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First Edition Web V1.0 2016
The Lord said,
"This people honors me with their lips,
But their hearts are far from me."
"When we fought for Jerusalem, we fought for an idea, the idea of universal justice, of love, of human brotherhood, or maybe simply, holiness. Well, it's my job to maintain that idea. There shall be no injustice on my watch."
"Well said, sir," said Detective Sergeant Howard.
"Nothing is straightforward about solving crime here," continued his superior, Detective Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Palestine Police, Adam O'Rourke. "You do not just talk to the Jews. You talk to the Arabs. You talk to all sides. And when you are done, you believe no one."
Detective Sergeant Peter Howard nodded.
"If I may ask, sir," he asked. "Why do you need a new assistant?"
"Last one was killed," said O'Rourke, briskly. "No need to go into it. You'll see for yourself soon enough. I'll say this about the place. It's never personal. Just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
He was efficient, The Chief, as Howard was already calling him in his mind. Yes, he would like it here with a man like that. When the place was muddled you needed clear thinking.
"Now, my turn to ask a question," said The Chief. "Why Palestine?" He glanced at the sheet in his hand. Detective Sergeant Peter Howard had ten years of service with the Metropolitan Police in London. He came highly recommended by his superior officer.
"I'm Catholic, sir," said Detective Sergeant Howard.
O'Rourke stared at him for a moment. He was a veteran of the Royal Irish Constabulary and familiar with the Catholics. Despite having an English mother, he had been born in Belfast.
"Perfect," he said when he did speak. "No loyalties to the Jews or the Muslims, then. Only to your own." He shook his head. "I have a few pudding-headed Non-Conformist constables who think they can hasten the Second Coming by always siding with the Jews. I'm Church of E., myself, and you'll find me in St. George's every Sunday, but I don't let it cloud my judgment. If the Archbishop of Canterbury himself committed murder, I'd see him locked up."
He stared at Howard.
"Can I depend on you, Howard, to do the same?"
Howard thought about His Holiness, Pope Pius XI. Howard was honest. Although he was certain the Holy Father would never resort to murder, he said, "No, sir. If the Pope committed murder, I'd let him get away with it."
O'Rourke stared for a moment and then laughed.
"I'll let you have that one, Howard. But only the Pope. No one else. Not even the King of Spain, who I understand is a good Catholic."
Howard was puzzled. O'Rourke explained.
"He's currently in exile at the King David Hotel. Unlike us, he does not sleep in Spartan conditions. We have an appointment to meet him there this afternoon. One of his servants was murdered, stabbed, in a back alley and naturally, he's concerned."
"I quite understand," said Howard.
"Now, come follow me," O'Rourke was heading out of his sparse office. "You have to taste the city to understand it. It's not enough to just grow up reading your Bible."
They left the police headquarters, housed in what had once been the Russian compound back in the days when there had been a Tsar who had funds to spare for the holy pilgrims.
They were now on Jaffa Road, the thoroughfare of the New City.
"Do you know your history?" O'Rourke asked Howard.
Howard shook his head. He knew it as well as any English schoolboy did, but he doubted he knew it well enough to satisfy his new Chief.
"Our headquarters is built on the same location where both the Assyrians and the Romans made camp in order to take Jerusalem," said O'Rourke with satisfaction.
Howard doubted his Chief had any ambitions to take the city like a ruthless Assyrian or a coldly efficient Roman, but he got the impression that he could be both ruthless and coldly efficient when it came to people who insisted on committing a murder in this city.
They followed Jaffa Road into the Old City. The New City was a construction of the New Jew: white and clean and growing. The Old City's stones were older and less clean and had a sense of the ancient. The narrow streets forced a person to come into close contact with everything. On this street, village women with live chickens or goats passed by town merchants sitting by piles of vegetables and baskets of spices. Animated shoppers bartered over the cumin and cucumbers.
Moving down a different road, there were sellers of brass and then down another, sellers of religious items like rosaries, pictures of the Madonna, postcards of the Holy Sepulchre. The Arabs manning these shops called out to all to come take a closer look, but the tourists were more hesitant than the locals doing their shopping. They hung back, taking it all in.
The members of the religious orders in their black, brown and white robes, moved serenely through the streets, their minds fixed on heavenly things.
The Orthodox Jewish men had no interest in the Arab merchants. They had their own stores to shop in and they only seemed interested in navigating these streets for the sake of their prayers at the Wailing Wall.
A Bedouin in flowing robes bumped into Howard and then apologized in sonorous Arabic. Howard smiled to himself. It was as if the wide-open spaces of the desert had come directly to these streets just to knock him off his feet.
But it was the smells that overpowered Howard, the strong Eastern spices and unwashed bodies; grilled meat and donkey dung; fresh bread and uncollected rubbish.
They passed by the Holy Sepulchre with its Crusader exterior, but O'Rourke kept walking. Anglicans paid a courtesy visit upon arriving, Howard knew, but rarely returned. For his own part, since his arrival, he had visited daily. He had recited the Rosary at Calvary, thinking of what it must have been like to stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and the beloved disciple. He had prayed at the Stone of Unction where Jesus' body had been prepared for burial. He had passed through the Edicule, the tomb where the two Pharisees, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had laid the body while the women watched from a distance. All the while, he had been aware of the constant soft prayers of the priests and nuns and of the odour of incense that wafted to the high ornamented ceilings. Yes, it had felt like coming home.
