Historical--15th Century--The Inquisition is raging through Spain. Torture and fear abound. Teresa fights for survival and for the man she loves.
|Publisher:||Mary Ann Mitchell|
|File size:||780 KB|
About the Author
Mary Ann Mitchell has published 11 books. Her first book, Drawn to the Grave, was a final nomination for the Bram Stoker Award and won the International Horror Guild Award. She held officer positions with the Horror Writers Association and with the Northern California Sisters in Crime organization. She is now making her books available as e-books.
Read an Excerpt
Street of Death
By Mary Ann Mitchell
Medallion Press, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Mary Ann Mitchell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTeresa hesitated before walking down the dark cobblestone street. She brushed her dark hair back from her face and wished she had thought of wearing a shawl to cover her head and shoulders. A mild chill made her shiver. Her arms were bare and bore the woven tattoo from the basket she had been carrying. The basket now lay at her feet, filled with the sweets and meats Sister Agatha had packed for the newly widowed wife of an admitted heretic.
How was she supposed to locate the home of the widow in the darkness before her? Her green eyes could see only shadowy forms crowding the street. Teresa crossed herself and took a deep breath. As she bent to lift the basket, a small animal ran past, almost touching her skirt. A rat nosing its way closer to the banquet that rested at her feet? she wondered. Swiftly she lifted the basket into her arms and took slow, careful steps down the street.
The street was known as La Calle de la Muerte, the Street of Death. Many conversos, Jews who had converted to the Roman Catholic faith, had lived on this street. Most were now dead due to the efficiency of the Inquisition. Whispers floated through the air on this street, whispers of the dead carried by the wind to the ears of family who were left behind. The cries of children suffering hunger and isolation rang through the street by day, and only in the quiet of night could the whispers lullaby their babes to sleep. Gossip spoke of widows being embraced in their beds by ghostly arms that felt familiar, and children smiled in their sleep as if a loving father had tousled their hair.
She listened intently, hoping that she would not hear the specters that mourned their former lives. Her eyes were opened so wide they ached. Another small animal crossed her path. She hoped it was not a black cat.
The fourth door on the right should have a simple handmade crucifix attached to it. This would be the house where she would leave the burden she now carried.
The moon lent enough light that she could see on the ground a crucifix obviously fallen from an old bare wooden door. Perhaps many of the houses had crucifixes, she thought while edging closer to the door. Through a side window she could see several candles burning, shedding a glow on a pair of sleeping children.
Teresa rapped lightly on the door. She could hear a chair being moved, and soon a graceful woman stood in the open doorway. The woman's eyes were swollen from tears but still carried the glint of pride. Her high cheekbones were set on a lean face. Her skin looked so smooth and pale that Teresa wondered if this woman actually belonged on this poverty-ridden street.
The woman nodded her head, and Teresa stretched her arms out, offering the overflowing basket to her. As the woman reached to accept the gift, Teresa saw how weathered the woman's hands looked. Calluses and bruises marred the flesh. An open wound crisscrossed the back of one hand. Teresa sensed that the woman had noticed her gaze when Señora Esther almost pulled her hands back, but reason quickly made her change her mind and take the basket.
"Would you like to come in?"
"No, I see that your children are sleeping, and I do not wish to disturb them."
"Thank you. This is the first night they have managed to nod off. Children heal more quickly than we do, don't they?"
Teresa nodded her head, thanking God she had never known what it was like to lose a parent or go hungry in the middle of the night.
"You should also try to sleep."
"I have his clothes laid out on the bed. I will bring them to the convent soon. I just can't ..." The widow's voice cracked.
"There is no hurry. Sister Agatha wished to ensure the children weren't going hungry."
"Thank her for me." Embarrassed, the widow tilted her head down toward the basket.
Teresa squatted to lift the crucifix off the ground. When she stood she saw Señora Esther's complexion turn ashen.
"I did not realize it had fallen from the door," the mother said, reaching out with one hand for the cross.
"I'm sure it was the wind. Let me help you reattach it."
Together they fumbled with the crucifix, one shaking with fear and the other embarrassed to have caused such emotion.
Finished, Señora Esther turned with pleading eyes to Teresa.
"You'll not tell anyone about finding the crucifix on the ground, will you?"
Trying hard to bring peace to the mother, Teresa clasped hands with the woman and swore she would not.
With a parting blessing, Teresa turned away from the door as it softly closed.
She looked straight ahead and saw that she was being watched by one of the dead. A skull loomed directly above the door on the opposite side of the street. An iron lantern with a thick candle had been placed next to the skull.
Susanna Diego's skull, she remembered. Everyone spoke of the woman who had brought disaster on her own family. If the night were quiet enough, Susanna's cries and screams could be heard begging for forgiveness, begging for the life of her father as she had done in life, when the flames had lit the brush surrounding her father's stake.
Teresa thought she heard soft crying, as of a spirit mourning. "Child." The air seemed to catch the softly spoken word, but no other living person was near. She looked up at the skull and pitied the woman who had brought the Inquisition's curse on her family.
As she moved closer to the skull, she spied a tear. Could it really be a tear? Teresa wondered, slipping down over the grayish-white bone that had been aging there for several years. Teresa reached her hands out, palms upward, and felt the beginnings of a long-needed rain. Again she cursed the fact that she had forgotten a shawl and turned to hurry up the cobblestone street back to the convent.
Excerpted from Street of Death by Mary Ann Mitchell Copyright © 2007 by Mary Ann Mitchell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.