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Dora Ellison Bundle

Dora Ellison Bundle

2022 FINALIST KILLER NASHVILLE CLAYMORE AWARD FOR BEST MYSTERY

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 452+ 5-Star Reviews

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⚡️Read the Synopsis

I’m Dora Ellison, not your typical garbage collector. I’m tough, trained in martial arts, and when I'm not hauling trash, I’m unraveling it. My life with Lieutenant Francesca “Franny” Hart is quiet, just the way we like it, with Felix, our cat, completing the picture. But then the calls start—disguised, persistent, unnerving. They push Franny toward a mystery, a murder claimed not to be a murder, hinting at corruption that’s invisible yet pervasive.

When Franny takes the bait, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, I’m in the thick of it too, thrown into a brutal labyrinth of deceit that leads right to the heart of City Hall, guarded by its deadliest enforcer.

This isn’t just about survival anymore. It’s about piercing through the heart of the beast, about exposing the gang that thinks they own Beach City. The question isn't if I can handle it—the question is, can they handle me?

Will I live long enough to make sure they don’t?

🟣 Read - Prologue

PROLOGUE



THEN

The young couple lay back on the boy’s parents’ bed, which was soft and plush, covered with thick comforters, fluffed pillows, and an appliquéd blanket that smelled sweetly of fabric softener and the girl’s lavender perfume. At either side of the bed were twin, stained wood night tables, and a matching headboard rose from behind the blankets and pillows.

The boy’s parents had gone to a restaurant, then a show in the city, so he knew they wouldn’t be home anytime soon. He had also known she would agree to come by. He could tell by the excited buzz he felt whenever they looked at each other. He knew she felt that buzz, too.

She had gone along with everything—the empty house, the beer, the bed. And when he gently lifted her chin to kiss her, she had closed her eyes and become still, waiting.

Kissing was wonderful. He had never kissed anyone like this before. His only kissing experience had been a year earlier with one of his cousins, and that had been with their mouths closed. Anne’s lips were warm and soft and seemed to be made for his. When she opened her mouth and swirled her tongue around his, the boy was startled, then delighted.

They kissed for quite a while and writhed in one another’s arms, mussing the covers and each other. They were eager and ardent, and they couldn’t get enough of one another.

For the boy, there was nothing but this moment—this kissing and the urge for more. He cupped the back of her head, holding her against him, thrilled that she pressed back. He quickly realized he did not have to hold her, that his hands were free for other things.

They kissed faster and harder, more urgently, taking tiny breaks to breathe, pressing their faces to one another’s necks, inhaling one another’s scents, as their hands began to fly.

He ran his fingers down her arms, over her jeans, and up her back. He did this again and again, as she pressed forward, angling her body toward him, encouraging him. 

He felt for her blouse buttons and struggled to undo them, his fingers shaking. He hoped she didn’t notice, but she seemed as eager as he was, pushing away his hands and undoing the buttons herself before flinging her blouse open and guiding his fingers inside her bra.

Her breast was soft and light, gentle and fragile. He sighed with joy that this moment was happening, right here and now. He would have stopped time if he could, but he was too preoccupied to give it, or anything else, much thought.

She had taken her blouse off entirely and slid over to one side so she could run her palm over the front of his pants, pressing hard, as he pressed back. She tried to pull him on top of her, but he held himself to one side and tried to unbutton her jeans. However, he couldn’t manage to slip the button through its hole with one hand.

“Let me,” Anne whispered. In seconds, she had kicked off her pants, giggling as one of her feet got stuck in a pant leg. She kicked repeatedly, frantically, comically until he helped slide her foot free. Then he sat back, unsure of what to do next.

She showed him, and he looked at her in surprise. “You’ve done this?”

She shook her head and whispered, “Thought about it … read about it.”

And then they were doing it. The boy had lost the ability to think; there was only feeling and doing, and a joy that made him want to cry.

He was pushing hard against her, and she pushed back … at first.

He heard her call his name and had the vague notion that something was not right. She called again. Perhaps she had called a few times, but he was pushing _hard_, and Anne was bouncing off the bed, sliding toward the headboard with each bounce.

