I saul, p.26

I, Saul, page 26


I, Saul

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  Augie covered his phone. “Sorry. English?”

  “State your business please, sir. I can’t have you loitering here.”

  “As soon as I finish this call, I’m coming inside.”

  “No more tours today.”

  “No tour. Business. Thanks for your patience.”

  He turned back to his phone.

  “Augie, what the devil? It’s four-thirty in the morning here!”

  “Biff, listen, you know I’d never wake you if it wasn’t crucial.” Augie told him what he needed, which required Biff to immediately head to his own office at Dallas Seminary.

  “You’re gonna so owe me, Knox.”

  “Only my life. I know my phone has enough capacity, but how long for the download?”

  “First I gotta see if it’s there.”

  “Text me when you know.”

  “Want me to serve you breakfast too?” “Seriously, Biff, you’re the best.”

  “Who you tellin’?You got a charger with you, like I told you, right?”

  “I do.”

  “How much battery life right now?”

  “A little more than half.”

  “Charge it again as soon as you can.”

  The guard shadowed Augie as he approached the receptionist. “English?” he said. She nodded. “I need to see Colonel Emmanuel.”

  The woman checked her calendar. “I can see if he has any time next week.”

  “No, now.”

  “Without an appointment, I’m sorry.”

  “It’s urgent. I know he’ll want to—.”

  “Sir,” the guard said, taking Augie’s elbow. “Make an appointment or leave.”

  “I know he’s in and will see me. Just tell him Dr. August A. Knox from Dallas, Texas, is here about the Klaudios Giordano murder.”

  The girl blanched and the guard produced handcuffs. “Call him,” the guard said. “Hands behind your back. You’re doing the right thing, giving yourself up.”

  “You don’t have to cuff me.”

  “No, Signore,” the receptionist was saying, “egli non sembra pericoloso” She covered the phone. “Dr. Knox, I told him you do not look dangerous, but he wants to know if you’re armed.”

  “Yes, I am.”

  The guard tightened the cuffs, reached for his own sidearm, and pressed the button on his walkie-talkie. “Hai bisogno di aiuto nella lobby prega, immediatamente!”

  “You don’t need help,” Augie said. “It’s a nine millimeter under my shirt in back.”

  As the guard yanked it out, two other officers barged in with guns drawn. “Really,” Augie said as the guard frisked him, “I’m harmless.”

  She sat back down. “Tell him he surrendered a handgun,” the guard said.

  “Ha ceduto una pistola, colonnello . . .” she said into the phone. “Va bene, sì, Signore.”

  Ashen, voice shaky, the girl turned to the guard, “Il colonnello dice di portarlo nella stanza sicura e lui sarà là voi in pochi minuti.” “Taking me to a holding cell?” Augie said.

  “Just an interrogation room secured against surveillance. Looks like you got your appointment.”

  As the guard led him to an elevator, the receptionist’s phone rang again. She said, “E mi troverete nell’armadietto file sotto Knox?”

  “What was that about?” Augie said, as the guard hit the button for the fourth floor.

  The man shrugged. “The colonel wants the Knox files.”

  “I’m on file already?”

  When they reached the secure room, the guard nodded to a chair on the other side of a plain wood table. Augie said, “Could you get my phone and charger out of my pocket and plug it in?”

  The guard shook his head.

  Colonel Emmanuel showed up in a natty business suit. Carrying two file folders, one yellowed with age, he had the look of a man who had worked his way up through the ranks. He and the guard conversed in Italian, and Augie found Emmanuel surprisingly soft-spoken. As the guard was leaving, the colonel withdrew his own sidearm and traded it for the handcuff key.

  Emmanuel delicately placed the folders on the table, along with a small recording device. Still standing, he flipped it on and said, “Italiano o in inglese?”

  “Texan,” Augie said.

  Emmanuel did not appeared amused. His English was precise and formal, heavily accented. “I assume you will behave if I remove the manacles?”


