Monday, March 26, 2007

The Ethics of Politics and Illness-- the Edwards case

On 60 Minutes last night Senator John and Elizabeth Edwards bravely faced the Inquisition at the hands of Katie Couric. She was pleasant enough while busily probing the private parts of their lives, like an overly friendly proctologist. Elizabeth as you will know has had cancer. And it has recurred, this time in 2-3 spots in her bones. And it is incurable, though with treatment the inevitable could be put off a long time. Kay Yow for example, the coach of the women's N.C. State basketball team, has been battling this sort of cancer for 20 years and is still coaching.

But John Edwards is wanting to do more than coach and influence a few budding athlete's lives. He wants to be President of the United States. Now I must tell you I like John Edwards a lot, on a lot of grounds. He and Elizabeth are good members of historical Edenton St. U. Methodist Church in Raleigh N.C. John is a graduate of UNC law school and a big Tar Heel fan. Obviously I have an affinity for this man.

But more to the political point, he is an old school old style moderate southern Democrat. One who is basically conservative on personal ethical issues and progressive on issues like the environment, health care and the like. There aren't that many Democrats out there like Sam Ervin used to be, who do not agree with the radical fringe of the Democratic party, but John Edwards is one. I like his work of late with the Poverty Center in Chapel Hill, and I like a lot of the positions he takes on key issues, including the Iraq War. I think many of his basic positions are coherent and consistent with the ethics of Jesus and various NT writers if they were to take a stand on such modern issues.

But leaving all that aside, should he even be running with his wife battling terminal cancer? As Katie Couric not so gently asked last night-- shouldn't he just withdraw from the race and attend to his wife's illness and give her more time to be with their kids? Won't this cancer become a distraction? How could he concentrate on major crises we must face if he's busy worrying about his wife? Aren't they in denial by carrying on as if nothing had happened? Well these are good and fair questions and it was interesting to listen to the answers.

One thing that especially struck me about these two last night is how much they love each other. John kept talking about how "we are running for President". That is the way it is with them-- they are indeed a couple, in it together through thick and thin. And both of them have an altruistic desire to be good public servants, to give back to the country which has blessed them so much. As you may know, John came up from very humble blue collar, mill-worker roots, which is why he relates so well to ordinary folks. This couple has a sort of optimism about the potential of Americans for good, that reminds one of John Kennedy at his best. This couple has asked "what can I do for my country", and they believe they can make a difference. Whether they are right or wrong, these folks do not fit the mold of cynical, world-weary, unscrupulous politicians. They are honest, open, and yes they are ambitious.

Elizabeth said last night that she did not want her legacy to be that she was the one who deprived the country of her husband's best service. She said she felt fine and was excited to continue on the campaign trail. And John said he didn't want anyone voting for him out of sympathy. Rightly so. We need to elect the best candidate, not merely the one we most empathise with personally.

And of course they are both right that we do not know how long any of us are going to live. Tomorrow is not promised, and life does not say please, it just keeps coming. One person once said to me "life is what happens when you are making other plans." How true. But this couple has decided not to let the "stuff which happens" decide how they will live the rest of their lives. I think this is brave rather than foolhardy, I think this is living on the basis of faith rather than fear of the inevitable, because of course all of us are terminal in this body in this life. It's just that some of us haven't read the memo yet or we are in denial about it.

So I say, leave them alone. If Elizabeth says she is not letting him quit and that's her decision, then fine. If she says they will continue to make time for their children and family life as they always do, then lets not accuse them of being bad parents, or selfishly ambitious folks. There is in fact a strong sense of calling they have on and in their lives. They believe they are supposed to be doing what they are doing, they believe its what God wants, and who are we to say otherwise? So lets see how the next year and a bit play out. Let's see how they do. Let's pray for the health of Elizabeth, and let's not wave the C word in front of their faces any more. Whether you like their politics or not, they are good Christian people. Let's respect their decision.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Lazarus Effect-- Part Six


Patrick Stone had indeed taken care of everything. He felt positively giddy. In a matter of hours, he’d be 30,000 feet above the havoc he’d wreaked. He practically danced his way between his closet, bureau and suitcases as he finished packing. Everything was falling into place.

His graduate assistant, Raymond wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, as his mother would have said (if she could still speak intelligently), but he did have a gift when it came to forgeries. The poor sap thought that all this time he’d been making teaching tools. In reality, Stone had merely been honing the young man’s skills for the day he had known would come. The day that came yesterday, when that dolt, West, had discovered the tomb in Bethany. Raymond had certainly earned his keep—alerting him to the find, and helping him move the boulder over the tomb. He knew West wouldn’t stay trapped forever—and the head start on his plans had been eclipsed only by the satisfaction of knowing his arch nemesis was completely helpless.

Stone had stayed out of sight until after that Arab groundskeeper rescued West, and then easily made his way into the tomb to snag the stone bearing the inscription, as well as a jar full of what appeared to be bits of manuscripts. It had taken a bit of chiseling and scraping to remove the stone, but all in all, the block had come out fairly easily. If only he could say the same of the rest of his day.

He couldn’t believe what an idiot that dealer had been. Regulations smegulations. He had a priceless antiquity in his hands—something that could have made both him and the old man rich—not to mention famous. Well, it was the old guy’s loss—he’d keep all the money for himself, just as soon as he got the original out of the country. He would have settled for some authenticity paperwork—but it became clear even that wasn’t an option. That’s when he’d moved on to Plan B.

He’d made good time driving it over to the dump Raymond rented and because he’d made sure the student had no life other than to serve his professor’s whims, he knew the replica would be completed before day’s end, as he demanded. Promising to return later that evening for the original, he’d headed back to the antiquities shop in the hopes of convincing el Said to either play along with him, or, if worse came to worse, threaten the man into secrecy. Finding the shop closed, Stone weighed his options, and was about to leave when, impulsively, he decided to follow the man.

They’d taken a short windy walk up to the park. When the dealer paused at a bench, Stone, hand on his concealed father’s antique derringer, had meant to initiate a perfectly civil conversation. Unfortunately, he startled el Said, immediately putting the old man on the defensive. Raising his hands in a show of good faith, Stone had forgotten about the gun—which, now waving wildly from his right hand in plain view, did anything but placate the Arab. El Said reached for it, and darned if the relic didn’t actually fire! Tumbling forward, the man caught the bullet in the gut, and, to make matters worse, he’d cracked his head on the bench before landing in a heap, pulling Stone down with him and pinning the gun hand under El Said’s head. Panicked, he’d barely managed to pull out his hand from under the stricken man before he caught sight of West through the trees. Ducking back into a grove, he figured he could retrieve the gun when West inevitably went for help. But fate smiled upon him one more time that day. The idiot pulled out the gun before going for help!

Quickly reassessing the situation, Stone decided that he could now make a break for it—the gun would now have Arthur West’s fingerprints on it, and by the time authorities moved forward with any sort of an investigation, he, Patrick Stone, would be on his way to fame and fortune on a completely different continent.

He’d taken a labyrinth of alleyways back to his car and sped back to Raymond’s flat. When the student had finally answered the door, Stone barged his way in, and seeing that the replica, for all intents, was completed, grabbed the original, and mumbled something about being late for the theatre. Leaving Raymond with instructions to continue aging the faux stone, he promised to be in touch later. The quietude of the drive back to his own flat gave him the final bit of inspiration.

