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Janelle Marshall's life is finally going according to plan. Her perfect, upscale career—and her perfect, successful boyfriend—will make her future as secure and predictable as her childhood never was. And with luck, Little Bill, the grandfather who raised her, will someday understand why she’d rather play it safe than be impulsive. But just when she should be happiest, she gets a distressing call: Little Bill has gone missing. Now Janelle must go to the one place she's long avoided—the tiny mountain town of Mammoth Falls, South Dakota.
Tracking down her eccentric grandfather is easier said than done, and Janelle has no choice but to stay as long as it takes. Yet little by little, she's drawn in by the unique town, the helpful locals, and their distinctly straightforward ways. Before long, she realizes that those who also care about Little Bill are struggling with their own vulnerabilities—and secrets as deep as the mistakes they try to set right. As Janelle learns to draw on their support and hard-won experience, she'll challenge her past, come to terms with her present—and chart her own surprising course forward.
Vibrant, heartfelt, and uplifting, Between Lost and Found is about gaining the courage to take chances, learning to let go, and rediscovering the family—and the self—you thought you knew…
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Sunday, April 20Deadwood, South Dakota
Maybe it was a crazy idea. Maybe it was even a dumb idea — but only time would tell.
Little Bill wished he had alcohol to blame for coming up with this one. But all he had to drink tonight was a little whiskey — nothing that his seventy-eight-year-old liver couldn't handle. It probably had more to do with the gambling. Having a set of cards or a roll of dice in the waxy palms of his hands always made him take wild chances. The last time he and his girlfriend, Connie, had been at one of those casinos in Deadwood, he had lost five hundred dollars at the blackjack table because he kept doubling down, only to go bust. This time as he played blackjack at the Midnight Star, he had decided to double down yet again — in more ways than one.
It'll work, he had told himself after the nebulous thought floating in the back of his mind finally solidified. He watched the bored-looking dealer turn over the cards, revealing that Little Bill had won, and Bill took it as an auspicious sign. I know it'll work!
Later, at the bar, he told Connie his plan and she stared at him like he had just declared himself the king of Siam. She asked him to repeat himself. When he did, her expression morphed from amazement to unease.
"I don't know if I could do that, Bill," Connie said, her dark brows furrowing as she sipped her rum and Coke through a straw. A basket of beer-battered onion rings sat between them. "Why don't you just call her yourself? Talk to her and tell her that you don't —"
"She ain't gonna listen to me! Not while she's out there and I'm back here. I need to see her face-to-face, eye-to-eye."
"But what you want me to do ..." Connie shook her head as she lowered her drink. "Won't your granddaughter be mad?"
"She'll be mad — at first," he said between chews. He shifted his shot glass aside and rested his elbows on the bar top's polished wood. "But when she finds out why we did it, she won't be mad anymore."
"I don't know," Connie said again. "It just doesn't seem right."
"Trust me. All you've got to do is say exactly what I told you."
He had Connie practice over and over again. When she kept stumbling over the words — saying them in the wrong order or not saying them at all — he finally wrote down the sentences on the back of one of the casino cocktail napkins and handed it to her.
"Hi, is this Janelle Marshall?" Connie read aloud, squinting behind her red reading glasses at his jagged script. "Your grandfather's gone missing in Mammoth Falls. We need you to come here and help find him. Get here as soon as you can. Good-bye." She looked up from the napkin to gaze at him. "You ... you sure that's all you want me to say?"
"Well, what else can you say?"
"It just seems so ... so cold. Nobody would talk like that to a girl whose grandpa just disappeared. Shouldn't I tell her I'm sorry, or ... or tell her you were —"
"Just keep it short and sweet. I'm tellin' you, this way is best," he assured before giving her soft hand an affectionate squeeze. He slid his cell phone across the bar top toward her. His granddaughter Janelle's phone number waited on the screen. All Connie had to do was press the little green button.
Connie gazed at the phone warily, like it was a temperamental lizard that could snap at her fingers at any moment. While she dithered, Bill could feel the seconds ticking by. He felt it more at his age, but they seemed to be whipping by him faster tonight, faster than his old eyes could register.
He wondered, Has it happened yet? Will we be too late?
