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Overview The Catholic Church has a new leader—an obscure African cardinal reputed to be a miracle-worker. When an incendiary talk-show host incites public opposition to the pope's planned visit to Boston's Fenway Park, Father Joe Hurley and Lieutenant Kathleen Morelli of the Boston Police Department investigate despite their superiors' opposition. Quickly and irresistibly attracted to each other, Hurly and Morelli are pulled ever deeper into a web of intrigue as the pope moves into the assassin's sights.

Series, Book 2. Product Details About the Author. About the Author Critically-acclaimed author Richard Bowker has published a variety of novels including science fiction, mysteries and thrillers. When he isn't writing, Richard enjoys life with family and friends, and offering thoughts on writing, reading and learning at www. Average Review.

Write a Review. Related Searches. Articulate and intelligent, Augusta Peabody avoids Society's censure by secretly publishing her political essays under Articulate and intelligent, Augusta Peabody avoids Society's censure by secretly publishing her political essays under the pen name Firebrand. But despite all outward efforts to behave like a proper lady, she's set off the Earl of Dunham with her latest View Product.

Brain Dead: Medical Thriller. Riveting plot, terrifying premise Arielle has always despised everything With her diplomat father away on a mission, Lady Caroline Talcott must deliver vital government With her diplomat father away on a mission, Lady Caroline Talcott must deliver vital government documents to London.

But when her carriage is attacked, she is injured and forced to flee on foot. Her only option: hire her rescuer—the infamous Larry Barnes has a remarkable and dangerous power: he can create his own portal through Larry Barnes has a remarkable and dangerous power: he can create his own portal through the multiverse. Then he looked at Carpentier. Was his red face a little paler than it had been?

Did he sense that his moment had slipped away? Had his short-lived movement been overtaken by yet another? Carpentier would have been all right, Riccielli realized. He would have had his photo taken with nuns and told jokes at papal audiences and said comforting things after natural disasters. He would have been called the people's pope, or some such nonsense. He would have waffled enough on the controversial issues to give some comfort to the liberals, without having the nerve to do anything that would annoy the conservatives.

And he would have left all of them alone to do their business. Perhaps they should have all backed Carpentier from the beginning. In retrospect Valli was too holy, too intellectual, too distant. Certainly too identified with the Curia. He scared people. He never had a chance. And what of Gurdani? An unknown, and therefore by definition frightening. The black pope. They used to apply that phrase to the head of the Society of Jesus; perhaps they'd have to come up with a new, less confusing sobriquet for the Jesuit. Gurdani had an inspiring story, what with standing up to the dictator and saving people from the famine and all.

And there were those rumors about his healing powers Choosing him would make people feel good about themselves and their religion. Look how universal the Church is, how modern, how enlightened! But the pope had to be more than a symbol. He had to rule, he had to lead, he had to make hard decisions.

Riccielli glanced up at Michelangelo's magnificent ceiling, at God's finger reaching out to give life to Adam. Were the cardinals reaching out to give life to a black pope? If so, what kind of creature were they creating? And then the counting was finished. The first two scrutineers started adding up their totals. Cardinal Heffernan tied the ends of the thread and placed the stack of ballots into a box.

Soon the right chemicals would be added—for black smoke or white, depending on the outcome; they would then be burned in the tiny stove in the corner, and in this primitive fashion the waiting world would learn the results of the ballot. When the scrutineers were done, the three revisers came over to check their work.

All had to be in agreement. There could be no possibility of mistake or subterfuge, no claims of unfairness or error. Cardinal Magee leaned over to Riccielli. The witch doctor's got it, he murmured. Quite a surprise, eh? The scrutineers and revisers called up Agnello, the dean of the College of Cardinals. He conferred with them for a moment, and the chapel grew quiet.

Then Agnello looked up and smiled. Habemus papam, he said with a smile, and the conclave erupted in cheers. Joseph Gurdani watched Agnello approach as if in a dream. Absurdly, he thought of one of his prison guards walking toward him. He had the same leaden sense of dread in his stomach. It is starting again, he would think as the guard approached.

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The one he was thinking of always had a smile on his face, much as the cardinal was smiling now. One of his front teeth was gold, so the prisoners called him Goldy. Goldy's boots always gleamed, and he never went anywhere without his rifle.

And whenever he approached you, you could be sure that the butt of that rifle would end up in your stomach, the dread turning into a hard ball of pain. Giuseppe Agnello was a wizened but spry old man. He seemed to have difficulty being as solemn as his role demanded. He stopped in front of Gurdani and gazed at him, his gray eyes sparkling. Hello, Joseph, he whispered in badly accented English, bending close.

