Introducing M.J. Johns

While I’ve been busy for the last four years writing mystery, my inner wild child has been longing to step out of the shadows. In comes M.J. Johns. Together we’ll be publishing paranormal romances. In comes the werebears and werewolves in the first of a series of novellas, Hidden, Clan of the Werebear. As one person recently told me, what have you done with Madison Johns? 

What to expect?

These books are not humor based and are of a much more serious tone. They also contain adult content and scenes that are not recommended for anyone under the age of eighteen. This has brought challenges such as all of my editors won’t edit erotica. While I consider these books to be very much plot driven, I must say that I’ve been enjoying writing something new and unknown to me. 

What about my core fan base?

If you love Madison Johns’ mysteries, not to worry. I’ll still be churning out more mysteries. Bigfoot in Tawas will be published April 28th, and after that I can’t say when the next one will be published (I’m thinking two months), but when you do see Agnes again, she’ll be quite different as the series is being revamp as a paranormal mystery series.

 

Cover Reveal ~ Bigfoot in Tawas

Coming Soon!

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The sixth book in the Agnes Barton series.

 

Agnes and Eleanor embark on their most challenging case to date … finding Bigfoot!

Agnes isn’t sure what to say when Billy Matlin hires her to find Bigfoot, and it doesn’t help that Eleanor is hiding in the car. Who is she to say that Bigfoot isn’t real? And, lord knows, she sure could use a paying gig. Armed with a baggie full of brown hair, Agnes and Eleanor march into the sheriff’s department, but Sheriff Peterson is reluctant to test the hair, outright refusing to use county resources for a DNA analysis.

Before long, the Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Game Service also both refuse to test the hair, suggesting that the only way they would investigate is if an endangered species is involved. Never one to be told no, Agnes does the only thing she thinks will get them to change their minds by planting evidence in the form of a road-killed Bald Eagle on Billy’s property.

East Tawas is not only overrun with Bigfoot sightings, but it would seem just about everyone they question claims to have seen something mysterious in the woods. When big game hunters roll into town, and with the DNR and U.S. Fish and Game fighting over the brown hair, not to mention a reality show offering up a ten million dollar prize to whoever finds Bigfoot, it’s up to Agnes and Eleanor to find out the truth, which is further complicated when Billy Matlin mysteriously disappears.

Coming late April.

New Release ~ Target of Death

It’s been almost two years since I made a splash onto the publishing world as a self published author, and now, I finally have a new cozy mystery series, Target of Death. This series features one of my readers, Tammy Rodrigue, and I think most of my readers will love this one just as much as they do my Agnes Barton Senior Sleuths Mystery Series. This time around the sleuth is younger, but there is also a senior citizen, Margarita, on hand to help out when it comes to sleuthing. 

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When Tammy Rodrigue, known as Louisiana Sassy on the archery circuit, rolled into Bear Paw, Michigan, for the archery competition, Tournament of Trouble, she never expected to be considered a suspect in a murder investigation. Sure, the victim was killed via an arrow through his heart with the same white and pink fletches (feathers) like Tammy uses, but she had just come to town. Not only that, but she was just pulled out of a ditch by a mysterious man wearing a ski mask. Most women might be frightened, but not Tammy. She’s tough as nails and not about to be intimidated by anyone, not even the local archery hot shot, Daniel Adams, who turned out to be the man under the mask.

Tammy and her tag-along friend, Dixie, slid their way into town amidst a snowstorm and took shelter at the local restaurant, Hidden Pass, run by a kind senior citizen, Margarita Hickey, who offers them a place to stay. As it were, Margarita was down on her luck and her business had gone on hard times. She’s impressed when Tammy spices up the chili she ordered with her own brand of spices that she always carries with her. It’s then that a plan is hatched, and Tammy and Dixie devise a way to help Margarita by creating Cajun recipes that Margarita could serve during the winter festival.

As Tammy and Dixie begin to poke into Sheriff Simon Price’s murder investigation, they discover there are more secrets in this town than what’s hiding out in the Bayou back home. Margarita, not one to be left out in the cold, tags along, too. The victim, Clayton Percy, has cheated on his wife and has been flashing cash all over town, but nobody seems to know why. Or are they keeping it a secret? Will Tammy and Dixie be able to solve this mystery in time before the Tournament of Trouble, or will Tammy finally miss her mark?

