Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Crafty Kind of Murder (Continued)

"A Crafty Kind of Murder" Part III: Observations in the Murder of Carolina Pettijohn, submitted by Gerry Porter, miniaturist.

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.

by Margaret Grace (Camille Minichino)

When I spotted my friend Kiki heading down the aisle, I quickly pulled a wipe from a packet and used it to scrape the tacky glue off my hands. I waved her over, but I wasn't sure she saw me. People were milling in the aisles, some stopping to shop, others trying to squeeze through. It was one of the most widely attended craft and hobby fairs I'd ever been to and I was glad I'd decided to come. I wished I could leave my booth for a while to see some of the new products all around us. Of course, I might be able to slip out later, when it was quieter. The place was so busy that I was doubly glad I'd brought my granddaughter Maddie along. Maddie was great with customers. I could tell she was really looking forward to spending time with Kiki's twelve-year-old daughter Anya. The two girls had been corresponding by email and wanted to see a new teen movie together. Kiki’s mother-in-law had offered to play chaperone. I was thrilled because that would give Kiki and me time to chat.

One thing about having miniatures as a hobby—you needed to know something about every craft. Maddie and I knitted afghans for our dollhouse living rooms; we crocheted scarves for the dressers; we made tiny quilts (well, here we cheated and glued the pieces down instead of sewing them!) for the beds; we had needlepoint hangings on the walls, and tiny paper crafts in room boxes and dollhouse cottages. No wonder a fair like this, with all crafts represented, was so exciting to me.

It had been six months since I'd seen Kiki, at a big craft fair on the west coast. I loved Kiki's sense of humor. She had a great flair to her, making even a simple pair of jeans and a sweater look very stylish. I felt very matronly beside her, but she never treated me as anything but as cool as she was.

I felt someone tugging at my smock—Maddie Porter, my ten-year-old, going on twenty-year-old granddaughter and partner in making dollhouses and miniature room boxes.

“Grandma, look who's coming, look who's coming!” Maddie was in the repeating stage.

“I see,” I told her. “It's Kiki!”

“No, no, Grandma. Well, I remember her, too, but look who's right in front of them!”

I adjusted my glasses and surveyed the crowd. It was hard to tell whom Maddie was referring to. “Who is it that you recognize, sweetheart?” I asked her.

By this time, Maddie was jumping up and down, as only a skinny ten-year-old can. “Carolina! Carolina Pettijohn, from television, Grandma! She's on television!”

“So I gather.” I didn't have much time for television watching, and wondered how come my granddaughter did and still managed to make the honor roll.

“You should see her show, Grandma. She does every kind of craft. I mean, every kind, and she even wrote a book about them. She's the best miniaturist I ever saw.” Maddie looked at me, wide-eyed, and then covered her mouth with her hand. “Oops. You know, not as good as you are, though.” She circled my waist with her arms and squeezed and her little slip-up was forgiven.

The next thing I knew, the woman Maddie knew as Carolina Pettijohn and another woman, who had the thickest glasses I'd ever seen, were standing smack in front of our booth. Kiki had come around to the side and I leaned over to embrace her. I didn't mean to be rude to the television star, but friends came first in my book.

While I spent a couple of minutes getting caught up with Kiki, my granddaughter had filled in for me, oohing and aahing over Carolina's long crocheted scarf. “Did you make that?” she asked the icon.

“I … uh—,” the woman with the glasses began.

“Of course I made it,” Carolina told Maddie. I didn't like the condescension in her voice. As far as I was concerned, children needed crafter role models who were also polite, nice human beings.

“Who are these women?” I whispered to Kiki.

“It was supposed to be an honor to meet her,” she said. “I really looked forward to it!”

“And that’s changed?”

“Absolutely,” Kiki said. “We’ll talk more later.”

We moved to the center of the booth where Maddie was showing Carolina her newest creation, making lovely miniature flowers from soft, shredded foam in many colors. Maddie dipped a piece of wire into a small pot of glue, then rolled the wire in a container of dark purple foam. She shaped the foam into an arrangement that made it look like an iris. She added a bit of green right under the purple.

