My father's house shines hard and bright
It stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling, so cold and alone
Shining across this dark highway, where our sins lie unatoned
They all go a little mad sometimes.
In retrospect, Ray's not sure why he should be any different.
It starts ... well, not with Tim's breakdown, it starts long before that, maybe in a swarm of hands and arms and bodies bearing Ray down while klaxons blare through prison halls, maybe in terse words on an official letter stamped with the diocesan seal and sentencing him to Oz in the first place. Maybe it starts the day he walks into a prison infirmary to find Miguel Alvarez framed in a window and haloed by what smoggy sunlight could fall through bars and screens, or the first time Miguel slices himself open - sacrificial lamb, scapegoat - for a God he's convinced he can't reach any other way. Maybe it starts the day they both hold a dying infant in their hands, feel the doomed flutter of a tiny heartbeat under their fingertips.
The aftermath of Tim's breakdown, even the freakout itself - that wasn't the start of anything, really. It was just one more moment in a string of moments when Ray stood in the middle of the prison cafeteria and wondered whether he was looking into his own future and how far.
It's not as if he isn't used to interruption by now - Oz is a prison, for heaven's sake, and Ray's had to deal with any variety of chaos in his years here, even during Mass, simmering resentments and fisticuffs and that one time his fourth month in, when Frankie Moretti dropped acid beforehand and started writhing in the aisle, babbling in what his cellmate insisted was tongues, like Ray wouldn't be able to tell true glossolalia if he heard it, like he wasn't going to expect the same kind of decorum in his services that he would have expected in a sanctified church building.
No, it's not like Tim's performance was his first time at this kind of rodeo - not like it was even the worst thing that could have happened. Ray's guys don't even have a lock on busting out crazy stuff, he's also seen plenty go down at run-of-the-mill Sunday services - Albert Malfey showing up piss drunk and struggling with the ushers in the back of the nave as Father K blessed the Communion wafers, wanting to know if his wife was with Terry Santos the night before, if she was there now, that Whore of Babylon, or the time Theresa Ríos set her banner on fire, standing too close to one of the candles during the Mass before their First Confession when Ray was 8 years old. Although, to be fair, it's rarely on Sunday when something actually goes down, particularly out of nowhere - it's the ones who come to daily Mass for weeks at a time who always seem to lose it on some random Thursday.
Not that McManus particularly surprises Ray, either.
Both ends of the spectrum, he thinks, the Roaming and the Fundamentalist Catholics, always the worst for the crazy stuff - although maybe that's not so strange, when they're the ones who always seem the most discontent, the ones most desperately looking for something, most desperately in need of something, even if they can't figure out what or where to find it.
There are times Ray does miss the quiet solemnity of Mass at the Lateran, the steady weight of centuries of ritual, the calm rolling sounds of the Latin, the warmth of the apse, deep burgundies and blues, bright fields of gold among the stretches of marble, the span of arched stone wings and intricate inlaid patterns beneath his feet. Well, maybe not all of the gilt and scrollwork, he has to admit - when he first made it to Rome, he started attending Masses there because who wouldn't? It would be like going to Paris and not hitting the Louvre - but he always did like San Carlo better. Although come to think of it, that might have had more to do with the Quattro Fontane, the Four Fountains outside at the crossroads, than with anything inside the church itself.
Mass in Oz - that sort of reminds him of the assemblies from Catholic high school, he thinks, standing alone in the cafeteria, looking around at the concrete walls and the wooden stage after it all goes down, after Tim's ... performance, Camptown Races preserved on tape, God help them all ... after the service is over and Ray's cleaned up the physical mess and given the memorial photo to Officer Smith's daughter, thinking of Clayton Hughes as he does it, one more kid, now, whose father is dead in this prison. It's not just the prisoner's kids who deal with that sort of thing, and he spares a thought for DeeDee Whittlesey and Aguilar's two boys, too, because it's not just the dead CO's kids who catch a lot of this stuff, when you get right down to it.
They were right next to the church in elementary school, he remembers, but they had to have First Friday Mass in the gym in high school, and he was there for the time someone from the previous class period overflowed one of the showers and they all ended up scrambling for higher ground during the reading of the Gospel, Father Henry hiking up the skirts of his vestments as he climbed onto the bleachers with everyone else. So yeah, enough stuff has always gone on at Mass that Ray supposes he can deal with it pretty smoothly by now - at least he does when it's one of the inmates, because these guys have problems, and you have to expect some of that to come out, sometimes.
Of course, who doesn't have problems in this place, he wonders, and maybe he should have expected this kind of thing, too. The staff is as fucked up as the inmates are, and Ray's pretty sure he's including himself in that learned and professional and clinical assessment. He remembers walking back into Oz, gauze still stuck stiff to his head with dried blood and the irritation of a butterfly bandage on his cheek, the sting of unhealed cuts, flesh split by knuckles and fingernails, taste of copper on the rare occasions when he tried to smile - lip torn open and him unable to stop poking at the puffiness with his tongue like a kid with an empty tooth socket - and still coughing from the gas. He supposes he might have been considered a morbid child, because he loved reading the lives of the martyrs, he must have checked out that one thick book a dozen times from the school library during his years of junior high, but even given his adolescent fascination with dying for the faith, he'd never been comfortable with the tales of Isaac Jogues and the other Jesuits, the North American martyrs - too close, too real, no soft-focus centuries of myth like those laid over the martyrs of the early Church. No, the North American martyrs were all sweat and spit and misery, sharp edges and torn flesh, mortification for the glory of God, and Ray's got no desire for a hair-shirt. He's not into self-flagellation.
And yet, look at him, standing here in this prison, wondering like a dumbass what precisely made McManus spin out like that, like you could pinpoint a singular cause, identify it and protect yourself against it.
Anyway, he thinks, gathering the last scattering of altar cloth and cross, you have to expect some of it to come out sometimes, and church is maybe where that should happen, the place where you can put it on the shoulders of a Father who's big enough to carry it when you can't handle it by yourself, when you're most in need of something, even if you can't figure out what.
God is not dead. Not like everyone else in this prison. Right?
He catches himself sitting at his desk, later, staring into space, staring at the picture on his wall, the stormy sea breaking against the rock face. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock, he thinks and stands to gather his things for his afternoon rounds: confessions in solitary today and a trip to the infirmary to read the next chapter of Matthew to Carlos Aranda in the AIDS ward, to spend a few quiet minutes at Alvarez's bedside, waiting - again - for him to wake up. He strangles the thin tendril of thought that maybe Miguel will never wake up, this time, that he's finally hit the end of his miraculous nine lives, that he'll never emerge from the half-comatose state he's retreated to in the wake of the stabbing by Giles.
Should have let me die ... the rest of my life in a little fucking room.
It's Miguel's voice in his head, he thinks, frantic and broken and hopeless, and Ray clenches his hand hard around the doorknob, knuckles stretched pale and tight, before he opens the door to slip out of his office.
Mineo shows up on his doorstep a few days later, escorting Tobias Beecher with a roll of his eyes and a message that Murphy sent him. Beecher's excited enough to perch on the edge of his seat, practically jittering, energy like Ray hasn't seen in a while - certainly not since the shootings in Em City, since Chris Keller disappeared to Benchley Memorial. Beecher can barely wait until the door shuts behind Mineo, closing the officer out, closing them into privacy like the confessional, to tell Ray that he's found Hank.
Maybe this time you don't tell him, maybe this time he just … knows, Ray remembers saying, and he's all for Beecher's apparent need for reconciliation, his need to bring this thing with Schillinger to a halt – whatever it is, at this point, whatever hydra it's grown into. Ray would like to see this war of mutually assured destruction between them smothered out … but he didn't realize this was what Beecher had in mind.
He can't help wondering if it's a good idea, really, a feeling that niggles as Beecher admits - confesses - that Hank insisted on being paid off as part of the agreement to visit Oz. Something curdles small and rotten in the pit of Ray's stomach as he thinks of Andrew, of Andrew's relationship with his father, the way he lashed out at the end before he ended it all. This is, maybe, a kind of reconciliation that can't be forced, can't be bought or sold, can't be paid for – no, that's not right, he thinks. It's something that probably needs to be bought dearly, paid for heavily, just not with money. He remembers Andrew's sullen face, the rage vibrating off of him when he came into Oz, alternating with the dull, thousand-yard stare when he managed to score, and Ray can't imagine Henry Schillinger is in any better frame of mind to come visit his father. Presumably, he's stayed away this long for one reason or another.
Maybe he's as fucked up as his brother was – or maybe he's not, and he stays away for his own sanity. But if he was at a place to offer a filial hand to Vern, wouldn't he already be here at the prison, looking to do it?
"Maybe ... maybe he just hasn't had a chance," Beecher says, open palms extended like he can reach out and scoop up Hank Schillinger himself. "Haven't you ever fought with someone and thought you couldn't get past it? Maybe sometimes it takes something - somebody - outside of it all to help you get past it. Maybe sometimes, something needs to push you into it."
Beecher's unshakeable, and Ray knows he's already fought with Keller over this - maybe not this idea, specifically, over bringing Hank to Oz – but they fought about the very concept, about any kind of reconciliation with Schillinger, conflict that flared into words and fists and maybe teeth, who even knows? It was one of those flashfire bursts that seem to characterize their relationship, and Ray wonders if there's any other kind possible, locked inside the walls of Oz, wonders if it's possible to cobble together something truly good in the search for something worth fighting for.
Isn't that what he and Beecher are trying to do here, though - trying to carve a spot in this prison out of something other than misery? Trying to do some good?
Maybe Ray's too cynical, maybe he's been here too long. He knows a lot of the staff see him as hopelessly naïve - soft, even - but then, it's not like he doesn't get that all over, it's not like he hasn't gotten it his whole life, fallout of being small and looking about 10 years younger than his actual age, whatever age that happens to be at the time. No one ever seems to understand, Ray's no fresh meat - he's close on seven years in Oz, almost twice as long as Beecher, and he may not have been through everything Beecher has, but he's been witness to it and worse a dozen times over, hands tied and helpless while the world exploded around him or crumbled slowly, silently, in whispered confessions of rape and abuse and strung-out fear, some of the worst small, everyday terrors that man has to offer his fellow man. Sometimes all he can do is wonder if anything good will ever come out of this prison.
Pax homínibus bonae voluntátis, he tells himself - And on earth, peace to people of goodwill - and sets aside his careful counsel of caution.
He knows Beecher went to the Hole over this, in going toe-to-toe with Keller, so Ray's not sure what hope he has of convincing him otherwise, anyway. And maybe, just maybe, even if there's no actual reconciliation, there can at least be some peace - for values of peace that at least equal a cessation of hostilities. Who knows what could grow, once those seeds are planted?
Ray's not even entirely sure whether he's thinking of the relationship between Beecher and Schillinger or between Schillinger and his son - the live one, the ghost of the dead one.
Sacrificial lamb, an unquiet voice still whispers in the back of his head, though, scapegoat, and something's still heavy in the bottom of his stomach when he goes to meet Hank, the day he finally shows up.
The kid's no great shakes, Ray thinks, appraising him with an eye honed by years of intake interviews, but he's not necessarily worse than some of the other guys Ray's seen come through Oz. He supposes it's sad when the best you can say is that a kid doesn't look any worse than the run-of-the-mill prisoner, but Hank's cleaner and vaguely more well taken care of than Andrew managed to look, and Ray wonders who's responsible for that. He wouldn't pass a drug test, heavy-lidded and slow, laid back but vaguely twitchy, probably smoked or huffed something before he showed up at the prison - a little chemical cushion before he got on the bus for the trip to see his father, probably unconscious, doesn't even realize what he did or why, Ray thinks, still studying him critically. Ray wonders how he's supporting himself, decides it's probably a good thing he doesn't know.
He watches Hank survey the visitor's room and does manage to squash the urge to tell him not to take anything. What's not bolted down, anyway, right?
Bad idea, bad idea, Ray can't quite quiet the mantra in his head, still disconcerted even once he's got Hank situated in the visitor's room and heads off to collect Schillinger from Unit B. He tries to convince himself the unease is really eagerness for this reunion, but he can't help wondering what this prodigal son's returning to and if he's really any better off back in his father's embrace.
Ray never expected Vern Schillinger to be the true revelation of his day. Then again, he tells himself - only a bit wryly - Vernon Schillinger and the Spanish Inquisition may have some of their worse aspects in common.
Stop it, he follows up the thought quickly. Don't be like that.
He has to admit, at least to himself, that it's unsettling, though. At first, Schillinger's poleaxed - no one wanted to warn him about this, no one thought it was a good idea to get his hopes up, not when there was no guarantee Hank would follow through and show up - and then he's eager as a child promised a treat as they walk to the visitor's room.
"He's really here?" he asks in a tone of voice that says he expects Ray to suddenly point and laugh, to pull the rug out from under him and leave him frustrated and … heartbroken, Ray even dares to think. "My boy really came to see me?"
All his defenses are down, gone, washed away on shifting sand, and it's more than a little shocking how blind he is to Hank's hesitations and stumblings, the kid's lack of true eagerness - but then, he wouldn't want to see anything like that, would he? What parent would? Ray tries to articulate this to Beecher later, after the meeting, has to fall back on wonderment and simple words, relaying how much the guy truly seemed to love the kid. Maybe he should feel bad about how surprised he is, shocked that Schillinger would care that much about anything outside of himself – he did come to prison for trying to protect his children, after all, in whatever limited ways he understood how.
Nobody ever wants to be a bad parent, Ray, he remembers Pete telling him, years ago, as he watched a couple of inmates fumble through a family visit in the children's room, blocks and crayons dangling helplessly from hands that had wielded guns and knives without hesitation, men who refused to pick up their children because they were honestly afraid they might hurt them. It's just that a lot of people don't know how to be good ones.
Ray's on his way out the door of the pod when Beecher asks him the question.
"Father …" he hesitates long enough that Ray tilts his head in encouragement. "Have you ever loved someone too much?"
Beecher babbles, then, in the face of his own apparent temerity, stumbling over his words, apologetic as people almost always are when sex comes up with Ray - apologetic or confrontational, one or the other - like they think he's sexless, not just celibate, a blushing virgin. Which, OK, he pretty much is … but he's still human. He supposes it's good, sometimes, that they forget that, it can give him an additional, supernatural authority when he needs it.
