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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 poses as an apartment dweller in need of pest control, in order to investigate Donnie Delgado, the fifth of eleven suspects on the Trade Winds Museum Board.

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 Six: Is this Apartment Bugged?

The harsh buzzer nearly JOLTED me out of my seat. Even after two years of living in this apartment, I still can’t get used to the sudden assault of noise that some would call a buzzer. Whatever happened to the pleasant “ding dong’s” of my youth? I wondered as I rose from my futon.

“Ouch! Mitzi!!,” Raoul exclaimed from the neighboring futon (I like to keep my furniture simple–no overstuffed floral couches for me, thanks). “That’s your buzzer?! It sounds like a burglar alarm or something!”

I shot him a slit-eyed look as I opened my door. “Watch it, buddy. You’re in my ‘hood now.”

Raoul finds it humorous that I affectionately call my neighborhood a ‘hood (even though I do live in a decidedly ‘hood-ey part of Brooklyn, I proudly admit).

He held his hands up in a surrender. “Wouldn’t want to mess with your ‘hood, now would I?” We like to joke around before a big case–it keeps us alert. You never know when alertness will come in handy.

After all, I was officially letting Suspect Number Five into my apartment–namely,
Donnie Delgado of Acme Exterminators.

“Acme Exterminators …you got bugs, we’re on the job….roaches, water bugs, you name it, we take care of it…would you like to take advantage of our free consultation this month?” A voice answered the phone the day before, sounding suspiciously like Miss DePesto from the Moonlighting television series.

So that’s what happened to her when the show got cancelled, I thought to myself. Can you imagine having to answer the phone like that every time the phone rang? It would certainly serve as quite the appetite suppressant, if you know what I mean.

Aloud, I rustled up my best helpless female impression as I informed her that yes, I’d love to take advantage of the consultation because gosh, I just can’t seem to get rid of those pesky buggies. And while we were at it, might I request the services of a specific de-bugger who had proven oh-so-helpful to my friend?

That’s how Donnie Delgado came to stand on my front stoop, looking somehow un-exterminator like. (I don’t know what I expected–perhaps a Ghostbuster-type contraption strapped across the gentleman’s back?)

Delgado looked like your average accountant on a Casual Friday: jeans and t-shirt, short brown hair with wire-rimmed glasses. At his feet sat a shiny red toolbox (I could only imagine what goodies were in that one). He held a clipboard, which he peered at now.

“Miss… Miller?” He looked up shyly.

“That’s me,” I confirmed my alias, stepping aside to let him into the hallway. “You’re on time!”

I tried not to sound too surprised (although I was–usually when servicey-type people say the standard “I’ll be there between 2 and 6″ that generally means you can count on them to show up at 7, if you’re lucky! Guess they figure a bug problem in New York City is more urgent than getting cable or an extra phone jack.)

He laughed. “Everyone always sounds so surprised,” he said, smiling.

I let him in to the apartment, closing the door behind me. Raoul and I had decided that it would be better if both of us were around. (The last time I was in an apartment alone with a suspect, things got a little shady for a second. I can certainly hold my own, but I’ve learned not to argue with a little backup. This quilt business could be a little more serious than we bargained for).

As I let Delgado in, though, I felt a little silly as I introduced Raoul as my friend—Delgado certainly didn’t appear to be much of a threat with his toolbox and wire-rimmed glasses.

Between the three of us (Ruthie, Raoul and I), my apartment had seemed like the best candidate for an exterminator’s services. My apartment building is hardly a shiny new highrise, and Ruthie still lives in Queens with her parents (who I didn’t want to endanger). Raoul lives in The Bronx (which I personally thought qualified for a thorough bug check, if you ask me. No one did, so I offered my place).

Delgado set down his toolbox, which my cat Maxine immediately spotted as a good candidate for intense sniffing.

“Go get ‘em, Maxine!” I thought. “Sniff ‘em out. Tell us if he’s got the Mystery Quilt.”

“Heh, heh,” Delgado crouched down briefly for an obligatory pat—he’d obviously learned that a quick way to a client’s heart is by appreciating their pet. Although if he decided to surrender the Mystery Quilt, that wouldn’t be too bad, either.

Instead, he stood at attention, eyes flicking across the ceiling. (I hate it when people do that–makes me nervous, kinda like when Maxine stares at the wall and you wonder if cats really can see ghosts.)

“What I’m going to do is check out your structure, see where the bugs are coming from, then I’ll ask you a few questions and together we’ll put together a plan of action,” he said, looking at me to give him approval.

You’d think the guy was planning a war or something!

“No problem, I’ll be right here,” I plopped down on the futon next to Raoul, turning on the t.v. with the remote. I wanted it to seem like we were actually doing something other than observing him.

With my go-ahead, Delgado took his clipboard and promptly disappeared into my bathroom. I tried to remember when I’d last replaced my Combat traps, and felt guilty when I realized it had probably been two months ago (which is “the limit” in Combat-ese).

Delgado appeared again, scribbling notes and nodding to himself before continuing in the kitchen.

If I’d realized my apartment would have been subject to such scrutiny, I would’ve bought some new traps to win points with the guy. (Kinda like when you do some last-minute cleaning before the housekeeper arrives so he/she won’t think you’re such a slob?) Clearly this was a man who took his job seriously.

