Meet the characters of “Reasonable Doubt”: Detectives Monika Sodafsky and Bruce Norgaard

It’s time to meet the characters of my new novel, Reasonable Doubt, due to be published in March.  Next up: Homicide Detectives Monika Sodafsky and Bruce Norgaard.


Detective Monika Sodafsky took a sip of her coffee while she stared at her partner over the rim of the cup. Detective Bruce Norgaard was currently engaged in trying to maneuver a huge spoonful of scrambled eggs onto the edge of a toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel that was smothered in cream cheese. She watched as he pushed the scrambled eggs into the cream cheese with his plastic spoon, the cream cheese bulging out around the eggs. A large glob of it fell off the bagel and was about to land in his lap when he whipped the spoon down and caught it. He licked the cream cheese off the spoon and then bit off a huge chunk of bagel, cream cheese, and scrambled eggs.

“You’re disgusting,” Monika said to him, setting her coffee cup down on the table and pulling off a small, bite-sized piece of her blueberry muffin, popping it into her mouth.

Bruce shrugged and chewed rapidly until he had made enough room in his mouth to be able to speak.

“It’s all about ratios, Monika. You see, every item on this plate is, by itself, inedible.” He paused while he finished chewing and then swallowed the food in his mouth. She was grateful for that, at least; his habit of talking while he was chewing was enough to make her want not to eat her own breakfast.

Bruce continued. “Take this bagel.” He pointed down at his plate. “This thing is just barely edible. Sure, it’s got cinnamon in it, which is delicious, and raisins, which are great, but they’re all mixed in with dough that was made in some factory in massive quantities by some minimum wage worker using the cheapest ingredients they can bulk buy. Then the cream cheese. Sure, it’s a type of cheese, which automatically makes it delicious, but you can’t just grab a spoon and start eating cream cheese out of a container. That would be socially unacceptable.”

Monika arched her eyebrows. Did Bruce actually care about whether or not something was socially unacceptable?

“Then we get to the eggs. Look around this place.” He waved his hand toward the kitchen of the deli where they were eating. “Who the fuck knows what happens back there? When do you think an inspector was last here checking on the sanitation conditions? Probably never. Then you have the fact that these scrambled eggs are made from some kind of dehydrated powder with God only knows what in it. The guy back there adds water and cooks it on a stove and then serves it to us calling it eggs, because if he called it ’rehydrated, yellow, egg-like powder with monosodium glutamate and a touch of cockroach carcass‘ nobody would buy it.”

“So why in the world are you eating it then?” she demanded.

Bruce smiled. “For two reasons. Number one, I’m a cop. I don’t make enough money to go to the nice restaurants and eat the good food. And number two, when you put them together in the right proportions, it’s delicious!” He spooned up another heaping load of rehydrated egg-like powder, balanced it on the cream cheese smothered bagel, and took another huge bite.

“Delicious!” he mumbled around the mouthful of food.

Monika sighed and ate another small bite from her muffin. As disgusting as the eating habits of her partner were, he actually managed to stay somewhat trim and in decent shape. In fact, he wasn’t bad looking and in another time of her life, she might have been interested in some kind of romantic involvement with him. As it was, though, she was entirely focused on her career.

Monika Sodafsky was thirty-five years old and had been a cop for ten years now. She loved being a detective and she loved working in homicide, the pinnacle of detective work, at least in her mind. She’d never been married and wasn’t planning on getting married for some time. Companionship was great and she missed it sometimes, but her career came first.

She sipped her coffee and tried to tune out the sound of Bruce eating as she stared out the window at the rain coming down. She had worked hard to get to where she was, and relationships were often distracting. In fact, her motto was Comfort is the enemy of success. She usually applied that motto just to her work, but she had come to realize that it applied to her personal life as well.

She had been in exactly three serious relationships in her life. The first had been during college at the University of Washington where she had dated the same guy for her entire sophomore and junior years. He’d been a soccer player and had decided not to return for his senior year, instead opting to try to make it as a professional. He’d wanted to continue dating, but they both knew it wasn’t going to work and they’d called it off.

The second serious relationship had been during her rookie year as a police officer. She’d begun dating another recruit from her same academy class. She thrived during her field training period, the time after a cop graduates from the police academy when they ride with a training officer to learn how actual police work is done. Her boyfriend, Nate, didn’t thrive. In fact, he struggled and, after six months of field training, he was fired by the department.

She still would have tried to make that relationship work, but Nate was threatened by her success in the same arena as his failure. She’d tried to make it easy on him, commiserating with him about the bad luck he’d had in training officer assignments and trying to make up complaints of her own in an attempt to sympathize with him. The problem was, Monika loved her job and she loved the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Coming home every day after Nate was fired and trying to pretend she’d had a terrible day became a chore. It brought her down and she knew it was affecting her career.

That was the first time she realized that relationships are bad for a career. She did some soul searching and came to the conclusion that in order to be everything she wanted to be in a cop, she had to lose the baggage. The baggage in this case had a big tag on it that read Nate.

After a nasty breakup, she spent three years being single before giving a relationship one more try, this time with a prosecuting attorney named Jacob who had hit on her relentlessly for months. She had finally acquiesced to his date requests and they’d gone out for the next three months.

The only reason Monika considered this a serious relationship was because she’d told Jacob that she loved him. It hadn’t been true, but what do you say when a guy says, “I love you”? “Thank you. That’s really sweet of you,” just doesn’t cut it. So she’d said, “I love you too,” just like a good girlfriend was supposed to do. A month later, he’d begun talking to her about moving in together and him taking care of her. He was surprised and hurt and angry when she broke up with him. She tried to explain that she’d made the decision to work on her career and that the relationship was doing nothing but interfering with that. He’d made a bunch of accusations that there was another guy (there wasn’t, of course) and had actually cried when she started to leave.

To Monika, that was a manifestation of weakness, something she despised in a man. She knew that some women thought a man crying meant that he was sensitive and that it was a redeeming quality, but Monika didn’t see that at all.  She certainly didn’t cry, almost never anyway, and she could only look at Jacob with contempt when she saw the tears.

That had been nearly five years ago and since then she’d never been happier. She still dated; after all, a girl needs to get laid on occasion, but she never allowed herself to develop an emotional attachment to anybody.

This policy had been very beneficial for her career. She’d made the rank of Master Patrol Deputy after five years on the road, the minimum amount of time required to achieve that rank, and had then moved into Investigations. She’d planned on just a short stint there before testing for Sergeant and moving back to patrol, but she’d discovered she loved being a detective. Moving into Major Crimes two years before, she had been the lead detective on eight homicide cases, nine if you count the case she’d pulled just yesterday morning, and so far she’d achieved a conviction on 100% of them.

The homicide case she’d pulled yesterday didn’t seem like it was going to be the one that would break her perfect record, though she knew better than to give voice to that opinion, lest her words come back to haunt her.

Bruce Norgaard had been assigned to assist her with this one, a random draw in the rotation that all detectives go through. It wasn’t a bad draw either; as detectives go, Bruce was a great one, despite his questionable eating habits. He was intelligent and inquisitive and, unlike a few others in the division, he wasn’t lazy. Monika despised laziness and couldn’t stand anybody who thought it was even remotely acceptable, especially in this business.

She glanced at Bruce who was just finishing his last mouthful. She hadn’t wanted to try discussing the case with him while he was eating, knowing that food in his mouth wouldn’t have kept him from talking, but now seemed like a safe time.

“Now that you’re done poisoning your body, can we talk about the Conner case?”

Bruce smiled. “You have my undivided attention.”

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