Too often, it's a double-edged sword. People think he can't understand those all-too-human feelings - but Ray himself is all too human. Not only can he understand, but the whole thing gets lonely sometimes, up on that pedestal - lonely and tiring - people thinking he doesn't hurt and ache and want and love, just like anyone else.
Maybe that's part of the reason he barely hesitates to answer, or maybe he wants to acknowledge his own failings. Maybe he looks at someone else's longing and wants to make a connection to something so sweetly human.
And so he answers, like a confession freely given, because yes, he's loved too much - and more than once. Himself, maybe, at one point, and that's part of how he ended up in Oz in the first place. Davide in Rome, dark hair and dark eyes, Latin rolling off his tongue as easily as Italian, and Ray remembers the relief he felt when Davide left the seminary, when things went back to normal, when two-thirds of every day wasn't some kind of temptation. Miguel, in some way, all bright fire and midnight despair, blood and sharp edges, and maybe that's why he had to put some distance between them, because he wasn't doing either of them any good, watching Miguel spiral down.
And so he answers, like a confession freely given, because yes, he's loved too much. He wore his devotion to Miguel like an invisible scapular, and he can still feel the weight of it sometimes, on his shoulders, over his heart.
He remembers again, on a Saturday morning, first of the month and Father K - Thomas - already out the door, on his way over to Our Lady of Fatima with his small brown scapular over his shirt instead of tucked inside, headed to help out at their sister parish with First Saturday Devotions.
Devotion, Ray thinks standing in the doorway of the small house that serves as St. Margaret's rectory, caught blinking in the early morning sun, stiff collar clutched between two fingers and blueberry Pop-Tart half eaten, on his own way out when he's confronted by the delivery man with the flowers for the next day's Mass. Devotion, a gift, to God, he thinks, absently. He can hear the drone of Father Rossi back in theology class: adoration, veneration, dedication to service through prayer or pious act, making it sound dry and boring, making it sound like a chore.
He has to put down the Pop-Tart on the small table where they all keep their keys so he can sign for the flowers. Father T - Lou - is shut up in his office working on a sermon, and Thomas gives a cheerful wave as he pulls out of the driveway, headed for OLF, something that's happening more often, now, as resources get cut back, as the two parishes come closer and closer to merging, sharing office staff and turning to each other to stretch volunteers to the breaking point, holding services jointly whenever they can. Every other week, Lou mourns the loss of the church ladies, a generation of women who worked inside the home instead of out, and he's less concerned about the state of their household linens or their teenagers' souls than about losing the human engine that kept the parish running, the hundreds of woman-hours they were able to provide, paperwork filed and people fed and families not even their own taken care of in the face of hospital stays and lost jobs.
It won't be long before they're losing manpower, either, Ray would lay money on it. They've got more than their fair share of priests in this area - not more than they need, but more than the Church can spare, with so many other parishes going begging, and Ray himself a blank space when it comes to ministry at St. Margaret's or over at OLF, too much time cloistered inside his prison walls and nothing left to spare, to give during the short periods when he's able to escape. Cardinal Abgott and the bishop are going to have Lou pried out of their fingers one of these days, soon, no matter how successful they've been so far at hanging on to him, Ray thinks, as he tosses up a hand in salute at the delivery guy before shifting his car into reverse. No, Lou's going to end up somewhere out in Wisconsin or Minnesota pretty soon, running a parish by himself, and they'll all get spread a little thinner here. Maybe they'll move one of the guys from OLF over to St. Margaret's, or maybe they'll just go all the way and merge the two parishes, something that's certainly been mentioned in low murmurs and whispers, even if no one wants to say it too loud. The diocese is looking to cut costs, in the wake of the lawsuit payout, post-Sippel, Ray knows, although it was only a million dollars, and he can't help wondering what he doesn't know, yet, what might be coming down the pike.
He doesn't remember his half-eaten Pop-Tart until he walks into the door of Oz, and he's going to be sorry for that, with three-plus hours of confessions coming up. He ransacks the bottom drawer of his desk, but the box he keeps there is empty - and he knew that, it's why he was eating the last package in the cupboard back at the rectory in the first place. He spares a mournful thought for the lost taste of delicious faux-berries and crunchy frosting as he sets up his two lonely chairs in the middle of the cafeteria to the last banging of the kitchen crew cleaning up breakfast. Father K's probably setting up for confession now, too, tag-teaming with Father Ficaya - the Thomases, congregants from both parishes have taken to calling them, Tomascz and Tomas.
It's a big family day over at OLF, just like Saturday in Oz, only nothing like Saturday in Oz, family visits or not.
They'll all three have a full morning of confessions, the Thomases and Ray, but their confessions will be full of kids who've gotten to second base on Friday night or shoplifted a CD at the mall, guys who've looked on their co-workers with disguised lust during a water cooler break at the office. Meanwhile, Ray's got Marty Ward's hopeless longing for Officer Mabrey, Jack Ellis and his constant quest to put anything he can up his nose, in his veins, endlessly inventive, and the punishment he inflicts on himself when he manages it, mortification of the flesh. There's a couple of fresh fish with their characteristic hunted look and tight lips, and Kaminski's furtive whispers about the dreams he has, every night, the dreams where the two women he strangled come back for him, pick away at his eyes, open the veins in his wrists with the same fingers that scrabbled helplessly against him when he held them down and smothered the life out of them. Conservas from Unit C confesses to bartering his ass - literally - to broker a deal on tits and then reneging, and Ray's not entirely sure if he's confessing to using sex for payment or to going back on his word.
It's a typical Saturday, really, all of his regulars, all the admissions and non-admissions of graft and extortion and sex and despair, the general misery of the human condition distorted and magnified by the funhouse mirror of Oz, and Ray ends up spending something like four hours on the hard metal chair, all told. His guys, they're serious about their confessional time - or at least, they're serious about taking their confessional time. He supposes it gives even the most blasé and dilettante of them something to do, gets them out of work on Friday or boredom on Saturday, part of all their routines just like count.
... spend the rest of my life in a little room …
Cyril O'Reily offers up his weekly confession of frustration and bad words, the small selfishness of a child, stealing extra cookies during dinner prep in the kitchen, and Ray sends him on his way, helpless, with ten Hail Marys, before Ryan takes his turn. At OLF, they'll be through the offerings of flowers, by now, Ray knows, into 11 o'clock Mass, and it's like this every first Saturday, a constant awareness in the back of his mind, some kind of spiritual energy pulling at him or maybe just a longing for air.
He manages to break for a solitary Sext, liturgia horarum, and a recitation of the Angelus in the haven of his office - Be it done unto me according to Thy word, and if he ever had a problem with humility, Oz has surely solved that. He abandons the cafeteria to the kitchen crew banging through prep for the afternoon meal, to heat up his Cup'O'Noodle in the staff break room, where D'Agnasti's talking soccer to Aguilar, who's ignoring him in favor of the Times. Ray steals the entertainment section from her with a hangdog grin so he can lose himself for a few minutes, focusing on the day's acrostic before he spends his afternoon in protective custody, coming to light finally in the infirmary as sunset burns bloody through the windows. He takes time to hear a couple of confessions from the nurses, Silvera and Lawal, coming on duty early, in the short stretch of time before late clinic hours, then stands in the doorway of Prestopnik's office, later, and watches them move through the aisles of the infirmary, thinking about the cleanup that must be going on at OLF after the kids' rec activities.
It's not like a vocation as a parish priest was what Ray ever really envisioned for himself - he wouldn't have been working in Abgott's office, if that had been his goal. But this was never what he had in mind, either.
His Excellency decided to punish me by sending me to Oz, to extinguish my career.
Devotion, he reminds himself. A gift to God, dedication to service, adoration, veneration, and if he ever had a problem with humility, surely Oz has taken care of it. Right?
Before he leaves to prepare for the next day's Mass - Laetare Sunday, he thinks, be joyful, Jerusalem, and halfway home through the solemn days of Lent - he goes to sit beside Miguel's bedside.
Alvarez finally wakes up on a Tuesday. It means Ray doesn't even see him before he disappears; he learns about the escape on the radio during his drive in on Wednesday morning, and what the hell?
He swerves off the road and into the parking lot of a strip mall, slamming on the brakes of the Tercel, blinking blankly at the electronics store and copy shop and a Dollar Tree not even open yet. Nobody even called to let him know what was going on? He twists the radio dial, searching for more information, because his early-morning news show is already on to another one of the governor's cost-cutting measures, reduced library hours and two bus lines cut by half, and surely he just dreamed that, right? Surely someone would have called him at the rectory to tell him if two prisoners escaped, if Alvarez went down the rabbit hole ... but then again, why would they? Ray's there to minister to the guys in prison, which he supposes means the guys who are actually in the prison, not the ones who've apparently pulled a runner and disappeared into thin air in the middle of the night.
He has to find a convenience store after that, still half-convinced he imagined the news report, has to buy a fresh pack of cigarettes - should have done it on the way back to the rectory from Oz on Sunday night, but he had three in the pack and he tries not to smoke much at the rectory, Thomas always disapproving and Lou still trying to quit after a scare eight months ago, a dark mass on his lung that turned out to be benign. It's just a good thing Ray didn't give up cigarettes for Lent, he thinks, handing over his money, and he stares morosely at the 40s in the beer case as he waits for his change, wondering if he should buy one of those, too, if this is any indication of how his week is going to go. Maybe it's a good thing alcohol sales aren't legal before 8 a.m.
He gets the good goss from Murphy once he makes it to Oz, over coffee in the break room, Ray picking half-moon slivers out of the rim of his styrofoam cup and collecting them in a pile on the counter as he listens to details of the SORT team and the dogs and the empty hole in the floor of the infirmary closet.
"Busmalis," Murphy says, shaking his head, a world of exasperation and incredulity and maybe just a little bit of admiration in the tone of the single word, and Ray wonders how long Busmalis must have spent tunneling, burrowing, and how long Alvarez had known, how long he could possibly have known, and how much pure impulse had been behind his escape, a thought and a jump, slipping his restraints and gone, jack-rabbiting down the hole.
Ray formally carves out time each Friday and Saturday for any staff confessions, right along with the inmates - he hadn't been in Oz a year before he began to understand they were his congregation, too, damaged by their experiences here in ways their outside pastors and ministers wouldn't, couldn't quite understand - but Murphy doesn't even wait for that to admit a small voice in the back of his head had thought "good riddance" when they uncovered the pillows stacked on Alvarez's hospital bed, hiding his disappearance.
"What?" he asks, spreading his hands when Ray gives him a reproachful look. "I can assure you, Padre - it was a very tiny thought, compared the realization of what a pain in my ass the guy was going to be. Again."
The song-and-dance Leo and Devlin do for the press is full of the habitual and expected bullshit and hot air, claiming they're closing in on their escapees; they describe Alvarez as having a "history of violence," and well, that one's fair, Ray supposes. He's probably naïve to think of Alvarez any other way. It's just that Miguel's always so desperate at the time, whenever it happens, whenever he breaks, that it's hard to think of it as violence, exactly. It's more like collateral damage, the end result of getting in the way as he beats himself against the inside of his cage, the inevitable outcome of trying to put your body between him and the bars.
Maybe Ray should learn - should have learned - to stay out of the way, and he thought he was taking the first steps toward that, staying out of the victim interactions with the Riveras, taking Pete's word. But he remembers stepping in front of a CO's baton wielded by Leo Glynn, shielding Alvarez with his own body, thoughtlessly, instinctively, and it was only later that he felt any reaction, shaking on his knees in his office, every muscle strained and aching from the rush of adrenaline, a prayer on his lips, not for the first time, and it probably wouldn't be the last, in Oz. He can remember the reverence shown for Maximilian Kolbe in his days at the Gregorian, the wound of Óscar Romero's death still fresh enough to be raw and aching for many of his teachers, but for all the reading he'd ever done, it wasn't until he came to Oz that he really understood, with his body - in his blood and his bones, not just with mind or even heart - that instinctive drive to martyrdom, not in pursuit of faith or grace or dry doctrine, but simply to save another. It was like waking up, and Ray's not sure he would - not sure he should - go back to sleep.
Moot point now, he tells himself - at least as far as Alvarez is concerned. Ray's not sure whether to wish him good luck or not, not sure what kind of prayers to send up for him, other than for continued safety, no matter what happens, so he prays for Miguel's safety and leaves the rest up to God. He supposes he still trusts God, at this point. He supposes it's too late to stop now, after the riot and the takedown and the aftermath. What's the point of faith if you renege on it when it gets hard?
The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen ... he tells himself and gets on his knees, again.
"I can't believe he didn't even tell me!" Rebadow confides one day, hooked up for dialysis, as Ray passes through the infirmary, pique written in every line of his hangdog face.
I know, Ray wants to say, heartfelt. I feel you. But he'd never allow himself to actually say that out loud, feels ridiculous even thinking it. Why would Alvarez tell the "hack in black" something like that?
He wonders in his down moments if that's all he ever really was to Miguel, and if he ever had a problem with humility, Oz has surely taken care of that.
He tries to convince himself that he's set aside whatever was going on between them - that he was right, before New Year's, when he told Pete that maybe nothing he does would make a difference, when it came to Alvarez.
Hank's made his third visit to Oz and the novelty is wearing off when Beecher takes the chance to ask Ray if he's got any news about Keller like Ray's going to know. He dances around the topic before he'll finally spit it out, gun-shy, but then, Ray supposes the COs are probably sick of hearing about it.
Beecher's antsy like he's jonesing for a fix, and Ray studies him through narrowed eyes for a minute, searching for other telltale signs, but no, he's just got the same problem as too many guys in this prison - too much time and not enough constructive to do, too distracted or undisciplined for the kind of focused concentration that makes good use of so much self-contemplation. Meditation, maybe, Ray thinks, making a mental note to mention it, although probably not in an open staff meeting - he can imagine the reaction he'd get from Claire Howell or Len Lopresti, maybe even from Leo. He's a bit surprised McManus hasn't ever come up with the idea - maybe it's too New Age even for him, despite its ancient roots, or maybe it's not butch enough for guys already considered too touchy-feely - no, boxing is the way to go, apparently, and he makes a face at the thought.