Gradually, Connie reached for the phone. Bill released the pent-up breath he didn't know he had been holding. He watched as she slowly rose from the barstool and walked across the room to seek a quiet place that was far away from the ringing of slot machines, the clinking of glasses, and the roar of conversations and laughter. With her long, dark hair pulled back into a braid at the nape of her neck, he could see her face clearly. She still looked uncertain. Connie gave one last hesitant glance at Little Bill over her shoulder before continuing on her path and disappearing behind old-fashioned saloon doors.
Little Bill motioned to the bartender to pour him his second whiskey. That's when the finger tapping started. He started playing a six-beat that he could have hand-danced to in the old days. He looked down at his hands and realized for the first time that he was nervous.
He wasn't worried that Janelle wouldn't come to Mammoth Falls. He knew his granddaughter. If she heard her Pops had disappeared in the mountains somewhere and needed to be found, his baby girl — his little Miss Fix-It — would come running. But he was starting to have misgivings about what the aftermath would be. When Janelle found out he hadn't gone missing, she'd certainly be angry, maybe even furious. She might not want to talk to him for a while. But that was a risk he was willing to take.
He couldn't let Janelle marry that man.
"I want to ask you for Janelle's hand," Mark, Janelle's boyfriend, had said to Little Bill by phone that morning, sounding almost giddy.
"Hand for what?" Bill had asked distractedly as he stood near the gas pump, muttering to himself about the rising price of unleaded.
"Hand in marriage! I plan to ask her to marry me at our housewarming party tonight, but I realized — belatedly — that I should ask you first. You know ... get your blessing ... with you being the closest thing she has to a father and everything. It seemed appropriate. Janelle told me you were busy and couldn't fly here to Virginia for the party, so I wanted to give you a quick call."
A quick call ...
Like asking Bill to hand over one of the most precious things in the world to him was a perfunctory chore.
At Mark's words, Little Bill had fallen silent. He had stared at a U-Haul truck that had pulled up to the pump next to him.
Probably needs a new fan belt, he had thought dazedly as he listened to the truck whine and screech. He had stood silently for so long that Mark had started to wonder if he was still on the phone line.
"Bill? Bill, did I lose you?"
"No, I'm here," Bill had answered before regaining his bearings. "Look, Janelle don't need me or anyone else to give her away. She don't need my permission to get married. She can make up her own mind!"
"Well, I suppose she can," Mark had replied after a pregnant pause, sounding mystified. "That wasn't what I was —"
"There's no supposin'. She can and she will make her own decisions. I just hope she makes the right one."
"Yes, I expect that she will."
Mark's voice had changed. The boyish giddiness had disappeared. He sounded firm, almost taciturn.
"Well, I'll let you go, Bill. I assume I don't have to tell you not to tell Jay about this since it's supposed to be a surprise. I'll ask her tonight, and we'll let you know when we settle on the wedding date," Mark had said before abruptly hanging up.
Bill couldn't tell Janelle what to do or whom to marry, but it was his humble opinion that she deserved the best — not some pipsqueak mama's boy with a fancy suit and cuff links. Mark wasn't right for her, not by a long shot. A man should be willing to travel miles for his lady love, to scale tall buildings and cross oceans. But Janelle's boyfriend seemed barely willing to walk over a puddle for her.
Little Bill had had similar doubts about his daughter Regina's beau, Carl, almost forty years ago. When he had first laid eyes on that smooth-talker striding confidently through his front door on platform shoes, wearing a pink polyester shirt with a collar as wide as bat wings, Bill had known instantly that he wasn't the right man for Reggie. But he had kept quiet.
"She's a grown woman allowed to make her own decisions, honey. And she's stubborn. It's not like she would listen to you anyway. Just leave it alone," his then wife, Mabel, had said to him as she cleared the dinner table.
She'd handed him a casserole dish filled with half-eaten meatloaf that was already congealing in its ketchup-and-pepper sauce.
"Can you wrap this in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge for me?"
He had done as Mabel asked: wrapped the meatloaf and kept his reservations to himself. Mabel would know best, wouldn't she? She was Reggie's mother, and she had always warned Bill that he was too impulsive, that he "never knew when to leave well enough alone."
