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What Would Happen to Mankind Attempted to Engineer The Second Coming?
Save 50% on an epic story from Leonard Foglia & David Richards

The Surrogate, The Sudarium Trilogy – Book one

by Leonard Foglia, David Richards

4.7 stars – 22 Reviews
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

–International bestselling trilogy explores an extreme case of religious fanaticism and the impact it has on the world.

The Sudarium, housed in Oviedo, Spain, is said to be the cloth that covered Jesus’ face after he died on the cross. Stained with what is thought to be the blood and phlegm of Jesus himself, it is rectangular in shape with a small, piece missing in the top, left corner. This missing piece of cloth spurred the entire storyline for The Sudarium Trilogy, by Leonard Foglia and David Richards.

“How could a neatly cut corner be lifted from such a renowned relic?,” Foglia says, “Who took it? And, more importantly, for what purpose?” “Everything in these books could actually come true,” Richards notes, “with the advancements in science, the burgeoning of the internet and the resurgence of fundamental religious sects. Just look around you.” Foglia adds, “The books are our hypothesis of what would happen if a fanatical religious group—believing that they were ordained by God—engineered the second coming.” While the duo had planned to stop with The Surrogate, their readers pleaded to find out what happened next. First published in Spain by Santillana Ediciones Generales under the title EL Sudario, the series continued with The Son and The Savior, which deal with the world-wide repercussions of such a experiment. The works have since appeared in Brazil, Poland, Russia and Mexico. In Mexico, where the work occupied the best-seller list for 10 weeks, the respected newspaper, LA REFORMA, wrote: “Little by little, Foglia and Richards reveal the strands that make up the conspiracy. For that, they succeed in joining the latest developments in genetic experimentation with the moral and religious implications that arise from such an undertaking. A great deal of what they imagine could already be carried out in our times, while other things could easily be a reality in the near future.

‘The Sudarium’ is a story that keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, even when he has turned the final page, because if some questions are answered in the course of the book, others continue to stick in the mind of whoever picks up this disturbing work.”

About The Authors

Leonard Foglia and David Richards have co-authored five novels, The Sudarium Trilogy: The Surrogate, The Son and The Savior, Face Down in the Park and 1 Ragged Ridge Road. Mr. Richards is also the author of Played out: The Jean Seberg Story and Mr. Foglia has directed many distinguished Broadway plays and operas. You can learn more about the authors on their website http://www.thesudarium.com/
(This is a sponsored post.)

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44 rave reviews!

A shocking murder from the past exposes present-day secrets that rock a small town in Pennsylvania in this juicy mystery that’s fascinating readers with its parallel storylines.

A great read for only 99 cents!

1 Ragged Ridge Road

by Leonard Foglia, David Richards

4.1 stars – 57 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

The once-glorious mansion needs repair, but everything about it — the chestnut moldings, the soaring foyer, the grand staircase and twenty-two rooms — filled Carol Roblins with hope from the moment she saw it. Maybe a fresh start would improve the relationship with Blake and their learning-disabled son, Sammy, giving their crumbling marriage one last chance. But before they can resolve their tensions, Blake leaves for a military assignment in Europe.

Alone with Sammy in their new home, Carol delves into her restoration, fired by a dream of opening a bed and breakfast. As she recovers long-lost blueprints and researches the mansion’s history, she learns it was once home to a storybook couple and a shocking murder.

Praise from reviewers and readers:

“Tasty enough to tempt you into wanting…more” – The New York Times

Absolutely brilliant
:…Each chapter is either in the present or in the past and the way time slides back and forth is just way,way, way cool…Kept me turning page after page after page.”

an excerpt from

1 Ragged Ridge Road

by Leonard Foglia & David Richards


Copyright © 2014 by Leonard Foglia & David Richards
and published here with their permission


At first, the snow came gently—in dry, feathery flakes that slid off the gabled roof and floated down the chimneys. Those that collected on the windowsills or lodged in the corners of the windowpanes didn’t remain there long, before the wind picked them up and set them on their downward drift again. In a few hours, it would become one of those hard, icy storms that the community held accountable every winter for at least two broken legs and countless twisted ankles. For now, it settled over the slopes surrounding the mansion like gossamer silk—silent, graceful, and deceptive.

Not even the hatch marks of the chickadees marred the perfect whiteness. Their jerky movements amused her, whenever she caught sight of them hopscotching across the lawn. They reminded her of tin windup toys. But it was growing dark and they seemed to have disappeared under the bushes or beneath the front porch. She couldn’t tell. Although the chandeliers in the house cast oblong sheets of light onto the yard, what was bright and cheerful indoors turned grayish and opaque when mixed with the snow.

She sighed contentedly. Christmas was her favorite holiday, and not just for the gifts, which all her life had been extravagant and were likely to be so again this year, judging from the mounds of packages at the base of the Christmas tree. She welcomed the peacefulness of snowy nights that sealed up the mansion in a cocoon and the good spirits that overtook tile butler, cantankerous as he was the rest of the year.

Her husband had spotted the perfectly shaped tree on the northwest corner of the property. It had taken three workmen to chop it down, drag it out of the woods, and maneuver it through the front door without scratching the chestnut woodwork. Nearly ten feet tall, it sat in the large, open stairwell and filled the whole house with a fresh forest scent. The maid and the kitchen help had spent several days hanging the delicate crystal ornaments and draping the garlands of cranberries and popped corn, so that on swag drooped lower than the next and no ornament detracted from its neighbor. Later this evening, they would light the tapers that stood like sentinels at the tip of each branch.

How unfortunate it all had to come down by twelfth night, she thought as she climbed the wide staircase that wound around the tree and led to her bedroom on the second floor, then corkscrewed up another flight to the servants’ quarters and the attic under the gables. If she had her way, the Christmas decorations would never be packed away. From the parlor, she heard the strains of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Someone was at the player piano, pumping the pedals vigorously. The notes came in loud, blustery gusts. A ragtag choir of carolers from town would be making the rounds before long. From past experience, she knew that a few of them, emboldened by the gin in their back-pocket flasks, would be more than a match for the huffings and puffings of the mechanical piano.

Her fingers went instinctively to her neck. Tonight she would wear the necklace. Her guests would ooh and aah—the women envious of so many fine diamonds and sapphires, the men drawn to the pale décolletage that showed them off so well. She relished the attention in advance, knowing that as soon as the holidays were over, the jewelry would go back into her husband’s vault at the bank.

Once she reached the second floor, she glided down the long hall, entered her bedroom, and shut the heavy door. A freshly stoked fire in the fireplace threw reddish yellow shadows over the room and made the brass fender and fireplace tools shine like antique gold. Two small lamps, reflected in the mirror behind them, formed circular pools of light on the dressing table. The thick velvet curtains had been drawn against the chill by the maid, who was waiting in the kitchen for the bell that would summon her back upstairs to dress her mistress for the evening’s festivities.

The woman sat down before the mirror, removed the necklace from its case, and held it up to her cheek. Glints of silver and blue danced across the ceiling. She studied her image in the mirror, allowing a smile to break across her face. How could she not be happy? All the dreams she secretly harbored for the new year were about to come true. Voices from the living room, accompanying the music, washed up against the bedroom door: “Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy . . .” She hummed along with them.

A burst of wind rustling the curtains cut her reveries short. She turned to look and noticed a thin dusting of snow on the floor. The window must have blown open while she was daydreaming. She parted the curtains and checked. No, the latch was shut tight. Then something moved in the pane, a dark reflection that caused her to whirl around.

On the far side of the bedroom stood a figure in a heavy blue topcoat. A knit cap was pulled down over the eyebrows, and a checkered scarf was wound tightly around the lower half of the face. All she could make out were the eyes, which were red and watery. The gloved hands gripped the brass poker from the fireplace set.

‘Who are you? What are you doing here?” she asked indignantly.

The figure was silent.

“Didn’t you hear me? Who are you?”

The only response was a long, protracted moan. Louder, it would have been a growl.

“Get out of here immediately or I will have my husband throw you out.” Even as she spoke, she sensed the idleness of her threat. If her husband had returned home from the bank, she hadn’t heard him. With that infernal player piano making such a racket, who could hear anything? She backed up and reached for the button to call the maid. In an instant, the figure was upon her, the poker raised high like a hatchet. But it wasn’t the weapon, flashing in the firelight, that made her body go weak and dried out her mouth. It was the look of pure malevolence in the eyes,

“Oh, my God, please don’t—”

The poker came down with a furious thwack, carving a deep gash in her forehead. The next blow sent her sprawling at the foot of the bed. Short gasps of pain escaped her lips, them little bubbles of purple blood. The person was bellowing at her now, ‘Whore, filthy whore . . . you’ve got everything . . . I’m not going to let you . . .” The words entered her consciousness like broken fragments of sounds, shards cutting the inside of her head. They had no more meaning to her than the gruntings of animals.

What was happening? Where was her husband? Why this savage fury?

She curled herself into a ball as the merciless beating continued. After a moment, she saw black. Then felt nothing.

In the parlor, the player piano fell silent.

The only sound the woman might have heard, had she been alive to hear it, was the flap-flap-flap of the music roll, turning  on itself.


Carol Roblins loved the mansion at first sight when she and Blake drove by it that late-October afternoon. They were living in three cramped rooms on the army base at the time, the latest in a long line of temporary quarters that stretched from Georgia to southern California and now to rural Pennsylvania. Sundays, they took to exploring the towns in the area in the hope of finding a home more to their liking. At the very least, a bigger one. And this was surely the biggest one in Fayette.

The Kennedy mansion, it was still called, although the original owner, a local banker, according to the real estate agent, had died in the 1920s and his descendants no longer resided in the state. Three stories tall, it sat on a sturdy foundation of Pennsylvania fieldstone. The stucco walls were of a color and texture that reminded Carol of yellow cake. A wide veranda wrapped around the front and one side, terminating in a screened-in gazebo that was strategically situated to catch the breeze.

Summers, the windows had been hooded by green canvas awnings, but all that remained were the corroded metal awning frames, and then only some of the windows could lay claim to that bit of architectural coquetry. The canvas had long since rotted and blown away. On the sharply pitched roof, the fieldstone made a reappearance in the form of two stolid chimneys capped with little tin roofs of their own.

In all the mansion was grand from a distance, shabby up close. During the Depression, it had stood empty, a monument to the kinds of quick, flashy fortunes that had been prevalent a decade earlier. Then, after World War II, it had been turned into an apartment house, and the real decline had begun. The spacious rooms had been carved up, doors had been walled over, and fireplaces bricked up. Closets were made into kitchenettes, introducing smoke and cooking grease into parts of the house that had smelled only of cedar and rose-petal sachets before.

Still, Carol knew a potential beauty when she saw it. Although the years of neglect had taken their toll, the damage was not irreversible. The grand staircase was missing some spindles from the banister, and the treads and risers were badly scuffed. But the wood was fine-grained chestnut, something you just didn’t see these days, and could easily be brought back to its original luster. The folding mahogany doors that used to divide the living room and the dining room had been stored in the basement. Poking around in the gloom, she and Blake even came upon a couple of chandeliers, entwined in a corner like bejeweled spiders, that must have hung in the main rooms.

When they returned to the foyer, Carol immediately went to the staircase again and ran her hand lovingly along the banister. Just the feel of the aged wood was enough to set her dreaming. This glorious place could actually be theirs. Far from being put off by its tumbledown condition, she found herself thinking that it would give her something to do, besides taking care of Sammy. Not that she wasn’t devoted to her son. Sammy came first and always would. But the notion of having a house to take care of, too—this house—lodged in her head and wouldn’t leave.

Part of her acknowledged how old-fashioned she was being. Well, theirs was an old-fashioned marriage, wasn’t it? Blake went to work; she stayed home. He was the man of the family; she, the woman. They operated on a clear, if antiquated, division of the sexes and an even clearer delineation of duties.

Her head tilted back, she turned around slowly and gazed up into the open stairwell, marveling at what seemed to be a stained-glass, octagonal skylight. Decades of filth had dulled the colors, and a thick layer of dead leaves blocked out any sunlight. But her guess was right: three flights up, the original skylight was still intact. Flowers and ribbons made for an elegant pattern. Or maybe the ribbons were letters. From the distance, Carol couldn’t tell.

Blake could see the excitement in her eyes and felt an unexpected surge of tenderness for her. Her emotions had always been so transparent, unlike his. He’d loved that about her once. Perhaps he still did, deep down. Then, the tenderness abated.

The hard truth was that, more and more, he felt as if they were going through the motions of married life, making empty gestures and small talk and gliding over what really mattered. He wondered if all married couples had that sensation after a while. If they did, the guys on the base never talked about it. Blake certainly wasn’t one to bring up the subject. He’d buried himself in his job, instead. At least that was paying off. The rumors of his advancement had been growing louder lately.

“What do you think, Blake?” Carol said, determined to keep her tone neutral. Her excitement was palpable anyway.

“Is this really the answer?” he asked himself. He looked at his wife, then diverted his gaze. She hadn’t changed much in the fifteen years they’d been married. There were a few lines on her forehead, some wrinkles around the eyes, but nothing that makeup didn’t easily cover, when she bothered with makeup, which wasn’t often. She was still as slender as she was the day they had first started going out. Her blond hair had darkened since then, enough so that Carol periodically felt compelled to “help it out a little,” but she hadn’t attended to that recently, either.

All told, she was a much prettier woman than she allowed herself to be. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d really dressed up and shown off her figure. He speculated that it must have been the spring party at the officers’ club, but he had no image of her to go with his memories of that event. It seemed to him that she was more intent these days on being Sammy’s mother than his wife.

Suddenly, he was aware of the silence and realized she was waiting for an answer. “It’s awfully big,” he replied. “I’m sure we can find some place smaller. More manageable.”

“But no place is going to be this special. We deserve something special.”

He wanted to say, “No kidding,” but suppressed the urge. “You need money for special, Carol. A lot of money. Do you have the slightest idea how involved a renovation would be? And you know how much they’ve got me working now. When am I going to find the time to redo a house?”

“I’ll do it. This could be my project. Please?”

“And Sammy?”

“What about him? He’s not a baby, Blake. He could help. It would be good for him.”

She was pushing and it made him nervous. He raked his fingers through his hair a couple of times, as he always did when he needed to calm himself. It was thick and black, with a sheen that was actually the beginnings of gray. He was wearing a plaid shirt and a tan golf jacket, but even when he was in civvies, the brush cut was a dead giveaway that he belonged to the military.

Carol recognized the nervous gesture and it occurred to her that she had never seen him with his hair grown out. It had always been short. Even in his childhood pictures. If there was any wave to it, she would be the last to know.

“The whole idea is crazy,” he said, less assertively than before. He was weakening. Carol took him by the arm and walked him back into the living room. “Just look at those beautiful bay windows. They’re just like the ones we had on Thatcher Avenue. Think how much fun we had fixing up that place.”

“Thatcher Avenue was a one-bedroom apartment. This is a twenty-two-room house.”

“So, it will take us a little longer, that’s all.”

“Like the rest of our lives.”

She wasn’t going to back down. Of course, it would take time, but she could picture them rehabilitating the old mansion, working side by side, cementing their marriage along with the driveway. Sammy would have the woods and the fields to explore, and the stream that cut through them, its waters as pure and chilly as icicles.

“You always said Sammy needed a yard to play in.”

“A yard. Not his own forest. I can just see him wandering off and getting lost.”

“Blake, be serious. I really want this.”

Two days later, he gave in. It was the ridiculously low price that clinched it. Apparently, their potential beauty was, in the view of most, if not all, of the prospective buyers, a white elephant. When word got around the town of Fayette that the Roblinses had signed on the dotted line, there was general amazement and some outright laughter, while Mr. Beldman, the pharmacist, noted dryly that he didn’t want to be present when they got their first heating bill.