Then Agnello straightened and said aloud, Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff? You can turn them down, of course. It is not like going to prison—though in fact Gurdani had had a choice then, as well. It had been an easy one for him, though not for many others. Prison or freedom. Pain or pleasure. Good or evil. So many choices through a lifetime, leading to this moment, this ultimate decision.

He had no desire for the burden they wanted to place on him.


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But his decisions had always been made on a simple basis: What does God want of me? If God wanted him to take the rifle butt in the stomach with a smile and a prayer for his torturer, he would do so. Sometimes, of course, it is not easy to discern God's wishes; sometimes it is the height of pride and folly to assume you know them. But not now, he realized. Not with the princes of the Church gazing at you, asking you to lead them.

God had not brought him this far, only to see him turn into a coward. With deepest humility, Gurdani said in a clear voice, with the realization that I am the least worthy among us, but with complete trust in God's wisdom and help, I accept. There was loud applause. Agnello nodded cheerily. It was the correct answer. By what name do you wish to be called? His first decision, Gurdani realized. The world would interpret it however it chose.

He thought of his mother. Would she have been astonished, proud, overwhelmed at this moment? No, even this would not have caused her to bend. Of course you can do it, Joseph, he could hear her say, her eyes blazing with determination. You can be better than anyone. You just have to try harder. Think of your father. Think of what he would have wanted. His father, dead of cholera when Gurdani was only two.

Nothing more than a shadow in his memory—and possibly a false one at that, woven from his mother's stories and his own longings. Such a great man, Joseph. He loved learning. He loved Our Lord. He expected great things from you. You must not let him down. Agnello beamed, as if this were the very name he himself would have chosen. And then he led Gurdani down to the altar. The scrutineers' table had been removed and an ornate carved wooden chair put in its place. Now it's time for us to pledge our obedience to you, Agnello explained, seating him in the chair.

I will be honored to be the first. This won't do, Gurdani thought. He arose from the chair and helped the cardinal to his feet. Please, Giuseppe, there is no need, he said. Not from me, perhaps, Agnello murmured, but from some of these fellows, you'll want to get all the promises you can. Gurdani laughed and embraced him. If they're as bad as you suggest, no amount of promises will help, he pointed out. And then the other cardinals approached, one by one. Many of them Gurdani scarcely knew—just a name, a reputation. Others, like Agnello, were his friends and allies. And he knew that Agnello was right: some of the men who were greeting him and promising their loyalty and obedience were his enemies, though he could only guess who.

The Curial cardinals, presumably; some of the Americans. Perhaps the defeated candidates and their backers. One in particular was important to him. Cardinal Valli, he said when the man was in front of him, you would have been a far worthier choice than I. Valli had been the old pope's cardinal secretary of state. He knew everyone and everything. Eminently papabile.

In other times, perhaps, he would have been the natural successor to the papal throne. Now they were looking for someone new and different, apparently, and Gurdani had been the man who fit the bill. This is a very heavy burden that has been placed on me, he went on. I will need your help. Gurdani reached out and shook the Italian cardinal's hand warmly. That is very good news, he said.

We will talk. When the new pope had finished with the cardinals, it was time to meet the world. But first he had to dress for the part. He was escorted to the small scarlet-walled sacristy off the chapel. This is called the Room of Tears, Agnello said. I can't imagine why. In it were three simple white cassocks—small, medium, and large. A tailor stood by with safety pins, ready to fit him. The small cassock would do, of course. He removed his elaborate red and white cardinal's robes and stared down at his scrawny body.

Such a frail vessel. He put on the cassock. The tailor fussed with it until he apparently deemed it sufficiently papal, and then retired. Gurdani doubted that he ever would look papal, to some at least. A small black man with grey hair and a squint. A head that habitually bent to one side, like a bird's. A back that was no longer quite straight, due to events he did not wish to dwell on just now. To some he would look quite ridiculous, he was sure. Worse, an insult to the Church, a disgrace to the throne of Saint Peter.

Abruptly he sat down on a small bench. Was he supposed to cry now, in the Room of Tears? Well, he wouldn't, he decided after a moment. He wasn't worthy, but then, no one was, no one could be. He slid from the bench and knelt stiffly on the tiled floor. He was certain that many of his predecessors had knelt here like this, praying for the strength to do the impossible.

It was all you could do—ask for some of God's strength, so that you could carry out His will. After a while he got to his feet and left the room. Again he was escorted, this time outside, to the loggia overlooking Saint Peter's Square, filled now with a writhing, jostling, banner-waving throng. Agnello presented him to the multitudes waiting there in the twilight, clearly delighted at the opportunity to shock them.

And Gurdani could hear—no, he could feel —the gasp as people caught their first glimpse of the small black figure who was now the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

He approached the microphone and paused, waiting for silence. I don't speak Italian well, he began finally. But I promise I will learn. There is so much I need to learn. I need your help—I need the world's help—to do this job. But most of all I need God's help.


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I ask you to pray for me, and for our Holy Mother the Church. And in return I will give every ounce of my strength to this role that has been thrust upon me. Domine, non sum dignus , Gurdani thought as he gazed out at the sea of faces. Lord, I am not worthy. You just have to try harder, his mother's voice echoed in his mind. There would be no tears. What would his father have said?

He thought of all who had shaped him, for good or ill. And his blessing was for them, as well as for this crowd filled with the curious and the devout, and the billion Catholics whose leader he had just become. God is in us all, he thought. The evil and the good. The torturer and the tortured.

Let us come together in His spirit, to do His will. Tiffany looked after Erin McKee when Erin's mother had to do errands, or just get out of the house for a while when everything got to be too much for her. Tiffany was a good kid. She had babysat Erin before the accident, and would have looked after her now for free, but Sandra McKee insisted on paying her. Sandra didn't want favors; she felt guilty enough leaving her daughter with someone else, even when she had to.

Tiffany was a sophomore in high school, and she had beautiful long brown hair and a nice figure that Sandra would have killed for, but her complexion was a mess. It made Sandra cringe a little whenever she saw her. She wanted to tell the teenager to wash more often, to lay off fried foods, to wear less of the hideous makeup she used to try to hide her problem. But Sandra knew what it was like to be a sensitive teenage girl. Tiffany didn't need advice; she just needed to grow up. The day that it began, Tiffany came over after school so Sandra could do the grocery shopping.

Sometimes Erin minded when her mother left, and that ripped Sandra's heart out, but she usually didn't fuss much when Tiffany was there. Don't worry, Mrs. McKee, Tiffany said, we'll be fine. Sandra leaned over to kiss Erin in her wheelchair. Erin smiled a gap-toothed smile, and for a moment she looked like any other seven-year-old girl. But seven-year-olds know how to say good-bye, and all that came out of Erin's lips was a kind of high-pitched grunt. Sandra left quickly, grateful that there were no tears. She went to the Stop 'n' Shop. She wore a pager whenever she left the house in case anything went wrong, but nothing ever did while Tiffany was with Erin.

So she let herself dawdle, leafing through magazines and studying unit prices. It wasn't right, but killing time in the supermarket made her feel less guilty than driving around aimlessly and smoking cigarettes, which is what she sometimes did when things started getting to her. But eventually Sandra was done, and it was time to return. When she got home, she announced her arrival and lugged the bags in from the Caravan. Tiffany came out into the kitchen as she was putting the groceries away. Oh, fine. We watched cartoons and played patty-cake. I don't think she got the idea exactly, but we had fun.

Sandra smiled and searched in her wallet for the money to pay Tiffany. It was when she went to hand the money to her that she finally noticed the babysitter's face. If she had thought about it she might not have said anything, but she was so surprised that she didn't think; she just blurted out, Tiffany, your complexion! No, Tiffany—it looks great!

Funny I didn't notice before. Have you been using a new medication or something? They stood together in the tiny bathroom as Tiffany stared into the mirror above the sink. And Sandra watched as Tiffany's hand dropped away from her cheek and her mouth opened wide.

Oh my God, she whispered, and then she just stared at herself, at the smooth healthy skin that a few hours ago had been covered with craters and whiteheads and angry red blotches. Then her eyes filled, and tears streaked the glowing skin. Nothing, Tiffany said, as if finally answering Sandra's question. I haven't—I didn't— And then she stopped, put her hand on her cheek once more, and walked quickly out of the bathroom. Sandra followed her into the family room, where Erin was still watching TV, her scruffy teddy bear under her arm.

Her eyes followed the cartoon figures with pleasure but, Sandra knew, with precious little understanding. Tiffany was staring down at the child. Erin, hon? You touched me, right? On the cheeks.

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We were playin' patty-cake, and you suddenly reached out and put your hands on my cheeks. Tiffany reached down, grasped Erin's hands, and brought them up to her face. And there was this look on your face—right, hon? It was so beautiful, like—like you knew something wonderful that you wanted to tell me. Do you remember? Don't be silly, Sandra replied, shaking her head violently.

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It hadn't happened. It couldn't happen. McKee, there's something very special inside Erin. Don't you feel it sometimes? When she looks at you with that way she has—like, she really knows , even if she can't say anything? Sandra gazed at her daughter: snub nose, blue eyes, golden hair. Beautiful, sweet, wonderful. But not special.

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Sandra didn't just think it: she willed it. But Tiffany wasn't paying attention. She was on her knees now next to Erin, holding her hand. Thank you, sweetie, she said. Thank you so much. You knew, didn't you? You knew this was all I wanted. And you gave it to me. You sweet, sweet girl. Just a little girl, her mother kept repeating, now weeping like Tiffany. My little girl. And of course the word got out. How could Tiffany keep it secret, when everyone who knew her could simply look at her face and realize that something amazing had happened?

Looking back, Sandra realized she should have sworn Tiffany to secrecy, should have paid her money to lie, should have done anything to keep the babysitter from spreading her story. But she had been too upset. And even if she had thought of something, would it have made a difference? Even in those first moments, Sandra had somehow intuited the inevitability of what was to come and her utter powerlessness in the face of it.

She was a skier trying to outrace an avalanche. She was doomed. First it was Mary Beth Halloran on the phone. Mary Beth was in Tiffany's homeroom. I'm so sorry to bother you, Mrs. And she said, you know, Erin, like, cleared up her complexion? And I was wondering, I know this is kind of weird, but, I've got this really bad case of acne too?

So if I could just see Erin for a minute? It's just that Tiffany looks so great and, you know, who knows? And then there was Tiffany's mom, Nancy O'Doul, gushing over what had happened and what a special child Erin was. Not special, Sandra fumed to herself. Not special at all. And Nancy was saying, Sandra, I know what an imposition this is, but I have this cousin Patty—I don't think you've met her? She lives in New Hampshire with her husband Al and well, anyway, she's always had this problem with eczema, and I was wondering When Mike got home, Sandra had to unload on him—who else did she have?

As usual, he got his can of Coors out of the refrigerator, seated Erin on his lap, and listened, stolidly taking it all in. It's crazy, was his opinion when she finished. A coincidence. Or some kind of mind-body thing with Tiffany. Teenage hormones. They're going to believe it's Erin. And they're going to want to Make her touch them.

Like she's some kind of freak. Sandra could feel herself losing control. When Mike was home, she gave herself permission to do that. He didn't deserve it, but she couldn't help herself. She just couldn't. He sat there at the kitchen table with Erin on his lap, wearing that long-suffering expression of his that seemed to say, Hit me again. I can take it. She wanted sympathy, love, understanding, but she knew that it was beyond Mike's capacity to give her all she needed. We don't have to let anyone get at Erin that we don't want to, he pointed out, holding their daughter more tightly.

You take the blame when everyone in Waltham thinks you're keeping them from curing their acne or their cousin's eczema or whatever. Let them call you selfish and heartless and—". The phone rang. Mike winced, as if he had received another blow. He sighed, transferred Erin to Sandra's lap, then went over and picked up the receiver. Oh hi, wait a sec. Your mom, he told Sandra, not bothering to hide his relief.

He passed her the receiver, then went to take the tuna casserole out of the oven. Oh hi, dear. Why did she always have to sound surprised, as if she hadn't really expected her daughter to talk to her? How are you? How was your day? Her mother always took the long way round to her point, like a sadist toying with her victim. Mike ladled out the casserole, then poured her a Diet Coke. She closed her eyes with gratitude when he kissed the top of her head.

Sometimes he knew absolutely the right thing to do. I know. Erin's the best. She tried the casserole to make sure it wasn't too hot, then fed Erin a bite. Yes, she certainly is. Now, the thing is—do you know Claire Kenneally? Do you know Nancy O'Doul, Sandra? Sandra closed her eyes. Mom, she said, of course I do. And I know about her cousin in New Hampshire with the eczema. Oh, darling, I know about that, but I wanted to talk about the daughter—Tiffany. Is it true? Claire says you were there, that you saw it. Did Erin really cure her? Sandra hadn't had time to consider this aspect of her doom, but now it seemed as inevitable as all the others.

Her mother prayed to Saint Jude when she lost an earring, had a photo of the Shroud of Turin hanging in her bedroom, was saving up for a trip to Lourdes. Miracles were an everyday part of her life. Sandra wiped Erin's chin and fed her another bite. I didn't see anything, she said. Tiffany's acne is gone. She thinks Erin had something to do with it. That's nonsense, of course. But why, dear? You know there's something special about Erin, and I'm not saying that just because she's my granddaughter.

I've felt it. Everyone's felt it. Mom, she's a little girl with brain damage, with extremely limited cognitive functioning. She's a little girl who can't speak complete sentences, who can barely control her bowel movements. She doesn't cure skin diseases. And don't go telling your friends in the Sodality that she does. Her mother was silent. Shit, thought Sandra. It'll be on the six o'clock news by tomorrow. You don't have to be a genius to be touched by God, her mother said softly. Sandra hung up, passed Erin back to Mike, grabbed her cigarettes, and went out into the backyard. It was freezing outside, but she didn't care.

She sat on the edge of the deck, stared at the outline of the swing set, and lit up, feeling the smoke fill her lungs, willing herself to calm down.