N.B.--- These are the concluding chapters of the first half of the novel the Lazarus Effect. Let me know what you think--- Happy Easter BW3
CHAPTER TWENTY: THE JAIL HOUSE ROCK
To say it was hot in the jail cell was putting it mildly. The bottom floor of the Jerusalem police station had a series of cells in it, and this floor of the building, though having the advantage of being below ground, nonetheless had little ventilation, no air conditioning, and no windows. If the police wanted to see their charges sweat, they didn’t need to go to any extra effort on a June day in this building. West had not been abused, nor had he been further interrogated, but his cell phone and all other potentially dangerous or blunt objects had been confiscated – even his L.L. Bean walking shoes (must be those dangerous shoe laces). West had only been drinking Ahava bottled water. He didn’t trust the food, not even the matzo ball soup.
West had spent Wednesday afternoon on and off in a hot interrogation room rehearsing the details of yesterday with the police – including the fact that he himself had been stuck in the Lazarus tomb for over an hour. Of course, it was embarrassing to admit he had been in there that long before remembering his cell phone!
He had tried hard not to leave out a minute of his day which left no room for making or planning some sort of forged stone. No, Tuesday went from excavating a tomb, to getting stuck in a tomb, to escaping a tomb, to examining the tomb with the IAA – a definite repeating theme there! But Tuesday evening was more problematic: dinner alone at home and his meeting with Kahlil. Of course, that meeting led to a dozen more questions. The upside, however, was the fact that the police admitted he had no gun powder residue on his hands, and no blood splatters on his clothes.
Fortunately, he was given a private cell for the evening. Apparently, more questioning would follow on Thursday, after the police cross checked some of today’s statements. Meanwhile, Art was thrilled to discover that a lawyer, Mrs. Rachel Dembski, who also worked for the IAA had agreed to help him through the legalities. She was a true blessing and during the afternoon had checked the paperwork, reminding the authorities that Art West was an American citizen, well-known in his field. The only real downer was having to turn in his passport. Rachel even managed to e-mail Harry Scholer and confirm his arrival at 9:25 AM Thursday into Tel Aviv on Continental.
Sleep was fitful, and Thursday morning’s interrogations were again exhausting. By now, however, he was beginning to realize any case against him was weak. He wished, however, the police would take his complaints about being sealed in a tomb more seriously. No one seemed too impressed.
By Thursday afternoon, Harry arrived at the police station and the police promised to release West on his own recognizance, especially after the Jerusalem police chief received a phone call from Sammy Cohen. Bemused, West thought, “Maybe they’ll put a tail on me, hoping I will lead them to the real artifact.”
West thanked Mrs. Dembski, walked out of the building into the still blistering heat, turned to Harry and said,
“Are you sure you want me to get into that tiny car with you. I am a personal embodiment of that famous saying about Lazarus in the King James version: “Lord, he stinketh!”
Harry dismissed the idea of his walking home, and said
“It’s a Volkswagen rental car, not a limo!” West compacted himself into the lemon yellow VW wagon and rode off toward his flat.
“Now Harry, the least I can do is put you up at my place since you came all this way to help me out.”
Harry agreed, “Fine for now. I need some real food and sleep and you need a shower, shave and some rest. Then we will draw up a battle plan.” The two men exchanged tired looks and headed for the bottom of the Hinnom valley.
In another part of the police station, some extensive testing was being conducted on evidence found at the crime scene-- the part of el Said’s shirt which had caught on the park bench, his jacket which had been supplied by Hannah, and of course the gun. Also brought in by the police was a stone wrapped in brown paper. In each case the search was for usable fingerprints plus blood or hairs from which DNA could be extracted and matches made. What West had not known is that when he gave blood at Sinai hospital, a few drops had been requisitioned for testing by the police.
The relationship between the antiquities police who worked closely with and almost for the IAA and the general police was an interesting one. There was usually a clear division of labor, but sometimes in the case of a stolen object, there was overlap and cooperation. With a police force as stretched and under siege as the Jerusalem force was they were happy to have all the help they could get from the IAA police. Sammy Cohen called the police station Thursday morning to inquire about Art West but also to check on the lab findings.
“Mr. Cohen,” said one lab tech, “I already have one thing for you. There was no gun powder residue on Mr. West, and no blood splatter on his clothes. But we have taken hair fibers off the jacket of el Said. Some are his own and match what the hospital gave us. But some are not his. There seems to have been a struggle of sorts. There is a fair chance we have something from the assailant on the jacket. We haven’t finished our testing yet.”
“Good, but what about the stone copy I keep hearing about?”
“Sorry, Mr. Cohen, we are testing the paper for fingerprints. As long as you have clearance I’ll keep you posted directly,” replied the technician.
Grace had arrived early Thursday morning to continue overseeing some of the testing on the manuscript and the ossuary. She would have worked straight through lunch, but Sammy invited her to go for a ride.
“Grace, I think we need to have a chat about West. Shall we go over to Ben Yehuda Street and have a quiet late lunch?” While this proposal was quite within the bounds of the appropriate, it was also true that Cohen, a widower, had an interest in Levine, who was also single.
Grace looked at him and said, “Fine, a business lunch then.” Cohen sighed and shook his head. They reached Ben Yehuda Street in about ten minutes.
Cohen was counting on the upstairs of Sarah’s coffee shop, Solomon’s Porch, to be quiet by now. Quiet it was, as the two of them ordered lamb kebabs and salad.
“So Grace, why are you so certain that West could not have committed these crimes? He is, after all, a fallible human being, and one with a shortage of money.”
“True enough,” said Grace. “I grant you both of those points, but you must also agree he’s an intelligent man. He clearly did not seal himself in the tomb of Lazarus, and his subsequent actions all reflect a person who cares more about his friends than about his own reputation. He could have called in anonymously to the EMT people and left the scene, but instead he stayed to help, and he even called the police. These are not the actions of a criminal, or even just a person who is in shock. He was doing everything he could to give Mr. el Said a chance at life.”
“You are right about all this,” said Cohen. “But obviously you are also his true friend, and your pleading might be said to be special pleading.”
“You could say it, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the logic of what I said stands on its own. I say again, West did not seal himself in that tomb. Somebody was after him, and somebody wanted him not only off the scene, but also implicated in a crime.”
Cohen scratched his head, “I agree. I’m just testing. In fact, I already called the police this morning to check on our Mr. West. One of our lawyers was at the station. I suspect Art will be released today.”
Grace was relieved and surprised by all these announcements. “But when do we tell Art about what’s hidden in the central room in the IAA building? I want to watch his reaction!”
Sammy thought for a moment. He noticed that both of them had been ravenous and had wolfed down their salads. Hard work at a breakneck speed will do that to you.
“I think we should wait on that for a while for both his sake and ours. Let’s run our tests. Let him run the gauntlet of the legal process. After that there will be plenty of time to consult with him.”
“Changing the subject for a minute, did you see that a whole group of people including some from the Israeli Geological Survey have called for further testing on both the Jehoash tablet and the James box? When will it end?”
“Well this particular mess will end, hopefully, when we get to the bottom of who is trying to frame Art West,” said Grace.
As the waitress was bringing the lamb kebabs, Cohen’s cell phone rang.
“. . . and alechem shalom to you as well. What news? Yes. Fine. OK.” Sammy turned to Grace, “That was the lab tech again. He confirms that there are absolutely no prints from West on the fake stone. So far in regard to that he is in the clear.”
“Which must mean someone is trying to frame him.”
“Does begin to look that way, doesn’t it? In addition, they did find a partial set of prints from someone else on the stone! Someone was careless. We are sending them to be checked now, and will see if they come back with a match.”
“Very good, we are making progress,” said Grace. “I think I’ll leave the office early and go by the hospital to check on Hannah. Her father is still in a coma. She was hoping to see Art this morning, but obviously that couldn’t happen.”
Sammy and Grace returned to the IAA and parted company. There was lots of work to do Thursday afternoon. The lab had rung Cohen again.
“Professor Cohen,” said the lab tech, “I have some good news. Interpol has helped us find the match on that set of fingerprints on the stone. It belongs to one Raymond Simpson, an American grad student at Yale University, aged 27. Seems he had been stopped for driving while intoxicated in New Haven a couple of years back, and he put up a little resistance so the police took him in and finger printed him. That’s how we know.”
Cohen replied, “Do we know where this Raymond Simpson is?”
“Well, that’s a problem for immigration so I will put Samson on the line.”
In a second, another voice boomed, “Professor Cohen, how are you! We know Simpson is still in country, but we just don’t know where, so we are in process of posting an APB to track him down and bring him in for questioning. The airports, bus depot – the usual – will be watched. We will let you know!”
Cohen hung up the phone and said to no one in particular, “Hopefully, we catch him before he catches on that we are looking for him.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: RAYMOND’S FOLLY
At that precise moment late Thursday afternoon, Ray Simpson had just cleared customs and security and was racing to his gate. The taxi he had taken from Jerusalem had gotten stuck in traffic on the way to Tel Aviv, and he was barely going to make his flight from the new Tel Aviv Airport. After working his way through the security checkpoint and the passport control, he raced through the terminal and sprinted to the gate. They were already boarding. Breathless, he handed the gate attendant his boarding pass, and flashed his passport. The card was run through the scanner once more, and he went down the corridor to get on the plane. He would be able to relax once he was on the plane. Simpson was a person who hated to be late for anything and he was a nervous wreck by the time he arrived for the flight.
The plane pushed back from the gate and taxied out onto the runway. It was fourth in line for take off. Suddenly, off to the right, there was a huge flash of light and an explosion which seems to happen just beyond the edge of the airport tarmac. Something had blown up far too near airplanes for comfort. After a long uncomfortable silence, a voice came over the loud speaker.
“Ladies and gentleman, there has been an incident, perhaps a terrorist incident, near the edge of the airport. So far as we know, no one is hurt, but we are temporally in lock down mode until we get the all clear. We will sit here for a while, and if needs be we will return to the gate if the tower so instructs. Thank you for your patience.”
At that very moment an IAA policeman was talking to customs. Holding up a faxed photo, he asked, “Has anyone seen this man tonight. Has a passport for Raymond Simpson been swiped through here?”
A woman at the last booth called out, “Yes, that’s the young man who came running through here shortly before his flight was to leave. He was convinced he was going to miss his flight.”
The IAA officer joined her to check the records. Ray Simpson, Flight 902.
Suddenly, everyone instinctively ducked when they heard an explosion.
“A bomb!?” someone cried out but not quite sure.
“Well,” said the officer peering around cautiously, “if it is, I’ll bet no flights are leaving anytime soon! Regardless, I’ve got to contact the control tower to hold that flight!”
Ray Simpson, as it turns out, was not going anywhere Thursday, except back to Jerusalem. He had a premonition that something was wrong, and since the plane was, according to the captain’s announcement, going to try and take off in about an hour, he figured he could wait that long. Almost everyone was standing up talking excitedly, making new friends – except Raymond. He sat glumly staring out the window wishing he were already home. Patrick Stone’s phone call was so transparent.
Stone had been “called home” – yeah, right. The good Dr. Stone fled Jerusalem leaving Raymond to deal with the inevitable fallout of taking the stone, making a copy, sending it to Dr. West, etc. etc. Without a word to his roommate, Raymond had made plans to follow his professor out of town as quickly as possible.
The next announcement from the captain was more unsettling. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but everyone has been ordered to leave the aircraft. Airport personnel will be available to help you make other travel plans. Please exit in an orderly fashion.”
Miserable now, Raymond just sat on the plane while everyone else slowly departed. The attendants looked at him quizzically but didn’t bother him yet. Finally, when everyone had departed he reluctantly began to gather up his coat and travel bag.
When the police did not see Simpson get off the plane, they immediately entered flashing their badges. The stewardess got out of the way quickly. The officer in charge, Simon Bar-Elan, proceeded slowly down the aisle to the back of the plane with his hand on his holster gun. Finally he came to a very sad-looking Ray Simpson. One look at the policeman told Ray that he was the target, so he quickly held up his hands and pleaded, “Don’t shoot, I surrender!” The men in brown escorted a now thoroughly miserable young man whose head was buried in his jacket off the plane.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO : HACKING STONE
Thursday afternoon, Patrick Stone checked into the Royal Edinburgh Hotel near the British Museum, and rang up his old acquaintance, Oliver St. James. Propping his feet up on the bed while sitting in the Queen Anne chair next to the phone and sipping a Glen Fidditch he was determined not to be his usual irascible self. He was going to be the soul of affability so he could get what he needed – authentication and appraisal.
“Oliver,” said Stone, “ I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow, and I promise you will not be disappointed in what I have brought.”
Oliver, ever the meticulous scholar, said, “We shall see what we shall see. It is a good thing you are bringing this to the labs at the Museum so we can do the patina testing and the like on the spot.”