Amazon http://amzn.to/1pKy3cn

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1eC7DFu

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1fyrd0N

Kobo http://bit.ly/1n8wHG1

Unfinished Business Giveaway ~ Carolyn Riddler Aspenson

I’m welcoming author Carolyn Riddler Aspenson on my blog today and she has a great giveaway that I know you’ll love. 

Unfinished Business

ANGELA PANTHER HAS A PERFECT LIFE: A lovely home, an attentive, successful husband, two reasonably behaved children, a devoted dog and a lot of coffee and cupcakes. But while her life might border on mundane, she’s got it under control. Until her mother, Fran dies-and returns as a ghost. It seems Fran’s got some unfinished business and she’s determined to get it done. Now Fran’s got some nifty celestial superpowers and isn’t opposed to using them to levy a little ghostly retribution on her granddaughter’s frienemies and even her own daughter, which doesn’t make Angela happy. While Angela’s shocked and grateful to have her mother back, she’s not thrilled about the portal to the afterlife Fran opened upon her return. Now every ghost in town is knockin’ on Angela’s psychic door, looking for help-and it’s a royal pain in the butt. Now Angela’s got to find a way to balance her family life with her new gift and keep her mother in line. And it’s a lot for one woman to handle.

Amazon Link to the book. http://dld.bz/dhG7X 

Unfinished Business prize.

ENTER TO WIN ONE OF FIVE KINDLE COPIES OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS AN ANGELA PANTHER NOVEL AND A HANDMADE SCRAPBOOK/JOURNAL! Winning is easy! All you have to do to be eligible to win is: 1. Sign up for author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson’s newsletter by visiting her website at www.carolynridderaspenson.com 2. Like her page at www.facebook.com/unfinishedbusiness Five lucky winners will receive a kindle copy of Carolyn’s bestselling novel, Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Novel and one extra lucky winner will receive a handmade scrapbook/journal. Enter today! Winners will be announced on Saturday at www.facebook.com/unfinishedbusiness.

Target of Death ~ Cover Reveal

Not only do I have a new series slated for a March release, but I have the cover to reveal. Susan Coils has really outdone herself this time around and I’m over the moon with how the cover for Target of Death has turned out. A little background about the series, the main character Tammy Rodrigue is a reader who helped me develop the character that was named after her. What makes this one a little different is the archery storyline, and of course the Cajun cooking. Each book will have a Cajun recipe included. The main character is from Louisiana, and for the purposes of this story, she travels to Michigan in the dead of winter for the archery competition, Tournament of Trouble. 

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When Tammy Rodrigue, known as Louisiana Sassy on the archery circuit, rolled into Bear Paw, Michigan, for the archery competition, Tournament of Trouble, she never expected to be considered a suspect in a murder investigation. Sure, the victim was killed via an arrow through his heart with the same white and pink fletches (feathers) like Tammy uses, but she had just come to town. Not only that, but she was just pulled out of a ditch by a mysterious man wearing a ski mask. Most women might be frightened, but not Tammy. She’s tough as nails and not about to be intimidated by anyone, not even the local archery hot shot, Daniel Adams, who turned out to be the man under the mask.

Tammy and her tag-along friend, Dixie, slid their way into town amidst a snowstorm and took shelter at the local restaurant, Hidden Pass, run by a kind senior citizen, Margarita Hickey, who offers them a place to stay. As it were, Margarita was down on her luck and her business had gone on hard times. She’s impressed when Tammy spices up the chili she ordered with her own brand of spices that she always carries with her. It’s then that a plan is hatched, and Tammy and Dixie devise a way to help Margarita by creating Cajun recipes that Margarita could serve during the winter festival.

As Tammy and Dixie begin to poke into Sheriff Simon Price’s murder investigation, they discover there are more secrets in this town than what’s hiding out in the Bayou back home. Margarita, not one to be left out in the cold, tags along, too. The victim, Clayton Percy, has cheated on his wife and has been flashing cash all over town, but nobody seems to know why. Or are they keeping it a secret? Will Tammy and Dixie be able to solve this mystery in time before the Tournament of Trouble, or will Tammy finally miss her mark?

