Dinazade: Tell Me Your Story

Cover_Dinazade_JPEG_n46

© 2012 John Derek Stubbs –All Rights Reserved

Dinazade — Tell Me Your Story

-1-

Contents

Foreword ……………………………………………………………………………….. -3-

Chapter 1: Tell Me Your Story ……………………………………………….. -5-

Chapter 2: A Challenge in Damascus……………………………………….-22-

Chapter 3: Not Just Peter but Barnabas too……………………………-39-

Chapter 4: A Chasm of Energy, a Gathering Storm…………………-50-

Chapter 5: To Serve………………………………………………………………..-58-

Chapter 6: A Lethal Disease…………………………………………………….-63-

Chapter 7: Suffering Servant…………………………………………………..-69-

Chapter 8: The Love Letter…………………………………………………….-77-

Chapter 9: A Jailing Job Ends………………………………………………….-81-

Chapter 10: Resignation………………………………………………………….-89-

Chapter 11: The Battle Joined………………………………………………….-97-

Chapter 12: Just as Dangerous………………………………………………-104- 

Chapter 13: Journey of Love………………………………………………….-112-

Chapter 14: The Day of the Lord……………………………………………-119-

Chapter 15: Give the Body its Best Chance……………………………-126-

Chapter 16: Touch and Go…………………………………………………….-130-

Chapter 17: Bond of True Love……………………………………………..-136-

Chapter 18: We Ran into Difficulties……………………………………..-141-

Chapter 19: A New Beginning……………………………………………….-149-

Synopsis……………………………………………………………………………….-158-

– 2 –

Foreword

This is a novel about Dinazade and Mark, their stories, and the relationship between them.  Within one extraordinary month, there developed a passionate relationship between Dinazade and Mark, even while both of the two were engaged in a long existing and an intimate relationship with another partner.

The ancestor Dinazade had a star studded childhood in Iraq; and the modern Dinazade – Dee –was a star in Manhattan.  Mark had a handicapping accident with his lumberjack family in his childhood in Cyprus; and then with crippled hands, hand wrote one of the best read stories of all time.

In that same extraordinary month their shared story was bound up with the confrontation of global power face to face.

At the end of that one astonishing month, the Dee faced death in London, while she realized, simultaneously, that Mark faced death in Libya.

What bound Dee and Mark together was their shared focus on listening to the story of the other person close to them, or before them.  Their diversity – or difference – was their personal history, their families and communities, and the colleagues that surrounded them.

Yet both pressed through that apparently lethal bubble, passed through the threat or veil of death, not into nothing, but into something much, much more than before.

In what follows, in some cases names and places exist in public record, while in other cases, names and places have been changed.  This novel conforms to truth.

                                                                                                                                          Lives and “Books continue each other despite our habit

 of  judging them separately.”  Virginia Woolf

Wednesday 26 March 2003. West Middlesex Hospital, Hounslow, London

╬ Dee knew there was very little time left now.  In the darkness and silence of the dog watch, each minute was marked out on by the changing, glowing red sticks on the digital clock display.  The many scents and aromas – and frankly, the smell – of medicine and the hospital were strong.

Dee was lying beside him, at his back, curling herself in tandem with him.  Her right arm was over and clasping around his waist, feeling the smoothness of his skin, protecting and comforting, like a car safety belt.  He was her husband.  His warmth, solidity, and strength were ebbing away.  His firmness was relaxing into slackness.  His warmth was dropping into coolness.  The hardness of his body was melting into a loose limbed jelly.  His natural movements – breath, motions, very presence – were all diminishing.  His life was fading away; jaundice was intensifying as his kidneys failed.

“Everything started out so simply.  How could I have reached such a moment as this?” she asked herself.  Her mouth was dry, and she was thirsty.  The whirlwind of the events of the last month seemed bizarre, unbelievable – but unfortunately, so very real.

Though so close to him, she felt oddly outside of herself.  It was as if she was floating above the hospital bed they shared, that last night together.  Floating above the bed, she looked down upon the two of them lying on the bed, and the story of their two lives ran through her mind.  She reviewed the story forward, back, fast forward, fast back.  She wondered at the meaning of one event, smiled at another radiant scene, frowned at the dark and painful incidents.  And now a story – their story – saga, chapter – a book – was closing.

Regardless of any risk to herself, she snuggled closer to his softening, cooling body, and gently kissed his back.  The soft and loving touch of her warm lips on his back was to prove to be their last kiss in this life.  She felt her own breathing so much stronger than his slight breaths, his O so slight breaths, which came less and less frequently now.  His words were all concluded.

After perhaps an hour, he suddenly he made a rasping sound, tensed, and then slowly and completely relaxed.  She waited for another breath, while the red sticks juggled and changed… but that breath did not come.  She was alert for the slightest motion, but it did not come.  The silence became thick and palpable.  The air seemed as cold and dense as water.

As he began his final rest in her arms, she slowly shook her head.  She felt numb with shock.  Then, in the silence, as the sky slowly lightened outside, tears welled up in her eyes and ran down her cheeks, as they would for a long time to come.

“How different it all was only a month ago,” Dee thought.

There was no hurry now; nothing more to be done, for now.  Everyone knew that. Alone with him, there was no reason to restrain her sorrow, racking sobs of grief and loss, and tears.  In her bleak sorrow, she thought about their shared saga, the two of them, from so long ago.

In this desolate place, in her heart, she reached out for comfort towards another man, far away as he was.  She extended her hand him and to the so sudden, passionate, and overwhelming relationship she felt with him during this last month.  She took relief in how their lives and future had been and were now weaving ever more closely together.

Chapter 1: Tell Me Your Story

“History is indeed little more than the register of

the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”

Edward Gibbon.

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 3.

Friday 28 February 2003.  Weaver Hall, New York University, Lower Manhattan

╬ Dinazade made herself a cup of unsweetened mint tea in the office kitchen.  She rhythmically dipped the mint tea bag in the boiled water, enjoying the release of the fresh aroma and the curling steam – meanwhile chatting happily with her friend Mickey Tensing.  The hot tea was welcome, for the temperature in Central Park was still below freezing.  It would apparently only rise to six degrees above freezing that day.

Layered in gloves and coat, Mickey had rushed in breathlessly.  The chilled air was still dropping off his clothing while he fussed and grumbled about the cold, his trip, and the PATH trains from his home in Bayonne, New Jersey.  His train stop in Manhattan was the Christopher Street station – while the Exchange Place and World Trade Center Stations were being rebuilt.  Then he hurried eastward on foot, dodging pedestrians and traffic, across to the Lower Manhattan offices he shared with Dee.

His PATH rail journey was short, however, so allowed no reason for complaint.  As they moved three million people a day, the trains and other transportation systems were normally quite reliable.  They were as dependable as any of the churning rhythms throbbing through the veins of the city – the rhythms of the electricity, water, and schools; goods, services, and police; and of course, all the many channels of money.

So neither Dee nor anyone else was much persuaded by Mickey’s incessant criticisms of the PATH system.  It was rare for Mickey to arrive on time.  Indeed, if Mickey arrived early, it would be a matter of conversation and genuine concern amongst his office colleagues.  Was something wrong?

On that Friday morning on which Dee, Mickey, and their colleagues met, the prospect of release from work eased the mood of the day.  Conversations were a little more personal than usual, longer and more light-hearted.  Coworkers swapped and compared their plans for the weekend.

“How is Melissa, Dee?” asked Mickey about her daughter.  Other than her parents, most people called her ‘Dee.’

╬ Dee’s father, Syrian-born Reuben Makram Khoury, had his own perspective on her name.  Reuben had worked for an organization representing Al Furat Petroleum in New York City.  There had been some optimism in the early 1980s, at the height of his career, when light-grade, low-sulfur oil was discovered near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.  Syria had begun to export oil to Europe.  Up to then, decades of centralized economic policies and controls had inhibited production or export.

Yet these operations and Reuben personally had been severely affected by a volatile oil market, depleting reserves of some grades of Syrian oil, and also by the New York Stock Exchange collapse of the late 1980s.

Then Al Furat tossed Reuben aside.  He felt betrayed.  He never completely recovered his confidence or his previous level of professional success.  He provided part-time accountancy work for a number of organizations and individuals.  The alert, dark eyes of the younger Reuben now adopted a gaze that seemed unfocused and far off; his once-firm jaw dissolved into drooping cheeks and the flabby dewlaps of his neck.

Although Reuben was somewhat confused by his sense of failure in his professional field, Reuben’s daughter, the only child of him and Moressa, was his pride and joy.  At their daughter’s birth, he was firm regarding her name and their Syrian culture.  During the years after that, whenever he heard the name ‘Dee’, he would grumble in his gravelly voice, “We christened you with the name ‘Dinazade.’   Your name is Dinazade, not Dee.”

Many years before – about the time of the Apollo moon landing – as a child growing up in Manhattan, Dinazade had asked her father about the meaning of her name.  “It’s a lovely name,” he said, standing erect and drawing his shoulders back – for, after all, the choice of her name had been at his own insistence.  His wife Moressa had graciously conceded in the choice of a name.

“Dinazade is the name of Scheherazade’s sister.  Dinazade was the woman who asked Scheherazade the questions, and Scheherazade responded with the stories of the Arabian Nights.”

“What do you mean, Papa?” Dee had asked.

“My father – your grandfather Abas – read the Arabian Nights to me when I was a boy,” he responded.  From time to time Reuben told Dee about the hardships her grandfather had endured in his life.

“My brother – your uncle Johanan – and I would gather round your granddad while he sat and read to us.  I can still see it now.  Some say those stories of the Nights were strung together by the mythical queen Scheherazade.  You want to hear the story?”  Dee’s father smiled down into her shining eyes as she nodded vigorously.

“Very well,” he said, sitting down on a deep club sofa chair as she climbed into his lap.  “Once upon a time, far away, in our lands, there was a beautiful, young maiden called Scheherazade.  At the time, the Sultan Schahriar discovered his wife had been unfaithful to him.”  At this point, they would groan in unison, in an ever-more-melodramatic way, every time Reuben repeated the story – as of course, he often did.  They would see who could groan the loudest, until they burst into laughter.

“The Sultan was furious, of course.  He decided to have his wife put to death the next dawn and then decreed that each day he would marry and next day execute the bride!  So he must have been insanely angry.”  It was another opportunity for a groaning competition and laughter.

“Then Scheherazade came into the picture.  She worked out a plan to foil the Sultan and dared to wed the Sultan in spite of the decree. After their marriage, that night, within the hearing of the Sultan, her sister Dinazade asked Scheherazade a carefully worded question.  Then, in response to the question, Scheherazade told one of her now famous and beloved stories to her sister, Dinazade.  But, you see, Scheherazade was very clever – for she did not complete that story on her wedding night.  (“Oooo” was the verbal competition now.)

“Listening in through the walls of the tent, the Sultan was intrigued by the story and surprised by the knowledge of Scheherazade.  He wanted to hear the end of the story, so the Sultan delayed Scheherazade’s execution for a day.  After 1001 nights spent in this fashion, the Sultan yielded, and Scheherazade survived.  And what stories they were!  Think of Sinbad the Sailor and his seven voyages!  And, of course,” Reuben said, sweeping his little princess, his daughter, up in his arms and kissing her, “They lived happily ever after!”  (Yells of happiness, and dancing.)

It was especially with his daughter Dee, or Dinazade, that Reuben could be the melodramatic storyteller, often popping up with tales and sayings “from the old country” of Syria that could often be mystifying in a far different, urban, and American context.

“Oh, Papa,” Reuben’s daughter cried in delight. “See, I just did the same as Dinazade!  I asked a question and you told me a story!  But you should have kept back the ending. You should have said, ‘And I will tell you the rest tomorrow.’”

Reuben gazed thoughtfully at his lovely princess and said, “Why, that is amazing, my darling, amazing.  You are quite right.”  For it was impossible that his beloved daughter Dinazade could say anything wrong — or most of the time anyway.  Until that really important decision, about which they disagreed completely, that changed everything.

╬ Dee returned to the Weaver Hall kitchen from the memory of her father’s tales.  She realized Mickey Tensing was asking a second time about Dee’s daughter Melissa, with whom Mickey was good friends.

Melissa often asked Mickey to critique her university essays before she submitted them to her professors.  Mickey was good at this, since along with all those in his section of CHIMe Labs , he worked with computerized applications of language in one way or another every day.  He lived and breathed the subject, and so did Dee.

“Melissa is doing okay, thanks,” Dee replied, finishing her cup of tea and washing the cup.  “It’s not long to the end of term, and the pre-med students have a couple of exams.  She always prefers the term work to the exam work.  You know about that.”

“Any boyfriend?” asked Mickey.

“I seem to be hearing the name ‘Warren’ from her quite often, so perhaps Warren is the flavor of the month,” said Dee – and then, wanting to take the spotlight off Melissa, countered, “How is your work going, Mickey?”

Dee noticed Mickey’s shortness of stature, which made her want to call him Little Mickey, for he was not much taller than she herself.  “Little Mickey with a giant heart and spirit,” she would think whenever she noticed his height.  They two of them, Dee and Mickey, were like a pair of wagtail birds, small, always active and inquisitive about everything which crossed their paths.

“Oh, I’m enjoying my work, but it is such an endless struggle,” said Mickey.  “English is so perverse.  Every rule seems to have so many exceptions!  At times I wonder, ‘Why bother with any rules at all?’  Of course, Daphne disagrees with me, since she has to teach the language.”

Daphne, Mickey’s wife, was an English teacher in the public school system.  Dee sympathized with Mickey’s point of view, however, for the challenge before him and his colleagues at CHIMe Labs was enormous, involving a comprehensive listing of every word in English, its changes or morphology over hundreds of years preceding, including slang, swear words, a definition of all the rules and every single exception.  To list all the morphology of the English language was a task comparable to what appeared in the full Oxford English Dictionary, and then some.

Under the aegis of French-owned Alcatel-Lucent, other sections of CHIMe Labs in New Jersey and elsewhere cooperated on the same task with different languages, like Arabic, Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish, and Mandarin.  It was a vast undertaking.  Yet the results were ever more useful.  Actually, by now digital language and voice language processing was not only useful but actually essential for a wide range of word- and language processing.  It was essential for the Internet and international telephony, for Interpol activities, and ordinary governmental operations like the Department of Motor Vehicles.  It was essential for commercial enquiries by telephone, mobile phone applications, and more.

Dee played a big part in this operation.  One of Dee’s online colleagues was Sam Roweis, holding a postdoctoral position in London with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit founded by Geoff Hinton.  Another was Lawrence Saul at their CHIMe labs in New Jersey.  She happily followed and contributed to that dialogue, which issued in the Locally Linear Embedding algorithm (LLE), relating to the digital analysis of language.

“I can’t imagine having to learn English as a second language, when I think of all its complications and variations,” said Dee to Mickey Tensing.  “I can’t imagine teaching it.  I think Daphne must be a saint!”

“Daphne has a wonderfully ordered mind and a patience of a seemingly endless kind.  She needs patience to stay married to me!  I suppose there are precious few who can claim to have mastered English completely.  But then,” Mickey said, sounding philosophical, “I suppose people themselves are just as unique and diverse as languages can be.  Was it Jung who said he regarded each individual as a fascinating mystery? Like people, it’s as if each language – and each person’s language – has a deep, mysterious personality of its own.”   Mickey loved language and in most conversations it was unusual for him not to make allusion to some writing or another, often with an exact quotation.

Although she was a pleasant and sociable person, Dee was ever active and intense, so it did not take her long to want to get to her own desk work.  After they had chatted for a few minutes more, Dee slipped away from the brightly lit kitchen and its friendly buzz and camaraderie to her office at Warren Weaver Hall in NYU’s Computer Science offices in Greenwich Village.  She was always one who felt the need and the pressure of getting on with the job.

╬ Dee’s ‘working’ office at Weaver Hall at New York University was private, but was not as secure as the absolute silence and privacy of her CIA office near the United Nations a mile and a half north of Weaver.  Her CIA office had no outside windows. It was a measure to prevent unwelcome eyes and ears intruding, even from as far away as a neighboring building, or further than that.

By now Dee was well-acquainted with previous attempts to breach those layers of security.

After all, the Israelis had contrived to set up a listening disk in the Oval Office.  It was an amazing attempt to intrude into or upon, and to listen to discussions in the very Oval Office of the president of the United States!

So Dee and her colleagues were not at all surprised by new attempts or technology to try to do the same in any CIA station office. For reasons of security, no one could simply ‘drop in’ to see Dee there in her CIA office.  The finger print and voice-operated lock on her door quietly but decisively clicked shut every time she went in or out.  Her highly secure CIA office was for her alone and for the purpose of dealing with her research and investigations and for no other purpose at all.  There was only one chair, her chair.  Any meeting she had with anyone at all took place elsewhere and not in that office.

On a day-to-day basis – rather than at the CIA office – Dee preferred to work with the easy collegiality at Weaver, and at that moment on the cold morning of Friday, 28 February, she settled into the new day there.  She leant back in her soft leather chair, a high-backed executive model.  She glanced at her silver-framed pictures of her family set upon the beautifully tooled cherry wood desk.

Among the pictures was a youthful photo of Christopher, her teenage sweetheart.  Her eyes usually lingered on this photo, following the line of his jaw and lips, and she gazed into his clear eyes.  “If a spring or fountain has once contained water, there is hope that the water will again appear,” was one of the sayings of her mother Moressa, which she murmured to herself.   ‘Asabiyu’ – the spirit of her mother’s Syrian clan – lingered on. She read through the framed prayer on her desk, asking for peace and guidance, and then turned to begin her work.

Her office at Weaver was contained within the larger unit of the private sector corporation CHIMe Labs, which, in turn, was linked to New York University.

Dee had started working with the voice recognition and automated telephonic translation section of CHIMe Labs in 1999.  CHIMe Labs was a subsidiary research and development section of CHIMe New York.  CHIMe New York was a sibling within the family of CHIMe Companies providing telephonic services to the USA and around the world. It was a very large and widespread organization, arising from the work of Alexander Bell in 1875.  Since 1925, CHIMe had been granted over 30,000 patents, many of them of a critically important nature – like the transistor, fiber optics, and many more.

Right from the start of her work with CHIMe Labs, Dee’s abilities had impressed decision makers.  Within her first year there, her remarkable capabilities pretty much awed her colleagues and superiors.  In early 2000, a year after she began at CHIMe, the Central Intelligence Agency made her a handsome offer to work with them – to which she agreed.  She found herself seconded to a shadowy CIA section within CHIMe Labs, from which she was in constant contact with the much larger section of the operation located in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

The work of Dee’s office came under the purview of Joanne Isham, who had risen to be the deputy director for Science and Technology of the CIA within the last few years.  In her work, Dee had seen references to cooperation with the Tavistock Institute in London, to academic institutions like CalTech, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford, and to many corporate concerns like General Electric, McDonnell Douglas, and Sandia.  The majority of her own work related to signals intelligence (SIGINT), applications of the CORONA and ORION spy satellites, and the interception of satellite and telephone information for the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA).

As generous as it was, it wasn’t only the pay which attracted Dee to the CIA work.  Rather, she had been intrigued with all the resources possessed by the OSS and then the CIA, following from the Manhattan Project regarding the atomic bomb in World War II.  She was attracted by their great physicists and working environment, their vast information network, the ready availability of funds for research and development, and their aerospace and other specialized equipment – all at the disposal of the CIA.  Dee was sure it was a unique opportunity for personal development and – despite the secretive nature of the work – to make a contribution to the peace and order of the nation or even the world at large.  After all, who could deny that all people had benefited from CHIMe’s contribution of the transistor, or from the CIA’s contribution to the ending of the Berlin Wall?

When Dee entered into the service of the intelligence community of her country, she was told she would have to participate in a swearing-in occasion at the federal courthouse.  The courthouse was within walking distance of her office.  When the day came, she put on a navy blue serge suit and new black shoes.  The new shoes were a mistake because, since she did walk there, they gave her blisters.  Half way there she gave in and hailed a taxi. Her shoes had medium-height square heels, and she carried a navy blue evening bag with gold piping – which reminded her slightly of the woman she so admired – Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

On that day of her swearing-in, Dee felt unreasonably anxious about her Syrian descent.   She hoped her overall look would contribute to the perception, or convince the federal judge that she was a sober and responsible U.S. citizen – even if she was not as imposing as her CIA agent superior, Sean.  Sean traveled south from his midtown office to attend the event to ensure all was in order and to sign as a witness.

The swearing-in ceremony was a simple but strangely jolting formality for Dee.  It took place in an oak-paneled room before a black-gowned federal judge for the Southern District of New York, P. Kevin Castel, in the presence of duly appointed witnesses.  Her voice resonated loudly (in her ears, at least) on the wood as she read out and then subscribed to one oath of allegiance to her superiors and another oath of allegiance to the United States of America.

Finally, her left-handedness trying not to smudge, she noticed the black ink of her fountain pen wetly tracing out her subscription to a catalog of penalties she would suffer if she, in any way, disseminated any information to which she became privy in the course of her work.  And indeed, that day of her breaking her oath would soon come.  She would recall the faint scent of the paper upon which she wrote, and even that of the ink.  “Funny how you remember every tiny detail of important events in your life,” she thought. “Like the day Melissa was born.  I remember the sounds, the color of the sheets, and the voice of the nurse…”

That process of oaths and signing seemed reasonable enough to Dee.  Yet there was the somber importance of the unsmiling persons present, the seriousness of the wording, the unusual print on heavy-stock paper, and the solemn countersigning by the witnesses and the judge, and the copies of these things handed to Dee.  These all combined to make her feel she had been inducted into some unusual and mysterious circle of people.

Her swearing-in was all very quick – 10 minutes at most – and efficient.  No friends or family members were admitted.  She was given a federal identity card.  When she examined the card, it reflected nothing about the CIA, nor about the NSA.  Nevertheless, Dee noticed the long identity number printed, and she supposed that it contained some such indication – probably encrypted.  She wondered what it would mean to a married person to have such a large part of their life sealed off from their spouse.

╬ When they heard about her transfer to the CIA/NSA section of their unit, Dee’s friends and colleagues at CHIMe Labs referred darkly to her going into skullduggery.  One of them sang out the spooky theme tune from The X-Files.  She smiled and shrugged.  To the contrary, she saw herself as doing something good and noble, and they conceded the point, of course.  As Dee saw it, she was following in the footsteps of the famous Grace –“Amazing Grace” – Murray Hopper.  Hopper, born in New York City, was schooled at Hartridge School in Plainfield, New Jersey, and then –emphasizing mathematics – at Vassar (1928), at Yale (1934) and then at Harvard under Howard H. Aiken.  After that, back to Vassar.

Hopper had been a key figure in the development of the technology of that very critical element of modern computing, the compiler.  As if that were not enough, she had then for many years developed the machine-independent computer language COBOL and computer applications to ballistics and other fields within the U.S. Navy.

Grace finally retired with the rank of rear admiral.  As a high school student, Dee had done a senior project on Grace Hopper with colorful pictures and neatly printed texts on poster boards.  During her work on her school project, Dee learned that Grace Hopper was visiting the hometown they shared of New York City.

“Please, please, please help me meet her!” cried Dee to her teacher at Dalton School.  So it transpired that Dee managed to set up the special treat of a personal interview with Amazing Grace.  Dee became an admiring disciple of Rear Admiral Hopper, who returned the compliment through favorable references to young Dee.

“Academe and commerce have their own strong points, obviously, but as history shows, government or military work has its own opportunities as well,” thought Dee.  Through much more than 50 years CHIMe Labs, in a patriotic impulse, had seconded a long list of famed physicists to the military or the CIA.  So again, they seconded a willing Dee to a shadowy CIA office within their laboratories.  There she learned the CIA was tracking security-related messages relayed over satellite and telephone channels.

Like Grace Hopper, Dee had become one of a very elite group of protectors of the United States of America.  She was a person who asked the questions which elicited critical information, just as her namesake had said many centuries before, “Tell me your story.”  That was like the statement which called forth the enthralling story of the Arabian Nights which her father had read to her as a child at bedtime.

╬ As Dee’s computer started up on that Friday, 28 February, 2003, she looked lovingly at her desk photo of her stunning daughter.  During the year of her transfer to the CIA, her daughter Melissa turned an exquisitely beautiful 16 years of age.  At the time, Dee had arranged for Melissa’s deb ball, taking delight in attending to every detail of the evening – partner, gown, photographs, and limo – a night for them to remember always.

Dee flicked her chrome desktop calendar to show the date.  She was a neat, orderly person.  “A place for everything and everything in its place,” she often said to herself.  She turned to her large, clear computer screen, which now was earnestly declaring itself to be free of viruses or any electronic intrusion, that it was ready and waiting for her attention, keen to carry out any instruction.  She began to scroll through a series of reports directed to her for attention.  The first priority in her daily round of work was examining any extraordinary messages collected from satellites and computers which were linked into a global information web.

There were nights that she stood and looked up into the sky.  She imagined the web generated by those silent, usually invisible, lonely satellites orbiting the Earth.  They were vigilant as solitary military sentinels might be, circulating some place of importance.  They were austere in their unending task, watching and listening, untiring, responding immediately to anything and everything they had been trained and ordered to apprehend.

While human sentinels might guard a local military base, however, the vigilant web of the satellites reached around the world, listening for any one of a list of millions of ‘alert’ phrases in a wide variety of languages.  Such a phrase automatically triggered the computer recording of the message and its relay to CIA analysts for their attention.  The analysts forwarded a small selection from these to Dee for her review or further probing.

On any given day she found herself looking through the most amazing range of information, often of the most sensitive kind.  Through the years, she had investigated messages related to biological materials categorized as threatening, such as dangerous biochemicals in Syria, and the movements of radioactive isotopes like plutonium or of any uranium derivatives between countries.

Dee had investigated many significant categories of land and water-borne shipping as they moved from Japan or across Russia or the United States, military maneuvers and missile sites in China, and the reasons for building stressed concrete vaults deep underground anywhere in the world.  She followed the movements of highly wanted individuals, the progress of civil wars, and more.

In each case, she had to quickly learn as much as she could about the relevant field and its terminology in various languages.  Dee was working at a moment of rapidly increasing tension among the nations of the Middle East and between East and West.  For in October 2002, the CIA had forwarded a National Intelligence Estimate which contained information derived in Germany from an Iraqi defector bearing the CIA cryptonym “Curveball”.  Curveball was the chemical engineer Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi.

On Wednesday, 5 February, three weeks before, Colin Powell had made the case to the U.N. Security Council for war with Iraq.  Powell’s case was based on the information from Curveball, which had been presented to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Again, on Sunday, 23 February, just a week before, the ailing Pope John Paul II had appealed to all Roman Catholics to devote the coming Ash Wednesday to prayers for peace.  The pope said that for months the international community had been living in great apprehension on account of the danger of a war that might upset the whole Middle East region and aggravate tensions.

╬ On that cold Friday, 28 February at Weaver, Dee worked steadily through the messages referred for her attention.  From the beginning of the week now drawing to a close, she had been following up on a hint which had appeared in the Time on weapons-grade nuclear fuel processing in North Korea.  “Tell me your story,” she murmured. “Tell me your story.”

Dee used her computer and custom-designed software to raid secretive stores of information in North Korea and reached her own conclusions on the matter.  She relayed her conclusions to Time editor Andrew Johnson regarding their story on North Korea from a fortnight before.  Now Dee invited Andrew to deny what she had discovered about the nuclear weapons program in North Korea.

╬ Andrew was amongst the media chiefs of the USA.  As such, he had what was all too often a difficult challenge, Dee conceded.  Their global network of reporters and sources of information provided true, important, and relevant material which they needed to present to their readers.  “No problem with all that,” thought Dee.  Regularly such information had to do with matters constituting a concern of some kind to American citizens and occasionally a threat to America as a nation.

The media chiefs and editors had no difficulty in dismissing the attempts of American corporates if they demanded further knowledge about Time’s sources or information when the editors of Time felt it necessary to exercise their professional responsibility to protect their sources.  If there was the threat of the loss of life of ordinary American citizens, however, it was not quite so easy.  At such times, when the CIA, the military, or the White House wanted to know more, the editors experienced a more trying tug of loyalties.

Despite his customary speed and efficiency in handling information required in his own office, Time editor Andrew Johnson seldom answered such questions from Dee immediately.  He always wanted time to reflect on what she wanted to know from him.  “He probably discusses it with fellow editors first of all,” she thought.  “Any country is stronger if the media is independent and weaker if the media is controlled.”

“Well, Andrew, am I correct about North Korea?” she asked him.

“No comment,” he answered.  “I am not going to reveal my sources nor compromise the integrity and safety of my reporters.”

Andrew, I believe you are not denying my conclusion!” said Dee, emphasizing his name to ensure that Andrew was responding within the special understanding which existed between the two of them.

“No comment, Dee,” he said again. “You heard me, no comment.  No comment.”

╬ “Thanks, Andrew.  Have a great weekend!” she said.  Dee smiled to herself as she put the telephone back onto its hook.  Through the last three years of work in her office, her occasional need to check with Johnson on matters of such serious concern to everyone had developed into a kind of game.

Dee and Andrew had a special understanding between them, an unwritten and unspoken rule. When Dee thought that the telephone was best, she would phone Andrew, and then he would phone her back to ensure there was no mistaking their mutual identities.

It was not only the telephone.  They changed their way of making contact.  In random order, they could meet in a place teeming with people, like the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station.  Dee would handwrite the key question on paper in the presence of Andrew. Andrew would take the paper and destroy it in due course.

They even had a dead-drop arrangement to use in their random rotation.  Dee left her suitably vaguely worded or encrypted question on light-sensitive paper on the community notice board of the A&P store on 23rd St and 9th Avenue – near his home.  He shopped there frequently and so could easily drop by daily.  Andrew would collect the message and leave a response there for Dee to collect.

Whether Dee’s question came by phone, meeting, or dead drop, Andrew would do one of the following:  He would deny the question Dee put to him if she was wrong, but would say, ‘No comment’ if she was correct.  In this way, he remained within the bounds of his own professional code of ethics since he was not actually giving her any information or compromising a source.  Yet, their shared game, a rather serious game, effectively did help both him and her to protect their country and its people.

“Good luck,” Andrew said before the call ended that February Friday.

So Andrew had said, “No comment.”  That gave Dee some reassurance that she was on the right track and not wandering.  She was grateful for the implicit clarity from Andrew communicating she was not wrong, but on that day, Friday, she had already discovered corresponding information of her own.  Taking it all together, she now considered the probability so very high that she had no hesitation in relaying the North Korean weapons-grade nuclear fuel information to her superior Sean.  From there, the information would go into the political and military decision-making procedures of the country.

At the end of the day, she closed her computer down, tidied her desk (“Clean as you go,” she repeated to herself religiously), and then went home.  She got off the subway nearest the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts  on 66th Street.  Near there, she visited two or three of her favorite food shops.

╬ At the Fairway store at 74th and Broadway, Dee bought a fillet of salmon for dinner – enough for her, for her cats, and for another person as well.  She noted approvingly the clear eyes of the fish as a sign of its freshness. Since it was Friday, that meant it was fish day.  Then, walking quickly through the freezing air, she took a 20-minute walk up to her apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at Central Park West and West 89th Street.

Dee had two Chocolate Point Siamese cats named Arun and Angkor.  The two cats ensured they returned to her balcony at the time she arrived home.  Their deep blue, almost violet eyes watched her even more intently than usual since the aroma of salmon made them anticipate a delicious addition to their dinner.

“Where have you been today?” she asked them, stroking them and feeling the characteristic kink in the tails of the Siamese.  She suspected they took advantage of every opportunity to manipulate the owners of at least one other balcony (if not more) into believing they had the cats’ true fealty.  “I hope you haven’t been up to mischief!”

Dee often spoke to her cats.  At times – especially mealtimes – they would respond, creating an amusing ‘conversation’ for some minutes.  Other than that, however, they seemed to see themselves as belonging to a class above and beyond the need to pay attention to human beings.  They moved around or positioned themselves with a faintly royal poise.

Although Arun and Angkor seemed confident in their reign or rule over Dee, yet she knew of their Achilles’ heel.  With just one phrase, Dee could induce them even from the depths of their sleep into an almost blinding rate of acceleration.  With that one phrase, she could induce them into a craven state of dependence, could cause Arun and Angkor to hurl aside any thought of social arrogance.  Dee’s phrase, her trump card, said in a singing tone, was “Food for the kitty cats.”

Dee’s veranda directly adjoined her neighbor’s veranda.  Her neighbor was Sheila Sturman.  Depending on whether they wanted shade or sunlight, Arun and Angkor had long ago established their hegemony over Sheila’s balcony as their eminent domain.  Moreover, Sheila’s verandah had one element of fascination for them which Dee’s apartment could not match.  Through Sheila’s window, the cats spent a good deal of time paying rapt attention to a treasure within – Sheila’s African Grey parrot.

The parrot enjoyed no attention from any living being remotely approaching the admiration accorded to it by Arun and Angkor.  But Dee, during visits to Sheila, had squirmed under the baleful glare of the parrot’s amber eyes as it shifted slowly from the big and powerful talons of one large, wrinkled grey foot to the other, occasionally gripping the bars with its fearsome-looking beak as it climbed, or shaking itself in a most disparaging manner.

Under the bird’s gaze, Dee felt as if she was a prisoner in the dock, awaiting the dreadful sentence of the judge, who so evidently disapproved of her.

“You leave that parrot alone,” Dee circumspectly warned Arun and Angkor.  “Don’t dream of trying to catch the parrot.  If you try anything, you will be far the worse for wear from that bad bird.”

Other than the company of her cats, Dee had no other companion for most of the year while Melissa was away at the university.

After her busy week, Dee enjoyed supper and, rubbing Arun’s ears, slowly scrolled through the New York Times, which was delivered to her home computer each day.  Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders had agreed to meet the U.N. chief with decisions on a referendum.  She was touched to read of the death of 74-year-old Fred Rogers, the television “neighbor.”   She was one of millions of children who had loved him.  She paused to read the story of the death of a wealthy chief executive officer of an import-export company, which had taken place on a country road near Croton Reservoir.  Bullets had been fired through the back window of his luxury vehicle, killing him, but there had been no robbery.

╬ Dismissing that grim and puzzling story for the moment, Dee telephoned Melissa and asked how her third semester was going.  “Mickey Tensing was asking after you today.  What do you want to do during your spring vacation next week?”

“Say hi to Mickey, will you?” said Melissa. And then, with hardly a break, “Mom – can I go to California over the break?”

“Let’s talk about it,” said Dee.  “I’ll pick you up on Sunday as usual for lunch with Granny and Grandpa.”

Dee found it lonely without Melissa at home with her,

“But you have to let children go,” Dee advised herself.  She felt pleased with Melissa and proud of her thoughtful approach to her studies and her unfolding life.  Then she relaxed in a hot bath.  Afterwards, she sat up in bed and enjoyed the range of greens decorating her bedroom, from the solid dark green frame of her quilted duvet cover to the lime-tinted Roman drops.  Then she read herself to sleep with Isabel Allende’s book Daughter of Fortune.

Saturday 1 March 2003.  New York City.

╬ Almost always, Dee woke very early.  She was already reading in bed when her cell phone buzzed at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.  “Please go to your office as soon as possible.  We have a high-alert situation,” said a curt voice which she did not recognize.

The anonymity of the caller was no surprise, for her organization was both far-flung and extremely cautious about passing on information.  She had come to “expect the unexpected” in her work and so jumped up and quickly dressed, feeling grateful it was Saturday with its freedom to wear casual clothing.  She checked the cats’ water and food and hurried off. She hardly ever wore makeup anyway, and she brushed her long dark hair in the taxicab on the way to work.

The three- or four-mile cab journey to her CIA office was a quick one along the dark and relatively quiet avenues and streets.  By 5 a.m., having cleared security, she was looking at her office computer screen.  The screen displayed an extraordinarily important message, indicated as such by its flashing red border.  ‘Most urgent’, indicated a tab attachment to the message.

She clicked on the file to open it and studied the message: “The energy supply is key.  Go forward with determination on your just and righteous mission.  Be bold and strong in your actions.  Instill fear and systematically destroy their infrastructure.”   The analyst’s date stamp showed two hours earlier on that same morning, Saturday, 1 March 2003. Dee read it again and again.  She absorbed the seriousness of the message, envisioning its implementation somewhere on the face of the Earth.  Maybe it was to be Manhattan, or Brooklyn.  Wherever it was, it meant people were going to die… someone’s parents, friends, and children.

“Given the wording of this message, it is no wonder a ‘high alert’ was called,” thought Dee.  She stared at the startling message before her, her mind racing.  The mention of the words ‘energy supply’ had triggered the computerized capture of the message.  Whenever faced by a tense situation, Dee never went into the flurry of panic.  Rather, immediately her every nerve became cool, intently and entirely focused on the situation before her.  She became oblivious to all else.

The message was incomplete, however, and there was no tracking information.  She sent a ‘Most Secret’ instruction for an electronic capture of the last hour of telephone traffic along the message’s route and an interrogation of each node along which it had traveled.  It took only seconds for her instruction to be carried out, but the reply was negative.  The computers were unable to reconstruct anything more of the message from the satellite transmission.  The phrase, ‘energy supply’ came too near the end of the message to acquire any more information than she had on her screen.

Dee telephoned her immediate superior in the CIA, Sean, and transmitted a copy of the message to his CIA office computer.  She began to puzzle over tiny codes and other elements within the tracking information, any one of which might reflect the source of the message.  The message had been picked up as it traveled through Johannesburg on Friday afternoon, Johannesburg time.  After that, the Friday night CIA skeleton watch analysts had taken some hours before relaying it to Dee, along with her early morning telephone alert.

There were going to be challenges which drew on all Dee’s expertise.  For – she soon learned – there had been a powerful afternoon electric storm in Johannesburg at that same time.  The immense electrical fields within the cumulonimbus clouds of the storm had screened out satellite monitoring, and the lightning had interfered with the power in the antenna area of Johannesburg.

As a result, critical details about the electronic message– all the data associated with it – had been lost.  There was only this fragment of text – four sentences – from what was certainly a longer message, with many routing signals as well.  In a world of seven billion people, she had to identify the author of those four sentences and do so very quickly.  “How long do I have before they act on that message?” Dee asked herself.  “Do I have 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, or 10 months?”

╬ The commander received the full version of that same message, which was intended for him and for no one else. A few times over he read the orders in that message, and all the instructions there.

After some thought, a few minutes later, he began to implement those orders given to him.  He issued instructions to proceed northwards as rapidly as possible.  On that Friday afternoon at the end of February, he took a long last long range view of Maputo on the south eastern coast of Africa, and then they were moving, very fast.  The 40 people under his command would sleep and travel by turns, pausing – freezing – at random moments and for random periods of time to see whether they were being followed.

From his training and experience, the commander knew he had to minimize the possibility of detection.  Therefore, everything about their course, rate, and pauses were all decided to confuse anyone trying to watch them, follow them, apprehend or ambush them.  Avoiding cities and towns, avoiding all checkpoints, they would travel through a large number of national zones without their governments, military, police or residents knowing anything about it.  Any encounter or confrontation would mean a shootout, a killing, and possible injuries in his unit, any of which would complicate everything.  The entirety of their journey was ‘zigzagged’ and randomized.   They would be dodging, stepping, and racing to their destination.

Then there was powerful Mother Nature and any other unexpected event to consider.  That odd and unpredictable rate of progress considered, allowing for all other factors known or unknown, at close to maximum travelling speed, the commander expected they could cover about 800 miles a day.

Dee’s question had been – “How much time do I have?”

If the commander were to answer that question – then the answer from the commander would be this: The time that it would take would be over two weeks and less than three weeks. In the commander’s mind, at what he knew to be their best evasive course speed, it would take that long to reach the position ordered.

During those two weeks, the commander took time to examine his stock of grim and exceedingly potent weaponry, equipment, and personnel.  All of them would soon be put to work.  During their pause moments, he ensured that each person was rehearsed over and over again in their particular part of the operation.  When instructed, they were to carry it out unhesitatingly, silently, quickly, and effectively.  From the moment he received that message, he began to think of himself as a just executioner. He would be an executioner of persons, whom, in his mind, were fully liable for that extreme, for the sudden and unexpected ending of their lives.

╬ Dee’s CIA office phone rang.  Sean – cryptonym Lynx — did not identify himself, and it was not necessary anyway.  While Dee had worked with him on one or two cases during the last few years, she had never learned his last name – not even at her Federal Court House signing formality.

“I got your call.  I’m on my way in,” he said.

“What more do our people know about this message?” growled Sean when he arrived at their shared CIA offices soon after 6 a.m. that Saturday morning.  “By the way, we are naming this ‘Project Seasnake’.” The project name was his prerogative – perhaps in consultation with someone else Dee did not know. The protocol was to use the name of a sea creature.  This helped to preserve a neutral and objective frame of mind till everything was determined and identified.

For who could know at the outset of a project whether it was small, or big, whether it was linked to internal affairs – fraud (like Jan Hendrik Schön the year before) or a mole, or whether ‘friendly’ agents and countries or ‘enemy’ agents and countries were involved?  The project name endured in the records even after the case finally closed.  Later on, it would be used in CIA training programs, amongst other things.

Sean and Dee met in a small interviewing room away from her office, which was regularly ‘swept’ for spy technology.  He was near her age, but the similarities between the two of them ended there.  He spoke in his slow South Carolina drawl and in a strongman tone of voice.  He had the nickname ‘Steeljaw” which captured his physique and personality well, for he was tall, well-built, and had a strong jaw line.  His light grey eyes had an intense, fixed gaze which made Dee think of the threatening stare of a raptor – or of Sheila’s African Grey parrot.

There was an air of physical strength about him – which made her feel like a very small creature in his presence – as, indeed, she was.  He dominated any room he walked into and any meeting he joined.  She couldn’t remember him ever smiling.  “He’s like Robocop,” she thought.  “Maybe he has wires in his head.”  Her imagination painted ever more lurid pictures. World policeman.

“I have no information besides this:  The mysterious telephone message which passed through the microwave tower in Hillbrow in Johannesburg.  I can’t see anything more,” she responded, trying to still the nervousness she usually felt when she dealt with Sean.  She realized she was tapping the desk anxiously, the sound quite audible in the complete silence of the office.  To still her anxious, cold, and trembling hands, she folded them in her lap.

“I have been trying to imagine the context into which our message might fit,” she said.  “The reference to energy looks like a key factor.” She paused to order her thoughts.  “Let’s say it means oil – then it could possibly refer to the Gulf area, of course, or Angola, the West African oilfields of Nigeria, or one of the Sasol oil-from-coal plants in South Africa.  Or somewhere else – a Russian republic – like the Samotlor or Romashkino fields?  Syria?  Venezuela?  The North Sea?  Texas?  It could be any of those, or others besides.  I need to see what we have on each of them – whether there has been any recent threat or suspicious activity around them.”

Sean, motionless, stared at her impassively.  He knew all that.  There had to be more.  “Let’s face it, there’s almost nothing I can usefully contribute at this moment,” thought Dee.  But she had to say something: “Oil—but there are other types of energy production, of course, so we could be thinking about nuclear power stations or enrichment facilities.  The message came through Johannesburg.  There are some nuclear facilities in South Africa – their accelerator in the Cape, Koeberg or Pelindaba – and a long list outside, and,” it occurred to Dee as she spoke, “There was the Planet Hollywood terror explosion in Cape Town in 1999.”

Dee continued, feeling tense. To avoid his unblinking and intimidating gaze, she looked down at her notes.  “The word ‘righteous’ speaks of an ideological or a religious group – extremist probably,” she said, taking a slow breath between each sentence and trying to look him directly in the eyes from time to time.  “And they obviously intend to destroy something.  So, perhaps it’s an internal communiqué between individuals within a terrorist group.

“So – and I can only pile one guess upon another right now – the message might refer to an extremist religious attack on oil facilities – but where?  Who would make the attack?  And when?  Until we have any other indication, I suppose we have to assume it could be the worst, for example, very soon, and an oil site or energy delivery system in the USA or Europe.  I’ve ordered a matching job to see if the language in the message shows up anywhere else.”

There was not much more to say for the moment, and so Sean abruptly left.  He had his doubts about such experts, ‘Drop-out drips under pressure’, in his mind. “After all that money, those satellites, computers, what do they give you?”  He thought it was better to talk to people like himself, real soldiers within the USA or in other allied nations.

Dee supposed that Sean would be contacting other units in the CIA, NSA, or FBI – or indeed Britain or Europe.  Following up on what she had said, Dee relayed such language ‘matching’ instructions from her New York office into the supercomputers linked into the electronic backbone between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CalTech – which was constantly developed under people (at that moment) like Professor Peter Shor.  The CIA analysts immediately turned to tease out an elaborate and sophisticated web of information for her further examination.

╬ For a mere 18 months before, on September 11, 2001, or 9/11, New York City had experienced the deadliest terrorist attack in USA history.  The unimaginable was no longer on distant shores or in far-off cities – it had burst upon them and the whole world in the most shocking way, right before their eyes, right around the corner from their homes.

Dee had friends on Staten Island who spoke of months of funerals  for the slowly uncovered remains of WTC workers and of brave firefighters who had reached the World Trade Center and died in the collapse of the buildings there.  From the mayor through to the hot dog sellers, it seemed everyone who lived in New York knew someone of the thousands in or around the catastrophic event of 9/11—not to speak of the wide range of people of other nationalities who perished there.  And of course, there were comparable attacks in several places around the world. Dee had clipped and kept an article which related to how it had affected her own organization.

A NATION CHALLENGED: THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Secret C.I.A. Site in New York Was Destroyed on Sept. 11

by James Risen

New York Times, November 4, 2001

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 —The Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine New York station was destroyed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, seriously disrupting United States intelligence operations while bringing the war on terrorism dangerously close to home for America’s spy agency, government officials say.

The C.I.A.’s undercover New York station was in the 47-story building at 7 World Trade Center, one of the smaller office towers destroyed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers that morning. All of the agency’s employees at the site were safely evacuated soon after the hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers, the officials said.

The intelligence agency’s employees were able to watch from their office windows while the Twin Towers burned just before they evacuated their own building.

Immediately after the attack, the C.I.A. dispatched a special team to scour the rubble in search of secret documents and intelligence reports that had been stored in the New York station, either on paper or in computers, officials said. It could not be learned whether the agency was successful in retrieving its classified records from the wreckage.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.

The agency’s New York station was behind the false front of another federal organization, which intelligence officials requested that the Times not identify. The station was, among other things, a base of operations to spy on and recruit foreign diplomats stationed at the United Nations, while debriefing selected American business executives and others willing to talk to the C.I.A. after returning from overseas.

The agency’s officers in New York often work undercover, posing as diplomats and business executives, among other things, depending on the nature of their intelligence operations.

The recovery of secret documents and other records from the New York station should follow well-rehearsed procedures laid out by the agency after the Iranian takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The revolutionaries took over the embassy so rapidly that the C.I.A. station was not able to effectively destroy all of its documents, and the Iranians were later able to piece together shredded agency reports. Since that disaster, the agency has emphasized rigorous training and drills among its employees on how to quickly and effectively destroy and dispose of important documents in emergencies.

As a result, a C.I.A. station today should be able to protect most of its secrets even in the middle of a catastrophic disaster like the Sept. 11 attacks, said one former agency official. ”If it was well-run, there shouldn’t be too much paper around,” the former official said.

The agency’s New York officers have been deeply involved in counterterrorism efforts in the New York area, working jointly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. Many of the most important counterterrorism cases of the last few years, including the bureau’s criminal investigations of the August 1998 bombings of two United States embassies in East Africa and the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen have been handled out of New York.

The United States has accused Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network of conducting both of those attacks.

But United States intelligence officials emphasize that there is no evidence that the hijackers knew that the undercover station was in the World Trade Center complex.

With their undercover station in ruins, C.I.A. officers in New York have been forced to share space at the United States Mission to the United Nations, as well as borrow other federal government offices in the city, officials said. The C.I.A.’s plans for finding a new permanent station in New York could not be determined.

The agency is prohibited from conducting domestic espionage operations against Americans, but the agency maintains stations in a number of major United States cities where C.I.A. case officers try to meet and recruit students and other foreigners to return to their countries and spy for the United States. The New York station, which has been led by its first female station chief for the last year, is believed to have been the largest and most important C.I.A. domestic station outside the Washington area.

The station has for years played an important role in espionage operations against Russian intelligence officers, many of whom work undercover as diplomats at the United Nations. Agency officers in New York often work with the F.B.I. to recruit and then help manage foreign agents spying for the United States. The bureau’s New York office, at 26 Federal Plaza, was unaffected by the terrorist attack.

The destruction of the C.I.A.’s New York station has added to the intense emotions shared by many of its employees about the agency’s role in the battle against terrorism. For some, the station’s destruction served to underscore the failure of United States intelligence to predict the attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, morale suffered badly within the C.I.A., some officials said, as the agency began to confront what critics have called an intelligence failure on the scale of Pearl Harbor.

But the terrorist attacks have also brought an urgent new sense of mission to the agency, which has been flooded with job applications as well as inquiries from former officers eager to return to work. Congress is pouring money into the agency’s counter terrorism operations, and the C.I.A. seems poised to begin focusing its resources on terrorism in much the same way it once focused on the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

The attacks were not the first in which the C.I.A. was directly touched by terrorists. In 1983, seven agency officers died in the suicide car bombing of the United States Embassy in Beirut. Among the others killed was the agency’s station chief in Lebanon, William Buckley, who died in captivity after being kidnapped by terrorists in 1984, and Richard Welch, the agency’s Athens station chief, who was shot to death by Greek terrorists in 1975.

╬ The al-Qaeda attacks were, and the war was now common, widespread, and endemic.  It was as if the people of the world were turning away from toleration and cooperation, and – everywhere – towards an ever-increasing rate of predation, factionalism, rebellion, and criminality.  There were dismal reports of human trafficking, drug pushing, insider trading, and even genocide.  There was some very dark, wicked, and grim spirit rampant through the whole world.  For that reason, Dee’s faith had – recently, again – come to mean a lot to her.  After many years adrift, her faith had suddenly come to mean a great deal to her.

In New York and in the U.S.A., everyone was nervous, and the intelligence agencies, police, and military all continued to be on high alert.  New York City, having watched incredulously the collapse of the Twin Towers complex, was in a state of shock and the depths of grief.  Nearby buildings were still being assessed for structural damage.

Resultant trauma and disease would linger for a decade to come.  Ugly steel and concrete gates and barriers were rising around government and other buildings.  The thought of the thousands of deaths and the huge, gaping wound in the ground at the WTC had struck the city as a mastectomy might strike a woman or as an amputation of a limb may strike anyone.

At airports, there were unprecedented searches of persons and their luggage, new restrictions on visas, and fears about traveling by air.  People were jittery about mass transport of all kinds.  There were dogs, grim-looking police and security agents, and bag checks at the ferry and bus terminals.

Facing bankruptcy, air companies offered discounts in an attempt to attract a nervous public back on board.  Massport and Logan Airport in Boston examined how it was possible that the lethal, hijacked flights departed without their apprehending the criminals involved.  Air traffic control and the U.S. Air Force dwelt on what more they could have been done to prevent the attacks on the WTC, and what would be done in future.

The CIA and other security branches reeled under the angry public critique of having missed or discounted the clues which led up to 9/11.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed National Security Agency (NSA) intercept data available by midday of the 11th. that pointed to al-Qaeda‘s culpability, and by mid-afternoon ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for attacking Iraq.  Of course, it was impossible for the agency to publicize what they had actually passed to President Bush and the U.S. administration, so the CIA just had to “eat sand.”

While Dee herself had never seen any of the messages warning of the disaster which the CIA had relayed onwards, she felt somewhat guilty and ashamed on behalf of the entire intelligence community.  There were investigations by the media and Congress.

╬ So a message like the one Dee had received early that Saturday morning of 1 March demanded the CIA’s immediate and most intense scrutiny.  Whether or not the CIA was successful regarding ‘Project Seasnake’, nothing could be omitted in the execution of due diligence, repeatedly, until some connection and explanation – and recommended action – was formulated.  An intercepted message of that nature could not possibly be ignored, laid aside, or in any way disregarded.

By mid-morning, Dee received a response to the computerized language-matching process.  The response wasn’t encouraging.  She scanned through screen after screen of a multitude of possibilities.

Her screen showed matches between certain elements of those four sentences of the mysterious message and other recorded materials in the large databanks.  There were quotations from speeches made by or communications linked to politicians, military leaders, or rebel groups in various parts of the world, from published books, from magazines, and from recorded telephone calls, SMS messages, email messages, or Facebook messages by a long list of people kept in their files.

There were many hundreds of thousands of such quotations listed, or millions, in English and in several other languages.  With each such match, there was a number at the bottom of the screen indicating how probable the match was – zero would mean no probability at all and 1 would mean certainty – an exact (and repeated) match in every aspect.  She could easily rank the matches in order of probability and begin with the highest probability links.  There was hardly any match, however, which exceeded the grade of 0.3 – which meant ‘quite unlikely’.  So even the best of the matches, the statistic showing the level of probability of a match, was far too low.

╬ “Since the time of the ‘mysterious message’, I have been running a special watch on the Hillbrow, Johannesburg telephone exchange,” Sean drawled on the telephone an hour or two later, “But there ain’t nothin’ worthwhile. Ah – yes –” and then there was a long pause, which Dee had become used to and coped with by silently counting one, two, three, four… “Let’s give the intercepted message the cryptonym ‘S&M.’” After another pause he repeated it, “S&M”.

His long, slow drawl – combined with the objectivity of the telephone connection – was oddly soothing, taking the edge off the anxiety of the situation.  At least Dee did not have to endure his silent, unblinking stare.

“OK.  That’s fine.” Dee felt awkward both with using either ‘Sean’ or ‘Lynx’, so she avoided using his name or cryptonym as much as possible.  “I will keep working on it. S&M – got it.”

Throughout the day Dee puzzled through the computer analysis of telephone listening information she had received from the matching process.  She took only a brief break for fresh air and lunch.

╬ Enjoying a cup of warm soup as she sat by herself on a bench in Washington Square, she watched and listened to a sidewalk violinist nearby.  At four degrees above freezing, it was very cold for her to sit outside for very long, with no bodily insulating layers of her own, so she was wearing layers, including an insulated coat and gloves.

The violinist looked like a music student and played excerpts of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to an appreciative, small crowd.

“I love this city,” thought Dee, dropping a generous 10 dollars into the violinist’s hat on the way back to the office in honor of her nominal ‘sisters’ Scheherazade and Dinazade.

“Not much luck so far,” she told Sean on the telephone late in the afternoon.  “But I have forwarded the results to you and will carry on going through them myself.”

Dee was acutely aware of the seconds, minutes, and hours that were passing.  “Please, dear Lord,” she murmured to herself, “Save us from another 9/11.  Give me the eyes to see. Help me not to miss the clues.”

╬ Feeling the great importance and urgency of the situation, she worked onward into the evening, reading one link after the next and searching for some element of language, some allusion which the computers may not have already evaluated.  For the computers could handle the volume, but as in all fields, the role of the intuitive, highly educated, talented, trained, and experienced human being was still crucial.  By 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, 21 hours after she had started work, she realized she was no longer focusing properly.  She left a message for Sean and groggily departed for home.

Sunday, 2 March 2003, New York City

╬ For professional consultation, research, and comparable working purposes, Dee had an office in the Warren Weaver Hall in NYU’s Department of Computer Science, located at Mercer and West 4th Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.  This was linked to the Integrated Information Systems Laboratory in the MetroTech buildings of NYU-Poly on Myrtle Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn.  If necessary, as it sometimes was, she could leave her Greenwich Village office, take a subway to MetroTech over the Brooklyn Bridge, and reach her destination within about 20 minutes.

To reach her Greenwich Village office from her home on W 89th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, she could easily catch a B-train to Broadway-Lafayette, or a C-train to W 4th and Washington Square.  Both subways stopped at the subway station one block south from her home, the entrances opening onto Central Park West. Using either train, the trip was about 35 minutes, door to door.  The only time she used a cab was during the night hours.

Yet for her CIA work, there was a different site.  Sean had his office – with an office reserved there for Dee as well – in a high security area of the New York station of the CIA.  The agency had other offices and technical personnel on a linked floor below, but they seldom or never met together.  The suite of offices was in midtown east, and was fronted by another governmental department near the United Nations buildings.

Any arrival at or departure from this New York station of the CIA involved checking out with security personnel.  They inspected persons arriving or departing.  Regular daily personnel could carry no materials at all into the office or out of it.  There was the history of the events of the Iranian hostage of U.S. diplomats, and the events of 9/11.  For that reason, when needed, when some catastrophe threatened, there were – now – protocols for the rapid destruction of all documents and information in all stations of the CIA.

So at that midtown suite of CIA offices, employees like Dee or other visitors had to clear such security barriers coming in and going out.  If it was in the dark hours of the night, as at that moment Saturday night – or more accurately, early Sunday morning – for safety, one of the guards escorted Dee to the curbside.

╬ In returning home, Dee was traveling uptown.  There were still many cabs, and she easily hailed one – but the driver would not let her enter before establishing the address of her destination.  For there were places cab drivers would not travel to on that day of the week and at that hour of the night.  As she climbed inside, sliding onto the shiny black leatherette seat, she noticed the aroma of the upholstery and also the faint scent of a previous passenger – “A hint of roses,” she thought.

In a cab, neither the east side highway nor the west side would be much faster than the city avenues at such a dark, quiet time within the pulsing life of the city.  Driving the local avenues was just as quick or quicker.  So Dee asked the taxicab driver to travel via 3rd Avenue.  As they traveled, fighting back her sleepiness, she settled back in her seat to watch the big, bright windows of the shops and the cinema billboards.

