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How do I look?

I twirled around for Raoul. “Isn’t that the same dress you wore last summer? What a faux pas!” he laughed.

I sensed he was trying to get me back for the fact that I’d butted into his last investigation (hey, I bought the kid a slice at Vinnie’s Pizza as an apology, what more does he want?).

To truly make up for my misstep, I have let Raoul handle the legwork for the next phase of the case. Next on ourtracking-down to-do list is Maria Martinez, and Raoul — thanks to his conversational flair and fluency in Spanish — had learned that she used to be the leader of the now-defunct Williamsburg Sewing Circle. In fact, she founded the group!

yessWhen Raoul first reported this to me, I was so excited by the news that I exclaimed “yes!” punctuated by a hearty fist pump. Usually I try to remain calm until all the evidence is in, but I couldn’t contain myself this time-after all, she may be able to tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the quilt without having to sniff the trail of the other sewing circle members!

Of course, then Raoul promptly told me that Ms. Martinez was in fact deceased, which killed my enthusiasm.

Before I could get too down in the dumps, though, he revealed that her quilts were being displayed at the Williamsburg Quilt Show that Friday night (man, hanging out with this kid is like an emotional roller coaster!) to which I couldn’t help but raise the fist once again in the air. This meant that we could peruse the quilts at our leisure and maybe find a part of the quilt with that mysterious lettering on the back.

But back to the present, where I provided a proper retort to Raoul’s questioning of my fashion tastes. “It’s my standard black dress, and no, it’s not a faux pas unless I’m seeing the same people when I wear it again.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but I cut him short. “You don’t count,” I said, which stopped him. He pretended to look hurt, but instead he offered his arm as we left our office to stroll into battle (a.k.a. the Williamsburg Quilt Show).

Quilts in a brewery

The show was taking place at the Brooklyn Brewery, which may seem like a strange venue, but not if you’ve been to Williamsburg lately. It seems that quilts are making a comeback with the artsy crowds (which is just as well, seeing as I’ve become somewhat of a quilt detective as of late), and since the neighborhood itself is ripe with artist types, it’s only appropriate that a quilt show find its way in the brewery, which is often host to art shows thanks to its warehous-ey space.

[The Brooklyn Brewery]We walked in to see what under any other circumstance would have looked like a full-blown art show—the key difference, of course, was that the subjects were quilts and the patrons were holding pints of Brooklyn beer instead of wine.

“Now this is an art show I can handle,” I told Raoul. (I’ve been to my share of SoHo art openings, and they were usually a little too fancy schmancy for my taste.)

[Brooklyn Brewery Beer Glass]The first order of business was heading to the counter to buy beer tokens, wooden currency with which to exchange for a lager. The brewery atmosphere isn’t much to speak of, but the tokens are really what have my heart. I’m definitely a token girl. They can rave about the subway’s new MetroCard all they want and offer free rides to Coney Island from now to eternity, but I’ll stand by my tokens, thank you very much.

Frosty plastic glasses of lager in hand, we inched through the proceedings in search of Ms. Martinez’s creations. I didn’t know what I was planning to find, but sometimes that’s all in a detective’s day—you sometimes never know what you’re looking for, or even if you’ll recognize it when you find it.

“Hey, this place ain’t so bad,” Raoul looked around and took a sip of his lager.

“See, I told you this neighborhood was where it’s at,” I replied. I didn’t even bother him about his use of “ain’t,” which I usually do. Hey, the kid is complimenting my ‘hood, so why look a gift horse in the mouth, you know?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he rolled his eyes. “So, let’s get the show on the road—where’s her goods?”

We wandered towards the quilts, which were all hanging on the back wall. Luckily, most of the people were occupying the picnic tables [inside the Brewery]instead of admiring the quilts—at the brewery, it’s clear that the beer comes first, and whatever artwork is adorning the walls comes in a distant second. These people were not here to exchange cards and gossip about who’s who in the quilting world. All the better to conduct an investigation!

I scanned the name cards next to each quilt, and stopped when I got to her name. There were five quilts in her section, including a bio which noted her many quilts and quilting affiliations. Curiously, it left out the fact that she was the founder of the Williamsburg Sewing Circle, though.

What’s the secret?

“What is it about this group that’s so secret?” I said before I even realized I was saying it out loud.

“What?” Raoul turned to me from his inspection of quilt #1.

“Oh, nothing, I’m just muttering to myself. But don’t you think it’s strange that there’s not one mention of the Williamsburg Sewing Circle here?”

“Maybe there ISN’T a Williamsburg Sewing Circle,” his eyes widened. “Wha ha ha ha!” “Hey, some of us are taking our jobs seriously over here!” I replied. “It just makes me wonder what secret they’re hiding, that’s all.”

“That, my friend, is for them to know and for us to find out,” Raoul said. Well, you can’t argue with that logic. With that, we set out to discover which-if any-of the borders were related to our mystery quilt. (After all, it could turn out that none of them were related, in which case we’d be back to square one—or block one, if you must—but such are the chances one takes in the detecting biz.)