He left the stone wrapped in a raincoat he kept in the back seat and made his way into his apartment, not even aware that his self-congratulatory thoughts had made their way out of his head and into a rapid undertone. The paranoia didn’t set in until he reached his door. After checking out the windows and seeing no one on the street, he’d gone first to his desk. Rifling through his rolodex, he found Art West’s address scribbled on a crumpled card. He’d then grabbed a phone book, ordered a courier to stop first at Raymond’s and then at West’s and then, uncharacteristically, added 20% to the total fee, if they’d guarantee delivery by dawn. It was just money, and he’d have plenty of it soon enough. The best part, of course, he would save for last. One more well-placed phone call and Dr. West’s goose would be thoroughly cooked.


Sammy Cohen could set his watch by his own internal clock. Despite being awakened by Grace’s late-night plea for blood donors, his eyes opened, right on schedule at 6.18 a.m. No matter that he’d spent more than forty minutes making calls after ringing off with Grace. Living in a city that all too often doubled as a war zone, most companies had established phone trees for emergency purposes—much the same way Amercian Midwestern elementary schools used them for snow closings. By 1 am, most of the IAA employees would have been notified that O-positive blood was needed at Sinai.

Donning his tefillin, the black prayer boxes devout Jewish men affixed to their arms and foreheads with a series of leather straps, he’d moved methodically and comfortably through his morning prayers, adding an extra misheberach, for Kahlil’s recovery, before downing his usual Tuesday morning breakfast of muesli and strawberries. By 7.48 he had eased his car into his reserved parking space at the IAA, and by 8.00, on the dot, he was pouring the first cup of coffee from the pot in his office.

Still blowing the steam in anticipation of the first scalding sip, he paged through the emails littering his inbox. The knock at his door made him jump, bringing his coffee dangerously close to landing in his lap.

“So sorry to startle you Sammy! You didn’t spill that did you? I can see the steam from here.”

“Grace! I didn’t exactly expect to see you at my door so early. No my dear, disaster averted—coffee still in the cup. Come in. Can I pour you one? What news do you have? How’s Kahlil?”

“Good. Yes, to the coffee, thank you. Sara’s not opened Soloman’s Porch yet—she stayed on at hospital last night with Hannah. They hadn’t moved Kahlil from recovery to ICU when Art and I left around 3. Hannah understandably didn’t want to wait alone. The prognosis sounded good though. A charming young surgeon—Schwartz was his name—let us know he’d removed a bullet from Kahlil’s diaphragm, removed his spleen and that the coma—“

“Coma? I had no idea it was that serious.”

“Actually, he explained that the coma was expected—Kahlil apparently took a nasty spill and conked his head. He has some internal bruising in his head and the coma should help that heal. For as touch and go as we all know the first few hours are after any major trauma, Dr. Schwartz seemed very optimistic. Thank you again for starting that call chain for the O-positive.”

“How did Kahlil come to be shot in the first place?”

“Details on that are still sketchy. Art found him—already shot—in the park at the Shrine of the Book, called the police and then wound up at the station giving a statement and fingerprints before joining us at the hospital. You should know, he’s put in a call to Harry Scholer, who’s on his way here.”

Grace took a sip of coffee from the mug Sammy offered her, letting him digest the news.

“Harry Scholer? Harry Scholer! He didn’t make enough trouble for us with the James Ossuary authenticity report? What would possess Art to call Scholer?”

“There seems to be a little issue with the gun, presumably the weapon responsible for the hole in Kahlil. Art accidentally moved it and while he’s not really a suspect they had to rule him out. I think the call to Harry was more pre-emptive than anything. And you know that he and Art go way back.”

“But surely Art knows that after defending Oded Golan and exposing us to months of criticism, Harry’s not exactly welcome in these halls.”

“I’m sure that if Art had taken the time to think about it, he may have chosen a different attorney, but obviously he wasn’t thinking too clearly if he touched the gun at all. In his defense he did have one doozy of a day, yesterday.”

Sammy sighed. Maybe he was overreacting to Scholer’s impending arrival. He hoped so. He decided to move on. “About yesterday. When we returned from Bethany, we took the ossuary straight to the clean room. After they took the usual photographs they pried it open, and got quite a start when they didn’t find bones...”

“That’s a real shame. So, just an empty box? Not even any fragments? I hope Art won’t be too disappointed.”

“Quite the contrary, my dear. We found a scroll.”

“A scroll? Why would someone put a scroll in a casket?”

“Good question. That’s one of the reasons I set up a meeting for 10.30 this morning. Did you know that Andre Chartier was in town for a conference? He’s agreed to skip the morning session to join us.”

“Well, we couldn’t have planned that any better if we tried. Andre’s certainly the go-to man for ancient scripts!”

Though recently retired to the south of France, scholars the world over still considered Andre Chartier the leading expert in Herodian period Holy Land scripts. He’d practically transformed epigraphy into an art form. Through the close study of letters—how they’re formed, how they’re connected, how they’re used—a good epigrapher can date a written sample to a particular time period. Chartier raised the bar for his field, not only with his extensive knowledge, but with unprecedented diplomacy. In any given authenticity dispute, inevitably both sides would call on his expertise. His input at this stage of their investigation could allay any lingering doubts from the James ossuary debacle.

“That he is. Perhaps the tide is turning for our friend Art. This may well turn into the find of a lifetime.”

“For Art’s sake, I hope so. He could use some good news.”

“For all our sakes. If you’ll excuse me for a bit, I need to get through my mail. You’re welcome to stay and drink your coffee.”
“Thanks, Sammy. I think I’ll take a walk. I didn’t get much sleep and the exercise will do me good. Why don’t I just meet up with you at 10.30?”

“10.30 it is. We’ll meet here in my office and head up to the lab together.”

“Wonderful. See you then.”


Johah Katz rubbed his eyes and face, aware of the day’s worth of stubble building on his chin and cheeks. By the time he’d finished reviewing what little they’d collected on the el Said shooting he’d realized that there was no point in going home for two hours sleep. Shaving kit in hand, he ducked into the locker room at the station.

No sooner had he lathered his face than a young rookie appeared.. “Um. Sir. Excuse me? We just got a tip on that shooting last night? I was told to let you know right away?”

Katz met his eyes in the mirror. “Kadinsky, right? Thank you, son. I’ll be there as soon as I finish shaving.”

The rookie seemed to have grown roots. “Anything else?” Katz waited for a reply, and getting none, turned to face the young officer. “If that’s all you’ve got, you’re dismissed.”

Kadinsky blinked. “Oh. Yessir. Thank you sir. Sorry sir.”

Katz turned back to his stubble. Had he ever been that nervous around his superiors? He hoped not. Wondering what sort of new information might have come in, he quickly finished with the razor and rinsed off his face before heading back into the squad room.

Leibowitz and Riess were waiting for him, looking like he felt. They’d obviously not gone home after their shift ended last night either. “Well men, what do you have?”

Riess fingered a pink message slip in one hand. “We’re not sure this has anything to do with the attack, but some guy just called—wouldn’t leave a name or contact number—saying that he had it on ‘good authority’ that Professor West was stealing and forging antiquities. Said we’d find proof at the professor’s flat.”

