Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ground to a Halt by Elaine Orr



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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 War vet, and make sure everyone stays alive. But if Jolie keeps searching, her budding romance with Scoobie may grind to a halt.


Mr. Markle looked at me as I set my coffee on the conveyer belt. "You have a lot of elderly customers at the pantry?"

"Mostly at the end of the month." I took a five dollar bill from my purse. "How long was Joe Regan in here?"

"Joe? He just left. I didn’t see him come in." He finished ringing the item and took my money.

"I, um, thought I saw him coming out of your storage area."

Mr. Markle shrugged. "I put supplies I order for him on a shelf. He was probably checking."

"Ah. Thanks. I’ll likely see you later in the week."

"Tell Scoobie to come over. I have a box of dented cans."

"Thanks." I walked slowly to my car. I knew I should get right to the office, which is in the house Harry bought before he and Aunt Madge married. But maybe I should go to the police. Something told me they might consider Joe Regan to be some sort of missing person. I didn’t want to mind Joe’s business, but his expression said something wasn’t right.

As I opened my car door I heard a pop. It wasn't as loud as a car backfire, but more than a kid would make squashing an aluminum can. Then there was another pop.

Joe Regan walked around the corner from Seashore Street, coming toward me. If he’s coming back to the store he must be fine.

I thought that until Joe collapsed on the sidewalk.

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."

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