Rabidby T. K. Kenyon
The graduate student, her professor, his wife, her priest: four brilliantly realized characters spin out of control in a world where science and religion are in constant conflict. RABID examines the madness of blind faith in either.
A priest of the modern Roman Inquisition arrives in a New England college town to
Science proves it: there is no God.
The graduate student, her professor, his wife, her priest: four brilliantly realized characters spin out of control in a world where science and religion are in constant conflict. RABID examines the madness of blind faith in either.
A priest of the modern Roman Inquisition arrives in a New England college town to investigate allegations of child abuse by the local parish priests who have suddenly, mysteriously disappeared. The priest, a famous scientist in his own right, is immediately drawn into the private hell, and bed, of a pretty parishioner who confesses that she wants to kill her husband, because of his infidelity. The self-absorbed husband, a prominent scientist/professor, is relentlessly driven by his mad quest to win the Nobel prize, and by his lust for casual sex with grad student assistants. When one of them falls ill with a mysterious neurological disorder, no one knows how bad things really are. Until, that is, the subject of the professor's secret research is revealed.
The brilliantly depicted head-to-head between faith and science comes to a shocking conclusion.
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By T K Kenyon
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Under the stale khaki pants and blue shirts in her husband's suitcase, Bev glimpsed pink, and her fingers gathered the soft fabric. Pink slithered soft and silky like crawling smoke out of the suitcase and hung in the air in front of her.
Not her own.
Her skull burned white-hot under her skin. A caged ape rattled her ribs and her stomach snapped like an angry bull shark surging through chum. Bev lunged into the bathroom and hung over the open toilet but wasn't sick and pressed her temple against the cool yellow wall, pulled back and let her head fall against the wall again, then harder.
She dangled the underwear over the gaping toilet. The panties, someone else's pink silk panties and horrid, matching camisole, swung above the gaping porcelain and water. Bloody vomit hemorrhaged inside her and clung in her guts, corroding. Her fingers loosened and the panties slipped but she grabbed them again, slammed the toilet lid down, and sat. She threw the damned panties against the wall with a strong right-handed whip that should have embedded the silk in the plaster like tornado-torpedoed straw through a telephone pole but the underwear slid to the floor. Her heart slammed so hard that her temples bulged and her carotid arteries hurt in her neck, threatening a strokelike a smiting by God. She drummed her head against the wall in fast time with her hammering pulse.
The bastard. The goddamn, cheating bastard.
Her skull smacked the wall and she rattled inside. Again. Harder.
She wanted a drink but there was no liquor in the house. She wanted to drink herself unconscious to stop the sight of those pink panties in her eyes and stop the gushing vomit in her throat and stop her mind from hating him. She knew that drinking would make everything worse, but she wanted a drink.
On his way from the airport to work, Conroy had dropped off his suitcase at home. That other woman might be a secretary, or a student, or a nurse, or one of the other scientists, or it might have been a real whore, a prostitute he'd bought while he was in Washington.
Bev was stupid. She was a stupid doormat. She slammed her stupid head against the wall.
If Bev told her friends, they'd know that she was a stupid doormat, and they'd tell her to leave him, and she couldn't. If she cried all over Conroy, he'd say she was being manipulative like his mother and he'd get mad. God, she was so stupid and she didn't want anyone to know how stupid she was, not Lydia and Laura and Mary, not Conroy.
Bev's temples pounded. Her fingertips throbbed like she was ripping out the whore's pulsing throat. Her palms burned from the heat of a match setting the whore on fire. Her arms strained with the effort of shooting or strangling or bashing the whore.
Or stabbing. A strong knife that slipped in at the right angle with the force of a good golf swing that made crisp contact, and the whore would gush blood.
It was sin again to dwell on those terrible images. She had sinned again. The bathroom and the house and the world echoed with the absence of God. She was a sinner, everyone was a sinner, but she was disgusting and horrible to God.
