Broken Justice Blind Love by Rena Koontz by Rena Koontz
He is a suspect. An accused killer. And Trish Kleerey is the law. Patrolman Kleerey stands tall, speaks assertively, and sees right and wrong as clearly as her black and white cruiser. Commit a wrong and face the consequences. But her strict moral code is challenged when her investigation into a series of murders incriminates the man she loves. Her training tells her to arrest him. Her heart screams otherwise.
Bryan DeJewel feels the line between love and the law blur when Trish questions him about the serial killings. The Trish Kleerey he knows is soft, warm, and capable of bringing him to his knees with desire, but that passion isn’t enough to build a lasting relationship. It’s as plain as her black and white cruiser: If she loves him, she must trust him.
Trish’s suspicious nature already cost her a lifelong friendship. She couldn’t turn her back on the physical abuse she suspected her friend suffered but, once again, her questions alienated a person she loves. Believing Bryan means turning her back on hard evidence, breaking the rules and risking her career to prove his innocence.
Meanwhile, the real killer watches and waits, hoping she’ll fall into his deadly trap.
Trish’s dilemma: listen to her heart and choose love, or strap on her gun and enforce the law?
Targeted Age Group:: 21-85
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This story is based on several real-life moments: the murder of a real estate agent that remains unsolved; the actual female police officer who inspired the character Trish Kleerey; the true domestic violence victim who suffered so much and for so long before finally, and safely, getting out; and the piece of eye candy at my gym every day who inspired the character Bryan. We did in the book what we couldn't do in real life! These were all things I simply had to write about.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters are usually based on real people. They are people who inspire me or intrigue me or they've wronged me. Those are the ones I knock off. It's very therapeutic. I take bits and pieces of their lives and weave them into stories based on actual offenses.
Plus, all of my books focus on law enforcement in a good light. To me, these are the good guys.
She lay dead at the bottom of the steps, contorted like a used bread tie. One tennis shoe had come off halfway through her descent and perched on the uncarpeted stair like an oil stain on an otherwise pristine driveway. Its mate remained on the woman’s foot, which had rotated backward, pointing the
toes inward instead of out.
The pale, translucent color of the woman’s face made it obvious she was dead, but Patrolman Trish Kleerey checked anyway, careful to slip into latex gloves first. The woman’s lifeless eyes remained opened in
astonishment, as wide as bottle caps. Death surprised her.
Standing perfectly still, Trish scrutinized her surroundings, peering into the empty sunroom to her right and then the vacant living room on her left. The living room, its stone fireplace cold for months, spilled into an
empty dining area. Visible sweeper runs ridged the beige pile carpet. No footprints left by a killer disturbed the straight lines.
All windows and doors appeared closed, at least from her present vantage point just inside the stained-glass door. The radio clipped to her shoulder epaulet pinged. “Officer Kleerey? Homicide is on the way. They ask that you secure the scene and wait for their arrival.”
She touched the transmit button. “10-4, Dispatch.” There wasn’t much to secure. A vacant house that had been on the market for months, one dead woman, and herself—both of them motionless. If she could explore
the house, search the premises for clues, and employ her investigative skills, it might take the edge off her hunger for answers. She was the primary officer—earliest to arrive—on this murder scene. The murder was
her first, a puzzle waiting to be solved. This was what Trish had trained for. She knew what to do and how to start, but homicide was on the way. Her job as a Recanturr patrolman was to do exactly what she’d done: report the incident and make sure nothing was disturbed.
Thirty minutes earlier as she contemplated her lunch break, she drove past the residence on routine patrol, and noticed the loose window screen on the side of the house flapping in the high winds. Spring in orthwestern Pennsylvania could be unpredictable, one day requiring overcoats and scarves and the next, teasing residents with a taste of summer. The weather forecast predicted this front would move through with two-days of storms, allowing March to exit like a lion.
Trish parked the cruiser in the driveway, struggled to yank the errant screen from its frame, and carried it to the front porch, intent on propping it up in the corner. She’d notify the real estate company listed on the sign in
the front lawn when she returned to the station so they could replace it.
Was it curiosity or a sense of evil that edged up her spine, causing her to turn and peer through the oval glass window of the front door? One swift kick with her booted foot had freed the key from the lockbox and she’d stepped inside, caught off guard by the stench that assaulted her arrival. After checking for a pulse and contacting dispatch, Trish walked the outside perimeter of the house, noting all windows and doors were undisturbed. Then she returned to the woman, wondering how long she’d lain there and
not wanting to leave her alone any longer.
Her career goal to make homicide detective could take its baby steps in this house, with this case, but she knew better than to tramp on her colleagues’ toes. Some of the men already resented her. She’d graduated
first in her class academically, received the expert marksmanship award on the firing range, and held her own on the department’s obstacle course. She’d scaled a six-foot wall while wearing a thirteen-pound gun belt and
dragged a one-hundred and fifty-pound dummy to safety. No easy task for her one-hundred-and-ten-pound frame.