"What," Beecher says in response, defensive, not even much of a question to his tone, like he knows what Ray's thinking - like he thinks he knows what Ray's thinking - and Ray offers a smile and a shake of his head. He remembers waiting for Alvarez to wake up any number of times – tied down and stitched up after he'd sliced himself open (They think I'm a bug); bruises around his throat, under his eyes, after he'd half-strangled the life out of himself, life pulled up short with a jerk (You should have let me die); sunk deep in the only escape he had, refusing to wake.
Well, he's awake, now, Ray reminds himself – awake and gone, flown, found another kind of escape, cage door miraculously ajar, and Ray's not sure what kind of prayers to send up for him, other than for continued safety, and it's just a new tenor of the same old helplessness running under his skin like adrenaline, nothing to fight, nowhere to run, an echo of all the bedside vigils. At least it gives him some sympathy for Beecher, some connection with that all-too-human response.
"I'll see what I can find out," he promises the other man.
He runs into Murphy in the break room, stands blinking in the doorway for a minute at the unexpected synchronicity.
"I just came from your unit," Ray says, and Murphy gives an inelegant snort. He's in street clothes, running Em City until Leo and the rest of them figure out what to do with the place in Tim's absence – that's how Ray keeps thinking of it, an absence, like he's out of school for the day, like he'll be back tomorrow, too inextricably bound up with the very concept of Em City for Ray to be able to separate them, now.
They've got two - three? no, two - more guys scheduled to interview this week, Ray thinks; meanwhile, Murphy's trying to look the part and not being very successful at it. Ray sort of suspects the failure would please him, if it was mentioned it out loud.
"You can have it," he tells Ray. "Fucking paperwork ... hey, sorry, Father. But you know how it is."
Ray only just holds back his own snort as he turns to poke in the cupboard, sure he left something here that can be made edible enough for a late lunch ... there. He turns to lean back against the counter by the microwave as the digital display counts down, folding his arms across his chest and studying Murphy until the other man looks down as he swallows a mouthful, examining the front of his button-down shirt.
"What," he says, no more question in his tone, really, than Beecher. "I got something down my front?"
"I don't suppose you have any idea when Chris Keller is supposed to be back?"
"Missing one of your flock?" Murphy picks up the second half of his sandwich.
"I'm trying to get some information for Tobias Beecher," Ray says, and Murphy waves a hand at him.
"Don't start with me, Ray. That guy's been bugging the ... snot out of me."
"Look," Ray says, "I know it gets tiring, hearing the same things over and over ..." The microwave chirps at him, and he pauses to stir his noodles before setting it for another minute.
"You can't cut me a little bit of slack?" Murphy asks, leaning one elbow on the table. "No tiny bit of sympathy? No benevolence for your fellow man? Just a little bit, seeing how I'm already dealing with these dinks in suits, now?"
"I think that's Leo you're talking about," Ray says, and Murphy grins at him, easy, triggering a flash of memory: shooting the shit with him and Diane Whittlesey, sitting around that same table drinking that same bad coffee.
This is not how he would have expected it all to shake out.
He doesn't ask if Murphy's heard from McManus.
"Are you eating shrimp Ramen?" Murphy asks, as Ray stirs his noodles again, and he curls his lip when Ray looks up from the bowl, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. "That's disgusting. What's wrong with you?"
"It's Friday," Ray says, poking around in the bowl with the tines of his fork. "Also, it's Lent. That's not a bologna sandwich, is it, Officer Murphy?"
"It's Lent?" Sean stuffs half the sandwich in his mouth, muffling his next words as he stabs an index finger in Ray's direction. "Anyway, it's not like there's ...." He breaks off to swallow, three times, before taking a swig of his cold coffee. "It's not like there's anything that's actually meat in there, even in the regular stuff. I bet there's not even anything that's actually food in there."
"Says Mr. Wonderbread Sandwich," Ray says, dropping into the chair across from him.
"I'll tell you, I said I was never eating any more of that wheatgrass crap when I moved here from Attica and started feeding myself again."
"Wheatgrass is smoothies, not sandwiches," Ray responds absently, poking at his noodles again, avoiding the impulse to study - to stare at - Murphy from across the table as he considers the prison gossip about what, exactly - who, exactly - Murphy left behind in western New York when he finally followed McManus' call to Oz.
"What the ... How do you even know what wheatgrass is?"
Ray contemplates indignation before swallowing his mouthful of freeze-dried, reconstituted shrimp.
"My older sister," he says finally. "And my best friend in high school was on the track team. With her. My sister, I mean. On the up side, I never had to fight anyone over the potato chips during training season."
The search for Alvarez widens across the state as Ray prepares for Palm Sunday, Christ entering Jerusalem, humble steed and a road laid with palm fronds and Hosannas and pieces of silver, clearing out the temple, laying ground for his own sacrifice.
Scapegoat, Ray thinks, as he prepares for Mass that morning, laying out his snow-white alb, the blood-red stole, kissing the small cross embroidered on each piece of ceremonial clothing, murmuring the traditional vesting prayers. Sacrificial lamb.
Lamb of God, Agnes Dei, who takes away the sins of the world.
He stacks a few dozen small palm crosses to hand out during Mass - project of one of the younger CCD classes at OLF, under Jeremy's direction, and some of Ray's congregation might actually keep their palms until next year instead of trying to smoke them out of boredom in the intervening months. A handful had them, still, from the previous year, when Ray collected them for use on Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent, and he rubs his fingers like he can still feel ashes gritty between them, remembers foreheads marked feathery and bruised, like finger prints coming up along a jawline, along the arch of a throat, a sign of mortality, of being all too human.
Unto dust, he thinks, and pauses to look up at the red vestments laid out on the back of his chair, blood on the horizon. He hisses and just stops himself from swearing as the sharp edge of one of the palm leaves slices across his palm, thin bloody sting of a slash - from one of the natural edges, not one that's been cut and shaped by childish, snub-nosed scissors - and he reminds himself to take more care. Just because a thing is dead and dry, doesn't mean it doesn't still have its defenses. Sometimes, things are just made that way.
There's still no word from or about Alvarez, he's disappeared into the ether, and Ray wonders - as he lights another candle at the feet of the Virgin and sends up another prayer - if Miguel's gone to ground or if he's flown, turned his back on all this. Got the hell out of Dodge, he thinks to himself. He heard from Murphy in passing that police posted a watch on his mother's home, and Leti Alvarez promptly called 911 three times to report, too innocently, that there were men lurking in the bushes outside her apartment, men in black and white cars. Ray wonders if they thought they had an easy mark and knows they were barking up the wrong tree with that one. Leticia Alvarez has always struck Ray as too fierce and fiercely loyal, still married to Eduardo Alvarez after more than 35 years in prison. Ray wonders if maybe she has heard from Miguel, if he's managed to find a way to contact her, if he's even tried.
Ray - like everyone, anyone, at the prison - has heard nothing, but that's not surprising anymore.
He's left his lighter in his other pair of black pants, folded over the back of his desk chair at the rectory; he has to dig out a box of matches in his office. The pinpoint scent of phosphorus carries a flash of memory, like a spark: Alvarez's half-regretful look and back turned toward him, business as usual, status quo, as Ray went down in a swarm of hands and arms and bodies, just how it is in Oz.
What will you give me if I deliver him to you?
He spends his afternoon in the infirmary, sunlight slanting through the smoky glass of the windows as much as it can, trying to peek through overcast clouds, and Ray tucks his hands in the pockets of his sweatshirt, wraps it around himself as he moves through the rows of beds, offering Communion to a handful of his guys too sick to attend Mass that day. There's a curious kind of quiet lying over the ward like a shroud, a disquiet, an absence in his mental awareness that he tries to shake but can't quite, even though he knows Gloria wouldn't have been in on a Sunday, anyway.
"El Cuerpo de Cristo," he whispers to Aranda, one hand on the crown of his head, blood-warm curve of his skull cupped in Ray's fingers, buzzed-short hair tickling his palm, and the other man turns nearly blind eyes up to him as Ray lays the unleavened wafer against his lips.
His last stop of the day is Chris Keller, finally back in Oz, asking to see Ray, making a point of it, in fact, though for what purpose, Ray's not entirely sure. He can't help his feeling of wariness, an urge to edge up to the bed sideways like skirting a predator, something with sharper teeth and longer claws, alerting some sixth sense developed over years that he has to so carefully balance with charity, hope, love - one that stirs, restless, just under his skin as Keller makes his plea, tries to go through Ray to get to Pete.
What will you give me if I deliver him to you?
Keller claims to have died twice on the operating table, talks about hell, and Ray tilts his head to study him through narrowed eyes, because Chris certainly isn't the first guy he's heard claim to have flames licking at his heels. Too bad Ray's not a fan of repentance based on fear - that's not true repentance, to his mind, and it's one of the things he argued, probably too much, with Abgott, who seemed to have no problem supporting the death penalty in an effort to "encourage" sincere conversion in those facing it down.
No, you've got to work harder than that for Ray: You've got to mean it.
He knows Keller fought with Beecher over the plan to lay down arms with Schillinger, and he has to wonder just how sincere Chris's own effort at reconciliation really is, whether this whole thing is just a desperate attempt to avoid the consequences of trying to poach a Bride of Christ, just one more manipulation, contrite and sloe-eyed and body leaning in close like his center of gravity or maybe sheer will could pull Ray in ...
Shit, Ray thinks, suddenly, back going ramrod straight. Keller's hitting on him. Or maybe he's just playing with Ray - or maybe he's playing Ray, the way he did Pete.
No, he thinks. Not this time. That is not how this is going to go.
He remembers though, later, as he lights a candle before Compline, shut in the dimness of his bedroom at the rectory - remembers the desperation edging just under Keller's voice, the strain in the cant of his hips, artifice revealed, and he thinks about days turned into weeks, turned into months, and his own stubborn stiff-necked hurt after the riot. He didn't even go to see Alvarez afterward, not until he was going to demand something from him - Miguel's forgiveness of Leo - and Ray used his own forgiveness of Alvarez as a bargaining chip for that.
He allowed himself to be put off during the victim-intervention, and if he's going to be honest with himself, lay himself bare, it was a relief, to put that distance between them, to be able to set aside the hurt and the ache, smother it under dry routine - a relief when his days could go back to normal, when two-thirds of every day wasn't filled with bright fire and midnight despair, blood and sharp edges, copper and salt and breath.
Was there a reason Alvarez wouldn't have talked to him after the stabbing, before the escape?
How much of it was a copout - his agreement, his concessions to Pete's demands, the distance he allowed between himself and Alvarez; how much was it abandonment of a duty just because it made his own life easier?
They call him when the kids are kidnapped, a heart-stopping moment standing in the kitchen at the rectory, still in bedhead and sweatpants and bare feet, toes curled on the cold formica floor, because it's Monday, and that's supposed to be the first day of his weekend. He'd spent the day so far arranging space at a halfway house, coordinating a sponsor, cajoling three possible job interviews for Damon White, scheduled for release in a month and a half, nearest family three states away and a fourth-grade reading level, cut loose after eight years for armed robbery in a street-corner stickup for drug money. Ray'd hoped the ringing phone meant the local literacy program had managed to find a tutor willing to work with White, once he was out.
Instead he gets Pete's shaking voice on the other end of the line, and the pit of his stomach hollows out, the hair on the back of his neck prickling instantly, on alert, because Pete – she's pretty unflappable, even by Ray's standards.
Beecher weeps brokenly, hard and painful and ugly under Ray's hands, and Ray tries to hold him upright through the spasms, bent over him in a chair in Leo's office – tries to hold him upright through sheer force of will, by one hand on his shoulder and one hand on his back, another lesson Ray never learned in a classroom, that safe touch, non-sexual and comforting, in the space between his shoulders, nerve-rich and designed for a mother's touch or whatever soothing equivalent was at hand. He thinks he can feel the beat of Beecher's heart through the ribs caging it, through the fragile shaking wings of his shoulder blades, a frantic rabbiting in Ray's palm, echo of the doomed flutter of a smaller heart under his fingertips, and he slams a door on the thought.
No, he thinks. Not this time. These kids will be all right.
It's a prayer, a demand, as much as a reassurance to himself.
"You are fucking this up, asshole," Beecher says, bitterly, angrily, to the federal agent in the library, and Ray can see to one side, out of the corner of his eye, D'Agnasti standing guard in the corner, appalled now, all too human, façade broken – whatever it is he puts on with his uniform that lets him walk through the halls of Oz everyday looking like nothing gets to him. Vic doesn’t have kids of his own, Ray remembers, but he's practically a second father to his brother's three kids, helping out his ex-sister-in-law, taking up the slack, and there's a crayon drawing of "Uncle Vic" inside his locker door, birds in the sky like "M"s above the figure in the foreground, holding a baseball, grid over his face in an approximation of a catcher's mask.
Ray thinks about his own niece and nephew, Eri's constant inquisitiveness and Jack's quiet watchful demeanor, and he lights a candle that evening at the feet of the Virgin, tries to send up a prayer, but the words are ashes in his mouth, and he can't forget Beecher's insistent words.
Schillinger did this.
What kind of God would repay Beecher's good deed this way?
Pax homínibus bonae voluntátis, he thinks, desperately, but there's no Gloria during Lent, and the words stick in his throat, lie choking on his tongue.
What will you give me if I deliver him to you?
Sacrificial lambs, an unquiet voice whispers in the back of his head, scapegoats, and two nights later, Beecher's cries echo in his head as he stands at the gates of Oz and looks up into the cold light of a Paschal moon.
The thing with Keller comes back to bite them all in the ass, of course. The guy's been back for two minutes, and he's making trouble - shocking, Ray thinks to himself, wryly, as he stuffs the last of a granola bar in his mouth and tries to make the back of his hair lie down, craning his neck to study himself in the rearview mirror of the Tercel on the morning of The Visit. He can't help thinking of it like that, capitalized, emphatic - The Visit. He got the message on Tuesday morning, barely time to prepare himself and warn Pete - who tried to run out on him, anyway, the traitor - and he has no doubt the timing was deliberate. It's not quite a surprise visit, Abgott isn't really interested in catching them all with their pants down, he'll give them a tiny bit of warning - just enough to keep them off-balance. Ray has to wonder how long the Cardinal's been planning this kind of visit anyway, without telling him, has to wonder how long Abgott's been waiting for an excuse, has to wonder if Keller is just an excuse, or not. It would be a typical power play, Ray thinks, sourly, textbook James Cardinal Abgott - Abgott, who insists on calling him Raymond. Not even his mother actually calls him Raymond.
