Sister Eve Divine recently discovered she’s got a gift: turns out she’s a natural at private detective work. But is it a temptation or a calling? As Eve wrestles with this question, she’s taking a leave of absence from the convent, investigating a case with her PI father.
But something else troubles Eve. It’s been weeks since Eve heard from her sister, Dorisanne. And Eve’s gut tells her that something sinister has happened to her difficult sibling. There’s only one place Eve can find the answers she’s looking for: in Dorisanne’s world, under the bright lights of Sin City—Las Vegas,
Late night visits to the casino and some clever clues hidden in an address book set Eve on a trail that soon reveals that Dorisanne’s life is darker and more complicated than Eve ever expected. In the end, Eve’s ability to understand her sister—and herself—may be a matter of life and death.
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The Case of the Sin City Sister
A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery
By Lynne Hinton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Lynne Hinton
All rights reserved.
Sister Evangeline remained in the chapel even as the altar candles were extinguished and all the other nuns and monks had gone to their chambers for the night. She knelt in the dark on the hard oak bench before her and remained quiet, her head in her hands, her eyes closed, for more than an hour, waiting for something she wasn't sure would come. She wanted an answer from God—a sign to show her the way—and every night and every morning for the last three weeks, she had stayed in the chapel for hours at a time, waiting for God to tell her what to do.
She listened, but there was nothing. All she could hear were the birds, the flapping of the wings of the pigeons that came and went from their nests along the eaves of the chapel. She also heard the telltale sounds from the habits of her sisters in the hallway, the kind of swishing noises that the long skirts made, and she knew they had gone first to the kitchen to make sure the breakfast supplies were out and now were on their way to bed. She waited another twenty minutes without an answer and was about to leave when she heard a voice from behind her.
"This has gone on long enough, Sister."
She swallowed hard. She had not heard him come in.
"It's been almost a month."
It was Father Oliver, the monk in charge of the monastery where she lived, and hearing him speak made her wonder how long he had been in the chapel and sitting behind her.
"You need not pray any longer for wisdom. You have prayed for that long enough. It is time for you to obey what is being given to you. Your path is clear to everyone here, except perhaps to you."
She rose from the bench and sat back against the pew but did not turn around to face her superior. She dropped her hands into her lap, the rosary draped across her fingers, her face down. "But I don't know," she replied. "How can I be sure?"
"Your heart knows," he answered.
There was a pause. She did not respond.
"How do you feel when you think about the work you have done with your father, Captain Divine? How was it to solve that murder?"
Eve closed her eyes and thought about the case she'd helped to figure out working alongside the Captain. She took in a deep and full breath, her heart opening, as she considered what it was like when she made the educated guess as to who had killed the Hollywood director. The satisfaction of it—the completeness of closing the case—it was true; her spirit soared in those days unlike it ever had before.
"I am right, yes?" he asked. "This work as a detective, it fulfills you."
She did not answer at first. She considered what he said, understanding exactly what he meant, knowing in earnest it was true. She felt something so different when she had worked at the detective agency. She felt connected to the world in a way she hadn't experienced before. She felt useful and engaged. Alive. The monk was right, and as much as she didn't want to admit to her passions, she knew it.
"But how do I know to trust those feelings? How do I know that the feelings aren't just my temptation, something I should surrender and let go of, not trust? How do I know this urge should be honored and not resisted? How can you be sure I'm not just being willful and disobedient?"
Father Oliver poured out a long breath. Eve felt him then, just at her back, close but not threatening, not hovering. She was glad to have him near her this way, behind her, not in front of her, not looking into her eyes. It was a bit like the sacrament of confession, with a thick veil, a wall, separating the confessor from the one offering redemption.
"We are told by the psalmist that God meets the desires of our hearts. Even Saint Paul wrote to the church in Galatia that 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'"
Eve was confused. She was not following his explanation, but she didn't interrupt. In more than twenty years as a nun she had learned some skills about listening and about silence; and as she bit her lip, holding back another question, holding back her impatience, she realized this was one of the skills that had benefited her in solving the mystery of the dead Hollywood director. She had known how to listen to what was being said as well as to discern what was being shown. She had solved the mystery because she understood what it meant to listen carefully, to pay close attention to the details.
Oliver waited a bit and continued. "If you are a true disciple, Sister, and I believe you are, then Christ lives in you. If this is so, then the desire that is in your heart can be trusted. It is the truth for you to live by."
Eve relaxed. It was the news she had wanted but had not expected to hear from her superior. She knew that what he was saying was certainly true, that working at the detective agency energized her in a way she hadn't felt for a long time. She knew being in the role of detective fed her spirit, engaged her mind and heart, and fulfilled her. It was everything she had been searching for at the monastery for years, even years she had not realized she was looking for something.
