The house was empty.
Benjamin ran from room to room, but the House of Eleazar was filled only with the shadows of its inhabitants. Finally, his frantic efforts to find someone to help roused the old gatekeeper, who was extremely vexed at being roused by a naked bot in the middle of the night. He did not immediately recognize Benjamin and almost clubbed hin with a large stick.
“Master Benjamin!” he said as he recognized the intruder. Being an ardent Yahwist, he was horrified by the boy’s nekedness, and before he would brook any explanantion, he forced an oversized smock over the boy’s head. When he hear the story of Yeshua’s arrest, he puzzled over what step to take next. Benjamin waited impatiently while the gatekeeper hummed and hawed, and was about to run back into the night, when Martha, Sister Miriam and Susanna burst in. Martha immediately lit the lamps and began a fire in the courtyard.
They all spoke together and at once, trying to make sense of the evening’s events. Everyone they knew had scattered like seeds before a gale. Martha thought Yohanna and Yusef had had gone to Chuza’s house. She fretted for Miri had gone to Yusef’s house but Yusef had come to the rented rooms, and she had not arrived there.
They all felt at loose ends without her, for Miri had been the glue that held them all together, and without her and Yeshua, the group of disciples had no focus. She handled the crisis in the way she handled every crisis. She made some tea, and insisted everyone else drink it.
Miri was at her wit’s end. She was a prisoner of Justus. She was sure Justus would eventually turn her in to Herodias, but in the meantime, he relished her discomfort, and engaged her in idle chit chat.
“I must say your estate was in a terrible state!” he said distastefully, “I am sure it is not your fault! Good help is so hard to fiind these days!”
“Perhaps you were looking in all the wrong places!” said Miri, her mind racing behinf the conversation.
“Oh my goodness, yes!” declared Justus as the sedan bumped through the streets. “But I can’t get anyone from Judea to work in Galilee! Not that I blame them! The Galileans are so rough, don’t you think?”
“I hadn’t noticed,” replied Miri, her mind gauging how far they must have traveled. They were definitely on the way to the palace.
“Oh, Galileans are professional!” he said, pleased with his own sense of superiority, “they are professional fishermen, and then when the winds change, they become professional gardeners and vintners! They work hard but need constant supervision! They have no concept of weeds! You’ve been betrothed to a Galilean, I’ve heard!”
Miri turned and focused on Justus. She wondered suddenly if he might know of Yeshua’s fate.
“Where did you hear that?”
Justus suddenly changed, and Miri wondered if perhaps he wasn’t somehow a member of the Herodian family.
“You are a notorious bandit queen,” declared Justus, “The Court is abuzz with your antics! They say that you have declared your lover to be the Messiah, and you have designs upon the throne!” He grasped her hand with his large fingers reeking of onions and garlic. He drew nearer and she caught the familiar and detestable smell of stale garum and bad wine. Bile rose in her throat, and she pulled away, but Justus held her fast. They began to struggle, and it was obvious that Justus intended to rape her. The sedam rocked precariously as they struggled and the porters, unable to carry the sedan further, set it down, but their grip skipped and the litter skewed violently sideways, and Miri tumbled out onto the street.
She rolled away from the sedan chair, and the porters and armed escort stood agape at the apparition of her bare legs and thighs. They were momentarily caught in the spell of her beauty, and quietly thanking the Great Mother for her gift, sprang to her feet and ran down a side alley.
“Seize her!” cried Justus and stuck his head out from the sedan. But instead of leaping into action, the men all turned from watching the fleeing woman and gaped at Justus, his wig akimbo.
Yeshua stood before Antipas.
“You have been quite a thorn in my side,” said Antipas, “Are you the Baptist?”
Yeshua stood silent.
“Damn you!” said Antipas and rose from his throne. In the same movement he struck Yeshua across the face, and his royal signet ring cut Yeshua’s cheek.
