded than usual for a weekday morning.

“Oh, yeah. Lucy's over the moon in love with this guy she's been seeing for the last few months,” Ellen said, pausing to fondle a ball of cherry red yarn atop a pile of lollipop colors. “She goes out to his ranch all the time. She even went to Las Vegas with him.”

“Wow, sounds serious,” Megan observed as she stroked a tangerine fluff ball.

Kelly succumbed to the same temptation that had captured her friends. Fiber fever. She sank a free hand into the pile. Soft, soft, seductively soft.

Candy colors were everywhere. Her aunt and uncle's former farmhouse was filled to bursting with color. Yarns of every color imaginable. Tumbling from wooden crates that lined the walls, spilling out of steamer trunks tucked into corners, and scattered across antique desks. Christmas candy.

“Wow, this feels like eyelash yarn, but much thicker. Wonder what it is,” Kelly said, squeezing a fluffy bundle.

“Winter eyelash,” Megan joked, giving her a wink. “We'll have to ask Mimi. Mimi knows—”

“Everything,”
Kelly chimed in with a laugh, repeating the familiar mantra regularly heard around the knitting shop. Glancing toward the doorway, she noticed Lucy chatting with Anne. “You said Lucy's boyfriend was a rancher. He must be here in northern Colorado then.”

“He has an alpaca ranch up in Bellevue Canyon. Apparently he's pretty successful. Lots of investments and stuff, too.”

“Boy, I could use some investments right now,” Megan said with a rueful smile. “Some of my clients are cutting back. It's going to be a lean Christmas this year.”

Kelly was about to commiserate with Megan on the vagaries of consulting income, when she noticed Lucy anxiously beckoning from the classroom doorway. “Looks like Lucy wants you,” she told Ellen.

“I'll see you two later,” Ellen said, drawing away. “Why don't you join our spinning class, Kelly?”

“Not a chance,” Kelly countered. “I'd break the wheel for sure, and I can't afford spinning wheel repairs right before the holidays.”

“You, too?” Megan asked. “I thought you were doing okay with those alpaca clients Jayleen gave you.”

“Well, I was until I had to pay all those professional accounting fees,” Kelly admitted as they left the fluffy pile and wound through the adjoining room. “That's the thing about changing the state where you practice. New license fees, new associations, new everything.” Pausing at the hallway that led to the café located at the rear of the shop, Kelly glanced around at all the shoppers. “Hey, is it my imagination, or is the shop way more crowded than usual for a Wednesday morning?”

“It's not your imagination,” Megan said, smiling. “This is the holiday rush. Everyone is buying yarn and stuff to make their gifts. It gets like this every December. Right after Thanksgiving, every needleworker in the area rushes here to start their projects.”

“That makes sense,” Kelly said, watching the shoppers as they touched and compared yarns.

“Which reminds me. How's that scarf coming you promised to Eugene Tolliver in Denver? Is it almost finished?” Megan asked as they headed toward the café. She waved at their friend and fellow knitter, Jennifer, who was pouring coffee for a customer at a nearby table.

“No, of course not,” Kelly admitted, sniffing the enticing aroma of dark, rich coffee. “You know how easily distracted I am. I keep shoving it to the bottom of the bag and go back to a froufrou yarn and knit that instead. I'm hopeless.” She sighed dramatically as the caffeine lobe in her brain began to pulsate. Morning ritual. As soon as she got anywhere near the café and Eduardo's potent brew, Kelly's mug practically moved on its own.

“I've been meaning to speak to you about that,” Jennifer said as she approached, coffeepot in hand. “It's time we had a talk about dating behaviors, rituals, and all that.”

“Uh-oh, sounds X-rated,” Megan said, dropping her knitting bag at a corner table. “It's too early in the morning for that, Jennifer.”

Jennifer stared at Megan like she'd just dropped from the sky. “Surely you're joking. It's never too early to talk about sex.”

“Not without more coffee.” Kelly pulled out a chair, then shoved her mug beneath the pot so Jennifer could fill it. An invisible plume of coffee aroma wound its way to her nose, tickling, inviting her to drink deep.

“Oh, brother. I've heard this before.” Megan wagged her head.

“You heard the milder version, Megan. Kelly needs to hear this one,” Jennifer admonished. “Now, Kelly, it has not escaped my attention that you and Steve have been dating for four months now, and you still look embarrassed when he kisses you. What's up with that?”

Kelly almost choked on her coffee. “Wh-what? When? I don't know what you're talking about,” she sputtered when she could speak.

“That's true, Kelly,” Megan joined in with a wicked grin. “I saw Steve steal a kiss when he was rounding your base in our final game last month, and you darn near dropped the ball.”

“Hey, whose side are you on, anyway?” Kelly protested, feeling prickly. “I—I wasn't expecting that. He surprised me, that's all.”

“That was over a month ago, Kelly, and you're still acting skittish. You two have been dating regularly. Twice a week or more, in fact. That's a lot of dates,” Jennifer lectured, hand on her hip, looking for all the world like a slightly wayward schoolmarm.

“How do you know? Have you been checking my daytimer or something?”

“Of course. It's sticking out of your knitting bag most of the time,” Jennifer readily admitted, not the slightest bit embarrassed.

Kelly scowled over her mug. “Boy, a person has no privacy around you.” She pushed the incriminating daytimer farther into her bag.

“So, what's the deal?” Jennifer continued. “Why are you still acting so skittish with a great guy like Steve who really, really,
really
likes you? He's good-looking, athletic, smart, runs his own business—”

BOOK: A Killer Stitch
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