Work in Progress – Blessed Reverends
Work in Progress – Blessed Reverends
If I had an opportunity for a do over, I would have taken on this project before Max.
I first became aware of the widespread transfers of pederast priests to avoid prosecution and publicity in the seventies. Father Charles O’Hearn, Catholic priest and only canon lawyer in the Phoenix Diocese was a confidante of then vicar general Thomas J. O’Brien. Father Charley confided in me as well. He transferred to the sparsely populated parish of St. Anne’s in Gilbert, Arizona. He spoke four languages and had previously been assigned to the Vatican. At the time I needed someone to talk to for a little intellectual stimulation. I also had a few personal problems I felt this very kind eyed man could help me with. But how did a canon lawyer end up in the sleepy little burg of Gilbert which at that time had a population of less than 3000? Because he was an alcoholic and homosexual that complained bitterly about priestly transfers and perversions practiced by other clergy including Bishop James Steven Rausch? Maybe vicar general O’Brien thought Father Charley would be more discreet among a population of Mexicans and Mexican Americans that preferred Spanish as their first language. I can only surmise. The farmers they worked for were mostly Mormons who would never dream of conversing with a Catholic priest.
Charley hated pedophiles with a passion. We would talk occasionally of the disgraceful conduct of some of his peers. And we would talk of other matters including my agnosticism which he understood. He felt powerless and torn between his allegiance to the Phoenix chancery and his responsibility to Catholic lay people. One time I accompanied him to a luncheon hosted by O’Brien in the chancery. The vicar general seemed to question - by the raising of his eyebrows - why I was there. When we began speaking of matters in general and O’Brien realized Charley and I had become very close, I thought his eyes would pop out of his head. I think Charley in some slightly perverse way wanted to let the vicar general know he wasn’t simply going to roll over in his imposed exile. I also think O’Brien knew he might hear from me again. He just didn’t know how, why or when.
Of course I don’t pretend to know all the details. I decided to fictionalize what I did know into a novel where the predators that disturbed him are mysteriously murdered. If Charley were still alive he’d be amused. Father Charles O’Hearne my friend becomes Father Charles O’Hallorhan in the novel.
A good friend of Father Charley’s, Judge Paul Montague is killed after a night of drinking with Charley in a homosexual bar. Alonzo Blackberry a ‘Nam Marine veteran becomes the lead detective. His former antagonist and fellow Marine in ‘Nam, Victor O’Bannon moves to Gilbert with his new girl friend Lydia, the former novia of Chuy the head of Nuestra Familia. Chuy had tried to kill Victor in a jealous rage. Victor confides in Father Charley. Then Charley becomes a lead suspect in the judge’s death. He was the last known person to see the judge alive.
A half Navajo, half Pima charismatic child is molested in Sacaton by Father Bertrand Nextus the man who shares a rectory in Gilbert with Father Charley. Charley is consumed with rage over the disgraceful conduct of his co-rector. David Yazzie the kid’s father - estranged from the just deceased mother - lives in Window Rock and learns of the abuse. He travels to Sacaton to confront the priest and beats him almost senseless. Nextus is banned from Sacaton not by the Church but by the police chief in Sacaton. But the obsessed Nextus wants another sexual tryst with the boy who inexplicably agrees to meet Nextus in the cemetery his mother is interred in. The boy doesn’t show but as Nextus waits near his mother’s headstone a shot rings out. Father Nextus slumps over the grave.
Just prior to this Paul Montague had been found decapitated in his home. His wife and her lover, both Allstate insurance agents are leading suspects along with Father Charley. The judge’s body is poised in an artistic and bloodless fashion. His rare Gull Wing Mercedes is stolen along with his briefcase by a former lover from the homosexual tavern, Johnny’s Fat Finger. Later the thief, Rudy Vasquez, is killed and beheaded as well. But his death and violent dismemberment seem to have little in common with the clean and precise decapitation of the judge. Then the briefcase and a list are recovered at the crime scene naming the local members of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association. It’s revealed by the contents of the brief case that Paul had been a member. There are a total of 13 local members of NAMBLA named. Two on the list, Nextus and the judge, are dead. Are the other 11 members on the list soon to be victims? Is the murderer among them?
Alonzo Blackberry becomes fascinated with Cathy Montague, Paul’s widow. He also suffers from PTSD and becomes discombobulated and faints at bloody crime scenes. This is understandable as he had been ordered to toe tag and bag the bodies of the dead Marines in Son My, Viet Nam. He and Victor O’Bannon are two of only five Marines among 49 massacred at Son My in ‘Nam who remain alive. Victor remains haunted by his fragging of Lieutenant Bernstein who had ordered Victor to kill an innocent village family. Alonzo had been in an adjacent hooch and had also been injured and rendered unconscious in the fragging. In an ensuing battle Alonzo never fires his weapon and is accused of cowardice. Only some ten years later do they learn the truth. Can they put aside their differences and become allies trying to find the assailant of Nextus and Montague before other pedophiles on the list are killed?
The novel is close to completion. I’ll keep you posted.