Series: Cleopatra Jones Mysteries, Book 4
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Available Formats: eBook
Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas is a collection of ten mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by eleven critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novella is a tie-in to an established multi-book series–a total of nearly 700 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, cozy, and female P.I. mysteries.
Frosted, A Moreno & Hart Novella by Allison Brennan & Laura Griffin–Three years ago LAPD Detective Scarlet Moreno and rookie cop Krista Hart were nearly killed during a botched sting operation. Now, they’re best friends and partners in the Orange County private investigation firm of Moreno & Hart. But their routine assignments are anything but safe.
Crewel Intentions, An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Novella by Lois Winston–Craft editor Anastasia Pollack receives a desperate call for help from former fashion editor Erica Milano, now in Witness Protection. Erica is being stalked and is afraid to notify the authorities. She once saved Anastasia’s life. Will Anastasia be able to return the favor before the stalker strikes?
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?
What the Widow Knew, A Kali-O’Brien Novella by Jonnie Jacobs–Attorney Kali O’Brien takes on the case of a young woman accused of murdering her much older, very rich husband. As evidence mounts and other possible suspects are eliminated, Kali’s doubts about her client’s innocence grow. Meanwhile, Kali is also grappling with her feelings for longtime boyfriend Detective Bryce Keating.
The Magnesium Murder, A Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino–While freelance embalmer Anastasia Brent prepares the body of a young bride-to-be, she learns the girl’s mother suspects foul play. Once again Anastasia is pressed into service as a sleuth, following a trail of clues in search of a murderer and justice.
Honeymoons Can Be Murder, A Lee Alvarez Novella by Heather Haven— When PI Lee Alvarez goes on her honeymoon with bridegroom, Gurn Hanson, they find a dead woman practically on their doorstep. Kauai breezes may be soft, but there are gale force winds of accusation against Gurn. Will Lee find the real killer before her new hubby gets sent to a Hawaiian hoosegow?
Smoked Meat, A Carol Sabala Novella by Vinnie Hansen–Baker and wannabe sleuth Carol Sabala visits her mother for a family Christmas get-together. It’s murder, in more ways than one.
A Deadly Fundraiser, A Talk Radio Novella by Mary Kennedy–When radio talk show host Dr. Maggie Walsh and her pals start digging up clues in a scavenger hunt at a glitzy fundraiser, the game suddenly turns deadly. Will Maggie and her team be able to crack the case and solve the crime?
The Color of Fear, A Kelly O’Connell Novella by Judy Alter–Kelly receives a written kidnap threat targeting her infant daughter, Gracie. Kelly’s assistant Keisha narrates as Kelly and her family plot their precautions, but as time passes and the threat still looms, fear takes a toll on the family…and on Keisha.
Papa’s Ghost, A Gladdy Gold Mystery Novella by Rita Lakin–Gladdy and her girls accept an assignment at a famous resort in Key West, thinking it will combine business with pleasure. Once they arrive, Gladdy suspects something is strange. Not only is their client an unexpected shock, but so is the case of murder they are expected to solve. Can they succeed when a whole city is against them?
“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.
Series: Lindsey & Ike, Book #1
Publisher: Muddle House Publishing
Release Date: Feb 2017
Available Formats: eBook
An amateur sleuth and her dog return home to a town of secrets…and an ugly murder
In this novella, science writer Lindsey McKay takes a leave of absence from her job and returns home with her dog to save the family newspaper. She left Danville ten years ago and she trusts she can wrap this up quickly. She promises her Atlanta boss she’ll return in two-weeks.
Sheriff Ike Harper is thrilled at Lindsey’s homecoming. She’s the gal who got away, and now he has a second chance at the woman he’s always admired.
Lindsey encourages her father to fight for the paper’s survival, but he won’t cooperate. Meanwhile, the murder of a local judge is a boon for the newspaper, but it’s too late. With her leave running out, neither the tragedy nor Lindsey’s hard work can save the failing business. Then the sheriff arrests her father for the murder, and she faces a new challenge.
Determined to clear her father’s name, Lindsey stirs up a hornet’s nest of trouble. Will saving her father’s life cost Lindsey hers?
The two a.m. call from my aunt got my blood pumping. Daddy’s drinking had the family newspaper on the rocks, and now he’d totaled his car. By the time I emailed my boss to let him know I was going home, packed, and hit the road, it was nearly three. The miles between Atlanta and Danville rolled by with me alternating between being thankful Daddy survived and being worried about his mental health.