Blake blew his stack when it came. But then, he blew his stack about so many things that winter that Carol wondered if he wasn’t having his midlife crisis ten years early. His feelings for the mansion had never matched hers, and he seemed to resent it that he had allowed himself to be swayed by her arguments. It soon became apparent to her that the renovation wasn’t going to be the wonderful collaborative venture she had envisioned. He was not merely used to order. He thrived on it. It was what had attracted him to the military in the first place, why he had risen through the ranks to captain with such ease. And the mansion was in a perpetual state of disorder.

They appropriated the old library on the ground floor for their bedroom. A cozy office, which opened off the library, made the perfect bedroom for Sammy. Hard as they tried, however, they couldn’t keep the clutter and the dust, generated by the renovation, out of either room. There was unwanted symbolism in that, if either had chosen to recognize it. Blake grew testy and Carol’s optimism started sounding forced, probably because it was. Somebody had to keep up the family’s spirits, though.

Even she had a brief sinking feeling when part of the entryway wall crumbled on her. She was patching a large crack when the old plaster fell away in large, dry chunks. Before she knew it, she was staring at a sizable hole. Her attempts to contain the damage only made it worse. By the time Blake arrived home, she was up to her ankles in debris, and a cloud of chalky dust hung in the air.

Blake stood in the front doorway, refusing to enter. He had put on his formal dress uniform for some official ceremony that day and the polish on his black shoes gleamed like wet tar.

“What the devil is going on here?” he barked.

Carol tried to inject a little lightness into the situation. “What does it look like? I’m tearing down a wall. Bob Vila has nothing on me now.”

“Except common sense.”

“It’s just plaster, Blake.”

Angrily, he kicked a slab of plaster with the toe of his shoe. “Biggest mistake I ever made,” he muttered. “I never should have bought this place.”

‘We, Blake. We bought this place. Remember?” It infuriated her when he talked like that. As if she didn’t exist. He turned abruptly and started down the front steps.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going around to the back door because I’m not about to track through that mess. Unless, of course, you want to get this uniform cleaned and pressed again. If we have any money left over, after pouring it all into this dump, that is.”

Carol chased after him, the conciliatory expression on her face at odds with the smears of plaster war paint on her cheeks. “You’re exaggerating, Blake. This place is going to be absolutely beautiful when we’re done. You’ll see.”

“Get real, Carol.” He stomped off toward the back of the house.

Carol took a few deep breaths, then mumbled to herself, “Loosen up, Blake.”

“Get real” had always been his response to her flights of enthusiasm, even when they were young. “Loosen up” was her usual retort. Although both commands were uttered in fun, they served nonetheless to define the fundamental difference in their temperaments. Blake was solid, reliable, a human bulwark. (His square shoulders were one of the first things she had noticed about him.) She was so much more impulsive.

For a long time, she believed their personalities to be mutually enhancing. Her imagination, her curiosity, her sense of adventure, made life more interesting for him, just as his dependability, his pragmatism (although she didn’t like the word itself), made life saner and safer for her. It was a perfect fit. Of course, relationships were more complicated than that, but as capsule analyses went, that one struck her as accurate enough. Until they began to change.

Marriage and motherhood grounded her, and while her romantic side never withered away, she learned to give it less expression, knowing how easily it was mocked and eventually telling herself that it belonged to another, simpler period in her life, like the portable pink-and-white vinyl record player she’d prized in high school. Little by little, Blake’s dependability hardened into a kind of inflexibility. Rigor, even. “Get real” lost its playfulness. So did “loosen up.” What had started out as good-natured gibes evolved into veiled criticisms. The perfect fit wasn’t so perfect, after all.

Mid-February, the promotion Blake had long been angling for came through. Carol knew how much it meant to him. He would be assistant army attaché at the American embassy in Bonn, a posting that was bound to expand his contacts. If he performed well—and here Blake took care to quote his commanding officer exactly—he could expect “a career-enhancing billet at the Pentagon in the not very distant future.” Carol tried to get excited for him, but the thought of packing up again and leaving a spot that had fired up her dormant imagination dampened her enthusiasm.

“What about the house?” she asked, trying not to sound too disappointed.

“What about it?”

“I don’t want to sell it and move again.”

“We won’t have to.”

“How can we afford to keep it? Who’ll rent it in this state? One peek at this kitchen . . .” She let the sentence trail off with a vague gesture at the surroundings. The old fashioned kitchen appliances and the chipped linoleum floor put it better than she could.

“I . . . uh . . . I . . . thought . . . uh . . .” He stopped. As a child, he had stammered badly, but he had gotten over the habit in high school when he learned not to rush his thoughts. One of the few occasions Carol had heard him succumb to the stammer was at his mother’s wake, and it had been painful to hear. She hoped he was just fumbling for the right words this time.

He sounded them slowly. “I . . . uh . . . well . . . I thought that I would go alone.”

Instantly, Carol realized what was happening. The long, festering discontent was about to surface. In fact, it just had. It was out. Spoken. There could be no pretending otherwise. “Oh” was all she could manage.

“It’s only a temporary position.” he rationalized. “A year at most. You know how fast things can change over there. Why uproot Sammy one more time? The year will be over before any of us knows it.”

He rocked awkwardly on his feet and cleared his throat before adding, “We need the time apart, Carol. To figure out where we stand with each other.”

She couldn’t bring herself to face him. “Where do we stand, Blake?”

“I don’t know.”

“And so you’re going to run away to the other side of the world. Is that it?”

“I’m not running away. This is work. My career. It’s important to me.”

“More important than your family?”

“Look at me. Are you happy?”

The question caught her unaware and her heart contracted. She was incapable of giving him an easy answer. Sure, she was occasionally disappointed in their lives together, as was he. But did that qualify as unhappiness? Or was it a sign of carelessness, of inattention, on one another’s part? And when had disappointment become grounds for a separation, anyway?

As she sank to a kitchen chair, her tears began to flow, slowly at first. But the more she tried to bring them under control, the faster they came, and before long she was sobbing audibly. Blake paced back and forth, confining his steps to the worn patch of linoleum in front of the sink. Displays of emotion made him acutely uncomfortable. Pacing was how he coped.

“I’m sorry. I can’t help it,” she apologized, but that only made her sob all the more.

He came up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder. She reached up and clutched it, and they stayed that way for several minutes, not saying anything, until Carol’s crying subsided. Then she released her grasp, went to the sink, and splashed some cold water on her face.

“I must be a sight.” Why was she always the one to cry, never Blake?

He held out his handkerchief, but she rejected it with a shake of the head.

“Have you given any consideration to Sammy?” she asked, the faintest trace of accusation creeping into the question.

“He spends so much time with you, he probably won’t even notice I’m gone.”

“How can you say that? The boy worships you.”

“That so? You could have fooled me.”

“He just doesn’t express himself like other kids. You know that. You keep expecting him to wake up one morning and have this animated conversation at breakfast with you about the Yankees. That’s never going to happen. You’ve got to stop waiting for him to come to you and take the trouble to enter his world. That is, if you want a relationship with your son.”

They’d been over this ground so often in the past she could hear Blake’s response before he uttered it.

“You coddle him too much.”

“Please, let’s not have that discussion again. What are we going to tell him? Or rather, what are you going to tell him? Because I’m not handling this one. Sammy’s going to have to hear this from you,”

They talked late into the night—sorting out their relationship and how it had come to this impasse. Once they got beyond the anger and the accusations, they actually addressed some problems that should have been tackled long ago. Simple things such as how Carol felt about moving every couple of years. (She had never liked it.) Or why Blake was so reluctant to express his emotions. (He considered it a weakness.) Little was resolved, but the rift no longer struck Carol as this fearsome chasm, ready to swallow them up. She could see its shape and its depths—and its perils—more clearly, and that consoled her. Sad as it was to think how long they had been drifting apart, somewhere in the back of her consciousness was a spark of relief that the truth had finally been acknowledged.

By the early-morning hours, they were talked out and exhausted. Resigned to Blake’s leaving, Carol had convinced herself it was just another army assignment, not a trial separation. Blake was no longer feeling such hangdog guilt. They even allowed themselves to look back on better days. Carol laughed out loud when Blake recalled the first time she had prepared her special apple-cinnamon soufflé. They had been married only a few weeks and she had slipped out of bed at sunrise, hoping to surprise him with her culinary skills. She had put the two soufflés in the oven and then tiptoed back into the bedroom. Blake had reached out for her and they had started to kiss. The kissing got out of control and one thing led to another. Not until their desire was appeased and they lay spent and contented on the bed did they smell smoke coming from the kitchen.

The soufflés were ruined. Carol was distraught, even though Blake assured her that their time in bed was better than any soufflé could ever be. He was finally able to calm her down only by picking the few edible pieces out of the charred pan and proclaiming them delicious. The episode had given birth to a long-running joke: “Do you want sex or a soufflé this morning? Because you can’t have both.”

Sex usually won out in those early years.

The day Blake left for Germany, it snowed, and then the snow turned to slush. Carol had decided to make the departure into a going-away party, mostly for Sammy’s sake, and she’d gone to the trouble of preparing three of the famous soufflés. But the festive mood soured when Sammy stayed in his room and refused to come out for breakfast.

Blake went in to fetch him. Seated by the window, Sammy was absorbed in the task of polishing a small silver object. It was typical of his son, thought Blake, to be lost in his own world. But did it have to be today of all days? He tried to stifle his annoyance.

“Hey, buddy. Don’t you want some breakfast?”


“Aren’t you hungry?”


“Mom made our favorite soufflés.” Sammy said nothing and continued diligently to rub the silver object. Blake saw that it was a spoon. “Where did you get that. Son?”

“Found it.”



“Do you like it here, Sammy?”


“Well, so does your mom. That’s why I’m going abroad  alone. So you guys don’t have to move again. I’ll get my work done as soon as possible and then I’ll come back. That way, we can keep the house. Do you understand that?”

Sammy raised his head. The expression on his face was blank. Blake wondered if his son believed him.

“Besides. I couldn’t take you, even if I wanted to.”


Blake leaned down and whispered conspiratorially in Sammy’s ear, ”I’m going on a secret mission.”

Sammy perked up. “What’s the secret?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be a secret if I told you now, would it? But you know what we’re going to do?”


“We’ll have a special code, you and I.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s something that no one else understands. Just us. I’ll call you every week, and if I say, ‘The weather was good this week,’ you’ll know I’m okay and the mission is going well.”

“That’s silly.” Sammy giggled.

“Well, what should the code words be, then?”

Sammy mulled over the question seriously. Then he held up the object in his lap. “Shiny spoon.”

“Shiny spoon?”

“Yes. If you’re all right, say ‘shiny spoon.’ ”

“Okay, it’s a deal.”

“And if you’re not all right . . .” Sammy thought long and hard before chirping brightly, “Say ‘shiny knife.’ “

After breakfast, Carol hugged Blake on the veranda and babbled something ridiculous like “Take care of yourself.” Sammy ran down the steps and waved until the car that had come to pick Blake up had rounded the bend in the road and disappeared from sight. As she turned to go back inside, Carol looked up at the house. It was a big, old mess, she thought, but it was her big, old mess. In the few months they had lived there, she had a stronger feeling of belonging than she had experienced anyplace else. Even if things were never repaired with Blake, in some strange way she couldn’t articulate, she felt that she’d come home at last.


The sergeant had seen his share of dead people—those claimed by accidents or disease or old age—but he’d had few dealings with murder victims in his carrier. A vagabond knifed in a drunken brawl, a farmer who had drowned his wife—that was about it. They had been tawdry killings and attracted little attention.

The woman who lay at the foot of the canopied bed belonged to another class. She had elegance, wealth, breeding. The bedroom alone attested to that. He recalled tipping his hat to her when they had passed on main Street and had trouble reconciling that image with the body that lay on the floor. She looked like a smashed china doll—fragments of her beauty floating in a pool of crimson blood. He felt the nausea rising in his throat, swallowed hard, and turned away.

He could see that the murderer had escaped by a side window, which was still open and gave on to the roof of the veranda. One of the red velvet curtains had been partially torn form  its rod, and snow was blowing into the room. Faint footprints were discernible on the roof, but the storm was filling them in fast. The sergeant knew they would be completely covered over before they could provide any significant clues.

“It’s gone.” The maid, visibly shaken, hovered in the doorway. “I don’t see it. It’s gone,” she repeated shrilly. The sergeant had immediately put the bedroom off-limits to the staff of the mansion, but in the maid’s case, it was an unnecessary precaution. Her eyes were round with terror and she had no intention of venturing any closer to the dead body.

“What’s gone?” The sergeant cast his eyes about the room, not certain what she was referring to.

“The necklace. The necklace she was going to wear tonight. There’s the box.” The maid pointed to an empty velvet jewelry box on the dressing table. “Someone’s taken it.” She crossed herself several times and began chanting “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” Over and over. The litany sounded like whimpering to the sergeant and aggravated his nerves.

“Where is Mr. Kennedy?” he snapped. “Does he know what’s happened yet?”

He turned back to the maid, not really expecting an answer. She had buried her head in the neck of the butler, who was attempting to comfort her and remain stoic, although the grisly sight of his mistress’s battered body upset him no less deeply. Suddenly, a flurry of activity could be heard below. The forensic specialist—or the mousy gentlemen who fulfilled that function on the small police force—a photographer, and half a dozen other officers had arrived on the scene.

“He was here,” the butler spoke up. ‘Then he left.”



“Where the hell did he go?”

“I don’t know,” the butler replied, sounding more stupid than he would have liked.

A jolt of energy coursed through the sergeant. He bolted out of the bedroom and started for the grand staircase. ‘What kind of a car was he driving?” he called back to the butler and maid, who were following after him.

“No car. He was on foot,” the butler said.

“He didn’t even bother to take his overcoat,” added the maid, who had regained some of her composure. “He just left. We couldn’t stop him.”

“Which way did he go?” barked the sergeant as he reached the foyer. The butler gestured toward the front door. The sergeant promptly ordered two young officers into the night to see if they could spot any traces of the man’s flight. With the snow coming down harder and harder, it seemed unlikely. He cursed to himself. The irritating “Holy Mary, Mother of God” had resumed. He cursed again. The investigation was not off to a promising start.

Within the hour, the mansion was swarming with policemen and detectives who had been Summoned from Harrisburg. The upper floors of the mansion were cordonned off, and the help, less terrified now than dazed, collected in the kitchen. The cook had brewed a large pot of coffee, but nobody was drinking it.

Some officers, at a loss at what to do, milled about the living and dining rooms, trying to look purposeful but mostly taking in the furnishings. There had been a lot of talk in the town when the mansion had gone up. Now they were getting a chance to see for themselves how bankers lived.

In the dining room, on a long table covered with antique lace, heavy silver and crystal glasses caught the light from the chandelier and sparkled. Chafing dishes on the cherry sideboard suggested the generous amounts of food that would be served later in the evening. Or would have been. Boughs of pine trees adorned the mantelpieces, adding to the fragrance of the stately Christmas tree in the foyer. It was festive, opulent, lifeless.

A spanking new 1928 Ford, driven by a well-dressed man, chugged into the driveway. Next to him sat a woman in a sable coat. Packages were piled up on the backseat.

“Oh, my god, the guests,” the maid wailed. ‘What are we going to do?”

“How many are you expecting?”

“About fifty.”

The sergeant singled out a chubby-faced officer barely in his twenties, standing in the foyer, one of the few men who had chosen not to go upstairs and view the corpse. “Billy,” he ordered. “Don’t let anyone up here. Block off the end of the road.”

‘What do I tell them?”

The sergeant felt a great weariness come over his body. A murder like this was terrible enough, but that it should happen now, during the season of peace and goodwill, made it doubly awful to him. ‘Tell them,” he said with a wry nod of the head, “that Christmas has been canceled this year.”

Outside, there was a stomping of boots on the veranda, then the front door opened. A frostbitten policeman stumbled in, out of breath, shaking snow from his cap. “We found him.”

The house went silent.

“You found who?” the sergeant asked.

“Charles Kennedy. The husband. We found him.”

… Continued…

Download the entire book now to continue reading on Kindle!