“Right,” said Stone. “It should prove to be an intriguing day. Be sure you have your geologist with you as well. I must ring off now and call Sotheby’s.” As he rang of St. James pondered the note of excitement, but also anxiety in the voice of Patrick Stone.
“Hello, may I please speak to Mrs. Delia Tidewater, the appraiser, please.”
A woman with an exceedingly high voice came on the line. “Halloo, is that you Professor Stone. I am well aware of our rendezvous Friday at the South entrance to the British Museum. You did say 10 AM sharp, did you not?”
“Yes, and Mr. St James, whom I believe you know, will be meeting us.”
“Quite, see you tomorrow. TTFN.”
These British with their abbreviations! The last time he was in England Stone had had a horrible time trying to figure out what the signs with F I Y were all about. F Y I he understood as an abbreviation, but not F I Y. Turned out to be a Fix It Yourself store, the English equivalent of Lowe’s! But T T F N – who says ‘Ta ta for now’ in this day and age?! Stone was fading fast, and the jet lag was beginning to set in. Best to take a shower and turn in early. Tomorrow would be a crucial day.
Sadiq Hadassah had had no trouble whatsoever following Stone to his hotel of choice as Stone was so self-absorbed with what he was doing, but he could hardly afford to stay in such a palace, so he had settled into a bed and breakfast down the street from the Royal Edinburgh. Sadiq had been turning over and over in his mind what would be his next move. He had brought his laptop and planned to report in to Rabbi Menachem and perhaps also to the IAA. He had noticed that Stone had brought his laptop with him, and since Hadassah, among other things, was a computer geek, he thought of hacking into Stone’s hotmail account and seeing what was happening. He had installed on his laptop some conventional spy software and had already managed to both locate Stone’s e-address, and had even decoded his password– YALEPROF. He was thus set to listen in to what was going down, provided of course Stone actually used his laptop while in London.
The email he had perused so far was boring in the extreme, except for a curious memo sent to someone with an e-address of firstname.lastname@example.org reminding him not to forget to await Stone’s phone call about the nativity set! What could that be about? In any case Sadiq figured that something was going to go down tomorrow, and so he would simply stay locked in to Stone’s account all the following day and wait and see what happened. Unlike Stone, Saddiq would spend most of the night pacing the floor, and wondering what to do next.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO: DEAL OF THE CENTURY
At 10 AM Friday morning, the door to the south end of the British Museum swung open and Oliver St. James welcomed both Delia Tidewater and Patrick Stone, carrying his satchel with its priceless content. A light rain was falling, so they put their umbrellas in the stand in the hall. Stone muttered to himself, “The only nation in the world that has umbrella stands in the entrance ways to every public and private building.”
The long, narrow, corridor was old, as was the museum, and the lighting in this part of the building was poor, creating an eerie effect. Stone felt like he was walking down a corridor in a maximum security prison. At the end of the hall Oliver turned right and then another immediate right and took his guests into a laboratory where three other persons, dressed in the white frock coats so favored by European scientists, were waiting.
“Let me introduce you,” said Oliver. “First we have Professor Soards of Leeds University. He is one of the leading geologists in the country, with a specialty in the geology of Israel.” At the end of the line, a tall man with wavy white hair nodded solemnly.
“Then we have Dr. Pamela Thistlewaite, a geochemist of note from Oxford, who will be checking the stone in regard to composition and patina. She smiled briefly.
“And Professor Ian Baring-Gould, an expert epigrapher for the New Testament period who will be examining the script on the stone. If it is likely that this stone is what you claim, we should be able to render a preliminary judgment later today. Which brings me to Mrs. Delia Tidewater from Sotheby’s. She will aid us with the appraisal – Professor Stone invited her expressly.”
Stone took the tablet out of his satchel and laid it on the table in the center of the room. He had some qualms about handing it over to anyone, but he knew that if he showed hesitancy it would indicate a lack of trust which would likely endanger the possibility of selling the object immediately.
The office of Oliver St. James looked like a hurricane had recently come through. There were not only files everywhere but also pots on the floor, wilted plants on the window ledge, two worn Queen Anne wing backs in one corner, a pipe on a tea table between them, file cabinets bursting at the seams, and 2 banks of fluorescent bulbs – some not working. Taking piles of files from several folding chairs, St. James said to his guests, “Please forgive the clutter, it can’t be helped. Grab a chair and do sit down.”
St. James was spry for his seventy-four years and had been with the museum for almost fifty. He had struck up an acquaintance with Stone the last time Stone was in town and had given a lecture at the museum on ancient Near-Eastern archaeology. St. James found Stone a bit off-putting and arrogant, but nonetheless a fine scholar and lecturer. He was not totally surprised to hear from Stone, but he was certainly surprised to hear what he had to say.
“Naturally, Professor Stone, we will need some assurances that this tablet has not been illegally obtained. What documentation have you brought?”
Stone opened his satchel again and brought forth the two documents he had purchased Wednesday afternoon on the black market. The first document, dated May 17, attested to the authenticity of the stone and claimed to be from the Israeli Geological Survey. The dealer had brought up a photo of a genuine Israeli Geological Survey document which he cut and pasted into a Word document. After the blanks were filled in, he printed the fake document on paper designed to look quite old, signed it with a real ink pen, and notarizing it complete with an embossed stamp. There was no easy way to tell the difference between this document and a genuine one from the Israeli Geological Survey.
The second document had been easier to produce. This document stated that Stone had bought this tablet in the dealer’s shop in 1972 – in other words, well before it became illegal to own such precious objects. This second document was, in fact, genuine, but Stone had paid the dealer enough money to make the date read 1972, not 2004.
St. James looked over the documents carefully one by one, and then handed them to Delia Tidewater. “These papers seem to be in order, and since we are all familiar with the Israeli law about precious antiquities that come to light after 1978, this object would seem to fall well within the legal limit for purchase by a collector or a museum. What is your assessment, Ms. Tidewater?”
After a moment she concurred,
“Yes these papers seem to be in order. Of course, let me add that Professor Stone could not have left Israel without the authorities seeing the tablet, checking the papers and passing him through the security and customs checkpoints. The very fact that he is here in London would seem to speak for the genuineness of these document.”
“Quite so, a good point,” said Oliver. “Miss Tidewater, you are free to go now.”
“Certainly,” said Delia, “I have some more research to do if I’m to come up with some dollar figures this afternoon.”
St. James closed the door behind her. He invited Patrick to enjoy the comfort of the old chairs in the corner. Oliver lit up his pipe. Settling down into his chair he said to Stone, “Now Patrick, you must tell me how you came to have this tablet, and why it is that just now, if you have had it all these years, you have come to us with it.”
“It is not a difficult tale to tell Oliver,” said Patrick. “Back in 1972 after I was in college, a group of us visited Jerusalem. I bought all kinds of trinkets, and this stone from a dealer. According to the notes I made at the time, it had been found in some Jewish graveyard at the bottom of the Kidron valley near the Pool of Siloam, but closer to Bethany. The dealer said he had been sold this item by some poor Palestinian who found it on his own property. I think he said the man lived in Silwan. In any event, when I returned home, I put the stone in my attic along with my other souvenirs, and only recently rediscovered them all. So, here I am at the end of my career, a man in his 60s. I am tired and would like to retire. Maybe this tablet can help make that an easier process.”
Stone was quite pleased with himself. He felt he had come off as genuine as one could manage, considering it was all a pack of lies, except the bit about wanting to retire on his nest egg. He knew it would be tough to explain why a man of his training would not have seen the significance of the stone much earlier in his career. He hoped he had been believable. He wasn’t sure, and he was trying not to sweat.
Oliver looked intently at Stone which made him squirm. He tried to keep his composure as Oliver said evenly,
“I know what you mean old thing. If I hadn’t the security of my Old Age Pension, or the O.A.P. as we like to call it, I reckon I would be looking to do something like you are doing if I could manage it. Your social security system is certainly more dodgy than ours. Well, shall we go and see how the testing is progressing?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” said Stone as he too quickly jumped from the chair and moved to the table. He could barely contain his excitement.
St. James thought to himself:
“Here is a man who is hoping for a sudden windfall at the end of his career. It is sad what happens to American teachers as their careers wind down. I can’t blame Stone for hoping for something grand. Perhaps we can help him.”
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE: LAW’S LIMITS; STONES’S SUCCESS
Jamison Parkes Law was pacing the floor having just read his email from his main contact within the Sons of Zion– Sadiq Hadassah. Something bad was about to go down and it seemed to involve both Patrick Stone and Art West. This puzzled Law, as Law knew these two men to be rivals, and he had even had some congenial conversations with Art West once or twice. What could they be up to? Could West really be involved in some sort of shady antiquities scam? Sadiq had promised to send more information as soon as he knew it, but what would Law do with the info? Would he go to the press? Would he call up the IAA? Should he involve Rabbi Menachem more directly? He couldn’t decide just yet.
Law had become increasingly agitated when his two disciples had reported to him that West had been taken into custody, apparently for forgery, and possibly for assault on el Said. But this made no sense to him, in view of the fact that Hadassah had already communicated with him that it was Stone who had gone to el Said with some object and then later that evening had met with el Said in the park before West had arrived. Hadassah had not been sure in the dark who had fired at who, but el Said had ended up being shot.
Could West really be in on such immoral actions? Yet he had showed up on the scene almost immediately after el Said had been shot. The clock was ticking, and Law’s legal sensibilities and conscience would not leave him alone. What to do? He prayed and then decided to await the further revelations of the day before doing anything. One thing for sure, it would reflect very poorly on conservative Christians in Israel if West turned out to be a criminal. Law would need to have incontrovertible evidence before blowing the whistle on West.
For three hours the British Museum’s finest tested the Lazarus tablet. After a break for a late lunch all the parties reassembled in the lab. Oliver convened the session with the words, “Colleagues, what have you to report?”
Pamela Thistlewaite spoke first. “We have run all the appropriate tests on the stone, and we have found no reason to doubt this is a first century stone, with a first century inscription.”
Professor Baring-Gould added, “And as for the inscription itself, not only did it have ancient patina with no signs of modern tampering, but the script itself was of one hand, all likely executed on just one occasion.”
Thistlewaite added: “This is clearly Jerusalem limestone, but it is not from the Mt. Scopus region, but rather further down the ridge where the limestone is of poorer quality. Perhaps from the region of Silwan or Bethany.”
“So, then, it is your judgment that the stone is a genuine artifact of the Herodian period?” said Oliver.
“Yes,” said Pamela. “We are all in one accord on that point. We see no reason to have any doubts about the antiquity of the object or its inscription.”
“Jolly good,” said Oliver. “You may go home early today in view of your
exemplary work on this project.”
They all smiled and moved off towards the cloak room to take off their professional garb, and head for the nearest underground station, quite pleased with themselves.
Oliver beckoned Stone and Delia Tidewater to sit in chairs next to the
examining table, and he handed her the stone. “Delia, the stone is now literally in your hands. What is your appraisal?”
Delia did not hesitate, but spoke up in her high voice:
“We have in our business a term – commensurate appraisal. We appraise an object on the basis of what other similar objects of equal historical importance and of equal antiquity would fetch at a public auction. This artifact is unique in that it has a unique inscription on it, and it is entirely the inscription that makes it so valuable. Therefore the most crucial part of the testing was the patina test and the epigrapher’s analysis. I gather the ultraviolet test showed absolutely no signs of modern tampering as well, which is good to know. Taking all things into consideration, especially the rather unique claim of the inscription to refer to a person who had died more than once, and taking Professor Stone’s word that this comes from the very region where according to historical record Lazarus was buried, I would judge that this item would bring no less than about forty million US dollars on the open market.” Of course what you two negotiate is your business entirely, but now at least you have a general figure to guide the discussions.”
“Thank you, Delia, I will be sending your cheque along in the morning with thanks.” said Oliver. The weak sun had finally peeked through the clouds outside the window as the afternoon was drawing to a close, and Oliver sat in thought for a moment.
“Well Professor, I hardly know what to say. Were the museum to acquire
this object I have little doubt it would cause a sensation and draw paying customers to the museum for many years. If we placed it in the room with Codex Vaticanus in its own secure temperature-sensitive case I am sure many millions would eventually come to view it. You have told me that time is of the essence, and I take you at your word, and you have also told me that you have a collector prepared to pay market price for this object in Tübingen. Is that still the case?”
Stone clearer his throat and responded:
“Yes, but I am prepared to bargain with you in a fair manner, in exchange for a consideration.”
What consideration would that be?” asked Oliver.
“I would like this negotiation to be in complete confidence – I have no desire to deal with the publicity. The records must be sealed.”
“That is quite extraordinary. Any lesser man would bathe in the glory of such a find. I admire your dedication to pure scholarship.”