“I suppose my cab driver is a trained race driver or test pilot,” thought Dee – for he shot northwards at breakneck speed from the CIA office through the synchronized traffic lights of 3rd Avenue, and then turned left and swept westwards into East 86th.  More than once, he went through a yellow light.

As he traveled west along 86th, Dee’s churning mind paused for a moment as she thought of her old school, Dalton, a few blocks north from there.

╬ Dee thought fondly of the comforting solidity of the brick walls of Dalton School, and briefly recalled her joy on the day she saw her name inscribed in gold for her mathematics achievements.  Her abiding interest in history was less successful, however, and almost deprived her of an A aggregate.  Dee was second in her high academic accomplishment in math only to her dear Islamic friend Shahida Hejira, who, like Dee, also had relatives in Damascus, Syria.  “Syria is colonizing Dalton!” had been the private joke between the two of them.

Dee recalled Shahida, smiling, as she remembered their shopping jaunts and study sessions together.  When they were out walking together, they formed a slightly strange-looking partnership, for Shahida was as big-boned as Dee was small.  While others regarded the two of them as quite extraordinary in terms of their intellectual acumen, they found in each other a natural comfort zone, an ease of conversation, a kindred spirit, and the special treasure of being best friends.

Dee and Shahida were the foremost of academic achievers in high school in their class year.  They also shared a singular ineptitude in sports  – Dee having won only one race in her life, in junior school, and Shahida having scored only one hockey goal in her life, which achievement had been more or less by mistake.

After high school, Shahida had gone into nuclear physics at ColumbiaUniversity.  When Shahida eventually completed her Ph.D., she landed a good job lecturing in nuclear physics at the Faculty of Physical Science of the ImperialCollege, London.  “The shops are so interesting here,” wrote Shahida to Dee soon after her arrival in London – and the two of them continued to communicate every now and again.  Three years later, Shahida told Dee she had received a great job offer from a nuclear plant in England – and four years later, something in the British Navy.  Afterwards, the contacts were few and far between.  Dee wondered if the economy of contact had something to do with the nature of Shahida’s work, but was courteous enough to avoid asking Shahida directly.

Through the years, Dee continued her contact with DaltonSchool. In addition to her regular alum donations, she gave a lecture to the final-year students each year on the possibilities within the fields with which she was most familiar.  She kept in touch regularly with her old friend, Mrs. Weismann, who headed the admin section at Dalton.

From high school at Dalton, Dee – like Shahida – had also gone on to Columbia with a full academic merit scholarship.  She majored in mathematics and computer science all the way through to her Ph.D., which was on the theme of artificial intelligence.

She often felt a deep, spiritual gratitude for the opportunity to study – and later to work – in fields so exciting and fulfilling to her, knowing such happiness did not come to everyone.  With an abiding sense of thankfulness, in return, she tried to help others through their own difficulties as much as she could.

╬ The cab driver startled her, rousing Dee from such reveries.  “Ma’am!” he called in an Eastern European accent through the glass divider of the taxicab.  They had already stopped before the lobby of her apartment building on the Upper West Side.  She scrabbled in her purse for the payment – with a generous tip – and then wove her way towards her bed.  When she reached her silent, empty apartment, she walked directly to her bedroom, kicked off her shoes, and fell headlong onto the soft duvet.  The cats did not stir, their silence indicating their disapproval about their long day alone and about such a late arrival by Dee.

“Just to rest for a moment,” she thought, “then I’ll get changed.”   But in moments, she was fast asleep.  Eventually one of her two cats curled up on her legs, purring, but Dee did not even stir.

╬ The executioner and his group journeyed on, moving quickly, silently, and with grim determination.  He noted with satisfaction that they had covered the distance he expected for that day.

Chapter 2: A Challenge in Damascus

“To change your language, you must change

your life.”  Derek Walcott, Codicil, 1965

Sunday, 2 March 2003, Upper West Side, New York City

╬ When  the morning light of Sunday edged around the curtains, Dee awoke feeling fuzzy-headed.  She was still lying on top of her bedclothes, and to her private embarrassment, she found she was still wearing her clothes from the day before, which were now quite rumpled.

“My goodness,” she thought, “What would people say?”  She had not slept very well.  Groggily, with a headache, and without enough energy to move, she lay still and tried to recall all the events which had occurred the day before.

After a while, she made her way to the bathroom and took two pain pills.  Then having been nursed through a cup of coffee, she gained some momentum.  She telephoned her mother and daughter Melissa regarding their weekly Sunday lunch together.  They were all early risers in her family, other than her father, who couldn’t see any reason for doing anything at all before breakfast time. It was best to leave him to himself.  By breakfast time, the women of the family had already completed half a day’s work.

“I will pick you up at about 11:30 a.m.,” said Dee, confirming when she would collect Melissa from her university residence.  Her med school res was located at 55 John Street in Lower Manhattan, two blocks away from her medical school at Pace University.  As expensive as this was, for Melissa to be as physically close as possible helped enable odd-hour study groups, labs, and everything else necessary to help Melissa make it through her medical studies.

“I’ll take you to lunch with Grandma  and Grandpa.  But I have work, so I can’t stay on for lunch. Granny said Grandpa will bring you back.”  Then she took a shower, fed the cats, and ate a breakfast of toast, marmalade, and orange juice.  Wearing an attractive green knit, she left her apartment for her regular two-mile walk to attend church.

“I’m not the only one working on our mysterious message,” she said to herself.  “What did Sean call it?  Yes—the S&M message.  Anyway, if I can’t keep my inner rhythm, I’m not going to be of much use to anyone at all. At the moment, I really don’t know what to do next.  I need to take a break, and see if some new angle occurs to me as I go along.”  So Dee walked down towards her regular Sunday church service at ‘The Actor’s Church,’ St Clement’s.

╬ For more than 10 years after her short marriage and divorce, Dee had not attended church.  She could not abide the disparaging looks of the older women at her parents’ church because of her failed marriage.  (The church men, on the other hand, had no objection to the presence of a pretty young divorcee.)  She could see the disdain written on the faces of those elderly women.  Their glance said this: “I endured the difficulties of my marriage. What gives you the right to bail out?”  Younger wives in the congregation were more considerate of Dee and less dismissive of her.  Yet they had a different agenda, namely, the need to keep an eye on their own partners.  So, with regard to Dee, there was coolness from the younger women as well.

So Dee took many years away from church.  She tried to maintain her own personal spiritual life, but at times she felt quite far from God.  Then her ‘library friend’ Niamh had invited her to a Chekov play in the building of St. Clement’s.

Niamh Sciavelli was a journalist, at least at that time of her life.  Dee and Niamh found themselves getting acquainted while taking a break from their research in the New York Public Library.  The bond between the two of them was immediate, deep, and strong.  They continued to connect regularly and with mutual delight after that chance initial meeting in the library gardens.

Dee gladly attended the Chekov play, and then had become intrigued by this unique St. Clement’s community of unusual and accepting people.  Dee engaged with that congregation just as easily as she had initially done with Niamh a year or more before.  As time went by, she learned that many or most of the members of the congregation had faced far greater personal difficulties than Dee had.

The thoughtfulness and diligence of their cleric, Reverend Mary Locke, the music, ritual, sacraments, and even-handed rationality at the Sunday service were all appealing and stimulating to her.  “Irrespective of your history, there is a friend for you here,” she thought.  Sunday by Sunday, she had come to embrace St. Clement’s dearly.

╬ On that Sunday, 2 March, Dee allowed herself an hour to enjoy the long walk south to church, down Central Park West, passing by street blocks as quiet as they ever became, so quiet that she easily heard her low heels tapping lightly on the sidewalk.

In the heart of the teeming city, she enjoyed the striking design of the buildings fronting Central Park West.  Nestling in her warm hat, her sheepskin coat, and in the soft embrace of her calf-leather gloves, she breathed the cold air of early March, air that was clear and pure.  “Soon the crocus flowers must come.  Just a month until the buds, and after that, the blossoms of spring,” she thought, “And those glorious scents, with everyone playing in the park.”

Looking at Central Park, she admired the great expanse of the meadows – and the architecture of the strong branches of the now leafless trees.  Dark-eyed squirrels playing among the trees flicked their ‘S’-curled tails in an impatient manner, as if ‘tsk-tsking’ her for intruding.  “Almost like the ladies of my parents’ church,” thought Dee.

By contrast with any other morning of the week, there was little road traffic.  There were only one or two buses passing by with their characteristic roar.  At their bus stops, with abandon, they made a great hiss of their hydraulics.  They seemed to want everyone to know the tiresome effort required to lower their front corner entrances, ‘kneeling down’, to deposit or receive passengers.  “I wonder if the irritability of camels is like that?” she wondered, smiling to herself.

Once Dee had passed Columbus Circle, Central Park fell behind, and then she paused along the way to gaze into shop windows.  The small shops offered a surprising range of goods, from so-called “antiques” and secondhand furniture or tools through to quite expensive clothing and gourmet food.  She frequently stopped to look at such things, her dreamy, inquisitive nature creating castles in the air.

As long as Dee did not take too long window shopping and kept her eye on the time, there was normally enough time for a quick cup of coffee – black with no sugar – at Cosmo’s Diner on 53rd and Eighth Avenue.

Cosmo’s was a 24-hour establishment operated by a family from the Greek islands.  She took pride in being a resident of the city which never sleeps – and doesn’t care (or gives that impression), and in being a participant in the restless flow of many different kinds of people.

Crossing Eighth Avenue from time to time to see one or another storefront, her Sunday morning meander southwards eventually reached the West 40s.  On each Saturday night, a substantial number of people would have crowded these streets, their vehicles filling the tall parking garages.  By early Sunday morning, however, those Saturday night crowds had all abandoned the city streets, at least for the moment.  The avenues and side roads were empty and almost innocent.

During the winter – she hoped that by now, the worst of the frigid weather might be past – it had constantly amused her to pass and even daringly walk through the wisps of steam which rose from cracked heating pipes underlying the streets of the West 40s – known as ‘Hell’s Kitchen’.  She sometimes wondered whether hell looked as charming as she found the steaming roads and sidewalks of Hell’s Kitchen on a Sunday morning.  “If so,” she thought, “Even fewer people might undergo the rigors required to reach heaven!”

Her headache was quite gone now.  Dee felt a light happiness from her walk.  The anxiety of the S&M message had faded, for the moment at least.  Having allowed plenty of time, she was a good 20 minutes early for the Sunday service when she reached the church door.  Patrick Sciavelli met her with a smile, a welcome, and the service bulletin for the last Sunday in Epiphany.

╬ Patrick was tall – a few inches over six feet – well-built, physically coordinated, and handsome.  A man in his early 70s, his whitening hair and aristocratic looks were like the snowy peak of a mountain, a summit over a naturally kind, friendly heart, face, and bearing.  His warm, wholehearted smile and big handshake would envelop anyone.  It would restore the sense that there was indeed a reasonable, safe, and compassionate locus among human beings.

Dee had come to know and greatly care for Patrick and his Irish wife Niamh over the years of their membership of St. Clement’s Church.  Actually, Dee had known Niamh from before that, but when Dee came to know the gracious nature of her husband Patrick, it seemed natural that the two of them were together.  Outside of his imposing physical presence, there was a great inner strength to him.  He was well-read and well-spoken.  So again, it was very interesting and yet no great surprise to learn that he had been the police chief of New York City.

Also attending as a member of the congregation was Patrick’s older brother Pietro, both of them of Italian descent.

╬ Through the years, over shared winter Super Bowl parties, summer barbecues, and dinners, Dee – ever attentive to the story of other people – heard the Sciavelli family story.  She had heard that Patrick’s father Carlo had been born in Trieste some years before the start of the First World War.  Carlo did not seem to be very clear as to exactly when.

After the First World War, at that time, it was the custom of a number of Irish families to travel to Italy.  So it came about that the dashing young Carlo married a fetching young Siobhan at some time in the mid 1920s.

Their first son Pietro was born in 1929, during the year of the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange and the beginning of the Great Depression.  In those growing financial pressures of the early 1930s, Carlo and his little family moved from Trieste to Siobhan’s hometown of Dublin.  There, their second son Patrick was born and grew up with his brother Pietro.  Through Siobhan’s connections, Carlo joined the Dublin constabulary, where he remained through the Second World War.  As they described their experiences, Dee listened intently, absorbing everything.

Immediately after the Second World War, conditions were desperate in Europe, Britain, and Ireland.  Carlo and Siobhan used all their savings to relocate to New York.  It was a fraught gamble, their second move in the hope of better opportunities than those offered by Dublin or Europe.  By then in his late teens, Pietro was undecided for awhile, but finally decided to travel with Carlo, Siobhan, and Patrick to New York.

In New York City, Siobhan’s family connections again helped with connections in “New York’s Finest.”  There both Carlo and Pietro made their careers in the city police service, living as a family with other Italian-Irish families in an apartment on Tysens Road in New Dorp, Staten Island.  After he finished police school at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1957, Patrick followed his father into police work, as had his older brother Pietro before him.

Patrick’s work with teen gangs on the West Side of Manhattan involved him on occasion with the social services.  There Patrick met the pixie-like social worker Niamh whom he married.  He was the first of the two brothers to move away from his parents Carlo and Siobhan to find his own apartment with Niamh. Pietro continued at home with his parents.

Niamh worked constantly with the agonies of families in the city –housing, mother and infant nutrition, welfare cases, domestic violence, incest, and a whole cataclysm besides.  Patrick was her constant companion in all these things.  She never told him, however, of her own personal family wounds which drew her so strongly to engage with such situations.

Both Patrick’s father Carlo and his mother Siobhan had died in a tragic vehicle accident two years after Patrick’s marriage to Niamh.  The road tragedy took place in Toms River, New Jersey.  A drunken truck driver went through a red traffic light and killed Carlo and Siobhan instantly.  So, at that time, 33-year-old Pietro, Patrick’s older brother, still single, had come to live with Patrick and Niamh.

A child was born to Patrick and Niamh in the mid-’60s, Dee thought, but it must have been only once or twice she ever heard that, and she never saw any photos.  Oddly, they hardly ever spoke of the child. Dee wondered if the child had perhaps died.

Patrick had become very successful in his police work and steadily rose in rank through the years, reaching the eminence of chief of police for the period before his retirement in 1988, when Dee had come to know him.

Patrick’s success in his career lent his wife Niamh some room for movement.  She moved from social work to her preferred field of journalism.

Patrick and Niamh’s home in a large Upper West Side apartment in the 40s overlooked the Hudson River.  The apartment bore testimony to Patrick’s and Niamh’s career achievements, recognition, and income, and to their happy and cooperative relationship as a couple.

╬ At the St. Clement’s weekly Bible study group in Patrick and Niamh’s home, Dee could always be sure of Pietro – even as he aged – relating many interesting stories of the most amazing types from his colorful history.

As Pietro told his stories, Dee listened and often watched his strong, angular jaw, so much like Patrick’s facial features.  She sensed that his stories were only half true at best, or perhaps drawn from the stories of his parents, from the lives of the people he dealt with, or from the conversations of Patrick and Niamh about their daily work.  “Could all those things possibly really have happened to him?” she wondered, sincerely doubting it.  Pietro was so entertaining, however, that it didn’t really matter.  He also taught her a lot about pasta dishes.

Amidst the small gathering at St. Clement’s, Dee could count five nationalities and a range of ages.

“What a bunch we are!” she thought.  “Patrick was the New York City police chief, Niamh has her freelance journalism, and I work for the CIA, while others of the congregation are linked with Broadway and the theater world.”   Generally, she told people she worked for a division of CHIMe Labs, which was enough for them to know.  Patrick knew she had a link with ‘The Firm’, but never pressed her for information.

“I have finally managed to get Professor  Felicity Wilkins to speak at our study group on Tuesday evening,” Patrick told her.  Dee looked blank.  “You remember – from Union Theological Seminary,” he said.  By alternation, the parish of St. Clement’s invited lecturers either from General Theological Seminary, the national Episcopal ‘trade school’, or else from Union Theological Seminary, widely recognized as an interdenominational theological training center.  The members of St. Clement’s always found such events most interesting.

“Oh yes, of course!  Patrick!  Really – you are terrible.  It’s been months now!”

“Yes – I’m sorry,” he mumbled apologetically, looking embarrassed at having taken so long to finalize the presentation.  Being retired, he couldn’t even plead an excuse related to work demands.  “But even so, you can’t miss this week.”

“You know I hardly ever miss it, but thanks for the warning.  I’m sure it will be really interesting,” she said.  “I am looking forward to it!  Will it be announced in the service?”

She began to walk into the nave, and then turned back to Patrick.  “Did your guys find out anything about the murder near Croton Reservoir?”

Patrick hesitated and then responded, “I did ask, but there is nothing.  I am not going to be told everything anymore, of course.  Personally, I think it was a high-level execution.  There was some kind of roadblock – it was evidently a very professional job.”   He glanced around and, seeing the lobby empty, said, “They passed it on to the CIA and FBI.”

╬ Dee loved the diversity of the congregation, and her membership of St. Clement’s meant a lot to her.  St. Clement’s was like no church she knew, whether from the outside or inside.  The outside was not an imposing architectural wonder.  Rather, it reminded her of some of the Roman Catholic parochial schools in the city, which melted into the time-worn brick face of the neighboring buildings.

She found everything about St. Clement’s a welcome contrast to her official CIA workplace, beginning with the trusting relationships at St. Clement’s, all the way through to the dark, theatrical, quirky inner arrangement of the sanctuary.

At times, Dee would participate with delight – as an observer – as a playwright or producer “workshopped” the production of a play in that space.  The cast would read through a scene, and then pause to discuss with each other – and with anyone else who cared to attend – what would be the best way to arrange the stage and the positions and the movements of the actors.  Then they would “take it from the top”, would try again, then again discuss, rearrange, and so forth, until they were all content.

╬ At Dee’s CIA suite of offices, by contrast, there was the ever lingering caution or even suspicions.  It was always possible someone might be a mole, even the most trusted colleague.

The CIA suite was caged, well-lit, and clean to the point of sterility.  It was carefully guarded.  Her own office was a windowless place.  On her way in or out, she passed by an air-locked computer room under neon lights, filled with processors, servers, and memory drives, adorned with glass, plastic, and stainless steel.  In the face of such austere efficiency, her quiet office and few personal desk items quailed.  Her office contained only her chair, desk, computer monitor, and a few personal photographs.

╬ Dee was an active member of St. Clement’s.  She participated monthly in a homeless shelter programme at a nearby synagogue and in a weekly Bible study group at St. Clement’s.  Either Patrick or Dee usually led the study group, which was studying the gospel of Mark at that time.  Since St. Clement’s focused on the stage, the group intended doing a dramatic reading of St. Mark’s gospel for the congregation at Easter time, seven weeks away, Easter being quite late that year, on Sunday, 20 April.

In preparing for their rotating responsibility for leading the Bible study group through the years, Patrick and Dee often read quite challenging background material.  Their reading included authors like Vincent Taylor and D. E. Nineham, written 40 or 50 years before, ranging to fairly recent articles by Amy-Jill Levine and Marianne Blickenstaff,  and  books by David Thompson and R. T. France.

Dee and Patrick had become well-informed, and the congregation had come to rely on them for such matters.  The questions would come, oddly and unpredictably, like kernels of corn popping in a pot.  Some discussion was about small aspects of daily life then and now–“Would anyone reliably remember fine details of a scene after 30 years?”  Other discussion was about quite deep and searching matters – “If Mark wasn’t there, who told him all this?”  Dee and Patrick loved the pattering dialogue, and the way lives were shared and burdens halved.

Another contrast between Dee’s daily work and her activities at St. Clement’s was the money.  At work, if there was any new technology available, irrespective of the sometimes extreme expense, the money – derived from federal taxpayers – was never any object.  The objective was not cost-cutting, but rather, it was to have the most advanced equipment and methods available.  Furthermore, she was paid handsomely for the highly skilled work she did.

Dee had a natural talent, honed by field-leading scholars and long experience, talents and ability in defining a problem which concerned the CIA bosses, then analyzing it into its constituent elements and researching each aspect.  Her mastery of electronics and the automated analysis of linguistic information compared with – or exceeded – anything the security authorities in any country could hope for.  From her generous annual monetary pay, she rewarded herself with an extravagance – an annual trip to some part of the world she had not seen, usually taking along Melissa and one of her friends.

Financially, St. Clement’s was quite different.  The congregation was continually desperate for money, pleading for all the lost causes of the world and for just enough money to stave off the next challenge of maintaining the decaying, old brick building.  Dee was the chief financial mainstay of her parish church, but every January declined nomination to the parish vestry council.

On that particular Sunday, Dee sat beside Patrick’s wife Niamh before the service began. She noticed the soft pressure of Niamh’s quilted beige coat sleeve on her arm.  It was chilly, and St. Clement’s couldn’t afford to be too generous with the expense of heating, so many tended to keep their coats on.

Dee listened to Niamh, who had originally been trained in the social sciences but had later turned to reporting and writing.  Unfortunately, the printed media was under pressure, but there were increasing opportunities in the electronic media.  Niamh’s journalistic emphasis was on the human interest aspects in which she had so much training and experience.  As they chatted together, Dee asked about how her work was going; and Niamh described a news article she had been researching at the NY Public Library on the subject of incest.

Niamh described some of the social workers she had interviewed and the stories of children they recounted.  Patrick had also steered Niamh towards some of the specialized personnel he still knew within the police department.  She told Dee how upsetting she was finding some of the stories.  “I feel it is so important for others to know about this,” she said.  “We have to provide more support to children.”

╬ When the church service began, they listened to the gospel reading from Mark, the story of the old and the new wineskins.  Dee imagined the one billion people or more on the Earth who would be sharing in such a reading in their many different ways.  She saw them as cells in a fluid with the words rippling through them like waves through the Atlantic Ocean.

“Information technology par excellence!” she said to herself with a sense of wonder.  “All our TVs and supercomputers can’t match such a communication exercise, or even the vast intricate enigma of one human mind.”

Their priest, the rather unorthodox Reverend Mary Locke, was sporting a broad and very colorful Guatemalan liturgical stole that morning.  She spoke about new wineskins.  “Life can – and does – change in a heartbeat.  There are surprises waiting around each corner of life.  There are emotional challenges and personal transitions. We need to be new wineskins, supple and flexible, ready for the unpredictable and ready to accompany one another through turmoil and the unknown.  Otherwise, new wine can simply break old wineskins, inflexible as they are.”

Over the preceding year, Mary had been pleading a lot in her sermons for increased communications with people from the Middle East, which was not a subject of great national popularity at the moment.  New Yorkers felt grimly resentful, the wounds of 9/11 raw and excruciatingly painful.

After the church service, there was a cup of tea or coffee and friendly conversation between members of the tiny congregation.  Dee usually walked home from church, but, compelled by the tug of the crisis at work, she took a cab.  She collected her own vehicle from its garage and met her 19-year-old daughter Melissa at her residence at the medical school at Pace University.

“Yallah!  Hurry!” called Dee to Melissa, who had only recently risen.  Then, selecting the Queens-Midtown tunnel to cross the East River, drove up for a flying visit to her parents in Queens.

During the journey, Dee interrogated Melissa about her studies and heard about her friendships and the ups and downs of her relationships with young beaus.  “Warren is okay as a friend,” she said, “But I don’t know if he’s really my type.”  Like her friends, Melissa shared what suited her with her mother and deftly or discreetly avoided the parts and people she would rather not discuss!

╬ As soon as the two of them entered her parents’ front door, a warm front of the delicious aromas of Syrian dishes – batersh, mlehy, and other hot dishes – burst upon them, along with the babbling chatter of conversation and cries of welcome.  “Mar Haba, ahlan!”

Dee resisted her mother Moressa’s protests about her missing lunch there.  “I called you this morning and told you I can’t stay,” said Dee. “I really can’t. Please don’t make me feel awkward.”

Sunday lunch with Dee’s parents was a signal event.  Neighbors and relatives would pop in and out during the afternoon, food and conversation flowing freely all the time.  The events of everyone’s life would be discussed, turned over, examined and laid down again, to be reviewed again on the next Sunday.  Nothing was too small to serve as a spark for conversation, readily evoking the experiences of others on the same subject.

Moressa had gently steered Dee’s father Reuben to the TV room and plied him with drinks and snacks.  He could be – and was that day – quite moody.  There Reuben was content to watch sports and take out his feelings on some distant coach, ball player, or athlete. Any other grumpy old men who were dragged in by their womenfolk knew the routine, and went directly to the TV room to join him.  They were unwelcome in the kitchen, where the women did not wish to have to guard their words and conversation.

In that way, Dee’s mother ensured that the men were reasonably happy and did not disturb or divert the voluble interchange of family news – or scandal – amongst the women, young and old, around the kitchen or dining room table.  With Reuben, the men would share together in the unspoken prayer (if they had laid a bet) or the surly prediction of disaster for their team’s opponents, or in their occasional surprise about the outstanding performance of some bright new star.

Dee handed over a package to her mother.  The package contained food items purchased from a Brooklyn specialty food store selling Syrian-style food.  She had to continue pleading the need to get back to the office.  “You know I never miss lunch unless I have to,” she told her mother.  “This is an emergency.  Won’t you give me a plate to take with me?”

“Dinazade,” said her mother disapprovingly, “this is Sunday.  You must not work so hard and especially not on a Sunday.  I didn’t raise you that way.  What’s the emergency, anyway?”  Her mom’s curiosity was raised in a flash – Was it a man? A date? wondered Moressa hopefully.  It was surely something to consider, and of course, discuss.  But Dee would not oblige with any more information.

Moressa clucked in disapproval, but bustled around to prepare a take-away lunch for Dee.  Dee’s father confirmed with a rare smile that, of course, he would take Melissa back to her student residence after lunch.  Nothing was too much trouble for his womenfolk, wife, daughter, and granddaughter.  Soon Dee was leaving, lugging a lovingly packed wicker basket which creaked with a weight equal to several meals, the lid unable to close due to the volume of tasty delights within.

Moressa was not concerned with Dee’s working interests, her university studies, and her employment in genetics, linguistics, and electronics.  Once Dinazade had reached high school, her mother did, of course, continue to listen to her sometimes excited chatter about matters of science.  Moressa had done so in a good-natured way, but she no longer even attempted to grasp what her adored prodigy was talking about.  Or, later on, she did not even try to understand just what it was that her evidently successful daughter was actually doing in her job with genetics, or the next, in linguistics, and did not even dream of Dee working with the CIA.

Rather and quite understandably, her mother was anxious about her 39-year-old only daughter’s lack of a husband.  She was grateful for a granddaughter, but only one granddaughter seemed very little.  “Why can’t Dee understand what a joy it would be for me to have a few more grandchildren?” grumbled Moressa to Reuben.  Dee’s mother and father doted on their strikingly beautiful and maidenly granddaughter Melissa, but could not get used to Dee’s single-parent status.

╬ By now all of them recognized that Dee’s only real love had been her first love, the tall, fair-haired Christopher Grey.  Their relationship had flourished when she was still in high school at Dalton.  Her experience of Christopher had been so intense that it lingered on through two decades.  Her still-vivid memories of him always evoked a pang and a yearning ache for him that she felt in every part of her body and soul.

Moressa never contradicted Reuben, with the exception of that once, that long-ago time of the Christopher Grey relationship during Dinazade’s teens.

“See the way they look at each other!  He might be the man of her life!” cried Dinazade’s mother to her father in the privacy of their bedroom, her eyes flashing and filled with tears.  “How can you just throw such a relationship away?  She may blame us continually!”  Dee’s protective Syrian father had strongly opposed any connection with a Brit, however.

“There are lots of good fish in the sea,” responded her husband bitterly.  “She’s pretty and young.  She can find a good Syrian man.

“I don’t want an arrogant Pommie for a son-in-law.  The British have betrayed our nation.  I am not prepared to take one of the most precious people in my life and hand her over to him or to them. No! Never!  I would be a mouse and not a man if I did that. He would be a stranger, would condescend to us, and seldom visit.  We wouldn’t see our daughter and her children.”

Once Reuben was on his flag-waving roll, Moressa found it best to keep quiet and wait for another time.  Quite emphatic and stubborn in his political views, or even prejudiced, Dee’s father would not change his mind. “It is quite possible to understand his point of view,” thought Moressa, “If you think about it in terms of nations.  I, too, would prefer a Syrian man.”  Her Sunday kitchen forum was divided on the matter, the more traditional women on one side, those younger and working in the city on the other side.  “But I am thinking about it in terms of one individual – my daughter – and another, Christopher. And that love does not always follow our bidding.  Perhaps it is true that mixed marriages are not always happy and long-lasting, but Syrian or ethnic marriages likewise are not always blissful and enduring.”

Christopher eventually withdrew in the face of Reuben’s strong and forthright opposition, which Reuben expressed so plainly and bluntly when Christopher visited their home – just once.  The diffidence of some of the others there towards him on that Sunday only intensified his unease.

“Thank you for visiting us,” said Reuben.  Drawing Christopher aside at one point, Reuben said, “Let me be frank with you.  I will never agree to your marriage to my daughter.”

Christopher became convinced that any desire of his own to proceed ‘no matter what’ could well amount to undue emotional duress or burden upon Dee.  Then he reasoned that this, in turn, could ultimately flaw an eventual marriage relationship between Dee and him.

“I certainly feel passionate about Dee,” Christopher thought, “but resolute determination is not the best environment for the things of the heart, as tender and frail as they are.  Passion can wither in the face of sustained adversity.  Let it be.  If it is right, our love will flourish in its own time.”

When Christopher expressed his views to Dee, she disagreed and said so as clearly as she could.  Christopher resisted Dee’s attempts to persuade him.  Eventually she gave up, or tried to give up.  “After all, I can’t make him love or marry me,” she thought.  He made it a clean break and stopped seeing her.

She did not realize that he had not abandoned her, however.  He did not realize that her love for him was far from frail.

Later on, as she began her college years, Reuben favored and tirelessly urged upon her the son of Syrian family friends named Hakkim, the good-looking Hakkim who held a high-paying job.  “It will shut the door on Christopher,” Reuben thought.  Dee conceded to her father’s wishes and married Hakkim in a lavish ceremony.

Hakkim was a party animal, dizzy with success and narcissism.  Every new possibility seized him in its grip; every admiring new woman who emerged before him seemed like Venus.  Dee, on the other hand, was dreamy, private, and studious – a creature of order and habit.  She fell pregnant soon after the wedding.  As her pregnancy advanced, he began spending first evenings out, and then whole nights out.  The marriage collapsed in acrimony with her in tears.  When he left, she was relieved.  The marriage had lasted only a year, with Dee holding their infant daughter Melissa – her treasure – in her arms.

After Dee’s loss of Christopher, and the debacle of her disastrous undergraduate marriage to Hakkim, Dinazade had never become sufficiently interested in any man to desire marriage.  The passionate, teen love she had experienced with Christopher Grey had never returned again with anyone else.

╬ It was her father Reuben who raised yet another big challenge on that day in early March 2003.  “Your uncle Johanan in Damascus is having headaches, Dinazade,” he said as he walked her to her car in the late winter sunshine and tranquility of that Sunday afternoon.

“Why – what’s wrong with uncle?” she asked, rolling her eyes as she slipped into her car, a sober, aging, but cherished and gleaming bottle green Peugeot saloon car.  The soft, biscuit-colored leather seats caressed her as she slid the key into the ignition, and the dashboard lit up as if it, too, wanted to hear about Johanan’s adventure.  As usual, her father did not immediately tell her and obviously wanted her to inquire – so she complied, hoping that the running motor would encourage him to keep it concise.

“It’s his big hotel or conference center project,” said her father.  “They’ve received lawyers’ letters from a museum in Damascus, saying the museum is mounting a formal protest against his hotel project, even though the clearing of the construction site has already begun.  The delays are playing havoc with his costing estimates.  He is sick with worry.  I hope he doesn’t start drinking again.”

“That’s dreadful,” said Dee.  It was not the first she had heard about this.  The women’s discussion had raised it weeks before.  There, the subject had recurred at Sunday lunches during that time.  The potential for disaster made it an attractive subject for the ladies of the kitchen cabinet.  Some had relatives in Damascus, so Moressa could not keep it quiet, even if she had wanted to.

In a fit of entrepreneurial zeal, Dee’s uncle Johanan and his company had bet everything he and the company had and could borrow on building a large conference center in the middle of the old Syrian city of Damascus.  The hotel complex was to rise over its own new city transit terminal with a special airport link.  He had formed a consortium – the Abi Firas Consortium — to deal with all the complexities involved.  Costs and projected income had been researched and calculated, deals public and private made with city officials, and expensive publicity entered into.  Loans had been acquired, deadlines set for occupancy, and contracts accepted in advance from travel agents and for major events.  A delay would mean that the city itself would suffer an even more extended period of paralysis of transport routes and downtown shopping.  There was precious little margin for any delay at all.  Why would the museum be threatening them in such a manner?

“I’ll try to contact Uncle Johanan,” Dee said through the open car window as her beloved car purred richly and she pulled away.  For her return trip from Queens to Manhattan, she and her car submerged in the white enamel-tiled Queens Midtown tunnel again and then turned onto the East River Drive – the FDR Drive – turning off at the UN Buildings to reach her Midtown East CIA office a few blocks away.  Parking of any kind, whether on the street or in a garage, was never easy at any time in Midtown or in Manhattan as a whole, yet it was at least possible on a Sunday afternoon.

Security was very much on everyone’s mind.  At the office entrance, she faced a routine but thorough examination by the watchful security personnel.  None of them wanted to be the one to have made the big mistake.  One of the women took particular delight in such duties – ‘Vanessa’ read her brass badge.  Dee had often wondered about Vanessa’s name, family, and circumstances – but such questions could be misinterpreted at the CIA offices, so Dee refrained as she submitted to the usual body frisk.  She had become accustomed to the quite sensual look which flashed across Vanessa’s face.

“Whatever Vanessa wants, national security is my loyalty, not silly frisking,” thought Dee.  “My efficiency actually depends on my capacity to evade any amount of security measures every day!”

╬ What Dee wanted to investigate at her office arose from her reflections earlier that day during her morning walk to church.  During her customary morning meditations, she cracked the mental challenges, broke down problems into discrete parts, developed the concepts, and outlined the logic for the associated programs.

Often from home or even using her mobile phone, she transmitted the concepts or programs to her desk at work.  At her office desk, she perfected and then applied the programs through the gleaming computers humming outside her office door and through secure links to the massive databanks of the country and the world.

There were, of course, elaborate electronic security walls around the state-of-the-art office computers.  Dee’s years of work in the field meant she was completely familiar with the operation of those electronic walls – and she had contributed to the design of several of them anyway.  The team of security personnel at the office – like Vanessa — was no equal to her capacity to obtain information or to distribute it if she had been so inclined.

While Vanessa frisked her, she thought, “Melissa’s interest in the medical field won’t connect her with my world.  There’s not much I can do to help her with contacts or advice.”  The thought always made her feel anxious for her daughter.

Dee’s daughter Melissa had been born during Dee’s undergraduate years, in 1984.  After Hakkim left her – well, really, before that as well – Dee remembered the challenge of single parenthood and studies during Melissa’s early years – the desperate dashes on weekdays to make the deadlines for child care centers, the birthday parties, the school singing presentations, after-care activities, and music classes, and the quarterly meetings of the parent-teachers association.

Dee’s parents were always ready to do anything they could to help.  There were times – especially when there was illness – that Dee could not have managed without them.

“What a special young woman she has always been,” thought Dee.  “She is so thoughtful, and we have become so attached to each other.”   Melissa had loved learning the oboe during her primary and secondary school years but had defiantly ditched it once she started at the university.

“Perhaps she will play again one day,” thought Dee.  “Above all, I need to give her space at this point in her life.”

╬ Despite all the challenges of motherhood and childrearing, high academic praise adorned each step Dee had taken forward during her tertiary studies at Columbia University.  She was a natural in her field, often intuiting a concept before she read and learned it.  Her brilliance led to generous scholarships which made it possible to continue her studies.

Those eight years were hard, yet Dee’s academic work came to her easily and interestingly.  She felt born to such things and ‘wired’ to them, naturally grasping their logic even before she was objectively conscious of the proof.

During her ColumbiaUniversity holidays in the 1980s, Dee had taken Melissa with her to her standing job with the Intel semiconductor giant in Santa Clara, California, as they developed their 8088 chip in association with IBM.

By contrast with her much-loved, but frenetic New York City, Dee (with Melissa) enjoyed the easygoing spaciousness of California, day after day of sunlight, the theme parks, the mixture of nationalities, the freedom of relationships and the spread of beaches, deserts, and mountains all around.

As a brilliant young IT specialist, Dee was quickly regarded with admiration and even awe by her colleagues in those companies of Intel and IBM, who were themselves a school of highly intelligent fish.  As one sometimes sees children in a playground join together in a game of imagination of the most fertile kind, so together, their team at Intel developed the 286, 386, and 486 chips, and by the time she finished her studies, they were working on the Pentium chip.

Yet, during her university years, it was Dee’s elective course work subject of genetics which had an odd influence on her first real job.  For her, genetics was a stimulating link between the world of physics and electronics on the one hand, and on the other, the field of human experience.  In genetics and human experience, she found herself reflecting on the similarities and differences between herself and her own parents and the similarities and differences between herself and her daughter Melissa.

In certain aspects of their looks and their language, all three generations were similar.  Yet in other aspects of their physical appearance and forms of expression, all three generations were quite distinct from one another.

In genetics and electronics, she found herself reflecting on the way a switch in the genetic elements of the human chromosome could compare with the simple on-off switch in the physical elements of an electronic binary digit, or ‘bit’.  In both cases, one little switch amongst many others produced a decisively different outcome.  In ways like these, her fertile mind whirled and danced between the fields of the sciences and the humanities.

When Dee finished her Ph.D. her mother and father attended the gorgeous graduation ceremony.  The doctoral candidates were adorned with the blue gowns and small embroidered crown of Columbia’s insignia and the flamboyant hood which denoted the doctorate.

Dee’s father looked just about as happy as she had ever seen him look, and the ensuing party at their home was as riotous as any there had ever been there.   He had a framed picture of her graduation in a place of pride in their home, and he gave Dee a solid gold pen and pencil set as a memento of the occasion.

Dee remembered not so much the pomp and ceremony of the graduation, however, but the incessant work at Columbia, accompanied by the constant pressure of childrearing.  In fact, she preferred not to think about all those very long, hard years.  For her, those were bleak years, like a sentence of imprisonment in a Siberian camp.

To Dee, there was, however, something almost sacred about the recollection of her father’s sense of joy and the physical token of his gift.  She kept the writing set on her dressing table at home, to look at, to treasure her father’s satisfaction and pleasure – but she never dared to actually use it or take it anywhere else.  “You can look, but don’t touch,” she said to little Melissa.  “One day it will be yours.”

In 1990, the year Dee turned 26 and Melissa six, Dee’s first full-time job had been in the information technology section of the human genome mapping project under James Watson.  Together, an impressive team of people embarked on the project of describing the many thousands of genes in the human cell.

It was exciting for her to be in at the start of such a major development, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy.  There was active international consultation, which provided her opportunity to travel to Europe from time to time.

Dee stayed at her old friend Shahida’s Knightsbridge home when her travels took her through London.  When Melissa was on holiday, Dee used the benefit of her air travel miles to take Melissa along with her.

With each passing month, the health sciences and pharmaceutical companies had become ever more insistent on studying the results arising from the gene-mapping project and discussing with Dee and her colleagues the methods of gene modification.

Dee proposed ways of speeding up the process of gene mapping.  Then a separate private biotechnology company was formed, Accelera Genome Research, and the executive head of the organization, R. Carl Villiers, ‘head-hunted’ Dee to work with him.  At Accelera, every day her knowledge grew, while Dee contributed her own fresh ideas and suggested new applications.

Her work included the use of instruments like tunneling electron microscopes, or robotics, graphical or database systems, or the processes of gas spectrum analysis.  When she heard of companies developing and testing new gene therapies for diseases, she found her work not only intellectually exciting but also meaningful at the human level.  For Dee, genetic research was a nexus between the fragile, mysterious inner world of living things and some of the most advanced science on earth.  “I suppose I could have passed on some of my innate interests to Melissa,” thought Dee.

Dee’s signal achievements in applying artificial intelligence within the genome project constantly improved the project’s efficiency and earned her ever wider attention.  CHIMe Laboratories took the initiative in approaching her to work for them in 1999, when she was 35 years old and Melissa was 15.  The interest of CHIMe Labs in Dee’s (by now vast) knowledge in the field of information technology was related to the field of international language recognition.

“Language recognition is set to transform international communications,” said Alexander Hawk, as her introduced her to her new colleagues at CHIMe Labs.  As she listened to him, she smiled inwardly to hear his enthusiasm for his work.  “A true believer,” she thought, “but such energy is what produces the goods, after all.”

Alexander gave her the full speech.

“Combined with technology like the coming Centrino mobile chipset,” said Alexander, his face rapt, “language recognition will make information available to anyone, anywhere, at anytime – rich and poor – without needing a keyboard.  It can beat the digital divide.  It is capable of assisting with medical and psychiatric diagnosis, even when doctors do not share the same first language as the patient.

“In a domestic setting, householders will discuss the preparation of dinner with their refrigerators and microwave ovens, and tell their climate control systems the weather prediction for the day.  They will verbally order from their local supermarket the goods they want delivered to their homes and unlock their homes and vehicles with a word.  The voice computing revolution of the third millennium is likely to equal or surpass the revolution of home computing of the 1970s.

“A particular interest of ours is not all these things I have mentioned, however, but rather in this:  automated simultaneous translation over the telephone, with Spanish, English, Japanese, and Chinese as the priority languages.  We see such developments opening up new commercial highways between very large and active economic populations, just as microwave telephone links did before.”

As she worked with CHIMe Labs, Dee was fascinated by the parallels between the analysis of genetics and linguistics – how slight differences – one little ‘on-off’ switch amongst many other more usual switches — in the patterns in either a person’s genes or in their speech could identify an individual, or precondition human disease.  “I shouldn’t be surprised,” thought Dee, “yet I am.”

Their team steadily picked apart the peculiarities of the speech of Japanese, English, Chinese, and Russian, of men and women, of old and young, of poetry and prose, of colloquial and standard forms of language, and developed dictionaries of metaphorical speech.  Some days she felt the whole world had colonized her mind!

╬ Continuing with her Sunday afternoon work in March 2003, however, Dee was looking for electronic clues on the mysterious message, but none were forthcoming.  By the late afternoon, she had completed the last information item which had any potential at all.  Neither she nor anyone else was any the wiser as to the source of the mysterious message.

“The Israelis – Mossad – have identified a suspect, however,” said Sean over the phone, responding to her verbal report to him about her lack of progress before she left at the end of the day.  From what Dee had heard from various sources, it was not a pleasant thing to fall into the hands of the Israeli security services.

“Who is it?  What’s the evidence?” she asked Sean.

“Hold on,” he said, as she heard him cover the telephone mouthpiece to talk to someone else.  “Classified,” he responded back to Dee.  “The information is on a ‘need to know’ basis.  I have to report the reason you need to know.”

“Never mind,” said Dee, disgusted with such a thin gruel of collegial trust.  Yet she conceded that caution was necessary.  All too often, important information was stolen, traded, or sold.  “I suppose if any of us was so minded,” she thought, “We could make a fortune in insider trading on the stock market.”  And indeed, their personal finances, investments, lifestyle, and vacations – along with those of their family members – were scrutinized.  Computerization combined with CIA wiretapping privileges made it all surprisingly easy.  A visit from an IRS agent could ruin anyone’s day, for it had the capacity to unilaterally freeze all their assets.  Dee shrugged.

“I arrived home safely,” said Melissa on the phone as late afternoon shadows fell across Manhattan.  While that sunlight and those shadows were invisible to Dee, she tidied her desk, glancing at the silver-framed photos of her family and of Christopher.

╬ When she returned home, she left her car in its monthly garage space near her apartment block and went for a workout at her Ecotrim gym on Broadway at 88th.   She began with stretches and then with walking on the treadmill, picking up the rate and the incline.  Then she moved from one piece of exercise equipment to the next.  Her mental strain drained into muscular activity and then disappeared completely under the pulsing needles and vigorous massage of a warm shower.

She warmed up a plate of her mom’s cooking while watching the evening news on TV, feeling concerned about the rhetoric and the military buildup against Iraq.  It made her feel uneasy. “How can we start a war without solid, verified information?” she worried.

She emailed her uncle in Damascus during the evening.  In the frenzy following 9/11, she knew her colleagues found people from the Middle East dubious.  Shrewdly, Dee had sent each of the immediate members of her family a small plug-in addition to their telephone connections.  The personalized coding system and other encryption-decryption circuitry in the plug made their family communications as secure as almost anything else available.

Dee knew the value of electronic security, and so, as a creature of habit, she completed her regular daily encrypted disk dump to her file with Secure Remote Storage Inc (SRS).  It was always a discipline to do so when she was tired at the end of a long day.  “But better safe than sorry,” she said to herself, “Better safe than sorry.”

Once, her hard drive had crashed and she experienced the extreme frustration of the months it took to restore her lists of information, computer programs, and settings.  “A home burglary could have the same effect,” she thought.  For that reason, she installed a chip into all her computers – and into those of Melissa and her family.  In the case of robbery the chip would announce the location of the computer wherever it was used.

Just before she went to sleep, the computer beeped as a response arrived from her uncle, it being early Monday morning in Damascus.  “The museum thinks we are going to interfere with the archeology of the old city here in Damascus,” he wrote.  “A month’s delay would ruin me – but the court battle and politics could very easily take longer.

“My partners don’t know the potential of the damage, yet.  Our consortium can’t afford to have our plans obstructed.  Heavy construction equipment has already arrived at the site and continues to do so – and then stands idle.  The financial interest on the loans is fearsome and is mounting every day. Maybe someone connected with the museum wants their own payoff.  I don’t know.”

Her sleepiness dispelled for the moment, Dee walked out onto the balcony of her penthouse apartment, overlooking the springtime wonder of Central Park.  As Arun and Angkor rubbed themselves against her legs, she reflected on what had been a tumultuous weekend.  There were three things tugging on her – the immediate stress of the S&M message at the office, the family problem of her uncle’s situation, and the niggling worry about the unfolding military conflict with Iraq.  How could she help her uncle?  She offered up a prayer for him and hoped he or she could find someone with whom to discuss it or from whom there could be help.

Monday 3 March 2003.  CIA New York Station, Midtown, New York City

╬ Through  Monday, the third of March the furiously active investigation into the S&M message continued.   At moments like these, the intensity of their work was driven by the mental specter of Pan Am Flight 103 – or the Lockerbie bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the WTC disaster — or the disaster in Waco, Texas.  She wondered, “Why are we having attacks like these?  It is not always ethnic or religious, after all.  What is the pattern?”

As she reviewed scores of situations around the world, Dee reflected briefly on whether it was the very fact of the steady growth in political power of nation state political structures.  “Could that be what is provoking an equally steady growth of occasionally violent non-governmental minorities?”

“At any rate,” she thought, “I’d better take as the top priority an investigation into terror group transmissions.”   Working from the present into the preceding months, she examined transcripts of telephone conversations involving key figures, looking for anything comparable to the current ‘S&M message’ which was before them.

During her tea break on Monday morning, Dee quickly telephoned her friend Anne, a top-notch real estate lawyer in Lower Manhattan.  They swapped news briefly, and then Dee explained her uncle’s situation.

“There are some possibilities, but I won’t talk about them right away.  Give me a bit of time,” said Anne.  “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

“Thanks!” said Dee, knowing their friendship meant it would have been the same if a favor were requested the other way around.  She was relieved there was even a remote possibility of an answer to her prayer for her uncle.

By the end of Monday, Dee had not found anything in other ‘terror group’ transmissions sufficiently persuasive of a linkage to their ‘mysterious message.’  A creature of habit, she went home to her regular Monday evening dinner of chicken.  Today, it was to be chicken breasts and sun-dried tomatoes.  As she ate dinner, she listened to the evening news, which continued to relate to Iraq – a zone of growing anxiety for everyone, whether one supported President George Bush, or not.

Tuesday 4 March 2003.  CIA New York Station, Midtown, New York City

╬ On Tuesday Dee turned to investigate threats against nuclear power stations.  She sent messages to hundreds of them, asking whether there had been any suspicious activity in the recent days or weeks.  When the answers came, as they quickly did, she began to race through them to see whether there were any leads.

Anne phoned back during the morning.  “Your uncle does not necessarily have a problem with construction on a site which may turn out to have great historical importance,” said Anne in a clipped, professional tone.  “We had a comparable situation with Native American burial sites here in Manhattan.

“They had the same kind of thing in York, UK – and also with the subway dig in Athens.  Your uncle’s headache could become his best tourist asset – and there are big bucks there for all concerned, including the city itself.  I’ll get hold of the legal documents around those other historic sites I mentioned.  You get your uncle to switch direction – not to oppose the museum, but rather to actually suggest or prove there is something historic under the hotel site.”

As Dee put down the telephone, she felt a wave of intense excitement.  “What a shift in the situation such a discovery could bring!”  She immediately leaned over her keyboard, rattled off a series of codes effectively suspending the CIA security fences, and instructed her uncle along the lines of what she had just heard from Anne.

Then, in the minute or two she had left before the end of the tea break, she sent a message to her friend “K” downstairs, describing the situation.  Just as she could not ask Vanessa about her personal life, so she could not ask him to divulge information about his seismographic work, “But who knows,” she thought, “Perhaps there is something he can tell me about ways of looking underground.”

During her work at CHIMe Labs, one of her most pleasant office links was with “K”, Kit.  He was a seismologist working for one of the departments within the same building as hers, though she did not know where, nor why the CIA would have connections with a seismologist.  Dee had never actually met Kit, yet they did chat on interoffice email – much more than was allowed, but never verging on sensitive CIA information.

Over email and their computer screens, they imaginatively tangoed through a universe marked by astronomy, music, and politics; love, fusion reactions, and safe uses of nuclear and other waste; of cabbages and kings.

They were always careful to avoid confidential matters related to their work and signed their messages only with ‘D’ on her side and ‘K’ – for Kit – on his; or, more usually, he called himself Seismic Man, since most of his work was with seismology.  They were friends without faces.

Late in the afternoon she received a reply from her uncle.  “I’m moving as fast as I possibly can to avoid financial disaster.  I have ordered modified oil searching equipment flown in to drill archeological samples from the earth beneath the hotel site.  I’ve also arranged with a French paleontologist and archaeologist – Jean Claude Du Pasquier – to fly to Damascus.  He is reaching the end of a session at the ancient Transvaal archaeological sites in South Africa.  He’ll evaluate the samples, and if he is satisfied, perhaps he may direct any excavation which might follow.”

Dee began to feel she was in the middle of a three-ring circus and took a painkiller for the dull headache she felt.  “I had better not take too many of those,” she thought.

╬ On Tuesday evening, there was little to show from her nuclear power station investigation. She left work, and, feeling the need to hold on to her regular rhythms, went to her Bible study group meeting.

She was surprised to meet Professor Felicity Wilkins there.  In the welter of events, she had forgotten Patrick’s reminder to her regarding the professor’s date with their group.  Patrick and Dee shared a rather substantial existing reading on the subject of Mark’s gospel.  So the discussion at the study group fascinated Dee.

With her dark, lively eyes flashing with the warmth she felt for her subject, Felicity told the group about the history of the study of Mark’s gospel.  “The gospel writers Matthew and Luke drew much of their material from Mark,” she said, “And the whole world has been deeply affected by what appears in their writings.  Yet even Mark, the first gospel, writing 30 years after Jesus, was not present at most events he described in his gospel, so all three gospels depend on Mark’s witnesses.

“Let’s say Mark was in the dock in a law court today – we might well ask him from whom he derived such influential information!  Were they reliable witnesses?”

In discussing the possible witnesses or sources for Mark’s gospel, Felicity went on to describe the intricate scholarly efforts to match Mark’s language with other persons and their language in the literature of the New Testament or of the wider context of Christians of the middle of the first century.

“What languages do you focus on?” asked Dee.

“For Mark, Greek in the first place and Aramaic in the second,” replied Felicity.  Something about the tone of Dee’s question implied it was an informed question, so Felicity asked another question: “Why do you ask – do you work with languages?”

“A little,” said Dee, reluctant to leave open a door that might lead Felicity to further probe, and then get too close to the nature of Dee’s employment. In due course, Felicity would realize that Dee knew a great deal about that particular zone of knowledge.

Fortunately for Dee, others in the group began to ask their own questions, and Felicity answered them.  “Following the famous Rudolph Bultmann, we think the main contributors to the gospel of Mark include these ones.  Firstly, Peter.  Secondly, there was a ‘Palestinian’ source or witness – a source or person in the area we might call Israel or in that neighborhood.  Third, there was a ‘Hellenistic’ or a Greek source.  That could be a source or a person in a Greek-speaking city or place like Antioch. Fourth, there could have been a few other, smaller contributors.

“Finally, there was someone or some group that gathered all that together and then “framed” them.  What we mean by “frame” is this:  It just as when we put several family pictures into one frame, in a kind of collage.  The pictures in that family collage are like the sources that Mark included.  The frame or mounting around those several family pictures would be like the writing by the author of this gospel, Mark himself.

“So even in this one short gospel, there are different people – four or five, or even more – who told their own different stories about the love of Jesus.  We try to trace the outlines of their various accounts through the slight differences in the language which each of them used.  When an author uses small changes in the form of nouns and verbs and in their sequence of these things, we call that change the morphology in their language.

“If at the same time that the language changes, at that same time, the story shifts from one place or time to another, we think there might be a change from one source to another.”

Felicity saw the puzzled look in the faces of the group.  Beginning to feel quite anxious, she tried to recover. “When I say, ‘morphology’, I simply mean the study of the ‘change or alteration of expression.’  After all, all dogs do bark, but one kind of bark by one dog does not mean exactly the same as another kind of bark by another.  There is a change of expression between the two dogs.  I’m sorry to use such a crude example, but I suppose we could describe the slight alterations of language in the ancient authors as their own personal ‘change-ology’ – their own kind of ‘bark’.”

Felicity did not sense she was making much progress, so she tried another metaphor.  “It would be a bit like the daily decision about the clothing we choose to wear each day.  One person tends to choose one type of clothing while another tends to wear a different type of clothing.  Then again, clothing for the working day is different from the evening.  Home clothing is different from clothing for a social event.  Clothing for weekdays is different from that for weekends.  There is the preppy look in clothing, by contrast with the Wall Street look.  Royalty tend to dress differently from commoners.

“Each person makes a clothing choice every day.  It is the set of such personal choices in clothing, a set of such little things, which can identify – or profile – an individual at any time.

“Language can be the same way even within one language group.  Perhaps even in one single city, speaking the same language, we can make a difference between southerners and northerners, eastern people and western people.  On the eastern side of our city, a Brooklyn accent and choice of wording is different from the rest of New York City.  Perhaps men speak differently from women.  The set of such choices in slight changes of language can help us distinguish amongst people today.  In the same way, slight changes in language can help us distinguish amongst those ancient sources and witnesses.

“Studies show, as well, that by the time you are about 35 years of age, your language remains fairly consistent until the end of your life.  By 35, your language is woven within, or buried in many layers of your personality.

“That is to say, just like your fingerprints, your particular history is stamped into your language, and – despite any attempt you make to modify your language – your personal profile remains in your language until you die.

“And that is how we can find out who are the different people that Mark was listening to when he wrote his gospel.”

Dee was quite enraptured with what Felicity was saying.  She had an emerging sense that the two of them were doing almost exactly the same thing, but focusing on the speech of people who were separated by 2000 years.

╬ When the meeting broke up, Dee and Felicity descended in a rickety, small, and noisy elevator.  Dee asked Felicity about the location of electronic versions of the original manuscripts and texts to which Felicity had referred.  Felicity wrote down some information and they parted with friendly greetings into the night.

On the late night news, Dee watched the crazy antics of the Mardi Gras parade through Greenwich Village that evening of Shrove Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday.  She smiled to see the wildly colored and bizarre range of outfits.  When Arun and Angkor meowed with their rasping Siamese cat voices, she turned the TV off, fed them, and went to bed.


Chapter 3: Not Just Peter but Barnabas too

“Lend me the stone strength of the past

And I will lend you

The wings of the future, for I have them”

Robinson Jeffers.  To the Rock That Will be a Cornerstone, 1924

Wednesday 5th March 2003. The Upper West Side, Manhattan, NYC

╬ Dee stirred from sleep at four a.m. on Wednesday – Ash Wednesday.  She usually rose very early, for she found the quiet of the morning hours was for her like the quiet of her walk to church on Sundays. Early morning was for her a pool of reflection, a time during which she had many ‘Aha’ moments about connections between information swirling around her during her daily work and relationships.

She awoke thinking about what Felicity had said.  Like any scientist working with the laws of nature, there was a fascination for her in the link between the truth of the here and now, and the appearance of that principle long ago and far away.  For her, what is in its essence true in one place and time must be true in every place and time.

Her attention was caught, and she felt increasingly intrigued by the possible link between two things.  First, there were the distinctions between those witnesses she tracked in her daily linguistic work at Weaver or at the CIA offices.  Secondly, there was what Felicity had raised the previous evening, in her daily work at Union – the distinctions between Mark’s sources, informants, or witnesses.

“Are we doing the same thing, Felicity and I?  Could I use my tools on Felicity’s project?” she wondered.

Dee could hardly restrain herself.  By 4:30 a.m. she was already tapping a rapid tattoo on the keys of her home computer, pausing only to sip her aromatic cup of mocha java coffee.  By 5 a.m. she had acquired the “morphologically tagged” text of the New Testament from the channels that Felicity had told her of the night before.

