No Quarter

Series: Cleopatra Jones Mystery, Novella, Book 4
Release Date: September 15, 2018
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Available Formats: eBook
No Quarter, A Cleopatra Jones Novella by Maggie Toussaint–Amnesia, the doctor says when accountant Cleopatra Jones wakes in a distant hospital. Hours later most of her memory returns. Detective Jack Martinez visits Cleo’s nearby wealthy client, only she’s dead and broke. To Cleo’s horror, she’s a murder suspect. Will she totally recover her memory before the killer returns?


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© Copyright 2017 – Maggie Toussaint
“Ma’am? Are you all right?

The voice sounded a million miles away. I barely caught the words. Didn’t matter though. I was too woozy to answer.

The voice persisted. “Ma’am. What is your name?”

Go away. Let me sleep.

Fingers pried an eyelid open, and a light blinded me. Startled, I tried to rear back, only there was nowhere for my head to retreat. The light winked out, then it blazed into my other eye.

Leave me alone. I tried to curl into a fetal position, only my arms and legs didn’t move. I was paralyzed! Icy fear shot through my bloodstream. I was in danger. Had to hide. Had to sleep.

Painful tingles lanced my hands and feet. I groaned inwardly at the awful sensations. Why wouldn’t they leave me be? I felt like a slab of meat with people standing around and poking me.

“She’s coming round,” the voice said.

“Ma’am, can you hear me?” a deeper voice asked.

“Yes,” I said, only my lips didn’t move. Cold. I was so cold. I shivered and trembled.

“She’s going into shock,” the voice said.


Joints ached. Head pounded. I squinted through slits of eyelids. White ceiling. White room. Where am I? What happened to me?

My fingers curled, nails dug into my palms. I tried to lift my head, and pain sliced through me. Beeps sounded. Footsteps approached. My eyes opened wide with terror.

A woman dressed in white beamed at me as if I’d won a prize. “There you are.” She punched a few buttons, and the noise ceased. The throbbing in my head lessened.
“I’m Nurse Holly Ann, and you’re in the hospital,” she said in a perky voice. “We think you were in a car accident. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Car accident? No way. I’m a safe driver. I tried to tell her, but my words came out gibberish. My pulse thrummed in my ears.

“Take it easy,” Nurse Holly Ann continued. “I’m going to check your vitals now.”

Vital signs. I’m alive. That was good news. A cuff squeezed my arm, sending my heart rate into a gallop.

The nurse stuck a device in my ear briefly. “Temp is ninety-seven. A little low, dear, but that’s to be expected.”
Why was it expected?

She must’ve read the question in my eyes. “Because of the cold weather. It’s January. You were wandering on a Christmas tree farm in northern Virginia. The farmer called an ambulance, and now you’re safe in the hospital. Sit tight, and I’ll get the doctor. He’ll tell you more.”

A tree farm? This was all so confusing. What happened to me? I tried to remember, but static filled the void where my memory should be.

“The charge nurse said you were awake,” a man said.

I opened my eyes, tried to speak, and got gibberish again. So frustrating.

“Ah, hello there. I’m Doctor Garwood. Good to see you’re conscious. You may be experiencing a headache. You have a concussion, and we’re monitoring you. Your CT scan came back fine, so there’s no internal bleeding. Blink twice if you have a headache. Blink once if you have no pain.”

I blinked twice at the tall man in the white coat, and he smiled.

“You’re doing fine,” he said. “You may experience temporary problems with speech and memory. That’s routine for your type of injury. Most cases like this resolve satisfactorily in twenty-four to forty-eight hours.”

An injury? I had no memory of an accident or injury. Then I rewound more of what he’d said. Oh. Memory loss. The mental fog made sense now. Regardless, I wanted out of here. I wanted to go home. I blinked twice and waited. Home. Where was home?

“We’ll get you squared away in no time,” he said. “Do you remember your name? Three blinks for yes, two for no.”

My name. Somebody asked me my name earlier. It’s . . . what is it? I couldn’t remember. I blinked twice.

“That’s what I thought, but your memory should return shortly. You have a bump on your head. Nothing broken and no other swelling, so you’re good there. Since you carried no identification, we sent your photo to area police departments.”

Photo to the cops. Good. My family would find me. Wait. What was that about a bump on my head? I blinked three times in a row.

He jotted notes on a chart, ignoring me. I tried to sit, but my stiffened joints protested.

Dr. Garwood glanced over at my thrashing. “Be patient while your body reboots. We’re still waiting on your toxicology reports and hoping for a positive ID. Sit tight.”

Sit tight. As if I could leave. I flexed my fingers again and then I tried my toes. They didn’t respond. Not good. I wanted to lift my head and see if they were still attached to my feet, but that would trigger alarms again, which would make my headache pound harder.

With each passing moment, mental clarity strengthened. I tried to piece the facts together. Something happened to me, and I was in a hospital. It was January, and I’d been walking through a tree farm. The farmer hadn’t recognized me, the cops didn’t know me, so I must not be local. Why was I walking around someplace I didn’t belong in the middle of winter?

I thought and thought until I gave up. Somebody must be searching for me. Somebody would come for me. My eyes drifted shut again.

Sand Dollar Secrets

Sand Dollar Secrets

Also available as a podcast through King’s River Life and read by actress Leigh Ratliff.  Click HERE  for podcast.

Shadows edged the lacy moonlight on the crushed shell path. A strong ocean breeze rustled through palmettos with enough bite to make me wish I’d worn more than a shawl over my sundress. My golf pro boyfriend, Rafe Golden strode beside me, our fingers intertwined, but even that direct link didn’t bridge the distance which had settled between us.

