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Authors: Elaine Orr

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Real Estate Appraiser - New Jersey

Elaine Orr - Jolie Gentil 07 - Vague Images

BOOK: Elaine Orr - Jolie Gentil 07 - Vague Images
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Elaine Orr - Jolie Gentil 07 - Vague Images
Jolie Gentil [7]
Elaine Orr
Lifelong Dreams Publishing (2014)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Real Estate Appraiser - New Jersey
Bad enough that Jolie ends up in the emergency room because she tried to avoid hitting a deer. Worse to find a dead woman in the hospital restroom after Jolie gets patched up. As the chief budget cutter at the hospital, Tanya Weiss was unpopular, especially in the Radiology Department where Scoobie works. In between appraising houses and feeding her pet skunk, Jolie’s on the lookout for a runaway teenager and whoever planted the dead woman in her path.
Thanks to Scoobie, she’s also planning another crazy fundraiser for the food pantry—this one a Corn Hole Contest. It’s sort of a bean bag game for grown-ups, and the polite term is "Corn Toss Contest." So, of course, Scoobie prepares to name winners in the Harvest for All Corn Hole Contest. And just when Jolie’s ready to leave the murder investigation to the police, she gets a surprise—and it’s not a good one.

Vague Images

Elaine Orr

 

Cover image by Sarah Rogers

Scoobie’s poetry by James W. Larkin

 

Copyright © 2014 by Elaine L. Orr

Kindle
Edition

All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-9851158-8-3

 

This electronic edition of
Vague Images
is licensed for your personal use 

and
may not be copied in any form.

 

Discover other books in the Jolie Gentil Series

Appraisal for Murder

Rekindling Motives

When the Carny Comes to Town

Any Port in a Storm

Trouble on the Doorstep

Behind the Walls

Jolie and Scoobie High School Misadventures (prequel)

www.elaineorr.com

www.elaineorr.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

DE
DICATION

 

To my brother Dan, who does the hard things well. And to Jim, Susan, and Michelle.

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Thanks to my good friend D. Lynn Gordon, who always offers astute critiques. Lorena Shute is a dedicated copy editor, always a reminder that words may be more (or less) than they seem. As always, thanks to my husband, Jim, for understanding the schedule I keep when I write.

 

 

CHAPTER O
NE

 

IF IT HADN’T been for the deer that ran in front of my car I wouldn’t have hurt my foot jamming on the brakes. If I hadn’t hurt my foot I wouldn’t have gone to Ocean Alley’s hospital. If I hadn’t been in the hospital I wouldn’t have seen him. Not that I could follow him. I was on my butt in the emergency room.

Doctor Birdbaum raised his voice. “Jolie, you need to lie still while I wrap your ankle.”

“I need to…”

“You need to be still.”  His voice was firm.

I stared at the fluorescent light above me and winced. “Ow. Does it have to be that tight?”

“Only if you want it to do any good.”  Dr. Birdbaum is a short, round man who rarely exhibits any sense of humor. I didn’t think he was kidding now.

I craned my head toward the door of my cubicle in the ER. I was certain that the face that peered in briefly had been Thomas Edward Finch. He had been ten when I last saw him twelve years ago, and it would be dangerous for him to be in Ocean Alley.

When I first babysat for him and his sister, Hannah, they were both a couple of real pills. By the end of my junior year, my only high school year living with Aunt Madge in Ocean Alley, the two kids and I had really liked each other
.

And then they were gone
. Aunt Madge, Scoobie, and I were warned never to speak of them again.

I stared at the ceiling more while Dr. Birdbaum finished wrapping my ankle
.
Who knew you could do ligament or tendon damage by slamming your foot on the brake?
  Apparently you can when you stomp on it so hard that you are almost standing up in the car. It hurt so much that I couldn’t even get out of the car by myself. Oh well, I didn’t hit the deer.

“How come there are more deer running around now than usual?”

“You think I’m a vet?”  His tone was testy. I lifted my head a bit and he looked at me directly for a second. “It’s fall. Mating season. Bucks are pretty stupid then.”

I was tempted to make a comment about the aptitude of horny males, in general, but did not.

A familiar voice spoke from the doorway. “You left the best skid mark I’ve seen all year.”

I looked at local reporter George Winters
. “No doubt you took a picture.”

“Of course
. She okay, doc?”

Dr. Birdbaum looked at George
. “You know those privacy forms?  I only give information if the patient okays it.” The doctor stood and winked at me as he walked into the hall. “You can tell him yourself.” 

