The Guilty  Woman Excerpt


Prologue
March 1948



“OH GOD! OH God, oh God, is he dead?”
     Thick, red blood from the smashed skull flowed thick, and spread around his head. The white pearl buttons from Francesca’s silk blouse, the ones that popped when he latched onto her as she tried to get away, were scattered in the pool of blood. They looked like tiny, round eyes staring up at them. The coffee-table Francesca had fallen back on when she managed to escape his grip lay overturned. Tiffany lamps and the Waterford vase that held the fresh white roses lay shattered on the wooden floor next to the body.
     Father Matthew set the blood covered silver candleholder in his hands on the table flanking the red splattered couch, and lowered two fingers to the man’s neck. “Yes, he is,” he confirmed when he didn’t feel a pulse. Automatically, he rummaged through his pocket for his stole. Kissing it, he wrapped it around his neck and blessed the body.
     “Oh God! Oh God, oh God.” Francesca fell into the only unstained chair in the room, and sobbed into her hands.
     “It’ll be all right, Francesca.” Father Matthew eased an arm around her shoulder, and only then became conscious of his blood-stained hands. He quickly pulled them back.
     “How’s this going to be all right? He’s dead.” Her eyes shifted to the lifeless body lying on the floor. She was glad he lay face down. She didn’t think she could look into the eyes of death then. She was still trying to get past the sound of his last breath exploding from his lungs, of the vision of his body bucking before it went still. Of the haze of violence that had taken place seconds ago.
     “Are you hurt?” Father Matthew asked, the anger pulsing in his chest as he studied the beautiful face that bore the mark of the dead man’s punches. Her right eye was swollen shut, there was a gash on her cheek where dead man’s ringed hand had delivered a blow, and blood ran down from her cut lip.
     “I’m fine,” she said with the defiance of a humiliated woman.
     “All right. Just don’t touch your face or anything else, Francesca.” Father Matthew crossed the room to the telephone. The hem of his cassock robe painted the tiles with streaks of blood.
     “What are you doing?” Francesca’s breath hitched when he picked up the telephone.
     “I’m calling the police. We need to call the police.”
     Francesca bolted to her feet, and reached for the blood-smeared hands wrapped around the telephone with her own stained ones. Tearing the handset from his hands, she set it back on its cradle. “No, don’t call them. We can take care of this ourselves.”
     Father Matthew walked her back to the chair. When he’d coaxed her down into it, he sank to his knees beside her. “Francesca, take a deep, calming breath. Do it. Now.” He watched her breathe deep and exhale, and repeat when his urging eyes encouraged her to do so. “We can’t take care of this ourselves. We have to call the police.”
     Overlooking the chaos, the blood-splattered wall, the pungent smell of death, Francesca bolted to her feet and began to pace frantically. She had to set aside emotion and think like a lawyer. What would she recommend to her clients?
     After some thought she said, “All right call the police, but I don’t want you here when the police show up. I don’t want you involved in this. I’ll plead self-defense, and when I do I want you as far away from this as possible.”
     “No, Francesca, I will admit to the attack. I will confess my sins,” Father Matthew said looking down at the motionless body. He couldn’t even begin to imagine the blades of pain that the blow to the head had inflicted.
     “But…”
     “You will say nothing. Do you hear me, Francesca? Nothing.”
     “How can I not? It’s my house. It’s my husband lying dead on the floor.” Francesca pressed fingers to her eyes.
     “I will confess. I will turn myself in. I will tell them exactly what I saw. That he was beating you. That I ran in to stop him, and…” He raised a hand when she started to speak. “I need to confess, Francesca. Understood?”
     Francesca saw the scene in her mind, unspooling like a blurred film through flowing tears. Father Matthew held her while she cried out her shock. He could feel her shaking with sobs.
     When she finally looked up at him she said, “All right, but I’m your legal counsel, and in that respect, you do as I say.”
     Brushing tears from her cheeks, he nodded. “I’m going to call the police now.”
     She nodded and murmured, “Brace yourself for what’s to come.”

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The Guilty Woman 

eBook ISBN 978-1-7752956-4-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-7752956-6-2

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