The word "ordinary" holds a double meaning. In one sense, it refers to something inconsequential or everyday. In the second sense, "ordinary" refers to the absolute church authority of a bishop, archbishop, or priest. In the Catholic Church, these figures are to be trusted with deepest, darkest secrets. To their congregations, they can never do wrong-or can they?
When a series of international and seemingly unrelated events lead to the brutal murder of a Catholic altar boy, conflicting notions of the law, obedience, forgiveness and revenge test the faith of several Roman Catholic priests and two Catholic women. With the boy's death comes scandal and pain for more than just the family who lost a son.
In the aftermath of the horrific crime and with the revelation of sexual abuse in the church, ordinary people must now confront ordinary authority, uncovering a web of deceit that stretches from the towns and cities of New England all the way to the Vatican. Even the law cannot reveal all things. In the end, despite the terrible acts committed in his name, only God will ever know the truth.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
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By Gene Ferraro
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Eugene Ferraro
All rights reserved.
San Martin Cutud, Philippines
Amparo Ramos was wearing a snow-white tunic. On her head was a crown of tin. The wooden cross lay on the ground. Amparo, her arms completely extended, lay on top of it. Knotted ropes bound each of her arms to the cross, with long ends extending from each knot to be used to pull the cross upright.
Two men wearing the garb of Roman centurions knelt beside her. One held a stout wooden hammer and two long aluminum nails soaked in alcohol. She smiled at him as he took one of the nails in his left hand and centered it over her right palm. The other man held her hand in place. Amparo and the centurion with the hammer looked into each other's eyes and she nodded. He acknowledged her, raised the hammer high, and drove it home, pounding the nail through her palm and solidly into the wooden cross.
"The pasyon," the old priest said to the young seminarian who accompanied him, "is the story of the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. His passion. It is so much a part of their local traditions and culture that they must do things like this."
"God bless you all," screamed Amparo Ramos as the pain shot through her. She began to breathe deeply and rapidly as the two men knelt by her other hand. Again, one took the second nail, while the other held her left palm in place. She took a deep breath and nodded. The centurion lowered the hammer, driving the nail through her palm.
"I love you, Jesus," she cried. "Show us the way."
The two men then began to nail her feet to the cross. When they were done, two more men in white tunics used lengths of rope to bind her hands and feet to it.
The crucifixion was taking place in San Martin Cutud, a small village north of Manila. It was nearly noon and the high sun was broiling hot as the men prepared to raise Amparo's cross. The centurions took the long rope ends that extended from the knots binding her arms, while the men in tunics concentrated on the straight beam of her cross. Together, they carefully hoisted the cross with a smiling Amparo nailed to it and brought it to rest securely in a deep posthole in the ground.
"Every person from this village is here," the old priest said to his young visitor from Rome, "and playing some role in this."
Within a few minutes, thirteen upright crosses stood in a cluster with Amparo's at the head. Earlier that day, the thirteen crucified had struggled, bearing their crosses along a tropical via dolorosa through the village, while the hordes watched. On the way, men dressed as Roman soldiers used burrillos ... clusters of bamboo fingers tied in two-foot lengths ... to whip them, and paddles laced with slivers of broken glass, to rip their flesh.
When they reached their Golgotha, seven of those crucified were tied to their crosses, but the five closest to Amparo, like her, were nailed to theirs. Before them was a group of attendants, some dressed as Roman centurions, others as soldiers. Some women stood by holding large wooden bowls filled with a thick white paste.
"They will use the paste to dress their wounds," the old priest said. "I blessed it at Mass."
As her eyes flashed open then shut, Amparo Ramos muttered incoherently. One moment she smiled. The next she was in agony.
"The villagers say she has the power to heal," the old priest said. "They say she is possessed by the spirit of Jesus Christ."
"What about the crowd?" The young seminarian had so many questions.
"They believe it," the old priest said. Of the others crucified, all are Filipino except one. "He is European like you. He came a very long way to suffer so much. It must be terrible the first time."
The seminarian shuddered. "What do you mean the first time?"
"This is her fifth crucifixion. It is the European's first. Each year another one or two follow her example. And so it grows."
"Why do they do it?"
"There are as many answers as those crucified," the old priest said. "The European told me it would make him finally comprehend how much Jesus suffered. As for the others, perhaps it is a form of prayer. Sometimes a relative is sick so they offer their suffering in hope that Jesus will help their loved one. They each have their reasons and it is not for me to judge them."
