Back in the Habitby Alice Loweecey
It’s been over a year since Giulia Falcone fled the convent, and her new case is the stuff of nightmares: she’s going back. Giulia’s former Superior General has hired Driscoll Investigations to confirm that the sudden death of Sister Bridget, a troubled young Novice, was a suicide in order to squelch a lawsuit. Did something drive Sister
It’s been over a year since Giulia Falcone fled the convent, and her new case is the stuff of nightmares: she’s going back. Giulia’s former Superior General has hired Driscoll Investigations to confirm that the sudden death of Sister Bridget, a troubled young Novice, was a suicide in order to squelch a lawsuit. Did something drive Sister Bridget to desperation? Or was she murdered? Gathering every ounce of courage to confront her past, Giulia dons the dreaded habitputting a serious damper on her budding romance with her boss, Frankand returns to the Motherhouse to investigate. What she uncovers is less than holy . . .
"The novel boasts a complex heroine and a story that draws the reader into the world of the sisterhood."Booklist
"An entertaining second mystery."Publishers Weekly
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Back in the Habit
By Alice Loweecey
LlewellyCopyright © 2012 Alice Loweecey
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Good afternoon. may I help you?"
Sidney's always-perky voice faltered when the visitor didn't reply.
The footsteps passed the admin's desk and stopped before Giulia's desk on the far side of the office.
"Your employer, please."
Giulia looked up from the report on her screen, and the world tilted. A moment later, she put on her professional face and rose, hand outstretched.
"Good afternoon, Sister. How may we help you?"
She was surprised at how normal her voice sounded in the face of her former Superior General. Especially considering their last meeting, when the woman had flung Giulia's Vatican-issued dispensation from vows smack in Giulia's face.
Sister Mary Fabian gripped Giulia's hand in that well-remembered "businessman's handshake."
"The Community requires the services of a private investigator. I was informed that such is your new profession."
"Yes, um, if you'll wait just a minute, I'll see if Mr. Driscoll is free."
Giulia skirted her desk and knocked on Frank's door, grateful she chose good, flat sneakers that morning, because her feet wanted to trip over themselves. At Frank's "Come in," she slipped inside, safe.
Frank Driscoll, founder and senior partner of Driscoll Investigations, kept scribbling notes in a handwritten log. "Did I hear someone out there?"
A giggle spluttered through Giulia's lips. "You didn't say that right. Someone—with a capital S—is out there."
Frank looked up, running a hand through his short ginger hair, which stood straighter than hair ought to. "Not going back to that barber. Who's out there? Why do you look like Sister Mary Evil's after you?"
Giulia leaned against the door. "Oh, perfect. That's exactly who wants to talk to you." She took a deep, slow breath. "My former Superior General's in the outer office. The Puppet Master."
Frank's hair seemed to rise to attention. "Seriously?"
"Yes. She says the Community needs a PI."
"Seriously? That's great." He smoothed back his hair and stood, buttoning his suit jacket. "Thank God I wore a tie today. Come on and introduce us."
Giulia let herself be carried by his brisk enthusiasm. Get ahold of yourself. This woman has no power over you anymore. She's just another client.
She almost lost her composure when she opened the door and saw Sidney's face. Their admin looked exactly like a kid watching her first Fourth of July fireworks: round-eyed and openmouthed.
The office was narrow enough for Giulia to reach the imposing woman standing by her desk in three steps. Way too few.
"Sister Mary Fabian, Frank Driscoll. Mr. Driscoll, Sister Fabian, Superior General of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Greater Pittsburgh."
Frank's handshake appeared more than a match for Sister Fabian's.
"Sister. Pleased to meet you. If you'll step into my office, we'll do our best to help."
Sidney regained her voice the moment Frank's door closed. "Wow. She reminds me of this really strict history teacher I had my freshman year. It must be the outfit that makes her look intimidating. Wait—it's the habit, right?"
"Right. She doesn't look like that just because of the habit. She could give lessons in intimidation." Giulia leaned her burning forehead against the chilled window. I apologize to every weatherman in Cottonwood, Pennsylvania, for complaining about this record-breaking early cold snap.
Sidney's voice came closer. "Maybe we should whisper, so our voices don't carry into Mr. Driscoll's office."
"The woman has ears like a bat, but I think she's laying down the law to Frank. We're okay." This window feels better than air conditioning in July.
"I bet you looked nicer than that when you were a nun. Did I tell you that Olivier said if you'd been a priest he would've asked you to bless his office? He gets his MSW in December."
"That's very sweet of Olivier. I didn't know he was Catholic."
"His whole family is, something wicked."
"And you're not?"
"Nope. We're just generic Christians. We celebrate all the good holidays without all the guilt."
The snort came out before Giulia could stop it. Then she pushed her face into her sleeve to stifle more laughter. When she opened her eyes, Sidney was staring at her with the "I've said something horrible and Giulia will hate me" look.
Giulia shook her head, sucked in a deep breath, and held up a warning finger. "Sidney, you have yet to say anything offensive to me, so stop looking like you're going to get detention." She snagged the Godzilla coffee mug from her desk and gulped the rest of her lukewarm cappuccino. "One of these days when I'm feeling invincible, I'll tell you so many stories about the convent you'll never want to hear the word again."
