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“The Curse of the Gateway” Part Two of the Gateway Series- Read Chapter One FREE!

THE CURSE OF THE GATEWAY TEASER (2)

This is Part Two. Readers want to begin with “The Gateway” Part One of the Gateway Series!

Here is the first chapter of “The Curse of the Gateway.”

“The Curse of the Gateway”

 

Missing Parts of the Case: Part Two of the Gateway Series

 

 

By: Aimée Marie Bejarano

 

The Curse of the Gateway

(Part Two of the Gateway Series)

Copyright © 2014 Aimée Marie Bejarano

All Rights Reserved

No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission by the copyright owner. IF this novel is given out as a free pdf, it is NOT by permission of author and it’s piracy.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Published August 19, 2016 Released under “Missing Parts of the Case” later redone and released as “The Curse of the Gateway” Missing Parts of the Case (Part Two of the Gateway Series) Both are the same novel and under copyright of the author.

 

Chapter One

Gabriel violently yanks Aiden by his t-shirt, wrenching him across the threshold of Grace’s brick home. Aiden is stunned gaping at Grace, disheveled on the ground hugging herself. Tears streaming down her red face. He briefly questions if Gabriel has finally figured out that he has feelings for her.

“What?! What is it, Grace?” His blue eyes widen.

 

Several months prior.

 

Aiden Jenson nervously sits on the witness stand, having just endured a thorough and detailed testimony. His account of the days leading up to, and the day of his shooting is on display, naked as day.  It was a dark day set up, and meticulously planned out by Detective Phil Linton.

Aiden wipes his sweaty palms on his ironed suit pants, crinkling them. The D.A. settles in her chair at the prosecution table, with her notes strategically laid out.  She waits for the defense attorney, whom she’s gone to bat against before, to question her witness.

Stewing in a new, navy blue suit, calm and cool, appearing like he doesn’t have a care in the world, is the deceptive and cunning, Phil Linton. He carefully studies Aiden, thinking and presuming the color tie his attorney instructed him to wear will give off a wonderful, first impression to the jury.  Linton scowls at Aiden, wishing he was in a pool of blood, and imagining every crooked, menacing thing he’d like to inflict, if only given the chance.

Judge Prodeman, the man with the scar on his face, who was indicted with the attempted murder of Aiden Jenson and bribery, was wise and took a plea deal. He avoided a lengthy trial, but lost his high paying job.  The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the case of Chacho Macho since Judge Prodeman was the judge presiding over his case. It was due to the fact it was not a fair trial from the start. Because of all the evidence admitted, Chacho Macho also took a plea deal for the murder of young girl he brutally raped and murdered.

Justice has been served for everyone. But, not just yet for Phil Linton.  He’s willing to brazenly stand toe to toe with Aiden Jenson. More of a sick, foolish challenge. He despises Aiden.  Always has.  And in his pride and arrogant ways thinks he can get away with attempted murder, not only that day in the bushes, but in the hospital, after the gateway episode. Aiden was recovering from his severe burns and bite to his leg. Linton’s also charged with a slew of minor charges which he’s denied with preposterous claims of being framed. But there’s far too much evidence piled against him.  Amidst wise counsel from his defense attorney to take a deal, knowing the enormous amount of evidence, Phil Linton refused and wants his day in court.

One huge problem stands in his way; the D.A. sitting rather comfortably is Rose Lee, a powerful District Attorney known for tearing people apart on the witness stand.  She has a 98% conviction rate and can’t wait to see if Linton will take the stand. She’s fully prepared and confident in this case regardless that Aiden Jenson was not being truthful in the beginning, about the attempt on his life.  Rose Lee has made it simple to the jury in her opening remarks, how Aiden Jenson must have felt, from nearly being murdered and dumped down a shallow embankment, like a bag of garbage.  Plus, the continued threats from the man in blue, the constant torment, and fear he must have endured.  Linton would have killed Aiden if he loosed his lips.

At the defense table, Linton’s lawyer stands up and straightens his striped tie, he behaves rather smug and pedantic.  He figures he knows precisely how to handle this snot nosed journalist.  Discredit.  His plan is to catch Aiden Jenson in a lie, and bring up past lies, regardless of Aiden’s valid reasons.

“So, Mr. Jenson,”  He clears his throat and swaggers towards the witness stand.  Aiden swallows preparing himself, knowing he’s going to be dragged through the ringer with this man.  The jury eyes Aiden then the defense attorney.

“What you’re saying is you lied? You’re an admitted liar is that what you’re saying?!  You obviously just admitted to all of us, that you lied when you were shot!” The defense attorney motions towards the jury for brownie points.
“Objection your honor!  He’s harassing my witness!”  Ms. Lee stands up and angrily smacks a hand on the table. Reporters and news stations stand piled inside the courtroom, for the most anticipated, broadcasted trial of the year.

The judge bangs the gavel; the courtroom erupts with gasps and echoing whispers. The judge’s deep, brown eyes scowl at the defense attorney. “Counselor, clean it up!  He’s already admitted he was not truthful in the original report.  You need to move on.  Quiet in the courtroom!” The Judge grimaces across the courtroom, his robe more as sackcloth and his presence commands the utmost authority.

Ms. Lee sits back down while the defense attorney nods and carefully eyes the judge.  “Yes, your honor,” The defense attorney takes a different tone then shoots a firm glare at Aiden, with a hand on his chin.  “So, Mr. Jenson, tell us why you lied then?”

Ms. Lee gives a 360 eye roll and sits down.  The defense attorney steps closer to the witness stand.  Linton proudly smiles as he fixes the edges of his mustache with the tips of his calculating fingers.

“I was scared, sir. That’s what I’ve been relaying here, in detail.” Aiden nods, without so much as a smile or his impish grin at the murderer’s attorney who in his mind has a special place in hell.

Scared?” The attorney crosses his arms, and rubs his chin.

Aiden shifts and fidgets on the witness stand.  “Yes, scared,” His ocean, blue eyes pierce at the attorney.  He knows he must remain strong.  All eyes rest upon him, the time is now.

“Look, I frankly don’t care what you think, but a man of the law plotted to have me shot and killed. He dumped me down a hill thinking I was dead.  He paid off Judge Prodeman, and when he found out I was alive, he decided to pay me a little visit in the hospital, and threatened to kill me if I said anything!”  He loudly speaks into the microphone before him. His eyes tell a tale of their own. The jury has no doubt, he’s more than truthful.

“But you admitted to lying when filing your original report,” The defense attorney smirks.  The tone of his voice nettles Aiden, like the continuing sounds of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard.

“If I presumably lied, then why did Detective Harry Jade and two security officers at the hospital testify to the fact that Linton tried to kill me yet again, when I was being treated for severe burns last year?  Are they lying to you as well?”

“Let’s be correct here, Mr. Jenson,” He flings his index finger up in the air. “Only Detective Jade testified that my client allegedly made an attempt on your life. Security officers arrived after the fact. Isn’t that right?”

Aiden clears his throat and scopes the jury. “Yes, sir. That is correct.”

“Let’s return to what we were originally speaking of, shall we? You were about to explain to all of us that you were scared, and that’s why you lied, in the original reports. Is that what you want me and this,” He pauses for impact. “hardworking jury to believe?”  The attorney considers each of the juror’s then looks back at Aiden. Some of the jurors frown.

“He knew exactly where to find me, and could end my life whenever he wanted.  He reminded me of that every chance he had. Usually, and cowardly I might add, when I was alone.”

“Uh huh!  A decorated detective said this to you?  He said he was going to kill you if you said anything?”  He sarcastically states again peering over at the jury, with an arrogant look.

“Yes, Phil Linton did.  And I’d refrain from calling him decorated or a detective. From what I’ve heard, he was suspended and then fired,”  Aiden looks directly at a fuming Linton at the defense table.

Some in the courtroom laugh, while the judge fires a threatening glare across the courtroom hushing all spectators.

“Your honor, I want that last comment stricken from the record.”

The judge clears his throat. “Denied. It’s already been brought into trial through evidence. Move on counselor.”

The defense attorney grinds his teeth.  “He has a medal and a commendation.  He’s a hero cop regardless of your lies!” He points his long, bony finger at Aiden.

“You really believe that crap he’s told you?”

Easy there, Aiden. Ms. Lee thinks hopeful his defensive attitude won’t sway the jury against him.

“Mr. Jenson, please stick to answering the questions,”  The judge politely interjects.

“No, it’s alright your honor.  I’d like to know what he means,”  The defense attorney passively waves his arm challenging Aiden Jenson, apparently not cognizant to who he is, or what he’s dealing with.

Ms. Lee smirks understanding Aiden Jenson and how he plays. And from the countless hours spent grilling him in her office, she knows his sly ways.  She was in fact, counting on this.

“We have history.  There have been several cases I had written about previously, where the person behind bars was proven to be innocent.”

“And what does this have to do with my client?”  The defense attorney crosses his arms. He knows full well that Aiden Jenson had Phil Linton as his source only once, and it ended in a near homicide. Ms. Lee’s heart pounds with excitement.

“Well, sir, he was the arresting officer on all of those cases I had written.”

The courtroom erupts in gasps and low chatters, while camera’s flash. The judge bangs the gavel harder.

“You’re honor, I move to strike that!”  The defense attorney points his long arm at Aiden.

Ms. Lee stands up. “Your honor, defense opened the door,” She gives a child-like grin in the defense attorney’s direction.

“Indeed,” The judge nods his head.  “Sorry, counselor, but you opened the door by asking the witness what he meant.  The objection is overruled.”

Ms. Lee scoots back into her seat, while the courtroom continues whispering and gossiping. The judge grows irate and hot under the collar.

“If you don’t settle down, I’ll clear this courtroom and remove the cameras!  You’re here out of a courtesy.  Don’t make me take it back and send you out!”

The courtroom quiets down.  The defense attorney clears his throat.  “Nothing further your honor,” The attorney straightens his tie.  I shouldn’t have asked him that!  The defense attorney thinks avoiding eye contact with Phil Linton; he can sense his evil inspection in his peripheral vision.

Ms. Lee stands up.  “Uh, your honor, since the defense has made it clear they do not believe Mr. Aiden Jenson, I’d like to now present state’s exhibit Y.  It’s the video tape of the day of the shooting.  Also exhibit Z which has photos of that day as well.”

The defense attorney springs up.  “I object to this, your honor!  It’s a blatant attack against my client, which could only serve to prejudice the jury against him!”

The judge sighs.  “Counselor, you’re objection has been noted and we’ve already discussed this in chambers, in great lengths.  You’ve made your detailed arguments.  You’re objection is again, overruled.  There is no violation here.  This is a recording of a crime, and the jury has every right to see it.  Ms. Lee, you may continue,” The judge courteously motions with his arm.

“Thank you, your honor.  I’ll be redirecting the witness after as well.  If someone could please get the lights and after the video is over I’ll get your response, Mr. Jenson,”  Aiden Jenson nods at Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee steps up to the television and places a dvd into the player. The courtroom is darkened.  All spectators rest on pins and needles to view the actual crime.

Aiden grins at Ms. Lee as Linton shoots daggers at him from his chair, on the opposite end of the courtroom.  There is no denying the plans and actions of the ex-Detective Phil Linton.  The jury attentively watches the video completely floored.  Some look back and forth between the video and the defendant. The video moves around, but very clearly captures the crime and faces of the perpetrators.  It is still fresh to Aiden and difficult to watch. Aiden clears his throat and turns away.  It’s as if he can feel the pain of that bullet fresh in his abdomen.

