The Long Stitch Good Night
An Embroidery Mystery
Although she's taken an interest in Irish embroidery, Marcy Singer can't help but abandon her needlecraft when handsome local brewer Todd finds himself accused of murder. Both Todd and his friend Blake's fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and neither is talking about what happened. Marcy is determined to stitch together some luck from more than a few four-leaf clovers and prove that the culprit was someone else...
I was ensconced in my favorite red club chair in the Seven-Year Stitch seating area listening to the rain drumming on the roof and the sidewalk. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, and I was reading a book on Mountmellick embroidery. I’d ordered several copies of the book on the traditional Irish craft to sell in my embroidery specialty shop this month, and I’d become really interested in it. I was eager to learn the stitches and make something using the technique.
I’d placed the phone on the ottoman in front of me before getting comfortable. My friend Riley Kendall, who was pregnant and had been on bed rest, had a doctor’s appointment today, and I was eager to hear how it went.
When the phone rang, I grabbed it quickly. “Seven-Year—”
“Marcy, it’s Keith. Riley wanted me to let you know she just checked into the hospital.”
“It’s time?” I asked, dropping my book onto the floor as I scrambled to my feet.
“Pretty close. We went in for her regular obstetrics appointment, and the doctor thought she should head on over to the birthing center.” Riley’s husband took a deep breath. “If she doesn’t go into labor by tomorrow morning, the doctor plans to induce. I could be holding Laura within a few hours.”
Laura was the name he and Riley had chosen for their daughter. She was their first child, and I could hear the anxiety in Keith’s voice.
“It’ll be great,” I said in what I hoped was my most reassuring voice. “Is there anything either you or Riley needs?”
“Your prayers and support,” he said.
“You’ve got it. I’ll be leaving for the hospital in—” I checked my watch. It was a little past four, and I closed the shop at five on Fridays. I’d left Angus, my Irish wolfhound, at home playing in the backyard this morning—it hadn’t been raining then—but I would still need to swing by, let him inside, and give him some fresh food and water. “—about an hour. Call me if you think of anything you’d like for me
“Okay. Thanks, Marcy.”
After talking with Keith, I called Sadie. She and I were planning on hanging out this evening while Sadie’s husband, Blake, attended a Saint Patty’s Day/fraternity reunion party thrown by Todd Calloway at the Brew Crew. Blake and Todd had gone to Oregon State University together and had been members of Alpha Sigma Phi. Blake had been chanting their motto all week: Causa Latet Vis Est Notissima—which is Latin for The cause is hidden, the results well-known. And he’d worn his phoenix-emblazoned sweatshirt at least three times this week. Sadie said every time she washed it, he wore it again. She’d been threatening not to wash it again but said Blake told her, “That’s okay. I know how to work a washing machine . . . probably.”
Todd might’ve been as excited about the reunion as Blake was, but I wouldn’t know. I hadn’t seen him this week. I hadn’t seen him much at all since I went to the masquerade ball last month with Ted Nash. Todd asked me after I’d already accepted Ted’s invitation. Todd had gone with Keira, a waitress at MacKenzies’ Mochas.
Sadie and I had been invited to the party, but we felt it was really more of a guy thing. So we were going to make dinner and watch a movie at my house.
“MacKenzies’ Mochas,” answered Blake’s cheerful voice.
“Hi, Blake. It’s Marcy. Would you care to fix me up a muffin basket and let me speak to Sadie, please?”
“No problem. Anything wrong?”
I usually took muffin baskets to sick people or grieving families. I explained about Keith’s call and how I wanted him and Riley to have some food on hand there at the hospital. “I don’t think Keith will leave Riley’s side for anything . . . at least, not until after the baby is born.”
“Can’t blame him there. I’ll have the basket ready for you in just a few minutes,” he said. “And here’s my lovely wife.”
“From what I could gather from Blake’s end of the conversation, you’re getting ready to become a fairy godmother, aren’t you?” Sadie asked after she’d taken the phone from Blake.
Thanks to my somewhat petite stature and short platinum hair, both Riley’s father and uncle had dubbed me Tinkerbell after the blond, diminutive pixie from Peter Pan. Her uncle, Captain Moe—who ran a diner in nearby Depoe Bay—teased that I’d be Laura Kendall’s very own fairy godmother.
“It looks like it will be that way pretty soon,” I told Sadie. “Riley isn’t in labor yet, but given her high blood pressure and the fact that she’s been on bed rest for the past month, the doctor has admitted her. If she doesn’t go into labor on her own, they plan to induce tomorrow.”
“So then you’re canceling on me?”
“Only postponing,” I said. “I just want to take the muffins by the hospital and check on Riley, and then I’ll be on home.”
“Cool. I’ll go on over to Todd’s party with Blake and say hi to a few of their friends. Do you mind swinging by there when you’re finished at the hospital? That way, I won’t get to your house too early or too late.”