1 Ragged Ridge Road

by Leonard Foglia
& David Richards
4.1 stars – 57 reviews!
Kindle Price: Just 99 cents!!

KND Freebies: Fascinating crime thriller FACE DOWN IN THE PARK is featured in today’s Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt

From two showbiz insiders comes this
smartly written, roller-coaster thriller that strips away Hollywood’s glitter and hype – and spills celebrity secrets so close to real life,
they just might be true.

A great read for just 99 cents!

Face Down In The Park

by David Richards, Leonard Foglia

4.1 stars – 37 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Brent Stevens wasn’t doing what most visitors come to do in Central Park – no horse-drawn carriage rides or strolls through Strawberry Fields. He was lying face down trying to figure out the basics: who he was, where he was, and who had tried to kill him. He wasn’t coming up with any answers, either – until Tina Ruffo, a tender-hearted aerobics instructor from Queens, lent a helping hand.

Tina was an exception in New York, someone willing to get involved with a stranger. But the well-dressed, good-looking Brent Stevens was extraordinary too, and so was his plight. After a blow to the back of the head, he can’t recall his attacker. He has no idea what the key in his pocket actually unlocks. And he can’t imagine the traps he’s about to step into.

Now, as his memories come flooding back, Brent searches for the link between him and a mysterious figure living in New York’s exclusive Dakota apartments, a female TV interviewer known for getting public figures to tell all on camera, and a glamorous husband and wife who are Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws. With Tina at his side, Brent stumbles upon some dangerous secrets and finds dark and deadly truths that connect them all.

Praise for Face Down In The Park:

“Their second successful collaboration.. the authors’ adept pacing and their smart parceling out of the clues ratchets up the suspense…” –Publishers Weekly

An unpredictable and highly enjoyable read 
“…funny at times, always engaging…Just when I thought I knew where it was going, it took a new turn…”

an excerpt fromFace Down InThe Park

by Leonard Foglia & David Richards


Copyright © 2013 by Leonard Foglia & David Richards
and published here with their permission


I was the first thing he saw. The letter I. The capital letter.

Was he really seeing it? Or dreaming it?

He wasn’t sure. It filled his entire field of vision, a black I—floating against a swirling white … something. He couldn’t make out the background. Didn’t want to try for the time being. The I was puzzling enough.

What did it mean? Was it a message? God speaking to him in some way? “I am the way, the truth and the life. He who believes in Me will never die.”

Maybe he was dead and this was the beginning of the aftermath, the slow sorting out that the priests had told him about as a boy, when his eternal self would emerge from its earthly shell and his true essence would finally shine clear, as the letter was clear. His body felt numb, heavy, as if he would never get up again. His right cheek was cold. So all physical sensation had not left him. He heard a faint voice inside his head, arguing that numbness wasn’t death. Not yet anyway. And the isolated patch of cold on his cheek was growing colder. So, no, he couldn’t be dead.

It had to be a dream then—the swirling and the heaviness that rooted him to the spot and the stark letter I that kept coming toward him, bigger and bigger, like a soldier on the march.

He blinked his eyes and slowly lifted his head. A wave of nausea swept over him, and he quickly put his head back down again. He had the sensation of spinning through space and remembered another time he had fallen down.

He must have been three or four. He had scraped his knees badly on the pavement. As he sat there, stunned, blood had risen to the surface of his skin. Bright, tiny drops at first that formed a trickle, then a ribbon of red that snaked down his leg. He had begun to cry. Someone had picked him up and held him high in his arms.

The image was suspended in his mind, like the letter I was suspended in the whiteness. But he couldn’t say who the man was or, indeed, if he was even the boy with the tear-stained face in the man’s arms. It all looked familiar enough, like a photograph in a family album. But it promptly faded away, and the swirl returned.

He lay there for a while.

The next thing he was aware of was a hand touching the I. He assumed it was his. Whose else could it be? The proof would be if he could move the fingers. He concentrated hard. The index fingers rose and fell several times in a faint tapping motion. Aha! It was his hand, after all. He had pretty much concluded beforehand that he wasn’t dead, but this confirmed it. He was putting things together, making progress.

He lifted his head a second time, shifted it slightly to the side, and saw two more letters. G-I-N He had an urge to laugh, but that physical reflex didn’t seem available to him now, no sound came from his lips. “Gin.” He couldn’t remember whether he liked gin or not. Had he ever drunk it? It would come back to him when he woke up. Vodka, yes. That much he knew. Gin was clear like vodka, though. Had he gotten the two confused?

Maybe gin was responsible for the dull ache he was starting to feel in the back of his head. He was going to have one hell of a hangover, if that was the case. But something told him it wasn’t so simple. That wasn’t why he was lying here, his body leaden and his cheek icy cold, with visions of the alphabet passing before him. It was more complicated than just too much liquor and an incipient hangover. There was some other reason for what he was experiencing.

But finding an explanation required too great an effort. It was taking all his strength just to keep his head up. He decided to lie back down. He would puzzle things out later. Tomorrow. Whenever he woke up. Gently, as if he were sinking into a downy pillow, not onto the hardness of stone, he rested his cheek next to the capital I.

As he did, his only desire was to be clean. Washed clean in the blood of the lamb. No, that wasn’t right. That’s what the priests said. A different boyhood image flashed into his mind—the blackboard in his first-grade classroom. If you were good, you got to wipe it with a wet cloth for the teacher. Back and forth, until all the chalk marks were gone. After the water dried, the blackboard looked brand-new.

Yes, that’s the answer, he thought, before he lost consciousness and slipped into a tunnel of darkness. I can wipe it all away. I can be clean again. A clean slate.


“He is the most popular box office star in the world. She, the highest paid actress ever and, many say, the sexiest. Together, they epitomize Hollywood’s new royalty—young, privileged, successful beyond anyone’s dreams and very much their own bosses.

“Tonight in a rare television interview, their first as husband and wife, Christopher Knight and Jennifer Osborne on the Deborah Myers Special. Join us at nine as we go up close and personal with the new breed of superstars, who are turning the tinsel of tinseltown into solid gold.

Deborah Myers, dressed in a blazing red suit, sat back in the white armchair and wrinkled her brow in displeasure. “Too flat. Let me take it again.” She looked over at her producer. “How are we doing for time, Pete?”

“Don’t worry. Our time is their time,” replied a compact man in a black turtleneck and sports jacket. “If they want to stay upstairs all morning, we are more than happy to wait. Hell, if they want us all to stand on our heads, we’ll stand on our heads.”

“Don’t count on me. My new stylist would never forgive me.” But Deborah Myers  knew Pete was right. Just getting an interview with the two stars was a big coup. To be able to conduct it in their Malibu beach house, well, she could imagine the ratings already. If this didn’t flatten Emergency Squad, nothing would.

Behind her, sliding glass doors opened onto a wooden deck on which the set designers had arranged several large pots of pink hibiscus in full flower. The sky was cloudless and glints of sunlight flashed off the flat ocean, like sparks off an anvil. She had to admit it was the perfect backdrop—America’s enduring image of all that was desirable about Southern California. In spite of the mud slides and the fires and the earthquakes, people persisted in believing the place was some kind of earthly paradise, populated by the fit and the underdressed. They really believed in stardom, too, as if it were a higher state of existence, with flattering lighting and music playing in the background. Far be it from her to wise anyone up.

Deborah checked her wandering thoughts and prepared to run through the promo again, when the click of footsteps at the top of the stairs stopped her. Jennifer Osborne was putting in an appearance at last. The room fell silent as the crew turned to gawk. Deborah couldn’t help noticing that they were like a bunch of high school boys in the presence of the prom queen.

Objectively speaking, Jennifer Osborne was no more beautiful than dozens of Hollywood starlets with well-endowed bodies and blonde hair that fell to their shoulders. The thing is, it was impossible to be objective about her. “Not since Marilyn” was the phrase the columnists had used when she first appeared on the scene in low-budget potboilers and tight sweaters. But she had proved to be Marilyn without the neuroses. She didn’t need anyone to reassure her that she was sexy or tell her that she could act. She knew it. Confidence seemed bred into her.

It was said that the camera adored her, but it was really the studio lights that adored her. Where they washed out others and flattened their features, they lent a radiance to her face. Her skin—smooth, unblemished, white as alabaster—was responsible for that. One of the lessons that her mother had drummed into her as a child was never to go outside without a hat, “unless you want to look like that.” Since “that” was Aunt Hattie, a flashy widow from Naples, Florida, with cheap jewelry and a leathery tan that aged her a full fifteen years, the lesson had taken.

Jennifer Osborne’s outfit was casual, the off-white slacks emphasizing the length of her legs as she came down the stairs, and the matching silk blouse showing off the fullness of her breasts. If she were walking by a construction site, Deborah thought, the wolf whistles would be deafening by now.

“I’m sorry,” Jennifer said, looking around. “Am I interrupting?” Her voice was barely a whisper, but in the silence, everyone heard her.

“Of course not.” Deborah sprang from the armchair, sidestepped a camera and several reflectors, and went to Jennifer with outstretched hands.

“You look absolutely stunning.”

“Not too informal? It isn’t every day you bare your soul for forty million television viewers. Christopher should be along in a second. He couldn’t decide between two blazers. And they say women take forever to dress! By the way, that’s a terrific suit.”

“Armani. Just on loan. Thanks for noticing, although how could you not? Back home in Texas, we call this ‘chile-pepper-red.’ Let’s hope Christopher doesn’t wear blue or the three of us are going to look like the French flag.”

“Actually, he was leaning toward gray,” Jennifer said.

“Is there a red, white, and gray flag, Pete? With our luck, it belongs to some Middle Eastern liberation movement, and we’ll be flooded with irate letters next week.”

She laughed. On the surface, Deborah Myers didn’t give the impression of being a tough interviewer, but nobody doubted that she was a canny one. Like most of the celebrities on her specials, she had worked her way up the ladder and knew the costs of success. Her hour-long telecasts were as much a celebration of her own fame as her guests’. She wasn’t out to destroy anyone’s career, although she was perfectly willing, if the career had fallen apart, to explore the wreckage. Her reputation rode on capturing that “special moment,” when her guests divulged an intimate detail about themselves, displayed a flash of temperament, or rarest of all, told the unvarnished truth.

She didn’t know what it would be today, but counted upon the easy, free-wheeling approach to work in her favor. You couldn’t badger people like Christopher Knight and Jennifer Osborne, but you could sometimes cajole them into a state of relaxation that let them forget the presence of the camera momentarily.

“What’s this talk about flags?” Christopher Knight bounded down the stairs and slipped his arm around his wife’s waist. He had opted for the gray blazer and a pale yellow shirt, opened at the neck. “Sorry to hold things up, dear. Will this do?”

“Perfect,” Jennifer said. “It matches the gray in your eyes.” She ran her hand playfully through his jet black hair and gave him a peck on the tip of his nose. Then she turned back to Deborah. “Am I married to the most handsome man in the world or not?

“It wasn’t a question that needed answering. Six foot three inches tall, thirty-three years old, Christopher Knight was a Cary Grant for the 1990s—expensively tailored, impressively muscled, exquisitely mannered. “The impeccable hulk,” some critic had quipped. He’d started out as a rebellious juvenile on a daytime soap opera but had long since blossomed into a leading man of some versatility. To many, he personified the American heartland and American decency, but he could also project an aura of brooding and danger that his female fans loved. There was something almost tyrannical at times about his good looks, and his most recent screen roles acknowledged the ambiguity of his heroic personality.

He returned Jennifer’s kiss. “Ah, flattery, flattery, thy name is woman!”

“It’s frailty, darling,” she said.

“That, too.” He gave her an amused grin.

The crew wasn’t even pretending not to stare. A few jaws hung open dumbly. Even Clinton hadn’t gotten this kind of reaction, Deborah mused, when she’d snagged that first exclusive interview. It had something to do with secret fantasies. Movie stars triggered them; politicians didn’t. Except for Kennedy. And maybe Reagan briefly, when he was younger, before his cheeks got so rosy and he started shellacking his hair. Beyond that, she wasn’t able to say why certain people had this power over the imagination of others without doing anything really, just by being. The words ordinarily used to describe the phenomenon—magnetism, chemistry, charm—belonged as much to the vocabulary of sorcery as that of science.

The hush was broken by a middle-aged woman who slipped into the room as unobtrusively as possible, whispered into Christopher’s ear, then stepped back and waited dutifully. Earlier that morning, the woman had been introduced to Deborah as the stars’ press agent, but Deborah knew she wasn’t the big gun—not the one who had called her office no fewer than twenty times a day over the last month in an attempt to regulate every aspect of this interview. His calls had become so frequent, in fact, that her secretary began referring to him as “the stalker.”

“Stalker, holding on line two.”

“Stalker insists you ring him up immediately.

Whenever Deborah eventually got him on the line, she had trouble keeping the laughter out of her voice.

This woman, altogether more self-effacing, had turned out to be an assistant from the office, pressed into service at the last moment. The situation was unorthodox. Stars of Christopher’s and Jennifer’s magnitude always had the top man (or woman) dancing attendance on their every move.

Just as well, Deborah thought now.

In her opinion, most public relations honchos were overpaid pains in the butt—intent, like the stalker, on demonstrating their indispensability and proving to their clients that they had a potentially damaging situation in hand. In reality, they controlled nothing and made everybody else’s job twice as difficult. If this assistant seemed out of her depth, she was at least conveniently meek and wouldn’t speak up in the middle of the interview, demanding that some juicy tidbit be stricken from the record.

A flicker of annoyance registered on Christopher’s face. “Tell him that we’re busy,” he said to the mousy woman.

“But he’s been desperate to talk to you for two days now. Please?”

“Explain to me again why His Lordship isn’t here today?”

“Um, personal business, I believe.”

“Really? I thought we were his personal business.”

“Of course, you are—

“Christopher cut her off. “Fine. I’ll be right there. Sorry to be a nuisance,

Deborah, but could you spare me a second to take a quick phone call?”

“Please. Our time is your time,” replied Deborah, who suspected that “His Lordship” referred to the stalker.

A man in a powder blue smock fluttered up to Jennifer Osborne to inspect her makeup for any infinitesimal flaws that might have escaped eyes less practiced than his. Finding one, he emitted little squeaks of disapproval and said, “My, my! Would you mind coming with me for just a teeny, tiny minute, Miss Osborne?” The crew roused itself out of its stupor, and the living room came alive again. There was a growing charge in the air that this wasn’t going to be just another show.

    Deborah took her position in the armchair, opposite the empty sofa where the stars would sit. “Okay, Pete,” she said. “I’ll redo the promo afterward. Let’s go straight to the intro.

“She fixed on the camera lens, as if it were a friendly neighbor who had just dropped by for coffee, and held the expression until the audio man called out, “Tape is rolling.”

Her face muscles relaxed.

“Good evening. I’m Deborah Myers. Tonight, the new royalty. Two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. They are powerful, they are self-assured, they are sexy. For one full hour, Christopher Knight and Jennifer Osborne talk about their careers, their marriage, and their biggest gamble yet—the controversial $100 million epic In the Beginning, in which they play Adam and Eve. We’ll have a preview. Stay with us.”


The man in the charcoal gray suit, white button-down shirt, and gray and plum striped tie watched as the maid came out of 1201, gave the cart a shove with her hip, then guided it another ten feet until it came to rest in front of 1203. She rapped on the door, waited long enough to determine there was no one in the room, then inserted a white plastic card into the electronic lock. With a click, the door opened. Leaving her cart on the threshold, she scooped up a stack of fresh towels and disappeared inside.

The man adjusted his tie in the mirror at the far end of the hallway. It was his favorite suit and tie, and he prided himself on his appearance. His fastidiousness was cause for some ridicule from his associates, who liked to remind him that there was no dress code for his line of work. Nobody used his real name, Spieveck, which had been inevitably (and logically) shortened to Spiff. The nickname didn’t displease him. Why wear a Knicks sweatshirt and old jeans, he reasoned, when you could get your clothes at Armani Exchange? If others wanted to look like slobs, that was their affair. He liked being taken for a lawyer or a businessman. People did all the time.