Then the gun blares. *Bang!*

Aiden swallows, almost unable to hold back the bile bubbling in his throat.  He breathes deeply in and out, calming down. Ms. Lee notices his demeanor and gives him a look of concern. His nod in return reassures her that he is fine and can hold it together.

Ms. Lee is fully prepared and has blown up several photos of who is holding the gun.  No denying it’s the judge and Phil Linton.

When the video is complete, Aiden explains in greater detail and points at the photos he had taken of the two men dumping his body.  While the men were certain he was dead, Aiden made sure he snapped pictures with his microfilm and hid the video recorded in his van.  It’s clear Linton tried to murder him.  In addition, he bribed a powerful judge who earlier that day testified against Phil Linton as part of his plea deal for a reduced sentence.

“Uh, Mr. Jenson, you mentioned that Detective Phil Linton was the one who was your source that day, correct?”

“Yes ma’am, he was.”

“Did you have any idea he was bribing Judge Prodeman the day of your arrival?”

“None,”  He shakes his head then wipes his sweaty palms on his suit pants again crinkling them.

“What about any of the times previous to that day you were brutally shot?  Did you know about the bribe?”

“No, Ms. Lee.  I was stunned to see what I did, and was thankful I caught it on video and film.”

“And the video we saw, please explain to the jury how you were able to capture that?”

“I had a specially made button that matched my coat. Inside of it holds a little camera. It sends a direct feed into my van. It recorded everything.”

“Impressive, Mr. Jenson.  And did you have that specially made specifically because of your occupation as a journalist, and the possibility that some jobs can be dangerous?”

“Uh, yes, Ms. Lee. That’s exactly why I had it made.”

“And uh, what made Phil Linton become your source that day?”  Ms. Lee paces around the front of the witness stand in her high heels and arms crossed.  Her long, thick, black hair trails down her back.  She looks pristine in her olive colored skirt suit and smells of Jasmine.

“I was merely trying to pry information from police officers, which wasn’t working, I might add,” Aiden’s slight smirk has the jury giggling. Terrific! He has the jury on his side believing him. Ms. Lee ruminates.

“That’s typical I imagine, as a journalist, to try to gain information from law enforcement?”

“Uh yes, Ms. Lee.”

“Alright. Please, continue, Mr. Jenson.”

“Well, that’s when Phil Linton strolled by.  He nudged my arm and pulled me aside. He explained how he overheard how I was trying to gather information, from some of the officers. He told me where to be that day.  I had no idea whatsoever, what I was in for.”

She approaches the witness stand and folds her hands. “So, from what we’ve seen, we can only state that Detective Phil Linton set you up for murder, am I right?”  She turns and plunges her manicured finger directly at the dirty ex-cop who swallows.

“Yes.”

“Objection, your honor!  She’s testifying!”  The defense attorney shoots up from his chair.

“Withdrawn!  Nothing further.  Thank you, Mr. Jenson,”  Ms. Lee gives a nod to the judge then stands back at the prosecution table.  “The people rest, your honor.”

The judge nods then veers at the defense table, as Ms. Lee gracefully sits down along with the opposing attorney. Ms. Lee is beginning to grate on him. The defense knows he has no chance of winning.

The judge politely grins at Aiden. “Mr. Jenson, you are dismissed.”

With a nod, he steps down and sits next to Ms. Lee.

“Counselor, are you ready for your first witness?”

The defense attorney clears his throat then stands again to his shaky legs. “Uh, your honor, we will rest on all of our objections.”

The courtroom is livid this perplexes the jury by the look on their faces.

The judge raises his brows and glances towards the jury.  “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to go to lunch.  When we resume, you will hear the state and the defense’s closing arguments.  See you in an hour. Actually, you have been patient over several weeks of this trial. Jury, please take an hour and a half. I’m told they have a wonderful spread of deli for you, and dessert.”

The jury smile heading out of the courtroom in an orderly line alleviated they are appreciated.

The reporters lurk nearby.  They give updates of the case live while others try catching Aiden Jenson or Phil Linton for a brief interview. They shout their questions at Aiden yet he ignores them.

Aiden stands up and stretches his arms overhead then leans over to the D.A with a disconcerting glare. “What are they pulling, Ms. Lee? I wasn’t expecting this.”

“Aiden, relax this is good news for us.  He has absolutely no defense to his crimes.  We have witnesses and video along with photos.  I believe he knows it’s best not to put up a fight if he’s going to try to appeal this.  Can’t argue you’ve had a lousy defense if he puts up a good defense.  I’m certain that’s what he’s doing, and where he’s headed.”

“Yeah it figures.  I hate the system sometimes,”  He peers down at Ms. Lee.  “No offense.”

She laughs and tucks her hair behind her ears.  “None taken.  It’s not a perfect system, but there’s no way, with the amount of proof we have, that Phil Linton will ever see this world again uh, outside of a prison that is.  Rest assured, Aiden.  I’ve got this under control.  You should trust me,” She brings out more folders from her briefcase for her well prepared closing argument.

He gives a subtle wink.  “You’re not the one I don’t trust.  I can’t wait for this to be over. Perhaps I can get a good night’s sleep.”

“Most victims I speak to find when they testify it’s good medicine. I have a feeling you’ll have a restful sleep tonight, Aiden. It’s almost over.  I do need to speak with you, before the day is over. It’s a rather difficult subject so please, stick around,” Her tone worries Aiden.

When the jury returns from lunch, the powerful, shark Ms. Lee presents her passionate closing statement, to an expectant jury.  She refers to photos again and vastly animated.  She helps them relate, if placed in Aiden Jenson’s shoes.  Many nod in agreement, one juror in particular tears up.  Some of the jurors refuse to glance at Phil Linton, which is a good sign.  And again, photos of Aiden Jenson sit on display when he was in the hospital recovering from his bullet wound.  The particular photo she ends with is the empty syringe which almost seals the nails in Linton’s coffin. Ms. Lee gives the jury thanks for their patience and service as the judge gives a subtle smile. He motions for the defense to make their closing arguments.

Ms. Lee holds her breath, sits, and crosses her legs waiting to hear what these guys have planned.  Aiden gives her a high five underneath the table.

The defense attorney stands, straightens the knot on his tie, and strolls to the jury box. He purposefully glares at each of them dead in the eye.  Some appear uncomfortable while others seem plain old irritated by his demeanor.  The courtroom eagerly awaits wondering what his argument will be.  How can he leave reasonable doubt, and how can he compete with the argument which was just left by Ms. Lee?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,”  He smirks.  “This whole trial is one, big attempt to smite my client’s good name!  Everything is a sham!  Who have we been talking about this entire trial?  A man named, Aiden Jenson. He’s a popular journalist working for a big newspaper, a top newspaper I might add. He’s only doing this to further his reputation, name, and gain more money!  Especially with his book “The Gateway.” This is all a publicity stunt to sell more books and more newspapers!”

Jeez, this guy’s an idiot. Aiden scrutinizes.

“Phil Linton is innocent! A-hem, thank you.”

The defense attorney nods then sits back down with Phil Linton whom he can feel hot daggers, at his collar.  Linton’s beginning to give him the creeps.

The judge is not impressed and raises both brows.  “Okay.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you are not to use this man’s prior reports of misconduct as an officer against him. In other words, the prior investigations from Internal Affairs against him.  They have nothing to do with this case…”

As the judge finishes his statement to the jury, he dismisses them for deliberation.

Aiden takes a deep breath outside the courtroom.  Ms. Lee strolls to him with a sly grin.  “You did very well, Aiden.  There’s no denying what was done to you.  And I believe that every juror was sympathetic. If an officer of the law threatened them, after they survived from a first attempt on their lives by that same officer, well, they would have done the same thing and maybe hesitate come forward.  I expect a quick verdict on both counts of attempted murder, and all the smaller counts included.”

Aiden shakes her hand.  “Thank you.  I appreciate that.  I hope they convict him too.”

“Well, your friend uh, Grace Rodriguez testifying at the beginning of the week was wonderful.  Her account of how he had you pinned up against the wall of her apartment had the courtroom on the edge of their seat.”

“Yes, she said she’d help me and testify.  She knew then something was wrong.  And Harry, well, he saved me from Linton’s last failed attempt. He always has my back.”

“Yes. Harry Jade. Wonderful detective.  His testimony helped as well. Linton really should have taken my plea, but can’t cure stupid.  Why don’t you get some fresh air and relax.  I’ll call you first thing when there’s a verdict. And uh, just ignore the riff-raff of reporters,” She chuckles and gives him a friendly pat on his arm.

“What did you need to speak with-”

“Later, Aiden. I promise I’ll let you know.”

Highly concerned, Aiden heads over to the water fountain, he leans over sipping some cool water. Linton hatefully swaggers up behind him with his hands in his pant pockets.

“This ‘aint over, Aiden.  You’ll pay for this one way or another,”  Linton curtly whispers near the journalist’s ear.

Chills crawl up Aiden’s back. He wipes his mouth and quickly spins around. The look on Linton’s face is sheer evil.

“You’re threatening me again, Linton?”

Aiden raises his voice drawing the reporters’ attention as they step out of the courtroom. Immediately, they rush up to the men who stand toe to toe. Ms. Lee hears the ruckus, pushes through the gathering spectators, and hustles over with a few officers at her side.

“Take this man into custody!”  She points, as they swiftly remove Aiden Jenson, the state’s best witness safely into another room.

Linton’s lawyer wipes his glossy forehead, and yanks his client away from the reporters for a much needed tongue lashing which naturally Linton refuses to heed.

Within the hour, the jury relays a message that they have reached a verdict. They’re brought back into the courtroom.  A record and a shock.  Every officer including Detective Harry Jade waits to hear the anticipated verdict hoping this will be the end of Phil Linton.  The evidence is clear of his guilt however one can never be too certain how a jury will be swayed.

Grace is working at the law office and eagerly awaits by the television set when those red letters fly across the screen saying, VERDICT REACHED.  She’s been praying for a guilty verdict knowing how deceptive Phil Linton is.  The attorneys’ in the office cease from their work, and scurry around the television, for the decision broadcasting all across America, interrupting regularly scheduled programs.

“I have been told that the jury has reached a verdict,”  The judge clears his throat, as cameras roll the live footage.

The jury foreperson stands up, with a piece of paper folded in his grasp.

“Yes, we have your honor.”

“Please, pass it to the bailiff,”  The judge motions with a pleasant smile.

The bailiff brings the verdict slip to the judge who reads it then passes it back to the bailiff.  He hands it to the foreman.

“And what say you?”

“For count one hindering prosecution, we find the defendant guilty,”  The courtroom gasps, as the judge bangs his gavel down.  “For count two of intimidating a witness, we find the defendant guilty.  For count three of staging a crime scene, we find the defendant guilty.”

Ms. Lee confidently folds her hands as her shoulders lower.  All of her hard work is indeed paying off.

“For count four of bribery, we find the defendant guilty.  For count five to the attempted murder of Aiden Jenson, we find the defendant guilty.  To count six of the attempted murder of Aiden Jenson, we find the defendant….guilty.”

“We’ve got him!”  Ms. Lee smiles beams and stares at Aiden, by her side.