Subscribe to my newsletter list at https://www.facebook.com/MadisonJohnsAuthor/app_10026589669034

 

New Release ~ Pretty, Hip & Dead

When I developed Kimberly Steele’s character, I knew her name alone was worthy of more than a romance novella. She first appeared in my romance novella, Pretty and Pregnant, last year, but now, she has turned sleuth when she is accused of murder. Kimberly knew if she was to beat the rap, she had to hire the most experienced investigator she knew, Agnes Barton. Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason roll into town to help the poor girl out. As it is, Kimberly is six months pregnant and hardly capable of clearing her name, or so they thought until Kimberly insists she tag along as the senior sleuths do what they do best… solve crimes.

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My ninth book has been released. Pretty, Hip & Dead is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. This is book one of the Agnes Barton/Kimberly Steele Cozy Mystery Series.

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1eUJ3LK

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1isHzN9

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/LQEFGv

Kobo http://bit.ly/1e4KdDi

If you haven’t yet read Pretty and Pregnant, you might want to pick up a copy, but interestedly enough, Kimberly Steele has made a cameo in, Trouble in Tawas, along with the beer toting Mrs. Barry, and the bird sisters, Mrs. Peacock and Mrs. Canary. In the pet category there is a miniature Dachshund hound, Weenie, and a loud mouthed Macaw, Birdie, that loves to cuss like a sailor.

With lively characters like this, how could I not start a crossover series featuring Agnes Barton and Kimberly Steele? :)

New Release ~ Treasure in Tawas

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Treasure in Tawas

The last thing Agnes Barton expected was to be slapped in cuffs alongside her best friend, and fellow-sleuthing buddy, Eleanor Mason. All they had wanted to do was to verify if a painting at the Butler Mansion had indeed been stolen, but when the Mildred Winnefree’s body was also discovered in the mansion by the cops, they rose to the top of the suspect list. It didn’t help that they had entered the mansion illegally—using a key Agnes had pilfered from her daughter Martha who was working as a real estate agent to sell the old place.

Word has it that a treasure map was hidden in the back of a painting at the Butler Mansion, and it was just too juicy a story not to investigate. So here Agnes and Eleanor sat in jail as prime suspects. It was obvious that with her nemesis death, she’d have her hands full trying to prove her innocence.

The tabloid, Tall Tales, printed a treasure map its most recent addition and soon East Tawas became the focus of treasure hunters who began tearing up the town looking for treasure. Agnes and Eleanor joined in the foray, but she wondered just who was behind this tall tale and just what did it have to do with Mildred’s murder.

 

Treasure in Tawas the 5th book in the Agnes Barton Senior Sleuths Mystery series in now available at the following places.

 

Amazon http://amzn.to/1jWfoX3

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1d4WjvX

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1mOzdiA

Kobo http://bit.ly/1dIWVHB

 

 Chapter One

 

Cop cars roared into the drive of the Butler Mansion and skidded to a halt. Then heavy feet pounded up the few steps that led to the door. My best friend, Eleanor (or El for short) Mason, and I froze in our tracks as the flashing bubble lights blasted through the sheer curtains. I’m Agnes Barton, and I’m a senior sleuth. Eleanor is my partner, and we’re here in the Butler Mansion, which was the site of a couple of murders a while ago. At that time, Herman Butler had fallen from a third story window. Now, there seems to be more trouble in the mansion. We were led to believe that a portrait of one of the Butlers’ descendants had been stolen. The problem is that we weren’t exactly let inside. We used the key that was located in a real estate lock box. My daughter, Martha, is working as a real estate agent, and I kind of “borrowed” the key to take a look around.

“I told you they had a silent alarm,” Eleanor said in an I-told-you-so voice.

I brought my hand to my head in exasperation. “How on earth are we gonna explain ourselves out of this one?”

Eleanor shrugged. “Beats me, but somehow, I see a trip to the pokey over this one. I mean, we are breaking and entering.”

“It’s not like I had a choice. Martha refused to let us in to check things out.”

“She sure takes her job seriously. You have to admire her for that.”

I pushed Eleanor along the hallway that led to the back door, where we exited the mansion. We pressed our bodies against the overgrown ivy walls until I felt it was safe to move toward the woods. We didn’t even make it two feet before we heard Sheriff Peterson shout, “Freeze!”

