Excerpt from The Jesus Thief by J.R. Lankford, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Jesus Thief

by J.R. Lankford

The Jesus Thief by J.R. Lankford
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  • Published:
    Mar 2003, 287 pages

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"Sam Duffy, take your phalanges off my hat!" Maggie snapped, proud that she remembered the medical term for fingers. It didn’t surprise her to glimpse the outline of a holstered gun under his long coat, given how filthy rich the building’s nine tenants were, each occupying an entire floor—and given how John Lennon died across the park. All in all, Sam was not your ordinary doorman. The tenants liked having him around. Usually she did, too. Not now.

"Pardonne moi, madame," Sam said and swept his hand away. "But it’s got to be from England. I’ve never seen a hat like that anywhere else."

"It’s from the selfsame place, Sam, thank you very much. And I don’t want to hear none of your jokes. Okay?"

"Me? Joke? Before such a chapeau? Turn around. Let me see it. What are you so dressed up for, anyway?"

Maggie’s gaze flew up to the domed chandelier in irritation. Romans 5:2-4, said "tribulation worketh patience and patience, experience; and experience, hope." Sam was helping her learn patience by getting on her nerves. She decided to be firm. "Sam, I don’t have no time to play. I’m in a hurry!"

She saw a hurt look flash in his eyes and decided to say a little more. "My church is having an important function today and I’ve got to be there."

He looked surprised. "Off to church with you, then! Clean tomorrow. It won’t matter. The good doctor’s not even here and I haven’t seen his sister this week. You can’t work dressed like that, anyway." He scrutinized her. "Do you know you have runs all up your stockings?"

Maggie humphed, opened her large purse, and half lifted a package of pantyhose.

"I see," he said.

The elevator dinged behind them and she stepped inside the car. "I’m paid to clean the lab on Wednesdays when he’s gone, Sam, dressed up or not. Lord willing, Wednesday is when I’m gonna clean." She punched the code for the eighth floor into the elevator keypad.

He shook his head as if she were hopeless.

Maggie exited into the foyer in front of Dr. Rossi’s suite. In recesses on either side of his double doors were two intricately patterned blue and yellow vases Dr. Rossi said were antiques from Deruta, Italy. She unlocked the doors and entered. When she flicked a switch, light played on the wide corridor’s arched ceiling, gently illuminated paintings, a softwood floor with parquet trim, and a slim Persian carpet. Midway down the corridor in a cubbyhole hung a seventeenth century crucifix made of heavy silver, the most beautiful she’d ever seen. Below and padded in red velvet was the ebony prie dieu on which Dr. Rossi and his sister knelt and prayed. Maggie always felt like she was in a palace, just walking down this hall. She passed rooms on her right and left and, because she thought she’d heard a sound, stopped at the solarium.

"Hello? Anybody here?" she called.

It was the only room where she’d ever heard sounds from the penthouse upstairs, which was occupied by a Mr. Brown.

Not that she was a snoop, of course. She was only curious, like anyone would be if they’d seen what she had over the years when she was downstairs in the basement emptying trash. Maggie had found that if she stepped up on one of the metal equipment housings, she could see through a crack in the wall between everyone else’s garage and his. She’d seen no less than two United States presidents—one current, one an ex—a couple Arabs in their Rolexes and robes, a Supreme Court judge, senators, congressmen, and a Chinese-looking guy, most of them hat-in-hand and grinning, shaking hands goodbye as they got off Mr. Brown’s private elevator, got in their limousines, and left his private garage. No fanfare. Nothing in the papers about their ever being here. It didn’t seem right to her that important people should always be arriving in secret and one at a time. She’d tried to pump Sam for information, but when it came to the tenants, Sam was a living sphinx.

Copyright © 2003 Jamilla Rhines Lankford. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Great Reads Books LLC

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