“We have enough evidence to bring him to Pilatus?” Antipas asked the priests standing to one side. Yeshua recognized the young priest who stepped forward with a written indictment.
“Saul!” whispered Yeshua, and the young man stopped in his tracks. “Saul, why do you persecute me?” the young man stood transfixed.
But the elder took the script from him and presented them to Antipas, who read while the High Priest Caiaphas spoke.
“He was proclaimed, not just the Messiah, but King!”
Antipas nodded for he thought the charge would stick. “And what of treason against the Emperor?”
“There!” said Caiaphas, pointing to a paragraph on the scroll.
“Sticky!” said Antipas. “Still it may do! I think we should obtain a confession!” He looked up from the paper. “Yeshua of Tarichae, you are charged with sedition against the crown and against Rome, what do you have to say for your self?”
Still, Yeshua remained silent. His kittel was soiled and the crimson wedding robe, he wore, a little tattered.
“He is wearing purple!” said Antipas.
“Red,” replied Caiaphas.
Antipas frowned. “Write down purple!” commanded Antipas.
Caiaphas frowned, but acquiesced, and retired with Saul. His office depended upon Antipas, and he was sure no one else could manage the affairs of the Temple better than he.
“Take him away!” Commanded Antipas, “I expect a confession by the morning!”
Yeshua was led from the room by the jailers, who were in a foul mood. They had hoped for a few days off, and now they had to work all night torturing a rebel.
“You had better confess!” hissed a guard to Yeshua as they pulled him through the narrow passageway. “I’m not in the mood to stay up tonight!”
Yeshua’s silence annoyed him and he yanked hard on the chain, but even though the iron collar bit into his neck, Yeshua didn’t even wince.
Miri took the first three turns she could, but ended in a blind alley. She stopped to look about. There was nowhere to hide. She turned to face the open end of the alley, panting, her heart beatinf madly and her mind panicked. She was trapped!
But after a few minutes, she realized no one was chasing her. There was no way for her to save Yeshua, and her heart cracked. “It’s not fair!” she wailed, “Where is the justice? Where are the gods now?”
“Shut up!” shouted a voice from somewhere above her head, “Some of us have to work in the morning!”
She decided she would head for Yohanna’s house. Perhaps Chuza could do something for Yeshua. It was risky, but she had no choice. She picked up her skirts and ran back the way she had come.
Eleazar sat in the court of Caiaphas. The yard was quiet but priests passed silently to and fro, for the priests had duties at the Temple. He sat by the brazier of the guard. He had told the guard his brother was working late and he was there to escort him home. The guard just grunted without even asking Eleazar his name. At some point he fell asleep, and the voices of those around him filtered through to his dreams, and when he finally awoke, there had seemed to have been no transition between the real and imagined. There was a group beside him that spoke of the Galilean, and he realized immediately they were speaking about Yeshua.
And straightway he discovered that morning, the chief priests were holding a consultation with the elders and and scribes and a couple of Saducees appointed to the Sanhedrin had bound Yeshua, carried him away, and delivered him to Pilatus. He slipped out the gate, and made his way to the Herodian Palace ehere Pilatus was spending his time for Pesach. That the Sabbath was approaching gave Eleazar some hipe. He was sure that Yeshua’s trial would be put over until the following week. Unfortunately he was wrong.
“Yusef, you must help us!”
Yusef stepped back to allow Miri, Susanna and Yohanna through the door. With nervous backward glances, the women hurried into the anteroom.
“Close the door quickly!” said Miri fiercely. “They have taken Yeshua!”
Yusef’s face drained of colour. “No!” he cried. “He is lost! The Temple hierarchy will have him stoned!”
“You must plead his case, Yusef!” said Susanna, “You are the only person who will stand before them!”
Yohanna stepped forward and grabbed Yusef’s arm. “Eli has gone down now to enquire of the charges. He thinks that they will try to put a charge of treason against him before the Procurator. We need you to go to Pilatus, and plead his case. They may tread more softly if they know you are standing up in his behalf.”
