Skip to main content



Hell to Pay


Bridgebury Correctional Facility

Something is wrong.

Lying awake in her bunk in Cellblock B, she senses it even before she hears or feels it.

Later, looking back on this moment—something she will do every day for as long as she lives—she’ll acknowledge this flash of prophecy that saved her life. She’ll wish she could share the incredible story with the world.

But she can’t.

This memory, like the others that will continue to haunt and inspire her, will be her secret. No one, other than Chaplain Gideon of course, will ever know about the premonition that kept her from dying in her bed on a cold winter New England night.

All around her, the others are sound asleep in their cells. They’ll never know what hit them.

For her, though, the awareness strikes out of nowhere, like one of her ferocious headaches.

Yes, something is wrong…

The perception is so strong—so earth shattering, she’ll wryly think later, with no one to appreciate the clever wordplay--that her eyes fly open and she braces herself for…something terrible.

She fully expects to find someone looming over her bed. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But it isn’t that. It isn’t about her at all.

No, this is bigger--much bigger, rushing at her like a freight train: distant rumbling; the ground begins to shake. Instinctively, she dives off the bed and rolls beneath the steel frame just as the first chunk of mortar lands on the floor beside it.

A bomb?

No--that would be a single explosion; perhaps a series of them. This is an endless detonation, and as the world crumbles all around her, she knows. She knows.

It has come to pass, just as the bible foretold in the Book of Revelation.

“…and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.”

Huddled in a fetal position, she stays under the bed as brick and concrete rain down. Metal beams and iron bars groan and collapse, reducing the impenetrable fortress to rubble. The bunk is still standing, having been welded into indestructibility to prevent it being dismantled and used as a weapon.

She can hear the others’ terrified screams in the face of God’s fury, but she herself remains calm. Panic would trigger a flight response; were she to budge from under the bed, she’d surely be crushed to death in an instant.

Deep down, she knows she’s meant to be spared. She can’t die. Not here. Not now. Not with Jeremy Cavalon still out there in the world, living his life, while she’s been caged like an animal.

Every time she allows herself to think of him, helpless rage wells up inside of her. There’s nothing to do about it but pray to God that one day Jeremy-- and the others, too--will get what they deserve. Yes, justice at the Almighty’s hands, or, by some miracle, at her own.

At last, the shaking subsides.

She opens her eyes to a stinging cloud of dust. She can hear wailing car alarms, sirens, moans and shrieks of the trapped and dying. Dust clogs her lungs so that she can barely breathe, but she’s in one piece. Alive. 

She feels her way out from under the bed, squirming through the debris until she’s standing. The cell floor is cracked and littered with wreckage, and there, beside the bed that shielded her, is her precious dog-eared bible.

Trembling, she picks it up, clasps it to her chest.

The dust has begun to settle, falling strangely cold and wet. She tilts her head back and for the first time in years, sees the wide-open night sky, swirling with snowflakes.

*   *   *

Richard Jollston has been predicting it for decades.

But when it actually happens—when a major earthquake strikes his native New England—he isn’t even there to witness it firsthand. No, he’s a continent away, safe and sound in California of all places, sitting at the hotel bar nursing a stiff bourbon and water after a grueling day of conference presentations.

“Shit,” the young bartender mutters, and Richard looks up from his drink to see the kid gazing at the television screen mounted high above the top shelf liquor—top shelf, in this modest hotel, being Jack Daniel’s.

“What’s going on?” Richard squints at the blurry montage of images and captions. Only one is discernable: the enormous, distinctive BREAKING NEWS graphic.

Back in the old days, before the ubiquitous cable news crawls and headline-generating reality TV-star scandals, a special report might have generated serious notice among the cluster of people seated at the hotel bar. But tonight, after a cursory glance, most go back to their conversations. Only the bartender is watching the TV, and now--because unlike the others, he’s sitting alone—so is Richard.

Too bad he can’t see a damned thing, having stopped in his room to take out his contact lenses before coming down to the bar. He’s been wearing them only a few weeks and hasn’t gotten used to them yet.

