+JMJ+ Welcome to part 30 of A Journey, the rough draft for a WIP set in New Testament times. Jonah and his companion are being held in the garrison in Capernaum.
And now the journey continues. (Probably with plot holes big enough to drive a camel through.)
A Journey – Part 30
First Day for the Fourth Time, Sunday
They are not the soldiers who we thought were chasing us. They were simply stopping at the pass to leave men there to watch for Zealots. Word of our misadventure and escape has not reached them, but word of coming trouble has. This is all that Raphael learned from them and shared with me before they took him away. For questioning, the guard said. I have not seen Rachel and my questions go unacknowledged, unanswered.
I sit in my cell, alone and brooding. I do have a cell to myself even though I am not a Roman citizen, because apparently Raphael is. This surprises me. He made no mention of it before, but, as he pointed out to me, I did not ask. He is not as exasperating as the tentmaker but he has his moments. In any case, because of his citizenship we were in this cell with no other prisoners. We are only being held for questioning, the guard assured us. I should feel comforted but I do not. My sister also is not a Roman citizen so I can only wonder in what condition I will find her, if–no, when I find her.
The guard either knew nothing of her or declined to answer. I asked him if he knew anything about her when we first arrived at our cell. But the next time I saw him he gave me a strange look, not for long but long enough for me to notice. He still would not tell me anything about her but I think he does know something. Maybe he did not earlier but he does now. This does not comfort me.
Word has now reached this garrison that two men were apprehended but escaped, adding theft to the reasons they should be found and held. We did not meet their description fully, thanks to the clothing our more generous hosts had given us, and there were no signs around us of anything we were accused of stealing. So due to lack of evidence, by rights we should have been allowed to continue, but I can imagine that these were soldiers who signed up for one thing and found another: a troublesome region lacking in most of what they most desired, the glory of battle and the treasures of conquest.
I discover a little later that many of these soldiers were not Roman from Rome but men who had earned their citizenship through military service. Many of the men here were from Syria or other nearby regions, only too eager to seek redress for past wounds. But I realize full well that this makes Rachel’s situation worse. They have no reason to be hospitable to me and would not dare to harm Raphael. But Rachel? A lone woman, unattached, unaccompanied? I cannot bear the thought and I am already seeing in my mind’s eye how I will deal with anyone who treats her roughly.
While I was working myself into a fury, the guard returned to take me to see the centurion in charge. After asking me some general questions, then:
“You are looking for your sister.”
This did not sound like a question, so I made no reply. I did not know him, had never met him, he had replaced the centurion I had met before in Capernaum. We were never friends but he would have recognized me. This man was a stranger to me yet he knew who I was and that I was searching for Rachel. Either Raphael or someone else had identified me.
“She is not here. I was going to let her go, but before I could, one of your people came to claim her and took her away.”
“Who? Took her where?” Pretense was no longer necessary, nor was hiding.
“He was a tradesman, a tentmaker. Named Saul.”
The weasel! Did he not have larger fish to catch? Why bother with her?
“I do not think you need to worry, surely he would not harm her. I would have refused to release her to anyone who would, if I could help it. But he had permission to take followers of the Messi–of the one they call the Messiah, back to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. For questioning.”
“But she was in Jerusalem to begin with and they sent her here. I do not know why. And why take her back there?”
“I have no understanding of the workings of the Sanhedrin. But I do know why she was here. She was here so I could keep her safe.”
“The enemies of the disciples.”
“The disciples. But you–you are not one of them, are you?”
“Me?” He seemed flustered. “I hold him in high regard, certainly, but I am a centurion, completely loyal to Rome.” With these words he hurriedly executed a full Roman salute. I was amused. Relieved.
“But he healed my servant. I owe him more than I can say.”
“So I had her guarded by one of my men who is.”
Here? In a Roman garrison? Even here? As I said before, I cannot get away from that man’s followers.
“But I had to turn her over when I saw the orders that the tentmaker carried.”
“From the Sanhedrin? Why would–?
“No, not Jewish orders. Orders from the Procurator.”
“Yes. I had to obey, of course.”
“Of course you realize that the Procurator would have no reason to give orders to a Jewish tentmaker.”
“But also a Roman citizen.”
“Surely you were suspicious.”
“I would have been, yes.” And now the truth comes out. “If I had been here when it happened.” He could not look me in the eye now, which I found strange, even then. “I was meeting some fellow–I went to take some food and other supplies to some of his disciples.”
Before he could disappoint me even more, he was interrupted by the sound of metal upon metal and voices shouting. It was a small garrison but I was surprised that anyone would attack it. But I could not have been more surprised when voices and the sounds of fighting grew louder and closer until the door burst open and Raphael nearly fell through the open door with a sword in his hand, fighting a Roman soldier. Others rushed in behind them, including two I could not have been more surprised to see. From behind me I heard the Centurion’s voice.
“We came to warn you, Centurion. Some of your men do not approve of your friendship with us. With Jews in general, but especially those who followed Jesus.”
“Yes, I have known this for some time now.”
“But did you know that they have plotted against you? Zealots have gained entrance and are on their way here, to your quarters, now.”
The Centurion moved quickly, unsheathing his sword and surprised me yet again when he tossed a sword to me. “Ever use a sword?”
Then we were out the door and into the corridor, the Centurion leading the way. “Follow me. I will get us out of here.”
That was encouraging.
“Or die trying.”
That was less encouraging.
End of Part 30
Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross daily and follow Him, so you can become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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