Leibowitz chimed in. “Maybe we got it all wrong last night. Maybe Mr. el Said figured out what West was doing and confronted him. We don’t have the forensic reports back from last night yet—lab was closed by the time we finished up with the Professor—so we don’t know for certain that the professor didn’t shoot the old guy.”

“Ordinarily I wouldn’t put too much stock in an anonymous call, but it’s a bit suspicious that Dr. West’s name pops up so soon after the incident last evening. I think we need to check it out, but we also need to be sure we do absolutely everything by the book. Just to be sure, I’m going to see this through myself. This Dr. West is very well connected here in town. Before we go anywhere though, you two need to hit the showers—you’re both looking a little rough. Meet me in my office no later than ten-thirty. Understood?”

“Yessir!” The officers seemed reinvigorated. It wasn’t often that the Inspector included the responding officers in his follow-ups. Usually, by this point in a case, he turned it all over to the detectives and waited for the reports.

Art had wasted no time getting to bed. He hadn’t objected when Grace offered to let herself out—climbing the stairs to his room as she descended those to the front door. He’d managed to remove his shoes, before taking what would be his final sip of the sweet bourbon and sugar mixture she’d fixed him. Leaning back against the pillows, he’d fallen asleep instantly—sitting upright, fully clothed.

Though sleep came easily, rest eluded him. He dreamed of caves filled with stalactites that, as they hung from the ceiling like popsicles, melted into drops then torrents of blood. The blood then rose in pools around him becoming encrusted, engulfing him like quicksand. Above him he could see a sliver of light that played with the edges of an inscription too dusty to read. The cave became a cell, and as the blood-red sand continued to rise, potsherds and bone began to emerge like small shells and plankton in a tide that rolled not straight against a beach, but rolled in on itself, with him in the midst of what was rapidly becoming a whirlpool. Trying desperately to catch his breath he inhaled a mouthful of tinny-tasting sand. Something—a small rodent—scurried across his right arm. Flinging it off, his hand brushed the ceiling, now rough like limestone. He reached up with both arms and began pounding with every fiber of his soul. Noiselessly he screamed for Kahlil.

It took more than a few minutes for Art to make the journey back from his nightmare to the late morning sun beating down onto his bed. It took a few more, still, to realize that the pounding wasn’t a lingering reminder of the dream, but emanating from his front door.

“Open up. Police. Dr. West? Dr. Arthur West? Jerusalem Police. We need you to open the door or we’ll do it ourselves!”

Completely disoriented, Art looked at the clock. 11. 10 am. Why was he still in bed? Why were there police at his door? Why was—it all came back in a rush. The ossuary, the tablet, the trap...Kahlil!

Dragging the blanket with him to the window, he raised it and stuck out his head. “I’ll be down in just a moment. Sorry-I was asleep—I didn’t hear you.”

Even to himself he sounded like an idiot. The officers below sounded like they were trying to raise the dead. How could he not have heard them? Then he remembered the dream and blanched. Disentangling himself from the blanket, he splashed some water on his face, ran a comb through his hair and tried to press out the wrinkles in his clothes with his still damp hands, as he ran down the stairs to the door.

Flinging it open, he found Inspector Katz accompanied by Leibowitz, Reiss, and two other officers. “What can I do for you gentleman?” Art exhaled.

“May we come in, Dr. West? We have some follow-up questions for you.” Again, Inspector Katz sounded amiable, almost apologetic.

“Of course—“ The officers didn’t wait for him to finish the sentence before stepping over the threshold. As he started to lead them upstairs, he turned back around. “what’s this all about? Did you find out who shot Kahlil, I mean, Mr. el Said?”

Katz started to reply when he was interrupted by an outcry followed by a curse not swallowed quickly enough. They all turned back towards the door. “What is it Reiss?” the inspector demanded.

“Nothing Sir. I apologize. I stubbed my toe on this package...” A light could almost be seen going off in the young officer’s face. “...on this package here. I wonder if this could have something to do with that call we got?”

Art didn’t like the way his empty stomach was beginning to turn. “What call?”

Katz ignored him for the moment. “Maybe we ought to have a look.” Turning back to Art, he chose his words carefully. “Dr. West, we received a call this morning that gives us reason to believe that you may be, ah, how shall I put this, you may be in possession of some things you shouldn’t have...may we see what’s in this package?”

Something hammered in the back of Art’s head. A conversation from yesterday that he couldn’t quite recall. “What package?”

Reiss, with some effort, held up the package that had stubbed his toe. “This package sir. From Lo’mi Courier Service.”

“I have nothing to hide. I...” Again, the officers didn’t wait for him to finish his sentence, taking his “nothing to hide” as permission to tear open the wrapping. As the others audibly gasped, Art had to sit on the stair. There, right there in his foyer, stood an officer holding an engraved limestone tablet. He shook his head in disbelief, unable to form the words of protest running at mock speed through his brain.

“Dr. West. I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to come with us. This is exactly the sort of item we were told we would find here. You can make any calls you need to make from the station.” Inspector Katz’s tone had changed, the graciousness replaced by authority. Leibowitz reached for his handcuffs but Katz shook his head no.

“Dr. West? I’d like to spare you any embarrassment. If you’ll come with me?”

Only then, did yesterday’s conversation come back to him. “...don’t talk to anyone. Especially not the police...” How he wished he’d listened to Harry.


Tuesday had been a memorable day – good and bad – for Dr. Patrick Stone as well. On the plus side, he had managed to lead Arthur West into such a quagmire that it should take him days, maybe weeks, to clear himself. He ALSO had in hand a jar with some bits of old manuscript plus the genuine Lazarus inscription – both of which Raymond had found in the tomb early Monday afternoon. And now he was weighing whether to become more famous by going to the press and creating an international sensation, or whether to feather his retirement nest by making millions.

Stone was the kind of person who got as much satisfaction from seeing West stumble as from receiving personal praise. Praise is ephemeral and not necessarily lucrative. On the whole, he decided it would be far better to take the money and run. But he realized through his experience with el Said that there was no way he could sell the stone here in Jerusalem. The environment was too volatile, and the antiquities police too omnipresent.

But how would he handle the manuscripts? And how would he get the far more valuable inscription out of the country? More to the point, since he didn’t want to let the stone out of his sight, how was he going to get out of the country with the stone? As he drank his cup of hot Nigerian coffee he pondered these problems at length.

As for the down side of the day, true enough sealing Art West inside the tomb was a nasty prank – but he knew Art would find a way out in short order. Plus, it gave him time to consider options for the rest of the day.

Worse, however, was the episode in the park with el Said. Stone had hoped to talk again, this time more calmly, in el Said’s home. However, when he arrived, el Said was just leaving. He followed el Said to the park and confronted him there hoping to threaten him into cooperating or keeping quiet about the inscription. He had taken with him, just as a defensive reflex, an old hand gun which had belonged to his father. But his antique derringer was just that – a conversation piece. Unfortunately, when confronted, el Said had grabbed Stone’s hand causing the gun to go off, and el Said to tumble on top of him. To top that off the old man hit his head on the iron park bench.

Stone, frightened, had barely been able to extract his hand (sans gun unfortunately) from under el Said’s body, beat a quick retreat, and hide before West showed up. That was a shock! As the devil would have it, things turned out almost perfectly. The one person who could clearly link Stone to the Lazarus tablet was now in a coma, according to the news reports, and Stone’s nemesis would surely be implicated. He had not told his doctoral student, Ray Simpson, about the incidents with el Said – plausible deniability. So far as Simpson knew, Stone had simply gone to the theater last night.

