Authors: Betty Hechtman
Yarn to Go
First in the Yarn Retreat Mysteries
“A cozy mystery that you won’t want to put down. It combines cooking, knitting, and murder in one great book!”
“The California seaside is the backdrop to this captivating cozy that will have readers heading for the yarn store in droves.”
Debbie’s Book Bag
“A nicely knitted yarn where the setting was idyllic.”
“What a great start to a new series. But I would expect nothing less from the very talented Betty Hechtman—author of the Crochet Mysteries. This was a real page-turner.”
Praise for Betty Hechtman’s National Bestselling Crochet Mysteries
“What fun—crochet and mystery.”
—Vanna White, cohost of
Wheel of Fortune
“Get hooked on this new author! . . . Who can resist a sleuth named Pink, a slew of interesting minor characters, and a fun fringe-of-Hollywood setting?”
“A delightful addition to the mystery genre.”
—Earlene Fowler, national bestselling author
“Readers couldn’t ask for a more rollicking read.”
“Fun . . . Has a great hook and a cast of characters that enliven any scene.”
The Mystery Reader
“A wonderfully woven tale . . . A well-crafted mystery that gets unraveled one strand at a time.”
The Best Reviews
“Hechtman’s charming crochet mystery series is clever and lively.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Betty Hechtman
HOOKED ON MURDER
D MEN DON’T CROCHET
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
A STITCH IN CRIME
U BETTER KNOT DIE
HIND THE SEAMS
OKS COULD KILL
ETTER OR WORSTED
Yarn Retreat Mysteries
RN TO GO
THE LAMB’S WOOL
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
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SILENCE OF THE LAMB’S WOOL
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Betty Hechtman.
by Betty Hechtman copyright © 2014 by Betty Hechtman.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-14310-4
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / July 2014
Cover illustration by Patricia Castelao.
Cover design by Rita Frangie.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
I want to thank my editor, Sandy Harding, for once again doing a great job with this book. As always, her comments and suggestions were right on the mark. Thank you to my agent, Jessica Faust, for helping me navigate the changing world of publishing.
There is a lot in this book about sheep shearing, processing wool for spinning, and spinning. I had so much help from all over the country with that information. Christine Thresh sent me her wonderful booklet on spinning with a drop spindle. The Pierce College Farm Walk in Woodland Hills, California, offered me the chance to see Chris Vandiver shear several sheep. Thank you to Amanda Beck, Danielle Snowden and Billie Kariher for the information about sheep and wool. Los Angeles firefighter and paramedic Tom Rodriguez let me look around his rescue ambulance.
Across the country, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival gave me the opportunity to see how many different kinds of sheep there are and to purchase some handspun wool yarn from Snook Farm.
Thank you to the owners of the Village Spinning & Weaving Shop in Solvang, California, for telling me all about wool combs and urging me to use them in the book.
My Thursday group of Rene Biederman, Alice Chiredijan, Terry Cohen, Trish Culkin, Clara Feeney, Sonia Flaum, Lily Gillis, Winnie Hineson, Linda Hopkins, Debbie Kratofil, Reva Mallon, Elayne Moschin and Paula Tesler are always a great help and offer lots of support. A special thank-you to Linda Hopkins for acting as my tech editor. Roberta Martia always offers good yarn advice.
And I can’t forget my cookie and muffin tasters, Burl, Max and Samantha!
There is nothing like being awakened by a ringing phone and finding a pair of yellow eyes staring back at you. I think Julius knew I’d never had a pet and he’d taken it on as his duty to train me in the art of cat cohabitation, which included sitting on my chest when he wanted breakfast. His yellow eyes blinked at me as if to say, “Would you get up and get me some food. Preferably that stuff in the can with the fabulous fishy odor.”
The fluffy black cat let out a complaining meow as I tried to move him out of the way so I could reach for the cordless, which continued to ring insistently. He held on tight and jumped off only at the last minute with another meow as I clicked on the phone.
“What was that noise?” my mother said, skipping right past a “hello” or “good morning.” “It sounded like a cat. Casey, don’t tell me you got a cat. Not with your history.”
This was exactly why I hadn’t told her about Julius. Besides, I didn’t really “get” Julius. He showed up at my door, invited himself in and stayed. I could only guess at his backstory. I’d taken him to the vet, who gave him his shots and told me he was somewhere between one and five years old. Since he’d already been neutered, it appeared he had belonged to somebody and then was most likely abandoned. Along with the other cat supplies, I’d gotten him a collar with his name on it and had him chipped.