"Who will watch the animals?" she asked, suddenly remembering the stray cats and dogs she had been housing and feeding at the monastery. She was the only resident who took care of them. She worried that to leave would mean the animals would more than likely be neglected. Not knowing who would step up and take over was one of the reasons she had been using for her decision to stay.
"I have spoken to Sister Mary Edith and Brother Stephen. They are both dedicated to caring for all the residents here, the four-legged creatures as well as those of us with two. We will continue the good work you began."
Eve smiled. It warmed her heart to know that he had understood this would be important in her discernment process to leave the monastery. He knew what caring for the animals meant to her, and with his reply, it was clear that he had already managed this matter of concern.
She nodded and thought about the man sitting behind her and understood how she had come to love and respect Father Oliver over the years. He was not one who spoke frivolously or one who used his authority as a means of power over the others at the monastery. Even in times of disagreement, and there had certainly been a few of those, Eve had always found her superior to be kind and fair in his leadership. She trusted him.
"I just want it to be a leave of absence," she said. "I am not ready to leave for good. I just need a couple of months to sort through things, help my dad again, and be back in Madrid and just have time to think about things."
She felt his hand on her shoulder. It was warm and strong.
"It is just a leave of absence," he agreed. And then he removed his hand. "But Sister Evangeline, you must use these six weeks as the opportunity that they are. You must still your mind and listen to your heart. If you do that, if you seek in truthfulness to know what it is you are to do with your life, you will know the truth."
"And the truth will set me free," she added. She reached her right hand across her opposite shoulder and held it there, waiting. She didn't wait long before his hand clasped hers and squeezed. She dropped her head, said a prayer of thanks, and felt the release of his hand on hers. When she stood up to leave, she turned around to thank Father Oliver, to tell him what relief he had given her, to let him know what his counsel had meant to her, how she had been praying for what he had given to her, but the chapel was empty. There was no one else there. The one who'd provided her the answer had already gone.CHAPTER 2
"There's no time to take anything." Her husband rushed into the bedroom, trying to hurry her along. "There's no room for those," he said, nodding at the two framed pictures she'd just pulled from the nightstand. "Just essentials."
She turned to him and started to argue but realized it would just take time—time they didn't have. She put the pictures back and opened a small drawer to pull out a few things she didn't want to leave behind: a small angel given to her by her mother when she moved to Vegas, a bracelet with silver charms, a tiny seed pot from a potter living on the Acoma Pueblo. She closed the drawer without removing the small book she hoped would not be picked up by the wrong person.
He swore. "I hear a motorcycle," he said and darted from the bedroom into the kitchen.
A motorcycle, she thought. Wouldn't that be great if it was her sister arriving and not the man terrorizing the two of them? But her family was nowhere near the town she was in. She shook her head and glanced around, wondering what she needed and if she would ever be back, if she'd ever recover these things that she had treasured.
There were so many other items she wanted to take, including a necklace from her mother, a Navajo squash blossom design of turquoise and coral, the one she wore all the time, the one given to her just before she died. There was the painting found in the back of an old church—the sisters Mary and Martha sitting at the feet of Jesus—and a book of prayers she'd received from her parents on her sixteenth birthday, a book she had never been without. She picked it up and couldn't help herself; she fanned through the pages, remembering when it had been given to her, the way her mother smiled, as though she thought it was the perfect gift for her teenage daughter, a gift she seemed to think might save her—from what, she would never say.
"I need more time," she said to no one in particular.
"What?" he called from the other room. "What are you saying?"
"I said I need more time," she repeated, speaking up this time so her husband could hear her. "I like it here. It took us a long time to find this apartment, and I don't like leaving all our stuff like this. I don't like worrying that somebody will take it."
"Don't worry about it. I called next door. They have the extra key. They'll make sure nothing gets stolen while we're gone. I took care of it," came the voice from the other side of the wall.
"Right," she said under her breath. "Just like you took care of everything else." She stuck the book of prayers in one of the side pockets of the suitcase. She hobbled over to the closet, her ankle still swollen and sore, and grabbed a few blouses, along with a jacket since it was still chilly in the evenings.
"We'll buy clothes. Don't worry about clothes."
"Buy clothes?" She looked at him. "How are we supposed to buy clothes when we don't have any money?"
"I'm going to get the money," he said. He walked over to where she was standing and put his arms around her. "It's going to be okay, I promise."
She closed her eyes and dropped her face into his shoulder. She took in a whiff of his cologne and was somehow comforted by the familiar smell. He was trouble, always had been, but she loved him, and she was going to do what he said.
Suddenly he yanked away. "I hear it again. It's him for sure. He's here." His voice had dropped to a panicked whisper.
