Sins and Needles

Sins and Needles Book CoverChapter One

It was mid-June, and the sun was at its northernmost position in the sky. That meant its beams filled the big front window of Betsy Devonshire’s needlework shop, Crewel World, drowning the careful effects of the lighting inside, especially near the front.

Betsy was sitting behind her checkout desk shielding her eyes from the glare with one hand while going down a list of customers signed up for a knitting class. Most were beginners who had knitted all the simple scarves in exotic yarns they could possibly use, and wanted something more challenging.

So Betsy had hired Rosemary Kosel to teach her famous beginner sweater class, and her store manager, Godwin, to teach the fine art of knitting socks. Rosemary’s class, already full, was to begin the last Thursday of next month, but Godwin’s was starting in a few days and he needed another student to make the class pay for itself. Instructors were worthy of their hire, but Betsy could not afford to pay for instructors out of shop profits. Godwin was charging forty-five dollars for three ninety-minute sessions. Quick students would have one sock finished; all would know how to make its twin.

She checked the mail to see if there was another registration. There was, but for Rosemary’s class. She sighed and went over the list of both classes to see that she had the mailing address, phone number and e-mail address of each student – well, Mrs. Shipman had no e-mail address; she wouldn’t have a computer in her house – and was about to put the stack into her desk drawer when the door chimed two notes and she looked up to see who was coming in.

With the strong sun behind her, the woman was barely more than a silhouette, but Betsy recognized the sturdy outline and the blond tumble of curls around her shoulders. “Well, good morning, Jan! That twenty-eight count Laguna fabric came in, do you still want a piece?”

The woman came farther into the shop, saying in a Texas drawl, “I’m not Jan, I’m Lucille Jones. Remember me, from Trinity on Sunday?”

Betsy’s eyes widened. “Why, of course, Mrs. Jones! I’m so sorry! But you wore your hair up on Sunday – even so, funny I didn’t see how remarkable the resemblance is.”

Lucille Jones and her husband – what was his name? Robert, that’s it, though the first words out of his mouth over coffee after the service, said in an even more pronounced drawl than his wife’s, were, “Call me Bobby Lee, everyone who knows me does.” He was tall, deeply tanned, good looking, and he’d worn what every good ol’ country Texan does to church, stiff new jeans, western shirt, cowboy boots, and a clean black cowboy hat in one hand. It was probably rude of Betsy to be so surprised to learn he was a surgical nurse at a prestigious hospital in Ft. Worth.

His uncommon costume and disarmingly shy manners drew her attention, which was another reason she hadn’t paid close attention to his wife.

Who was standing at her check-out desk right now, waiting for her to stop wool-gathering. When her eyes came back into focus, Lucille smiled. “I take it this Jan is a regular customer?”

“Oh, yes, she’s in here a lot.”

“But you still thought I was her.” Lucille had a twinkle in her blue eyes. “I must look a whole lot like her.”

“Well, I can tell the difference now that you’re not outlined by the sun coming in the window, but you do look alike.” Both had sturdy builds, curly blond hair, and DMC floss color number 996-blue eyes.

“They say everyone has a twin somewhere in this world, so maybe she’s mine.” Lucille looked around without moving. “This is pretty nice. You told me about your shop, and I came to see what you have in knitting yarn. I’m looking for something fancy, maybe that kind that looks like fur? I want to knit one of those twirly scarves for my Goddaughter, who’s going into high school this fall.”

As she led Lucille toward the yarns, Betsy said, “Well, I don’t have as large a selection as Three Kittens or Needlework Unlimited, but I do lean toward the exotic. What color are you after?”

“Something mixed, you know, three or four shades of a color. Sydney likes green or turquoise. Oh, this one is pretty!” She took a fat skein of yarn from Betsy’s hand, a dense plush in shades of medium and light green, then her eye was caught by a group of skeins in a basket. “Say, you’ve got eyelash, I just love it. Do you think it would look nice knit together with this?” She held up the plush yarn.

“Yes, I do,” said Betsy.

A few minutes later, Betsy was ringing up a sale that included two skeins of the plush, two eyelash, two of a beautiful merino wool, a book of patterns, three pairs of bamboo needles in the larger sizes, and a fabric knitting bag to carry it all. Lucille handed Betsy a credit card and said, “This Jan you said I look like. What’s she like – is she nice?”

“Well, like you, she’s a knitter. But she goes to the other end of the scale from you; she likes size zero or even double and triple zero needles. She knits teeny little beaded bags and lace. She also does counted cross stitch. Her latest project is a Persian rug stitched on silk gauze, sixty count.”

“I like counted cross stitch, too; but give me a nice eighteen count linen. What eyes she must have!”

Betsy laughed as she handed over a receipt for signature. “She has excellent vision, but she also has a Dazor light.” The Dazor featured a big magnifying glass surrounded by a full-spectrum light; looking through it was like sitting in a window full of sunlight with Superman eyes. Used by advanced cross stitchers working on high-count fabric, it was also a Godsend to stitchers over forty.

“And she looks like me?”

The insistent question made Betsy frown just a little, but she obediently considered Lucille’s face and acknowledged, “You could be sisters.”

“What’s her last name? Where does she live?”

Starting to feel really uncomfortable, Betsy said, “I’m sorry, I don’t give out customer’s addresses.”

Lucille, instantly abashed, said, “No, no, it’s all right,” said Lucille hastily. “It’s me who should be sorry. But let me explain. My mama died a year ago February — Daddy died about five years before that. I was their only child and as I was going through their papers, I found adoption documents! Well, I was sure floored! I had no idea! But after I picked myself up, I thought about it, and finally decided to search for my biological roots. I found out I was left at an orphanage in Minneapolis, but it was like hitting a brick wall trying to get further than that. I finally told Bobby Lee – he’s my husband, he was with me on Sunday – ”

Betsy nodded.

“I told him we were spending our vacation up here.” She smiled in a way that showed she had overcome some objections on his part. “But you know something?”

“What?” asked Betsy.

“I like it up here. It’s really different from Houston, but it feels, I don’t know, right. It’s like I’ve come home, even though I’ve never been here before. Do you think that means my biological parents really are from here?”

Betsy didn’t believe in genetic memory, but she said politely, “I suppose it could mean that. How did you end up in Texas? Were your parents originally from here, too?”

Lucille laughed. “Oh, my, no! My mother was a proud Daughter of the Confederacy, and my father’s great-great uncle died at the Alamo.” She leaned closer to confide in an amused undertone, “Though there’s a rumor that his wife’s brother fought with Santa Ana.”

Betsy laughed.

Lucille opened her wallet to put her credit card away. “I know my birth date, so I’ve been checking at hospitals but so far haven’t found any record of a unmarried woman giving birth on that day.”

Betsy’s eyebrows lifted. “Maybe – ” She hesitated.

But Lucille said, her tone inviting, “What? Tell me. One of the ladies at church said you’re like a female Sherlock Holmes, so detect for me.”

Betsy, wondering vaguely which of her friends had spilled those beans, said, “Well, this isn’t detection, it’s more like deduction. Maybe your mother was married, but died in childbirth. Sometimes a father feels overwhelmed and can’t deal with a newborn.”

Lucille stared at her as if Betsy had said something ridiculous. “No,” she said firmly. “My biological mother is not dead.”

Betsy did not, of course, want to start an argument, but Lucille must have read something in her eyes, because she said, touching the center of her breast, “I can feel it, right here. She is alive, she’s around here somewhere, and I’m going to find her.”