Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Crafty Kind of Murder (Continued)

"A Crafty Kind of Murder" Part IV: Observations in the Murder of Carolina Pettijohn, submitted by Betsy Devonshire, needlework store owner.

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. Since all of the crafters/hobbyists are also amateur sleuths, they hope to put their heads together and solve the crime quickly or the Craft and Hobby Extravaganza will be shut down! Kiki Lowenstein explains that Carolina Pettijohn's creative assistant Rosie Jackson was taking money from vendors wanting Carolina to spotlight their products. Kiki thinks Rosie might have been the killer. Gerry Porter has another suspect in mind. She saw an angry fan named Sondra Echols approach and threaten Carolina. Betsy Devonshire explains the situation is even more complicated than the seven crafters probably realize.

By Monica Ferris

Betsy and her store manager Godwin had run into rough weather on the early part of their trip to the big craft fair and so arrived late. Godwin, efficient as he was, was still putting up a display of counted cross stitch models when the show opened.

“Carolina is already on the floor!” he muttered around a mouthful of push pins.

“Who?” Betsy replied, trying to choose five of the best needlepoint canvases from among the dozen they’d brought—the booth was a little smaller than she’d realized, plus she always over-packed, whether clothes or display items.

“Oh, Betsy, don’t you read the brochures?” he sighed, spitting pins into his palm as he stood back to look over the effect he was creating. “Carolina Pettijohn, of course. She’s here!”

“Yes, I read the brochures,” she said grumpily. “I just didn’t understand what you were saying with that mouthful. Your display looks very nice. Do you think I should use the Margaret Murton or the Melissa Shirley canvas?”

He came for a closer look at what she had done, then stepped out into the aisle, a sylph-like shape in blond and light blue to stand with a forefinger wrapped around his chin to consider her arrangement from a prospective-customer-arriving point of view. “Oh, the Margaret Murton, definitely,” he said after just a moment. "It’s picking up the colors of the Margaret Boyles bargello piece.”

So it was—Betsy saw that now. She had developed a good eye for color after owning a needlework shop for several years, but Godwin’s appeared innate.

“Oh, my God, here she comes, and here she is!” Godwin exclaimed, eyes shining, hands clasped under his chin. “Oh, Ms. Pettijohn, how sweet of you to visit our booth!” He was crouching, almost bowing in a direction behind Betsy‘s back.

Betsy turned to see a tall, slim, stylish woman approaching, accompanied by a much plainer woman with thick eyeglasses. “Carolina Pettijohn!” she said, smiling, “you are even more beautiful in person than on television. I’m so pleased you are visiting the Crewel World booth.”

“Cruel world?” repeated Carolina, startled. Her face betrayed her confusion. “But your display is beautiful! Are you a painter? Those are good paintings.”

“It’s Crewel World,” said Betsy, pointing to the sign and picking up on Carolina’s monosyllabic pronunciation. “And no, I didn’t paint them—”

“I used to paint,” said Carolina. “But what horrible canvases these are painted on! Why, the weave is so loose you can almost see through them.”

“Carolina,” the woman with her said, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. “These are needlepoint canvases, they are meant to be stitched over.”

“Oh? Of course! I’m so sorry, it’s just that they are so charming, I thought they were paintings.” She turned to Betsy. “This is a craft fair, you know. It’s hard to instantly understand what craft one is looking at.” She let her gaze go to another area of the booth. “Ah, and these are finished needlepoints, am I right? Work that has been stitched over?”

“No,” said Betsy, a little startled that Carolina couldn’t tell the difference between counted cross stitch and needlepoint.

“Those are counted cross stitch, Carolina,” said the bespectacled woman, sounding a trifle cross or impatient.

“Of course, of course. I can see that now.”

“Would it be possible to persuade you to autograph some copies of your latest book?” asked Godwin. “We carry all your books in our shop.”

“How nice!” said the woman in eyeglasses.

“But I don’t have time for that. Bring them to the official signing later,” said Carolina. “You can stand in line with the rest of the autograph seekers. Okay, who’s next on the tour?” She turned and started away.

Godwin watched her go and said, in a diminished voice, “She’s not at all like she is on television. You know, interested.”

“Maybe she’s tired,” said Betsy. “She’s out of her time zone, after all.”

“I think she’s a witch,” said a new voice, and they turned to see Kiki Lowenstein.

“Talk about being disillusioned,” said Kiki in a low voice. “I used to think that woman could walk on water. Now I think I’d like to drown her. Did you notice how she doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about crafting? In fact, I don’t know how she wrote those wonderful books.”

“Maybe she didn’t,” said Betsy.

“Who was the lady with the thick glasses?” asked Godwin.

“Rosie Jackson,” said Kiki. “She’s Carolina’s creative assistant. Why?”

“Because she knows counted cross stitch from needlepoint on sight.”

Kiki frowned at him. “And Rosie understood right away the importance of a new dry embossing machine, while I don’t think Carolina did. And when we were visiting my friend, Gerry Porter, who is a fine miniaturist, Carolina practically threw up at the idea that she should maybe get a little glue on her hands.”

