Excerpt from Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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(UK title: Want To Play?)

by P.J. Tracy

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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 384 pages
    Apr 2004, 432 pages

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He and Bonar had both done a year-long stint in Milwaukee right out of the academy before hustling back home and jumping into county uniforms. They'd seen a lot in that city they were still trying to forget, but they'd learned a lot, too.

Bonar sucked at the inside of his cheek for a minute, thick eyebrows working like a pair of caterpillars. "Actually, it looks like a hit, which makes about as much sense as the padre doing it. I don't know. My gut tells me psycho, but it seems too clean for that." He pushed open the heavy wooden doors.

A lifetime of conditioning made Halloran's hand twitch as he passed the font of holy water, but it was only a twitch, the last contraction of a dying thing.

Father Newberry was sitting in a back pew, motionless, tiny, old. Halloran touched his shoulder as he walked up the aisle, felt the answering brush of dry fingertips on his.

Two deputies were stringing yellow crime-scene tape from pew to pew in a terrible parody of the white satin ribbon draped for a wedding. Two others were on their hands and knees with flashlights, searching the floor.

Doc Hanson was crouched sideways in the narrow space between the Kleinfeldts and the pew in front of them, eyes and hands busy with the dead, oblivious to the living. Nobody talked. The church was absolutely silent.

Halloran circled the scene slowly, letting it imprint on his mind. There was something wrong with it; something a little off-kilter about the bodies, dancing at the edge of his consciousness, just out of reach.

"Just from the rigor, four hours, give or take," Doc Hanson said without being asked, without looking up. "I'll check the temps when I'm ready to move them. Harris, give me one of your bags. I got a hair here."

Long gone, Halloran thought, moving out of the way, back down the aisle toward Father Newberry. Whoever did this could be in New York by now, or California, or next door.

* * * * *

"So everybody hated them."

"I didn't say that, Mikey."

"Father, meaning no offense, but could you not call me Mikey when I'm on the job?"

"Sorry. It slipped out." Father Newberry smiled at the one man on this earth he could truly and freely admit he loved like a son in a very human way. Michael Vincent Halloran was broad and tall and very imposing indeed with a gun on his hip and a badge on his chest, but the priest still saw Mikey the altar boy, dark and intense in this land of bland and blond, tailing him through those years before puberty when the priesthood had still been a magnet.

"Okay, then who were their friends?"

The priest sighed. "They had no friends."

"You're not helping, Father."

"No, I suppose I'm not." Father Newberry frowned at the yellow crime-scene tape around the pews ahead, framing the centerpiece of John and Mary Kleinfeldt. Doc Hanson was rummaging in his bag now, bumping John Kleinfeldt's body, grabbing it by the shoulder when it started to tip over. Father Newberry closed his eyes.

Halloran tried again. "You said they tried to get several parishioners removed from the congregation because they believed they were homosexual. I'll need a list of those people."

"But none of them took it seriously. I can't think of one who was really upset, the accusations were so preposterous."

"So none of them are really gay?"

Father Newberry hesitated again. "Not to my knowledge."

"I'll need the list anyway, Father. You have a file on the Kleinfeldts? Next of kin, that sort of thing?"

"In the church office, but they had no family."

"No kids?"

Father Newberry looked down at his hands, at the shiny spots on the knees of his pants that marked him as a professional supplicant, thinking that this was the gray area; that dreaded place where the obligations to the secular and spiritual worlds clashed in a terrible way. He sorted through his memory for what he could say, setting aside what he could not. "I believe they had a child, but they refused to speak of him. Or her. I don't even know if the child was son or daughter."

From Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Penguin Putnam, Inc.

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