Read Elaine Orr - Jolie Gentil 04 - Any Port in a Storm Online
Authors: Elaine Orr
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Real Estate Appraiser - New Jersey
|Elaine Orr - Jolie Gentil 04 - Any Port in a Storm|
|Jolie Gentil |
|Lifelong Dreams (2012)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Real Estate Appraiser - New Jersey|
Any Port in a Storm
By Elaine Orr
Cover by Patty G. Henderson
Boardwalk photo by Christina Russo Sporer
This electronic edition is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
If you would like to share this book with others, please purchase an additional copy for each person. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
To supportive fans — Al, Diane, Jim, LeAnn, Lynn, Peg, and Mary.
My friend and fellow author, Leigh Michaels, critiqued a draft and her comments added greatly to
Any Port in a Storm
. Mrs. Leanora Kensil had many wonderful expressions. In her memory, one is used in
Any Port in a Storm
. Patty G. Henderson is a talented cover artist and a pleasure to work with. I invented the name of a twelve-step family group, calling it All-Anon rather than use the formal name of a single family group. I tip my hat to all the twelve-step groups.
Chapter One of
Trouble on the Doorstep
, next in the Jolie Gentil series
I am past being amused by Ocean Alley residents who feel compelled to yell “shiver me timbers” across the grocery store or pretend to thrust a sword at me as I jog past them on the boardwalk. I can’t believe Scoobie talked me into a Talk Like a Pirate Day fundraiser for the food pantry.
I have a sense of humor.
It’s just been a crazy year, and I’m up to my eyeballs in work and chairing the Harvest for All Food Pantry Committee at First Prez. On top of that, Scoobie just went back to college to get his associate’s degree as an x-ray technician. That’s great, but it cuts down on his time to help with planning Talk Like a Pirate Day. Though
would be a stretch, since he spends most of his free time writing pirate limericks.
I parked my car in front of the two-story home that I was appraising on Seashore Street.
It was about ten blocks from Aunt Madge’s Cozy Corner B&B, but the area was all rentals and not as well kept up. The front porch caught my eye. Fresh paint can hide a world of sins, but this house was in a galaxy of its own.
My paperwork had a note from my boss, Harry. “Jolie.
This is one of Lester’s. Have fun!” Lester Argrow is my friend Ramona’s uncle, and the biggest pain in Ocean Alley’s real estate industry.
The porch railing was loose, and as I walked up the short flight of steps leading to the porch I noted a couple of the steps were soft.
Great. Wood rot
. The key required a lot of jiggling before the lock cooperated, but the door eventually swung open easily. The musty odor of an older, vacant house reached me and I sneezed. I sniffed. There was another smell mixed with the usual ones, but I didn’t recognize it.
I quickly measured the living room and two small bedrooms and was walking back toward the kitchen when the back door banged and I heard footsteps racing down the back porch. It sounded like a couple of people running out, but a glimpse of sneakered feet and a denim jacket rounding the detached garage was all I saw. It looked like a boy, but the figure was slight, so I wasn’t sure. And didn’t care.
The kitchen counter had a few napkins, a cigarette lighter, and a couple of ash trays, one of which looked as if it had recently been used to burn incense. A soft drink can sat on its side. Luckily it had been mostly empty when tipped. “Nuts.” This was the second house this month that had clearly sported either vagrants or bored kids. I realized the smell I couldn’t identify had been marijuana mixed with incense.
I walked back to my car and got a plastic bag from the trunk, put the ash trays and tras
h in it, and continued working. By the time I finished taking photos inside and out it was almost four-thirty. I stowed the trash in my trunk and drove back to Steele Appraisals to enter the information in the computer so it could spit out floor plans for me.
Harry Steele is Aunt Madge’s good friend, and the old Victorian house that also serves as his office looks better every week. It should. He spends most of his time pounding and painting, and I do most of the appraisals. Which is fine. It’s his business, so I have no major responsibilities and I get paid half of whatever he charges per appraisal.
As I turned on the computer Harry’s voice drifted downstairs. “That you Jolie?”
“You better hope so,” I called back.