I waited for Sadie to reveal her real reason for wanting me to stop by the Brew Crew.
“And you can say hello to Todd—”
There it was.
“—and meet some of his and Blake’s fraternity brothers,” she finished.
“I don’t mind that at all.” I paused. “Do you think I should refrain from mentioning Riley’s news to Todd?”
Todd and Riley had dated in the past—Sadie went as far as to say Riley had broken Todd’s heart, and I sometimes wondered if he was truly over her.
As if reading my mind, Sadie said, “Marce, Riley is yesterday’s news to Todd as far as romance is concerned. He’ll be thrilled for her.” She lowered her voice. “You know it’s you he has feelings for now.”
“And what about Keira?” I asked.
“She was a last-minute replacement,” she said dismissively. “You know that.”
Actually, I didn’t know that. Todd had dragged his feet on even mentioning the masquerade ball to me, and he did mention it only after I accepted Ted’s invitation. Had Todd wanted to take me to the ball, he’d have asked earlier. Maybe he’d been waiting for me to have another date so he could ask Keira without hurting my feelings and ticking off Sadie and Blake, who had first introduced Todd and me (and had been hoping for a romance between us) since I moved to Tallulah Falls about five months ago.
I reiterated to Sadie that I’d see her later, and then I ended the call. I sank back into my chair, picked up my book off the floor, and reflected on the past few months.
Since I’d left my accounting position in San Francisco to open an embroidery specialty shop here in Tallulah Falls, Oregon, I’d been drawn to both Todd and Ted. I’d been hurt badly by my former fiancé about a year ago, and I was reluctant to embark upon a serious relationship with either man. I just wanted to casually date, and I thought that was what they wanted too. Todd had been through the breakup with Riley, and Ted was divorced.
But the more I got to know both Ted and Todd, the more I realized that they were both serious-relationship material. And I knew I’d have to risk giving my heart to one of them eventually, but I simply wasn’t quite ready to do that.
Of course, that hadn’t been much of a problem lately. Todd had been a little remote since the masquerade ball, and I assumed he’d been seeing Keira. Ted had been swamped with his duties as second-in-command of the Tallulah Falls Police Department since Chief Manu Singh was visiting relatives in India. Manu’s wife, Rajani—or, more commonly, Reggie—our local librarian, had returned from vacation last week and had told us Manu’s uncle had died while they were there. Manu had stayed behind to help the family get his uncle’s affairs in order. Reggie was hoping Manu would be back at home within the next week or so.
I tucked my book into my tote bag and then straightened the pillows on the two navy sofas that faced each other in the sit-and-stitch square. The oval-shaped maple coffee table looked good— no smudges—so I decided a quick dusting would suffice. I crossed the black-and-white-tiled floor to the counter and moved Jill, a mannequin who bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, so I could get to the cash register. I emptied the till and locked the money in the safe in my office. I usually made my daily deposits the following mornings, since I didn’t often get off work before the bank closed in the afternoon.
I stood back and surveyed the rest of the store to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything undone. The yarn and embroidery flosses were neatly in their maple bins, the books were carefully aligned, the red and blue braided rug in the seating area didn’t need vacuuming, and Jill was wearing a white beret with a four-leaf clover on the side and a KISS ME, I’M IRISH T-shirt. Everything looked super. I was proud of my little shop.
I locked up and headed down the street to MacKenzies’ Mochas. Every time I opened the door to MacKenzies’ Mochas, I had to wonder if this is what Heaven smelled like: cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, coffee. I saw that Blake had my muffin basket waiting on the counter.
“Aye, and there’s the wee Blake MacKenzie,” I said with a horrible attempt at an Irish accent.
Blake wasn’t “wee.” He was actually about six feet tall, with a broad, sturdy build. With his All-American blond hair and blue eyes, he was a stark contrast to Sadie, his raven-haired, brown-eyed, European-looking wife.
He scoffed. “You’re calling someone wee?”
“It’s an Irish thing.” I grinned. “Today even Angus O’Ruff is wee.”
“A dog as tall as I am and weighing in at about one hundred fifty pounds is wee,” he said. “Right.” He lapsed into his own terrible accent. “And what’ve ye been drinkin’, lassie?”
“Nothing. I’m just excited about Riley and the fact that it’s Friday, and Sadie and I are having a girls’ night later,” I said. “Just don’t you and Todd get into too much trouble tonight at your frat party.”
He placed his hand on his chest. “You wound me, me girl.” He didn’t roll his r properly and tried again. “You know, I should be able to do a better Irish accent, given that my last name is MacKenzie.”
“You really should.”
“Sadie tells me you’re stopping by the party,” Blake said. “That’s good. I know Todd will be happy to see you.”