Terribly nearsighted, for years he’d resisted contacts. But it’s hard enough to re-enter the dating scene after divorcing your high school sweetheart at forty-two. He’d figured out pretty quickly that most single women aren’t interested in a bespectacled, asthmatic, perpetually penniless seismologist.

Not that they’re any more interested in an asthmatic, perpetually penniless seismologist in contact lenses.

“Earthquake,” the bartender informs Richard as he peers at the TV screen. “Major one.”


“Near Boston.”


“Yo, that shit is messed up, right? Whoever heard of an earthquake there?” 

“There was an estimated 7.0 quake in New Hampshire in 1638, 6.2 off Cape Ann in 1755,” Richard rattles off,  “a 7.2 off the southern coast of Newfoundland in 1929, and a--”

“Yeah? How do you know? Were you there?”

Ignoring the bartender’s smirk, Richard says simply, “It’s my life’s work.”

He’s spent over twenty years analyzing historical seismic activity in the northeast—and the better part of the last decade warning public officials, private administrators, the media. He told anyone who would listen that the aging infrastructure of most New England cities, along with modern coastal construction built on landfill, simply could not withstand a quake of the magnitude seen in 1755. And that the area was long overdue for another.

Convinced that a series of minor recent tremors were actually foreshocks, he’d even created a seismic hazard map of the most vulnerable South Shore zones, indicating private homes and municipal buildings that were at risk.

Now that the inevitable has come to pass, are any of them left standing?

And oh, dear Lord…


Richard fumbles for his cell phone in the pocket of his tweed blazer. It starts ringing before his hand even closes around it.


“Go ahead and say it,” his ex-wife greets him, and he’s so relieved to hear her voice that it takes him a second to regroup and address her greeting.

“Go ahead and say what?”

“’I told you so.’ Seriously, go ahead.”

Any other time, he’d be tempted to say it…about a lot of things.

But right now, he’s just glad to know she’s alive. They may be divorced—which wasn’t his idea—but he still cares about her. Probably more than he should, considering all the nasty things she’s done.

But as his late mother liked to tell him, no one is all good or all evil. There’s a little of both in everyone.  

“Even you?” he’d asked, unable to fathom even a hint of evil in his sainted mother.

“Even me.”

If there was, he never glimpsed it. But he saw plenty of Sondra’s evil side these last few years—and it got the better of their marriage.   

“Are you okay?” he asks her now.

“I am, but…it was so scary. Buildings are collapsed everywhere, Rich.”

“Around you?”

“No, over toward Bridgebury.”

Bridgebury. Pretty much Ground Zero on Richard’s “map of doom,” as one reporter had referred to the document he’d made public time and again.

“The power is out here so my sister is following it on the news in Vermont,” Sondra tells him, “and she’s been texting me updates. She said there are fires, too.”

“Broken gas lines. Don’t light any matches until you know—“

“Too late. I had to light a candle. I couldn’t find the big flashlight. But don’t worry, the house is still standing, in case you were wondering.”

He was—but does it even matter? The house, a vintage cape in Taunton, is all Sondra’s now, along with half his pension. He got the big flashlight, though. Terrific.

He also got a third-floor walk-up in Quincy—hardly the “bachelor pad” of his dreams.

“Where were you when it happened?” he asks his ex-wife.

“Sleeping. It woke me up.”

Right. It’s past midnight on the east coast. All those people sound asleep in houses, hospitals and nursing homes, prisons…

How many, Richard wonders, have been crushed to death in their beds?

*   *   *

Lush snowflakes fall through jagged holes in what’s left of the prison roof, dusting her gray-streaked hair and making her shiver despite the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. 

Still clutching her bible, she picks her way around a heap of bricks and over yet another half-buried, bloody body in an orange jumpsuit.

So many of them, dead…

But you’ve survived. You are the chosen one, a prophet.

Freedom is so close—just a few more yards, and she’ll have made it past the ruins that mark the outermost wall of the collapsed prison.  