  The colonel stepped behind him and released the cuffs.

  “Was that a Smith & Wesson you were carrying?” Augie said. “A nine millimeter?”

  Emmanuel looked surprised. “A Beretta thirty-eight. Why?”

  “Just curious. I’m new to all this stuff. Hey, I really need to charge my phone. Do you mind? I’ll set it on silent.”

  The man narrowed his eyes as he took a seat across from Augie. Finally he nodded toward an outlet. Augie plugged in the phone, and as he sat back down, the director said, “You seem remarkably cheerful under the circumstances. Do you see the names on these files?” He turned them toward Augie.

  “Knox and Knox. All right, you have my attention.”

  “And you have mine, Doctor. You told the receptionist you were from Dallas. Are you not actually from Arlington?”

  “Yes, but most people only know the big city—.”

  “And your profession?”

  “Professor at Arlington Theological Seminary.”

  Emmanuel pulled a photocopy from the newer file and turned it right side up for Augie. “Do you agree that this is a copy of your passport?”

  “Of course.”

  Emmanuel put the older file on top. “Who is Dr. Edsel Knox?”

  Augie recoiled. “That—that would be my father, sir.”

  “I wondered. How is he?”

  “How is he? Not well, actually. Why do you ask?”

  “I once met him.”

  “You met him?”

  Emmanuel sat back and told how he, a young officer on one of his first cases, had been assigned the matter of a tourist in Dr. Knox’s group who had found an ancient coin near a historic site and refused to surrender it to authorities. “Your father was most meticulous and honest. Were it not for him, the tourist could have easily left the country without being found out.”

  “That sounds like my father, all right.”

  “Which make this all the more surprising,” Emmanuel said.


  “Your coming under suspicion for the theft of an antiquity, not to mention two homicides.”

  “And yet I voluntarily came to you, eager to tell you everything. I ask only that you hear my account.”

  Emmanuel offered a closed-mouth smile. “For the sake of your father. But you must understand that you will not be released unless you are cleared of some very serious charges. As we speak, my department is investigating you through Interpol and our own government, with the assistance of the FBI. In the meantime, in homage to your father’s character, I offer you the courtesy of listening. But you realize that anything you say that does not align with what our investigation reveals will put you in further jeopardy.”

  Augie could see how Emmanuel ascended to his position. “That’s fair. But I must inform you that by offering me this courtesy, you risk hearing things about your own squad that will surprise you.”

  Emmanuel looked skeptical. “Before we begin, I am required to ask: Do you wish to be represented by legal counsel?”


  “You have the right to change your mind about that at any time, but meanwhile everything you tell me is on the record and may be used against you.”


  “Now, are you legally entitled to possess the weapon we confiscated?”

  “I am not. And technically, you didn’t confiscate it. I surrendered it, having carried it only in the belief that my life was in mortal danger.”

  Colonel Emmanuel rested his elbows on the table and steepled his fingers. “Tell me wh
at you are doing in Italy, from the moment you decided to come, through your arrival, the procurement of the weapon, whom you saw, and what your business was. I will not interrupt you.”

  Augie nodded, knowing Emmanuel was offering him the rope with which he could hang himself.

  “First, a question,” Augie said. “Your recording device. May I ask its capacity?”

  “Twelve hours. Do you expect to keep me that long, Doctor?”

  “Oh, no. But you will see why I asked. If I can just check my cell, I’ll be ready.”

  Emmanuel hesitated but finally shrugged. Augie peeked at his phone.

  Don’t respond till download is complete in less than an hour. Can’t BELIEVE what you get yourself into. Promise me every detail.

  Biff’s contraption had worked from more than fifty-five hundred miles away and could provide the hammer to smash both a dirty carabiniere and a black marketer posing as a respected businessman.

  But it could also cost Augie his life.

  Emmanuel looked directly into Augie’s eyes and indicated the floor was his.