“Thank you, Oliver. You told me on the phone that you are prepared to strike a bargain today, and do the wire transfer tomorrow morning. Is this still the case?”
“Yes, the trustees of the museum are quite in a dither about this find,
and they have given me a figure we are prepared to pay.”
“Very good. And what indeed is that figure.”
“We are prepared to pay twenty million pounds sterling, that is, thirty five million dollars, drawing on our Barclay’s account, in order to acquire this artifact. “
Stone knew that he did not want to go through a long negotiating hassle with a collector. He replied abruptly, “Oliver, it is a pleasure doing business with you, let us shake on it. We have a deal.”
The two men arose, smiled and shook hands. Stone then added, “I presume I can store the stone safely in your vault here?”
“I had anticipated this request. Shall we go and place it out of harm’s way together? Then you can work with my secretary on the paperwork including, of course, your Swiss bank account number. I expect that we will do the transfer Saturday morning at approximately 9 AM.”
“Oh, and one more thing. I want 1 million pounds transferred to a Jerusalem account to further the archaeological work there.”
“That should be no problem, just give me the number now.”
Stone wrote out the number of the Jerusalem checking account of Dr. Arthur West, though St. James had no way of knowing whose number it was. Stone saw this as his master-stroke. Sooner or later the police would be checking West’s account balances to see if there were any dramatic changes. When $1.7 million dollars suddenly showed up in West’s account, he would be in even further hot water.
Stone had obtained West’s account number in the most unobtrusive way possible. He had had Simpson follow West to the bank one day, watch him right out his deposit slip on the usual desk blotter in the lobby, and when West left, not paying any attention to Simpson, Simpson simply highlighted the place on the blotter where West had written down the number with a yellow highlighter, bearing down hard, and the account number had magically appeared. Simple and effective. West was about to be in a world of hurt.
St. James and Stone walked to the end of the hall, this time turned left and walked into an inner room boasting a very large safe. St. James turned two dials on the combination lock, placed the stone on a shelf, closed the safe, and escorted Patrick to the office of the Museum Director.
The director and his secretary were sitting at a conference table – all the paperwork neatly laid out and ready for signatures. The business was transacted calmly and efficiently, and the director congratulated Stone on making such an important contribution available to the museum rather than a private collector.
On their way out, Stone said to Oliver, “Shall we go celebrate with dinner somewhere? I am glad to buy!”
“Why not?” said St. James. “I know just the place. The Boar’s Head is not two blocks from here, and has an excellent wine list, and wonderful cuisine.”
“Fine,” said Stone. He was now feeling like he had pulled it off, and he wanted to leave a good impression tonight on St. James. They walked down the boulevard together, happy men for very different reasons. Neither one of them paid any attention to the young man standing in the doorway of the B+B which they passed on the way to dinner. Following them at a distance Hadassah planned on eves-dropping on their dinner conversation. Little did he realize what indigestion that meal conversation would produce.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: PATRICK’S SCAPEGOAT
Thursday night found Ray Simpson sitting, not in a plane, but in the very jail cell where West had spent the day. He had already survived one grueling round of questioning, and he barely managed to keep his cool. He had demanded a lawyer, but was told that under Israeli law they had every right to interrogate him if they chose. No charges had been made as yet, and even if they did press charges, they could hold him without bail. Ray Simpson soon realized that the law of Israel was indeed very different from what he expected. Could torture be involved? Thursday night produced very little sleep.
Raymond’s Friday was certainly not going as well as Patrick Stone’s Friday. At nine o’clock in the morning, no less than four IAA police agents came to his cell. They trotted out the brown paper which he had used to wrap the forged Lazarus stone. They showed him the evidence of his fingerprints on the forgery.
Detective Shimon spoke:
“Mr Simpson, we know from this piece of paper that you have a connection with a stone inscription found Tuesday in Bethany by Dr. Arthur West. The fact that you made a copy indicates you have some knowledge of the original – which is still missing. Further we believe that a man answering to the description of Dr. Patrick Stone probably brought the original to the shop of Kahlil el Said on Tuesday afternoon, the same el Said who was attacked Tuesday night. We also know that you are a graduate student currently working with Dr. Patrick Stone. Unless you tell us right now where the original Lazarus stone is, and where Professor Stone is, you will be charged with attempting to steal antiquities, forgery and, if we find you had anything to do with the shooting of Kahlil el Said, attempted murder as well. So, Mr. Simpson, where are the two “stones” -- the man and the rock?”
Simpson had begun to sweat. He thought to himself, “I guess I won’t be getting out of this cleanly just by stonewalling, so to speak. I have to give them something and I have to tell them at least some of the truth.” From the line of questioning so far, he realized there was plenty they didn’t know about.
Clearing his throat Simpson rehashed most of last night’s answers.
“I’m just Patrick Stone’s teaching assistant. We have been here in Jerusalem doing various sorts of research, and buying a few things. Professor Stone called me Wednesday saying he was called away on family business. I presume he left Wednesday night or maybe Thursday for New Haven and then his home in Tennessee to see his ailing mother. He told me I could stay in Jerusalem and continue my research, but I decided to go home for a visit.”
“As for the inscription, yeah, I made that cheap copy and sent it by courier to Dr. Arthur West at Stone’s request. Professor Stone gave me a blown-up picture to make the copy. Really, honestly, I don’t know where the original is! Perhaps Professor Stone can tell you, but I don’t know.”
So far, he was telling the truth – not all the truth – but the truth nonetheless. However, he finally lied, adding, “I’ve never seen the original!”
Ray started getting more defensive and sarcastic. “To my knowledge it’s not against the law to make a copy of something ancient. Right? I wasn’t trying to pass it off as anything real. You have the package – you know that there’s no request or demand for payment or anything like that. Finally, I have no idea at all what you are talking about in regard to the shooting of Kahlil el Said. I was in the apartment with my roommate, Grayson Johnson, watching basketball and eating a late supper Tuesday night.”
“We will be checking your alibi by talking with Mr. Johnson. Meanwhile, we will be tapping your phone in case Professor Stone calls. We think you know a lot more about the original stone, especially since Dr. West claims to have seen the original stone Tuesday morning in a tomb in Bethany. He also claims he was mysteriously sealed in that tomb for a time!! Do you know anything about that?”
Raymond looked up sheepishly but said nothing.
“As I said, we think you know a lot more. For the time being you will be held in custody for further interrogation and possible charges. Calling the American Consulate will do you little good, given the nature of the charges. So I suggest you make your one phone call a more profitable one.” With this, the officer turned on his heels and left the room. Raymond was taken back to his cell.
Shimon said to the other IAA police,
“He is probably telling the truth to an extent. I’m convinced, however, it’s not the whole truth. Check customs and flight manifests for Patrick Stone. We need to find him quickly.”
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE: ‘BORN ON A MOUNTAIN-TOP IN TENNESSEE’
Among his other duties, Detective Hoffner was in charge of one key piece of evidence – the weapon. Surprisingly, it was a 19th century derringer, a one-shot weapon that could be concealed in the palm of a man’s hand. Probably made in the US, the gun was too old to have a serial number. Hoffner narrowed his search to cities where Patrick Stone had lived, beginning with his birthplace, Johnson City, Tennessee.
The Internet is a wonderful thing. Even if you connect in outer Slobovia, you can still find out the name and phone number of the local antique and gun shops in Johnson City Tennessee or New Haven Connecticut. Hoffner had been calling numbers for a day now. Finally, he came to Marvin’s Gun and Ammo Shop. Hoffner was in no way prepared for the conversation he was about to have. Worlds and cultures were about to collide here, even worse than if Bonnie and Clyde had paid a visit to the Bedouins in the Judean desert.
Marvin’s Gun and Ammo shop was sort of the Wal-Mart of gun shops – one-stop shopping. The neon sign blinked irregularly; figures hand-painted on the windows ranged from Wild Bill Hickcock to Annie Oakley to G.I. Joe to Johnny Reb. The building was the sort of place no sane woman would ever enter. It was strictly a man’s domain. Not only were there guns and ammunition of all sizes and descriptions, there was all sorts of Army surplus stuff ranging from uniforms to canteens to medals. Shoot, there was even an old howitzer and a small tank in the front parking lot!
The floors in the store were concrete for the very good reason that they need hosing down once in a while due to the spitting of chewin’ tobacco here, there and yonder. Right next to the cash register there was Red Man Chewin’ Tobacco, Skol Dippin’ Snuff, a revolving display of Army patches, and even canned possum. Marvin’s had it all, except of course for a computer. Marvin had not yet had a close encounter of the first kind with the computer revolution. His son set up his website and monitored it from home.
Hoffner calculated that he was a good seven to eight hours ahead of Johnson City time, so he would wait and call late Friday afternoon. Dialing up the number in his small cubicle in the police station it took a while for the phone to ring, and even longer before someone picked up. A gravelly voice finally rang out,
“Yup, this is Marvin’s, whatcha need?”
Hoffner swallowed and answered, “My name is Detective Hoffner. I am calling from the police station in Jerusalem. Do you know anyone by the name of Patrick Stone or Leroy Stone?” There was a pause. Avi could hear some arguing going on despite the fact that someone’s hand was probably over the receiver.
In truth, things were a bit confused at Marvin’s store. Marvin was sharing the conversation with the boys playing checkers.
“Jerusalem? Jerusalem Tennessee? Ain’t that over near the border with Kentucky?” said Charlie, the best player around.
“ Yeah, maybe, but this here caller wants to know if we know’d someone named Leroy Stone.”
The next thing Hoffner heard was laughter. Finally Marvin was back on the line.
“I reckon so. Leroy used to be the mayor of this place. His son Patrick’s a big shot, but he visits his mama sometimes.”
Hoffner tenatively ventured another question.
“Did either one of them ever buy a gun from your shop? In particular, an antique hand weapon ?” Again laughter broke out at the other end of the line.
“Feller, it’s clear you ain’t from around these parts. Nobody around here would dare call a fire arm an antique hand weapon. That’d be bows and arrows around here.”
Hoffner tried again,
“I believe it is called a derringer, and it came with a pearl handle.”
“Now you’re talkin, let me go look in the books.” When Marvin said look in the books he meant he would go back to his cluttered office, get out the sales receipts for the years when Leroy was living and start leafing through them. This could take forever. Ten minutes, later, Marvin picked up the phone again.
“Records take too long. Now Vernon’s here right now, and he saved me some trouble. He recollected that Leroy did buy himself a little derringer just after he became Mayor in 1950 something, on account OF he figured he was a VIP now and could afford antiques. It was a Civil War gun carried by some officer in Braxton Bragg’s army. Didn’t have much velocity and no percussion at all. Only works at really close range. Don’t do much damage. May I ask now why you are askin’ these funny questions?”
Hoffner had begun to make some sense of this particular brand of southern American dialect, and he decided that the best thing to do now was beat a fast retreat before he got in any deeper. His mental picture of the man he was talking to didn’t come close to matching the reality of the codger at the other end in bib overalls and a Braves hat.
Hoffner bravely continued,
“I am engaged in some police work involving Patrick Stone who seems to have taken possession of the gun at some point.”
“Uh huh,” said Marvin. “Doesn’t surprise me, seein’ as how that boy went off to some fancy university up north, became an educated fool, and went atheist on us. That boy in some trouble now? His mama’s poorly you know.”
“You could say that; we are going to be questioning Dr. Stone” Hoffner replied. “But let’s not frighten his mother with rumors. One more thing, what is your full name.”
Marvin spat and responded proudly, “Marvin Moon , the gun expert.”
“Thank you kindly for your assistance,” Hoffner said and hung up.
About then the chief of police walked by. “Making any progress on tracing the gun?”
“Yes sir, but you wouldn’t believe the person I just talked to. I don’t think we could coax him over here for the trial. Nobody would understand his testimony anyway. He sounded like those fellows in that movie, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” with George Clooney. Let’s just say, the gun did originally belong to Leroy Stone , the father of Patrick. Getting proof, on paper, will probably be impossible. Plus, it’s not registered. I’ll try to get some sort of signed affidavit.”
Sadiq Haddasah had not slept a wink the previous night. The conversation he had overheard in the booth next to his own in the Boar’s Head Restaurant had so turned his stomach that he could barely restrain himself from attempting to do something violent. He knew from the conversation that not only had Stone sold the Lazarus stone to the British Museum for a considerable sum, but he intended to disappear into retirement as soon as he left London. The trail might suddenly run cold. Without question Hadassah would have to do something in the morning and he had heard the reassurance from St. James as they got up to leave that the wire transfers would take place about nine in the morning. “Why transfers, instead of just a single transfer?” wondered Hadassah. He formulated in his mind a plan of action just as soon as he had monitored Stone’s emails that were likely to go out sometime between nine and ten the next morning. “All Sheol is about to break loose in Jerusalem” said Sadiq and he grimaced.
