UPDATED 10pm BST/9pm GMT 2 May 07
The opening of Chapter 3, following on from
It’s under the fold
When did it start? I should say read your Torah, ‘In the Beginning’ and all that. But when did it start for me, when did I get involved with the Preacher? Well, I never got ‘involved’ with him, I was never ‘touched’ or ‘enlightened’, if that’s what you mean. He was always just a guy to me, some one to be followed around the streets, and kept an eye on. Hell, I never even heard of him until the Chief collared me in the corridor one day.
I was hanging around waiting for something to happen. We had a couple of rooms squashed up against the Auxiliary barracks- supposedly we were ‘civilian liaison’ to the Germans- and I had wandered in earlier that day to find out what the excitement was on the streets. I hadn’t been able to get a straight answer out of anyone, I don’t think anyone knew what was going on for sure, just something. I never could prove anything, but I always reckon the Preacher, or possibly one of his gang, had sent people ahead, just to stir up the buzz. I never bought that spontaneous ‘palm leaves’ nonsense. The whole city was acting like it was the afternoon before a holy day, but no one knew why.
It turned out the Chief knew. I had been playing cat and mouse with him for a couple of hours, though he didn’t know that. I was telling myself that I wasn’t curious as to the source of the buzz, it was just better than being at home. I was living in one room in a block on the downwind side of town. In addition to the lack of odour, the Romans kept their barracks a lot cleaner than we seemed to keep our streets, which had the bonus of making their well water taste sweeter; I swear kids dropped rats in the one in my street. So I had my excuse, I had enough crap spread across my desk to justify the pay, and if I happened to hear what was going on, well, that was a bonus.
The Cat and Mouse game ended suddenly and unexpectedly when I was sat in the Romans communal latrine, and in walked the Chief. So successful had I been at avoiding him, and more importantly any ‘little errands’ he might want doing, that he was surprised at seeing me, and, as I was halfway through biding farewell to last nights lamb roast, I was a captive audience
“Afternoon Joe” he said jovially, sitting next to me. The Chief was a big man, in many senses of the word. Rumour said that he had some sort of access to Pilate, and he could call in favours up and down the Jordan. Eventually everyone passed through Jerusalem, at least anyone the police would be interested in, and so if you were a policeman from somewhere else you relied on the Chief to get you what you wanted. He was two or three inches taller than most men, and while he was running to fat since his hair had started to grey, he was obviously muscular under the extra pounds.
“Chief.” I replied, non-committally.
“You heard about this…” here he paused to break wind noisily “this preacher from Galilee? I shrugged to indicate ‘Probably not’. He took this as an invitation to continue, rather than an attempt to end the conversation before it got started. “He’s got some sort of gang or band- twelve of them, following him like so many puppies. The Pharisees are getting a bit jumpy- apparently he’s been challenging their authority up and down Israel, claiming he speaks for God. Get the lads together Joe, briefing straight after I’ve had my lunch”.
I finished up quickly and after washing, jogged out into the street, and grabbed one of the street urchins. “Samuel” I said, showing him a coin, “go and get the lads together. This is yours if they all turn up in double quick time”.
He grinned a smile of golden brilliance through his grimy face, and rushed off, bare-foot and ragged. The kids hung around outside our door for this reason- they knew they could always earn money as messengers and delivery boys.