El and I raised our arms, and the sheriff moved toward us, his eyes narrowed. “What in tarnation?” he bellowed. “What are you two doing here?”

“Actually, I was thinking about buying the place,” I lied.

“I doubt your social security check will cover that one.”

I waved the key in his face. “I have a key. How was I to know there was a silent alarm?”

“Which means you obviously don’t have permission to be here. Did Martha give you the key?”

I was tempted to just lie and say yes, but I didn’t want to get my daughter into trouble at the real estate office. “Not exactly, but the reason we’re here is—”

Peterson yanked up the waistband of his brown trousers. “I don’t care what the reason is. You’re both under arrest.”

No sense in arguing with the man, so we followed him to the front yard, where Trooper Sales stood. When he saw us, he raised his brow. “Figures. Stay right here while we do a sweep of the house.”

The cops entered the mansion. It wasn’t long before one of them came back, and with a major newsflash. “There’s a body in here!” he exclaimed.

My eyes widened, as did El’s. “Are you sure?” I asked.

“I ought to know a body when I see one,” the trooper said. “It’s another old lady.”

“What do you mean, another? Like you think we’re old?” El asked.

“Yeah, you both are. Aren’t you two kinda old to off another old lady?”

I stepped forward. “Now, you listen here, young man. Even if you found a body here, it doesn’t mean that we’re responsible. We only came here to see if a painting of the Butler descendants was stolen, that’s all.”

Sheriff Peterson gnashed his teeth together. “Please say you don’t buy into that nonsense about a treasure map hidden in a painting here?”

That’s why we’re here, all right, but I wasn’t sure if it was wise to say more without a lawyer. “I think I should be quiet now.”

El’s face dropped as she said, “Agnes, we should just tell him the truth.”

“We do that and we’ll be in more trouble. I don’t think we should say anything further without a lawyer present.”

Trooper Sales appeared in the doorway and motioned me forward. El and I entered, and he led us into the kitchen, where we stopped in surprise at the sight of the body of my nemesis, Mildred Winfree, sprawled out on the floor, a bloodied silver candlestick next to her. My eyes met El’s as we both shook our heads in disbelief.

“Tell me again why you were really here tonight?” the trooper asked pointedly.

“First, I never told you anything, and second, I already told Sheriff Peterson that I’m not saying a word until I consult with a lawyer. I will say one thing for sure, though—neither El nor I killed Mildred Winfree.”

“She’s not exactly a friend of yours.”

“I’ll agree with you there, but I draw the line on murder. I don’t hate her at all. She hates me. It’s a totally separate thing.”

“Maybe she was here to find the map,” El said. “You know, the one everyone says is behind one of the paintings here.”

“That was just a story they featured in some fly-by-night magazine for entertainment purposes. It’s not based on facts. One of the Butlers’ former employees probably sold the story to that tabloid. You can’t believe anything that someone was paid to say,” Sales said.

Oh, forget the lawyer, I told myself, realizing that if I didn’t fess up, Sales would really think we had killed Mildred. “Okay,” I said, taking a deep breath and plunging ahead. “So, we came here to find out if one of the paintings of the Butler descendants was indeed missing.”

“Stolen,” El corrected me.

Sales rolled his eyes at our story.

“I swear, we never came into the kitchen,” I blurted out. “We had no idea that there was a dead body in here—least of all Mildred’s.”

“She’s right,” El said. “We came in the front door using the key from the lock box and had only made it into the drawing room before you cops showed up.”

“You triggered a silent alarm that alerted us,” Sales informed us. “The Butlers had to upgrade it since all this hoopla about a treasure map surfaced,” he added, peering at us sternly. “You should have known that you can’t just traipse in here like that. It’s breaking and entering.”

 “But we have a key, remember?”

“I don’t care if you do. My guess is that you stole the key to that lock box from your daughter, Martha. There’s no way she’d just give it to you. She’s really trying to turn her life around.”

“Spoken like a true son in-law,” I commented.

Sales was married to my granddaughter, Sophia, Martha’s daughter, who was about to give birth to their first child. They had been married in a small ceremony after our last case.

Sales continued to stand there with his hands on his hips. “Have you recently had any disagreements with Mildred?”