This afternoon he’d surprised me by flying us to an island off the coast of Georgia for a weekend getaway. Who knew he could pilot a plane? And where’d the plane come from? He’d shrugged off my inquiry with “I know some people.”

You’d think it would be heaven because we were finally alone. There were no kids, no mama, no St. Bernard with insecurity issues. Just the two of us. But it wasn’t wonderful, at least for me.

My name is Cleopatra Jones, and I’m an accountant in Maryland. This summer I started dating again, finally getting past my messy divorce, and I’d thought Rafe might be my Mr. Right. My heart said yes but my head said no way. I sighed out my confusion.

Our steps echoed on the wooden stairs of our coastal cottage. Even in this faint light, I sensed something was different. As the hairs on the nape of my neck snapped to attention, I noticed the front porch looked bare. Why? The rocking chairs and hanging baskets of ferns were there. A glance at the front door confirmed what my intuition knew. “Ledbetter’s missing.” The wooden sea captain statue had been guarding the door when we left for dinner.

“He can’t have gone far.” Rafe’s white teeth flashed in the darkness. “Not with two wooden legs.”

An owl hooted in the nearby woods. I prowled the length of the porch, my pulse jumping. “We’re responsible for your cousin’s place while her son’s in Atlanta. We should call the police.”

With a groan, Rafe leaned against the porch rail. “No one expects you to solve crimes here. You’re off-duty from sleuthing. This weekend is about us.”

Torn, I stopped a few feet away from him. “We should report the theft.”

“Cleo—” He held onto the last vowel of my name.

“At least phone your cousin and tell her the statue is gone.”

Rafe shrugged and made the call. “I’m getting her voice mail.”

“Leave her a message.”

“You’ll abide by her decision?”

I nodded.

“I’m holding you to that promise.” Rafe left a message and pocketed his phone. He walked toward me, drew me into his arms. “I’ve got my own mystery to solve.”

“Oh?” My pulse quickened at the sensual charge in the night air. Sensible concerns faded. This man had a power over me I didn’t understand.

“I’ve been wondering all evening how this spot on your neck would taste in this salt air.”

A tiny voice said I should make a stand. A louder voice shouted how much fun we were going to have. I summoned my best come-hither smile. “Go for it, big guy.”

* * * * *

Kaitlyn called back on Saturday morning while we enjoyed a late breakfast on the terrace. Rafe switched the phone to speaker mode, and I listened intently, my fingers gripping a china coffee cup. Overhead, birds trilled in the oak canopy.

“Your guy is missing,” Rafe began.

His cousin chuckled. “Honey, my guy has been missing for years. If he doesn’t find me soon, it’s gonna be too late. But enough about me. You called about Ledbetter. I’m worried about him.” She was silent for a beat. “He’s a broken man.”

Rafe laughed aloud. “Kidding aside, what should we do? Cleo wants to call the cops.”

“Not much point in doing that,” Kaitlyn said. “Ledbetter is a party animal, thanks to my youngest son.”
Intrigued, I leaned forward. “This happened before?”

“Yeah. The cops write up a report, but Ledbetter wanders home eventually.”

“Who took him?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” Kaitlyn chuckled. “There’s probably a class reunion of twenty-somethings, and they’ve come by for Ledbetter.”

Shafts of sunlight dotted the shaded lawn. “You said the statue was broken. How did it happen?”

“Robbie had Ledbetter extending out of his moon roof, and he stopped short. Ledbetter broke at the waist. Good thing I didn’t get him reglued yet because Robbie dropped him again on Wednesday. Claims he was distracted by a girl jogging by. Broke the poor guy’s wooden nose.”

I nodded, remembering the lighter area on his carved face. “We shouldn’t worry about the statue?”

“Nah,” Kaitlyn said. “He’ll turn up. Y’all relax and enjoy yourselves.”

Rafe shot me a gotcha look as he concluded the call.

Doing nothing wasn’t in my vocabulary. Granted this wasn’t life or death, but it was a puzzle I’d like to solve. “We could look for him on the island.”

He snorted. “Finding Ledbetter will be like finding a turtle egg in a shoreline of sand dunes.”

“Are you letting a couple of kids get the better of us?”

“Your kids get the better of us routinely. Charla invites her father over all the time, and Lexy wants you to date her tennis coach.”

“Wishful thinking on their part. They know I’m crazy about a certain golf pro.”

He covered my hand with his. “And I’m crazy about the sexiest accountant in Hogan’s Glen. What do you say to us hitting the beach before lunch? We could come back here and lounge by the pool in the afternoon.”

After dealing with the IRS for years, I knew a thing or two about stalled negotiations. “Sounds good, as long as we cruise the island on the way back.”


His gleaming eyes and disarming grin made me think I’d been outmaneuvered. What else did Rafe have up his sleeve?

* * * * *

We parked at the old Coast Guard station and strolled down to the beach. Billowy clouds sailed the crisp blue sky. Sandpipers chased the ebbing waves at the distant waterline. Higher up on the shore, sunbathers staked their claims on the sun-kissed beach.

Not far from the water’s edge, I found a perfect sand dollar. Cradling the treasure in my palm, I showed it to Rafe. “I never find these things in one piece. You’re my good luck charm. It’s so beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful. The sexiest woman on the beach.”

The old Cleo would have told Rafe thirty-five year women with teenaged daughters and crazy mamas weren’t sexy. The new Cleo smiled.

“You’re good for me,” I said.

He drew me close. “Feeling’s mutual. I could get used to this.”

Caution shivered through me at the tenderness in his voice. I’d trusted my heart before and when that trust shattered, so had my self-confidence. Each moment I spent with Rafe, I fell more in love with him.