Gasps fill the courtroom again, as Aiden sinks in the chair sighing. Ms. Lee slaps him a high five.  Detective Harry Jade approaches Aiden and places a strong hand on his friend’s shoulder.  Aiden peers back at his best friend with a nod of relief.  The gavel bangs down with a stern eye from the judge silencing the courtroom.  Phil Linton curses under his breath snapping a few choice phrases to his idiot attorney who can’t wait to flee the courtroom and get away from his client. He’s already packing up his briefcase.

The judge specifically addresses them.  “Thank you members of the jury.”

Then the jury foreperson stands again and speaks up.  “Your honor, we the jury well, we had one thing we wanted to add to our verdict.”

“Objection, your honor!”  The defense bellows jolting up with sweat dripping off the sides of his temples.

The judge sighs.  “Relax, counselor.  They want to add something, and I’m eager to know what it is.  Foreperson please, continue,”  The judge pleasantly motions.

“We wanted to say that we admire Mr. Aiden Jenson, and how he came forward after all this time.  Fear is a terrible thing,”  Aiden smiles and gives a nod to the jury who has all eyes peering at him.

“Objection!”  The defense attorney bellows again.  The judge ignores him, for only a moment.

“Indeed, fear is a terrible thing,”  The judge nods.  “I thank you for that.  Counselor, sit down. They are merely wishing him well before they leave,”  The defense attorney sits as Ms. Lee smirks.  “Jury, we thank you so much for your service over the past weeks.  You are dismissed.  You are also free to speak to anyone of the press as you see fit.  Or you may keep silent regarding this case.  That is your right and your decision.  Thank you again for the time you have taken away from your jobs, and your families. This court doesn’t take lightly your service and sacrifice. We thank you. You are dismissed.”

The jury is escorted out of the courtroom. Some reporters stagger out incredibly anxious to interview the jury, as the judge speaks up.

“We need to return for sentencing.  I see that we can meet…” the judge looks down studying his calendar.  “…next month at a date to be set.  But, there is another issue I’d like to address,” The courtroom sits on pins and needles, while the white haired judge looks up and tosses his pen down.  “I’m told there was something of a threat that happened over an hour ago.  Sir?  Did you in fact threaten, Aiden Jenson, by the water fountain?”  The judge folds his hands curiously, and intently eyes the untrustworthy ex-cop.

Phil Linton glares at his attorney who gives him a nod that he must answer the judge.  Linton stands up and clears his throat for the obvious lies about to spiel forth.  “Sir, I merely told him he will pay.  But, I meant for the lies he has said.  I certainly did not mean death or injury.”

Aiden makes an obvious noise with his mouth blowing off the bull crap excuse.

The judge glances at Aiden.  “Mr. Jenson, what did you make of this when he stated those words to you?”

Aiden Jenson stands to his feet.  “Your honor, I was simply getting a drink of water when he approached me.  He said, this isn’t over and I would pay one way or another.  If it was as he said, then why on earth did he lower his voice and corner me? Why was his tone less than amiable?”

The judge raises his brows again drawing his attention to the dirty ex-cop.  “That’s a valid question.  Why did you lower your voice and have an unfriendly tone?  And why address, Mr. Jenson, by the water fountain, which is clearly off near a corner of the courthouse?”  The judge’s tone grows more disconcerted, sensing he’s being lied to.

Linton thinks of another lie.  “I uh, don’t know uh, possibly because of the news crews,” He fixes the edges of his mustache.  “They’d make anything news even if innocently said,”  He coolly remarks.

Aiden shakes his head and sits down as the judge places the gavel down.  “I have not seen someone as cunning as you seem to be.  I’m ashamed and completely stunned, that a man of the law is so crooked and was able to stay on the police force, as long as you have done.  I think New York will be a lot safer knowing you no longer patrol the streets.  Now, Aiden Jenson, do you wish to press charges to this threat?”

Aiden quickly converses with Ms. Lee then stands up.  “Your honor, I think Phil Linton is in enough trouble.  I will be glad when the sentence is handed down.  I’d rather just let this go.”

At his words, Detective Harry Jade’s face is unnerving knowing Linton may still attempt something to hurt his friend.

“Phil Linton, I think you have been temporarily reprieved.  You’re bail is still set at two million dollars.”

Ms. Lee swiftly stands.  “Your honor, we would like his bail revoked. The state again would like to remind you of the callous nature of his crimes and would like Phil Linton to be remanded until sentencing. He is now a convicted man. This is highly unorthodox to allow a convicted man out on bail!”

Aiden swallows, Jade swallows as well and crosses his arms, eying the judge peculiarly. Something isn’t sitting right.

Linton’s attorney shoots up. “Uh, your honor, I’d like to remind the court that my client has come for every day of this court case. He hasn’t fled and he’s been out on bond.”

“Ms. Lee, you’ve already stated your objections in great detail.  He has given us his passport and agreed to return for sentencing.  I have the stipulation that he is remain on house arrest being monitored 24/7.  Mr. Linton, you are ordered to be back here for sentencing next month.  That will give your attorney time to get an argument together, as to why you shouldn’t receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.  And at that time, I will hear the victim’s statement.  I’d suggest you get your faculties together, Mr. Linton.  Thank you.  We are adjourned!”

He bangs the gavel down as the reporter’s hustles out to snag Aiden or Linton outside and catch a reaction to the verdict.

Reporters waste no time surrounding Aiden Jenson, the man of the hour, as he steps outside of the courtroom. He has a glow about him, a weight has indeed been lifted, yet something is troubling him greatly. Linton is out on bail for thirty days. He sighs and rubs his sleepy eyes. Sleep may not be possible, after all.

“Sir, did the short verdict time stun you?”  “Aiden, what does your editor, Carlisle, have to say about this case?”  “Mr. Jenson, will you write a book about all of this since “The Gateway” has been an international bestseller for so long?”

Aiden raises his hand and shoots a slight nod at Saline Davis also up front waiting to get the goods from him.  She looks great in a pin striped, skirt suit still trying to make it big as permanent news anchor and leave the world of newspaper articles behind.  George, of course, is holding his camera standing behind her. He wiggles his fingers at Aiden.

“First off, I was extremely shocked at the time the jury was out and I’m certainly thankful, for their service and that they saw the truth.  My editor, Carlisle, is behind me as long as I write an article for the paper,” The reporters laugh as cameras flash. “And as far as another book, I’m not sure about that. I’m just thankful that next month Phil Linton will be behind bars, and know what it’s like to live in fear.  No more questions, please. I’d like to go home.  Read the rest in The Daylight News tomorrow.”

“Come on, Aiden!  Tell us were you at all afraid that the jury would come back with a not guilty?  Late Breaking Channel Nine News wants to know!”  Saline Davis shoves her microphone in his face stopping him from leaving. He frowns; her mic almost pops him in the lip.

“Ms. Davis, you look terrific!”  Aiden sarcastically eyes her up and down then gives a flirtatious wink.  She clears her throat with an embarrassing smile as reporters smirk and giggle knowing the rivalry between the two.

“Saline, anyone in my position of course would be afraid that the jury may not rule in my favor.  But, that’s why there’s a sharp D.A. named Ms. Rose Lee, who has had my back one-hundred percent!”

Aiden points to Ms. Lee just stepping out of the courtroom carrying her thick briefcase.  The reporters surround her and shout their questions, as she looks over at Aiden and sends him a friendly wink. She begins addressing their questions one at a time.

Then Phil Linton steps out of the courtroom also thronged by reporters. It seems with his presence, the temperature in the courthouse changes a few degrees.

“Mr. Linton, why did you threaten Aiden today?”  “Are you angry with the verdict?”  “Is it true you bribed Judge Prodeman?”  Why did you try to kill Aiden Jenson? Twice?” “Is it true you were under investigation for several years by Internal Affairs?” “Why do you think the judge allowed you out on bail, after you’ve been convicted of these crimes?”

Saline Davis also shoves her microphone in Linton’s face, in hopes to squeeze the dirt out of him or twist what she can.

“I’m very disappointed with the accusations against me.  They’re all lies!  I never threatened, Aiden Jenson, and I never bribed anyone,” He gives a slight nod of his head and purses his lips.  “A good cop is now fired and going to do time,” He touches up his mustache with his thumb and forefinger.  “It’s a sad day today that the system has failed the people of New York.”

Phil Linton’s defense attorney escorts him outside down the front steps of the packed courthouse and into a cab fleeing from the mass of reporters.

Aiden Jenson hugs Ms. Lee who joins him outside.  Aiden breathes in the fresh air as relief and redemption embrace him.

“I can’t tell you how hard this was, but you made it much easier. Thank you.”

“Hey, it’s my job, Aiden.  And this case brings my conviction rate up to 99%.” She winks. “Listen, now that we’re alone, uh, there’s a problem. I want you to know, I have the very best people and law enforcement working on it.”

“Does this have something to do with why Linton is out on bail?”

She clears her throat. “Aiden, we suspect the judge has been bribed. Then after this, allowing a convicted man for murder out free on bail, well,”

“Great. This is just great. Are you saying I’ll have to go to court again?”

“Calm down, Aiden.  I’m not saying anything like that. Right now, we only have the judge and his peculiar behavior, buying expensive things and such. He also has been meeting someone late at night, during the trial, and we have no clue who it is. However, we’re now tapping his phone. I’m so sorry, Aiden. I know you wanted this whole charade to be over. I need definite proof before I go around accusing a judge of bribery.”

“That makes a lot of sense, as to why Linton is out.”

“Trust me, Aiden. I’m on top of it. One-hundred percent. I can have a unit detailed to you.”

“No, no. I can’t have that. If he’s going to kill me, I’m fed up. He should get it over with.”

“Well, keep your friends Jade and his partner near you, please. Until this is over. They’re bad for business.”

“Yes they are. Listen, I’m confident we will figure this entire thing out. For now, join me across the street for a steak.  I’m starving. I’d like a big dinner,” Ms. Lee hands her coat to Aiden, who politely lays it around her shoulders.

“You’re absolutely right, Ms. Lee. I’ll focus on the bright side.  Dinner is on me.  For a job well done.  You drink champagne, right?”

“I’m a lawyer, Aiden. I’m not dead,”  He laughs as they walk arm in arm towards the restaurant.  “Plus, I don’t have to go in until Monday.  And uh, call your detective friends to join us. We all need to celebrate.”

“Oh those boys love a good steak.”

 

There’s a brand new review for this novel! You can read it here! Novel now only 99cents! Happy reading! https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3CHJG7RTISMLW/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01I77DMBG 

 

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“Angelica, You Have Chosen Well” Part One- Chapter Three

A New Design (1)

 

Chapter Three

 

“A Night of Death”

“My nursemaid, who I saw regularly, became a good friend of mine growing up.  At each visit, she taught me how to cook, clean, and sew.  She was very kind to me and possessed a hidden beauty unseen on the outside.  She was tender and loving as if I was one of her children.  My nursemaid arrived the night after Mary and Joseph departed the following day.  After trading a horse of ours, belonging to my mother with their donkey, they left to find suitable lodgings.  Joseph had said his donkey was a bit on the stubborn side.

“One particular night, when my nurse maid had come, there was a loud bang on the door.  One my father would never forget.  One night would shake him for many years.”