He opened his eyes and saw the fear in hers. While some part of him wanted to know why, at the same time, his body, this thing they were doing, had a mind of its own.

She said his name again and pushed against his hips with the heels of her palms, trying to push him off her.

“You can’t … you can’t … Stop! You’ve got to … s_top_!” She yelled the last word at the same moment as he thought he heard the crunch of tires on gravel outside.

He clapped a palm over her mouth and focused his attention on listening for the sound of car doors. Anne was bucking and making muffled noises, but the boy, panicked, pressed his hand harder over her mouth and focused on the sounds.

She clawed at his arm, and he looked down, realizing he was suffocating her. He took his hand away, all while trying to hear what was going on outside.

“Let! Me! Up!” Angrily, she tried to push herself onto an elbow. “_Let me_…”

She was yelling now, and the boy could only think of being caught by his parents, so he pushed down hard against her collarbone, just as she was trying to sit up. When he pushed, her head slammed back against the oak headboard. Then a small sound, like a sigh, passed between her lips … her last sound.

🟣 Read - Chapter 1

Chapter 1


NOW

Officer Francesca Hart had just gotten home from work and was changing out of her uniform and into a pair of old, black jean shorts and a T-shirt. As it was chilly, she decided to add a sweater. 

Felix, an enormous grey and white striped Maine Coon cat, rubbed against her calf, jumping and pressing against her.

“Who’s a wonderful cat?” Franny cooed, scratching the back of the thick mane of fur that encircled his neck, which of course had been Felix’s goal all along.

Franny looked at her phone, deciding what music to listen to. She was partial to Chopin, particularly piano sonatas. Her stereo system, a surround sound wonder with elite Bose speakers that ran throughout the apartment, was connected to an app in her phone. 

As she was about to select “Piano Sonata Number 2,” her phone rang. The number came up as “Unknown,” and she was about to press _End Call_ but decided that she might do better telling this person, assuming the caller was a person and not a computer, not to call directly.

“Hello?”

“Officer Hart?” The caller’s voice had a metallic tinge, as though disguised.

“Who is calling?” 

“I’m calling about a crime.”

“How did you get this number? To report a crime, call 911, or the station’s direct line—516-555 …”

The person continued, “This crime happened a long time ago and was never solved. It was reported as something else—a tragic accident. But trust me; it was a murder, and the coverup led to a corrupt cancer that’s spread all over Beach City.”

“Hey,” Franny said in her firm, no-nonsense cop voice, “you can’t call here. We have a crime hotline … Hello? Hello?” She held the phone away from her face. The caller had hung up.

Forgetting about the music, she sat down on the edge of her bed, deep in thought.

‌⚡️‌⚡️‌⚡️

Route 24 was a two-way street lined with storefronts and dogwood trees, featuring banks, garden apartments, a tattoo parlor, several nail salons, realtors, gyms, delis, a diner, and two physical therapy practices. It was Beach City’s main drag and was bisected by a wide, grass median that was planted with flowers in the spring and summer. As busy as it was, the street also featured a growing percentage of empty storefronts, growth that matched that of local internet-related businesses, which were cheaper and easier to run and could serve populations regardless of locale without the investment of brick and mortar. The empty storefronts made garbage collection slightly easier than it had been in the past.

Deborah “Dora” Ellison and Maurice “Mo” Levinson took turns running ahead, past the empty stores, and pulling the garbage cans and bundled refuse into the street until the truck caught up. They then lifted and tipped their containers into the truck’s bin and jumped up on one of the twin rear platforms, with a wave to Estéban, the driver, signaling it was okay to drive on.

Despite having enough seniority to drive, Dora preferred to be a “tipper,” one who rides on the back of the truck and tips the trash into the rear bin. Mo’s career trajectory had been the opposite. Though he was a few years older than Dora—thirty-seven to her twenty-eight—he had once been a driver, but had lost that favored position as the result of some infraction or disfavor with the city and was now, like Dora, a “tipper.”

