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The Rosary Girls: A Novel of Suspense


There is a wintry sadness about this one, a deep-rooted
melancholy that belies her seventeen years, a laugh that never
fully engages any sort of inner joy.

Perhaps there is none.

You see them all the time on the street; the one walking alone,
books clutched tightly to her breast, eyes cast earthward, ever
adrift in thought. She is the one strolling a few paces behind the
other girls, content to accept the rare morsel of friendship tossed
her way.The one who babysits her way through all the milestones of
adolescence.The one who refuses her beauty, as if it were

Her name is Tessa Ann Wells.

She smells like fresh-cut flowers.

"I cannot hear you," I say.

". . . lordaswiddee," comes the tiny voice from the chapel. It
sounds as if I have awakened her, which is entirely possible. I
took her early Friday morning, and it is now nearly midnight on
Sunday. She has been praying in the chapel, more or less

It is not a formal chapel, of course, merely a converted closet,
but it is out- fitted with everything one needs for reflection and

"This will not do," I say."You know that it is paramount to derive
meaning from each and every word, don't you?"

From the chapel:"Yes."

"Consider how many people around the world are praying at this very
moment. Why should God listen to those who are insincere?"

"No reason."

I lean closer to the door. "Would you want the Lord to show you
this sort of contempt on the day of rapture?"


"Good," I reply. " What decade?"

It takes a few moments for her to answer. In the darkness of the
chapel, one must proceed by feel.

Finally, she says: "Third."

"Begin again."

I light the remainder of the votives. I finish my wine. Contrary to
what many believe, the rites of the sacraments are not always
solemn undertakings, but rather are, many times, cause for joy and

I am just about to remind Tessa when, with clarity and eloquence
and import, she begins to pray once more:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee . . ."

Is there a sound more beautiful than a virgin at prayer?

"Blessed art thou amongst women . . ."

I glance at my watch. It is just after midnight.

"And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . ."

It is time.

"Holy Mary, mother of God . . ."

I take the hypodermic from its case. The needle gleams in the

The Holy Spirit is here.

"Pray for us sinners . . ."

The Passion has begun.

"Now and at the hour of our death . . ."

I open the door and step into the chapel.


Part One


There is an hour known intimately to all who rouse to meet it, a
time when darkness sheds fully the cloak of twilight and the
streets fall still and silent, a time when shadows convene, become
one, dissolve. A time when those who suffer disbelieve the

Every city has its quarter, its neon Golgotha.

In Philadelphia, it is known as South Street.

This night, while most of the City of Brotherly Love slept, while
the rivers flowed mutely to the sea, the flesh peddler rushed down
South Street like a dry, blistering wind. Between Third and Fourth
Streets he pushed through a wrought-iron gate, walked down a narrow
alleyway, and entered a private club called Paradise. The handful
of patrons scattered about the room met his gaze, then immediately
averted their eyes. In the peddler's stare they saw a portal to
their own blackened souls, and knew that if they engaged him, even
for a moment, the understanding would be far too much to

To those who knew his trade, the peddler was an enigma, but not a
puzzle anyone was eager to solve.

He was a big man, well over six feet tall, with a broad carriage
and large, coarse hands that promised reckoning to those who
crossed him. He had wheat-colored hair and cold green eyes, eyes
that would spark to bright cobalt in candlelight, eyes that could
take in the horizon with one glance, missing nothing. Above his
right eye was a shiny keloid scar, a ridge of ropy tissue in the
shape of an inverted V. He wore a long black leather coat
that strained against the thick muscles in his back.

He had come to the club five nights in a row now, and this night he
would meet his buyer. Appointments were not easily made at

Friendships were unknown.

