Things have been tense around my little town, Brewster, Missouri, lately, what with local-boy-made-good Ash Mowbray returned, threatening to destroy the town square businesses and claiming my son Brian’s schoolmate as his illegitimate son—very publicly. I headed out for my morning run hoping for peace and got a nasty surprise.
My Cherokee grandmother was pulling biscuits out of the oven when I arrived home. Brian wandered in toweling his hair dry after a shower.
“That smells great, Gran,” he said. When Gran first arrived to live with us, he’d struggled with what to call her until she told him since he was mine and I was hers that he should call her Gran just as I did.
She smiled at him and frowned at me. “You’re late. Wash your hands and sit down to eat. You can take your shower after breakfast. I’m not going to have everything get cold because you lost track of time this morning.”
Slamming the oven door with one hand, she set the pan of biscuits on the counter with the other. I headed to the sink to wash up.
“I didn’t lose track of time. Found a body on the golf course while running along the river. Had to call it in and wait until the crime scene techs got there.” I dried my face and hands on the dishtowel and tossed it on the counter.
“Was it anyone we know?” Brian asked.
Gran set a baked egg-cheese casserole, a plate of bacon, and a basket of biscuits on the table. “Brian, get the butter and jelly and that bowl of fruit out of the fridge.”
I grabbed a cup of coffee on my way to the table. “It was Ash Mowbray.”
“Sit down and say grace,” she said sternly. “Before you start talking about evil things like that, bless your food and give thanks for it.”
I dropped my head. I’d violated one of her cardinal rules. Gran believed it was important to start the day off right. What you did at the beginning of the day could determine what kind of day you’d have.
We all sat at the table and bowed our heads while she prayed. “Creator, thank you for another day of breath and for this food. Bless it to strengthen and nourish us. Help us to say and do right things in the right way.”
Gran might welcome the dawn with cornmeal to the four directions, but she was also an active member of the D.D. Etchieson United Indian Methodist Church and never saw any contradictions.
We filled our plates and started to eat—I began with a big gulp of burning coffee, of course—but Brian couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“What happened to him? Wish whatever it was had happened before he screwed everything up for Noah and his folks.” He frowned in disgust and snatched two strips of bacon. “He was a mean old creeper. How’d he die?”
“It looks very much as if he was murdered. You’re not to say anything to anyone at school, though. I know it will be all over town in a flash. But not from this house.” I reached for more of Gran’s fruit compote and paused to give him a stern look. “Okay?”
He shrugged. “Sure. Last thing I want is to be the guy who tells Noah that his real dad he never knew about and cussed out all over the place is dead.” He shook his head. “Talk about stuff that could warp you!”
“People in this town like to talk,” I said. “There will be all kinds of gossip once the word gets out. I just don’t want any of us adding to it.”
“You mean I can’t talk about it, even after they all know about it?” Brian sounded incredulous.
“Of course not. But don’t speculate or build it up any worse than it is.” I sighed and drank some more badly needed coffee. “People may think you know more than you do because you live with me. Just be careful when you talk about it.”
“Are they looking at Noah and his family?” asked Gran as she polished off her single piece of bacon.
I shook my head at her, but Brian had stopped eating to stare at me. “They won’t think Noah did it, will they?”
“They have to look at everybody who had any grudge against him.” I got up to pour myself more coffee and refilled Gran’s cup, as well. “And he went out of his way to give lots of people grudges against him. So they’ll be looking at a lot of people.”
I leaned back against the kitchen counter for a minute. “They’ll probably question Noah, but that doesn’t mean anything with this many people angry at the victim.”
Brian nodded, looking relieved, and turned back to the food. “Do either of you want the last piece of bacon?”
Gran leaned back in her chair and looked up at me. “That man’s going to keep on making trouble for everyone, even from the grave, isn’t he?”
You can read more about Skeet in Every Hidden Fear, the third book in the “Skeet Bannion” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Every Last Secret. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on May 31, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of EVERY HIDDEN FEAR. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Linda Rodriguez’s third Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear, was published May 6. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and is currently a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” has been optioned for film. Find her on Twitter, on Facebook, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang, Writers Who Kill, and her own bog, Linda Rodriguez Writes.
Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.