Friday, May 7, 2010

A Crafty Kind of Murder (Continued)

"A Crafty Kind of Murder" Part V: Observations in the Murder of Carolina Pettijohn, submitted by April Buchert, Stamping Sisters

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. So 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 thought. With a little prodding from Betsy, Jane Kuhn reluctantly admits that she might lose an important contract with the Embroiderer's Guild of America if her financial problems with Carolina aren't resolved. Kendra Ballantyne agrees with Betsy. As an attorney, Kendra believes Jane Kuhn's problems with Carolina's expense reports are the best motive for murder so far. Just when the situation couldn't get any more confusing, Rocky Winchester admits she, too, had acrimonious dealings with the craft diva. In fact, Rocky's so upset she asks her future sister-in-law April to share her observations with the group.

By Terri Thayer

“Enough already. I didn’t drive 900 miles to stalk Carolina Pettijohn,” April Buchert said.

“I did,” Rocky Winchester said. She clutched the cease and desist letter she’d received from Pettijohn’s company claiming our most popular Stamping Sisters line of stamps infringed on her copyright.

Evidently she owned the phrase “Stamping Diva.” Rocky disagreed.

And was planning on letting the Queen of Crafts know it.

April was secretly glad that they hadn’t caught up with Carolina yet. Rocky was mad as heck and was itching for a fight. Rocky didn’t back down when she was right about something. She’d vowed to make Carolina Pettijohn eat the letter. April didn’t need to witness that.

April sighed. “Yeah, well, we’re not very good at stalking. We’ve been five minutes behind her all day.”

Carolina Pettijohn had proved to be an elusive target. First they’d seen a commotion at the miniature booth but by the time they’d gotten there, Carolina had been whisked away. They’d had a scheduled meeting with Jane Kuhn, the organizer, but she never showed. One of the volunteers said Jane was tied up with Carolina Pettijohn. She refused to tell Rocky where they were. They’d just missed Carolina again at the Crewel World booth. It was obvious she’d been there, judging by Godwin’s ruffled feathers. They’d spent fifteen minutes listening to his encounter with her.

Rocky was not alone in her bitter dislike of the woman.

April’s eyes traveled over the products in the booth behind Rocky. She was dying to sit down at a make-and-take and try out the latest gadget. She’d seen a battery operated heat gun a few aisles back that she couldn’t stop thinking about. There were new inks to experiment with, a super duper easy to carve stamp medium being touted. She was missing everything as they bypassed booth after booth, looking for the slippery Carolina Pettijohn.

April had enough. “Let’s split up. Someone in our company needs to keep up with the latest products, you know.”

Rocky’s eyes roamed over April’s head. As usual, only one eye was visible, the other lost under a curtain of black hair. April was going to be Rocky’s sister-in-law soon, they worked together in the Stamping Sisters but there was a part of Rocky that she’d never understand.

“Suit yourself,” Rocky said.

“Let’s meet back here at five. The show closes at six, and we can have the last hour to walk the aisles together.”

April backed away from Rocky and plunged into the flow of customers, mostly women who crowded the aisles. Women of all shapes, sizes, colors were jammed into the convention center. White House economists had only to look here for signs of recovery. No recession was going to stand between these women and their hobbies.

April knew “hobby” was too small of a word for what these women felt. Obsession, higher calling, passion, came closer but didn’t describe it either. She spotted a woman with a holding up a sign that read “Art Heals.” That was better.

She turned back but Rocky was already gone.

# # #

By five fifteen, April was beginning to worry. She circled again, checking the aisle and booth number. This was where they’d parted ways two hours ago. She shifted her packages. It didn’t make a bit of difference. The bags were still too heavy and her feet still hurt. She sent a mental apology to her mother, Bonnie, for not believing her when she complained about the soles of her feet burning. Hers were on fire now. At least the pain kept her mind off her stomach. She was starving.

Dang Rocky. If she’d known she was going to be late, she’d have made a trip to the car and dropped this stuff off. There was a power bar in the glove compartment with her name on it.

Finally, she saw Rocky loping toward her.

“Success?” April asked.

Rocky smiled and nodded. “Skittles?” Rocky said, holding her palm out. It was full of the little candies. April looked for her favorite flavor, the yellow ones, but there were none. She shook her head. She wanted real food.

“What about Carolina? So did you see her? What did you say? What did she say? Do we have to discontinue that line?”

“Let’s just say we came to terms.”

Rocky poured the rest of the candy down her gullet and reached out to help April. She winced as she grabbed a bag. She had a cut on her other hand.

“How’d you do that?” April asked, as she fished for a tissue to stop the bleeding.

“Beats me,” Rocky said. They started walking toward the exit.

“So you took care of Carolina?” April asked. She was eager to put this day behind them.

“Carolina Pettijohn will never bother us again.”

# # #

April finished her observations, and all our eyes turned to Rocky. Kendra Ballantyne spoke first. “Do you need an attorney? I don't practice here, but I can probably find a good criminal—”

“I didn't do it! She was alive when I left her,” snarled Rocky. “All I did was swipe a handful of her Skittles. See? I even got her to sign this form saying she wouldn't pursue the matter.”

Her hand shook as she held out a typed sheet for us to examine. At the bottom of the form was Rosie Jackson's name and signature as witness. Rocky had even thought to have both women write the time and date beside their names.

“I don’t think this would hold up in court,” said Kendra.

“Okay, so I'm not a lawyer! I'm not a murderer either!”

Gerry sighed. “I believe you, Rocky. If you had killed Carolina, you wouldn't have stuck around.”

“Or maybe she would have stuck around. Remember that Edgar Allan Poe story, ‘The Purloined Letter’?” mused Betsy Devonshire.

“I don't remember much about that story,” said Kiki Lowenstein. “My favorite Poe tale was ‘The Gold Bug.’” It was a bit of a non-sequitur, but really, all of the crafters were stressed at that point. They were tired from walking around the convention floor, hungry because it was time for dinner, and disappointed that what had seemed like a fun outing had turned into a nightmare. None of the women enjoyed playing amateur sleuth, but here they were, with a corpse in the next room and the prospect of the cops hauling away one of their number.

“I think I'd better tell you all what I saw,” said Molly Pink. She'd been so quiet, everyone had mostly forgotten she was even in the room.

Molly set her shoulders and added, “I think I know who did this. It wasn't Rocky. And I think I can prove who did it, too.”

Tomorrow: Molly Pink shares her observations and solves the crime.


Dru said...

:::rubbing hand::: can't wait to hear what Molly has seen.

Terri Thayer said...

Thanks, Dru!