They returned to the New City, this time taking Julian's Way to the newly opened King David Hotel. If the Catholics of the city returned to the Holy Sepulchre, the English elite of the city had claimed the pink sandstone King David Hotel as their site. Outside, you could have a gin and tonic on the spacious terrace that overlooked the Old City. Inside you could find Indian tea and hot buttered toast served in a setting worthy of any outpost of Empire. Some people were taking theirs in the high-ceiling marble-floored lobby. O'Rourke took Howard on the full tour, saying that most people who were anybody in this town could be found in these various seating areas with their various Biblical styles: Egyptian, Hittite, Phoenician, Greek. Even the ruthless Assyrians were made somehow more humane by being celebrated in art and architecture, rather than what they had been known for in their lifetime: putting hooks in conquered people's noses and leading them away into captivity.
O'Rourke waved toward the doorway of the hotel bar.
"That's where you'll find all the toffs in town," he said.
Howard smiled. O'Rourke was no toff.
"What I wouldn't give for a good pub," O'Rourke continued. "But they're all in Jaffa with the army."
He headed for the concierge and the manager was quickly summoned.
O'Rourke moved away from the concierge's counter to allow another hotel patron to speak to the concierge.
The manager appeared and escorted them up to the suite occupied by the King of Spain.
"I am assured that he is just passing through Jerusalem on his way to Rome," said O'Rourke to Howard as the manager gave a gentle rap to the door. "Nonetheless, we must make his stay a pleasant one."
Howard nodded, taking it in. He knew very little about the King of Spain despite their shared faith.
A Spanish butler opened the door and the manager left them.
O'Rourke moved briskly into the surprisingly ordinary interior. Howard was expecting something more along the lines of a sultan's harem after all the high design of the public rooms.
The valet directed them into the main sitting room of the suite and with a nod and a bow, discreetly retreated.
"Your majesty," said O'Rourke, bowing briskly. Howard did his best to bow and look slightly awed at being in the presence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. The slight man with the hair slicked to the side by pomade and the trim, upturned moustache, waved them to take a seat.
"It is a simple case," said the king, taking a seat in a wing-backed chair opposite their sofa.
A sorry substitute for a throne, thought Howard.
"My manservant has been with me for three years. I am most familiar with all his ways. He is in no way a man of vice. He is only interested in serving me and my family and in his devotions to Our Lady."
O'Rouke nodded, already making notes in a small notebook he had pulled out of a breast pocket. He was familiar with the Catholic devotion to Mary. "And he disappeared last night?"
The king nodded.
"He did not return last night. I called the concierge who reported it to you. Naturally Juan was delighted to be in Jerusalem. He went to the Holy Sepulchre, at least that is where he said he was going. Whether he arrived, I do not know. I only know that his body was found quite a distance from the Holy Sepulchre . . ."
O'Rourke turned back a page in the notebook.
"In a small alleyway beside the Ecce Homo archway along the Via Dolorosa."
"Yes, that is it," the king agreed.
"Since he was devout," said O'Rourke, "it's possible he was following the Via Dolorosa."
"Yes, it is possible," agreed the king. "We will not be here for long and Juan would have, no doubt, wanted to see everything while he was here."
O'Rourke nodded, like he suspected this.
"Then we will do everything we can to see that his killer gets justice."
O'Rourke made another note and then looked as if he would like to stand. But the king would have to get to his feet first.
"But why? This is what I do not understand," said the king. "For money? Juan would have had enough money to give an offering to the Church. No more."
"I agree," said O'Rourke. "It seems senseless. But this is Jerusalem and it gets a bit tense sometimes. Perhaps someone thought he was a Jew. It was the Muslim Quarter, after all."
The king shook his head.
"He is more Arab looking than Jewish looking. I would not be surprised if he had Moorish blood in him."
"Well, we'll do all we can," said O'Rourke. Howard could almost see his spirit rising from the sofa. But the king remained seated and O'Rouke could do nothing.
After a minute of silence, the king spoke.
"I am afraid," he said. "You see, it is possible the killer thought it was me. We are not unalike in features and since my life is in danger, Juan and I have often exchanged clothing. We go out with him in my best coat while I wear his outfit. Yesterday, he took my coat."
O'Rouke stopped looking like he wanted to get going.
"Yes, that's a possibility," he said. "If that's the case, I doubt we're looking for a common bandit. We need to find anyone with a Spanish connection."
The king nodded slowly. "Although I am told he was not wearing the coat when he was found." He hesitated for a moment and then said, "I fear to leave my room."
O'Rourke leaned forward.
"We will provide you with an escort if you would like to see the city. The High Commissioner would be happy to personally take you around all the holy sites."
The king's head was low.
"He has offered, yes. But I would like to go as a private pilgrim."
Howard understood. He had lost his throne. No doubt there were reasons for it and he wanted to make his confession and do his penance while in Jerusalem.
"I could still provide you with an escort," said O'Rourke. "One of my constables could accompany you. He would not have to wear his uniform. Would that be acceptable?"
"Yes, and it would be much appreciated.
For the first time, Howard could see a hint of brightness in the man's eyes.
And would it be possible for someone to purchase me a Rosary in the souk?"
O'Rourke was surprised but turned to Howard.
"That would be more your line, I think."
"Forgive me," said the king. "I should ask the hotel to do such a thing."
Howard shook his head.
"It would be a great honour for me to select a Rosary for you, Your Majesty. I purchased one for myself when I came here." His own Rosary from London was one that his mother had given him as a boy in honour of his first communion and the beads were small, for child-size fingers. He had figured that it was time to purchase a man's Rosary when he had come to Jerusalem. He reached into his pocket and handed a Rosary made of Bethlehem olive wood to the king. "It's far too humble for Your Majesty."
