begging for me to spin it into beautiful, luxurious yarn. It was awfully expensive, though, and I wasn't sure I was ready to work with it yet.

The co-op was housed in the old library at the end of First Street, which Chris had bought for a song-and several thousand dollars-after the town had constructed a brand-new, state-ofthe-art facility across from the police station. The ancient building reflected the important role logging had once played in Cadyville, built as it was of enormous Douglas fir trunks painstakingly chinked together. Inside, gleaming wood paneling graced the walls, tongue and groove floor boards creaked underfoot and wide, rough stairs worn visibly thinner in the center from more than a hundred years of footsteps curved up to the second level.

The first floor no longer held children's books, but instead offered various arts and crafts for sale. Upstairs, a collection of supplies and crafting tools dominated what was once the fiction section of the library. Toward the rear of the building, the former nonfiction and periodicals section had been divided into a half dozen small studio spaces for use by CRAG artists.

Heavy floor cloths painted in earth tones delineated functional areas, and light spilled in from well-placed windows. Chris had asked me to develop a signature aromatherapy blend to add to the atmosphere, and the mild fragrances of sandalwood, lavender, and orange subtly permeated the air, welcoming all who entered.

Thank goodness Ruth had wanted to continue my lessons despite the funeral. I really did walk away from those spinning sessions more calm and refreshed. With keys in hand, I hurried up the river rock path that led from the parking lot.

A few feet away, I paused.

The heavy wooden door was already ajar a few inches. I pushed it open, expecting to find someone manning the retail shop, but the interior lights were off. Someone must have come in to use the studio space upstairs and neglected to lock the door behind them. Cadyville wasn't exactly crime central, but risking robbery like that was downright irresponsible.

I looked back over my shoulder at the parking lot. Three vehicles besides mine were slotted into the diagonal spaces in the parking lot, but people unassociated with CRAG were always parking there, especially in the summer. The Red Dog Antique Mall took up most of the block across from the co-op, and customers frequently used our parking lot despite the signage threatening that they'd be towed. Daydreaming about spinning, I hadn't paid much attention to the other vehicles. Now I squinted into the sunlight. A powder-blue Ford Focus peeked out from behind a monster-sized king cab pickup.

Ariel Skylark's car.

Between her unkind words about Chris the other day, her absence at the funeral, and now leaving the door to the co-op open so anyone could wander in, it was well past time someone gave that snotty little prima donna a dressing down.

Pressing my lips together, I went inside and flipped on all the overhead lights. I strode through the eclectic displays, around tables piled with sculpture, art glass, jewelry, my Winding Road bath products, and a myriad of other items. Past those horrid blackand-white-and-red-all-over paintings and Jake's photographs hanging on the walls. Up the stairs, past shelves packed with supplies, barely glancing toward the section devoted to various fiber arts. The bamboo roving could wait.

That girl was going to get what-for, and the words for giving it to her formed with each step I took.

The smell of oil paint and turpentine attested to some of the activity in the studio. The area was divided into sections by moveable six-foot walls on wheels, so I could see the light was on in the far corner. That wasn't where Ariel worked; it was where Ruth had her spinning wheel and other equipment set up most of the time. Perhaps she'd arrived before me after all.

My ire lessened. No way was I going to yell at Ruth about the front door.

'Hello?' I called.

If Ruth had beat me to CRAG, then where was the old Buick she shared with Thaddeus? And why was Ariel's car in the parking lot?

'Hello?' I called again, weaving through the labyrinth of wall sections.


I came around the corner. 'Ruth?'

And pulled up short, staring at the floor.

My jaw fell slack as my mind struggled to process the information it was receiving. The figure lying on the floor on her back. The open eyes, directed upwards, unseeing. The puff of blue and green and pink fiber curled in her fingers.

The blue lips.

My first skein of homespun yarn wrapped around her neck.

I hadn't even had a chance to set the twist yet.



I HATE FINDING DEAD bodies. I mean, I really hate it.

And Ariel was definitely dead. I mustered the gumption to tiptoe closer, kneel down beside her, and feel for a pulse in her neck. Not so much as a flutter under my fingertips. I couldn't even tell whether she was warm or not, my own hands had grown so suddenly cold. It seemed crucial to know. I stood again, half-aware of wiping my palm against my shirt.

I don't like touching dead bodies much, either.

Why was it so important to know whether she was still warm? Something about how recently she'd been killed.

Murdered, actually. No question about it.

And that meant a murderer.

The thought clamped my jaw shut and sent whatever adrenaline I had left shooting through my veins like acid. I jogged to the stairs, pulling my cell phone from my pocket. As I moved, my attention ping-ponged around the room, an animal seeking a predator, fear sharpening my hearing and sight to something nearly supernatural. Air whistled through the ductwork above. Colors took on an eerie glow. One of Irene's sculptures seemed to leer at me as I hurried by.

I had a sudden flash that this could be what it felt like to go insane. Taking a deep breath, I muttered to myself, 'This is old hat for you, Sophie Mae. Buck up. You've been through worse.'

The 911 operator sounded ridiculously calm, given the fact that I was reporting a murder. She told me to stay on the line, and she'd send help.

'Sorry. I'll meet them outside,' I said.

She didn't like me hanging up, but there wasn't much I could do about that.

I stood in the shade of the giant yellow cedar in front of the coop and placed another call. Thank God, Barr answered his cell phone after two rings.

'I found a murdered woman,' I said.

A pause, then, 'Could you say that again?'

I took a deep breath. 'Ariel Skylark. The one I mentioned at Scott's funeral, the skinny little blonde from CRAG? Well, she's dead. Strangled at the co-op. I've already called 911.'

He swore. Loudly. Not at me, of course, but still. Then, 'Are you okay?'

'I'm fine. I'm out front.'

A flurry of voices in the background. 'Hang on,' he said.

A pause, more voices, and then he spoke into the phone again. 'I have to go. Apparently there's a murder I have to look into.'

'See you soon,' I said.

He was grumbling something unintelligible as he hung up.


It didn't take long before Barr screeched to the curb in front of where I stood. Like a leggy supermodel at a movie premier, Detective Robin Lane swung out of the passenger seat of the patrol car they'd obviously appropriated. Barr erupted from the driver's side, took four long strides and stopped next to me.

'What happened?' he asked.

'I'm fine,' I said again. Actually, I still felt a little lightheaded, but that seemed to be passing.

Detective Lane tossed her thick auburn ponytail and moved to stand beside Barr, notebook at the ready. She seemed to be standing a bit too close, but I pushed that thought out of my mind. Whatever her intentions might be, I didn't have to worry about Barr straying. After all, he kept bugging me to move in with him.

A thought flickered across my consciousness: unless that was what he'd wanted to talk to me about and kept putting off. Had he changed his mind? He sure looked mad right now.

'Where is she?' Lane asked.

'Upstairs in the studio area. You know where that is?'

'We'll find it,' Barr said.

'Good,' I said. 'Because I'm not going back in there. Can I sit in your car while you work your detective magic?'

They exchanged glances. 'Sure,' he said.

So I sat in the front seat and waited. It wasn't that I was afraid of dead people. Heck, Ariel was the second dead person I'd seen that day. And I wasn't afraid of the murderer anymore, not with Barr and Robin there.

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