Hearing a groan, she looks around to see a guard, one she knows all too well. He works the perimeter of the prison and was the first, though not the last, to rape her. When it started, she was still pretty, still slender, still naïve enough to believe the abuse would stop if she lost her looks and her figure.

It didn’t.

The only saving grace was that she couldn’t get pregnant. She’d known for years that it was medically impossible for her to bear a child.

The guard is lying on the ground in what used to be the prison yard, his arm pinned beneath a boulder-sized chunk of masonry. Face contorted in agony, he writhes in a futile effort to free himself.

“Please,” he begs her. “Please help me.”

Stepping closer, she regards the situation, wondering what to do.

Ah, Deuteronomy: I will render vengeance to mine enemies.

She reaches toward the guard.

“Thank you.” He exhales and his eyes flutter closed in anticipation of relief.

Pulling his pistol from the holster at his hip, she takes aim and fires.

Fragments of skull, flesh, and brain scatter into the drift of dust and snow at her feet.

“Thy will be done,” she whispers, satisfied.

Hurrying on toward the woods behind the prison, she’s about fifty yards away when she hears the deafening explosion.

Whirling around, she sees that the prison--what’s left of it—is engulfed in flames. 

For a long moment, she allows herself to stand and watch, a wondrous smile playing at her lips, the words of the prophet Isaiah ringing in her ears.

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire…to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

Then she steals into the night, clutching the gun in one hand and her bible in the other.


One Year Later
The Ansonia, New York City

Nothing like a hot bath on a cold November February night, Sylvie Durand muses, as hot water runs into the tub and the bathroom fills with the scent of Chanel bubble bath. A glass of Haut-Brion waits amid flickering white votives beside the tub, and Edith Piaf croons over the recently-installed surround-sound speakers.

Music piped into the bathroom--it was the perfect birthday gift from her grandson Jeremy, who installed the wiring in less time than Sylvie takes to put on makeup for an evening out.

“There, Meme—now you can listen to your music while you relax in the bath. It’ll be just like a spa,” he told her.

He’s grown into a wonderful man, Jeremy. To have overcome such tragedy in his young life…

He’d been given up at birth by his unwed parents, winding up in the foster care system. After several troubled placements, he was one of the lucky school-aged children who found his way into a loving adoptive home. Elsa and her husband Brett had their hands full—Jeremy was a troubled child—but they adored him. They were devastated when he was abducted from their backyard as a seven-year-old.

Sylvie—like the rest of the world—assumed he’d fallen victim to a child predator and would never come home again. She was right—and wrong.

She shakes her head, remembering the terrible day she’d learned that Jeremy had been murdered overseas not long after his abduction—and that his own birth father, the powerful and famously pious New York gubernatorial candidate Garvey Quinn—was responsible.

Less than a year later, Jeremy turned up alive after all.

It was a miracle. They can happen, Sylvie has learned. But one miracle in a lifetime is more than anyone should hope for. She learned that the hard way a few years ago, when Jean Paul became ill.

Humming along to “Mon Dieu,” she admires her reflection in the mirror above the sink.

Just this morning at the salon on Madison Avenue, as she was leaning back in the sink chair to be washed, the new shampoo girl commented, “You know, I was expecting to see facelift scars, but you don’t have any.”

Pardon?” Sylvie decided that she would never become re-accustomed to brash American manners.

Having lived in New York most of her adult life, she’d returned to her native France for over a decade after rekindling a teenage romance. Adapting to her native culture had been surprisingly easy, but the homecoming wasn’t meant to be permanent. Her heart may be in Paris, but her daughter and grandchildren—not to mention her own fabulous apartment--are not.

And so, after Jean Paul passed away, Sylvie settled back in on the Upper West Side. That wasn’t nearly as seamless a transition as she’d anticipated. Maybe she’s simply too old to deal with change.

American culture feels foreign to her even now; she’s perpetually caught off guard by this penchant for barging into strangers’ lives with such audacity. Europeans tend to respect each other’s privacy.  