In this assignment, her data was in Greek.  There was no hesitation for her about that, since she was used to working on different languages.  Here the data was in texts which explicitly noted the forms of language, or the choices of language. She used one of her own applications to convert the Greek text to her own data format.  Each word had several tags, indicating whether the word was singular or plural, masculine or feminine, and so forth.  These texts came from the University of Pennsylvania’s data banks.

Two hours later, by the time she left for work at 7 a.m., her powerful home computer and its programs had begun the task of slicing and dicing the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel.  The automated process then compared the pieces internally to each other, and externally to pieces of the rest of the Greek New Testament.

In her daily work, the CIA wanted to use language matching to know who, among the billions of inhabitants of Earth in 2003, might have sent the four sentences in the ‘S&M message’ over the cables, the microwaves, and the radio waves of the Earth.

In a comparable way at home, Dee now wanted to use the same kind of language matching to find out if there were indeed parts of Mark’s Gospel which might have arisen from different informants or witnesses.

“This is exciting,” she thought, “Ultra-modern tools which might help solve an age-old question.  Who were you taking your notes from, my dear Mark? We know it wasn’t you, so who were the first ones to lay out the story of Jesus?”

In Dee’s view, it was a story which contained a certain amount of factual and historical events.  Then, beyond that, the story was told by individuals who had various perspectives.  Then it was repeated, retold, or rearranged, with new layers of perspective each time.  The final layer was that of the translator into English.  Separating those layers interested her very much.

╬ When she reached the entrance to her CIA office on Wednesday morning, Dee again passed through Vanessa’s overly caring hands.  It was the same that day as Dee experienced every day she went to her agency there.

“You are looking so good today!” said Vanessa, smiling very daringly into Dee’s cool glance back.  Dee wished she could be back at NYU and having her morning mint tea in the kitchen there, and the interaction she shared with (little) Mickey and their pals.

Shrugging off Vanessa’s remark, Dee finally reached her own desk in the CIA suite of offices and continued with her work on the investigation into the ‘S&M message’.  On this day, Wednesday, she decided to focus on extremist religious groups.

“How wide do I draw the circle?” she wondered, reflecting on the impact of philosophical and religious extremists from the time of Brutus, Savonarola, Martin Luther, the French revolution and Anatoli Vasilyevich Lunacharsky – Lenin – in the time of the Russian revolution. “Today, we don’t think of such extremists as wicked people!” she thought.  “A few centuries ago, the English probably thought the American Puritans or ‘Founding Fathers’ were violent extremists.”

Dee launched fast search technology which queried ever wider circles of databases related to modern religious groups, but limited the search to situations where there was potential or actual violence and with a linguistic match probability of 0.7 or greater.  Hour by hour, she concentrated intensely.

By the time her search reached back 10 years, to the assassination of Chris Hani by white extremists in South Africa in 1993, Dee had to concede she had not uncovered any extremist language connections with sufficient promise.

“Can you tell me anything from Mossad?” she asked Sean on the telephone.

He relented on his information blackout to some extent.  “They are convinced we should take him in – Samuel Tariq, I mean,” said Sean.

“You don’t have to tell me why,” said Dee, “But can you at least tell me if you are satisfied with the evidence?”

“To tell you the truth, there isn’t much to go on,” he responded.  “But you know how it is.  Sometimes organizations we think are linked together actually turn out to be separate and different.  Sometimes those we think are separate and different actually turn out to have a link of some kind.

“The stakes are high; the time could be very short – if we are not perhaps already too late – and we have to go with the best possibilities, however slim.  If we make a mistake, people may die.  We’re sweating it out, hour by hour.  It’s a calculated risk.  Apply a certain amount of pressure on people who might be close to the situation and they will often produce a closer link, even if they themselves aren’t actually involved.”

Dee was silent.  By now she knew Sean’s statement, ‘apply a certain amount of pressure,’ meant at least one person somewhere was being tortured for information – and Sean knew it, or had even ordered it.  A wave of nausea went through her, as she envisioned the scene.  She felt she was getting all too close to a recurring reality throughout history, at a myriad of places and times, which arranged what may be extreme duress and possibly even human atrocities.

“Should I just try to accept it?” she wondered.

Trying to suspend such thoughts, Dee turned back to her own individual work.  Despite whatever security existed on military communications, she and her colleagues were collecting reams of information regarding the movement of armed forces within or towards Iraq, which evidently presaged war there.

╬ The U.S. military had notified Melissa’s boyfriend Warren that he could expect a tour of duty in combat since he was on a Reserve Officers Training Corps program.  Dee wondered what would happen there.

“That experience will certainly make him different, any way you look at it.  And,” thought Dee, “if the impending battle in Iraq is not quickly resolved, he might eventually be in the thick of it – and then who could tell what would happen?”

Over lunchtime, Dee walked northwest, across to St Luke’s-in-the-Fields in Greenwich Village, for the Ash Wednesday service there.  As she went, she thought, “It’s hard to dispel the suspicion that Iraq has something to do with the source of the S&M message.”

The service at St Luke’s was a simple little one, but obviously very popular.  There were many people.  Conscious of time, she sat near the front to be near the beginning of the queue.

“Dust you are and unto dust you will return,” said the priest.  “Repent of your sins and believe the good news,” he intoned.  He ‘ashed’ her, making the black sign of the cross on her forehead.  It was the powder of the burned palm crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

╬ On her way back to the office, Dee took a detour past an excavation of a Native American burial site near the Bleecker Street subway station, feeling a new interest in what was being done there.  “I wonder whose building project is being affected here!” she thought with a wry smile crossing her face, thinking of her uncle Johanan in Damascus.

She joined a small group of people – mainly men – on the viewing platform.  “Something there is about an excavation or a construction site,” she thought, “Which draws interest like few other things.  What is it?  Is it the idea of teamwork, building, creativity, like the wonder of watching the making of the universe itself?”

Those responsible for the site had courteously put up signs describing what they were doing and why and how they were going about their excavation and exploration, or simply their demarcation of the Native American graves.  The signs around the site were evidently updated regularly with discoveries they had made so far.

“Dust you are and unto dust you will return,” she mentally addressed the people who had long ago lived at the site of the excavation, “and sometimes, you will return from the dust to live again amongst us today.”

She was delighted to think of the ancient ancestors of the American people being honored again amidst the teeming traffic and bustling crowds of Greenwich Village, within sight of a dozen cafes like Decadent Donuts.

Noticing someone looking curiously at the ash mark on her forehead, she quickly turned to hurry back to work, wiping the smudged black cross off her skin.

She worked long hours into Wednesday evening, enhancing the translation capacity of their office applications.  These tools yielded ever more military information from written or radio messages inside Iraq itself and from regions throughout the Middle East – but they revealed no matching voice prints or linguistic patterns for the mysterious message itself.

╬ When she returned home late on Wednesday evening, she was fascinated to scan the report screen from her computer all day long on the analysis of Mark’s Gospel.  It had compared billions of aspects of language between the many pieces or phrases of text.

She could see that the analysis of language showed that sets of words in Mark’s Gospel came from two or more people.  The set of words and sentences were too uneven in their choice of language to have come from only one person.

Dee’s own type of analysis of language corroborated Professor Felicity Wilkin’s proposal of separate sources in Mark’s Gospel.  “So Mark did not write his gospel by himself,” she thought.  “Mark did not even form the gospel with just one source like Peter.  Mark must have been drawing on two people, or even more.”

By that time, Dee already knew the German theologian Rudolph Bultmann had argued several decades before, saying that there were at least two witnesses or sources who gave their information to Mark.  At the minimum, there were witnesses from the ‘Palestinian’ (eastern Mediterranean coast) and the ‘Hellenistic’ (Greek-speaking area) – and probably others as well.

Dee’s computer report revealed in Bultmann’s “Palestinian” source, for example, there were a series of characteristic linguistic combinations.  In the selection of language, one combination of the choice of language in the “Palestinian” source was made up of a conjunction, closely followed by a definite article, closely followed by a plural.  A case of this appeared in the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel, at verse 24.  Dee looked up the reference and was satisfied to verify the combination in the words “And the Pharisees…”

It was a practice of that particular witness in Mark – the “Palestinian” witness – to write that way more often than others did.  The full list of all of the habits of speech of the “Palestinian” yielded a remarkably useful means of distinguishing their contribution from that of another and different witness.  That particular combination of language occurred at a far greater rate of frequency in that source in the Gospel of Mark than that same combination occurred in Bultmann’s “Hellenistic” source in the Gospel of Mark.

“There is a conjunction, followed by a definite article, and then a plural.  St. Mark’s Palestinian ‘someone’ likes to speak that way,” thought Dee, “Using a conjunction, followed by a definite article, and then a plural.”

There were thousands of comparable features corroborating the same thing in Dee’s computer analysis of the clustering in the choice of language.  So, taking everything appearing in the words of the Gospel of Mark, the probability was very high that his writing drew on more than one individual.  It could not have come from only one individual.  This was Dee’s conclusion after absorbing all this information.

“So you were not taking your notes just from one person, from one witness, from Peter alone, then, eh my dear Mark?” thought Dee.  “Where do I go from here?”  She thought she needed to develop a much clearer idea of Mark’s own biography and a much clearer idea of who might have been the individuals from whom he derived his information.  “Information which changed history,” she thought.

Tired out, after the TV news broadcast which described the gathering forces around Iraq, she had a bath with petals in the water and scented candles glowing.

A pasta dish was her custom on Wednesday evenings, so she made a vegetable sauce and a small meal of Capelli d’angelo pasta, ‘angel hair’ pasta.  She usually reserved Saturday morning to mix her own fresh pasta from mung-bean flour or soy flour.

She curled up in bed to eat the tasty dish, but before she could finish, she was fast asleep.

Thursday 6 March 2003

╬ At four a.m. on Thursday morning she began to plumb the electronic library at Columbia University, looking for background information on the different sources she had now confirmed in Mark’s Gospel.  From her work the previous day, she had evidence that there were indeed distinct sections, origins, or contributors in or to Mark’s Gospel, which preceded Mark’s own writing.

“What was the history of that early time?  How can I find out who those earlier contributors were?” she wondered, and checked, and read.

At six a.m., she noticed the time and decided to close down and get ready for work.  But then a footnote in the work of Dr. Tobias Selma caught her eye.  “It is possible the Hellenistic layer in Mark’s Gospel is connected with ‘Barnabas’, and it is further possible that this layer arises from Damascus.”

Damascus!  Dee stood immobile, deep in thought for long minutes.  Losing track of the need to reach her CIA office on time, she checked through the place names in her own analysis of the Hellenistic layer in Mark’s Gospel – Jericho Jordan, the Decapolis, Gerasa, and Nazareth.  “And there is also Galilee ‘of the nations,” thought Dee.

Relative to Mark’s mother’s home in Jerusalem and Judea, those place names followed a band swinging from far in the north down to the east – and the band was within the orbit of the Greek cities of the Decapolis.

“And the principal city of the Decapolis was Damascus,” she thought.  “If Peter was your first informant or witness, Mark; if so, then someone in Damascus is certainly a possible source for your second informant, my dear sir.  What do you say?  Don’t be so coy.”

Then she glanced at her watch, gasped to see the time, and hurriedly prepared herself for the day ahead.  The spring weather made her feel light-hearted, so she slipped on a brightly flowered dress and a more sober cream silk blouse with deep cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons.  Open-toed shoes added to the light, airy feeling with which the little IT whiz wagtail flew into the joy and gift of a new day.

With those big dark blue eyes of theirs, Arun and Angkor paused in the process of their morning ablutions to watch Dee depart, noticing the brightness of her outfit.

At the office, she read a message from her uncle telling her the drilling samples on the hotel site in Damascus were underway.  She felt a tingle of pleasure.  The coincidence made her feel a little breathless.  She could feel her pulse beating like the clattering wheels of one of the express subways of New York.

Each day Sean met with her.  They checked through all the most important possibilities for the S&M message.  Responses to her messages of inquiry regarding security threats came back from a long list of energy facilities around the world.  There were always incidents at such places, and it took long hours for Dee to read and evaluate the reports of each.

With each case that Dee laid aside on the pile of “unlikely”, there was a small twinge of uncertainty.  “What if that is the one?” she wondered.  She felt grateful, somewhat to her surprise, to have Sean cast a second set of eyes over her conclusions.

Friday 7 March 2003

╬ At  four a.m. on Friday morning Dee gathered her rapidly acquired information and analysis on Mark, drawing on the libraries of Columbia University, Princeton, and others, gathering details regarding his possible biography.  Using computer dictation to quickly fit these details together as if they were jigsaw pieces, she began to reconstruct the story of Mark.

“Perhaps I can put myself in the position of St. Mark,” she thought, “and have him tell his story to St. Luke.”  And so she did.

Dee surmised and described Mark’s circumstances of birth in Cyprus and his awkwardness with Greek.  She envisaged a logging accident which damaged his fingers, leading to his transfer from Cyprus to Jerusalem for medical help – and to his nickname, “Stump-fingered”, or “Stumps.”

She tried to imagine how Mark would have felt and how he would have described it to Luke.  She did her best to visualize how Mark might have dressed, where he would have lived and worked, what he would have eaten, how he would have seen the remarkable situation and individuals around him and the nature of a day in his life.

Noting the emphasis on fear and amazement in the gospel, she characterized him as a small boy for his age.  She described him as having been beaten up at school by a Jerusalem bully boy named Felix.

Having spent the previous day surveying so many reports on violence, she found it easy to imagine aggression and cruelty during the time of Mark.  “Anyway,” she thought, “Since I am now becoming a writer, the spirit takes me to impossible destinations; time is malleable, and fact and fiction merge.”

Then Dee went on to describe Mark as an accountant – a type of work which would not require a great deal of writing from his damaged fingers but would require some writing ability.  As she portrayed him, Mark found even such a limited amount of writing difficult.  He would complete his daily school homework, as Felix had mocked, “when King David returned” – by which Felix meant, ‘Never.’  Even as an adult, his youthful handicap would continue to limit his working ability as an accountant.

“My dear Luke:One of my early memories was this:  My anguished mother rubbed creams onto the bruises which the school bully Felix had caused.  She kept repeating that ‘The way of fists will destroy a person, John Mark.’My mother and some of my relatives liked to use both my Jewish name and my Roman name together.  I think my mother liked the way it tripped off her tongue.  My classmates, like my double-named friend Silas Silvenus, used a nickname for me – Stumps.  The nickname was due to my injured fingers.“Well, I damaged Felix as well,” I thought.  I could still see the dripping red blood of the gash I had opened up across Felix’s eye.  It was my one and only successful blow in defense of myself.  The gash became infected, and took a long time to heal.  It was a prominent disfigurement for which Felix would never forgive me.  He hated me.  I would later find out just how much.Immediately my mother became strangely quiet.  Rhoda – at the time our household slave girl – stood silently at the door, listening. Her long dark hair tumbled down her shoulders.  Rhoda must have been about 12 years old then.  My mother sat in front of me and gazed into my eyes for long minutes with a mysterious look in her eyes.  I remember so clearly the thick, mystical hush between us and around us.  Then she leaned forward and took my hot, unsightly, and battered face into her cool, elegant hands.  She said to me words echoing her favourite psalm –“John Mark, you are God’s gracious gift.  You live within the care of the Most High and dwell under the shadow of the Mighty One.  Yahweh is your safe retreat and your trustworthy sanctuary.  The divine one will rescue you from wild beasts and surround you with angelic wings.  You need not fear any trap, onslaught, or disease, whether by day or night.  The divine word will shield you and be your fortress.  Your own eyes will see wonders, and God will answer your cry.  Yahweh will honour you, and the work of your hands will bring joy to multitudes …”Several years later, I became employed in accounting work.  My awkward hands still dragged on me.  My skill at writing neatly was always slow.  To finish my work, I usually ate supper at my desk.  I stayed at the office until the evening lights in the homes of Jerusalem had started to go out.  Still I could not conclude the day’s work on my own.I coped with my work by offering two or three denarii a week to my dear friend Silas, who worked with me.  He usually refused the money – although there were times he accepted it, when he had built up certain debts!  He arrived early, before office hours began and completed any accounts I had left undone.  Remembering the mockery of Felix and Ananus, who had so tormented me at school, I called Silas by the name “King David”.  I needed the help of my “King David” to accomplish my daily work.When our school class had all finished our schooling, Felix joined the armed guard of the Temple.  He became a leading security officer for the associated civic organizations of the Temple.  One such civic organization was for taxation; another for the registration of births and deaths; and yet another for certain diseases.  Ananus worked in the department which dealt with legal cases.  There were also departments for exchange services and weights and measures.  Not far off other officials focused on economic affairs, including animal sales; water rights, “civil order”; and such matters.Felix was in the department of “Civil Order”.  Not surprisingly, Felix excelled in the field of policing; and he rose rapidly in rank.  Much later, he became a successful soldier in the Roman military.  When Felix received an invitation from a Roman centurion to join his century, he felt it was a great recognition of his violent talents.  Felix accepted immediately, although he had to serve duty on the Sabbath, wear pagan imagery, and offer sacrifices to Caesar.  To Felix, the difference between right and wrong at a practical level was easy.  He saw where the greater force lay and then aligned himself with the greater power.  What he saw as right and wrong had no link with what he saw as stupid religious customs of the Sabbath, oaths, and images.My uncle Barnabas was a great anchor and strength to me during those years.  He hailed from our family forestry farm in Cyprus.  Then there was the logging accident that killed my father and injured my hands.  For the 10 years up to that time of my accountancy work, Uncle Barnabas had come to protect and support my mother and me in my mother’s house in Jerusalem.Then in the year following, my uncle was away from our home–more often than ever before.  We were used to his timber marketing trips to Damascus, but they had not taken up so much time previously.  On the few occasions we saw him he did not say much.   My mother and I respected him too much to ask the reason for the sudden increase in his absences.“Do you think he has found someone special?” I asked my mother.“Mind your own business,” she said.  In due course, we were going to learn the real reason – far different than anything we imagined!Then I had the strangest experience one early spring afternoon – the 16th year of Tiberius Caesar; and on the 10th anniversary of the death of my father in that logging calamity in the Troödos mountains.  Even today, just glimpse of cypress trees or a whiff of the aroma of cypress in furniture reminds me of those terrible logs which took my father and crushed my fingers.The 10th anniversary of my father’s death was a spring afternoon.  It was the sixth day of the week, just before the Sabbath and a week before Passover.The office workers, including Silas, had all left.  I continued with my accounts.  I was trying to finish as much as I could before sunset signalled the start of the Sabbath.  The sun, slowly returning after its winter retreat, was still a good hand or so above the western horizon.In a way I cannot explain, it was as if my stiff hands began to dance, and as if the leaves of papyrus became silken in smoothness.  My pen began to glide and to form not my usual shaking and rather indecipherable digits, but the loveliest fat, square Hebrew characters.Amazed, I worked onwards down the page – and then the next.  In a short time, as if miraculously, the work was suddenly and beautifully complete.  And yet there were still a few fingers of sunshine!For the first time at school or in the office, I finished all my work.  Finished my work!  How sweet it felt to say these words to myself.  Finished my work!  And I could still be home for the Sabbath prayers!Then I walked towards our dwelling, shaking my head in disbelief, and said to myself, “I think heaven has helped me.  Well, now perhaps I can expect to see the real King David!” Little did I realize the meaning which echoed and resonated within my simple sentence.So, Luke, my friend, I have begun to tell you my story, as you asked me to do.  I have described my childhood and beginnings as a young accountant. I will now continue with a most dramatic chapter indeed.”

“Well, I have launched myself on quite an ambitious project!” thought Dee.  “It’s time for me to consult with Patrick and Niamh Sciavelli – and Felicity Wilkins.”   Feeling both the excitement of what she had discovered, but the pressure of the urgent office investigation, she needed their help.  So she forwarded to them the results of her Greek analysis and the work she had done on Mark’s story and invited them to dinner in the early evening at a restaurant on Lexington Avenue and 93rd Street.

╬ At the office, Dee found there had been movement on the investigation.  It was movement which made her feel very uneasy.

“I’m at the airport and checking onto a flight to London,” said Sean over a secure telephone connection, the encoding equipment giving his voice a halting and unpleasantly metallic echo.

“Mossad has located Samuel Tariq in London, using the information we extracted and passed to them,” said Sean.

“Information extracted from some unfortunate soul or souls,” thought Dee.

Sean described Tariq as a devoted member of his mosque and a lecturer in management accounting at the University of London.  There was a cell group of some kind which gathered in his home.  A boarder in his home worked in some influential role in British Petroleum, BP.

“BP must be the energy connection.  I have a U.S. Federal Court judge’s warrant that I am transmitting to you and I’m giving you permission to start working on the guy’s name,” said Sean, “His full name is Samuel Hussein Tariq.”  He spelled it out, and Dee spelled it back to him.

“Okay – I’ve told you all I have right now,” Sean continued.  “Obviously, we are going to have to work closely with the British secret service – MI6, at Vauxhall Cross.  Poor devils are always whining about their cutbacks.  I may be working with Scott Ritter.  It would be great if we could solve it within days, but I have a feeling it could take longer.  You and I can be in regular contact.  I’ll feed you any other names I get.  You weasel out the information and relay it to me.”

Suddenly very alert, Dee buzzed Mickey Tensing.  “I know I said I would come to Chinatown with you at lunchtime,” she said, “But things have built up here a bit.   Can I take a rain check?”

“Sure,” said Mickey.  “Let me know when you have the time.”

When Sean said ‘weasel’, he meant raiding every record extant on a person, whether the record was public, personal, confidential, or secret, at any place on earth.  Dee set to work, unleashing her artificial intelligence programs.

As submarines traverse the oceans with their deadly cargo, her electronic minions attached themselves to normal messages and so crept through password protections.  They silently passed through electronic firewalls, examined existing or deleted files in home computers, servers and hubs, and corporate archives.

The search would return to her every mention of the name of Samuel Hussein Tariq – including birth, schooling, and all kinds of performance records; military history, employment, tax and criminal records; financial transactions, relatives’ and personal correspondence.

In addition, there was the CIA’s telephone listening capacity, which provided, inter alia, a list of his current personal contacts.  Depending on the amount of details required, it could take time – and they certainly wanted as much detail as possible.

She spent most of the day on Friday working on this, and then transmitted a summary of the results to Sean.  The summary was a list of details, not yet assembled into a biography of Tariq. It would reach Sean soon after his arrival in London.  But she could not help having the feeling that they had the wrong person.

╬ On Friday evening, Dee felt there was nothing more she could do for the moment.  So she kept her appointment for a languid dinner with Felicity Wilkins at the Sciavellis’ home.  It overlooked the broad expanse of the Hudson River, and they admired the lights along the New Jersey shoreline.

Dee reviewed with them what she had discovered about Mark and the way she had begun to develop the story of the first decades of his life.

“But I have a lot of pressure at work right now,” said Dee.  Patrick sensed what her statement might mean and nodded slowly, but did not ask further.  He could be the very soul of discretion.

“I’m sure I can help,” said Patrick.  He loved historical novels.  “The Romans have always fascinated me. I sometimes wonder what Emperor Claudius would think about our modern police and military!”

By the end of dinner, Felicity offered to develop a biographical outline of the last 15 years of Mark’s life.  “There is quite a lot of information regarding the interlinking of Paul’s letters,” said Felicity, “along with factors in Mark’s Gospel.  The dates and places involved are a matter of weighing many clues and probabilities.  It is complex stuff, so let me handle the job.”

They talked late into the evening.  A chocolate strawberry dessert prompted Patrick and Niamh to commit themselves to working on some of the Roman figures in Mark’s story, actual figures like those they had just been discussing – procurators like Pontius Pilate, Sergius Paulus and Gallio; the women, like Herodias and Calpurnia; Tetrarchs like Philip and Herod; and “the Emperor” – or the series of Roman emperors during those years.

“I can develop a couple of representative fictional characters, to shape out the social setting and personal experience of the Mediterranean in the period,” said Niamh.

Dee was relieved to have them rallying around her, and she felt delighted.  “So we are a team, then!  We still have more than a month to workshop our presentation.  Niamh – give Sergius Paulus a wife and call her Portia,” said Dee.  “I can see her in my mind’s eye already!  It’s almost as if I know her.”

“Well, it’s Saturday tomorrow.  I have a whole day for it,” said Niamh.  I’ll do something and you let me know what you think.”

“Thanks, Niamh.  You probably have this information,” said Dee, writing down websites, access codes, and book titles, “But here is how you can access Columbia and other libraries on the Internet.”

Then they parted for their homes, happy to have shared such a lovely evening together.

╬ The executioner and his group passed the northern border of Kenya.  “About halfway now,” he thought.  Tired but determined, they journeyed on.

Saturday 8 March 2003 — CIA Office, Eastern Midtown, New York City

╬ Since  they had been up so late into the Friday evening, Dee woke late on Saturday morning.  She had breakfast and went directly to work at her CIA office.  When she reached her desk at eight a.m., she reviewed her report to Sean.  There was additional information from other CIA operatives who had arrived during the night before.  Gathering all the information together, she began typing:

Samuel Tariq is Islamic and a lecturer in management accounting at the University of London.  He originally trained at YeshivaUniversity in Israel.  He then moved to the UK for his postgraduate work and his initial teaching appointment.  He and his Welsh wife Rhyl have two young children – a girl and a boy.

She listened in as Tariq telephoned his mother that day from his office at the University of London.   Dee thought he had a pleasant-sounding voice.  On her screen in New York, she read the office memos he sent the day before in London and also an email from him to Rhyl regarding an invitation to a graduation dinner.

In Dee’s office work, there was no room for squeamishness (“like a surgeon,” Dee thought) and she had steeled herself to shelve all scruples.  “The truth is the truth,” she repeated to herself in an attempt to soothe her conscience, “whether it convicts or exonerates.”   She kept typing, page after page.  At his London Hotel, Sean received a dossier on Samuel Tariq containing more information than Samuel himself could have named.

Dee was responsible for gathering the information, but not for the CIA’s executive evaluation of the information.  Nevertheless, she inserted her own comment.  “If there is anything amiss with Tariq, it does not appear in this dossier.  He does have a group meeting in his Hounslow, London home every Wednesday evening, however.  You will see several of their names listed.  I don’t believe I have all the names yet.”

Then, on the telephone with Sean, Dee could tell from his tone of voice he was irritated.  He displeased with the lack of damning information on Tariq and the lack of any leads arising from the rest of Dee’s research during the week past.  Dee could hear the displeasure and tension in his voice.

“Well – perhaps other methods will produce something more.  I am working with a team here on surveillance,” he said.  “Please do your… research, again… with the name of Peter Ronald Holmes.  Holmes is boarding with Tariq, and Holmes works at BP.  Let’s see what comes up.”

When she returned home on Saturday evening, Niamh had already transmitted to Dee’s home computer the beginnings of a story about Portia:

“The historian narrates:“In the 37th year of the principate of Caesar Augustus in Rome, Sulpicia gave birth to the only child of herself and Gratus, whom they named Portia.  It had been a difficult pregnancy and delivery – a delivery which compromised the young mother’s health from then onwards.When Portia was five years old, Sulpicia suffered a wasting disease which left her crippled.  Displeased by her pitiful body and awkward physical movements, Sulpicia’s husband Gratus neglected and soon emotionally abandoned his wife, although they continued with the formal show of a marriage, since it was to their mutual benefit.Sulpicia became bitter and cantankerous.  Increasingly, she left Portia’s nurture to the household slaves.As Portia reached the end of a solitary girlhood, she wondered at her reflection in the mirror – the rounded budding of her teenage breasts, and the swaying motion of her hips as they rotated or even floated above her long, shapely legs.Portia’s uncle, Sulpicia’s brother Lepidus, was married to Selena.  Lepidus’s father had arranged for his son a largely fictional military service.  Then, Lepidus served in a mediocre way as a quaestor in the financial section of the Roman government.In the expected process of political development for established families, Lepidus became an aedile, an office through which he awarded contracts for public building projects and so gathered supporters.  In due course, he could evolve into a curule aedile, as Julius Caesar himself once was.  In that position, he could allocate ever larger portions of government money – for example, in terms of the grain supply to Rome.  So Lepidus was a powerful political player in the making.Lepidus found his niece, young Portia, irresistible.  To Portia, Lepidus was a trusted family figure. Lepidus moulded his visits to Portia’s home around the absences of Sulpicia, praising Portia constantly and discovering it easy to prey on her yearning for affection.The first time Portia experienced the predatory Lepidus caressing and stroking her body beneath her clothing was an incredible shock for her.  Yet the experience was also a novel sensation, along with an insane and wild appeal.  After the riot of feeling she experienced, she accused herself– “It is surely I myself who is bad.”Frightened, she tried to avoid Lepidus.  At those times she thought he might appear, she went boating or shopping.  The day came, however, on which Lepidus found Portia in her bedroom.  Her remembrance of the event was being pinned down by his weight.  She shrieked as he entered her, unable to evade his crude, forceful, and brutal invasion into the most interior places of her being.  Something was scarred in her spirit that day.The next day Portia found it difficult to move normally.  Eventually she found Sulpicia in the reception area of their home.  Portia, sitting at an angle on the couch, stared at her feet.  She tried to find the words to say something – anything – about what had taken place.  She was unable to articulate what had happened.Sulpicia, arrested, gazed back into the eyes of her daughter and somehow realized what she was trying to express.  “Lepidus…?” said Sulpicia.  Portia looked down mutely.  Portia understood the implicit message:  There could be no conversation between them on the subject.  Later on, Sulpicia had a slave arrange for an extremely private medical visit.When Portia had healed, Lepidus returned.  After months of such a cycle as this, Portia felt an evil tide swelling within her.  But later on she began to actually enjoy his attentions, then to anticipate them, and then to desire him – in the often curious and complex bond between a maiden and the first man with whom she is intimate.  Her desire for him finally turned even to Portia’s sense of competition with Lepidus’s wife, Selena, as Portia would flaunt her youthful body, in revealing clothing, in the presence of Lepidus and Selena.One day, when Lepidus arrived, he found his elder sister Sulpicia waiting for him at the gate.  “Why — hello, my sister! What a … pleasant surprise to see you!” he warbled.“Lepidus,” said Sulpicia grimly, “She is only a young girl.”“What can you mean, Sulpicia?” asked Lepidus, as smoothly as he could manage.“You know what I mean,” said Sulpicia.  “And she is… she is…” her voice cracked, “By Juno, she is my daughter, my only child!”  Then she wept and wept.In silence, Lepidus turned and left.  But he did not stop.  His own soul had been scarred as a child by something similar he had experienced from his own oversexed nursemaid – and no member of the family, Sulpicia included, had done anything to help him.“It is just life,” he thought to himself, “whether or not Sulpicia is prepared to acknowledge it.”   Then, it being difficult for Lepidus to visit their home, Portia herself connived in their meeting in hidden places.Portia discovered something almost magical!  She could easily signal to men – and amazingly, to women as well – her capacity for intimacy.  In so doing, she found she could directly and immediately gain every pleasure and privilege – and even, indeed, real property!While the men of her family had mastered the military, Portia adroitly exploited the erotic.  She found she could steer in one direction or another whole enterprises or political decisions– launched with just one intense, focused look into the eyes, one tender touch.Her darkening interior world left her confused, a wandering planet.  Sometimes there were terrifying dreams.  Eventually, however, the gloomy dreams receded.  She had become a sheer, stunningly beautiful egg of stone.  Her initial stimulation in her range of strange liaisons leached away.  Her frequent use of the bottles in her father’s large cellar further eroded her inner being.  To her, the word ‘Trust’ came to mean almost nothing; and ‘Loyalty’, ‘Respect’ and ‘I believe’, seemed like those silly things one tells small children.Her mother Sulpicia knew or suspected most of these things.  Similar stories were not unknown among the families of Rome.  She thought often about what might be the right match for Portia.Then, by virtue of her social circle, Sulpicia acquired premier seating at a procession of Triumph in Rome.  Sulpicia felt she could claim, if nothing more, the credit for the day Portia encountered Sergius Paulus.  From a balcony, they watched Sergius leading his legion towards the Senate buildings.  He was an accomplished, handsome, and strapping soldier.  He was gorgeously turned out in his officer’s uniform.  He exuded strength, courage, and a sense of nobility.  Furthermore, he was a nephew of one of the generals in Gaul – the general being personally liable for all emoluments of his troops.When, by chance, Sergius glanced in her direction, he noticed a beauty, leaning over a parapet, gazing at him and smiling.  Startled, he almost dropped his sword, and it required intense concentration for him to carry out his duties in an orderly manner.Sulpicia and Gratus noticed Portia raptly staring at the young officer.  Gratus whispered to her, “His family are Romans from Cordoba in Spain.  His father is the famous Roman Senate speaker, Marcus Lucius Annaeus Seneca.  At the Senate, they call the father Seneca the Elder, for he has a widely known elder son, also named Seneca.  Like his father, Seneca the Younger is more of the scholarly type.  The young god before you, Sergius Paulus, the second son, has every promise of a magnificent military career ahead of him.”“And also,” thought Gratus, “the perfect new proposition for my business concerns.”Gratus used his material endowments to encourage the relationship.  The rise of Sergius Paulus was meteoric.The stage was set with an invisible silken net in the air.  Within his restricted – if not naïve – philosophy of life and relationships, Sergius Paulus thought he was proposing marriage to Portia.  Of course, he was simply caught within powerful and invisible arachnid strands, sliding down a silken chute into the schemes of a wily spider.With the fully engaged abilities and contacts of Sulpicia, irresistible Portia soon executed a large society wedding. As his relative, the famed young Seneca presented Sergius Paulus and gave a brilliant speech afterwards.  Present at the wedding was every family of current prominence in Rome and beyond.Through the years ahead, all of these individuals were to engage with Mark and his friends in various ways, which were to be of the utmost significance.”

When she finished reading, with a feeling of delight, Dee took a shower and a light supper of rolls, cheese, and cold meats with her to bed.

“That Niamh can write some really hot stuff,” she thought.


Chapter 4: A Chasm of Energy, A Gathering Storm

“When storm clouds brood on the towering heights

Of the hills of the Chankly Bore”

Edward Lear.  The Dong with the Luminous Nose, 1877, st. 1

“Tomohrit, Athos, all things fair

With such a pencil, such a pen

You shadow forth to distant men,

I read and felt that I was there”

Tennyson.  To E.L., On His Travels in Greece

Sunday 9 March 2003.  Upper West Side, New York City

╬ Still thrilled  by what Niamh had written, early on Sunday morning, the first Sunday of Lent, Dee dictated an appreciative email to Niamh into her computer microphone.

Dee felt a surge of joie de vivre and a fascination with how the story of Mark would develop.  She felt a wild rush of shared creative vigor among the four of them – Patrick, Niamh, Felicity, and herself.  The feeling reminded her of her college-days work at Intel in California.  It reminded her of the beehive-like nature of the work at the Bleecker Street excavation, which she had watched on her way to work on the past Wednesday.

“What can I describe now?” she wondered, sitting at her keyboard with Arun in her lap.

It being Sunday, the commemoration of the resurrection, she gathered up her courage to describe the critical element of the resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples.

Glancing at her watch, she saw she had a few hours before the hour of the service at St. Clement’s Church.  She took a deep breath, leaned back in her seat, closed her eyes, and tried to envision what Mark had seen and felt while living at his mother’s home in Jerusalem, the Cenacle.

Then she began to dictate into the microphone.

My dear Luke:

There was that frightful crucifixion of Jesus, with everything entailed.  Rumors were flying.

Then, one week after Passover, all of Jerusalem immediately heard of that first meeting of his followers at our home.  More than 500 people appeared that morning.  It was amazing.

Some of them, surely, were among the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem a couple of weeks before, riding on a donkey.  Surely, that event was kind of strange!  I still wonder about it.  Did that mean he was approaching Jerusalem as a humble pilgrim that they were admiring? Or as a victorious king that they were acclaiming?  What did he think it was? What did they think it was?  Can anyone know, now?  Then just a few days later, his trial as a blasphemer and a rebel, and his dreadful execution at the end of that fateful week.

Our home, the Cenacle, was – is – not small.  Those who came filled the building as well as the garden outside.  There were as many people as there might be at a huge wedding or funeral.  That very large crowd of people, all standing, filled the stairs, the lobby, the grounds, and the upper room.

The crowd poured into the house.  We kept taking furniture out of the way to make more space.  Then the people filled the garden.  The largest part of the throng stood outside the gate! No one could get in or out.  You would have to go through the roof.  It was a fresh spring morning.  The temperature was agreeable inside the house, at least for a while.

Peter looked uncertain.  He looked at James to his right – who stood up and started the meeting with prayers and the singing of psalms.  The sound of the singing and the amazing multitude of prayers, like a river of praise, will live with me forever.  Around the people of Jesus, I realized one should expect the unexpected!

Most were Jews, coming from different ethnic groups.  So, to make it easier for everyone, the scripture readings included a section from the Greek version scroll of Isaiah.  Then James, with my Uncle Barnabas sitting on his right-hand side, broke a loaf of bread I had baked.  He was about to pass around the loaf of bread and a cup of wine.

But then something happened which none of us will ever be able to forget.  To explain it, allow me to call upon something which may be with you too.

Once, as a child, I had a dream of a dark night in our family estate, the forest at Cedrus, on the Troödos Mountains of Cyprus. I knew I was alone and yet I was suddenly convinced there was someone behind me.  Every hair stood up on end.

In my dream, someone was there at my back.  I had to look back, but was too petrified to do so.  I heard a small sound and began to turn around, but I was bound within something as thick as syrup or malt.  Slowly I managed to turn, my eyes searching the darkness behind.  There was a deep shadow there, a small movement, a low sound.

Some awesome power was present in the deep, dark shadow.  The almost invisible, huge being had the power to annihilate me in a moment by barely touching me.  I saw a gleam in dark eyes.  I tried to scream, but every muscle was frozen.  My skin was covered with ice cold, clammy sweat, and my mouth was dry.  Have you had a dream like that?

Or, my dear friend Luke, have you ever damaged something so valuable there was no chance of your ever restoring the damage, or repaying it?  You broke a priceless vase.  Something you did led to the destruction of a building.  You damaged the high reputation of a widely recognized organization.  You compromised the sanctity of your relationship with a relative or an intimate relationship in some way.  You were responsible for the loss of life.

Then the moment came to face those harmed by the damage you caused, harmed in a way which would affect them forever.  How could you dare to exist before them, bear to be in their presence?  You wanted to dig a hole in the ground and crawl into the hole.

But then you heard a gentle, deeply caring voice.  ‘Please, do not concern yourself about this.  I am sure you did not intend any harm.  Let us leave it behind and go forward.’

If you can imagine feelings of such a kind – a hidden power in the darkness, the relief and grateful humility arising from forgiveness – then you might imagine what it was like for us suddenly to see Jesus standing next to James.

For just after James broke the bread, there was a gasp throughout the huge gathering of people.  I shrieked in fear, for there at the table, we all saw Jesus himself standing beside James.  The person we saw was like Jesus and yet not like him.

He had the bodily size, shape, and features of Jesus, but to look at him was like looking into the mystery of an abyss, or chasm of tremendous pulsing energy.  It was like looking into the silent, enormous power within a kiln or furnace.

In a low, whispering voice which carried from one end of the property to the other, Jesus spoke.  There was a river of thick silence, between each thing he said.  “Do not be afraid.  My peace is with you.  Look, I am going to be with you; each of you; in this moment and every moment, until the end of the age.  I will never leave you alone.  Go out.  Share with everyone.  Tell them God has already cleansed you, whatever you may have done, or even will do.  Say what you know:   God has already filled you with life.  Share the news that I am coming back again soon.  People will strike at you in many different ways, just as they struck me.  But at every moment of persecution, I will help you.  The Spirit of God will give you strength; will give you the grace of love, of silence, or of every word you are to say.”

Then Jesus himself took a piece of bread and ate it and drank from the cup.  We all watched the piece of bread disappear into his mouth.  The burning, mighty, shadowed Jesus looked at each of us with some great gaze of love, then slowly turned and was gone – yet we knew we were not alone and would never be alone again.

There was a moment of silence, followed by a tumult of people whispering to each other, as the bread and the cup circulated throughout the gathering.  When I ate and drank, it was as if a prickly heat went from my toes and fingers, all the inwards to my heart, and then up through my neck and into my head.  As some received the bread, or the cup, they cried out aloud, “I am healed!  Thank God, I am healed!”

My dear Luke, it is hard for me to explain what touched our hearts, those hundreds of people in Jerusalem.  When I try to understand it, I have imagined the Maccabees, a century before at a turning point in our history.  Judas Maccabeus understood the hearts of the people and made not just one more speech, but in what he said, resonated with the hearts of the people of Israel.  His words met with a mighty ‘Yes’ from all who heard them and drew our ancestors together to fight, no matter what the cost.  For, although there was such a huge threat from the evil power of Antiochus, yet his words touched a chord with the people who joined him in an inexplicable way, careless of their lives.

It must have been something like those Maccabean days in the moment of our encounter with the risen Jesus.  We knew the officials had had him crucified.  Roman or Jewish, who knows?  The government, anyway… seems the same everywhere.  Why?  In the grip, perhaps, of fear or jealousy.  At one time Jesus was invisible and of no account to them; then, suddenly, he looked like competition, which they would not accept at all. They stamped hard on him.

We knew that even his disciples had deserted him in terror, just as I did, to my shame.  Yet all his words rang and have continued to ring in the hearts of children, of women and of men, of every kind.  Without the need for proof, they simply know the words of Jesus are true; the truest thing which they have ever heard.

I must say that I was a little bothered to find the small springtime buds on my carefully pruned rose garden being trampled by the crowd in the garden.  Those many feet reduced the vain promise of my roses into a flattened mess.  Without repenting, some shot apologetic looks in my direction when they saw me watching at the door as they left.

I am glad to know there will be several different meetings next week and that our house might not be quite so besieged!

Something was moving, far beyond a matter of gardens and roses, or the arrangement of accommodation.  Nothing was settled or normal.  Alexander and Rufus, sons of Simon, were there in Jerusalem, were visiting from their home town of Cyrene in Libya.  They put it in an interesting way.

“It is as if we are in one of the khamsin or sirocco winds in the desert,” they said.  “Those winds lift, transport, and overturn mountains and all the things of earth.  God has started something far beyond the imagining of any of us.  It has not ended with the final breath of Jesus or his garden tomb.  Rather, like the khamsin, it is increasing in the passion of its action.  How long can it be before the end of time?”

So, my dear friend Luke, I have written for you the dramatic chapter of the death of Jesus and his resurrection.  Next, I will tell you what happened subsequently to us in Jerusalem!

Dee copied what she had written to Felicity, Niamh, and Patrick.  Then she had breakfast, and, bidding farewell to her cats, Arun and Angkor, walked down in her long and wandering way to church at St. Clement’s.  At church, she thanked Niamh again for what she had written about Portia.

Niamh looked down and said, “I experienced something of the kind myself, you know.”

Dee waited quietly, listening for her story, when she was ready.  Dee watched the sadness and pain on her friend’s face.  She slipped her hand into Niamh’s hand and her arm around her shoulders as Niamh began to weep quietly.  Dee saw the streams of tears running down Niamh’s cheeks and dripping onto her coat.  She did not intrude with a question, but simply offered her friend a tissue.  The time would come.  There was no point in hurrying that time.

╬ Addressing the readings on the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus, it being the first Sunday of Lent, their Pastor Mary spoke about the death and resurrection of baptism and of the temptations involved in everyday life.  Pastor Mary pointed out the symbols of death and resurrection in the sanctuary, including the cross, their baptismal bowl, and the bread and wine of the Eucharist itself.

“The baptismal bowl needs cleaning,” whispered Niamh, still dabbing at her nose and eyes.  Dee, however, just smiled and nodded, her mind elsewhere now.  Dee was thinking about the way her own daily work sometimes involved her in a kind of dialogue with the devil, somewhat similar to what Jesus had experienced during his temptation.

Over coffee after the service, standing with Patrick and Niamh, Dee discussed her reflections on Mark and the resurrection, which she had circulated to their little group.  “Well – we really are working up quite a head of steam!” exclaimed Niamh.

What the four of them were doing in their shared writing project was not an unusual activity in the community around St. Clement’s.  From time to time, an off-Broadway playwright would workshop a new play in their church building.  Members of the congregation had also written and presented theatrical works in the building.  Niamh, Patrick, and Dee were usually part of an appreciative audience for such efforts, but had never themselves taken the particular leap of writing something creative.  Such an enterprise was quite different from Dee’s daily work, and she felt a little scared and brave.

“Whew!” said Dee, looking at Niamh intently. “We are putting our own beings out in front of others.”

“Writing such a story is not the same as my journalism work,” said Niamh. “With this more creative stuff I find new parts of myself.  And, difficult as the journey may be, perhaps one becomes healed as these matters see the light of day.”

“She must be referring to whatever horrible thing happened to her,” thought Dee.  “I wonder if Patrick knows about it.”  But Dee did not intrude.

╬ After Sunday lunch with Melissa and her family, Dee drove back to her office and read through the reports resulting from the weasel search on Holmes.  Trying to shake off what seemed to be a gathering sense of discomfort with such CIA work, she read through information describing Holmes as a chemical engineer – a graduate of a university in Birmingham in the UK.

A few threads of information suggested further investigation: he had an American girlfriend who was working in the Peace Corps in India; an active membership in Amnesty International; and he had participated in marches against U.S. cruise missiles in the UK.  The latter led to the arrest of Holmes at one point.

Dee noticed with amusement the information regarding his purchases at sports equipment outlets, and his holidays in Scotland.  Holmes evidently enjoyed trout fishing.  She wondered what it was like.  It sparked her imagination and she imagined herself and Christopher tickling brown trout or rainbow trout in some cold dark stream, or artfully rolling fly fishing lines across small lochs at the foot of green Scottish mountains.

Dee pictured her and Christopher sipping single malt whisky in front of a log fire in a small village hotel, listening to the thick accents of the inhabitants as they advised them about all the best places to fish and how to go about it.

“Perhaps we could have investigated the Loch Ness Monster together!  The life we could have lived!” she thought to herself.

Holmes’s working records with British Petroleum – his only employment since college – showed him to be a steady, hard worker who got along well with his colleagues.  Since much of his attention seemed directed towards the North Sea oil rigs, Dee imagined he probably dealt with many different types of people.

The oil extraction technology in the difficult conditions of the North Sea was amongst the most advanced in the world, she knew, so he probably had many very significant working relationships.  His work reviews encouraged his superiors to maintain a steady process of promotion.

“Could he have been radicalized in some way?” she wondered.

Dee reviewed Holmes’s financial records – whether banking, consumer, commercial, or with the revenue service in the U.K.  The records showed nothing remarkable and appeared to be reasonably consistent with one another.

“In fact,” she thought, “He could probably claim back more than he does from the tax receiver.”

Dee leaned back to think about Holmes.  He might well be in a position to inflict damage of the kind referred to in the mysterious message.  There was his opposition to the cruise missile bases to consider.  Exactly how antagonistic was he towards US-U.K. military cooperation?

One had to be realistic – there were quite a number of people in Britain and Europe who were thoroughly opposed to capitalism and to related bodies, whether governmental or corporate.  Yet she knew if she worked on an investigation that was too vigorous, his career could well be ruined, even if he was completely innocent. Dee half-heartedly began to check out Holmes’s girlfriend and then decided to go for a walk.

She meandered down to the East River.  Leaning against a railing, she looked at the waves and the boats and ships going up and down the river.  She considered herself as no more than an amateur in history, but she thought of the enduring struggles between those in authority and those who resisted such authorities through the ages.

“Who was wrong and who was right?  Was each of the ancient Roman and Saxon invasions of Britain a ‘Good Thing’, or a ‘Bad Thing’?  Was Bonhoeffer’s attempt to assassinate Hitler a ‘Good Thing’ or a ‘Bad Thing’?” she wondered.

For herself, Dee would have said ‘Good Thing’ to each of those.  Yet she would have judged many other invasions and assassinations as thoroughly wicked.  The gaping wound of Ground Zero a few blocks behind her, where the World Trade Center had once stood, evoked a deep anger in her.

“I suppose one can only know centuries after the fact,” she thought, “but we have to decide right now.”   At such times she questioned herself about how to be sensible in what she did about Holmes and prayed for guidance.

By the time she returned to the office, she had decided the entire ‘weasel’ search process had reached far enough into Holmes’s life.  A normal search had produced no suspicious relationships, no unusual trips, no odd expenditures, no threatening ‘hobbies’ and she felt she was not justified in making any further intrusion into his life.

She drew the various reports together, formed a conclusion, and forwarded the information to Sean.

She hesitated one last time.  “What if Holmes happens to be doing something so sly as to be hidden so far and yet turns out to be part of something extremely damaging?” she wondered.  She sat in thought for several minutes more, revising the reports on her screen, looking for anything she might have missed.  She thought of the McCarthy era in the U.S., of their hauling in of the Hollywood 10, of the way innocent lives had been destroyed and of the acrimony within the nation.

“Oh, for the gift of more wisdom,” she thought.

Dee expanded her concluding comment into a more elaborate statement on why she thought Holmes’ girlfriend and the cruise missile protest did not form a threat or a reasonable basis for further investigation.  She warned of the risk of alienating foreign countries if an investigation went too far, was incorrect, and became public.  Finally, she made a personal comment, a kind of individual affidavit, saying the search had not produced anything suspicious about Holmes.  If he was implicated, there was no evidence of it.

“In my opinion,” Dee wrote, “we should leave Holmes alone and spend the energy on any other possibilities we can find.”

Monday 10 March 2003 — Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

╬ Early  on Monday morning, Dee rose and dispelled her anxiety with the welcome diversion of her writing on Mark.

“I wonder what the main things were in those first 10 years after the resurrection,” she thought.  “There were the synagogues, of course; Stephen and his deacons; the intrusion of the Roman governors into their lives; and the executions of Stephen and James.

“I think Mark was a family man – so it must have been within that period that he married.”

She was goaded by Pastor Mary’s reflections on the baptismal bowl and other furnishings in church. Dee decided to begin by describing Mark’s connection with the synagogues of his time.

She described the importance of the synagogue as a place of teaching in connection with Moses, as a revered, compelling national leader.  She portrayed the synagogue as a place of commercial dialogue between Jewish tradesmen and craftsmen, and also as a hospitality brokerage for first century Jewish Christian travelers.

Dee depicted the furnishings of the synagogue — the menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand, the Ner Tamid, the perpetual flame before the Ark, which contained the scrolls of the Torah; and the elevated platform, or bimah on which the scroll of the Holy Scriptures was unrolled and read.

╬ In a different or contrary direction from all her deeply thoughtful reflections on Richard Holmes and on Mark, Dee heard from Sean on Monday.

“Mossad is describing Samuel Tariq as bad news,” said Sean in his harsh and staccato speech.  “They gave me photographs of Tariq meeting Libyan terror figures.  The Israeli courts convicted a cousin of his for an attempted bombing in Jerusalem.”

Dee was stunned – but quickly tried to gather herself together.  She felt suspicious. “Can they give you the dates and places of any such meetings that they photographed?” asked Dee.  “Who appeared with Samuel Tariq in those photos?”

“I’ll ask them,” said Sean.  “But we are looking at the firmest evidence we have so far for someone who might be responsible for an upcoming attack, or know something about who is responsible.  From what Mossad says, it looks as if Tariq could have a motive.

“Let’s face it, Dee, this puts a different light on Tariq’s connection with Holmes – the ‘energy’ connection – even if, as you say, you can’t find anything on Holmes.  Holmes must also know a lot about the infrastructure of the oil business – which gives Tariq the means, opportunity, and contacts.

“The bits all fit.  I’m getting pressure from the White House to come up with something soon.  If Tariq is planning something and we miss it, there will be absolute hell to pay.  The British surveillance team has a photograph of another man in Tariq’s apartment.  Find out who he is.”

When Dee received the photograph of the man in Tariq’s apartment, she went to work on it.  Although initial searches would yield some results very quickly, it would take at least an hour for her to receive anything worthwhile from a weasel search into foreign governmental files.

╬ While she waited, Dee decided to drop in on a farewell function for the Vice President of CHIMe Labs, who was retiring at the end of the month.

The Vice President of CHIMe Labs, Hugh Bateman, had served the company well.  Mickey Tensing gave one of the three speeches, in which he reviewed Hugh’s scintillating record of service and achievement.

There were about 60 people present at the function held in a reception room downstairs with a fold-away door connecting to the boardroom.  The caterers had done a magnificent job with huge bouquets of flowers.

Mickey had arranged for a series of large poster-photographs of key moments in Hugh’s career.  He had also set up the surprise of having invited some of the people from those moments especially for the occasion.

Dee was particularly struck with the way in which Hugh had pulled the company through times – like the breakup of the parent company – which had threatened the whole organization and the careers of many of those who worked for the organization.

Hugh had been a hard worker and a wise man, with a depth of vision, courage, and fortitude.  It was good to see Cynthia Bateman, his wife, glowing with happiness as she sat near him during the event.  The whole thing made Dee proud to be associated with CHIMe Labs.

The incoming vice president, Anthony Hulley, was courteous and sage enough to spend most of his speech praising Hugh.  Yet they were all curious about the future.  Dee was interested to hear the increasing emphasis to be placed on voice- and language-oriented automation.

“I certainly do agree with Anthony Hulley,” said Dee to Mickey as they sipped their drinks after the speeches.  “But of course, while you do have to choose a direction of some kind, an emphasis, you still have to continually evaluate whether it is still the correct bet.”

“I think it probably is the way forward,” replied Mickey.  “We are getting good responses from our trial products and software in the category.  The Department of Motor Vehicles, for one example among more, has been able to double their productivity since installing six months ago voice-driven computation to deal with the public.  Which company would not want to double their productivity?  What could go wrong?”

“Well, you know me, Mickey.  I am always a bit cautious.  Who knows where the storms will come from?  Let’s say there is a market downturn, for example – touch wood,” she said, touching her own head. “It won’t occur.  As leading-edge software people, people like us are a bit like architects – the first to take the hit if suddenly companies have to curb their expenditures.”

Dee was thinking of the cutbacks in Britain that Sean had mentioned.  The same cutbacks could occur in the U.S.

“So perhaps we have to keep up those products – say on the educational side, office PABX systems, or corporate networking solutions – things sure to sell through thick and thin.

“Look at the dotcom companies,” said Dee, reflectively. “Yes, for the electronic visionaries they should have worked and perhaps they still will, one day – but actually, many people still prefer face-to-face shopping, rather than computer images of the products.  Research, development, and innovation is great.  I’m all for it, we’re all for it here.  But it can be risky and I would hesitate to bet the farm on it.

“Anyway,” she said, anxiously glancing at her watch, “I have a situation building up at work, so I had better get back.  Thanks for inviting me Mickey.  All the best with Anthony Hulley – it’s been so good to hook up with friends!”

╬ On returning to her office, Dee discovered a report had reached her desk regarding the photograph she had received from Sean.  Trying to mentally set aside her discussion with Mickey, she read through the new material and quickly prepared a statement for Sean.

“On the photo of the man in Tariq’s apartment,” she informed Sean, “We found a match of the photo on an Israeli driver’s license record some years ago.  His name is Moshe Meir.  But strangely, there is no subsequent information.  It’s as if he disappeared from their records – perhaps left Israel and went somewhere else.

“On a lecturer’s home computer in Jerusalem, I found an undergraduate university academic report as well.  Moshe was evidently a summa cum laude in physics at Yeshiva University.  I can’t find any more information on him – for example, nothing in Yeshiva’s own records.

“There’s no credit card information, no birth record, nothing.  And there’s nothing in the UK immigration records – but don’t tell them I looked!  So it is a mystery as to how he arrived at the home of Samuel Tariq in London.  Meir is a very ghostly figure.”

“Hmm,” said Sean in response, on the secure telephone line.  “Well, Dee, you have to concede your original assessment of Tariq as a normal citizen is wearing thin.”   He asked her to send him as much information as possible on anyone else in the group.

Dee went to work on the other members of the group and steadily passed on all the information she acquired.

One name worried her deeply, however – Shahida Hejira.  Dee launched the weasel checks on the other members of the group and forwarded the results to Sean.  She omitted the name of Shahida Hejira.

For a long time, she stared at the name of her school friend.  The words of Mary Locke flashed through her mind.  Dee wondered whether the challenge of whether to run a check on Shahida was her own dialogue with the devil.  “What are you doing, Shahida?”  thought Dee.  “Even if you are doing nothing, would you be opposed to my using these secret measures to establish your innocence?”

╬ Dee shilly-shallied over what to do about Shahida, but she knew that she had very little time to come to a decision.

Meanwhile, she heard from her uncle in Damascus. “From 50 sample drillings,” he wrote, “three have shown signs of archaeological remains.  These three drillings include stone samples which could be something like cobblestones, which four separate tests can place in the first century.   The type and thickness of stone might indicate some form of paving.  It looks like we have the evidence we need.”

Over the last week, as Dee had been plundering the libraries during her dark hours of the very early mornings.  Her reading informed her Cuneiform documents from ancient Mari (modern Tell Hariri) in western Syria had clarified the origins of Old Testament prophecy, the identification of place names, and the concept of tribal nomadismShe was ever more appreciating the concerns of the Damascus museum about her uncle’s building site!

╬ Towards the end of the day, Dee had still not managed to force herself to launch the weasel search on Shahida.  The thought of it made her feel unclean.  There was a small voice within speaking in words like those she had heard from her father regarding the way the western nations were persecuting people from the Middle East.

She decided to follow her heart and told Sean that others in “The Firm” were able to employ her software for what he might need, but she was taking a week off.  “I need to consult with my soul,” she thought.  She went home with a troubled feeling in her spirit, resenting the emotional and moral corner into which her office work had driven her.

For her regular chicken dinner that day of the week, she decided to make a chicken pie.  Following her normal custom, she made two and froze one to take along at a later time to the homeless shelter food collection.