The history my mother was referring to was the fact that I had trouble sticking with things. How could I explain to her that the cat was different? I might have trouble sticking with professions, but Julius and I were going to be together for his forever, no matter what. But I needn’t have worried about an explanation, because she didn’t leave space for one. She just launched into her call.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?” my mother said, before offering some excuse about the time difference. C’mon. My mother is a cardiologist who fixes broken hearts. Did she really expect me to believe she couldn’t calculate that 9:00 a.m. in Chicago translated to 7:00 a.m. here in Cadbury by the Sea, California? Nor did I believe that she didn’t remember that I worked nights baking desserts for the Blue Door restaurant and muffins for the coffee spots in town.
I sat up, reluctantly pulling back the snuggly lightweight down comforter I’d been cocooned in as my mother continued on with small talk. She always began our calls that way, as if I didn’t know what was coming. My feet touched the cold wood floor and felt their way into the rose-colored plush slippers next to the bed. The light coming in the room was flat and I could see a snippet of the white sky. It didn’t matter that it was May; the weather was the same as it had been in November. Cool, cloudy and damp.
Once I was well versed in what was going on with my pediatrician father, she moved on to the real point of the call. If my mother hadn’t been a doctor, she could have been an interrogator for the cops.
“So, have you had enough yet? Are you ready to leave?” she said. I bristled silently at her questions. But I couldn’t argue. I had a certain reputation and I can’t say it wasn’t well earned. I’d gone through numerous professions—a semester of law school before dropping out, two years of substitute teaching at a private school before I faced the truth that it wasn’t for me. Even my gig as a baker had lasted only six months, until the bistro closed. But at least I’d loved it, and in a way it had led me to a future. The rest of the time I’d done temp work—everything from handing out samples of breath mints to spritzing shoppers with perfume. The only temp job I’d really liked was working at the detective agency, but that had ended, too.
Hoping a fresh start would make a difference, I’d relocated to my aunt’s converted garage/guesthouse in Cadbury by the Sea. With her help, I’d gotten a job baking desserts at the Blue Door along with the muffin-baking business. Thinking about my aunt Joan made my eyes get misty. Just a few months after I’d moved in, she was killed in a hit-and-run. I’d inherited her house and her business.
“Mother, it’s different this time,” I said. I could practically see her response. She was no doubt dressed in one of her many pantsuits and I’d heard one of her dangle earrings knock against the phone. I would bet her eyes had gone skyward as she’d shaken her head in disbelief.
I might have shared a little of her disbelief. It wasn’t as if I had any experience in the business my aunt had left me. It was called Yarn2Go and involved putting on yarn retreats. The next question was always, What are yarn retreats? The retreat part is easy to understand. It means a group of people withdrawing for prayer, meditation, study or instruction under a director. I guess the director means me. There isn’t any prayer or study involved, but since yarn work seems to be meditative, you could keep the meditation in. And there is some kind of instruction.
That’s where the yarn part comes in. So far it has been only knitting. Another reason for my mother’s disbelief was my basic lack of yarn skills, or so she thought. When I put on the first retreat I hadn’t even known how to knit. I have to admit it wasn’t exactly love at first clack of the needles, but something happened during the weekend and by the end I’d begun to understand why people loved working with yarn. You could say I’d caught the bug.
In the time since that retreat, I had upped my skills, though I still had a long way to go before I’d be close to my aunt’s level. At least now I knew how to cast on, knit, purl and cast off. I hadn’t discussed it with my mother, knowing there was no way she would understand.
I girded myself as I got ready to tell her about the retreat I had coming up the following weekend. “I’m doing an event Aunt Joan always wanted to do. It’s a little bigger than the first one I put on with only five retreaters. Well, six if you count the one who died.”
“If I were you, I’d never mention that anyone died again. Who would want to go on a retreat if they knew last time that someone didn’t make it to the end? So, what’s the big number of retreaters for this one? Seven?” It was as close as my mother came to a joke.
“More like twenty,” I said.
“Twenty?” she repeated.
“This retreat is totally different from the last. Joan called it Sheep to Shawl. We’re going to start off with some sheep getting sheared—humanely of course—then go through the steps of turning the wool into yarn. Finally everyone will knit a shawlette out of the finished yarn.” Before my mother could say anything, I added that I’d found somebody in town who knew about the process of turning wool into yarn and was handling that particular aspect.
My mother didn’t really want to hear all the details and cut in. “I’m just checking. The cooking school called to let me know that a new session is starting up next month. It’s all set up for you. You could be spending the summer in Paris. And at the end, you’d be a professional chef.”