“It’s just that your skin is so beautiful, and your bone structure is amazing,” the shampoo girl continued, massaging Sylvie’s temples, “I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised--I know who you are--but I figured you must have had some work done. It seems like everyone does, especially in your business.”

“Not I,” Sylvie replied haughtily, though she was secretly flattered by both the praise and the recognition of her stellar career. 

The shampoo girl refused to leave well enough alone. “I thought that was why you always go around wearing those hats with the little veils—to cover the scars.”

Sylvie was speechless at the audacity—so much so that she couldn’t point out that she’s been wearing hats with blushers for decades. They were—and remain—her personal signature.

Now she turns her head from side to side, her legendary blue eyes narrowed as she studies herself in the misty mirror. Yes, the porcelain complexion and facial bone structure that made her one of the world’s first supermodels have certainly withstood the test of time. And her hair, freshly dyed a becoming shade of brunette, looks as natural as it did when she was strutting the runways.

No wonder the handsome waiter mistook her and Elsa for sisters just the other day, when they were out to lunch with Elsa’s daughter Renny, a student at NYU.

“Would you like to order dessert?” the waiter asked Elsa, turning to her after Sylvie had ordered the crème brulee, “or shall I just bring two spoons for your sister’s?”

Sylvie—never fond of sharing dessert--would have gleefully gone along it, and with the waiter’s mistaken assumption about their relationship, had her outspoken granddaughter not nipped it in the bud--probably because she thought the waiter was flirting with her mom.

He might very well have been. Elsa is strikingly beautiful even in middle age—nearly as beautiful as Sylvie herself. But her marriage to Brett Cavalon, having weathered many a storm, is stronger than ever.

“Actually, they’re mother and daughter,” Renny promptly informed the waiter, “not sisters.”

“Is that so? Well, I sure can see the family resemblance in all three of you.”

As soon as he walked away, Renny rolled her eyes and sipped the pinot noir she’d glibly ordered as a newly-minted twenty-one-year-old. “He’s so full of crap.”

Sylvie scolded, “Renny! Such language at the table!”

“Oh, it could have been worse, Maman.” Elsa grinned. “She could have said he’s full of—“


Her daughter had the audacity to laugh, and Sylvie shook her head. Americans.

“I didn’t mean he was full of crap because he thought you were sisters, Meme,” Renny told Sylvie, who couldn’t help being as pleased by her granddaughter’s French term of endearment as she was displeased by the repetition of the offending word. “But he’s all, ‘I see the family resemblance.’ Meanwhile, I’m adopted.”

“Well I’m not,” Elsa pointed out, “and you actually look more like me, Renny, than I look like Maman.”

C’est vrai, Sylvie thought. While they were adopted years apart from the foster care system, and don’t share blood with their mother or each other, Elsa’s grown children do resemble her and each other. Both Renny and Jeremy have dark eyes and dark hair.  Renny’s complexion is on the olive side compared to Elsa’s fair skin, and Jeremy’s eyes are darker than his mother and sister’s, so dark they’re almost black.

Ah, such a shame that Sylvie’s blue eyes—which Frank Sinatra himself once told her were bluer than his own—will die with her.

But not, God willing, for a long, long time. She’s feeling good, despite getting around with a cane these days: a handcrafted walking stick, imported from the century-old Fayet in France. 

And yes, her cardiologist is always telling her to go easier on the butter and cream, but Sylvie has no intention of obliging. She’s svelte as ever, despite butter and cream, wine and chocolate—all the pleasures of life, which she’ll continue to enjoy to its fullest, merci beaucoup.

“Mon Dieu,” laments the great Piaf over the bathroom speaker, and begs God to let her lover stay with her a little bit longer.

Such a sad song. Sylvie thinks of Jean Paul as she turns away from the fogged-over mirror.  Such a painful loss.

And yet, life goes on. She has much to look forward to. Thanksgiving Fashion Week begins in a couple of days.  Christmas next month, andCome summer,she’s spending it with a month visiting friends on the Cote D’Azur.