"On the contrary," said the king, examining it. "It is perfect. I would like one such as this."
"Then you should take that one," said Howard.
"I will pay for it, of course," said the king.
Howard shook his head.
"I wouldn't accept money. It's an honour to be able to do this for you." The king stood and embraced Howard while O'Rourke stood by, looking grim. Howard suspected that it had more to do with him wanting to get on with things than any kind of jealousy.
They left the king with O'Rourke promising an update in a day or two.
The king watched them go. These were the first people who he had encountered since leaving Spain who did not seem to feel awkward in his presence. In Spain, he had been respected. And then he had been despised. And now, here in Jerusalem, people did not seem to know what to do with him.
He sighed and looked down at his new Rosary beads. So humble compared to the other ones. Perhaps he should become a monk, take the vows and never be seen by the world again. But at the moment, that seemed too easy.
"In my neighbourhood in Belfast, we used to call you Papists," said O'Rourke as they headed down the wide staircase to the lobby.
Howard smiled. He had grown up in the more cosmopolitan London where a Catholic was about as exciting as a Hindu, more or less.
"Are you planning on carrying prayer beads wherever you go?" O'Rourke asked.
"You said my predecessor died."
"And you think those beads will save you?"
"Most certainly," said Howard solemnly. "Our Lady is generous. Her prayers will keep me safe."
O'Rourke shook his head as they passed through the lobby and out into the bright sun, still hot even though it was late in the afternoon.
"I'm going to go talk to the Spanish consul," said O'Rourke. "Before we came here, he represented all the Europeans and he knew pretty nearly everyone. If there are any Spanish nationals here who are capable of murdering that young servant, he'll know about it. I want you to return to the scene of the crime and stop in at the Convent of the Flagellation to find out if they know anything. They employ Arab Christians and one of them might have seen or heard something."
"We'll meet back in my office in three hours," said O'Rouke before turning and walking briskly down Julian's Way. It was always a busy thoroughfare.
Three hours. Howard glanced at his watch. That would take them to dinnertime. He had already missed tea. Apparently the Criminal Investigation Department didn't have off hours but were expected to take nourishment on the go.
The Damascus Gate or the Herod Gate would have been closer to the Ecce Homo arch, but Howard returned to the Jaffa Gate in order to pass through the Christian Quarter so he could purchase another Rosary. The Muslims sold Rosaries, too, but Howard wanted to purchase one from one of his own faith. He doubted the English Anglicans considered Arab Catholics to be of the same faith as them.
He felt better when he had another Rosary in his pocket. He had given O'Rourke the impression that he carried it for divine favour and protection, but the truth was, it was more of a philosophy of life.
London had been non-stop ambition, always tyrannizing him to do more and be more and move up higher. His parish priest, Father O'Sullivan, had suggested he slow down and take the time every day to pray the Rosary.
At first it had seemed repetitive, fifty recitations of the Hail Mary. But out of respect for Father O'Sullivan, who had come from a small town in Ireland and seemed impervious to the demands of London, he had persisted. And then he had discovered the secret of the Rosary. Every day, he meditated on the important matters in the lives of Jesus and Mary: Gabriel's annunciation to Mary, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the birth of Jesus, the presentation of Jesus at the temple, finding Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve, the agony in the garden, the flogging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the assumption and the crowning of Our Lady. And he found that by daily meditation, they became the important matters in his own life. And when that happened, London lost its tyranny over him. No longer did he feel the pull of London's artificial priorities.
He passed through the crowded streets, marveling that while in London, fashion changed with every season, but here, so many people looked like they were living back in the days of Abraham. He reached the large wooden door of the Convent of the Flagellation and wondered if these particular nuns would mind talking to him. Would he find they had taken a vow of silence, for example?
But he found the wooden door slightly ajar and when he pushed it open, he realized that being part of the Via Dolorosa, they expected visitors.
The simple white stone church looked newly constructed. That was understandable. There had been a lot of recent construction in British Mandate Palestine. The Ottomans had had very little interest in this part of their empire and were hardly likely to support the upkeep of Christian sites.
He saw a few nuns passing across the courtyard, but most visitors were in the church itself. He entered, crossing himself and genuflecting as he approached the altar. He noted the stained glass windows depicting Pilate washing his hands of all responsibility for the death of Jesus, the flagellation itself, and the release of Barabbas in the place of Jesus. Yes, it had gone badly for Pilate that day. Howard only wished the British would do better than the Romans in their rule of the Holy City.
He glanced up at the dome where there was a design in the shape of a crown of thorns. He didn't join the pilgrims in their prayers. That would have to be for another time. He returned to the courtyard and was relieved to see a passing Franciscan monk.
"Excuse me," he said. He pulled out his new identification and showing it to the middle-aged man, introduced himself. "Are you a visitor or a resident?"
"A resident," the man replied. "I am Brother Michael."
"I'm glad to meet you, Brother Michael." He looked around. "I thought this was a convent."
The man shook his head and pointed to an arched walkway. "That's the monastery."
"Excellent," said Howard. He preferred talking to a man. "I'm here because of the death of a Spanish citizen last night. He died a stone's throw from the Ecce Homo archway."
Brother Michael nodded.
"We all heard about that and are very sorry. I was told we could expect an investigation. None of us saw him here in the church or on the grounds, but of course, many people pass through here everyday and he could have been one of them."
"There's some question is to why he died. It seemed so purposeless."