Now came the tricky part, though. Since the previous borders we’d found had a word (or part of one, anyway) scrawled on the back, the only way we’d be able to identify a border was to look at the back of them.

We split up then so as not to look too obvious—although either way we did it, I had to admit we were bound to look a tad suspicious—and each focused on one quilt. I couldn’t help but think of Monty Hall’s game on Let’s Make a Deal, where he asked if the prize was behind door number one, two or three (I’d always try to guess from the comfort of my living room, but was glad I wasn’t the one in the hot seat because those games drive me crazy).

Just as I was discretely —or so I thought— lifting up the first quilt and putting it back when I found nothing (I did it under the pretense of looking carefully at the craftsmanship), a group of artistes sauntered by oohing and aahing.

“Oh, I do love what she’s done with the coloring here,” proclaimed a tall, skinny man with a goatee, which he scratched as if to prove that was he was saying was so deep, as his companion nodded in agreement at the brilliant statement.

I looked over at Raoul, who was two quilts away and was already rolling his eyes. I walked over to him.

“So it’s true what they say, this neighborhood really is becoming a Brooklyn SoHo, huh?” he scoffed.

“Hey, when you live in the coolest ‘hood in the city, you have to put up with such things,” I shrugged. I like to be obnoxious about the neighborhood — when he lets me, that is. He wasn’t buying it.

“First of all, this isn’t a ‘hood with people like this around, okay?”

“Okay… and… ”

“And what?”

“And, you said ‘first of all,’ so normally that is followed by a ‘secondly,’ or sometimes even a ‘third of all.’ ” You have to admit, I’d got him there.

“You think you’re so smart, don’t you, well if you’re so smart why don’t you figure out what kind of beer I was having, and get me another one. Some of us have some detecting to do!” I bowed to Raoul and, extracting two tokens [Brooklyn Brewery Tokens]from my purse, headed for the bartender. Much as I like to give Raoul a hard time, I must admit it’s nice having the kid around to bounce ideas off of and to exchange smart comments. I have some detecting friends who choose to go it alone, and I’ve often found it works much better to have a partner in such matters. After all, most criminals have a partner in crime, why not a partner in detecting?

Raoul to the rescue…

As I turned back from my musing, beers in hand, I saw Raoul’s face and immediately could tell he’d struck gold in the few seconds I’d spent visiting the beer stand — another good thing about having an assistant is that sometimes they do the dirty work for you!

I walked back over to Raoul and he could barely contain himself, his eyes bulging (sometimes the kid gives himself away by his enthusiasm, but he’s gotten better with experience).

“Mitzi, I found it,” he said through his clenched and smiling teeth. He traced a border within the quilt in front of him, which turned to be the last one we’d checked (it figures).

“At first I didn’t notice anything and was about to put the quilt back, but then it caught my eye,” he said.

“What caught your eye?” Sometimes it was like pulling teeth around here!

“I saw the ‘b’ first, a capital ‘B’ which was on the right side of the border,” he said. “Then I noticed an ‘a’ on the left and on the top was a ‘me’.”

“What the heck does that mean?”

“Beats me, but what I do know is that we’ve got another piece to our puzzle.” He nodded, taking his beer from my hand and clinking it against mine in a “cheers.”

Of course, I couldn’t resist a peek myself, and sure enough, the kid was right.

We sat down at a picnic bench—to sketch the border, finish our drinks and most of all, wonder what mystery was unfolding for us — before we headed out into the night.

One thing we did discover, though, was that the letters definitely seemed to connect if you put them together (although an “amsburg B with a “me” on top doesn’t exactly clarify matters much-still, it was a start).

I was glad that it was Raoul who had found it this time, since last time I had kinda stolen his thunder out from under the kid, so I wanted to treat him to our traditional post-case pizza.

“Hey, what say we visit Vinnie’s for a slice?”

“Didn’t we go there last time?” he said.

“Hey, when you’re in the neighborhood with the best pizza in the city, you can never get enough,” I couldn’t resist.

“Mitzi, I think you need to get out more.”

“Yeah, yeah — watch it, I’d been toying with the idea of buying you a slice.”

He put his arm around me. “Is that a new dress, and have I mentioned how fabulous you look in it?” Fake compliment or not, I was a taker.

“All right, you’re forgiven — a slice it is to celebrate one more border in this most bizarre case. You can even get anchovies if you want!” What the heck, I was feeling generous (usually, I don’t let the things near me).

“Have I also mentioned what a great boss you are?” he turned to me and smiled.

“All right already, don’t push it, don’t push it,” I smiled as we walked to Vinnie’s.

Bizarre or not, the case was definitely coming together under our eyes — and the Williamsburg Sewing Circle suddenly didn’t seem as innocent as they looked in their faded picture.

to be continued…