 

~~~

 

*Knock, knock, knock.*

“Sir, shall I get the door?  Your baby is almost finished eating,” The nursemaid calls out from the bedroom.

“No thank you, Deborah.  I shall get it.  Let Angelica finish.”

Phillip opens the door to three heavily armed soldiers standing on his doorstep in battle array.  Their eyes darken with hatred, which bleeds through their metal helmets.

“In the name of King Herod, we are instructed to find any baby boys in this house!”  A soldier proclaims authoritatively. Phillip pauses and noticeably trembles, his body freezes with fear.

“Do you have a baby in the house?”

“Uh, yes I do but…but, it is a girl.  Sir, she is nursing,” Phillip hesitates.

“Stand aside!”

The soldiers parade themselves through the front door, and violently shove Phillip aside demanding to see the baby.  They march in perfect order through the bedroom door. Deborah sits nursing the baby, and suddenly startles by the unwelcome guests.

“In the name of King Herod, we are ordered to find any baby boys in Bethlehem!  Now, give me the child!”

Deborah protectively places her hand over the baby; as the other two soldiers stand behind with hands on their swords preparing to draw them out.

“But, sir, it is a girl!  And she is nursing!”  Deborah covers herself with a blanket.

“Give me the baby!”  The soldier demands a second time growing impatient.

He seizes the infant, and carelessly unravels the blanket wrapped around her.  Ripping off the cloth, which covers her bosom, he then cruelly hands the screaming baby back to Deborah.

“Let us go!  It is as they have said!”

The three soldiers stomp out the front door, mount their horses, and ride off.  They leave a trail of dust blowing down the streets of Bethlehem as they hasten to do evil in the name of the king.

“What do you suppose is happening, sir?”  Deborah asks quieting the baby.

“I do not know, but I have a feeling it has to do with the people who were here before.  They had a Babe…a Son…and now they are gone.  I packed food and water for them as they went on their way.  I traded Beth’s horse for their donkey, and they blessed me for showing them kindness as they departed.  I cannot imagine how a stable is showing kindness to them?  I wish I could have done more.”

“But, sir, you did.  You provided them a place to have their Babe, in safety, and you gave them food and drink.  You did more than I have seen many do here in Bethlehem,” Deborah says.  “And Beth would have given them her horse as well.”

“I guess you are right,” Deborah hands Angelica to her father.  She is fast asleep.

Screams of terror and the wailings of women and children in the distance shake Bethlehem’s peaceful night, and Phillip’s inn nearby.  Babies scream as if being torn away from their mothers.  Phillip embraces Angelica tightly in his arms and close to his face.  He thanks God she is alive, but still fears the possible return of the soldiers.  Just what would they intend to do upon finding a male child?

“It sounds as if death is in the air, sir.  What if they come back?”  Deborah places her hand to her chest.

“Well, they are not looking for girls, only boys.  But, rest assured, you will not be here.  Please, take Angelica home with you and bring her back when she is weaned.  I shall visit daily and bring you your wages.”

Feeling her heart beat faster, Deborah adheres to the observation of Phillip.  “Of course, sir, I would be glad to care for her…did you say they are only in search for boys?  Oh my Lord!  What about Benjamin?  My husband Zebedee is watching him now!  Phillip, I must run home!  He is only six months old!”  Deborah cries.

“Then go, Deborah!  Go!”

Phillip’s heart hammers in terror and alarm as he opens his front door.  Deborah bolts in a state of panic into the darkness of the night.  Dreading…

Soldiers swiftly parade through the streets of Bethlehem on their horses. They carry torches to light their deadly mission:  A mission for one purpose and one purpose alone.

One particular soldier rides upon the King’s chariot.  He oversees the soldiers as they fulfill their duty.  Head of the Praetorian, he is crude and lifeless as if looking into dead, black eyes.  His name is Judasis, but the soldiers who know him call him Death due to his talent for killing. Fearlessly, he stands twice the size of a normal man.  His full dressed armor is the best of all the soldiers.  Judasis is infamous throughout the region where prisoners also know, and fear his name.

Just as Phillip closes the door, horror strikes seeing Death leap from his chariot excitedly. Storming into a nearby home across the street, he snatches a baby boy from his mother’s grasp.  Drawing his sword from his sheath, he swings slicing the screaming infant across the neck, killing him instantly. The mother screams in wretched agony.

Phillip’s knees shake dreadfully buckling beneath him.  He swiftly kicks the door closed.  Blowing out the lantern, he jumps up and scurries to his bedroom hiding himself and Angelica under the bed.  I know who that man is.  I have heard rumors, all the way from Jerusalem, of his evil.  What if he comes for my Angelica?  Phillip scrutinizes. We must stay hidden!

Phillip remains awake all night listening to the continuous, agonizing cries, wailings, and shrieks throughout Bethlehem.

Finally, daybreak, and the sound of horse hooves fade into the distance.  Taking with them, are the lives of dozens of baby boys including Deborah’s precious, infant son, Benjamin.

After the burial of Benjamin, Phillip hands his only daughter, his most precious gift over to Deborah.  She will care for Angelica until the age of two when she is fully weaned.

 

~~~

 

“I grew up knowing that the Son of God, Jesus, was born in our stable.  Father did the best he could raising me without a mother.  I could not have asked for a better father. He taught me many things like; the care of our animals, and counting, and collecting the money from the inn.  I was very happy with my father.  But, when I turned the age of twenty-nine, I began to feel as if something was missing from my life.  I was not married nor did I have that desire.  Instead, I took care of father and enjoyed working in the inn, which is unusual for a woman unless she has a husband.

“At that time, rumors spread throughout Jerusalem of a man who I desperately wanted to meet.  A man I thought, for a brief moment, could be Jesus.  But as it turned out, he pointed the way to Him instead.

“Father wished for me to settle down and marry, which is customary for a woman to do.  But, I desired something more for my life.  I longed to make a difference yearning more than anything in this world to see Jesus. I had only heard stories about Him since I was a child from my father.  I did not want to leave Bethlehem, but the more I heard of Jesus, and the man called John the Baptist, the more my heart longed to find them and hear the things taught.  Jesus was to arrive according to the teachings of John the Baptist.  This was the same Jesus born in Bethlehem on the same night I was born.  I knew I had to find Him.”

 

~~~

 

“Angelica, there is a handsome, young man who lives in the city.  He has asked for your hand in marriage.  I told him I would ponder his request as is customary.  However, I still wanted to ask my beloved daughter,” Phillip says folding a pile of clean, white linens in hopes Angelica may have a change of heart.

Resting her chin on the handle of the broom, Angelica ceases from the day’s chores.  Far from the thoughts of marriage, she daydreams of her heart’s aspirations.

“Father, you know I would do anything to please you,” She gently answers.

“And I would do anything for you as well, Angelica.  But, I do not want to force you into something you do not want to do. Although…I would love to have grandchildren, I see in your eyes it is not something your heart desires.”  Philip chuckles.  “I believe I have always known you had no desire to marry.  Even as a child, while girls pretended to marry, you were still playing in mud holes and kicking the boys in their legs.  I see that you love to be here in Bethlehem, and yet your heart seems so far from this place, is it not?” Angelica smirks. “So, what is it you want my daughter?  I will get it for you,” Phillip sincerely asks pausing just a moment as Angelica bites the side of her lip.

“Father, I have heard some people in the city speaking of a man called John the Baptist.  He is down at the River Jordan baptizing and preaching repentance from sin and the coming of the Lord. Each time I hear the story of the night Jesus and I were born, I remember what you said the physician had told you.  He said, that the shepherd had declared, ‘It is Christ the Lord!’  No one has ever called anyone Lord, until now!  I want to wait for Jesus.  And I want to go and wait with John the Baptist, and hear all he has to teach!”  Angelica passionately exclaims.

Sad by his daughter’s words, Phillip stands to his feet, and places the folded linen on the table. He would give his own life to please her.

“Then daughter, Angelica, that is what you shall have!  Now, we must not delay.  I will pack some clothes for you, with a moneybag.  I want you to make haste and go to the River Jordan.  But, one thing I ask that you must promise me,” He wiggles his index finger at her.  She lifts her head in unexpected amazement her father’s sudden agreement and his change of heart excite her.

“What, Father? Anything!”  She flings her arms to her side and spins around a single time.

“I want you to promise me, that you will write often.  Tell me all that happens and what John the Baptist says about this Jesus.”

Dropping the broom onto the floor, she runs over to her father.  She falls lovingly into Phillip’s outstretched arms.  Resting his head upon her shoulder, he caresses her long, curly hair and cries already missing her.

“Angelica, your mother would be proud of you this day, just as I am proud of you.  You are following your dreams.  She did just that.  Her dream of course, was to have a family. Not just me, Angelica, but you.”

“Oh, Father,” Angelica weeps on his neck as they tenderly hold onto one another.

“Now, you shall leave in the morning,” He grabs her shoulders. “Tonight, I will make preparations, but for today, let us finish our work.”

“Yes, sir, Father!”

Angelica picks up the broom and continues sweeping cheerfully like never before.  Her heart suddenly misses Bethlehem knowing tomorrow she will be gone.

 

~~~

 

“The next day was sunny and hot, for that time of year.  Father packed a few garments of clothing, along with a new pair of brown sandals, a head covering, and a moneybag for me.  He taught me to tie the bag on the inside of my sash, to keep from robbers.  Father put a lot of money in my moneybag and instructed me to write to him if I needed more.  He would send the stable boy, who was now grown to my aide.  Kissing my head and holding me tightly, he cried as if he did not want to let go.  I left that morning.  I looked back at my father standing in front of the inn. He was waving his hand through the air.  With tears in his eyes calling out, “I love you, Angelica!  I love you angel!  Don’t forget to write, my daughter!”

“I left on foot, even though Father wished I took his old and unbridled donkey.  The River Jordan was a day or mores journey away.  On the roadside, I met several people who surprisingly were also traveling to the River Jordan.  So we decided to travel side by side in one accord.

“I stopped and ate when I needed to eat, and stopped when the sun went down and slept.  The friends I made on the road were some of the best I have ever known.

“I chose to make my bed a good distance from the road side, in case of robbers by night while I slept.  I trusted God to keep me safe.  I often fell asleep staring at the many stars in the sky.  How beautiful they all were.  It was at those times I would think of my father, and miss him dearly.

“Since I traveled with only a few people, we would talk about the rumors heard at the River Jordan.  All of us could not wait until we arrived; it was like a new season.  People left their homes from afar bringing their wives and children to see and hear John the Baptist.”

