Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ground to a Halt (Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series Book 8) by Elaine Orr



When Jolie Gentil goes to buy a cup of coffee the morning after a storm knocks out power at her house in Ocean Alley, she finds Java Jolt unlocked and minus its owner. A bigger surprise is seeing proprietor Joe Regan a few minutes later, badly injured. It seems a potential killer thinks Jolie has something Joe was hiding. The normal routine of appraising houses and volunteering at the Harvest for All food pantry is interrupted by an SUV that nearly smashes Jolie, a break-in at the home Jolie and Scoobie share, and a terrifying kidnapping. Jolie needs to figure out who's telling the truth and how far the thugs will go to to find what they want. Only solving the puzzle will keep Jolie safe, protect a vulnerable Iraqi vet, and make sure everyone stays alive. But if Jolie keeps searching, her budding romance with Scoobie may grind to a halt.

NOTE from Author Elaine Orr:

Eight books ago I named the owner of the Java Jolt Coffee Shop Joe. And my heroine is Jolie. I should have bumped him off awhile ago.

First part of chapter 2, Ground to a Halt
Java Jolt owner Joe Regan has just been shot on Ocean Alley's E Street

INSTINCT PULLED ME toward and away from Joe. I wanted to help him, but my muddled thinking said the noise had been a gun. I compromised by crouching and looking toward Joe for several long seconds.
When there were no more ominous pops I stumbled toward him, leaning forward as I went. Some TV show must have taught me I’d be less of a target if I bent over.
Joe was on his side and his eyes were open. I knelt next to him, unsure what to do. I need to call 9-1-1! Sirens headed toward us made me drop the phone I’d just taken from my pocket and I looked at Joe. "Help is coming."
He whispered. "Jolie. Don’t let them hurt him." He coughed and drew a raspy breath.
"Hurt who?"
Joe closed his eyes.
A heavy vehicle door slammed and two EMTs sprinted toward Joe and me. "Move back!"
I obeyed by falling from my squatting position onto my butt and kind of crab walking backwards for a few steps. I could only stare at Joe. He was so…white.
"Back, Jolie, back!"
It was Sergeant Morehouse, now dressed for business. Somehow I couldn’t move any more. He reached down and yanked me into a standing position by grabbing my elbow. "What did you see?" he yelled.
I pointed to Joe and looked at Morehouse, still unable to speak.
He lowered his voice. "Are you hurt?"
"I…no. Joe, he came towards me…" I looked toward the corner of E and Seashore Street. There were several bright red spots on the sidewalk behind Joe. Blood?
Morehouse grabbed my elbow and moved me a couple meters away from Joe and the EMTs. "Did you see anyone with a gun?"
"No. I think…he was just around that corner." I gestured to the end of the street.
Morehouse pointed toward the corner and two uniformed officers who had been running toward us turned and ran with Morehouse in that direction. They ran to the right and disappeared.
"Jolie, come inside." Mr. Markle called from the door to the market. His tone was insistent.
I walked toward him. "What happened?" I had seen Joe fall, it just didn’t seem real.
A ledge runs at the bottom of the plate glass windows that face the street. Little kids try to walk on it and their parents shoo them off. Mr. Markle more or less pushed me to sit there and he walked to the coffee pot and poured me another cup.
"Thanks." I took a small sip, careful not to scald myself. Not until the hot liquid hit my throat did I realize I was shaking.
"You aren’t going to hit the floor, are you?"
I looked up at Mr. Markle. He’s about five-ten and kind of pear shaped. The front side of the pear is rounder than it was a few years ago. I couldn’t help it. I started to giggle. I put my hand over my mouth. "I’m sorry. It’s not funny."
He stared at me, both hands now on his hips. "You’re in shock or something."
The whoosh of the hydraulic entry door made both of us turn in that direction. Sergeant Morehouse walked in with Dana Johnson, my favorite officer on the Ocean Alley Police Force, a couple of steps behind him.
Morehouse pointed at me. "You okay?"
I nodded as Mr. Markle said, "Jolie said earlier that she saw Joe coming out of my back storage area."
Dana started for the back of the store. Morehouse put the radio to his lips. "Check behind the store. Seems Joe was just in the store room." Someone on the other end of the radio crackled an okay.
Morehouse glanced toward Dana’s back. "Wait up." Morehouse did a half-jog to catch up with her and they were soon out of sight.
I looked at Mr. Markle. "Thanks a lot."
"That’s the third time you’ve thanked me today." He turned and walked a few feet from me to peer around the huge sale signs that covered the plate glass window. "Ambulance is gone."
"Do you think he’ll be okay?"
Markle looked at me in mild irritation, and his expression softened a bit. "They left in a hurry. That’s usually a good sign." He walked to the cash register to pick up his clip board and started writing on it.
How can he do normal work now?
Two more police officers came in, but they didn’t look to be in a particular hurry. They looked at Markle. "Where are…?"
"Back," he said, in his more common clipped tone.
"Here," Morehouse said. He and Dana were approaching from the soup aisle, which is across from the cash register. "Nothing obvious. Markle, would you mind seeing if anything looks out of place?"
"You’ll drive away business again," the store owner muttered, and led the two younger officers toward the back of the store.
What he said might not be exactly true, but I understood his thinking. The In-Town Market was robbed last fall. No one hurt and not much taken, but for a time patrons had stayed away.
Morehouse walked outside and Dana sat next to me. "The sergeant said something about you saw Joe in the store?"
I nodded. "I was in the back, looking at some coffee, and he walked out of the store room going to the front of the store."
"Did you talk to him?" Dana had pulled out a thin spiral notebook and I studied her for a few seconds as she uncapped a pen. Dana is roughly my age, and taller than my five foot two inches, but not much. She’s pretty, but you don’t notice her soft brown hair when it’s pinned under her police hat.
"Just for a second. I told him I’d been to Java Jolt, and was glad he was all right."
"Did he respond?"
"Not directly. He just asked if anyone else was there and walked away. He said he had, I think he said stuff to do."
"Anything look odd? Did he seem stressed? Was he carrying anything?"
"I saw him just for a second. He seemed preoccupied. Then he walked down the aisle next to mine to go out."
Dana turned toward Mr. Markle, who had returned to the front of the store. "When did Joe come in?"
"I didn’t see him come in. He’s not what you’d call chatty, but I order things for the coffee shop for him sometimes, so he talks to me more than to some."
Dana’s head turned from right to left and settled back on Mr. Markle. "Security cameras?"
"No." He pointed to a larger round mirror that sat high on the wall near the ceiling. "Can’t afford ‘em. Keep my eyes on the mirrors, same as always. Have four of them."
She looked back at me. "I heard you said you think Joe got shot just around the corner on Seashore Street. Did you see anyone?"
"Not a soul."
Morehouse came back into the store and stood a few feet from me, frowning. "So, you talked to him?"
Dana went over what Mr. Markle and I had just said, in sort of police shorthand style.
"I was about to call you guys," I said to Morehouse. "Joe just seemed really odd, and I wasn’t sure you knew where he was. That he was safe."
Morehouse snorted. "Safe."

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