╬ Dee ate her dinner while absorbing the news.  The number of troops gathering around Iraq was huge.  In Kuwait, 100 000 U.S. troops had been in position since mid-February.  Tens of thousands more were moving in from the United Kingdom, Australia, and some from Poland.

Four aircraft carriers were in the Persian Gulf.  F-16 Falcons, Royal Air Force Tornado F3’s, French Mirages, and other aircraft were patrolling from the Prince Sultan Air Base in central Saudi Arabia.  They were enforcing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

On the other hand, the Syrian government had indicated its support of Saddam Hussein.  Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand opposed the war.  Turkey had switched from support to non-engagement.  Millions of people had participated in protests in many places.

Dee noticed she was developing a painful cold sore on her lip.  She went to her medicine cabinet to find something to reduce the pain.

Dee found herself feeling increasingly uneasy and emotionally conflicted.  Chemical weapons had, of course, been discovered in Iraq some years previously.  So it was, of course, possible, yet she did not feel convinced there were weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad.  She worried about Warren, who would soon leave to serve in the military in Iraq.

She did not feel convinced that Tariq, Holmes, and Shahida were involved in plans for violence.  She did not want to join in with something she might regret for the rest of her life.  Yet neither did she want to let down her family and her country, the USA.


[1]That is, the date of the incident in Jerusalem which Mark is about to relate is 30 AD

[2]So now 10 AD


 

Chapter 5: To Serve

“I have felt a presence that disturbs me… A motion and a spirit that impels… and rolls through all things” William Wordsworth Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey (1798) l. 88.

“Elisha wept and answered Hazel of Damascus, ‘You will kill the young of Israel.’  Hazael said, ‘What is your servant, who is a mere dog, that he should do this?’”  2 Kings 8:11-13

 

Tuesday 11 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

╬ Dee felt steadily less attracted to her daily work.  There was something distasteful about reporting on your friend; repellent, disgusting even.  Yet to report to Sean the connection between herself and Shahida could result in a permanent inhibition in her work, security clearance, or more.

Dee wanted to find a way of cleansing her soul of the taint of her CIA work, which clung to her.  It hung on her like the salt and sand of winter roads adheres to a vehicle, eating the outer shell and ruining the interior.

Fighting off gloominess, she felt an urgent desire to clearly and forthrightly experiment with at least some changes in her life.  Had her true vocation been waiting round the corner, waiting for her to glance in its direction?

At the moment she seized upon her new writing project.  She felt as daring as a child crossing a street for the first time.

“Well, Mark, if there is no one else I can talk to, I can talk to you, can’t I?”  Dee thought, on rising  early on Tuesday morning.

She read a message from Felicity.  “I need about another week, perhaps two,” Felicity had written, “To pull together my side of our shared assignment.”

Niamh and Patrick said they would do their next episode on the coming Saturday, which was their free day.

“I want to investigate – to listen to – Mark on the subject of Stephen and his deacons,” Dee said to Niamh on the telephone, trying to find a new and different focus and muse.  Through the hours of Tuesday, she wove together the fragments of research information she had gathered and then dictated Mark’s account. As she wrote, the concentrated work worked on her like a vigorous, healing massage.

“It’s like my journal,” the thought returned again.  “I could almost begin with the words, ‘Dear Diary…’”

-69-

“My dear Luke:The year was about the eighteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar.  By then, there were a large number of believers.  Some of them travelled on account of trading activities, others on account of family matters.There were people going on mission journeys from Jerusalem and returning with amazing accounts.  Peter (Cephas, ‘The Rock’) was a great anchor for us all.  At one meeting in the Cenacle, Peter said this: “There are great challenges arising from the many new believers and all the activities connected with this.”He then proposed a new arrangement.“I believe we should develop this:  In every place we should have a set of deacons, as we do in synagogues.  We should call upon those skilled and experienced in arranging and managing things.  We should ask them to take on the organization of affairs.”This arrangement was a most worthy proposal from Peter.  It was one with which we were already acquainted within our Jewish way of life.  Therefore, there was no real opposition to what he said.  It was quite reasonable.Deacon Rachel rose to speak, and described her several visits to Jakov.  She went into some detail.Jacov was evidently dying of some mysterious disease.  She had known him for many years.  She described how flustered his family members were.  They brought to Jakov every drink and herb they thought might help.  He would take all those mixtures with a smile of gratitude.“I think I am dying,” said Jakov to Rachel, alone.  “My family tells me I will recover, but I think these are my last days.”“Do you feel ready for that journey?” asked Rachel.“I just wish I could see my brother, Malachi.”The days went past and Jakov weakened.  His body was visibly thinner each day.Then mercifully his brother Malachi arrived.  He had traveled all the way from Caesarea Philippi in the north.  He had journeyed with his wife and six children.The entire day, Rachel had welling tears in her eyes.  Children were in and out of Jakov’s bedroom, with things they absolutely had to tell their uncle Jakov.  Sitting by Jakov’s side, Malachi talked about all the exploits of their childhood.Late one evening, as the week drew to a close, Jakov said to Rachel, “I am ready now.”Rachel called Miriam, the wife of Jacov.  The family gathered, linking their hands.  They prayed together and Rachel summoned the courage to lay her hands on Jakov.“Go forth into the love of God, believing child of the Divine One.”All through the night, Rachel came and went; and sometimes stayed.  Before the sun rose, Jacov died.  She prayed there with Miriam and the entire small army of the family.  They ranged from infant to aged grandmother.-70-Along with Deacon Rachel there were other deacons.  There was Michael as well.  Michael told us of his visits to the prison, with Aurelius and Miriam.

Furthermore, Deacons Benjamin, Salome and Sophia were working on collecting food and clothing and sharing it with those who needed such things.

Each day, children in rags, with achingly hungry bodies and haunted eyes, received such loving care with gratitude.  It was hard work – turning the sometimes thin charity of others into packages which had a special fragrance of the grace and the care of God.  All too often those children could be very naughty, fighting amongst each other or stealing each other’s food.

Benjamin and Sophia gave strength to each other, however.  I sometimes overheard their shared gales of laughter as they joked while working.  Such humor, I thought, helped to keep them moving on.

Have you ever been in prison, or sick, or hungry, or naked?  Maybe not.  Or maybe you have been.  If so, you will know what it means – to have – or not to have – someone to care in the name of the love of God.  Perhaps such a caring visitor could not solve the problem.  Yet, at such extremities, the experience of love, or of neglect, lives on in your mind as few other memories do.

Every week, Peter met with Stephen.  Then Stephen met with The Seven Deacons who, in turn, synchronized the activities of all the deacons.

Amongst The Seven and the special gathering of the group of deacons in Jerusalem, Stephen shone with a special light of his own.  He came from a family which had been singularly faithful and decent through the generations, as long as anyone could remember.

Stephen had enormous inner courage, strength of will and directness of speech.  He oozed gentle care.  If he could find a penny in his own pocket – or manage, with his colorful stories, to extract a penny from the pocket of anyone else – he quickly and quietly passed it on to someone who needed it more.

If events and circumstances sometimes caused others of the deacons to waver, they drew on either ‘the Hebrew’ Peter, ‘the rock’; or else, on the enormous inner strength, kindness, personal presence and gentle humor of their dear Stephen, the Greek – or on both of them!

The deacons so effectively carried out their work.  Their information had to be carefully guarded, because if such information reached the Temple authorities or the military, a lot more trouble immediately followed.  If information leaked, then within hours, houses were raided and people dragged off.

Felix and Ananus appeared to be the leading figures in planning such actions against us.  We joked about the limited intelligence of the two of them to protect us all.  Even such a small protection was now removed, however.  They had linked up with Saul in their operations.

So then in Jerusalem, the apostles and especially Stephen, the Seven and their corps of deacons, arranged a daily distribution of food to widows.  We deepened in our idea of sharing what we had.  The widow was a prime concern for all of us.  The position of the widow in our society was a perilous one.

Unlike the Greeks and Romans, our women were excluded from education.  The widow was not permitted to work in normal business structures.  Our Jewish women were either the possession of their fathers, or, subsequently, of their husbands.  This was signified, traditionally, by the veil.

On the other hand, there were certainly prostitutes in Jerusalem.  They were treated in a manner comparable to the way in which tax collectors like Matthew were treated.

-71-

Perhaps those two things – taxes and prostitution – are just as inevitable as each other.  They are equally embraced and equally vilified!  In earlier times, however, prostitutes were taken as a normal part of life in Israel.  For almost all women, there was usually no other station than one of those– dependant daughter, dependant wife, or prostitute.

With the low life expectancy of men – my own father, for example – all too often the father of a single woman might have died.  If a woman was married, her husband may have become physically incapacitated, or may have died.  Or again, her husband may have been taken into slavery (if not she herself), following the cruel conditions after any defeat in war.

If a woman’s husband, father and brothers were dead, enslaved, or absent, she then had no income at all.  Nothing! Furthermore, she would have no capacity, skills, or right to work for income.  Yet she may have had to care for her own children, or for the children of other people!

On the one hand, women were (and are) central to nurturing society in the widest way.  Yet on the other hand, women were often caught in a financially impossible situation.  The result could be seen in Jerusalem.  There, thousands of widows and many thousands of children were living in the most dreadful situations of human misery.

All this was a most important concern of the group of ‘The Seven’.  The Seven included Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus of Antioch.  The Seven all helped to build a group of deacons delivering God’s love to Greek and Jewish widows in Jerusalem.  To see them at work reminded me of a beehive of focussed and happy activity.

Nicanor was the one who anointed my mother’s house with the name ‘The Cenacle’ – or ‘upper room.’  Within homes, there would be the sharing of meals, beds and shelter.  Abroad, they would arrange for anything which might help widows and children with even the smallest crumbs required for life.  They also did everything they could to set up a wide range of services for the sick, for those imprisoned and for their families.

This was then the hallmark of Jesus Way Jews: Little drops of care — a myriad of small acts of men, women and even children sharing their water, or their food; sharing a word of caring; or sharing with one another whatever accommodation had.  The drops of care gathered.  They became a strong current flowing amongst us.  We were expecting the reign of God. And such acts of care were pointers towards the reign of God. Especially for those giving the care, much more than those benefiting.

╬ Dee reviewed what she had written, and made corrections.  With a start, she realized that the time had gone on, that Tuesday morning.  It was the first day of her unilateral declaration of freedom.  She had arranged to attend a lunchtime concert at Julliard with Mickey Tensing.

The half hour program included Albinoni’s G Minor, Bruch’s opus 26 and Barber’s heart wrenchingly beautiful adagio for strings.  As the concert began, Mickey could sense Dee’s inner emotional strain.  He quietly and caringly sat by her and simply allowed the music to work its magic.

Then she bade farewell to Mickey, reaching out impulsively to hug him in gratitude.  Through the afternoon, Dee took a long walk – the best part of seven miles.  At first she went all the way across town to the east, and then uptown, and finally west again through Central Park to her apartment.

╬ As she walked, Dee found herself weighing and reviewing the meaning of her life.  She saw her reflection in the glass of the shops on Fifth Avenue.  She relived her childhood again as she watched the children in Central Park, skating, sailing boats, listening to stories, or touring the petting zoo.  She thought about Christopher.

-72-

Further up Fifth Avenue, she turned into the Metropolitan Museum of Art – the Met – and wandered through the China exhibition there.  She was enthralled.  She stood for long moments by the bronze Wu-Wei horse.  She drifted through the sweet harmony pervading everything in the display and the amazing beauty of the calligraphy.

The large presentation encompassed artifacts from the Shang to the Han dynasties.

“So you, my dear Mark, you might have known some of the products of those Han dynasty people,” she thought, as she read through the charts of information, and the dates.

As she studied the exhibit, Dee felt herself a wraith hovering in the very councils and chambers of those long ago emperors, soldiers and concubines.  She was looking at their wars and intrigues, triumphs and disasters.  She felt herself to be as a passerby on the sidewalk, one who could see something, but not very much, in the partially lit window of a house of an evening.

╬ The experience of the music at Julliard, the art in the Met, and the long walk all combined to soothe Dee and put her own concerns into a broader context.  Finally, risking the darkening dusk, she walked northwards and circled past the calming waters of the reservoir in upper Central Park.  She admired the creamy blossoms of the lovely cherry trees there.  Making it safely through the gathering darkness, she went home to rest.

By Tuesday evening, Dee felt tired, but somewhat healed in her inner places.  She felt balmed and massaged in the inner depths of her soul.

“Perhaps my time with the CIA is ending,” she thought.  “But I wonder if I can manage to withdraw.  Will they let me go, or will there be career punishments?”

She was anxious about the possibility of being turned down in one job application after the next, due to CIA interference.

“By comparison, there are so many people that have worse things to face than I do,” she thought, “But I have to deal with my own demons too.  Melissa needs a lot of support for quite some years to come.  What about Melissa’s bloody father?  Should I call on Hakkim?  Or take him to court? And after all the humiliation and the effort, still get nothing?”

The vision of Melissa’s father, Hakkim, in jail gave to Dee a certain vengeful delight.  But it did nothing to help her resolve the material aspects of the issue.

“If Hakkim goes to jail for nonpayment, it will not necessarily result in him paying anything for Melissa”, she thought. “He hasn’t paid anything for almost twenty years.  How likely is it he will start paying now?  Have a child and pay nothing at all to raise the child.  Do nothing to travel and see the child.  What is that?  I bet Christopher would have been a better man, husband and father than Hakkim.  This horrible marriage was my father’s decision, not mine.”

Her cold sore still hurt, and she put on another treatment of medicating cream.

Dee went to bed and slept uneasily.

She awoke still feeling tired; still sensing that her soul was on a journey with Mark and Stephen.  In her spirit, she felt attuned to their ancient and inspiring journey.  She felt discord, dissonance, and even the coldness of death in following along on Sean’s gloomy and questionable path.

Dee resumed her writing.  After a couple of hours, the first glow of the dawn began to lighten the Wednesday morning sky.

Chapter 6: A Lethal Disease

“Blown with restless violence around the pedant world” Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well  III.i.6

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step” Denis Diderot Essai sur le Merite de la Vertu

Wednesday 12 March 2003.  The Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

╬ Dee’s cats Arun and Angkor were delighted to have their darling mistress more to themselves during those days of her sudden and unplanned leave from her office work.

These were weighty, valuable, costly days for Dee.  They were days during which she could explore an alter ego.  They were days she could ride a magic carpet to a different place, from which she could look back on her life in New York City.  For just a few days, she had claimed the luxury and freedom to reevaluate her life; to make a big decision.

Her journey – and journal – with Mark had already become a space time warp zone.  It was a room which was set aside.  It was a mansion she entered each day.  In that free place, for that moment, she could allow herself to dissolve and be remade, formed again, and created anew.

As Dee worked, she became entranced.  Dee could listen for whispers and intimations from afar, from long ago, which could be trusted.  She could have confidence in them because they had been relied upon so long in so many places.  They had been passed on, hand written, under persecution, from hand to hand.  She could draw confidence from them because those messages had always produced such good fruit, such life, and such health.  Dee needed and wanted all that dependable companionship now.

As she sat down to resume her voyage with Mark on Wednesday morning, Angkor jumped up onto her desk and took up a regal poise between Dee and the screen, as if it was the most natural place for him to be.  Angkor had all four feet on the keyboard, which produced a wild agglomeration of characters streaming out on the screen.

“You are interfering,” Dee said to Angkor.  He gazed at her with his wide blue eyes.  He feigned amazement that she could possibly be expecting him to alter his chosen state. For it was a poise Angkor had calculated to draw her attention.

“I know what you want,” she said and swept him onto her lap.  Delighted, Angkor curled up and went to sleep, gently massaging her thigh with his forepaws, as if he was dreaming again of his days as a kitten.

Arun, on the window sill, was diligent at her post, oblivious to Iraq, Mark, or the CIA.  A misty dawn slowly spread through the streets.  Arun was carefully observing something far more relevant to her, as she took careful note of the activities of all the winged life in the area outside.

Dee left her cats to themselves, and they returned the same respect.  She was fascinated by her subject.  She continued dictating and typing.  She imagined the sadness of Mark in 33 AD at the execution of Stephen.  She envisaged the insidious role of Saul in that dreadful event, as he worked in league with Felix, Ananus and Caiaphas.

-75-

My dear Luke:Caiaphas’ slave girl Huldah told us these details of her master Caiaphas’ conversation.  It was an interview upon which she shamelessly eavesdropped in his home, during his meeting with Felix, Saul, and Ananus.  Within earshot of the door, Huldah listened very carefully, as she folded and refolded the same linens over and over again.“It is Stephen whom we need to eliminate,” said Felix.  “Stephen is the one who is drawing off the Jewish people and many gentile God-fearers.  He makes outspoken attacks on your office, Excellency.  We’re haemorrhaging people and income.  Something must be done.”Caiaphas looked to Saul.  “I agree,” said Saul.  “Stephen is also the one who set up their network of deacons.  Without Stephen, the organization would be weakened a lot. And the cells of those poisonous traitors would be easier to disrupt and suppress.“This is an intrusion of a new, Greek tainted and diseased form of our faith,” Saul continued, “That will destroy our ancestral convictions and our country.  Quoting our very own scriptures, they are already leading people away from the synagogue.  It is treason!”  With each sentence, Saul’s voice became ever higher pitched with rage.“Yes of course we agree about that.  But what about Pilate?” asked Caiaphas, “That sick, brutish Roman dog.”Saul answered.  He cautiously avoiding Caiaphas’ epithet: “Let us say that Governor Pilate thinks about taking any action against us.  In that case, he would first have to concede his own indecision has amounted to a policy of tolerance.“Over the three years since the execution of Jesus, any hope of the movement dying out has proved vain.  This new religion movement has simply continued to expand rapidly, both here and elsewhere.  There is no way the Senate of Rome would view this happily.  They would say that Pilate allowed it… almost, encouraged it.“The Sanhedrin’s warnings to Peter have had no effect.  So actually, Pilate would have to defend himself.”  Saul paused to let this perspective sink in.  “We know Herod Antipas is nervous about the same developments in his area. As with us, so with Herod, this movement could destabilize everything.  So Herod would certainly back us up.“Furthermore,” continued Saul, “Stephen is something of a loner.  He does not have the personal network of people like Peter and Barnabas.  ”Here Saul turned to his trump card; to the major action he wanted.“Finally – our position can be made clear through a stoning.  It is necessary.  It is absolutely necessary to state a very clear and firm line.” Saul’s face was hard, as hard as stone; as unmoving as an executioner must be.“Through that action, it will be clear to Pilate and Caesar there is a strong community intention.  It will be difficult to pin the responsibility to any one individual.  We should carry it out.  Afterwards, in defence of our nation, we should also launch a continuing assault on every cell and every leader we can find.”Caiaphas took some long minutes to reflect.  He wondered what it would be like if Saul’s intensity should at some time change direction.  It was something to consider.Caiaphas could sense that there was going to be conflict to come.  The conflict may be brief and of no enduring consequence.  Or else, the conflict could be of long lasting and deep significance.“How would I know?” thought Caiaphas.Then he concurred.  “Let it be so.  Act against Stephen.  Saul, get ready with the follow up activities.  Felix – set up a stoning scaffold near the East Gate.”

-76-

When  Saul, Felix, and Ananus finally left his house, Caiaphas sent a note to Councillors Alexander, Korah, and three other Councillors.  Following what Saul had said, Caiaphas outlined the charges against Stephen.  He asked the councillors to present the prosecution against Stephen, on the following morning.

Huldah saw the letters that Caiaphas sent by special messenger to Alexander and Korah.  She managed to tell us early the next morning.  By then, however, the whole saga was already unfolding.

Early the next day, with Felix at their head, the temple guard burst into Stephen’s room in the poorer north western quarter of the city.  They seized him and, after a delay in custody, then took him directly to the Sanhedrin.

On that morning, Caiaphas had arranged the meeting of the Sanhedrin outdoors, in the Court of the Israelites within the Temple buildings.  It was a setting, Caiaphas must have thought, which should guarantee an easily provoked crowd of conservative men.  That setting would also exclude any outsiders.

So Stephen was haled in to the Sanhedrin in chains.

When Stephen appeared, under guard, Caiaphas, as chair, immediately suspended the ordinary deliberations of the Sanhedrin to hear the case against Stephen.  He opened the proceedings, trying to keep his own mind clear and to contain his boiling feelings.  He focussed on the outcome he wanted.

Alexander presented the prosecution against Stephen.  The day before, Caiaphas and Saul had already sent to Alexander the principal points. The charges reflected the views of Saul.  By the end of Alexander’s comprehensive and blistering charge, the case seemed watertight.

By the time Barnabas and I arrived there, the proceedings against Stephen were already well under way.  The tide of opinion was running ever more strongly against our brother.

The night before, as I said, Caiaphas had sent a note not only to Alexander, but also to a second councillor, Korah by name.  So now, in response to Caiaphas’ written request, Korah stood up to speak.  Caiaphas had chosen carefully, for Korah had a tongue like a sharp sickle.  It came to him as easily as breathing to denigrate and slice down other people, friend or foe, present or absent.  There was a wicked look on his face, as he began to speak.

“The Jesus Way is a lethal disease amongst us,” said Korah.  With razor sharp satire and with great malice, he ripped into Stephen for the best part of a quarter of an hour.  “They distort and twist our sacred constitutions.  They encourage the faithful poor to ignore long established law.  They weaken the authority of our leaders and they sicken our nation. What used to be pure and exemplary Jewish homes now increasingly fraternize with foreign and dangerous cultures.”  With such vitriol from all the leadership, the listening crowd began to mutter amongst themselves about Stephen.

Following on from Korah’s speech, there was a strong response.  One after the next, a stream of apparently infuriated members of the Council stood up to denigrate Stephen, or the Jesus Way, or both.

Of course those Council members – like all of us – had suffered grievously under the Roman boot.  Their speeches connected the Jesus Way with the infiltration and subversion of Judaism by foreign concerns. They poured out the pent up frustration of years of oppression, in a flood of anger, all upon Stephen and the Jesus Way.  With each speech, the reaction from the crowd against Stephen became more heated.

After four or five such speeches, other councilors ignored the normal procedure.  They simply stood up where they were, wild eyed, interrupting each other, howling out their invective against Stephen.  The listening crowd first murmured their assent and then began to echo the damning cries of the speakers.

-77-

Caiaphas, shrewdly calculating the moment, offered Stephen the opportunity to speak.  In his reply, Stephen spoke in his usual candid and forceful way.  At times, I thought perhaps Stephen was almost naïve.  I could see what was coming.  It was a set up.  But perhaps things must be said, irrespective of all that.  Stephen condemned the Sanhedrin’s illegal proceedings against Jesus a few years before.

“You are stubborn, without faith in God and opponents of God,” said Stephen.  “It is you today who continue the evil tradition of killing the prophets of God and it is you today who bring down God’s true law.”

Stephen boldly defended his faith in Jesus and denounced the leadership  of High Priest Caiaphas over the Jews, saying the people deserved better.  With crafty Felix provoking the crowd, the audience began to boo Stephen.

Caiaphas, seemingly infuriated, stood up and to say he could stand no more.  He interrupted Stephen.  Caiaphas made a raging denunciation of Stephen, making clear reference to the tradition of stoning for the worship of other gods, incitement thereto, or blasphemy.

“Will you, men of Israel, comply with the command of God?” he asked.

The crowd, in response, howled for the blood of Stephen.  Following Felix’s lead, the mob dragged Stephen from the Council meeting to stone him.

Saul had proved correct – there was no need for the Council to pass a formal sentence at all.  Caiaphas had masterfully managed the murder of Stephen, without being personally answerable to the Roman authorities for it.

By tradition, any execution had to take place outside the city bounds.  With the pack following, Felix had Stephen dragged through the nearby East Gate.  The East Gate met the road to Jericho.  At the gate, there was the traditional scaffold already waiting, six cubits high.  Through the night before, Felix and his troops had made that scaffold ready for the moment. The beams of the scaffold must have been stored somewhere.  The timbers had old blood stains on them.

Following the rule, beginning with a stone thrown by the prosecutor, Councillor Alexander, the mob then mercilessly bombarded Stephen with heavy stones.

Within one or two minutes, already frail Stephen was bleeding everywhere.  He wobbled on his hands and knees, and began to fall flat.  Stephen was going down, as Barnabas leaped up on the scaffold and took him in his arms.   He covered Stephen’s broken body with the bulk of his own huge body from the remaining stones.  Barnabas could not save Stephen, however.  It  did not take long for the last of Stephen’s breath to ebb away from his mangled bones and body.

Within one or two days that good man Stephen had been condemned; he had been convicted and executed.  Within just one or two days!  That good man Stephen, judged, found guilty, and put to death. That good man who only worked to help widows.  What a horror.

“What did Stephen say at the end?”  I asked Barnabas later.

Barnabas was quiet for a while.  “It was a strange thing, John Mark.  During Stephen’s last gasps for air, he was looking at someone.  I turned to look, but I could not see anything.

“Then Stephen said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  Do not hold this against them.  They don’t see… they don’t understand.’

“I was convinced he was very literally in the presence of, and gazing at something more than I could comprehend.  There are not many people that have ever made me afraid.  The prickle of – dread, maybe – which I felt was like a centipede crawling up my spine.  Stephen has become the first of us to perish.  He may not be the last one.  Perhaps that vision he experienced gave him some special strength for the ordeal.”

-78-

So, within an hour of being haled before the Sanhedrin, Stephen buckled and died at the side of the road, under a pulverizing storm of smashing rocks  from a few dozen men.

Caiaphas had ‘fulfilled all righteousness.’  He was tuned to the requirements of his constituency, highly trained and well experienced.  He had been prudent, politically astute, and, by virtue of his many social connections, fully informed and thoroughly supported.

In opposing the Romans, Caiaphas was using his abilities in a patriotic manner, and being quite daring about it.

Caiaphas had been legally precise, preparing and executing every detail to its completion.  He was a ‘Grade A’ leader of his people, who did not fault him.

In Caiaphas’ excellent list of accomplishments, however, at no point had he managed to engage with the righteousness of God.

May I say this, my dear brother Luke?  The whole thing was a puzzle to me, because I do think that Caiaphas believed in God.  So how can you explain such an appalling action?  Perhaps Caiaphas was so busy with what he thought was right that at some point he lost the ability to talk with God.  What a tragic thing that is, and what a terrible epitaph!

In all this, Huldah told us that it was Saul – rather than Caiaphas – who had masterminded this terrible execution of Stephen.  It was Saul who had carefully engineered matters to ensure Caiaphas did not actually pass the death sentence and was not even present at the execution. Saul ensured that Caiaphas was innocent, and that no one was guilty.

As they watched the execution of Stephen by the mob, standing together, Saul, Felix, Alexander and Ananus looked satisfied.  Their smoothly successful elimination of Stephen was only the first of the many steps they had in mind.

It did not take long for Pilate to hear about this, but it was too late.  Looking grim, he called Caiaphas into his office.  He was well aware he could not prove Caiaphas’ culpability for Stephen’s killing.  During the interview, he kept Caiaphas standing.

Pilate realized that such incidents were going to cost him his reputation, his position, and future.  Pilate could see his recall and punishment already on the way from Rome.  Pilate glared at Caiaphas.  Eventually Pilate said, “Caiaphas – jailings, I permit.  But I want no killing.  If you defy me, I will take action which will make you, along with others, regret your actions.”

It had to be said, but Pilate knew it would make no difference.  Logic did not apply at that time and place.  Pilate knew that.  Caiaphas stared back at him, coolly.  Coldly. With an ice cold fury.

“Our people find so many things to regret,” said Caiaphas. “To have fallen into the hands of the lascivious house of Herod and into the jaws of Roman dogs, is most deplorable of all.”

The gloves were coming off.

An escalating violence was to come – ending, as you know, as we have just recently seen, in disaster.  Disaster!  Every stone of the Temple burned and dismantled.  The horror of the mass suicide at Masada.  Tragedy.  Widows wishing the mountains would fall upon them as legions – many thousands – of Roman soldiers hacked them to death, along with their husbands, and their children.  Catastrophe.  When it was all over, there was really nothing left.  Nothing left at all.  This was the terrible legacy of Caiaphas – and of Saul, Felix, and Ananus.

Those sorry days.  It  must have been almost noon when we took Stephen’s body back to his chilly little room in the north-east quarter.

-79-

Stephen was an only child, whose parents were dead.  He had no spouse or children.  We acted, therefore, as his next of kin in preparing him for burial.  With his body wrapped in linen, in a simple stone casket, we carried it to the grave on a litter.  We completed the burial the same day, as is our custom.  We buried with him the cup and plate he used to take communion to the sick and imprisoned.

He would not have wanted the elite burial of a garden tomb.  We decided, therefore, to bury him outside the wall, on the north side of the city, in the graveyard of the poor, who had been his congregation.  His interment was a moment of overwhelming sadness for us all.  Our songs expressed our yearning for the return of Jesus and our longing for God’s justice.

We had no time for the measured lancing of our grief and shock, for Felix and Saul swept into ‘total war’ against us – swept into a ystematic persecution.  It was a concerted attempt to purge Jesus Way Jews from Jerusalem  and beyond.  The mourning period had hardly begun, let alone come to its conclusion.  Nevertheless, we hastily planned to have the apostles leave Jerusalem and scatter across Judea, Samaria and further.

So Saul became a cause of increasing trouble to us all.

By the end of Wednesday morning, Dee was quite tired out with researching all those details and writing out that painful story.  It was gloomy.  She wanted to take a break.

On Wednesday afternoon, after a light lunch, Dee returned to absorb more of the exhibition of  Chinese art at the Met.  She paused, on her walk through Central Park, to enjoy the reservoir.  For a long while, she gazed at Cleopatra’s ‘Needle’, standing just west of the Met building.  Through the Needle and through the exhibition within the Met, Dee had a sense of wheeling, soaring, flying through bygone ages, through China, Egypt, Judea and Rome.

Dee felt that the mental journey ennobled and adorned her inner vitality.  It rubbed away, burnished away the tarnished layers which her CIA work had deposited.  By the evening and the end of her regular regimen at the gym, Dee had recovered from her inner emotional crisis, at least to some extent.

Dee prepared a linguini dish with pasta which had involved seaweed in its preparation.  She cooked a double amount, with one portion to freeze and give away, as usual.

As she worked with the linguini, she gazed at the sea green strands interlaced with each other.  She imagined the seaweed waving in the current and the strands before her intimated their memory the vast life of the ocean.  They interleaved and signed of a generous, large life coursing through the depths of the seas, of a tide which was vast, enduring and equally nurturing of all being through all time.

A new strand of her personality was emerging into prominence, struggling into the light from the muddy waters of her daily work.  Some fresh way of life was calling to her, calling her away from the all too often mean and self interested welter of CIA demands of the last few years, which had been so bound up with the intricacies of human aggression.

Melissa was beginning her own life now.  Dee felt suddenly very distant and remote from her work with the CIA listening project.

“Is it time to gather myself up, make a change and find a new focus?” she wondered,  as she twirled up a strand of linguini and turned over, in her mind, the discoveries of the last few days.  She sensed she was on the threshold of some quite sweeping transformation.


[1]Three meters, or nine feet

Chapter 7: Suffering Servant

“The prince is the first servant of his state” Frederick the Great Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg 1758

“Speak, for thy servant heareth” 1 Samuel 3:9

Thursday 13 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York.

╬ Dee did not want to be completely out of the loop – at least, until she finally decided to take herself out of it; so she called Sean on Thursday morning.

Sean greeted her curtly, but had little else to say.  Her attempts at conversation dropped like lead balloons onto a concrete sidewalk.  He told her nothing.

“What I told him about the members of Tariq’s cell group must have been enough for now,” Dee thought.  She felt uncertain about Sean’s silence.  Perhaps it was simply a very understandable resentment about her sudden absence at a moment of great importance, for no good reason that he would be able to see or appreciate.  She thought of the misleading stillness of a Doberman pinscher, “The dog that will let you in but not let you leave.”

But she had an ominous sense that the reason for his silence went even further than such an understandable anger.  A small alarm bell was ringing within her and she worried that his silence might bode ill.

“What are you not telling me, Sean?” she worried. “Has he found out about Shahida?  Shahida, are you safe?”

Further than that – as difficult as it was for Dee to imagine at that moment – there remained the possibility that Shahida was indeed somehow close to something bad, or actually involved in it.  A situation like that could or would take Dee down with Shahida.  Dee could be implicated.  It could be very serious.  She remembered her oath in the courthouse, and the penalties that were threatened at that time.  Beginning with her stomach, a dark tide of concern crept steadily wider through her body.

Dee tried to regain her focus on the matter even more immediate and important to her – to regain her own inner balance.  Her ‘journal’ work was helping so much with this.  In this, she was making strides forward.  It was as if she had found a key to a secret garden in her life.  Her imagination threw up scenes, and through the process of writing her mind and body gained energy rather than losing it.

╬ Dee tried to shake off her anxiety.  She telephoned to arrange lunch with Niamh, to catch up with how Niamh’s article on the children was going.

“I’ll use my imagination and bring something interesting to eat,” said Dee.  “Special friends are worth taking time for,” she thought to herself, trying to lift her troubled mood.  Through the morning, between episodes of Mark, Dee prepared her own special lamb goetta for the two of them.  She used her special stash of steel cut oats for the sausage mixture. Then shortly after noon, she rode the subway to Times Square, and the Shuttle to Grand Central.

-82-

They sat with their lunch in the library gardens.  Though Niamh thanked Dee for the trouble she had taken for their lunch together, she barely ate anything.  Niamh was so preoccupied with the subject of her article that she did not notice Dee’s inner tension, tight posture, and the thin set of her face and lips.  There were tears in Niamh’s eyes as she described some of her social work interviews with damaged families which she had conducted during the week.

“Look at that child there,” said Niamh.  The little girl, near the side of someone who looked like her mother, was in a delightful world of imagination, skipping and dancing as they moved along the sidewalk.

“When you think of how trusting and fragile children are,” Niamh continued, “I can’t bear it to see how adults can so damage them; how they can take advantage of them and withhold the simple things a child needs.”

Dee was working hard to enter into Dee’s frame of reference.  “Yes, it’s astounding,” said Dee. Perhaps when people feel trapped and powerless, they try to compensate by domineering whomever they can.  I’m sure it must be a very difficult article for you to be researching,” said Dee, reaching out to hold Niamh’s hand.

“And you are doing it during yet one more very demanding week of work,” Dee continued.  “But surely airing all this is better than it rotting in the shadows and silence.  If you press on, who knows which children might be somehow helped or saved, current or future?  Try, my darling.  But if it’s too much for you, pass it on to another colleague.”

╬ When she returned to her home after lunch on Thursday afternoon, Dee found a message from her uncle.

“We had a most weird experience yesterday,” he wrote.  “We were driven off the hotel site by Syrian military escorting soldiers with UN uniforms.  They covered the site with cables and equipment.  I found out that this stuff was flown in on a large military Hercules aircraft, unmarked.  The site was surrounded by soldiers in U.N. insignia.  About 2 a.m., we heard two or three dozen explosions.  I was petrified, fearing they were destroying the drilling rig or the construction equipment.  We are still being excluded from the site.  Do you know what is happening?”

Dee was puzzled and even alarmed by the unusual – or bizarre – military action.

Then she developed a shrewd suspicion.  “Cables and multiple explosions.  Could this be a Syrian government or U.N. rock cutting or excavation operation?” she wondered.  Dee forwarded her uncle’s message to Kit and asked about why the U.N. might be involved in using such equipment.  “Do you know anything about this, Seismic man? My poor uncle is going to go bonkers if anything else goes wrong.”

Kit responded. “In tandem with the U.N. we have been using such equipment to check for Saddam Hussein’s underground military installations in Iraq.  Last week, however, the U.N. decided to withdraw the equipment and the specialists from Iraq because of the military buildup.  I stuck my oar in at that point.  I gave them a broad hint that your uncle’s building could be a site of military interest.

-83-

“They Syrians hesitated.  They have been leaning in support of non-intervention in Iraq.  I am sure they have no interest in having foreign soldiers or investigators in Syria.  Yet they also have no desire, I am sure, to be harboring dangerous weapons without knowing everything – what those weapons are, where they are, who brought them there, and for what purpose.

“In the end, it worked like a charm.  They Syrians reluctantly agreed, the U.N. flew the equipment in, and the Syrians escorted the equipment to Johanan’s site in Damascus,” wrote Kit.

Dee was amazed.  Kit could not only explain what was happening – he had caused it to happen!  Her eyes were wide as she kept reading.  “This is unbelievable!” she thought. “My Lord, what have we set in motion here?  We seem to be courting disaster on every side!”  Yet at the CIA she had been part of arranging comparable interventions before.  Despite that, it seemed foolhardy or probably criminal to be doing it on behalf of a member of her own family.

Dee typed into her email window, “I can hardly believe this!  You must be kidding me, right?”

“It’s not that difficult when you think about it,” he responded. “Separate the problem into parts, and think about each part one at a time,” he responded.  It was what she herself had done so often for the last twenty years.

“We have existing work like Wolfard’s geological study from 1961, the LANDSAT and SPOT studies in the ‘80s, the seismic reflection work of Brew and the Cornell Syria Project team in 2000, your uncle’s recent drilling, and more.  So we know at least something about the earth there.  We know how it should behave if it is homogenous.  That is, if there is no interruption or change in the rock, we know what to expect from waves going through it.  If there is any interruption or change – possibly, buried construction – the waves will behave differently.”

“So this is some serious equipment,” Kit continued.  “Do you want to hear about it?”

“Well of course,” she responded.

“OK then.  Part of the equipment is localized seismic measuring equipment.  I work with such equipment in my seismic stratigraphy, and it has had recent applications in Iraq.  I’m Mr. Seismic man, remember!  I’ll tell you how we do it:  The investigating team sets up an array of small detonators across the surface of the ground and then they set off the charges, one by one.

“At your uncle’s Damascus site,” Kit continued, “They did this in the early morning hours to minimize other city sounds in the earth.  With each single explosion, the computerized seismic equipment measures various aspects of the sound waves which bounce off whatever is under the ground.  There are S-waves, P-waves, and some others.  It’s a like a more sophisticated version of navy ships using sonar in the ocean to find submarines below them, or to trace the ocean bed.  Or, it is comparable to using X-Rays to create a CAT scan image of the human body.

“Then you could also think of an MRI – which brings up the second set of equipment.  The first examination used explosions and seismic equipment.  The second examination is the magnetic one.  They are busy today using magnetostratigraphy to measure small magnetic changes vertically down into the ground and horizontally across the site.

“These sensors draw on the magnetic properties in any rocks within the ground and on slight changes in the earth’s magnetic field across the surface or vertically downwards.  A vault in the ground, for example, will mean slightly less magnetic attraction than solid earth.  Granite, earth and other materials have their own signature magnetic attractions or repulsions.”

Dee was feeling dizzy and lightheaded, but she kept reading; and Kit kept explaining.

-84-

“So they carried out first, the seismic examination; and secondly, the magnetic.  Finally, tomorrow, Friday, they will use a third form of assessment: Earth radiation measurements.  I am sure you know about the way astronomers use radiation to gauge the temperature and the chemical makeup of far away stars.  Some satellites use this for mineral exploration around the world.  Here, on the surface of earth, a grid of sensors pointing downwards into the earth is laid out across the surface.  Then over a full 24 hours, readings are taken by all those sensors.

“They collect heat or any other form of radiation emerging through the earth – a wide array of frequencies moving from the centre of the earth outwards.  Different materials in the earth below the sensors will slightly affect any emerging radiation of heat, or of other kinds of energy.  This equipment can indicate whether there are inconsistencies across the grid and a rough outline of the shape of whatever is down there.

“The combined results of all these techniques would provide enough information for a computer to develop a rough image of what is under the ground.  Occasionally, if you are lucky and in the right place, you get a rather detailed image.  We should have the images late Friday or early Saturday.

“The CIA and military used this equipment a couple of weeks ago.  We confirmed the existence and extent of an underground command post in Bagdad and what is probably a mass grave there as well.”  Dee knew about that, but not all the details of the equipment concerned.

“K — why did you set up this huge effort?” wrote Dee.  Her earlier worry was heading in the direction of terror, because the information he was giving her surely verged dangerously close to something classified.  It would be easily traceable to Kit and to Dee.

“Take it as a bunch of roses from one loving heart to another,” he responded.  “Also, I have a feeling this really should be done.  A historical discovery in Damascus would be as valuable and important as several other kinds of research.”

Kit’s response startled Dee.  “A loving heart?’ she wondered.  She stared at his words on the screen for a long time.  “We have never even met!”  By the time she had found the words for an oblique reply, there was no answer.  He must have left, or given up.  Still, his words lingered in her mind, and tugged at her attention through the hours ahead.

╬ She wrote to her uncle Johanan and tried to calm and soothe him, while passing on the minimum of information which might prove damaging to Kit or to her uncle.  She tried to speak in the way that any family member would speak to another one.

“I am sure everything is going to be OK,” she wrote.  “I am sure there is nothing to worry about.  Please don’t worry.  I think I can let you know something in a day or two.”

Of course her uncle could not have known just why Dee could say that.

“Soldiers, explosions, and all she can say is that everything is OK?” he thought. “Does she think I am a fool?”  He began to think furiously about what he could do, but nothing offered itself.

╬ That hellish day was not over.  During the evening, Melissa telephoned Dee in tears, since the last exam of her semester had not gone very well.  “You’re on holiday tomorrow,” said Dee.  “Let’s go shopping.  Maybe we can visit an art museum, or go to the theatre.  Bring a friend and stay over with me.  I’ve been missing you, my sweetheart.”

-85-

On the 10 p.m. TV programme, the normal late news stories of local robberies and violence were displaced by claims and counterclaims about whether weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein had just signaled that inspectors could return to Iraq, so she surmised that Kit’s equipment in Damascus would probably be pulled soon, to return to Iraq.

On the assumption there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or using the possibility as an excuse, ever more military hardware was moving closer to the Persian Gulf states, as President Bush rallied his ‘Coalition of the Willing.’  The subject was all over the media.  The New York Times had an article about the 9-ton MOAB bomb.

In some European countries marches had taken place in protest against their governments’ participation in the military buildup.  International relief workers were trying to leave Iraq.  The memory of the Kosovo bombings and the ‘Desert Storm’ war was still very fresh.  Panic was growing.

The news was yet one more layer of anxiety for Dee.  She wondered if it would emerge that there was a connection between the S&M Message and all these warlike developments.  But this kind of anxiety was what Dee wanted to place at a greater distance.  “This week is meant to be ‘me time’,” she thought.  “This is meant to be my creative break, my inner quest.”

Thinking of Niamh’s painful experiences and of war and human suffering, Dee began to write Mark’s account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

“My dear LukeSaul began to follow a policy of persecution in several towns in Judea and Samaria  – and further.  Therefore the apostles went out more and more — Philip, for example, to Gaza and beyond.  I heard him report to Peter on his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch on the road from Jerusalem, going southeast to Gaza.  Walking along a dusty road, he saw an impressive chariot passing him, grinding and bumping along.  It bore the royal insignia and signage of the Treasury of Ethiopia. “Good morning, sir!” Philip called out to the passenger.“Good morning to you,” replied the exquisitely dressed eunuch from within, as he leaned out of the window, smiling.  “Where are you going? Climb in!”  Everyone knew the roads could be dangerous, so Philip happily climbed into the chariot.  He learned the noble Ethiopian treasurer was returning from a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Ethiopians were involved in some new public building, and wanted to compare notes.  They spoke with each other for a time about their lives and work.  “I see you are reading the scroll of Isaiah,” said Philip, surprised and intrigued.

“Yes – but I have difficulty with the business of a person being a ‘suffering servant’.  Surely Yahweh’s blessings are known to us through things like an ordered and productive business, long life and family happiness, throughout the community.  As I understand it, to follow a good leader faithfully and consistently should lead to a reliable outcome in one’s family and life.  Surely, to follow the greatest leader, Yahweh, must surely be to expect blessings of every kind! Should any leader who aspires to be like the chosen one of Yahweh suffer in the way this passage describes?  Does blessing come from following Yahweh, or pain?  Don’t suffering and blessing appear to go in two different directions, or appear to be two different things?”

“The Ethiopian asked a good question,” I said to Philip, struck by the mystery of the apparent contradiction.  “Think of Stephen.  Are we offering endless torment? If we tell criminals to expect the worst and yet all we can say to the followers of Jesus is ‘Expect the worst as well!’, can we be surprised if it is not portrayed as madness?”   In response to my question, Philip quite courteously but very strongly moved into debate with me.

-86-

“Well, Mark, I pointed out later words further on in the passage of Isaiah he was reading, ‘For the joy that was set before him.’ To gain something – say, the money required to purchase a special gift – requires discipline, or a certain deferment of pleasure, as we all know.  So, surely the greatest of all joys might require the greatest deferment of pleasure, even a deferment to a time beyond the end of our lives.”

“But is there nothing we offer people before the end of their life?”

Philip said, “Think of Stephen and what might explain his actions.  Whatever vision he had at the terrible moment of his death, yet I don’t think it was the resurrection life alone which motivated his actions through his ministry.  Think about it, in the life of most people.  On the one hand, surely, people do know and welcome certain joys in life.  Here, I think of what most people hope for — a comfortable bed, clothing, grooming and domestic appointments and entertainments.  Other people stretch themselves out to indulge every carnal desire.”

Around the table, we interjected with ribald reflections on the Herodian family and their antics.  Rhoda looked in at the door, questioningly, on hearing our uproarious laughter.  She was wearing her lovely long cream dress, caught up with a girdle under her breasts.  I thought she looked ravishing – but then I usually thought so!  Peter caught the way I looked at her and the way she looked at me; then he smiled knowingly.

Philip continued, “Yet, on the other hand, there is another kind of joy beyond immediate physical comforts.  An adult may sacrifice their life to save a child – maybe not even their own child.  Mark – it is not madness.  A person may refuse to abandon an insane spouse.”  said Philip.  “Surely, Mark, it is an additional cruelty for others to label such devotion as insane.  The devotion of Jesus to us humans is like the spouse who will not forsake a severely ailing partner.”

“And think of a lover, say a slave,” said Philip, “Who for some painful reason must live knowing their true love is beyond their reach – say, their master or mistress will not permit their marriage, or their true love has been forcibly married off to another person.  Such a person may continue resolute and may resolve never to intrude upon their true love.  It is not madness.  Perhaps the love Jesus has for us is comparable, a love which will endure always, even in the face of an almost impossible distance.”

Submitting myself to the vigour and strength of Philip’s continuing debate with my question to him, I thought of Rhoda and whether I could ever be permitted to marry a slave.

“Or say I clothe and feed a naked, hungry child – and then rejoice, from a distance to watch and listen to the delight of the child playing with companions; hold the hand of a family dealing with the shadow of death – and rejoice, in due course, at their subsequent peace; or journey with the tortured soul of a prisoner to the point of his execution, so he may know he is never alone, not ever.  So I would say, with Isaiah, there is ‘a joy set before’ any suffering servant. It is not madness.

“The most fruitful leadership of the Empire itself has been through the most self disciplined leaders – probably the same is true of any family, or business.  Is it not possible for us to think of Octavian – Augustus – along those lines?  Was he not a good Emperor because he was a disciplined person?  At any rate, were not Augustus and Stephen both dedicated to things which had value not only in their present lives, but also value into the future? The resurrection life begins with baptism.  The future begins now.’”

-87-

“The  most sacred value of our lives is not only in some distant future, ‘by and by’, but all the way through from the present, into the future and into eternity.  What  I do now is of one piece with what I will be in future.

“When I follow the suffering servant – when I defer pleasure to offer something upon the altar of the loving service of others – then I feel God’s enduring, rich response right now.  I truly gain and feel from this moment forward something of great worth, real treasure.  What I give up is only something outward, which I must yield anyway.”

“And, lastly, our own suffering is our bridge and contact with the suffering of another person, with meaning, honesty, integrity, or depth.

“Well, my explanation to the Treasurer of Ethiopia, my understanding of the suffering servant, went on in such words.  Suffering and achievement or blessing are not two divergent things, but rather, they are two sides of one single golden coin.

“We were passing over a small river, when the treasurer sought to be baptised!  Of course, I obliged.  The escorts and the driver just looked on curiously, but politely.  I hope his wet clothes did not ruin the upholstery of his chariot!  And can you imagine what might now be happening in Ethiopia?”

After Philip left the Ethiopian, he told us he went east through the cattle lands to Azotus; then northwards through the wheat fields of Jamnia and Lydda; to the wine and fig area of Joppa, to Antipatris and finally through the forests to the coastal harbour of Caesarea.  The resulting community in Caesarea was to play its own part in the story to come.

Peter was impressed by all he heard from Philip.  As a result, Peter decided it was time to make some visits of his own, including one to Samaria.  John accompanied him.  It represented a marked stage forward in Peter’s outreach ministry.  His ability to communicate well in Greek was a real Godsend.  Like Jesus, his home language was Aramaic, so at the multicultural towns of Lydda and Joppa  Peter addressed Aramaic-speaking people, including Tabitha – or as some people called her, Dorcas.  In Joppa, he stayed with Simon the tanner.  He had quite an impact, wherever he went.

The Sanhedrin wanted  to know when Caiaphas was going to stop all this, which must have given him sleepless nights.  Peter’s successes were  bound to fuel the fires of reaction.

Chapter 8: The Love Letter

“Love alone is capable of uniting human beings in such a way as to complete and fulfil them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves…” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Phenomenon of Man bk IV ch 2 sec 2
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal” The First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians 13:1

 

Friday 14 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

╬ Despite her many apprehensions, Dee continued to appreciate  the opportunity she had seized to leave her office work, whether it would be briefly or else permanently.  She telephoned again to confirm with Melissa their meeting at lunchtime on Friday – and the activities for the rest of the day together.

Melissa was completing a paper for a course requirement in the morning, with a noon deadline.  Before their lunchtime engagement, mindful of the growing research of Niamh, Patrick, and herself, Dee spent the morning on the story of Mark – and his contact with Barnabas.  The agreed date for their presentation at St Clement’s was getting nearer.  Announcements had gone out.  She wanted to keep moving on the subject – especially while she had this time-out.

She began by sitting on her bed, and closed her eyes.  Breathing slowly, she allowed the concerns and anxiety of her circumstances to drop away like clothing falls when disrobing.  Her bed became a magic carpet as with concentration, in a trance, she journeyed to ancient Antioch.  She cruised through the busy streets and the market; hovered unseen as a family sat at table; and listened to a congregation at worship.

She journeyed with the caravans of irritable camels and strong, stoic mules and their riders  A variety of pungent aromas emanated from their baggage, animals, and the riders themselves.  She touched fabrics and admired treasured ceramics and metalwork adorning homes; and from a distance watched surly soldiers keeping their watch.  As time went forward, she became imbued with the sights, sounds, and aromas – her imagination and senses ever more fully engaged.

After an hour or so, she turned back to her keyboard, and described how the community in Antioch took steps to care for the poor and suffering.  She wrote of the way in which Saul, Felix and Ananus carried out a systematic programme of suppressing Jewish Christian gatherings; and how the movement, nevertheless, grew steadily in many different places.

Dee found an email from Patrick Sciavelli reflecting the research he had done on the Roman authorities.  He had enjoyed his studies, and had developed a number of salient details for the purposes of their writing project.  Dee included Patrick’s contribution in her unfolding account.

Patrick’s contribution began with the death of Herod Philip in 34 AD, along with an outline of the staggeringly bad behaviour of Herodias, Salome and all involved with the Herodian family.  He sketched out their hatred of foreign soldiers patrolling their streets, raping their women, and bleeding them dry financially.  He invoked their hopelessness and fear at the looming spectre of increased Roman domination of Israel and the view of the Jewish leadership regarding the Jewish Christian sect: It was a malignant cancer eating away at the core of their national life, beliefs and customs.  Patrick managed to capture their desperate sense of facing enemies without, on every hand; and enemies within – which fuelled sudden, radical and even fanatical decisions and acts.

-90-

Patrick had described Mark’s nervous state of mind about being in Jerusalem while all those storms were raging – and how the remarkable calling of Saul on the road to Damascus, followed by his three year’s work in Damascus and Jerusalem.  That amazing event enraged the authorities, but was a shining light for Mark’s people in the midst of their tenuous existence.  The gifts, diligence, and intellect of Saul had suddenly “switched sides”.  He was destined to become ever more influential in their life and future.

╬ Amidst a delightful weekend feeling sweeping New York, people already warmed by a mood which breathed ‘Thank goodness it’s Friday,’ Dee began to prepare for the day ahead.  She and Melissa had to accomplish things together such as shopping and paying for reserved air tickets, but, more importantly, they needed each other at an emotional level.  Dee telephoned ahead to their old friends in Orange County, California.

Ron was a history professor.  His wife Christine, a math teacher, joined in to the call on another telephone.  With delight and excitement, they confirmed again Melissa’s welcome in their home during her spring break.  Christine asked if Melissa needed any special diet.  Dee said not.

Christine went on to say there were some good shows on, and described some of their plans for the time.  Ron said their plans included tickets to The Producers with Jason Alexander and Martin Short, and a Lakers game, playing the Boston Celtics the next Friday.  The Lakers were hoping for a victory.

It was all thrilling, a wonderful spring break.  Melissa took the phone to confirm details with Ron about their rendezvous point at the airport.  Dee wondered how Melissa and boyfriend Warren were working all this out together, but refrained from asking.

Dee and Melissa spent the afternoon of Friday 14th March shopping for the trip and verifying everything else connected with the air flight the next day – luggage restrictions, terminal, parking, and check in time.

After dinner they went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Winter Garden TheatreIt was a powerful performance, which had them both dabbing their eyes.  “No Warren in sight, or mention!” thought Dee.

It had been a glorious day which left both of them feeling so much better than before.  Dee had hoped Melissa would spend the night with her, but Melissa took a taxicab back to the university, so she could finish packing.  The two of them arranged for a time of meeting the next morning.

╬ When Dee returned to her own apartment from her jaunt with Melissa, she found messages from Seismo and from her uncle on her home computer.

“On your uncle Johanan’s site,” he had written, expressing himself in an unusually staccato way.  She noticed his abruptness, and wondered if he was under pressure from work – or, was being cautious for some reason.  Normally, he couldn’t stop chattering.  Yet, as always, there was his open door at the end.

-91-

“If they are onto him, I expected it,” she thought.  “Well, let the chips fall where they may.”

“The military relayed the images to me,” he continued. “They found some underground construction, but nothing of current military interest.  Old rocks and stones have no use to them.  No hints of steel and recently moved earth, for example.

“In the light of that, they told me they did not intend hanging around in Damascus any longer and immediately continued on their journey back to the USA.  With war imminent in Iraq, there is not much point in that expensive and delicate equipment hanging around in harm’s way.  Like a porcelain work of art in the middle of a road in rush hour traffic.

“I relayed the most useful images from all their underground investigations to your uncle.  Looks to me like there is something there.  Good luck!  Let me know how it goes, please. Regards, Seismo.”

“The whole thing was somehow set up by your friend — SM,” was the message from her uncle. “He has sent me images of earth layers and constructions under the site, which seem to conform to the drilling results.  Do you know anything about this?

“Anyway, using your lawyer friend Anne’s historic site real estate contracts as a guide and all the evidence from the drilling and from the underground images, our lawyers are hammering out a deal with the National Museum of Damascus and the Mayor’s office.  If the Museum could find another Dura-Europos they would be apoplectic with delight!  They Mayor’s people get interested whenever the negotiations are about tourists.

“We have also recalled the architectural company to redesign underground levels and the lower floors of the buildings involved.  We have all been working night and day, are exhausted, but steadily more hopeful.  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for what you have done for me.”

╬ That  night Dee had another of the many dreams she had experienced through the years, a dream of her old teenage sweetheart, Christopher Gray.  There was a wonderful – powerful – sense of warmth and intimacy with him.  It was so real!  In the dream, they were naked and it was erotic – as they had never been; but then he faded from sight.  While there was no sex ultimately, yet the heat and solidity of his body with hers, arms and legs enwrapped, and the feelings flowing between them were all more sensual and satisfying than the sex she had known in her doomed marriage to Hakkim.

When she awoke, she wondered whether Christopher could possibly be experiencing the same dream at the same time – or whether he could possibly not be sensing her intense passion in some way.  Her heart ached with the poignancy and with the loneliness of not having him beside her.

Still wreathed in the loving feelings from her dream, Dee thought, “I really want to explore the subject of Mark as a man and as a lover.”   A long time before the dawn of Saturday morning, she was hard at work on her biographical diary of Mark, describing the way he fell in love with Rhoda, proposed to her and then all the glorious details of their traditionally styled marriage.

Dee wrote about how Mark expressed himself regarding Rhoda.  He had to negotiate around, and summon up his courage over the opposition of the bossy ‘James Junior’ – the brother of Jesus.  The other James – the Apostle of Jesus – would have been more supportive, Dee thought. Barnabas gently intervened with James to quietly and convincingly assert Mark’s rights.  “Why didn’t someone help me?” thought Dee.  It was, to Dee, not only a reflection of her own journey of the heart, but also, an explanation of the extraordinary behaviour of Mark at key points of his life.

-92-

My darling Rhoda –

With these promises we have each given and received between ourselves, from me to you and from you to me, some new part of a road is opening up, for better for worse, for richer for poorer.  I feel completely married to you, united with you at last – replete and satisfied, at peace in my soul knowing I am yours and you are mine.

You accepted the fullness of my commitment to you; and spoke words which ring through me in an unforgettable  way – “With all my heart, I take you as mine; forsaking all other, I promise to love you, honour you, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, to be complete with you always.  Because I believe you love me, I will make you a part of me; and in turn, from today, I become a part of you.”