No, better to make extensive notes regarding her observations of the victim and the scene and file her report. There would be other opportunities to lead an investigation. Besides, she had dinner plans with her best friend and she didn’t want additional paperwork, which would force her to cancel again. Kandee complained the last time Trish postponed their pre-arranged dinner due to work. She didn’t understand that crime didn’t pay attention to a schedule and a cop couldn’t always clock out at the end of an eight-hour shift. Kandee intimated that she’d made a special effort to carve out time for Trish, time that could have been spent with her new boyfriend, and Trish had wasted the evening by cancelling.
That conversation bordered on hurtful, but Trish dismissed it as bad moods on both their parts. This evening had been her idea and was meant to mend fences with her best friend. She didn’t want to be accused of
wasting any more of Kandee’s precious time with Dwayne. Trish hadn’t met this new boyfriend yet but that wasn’t the issue. Kandee seemed different about this guy, guarded, close to defensive when Trish asked what she thought were normal girlfriend questions. He was in real estate, she knew that much, but Kandee hadn’t offered much more information about how and where Dwayne made his living. Maybe she could learn more tonight. She’d have to gauge Kandee’s mood first.
Tugging the door closed behind her, she strolled to the patrol car to retrieve her clipboard and await homicide. This wouldn’t be the case to take her first-degree-murder virginity.
Kandee regarded her reflection in the mirror. It was just a simple slap. The impact against her tooth caused her lip to bleed, but only a tiny bit. No big deal. She’d endured much worse and she could argue that it was her
fault. She shouldn’t have mentioned his ex-wife’s infidelity. Dwayne was so sensitive about it. Kandee had never given him any reason to distrust her and yet he was suspicious of her every move. Sometimes, it was difficult not to talk back.
She leaned in closer, canting her chin upward. Two fingerprints along her jaw line remained visible from where he’d squeezed her face last week, but those could easily be covered with makeup. The split lip and swelling presented more of a challenge. Especially since Trish Kleerey was already wary of Dwayne. Her cop’s eagle eye spotted the fingerprints on Kandee’s face the minute those two ran into each other at the grocery store last week and kissed hello. She’d raised a skeptical eyebrow when Kandee explained Dwayne had been overzealous with his lovemaking. He was an incredible lover when he wanted to be but the marks were from her hesitation to answer his question about a social media friend. At Dwayne’s insistence, she unfriended the boy who spent four years sitting in the desk behind her in high school, despite her argument that he was married with kids and lived on the other side of the country.
Gently, Kandee dabbed beige concealer on her mouth and dug for her lip pencil. The combination of the outline and her darkest lip-gloss worked well. She’d have to remember to dab her mouth carefully with a
napkin at dinner so as not to wipe it off.
Kandee smiled and waved when she spotted Trish sitting in the restaurant’s back booth. Trish always kept her back to a wall in public venues. Ever the cop. Even as children, Trish strived to be aware of her
surroundings, checking out the bleachers while she led the cheering squad on the football field and constantly scanning the room at high school dances, as if one of the pimpled teens would suddenly morph into a
murderer. No one was surprised, especially not Kandee, when Trish graduated college first in her class with a degree in criminology and applied to various police departments. Recanturr Police snatched her up instantly,
a no-brainer on their part, Kandee thought. The job pleased Kandee as well, since the City of Recanturr was eighty miles north of their hometown and they’d relocated together. Trish and Kandee grew up in Pittsburgh and loved the city, often making overnight trips back to the ’Burgh. Well, at least they used to, before Trish began working full-time.
Damn, Trish was still in uniform, which meant she’d worked later than planned. Kandee hated meeting her in cop mode. She’d chopped her short dark hair in an asymmetrical style with one side above her left ear and the right side to her jawbone. She supposed it fit neatly beneath Trish’s police hat but Kandee thought the look was too severe. But then, Kandee had always been the girlie one of the two, using makeup and nail polish in
middle school and devouring fashion magazines. Trish refused to pierce her ears, balked at Kandee’s push-up bras, choosing instead to wear baggy clothes, and declined to put her five-foot-five frame into high heels.
The rigid almost military Recanturr police dress code suited Trish – no jewelry, no nail polish and the barest of make-up. Kandee had always envied Trish’s lush, naturally curly eyelashes and visualized even now how
a touch of shadow and mascara would make her mahogany brown eyes pop.
She leaned over to plant a light kiss on her best friend’s cheek, careful to use the left side of her mouth. She plopped into the bench seat opposite Trish and immediately propped her chin in her hand, splaying her
fingers out. “Sorry to keep you waiting. What’s with the uniform? Are you in a time crunch?”
