Plagued By Quilt (A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery)

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9781410479013: Plagued By Quilt (A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery)
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The latest novel in the national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series
Yarn shop owner Kath Rutledge is at a historic farm in Blue Plum, Tennessee, volunteering for the high school program Hands on History. But when a long-buried murder is uncovered on the property, Kath needs help from Geneva the ghost to solve a crime that time forgot....
Kath and her needlework group TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Fiber) are preparing to teach a workshop at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, but their lesson in crazy quilts is no match for the crazy antics of the assistant director, Phillip Bell. Hamming it up with equal parts history and histrionics, Phillip leads an archaeological dig of the farm's original dump site--until one student stops the show by uncovering some human bones.
When a full skeleton is later excavated, Kath can't help but wonder if it's somehow connected to Geneva, the ghost who haunts her shop, and whom she met at this very site. After Phillip is found dead, it's up to Kath to thread the clues together before someone else becomes history.

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About the Author:

Molly MacRae, national bestselling author of "Spinning in Her Grave," "Dyeing Wishes," and "Last Wool and Testament," was director of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town, and later managed an independent bookstore in Johnson City. Her short stories have appeared in "Alfred Hitchcock""Mystery Magazine" for more than twenty years, and she has won the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PRAISE FOR

Also by Molly MacRae

OBSIDIAN

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

“But where will we find the real story? Where will we find the dirt? Where . . .” The end of Phillip Bell’s question disappeared as he paced the stage in the small auditorium at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, hands behind his back. The two dozen high school students in the audience tracked his movements like metronomes. I watched from the door, where I could see their faces.

Phillip, who couldn’t have been ten years older than the youngest student, screwed his face into a puzzle of concentration as he continued pacing. He brought one hand from behind his back to stroke the neat line of beard along his chin. If he hadn’t been dressed in a mid-nineteenth-century farmer’s heavy brogues, brown cotton trousers, linen shirt, and wide-brimmed felt hat, he would have looked like a freshly minted junior professor. The students’ reactions to him were as entertaining as Phillip himself.

Without warning, Phillip jerked to a stop, swiveled to face the students, and flung his arms wide. “Where?” he asked. “Where are the bodies buried?”

Startled, the teens in the front row jumped back in their seats. The boy nearest me recovered first. He slouched down again, stretching his long legs out so his feet rested against the edge of the stage. He smirked at his neighbor, then turned the smirk to Phillip.

“In the cemet—” the boy started to say.

Phillip flicked the answer away. “No, no, no. Not the cemetery. Boring places. Completely predictable.”

“Unlike Phillip Bell,” a woman’s voice said behind my left ear. “Full of himself, isn’t he? What a showman.”

I glanced over my shoulder to smile at Nadine Solberg. She’d crossed the carpeted hall from her office without my noticing. She didn’t return my smile. She was watching Phillip as raptly as the students and gave no indication that she expected an answer to her comment. I turned back to watch, too.

“No,” Phillip said to the students, “there’s someplace better than cemeteries. That’s besides the fact that no living Holston—or anyone else—is going to let us dig up his sainted Uncle Bob Holston or Aunt Millie Holston from the family plot. And you can bet that is chiseled in stone. Not chiseled on a gravestone, though.” The students laughed until they realized Phillip wasn’t laughing with them. When their laughter died, he turned and stared at the boy who’d brought up cemeteries. “You aren’t a Holston, are you?”

The boy started to open his mouth, then opted for a head shake. Under Phillip’s continued stare, the long legs retracted and the boy dropped his gaze to the open notebook in his lap.

Phillip looked around the room. “Are any of you Holstons? Last name? Unfortunate first name? Anyone with a suspicious H for a middle initial?”

Students shook their heads, looked at one another.

“Just as well,” Phillip said. “The Holston clan might not like what I’m about to tell you. Have you got your pencils ready? Take this down. Two words. Two beautiful words describing some of the most interesting places on earth. Some of my favorite places. Much less predictable than cemeteries.” He turned a pitying look on the formerly smirking boy. “And that makes them so much better than cemeteries. Where are we going to find the real stories? Two words. ‘Garbage dump.’ Yes sir, I love a good old garbage dump. ‘Old’ being the operative word.”