In token of my deep love for you, Rhoda, I gave you a ring, signing the union and amalgamation of our hearts, bodies and lives; I gave it to you, in the presence of those who love us.  I felt another ring in the wrapping of your arms around me, warmly, softly, lovingly, sweetly and eternally.  I want you always to sense the ring of my arms around you, as we smile into each other’s eyes and as our lips softly meet.

The bond between us for so long – which began as you said so mysteriously – is deeper and more solid through those words of ours.  Our union of spirit, soul, mind and body has become something so momentous to me.  We walk arm in arm, hand in hand, day by day, spiralling around each other.  By the grace of God, may it last to the end.  Why should it not?  We have already loved each other for a long time now, in tenderness of heart, persistence of thoughts and entwining of dreams.

I love you my sweetheart; and I rejoice in the love I have always known from you.  I take your hand and I kiss you, as a seal on our troth.  My heart is yours; and yours is mine.  I could say, ‘Let us treat each other gently’ – but I need not, for you have always been gentle with me, like the Divine Spirit herself.  In you I have encountered a kind of love for a woman and from a woman I have yearned for but never known.  I pledge my own gentleness with the precious jewel of your heart.

I feel a wonder in being bound into you and you into me.  It will always be so.  Because  of you, light and warmth is shining at the centre of my being.  If the image is not too gross, I feel like a dog which had been on the streets for years, which has now found its way to your home and finds there water and nourishment and healing of the heart at your hands.  As I look into your eyes, I find there something which makes me know I am safe and belong to you alone.  To the best of my ability, I will love you, guard you and protect you always.

What a moment – articulating our commitment and devotion to one another.  No longer, “I wonder…” nor “Could it be…?”  Rather, I knew, what was true and had been becoming true, for so long – you are the queen of my life.  I love you.  I have found in you what people mean when they speak of true love, and speak of the love of their life.

I want to talk with you constantly, about everything.  True, I desire you sexually; want to love you in the most voluptuous, sensual and lascivious of ways; to take in my lips, mouth, tongue and hands every millimeter of you, from top to middle, from toes to middle, around every side and within every hill and valley of your curves – and so often that you protest there are other things to do.  ‘You cannot always be walking around with me hand in hand and talking about sweet nothings; or have me asking when you will return from your daily activities so we can be entwined together within the sheets of our warm bed.’

True – there are goals and schedules.  You cannot always have me kissing you; you cannot always have me massaging your back, stroking the rippling plains of your stomach and the delicate inner curves of your soft round thighs with the tips of my fingers and the smooth flatness of my palms.

-93-

We cannot always be lying dreamily together, curled up in satisfaction and quiet joy in one another; murmuring into the ears of each other in the morning, waking each other with a kiss; as the glory of dawn spreads softly outside the window.  We must, indeed, try to get dressed and out of the room, without me again taking advantage of a farewell hug and kiss.

This wild beast should calm down and understand there is a time and a place for everything.  ‘Not all the time, Mark.  Have some self discipline.  Just wait.  Do your accounts and your books and your writing.  I am coming back to you again.’

My darling Rhoda  — You are holding my heart and all my love,

Mark

Chapter 9: A Jailer’s Job Ends

“Something soft and wild and free; something that whispered to the ear on the pillow, lightened the heart, softly, softly picked the lock, slid the bolts, and released the prisoned spirit of man into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning”  Willa Sibert Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop book IX, 3

 

Friday 14 March 2003Ramstein Air Base, Kaiserlautern, South Western Germany.

╬ While Dee’s imagination journeyed with Mark and Rhoda, early on that new day, the US military were involved in a process of their own.

“Permission to speak freely, Colonel Maillan?” asked Major Tom Haley, weary from his assignment and the hurried air journey back to Ramstein Air Base from Damascus, which he had only just completed. He was feeling irritable; frustrated by the lack of concrete results had experienced in Iraq.  For weeks he and his unit had been looking for “the smoking gun” of weapons of mass destruction, none of which had been found.  Then, to cap it all, they had been dragged, for some inexplicable reason, to another annoyingly fruitless mission in Damascus.

Career development, Haley knew very well, was linked to success.  He did not appreciate wasting time.  He did not want to be a person that the colonel sent on any more lost causes.  It was time to make his point.

“Go ahead, Major Haley” said Colonel Eric Maillan.  Haley and Maillan had both graduated from West Point and there was a deep and fundamental respect between them.  If it were the corporate world, it would be like the mutual regard between the CEO and the chief operating officer.  If it were football, it would be like the shared esteem between the quarterback and the leading catcher, operating in a normally seamless harmony under pressure and with a crowed of 60 000 people roaring around them.

From their bones, Maillan and Haley shared a respect for the military forces and for the importance of high achievement and the proper administration of the defense of the United States of America. Both of them had laid their lives on the line for those principles, through two decades.  As retirement moved closer, both of them wanted to make every minute count.

“Colonel,” said Haley, “I do not understand why you sent us to Damascus. It does not seem to me there was sufficient military threat at the site to justify the expedition.”

Maillan was quiet for a time, reflecting on Haley’s words and on the orders he had received.  Such an outburst from Haley was as surprising as a snowstorm on Easter Day.  Maillan had acted on the orders fully expecting there had to be a good reason for them.  On one hand, he did not want to be associated with an embarrassing ‘cock-up’, remembered derisively in the history of the military or the country.  One the other hand, he knew that to query his superiors could be very risky indeed, foolhardy even.

In fact, the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was extremely suspicious that Syria and Iran were engaged in “hostile acts” by delivering Russian night vision goggles or other military equipment to Iraq.  He was interested in gathering information to this end.  It was not the first that Colonel Maillan had read of US military intel operations and reconnaissance in Syria, a country which was a leading Arab opponent of the preparations for war against Iraq.

-96-

“Thank you, Major,” said Colonel Maillan. “Please leave it with me. I hope you realize that there may well be a very good reason for it all.  Nevertheless, very delicately indeed, I will verify, as much as I can, why we were given the mission.”

Colonel Maillan forwarded an inquiry within the hour.  An hour later, the military police consulted the source of the order, namely the CIA.  The CIA, in turn, opened an investigation of Kit.  They wanted to know what could be his motivation for having caused the diversion or misappropriation of military equipment to Damascus, Syria.

Saturday 15 March 2003.  Belt Parkway, Brooklyn New York City

╬ While Dee drove Melissa through the always heavy traffic of the expressways from Manhattan to JFK airport, shadowy individuals were building an enquiry and a case against Kit.

As they drove to the airport, Melissa began to speak about her studies in a way which was distressing to Dee.

“How are you feeling about your course, now?” said Dee.

Melissa was quiet for some moments. “Mom,” she said, “I don’t know if I can give myself to medicine for my whole life long.”

Dee’s heart dropped, but she did her best to bravely maintain a positive and open mind.  She tried to focus on the traffic – an aggressive, writhing stream of large trucks and fast moving cars where no quarter was given, and none was asked or expected.

“That’s OK my baby,” Dee said (trying not to think about the horrendous cost of Melissa’s studies to date) “You’re in the process of finding yourself.  Everyone knows that college studies are a time during which people do find themselves. They often change directions.”

Dee tried to avoid saying she had never gone through such a crisis herself.  Yet she envisaged other people at college who had turned in one direction or another, some of them finding a satisfying direction and others finally dropping out altogether.

“Think about it carefully, though, my darling.  Why not talk it over with Ron and Christine?  It would be a big change.”

“What has upset her?  Could it be some lecturer, or difficult relationship with fellow students?  Is it something going on with Warren?  How am I going to find the money for another whole different college or study program?  Can I leave my job now?” wondered Dee, on the way back from the airport.  The traffic was only marginally better on the return route.  The return took a long time during which Dee reflected on what Melissa had said.

“But what is the point of continuing if Melissa still ends up quitting in one year, five years, or continues but regrets a life in the wrong field? Perhaps Melissa just needs a break.  Perhaps she is just testing the boundaries.  But I can’t force her to do a job or career which she may one day really hate!”  At this point she thought, with a pang, of what her father had demanded in terms of Christopher and Hakkim – that her father’s demands and expectations had so deeply hurt her life.  “Oh dear Lord, please help us all!”

╬ Still feeling shocked and uneasy, Dee eventually reached home after that most unsettling ordeal of delivering Melissa to the airport.  By then, Melissa’s flight would already be well on its way.  She telephoned her friends Ron and Christine in California to once again confirm the arrangements, and that Melissa was on the flight on time.  Dee asked Christine to try to discuss Melissa’s study program with Melissa.

“At times like this I wish I could have a husband – a man – to talk to,” she thought. Then, after a moment’s reflection on Hakkim, she thought again, her anger rising like a squall, “Not just any man.  Damn – why isn’t Christopher here?  I have my daughter to care for, my friend Shahida to care for, and my country to care for.  I am dizzy with worry.  Why can’t I have someone to care for me?  Why can’t Christopher be here with me?”

After some time, she remembered that there was someone who did care for her, and she read out Psalm 23.  She spent a long time meditating on the passage.

Later that evening, Dee was delighted to see on her home computer screen a long article from Patrick.  The subject pulled her out of her anxiety about Melissa, away to Herod so long ago—and his execution of James in Jerusalem in March 41 AD.

“I’ve been slowly working on this all week,” wrote Patrick.  “See what you think and tell me your thoughts at church tomorrow.”

After Dee read through it, she boarded her mental time machine to journey to Mark’s world; driving her imagination hard to turn Patrick’s historical version into a letter from Mark to Luke.

-98-

Dear Luke

Regarding the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter in Jerusalem: This is what I pieced together from servants who worked in the household of Herod, soldiers in Felix’s guard and one of the soldiers at the Antonia  Fortress in Jerusalem.

Herod Agrippa invited a small group of the Sanhedrin to dinner in the Royal Palace.  He began the gathering with the traditional Jewish evening prayers.

Herod fed them and plied them with wine, until the air was thick with ethereal aromas.  Then he reminded them of ‘’the problem’, with which they all were too familiar, ending  with the words, “These – what people call them, ‘Jesus Way’ Jews – have provoked  widespread unrest in our community.  If  we do not maintain order, we risk the  Imperial Roman forces.  No one wants that.”

He gave them a few moments to envisage in their own families, homes, businesses and fields what that meant.  They all knew what it was to experience the onslaught of the Imperial forces — the killing and rapes; the burning, destruction, and robbery.  It would mean the obliteration of their city and society.

“No one wants that,” Agrippa said again, ominously. “We have to avert that.  We need to make an example,” said Herod, “proof that will reassure the Procurator that we can keep the peace ourselves, without intervention.  We have not managed that so far, and his patience is surely wearing thin.”

“The  most prominent amongst the Jesus Way Jews are  Peter and James the Apostle.  We are all even more familiar with Saul – and may his traitorous name, along with his family, be cursed.  Unfortunately, Saul is already in Tarsus.  But regarding Peter and James, do you agree on the urgent need to take the strongest possible action?” He passed out a small piece of papyrus to each member present, with two words on it – yes or no.

You may well know, Luke, that Herod was Idumean, and not Jewish.  He was a foreigner himself.  Therefore he  could never fully count on any of the Sanhedrin as a friend.  Their approval on that proposal of his, or on anything would have been encouraging to him.  Their  toleration, if not active cooperation, at any price, was one of his principal aims.  Surely his other – and undoubtedly primary aim – was to keep Emperor Claudius happy.  From Claudius, Herod wanted the continuation of his position and the invitations and junkets to the elite Roman resorts.

For those members of the Sanhedrin that were present at Herod Agrippa’s dinner, to  dissent would  have harmed, or would not at all have helped their current position or future careers.  Anyway, with his select dinner group, there was no other opinion likely.  Caiaphas had shown he was impotent to contain or control this rising threat.

In fact, the members of the Sanhedrin all looked pleased.  They all felt James and Peter were a real threat to Jerusalem, and merited no more protection at all.  One by one, they indicated their support, selecting one word, anonymously, on their small piece of papyrus.

Each one guardedly glanced around the room as a servant collected their slips.  Gathered up, those slips were an anonymous set of small messages calling for and signalling doom for James – and Peter.

Quickly scanning through the gathered slips, Herod wrote a short message to Felix.  It was as he expected.  During the dinner, sent a messenger carrying his note to Felix, presumably to say, “Go ahead.”

-99-

For I know that Herod had already met with Felix, alone, several hours before.  I can’t know what Herod actually said.  I think, it would be this:  Herod gave Felix a cautiously worded verbal message, a deniable mandate — “James the Apostle is to disappear; and I want Peter to appear before me.  But wait until you get the message from me to go ahead, tonight.”

As I have said, it would be guessing.  At any rate, during the dinner, we know that Herod did send a message to Felix.  Jerusalem  is not a very large city.  Felix already had a shrewd idea of where he could find Peter and James – the house of Tolmon.  Knowing him as I do, I suppose Felix did not  want to lose the initiative.  Felix, I am told, hurried out of Herod’s office and barked out commands to assistants in the courtyard outside.  He ordered a small group of fifteen soldiers to catch up with him by the time he reached his first destination.  I am sure he did not intend to take any risks.

His  small detachment burst  into the home where he thought James was – but he felt extremely frustrated to find James elsewhere.  He leapt forward and gripped the hair of the householder, Tolmon, thrusting and holding the tip of his sword to his throat.  It must have been the blood which was already trickling from his neck, the pressure of the cold iron on his gullet and seeing sudden death in the eyes of Felix, which caused Tolmon to gibber out information.  Felix left a soldier to keep the whole household in custody.  I suppose he did that to avoid any messages reaching Peter or James; and also to ensure that the information was correct.

It was still well before midnight when  Felix found the actual location of the houses in which Tolmon said that Peter and James were currently living.  Both houses were in the northwest quarter.  Within the same hour, before the last of Herod’s guests had left the dinner, Felix had James in custody.  Twenty minutes later, Felix set a twenty four hour watch on Peter’s house.  That was to avoid alerting Peter – if he proved absent in the case of Felix’s men storming the house.

There was only one guard, Himilco, at the otherwise empty prison when Felix brought James in.  Himilco was and is a huge, bear like man.  He told me this part.  He was a man quite equal to keeping a prison safe.  James looked at Himilco, recognising him as one of the believers, but Himilco shook his head, signalling silence.  Himilco accompanied the guards as they marched James down the echoing stone passages.  They threw James into one of the dungeon cells of the huge fortress Antonia, where he fell headlong and heavily on the flagstones.

I would like to think of Herod spending an uneasy night.  What could he have said to himself, during those long hours?  “To be a leader one must be strong.  The innocence and purity of childhood is – well – for children.  To preserve things here, I have to be bold; even it means blood should flow. I do not intend to allow any of these raving fanatics to sabotage my life.  If they try, they are going to learn a bitter lesson, for them and anyone near them.”

At any rate, having secured his prey, I know Felix then sent a message to Herod, which must have been to seek final confirmation.  For Felix, after all, knew the importance of protecting himself.  Felix remained in the prison, waiting. There wasn’t any light in the sky yet  – it was quite dark.

Himilco says it was far less than an hour before Herod returned a message.  The message must have been to execute James.  I say that for this reason: When Felix received Herod’s response, he immediately went straight to the Apostle James’s cell.  Two  guards seized James’ arms and bowed him over.  With one well trained movement of a heavy sword, Felix cut off his James’  head.  It was over.

-100-

Early  in the morning, Herod called yet another emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. They were surprised at the speed of the news of James’s execution, but still signalled their agreement with Herod’s action.  “Now I think it is time to take Peter,” said Herod.  His proposal again met with their support. Herod became far more popular with them than he was before!

The result was this:  Felix  and his men then seized Peter on Peter’s return to his home from a meeting.   Felix hit Peter hard on the jaw and he slumped, unconscious. They took him to the Antonia dungeons, his body still limp, out cold.

Peter told me the next part.  He said it must have been shortly after Felix left his cell when he regained consciousness.  As Peter describes it, still dazed, he became aware of the smell of blood.  The mist of concussion slowly cleared from his vision.  He recoiled in horror to see before him James’s cold and bloody head.

With an aching head and limbs, tears streaming down his face, Peter rocked to and fro, consumed by shock and grief. He remembered their days fishing together on the Sea of Galilee, the bold and outrageous moment they decided to follow Jesus. A  thousand memories tumbled through his mind and then he began to keen out the Jewish prayers for the dead.

The jail was completely quiet.  Felix had Peter locked up in the jail alone, in chains and with a total of sixteen guards set over him.  During the night, Peter had a strange dream. In his dream, he saw a tall person standing before him, his or her head seeming to brush the stone ceiling of the cell, and there was an unusual blue light bathing the cell.

Through the bars, Peter saw that the guards were unconscious on the floor.  His chains were loosed. Dreamily, he noticed the door to the cell, which was slightly ajar. At the urgent instruction of the peculiar person before him, he dressed and then obediently followed out through the cell door.  Peter wondered if he was awake or asleep, or going mad.

The guards in the passage were also unconscious. Picking his way over their bodies, he followed the tall person through the passages and out of the main gates of the jail – out of fortress Antonia.  Within a block’s walk to the west, away from the jail, the tall person disappeared into the shadows. Then  Peter walked the twenty minute distance south west, towards The Cenacle, in the Upper City. When he stubbed his toe on a stone in the darkness, he began to realise he might not be in a dream at all.

As Peter walked, he was extremely wary, and expecting to be ambushed, seized, killed, or absolutely anything to happen.  Then he saw someone step forward from the shadows. A big man.  He froze – and then heard a quiet voice. “I am one of your jailers, and a believer. I think my jailing job is now over.  I had better come with you, if you will have me.”

Hardly knowing what he was saying, Peter murmured his assent and they went on together. He was not even sure who was accompanying him – and yet felt an inner peace in continuing on towards our home – The Cenacle.

When Peter and the tall man reached the Cenacle, my wife Rhoda  responded to the knock by opening the inspection panel – and she was shocked to see Peter’s face.  She raced back inside, without even opening the gate. It took some minutes before the rest of us inside rallied.  We came to the gate and quietly spoke to Peter; then immediately we opened the gate and ushered the two men into the safety within.

“How could I know all this?” you may well ask, Luke.  Remember, it was almost a decade after the crucifixion of Jesus.  There was already a range of people from servants of all kinds through to even the most trusted internal officers of these various courts who we could count amongst our number in Jerusalem.

Felix reported to Herod the news of Peter’s escape, and what he had discovered at the jail early in the morning.  He admitted that he could not find Peter. “He may be at Mary’s home – The Cenacle — but they are of the family of Barnabas, and he has connections.”

-101-

With his jaws clenched and their muscles working, Herod stared at Felix and then slammed his fist on the table. “Damn it!” he hissed.  I am sure  it must have been a raging frustration to Herod to see his carefully laid plans fall apart – to any degree at all.  Surely, my informant says (I would prefer not to use the name, because the family is still there), Herod tried hard to get a grip on himself, but was barely able to do so.

“No – don’t search their home,” Herod growled, eventually.  “But do what you can to catch Peter in the street.”   Felix was already at the door, when Agrippa added, “And have those guards killed – all of them.”   Felix knew at least some of those guards well. Indeed, at least one of them had been a classmate of ours at school together, but Felix said not one word in their defence.

Fifteen of the sixteen guards died. As others of us in Jerusalem had learned, so they discovered it could be fatal to fall into the hands of Felix. They could not find the sixteenth guard, Himilco.  He was with us at The Cenacle.

Your brother

Mark

Chapter 10: Resignation

“We seek the truth and will endure the consequences” Charles Seymour Statement made while president of Yale University 1937-1950

“Listen! The wind is rising/ and the air is wild with leaves./ We have had our summer evenings,/ Now for our October eves” Humbert Wolfe Autumn (Resignation) 1926 st. 2

“Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life” Karl Barth The Word of God and the Word of Man 1957

Sunday 16 March 2003.  West Side, Manhattan, New York City.

╬ Late on Saturday, Melissa  telephoned Dee to say she had arrived in California safely, met up with Ron and Christine.  She described the plans they had made, including others to see old friends and her old haunts.  She sounded excited. Dee as pleased as she thought to herself, “I hope she calms down and finds herself again.”

As Dee walked towards St Clement’s church on Sunday morning, she turned over and over in her mind the prospect of resigning.

“I’m not a quitter,” she thought to herself, debating the whole matter with her inner angels.  As she walked, she reflected again on her life, her parents, her studies at school, friendship with Shahida, Christopher, college studies, Hakkim and Melissa, Intel, Accelera Genome Research, Chime Labs and now the CIA.

“I’ve always poured my whole heart into everything – whatever the challenges, obstacles, or frustrations might have been.  It doesn’t feel good to walk away from this, but it doesn’t feel good to stay any more either.  Let’s face it:  I’m no longer happy in my work.  I’m dutiful, but I can’t let a sense of duty turn me into a prisoner.

“I do have a choice, must have a choice.  I can’t let my life get cornered like this.  I can’t stand by and allow my life to be commandeered and stolen from me.  But what about meeting Melissa’s study fees?  If I jump ship, I have to make sure I can keep up with what she needs from me – money, clothes, holidays and sufficient personal contact.  So I can’t go too far from New York City; but I need a good job to live here.  I need a very good job to get her through her studies… and possible marriage after that.  Oh dear Lord, please help me know what to do!”

The clamor of conflicting voices and concerns within her made her feel weary and weak.  Reaching for comfort and strength from her customs, she sat down in Cosmos Diner and ordered a cup of coffee, feeling strangely as if it was difficult to keep walking, even if the destination was as inviting as her treasured little church.  There was a sudden pang.  It was the old deep ache of longing for a partner.  Not just anyone, but Christopher.  “Where are you my love?  Why don’t you come to me?”  Of course she knew why.

In Dee’s imagination, by now, Christopher was married to a pretty, clever and sweet woman.  Dee thought of his wife as an English teacher – with dark shoulder length hair; and with three charming children.  Dee had thought about it so often as to have developed her mental image quite fully.  The home was in a lovely small home in Durham, England.  She saw the sunlight falling on a deep red Persian carpet in the living room; the dining room table, chairs and sideboard; the tasteful drops framing the windows.

She heard the music gently filling the house, the car – a burgundy Volvo – parked in the driveway; a golden Labrador was stretched out on the beautifully trimmed grass lawn, soaking up the warmth of the sunlight.  There were luscious-smelling cream colored tea roses lining the garden path; purple bougainvillea on a trellis around the front door; and a beautiful old clock in the lobby of the house.  The clock would be genteelly marking the passing hours.

She couldn’t bring herself to mentally visit the bedrooms upstairs, however.  Christopher, his wife and children them were all going for a drive together on a Sunday like this; and due to leave on holiday in the beauty of France in the springtime, after taking their children to an academic function.

“If I contacted or saw him again, I might wreck his marriage, despite myself,” Dee thought, wiping away the tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.  “I guess I’m asking for a miracle.  I want him back.”   As she mused on it, she thought God probably did do miracles for people like Mother Theresa and Desmond Tutu.  “But does God take time to perform miracles of the kind I want?”  she chuckled through her tears,  “I suppose not.”

Dee’s inner pain ebbed away to some extent.  She finished her coffee, noticing even the plainness of the white porcelain and the clink of the cup on the saucer.   “This is my cup.”

She eventually managed to resume her journey.  At church, she thanked Niamh and Patrick for what they had written.  All three of them were very early for the service.  Dee’s and Patrick’s professional discipline made them early for everything, ready to cover the gaps.  She gave them a disk copy of her text of the biography of Mark.

“I have used poetic license to work your material in,” Dee said to her two friends.

“Felicity is making progress too,” said Patrick.  She told me she should be ready within a week or so and will forward her section to you.”

Patrick left for his church usher duties and Niamh and Dee sat together in the lobby.

“Dee, what I wrote about Portia…” said Niamh.  Dee looked at Niamh, who was staring through the church doors at the altar.  Niamh then continued, “It happened to me.”   Dee said nothing, but listened intently.  Eventually Niam spoke again.  “I couldn’t resist him and one night… perhaps it was rape, perhaps I somehow contributed to the situation…  I don’t know… But three years after my marriage to Patrick, Pietro and I… had a child.  Patrick thought it was his.”   Dee was suddenly finding it hard to breathe.

“I raised the child, our son, as the son of Patrick and me…”  Something palpable seemed to fill the silent church and the air was thick and heavy.   “One morning our son came into the kitchen.  He was a tall, strong boy and was kitted out for a football game at school.  He had Pietro’s physique, but my eyes.  Patrick was on police duty at the time.  I was giving Pietro breakfast in the kitchen.

“Pietro stood up, looking proudly at him – and blurted out, ‘You are such a man, my son.’  Something in the way Pietro said the word ‘son’ made it sound like ‘real biological son’, as was the case.  As he stood in his football outfit, his eyes went wide and he just looked from Pietro to me, from me to Pietro.  Suddenly, the boy sensed, and then realized the truth.

“My son said nothing.  He insisted on being sent away to boarding school – in South Carolina.  If he ever came home during his high school years, it was only for Christmas and only for one day and not even one night.  He never answered my letters or telephone calls.  He found his own college scholarship for police work, and then he never came home at all.  He refuses to respond to my letters and emails.  He finds ways to block every attempt I make to be in contact.  I haven’t seen him for twenty years.”

Niamh gazed at Dee with her piercing grey eyes, which were gazing at Dee like… an eagle.  “Can you imagine the horrible guilt I carry,” said Niamh, “Especially here on Sunday mornings?”

“What was…” said Dee, almost gasping for air, her heart hammering, “What is your son’s name?”  She knew what she was going to hear.  It was Niamh’s piercing eyes, and Pietro’s stature and jaw line, all suddenly coming together.  Dee felt it in her bones.

Niamh looked at Dee for what must have been minutes.  “His name is Sean,” said Niamh.  “Why do you ask?”

“Oh Niamh,” said Dee, taking her hand, “Oh Niamh.”   They sat together, holding hands, as people trickled in.  “I was just asking.”

The room was tilting and swaying for Dee.  Into her dizzy feelings, her almost paralytic disorientation, the familiar rhythms of the church service, the movements of the servers and the words of the readers slowly restored some semblance of normality.  With barely a parting word, Dee skipped coffee after the service and walked home, her heart beating in her ears, seeming to skip beats.

╬ After her walk home to her apartment, Dee had regained sufficient composure to carry out her normal visit to her parents’ home for Sunday lunch.

After lunch, the neighbor’s daughter, Wendy, came visiting and told Dee about a homework assignment she had.  It was a project on energy – something into which Dee had so recently put a great deal of effort.  Dee welcomed the diversion and plunged into conversation with Wendy about the project.  Together they surfed the internet for resource materials.  Absorbed in what they were doing, when her mother knocked on the door, Dee suddenly realized it was evening outside and supper time was looming closer.

“I must run!” she said.  She kissed Wendy goodbye, hurried home.  Once there, she was distractedly reaching for something, anything, which would endure.  She wanted to hold on to something which would be good – and valid – from one generation to the next, something which might last for all time.  She took hold of herself and settled down to her own assignment on Mark.

It  was later than usual on Sunday evening when Dee went to bed.  Being so preoccupied with her own reflections about leaving the CIA, she was up as early as usual on Monday.  Over coffee, she reflected more soberly on the proposition or high likelihood that Sean, the Lynx, was the son of Niamh and Pietro, a fugitive from home and parents.

She found a kind of resonance in the flight of Mark and company from Jerusalem to Antioch.  “Perhaps there is something which recurs in every generation in the journey of the human spirit,” thought Dee.  “Could this be the reason these gospels repeatedly come to life?  Why not, after all? I guess a child who is touched by the magic in 1000 A.D. could be just like a child who is touched by the magic in 2000 A.D.”

Thinking about Mark’s flight from Jerusalem in the company of Peter, Peter’s wife Ruth and Barnabus, Dee began to add to her story of Mark.  She described how their flight involved a poignant parting encounter between Barnabus and Hannah, Ruth’s mother; and the way in which, during their parting, Ruth’s mother sang the ancient song of Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel centuries before.

Monday 17 March 2003.  New York University, Lower Manhattan.

Later that Monday, the military police and the CIA were locked in an intense meeting with leading figures at New York University, an event of which Dee was oblivious.  By the end of the meeting, the decision had been taken to end Kit’s employment in seismology at the university.  Furthermore, the Immigration and Naturalization Service had been instructed to terminate Kit’s work visa with immediate effect.  The CIA notified the British secret service, but the British were reluctant to pursue the matter any further.  “His colleagues here think you are making a mistake,” they said, “But you can send him home.”

Innocent of these events, Dee awaited her turn at the hairdresser.  She read through a Time magazine on the table of the waiting room.  There was a set of articles reflecting divergent views, but all related to the theme of the fuel price.  “This would be perfect for Wendy,” she thought and began to read through the articles.  Something which had the ring of a quotation in the wording of one paragraph struck her in particular.  It was attributed as a quotation from a government official who did not wish to be named:

“At one time, the control of the sea decided matters; and then, the control of the skies.  But as we move forward into the new millennium, the control of the skies is no longer decisive– rather, it is the power sources which are vital to the control of the economy of the world.  Without sufficient and affordable energy supplies, everything will change unimaginably for our country.

 Therefore, leading private sector activities, governmental departments and automobile corporations must go forward with fortitude into securing energy reserves and into finding alternative energy avenues, and energy independence.  To secure these things, at times, unorthodox or even aggressive measures will be required, but surely a rough and common justice is with us and with those leaders who turn this tide. 

The president of the country sees that this is a matter and a moment for strong and decisive leadership.  Whoever leads our nation must grasp the nettle.  By the might of our actions, we will implant in all nations an awe of our ability to influence if not determine the allocation of natural resources and our ability to lead and preside over the radically changing order coming upon us.  Without bold leadership, we will see effectively diminishing reserves steadily devastate our transportation, communications and other networks of society as we know them.”   

Dee scribbled down the information.  When her hair appointment was done, she collected the current copy of Time at the newsagent.  Upon reaching home, she faxed the articles to Wendy, marking the White House citation for special attention.  She felt pleased at the interesting engagement between the two of them; and sure Wendy would find the material useful for her school assignment.

Tuesday 18 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City.

╬ Dee  woke at her normal early hour on Tuesday 18th and sipped her coffee on the balcony overlooking a dark Central Park, as she contemplated the future.  She had reached the end of her self proclaimed time out.

“To quit, or not to quit?” she wondered.  The decision was not yet final, and the way forward was getting no clearer.  Rather it was even more complex or complicated not only by Melissa’s sudden career uncertainty, but also by what she had heard from Niamh two days before.  Dee believed she and Niamh shared the same Sean in their lives.

“It’s not easy to give things up, to walk away from what has become familiar.  It is hard to be forced to do what one does not wish to do, or to discover one has reached one’s boundaries or moved too far beyond one’s limits.”    Looking into her empty cup, she turned back to take a couple of hours to listen and to pay attention to her now beloved Mark and his friends.

As Dee grabbed her attaché case on her way to work, she looked at the Time article and then dropped the magazine into her case.  She traveled by subway and during its rocking journey, she read the White House passage again… and again.  Something about the article was tugging at some part of her mind.  Then she suddenly became very thoughtful.  She highlighted these phrases:

“The power sources are vital.  Go forward with fortitude.  Justice is with us.  By the might of actions, implant awe.  Steadily devastate… transportation and communication.”   

When  she reached her desk, Dee telephoned Sean.  As she spoke to him, visions of what Niamh had told her repeatedly played in her mind.

“We are preparing action strategies, building mockups and so forth – and planning to go after them on Friday night,” Sean said, speaking of Tariq and Meir.  Dee’s heart sank, knowing what he meant.  The photograph of the execution at Croton Reservoir flashed through her mind.  He said nothing about Kit – her Seismo.  He was not aware of the friendship between Seismo and Dee… not yet, anyway.

“But you are still not sure!” she pleaded with Sean.

“Sure enough,” he said.

With a growing sense of unease, trying not to panic, she began to run the highlighted phrases from the Time article on energy through the search machines and the network at large.  While the electronic investigation went on, she telephoned Time and asked about the persons who contributed to the article and their sources.  Andrew Johnson, the editor for the set of articles, was extremely reluctant to divulge such information to her, however.

Just before the end of the day, she had a report on her search.  There were three matches, with an extremely high level of probability.  Furthermore, which Dee found breathtaking, all three were from the same person, one who had the capacity to unleash some of the deadliest technology on earth.  After weighing the pros and cons, she contacted Andrew Johnson by telephone and made a faint allusion to why she was so concerned.  Then she transmitted her conclusions to him through an encrypted email message and invited him to deny what she said.

There was no response for a few minutes.  Then Andrew phoned back and without referring to any information which either of them had already exchanged, said, “I need to think about this.  I’ll get back to you in the morning.”

Dee hesitated.  She decided to wait for a ‘confirmation’ from Andrew, before trying to stop what she was sure would be Sean’s armed action against Tariq and Meir.  To stop Sean’s attack now, would take some very convincing new information and some very high level contacts.

╬ Meanwhile, as evening fell that Tuesday, Kit was appearing alone before the three top officials of the university in a disciplinary hearing.  Kit was not completely surprised, of course, but it was certainly not a pleasant moment in his life.  He knew he had played a dangerous game.

“What do you have to say in your defence?” asked Richard Daley, the President of the University, regarding the question of why Kit had initiated an unauthorized investigation in Damascus, Syria.  Kit had considered his reasoning, and he was ready to state it in a forthright manner.  He had been expecting this action, charges, and the possibility of detention or imprisonment.  But for some things – for one very important person to him – it was worth it.

As he spoke, Kit counted off his points on his fingers, and at the end, circulated a written statement along the same lines.

“In the first place, the U.N. unit used the seismology machinery we have developed at New York University – which I developed,” Kit responded.  “It’s our intellectual property, which they only applied to military purposes after I developed it for civilian purposes.

“Secondly, we are funded by the government, but not by the military.  Even so, the US government did not specifically pay for the development of this particular piece of seismological technology.  At the time of its development, at least, any country or institution could have used it, without it being a state security issue.

“Thirdly, the machinery was in the possession of the U.N. rather than the US, it was en route back from Iraq to the US anyway and there was only a very limited expenditure involved.

“Fourth, a recognized archaeologist had already confirmed the drillings on the site provided sufficient reason for further investigation.

“Fifth, what I did serves very well indeed the purpose for which we exist.  It is probable that seismographic technology will be a key element in uncovering an historic site in Syria – and it could then be used on other sites as well.  Think of the impact made by something like Tutankhamen’s tomb in Thebes by Lord Carnarvon eighty years ago!  In his work, Carnarvon was working around a war – the First World War.

“We are all seeing the buildup of the US military in Iraq – it is going to be war there any day now.  A hundred years from now, are people going to celebrate George Bush’s aggression against Iraq, or are people going to celebrate the discovery of an archaeological treasure?  Perhaps many archaeological treasures!  As an academic institution, you should be supporting what I have done, not cutting a deal with security agents.  You are depriving our University of an opportunity for being involved in something which might bring even more fame and renown to this institution.”

“We live in the real world,” said the president of the University.  “Without government funding, the whole seismology department will have to close down.  If you do not go, the government will close down the whole department, including you.  The correct decision is obvious.  You must leave the building immediately.  You can collect your personal effects from the security personnel first thing tomorrow morning and the police will escort you to the airport.”

╬ That Tuesday evening of 18th March, with a sigh, Dee went home anxious and in turmoil.  A telephone call from Melissa just before 7 p.m. made her feel even worse.  Melissa was concerned about her boyfriend, Warren.

“He has received papers from the military,” said Melissa.  “He has to report for duty, or appear in person before a board to explain why he should not be sent for active duty.”

Dee felt the hostilities on the TV news report on the screen to be uncomfortably close, like a disease which endangered her and those people and things she loved most.

Dee fed the cats, but their company was not enough for her just at the moment, on the brink of making her decision.  Feeling she could easily become too emotionally isolated, Dee telephoned Niamh and met with her and Patrick at a restaurant on Broadway to discuss with them the uncertainties she felt.  It was a difficult discussion, because she could not describe her work.

Niamh and Patrick spent more time listening, deeply concerned, than offering their opinions, but they seemed to understand.  By the time Dee went home, she had formed a somewhat hesitant decision to resign from her work with the CIA listening project – but first, she had to try to stop Sean’s attack on Tariq.

Wednesday 19 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan New York City.

╬ On Wednesday Dee awoke at 4 a.m. as was her custom.  She was still ignorant of Kit’s troubles, yet she awoke with a growing certainty her decision to resign was correct.

“My last task is to resolve the ‘mysterious message’,” she thought, “And, if I am on the right track, perhaps I can save Tariq and Meir from some miserable fate.  I am only going to do a few more hours with them.”

Within the grinding tension, she decided to hear what her companion, Mark, would have to say to her.  She read over her notes of the last days and then added to them.

“Ð My dear Luke –

In Jerusalem, we were devastated to hear of the execution of James the Apostle in our Passover month of Nisan, in the year of the murder of Emperor Caligula[1] and accession of Claudius.  Peter  decided to leave  Jerusalem immediately for Antioch, collecting his wife Ruth at his hometown  of Capernaum on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee on the way.

As soon as I know about this, I  quickly told Rhoda  and my mother Mary about the impending journey. Rhoda, holding her pregnant belly, gave me a helpless look.  Barnabas dictated  a letter, which I hurriedly wrote down, which would help us on the journey which lay ahead. “Go with them, John Mark,” said my mother, having spoken with Rhoda while I was writing.  “We have packed for you.  Herod and Felix might be looking for you too.  You can still be back in time for the birth, if it proves safe.”

Peter, Barnabas and Himilco and I were  already on the road when a youngster caught up to us, carrying two packages. On one – a satchel – there was a note attached, in Rhoda ’s spidery writing, “For Ruth” – the wife of Peter. The other package was food for the road.

We  avoided  encounters with people on the road; and so our cautious journey to Peter’s home town of Capernaum  took six days on foot.  As we approached Capernaum, Peter waited  a short distance off the main road into town while Barnabas  and I took a message  to  his wife, Ruth, which, we knew, contained no hint as to the reason for his presence in Capernaum   We  found Ruth at home, with only her mother Hannah present.  Peter’s aging father, Jona, was out – surely somewhere around the fishing boats of the Sea of Galilee.

Ruth and Hannah invited us in, and,  the pleasantries past, Barnabas handed Peter’s note to Ruth.  As she read it, I watched  an intense look flaring in the eyes of Ruth’s mother, Hannah, but the look on her face was a mystery to me. Ruth  lit up  – and it was delightful to see.  Caught  up in the prospect of seeing Peter, oblivious of what Hannah might have been thinking, Ruth simply threw her apron over a chair. As we departed, we left the door standing wide open. “I am sure we will be back soon,” I said to Hannah. O the word, “Soon.”

Just as the three of us were leaving, Ruth, Barnabas and I, just at the gate, Barnabas turned back.

“John Mark, you and Ruth go on.  I have to say something to Hannah.  I’ll catch up.”

It was part of our plan.  Barnabas went back to explain to Hannah what had had taken place so recently in Jerusalem.  He also assured her of the financial support he would arrange for her from his family and their logging business.  After Barnabas had discharged the burden on his heart, jogging along, he caught up to Ruth and me after we had already met with Peter.  Meanwhile, Ruth and I had been walking towards Peter, with Ruth unaware of the full import of the situation. She  was full of cheerful anticipation and, when she saw Peter, ran into his arms.  In something like girlish delight, she began to dance around him and around us, twirling in circles, swinging out her skirt and singing one of the joyful songs of welcome which the women of our towns do sing at such moments.

After some time, however, Peter took her and asked her to sit down. Then he told her about the dreadful saga of James, and his own imprisonment. Ruth had known James – and Jesus – as long and as well as Peter and Barnabas had known James and Jesus. As Peter spoke, Ruth’s face began to crumple and she – and we – began to weep. After some time, we all quietened down.

“Well now, we have to go, my sweet,” said Peter. Ruth was speechless, looking at him incredulously.

“What – now?” she asked, with her eyes wide.  Peter nodded.

There are moments that history changes at the personal level, or on the larger stage.  A moment like that can come in a moment of time.  There was a long silence, a silence during which Peter and Ruth conceived and accepted a totally new and unknown future.  It was the unexpected change from one season of their lives to another.  It was the unexpected change from one season of the life of the Jesus Way to another, along with Peter and Ruth.

“How can you just say that?” Ruth said, her voice trembling.  “What about mama, your father and the children?” She had her knuckles pressed into her lips, and was finding it difficult to keep a calm demeanour and to speak properly.

“I told Hannah,” said Barnabas, respectfully interjecting, in his deep voice. “Our mother understands; and she agrees. Thaddeus knows by now and will pass the news to your father at the right time.  John Mark and I will come back. We will take care of everything.”

When Barnabas spoke, he usually did not have a lot to say.  People more often than not paid attention, however, probably because of his large physique.  Also, as good and humble as he was, yet he had that subtle bearing of a person of means and influence.

Fortunately, my Rhoda and Peter’s Ruth were the same clothing size. Peter showed Ruth the necessities which Rhoda  had sent – enough for her for the journey ahead, at least. With a little smile hovering around the corners of her trembling lips, she wiped her eyes again and checked through the satchel (it was not light, I can tell you) which contained dresses, underwear and many personal items, which Rhoda  had hastily prepared, with great love and consideration. To go back to the house was foolhardiness.  It would have been much too dangerous, for Ruth, for all of us, for her mother and for the children as well.

Despite the juggling of matters, despite all the events and threats already past and present, I am sure Ruth had her own intuition of the very long and difficult road which still lay ahead. I suppose she was about thirty five years old, with the touch of sun and the Sea of Galilee on her dark hair and olive skin. She suddenly turned her head, folded her hands in prayer, and gazed at the western sky, as if she heard something from there.  Then she took Peter’s hands in hers, her dark eyes piercing his and said softly to him, “I love you my darling, dodi li, with my whole heart. Where you go, I will go and I will love you always.”

Her words made me think back on my uncle Barnabas’s fatherly love anointing me at my Bar Mitzvah.  As we listened to Ruth, I slid my arm around Barnabas’s waist and he smiled at me, holding my shoulders.  I thought of Rhoda  and I found myself feeling homesick already.

Peter took Ruth into his arms and held her.  After some minutes more, they stood up; we all took a long breath and prepared to go onwards.

As we walked, I was sure the two of them must have wondered whether they would ever see their home again. At the end of a long rise, when the town was still in view behind us, a few small bodies detached themselves from amongst the rocks. We stopped again, as Peter and Ruth sat with the children.

Then Himilco, who was studying the southerly horizon constantly, saw dust on the road and the glint of the sun on weapons and armour. “Soldiers are coming,” he said. There was no more time to waste. The children scampered off through the bushes.

Fortified by the Spirit of God and by our interlinked arms, Peter and Ruth did not look back as they went over what they knew was the last small mount which would separate the sight of their home from their eyes. We walked along footpaths, staying off the main road for the remaining hours of the day.

As we travelled  for those three weeks, by foot, the 220 miles[2] from Capernaum to Antioch, my mind visited repeatedly with Hannah and Jona. Of course, both of them had known Jesus. Whenever I spoke with Hannah, I sensed she had always known and still did know Jesus about as well as any one else, if not better.  I thought of the children, as their games ended at sunset, running into the skirts of their cherished granny – and of what Hannah said to them.

On our journey to Antioch  we walked along, arm in arm where the paths permitted it. I remember Peter striding along on the right hand side, with his long staff.  Conversation did not flow easily.  Ruth was pale but resolute; still, I suppose, in a state of shock.

The setting sun found us in a Jewish home, lighting the oil lamps and singing the evening prayers, as we stopped there on our journey towards Antioch.

I  worked out a system, as I am so given to do.  We would walk from before dawn until somewhere within the noon hour.  Wherever we arrived, I would immediately arrange for someone to walk to our next destination up to 15 miles* ahead, and warn them of our arrival the following noon. In the evening we did chores such as our laundry, as needed and meet with the women and the men of the town.  We would say the evening prayers together and go to bed soon after.  Of course, the Sabbath would be a day of rest.  We must have launched or strengthened about twenty cells or congregations during our long walk!  During the predawn section of our journey, Barnabas pointed out the stars.  Since then, I have always taken Orion, the Pleiades and Arcturus as friends.

As we approached Antioch, Barnabas said to me, “John Mark, you are going to find Antioch a different place from any you have known so far, a place where Jews are only a small minority.  Trade moves through the city at a massive rate.”   As he often did, he told me about his experiences in Damascus and Antioch.

Despite Barnabas’s explanations, I gasped as I saw, the enormous extent of Antioch. Evening was approaching and there were lights twinkling in homes all the way across hills and valleys, forming a vast carpet.  We stood for the best part of an hour, marvelling at the sight. I felt my old companion, anxiety, bubbling up in my stomach, but was grateful to feel Barnabas’s arm around my shoulders. He must have been watching me as I gazed, saucer-eyed, at the spectacle of the third city of the entire Roman Empire.


[1] That is, in March of 41 AD

[2] 350 km


Chapter 11: The Battle Joined

“The tragedy of Greece lies not in the destruction of a great culture but in the abortion of a great vision” Hentry Miller The Colossus of Maroussi [1944] pt. III

“The governing idea of Hellenism is a spirit of consciousness; that of Hebraism, strictness of conscience” Matthew Arnold Culture and Anarchy [1869], Hebraism and Hellenism

Wednesday 19 March 2003.  The Gulf of Aqaba, Middle East

Having risen from its patrol depth of 240 feet, the nuclear submarine HMS Splendid was silently waiting in the waters near Cape Mahummed, at the confluence of the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba in the Red Sea.  Everything was ready.

A week before, Captain Ed Cunningham had met in the wardroom with the submarines’ executive officer, the combat systems officer, operations officer and the communicator.

Cunningham had the manila folder of his most recent orders on the table before him.  He had told the group of officers that they were to travel from their current position off the coast of East Africa; the destination he said, peering at his orders, and quoting from them, was to a point in the Red Sea, near the meeting of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez.

After Splendid reached that destination, before the critical date of 19 March, they would take up station.  If their orders and targets were confirmed, they were to be ready and prepared to launch their Tomahawk land-attack missiles at sites in and around Baghdad, Iraq.  There was some further discussion, and then the officers went to their posts.

Once the meeting was over, Cunningham informed the forty members of the crew at large over the submarine’s announcement system, and the Splendid’s invisible, rapid 35-knot journey northward continued.  For some of the crew onboard, or even most of them, it was to be their first combat assignment.

On the journey, the powerful submarine paused in silence from time to time, and silenced its racing screws.  The purpose of this was to listen as to whether they had any contacts in the water ahead or behind them.

Cunningham neither knew, nor would he have had any interest in knowing that someone by the name of Shahida Hejira had a key role in designing major components of the powering of the submarine upon which the lives of himself and his 40 crew members depended.

On Monday 17 March, two days before that Wednesday 19th, Splendid had covered the journey from East African waters and reached position.  With their pauses, and skirting major harbors, they had covered something close to 800 miles a day.  The deadline, the fatal launch moment was rapidly approaching. Cunningham read through his manila folder again.

On Tuesday 18 March, the day before that Wednesday, Cunningham ordered a rise close to the surface of the water.  At that depth, the crew deployed a communications antenna to confirm their GPS location, the coming attack on Iraq, and the targeting information in Bagdad for the Tomahawk missiles.  Then the targeting data was entered into the cruise missiles onboard the Splendid.  At the time of loading, the missiles were fitted with a half ton warhead, intended to destroy buildings.  The missiles were now prepared for launching.

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles to the northeast of Splendid, equidistant from Fao and Kuwait City off the coast of Kuwait, there was another nuclear submarine.  It was the USS Cheyenne waiting with similar orders to attack Iraq.  The Tomahawk missiles on the Cheyenne were mainly of the UCM-109D type, designed to eliminate electronics and radar systems of various kinds.

Cunningham reviewed at his orders during that the last minute before the launch, as he had done a hundred times before.  The orders concluded with a comment, and with those words Dee had been searching for so hard:  “The energy supply is key.  Go forward with determination on your just and righteous mission.  Be bold and strong in your actions.  Instill fear and systematically destroy their infrastructure.”

It was then that Cunningham felt again, sharply and strongly, that he was like an executioner.  His grandfather had been a medical missionary in Baghdad.  That grim image of an executioner had come to Cunningham during his sleep over the rapid journey northwards to here in the previous three weeks.

He said to himself again and again that no one could fault him.  He was a highly accomplished naval officer who was loyally following orders that he would carry out with diligence as he had been trained and equipped to do.  His instruction in a few seconds time would lead to death and destruction – and to years of introspection after that.

At almost the same moment, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) 05:30, the two submarine captains so far apart repeated their earlier orders to man “battle stations missile”.

Then the moment arrived and the captains gave the order to launch the missiles.  It was surprisingly straightforward now.  A series of simple clicks on a computer mouse accomplished the rest.  One by one, Splendid and Cheyenne launched their missiles.  With their distinctive noise, the missiles ejected upwards from the submarines to the surface of the water, rockets driving them from below the water and into the air.  The missiles shed their protective sheaths and then turbine motors took over to speed the missiles on their journey towards their targets.  It would take the missiles from Splendid about 90 minutes to travel from the Red Sea area to reach their destinations.

At the same time, F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber aircraft dropped guided 1-ton  GBU-27 ‘Bunker Busters‘ on the Dora Farms Presidential compound in Iraq. From cruiserUSS Cowpens (CG-63), destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), and the two submarines in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, forty missiles raced to their targets. Coinciding with an air strike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad and at Dora Farms, those aircraft, ships and the two submarines Splendid and Cheyenne participated in the opening actions of the War on Iraq – “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

The first explosions missed their targets and killed civilians, which was not what Cunningham would have wanted even if he had known – which he did not.  Later on, the weaponry was, and the soldiers were more effective in accomplishing the stated goals.  But the underlying information, the legality, the consensus behind, and even the purpose of the whole operation was then, and would continue to be dubious forever.

Splendid later descended into the dark and silent waters of the Red Sea, and headed for her rearming point.

Meanwhile, as Dee had suspected, Sean was looking in the wrong direction.

Wednesday 19 March 2003.  New York Station of the CIA, Midtown, Manhattan, New York City.

Several hours after the launch of those missile strikes upon Iraq, Dee dressed for work and prepared herself for what promised to be a very tense day ahead.  On Wednesday morning, 19th March, when Dee approached security at the entrance to work, Dee found Vanessa looking out of the window, dabbing tears from the corners of her eyes.

“What’s wrong?  ” asked Dee.  She wondered if Vanessa was in some kind of difficulty.

“It’s him,” said Vanessa, pointing towards a tall, fair haired man carrying a box, as he walked across the sidewalk some distance away.  He was about forty years old.  Two men in dark suits were walking with him, at each side.

“Who is he?” asked Dee. “Someone special to you? What happened?”

“Don’t you know?  He was always talking to me about you!  He obviously knows you – and I think it is you who is special to him – very, very special. But he always told me not to say anything to you.”   Vanessa looked at Dee strangely, puzzled that Dee would not know him.  “He’s Kit Grey,” said Vanessa, her voice rising to a high pitch with amazement.  Dee tried to absorb this information.

“Our comms officer Harry told me,” said Vanessa, continuing in a low voice, “that yesterday Kit was fired for misappropriating military equipment.  I suppose if he was in the military he might be on his way to jail by now.

“Sorry,” said Vanessa, covering her mouth, “God – I suppose I should keep quiet! But it doesn’t seem right to me.”

Dee gasped.  “Kit Grey?  Kit… Christopher Grey?” Suddenly, the pieces were all joining together.  “I… didn’t know!” It seemed bizarre to have been so close to whom and to what she so deeply yearned for; so close as to simply reach out and touch; and to never have realized or known it.  Her racing heartbeat sounded loudly in her ears.  Her knees turned to water.  Suddenly everything seemed very far away and quiet.  Breathing rapidly, her heart palpitating, she lost her balance and sat down, trying to still a spell of dizziness.

“Hey, easy!” said Vanessa.  “Are you OK?”

Then, quickly recovering herself, trying not to stumble, Dee ran unsteadily out of the building, regardless of how she might have looked, following the path of his footsteps, searching through the people moving along the sidewalk ahead — but precious minutes had drained away and the now banished Christopher Grey and his escorts had already disappeared.  Perhaps he was in a dark windowed SUV turning the corner ahead.  After a fruitless half hour, eventually she raced back to her office.  On her computer, throwing caution to the wind, she traced what she could find on Christopher Grey, plumbing his confidential staff records in the New York Station of the CIA.  There was no answer from the telephone number she discovered.

With his address in hand, she again ran out of the building.  “Good luck, baby,” called Vanessa behind her.  For once, she failed in her duty to frisk Dee.

Dee hailed a cab and finally reached the tree lined address on 350 East 30th Street, in Murray Hill, near Bellevue Hospital.  She was doomed to disappointment.  The doorman told her Christopher accompanied by two men had left for the airport an hour before.  The doorman showed her the note Kit had left.  ‘Sorry my friend, whoever you may be.  I have left for home.”  It was signed, simply,  K.  And then, “P.S. In due course, I will give a forwarding address to the doorman and to all my friends and contacts.’

“An unmarked van brought a whole lot of cardboard cartons yesterday evening,” said the doorman.  “It looked governmental somehow.”

“He must have been told yesterday and packed during the night,” Dee reasoned.  “Why didn’t he tell me?”  A wave of sorrow and regret crashed over her.  Right there in the lobby of the building, she burst into racking, sobbing tears.  “Twenty three years of waiting,” she cried, “Twenty three years!  Oh God, oh God!”  The doorman brought her some water and tried to calm her.

New York has the benefit of three large airports with their multiple terminals and airlines.  There was no knowing where she should start, and it was almost impossible that she would succeed in finding Christopher before he left.  He would not know she was trying to find him, and his two minders would have prevented him making any contacts anyway.  She realized there was no way she could intercept him before he left on his flight home to England.

She went back to her office, feeling frustration and a twisted inner agony.  Trying to breathe normally and to control her voice, she checked the air schedules to the U.K. and passenger lists.  Despite her efforts, no airport desk clerk would call out his name over the public address system.  There was no cell number to reach him as he waited out his last few minutes in the USA, at the waiting area for a flight to the U.K.  Even if she knew where to go and tried to hire a helicopter, it would be too late.

As the minutes and then hours passed, it was as if she was in a trance, all her teenaged desire for Christopher throbbing in her blood, her nerves and her mind.  She imagining him traveling above the dark waves of the Atlantic, touching town in either Gatwick or Heathrow Airport, passing through passport control, going… where?

“I’ll find you, my love,” she thought, “If it takes me the rest of my life.  My dear heart.  No one will come between us again.”

╬ Andrew Johnson telephoned at noon.  Dee tried to pull herself together.

“Regarding what you said – I have no comment,” he answered.

“Oh… yes… those energy supply notes.  I got them from your own Time magazine, you know.  Well, I thought so,” said Dee to him.  “I am taking what you have said as an affirmation.”

“Are you OK?” said Andrew, concerned about the way Dee sounded.  “Anyway, no comment,” he said again, “And good luck.”

Now Dee knew what she had to do, at last.  She had to rally herself as quickly as possible.  She went downstairs to take a walk around the block, to clear her mind and plan what she would say to Sean.

When Dee returned to her office, Vanessa was strangely quiet and her face impassive, despite all the drama of the hours before.  There was an unknown man standing near Vanessa.  Avoiding her eyes, Vanessa said Dee should wait there at the door.

Vanessa rang a telephone number and gave the phone to Dee.  It was Sean.  “The CIA has discovered your link to Shahida Hejira,” he said.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  If you have compromised our investigation, it will be a very serious situation.  You are free, but just for the moment.  If you lift a finger – just lift a finger – if you do anything at all to interfere with the operation, then I will have you arrested and charged with espionage.”   There was a grim, cold tone to his voice and he sounded very angry indeed.

“There is nothing between Shahida and me which relates to this case,” she responded.  “Sean, I have found the source of the S&M message.”   But he was not listening – and it would be futile for her to try to convince him now.

“You are suspended until the investigation is complete,” said Sean.  “Charges may well be forthcoming.  You will be under 24-hour watch.  Do not try to leave the area.”

“It was only a matter of time before they found out,” thought Dee, as she waited for her own personal items to be brought to her from her office.  “What does it mean for both Christopher and me to be driven out at the same moment?”

╬ The unknown man handed to her the box containing the personal items from her desk without any expression on his face.  Vanessa watched, mutely.  Dee looked inside the box.  With a feeling of relief, she noticed, there in the box, that two units of her special family telephone plug-in gadgets nestled amongst the flower vase, photographs and other such personal items from her desk.  One of the security guards took up the box, waiting to escort her out of the building.  Vanessa glanced around and then gave Dee a hug.  And that was the end of her work with the CIA.  Dee then left the building, wondering where Christopher was, wishing with all her heart to feel his arms around her.

She reached her home, and then listlessly tried to track ‘Dr Christopher Grey’ reaching London or moving around the United Kingdom with the use of his credit card.  “I wonder if Christopher knows I am following him like this?” Dee wondered.  She was overwhelmed with feelings of a bottomless pit of grief and leaden hopelessness.

The airline officials would not acknowledge his presence on their flights, nor accept any message for him.  “What is he going to do in London?  Where is he going to stay? ”

╬ By  now, under these circumstances, Dee’s closest companion was Mark.  For she did not how far the government investigation of her was going to go; and she did not want to drag Niamh or Patrick into surveillance.  No Christopher either.  She couldn’t tell her family, or Mickey and her friends at Weaver Hall.  Couldn’t talk to Shahida.  Only Mark.  Possibly even jail time ahead for her.

In view of the storm around her, she reflected on the storm which had surrounded Mark also.  She thought about Mark’s wife, Rhoda, about their two children and their family life in 49 AD – and about cultural elements in their context and particularly the matter of circumcision.