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX: PAROLE WITHOUT A LIFE
Hannah had been very touched by Grace’s visit Thursday afternoon. She had only met Grace once before in her father’s shop, although both she and Grace were friends of Sarah and she had seen Grace on occasion at Solomon’s Porch. Grace had brought Hannah up to date on Art’s overnight stay with the police. She reminded Hannah that the police was interested in finding not only her father’s assailant, but also the stone’s forger. Apparently, the police still felt that Art knew more than he was telling them, but the police were planning to turn Art loose Thursday night.
Hannah had loudly expressed her attitude right there in the ICU lounge.
“That’s ridiculous! Art and my father are best of friends! He was right here giving blood to save his life before he was arrested. Of course Art didn’t shoot him!”
All of that anger and frustration against the injustices done to her people by Israeli police and armed forces welled up in her. Of course she knew that her own people, indeed her own former husband, had also committed atrocities, but it was hard to keep a balanced perspective when one had experienced great loss personally.
Friday morning Art had made a brief visit. For awhile, Harry and Hannah, old friends, talked about all sorts of recent finds in Israel. Art just stood by rather amazed at the depth of Hannah’s knowledge about Israeli antiquities. Hannah even gave Harry a key to her shop so Harry could peruse some things at his leisure.
It was now Friday evening. As Hannah sat by her father’s bed reciting again and again the basic Islamic prayer in Arabic – “There is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet,” – her heart had other words in mind, asking the Almighty to save her father, a good man. She was kneeling on her prayer rug facing Mecca and praying so intently that she hardly noticed that there was another sound in the room, the sound of very soft moaning. She stopped praying and realized the sound was coming from her father. She leapt up and went to his bed turning her ear in the direction of his mouth. Yes, he was moaning, now even more audibly. Could he be coming out of his coma? At once she pushed the call button for the nurse.
Grace finally arrived home from synagogue, with her mother Camelia in tow. Camelia had moved from New York to Jerusalem at the insistence of Grace, as she had no close relatives in the United States anymore to look after her. What Grace had not counted on was that her mother was still just as formidable and domineering as ever. She had moved into Grace’s apartment and immediately rearranged everything, including Grace’s own bed room!
Her mother was like a runaway freight train, and Grace was constantly looking for the brakes. Camelia’s latest tantrum occurred at the local grocery store after learning they did not carry her favorite brand of kefilta fish. She harangued the store owner for so long that his wife called up Grace and told her to come and take her mother home! Grace was mortified and apologized profusely for her mother’s overbearing behavior. Of course, she was forgetting that she too could sometimes be very pushy and get in people’s faces. It’s funny how we wince at the behavior in others that we are oblivious to in our own lives.
Once home Camelia put on the kettle and once again set in on her usual litany with Grace. “You realize that if you keep turning down the overtures of Sammy Cohen and others that you will end up sad and alone. Far be it from me to tell you how to run your life, but I am just saying it would be nice to see you find someone before you are as old and gray as I am.”
Grace practiced the art of ‘selective hearing loss’ and went about getting on her pajamas and getting comfortable before bedtime. It had been a long day. Finally, she returned to the kitchen.
“Mother, thank you again for your concern for my life, but I am really quite happy and fulfilled just as I am. I love my work. I have numerous friends. I enjoy the socials and services at our synagogue. And you are here with me. Really that’s more than enough.”
Grace was attempting the kill-them-with-kindness approach. In actuality Grace felt like she had received a sentence of parole without a life. There was a deeper part of her which really longed for love and permanent companionship, but Grace kept suppressing those feelings.
Grace turned on the 10 PM news and was immediately accosted with follow-up stories about the bomb that blew up outside of Tel Aviv airport Thursday night.
“This country has turned into a terrorist’s work shop. Practice here what you hope to make perfect when you export it to Europe and America. Why is civility and friendship so impossible now between the various faiths and ethnic groups in this land?” She found herself arguing with the TV.
Her mother just listened quietly from the kitchen and shook her head. She could not understand why in New York a thousand races could live side by side and survive without totally destroying each other’s way of life, but here in Israel, even just two or three ethnic groups and faiths couldn’t manage to get along and share the land and its blessings.
But there was another person on the other side of town which also felt like he was on parole without a life. Art had been released Thursday night. He and Harry had spent a quiet evening at his flat, especially since Harry needed food and rest.
Fortunately, he had not been charged with a crime, and therefore had not been required to post bail when he was released from jail. Yet he had been stripped of his passport and told not to leave town. In short, he was still under suspicion. Art began to understand how Oded Golan, owner of the James ossuary, must have felt, living in some sort of twilight zone, waiting for the ax to fall. West decided, however, that he was not going to let the situation get the best of him. He was not going to hang his head and hide – he was going to be proactive.
Friday, Art relaxed and toured some of Harry’s favorite spots. Late morning they visited Hannah which turned out to be a lot of fun for Art as he watched Hannah and Harry together! Harry’s enthusiasm for his work and antiquities in general was just the medicine the doctor would have ordered – for Hannah!
On Saturday, Shabbat, Harry spent the day at Kahlil’s shop. When Hannah left for the hospital, she gave Harry a crash course in making a sale. But there were few customers. He had the day and the shop mainly to himself to examine every piece.
By Saturday night Harry had settled in nicely in the guest bedroom and spent most of the evening attending to e-mails. He made a few phone calls to Mary Minor and Sam Feldman, two of his editors at Biblical Artifact.
Plus, Harry had begun drafting an amicus brief, just in case he had to go to court on behalf of Art. Of course, Art would need an Israeli lawyer as well, since Scholer did not know all the ins and outs of Israeli law. He planned to consult with a local firm and take suggestions on who could best represent Art.
One thing Harry did know however--- normally Israeli trials were trial by judge, though there was a provision for trial by jury if the defendant was from a country where that was the normal practice and it was requested. Harry was hoping for a trial by jury for sure. The judges he knew in Jerusalem were hanging judges with a low tolerance for possible antiquity thieves, much less potential murderers. Too many years of having to deal with the fallout from the Intifadah had hardened them and their approach to such matters of jurisprudence.
“It is going to be an uphill battle,” Harry said under his breath, as he prepared for bed.
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN: FLOWER CHILD
Grayson Johnson was quite the young man with a rather amazing pedigree. The son of the cult leader Charles Johnson, and a graduate of Fruitland Bible Institute in California, he was a blond hippie for Jesus. He sported a nose ring, a tongue stud, and more tattoos than one might think safe. “Israel is real, but Jesus is more real” read his favorite t-shirt which he wore constantly. Grayson Johnson was Ray Simpson’s roommate, sharing an apartment near the Scottish Presbyterian Church in Jerusalem.
Grayson supported himself by working at the Jerusalem YMCA and a health food store. Whenever he could, he hung out with various conservative Christian groups in the city including attending from time to time the Society of the Millennial Dawn’s public seminars. He was a vegetarian, a pacifist, and someone profoundly interested in the correlations between archaeology and the Bible. This latter interest had led him to attend worship services at the Garden Tomb not far from the Damascus Gate in the old city.
An avid reader of The Left Behind series of Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Grayson figured the world was coming to an end soon, and he wanted to be in Jerusalem when Jesus came back. For that reason, Grayson also kept up with the local news. Wednesday night, the headlines in the Jerusalem Post included the story about West’s arrest on suspicion of not only assault but also forgery – something having to do with an inscription and a limestone block. That sounded familiar! Friday morning’s news included a story about a bombing at Tel Aviv airport.
Grayson’s morning granola was interrupted by a knock at the door. The police searched Raymond’s room and talked to Grayson for about an hour. Grayson related all he knew about Raymond’s activities that week – including the fact that he was indeed home Tuesday night.
He knew Ray was up to no good, but he couldn’t quite figure out what to do about it. At the American Institute of Holy Land Studies, he had heard Professor West lecture on various occasions. One could say that West was in a sense Grayson’s hero, being in his eyes the man most responsible for helping the world to see that archaeology backed up the New Testament’s claims about history and Jesus.
He knew a lot more than Raymond could ever imagine. He knew: 1) Ray had snuck out Monday and Tuesday mornings very early; 2) Ray was furiously chiseling an inscription into a limestone block Tuesday afternoon in the back courtyard; 3) Ray had returned to the apartment Wednesday afternoon very agitated; 4) Ray packed his suitcase, grabbed his laptop, and left Thursday; and 5) Ray spent entirely too much time with that crabby old professor from Yale instead of getting his research done!
After work Friday afternoon, Grayson walked around the old city seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit and muttering,
“Principalities and powers man, principalities and powers. Somebody has got to help Doc West.”
He remembered an afternoon recently when he and Ray took a short trip from the bus station out to a local dig site. Before leaving, Grayson saw Ray checking out a locker. When Grayson asked him about it, Ray said it was for personal belongings, and he should mind his own business! Grayson was no Sherlock Holmes, but he suspected that if Ray was hiding something, it might be in that locker. He decided to search for the key!
Sunday morning provided a glorious blue sky, and Grayson was off to the Garden Tomb for worship. He loved the outdoor worship service, the singing, the preaching, the communion service. He called it the Adam and Eve praise service. Grayson knew from last Sunday’s bulletin that Art West was scheduled to preach. The text for the day was, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 4.14). Grayson sang lustily at the service, drawing a few stares, but settled down to listen intently when Arthur West took the pulpit.
West stressed in his sermon how important it was for Christians to be honest and open about their faith. In Israel, of course, it was against the law to proselytize Jews or other non-Christians but one could indirectly be a good witness by living a truth-filled life, and always helping the truth, of whatever kind, to come to light. Grayson had found the message powerfully convicting, and had decided he would be brave enough to go up and speak with Dr. West after the service.
As the worshipers were gradually filing out of the Garden and passing through the gift shop on the way out to the street, Grayson deliberately got at the back of the line of those who were shaking West’s hand. Being rather shy despite his love for singing, it took Grayson some doing to be brave enough to speak directly with his hero. As he came up to West and shook his hand, these words came tumbling out:
“I’m Grayson. For sure that was a good sermon Dr. West, and it reminded me that I need to be totally honest so that gnarly dude the Devil doesn’t win any victories because of me being shy and quiet. My roommate Raymond Simpson is not walkin’ the straight and narrow, to say the least, and he’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Thursday he packed his bags and split – but he didn’t get far! Yesterday, I found a key on a nail behind Ray’s bed. I know it goes to a locker at the Bethlehem bus station. In the rush, I guess he had a ‘senior moment’ – uh, sorry Dr. West for rattlin on!”
“No offense taken!” laughed West. This young man was an enigma, but he could see Grayson was very sincere. “What has this locker got to do with me?”
“I don’t know man,” said Grayson who then continued with the world’s longest one breath sentence:
“But the police searched Ray’s room Friday and talked to me all about the mess with the stone and all, and some guy named el Said, and you being accused of bad stuff, and Ray’s in jail now, and I know Ray hid stuff in that locker and maybe the rock’s there – wow, think of that! – but I figured you being an archaeologist and all, you could check it out cuz’ I’ve been praying for you what with all your troubles of late, and I figured this is what God wanted me to do.”
West looked deeply into the young man’s blue eyes and saw a simple soul who really did want to help.
“Tell me your full name again,” said West still staring.
“Oh, I’m nobody compared to you, I’m just Grayson, Grayson Johnson. This is about my roommate Ray Simpson. Like I said, he up and left me all of a sudden Thursday. He was hanging with the wrong crowd – to say nothin’ of that Stone character.”
“You are certainly not nobody,” said West. “You are a precious child of God, and who knows – what you’ve done may shed light on many problems.”
Grayson blushed and said, “Thanks man for makin’ it real, the Bible I mean.” West thought to ask. “Could you give me your address and phone number? At the very least I owe you lunch – and I’ll need to return this key and let you know what I’ve found!”
Grayson turned in amazement.
“You mean it? I don’t have a cell phone, can’t afford them plus I hear they mess with your brain, the signals I mean. But my apartment phone is 783-4242.”
West took out his palm pilot and entered Grayson’s address and phone number. “I promise to be in touch as soon as I’ve learned something. God bless you.” Grayson waved and went out through the gift shop.
Now Art was eager to share the morning’s excitement. He headed for his one of his favorite sidewalk cafés in the Jewish quarter to have brunch with Grace.
Walking quickly through the Damascus gate, he passed right by Kahlil’s shop, which reminded him to visit with Hannah later in the afternoon. Going through the bazaar, the crush of people was huge. Sunday, of course, was just a normal work day in Israel for the vast majority of people.
West strolled through the Cardo Maximus, the remains of the old Roman street and shops from not long after the period in which Jesus lived. He often thought about which of the early Christian figures might have walked down this same street. Just beyond the Cardo was a nice Italian pizza parlor. Grace was already waiting there sitting under an umbrella sipping something cool.
“Man, I’ve had a weird morning, so much to tell, but let’s order first!” he exclaimed.
