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Yes, mystery lovers, read on! Our mystery unfolds all during the year in a continuing series posted monthly here on our Home Page…

In February we introduced our mystery. You met our narrator, young Brooklyn-based “Quilt Detective,” Mitzi McDruben, along with her faithful receptionist Ruthie, and able assistant, Raoul.

Mitzi took on her first quilt case: The Mystery of the Missing Quilt. Her mission? To find a missing quilt. Her time frame? Exactly eleven days. Her problem? No one knows what the missing quilt looks like!

In this month’s episode, Mitzi’s assistant, Raoul, interviews the second of eleven suspects: Trade Winds Museum Board Member, Bob Balducci.

Read a new mystery episode each month as Mitzi searches for clues leading to the missing quilt.

Following each episode, take the Secret Passage to receive your instructions for making or finding eleven different quilt blocks in EQ5 or EQ6.

During the final episode, Mitzi solves the mystery, and YOU discover how to put your blocks together in EQ5 or EQ6 to form a secret “Sky Lights” mystery quilt.

Our “Sky Lights” quilt was designed especially for EQ learning fun by Fran Iverson Gonzalez from Edmond, Oklahoma.

Our mystery series was written by Megan McMorris, a Free-lance author from Portland, Oregon.

And now, grab your gumshoes. Tilt back your chair. But keep one eye on the door as you get ready to solve…The Mystery of the Missing Quilt!

Episode Three: Raoul Steps In

“This lock is anything but simple.” Bob Balducci said. “Ain’t no thief in the whole of the city can figure this out. And if they do, well, you got yourself a money-back guarantee.”

Suddenly, something he said triggered a quilt block name for Mitzi…..

“One cappucino with skim milk, please,” I say to the perky girl behind the counter at Joe’s Java House.

“Sugar? Cinnamon? Chocolate?” she chirps over her shoulder as she turns to reach for the skim milk. In the 10 years I’ve lived in New York City, I still can’t get used to how New Yorkers order their coffee. (Back in Chicago, a coffee with milk is a coffee with milk, no more, no less. But here, they can’t fathom that you may want to taste a little jolt without sugaring-and-whole-milking the whole affair up. I’ll bet in the Pacific Northwest, where the coffee boom really started, they could understand me.)

“Just skim milk will be fine, thanks,” I answer, reaching for my money. Dropping a few shiny quarters into the jar with the “Tips Make Good Karma” sign attached (I’ll be staying here for a while, so I want them to like me, at least), I make my way to the stool in front of the window overlooking Lexington Avenue.

Raoul is waiting for me across the street, in front of a window reading: Bob’s Bike Shop.

Raoul knows me well enough not to start his mission until I have a steaming mug in front of me. I give him a thumbs-up as I spread Raoul’s notes on the counter, trying to cram in some last-minute knowledge about quilt blocks (Raoul has been the quilt researcher on this investigation so far).

Although I usually prefer to be the frontperson in the operation, I knew that Raoul could handle today’s job. As a former New York City bike messenger, he would be able to bond with the subject at hand, thereby getting more information out of him. (My knowledge of bikes doesn’t extend much further than my childhood, basket-on-the-front 3-speed Schwinn.)

And even though our first suspect, Garret Green, was an easy case to crack, we couldn’t get too sure of ourselves.

Quilt Board Member Two, Bob Balducci, bike shop owner, looked like a tough character in his photo and I didn’t want him to get suspicious…

Besides, Raoul has been my trusty assistant for years, and is angling to be a detective himself someday, so occasionally I’ll let him take a case on his own under my supervision. Not bad, that kid.

Sure, there was the — shall we say, “incident”– back in ’93, when Raoul questioned a certain Mr. Montague a bit too hard about the mysterious disappearance of his siamese cat, “Liu Lio”. Turned out he had the wrong Montague (obvious after this Montague threatened to call the police).

All in all, though, the boy would make a solid private eye. And, at age 25, he still lets me call him kid, albeit with a little good-natured grumbling here and there.

Raoul entered Bob’s after getting my go-ahead, whispering “I’m entering the premises.”

Ruthie, my receptionist, and I had wired him for sound earlier in the day. I wanted to hear every word, so I could find the clue for our second quilt block and get Raoul out of harm’s way ASAP.

I sifted through the notes Raoul had xeroxed from a book called theEncyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by someone called Barbara Brackman, while I waited for sound to come through my headphones.

“Can I help ya, kid?” a voice boomed into my ears. I strained to see into Bob’s window but a city bus was blocking the way. They always come when you least need them.

“Yeh, I’m a bike messenger and I’m just lookin’ for some extra parts to jazz my wheels up a little, y’know?” I heard Raoul ease into his street-speak that he uses for opportune occasions such as this.

“No kiddin’, a bike messenger, huh? I used to be one myself. That’s a tough job, really takes a beating on your wheels between dodging them cabbies and businessfolk. Not to mention those crazy-awful drivers from New Jersey.”

They shared a chuckle. “Don’t get me started!” Raoul said. “You wouldn’t believe this cabbie the other day–stops right in front of me, man, to let out a passenger, see? I nearly flipped over the dude! I swear, man, it looked like he did it on purpose, y’know what I’m sayin’?”

“Let me tell ya, I’m glad I got outta that business. I got kids at home, y’know? I can’t go risking my neck every day anymore. So what’re ya lookin’ for, huh? Tires? I got tires. Rims? I got rims. Locks? Boy, do I ever got locks. Tell me what you want, I got it. See that sign out front, the one that says Bob’s Bike Shop? Well, that’s me, son. I’m Bob, this is my store, so you want something to fix up your bike, you ask me, son.