Р My dear Luke –What is culture?  It is probably one thing for you as a Gentile, Luke – something I don’t know much about.  What I do know about, on the other hand, is this:  Amongst us Jews, the circumcision of the male child is our cultural hallmark.  Circumcision symbolises the entire collection of all the cultural elements of us as Jews.  Circumcision is at the door, at the beginning of life, involving the mother, father, child, and recognised religious leader.  It is the beginning of everything, and from then on, an ever present identification.Inside that door of circumcision, a whole world unfurls:  Our language, laws from Moses, our faith, and our songs; our clothing, the way we build our homes, and our prayers; our dances, festivals, funerals, and food.  Our history, our tragedies, our triumphs, and our God.  So as I see it, culture begins with the family, right from the first few days of life.  And from birth, a family, a community, a nation, and a country, one or more thousand years old.It was different in congregations like the one at Antioch. The wide variety of believers and their ethnic backgrounds there in that huge city of Antioch began to encounter their sharply different cultural distinctions and faith history.  There were seemingly impossibly different orientations, all claiming a history – and some, claiming no history, but rather priding in their novelty.Admiring Jesus’ words and works, the people of the congregation in Antioch wished to follow him, a Jew.  He was born, circumcised, and raised as a Jew.  He dressed like a Jew.  He thought like a Jew.  He spoke like a Jew.  His friends were all Jews.  He seldom even met with gentiles.  Opposed and betrayed by his own people, he died horribly at the hands of gentiles.  Yet others from other nations were transfixed by what he said and did, and wished to follow him in faith.But can anyone even hope to call themselves a follower of someone of whom they know so little?  The follower in Antioch aspired to be not only a follower, but even more, a kind of spiritual citizen of the people of God.  Yet the people of God, of Yahweh, are a different kind of people and country.  The gentile follower in Antioch knows and observes almost nothing that the people and country observes.  Almost all that follower knows, observes, and embraces belongs to another people and country.  I am sure you can see what I am saying, Luke.  What do you yourself actually know about Jesus, and about Israel?  Not their language. Maybe five or ten things only. Let’s say twenty things.This is such a difficult and challenging frontier for any person – the journey from one culture to another.  Let’s face it – most people simple balk and refuse to do so – to journey from one culture to another.  Most people prefer to remain with people, with a culture, just like themselves.  Any idea of a missionary is then always fraught with difficulty of a hundred kinds; yet Jesus said go and tell.

There in Jerusalem, James (not the Apostle, but the brother of Jesus) told us he had called an  ‘Apostolic Council’ – a missionary assembly. The council was to be during our cold month of Adar, in the eighth year of the rule of Claudius[1].  The purpose was to discuss  the emergence of entire communities of Gentile ‘Christians’ with little interest in or attachment to Judaism.  Those communities were of the kind I encountered briefly in Antioch.

For, from our gospel journey, we now saw there were already many similar congregations and no doubt more would come into being.  It was important for the Gentile Christians to dispense with circumcision. It was important for us Jews to retain circumcision.  Actually, for a Jew, it is tantamount to treason to stop the practice of circumcision.  For circumcision and Moses go together.  Without Moses, what are we?  For us to stop doing circumcision would be to erase our people, our history, and our nation.  It would erase our very identity, would court personal disaster and actually embrace it.

James  said Paul and Peter would attend the Council, along with Barnabas and other key figures.  Most of them were circumcised Jews.  There would not be many people attending  the Council meeting.  It would, however, lay foundations of significance for cultural conflicts in congregations across the world.

Ruth, Peter, Paul and Barnabas all arrived in Jerusalem for the meeting, accompanied by Titus, a Gentile Christian and Titus’s mother.  It was wonderful to see them again, although I felt a strain in my relationship with Paul.  “Has it been eight years?  Too much time has passed!” said my mother to Ruth, her eyes shining with joy.

The  Apostolic Council began with the customary formalities attending such a gathering.  “We gather to consider a controversial matter,” said James, “Which threatens to divide our community. We have all our traditions as faithful Jews. Many of our forebears died for honouring such laws of God. On the other hand, Jesus challenged us to move into the larger world. In doing so, he paid the price in his own blood. In following his charge, we confront our own great test and ordeal.  In working it out, Peter and Barnabas went to lengths to tell us about the challenges they faced at Antioch.

“We have been working now for nineteen years,” James continued, “and have seen the tragic executions of Stephen and the Apostle or missionary James – and very nearly, of Paul as well.  I have extended every effort towards peaceful cooperation with the high priest.  Yet the conflict continues to intensify.  All Jews have been expelled from Rome in connection with this very conflict.  Can we somehow deal with this escalating confrontation?  There is the ominous rumbling of war not very far off.  Let us beg  for the guidance of God.  Let us take counsel together.”   After a time of prayer, James invited Nehemiah to speak and so he did.

“In the Scriptures we find the written word of God,” said Nehemiah, “and the way in which God wants us to live. As  every male Jew is circumcised, so Jesus himself was circumcised.  So Gentile Christians – like Titus, who accompanied Paul here– must be circumcised in the same way.  Where or when or how did we ever receive any commandment from God – or even from Jesus – to the contrary?”

With those few words, the battle was joined.  Peter did not want Paul isolated and attacked and immediately stood up to speak.  “There are many things which Jesus said which affect the way we now understand the Scriptures.”

Of the three or four who heard most of what Jesus had said, Peter and his brother Andrew were the outstanding two still living.  John as well, of course, but John was not there at the council.  Peter  was humble, not as intellectual as Paul, but  Peter was big in every way.  When he spoke, people listened.

“Jesus commanded us to baptise people – and to teach them what he taught us,” Peter continued.  “And  he embraced the Scriptures as we all do  – most of the time.  Yet he was silent on circumcision.  In the case of divorce, at least, he actually opposed the Law.  Amazingly, he emphasised repeatedly the quintessential Sabbath law was to be subjected to the law of loving response to human need.

“True – Jesus himself was circumcised, but he never urged others to be circumcised.  Remember, circumcision is  not in the Ten Commandments.  Jesus said when a person repents, believes and is baptised, that is sufficient for their entry into the congregation of his followers.  We  cannot add on circumcision, the many ordinances of Moses and so forth.  What  I am uncertain about, is the question of how we can minimize offence among traditional Jews.”

Then James invited Titus to speak of his experience as a Gentile who had followed Jesus.  “I had a normal schooling and tertiary education and job,” said Titus. “When I decided to follow Jesus, my family had no idea of it, but it was reported to them on the grape vine. When I got home late one evening, in the rain, I found my bags already packed and standing at the front door. My father told me it was time to leave.

“My  father said. ‘We cannot aid you in your misguided choice of a life we are convinced is wrong and is widely denounced.  You are throwing in your lot with a people of strange ways, a people we feel awkward and uncomfortable to have in our homes and shrines.  They are mocked and despised by my business and our social colleagues.  You are committing yourself to people with whom we are not really welcome, with whom we are ill at ease and pained when we visit their dwellings and their temples or synagogues.  Even business dealings between us are most strained.  You must leave and deal with the consequences of your decision.  I won’t allow you to lead the other children astray  and you – just a silly boy, one boy – to bring down the generations of the hard work, faithfulness, civic duty, and good name of this family.’”

“So, I reluctantly left, as my father demanded.  ‘You are a failure,’ I was told to my face or the same thing was passed from one to the next of people who were previously family friends and colleagues.  Life as a Gentile Christian can be difficult and you can lose your entire community suddenly, with a most depressing impact.  We Gentile believers live in silence and under cover. We wonder about our working colleagues.  For me I  doubted the humanity of  my former friends– who had now come to hate me.

“I was rejected by friends and colleagues who had known me many years. I fear to think about child rearing. We have to find ways to help Gentile believers remain connected to their communities, or lose  them due to an insufficient sense of well being.”

Then Titus’s mother spoke, resting her hand on Titus’s shoulder.  “I am a Gentile parent of this my gentile son.  He has chosen to follow the Jesus Way, Titus’s decision was a shock. As parents we  felt shame, felt ourselves to have failed in some way.  At times my husband and I blamed each other, either silently or in angry arguments.  I confess that we said  and did harsh things; but we believed we were correct.  We thought we needed to be tough to be kind.  We believed my husband needed to be firm and even hard.  My friends and I asked whether  I had failed in some way in raising Titus.

“Then  I thought, ‘Your child is your child.’ I feared for Titus – that so much rejection might well lead to something  worse–the child might commit suicide  or descend into some horrible way of life.  Then I saw  your laudable care for poor widows.  My  heart softened.  I cannot say that I understand, but I can say that  now I just accept Titus’s decision and his new life in a different way.  It is not a completely unreasonable choice.  God is bigger and different than human reasoning.  Perhaps Titus has chosen something which has come from God.  However, it would help if he were permitted to retain some contacts with our culture.”

But Nehemiah stuck to his guns.  “I thank you, mother – but know it is just as difficult for traditional Jews to watch children become Jesus Way Jews.  To the traditional Jewish parent, when Gentile Christians neglect circumcision, it proves the waywardness of those who follow Jesus and their refusal to follow the Word of God.  If you eat impurely, how can you lead others into purity?  So  we cannot drop circumcision.  To do so would be quite clearly against the Word of God.”

After Nehemiah sat down, Peter rose again.  “Think of this,” he said.  “There was a time we Jews insisted one could worship at the Temple and nowhere else.  Any alternative place was a sin and against the scriptures. But today we have many synagogues. Times change and we must move on. Why are we making a division over something so… small!  … as a foreskin?  It was our care of the poor which moved Titus’s parents, not our rules.  The priority is to attend to the sea of suffering and poverty around us.”

The discussion was becoming more strained with every passing moment and with every passing speech.  Nehemiah, speaking through gritted teeth, said, “Circumcision is far more than a foreskin, as we all know.  If  we no longer follow circumcision, it is like tearing out parts of our Scriptures. How much more is going to be torn out?”

“We shouldn’t prescribe on such external things,” Peter responded, “but rather be grateful to God the Gentiles are joining the community of faith.”

In  the end, James, was showing signs of desperation.  He drew on his power of office to nail down a conclusion.  “From time to time,” he said, “Our history shows that God shakes us all and then teaches us something. The flood, the exodus, and the exile were all like that.  A death in the family is like that.  When  our lives are turned upside down, we realise once again that we can depend upon God alone.

“Something happened through Jesus that has never occurred before.  His following is evidently moving beyond Judaism.  We are all trying to understand and absorb some changing reality.  So we concur with Peter and Paul – we’ll not require circumcision for Gentile Christians.  We’ll allow Peter and Paul the privilege of cautiously exploring new arrangements, with constant reference to this body. That is the decision.  This council is now dissolved.”   Then he immediately stood and left the room.

The conclusion of the Council regarding Gentile Christians was to suspend circumcision.  The journey of Titus to Jerusalem had this outcome, at least!  Other questions were not decided, however – especially the question of the food laws. It was enough for the moment.  But when James closed the Council meeting, Nehemiah left in fury.  We wondered what Nehemiah would now do.


[1] That is, in February 49 AD


Chapter 12: Just as Dangerous

“If we must die, O let us nobly die…

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”

Claude McKay If We Must Die

Thursday 20 March 2003.  Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

╬ Dee peered through the curtains of her apartment to see if the black SUV was still parked across from the door of her apartment block.  It was there, and it made her feel so very uneasy.

She watched the 7 a.m. news.  It was full of what she considered to be the unfolding catastrophe of the war in Iraq, unfolding hour by hour.  It was not a complete surprise, since for weeks there had been the buildup of troops in Saudi Arabia, the naval buildup in the Persian Gulf, along with squadrons of warplanes moving close to the area.

There had been an initial missile attack, apparently launched from US or Coalition Navy vessels located in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, and principally in the waters of the Persian Gulf.  Dee nodded grimly and knowingly.  This is what the S&M message was about.  Air strikes and bombings had begun in their turn, and were now continuing.

“Since we have found no trace of weapons of mass destruction on our eavesdropping,” she thought, “I believe the war to be the most incredible waste, if weapons of mass destruction were the real motive.  It’s probably the oil which the US Government really wants, turning to sterner measures in view of the inadequate results from the UN Oil-for-Food programme.  It wouldn’t be the first time, given the events in Iran in 1953.”

╬ Then suddenly Dee heard that loud knock at her door, which would remain in her mind forever.  The sound made her immediately very apprehensive, and stood to look at the door with fear.  She jumped, startled, at the repeated hard rapping sound, so insistent, so early and so unexpected.  There was something menacing about it.  She crept towards the door.  Through the spy hole, she saw that at the door there were three men, in their mid thirties, in dark suits.  From their posture, they were evidently ready to draw and use their hand arms.   Reluctantly, she opened the door a crack, using the chain to secure it.

One of the three handed her a note on a CIA letterhead.  “Certain materials are required by the Federal Government of the USA from this site,” said the note.  “On the authority of Federal agencies, this site is sealed, with immediate effect, until further notice.”

“My computer,” thought Dee, glancing over her shoulder and scanning the apartment.  “There isn’t anything else which would interest them here.  Dear Lord – I hope the pen set will be safe.”

She released the chain and opened the door.  The men did not permit Dee to turn back for anything at all.  She asked if she could have her purse.  One of them located it inside the apartment, checked it, and then brought it to her.  She asked if her valuables would be kept safe, and they assured her that they would.  She left her apartment with nothing other than her purse which contained her passport.  From the doorman of her building she collected her cardboard box of personal possessions from her office.

“Just now, my purse and my cardboard box are almost the only things I have in the world,” she thought, feeling sorry for herself.  “I have lost what I would have counted most dear.”

She sat in Central Park, thinking for a short while, watching the sun through the trees.  Then she suddenly caught her breath, started up.  She stood, dithering for a moment, which was unlike her.  She dashed back to the lobby of the apartment building and left a note for her neighbor, Sheila Sturman, to please feed the cats which they shared, due to an emergency situation.

“Remember ‘Food for the kitty cats’,” she scribbled; but then shrugged.  By now, Sheila had surely established her own form of communication, bribery and corruption with Arun and Angkor.

Then she ran out of the lobby and hailed a cab.  Infuriatingly, two or three passed her, before one finally pulled over.  She quickly went crosstown to Mrs. Weismann at Dalton School and found Mrs. Weismann just about to take a coffee break.

“Can I talk to you?” asked Dee.

“Of course you can!  What’s wrong?” said Mrs. Weismann.

In Mrs. Weismann’s office, Dee told as little of the story as she felt she could get away with.  “So may I please use a computer for a few minutes?” asked Dee.  “I’m afraid it’s desperately urgent!”

Mrs. Weismann, puzzled, looked into Dee’s eyes and saw the urgency there.  “Certainly, Dee.  Use mine.  I don’t need it.  I’m going for coffee and I have a lot of other things to do afterwards.  Go ahead.”

Dee sat down at the computer, glancing through the window, to see her CIA ‘tail’ speaking into a radio.  With a prayer for God’s protection, she polled her backup file at Secure Remote Storage.  She breathed a sigh of relief – her files were still there.  It took no more than a minute to download them all onto a small memory stick with a massive capacity, which she always carried with her.  Even as the file retrieval was concluding, the link was suddenly interrupted.  When she repeated the attempt, it was completely barred.

Dee quickly terminated the connection, thanked Mrs. Weismann and rapidly left Dalton School by a service exit.  Her CIA tail was looking at the front door of the building, and did not see Dee slip out from the building and into a crowd of parents who had just dropped their children at school.  Going east along 91st Street, she walked fast, but restrained her impulse to run.

Still screened by the parents and maids, she crossed Park Avenue going east and then, as she turned the corner southwards, into Lexington Avenue, she saw a black sedan vehicle with a flashing red light on the roof at the Dalton school door.  She kept walking briskly with the early crowds of the day, five short blocks south, and descended into the relative safety of the busy subway station on 86th and Lexington.  By stages, she made her way on the Lexington express subway southwards from the area.

At Grand Central station, she popped out of the subway and into a branch of her bank there.  She almost emptied her current accounts at her bank, taking $20 000 in cash and travelers checks.  It took a few minutes for the clerk to clear the transaction, but then she handed the cash to Dee.

At a computer store on the east side of Grand Central Station, finding her credit card already frozen and so using cash, she purchased a powerful portable computer, and a cellular telephone plug-in link for the computer.  She purchased a satellite phone and so much air time that the clerk blinked before accepting payment.  “Are you going to spend all day talking to Mars?” he asked.  Dee bit her tongue.

Then she caught a cab back uptown, retrieved her Peugeot from the garage and drove uptown, then west over the George Washington Bridge.  There were no tolls in that direction, minimizing the possibility of detection.  She turned north up the lesser traveled route 9W, away from New York City.  After almost an hour’s drive northwards, through traffic, she checked into accommodation at the Bear Mountain nature reserve.

╬ Dee took one of the stone lodges which had a view of the road approaching it.  She drove up to her cabin and left her computer there, and what few other personal goods she had in her vehicle.  Then she drove out onto 9W outside the nature reserve, a few hundred yards south from the entrance and parked her beloved Peugeot in a secluded area next to the road.

Fortunately, that lovely nature reserve was not fenced.  She carefully entered the vehicle’s location onto her GPS, and noted the physical features of her path back from her parked vehicle.  Then, walking through the trees, she returned to her cabin on foot and then began to work on her new computer.

Downloading the files from her memory stick into the portable computer, she was soon weaseling her way into the computerized data banks of Mossad – and then into the US Military Command itself.  As often as possible, she used the satellite phone; but for some of her work, she needed a cellular link.  As she worked through the afternoon and into the evening, she constantly glanced at the driveway.  She knew it was possible for the CIA to locate her through the cellular link from the computer, but hoped the mountains around her would complicate their job and delay their arrival.

Friday 21 March 2003.  Bear Mountain State Park, New York State.

╬ At  3 a.m. Dee was just completing her work when she noticed a shadowy vehicle moving up the road towards her cabin in the Bear Mountain reserve.  She quickly closed her cellular link, and turned off the computer.  With only the computer as luggage, she walked out into the trees.

Reluctant to use her flashlight, or only occasionally using it, she strained to see, since the pale moonlight on that first day of spring was mostly screened out by the branches above her.  She gingerly picked her way over twisted roots, grateful for the pine needle carpet – wet from the rain the day before – silencing her steps.  As she crossed a small ridge, on her way to her vehicle, she looked back to see three men bursting into the room she had so recently left behind her.

She worked her way through the trees, stumbling and stubbing her toes more than once.  Using her GPS, she eventually found her vehicle, safe and untouched.  She quietly climbed in and then sat in the darkness, watching the empty road for a full ten minutes.  Then she turned to drive back south on 9W, along the Hudson River, back into New York City.  She daringly drove with her lights off for the first few minutes, relying only on the moonlight.

Once in Manhattan, she drove to the apartment block of Patrick Sciavelli.  At 4:30 a.m. that Friday morning, she dropped there with the 24-hour doorman an envelope.  It contained a written note, her memory stick and her special telephone plug-in attachment.  It was still dark when she drove out of the city again, heading upstate.

As she drove, the sun rose, it being the equinox.  Despite her anxiety, she enjoyed the beautiful natural spread of the first green haze on a very few of the springtime trees and mountains along the Taconic Parkway.  She stopped for a rest, and then for breakfast at 7 a.m. at a small roadside diner near Brewster.

She knew Patrick would be at his computer by 8:00 a.m.  When she established live contact with him on her satellite phone, she began describing what she had discovered.

“I can’t stay on this phone very long,” she said.  “Could you please take some notes?  In the envelope with the doorman there are a few items.  On the memory stick you will find various files which will provide you with photographs and with information to back up the following statements.  Moshe Meir, currently living in Hounslow, London, is the target of an assassination attempt by Mossad.  The CIA has been unwittingly drawn into lending support to this.

“The current CIA suspect, Samuel Tariq, and Moshe Meir formed a personal bond during the time of their university studies together at Yeshiva.

“In view of Meir’s extraordinary academic record at Yeshiva, the Israeli Government educated Moshe in postgraduate nuclear physics.  They erased his identity and employed him in a secret nuclear weapons programme in Israel.  They were breeding weapons-grade plutonium-239 at a remote underground site in the Negev desert.  But then Meir realized the growing stockpile of nuclear weapons represented an enormous threat to humanity, especially since the fissible material was for the sake of offensive weapons.  Given the fearful nuclear face off between India and Pakistan of the year before, Meir decided he needed to expose the secret Israeli nuclear arms programme.

“Meir fled Israel, and eventually managed to enter Britain on a fishing vessel.  He has been hiding with Samuel Tariq.  When Mossad located Meir at Tariq’s home, they thought he might have already relayed his information to Tariq and Shahida Hejira.  In view of the national security issues involved, Mossad decided it was worth the risk to eliminate the whole group.

“Meanwhile, from the CIA offices in New York, we have been trying to trace a ‘mysterious message’ – crytonamed the S&M message – over the past weeks.  The message was this: ‘The energy supply is key.  Go forward with determination on your just and righteous mission.  Be bold and strong in your actions.  Instill fear and systematically destroy their infrastructure.’ That message was actually from a senior officer in the White House, transmitted to a nuclear submarine patrolling off the coast of Mozambique, and it was with regard to the coming war in Iraq.  The message was not from Tariq, from Meir, or from any terrorist.

“Initially we at the CIA thought the S&M message referred to oil.  Then we thought it referred Libyans, and then to nuclear energy.  We went around in circles.  It was not an international desperado who sent the ‘mysterious message’, however, but our own Defense Secretariat.  As a part of the Coalition forces, they transmitted the message to the trailing aerial of the British nuclear submarine Splendid, equipped with a full range of Tomahawk missiles.  The submarine was sailing underwater in the ocean off Mozambique in the Indian Ocean.  The statement referred to the buildup of the Coalition forces in Iraq and the initial actions of war.

“Our CIA listening equipment picked up the ‘mysterious message’ from a satellite transmission to the submarine, which was traveling along the east coast of Africa towards Iraq.  The satellite transmission was somehow refracted through the telephone microwave system within South Africa.  The submarine Splendid eventually participated in the opening missile attack in the Iraq War on Wednesday 19th March.

“Andrew Johnson at Time would be able to corroborate the US Defense secretariat as the source of language in the message, if he was willing to do so – if he knew how much was at stake, which I am not at liberty to tell him.

“Neither Tariq nor Meir are international terrorists.  This brilliant man Meir is a son of Judaism who has been converted from war to peace; from insider to outsider; from nationalist to internationalist.

“In Britain, Shahida Hejira has been the nuclear science link who could verify Israel’s nuclear armaments information which Meir was exposing.  Tariq has been ‘the man in the middle,’ linking Moshe Meir to Shahida Hejira.

“Mossad created a photograph of Tariq meeting with Libyans in Rome to discredit him.  Tariq’s financial records show he was in London at the time of the photo.  Rather than being executed tonight, as is currently planned by the CIA or Mossad or both, these people need to have the opportunity to speak about the massive threat which Israel has developed.

“Meir can verify that it is Israel which has weapons of mass destruction – and not Iraq, as our leaders have touted about.  Neither Samuel Tariq nor Shahida Hejira has anything to do with terrorists.  The group which meets in their home is a Koran study group and their common interest is a matter of personal religion, prayer and devotions.

“Patrick, to prevent the executions of the members of the London group, to stop a grave injustice, to require Israel to engage in international nuclear non-proliferation agreements and to save me, I ask you to deliver this information to a Federal judge, to the media, to parties at the very highest level of US government – to any or to all of these.  I believe our S&M also shows our own leaders can be just as dangerous in what they might say as any terrorist may be.

“I need to say – if you have not already seen this or if you are not already well aware – we are dealing with highly sensitive information and could very well put you at risk.  The rest of us are already enmeshed in danger.”

After a moment of silence, Patrick responded.  “Phew.  That is a lot, Dee.  I will do all I can.  Take care.  Tell me if you need help.”

“Thanks, my brother,” she responded; and then continued on her drive.   “Now I am a fugitive,” she thought to herself.  “I don’t know if there is much else I can do… but at least keep in touch, as best as I can.”

╬ Dee decided to abandon any idea of a destination.  Clouds and rain had arrived.  Following a route quite as purposefully erratic as a mosquito’s, she turned east, then north, then east, then west – anything to make it difficult to predict her direction, to pursue her, or to ambush her.

In doing this, she was doing something comparing to the practice of Captain Cunningham of the submarine Splendid.  She had to do so, because every fifteen minutes she stopped at a vantage point giving her a clear sight of the road behind and ahead.  There, she turned the computer on, along with the cellular link and so could be tracked.  Each time she stopped, she tried to contact Christopher.  Twice she heard the sound of helicopter rotors and quickly drove under cover, away from eyes in the sky – the first time, she drove under trees; and the second time, under an overpass.

It was a glorious spring morning during which Dee traveled northwards towards the 1000 Islands area.  As she traveled, she repeatedly stopped to turn her computer on, link to the internet and email, and then power down the computer.  She drove forward, quickly changing direction at the first available intersection.

╬ In London, at 11 a.m. local time, Sean ordered the UK SWAT team attack on Tariq’s home for 3:47 a.m. on the following morning.  But he did so over the telephone and so Dee acquired his message on her computer.  She relayed the information to Patrick Sciavelli.

╬ Eventually, Dee located Christopher Grey at the home of Shahida in London.  He had originally come to know both Dee and her friend Shahida at the same time, more than twenty years before.

“Why did you leave me, my baby?” she said on her satellite phone.  “You have been the best thing I have ever known in my life.”

“I did what I had to do,” replied Christopher, speaking softly and lovingly with her.  “But if you want me, my darling, the sweetness of my life, we can be together very soon.  I have loved no one other than you.  I left only because I loved you so much; and I have been waiting all these years only for your call to me.”

So they shared the depths of their hearts with one another.

“I have to go, my love,” said Dee.  “Give me fifteen to twenty minutes and I’ll be right back with you.”

╬ Meanwhile, Patrick relayed all the information he had received from Dee to the White House, as well as to those channels requested by Dee – Federal Judge Anthony Marshal, the New York Times, Washington Post, Time and New York Post; the Secretary of State; the national intelligence agency; and, finally, the speaker of the House of Congress.

By noon, Patrick had answered twenty seven telephone calls from one or the other of those offices.  There were hotline telephone calls between the USA, Britain and Israel.  At 22h35 (10:35 pm) Brian Heathcote, the Director of the CIA, telephoned Sean, instructing him to call off the attack.  It was 3:35 a.m. in London.

Saturday 22 March 2003.  Hounslow, London.

╬ During those hours of international political and security debate and discussion, during the night hours in Hounslow, Sean and a British SWAT team had already moved into action.

Within the Hounslow police station on Montague Road, Sean’s counterpart in the UK SWAT team had commandeered a rather grim looking filing room as their operational headquarters.  As Sean listened to his colleague, the black clothed commander had addressed the combined group of twenty five trained soldiers in the yard outside the police station.  They were all impassive, wooden faced.

Such actions had gone wrong enough and on sufficient occasions, for those in charge to know there could never be enough preparation for such an assault.  So the five teams involved had been practicing the assault repeatedly, with variations to account for unknowable events during the mission.

They had found a comparable house on a comparable street for the purpose.  The whole process of practicing began in the logistics room, where there was a three dimensional scale model of Samuel Tariq’s home.  The model was rapidly 3-D printed, based on plans of the house lodged with the municipal offices.

The commander indicated to the chiefs of each team where Richard Holmes’s bedroom was, where Samuel Tariq’s was, which he shared with his wife Rhyl; and where Moshe Meir’s bedroom (probably) was.  Each detail of significance was discussed – the location of the power lines, telephone lines, the burglar alarm type, the door type.  There were no firearms registered in Tariq’s name, but one could not know what arms or weapons may actually exist in the home.

Two SWAT teams were to cover the front of the home and be ready to attempt, at a given moment, access through the upstairs window by means of an outside ladder; or to deal with any gunfire from the windows facing the street.  There were another two teams at the back of the house for the same purpose.  The fifth team would force their way into the house through the front door and advance to the bedrooms as rapidly as possible, using stun grenades before actually attempting to enter the bedrooms.

Settling into their plan, the teams rehearsed again and again, almost incessantly.  Each time the discovered some aspect that could cause confusion, they corrected the plan.  In all these ways, everything regarding their assault had been mapped, planned, diagrammed, discussed and drilled.  With each rehearsal, they believed ever more strongly every possible error had been discovered, corrected and then rehearsed again.  Now they were ready for action.

The watch over Tariq’s home on Lebanon Road, two blocks south of Richmond Road had been stepped up to the rank of intensive for the preceding 48 hours.  Sean and the SWAT teams believed the occupants of the house were Tariq, his wife, Richard Holmes – and probably Moshe Meir.  Sean and his teams believed the four of them were in the house; and either conversing or else sleeping.

Within minutes after their final assembly that night, the SWAT teams would depart from that police station in a personnel carrier for the two mile journey, and after that, on foot.  They would separate into five different groups and take up stations around the home of Samuel Tariq, ready for a synchronized attack.

At 03h00 the five groups moved towards each possible entrance and exit point and behind rear walls.  They crouched, surrounding the building, ready for the moment of action.  For forty minutes of silence, they held their positions, watching for any movement around the building, or within it – any small gleam on a rifle within, any slight shift of a curtain or window.  Electronic scanning receivers listened for any radio or cell phone activity.  All was quiet and still.

╬ That year of 2003 had been an active year for Mossad – “The Institute” – as they sought to build up their assets in Iran and Pakistan.  The current matter of Meir and Tariq compared to their trace on Azhari Husin – a student in Britain – and his connection with Mohammed Sidique Khanin in 2001.

That night of 22 March 2003, independently of the SWAT teams, there were two Mossad snipers.  Sean did not know about them and neither did the SWAT team commander, nor anyone in the USA or UK intelligence or military.  Those two snipers, on the other hand, were fully knowledgeable of the UK SWAT teams’ movements, stations and plans.

The snipers quietly prepared themselves.  One was on a rooftop overlooking the back of Tariq’s home.  The other was in a darkened room directly opposite the front of Tariq’s home.  Both snipers had powerful, precise rifles — M24 sniper rifles — ranking with the best in the world, fully equipped with night scopes and laser sighting devices.  Over years of training, both snipers were in the category of shooters that regularly struck their shooting targets at a three quarter mile range, even in dark and windy conditions.  Each of them had killed again and again, quietly, precisely and untraceably and they were preparing for the moment to do so now.

Early on that Saturday morning night, in Hounslow London, in a professional manner, with medical style neoprene gloves, the Mossad snipers screwed the components of their shooting equipment together.  Almost soundlessly, they locked each element into place.  They assembled the electronic probes to measure and adjust for air temperature and wind.  They screwed their rifles to their stands and then checked and rechecked everything.

Into the magazine of the rifles, they loaded the Sierra Match King hollow point boat bullets.  Those bullets would open as they traveled, so forming a hot and deadly spinning disk of metallic destruction within the person struck by the bullet.  The five bullets in the magazine were impregnated with radioactive poison – polonium 210 – so that even a touch of the bullet would lead to certain death, sooner or later.  For that reason the bullets had to be transported in a negative pressure alpha glove box with high performance filters.  The radioactive substance had been used in Israeli labs since the 1960’s and in Operation Plumbat.  It was a substance that would be employed in later actions again.

Then the snipers waited, professionally and patiently.  They carried photographs of the person assigned, which they had memorized.  They had watched hours of video footage of the person concerned – the face and bodily characteristics and movements of a man which they did not know by name – but whose name was Moshe Meir.  As the moment drew closer, the crosshairs of their telescopic sights locked upon the doors of the house – one sniper on the front door and the other sniper on the back door.

The hour of 10:35 p.m. in the USA was the hour of 3:35 a.m. in Hounslow.  At that moment, just two minutes before the SWAT attack on Tariq’s home, the whole tide of events changed completely.

╬ After he pressed the ‘end call’ button on his telephone conversation with Brian Heathcote at 3:35 a.m., Sean cursed at length, enough to earn the admiration of a sailor.

“Abort.  Abort.  Confirm message,” Sean shouted into his walkie-talkie.  One by one the five different SWAT points confirmed receiving the message to halt their activities.

Sean took the telephone and threw it with all his might into the brick wall of the filing room of the police station within which he was waiting.  The telephone struck the wall, yelped as it chipped the plaster on the wall and then flew into many pieces which skidded across the linoleum of the floor.  Sean shouted out in frustration, so loud as to have the duty officer approach from the charge office to enquire whether anything was amiss.  Sean hit the top of the table with his fist, hard enough to leave bruises he would feel for days to come.

Back in Hounslow, however, one of the soldiers amongst the withdrawing SWAT teams was puzzled to see an odd, tall fair haired man walking along the street with a boom box.  By 3:41 a.m., all the members of the several SWAT teams there had obediently melted into the darkness, heading for their point of convening with Sean, their pre-arranged rendezvous point a few blocks away.

A CIA satellite was following the conversations of the operation, along with agents and operators in the United States; and, for her part, Dee was tapping into the CIA operations in the United States.  So she knew each stage of the operation, including the moment at which it was finally aborted.

“Is it over?” wondered Dee.  “Surely it is.  I should be feeling relieved.”   But she wasn’t feeling relieved: rather, she felt quite uneasy.  She wished she could communicate directly with Christopher, to let him know how things were developing.  Not knowing what else to do, she turned her vehicle back in the direction of New York City.  “They can’t take any more substantive action against me now,” she thought.  “Of course, it would be too much to hope for an apology from Sean.”

After an hour of driving, dizzy with tiredness, she pulled off the highway and fell into a fitful, dozing sleep.  No longer concerned with being traced, she left the computer on, expecting Patrick to telephone with any developments.

╬ Several hours earlier, however, after Christopher Grey had received Dee’s Friday evening message and request, he had tried to follow what she had asked for – to gather together a group to mount a protest march against the looming SWAT team attack, as of that earlier time.

But it is not easy to gather people together for a protest march at any time and trickier to gather people in an area in which you are completely unknown.  It is even more difficult when you cannot fully explain to them why they should gather; and almost hopelessly difficult when you have only a few hours to accomplish the task.  Finally, few people can see the point of conducting a protest march in a sleepy suburb at 3:47 a.m.  Basically, Dee’s request to Christopher was nearly impossible to carry out – but a word from Dee was a command in Christopher’s love struck heart.  And so he figured out a plan of action.

Christopher’s plan of action led to an extraordinary step in his life.  At 3:30 a.m.London time he had alighted from a taxi at the Hounslow bus stop quite alone – alone, except for a boom box he had thoughtfully borrowed from Shahida.  He looked at his map, at the clearly marked street names and found the street he wanted.  “Well Samuel Tariq, you are about to experience a visit you might remember for quite some time!” he thought.  Then Christopher breathed deeply, gathered his courage and began to slowly walk down the road before him.  “What we do for love,” he said to himself.

He telephoned the 999 emergency number for London, and said that there was a fire at the address of Tarique’s home.  Within minutes, he expected that there would be wailing fire trucks arriving there.

As Christopher walked closer to Tarique’s address, he thought he saw movement along some walls and dark corners, but could not be sure.  He couldn’t know those shadows were the retreating SWAT teams, withdrawing in response to Sean’s instruction to abort the operation.  Christopher turned the boom box to full volume and the sounds of protest songs echoed along the street.  Up and down the street he went, walking slowly, as a cacophony of sound resonated in the little crescent in Hounslow, in which Samuel Tariq lived.

“We will overcome! We will overcome! We will overcome one day… oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we will overcome one day,” sang out the boom box.  Lights came on in one window after the next.  “We’re fired up – we can’t take no more!” blared out a brassy, shouting crowd through his boom box, reverberating into sleepy bedrooms.   And then the first fire truck came screaming up the street.

╬ Since no one could see them, the two Mossad snipers remained at their positions, waiting to see what was going to happen.  Now sash windows along the street in Hounslow slid open and a half a dozen people began to curse Christopher and his boom box from their windows, in strings of furious expletives.  Someone threw something at him, which narrowly missed and fell into the street behind him.

As Christopher passed the front of Tariq’s house, the door opened – opened directly onto the street. Christopher was suddenly face to face with the man who stood there, with the hall passage light on behind him.  Christopher could not have known the man standing in the lighted doorway of his home was Samuel Tariq.  “What’s going on?” Tariq said, standing in his pajamas, blinking sleepily and bleary eyed.  Moshe Meir was by then standing directly behind Tariq in the hallway.

Through the window of his dark room across the road, the Mossad sniper quickly took aim.  Christopher opened his mouth to say something and then noticed the small, twinkling red spot of what he knew to be a laser sight resting on Meir’s forehead.  Christopher leapt at the two men in the doorway, at almost the same moment a shot rang out.  As Tariq and Meir scrabbled away from under Christopher and into the interior of the house, another shot rang out.  Christopher lay in the hallway of the house, alone and motionless.  He had taken two shots into his upper back.

╬ The retreating SWAT teams had not yet reached Sean and they froze as they heard the two shots ring out behind them.  After all their years of training and experience, they all knew that particular sound very well indeed.  After checking with their commander at the police station on their radios, two teams returned to the site of Tariq’s home, while the other three teams returned to their rendezvous with their commander at the police station and with Sean.  Meanwhile, both Mossad snipers had left their weapons in position, while they hastened away into the night.

One returning SWAT team went to the back of the building.  The other approached the front of the building – to find Christopher bleeding in the entrance of Tariq’s home, with Tariq, Meir and Holmes gathered around him, ashen faced.  Sean ordered the two SWAT teams at Tariq’s home to stand by there and called for the Emergency Medical Service.  After another ten minutes, the ambulance and the first of the police cars arrived at the scene.  It had all gone horribly wrong, for everyone.


Chapter 13: Journey of Love

“Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valour our only shield.  We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible.”

Winston Churchill, Report on the War, House of Commons (8 October 1940)

 

11 pm Saturday 22 March 2003.  Upstate New York.

╬ As a drained Dee dozed in her car in upstate New York, Patrick Sciavelli continued to be in contact with Sean’s operation in the UK, through officials in the US.   In due course, Patrick found out that Christopher Grey had been shot and taken to hospital.  Feeling shocked, he did his best to confirm the information.  As difficult as it was, the moment came that he realized it was likely true.  He realized that he had to talk to Dee about this.

Dee responded with a start to Patrick’s telephone call at around midnight her time.  By then, it was more than an hour after the catastrophe in Hounslow, London.  Patrick told her  the news of the disastrous events which had occurred.  “But as I understand it, Christopher is alive and is now in hospital,” Patrick added.

“Christopher shot? Christopher shot? Are you sure, Patrick?  I can’t believe it!  What happened?”  She felt dazed, confused and numb.

“My baby, my baby, please dear God, help my baby,” she said over and over as she careened along the relatively quiet NY Thruway back southward to New York City.  She knew there were no more helicopters searching for her now.  There was no need to hide.  Speed was of the essence.  Distracted by horror and dismaying visions, she found herself shocked to see her speedometer at a higher point she had ever seen, and that sometimes her vehicle was drifting from one lane of the road to the other.

Patrick made and paid for a telephonic reservation for her to London on the first air flight she could meet.

“BA Airways 0172, Terminal 7, departing at 8 a.m.” Patrick said on the phone with Dee, as she drove, “Arriving at 19h30”.  He was most reluctant to say anything more.  He feared the worst.  He could not think of anything else to say or do.

“Thank goodness I have my passport,” she thought.

As she drove, Dee heard radio reports of the invasion of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ into Iraq.  She only half-heartedly listened.

“It doesn’t seem to me to be a very ‘just and righteous mission,’” she thought bitterly, recalling the S&M message – that message which had initiated her own involvement in this – in what she was now experiencing as a personal calamity.

 ╬ Dee gripped the steering wheel , leaning forward and, with weary eyes, peered at the directional signs in the darkness.  Tired and anxious, she had to concentrate hard to negotiate the series of  interleaving freeways leading from the Interstate 87 and finally to the airport.  She finally reached J.F. Kennedy airport at 4 a.m.  – so she need not have raced so fast, of course.

 

4 am Sunday 23 March 2003.  JFK Airport, Long Island, NY.

╬ Almost like an automaton, she parked in long term parking at Jamaica.  Placing one foot in front of the next, she took the connection to JFK, Terminal 7.  At the terminal, she found the proper desk, and collected her air ticket there.

She made her feet walk through the baggage security area, and then onwards towards the boarding area.

The next stop was the passport official, ‘Diana’ according to her name tag, who scanned Dee’s passport.  This process took much longer with Dee than it had taken with the passenger before.  It took a lot longer.  Without any expression on her face, Diana kept reading her computer display for some minutes, scrolling down from one screen to another.  Dee waited.  Her heart and her breath had seemingly stopped.  She began to feel dizzy, and made herself breathe slowly.  Diana telephoned someone and quoted the flight and passport information, and then waited on the telephone.  Eventually, the telephone call over, Diana handed back Dee’s passport and said simply, “You may proceed.”

Doggedly, Dee walked on toward her departure gate.  For two hours long, as the workday gained momentum, she waited in the airport lounge on the passenger sofas near the gate.  While she lingered there, as the great night ended, she tried to call and then eventually reached Christopher’s doctor, Linda Forde on her cellular link.  By then, Dr. Forde was well into her working day in Hounslow.  In response to the doctor’s query, lying just a little, Dee said she was Christopher’s sister, about to fly from New York.

“We have hopes of stabilising Mr. Grey, but his situation is critical,” said the doctor.

The twilight lingered over the airfield.  After another hour or two of anguish, at 7:30 a.m. Dee telephoned her mother to say she was on the way to the UK.  “It is Christopher Grey.  He might be dying,” she said. After no more than a moment of silence, her mother began expostulating.

“Please don’t, mom,” Dee said, a sudden flood of tears springing to her eyes.  “I can’t bear it just at this moment.  I have to go, mom.  I am getting into the airplane now.  Can you try and contact Shahida, please mom?” asked Dee, passing on Shahida’s telephone number.  “And let Melissa know in some simple sort of way.  I haven’t made any arrangements. I hope Shahida can meet me.”

As the passengers boarded the BA flight at 7:30 a.m., she checked in on her email.  Somewhat to her surprise, she received nothing from Patrick about the situation.

“Why would Patrick have nothing to say?” she thought.  “It must be bad news.”

What was there in her list of emails was a draft of the extensive work Felicity had done on her part of Mark’s story and had sent to Dee.

“I can’t even think about that now,” said Dee to herself.  She went through the queue of people passing the clerk at the gate, walked through the cream colored connecting tunnel and into the waiting airplane.  She found her seat, by the window, behind the starboard wing, her favorite place.  Her fingernails bit into her palms, as she tried to restrain her impatience with the routine air safety instructions and the final clicks of the passengers’ seatbelts.

The tractor eventually pushes the aircraft onto the airway.  The aircraft finally moved slowly towards the runway.  During some time of waiting on the taxiway for first position, and then for clearance to take off, Dee felt her mind churning like a turbulent mountain river with her anxiety about Christopher.  Finally the turbines roared.  The aircraft accelerated rapidly, pushed her back into her seat, and then catapulted itself into the air, at first with a mournful vibrating sound, and then suddenly and strangely quiet.

As she looked back at the fading sight of New York City and Long Island, flying east across the Atlantic, Dee felt her journey to Christopher’s side had really begun.

“At least I know where Christopher is,” she thought, “My Christopher.  My Christopher.”  Those words sounded strange and new in her mind.  “My Christopher,” she whispered.  Her fellow passenger glanced in her direction.  “And I know that he needs and wants me, just as I have so long wanted and needed him.”  That seemed different, a special and new part of their journey together.

When the air steward eventually offered food and refreshments, Dee declined.  She had no appetite, and no interest in food and drink.  As tired as she was, she tried to sleep, but sleep was all too remote.

“I can’t just sit here and radiate negativity and anxiety.  I need to think positively,” Dee thought.  And so on the airplane eastward across the Atlantic on that Sunday, Dee listened on headphones as the computer dictated what Felicity had written down.

╬ Felicity had been completely oblivious of all that had occurred in Dee’s life in the previous few days.  “After quite a bit of further reading I think you may well be correct in your analysis and your hypothesis which associates Mark’s informant with Barnabas and Damascus,” wrote Felicity, “And so I have decided to arrange along those lines the ‘gospel journeys’ of Paul and Mark’s involvement in them.  Here is what I have attempted to do.”

“Do I really care any more?” Dee thought, smiling bleakly to herself.  “But – well – anything to keep my mind moving positively.”

On that flight, Dee was in the grip of a confusing welter of episodes of leaden grief and of great hope; a tumult of anxiety and faith.  Nevertheless, as a kind of healing meditation – if not distraction –, she spent the six hour journey listening to Felicity’s account of the story of Mark, Paul and Barnabas.  She began to feel their companionship with her in her mind and imagination.  She seized upon the ancient story of good news in the face of so much oppression, of betrayal and of the wandering, roundabout journey of humankind.

Dee held on to faith, tohope, and to her conviction, to which she had so often returned through the years:  “Despair has never extinguished trust, or hope, or love,” she whispered to herself.  “Love is stronger than death.”  She prayed for Christopher, as she had never prayed before.

╬ There were moments of quietness and peace; and of contemplation.  Dee wondered whether that would have been what it was like for Mark to receive the news of the killing of James the Apostle in Jerusalem in 62 AD; of the executions of Peter and Paul in Rome, two years later.  “Perhaps I am not as rugged as Mark was,” she thought, “But then again, I don’t think he was very rugged at all.  If anything, Mark was even more fragile than me.”

And so Dee sometimes thought and prayed for Christopher, sometimes listened to the story of Mark, in the words of Felicity and sometimes scanned through those words, his story, on her computer screen.

╬ In Dee’s mind, she followed along with Mark and his team after their arrival in Antioch in 48 AD.  She reflected on those visits to the congregation in Antioch by others, by the intense early Christian prophets, sometimes rather over-intense, who arrived in Antioch from Damascus and the Decapolis.   Perhaps they appeared to be fanatics.  She tried to enter into the story of the arrival of Lucius and Symeon, who reached Antioch from Cyrene in North Africa, on one leg of their merchant shipping route around the Mediterranean.  She followed how Lucius and Symeon inflamed the whole congregation with the challenge of wider mission and ministry and of the congregation’s decision to send Saul, Barnabas and Mark to Cyprus.  And Dee read on through Felicity’s description of Mark’s travel log, which would in due course reach the hands of Luke.

Cyprus and Perga (NEB)Mark’s travelogue, covering 49 AD

Dear Luke

In Salamis, in my homeland of Cyprus, we stayed with Tolmon.  Soon after our arrival, his five-year old daughter Tabitha became seriously sick.  It began with an ear infection.  It worsened alarmingly and by then she had a raging fever.  She screamed with pain.  Her hair was soaked with perspiration.  Abandoning supper, we gathered around the bed.

“Let me tell you a story,” said Barnabas to her.  Tabitha’s cries and her tossing to and fro stilled, at least for a moment.  Her dark eyes locked into his, as he gazed upon her very intensely.  It was as if there was a bridge between their two souls.

Holding her hand, continuing to gaze fixedly into her eyes, Barnabas began.  “Once there was a man called Jairus who went to see Jesus about his sick daughter.  But it took a long, long time for Jesus to get to their home.  When Jesus arrived, at last, he saw they were going to bury the little girl.”

In the middle of telling this story to her, Barnabas laid his hand on Tabitha’s forehead and prayed for her, just as naturally as if it was a part of the story.

As the soft orange glow of the candle faded and darkness fell, there was one final question from Tabitha.  “Where was her mummy?” asked Tabitha.

“Her mummy,” said Barnabas, as he kissed her forehead, “Was talking to God and saying she still wanted her daughter.  Her mummy asked God if Tabitha could please come back from heaven.  And God said ‘Yes, alright’.  So Jesus and his friends went with Tabitha’s daddy, Jairus, to see her become well again.”

“Oh yes,” said Tabitha, “Of course,” as she drifted in the arms of a calm, wholesome sleep.

“Where did you hear that story of the little girl?” I asked Barnabas.  “It is very touching.  Very moving.”

“Oh – in Damascus,” he replied.  “John Mark, they were such a special bunch of believers there in Damascus.  Or I should say, they are, not were!”

“You always say things like that about that congregation,” I said.  It was only from him that I heard those stories from Damascus.  Whenever he told one of their stories, I seized the opportunity to write it down.

During  the week days – while Saul went from one group of professionals and craftsmen to the next – Barnabas and I visited people within their daily round of life and listened to the stories of their lives  – including the town drunk and one person who was insane – Tamar.  Tamar  had suffered rape by a Roman soldier in Paphos. As a result of the rape, for which the community blamed her, she was driven out of her marriage and denied access to her children. Maddened by their thousands, by their legion of judgemental comments, she had come to Salamis. One day there  we heard shocking news. In her ravings, Tamar had picked up a stone and approached a soldier. With one smooth stroke the soldier struck Tamar through the heart.

The  next day, everything fell apart for me too. I was with the family of Quintus and we were discussing the tragedy of Tamar, when Julius noticed  a soldier who had stopped in front of the shop. Barnabas was out.

“Don’t look,” murmured Julius, “There is a soldier staring at you.”

The chatter suddenly dropped to silence. The soldier continued to stand in front of the shop and I could feel his eyes drilling into me.

He walked in slowly, the metal under his sandals making a rapping sound, like hammers, on the stone floor. Then, using the honed blade of his gladius short sword, he turned me around to face him.   It  was Felix, that old scar I had inflicted upon him still scarlet across his eye.  Felix pressed the sharp tip of the gladius into my shoulder, which burned like the sting of a scorpion.

With a sneering face, contorted with great anger he growled “I saw you today and I remember you, little squealing pig, from Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate has lost his job and so has Caiaphas.  Perhaps they would both appreciate it if I settle a score with a little pig like you. What are you doing here?”

“My family lives here in Cyprus” I stammered out.  With the tip of his gladius partially buried and burning in my shoulder, the muscles on his face twitching, he studied me for quite a long time, evidently thinking about what I had said.  Perhaps he wondered about who my family might have been and what contacts they might have had.

“You ran away before, little pig. If there is any trouble here, I’ll  personally put you on a spit, little pig, along with your  family.”

After  he left, there  was a thick, tense silence in the shop. Then Deborah whispered “That was the soldier who killed Tamar.”

I began to shake like a leaf. I burst out of the shop and  stumbled back home, where a wave of nausea hit me and I vomited on the floor. I cleaned up, grabbed a few possessions, bandaged the wound on my shoulder and left a message for Barnabas which referred to our personal nickname, ‘Salesman,’ for a man we both knew to the southwest, in Citium. I  moved as quickly as I could, but it  still took two days  to reach Citium. There, I found Phidias, or “Salesman”, the manager of the timber yard.

Phidias did business regularly with my family.  He and his wife immediately and kindly took me in. While I waited for Saul and Barnabas, as much as I could, I helped.  I assisted in the timber yard, or else in the office with the accounting work.

After a week or two, Barnabas and Saul joined me there in Citium.  Then we traveled further southwest to  the southernmost town of Paphos.  There we met Proconsul Sergius Paulus and his wife Portia.  Portia was about to travel to her father in Rome.  I cannot tell you every detail of course – but let me say this:  In each place we did what we had done at Salamis.

So,  having ended our time in Cyprus, we reached Perga on the south coast of Asia Minor, where Paul and Barnabas again  made contacts with the synagogue and with God-fearers in the town.  I  accompanied Barnabas as he visited their homes, ministering to the sick, and  he telling his many stories of what Jesus had done.

I was hoping to return to Antioch, and to Rhoda.  Then  letters reached us, however, with invitations from other towns.   From his time at Tarsus, Paul had become known in  the interior of Asia Minor.  They wanted to hear their now famous  homeboy, Saul.  It seemed like a marvellous opportunity.  But every silver lining has its cloud.  We also heard that Felix had been transferred there – to Lystra, to suppress Jewish riots.

Deferring  to my sensitivities about Felix, Paul initially  declined the written invitation from Lystra.  But when  they sent a personal delegation, Paul said, “This is the moment to travel to Lystra and Derby. Who knows whether we’ll have such an opportunity again?” But I could see only the  face of Felix. Before  I realized it, I was shouting at Paul.

“There  is no way I am going towards Lystra. Don’t you care or know Felix would kill Barnabas’s family and mine?” I glanced at Barnabas, who  was looking at me in surprise.

With blazing eyes, Paul  said, “We  have to come to terms with what we believe and with what we have been saying and what others have already suffered. This  is the moment for boldness. Don’t be such a grey man.”

The great grizzly Barnabas looked at Paul, amazed, his mouth agape, for Paul’s words affected our family directly and what he said was callous, or seemed so to me, rather than spiritually exalted.

“Even when I consider my own sister Athaliah in Jerusalem,” Paul continued, “Can we give the name ‘life’ to such a horrible, limited existence we endure under selfish, cruel and misguided tyrants? If I go to Lystra, it  could lead to the death of my sister Athaliah. Yet I am sure death cannot  separate either of us  from the Lord  of life, or from each other. It  is not caution and short term prudence which will yield what we hope  for our descendants and for the world.  There is so little time.”

So we differed, Paul and I and sharply. As I saw it, God asked for an obedient, loving child who honored father and mother and sought parents who nurtured children and grandchildren. The power of life came from one generation following the next of the unfolding story of the ordinary family of faith.  The power of God and of life did not come from religious bravado  or fanaticism.

As Paul saw it, on the other hand, people recognized God within the one who, in faith, poured out her or his life without stinting; the one who was a selfless, persistent ambassador for truth.  For him, such a spirit had  power to guide, channel, or rule many people from many nations and aeons, the procession of sovereigns, of ideas and of heavenly powers.

I  don’t know whether I whispered, screamed, or gasped the last thing I said to Paul: “Right or wrong – if you see things that way – count me out. Find someone else to do the correspondence.”

I left immediately.  Barnabas  walked with me as I went to the market, where I found an agricultural wagon.  He  gave me a hurriedly prepared parcel for my mother and one of his giant hugs. I felt a tide of assurance, for no reason. If any of us could deal with Felix, then surely it would be Barnabas. I did not expect to be in contact with Paul again.  Barnabas gave me a quickly written letter addressed to our family at Cedrus.

“John Mark, I have only just heard your mother Mary is not well,” he said, holding my shoulders in his two big hands, and looking into my eyes. “She is evidently very sick.  You are going to need money for what lies ahead. My brothers will send it to you.”

Eventually  I reached Jerusalem, Rhoda, my children and my mother.  To my relief, they were all safe, though my mother was seriously ill and weakening.  Rhoda was looking glorious.  Baby Aaron looked puzzled – but it would not be long now before he would be weaned, “And so Rhoda’s warm body will be mine again,” I thought.  Seven year old Bathsheba clung to her legs, shouting “Daddy is home, Daddy is home!” with her doll glued to her hand.  I quietly gave thanks to God for such family joy.

7:30 pm Sunday 23 March 2003.  Heathrow, London, UK.

╬ Startled, Dee realized the air steward was asking her to put on her seatbelt.  “We will be landing in a few minutes.  Will you please stow the computer and place your chair in the vertical position?”

“Dear Lord,” prayed Dee, “Heal and protect Christopher as you healed others before.  Give the two of us one more chance for happiness.”

The aircraft dropped through the low clouds and into Heathrow airport.  As soon as she could, Dee telephoned her mother and received confirmation that Shahida would be waiting for her.  Then Dee found her way through the crowds in Heathrow, through the dampness of the English weather and into the arms of Shahida, waiting for Dee at the arrivals gate.  It was about 8 pm.  Although it was dark again on that deepening Sunday evening, Shahida took Dee directly to the hospital by taxi.

The five mile distance took no longer than about 20 minutes.  Shahida could not or would not say much about Christopher’s condition, so the two old friends spoke about all which had occurred during the past few weeks.  There were, of course, many details which Dee had to omit, but she was able to give Shahida enough information to explain at least in part.

When they reached the hospital at about 9 pm, the nursing staff in the critical care unit allowed Dee only five minutes with Christopher.

Dee gasped to see him unconscious or comatose, and in an extensive body brace, with three tubes linking him to drips and other wires connected to monitors and held tightly within a kind of double sided webbing hammock which enabled the nursing staff to rotate him completely without moving his shattered upper vertebrae.

Still, Dee could see Christopher’s mop of ash-blonde hair which she had studied so often in the picture on her desk in New York.  She could see the same old long forehead and aquiline nose which had lingered in her mind through the intervening years.

A nurse interrupted her reverie with a quiet request for her to leave.  Dee softly kissed a square inch of skin on Christopher’s forearm, said a brief prayer, and then left as requested.

Dee was in a daze from too little sleep and from jet lag; and from the mixture of shock and delight of seeing Christopher again.

Then Shahida hailed another taxi and took Dee the 12 miles – 45 minutes – to her home on Woodstock Road in Golder’s Green.

Once there, Dee fell into an exhausted sleep, barely noticing the crisp clean sheets and the fresh tulips on the dressing table.


Chapter 14: The Day of the Lord

“That’s joy, it’s always a recognition, the known appearing fully itself and more itself and more itself than one knew.”  Denise Leverton.  Matins (1962) II.

“Two by two in the ark, of the ache of it.”  Denise Leverton. The Ache of Marriage 1964.

Monday 24 March 2003.  Golder’s Green, London.

╬ When  Dee awoke early on Monday morning, she gazed around her room on Woodstock Road, trying to remember where she was.  For a while she lay still, looking at the plain white ceiling.  She slowly and somewhat groggily reviewed the day or two days before.  She put together the bizarrely different scenes; like puzzle pieces making up a picture.

It took her some time to work out if the picture of the last two days was a dream, a nightmare, or possibly all real.  She looked around the bedroom, and noticed the tulips.  The room did seem real, and the flowers even smelled real.  She looked at her cell phone, which indicated that she was indeed in London.  She gingerly went to the bathroom and washed her face.  It occurred to her to peek through the window.  Yes, it was all real enough.  She telephoned Melissa, then her mother and finally Niamh to let them know – a little hesitantly – where she was and why.