Confessing the violence to Father Nicolai would make the thoughts go away. She was so alone, and those evil, sinful thoughts had driven away even God, and she was lost to hell and surrounded by demons.
Chapter TwoConroy juiced the accelerator, and the antique black Porsche jumped. The blue Infiniti speeding in the inside lane fell behind. Testosterone or adrenaline or an opiate neurotransmitter crackled in his spine, riding ionic potentials cresting down axons like surfing the Bonzai pipeline.
The sleek black dashboard curved away from the steering wheel and over Leila's long legs. The Porsche was six years older than she was. Her black hair spilled over the seat like the silk and leather thing she had worn a couple of weeks ago. Pale pink lipstick smudged her upper lip.
He sped along Woolf Road, which led to the University hospital and health science district. "Got much to do at the lab?"
"Too much." She scrunched up her coat sleeve and consulted her watch.
Ah, the grousing of the overworked, underpaid grad student, the lament voiced by all those who sacrifice to raise themselves, to chase fame and the betterment of humanity. Her complaining warmed the barnacles on Conroy's heart. Yes, barnacles, not cockles. A cockle is too small a shellfish to describe Conroy's arterial deposits. Barnacles encrusted his cardiac system, sessile barnacles and other crustaceans, a whole, flashy coral reef. Even his cholesterol plaques dreamed big. His genes had preprogrammed him for a hull-scraping before the age of sixty, less than a decade away.
"Finished that mutant virus yet?"
Leila's trim eyebrow dipped. "Almost." Her mouth firmed into a scowl.
"Nothing." Her glance was an acidic glare. She drummed her fingers on the Porsche's black armrest. Outside the car, dark university buildings sped backwards.
He slid the car to a stop. Snow-dandruffed gargoyles clung to the stone walls of Medical Laboratories. His lab's windows, halfway up, were dark.
Leila unlatched her un-retracting seatbelt and opened the door. Black-ice January air swarmed into the car. She toed the asphalt outside like an unsteady foal. "See you tomorrow, Dr. S." She slammed the car door, hesitated with a glance behind the car, and swiped her keycard through the card-reader by the building's door without looking back.
Tomorrow, they would be student and P.I. again, just the way she said she liked it, just the way he said he liked it: a professional relationship in the lab and a casual fuck on the side.
He jammed the Porsche into first, ground the gears, tried again, found them, and drove home angry, blazing through yellow lights and swerving around crawling cars that shouldn't even be on the god-damned road.
THE PORSCHE'S icy door handle needled Leila's hand through her glove. Headlights crept out of the dark. Someone might see her emerging from Conroy's ostentatious Porsche, and the department gossip grapevine would rumble and grow fat. "See you tomorrow, Dr. S." She slammed the car door and hurried, holding her half-buttoned coat around her.
The Porsche's gears grated and the tires screeched, leaving her alone in the night. Dead bushes of bundled sticks lined the sidewalk. Usually when she worked late, she slipped her handgun into her purse, but Conroy hadn't turned his back so she could grab it.
Headlight glare caught her against the brick wall. Her chilled fingers fumbled with her badge in the card reader's slot. The door clicked, unlocking. She hustled. Dangerous types scurry in the night around deserted buildings.
This casual fuck with Conroy was getting dangerous. She should break it off and live celibately, chastely, like a nun, or a priest.
DRIVING UP to the MedLabs building, Malcolm saw a low, red stripe of taillight wheeling away and that slinky Leila Faris walking in the building door.
"Oy! Leila!" he hollered into the cold night, but she didn't stop.
Months later, Malcolm might have testified that Leila had emerged from that red, horizontal taillight slash, so obviously Dr. Sloan's Porsche, into the January dark, but he had forgotten.
Murder trials are never about the dead person anyway. Strong Scot fatalism would have kept his testimony just the same: that Leila and Conroy were but grad student and mentor, and that if anyone was to blame, it was the wife herself or that Papist priest.