The peddler sat at the back of the dank basement room at a table
that, although not reserved for him, had become his by default.
Even though Paradise was settled with players of every dark stripe
and pedigree, it was clear that the peddler was of another

The speakers behind the bar offered Mingus, Miles, Monk; the
ceiling: soiled Chinese lanterns and rotary fans covered in
wood-grain contact paper. Cones of blueberry incense burned,
wedding the cigarette smoke, graying the air with a raw, fruity

At three ten, two men entered the club. One was the buyer; the
other, his guardian. They both met the eyes of the peddler. And
knew. The buyer, whose name was Gideon Pratt, was a squat, balding
man in his late fifties, with flushed cheeks, restless gray eyes,
and jowls that hung like melted wax. He wore an ill-fitting
three-piece suit and had fingers long-gnarled by arthritis. His
breath was fetid. His teeth, ocher and spare.

Behind him walked a bigger man --- bigger even than the peddler. He
wore mirrored sunglasses and a denim duster. His face and neck were
ornamented with an elaborate web of ta moko, the Maori
tribal tattoos.

Without a word, the three men gathered, then walked down a short
hallway to a supply room.

The back room at Paradise was cramped and hot, packed with boxes of
off-brand liquor, a pair of scarred metal desks, and a mildewed,
ragged sofa. An old jukebox flickered carbon-blue light.

Once in the room, door closed, the large man, who went by the
street name of Diablo, roughly patted down the peddler for weapons
and wires, attempting to establish a stratum of power. As he was
doing this, the peddler noted the three-word tattoo at the base of
Diablo's neck. It read: MONGREL FOR LIFE. He also noticed the butt
of a chrome Smith & Wesson revolver in the large man's

Satisfied that the peddler was unarmed and wore no listening
devices, Diablo stepped away, behind Pratt, crossed his arms, and

"What do you have for me?" Pratt asked.

The peddler considered the man before answering him. They had
reached the moment that occurs in every transaction, the instant
when the purveyor must come clean and lay his wares upon the
velvet. The peddler reached slowly into his leather coat --- there
would be no furtive moves here --- and removed a pair of Polaroid
pictures. He handed them to Gideon Pratt.

Both photographs were of fully clothed, suggestively posed teenaged
black girls. The one called Tanya sat on the front stoop of her row
house, blowing a kiss to the photographer. Alicia, her sister,
vamped on the beach in Wildwood.

As Pratt scrutinized the photos, his cheeks flared crimson for a
moment, his breath hitched in his chest. "Just . . . beautiful," he

Diablo glanced at the snapshots, registering no reaction. He turned
his gaze back to the peddler.

"What is her name?" Pratt asked, holding up one of the

"Tanya," the peddler replied.

"Tan-ya," Pratt repeated, separating the syllables, as if to sort
the essence of the girl. He handed one of the pictures back, then
glanced at the photograph in his hand. "She is adorable," he added.
"A mischievous one. I can tell."

Pratt touched the photograph, running his finger gently over the
glossy surface. He seemed to drift for a moment, lost in some
reverie, then put the picture into his pocket. He snapped back to
the moment, back to the business at hand. "When?"

"Now," the peddler replied.

Pratt reacted with surprise and delight. He had not expected this.
"She is here?"

The peddler nodded.

"Where?" asked Pratt.


Gideon Pratt straightened his tie, adjusted the vest over his
bulging stomach, smoothed what little hair he had. He took a deep
breath, finding his axis, then gestured to the door. "Shall

The peddler nodded again, then looked to Diablo for

Diablo waited a moment, further cementing his status, then stepped
to the side.

The three men exited the club, walked across South Street to
Orianna Street. They continued down Orianna, emerging into a small
parking lot between the buildings. In the lot were two vehicles: a
rusted van with smoked-glass windows and a late-model Chrysler.
Diablo put a hand up, strode forward, and looked into the windows
of the Chrysler. He turned, nodded, and Pratt and the peddler
stepped up to the van.

"You have the payment?" the peddler asked.

Gideon Pratt tapped his pocket.