“I know it’s very late there and you are going to be busy on your Monday morning,” she said to each of them in turn, “But I want you to know where I am and what has happened.”

She went on to give a brief outline, knowing Patrick would be able to fill them in, while observing an appropriate amount of discretion.

“I want to get to the hospital again – so I’ll telephone later on.  Please keep Christopher in your prayers.”

Melissa wanted to know more about Christopher, but Dee said she would tell her later.

Dee couldn’t bear to tell Niamh anything about the role of Sean, even if she had not been constrained by a fear of breaching some category of classified information.

“The right moment will present itself,” thought Dee, although she couldn’t imagine what such a moment might be.

“Oh my sweet little birdie,” said Dee’s mother, using her baby name for her daughter. “I’m so glad you have found each other.  So glad…” and then her mother started crying.

“I’ll phone later,” said Dee, as her own voice choked and her eyes suddenly swam with tears.  “Thanks Mom.  What was that saying?  ‘If a spring or fountain has once contained water…’”

“There is hope that the water will again appear,” her mother concluded.

╬ Shahida had heard Dee stirring and telephoning.  When the telephone calls ended, Shahida tapped on Dee’s bedroom door, carrying a tray with a flask of freshly brewed tea.  The aroma filled the air and Dee smiled gratefully.

It took quite some doing for Shahida to make Dee have some breakfast, but Dee eventually submitted to the rule of Shahida.  The house was empty except for the two of them.  Shahida had two children, but they were away, as was her husband, busy with his agricultural officer inspections in the north.  Shahida took on the role of resident mother.  She made sure Dee washed and then dressed her in her own daughter’s clothing.  The clothing was slight enough for the tiny figure of Dee.

“Does your Navy work take you out of town much?” asked Dee, over breakfast.

“Not any more,” replied Shahida.  “Now I’m amongst the brass directing matters from ivory towers here in the city.”

“Do tell me all about it,” said Dee, as she dressed.  “I don’t want to ask anything I shouldn’t ask!”

“Thanks for saying so, Dee.  It is a bit that way,” said Shahida.  “To you, between us, I can say I work on nuclear vessels in the Navy – protocols of all kinds.  Sometimes I get the offer to go on a bit of a jaunt and if it is convenient, I do so.”

“Where have you been to?”

“Well, anytime they offer the Mediterranean, you can be sure that I find a trip like that convenient!  I have also done the Far East, which I enjoyed a lot.  I deliberately opted for an airline which stopped in Ethiopia and I took the opportunity to fly inland during the stopover.  What an incredibly beautiful country it is – a mixture of highlands and lowlands, of forests and desert.  That’s where I discovered this wonderful mint tea and I’m always looking out for Ethiopian honey.”

“You lucky thing, you!” said Dee.  “Have you got any vacancies in the Navy?”

“I don’t think the Navy needs geneticists,” smiled Dee, “But I am sure they would snap up an IT specialist!”

“Perhaps its time for me to brush up my CV,” replied Dee, tongue in cheek – for she knew there was no way she wanted to be that far away from Melissa.  But now there was Christopher to consider.  And she would be giving very serious attention to what Christopher needed.

╬ By 8 am that Monday morning, Dee had gently extricated herself from the loving warmth of Shahida’s hospitality.  Feeling the urgency of the situation, Dee pocketed Shahida’s train and bus directions and hailed a taxi back to the West Middlesex Hospital.  By 9 am she was keeping watch outside the doors of the CCU.  They would not allow her to see Christopher more than twice during the day and even then, for only five minutes each time.  But there was nowhere else Dee wanted to be except as near to him as she could be.  She called Mary Locke, her parish priest, to ask for prayer.

Dee waited and prayed in the pleasantly appointed lobby area.  The clean, comfortable and attractively decorated lobby was marred by the noise of construction work going on in the street below.  Though it was admittedly Monday, a working day, nevertheless she resented the invading sound of compressed air drills and hammers resonating through the halls and passages of the hospital, feeling the cacophony must be impeding Christopher’s chances of survival and recovery.  Dee wondered how her uncle was getting on in Damascus with his excavations.

Through those long hours, constrained by and captive to the hope for the healing of Christopher, Dee read and reread what Felicity had written.  It related to the period following Mark’s departure from Paul.  What Felicity described covered the time when Mark’s old school friend Silas went to replace Mark as Paul’s companion (along with Timothy) on their gospel journey in Macedonia, northeastern Greece.

Dee tried to absorb Felicity’s fictional recreation of correspondence between Silas and Mark.  She studied her account of the meeting between Paul and Lydia.  Lydia was portrayed as an ebullient and successful businesswoman, the leader of the prayer group in Philippi in Macedonia and originally, a daughter of Croesus’s kingdom of Thyatira in Asia Minor.  A natural, broad-minded community leader, the Jewish Lydia had placed some distance between herself and the introverted local synagogue in Philippi.  Yet – along with her entire household – she readily accepted the message of Jesus.  Why?  Perhaps a part of it was the cosmopolitan element in her personality and background.

Everything was going swimmingly.  It was a great success – until Paul exorcised a fortune telling slave woman who was a valued investment of some Roman businessmen.  For no one wants their entire income to disappear in five minutes, while they are watching.  So then the trouble started.  The difficulties escalated in their next destination of Thessalonica.

╬ At the hospital, Dee was allowed her allotted five minutes with Christopher.  He was completely still and silent.  The respirator was noisily driving his breathing, the gauges tracing out his vital signs.  She carefully avoided touching the drip tube running down into his arm.  For those treasured few minutes, she simply sat by his bed, stroking his cheek.

Later on she had lunch and afterwards telephoned her mother Moressa again.

“What happened, my little birdie?”  asked her mother.

Dee did her best to describe the situation, but found it difficult to say much over an open line.  So much of what had occurred was woven into serious and secret current affairs and Dee was never comfortable with telling her mother anything which even approached classified information.

Dee could quite easily imagine her mother happily chatting away with someone she didn’t even know at the hairdresser or with friends at the Sunday lunch community, freely spilling the beans on the North Korean plutonium project, or Iraq’s chemical warfare against Iran.

At the same time, however, Dee always went to great lengths to avoid lying to her mother.  So, she carefully selected a minimal amount of true things, and they both accepted that.

“We just happened to meet last week at work in New York City,” said Dee.  “Then Christopher came to Britain and was hit by a bullet – perhaps it was a drive by shooting accident.  The police don’t know yet.  But he is fighting for his life.”

“I will tell our priest,” said her mother, decisively.  She had continued with her Syrian Orthodox faith and she had her own firm convictions about where the lines of spiritual authority lay.  Why, at that time Pope John Paul II – worried about escalating world tensions – was engaged in a dialogue with the leaders of the Syrian Orthodox of Malankara; and Dee’s mother kept up with the news of that meeting.

Meanwhile, the month before, Dee’s uncle had attended the consecration of Rabban Nuri Jaliba Ozmen – a graduate of Oxford – as Archbishop in Damascus.  So as a family, they were quite clear and firm about their dutiful allegiance.  At such a moment, Moressa was sure she would be remiss if she neglected any avenue of grace.

“Thanks.  Christopher surely needs prayer.  I must go, Mom,” said Dee.  Of course her mother was not going to let her get away so easily and continued to chatter about things large and small – mainly related to Shahida, which was the only thing her mother could think to cling on to.

“I’ll phone Shahida,” said Moressa, when she could wring no further information out of Dee.  Afterwards, however, and on second thoughts, she said to herself, “Rather than the priest, perhaps I should telephone the deacon.  I can’t always reach the priest and perhaps he won’t understand anyway.”  It was that old matter of Dee’s divorce from Hakkim.  Actually, by now, it did not bother the priest at all, but it still made Moressa feel awkward.

╬ Then Dee telephoned Niamh again, in what turned out to be an extremely brief, terse conversation.   Patrick took the telephone and told her to read and immediately destroy an encrypted message he was sending by email as he spoke.  He would also delete it from his own computer and overwrite the deleted area.  Dee dived for her computer and opened the message – “Scotland Yard has taken the designated individual into a witness protection program.”

Dee immediately deleted the message and set her computer to repack the files on the hard drive, so ensuring the complete erasure of the message, which could not have existed for anything more than a few seconds during its transmission.

While her computer churned away, she leant back, experiencing a wave of relief.  Whatever happened next, still, Christopher’s brave action had not been in vain.  Moshe Meir would have his opportunity to tell his story.  In some secret conclave somewhere, perhaps Israel would have to account for its nuclear missiles.  The whole international equation would have to include that datum in its negotiations.

But would it all be in time?  Dee thought about the rain of missiles which had already been launched upon Iraq by the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’

She wondered whether there were underground or mobile missiles in Iraq which the U.N. team, with all their equipment, had missed.  She wondered whether an increasingly desperate Saddam Hussein might order a launch button as forces neared his capital.

Then she pictured some officer in an Israeli bunker, standing ready to authorize a counter attack by Israeli nuclear missiles, tipped with deadly plutonium.  She envisaged those malevolent missiles, their silence transformed as they became growling beasts, hackles up, teeth bared, on red alert, ready to sow death and destruction.  She gasped softly to herself as she pictured all those missiles, from one side and the other, all rising with a roar on a pillar of fire and a plume of smoke, within a just a very few moments of time.

She imagined the terrible moment of the impact of the missiles across the towns and cities of the Middle East; the clouds of radioactive material spreading through the whole region, as had occurred after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, or after Three Mile Island.

Now imagining she was looking down from outer space, she saw in her mind’s eye an awful series of retaliatory actions between one nation and the next.  She envisaged repeats of the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in one country after the next.  She watched the desperation of hundreds of thousands of people, animals and crops with radiation sickness and congenital mutations for decades to come.

╬ So, as Dee read what Felicity had written about ‘The Day of the Lord’, she felt not that it merely described some far off time and place, and not merely some ridiculous religious mania; but rather, the whole vivid and lurid scenario had drawn uncomfortably – frighteningly – close.  If the ancient Thessalonians lived in fear of sudden disaster racing in from the horizon, through the wrath of nature, of invasion, or of pirates, Dee felt her situation and context were no different.  All she had been through within the last weeks painted a stark picture of just how grim and threatening a place her modern world had become.

╬ Dee cast aside such anxieties when the hospital CCU allowed her a second visit for the day to Christopher after lunch – again for just a few minutes.  Near Christopher’s bed the respirator continued to wheeze, little machines had blinking diode lights and across the screens of monitors there were the squiggly lines of heartbeats and other bodily functions.  Her eyes rested upon the features of his face and she gently touched his fingers.  “My love,” she whispered, “Hold on.  Hold on.  Come back to me.”

All too soon the nursing staff asked her to leave.  It seemed she had barely entered before they asked her to go.  “Only five minutes you know,” said the person in charge, quietly, when Dee complained.  “That’s the rule and it’s for his sake.”   Noticing that Dee was touching Christopher, she asked Dee to refrain from doing so.

The nurse did give Dee a special heavy apron, which puzzled her.  The nurse did not mention the risk or unknown possibility of something the doctors and medical staff had only just diagnosed, realized, and calculated.  It was something dangerous – the risk of transmitting Polonium 128 radiation to a woman who was within childbearing age.  They were using a chelation agent in an endeavor to bind the radioactive ions and counteract their effect on Christopher.

Dee sighed, stopped complaining and with resignation, took up her post outside the door for the remainder of the afternoon.  Needing something to distract her, she continued reading, and found herself transfixed by Felicity’s words – a mixture of threat and comfort.  She held to those words which strengthened her ability to believe God could be healing Christopher, could be active in the wild world of her own third millennium just as much as the time of Mark.

In the late afternoon, the CCU staff being firm about no more visits to Christopher that day, Dee returned to Shahida’s home.  This time she followed Shahida’s instructions regarding the public transport, in reverse.  From the hospital, her journey to Shahida’s home began with a short walk to catch the 267 bus, on a route from Teesdale Gardens to Gunnersbury; then a train on the Richmond line from Gunnersbury Station to Frognal Station; and finally, the 82 bus from the railway station on Finchley Rd to Woodstock Rd, Golder’s Green.  It took almost an hour and a half – twice as long as the taxi – but Dee wanted to get the exercise and try to clear her mind.  The clocks had moved forward for summer time, so it was was still light by the time Dee reached her destination.

When she reached her new home-from-home with Shahida on Woodstock Road, the two old friends exchanged their news, and then had supper on their laps in the living room.  Shahida usually kept no alcohol in her home, but since tobacco had escaped the attention or foresight of Mohammed, she smoked like a chimney.  Dee did not smoke, but – remembering their university days — Shahida had provided the wherewithal for Dee to have her curious favorite of whiskey with sparkling apple juice.  So the two old friends, with their particular venal comforts, watched the evening news on TV.

There were armed assaults of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ on Al Başrah, An Nāşirīyah and An Najaf – but these were counteracted by a wasting street battle.  Dee had a sinking feeling they were watching a rebirth of Vietnam.  Since it was all occurring on the very doorstep of their ancestral land, there was a tension and a silence in the air.  To be living and working in Britain – or America – and then to watch those countries bomb your forebears’ neighbors was not an easy thing, especially when the reason for the conflict was so vague.

Wanting to minimize negative elements, Shahida turned off the TV and put on some music.

“Christopher’s parents are coming to London tomorrow from their home at Bexhill-On-Sea, on the southern coast of England, near Southampton,” Shahida told Dee.  “They are also going to stay here, because I have plenty of room at the moment.”

“You’re just like Lydia,” said Dee.

“Like whom?” asked Shahida, feeling puzzled.

Dee, having read what Felicity had written about Paul and Lydia of Philippi, related the story to Shahida.

╬ Then, feeling a sudden wave of great tiredness, Dee went to curl up in bed.  She wondered what it would be like to meet Christopher’s parents.

Dee read through the remainder of what Felicity had written about the debacle in Thessalonica.  Felicity described how Paul in Thessalonica had placed an extremely strong emphasis on the new era inaugurated by the man Jesus in his uniquely divine nature.

If Paul had been a lesser speaker, they would simply have ignored him as one more wandering, wild eyed prophet, whose sanity might be in question.  But he was electrifying, strong and pointed in the way he spoke.  The citizens listened with shock to hear his words:  “This newly inaugurated era sets aside customary religious rituals, whether those of the Greeks, the Jews, the Romans, or other nations.”

Outraged members of the city contacted the authorities immediately.  Those civic leaders could see many would be affected if Paul’s radical message would take hold among the people.  There would surely be civic disturbances.  Who could know how far they would reach?  Who could know how quickly the Roman military would react?  Their own careers were on the line, and they could not possibly tolerate such dissention.  And so Felicity compiled a letter.  It was a letter from Silas.  As Mark’s replacement in the role of secretary to Paul, it was a letter Silas might have written to Mark.

“Dear Mark:Naturally enough, old Thessalonian families resented setting aside their traditional gods  and heroes.  Others, however, newer families who had recently moved in, felt differently.  “If these larger-than-life divinities are  said to continue to be so powerful ,” they asked, “Then what of all those  old fashioned devotees who have not survived the disasters our City has experienced?

Why do we – especially those poor non-citizens among us – writhe under the heel of the Romans ? Where now is Zeus, Athena, Achilles, Homer, Pericles, Plato and the rest? Do  they prefer the Romans to us?  And if such prized traditions are so important, why do the civic leaders so commonly disregard them? For most of us, things are bad. We should reconsider our way of life. Our leaders ignore us and abuse us. It is time for a change.”

The message of Jesus was embraced by a great number of people, high and low, for example Aristarchus and Secundus.  Those two were drivers for the imperial mail, all the way between Athens and Philippi.  Like Philip’s Ethiopian Treasurer, the two had become adept with our Scriptures.

Among the maritime traders there and the farmers as well, I relayed Barnabas’s and Peter’s version of Jesus’s parables about the sea and farmers – like those of catching fish, walking on water, sowing seed and the rest.  If at one farm, I omitted a detail, say, the story of the Gerasene demoniac and the pigs, I heard cries to correct the telling!

But Thessalonians were always on edge about catastrophe. One man was complaining bitterly about the magistrate.  “A lazy, selfish, stupid man like him is not a fit leader for our city!  If pirates arrive tomorrow, or even those barbaric Persians, we will be easy meat for them.”

“When was the last time the pirates came?” I asked him.

“Pirates?  Three months ago!” he roared.  “They seized my brother’s fishing boat out at sea and we have not heard from him since.  He and his crew must be dead. Now my brother’s wife and children have no one other than me to look after them,” he said.  He paused for a time, his face a picture of sadness and pain and then continued with a deep sigh.  “By the time our parasitical, stupid Roman oaf gathered troops and ships, they were long gone.  The pirates have spies, they know when a place is vulnerable and they quickly arrive.”   He struck the table and cursed.

Then there was the weather, which could ruin the income of a fishing family, or a trader, and reduce them to poverty.  Not only those things – but the poor Thessalonians also suffered severe earth tremors at times.  On such occasions, almost paralyzed with fright, people dropped to their knees, muttering prayers and incantations.

A small group in Thessalonica was made up of conservative Jewish households, clustered in one quarter.  They kept themselves apart, keeping away from the City Council as well, with old fashioned clothes and hair cuts, observing traditional ways.

Instructed by High Priest Ananias in Jerusalem, the conservative group was deeply suspicious of us, saying of the Jesus Way, “It is a cheap, tainted syncretism, selling a perversion of Judaism to attract a popular following.”   At times, I heard Paul debate with members of the conservative group. One realizes their fears, having endured monsters like Antiochus Epiphanes and Caligula. One understands their self-protection – but surely our message can’t be cast in that mould.  Can it?  Can it?  Surely not.  I hope not, anyway.

At any rate, the group decided to attack Paul and I felt afraid of their intensity.  When the group wished to sway opinion in Thessalonica, they would find a way of doing it. Along the Roman highway, the Via Egnatia, there were a series of agorae (marketplaces). There, gangs collected fees for the ‘protection’ of the store holders – but the leaders of those gangs had loans with leaders of the conservative group.  To deal with Paul, those conservatives called in the gang leaders’ debts.

There was then a vicious storm in the bay, unseasonably early and severe.  Several ships were caught out at sea and one sank not far from the harbor mouth, as wives shrieked in sorrow.  During the night, other ships were damaged at their moorings.  By a quirk of fate, there was also a severe earthquake during that terrible night.  The  next day the storm raged on.

All Jews are well acquainted with the ‘Day of the Lord’ prophecies of the scriptures, but we Jews have always debated them.  But Paul focused heavily on his “Day of the Lord” prophecy and there in the jittery City of Thessalonica, to proclaim the prophecy of Amos was like throwing a lighted torch into a storeroom filled with dry tinder.   If Paul thought to use their fears as an avenue of seizing their attention, one could expect the response to be strong, but the direction of the response could be unpredictable.

“Corruption has become the order of the day,” Paul said.  “We  are now in the last moments of history.    This day  –” Paul rammed home Amos’s prophecy – “On which the Day of the Lord is coming – a day of darkness, a day of gloom with no dawn”, when God would “Pour the sea upon the earth and destroy stone houses and vineyards.  Certainly, a day such as this is before all of us.”  The reaction was  heard in the loud, babbling voices which followed the silence in which they had listened to him.  Many people hastened home as fast as their legs would carry them and Paul’s compelling words must have gone into every home.

The entire city was in an uproar.  The leaders of the conservatives instructed gang leaders to tell of looming danger, adroitly blaming  Paul and Jason.  A mob gathered in the main agora.  Paul saw what was happening. “Our opponents have decided to take advantage of the storm to provoke a riot.”

“Why do you say so?” I asked.

“I am well aware of the process,” Paul said.  “Remember – in Jerusalem I myself manipulated mobs to my own purposes.”   I supposed he was referring to Stephen, again and wondered if Paul could ever leave Stephen’s tragedy behind him.

“Not again!” groaned Lydia, thinking of the turbulence in Philippi, so recently left behind.

The Thessalonian population in general panicked, as if a fleet of pirate ships, or the Persians had appeared on the horizon.    In the aftermath of the disastrous storm and earthquake, the shrines of the Greek gods lost large numbers of people overnight.  Even the priests of those shrines joined the people in the sudden swing to follow Paul’s words.  He was an overnight sensation! On that most dramatic day and from then forward, the prelates of Judaism and the prelates of the shrines of the Greek gods all struggled to come to terms with the impact of our tumultuous movement.

People abandoned their normal activities.  Goods began to pile up at the harbour and captains could not find sufficient crew to load or unload their cargo. After waiting in vain, ships lingering outside the harbour gave up and began to move on up or down the coast. Within the unfolding days, shops emptied of goods, transports halted and the economy began to grind to a standstill.

The priests and civic leaders hysterically denounced Paul.   Jason was issued with a summons to appear before them immediately.

“You will be all right, Jason,” said Lydia. “The magistrates know you well – but we aren’t going to risk having you, Paul, dragged to the magistrates again!  You need to move immediately, to the home of another of my friends here.”

From Jason and others, I heard about his trial before the politarchs.  The prosecutor was also the owner of several shops in town, two fishing boats and had shares in a freighter working the towns of the western Aegean shore.

“Paul, Silas and Young Timothy have turned the world upside down,” charged the prosecutor. “From Philippi, now they have come here to Thessalonica with their wild speeches.  The accused standing there before you, Jason, whether knowingly or otherwise, received them with open arms to the most criminal effect.  I will show, your honors, they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus.  Let him tremble who uses the title ‘king’ without the approval of the Emperor!

“The Emperor Claudius is most likely indeed to see it as sedition and treachery.  Furthermore, it certainly is creating chaos in our city.  We might expect the strong action of the Emperor or of the Roman Senate.  If we lose the status of a Roman colony, then there will be many taxes due, which will impoverish Thessalonica.  We have all seen the protest of nature itself.  Jason has aided, abetted and given succour to atheistic, treasonous devils.  The words of Paul and his party have stung the gods and brought down their fury upon us.  When the trial concludes, I intend to call upon you to convict Jason, the party of Paul in its absence and to order the most severe penalty upon all of them.”

The proconsul of Macedonia in Thessalonica was a friend of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus.  Sergius had his own seat at Paphos in Cyprus – as you well know, Mark.  So Sergius must have told the Proconsul of Macedonia about both Paul and his message.

We heard from one believer, a court secretary to the politarchs, their intentions to drag out as long as possible the process of the hearing, so the general populace would lose interest.  Jason’s  sentence was moderate, but  Paul, Young Timothy and I were seen as a danger to the city, to whom the politarchs owed nothing.  At the three month mark, it was clearly time to go.

Lydia said  “I’ve arranged for an escape tonight.  I am going to hide you, Jason, along with Paul and Silas in a wagon to Beroea.”

Keep us in your prayers.

Your friend,

Silas


Chapter 15: Give the Body its Best Chance

In a dark time, the eye begins to see…

A steady storm of correspondences!

A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon

And in broad day the midnight come again.”

Theodore Roethke.  In a Dark Time. [1964] st 1, 3.

 

Tuesday 25 March. West Middlesex Hospital, Hounslow, London.

╬ On  Tuesday, the CCU allowed Dee longer with Christopher– 15 minutes, but they still held him completely sedated.  “Essentially, we are keeping him almost comatose,” said the doctor, Linda Forde, “To give his body its best chance.”

For those precious minutes she was permitted to sit by Christopher’s side, Dee watched his still form and slow breathing.  She took in every millimetre of the shape of his face and hands and dreamed of what might have been, “And, by the grace of God, what could still be,” she thought.

She realized again that their communion had gone on for more than 20 years.  Despite their difficulties, they had loved each other constantly.

Then Doctor Forde called Dee aside into a small consulting room.  Linda sat on a chair and Dee on a small upholstered love sofa.  Dee noticed the blue herringbone fabric of the sofa and kept staring at it from time to time as Linda described to her a medical assessment of what had probably taken place.

“I must be frank with you.”  She spoke slowly, and paused after each statement, to see the impact of what she said.  “At least one bullet struck one of the upper vertebrae and then bounced inside his rib cage.  There is also a splintered rib and something like bone fragments.  We think the bullet might have been a type which spreads out before or after impact.  There is damage to the heart, lungs and inner organs, but the extent of the damage is not clear yet.  We took trauma surgery measures to stop the internal bleeding as soon as he arrived.  We are watching his vital signs very carefully and are waiting to stabilise him adequately for what would probably be extensive surgery – actually, a series of surgical procedures, if he can stand them.”

As kindly as she could, Dr. Forde was communicating things she did not need to or perhaps even should not do.  Dee was simultaneously grateful and resentful.

Linda took Dee’s hands into hers and looked into Dee’s eyes for a long moment and then said slowly, “We do not expect that he will walk again.  I’m afraid it looks as if it could get even worse, because he has something in his blood we cannot counteract completely.  That’s the reason for the protective clothing.”

So even if Christopher survived, Dee realised, it was going to be bad, very bad indeed.  Amidst the waves of numbing shock and inner pain crashing over her, Dee dimly realised the possibility that she may have only a limited amount of time left with Christopher.

“You may stay by Christopher’s bed – shielded by gloves, mask and a protective apron – provided,” she said, “That you say and do nothing other than quietly sit there.”

╬ Needing the company and support of her long ago spiritual friends, through the long hours of silence and stillness, Dee read through what Felicity had written about Paul and Silas in Athens and on their journey towards Corinth – written in the form of a letter from Silas to Mark during the journey.

During a break, walking the hallways, Dee telephoned Felicity, told her all about the events of the past week and thanked her for what she had written down.

“Niamh told me — I’m so sorry about Christopher,” said Felicity.

“Thank you Felicity.”   Dee was quiet for a while.  Then she said, “Well Mark is travelling with me on my own heart’s painful journey. I feel I understand Mark better, and that Mark and Rhoda are with me here.  Which is good, because suddenly I feel – oh so tired, so much older somehow.”  Tears welled up in her eyes.  “I feel like life is a recurringly disappointing or bad dream, a spiral of pain, passed on.”

╬ “Christopher’s parents have travelled from the southern coast of England and arrived at my home an hour ago,” Shahida reported a little later, during Dee’s telephone call with her.

“None too soon,” said Dee, feeling the opposite, in the grip of a sudden stab of jealousy. That green eyed monster, she realised, was a ridiculous, stupid response.  She tried to retract the feeling as much as she could.  “I look forward to meeting them.”

“They’re on their way down to the hospital now,” said Shahida.

“Well, now I’m going to have to make space for them,” thought Dee, “But perhaps – well, surely, really – it will be a healing thing for Christopher to see his parents.  And even if the worst happens, God forbid, it will be good for them to have connected.”

Returning to Christopher’s bedside, she thought about the link between relationships of all kinds alongside the meaning of the word ‘life.’  “Life is connectedness, I suppose, however the connection occurs.  And then there are those moments that there is too little connection.  There are those moments when people and nations begin to misunderstand each other, think they have divergent concerns and become pitted against each other.  There are moments that invasions occur, that oppression rises, when wars begin.  Then life, in the best sense, begins to ebb.”

When Christopher’s parents arrived, Dee welcomed them, ceding to them Christopher’s bedside in the CCU, with the best grace she could.  Dr Forde urged Dee to go home and get some sleep.  She waited for them, however.  Their visit concluded, and they came out, his mother’s face a dull mask of sadness, and his father trying to be stoic.

The three of them took a taxi to Shahida’s home together.  Despite a few noble efforts to converse, they lapsed into a meditative silence. There seemed little to say, and little that was said.  There would be other times for conversation.  At Shahida’s home, they took their dinner plates to their bedrooms, with a few sentences of apology to their understanding and considerate hostess.

In bed, Dee found it difficult to sleep.  After an hour of staring into the darkness, Dee thought that reading would help her to be a less anxious and a more positive presence.  She went through the rest of what Felicity had laid out as Silas’s description of Paul’s correspondence with the Thessalonians.

She felt a sudden wave of warmth, of a kind of divine grace as her mind and spirit travelled to join those modern and ancient companions of hers.  Through the last few weeks their shared writing project had been an avenue of expression and exploration of their own emotional journey, as if it were, a shared journal.  For all four of them, it was a way of examining their own modern lives in the light or reflection of the lives of long ago and worthy others, a way of releasing their Gordian knots within, a way of cleansing their spirits and seeing new possibilities ahead.

“My dear brother MarkIt was the shortest day of the year, grim and cold, a true winter’s day in Chislev, in the eighth year of the rule of Claudius[1].  It was windy and rainy, when Young Timothy eventually returned from Thessalonica to meet Paul and me in Athens. The discussion went along the following lines:“Well, my brothers Silas and Paul,” said Timothy to us, “this is what I can tell you.  The Thessalonians are in good heart.  I relayed to them your concerns, Paul.  I told them how congregations had developed in other towns we have visited.”“Well done, Timothy,” said Paul.  “The challenges at a place like Thessalonica don’t exist there alone,  and there is growth and development in so many places.  We need to build up contact and communication between congregations.  Communication is essential.  Each of them should encourage, inform, or correct other places.  Congregations run into trouble because they are simply repeating problems already solved elsewhere.”“Well, in our organising work from Jerusalem,” I said, “what Stumps – I mean Mark — and I usually did was to send visitors like Peter, Barnabas, or yourself. But such an approach can be complicated, difficult and also expensive.  In places, it is politically charged and dangerous. I suppose a logical alternative might be to write letters to them.”“I agree,” said Paul, “Personal visits are difficult, dangerous, and less frequent with every new congregation that grows up.  We should develop a correspondence support method with places we have visited and ask them to copy the letter onwards to others.”“That makes sense to me,” said Lydia.  “Thinking of Philippi and Thessalonica, it is clear none of us can do it alone. We all have our problems at times and find we need support from others. Or, when all is well, we might be in a position to help others.”“Bring a scroll,” said Paul – ever action oriented. “Let’s make a beginning.”So we set ourselves to write down a letter to send back to the believers in Thessalonica. Paul paced up and down the room, as I wrote.I remember the scene clearly, as he began:  “From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy to the congregation at Thessalonica who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to you and peace.”  His words had a familiar ring, comforting in a way, for it was the way people usually began their letters there.So Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians transpired in this way.  As  I wrote, I became convinced his words were for more than those of Thessalonica alone.  For it seemed to me as if I was in a trance – as if I were at once far off and yet still inside the room.  God  was at work, and, as Isaiah once recorded, “My word will not return to me void – it will accomplish my purpose.”   Paul’s words to the Thessalonians would echo onwards, would resonate with myriads of other people like them.  Isolated persons of prayer would become legions synchronised by the summons of the Spirit; legions of a number no political leader could summon; legions possessed of such an accumulated strength of conviction no Caesar could coerce or corrupt.There  in Athens, the miserable weather continued. The rain fell in sheets and the wind moaned with a high, whistling sound around the eaves of the roof.  Meanwhile, I continued to write down Paul’s words – the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians.“Tell them…” said Paul.“Paul, Paul, Paul,” I said.  “You have forgotten your appointment with Dionysius.  You will have to go now and we can carry on later.”“Oh, yes,” he said.  “Let’s conclude the letter now.  I don’t want to delay it.”   After a few sentences he signed it and then rushed off to his appointment.I sat for a while, alone, holding the finished epistle with a strange sense of respect, if not reverence. I went onto the veranda, gazing at the whitewashed walls and brightly coloured doorways of houses on the hill. The rain had stopped and the wet cobblestones of Athens gleamed. I shuddered in the sunny cold of the winter day.The strange feeling I had initially experienced returned again. “This is more than just another letter”, I murmured, pondering the Song of Hannah and the Psalms of David, the lingering sadness and joy, the hope for rescue which had magnetized hearts and minds for many hundreds of years. I thought of a simple document presenting or promulging a resolution of the Roman Senate, which might set nations into turmoil.Lost in reverie, I turned over in my hands Paul’s small letter, lightly stroking the papyrus. Holding it to my nose, I could still smell the river and the reeds in it. I thought of the people who had harvested the papyrus reeds and pressed those leaves into the smooth writing film I held in my hands. I looked down at my fingers –smudged, I noted ruefully – with which I had inked out the concerns of Paul for Thessalonica and for the gospel. Now all these elements had joined or had been woven together, to become Paul’s letter, to the believers there.I felt that Paul’s letter was or would become a founding, constitutive element of something far weightier than the papyrus on which I had written, or the pen and ink I had used.  It would be weightier than me; than Paul; or than just one congregation. “This,” I thought, “Is the beginning of the written records of the Jesus Way, of the New Covenant between God and the people of God.”Suddenly aware of the time of day, I imagined I could already hear the pounding hooves of the rapidly approaching horses and carriage of the imperial postal courier along the Via Egnatia. I did not want to lose a day in the mails.  Wondering whether Aristarchus and Secundus would be on courier duty, I quickly packaged the letter. Wrinkling my nose at the foul smell of the melting wax, I sealed the scroll. In my haste, I burned my finger slightly, but left the hardening wax on the blistered skin.Then I hurriedly wove my way through the noisy bustle of the shoppers at the agora of Athens and so to the imperial postal depot, hoping to find someone on duty there.  At the side of the depot, a boy was already waiting for the courier with the change of horses.The depot had a musty smell – perhaps intensified by the recent rainfall.   Just inside the door stood a heavily armed veteran Roman soldier – from Spain, perhaps — and next to him, the two other men, who were smiling broadly, those very men I was hoping to see.  “Aristarchus!” I cried out.  “And Secundus!  How wonderful! I was so hoping you would be here!”  It was our imperial mail driver friends from Thessalonica – big, strong men.  Their imposing size would give anyone pause, before daring to attack them.I told them about everything which had occurred since seeing them there.  As we spoke together, a messenger came in and handed a package  to a small, tired looking clerk in the depot.  I listened with interest.“From Proconsul Gallio,” said the messenger.  The clerk replied, “Tell the Proconsul it will reach Thessalonica within four days.”  He spoke fast, but my Greek was getting better  and I could just follow.  Then the clerk tossed the package into the leather bag awaiting the imminent arrival of the courier. At it landed, the package made a thud which reminded me of the judge’s conclusion of a court matter.We heard the clatter of the carriage on the cobblestones. Taking Paul’s papyrus scroll in hand, Aristarchus and Secundus went out to meet the incoming courier.  Moving quickly, the clerk of the depot tied his mail bag, tipped smelly, molten wax over the tie around the bag and pressed into the soft wax the seal of the imperial mail depot of Athens.Although they carried officially sanctioned correspondence only, one appreciated the patrols and escorts of the imperial guard.  We all knew about the scummy bandits along the intercity roads of the Empire, who regarded any goods in transit as juicy prizes.  Along the road, while travelling on foot – as many did – even if one were robbed, there was always the chance the imperial mail would come past at some point during the day.  To reach one’s destination safely was always a cause for gratitude to God!I turned away from the depot.  The imperial carriage was changing horses as I left the building.  I waved farewell to the Thessalonian drivers Aristarchus and Secundus.  As I departed, the glittering eyes of the Spanish soldier at the depot glanced at me as if I was just another piece of worn out cloth, blowing along the road.Just over a week after we sent the letter, we received a response from the Thessalonians, by return of mail. As far as we could tell from the hastily written reply, it appeared that someone had concocted a document after Paul’s visit, and had then circulated that document among the believers at Thessalonica.The document in question had stated or implied it was written by a leading figure amongst the believers.  It stated that the Day of the Lord had already came and gone.The effect of that document on those sensitive believers at Thessalonica was devastating.  They felt that they had been left behind and not taken with Christ into his kingdom. As a result, many Thessalonians had turned away from Christ.  Paul groaned at that discouraging news. And I complained too.  “It seems like we can’t win for losing.  Whose side are you on, Lord?”  Paul – or we!— would have to write again.

[1] That is, in December 49 AD


Chapter 16: Touch and Go

“Each one’s himself, yet each one’s everyone.”

Theodore Roethke. The Sententious Man 1958.  St. 6.

“This is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.”  Willa Sibert Cather.  My Antonia, 1918 Bk I, ch. 2.

Tuesday 15 March 2003.  Golder’s Green, London

╬ When Dee awoke in Shahida’s home in the early hours of Tuesday morning, she tiptoed downstairs and made herself a cup of coffee, and then dressed.

Dee left the house at 6 a.m., leaving a note for Shahida.  She hopped the busses and trains to return to West Middlesex Hospital, Hounslow, to resume her vigil.  Gloved and masked, with a protective apron, she had the privilege of being allowed remain by the side of Christopher.

At the hospital, Dee watched the quiet bustle of the morning hand over between the changing shifts of the medical staff.

During the process she was allowed to remain present to hear the medical status of Christopher as it was read out from the departing nurse-in-charge to the incoming nurse-in-charge.  As Dee studied her face and her tone of voice, she could tell that she did not look happy with his progress.

“They must really consider him touch-and-go to allow me to stay here and hear this,” she thought, feeling dismal.

WM hospital was a hive of activity.  There were many busy-looking doctors, medical staff and departments at work.  For the hospital was evolving and upgrading into a major medical facility.

The head ICU nurse for the new shift, wearing protective clothing, checked each gauge, meter and drip and asked Dee to wait outside while they cleaned Christopher.

Oddly enough, it had been the sunniest March for 20 years.  As Dee looked down at a garden at the doors of the hospital, she saw that the young spring shoots were wilted, their heads bowed down.

╬ Waiting in the lobby of the ICU, in the light of the rising sun and the sound of growing activity in the city streets outside, Dee used the time to read Silas’s description of Paul’s work in Athens.

Unfortunately, the sound of construction on the new main building began again.  She could see that it was approaching completion. Dee felt a wave of dismay and wished she could send the construction company to go and construct some other building for a few days.  “One in Damascus, for example!” she thought.

To avoid obsessing on the worst, and as a distraction from the noise of construction, while waiting, Dee blocked her ears and focused her attention on what Felicity had written about Paul meeting one of the most prominent citizens of Athens, Judge Dionysius.

Dee read through Paul’s speech to the bar of Athens and about how Silas had been impressed by the accomplished audience.  Paul, however, contradicted Silas in order to emphasize the radically egalitarian nature of the Christian community.  Dee nodded thoughtfully, absorbing Felicity’s note saying that the concept or vision of an entirely Christian city had surfaced in Athens for the first time.

Before she went off duty at breakfast time on Tuesday morning, Dr Forde called Dee into a consulting room.  She told Dee in person, and then Christopher’s parents on the telephone that they intended operating on Christopher the next day.  “His vital signs are declining and we can’t wait any longer.

“We are going to begin with doing what we can to repair the damage to Christopher’s lungs,” said Dr Linda Forde, “It will be intricate.  And then we will take it from there, step by step. As his next of kin,” she paused, and then continued, “I’ll leave the papers at the CCU for you to sign.  The surgeon will be there at the CCU at 2 p.m. today if you would like to have anything explained, or if you would like to query anything about our medical proposals.  I wouldn’t expect the surgery to take any less than five hours.  Please know that we welcome a second opinion if you would like that.”

Dee did not feel she was in a position to doubt anything Dr. Forde said.  “I am sure we all have confidence in what you would decide,” she said.  “Thank you for everything you are doing, as well as for the personal care you are bringing to this.”

Linda smiled.  “I have ordered Christopher’s sedation to be reduced today.  In due course, the two of you will have the opportunity to talk with each other.  You have to understand – I don’t know how the surgery will go tomorrow.”

Dee felt the hint of something ominous in what Linda said and just nodded quietly.  “Thanks for telling me, Doctor Forde,” she said.

Dee went downstairs to the cafeteria, and had coffee and a muffin.  She barely tasted them, however.

Then she returned to Christopher’s bedside, quietly reading as she hoped he might become conscious in due course.

She read of the encounter of Paul and Silas with the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries at the Telesterion in Eleusis, several miles to the west of the Acropolis of Athens; and of the priest’s explanation of the Titans.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus, in Athens, GreeceTemple of Athena Nike,on the Acropolis in Athens, GreeceMy dear MarkPaul watched as the magistrates and lawyers gathered on the Areopagus hill, some of them puffing and out of breath from the climb.  They usually met at the Stoa Basileios in the Agora, but it was fine weather and Dionysius arranged for Paul’s special address to the Areopagites on their traditional old site near the Acropolis.“Good luck,” I said to Paul, since I found the group a bit intimidating.“Thanks, Silas,” he responded, with a smile, “May God’s Spirit work today.”As Paul began speaking to the group, he glanced at the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike – Victory — over their heads as they sat before him. My eyes fell on the great agora of Athens down the hill behind Paul. What an amazing view!Paul spoke marvellously and it was well received. The citizens of Athens were always striving to match up to the heights of the learning of Alexandria and forever made every effort to present the sharpest analysis, disputation and argumentation.“You have an altar to the unknown God,” Paul said, “and now, I come to make that unknown God known to you.”   He spoke well enough to earn the honour of attention and debate from the incisive minds of the collection of people before him, leaders of Athens and of Greece itself.It was more than an academic exercise, however. Those magistrates were well aware of the ferment elsewhere.  There was the remarkable impact of the gospel in every city of the eastern provinces into which it had entered.  Now there has been its impact upon the cities of Macedonia and Achaia and therefore, upon Greece itself.  With ancestors like Lycurgus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, they were conscious of the power of ideas and they took Paul’s speech seriously.  The reality of social unrest, damage to property, and the threat of Roman military action added significantly to the stakes.It was good to see Paul energetic, positive, rising to the exchange, having to think hard and having to search his mind – and his Greek!  – for a better way of putting the points he wished to make.The legal fraternity arranged themselves over the historic site of the rock of Mars Hill. In the grass around the rock, there were others gathered, to listen.  There were assistants and servants of various kinds connected with those eminent Greek lawyers.The meeting eventually drew to a close. They were not happy, but accepted what Paul said in a grumbling mood of toleration at least for the time being.After Paul finished speaking, and the crowd slowly drifted away, he noticed a young woman curled up in a foetal position, on her knees and shuddering in a way which made it evident she was crying. The men of law dispersed, until her shaking body was alone.Paul went over to her. Young Timothy, Dionysius and I did not go with Paul, but sat on the rock, in a quiet prayer, while he sat by her side.  They spoke for a while and then we saw Paul lay his hands on her and he was clearly praying for her. They carried on talking and the sun began to set.  We quietly left.When Paul arrived home, about half an hour later than we did, he gave us a short summary of what had transpired.  “That woman is from Paphos – from the household of Sergius Paulus. Up now, people have called her Dolce. She told me many things about what has happened to her – and about many things she, in turn, has done to others. At her request, I prayed for her, as you saw. Afterwards, she said she felt completely healed, fully washed by the blood of Jesus; it was as if she were a young child again. And she said I should tell you her name is no longer Dolce, but Damaris.”   I thought you would be interested to know, Mark, since you spent time in Paphos and perhaps you know her.I became friendly with her – Damaris — over the next few days.“Silas,” she said to me, “I have the strangest story.  About a month ago, I received a letter from Portia.  Portia is… well, I was her intimate personal slave in Paphos, Cyprus.”   She looked through the window and was silent for so long I thought perhaps the conversation was over.When I stirred as if to leave, Damaris started and apologised.  “The time came when Portia took her son Asyncritus – I think he was about 18 years old then – to Rome.  It was just over a year ago.  When Portia left, I… well, ran away from Paphos.  I came here, to Athens.  Men found me attractive and I found the lawyers lucrative.  I suppose I now know most of them and for the worst of reasons.”   She was looking down as she spoke.  “I had a rough life.  I have used the money to buy up a few properties here in Athens – so I have material security of my own now.“Well then, a month ago, as I said, out of the clear blue sky I received a letter from Portia.  She wrote to say she has been to Rome more than once during the past year.”   Again Damaris was quiet, but I knew by now she just needed time and so I sat waiting. “When she was there in Rome, she visited her son Asyncritus, where he was staying at the home of Portia’s father, Gratus.“Portia wrote saying she had learned Asyncritus had taken up with a group of Christians in Rome. Of course, such a thing would be scandalous in Roman society and not likely to help him in his career.“Curious, however and interested in what interested her son, Portia went to their meetings.   She said her intentions were to gain the confidence of her son, in order to gently draw him back into the customary ways.  In her letter, she told me what she heard there about Jesus.  What a surprise!“Portia said she repented and had been baptised; and she was now writing to me to apologise for all the ways in which she had hurt me.  She hoped I could find it in my heart to forgive her.  But she said her husband no longer wished her to return to him in Paphos; so she has now continued to live in her father’s home in Rome.“Then, lo and behold, you and Paul arrived here, Silas.  There on the Areopagus, I heard what you said about Jesus.  I can not remember all Paul said, but I know it struck me to the core, like a bolt of lightning.  So, to put it simply, I too now believe.  I too, like Portia, wish to leave behind me all the pain and damage and seaminess of what my life has been.  I pray the property I have here in Athens can be cleansed and purified as it serves the gospel.  So I can respond to Portia’s letter with great news of my own.  And perhaps the communion between Portia and me can be…” – and there was one last long pause – “Can be a different one now.”Isn’t that wonderful, Mark?  What do you say?  Our entire stay in Athens was just as wonderful.  On various occasions in the days that followed, we would meet with philosophers in the agora. Dionysus the Areopagite and Damaris grew in their faith by leaps and bounds.  At their baptism, Dionysius did not hesitate to be baptised in the presence of the group of other believers that began growing there, despite the fact that many if not most of them were simple, uneducated folk, or slaves. In fact, Damaris seemed to be at home with the slaves.  Dionysus and Damaris saw it as a privilege, as we do, to be counted members of the new community of the Spirit.  Into that mix, Athenian Jews that follow Jesus brought their own gifts and charisms, especially their deep knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures.The two of them, Dionysus and Damaris, became consumed with the gospel. They were constantly with Paul during that time. Within a few weeks, Paul found when he explained something to them, they discussed it with the Jewish believers and developed the idea in the Athenian manner.  They surpassed Paul!  So much so, he felt the whole mission to Athens was more than secure in their hands and we could confidently move on. To a marked extent, we felt our visit to Athens was a heartening vindication of what Paul and all of us were doing and saying. I thought we all deeply appreciated the moment.Dionysius kindly gave us a personal assistant to accompany us in our journey to the south.With an odd look in his eye, Dionysius said to us, “You intend to travel to southern Greece – southern Achaia, the Peloponnesus and the city of Corinth. You will find it to be a strange area. They are the cities and harbours, which are the crossroads of trade around the Mediterranean and have been so for a long time. In those places you will find religious communities which take your breath away – communities with views you might find offensive.  You will see a mixture of nationalities, behaviour, and ideas you would not have encountered before. I am sure you will be shocked, repeatedly.  Prepare yourself for the unexpected. Before now, the testing of your gospel has been the reaction of the stern patriarchs of traditional religion of the old countries and cities.  The south does not even prize the academic interests of Athens. Rather, the trial will be different – the challenge of libertarianism, the challenge of a wild, lawless hedonism. My brothers, you will have to reach deeply into your hearts and souls to deal with those new and different questions and contests.”As the month of Chislev ended and Tebeth[1] began, we went on our way.  Taking advantage of the letters of introduction from Dionysus, we stopped by Piraeus for a few days, before going on to Eleusis and then to Corinth.We met the priest of Eleusis, who gave us an impressive review of the gods of the Greeks. Paul smiled in a friendly manner and said, “I thank you much for your explanation.  I agree with you, those things might be shared by many nations. They reflect the cycles of the life and thoughts of human beings and the cycles of nature. For that reason, many peoples – Greeks, Egyptians and Romans – might share such accounts although in slightly different forms.“I did not wish to be derogatory, in any sense,” Paul continued.  I flinched and squirmed, dreading what might come next.  “But take even an insect, the water boatman.  It goes through its rituals and routine of hatching, mating and dying, season by season, generation to generation. It is the natural cycle of the life of the water boatman.“Humankind also has its recurring cycle of natural events, yet there is more than just a cycle.  Your Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, were not repetitions of one another, but they were all developments upon one another. In Egypt, the pharaohs Mammose, Akenaten, Ramses and Cleopatra were not repetitions of one another, but they were all developments upon one another. Similarly in Rome, where the consul Sulla, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius were not all repetitions of one another, but they were all developments upon one another.  As individuals, our grandparents, our parents, ourselves and our children do not simply repeat each other, but move forward.The priest bowed, smiling, returning the courteous manner of Paul; and then invited us to his home.  We were now cold and wet and welcomed the invitation.  Gathered around a roaring fire, over dinner, we continued to talk.“What I mean,” said Paul, “Is there is a thrust in your story here in Greece and also in the story of all people, which exceeds a simple cycle. Something grows. Something develops. And indeed, the whole story of all the people of the earth is growing and developing towards the ultimate moment God has made for creation. We were sent here by God to proclaim this.“God originally made the world.  Later on, when the time was ripe, God sent his only son to suffer and die for the sake of rescuing humanity from darkness. Only this one man, in the entirety of history, was born, died and then raised by the power of God and continues to live in his human body, seated at the right hand of God.“Now that is not a recurring cycle – but rather, it is the thrust within history, all through history, which moves towards the goal and the end which God has planned for it. The story of each individual and of humankind, moves towards the goal God has for each one, the goal God planned for in creation, when God created the universe.”Following on from the troubles in Thessalonica and from our encounters with the Athenian Areopagites and the priest of Eleusis, I became ever more aware of the tremendously different world view, culture and way of life in Greece.  But I had the feeling something far more challenging lay ahead of us in Corinth.  The next day, Paul and I continued our westerly journey onward towards the Peloponnese and Corinth.  I traveled with an uneasy apprehension, and a chilly wind did nothing to dispel my lingering anxiety.  Paul was unusually silent as well.Please greet your family and mine, Mark.  I am missing Jerusalem!I will write again soon.Your friend

Silas


[1] That is, In mid-December of 49 AD


Chapter 17: Bond of True Love

“And yes I said yes I will yes” James Joyce.  Ulysses.  Last Words.

“I am most immoderately married:

The Lord God has taken my heaviness away;

I have merged like the bird with the bright air,

And my thought flies to the place by the bo-tree.”

Theodore Roethke.  The Abyss, (1964) V

Tuesday 25 March 2013.  West Middlesex Hospital, Hounslow, London

╬ To Dee’s delight, Christopher recovered consciousness at 9 a.m. the next morning, on Tuesday.

“Don’t say too much my darling,” she whispered.  “I want you to get well.  Just hold my hand and look at me.”

It was difficult, because the pain was continual for Christopher.  The smallest movement cause him to grind his teeth in agony.  He could not completely restrain a groan as shooting lightning wracked his body.  The radioactive toxins were oozing through him.  His veins were like hot, polluted sewers carrying poison.

So Dee and Christopher spent the morning in each other’s company, mainly looking at each other, but occasionally whispering small things.  There was so much to talk about – but whenever Christopher showed signs of becoming too animated, she shushed him.

“Don’t talk much,” she said, “Or they will put you to sleep again!”

By noon, however, he was looking no stronger than before – rather, paler, greyer, weaker and more diminished.  The hospital chaplain had just left his bedside and was seeing other people in the CCU.

Glancing at the chaplain, Dee leaned forward and placed her fingers on his lips.

“I have one little question for you honey,” Dee whispered to Christopher, glancing over her shoulder at the CCU staff, none of whom were nearby just then.  “Don’t say anything, don’t do anything, OK?  Just listen.  My question is this: ‘Will you marry me?’  I’m sorry to be such a forward, loose woman, but I’m just a bit desperate.”

She glanced nervously at Christopher’s heart rate monitor as she spoke.  It did seem to move in some way, but she didn’t really understand the patterns.

“At least no alarms went off!” she thought.

Christopher looked at her for what seemed a long time, and then nodded, with a weak smile.

He signalled with his eyes towards the hospital chaplain a short way off, and Dee’s face became a picture of delight.

Dee stood and went over to ask permission and cooperation from to the duty nurse, Pierre Balzac, who shook his head, “No,” he said, “We have never done so here, to my knowledge. Better check with the doctor.”

Pierre’s hesitation was no deterrent to Dee’s determination.  On the telephone, Dee reached Linda Forde who was consulting in the emergency room.  “Dr. Forde, may Christopher and I be married, please?”

“You mean, in the CCU?  Hmmm…” said the doctor.  Then after a long pause, “I didn’t think you were really his sister,” chuckled Linda.  “Let me think about it a moment.  I’ll phone back.”

A few minutes later Linda telephoned back.

“Yes, OK,” said Linda, who thought the prognosis was sufficiently bad for the patient to allow matters of personal concern to move to front stage. “No more than five people and no more than fifteen minutes – and then leave him alone completely afterwards.  I want the whole thing very quiet – no disturbing the rest of the CCU.”

“You have my word.  It must be very quiet, very small and very quick.  Thank you, doctor.”

“Good luck.”

Linda called Pierre, to inform him of the permission she had given Dee, the reasons and the restrictions.  Pierre was not pleased, but he conceded the point.  Meanwhile Dee telephoned Christopher’s parents to tell them their visit that day was going to be a very special occasion.

Christopher’s parents came at 1 p.m., together with Shahida. With the hospital administrator performing the role of a justice of the peace, the hospital chaplain conducted a small, brief and very simple wedding service.  The vows took barely a few minutes, Christopher managing his simple “I do.”

“You may kiss the groom,” concluded the hospital chaplain with a smile.

“And now I want everyone out,” said Pierre, trying his best to look grim and dictatorial; speaking softly so as not to disturb the CCU, but speaking very firmly indeed and using his fingers as if they were the bristles of a broom. “Out, out, out!  You can carry on tomorrow.”

On a more sombre note, Dee and Christopher’s parents were called aside at the nurses’ station.  There they listened to the surgeon’s explanation.  Then Dee signed forms for the impending surgery, checking the box for next of kin, and writing “Wife”.

Done with the surgeon, they found Shahida in the lobby outside the CCU – and that she had managed to bring a bottle of champagne and plastic glasses. The small group toasted the event together.  Dee’s mother and Melissa were in tears of joy on the telephone.    Eventually they all left the hospital to go home, but Dee would not leave.

Although Pierre did not allow Dee back into the room again, Dee waited in the lobby outside until late in the evening.

“This is a strange place to spend my honeymoon,” she thought.  After two decades of having no sexual partner, her own kind of asceticism, Dee wondered how physical intimacy would be between Christopher and her, having seen enough of him during her bedside vigil to be quite graphic in her imagination.  She tried to envision life caring for him as a quadriplegic — wheelchairs, ramps, feeding him, washing him, for the rest of the life they would share together.

“Despite the horror of the situation, yet for the two of us to be one single unit, finally, has made this day into one of the best days of my life,” she thought.  “My man is together with me at last.”

She waited in the lobby through the afternoon and evening, taking a light meal in the hospital cafeteria downstairs.  She spoke to her mother and her daughter to explain more about the unfolding events.

Seeing her there as he left for the day, Pierre relented and allowed her to sit by Christopher.  While she waited, she read Silas’s report to Mark on Corinth.

The hospital personnel were developing a friendship with her.  One or two of the more chatty ones – having heard about the little marriage service — asked about Christopher and her.

“The hospital is going to charge me rent, soon!” she thought and eventually went home at 9 p.m., trying to quell her growing anxiety over the coming surgery.