Stone ordered Simpson to make the knock off copy of the inscription Monday afternoon. Simpson had a steady hand and experience in making replicas of artifacts for use as visual aids in Stone’s lectures. Posting the stone anonymously to West by overnight courier, and tipping off the police were the fun parts. Stone would have loved to hear West try to explain away that copy!

Simpson was sworn to silence and given the rest of the week off. He would leave Simpson some money to stay in Jerusalem for awhile to continue his library research and then return to Yale to put the final touches on his thesis. Later today he would call Simpson and explain that his mother was ill and he needed to return home. As a further inducement to silence, he would promise to send a glowing job recommendation to Johns Hopkins. In fact, he would word his message in such a way to suggest that without his silence, Ray would never see a diploma or a job! That should secure Simpson’s discretion once and for all. He would be eternally grateful to Dr. Stone.

Stone decided to leave the manuscript fragments in Jerusalem for now. Ray never saw the contents of the clay jar he himself found in the far reaches of one empty niche. He had to think of a way to disguise the manuscripts and hide them for now. Several ideas came to mind.

Stone finally devised a step-by-step plan for how to get the precious object out of the country. Wednesday would be an insanely busy day. He made an abbreviated list on his palm pilot. First, Bethlehem. Second, go to the old Jewish quarter and purchase a form that attested he was only carrying a replica of a priceless antiquity, not the real thing. Third, get the form signed and notarized by one of the shadier dealers in the old quarter. The form would state that the original was in the hands of the IAA. Therefore, the fake would be called the original, and the original identified as a copy. In this way, he could take the object out of the country in plain view as a souvenir, showing it to the authorities with his passport.

So it was off to Bethlehem to do some errands, and off to the old quarter to do some paperwork, and finally back home to pack. He purchased his e-ticket at for the 10:15 AM Thursday flight. Yes, indeed, things were looking up for the man who lived by the motto that looking out for No. 1 was all that was essential in life. Everything and everyone else was expendable.


Harry Scholer had had two careers and the second one as head of the ASBA was bidding fair to be far more interesting, though far less lucrative than his law career. Scholer had been called many things in his career, but no one accused him of lacking intelligence and insight. He had a real nose for what was significant and what was not, what mattered and what didn’t. He also had good friends of all sorts of faith commitments, including evangelical Christians like Art West.

Art had done numerous articles for ASBA’s popular magazine Biblical Artifacts which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. While in Reagan Airport, Harry picked up the latest edition of Ha’ Aretz and was working through the Jerusalem Post while on the plane, taking readings on what the temperature would be in Jerusalem in regard to the West arrest. He wanted to use the popular appeal of West and his reputation for honesty to good advantage, especially if this proved to be a big story.

The Alitalia stewardess came to Scholer’s seat bringing him another gin and tonic. Scholer only flew first class these days, especially on the long flight to Tel Aviv. The problem was that Scholer himself was persona non grata with various people in Jerusalem, including some involved with the IAA. Having defended Oded Golan to the hilt, and shown that the IAA had not done as careful a job as it should have in assessing the authenticity of the James ossuary inscription, he needed to tread lightly while in Jerusalem, and not detract from what general sympathy might be felt for West. He would try to keep a low profile.

Harry pushed the call button again for the stewardess. His palm pilot was the one piece of technology he had proudly mastered. For the rest, he always begged for help.

“Ma’am, do we have wireless access to the internet here in first class?”

“Yes. Did you know the hull of the front part of the plane is actually a huge receptor for wireless signals? Anyway, now that we’re at cruising altitude you’re welcome to do what you like. Just dial into our AT+T wireless connection number off your laptop to connect to the internet.”

“So simple,” said Harry with a wry grin.

He quickly pulled out his Sony Vaio, waited for Windows to come up, clicked on Internet connection, and typed in the necessary phone number. He was surfing the net within another minute. His Hotmail account was hot indeed— twenty-three new messages in his inbox since yesterday, and another 15 in the junk mail. This was going to take some time. But what he was mainly looking for was access to a file he had lodged on the ASBA website just before he left, which detailed information on whether and to what degree Israeli Law could be enforced on foreign nationals. This was going to take a while, but fortunately he had several hours before he landed in Tel Aviv Thursday afternoon.


At the Tel Aviv airport, Patrick Stone managed to get through customs with nary a raised eyebrow. His authentication papers had worked like a charm, and now he was going through yet more security checks. He was feeling pretty smug. Soon he would be wafting his way through the friendly skies to London. He had been totally oblivious to the curly haired gentleman tailing him.

Arriving at Gate 6 with an hour to kill, he entertained himself by examining the pictures in the morning paper showing the notorious Arthur West, who had seemed to be such a nice Christian man. But now, who knew what he was really capable of? Stone allowed himself to smile at all this mayhem.

“Serves that arrogant fool right,” he muttered under his breath.

Stone had contacted a Sotheby’s agent as well as an old colleague from his Tübingen days who worked in the British Museum. He wanted the latter to vouch to the former for the authenticity of the stone, so that it could be properly appraised. The meeting was to transpire on Friday morning. This gave him time to get to London, check into the hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Maybe the British Museum itself would put in a private bid? Maybe he could leverage that against what he could extract from a private dealer? Maybe he could ratchet up the price to astronomical levels? Such fun, playing on the lust for possessing precious antiquities! What sort of silly persons could really believe that Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus and that this stone attested to the fact? Stone had enough problems believing in a historical Lazarus, never mind a historical raising of Lazarus from the dead!

The loud speaker at the gate began blaring,

“All first class passengers are now welcome to board El Al flight 315 non-stop to London.”

“That’s me,” thought Stone. “Time to get out of town while the getting is good.” As he walked down the ramp he realized he would likely never go back to Israel, never set foot in another class room, never write another scholarly article. Who needs academia anemia? Stone was so rapped up in his self-centered revery he never noticed the curly haired man with the skull cap in the economy line next to him closely watching Stone and the bag he was clutching to his chest.


Grace had been fretting ever since Art’s call around 11:30. Arthur West had really gotten himself into a jam. He was naive and good and honest, and he lived as though he expected everyone else to be that way as well. Was it just his Christian faith that prevented him from having a healthy fear of danger, or from having a wariness of the wicked ways of the world?

Grace knew in her heart he couldn’t possibly be responsible for either forgery or attempted murder, but the rest of those connected with the IAA didn’t really know the man personally. Besides that, they were now hypersensitive, having already gotten enough bad press from the James ossuary mess. They were going to leave no stone unturned this time in this investigation. After all, they had an object that everyone agreed was a clear forgery, or was it?

The stone could be a fraud without being a forgery. In other words, the stone might be a copy of the original, which would make it a forgery. However, it might just be a fraud, there being no original to copy. West’s digital photos showed what appeared to be the original stone with its inscription in situ. Had Art fashioned this stone and placed it in the niche for all to see? No, this couldn’t be! There must be an original stone!

And was there any connection between Art’s entombment and the grave robbing? Between the grave robbing and the possible murder attempt on el Said? Between the grave robbing and the sending of the forged stone to West? Surely there must be. But Grace could not put all the pieces together in her mind. There was some sort of huge animus that precipitated this chain of events. As a child Grace had loved reading the Arthur Conan Doyle stories about Sherlock Holmes. So far, this was a puzzle he would love, she thought.

