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 hunter to interview Rozzie Rothberg, the third 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 Four: The Apartment Hunt
“Hi, doll. I’ll be with you in one minute. Won’t you have a seat and fill this application out?” The woman behind the desk gestured to the chair in front of her, handing me a clipboard with an application attached as she reached for the ringing phone.
“Sorry, Lou,” she said into the phone, “a customer just came in so I can’t talk. Yes, I’ll bring the girl by tomorrow to see the apartment. Try to do something about Mrs. Barnaby waltzing around the hallway in her robe, though. I think she spooks potential tenants. No, I won’t be too pushy.”
She caught my eye, rolling hers and nodding as she pulled the receiver slightly away from her ear so I could faintly hear the yammering on the other end.”Yes, okey dokey, well luv, I’ve gotta run. Okay, swell, bye.”
She stood up then, all five feet of her, as she reached over her desk to shake my hand firmly. “Rozzie Rothberg,” she stated.
“Hi, I’m Maggie,” I answered, using my childhood cat’s name as an alias (rest in peace, Maggie).
“Oh, vey! What a day, if I’m telling you. I’m schwitzing here.” She sat back down, reaching for a pack of Marlboros on her cluttered desk. “Mind if I smoke? We’re not technically supposed to smoke in our offices, but if the other girls are out showing apartments I’ll light up now and then. One of the perks that comes with seniority, I tell them,” she cackled, lighting her cigarette.
“Ah, listen to me,” Rozzie continued, hardly drawing a breath. “I’m regurgitating words again! ‘Roz, shut up once in a while, maybe you’ll learn something!’ my husband, Roger, always tells me. Of course, that’s usually when we’re having an argument so what he wants me to listen to are his arguments, but what are you going to do?”
“So, what can I do for you?” she asked. She paused to glance at the application I’d filled out (I’m a pro at filling out false information). “I see you’re looking for a one-bedroom for two?”
“Yes, my boyfriend and I are moving in together,” I answered.
“How swell! Young lovers!” She leaned over the desk and said to me in almost a conspiratorial tone, “So, where’s the young gent?”
“Oh, he has to work today. But I gave him the address of this place in case he got out early enough to stop by.”
“Say no more,” she held up her hands in surrender. “When Rog and I were married, he’d work on the weekends all the time. A newspaper reporter, he is. That’s until we bought a log cabin in Vermont–my idea, of course,” she winked at me.
“Rog hasn’t worked on a weekend in 10 years. Loves his Vermont cabin so much he even painted leaves all over his car to remind him when he’s in the city.”
“So, let’s see what I have for you.” She turned her attention to a notebook of new apartment listings. “Oh, I have a lovely apartment I think will just be perfect for the two of you. It’s a 2nd floor walkup, floor-thru, eat-in kitchen, no bugs…”
As Rozzie rattled off the buzz words for apartment seekers, I gave a quick scan of her desk.
Something Rozzie had already said had triggered a thought. But I couldn’t pinpoint it yet.
I was glad that I was wired for sound so that Raoul could hear, because the guy had become quite handy at matching quilt blocks with clues.
More than that, I was feeling uneasy about going into an empty apartment with this Rothberg character. She seemed harmless enough (unless you count an ability to talk someone’s ear off), but up until now I’d questioned my suspects in a crowded establishment. Things had been pretty safe and easy, but I couldn’t take any chances. So when Raoul suggested that he pose as my boyfriend in case things got hairy, I must admit that I readily agreed.
Don’t get me wrong, I can handle myself — thanks to a handy combination of martial arts training, my trusty 45 that I wave around for effect on occasion but which thankfully I’ve never had to use, and a knack for talking myself out of tricky situations.
But if there’s ever one thing to learn from being a private detective, it’s to not let down your guard. Sitting across from Rozzie Rothberg in Slope Realtors in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, I was therefore thankful for some backup (in the form of Raoul, sitting on a street bench a few blocks down with his headphones on, listening to every word).
I, however, hadn’t been listening to every word Rozzie was saying. Instead, I was searching her desk with my eyes for clues. So it came as quite a surprise when she stopped talking.