As they pulled up in front of a series of low, brick garden apartments, both Dora and Mo jumped down and began hoisting bags, bundled refuse, and trash can contents into the back bin. The complex had twenty units, so there was quite a bit of garbage strung along the curb. They would be there a while.

When they were about halfway through, a young man in a black T-shirt, khaki shorts, and beige moccasins ran out of an apartment and began yelling at Mo.

“Hey! You ran over my garbage can last week! Now I gotta buy a new one!”

“Nah, we didn’t,” Mo argued.

“I was there. I saw you! I watched you do it through my window!”

“I don’t even drive,” Mo said wearily. 

They finished the load, and he and Dora pulled themselves up onto their platforms. Mo signaled Estéban to drive on, but the young man was standing in front of the truck, blocking its path.

Mo began waving his arm in a circle, indicating that Esteban should go around the man.

“You drove last week,” the man said. “I saw you. Do I gotta call downtown?”

Mo leaped down from his perch, strode over to the young man, and began bumping him with his chest, pushing the man backward. Mo stood six-feet-two-and-a-half and weighed nearly two hundred and thirty pounds; he was at least a head taller and quite a bit wider than the young man.

“Yeah?” Mo taunted. “Gonna call downtown?” He bumped the guy back a step. “Ya gonna? Ya gonna? Really? Go ahead and call! Why aren’t ya calling? Huh?”

Dora rolled her eyes and sighed. Then she jumped down from her perch and started toward the fracas. Though she was a large woman—five-eleven and two hundred forty-five pounds—she was deceptively light on her feet and moved with unusual physical confidence. “All right, Mo. That’s enough. Mo! Enough!”

But Mo wasn’t backing off. 

“The asshole started this.” He again bumped the young man, who was looking less sure of himself. “Let’s see him finish it. How ’bout it, tough guy? Wanna take it to another level? Huh, pal?”

Panicked, the young man looked to Dora for help. 

She stepped between them and pressed her palm to Mo’s chest. “I said enough. The man’s a resident, a taxpayer.”

Finally getting the message, Mo seemed to shrink in stature.

“That’s right.” The young man pointed a finger, his anger rising again. 

Dora held up her hand, her simple gesture forceful, authoritative.

The young man grew silent.

“We’re done here.” Dora leaped back up to her perch and waved to Estéban. 

Mo reluctantly climbed aboard the other side, and then Estéban revved the engine, threw the transmission into gear, and the big yellow-green truck bucked with the gear change and lurched forward.

As they arrived on the next block, Dora called to Mo, “By the way, last week? You filled in for Estéban on Tuesday when his kid was sick. You drove.”

Mo didn’t answer.

🟣 Read - Chapter 2

Chapter 2



On her way home, Dora stopped at the market to pick up a _challah_. She was thinking ahead to a quiet evening at home with the love of her life, doing one of her beloved puzzles. She loved the way the pieces came together—disparate, separate bits that became larger, more recognizable segments, which came together with momentum and logic, as the big picture slowly took shape.

Puzzles were one of her favorite activities. She had such an active, wandering mind, often not in a good way. Puzzles occupied her inner hamster-on-a-wheel, monkey mind as little else did. She was aware of her challenges. She knew that her subconscious was preoccupied with abandonment and hurt, tending to react with anger, even rage. She was okay with that. The rage was better, she felt, than hurt. Her therapists tended to disagree.

_Fuck them_, she thought. They didn’t have to live with her memories.

As she waited in the ten-items-or-less line, she watched a thin teenaged boy in a dirty T-shirt and denim jacket one spot in front of her argue with a blocky, white-haired, sixty-something, florid-faced man with too many items for the line.

“That’s not right, and you know it,” the boy whined. “This is ten items or less.”

The white-haired man, who was much larger than the boy, stared back for a moment, pretending to look surprised. “Very impressive. The boy can count.” Done with the boy, he turned away and faced forward, as the woman in front of him paid. He took the divider from behind her items and slid it to the space behind his.

“You should be over there,” the boy persisted, pointing to the next line, where three people waited with full carts.

The white-haired man turned toward the boy again. “You know what? You’re right. It says ten items or less, and I have eleven, so”—he took a step toward the boy, looming over him—“whatcha gonna do about it?”