BEV'S HANDS, finger-knotted and pink-knuckled, pressed the confessional's latticework, and she rapped on the wood. A priest grunted on the other side. Father Nicolai should be in there. His timid laugh flopped his piebald hair, like the calm, clean guy introducing puppet shows. The confessional smelled humid, like sex.
The priest slid open his shutter and mumbled the benediction, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." The voice wasn't Father Nicolai's.
Her skirt hem, tucked under her kneecaps, chafed. "Bless me, Father. I have sinned. It's been two weeks since my last confession."
"Yes?" The priest shadow rubbed his face.
Her breath stuck in the hollow at the base of her throat. Not making a good confession would leave her unreconciled, and with a mortal sin on her conscience she couldn't take communion because her soul offended God by dwelling on her hands strangling a redheaded whore, then a gun shooting a blonde bitch, then a knife slashing tanned, firm, young flesh.
The priest sighed. "You only need to confess-ah the mortal sins."
"I know that," and she stopped. The priest's young voice was not Father Samual's gravelly bass or Father Nicolai's timid grumble. His accent was Spanish or something, and wrong. Suspicion fused with panic. "Who are you?"
The man said in that odd accent, "The reason for the antique confessional is the anonymity."
His words were slurred, drunk. Her frantic energy refocused. "You're not a priest. I've heard about people who sneak in and sit on the priest's side of the confessional."
His smooth, young voice strengthened. "Madam, I am a priest."
"We Catholics have to confess to a priest!" She rattled the fragile latticework. "Why would you trick someone?"
The door clicked and she thought she had driven away the imposter, but the curtain on her side jerked back.
The man there, with curling hair framing a face almost familiar in its beauty, like a painting of a wrathful angel holding a flaming sword, said, "Madam, come with me."
His hand slipped under her palm and her fingers slid out of the lattice.
Black sleeve, black whirling cassock, and he pulled Bev past her daughters' seed pearl-teethed open mouths and shocked eyes, through the echoing cathedral.
IN A LONG PEW outside the confessional, Dinah turned to Christine and said, "Wow, I wonder what Mom did."
Christine, the older, worried child, shrugged and composed her own sins in bloodless, effete terms that would not provoke the strange priest to haul her away.
MONSIGNOR DANTE PETROCCHI-BIANCHI gripped the woman's arm and led her through the dollhouse cathedral punctuated by narrow stained-glass windows to the library. His head throbbed with jetlag and spun from the plane's miniscule whiskey bottles. This parish was supposed to be a university environment, not a small, parochial town where people shied at a new priest and had crow-barred open an antique, claustrophobic, moldy confessional.
In the library, books on mismatched bookcases hemmed in three chairs. Dante's Italian accent, despite his efforts, broadened, "You can-ah see that I am indeed the priest."
He certainly looked the part of a Roman priest in his long, black, Jesuit cassock and gold pectoral cross. Wearing the cassock was common among conservative Jesuits and de rigueur in the Vatican, especially because Dante's previous boss, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, made it a point to wear the humble, conservative, traditional clerical garment.
Tears ran glycerin tracks from her wild, brown eyes down her cheeks. "Who are you?"
His hand rose and he palpated his temple. Alcohol had abraded the skin over his cheekbones and orbitals. "I am Father Dante. I was sent to replace Father Nicolai."
The woman glanced around, frantic, as if the bookcases might pounce. "Where is he?"
Questions already. "He was reassigned."
"Why didn't he tell me?" Her hands, the nail polish oddly chipped off, climbed over each other as if each were drowning, pulling the other down.
Dante refocused his grimy eyes. This distraught woman was in her mid-thirties, near his own age. The confessional's latticework had piecemealed her and shown him only a brown eye gathering skin and sun damage spots on her throat. "I'm sorry, madam. And you are?"
She sniffed and wiped her cheek with the back of her hand, dragging a lank of pale brown hair out of the band that gathered it at her neck.
"Mrs. Sloan, please, sit." He gestured toward an armchair and hunted among the dusty, musty books for tissues. "What do you want to confess?"
