BY: SHAWN ROHRBACH
John Riley, installed as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle to bring order and discipline to the Church there, is murdered while saying mass in the cathedral in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, there as a guest of the powerful and ultra conservative Opus Dei. The United States Gov-ernment blames the drug cartels. The Mexican Govern-ment claims it’s a US set up to blame the Mexicans. And the Vatican, inspired by the convictions of a very wealthy and influential member of Opus Dei, Harold Brown, is certain it’s the work of a radical, leftist LGBT element within the Catholic Church.
Grady Marcs, former army ranger and entrepreneur-turned-cyber-crime-specialist, is retained by Brown to find out who really killed the archbishop. Grady travels to Mexico where he uncovers more than he bargains for—putting his own life at risk.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Double Cross by Shawn Rohrbach, we are reunited with Grady Marcs, cyber-crimes investigator. This time Grady is trying to figure out who killed the archbishop of Seattle. A suspicious email with the threat of another murder was sent from a priest’s computer, but Grady thinks it’s a set up. If the priest is innocent, then who sent the email, and who killed the archbishop? Another priest? A terrorist? Or could it have been the Russian Mafia?
Like Rorhbach’s first book, this one is a first-rate mystery that will have you turning pages from beginning to end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Double Cross by Shawn Rorhbach is the second in his Grady Marcs cyber-crimes mysteries. This time Grady is hired to find out who killed the newly appointed archbishop of Seattle while he was a guest speaker in a church in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Heading the list of suspects is a disgruntled priest who allegedly sent a threatening email. But the priest denies it, and Grady believes him, figuring he’s been framed. The evidence also points to the LGBT community in Seattle, but Grady doesn’t buy that either. Someone clever is working behind the scenes to throw off the investigation.
Double Cross is a fast-paced, tension-filled thriller, that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.
They never really fired a bishop from his job. He was normally convinced to retire, and they installed new blood, someone more to the liking of the current pope and his cardinals.
Harry Boyle went down fighting.
The United States Catholic Conference had negotiated with him on behalf of the Vatican, but to no avail. Cardinal Daniel Day of Los Angeles was summoned to Rome when polite didn’t work. He was sent with the mandate to convince Boyle, in order to avoid an ugly public fight. The Italian cardinals underestimated the stubbornness of Bishop Harry Boyle, no matter how politically left his beliefs.
Harry learned of the meeting and was ready when they called, determined not to budge. The evidence that was delivered to the Newark police, implicating his vicar general in a teenage male prostitution ring, was so bogus that Boyle’s cousin in the New Jersey State Police laughed when he saw it. Bishop Boyle became furious and more determined than ever. He knew this was all predicated on his position on married priests, ordaining women, and extending to homosexuals the same welcome given to any other Catholic. He was not going to be forced out of anything for believing in the inclusiveness and forgiveness of the Gospels.
Assistant Bishop John Riley called Bishop Boyle and said that meeting Cardinal Day at the Newark Hilton was simply a preliminary fact-finding mission, prior to a direct conference with the holy father, something the pope had expressly wanted to avoid. It was Day’s job to convince Harry to leave without forcing the church to take public measures. Day was ready.
So was Boyle. He brought with him a file containing numerous letters of support from noted theologians the world over. He would sacrifice himself for the truth he believed in so passionately. It was time the dinosaur entered the twenty first century. By the time they arrived in Rome, Boyle would have convinced a few Vatican insiders as well. He grinned through gritted teeth as Assistant Bishop John Riley escorted him to Cardinal Day’s suite. They rode politely and fraternally up the elevator.
Assistant Bishop Riley was effervescent in his politeness. His graying hair and broad grin took away some of the nervous edge, and Bishop Boyle was happy to be among at least polite company. With a light knock at the living room door, Riley nodded to Boyle. Good Luck, maybe? Harry smiled back as the heavy door swung open.
Harry was taller than Cardinal Day, but something about him deflected attention away. Some called him gaunt, others said he was just too focused to take care of himself properly, but no matter, he always look rumpled and tired. He glanced across the room, expecting to see Cardinal Day seated regally in his crimson cassock, but instead his own mother sat alone, waving at him, with a wide grin on her face.
Boyle stood, wanting to hug his mother and slam his fist in Day’s face.
“Son, I’m so glad you are okay. I was so worried at what they said you have been through. Come to Seattle and rest. God forgives, but only if you ask for it and make amends. Son.” Her voice was shaken, her face white and her hands shook.
“What are you talking about?”
Cardinal Day entered the room with fast, precise movements. Riley followed and moved across toward Harry. Harry looked Day squarely in the eyes. Quiet, to Day’s face, he seethed, “Day, you stinking bastard. What did you tell her?”
“Enough.” Cardinal Day did not smile. He was worried about the rage in Boyle’s eyes, not a simple case of Irish temper.
“Son, it’s okay. I understand. Come back to Seattle with me. Cardinal Day was so kind to purchase a ticket for you.” She struggled to stand. Boyle was staring at Cardinal Day.
Riley helped the feeble old woman to her feet.