Only minutes ago, as he’d walked across the lobby, the concierge had nodded deferentially and said he hoped that everything was satisfactory. “Most satisfactory,” he’d replied, before stepping into the elevator. And he wasn’t even staying at the hotel!

Reassured that the knot of his tie listed neither to the left nor to the right, Spiff strode down the corridor, edged by the cart, and entered the room. It was almost antiseptically neat, he noted with approval. As he automatically checked out the premises, he heard the maid singing along with her Walkman. He was about to make a noise to alert her of his presence, when she shuffled out of the bathroom and caught sight of him.

“Ah, madre mia!” She shrieked and jumped back.

“Terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you like that. As you can see, I never made it home last night.” He flashed a sly smile. “I guess I won’t need maid service today.

“Before she had time to turn down the volume of the Julio Iglesias tape on her Walkman, he ushered her to the door and pushed her cart into the hallway.

“Gracias. Muchas gracias,” he said, smiling and waiting for her to move on.

“De nada, señor.” How ridiculous to pay for an expensive room and not use it, she thought. But one look at the attractive stranger was all it took to know that he’d probably been out all night cheating on his wife. She recognized the type—salesmen, eager to have a good time in the big city. If it meant one less room to clean this morning, far be it from her to voice an objection.

Once she had rounded the corner of the hall, Spiff hung the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the outside doorknob and double-locked the door. Then, he put on a pair of latex gloves, snapping them the way medics did on TV: He knew that no one had spent the night here, as the plump pillows and unruffled bedspread testified. He crossed to the open suitcase on the luggage stand by the window, carefully examining the contents—underwear, socks, T-shirts, cotton sweaters—then depositing them systematically in neat piles on the floor. He saw no reason to toss things around; it paid to be orderly. If you made a mess, you could inadvertently cover up what you were looking for. In the side pockets of the suitcase, he came on a pack of stale gum, a half-filled bottle of aspirin, and a dirty comb.

He ran his hands over the lining of the empty suitcase, searching for hidden compartments.

“Fucking nothing!” he said.

He didn’t like talking to himself. It implied a lack of control. But sometimes, like right now, the words just popped out of his mouth by themselves.

Fucking nothing was secreted in the publications on the coffee table, either, save an airplane ticket, which was tucked between the pages of an in-flight magazine called Destinations. The drawers in the nightstand by the bed yielded only the standard items supplied by a gracious management: stationery, a pen, a Gideon Bible (he flipped through it just in case), plastic laundry bags, and a menu for room service pushing the continental breakfast at $15 a head. The NO SMOKING plaque on the wall explained the absence of matchbooks and ashtrays. What, he wondered fleetingly, did tourists steal for souvenirs these days?

In the closet, a plaid work shirt, a pair of jeans, and a suit had been hung up on wooden hangers—the theft-proof variety that hook onto metal rings permanently attached to the bar, thereby further frustrating the ashtray collectors. The left shoulder of the suit jacket felt suspiciously stiff to him, so he took the Kershaw Talon out of his pocket and flipped it open. The blade, three inches of stainless steel shaped like an eagle’s claw, sliced cleanly through the fabric. The stiffness was only padding meant to give the jacket body and its owner the reassurance of a broad physique.

Spiff regretted spoiling such a nice piece of goods. From the touch, he could tell that it wasn’t run-of-the mill Sears. He made a mental note of the label, Hugo Boss. Just to be on the safe side, he sliced open the other shoulder.

The shaving kit on the marble counter in the bathroom contained the usual toiletries, a package of condoms, and a prescription medicine in an amber plastic container. The bathroom, as spotless as the bedroom, hadn’t been used, either. Or else he was dealing with the original Mr. Clean. He checked his watch. Six minutes so far. Another few minutes and he’d be out of there.

He stripped the double bed of its linens, as the maid would have done, pulled the pillows from their cases and patted them down. Then he stood the mattress against the wall and lifted up the box spring, exposing a few hairpins and some dust balls. His nose wrinkled instinctively in disgust, and he let the box spring fall back on its frame with a thud. He was drawing blanks everywhere.

The cushions of the sofa hid no surprises, not even loose change. That left the service bar, an unlikely spot, but one to be checked nonetheless. The shelves were stocked with fruit juices, snacks, and liquor miniatures, which he swept into a wastebasket with a couple of brisk gestures. He strongly disapproved of drinking. Peanuts were another matter. He pocketed a package for later, taking care to enter a check mark in the corresponding square on the “Service Bar Consumption Form” on the Formica counter. What was the point of an honor system, if everybody didn’t obey it?

Convinced that he had explored every corner of the room, he took out his cellular phone and dialed a number. He was still waiting for someone to answer when he heard people coming down the hall.


In another minute, he would have been gone. He tapped his foot impatiently. “Come on. I haven’t got all day. Pick up the damn phone.”


Spiff held his breath. In the hall, the sound of raucous laughter grew louder, followed by a door slamming sharply. Whoever it was—revelers returning after a drunken binge on the town, no doubt—had entered the room across the way. Didn’t anybody keep normal hours around here?

“Yes? Who is this?” God how that voice irritated Spiff. “Is anyone on the line?”

“Yeah, it’s me, Spiff. Nothing here.”

“What do you mean? Are you sure?”

It was too early for peevishness. Of course I’m sure, you twit. I’m a pro. I do my job, Spiff wanted to reply. But all he answered was, “Yes, zip.”

“First you said there was nothing on him. Now you’re telling me there is nothing in his room?”

“You got it. Clean as a whistle.”

“Where is it then?”

“Damned if I know.”

“But you’re being paid to find out. Well, aren’t you? I wouldn’t call this doing your job very well. In fact, I’d say you were doing it rather poorly.”

Spiff resisted the urge to talk back. When clients were upset like this, it was best to let them run their mouths, blow off steam. Eventually, they shut up.

“He has been far more clever than I would have anticipated,” the voice concluded at long last. “I’ll be in touch.”

Spiff heard a click, and the line went dead. He folded up the cellular phone and slid it back into his pocket. His clients didn’t always like the way things turned out, but he tried not to let that bother him. All he cared about was holding up his end of the deal. He didn’t like a shoddy performance any more than he liked shoddy dress. Standards were going to hell everywhere, and he, for one, wasn’t about to contribute to the deterioration.

There was certainly no need to yell, as the client had just done. No need at all. Yelling accomplished nothing and was bad for the blood pressure … everybody’s blood pressure. What it showed was … a complete absence of respect … of … of … professionalism. Yes, that was it! As if he, Spiff, were a pissant just starting out … some kind of … rank amateur!

To calm himself, he flicked open the Kershaw Talon again and walked over to the bed. Then, taking a deep breath and exhaling it slowly, he ran the blade down the center of the mattress from top to bottom. A thin layer of white padding oozed out.

“There! Much better.”

The anger was all gone. He felt good again.

He put his ear to the door and, satisfied that no one else was approaching, ducked out into the hall. Instinctively, he readjusted his tie and slicked back his hair. Halfway to the elevator, he remembered that he had forgotten something.

        Hastily retracing his steps, he removed the plastic DO NOT DISTURB from the door handle, flipped it over, then put it back, so that it read PLEASE MAKE UP ROOM.


As he lay there, facedown on the stone, his body slowly began to register the morning chill. It crept into his legs and arms and settled into his joints with a persistent ache that pulled him out of his dream and brought him closer to consciousness. It wasn’t much of a dream, anyway. Just bizarre, fragmented images. Woods in the spring. A car speeding along a highway. And hands, reaching out from the trees and rising up from the pavement, clutching at the speeding car as it passed, trying to stop it.

Whatever it meant, it wasn’t the sort of dream you tried to prolong. There was nothing pleasant about it, nothing to postpone waking for. The images grew progressively fainter while the sensation of cold grew stronger. Then, the man opened his eyes.

He seemed to be lying on a stone mosaic, made up of small black and white tiles. He pushed himself up with his forearms. There beside his left hand was a capital I. He looked at it with momentary fascination until the ache coming from every part of his body sapped his concentration. He rolled onto one side and maneuvered himself into a sitting position. He was surprised to see that he was wearing a suit. The knee was torn. He must have fallen and ripped it. Otherwise, it was a nice suit. Dark green. New. Soft to the touch.

He breathed in the crisp morning air, waiting for his surroundings to come into focus. It seemed to be a circular mosaic of some sort that he was sitting on. The black and white tiles formed letters and patterns. The I was part of an inscription. He didn’t remember that several hours earlier it had set him off on a flight of metaphysical speculation. He’d forgotten that and a lot more, too.

He studied the other letters—M-A-G-I-N-E—and realized he’d been lying on a word. Like a child learning to read, he sounded it out.

“I-ma-gin-e,” he whispered to himself. “Imagine!”

He looked around and saw wooden benches and, overhead, a canopy of trees. Beyond them, he could make out streetlights and a row of tall buildings. He concluded that he was in a park in a big city. But what city?

The muffled sound of automobile traffic confirmed his conclusion. He tried to stand. As he did, a shooting pain raced up the back of his neck, causing him to gasp. He automatically reached up with both hands to steady his head. When he brought his hands back down, his fingertips were covered with blood. All he could think was that something was wrong. Not what or how or why. Just something. Questions were beyond him for the time being.

Panic rose in him, along with the sense that his life was in danger. He had to go where the cars were, stop one of them maybe. Struggling to his feet, he managed only a few steps before the ground began spinning. He reeled backward and collapsed on a bench. He gripped the metal armrest and closed his eyes, putting all his concentration into breathing deeply—in and out, in and out—until the dizziness lifted and the ground spun to a stop, like a carnival ride winding down.

The trees came back into focus, their leaves forming lacy patterns against the sky. The sun was striking the topmost floors of the taller buildings, so that the windows appeared to be made of gold foil, not glass. He blinked in wonderment. Then his eyes went to an older, heavier structure to the right. It looked like a nineteenth-century fortress, or perhaps a castle, with its gables and turrets and a roof that came to several sharp peaks in a row. The copper flashing that outlined the building’s fantastically shaped roof had oxidized bluish green. From a pole planted on top of the middle peak, an American flag flapped silently.

He stood up and started toward it, oblivious that he was walking over the tile mosaic with the curious word at its center. On the gently curving path that led to the street, he nearly collided with a jogger.

“Watch it, buddy,” the jogger snapped.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

“Well, maybe if you looked where you were going … Hey, are you all right?”

No, the man thought. I’m not all right. I need help. But before he could articulate the words, the jogger had resumed his pace and moved on down the path.

At the street corner, he had a better view of the massive building. It was constructed out of yellow brick and brownstone, and from the deep inset of the windows, he judged the walls to be several feet thick. Dark wooden shutters and curtains had been drawn across most of the windows on the lower floors. If there was life stirring within, it was not discernible from the sidewalk.

As he examined the imposing facade, he thought he caught sight of something moving in one of the corner windows, three stories up. A person was hovering in the window, staring down at him, unless his eyes were fooling him and he’d been taken in by an apparition. His senses weren’t all that reliable this morning. The form moved ever so slightly, and a pale face flashed briefly in the dark pane. It was a person. With silver hair.

Don’t go away, thought the man in the green suit. Help me. He lifted his arm and waved at the figure in the window, even though the movement sent splinters of pain through his head. The pain no longer mattered. He had to make contact. “I can see you,” he cried out. “You must be able to see me. Please wave back.”

The person in the window pulled back into the shadows.

“Don’t go away,” shouted the man in the street. Desperation took hold of him, and he swung both his arms over his head, crisscrossing them furiously, like a sailor who has lost his semaphores but still continues to spell out a message of distress.

“I see you. I know you’re there.”

But the figure had disappeared altogether. The third-story window, like those around it, was dark.

The man let his arms fall to his side. He saw some lights blink on in the dormer windows under the gabled roof, then realized it was another optical illusion created by the morning sun. He told himself it didn’t matter. The windows were too high up for anyone to take notice of him anyway.


“He’s waving at me … No, I’m not kidding … He’s standing right there on the far corner, waving his hands over his head like some demented person. I don’t believe it.”

Without taking his eyes away from the sight that had so startled him, the silver-haired man stepped back and fumbled in the pocket of his paisley dressing gown for a pack of Benson & Hedges. Trapping the telephone receiver against his right ear in order to free his hands, he lit the cigarette and then shot a stream of smoke at the ceiling. Although it was still early, he was on his fifth cigarette already, which meant that it was going to be another two-pack day.

“I don’t know what he’s up to,” he said, resuming his conversation. “I rather thought you might have an explanation for it.” He spoke with a clipped British accent, even though he’d lived in the United States for more than twenty years and could easily have modified his speech, if he so chose. He chose not to, feeling that good diction and adenoidal vowels gave him an edge in his dealings with Americans, who tended to be intimidated by singular pronunciations.

“Oh, I know what you wanted to do. But for the moment, one must show a bit of restraint. Once this is settled, you can pitch him in the Hudson River for all that I care. Not yet, though …”

He pulled back the damask curtain and checked on the activity in the street. “He seems to be waiting for the light to change … A bit unsteady on his feet, which should come as no surprise to you.”

To keep his voice from rising, he took a deep puff on the cigarette. Stupid people irritated him, and the irritation showed up first in his voice, which lost all its urbanity as it rose in pitch. When he screamed, he could be as shrill as any fishwife, which is why he tried never to lose his temper. Aesthetically, it was simply unacceptable. Staying calm was requiring an increasing effort of him, though.

“No, he’s not waving any longer … He seems to have stopped looking up here … Wait, he’s crossing the street … He’s coming toward the building. My God! What’s possessed him! … The bloody fool is headed straight for the entrance.”


Once the man in the forest green suit had successfully navigated the street, he noticed that a moat surrounded the turreted building. He approached it with curiosity, until a startling sight stopped him dead. Black sea monsters were writhing up out of the depths, their gaping jaws ready to devour the unwary.

The monsters were accompanied by a king, whose blazing eyes and tangled hair served as further warning to back off. The man in the green suit sensed he must be hallucinating. Sea monsters in the city didn’t make sense. As he stared at them dumbly, their undulations slowly ceased and the ferocious king reverted to what he was—cold metal.

He had been transfixed by the sculpted figures on a wrought iron railing. The king was that god of the sea—the one whose name began with an N. Newton! No, not

Newton. Not Nestlé, either. Why was he having such trouble coming up with words? His mind was functioning so oddly this morning.

Neptune! That’s the one he was trying to think of.

His eyes followed the railing to the middle of the building, where a vaulted passageway led to an inner courtyard. Off to one side was a brass sentry booth. As the man started to turn into the passageway, the door of the booth swung open and a figure in a burgundy uniform stepped out onto the pavement.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said. “May I help you?”

The uniform puzzled the man, because it seemed to belong to another time. Palace guards dressed like this in movies and in children’s books. He waited patiently for this storybook character to reveal his true identity, as the sea monsters had done. When no transformation came, he pushed on in the direction of the courtyard.

The doorman’s arm caught him at chest height and blocked the way. “Hey, wait a second. Where are you going?”

It took all the man’s concentration to get the one word out. “Inside.”

“Yeah, and who exactly do you want to see?”

He was unable to answer. The whirling sensation had come back.

“Hey, buddy, you doing all right? You look like you had a rough time last night. I think you’d better move on now, okay?” The doorman had seen his share of bums and crazies, not to mention the tourists, who fell somewhere in between. The wisest tactic, he had learned, was to keep up a running patter while ushering them back out onto the sidewalk and pointing them toward the subway. Firmly, he slipped his arm around the man’s shoulders.

“Sure must have been one helluva party. Well, happens to the best of us. A few hours sleep ought to fix you up fine. Come on, now. Let’s keep going.”

