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WOW, GLOW-IN-THE-DARK YARN, DINAH SAID as I turned off the light in my room. We were examining the pouch purse, which we now knew was lime green and the six-petaled flower was a satiny pink and the whole thing was crocheted. In the darkness the purse disappeared, but the pink flower gave off an eerie light. We had slipped back into Asilomar without crossing paths with anyone from our group. We wanted to keep the bag under wraps until we could check it out, and had avoided the cocoa party by slipping up the back stairs in Lodge.

I flipped the light back on. The purse was on my bed between us. Okay, now that weve cleared up the strange light thing, you ought to see whats inside, Dinah said.

I knew Dinah was right, but I still hesitated. There was something unsettling about looking into someones purse. By the design, it was hard to think it was anybodys but Izabelles-after all, she was supposed to be the queen of crochet embellishment, and who else would think of using glow-in-the-dark yarn to make flowers? But what was it doing in an off-limits area?

I swallowed and opened the purse, reaching inside. Along with sand sticking to the fibers, I felt something cold and metal that had snagged near the top. It turned out to be a key with an Asilomar tag.

Theres an obvious way to be sure the purse belonged to Izabelle, Dinah said. Of course she was right, and we went out into the hall. We made sure it was empty, then slipped toward the door to Izabelles room. I had the key in my hand but I hesitated again. In all honesty I didnt want the key to fit. I wanted the purse to belong to some random person who had nothing to do with our group. If it was Izabelles, it brought up a lot of questions, like how someone in the middle of an allergy attack would decide to lob her purse into the bushes.

Dinah nudged me and spoke in a low voice, urging me to stick the key in the lock. I took a deep breath and tried to put it in. It didnt go. I felt a wave of relief and even laughed a little.

So, I guess we were wrong, I said, turning to go. Dinah took the key from my hand and turned it around. That way it fit perfectly, and with half a turn the door was unlocked and slipped open.

Neither of us made a move. If opening the purse felt strange, it was nothing compared to looking into her room. I was about to pull the door closed when something moved in the darkness and made a rustling sound. Both Dinah and I jumped as a shadow passed in front of the window. There was someone in the room. Instinctively I lunged forward, then slid on something as the shadow slipped out the window.

A moment later the room was flooded with light as Dinah flipped the switch. I skated across the floor on a flutter of papers, rushing toward the open window. But when I looked out, the small balcony was empty.

What was that about? Dinah said, her voice high-pitched with tension. My heart was still pounding as I took a deep breath.

Somebody was in here. I began to scoop up the papers, looking at them as I did. They had copy centered in the middle of the page. When Dinah saw one, she said they were galley pages.

They must be from Izabelles book. The one she was making the big to-do about. Her fusion craft. Dinah put on her creative writing teacher hat and explained the pages were typeset like the book. Its the last step before the book comes out. Dinah pointed to a notation penciled in the margin. She must have been proofreading them.

As we piled them on the bed, Dinah held up a page in front of me. Look at the title: The Needle and the Hook.

You think her big fusion craft was mixing knitting and crochet? I asked.

It looks that way. Dinah riffled through the pages on the bed. It also looks like most of the book is missing.

We both looked toward the window. Do you think the shadow was a woman, like maybe Adele? What if she found out the subject of Izabelles new craft and went bonkers? I pictured Adele ranting about the fusion craft soiling the purity of crochet.

I know she had a problem with crochet versus knitting, but do you think shed go so far as to break into a room? And what would be the point of stealing the galleys? Im sure the publisher has another copy. Finally, I think we know Adele well enough that if it had been her, we would have recognized her shape, Dinah said.

By now our heartbeats had returned to normal, and all that was left was the rush from the adrenaline. I glanced around the room with a different perspective.

I guess itll be my responsibility to pack up her things.

Dinah gave me a sympathetic nod. Yes, one more responsibility that goes along with the rhinestone clipboard.

The room was laid out about the same as mine, except there was only one twin bed against the wall. Aside from the papers it seemed orderly. Izabelles personal items were in several unzipped pouches by the sink. A stack of plastic bins sat against the wall. Each of them had a label for a session of her workshop. When I lifted the lid of the top one, I saw pillowcases with thread crochet trim and a lot of flowers in different sizes and yarns, along with a copy of her book. I walked over to the closet and opened the door. A faint scent of her floral cologne clung to her neatly hung clothes and the suitcase stowed below. When I turned back to the room, Dinah was sitting on the bed with a laptop computer open next to her.

What are you doing? I asked.