The peddler looked briefly between the two men, then reached into
the pocket of his coat and retrieved a set of keys. Before he could
insert the key into the van's passenger door, he dropped them to
the ground.

Both Pratt and Diablo instinctively looked down, momentarily

In the following, carefully considered instant, the peddler bent
down to retrieve the keys. Instead of picking them up, he closed
his hand around the crowbar he had placed behind the right front
tire earlier in the evening. When he arose, he spun on his heels
and slammed the steel bar into the center of Diablo's face,
exploding the man's nose into a thick scarlet vapor of blood and
ruined cartilage. It was a surgically delivered blow, perfectly
leveraged, one designed to cripple and incapacitate but not kill.
With his left hand the peddler removed the Smith & Wesson
revolver from Diablo's waistband.

Dazed, momentarily bewildered, operating on animal instinct instead
of reason, Diablo charged the peddler, his field of vision now
clouded with blood and involuntary tears. His forward motion was
met with the butt of the Smith & Wesson, swung with the full
force of the peddler's considerable strength. The blow sent six of
Diablo's teeth into the cool night air, then clacking to the ground
like so many spilled pearls.

Diablo folded to the pitted asphalt, howling in agony.

A warrior, he rolled onto his knees, hesitated, then looked up,
anticipating the deathblow.

"Run," the peddler said.

Diablo paused for a moment, his breath now coming in staggered,
sodden gasps. He spit a mouthful of blood and mucus. When the
peddler cocked the hammer of the weapon and placed the tip of the
barrel to his forehead, Diablo saw the wisdom of obeying the man's

With great effort, he arose, staggered down the road toward South
Street, and disappeared, never once taking his eyes from the

The peddler then turned to Gideon Pratt.

Pratt tried to strike a pose of menace, but this was not his gift.
He was facing a moment all murderers fear, a brutal computation of
his crimes against man, against God.

"Wh-who are you?" Pratt asked.

The peddler opened the back door of the van. He calmly deposited
the gun and the crowbar, and removed a thick, cowhide belt. He
wrapped his knuckles in the hard leather.

"Do you dream?" the peddler asked.


"Do . . . you . . . dream?"

Gideon Pratt fell speechless.

For Detective Kevin Francis Byrne of the Philadelphia Police
Department's Homicide Unit, the answer was a moot point. He had
tracked Gideon Pratt for a long time, and had lured him into this
moment with precision and care, a scenario that had invaded
his dreams.

Gideon Pratt had raped and murdered a fifteen-year-old girl named
Deirdre Pettigrew in Harrowgate Park, and the department had all
but given up on solving the case. It was the first time Pratt had
killed one of his victims, and Byrne had known that it would not be
easy to draw him out. Byrne had invested a few hundred hours of his
own time and many a night's sleep in anticipation of this very

And now, as dawn remained a dim rumor in the City of Brotherly
Love, as Kevin Byrne stepped forward and landed the first blow,
came his receipt.

Twenty minutes later they were in a curtained emergency room at
Jefferson Hospital. Gideon Pratt stood dead center, Byrne to one
side, a staff intern named Avram Hirsch on the other.

Pratt had a knot on his forehead the size and shape of a rotted
plum, a bloodied lip, a deep purple bruise on his right cheek, and
what might have been a broken nose. His right eye was nearly
swollen shut. The front of his formerly white shirt was a deep
brown, caked with blood.

As Byrne looked at the man --- humiliated, demeaned, disgraced,
caught --- he thought about his own partner in the Homicide
Unit, a daunting piece of ironwork named Jimmy Purify. Jimmy would
have loved this, Byrne thought. Jimmy loved the characters, of
which Philly seemed to have an endless supply. The street
professors, the junkie prophets, the hookers with hearts of

But most of all, Detective Jimmy Purify loved catching the bad
guys. The worse the man, the more Jimmy savored the hunt.

There was no one worse than Gideon Pratt.