He pointed to the man on Amparo's left who, unlike the others, bore his agony in silence. "He is a convicted murderer. This is his seventh time. Each year, he is released from the penitentiary for this one day."
"There's so much blood." The visitor could not believe what he was seeing.
"It is all about blood," said the old priest. "We think we know, but we never really begin to understand the horror until we see it."
Amparo Ramos was becoming more hysterical. "Pray everyone," she screamed. "God be with you."
"And also with you," roared the crowd of two thousand who were watching. Hearing them, Amparo Ramos began to writhe on the cross. The blood that had thus far dribbled from her wounds began to flow more profusely.
"It is nearly over," the old priest said. "In a few more minutes, they will be taken down." He made the sign of the cross. "How does it make you feel?"
Luchino Montefiore was unable to answer. The young seminarian, soon to be ordained a priest, lay unconscious in the dirt. This opportunity, to accompany a group of Vatican diplomats to the Philippines, so carefully arranged for him by his sponsor as a reward for successful completion of his studies in Rome, was not to include this stop.
Unlike the others, content to deal with an abstraction, he had jumped at the chance to come to San Martin Cutud to see for himself what his superiors only whispered about. Now he lay bleeding from a nasty gash above his right eye, which happened when his head hit the ground.
The old priest smiled. It was not unusual for strangers, even future priests, to faint when seeing such things. As he knelt to attend to him, Luchino's right leg twitched involuntarily.
"Keep out," the sign said. "Violators are subject to arrest." But it had not stopped him before and did not stop him today. A few yards beyond the rusting chain-link fence with the barbed wire on top was the rolling, swelling bulge in the ground that extended for miles. It looked as if a gigantic serpent were traveling just below the surface, causing the terrain above to swell as it burrowed along.
Below, water flowed from the reservoir in the west to the towns and cities in the east. The water's path cut right across the state, penetrating dense woods of pine trees, like the ones right behind his house.
To twelve-year-old Joey Fredette, the lure of the aqueduct was irresistible. Only now, with every running step, he regretted ever setting foot anywhere near it. If he ran any farther he would puke. Sweat poured out of him, soaking his clothes and chilling his body as it mixed with the crisp cold air. Soon it would be dark and even colder. His face was dirty and bloody. The sleeves of his jacket were ripped. He had no idea where to go and dared not look back because he knew what he had left a mile behind, near the pumping station.
He meant the younger boy no harm. It could not have happened. But one look at his bloodstained hands convinced him. "I'd ne ... never do that," he cried out loud. "I'm not supposed to play with Robbie. I didn't do it."
He could hear Robbie Daigle's mom screaming at her son. "Stay away from that creep. You hear me! Keep away from him!"
His own mother too, in her thin little voice: "Now, Joey. You know Robbie's mom doesn't want you hanging around him. For God's sakes, Joey. You're twelve years old. Stick to kids your own age!"
"But, Ma," Joey stuttered. "They hate m ... me! They all hate me." It was true. Couldn't she see that? Being the new kid. Knowing nobody liked him. Knowing he would be chosen last, if at all. Stuck with a drunk for a father who used him for a punching bag. All Joey had was Robbie Daigle.
"Ignore the other kids," his mother had told him. "They'll come around."
"No. They wo ... won't," Joey tried to tell her. "Robbie's different," he wanted to say. "He listens to me."
"He's only seven," she said. "Stay away from him."
But Joey had not listened. The bulge created by the aqueduct was fenced in on both sides with barbed wire on top. Several weeks earlier, he had dug under a section of the fence just large enough to crawl through and covered it with pine needles. Even to the experienced eye, the small depression was unnoticeable.
A few days before Joey had found a dead rabbit. Though it was still warm to the touch, he could tell it was dead. The other kids told stories about Joey catching small animals and hurting them, but they were lies. He loved animals. Unable to leave it there, he had picked up the limp rabbit, cradled it in his arms, and taken it deeper into the woods. Using a piece of a broken branch for a shovel, he cleared a small patch of ground under the pine needles and scraped out a small hole. He laid the rabbit in the makeshift grave, gently placed a layer of pine needles over it, and carefully replaced the dirt. He marked the spot with a large rock and, being a good Catholic boy, finished by saying a Hail Mary over the grave. Though he did not understand what the words meant, it was his favorite prayer.
"When things get hard," his mother had always told him, "the Blessed Mother will make things work out." But no Hail Mary would help him today. To talk Robbie into coming along, he had told him he would show him the rabbit's grave. But when they got to it, Robbie insisted that Joey dig it up.
"I wanna see it," Robbie said. "You promised."