Yusef rubbed his face nervously, and then took a deep breath. “I will do what I can.”
“I knew this would happen!” spat Miriam. “I knew they would take him!” She looked at Yusef angrily and screamed, “Why didn’t he listen?”
Yusef wrapped Miriam in his arms, and stroked her head. “He must do what he did. His will is commanded by God!”
Miriam pushed away from Yusef. “We’ll see!” she said angrily.
Benjamin stood holding Yusef’s robe.
“I must go!” Yusef said, as he shouldered his mantle. He kissed Miriam on the cheek, “Have faith in God.”
He turned and pushed out into the courtyard.
“Do what you can, Father,” Miriam whispered as she watched him disappear into the streets beyond the portico.
Yeshua stood before the dais.
And Pilate asked him, “You have claimed you are King of the Jews?”
Yeshua smiled, “If you say I am!”
“This is not a bar or a brothel!” said Pilate, “It is a Court of Law, and the crime you have committed is a capital offense! If you wish to survive it, then you had better treat these proceedings with respect, or you will feel the full extent of the Law!”
He was in a bad mood, and he called for a bowl of water to wash the grime from his face and hands. And as he washed his face and hands, Saul read a number of charges.
“You have witnesses?” asked Pilatus as he dabbed at his face and neck with a towel.
“We do!” replied Saul, and to Yeshua’s surprise, they presented Yoachim and Boaz, and the two priests accused him of many things, but when Pilatus asked him what defense he would provide, he could not answer them for the stories they told were so false, that he was taken aback by their vengeance.
And Pilate prodded him, “Why do you not answer these charges? Look how many things they witnessed against you!”
But Yeshua gave no testimony and Pilatus was annoyed at his silence.
“Very well, he replied testily, “You are guilty as charged and you shall be taken out and crucified!” Guards moved to take Yeshua away. “And because you showed such disrespect for the Law, you shall be flogged! A hundred lashes! You’re no Messiah!”
He returned moodily to his seat. He motioned for the washbowl again. It was his habit to wash between cases, and insisted on fresh water for each bowl, and a clean towel each time. It seemed he wished to avoid contamination from the people dragged in front of him. He was thankful the rebel Messiah had been silent. He was sick of hearing the same arguments over and over. He sighed.
“Who do we have next?”
Yusef ran into Chuza in the palace.
“Yeshua has been taken!” whispered Yusef.
Chuza shook his head. “It’s too late, he has been taken out! They’re going to crucify him!”
“Lord preserve us!” said Yusef.
“The Templars and the Priests have sworn depositions against the Twelve, but thankfully their names are so common, they will have to work to find better descriptions of them all!”
“And Miri?” asked Yusef.
“Herodias wants her head!”
“Can you do anything for Yeshua?”
“He is in the hands of the Romans! I am sure the commander of Antonia will try to make him talk before he is hung up! They beat him badly through the night, but he did not speak!”
“You’re sure?” asked Yusef.
“He betrayed no one!”
Miri lost her legs when she heard the new, and Yohanna caught her.
“We have to get you out of Yerushalayim!” said Sister Miriam, “You cannot be caught here!”
“I have to save Yeshua!” said Miri fiercely. Her anger gave her strength and supported her backbone. “We don’t have much time!”
“He’s gone!” said Yohanna grabbing Miri by both arms. “You can’t help him!”
“Yes I can!” replied Miri, “The Romans will ignore us! We’re women! They have a strange notion, we’re only dangerous to our husbands! She slipped her hand into her purse, and felt for the Adze of Anpu. “We have to go to the market! I have some shopping to do!”
“Shopping?” asked Sister Miriam in amazement, “How can you go shopping at a time like this?”
“Trust me!” said Miri, wrapping her cloak about her, “I am going to need your help1”
“I want to come!” piped in Susanna.
“We shall all go,” said Miri, “I have a plan!”