Fresh Meat: Every Broken Trust by Linda Rodriguez

Every Broken Trust by Linda Rodriguez is the second novel to feature half-Cherokee campus cop Skeet Bannion (available May 7, 2013).

When the events of Every Broken Trust conspire to land Chouteau University’s Police Chief, Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion, in the middle of yet another murder investigation—this one involving her best friend, Karen Wise—she vows to do everything in her power to nab the real killer and bring closure to those affected.

That does not, however, mean that she has the luxury of putting the rest of her life on hold while she works to crack the case; to the contrary, Skeet’s thorny personal life seems bound and determined to distract her from the task at hand. 

This book is chock full of confrontations; in fact, I’m not sure there’s a single character with whom Skeet doesn’t spar over the course of the tale. Be it Skeet’s mother:

I dialed from memory. Some things we never forget.

Of course, my mother answered. I closed my eyes against the headache trying to consume me. “Coreen, it’s Skeet. I need to talk to Gran.”

“You never called me back, Skeet.” My mother has an exceptionally pleasant voice. Once as an angry teenager, I’d told her she should do phone sex to make money.

I hardened myself against the plea implicit in her voice. “I’ve been busy here with murders. It wasn’t urgent.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Good, she was getting irritated. Maybe she’d get off the phone and let me speak to Gran.

“You didn’t mention any problem with Gran.” After a sudden intake of breath, the phone went silent.

“Please, Coreen, I need to talk to Gran right now.”

“You have more family than my mother down here.” Her voice held more hurt feelings. I could have cursed. “What if your sister or brother was hurt? Or me?”

Half sister and half brother. I wanted to correct her, but didn’t. I’d left after high school just before my half sister was born and hadn’t been back, except to celebrate Gran’s birthdays every few years. I didn’t really know those kids, except from photos and letters from her and Gran.

She broke the silence on the phone. “I’ll get your grandmother.”

I’d hurt her. I never talked to her unless I absolutely had to because I always hurt her. I long ago stopped wanting to, but it still happened. Neither of us needed that.

Her father:

I saw her out the door. I knew, when I turned, Charlie’d lay into me. I knew, when he did, I’d finally blast his head off.

After shutting the door, I said, without turning to face him, “I think it’s best if I don’t stay with you this evening. I’ll call someone else to get you ready for bed.”

“Hell, who’re you going to call? Sam’s at work.” Charlie blustered, but I could hear a tremor of fear.

I turned to look at the angry old man. Maybe that’s what he needed—to be well and truly scared at what his future could be. I certainly was. “I don’t know who. But if I stay longer, one of us is likely to murder the other.”

His face swelled like a fighting cock’s. “You’d like that. To have me dead. I’m just a burden to you. An old cripple.”

I sucked in a deep breath that didn’t do any good. I exploded. “Don’t start that shit, Charlie, or I’ll tell you just what a burden you are. What a giant problem it is having to deal with Sam constantly when I want him out of my life. That’s why I left him in the first place. I left this city to get away from you. Don’t start with that poor old me shit. It won’t work tonight.”

He flared up in response. A well-practiced dance between us, sharing the same hot temper as we did. Why was it I only inherited Charlie’s weaknesses? “If you really want to get away from me, go ahead. Get away. I don’t need you. I can get along without you.”

“You can get along without me? Get out of the chair. Get yourself ready for bed if you’re so independent.”

He struggled to stand. I wouldn’t help him. Cruel as it seemed, the cane was within reach of his hand. If angry enough, he’d pick it up and stand on his own. Just to show me. Nothing else seemed to work.

Her young ward (and soon-to-be adopted son), Brian:

The silence of emotional and mental exhaustion had settled over us for the trip from town. Now, only Brian and I rode in silence turned hostile. I waited for the storm to break.

“You had no right to treat Angie like that.”

I looked at Brian, stiff and staring ahead. “What she did was foolish and dangerous. You didn’t see anything but the end. She almost slashed Cherry’s face with the wool combs. You know they’re no toys.”

He shook his head angrily. “You just don’t like Angie. She knows that.”

She probably thought no one but Brian liked her. “I don’t dislike Angie. Sometimes I dislike her behavior.”

