No. 1 in the Olympia Brown Mysteries: When professor and college chaplain Olympia Brown discovers that one of her freshmen is being recruited by a shadowy religious cult, she and a priest colleague join forces to infiltrate the group and rescue the girl before she becomes another victim of their deadly mission. A menacing tangle of religious hypocrisy and the dark side of human nature reveals itself as Olympia and Jim risk their lives to uncover murder, illicit sex and embezzlement. Assisted by Olympia’s house-ghost, the spectral Miss Winslow, they race the clock to expose the cult’s bloody underbelly before they kill again.
The trash collectors knew better than to touch the body of the young woman they found sprawled in the alleyway behind the flower shop. While the younger of the two ran off to get help, the older man stayed, trying not to stare at the emaciated figure lying at his feet. The thick, sweet scent of rotting leaves and broken flowers spilling out of the trash container beside them smelled like death, like his mother’s funeral.
From where he was standing, the man with a teenage daughter of his own could see a white plastic band around the dead girl’s wrist and the glint of something shiny in her hand. Her only article of clothing was a hospital johnny tied in a ragged bow at the back of her neck.
Later that day, the Medical Examiner for the City of Cambridge would pry a silver cross engraved with the words Jesus loves you out of her cold, stiff fingers.
Brother David was pacing, circling the room like a wolf stalking its prey. Despite the early summer heat, the windows in the upstairs room were closed, and only a small fan, grinding away in the corner, did anything to move the humid air around the people at the table.
David was an intense, restless man with the thin, muscular body of a distance runner.
“The answer to your question, Brother Aaron, and any other question you might have, is always going to be here.”
He held up an open Bible and began reading aloud, stabbing at the page with his index finger and punctuating the words with the squeak of his sandals on the polished oak floor.
“For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
He paused and looked at the four people seated around the table. Spittle was collecting at the corners of his mouth.
“Everything we know and live by is in this book. We are called to leave the material world and enter into this fellowship of believers so we may follow in the footsteps of Jeshua ben Josephus and like him, do the work of His Abba, Yahweh. The Bible tells us that when the time comes for a man to have a wife, a wife will be made available to him.”
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. Genesis six, verses one and two,” said Aaron looking up at the wiry man who was now standing over him. Aaron cleared his throat.
“But if some of us, uh, feel we might be ready to have wives, shouldn’t we be able to say something?” The seated man looked down and began picking at one of his fingernails.
“For us, this means …” said David, ignoring the question and glancing briefly at the woman sitting away from the others near the end of the table. “This means that when the time is right for a man to have a wife, the Abba of this Christian Fellowship will provide one.”
Aaron nodded but said nothing. It was best to go along with David when he got like this. Sister Miriam and Brother Joshua, sitting opposite Aaron, exchanged a quick look but remained silent.
“Our Abba is wise, Brother Aaron. You need to trust him.” David moved nearer the window, his voice returning to a more conversational level. “There’s one more thing. Before we adjourn, we need to set a time to review our new member policies.” He hesitated and cleared his throat. “As you know, earlier this year, we had an aspirant who became too zealous in her preparation. Her death was an accident, of course, but such things could reflect badly on us.”