Monday, May 3, 2010

A Crafty Kind of Murder (Continued)

"A Crafty Kind of Murder" Part II: Observations in the Murder of Carolina Pettijohn, submitted by Kiki Lowenstein, scrapbooker.

Previously in "A Crafty Kind of Murder":

Seven online friends—Kiki Lowenstein, Gerry Porter, Betsy Devonshire, Kendra Ballantyne, Rocky Winchester, April Buchert and Molly Pink—are all visiting the Craft and Hobby Extravaganza in St. Louis when the event organizer Jane Kuhn asks them to solve the murder of her celebrity guest, Carolina Pettijohn. Kiki thinks she knows "whodunnit" so she leads off with reviewing the facts as she knows them. Since all seven of the crafters/hobbyists are also amateur sleuths, they hope to put their heads together and solve the crime quickly so the Craft and Hobby Extravaganza won't be shut down!

By Joanna Campbell Slan

“She puts her panties one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. Even if hers are silk with lace trim.”

That's what I kept telling myself as I contemplated meeting my personal idol, diva crafter Carolina Pettijohn.

I forced myself to take calming breaths as I stood in the line at the registration table. But who could blame me for being rattled? For one thing, I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep—and I’d gotten up at dawn! Heck, I’d even changed clothes several times this morning until I finally paired nice jeans from Goodwill with a simple aqua crewneck sweater from Target. By adding a multi-colored scarf at my neck, this passed as a dressy outfit…barely.

As I pulled into the packed parking lot at the St. Louis Convention Center, I bet that my old friend Jane Kuhn was feeling proud of herself. She was the bright spark who invited Carolina to be the Guest of Honor at the inaugural Craft and Hobby Extravaganza. Being a nervous sort, I even prepped seeing Carolina by reading every scrap of information about her that I could find.

Carolina Pettijohn started as a teacher’s helper in Stuart, Florida. She stepped in one week when an unprepared substitute teacher couldn’t manage. For five magical school days, the kids brought home stunning projects. The principal fielded calls from eager moms who wanted to know who designed all those “adorable handicrafts.” A visiting reporter from the Sun Sentinel was sitting across from the principal’s desk and overheard the calls.

The resultant full-page color article in the Lifestyle Section generated an overwhelming response. On the heels of that first article came an offer for Carolina to syndicate a column and star in the wildly popular “Crafting with Carolina” television show. An icon was born in the crafting community.

An icon with tens of thousands of followers. Most of them were lined up in front of me at the registration table. Directly behind the table, I could see the huge ballroom, already bustling with vendors and their booths. Carolina's name had carried the day. Jane had phoned me last night saying the event was sold out. Jane had ordered a thousand copies of Carolina’s newest book, The Diva Decorates, in preparation for the booksigning event to take place this evening. The convention center sure looked packed to me. Crafters eager to go inside pressed against the velvet restraining ropes. Huge mounted posters listed the various leisure pastimes represented. I was especially interested in the vendors representing needlework, crocheting, rubber stamping, miniatures, and pet supplies, because those were the interests I shared with my online friends: Gerry Porter, the miniaturist; Betsy Devonshire, the owner of a needlework store; Kendra Ballantyne, the pet-sitter and attorney; Rocky Winchester and April Buchert, the rubber stamping aficionados; and Molly Pink, a bookstore event coordinator and crocheter.

While I’d met Gerry in person at another craft fair, this would be the first time I’d meet my other virtual friends in the flesh. Once again, I was glad I’d taken the time to find the right outfit. Knowing I looked my best went a long way toward calming my nerves.

A volunteer tapped me on the shoulder. “You’re Kiki Lowenstein? Jane Kuhn has been asking for you.”

I made my way to the back of the ballroom. There, in a cordoned off area, Jane greeted me warmly.