“How does that sound?” she asked.
“Sounds great,” I winged it, feeling like a student caught daydreaming. I’d have to be more careful. I didn’t want her on my trail.
“OFFFkay, let’s go then,” she said, reaching into her drawer for a key ring that would make a locksmith proud. “If you take this apartment, I must warn you, though, the landlord is a little hard of hearing. If you call him asking for someone to fix the sink, you might come home to find someone tampering with the stove instead. Best to deal with his son–a real sweetheart, he is.”
She continued rambling as we walked down 7th Avenue, the main drag in Park Slope. Rozzie was pontificating about how much the neighborhood has changed over the years for the better as we passed by Raoul’s stake-out place (a bench in front of Ozzie’s coffee shop).
Raoul could barely contain the grin as we passed, due no doubt to the monologues he was overhearing on his headphones. So much for the detective’s poker face I had tried to teach him.
Rozzie and I reached our destination just a half-block away, and Rozzie pulled her mammoth key ring out of her pocket and started inserting various keys to find the magic fit.
“I need to get these things color-coded some day,” she said. She found success with the second-to-last key, and we clomped up a dark, winding staircase to the apartment, our shoes filling the air with hollow thumps.
I hoped my sinking feeling about Rozzie wasn’t right,
because it looked like the whole apartment building was deserted.
Could she have been tipped off that I was coming?
If she was the one to steal the quilt, chances are she wouldn’t appreciate a friendly visit from her neighborhood private detective. My heart stepped up its pace as we reached the door.
This time, she found the right key on her second try. She swung the door open and I entered, half expecting to come face-to-face with one of her “colleagues.”
Instead, a cat brushed against my leg. “Hi, Sallie,” Rozzie bent down to stroke the cat’s little black head. “She lives upstairs and likes to roam the hallways,” she said. “Go ahead, look around. Don’t let me stop you.”
I went into the bathroom first, “checking” the water pressure and any mildew and crevasses (you learn fast about what to look for when searching for an apartment in New York City).
“So, do you live in this area?” I called to Rozzie. I wanted to get her on a tangent about herself again. I left the bathroom and came back out to the front hallway where Rozzie was still bent over the cat.
“Yes, Rog and I rented our first apartment together in this neighborhood,” she said, straightening up as the cat lost interest and began sniffing the apartment. “We’ve lived in Park Slope for about 12 years now. But lately we’ve been spending time up in our cabin, as I was telling you about.
“A log cabin, it is,” Rozzie continued. “I didn’t know much about log cabins when we first bought the house but I like the idea of it, you know? Here I am, a girl from Queens, and I’m schlepping up to Vermont every weekend to spend time in my log cabin? What a hoot!
“It’s so peaceful there, though,” said Rozzie. You see, I’m a quilter in my spare time, and I get such inspiration when I have some peace and quiet. You should come out sometime, you and your boyfriend, what’s his name?”
“John,” I said.
“Yes, you and John should come up to our cabin sometime,” Rozzie continued. “Celebrate your first apartment together. I’m sure Rog has plenty of tips for living with someone. After all, he’s had to put up with me all these years!” She laughed, hands on hips, as she surveyed the room.
My beeper rang then, signalling that Raoul had found the clue. It’s about time, I chuckled to myself. Rozzie had said “log cabin” about five times.
It was almost like she was giving a clue away!
Even I, with my limited knowledge of quilts, knew about the Log Cabin block.
I looked at my beeper to “check” the number of the incoming caller. “Oh, it’s John. I’ll call him from a pay phone when we leave.”
“Sure, honey,” said Rozzie. “So, what do you think about the apartment?” she asked, holding her arms out.
“Oh, it’s great, I like it.”
“You haven’t seen the bedroom yet. Let me show you.” She led me through a curtain which cordoned off the “bedroom” from the “living room.”
I went to the window to check out the view (and to see if Raoul was outside — no sign of him), and looked back at Rozzie, who was watching me.