"Any death like that would," agreed Brother Michael. "Alas, it was worse in the days of the Turks. It is better here now. Do you think it was a robbery?"
"If it was, he had nothing to be robbed of. But he was apparently wearing a particular coat that might have made someone think he was someone other than just a simple pilgrim."
Brother Michael accepted this enigmatic statement without enquiring further.
"Is there anyone else I could talk to who might have heard something on the streets? An Arab in your employ, for example?"
Brother Michael nodded.
"We have a gardener who is out here much of the late afternoon. His name is Bulus. We have many Arabs here, but he is the only one who works outside."
Howard had seen no gardener, but Brother Michael invited him to search the grounds until he found him. He was a younger man and lived in the Old City, all the better for local gossip about this latest crime.
Though the church was newly constructed, the site itself was ancient and there were many reminders of the past. Stone friezes, partial columns, paving stones all looked like they had survived from the days of the Romans. The partial columns were artfully arranged around gardens, but Howard couldn't find any gardener until he came to a dead-end and found a rough shed with a slightly ajar door and inside, a young Arab.
Brother Michael watched the constable walk away. He wasn't a constable, though, was he? Brother Michael had left the world behind not just bodily, but mentally, too. He hardly gave the outside world a thought. Detective, that was it. The man was a detective. The important thing was, he was a Catholic. Brother Michael had observed the chain around his neck that would lead to the inevitable medal. Anglicans never wore them. He would pray for the good detective, that his faith remained intact despite his job.
Brother Michael shook his head and turned back toward the church. It was sad that here in the holy city detectives should be needed to solve crimes, but of course, human nature was the same here as anywhere. There was still a police force in Rome, after all.
He had been praying for the soul of the dead man and that's why he was returning to the church. Something about the whole thing made him uneasy. Why should a humble pilgrim be murdered? This wasn't Outremer anymore. The Christians and the Muslims and the Jews of the Old City had long since worked out their differences to at least agree on one thing. They wouldn't murder one another. Pilgrims were no exception. There were always the blood feuds, of course, but those were private matters and rarely affected anyone outside the family. And they were far more likely to take place in the barren deserts of the Trans-Jordan than in the cities of Palestine.
There were the Zionists, of course. The Zionists had upset the delicate balance of all three communities by threatening them with a secular culture based on muscle rather than on religious diplomacy.
For Brother Michael, who had never encountered a Zionist in the Church of the Flagellation or set foot in a kibbutz, they were all too easy to understand. Their women were always under-dressed which brought grief to all three religious communities. Their young men were not interested in prayer, which only exacerbated the grief of the pious. And yet, they were clearly the future in this ancient land.
Brother Michael crossed himself as he entered the church. He would pray for the soul of the man recently slain outside the church. And he would pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
The man was startled. The alarm on his face only increased as Howard showed him his I.D. The shed contained gardening tools but the expression on the man’s face suggested it might contain other items that the gardener preferred to stay hidden. Howard wasn't interested in any cache the young man might have created. He got to the point and asked the young man if he knew anything about the recent murder of a Spanish pilgrim.
The man nodded. He seemed relieved that this inquiry was only about a murder.
"Yes, yes," he said, stepping out of the shed and carefully locked the door. He turned back to Howard, more relaxed now that the door was closed and the shed was secure. "I know this man. I see him come to pray. But he did not stay for long."
The young man's English was good, no doubt because of his contact with the Franciscans.
"What time was this?" asked Howard.
"After lunch. Maybe one o'clock."
But Juan's body had been discovered just after dark by a passing Arab and the constable he had alerted had noted that the body was still warm despite the cool evening.
"You weren't by any chance the man who found the body?" asked Howard on a hunch.
The gardener nodded vigorously.
"I was returning home. I recognized the man because of his coat. It was a very . . ." He searched for the right word. "Elegant coat."
Howard recalled that Juan was not wearing the coat when he was found. He was suddenly sure he knew where the coat was. He doubted that this gardener was a murderer, or even a thief. But more of an opportunist with dubious ethics. The coat was likely in the shed. But he wouldn't pursue that for the moment. There was a greater criminal to pursue.
"Did you see anyone else?" he asked.
The gardener shook his head.
"I might have heard footsteps. But I do not know. I nearly tripped on the man. I felt like the Samaritan who has found the beaten man. But this man was dead."
No doubt, had Juan been alive, he would not have been stripped of his coat.
"Was it robbery, do you think?"
The guilty look on the gardener's face confirmed Howard's theory.
"Perhaps," he said slowly. "There was no money on him."
No money in the pockets of the coat, then. But the king had said that his servant would only have enough money for donations to the holy sites.
This whole interview felt like a dead end. Howard repeated his question about whether the gardener had seen anything, only rephrasing it to make it sound like it was a new question. But the gardener repeated his answer that he might have heard something, but he wasn't even sure about that.
"Did you hear anyone cry out before that?"
The gardener looked thoughtful. After all, he had stumbled on a man who had just been murdered, so it was likely the man had called out as he was being attacked.
"No, I did not," he said so honestly that Howard was sure that on this point, the man had nothing to hide.
So Juan had died silently. What did that mean? He had been stabbed in the chest. Had he been stabbed so quickly that he didn't have time to cry out? Or that he knew his attacker and had been too startled by the treachery to say anything?
Howard did not want to return to O'Rourke with this paucity of information. What had Juan been doing from one o'clock until nightfall?