Just as he was about to release his grip on the man—and give him a last helpful push—a voice called out, “Is that your new boyfriend, Joey? I always suspected you were cheating on me.” Tina stood in the passageway, a pale cherry windbreaker tied around her hips. Watching her go in and out of the building in her skintight exercise gear, a dance bag slung over her shoulder, was the chief advantage of Joey’s shift. Her body, although aerobically trained and maintained, had lost none of the natural voluptuousness he had always admired in women, while her face with its dark eyes and full cheeks, reminded him pleasantly of his Mediterranean relatives. He liked her frankness, too, which contrasted with the snootiness of the residents.

“Very funny. This guy had some night last night. Doesn’t know where the hell he is. He was trying to get inside.”

“He seems awfully attached to you right now!” As she came toward them, her expression changed. “Joey, what’s that on your hand?”

The doorman glanced down. The fingers of his right hand were reddish purple. He looked over at the stranger, who was weaving back and forth on the sidewalk, then at his hand again. “Holy shit! It’s blood.”

“Jeez, Joey. Maybe you should call the police. This guy’s not some derelict.

Look at his clothes.”

“Are you all right?” she asked, reaching out a hand to steady the wavering man. “Would you like us to call somebody for you?”


“I dunno. You tell me.”

“Nobody. I can manage by myself.”

“You sure of that?”

An incongruous smile broke across his face. “You are very pretty.”

“Looks like you’re the one got a new boyfriend now,” said Joey.

“Well, he wouldn’t be half-bad cleaned up.” Tina was only partly jesting. The man had sandy blond hair and eyes that, even in their glassy state, were penetratingly blue. He seemed to be about thirty-five, and his build, from what her quick, professional evaluation told her, was that of someone who had been an athlete in his youth, probably a runner or a swimmer, and had never let himself get out of shape. “But I haven’t started picking up men off the street yet. Excepting you, Joey. I’d pick you up anywhere.”

“Ready whenever you are,” replied the doorman, who enjoyed his running flirtation with Tina, not that it would lead anywhere. “Say the word, Tina, and I’m yours.”

The man in the green suit spoke up. “Tina?”

“Okay, boys, let’s not both of you fight over me.”


“You got it. That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. So why don’t you tell us yours?”

Without warning, the man’s knees buckled, and he crumpled to the sidewalk, pulling Tina with him.

“Shit! Joey, call 911.”

“Leave him alone, Tina.”

“I said call 911!”

As Joey retreated into the sentry booth, Tina loosened the man’s tie and checked his breathing. His hands gripped her windbreaker so tightly she had to pry his fingers open one by one. Finally she gave up and let him hold on.

“They’re on their way,” Joey said on his return. Several commuters, heading for the subway stop on the corner, checked out the odd scene on the sidewalk—curious, but not curious enough to break their stride. The wail of a siren grew louder. The man on the ground opened his eyes.

“How ya doin’?” Tina gave him a look of encouragement.

“Not so good.”

“Just hang in there for a few more minutes.”

“Am I dying?”

“If you are, that makes me the Virgin Mary.”

The crack brought a smile to the man’s lips, and he relaxed his grip on her windbreaker.

“There you go. Improving already. You’ll be good as new in no time. Just in case, we called for an ambulance.”

“Thank you, Tanya.”

“The name’s Tina, but you’re welcome anyway … You sure we can’t get in touch with somebody? You got a wife? A girlfriend?”

“If that ain’t typical,” piped up Joey. “You can be out like a light and the first thing they want to know, when you come to, is if you’re taken. Better watch out, guy.”

“Don’t mind this one, mister. He’s just jealous because he hasn’t been laid since the Bicentennial.”

Within minutes, a squad car and an ambulance had pulled up in front of the building. The police car disgorged two cops. The burlier of the two—a Sergeant Edward Callahan, according to his nametag—had the lumbering and unexcitable manner of one who has seen it all. He did the talking. His wiry partner scanned the street nervously, as if half-expecting an insurrection to break out.

“Okay, what do we have here?

“It didn’t take Joey long to reveal what he knew. Even with his proclivity for embroidering a story, the details were scant. Callahan made a few notations in his notepad.

Tina had even less to offer.

“Did someone do this to you or did you fall by yourself or what?” Callahan asked, leaning over the man. When no answer was forthcoming, the officer pulled himself back up and shrugged. “A mystery man, eh? I guess you guys better take him to Roosevelt.”

The paramedics had already flung open the back doors of the ambulance and rolled a stretcher onto the sidewalk. At Callahan’s signal, they eased the man onto the stretcher and belted him into place. Tina could see that the restraints frightened him.

“Hey, it’s nothing to worry about,” she reassured him. “They don’t want you to fall off, that’s all.” He didn’t seem to believe her. In his eyes, she could read the same unfocused terror that seized her daughter in the middle of the night. The kid got so scared sometimes that she wouldn’t stay in her own bed, and Tina never had the heart to force her. The stranger seemed every bit as lost and alone right now.

“Lady,” one of the paramedics asked. “You prefer to ride in the front or the back?”

“Oh, no. I wasn’t planning to come with—”

“Please, Tina,” the man cried out. It wasn’t until he squeezed her hand that she realized he had been holding it. “Don’t leave me.”

“Oh, shit!” she muttered to no one in particular. “Why me?” His eyes were locked on her, beseeching and scared.

“Let him go. They’ll take care of him,” advised Joey.

She made up her mind in a flash.

“I don’t know about that, Joey. Hospitals are pretty scary places these days. You can never tell what’s going to happen. They’re always giving people the wrong medicine. Hell, they can cut off your leg by mistake.” She turned to the paramedic. “The back, I guess.”

“Saint Tina! Our lady of the Stairmaster.”

“Can it, Joey. All I’m doing is making sure he gets to the hospital in one piece.”

“Don’t you have any more clients to work out this morning?”

“No, I had a coupla cancellations at the last minute. And they all want to know why they’re not getting any thinner!” She climbed into the back of the ambulance, and Joey handed her the oversize dance bag in which she carried her exercise gear. “Mrs. Shriver in 4-D was my only bubblebutt of the day.”


Munching peanuts, Spiff passed through the hotel lobby and out the glass door, then paused on the sidewalk to consider his options. A brisk stroll in Central Park was a possibility, but he was wearing his good shoes, the Guccis, and didn’t want to risk scuffing them.

He contemplated grabbing a cup of coffee and a bagel and taking in a movie later. A new Sony Cineplex—fourteen theaters under the same roof—was just a couple of blocks over. The idea of playing hooky appealed to him. Then he remembered that the movie he was really looking forward to, In the Beginning, didn’t open until the end of the week. Jennifer Osborne in the buff—that was all anyone was talking about on TV: The posters that had recently bloomed in the subway showed her discreetly covered by foliage, but the R rating meant there wouldn’t be much foliage in the movie.

He wouldn’t let his sisters carry on like that. Of course, his sisters had better sense than to think of even trying. They respected themselves. Someone like Jennifer Osborne was little more than a highly paid stripper, when you came right down to it.

He wondered how he would feel if he were Christopher Knight, knowing that the whole world was salivating over his wife’s breasts and who could say what else. Did he get off on that? The film took place in the Garden of Eden, so they both probably pranced around in the raw. That was Hollywood for you today. The actors were all exhibitionists. Even the big, expensive movies were nothing but jack-off films in disguise. They sure didn’t make them like they used to.

He’d read in one of the tabloids that between them Jennifer Osborne and Christopher Knight were paid twenty-five million bucks for the film. While he didn’t like to think that that put a different slant on things, he recognized that for most people it did. A $50 hooker was a whore, but a $2,000 call girl was an escort. Hell, who was he fooling? His sisters would show their tits in Times Square in an instant, if they thought they’d get a fur coat out of it. People did anything for the almighty dollar!

Fortunately, the plainness of his sisters made the issue purely theoretical, so he told himself that there wasn’t much point in getting too worked up about it. The cellular phone in his pocket beeped. Any further musings about In the Beginning were going to have to wait. He’d think about Jennifer Osborne’s breasts later, when he was alone and could give the whole pornography problem his undivided attention.


He recognized the voice immediately and stepped out of the flow of pedestrian traffic. “Yeah?”

“Our friend has been taken to hospital.”

“No shit! By who?”

“By the police, that’s who. They just put him in a bloody ambulance.”

“Which hospital?”

“Roosevelt, I would imagine. It’s the nearest. What do you think he’s telling them?”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“Well, maybe you should get over there and find out. See if he’s come to his senses and is willing to cooperate now. I want this problem solved.”

“If I’d finished him off in the first place, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

“But I still wouldn’t have the goods, as you say, now would I?”

“If you’d like my opinion—” Spiff didn’t get the opportunity to say any more. The caller had hung up on him again. It was getting to be a habit with the man.

He stood there with the dead phone in his hand and contemplated calling the man back to say that this arrangement wasn’t working out. He wasn’t a lowly servant, for Chrissakes. He’d been hired for his expertise.

Instead, he bent over, picked up a rock and, flinging it with pinpoint accuracy, caught the backside of a pigeon perched on the edge of a trashcan. The bird flapped its wings and fell to the ground, unable to fly. Spiff watched it flutter pathetically in circles for a while.

When he headed west to Roosevelt Hospital, there was a spring in his step. . .


“Knock, knock.” Tina parted the white curtain. “How we doing?

“The wound on the back of the man’s head had been dressed and bandaged, and his forest green suit was hung up on a hook.

“Where am I?”

“So, we’ve decided to talk, have we? You’re at Roosevelt Hospital.”

“Where’s that?”

“New York. The Big Apple. Ever heard of it?”

“What happened?”

“That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.” He was trying to sit up.

“Easy now.” She helped him swing his legs over the side of the bed. A little color had come back into his face.

“Tell me a secret.”


“Your name.”

His features stayed blank.

“Have it your way. Where you from?” Still no answer. “Well, you remember me, don’t you? Tina. Tina Ruffo.”


“Yeah. Italian. Can’t you tell? … Sicilian, actually … My grandparents came from Messina … My grandfather had a fruit stand. No kidding! … Apples, oranges, pears. That sort of thing … Yeah, he used to bring all the best stuff home for us … What’s wrong? Am I babbling?”

He smiled broadly, then raised his hand to the back of his head and the smile vanished.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, your bandage. You got roughed up pretty bad and collapsed a few hours ago by the Dakota.”

“North Dakota?”

“No. It’s a big-deal apartment building. Where John Lennon was shot. You know

somebody there, perhaps?”

He slowly shook his head in puzzlement.

At least, she thought, he was sitting up and speaking. “I wonder where the doctor is. If they keep us waiting much longer, we’ll both qualify for Medicare.”

She stepped outside the curtain, just as an Indian orderly, steering a laundry cart full of dirty sheets, padded by. “Excuse me … sir … mister … hey you!” Another American who didn’t speak English, she thought. Hardly anybody did in the city anymore. Across the room, a woman on crutches was cursing loudly in Spanish.

“John Lennon was shot?” The surprise in the man’s voice drew Tina back into the cubicle. “When?”

“Only about a hundred years ago. Where have you been all this time?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

His brow furrowed.

“Okay, forget about John Lennon for a sec. Let’s begin at the beginning. Who the hell are you?”

He stared at a dark crack in the linoleum floor, as if it were some sort of magic code that contained the answer to the riddle. Right now, he couldn’t imagine anyone asking him a more perplexing question.

… Continued…

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In a remote corner of the Cathedral of Oviedo in Spain, Father Miguel Alvarez is in charge of taking care of the most holy relic of all Christendom: the sudarium, the towel-sized cloth which covered the face of Christ immediately following his death. At eighty years of age, he prays fervently before the relic. Suddenly, a pair of hands grips his head, forcing him to breathe a moistened cloth. Before losing consciousness, he sees a masked figure with a scalpel in his hand leaning over the holy bloodstained sudarium.

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The Surrogate, The Sudarium Trilogy – Book one

by Leonard Foglia, David Richards

4.6 stars – 17 Reviews
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

In a remote corner of the Cathedral of Oviedo in Spain, Father Miguel Alvarez is in charge of taking care of the most holy relic of all Christendom: the sudarium, the towel-sized cloth which covered the face of Christ immediately following his death. At eighty years of age, he prays fervently before the relic. Suddenly, a pair of hands grips his head, forcing him to breathe a moistened cloth. Before losing consciousness, he sees a masked figure with a scalpel in his hand leaning over the holy bloodstained sudarium.

Seven years later, in Fall River, Massachusetts, Hannah Manning, a 19-year-old waitress, is waiting for a sign — something that will tell her what she is supposed to be doing with her life. One day, she answers an ad for surrogate mothers, and with that decision, the emptiness in Hannah’s life subsides. But unfortunately for Hannah, the diabolical conspiracy that will completely change her life is just beginning.

Praise for The Surrogate:

“I simply could not put this trilogy down…characters one winds up caring so deeply about…Thoughtful, exciting, and fun! What a great read!

Holy moly, shockingly good!!!
“It is such a well-written mystery….If you are a Dan Brown or Steve Berry fan, this is just the book for you…a religious thriller that thrills without being preachy at all!!! Loved it!”

an excerpt from

The Surrogate

by Leonard Foglia & David Richards


(Seven years ago)

How fortunate he was!

The last 40 years of his priesthood had been spent in the cathedral, amidst the gold carvings, the soaring arches and the monumental stonework that with time had taken on the appearance of gray velvet. Such beauty never failed to move him.

            But it was on this day, every year, that Don Miguel Alvarez was reminded how truly blessed he was.

          This was the day the precious relic was taken out and displayed to the faithful. For only a minute, the archbishop held it high above the altar, so that the throngs who packed the nave, could see it with their own eyes, marvel at its provenance and revere it in all its holiness. Usually, during services, the 14th century edifice echoed with coughs and footsteps and the bustle of people kneeling down and getting back up. But for that one minute, every year, the stillness was all-enveloping.

           Thinking about it sent a shiver down his spine.

           Once the mass was ended, the archbishop would kiss the silver frame that held the relic, then give it to Don Miguel, who removed it to the safety of the sacristy. Watching over it in the sacristy, until the congregation had departed, was both a duty and an honor for the priest. But nothing like the honor that awaited him, once the congregation was gone, the thick oaken cathedral doors had been closed, and the lights that bathed the altar in molten yellow had been extinguished.

            For then, Don Miguel Alvarez took the relic back to its resting place in the Camara Santa, the holy chamber, “one of the holiest places in all of Christianity,” he liked to inform visitors. Sometimes, pride got the better of him and he said “the holiest place.”

           For 40 years now, he had made this journey with this most venerable of relics. He could have done it with his eyes closed, so well he knew the feel of the tile in the ambulatory under his feet. The earthen scent and cool air, coming from below, were enough to alert him he was before the wrought iron gates that protected the access to the Camara Santa.

          At his approach, an attendant, stationed outside the gates, unlocked the massive padlock, threw back the bolt and allowed Don Miguel to enter. A staircase rose up before him, turned left, then left again, before descending to the chamber that was his destination. Millions of pilgrims, not to mention kings and popes, had passed this way over the centuries just to behold the cupboard that contained what he now held in his hands.

         Don Miguel was nearing 80 and arthritis plagued his joints. But never here. Never when his hands touched the relic. A kind of rapture seized him and he had the impression of floating over the worn steps.

          He came to a second grille, through which were visible the various chests and cases that housed the cathedral’s many treasures. The attendant unlocked this gate, too, then retreated up the stairs, so that the priest could perform his chores in privacy.

          As he had done so often in the past, Don Miguel placed the relic on the silver-plated chest before him and knelt to pray. Its ultimate place was in the gilded wardrobe against the wall. But the priest was reluctant to put it away so quickly. The moments he spent alone with this holiest of relics, contemplating its miraculous promise, were among the most sublime of his existence.

          In front of the cathedral, a warm wind swept across the broad, treeless plaza, and the last of the congregation headed home or to their favorite cafes, jabbering noisily, as they went. But the holy chamber, cool and peaceful, was beyond the reach of time and turbulence.