 

~~~

 

Finally, the day comes when Angelica arrives at the River Jordan in Nazareth.  The fragrance of burnt wood and fish fill the air following the sound of rushing water.  A man’s voice echoes off the water up into the many hundreds standing and sitting around as she steps through the thickets of grass.

There is much shade along the River Jordan, many flowers and round rocks which some choose to sit upon.  Along the edge of the water, there is a wide river bend where many gather together eating and breaking bread in peace and harmony.  Their laughter is without a shred of falsity.  Others anxiously stand in the water, with a very pleasant man whose face has a distinctive glow.  Up to his waist in the water, he has a brown beard, which is a bit straggly: his body is thin yet something about him seems strong and powerful.  He wears garments made of camel hair with a leather belt strapping around his waist.  Lovingly, he smiles at everyone by the river.  One woman is in the water beside him.  The man holds onto the woman’s hand while his other supports the back of her neck.  He dips her backwards into the water. His voice carries across the ripples of rushing water to all who gather. They also have that same joyous glow upon their faces.

“In the name of the Father, I baptize you!”

Immersing the woman in water, she emerges. The crowd rejoices praising God and clapping their hands.  The sight brings tears to Angelica’s eyes.

Setting the bag down by her traveling companions, Angelica makes her way through the thick, green grass towards the edge of the river.  She sits down and listens to him speak while warming her hands on a nearby fire.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

“I listened to him and for a brief moment I thought, Could this be Jesus?   Until he spoke again, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loosen.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Through the afternoon, Angelica hears his message and believes in the Messiah even more than the stories she heard from her father in Bethlehem. It is then she decides, and purposes in her heart with all that she is, to follow the Lord for the rest of her life and continue with Him as long as she is physically able.  She knows she must wait with John, for Jesus will come.  In the meantime, she abides by the river alongside hundreds camping in the beds of the grass.

The next day, people from around the river begin lining up near the water with a deep desire of baptism.  Angelica’s desire rises within her heart as was the decision to come to the Jordan, and she eagerly waits for her turn to come.

Finally, John the Baptist reaches his hand for her from the water’s edge.  The cool breeze of the day blows passed the trees.  Angelica reaches her hand out to his, and as she touches his hand, she feels a strange sensation warming her.  Then, she steps into the cool River Jordan.  Carefully, she steps across the smooth stones at the river’s bottom a few paces.  She trembles with joy.  This is the most important decision she has made thus far.

“Do you give your life to the Lord?  Do you want to serve Him all the days of your life, and do you repent from your sins?”

Tenderly she cries out. “I do!”  Tears flow off her eyelashes.

Kindheartedly, he grips her hand tightly.  She feels a strong pulling within her stomach, which she does not understand, but welcomes.  Raising his voice to all the others nearby, she feels a power coming from him, a somewhat emanating power.

“I hereby baptize you in the name of the Lord!  Praise to God in the Highest!”

He submerges her backwards into the water.  For a brief moment, Angelica sees her life flash before her eyes.  She emerges.  Everything she knew she desired in Bethlehem has finally been found in the precious, pure words he has spoken.  The water is cold, but inside her heart tingles like a warm embrace.

Angelica steps out of the River Jordan, dripping wet as others gather around applauding and glorifying God.  The moment she steps onto dry land, dozens of men and women hug and welcome her to the Lord.  Children hang onto her drenched garments and smile up into her blue eyes endearingly. One child, no older than two years hands her a dry tunic.

Continuing on with John the Baptist and the others a great length of days, the date of Angelica’s birth passes.  She is now at the age of 30 as is Jesus who shares the same prophetic day.

During her time, at the River Jordan, she carefully notices many tax collectors and soldiers coming near the riverbank to hear the message John is teaching.  She can see by the look in their eyes, they are out for blood and try to trick him by the questions they ask.  Skeptically, she keeps her eye on them and prays for her friend John the Baptist whom she has come to know.

Rumors spread how John had rebuked King Herod for taking a bride that belongs to his brother.  Her name is Herodias.  Thereafter, she secretly despises him searching for a clever way to demolish the man of God.

Many ponder if perhaps John the Baptist is in fact Jesus the Christ.  But, even in the middle of their idle chit chat, he keeps pointing them to One who is sure to arrive.

 

~~~

 

Loud, quick footsteps, trail down the stony, staircase, accompanied with the angry voices of evil men.  Soldiers approach the cell stopping Angelica from her story.

“Pardon me, sir, but I just follow my instructions.”

The jailer begs forgiveness, from two heavily armed soldiers.  One of them…is Death.  As the soldiers walk passed the other prisoners waiting, they tremble at the sight of this ominous soldier. The soldiers stand angrily in front of Stephen’s cell.

“This one, Stephen, was not even supposed to be jailed!  The counsel is furious he is not up in the synagogue speaking with them.  An hour has past and your orders were to take the other man down to the jail.  Not this man!”  Death raises his gruff voice as he repulsively gazes around the bleak prison.

“It is just disgusting…the stench down here!  It is almost unbearable!  I should not have to come down here to correct your mistakes!”  Death roars as he crosses his thick arms glaring at the puny, miniscule existence of the jailer.

“I am sorry, sir.  If it pleases the counsel, Judasis, I-I could explain how it was my-”

“NO!  No need to do that.  Down here you call me DEATH!  You are lucky you are escaping with your life, and the lives of your family with an error such as this!  I should throw you in a cell of your own!  Or should I just crucify you here?”  Death draws his sword and presses it slightly against the jailer’s neck.  The jailer feels the sharp, cold blade to his skin.  Terror grows in the heart of the jailer as Death places the sword over his Adam’s apple, with sinister thoughts of gutting it out of him.

“No, Death, please, sir!”  The jailer pleads looking up at the mammoth man staring down at him desiring to trample him under foot.

“Open the cell!”  The wicked soldier interrupts.

The loud, locked chamber clicks as the quivering jailer opens the cell, and moves aside.  The other soldier stomps inside, and stares at Stephen who glances up with the parchments in his hands.

Angelica shutters. She stares at the larger soldier in remembrance and familiarity.  I remember stories my father told me of this man.  She thinks. He is surely a wicked fiend.

“We must put these chains back on him!”  The soldier bellows.

Stephen stands to his weary feet perceiving his time has now come, and he shall speak as the Holy Spirit gives him utterance.

Death ducks his head and stomps inside the cell.  He places a set of chains around Stephen’s feet weighing him down, yet he remains strong standing upright.  He is brave, but not without fear.  Stephen slides the pages of the parchments through the metal bars back to Angelica.

“You see, all for God’s glory?  Listen, when they prepare to destroy your life, pray to the Lord.  Pray to Him for strength,” He sternly glares into Angelica’s blue eyes, as she discerns the urgency from Stephen.

Angelica reaches out, but the angry soldier grabs Stephen’s hands.  Once again, the parchments fall to the grimy floor as the soldiers quickly chain Stephen’s hands together.

“Pray to the Lord, huh?  Well, we shall see what will be done with you after the counsel hears you speak.  If I were you, I would worry about your own life and not the life of this woman!”  Death sternly states, with an evil undertone.

The soldiers stand on the left and right leading Stephen out of the cell.  Locking the cell behind them, Angelica stands to her feet and walks toward the door of her cell.  She watches Stephen as he slowly shuffles his feet an inch at a time yieldingly bound and chained.  But, this will be the last time he is ever bound as he is.  And it is a moment he welcomes with all his heart.

Glancing over at her, he speaks one final time.  “Remember what I said.  Your life has made a difference.  Only do not lock it away…share it with anyone who will hear!  Tell your father the same.  I will see you soon, Angelica.  I will see you soon!”  He states while they hard-press and shove him passed the prisoner’s cells by Death’s strong arms.  The weight upon Stephen is heavy, but he is ready.

The soldiers lead Stephen up the staircase as some in the jail clap and rejoice.  Others weep with sadness of heart knowing his most certain fate.  Death is only ending his life here on earth.

Angelica rests her forehead against the metal bars, wrapping a few of her dirt-embedded fingers around them.  Closing her eyes, she begins to pray.

“O my Lord, whom I serve.  Give me strength and my friend, Stephen.  That You may show him a revelation where he will be with You if he is to be put to death today.  Let his words pierce the hearts of all who hear him.”

Tears run off her face and ripple to the cell floor.  John lay on his back staring over at Angelica.  He presses his lips together. It disturbs him to see the young radical crying.  Then, he glances at the cloth Stephen left for him.

“Angelica, please do not cry.  At least you know where you will spend eternity: which is more than I can say about myself,” He crosses his bony arms.

Immediately, she dries the tears with the back of her filthy hand and takes a few steps toward the bars.  She feels a tugging in her heart to speak.

“It is not that I know, but do you?  John, do you really know where you will go when they sentence you to death?  Where you will spend eternity?”

John slowly pulls himself up towards the interesting girl.  He feels weak and sick; his illness clings to him like the skin on his frail frame.

“I am not a good man.  I have been a thief my whole life.  Now, you tell me how is it, that a God as you say, can possibly love someone like me?  And how can He accept him into His heavenly home?  Why will He, a person such as myself?”

“John, I want you to listen to me.  I am going to tell you more about Him; now, just sit back and hear me.  It may help you with the answers you seek.”

Just then, sounds from above boom like a stirring, which shakes the walls and very foundation of the prison.  Dirt falls from the ceiling as some in the prison cough.  People scream and yell troubling the prison.  Finally, a man’s voice authoritative and wise with power quiets the angry mob.  In her heart, Angelica knows Stephen is speaking that very moment to a violent and hateful crowd in the synagogue.

Minutes seem as hours passing when suddenly the crowd becomes irate and wrathful louder than before.  Footsteps clatter from the ceiling rushing across from one side to the next then fade into the distance.  Angelica shuts her eyes tightly as tears fall down her dirty cheeks once more.

“I will see you soon, dear brother.  I will see you soon,” She softly vows.

The crowd seizes Stephen, tosses him outside the city, and mercilessly stones him.  He looks up to the sky at the parting heavens, and sees Jesus. Then he lies down and falls asleep.

The jailer victoriously stomps down the steps and stands in front of a cell door, five cells from where they hold John.  A soldier joins him.  They yank a man out of his cell bound and chained for immediate execution.

“Ah the crowd is relentless today!  More blood to shed!”  One of the soldiers mocks with sarcasm.

“It seems there are four more people now, before I am to be taken,” John says putting his head down by his soon coming fate.  “Can you honestly tell me this is all worth it?  How old are you, Angelica?”

“I am thirty-four years old.  And yes, I can say it is all worth it.  Once you hear what I have seen, and how being near Jesus, and by His side has been worth everything, I can endure it now.  I would never trade one moment spent with Him.”

“Okay then, Angelica.  Go on with your story.  I am listening.”

Leaning his back against the wall, John gazes at the cloth Stephen had given him still sitting between the bars.

Angelica reaches for her parchments and pen, and places them on her lap.  She begins vigilantly writing again.  The words pour forth like sweet honey as she remembers every moment with Jesus.

 

 

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Chapter One

 

“Who is the Loner?

 

 

 

 

Jesus has already suffered the ultimate crucifixion.  Rising again causes fear in the heart of the king, jealous of any arrival of a so-called “new king”.

Jerusalem is in utter mayhem, crowded with soldiers and stampeding horses, a complete panic. Those who believe in Jesus are arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death by Saul of Tarsus.  He zealously persecutes the church seizing men and women called the ‘followers’ or ‘Christians’ for causing uproar.  The uproar, telling people about Jesus Christ the One many speak of who was dead and His body stolen. The Christians however, faithful to Jesus, know better.

Early one dusky morning, a man saunters down a steep, stony staircase leading into a cold, underground prison where the walls seep of water.  A retched lingering scent reeks of death throughout the dark, damp, and brisk prison.  Its walls hold the memory of those dying having perished inside the grey and black encumbrance.

At the end of the stairs sits a wooden chair and a small, round table where a candle drips of wax and remains lit.  The only light illuminates throughout the dark prison.  The man passes by the cells to the right and left, holding men and women who will soon die for their crimes.  Their only crime is preaching Jesus Christ.  The prisoners sing songs to the Lord while many others pray and fearfully eye the man who passes their cell. Thoughts prick their mind, Am I next?  His armor clinks and his sandals sweep across the hard, stony floor until he finally stops at the last cell of the prison.  Disdainfully, he looks down on one prisoner.