  “I am in Italy to help a friend. This past Wednesday, May 7, I was about to oversee a final exam for one of my classes at the seminary when Roger Michaels texted me to call him immediately and added that he was desperate. I first met Roger ….”

  For over an hour, Emmanuel barely moved, staring at Augie, probably assessing his body language. Augie was doing the same. He could tell that the colonel knew both Malfees Trikoupis and Dimos Fokinos.

  When Augie quoted Fokinos’s claim that his highly placed contact in the Art Squad played his boss like a fiddle, the chief pressed his lips together. Was he defensive, or did he simply find it impossible to believe the account?

  Emmanuel’s expression changed again when Augie recounted the phone conversation between Trikoupis and Sardinia. Augie wondered if he was trying to fathom the possibility that Sardinia really was a criminal.

  As Augie came to the end of his story, Emmanuel stood. He had Augie repeat a couple of anecdotes, then said, “And you sincerely expect Deputy Director Sardinia and Malfees Trikoupis to actually meet you tonight?”

  “I do.”

  “Thank you, Dr. Knox. I must say I was intrigued, if not entirely convinced. Let me check on what my staff has learned from Interpol and the FBI. I will also have the recording evaluated, so if you wish to amend any of your claims, now is the time.”

  “I stand by every word.”

  “If you need anything while I’m away—something to drink or to use the facilities—I can have someone escort you. Otherwise—.”

  “I’ll be fine,” Augie said, as Emmanuel gathered up the files and his recorder. “But there is one more thing.”


  “I can prove that Dimos Fokinos actually said that about his inside man here at the Art Squad.”

  “You can prove it?”

  “I can also prove I accurately represented what Sardinia said on the phone to Mr. Trikoupis.”

  “To prove hearsay, Dr. Knox, you would have to get the principals to admit they said what you claim.”

  “No, I recorded both those conversations.”

  The man shook his head as if trying to make sense of what he had heard. “You recorded them?”

  Augie reached for his phone. “Would you like to hear?”

  Emmanuel slowly returned to his seat and turned on his own recorder again, as Augie found the download listed on his screen.

  There were street sounds, then a car door.

  Just you?

  Who’d you expect? Someone has to stay with the goods.

  You find Sofia?

  I wasn’t looking for her. Were you?

  “You recognize the other voice, sir?”

  Emmanuel nodded, but his expression didn’t change until the conversation turned to business.

  You still don’t trust me.

  Why should I? I just met you.

  I’m the guy who’s going to make you rich.

  Wait a second, friend. You and Trikoupis wouldn’t have even known about this if I hadn’t been dragged into it.

  Don’t be silly This is the world we run in. We’d have found out sooner or later, and whoever had the prize would be looking for buyers with deep pockets. Fact is, Dr. Knox, you need me. Until I authenticate it, your priceless find is just a rumor.

  Emmanuel paled when Fokinos described the Japanese art dealer who only pretended to have turned over all the stolen Italian artifacts he claimed he had bought innocently.

  By the time the recording got to Fokinos implicating Sardinia, Emmanuel stared at Augie’s phone as if it smelled. He massaged his eyes, fingers trembling. He folded his hands in his lap and rested his chin on his chest as he listened to the phone call between Trikoupis and Sardinia.

  Finally Emmanuel stood. “If I didn’t know better, Dr. Knox, I would say these recordings were manufactured.”

  “But you do know better, don’t you?”

  “I will soon,” the colonel said. “Give me a few minutes. I’ll be right back.”


  House to House



  Few outside the Sanhedrin knew my role in the execution of Stephen. I did not refer to it as murder then, as I do now, because even witnessing it from close enough to hear the horrid blows and the ripping of the flesh could not diminish my conviction that we had carried out the judgment of God Himself.