And when she returns to New York, if all goes well, she’ll be a great-grandmother at last. At lunch, Elsa told her that Jeremy and his wife Lucy are expecting.

“The kids have been through so much,” Elsa said at lunch the other day. “. Will you offer a novena that nothing goes wrong again,Maman?”

“But of course.”

Lucy’s two lost pregnanciesTwo lost—the first, a late-term stillbirth-- babies in less than a year wereis a lot to bear. God willing, there won’t be a third. Sylvie, who attends daily mass at Holy Trinity, is a strong believer in the power of prayer, as is her granddaughter-in-law.

Sylvie is impressed by Lucy’s unshaken conviction that she will be blessed with a child.

After all she’s been through—the tragedy that marked her childhood, and now the heartbreaking miscarriages in the past year—she’s been remarkably resilient.

A woman like Lucy can survive anything. Sylvie just hopes she won’t be tested again in the months ahead.

Poking a fingertip through the frothy layer of bubbles into the steaming tub, she decides the water temperature is just right. She turns off the tap, fits a shower cap snuggly over her fresh coiffure, and uses the sleeve of her robe to wipe a small window into the mirror.

Checking her reflection to ensure that her hair is neatly tucked beneath the shower cap, she glimpses a flutter of movement reflected in the filmy glass. Frowning, she wipes a wider swath.

Reflected in the mirror, a robed, hooded figure stands behind her.

The sight is so shockingly out of place that Sylvie blinks, certain it’s a trick of the light.

Slowly, she turns.

She isn’t alone.

The cloaked intruder swoops upon her, hands outstretched—ominously wearing rubber gloves, Sylvie realizes in horror.

“Mon Dieu!” Edith Piaf sings, reaching the crescendo as the gloved hands push Sylvie down, down, into the full bathtub. She thrashes and gasps, sucking hot water into her lungs.

I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe…

Panicked, she struggles futilely to free herself from the strong hands that hold her face submerged.

Drowning…I’m drowning…Mon Dieu…Mon Dieu…

*   *   *

Climbing the stairway to her second floor apartment, Lucy Walsh Cavalon—who not so long ago regularly ran the New York Marathon—is pretty sure she’s about to collapse from sheer exhaustion.

“Stay strong, Lucy—stay strong!” her father used to shout from the sidelines when she was on the middle school track team.

Stay strong, she’s been telling herself for the last twenty minutes. Stay strong.

But her fatigue isn’t due to running—or even walking, really, despite the five blocks she briskly covered from her office to Grand Central and three more blocks from the train station home.

No, what did her in was standing on her feet in the aisle of an overheated train for the duration of the forty-minute commute from midtown Manhattan to Westchester County.

It’s a Wednesday—matinee day on Broadway, when the Metro North trains are always crowded with the usual commuters plus chatty suburbanites clutching theater Playbills. Lucy can always find a seat anyway, if she leaves the office with enough time to spare.

Being super-organized, that’s something she manages to do most nights without any problem.

But this was one of those frustrating days when nothing was within her realm of control: the phone kept ringing and e-mail kept popping up and she was running late. With Valentine’s Day this week, there were even more matinee-goers than usual—mostly couples—sTo the train, extra-jammed with matinee-goers, was standing room only. And no one, not even the retirees who can usually be counted on for more gentlemanly behavior than their thirty- and forty-something counterparts, offered to give up a seat for Lucy.

It’s not as though she’s showing yet, but even so...

You’d think someone would have noticed that I was pregnant and on the verge of keeling over.

Then again, if anyone knows better than to count on the kindness of strangers, it’s Lucy. You have to take care of yourself out there, because nobody else will.

The thing is, I’m not just trying to take care of myself. I have a baby to protect now. Again.

Please, God, let this baby be born. Please…

She crosses herself and says a quick prayer.

EEver since a pregnancy test  confirmed the new life she’s carrying, she’s felt terrifyingly fragile—not that she’d confess that to anyone, even her husband. Jeremy is worried enough for both of them. She reassures him every chance she gets.

