Quilt by Association
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by Arlene Sachitano
Description: An African woman with a blue-eyed baby arrives in Foggy Point looking for Aiden Jalbert. Within days, she's been murdered, and so is the man who claimed to be her husband.
As if that weren't enough, the supposedly African toddler Loose Thread DeAnn and her husband adopted turns out to be from Samoa, and the social worker who helmed the deal has gone missing.
Who was Neelie Obote, really, and who wanted her dead? What did Rodney Miller learn that earned him the same fate? And what part does Joseph Marsden play? Harriet and the Loose Threads are determined to find out, but as they dig deeper into the mystery it begins to appear the killer may not be finished yet.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Enigma, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: January 2011
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [360 KB]
Reading time: 230-322 min.
Aunt Beth had three bolts of cotton print fabric in various shades of blue laid out on a cutting table in the middle of the store, and Harriet was comparing first one and then the other of the two bolts she held in her arms to the grouping to see which one would work best as a backing. The first was a good match for color, but she wasn't sure how well the plaid print went with the quilt-top choices. The second fabric was white dots on a mottled beige background--a better pattern, but she wasn't sure about the color. Aunt Beth was back at the sale shelf trying to come up with a better option.
Harriet was still debating the choice when the front door of the quilt store opened, and a short, heavyset woman with white cotton-candy hair came in. She walked with a sort of rolling limp that was partly because of her arthritic knee but mostly because she carried her substantial weight almost entirely in her hips.
"Harriet," Phyllis Johnson said when she reached the center of the store. "I'm glad I caught you. I have a quilt I need to have done. My niece is getting married next weekend, and I was hoping you might have space in your schedule to fit her quilt in."
Harriet had enough long-arm quilting business to keep her machine stitching for as many hours as she was willing to run it, but she purposely kept a block of time free each week for just this sort of "emergency." She did a quick mental rearrangement of her schedule.
"If you don't want anything too complicated, I could have it for you the day after tomorrow," she offered.
"That would be perfect," she said. "Am I correct in assuming you'll be at DeAnn's shower?"
"Yes, and I'd be happy to bring your quilt to you there."
"Thank you," Phyllis said. "I'm so excited for DeAnn. I know she loves her boys, but she's so happy she's finally going to have a little girl. This is the part of my job I love most. It's just a win-win when we can place a precious orphaned child with such a deserving set of parents."
Phyllis Johnson was the owner and president of Little Lamb Adoption Services. Harriet had learned from DeAnn that Phyllis had started her agency more than thirty years ago and had provided adoptions to the citizens of Foggy Point ever since. Her agency specialized in international placements.
"I know DeAnn and her husband and the boys are excited."
"My quilt is on the front cutting table--I was choosing the binding fabric, but I've decided on one. You can take it with you now, if that's convenient, or I could drop it by after work if that's better."
"Now is fine. Do you have a bag for it?"
Phyllis produced a pillowcase that matched the quilt top and put the top and backing inside then handed it to Harriet. "Do you have bulk batting available like your aunt did?"
"Yes, just tell me which one you want."
After a brief discussion of batting, Phyllis chose wool and then went to the front checkout area to pay for her binding fabric.
"Are you ready?" Harriet asked her aunt.
"I suppose." Beth had replaced the blues with greens but was still struggling with the backing.
"I don't think the dogs care what backing you use."
"I can walk back to your house if you're anxious to leave."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to rush you. Phyllis gave me a quilt she needs done right away. I told her I'd give it back to her at the shower."
"Have you used your emergency spot for the week?"
"No, but I was going to play with my idea for the auction quilt with that time."
"I'm about done here," Beth said with a sigh. "Neither one of these bolts is going to change color, so I'm just going to choose one and be done with it."
"I'll go look at fat quarters for my dog block idea," said Harriet, referring to the eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch quarter-yard cuts of fabric favored by quilters.
She was pawing through a basket of red-toned fat quarters set on an antique chair by the front door when a tall, slender black woman came in, a baby less than a year old perched on her left hip, its back to Harriet. The woman strode to the checkout counter, where Marjory was ringing up Aunt Beth's purchases.
"Do you know Aiden Jalbert?" she asked Marjory without waiting for her to finish with Aunt Beth. The woman's voice had a lilting accent Harriet couldn't place.
"Why do you ask?" Marjory countered.
"What business of yours is it if we do or we don't?" Aunt Beth asked.
"I need to find him, and I went to every veterinary office in town, and no one would say anything. Finally, a lady in the waiting room of the last one said to ask at the quilt store."
"We know him, but it's not going to do you much good." Beth said.
"Let me be the judge of that."
The baby started fussing, and the woman jiggled her hip and at the same time reached into her pocket and pulled out a lint-covered pacifier she shoved into the child's mouth.
"He's working out of town," Harriet said. "We don't know when he'll be back."
The woman's shoulders sagged briefly; then she squared them again.
"Can you recommend a good hotel nearby?"
Aunt Beth could have suggested The Fogg Victorian Hotel, which was located three streets over, or even The Harborside, which was, as the name implied, located at the waterfront. Instead, she gave her the name of two chain hotels out on the main highway. She sketched a simple map and wrote the names on a piece of paper provided by Marjory, and handed it to the young woman.
"If you see Aiden, tell him Neelie Obote is looking for him."
The woman turned to leave. The baby lifted her head from the woman's shoulder and smiled at Aunt Beth, her pale-blue eyes trained on the older woman.
The bells that hung on a ribbon from the front door tinkled then fell silent as Neelie and the baby left the store. No one moved.
"I think I'll go see how Carla is coming with that fabric," Marjory said when the silence had stretched to the breaking point. She handed Aunt Beth her purchase and headed for the classroom.
"Okay," Aunt Beth said. "I'll address the eight-hundred-pound gorilla that just left the room. That baby's eyes bear a passing resemblance to those of a certain veterinarian of our acquaintance."
"A passing resemblance?" Harriet said in a cold voice. "Passing resemblance?" she repeated. "Aiden has an extremely rare eye-color. It sure looked like that baby does, too."
"That doesn't mean anything," Aunt Beth said.
Harriet glared at her.
"Okay, it might mean something, but let's not jump to conclusions without hearing what he has to say about it."
"Are you ready to go?" Harriet asked.
"Let me go get my bag." Aunt Beth went to the classroom and came back a moment later with her canvas tote on her arm and her purple nylon purse slung over her shoulder.