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT: OUT IN THE CLEAR?
Sammy Cohen’s phone had been ringing off the hook on Sunday morning.
The lab tech kept calling with new revelations. First was the fact that neither West’s nor Simpson’s DNA samples matched the DNA from the hair fibers on el Said’s coat. Then came the news that the prints were neither Simpson’s nor West’s. Both the prints and the hair samples were being checked against those found in Stone’s apartment. Of course, the police still had Ray Simpson in custody charged with producing the forged stone. And Sammy knew the police were also looking for Patrick Stone especially since the gun belonged to him!
“Any way you cut it, “said Cohen to no one in particular, “West cannot be charged with assault, nor, it would appear, with the forgery either. I had better call him.”
Art had put his phone on voice mail so he could have an uninterrupted chat with Grace. He told her all about the morning service at the Garden Tomb and the unusual Grayson Johnson.
“What will you do next?” she asked.
“If it’s legal I plan is to go to the Bethlehem bus station, but that means going through a check and there is that horrible wall around the city now as well. But I probably should take Sammy and Harry with me. Meanwhile, I want to talk to Mustafa again, and I really should visit Hannah.”
Lunch had been going very pleasantly with their sharing a Kosher pizza and some drinks, but Art could tell that Grace seemed a bit withdrawn. She wasn’t really listening to all his plans. She kept bringing the conversation back to his personal state of affairs.
“Art, if this all gets cleared up pretty soon, then what will you do? Will you go back to the States?”
“No,” said Art, “The digging season is far from over, and I hope to at least make a start in the excavations in and around the tomb. I’m going to have to draft one or two volunteers to help me, but since it’s a small, self contained site, it won’t require a lot. I have an idea for one person who might help me.”
“I am glad to hear this. I think it is important that you stay here,” Grace replied emphasizing the last two words.
“Well, I can hardly do otherwise at this juncture. Your police have my passport you know!” reminded Art.
Art did not press Grace, but he could tell she was being somewhat evasive.
In truth, Grace was trying to make sure her friend didn’t plan to leave. She was bursting to tell him about the contents of the ossuary! But Sammy hadn’t given her the go ahead yet. Art’s name had to be cleared before he would be allowed anywhere near that ossuary.
As their Sunday lunch was winding down, Art flipped up his cell phone and discovered he had two new messages. The first was from Harry: “Hey, Art, give me a buzz as soon as you can.” The second message was from Sammy in his best professional voice:
“Professor West. I am pleased to tell you that we now have sufficient evidence to exonerate you from the crimes of attempted murder and probably of forgery. You will probably be able to retrieve your passport at the Jerusalem police station next week sometime. They need to track down a couple of final details before releasing the passport.”
Art let out a yelp —
“Hey, looks like I am going to be cleared. Sammy was pretty definitive about the matter of assault, and seemed confident about the forgery and theft allegations” Grace looked up shocked.
“Who called you – Sammy?”
“Yes, which must mean they now have some firm leads that point in some other direction. Boy is that a load off my mind. Now if Ha’Aretz and the Jerusalem Post will just print that news in as prominent a spot as the original story about my arrest.”
“I will see what can be done,” said Grace laughing!
Grace headed home – her mother had made ‘not to be dismissed’ plans for her this afternoon. Art lingered long enough to enjoy another cold glass of lemonade and return phone calls to both Sammy and Harry. Sammy was feeling kindly toward Art and heartily agreed that the search should be conducted officially. He promised to go with Art to Bethlehem with the proper papers. Harry was definitely up for the treasure hunt, and Art promised to swing by the flat and collect him within the hour.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE – PILGRIMAGE TO BETHLEHEM
Harry and Art passed easily through the security check point on their way to Bethlehem. The bus station was rather nondescript. Made of the same limestone as everything else in the area, the one-story building was off-white in color. The lockers were on the far back wall of the ground floor. Within minutes, Art and Harry were joined by Sammy and Officer Avi Hoffner who had followed them in another car just to make sure all went well at the checkpoint. Pleasantries were exchanged quickly – Sammy and Harry were still keeping their distance. Each person was provided with gloves to prevent any fingerprint contamination.
West headed straight for locker number 666, and with Sammy’s go-ahead nod , put the key in the small lock and opened it without a problem. In the locker were two objects. The first was a leather bag, a tool kit of some kind, with chisels and pointed instruments. The second was a cardboard box, covered with brown paper, which appeared to have been taped properly at one time, opened, and resealed hastily. Officer Hoffner held the package carefully while Sammy peeled back the layers of paper. The cover was removed. Lying amongst wads of tissue paper, were several olive wood nativity figurines – Mary, Joseph and the three Wise Men. West was allowed to pick up one of the figurines and examine the bottom – a red and white label read, “Three Arches.”
West mused aloud,
“I’ve been to this shop on several occasions – the owner is quite reputable. Why would Ray Simpson hide nativity figures in a locker?”
“Keep looking, maybe there’s some paperwork,” chimed in Harry.
West poked around in the box and found a mailing label with a name but without a return address. The name he immediately recognized: ‘Dr Patrick Stone.’
“Looks like the good Doctor did some souvenir shopping, that’s all. But we don’t know where he planned to send the figurines” mused Harry.
“Well, maybe there is more here than meets the eye. An olive wood piece like this should be heavier,” commented Sammy as he weighed one of the figurines in his hand. At that point he gave the figurine a vigorous shake. Something moved up and down within the statue. Under the label, he noted a wooden plug. Looking at the bottom of the other four statues, the same was the case with each of them.
“Well, there are certainly more surprises in store,” laughed Harry.
“Yes, but we should open these back at the IAA office – not here in a bus station! And I’ll get a team in here to thoroughly inspect the locker,” promised Hoffner, the resident expert in forensics, as he flipped up his cell phone.
“I suggest on our way back to the IAA office that we stop first at The Three Arches. Avi you stay here and secure the area,” ordered Sammy. All were in immediate agreement, especially Harry who had promised to bring back a few quality items to his family.
The Three Arches was a popular tourist spot for those looking for early Christmas presents. Situated only a few blocks down the street from the Bethlehem plaza and the Church of the Nativity, it was usually packed with browsers in June. The wall erected around Bethlehem however had put a damper on business and there was only modest business being transacted. The three men walked in the front door and West immediately saw Ibrahim’s daughter, Hagar, dealing with a customer at the main counter.
Art smiled and waved to her when she looked up, and asked,
“Where’s your father?” She pointed to the office door and replied, “He’s in there with a friend working on his third Turkish coffee of the day.”
A knock and a call of “Enter!” allowed the men to peer into a cramped little office. Seeing the impossibility of them all squeezing into such a small space, Harry immediately agreed to do some shopping. Art and Sammy stepped into the office where Ibrahim was sitting at his desk drinking coffee with a fellow Palestinian. Ibrahim smiled and offered the usual greeting, “Salam alaykum!”
“And to you,” said West, well versed in the proper protocol.
“Ibrahim, this is Mr. Samuel Cohen of the IAA. We have some very important business to discuss. But I see now is not a good time for you – may we come back soon?”
Ibrahim’s friend arose and bowed.
“I have been honored with my friend’s company long enough – it is a good time to continue my business elsewhere.” Turning to Ibrahim, he nodded, and left graciously.
Art continued, “I must ask you to remember something, something which seems to have taken place some time ago, though I don’t know just how long ago. Perhaps within this year. A customer seems to have come into your shop, bought carvings of Mary, Joseph, and the Wise Men, and then asked you to hollow them out so they could contain something, and then after the insertion be plugged back up by your artisans. Do you remember any such transactions? Surely one like this would stand out.”
Ibrahim pulled on his beard and said thoughtfully,
“To tell you the truth, I do not remember something like this, but as you know I do not handle the small day to day trade any more, I am more the negotiator for sales in bulk. Let me call my daughter Hagar to come and speak with us privately.”
Ibrahim left the office. There was a lull in the activities in the shop and Hagar was merely arranging bills in the drawer. He said to his daughter,
“Hagar, my dear, please come with me to the office. We must have a private word with you.”
“Certainly, Father, let me ask Kalitha to take over here,” she replied dutifully.
After Hagar was seated in the office, Art repeated the question he had asked Ibrahim, and Hagar got a very excited look on her face.
“Oh, yes, I remember. That transaction occurred only in the last week – Wednesday morning I believe. A small, older nearly bald man came in, picked out the carvings he wanted, then asked if we could safely hollow out the statues. He said he wanted to put some surprises in them as additional gifts for his family. We thought that was fair enough and so we did the work quickly, boring out the statues very carefully but making sure the plug in the bottom would be secure. He came back about mid afternoon, and paid cash for both the product and the labor, no questions asked.”
“Did he give his name?” Sammy asked.
“No, in fact, he did not really say much at all.”
“Would you know him if you saw him again?”
“I think so, and in any case, he spoke with an American accent.”
“Thank you, Hagar, I think that is all for now. You have been a great help to us.” Hagar smiled and left the office. Ibrahim stepped in with cold drinks for his guests. “I presume you do not want Turkish coffee!” he said smiling.
Art laughed, “You know us well, Ibrahim! Thank you for your hospitality. Now I must find my friend.”
Back in the shop, Harry was enjoying himself. Art cautioned, “If you are buying something there is not much time for haggling. We’ve got to squeeze ourselves into the Mini Metro and get back to Jerusalem.”
Harry smiled and said, “Well, OK, but perhaps I can come back next week. They do quality work here.”
Sammy joined them.
“It is getting late, gentlemen. I am going to return to the IAA office with the tool kit and figurines we found in the bus station. Art, if you want to be there for the grand opening, you may join us. We will be working late tonight!” explained Sammy with authority.
“Yes, indeed I do want to be there if I can. Let me drop off Harry at my flat, and we can rendezvous about 5PM. How about calling Grace and inviting her to join us – if her Mother will let her! I think Grace is eager to hear about our Bethlehem pilgrimage.”
“Agreed,” said Cohen. “Five o’clock then.”
As Art drove off, Harry turned on the radio to listen to the 4 PM local news report. The radio crackled for a moment and then they heard, “A young American named Ray Simpson was taken into custody Thursday night at the Tel Aviv airport. He has now been charged with forgery. The police are looking for an alleged accomplice.”
Harry and Art looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Patrick Stone!”
At that same moment Jamison Parkes Law walked into the offices of the Jerusalem Post. “I have a story for you,” he said to his contact there, the senior editor Shlomo Glickstein. “ Here you have evidence of a very large wire transfer of moneys into the account of Arthur West from the British Museum as of yesterday morning. We all know that West was lacking funds for his dig this summer, and we also know that he has been under suspicion in regard to theft and forgery involving the Lazarus Stone. It looks to me as though West and some accomplice have now sold the stone to the British Museum for a huge sum of money.”
Glickstein looked at Law eagerly and said: “If this pans out, it will be sensational news. How can we check out this story?”
Law replied: “You see the email address for the British Museum, there. Why not just send them a message asking for confirmation about the transfer of funds?”
Glickstein paused and said
“Well they may deny it, unless and until they are prepared to go public. I think I will just fax this document over to Sammy Cohen at the IAA and ask him to comment before pulling the trigger on this story.”
Law was looking a little chagrined. He said: “You need to understand the urgency of this matter. If we do not act fast, Israel may lose another precious piece of its own heritage, precious to both Jews and Christians.”
“Alright,” said Glickstein, “ I will fax this right now and follow it with a phone call after a bit. Thank you Mr. Law. I will call you for further comment and a full interview shortly.”
“Remember,” said Law as he was leaving, “Time is of the essence now.”
CHAPTER THIRTY: CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY
Seated around a long conference table, Grace, Art, Sammy and Avi peered at the booty collected from the locker in Bethlehem. Officer Hoffner began removing tools one by one from the leather bag.
“You see these tiny little chisels with narrower than usual blades, and some with points on them? These are indeed the tools of a forger. No one would be doing the plastering or repairing of a wall or tiles in a bathroom with this equipment!”
“If I’m remembering correctly, the forged stone is made of Mount Scopus limestone, right? Can we check and see if there’s any residue of that precise sort of limestone?” inquired Art.
“Yes. As a matter of fact, the stone is now in our possession. The police sent it over for inspection after you were released from jail,” informed Hoffner.
“And now the part we’ve all been waiting for – our Christmas presents!”
smiled Art turning to the figurines.
“These gifts just keep on giving. Each one seems to contain something that rattles or shuffles around a bit, without being heavy.”
With gloved hands, Avi Hoffner carefully removed the wooden plug from the bottom of the Joseph figurine. A digital camera flashed. With forceps he grasped the edge of a piece of paper and slowly but surely pulled out a tiny scroll. The camera flashed again. As he lay the scroll on a piece of glass, everyone instinctively leaned forward.