Reggie would marry Carl a year later, and with the exception of the birth of Janelle, Reggie's life would become a soul-crushing, backbreaking march of misery for the next eight years before she finally decided to end the pain, sat all Carl's things on her front stoop for the last time, and got a divorce. But Carl had left a permanent stain on Reggie that no amount of joy or love seemed capable of washing out. Never again was she the bright-eyed, cheeky girl that Little Bill remembered.
He refused to let that happen again. He wouldn't keep silent this time around.
He had tried before to talk to Janelle about Mark, about what she really wanted out of life, but she would always deflect and change the subject. And he knew if Mark asked her to marry him, she would say yes. She'd be grateful, maybe even elated, that he asked — like she was winning some big prize on The Price Is Right. But the truth was that she'd be selling herself short.
Little Bill thought maybe, just maybe, if he got her away from Mark, from the hustle and the bustle of the big city — if he got her to the silence of the mountains, she would finally hear her old Pops.
She ain't gonna like it, but I gotta do it.
Connie returned to the bar a few minutes later. She plopped onto her stool, shoved his cell phone back at him, and glared down at the melting ice in her glass. She jabbed her straw into the glass as if she were stabbing someone.
"Well?" he asked. "What happened?"
"What the hell do you think happened?" Connie mumbled, refusing to meet his eyes. "She sounded scared out her wits, Bill!"
"That's all right. She'll be fine when she sees I'm okay," he said, reaching out for Connie's hand again. But this time she pulled away from him.
"I shouldn't've done it."
For the next hour, Little Bill tried to charm Connie back into a good mood, but nothing worked. Finally, he gave up and finished the last of their onion rings while she sat silently beside him. As he wiped the grease from his hands on another cocktail napkin, he asked her if she was ready to go home. She was supposed to ride back with him to Mammoth, but she shook her head and told him she'd rather stay.
"Stay? You mean here? At the Midnight Star?"
"What else would I be talking about? I'll get a ride back later. Some of these folks have to be headed back to Mammoth."
He frowned. "What folks?" He glanced around the bar room at the slim crowd that remained: another couple at one of the bistro tables in the corner, a half dozen loud truckers whose off-color banter would make a sailor blush, and one surly-looking cowboy who had been nursing the same beer at the end of the bar, it seemed, for the past two hours.
Besides the old couple, none of them seemed suitable to escort her home.
"Come on. Don't be that way! Just let me drive you."
"No," she answered firmly before grabbing her leather purse, throwing the studded strap over her shoulder, and walking off.
As he watched her leave and finished the last of his whiskey, Bill couldn't help but worry more about where and in whose bed Connie might sleep tonight than how she would eventually get home.
As he drove alone from Midnight Star in Deadwood back to his cabin in Mammoth Falls, Little Bill restlessly tapped his fingers again — this time on the steering wheel. He was taking one of those side roads that only locals were brave enough to take at night. Even with the help of his high beams, he still had a hard time making out all the details of the winding road in front of him. It was bordered on both sides with melting two-foot-tall piles of snow that had been shoveled by heavy-duty diesel trucks a week ago. On the mountain slopes beyond the snow piles were a seemingly endless army of towering trees — Ponderosa pine, Black Hills spruce, and paper birch. Their pine needles and branches were encased in ice and also sprinkled with snow, making them look like soaring glass figurines that a giant child had left behind. The trees sent up a light dusting in the wake of his passing F-150.
Little Bill squinted out his windshield. The glass was caked with grime though he had given that boy Jesse Eger twenty bucks to wash the damned truck yesterday. Little Bill figured either Jesse had done a shit job (as lazy Jesse Eger was prone to do) or his eyesight was getting worse. Maybe cataracts were finally setting in. But that was part of getting old, wasn't it? If it wasn't one piece of you falling apart, it was the other.
He tore his gaze away from the road in front of him for a few seconds to glance down at the cell phone perched in one of his cup holders on a rattling bed of loose change and discarded gum wrappers. From the programmed chime he knew right away who was calling him. It was Janelle. She had called twice already. This time, like the other times, he did not answer her call. Instead, he reached down and adjusted one of the knobs on his radio. Willie Nelson's voice filled the truck's cab along with the twang of a country guitar. Little Bill hummed along to the old hit and finally stopped tapping his fingers. He began to relax.
Connie will see, he thought.
Because it would all work out fine in the end. Janelle would arrive in Mammoth Falls soon, and he'd talk to her. Then she'd dump her second-rate boyfriend. He and Connie would make up.
