Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#Excerpt - THREAD END: An Embroidery #Mystery by Amanda Lee @GayleTrent #AmReading

Chapter Three
I’d stayed up too late the night before; but even sleep-deprived, I was chipper as Angus and I pulled into our usual parking spot outside the Seven-Year Stitch. I had seen Vera and Paul only briefly at the museum exhibit, so I supposed Vera would be in sometime today. I hoped she would, anyway. It would be fun to relive the evening with her . . . going over the pieces we’d liked best. I wondered if she’d made the collector any offers. I grinned. Knowing Vera, she probably had.
I hopped out of the Jeep and snapped Angus’s leash onto his collar. He jumped out and sniffed the sidewalk while I unlocked the front door. As soon as we got inside, I took the leash off. Angus bounded over to the sit-and-stitch square where he’d left his favorite toy—a Kodiak bear Vera had brought him back from a trip she’d taken a few months ago.
I relocked the door. I still had about half an hour until the shop opened, and I liked to have the shop tidy and restocked when customers started coming in. The first order of business every Saturday morning was to take the trash out. The sanitation truck ran at noon every Saturday, so all the shops on our side of the street scrambled to get their garbage out to the receptacles before then.
Fortunately for me, the Seven-Year Stitch didn’t generate a lot of trash . . . especially when compared to MacKenzies’ Mochas. That shop produced more garbage in a day than the Stitch did in a week. In fact, Blake had to take their garbage out twice a day—double-bagged so the food scraps wouldn’t attract bears.
I was thinking about bears, Blake, Sadie, and how Sadie had talked me into coming to Tallulah Falls and opening my shop—for which I would be forever grateful—when I stepped out the back door with my bag of trash. I tossed the bag into the bin, turned, and then gasped as I saw something lying against the wall.
For the world, the . . . thing . . . looked like the kilim Reggie had admired so much last night at the exhibit. But it couldn’t be. . . . Could it?
I crept closer. It was the rug—I recognized the colors and the unmistakable patterns. But what was it doing here?
I took another step toward the rolled-up kilim and saw that it was badly stained. Had someone bought it, got something all over it, and left it here for the sanitation crew to dispose of? Surely not.
Maybe Vera had bought it, gotten it stained, and then left it here at the back of my store to see if I could clean it. No, that didn’t make any sense to me either, but I was really grasping at straws.
I took one more step closer and nudged the rug with my foot. I wasn’t about to touch such a valuable kilim until I found out why it was lying outside my shop.
When I pushed it, the rug rolled slightly. Then I spotted something . . . a hand! And the hand was attached to a body . . . that was attached to a face . . . a face that looked vaguely familiar.
With trembling hands, I fumbled my cell phone from the front pocket of my jeans and called Ted.
“You’ve got to come,” I said when he answered. “Here . . . to the shop . . . please. There’s this guy . . . a dead guy . . . wrapped up in Reggie’s rug.”
“What? Babe, you aren’t making sense.”
I couldn’t answer. I’d begun to hyperventilate.
“Sweetheart, I’m on my way. Sit down and put your head between your knees,” he said. “Is anyone with you?”
When I didn’t answer, he repeated that he was on his way.
I became vaguely aware that Ted had ended the call, and I returned my phone to my pocket. I didn’t know what to do. Maybe the man wasn’t dead after all. I guessed I could take his pulse to see. Or I should probably wait for Ted. The gray cast to the man’s skin made me fairly certain that there was nothing I could do to help him. And it wasn’t a stretch to assume that the stain on the rug was blood. I’d wait for Ted.
Suddenly, I heard footsteps pounding up the alley behind me. I whirled around, stumbled, and would have fallen had I not been righted by Blake—he whose thundering footsteps had startled me while he was sprinting toward me with a white paper bag in one hand.
“Ted called,” he said, panting for breath. “Are you all right? He said you were hyperventilating. Here—breathe into this. Let’s get you inside.”
I was sort of wondering if maybe Blake didn’t need the paper bag more than I did, but I simply nodded. With one strong arm around my shoulders, Blake started to lead me back into the shop.
As he turned, he noticed the body. “What the—?”
“Exactly,” I said. “Let’s go inside until Ted gets here. This is freaking me out.”
“You and me both.”
We went inside. Blake was now every bit as shaken as I was but was determined to be strong for me.
Angus was thrilled to see Blake and immediately bounded up to him.
“In a minute, boy,” Blake said softly. “First, let’s get Marcy settled on the sofa.”
Sensing something was wrong, Angus sat down and began to whine.
“It’s okay,” I told him as I sank onto the sofa. “Everything’s fine.”
Blake took a seat on the red club chair diagonal to the sofa. “Seriously, breathe into the bag.”
I shook my head. “I’m fine.”
“What happened?”
“I have no idea,” I said, petting Angus’s head in an effort to soothe us both. “I took out the garbage, and when I turned to come back into the shop, I saw the rug. I thought it strange that someone would throw it away like that, and then I saw the hand and realized someone was wrapped up in the rug.”