Dora closed her eyes and counted to ten. She hated this kind of shit, and it seemed to find her so often. When she opened her eyes, the man was still staring at the boy and had taken another step closer to him.

“Sir,” Dora said wearily, “the boy happens to be right, not that it’s the biggest deal in the world.”

The man raised his eyebrows and looked at Dora then at the boy. “You his mother? You don’t look alike.”

Dora shook her head. “Concerned citizen.” She shrugged a bit sheepishly. “And I … well, I have this thing about bullies.”

The white-haired man thrust his face close to Dora’s. “Well, citizen with a thing about bullies, I’m checking out right here, in this line.”

Dora looked the man steadily in the eyes as she surreptitiously slid an open palm between his legs, closed her hand around the man’s privates, and squeezed … hard. Then she shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

The man let out a yip, like a dog whose tail has been stepped on.

Dora brought her arm up, as though to brush back her hair, and purposely jostled the man’s arm so that the carton of eggs he was holding fell to the floor. She stepped on the carton, making sure to crush every egg, as the man gasped and fought for air.

She smiled at the man. “And if you want to make a complaint about how some girl bullied you, be my guest.” 

Wounded and terrified, the man moaned softly, staring back at her. 

She turned to the boy, who was grinning. 

“Thank you!” the boy breathed.

“Unfortunately,” Dora told him, “the man’s right. He does have ten items … now, without the eggs. So, if you don’t mind, why don’t we just let him go?”

The boy thought about it then nodded. “I see what you mean.” He stepped back, making sure to avoid the broken eggs.

‌⚡️⚡️⚡️

From the moment Dora walked through the door of their apartment, she knew what Franny had planned. It wasn’t the music, but the warm, homey aromas that gave away Franny’s plans. 

Dora paused just inside the door to listen to the Chopin sonata that Franny was practicing on her keyboard. It was lovely. The piano lent a grave beauty to their apartment. 

Dora stood momentarily in the doorway, soaking in the sensory experience of being in her favorite place with the woman she loved. The apartment was decorated in modern black and white, with vertical blinds as room dividers, soft track lighting, a white couch with zebra striped pillows, and white, shell chairs.

She pulled off her heavy, orange sanitation gloves and black, steel-toed boots then removed her bird’s egg blue hard hat and her reflective orange coveralls. She would soon add thermal long johns, sweats, and possibly even a woolen _balaclava_ on the coldest winter days.

She tore off her socks then padded to the refrigerator in search of a beer. Her feet, sweaty after a long, hard day of tipping garbage and supporting her considerable bulk, kissed the cold kitchen tile with every step.

“Babe!” she called without slowing down. She opened the fridge, took out a bottle of Sam Adams, and twisted off its top.

Something warm and furry brushed her leg. 

“Not you, Felix; my other babe.” She reached down to stroke the cat, brushing back the thick fur around Felix’s neck. He was the king of their apartment and was treated like one. She scooped him into her arms and spoke to him in her doggy voice. “But I wuv you, too. Yes, I do.” She put him down again and watched him walk away as though he had not a care in the world.

“Where is she?” Dora whispered. “Where’s our girl?” 

Felix circled back and rubbed against her thigh. Saying just about anything in this tone brought Felix running, knowing he could expect a massage or a snack.

The music stopped. 

“Hello, babe!” came Franny’s reply. A moment later, Franny floated into the kitchen, a dark and slender vision in jean shorts and an orange and brown wool sweater. 

In the "Dora Ellison Mysteries," Dora Ellison, a robust garbage collector with a knack for martial arts, navigates the shadowy streets of Beach City alongside her police lieutenant partner, Franny. She will go on to unravel deeply entrenched mysteries rooted in a past murder that was never solved, unearthing a web of corruption that leads to the heart of city hall. With a mix of determination and bravery, Dora’s quest for justice brings her face-to-face with perilous secrets and the city’s most ruthless figures, challenging her resolve and threatening her very survival. Each book in the series delves deeper into the intrigue, blending suspenseful twists with a rich exploration of character and place.

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