It was nearly one o’clock – she needed fresh air and lunch. Her plans to work at the University were slipping away. Maybe a sandwich at Solomon’s Porch and Sarah’s friendly smile would help get her back on track. And she would ask Sarah if there was anything she could do to help Hannah and her father.

Grace arrived at Solomon’s Porch about 1:30. Sarah had already left to be with Hannah, so Grace was finishing her lunch alone when the phone rang. It was Sammy Cohen at the IAA office.

“Oh, Sammy, have you heard that Art was picked up by the police late this morning. And somebody sent him a copy of the missing inscription!? He’s probably in some small, dank police cell being interrogated as we speak! It’s awful! Part of me wants to call Mr. Golan and ask him what he went through – but I’m not sure I want to know!” said Grace, the words tumbling out.

“Slow down, Grace. Remember, we’re partially responsible for Mr. Golan’s plight. Anyway, one of our lawyers called from the police station. She’s keeping her eyes and ears open. They haven’t charged him with anything. I believe this is just scare tactics, however. Art wouldn’t hurt Kahlil, and he didn’t steal that stone! We don’t know much about the forgery though. Try not to worry!”

“You’re right. But, after all, they do have a victim and now a forgery to deal with. Who knows what they are thinking? I can’t stop worrying right now.” replied Grace, her voice shaking.

“What you need is something to take your mind off this problem! Can you come to the IAA building? It’s time to scrutinize what we found inside the Lazarus ossuary!”

The ossuary sat on top of the examination table and all the fluorescent lights were turned on. The limestone surface of the box gleamed in the dazzling light of the room, which was enclosed in the middle of the building, had no windows and required keycard access to enter. Most precious antiquities were examined in this special room. Unlike Sammy’s office, it was immaculately clean and pristine.

When Grace arrived, already present were Cohen , several other members of the IAA and, surprisingly, Professor André Chartier. Sammy had invited him to the IAA office this morning.

Chartier was one of those rare scholars that would be consulted by all parties in a dispute, so great was his reputation.

Sammy Cohen knew that there could be no rush to judgment, no mistakes, in dealing with the Lazarus ossuary. He still felt the sting of criticism from various factions interested in the authenticity of the James box. When he made an announcement about this ossuary, he wanted to be as sure as is humanly possible he was right about the authenticity of this new find.

What intrigued Grace right off the bat is that no one was looking at the ossuary. Rather, they were all staring at a rather substantial scroll which Chartier had been examining since mid-morning.

Grace interrupted, “What exactly was there in this ossuary?”

Dealing with bones was a delicate matter in Israel, especially since Orthodox Jews thought they made one ritually unclean and if they were Jewish bones were sacrosanct. No one apparently had taken any bones from the box, and in any case no one seemed to be concerned about bones.

Chartier had his magnifying glass out and was muttering to himself, “Extraordinaire! Extraordinaire!”

Turning to Grace he said, “Welcome, Mademoiselle Levine. What we have is a document from the Herodian period, written in clear beautiful Aramaic by a quite literate person.”

Grace said, “Why would anyone put a scroll in a casket?”

“A good question. But let me translate a bit for you. Perhaps it will sound strange, yet familiar. There is first of all a heading: ‘Memoirs of the One Whom Jesus Loved.’ This is followed immediatement by:

“A testimony of John when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests to ask

him who he was. He did not fail to say, but instead confessed freely,

‘I am not the Mashiach’ . . . “

Grace blurted out, “This is almost a verbatim quote from the first chapter of John’s Gospel.”

“Exactemente,” said Chartier, who had at one point been a priest and who was well familiar with the New Testament.

Grace spoke again, “But how much of John’s Gospel do we have in this scroll? All of it?”

“No, no,” said Chartier, “It will take much time to study. Understand, I have only surveyed parts of the document. But, it appears to be, I believe, similar to John 1.19 to 20.31. I did not find the pericope adulterae, the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7.53-8.11.”

At this point, Grace interjected, “As far as I know, that passage is not canonical – just traditional. In short, few believe that story is part of John’s original Gospel. The oldest texts do not contain it.”

“Very true,” agreed Chartier. “But there is more to say. The heading of the document is not in the same hand as the rest of the document. Furthermore, I have looked at some parallel passages from John 13-19 where the Beloved Disciple is mentioned. He is not called this in these memoirs. Rather he is called Eliezar! It is interesting that at the point where we find John 11.3 that there Lazarus, our way of rendering the name Eliezar, is clearly identified in indirect speech as “the one whom you love”.

Grace asked, “Are you saying that this memoir equates Eliezar with the beloved disciple?”

Chartier replied emphatically, “It is possible. In sum, we seem to have the basis of most of the so-called Gospel of John here. Now, finding this scroll in this ossuary, which seems to be from the Herodian period – well, we may say with a high degree of likelihood that these memoirs were written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Now, if I may be so bold, I can suggest to you some more radical ideas. First, one could say that these memoirs are linked to a Judean disciple who was an eyewitness to some of Jesus’ life. And, secondly, this eyewitness, according to these memoirs, was raised by Jesus from the dead!”

Grace’s brain was about to burst.

“How did the inscription read again? Show me the digital pictures that Art took Tuesday morning.”

Cohen picked it up and read it, “Twice dead under Pilatus, twice reborn in Yeshua, in sure hope of resurrection.”

No one spoke for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, André added,

“I understand, the police have a copy of this stone inscription. And Professor West took these pictures only yesterday. The original must be out there somewhere. And the original attests that Lazarus died twice during the reign of Pilate, but also that he was somehow reborn through Jesus, and he looked forward to resurrection in the future. In sum, this inscription in the tomb, like the inscription on the James ossuary, bears a testimony to the strong belief in resurrection amongst Jesus’ followers.”

Again there was silence.

Cohen then spoke: “We know that in early Judaism many Jews, especially Pharisees, believed in bodily resurrection, and we know Jesus and his followers shared that belief. That is indisputable. But this inscription, if not also the scroll, supports the story in John that Lazarus died and was raised from the dead by Yeshua. Those who buried Lazarus had seen him die - twice. They may have been at the tomb when Jesus raised him from the dead, according to the Gospel.”

Again silence, dead silence.

Cohen then said carefully, “We cannot allow any leaks of this information to anyone, anywhere, anytime, before we are totally ready to authenticate or discredit the scroll, the ossuary, and hopefully the inscription.”

Another IAA official from the legal department added, “The task now is to recover the original stone. It must surface for surely whoever stole the stone yesterday will be trying to sell it quickly. We have already begun interviewing various dealers and brokers. But there are so many ways to get the stone out of the country – it will be difficult to monitor the airport and all the border crossings.”

Grace nodded in agreement.

“We need absolute silence in this matter. Let’s begin the testing on everything here, even the bones. And don’t forget Art and the forged stone. We can vouch for his whereabouts for some of Tuesday. Can we also put out an APB with Interpol to look for the missing stone? And fast?!”

In the corner of the room, Sammy had been talking to Mrs. Dembski, the lawyer who called earlier to alert him of Art’s plight. Apparently, Art had been interrogated on and off this afternoon. He would probably be held overnight and questioned further tomorrow. Given that Art was an American citizen, chances are he would be released by the end of Thursday. After hanging up, Sammy called out,

“It looks like Art will be enjoying the hospitality of our Israeli police tonight!”