“That’s all you saw? A hand?” He shrugged. “Do you think maybe it could be a mannequin?”
“No. I saw the man’s face, too. He was real.” I glanced at the front door and realized it was still locked. “I’ve got to unlock the door.”
Blake jumped up from the chair. “I’ll get it. You sit there and rest.”
“Thank you. The keys are on the counter.”
He unlocked the door. “Do you want me to leave the sign as Closed?”
“No. Change it to Open please,” I said.
“Are you sure you’re up to having customers today?”
“Positive.” I smiled slightly. “I’ll take any normalcy I can get right now.”
He returned to his seat. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m still shaky—and I’m sorry for that poor man lying outside—but I’ll be all right.”
Sadie hurried through the front door carrying a large to-go coffee cup. “Marce, how are you?”
I assured her that I was fine. “I’m even better if that’s a low-fat vanilla latte with a dash of cinnamon.”
Sadie saw how my hand shook as I took the cup, and her big brown eyes flew to Blake’s blue ones. He gave her a nod, and they communicated volumes merely by holding each other’s gaze for a few seconds. They’ve only been married for five years, but you’d think they’d been together forever. Like every other couple, they’d had their share of hardships. But they’d always persevered . . . and always would. They’d be lost without each other.
I took a sip of the warm, delicious coffee, and Sadie sat beside me on the sofa.
Angus, still confused and upset by the anxiety in the room, sighed and plopped his head onto his paws.
“Aw, look how pitiful he is,” Sadie said. “Now I wish I’d brought him some biscotti.” She spoke to Angus. “I’ll bring you back some biscotti, sweet boy. Yes, I will.”
Angus wagged his tail. He wasn’t convinced everything was okay yet, but he knew it was getting there.
Sadie took my free hand and gave it a squeeze. Like Angus, she didn’t seem confident she knew what was going on, either. But she wanted me to know that she was there. Dog and human best friends share that trait. I quickly filled her in on the situation.
At last, Ted strode through the door. As he took my latte, set it on the coffee table, and gathered me into his arms, I finally felt that everything was truly going to be all right. So, naturally, I began to weep.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” I whispered against his shoulder.
“Everything’s okay, babe. I’ve got you.”
I didn’t know why suddenly feeling secure would make me weep, but it did. Looking back, I usually did hold up fairly well in the midst of a critical moment and fall apart when it was over. Okay, so looking back on my call to Ted, maybe I didn’t hold up that well in the critical moment. But what would you have done if you’d found a dead guy wrapped in an antique kilim in your alley?
Ted sat on the sofa, pulling me onto his lap. He gently wiped the tears from my cheeks and kissed my forehead.
Angus sat up and placed his head on my knee, making us all laugh. He could be such a clown.
“We should go on out back,” I said to Ted.
“Not yet. Manu is there. He said he’d handle that situation while I made sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Really. You should go—”
“Ted, come out here!” Manu called from the back door. “You’re not going to believe this!”
I got up. “Come on.”
“I think you should stay in here,” Ted said, standing and taking my hand.
“He’s right,” Sadie said. “You’ve had enough of a shock for one day. Who knows what Manu has discovered out there?”
“Besides, you need to be here to wait on your customers,” Blake said. “Speaking of which, I’d better get back down the street.”
Ted shook Blake’s hand. “Thanks for being here for Marcy.”
“Yeah, Blake, thank you for coming to my rescue,” I said as Ted headed for the back door. “And you, too, Sadie.”
Sadie stood and gave me a hug. “I need to get back to the shop as well. But call me if you need anything.”
I promised her I would, and then Angus and I were alone in the sit-and-stitch square. I waved to Sadie and Blake as they passed the window en route to MacKenzies’ Mochas. Then I picked up my latte, sat down on the sofa, and sighed.
“Big morning, huh, Angus?”
In response, he moved closer to me and lay at my feet.
I took a drink of the now lukewarm latte and mused aloud to my faithful hound, “I wonder who that guy out there is. And why did he look familiar?”
I fell silent as Angus rolled onto his side for a nap, and I searched my memory for a different image of the balding gentleman who’d been wrapped in a rug and dumped in the alley behind the Stitch. The man didn’t work in any of the local shops. The museum—was that where I’d seen him? I tried to recall the faces of the people I’d mingled with at the exhibit opening last night, but I couldn’t place the victim’s face. Still, I kept fixating on the museum. Then it dawned on me—the photograph. The victim was Dr. Vandehey, the professor turned art thief.
I scrambled out of my seat, startling Angus, and hurried to the back door. He came chasing after me, but I didn’t allow him to follow me outside. He jumped up so he could peep out and bark at all the excitement.
“Isn’t that the man from the picture you showed me last night?” I asked Ted. “The art thief?”
“The alleged art thief,” Manu said.
“But I thought he confessed,” I said.