I want the missing quilt, Mr. Balducci, Mitzi thought to herself. You got that?

“Well, I’m just lookin’ ’round for now, to see whattcha got. I just got some cash burning a hole in my pocket from some extra runs I went on, and the first thing I want to spend it on is for my bike. Messengers aren’t known much for jazzin’ up their bikes none, but I take pride in mine, y’see.”

Raoul was having fun with this, I could see. I hoped he’d do just as well with getting some info out of this Balducci character.

Balducci said, “Hey, take as much time as y’need. Hey, what are you doin’ for locks nowadays?”

“Well, y’know, the standard chain has served me well so far,” Raoul answered. “It’s stronger than them Kryptolocks some kids carry around.”

“Forget about those Kryptolocks in the Big Apple!” said Balducci. “I seen somethieves who I swear have special cutters made to break through those things. When you’re done looking around, let me show you the latest in lock technology–I just got a patent for it. You’re the perfect customer for it. I like ya, kid, you take pride in your work. I always take pride in mine, too.”

“Pride in work is something I picked up from my mom,” said Balducci. “A quilter, she was.” Mitzi sat alert. “Do tell, Mr. Balducci. Do tell.”

The city bus finally moved but I still couldn’t see Raoul and Bob in the store. I guess I’d have to make do with my headphones. At least we got a positive ID on Balducci, and I was right across the street in case any trouble started brewing. So far, though, I believe Bob had rather taken a liking to my protegee.

“You shoulda seen some of the stitches she’d do, my mom, and the quilts with all these stars on ‘em – beautiful! ” Balducci continued. “‘Bobby,’ she’d say. ‘I don’t care nuthin’ ’bout you being no doctor or lawyer. Just do what you love.’ ”

“What!? You’re trying to tell me you took up quilting or somethin’?” Raoul inquired.

Thatta boy, Raoul, let’s get some info!

Balducci chuckled. “Well, after my mom passed, I took her place on a quilt board, just ‘cuz I saw how into it she was and all and she used to bring me ’round to the other board members and introduce me, so they kinda gave me an honorary seat or somethin’. Y’know, in my mom’s memory and all. The guys all call me a momma’s boy. I’m Italian, what can I say?”

Raoul laughed. “I can relate, the boys all tease me ‘cuz I talk to my mom every day.”

I laughed, because I’m one of those “boys.”

“No kiddin’?” said Balducci. “How ’bout that. Listen, I really like ya, kid. Let me give you a deal on this lock I was tellin’ ya about. I don’t show just anyone this, either, just for those who really care ’bout their bikes.”

I heard a clank.

Balducci said, “What you have here before you is the latest in technology. I call it Bob’s Square Chain. I like to keep names simple, no Turbo 2000X stuff for me. But let me tell ya, this lock isanything but simple. Ain’t no thief in the whole of the city that can figure this out. And if they do, well, you got yourself a money-back guarantee.”

Something he said triggered a name for me. I looked at the xeroxed pages spread across the counter in front of me, and saw the Squared Chain Block on my left.

Square Chain Block

I sped-dialed Raoul’s beeper.

“Hey, ya moonlight as a doctor or something?” Balducci chuckled as he heard Raoul’s beeper go off.

“Na, I’ve got to make a run. I’ll have to come back after my delivery. You guys stay open after 6:00?”

“Jeez, they really changed the technology since I was on a bike. No beepers for us, that’s for sure. Yeh, kid, we’re open ’till 7:00. And remember, ain’t no lock gonna work in the mean streets but this baby. Trust me, I’ve been there.”

“Thanks for everything, Mr…”

“Balducci. That’s right, Bob Balducci. Let me get ya a card, just got them printed up. Here you are.”

I stuffed all my papers in my bag as Raoul and Balducci finished bonding, and met him on the corner as planned.

“I think Balducci found a long-lost son,” I teased.

Raoul blushed. “Not bad, huh? I thought I still had the bike messenger lingo in me. I about flipped when he pulled down that chain, though, and said it was called the square chain. You should’ve seen the thing, Mitzi. No one’s getting near that thing attached to a bike. Woulda saved me a lot of heartache if I still was a messenger, let me tell ya.”

“Yeh, not bad, not bad at all, kid,” I patted his shoulder as we hailed a cab once we were around the corner from Bob’s.

“Hey, who are you callin’ kid?!” Raoul pursed his lips as he ducked into the cab.

Okay, so he used to let me call him kid.

“Mr. Big Shot now, huh? Okay, let’s go back and celebrate with Ruthie!

Mitzi thought…”We’ve got two down, but something tells me the next one isn’t going to be so easy.”

To be continued…

Is Mitzi’s premonition correct? Will her next suspect prove a tougher nut to crack? Visit us next month when Mitzi confronts another Trade Winds Museum Board Member in her continuing search for clues for solving the Mystery of the Missing Quilt.

Now YOU help Mitzi out by drawing the Squared Chain block in EQ5 or EQ6. You’ll find step-by-step instructions in Mystery Quilt Lesson #3.

(*The anti-New-Jersey-driver sentiments expressed in this Episode are completely the opinion of Mr. Bob Balducci and are not shared by those of us at The Electric Quilt Company who ourselves would rather be quilted alive than drive in New York City.)