Abgott, who had big dreams for him, as long as Ray was willing to be his Great Yellow Hope, follow his rules, shut up and do as he was told, be his model minority ... only Ray's never been very good at that, at dealing with those kinds of expectations. He doesn't have the patience - too little forbearance for bullshit. He gets too sick of it, the people who think he's going to be so naïve - a pushover and meek into the bargain, fallout of being small and looking about 10 years younger than his actual age, and more of the model minority crap, like people asking him where he's from, when he's from Toledo, and Sacramento before that.
Granted, Toledo was kind of horrible, after California, so it's probably a good thing he was so young when they moved there. He had less to miss, that way, including not being the only Asian kid in his class, the one everyone looked at when they did the chapter on Marco Polo in sixth-grade World History - like 90 percent of his family wasn't Japanese, other than Nainai, and her family had been in the US longer than almost any of the other branches of Ray's family tree. She'd sing snatches of old songs when he was small, cradle songs, practically nonsense syllables at that point, words that even she barely remembered the meanings of. Her own mother had tried to make her stop using the language, although Ray's sister is trying to preserve some of it, sits her down with a tape recorder at every family holiday. She certainly didn't make Ray Chinese enough to keep him from getting his ass kicked by the Chinese kids in the nearby neighborhoods back in Sacramento, the ones who called him and his family murderers, executioners, other words they'd picked up from their parents, baffling Ray when he was 6 years old.
Really, he was just always glad they never had time to do more than paperchase WWII in any given history class.
Of course, then there was that Italian kid, after World History, sixth grade, thanking him for the spaghetti, and Ray thought about punching him until he realized the kid was serious, and then he felt kind of bad for someone who was so much his own cliché. Of course, when he mentioned that - and he'd been snotty enough that it still makes him flush hot with embarrassment every time he thinks of it - all Joey did was shrug and ask him "What am I gonna do? I really do love spaghetti." And what could Ray do then? At that point, he had a best friend who'd stick with him through junior and high school, the first boy he was ever a little bit in love with, eventually, before he ever even realized he wanted to hold Joe Tessio's hand for reasons that the church wouldn't approve of at all. If Ray had a type, he might think it'd been set by Joey sometime around sophomore year, lean runner's body and dark hair and soulful eyes. He was just skinny, though, that first day, back in sixth grade, kind of scrawny, with a scraped up elbow where he'd fallen playing basketball in the parking lot that served as their little parochial school's recess area, and practically as small as Ray.
But seriously, fuck meekness and expectations, he thinks, slamming his car door and licking his fingers to make one last attempt at taming his hair, squinting at his reflection in the window. He has a flash of memory - the first time Jan put eyeliner on him, back from college and magnanimous enough to take her little brother to a house party, especially if it meant she got to corrupt him into the bargain, a light touch on his chin to tilt his face, and then a hand scrunching his hair to spike it up, before she grinned at him and told him to look in the mirror, little brother. He remembers touching his own lips and feeling them stretch into a grin under his fingers. Fuck your mathletes, he said to her, to his own reflection, stomach dropping at his own 16-year-old daring, and she laughed.
That was always the problem, trying to deal with Abgott - Ray wouldn't give in. Ray is short and looks unassuming, but he's not going to take it lying down.
Of course, look where that got him, fixed point in space, stuck in orbit around Abgott, who won't let him go, for some reason, who can't just transfer him to someone else's jurisdiction, oh no. And Ray can remember how proud he'd been, back in the day, so self-satisfied that he'd impressed James Cardinal Abgott. Like a virgin going to her marriage bed not realizing what was waiting for her.
Shut up and take it.
Putting up a fight is probably easier when you're not hobbled by vows of obedience, he considers, and he laughs - at himself, again, and bitter, again - at his midlife crisis or his delayed teenaged angst or whatever this must be that he's going through. Possibly he's a little tense, right now. Cranky, his grandmother would have said, like he was still 5 years old.
More than anything, he's pissed off that Abgott's showing up here like Ray doesn't know how to run his own show. If the guy didn't think Ray knew what he was doing, why'd he put him here in the first place? Ray may have self-doubts on occasion, but he knows better than to think Abgott himself is going to assign someone to a position they're too incompetent to hold, not when it might make him - and the Church - look bad. Of all the worries Ray had when he was sent to Oz, the idea that he might be able to deal with the job was the least of them.
And look how that turned out.
But now Abgott's going to come in like he's going to solve all their problems, after Ray's - literally - bled for this place?
Vow of obedience, he reminds himself, looks in the mirror and smiles, brittle now, shows his teeth - but only momentarily. He swallows his apparently damnable pride, and he kisses the ring like a good little boy. He's cleaned up the office, shoved the everyday mess into drawers to hide it - nothing's been filed properly since he lost Sippel as his assistant. The first thing he did was hide his copies of the Catholic Worker, because the last thing he wants to do is deal with the reaction that might get, the raised eyebrow, the look of disappointed forbearance. The best he can hope for is that Abgott will get in and get out as fast as possible.
"Do you know why I transferred you here?" the Cardinal asks him, slipping on his alb, suiting up like the warrior of the Lord he views himself to be, and Ray pauses momentarily, because really? They're going to talk about this? To each other and out loud?
"Because I had too many opinions?" He can't help the edge of insolence in his voice like the hint of a blade sliding just under surface.
"Because you had too big an ego." Abgott pauses and studies him, tilts his head just the barest bit, a movement so slight it would go unnoticed by anyone who didn't know the cardinal, who hadn't worked side by side with him for more than two years, the look that Ray's seen before when he studies a problem, takes it apart, layer by layer, in his mind, before pronouncing theological judgment.
And Ray can't say that he's wrong.
"Something tells me that's changed," Abgott tells him, and Ray blinks at him.
Prick. Although, again, Ray can't say that he's wrong. Ray doesn't feel like anyone's Great Hope, at this point.
You are fucking this up, a small frantic voice repeats in his head.
On Wednesday, Pete asks him - no, warns him - to be prepared for Ryan O'Reily in the confessional later in the week.
"What's he done now?" Ray asks, because he can only imagine. He stops poking through a jumble of old takeout containers - he was certain he brought some leftover pad thai with him on Sunday and left it here - to peer over the top of the fridge door at her, washed-out in the blue-white florescent light of the break room, looking tired and concerned and ... maybe a little disturbed. He wonders how off-balance she still is from Beecher's outburst in the library, from Abgott's visit and interrogation.
"I don't actually think ..." she trails off, shaking her head at him as she pours a dollop of milk into her tea. "You know I can't say. But I can tell you that you should talk to him, Ray. And if he doesn't show up, I think maybe you should go find him."
"Is this about the victim intervention with Gloria?"
"It's not as if I expect anyone to be on their best behavior in these sessions." Even the ring of metal on ceramic as she taps her spoon against the mug's rim sounds wry. "That's part of the point of them."
Like Mass, maybe, a place you can go to put something on someone else when it's too big for you to handle - like Mass, or the confessional. Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution, Ray thinks, fleeting, leaning one shoulder against the refrigerator door, but he can't quite place the quote, can't take the time and attention to chase it around and down.
"All I ask," Pete's saying, "is that they be respectful of each other. And follow the rules. But people have bigger expectations of themselves. Always bigger. Or smaller. One or the other."
She rinses her spoon, habit of neatness Ray recognizes, ingrained by communal living, and sets it aside before she tilts her head, studying him from under the new fringe of steel-grey bangs she's trying out, almost exactly the way she looked at him over the lip of a bottle of Bud Light, the last time she took him out for a drink. He shoves his hands in the pockets of his sweatshirt, shifts to stand straight, catches himself pulling back his shoulders like someone's poked a finger between his shoulder blades, before Anderson wanders in with his lunch in a brown paper bag and breaks up their impromptu meeting.
So he doesn't know exactly what was said in that room - what Gloria or O'Reily or even Pete herself might have spilled out during the intervention - because Pete's not the open book Ray always seems to be when faced with her probing questions, and she's got her own vow of silence, her own requirement of confidentiality, the professional ethics of the therapist.
It's up to Gloria to tell him, in the wake of disaster like a hurricane, soft-footed on shifting sand, her gaze flickering to his face and back down to his desk before she forces herself - a visible effort - to meet his eyes again. She has her arms wrapped around herself, thumbs tucked into the shirt hem of her shapeless scrubs - armor put on every morning, like a uniform, like a collar, something that should be sacred – and she's perched on the edge of a chair in his office ready to fly, door firmly closed between her and the rest of Oz.
"Don't look at me like that," she says finally, and he gets up to pull out the heather-grey sweatshirt from his closet, the one he liberated from Thomas back on a November morning when he was running late, dashing out the rectory door while still trying to finalize his sermon for that day's Mass.
"Like what?" he asks, holding out the sweatshirt in her direction. "Go on. It's freezing in here. They always turn the heat off too early in the year."
"With all that sympathy," she says, voice sharp, but she takes the sweatshirt from him, muffles herself in it, even bigger on her than it is on Ray, which is admittedly part of its appeal. He thinks her shoulders loosen slightly inside it, despite her tone. "I don't want your sympathy."
"I look at everybody that way," he says, trying a small smile. He briefly considers dragging his chair out from behind the desk, equalizing their positions, but then he wonders if she might feel better having the desk between them, and he hangs, poised for an awful indeterminate moment until she laughs.
"You do," she agrees. "I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse."
"Gloria ... Do you ... Can I …" He flails momentarily, suspended in motion, finally waving an inarticulate hand at his seat and the space between them, waiting for her nod before he drags the chair around the side.
She goes through the formula, all "bless me, Father, for I have sinned," but she warns him upfront that she's not really asking forgiveness for kicking the shit out of O'Reily, that she's not sorry for it and she won't say she is.
No, he wants to say when she tells him what happened, no, a visceral denial, abnegation, renunciation, and he barely stops himself after getting out a simple "What?" - barely keeps himself from insisting she has to be wrong, that any of what she's gone through has to be something she's making up. He can't believe - doesn't want to believe - O'Reily could do this. He considers, maybe, that all of it - Ryan, Preston, Oz - has finally become too much for her, but then he remembers Pete's words - I think maybe you should go find him - and he finds himself shaking his head, finds himself shaking, and clenches his fingers around the arms of his chair.
"Gloria ... that ..." he manages before he trails off, so miserably horrified he thinks he might be sick. All this time, O'Reily's claimed that everything he's done has been because he loved Gloria, but how is this love? How can it be any kind of love at all?
And Pete wants Ray to talk to O'Reily? Jesus Christ.
He still wants to believe O'Reily didn't do it, wants to believe that somehow Gloria's wrong - maybe she misunderstood what Ryan was saying, he thinks, mind racing now - but then, this wouldn't be the first time O'Reily made a phone call and tore her life apart.
"He admitted it," she says, voice rising in outrage. "He looked me right in the face and told me he did it - he had someone rape me. So I punched him in the face."
"You ... what?" Ray wasn't sure this could get any more surreal.
"I did, Ray, I slapped him, and I punched him ..." A hysterical laugh escapes before she sobers again. "For just a second, I had my hands around his throat, both thumbs right there, where I could just ... press. And it felt good, you know? So good to just get that out, finally, after carrying it around since that ... that night."
"You should teach classes on that," she says. "On how you manage to get so much loving reproach just in somebody's name. That tone that says you're very, very concerned about me, but you just can't approve of my behavior. Do they teach that in seminary? Maybe they could add it to the medical school curriculum."
Ray keeps his mouth shut this time, waiting for her to wind down.
"You're right, though," she says finally, dropping her eyes to the knot of fingers she's clenched in the hem of the sweatshirt, picking with care through the thicket of words and tangle of emotions. "That's not the person I want to be. It just ... it felt so good, and that scares me." She looks back up, meeting his eyes again. "I'm supposed to want to help people. What is this place turning me into?"
"Gloria," he does lean forward this time, holding out a hand, and she hesitates, stretches out one of her own hands to touch his fingertips, feather-light brush, before she retreats back into the sweatshirt. "Gloria, you have every right to be angry about what's happened to you. About what was done to you. But you can't let it take over. You're more than that."
"I can't ask for absolution and be honest about it," she says, fisting her hands in the sleeves of the sweatshirt like she's grabbing for something and holding it tight, tight. "I want it. I feel like I deserve it. Because he deserved it. Deserved what he got."
Mercy is what you get when you don't get what you deserve. Father Basile's voice whispers in the back of Ray's head, dusty with the scent of old classrooms and stale sanctity, and he thinks briefly about grace, freely given.
"I'm not looking for any reconciliation," she tells him, after, pausing with her hand on the doorknob as she leaves his office. "Not anymore. Not with Ryan O'Reily. Not with whoever did this for him."
She's still in the confessional, for all she's halfway out the door, still trying to find someone big enough to carry it, he can see it in the way her eyes study his face before she drops her gaze to her own hand, clenched now around the doorknob.
"Maybe someday," he says, gently.
"And don't look at them like that," she tells him as she swings open the door. "It only ends up costing you, in the long run."
Tell him something he doesn't know, he thinks as the door closes behind her, and he reaches for his cigarettes.
He only had a couple left, he consoles himself, when he next looks up, blinking at the shadows in the corners of his office just outside the glow of his desk lamp, and realizes the pack is empty and he's missed Vespers.
Pro afflíctis et captívis, he thinks. Let us pray for the afflicted and captives.
Líbera eos, Deus Israël, ex ómnibus tribulatiónibus suis; Deliver them, O God of Israel, out of all their tribulations.
He's stayed shut up through the noise of four shifts of dinner and cleanup, trying to get a jump on his Easter sermon, and through nightly lockdown, although it's still a couple of hours 'til lights out. He stands at the door to his office, looking out the tiny window on the half-light of the shut-down cafeteria, keys in hand for a couple of minutes, weighing them like his next actions; eventually, he stuffs his wallet in his pocket but leaves his work spread out on his desk and heads out, down to the nearest convenience store, where he cruises through the aisles to pick up a wildly overpriced can of Campbell's vegetable soup for dinner. He asks for a fresh pack of cigarettes from the clerk, a bored older guy with a combover, hesitates over the possibility of a second pack before denying himself firmly, and hovers over the packages of mini-doughnuts on a rack by the register, eventually buckling down to choose powdered over chocolate-covered, despite the best interests of his black shirt.