“My dear MarkTo listen to the  Corinthians, you would think there was an endless orgy there in their city.  Most people took as synonyms the two words ‘Corinth’, and ‘decadence’.Then there was the food. Our simple Jewish diet made me reluctant to eat their food – bottom-living seafood, eels, spices, parts of birds and liquors.But not distracted but that environment, Paul resolutely built up the Gentile community of faith. After six months with Aquila and Priscilla, Paul moved from their home to Gaius’s house.One day during lunch in the tent making shop, Paul and I discussed his entirely Gentile congregation which was developing at the home of Titius Justus. The others enjoyed their lunch, overlooking the Lechaion, the port of Corinth in the Gulf of Corinth.“It is a challenge”, Paul said, “To drain the marshes of personal sensuality among these Gentile believers.  They have their famous love god, Aphrodite, who is at the centre of the stream.  But how many more they have – like Apollo, and their healing god, Asclepius.  They need wholesome teaching and they need to grow in their inner self discipline.”I thought about Asclepius.  “Do not you yourself have inner scars on your soul which match the outer scars of whips and stones on your back, Paul?” I asked.  I was thinking most especially of his continuing anguish about his role in the execution of Stephen.  “Haven’t you found healing and peace?  How is it you have found those things? Can’t we pass your experience on to them?”Paul paused in his work, conscious of my boldness of speech.  “I do not know”, said Paul. “What can I do but rely upon the grace of God?”Usually, I attended worship at the synagogue.  Trying to change the subject, I asked Paul about members of his Gentile Christian congregation in Corinth – about some of those of particular concern to him.  For he mentioned some by name from time to time.  Paul brightened up.“Well, I have been trying to build up connections not only between the members of the congregation, but also between them and other congregations – like Dionysus’s congregation in Athens and Lydia’s group in Philippi. Members here are enormously talented – Erastus, for example, who is the aedile and in charge of the public works of Corinth.“There is, of course, Crispus; also my host Gaius, as well as the household of Stephanus. Cloe is a strong, enterprising woman, with property not only here but also in Ephesus, yet most are poor, or slaves. Yet the congregation is fragmented, by which I mean they readily accept vast differences of income between them as natural and as having nothing to do with their faith in God.”Thinking of the episode of Stephen and the Greek and Jewish widows in Jerusalem, I said, “I suspect it will take time for people to share goods — even those who say they follow Jesus.”Paul had evidently been most effective in his ministry with the Gentile Corinthians, just as he usually was in other places before now.  “What a wonderful crowd!” I said to Paul, watching the congregation pouring in to Titius Justus’s home.“But how few by comparison to how many outside!” said Paul.  I looked at him, noticing his shortness –not much over 5 ft, I suppose – with watery eyes, an angular jaw, a narrow, high nose and thin dark hair.  For Paul, eating was a slightly unwelcome necessity – so he was lean in appearance.  Though he was far from impressive in size or looks, yet there is such a great intensity in him, in which many have experienced a most forceful presence of God.Of course, the main agenda item in Corinth was sex. It was so different there from what it was in Philippi, Thessalonica and Athens.  During one lunch break, as the autumn winds were blowing in the first of the winter rain clouds, Paul and I discussed the subject. “There is so much pain here in connection with the subject.The deacons say it comes up as a constant theme in their ministry, with many loose intimate connections.  People seem to only lightly consider family loyalties and responsibilities.  It plays havoc with family life and happiness.This issue is so central, as to require the clearest, most firm response. If the foundations aren’t clear, there will be endless problems. As I see it,” said Paul, “The departure point is the imminent Day of the Lord, so believers should avoid sex altogether. But if they desire a close personal relationship, why not a sexless marriage?”“Why, Paul, did you speak of avoiding sex? Surely,” I said, “We Jews have always accepted sex within marriage? Are not children the blessing of God and a fundamental part of our faith? How can you even imply sex, as long as it is within marriage, could be anything less than a blessing of God?  Is Christianity to be a community of childless homes?”I attended a gathering at the home of Titius Justus where Paul was to speak on the subject. “I concede the point — for some, it is not possible to avoid sex – and for them, the only way of properly satisfying the desire for sex might be within a faithful marriage. Any such marriage should be between believers. Let us assume there is an existing marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, however, as difficult as such a life might be. Then, by faith, the marriage extends the covering of God’s grace over the unbelieving spouse, as well as over the entire home.“But any other sexual encounter entangles one. Since the body is the temple of the Spirit, it amounts to apostasy, and so such a person cannot experience the Spirit.”Most people there had family members who fell under Paul’s judgement. Then he said, “What happens outside the community of believers is beyond our control and is in the hands of God alone, but anyone within the community of faith who departs from this must be driven out and handed over to Satan.”As you know, Mark, right or wrong, Paul never hesitated to go to the jugular in expressing his perspective.  The two most influential members of the congregation were the two shipping partners – the Venetian Junius and Brutidius of Carthage.  Junius had a sister, Torquata, who left her husband after her fifth discovery – in her own bed – of her husband’s involvement in an extramarital affair.  Arising from her fury and then from her desperation, Torquata, having parted from her husband, became one of the sex-for-money priestesses of Aphrodite, upon which income she supported her four children single-handedly. The other, Brutidius, had been married and divorced, repeatedly and was now on his third marriage.Right in the middle of “Sex City”, Paul had redefined the role of sex. It was no longer entertainment. Sexual control was an absolute, non-negotiable factor decisive for one’s citizenship within the reign of God. Paul had defined the outer limits to be the strictest sexual control within monogamous heterosexual marriage, with no mercy for offenders.After eighteen months in Corinth, the Jews there were still fuming about the steady loss of their members to Paul.  As their anger waxed, Sosthenes, one of the council of the synagogue, sought cooperation with Paul’s group.  The Jewish congregation protested sharply and then set upon Paul.  They dragged him before Proconsul Gallio and charged him with violating Jewish laws. Gallio dismissed the charges, however. In frustration, the Jews beat Sosthenes right there.Almost the entire Jewish community then rejected Paul and tried to kill the trade of Aquila and Priscilla as well.  They saw Paul as the puppet of the Greeks or the Romans.  “With a good deal of success, for twenty years, the Jewish leadership has used its effective network to isolate me, to attack me and to attempt to kill me,” Paul said.  “I can understand it –what organization would forgive someone viewed as a traitor?Of course, Paul has always been oncerned with the ‘Day of the Lord’ being so imminent. I was getting older, which made me well aware a ‘Day of the Lord’ was imminent for each of us personally, which only a fool would ignore. But could the ‘soon’ of Jesus have a kind of divine elasticity which even Isaiah had to learn? Perhaps the Day of history was actually far off.   “Can’t you work with a flexible set of scenarios, Paul?” I asked him.We all knew the answer – no stepping back.  Although Paul would not turn back, we could all see it was terribly hard for him to keep the forward momentum.  We became worried at seeing him often alone, drooping shoulders, listless and losing weight.   The attempts of Crispus and Sosthenes to encourage him seemed fruitless.Paul shook his head. “Among all the people and the leaders of the synagogue here, so few wish to encourage us. You Silas, young Timothy and I have experienced rejection here ever since we arrived.  Was there ever a time when we were welcome in synagogue?  I have no heart for it. Perhaps the task is for James; Peter; Barnabas; for you, or John Mark.”After hours, I saw less of Paul, although I continued to hear a lot during working hours. Perhaps his asceticism was what the Gentiles needed – but it was more than I could cope with.  So I felt I was reaching the end of my partnership with Paul.  I felt sad, really sad. He has certainly been a great leader and spokesperson. I could see myself fitting in well with Peter and so made arrangements to join him in conservative Pontus – from where I am writing to you now, Mark.So I left Paul.  That is the reason for my writing to you, Stumps.  I am requesting or proposing to James that you, Mark, should give thought and prayer to taking up the role of being Paul’s companion again.Please understand.Silas

Chapter 18: We Ran into Difficulties

“What thou lovest well remains…

What thou lovest well shall not be reft from thee

What thou lovest well is thy true heritage”

Ezra Pound, Cantos. LXXXI

Tuesday 25 March 2003. Golder’s Green, London.

╬When Dee reached Shahida’s home late that Tuesday evening, there was a specially prepared dinner waiting, containing some of the traditional Syrian food for a wedding.

Through the afternoon following the small, brief lunchtime ceremony of marriage in the hospital, Shahida had hurried to Damas Gate supermarket in Shepherd’s Bush – ‘Little Syria’ – in West London.  She had hastily gathered the age old ingredients for such a happy occasion.   The tasty items on her list included jameed (camel cheese), mansaf rice, and aubergines.  Then, reaching for a bigger basket, she grabbed tahini yoghurt, and garlic.  Finally, she tossed in minced lamb, ghee quality butter, and pine nuts to add to the tomato and parsley she had at home for batersh.

Back at home, an hour or two of hard work led to the special wedding dinner, including central platter of sea bream.  Along with traditional marriage songs playing on the stereo, the wonderful aroma of the special dinner spread through Shahida’s home, all waiting for Dee to return.

“Mar haba, ahlan!” said Shahida when Dee eventually arrived, “Welcome!”

“A little nuptial dinner for the four of us,” said Shahida, as Christopher’s parents joined them at the flower decorated table.  The joy of celebration of Dee’s marriage to Christopher was certainly present there, but of course, their delight was muted because of his condition in hospital.

Later, and far into the night, when the two of them were speaking alone, lying down on the bed together, Shahida listened to Dee talking about all the conversations she had with ‘Kit’, ‘Seismic man’ through the years, without ever meeting him. Dee described the simple happiness of the many conversations about a thousand subjects … with Dee never realising how close she was to the person whose company was the greatest dream of her heart.

“Is what happened to Christopher my fault?  Did I cause him to be shot?” Dee asked Shahida.  The incredible tragedy of the situation seemed shocking, stunning, and unbelievable.

“It’s not your fault,” said Shahida, taking Dee into her arms, speaking softly into her ear, with long and thoughtful, prayerful, meditative pauses.

“My darling, don’t we know how much the machinery of the world can be so grim at times.  It gathers and scatters people like a beast.  Long ago and far away decisions, actions, and events blunder into our lives, in ways we could not anticipate or imagine.  The gears caught the two of you in its teeth and ground you up.  But you have found each other.  There is always love, beauty, faith and forgiveness.  As a mother knows regarding a child, there is the recurring resolution to try again, no matter what.  Those good things, and love, always overcome fear, terror, meanness and ugliness.  How else could life possibly continue?”

Listening to Shahida’s soothing words, grateful for her loving arms, with a sigh, Dee eventually fell fast asleep on Shahida’s shoulder.

Wednesday 26 March 2003. West Middlesex Hospital, Hounslow, London

╬Very early the next day, alarmed by a telephone call regarding Christopher’s sudden decline during the night, the surgeon started the operation even earlier than had been expected.  Christopher had already been in the operating theatre for two hours when Dee arrived at 8 a.m. on that fateful Wednesday.  She churned and squirmed in anxiety in the waiting room.

As she had woken and then travelled towards the hospital, all the passion of her teenage love had returned.  She dreamily thought about Christopher.  No one had eyes lovelier to her than his eyes; and she smiled to think of his lips, his hair and everything about him.

A love song she heard on the train went round and round in her head.  “Some enchanted evening, when you meet your true love…”  She imagined them waltzing together on just such an enchanted evening, with lights gleaming across the water of a dark lake.  She was wearing a long wine coloured gown and he splendid in a satin lapelled tuxedo.

Lost in each other’s eyes, they moved perfectly together, as if somehow their very nerve systems were linked.  Christopher drew her into his arms and she nestled against him, her hands resting gently on his chest, as if holding some fragile, beautiful egg, as if holding some small downy bird which had fallen from its nest, looking around with startled eyes.

“Don’t slip away from me my love, oh my love…” prayed Dee.

╬Christopher eventually came out of theatre at 9 a.m. and directly into the post-op area; but Dee was not allowed to see him.    Given how much surgery was needed, the relatively short period of the operation was not encouraging.  When his parents arrived, the surgeon came out to speak to the three of them.

“We ran into difficulties,” said the surgeon.  “There are signs of renal failure, which we are trying to counteract.  Also, in repairing Christopher’s lungs, we have had to keep his blood thin enough to prevent clots forming.  On the other hand, there is still widespread damage to the veins and arteries.  As a result, thinning the blood leads to increased internal bleeding.  We are trying our best, but we are dealing with, um,” he hesitated, not wanting to say ‘impossible’, “Dealing with a very difficult situation indeed.”

After the surgeon left, the three of them were quiet.  There did not seem much they could say… they could only wait.

Dee’s cellphone buzzed, with a telephone call from her uncle Johanan in Damascus.  He was most concerned to hear what had happened to Christopher.  As the three waited in the hospital, Dee explained everything to her uncle at length.

“You tell Kit – Christopher – he must come to us here,” said Johanan insistently and urgently.  He had a tendency to shout on the telephone, so Dee held the instrument a little away from her ear.  “He must come and see all the beautiful things which the two of you started.  He cannot just disappear.  We want you and Christopher here!  You tell him.”

“Yes uncle, I’ll tell him,” said Dee, trying to appreciate her uncle’s efforts, so far away, to lift their hearts.  “I’ll tell him.”

A hospital cleaning crew was noisily approaching, vacuum and polisher roaring, so she ended the call.  Moving back to Christopher’s parents, Dee explained who had telephoned and recounted the whole saga of the Damascus hotel site and the tremendous help Christopher had been.

Christopher’s parents smiled good-naturedly.  They were quite elderly.  The constant noise was wearing on them, rising in thunderous waves from the construction company in the road outside the hospital.  For Dee could not prevent the process of the renovations on the hospital, and the expansion work.

“What did you say, my dear?” asked Christopher’s mother, concerned lest she might have missed something important.  Dee repeated herself, speaking a little more loudly and slowly.  Christopher’s mother nodded and smiled.  She hoped it would serve as an adequate response to Dee under the circumstances, for she had still not heard what Dee was saying.  She thought she heard ‘Damascus’ but that seemed unlikely.

“Why don’t you take a break?” said Dee.  “I’ll telephone you if there are any developments.”

Christopher’s father, at least, could hear and understand what Dee was saying.  Facing his wife squarely, he relayed Dee’s suggestion.  They hesitated, but eventually agreed.  It would surely be just as well for Christopher’s mother to try to take her mind off the situation, even for a few moments.  Dee called the Hilton Hotel, Syon Park on London Road for a pickup, so that the parents could be just minutes away.

“I’ll phone as soon as I hear,” Dee repeated again.  She had said the same thing already two or three times at least.  Shahida had given Christopher’s parents a cell phone to use just for such a purpose.  They weren’t really sure how to use it, but they did understand the answer button, which was as much as was required for the moment.

Dee spent the whole day in the waiting room.  She was indeed waiting, praying and reading.  From time to time, she walked up and down the passage, imagining her life together with Christopher.  At times, she gazed across the vast City around her, looking down towards the gentle waters of the Thames River as it flowed in the direction of London Bridge some distance away, and out of sight.

During the morning, a chatty cleaning lady came by and they spent some time talking together.

Dee had lunch in the hospital cafeteria, being quite familiar by now with their cheese and tomato sandwiches.  When she finished her lunch, she realized she had hardly tasted it in her distraction, and that it had had no taste at all to her.

“That’s probably as it should be in a hospital,” thought Dee, trying to cheer herself with a joke.  “You do want to do everything possible to urge people to go home, rather than hanging around because the food is so good!”

Sometime during her waiting and reading that afternoon, Dee covered Niamh’s version of Mark’s description of his eventual reunion with Paul and their work in Ephesus in 56 AD.

Reading over those individual lives confronting extreme circumstances so long ago comforted Dee and strengthened her in this very difficult time in her own journey.  She and Christopher were not alone in their experience.  Their life and difficulties as a couple was not without precedent, and not futile.  Rather, the decisions, actions and love they shared were full of meaning.  In faith, in hope, in love, they had shared in the best that life is all about.

In what Niamh had written, Dee read about the many people Paul involved to reach the entire ancient City of Ephesus.  Mark’s family was one of a large team who all went to Ephesus to be with Paul for his relatively long stay there of over two years.

The “success” of Paul’s stay led to a violent reaction amongst the silversmith tradesmen of there – led by Demetrius and Alexander.

As an increasing percentage of the city fell under the sway of Paul’s ‘Day of the Lord’ message, precious metals declined in value.  Most silversmiths had lost business to Paul’s innovations and initiatives; some indeed, not only went bankrupt, but took two of the city’s banks down at the same time.

As Dee read through Niamh’s work, Dee felt that the writing had a ring of truth to it.

“Perhaps Niamh is thinking of the Irish ‘troubles’”, thought Dee.  Thinking back on her daily work of the last years, Dee thought grimly of the lingering conflicts between the political and religious groups in Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Jordan, and the whole Middle Eastern region.

In any such place, any type of ‘conversion’ immediately raised sharp antagonisms and all too easily led to interfamily or intergroup violence.

Dee thought again of the resentment her father Reuben had towards her early romance with Christopher, and its lifelong effects on her and the family.

She daydreamed about two couples – herself, Dee with Christopher; and ancient Mark and Rhoda – gathering around a dinner table.  Perhaps it would be the Pascha dinner.  She wondered what the conversation would be.

Then Dee turned back to what Niamh had written down.

Despite the trouble, Paul felt confident in the model of his work in Ephesus.  “This has prepared our entire team for what awaits us when we go to reinforce the congregation in Rome, the first city of the Empire,” he said.   “What a lynch pin Rome will be in the whole world!”

“My dear Luke:The town clerk acceded to the demands of wild man Demetrius to have Paul arrested and jailed.Hearing of the imprisonment of Paul, Cloe rushed back to Ephesus from Corinth. Within the week, Epaphroditus arrived in Ephesus from Philippi, with funds collected by the congregation there, to use in whatever way would help. As a successful businesswoman, Cloe had contacts in Ephesus, including the town clerk – who then ensured Paul was moved to an upstairs cell on his own.  The chief of the jail also allowed us to visit Paul – twice a week.During the month of his imprisonment, when we visited Paul in jail, we prepared food for him and also took whatever he wanted for reading material. The first time I saw him in jail, I choked up and held tears back, greatly frustrated he could be treated so – a man who had done nothing wrong, but rather, was devoted to giving himself for the sake of others.  The tone in our group changed substantially – members of our group became anxious, distracted, confused; Epaphroditus actually became seriously ill.When there were a few of us visiting Paul, we sat in a special room in the jail, talking through inch thick iron bars. A fully armed member of the team of jailers stood at the door, ready for action and constantly staring at us. “I wish I could seize you and run from the jail and from Ephesus,” I thought, but did not dare to say as much.  “But those metal gratings make me realise it would be impossible.”Reading my eyes and my thoughts, Paul said, “Don’t worry, Mark. I have come to realise times in jail are like retreats. As the heavy door of the cell closes and the bolts slide home, I take it as an opportunity to pray for the congregations and to write to them. At such times I am grateful I did not have to be anxious about a wife! It is for the Gospel.”  With a smile, he said, “That is why I advise people to avoid marriage, if possible!”“I understand what you mean,” I said.  “I have to say to you, however, I don’t regret being married to Rhoda, not for a moment.  I think children are the best thing since Eden.”Paul smiled again.  “You and Silas were like two peas in a pod,” he said.  “As Silas once said to me, ‘You manage the magistrates; I challenge the children.’”“You are the strategic thinker, Paul; but maybe Silas and I are like farmers,” I responded.  “A farmer plants seeds and nurtures them – first the seed, silently growing, then the leaf, developing of itself, then the full grown ear of corn.  That is the approach which comes naturally to me.  As you know, fierce debate and conflict jar on me too much.”“I am sure you are right,” said Paul.  “It takes all of us together, as a body, to get the job done.”When she visited, Cloe told Paul about the vigorous growth of the Corinthian congregation and the tremendous impact Apollos had made when he visited the congregation. Paul was first relieved and then delighted at the news.  He cross-examined Cloe regarding everything and everyone in Corinth. Under such interrogation, she described several factions and scandals which kept erupting amidst the expansion.So Paul used his ‘retreat’ time in jail for correspondence.  As Paul dictated to me a letter addressed to the Corinthians, I sat outside the bars writing down some of the most amazing words I have ever read or written.  As he wrote to a congregation in a city which understood love as sex and to a congregation so adept at arguing, he wove a beautiful picture of love as something which binds, serves, believes and cares.  With Paul’s permission, I read parts of the letter out to the congregation at Ephesus, before sending the letter on to the congregation at Corinth.As I read out aloud those divine, inspired words of Paul’s, there was a deep silence in the audience.  “But I will show you the excellent way… love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish. Love is not quick to take offence; keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over the sins of others, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance…. I tell you a mystery – in death, you do not bury the body which is to come.  No. Rather, you sow, as it were, a simple naked seed of grain. God clothes the seed of your spirit with a new, vital and glorious body, in the likeness of the heavenly Lord Jesus. And so there is no sting in death – but rather, physical death is when Jesus’s victory is consummated and our incessant labours crowned with joy.”When I eventually concluded reading out Paul’s letter, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  While the word ‘love’ had been debased in Corinth, in his words of faith, Paul restored ‘love’ to scintillating beauty and infused us all with hope.  Paul was buried behind the thick oaken doors, heavy bolts and massive stone walls of a jail in Ephesus – but he had a heart and a message that could not be imprisoned, no, not by all the squadrons of Rome or the military might of the Empire. When I completed my reading of his letter to the people of Corinth, the people there in the Hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus did not speak, but sat quietly in meditation for a long time. Then eventually they began to drift off towards their homes.

Dee continued to read Felicity’s description of Paul’s depression while he was in jail there in Ephesus and his letter to the Colossians.

When Dee eventually reached Shahida’s home, there was a plate of hot food waiting for her, but Shahida was out.  “The key is in the normal place,” Shahida told Dee on the telephone.  “Probably a large part of the population leaves their front door key under the flower pot,” thought Dee.  “I’m surprised there aren’t more robberies!”

When Shahida returned, Dee asked her how her study group had gone. Shahida beamed with pleasure.  “Oh, I so love our little weekly group. We share our ups and downs, sing our favorite songs and usually Samuel or I lead a little time of devotional study from a passage in the Koran.”

Then Shahida became thoughtful and finally puzzled.  “I didn’t realize I had mentioned our study group to you,” said Shahida, glancing at Dee.

Dee looked down – the way she knew about it, of course, was through her ‘weasel’ search.  She didn’t need to even try to lie, since they were such old friends, knew each other so well and they both knew the way their organizations hunted down information.  There was a long silence.  “It was over you I left them,” said Dee.  She recalled the faint scent of the paper upon which she wrote in her Federal Oath of secrecy, even that of the ink she had used; and of the oak paneling of the courtroom.

There was again a silence, while both of them digested this potentially destructive element in their relationship.

“Well, friendship means something, doesn’t it,” said Shahida.  “Sometimes it takes precedence over absolutely everything.  Thank you for whatever it was which you did on my behalf, Dee.”   She went over and hugged Dee and Dee found herself in tears again – tears of remorse and of gratitude.  “I know you’d do the same for me, my sweet sister.”

Dee went to and from the hospital over the next few days, as the doctors and nurses struggled to keep Christopher alive.  It was a draining journey, waiting, hoping, marked out with periods of self recrimination, desperate prayers and moments of briefly seeing Christopher.  She half loved the sight of him and half agonised to see his crippled body as he hovered on the threshold of life and death.

Very  early on Friday morning, Dee received a telephone call from the surgeon to come to the hospital as soon as possible and to see Dr Linda Forde as soon as she arrived.

“I must tell you,” said Dr. Forde, sitting with Dee in her office, “That Christopher is fighting for his life.  His upper spine looks impossibly fragmented; and the prognosis is very poor.  I am sorry to say there is too much damage and he is too weak for us to repair it all.  And there is another matter which I think I must deal with now.  He said something to me.  I wrote it down and had two nurses witness my reading it back to him, along with his indication of assent.  That was all before we began the operation.  As his next of kin, the decision would be yours.”

Linda Forde sat down while Dee read Christopher’s note.  When she finished, Dee simply looked at Linda for a long time and then nodded her assent.

Linda took out some forms and she filled them in as Dee answered her questions.   At the end, Dee added her signature to the forms.  Forde placed them in a yellow manila folder, then spoke again.

“I have already taken the required samples of his semen, as he asked,” said Linda, “And the samples are stored in the hospital under the identification numbers on page one.”   Linda was quiet for a while and looked at Dee with great tenderness.

“Even if by some miracle Christopher survives, there would be no sexual intercourse.  Yet this way, you can go ahead and have a whole orchestra of children.  And each lovely child will remind you of him in one way or another.  They will bring him back to you.”

Then Linda continued, with a sigh and deep regret written on her face.  “I don’t believe we can keep Christopher alive very much longer,” she said.  “I would suggest that we move him into a private room, so that he can be with all your family members.”

There was a great sense of unreality; a dreamy distance that Dee felt.  It couldn’t be true, these things that she was hearing.  It couldn’t really be her, she couldn’t really be in London, couldn’t really have found Christopher and mostly, couldn’t possibly be planning how to spend his last hours alive.

Yet it was true and the very directness of Linda’s speech was intended to help Dee deal with what was happening.  Linda knew it must be all so very difficult for Dee, so shocking, so numbing, as she took Dee in her arms and held her sobbing body close.  “Will I ever stop crying?” wondered Dee.  “Perhaps these are all the tears which belong to the past years and everything which has happened within those years – and not happened.”

Then Linda called Pierre from the CCU.  “I have explained to Dee that Christopher may survive only hours, or perhaps as long as a few days,” said Linda to Pierre, as Dee listened.  “Can you do something to help the family spend time together?”

Pierre nodded and Dee saw in Pierre’s eyes the same verdict that she had seen in the eyes of Linda Forde and heard in her words.  “Can Dee wait here for an hour or so?” asked Pierre.

“Of course,” said Linda.

“Thank you, doctor. I will do what I can.”

While Pierre was gone, Dee telephoned Christopher’s parents and asked them to come to the hospital when they could.  She tried to keep her language and voice moderate, so as to avoid alarming them over the telephone.

Then Linda asked Dee about the best moments she and Christopher had shared.

“Oh the best was when we were teens, surely,” replied Dee.  We used to be Yankees baseball supporters and what fun we had at some of those games.  Sometimes Shahida came as well – my friend, you know, where I am staying at the moment.  We were elated when the team won, gloomy when they lost.  I remember the sun in his hair, holding hands for the first time with a boy; and our lunches in the school cafeteria, with long conversations about school and other kids – because we were at the same school together.  I always thought he was the handsomest boy in school – I can’t even remember the others!”  Linda smiled.  Dee caught the smile and smiled back, wiping her eyes. “Well, at least he was to me.  He was my guy,” she whispered, “But my father would not have it.”

An hour later, Pierre took Dee into one of the rooms which the hospital devoted to the doctors, to serve as overnight quarters.  It was a lovely hotel-like room, with pictures, a carpet, an en suite bathroom and a big bed.  Christopher was there, not yet conscious and surrounded by drips and gauges and oxygen tubes.

“He will regain consciousness shortly.  You can stay here with him all the time,” said Pierre.  “Call me if the alarms go off.”

Christopher’s parents had just arrived.  Linda explained the situation to them, while Dee sat in the room with Christopher.  Then they came into Christopher’s room, looking crushed, just as Christopher began to blink and stir his head.  Pierre had arranged for the removal of the cast and devised a far simpler arrangement of splints and bandages.

“Oh…” he groaned.  Dee noticed how distended his stomach and chest were, probably with all which was wrong within.  “Mom… Dad…” he said as his eyes cleared, but then closed and then opened again.

“It’s OK son, we’re here with Dee,” said his mother, a little smile on her crumpled face.  “We’re all here with you.”   She ran her fingers through his hair, over and over, as she used to do when he was a child, needing to be soothed for one reason or another.

“I’m feeling pretty awful,” he said.  “I’m sorry.”

Dee went outside for a while, to let them say all the things, silly or profound, which parents might try to express at such a time.  Such a time.  Dee looked down at the feverish activity on the construction site outside.  Amidst her own turbid emotions, she had barely noticed the noise.

Dee lost track of the time, when Christopher’s parents came out of the room.  “Think I’ll take the old girl back to the hotel,” said Christopher’s father.  “She’s not looking so good.”   And indeed she looked grey and sorrowful and frail.  Dee telephoned a taxi and a security person escorted them to meet it.

After Christopher’s parents left, Dee was sitting near Christopher, and talking to him softly.  Nurse Pierre came in and looked at the gauges.  He did not look pleased, but managed his words in a professional way.

“We can monitor him directly from the nursing station now,” he said, “So we won’t disturb you. You will be alone together.  For your privacy together, you may assume that the door is locked.  We have each other’s cell phone numbers.”

On his way out, as he closed the door, Pierre hung a sign on the handle outside the door:  ‘Do not disturb.’   The sign bore the insignia of the ICU.

After Pierre left, Dee softly latched the door as well as she could.  Then she undressed and slid gently beside Christopher, as if they were two teaspoons.  She stroked his arm with the tip of her finger and very softly sang songs to him.  He was asleep again, with the ventilator hissing and wheezing regularly and a small chirp from the drip or the heart rate monitor every few seconds.

Eventually Christopher stirred.  About fifteen minutes later, he opened his eyes and then turned his head, a look of surprise on his face to see Dee there with him in bed.  “It’s OK,” she said to him, smiling.  “There’s nothing to worry about.  I’m here with you.  Everything’s OK.”

Speaking was evidently difficult for Christopher and she tried to shush him.   But eventually he stopped her and said slowly, “The inside of me is like a bomb zone, Dee.  I’m not going to make it and I can’t face being bedridden.  Did Linda…?”

“Linda told me what you said to her and she wrote it all down,” said Dee.  “My darling, if God is kind, we’ll have our babies.”

“Oh….  Thank you…” said Christopher.  “Dee… let me go peacefully,” he said and then drifted off again.

Later on Christopher woke again, his skin almost orange in colour.  Groggily he said to her, “Can you tell me the story you are working on?”  She could barely hear his slurring words, but she understood.

So Dee did so, curled up behind him with her arms around him, speaking in an even low voice which was like a lullaby.  “Once upon a time, there was a little boy, John Mark, who used to play in the forest on the TroödosMountains in Cyprus,” she began.

She related Mark’s story when Christopher was conscious and softly sang to him when he was not awake and the hours passed by.  She sang the love songs she had carried in her heart through the years, including the words of James Horner and Will Jennings which she so treasured: “Love can touch us one time/ And last for a lifetime/ And never let go till we’re one.  Love was when I loved you/ One true time I hold to/ In my life we’ll always go on.”

As time went by, Christopher’s breathing became ever shallower.  At 3 am it ceased.  The first alarm went off, but Dee did not call for help:  she just held on to Christopher.  A second and third alarm went off, but Dee ignored them both.  The ICU staff did not intrude, but left the two of them together.

Eventually she murmured the Lord’s Prayer, and then said, “He’s with you now, my beloved Mark, my dear Jesus – I know you’ll look after my baby well.”  The tears began to flow from her eyes, as she softly sobbed.

At the nursing station, the nurse logged the termination of vital signs and the time.  “Doctor’s orders not to resuscitate,” she wrote.

At 4 am, feeling the coldness creeping through his body which she still held in her arms, she called the nursing station and left the room while they carried out their duties.

About another hour later, she telephoned his parents.  The nursing staff said she could go back into the room when she wished and quietly and caringly expressed their condolences.  “The chaplain is on the way – the one you met before, Brian Holsworth,” they said.  “Here is some sweet tea for you.  Can we help you with anything?  Go ahead and use the telephone if you would like.”

Dee sat quietly by his body, holding his hand, until Shahida and Christopher’s parents arrived and the chaplain led them together in some psalms of lament.


Chapter 19: A New Beginning

“The fate of the architect is the strangest of all.  How often he expends his whole soul, his whole heart and passion, to produce buildings into which he himself may never enter.”  Goethe, Elective Affinities bk II, 3.

“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.”  St. Mark 13:35-36

Tuesday 1 April 2003.  Bexhill-On-Sea on the South Coast of England. 

Dee and Christopher’s parents accompanied Christopher’s body back to Bexhill-On-Sea – their home, and the village in which Christopher had been born.

After taking Christopher’s parents to their home, Dee returned to St. Peter’s, the parish church of that town.  In her own vigil of mourning, Dee spent the night by Christopher as he lay at rest in the church.  She sat beside him under the stone tower, which reached upwards as if in prayer.

At 11 am the next morning, Samuel Tariq, Moshe Meir, Shahida and some of their friends arrived at St. Peter’s, having made an early start in driving down from London.  At half past eleven, Christopher’s parents came in from the Ambleside frail care home close to St. Peter’s.  Twenty minutes later, Sean came in.  Soon after, everyone being gathered, the simple funeral service began.

In the days before, Shahida had made contact with violinist Jennifer Maslin, asking Jennifer to play both the prelude and again during the burial service.  At Dee’s request, the music was made up of selections from Durufle’s Requiem.  That music made Dee think of angels going to and fro between heaven and earth.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” said the priest, as he began, processing down the aisle.  The small congregation stood up.  At the end was the Nunc Dimittis.  “Now you let your servant depart in peace… My own eyes have seen your salvation… A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”

At Christopher’s interment in the churchyard, each of those present placed a flower on the casket.  Dee looked wonderingly at the place, aware at some level that in time to come, she herself would be buried here with him, in peace together, world without end.  In a flash of insight, she knew that she would have the headstone inscribed that way.

Afterwards, there was so much to say.  At least at first, it was easier for everyone to talk together about anything else than what was at hand, anything else than what had happened.  Most difficult was to find anything at all to say to Dee, anything which did not sound completely empty.  Dee could barely greet people, peering at their blurred faces through eyes filled with tears.  The best she could do was to mumble “Thank you”.  Sean tried to express his regrets to her and, somewhat clumsily, searching for words, assure her of a “welcome in New York”.

He leaned forward to murmur to her that there had been developments on the Croton Reservoir murder.

“Really,” thought Dee, “Can he ever think of something else?”

Then Sean did not only think of something else, but he said it too.  Looking down, he said softly that he had called his mother Niamh.  The moment made Dee tremble with another wave of emotion—of gratitude, and hope.  She reached out to hug Sean, and began to weep again, for a different reason.

In time to come, Dee would reflect on the remarkably different individuals in the group that gathered there that day; and the wide range of concerns that drew them together in that one fateful moment.

Indeed, after some months, Dee and Christopher’s parents would receive a letter on a gorgeously printed USA governmental letterhead.  The letter would recognize Christopher’s service to the defense institutions of the USA.  A second paragraph would refer to his accomplishments in seismological research, with specific reference to the excavations in Damascus; the two signatories unknown – perhaps unknowable — to Dee or to Christopher’s parents.  An attachment would reflect the fact that she would receive the appropriate benefits pertaining to being his widow.

When it would eventually arrive, that letter would lend some dignity or at least closure to an unfortunate or horrible chain of events.  It had been a long, heavy, and even now unending chain of events for her. What she had experienced smacked of what might be the war-related experience of so many people in so many places throughout history.

╬Numb with shock, Dee endured Christopher’s burial and the presence of her colleagues and loving friends stoically and appreciatively.  She knew however that she could never work with Sean and his tribe again.

Actually, not only that, but she could not even move, could not think, feel, drive, or even know where to go now.  Samuel and Shahida took her back to London.  Oblivious to the journey, Dee spent the whole trip with her head on Shahida’s strong, soft shoulder, keening with grief and crying like a baby, with Shahida simply holding her, and Samuel silent.  Every memory or dashed hope swirling through her mind triggered another wave of wailing and sobbing.

Dee slowly recovered over the next weeks in London, dwelling in Shahida’s love and care.   At first, Dee couldn’t summon the will to get out of bed, to get dressed, or to go to the supermarket.  If she went to one place, like the library, then by the time she got there, she found it hard to enter, or felt immediately that she wanted to be somewhere else.

Extremely concerned about her state of mind, Dee’s mother and her daughter Melissa called often.

Even her father called.  In his sandy, rasping voice he haltingly mentioned that his brother Johanan was very grateful to Christopher.  Dee could hear in her father’s voice that there was sincere regret.  The sorrow was not only about Christopher’s death, but about what had happened two decades before – about her father’s harsh words regarding Christopher.  She could hear that there was something genuinely fresh and different in his attitude.  She suspected that she heard the germ of something that, over time, could grow into a profoundly changed way of speaking about Christopher and her, and grow into relating positively to them as husband and wife; and, who knows, one day, even lovingly so.

So fortified, and summoning up her reserves, Dee contacted Patrick Sciavelli on a chat line.  She wanted to respond to his message of condolence and to tell him her understanding of all that had occurred.  The chat line gave her the opportunity to shield herself; to pause between each freighted thing that she said.  She thanked him for going to the wire for her.  She spent some hours with him, going over everything.  With each conversation or retelling, Dee noticed a little more calm, though a full acceptance still lay months in the future.

“I think we had better move our presentation on St Mark to later,” Patrick wrote, “Maybe during Lent or Easter 2004.”

On April 11, just before Palm Sunday, Dee’s uncle Johanan contacted her again, as he had before, sounding very positive and jovial.  At first she found him a little over the top, found it difficult to listen to him, but then became more interested as his message went further.  He repeated his earlier condolences, which were heartfelt, and then had more to say.

“There are some good things, also, you know.  The architect has redesigned the lowest two floors of our hotel complex here into a huge empty space, which is floodlit.  Once the piles have been driven, and a steel shell installed,” said Johanan, “This will allow archeologists a clear, safe, sealed space, to work slowly downwards from the construction site.  They can take all the time they need.  Meanwhile, the building will continue to rise above the site.

“The mayor, the museum and all parties concerned have reached consensus on the approach,” her uncle continued.  “They are giving us a tax deduction for the space so made.  They have also permitted two extra floors to be added above the previously approved building design.

“In the area around the building site, we already have a preliminary display of artifacts which have been unearthed from the drilling and from other tests.  I am sending you some pictures by email.”

“Thank you uncle,” Dee interjected into his enthusiasm.

“You’re welcome!” he said, but still had some more to add. “And the City authorities, in cooperation with UNESCO, will see to the permanent display of everything which emerges.  Already there have been crowds of people coming by to see the archaeologists’ posted notices, and, at the museum, the artifacts already uncovered.”

“It will be a monument to Christopher for all of us,” said Dee.

“That is what I am trying to tell you, my darling,” said Johanan.

Dee emailed her Manhattan real estate lawyer friend Anne with the news and the photographs.  She expressed her gratitude for Anne’s wise counsel some weeks before.

On May 1, Dee read a CNN announcement on her computer, a statement by President George W Bush:  “Aboard the flight deck of SS Abraham Lincoln, Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors… my fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

“…And with no weapons of mass destruction found.  It was a war with insufficient cause, and dubious motivation, which has dragged us into it.  With all due respect,” she thought, “I doubt that it is over.  Osama bin Laden is still at large, after all.”  She grieved for people of all kinds who had died, and their buildings and historic sites damaged or destroyed.

A week or two later, there was another new development.  Dr Linda called her to encourage her to take prompt action on their earlier discussion regarding bearing a child for Christopher.  A few days later, Dee —who knew her regular cycle anyway—found that her vaginal temperature trajectory indicated the moment as well.  So Dee gathered her strength and resolve, and went in to the hospital for the first stage of the in vitro procedure.

╬Dee stayed in London with Shahida for three months in all, on a kind of sabbatical or vision quest.  As the dawn spread across the sky during those spring days, she lay alone in bed in a particular and deep mode of thought.  It was a special time and place, a sanctuary.  She stroked her stomach, and in that quiet time she thought of her pregnancy as something almost miraculous; as “My own inner resurrection!”

It gave her a sense of wonder, of mystery and of delight as the doctor continued at each visit to inform her that her expectancy was progressing normally and well.  When she was quiet, she could sense a divine hand upon her, a holy spirit with her, as the tide of grief ebbed slowly away.  For with all her heart and soul, she wanted their baby to grow in a womb which was happy, and healthy, full of love and faith and hope.

She visited Christopher’s parents each week to share all this with them.  They too began to enter into a different frame of mind, into that very unique joy of becoming grandparents, talking with Dee about baby clothing and furniture.  Dee told them the name she was thinking of, and they were delighted.

“Whatever ancient archaeological treasure is down there in Damascus,” said Dee to them, her eyes shining, “Will have to have Christopher’s name attached!  I can see the sign: ‘Roman period, First century dwelling’ … and in italics below, ‘dedicated to Christopher Grey.’”

Dee’s Manhattan neighbor Sheila Sturman told her that an originally fragile peace between Dee’s cats Arun and Angkor and Sheila’s parrot was admittedly at first breached from time to time.  However, the grudging mutual toleration between them was now stable and growing.

July 2003.  Damascus, Syria

In the warmth of July, Dee decided to visit her uncle in Damascus.  Her daughter Melissa seized on the opportunity to accompany her mother on the trip, so the two journeyed happily together.

In Damascus, as her in vitro pregnancy advanced, Dee and Melissa toured that fascinating city and familiarized themselves with the excavations at the hotel building site.  They enjoyed touching and stroking the old, old stones which the archaeologists were unearthing from below the construction site.  There were also shards of pottery that invited speculation as to their story and provenance.

“In due course, we expect various implements of iron and lower down, of bronze,” said one of the postgraduate students at work there for that summer.  Melissa spent a few days assisting the project.  She learned how to use the tools—trowel, drawing square, probe, and brush in the painstaking work of marking the area.  She grew in her ability to slowly chip, scrape and brush the soil away.  Then in the evenings, there was the work of photographing and cataloguing each find.

“What a change from a month ago!” said Dee to her uncle Johanan.  She took pleasure to see him happy and fully engaged in his work.  The evenings were taken up with wonderful meals and family discussions, renewing rich and treasured bonds of love and affection.

Melissa stayed in Damascus only for a fortnight.  After that, always careful to wear her yellow hard hat even in the safety of an observation deck, Dee meditated alone at the site for long periods, gazing at the dig downwards, and hearing the noise of the construction rising above.  As knitting helps some people, so for her, being around those activities there in Damascus provided mental yarn for her to weave her thoughts.

She came to think that the death of Christopher had come about partly through grim and deliberate human plans and acts; by motives connected with fear, with power, with force – some of them understandable.  A year ago she might even have said, “Necessary evils.”  But in part it was also just an accident.  Working with a spiritual friend, Dee could not completely separate herself from some sense of responsibility.  She reluctantly, even grudgingly, could allow that Christopher himself had played his own part, in critical ways.

Yet in a future oriented way, she could claim something else as well – that the decisions they had both made, that the life of Christopher, indeed the life they shared together, was unfurling into something good and enduring.  Something good was emerging as – in the words of her beloved St. Mark – as a seed growing secretly both for themselves as a couple and also for others.  That was something she could embrace tightly and wholeheartedly.

╬Her aching longing for Christopher interwove with thoughts of St. Mark and his words about the suffering servant.

Later on, she joined in with the archaeological team.  As she dug and brushed, day by day, she found the manual work therapeutic and her inner feelings more stable and positive.  She loved to breathe in the smell of the earth, the scent of so many stories so long ago.  She wondered whether they would find in the earth below her feet what Christopher had imaged –a house of Judas or Ananias, or one like it.  Perhaps they would even find that scroll of the Damascus stories she suspected existed once, those stories, that source of the wandering prophets, which Mark had so wanted to hear.

During  those months in Damascus, Dee worked through her feelings in another way as well, by revising her biographic journal of Mark.  As she did so, she realized what a profound inner journey she had taken alongside Mark, at the same time as she had gone through the external journey of the tumultuous events of the months before.  Something about their two lives resonated just as the different strings of a musical instrument quiver in response to a sound which moves over them, a sound coming from somewhere else.

Just as Dee was constrained to move quickly during her tumultuous month of March, she thought of how St Mark must have written down his gospel quickly during those weeks following the execution of Peter and Paul.  She wondered what circumstance could have explained the strange, abrupt ending of his gospel – which in its original form ended at chapter 16:8, making his gospel seem like a book with its last pages unfinished or ripped out.  “An unfinished symphony,” she thought.

Dee gained inner momentum as she considered and described what led up to the execution of Peter and then of Paul—the fire in Rome, followed by the scape-goating which fomented another in the series of vicious persecutions that would continue for two centuries.  She imagined the continual sense of fear and watchfulness which pervaded Mark’s Gospel.  Similar to TV images of refugees in modern times, she envisioned the flight from Rome of Peter’s wife Ruth, along with Mark and his wife Rhoda, fleeing from that city to a nearby farm, while others hid in funerary caves.  She could picture how Ruth eventually prevailed upon Mark to write down what he had heard from Peter – and from Barnabas; which Mark did as quickly as he could, in dialogue with members of the congregation at Rome.  For if Peter and Paul could be executed, then anyone could, and especially Mark, who had been the lieutenant of both of them.

“Save me, Luke,” I thought to myself, as I wrote. “Do something with this.”“My Dear Luke:I write to cover all that I have already written down.  I take these things as the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have met many Christian leaders and prophets, but there are surely more events than I know.  The story continues beyond what I can know, in places I do not know.  I began to note all this down, one part after the next, when I was with Peter and Barnabas.  I began writing down my records around the time of the Apostolic Council, sixteen years ago, or so.While here in Rome, I have continued to write. I revised my notes with Peter.  I have been putting the pieces together as quickly as possible, with a draft, then discussion and a final version.  That helps in various ways.  One benefit is checking others’ memories of the events.  Another benefit is improving my Greek since my home language is Aramaic.  But finally I have finished what I consider my part.  I have reached the point of recording the experience of the women at the tomb of Jesus.At this moment, we are facing an immediate attack upon all of us, and upon Israel itself, by the full might of the Roman imperial forces. So our story—and history itself–may well end soon.  Whether or not this is the end, I feel I would like to leave a record.What I do know is this:  Thirty five years ago I myself saw the arrest of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the empty tomb.  With my own eyes I saw the risen Jesus in my mother’s house, The Cenacle.  Those events seized me – and inescapably so. They immediately consumed me, and have done so all my life since then.Here in Rome, however, new and worse troubles have begun.  What provoked these troubles was the huge fire.  It began in the Campus Martius – the ‘mud bath’ – district of this city. By the end of the fire, about half of Rome had been damaged or destroyed.  Most people knew someone who had died.To say the least, there were angry murmurings, boiling up into fury amongst the populace of Rome. Could Caesar Nero have sunk to have arranged the fire himself? Or was it the Christian ‘devils’?  Naturally enough, Nero blamed us.  And when violent incidents increased daily, I was trying to think of a way for my family to get out.  I thought we could go back to Cyprus, or anywhere except Rome.Brother Aristarchus was arrested and immediately taken up to the barracks.  He did not return.  We expected—we knew–that they would torture him, and probably kill him.  Within days they would extract names and addresses from him. Then they arrested and interrogated even noble Portia herself.  So surely the rest of us believers could then and now expect worse.Polybius, as the spokesman for Nero, was in a rage about the Great Fire. He commands the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, and the three urban police cohorts of Rome.  They attempted to suppress looting, and kept a watch on the roads and the ports.Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus stole the money of the Temple.  He jailed any Jew who objected. And then he slew about 3,600 people of all kinds.  There was turmoil there too.  You probably know all this.  I simply wish to record what has brought us to this point.Two years ago, it was the eleventh year of the rule[*] of Caesar Nero.  He was desperate to re-establish control in Rome, and in the hundred year old, lingering conflict in Judea.  He had a huge army of four Roman legions under Vespasian prepare to advance on Judea.  The inhabitants of Judea expected all hell to break loose.In Rome, Nero executed Consul Seneca, who, for more than thirteen years, had been faithfully serving him as a deputy head of state and very well too.  The world was parting at the seams, and it continues to do so.  A rough road or probably death could be expected, especially by any Jew, Jesus Way Jew, or Gentile Christian.  If they lived in either Rome or Jerusalem, they were bound to be caught.Then I learned my old enemy Felix was in Naples. Taking advantage of the present situation, he had put out a personal search for me in Rome.  I am sure Polybius is cooperating with him.  I decided that Rhoda and our two children would be safer there on the farm outside Rome with Ruth than in my company.  I decided that I should flee Rome alone.  I tried to explain this to her, but she seemed unwilling to listen.But I know I have no choice.  While I was packing a few minutes ago, Rhoda came to the door, her eyes angry.  What could I say?  I have left letters for our children Bathsheba and Aaron.    I feel I am the least of all people.So, after all these years, I hurriedly end my record, my dearly beloved Luke. I hope Rhoda will pass it to you.Farewell.I can say no more.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Later on, Rhoda told Luke the rest.  Those were days of arguing between them.It was in the gathering dusk that Mark left the farm, with his heart a lump of lead.   At the gate, he heard Rhoda call his name.  He turned to face her.  The wind was in their clothing and hair. They stood for a while, perhaps a metre apart.“Felix doesn’t want you, he wants me,” pleaded Mark, as he had done repeatedly over the last few days.  “I don’t want my presence to attract the military into our home.  What will it achieve if I stay here, Rhoda?  Perhaps there is nowhere I can go now.  We will all perish here together, you know, if they find me here.  If I go, they will probably still find me.  But perhaps you and our children will continue safely.  There will be a hope and a future for us in that way.”Rhoda finally realized what was at stake.  Waves of different emotions flashed over her face, ending with panic.  Mumbling at first, she said, “Alright, John Mark.  I accept what you say.  Hurry.  It’s OK.  We have to try everything that has hope in it.  Hurry.”   Her face crumpled; tears formed in her eyes and began to roll down her cheeks.  “Come back to us, to me, my love, my Mark, when you can.”As they held each other, the misery in her face slowly began to clear away.  Rhoda, softly kissing Mark’s cheek and then looking into his eyes, so deeply, said, “If love doesn’t matter, my darling, then what could matter more?”They held each other, but then they saw armed horsemen entering the farm through the gate on the far side of the farm.  Rhoda and Mark dived for cover.  Rhoda dashed back to the farmhouse and took the children into the woods.  Staying off the roads, John Mark walked by night towards the harbour of Puteoli. There, by a fantastic turn of fortune, he found a ship to Cyrene.“If the wind is fair, Arcturus leaves in the morning,” said the captain.Meanwhile, Rhoda eventually returned to the farm house and retrieved the copy she had made of everything Mark had written in his gospel and his notes.“He would want me to give it all to Luke,” she thought.At dawn, hanging back on the quayside, John Mark did not board the ship Arcturus until the last moment. He dashed onboard as the sailor was untying the boarding ladder.  Once on board, he ducked down, peeping to see whether soldiers might have noticed. Even in the fresh morning breeze, the Arcturus took agonizingly long to pull away from the quayside.The ship was through the mouth of the harbour of Puteoli when Felix’s soldiers arrived.  It did not take long for them to trace the departure of ‘the stump fingered man.’  The Arcturus crept southwards, in the direction of the Sicilian straits.  At the same time, the horse mounted soldiers raced southwards to intercept it at Naples.Within half an hour of the departure of the good ship Arcturus, however, on the open sea, a strong following wind from the north suddenly caught the sails.  The wind miraculously transformed the vessel from its normal wallowing motion into a full, storming charge.  The wind moaned through the rigging, each rope producing its own tone.  The masts bowed in the force of the wind behind them, pushing the ship like a mighty hand.  Its sails groaned, the strained fabric bellied out, like the stomach of a pregnant woman at full term. A bow wave hissed and the ship awoke from its normal sleepy pace to become a speeding stallion, gleefully thrusting and galloping through foaming waves.  At Naples, Felix’s men, watching the Arcturus from a hilltop with the droning wind around them, could only curse to see it already past the harbour– careering southeast, towards the horizon, North Africa and Cyrene.Not to be cheated of his prey, Felix scouted around for other ships following in that direction. There was, indeed, a small and quick looking boat. It would be a risk, if the wind became even stronger and the weather turned foul. He briefly considered the prospect of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea crossing.  For Felix, however, it was a worthwhile gamble.“Stay here,” he said to his soldiers.  “Cast off,” he ordered the sailor on board.“But we have to collect a load!” pleaded the sailor.“I said cast off!” barked Felix, partially unsheathing his sword.  Frightened, the sailor obliged.  As they sailed, to lighten the boat further, Felix began to throw goods and equipment overboard.  The sailor ground his teeth in anger and dismay.The weather changed again and the next few days were fine and breezy.  The Arcturus adopted a measured and dignified pace.  During their passage southward across the Mediterranean towards Cyrene, John Mark completed his scroll. The final part was to describe the resurrection scenes – those awesome moments – which he himself had experienced at The Cenacle; and heard about from the apostles. A day before they reached Cyrene, the concluding part of his gospel was all complete.Meanwhile, unknown to John Mark, there was a boat racing across the Mediterranean Sea on his tracks. The small, quick boat carrying Felix sliced through the waves.  Felix knew that Mark had Simon Rufus and other seagoing trader friends in Cyrene, so headed there on a guess. Neither of the two vessels was in sight of the other during those days of crossing southwards across the Mediterranean. John Mark was hopeful about Ruth and his children.  He was relieved and rejoicing in the completion of his record, his gospel.  He was grateful for his escape from Felix, and anticipating seeing old friends in Cyrene.  And he was unaware that his old, malevolent hunter remained on his trail.

Felix reached the quayside of Cyrene and saw the Arcturus was not there.  But some questioning indicated that it was expected about this time.

“Tie up round the corner over there,” Felix ordered the sailor of his small boat, “And stay there.”   From a hidden vantage point, Felix settled down to await his prey, constantly scanning the horizon.

The Arcturus eventually arrived at Cyrene.  As they drew towards the dock, John Mark called out to a lad and, giving him a coin, sent him to notify Simon Rufus and the believers of his arrival.  It felt miraculous to have escaped from the looming horrors of Rome and to be arriving safely into the arms of beloved friends.

Clutching the scroll of his now completed gospel, John Mark walked along the wharf with Lucius, Rufus and his friends.  Mark noticed, just at the corner of a building a short distance away, the mast of a small fishing vessel flying a pennant marked with the insignia of Naples.

John Mark asked his happy party to wait for a moment.  They stopped and watched him cautiously walk towards that mast.  He saw a sailor in the boat, arranging the ropes. In answer to Mark’s question, the sailor told him that the boat had arrived a day before, with a soldier as its only passenger.

John Mark spun around, gripped with fear, about to run back after Rufus, Lucius and the others.  But as he turned, John Mark struck a mountainous obstacle and found himself looking up into the lowering, scarred eye of Felix.

“You have no Barnabas with you now, little piglet,” hissed Felix.

With no further word and with a single fluid motion, Felix plunged his gladius into John Mark’s heart. Lucius and the others were frozen where they stood, aghast.  Felix watched the spreading blood on the quayside with satisfaction. Bending down, Felix picked up the scroll which John Mark had dropped and opened it — The Gospel According to Mark. Then he threw it into the water and watched as the scroll slowly unfurled across the waves, the characters dissolving as mascara does in the presence of tears.

“So that is what could have been the end of the story of Mark,” thought Dee, “Just as big a shock as my loss of darling Christopher.  O how my heart aches for him!”

“My time is getting close and I want Mom nearby when the baby comes.  That is what is most important to me.”  Whenever she thought of Christopher, it sapped her energy away.  She stroked her growing, pregnant belly.  The coming baby was a comfort to her.  And she realized that despite the delay in their joint project, Dee still owed Patrick her part in the Gospel of Mark.

Slowly, Dee turned her mind and activities to return home to New York City.

September 2003.  Manhattan, New York City.

Once she was back in Manhattan, Dee visited Chime Labs.  They tried hard to persuade her to continue with her earlier assignment on linguistic analysis.  Advancing computer power were making voice, writing, translation and analysis of language ever more widespread.

“Forget about the government and the military.  You can return to your focus of a commercial, non-military, and non-governmental type, even if it is on a part time basis,” said James Lamb, the CEO, at an interview she attended with Chime.  Dee looked out of the window at the late summer trees.  The city was alive with students intent on their activities in the new academic year.

“Give me a retainer and four years to raise my baby and you have a deal,” she said.  “Meanwhile, I can do some work at home when the baby is sleeping.”

“It’s a deal,” said James.  He knew that there were only a limited number of the really highly talented people in the field; and that the investment would be well worthwhile.  He wrote a figure for the “retainer” on a piece of paper, and slid the paper across to her.  Her mouth dropped open in surprise.

“Wow,” she said, rather unprofessionally.  “Thank you very much!”

He smiled. He expected that Chime would recoup the investment at thousands of percent. “Now don’t you go schmoozing around with any other corporation!  And have fun with the baby.”

After her interview at Chime Labs, Dee had coffee in the cafeteria.  She asked Mickey Tensing how his work was going.  A mischievous look flashed over his face and then he said, “As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, I’m enjoying it, but it is also such an endless struggle.  English is such a perverse language, is it not?”

They laughed and laughed, the tears running down their faces – those tears laced with so many different feelings and memories.

“Yes… English is such a perverse language,” said Dee. “Our many languages.  Such a complex story… but such a simple one, really.” She became quiet.  She paused for a long time, leaning forward and looking directly and intensely into Mickey’s eyes.  He waited for her to say what was on her mind.

“If love doesn’t matter, what does?”  she eventually said.  Then she leaned back, and her body, soul, and mind settled, and she repeated slowly.  “If love doesn’t matter, what does?”

Dee’s pronouncement was the outcome of a lot of research and experience.  Then, remembering a doctor’s appointment, she looked at her watch.  “I must go.  See you around, Mickey!”

Two months later, in late November, Dee gave birth to her son, and named him Christopher Mark.  She raised him in peace.   Melissa loved fussing over the baby.  Arun and Angkor conceded the child his role in the family.  Dee’s mother and father reveled in their grandchild.  And slowly the pain of twice losing Christopher, the man she loved, blended into poignantly beautiful memories of him; along with bright hopes for the son they shared.

Dee, Patrick and Niamh performed their story of John Mark in ever more venues and eventually published it.  Dee was not concerned with its popularity.  It was a valuable story, and it reflected her own story.

Occasionally, they went to see Christopher’s parents in England, and the museum in Damascus.  Admiring the growing display, Dee wondered what else would emerge.

“Tell us more, John Mark,” Dinazade thought.  It seemed his story, well begun, was not ended.


Synopsis

This book is, at the same time, a human drama, history, romance, and thriller.  It weaves and plaits together two parallel strands of narrative – a type of roman a clef (novel with a key).  Both strands relate true past events.

In the first strand, the period concerned is the month of late February to late March 2003, which includes the start of the Iraq War.  Here, Dinazade (Dee) is the protagonist.  She is a highly qualified woman of 39 years old, of Syrian descent, who lives in New York City with her daughter.  At the outset of the story, she is working for CHIMe Laboratories and for the CIA in the field of language processing.  Her task is to detect messages relating to fomenting violence through the media of the world (‘Tell me your story’).  Her team detects one highly suspect message and she goes to work on it.  Eventually she finds out who sent the message.  Her discovery is just in time to save one person (Moshe Meir), but it is at the cost of the love of her life (Christopher Grey).

In the second strand, the focus is on St. Mark and his life, love, and work, 2000 years ago.  Dee uses her skill with computers and linguistic analysis to establish the sources St. Mark consulted in compiling his gospel.  St. Mark listened carefully to the accounts of Barnabas, Peter, and others (‘Tell me your story’) — and presented them largely intact.  In this venture, Dee is able to team up with others to re-create a biography of St. Mark, an explanation of the strange ending of his gospel, and the unknown conclusion of his life.  Furthermore, she realizes the promise or value of a particular locus for archeological and historical research – Damascus, in Syria.

The weaving of the two strands: The above two strands weave and plait together in many ways.  For example, in parallel with Dinazade’s ‘listening’ work with the CIA, St. Mark ‘listened’ to his sources.  Their families, spouses, or partners play a critically important role for both Dee and Mark.  In parallel with Christopher, St. Mark died tragically.  At the end, Dinazade is able to ‘resurrect’ both Christopher and St. Mark, and others beside.  For both of them, things that seemed grim, fearful, or futile became the very open doors to the future.

“To avoide the tedious repetition of these words: is equal to : I will settle as I doe often in woorke use a pair of parallels or gemowe* lines of one lengthe, thus: =, because noe. 2. Thynges, can be moare equalle.”

Welshman Robert Recorde, The Wetstone of White, 1557

*twin


[*] That is, in 65 AD


This entry was posted in Novel. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dinazade: Tell Me Your Story

  1. Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your page.
    Im really impressed byy your blog.
    Hello there, You have performed a great job. I will definitely digg itt and in myy view recommend
    to my friends. I’m confident they will be benefited
    from this website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s