My first stop in town was the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office. My family was a tad off-beat, but we were law-abiding citizens. Until now. I’d never been inside the jailhouse before. For courage, I clipped the leash on my black lab so she could accompany me.
An attractive blonde deputy rose from the reception desk when we entered. Her crisp uniform and bright smile contrasted with the worn-out lobby. “We don’t allow dogs in here,” she said. “Hey, I know you. You’re Lindsey McKay.”
I smiled, aware my carrot top had given me away. “Guilty as charged.” I squinted discreetly at the shiny name plate on her pocket flap and startled at the familiar name. Sister or wife, I wondered. “Sorry, Deputy Harper. I drove through the night, and I wasn’t thinking. Excuse me, while I return Bailey to my car.”
“Never mind. It won’t take two shakes to out-process your Dad. Bailey can stay.” The woman smiled. “I’m Alice Ann Harper. You were in my brother’s class.”
My jaw dropped. Ike’s sister had grown into a beauty. “I didn’t know you were a cop.”
Alice Ann reached under the counter and withdrew papers and a brown paper bag with Daddy’s name on it. “The employment opportunities are somewhat limited in Danville.”
I nodded. An office door banged open, and a brawny male in a close-fitting white polo shirt navy slacks, and a holstered gun swaggered my way. Age had been kind to Ike Harper. He’d filled out through the shoulders and chest, but his waist was as trim as ever.
“How’ve you been, hon?” Sheriff Ike Harper crushed me in arms of steel.
Masculine warmth made my cheeks burn. Uh-oh. He still had it, and I didn’t want it.
“I’m good. Nice to see you, Ike.” I gently pushed against his chest until he released me. “I’m here for my dad. What can you tell me about his wreck?”
Ike squatted and gave my dog the same effusive welcome I’d received. I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.
“Mr. McKay clipped an oak and rolled his car on Oldham Road at one a.m.,” Ike said.
How odd. “What was he doing out so late?”
“He kept muttering about a deer in the road. EMTs checked him out, and he refused transport. My guys brought him here. He has a court appearance for the DUI and a fine. Shouldn’t be too bad for his first offense.”
My thoughts whirled at the news. “This feels . . . surreal. I mean I knew his drinking increased over the years, but he always drank at home. I’m stunned. Thank you for getting him checked out. That’s one thing off my mind.”
“He’ll come him around now that you’re here. On another note, want to get a cup of coffee while you’re home? We missed you at the ten-year class reunion last month.”
With those lady killer eyelashes and luminous brown eyes, Ike had been a player in high school. That wasn’t for me. “I had a conflict with reunion weekend, and no thanks on the coffee. Between tending to Daddy and salvaging the newspaper, my time won’t be my own.”
Alice Ann slid papers my way. “Sign these forms.”
Ike leaned against the counter as I signed. “You still working for that science magazine in Atlanta?”
“Yes. The Georgia Journal of Science. I like it there.”
“They’re lucky to have you. If you need anything while you’re home, just ask. I’m swamped today coordinating the search teams looking for Judge Sterling, but I should be free soon.”
“The judge is missing?”
“His wife reported his disappearance at dawn.” Ike waved and headed to his office. “Good to see you, Linds.”
I collected the bag of Daddy’s things and trailed Alice Ann down a long corridor, Bailey padding silently beside me.
My plan was to be stern, but I caved when I saw my father behind bars. In the seven hours since his accident, the cuts on his face and arms had scabbed over. Both eyes were blackened. Alcohol fumes permeated the air. “Daddy?”
He perched on the narrow bottom bunk. “Lindsey? That you?”
Alice Ann waved me inside the unlocked cell. “Take your time.”
Bailey trotted in and licked my father’s toes. “Who’s this fine retriever?” my father asked, as he patted my dog.
“That’s Bailey. I told you I’d rescued her from the shelter when we talked in March. On your birthday.” I knelt and pulled his shoes from the brown bag. He’d lost more weight since I’d seen him at Christmas. With Mama overseas, was he even eating regularly? My heart sunk. Why didn’t Aunt Fay call me earlier?
“Where’s your brother?” he asked.
The question caught me off-guard. “Colin’s dead, Daddy.”