Her eyes teared again. "I keep having terrible thoughts."
Dante found a slim box of paper tissues stashed between two books and extended it to her. She plucked one and wiped her eyes. He sat and laid the box of tissues on the table between them. The possibility that she was possessed by a demon occurred to him, but he discarded it. Suspecting demons behind every normal neurosis was paranoid. Sometimes, Dante suspected that the Adversary was trying to make him paranoid, but the notion that Dante warranted Satan's attention was itself paranoid. Being an exorcist had its workplace liabilities. "The thought is?"
Mrs. Sloan's hand-clawing intensified. "Hurting someone."
He rubbed his stubbled jaw line, trying to massage away the teeth-grinding tension. He'd seen demons incite murder. "Who?"
"Some woman, somewhere. I found pink women's underwear in my husband's suitcase." She wiped her eyes.
Ah, provoked. Always, people told him their secrets if given sufficient time. Dante pinched a fresh tissue, pulled it out of the box, and waited.
She said, "He went to Washington. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she sobbed.
She reached for another tissue, and he touched her suspended hand gently, in a priestly way, he hoped, then held her fingers. He was just a priest, a muzzled, leashed, caged priest, and no threat to a woman, no matter what paced in the cage, what lunged on the leash, or what snapped inside the muzzle.
Tears wobbled in her wide brown eyes. She reached with her other hand for the tissue and pressed it to the lower half of her face, covering her mouth and nose, stifling herself. Her eyes, still too wide, glanced at his hand, but she didn't tug. She said, "He's having an affair."
"Oh, yes." Dante covered their clasped hands with his other hand. The move was priestly, not predatory, he hoped. "You have talked to him about this?"
"No, he just dropped off the suitcase and went to the hospital. He's a neurologist."
It was a monstrous thing, disregarding a spouse, committing adultery, and especially within the ken of doctors. University and medical school, those crucibles of memorization, indulged thoughtless excess. "You need the marital counseling. You know a counselor?"
She shook her head. "Everybody knows everybody at the hospital. People would talk."
"Father Samual, then."
She glanced at their warm hands clasped on the table. "He's such a gossip." Her hand squeezed his within their Gordian knot of fingers. "You could counsel us."
His pants chafed his groin, and he shifted. "I will be here only for few months."
Mrs. Sloan nodded. "That'll be long enough to know if we're going to stay together."
Stay together, she meant divorce.
He shouldn't counsel them. "The girls, sitting outside the confessional. They are your daughters?"
"Yes. Christine and Dinah."
Her daughters, they were so small. He removed his covering hand from their grasping fingers. Mrs. Sloan held onto his other hand. "Si, yes. I do it."
"Can we come tomorrow?"
So soon. "Six and a half o'clock. For a moment, to meet." Her hand still clamped his hand to the table between them. "How old, your daughters?"
"Eight and ten. Why?"
"Some things about the school, I should like to ask them about." Dante loosened his grip on her fingers and flinched, to suggest she release his hand. His palm was sweaty, encased in that morass of hand flesh and fingernails. He liked it too much, so he needed to let go.
Mrs. Sloan fluttered her eyes. "All right." She touched her eyes with the tissue and untangled her small hand from the raw meat of his paw.
They prayed the Act of Contrition together and Mrs. Sloan rose to leave. She smeared another wet streak from her eyelashes to the pale brown hair at her temple. "We'll see you tomorrow, Father Dante."
It was odd, the English Father instead of Padre or Monsignor or Professor. He was so far from Roma, but he had volunteered for this. Rooting out an evil as ancient as the Adversary itself was more important than his creature comforts and routine of Roma. He could shout above a screaming demon-possessed man or dodge flying chairs, but this assignment in New Hamilton-his primary assignment, not this tangential marital counseling-required delicacy and empathy, which were qualities he did not exercise as an exorcist.
She smeared another blossoming tear from her eye to her hair.