Harry is one of the few people who always remembers to pronounce my name correctly. My French-Canadian father chose the name Jolie and insists I retain its French pronunciation, so the J is soft and it ends in an “ee” sound. That would not be so bad, but our last name is Gentil, soft G, silent L and the “i” is also pronounced like an “ee.” Zho-lee Zhan-tee translates to “pretty nice” in English. Not so nice when you are a kid, but most people don’t study French these days, so I don’t get teased as much.
I finished entering data into the appraisal software and heard Harry coming down the steps.
Often we communicate in brief yells up and down the staircase, but today he had already changed from his painter’s pants and smudged tee-shirt. “You look dapper,” I said. And he did. Harry is in his later sixties and bought this house, which belonged to his grandparents many years ago, as his retirement project. Fixing it up over the past year or so has given him a leaner physique than when I first met him.
“Madge and I are having supper at Newhart’s,” he said, and gave me a self-conscious grin.
“I don’t know, Harry. You and Aunt Madge are spending an awful lot of time together. Should I be chaperoning?”
“What is it she calls you?” he asked.
I gave him a blank look.
Don’t be a twit, Jolie.”
Insults from a boss. Isn’t that some sort of harassment thing?” I asked.
“I’m rusty on employment law,” he said, and flicked on his own computer.
“I thought I’d show you the most recent missive from our pal Lester.”
Lester and Harry are often at loggerheads over the right selling price for a house.
Lester and I get along fine, but I think it’s mostly because I laugh at his jokes.
I bent over to read Harry’s computer screen.
“Jeez, Harry. The house on Fairweather is $199,000 easy. Are you sure you didn’t miss a couple rooms? I might have to go back to the Jennifer dame.” Though the text was minus his cigar smoke and speech patterns, it was pure Lester.
“At least this time he didn’t ask if you know your ass from your elbow when it comes to the local real estate market,” I said.
“I went over your appraisal again. I think $194,000 is spot on,” Harry said. “He brings a lot of work to us. If it weren’t for that I’d show Jennifer he called her a dame, and then he’d have to go to Lakewood to get anyone to appraise his properties.”
I hitched my purse on my shoulder. “How nice that he writes to you instead of me.” I turned to go, and remembered what I meant to tell Harry. “Somebody was in the house on Seashore that I just did.
That’s two this month.”
“Could you tell how they got in?”
“Nope, but the place has been empty for awhile.
The back door has a simple turn lock, and it’s loose.”
Several real estate agents have seen signs of entry to a few of the houses they listed, but none of them wants mention of this on the police blotter, as it would just call more attention to the fact that homes are vacant.
So, as long as nothing in a house is damaged, agents just let the police know informally. I smiled to myself. As an added benefit, if agents and appraisers don’t report the break-ins, it keeps a news tip from
Ocean Alley Press
reporter George Winters.
I STOPPED AT THE library to look for my best bud, but there was no sign of Scoobie. His backpack was on the librarian’s credenza behind the check-out desk, so I figured he’d gone to Newhart’s Diner for supper.
It was a pleasant evening for almost mid-September, so I walked the few blocks to the diner.
Like a lot of east coast beach towns, Ocean Alley has a mix of cottages, motels, bed and breakfast places, and small retail businesses. Thanks to some pretty strict zoning laws, our little New Jersey town avoided the condo craze that hit a lot of beach towns, so it still has a small town feel, even when it’s packed with tourists.
It was close to dinner time, and Newhart’s was crowded but I spotted Scoobie, who was writing in one of his steno pads.
He was in his traditional jeans and t-shirt, but his hair and beard looked as if they’d had a fresh trim.
I looked around for Aunt Madge and Harry, but they weren’t there yet, so I dodged a food server as I wove between small tables and the booths that lined the walls.
Arnie Newhart gave me a brief wave as I walked by the counter that runs along the front of the diner, but Scoobie still didn’t look up. He had some rough years after high school, heck, in high school, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’m really glad he’s gone back to school at almost age thirty, but I could tell from his concentration that he was writing a poem, not studying, and I’ve heard about every anatomy joke or pirate limerick I can stand.