Yet it’s unsettling for a woman who’s always prided herself on being in control of her own fate to accept that that really isn’t the case.

“God is in control,” Father Les, her parish priest in Westchester, counseled her after her last miscarriage. “We can’t question why bad things happen. We can only accept that they do, and trust in God’s plan for us.”

She’s been trying to do that. She really has. Trying to grasp that motherhood might not be a part of God’s plan for her.

But it might be. Please, let it be.

She was reluctant’s afraid to even tell anyone about the pregnancy this time. Her mother, her brother and sister, her in-laws, her best friends—that’s it. EvenJackie—none of them knew until the first trimester was safely past.

Safe? There’s no such thing as safe. Not until you’re holding a healthy newborn in your arms.

The first time she was pregnant, Lucy carried all the way into her sixth month before she started bleeding.

Blood…all that blood.

, Lucy’s closest friend, doesn’t know yet—though she’ll be one of the first Lucy will want to tell when she feels more comfortable sharing the news.

She shudders, forcing the memory from her thoughts, having trained herself long ago to fixate on future dreams, not past nightmares. She’s safely past the six month mark now.

It doesn’t mean nothing can go wrong. It just means the baby is getting stronger and stronger. Some babies born at this premature stage survive.

Aching and yawning, she trudges up the last few steps, wishing she could just  crawl into bed and not set the alarm.

Maybe she really should, as her husband keeps urging, consider taking an early leave of absence from her job as a network administrator. Between the stressful commute, and the regular pressures of Corporate America, and dealing with the crowded daily chaos in Manhattan—which will be more crowded than ever with the holiday season upon them… and the regular pressures of Corporate America…

“But what if they decide I’m on the mommy track and get rid of me altogether? Wwe count on my salary,” she points out whenever Jeremy starts down that road.

“We can get by on mine.”

Not really. He’s a youth counselor at a group home in the Bronx. Overworked, underpaid.

“Or we can borrow money from my parents if we need to,” he suggests.

Maybe, but Lucy’s in-laws aren’t exactly rolling in dough. While the Cavalons won a sizable damages settlement years ago, what isn’t being held in trust for Renny was lost in a series of bad investments, or used for living expenses back when Brett was forced into early retirement from his nautical engineering job.

“Let’s just see how it goes,” Lucy keeps telling Jeremy. “Plenty of women work through pregnancy with no problem. And it’s not like I’m slaving away in a factory or something. All I do is sit at a desk…”

 …for eight hours a day troubleshooting with frustrated employees whose computer systems aren’t working the way they’re supposed to…

Still, she’s really good at what she does, makes decent money with good medical benefits, her job is stable, and she generally works a regular forty-hour week. Things could be a lot worse.

I just have to stick it out until maternity leave.

Please, God, let me get to that point this time.

Statistically, the odds are stacked against her carrying a baby to term after multiple miscarriages. Still, at twenty-nine, she’s relatively young, and her obstetrician told her to be hopeful--andfailed to find evidence of a physical problem. He assured her there’s no reason to think that anything she’d done—or hadn’t done—during the prior pregnancies might have caused her to lose them.

That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be extra-careful this time around.

Thank goodness for the long Thanksgiving President’s Day weekend coming up next weekahead. Her old, hyper-industrious, non-pregnant self would have seized the opportunity to take a trip, or get things done around the house. But aside from  eating turkey at her mother’s house a few miles awayattending Sunday mass, all she plans on doing from WednesFriday night until the following Monday Tuesday morning is sleeping. She’s pretty sure Jeremy won’t mind. It’ll give him a break from constantly telling her to sit down and take a break.

An envelope is taped to their apartment door at the top of the stairs. Plucking it off as she stomps the slush from her boots, Lucy sees that it’s addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Cavalon in handwriting she doesn’t recognize.


The building, a duplex, is kept locked. No one should be able to get in here other than the first floor neighbors, or—

Carl Soto?