Blake was every bit as transparent as his wife. I spotted Keira—a curvy brunette— walking toward the kitchen with a tray full of empty glasses.
“Will Keira be at the party?” I asked.
“Nope. She’s working tonight.” Blake smiled, making me wonder if he and Sadie had asked Keira to work just so she wouldn’t be at the party.
“Did Sadie make out the schedule?”
He laughed. “You know her too well.”
I shook my head and paid Blake for my muffin basket.
“Give my best to Riley and Keith,” he said.
“I will. Tell Sadie I’ll see her soon.”
I took the muffin basket and walked back up the street to where I’d parked my red Jeep. I appreciated Sadie looking out for me—she’d been like a sister to me since we’d roomed together in college—but she didn’t have to punish Keira for liking Todd. If they had a connection, then they should be able to date without any interference. I made a mental note to talk with Sadie about that later.
Before I started driving to the hospital, I checked my phone to make sure I didn’t have any voice or text messages from Keith asking me to bring something. Nothing. I guessed the muffins would suffice.
When I got to the hospital, I hurried to the maternity ward. The nurse manning the information desk directed me to Riley’s room. I noticed the difference in this area of the hospital compared to the other floors. The maternity ward was serene. The walls were painted a neutral beige rather than the icky green of the other floors, and there were beautiful prints lining the hallway.
The heavy wooden door to Riley’s room was slightly ajar. I tapped before noticing Keith sitting by the bed holding Riley’s hand. They looked like they were part of a painting themselves— one I’d call Blissful Anticipation. Both Riley and Keith were dark-haired, tall, and lean—except for Riley’s huge baby bump, of course. They were staring into each other’s eyes with joy, love, and expectation. I felt a pang. Had I not already made my presence known, I’d have taken the muffin basket and left it at the nurses’ station for delivery to the Kendalls later. But Keith was already rising to open the door the rest of the way.
“Come in,” he said.
I handed him the muffin basket, and he and Riley both thanked me.
“How are you feeling?” I asked her.
“Nervous,” she said. “But otherwise fine.”
“I won’t keep you,” I said. “I only wanted to drop off the muffins. You guys need some time to yourselves.” I knew that before long, Riley’s mother and uncle and Keith’s parents would be arriving at the hospital. Riley’s father was serving time in a federal prison for real estate fraud, but I guessed he was as nervous as any of the other grandparents. Maybe more so, since he couldn’t be here.
“Thank you,” Keith said. “I’ll keep you posted.”
As I left the hospital, I couldn’t help thinking that if my former fiancé David and I had gotten married last year as planned, I might be having our baby now. Of course, I was over David. I’d finally come to realize how very wrong we’d been for each other. But if we’d been as devoted to each other as Riley and Keith were . . . well . . .
I shook off the thought as I drove out of the parking lot. There was no point in imagining what might have been. It was better to think of what could be. I imagined myself in Riley’s place—one hand on my stomach where my baby was still resting, one hand being held by . . . Ted? Todd? Someone else?
I realized I could let myself get into a funk this evening if I wasn’t careful. I supposed it was only natural for a woman to feel a maternal pull when she walked into a birthing center. And that time would come for me . . . eventually. For now, I’d have to settle for nurturing Angus. I’d rented the Irish-themed Ondine for Sadie and me to watch with him this evening. Before you think I’m completely cuckoo, I don’t think Angus will watch a movie—I just want him to know I’m thinking about him and celebrating his nation’s holiday. Okay, so maybe I’m a little cuckoo.
By the time I arrived at the Brew Crew, the party was in full swing. And loud. Music, laughter, shouting, billiard balls slamming into each other or into the targeted pocket . . . Did I mention it was loud? Several people saluted me with mugs of green beer as I made my way through the crowd. I spotted Sadie standing in front of the bar to my right.
“Sadie!” I shouted.
She turned. “Hi!” She was holding a glass of green . . . liquid.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Believe it or not, it’s water.”
I wrinkled my nose in distaste.
“It’s okay,” she assured me. “It’s like regular water, only green.”
“I’ll pass,” I said. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah. Just let me say good-bye to Blake and Todd.” She glanced around the pub until she spotted them sitting at a couple of tables that had been pushed together. “Come with me.”
I dutifully followed Sadie as she zigzagged through the people and tables to where Todd, Blake, and their fraternity friends were sitting. Each man had a drink in front of him—most of them had green beers, but one or two had cocktails—and the overall mood appeared to be jolly.
“You are coming back to drive Blake home, aren’t you?” I asked Sadie.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Guys, Marcy and I are off.”
“Aw, come on, don’t go,” Todd said, his chocolate brown eyes twinkling. “You just got here, Marcy.”