Excerpted from Rabid by T K Kenyon Copyright © 2007 by T K Kenyon. Excerpted by permission.
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
T. K. Kenyon is a neuroscientist, virologist, and writer. She lives in Stony Point, New York.
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A large helping of cheating husband several tablespoons of mad scientific research A recovering alcoholic clergyman named Dante lusting for the heroine A New England setting where witches, exorcisms, and such are the norm. Let the heroine, Beverly, discover a pair of panties in her husband¿s suitcase and become so distraught over the man¿s philandering that she seeks counseling from the church. Stir in wonderful character building, and then add a priest struggling with his faith and who lusts for the very person seeking his help. A heavy dose of murder must be added when the tension is high and the time is right. Clearly there has to be a tense trial in this recipe as indeed there is. While that is preparing, fold into the Catholic Church¿s obsession with cleaning up its image, the highly charged and competitive world of scientific research in which the lethality of products is subordinated to the almighty dollar. When you are sufficiently tense, you will be at the climax of T.K. Kenyon¿s Rabid, a very good novel with crisply drawn characters and interesting cross purposes impossible to put down until the literary meal is ready.
Let me tell ya something about elegance. Elegance is a matter of refinement and quality, sure. But it's also a matter of complexity. Elegant things just have more going on than things that are merely excellent. You may disagree, but I find the Beatles excellent, Bach elegant. You get my drift? The first layer in this book is the question of murder itself. We know from the outset that someone's going to die, but we don't find out who until half-way into the book. The author hasn't so much muddied the waters as she's added levels to them. Is the victim to be *the annoying and ambitious medical researcher? Could be-he's unlikeable enough and no innocent creatures-or readers- would miss him much. *the graduate student with whom he is conducting an affair? Maybe-she is brutally transgressive of all the rules of female romantic life. She's the sort of heroine who is always dispatched in the movies to reinforce the notion that sin doesn't pay. *how about the researcher's milquetoasty wife? The researcher obviously wants her dead and from the way her character is built, it seems that the author did too. Her husband not only has the motivation, he has access to all sorts of yummy viruses to do the job. *or maybe it's the impossibly refined and educated priest who's just arrived on the scene, sent by the Vatican to lead their parish out of the inferno of a child-abuse scandal and into the paradiso of something better. His name, of course is Dante and he has the combination of faith and doubt that is sometimes resolved in pulpier novels by a heroic death. Then there's the question of sex. (is sex a question?) anyway, all the main characters are simmering with unfulfilled lusts. Some, like Leila the grad student, are ferociously acting out. (Leila is a deliciously good acter-outer by the way). Others are celibate or so repressed as to be semi-celibate. Does all this sexual stewing have anything to do with the illicit sex that Dante has been sent to stamp out? Or isit thematically related to the HIV research going on in Leila's lab? The science adds another layer, an elegant hypothesis is teased out of the authorized and underground experiments. The conjecture relates ultimately to questions of faith which are another layer. There is more, much more. The roles and rules of men and women, the politics of institutions and the tidal waves of ambition all weave threads that recur and fascinate. What makes the whole thing work is that the author is bigger than any of the devices she uses. Nothing is obvious, every thread leads to another consideration without a hint of cliché. So let's define something else: the word thrill. A thrill is a shiver of delight-it's physical and mental and spiritual. Suspenseful, erotic, many-layered and intelligent, Rabid is truly an elegant thriller. Lynn Hoffman, author of bang BANG, ISBN 9781601640005
I love finding a new, brilliant, genius writer. Where has TK Kenyon been hiding? This is her first novel, but it¿s brilliant. I¿m a physician, and two of the characters in this book are MDs, and Kenyon hits the notes about being a doctor perfectly. The science, and there is a scientific metaphor that runs through the book, is true. The stuff that happens in a lab is spot on. To summarize, Dante, a gorgeous Italian Jesuit priest, arrives to investigate claims of pedophilia by another priest and to counsel the victims. Bev discovers that her husband, Conroy, is having an affair and drags him to counseling with Dante. Conroy is having an affair with Leila, his student, and Kenyon gets the tone of the university lab just right. Dante tries to counsel them, but Conroy doesn¿t want counseling, and the four characters spin out of control. One of the characters kills one of the others about a third of the way through the book, and then the book gets more complicated and scary and involved and crazy and fantastic. There are also parts that made me laugh so hard I had to put the book down. The dialogue, especially in the lab and during the trial, is so damn funny. When I started reading it, there were such strong, separate plot threads and round, perfect, thinking, smart characters, each with their own agenda, that I thought there was no way to adhere to E.M. Forrester¿s advice, ¿Only connect.¿ By a third of the way through, I knew this was something really special, as the plot threads braided together and the characters struggled against each other and themselves. The end, with a trial, an exorcism, and a confrontation, is too shocking to ruin for you. I cried at the end. It was so sad and beautiful at the same time, and yet perfect. Any other end would have been wrong.