His brow furrowed, and then he nodded. “Forgot.”
Oh, dear. My father was worse off than I thought. I helped him with his shoes. “How do you feel?”
“Sore. And hungover.” He met my gaze. “You going to yell at me?”
“You’re making bad choices. That wreck. You could’ve died. We’ll discuss this later, when you have a clear head. Let’s get you home. Can you stand?”
Together we walked down the corridor. Why was he thinking about Colin now? After my brother was lost at sea ten years ago, my family fractured. At least I’d gotten counseling in college and started over. For years, my father had refused to talk about Colin.
A young boy burst in the sheriff’s lobby. He looked to be about eight and he had Ike’s eyes and hair.
“Dad, hurry,” the boy shouted. “There’s something dead under the bridge. Can I have it?”
The blood drained from my face. I froze in mid-step. What father allowed his kid to collect dead animals?
Ike ruffled the boy’s hair. “Easy, Trent. You’ve shocked Miss McKay. She doesn’t know the animal refuge needs road kill for their injured hawks.”
My heart started beating again. “Thanks for the explanation.”
Trent tugged on Ike’s arm. “Come on. Someone else might get it. I wanna feed the hawks.”
Reassured all was well, I waved goodbye, loaded my father in my car, and headed home.
We took Dock Road to River Road, passing the bronze historical marker outside St. Paul’s. My crazy ancestor, Beulah Lindsey McKay, had saved the church from fire-wielding Yankees over a hundred and fifty years ago. Other towns had bats in the belfry. We had Beulah in the bell tower.
“What’s going on with the newspaper?” I’d helped with the family paper in high school so I knew the routine. This was Tuesday. The Gazette should be already made up. If not, I’d need a miracle to launch this week’s edition by tomorrow.
He hung his head. A lot of gray silvered his hair. Seemed like he’d aged twenty years in the nine months since I’d last seen him.
“A fellow writes a few editorials, and everyone’s a critic,” Daddy said. “Cut me some slack here. I’ve got one heckuva hangover.”
I made a mental note to read those columns as I parked in front of our two-story Victorian home. “That reporter still with you?”
“Robert quit months ago.”
Swallowing a bitter retort, I helped my father up the porch steps. I should’ve been reading the online edition to follow the news from home, but I stayed so busy, I’d deleted the latest links unread.
White paint curls furred the plank siding and the gingerbread trim. “The house needs work.”
“So it does.” Dad grunted and continued to his bed, nudging his shoes off with his toes. “Ellen’s at the paper.”
My dad’s assistant had been two years ahead of me in school. According to Aunt Fay’s emails, Ellen’s divorce had been finalized six months ago.
“I’ll check in with her next. Get some rest. We’ll talk later.”
I lugged my suitcase in and then drove up River Road to the brick newspaper building. The shoulder of the road by the Gazette was jammed with cars. What now?
Bailey and I hurried into the Gazette. “Ellen?” My voice echoed through the building. How odd. Maybe Ellen was out back. With growing unease, I clipped on Bailey’s leash and trotted out the side door to the waterfront. A murmur from the crowd reached me just before the Danville River Bridge. A pungent odor brought tears to my eyes, and a dark stain marred the embankment. Summer flies buzzed.
I threaded my way through the throng, my dog at my side until Ellen Mattingly snagged my arm. Despite the August heat, my father’s assistant looked cucumber-cool in her khaki pants and white blouse. Long hair hung down her back.
“Lindsey,” Ellen said. “Hold up. This is a crime scene.”
“Hey. Good to see you.” I hugged her. “What’s the story here?”
Moisture brimmed in her blue eyes. “Judge Alan Sterling is dead.”
News reporting ran in my veins, but I wasn’t prepared for this. “Oh, no. What happened?”
“Leroy Brown over at the shrimp docks saw him before all the cops arrived.” Tears rolled down her face. “Judge Sterling was stabbed to death.”
My thoughts hit turbocharge. The judge was dead. Really, truly dead. Stabbed. Not an accident.
I patted Ellen’s back. “It’s going to be all right.”
My gaze traveled to the concrete pillars supporting the Danville Bridge. Overhead traffic thumped by in a blur. I understood their haste. Ten years ago I felt the same need to hurry out of town.
Bailey tugged the leash out of my palm and bolted inside the forbidden zone. My stomach knotted as she headed straight for the dead man.