I clammed up. Sure, we’d had an argument just last week at bingo, when she accused me of switching bingo cards with her while she was in the bathroom. “None that I recall,” I said. Truth was that I just didn’t want to give the trooper any ammo to use against me.

“We’ll see about that one, but you are here, and that puts you on the suspect list—the both of you.”

“Why me?” El said huffily. “Agnes is the one who can’t get along with Mildred, not me.”

“You also know that I never went into the kitchen,” I insisted, glaring at my friend. “Are you trying to get me pegged for murder, Eleanor?”

“Of course not. I was just saying—”

“Saying too much, that’s what.” I folded my arms across my chest. “I don’t have anything to say, and I don’t have any blood on me or on my clothing. If I had killed her, surely I’d have some trace evidence on me.”

“Good point, Agnes,” El said.

“I guess we’ll find that out later when we check both of your clothing at the jailhouse,” Sales said.

I felt naked suddenly. “What will we wear then?”

“An orange jail outfit.”

“That won’t do. Orange is so not my color,” El spat. “And it’s not Agnes’s color, either.”

Sales motioned a deputy forward, and we were frisked, causing a giggle to escape El’s lips. As the heavy cuff slapped closed over our wrists, I almost cried. This wasn’t like the other times we had been arrested. This time it was serious. How on earth would anyone believe that I’d kill Mildred? Sure, we had our differences, but murder? Not!

We were led outside and placed into the back of Peterson’s cruiser. We traveled the ten minutes to the jail and were shuffled inside and into the processing area. After our fingerprints, mug shots, and strip search, we were each given an orange jumpsuit with the name Iosco County Jail printed on the breast pocket. We bypassed the holding cell and were taken to another cell farther into the building. Once we were locked into the small space, I stared at the two bunks, which didn’t look a bit comfy, and took in the toilet along the far wall.

“What about our one phone call?” El asked.

“Maybe they aren’t done questioning us, yet?”

“I’m scared, Aggie. They really think we had something to do with Mildred’s death.”

“It doesn’t make any sense. Who would kill Mildred like that? Sure, she’s annoying, but not worth offing.”

“I agree, Agnes. It’s scary thinking someone would kill an old lady like that. I mean, how much of a fight could she have put up?” El frowned. “Do you think Mildred’s death was related to the recent theft of the painting?”

“We don’t even know for sure if a painting was stolen.”

 “Foiled by the cops again. Story of our life,” El huffed.

We sat together on the bottom bunk contemplating the matter and finally fell silent. Leaning against each other, we both eventually nodded off to sleep.

***

We awoke the next morning to the sound of the metal door being swung open by a female guard. She led me from the cell, down a long corridor, and into a room that no doubt had a large two-way mirror. Centered in the room was a table with two chairs, a box of donuts, and a coffee pot. Seeing these ordinary items somehow made it all the more real to me. It felt like something you’d see on Criminal Minds. Even through my fear, I could hardly wait to see who was planning to question me. Would it be the good cop, Trooper Sales, or the bad cop, Sheriff Peterson? Not that Peterson was really a bad cop at all, though. We just only get along half the time, that’s all.

Sheriff Peterson entered first, with Trooper Sales following. “Hello, Agnes,” Peterson greeted me. He poured me a cup of coffee and added vanilla creamer. “Just how you like it, right?”

I nodded. “Are those donuts for me?”

“Sure, have one.”

I grabbed a glazed one and bit in. “This is great. I felt my blood sugar dropping.”

“It can do that when you’re under stress, Agnes,” Trooper Sales said. “Or guilty of something.”

“The only thing I’m guilty of is entering the Butler Mansion without permission. Since this is my first offense and I hadn’t stolen anything, you don’t have much on me. When my lawyer gets here, he’ll tell you so. By the way, I haven’t gotten my phone call yet.”

Sales slapped his hand on the counter. “Just tell me why you did it,” he insisted.

“I told you everything already. I had only just entered the Butler Mansion when you arrived. I never went into that kitchen until you took me there, and I certainly didn’t murder Mildred.”

“You weren’t friends.”

“Just because I don’t like someone and they were found dead doesn’t mean I did it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in town that Mildred hated. She’s not exactly the friendly type, you know.”

“You’re right there, but you were there when her body was discovered. What did you hope to gain by Mildred’s death?”