“Will your ladies and a crazy quilt be able to compete with Phillip and his garbage dump?” Nadine asked in my ear.

“I think we can hold our own, although ‘crazy’ might be the operative word in our case. Is Phillip always ‘on’ like this?” We watched as he described the contents of a nineteenth-century household dump in loving detail.

“You should have seen him when he interviewed for the assistant director position,” Nadine said. “He wore a purple frock coat. He looked like the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka, and he gave the search committee a tour of the Homeplace like they’d never heard before. As I said, quite the showman.”

“And it worked. You hired him.”

“Yes, I did.”

There was something in her voice that made me turn my back on Phillip Bell’s theatrics and look at her more closely. What I saw was the usual impeccable Nadine Solberg, director of the state-owned historic farm—a site people in Blue Plum liked to describe as Colonial Williamsburg on a personal scale, ignoring the fact that it was a nineteenth-century farm instead of an eighteenth-century town. Slim, silver, successful, and sixty, is how my friend Ardis Buchanan described Nadine. Sparkling would usually suit Nadine, too, but the sparkle was missing today.

“How’s he working out?” I asked. “Are you happy with him?”

I am,” she said. “He’s only been here six weeks, though, and the Holston jury is still out.”

“Ah.”

Nadine’s unease was easy to understand. She was new at the site, too, though not as new as Phillip. She’d been the state’s solution—plucked from a position with the Historical Commission in Nashville and dropped into this job in tiny Blue Plum—when the former director had resigned without notice four months earlier. Not only had Nadine taken over without benefit of a transition period, but she’d inherited a search already in progress for the site’s first full-time professionally qualified assistant director. It was a search fueled by private money raised by well-heeled Holstons from Houston, Texas, who knew how to make things happen.

“They’ve been miracle workers,” Nadine said. “They’re kind and generous people.”

“But that generosity comes with hidden costs?” I asked, thinking of the strings a powerful family might attach to the money they donated.

“You will never hear those words from my lips,” she said.

“Ms. Solberg?” Phillip called. “Ms. Rutledge? Coming on the tour?”

Nadine stepped past me into the room. “Unfortunately for me, there’s a meeting I can’t miss. But I’ll see you all back here in an hour or so. We’ll have snacks and cold drinks in the education room, and then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of Hands on History.” She paused. “Unless by then you’ve buried yourselves in Mr. Bell’s garbage dump and can’t pull yourselves out.”

The students laughed. Phillip didn’t ask again if I planned to join the tour and didn’t wait to see if I tagged along. Without looking back, he led the students out the door on the opposite side of the room. I turned to Nadine, but she’d already disappeared across the hall into her office and shut that door. I turned back to the auditorium in time to see the door closing there, too.

“Yes, thank you,” I said, feeling grumpy, “I’d love to take your tour.”

“That’s not what I was going to ask you,” a voice said from the stage. “But I’ll be happy to show you around if you want.”

I looked and saw a young woman standing in the middle of the stage, hands in the back pockets of her jeans, short dark hair pushed behind her ears.

“Are you one of the students with . . .” I pointed to the door Phillip and the students had gone through. But the room had been empty. I’d watched them leave.

“I’m a volunteer,” the woman said. “You’re Kath Rutledge, aren’t you? I recognize you from your shop. I’ve been in a few times. I love the Weaver’s Cat.” She looked down at the front of her T-shirt. “And I forgot my name badge again. I’m Grace Estes.”

“Where did you just come from?” I asked, ignoring her pleasant greeting and proving to myself, once again, how graceless my manners could be when something puzzled me.

Grace didn’t seem to mind. She looked over her shoulder at the wall behind the stage, hands still in her back pockets. I followed her gaze. Of course. There was a discreet door in the wall for back-of-stage entrances and exits.

“The education room’s through there,” she said. “I was setting out the refreshments.”