  I knew the commandments; I knew the sin of putting another god before the God. The Jesus followers, who had begun calling themselves the people of The Way, had had the audacity to elevate Jesus to the position of a Christ, the Messiah. And despite his demise, they had now revered Stephen—who seemed able to conjure the same miracles, yet who also proved merely mortal in the end.

  Now would they worship their leader, the Galilean fisherman Peter, who may not have had the silver tongue of Stephen but was convincing enough to persuade thousands to become followers of The Way? Or would they revere Peter’s brother James, or the other James among them, one of the brothers of Jesus? Perhaps the new favorite would be young John, who apparently everyone agreed had been Jesus’ favorite.

  It mattered not to me, for while I had undertaken this assignment convinced I was an agent of God, it also served to raise my stature with Annas and Caiaphas and thus most of the rest of the council. I say most, because while Nathanael was proud of me, some—very few, in truth—agreed with the ever-timid Gamaliel who felt the Sanhedrin had overreacted in stoning Stephen to death.

  Gamaliel tried to reason with me, to discourage such acts in the future. His counsel fell on deaf ears. He had lost my respect. I felt no need of his approval, as I had for so many years.

  However, the death of Stephen did not have its intended effect on the people of The Way. Continuing to insist that Jesus had resurrected from the dead and could not be termed a martyr, they began calling Stephen the first martyr to the cause of Christ. Rather than cowering in fear of the same fate for themselves, some even expressed envy for the fact that Stephen had been privileged—imagine!—to have been persecuted this way for the sake of Jesus.

  Stephen’s violent death seemed to have discouraged no one from stepping up to replace him—not the young men of the sect nor even their mothers. Within days of his burial, dozens of devout believers seemed determined to take his place. Their new leaders were bolder, their proclamations louder, their resolve more intense. Even worse, they now began traveling to distant lands to expand the influence of their lies and subversion.

  The daily tasks and assignments I had handled for Nathanael for years since leaving school—challenging and educational as they had been—held little interest for me anymore. I took personally the failure of the Freedmen and the Sanhedrin to hinder the astonishing growth of The Way. I had gotten a taste of blood, and I rather liked it. This, I told myself, was not violence for violence’s sake, but the purest form of justice ever enforced. If the only
way to stop the spread of apostasy was to arrest, imprison, or kill these people, that was what I must do.

  Before a week had passed, Caiaphas—no doubt with the encouragement of his father-in-law—visited Nathanael’s office one afternoon and asked that I join them. When I arrived he informed Nathanael that he was reassigning me. “Nathanael,” he said, “I know if this were left up to you, you would never let him go.”

  “That is true,” Nathanael said. “But he has earned whatever station you see fit for him, and I gladly confer him to your service.”

  The high priest said he wanted me as his special assistant, with all the power and authority of his office. “I want The Way driven from Jerusalem. Their teaching is illegal. Their assembling is illegal. Making known their beliefs is illegal. You have proven yourself able and committed.”

  “That I am,” I said, eager to get started. “I will proudly bear your authority, but as for your power, I will need resources. Men, weapons, horses.”

  “Present me with a manifest,” Caiaphas said, “and consider it done.”

  I immediately went to my office and began a list of the men and supplies I would need. I took to Caiaphas my request for ten men with horses, ropes, whips, and chains. These, he said, would be at my disposal by dawn the next day. Until late that night in my office, I formed a plan of attack. I knew from The Freedmen the homes in which the people of The Way congregated before going out to spread their false doctrine.

  I confess I wondered whether I would get the best of the temple guards, or soldiers who currently had no assignment. Imagine how pleased I was the next morning when a complement of brawny horsemen arrived. Every one appeared about twice my size, yet they well understood who was in charge.

  The next day and for several weeks after, I led my men on daily raids. We would begin before sunrise and quietly surround a house owned by one of Jesus’ wealthy followers. Then we would storm in from every entrance, me leading the way through the front. We denounced them in the name of God, whipped any who tried to flee or retaliate, then bound their hands and tethered them to our horses to be dragged off to prison.

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