They had tracked Pratt through an extensive labyrinth of
informants, had followed him through the darkest veins of
Philadelphia's netherworld of sex clubs and child pornography
rings. They had pursued him with the same sense of purpose, the
same focus and rabid intent with which they had stepped out of the
academy so many years earlier.

Which was just the way Jimmy Purify liked it.

It made him feel like a kid again, he said.

In his day Jimmy had been shot twice, run over once, beaten far too
many times to calculate, but it was a triple bypass that finally
took him out. While Kevin Byrne was so pleasantly engaged with
Gideon Pratt, James "Clutch" Purify was resting in a post-op room
in Mercy Hospital, tubes and drip lines snaking out of his body
like Medusa's snakes.

The good news was that Jimmy's prognosis looked good. The sad news
was that Jimmy thought he was coming back to the job. He

No one ever did from a triple. Not at fifty. Not in Homicide. Not
in Philly.

miss you, Clutch, Byrne thought, knowing that he was going
to meet his new partner later that day. It just ain't the same
without you, man.

It never will be.

Byrne had been there when Jimmy went down, not ten, powerless feet
away. They had been standing near the register at Malik's, a
hole-in-the-bricks hoagie shop at Tenth and Washington. Byrne had
been loading their coffees with sugar while Jimmy had been macking
the waitress, Desiree, a young, cinnamon-skinned beauty at least
three musical styles Jimmy's junior and five miles out of his
league. Desiree was the only real reason they ever stopped at
Malik's. It sure as hell wasn't the food.

One minute Jimmy had been leaning against the counter, his young-
girl rap firing on all eight, his smile on high beam. The next
minute he was on the floor, his face contorted in pain, his body
rigid, the fingers of his huge hands curling into claws.

Byrne had frozen that instant in his mind, the way he had stilled
few others in his life. Over his twenty years on the force, he had
found it almost routine to accept the moments of blind heroism and
reckless courage in the people he loved and admired. He had even
come to accept the senseless, random acts of savagery delivered by
and unto strangers. These things came with the job: the steep
premium to justice sought. It was the moments of naked humanity and
weakness of flesh, however, he could not elude, the images of body
and spirit betrayed that burrowed beneath the surface of his

When he saw the big man on the muddied tile of the diner, his body
skirmishing with death, the silent scream slashed into his jaw, he
knew that he would never look at Jimmy Purify the same way again.
Oh, he would love him, as he had come to over the years, and he
would listen to his preposterous stories, and he would, by the
grace of God, once again marvel at Jimmy's lithe and fluid
abilities behind a gas grill on those sweltering Philly summer
Sundays, and he would, without a moment's thought or hesitation,
take a bullet to the heart for the man, but he knew immediately
that this thing they did --- the unflinching descent into the maw
of violence and insanity, night after night --- was over.

As much as it brought Byrne shame and regret, that was the reality
of that long, terrible night.

The reality of this night, however, found a dark balance in
Byrne's mind, a delicate symmetry that he knew would bring Jimmy
Purify peace. Deirdre Pettigrew was dead, and Gideon Pratt was
going to take the full ride. Another family was shredded by grief,
but this time the killer had left behind his DNA in the form of a
gray pubic hair that would send him to the little tiled room at SCI
Greene. There Gideon Pratt would meet the icy needle if Byrne had
anything to say about it.

Of course, the justice system being what it was, there was a
fifty-fifty chance that, if convicted, Pratt would get life without
parole. If that turned out to be the case, Byrne knew enough people
in prison to finish the job. He would call in a chit. Either way,
the sand was running on Gideon Pratt. He was in the hat.

"The suspect fell down a flight of concrete steps while he
attempted to evade arrest," Byrne offered to Dr. Hirsch.

Avram Hirsch wrote it down. He may have been young, but he was from
Jefferson. He had already learned that, many times, sexual
predators were also quite clumsy, and prone to tripping and
falling. Sometimes they even had broken bones.