Grace was the first to break the silence,
“I recognize the script. It’s definitely Aramaic. And if I’m not mistaken – it sure looks like . . ., “ she stopped short and looked at Cohen not knowing whether to proceed. Art, after all, had still not seen the manuscripts recently found in the ossuary.
Sammy’s expression and head shake discouraged her from continuing.
“It sure looks like . . . some other first century manuscripts I’ve seen recently.”
“What other manuscripts?” asked Art, shooting a quizzical look at Grace.
“Well, that’s a long story, my friend, a story we will NOT get into right now,” began Sammy holding his hand up to stop any further comments along those lines. “Right now, let’s find out what’s in the other figurines.”
Outranked, Art bit his tongue. For the next hour, each figurine was carefully opened, each manuscript was carefully removed and laid out on glass slabs, and each leaf was meticulously photographed. The real work of examining the manuscripts would begin tomorrow.
“We really have no proof that these manuscripts are genuine as yet, but I’m willing to guess that they have something to do with the Bethany tomb. My staff will get to work on them right away. Art, did you see anything like this when you were in the tomb?” asked Sammy.
“I just saw the ossuary and the inscription. Of course, darkness descended if you remember! I looked around with my flashlight while I was temporarily entombed, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to every nook and cranny. If those manuscripts were in the tomb, they weren’t just lying on the floor, I’m sure! And if they were in the tomb then they were removed with the stone inscription. And since they were found in Ray’s locker, it sure looks bad for Ray – unless he’s being framed like I was,” reminded Art.
Everyone was looking tired, and everyone agreed it was time to lock up for the evening and head home. Art was invited back Monday morning with a promise to explain all, if he promised not to ask questions until then!
Art, who preferred to be in charge, really didn’t appreciate being left out of the loop, or so it seemed. But more and more, Art was learning to appreciate his cell phone and he now took a moment to check his recent messages. Sure enough, Hannah had called. He said to Grace, “I’ve got a message from Hannah and I’m sure she wants me to visit tonight. Do you want to get something to eat and come along with me?”
“Sure, let’s go outside and give her a call,” agreed Grace.
Once outside, Art quickly punched in the numbers:
“Arthur, Arthur, some good news,” exclaimed Hannah breathlessly. “Father is regaining consciousness. I’m sure of it. Today he opened his eyes. He saw me! This is a good sign!”
“Excellent! God is working. Grace and I are here – we can eat quickly and come right over. Can you arrange for us to come up to his room? I promise we’ll be brief. I suspect the police will also want to talk to him when he’s fully conscious.”
“Yes, the police check in regularly. And yes, of course, I will make sure you can come into his room tonight.”
Hannah adjusted the sheet over her father’s chest and sat down to read for awhile. Like her father, she loved a good novel and was currently enthralled by the works of Naguib Mahfouz. Today she was reading, Midaq Alley. In 1988, Mahfouz became the first Arabic writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sometime after that honor he was stabbed in the neck by two Islamic militants, but he survived. Hannah took some comfort in that fact. So absorbed was she in her reading, she didn’t even notice when the doctor slipped in and began to check her father’s pulse, IV and general condition.
After the examination, the doctor pronounced,
“This is all good. He is making progress. The fact that he opened his eyes briefly and spoke to you this morning signals that he is beginning to come out of the coma. You should take a little encouragement from his vital signs which are all stable and steady.”
“Thank you doctor. I do appreciate your taking such good care of my father.
I don’t know how we will ever pay the hospital back,” said Hannah with a worried look on her face.
“Well, things have a way of working out, and you need to concentrate on being there for your father and not fretting about other things you can’t control. Please, however, talk to our business office soon,” instructed the doctor.
At this moment, Grace and Art peeked into the room.
“Come in,” invited the doctor. “You are welcome to keep Hannah company for awhile; I am on my way out.”
Without warning, Kahlil began stirring and trying to turn over. Hannah rushed over and spoke excitedly, “Father, father, can you hear me?”
There was a long pause. Finally in a mere whisper the words came, “Hannah, Hannah, I am so tired.”
Tears of joy came streaming down Hannah’s face. Her father had spoken her name clearly and distinctly. He had understood what she was saying. “Yes, I know, Papa, you may go back to sleep. We will talk later.”
Kahlil never opened his eyes, but he smiled and drifted off again into
sleep. Hannah remembered the line from Shakespeare: “Sleep which knits up the
raveled sleeve of care, sleep the best medicine.” But just those few spoken words were medicine to Hannah’s soul. Her father was back in the land of the living. Grace and Art respectfully drew near the bed.
“Like Lazarus come back from the dead – do you know the story Hannah from the Christian New Testament?” asked Grace.
“Yes,” replied Hannah. “Jesus was a great prophet.”
“Perhaps more than that, Hannah,” said Art softly. “Perhaps also the giver of life itself.”
Meanwhile back at the IAA office, as Sammy Cohen was finally trying to get some paper work done, one of his secretaries raced in. “Mr Cohen this fax just came in marked urgent from the Jerusalem Post. You are to read it, and then call Shlomo Glickstein at once.”
Cohen read slowly through the fax, and just started moaning “oh no, surely not!” “Oh no. Now the police are not only going to charge West, he will become a prime suspect in this matter.” With a heavy heart Cohen dialed the number at the Jerusalem Post.
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE: A CREDIT TO HIS ACCOUNT
Saturday morning, the sun rose over the Royal Edinburgh Hotel. Stone rose early and packed his bag. Nine o’clock couldn’t arrive quickly enough. The dining room was gorgeous, complete with a huge chandelier and elegantly appointed tables each with a flower arrangement of roses and pansies. His breakfast had consisted of eggs and stewed tomatoes with toast points. As a treat, he insisted on an order of fresh strawberries and Devon clotted cream – hardly proper for that time of day.
Full of himself, he was prepared to be told he was very rich indeed. At 8:45 he went back to his room to await the call from the British Museum. Stone sat on the bed. He no longer believed in praying, but he was concentrating on thinking positive thoughts. Nine o’clock came and went. Stone sulked. Finally, the phone rang.
“Hello, this is Oliver St. James. At precisely 9:06 AM the funds were transferred into your account and the other million into the Jerusalem account. Are you sure we cannot persuade you to attend Monday’s press conference?”
Stone’s pride was such that he was sorely tempted to do so, even if he had to sit in the back row. However, when someone in Israel finally figured out what had happened, which he hoped would not be soon, then he might be labeled a felon or worse, unless of course they blamed it all on West.
“Sadly,” replied Stone, “I cannot do this. I am flying back to the States today to be with my mother. But I wish you the best. At this juncture I would like to enjoy the beginning of my retirement and privacy without a lot of paparazzi bothering me.”
“Just so,” said Oliver, “I understand entirely, and would want it this way
if it were me. You can count on us being discreet. Farewell, and thank you.”
St. James rang off. Before Patrick headed to Heathrow, he went to the business center, connected to the Internet, and keyed in his account number with Banque Suisse. After a brief pause a huge number came up on the screen: 35 million 312 dollars.
Stone began to laugh uncontrollably.
“Those fools really gave me all that money. They’re as gullible as West and all those true believers like him.” He then sent an anonymous email message from a hotel computer to Shlomo Glickstein at the Jerusalem Post: “Check out Arthur West’s Jerusalem bank account.” Checking out of the hotel, he went straight to the curb and hailed a black hansom cab. He hopped in the back and heard the dulcet tones of the Cockney accent: “Where to guvner?”
“Victoria Station,” said Patrick truthfully.
“Too right,” said the cabbie. And they were off.
Sadiq Hadassah, having monitored Stone’s internet activity in the morning had immediately sent a full report to both Rabbi Menachem and Jamison Parkes Law, including forwarding the verbatim of the message Stone sent to Glickstein. But what was he to do now? He looked out the window just in time to see Stone leap into a hansom cab and drive off in a hurry. He had not been prepared for such a sudden exit. Apparently Stone had his bags packed and simply made a quick trip to the business center at the hotel before leaving. Now he would never catch him... unless of course he emailed someone soon about his whereabouts. He would stay in London for the next day or so, and continue to monitor Stone’s email account.
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO: VIVA LA FRANCE
Patrick’s trip took him further and further from home. First by train to Paris,
and then by car over miles and miles of country roads through miles and miles of stunning countryside. He enjoyed a long and circuitous route paid for with cash and never by credit card. Patrick Stone covered his tracks as best he could given his limited knowledge of being a potential fugitive.
As luck would have it, the dealer who had supplied him with the fake documents, had also offered him a fake passport. Unfortunately, that counterfeit cost more than the other documents! He had used his real passport only to get to London. From there he hoped his trail would go cold. By Monday night he arrived in Cannes and checked into L’Otel de Roi.
The beautiful south coast of France, known as the Cote D’Azur, or azure
coast, is one of the most expensive and exclusive places to live in all of Europe.
As the local tourist brochure for the area says:
“Originally, the French Riviera was a winter retreat for European and Russian aristocrats fleeing from the fog, cold and damp. Then, in the Roaring Twenties, sunshine became all the rage - albeit with parasols and stripy cover-up bathing suits,
and it was then that the Riviera's towns kicked into higher gear as fashionable summer resorts. Thanks to fun-loving Americans Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Isadora Duncan and other celebrities such as Picasso and Chanel, this seasonal switch acted as a catalyst to the Riviera's year-round development. But more recently, another switch was thrown, this time to diversify the region's activities from tourist playground to high-tech, clean industry, congress, seminar and convention center. Today, outside the summer season, one of every two trips to the Riviera is business-related.”
In short the old cliché is true: “If you have to ask how much something costs – on the French Riviera or in nearby Monaco – you can’t afford it.” Stone was enjoying a glorious sunrise, sitting on the balcony of his hotel room, drinking a rich red wine from the Loire Valley. He was slowly reading the local brochures, and had to laugh at the fact that the Riviera had become a hub for business. Not as far as he was concerned! “To life’s finer pleasures!” he toasted as he raised his glass to the sky.
Tuesday’s London Times carried a press release outlining a major new purchase by the British Museum. The Press conference had apparently drawn a lot of attention, including from AP, UPI, Reuters and others. True to his word and their contract, St. James had made sure there was no mention of the seller. Patrick hoisted his glass for a second toast: “Here’s to you, Oliver!”
No doubt, news of the British Museum’s purchase would travel to Jerusalem quickly. One thing he was sure of -– it would be very difficult to get the French to extradite someone to Israel. France did not exactly have a close relationship with the current Israeli government. The French government had regularly sided with various Arab and Palestinian causes through the years, in part because of the high Moslem population in France.
“Viva la France!” was his third toast of the morning. His spoken French was a little rusty, but he read French just fine. He would adapt. Today he would find a bank, look at cars and visit a realtor and he should send a message to his mother via email to see how she was doing. That would set his new life in motion. Maybe tonight he would go to the local jazz hot spot, Club Noir, and hear one of the great jazz legends, Oscar Peterson and his Trio. It appeared to Stone that the world was his escargot, to rephrase a cliché, and he was ready to consume it.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: OH LAZARUS, WHO ART THOU?
Monday morning Art fought the Jerusalem traffic to pickup Grace and arrive at the IAA office before nine o’clock. Art was never late – he considered being ten minutes early being late. He was actually irritated to see that Grace was standing by the curbside waiting.
“Well, Arthur, I have some good news, and then some shocking news. Which do you want first?”
Art smiled. “Your choice – but make it a good one!”
“The good news is that the ossuary has been authenticated, there are no
problems with the inscription. Its patina is just fine; it passed the ultraviolet test,
and it’s made of the right sort of limestone. There are no real bones in the box – just some shards, maybe even first century shards – but that takes time to determine.”
“OK. Now give me the other news.”
“Be patient,” commanded Grace. “And drive slower; go around a few extra blocks. There’s more to tell. When the IAA examined the shards they noticed a few hairs attached to one piece, perhaps the ointment poured over the body preserved it. In any case, they are running DNA tests – that should confirm our skeleton is a male of middle-eastern descent if nothing else. But what the scientists are guessing now is that our man may have had leprosy.”
“Wow!” said Art. “Boy does that fill in a few gaps in the biblical story. It explains why grown daughters and sons in a particular family were still single and living together. It also explains why in the earliest Gospel account in Mark we are told that Jesus was anointed by a woman in the house of Simon the leper while he was in Bethany, yet the Fourth Gospel says this took place in the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. These two stories are speaking of the same house and the same family, only Simon, as the ossuary inscription suggests, is the father, and Lazarus or Eliezar is the son.”
“Very intriguing,” said Grace trying to hurry along the conversation. “But you haven’t heard anything yet. We found something else in that ossuary besides bones, Art!”
“I take it you’re about to divulge the shocking news, the sooner the better,” urged Art.
“Well, I would, but there’s the IAA office. You’ll just have to wait a few more minutes!” said Grace, enjoying every minute of Art’s frustration.