“Woman, I have what you sent for,” Speaking abruptly and callously, there stands the prison guard dressed in red and gold armor. He leers at the young woman through the cell bars.  She lies on a bed of hay; she tucks her legs tightly to her bosom.  She crosses her arms in sleep. Struggling to keep warm, her eyes barely open from sheer exhaustion.

The woman of fair complexion snuggles with a head wrap. She wears an off-white gown with a colored, striped sash.  In an unlit cell lying in a puddle of putrid water, her hair shines like the sun, in long ringlets.  Her sky blue eyes distract from the obvious dirt and grime staining her body and clothing.

Swiftly standing to her feet, she staggers toward the guard who holds in his coarse hands a thick stack of parchments along with a pen.

“Well?  Do not look as if you did not send for them, woman.  Just take them!”  The guard is clearly irate at the woman’s hesitation.

“Given the charges, you are very fortunate to have been allowed these parchments!” He stomps a foot.

“I am sorry, sir. I just-”

“Well, take these parchments and your pen!  I do not see what is so important to write about, since you will be put to death in several days!  Today you were arrested and brought here, along with every other Christian! And you have a request to make?  Well, what should I do about the requests of all the others in here?  Just look around,” He points his thick, dirty finger around the prison.

Her eyes are barely able to make out the silhouettes of dozens of men and women in their cells. Some quietly cry, while others sit chained and shackled to the wall.  Their heads hang to their chests in agony unable to catch a breath.  It is a cruel and drawn out punishment; they suffer gradually until their ultimate doom perhaps days, hours, or minutes later.  Others cough profusely. Many huddle together shivering, and desperate to stay warm.  For everyone down here, this is the only hell on earth they will ever know.  As soon as they close their eyes exhaling their last breath, they will be with Jesus.  That is the only joy that encourages them.

Tears fill the woman’s eyes as the guard bellows a triumphant chuckle mocking the woman, his arms cross vindictively.

“Keep quiet over there!”  He scowls at the others.  Some of them gasp and sniffle frightened by the jailer as they quiet their tears hastily.

“Sir, my body may be dead on this earth, but I will not be dead!”  The woman boldly states.  “I will be in heaven with the Messiah, Jesus Christ!  He has risen!  Soon, I will see Him again, face to face.”

“Yes…we will,” One of the prisoners courageously blurts.

“I will too,” another voice speaks up repeated by many others echoing throughout the prison walls.  The voices resound with faith and conviction.  Their lives full of encouragement, and service to Jesus.

“Yes, I will meet my Lord in heaven.”  “I will be there too!”  “And me!  I saw Him and supped with Him, after He rose!”  The prisoners bellow one at a time.

“Quiet! Or else I will come in there, and beat every last one of you!”  He threatens.

Those in their cells silence their voices.  However, one remains vigilant.

“You may beat this body and take my life, but you will never take my soul!”  The young woman defiantly proclaims, as her blue eyes pierce into the jailers very soul.

The so-called Christians begin clapping their hands rejoicing while others cry out.  The testimony of the followers resonates in the ears of the jailer. He grows irate by their uprising.  His face is glossy and a prickly beard fits his harsh demeanor as he reaches to his side, and draws his sword from its sheath.  The sword sends just the right reflection onto the walls from the lit candle; it frightens the prisoners.  The claps swiftly fade as he purposely runs the sword over the bars of the woman’s cell, one at a time.

*Clink* clink* clink*

The sound rings through the gloomy prison.

Determined not to be afraid, she takes a deep breath.  Her blue eyes innocently gaze into his with conviction.  Pausing, from the outburst of anger, his face softens.  He furrows his brow and purses his lips.

“You really are not crazy, are you?  You really do believe what you have just proclaimed, do you not?”

The woman readily smiles at him as if he is merely a friend.  “Yes I do, sir.  Jesus loves you!  And you can come to heaven with me if you like.  I can tell you all about-”

“Enough of this!”  The jailer hisses, his tongue presses against his front teeth snarling at the woman’s remark.  Inconsiderately, he squeezes the parchments and pen between the thick metal bars, and disdainfully tosses them onto the cell floor covering them with filth, and moisture.  He quickly stomps off leaving the heart of the prison slamming the door at his exit.

“OHhh, you are one of those followers of Jesus, are you not?  Well, did you not know?  He was crucified not long ago?”  An old man asks from a cell next to hers.

Kneeling on one knee, the woman gathers the parchments into her hands, and wipes the grime onto her clothes.

“Yes He was, sir, but did your King also tell you the body is missing?  It is because He is alive.  Resurrected, just as He said.  I saw Him, and ate with Him, and watched as He ascended into heaven. He instructed us all to look up and wait for His return!”  The woman joyfully declares.

“With a story like that, it is no wonder you need the parchments.  It was simply some crazy disciples stealing his body, nothing more, woman,” The man shrugs.

“I heard that rumor as well,” The woman gazes up through the murkiness of the prison catching a glimpse of the old, thin man lying on his side.  Moving his fingers through his thick, white beard, he wheezes and coughs profusely.  It appears the only thing holding him together is the skin on his frail, wrinkly body.  Yet somehow, he has enough strength to speak.

“I believe you….I believe He was a great teacher,” His voice gentle yet raspy, and grows faint from obvious sickness setting into his brittle body.

Picking up the pen, she holds the parchments tightly to her bosom and nestles back onto the scattered hay.  “He was much more than that, sir, oh, much more than that,” She exhales recalling His face.

The old man wraps his fingers around the bars of the cell, and scoots himself forward intrigued by the young woman who seems like a radical in his elderly eyes.  It’s something he is not accustomed to seeing.

“My name is John of Samaria.  I was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread when there was a mad panic in the city.  I fled in fear when the narrow streets were suddenly filled with soldiers. I was certain they were coming for me.  They were armed. When they encircled a group of men and women, I was mistaken as one of them.  A Christian, like you appear to be.  They proclaimed we were under arrest, by order of Saul of Tarsus.  We were seized in chains, and brought down here.  The others arrested are also as you, followers of the Man, Christ.  So, I shall be put to death, with all of you, BUT I am not a follower of Jesus.  I believe I will die in this cell before being stoned by Saul of Tarsus.  Perhaps, death is better than the life of thievery I have led,” Resting his head on the cold, stone floor, the man tells his tale.

“I too was brought here by Saul of Tarsus.  It is the way of the world now.  A mad epidemic of sin, where they believe justice is being served by putting us to death for our beliefs, when they know not the truth.  Their hearts and souls refuse to accept what their eyes have seen, and yet it just happened.  It was not so long ago that He came into this earth as a man, and was crucified.  He…He was so much more than that, as I have said.  He was more than I could be and it appears now…more than I will ever be.”

John shivers from the cold and drafty conditions of the prison, but does not mind speaking with the young woman, who is delightful.

“And what is your name, woman?”  His teeth chatter uncontrollably.

The woman sets the parchments onto the ground.  “My name is Angelica, Angelica of Bethlehem,” She answers and takes the wrap from her head and gives it lovingly to the old man.  “The jailer allowed me to keep this blue wrap out of kindness.”

Kindness?  That jailer does not have an ounce of kindness in his body,” He wheezes. Taking the garment through the bars, he drapes it around his body shaking his head.

“Well, he seemed kind at that moment.  The wrap is special.  It was given to me by a woman.  This woman showed me love, in the midst of her pain: A woman with an issue of blood.”

“An issue of blood?”  John the thief inquisitively questions his new found, cellmate.  “Woman… I mean, Angelica.  What are the parchments for?”

She solemnly glances down at the parchments and pen knowing their divine purpose.  “This bed of hay, the smell is…oh so familiar.  You see, I know I will die here very soon.  They will take me out into the courtyard. And Saul of Tarsus will be there, along with a large, angry mob.  He will ask me once more, if I want to deny Jesus or die.  I will answer, the only thing I can say.  ‘I have lived every day for Jesus, and now I will die for Him.  Saul of Tarsus, I have prayed for you since the day I was arrested and placed in chains.  My prayer is this, that one day as you believe you are doing your service, the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to you.  I will die now on this earth, but I will not be dead.  I will forever be with Jesus.’  Then I imagine the mob will grow more wrathful for innocent blood, and they will drag me outside the city gates and surround me.  Then one by one, they will stone me until there is no life left in this body.  The parchments, dear sir, are to tell the story of why the blue wrap is so very dear to my heart, and why this hay in my cell has a story of its own.  A story that I pray will ring into the hearts and ears of all who hear it,” Angelica grips her pen firmly as she ponders.

“Angelica, as you write your story, will you read it to me?  Every word while I am here.  I want to know this passion you have that will surely end your life.  The passion for this Man named Jesus.”

Angelica beams from ear to ear as she begins to write onto the first parchment.  She begins reading aloud to John.  With the expectation of falling fast asleep, it engrosses him instead, and listens to her sweet, pleasant voice.  From the very first words she speaks, something begins drawing John in.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

“An Angelic Night”

 

 

 

 

“It was 4 B.C. in Bethlehem of Judea where my father Phillip was a simple inn keeper.  Stout, with a large belly and very strong, he has blue eyes like mine, which is extremely rare for a Jew in Bethlehem.  He kept the inn to provide for my mother Beth who was with child, and unknowingly about to have an early birth.  My mother was a petite woman with long, curly, brown hair, and the face of an angel.  She and my father loved each other very much.  The last time I spoke to him, he still expressed his undying love for her.  Being together as a family was all they had hoped for.

“This night was different from other nights at the inn, because quite unexpectedly, it was full.  Usually, at that time of year, my father said we had rooms available.  But, this night was very peculiar.  People arrived all night in search for a place to stay but, there was no room left in the inn.

“The inn of my father was very large.  There were five extra rooms besides mine, and my mother, and father’s, which adjoined to the inn.  I can still see the large dining area and sitting room. It is where we spent countless hours together.  All were built by my grandfather, who has since been laid to rest.  It was a cozy inn, and the guests who stayed with my mother and father always expressed how much it felt like home, during their stay.

“The guests were served hot bread and cheese with wine and fruit.  I can still smell the freshly baked bread and hear the sweet voice of my father calling me to the dinner table.  Oh the laughs we had together.  My father could make me laugh and laugh.

“My mother and father were very content when the guests were satisfied.  But their happiness ended that night as they continued to send others away, for lack of room.  The only place left was a stable where the animals slept.  And no one wanted to lodge in a stable.

“Sitting on a chair in our kitchen, my mother held her bulging belly knowing full well, something was wrong.  She was in her seventh month and the physician said she was in good health, even after complaining of headaches.

“Father was a bit delirious trying to run the inn, while keeping his eye on my mother.  She slowly moves onto the bed for comfort placing her hands on her belly.  Feeling the weight of the child pressing into her ribs, she quietly prays, ‘Lord if it be your will that I should live, please let me live.  But, if I die, please watch over my child, with Your ever watchful eyes.’

“Beth, it will be okay.  I sent the stable boy to get the physician.  He should be here soon,” The expectant, nervous father calls.

“Something is wrong, Phillip.  I can feel it.  Oh God help me!”  Suddenly, a gush of water pours onto the bed as Phillip rushes to his wife’s side.

Beth begins breathing and gasping trying to cope with the pain of birth.  She grips at her gown.  There is a sudden knock at the door.  Phillip wipes the sweat from his brow, with the cloth in his hand.  He hurriedly places a bowl of water on a small table near the bed of his wife; it will surely cool her down.