If only he didn’t have so many secrets.

He wouldn’t talk about his family. Or the past. Or how he knew how to fly planes. Every time I probed, I hit a brick wall. If he wasn’t so reliable and such a great kisser, I’d walk away. A man’s secrets nearly killed me before. But, if I was being honest, I didn’t want to walk away.

As we returned to the parking lot, a flash of blue caught my eye. A familiar captain’s cap protruded from a passing convertible. I tapped Rafe on the arm. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Looks like Ledbetter to me.” His pace quickened. “Let’s follow that car.”

We hopped in the Jeep, but two families with rafts and small kids crossed in front of us. “Darn,” I said. “Where’d they go?”

We cruised Beach Drive and then followed Oceanview to Ibis. No sign of a blue convertible or a wooden statue. With that, we took King’s March to Fort Road and our island hideaway.

Rafe pulled into the driveway. “Sorry I lost him.”

I smiled at his regret-tinged voice. “Next time.”

“Fruit smoothies and lunch by the pool?”

“Sounds good.”

* * * * *

After a shrimp dinner and dancing at Clarice’s, we strolled along the breezy fishing pier. Rafe’s arm encircled my shoulder, and I leaned into him. This place was special. This man of mystery was special.

“Why did you pick me?” I asked. “Out of all the women at golf club, why me?”

“You’re nice.”

My good mood tanked. Nice was for cardigans and cuts of meat.

“You’re pretty,” he added.

An afterthought. Not that I was vain or anything. I sighed long and slow. At least he hadn’t said I was sexy.

“You’re sexy, too. But you know that.”

I gulped. Sexy was third in his list of why he dated me? It could be worse. He could have said convenient. Or desperate.

He halted and took my hand in his. “I have the feeling I’ve offended you.”

Moonlight shimmered on the ocean. Waves lapped at the pier supports. “I’m not good at this,” I hedged.“Sure you are. Nothing stops the intrepid Cleopatra Jones.”

“Seriously, I need to know. Why me?”

“I told you. You’re nice.”

I glared at him. To my horror, tears blurred my vision.

His thumb rubbed across the back of my hand. “Nice. You help people. You don’t put yourself first. You care about your friends. You know what’s important and stick with it.”

The sting washed out of nice. “Go on.”

“Nice because you don’t flaunt your beauty. Nice because you are so hot I melt inside each time I see you. Nice because I can’t stop thinking of you.”

Turning to study the dark sea, I nodded. “I’m liking nice.”

“Nice because when you look at me I feel like the most powerful man in the world. Nice because you’re the kind of woman I’ve always wanted. A woman who makes me feel at ease, who doesn’t play games, who doesn’t squeeze me like I’m some damned money machine.”

I shot him a sidelong glance. “You don’t think I’m nice like a cardigan or a hunk of roasted meat?”

He stilled. “No. Should I?”

“Never mind. Nice works for me.”

“My turn. Why’d you pick me?”

Uh oh. I could be honest. I should be honest. “Your hands.”


I hastened to explain. “When you touch me, I light up inside. That’s never happened before.”

He ran his hand up my bare arm. “Very good answer.”

I shivered in anticipation of the pleasure his touch wrought. “You’re a caring person. You wouldn’t flaunt another woman right under my nose.”


He kissed me under the stars, to the gentle lapping of waves. Afterwards, we strolled slowly back to the Jeep. Mid-way there, Ledbetter cruised by in the blue convertible. His torso rested on the right rear seat, his upended feet were on the left side of the car. An athletic-looking blonde woman drove the car.

I pointed toward the disappearing vehicle. “There he is again.”

“He doesn’t appear any worse for wear, except for the two pieces thing,” Rafe said. “Want to chase them?”

“Nah. I’ve got other plans this evening. Plans that involve privacy.”

Rafe grinned. “Cool.”

* * * * *

We golfed at Sea Oaks on Sunday. I marveled at Rafe’s ease on the links, and his patience with my lousy game. As he drove us from tee to green, Rafe pointed out Ledbetter passing on a nearby road.

“That statue really gets around,” I said. “I think he has a nose again.”

“Every man needs a nose,” Rafe said. “Too bad our golf cart doesn’t have the power to catch a car.”

“No need. Ledbetter is having a fun outing.”

“He’s got excellent taste in chauffeurs.”

I glanced at him over the top of my sunglasses. “She’s a little young for you.”

“A lot young for me. Got a feeling she’s Robbie’s age.”

“A feeling, you say?”

“Hey, you’re good at mysteries. I’m good at women’s ages.”

“The missing statue isn’t much of a mystery, not that I’m disappointed.” I sized him up. “I’m having a great time.”

“You like the island?”

“Love it.”

* * * * *

The statue returned Sunday evening. I heard a thud on the porch as I zipped my suitcase. Sure enough, Ledbetter stood at his door-side post. A woman wiped his feet with a white cloth.

“Hello.” The buxom blonde brushed off her hands as she rose. Her tanned skin gleamed beneath a white tank, shorts and sneakers.

“You fixed him,” I said.

“It was the least I could do.” The young woman gripped her hands together. “Robbie dropped it when I jogged past him on Wednesday. Gramps carved Ledbetter a new nose. I’ve been driving him around all weekend, trying to get his glued-on nose to dry faster.”

She peered around me. “Is Robbie here? I’d like to speak to him.”

Rafe emerged with our suitcases. “We’ve got company?”

The blonde’s blue eyes warmed. She extended her hand to Rafe. “I’m Tanya Kessler. My grandfather lives at Hardy Point. Delighted to meet you.”

I stepped between them. “Robbie should be back from Atlanta any minute now.”