She hopped off the stage, and I made my way along a row of seats to meet her at the side door.

“Someday,” she said, “if Nadine gets money for renovations, it would be great to bump this wall out, add seats, and improve the traffic flow in here.” She grinned. “Do I sound like I’m doing a building usability study?”

“Are you?”

“Practicing, anyway. I took a class in building and design for historic sites last semester and I’m still psyched. Were you serious about taking a tour?”

“Believe it or not, I’ve never taken the official tour.”

“Come on, then. We’ll catch up with Phil.”

She opened the door and we started through at the same time, shoulders and hips colliding. I reached out to steady her. Grace laughed, then caught at my elbow when she heard my sharp intake of breath.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.” I put a few steps between us. And tried to ignore the feeling of her shirtsleeve on my fingertips. Only a spark of emotion had passed through me—Longing? Loss? A stab of love and pain—it had been enough to startle me, not enough to make me stagger. Not enough to look her in the eye and know more about her than I should. I still didn’t understand these occasional odd flashes. How was it possible that I could brush up against someone else’s emotional state merely by brushing against a fabric they wore? I didn’t like it, and I didn’t know why it had been happening since Granny died and I’d moved here to run the Weaver’s Cat—her shop that was now mine. It was crazy. No, not crazy; I was no crazier than Granny had been. And even if I didn’t like the flashes, maybe I was getting used to them.

Grace still looked concerned.

“Really, I’m fine.” I held out my hand and made myself smile. “It’s nice to meet you, too, by the way.”

Up close it was easy to see she was closer in age to Phillip than one of the high school students I’d mistaken her for. Her warm smile and the hands slipping into her back pockets again made her look confident and comfortable. I liked her. I liked the humor in her eyes.

We followed a brick path across an expanse of lawn toward the site’s dozen or so historic buildings. The two-story antebellum clapboard house—the centerpiece of the Homeplace—sat on a rise to our left. I spotted Phillip and the students straight ahead of us, leaving the log corncrib and heading for the barn.

“So you’re studying site management?”

“On again, off again,” she said. “Small problem with cash flow, but I’ll get there eventually.”

“Stick with it. Of course, the cash-flow problems will stick with you, too, if you stay with the public-servant side of sites and preservation.”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I’ve got firsthand experience with that. I worked part-time for a couple of years at a site in West Virginia. So, yeah, I’ve been there, but it’s what I love, so I plan to keep doing it.”

“Good. That’s what it takes. Were you really looking for me earlier? You said you were going to ask me something.”

“When I put the program handbooks together, I saw that you’re talking about signature quilts.”

“Signature quilts and crazy quilts. We’ll work with the students to piece a quilt combining both forms, although I don’t know how far we’ll get in two weeks.” When Nadine had described her plans for Hands on History, an enrichment program for high school students, I’d told her it sounded ambitious but exciting. Then, when she’d asked me to be one of the volunteer instructors, and told me I could introduce the kids to nineteenth-century textiles—my professional area of expertise—I could hardly say no.

“I’d like to sit in on the quilt discussion, if you don’t mind,” Grace said. “Or if you have room for extra hands, I’ll be happy to help with the quilting. I’ve done a few small pieces of my own. Nothing fancy, but if nothing else, I can thread a needle.”

I laughed. “And that’s not always a given. Sure, if you have the time, TGIF will be happy to have you.”

“Teaching who?”

“Sorry. T-G-I-F—Thank Goodness It’s Fiber. It’s the needlework group that meets at the Weaver’s Cat. Some of the members are quilters, and they’re going to do most of the work with the students on the quilt. I’m just giving the kids historical background.”

“Oh, right. Just,” Grace said. “Nadine told me about your background in textiles and museums. It’s very cool. Did you consider applying for the assistant director job here? I know you still get your hands on fibers and textiles at the Weaver’s Cat, but they aren’t historic. They don’t have the stories.”

“The timing wasn’t really right.”

