If you would've told me year ago that I was going to be broke and penniless after my husband took everyone to the cleaners after he pulled off one of the biggest Ponzi schemes, leaving me a run down campground, a set of camper keys, before he escaped prison and when the FBI came to the campground to see if I helped him escape, then the no good you know what floated up to the top of the lake in that campground making me the number one suspect, I'd said you were lying.
Release date: August 19, 2021
Publisher: Tonya Kappes Books
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A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery Books 1-10
“A campground?” I gulped back a good hissy fit because one could never underestimate the power of a good hissy fit, something I’ve tried really hard not to do in years. “As in, tiny little metal houses and porta potties?” “Well, I think they have a toilet in them,” said Stanley Shelton, my lawyer. He eased back in his big fancy wingback leather chair with his elbows resting on the wooden arms and his fingers drumming against each other. The grey pinstriped suit was made of the finest materials, and the nice crystal cufflinks were the touch it needed that screamed successful lawyer. “I think the toilet is small, but you’re small.” He rubbed his hand over his bald head and then proceeded to draw his hand over his mustache and beard. I tried as hard as I could to keep it together, but my composure was under attack. “What about my house in the Hamptons? I’ll just go there.” I let out a sigh of relief. It was a perfect plan. “I’m desperately going to miss the New York City apartment, but I need a break.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to change the fact that my now ex-husband was in jail for a Ponzi scheme. He kept me busy by sending me to the spa, salon, and shopping for most of our two-year marriage. Not to mention, I’d cashed out my 401(k) to help him start a side business where he said we’d be partners. Little did I realize it was partners in crime. “And the house is gone.” Stanley’s jaw set. “I’m going to need the keys to your car and trade you for these.” He dangled a very small key from a flamingo key chain in the air. “What’s that? A moped key?” I joked. “It’s to your house and your new car.” He glanced out the window of his fancy office that was filled with plaques and certificates that boasted of his high education. “You can’t even look at me? Because I clearly remember that when we were donating to your son-in-law’s election fund and visiting our friends in the community who ended up being big donors, you had no issue looking at me. And now that my bank account has taken a hit, you won’t even look at me?” I questioned, with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. “It didn’t take a hit. There’s no bank account. The FBI seized it all.” Stanley made no effort to make me feel the slightest bit better about my situation. “Where is my new house? The Upper East Side? Not that that’s a bad place to live, but not like where we live now.” “Ummm”—he licked his lips—“out there.” He pointed to the window. I sat up a little straighter in my chair and leaned on the arm of the leather chair. “There’s nothing out there but an RV; a small one at that.” I laughed and eased back into the chair. “Wait, you mean that…” My voice trailed off when I noticed he didn’t find amusement in my teasing about the camper. “I’m afraid that there’s no money to give you. The only thing free and clear are the camper and the campground.” He stood up and walked around the desk. He eased down on the edge. “I’m sorry, Mae. You don’t deserve this.” “Are you sure?” I asked. I mean, I was having a real bad day before I got here, but this just made it almost unbearable. I rested my elbow on the arm of the chair and covered my mouth with my hand. I twisted my head to the side so Stanley couldn’t see my tearing up. There was a glimpse of my silhouette in the door of the mini refrigerator. My hazel eyes were sunken with half-moon dark circles under them. I’d not taken time to straighten my long brown curly hair, and the humidity in the air wasn’t making it any better. “Mae?” Stanley said my name. I blinked a few times. I didn’t recognize the image staring back at me. “Sorry,” I apologized and forced a demure smile. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I had nothing. No family. No marriage. No place to live. No car. Nothing. “I mean, Paul is a jerk, and I’d like to kill him, but he left me with nothing?” I hugged my designer bag to my chest. That scum, I couldn’t believe that I was so dumb that I put everything in his name. “He owed a lot of people money, and some still don’t have their retirement back. You’re lucky I could salvage this in the settlements since he did have it in your name alone.” He sounded as if I needed to thank Paul. Stanley picked up the flamingo key chain and once again stuck it in my face. “The campground is in Normal, Kentucky.” “Kentucky?” My jaw dropped. “You mean I have to go there?” My mind rolled back to the last time I was in Kentucky. It was 2:04 a.m. I knew the exact time because it was the time I was born and also my eighteenth birthday. It was the day I grew up and knew that no one was going to give me a free ride. Somehow, Paul made me feel safe and secure, until now. “You have to go there and be the manager if you want to have some sort of income, or we can look at selling the place.” He didn’t move those darn keys. “I didn’t even know about this campground.” I shook my head, refusing to take the keys. “I’ve certainly never been a manager of a campground.” “When Paul was in college, he somehow ended up at this campground and won some silly bet. After the two of you were married, he had me put the deed in your name and your name alone. The FBI couldn’t seize it.” Stanley thumbed through some papers on his desk. “Lucky me,” I groaned. “You have a camper to live in and a way to acquire some income.” He pushed himself up off the desk and put a hand on my shoulder. “I suggest you take a trip. Make it an adventure. Check the place out and save up a couple of months before you decide if you want to sell it or not.” He held out a brochure that had Happy Trails written in big letters across the top. There was a beautiful, bright, and vibrant photo on the front that looked more like a vacation spot than a campground. “Adventure?” I cocked a brow and looked back out the window at the camper. “Yellow?” I questioned the color of my home on wheels. “I don’t even like yellow.” “It’s a pop-up. The top lifts to make more space. There’s a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and you can drive it. It’s perfect,” he said with an upbeat tone. “Be sure you read the manual in the glove box on how to work all the equipment. It can be tricky.” “Are you really trying to sell me on this camping idea? I lived in a ten-thousand-square-foot home with a house cleaner. I drive a Maserati. Drove.” I gripped the keys of my little car in my hand. I looked down and opened my palm. “Did drive a Maserati.” I gulped back the tears and practically ripped the flamingo key chain out of his hand. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I’ve got to get to court.” He took his hand off my shoulder and put it in his pants pocket, pulling out a hundred-dollar bill. “Here. This is for gas and food. I can feel the bones in your shoulder. Eat.” “No.” I shook my head and stood up, a bit wobbly. “I’m fine. I don’t need a handout.” He didn’t take no for an answer. He stuck the money in my palm and curled my fingers around it. “Let me know when you get to Kentucky.” He smiled and patted my hand before he dropped it. His eyes softened. “Mae, I’m sorry. Out of all my clients’ wives, you’ve always been so kind and nice. I know this whole process has made you bitter and hard-hearted. But I know you’re strong and will figure this all out.” “Thanks, Stanley.” I sucked in a deep breath. “You’ve been great. I know I sound like some spoiled brat, but I think I’m still in shock, despite having been in this nightmare for only three months.” “I sent some of your things to the campground. There’s even a storage facility on the grounds. The current manager knows you’re coming. I put a file in the camper with her name on it and some information about the campsite.” He patted my back. “I suggest you not even look at it until you get there so you can focus on your new adventure the next couple of days.” “Couple of days? That’s how long it’ll take to drive to Kentucky?” I questioned, clearly not remembering how long it took the Greyhound to drive here years ago. “In a camper, yes.” He walked over to the door and opened it. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” “You’ve done enough, keeping me out of jail.” I started to tear up, my voice cracking. “I can’t thank you enough.” I walked out the door knowing that I’d never see Stanley again. The past few months, I’d seen him practically every day. When the FBI had shown up at our house that morning of the raid, I’d never forget. Stanley came right to the jail and bailed me out. We left Paul in there. He deserved it. It took a lot for Stanley to prove that I’d not signed any of the paperwork and Paul had forged my name, but Stanley did it. I’m forever grateful. The long walk down the hall of his office was a blur. I was numb. I remember pushing open the door of his office building and stepping out into the bright sunshine. I pulled my sunglasses down onto my nose and pushed them up. My eyes slid over to the cute little black convertible that was my birthday gift last year when I turned thirty. Little did I realize it was bought with other people’s money Paul had schemed them out of from our fake partnership. I slid my eyes over to the bright yellow camper and then down at the flamingo key chain. “I guess it could be much worse,” I grumbled and took my first steps towards my new reality as I tried to keep an upbeat attitude.
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