[Log Cabin quilt designed by Rhonda White, Brentwood, California]
“So, you’re a quilter?” I asked, scanning the room to look like I was checking it out.
“Oh, yes,” said Rozzie.
“It’s just a hobby, really, although I am on a quilt board of Trade Winds Quilt Museum which is great fun. I’ve even thought of entering one of my quilts in an upcoming AQS show.” She turned to look out of the window, placing her hands on the sill.
“You know what I really think, though?” asked Rozzie.
“What?” I said, wondering how I would plan my escape. I didn’t want to stay in the apartment longer that I had to.
“I think that you’re not even looking for an apartment,” Rozzie said, looking at me.
Rozzie turned then to face me, one hand still resting on the sill with the other at her hip. “You’ve shown more interest inme than the apartment. Who are you?”
Rats! I knew I’d been too eager. I took a deep breath. “I must be honest with you,” I said. “My boyfriend isn’t working today. In fact, we had a huge fight today and he decided not to come with me, and I guess my mind just isn’t into looking for an apartment. At the rate we’re going now, who knows if we’ll even move in together.” Would she buy my lame excuse?
“Oy, gewalt! My child, you scared the daylights out of me!! I thought you were an inspector of some kind, said Rozzie.
“Every once in a while they send out inspectors to make sure realtors are doing their job,” Rozzie explained, “saying the right thing to customers, and so on. You can always spot them because they seem more interested in you than in the apartment. The certification board thinks it’s good to keep us on our toes by periodically checking in, I guess, and I’d heard we were due for another round of inspections.”
“Whew! That was scary,” Rozzie continued, making a face. “I was kicking myself because I was running off the mouth with you and I’m not supposed to. Inspectors don’t like chatty realtors, although I never saw why it hurts any to start a little conversation going, you know?”
“Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about your quandry,” said Rozzie. “I’m sure that it will all work out with John. You guys really should come up to the cabin and we’ll give you all the relationship advice you’ll ever need.”
“Sorry to scare you,” I smiled. “Thanks for everything, but I probably should get going. I really like the apartment, though, and I’ll tell John about it.”
I started towards the door. Was she really scared about an inspection or was she playing with me?
The thing about people who talk a lot, they usually have a clever talent for the art of lying.
I thought it was in my best interest to get out of there ASAP. Rozzie followed
me to the door, making sure that the cat was in the hallway before she locked up.
We started down the stairs. “Of course, if things don’t work out with John, I know someone who is absolutely perfect for you. His name is Ben, and he’s fun, creative, rich, cute, and I just know he’d think you’re a real hoot. He’s also my son.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. One of my suspects was trying to set me up with her son?
“Thanks, I’ll let you know of John’s and my status,” I told Rozzie.
“Well, I hope you’ll call soon. An apartment like that isn’t going to last long,” she said, holding the front door open for me while reciting the classic realtor’s line.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said. “Nice to meet you, and thanks for showing me the apartment.”
“Any time, my child, replied Rozzie. “And remember: You know who to call for a nice young man!”
I laughed and waved as I made my way up the street in the opposite direction I knew she was headed, towards the F train. Raoul was nowhere to be found, but I knew he’d meet me at the office as planned. Even though yuppy Park Slope isn’t exactly his style and it was his first time here, the guy has a built-in radar for subways so I knew he wouldn’t get lost (I like to look out for the kid, but he usually beats me to the punch by worrying about my safety instead).
I saw the F train on the corner, so I looked down the street for approaching cars before I crossed. Rozzie Rothberg was standing in front of the apartment we’d looked at (which was now two blocks away), watching me.
A shiver went up my spine as I descended the stairs to the subway.
To be continued…
Is Rozzie the innocent realtor she seems? Or is she hiding something (namely the Quilt!)? Mitzi gets one step closer to detecting the missing quilt’s whereabouts next month when she continues her search in the Mystery of the Missing Quilt.
Now YOU help Mitzi out by finding and coloring the Log Cabin block in EQ5 or EQ6. You’ll find step-by-step instructions in Mystery Quilt Lesson #4.