December 3, 1980

After three years he still found it hard to reconcile his divorce, so he took a friend’s advice and booked a trip to Costa Rica. Actually, they booked it together—a long bachelor’s weekend of debauchery, rum, strippers, and more rum. But at the last minute, Judd’s youngest brother was killed, shot dead in a horrible hunting accident in Wyoming, and, instead of his larger-than-life best friend, Mark found himself next to a tiny Roman Catholic nun flying standby to San José. By the end of the flight he had a new St. Christopher medal, a cheap rosary, and a promise for a replacement scapular to be delivered to his home address.


Her name was Maura, she’d said. Maura Clarke. She was on her way to El Salvador to do missionary work. He couldn’t have cared less. Raised Roman Catholic, Mark was polite while they chatted, but the nun’s quiet zeal and his lapsed attitude made for strained conversation. He feigned sleep. She opened her Bible.


Mark thought little of Sister Maura during his time on the coast, but neither did he fully descend to the depths of depravity Judd had promised him. And he was glad. He returned to Austin a little better off than when he’d left it, but still mourning his marriage. Later that same week, his blood ran cold when he heard about the four murdered nuns in El Salvador. He wept on his way to work.


His replacement scapular arrived a day after she died.