I’d gotten the same call the previous month. When I’d first taken over my aunt’s business, my parents—well, mostly my mother—had stepped in, sure that I was just going off on another temporary job tangent, and offered to send me to cooking school in France, which she regarded as a way to turn my interest in baking into a real profession. I gave her the same answer I’d given her the month before: “Not yet.” I wanted to say “not ever,” but one thing I’d learned about myself was never say never.
After a few well-placed sighs of disapproval, my mother asked about Sammy. Sammy was Dr. Samuel Glickner, a urologist and my former boyfriend. He would have had the title of husband if my mother had had her way. Although we’d broken up, we were still friends, and he’d recently relocated from Chicago to the Monterey Peninsula and joined a urology practice. He insisted he wasn’t following me. He claimed to love the area and it was a chance to pursue his love of magic.
“He got a job doing card tricks at a bar,” I said. My mother gasped and I had to fight the urge to laugh. And I hadn’t even mentioned that it was kind of a tough biker bar in Seaside.
“Has he lost his mind?” she said finally. “What if his patients see him?”
If only Sammy could have heard my mother, he would have been so happy. He was convinced that part of the reason things hadn’t worked out with us was that my mother liked him too much. Well, not anymore.
“And the cop down the street, what’s his name?” my mother said.
“Dane Mangano. What about him?” I answered, playing dumb.
“Casey, I have eyes. Your father and I were only there for a short time, but I saw there was something between you.”
She was right about that. There was some kind of spark that flitted between us, but I was letting it fizzle out. He was a neighbor and this was a small town. I knew me. If things didn’t last and most likely they wouldn’t, I’d still have to live down the street from him. I wondered if I should mention the food thing we’d worked out.
Dane Mangano was a cop who cooked pots of pasta covered with mouthwatering homemade sauce. I made desserts, but when it came to regular meals, I was okay living on frozen entrées. Dane and I had worked out an exchange. He left me plates of the delicious pasta and I left him muffins and desserts.
I heard some noise on my mother’s end and guessed her next patient was there. Just before she signed off, she said her trademark comment: “I don’t get it, Casey. When I was your age, I was a wife, a mother and a doctor, and you’re a . . . what?”
My reaction was automatic, too. No thinking, just my back going up while I searched for a snappy retort. But before I could say a word, her tone softened and she added, “It’s only because I love you. Have a good day, sweetie.” Then with a click she was gone and I was left with a lump in my throat only she could put there.
By now I’d made it into the room I used as an office. What that meant was that I had left it the way my aunt had it arranged. Even to the point of keeping my knitting stuff in there. The knitted scarf I’d started during the first retreat hung from a doorknob where I could admire it. I was so proud of the fact that I had finished it completely, down to adding the fringe.
Because of my worry about finishing things, my projects after the scarf had all been items I could make in a short amount of time. I’d become a wiz at washcloths, small pouch purses and bandanna scarves.
The golden crocheted lion my aunt had made was still guarding the desk. And I’d left the seafoam green lap blanket hanging on the arm of the black leather love seat. I liked to think they were reminders of her and what I might make in the future.
I’d gone into the office to check the status of the tote bags for the early birds, as I called them. Three of the people who’d come on my first retreat were coming ahead of time for a pre-retreat retreat and would be arriving this morning. The three tomato-red bags still needed the drop spindles and the pattern for the shawlette.
Julius came in and popped up on the love seat, trying to get my attention. As soon as I looked at him, he jumped down and sauntered toward the open door, looking behind to see if I was following. I got the message and he led the way to the kitchen.
He went directly to the refrigerator in case there was any doubt of what he wanted.
“When this can is gone, that’s it,” I said, opening the refrigerator door. I’d wrapped the half-used can in multiple layers of plastic to contain the smell. I held my nose while I went through the layers, having gotten a whiff of mackerel when I first opened the can. A stink to me; heaven to him.
I realized I must love this cat. I’d fed him before I even thought about making coffee. He ate every morsel of his stink fish while I stirred some crystals in hot water. I looked at my aunt’s coffeepot and thought I really ought to start using it, but this instant stuff was so much easier. I sat down at the table with the coffee and a container of yogurt while Julius searched the bowl for any pieces he might have missed. When he was done, he nestled in my lap and began to purr his thank-yous.
It was nice having all this space after living in the converted garage, which was really just one big room. I knew my aunt would be happy to see how I was changing things around to make the house my own. The kitchen had been the first order of business and I liked seeing my stand mixer ready for action on the sea green–tiled counter. All my baking pans were easily accessible and my cooking tools nicely arranged in the drawers.
Julius took time out from his purring to tap me on the arm for his taste of the yogurt. I gave him the last spoonful and then we both got up. I had places to go and people to see.