"I'm not go ... gonna dig him up," Joey said, getting angry. "It ain't right. It's late. We better get home." But the whining little brat was not listening.
Robbie's voice rose to a maddening whine. "But you promised."
"We gotta get home."
"I'll bet you killed it. That's why you won't show me. Just like they say."
Joey was getting nervous. What if Robbie started yapping as soon as he got back? The other kids would believe him too. "See," they would say. "It's all true."
"I'll tell," Robbie said.
Joey was scared now. How do I keep him from telling? The only thing that came to mind was to show Robbie the knife. It was worth a try. He reached into his left pocket and took it out. He opened it up and held it out so Robbie could look it over.
But Robbie wanted to play with it. When Joey refused, Robbie grabbed for it. They grappled. Joey's left hand gripping Robbie's right. Robbie clung furiously to Joey's arm. In a frantic attempt to shake him off, Joey lashed out as hard as he could.
The edge of the blade caught Robbie's right wrist. Blood spurted out. Robbie's shouts turned into screams. Things happened so fast. Joey needed to think, but how could he think with Robbie screaming like that? Was Robbie crying too? Were those tears? Crying like a baby and screeching at the same time! Screaming, crying! He had to get home, but Robbie would not shut up. Joey had to shut him up.
Robbie would not shut up.
St. Louis, Missouri
Will MacFarlane had been studying all day, taking only an hour off that morning to attend early Mass and occasional breaks since for smokes and black coffee. He was putting the finishing touches on a philosophy paper due the following morning.
In most medical schools, philosophy was not part of the curriculum, but Saint Louis University, or "SLU" as students referred to it, was firmly rooted in the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person. If Will were masochistic enough to take a course in Catholic philosophy, no one was going to discourage him.
The material held a special allure for Will, enhanced by the mystery and sensuality of Catholicism itself. The palm frond he was holding, for instance. He had received it at Mass on Palm Sunday the week before and was constantly touching it since then.
The palm helped comfort him now that he was alone. He had broken with his parents two years earlier. The tired platitudes he heard over and over from them no longer worked for him. His father believed that force of will alone could fend off evil. To Will, that attitude was wanting. But that was only part of what bothered him. He was smart, personable, and easy to talk to, so why was he so damned uncomfortable with himself?
The moment he realized he might never get a satisfactory answer was when he first caught the scent ... just a hint on the morning breeze. It piqued his curiosity and took his mind off himself. Determined to find out what it was and where it came from, he backtracked a few steps and turned to look back. Nothing.
Just as he thought he had lost it, he caught it again. Across the street a block ahead of him, he saw a weathered stucco structure. Was it coming from in there? How long had he been walking without noticing anything around him?
As soon as he heard the bell ring, he recognized what it was. Incense. He headed in the direction of the little church with the cross on top. There was something about it. Looking at it was like touching it.
A semester later, he was baptized a Catholic.
In the months that followed, he and Catholicism enjoyed a magical romance. Its ritual and mysticism fascinated him, although he had misgivings about what he perceived to be its hostility towards certain aspects of sexuality. He had struggled over those misgivings the previous week, contemplating his paper, managing until the previous Friday to avoid writing a single word. Now, after wrestling with St. Augustine all day, he was nearly done.
As a medical student, he was used to dealing with man's physical nature. What bothered him was St. Augustine's war within himself. To Will, the saint's intellect and physical nature, much like Will's own, were in terrible conflict.
His instructor, a dour young man, had not alluded to this in his lectures so Will resolved to discuss it in his paper. While his instructor had portrayed the saint as an inspiring example of using one's life to get closer to God, Will had been struck by how Augustine had abandoned the woman who loved him and their son, a child he adored. There was a cruelty to such behavior that Will found hard to accept.
"There is nothing," Will had written, quoting Augustine, "which degrades the manly spirit more than the attractiveness of females and contact with their bodies." Unshowered and unshaven, lying on his unmade bed, still fiddling with the palm, Will simply could not accept that attitude and had written of his displeasure.
Always honest with himself, he understood that the same contradictions that had tortured Augustine existed within him, but in a very different way. Sex had obviously been a problem for Augustine and it was a problem for Will as well.
It was the time of night, however, when answers got harder to come by. The paper would have to go as it was. Restless, Will reached for his cigarettes only to realize his next would be his last. He got up and jammed his bare feet into his laced up sneakers. On the way out, he grabbed his jacket and donned his red St. Louis Cardinals cap.