“I know,” I said. “But I need to go home and check on Angus, and—”
“At least dance with me before you go,” he said. He dug in his pocket and retrieved some quarters. “Blake, my man, play us something on the jukebox.”
“There’s already music playing,” I pointed out.
“Sure, but it isn’t the kind we can dance to,” he said.
He was right about that. The music that was playing—some sort of Irish tune that sounded like a funeral dirge—was not a dance tune. But Blake was already poking quarters into the jukebox, and within seconds, a slow pop song started to play. Todd took me into his arms and spun me into a waltz.
He was wearing jeans and a kelly green button-down shirt. His dark hair brushed against the hand I had at the back of his neck, and I couldn’t resist tugging on a wavy curl.
He smiled. “I’ve missed you, Marcy. Where’ve you been the past couple of weeks?”
“Across the street,” I said. “I have a shop over there. Maybe you’ve seen it.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a laugh. “I remember it now.”
“You should,” I teased. “You used to come visit often enough. Now you hurry past on your way to MacKenzies’ Mochas.”
“Are you being the green-eyed monster on Saint Patrick’s Day?”
“Me? Jealous? Nah.” I smiled. “Seriously, if you’re happy with Keira, I think that’s great.”
“I’m not happy with Keira. We only went out once.” He stopped dancing. “What about you? Are you happy with Ted?”
“He and I aren’t a couple,” I said. “Is this really the time and place to discuss all this?”
“Probably not,” he said, swaying once again to the music. “But I do want to discuss it . . . later. Come meet some of my frat brothers.”
He led me back to the table where Sadie, Blake, and five other men were waiting.
“May I have the next dance?” a tall man with a receding hairline asked.
“Sorry, Graham,” Todd said. “I’m afraid the lady has other plans for the evening.” He turned to me. “Marcy, this joker is Graham.” He gestured around the table, introducing me to the others. There was a rumpled-looking guy who reminded me of a young Peter Falk as Columbo—his name was Charles. Then there was Andy, who appeared to be shy and unassuming behind his black, rectangular glasses. Mark was obviously a bodybuilder, and he sort of reminded me of Denzel Washington. Last was Roberto, a short, olive-skinned man with a mustache and a ready laugh.
“It’s nice to meet all of you,” I said. “Do most of you live around here, or are you just in town for the reunion?”
Graham, Andy, and Mark were locals. Charles was from Portland, and Roberto lived in Seattle. I told them I hoped to see them again, and then Sadie and I left.
“What did Todd say while he was dancing with you?” Sadie asked as soon as we got out onto the street.
“I could tell you it’s none of your business,” I said.
“You could, but you’re not that cruel. Come on. What did he say?”
I shrugged. “He said he’s very happy with Keira, and I wished them well.”
“He did not!”
I had to laugh at the way she was standing there gaping at me indignantly. “No, he didn’t. But you didn’t have to make Keira work so that she couldn’t go to Todd’s party tonight.”
“I didn’t,” Sadie said. “She asked to work because she needed the overtime pay. Her sister’s birthday is coming up, and she’s been saving to get her something special.”
“Oh.” I bit my lower lip. “Sorry.”
“Apology accepted. But now you have to tell me what he really said.”
“He told me he and Keira aren’t a couple, and he asked me about Ted. We decided we’d talk about things later.” I sighed. “I’m not sure I want to talk about things later, but I guess it’s inevitable.”
“Why don’t you want to talk about these . . . things?” she asked. “It all sounds pretty vague, if you ask me.”
“I don’t want to talk about my feelings because I’m still not sure how I feel. I like both men, Sadie. I’m just not sure which one I like best.”
She smiled. “You’ll figure it out. And since you don’t have to make a decision tonight, let’s go watch Almondine.”
“Ondine,” I corrected. “You’re thinking trout.”
“I am kinda hungry.”
The movie had just ended. Angus was asleep on his back in front of the television. His long gray legs would twitch occasionally, making me wonder what he was chasing. Sadie and I were sitting on my white, overstuffed sofa with an empty popcorn bowl between us. The credits were rolling, and we were debating who looked better scruffy—Colin Farrell, who had starred in this particular movie, or Johnny Depp, who had not. My vote was for Johnny.
“Come on,” I said. “Can you beat Johnny Depp for scruffy, swarthy hotness? Captain
Jack Sparrow, Mort Rainey . . . ? Hello?”
Sadie smiled. “While I’ll admit—”
The phone rang.
I held up an index finger. “Hold that thought.” I answered the phone with a chirpy hello.
“Marcy, I need to speak to Sadie,” Blake said.
He sounded odd, so I didn’t tease him about drinking too much and needing his ride home. I merely handed Sadie the phone. “It’s Blake.”
“Are you ready for me to come get you?” she asked.
I watched her smile fade.
“You’re where? I’ll be right there.” She turned the phone off and returned it to the table. “He’s in jail.”
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