Checking my e-mail. You know how upset Ive been about not bringing my laptop. This is even better. She has one of those cards that makes it so her computer can go online anywhere. Dinah looked up and caught my expression of disapproval. Its all right. Im just going to see what I have. And I want to check a quote for the memoir workshop. So technically Im using it for the weekend. Im sure Izabelle wouldnt mind. The reflection from the screen illuminated Dinahs face after shed pressed the power button.

Hmm. It looks like Izabelle was in the middle of something and just let it go into hibernate mode. Dinah turned the computer so I could see the screen. The body of an e-mail was in the center of the screen. It had no salutation and said Dont do anything before you talk to me. Call me or at least answer your phone. It was signed Tom, ITA Sponsor. I sat down on the bed next to Dinah and put the computer on my lap, but I almost dropped it when my cell phone started to vibrate in my tote next to me. I hurried to get it before it started to ring. Dinah and I had kept our conversation to a whisper. Somehow, I didnt want to make any noise.

I answered the phone with a whispered hello.

Hey, babe, Barry said. Just calling to see how its going. I figured by now youd be in your room alone. Right, you are alone?

There was dead air. I couldnt lie when asked a direct question, but I also didnt want to answer. Saying nothing seemed the safest bet. Unless youre talking to a top-flight homicide detective who knows how to squeeze information out of the most reluctant suspects. In my case it was easy. He knew me well enough to recognize that the dead air meant something was up, probably something he wouldnt be happy about. Okay, Molly, lets just save us both a lot of time and cut to the chase. Where are you, and what are you doing?

I was going to call you. Theres been a little incident. I paused; what I was going to say next was going to get the reaction. One of the presenters died.

What? Barry said. I could practically hear his blood pressure go up.

The doctor and the police think it was from some kind of allergic reaction. I heard his breath come out in a gush.

Then it wasnt homicide. Good.

I told him the doctor thought Izabelle had suddenly developed a life-threatening allergy.

That sounds reasonable. He began his standard speech. The police will investigate. Stay out of it. Leave it to the professionals la la la la. He didnt actually say la la la la. That was the part where I wasnt listening anymore. Eventually he figured out something else was up, and he knew me well enough to ask me directly. Like I said, when someone asks me a specific question, I always tell the truth. Barry asked where I was. I thought he took the information that I was in Izabelles room rather well. But since he didnt ask about the purse, I didnt tell. I let him think I was being overzealous about my responsibility to handle things.

I understand you think its your task to pack up her things. But you have all weekend, and you might want to wait until you talk to her next of kin.

Barry seemed pleased when I said I would definitely take what he said into consideration. Then he signed off after telling me how much he missed me.

He just wants to protect you, Dinah said when I flipped my phone shut. It was pointless to try and keep our conversation private. Besides, Dinah knew all my business anyway.

The trouble is, I said, putting my phone away, he makes it so I cant discuss things with him. I can just imagine what hed say if I told him someone was in the room when we got here and went out the window. And hed get crazy if I told him we thought that what wed just read on Izabelles computer made it sound like she was planning to do something that would cause trouble.

We do? Dinah said.

Sure, look at it. It sounds like some person is telling her not to do something rashly. Dinah read it again and nodded in agreement.

I wonder what ITA is? she said.

I looked at it again, too. I bet the A stands for anonymous. Like Alcoholics Anonymous. They always give people sponsors.

And the I probably stands for independent or international, Dinah said. All we have to do is figure out the T.

For a few minutes Dinah and I thought of words beginning with T that might go with Anonymous and Independent or International. We got teetotalers, tap dancers, taskmasters, tastemakers, tattletales, techies and taxi drivers before we gave up.

Lets check Izabelles favorite Web sites. Maybe that will give us a clue, Dinah said, clicking on a button on the computer.

A list came up. A number of the Web sites had to do with crochet, but one popped out at me. I told Dinah to click on it. When the opening page loaded and I read it over, I nodded toward the screen.

You realize what this means, I said as we looked at the home page of peanutallergies.com. She knew she was allergic to peanuts. It wasnt a sudden allergic reaction.

Then why would she eat a smore laced with peanut butter? Dinah said. I flipped through some more screens that described first aid maneuvers. I pointed at the screen.

We both looked at the slender cylinder with the designation EpiPen. Underneath was a diagram of how to use it. Apparently you stabbed it in your thigh if you had a reaction to something and it would keep you going until you could get further help. The lime green pouch bag was still hanging on my wrist. I reeled it in and turned it upside down. A cell phone fell out along with a match of what we were looking at on the screen.

Hmm, one more thing that proves she was aware of her allergy and had taken precautions, Dinah said, examining the EpiPen.

I checked the cell phone; the battery was completely dead. Then how did she die from an allergy attack?

CHAPTER 9 | A Stitch In Crime | CHAPTER 11