Trish’s eyes narrowed. “No, I just got off duty and didn’t take time to change because I didn’t want to be late. I’m heading to the gym after dinner but I’m in no hurry. Tonight is just about us girls. It’s good to see you.”
“Oh, good. Do you know what you’re going to order?” She opened the oversized menu and held it in front of her face. Seconds later, three fingers appeared at the top of the plastic-encased food list and nudged it down
toward the table.
Trish stared at her. “What’s wrong?”
She withered under Trish’s stare. “Nothing. I’m starving, that’s all. Why do you think something is wrong?”
Trish shrugged. “Well, you’re acting oddly and,” her eyes roamed Kandee’s face slowly, studying it, “you look like something is off.”
Kandee rolled her eyes. “Please turn off your cop radar and be my girlfriend for a change. I’m fine. Let’s order.”
Trish backed off, but only until after the waitress delivered steaming cups of tomato soup and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. “So how’s Dwayne? When do I get to meet him?”
“He’s fine. He’s working a lot this week so I haven’t seen him that much. He’s been pretty busy. With your schedule and his, I’ve no idea when the two of you can meet.”
“Oh? Well, busy is good, I guess. Has he sold some houses?”
“No, but he’s had a number of showings. The housing market’s in a slump right now.”
“When was the last time he made a sale?”
She leveled her gaze on Trish. “Why?”
Trish’s badge was polished to a high sheen and the light reflected off of it when she shrugged her shoulders. “Just curious.”
“The housing market is very unpredictable. A realtor can close on multiple sales in one month and not have any in another. That’s the nature of the business.”
“So, he hasn’t made any sales this month? And none last month either, as I recall. Does that upset him? Make him mad?”
This wasn’t their first conversation about Dwayne and it wasn’t the only time that Trish seemed hell-bent on putting him down. Trish hadn’t even given him a chance, hadn’t met him yet, but already she’d formed a
negative opinion of him. She could be so unfair sometimes. Kandee shrugged and bit into her sandwich, wincing when the hot, gooey cheese touched her lip. She dropped the bread and grabbed her napkin.
“What happened to your lip?” Trish’s right eyebrow arched with the question.
“I just now burned it with the cheese.”
“No, it was swollen when you got here. What happened?”
Kandee faked a chuckle. “It was stupid, really. I dropped my earring and leaned over to pick it up and hit my face on the corner of the bureau.”
“What do you mean which earring?”
Trish lowered her spoon and leaned back, crossing her arms beneath her chest. Kandee recognized this posture. She now sat across from Patrolman Kleerey, firmly planted in interrogation mode. “You are the
master of minutia, my friend. You insert details into the simplest of sentences. Yet you can’t tell me which earring you lost. You didn’t say right or left, you didn’t offer hoop or stud, you didn’t provide any detail. So, what really happened to your lip? Did Dwayne hit you?”
A chill crept down Kandee’s spine. Dammit. “The real question, Trish, is what happened to you? I don’t even know you anymore. Ever since you put on that damned uniform, I’ve watched you change into something cold
and calculating, constantly looking for the negative, always seeing the bad in people. People make mistakes. You should know that, you made a whopper years ago. No one is perfect and that goes for Dwayne. But you’re
so caught up in yourself, in your, your police presence, you can’t see good in anyone. Do you even feel anymore? Are you capable of normal, human emotions?”
She rose, balling up her napkin and throwing it to the table, willing herself not to burst into tears. “I hit my face on the corner of the bureau, Officer Kleerey. If you want to turn that into a federal case, I don’t think I
have time for dinner.” She pointed a shaky finger at Trish, already regretting her words. “The next time we meet, please bring my best friend instead of the cops. Or don’t bother calling.”
She pivoted and stormed out of the restaurant, her pulse racing. Hell’s fire. Why did Trish always have to push so hard? It was an accident. He swung with his hand open. It was just a simple slap.
Trish’s stomach dropped as she watched her lifelong friend bolt from the restaurant, her high heels clicking on the hardwood floor and her auburn ponytail swinging wildly as she hurried away. What just happened?
It wasn’t as if she was interrogating Kandee, she’d simply asked a question. A question she was certain she knew the answer to. She had this ability to sense things, like a psychic, although she didn’t put much store in
them. But it was true. It was as if she possessed a sixth sense, some kind of telepathy that warned her of trouble before it happened. It made her an outstanding police officer and had already saved her and her partner from life-threatening danger. She couldn’t explain how she knew the door to the crack house was booby-trapped but she felt it and she’d begged her partner, Conner, to trust her. He hesitated, then acquiesced, and they backed off the front porch seconds before the device exploded. The force knocked them to the ground, flat on their backs, and they ached for days, but they survived. And, they snagged a solid arrest when the suspect tried to run out the back door.
Good cop, yes. Good friend? Apparently not. When had she forgotten how to be one of the girls?
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