Once she was Professor Mary Naughton, investigative reporter, teacher, and free spirit. Now she is Sister Agatha of Our Lady of Hope, a cloistered, financially-struggling monastery in New Mexico. As an extern-a nun who handles her order's dealings with the outside world-she is used to having her faith and newly-acquired patience tested. But when popular chaplain Father Anselm is poisoned to death in the middle of Mass, Sister Agatha has to bring all her worldly skepticism and savvy instincts to uncover the truth before scandal and unjust suspicion destroy Our Lady of Hope's future.
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November 02, 2004
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Excerpt from Bad Faith by Aimee Thurlo
Sister Agatha stared at the black smoke around the tailpipe of the old Chrysler station wagon. This rusted-out bucket of bolts was what Our Lady of Hope Monastery graciously called transportation. Wiping her greasy hands on an old rag and grateful that her nagging arthritis hadn't flared up while adjusting the carburetor, Sister Agatha walked around to the engine compartment and reluctantly closed the hood.
The engine nearly died, then picked up speed again slowly, sputtering and knocking like a mechanical asthmatic running the marathon. With luck, she might be able to make it back to Our Lady of Hope without having to walk or catch a ride. This early in the morning, there were few vehicles on the road.
The Antichrysler, as Sister Agatha had named the ancient vehicle, needed major engine work again. Though she could do minor repairs, employing skills she'd learned from her brother years ago, an automotive specialist was needed now.
Getting back into the car, she continued her journey back to the monastery with the spools of thread for a quilting project the other nuns were rushing to complete.
The sun was just coming up, but already she was late. She had a million things to do, including meeting Father Anselm at St. Francis' Pantry, an outbuilding on monastery grounds that had been converted into a heated storeroom and an impressive larder. Supplies stored there were made available to anyone in need who asked for help. Father Anselm, the monastery's chaplain, had consented to pick up a donation of canned goods from a grocer in the city, and deliver it to the monastery this morning.
Rolling down the window, she wondered how it could be so hot already down here in the Rio Grande Valley. Pressing down on the accelerator, she tried to coax the old car into a little more speed. Suddenly she heard a metallic thump. The engine sounded louder but the car seemed to have a little more pep, so she decided not to stop. Before she'd traveled another mile, however, she heard a siren and saw a sheriff's car behind her, lights flashing.
"Dear Lord, why are you testing me? You know I'll flunk," she muttered.
Sister Agatha pulled over to the side of the road and parked, hoping the engine wouldn't die. As she glanced in her rearview mirror, she saw a young deputy emerge and amble casually toward the station wagon. He seemed rather tall, and reminded her of an overgrown high school freshman, working on a cool, manly-looking stride in order to impress the girls. The dark sunglasses, she suspected, were standard equipment in the sheriff's department, regardless of the time of day.
The officer smiled as he reached her window, then took off his sunglasses and slipped them into his shirt pocket. His eyes were pale blue, and bright with mischief despite the early hour. "Hello, Sister. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."
"Don't tell me I was speeding, Deputy. As you can probably tell by looking, this car wouldn't go more than forty miles an hour unless you drove it off the Rio Grande Gorge."
He gave her a wide, toothy grin. "I believe that, Sister. No, you weren't violating the speed limit. But your muffler did fall off about a mile back down the road."