The prologue of my novel: "Evelyn Grimes," now available in digital and paperback.
Prologue: Sister Marie
January 14th, 1956.
Stark City, Oregon.
“You guys ready?” Lenny Stern whispers through clenched teeth. His pale, thirteen-year-old face gleams with sweat; an odd mix of nerves, apprehension, and lust.
“I’m keen,” Billy Cooligan replies, giving his friend a pistol salute with his right finger. No exaggeration, either. The semi-erection in his pants proves it.
“Sure,” Johnny Pearl says, though the poor, conflicted teenager isn’t sure at all. Unlike the other two, he harbors real doubt about their foolhardy plan…yet not enough to intervene. Thus, Johnny follows their lead, playing perhaps the most villainous role of all.
“Good. Now shut up.”
Lenny edges away from the door, still peeping through the thin crack between it and the doorframe. He hears Sister Marie approaching. Her leather sandals echo on the hard tile…and the familiar sound makes him smile.
The moment of truth has arrived.
Leonard Stern, William Cooligan, and Jonathan Pearl; the disgraced teenage trio huddles behind the large door, careful not to make any noise on the grate landing. The short flight of stairs before them spiral down to the humid boiler room; the place they’ve all agreed upon to perform their monstrous deeds. Down there, in the rusty bowels of Saint Peter’s Orphanage, a line will be crossed, and a crime committed which will come back to haunt them all.
“Here she comes,” Lenny warns.
Rubbing his thin hands together, Billy hisses in anticipation.
Johnny tenses. A chill races up his spine as he thinks: How did things ever get this far?
How did things ever get this far…?
A fair question, indeed. And in those dreadful moments before Sister Marie reaches the door, Johnny relives the genesis of their crime. Last Monday, at lunchtime. He, Lenny, and Billy had sat together in Saint Peter’s mess hall, munching roast beef sandwiches and slurping milk, when their idle conversation about baseball shifted to something a bit more prurient:
Sister Marie, and her long, slender, legs.
Of course, the good Sister remained ever demure in her nun’s garb, but Lenny had enthralled Billy and Johnny with a fictitious tale about once looking up her dress. “No panties,” he’d assured his wide-eyed audience. “That means she’s always ready to go!”
From there, the conversation devolved into each boy’s lurid fantasy of getting Sister Marie all alone. It didn’t take long before they began to salivate like dogs in heat, and that’s when Lenny laid it out to his pals in the form of a dare:
“I betcha she’d love it if the three of us got her alone. Then we’d see just how ready she really is…”
Billy and Johnny had glanced at each other. Neither wanted to look weak in front of Lenny.
“So how about it? You dorks got the guts?”
Well. Of course, they did.
But truth be told, Johnny hadn’t wanted anything to do with it. He’d agreed because he didn’t want to be ridiculed by everyone in Saint Peter’s. And because Lenny threatened to have his other, older friends kick the shit out of him if he snitched to anyone about their plan.
Now, the timid boy stands before that stomach-turning edge, staring into the dark abyss of his own soul.
So. The rest of the plan had been easy. Just before noon, Lenny approached Sister Marie and asked with doe-eyed innocence if she could meet him in the east hall after lunch. “It’s real important,” he’d said, tugging on her sleeve for emphasis. “Honest.”
“Well, of course I can,” the good Sister replied with a tender smile, never suspecting his true intentions. Not for a moment suspecting the horrors awaiting her in that mirthless boiler room…
Sister Marie stands just beyond the stairwell door, and Lenny hears the faint echo of her voice in the hall. “Over here,” he answers, opening the door enough to show his face. “I’ve got something to show ya…”
A moment passes.
The nun looks at the boy, frowning. The boy gazes back; nervous, hopeful. Grinning the disarming grin of a small but prodigal demon.
“Alright,” she says at last, her frown softening.
Thus, without thinking, Sister Marie walks toward her doom, reaching out, her young and beautiful face etched with concern.
Everything happens fast:
Lenny snatches Sister Marie’s hand and jerks her across the threshold before she can react. Billy tackles the hapless nun’s legs, knocking her into Johnny’s waiting arms. Panicked, she shrieks before Lenny clamps his sweaty palm over her mouth. Together, they lift the wriggling, writhing, woman off her feet and carry her down the stairs.
“Don’t drop her, guys!” Lenny shouts.
“We won’t!” Billy replies.
Silent, Johnny grits his teeth, tightens his grip.
The three boys’ hurried footsteps echo in the dank stairwell. Once at the bottom, Lenny, Billy, and Johnny pin the terrified woman to the floor.
Intent on damning their very souls.