Scoobie glanced up as I got closer and gave me a broad grin.
“Ahoy mate. You’ll really like this one, Jolie.”
I gave him an ‘I-don’t-think-so’ look as I took the pad and folded a foot under me as I sat and read silently.
A pirate charms, that’s not new.
Me ladies he said, what to do?
Said the wench this is fun
But from spouse I must run
Or t’will be no chance for a screw.
“Not exactly PG-13, is it?” I asked, dryly.
“Yeah, can’t use it on Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I’ll get a lot of mileage out of it before then.” He stuffed his pen in a pocket.
I handed him back the steno pad. “Let’s grab some fries on the boardwalk.”
We waved at Arnie, who was trying to explain to a customer that soft shell crabs did not in fact get served in a shell, and walked toward the door.
“I don’t think that guy’s a regular,” Scoobie said, nodding toward the customer as he pushed the door open and held it as I followed him out.
“Tourist,” I said absently. “So, how was the anatomy quiz?”
Or think I did. Did you know that some lovers try positions that they can’t handle?” he asked.
“What? Is that what you talk about in class?”
“It’s a pneumonic,” he said, grinning widely.
“To remember the carpal bones. Some Lovers Try Positions They Can’t Handle. Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetral, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate.”
I stared at him, nonplussed.
“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t broken your wrist yet.”
I kept staring.
“Would it help if I said it backwards?” he asked, feigning innocence.
“You’re beyond help.”
I started walking again and neatly sidestepped a couple teenagers who were intent on getting to a video arcade. “Why don’t you write some poetry about the bones? Maybe that would get pirates out of your system.”
“You’re saying you’re tired of my pirate poetry?” he asked.
I didn’t bother to answer. We climbed the steps to the boardwalk, which is not as crowded at dinner time as it is during the day or early evening, especially now that it’s past Labor Day. This time of day people are tending to their sunburns or getting prepared for evening trolling. But we were rewarded with Ramona, who sat on a bench facing the ocean, sketch pad in hand and long blonde hair hidden by a floppy straw hat with a wide brim.
She looked sideways as we approached and then returned to her sketch pad. “Hey, you guys. I’m trying to capture that great sand castle before the waves get it.”
It was a monster, perhaps three feet high, with five turrets that I could see and a moat dug around it.
“We’ll get some fries and come back,” I said. I looked back at the waves rolling in and the small crowd that applauded each time the castle withstood another breaker.
Probably the builders.
“Is that Alicia?” Scoobie asked
I squinted. “Could be.” Alicia helps some at the counter at the food pantry, largely at her mother’s insistence. Though her body language says she would rather be with other fourteen-year olds than at the pantry, she’s always polite, and she and her mother, Megan, worked especially hard during last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
Scoobie and I both waved in the direction of the sand castle guardians, but either they didn’t see us or Alicia and her friends were as good at ignoring adults as most teenagers are.
We left Ramona and walked a short distance further on the boardwalk and I went to the service window at the boardwalk french fries shop. Without asking, the clerk gave us two paper plates when she handed me the cardboard cup of fries. I eat mine with catsup and Scoobie pours on the vinegar. I love small towns.
Ramona shut her sketch book as we walked back to her.
“Did those kids build that?” I asked, nodding toward the sand castle.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“In the store today a couple women said there were about ten people working on it, and they had a lot of different sized buckets to use for molds.”
I’ve never fully understood the desire to lug buckets of sand from one spot on the beach to another and mix it with water to shape castles — all the while covered with gritty sand and occasionally tweaked by sand crabs.
To each her own. We all looked at the beach as a bunch of screeches said the castle battlements had been breached.
“Anyway,” Ramona continued, “I figured I’d come look.”
We watched another half-minute, as a couple more young people joined the shrieking chorus, and then turned to leave the boardwalk.
“You want a ride back to your place?” I asked Ramona. Neither she or Scoobie has a car, but since you can walk anywhere in town in ten to twenty minutes, you don’t really need one.
She glanced at her watch.
“I have a yoga class in half an hour and I need to change, so that would be great.”