Once in the IAA building, Grace led the way to the examining room. As she opened the door, she blurted out, “We found a scroll in the ossuary as well!”
“What? What are you saying? Was it a death certificate or some sort or a
“Well,” said Grace as Sammy joined them around the table, “you could say, in a manner of speaking, that it’s a last will and testimony. In fact, it’s an Aramaic telling of the Gospel story that we now call John’s Gospel, only the heading says it’s Eliezar’s memoirs.”
Art started laughing,
“You’ve known about this for some time now – I guess having my name cleared allows me into the inner sanctum now. Grace, you almost slipped up Sunday afternoon when we were looking at the fragments in the figurines, didn’t you!”
“Yes, that was close. Sammy here wasn’t too pleased.”
“True,” piped in Sammy. “I was still waiting for the official paperwork, even though I called you Sunday morning! Keeping secrets is not Grace’s strong suit, so let’s get to work! I should tell you that Prof. Chartier has already looked at this scroll.”
Grace and Art both put on the latex gloves used for examining any large and
precious samples of papyri. Then Art was allowed to roll open part of the scroll. It was written in an absolutely beautiful hand. Some of the letters had the more cursive shaping, some more squared off, but that was typical of Herodian period Aramaic lettering. Art thought of all the time and care it took to write all this out. Perhaps Lazarus, because of his disease, had a lot of time late in his life to write these stories down. Perhaps he spent a lot of time alone.
“Well,” said Sammy, breaking the silence. “A propitious moment, don’t you think? We rarely see such complete manuscripts, in such a well-preserved condition. I have examined many Qumran scrolls, but this text is exquisite. Prof. Chartier has already examined parts of the scroll. He believes it to be first century – dating is not certain yet – it could be a copy of a copy. He, of course, wishes to head up a committee to study the text; however, plans have not been finalized. Any chance you wish to be involved?”
“Oh, yes,” exclaimed Art emphatically, dismissing Sammy’s teasing tone.
“In any way possible. Just looking at this manuscript takes your breath away. Do you know what this means? We have a Gospel written from the perspective of a person whom Jesus raised from the dead! Now that sort of miracle could really change your world view! Scholars have been debating for centuries why this Gospel is so different from the other canonical Gospels. And the dating! This is the earliest Gospel, an eyewitness testimony of a Judean, not a Galilean disciple! Is the entire Gospel on that scroll?”
“Apparently not,” said Grace a bit cautiously. “According to Prof. Chartier,
the beginning of the Gospel, the material before John 1.19 is missing. Like Mark it begins with John the Baptist. Also missing is John 21, and the famous passage about the woman caught in adultery.”
“Well, most scholars say that the Fourth Gospel is a collection of texts, but the core material is attributed to the Beloved Disciple,” explained Art.
“And that, brings up one more thing. In the part of the text which tells the story of Lazarus’s illness, it calls him ‘the one whom you love.’ I think that’s John 11. But where we normally have the references to the Beloved Disciple there is instead the name Eliezar.”
“Now let’s think about this,” said Art now pacing around the room. “If the Beloved Disciple is Lazarus . . . Wow, this solves so many puzzles about the Fourth Gospel. For one thing, scholars had always thought it unlikely that a disciple of Jesus would run around calling himself the Beloved Disciple if he wrote this Gospel. Now we have evidence that he didn’t do this. Rather, whoever translated this document into Greek likely made the changes, and perhaps he was also the one who added the beginning and end of the story.”
“So, the beloved disciple is Lazarus – interesting hypothesis,” mused Sammy. “And what do we do with the story of the woman caught in adultery?”
Art took up the story. “No one thinks that wonderful story was in the original Gospel. It shows up in too many different places in the Greek manuscripts of John, and in one manuscript of Luke you also find the story. Clearly it’s a story looking for a home. Various scribes loved the story, and kept sticking it into various manuscripts! You’ve gotta admire their persistence!”
Grace was feeling like a super sleuth again. “Try this out, everyone. If John’s Gospel was actually written by a Judean disciple, a southerner, doesn’t this explain why all but two of the northern Galilean miracle stories found in the other Gospels are missing in this Gospel?
“Sure it does. Plus, having a Judean author explains why all the special stories about the Twelve, about the three, about even the Zebedees are not found in this Gospel. It is not by a Galilean disciple! Our author just didn’t spend any time with the boys in Galilee,” laughed Art.
Sammy, after taking all this in, raised up his hand and added. “I was born and raised in Jerusalem. For me, this explains why our author knows so much about Jerusalem, and knows so much about Jesus’ ministry in that city and its vicinity, things the other Gospel writers do not know. John’s Gospel just has the sound of a local author. But the long-standing tradition opts for a John of Zebedee, correct?”
“Well, that’s a later tradition,” explained Art. “The Greek labels on the Gospel documents were added later, and nowhere in the text of this Gospel is John of Zebedee equated with the Beloved Disciple. Holy Smokes . . . these finds are going to change the face of Johannine scholarship, not to mention raise a bunch of questions about the reality of resurrection!”
Grace could tell how passionate Art was about all this. As for her, it merely confirmed that some early Jew was brought back from death. Maybe he was healed by Jesus, maybe he revived in the cool of the tomb, but in any case that resurrection didn’t prevent him from dying again. Extrapolating from this case to the case of Jesus would be a stretch. Though Lazarus was raised, he obviously didn’t get the same resurrection body that Jesus is supposed to have gotten. But still . . . it was a remarkable miracle. It raised again the question about whether and how such things happened. She had to admit this shook her up a bit.
Grace was a thoroughly modern person in the sense that she did not expect to see miracles happen, though she could not absolutely rule them out. So now she had a big question mark in her mind. How should she interpret these findings without seeming to try and explain them away?
Quiet pervaded the room for some time. Each scholar’s thoughts lost in the first century – each imagining a man named Eliezar carefully writing down his memoirs beside in an oil lamp lit Judean room in Bethany.
Sammy had decided, knowing that West was coming to the IAA office anyway, to simply play dumb for a while and see if West showed any signs of being a duplicitous person when shown all these treasures. He could detect no such signs, so either West was very good at masking his real intents and behavior, or some one was truly trying to frame Art. He decided that now was the juncture to drop the bombshell about the money in the bank account. He would show him the report of the bank deposit and watch closely his reaction.
“Art,” said Sammy, tenatively,” would you by any chance have a bank account in the Jerusalem Bank which has this account number?”
West looked at the paper on which the number was written, and said “Yes,” but how did you get this number, and why are you asking?”
“Well either you’ve been playing the Israeli lottery and got very lucky in the last couple of days, or you’ve got some serious explaining to do, as it appears the British Museum has deposited over a million dollars in your Jerusalem account.”
“What!!” said West and Levine in unison.
West was showing all of the signs of being totally dumbfounded.
“Grace,” said Art, “I know you told me there was some shocking news but I was not prepared for this!”
At this juncture Sammy handed Art the faxed evidence of the wire transfer of funds into his account. Art stared at it incredulously. “Someone is going way out of their way to try and frame me Sammy.” Art finally said in a hushed stunned voice as he broke into tears.
Sammy wanted to believe him, but the evidence of the fax seemed very damning. “Sorry, Art, but I suspect the police will be here in a few minutes to charge you with theft and illegal selling of antiquities. I would like to believe you are innocent of all this, but I am hard pressed to explain this evidence. How did someone at the British Museum even know your account number?”
“I don’t know,” said Art, and now he was shaking.
Sammy turned to Grace. “Grace you must absent yourself from Art’s problem for now, lest you and the IAA somehow be tarnished as well, and in any case there is so much work to be done. And then there are the fragments from the figurines. How do they fit in? Do you have time to study those little manuscripts after lunch?”
“I’m certainly up for it,” Grace replied, “but I shall not be abandoning my friend Art.”
There was a knock on the door. Detective Shimon was standing there: “I am sorry Professor West, but we must take you in once more for questioning, and it seems likely you will be retained in custody as you will be charged with a crime before the end of the day.”
Art looked at Grace and said “Please call Harry at once, and ask him to meet me at the jail.” Grace nodded and said “Hang in there Art, we’ll get to the bottom of this.” Right now, thought Art, I seem to be in free fall with no bottom in sight.
CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR – THE SLEEPER AWAKES
Hannah was just leaving the antiquities shop, having spent the last two hours catching up on paperwork, when Grace called. As Grace arrived in the fifth floor visitor’s lounge, she was met by an entirely different and more upbeat Hannah.
“Father is actually talking now Grace. In fact, at lunch he asked for you.
It’s so wonderful, like he has come back from the dead!”
“Yes,” said Grace nodding. “Art would call this the Lazarus Effect.” Pondering how much to tell Hannah, considering the delicate state of Kahlil’s health, Grace said quietly “Hannah there is something I must tell you.”
“Our friend Art has just been taken in a second time by the police and this time it looks quite grave. They found evidence that he was sent lots of money by the British Museum, apparently for something he sold them. Now I am still not convinced he has done anything wrong, but the evidence is pretty damning at this point and so we need to keep Art in our prayers, and equally importantly it will be wise not to tell Kahlil about this most recent shocking news for a while, during the time that he is mending lest he have a setback. Are we agreed on this approach?”
Hannah’s demeanor had gone from cheerful to profoundly worried once more, but she shook her head and said,
“Yes, for now his re-arrest had best be a secret, as Father is only beginning to regain his strength.” The two women entered Kahlil’s room in a more somber mood than they had hoped to do in view of Kahlil’s improvement.
Kahlil was sitting up in bed drinking his favorite Haifa orange juice and complaining to his nurse that he needed more food. This was a good sign! Still bandaged about the head and across the chest, Kahlil looked like he had been through the war, emerging bloody but unbowed.
“Salam alaycum,” boomed Kahlil when he saw Grace coming. Grace came right over to the bed with an “Also to you,” and smiled at Kahlil.
“I would greet you less formally, but I imagine physical contact’s still forbidden due to your injuries. What’s the medical report?” asked Grace.
“I no longer have a spleen, but apparently I can do without it. My liver is
mending itself as we speak, and as you know I have always been hard-headed.”
“So tell me,” urged Grace, “What do you remember about last Tuesday night? Can you talk about it – have the police been here?”
“Slow down, my friend,” said Kahlil. “The police are coming later this afternoon. Unfortunately, I remember very little about some things. I remember sitting on the bench in the park, then standing because someone said something to me. I turned and then . . . I remember nothing.”
“Wow, amnesia! I’ve never met anyone with amnesia” mused Grace. “What about earlier in the day. Anything stand out?”
“Only that a small angry man came into the shop and had a heated argument
with me over a stone tablet. I sent him away dissatisfied as he wanted money too quickly and under suspicious circumstances. Hannah saw him briefly from behind the safety of her desk, as did a Dr. William Arnold from your United States. But neither of them saw the stone tablet he was carrying.”
“OK, first the man. Did you know him?”
“My memory is a bit fuzzy. However, I do not believe I have met him before, nor do I care to meet him again. Come to think of it, Dr. Arnold recognized him, but we did not speak of the man.”
“But do you remember anything more about him – more than what Hannah saw?”
“Yes, he was quite short compared to me, I would say in his 60s, an
American by accent, and with a rather impatient nature. Oh yes, also nearly bald.”
“Would you recognize him again if you saw him?”
“I should think so, but let’s talk about Art for a moment. Is he out from
under the dark cloud Hannah told me about this morning?”
Grace chose her words carefully “No, not entirely, but we live in hope. The police do not appear to suspect Art had anything to do with your attack. But the stone, being missing, is another matter. Art photographed a stone inscription last Tuesday morning in a tomb in Bethany, but it was stolen Tuesday afternoon before he went back to the tomb with me and the IAA. A copy of that same stone arrived at his apartment Wednesday morning. We don’t know where the real stone is! So tell me about the stone you saw in your shop.”
Grace sat down in a chair next to Kahlil and Hannah stood beside him while Kahlil carefully described the very stone that Art took pictures of inside the Lazarus tomb. There could be no doubt.
“So we know for sure this stone really exists. That is important news.” said Grace.
“A man named Raymond Simpson has already been arrested for making the forgery. He’s the graduate student of one Dr. Patrick Stone who fits your description perfectly. So there’s no doubt that he and Ray Simpson are involved in stealing the inscribed stone. The question in the mind of the authorities is whether Art is also involved. Did Hannah tell you Art was temporarily sealed up in that very same tomb!”
“No, no, what is this? Did the ghosts of the cemetery try to frighten you off? “ exclaimed Kahlil.
“I’m embarrassed to admit it took Art awhile to realize he could call out and get help! Mustafa the church steward rescued him. Maybe someone followed him. Maybe grave robbers are everywhere. Maybe it was just a local prankster. But it gave him a scare nonetheless. And by day’s end the ossuary was safe with the IAA but the inscription was gone.”