“Got your cell on you?” Rafe asked.

Tanya handed her phone to him.

Moments later, Rafe had Robbie on the line. “I’ve got someone here who wants to speak with you, cous.”

He handed the phone to Tanya and ushered me to the Jeep.

“That was nice.” I buckled my seat belt.

Rafe grinned. “Nice like a cardigan?”

“Nice like a decent person.”

* * * * *

As the plane lifted off from the airstrip, my gaze lingered on the island. So many beautiful homes, majestic oaks, and stunning beaches. And the tides. I loved the symmetry of the tides. That six-hour pattern was dependable.

Sure, there were secrets in the tide. All that power and strength. Hard not to be, all things considered.

Like Rafe. Power and strength with secrets.

But now instead of being frustrated by that barrier, I accepted them as part of the package. The man was entitled to his secrets. I had a few of my own.

“What’cha thinking?” he asked.

“We should do this again. Soon.”

* * * * *

Dime If I Know

Dime If I Know by Award-Winning Author Maggie Toussaint

Series: Cleopatra Jones Series, Book #3
Publisher: Muddle House Publishing
Release Date: January 2020
Genre: Mystery
Available Formats: eBook and Print

Cleopatra Jones has visions of marriage dancing through her head, but her boyfriend, sexy golf pro Rafe Golden, is happy with the status quo. With three puppies, a Saint Bernard, two teenaged daughters, a free-spirited live-in mother, a kooky best friend, and an accounting firm to run, Cleo’s household is hopping. But still. After months of dating Rafe, her relationship should be headed somewhere.

Mama comes home engaged and the wedding is in three weeks. Cleo’s happy for her mom, and hopes Rafe takes the hint. Meanwhile, her best friend is running for mayor.

A former girlfriend of Rafe’s turns up dead in a seedy motel. His fancy red sports car was spotted there the night she died. Cleo questions him, but he swears he didn’t shoot her.

The police identify Rafe as their top suspect, but Cleo’s having none of that. She hires him a lawyer, gets crossways with his snooty family, and sets out to prove her boyfriend’s innocence.

The more she digs, the more questions arise. Rafe’s been keeping secrets from her, but are they deadly secrets?

Dime If I Know is set amid the rolling hills of contemporary mid-Maryland. It features fast-paced family life and Southern humor. Cleo’s trials and tribulations with the game of golf are a counterpoint for her success in following the money and identifying the real killer.

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© Copyright 2013 – Maggie Toussaint

My fingers gripped the steering wheel when Rafe’s voicemail clicked on again. “This is Cleo.” I grimaced at the razor-sharp edge to my voice. With Rafe sneaking off last night to do God knows what, I wondered how many women left him messages. I didn’t want to be mistaken for another woman.

I cleared my throat, trying not to sound as desperate as I felt. “I called to invite you to dinner tonight. I have news to share, news I need to tell you in person. Call me.”

With that I hung up. I’d phoned him at bedtime last night, before early church this morning, and now, at midday. All the calls had gone to voicemail. Where was he? Normally he worked at the golf course on Sunday. I’d checked the club, and his Jaguar wasn’t there.


Had I crossed a line? Was I turning into a psycho girlfriend who had to know where my boyfriend was every minute of the day? Now, now, I told myself. This was genuine concern. It wasn’t like Rafe to be out of touch for so long.

I had to face facts. He was an adult. He hadn’t been missing twenty-four hours. I should put his whereabouts out of my mind and start on my other projects for today.

Like helping Jonette with her mayoral campaign.

I exited my sedan and entered the Tavern, the Hogan’s Glen watering hole where Jonette worked. Her boyfriend, Dean, owned the seventies-style bar. Both greeted me warmly. Jackson Browne crooned a song about pretending, and I took my cue from the singer. I could pretend everything was all right.

“Are we plotting world domination today?” I slid into the booth across from Jonette, who looked young and hip in a bright-pink blouse and black slacks.

She thumbed through a sheaf of papers. “I wish.”

Dean brought me a glass of water and pulled up a chair. Today his long hair was clubbed back in a ponytail. In his black T-shirt, jeans, and boots he resembled an aging rock star.

I smiled my thanks at him and nodded at Jonette’s stack. “What’s all that?”

“Crapola from the Internet. Whose bright idea was it to fish for issues? I’ve got more issues here than I care to know about. Each voter wants their pet project guaranteed, and then they’ll vote for me. No way I can please everybody.”

“Right,” I said. “Trying to please everyone is a recipe for disaster.” I stopped to clear my throat. “And, fishing for issues was your idea. You wanted to know what ‘the people’ thought.”

Dean’s head came up, and relief shone in his eyes.

“The people are crazy,” Jonette said. “Here’s one asking the city to buy Crandall House and turn it into a museum and interpretive center. Where would I get the money to do that from the city budget? Maybe if I stopped trash pickup for ten years or so I could swing it, but everyone would be unhappy about rotten garbage in the street.”

Crandall House had been built two centuries ago by our town’s founding father. Now the family descendants lived elsewhere, and they wanted a small fortune for the house.

“Yeah. Big-ticket items like that need to go on the back burner,” I agreed. “You need to take on a few lesser causes that mean something to you. Read me the topics from the other emails.”

“A guy wants me to drill more wells because we’ll run out of water if any of the White Rock houses ever get bought. Here’s a guy wanting me to legalize medical marijuana.”

“That one gets my vote,” Dean said.

“Here’s one from that grumpy lady over on Third Street,” Jonette continued. “She wants speed bumps installed on her street because folks drive too fast past her place. And here’s someone asking if we can’t get three weekdays of trash service for the price of two.” Jonette thumbed through a few more pages, and her face lit up. “Yes! Found it! This is the issue for me. We need to establish a dog park in the city. I need a place for my puppy to play.”