Footsteps hit the wooden floor in Frank's office, and the phone rang at the same moment. Sidney made a face, but returned to her desk.
The door opened and, like a gentleman, Frank ushered the Superior General through. "I'll be in touch with you tomorrow morning at ten, Sister."
"Thank you, Mr. Driscoll." She opened the outer door for herself without acknowledging Giulia or Sidney, who was scribbling notes on a bright-pink "While You Were Out" pad.
Frank closed the door without a single click and leaned his back against it. "Dia trócaire."
Giulia raised an eyebrow. "And that means?"
"God have mercy. Don't worry, ma'am, I haven't taken the Lord's name in vain in a month. I think." He pulled at the knot in his tie. "I have to deliver that report to AtlanticEdge by nine tomorrow morning."
"Mr. Driscoll, I can stay and type or read it over for you if you need me," Sidney said. "Oh, and your basketball captain called."
Frank groaned. "That's right. We have a game at six."
"No, you don't, Mr. Driscoll. The other team has three guys down with the flu."
"Poor guys, and hooray. Now that I have tonight ..." He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Sidney, can you stay an extra half-hour? Giulia, if I got on my knees to you, would you come back in tonight?"
Giulia grinned. "Sidney, where's your phone? We need a picture."
Frank gave a theatrical sigh and hitched up his trouser legs.
Laughing, Giulia held up a hand. "No, don't ruin that suit. Why don't I just stay?"
"Normally I'd say yes, but I hate making people do busywork just because they have to wait for me. Did you have plans?"
"An intimate session with an elliptical trainer. What time do you want me back?"
"Six-thirty?" When Giulia nodded, Frank turned to Sidney. "I've got most of the report typed, but I need help formatting."
"No problem, Mr. Driscoll, I'm taking a course to upgrade my Office skills. We just finished presentations and PowerPoint." She bounced out of her rolling chair.
Giulia grinned again as Sidney trailed Frank into his office. I swear, she can make anyone smile. Even Sister Mary Fabian.
* * *
Giulia decreased the resistance on the gym's elliptical cross-trainer to finish her third mile. The five o'clock news on the wall-mounted ten-inch TV in front of her ended with a folksy local-interest segment.
Of all people from my past, why did Sister Fabian have to track me down? Does she care that she's one of the top people on my "Die happy without seeing them again" list?
She switched to a national and world news channel. A thin, perky blonde tried to tone down her perpetual smile. "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the latest child sexual abuse lawsuit. It urges the faithful to pray for accusers to be healed of the sin of anger."
Giulia punched the TV's off button with her right hand and the cross-trainer's resistance button with her left. When the incline hit 15 degrees, she increased her tempo.
I shouldn't want to take a knife to those priests' offending parts, but I do.
Her heart rate ramped up, and sweat ran down the sides of her face.
If they targeted adults, their sin wouldn't be quite so monstrous. Maybe it would. Maybe they'd just fry in a different pit in Hell.
Ten minutes later she climbed off the machine and wiped it down. The buff executive types sweating at the machines on either side of her never took their eyes off SportsCenter.
She finished the last of her water bottle as she headed for the showers. You need to get a clue, Falcone. You're not a representative of the Church anymore. You don't have to try and explain the pedophilia scandal and the Church's sin-of-omission response to eight classes of world-weary teenagers.
* * *
Giulia turned up her jacket collar and peered down the street for the bus. "Of course it's windy on the night I don't dry my hair." Her ringtone barely reached her ears through the gusts. Now I'll have "We Will Rock You" looping through my mind. It may be time to change to a different Queen song.
"Huh? For what? Never mind. Did you eat yet?"
"No, I just got out of the gym."
"Great. Neither did I. I'll get pizza and pop. See you in a few."
She closed the phone. "If my head doesn't turn into a snow-cone first. What's up with this weather? Halloween isn't for another month."
The screech of air brakes interrupted her. The downtown bus was packed with people chattering about the 3-D movie opening that night, about sushi versus burgers, about hooking up with guys at the bars afterward.
I need a date. Not another brainstorming session with my boss masquerading as a date.
Two couples got on at the corner of Euclid and Maple. Giulia watched surreptitiously as they sat in the rows opposite her, kissing and joking.
Suck it up. At least you're not still in the convent.
Excerpted from Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey Copyright © 2012 by Alice Loweecey. Excerpted by permission of Llewelly. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Alice Loweecey is a former nun who went from the convent to playing hookers on stage to accepting her husband's marriage proposal on the second date. A regular contributor to BuddyHollywood.com, she is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She is the author of Force of Habit and Back in the Habit. The author lives with her family in Amherst, N.Y. Visit her online at: AliceLoweecey.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The unthinkable has happened to Giulia; she's headed back to the convent as a nun. Luckily, it's only undercover and the things that goes on behind the convent doors is deeply puzzling to say the least. What a great read. The mysterious elements in this well-crafted and action-packed drama created a wonderful story that I could not put down and pulled me in from the beginning. The tone of the story was very comfortable and the characters very likeable. Our heroine, Giulia, is an interesting character and watching her learn to survive in this new world is fun and I especially liked the internal dialogue that helps her cope with a variety of situations. This is an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in this pleasant series.