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THIRTY-ONE

"ARE YOU GOING To bed?" Meghan asked. "You're starting to scare me with that thing."

I sat in the living room, glued to the spinning wheel, treadle pumping furiously in the hope that the smooth, neat yarn forming from the messy bundle of raw alpaca on my lap would spark the ordering of my own chaotic thoughts. So far it wasn't working.

"Not yet. I have to do more," I said.

"Have to? You sound like you're addicted."

I loved my housemate, but right then I wanted her to go away and leave me alone. I stopped pumping and allowed the wheel to come to a standstill.

"You don't understand," I said. "I'm thinking. This helps me think."

"And you have more thinking to do."

"Exactly." I began to spin again.

"Right," she said. "Well, goodnight."

"'Night" I said. Didn't look up.


Keep the strands smooth. Alpaca was exacting, the raw uncarded curls of wool irregular. Challenging. Maybe that was why I wasn't figuring this thing out. Maybe I had to concentrate on the wool too much.

I heard Meghan going upstairs to bed. After some time, a car went by on the street outside. If it hadn't, I wouldn't have realized how quiet the house had become. The wheel whirred. The yarn twisted. Gradually, I got the hang of it. Relaxed into it.

Ariel. Sex. Gabi. Ruth. Anger. Love. Chris. Jealousy. Scott. Hate. Daphne. Jake. Rocky. Irene. Fear. Zak. Lindsey. Barr. Thaddeus. Felicia. Robin.

Death.

Each person involved with this case, all those emotions, tumbled through my thoughts like stones being polished. The rough edges smoothed, allowing the truth to begin shimmering through.

The yarn grew on the spool. Soft and gray. Tidy.

All the strands coming together.

And my gray matter tidied what I knew. Categorized. Theorized. Motivations combined with circumstances, opportunities juxtaposed with temperaments.

An hour and a half later, when the alpaca wool was gone, I had two spools of single spun yarn, ready to ply and set the twist. And I'd figured out a few twists of my own.

This time all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly together. I knew who had killed Ariel Skylark.



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