I had expected Sales to play “good cop.” I can’t believe he was the one grilling me. “It’s clear that you’re not listening, Sales. I’d like to call my lawyer now.”

Sales leaned back in his chair with a creak. “I see. Lawyering up can be seen as an admission of guilt.”

“If it were up to you, Sales, you’d have me in the electric chair.”

“Oh, come now. Michigan doesn’t have the death penalty, and you know it.”

“And to think you’re part of my family now.”

“Don’t use that on me, Aggie. I have a job to do, and I plan to do it right.”

“I know how you cops are. How you like to turn things around. Maybe you shouldn’t be so intent on pinning this on me and, instead, you should put your attention to finding the real killer. You can call Andrew Hart for me now.”

Peterson nodded and picked up the phone on the wall, calling Andrew and explaining that I needed his legal expertise at the jail.

I munched on donuts until he arrived.

From the frown on Andrew’s handsome face when he walked into the room, it was obvious that Trooper Sales had brought him up to speed. I was ushered into a more private room, and before I even had a chance to say a word, Andrew lit into me. “What were you thinking, Aggie? This is a bit much, even for you. You know damn well you shouldn’t have set foot in that mansion!”

“I didn’t see any harm in it. I had a key and figured nobody would be any the wiser.”

“Except that Mildred’s cold, dead body was there.”

“They can’t pin that on me. We simply have to prove she was dead long before El and I arrived.”

“What time did you get there?”

“I believe it was about seven p.m.”

“And you know that how?”

“Because I looked at my cell is how. I had just gotten off the phone with Sophia.”

“That hardly proves anything, but they can bounce that off a cell tower to determine where you were … but what about earlier in the afternoon, like about five?”

“El and I went to Fuzzy’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and we both had our hair done at Maxine’s Hair Hut in Tadium.” I smoothed my salt and pepper hair into place. El and I had both had a wash and set. “While we were under the drier, it was Maxine who told us about the treasure map hidden behind one of the paintings at the Butler Mansion. She even hinted that one of the paintings had been stolen, and that was all we needed. El and I felt compelled to check it out.” I looked at the lawyer, adding, “It’s awfully interesting, a treasure hidden right here in East Tawas, don’t you think?”

Andrew frowned hard enough that a vein in his temple throbbed. “Not enough to perpetrate a breaking and entering. Look where all your snooping has gotten you—implicated in a murder!”

I interlaced my fingers, not liking where this conversation was heading one bit. “I told you we weren’t—”

“Look, I have told you in the past that, eventually, your investigating activities will land you into trouble. You and El were nearly killed in a few of your cases. Jesus, Agnes, when will it be enough for you? When are you planning to retire?”

“Me retire? How about you?”

He ran a shaky hand through his grey hair. “This isn’t about me, and my clients don’t put me in harm’s way. You, on the other hand—”

“Hey, now, that’s not fair. I hadn’t meant for you to ever get hurt, but you know who I am and what I do. I thought you liked who I was as a person?”

“I do like you. God, I love you, Aggie, but you need to stop doing this.”

I massaged my hands as they began to ache. “El and I didn’t do this … That’s all I can tell you, but I hope you know that we need to investigate Mildred’s death now. How else are we gonna clear our names?”

“Let the police handle it.”

“If we do that, we’ll be in prison for sure. I don’t think my aching body could handle that.” I paused. “Are you going to help us or not?”

“Of course I am, but if you make bail you’ll have to be extra cautious. If Sheriff Peterson or Trooper Sales finds out you’re investigating, they just might revoke your bail and lock you back up.”

“What do you mean if we make bail? Why wouldn’t we get bail?”

“It’s all up to the judge, dear. I’ll check with the sheriff to see when a bail hearing will be held. Until then, zip your lip and tell that friend of yours to zip hers too. I can’t have you two undermining me when I’m trying to get you off.”

I followed Andrew from the conference room and was led back to the cell, but Eleanor wasn’t there. Ten minutes later, she was brought back in, and I gave her a hug, whispering in her ear, “Andrew is here, and he’ll be representing us. What did you tell them?”

“The truth, that we only went looking for a missing painting and that we had no idea Mildred was lying dead in the kitchen. That trooper is really playing bad cop.”

