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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Sister OMarie Carol Anne

«The Missing Madonna», Carol Sister O'Marie

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The third book in the Sister Mary Helen series, 1988

With love

to my nieces and nephew ,

Caroline, John, and Noelle Benson ,

who can finally see their names in print


prove to their friends we are related!


This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


The Older Women’s League (OWL) is a real (and wonderful) organization founded in 1981, in Oakland, California, by Tish Summers and Laurie Shields. It should be emphasized, therefore, that all characters in this story are wholly fictitious and bear no relationship to any actual members of the organization, living or dead.

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Tuesday, May 1


Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker

Sister Mary Helen grabbed the handrail of the Down escalator to steady herself. She peered into the late-night crowd at Newark Airport, hoping to spot their escort.

“Over there.” Nudging her, Sister Eileen pointed at a silver-haired woman holding a large printed sign that read OWLS WELCOME.

Mary Helen adjusted her bifocals. Sure enough, her friend Eileen was right. That was no doubt Mrs. Taylor-Smith, the woman who was to meet them and drive them to New York City.

“I feel downright foolish standing under a sign marked OWLS,” Mary Helen muttered out of the side of her mouth. “What in the world do you suppose people think?”

“I’m surprised you give a hoot.” A grin spread across Eileen’s wrinkled face.

Mary Helen laughed in spite of herself. “You’re beginning to sound just like Lucy Lyons,” she said, looking up the escalator at Lucy and their three other OWL companions, all chatting happily.

Quickly, the six OWLs cut through the crowd and stood in a circle around Mrs. Taylor-Smith.

“Welcome to New York.” She bobbed her beautifully styled head of hair. “And welcome especially to our annual OWLs convention. I don’t have to tell any of you how important our political clout is or how happy I am to see you here. Our San Francisco chapter is one of our most influential.”

Mrs. Taylor-Smith paused, pursed her lips, and tilted her head. Like an expensive cat. Mary Helen had just come across that description in the English mystery she was reading on the plane. The woman fit the description purr-fectly. Good night, nurse! Lucy Lyons is contagious! she thought, patting her pocketbook to make sure she had remembered the paperback. Sure enough, it was there, wrapped in her faithful plastic prayerbook cover.

Their escort continued, “And San Francisco is also one of our most unusual chapters.” Smiling, she nodded toward Sister Mary Helen and Sister Eileen.

Mary Helen could feel her backbone stiffen. It was hard to tell if Mrs. Taylor-Smith was being patronizing or complimentary. Deciding to give the woman the benefit of the doubt, she smiled back.

“I’m sure it is,” Erma Duran spoke up. “And I know much of it is due to the presence of our dear Sisters.” Cocking her curly gray head, Erma smiled first at Mary Helen and then at Eileen. Finally, like a teacher about to present her prize pupils, she addressed their escort: “Why, where else would you find two older nuns carrying picket signs protesting the cuts in social security?”

Mary Helen winced, remembering Eileen and herself walking in a wide circle, freezing cold, in front of the Federal Building, HONK IF YOU LOVE YOUR MOTHER their large signs had read. Secretly, she had to admit she had been thrilled each time she heard a honk.

“And we are so pleased they could come with us,” Erma continued, seemingly unable to let the matter drop. Linking her arms through the nuns’ arms, she gave each a little squeeze.

Mary Helen squeezed back and she suspected Eileen had too.

Good old Erma Duran! Mary Helen couldn’t help calling her that and smiling whenever she did. Watching her now, grinning happily at an astonished Mrs. Taylor-Smith, Mary Helen found it hard to believe that it had been fifty years since the two of them had first met at Mount St. Francis College. It was in the late thirties and they were both taking a history course during summer session. Erma, then Erma McSweeney, was a bouncy, curly-haired student and Mary Helen was a young nun.

They had been assigned a joint history project and had worked together famously. Although Mary Helen remembered feeling a little guilty at the time. Erma seemed to be doing most of the work. Not that Mary Helen was a slouch. But even then she had known there is a certain amount of virtue in letting others do for you. It makes them happy and Erma McSweeney had seemed genuinely happy.

In spite of the fact that she hadn’t seen or heard from Erma since, except for an occasional Christmas card, Mary Helen had recognized her immediately when they met a year or so ago at the annual alumnae tea.

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