Grace quipped: “ I wonder if he likes the standard issue matzo ball soup they will likely serve him?”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Lazarus Effect--- Part Five


The shrill staccato of the phone startled Sara Goldberg as she wiped down the last of the tables in her café. Her stomach dropped with the same weight of the wet rag she let fall to the table as she crossed to the counter to answer. For the past nineteen months, her husband Yacov had been stationed in Hebron, as part of his extended service in the Israeli Army. A late night call could only mean bad news.

“Shalom” she answered shakily.

“Sara! Sara! My father’s on his way to hospital. I wouldn’t have called so late but I didn’t know who else to call. There’s a policeman standing here waiting to take me to Sinai but can you meet me there? I’m afraid to be there alone. I’m—”

Hearing Hannah’s voice, Sara had started to breathe a sigh of relief, until her words sank in. “Hannah, please slow down. Your father’s taken ill? The police are there?”

“No. He’s been attacked. He was meeting Professor West in the park. I don’t know what happened. Sara, I just can’t go to hospital alone.” Hannah’s voice was hoarse and the tears were still flowing.

Grabbing her purse and keys, Sara had already begun turning off lights in her café. “I’m on my way. Do I need to come get you or should I go straight to hospital?”

Hannah took a deep breath. “The officer’s here to take me. I’ll meet you there. And can you please call Grace for me?”

“Absolutely. What else do you need me to do for you?”

“Pray, Sara. Pray for my father.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll meet you in Emergency.”

Sara could hear Hannah holding back a fresh wave of sobs as she rang off. Impulsively, she filled a bag with a handful of muffins and grabbed several bottles of juice and water before setting the alarm and locking the shop. This could be a long night and Hannah would need her strength.

Before starting the engine of her worn Accord, Sara dialed Grace. She knew her friend dreaded late night phone calls as well, having received news of sudden death of her father in Boston in the middle of the Jerusalem night. Grace picked up after only two rings.

“Grace, it’s Sara. Something’s happened to Kahlil el Said and Hannah’s asked us to meet her at Sinai.” She knew that even if Grace had been sleeping, she was one of those people who sprang instantly into full consciousness with the ringing of the phone.

“Kahlil. What happened? Is it serious? Of course it is, or you wouldn’t be calling.” There really is such a thing as a dumb question, she thought. “How’s Hannah?”

“She didn’t say much, but it must be bad. An officer came to her door and offered to take her there himself. All I know is that he was meeting Art in the park and now he’s on his way to Sinai.”

“Where are you? Should I meet you there, or do you want to swing by?”

“I’m at the café. I can probably get there quicker if I go from here, but I can come there if you’d rather not drive.”

“Don’t be silly. I’ll meet you there. Where’s Art? Is he with Kahlil?”

“I’ve no idea. Hannah was too upset about going hospital alone to say much more.”

“I’m on my way. I’ll see if I can reach him for details.”

“I told her we’d meet her at Emergency.”

“Will do. Be safe.”

“You too. I’ll see you soon.”

As Sara started the engine and made a quick U-turn towards the hospital, Grace, now in her car, left messages at both Art’s flat and on his cell, wondering what he had gotten himself into this time.

Ray Simpson tried unsuccessfully to creep about the tiny three-room flat without waking his roommate, Grayson Johnson. He’d been lucky to find someone to share the rent and luckier still that the guy was so laid back he didn’t make a nuisance of himself.

Ray’s sleep deprivation rivaled that of a medical resident. If he played his cards right though, he’d come out with the same Dr. in front of his name—only it’d be for Archaeology not Medicine. Most days he felt like an indentured servant and didn’t look much better. He’d never been an athlete and avoided exercise much the same way he avoided eating anything remotely resembling fresh produce, which resulted in his looking very much like an overstuffed rag doll—softly padded and the color of muslin. No matter. He was basically enslaved to Patrick Stone anyway.

No one else had even applied for the assistantship, and now Ray understood why. But then, his credentials hadn’t gotten him much more than a cartload of standardized rejection letters from virtually every major program on both American coasts. Bottom line, they were stuck with each other because they, each in his own way, desperately needed the other.

Ray tried to remind himself that the misery would end soon. He only needed to survive the summer, make enough money to pay for one more dissertation semester, and impress Stone just enough to get a passable recommendation in his file. All that really meant was being at Dr. Shrew’s beck and call 27 hours a day. He supposed he’d had worse gigs—transferring the school library’s card catalogue to disk, for example—than playing step and fetch it for one of Yale’s tenured professors. And he had to admit that the work had, at times, been pretty interesting. Especially making replicas of artifacts for Stone’s lectures.

Though his eyes burned and his fingers felt like they’d been running violin scales for the last 9 hours, he couldn’t settle down enough to sleep. Stone had been particularly irascible this afternoon—so much so that Ray had turned off the ringer on his cell phone and left it to vibrate among the mess of sheets and blankets on his bed. He had more than enough to do for his task master. He’d finally completed the matter of the moment. Anything else could wait until tomorrow.

Zeke Johnson looked up from the handheld football game at the apartment building across the street. Still no sign of that Stone guy. He’d changed positions more than a dozen times, eaten through three boxes of Cracker Jacks and beaten his all-time highest score twice since setting up surveillance. This tailing stuff was supposed to be cool—exciting—like it was on TV. The cops on Law and Order never made it through a whole cup of coffee before the perp showed up.

He hadn’t agreed with his folks at all about moving to Jerusalem for the impending Rapture. He’d been perfectly happy working the rodeo circuit back home in Texas. It’d been Luke who’d convinced him that even if the world didn’t end, they might as well get out from under Mama and Daddy’s wings and have an adventure or two beyond the interchangeable arena’s they’d visited with the rodeo. Trying to rub the pins and needles out of his left foot, he realized, not for the first time, that his big brother definitely didn’t know everything.

For starters, the food here made the slop they’d eaten on the road back home look like Mama’s Sunday dinner. Even McDonald’s tasted funny over here. Then there was football. Around here, football meant soccer—like in England or something—and when they could find the rare game on a satellite TV, it was always pro. No chance of catching the Aggies on any satellite channel in Jerusalem, no sirree. He was ready for some adventure already, but as he’d just reported to Brother Lawes, not a dang thing had happened since he’d struck up his first innocuous pose under the olive tree.

Bored with the football game, he dialed Luke’s cell.

“Yo-oooooh” he yawned into the phone when his brother picked up.

“Yo yourself. Man, is this a cool gig or what? I told you coming over here would be better than the Rodeo!” answered a breathless Luke.

“Are you trippin’? I’m so bored I wouldn’t mind muckin’ out a few stalls right now. This Stone guy ain’t nowheres around.”

“Well, if he’s anything like West, I’d get ready to roll Z, ‘cause I’ve been all over J-town and back this afternoon!”

“You’re kiddin’ man, right? I mean, no lie, I haven’t done anything but eat Cracker Jacks, play football and cuss the day we got on that stupid seven-four-seven.”

