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Chapter One

I have done a lot of embarrassing things, but this morning I topped even myself...

"No!" I yelled as the small gray terrier mix took off across my living room with a ball of blue yarn in his mouth, Cosmo, a black mutt who resembled a mop, was on Felix's tail and I was running after both of them. The lid was off the plastic bin I had so carefully packed, and balls of yarn in blues, greens and lavenders were all over the wood floor in various stages of unravel.

A growling Cosmo caught up with the offender, and the terrier dropped his trophy at my feet. Not long ago I'd been concerned that my life was too quiet, and now it had gone in the opposite direction. This chaos was just an example.

"Felix, you're adorable but completely naughty," I said, shaking my head at the gray dog. "It wouldn't be so bad if this yarn was mine," I added as I began to retrieve the colorful balls of fiber and rewind them, checking for damage. Yes, I could certainly afford to lose a few skeins from my overabundant stash. Actually, overabundance was an understatement.

"But this belongs to the bookstore," I continued, picking up the ball of royal blue mohair. Was it my imagination, or did the dog give me a quizzical look? Did he wonder what a bookstore was doing with yarn?

It all started when my husband, Charlie, died and I'd had to start a new chapter in my life. I'd gotten a job at Shedd & Royal Books and More as the event coordinator. Soon after I discovered that a group of crocheters, the Tarzana Hookers, met at the bookstore. They offered just what I needed - friendship and something else to do with my hands besides ferrying homemade caramel corn to my mouth.

In those days, the "More" in the shop's name referred to things like journals, writing supplies and a small array of chocolates. But my boss, Mrs. Shedd, was always looking for new revenue streams, and she realized the crocheters bought yarn and attracted yarn buyers to the bookstore. The next think I knew, we had a yarn department and I was in charge. Then we started putting on crochet parties in addition to all the author events and writers' groups I was already running. I suppose it was only natural to come up with our newest offering: the Yarn University. Yarn stores often offered series of classes that included make a project. I'd observed how they did things, and the idea for Yarn University had been born.

The Tarzana Hookers were loaded with talent and all ready and willing to be teachers. Strike that-all but one were ready, willing and able. I had talked Sheila, the youngest Hooker, into teaching a class her special technique, which incidentally had the most people signed up. Since she had no experience teaching, my best friend and fellow Hooker Dinah Lyons had worked with Sheila to come up with a plan. Everything seemed to have been okay, but now that it was getting close to the actual beginning of the class, Sheila was getting cold feet. Actually, more like frozen feet. She was shy and had anxiety issues and thinking about being in front of a group of strangers was freaking her out.

"This yarn is for Sheila's rehearsal," I told the dogs, examining the ball of yarn in my hand for damage. I'd come up with a plan to have her do a practice class, hoping it would calm her down. Secretly, I hoped it would calm me down as well. Since I'd talked her into it, I felt personally responsible. And there was something else, too-Mrs. Shedd had no idea there was any problem. I picked up another ball of yarn out of the bin.

"Can't use this one, either." Somebody had pulled the ball apart, and the fine yarn was a tangled mess. I looked at my two cats, who were perched on the back of the reddish brown leather couch. They blinked and closed their eyes, as if to proclaim their innocence. Cosmo danced around my feet, trying to show off that he'd rounded up the offender.

My other dog, Blondie, had just come into the room. Her strawberry blond, wiry hair might say terrier, but her personality didn't at all. She didn't mingle with the others much and spent most of her time in a chair in my room. She glanced at the rest of the animals, sensed something was going on, and retreated to her spot.

After I'd placed all the useable yarn back in the bin, I closed the top, this time making sure it was completely secure. I picked up the bin and started across the living room, followed by a parade of pets who knew what was going on. Here we go again, I thought.

"I'm sorry, but I have to leave," I said it without looking back. I couldn't bear to see the

looks on their faces. Sometimes I wondered how I'd ended up the mistress of this menagerie.

It had just been me and Blondie at first. After Charlie died and I was feeling very alone. Blondie and I sort of found each other at a dog rescue. I was pretty sure she had been adopted and returned-when I first saw her, she looked totally woebegone, and she seemed to feel as abandoned as I did.

I quickly found out that she was the Greta Garbor of dogs-she preferred to be alone. She'd already to her spot in my room and wasn't part of the parade that was trailing behind me.

The rest of the pets pretty much chronicled the changes in my life. Cosmo really

belonged to Barry Greenberg, my ex. I refused to say ex-boyfriend, because it just seemed weird to call a homicide detective in his fifties a boyfriend. It figured that a cop's dog would be the one to catch up with the yarn offender.

Barry's son, Jeffrey, still came by once a week or so and acted like Cosmo's owner. The dog seemed to play along, but as soon as Jeffrey left, Cosmo made it clear he was all mine.

The two cats' names were Cat Woman and Holstein, which had some point had morphed into Cat and Mr. Kitty (don't ask). They'd come courtesy of my son Samuel, who had moved in and out a few times, eventually just leaving the cats here.

And finally there was Felix, the gray terrier who, unlike Blondie, definitely knew he was a terrier. He'd arrived with Samuel the last time he moved back with me, when he moved back in with me, when he and his girlfriend Nell broke up. Thank heavens Samuel had stayed this time. Managing all these animals on top of everything else was a little much. Though at the moment, my son was on the road. His day job was head barista at a coffee place, but at heart he was a musician.

My mother was part of the She La Las, a girl group from back in the day who had one hit -"My Guy Bill." The group had turned the public's nostalgia for the song into gig as part of an oldies show touring performing arts centers across the country. Samuel had been hired as their musical director and roadie.

I got to my kitchen and set the bin down. The air smelled of the freshly baked biscuits that were cooling on the counter. Thankfully Felix hadn't learned yet how to get up on the counter or they would have been history.

"Presentation is everything," I told my animal audience as I put a checkered cloth napkin in a basket and loaded it with biscuits before covering them another napkin. I also had several small brown paper bags on the counter-I used a couple of paper napkins to line them, making sure the white corners showed at the top before adding the biscuits to each. Finally, I loaded everything into a recycled plastic shopping bag.

Then came the hard part.........

Seams Like Murder
by Betty Hechtman

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