"Okay, okay," she said, leaving the closet and grabbing the suitcase from the bed. "Let's go." She hopped to the bedroom door and glanced around once more at everything she was leaving behind. "I hope it's enough," she said, but her husband did not hear her.CHAPTER 3
Carlos and Joseph Diaz had been four-wheeling on every trail in the Santa Fe National Forest since their twelfth birthday. Mary, their mother, thought her twin sons too young to have the ATVs, but she had been outvoted by her husband and her brother, a dealer in Santa Fe who'd gotten them a great deal on a matching set.
They rode on the marked trails where motor vehicles were permitted, the ones their father had pointed out the day they got their new toys, and they rode on the ones where they were not allowed and had not been authorized to ride by a parent or adult. Since federal lands were rarely patrolled, the chances of their being discovered and punished were slim, and so for three years they had been running up and down the mining trails as though they owned the land. Sometimes they even parked and entered some of the abandoned and closed mines they drove past, something they had promised never to do. One mine in particular had captured their attention on an earlier ride, and on this day, they'd brought flashlights and a few supplies, determined to go into the mine and stay a little longer than they had when they'd first discovered it.
The brothers drove from the back side of Madrid all the way beyond the Cerrillos Hills, out past the marked trails and old mining roads. They rode on private land, but the fence that bordered the property had been cut and pushed aside long before they'd arrived the first time. It was Carlos who had noticed the opening the previous Saturday morning, providing them with a new territory to ride, a new area to explore, and he had hurried to stop his brother and turn back to drive across the unfenced border. He knew he wouldn't have any trouble convincing his brother to follow him because Joseph was usually the first one of the pair to break any trespassing laws.
When they found the old mine the first time, it was late in the afternoon, the sun was setting, and they couldn't see past the boarded-up opening. Having heard all too often the stories of collapsing mine roofs and how the mines were often dens for mountain lions and rattlesnakes, they'd pulled aside a couple of the boards but decided to come back another day with more time and better supplies to see and discover what lay within the small hillside opening.
"You sure it was this far out?" Joseph asked when they stopped along the trail, neither one of them completely sure of the exact spot where they'd crossed.
"Yeah, it was way past those switchbacks and just before we usually cross the arroyo." Carlos peered out into the desert landscape before them. "I think it's just past that old sign." He raised his chin to point out where he thought the fence was cut and headed out again. Joseph pulled out behind him.
Sure enough, Carlos was right, and the two of them picked up speed as they rounded the far hill and headed toward the abandoned mine they had only recently found. When they got to the opening, they slowed and parked, turning off their engines at the same time.
"You got the hammer?" Carlos asked, remembering that they had pulled off only two of the top boards so they could peek inside. They had tried to pull off the others but were unsuccessful. That was the other reason they had decided to come back. They knew they could cross over the old boards, but neither one of the brothers wanted to be the one pushed up and over without knowing what was on the other side. It would be easier, they decided, to go in together, and to do that, more of the boards needed to be pulled away.
"I got it," Joseph answered, reaching inside the small toolbox he kept attached to the back of his four-wheeler.
"You brought Dad's good one?" Carlos asked, sounding both impressed and a little nervous at what his brother had done.
"We'll get it back before he needs it," Joseph replied. "Here," he said and threw him the flashlight while he walked over and started pulling nails out of the boards.
"What kind of mine is this, anyway?" Carlos asked, turning on the flashlight and beaming light in between the boards.
"Silver, I think," Joseph responded. "Up front they were mining for placer gold, but back here I think it was silver."
"It could be turquoise," Carlos noted. "We studied that in history last year. There were a lot of people digging for turquoise in the early 1900s. Cerrillos was almost picked as the capital of New Mexico."
Joseph yanked out another nail and pulled at a board from the center of the opening. "I know, Professor. We're in the same grade. I take State History too." He turned back to his brother. "Are you going to just give history lessons or are you going to help?"
Carlos turned off the flashlight and stuck it into his back pocket. He walked over next to his brother and yanked at a loose board until it came free. He threw it off to the side. "You want to get that last one?" he asked, pointing to the board near their feet.
"We can just jump over that one," Joseph said. He dropped the hammer at his side and took a step inside. "Man, it must be twenty degrees cooler in here," he commented.
Carlos paused and then walked in behind him, turned on the flashlight, and began to throw light inside the old mine. He shivered. His brother was right—it was very cold inside. He was glad he had worn a long-sleeved shirt.
"Here, let me see that." Joseph reached over for the flashlight.
Carlos handed it to him.
"Look, it goes way back," Joseph noted, pointing the light in front of where they stood. "You ready?"
Carlos shrugged. "How do we know there's no rattlers back there?"
Joseph grinned. "Guess we don't until we hear them."
"Or get bit by one."
"We'll just go a little ways," Joseph said, trying to persuade his brother. "That's why we came back, right?" He turned to Carlos and shined the light in his eyes.
Carlos turned away. "Geez, Joe, you trying to blind me?"
Excerpted from The Case of the Sin City Sister by Lynne Hinton. Copyright © 2015 Lynne Hinton. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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