Maybe he does have a sense of humor.

“So…” George asked.

“Nothing broken
. They called it soft tissue damage, but it’s a lump about half the size of a golf ball on the front of my foot, kind of between the two ankle bones.”

“Scuttlebutt is you were trying to hit a deer?”

I didn’t bother to ask why he thought this. George has spies all over town.
So much for privacy.
“Not hit, miss,” I said, in a tone he likely recognized as barbed.

George sat and pulled a plastic chair closer to me
. “Scoobie been in?”

My best bud Scoobie had not been to the ER, but he was in the hospital doing a practicum for his radiology technologist degree
. “He was in the x-ray room.”

“Ha!  I bet he had something to say.”

“Not so much. He was supposed to observe the woman operating the machine.”

“I’ve heard of people trying to be transparent, but you didn’t have to come to radiology to make the point.”   Scoobie grinned from the doorway
. In his scrubs and hospital name badge and with more neatly trimmed dark blonde hair and beard than in the past, he could have been mistaken for a young physician doing his residency.

George stayed seated, but they gave each other a high five. Scoobie and George have been friends for years, and they sometimes outdo each other trying to rile me
. Today I didn’t care about any of that. I needed to talk to Scoobie. Alone.

“You want a ride home?” George asked
. “You can’t drive, can you?”

“It’s my left foot, but they gave me some pain meds, plus it’s swollen, so I need to get home and levitate it.”

“Elevate,” Scoobie laughed. “Have some more pain meds.”

I had an idea
. “Hey, George, I’d like a ride home, but I need crutches. Would you mind asking if they’re giving me some soon?”

“Sure.”  He loped out
. He was in his usual Hawaiian-style collared shirt and Khakis, both of which were rumpled, and the auburn in the shirt sort of matched his hair. There isn’t exactly a dress code for reporters at a paper as small as the
Ocean Alley Press
.

Scoobie came closer, frowned at me, and lowered his voice
. “I know you. Why did you want him out of here?”

“He was here, Scoobie
. Thomas Edward looked in the door.”

It took Scoobie a couple of seconds to get it, and then his eyes widened and he sat in the chair George had just vacated
. “
The
Thomas Edward, the one the FBI guy said never to discuss?”

I nodded
. “He looked right at me, and then pulled back into the hall.”

Scoobie’s expression was dubious. “He was ten, and that was more than ten years ago
. It was probably someone who looked like…”

I shook my head
. “It was him.”

“It was who?” George asked.

George was a year ahead of Scoobie and me, and if I’d grown up in Ocean Alley I would have likely known him back then. But since I was with Aunt Madge only one year while my parents
worked things out
in their marriage, and I was mad at the world, I wasn’t too social.

Back then, it was Scoobie who had been across the street from the house I was babysitting in and had called the police when he saw two men trying to get in the back door
. Thanks to some quick thinking by Thomas Edward, he and his sister and I were locked in a closet upstairs when the men got in. It was just enough of a hiding place that the police were there before the men could find us.

And then the police took the kids, Scoobie, and me to Aunt Madge’s B&B because they didn’t want to call attention to what had happened
. Eventually the FBI came and the kids were whisked away. The FBI told us not to discuss what had happened with anyone, even among ourselves, or the Finch family could be in danger. The Ocean Alley police chief came by the next morning to reiterate this.

So we kept mum
. Even at age sixteen I’d watched enough television to figure the family was in some sort of witness protection program. They’d been in Ocean Alley less than one year, so they were barely missed.

When I didn’t answer him, George looked from Scoobie to me
. “Who are you talking about?”

“She thought she saw Lance Wilson in the hall.”  Scoobie did a circular motion with his forefinger, next to his head.

“Gotta love those drugs,” George grinned.

Scoobie stood
. “Break’s over. Gotta get back to the world of funny film.”  He left.

“It might have been Lance,” I said, continuing the ruse
. “The person was really thin.”  Lance Wilson is on the Harvest for All food pantry committee, which I chair. He’s in his early nineties and looks seventy-five.

George’s expression said he thought I was ditzy
. “I didn’t see him. They’re bringing you crutches. Where are Madge and Harry?”

“They went to one of those huge hardware stores near Lakewood
. Aunt Madge wants a bunch of new handles for her kitchen cabinets.”  She and her fairly new husband, who is also my boss in his real estate appraisal business, are forever working on her B&B or the home he was fixing up before they met. Now they both live in the B&B, though Harry still has the appraisal office in his house.