“A dog park would be nice,” I agreed. “Pet owners should have a place where pets can romp off the leash.”

“I can’t imagine anyone getting upset over a new dog park,” Dean said.

“Looks like I’ve got my first agenda item,” Jonette concluded.

“We’re coming along. Tell me about the event next week. You’re holding it here at the bar?”

“Yep. Figure most folks know we’re dating, and they know where the bar is; might as well take advantage of that to get them here.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Select a menu of food we need to serve. Something classy but cheap.”

“I can do that.” My face heated. “Oh. I almost forgot. I’ve got news. Big news.”

“Rafe proposed?”

“Nope.” I waited, drawing the suspense out. I wasn’t Delilah’s daughter for nothing.

“Charlie proposed?”

Charlie was my ex. He’d recently moved next door so that he could spend more time with our girls. So he said. “That doesn’t count. He proposes every time he sees me. That’s not news, and you know it.”

“Oh!” Jonette’s eyes danced. “It’s your mother, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Yep. Bud proposed. She accepted. They’re getting married in three weeks.”


Jonette’s eyes met mine. “Wait a minute. How long have you known about this?”

“Less than twenty-four hours, but Muriel and Francine knew first,” I said to soften the blow. “They’re organizing the food for her reception. Say, that gives me an idea. I wonder if they’d do the food at your fundraiser. It could be a trial run for their new catering business.”

“We don’t have much money,” Jonette cautioned. She chewed her lip a moment. “Maybe my campaign committee could chip in to finance the snacks. Then we could spend the rest of the campaign going door to door to beat that rat-fink Darnell.”

“I’m good for twenty bucks,” I said. “And maybe Francine and Muriel would do it at cost if they could hand out brochures for Two Sisters Catering.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m okay with them networking at my party. Let’s see. If you, me, Dean, and Rafe chip in twenty each, that’d give us eighty. Would Charlie cough up twenty for the fundraiser food?”

“Charlie would do it. He’d think that would earn him a spot in my good graces. But, Rafe…”

Jonette grabbed my hand. “What? What aren’t you telling me about the golf pro?”

I pulled away from her, hugging my middle. “It’s probably nothing.”

“You’re not acting like it’s nothing. What did he do?”

“I don’t have any idea what’s up, but my imagination is running wild. He got a call yesterday morning during my lesson and cancelled our date last night. I can’t find him anywhere today.” My lip trembled. “He’s not returning my calls.”

“Bastard.” Jonette nudged Dean. “Go beat him up, honey.”

Dean froze.

“What?” Jonette zeroed in on her boyfriend. “You know something.”

“I shouldn’t say.”

“You should,” Jonette insisted.

“Yes, please,” I urged. “Any information is better than nothing. I don’t know if he’s hurt or dead or just a jerk.”

“There aren’t too many red Jags in the county. I recognized his car at first glance.”

Jonette smacked her open palm on the tabletop. “This is worse than trying to get information out of Cleo’s mom. Where was he parked?”

Linda Ronstadt belted out a song about being cheated and mistreated. My heart raced as I waited for Dean to spit it out. It had to be another woman. Nothing else would make Dean so hesitant, right?

On The Nickel

On The Nickel by Award-Winning Author Maggie Toussaint

Series: A Cleopatra Jones Mystery, Book #2
Publisher: Five Star First Edition Mystery
Release Date: October 15, 2012
Genre: Mystery
Available Formats: eBook
Hardcover: 9781594149542 / 9781410438041 (Large Print Edition, Wheeler Publishing)

Mama’s strange behavior jolts accountant Cleopatra Jones from her whirl of late summer activities with her daughters, pregnant Saint Bernard, and new boyfriend. When Cleo overhears the heated argument between Mama and her church-lady rival, Erica Hodges, she realizes Mama is out of control. The police report Erica files about Mama’s threats add to Cleo’s growing unease.

Two days later, Erica is dead, the victim of a hit and run. Though Erica’s reputation of arrogance, bossiness, and rudeness is well-deserved, she descended from the town’s founder. The mayor pressures the police to obtain justice for the town’s leading citizen.

To Cleo’s horror, there’s a person-sized dent in Mama’s gray Olds. Mama denies killing Erica but refuses to account for her whereabouts that night. Mama’s secrets are maddening, but are they deadly?

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“What a complete an utter delight this book is. Cleo is a wonderful character and all the people in her life just add icing to the cake to make the book a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book and can’t wait for the next one in the series.” –Mary Gramlich, THE READING REVIEWER

“The second in this amusing and romantic series (In for a Penny, 2008) is a welcome addition to the cozy ranks.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Purchase if the budget allows.” –LIBRARY JOURNAL

“On the Nickel is the second in the Cleopatra Jones Mysteries. The first is In for a Penny, which will entertain you as much as the second. Maggie Toussaint should know how to write “Southern;” she is Southern to the core. I recommend both novels.” –Celia Yeary, author of TEXAS BLUE

“Fans will enjoy this fun who-dun-it!” –Harriet Klausner, reviewer

“On the Nickel is a fast-reading mystery, replete with agreeable characters and a picturesque setting.” –MYSTERIOUS REVIEWS

“A good curl-up-on-the-couch mystery.” –Ruthann Heidgerken, AMAZON reviewer


© Copyright 2010 – Maggie Toussaint

Numbers flowed in satisfying streams through my ink pen onto the Sudoku puzzle. A nine here. A two there. I scribbled a possibility in the corner of a grid square and sipped my coffee. Patterns emerged. I inked a seven in the top row, leading to three other filled-in numbers.