This book blew my mind! I usually don¿t like ¿heavy¿ books, meaning anything over 6 ounces as well as anything with more than one main point, but this book was so good that I kept reading, kept reading, kept reading! Parts of it made me laugh out loud, and the end made me cry. There are four main characters, and each one tells their own story (though not from that annoying first person ¿I¿ point-of-view.) Leila is a brilliant young scientist who¿s hiding a terrible secret about her past that haunts her, still. Conroy is her PI (principal investigator, which means boss) in the lab where she¿s working, and they¿re having an affair. His wife, Bev, is so sweet, and I felt so sorry for her all the way through, but she shows us that she¿s got a core of steel, and she has an affair of her own. Dante, the sexy priest, struggles with staying celibate, but he doesn¿t succeed. This book is hot, sexy, funny, tragic, heart-rending, and ultimately, satisfying in a way that many books aren¿t. My book club couldn¿t quit talking about it. We stayed an hour late because we couldn¿t agree on whether Leila was the villain or the heroine. She¿s both. She¿s tragic and funny in a way that I didn¿t think characters could be. There is a metaphor in this book that deals with science. Don¿t let that stop you from reading it. TK Kenyon makes it simple and even beautiful. I understood everything that she was talking about, and I¿m an idiot when it comes to science. I barely passed biology for non-majors and I don¿t remember anything about it, (except that an echinodermata is a starfish, but that¿s it). If I can understand it, anyone can. The plot tears through the book. Every time I thought that it would pause and reflect, like in a lot of other books that I¿ve read, something else shocking happened. At the end, it all exploded in a series of revelations and scenes that made me dizzy. I had to read it again because I was so shocked at what was going on!
I thought this was written by a chick, but maybe I¿m wrong. Of the four characters, two are dudes, and they are some of the most raving dudes around, especially the priest who tomcats around like he¿s the baddest dude since James Dean. Leila is so hot that she makes me want to dive into this book and [¿] This book has so many hot scenes, including some that I shouldn¿t have enjoyed but turned me on in a sick way, that I¿m going to read it again. And then maybe just the dirty parts again after that.
Rabid is one of those reads that hit the ground at full speed and pick up momentum from there. Either T.K. Kenyon doesn't care where the brake pedal is or decided not to use it and frankly, I think she's got it just about right. This is a full blown, balls-to-the-wall scorcher. Dual themes - out-of-control scientific research and pedophilia - make hot-as-the-devil premises and great platforms for the author's fascinating and often thought-provoking philosophical tirades. Whether science or religion, Rabid gives no quarter. These people are flawed, even hateful. Yet, you feel their pain, their doubt, their fear. They sear their way into your subconscious and in the end you love them and root for them because they are you. If the American priesthood is infested with pedophiles, the underlying causes have never been explained better, made more exciting, or presented in a way that offers so much hope for the future. Get yourself a copy, strap yourself into your favorite chair, and find out what's really been going on behind closed doors.