Stitches in Timeby Barbara Michaels, Barbara Rosenblat
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When an antique bridal quilt appears under mysterious circumstances at the vintage clothing shop where Rachel Grant works, she is fascinated. She has never been able to resist handmade textiles from the past, for she believes that through the ages, women wove protective magic into their fabrics in order to mark the important events of their lives: birth, marriage, and death.
But there is more than good in the quilt's magic power. Day by day Rachel sees and feels the power growing, as she senses the quilt influencing her thoughts and actions. Much as Rachel's logical mind longs to deny the supernatural, the aura of evil coming from the quilt is terrifyingly real, and it seems to carry a sinister legacy into the lives of the people Rachel loves.
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She cursed the needle, the cloth and the thread, fixing each stitch in place with a word of power. The murmured litany sounded so harmless, like a cat's purr or a low humming, but the other woman shivered and hunched her shoulders, like someone pelted by wind-driven sleet.
It had been a long time since she'd heard words like those, but she knew what they meant, and the hands that Melded her own needle felt stiff and clumsy. She had tried to remonstrate, to warn. Might as well talk to a stone, she thought, or one of the white marble statues the old man had put up all around the garden. Heathen images they were, statues of old gods and goddesses. Naked, too, some of them. It was against Scripture: You shall make unto yourself no heathen images. She'd read it herself in the Book, spelling out the words with slow, painful care. It was a prideful thing being able to read, and harder than anything she had ever undertaken, without help or encouragement, but she had wanted to read His words for herself. This was worse than heathen images, though. This was inviting the devil into your heart and feeding him on your hate. He was there in the room with them; she could feel him. Two women, sewing by the fire, and that Presence, not hot like the Bad Place was supposed to be, but icy-cold.
"You're stitching your soul into it." The words burst out of her. "There's always a price to pay. You think it's her you'll hurt, but it'll conic back on you."
Like talking to a stone. The soft murmur continued unbroken. The needle gliding in and out reflected the firelight like a splinter of living flame.
"I can't stand it any longer."
Rachelhad never heard her speak in that tone before: flat, dead, uninflected. Cheryl didn't believe in repressing her emotions. When she was angry she could swear like a marine sergeant, at the top of her lungs and at considerable length; when she laughed her whole body shook and dimples dented her rounded checks. Now she sounded like a tired old woman, forty years older than her real age mid-thirties, Rachel assumed. The red-gold curls framed her gray face like an unsuitable wig.
Rachel glanced into the room they had just left-the hospital room where Cheryl's husband lay. He had roused long enough to acknowledge her presence and mutter a few words of reassurance, but now he was sleeping, stuffed full of painkillers.
"He's going to be fine. The doctor said he expects a full recovery."
"This time." Cheryl sagged, bracing herself against the wall. "He's been a cop for almost twenty years, sooner or later his luck was bound to run out. He could find another job, one that would pay better and wouldn't involve so much pressure. There was no need for him to answer this call. He wasn't even on duty, and it wasn't an emergency a domestic argument, they happen all the time. But he won't quit and he won't stay safe. They've all got guns these days, and next time it may not be his leg. Next time..."
They were only acquaintances, not on hugging terms, but Rachel put an impulsive arm around the other woman. "Come on, Cheryl. I'll drive you home."
"Not yet. I told Kara I'd meet her here. Anyhow, I don't want the kids to see me like this." She straightened, took a deep breath, and produced a smile. "I'll wait in the cafeteria till Kara gets here and bum a ride home from her. Or walk-it's not far. You probably have things to do, you go on."
Rachel's eyes moved back to the open doorway. She couldn't see his face; it was hidden by the white mountain of sheets and cast. She didn't have to see it. Fifty years from now she would be able to close her eyes and remember how he had looked, gray-white skin drawn tight over the fine bones, dark eyes sunken and opaque. Drawn with shock and pain though it had been, his face was the kind that would stop any woman's breath, and the nurse's hands had lingered as she tucked the blankets around him.
"Lucky," the doctor had said. Lucky the guy who had been beating up on his wife had grabbed the .22 instead of the shotgun. A shotgun shell at close range would have shattered his kneecap as well as the bones of his thigh.
"Poor Rachel." Cheryl patted her shoulder consoling her now. "This was a hell of a thing to dump on one of my best customers. I wouldn't blame you if you never came back."It was stretching the truth to call Rachel a customer, much less one of the best. Most of the merchandise Cheryl sold was far beyond Rachel's means-antique linens and vintage clothing of such extraordinary quality that her customers came from all over the country. The shop occupied the lower floor of the rambling old house in which the Cardozas lived, in the small Virginia city of Leesburg. Though not far distant from Washington, it was hard to reach except by car. The drive was a long one even for Rachel, who lived on the Maryland side of the capital, but she made the trip frequently because for her the shop was as good as a museum-better, in some ways, because she was allowed to examine the objects closely, to linger and touch....
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Meet the Author
Elizabeth Peters (writing as Barbara Michaels) was born and brought up in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. Peters was named Grandmaster at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986, Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar® Awards in 1998, and given The Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic in 2003. She lives in an historic farmhouse in western Maryland.
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