"Isn't that right, Mr. Pratt?" Byrne asked.

Gideon Pratt just stared straight ahead.

"Isn't that right, Mr. Pratt?" Byrne repeated.

"Yes," Pratt said.

"Say it."

"While I was running away from the police, I fell down a flight of
steps and caused my injuries."

Hirsch wrote this down, too.

Kevin Byrne shrugged, asked: "Do you find that Mr. Pratt's injuries
are consistent with a fall down a flight of concrete steps,

"Absolutely," Hirsch replied.

More writing.

On the way to the hospital, Byrne had had a discussion with Gideon
Pratt, imparting the wisdom that what Pratt had experienced in that
parking lot was merely a taste of what he could expect if he
considered a charge of police brutality. He had also informed Pratt
that, at that moment, Byrne had three people standing by who were
willing to go on the record that they had witnessed the suspect
tripping and falling down the stairs while being chased. Upstanding
citizens, all.

In addition, Byrne disclosed that, while it was only a short ride
from the hospital to the police administration building, it would
be the longest few minutes of Pratt's life.To make his point, Byrne
had referenced a few of the tools in the back of the van: the saber
saw, the surgeon's ribcracker, the electric shears.

Pratt understood.

And he was now on the record.

A few minutes later, when Hirsch pulled down Gideon Pratt's pants
and stained underwear, what Byrne saw made him shake his head.
Gideon Pratt had shaved off his pubic hair. Pratt looked down at
his groin, back up at Byrne.

"It's a ritual," Pratt said. "A religious ritual."

Byrne exploded across the room. "So's crucifixionshithead,"
he said. "What do you say we run down to Home Depot for some
religious supplies?"

At that moment Byrne caught the intern's eyes. Dr. Hirsch nodded,
meaning, they'd get their sample of pubic hair. Nobody could shave
that close. Byrne picked up on the exchange, ran with

"If you thought your little ceremony was gonna stop us from getting
a sample, you're officially an asshole," Byrne said. "As if that
was in some doubt." He got within inches of Gideon Pratt's face.
"Besides, all we had to do was hold you until it grew back."

Pratt looked at the ceiling and sighed.

Apparently that hadn't occurred to him.

Byrne sat in the parking lot of the police administration building,
braking from the long day, sipping an Irish coffee. The coffee was
cop-shop rough. The Jameson paved it.

The sky was clear and black and cloudless above a putty moon.

Spring murmured.

He'd steal a few hours sleep in the borrowed van he had used to
lure Gideon Pratt, then return it to his friend Ernie Tedesco later
in the day. Ernie owned a small meat packing business in

Byrne touched the wick of skin over his right eye. The scar felt
warm and pliant beneath his fingers, and spoke of a pain that, for
the moment, was not there, a phantom grief that had flared for the
first time many years earlier. He rolled down the window, closed
his eyes, felt the girders of memory give way.

In his mind, that dark recess where desire and revulsion meet, that
place where the icy waters of the Delaware River raged so long ago,
he saw the last moments of a little girl's life, saw the quiet
horror unfold . . .

. . . sees the sweet face of Deirdre Pettigrew. She is small for
her age, naïve for her time. She has a kind and trusting
heart, a sheltered soul. It is a sweltering day, and Deirdre has
stopped for a drink of water at a fountain in Harrowgate Park. A
man is sitting on the bench next to the fountain. He tells her that
he once had a granddaughter about her age. He tells her that he
loved her very much and that his granddaughter got hit by a car and
she died.That is so sad, says Deirdre. She tells him that a car had
hit Ginger, her cat. She died, too.The man nods, a tear forming in
his eye. He says that, every year, on his granddaughter's birthday,
he comes to Harrowgate Park, his granddaughter's favorite place in
the whole world.

The man begins to cry.

Deirdre drops the kickstand on her bike and walks to the bench.
Just behind the bench there are thick bushes. Deirdre offers the
man a tissue . . .