“Ossuary, what ossuary? I’ve been asleep too long!” sighed Kahlil.
“I’m sorry, Kahlil, I know there is much to tell you but some of these stories must wait while you rest. Hannah will slowly catch you up on all the excitement, and I promise to come back and share wonders even Hannah doesn’t know about. Trust, me I’ve already had an interesting day!” said Grace.
Hannah added, “Poor father, when he gets back to the shop, he’ll be overwhelmed with work, too – we have lots of new items to catalogue!”
Finally, Grace asked gently, “Are you sure you don’t remember who shot you?”
“No, but I think the memories will come. I see a vague form already in my mind, and I pray to the Almighty for clear thinking on this,” sighed Kahlil.
“I’m sorry if I am being too pushy. Would you mind if I said a little prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty for your deliverance and that Art may be cleared?” Hannah and Kahlil both smiled, and Kahlil said, “Of course not, we also pray to the Ineffable One you know.”
With a tear in her eye Grace prayed: “Gracious God of all peoples and nations,
I thank you so much on this day that Kahlil is going to be alright. I thank you for the healing you have brought here. God, a grave injustice has been done to Kahlil, and I would pray that the truth will come out. Give us strength through these days. Help us all to continue to live in the light, and be honest and true persons who live according to your will. Amen.”
Monday afternoon was warm with heavy clouds as Grace left the hospital, and her heart, while warm, was also heavy. Art would have said God really does work all things together for good for those who love Him, but right now Grace felt circumstances were about to put that idea to the ultimate test.
CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE: MASS IN THE MORNING
West woke up at seven o’clock Tuesday morning, refreshed for the first time since the excitement began a week ago. He dove into the shower, toweled off, pulled on a khaki shirt, long pants, and his comfortable sandals. He was ready for breakfast and church. Though the authorities had taken Art in Monday evening, Harry had been right there with him, and had immediately posted bail. Art would not get his passport back any time soon he figured, but Harry was an excellent lawyer and he had already proved his worth Monday night when he came to the rescue.
When his toast popped up, Harry wandered into the kitchen, and said,
“You’re up and about rather early.”
“Yes, I’m off to church in Bethany and to have lunch with one Grayson Johnson. And you are welcome to come. By the way I saw you watching Law and Order reruns on the tube last night. What do you think of that show?
“It’s the best. I love it,” admitted Harry. “Most of the time Sam Waterson gets his man - or woman as the case may be. You realize that show is a huge hit over here. In fact, the ultimate compliment was paid to one of the lawyers at the firm I contacted on your behalf. Their point man, Benjamin, is called ‘Mr. Law and Order’ here!”
“Interesting, plus it’s a big improvement over Beverly Hillbillies so far as the image of Americans is concerned,” laughed Art. “I gather you are getting a good deal done here for articles that will go into Biblical Artifact. I promise you an exclusive interview about the Bethany tomb, the ossuary, the inscription, and – oh yes, did I mention we found manuscripts!”
“I know about the small scrolls in the figurines you found Sunday. Are you saying there’s more?!”
“Oh yes, much more! When the dust settles, and the IAA is free to make all its announcements, I guarantee you’ll be filling your journal with stories. And I’d like
to see you and Sammy Cohen work together, despite past differences. What do you think?”
“Yeah, I obviously want to work with them as well – having you to plead my case would be an interesting roll reversal! But I gather they will not be fraternizing with you for a while until you are cleared in regard to this latest shocking news. How do you think that money got into your checking account here in Jerusalem? Any theories yet?”
Art just shook his head and said,
“I never want to believe the worst about a person, but the only thing I can think of is that someone connected to Ray Simpson is trying to frame me, and that someone would seem to be the ever elusive Patrick Stone.”
“My thoughts exactly, but proving it is another matter!” said Harry.
Harry was a great guy, and it seemed he was enjoying having some more quiet
time here in Jerusalem talking to archaeologists, visiting digs, generating stories and the like. Art liked having a congenial roommate, but he liked his legal acumen even better.
Patrick Stone was sitting in an internet café in Cannes composing a note to his mother. Little did he suspect someone was reading his outgoing and incoming mail! The message said:
”Dear Mother: Through an incredible turn of good fortune I have been able to come into a significant amount of money, and would like you to begin thinking about coming and living with me in Europe so I can look after you more properly. I realize that would be a big move, but they have the best health care here in southern France on the Cote D’ Azur imaginable, far better than in Kingsport, and I am now able to make it possible for you to have the surgery you have needed for such a long time. I hope you will consider this request and get back to me soon. Love, Patrick.”
Stone knew that his nephew Randy would be reading this and then reading it to his Mom. She would then make an oral reply which Randy would type in an email message. He hoped to hear from her soon.
Sadiq read this message with some relief, and immediately forwarded it to both Rabbi Menachem and Jamison Law. They would know what to do with this evidence, and perhaps they could alert Interpol. It was time for him to return to Jerusalem before his funds ran out. He had noticed in the Jerusalem Post that morning a small article about West being further questioned, this time about a wire transfer of money. Sadiq licked his chops and said “We are going to nail this ring of goyim bandits who are stealing our heritage. Finally I am doing something for the good of the cause.”
The Church of Mary and Martha is beautiful in its simplicity. Apart from
the stained glass windows there is very little color in the place, but the semi-vaulted ceiling makes for a great echo chamber if one is inclined to sing. Art was definitely a singer, always had been. He had sung in church choirs and loved all kinds of music, both high brow and low brow. His CD collection included everything from Tchaikovsky to James Taylor, from John Coltrane to Allison Kraus, from the Bee Gees to the Beatles. Lately he was enjoying jazz, and regularly went to the club off Haddasa Street-- Le Jazz Hot.
To many conservative Christians, West was something of an enigma. He was
orthodox in his theology, but had no problems as a Protestant attending Mass and benefiting from it. The Mini Metro seemed raring to go as it raced down the serpentine road along the Hinnom valley towards Bethany. He would get there in plenty of time for the service. Parking in the back of the church he walked in the door and was immediately welcomed by Mustafa who handed him a missal. Putting something of a damper on things was the fact that the police had told him he would be followed wherever he went. Nevertheless, saying a pray, Art tried not to let this get him down when he saw the police cruiser pull up and park next to his own vehicle.
Art whispered in Mustafa’s ear, “I must speak with you afterwards.” Mustafa nodded and ushered him to a pew. There were only twenty-five people in the
church which held perhaps a couple of hundred. The Catholic service involved a good deal of liturgy with a little bit of singing, all in Arabic. The service was only forty-five minutes long, with a ten minute homily. West’s spoken Arabic was not great, but he got the drift of the sermon which was about loving your neighbor, even your Jewish neighbor, as yourself. How very odd, thought West, for a Palestinian to use a Jewish text to obligate Palestinians to be neighborly to Jews! That’s just like God thought West. What did Paul say? “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile . . . but all are one.”
The service concluded with communion, just the bread, not the wine. The cup was reserved for the priest. There was a final benediction which surprisingly enough was in Latin, and then the passing of the peace. West found himself nodding and smiling towards a diminutive Palestinian woman of about eighty.
Walking out the door, West was followed by the unflappable Mustafa.
“Mustafa, my friend,” said West slowly as Mustafa’s English was not great.
“I need to figure out what happened to me that day sometime ago when I was trapped in this tomb back here. Did you see any one loitering around here that Tuesday or on Monday when I was surveying the tel? Anyone strange who didn’t seem to belong here?”
Mustafa answered, “There are many tourists who come here to see the traditional site up the road where Lazarus was thought to be buried. Of course, it is only called the traditional site. Now we know better! Yes? But I saw a few people that day wandering around the church and looking out back during that time. One was a short man, an American I think, though he had someone younger with him. Come to think of it, I may have seen the younger man on Monday also. The IAA have questioned me about this already.”
“This man, was he rather bald, rather short?”
“Yes that describes him. I did not have time to inquire what he was doing
as I had so much work in the church. And I don’t think he saw me at all. The two were busy taking pictures and looking around. Thank goodness you had a cell phone or you might still be in that tomb now, resting peacefully with Lazarus!”
“Don’t remind me. Can we have one more look in the tomb. I realize that the
IAA has it cordoned off, but I have permission to look though I can’t take anything away from the site. Apparently the robbers found the small manuscripts in a clay jar, or maybe they were in the back of another niche.”
“Of course, let us go together,” said Mustafa, back to his usual serious self.
Sliding again into the tomb and pulling out his flashlight West peered into the various niches. “Here, you are smaller than I am, Mustafa, can you crawl in and see if you see anything at all.”
Mustafa examined a number of niches. At one point he shimmied in so far that all one could see were his two legs dangling out. He rolled over and looked up at the top of the niche. “Yes, there is a writing on the roof of this niche.” “Can you manage to photograph it with my small digital camera? “
It took a minute or two for Mustafa’s eyes to adjust and for him to focus
on the inscription. He realized that when he took the picture the flash would go off and blind him, so holding the camera very still he looked through the view-finder, aimed, closed his eyes, and shot the picture.
“Take two or three if you can,” said West. A minute or two later Mustafa emerged with the camera.
“Let’s get out of this humid place, Mustafa, and get some air.”
When they emerged from the tomb West was already checking the pictures on
the back of the camera as they came up. One shot was especially clear and complete. There was an inscription alright in Aramaic . . .
Martha, asleep in the Lord, lies here, awaiting resurrection.
Here was further evidence that this indeed was a family tomb of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Art had no doubts now that the Eliezar in question was the same person mentioned in John 11. As he walked back to the church with Mustafa he queried,
“I wonder where the ossuaries of Mary and Martha went?”
“Ah,” said Mustafa, a man of wise words,
“We must be thankful for what we have found, not complain about what we have not.”
“Amen to that,” agreed Art as he climbed into his car for the short ride to Jerusalem and his lunch date at Solomon’s Porch. Right on his bumper was his new Israeli shadow, Officer Shimon.
CHAPTER THIRTY SIX: HEADLINE NEWS
Grayson Johnson was waiting on the bench staring at the passers by who, in turn, were staring at him. He hopped up as soon as Art approached. “This is great, man, I love this place. Sarah’s a neat lady – she always waits on me,” exclaimed Grayson.
Art enjoyed telling Grayson about all the excitement on Sunday at the Bethlehem bus station. He related how they had found the tools and figurines in the locker. The key to the locker was still with the police, and his roommate Ray Simpson was still in custody.
Grayson enjoyed telling Art about his visits in jail with Raymond. “I’ve been telling Ray all about the Lord. He’s scared, man, so he’s really willing to listen.”
“So you really did see Raymond working out in the courtyard with rocks and tools on Tuesday afternoon?” asked Art.
“Yeah, he was making a racket with the chisel. He had on goggles and all – stone was flying, man. He was in a rush. I’ve seen him make stuff before for Dr. Stone’s lectures. He’s pretty good at it.”
“Did you see the stone that he was copying?”
“No, I think he just had a picture – a good picture.”
“And you’re quite certain that Ray was at home with you watching the TV between seven and ten last Tuesday night?”
“For sure. The dude wouldn’t even let me have the remote once so I could check my favorite Nature Channel show once in a while. I can’t vouch for Monday or Tuesday morning, but he was working away after lunch, and lounging around eating Cheetos and drinking Maccabee beer most of the night. Not a healthy diet if you ask me.”
“Did you ever see Raymond with the statues of Mary or Joseph or the wise men?”
“Not me, man. I knew about the locker, but I don’t know who put those fancy figures in the locker – or when. The police are hoping Dr. Stone will call and ask to have those figurines sent somewhere. Then they can catch him! And none too soon if you ask me. But what I don’t get is why Ray’s covering up for that Dr. Stone. He must have some hold over my poor roomie. But you know what the Bible says, ‘God is not mocked. Whatsoever a person sows, that shall they also reap.’ That’s sort of the spiritual version of what goes around comes around, if you catch my drift.”
Art laughed, “Yeah, Grayson, I like your Cotton Patch version! I presume you are going to stay around for the summer?”
“Oh yeah, I like my jobs, especially at the Health Food Store, and Sarah says I can work here anytime. This will be the happenin’ place to be when the Lord returns!”
Just then, Sarah came hurrying over, and handed Art the daily papers, with a breathless, “Have you seen this, Dr. West?”
Priceless Artifact Obtained by British Museum.
Press Conference Reveals Ancient Inscription.
Below it, and mercifully in smaller print there was the article entitled “West question about money transfer from British Museum.”
Grayson, looking over West’s shoulder, opened his mouth in amazement, checked himself and then said “Principalities and powers man, principalities and powers. Time for some serious prayer Doc.”
“You are right,” said Art, “why don’t you pray for us before we eat.” Art would be finding out who his real friends were now. Thinks were about to take another turn in an unexpected direction.