Crime solving back in London was rarely like detective fiction. It wasn't a brilliant matter that required the mental vigor of Sherlock Holmes. It was merely a matter of interviewing anyone and everyone in the vicinity and putting together the pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, until you had a picture. However, this crime scene wasn't providing too many pieces of the puzzle.
"You said you saw this man here shortly after one. Where do you think he went after that?"
The gardener shrugged and Howard sensed genuine lack of knowledge. Howard thanked him and set out. Legwork it would have to be.
The gardener, Bulus, watched the detective walk away.
Did he know? Could he guess? Bulus felt a sick fear in his heart. He had robbed the dead and there was a price to pay for that, both in this life and in the life to come if he didn't see a priest soon. At least it had been an impulsive decision, not a premeditated one. But it nagged at him that perhaps there was something he could have done for the dead man. If he had not been robbing him of his coat, he might have seen something that could have helped the English in their investigation.
He would go to confession. Bulus started walking away from the shed. There would be penance, of course, but he welcomed it. The coat? What would he do with the coat? His original plan, of course, was to keep it for himself, but now he was thinking differently. He turned around. Before going to confession, he would take it to someone in need, someone who got cold in the winter evenings, someone who rarely left his house. He had a large family and it was easy to select an elderly member of it who would accept the coat as God's provision. He would leave it at the front door so there would be no association with him and the coat.
The cursed coat! It was worse than being Joseph with his coat of many colours.
Howard stopped in all the nearby Arab cafes on the Via Dolorosa, showing his badge and asking if anyone had seen a young Spaniard in a conspicuous coat the day before, sometime in the afternoon. If the proprietor did not know, he talked to the old men smoking their water-pipes, or sipping their coffee and playing backgammon. It was time-consuming but it paid off. At the fifth eating establishment, he was told that someone who fit that description had been in the cafe the day before and that he had been with another man.
"But he prayed his Rosary the whole time," said the old man.
"He prayed his Rosary?" Howard repeated.
The old man nodded, pulling out his own prayer beads to show him that he meant the Rosary.
"Yes, he talked and went through his beads like this . . ." The man demonstrated as if Howard were not Catholic and was unfamiliar with the way the fingers moved across the beads while praying.
The old man could say no more. Juan had apparently gone through all the beads of his Rosary while the other man watched. To Howard, it seemed . . . peculiar. But it still did not seem like much to take back to O'Rourke. He glanced at his watch. He would have to be heading back to meet O'Rourke.
Howard was starting to feel quite comfortable in the Old City with its distinctive Eastern feel and he easily made his way through the still busy streets to the Jaffa Gate which took him to Jaffa Road and the short walk back to the former Russian Compound. There was much of the New City to be explored, but so far, Howard had hardly gone beyond the Russian Compound. The new portion of Jerusalem that had formed outside the walls of the Old City was vast compared to the tiny ancient portion. It had wide roads, hospitals staffed by Jewish doctors, three cinemas, the modern cafes run by European Jews, clean white stone homes in garden suburbs and all the government offices, including the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Council and the Jewish National Fund. There was nothing anti-Semitic about Howard. He had had very little contact with Jews back in London and he had no opinions about the Jewish race, one way or another. But to Howard, the new portion of the city lacked history. Those who were enthused by it tended to think of it as history in the making. But for Howard, there was enough history in the past: King David, King Solomon, Jesus and the early Christians, Titus and his legions, Godfrey of Bouillon and his crusaders.
After signing in with the constable on Station Diary Duty, Howard crossed the courtyard and went up the stone steps to O'Rourke's office. He found it empty. He took a seat and waited. The room itself was bare. All papers were filed. There was nothing to tell Howard about O'Rourke, not even a personal photo. The only picture on the wall was an enormous map of Jerusalem, up-to-date with both the Old City and the newer portions. He wondered if O'Rourke's room was similar. Howard thought of his own small room with its crucifix over the bed and bedside copy of Thomas a Kempis', The Imitation of Christ. It would seem severe to some, but to Howard it was like a monastery and he liked the feeling of enforced simplicity. It was probably why he had taken a liking to O'Rourke. O'Rourke seemed clear-headed and not cluttered, as if he concentrated on the essentials and left the inessentials to take care of themselves.
Howard realized he was hungry. For all the Arab cafes that he had visited, he had not thought to purchase a dinner. He doubted that O'Rourke was the type of overseer to return with sandwiches. Howard sighed. Consider it a fast, the true monastic experience.
O'Rourke entered, briskly apologizing for being late.
"Court case," he explained. "Occasionally you'll have to testify."
Howard nodded. It was a frequent activity in London, testifying in court about the findings of the investigation.
"When I do that, will I need to be able to speak the native tongue?" he asked.
O'Rourke took his seat at his desk.
"No, thank God," said O'Rourke. He pulled open the drawer of his desk and brought out two glasses and a bottle of Irish whisky. "We have interpreters. Mostly Christian Arabs from the city." He was pouring them both a drink. "Finally, I'll have someone to appreciate this with. At least you can always count on the Catholics to drink. My last Detective Sergeant was an abstinent Non-Conformist."
Howard smiled and took a sip. The drink on an empty stomach filled him with a light-headed, yet contented, feeling.
"The Spanish consul was of no help whatsoever. Although he was more than willing to share all the local news with me. He knows I hardly ever get out socially."
Howard nodded. He knew he'd be the same.
"The Jerusalem Play Society is doing something by Shakespeare," continued O'Rourke. "The Bezalel Museum is having an opening. Kitty Antonius is having another one of her parties."