Ted took me gently by the shoulders. “You’re right about the identity of the victim, but I still don’t think you should be out here.”
“Right,” said Manu. “You could accidentally contaminate the crime scene.”
“Crime scene?” I slumped against Ted. “This doesn’t mean you have to close down my shop, does it?”
“No, sweetheart. We’ll just cordon off this part of the alley. The inside of your shop will be business as usual.”
“Thank goodness,” I said. “I suppose I should go back in. My being out here is driving Angus crazy.”
A black SUV rolled right up to the yellow crime scene tape, and a short man wearing a dark suit stepped out of the vehicle. He had a “standard-issue” buzz cut and sunglasses. I think all of us—me, Ted, Manu, and the crime scene technicians, heck, maybe even Angus—knew before he’d introduced himself that he was FBI.
He flashed a badge. “Special Agent Floyd Brown of the Portland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Art Theft Division. What have we got here, and why did I have to hear about it over the police scanner rather than through a personal phone call from the chief of police?”
Manu drew himself up to his full five feet seven inches. He was taller than Agent Brown by at least two inches—maybe three. “Agent Brown—”
Special Agent Brown,” the man interrupted.
“You weren’t notified because we haven’t made a positive ID of the victim yet,” Manu continued. “Therefore, we don’t know that an investigation of this death falls within your jurisdiction.”
“It looks like Vandehey to me,” Special Agent Brown said.
“Well, just because it looks like him doesn’t mean it is,” Manu said. “Now I respectfully request that you step back and allow our crime scene techs to do their jobs.”
Since Angus was still barking and scratching at the door, I excused myself to go back inside.
“Wait,” said Special Agent Brown. “Who are you?”
“I’m Marcy Singer. This is my shop.”
“Are you the one who found the body?”
“I am.”
“Then I’ll come inside and take your statement,” he said.
Manu started to protest, but I shook my head slightly. If Brown was in the shop taking my statement, he’d be out of Manu’s and Ted’s hair.
“Right this way,” I said.
I opened the door and took Angus’s collar, gently moving the dog back so Special Agent Brown and I could get inside.
“Come on, Angus,” I said. “Special Agent Brown, would you like some coffee? It won’t take but a minute to put on a pot.”
“No, thank you,” he said, ignoring Angus, who was snuffling his pant leg.
I led the agent to the sit-and-stitch square, and he sat down on the sofa facing the window. I took the red club chair.
“Is there something you can do with him?” He jerked his head toward Angus, who was now checking out the man’s jacket pocket.
“I can put him in the bathroom, but he’ll bark so much we won’t be able to hear each other over the racket,” I said. “If you’ll pet him, he’ll probably go on and leave you alone.”
Special Agent Brown sighed, patted Angus’s head, and said, “Nice dog. Now go away.”
I picked up Angus’s yellow tennis ball and gave it a toss. The dog loped after it and brought it back for me to throw again. As I played fetch with Angus, I relayed my statement to Special Agent Brown.
“So you recognized the rug and the professor,” said Special Agent Brown.
“I thought I recognized the rug,” I said. “And it only dawned on me a few minutes ago that the victim looked like a man in a photo I’d seen last night. As Chief Singh pointed out, we can’t be sure of anything until the crime scene technicians and the medical examiner have gone over all the evidence.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t set much store in coincidences, Ms. Singer. I tend to take things at face value.”
“Have you spoken with the museum curator and confirmed that one of the rugs from last night’s exhibit is missing?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I came right here.” He narrowed his eyes. “Why hasn’t your esteemed police chief taken care of that?”
“I’m sure he has someone looking into it,” I said. I wasn’t really sure of anything except that Manu was thorough. I knew that as soon as he arrived, he’d put his team into motion. I figured that included sending a deputy over to the museum.
“Well, that’s not good enough for me. I’ll go over there myself. But first I want to know why this man was dumped behind your store, Ms. Singer.”
“Beats me. I imagine it’s because the museum is one street over and that if the rug is indeed the one from the exhibit, then the victim was dumped here because it was convenient.”
“We’ll see about that,” he said. He got up, plucked a dog hair from his jacket, and left.

Embroidery shop owner Marcy Singer is about to have the rug pulled out from under her….

Marcy can’t wait to see the new exhibit at the Tallulah Falls museum on antique tapestries and textiles, including beautiful kilim rugs. But her enthusiasm quickly turns to terror when, the day after the exhibition opens, she discovers a dead body behind her store, the Seven-Year Stitch, wrapped up in a most unusual fashion.

The victim appears to be a visiting art professor in town for the exhibit. Did someone decide to teach the professor a lesson, then attempt to sweep the evidence under the rug? Along with her boyfriend, Detective Ted Nash, Marcy must unravel an intricate tapestry of deception to find a desperate killer.
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Genre – Cozy Mystery
Rating – PG
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  1. I enjoyed the excerpt. This sounds like a good book to read. Thanks for the excerpt.