Betsy said, “So maybe Carolina is just a glamorous front for the real artist, Rosie Jackson. Is that what you’re thinking?”

Godwin nodded. “No one who gave such a lucid description of the basketweave stitch in her book would be confused between needlepoint and counted cross stitch.”

The four of them looked at the tall, glamorous woman and her dumpy companion making their way down the broad but crowded aisle. Already a cluster of women was surrounding Carolina, exclaiming and holding out programs for an autograph.

“Oops!” cried Kiki. “I’m supposed to be clearing their way. Talk to you later!” She pushed her way out into the crowd.

Even those who didn’t press close to Carolina looked thrilled or excited at seeing her, with one exception. A young woman in a white turtleneck and a knit fringed shawl was moving slowly in her direction. She carried a rather worn copy of A Diva’s Guide to Crafting—she wasn’t a fan, out for an autograph. The expression on her face was a curious combination of yearning and hate.

Godwin elbowed Betsy. “Do you see that pin she has on the collar of her turtleneck? I think we should stock those at the store. I’ll ask her where she got it.”

Doris Handly came in to buy a second canvas. She had stopped by earlier, while they were in the midst of setting up and was drawn to the more expensive yarns and threads, so of course Betsy stopped putting out flosses to sell her a small canvas by a well-known designer. Betsy could tell that Doris was an expert needlewoman by the knowledgeable questions she asked. Now the young woman was back and bought a second canvas. “It's a big day for me,” she said shyly.

As a matter of courtesy, after processing the woman's credit card payment, Betsy thanked her by name. “I hope you enjoy your purchase, Doris,” said Betsy. Doris Handly, thought Betsy with a chuckle. That was a great moniker for a needlecrafter.

Doris had just taken the bag from Betsy's hands when she spotted Carolina at another booth and moved toward the diva with purpose.

Hours later, as the day was drawing to a close, Betsy surreptitiously removed a shoe to wriggle her aching toes. Godwin was wrapping things up beside the cash register.

“How’d we do?” she asked.

“Not too bad. I wish we’d brought more copies of Margaret Boyles’ book, since we’ve only got two copies left. Every time I think bargello is out, it comes back in again. On the other hand, we may have over-estimated the number of copies of Carolina’s The Diva Decorates and the copies of her other books that we’d need.”

“It would’ve helped if not every other booth had copies for sale, too,” grumbled Betsy. “And that she’s doing a special book signing event with her new book later tonight. We should’ve thought of that.”

“Well, I’ll take what we have to the signing tonight. They’ll sell like hotcakes back at the shop if they’re autographed. Have you heard the latest rumor?”

“What’s that?” Betsy began to work her foot back into her shoe.

“Jane Kuhn is fit to be tied because Carolina flew here first class on the convention’s dime. Jane had authorized Carolina to fly coach.”

“I don’t think Carolina has flown coach for a long time,” said Betsy, smiling at the image of long-legged Carolina crammed into a bargain seat.

“So if she wanted to fly first class, she should have paid the difference out of her own pocket. I also hear she reserved the presidential suite instead of a regular one, also on the con’s dime.”

“Rude of her.”

“Yes, but you see, the line between breaking even and losing money at an event like this is very thin. And Carolina may have crossed the line for them.”

“Uh-oh,” said Betsy. “I happen to know Jane was up for the task of running the next Embroiderer’s Guild of America state convention. She won’t get it if she can’t stay on budget. Is Jane angry?”

“Fit. To. Be. Tied,” pronounced Godwin.

# # #

“Jane, I hate to be rude,” said Betsy, “but you have every reason to want to see Carolina dead, don't you? I mean, if you had to pay her expenses, and they were over what you budgeted, you would have had a real problem. That shortfall would have made it hard for you to submit a good balance sheet to the governing board of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America.”

“But what about the books?” asked Kiki. “Jane needed Carolina alive so she could sign them.”

“The books could be returned to the publisher,” explained Molly Pink.

“Oh,” said Kiki.

Jane fumed. “Yes, yes, that’s right. Everything you said is true. But I’m telling you I did not kill Carolina!”

“Wait a minute,” Kendra Ballantyne interrupted. “Betsy, did you say your customer's name was Doris Handly? If that's the case, I need to tell you what I saw happen.”

Tomorrow: Kendra Ballantyne shares her observations.


Dru said...

this is getting good...

Terri Thayer said...

You'll have to wait until tomorrow....

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I'm so glad you all are enjoying this...and gets better!

Colleen said...

so hoping that when this is done, it is printed as a short story. Would love to have a copy of this to use with my LA classes.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Colleen, it will be available on under Killer Hobbies so you can use it in your classes.

May I ask, why do you think it will be of interest to them? What do you think they might draw from it?

Colleen said...

I am hoping that they will be able to see how different writers can come together to produce a short story. I am thinking about having them write a short story with two or three others.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Colleen, that's an excellent idea and a worthwhile project. Tell you what, how about if this coming Monday I share some of what we learned putting this together? I think I could share a few tips.