Byrne sipped his coffee, lit a cigarette. His head pounded, the
images now fighting to get out. He had begun to pay a heavy price
for them. Over the years he had medicated himself in many ways ---
legal and not, conventional and tribal. Nothing legal helped. He
had seen a dozen doctors, heard all the diagnoses --- to date,
migraine with aura was the prevailing theory.

But there were no textbooks that described his auras. His auras
were not bright, curved lines. He would have welcomed something
like that.

His auras held monsters.

The first time he had seen the "vision" of Deirdre's murder, he had
not been able to fill in Gideon Pratt's face. The killer's face had
been a blur, a watery draft of evil.

By the time Pratt had walked into Paradise, Byrne knew.

He popped a CD in the player, a homemade mix of classic blues. It
was Jimmy Purify who had gotten him into the blues. The real thing,
too: Elmore James, Otis Rush, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bill Broonzy.You
didn't want to get Jimmy started on the Kenny Wayne Shepherds of
the world.

At first Byrne didn't know Son House from Maxwell House. But a lot
of late nights at Warmdaddy's and trips to Bubba Mac's on the shore
had taken care of that. Now, by the end of the second bar, third at
the latest, he could tell the difference between Delta and Beale
Street and Chicago and St. Louis and all the other shades of

The first cut on the CD was Rosetta Crawford's "My Man Jumped Salty
on Me."

If it was Jimmy who had given him the solace of the blues, it was
Jimmy who had also brought him back into the light after the Morris
Blanchard affair.

A year earlier, a wealthy young man named Morris Blanchard had
murdered his parents in cold blood, blown them apart with a single
shot each to the head from a Winchester 9410. Or so Byrne had
believed, believed as deeply and completely as anything he had
understood to be true in his two decades on the job.

He had interviewed the eighteen-year-old Morris five times, and
each time the guilt had risen in the young man's eyes like a
violent sunrise. Byrne had directed the CSU team repeatedly to comb
Morris's car, his dorm room, his clothing. They never found a
single hair or fiber, nor a single drop of fluid that would place
Morris in the room the moment his parents were torn apart by that

Byrne knew that the only hope he'd had of getting a conviction was
a confession. So he had pressed him. Hard. Every time Morris
turned around, Byrne was there: concerts, coffee shops, studying in
McCabe Library. Byrne had even sat through a noxious art house film
called Eating, sitting two rows behind Morris and his date,
just to keep the pressure on. The real police work that night had
been staying awake during the movie.

One night Byrne parked outside Morris's dorm room, just beneath the
window on the Swarthmore campus. Every twenty minutes, for eight
straight hours, Morris had parted the curtains to see if Byrne was
still there. Byrne had made sure the window of the Taurus was open,
and the glow of his cigarettes provided a beacon in the darkness.
Morris made sure that every time he peeked he would offer his
middle finger through the slightly parted curtains.

The game continued until dawn. Then, at about seven thirty that
morning, instead of attending class, instead of running down the
stairs and throwing himself on Byrne's mercy, babbling a
confession, Morris Blanchard decided to hang himself. He threw a
length of towrope over a pipe in the basement of his dorm, stripped
off all his clothes, then kicked out the sawhorse beneath him. One
last fuck you to the system. Taped to his chest had been a
note naming Kevin Byrne as his tormentor.

A week later the Blanchard's gardener was found in a motel in
Atlantic City, Robert Blanchard's credit cards in his possession,
bloody clothes stuffed into his duffel bag. He immediately
confessed to the double homicide.

The door in Byrne's mind had been locked.

For the first time in fifteen years, he had been wrong.

The cop-haters came out in full force. Morris's sister Janice filed
a wrongful death civil suit against Byrne, the department, the
city. None of the litigation amounted to much, but the weight
increased exponentially until it threatened to break him.

