She walked into my office on a hot, muggy night, one of those nights where you could wring the sky out like a wet pair of wool socks. She dabbed at her red eyes with a lace knit hanky and fell into the chair opposite me.
I pulled my feet off the desk and looked the dame over. She didn't look like my usual clientele, not by a long shot.
I'm Gyle, by the way. R. Gyle, and I'm a detective.
I get women sauntering in here from time to time, usually the kind with long legs and longer rap sheets, claiming they need me to unravel their troubles. Nine times out of ten, they cause more problems than I can solve.
This one was different. She had bags under her eyes and a run in her sweater that went on into next week. The callouses on her fingers and the double-points sticking out of her hair bun told me everything I needed to know about this broad right away. She was knitter, alright, and she'd knit herself into some kind of trouble. Bad trouble from the look of it.
I leaned back in my chair and pulled a notepad towards me. "What's the distress, damsel?"
"Oh, Mr. Gyle, you have to help me," she cried. "I think…" She blew her nose loudly into the hanky. "I think someone is trying to hurt..."
"Take it easy, sugar." I pushed a fresh cup of joe across the desk to her. "Tell me whose trying to hurt you."
She shook her head. An Addi DPN flew out of her hair and hit the floor. Size 2. "No, no. It's not me. It's my yarn."
She clutched the coffee mug like it was life-line and told me her story. She'd picked up a nice looking ball of yarn while on vacation. Foreign, single-ply, lace-weight… I know the type. She took it home and cast on for a shawl. It went well for a couple of weeks, then suddenly everything fell apart. One morning she woke up and found a slash across the shawl-in-progress, four inches across and neat as you please. The slash went deep, through the shawl and into the ball lying underneath, down as deep as inch in some places. I've seen a lot of knife wounds in my time; you don't bounce back from something like that so easy.
"I had just finished the beaded section," she wailed.
I refilled her coffee. You get that a lot in my line of work. People in desperate straits. It takes a practiced hand to keep them to the facts. That and a lot of coffee.
"Does the yarn have any enemies?"
She shook her head no.
"Does it go out much? Bars, clubs, that kind of thing?"
"No, the yarn never leaves the house. We like quiet evenings at home."
This was going to be a tough one. I could see that right off, but I didn't take this job because I like to do things the easy way.
"Sounds like you two were close. Could anyone have been jealous of the yarn?"
"I don't think so."
"Any moths hanging around the house?"
She straightened up. "What kind of woman do you take me for?"
I changed tactics. "What about cats?"
"Yes, one, but it wasn't him."
I rolled my eyes. If I had a dime for everytime I've heard that one, I could retire to Tahiti.
"No, really," she insisted. "Look."
She pulled the injured ball of yarn from her knitting bag and right way I could see what she meant. That cut was clean, and deep. No slobber evidence, no tangles and pulls. This didn't fit a cat's M.O. Unless her kitty was a one-toed jaguar with a chip on his shoulder, the furball was in the clear. This was looking more and more like a professional hit. Unless…
"Ma'am, I have to ask, has the yarn been acting funny? Are you sure you can trust it?" Sometimes a ball is just bad from the start. No one wants to hear it, but you do what I do for as long as I've done it, and you see it happen.
She shook her head violently. "No. I caked it myself. My yarn was good. I believe that. I have to believe that."
"Don't get wound up, toots. It's my job to ask the tough questions."
And this case was tough. The slash wound shouted foul play. No accidental drop of a pair of scissors leaves a cut like that. The scene of the crime was otherwise undisturbed. The yarn seemed clean. I was sure the broad was on the up-and-up and the usual suspects had iron-clad alibis.
I examined the victim's injuries under a magnifying glass.
"Tell me this. What's on the line here? If you peel away the damaged parts of the ball and you frog this thing right now-" She choked back a sob. I went on. "-And start it over, would it be enough? Would the yarn make it?"
She heaved a jagged sigh. "I've consulted specialists. Presuming no further harm comes to the yarn, they give the shawl 50/50 odds, but there's no hope for the damaged portions. The injury, you see-" Her eyes were welling up again. Stormy weather with 100% chance of showers. "-It… It goes all the way down through the cast-on edge."
I offered her a fresh handkerchief. You're not supposed to get wrapped up in your client's troubles, but in a case like this you had to feel for the dame. Even I'm not made of stone.
This case remains unsolved. It happens. One day a case walks in and makes you think about taking your name off the door and hanging it up for good. I'm still here though. And the yarn slasher? Well, one day he'll strike again and I'll be waiting. He'll slip up. They always do.
The dame and her shawl worked it out. Funny how that happens sometimes. Against the odds, but I guess it gives you faith that two of a kind can make a go of it in this crazy world. Between you and me? It broke my heart a little the day she walked out of my office. A detective's life isn't cut out for anything so delicate, but still… You can go long way in this world and not see anything like the beads on that shawl.