“Thanks a million, Kiki. I’m feeling overwhelmed. Would you mind being Carolina’s escort? She's waiting in her own special room just beyond that door. Just keep her moving along. Introduce her, help her get what she wants, and then help her move on to the next victim, uh, vendor. Oh, she here comes now.”

A door disguised as one of the convention hall walls opened. I held my breath. I couldn’t believe I was finally meeting my idol! Carolina Pettijohn! The one, the only—Carolina, Queen of Crafts!

Actually, one look told me it was more like “Carolina, Clearly Having a Bad Day.”

She squinted at Jane, then at me, back to Jane, and snarled, “I guess she’ll have to do. Don’t you have any men in this town? Isn’t St. Louis known for sports and beer?”

That shocked me. I’m the original Mrs. Nice Guy, and I have the scars to prove it.

“Carolina, let me explain this to you,” said Jane. “We’re Midwesterners, and our crowd is a very friendly group of honest, hard-working—”

But Jane was interrupted by a plain, heavyset woman wearing thick spectacles who stepped from behind the diva and shook my hand. “Hi, I’m Rosie Jackson. I have the list of booths we want to visit. See, I do all Carolina’s creative—”

“The sooner we get started, the faster I can get back to the bar.” Carolina pushed past us.

“Please don’t forget we’re expecting you at the book signing later. That’s what you agreed to in your contract!” Jane said. Her voice cracked with tension. "The contract!” she repeated.

Carolina gave Jane a dismissive wave of her hand and stalked off. Rosie and I struggled to catch up to the diva.

“Our first stop is at the Impressed for Success booth,” said Rosie, after consulting her notebook.

We rounded the corner and approached the booth. I stepped forward and made a very Vanna White-ish gesture toward our guest star. “Hi, we have Carolina Pettijohn with us. She’d like a tour of your booth. Please show her any new products you might want her to feature in her syndicated column or on her program.”

The two owners of Impressed for Success immediately introduced Carolina to their new system of dry embossing. Unlike previous systems, this new hand-cranked machine could actually create impressions on a full 12 by 12 inch sheet of cardstock. To prove just how incredibly cool this would be, one of the owners ran a piece of Core’dinations through their gizmo.

“If you buff the cardstock, the impressions are revealed in a second color.” One of the owners handed Carolina a sanding block.

Carolina scrunched up her face and said, “So?”

“Oh, for pity’s sake.” Rosie grabbed both cardstock and sander. In seconds, she expertly buffed off the top layer of the Core’dinations to reveal the cool second color and the new pattern.

Which was awesome.

But Carolina didn’t get it. She just stared at the paper as if witnessing a magic act.

“That’s a super product, and we’ll feature it. Bag up that sample with your business card, and we’ll get back to you. Mail it to us at this address.” Rosie handed over a card and then leaned close to whisper to the two vendors.

# # #

Kiki finished her recitation and waited expectantly at her six friends.

Betsy Devonshire frowned. “That doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary.”

“Oh, that's not all,” Kiki said. “When Rosie took the goods from the vendors, I think she told them they needed to include a check--and I think she wanted it made out to her personally!”

The scrapbooker turned to Jane. “I think Rosie is the killer. I have a hunch that she was soliciting money from people who wanted Carolina to pimp their products. I bet she and Carolina quarreled over the money, and Rosie lost her temper. I mean, notice that Rosie isn't here? It's her job to stick with Carolina.”

“Actually,” said Jane. “Rosie is in one of the make-and-take sessions right now. Has been for the past hour. One of the volunteers confirmed it over my walkie-talkie.”

Rocky frowned. “But where was Rosie earlier?”

“I think I need to share what I saw,” said Gerry Porter. “Because I have another suspect in mind.”

Tomorrow: Gerry Porter shares her observations.


Dru said...

oooh, can't wait!

misterreereeder said...

So far - so good!!! Looking forward to the continuing saga (I've always wanted to use that word). I have passed on information about this series of blogs to other mystery lovers I know.