          Here Don Miguel was surrounded by all the symbols and icons of his faith. The  celebrated “Cross of the Angels,” a magnificent gold cross – square in shape, studded with jewels and supported by two kneeling angels – was not only the symbol of the cathedral, but of  the whole region, where he had been born and lived his long life. The chest to the right of him contained bones of the disciples – the disciples’ disciples, actually – in velvet bags. Six thorns, said to be from Christ’s crown, were stored in the cupboard. So was a sole from one of St. Peter’s sandals.

          But they paled to insignificance before the relic that had been entrusted to him. The relic of relics. What had he, a simple priest, never much of a scholar and now an old man, done to deserve such fortune?

         He closed his eyes.

         A gloved hand suddenly wrapped around his mouth.  He tried to turn and see who it was, but the hand gripped his face like a vice. He smelled leather, then another, sharper odor stung his nostrils. Even as he struggled for air, a second pair of hands reached past him for the relic.

          “No, no, lo toques,” he cried out, as best he could. “Estás loco? Cómo se te ocurre que puedas tocarlo?”

          Touch the relic? Was this person mad?  The gloved hand muffled his cries. His body had little resistance to offer and the pungent odor was making his head spin. He could only watch in horror as the second intruder took a small scalpel from his jacket. Don Miguel  braced for the sear of pain that would mean the blade was being drawn across his neck. But instead, the person turned away, moved toward the silver chest and bent over to examine the relic more closely.

            The priest cursed himself inwardly.  He should have done his job and returned promptly to the cathedral. It was his selfish desire to be alone in the Camara Santa that had allowed this terrible sacrilege to happen. The Cross of the Angels seemed to be melting before his eyes, the jewels turning to red and green slime that oozed over the wings of the angels at the base. He realized that, deprived of oxygen, his vision was distorted and his mind was hallucinating.

           All he could think was how miserably he had failed. What God had given into his care, no man should look upon except with awe. But because of him, the relic was being defiled. His heart ached with shame.

          God would never forgive him.


Hannah Manning was waiting for a sign. Something that would tell her what she was supposed to be doing with her life, guide her somehow. She had been waiting for months now.

She gazed at the gold star on the top of the Christmas tree and thought of the Wise Men who had followed it a long time ago. She wasn’t foolish enough to believe her sign would be anything so grand or her destiny so momentous. Who was she? Just a waitress. For the time being, though, not forever. Only until she got her sign. And it didn’t even have to be a sign, she was thinking now. Just a nudge or a push would be sufficient. Like the wise men, she’d know instinctively what it meant.

         She had drifted long enough.

        “Do you believe it? Seven lousy dollars, twenty-three cents and a Canadian dime.” In a booth at the rear of the diner, Teri Zito was tallying her tips for the night. “Everybody’s back to their usual chintzy selves.”

        “I didn’t do very well, either,” said Hannah.

         “Ah, what do you expect in this cheapskate burg?” Teri tucked the money into the right pocket of the frilly brown-and-white checked apron that the waitresses at the Blue Dawn Diner wore as part of their uniform. “The holidays are the only time it occurs to anybody around here to leave a decent tip. And these seven lousy dollars and 23 cents are telling me that the holidays are officially over.”

           Standing on a wooden stool, Hannah was carefully removing the ornaments from the diner’s spindly Christmas tree, which was looking even spindlier without lights and shiny baubles to fill in the holes. She reached up and with a jerk tugged the gold star off the top branch. The fluorescent lights reflected off the metallic foil, spangling the ceiling.

           Two events had conspired to rouse Hannah out of her lethargy. In the fall, most of her high school friends had left Fall River for college or jobs in Providence and Boston. Her sense of being left behind had only grown more intense with each passing month. She realized that they’d actually been preparing for the future all through high school and she hadn’t.

       Then in December, the anniversary of her parents’ death had come around, which meant they’d been gone for seven years. Hannah was shocked to find that she couldn’t see their faces any longer. Of course, she had images of them in her mind, but the images all came from photographs. None of her memories seemed to be first-hand. Snapshots of her mother laughing and her father cavorting in the back yard were what she remembered. She couldn’t hear the sound of her mother’s laughter any more or feel her father’s touch when he swooped her off the ground and tossed her playfully into the air.

         She couldn’t go on forever being the girl who lost her parents.  She was a grown-up, now.

         In fact, Hannah Manning had only recently turned nineteen and appeared several years younger.  She had a pretty face, still childlike in some ways with its turned-up nose and eyebrows that arched perfectly over pale blue eyes. People had to look closely to see the scar that bisected the left eyebrow, the consequence of a tumble off a bicycle at the age of nine. Her hair was long and wheat-colored and to Teri’s enduring exasperation, naturally wavy.

          Hannah’s height – five feet seven – and her willowy figure were also  matters of some envy for Teri, who had never quite recovered her fighting weight, as she put it, after giving birth to two sons. Teri was now a good twenty pounds heavier than the Jenny Craig ideal for one of her compact stature, but she consoled herself with the thought that she was also a good ten years older than Hannah, who probably wouldn’t be so svelte at 29, either.

         If only the girl would slap a little make-up on that face, Teri mused,  she’d be a real knock-out. But Hannah didn’t seem to have much interest in boyfriends. If one had ever shown up at the diner, Teri certainly hadn’t seen him and she was pretty good about keeping an eye on the men.

    “Remember when Christmas actually meant something – besides money!” Hannah sighed, wrapping the star in tissue paper and putting it into a cardboard box for safe-keeping. “You couldn’t go to sleep at night because you were afraid Santa was going to pass over your house. And  you’d wake up at 6 and there were all those packages under the tree and it would be snowing outside. People sang carols and had snowball fights and everything. It was wonderful.”

    “That was just a commercial you saw on TV, honey” replied Teri, who checked her right pocket in the unlikely event she had overlooked an extra bill or two. “I don’t think Christmas ever existed like that. Maybe in your fantasy childhood, but not in mine! Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—-”

         “It’s okay.”

           That had to stop, too, Hannah thought. Everyone treating her with kid gloves because she didn’t have parents, minding what they said for fear of hurting her feelings.

         “I think that Christmas trees are wrong,” she announced loudly,  as she stepped off the stool and contemplated the brittle, dried-out specimen, bereft of its construction paper chains and plastic angels. “We cut down a perfectly beautiful tree, just so we can drape it with garbage for a few weeks, and then we toss it out in the trash once we’re done. It’s such a waste.”

          She wouldn’t have admitted it to Teri, but she felt a kind of empathy for the sorry fir that had been chopped off at the roots and made to stand by the door of the Blue Dawn Diner, where it had been ignored by most of the customers, except for the occasional child who tried to yank off one of the ornaments and got slapped on the wrist for it. It seemed so pathetic, so lonely, that sometimes she felt she might cry.

            Holidays were always hard to get through, a big game of pretend she played with her uncle and aunt:  Pretending to care, when she didn’t, pretending to be happy, when she wasn’t; pretending to a closeness that wasn’t there and never had been. All the make-believe did was leave her sadder and lonelier than before.

            That was still another thing that had to stop. If she ever intended to get on with her life, she would have to move out of her aunt and uncle’s house.

          “Come on,” Teri said. “I’m not going to let you stand there and feel sorry for a stupid tree. Let’s give it a proper burial.”

          She grabbed the fir by the stump, while Hannah took the other end and they maneuvered it clumsily toward the back door of the diner, leaving a shower of brown needles behind them.

          The door was locked.

          Teri shouted into the kitchen where Bobby, the chef and night manager, was profiting from the absence of customers to wolf down a hamburger. “I don’t suppose you could spare a moment to unlock this door.”

           Bobby deliberately took another bite of the hamburger.

          “Didn’t you hear me, you lazy fuck?”

           He wiped the grease off his chin with a paper napkin.

          “Don’t move too fast. You might have a stroke.”

           “Oh yeah? Well, stroke this, Teri,”  he said, pushing his pelvis at her lewdly.

            Teri recoiled in mock horror. “Let me get out my tweezers first.”

            The women tugged the tree out into an empty parking lot edged by drifts of dirty snow. The air was so cold it cut. Hannah could see her breath.

         “I don’t know how you two can talk to each other like that every day,” she said.

          “Hon, it’s my reason for living – just knowing when I get up every day that I can come in here and tell that turd what I think of him. Don’t need an aerobics class to get my blood pumping.  All it takes is the sight of that man’s thinning hair, that double chin and the caterpillar crawling across his upper lip that he calls a mustache.”

          Hannah laughed despite herself. Teri’s vocabulary sometimes shocked her, but she admired the older woman’s feistiness, probably because she had so little herself.  Nobody bossed Teri around.

          At the dumpster, they rested the fir on the ground for second, while they caught their breath.  “On three now,” Teri instructed. “Ready? One, two, threeeeeeee…” The tree soared up into the air, caught the edge the dumpster and tumbled inside. Teri slapped her hands together vigorously to warm them. “It’s colder than a witch’s tittie out here.”

         As they retraced their steps across the parking lot, Hannah glanced up at the neon sign that spelled out Blue Dawn Diner in letters of cobalt blue. Behind them, blinking rays, once yellow, now faded to a sickly gray, fanned out in a semi-circle in imitation of the rising sun. The sign seemed to be heralding dawn on a distant planet, and the blue neon made the snow look radio-active.

      Was that sign her sign, the rising sun and the blinking rays telling her a new day was coming, a world beyond this one, something other than long hours at the diner, surly customers in red-vinyl booths, lousy tips and Teri and Bobby squabbling like alley cats?

          She caught herself. No, it was just an aging neon sign, losing its paint,  that she had seen a thousand and one times.

          Teri stood shivering at the diner door.

       “Get yourself inside, hon. You’ll catch a death of cold.”

          Hannah slid into the corner of the back booth that was unofficially reserved for the staff and ceded to customers only on Sunday mornings, after church services, when the Blue Dawn Diner did its liveliest business. Teri usually had a crossword puzzle going and although she was not supposed to, sneaked a few puffs on a cigarette if nobody about, which accounted for the dirty ashtray. After a long shift, it was a cozy place to curl up. Hannah let her tired body relax and her mind empty out.

                       She took a look at the day’s puzzle, saw that it was half completed, and contemplated giving it a try. Teri never objected to a little help. Then her eyes went to the flowing script, underneath.

Are you a unique and caring person?

        Curious, she angled the newspaper so that it better caught the light.

This could be the most fulfilling thing you ever do! 

Give the gift that comes directly from the heart.

       It looked like an advertisement for Valentine’s Day, with hearts in each corner and in the center, a drawing of an angelic baby, gurgling with delight.  But Valentine’s Day was a month and a half away. Hannah read on.

With your help a happy family can be created.
Become a surrogate mom.
For more information, call  Partners in Parenthood, Inc.  617-923-0546

         “Look at this,” she said, as Teri placed two mugs of piping hot chocolate on the table and slid into the booth, opposite her.


          “In today’s Globe. This ad.”

           “Oh, yeah. They get paid a lot of money.”

          “Who does?”

          “Those women. Surrogate mothers. I saw a thing about it on TV. It’s a little strange if you ask me. If you’re going to all the bother of carting a kid around in your belly for nine months, you ought to be able to keep the little bastard afterwards.  I can’t imagine giving it away. It’s kind of like being a baker. Or being the oven, actually. You bake the bread and somebody else takes it home.”

           “How much do they get paid, do you think?”

          “I saw on Oprah some woman got $75,000. People are pretty desperate to have kids these days. Some of those rich people will pay a fortune.  Of course, if they knew what kids are really like, they wouldn’t be so quick to shell out. Wait until they find out they’ll never have a clean living room again.”

          A voice came from the kitchen. “Enough gabbing, girls.” The overhead lights went out.

         “Do you mind if I take your paper?”

         “All yours. I was never gonna get 26 down anyway.”

         At the door, Hannah gave her friend a quick kiss on the cheek and darted across the lot to a battered Chevy Nova. Once she was inside, Bobby flicked off the Blue Dawn Diner sign. Clouds masked the moon, and without the neon lights, the place looked even more forlorn to her.

        She gave a honk of the horn, as she guided the Nova out onto the roadway. Teri honked back and Bobby, who was locking up the front door, managed a vague wave.

          The newspaper lay on the seat next to Hannah all the way home. Although the roads were freshly sanded and free of traffic, she drove prudently. Up ahead, a stoplight turned red and she pumped the breaks gingerly to keep the Nova from skidding.

      While waiting for the signal to change, she cast an eye at the newspaper. The print wasn’t legible in the dark, but she remembered exactly what the advertisement said. As she pulled away from the intersection, she could almost hear a voice whispering, “This could be the most fulfilling thing you ever do.”


           Standing guard at the gate, the attendant shifted lazily from one foot to the other. The cathedral wouldn’t reopen until late afternoon, and his thoughts had already gravitated to the cold beer he’d get himself in a few minutes.

           Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a flash of movement in the shadows on the northern side of the transept. But he was in no hurry to investigate. Over the years he’d learned that the light flickering through the stained-glass windows played tricks with his weary eyes. And he was long since accustomed to the murmurs and groans that emanated from stone and wood, when the church was empty. His wife said it was the saints talking and that the house of God was never empty, but personally the attendant figured the sounds were merely those of an old edifice getting older.

         Didn’t his own bones crack now and again?

         Except that the noise he was now hearing was different. It was that of whispered words, the rush and tumble of supplication. Then he saw another flash of movement and moved away from the gate to get a better view. Indeed, a woman on her knees was praying in front of the Altar de la Inmaculada, one of the Baroque splendors of the cathedral that depicted a large-than-life Mary, surrounded by a golden sunburst that attested to her sanctity.

        The woman’s eyes were locked on the delicately carved face, which gazed down with infinite understanding on the worshippers who sought her mercy. Enraptured, the woman was obviously oblivious to the fact that the cathedral had closed.

        It was not the first time this had happened, thought the attendant, nor would it be the last. The cathedral’s multiple chapels made it easy to overlook some poor soul at closing time. He usually had to make the rounds twice, and would have done so today, had it not been his duty to accompany the priest to the Camara Santa.

         He approached the woman slowly, not wanting to startle her and hoping the sound of his feet on the stones would get her attention. As he got closer, he realized that she wasn’t Spanish. The colorful straw bag at her side and her stylish leather jacket suggested she was a tourist, although tourists usually just took a few pictures and left. And this woman seemed to be praying with the intensity of some of the elderly peasant women in the parish.

         “Señora,” he whispered.

        The woman’s prayer gained in fervor. “…We are but your servants. Thy will shall be done…” The attendant recognized the language as English. He glanced back at the entrance of the Camara Santa. He didn’t want the old priest to come down the steps and find the gate unguarded, but the woman was going to have to be escorted out of the church.

        He touched her lightly on the shoulder. “Señora, la catedral está cerrada.”

       She turned and looked at him uncomprehendingly. He wasn’t even sure she saw him. The pupils of her eyes appeared dilated, as if she were in trance.

        She shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry. What?”

       “La catedral está…”  He searched his mind for the right word.  “Closed, señora. The church is closed.”

         The woman’s face suddenly flushed crimson with embarrassment. “Closed? Oh, I didn’t realize. I must have…lost track of the time….Perdón….Perdón, por favor.”

         The attendant helped her to her feet, gathered up her straw bag and escorted her to the cathedral entrance. As they walked down the nave, she kept turning back, as if to get another look at the virgin.

        “This really is one of the holiest places on earth,” she said, while the attendant unlocked the door. Her eyes had regained their luster and he felt her grip tighten on his arm. “It’s what I’ve been feeling, so it must be true. I mean, they do say that this is holy ground, don’t they?”

         Not knowing what she was saying, the attendant nodded vigorously in agreement, before locking the heavy door behind her.

        He glanced at his pocket watch. Was it his imagination or was Don Miguel praying longer than usual?  As quickly as possible, he made his way  to the Camara Santa, ready to explain the distraction that had taken him away from his post. Before he was halfway there, he spotted the priest, lying on his back. His legs were twisted to the side and his hands resembled rope knots on the stone floor. He seemed to have fallen asleep in mid-prayer.