"Her husband is George Antonius, a prominent nationalist here in Jerusalem although he's originally from Lebanon, I believe. One of our civil servants. All the poshes like his wife's parties." O'Rourke leaned back. "Let's see. What else?" He finished his drink and poured them both another. "It's the beginning of picnic season again, so everyone whose anyone will be organizing their expeditions to go sit and eat imported cheese and crackers and pheasant among the wildflowers." O'Rourke shook his head. Howard imagined that O'Rourke had never been invited to one of these picnics. Howard knew he wouldn't be either. It didn't matter to him. The only expedition he was planning was an excursion to the Jordan to bottle some water to send back home to his mother and sister. They would be the envy of the parish. And, of course, he would most certainly have to take the bus to Bethlehem at Christmas time to see the famous grotto where Jesus had been born. He had been told by Father O'Sullivan back in London that the very spot was marked with a silver star. He had promised the father that he would send him back a picture postcard from Bethlehem, but Howard was hoping to find a more substantial souvenir to send his parish priest, something in olive wood perhaps.
"After the gossip, things turned a little more serious," O'Rourke continued. "He wasn't too concerned about the death of one of his kinsmen. He seems to be in deathly fear that despite all these pleasant social activities, we'll have a reoccurrence of 1929."
It had been in all the London papers. Palestine, Jerusalem and Jaffa in particular, had erupted into violence with riots and vicious Arab attacks on Jews. There had been deaths on both sides. The Arabs had been edgy ever since the Balfour Declaration, suspecting that the British were allowing their land and rights to be overturned by Jewish ambitions in Palestine. They had reason to fear. In 1929, there were already 174,000 Jews. An earlier census taken by the British in 1923 had only counted 84,000 Jews.
"And you?" O'Rourke asked. "Did you make any progress?"
Howard relayed his findings, leaving out that he suspected that the gardener had the coat in his shed. By now he would have moved it. Also, the gardener would find that it had been a poor decision to take such a conspicuous item as a king's coat. No one would think he had come by it honestly. He would probably end up like the Biblical Achan burying his ill-gotten beautiful cloak in the dirt inside his tent.
"Are you inclined to think it was someone who thought he was assassinating the king?" Howard asked.
O'Rourke yawned and glanced at his watch. "It's possible," he said. "There are enough Sephardic Jews here."
"Sephardic Jews?" Howard was puzzled.
"Jews of Spanish origin," O'Rourke explained. "Of course, it goes back to the days of Ferdinand and Isabella. People of your faith. Didn't want the Jews in Spain."
Howard braced himself for the Anglican attack of the Catholic faith. It usually involved informing him that the Catholics had killed millions during the Spanish Inquisition or at the time of the Crusades. Real history provided drastically lower numbers, of course, but the Anglicans had had over three hundred years to polish their stories to justify their break from the Mother Church. They conveniently forgot the tortuous ill-treatment of Recusant Catholic families in their own country. And they didn't seem to mind that a king who couldn't get a legitimate divorce in order to marry his mistress had founded their church. Howard had often wondered how Protestants could participate in churches that had human founders: Luther, Knox, Henry VIII. Only the Catholic Church could say it had no founder but Jesus. Howard was hoping that he would be able to make it to Caesarea Philippi, far in the north, to see the place where Jesus had said to Peter, "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."
"Most of the Jews who left Spain ended up in Arab-speaking countries," O'Rourke continued. Howard appreciated how O'Rourke had moved on without launching an attack on the Catholic faith. "The Ashkenazi Jews, on the other hand, are from Europe. Those will be the one we see more of here in the near future. They're the Zionists."
Howard thought of the recent Russian pogroms.
"But Ferdinand and Isabella were quite some time ago," he said. "It would be more likely that a Russian prince in exile would be killed."
O'Rourke nodded and yawned again. He stood.
"We'll get a bite to eat and make it an early start tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll meet here at eight and go back to the scene of the crime. I'm inclined to think it's an Arab, too, for the simple reason that it happened in an Arab neighbourhood. A Jew doesn't move freely through Arab neighbourhoods. But I'm not ruling out the possibility that it was a Sephardic Jew, a native rather than a recent arrival. Some of them can pass for Arabs and the long memory people have here is incredible. Have you ever walked through Rehavia?"
Howard shook his head. Rehavia was a Jewish neighbourhood in the new portion of the city.
"All the streets there are named for Jewish poets who lived in Spain."
"I would think it more likely that the Arabs have their reasons for hating the Spaniards," said Howard, as they went back down the stone stairs. "Driving out the Moors and all."
O'Rourke shook his head as they headed across the courtyard, stopping briefly in the station to sign out, and exited through the lesser-used gateway to the Street of the Prophets. On their right was the Abyssinian church and monastery and on their left was the military hospital. Across from them was a Jewish hospital.
"The Arabs blame the French for everything. They call any foreigner, franji. As in, Frankish. It goes back to the Crusades, but more recently to the way the French drove Faisal out of Damascus."
They turned onto the Street of Isaiah the Prophet, passing a Jewish girls' school and the Edison cinema.
All of England knew the story. Emir Faisal, now King of Iraq, had rode with Lawrence of Arabia to drive the Turks out of Greater Syria, which included Palestine. The English had allowed him to set up his throne in Damascus, but the French, who had ambitions in the region, had driven him out. Now the Arabs of Syria lived under French mandate, bitter that they had been promised Arab independence if they sided with the Allies instead of the Germans and the Turks in the Great War.