“No. I’m not playin’ Z, this West guy has been plenty busy. First I followed him down to some official building—the IAA or something—and then I had to haul it up to some church in Bethany, then back down to his place and then over to the park by where they keep the Dead Sea Scrolls—and here’s where things got weird. I see the guy go in to the park, and then, like a minute later I see him come running out, and before I can figure what he’s up to, an ambulance fires in, and then some cops come right behind ‘em, pulling their ride up on the curb! Just like TV, Z!”

“Dude, this is the circuit all over again. I always got the half-dead bull—and you always wound up looking like the Marlboro Man” Zeke whined. “You know, I wish we’d never—whoa Nellie. There he is. The guy really exists. Gotta fly Lu’.”

He’d spotted his mark weaving down the block towards the apartment building. The dude was muttering and flapping his hands like he was crazy or something—and he kept looking behind him, over his shoulder. Zeke took two steps back into the canopy of the tree’s branches and watched while Patrick Stone made his way through the doorway of his building, up the common stairwell, barely visible through the frosted hallway windows, and into his apartment where he systematically turned on all of the lights as he peered anxiously out of his own windows. This might not be so bad after all, thought Zeke, as he traded the football game for the binoculars he pulled out from the depths of his backpack.


Art was surprised, relieved and grateful that the trip to the police station had been brief and, as these things go, fairly uneventful. Though he’d never found himself in quite this kind of bind, he had expected to be detained until morning, interrogated mercilessly and perhaps even denied basic pleasantries like the fresh juice they’d offered. Instead, the efficiency of the Jerusalem Police became crystal clear from the moment he’d set foot in the station.

After Officers Leibowitz and Reiss introduced Inspector Jonah Katz, he in turn graciously showed Art to the men’s room so he could freshen up before they began. Returning to the stark hallway, they made their way not to an interrogation room, but to the Inspector’s office where he began by asking Art if there was anyone he wished to call before they began.

His first instinct was to call Grace, but he didn’t want to disturb her at this late hour. He quickly did some math in his head and decided that whether or not it would come to needing an attorney, he’d best ring his friend Harry Scholer, a DC attorney. Paging through his cell phone directory, he found the number and hit talk. After close to a minute the line began ringing through the wind tunnel of the overseas call. After five rings, the lawyer’s voice mail picked up. Of course. Harry was probably at the gym or already back and in the shower. Given his audience, he left a brief, matter-of-fact message, minus any of the panic that was steamrolling anew through his stomach. Trying to sound nonchalant, he asked Harry to return the call as soon as humanly possible.

Once he ended the call, he agreed to retell the story to the Inspector. It hadn’t changed since he’d reported the evening’s events to the officers on the scene, something they solemnly noted to their superior. That done, the Inspector, again, gracious in his tone, asked if Art minded being fingerprinted for elimination purposes, after which he’d be free to leave for the hospital to check on his friend. Art agreed and together he and Reiss headed for the booking area. Reiss was all business while completing the cards, but when they finished the last print, he looked up and smiled. “If you want to wash up, Leibowitz and I would be happy to give you a ride to the hospital, Professor. We know that Mr. el Said will need all the support he can get, while he’s there.”

Surprised and a little heartened, Art washed up and took the officers up on their offer. It was still close to midnight when they deposited him at the main emergency entrance to Sinai Hospital. He was about to ask the kind looking woman at the information desk for the whereabouts of his friend, when he caught a glimpse of Grace turning the corner at the far end of a hallway.

“Grace! Dr. Levine!” he called before he realized he was shouting in a hospital. Luckily no one even turned, much less chastised him. Grace whipped around. “Art? Is that you? What happened? Where have you been? Why didn’t you call me? How’d you get here?” she practically shouted back.

He caught up to her, waving a hand in protest. “Easy does it. What are you doing here? How’s Kahlil? Is Hannah here? How is she?”

“Come. Come. I’ll take you to her. She’s with Sara in the family waiting room. Kahlil’s still in surgery. Hannah called Sara and Sara called me, and none of us, not even Hannah, has been told what happened, so start talking Mister.”

“Why don’t I wait and just tell the story once, after I check in with Hannah and see if there’s any new word on Kahlil. OK?” Art could feel the stress of the day begin to attack his every move. His head hurt, his limbs ached, and his stomach still had that horrible churning sensation.

“Fair enough. They’re right in here.” Grace opened the door to a small room sparsely furnished with a lumpy couch and a handful of folding chairs scattered around a plastic patio table topped with muffins and bottles of water and juice. Hannah was sitting in one of the folding chairs, blotting swollen eyes, while Sara, kneeling beside her tried to soothe her in low, even tones. They both turned hopefully when the door opened, expecting the surgeon’s report. Instead, upon seeing Art with Grace, Sara stood and Hannah ran to him, tears beating a rugged new path down her cheeks.

The message light, beckoning from the kitchen counter, caught Harry’s eye as he crossed from the side door to the refrigerator for his post-workout shake. He’d skipped the gym in favor of a quick jog this morning. After twenty years in a lucrative law practice, Harry had decided to fuel his true passion—biblical archaeology—and founded the American Society of Biblical Archaeology. The career shift had allowed for a much needed lifestyle shift, one that now accommodated an exercise regimen and a similar level of intellectual stimulation without the toxic side effects of stress and high blood pressure that had begun to take their toll on his middle aged body.

Taking a few gulps, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and considered the blinking light. It was barely 7 am. Most of his ASBA colleagues kept collegiate office hours—which meant this call, if not a wrong number, probably was for Harry Scholer, Esquire. He pressed the play button and heard his old friend Art West through the speaker. Though he registered the words, he focused more on Art’s voice. He didn’t sound right—too formal, yet too cavalier. Before the message played itself out, he dialed Art’s cell.

Art picked up on the third ring, sounded strained. Harry dove right in, “Art, Harry. What’s going on over there? I just walked in and found your message—you don’t sound like yourself.”

“Harry. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. If I sound funny now it’s because I just finished giving blood. I may be in a bit of a pickle and I wanted to check in with you. How dusty is that JD of yours?”

“You need legal advice on giving blood? Doesn’t that fall more into the “do unto others...” category?”

“Well, yes. I mean no. I mean, I’m giving blood because my friend Kahlil el Said—you remember him, the antiquities dealer—was attacked tonight, and I found him. We were meeting for one of our chats and when I got there—what? Oh, thank you.—sorry, the nurse just brought me some juice—anyway, he’d been shot and I was taken in for questioning and fingerprinting and—”

“You what? Art, please tell me you didn’t say anything without some sort of council there.”

“Well of course I answered their questions. It was all very amiable. The officers who came to the scene both knew Kahlil, they sent a car for his daughter, and after taking me to the station they even gave me a ride to the hospital. They didn’t really interrogate me—we just had a chat in the Inspector’s office.”

“Arthur. You know better! Where do things stand now?”

“I don’t know really. I’m still at the hospital—this only happened a few hours ago. I have nothing to hide, I mean, it’s not like the gun was mine or anything.”

“Gun? What gun?!” Harry groaned.

“I didn’t know it was a gun when I pulled it out—“

“You didn’t know it was a gun?”

“No. No. Kahlil was lying on something, I just wanted to make him more comfortable. I—“

Harry groaned again. “Art, for once, words elude me. You bet you’re in a pickle. Go home. Now. Stay there. Don’t say another word to anyone—especially not the police. I’ll catch the first plane over. Try to get some sleep and I’ll call you when I land. Will you do as I ask, please?”