Grace shook her head, maybe thinking I lacked drive or ambition. I could have told her about the personal and professional pain of losing my dream job at the Illinois State Museum because of massive state budget cuts. But there wasn’t time to tell that sad story—what I’d come to think of as my professional yarn—before we caught up to the tour. I didn’t feel the need to justify my professional and personal decisions on such short acquaintance, anyway.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said. “You’re a heck of a lot more unassuming than Phil’s ever been. As soon as he saw the position posted, he owned it.”

“How long have you known him?”

“You could say I’ve been there and done that, too. He’s my ex-husband. Look, he sees me. See the look on his face? Now watch this.” She waved her whole arm and called over to him. “Hey, Phil! Honey, I’ve got a straggler for your tour.” She nudged me again with her elbow. “He hates that I’m volunteering here,” she said, with a wicked chuckle. “And he hates being called Phil. See you later. Have fun.”

Chapter 2

“Limbs lost and battles won are of no particular consequence to Ms. Rutledge,” Phillip said when I caught up with the group at the barn. “A textile conservator doesn’t need to know that Carter Holston, patriarch of the esteemed family, fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain and left his left arm behind.”

The students hung on Phillip’s every macabre word. He sounded scolding, but then he raised his hat and smiled, and I decided his tone wasn’t personal. It might be a lingering effect of seeing Grace.

“It’s nice to have you with us, Ms. Rutledge.” To the students, he said, “Don’t let her mild manner fool you. Ms. Rutledge is a highly skilled professional when it comes to matters of life and death.”

The teens turned to look at me, and I did my best to appear more impressive than the average, short, thirty-nine-year-old woman.

“That’s the life and death of carpet beetles, clothes moths, and various fungi,” Phillip explained. “But pest and mold control isn’t a trivial issue for historic sites and museums. Ms. Rutledge will introduce you to quilting during Hands on History and, because you’re very lucky, she’ll let you in on the secrets of linen production.”

“Which will introduce you to the smell of retting flax,” I said. “That’s something you’ll never forget and kind of goes along with Mr. Bell’s garbage-dump theme.”

“Rancid and rotting,” Phillip said. “Excellent. All right, time’s wasting. Next stop is the garbage dump. We’ll take a shortcut through the ba...

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Book Description Large Print Press, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Large type / large print edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. The latest novel in the national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series Yarn shop owner Kath Rutledge is at a historic farm in Blue Plum, Tennessee, volunteering for the high school program Hands on History. But when a long-buried murder is uncovered on the property, Kath needs help from Geneva the ghost to solve a crime that time forgot. Kath and her needlework group TGIF (Thank Goodness It s Fiber) are preparing to teach a workshop at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, but their lesson in crazy quilts is no match for the crazy antics of the assistant director, Phillip Bell. Hamming it up with equal parts history and histrionics, Phillip leads an archaeological dig of the farm s original dump site--until one student stops the show by uncovering some human bones. When a full skeleton is later excavated, Kath can t help but wonder if it s somehow connected to Geneva, the ghost who haunts her shop, and whom she met at this very site. After Phillip is found dead, it s up to Kath to thread the clues together before someone else becomes history. Seller Inventory # AAS9781410479013

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Book Description Large Print Press, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Large type / large print edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. The latest novel in the national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series Yarn shop owner Kath Rutledge is at a historic farm in Blue Plum, Tennessee, volunteering for the high school program Hands on History. But when a long-buried murder is uncovered on the property, Kath needs help from Geneva the ghost to solve a crime that time forgot. Kath and her needlework group TGIF (Thank Goodness It s Fiber) are preparing to teach a workshop at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, but their lesson in crazy quilts is no match for the crazy antics of the assistant director, Phillip Bell. Hamming it up with equal parts history and histrionics, Phillip leads an archaeological dig of the farm s original dump site--until one student stops the show by uncovering some human bones. When a full skeleton is later excavated, Kath can t help but wonder if it s somehow connected to Geneva, the ghost who haunts her shop, and whom she met at this very site. After Phillip is found dead, it s up to Kath to thread the clues together before someone else becomes history. Seller Inventory # AAS9781410479013

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