Harry dropped his folder, spilling the letters, and leaped toward his mother. “You keep your hands off of her.”
The February sun in Puerto Vallarta danced with the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The streets and walkways were full of American, German, French, and even a few Mexican tourists. The fabled cast iron dome, and the awkward phases of construction of the cathedral, informed these visitors of the power and architectural whims of the long succession of archbishops, who had occupied the Episcopal Chair of Puerto Vallarta, each one putting his own stamp on the shape, function, and style of the cathedral.
Ignacio cared less about a visiting archbishop than he did missing two days of his summer vacation. Their trip to the ocean was delayed because the archbishop was saying mass in La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe and he and his brother were in rotation to serve. They called twelve other altar boys and if they are home, they scoffed at the idea of serving mass in the middle of a summer day.
The four altar boys listed to serve were told to meet at La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the official name of the cathedral, at eleven in the morning for a two o’clock mass. They moaned that they had served so many masses this was nothing special. And he was just an archbishop. Ignacio had served mass for the pope. They decided to arrive at one.
The master of ceremonies was frantic when he rushed out into the plaza looking for them, finding them playing soccer around frenzied tourists. Ignacio bounced the ball off the head of a fat German who picked it up and kicked it into a crowd of tourists sipping coffee. The boys laughed as they retrieved the ball, leaving the German to explain himself to the offended American tourists and an amused policeman.
Ignacio and Javier ran into the cathedral, down the side aisle, and into the vestibule. They stopped and stared at the tall, white haired archbishop. He was not Mexican–that, they surmised instantly. He greeted them with a broad, load hello. American. A thin, nervous priest was practically running from one end of the vestibule to the other, whining out commands in English. The boys laughed. They didn’t understand a word and the commands were not obeyed.
Several old men in nice suits were milling around the vestibule. Two other priests were getting ready to say mass with the archbishop. The archbishop was not at all concerned about the boys or the other priests. He shook the old men’s hands vigorously, laughing loudly and whispering to them heavily. Ignacio didn’t understand anything that was said.
It was Ignacio’s job to light the lower candles and Javier, a year older and six inches taller, lit the candles on the high altar. They genuflected with very little reverence as they came and went from the vestibule. An elderly woman chastised them when they returned. Show more reverence? She was not missing her break, and Ignacio shrugged. He saw the amplifier was already turned on when he opened the small wooden door. Odd. But he was more concerned with getting out of there than he was in reporting on another altar boy for carelessly leaving the amplifier on since the last time the main altar was used.
The archbishop patted each altar boy on the head and spoke in English to the nervous priest. He laughed loud and crude, looking at the boys. The nervous priest laughed, too. Several of the old men smiled politely and stared at the boys. Javier translated in a tight whisper, thankful now for his three years of English. “He says we look like street urchins with our long hair.”
Ignacio was not amused.
The clock approached two. The archbishop clapped his hands twice, a signal the boys didn’t understand. The nervous priest hissed something at them Javier could not translate. The archbishop angrily waved them to lead the procession to the back of the cathedral. They stood with the processional cross, incense, and books, waiting for hand gestures and eye contact to begin. The boys were not nervous. They had been serving mass for eight years, once even for the pope.
They knew what needed to be done better than most new priests did. Ignacio once had to remind an aging priest to get up and read the Gospel. The wait became boring.
A meager choir followed the lead of a staff organist and the procession began. They walked with precise measured steps and arrived at the altar two minutes later, exactly as they were trained. With mechanical precision, the processional cross was set in its proper place. The archbishop’s crozier and miter were reverently carried to the side and set down. Ignacio waited at almost military readiness with the incense burner, handing it to the archbishop exactly where he expected, and followed one-half step behind as the archbishop surrounded the main altar with billows of smoke. Without looking at Ignacio, the archbishop shoved the burner at him, incense filling Ignacio’s eyes and nose. The processional hymn had stopped and the archbishop walked heavily to the chair to sit. Javier was on his right, and Ignacio’s empty chair was on the left. Ignacio carried the incense burner away to burn out and then turned to walk back up the five steps to take his seat.
Ignacio was pushed back down the altar stairs by the explosion. He instinctively wrapped his arms around his head. He was barely aware something terrible had happened. The pain in his ears was more frightening than damaging.
The smoke was thick and then it diminished, the dust settling, and then there was only the muted screams and yells of people escaping. As Ignacio stood, he saw them panic as they pushed each other and trampled sacred objects. They clawed their way toward the two unlocked doors.
The Knights of Columbus, dressed in their ceremonial uniforms complete with sabers, fumbled over the thick wooden pews and held the sabers drawn high into the air. A senior Knight barked out meaningless commands for order and calm.
Ignacio was aware that the other side of the altar was affected very badly. There were broken chairs, large chunks of marble debris and bodies under this and off to the side. Ignacio had never seen death in his fifteen years and did not recognize it. The other acolytes lay in their black cassocks and white surplices, now soaked with red blood.
Ignacio stumbled over to them, brushed debris away, and saw they were not moving. He saw his brother’s blood on his hands, and he could not move. This was death.
© 2016 by Shawn Rohrbach