He's got a clean shirt in the trunk of his car - Hallelujah - and he figures he'll hang his pants to steam in the CO locker room while he avails himself of a shower in a few hours. He's not wild about intruding on their turf, but it'll be 2 a.m. when he needs it, between shifts, and why bother to go home when he'd have to be back in Oz by 3 a.m., or even earlier, to be ready on time?
For whatever values of "ready" one can be for a hanging, he thinks.
Pesach, he realizes, as he walks out the door and blinks in the dimming twilight - the slaughter of the firstborn and the blood of the lamb marking the door, a sign to the angel of death, shibboleth of the chosen in chains. Let my people go, he thinks and shivers in the chill early spring breeze, tucking his hands into his coat pockets and pulling it close around himself as he crunches across random gravel on the asphalt to reach his car, and he lights a candle at the feet of the Virgin when he shuts himself back in his office, the walls of Oz closing around him.
Richard L'Italien joked his way to the death chamber, trying to the last to walk-the-dog with that damn yo-yo of his, and Donald Groves drank in a final burst of sunlight as he drew up short on the stone causeway, thrust his face out the window, up to blue sky, before the COs grabbed him and hustled him along on his dead man's walk. Shirley Bellinger walks light in the spring chill coming through that same cracked window, keeps her face resolutely forward, doesn't turn toward the hint of pink on the horizon under a silver sky, like she's already distancing herself from what remains of this life, and Ray watches tendrils of her hair dance in the breeze, everything overly sharp and echoing, quick and efficient, like the words of the psalm they're reciting together from memory, and nothing like a movie. He remembers her last interview, like her last confession - no gravestone, and a wish to disappear from the world, to be unknown, unremembered. No legacy, he thinks, and there'll be no child who'll want to find her grave, to visit her final resting place – she'd seen to that, more surely than Vern Schillinger or the man who'd raised the O'Reily brothers.
No one ever wants to be a bad parent, Ray.
Shirley's problem had never been about what she wanted, Ray thinks as they mount the stairs of the scaffold, each step just a little too high for comfort. Shirley's problem had never been about what she wanted, about what she wanted. Wasn't that the problem? Who cared about Shirley when she was being knocked around by her husband, when she was being raped by her father-in-law? Who noticed any problems while she was seeing signs of fire over her child's cradle?
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father knowing.
Shirley insisted she was carrying Satan's child, and she didn't mean it metaphorically, Ray's pretty certain of that. He's no psychology expert, but he's willing to trust Pete's diagnosis – but apparently, he's the only one.
No, it's not that no one believed it, he thinks, as Leo formally pronounces her death sentence. It's that no one cared. Devlin joked about it, Ray remembers, then complained about being late to a Christmas party - one with plenty of donors who wanted to be sure that the state stayed tough on crime, Ray has no doubt. He remembers Cyril O'Reily's stumbling, childish confessions, and he's not sure why he's surprised – and Cyril's not the only case of a guy with no business in Oz, just the most extreme, the most obvious. Ray can think of two guys in unit B and another in Unit C, just off the top of his head, who likely have IQs low enough to qualify as retarded, and they could outfit every CO in the place with a Kevlar vest on the amount the infirmary spends on meds in a couple of months, despite Weigart's best efforts to cut that cost to the bloody bone.
Christ, if most of these guys were functional, they wouldn't be here in the first place, and Ray thinks he might be including the staff – might be including himself – in that learned and professional and clinical assessment.
It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
He fists his hands tight around his Bible and refuses to turn his face away as Shirley kicks and screams, stands witness to her frantic attempts at escape, like a bird beating itself bloody against the inside of a cage, until she comes flying at him, knocking him to the ground - collateral damage, the end result of getting in the way, of trying to put your body between them and the bars. He doesn't even think about it as it happens - only later, as he pulls up a pant leg to inspect his knee in the office, scraped raw on that scaffolding erected so quickly and never intended to last: gallows, guillotine, crucifix.
Sacrificial lamb, marking the door so the Angel of Death will pass the rest of them by and leave them unmolested, mark of the chosen … but Ray feels Samael's fingers at the back of his neck now more surely than he did before that dark angel took Shirley, feels sick and scared, small and cold. He can't block out the sound of her cries, the image of Lopresti dragging her back, the man who'd come to her cell and fucked her every night, disgracing his uniform, and had the hands he'd laid on her ever been anything other than hands of violence, any better than her husband or her father-in-law?
Like snuff, Ray thinks, like L'Italien, fucking a woman, then neatly erasing her out of your life, except it's not neat, it's never neat, it's messy and bloody and painful and cruel, it makes Ray feel dirty just thinking about it, makes him never want to take off his shirt or even unbutton it in front of anyone else, anyone who might ever look at him like that.
There's a bike on the porch when Ray pulls up outside the rectory, a sign that Jeremy's already there, their floater, over to help out while St. Margaret's hosts most of the combined services for three parishes over Holy Week - Brother Jeremy Costello, Franciscan like the other two over at OLF, only Jeremy's got no desire to be a priest, seems perfectly happy as a friar and a permanent deacon, at least for now. He's only in his year of post-ordination study, though, so very young in his brown robes, and Ray wonders how long that will last, wonders how long he'll be willing to settle, wonders what his own life would have been like if he'd been willing to consider a more contemplative lifestyle, some kind of vocation that was a little less career track than what he'd been reaching for, tucked up snug and smug in Abgott's office. Look where that all got him, after all, he thinks, sitting in the silent car, rubbing his face as he rests his elbows on the steering wheel.
He's missed evening Mass - Mass of the Lord's Supper, no Doxology, still, no Gloria during Lent, and it's just as well, because the thought of it is like ashes in his mouth - but he doesn't miss the fact that all three of them hover around him at the kitchen table, like he suddenly has three wives instead of the usual two. Lou kneels at Ray's feet for the traditional foot washing, a service they offer each other every year on Holy Thursday, the weight of centuries of ritual behind it, cool water and careful, sure hands, thumbs pressed into his arches and palms supporting the soles of his feet, and Ray can't help thinking of Ricardo Alvarez, of his son and grandson bathing him when he was past all recourse, can't help thinking of Shirley, body lying in the morgue or maybe at the funeral home by now, cut open, cleaned out, sewed up.
... a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight, and they took the body of Jesus and washed it and bound it in linen cloths with the spices ...
He jerks his left foot in Lou's hands, and fingers tighten around his ankle; Lou looks up inquisitively, but Ray only shakes his head, and the other man lowers his eyes back to his task.
It's a way of babying him, Ray knows - he's pretty sure Lou took on this service for Ray specifically, rather than leaving it to Thomas or Jeremy - and it continues when they portion out the times for the evening's traditional vigil, setting up a rotation until midnight. No one will sleep on Saturday night, of course - not when they're hosting Holy Saturday vigil, waiting through the dark for Easter sunrise - but tonight Lou tries to send Ray off to bed like he's a child.
Ray fights him on it, refuses to give in - for all Lou is the pastor at St. Margaret's, he's not actually Ray's superior, and Ray's a priest, goddammit, he can do his job. Isn't this why he wanted to be a priest in the first place, to pull the sacred into his everyday life? He needs that back, now, needs to do this; they need to let him do this, and he can't seem to find the words to explain, hears himself, suddenly, in the small rectory kitchen, realizes he's fallen back on volume to convey his urgency. Jeremy's blinking, big-eyed, from his seat across the table, once Ray finally shuts up - the sort of frozen, half-shocked look Ray's seen on so many visitor's faces when something breaks out in the family room at Oz - but thankfully, the younger man's trapped where he is over there, right foot still held in big hands as Thomas continues his foot-washing task with remarkable equanimity, Ray has to admit.
Ray walks across the street by himself - concession from Lou, first watch, and admonishment not to beat himself up, later, if he does fall asleep during private prayer - and slips into the church like a thief, like a beggar, seating himself in the nave, about halfway back. It's dark, now, and quiet, echoing, the only light a faint illumination from the streetlights through the windows, thrown across the simple lines of the high ceiling, the glow of the Paschal moon just past full tracing along the stone floor. St. Margaret's has been a modern building since its renovation in the late '70s, white walls and light oak, simplicity more suited to the Franciscans at OLF, quite honestly, and a contemporary look that surprised Ray, considering Lou was already pastor when it was renovated. Lou's a traditionalist - one reason he and Abgott get along like a house on fire - but he's also a proponent of the whole idea of decency and simplicity, Ray supposes.
All the lights were extinguished, candles and lamps, after the service earlier, leaving the dark of the tomb, waiting for the stone to be rolled away, and there's no Eucharist in the tabernacle, set back in its alcove, and so the sanctuary lamp has been darkened like the other lights. All the statues, the images of the saints, Margaret in her alcove, Mary behind the altar, are veiled, waiting for Easter sunrise. Traditionalist, Ray thinks, studying the simple wooden altar, the sanctuary - sacrifice and safety, bound up together, but Ray's not sure anywhere is truly safe, anymore.
He sits in the dimness blankly for a few minutes before he realizes he's missing his office, his cafeteria, missing the familiarity of concrete walls, the random banging clanging sounds, even the cooking smells, and it's funny how he thinks of it all as "his" - his office, his cafeteria - how the constant flow of prisoners in and out, kitchen crews and mealtimes, mark his days as surely as the Liturgy of the Hours.
Missing the prison, and this is the worst week he ever could have imagined - beyond what he could have imagined, even after seven years in Oz - and when he saw Shirley's body drop and jerk and swing, all he could think was that Alvarez tried to do that to himself in his solitary cell, that he didn't even fight like she did. Sure he'd kicked and screamed and beaten himself against the walls of Oz, and he's got a death sentence too, just slower, but he put the noose around his neck, himself, and how could Ray watch him die like that, watch his body drop like Shirley's, life pulled up short with a jerk and sickening snap?
I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. No evil.
He remembers Miguel's words, later, muffled and croaked out of a ravaged throat - you should have let me die - and the thought is horrifying enough, the thought of Miguel on a dead-man's walk. But here he is, Ray thinks, pressing his fists to his own stomach, hunching in on himself like he can avoid a blow - here he is, thinking of Alvarez again when Shirley deserved a true witness to her death, someone who was there for her. Ray failed her in that, distracted by his own concerns, like he failed Groves when he missed those last words to pass on to Officer Smith's mother. Ray should have been there for them, for both of them, for all of them, but Jesus, Jesus - and it's a cry of despair, more than blasphemy, he consoles himself - he's just so tired of being the one who's there for them.
He's so tired of being God's witness.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father knowing.
Sometimes he thinks it would be easier to take on Pete's role, the protest, walking out, and L'Italien laughs in the back of his mind, but he remembers, that first death he was witness to after the death penalty was reinstituted, remembers his thought of the thieves crucified with Jesus when he wanted to despise L'Italien.
Pray for him, Mary. That's for him. That's for all of us.
Shirley's murmured words come back to him, quiet, but firm and sure: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
(.. but where are Ray's green pastures? There's nothing green, nothing growing in that prison where he and all of the rest of them are locked up.)
He leadeth me beside still waters
(... waters gone stagnant and dead ...)
He restoreth my soul. He guideth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake. Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil
(I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. No evil.)
for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me
(... but the rod is no comfort when it's turned against you ...)
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over
(... with what? poison?)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
(... but there's no goodness in Oz, no mercy. Ray's not sure whose house that is, but it's not God's - he's sure of that. Devlin's, maybe. The Devil's. Oz is the valley of the shadow of death, and Ray walks into it every day. Offering himself up, and he always did love his martyrs a little too much, he remembers that book from when he was in grade school, checking it out over and over, St. Lucy with her eyes on a platter and Sebastian pierced by arrows.)
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever .
But he's in exile, cast out of the house of the Lord, into the valley of the shadow of death. He wonders if the Cardinal had any idea what he was doing, wonders if he knew exactly what he was doing. He remembers his grandmother, his mother's mother, and her tales of the camp at Gila River, fences and concertina wire, hears the slam and clank of doors and bars, his thoughts spiraling, beating like broken wings against the inside of a familiar cage that feels like home, battering themselves bloody.
I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. No evil.
He catches himself bent over and rocking in his seat, sick - sick in his soul - and he wants to run away like Pete, wants to run away like Miguel, bird on the wing and sun on his face. He lets himself imagine - being gone, being somewhere else, maybe being with Miguel. Maybe it's a good thing he doesn't know where Miguel is, because that might prove too great a temptation.
Although, what makes him think Miguel would care anyway? Miguel let him get beaten down, turn of a shoulder, business as usual in Oz. Miguel got beaten down, scent of copper and salt, sweat and spit and blood, Ray's own silk stoles bound around his wrists, holding him still, holding him helpless.
It's lunatic to think like this, he tells himself, his laugh loud in the empty, echoing church, acoustics exquisite, bouncing the sound back to him as he slips to his knees on the tiled floor, lays his forehead against folded hands on the back of the pew in front of him and breathes.
My God, my God - why hast thou forsaken me?
He thinks of Shirley and of Gethsemene and of another death that day, millennia ago, thinks of a man who walked away.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, "Are not you also one of his disciples?" He denied it and said, "I am not."
Ray knows better. He knows he can't do that.
He found a picture of his grandfather once, his father's father, in a box in the back of a closet when he was 16, a candid photo that looked shockingly like Ray, himself, in some indefinable way he's never been able to figure out, considering he looks so much more like his mother's side of the family. There was just something about George Mukada's expression under his helmet, the way he held himself in his fatigues, standing behind a dirt berm in a French forest, looking entirely too young to be holding the rifle he was carrying, a little too small for his coat.
The 552nd would go on to help liberate Dachau, Ray knows - something he's always felt a fierce pride in his grandfather for, a pride George himself never seemed willing to take on. He never talked much about that part of the war. He sat down with both Jan and Ray, individually, one-on-one, when each of them was about 14 years old, and he told them about it - he did it with each of the grandchildren, Ray learned, comparing stories with his cousins, and he can remember bugging Jan about it when he was 11, the solemnity with which she treated the discussion, that he only understood years later, after he'd taken his own part in the ritual telling.
George Mukada talked to each of them about it once, and no more; they could ask whatever questions they wanted, but it was made clear: This was not a topic he would discuss again. He cried - no, he wept, and it was the first time Ray ever really understood the difference - unashamedly, unreservedly, while he talked about it, wept not just for the physical state of the people he encountered, the bodies he found, the atrocities that had been committed, but remembering how frightened the people in the camps were, frightened of George and the rest of his company, before they understood they were liberators, when all they saw was more uniforms, more soldiers.