Howard was left with the feeling that it was all very muddled. Sephardic Jews. Betrayed Arabs. Arabs who didn't like the French. Jews who didn't like the Spanish. If one scratched the surface, one could find anyone with a reason to carry a grudge. And how many of them only thinly tolerated the British presence until they could stand on their own two feet and drive everyone else out?
They turned onto King George V Avenue, Jerusalem's main artery, and it was along there that O'Rourke led them into a small pub that almost seemed English. It was called the Duck and Doodle and though its barkeep was an Indian, the menu board offering fish-and-chips, kidney pie and cock-a-leeky soup.
"It’s all a bit off," said O'Rourke as they took a booth. "Indian cooking and all. But I prefer it here. Everywhere else they’re trying to feed you cucumber salad and chickpeas."
O'Rourke was right. The fish-and-chips had a slightly curried flavor, but the pint was English and the atmosphere felt like home.
That night, Howard found it hard to get to sleep. It wasn't just the thin mattress. It wasn't the whiskey and the lager. It was something else. He kept thinking about the stolen coat. No. The coat didn't matter. Or did it? Did someone think he was killing the king? Or just a man in a posh coat? If so, he must have been disappointed to find the pockets empty. But he had left the coat, left the coat for the Arab gardener . . .
He stood. It was so hot here. So unlike London. He pulled off his nightshirt and stood by the window to feel the night air on his skin. Most of the police force was billeted here on Mount Scopus. Even O'Rourke had a small room somewhere up here on the grounds that housed most of the police force. At least the air was fresh up here, thought Howard. The Old City streets smelled like donkey dung.
Absently, he fingered the oval medal around his neck, a fairly recent devotion to the Blessed Mother that had come about as a result of a nun who had seen a vision of Mary. On it was the image of Mary as she appeared in the Apocalypse, and the words, O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! He murmured the words as he looked out at the dark and quiet compound. Was it unusual for a detective sergeant to ask for prayers from the Blessed Mother to help him solve a case? He suspected it was. Howard returned to sit on his bed. He opened the drawer of the bedside table and pulled out his Rosary to say a decade. He would have to get a statue of the Blessed Mother for his room. He had left a delicate porcelain one back in London, certain that it wouldn't survive the journey.
He concentrated his mind on the Apostle's Creed. Something about it made him think of his new Chief. Yes, he liked the Chief. He sensed a purity of spirit about him. Most people lacked that, always eager to be at the centre of civilization, keeping up with the latest books or theatre. Howard felt at the centre of things when he prayed, like he had entered into the courts of Heaven itself and stood at the feet of the Blessed Mother herself, the Queen of Heaven. It was something the Protestants did not understand, this devotion to the mother of Jesus. But Howard looked at it this way, she would have been crowned Queen of Judah had Judah not fallen to the Babylonians. She and Joseph came from the line of kings and queens that had descended from David himself. Had she lived in different times, people would have come and kissed her feet and made their petitions to her. Was it not understandable, then, that the Church started by her son shouldn't treat her with the respect she was entitled to? He was the promised king who sat on David's throne. That made his mother Judah's final queen.
By the time he finished the decade, he was sleepy. He still felt like he was forgetting something, but it would have to wait.
O'Rourke crouched down, examining the spot where Juan's body had fallen, despite that many feet must have trod over the space by now and all clues would be lost in the dust.
O'Rourke stood and looked around.
"We're close enough to a main thoroughfare. Is the gardener certain no one passed by him?"
"He didn't see anyone." They both glanced over at the small, gated doorway that would lead to the compound of the Church of the Flagellation.
"It would have all been over in seconds," said O'Rourke, sighing. "I have the constables rounding up all known trouble-makers. I hate to do that. It tends to stir things up and our High Commissioner does not want things stirred up. Everything here is political, even a criminal investigation."
Howard nodded. Now it would be a case of determining whether any of the previous offenders had been anywhere near here the night Juan was murdered.
"I would appreciate it if you would update the king for me," said O'Rourke as they headed back to the Via Dolorosa. "I'm going back to see whose been brought in for questioning."
Howard appreciated that O'Rourke had the faith in him to entrust him with this diplomatic mission. Or maybe he just figured that since both Howard and the king were Catholic, it was more natural to send Howard than to go himself.
They were moving through the Muslim Quarter, to Damascus Street where they turned and exited the Old City through the Damascus Gate. From there, they followed the Street of the Prophets, going their separate ways when O'Rourke headed for the Russian Compound and Howard for the King David Hotel.
What would he say to the king?
He entered the lobby and found it quiet. It was too early for tea in the lobby although Nubian waiters were serving some well-to-do tourists Turkish coffee. It was hard to think of anyone here at the King David Hotel as anything but a tourist. Pilgrims were more likely to be found in the Y.M.C.A. across the street.
Showing his identification to the concierge, he was quickly escorted up to the king's suite where he found the Spanish sovereign seated, his fingers moving through the Rosary beads in his lap. Howard stayed back under the arch separating the entryway from the sitting room until the king finished his decade and waved him forward to sit across from him.
The king smiled and said, "See, I use the beads." He held up the Rosary that Howard had given him.
Howard nodded. There was something child-like about the king, a desire to please that seemed incongruous for a monarch, even a former one.
The king leaned forward.
"There is news?" he asked.
"Well," said Howard, also leaning forward. "Yes and no. We are currently taking into custody all known felons and one of them should be able to tell us more. The Detective Chief Inspector just wanted to keep you updated. Unfortunately no one in the vicinity actually witnessed anything." His eyes wandered to the Rosary still in the king's lap. The Rosary. That's what had been bothering him. That was the niggling thought that had kept him awake the night before. Why did the king need a Rosary? Surely, a Catholic monarch would have his own that he would bring with him, even when fleeing the country.