He turned his face to stare out his window at the land rushing past. “She’s right. You’re a control freak.”

“Sounds to me like Angie doesn’t like me. Don’t you think?”

He shook his head vigorously, trying to shake out my words. “You turn it all around! You don’t like Angie because she’s different. She’s not . . . a homogenized commodity.”

I shrugged, knowing he quoted Angie. “I don’t like it when she’s rude and hurtful to others. I don’t like it when she does stupid, dangerous things to show off.”

“She’s not stupid. She’s brilliant!” He faced me. “You don’t know her.”

I nodded. “That may be. I think she’s smart, but she doesn’t show me that side. All she shows me is bad behavior she thinks is cool. It’s not. It’s stupid.”

He held his hands over his ears. “Stop saying she’s stupid. She’s not.”

“You say she’s brilliant. I don’t think waving sharp, dangerous tools near someone’s eyes is brilliant. Sorry about that.” I wished away the sharp edge to my voice. I felt a headache’s approach.

“You don’t cut anyone any slack. Not Angie, not Karen. If you don’t like what they say or do, that’s it. You need to be more tolerant. Everyone can’t be perfect like you.” His voice took on Angie’s sarcastic tone.

What he said hurt. I knew how imperfect I was. I felt sure Angie’d filled his ears with my failings.

Or even best friend and murder suspect Karen:

Karen finally gave up all effort at fighting and sobbed. I preferred even angry Karen to broken Karen.

“Things will get better,” I murmured. “Part of this is letdown from pain meds, temporary depression. Go home and sleep. Tomorrow you’ll feel better.”

She sucked in a quavering breath, bringing her tears under control. “How, Skeet? Will you bring Jake back from the dead? Leonard? How can I feel better tomorrow? They’ll still be dead. That murderer still walking around free.”

She was back on the attack. I thought of everyone who’d dumped their emotions on me today from Karen earlier to Miryam and Walker to Terry to Helen and Reverend Matt. I wanted to be as unruffled about it as Karen usually was. Only I didn’t have her training. Mine was in standing up for myself and fighting back.

“Answer me! Just how can I feel better tomorrow?” Karen shouted. Something crashed in the storeroom. I figured Cherry wouldn’t bring out that cup of tea anytime soon.

I looked at my friend, thinking how ugly she looked. I was shocked to think such a thing of someone I loved.

“You’re not the only one hurting, not the only one who loved Jake.” My words shocked me. I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t bear for her to learn about Jake and Helen.

“I loved Jake,” I continued in a softer tone of voice. “I’m trying to be as reasonable as he was. A man’s been killed. Possibly another killed earlier. That’s where my concern lies. And the possibility the killer’s trying to kill you. These are what I’m dealing with. Your outbursts don’t make it any easier. Are you trying to keep me from solving these murders?”

Her mouth opened and closed. “I . . . No. Not trying to keep you from that. You know—”

I made my voice gentler. “This kind of thing makes it harder for me to do my job. Stop and think. Be the Karen you always were, and you’ll see.” I hoped I was getting through. I might be.

She looked up, strands of white hair flying around her face, her broken heart in her eyes. “I can’t be that Karen right now. All I can do is cry and scream and want that man to pay for killing Jake.”

Nobody seems inclined to just let poor Skeet be. In Every Broken Trust, it’s not the murderer who foils Skeet at every turn; it’s her loved ones. Those who should be a source of comfort to her instead only serve to make her job more difficult. They serve as roadblocks—slowing her down, throwing her off course, making it practically impossible for her to concentrate on her job. If Skeet existed in a vacuum—one free of family, friends, and the guilt and conflict that are part and parcel with each—she’d likely catch the killer in a heartbeat. But author Linda Rodriguez knows that real people don’t exist in vacuums; real life is messy, and is rarely—if ever—convenient.

Just ask Skeet Bannion.

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Katrina Niidas Holm loves mysteries. She lives in Maine with her husband, fabulously talented pulp writer Chris F. Holm, and a noisy, noisy cat. She writes reviews for Crimespree Magazine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.

Read all Katrina Niidas Holm’s posts for Criminal Element.

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