The power of the uniform, the responsibility that goes along with it - Ray reminds himself of that lesson, of his grandfather's shaking voice, every time he puts on his collar.
He leans his head against the side of the pew and looks up at the veiled statue of the Virgin above the altar, and he wonders what kind of immortality Shirley will get. She didn't want to be remembered - she told that to Ray and anyone who would listen, insisted she wanted an unmarked grave, wanted to disappear from the world - but there are other, more important immortalities.
Roll away the stone, Ray thinks, and remembers the thieves crucified with Christ, and the promise of the kingdom of heaven. He has to believe that, has to hold on to that; he has to remember that they are not hopeless, that they're worthy, that they can be saved, and that they deserve not only grace, but ministry, whatever the cost.
My job is not to make judgments. My job is to be by his side. My place is with him.
O'Reily finally shows up for confession on Saturday, skulking in line until Ray's through Ward's hopeless longing for Officer Mabrey, Jack Ellis and his constant quest to put anything he can up his nose and in his veins, fresh fish with haunted eyes and tight lips, Kaminski's furtive whispers about the dreams, every night, the dreams where the two women he strangled come back for him - all Ray's regulars, all the usual admissions and non-admissions of graft and extortion and sex and despair. Cyril offers up his weekly confession of frustration and bad words, the small selfishness of a child, hogging his cookies at lunch on Wednesday, even though it might make Ryan feel better to share, and Ray sends him on his way with ten Hail Marys, as helpless as ever, before Ryan takes his turn.
My job is not to make judgments. My job is to be by his side. My place is with him.
Ray keeps his back turned, offering the putative anonymity of the confessional, but who else is going to be there right behind Cyril? Anyway, Ray knows them all by now, after years in this prison, knows his flock by more than sight, can tell something's wrong - like any good shepherd - by the way they sound, the way they move, the hitch in the step and the lingering isolation. He knows O'Reily, knows his loose-limbed insolence and his amped-up frustration, his expectant calculation, and when Ryan slumps into the chair at Ray's back, his weariness hits Ray like a fist, almost tangible, a kind of all-out, bruised exhaustion that tugs at Ray's own muscles and heart in a way he remembers from Joey in the aftermath of a final kick at a track meet or his brother-in-law, Mark, post-marathon - someone who's pushed past all resistance and beyond, someone who's left everything on the road, no reserves left.
Even so, the plaintive quality in Ryan's voice shocks Ray, although he locks down the reaction, forcing himself steady and still in response to Ryan's seriousness - uncharacteristic even for confession, maybe especially for confession. O'Reily uses the weekly event as a way to kill time, is generally all brash bullshit and charm. Ray hasn't seen him this serious since the cancer diagnosis, since Ryan faced down a death he thought he couldn't bargain with or outwit, since he talked about what might happen to his wife, his brother.
The words come spilling out of him, and how has he waited this long, Ray thinks, waited for the assurance of the confessional seal with all of this inside him and no one he could tell, no one to speak the words to, no other way to make them real for someone else, anyone else? Ray's glad he heard Gloria's confession first, because he can't imagine keeping this from her, what he hears from Ryan. He's never wanted to betray the confessional like this before.
He remembers another Saturday, another confession and a younger, more characteristically brash Ryan, a tale of cigarettes and denial, remembers his own ... well, it had almost been an accusation, hadn't it? ... of altruism.
Things have a way of coming true.
So, actually ... I lied ... for his own good.
So you weren't actually committing a sin.
Then why did you come to confession?
Ryan does an awful lot of lying for somebody's own good, Ray thinks, and he's not entirely sure if that's a sarcastic observation or not. Maybe it is and it isn't.
What's the truth this time, he wonders - what's O'Reily actually confessing? What does he want absolution for?
It's pretty obvious who he's trying to reconcile with - and the Catch-22 he's tangled himself in. Ray can almost see, now, what has Gloria so twisted up over O'Reily, over a guy who's willing to do the kind of things Ryan does for the person he loves, in whatever way he understands love. There's nothing admirable in Preston's death, certainly, but this lie, in the service of someone else's greater good, this voluntary fall onto the sword that Ryan himself sharpened - Ray can almost admire it. It may be one of the few unselfish things Ryan O'Reily's done in a long time.
Ray wonders if Gloria will ever forgive Ryan for it, and as he lights a candle, after, at the Virgin's feet, he wonders who - what - might have died this time, that he's lighting his little pinpoint flame for, or whether he's asking a blessing to keep something - someone - safe.
Ray knows he's forgiven Alvarez a lot of things - fists and torn flesh and a split lip, the turn of a shoulder as Ray went down in a swarm of hands and arms and bodies, business as usual, hard press of fingers against the curve of his jaw, his neck, scent of copper and salt and the hard silk bindings of his own stoles tying him down - because Alvarez is just plain, flat-out scared a lot of the time, running on adrenaline, trying to make sense of the senseless world around him. O'Reily ... he comes off as more calculating. He is more calculating, Ray thinks, listening to the sixth sense that he has to so carefully balance, the instinctive response to a potential predator that has to be tempered with charity, hope, love. But Ray's seen Ryan just flat-out scared, too, when he went through that cancer treatment with Ryan - with Ryan and Gloria - and he remembers how scared Ryan was. He wonders, sometimes, if Ryan's ever truly recovered. Not physically, although there's always the concern, with the lumpectomy, that the cancer could reoccur - but if he's every really recovered from that feeling of helplessness, of despair, of the entire world pulled from under your feet in the face of your body's own betrayal, the loss of invulnerability and invincibility, being made small and sick and weak not just by the sickness but by the very drugs that were supposed to save you.
Ray grew up reading his grandfather's Howling Commandos comic books, over and over again, the ones that included the Nisei Squad - it was what set the Mukadas on the path to being a Marvel family, instead of DC, those three simple issues. At 6 years old, he thought maybe his grandfather actually was Jim Morita, that maybe "Jim Morita" was an alias, like "Clark Kent" - or really, like "Superman," he supposes now - something that allowed George Mukada to hide some kind of superpowers in everyday life.
And if he was super-powered, he was invincible, right?
In my family, Ricardo was like God,, Miguel's voice says, and Ray thinks about Ricardo Alvarez with shaking hands and childish anxiety, fingers wrapped frail in his son's as Eduardo and Miguel washed him in the infirmary, thinks about his own grandfather's paper-thin skin and cold fingers as he lay in a hospital bed near the end. It had been the first time Ray had ever formally performed the anointing, oil slick on his fingers and the smell of antiseptic in his nose, still new to his collar, the chrism barely off his hands from ordination, like it was leaking away before he could even grasp hold of it, no matter how tight he clenched his fists. He'd been kind of resentful about it, about having to worry about fucking up the sacrament when he only wanted to worry about his grandfather. He supposes it was a formality, anyway - George had been a pro forma Catholic at best, in it for his family, and Ray halfway suspects he'd been an atheist, really, after seeing more than he could handle in the war - Dachau and Little Cassino and the fight for the Lost Battalion.
The virtue of hope exists only in earthquakes and eclipse, he thinks, but he doesn't have time to place the quote, to chase and pin it down.
Murphy shows up for confession, as well - or at least some form of it, tipped back in his chair in Ray's office, a spare few minutes before Ray's evening rounds in the infirmary, and he's back in uniform, now that Martin Querns is heading Em City, but he doesn't look any happier. His very reticence in a tipoff - Ray's learned nothing can still Murphy's tongue like loyalty, and so he feels little compunction about probing the sore spot when he's already pretty sure he knows what the problem is.
"He's been riding my ass for taking his job," Murphy admits, finally, leaning forward with a thump to rest his elbows on Ray's desk, and Ray squashes the brief, likely blasphemous thought that this seems like a conversation that could be improved by a bottle of Scotch kept in his bottom drawer and pulled out as needed - if only he did such things. "He told me that if I really had any loyalty to him, I would have quit my job when he was fired. I mean ... does that sound reasonable to you?"
It sounds ridiculous, Ray thinks, and if anyone other than Tim McManus had said it, he has no doubt there wouldn't be even a lingering hint of uncertainty underlying Murphy's aggrieved tone.
"I think you know the answer to that," he responds out loud, allowing a hint of chiding, chivvying, to enter his own voice. "What do you want me to do, Sean? Offer you absolution for following through on your responsibilities? Is that something you're sorry for? Something you think you should be sorry for?"
Ridiculous, on the face of it, Ray thinks, although he can't say it surprises him, either, and where would Murphy be, now, if he had done such a thing, now that McManus was back?
Ray offered to hear his confession, half-joking with an edge of seriousness sliding just under the surface, waiting to break free, and McManus had declined in the same tone, already half out the door of the break room - and it's not as if Ray had expected anything else. At least the guy was civil for their conversation, Ray thinks, listening to Murphy, and he thinks about Marcellus and Typasius and Mercurius Abu-Seifein, athleta Christi, all the soldier saints of the early Church whose faithful service to the emperor meant nothing in the face of their refusal to worship at his altar, and he feels a pang of sympathy, of empathy.
Ray always did love his martyrs.
No, not love, he supposes. It was never love so much as fascination.
"You should come to the church tonight," he says, suddenly. "St. Margaret's is holding Easter Vigil this year."
He's supposed to be there, told the Thomases he'd show up; he can remember last year, at St. Helen's, tucked away together in darkness, church half-full and the quiet cadence of the deacons as they worked their way through the night's readings - Genesis, Genesis, Exodus, Exodus, Isaiah, Baruch, Ezekiel - the spark of the candle and the growing golden light of dawn, the images of the saints emerging from under the violet cloth, Helen and Francis and the Virgin Mary.
"That's a lot of church, Father," Sean says, skeptically. "Anyway, I got my own vigil tonight."
"You're just coming on?"
"Nightwatch in Em City. Now, that's dedication, right - overnight in Oz?"
Ray supposes it is dedication when he looks up, later, at the touch of Gloria's fingers on the back of his hand, looks up from Corinthians at Carlos Aranda's bedside, up to the faint gibbous moon covered by clouds, throat dry from hours of reading.
Ahora vemos como por espejo, en obscuridad; mas entonces veremos cara a cara. Ahora conozco en parte; mas entonces conoceré como soy conocido.
"You should go home," he whispers to her, as he realizes Aranda's slipped into a more restful sleep.
"So should you," she tells him, nudging at his elbow, urging him to stand. "Come on. He's stabilized for now. He's not going to die on us tonight."
There's no guarantee how much longer he'll last though, Ray can tell by her tone, by the liquid sound of Aranda's breaths.
"The aphasia's getting worse, too," Ray says, more of a comment than a question.
"Yes. Something about the way the lesions on his brain are affecting the speech centers. For some reason he can still understand Spanish - maybe because it's his first language? We don't know. But we can barely communicate with him in English, now."
Ray nods and collects his vials of oil, wipes them off with a paper towel before sliding them into a pocket, remembers the slick feel between his fingers as he did the anointing, the smell of antiseptic in his nose. Through a glass darkly, he thinks, remembering the words he'd been reading moments before.
But then we shall know as we are known.
He's done what he can for Aranda, even if the man does die tonight, but something about the prison holds him there, tugs at him, keeps him sitting in his office even as the moon climbs small in the sky, surrounded by shadows, pattern of light from the staff parking lot outside cast on his desk through the enforced screen on his window, grid falling across his hands, the cover of his Bible, bright enough to overcome the moonlight. He flinches at the sudden flare of the guard tower spotlight coming on in his imagination, lighting the prison up like day, like it must have been the night Alvarez and Busmalis escaped, blinking like the burst of light was real.
It's been a long time since you had to be afraid of the dark, he reminds himself, and he closes his eyes and breathes, lets it pass through him and on, leaves it behind. He remembered that they were but flesh, he thinks, stray memory wandering through his mind, a wind that passes and comes not again.
He knows he's already missed the beginning of vigil over at St. Helen's, another promise broken, but there's no reason he can't do Holy Saturday vigil on his own, no reason he can't do his own liturgy, if he wants. Church is wherever he is. Isn't that one of the reasons he wanted to become a priest - to pull the sacred into his everyday life? And so he sits in his office, eyes closed, breathing, making the darkness around him a stand-in for all darkness - evil thoughts, evil deeds, selfishness and pettiness, deceit and division, abuse. It's been a while since Ray was afraid of the dark - there are a lot worse things to be afraid of, and if he can survive the riot, the takedown and the aftermath, well, he can probably survive almost anything. When he's calm and centered, he lights a candle, click and hiss of his lighter, brief sweet smell of butane, then opens the Book and starts reading.
He works his way through - Genesis, Genesis, Exodus, Exodus, Isaiah, Baruch, Ezekiel - as the night wears on, murmuring the words aloud in the small office as the shadows move around him, as the building settles with its clanging, banging sounds. He gets as far as Psalm 51 - let the bones which thou has broken rejoice ... the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise - and he closes the Bible with a thump.
... you had too big an ego ... something tells me that's changed.
He wonders if the Cardinal had any idea what he was doing, wonders if he knew exactly what he was doing.
Disquieted, he wanders the halls of the administrative section like a ghost in his black shirt and collar, peering through the glass into Pete's empty office at the neat piles of paperwork, studying the nameplate on Leo's door, pushing down an urge to trace the engraved letters with one finger like a kid, leaning against the wall opposite like he's waiting for an appointment, loitering with his hands tucked into his sweatshirt pockets against the chill. The long decline, he thinks, and it's not his own voice in his head; he rummages through his mental files for the reference, manages to chase it and pin it down: Father Henry, from high school, the first person to hear Ray's halting, half-embarrassed confession that he thought maybe one day he could actually be a priest. Father Henry had been the first to truly expose him to Augustine and Aquinas, to make Descartes more than a footnote in a history book and send Ray hunting for his first copy of Chesterton, but he'd also talked to Ray about Lewis and Tolkien, too, about the books Ray was already reading, and he'd been the one to tug out the strands of Middle-Earth's Catholic underpinnings and spread them out for Ray's adolescent view.
He fetches up, finally, in the staff break room, exhaustion creeping around the edges of his awareness so that he startles when Sean drops a cellophane-wrapped package on the table in front of him. He stares a minute before reaching out to smooth two fingers light across the top of it, but he can't help the smile that tugs at one corner of his mouth.