But this was no time for vanity. “So, how long have you been an exterminator?” I called out to him over the MTV video which Raoul had turned to. Raoul raised his eyebrows at me and I shrugged. Hey, anything to get the guy talking. My previous suspects had been quite the chatterboxes.

I was beginning to wonder if silence wasn’t the language of the guilty.

“Going on 10 years now,” he answered as he emerged from the kitchen holding my kitchen plug. “Do you use this?”

“Ah, yes! But of course!” In truth, this was a rare day when I didn’t have dishes piled in the sink. To even see the bottom of the sink, let alone put the plug in place, wasn’t an everyday occurrence.

“I ask because it doesn’t properly fit in the drain. It looks like a bathtub plug. That could be one problem.”

He disappeared again. Raoul snickered as I firmly placed an elbow in his side. I wanted more question-and-answer period, less examining Mitzi’s household skills, if you don’t mind.

I was just beginning to get up and ask Delgado some pertinent questions of my own when he appeared from my kitchen. He went to his red toolbox then, taking out a red pen. Making a few notes on his clipboard, he turned it around so I could see. The guy had practically drawn up a floorplan of my apartment, complete with red markings which noted bug havens.

Unbelievable! I felt like I should get him a pointer and a chalkboard as he launched into his speech … with me sitting on one of those plastic-backed chairs of schoolrooms.

“As you can see here, the red dots indicate potential problems.” He used his pen as his pointer. “I only investigated the kitchen and bathroom, because if you get those under control, you’re all set. Now, just because you may not see bugs doesn’t mean you don’t have them. The key is to block any holes you have, this includes drains, crevices, what have you.”

I shivered visibly. This was a little more information than I’d bargained for.

“By leaving holes open, you’re practically inviting the bugs in. Now it helps that you have a cat, but don’t think that alone will stop them. These little fellows are shameless. I could tell you stories,” he started gesturing with his clipboard.

“That’s quite all right,” I intervened. No need to get carried away.

He reached into his toolbox and got out some wire mesh. “I highly recommend this for plugging up any holes you have in the walls and baseboards,” he said, shaking a little square of mesh in the air. “You can get this at any store. Put some boric acid in the hole, fill ‘er up with wire mesh and end it with some caulk so you can paint over it. This is an old building, lots of holes. But you can fight back!”

So we were going to war after all. War against the scuttly creatures of the world. I felt a need to grab a flag of some sort and start marching as he continued his speech.

“Now, you can do two things at this point. I can do the work myself now, or I can come back at a later time. Acme is really starting to branch into the prevention area, which includes blocking up holes like we discussed, because they realize that most of the problem is that people are inviting bugs into their home.”

“I think you’ll find that Acme really has a different approach than your standard exterminator,” he continued. “In fact,” again, he reached into his shiny red toolbox, “Acme has even gone so far as to trademark a special type of wire mesh. If you look closely,” he held up a square and separated it slowly, “you can see that the structure of mesh is completely revolutionary. Now, I don’t know how much experience you have with mesh, but everyday mesh is very simple in structure, made up of little squares. Acme Mesh, however, is made up of what we call square chains, because they actually twist around like a chain does. You watch a bug try getting through this mesh,” he nodded knowingly, as if the sight wasn’t pretty. “We like to call it the bane of a bug’s existence.”

You couldn’t mistake the look on Raoul’s face, which matched my confusion. The kid had memorized the major quilt blocks by now, and we had Ruthie standing by at the office in case we were stuck. But we’d covered the square chain territory before.

Could this be the clue–could there be a Square Chain, Part Deux?–or was it just a strange coincidence?

Or was it a setup?

“I’d like to think about it for a little bit,” I said. “Do you have a card?”

Delgado reached in his jeans pocket and pulled out a card, complete with a bug being squashed underfoot a huge man sporting an Acme t-shirt. Pleasant image. “Ask about our wire mesh,” said a balloon on the card.

“Remember, you’ve got to let them know they’re not welcome. Bugs don’t take a hint too easily–subtlety isn’t their strong point. So give me a call when you’ve decided.”

I shook hands with him, and with that, Donnie Delgado took his shiny red toolbox and left the vicinity. I shut the door behind me as Raoul struggled to get out of the futon (those things kind of suck you in when you sit in them sometimes).

“Is it just me, or did you feel like we got basically no information about the guy?” Raoul asked.

“No, kid, it’s not just you. Delgado was a closed book. I got no sense of who he is, except for his handy talent for de-bugging the place.”

“Yeah, just remember this–you might not see the bugs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, Mitzi,” Raoul laughed as he went into the hall before me.

“Thanks for reminding me, buddy,” I shut the door behind me, joining him in the hall. We left my apartment, en route to the office and Ruthie, who was no doubt waiting eagerly to hear how our case went. I wasn’t feeling so eager, though– even though we’d discovered another block, and the quilt was filling in nicely, I still had too many questions…

Just who was this mystery man? What was his connection to quilts? And why on earth was
he on the the Trade Winds Museum Board? I had no idea, and it really bugged me

To be continued…