Without warning, Mama upended her oversized purse on the kitchen table. Junk clattered. Loose coins clinked. A tube of mulberry-colored lipstick rolled on top of my folded newspaper. Alarmed, I studied her as she pawed through the mound of personal items. A can of hair spray tottered on the edge of the table, and I caught it a moment before it fell.

“Lose something?” I asked, placing the can squarely on the table.

Mama muttered out of the side of her mouth. “My car keys.”

Her color seemed a bit off. I set aside my puzzle to help sort through the jumble. I lifted the umbrella and plastic rain bonnet and moved them to the side. Her wallet was large enough to give birth. No keys hiding under it. I checked beneath her new hairbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and a pack of breath mints. Nothing under the mini-photo album, tissue packet, or her dog-eared credit card bill.

“Don’t see any keys,” I said. “Where did you have them last?”

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for them,” Mama huffed.

Was something else wrong? I chewed my lip and replayed the morning in my head. Mama ate a good breakfast. Her buttercup yellow pant suit appeared neat and tidy as did her mop of white curls. Her triple strands of pearls were securely clasped around her neck. So, her appetite and grooming were fine, but her behavior was off. Probably not a medical emergency.

I breathed easier. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

“What’s right, that’s what I’d like to know.”

There was just enough vinegar in her voice to make me think I’d missed something big. Like maybe a luncheon date with her. Or broken a promise. But I hadn’t done those things. I pulled out a chair and invited her to sit down. “Tell me what’s on your mind, Mama.”

“The price of gas keeps rising.” Mama sat and enumerated points on her fingers. “World peace is a myth. Social Security isn’t social or secure. And Joe Sampson had no business dying on me.”

She’d run out of fingers, but I got the message. Guilt smacked me dead between the eyes. I had forgotten something. The anniversary of daddy’s aneurism. Usually we took a trip to the cemetery on August 21. I gulped. “Oh, Mama, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you say something yesterday?”

“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.” Mama’s voice quivered. “It’s been three years, Cleo. I should be able to go by myself.”

I reached over the kitchen table and covered her hands with mine. “You don’t have to do that. I’ll drive you to your meeting, then we’ll swing by Fairhope on the way home.”

Mama sat up soldier straight. “That will eat up your whole morning.”

“No problem. We mailed all the quarterly tax payment vouchers to our Sampson Accounting clients last week. I can’t think of anything at work that won’t keep until this afternoon.”

Half an hour later, I was sitting in the hall at Trinity Episcopal while Mama attended her Ladies Outreach Committee meeting. I’d brought a magazine to read, but there was something else about Mama this morning that worried me. Something more than our delayed cemetery visit. I wished I knew what it was. Even though I’m good at puzzles, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. Knowing Mama, I wouldn’t have long to wait. I dug my magazine out of my purse and flipped through the glossy pages.

In a little while, the gentle murmur of conversation from the meeting room rose to an angry buzz. Mama’s sharp voice sliced through the fray. “Mark my words. If you don’t change your ways, Erica, someone will change them for you.”

My heart stutter-stepped at the heat in her voice. This was not good. How should I handle it? Mama would not appreciate me trying to straighten this out. My intervention would be the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a penned bull. I hesitated, hoping that the women resolved their difference of opinion on their own.

“You threatening me, Dee?” Erica’s nasty tone ruffled the hair on the back of my neck and spurred me into defense of my mother.

I stashed the magazine in my shoulder bag and hurried down the pine-scented corridor, the soles of my loafers smacking against the hard tile. After years of insulting each other, would the hostility between Mama and her arch nemesis turn physical?

I entered the back of the meeting room in time to see Mama stride up to Erica’s podium. Ten seniors sat transfixed by the live drama. I had a very bad feeling about this. As emotional as Mama was today, her patience wouldn’t last for long. And Erica seemed to be spoiling for a fight. That wasn’t going to happen on my watch. I hurried forward, edging past the U-shaped log jam of tables and chairs. My eyes watered at the thick cloud of sweet perfume.

Mama planted her hands on her hips. “I’m saying what nobody else has the guts to say. You are despicable. That outreach activity was supposed to bring joy and laughter to those dying children. You crushed their hopes. Worse, you gave them false hope. They were crying, Erica. You caused those dying children to suffer more.”

Except for the red stain on Erica Hodges’ rigid cheeks, I couldn’t tell she was upset. Next to Mama’s sunny yellow suit and old-fashioned pearls, Erica’s sleek jewel-toned slacks suit, gold-threaded scarf, and apricot colored hair looked fresh, contemporary, and on-point.

Looks could be deceiving.

“Errors happen, Dee,” Erica said.

Mama huffed out a great breath. “This one could have been avoided. Francine was doing a good job with scheduling before you horned in and messed it all up.”

Across the room, Francine gasped at the mention of her name. She slid down in her seat, covered her face, and ducked her white-haired head.

Erica surveyed the room, staring down the other matrons, before turning back to Mama. Her back arched, and her thin nose came up. “You think you could have done better?”

“I know so. All that hard work the committee put in. You wasted it. You hurt those kids. Those circus tickets were nonrefundable. You threw away money we worked hard to raise.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Erica barked out a sharp laugh. “We’ll find more needy kids to show our civic merit. The hospital has a never ending supply.”

A collective gasp flashed through the room. My stride faltered as distaste soured in my stomach. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A glance at Mama’s flame-red face and I knew Mount Delilah was about to erupt. I hurried forward.

“That does it. I demand your resignation as chair of the Ladies Outreach Committee!” Mama shouted.
“You’re out of order, Delilah Sampson,” Erica shrilled. “Sit down and shut up.”