"Seriously?" he says.
"Yes, my friend," Murphy says, doing the delicate dance of the too-full coffee cup as he slides into the chair across from Ray. "Anderson just got back from visiting his sister in Baltimore, and he's been selling out of his locker. And who else would I think of when I discover a stash of Tastykakes than you?" He leans back in his chair, crossing an ankle over his knee. "You can thank me at an appropriate later time. One that involves a beer."
"What time is it now?"
"You've probably got about two hours 'til sunrise," Sean says. "Two hours until Lent is over, by anyone's standards."
"It's that late, already?" He thinks about his watch, left on his desk back in his office.
"If you'd told me you were going to stick around, I'd have invited to come have your vigil in Em City with some company." Sean tilts his head to study Ray. "Offer's still open."
St. Sebastian was a soldier, Ray thinks, inanely, as he gathers up his Bible on the way back to Em City, and he glances up at Sean in the doorway of his office, standing foursquare and solid, thumbs tucked into his utility belt, Sean who raises an eyebrow at Ray and tilts his head again and asks if he's coming.
"Thank you," Ray says.
"For Tastykake and a couple of hours in Em City? You're a cheap date, Ray."
He spends the next hour and then some in the dim amber glow of the guard tower, Em City still and sleeping around him as reads his way through Romans - death no longer has dominion over him - through Psalms - the Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation - through Matthew - He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. He reads silently at first, then again in a quiet murmur after Sean urges him, in what must be a burr of background noise to Sean and to Bell, the other CO on duty on the tower. He's barely conscious of the half-attentive audience - one of the first things you have to learn how to do, if you're going to survive in this profession, this vocation, is read for an audience, and an audience of one or two is no more likely to throw him than an audience of 75 or 300. He's read the Bible at enough hospital bedsides since coming to Oz.
He can see someone else, out of the corner of his eye, moving silent through Em City, the third CO on duty, on patrol, the vigilia - Dana Karailis, Ray thinks, new and painfully young, even younger than Jeremy - as he finally reaches the end of Matthew. The whole things feels unfinished, like there should be something more, so he lets momentum carry him, thinks about the planned vigil back at the church, swings into the Greater Doxology, finally, in the middle of dead silence and darkness. He does it in Latin, remembering the Brumel version at the Gregorian - what may be his favorite, despite Vivaldi's popularity, although Ray also has an unfortunate tendency to get U2's "Gloria" stuck in his head sometimes, too. Abgott hates those "modern" music Masses.
Ray thinks U2 may possibly be the most accessible form of Catholicism in the modern age - it's shot all through their music, and Thomas has raided Ray's music collection for the high-school CCD classes more than once because of it.
Glória in excélsis Deo
et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis
adorámus te ...
He does it in Latin, and then he does it in English as he becomes conscious of the weight of Sean's full attention, studying him, an awareness that's not there when he has a full congregation as his audience, that's absent when he's the focus of a group instead of just one person. He spares a brief thought for Jeremy, in his embroidered dalmatic over a simple cassock, probably saying the Exsultet right about now.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to people of goodwill.
We praise you, we bless you we adore you ...
He almost doesn't realize Kairelis has joined them on the guard stand, finished with his rounds, until he murmurs Amen at the end along with Ray.
"Not bad, Father," Bell says, grinning at him - she's AME, he thinks he remembers, and he ducks his head, suddenly self-conscious as the artificial sunrise of the lights flicks on, new florescent day dawning.
"Lumen Christi," he whispers, low, to himself, before he leaves them, heads back to his office, to the white and gold vestments of Easter resurrection.
Two days later, Ray needs a cigarette more than he ever has in his miserable life, and he smiles sickly to himself, grateful again that he hadn't considered giving up this vice for Lent - or maybe he should have, so falling off the wagon would be that much painfully sweeter, the snap of the lighter and the scent of butane and the first initial burn of smoke in the back of his throat. He started smoking during a rebellious phase, influenced by a boy in college - told himself it was a defense against the smokers around him, but that was just an excuse, really, just a justification, and not even a good one, because there was a boy in college, and nothing ever happened, but he liked watching Ray smoke. Liked hearing him curse, too, dirty words out of a pretty mouth, he'd said, and nothing ever happened, not anything worth counting, but Ray remembers fingers on his skin, rough thumb along his cheekbone, over his hot blush, fingertips at his wrist, over the pulse of blood, and wonders what he'd think now.
Why the fuck is he thinking about this, anyway, he wonders, and he knows he should stop smoking, should have given up this vice for Lent, at least as a first step - there are no boys he should be trying to impress now, although some days he still feels like he needs plenty of defense against everyone around him. But that's no excuse, no real justification, and he considers it, considers stubbing out the cigarette, crumpling up the pack, right up until Harrison Beecher says something to him about it, about smoking inside the building.
It's kind of amusing, Ray thinks, that this guy thinks his laws apply inside the walls of Oz - particularly when it's become glaringly apparent his laws don't even apply outside of Oz, all those laws that Beecher loved so much because they kept people who'd hurt his kids safely locked up.
You are fucking this up.
Beecher's words, haunting him - they could have been directed at Ray, should have been directed at Ray. He's fucked this up; he should have known, should have seen what could happen, but he was too naïve, too desperate to do some good, too deep to listen to good sense and his gut.
Et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis, he thinks. And on earth, peace to people of goodwill.
The evil in things is not intended, he consoles himself, refuge in Thomas Aquinas, doctor angelicus. Evil is a result apart from intention, good gone awry - and he'd like to believe that in the face of this fallout, but then, there's the road to hell, the road strewn with the bodies of dead little boys, the road that leads to missing little girls, and what do good intentions really matter when this is the outcome? Good intentions don't help Gary Beecher, or his father, or his grandparents; they don't help his sister, who's still somewhere, missing, in the hands of whoever treated her brother as figuratively and literally disposable, who left him in a garbage dumpster in an alley a block from his grandfather's law firm, poisoned by his own body after they held him down and hacked off his hand, kept him hidden for four more days with only the most rudimentary medical care while fever and dehydration wracked his thinning frame.
How much does it matter for all these people, for any of them, if evil is only an accident by good? It's still evil. Anything else is just a sop for Ray's soul.
Miserére nobis. Miserére nobis. Miserére, he thinks and takes a long drag off his cigarette. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on us. Have mercy.
He exhales hard.
He is losing his goddamn face, the one he puts on to look like all this isn't getting to him - he can remember those lessons, the basics, the things they don't teach you in a classroom, the things you learn from people like James Abgott, about seeming unflappable, about not letting them see your own doubts, your own fears, about projecting your supernatural calm. Touched by grace, right? All that seems like theory, now, abstract and intellectual as theology on a sunny afternoon, chalk dust dancing in dry, sanctified air.
He tries to remember those lessons two days later, when he runs into Murphy in the break room - shaken in a way Ray isn't used to seeing, losing his goddamn face, the one he puts on to look like none of this is getting to him.
"Beecher tried to kill Keller," Murphy says, staring blankly at the table top. "He's in the Hole."
"Well, that's nothing new," Lopresti says, stirring his coffee. "How many times has that happened - just this year?"
A cupboard door slams behind Ray, gunshot sharp, startling enough to jump, and D'Agnasti pushes his way past Anderson, lips a tight line; he slams the break room door behind him, too, on his way out, and Ray remembers, like a dream, the image of Vic standing guard in the corner of the library as a federal agent reeled off the details of the kidnapping, hand over his own mouth, appalled, façade broken - losing his goddamn face, whatever defenses he put on with his uniform that let him walk through the halls of Oz everyday looking like nothing was getting to him.
Anderson barely takes notice of the jostling, continues to watch his frozen burrito circling in the microwave with focused concentration, broad shoulders hunched, a slow flex of both hands and a curl of his fingers into fists the only indication he's aware of what's going on behind him, and Ray can bet who pried Beecher off of Keller, who pulled Tobias away when he got his hands around Chris's throat, both thumbs right there where he could just ... press.
"You're a dick," Ray hears Aguilar tell Lopresti, rage simmering beneath the words, but right now, he's more concerned with the look on Murphy's face.
"Sean," he says, stepping toward him, crouching beside his chair to put a hand to Murphy's elbow. "Are you alright?"
"He made this sound," Sean says, finally breaking his gaze to rub a hand over his face. "Keller did. Beecher was ... screaming about how Keller killed his kid. Williams and Anderson had to pull him off, and Keller just ... he went down. Mineo didn't even have to do anything. He just went down on his knees in the middle Em City, and he made this ... sound, Ray. Like an animal, like ..."
Sean breaks off, looking down at him, and Ray studies him, tired eyes and drawn face, before looking around the room at Anderson's bowed shoulders, muscles set tight in his back, at Aguilar's frozen expression, brows knit like she's holding back tears she can't afford to show. He remembers the set of D'Agnasti's mouth, the broken look on his face.
You are fucking this up.
No, he thinks. Not this time. Ray's naïve, but he's not that stupid about people, he's pretty sure he's not. He's seen Keller, seen the way he acts about Beecher - he's seen the way the man acts about the idea of going to hell, too, and if there's anything that will send you to hell, it's messing around, in whatever way, shape or form, with kids.
Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
Ray can't believe Chris is responsible for this, no matter what Beecher thinks right now, in the middle of madness and grief. Whatever else Keller may have done, for all the ferocity between that pair, Ray has no doubt they care. He can wish they'd manage to turn that kind of feeling toward some more beneficial action, instead of beating themselves against the bars and each other, bleeding each other again and again as proof that you always hurt the ones you love - that the ones you love are the ones you can hurt, that it's proof they love you, if they hurt. But Ray knows Murphy and the other COs are pretty sure Keller's the one who stabbed Schillinger, back before New Year's, when Schillinger went after Beecher in the gym - he's heard about the bloody Pieta they made, Beecher in Keller's arms, when the SORT team finally burst in.
Ray remembers Gloria's surety and his own sick disbelief, Ryan's tired voice - and the discovery that he should have trusted his gut instinct. This time it's telling him that Beecher's gut instinct was right.
Who in this whole charlie-foxtrot has shown he won't hold a child sacred, after all - even the life of his own son?
"This ends now," Ray tells Sean and rises to stand, head up, shoulders set, no hesitation, like he's walking into the wind.
It's no surprise that Schillinger laughs when Ray tells him Beecher found Hank as a gesture of goodwill - the only real surprise is that he agreed to meet with Ray at all. Ray knows what Vern Schillinger thinks of him - chink, gook, Jap, slant-eye, ching chong - no matter that Ray's family, on both sides, has been in this country longer than the families of a lot of the Irish and the Italians in Oz - prisoners or COs - maybe even longer than the Schillingers. Ray thinks about George in his U.S. Army uniform in the mud and blood of France and of Germany, and about Hana waiting at Manzanar with a photo and a promise, about Alice Shigeta, neé Choi, walking away from her Chinese family, willing to follow her bridegroom into the camps when she could have kept her maiden name and her freedom, and about "Great-Uncle" Davis, the old man whose funeral Ray attended at five.
It'd taken Ray years to understand exactly what Samuel Davis had done for his family, buying Mikio and Alice Shigeta's neighboring farmland for five dollars, holding it in trust and careful hands until the young couple could come back from Gila River after war's end and buy it back for the same amount. Ray's mother grew up on that farm, told him stories about the peach trees and their sweet spring scent when she tucked him in at night in the cold dark of a Toledo winter - stronger than any other tree, he remembers Nainai saying, and Grandfather Mikio always called her his peach blossom.
Ray can remember, like a dream - or maybe it was a dream - being taken by his older sister's careful childish hand when he was only three or four to see the new kittens born over in Great-Uncle Davis's barn.
Et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis, he thinks. And on earth, peace to people of goodwill.
"If I'm lying to you, may I be damned for all time," he tells Schillinger.
Saturday marks the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and Ray thinks of little girls in print sundresses, solemn boys in badly-fitting suits crowning the statue of the Virgin with flowers as he sits in the cafeteria at Oz, scent of reconstituted eggs and industrial dish soap lingering, last banging of the kitchen crew cleanup clattering behind him. He remembers the soft crush of petals under his own 6-year-old fingers and the silky brush of trailing ribbons across his palms, scent of warm grass and impending rain in the outdoor grotto outside Blessed Sacrament - not the church where he was baptized, but the first he can remember, a hodge-podge of renovations, wooden scrollwork and cool splashes of stained-glass light and the warm burgundies and blues of the apse, gilded and accented by the arch of stone wings.
Somewhere, they're crowning the Queen of the May; meanwhile Ray's got Marty Ward's hopeless longing for Officer Mabrey, Jack Ellis and his constant quest to put anything he can up his nose and in his veins, a couple of fresh fish with their characteristic hunted look and tight lips, and Kaminski's furtive whispers about the dreams he has, the dreams where the two women he strangled come back for him - a typical Saturday, all the admissions and non-admissions of graft and extortion and sex and despair, the general misery of the human condition distorted and magnified by the funhouse mirror of Oz.
Ray's guys, they're serious about their confessional time - or at least, they're serious about taking their confessional time.
... spend the rest of my life in a little room … might as well kill me ...
Cyril O'Reily offers up his weekly confession of frustration and bad words, the small selfishness of a child, and Ray sends him on his way, helpless, with ten Hail Marys, before Ryan takes his turn. At OLF, they'll be through the offerings of flowers, by now, Ray knows, into 11 o'clock Mass, and it's just like a first Saturday, a constant awareness in the back of his mind, some kind of spiritual energy pulling at him or maybe just a longing for air, routine until Keller shows up with his hand scalded, wrapped in fresh gauze - remembering what hell felt like, he says - and sets the world exploding around Ray, crumbling slowly in a confession of abuse and murder and strung-out fear, some of the worst everyday terrors man has to offer his fellow man.
"I didn't want them to tell," Keller says, simple explanation for death, the simplest maybe, the least complex, a thought and a jump, instinctive reaction.
He didn't want them to speak his name, didn't want his name on the same lips that had been pressed to his, open for his tongue, open for his cock, the same mouth he'd fucked into, the men he'd fucked, and Ray has a wild thought, a stray memory - the fetish of the mouth, and a citizen of Rome didn't perform oral sex, that was for women and slaves, the mouth was sacred, an instrument of communication, and isn't this just a twisted funhouse-mirror version of the same thing? Like snuff, Ray thinks, like Lopresti, like L'Italien, fucking those men, then neatly erasing them from his life, and had the hands he'd laid on them ever been anything other than hands of violence? So easily erased, all those women, all those men, worth nothing more than the effort to snap their necks, but it's not neat, it's never neat, it's messy and bloody and painful and cruel.