Art wasn’t sure what exactly he’d done wrong, but he knew that Harry didn’t scare easily. “Okay. I will. I just don’t know—“
“You’re right. You don’t know. That’s why you called me.”

“Thanks Harry. Have a safe flight. I’ll see you tonight?”

“I’ll do my best, but it may take an extra day. Let me see what I can do.”

“I owe you, Harry.”

”Yes, you do. But one thing at a time, friend. Hang in there.”

“Will do.”

Harry hung up the phone and shook his head. He could already feel the blood rising in a way it hadn’t in years. Well, he’d been hoping to fit in a trip to the Holy Land later in the summer. He hoped there was a empty seat on the next Jerusalem-bound flight out of Regan International.

Grace’s clogs echoed in the hospital hallway as she made her way back to the waiting room. She rarely called in favors, but had taken advantage of her long-standing relationship with Sammy Cohen and woken him up with the request to organize any O-positive donors within the IAA, and had done the same with the academic dean at Jerusalem University. Both men immediately forgave her the lateness of the calls when they realized that the esteemed Kahlil el Said needed not only their prayers, but their blood, and promised to do what they could immediately.

Wondering if she should offer to contact the Imam at the el Said’s mosque, her thoughts turned back to Art. She adored the man, she really did, in a collegial way, and she greatly admired not only his fortitude when it came to research, but to his faith as well. As a Christian, Art embodied what she considered to be the most essential teachings of Jesus—an openness of spirit and love. It was these same qualities though, that often gave him a naiveté incongruous with his intellectual wit. Listening to his earlier explanation she’d realized that she’d known him long enough to hear between the lines—there was something big he wasn’t sharing and she couldn’t wait to drag it out of him.

Reaching for the doorknob of the waiting room, she heard his voice behind her.

“Yes, Bill. That’s right. O-positive. We sure do appreciate it. Anything you can do. And again, I apologize for calling so late.....Sure will. Thanks again—you’re a real blessing. Goodnight.” Art looked up as he ended the call. “That was Bill Brown over at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies. Met him while I was in seminary. Hate that I hadn’t had a chance to meet up with him yet this trip, but knew that he’d not only rally the troops over there for Kahlil, but that he’d start a prayer chain for him as well.”

“Good work. I just spoke with both Sammy and Jack Samuels over at the University. They both send their prayers and said they’d be sure to get some donors over here. Now tell me, what really happened out there tonight?”

Before he could answer, they were joined by a tall thin man in scrubs. “Excuse me, please.” He motioned towards the door handle Grace still held in her hand. “Oh! Excuse me. Are you Mr. el Said’s surgeon?”

“Yes I am. Steven Schwartz. And you are--?”

“Dr. Grace Levine. Friend of the family, as is Dr. Arthur West here. We’re both academics.” She wanted to be clear about their monikers and avoid any confusion or concern on his part that they might be interfering MDs. “Hannah’s inside. We’re all anxious to hear your report.”

“Very pleased to meet you. After you...” He said, holding the door.

This time, Hannah and Sara were not disappointed when the door opened, revealing the wiry, worn out surgeon. “Miss el Said, I’m Dr. Schwartz. Your father’s in recovery now, and in a bit, we’ll take him to ICU. For the moment, he’s doing as well as we can expect. We only found evidence of a single bullet, which entered his body, here...” The surgeon indicated his own diaphragm. “ grazed his liver, before it shattered his spleen—which is what caused the majority of the blood loss and is why we sent the nurse down to inform you of the need for blood donations. We removed his spleen--something he can still live a normal life without, by the way—and barring any unforeseen infections, I feel confident that his insides will heal nicely.”

Hannah’s face brightened with fresh tears of relief and she started to speak. The doctor held up a palm. “Now about his head injury. He seemed to have taken quite a hit on the head—I’m told it may simply have been from falling. In any case, he’s sustained a large hematoma, or bruise. We didn’t see any collateral damage on the X-rays or CT scans, but there’s always a high risk of swelling with an internal head injury. As you know, our bodies have a tremendous capacity to heal, and to protect themselves. That said, I don’t want you to be upset when I tell you that he’s in a light coma. It’s something we expect with this kind of trauma, and right now there’s nothing to indicate that this is anything more than a temporary state. We’ll keep him in ICU for the next few days so we can watch him closely. You, as immediate family, of course will be permitted to stay with him for as much of the day as you’d like. We do ask that he not have any other visitors for the time being.” For the first time since beginning his report, he took his eyes from Hannah’s and, in turn, acknowledged Sara, Grace and Art, with a slight nod. “I can see you have an impressive support system already in place. Once we’re sure your father is out of danger, we’ll move him to a room where they can visit him without restriction, during the day. Unfortunately, until then, hospital policy only permits visits by non-family members to thirty minutes at a time here in the waiting room. Are there any questions I can answer for you at this time?”

This boy must be making a mother somewhere very happy, thought Grace. She didn’t know if she’d ever met a surgeon with such a gentle, unassuming manner. He’d not talked down to Hannah, or used a bunch of medical gobbley gook to describe Kahlil’s condition, and he’d made it pretty clear by the tone of his voice, that he didn’t exactly agree with the hospital’s policy towards non-family visitors. She felt good knowing Kahlil’s fate lay partially in the young doctor’s hands, and made a note to say that later to Hannah.

“Dr. Schwartz, thank you for all you have done for my father, and for being so kind to me. I have only one question—how soon may I see him?”

“I expect we’ll be moving him to ICU within the hour. I’ll send a nurse for you just as soon as we’ve got him settled in up there. Anything else?”

“About the blood—“

Grace interrupted her. “Hannah, Art and I have already taken care of that. After he gave his pint, he called Professor Brown over at the Institute and I rang both Dr. Cohen at the IAA and Dr. Samuels at the University. Between the three of them, I expect we’ll have the hospital restocked in no time.”

“Then, no. No more questions, Doctor. Thank you again.”

“I’m glad to have been of help.” He handed her a card. “My beeper number is on here—do not hesitate to use it if you think of any other questions. Often this time is so overwhelming that I’ve found it best to be available for my patients’ families. You may well forget everything you’ve just heard from me, so please, take me at my word, and ring if you have any concerns.” He flashed a genuine smile, and with a short bow, took his leave.

“What a charming man. Hannah, I feel very good about his caring for your father.” offered Grace.

“I do as well. And thank you all. For being here. Grace, Professor Art, for making those calls—for giving your blood. You are blessings from Allah.”

“We wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ll all be praying for his healing, as will the friends we phoned. You concentrate your thought and prayers on his well being, Hannah.”

“Hannah, do you want us to stay with you until you see him?” Grace asked.

“Why don’t I stay with Hannah, and you and Art can get some sleep. I don’t know how you’re still standing after the night you’ve had!” Sara said, more to Art than Grace.

And she didn’t know the half of it, thought Grace. And neither do I. Grace could see Art trying not to look too hopeful when he looked from Hannah to Grace for the verdict.

“Oh! Certainly. Yes. You’ve both done more than I could ever repay. That is, if you don’t mind staying a bit longer with me, Sara, just until...until...” Hannah’s voice began to crack again with tears flowing. “I don’t know what I’d do without him...”

“Hannah. Don’t you worry about that just now. You just stay focused on those positive prayers, remember?”

Nodding her assent, she thanked everyone again and ran from the room.