“Ta-da!” she said, pleased with her work. She handed a piece of wire to Carolina and moved the pot of tacky glue close to the edge of the table so Carolina could reach it. “Here, you try it,” she said, her voice still excited.

Carolina frowned and stepped back from the table, as if Maddie had served up an evil-smelling dish. “Puh-leeze! I just had my nails done. Do you really think I'd ruin a $200 manicure with some cheap glue?”

Maddie's eyes widened, maybe at the idea of a $200 nail job, or maybe because, as far as I knew, no one had ever spoken to her that way.

Then next moment was even more startling. A woman came up to the booth and addressed Carolina. A group of her friends stood behind the newcomer and watched.

“Carolina, I’m sure you remember me…I’m Sondra Echols, the woman who started your first fan club. And these are fan club members. Would you mind signing this for me?” The stocky fan held out a copy of Carolina’s first book, A Diva’s Guide to Crafting. Carolina hesitated. Sondra pushed the book toward the diva. A gold pin on Sondra's blouse trembled with excitement as she spoke. “Could you say something about how I helped you get started?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Carolina. “No one helped me get started.”

Sondra’s cheeks were red, as if she were very angry. “After all I’ve done for you?”

“Sondra,” Rosie said, but was quickly cut off.

Sondra leaned into Carolina. “Don't think this is over,” she said. “I don't like being made a fool of.”

In a flash, Rosie ushered Carolina down the aisle.

My granddaughter summed it up.

“I guess sometimes people aren't the way they seem on television, huh, Grandma?”

Out of the mouths of babes. “I guess not, sweetheart.”

I was grateful for one thing: instead of being taken in by celebrity, Maddie had learned a valuable lesson.

# # #

“Right now, I’m thankful that Maddie and Anya are taking a crafting class just for young teens,” said Gerry, by way of wrapping up.

Kiki nodded. “You’re right. The girls don’t need to be anywhere near this mess. Besides, they’re probably having a blast in their class. I bet they’ll learn a few new skills.”

“Unlike Carolina,” said Gerry. “As soon as I met her, I figured it might be too late for her to learn anything. Especially common courtesy.”

“You’ve got that right,” said Jane, with a snort of disgust. “Even so. I sure didn’t want her to wind up dead. Especially with the book signing yet to come.” Jane covered her eyes with her palms and sighed. “What will I tell all those people?”

“Kiki, you might be on to something with the idea that bribes are involved,” said Gerry. “But I have to say, my mini-money is on the murderously mad Sondra Echols.”

“I don't know,” said Kiki. “Sondra comes to a lot of the crops at our store. She's loud and she can seem pushy, but she's really a pussy cat. I can't imagine her actually hurting Carolina. Honestly, I can't.”

The other crafters had been listening carefully. Betsy Devonshire said, “I wish it were that simple. I mean, it would be nice if we could just rely on our intuition about people. Unfortunately, what we need is more information. More facts. Let me tell you what my store manager Godwin and I observed.”

# # #

Tomorrow: Betsy Devonshire shares her observations.


Kaye said...

Wow, thanks for posting these installments. I am so hooked now on the story. Carolina sounds like she'll deserve whatever comeuppance comes her way. Have a great week!

Peg said...

This is so much fun - I can hardly wait each morning for the next installment

Terri Thayer said...

Glad to hear you're enjoying the story! Spread the word.

misterreereeder said...

As a reader, I suspect we each come away with something different from our observations in what we read. I am not surprised each of these sleuths have come away with their own observations and conclusions. I am sure there will be a big surprise!!!

Ann said...

What fun! I'm enjoying the story and looking forward to the next installment. :-)

Dru said...

Catching up and I'm loving this. Onto the next installment.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Kaye, isn't Carolina a you-know-what?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Peg, reading this now is so much fun for me, too. Seeing it all come together really tickles me.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Misterreereader, you know, isn't this the truth? We all see things differently, so of course, our sleuths do, too.

And Ann, stay tuned!