The student union was always open. He passed by several lounges filled with study tables, easy chairs and sofas, where some students were still at work. When he got to the vending machines, he emptied his pocket of coins to select a black coffee and a pack of Camels. The coffee's acrid taste made him wonder why he drank anything that tasted so bad. As the coffee hit the pit of his stomach, he felt another sensation. He had not urinated in hours, so he went down the dingy stairway to the men's room.
He passed through the swinging inner doors and set his coffee down on top of the urinal closest to the sinks. In the mirror, he stared at his unshaven face and unzipped his fly. As he relished the simple pleasure of taking a piss, he thought about tomorrow. With his paper out of the way, he could ease up.
As he zipped up his pants, he heard a squeak from a stall door. Until that moment, he thought he was alone. Thinking nothing of it, he grabbed his coffee and went to the sink to wash his hands. A moment later a student appeared. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him. Will nodded as he tossed a paper towel into the trash. Their eyes met for an instant, but there was something more. Perhaps it was that split second the student held his gaze or the bat of an eye that Will looked back. As Will swung open the door to leave, the student was washing his hands. As the door swung behind him, the stall door squeaked again.
Upstairs in the nearest lounge, Will plopped into an easy chair and sipped his coffee. From his seat, he could see the entire lounge and connecting corridor. He was lighting a cigarette when the student from the men's room appeared in the lounge entry. He looked in, made eye contact with Will for an instant, then left.
Excerpted from Ordinary Evil by Gene Ferraro. Copyright © 2014 Eugene Ferraro. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gene Ferraro delivers a riveting thriller in his debut novel, Ordinary Evil. Father Bertrand Dascomb is a Catholic priest. He has a secret...a very dark secret. His judgment day is between him and his Lord. God knows what Father Dascomb has done. Others have their suspicions what the good Father has done as well. Joey Fredette knows. What Joey couldn’t know was what his destiny would be the day he turned to Father Dascomb for solace. Joey was bullied at school and his home life was less than desirable. He loved his mother, but his father was awful—six beers under his belt most mornings before 6 a.m. and a free-swinging right hook that could take Joey down in seconds. Maybe that’s what pushed Joey over the edge—made him stab young Robbie repeatedly to the tune of 27 times. Lucky for Joey he had a good attorney who convinced the Catholic judge to remand him to the state sanitarium versus try him as an adult where he would most likely rot in prison. Fortunate for Joey, Father Bertrand Dascomb would be on the receiving end when Joey was ‘reformed’ and reintroduced to society. Ronnie loved her boy Kevin. The good Lord blessed her with four beautiful children, but Kevin was the only son. Kevin loved baseball. His goal was to work hard and save every cent to buy his coveted Louisville Slugger bat. Truly it was a sign sent from Heaven when Kevin became an altar boy in Father Dascomb’s parish. How is it the stars aligned perfectly so very often for the good Father with the constant delivery of these magnificent boys? How are Father Dascomb and Joey Fredette connected to Kevin's death? Detective Teddy Sparta may not have all the answers, but he is closing in. He may die before he sets the truth free, but he will meet his maker knowing he did everything in his power to let it be known. I give Gene Ferraro major props for selecting such controversial subject matter for his compelling debut thriller. In the 90’s and into the millennium there were many instances reported of the questionable practices between the man of cloth (specifically Catholic clergymen) and the predatory connection between them and their affinity for innocent young boys. Mr. Ferraro has managed to deliver a fascinating read as much as a bone-chilling work of fiction that is quite credible. Ferraro takes the reader on a journey that transcends from suburban communities in pristine New England and ties the tragic occurrences back to where it all began so-to-speak: the Vatican. While Ferraro is quite insistent this is a work of fiction, there are many opportunities across the pages of Ordinary Evil where this story alludes to the thought: Holy cow! This stuff does happen! I applaud Mr. Ferraro for his bravery to tackle this subject and his ability to do so with dignity and grace in both his dialogue and prose. This had to have been a challenging book to write. Ferraro deserves praise for his delivery and courage to do so. I am a fan Mr. Ferraro and look forward to your next book. Quill says: Ordinary Evil is a compelling body of work that will linger in your memory long after the last page has been consumed.
The book is a thriller. Couldn't stop reading it!!!
Excellent book. Lots of characters but they all come together. A definite good read
At first it's like a box of puzzle pieces and you don't know how all the characters are going to fit to make the story complete. But as you get into the book you are drawn further and further into their stories.. I hope this comes out as a movie, it would make a great thriller. Hope to read more of Mr. Ferraro's writing in the future.