Everything will be A-okay, Little Bill thought.
"Uh-huh," his deceased wife, Mabel, said in his head, then grunted.
Mabel often spoke to him at moments like this when he was cloaked in solitude. She also spoke to him when he was about to make a true ninny of himself.
"Sounds like you still aren't too good at making the right bet, Bill," she argued.
He turned up the volume to drown out Mabel's voice, then leaned back against his headrest. Only a few other cars passed him as he drove: a blue Chevy truck, an ancient hatchback, and one RV with a garbage bag taped over one of the rear windows. Each time their taillights disappeared in his rearview mirror, Little Bill gave them a brief wave good-bye.
"Better slow down," Mabel suddenly warned.
He glanced down at his speedometer. He was barely inching above forty. He was fine. Though his vision wasn't quite what it used to be, he still knew to keep an eye out for a spindly-legged deer crossing the road, elk, or — on one occasion last year — an errant, ornery bison who refused to get out of the damned way. He had lived in the Black Hills long enough to know that.
A minute later, he turned the bend and caught sight of a snow pile in the middle of the road, but the pile was small enough that his truck would have no problem driving over it.
"Is that what you were trying to warn me about?" he asked his dead wife, then chuckled. "You worry too much, Mabel."
But as Little Bill drew closer, the "snow pile" shifted and turned. When he was only six feet away, he spotted a canine's startled brown eyes in the truck's headlights. The dog, whose matted mane was caked with ice and snow, sent up a mist into the frigid night air when it yelped at the sight of the F-150.
Little Bill didn't particularly like dogs, not since Mabel had brought home a basset hound puppy back in '72 that she had named Doodlebug. The thing had whined and bayed throughout the night — keeping them both up into the wee hours of morning. It had left little bite marks on the wooden legs of all their end tables and in the leather and plush velvet arms of every sofa and chair, and finally — for its grand finale — it had taken a crap in the middle of their four-poster bed. Mabel had had to give the puppy away to a neighbor who already had four dogs and six cats and wouldn't mind the added chaos Doodlebug could bring.
After Doodlebug, Little Bill had never worked up enough energy to own, let alone like, a dog. And he would soon find out that dislike was cosmically justified.
Excerpted from "Between Lost and Found"
Copyright © 2017 Shelly Stratton.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read a lot and would not recommend this to anyone
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I just could not get into this book - it should have taken me about 1-2 days to read it, but it took me about 3 weeks to read. When I would pick it up, I was just not excited about reading it. The story started out kind of weirdly, and it felt a little slow and it didn't pick up at all. I didn't feel it was suspenseful, since there are glimpses of Little Bill's experiences from time to time throughout the book. I also could not connect with the characters; there was not a single character that I felt was very likeable and they all seemed pretty one dimensional. In addition, there were several things that struck me as odd. First, at the beginning when Janelle is in the middle of her housewarming party and her boyfriend stands up to to make an important announcement, Janelle takes a call from her Grandfather right in the middle of the announcement (as though she is not even interested in the announcement). Also, when Janelle connects with her mother only once when Little Bill is found to be missing, her mother continues on with her vacation, and we never hear anything from her again... Janelle makes the decision to drop everything go searching for her grandfather without really discussing things with her "serious" live-in boyfriend, but gets upset that her boyfriend may be eating seafood while she is gone (she is allergic); it seemed almost ridiculous to me. Unfortunately, this book is not something I would recommend.
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Shelly Stratton, and Kensington Books - Dafina in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your work with me. This is a good change of pace novel, with honest protagonists, an intriguing mystery, and lots of interesting travel that I very much enjoyed. Ms. Stratton very thoroughly defines that vague concept of "lost and found". I will look for more by this author who has written also under the name Shelly Ellis.
Janelle's life is going just the way she wants it to. Even though her grandfather Little Bill thinks she should take chances, Janelle likes to take the safe and easy route. But when Little Bill goes missing, Janelle must return home to look for him. Janelle reconnects with her neighbors and old friends and realizes being home isn't as bad as she thought it is. This was a beautiful story of reconnecting with family and learning what is truly important. Thank you to NetGalley, Kensington Books and Dafina for providing me an ARC in return for an honest review.