Having torn open the envelope and spotted the landlord’s signature, Lucy quickly skims the typewritten page.  Her eyes widen in dismay.

This can’t be right…can it?

Rereading, she sees that it is, indeed, an eviction notice giving her and Jeremy just thirty days to vacate the apartment. That’s it. No further explanation.

 So much for sleeping through the weekend, Lucy thinks grimly, resting a hand on her rounded stomach.

*   *   * 

When it’s over, Sylvie Durand’s limp body, now stripped of the white bathrobe, lies face down in the bathtub, partially obscured by a foamy drift of perfumed bubbles. The wine glass sits undisturbed, the candles remain aglow, and Edith Piaf croons a new song.

“Thy will be done.” With a satisfied nod, still wearing the surgical gloves, she swiftly takes off her hooded cloak, soaked in the struggle. After hanging it on a hook beside Sylvie’s dripping robe, she picks up the thick white bath towel Sylvie had lain out on the heated towel bar.

The label is familiar--Le Jacquard Francais.

Long ago--before she’d been condemned to using thin, scratchy prison-issue towels—she herself had lived in a grand home whose marble bathrooms were stocked with fine European linens.

Now that home—and everything in it—belongs to someone else.

Not, however, to the Cavalons. It was sold before they won a sizeable portion of her family’s assets in the damages settlement.

Back when that happened, her attorney, Andrew Stafford, relayed the news gingerly, as though he thought she might explode in anger or grief at the news that Jeremy Cavalon and his adoptive family parents had been awarded what should rightfully have belonged to her.

She didn’t explode. She clenched her handcuffed fists so hard her nails drew blood from her palms. But of course, Andrew couldn’t see her hands. He could only see her face, and she was an expert at masking her emotions. She remained as stoic as she had the day Andrew told her that Jeremy had married Lucy Walsh.

Yes, Jeremy and Lucy were still out there in the world, living their lives, while she was caged like an animal.

Every time she allowed herself to think of them, helpless rage would well up inside of her. She knew then—as she knows now—that there is nothing to do about it but wait for Judgment Day, when Jeremy and Lucy--and the others, too--will get what they deserve. Yes, justice at the hands of the almighty upon His return to earth.

The earthquake heralded the beginning of the end, and the imminent arrival of the messiah. Now Judgment Day is almost upon them, and she—as a prophet, and a true believer—will be rewarded at last.  

It’s been over a year now since she’s had any contact with her lawyer—or anyone from prison life, other than Chaplain Gideon. He had been her one true confidante through all those years in prison, visiting her in her cell and praying with her.

Now, presumably, he’s the only one in the world who knows she didn’t die along with dozens of fellow inmates when the building collapsed and burned, rendering most victims’ charred remains unidentifiable.

She surveys Sylvie Durand’s waterlogged corpse. Having made good and sure to slam the woman’s head hard against the edge of the tub, she’s not worried about anyone suspecting foul play.

An elderly woman, living alone, slips getting into the bathtub, bangs her head, is knocked unconscious, and drowns. A terrible accident, the medical examiner will conclude. But the kind that happens every day.

Pooled water on the floor and spatters on the walls and mirror are the only signs of a struggle. She easily obliterates them with the thick, absorbent towel. After draping it over the hook with the other soggy things, she opens a linen closet.

The shelves are stacked with neatly folded white towels identical to the soggy one.  That’s how it is in wealthy households like Sylvie’s—and her own, long ago: everything belongs to a luxurious linen set, no mix-and-match.

With her gloved fingers, she lifts a towel from the top of the nearest pile and drapes it over the heated towel bar. Then she rolls the wet things into a tight bundle and tucks it beneath her arm.

Better to risk taking the bathrobe and towel than to arouse suspicion should someone show up here unexpectedly and discover the wet evidence. Surely the Cavalons will be too caught up in grief and shock to notice anything is missing.

After taking one last look around the bathroom, she slips out and closes the door behind her.

Hell to Pay
by by Wendy Corsi Staub

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0061895083
  • ISBN-13: 9780061895081