"Your highness," he said. "If I may be bold enough to ask something that's been bothering me . . ."
"But, of course," said the king, waving his hand for him to continue.
"Were you forced to leave your Rosary behind when you left Spain?"
The king's lip twisted slightly.
"No," he said. "No, I was not. I brought it with me. It was in the pocket of the coat."
"Oh," said Howard, leaning back. That explained it. The coat that Juan had been wearing. Then Juan praying the Rosary in an Arab cafe made sense. "I hope it was not a great loss to you, a family heirloom, or something along those lines."
The king was silent before he spoke.
"It was of great value," he said. "But not because it belonged to my family."
It was Howard's turn to be silent.
"But it was of great monetary value." The king leaned forward slightly. "I do not think that Juan knew I kept it in my coat. It was in a pocket in the lining." The king sighed and looked out the window. But Howard doubted he was taking in the magnificent gardens of the hotel.
"When I left Spain, there was very little goodwill towards me," the king said. "I had seen the darkness approaching and had taken what steps I could."
The king's eyes were faraway.
"I sold what I could and bought precious stones which I had made into a Rosary." The king shook his head. "There was nothing like it. Each stone different. An object of extraordinary beauty. I feared that if I simply left my country with the stones, they would be confiscated, but a Rosary would be allowed. And it was."
"Did anyone know about the Rosary?" Howard asked.
The king nodded.
"The jeweler who made it, of course. And there would have been others. In a palace, there are very few secrets that remain secret. My tailor crafted the pocket in the coat for me. Both he and the jeweler are back in Spain. Upon thinking, I wonder if they were questioned by the rebels. If so, it would be known that I had such a fine object in my possession. And that I kept it in my coat. I am now thinking that Juan was killed for the coat, not because someone thought it was me."
"I am very glad you told me about the Rosary," said Howard. He thought again of Juan praying the Rosary in the cafe . . . But that did not make sense. Why pray a Rosary in a cafe when the Church of the Flagellation was so close by? He felt his heart sink. Juan wasn't praying the Rosary. He was selling the Rosary. His fingers making their way through the beads was to show how each stone was different. It seemed likely that he had been unable to sell the Rosary at the time, probably due to its enormous value, and that the man he had shown it to had decided to simply take it.
"We will do everything we can to get the Rosary back," said Howard.
The king shook his head.
"I do not care about the Rosary, anymore. I am only sorry that it cost Juan his life," said the king. He held up the Rosary Howard had given him. "This is my Rosary now. It means more to me because I use this one. With the Blessed Mother's prayers, I feel rich."
Howard nodded, at the same time deciding not to tell him that Juan was probably attempting to sell the Rosary. If it could be avoided, the king did not need any more betrayals in his life. But O'Rourke needed to know that a Rosary of great value was the motive for the crime. He promised the king he would return with an update and walked the short distance back to the Russian compound, stopping a passing constable to ask where interrogations generally took place.
He arrived to find one man being escorted into the room while another was being escorted out. O'Rourke was in the hallway.
"You look like you have something for me," he said, as Howard approached. Howard nodded.
"I do," he said. "I suggest you look for someone who has some experience with precious gems." He told him about the Rosary. He also told him about Juan in the cafe with an Arab.
"What did the man look like?"
"Like a native. Dark hair and all that."
O'Rourke nodded and Howard thought that despite the poor description, the Chief actually looked pleased.
"In any case, it brings us down to only two. One's an Arab, one's a Jew. Both of them are behind anything involving stolen gems, but I'm inclined to think it will be the Arab since it was the Muslim Quarter. But still, the Jew could pass for an Arab. He was born here and he's fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic."
The other known felons were sent home and Howard was invited to sit in on the interrogation of one Yitzak Steimatzky. But on the night Juan was murdered, he claimed to have been with his wife's family in Safed, attending a bris. When the Arab, Abdul al-Husseini, was shown in, he was less fortunate in being able to pinpoint his location that night. He shrugged and said he was usually in his favourite cafe, the one near Herod's Gate, but he couldn't be sure about the time.
"Are you familiar with the concept of a Rosary?" O'Rourke asked.
"Of course," said al-Husseini. "It is a Christian item."
Howard sat and listened as O'Rourke continued to methodically ask questions, mild and unthreatening. Al-Husseini answered, confident that he could evade all incrimination. But the longer O'Rourke went on, the more it became evident that al-Husseini could not account for where he was that night and that he was very uncomfortable with the idea that his home and place of business might be searched by the Jerusalem constabulary. When he was detained on suspicion of theft and murder, the concern on his face was enough to convince Howard that the man was guilty. He looked defeated.
"That one was easy," said O'Rourke, as they headed out into the late afternoon sun. "The next one will not be as easy."
"Is that a promise, sir?" said Howard.
O'Rourke nodded. "This is Jerusalem, Howard. It's rarely easy. Tell the king for me, will you?" he said before veering off to cross the courtyard back toward his office. Howard kept walking along the path, exiting the compound and heading back to the King David Hotel.
He thought of the gardener with the king's coat. Foolish boy. He could be arrested and charged as an accessory if he ever wore the thing in public. Living with the Franciscans in Jerusalem hadn't seemed to improve him. Coming to Jerusalem had not improved Juan, either. Only the king seemed a better man for it.
Read the next story in the Chronicles of Palestine:
The Romeo of Jerusalem Mystery by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong