The Devil in the Details

Book Cover: The Devil in the Details
Part of the Peter Crossman series:

Read this story free at
or buy a copy and support Madhouse Manor

ebook: amazon



A new adventure of Peter Crossman, special agent of the Knights Templar — a man prepared to administer last rites with one hand while wielding a flamethrower with the other. Now an ancient manuscript of peculiar power has surfaced, and Crossman's assignment is simple: Get it for the Temple at all costs. This will lead to conflict with entities secular and otherwise — and to a new encounter with Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Action Executive of the Poor Clares. From the husband-wife storytelling team Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald comes this exciting new tale, The Devil in the Details.


Thomas put down his beer and asked, “Who’s the best linguist we’ve got?”


The question caught me off-guard. To cover and give myself time to think, I asked, “Who’s ‘we’? The Church in general, or the Knights Templar in particular?”


“Either. Both.”


“If you’re looking for something like proficiency in conversational Assyrian,” I said, “Brother Consolmagno at the Holy Office is probably your man. He did some good work with the Balphamagor exorcism in ’97. For text-based stuff, if you want to stick with our own people, there’s always Mark in the Jerusalem Documents section. First-rate paleographer.”



We were speaking Latin ourselves, though that isn’t any big trick. It’s like French, only without the attitude. Latin is the day-to-day language of the Knights of the Temple. Which is what I am, and what Thomas Cheapside was. This Tuesday afternoon in November found us sitting in the coffee shop of a hotel in Rye Brook, New York. A report that you could walk from the second floor to the fifth floor of the hotel without going up a ramp or a stairway had turned out to have a mundane explanation, so we’d retired to the coffee shop to catch lunch before heading back to the city.


Thomas pulled a TEMPEST-compliant smartphone out of his pocket, opened the photo viewer, and handed it to me. I thumbed through the picture set rapidly. Some of the pics appeared to have come from a security camera in an airport. The first showed an elderly nun walking through a crowded concourse. She was from the generation that still wore nun suits—in her case, a brown robe, a white cloak, and a huge rosary. Other pictures, apparently taken using a telephoto lens, showed the same nun in close-up from various angles.


“That’s Sister Mary Thérèse, Discalced Carmelite,” said Thomas. “She arrived through Kennedy airport yesterday afternoon. Interesting woman; best linguist the Church has. Studied at the Sorbonne, taught at Paris and Heidelberg, has a reading knowledge of almost every human language there is, plus some other languages that aren’t so human. She’s been retired to Montmorency for years.”


“What changed?”


“A bankruptcy sale at an upstate auction house was announced sixty hours ago. SIGINT had a spike in traffic around Montmorency beginning within twelve hours. Sister had a passport and visas issued on a crash-priority basis in under twenty-four hours, and now here she is.”


I looked Thomas in the eye and said, “We didn’t come out here to look at a mis-numbered elevator, did we?”


“Nope,” said Thomas.


I could tell that he was waiting for me to ask the next question. I decided to oblige him. “Blue-on-blue op?”




“I’m not your boy for this one,” I said. The last pic in the series had a younger nun dressed in grey, with a wide white guimpe and a white rope belt, hovering at the old nun’s shoulder and carrying her bags. I zoomed in on the second nun and handed the phone back to Thomas. “I know her, and she knows me. I’d be made twenty seconds after I showed my face.”


And that was in dim light, at long range, if Maggie was distracted. You don’t see Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Action Executive of the Poor Clares in full uniform too often. Her magnificent red hair was covered by a black veil, and her amazing body was concealed by her habit, but nothing was capable of concealing the sharp attention she turned on the world. Habit or no, I was willing to bet she had some kind of lethal hardware no farther than one-eighth of an inch from her hand.


“That’s not a problem,” Thomas said. “You’re going in open. If you want, you can wear a name tag that says, ‘Hi! My name’s Pete! I’m with the Temple! Ask me how!’”


Leave a Reply