Mama’s mouth worked a few times with no sound emerging. She clutched her heart. I stepped up and planted my hand on her shoulder. “Mama?”

She glared at Erica. “You can’t talk to me that way.”

“Think again.” Erica smacked her open palm on the podium. “This is my meeting, my committee, my church, my town. I can talk to you any way I want.”

Mama turned to face her friends. “Say something.”

Brittle silence ensued. Not a single eyelash fluttered on the downturned gazes. Disbelief flashed through me. These women were Mama’s friends. Her best friends, but they were all intimidated by this big fish in our tiny pond. Poor Mama. We needed to get out of here before both of us did something we’d regret.
I tapped Mama’s shoulder again. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a family situation and have to leave. Please come with me now.”

Mama nodded to me and inhaled shakily. She narrowed her eyes at Erica. “This isn’t over.”

In For A Penny

In For A Penny by Award-Winning Author Maggie Toussaint

Series: A Cleopatra Jones Mystery, Book #1
Publisher: Five Star First Edition Mystery
Release Date: June 1, 2008
Genre: Mystery
Available Formats: eBook and Print
Digital: 978-1594146466
Hardcover: 1594146462 / 9781597228138 (Large Print Edition, Wheeler Cozy Mystery)

When irrepressible accountant Cleopatra Jones overshoots the sixth green, her golf ball lands in the biggest hazard of her life, the inseam of a dead banker. Murder rocks this small Maryland town and old secrets cast suspicion on Cleo’s best friend. Cleo sets out to prove her friend is innocent. Her sleuthing is hampered by her damaged instincts, a jumbo dog, and her wacky, engaging family. As head of the household, Cleo will do anything to protect her children.

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"Set in Hogan’s Glen, Md., this witty cozy from Toussaint (No Second Chance) introduces Cleopatra Jones, accountant, avid golfer and single mother of two. A handsome golf pro’s offer of romance gives Cleo a boost as she deals with her mother, her children and the Saint Bernard dumped on her by her ex-husband . . . the story takes some unexpected and dangerous turns as it builds to a satisfying conclusion."– PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"Toussaint’s debut is a mildly amusing addition to the cozy ranks with possibilities for future development." – KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Maggie Toussaint’s IN FOR A PENNY sparkles with wit and humor. Toussaint has created a small town filled with wacky characters and a sleuth–Cleo Jones–we can all relate to. She’s funny, she’s impulsive, and she’s finding that there really is life after divorce. That life includes her children, a mother who puts fish in lasagne, a gorgeous golf pro, two frisky Saint Bernards, and, of course, murder. Anyone looking for a really fun read will find it in IN FOR A PENNY" – Judy Fitzwater, author of THE JENNIFER MARSH MYSTERIES and NO SAFE PLACE

"Even a philandering husband can’t stop Cleopatra Jones, Maggie Toussaint’s delightful new sleuth. But when she whacks her golf ball smack dab atop a dead body on the sixth green of the local club, it does make her pause — just a tad. She hasn’t time to dwell on it, however. The police arrest her best friend, her ex-husband seems to be involved up to his devious eyebrows, and Cleo’s downright angry that her world has been turned upside down by him — again. So she revs into full damn-the-torpedos mode until she peels away layers of subterfuge from the seemingly placid suburbs and cracks a case that baffles the local police. What a terrifically engrossing, rib-tickling debut from a talented new author. Don’t miss it! " – Barbara Cummings, award winning author of A KILLING ON CHURCH GROUNDS

"Reading a Cleopatra Jones mystery is a nice way to spend an afternoon. This lighthearted story has a dash of romance and a lot of humor. Cleo is a delightful character, and her wacky family and friends add to the enjoyment."– ROMANTIC TIMES, 4 stars.

"Fans will enjoy this amateur sleuth as the heroine displays her moxie and loyalty by investigating the homicide expecting to prove her best friend is innocent. However every clue Cleo finds adds a nail to the case against Jonette. Fans will enjoy this fun mystery wondering whether the golf pro, the ex husband or no one will score with the heroine." —Harriet Klausner, reviewer, Five stars


© Copyright 2008 – Maggie Toussaint

The golf course is one of the few places I don’t have to pretend. Oh, I still give the socially correct answer of “fine” when asked how I am, but I am not fine. There’s enough anger churning through my gut to fuel a volcano.

Golf therapy is how I’m relieving my stress. I imagine my ex-husband’s face on every ball I hit, and when I’m done, I’m almost fine.

My name is Cleopatra Jones, Cleo for short. Self-employment allows me to spend my Wednesday mornings playing golf in the Ladies Nine Hole Golf League. So far in today’s round, I hadn’t experienced any signs of rebirth into a nicer, perkier thirty-five-year-old, but I hadn’t given up hope.

Sunbeams danced around me on the number six ladies tee of the Hogan’s Glen Golf Club as I aimed my shoulders at the distant flag. I swung hard. My tee shot hooked left into the trees lining the fairway.

I whacked my driver against the ground. Exorcising Charlie through golf was therapeutic to my mental health, but it was hell on my golf score.

“Provisional ball,” Jonette Moore suggested. People thought of Mutt and Jeff from the comics when they saw us together because I was tall and slender while she was short and stacked. I’d known Jonette since forever, a fact she never let me forget.

Jonette’s tee shot taunted me with its perfect lie in the middle of the fairway. By mutual agreement we’d decided that the winner of the previous round got to drive the golf cart. I can’t remember when I last drove Jonette around the course.

I dropped my provisional ball on the tee box. Hitting this second ball would speed our play if I couldn’t find my first ball. Unfortunately, my provisional ball curved along the same evil trajectory into the woods.
Drat. I stomped back to the cart.