Our conversation was interrupted when Andrew came back to tell us our bail hearing would be in an hour.

I sat on the bunk and tried to relax, but it was hard when we were so obviously on the hot seat. “I just don’t know what to do,” I said to Eleanor. “Andrew thinks we should butt out, but we need to clear our names.”

“He needs to understand that we don’t have a choice,” Eleanor replied. “I can’t imagine what Elsie is going to say when she finds out her sister is dead and that we’re suspects.”

Thinking about the social icon had my head hurting. “I can’t imagine she’s gonna want us anywhere near her, but surely she’ll listen to reason.”

El’s eyes widened. “This is Elsie we’re talking about, right?”

“I know, but hopefully she realizes that I’m no murderer, even if I didn’t get along with Mildred. I didn’t have as much resentment for Mildred as she had for me.”

“I’m afraid that your history with Mildred is going to hurt you, but don’t worry. I’m planning to stick by you, no matter what.”

She said it as though she weren’t already along for the ride. “You do know they think you’re my accomplice?” I reminded her.

“Of course, but people have more sense than to believe I’d be an accomplice to murder. We need to find the real killer, and do it quietly, like Andrew suggested. It’s a good thing you’re dating an attorney, Agnes, but who knew we’d ever need one ourselves?”

“I never imagined that we’d be on the other side of the coin—suspects in a murder ourselves,” I agreed. “It’s just awful that someone killed Mildred.”

“And with a candlestick, of all things. They’ll find our clothing is clear of blood splatter, though, and that should be it.” Eleanor sounded matter-of-fact.

“I still can’t believe Trooper Sales really even thinks we’re involved in Mildred’s death.” I shook my head.

“He’s a good trooper, and he’s no dummy. He’ll come around to our way of thinking.”

I sighed. “I sure hope so. I can’t imagine what my granddaughter will think when she hears about Bill accusing me like that. I hope it doesn’t come between them.”

“I’m sure Sophia will back her husband, not you, Aggie.”

“But I’m her grandmother!” I spat.

“And she’s set to deliver her baby any time, now. It wouldn’t be fair to put her in the middle of this, Aggie.”

I nodded and kept my thoughts to myself, like: What would we do if we really weren’t allowed out on bail?

***

 

An hour later, we stood in front of the Honorable Mary Kroft, whose eyes widened in recognition. “This is a switch. I sure never expected you two to be charged with a crime.” She read off the charges of breaking and entering, then asked, “How do you plead?”

“Innocent. We did have a key. My daughter Martha—”

As if on cue, Martha strode into the courtroom, her navy blue suit swirling about her legs. She stopped to whisper into Andrew’s ear, and he asked for permission to approach the bench. I had no idea what was said but when I looked at Martha, she winked in our direction.

Andrew returned to our side, watching as the judge removed her glasses and smoothed a strand of hair behind her ear.

“It seems there has been a turn in events,” the judge said. “Your daughter has stated that she gave you the key to the lock box and had given you permission to enter the Butler Mansion. She has also admitted that she forgot to give you the code to disable the alarm, but I’m perfectly aware that there is an ongoing investigation into the death of Mildred Winfree. While I will drop the breaking and entering charges, I suggest that neither of you leave town.”

I raised a hand, and the judge motioned for me to speak. “But we both live in Tadium. Is it all right if we go home?”

“I’d prefer it if you stayed in East Tawas. Surely you have friends you could stay with here.”

“I’d be happy to put them up somewhere in town,” Andrew volunteered.

I sighed in relief. Although I knew that this didn’t mean we were off the suspect list for Mildred’s murder, at least it offered us some hope.

We were dismissed, and on our way out, we ran into a stone-faced Trooper Sales, who insisted we notify him of where we planned to stay in town once we were situated. Sheriff Peterson told Andrew we were allowed to go home and retrieve our belongings and said that he was counting on Andrew to make sure we returned to East Tawas.

We made way into the parking lot, and I hugged Martha. “Thanks. How are you holding up in the Winnebago?”

“Great, but I sure hope you two can find somewhere else to stay. It’s just not big enough for all of us.”

“A friend of mine has a vacation house on Lake Huron,” Andrew announced. “I’m sure he’ll allow you two to stay there since he lives in Detroit most of the time, and he’s been too busy to come to town this summer.”