Beecher, Ray thinks, and feels sick, because he's been standing up for Chris this whole time, defending him to Beecher, but how could someone who claims to love Beecher lay the same hands on him that have done such horrible things?
When you love someone, they own you. They posses you, the remembered voice of Richard L'Italien reminds him - L'Italien, who would not let himself be possessed, who struck out so violently to avoid it.
Ray remembers Keller in the infirmary, pleading eyes and hangdog look, the solid mass of him, the cant of his hips as he leaned in, the curve of his body, and Ray feels dirty just thinking about it, and he never wants to take off his shirt or even unbutton it in front of anyone else, anyone who might ever look at him like that.
He's not sure why he's so surprised Keller won't admit his crimes to anyone other than Ray, not sure why he's shocked at the force of the negation, the denial - or at the increasing insistence, the demand for absolution despite it all. It's not the first time Ray's seen this and it won't be the last, not in Oz, not anywhere, really. He knows a lot of people see him as hopelessly naïve - soft, even, a pushover - and they always expect him to be intimidated, fallout of being small and looking about 10 years younger than his actual age, whatever age that happens to be at the time. No one ever seems to understand - Ray's no fresh meat, and he knows he can't show any insecurities, any doubts, any hesitation.
He learned early on to walk with confidence, back straight, head up, shoulders set, no hesitation, like he was walking into the wind. Oz didn't teach him that, life taught him that, from the first kid who called him xiōng shǒu, murderer, to his face, to high-school classmates who'd nicknamed him "Charlie" behind his back.
The only thing surprising about Oz, honestly, was how little show of firmness it took to make some of these guys back off, like disciplining puppies, like all they'd been looking for their whole lives was a little structure, or like the concept of someone telling them "no" was so baffling it left them at a loss, or like one display of firmness was really enough to establish dominance. It's one of the reasons Ray knew he had to walk back into Oz without hesitation after the riot - walk into the wind, or he'd never survive it.
Keller, though. Keller's maybe too feral to respond the way most of these guys do, too scared to react any other way than instinctively, a thought and a jump, trying to bully his way into heaven. Because Keller's not sorry for what he did, Ray thinks - he's just sorry he's going to hell for it.
And he's going to hell. Ray's increasingly sure of that. Maybe he'd feel bad about it, if he wasn't pretty sure he was going to be there, too, if he wasn't tired of feeling pushed around, beaten down, tired of paying for whatever sins Abgott thought he committed, tired of being scared and sick, tired of being seen as ineffective and a pushover and a patsy, and he sets his jaw, narrowing his eyes as Keller insists, once again, on absolution, voice rising, like he can force Ray into this, like Ray's some kind of gumball machine, put in your confession and out pops absolution.
No, he thinks, no. Not this time. Not anymore. That is not how this works.
You have to actually be sorry for what you've done - it's not just confession, it's reconciliation, and what kind of reconciliation do you expect if you're not even sorry for what you did? Keller expects forgiveness when he's not even sorry?
Ray kind of understands Pete telling the guy to fuck off, now.
Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution, he thinks, again, and Ray isn't even Keller's therapist - although Keller's certainly not the only one using the confessional for therapy, not the first and won't be the last, and that's not only something that happens in Oz. Ray can sure see why he's in the market for a new therapist, though, the way he's fucked over his relationship with his current one.
Don't be like that, he tells himself. That's not the guy you are.
They're all God's children.
Of course, that would be easier to remember if so many of them didn't so often act like children - overgrown, dangerous children, with weapons and a whole lot of shit jammed up in their heads, pushing them to do things they really shouldn't do.
He's reminded, fleetingly and maybe idiotically, of the fights between his sister and his mother over hair perms or curfews or Jan's decision to major in library science instead of planning for law school - two immoveable objects, head-to-head, clipped words back and forth over family dinners - just before Keller damns him to hell and storms out of the cafeteria.
Get in line, he thinks sitting back in his chair and releasing a weary breath, cataloguing how awfully everything has gone, every single thing he's set his hand to in this prison. If he ends up in Hell, Keller's curse will be the very last in the long line of things that sends him there. He may be damned for all time, but it won't be for this.
He sits blinking at the wall for a few minutes, avoiding Anderson's gaze - Anderson, who's holding off the next in the confessional assembly line until he gets the nod from Ray - and entertaining the thought that he's already damned. Maybe this is hell. Maybe Abgott damned him, Yama and Rhadamanthus, Susinak and Yahweh and Maat with her feather, all rolled into one, pronouncement handed down in terse words on an official letter stamped with the diocesan seal. He wonders if Abgott had any idea what he was doing when he pronounced this sentence, wonders if Abgott knew exactly what he was doing.
Maybe he was killed in the riot, boot connecting with his temple instead of glancing off his shoulder, maybe one of those rifles from the SORT team got him, maybe he choked to death on some of the gas. Maybe this has all just been his damnation since then, this long decline, watching everything and everyone spiral down, watching Pete slip away, unable to help Gloria, fucking up this thing with Beecher, not knowing what's happened to Miguel, whether he's alive or dead, Miguel not caring enough to let anyone know if he's alive or dead ...
Maybe Ray got hit by a bus, and all of Oz has been hell, condemnation for having too many opinions or asking the wrong questions or having too much ego, whatever the hell Abgott judged him for and found him wanting. Maybe if he's really lucky, this is just Purgatory and eventually he'll move on.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
He laughs again - bitter, again - at himself, sharp and echoing, startling in the empty cafeteria.
The one thing Ray's been convinced of this whole time, foundation among shifting sand, is how much Keller loves Beecher. How can he love another man so much and hate himself so much for that kind of feeling?
Ray's never confessed it, of course - never felt the need to, never thought he needed to. It's not just that he's never acted on it - although it was kind of a relief to realize his vocation, to feel like the choice was taken from his hands. But even so, it's not something he feels like he needs to confess, not something he feels like he should have to be sorry for or apologize for. He remembers his mother telling him that he was made just the way God intended him to be, home after school and near tears of frustration and anger at one of his new classmates, making slant-eyes and bowing, giggling on the playground at recess, and he took her words to heart, like any other too-earnest 10-year-old. It's a belief that's never wavered, even when he realized, even when he knew he'd have to hide it, if he was going to be a priest.
I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought ...
Fearfully and wonderfully made, and there's nothing to reconcile, and he feels no need to talk about it, if it's only going to be confession, only one-third of the equation to fulfill the sacrament. That's just a different kind of masturbation, and he's not ... supposed to do that either.
Maybe that's part of what made him so angry at Keller, the idea that Keller was just using him like that, just the object of a jerkoff session.
He sleepwalks through the rest of his day, unable to focus, and drags himself back to the rectory, where he's plied with sweet potato casserole by Jeremy, little marshmallows crisped brown on top. Jeremy sits chin in hand across from Ray, disconcerting, and watches him eat like a grandmother, like Ray's nutritional habits are fascinating, and remarks that it must have been a shit day, if he can't even get Ray to argue with him over determinism.
Sometimes, "shit" is the only word that fits, Ray remembers, hears himself saying.
It wouldn't have mattered, anyway, he tells himself as he draws furrows in the soft mound of baked vegetables in front of him. Ray's role in this is minimal, really – if Keller doesn't feel any actual contrition, if he's not willing to make satisfaction … it wouldn't matter, anyway, even if Ray did agree to say the words.
He just doesn't know how to get Keller to see that.
You are fucking this up.
The phone rings, late at night; Ray's only the one to pick it up because he sent Lou off to bed with a promise to wash his own plate when he finished the warmed-over meatloaf and carrots, and Jeremy biked back to OLF – against all good sense – when Ray got home close to dark. "Itinerate preacher man," Thomas calls him, like it's not what all of them will be doing in a year or so, the ones who are still here, shuffling back and forth between the parishes, trying to cover two congregations with too few people.
Noctem quiétam et finem perféctum concédat nobis Dóminus omnípotens; May the Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end - he knows the words by heart, at this point, Compline before bedtime every night since his sophomore year of high school, when he first seriously considered he might have a vocation and not just wishful thinking, but he still reads from his worn Breviary with its onion-skin pages, fingertip following along the lines, lips shaping the words carefully, a low murmur in the quiet kitchen, flicker of a candle in a red cup on the stove and only the light from the hood above it falling across one corner of the table and the book, while shadows move in the corners of the kitchen. It's been a long time since Ray was afraid of the dark, though - he's faced darker things in the corners of Oz than simple shadows. He shifts the Breviary where it's propped against a couple of their knock-off copies of Lives of the Saints; he's spent the past hours with midnight pressing close, paging through the stories of Agnes of Rome, Dymphna, Agatha, Maria Goretti, martyrs to chastity, little girls taught that it was better to die than to survive impure, to lose their virginity, and Ray can't, he just can't ... He rubs a hand over his face, remembering, because what do you tell a 22-year-old kid who's being passed around a cellblock for contraband cigarettes?
It's part of the deal I made, Rick Cotter's voice, as clear in his head as it was at confession that afternoon, and Ray can feel the shrug of Rick's shoulder against his own as they sat facing opposite walls, and he knows them by now, after years in this prison, by the way they sound and the way they move. Sex for protection, and I know worse things can happen, but Father, I know it's wrong ... But I also know I'll keep doing it. It's the only way I can think of to survive in here. Can I still get forgiven?
He knows them like any good shepherd, but that doesn't mean he knows how to fix them. They never expect him to do anything, really - sometimes he thinks they tell him precisely because he can't do anything. It's not as if they expect anything to really change, and there's only so long you can live your life in protective custody - Richie, did someone rape you? Sure, but that's not the point ... - like they just need someone to bear witness, and that's his role, always his role.
Who do you set to watch over someone who's doing whatever they can to survive?
St. Zita, maybe, he thinks and scribbles a note in the margin with his pencil before moving on to Psalm 85: Inclína, Dómine, aurem tuam, et axáudi me: quóniam inops, et pauper sum ego; Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me, for I am poor and in misery.
The phone rings, startling in the dim quiet, jerking him upright, and he pauses, heart thumping, fingers clenched around the table's edge, before he registers the sound and dives for it. No good hoping it won't wake anyone, Lou and Thomas probably both woke up at the sound, but if someone's calling this late, it's probably someone who needs some kind of help anyway. He manages to pull the receiver from the cradle halfway through the second ring.
"Hello," he says again, firmer this time.
His first instinct is to hang up, of course, because the rectory gets probably more than its fair share of prank calls, but the impulse is replaced quickly by a well-rehearsed response that kicks in - too familiar with those who need coaxing, who may be traumatized or embarrassed. Ray's not a legally licensed counselor, but he's dealt with enough people. He's barely into the standard spiel, all soothing tones and coaxing words, when the person on the other end of the line pulls in a shaking breath, and he knows. His heart slams suddenly against the inside of his rib cage, tries to slam its way out of his chest, like a fist to his lungs, and he sits back down, hard, almost missing his seat, banging his elbow on the edge of the table, but he only tightens his grip on the phone receiver.
Miguel doesn't talk - of course - but who else could it be?
Ray wonders for a brief moment, fleeting thought through the back of his mind, how he's so sure, just from the sound of the breaths on the other end of the line, but he is. Ray knows Miguel by now, after their years in that prison, knows him by more than sight, can tell something's wrong - can tell him - by the way he sounds, the hitch in his throat and the lingering exhale, and he remembers Miguel's breath on his face, light and quick, heavy and fast, and always panicked, remembers it the way he remembers the press of Miguel's fingers against the curve of his jaw, his neck, the frantic rabbiting of Miguel's heart under the palm of his hand, the scent of copper and salt and the hard silk bindings of his own stoles tying him down, holding him back as Miguel went down in a swarm of hands and arms and bodies.
The initial shot of adrenaline had him bolt upright, but he's numb already in its wake. He spots Thomas standing in the shadows of the doorway, stocking feet and a robe, end of his soft terrycloth belt clenched in one fist, concerned look on his face, and all Ray can do is stare back at him, everything narrowed down to a tunnel of vision and the plastic of the receiver gripped hard in his fingers, Miguel's breath counterpoint to his own, until there's a sudden click and the line goes dead. He has to stop himself from calling out Miguel's name, bite back the word like he can catch it between his teeth, sharp and bloody, taste of copper and salt in his mouth.
"The Wojciks?" Thomas asks him, voice low against waking Lou, and Ray stares dumbly back at him for a minute before shaking his head.
"No one willing to talk, on the other end of the line," he says, and it's not even a lie.
He has to wait until Thomas goes back to bed – gets a glass of water and putters around the kitchen, talking to Ray about something, but Ray can't even pretend to pay attention, and he's glad when Thomas spots his Breviary, rinses out his glass and wanders back into the shadows, telling Ray he'll let him get back to it. Ray tries to stand up then and finds himself on his knees beside the kitchen table, relief taking him down, shaking with the vestiges of adrenaline – not the first time it's happened, and it won't be the last – and then anger hits, his fists tightening on the edge of the table where he's caught himself. He's almost surprised at the intensity, the flush of straight-up rage that floods through him, tingling from scalp to fingertips, slapping him out of numbness, because what right does he have to be angry? Whatever made him think he'd hear from Alvarez, gone without a word, a thought and a jump, slipping his restraints and gone? What made him think he was ever more than a "hack in black" to Miguel?
He is, though, he is, he knows it - knows it, now.
But why here, why now? he wonders, picking through feverish thoughts, tumbling and wild. Safety, maybe, he thinks - it's safer to call the rectory, somewhere the phones won't be monitored, possibly recorded, checked the way they routinely are in Oz.
He can't get rid of the anger, though - why now, finally, after all this time with no word, no sign? It's been a month, and Miguel could have been dead in any number of ditches, nameless and faceless and lost, gone forever without a word or a sign.
Ray has to pull himself up, has to get to his room. He can't take one of the others coming out to find him like this, asking him what's wrong. He blows out the candle without thought, mechanically stacks the books on the table. He's in his room, door closed behind him, shutting out the rest of the world, before it even occurs to him to wonder why Miguel would risk it, how he could be sure Ray wouldn't call the police - before it occurs to him to wonder why he didn't.