“Good!  That must be him, Beth.  Now,-now don’t you worry…it-it will be okay my wife.  You just lay there.”

With a worried pain in his heart sinking deep into his chest, he runs toward the door expecting to see the face of the physician.  Here he is!

It dismays and surprises him as he gazes upon a young man strong in stature, and standing at the door, also seemingly desperate.  Who is this now?  Phillip thinks as he peculiarly eyes the stranger up and down.

“Well?  What is it, sir?!  My wife is with child, and I have no time for this!  The inn is full!”  He exclaims snapping at the young man.

The anxious young man seems to share Phillip’s feelings of worry while catching his breath. “Please, sir, are you the inn keeper?”  Hesitantly, he speaks softly.

“Yes, yes, sir, that is me, and I am sorry if you are here for a room.  I have run out tonight, as I said, and quite unexpectedly.  It seems we are overcrowded as it is!”  Phillip exclaims excitedly.

“Oh, so there is no place here?  Well, I need a place to go, you see, I have a-”

“Sir, I am sorry.  You appear like a nice young man.  I would allow you to stay here, with my wife and myself, but she is about to give birth.  We are waiting for the physician right now!”

“Your wife is about to give birth?  Sir, please, is there not anything?  My wife has been riding on the donkey all day, and she is about to give birth as well!”  The young man fears trying to keep his composure, he wipes the sweat from his eyes with the end of his head wrap.

Phillip furrows his brow skeptical at the young man’s truthfulness. “Well, where is she?”  Phillip asks testing the man.

“Over here, sir!”

The young man grabs onto Phillip’s shirt yanking him out of his house in a panic.  There, an even younger woman sits upon a donkey.  Phillip’s eyes widen gazing at her large belly.  The agony on her face shows the young man is telling the truth.  She is in labor, and the desperate young stranger will take anything the innkeeper can provide.

“Sir, is this your wife?  Are you responsible for this young woman?”  Phillip asks glaring and pointing his finger at the woman.

“She is my wife, sir.  Please!  Is there not a single place we can go, in Bethlehem?  My wife, Mary, needs to lie down. For tonight, she will have our baby!”

Phillip pats the young man on the shoulder, and smiles reassuringly. His heart fills with compassion. “I have only one place and it will have to do.  Wait here, I will return.”

With alarm, Phillip runs back into his house and rifles through his belongings.  The only clothes he can find are white swaddling clothes, which he grasps quickly.

“I will be right back, Bethy!”  Phillip hollers taking hold of a lantern and makes haste outside while some in the inn begin to fall asleep.

“This way!  Please hurry, I must be with my wife!”

As they walk, a large, bright star unexpectedly settles in the sky over the stable.  It is the most beautiful star Phillip has ever seen.

“It seems I do not even need the lantern.  The strange star above is keeping our little town well-lit outside,” Phillip mentions.

Bringing them into the stable, Phillip guides the young man who carries his wife in his arms.  “Now, this is all I have.  I do apologize. But, given the conditions, it will have to do.  I laid out new hay and the stable boy cleaned it today.  If you need anything else I will try to help you.  I can inform the physician when he arrives to check on you.  Is that acceptable?”  Phillip hurriedly questions thinking of his own wife.

The animals in the stable are very restless from the noise and laughter in the inn, but as the young man lays his wife on the bed of hay, the animals instantly and silently sleep in tranquility.

“That is odd.  They have been noisy all night long.  Not able to get to sleep because as I said, tonight is an unusual night, with all the extra guests at the inn.”

“Thank you, sir.  This will be fine,” The young man says kneeling by his wife.

“Thank you, sir.”  The young woman says.  Her glowing face remains joyful in the midst of the pain of labor.

“I will leave this lantern with you, in case you may need it.  My name is Phillip, and I will be next door in the house, by the inn.  Now excuse me.  My wife is in need of not only our physician, but me by her side.”

“I am Joseph.  Thank you, Phillip.  May God bless you for your compassion.”

Phillip sets the lantern on the ground near a wooden manger, and sprints back to the inn.  As he rushes to his house, he notices that the star maneuvers directly over the stable, shining brightly above where the couple lodges.

Phillip steps onto his porch and bumps into the physician holding his medical bag in hand.

“Ah, Phillip, Beth is in labor?”  The physician scratches his chin, through his white beard, as Phillip nods his head.  “Phillip, I must warn you, she is two months early and we must be prepared.  The child may not be born alive.  And your wife well, she may not ma….”  The physician pauses, noticing Phillip’s attention is toward the nearby hills.

“What do you make of that?”

The physician lifts his eyes and wrinkly brows toward the hills.  The unusual, bright, flickering lights in the sky shine brilliantly, up on the hillside.  Suddenly, the lights flash like lightning across the heavens.  A beautiful, angelic sound pierces through the night sky resounding radiantly.

“Glory to God in the highest!”

“Have you ever seen anything so…?”  The incredible sight disappears as the declaration silences. “Bethy!  Come, physician, come!” Phillip shouts.

Phillip calmly catches his breath, and orders the young stable boy home.  Phillip and the physician step into the house.  A long night is ahead of them, perhaps.

“Phillip, let us see how Beth is doing.”

As the people in the inn settle down for the night, a great miracle emanates and two births take place, one prophetic.

“Ugh!”  Anguish fills her face, Beth grunts making one final push.  Her gown soaks with blood and she drips of perspiration.  Her heart beats faintly and weak.

The room is lit by a lantern that sits on the table near the bed.  Phillip rubs her face with a pink stained cloth, and repeatedly dips it into a bowl of cool water.  The cry of a newborn babe fills the room with relief and sudden joy.

“It is a girl, Phillip!  Beth, it is a beautiful girl!  It is a miracle!  She made it!”  The physician bellows to Phillip who lovingly strokes his wife’s exhausted head with the back of his hand.

The physician sits in a chair at the end of the bed as he pulls the crying baby out.  Holding her up by the feet, he wraps her in swaddling clothes and hands her to Phillip. His tears of joy slide down his chubby cheeks.  The naked, precious baby continues to cry in Phillip’s arms.

“Oh, Beth, she has your nose and my eyes.  Do you want to see her?”  The proud new father cradles his daughter close.

“Ah Phillip and Beth, she is beautiful.  Her face is so angelic, like an angel.  She is a couple of pounds shy of what she should be, but nothing nursing could not cure,” The physician proudly states.

Beth smiles, she lifts her head gazing at her baby.  But, her joy soon turns grim and sorrowful as she lies back onto the bed. Her legs still in the birthing position, blood covers.  The blood suddenly seeps through the linen at an alarming rate catching the physician’s immediate attention; a great concern has risen.

“Beth?  Beth!”  The physician horrifically screams at the new mother who unexpectedly loses consciousness.

“She is beginning to hemorrhage at a dreadful rate!”  Beth’s body weakens and is unable to hold her legs up any longer.  Phillip lingers.  He is unable to look away from the sudden, fragile state of his wife.  His smiles turn to concern and fear fills his eyes.

“Physician, what is wrong?”  He hollers frantically over the screaming baby.

“Phillip, wait in the other room,” The physician beckons.

“Tell me what is wrong!”

“Not now, Phillip! In the other room…please!”

The physician tries to save Beth as Phillip steps out of the room and closes the door.  Fear consumes him and fills Phillip’s eyes with tears.  He paces around the room for minutes, which seem like hours.  His heart pounds, and his mind races in a hundred different directions yet he tries to remain calm placing all of his trust in the physician, an old, trusted, family friend.

My Bethy will make it. I just know it. He thinks. But, what if she doesn’t? What is taking the physician so long?  The tears drip from his lashes.

Finally in the doorway stands the physician. He is wiping the blood off his hands and arms with a clean cloth.  His face is grief stricken, heartbroken for the new father and friend who is looking back at him with anticipation.

“Phillip?”  He says with a low and tender voice pushing his glasses up to his eyes.  “Phillip, she was just too weak.  There was nothing I could do…I could not stop the bleeding.  I-I am so sorry, Phillip.”

“Oh Lord, no!  Not my Bethy!”  Handing the baby to the physician, he rushes into the room where his wife lay dead and covered, with a clean blanket.

“Oh, Bethy, you did not even get to hold our baby.” He caresses the side of her soft skin one last time, but it is no use…she is gone.

 

~~~

 

“My father lost my mother and gained a daughter all in one night.  He did not know what to do.  The night I was born, a nurse maid was not to be found at that hour; at least one my father did not think to ask.”

 

~~~

 

Phillip exits the bedroom.  His face red, from the many tears shed.  Taking the sleeping babe in his arms, he holds his new child gazing at her face with gladness of heart.  I will love this baby forever.  Until the day I die.

“At least I have a piece of my wife.  She would have been so proud of our child.”  Phillip says cuddling his new baby as he touches her tiny fingers and hands.

“I am sure she would have, Phillip.  Now, I know this is difficult, but would you like me to make the burial arrangements, and find a nursemaid for your daughter?”

Phillip kisses his daughter’s precious head of brown, curly hair.  “I think that would be fine, sir, and…I thank you for all you have done.”

It dismays the physician who lowers his baldhead.

“The Lord bless you, and your daughter.  Now, Phillip, if there is nothing else, I will go and make the arrangements.  I know it is customary for the family, but given the conditions…”

“I know this, physician, and I appreciate you taking care of them for me.  You are more than family to me…and my wife.  And, physician, I have one more thing to ask.  There was a young couple, with nowhere to go tonight.  I allowed them to stay in my stable.  His young wife is with child.  I fear she might have given birth without help.  Will you go look in on her?  I told her husband, Joseph, that I would ask you to visit, to see if all is well.  They may need your assistance.”

“Yes, of course, Phillip.  I would be pleased to help.  Good night, Phillip,” He pats his shoulder with a saddening sigh.

“Good night physician…” His voice trails off as he glares at his precious child now peacefully sleeping.

The physician leaves the house of Phillip, tears dripping from his face.  As he heads toward the stable down the dirt path, lit by that same star in the east, the physician observes a group of men surrounding its entrance.  Shepherds with staffs in their hands kneel which naturally intrigues the skeptical physician. Scratching his chin through his white, straggly beard with his thin fingers, he ponders.  Who are all of these men?  Why are they here?

The smell of livestock grows stronger as he moves closer.  Suddenly, he stumbles into what are many sheep outside the stable.   Rubbing his exhausted eyes, he views a large flock quietly sleeping.  The physician makes his way through, and approaches the first shepherd who is standing on the tip of his toes trying to peek over a taller shepherd directly in front of him. Patiently, he waits for just a glimpse of what is inside the stable.  But, what is it he is trying to see?

“Excuse me, sir?  Why are they bowing their knees?”  The physician touches one of the man’s shoulders.

As the shepherd faces the physician, his eyes are glassy and welling up with tears.  He is peacefully rejoicing in his heart.

“I am…well, we are all here to see the Child whom the angel spoke of.”

“Angel?  What is this madness you speak about?  I have lived in Bethlehem my whole life and never in all my days have I heard of angels here?”  The physician shrugs in denial.  His white hair blows in the cool breeze of the evening.

“Sir, I tell you it is not madness.  There we were, on a hillside keeping watch over our flocks by night. When suddenly, a bright light brighter than anything I have ever seen, shone down upon us from the night sky.  Then an angel appeared and spoke to us saying, ‘Fear not.  Do not be afraid.  I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’  Then a multitude joined the angel and began to say ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.’  So we departed to the City of David, Bethlehem.  We saw a star and knew this must be the place. Assuredly, it is what the angel spoke.  See how He sleeps?”