“Did you call her?” he asked.

I closed my eyes for a second, seeing my sister’s two-story colonial house in Lakewood. I grew up in that town thirty miles inland from Ocean Alley, and it’s where I lived with my ex-husband until close to three years ago. I opened my eyes. “You are kidding, right?  I don’t know who called her, but she called my mobile and I told her I was fine. I think she cared more about the deer than me.”

“You always land on your feet
. Well, maybe not this time.”  George grinned. I ignored him by closing my eyes again. Whatever pain meds they gave me were literally mind-numbing.

There was a tap on the half-open door and a nurse peered in
. “Ms. Gentil?  We can let you go as soon as you have a ride.”  Since I’d been in this ER previously, she knew my name has the French pronunciation. Soft J and G, and a long e sound at the end of both words. Zho-lee Zhan-tee. This is thanks to my father, whose parents were French-Canadian. I have never thanked him for the name.

George raised a hand
. “
Ocean Alley Press
taxi at her service.”  The woman giggled and left.

I frowned
. “She didn’t wait for me to answer.”

“You are ready, right?  It’s only a couple of steps into your house, so once you’re in there you can move around
. Okay?”

“Yep.” 

“Here we go.”  A nursing assistant approached my gurney. She had a no-nonsense air and held a pair of crutches under one arm. “You’ve been on these before?”

“Yep.”  I sat up and swung the uninjured leg off the gurney.

George moved aside so the woman could stand in front of me, now with a crutch in each hand, ready for me to take them. “When you first get up it’ll hurt more for just a bit while the blood rushes to your foot. Then it’ll be okay.”

Okay is relative
. I swung the injured foot off the gurney and winced. But she was right. After a second or two it hurt less. I glanced at her name badge. “Thanks, Harriet.”

I demonstrated that I could walk a couple of steps with the crutches
. She left to get discharge papers for me to sign, and a wheelchair. I already knew that hospital rules meant they pushed me out.

“You wanna sit?” George asked.

“If she’s coming right back I’ll keep standing.”  I looked at my foot and its beige, tight wrap. My jeans were narrow and I’d been afraid I’d have to take them off so the doctor could wrap the foot and ankle. Fortunately, he’d been able to push them up enough.

“It’s too bad it’s not a cast we could sign.”  He snapped a picture of my foot.

“You wouldn’t.”

“It won’t be in the paper.”  George grinned
. “I have the skid mark for that. This is for my Jolie collection.” 

I did my best to glare at him
. George and I dated for a while, but I ticked him off so he broke up with me. By the time he got over being mad, which he had every right to be, I was ready to move on. So, we’ve gone back to being sometimes friendly and sometimes at loggerheads. I’m mostly only mad at him when he publishes something inane about me in the newspaper. He’s mostly only mad at me if I don’t tell him about something he considers newsworthy.

Harriet came back with the wheelchair and looked me up and down
. “How tall are you?”

This matters why?  “Five-two.”

She stared at my crutches. “They might need to be one notch longer.”

“How about I take her home and if they need to be longer I can do it?”

She nodded at George and pulled the chair next to me. I handed George the crutches and hopped one step, turned, and sat. Hopping was not a good idea.

“Very good.”  Harriet’s tone was kind of like how you’d talk to a toddler.

I looked at Harriet, and then George. “I won’t do any wheelies on the way out. You can go get your car, George, if you don’t mind.”

He left and Nursing Assistant Harriet pushed me out of my cubicle and into the main part of the ER
. Several staff were gathered at the nurse’s station, some at the computer and a couple comparing notes on a clipboard. I said thank-you to the staff closest to me as we passed by. I thought for the umpteenth time that while the Ocean Alley Hospital is not large, we’re lucky to have even a small one in a town of only a few thousand people. I didn’t relish having a long ambulance ride any time I got hurt.
But you aren’t going to get hurt again soon.

Because the hospital is here, the local community college offers several two-year health science degrees
. Scoobie is a mid-life student, as he puts it, having spent his college years majoring in marijuana. Now he’s clean and sober, though there is nothing sober about his sense of humor.

George pulled into the portico and got out to help me into the car
. It was warm for October at the shore, but after being in the warmth of the hospital, I rubbed goose bumps on my arms. I got settled and waved to Harriet as we pulled away. The sky was overcast and trees were a mix of bright fall colors and dingy browns. I remembered it was supposed to rain tonight and didn’t relish walking on crutches on wet pavement.

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