The newspapers had taken their shots at him, vilifying him for
weeks with editorials and features. And while the Inquirer
and Daily News and CityPaper had dragged him over the
coals, they had eventually moved on. It was The Report --- a
yellow rag that fancied itself alternative press, but in reality
was little more than a supermarket tabloid --- and a particularly
fragrant piece-of-shit columnist named Simon Close, who had made it
personal beyond reason. For weeks after Morris Blanchard's suicide,
Simon Close wrote polemic after polemic about Byrne, the
department, te police state in America, finally closing with a
profile of the man Morris Blanchard would have become: a
combination Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, and Jonas Salk, if one
were to believe.

Before the Blanchard case, Byrne had given serious consideration to
taking his twenty and heading to Myrtle Beach, maybe starting his
own security firm like all the other burned-out cops whose will had
been cracked by the savagery of inner-city life. He had done his
time as interlocutor of the Bonehead Circus. But when he saw the
pickets in front of the Roundhouse --- including clever bons
burn byrne! --- he knew he couldn't. He couldn't go out
like that. He had given far too much to the city to be remembered
that way.

So he stayed.

And he waited.

There would be another case to take him back to the top.

Byrne drained his Irish, got comfortable in his seat. There was no
reason to head home. He had a full tour ahead of him, starting in
just a few hours. Besides, he was all but a ghost in his own
apartment these days, a dull spirit haunting two empty rooms. There
was no one there to miss him.

He looked at the windows of the police administration building, the
amber glow of the ever-burning light of justice.

Gideon Pratt was in that building.

Byrne smiled, closed his eyes. He had his man, the lab would
confirm it, and another stain would be washed from the sidewalks of

Kevin Francis Byrne wasn't a prince of the city.

He was king

MO N DAY, 5 : 1 5 A M

This is the other city, the one William Penn never envisioned when
he surveyed his "green countrie town" between the Schuylkill and
Delaware Rivers, dreaming of Greek columns and marble halls rising
majestically from the pines. This is not the city of pride and
history and vision, the place where the soul of a great nation was
created, but rather a part of North Philadelphia where living
ghosts hover in darkness, hollow-eyed and craven. This is a low
place, a place of soot and feces and ashes and blood, a place where
men hide from the eyes of their children, and remit their dignity
for a life of relentless sorrow. A place where young animals become

If there are slums in hell, they will surely look like this.

But in this hideous place, something beautiful will grow. A
Gethsemane amid the cracked concrete and rotted wood and ruined

I cut the engine. It is quiet.

She sits next to me, motionless, as if suspended in this, the
penultimate moment of her youth. In profile, she looks like a
child. Her eyes are open, but she does not stir.

There is a time in adolescence when the little girl who once
skipped and sang with abandon finally dispatches these ways with a
claim on womanhood, a time when secrets are born, a body of
clandestine knowledge never to be revealed. It happens at different
times with different girls—sometimes at a mere twelve or
thirteen, sometimes not until sixteen or older—but happen it
does, in every culture, to every race. It is a time not heralded by
the coming of the blood, as many believe, but rather by the
awareness that the rest of the world, especially the male of the
species, suddenly sees them differently.

And, from that moment on, the balance of power shifts, and is never
the same.

No, she is no longer a virgin, but she will be a virgin once again.
At the pillar there will be a scourge and from this blight will
come resurrection.

I exit the vehicle and look east and west. We are alone. The night
air is chilled, even though the days have been unseasonably

I open the passenger door and take her hand in mine. Not a woman,
nor a child. Certainly not an angel. Angels do not have free

But a calm-shattering beauty nonetheless.

Her name is Tessa Ann Wells.

Her name is Magdalene.

She is the second.

She will not be the last.

Excerpted from THE ROSARY GIRLS © Copyright 2011 by
Richard Montanari. Reprinted with permission by Ballantine Books, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Rosary Girls: A Novel of Suspense
by by Richard Montanari

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345470966
  • ISBN-13: 9780345470966