         Panic seized the attendant. The relic? What had happened to the relic?

        He let out a sigh of relief.

        Nothing! There it lay on top of the silver chest, undisturbed. He picked it up carefully and locked it away in the cupboard at the back of the crypt. Only then, when he turned his attentions to Don Miguel, did he realize that the priest was dead.

         The attendant made the sign of the cross over the body that age had so shrunken. If his heart had to give out, how fitting, he thought, that it should give out here. The old priest had deeply loved this place.  His devotion had been without limits. And now he looked so peaceful.

           Surely he had gone to his just reward in Heaven.

           How fortunate he was!


         “Well, you’ve certainly turned into an early bird,” Ruth Ritter muttered, as she shuffled into the kitchen. “This is the third morning this week you’ve been up before me. What’s come over you?”

        Hannah looked up from the oil-cloth-covered table, where she was contemplating a soft-boiled egg on toast.  “Nothing. I haven’t been sleeping well, that’s all.”

        “Not sick, are you?”

          Ruth threw her niece a side-long glance. She prided herself on her ability to read people. She may not have gone to college and there weren’t any fancy books in the house, but she liked to think she had more than her share of “smarts.” She noticed things and could smell a fib a mile away.  “Because that’s the last thing we need around here – you coming down with something!” she said. “One sick person’s enough Your uncle’s ulcer is acting up again.”

          Hannah’s mother used to say that when they were growing up, Ruth was the pretty Nadler sister, the vivacious one with all the boyfriends. It was hard to believe now. Hannah couldn’t picture her aunt as anything other than the stout, perpetually disgruntled housewife in a chenille robe, who right now was heading for the coffee maker and the jolt of caffeine that would get another disappointing day going.

         “You made the coffee already?” Ruth asked, surprised.

         “I was up.”

          “You sure nothing’s wrong with you?”

          Why was it always a crack like that, Hannah wondered. Never, “thank you,” or “what a nice thing to do.” In Ruth’s world. Every deed came with an ulterior motive. People were either trying to get on her good side or they were trying to pull the wool over her eyes. Nobody just did things. They did things for a reason.

            Ruth lifted the coffee cup to her lips and took a slurp. “What time did you get home from the diner last night?”

          “Same as usual. About quarter past midnight.”

           “And you’re up at the crack of dawn?”  There was that sidelong look again. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

             “Nothing, Aunt Ruth! Honest!”

          All she’d done was call Partners in Parenthood a week ago. The lady who’d answered the phone said she’d mail out some explanatory literature right away, and without thinking, Hannah had given the Ritters’ address. Later, she realized she should have had it sent to the diner, instead.

             “As long as you live under our roof and enjoy our hospitality,” Ruth never failed to remind her, “There will be no secrets in this house.”

             If the envelope from Partners in Parenthood had hearts and a baby on it, as the ad did, she’d have a lot of explaining to do. So every morning this week, Hannah had risen early to intercept the mail.  So far, though, no letter.

          Girls her age were supposed to think about boyfriends and getting married some day and starting families of their own. So why had the notion of carrying a baby for a childless couple appealed so much to her imagination? All Hannah could think was that her mother had something to do with it. Her mother had been a giver, who believed people had a duty to help others less fortunate. Whenever you got bogged down in your own problems, her mother had said, it meant it was time to think of somebody else. The lesson was engraved on Hannah’s memory, although, sadly, she heard the sound of her mother’s gentle voice less clearly than she used to.

         Ruth slid a plate of hot cinnamon buns out of the oven and scrutinized them carefully before selecting the one that risked disappointing her least. “I thought you were supposed to be working the breakfast shift all this week,” she said.

         “I was, but business has fallen way off. After the holidays, everyone’s staying home, I guess.”

         “Don’t let that Teri screw you out of all the good shifts.”

          Ruth washed down the bun with the last of her coffee, then reached into the refrigerator for a carton of eggs.  “I hope that uncle of yours isn’t going to sleep all morning. Tell him breakfast is on the table.”

         Grateful for the opportunity to escape from the kitchen, Hannah called up the stairs, “Uncle Herb? Aunt Ruth says breakfast’s ready.”

         A grumble came back.

         “He’s coming,” she said, relaying the message to her aunt, then glanced out the living room window. Just as she expected, the mailman was making his way down the street. Bracing herself against the cold, she slipped out the front door and headed him off at the foot of the walkway.

          “Gonna save me a few steps, are you?” the mailman said cheerfully. He reached into his pouch and handed her a packet loosely bound with string.

           A quick check told Hannah it was the predictable assortment of bills, magazines and junk mail. Just as she reached the front stoop, she saw the envelope with Partners in Parenthood printed on the upper-left hand corner. She was about to put it in her pocket, when an angry voice rang out.

        “What are you doing now? Heating the whole neighborhood? Do you have any idea how much heating oil costs?” Herb Ritter, in his bathrobe and pajamas, stood in the open doorway, his thinning gray hair still sleep-tangled.

            “I’m sorry. I only stepped outside for a second.”

          “I’ll take that.” Herb whipped the packet out of Hannah’s hands and shuffled headed into kitchen, where he took his habitual place at the head of the breakfast table.

          Hannah placed a coffee cup before him and waited, while he examined the mail, which was doing nothing to improve his spirits. Her letter was on the bottom. Enough of it stuck out so that she could read the word “Partners” in the return address.  She reached over his shoulder and slid it from the pile.

          “Hey, what are doing?”

          “I believe that one’s for me. My name’s on it.”

          “Who’s writing to you?” Ruth asked.


           “The letter wrote itself?”

            “It’s private, Aunt Ruth. Do you mind?”

             Ruth’s indignant words echoed up the stairwell.  “How many times do I have to tell you, young lady? There will be no secrets in this house.”

           Hannah closed the door to her bedroom, waited until she had caught her breath, then carefully sliced open the envelope with her finger.


         The priest had been dead for two days, when the attendant received orders from the archbishop’s office.

        His Eminence and “several guests” intended to visit the Camera Santa that evening.  Once the church was closed, he was instructed to station himself at the entrance to the shrine, unlock the gates at the appropriate moment and stand guard for the duration of their stay.

         All the attendant could think was that it had something to do with the old priest’s demise, except that the Oviedo police had already inspected the premises and found nothing amiss. Photographs had been taken of the priest’s body, before it had been removed.  All the relics in the Camara Santa had been meticulously examined and accounted for, ruling out the possibility of theft.

          The attendant had told his story several times to the authorities. Not that there was much to tell. The priest had shown no signs of illness that day and had handled the steps with no apparent difficulty. He seemed to recall that they had exchanged pleasantries, but none of significance. Then, after waiting about 20 minutes – yes, he was pretty sure it was twenty minutes – the attendant had gone in search of the priest. And found him dead. And that was more or less it.

       The rustle of robes and the whisper of voices told him that the archbishop and his party were approaching. Of the three guests, the attendant recognized only the tallest – he was from Madrid, and an archbishop, as well, if  memory was not mistaken. But the other two gave off a similar air of importance. The hard set of their faces suggested the seriousness of their purpose.

           Special visits to the Camara Santa were usually scheduled weeks in advance and he was told beforehand who the guests would be, so extra security could be arranged, if necessary. This visit was clearly being made in secret.

         He inserted the large key and swung open the heavy gate, then scurried ahead of the four men, down the stairs, fumbling for the second set of keys which would open the grille to the Camara Santa itself. He felt the dampness of perspiration in the small of his back.

        “Déjanos,” mumbled the archbishop, as he entered the holy sanctuary. “Leave us now.” The only sign of urgency was the way one of the “guests” clasped and unclasped his hands, as if they were sticky with pitch. Did they all know, the attendant wondered, that they were standing on the very spot where the priest’s body had fallen?

         The sounds of their discussion followed after him, but by the time he reached the main entrance, the words were indecipherable. But there was one word he thought he heard repeated several times: “falta….falta.…” Missing? What could be missing? Everything in the Camara Santa had been checked out and accounted for.

         The minutes ticked by so slowly that at one point he shook his pocket watch vigorously, thinking it had stopped.

         The attendant had seen no reason to report that he had left his post for several minutes to escort a lone woman out of the church. Now he wondered if  the lapse had been discovered. The longer he waited, the more uncertainty gnawed at his stomach.

           An hour and a half  had elapsed, when he heard his name being called and he hastened to lock the grille of the Camara Santa. The archbishop and his guests silently negotiated the steps,  their  features  sterner than before. At the entrance, the attendant pulled the massive gate shut and turned the key in the lock, only to discover when he was through, that  the archbishop was  standing behind him.

         “The keys,” he ordered, extending his right hand.

         The attendant’s heart went leaden. He was being stripped of his position. How would he support his family now? It was a selfish thought, he knew, given the circumstances, but there it was. He handed over both sets of keys.

         “No, just those to the Camara Santa,” said the archbishop. “I am afraid it will be closed until further notice. We will inform the press that certain structural repairs are necessary at this time. You are authorized to tell tourists as much.”

            Tucking the keys under his robe, the archbishop uttered a curt “Buenos noches,” and followed after his guests.

        The attendant felt his knees go weak with relief.  His livelihood was secure, after all.  Of course, it  had been his duty to stand guard over the old priest, but it was also his responsibility  to protect the cathedral and its treasures from visitors, who lingered beyond the appointed hours. Anyway, he’d only slipped away for a moment.

         As long as he kept quiet, he realized, no one would need know anything about the woman. Like the old priest, he would take those final minutes with him to his grave.


        “Out of my greatest pain has come my greatest joy. Life has a way of constantly surprising us, doesn’t it?”  Letitia Greene reached for a tissue and delicately blotted the corners of her eyes, which glistened with tears. “The day I took Ricky home from the hospital was the happiest day of my life. A life that had almost come apart at the seams. Hal and I – that’s my husband – were on the brink of divorce. I didn’t think we’d survive. I didn’t think I’d survive.”

         Hannah waited, while the woman behind the antique  rosewood desk took a moment to compose herself. She looked to be in her late-40s and, although she was expensively dressed, had a confidential manner that put Hannah at ease.

         “Can you imagine? After 15 years of believing I would never be a mother, this…this angel came into our lives. Her name is Isabel and she made us whole again. Yes, a perfect stranger! She wanted to help, but I don’t think that even she was prepared for the rewards that would come from her actions.  She brought us together and made us into a family. I remember the day I took Ricky home from the hospital. That’s him there by the way.”

        A gold-framed photograph of a freckled-face, red-headed boy of seven sat prominently on her desk. She repositioned it so Hannah could see.

        “I thought I would explode from joy. It was almost too much to bear. And it only seemed to increase every day. I used to say to Hal, `What am I going to do with so much joy?’ I’m sure he had no idea at the time what a profound effect his answer would have on me. But he turned to me—”

         Letitia Greene leaned forward, as if she didn’t want anyone else to hear. The silver charm, hanging around her neck, swung forward, too, catching the light. It was expensive-looking. “Do you know what he said?” She let the silence gather dramatically.

        “No,” Hannah replied.  “What?”

        “He said, `Spread it around. Spread the joy around, Letitia!’ Well, it was like being struck by a thunderbolt.” The words seemed to leap from the woman’s mouth. “What was I going to do with all that joy? I was going to spread it around, of course. So four years later, here I am,  helping other childless couples come together with some very special people to create even more happiness.”

        She gestured proudly to the photographs on the wall behind her desk, which hung on either side of  gilt-edged mirror. In them, a variety of smiling couples and adorable babies shared their contentment with the camera. Next to some of the photographs were framed letters, brimming with gratitude and attesting to the efficacy of Letitia Greene’s mission.

          Hannah took them in respectfully. To think that she almost hadn’t come here. The back streets of the city had been impossible to negotiate and by the time she’d located Revere St., a mere two blocks long, and parked the Nova, she was ten minutes late for her appointment. The offices of “Partners in Parenthood” were on the second floor of a 19th century brick edifice, and the stairway leading to it from the street was so dirty and dimly lit that Hannah had actually considered turning around and heading home.

       As soon as she had opened the door, however, her impression changed instantly. The office was bright and attractive, closer to a living room than an office. The floor was carpeted in beige. Two sofas, covered in a cheerful floral fabric, faced one another, with a low-slung coffee table between them. Objets d’art were positioned on the shelves of a bookcase, while an arrangement of silk flowers stood on a pedestal of its own. Mrs. Greene’s rosewood desk and the gilt chair in front of it in which Hannah was presently sitting, seemed to be the only utilitarian pieces and they hardly qualified as office furniture

       “I named our group `Partners in Parenthood,’ because that’s how I see it.” Letitia Greene was saying. “People reaching out to one another, sharing their respective hopes and abilities, coming together to create a life.  The thing to realize, Miss Manning, is that our surrogate mothers give life in many ways. The obvious one, of course, is the child. But you’re also renewing the lives of the man and woman, who often feel broken and incomplete. You’re giving them a future, too. You become their savior.”

         Hannah could feel her emotions welling up, the more she listened to Letitia Greene. The woman’s passion and her sense of purpose made her seem so alive. She thought of her aunt and uncle, shut off to one another, and the pointless bickering that filled their days. And she thought of the dreary customers in the diner, going from meal to work to meal, back and forth, endlessly. Even Teri, good-natured as she was, was so mired in a  dead-end job that her only relief seemed to be trading insults with Bobby.  They all led such small, limited lives.

         Then Hannah considered her own – the smallest, most limited life of all.  She was nothing like this vital woman, who seemed so full of energy and drive.

          “I’m so sorry to have gone on like that, but as you can tell, I love what I do.” Letitia Greene gave an apologetic laugh. She put on her eyeglasses, and took a moment to review Hannah’s application form. “I guess we should get back to work here. You don’t have all afternoon to listen to me. As I indicated, every situation is different and every surrogate mother is special. We try to come up with the arrangement that  suits you best – the most appropriate client family for you, how much contact you want to have with them. Do you want them present at the birth? Would you like them to send you photographs of the child, as it grows up. That sort of thing. The details are all worked out to everyone’s satisfaction beforehand. The fees –  well, I am sure you will find them generous.”

        Letitia Greene turned the application form over and ran her eyes down the back. “You seem to have answered all our questions satisfactorily,” she said, approvingly. “And we want to give you every opportunity to ask the questions you may have, now or later. You are aware, of course, that there would be certain medical tests. Nothing to worry about. Just to make sure that you are as healthy as you look.”

       “Yes, of course. Whatever is necessary.”

       “While you’re here in the office, I’d like to ask you just a few personal questions, if I may. It may seem like an invasion of privacy, but we are talking about a very personal and intimate commitment. It’s important that we all get to know one another as well as possible. I hope you understand.”

         “Please. Ask me whatever you like.”

          Letitia Greene settled back in her chair and the silver charm came to rest just above her sternum. “On the application, it says you are single.”


          “How does your boyfriend feel about this?”

          “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

           “What was you most recent relationship?”

           Hannah felt her face flush. “I’ve never…I go out now and then with friends…what I mean…there’s never been anyone serious enough to call a relationship, I guess.”

          “I see. Are you a lesbian?”

        “What? On, no. I like boys. I just haven’t found anyone who, well…” She found herself tongue-tied. There was Eddie Ryan, who lived down the block and occasionally took her to the movies, and all through high school, she’d had crushes, although she’d never acted on any of them. Teri said the girl had to initiate the action sometimes, but Hannah could never bring herself make the first move.

          “Do you live with your parents still?”

          “No, I live with my aunt and uncle.”

         “Oh?” Letitia Greene looked over the top of her glasses.

          “My parents are both dead. They died when I was twelve. A car accident.”

           “I’m so sorry. That must have been very hard for you. It still must be very hard.”

         “Yes” was all that Hannah managed to mumble.

          “Do you want to tell me about it?” It had been so long since anyone had asked her that question that Hannah was unexpectedly moved. Most people avoided the subject or simply assumed she had put the past behind her and gone on with her life. But Letitia Greene really seemed interested.