The shepherd points his forefinger as the physician squeezes through the many that gather around. He remembers the distraction Phillip was drawn to on this miraculous night.  Could this be what Phillip had seen, the bright lights and sound?

There a young woman lay peacefully on a bed of hay.  Her husband kneels gently touching the baby asleep in the manger.

The silence of every donkey, sheep, and goat fascinates the physician.  “In all my years, I have never seen a baby such as this until today.  It is a miracle,” The physician whispers as he kneels to one knee near Joseph.

“Is this your Son?”  He whispers.

“He is the Son of the living God, and mine to nurture,” Joseph replies.

“Did your wife have a problem with the birth?”

“No, amazingly enough, once the labor pains came on she gave birth shortly thereafter.  It was hard, but God was watching out for both of us.”

The physician gently reaches his hand and touches the Babe.  He sleeps on the hay in a manger.  White, swaddling clothes, Phillip left earlier, wraps around Him.

“He looks well,” The physician stares at Joseph then back at the Babe.  “Do you mind if I check His health?”

“No, please,” Joseph picks up the new baby Boy, and carefully places Him in the arms of the physician who checks Him thoroughly.

“I see nothing wrong with Him.  He is healthy, and very peaceful.  Hmm…” The physician sniffles. “I have this strange sense of joy as I hold Him,” The physician leans into the Babe and kisses Him on the forehead.  Clearing his throat, he hands the Babe back to Joseph who carefully lays Him inside the manger.

“Actually, He is the most beautiful baby Boy I have ever seen.  This is a night for births.  Earlier, the innkeeper and his wife had their first child.  She is so angelic, quite beautiful in fact.”

“I am pleased everything went well.  How is the inn keeper, Phillip?”  Joseph whispers.

The physician sadly shakes his head. “Oh, Joseph, Phillip will be rejoicing over his new child, but mourning over his wife, in the same night.”

Joseph’s countenance sinks in deep concern.  “How tragic…please send him our deepest regret…and congratulations.  Please, his heartache must be so deep, yet he was the only one willing to give my wife and I solace and shelter.  For that, I pray God bless him,” The young father says sincerely.

“That is very kind, and I will tell him word for word what you have said,” The physician replies.

The physician rises to his feet making certain that Mary is at rest, with no complications. He then leaves the stable in awe and belief at the happenings he has just witnessed.

The physician knocks on Phillip’s door hearing the baby crying.  The door swings wide open to a very shaky, new father standing on the threshold trying to comfort his baby.  Relief hits.

“Oh, physician, thank the Lord it is you!”  Phillip catches his breath.  “I thought I would have to send for you again!  It is the baby!  She is hungry, and I have nothing to feed her!  What do I do?”  Phillip panics.

“First thing, calm down.  You do not want to alarm your new baby,” The physician comes in and places his arm around Phillip sitting him down. “Now, hold the baby like so.  Rock her back and forth, Phillip.  She needs the comfort.”

As he listens to the wise physician, Phillip breathes a sigh of relief. Slowly, the baby quiets down.  But, her tummy still rumbles from hunger.

“Oh, Phillip, you should have seen what just occurred.  The Babe you have in the stable is the Son of the living God!”  The physician softly speaks with enthusiasm and excitement.

The physician pulls out a wooden chair and sits down at the table. He tells Phillip all the events as they occurred.  All the while, the baby girl falls to sleep.

“This is amazing.  It is so unbelievable, yet…I believe it,” Phillip states.  “But, what can be done about my baby, physician?  I do not know if I can get a nursemaid until tomorrow, for all are asleep. I know of no one who has had a child, or may be of help near my house,” Phillip explains the obvious situation.

The physician scratches beneath his beard moving his whiskers around with his boney fingers. Contemplating, he quickly stands to his feet.

“I will be right back, Phillip.  Rest assured, I will return.”

An hour later, the physician returns to the house.

“Phillip, bring the baby.  Come let us go to the stable.”

Phillip picks up the baby, who has now awaken and crying from hunger.  He wraps her in a blanket, and follows the physician to the stable.  As they walk in, the baby stops crying.

“Now, the shepherds have already gone.  The young woman named, Mary, agreed to help you with your baby tonight,” This thrills the physician.

“But…she must rest. She has a child of her own.  I cannot intrude on them.”

“Phillip, all is well, come,” The physician welcomes his unsure friend.

Phillip is nervous, but notices the Babe asleep in the manger.  The lantern he had left shines dimly on the beautiful sight.  Mary is leaning against a mound of fresh hay.

“Sir, I understand you have lost your wife this night and for that, I am exceedingly sorrowful.”  Mary speaks sweetly.

“Yes, thank you, but when the physician told me how you wanted to help, I did not want to intrude seeing you have a Babe of your own,” Phillip says a little apprehensive.

“Sir, for all the kindness you have shown us, and unto the Lord, I would be glad to help you this night,” Mary smiles.

“Oh thank you.  And rest assured, I will have a nursemaid tomorrow for…well, I do not have a name for her it seems.”

Phillip leans over and carefully places his daughter into the loving arms of Mary.  “Oh she is beautiful.  She seems angelic, like an angel.”

Mary holds the baby in her arms, and rocks her sweetly back and forth.  She caresses her face then touches her tiny hands.

“My wife too had the face of an angel.  She was angelic,” Suddenly, the words inspire him.  “Then that is what I shall call her, Angelica.”

“That is a lovely name, Phillip, just lovely,” Joseph says.  “Our baby is to be called Jesus.”

“Yes, that is what the Angel spoke to me.  Jesus is His name,” Mary agrees.

“And one day perhaps, God will bless Joseph and I with a beautiful baby girl such as this.  But, I cannot think about giving birth again, at least for the moment,” Mary chuckles as she cradles Angelica.

Joseph places his hand lovingly on his wife’s shoulder.  “Yes.  Perhaps one day,” He says agreeing with his young wife.

The physician cannot be more pleased as he smiles at the small babes in the stable.

Phillip leaves Angelica with the couple and the physician for several hours.  Mary kindly and gently places Angelica to her bosom and nurses her to sleep for the night.

 

~~~

 

“That night, I was nursed by the mother of Jesus, the Messiah.  It was God who brought them to Bethlehem, and because of the kindness of my father, I am alive today.  It was meant for me to live that night, but now I know my time here is almost finished.  I shall be with Jesus in heaven and see Him once again.”

Angelica continues writing on her parchments, and reading them to John.  A loud noise rumbles from above rattling the prison bars.  Shouts and screams from the multitude gather like a low thunder. Throughout the prison, the hearts of those bound in chains rise in fear.  The prison door opens and a loud ruckus of metal clanging down the staircase precedes several men’s footsteps.

The followers locked in their cells, painfully cry as two soldiers drag a man by his arms down the staircase.  His legs fall limp behind him.  Angelica glances around realizing there is still one empty cell next to hers.  The soldiers shove the man, his wrists and ankles bound with fetters, against the cold, stone floor.  He is thrown toward the empty cell.  They trail passed Angelica and stop.  One of the soldiers holding the set of keys unlocks the cell door.  Unlocking the chains on the man’s feet and wrists, a soldier strikes the man’s back shoving him into the cell.  The man stumbles headfirst, hits the wall, and falls to the floor.  The soldiers mock the injured, defenseless man.

“So…this is the famous Stephen we have been hearing about?”  One of the soldiers loudly and sarcastically proclaims.  “You followers of Jesus are ridiculous!  You will all pay for your crimes…every one of you!  Saul of Tarsus is doing right by ridding us of you Christians!”

Spitting on Stephen and laughing, they both stammer out joyfully reviling on their way up the steep stairs.

“Sir, are you okay?”  Angelica asks while Stephen sits covering his face in the palms of his hands.  After everything, there is still love in his eyes.

“Yes, I am fine, just a little sore in the head.  I knew my time was coming, but nothing will keep me from telling people about Jesus,” He answers wiping the smelly salve onto his tunic.

“That is what happened to me.  My name is, Angelica, and it would please me greatly if you would take half of my hay to lie upon.  The ground is cold and hard.”

“Thank you.  I am Stephen, as you may have guessed, and I will gladly accept your offering.  May the Lord Jesus bless your kindness.”

“I have heard of you, from other followers.  Is it true you are preaching about Jesus?”  John asks.

“Yes, that is why I was arrested.  The Lord has spoken to me and I will speak to the counsel, which may be the end of my journey.”

Angelica stands to her feet; the sandals her father had given her are worn down and filth covers unrecognizable feet.  She lovingly divides the hay on the floor and slides it toward the metal bars.  Stephen draws the hay through the bars, and makes a small pile to sit upon.

“I remember you.  You are Stephen. The man great with miracles, signs, and wonders.  I stole a loaf of bread after you healed a man of blindness,” John states and crosses his arms under his tunic. He struggles to stay warm as he coughs and wheezes.

“Yes,” Stephen answers creasing his brow.  “You look familiar,” He pauses.  “Yes, I saw you there.  You were coughing as you are now, only you seem much worse.  Sir, it is all by the power of Jesus Christ that those healings took place.  I did nothing.”

“You and Angelica seem to share the same faith.  Can you show me Jesus is real?  Can you prove it to me?”  John inquires, with a pure heart.

“Sir, I cannot reach you, and I have nothing to give, riches and gold. But, what I have I will give to you,” Stephen rips a small piece of his sash and places it between Angelica’s cell bars.

“Please, hand this to him.”

Angelica reaches for the torn cloth, and places it between the bars of John’s cell within his reach.

“Sir, if you want to know who Jesus is then reach for that cloth.  By faith you will be healed,” Hesitantly, John reaches for the cloth and touches it with his fingertips.  Suddenly, he resists and pulls away.

“I am not a good man.  Perhaps, I deserve what I get.  I am not worthy to be healed,” John states defiantly.

“John, I am going to pray that before your time comes, you will reach out for this cloth.  When you are healed, you will know the power of Jesus Christ.  You too will meet Him on that day.”

Angelica gently speaks.  “Stephen, how is it that you came to be down here?”

Stephen glares at the candle on the table.  “They gathered together when I was arrested…hoping for another stoning.  I will die soon, but not until I speak to the counsel at the synagogue.  I wonder why I am down here instead of immediately speaking to them.  I pray the Holy Spirit grant me the words when it comes time to speak. That it shakes the hearts, and pierces the ears of all those that gather.”

Angelica snuggles back into the hay and begins to inscribe again.

Stephen glances over.  “If you do not mind, may I ask what you are writing?”

“Oh, I am writing about my life following Christ.  You see, I have always been near Him one way or another.  I want to give it to my father.  I hope one day he will read it and share it with others.”

“You have been around Jesus?  May I read your parchments?  Please, it is all a man can do in a place like this. Either sleep or talk, and since you are writing, I would love to see what you mean,” It fascinates Stephen.

Taking a few pages in her fingers, Angelica hands them to Stephen who is very curious by the statements made.

“I am reading it to John.  As I write you are welcome to listen.”

“Thank you, I will,” Stephen says

Thank you for choosing the read the first couple of chapters. One thing I have always done is written in the present tense. Stay connected for future free chapters of this novel and others! To see all of my novels feel free to go to http://www.amazon.com/author/aimeebejarano – available in Kindle and paperback!

God bless!