“Looks like you’ll be buying more golf balls,” Jonette said with a smirk.

I’d used up my late father’s lifetime accumulation of golf balls during the first year of my golf therapy. If I didn’t find either of my tee shots, I’d only have one ball left for the remaining three holes. Not good. “I’ve been over there before. The underbrush isn’t too thick.”

“Have you given any more thought to going out with that lawyer friend of Dean’s?” Jonette asked as we zipped towards the woods. Dean was the current man in Jonette’s life. He was also her boss at the tavern where she waited tables.

The thought of dating twisted my stomach in knots. “Sure I’ve thought about it. And the answer’s no.”
“Damn you, Cleo.” Jonette waggled her finger at me. “Don’t let Charlie win.”

My ex hadn’t won. I was being cautious. I wasn’t giving up. Who said I had to jump back in the dating pool right away? The view from the high dive was terrifying. “I’m not ready.”

“Maybe some hot guys will move into White Rock. I wouldn’t mind checking them out for you.”

“That development is wishful thinking and you know it.” The much-hyped new subdivision on the old Wingate farm had stalled in the bulldozer phase of construction.

“You need to get out of that house.”

“If I wanted to get out of the house, I should take a golf lesson so I don’t spend half my round scouring the woods for my balls.”

“There’s an idea.” Jonette beamed her approval. “The golf pro is definitely hot.”

I sure wished Jonette would get off this dating kick. “Don’t go getting any ideas. I’m not interested in dating.”

“You may be right about Rafe Golden,” Jonette said. “He’s supposedly slept his way through the women of the club. But, he’s a such a hunk.”

“I don’t want a man that reeks of sex appeal. If I ever dated again, I’d want someone like me. Hardworking, loyal, trustworthy, family oriented, and obedient.”

Jonette’s mouth gaped. “Where’s the excitement in that? You need someone to sweep you off your feet.”
I leveled my sternest gaze at her. “Forget it.”

Jonette rolled her eyes and huffed her disapproval.

Too bad. If I could erase Charlie from my life, I would, but his weekend visitations with our two daughters put him on my schedule every week.

Shedding Charlie was more difficult than getting fungus out from under a toenail. Just when you thought you had the problem solved, there it was again.

Jonette stopped the cart near where my balls had disappeared into the woods. “Should I help you look?”

“Stay put.” I waved her back in her seat. “I won’t be responsible for you getting poison ivy again.”

I marched into the thicket alone, kicking through last year’s musty leaves as I searched for my golf balls. A gleam of white beckoned in the honeysuckle-scented shade ahead.

Both balls lay adjacent to each other. That brought a fleeting smile to my face. Hell, if I couldn’t hit straight I’d settle for consistent. “Got ’em,” I called to Jonette as I pocketed my provisional ball.

A massive maple stood between me and the number six green, blocking forward progress. I had no choice but to chip out of the rough and hope for distance on my next shot. Of course if I missed and hit the slender trunks of the myriad of smaller obstacles between me and the fairway I’d quite possibly lobotomize myself. Fair enough.

I marched back to the cart and selected my pitching wedge. “You might want to back up the cart while I hit.”

“Won’t do it.” Jonette smoothed her flirty little red golf skirt. “But you hit me and you are one dead dog.”

Back in the woods, I took aim at Jonette and whaled away. My ball skimmed over the top of her head and landed in the center of the fairway.

Success tasted sweet in my mouth. “Hot damn! I’m on a roll.” I jogged back to the cart and noticed Jonette had a death grip on the steering wheel. Served her right. I thumped her on her back.

She choked in a breath of air. “Didn’t think you had it in you, Cleo. Nice shot.”

I was still furthest from the hole, so I exchanged my wedge for a seven iron. In truth, I didn’t see the point of having so many clubs in my bag when my trusty seven worked well for any occasion. I took a deep breath and swung easy.

My ball landed twenty yards ahead of Jonette’s. Counting all my strokes, I lay three to her one, but that was beside the point. If the world ended right this minute, my ball would still be closest to the pin. That was worth a lot.

The golf gods must have taken a lunch break because my next shot zoomed over the green and down a steep embankment. I grabbed a club and started down the hill.

Jonette followed, sniffing tentatively. “Do you smell something?”

I did. My eyes watered at the latrine-like stench. It wasn’t unusual to smell something ripe this time of year in Maryland. The odor could be anything from farmers manuring their fields to the groundskeeper’s natural fertilizers. “No telling what that is.”

Using my golf club as a cane, I crabbed sideways down the hill, scoping the terrain near my feet for my ball. At the base of the hill, I saw something that resembled a bundle of clothes.
A huge lump formed in my throat. “What is that?”

“I’ve got a real bad feeling about this,” Jonette said.

“You and me both.” The closer I came, the more certain details stood out in my mind. I saw that the bundle of clothes was actually an expensive business suit. Pinstriped trouser legs were rolled up to reveal dark crew socks and black-and-white golf shoes.

The man lay on his back staring straight up at the cloudless sky. Between his slate-gray eyes was a dark circular wound. Bloodstained grass framed his lifeless head in a grotesque abstract shape, as if some wicked cartoonist had thought to ink in the conversation.

Only there was no conversation coming from this person. He was dead. Very dead.

My personal problems receded in a heartbeat. I fought down dizzying nausea as I felt my blood charge through me like a speeding freight train. I wanted to run and get far away from this grisly scene, but my feet weren’t listening.

I knew this man. He was my ex’s best friend and coworker down at the Hogan’s Glen Bank. His name tumbled from my lips. “Dudley Doright.”