          “It was Christmas Eve,” Hannah began tentatively. “We were coming back from my Aunt Ruth’s house. That’s where I live now. We used to spend every Christmas Eve together because they were…are…my only family. We lived in Duxbury then. I fell asleep in the back seat and the next thing I remember was being thrown onto the floor and my mother screaming. She was asking me if I was all right and telling me to remain still, that help was on the way. From her voice I could tell she was in a lot of pain. When I tried to move so I could see her, she shouted, `No, stay where you are. Don’t look here.”

        Hannah felt her throat constricting and paused to take a deep breath..

       “Take your time, dear,” counseled Letitia Greene softly.

       “It’s just that it was so terrible, lying there, waiting for the ambulance to come and not daring to move. I realized later that she didn’t want me to see my father. He was killed instantly. We were hit by a GMC truck that had drifted over the dividing line onto our side of the road. It was snowing and the driver had fallen asleep and…”

        She was surprised how sharp the details still were in her mind. It was as if the accident had occurred seven days ago, not seven years. Ruth and Herb had never once talked about it with her, so she’d kept the awful memories to herself all this time. Now she had the strange impression she was telling the story for the very first time and to someone she barely knew. But that person cared.

        “The truck slammed into the driver’s side of our car, which is why my father died so quickly. Crushed. They said he never felt a thing. Miraculously, nothing happened to me. But on the way to the hospital, my mother lapsed into a coma. She died from internal injuries a week later. `I’m sorry, baby’ was the last thing I ever heard her say. `I’m so sorry.’”

         “Your parents must have loved you very much.”

         “Yes, I think they did.” Again the choking feeling in her throat.

          Hannah hadn’t thought about love for such a long time. Love was something that belonged to that faraway time of her life before the accident happened and everything changed. She remembered  shuffling through the autumn leaves on the sidewalk, holding her mother’s hand tightly, never wanting to let go, because they were so happy in the  sunlight.

        “You, two!” her father would say, pretending to be jealous. “There’s just no separating you.”

        Hannah became aware of the silence in the office and realized that she had allowed herself to get carried away on the flood of memories. Letitia Greene watched patiently, her head tilted slightly to one side, an understanding look on her face. This woman was not like all the others who squirmed at the slightest display of emotions. She welcomed it, her manner so accepting that Hannah felt no embarrassment whatsoever.

          Letitia Greene reached across the desk and extended her hand, which Hannah took. The simple contact produced another wave of unexpected emotion. For a while, the two women held hands and looked at one another in silence.

         They were not alone.

         On the other side of the gilt-edged mirror in a small room directly behind Letitia Greene’s rosewood desk, two other people were watching, as well. Watching and listening, as Hannah spilled out her life story. Although the tinted glass allowed them to see and not be seen, they hadn’t permitted themselves the slightest movement, nor had their eyes strayed from Hannah’s face for a second. All that had changed was their breathing. Measured at first, it was shorter now, short and shallow with mounting excitement.

           “I hope that wasn’t more detail than you wanted,” Hannah  said.

            Letitia shook her head gently.  “You can’t put any of that in an application. Thank you for sharing it with me.”  She released Hannah’s hand. “This is exactly what I mean when I say that `Partners in Parenthood’ is about people getting to know one another. People who are going to take a very intimate journey together. Tell me, Hannah, why do you want to take this journey?”

          Hannah had thought about her answer for days.  She couldn’t say she felt the newspaper ad was speaking directly to her. Understanding as she was, Mrs. Greene might find that a bit bizarre. She wanted to tell the woman that she had been looking for a sign for months, and just when everything had seemed the bleakest, the brochure had arrived in the mail. But there was so much more to it than that, really.

       ”I’ve been working in a diner and, well,  I have the feeling that I’m wasting my life.  I can’t do a lot, but when I saw the ad and read the brochure,  it seemed to me that maybe I could do this. Maybe I could give the sort of gift you’ve been talking about and make someone else happy. I guess…I just want to be of use.”

         Letitia got up, came around the desk and gave Hannah a hug. “I hope you can be, too. Of course, nothing is certain until it is certain. All the information you’ve given me will have to be reviewed, and we may ask you to come back for an interview with a psychologist, just so you can be sure this is the right choice for you. And, of course, the medical tests I mentioned.”

        She escorted Hannah across the room, her hand resting on the girl’s shoulder,  and for an instant, Hannah flashed back to the walks she’d taken with her mother.

        “Oh, just one thing,” Hannah said, as Letitia Greene opened the door for her. “The number on the application is the diner where I work. If you have to reach me, it would probably be better if you called me there.”

         “I understand. Now you go home and think about some of the issues we’ve discussed today. This is nothing to be undertaken casually. I want it  to be the absolutely right decision for you. For all of us.”

        After Hannah left the office, Letitia Greene waited until the footsteps in the stairway had grown faint, then locked the door from the inside and threw the dead bolt. She took a moment to collect herself and shake the tension out of her hands.

         At the far end of the office, a door cracked open and a middle-aged couple appeared. The bright colors of the woman’s Guatamalan peasant dress and her heavy make-up suggested that she was the more outgoing of the two. With his salt-and-pepper hair and his rumpled corduroy jacket, the man could have been a professor at one the many colleges in the Boston area. No one spoke for a long time. .

        Finally, a smile broke across the man’s face and he said what was on all of their minds.

           “I think we have found our girl.”

            “I’m sure everybody will be pleased when they hear,” Letitia added.

           “At long last,” said the woman in the peasant skirt. “It can begin now.”

… Continued…

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surrogate 2
The Surrogate
(The Sudarium Trilogy – Book One)
by Leonard Foglia & David Richards
4.6 stars – 17 reviews
Special Kindle Price: 99 cents!

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The story carries all the hallmarks of a religious thriller without reverting to Christian fiction or preaching at all.
The Surrogate, The Sudarium Trilogy - Book one
by Leonard Foglia, David Richards
4.6 stars - 16 reviews
Supports Us with Commissions Earned
Currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here's the set-up:
In a remote corner of the Cathedral of Oviedo in Spain, Father Miguel Alvarez is in charge of taking care of the most holy relic of all Christendom: the sudarium, the towel-sized cloth which covered the face of Christ immediately following his death. At eighty years of age, behind the heavy grated door to the Camara Santa (the Holy Chamber), he prays fervently before the relic. Suddenly, a pair of hands grips his head, forcing him to breathe a moistened cloth that causes him to lose consciousness. Not, however, before he sees a masked figure with a scalpel in his hand leaning over the holy bloodstained sudarium. Seven years later, in Fall River, Massachusetts, Hannah Manning, a 19 year-old waitress, is waiting for a sign - something that will tell her what she is supposed to be doing with her life. One day, she notices an advertisement in the newspaper looking for surrogate mothers. The emptiness in Hannah's life suddenly subsides; she seems to have found something meaningful to do with herself. Instead of finding fulfillment as a surrogate mother, however, Hannah ends up taking a terrifying journey deep into a land of fanaticism and zealotry.

An international bestseller already published in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Poland and Russia.
One Reviewer Notes:
Little by little, Foglia and Richards reveal the strands that make up the conspiracy. For that, they succeed in joining the latest developments in genetic experimentation with the moral and religious implications that arise from such an undertaking. A great deal of what they imagine could already be carried out in our times, while other things could easily be a reality in the near future. 

'The Sudarium' is a story that keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, even when he has turned the final page, because if some questions are answered in the course of the book, others continue to stick in the mind of whoever picks up this disturbing work.
La Reforma (Mexico)
About the Author
LEONARD FOGLIA is a theater and opera director as well as librettist. His work has been seen on Broadway, across the country, as well as internationally.

He directed the original Broadway productions of MASTER CLASS, THURGOOD and THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE as well as the revivals of WAIT UNTIL DARK and ON GOLDEN POND.

Off Broadway he directed Anna Deavere Smith LEONARD FOGLIA is a theater and opera director as well as librettist. His work has been seen on Broadway, across the country, as well as internationally. He directed the original Broadway productions of MASTER CLASS, THURGOOD and THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE as well as the revivals of WAIT UNTIL DARK and ON GOLDEN POND. Off Broadway he directed Anna Deavere Smith's LET ME DOWN EASY as well as the national tour and ONE TOUCH OF VENUS at Encores! His opera credits include the premiers of three operas by Jake Heggie - MOBY DICK (Dallas Opera), THREE DECEMBERS and THE END OF THE AFFAIR (both Houston grand Opera). His production of Heggie's DEAD MAN WALKING has been seen across the country. As a librettist his opera CRUZAR LA CARA DE LA LUNA (To Cross the Face of the Moon) with music by Pepe Martinez had it's premier at Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and was performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in the fall of 2011.
UK CUSTOMERS: Click on the title below to download
The Surrogate, The Sudarium Trilogy - Book one

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Dreams of Eli

by Van Heerling

4.3 stars – 78 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Southern soldier Eli West wakes in a cave and discovers he is held captive by a soldier of the Union. Shot, drugged, and tortured, he descends into the darkness and the beauty of his unconscious, uncovering a time when he was still in love, a time before war, a time before everything fell away.

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4.3 stars – 12 Reviews
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Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.

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3.8 stars – 10 Reviews
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What happens when the one you desire is minutes away from marrying someone else? She’s torn… Hannah Steeles is moments away from marrying a man she does not love. The chapel is filled with 100 guests and she’s ready to walk down the aisle but her heart is with hot Blake Romano, the man who makes her pulse race and dominates her fantasy. The man who is giving her away in place of her father. It’s too late to turn back now.

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4.2 stars – 165 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Or check out the Audible.com version of Fuzzy Navel – A Thriller (Jack Daniels Mysteries)
in its Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged!
Here’s the set-up:
Things are going well for Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels of the Chicago Police Department. She has solved some of the city’s toughest and most high-profile homicides. Her personal life is finally in order. Her friends and family are safe and happy. And she just got a call that eased her mind like nothing else could: Alex Kork, one of the most dangerous criminals Jack ever arrested, killed herself while in jail.

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The Descent Series, Books 1-3: Death’s Hand, The Darkest Gate, and Dark Union

by SM Reine

4.1 stars – 163 Reviews
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This is a collection of the first three titles in The Descent Series, which are gritty urban fantasy books about an exorcist, a witch, and their battles against the forces of Heaven and Hell. (Approx. 200,000 words total.)

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4.2 stars – 15 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Or check out the Audible.com version of The Scrolls of Xavier (Xavier Series)
in its Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged!
Here’s the set-up:
In the year of 2067, a new world is discovered amidst the dark expanses of the universe. Harvesting the resources of this vast planet, known as Xavier997, may be the only hope a post-apocalyptic Earth has for survival. Upon arriving, however, the explorers of this promising new world soon discover that the treacherous and, most shockingly, inhabited realm of Xavier may also lead to mankind’s final undoing.

*  *  *

4.6 stars – 109 Reviews
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Black swirling holes churning madly in the center of every corpse. This is how eighteen-year-old Chelsan Derée sees the deceased. Her ability to connect to the black spinning holes allows her to control every dead thing within a four-mile radius.

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4.3 stars – 6 Reviews
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Delicious Salsa Recipes: 63 Fresh Homemade Salsa Recipes

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4.2 stars – 40 Reviews
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A short story from New York Times bestselling author, Neil Gaiman. Plus an excerpt from his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

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Playwright Neil Simon said today’s Kindle Nation eBook of the Day cost him money because it kept him from his own work!

Do you dare start FACE DOWN IN THE PARK?


Face Down In The Park

by David Richards, Leonard Foglia
4.5 stars – 4 Reviews
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
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Here’s the set-up:

“Face Down In The Park cost me money. I got so engrossed that I couldn’t finish my own work. It’s the kind of thriller that keeps you in your chair and lets your phone go on ringing unanswered.” – Neil Simon

Broadway director Leonard Foglia and former New York Times and Washington Post cultural correspondent David Richards are true show business insiders. Now their partnership takes a daring twist on a roller-coaster thriller that strips away Hollywood’s glitter and hype – and spills celebrity secrets so close to real life, they just might be true.

Brent Stevens wasn’t doing what most visitors come to do in Central Park – no horse-drawn carriage rides or strolls through Strawberry Fields. He was lying face down trying to figure out the basics: who he was, where he was, and who had tried to kill him. He wasn’t coming up with any answers, either – until Tina Ruffo, a tender-hearted aerobics instructor from Queens, lent a helping hand.
Tina was an exception in New York, someone willing to get involved with a stranger. But well dressed, good-looking Brent Stevens was extraordinary too, and so was his plight. After a blow to the back of the head, he can’t recall his attacker. He has no idea what the key in his pocket actually unlocks. And he can’t imagine the traps he’s about to step into.

Now, as his memories come flooding back, Brent searches for the link between him and a mysterious figure living in New York’s exclusive Dakota apartments, a female TV interviewer known for getting public figures to tell all on camera, and a glamorous husband and wife who are Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws. With Tina at his side, Brent stumbles upon some dangerous secrets and finds dark and deadly truths that connect them all.

With breakneck pace – and sharply witty renderings of celebs who seem all too familiar – FACE DOWN IN THE PARK is super entertainment from two of today’s most imaginative authors of first-rate suspense.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In their second successful collaboration (after 1 Ragged Ridge Road), Tony Award-winning director Foglia (Master Class) and former cultural correspondent for the Washington Post Richards create as protagonist a man attacked in New York and robbed of his wallet, his identity and his memory. Having been knocked unconscious in Central Park, perhaps the victim of attempted murder, Brent Stevens is clueless as to his former life. When personal fitness trainer Tina Ruffo comes to his aid after he collapses outside the fabled Dakota apartment house, the aerobics maven from Queens finds that she can’t resist helping the handsome stranger. Using the key to the hotel room found in his pocket, the pair discover his name and some salient facts, and begin to reconstruct his past and understand why he is now in peril. Meanwhile, out in Hollywood, Tinseltown’s favorite golden couple, Jennifer Osborne and Christopher Knight, prepare for the premiere of their controversial new film, a figleaf-less adaptation of the creation story, which is stirring alarm among conservative religious groups. Gradually it is revealed that Brent’s fortunes are tied to the stars through a blackmail scheme cooked up with slick Hollywood press agent Geoffrey Reed, involving compromising photos Brent had taken of the actors. Despite slow-motion character descriptions at the beginning and relentlessly chirpy but stiff dialogue, the authors’ adept pacing and their smart parceling out of clues ratchets up the suspense. Given the authors’ insider take on the entertainment industry, some of their West Coast creations are spot-on, with fictional interviewer Deborah Myers a perfect Barbara Walters clone. On the East Coast, however, while Brent makes an adequately credible befuddled hero, Tina’s heart-of-gold tough cookie verges on the stereotypical and her constant exclamatory statements and interjectory tics (“Paula H. Prude!” “Jerry H. Seinfeld!”) merely annoy. These cavils notwithstanding, this is a peppy story with appealing moments of celebrity titillation.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Leonard Foglia


LEONARD FOGLIA is a theater and opera director as well as librettist. His work has been seen on Broadway, across the country, as well as internationally.

He directed the original Broadway productions of MASTER CLASS, THURGOOD and THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE as well as the revivals of WAIT UNTIL DARK and ON GOLDEN POND.

Off Broadway he directed Anna Deavere Smith’s LET ME DOWN EASY as well as the national tour and ONE TOUCH OF VENUS at Encores!

His opera credits include the premiers of three operas by Jake Heggie – MOBY DICK (Dallas Opera), THREE DECEMBERS and THE END OF THE AFFAIR (both Houston grand Opera). His production of Heggie’s DEAD MAN WALKING has been seen across the country.

As a librettist his opera CRUZAR LA CARA DE LA LUNA (To Cross the Face of the Moon) with music by Pepe Martinez had it’s premier at Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and was performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in the fall of 2011.

And here, in the comfort of your own browser, is your free sample of the FACE DOWN IN THE PARK by Foglia and Richards: