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First Edition Web V1.0 2017



CHRONICLES OF PALESTINE

by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong




The Canaanite Idol Mystery


I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,
Like rosebushes in Jericho,
Like a fair olive tree in the field,
Like a plane tree beside water.

(Ben Sira 24:14)

Jerusalem
1934

"I imagine there would be somewhat of a delay." Detective Sergeant Howard spoke dryly.

O'Rourke, his superior, nodded.

There had been recent Arab attacks on Jewish settlements in the north, in the Galilee region. Each Jewish settlement had an armory, which was sealed by the British. They could only be unsealed in the event of an attack.

"It seems that our patrols are assiduous about routinely going out to check that the armories are still sealed," continued O'Rourke. "But how prompt are they in arriving at the actual hour of need? Don't think I'm not glad that we're here and not there."

"As far as I know, the Hasidic Jew has very little interest in the goings on up there," said Howard. "And I'm glad because I'd hate to have to quell any protests here in Jerusalem."

Jerusalem was for the Jews who wanted to pray, not for the Zionists who wanted to plant Eucalyptus trees and drain marshes and repel attacks from Arabs.

The truth was, most of the Holy Land was more of a war zone than a place of peace and prayer. Howard, a devout Catholic, thought about the Rosary beads in his pocket. But it wasn't just a war between two ancient Semitic peoples. It was a war for souls. Despite the religiosity of Jerusalem, he wondered how many of his fellow ruling Britons were heading for the fires of hell due to their daily indifference to the Passion of the Christ that had played out in the streets of this Holy city almost two millennia earlier. When he prayed, his intentions were often for fellow members of the Palestine Police Force who seemed only to want to do their job and finish the day with a pint and a game of skittles.

"To be honest," said O'Rourke. "I think the Zionists could do the job without us. Those Jewish lads are so organized they don't need us showing up to unlock their armories."

He was referring to Haganah, the Jewish defense force that the British Mandate administration tolerated, as long as it didn't unsettle things too severely. The British had a sense of fair play. If a bloke struck you, you had the right to strike back. But most in the administration didn't want to see it go any further than that. Haganah was not to be used as a force for driving the Arabs out of their own land.

The whole situation was complicated by the fact that the Arabs now had to contend with new artificial borders created by England and France. They had once passed freely through Greater Syria. But since the victory over the Ottomans, Greater Syria had been divided between the victors. A shepherd who once freely roamed with his sheep found himself encountering borders that now couldn't be crossed without papers. The creation of Syria, Palestine and the Trans-Jordan had separated families from one another and at times, had even separated men from their own olive trees.

A side effect of it all was that the Arabs made effective smugglers. They knew the paths that were not on the British maps and had a knack for crossing the frontiers undetected once the British patrols had passed.

And it was not just the Arabs. The Jews were known to engage in smuggling, mostly guns, but usually from the sea, not the desert.

But today, despite the small talk about armories in the Galilee, Detective Chief Inspector Adam O'Rourke was not concerned about the smuggling of guns. It was antiquities that concerned him. There were several archaeological digs going on throughout Palestine. The Palestine Exploration Society was popular in London and never had trouble raising funds for Biblical sites. Prominent universities all over England wanted to have a dig site. There were currently dig sites at Jericho; several in Samaria and Galilee; and one at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Many of them had lost recently-excavated artifacts.

It was a nightmare thought. The souks of the Old City were filled with supposedly authentic artifacts. The Arabs had a whole cottage industry of manufacturing those "authentic" artifacts that were later sold to gullible tourists.

If a tourist was foolish enough to think he was actually purchasing King David's drinking cup, O'Rourke was inclined to let the Arab merchant get away with it. But if authentic artifacts were being sold in some back room, that was different.

"It makes no sense," said O'Rourke. It was Howard who had brought the news to his Chief. One of his few off-hours activities was to visit the holy sites and places like the Palestine Archaeological Museum. He had heard it from the Franciscans who had always taken an interest in the relics of the Holy Land. In fact, the Catholic Church had been interested in archaeology in Palestine since the days when Constantine's mother, Helena, had come to Jerusalem looking for the true cross.

The reports had come in informally, indirectly. At first, the archeologists had assumed that an Arab worker had taken the items or that they had simply been misplaced. The Department of Antiquities oversaw all the archaeological sites in Palestine and had realized that there might be a more organized hand behind the missing pieces.

"Are they investigating it themselves?" O'Rourke asked.

Howard nodded.

"They don't need us, really. It was just a professional bit of gossip."

O'Rourke shook his head.

"I don't like it, Howard," he said. "Maybe they'll nab the Arab worker on the site who's filched the pot or the statue. But he's just the first link in a long chain and he's only doing it in order to make a few extra pounds to feed his family."

Howard nodded.

"It's the men smuggling the items out of the country that concern me," O'Rourke continued.

"It could just be more Arabs," said Howard. "Eager to make a few dollars."

O'Rourke shook his head.

"They're too busy smuggling in rifles. They're smuggling in ammunition. They're smuggling in anti-Semitic propaganda pamphlets. And I'm told by one of my sources they're even smuggling in money with a bit of help from an Italian diplomat who receives it in the diplomatic mail. The smugglers these days are preparing for a war with the Jews. They don't smuggle artifacts. They make artifacts."

O'Rourke leaned forward in his chair.

"No, I'm afraid if it's artifacts being smuggled out of this country, it's one of us. And he's selling the items to men who should know better. These items won't show up in a souk in Damascus. They'll languish in some wealthy English family's collection for hundreds of years until everyone's forgotten where they came from in the first place."

Howard thought about all the private British collections back in London. Were rich collectors receiving items that should rightfully be in the Palestine Archaeological Museum or the British Museum?

"Where do you suggest we start?" Howard asked.

"I was going to ask you the same thing. What do your priests say about it?"

The Franciscans Howard had casually talked to were as ignorant as the Department of Antiquity as to where these antiquities were going; which meant that no Catholic criminals had passed through the confessional.

"No Catholics involved as far as we know," he said, smiling.

O'Rourke rarely smiled and Howard didn't expect it now.

"That’s a start," he said. "Who else can we rule out?"

"The hardworking ones amongst us who are too busy to engage in any side work," suggested Howard.

"In other words, the entire Palestine Police Force," said O'Rourke. This time he did smile as he stood and leaned against his desk. “You have a point, though. If anyone in our community seems to be both idle and prosperous, that might be a place to start. I suggest some undercover work."

Howard groaned.

O'Rourke nodded.

"I know neither of us like society, but one of us is going to have to start getting out more and listening to the chatter that goes on."

"They won't accept me," said Howard firmly. "Franciscans like me. Dominicans like me. But I doubt that Anglicans will like me. You're an Anglican..."

"Not everything is about religion," said O'Rourke firmly. “You can do it because you are younger and you are more likely to go dancing, for example. Do you dance?"

"I think so," said Howard. "If by that, do you mean, have I danced socially with a woman? Yes, I have." London Catholic society offered both drinking and dancing, and not just for the younger set.

"Then that settles it," said O'Rourke.

Howard nodded thoughtfully, not because he liked the idea of getting out and dancing with girls he had no intention of getting to know better, but because something had occurred to him. Or in this case, someone. Harry Crawford, musical director to the Jerusalem Play Society and Palestine Police constable. They had met when he and O'Rourke had been investigating the death of an Arab Romeo. Harry seemed like the right sort to know what was going on in Jerusalem.

He mentioned it to O'Rourke.

"I have no problem with you using Crawford to meet people," he said. "In fact, it's a splendid idea. However, you cannot tell him why. It will spread like wildfire in this set and whoever's doing this will never touch an antiquity again."

Howard nodded. Colonial sets were much the same everywhere. Everyone knew each other's business.

"Just pretend you want to meet a woman," said O'Rourke.

Howard sighed. If he ever married, it would be to a woman who resembled Raphael's Madonna of the Rose, not one of fripperies that passed for womanhood among the bright young things of London or Palestine.

He set out in search of Harry Crawford, who according to the constable on Station Diary Duty had left a half hour earlier after his shift in the Old City. After a good, stiff walk back to the barracks where the Palestine Police were billeted, Howard found him in his room on Mount Scopus.

They exchanged pleasantries but after that, Howard learned that Crawford was morose these days. A dashing cavalry officer had stolen his girl, Gweneviere Ashton, from him.

“I know this sounds like I'm a rotter,” said Crawford, sitting on his bed. “But I thought that being rather plain, she was safe somehow.”

Howard sat down on the hard chair that came with each room.

"I know, I know," said Crawford, waving a hand. "I took her for granted. I guess it was her goodness. That's what he saw in her. God knows he could have any woman in Palestine and probably has. His name is Anthony St. John and he's the younger son of some baron. They always get the ladies, those minor members of the aristocracy. I think Gwennie's goodness is reforming him, though. Apparently he's goes to thought-provoking lectures now, instead of what passes for Bacchanalian orgies here in the Holy Land."

"One can get tired of debauchery," agreed Howard. "The pleasures of sin are for but a season."

"What brings you here?" asked Crawford. Like any morose person, he had been self-absorbed at first. Now he came out of it.

"Well, ironically," said Howard, "I was considering getting out more socially. Not for any Bacchanalian orgies," he added. "But just to meet people."

"I'm not much help there," said Crawford, stretching out on his bed. "To tell you the truth, Howard, I'm sick of people at the moment. I haven't been out since Gwennie left me. It's been months."

Howard left Crawford on his bed with his hands behind his head staring mindlessly at the ceiling. He promised to come back for a visit sometime and suggested maybe they could have a pint sometime at the Duck and Doodle.

But the whole thing left him right back where he had started. O'Rourke expected him out drinking and dancing, but in Howard's experience, nothing of importance was said at those types of events. Oh, he could ask who had money and who didn't and everyone would share all the latest gossip, but he was hoping for a shortcut.

Crawford had mentioned thought-provoking lectures. That made him think of all the little museums springing up in Jerusalem since the Mandate. Wasn't it just as likely that whoever was doing this was also familiar with the value of the particular antiquities he was selling? Howard decided to start with the museums and the lectures held at them. It was just as easy there to gain information as it was at a dance. Collectors and scholars knew as much about one another as society people did.

He already knew that Franciscan Biblical Museum was not beginning another lecture series until next month so he set out on the short walk to the Hebrew University, also on Mount Scopus.

In fifteen minutes later he was standing outside of the Hebrew University. It had been established within months of the British taking Jerusalem before they had even gained the Mandate for Palestine. The notice board of upcoming events told him that although there were an abundance of lectures on topics like soil improvement in Palestine and the interesting life story of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, father of modern Hebrew, there was nothing that would interest an antiquities thief.

He decided to return by bus to the main part of the city and start with the American School of Oriental Study and Research which was open to visitors. The Americans had been sponsoring excavations in the region since the 1800's. In the days of the Turks, their headquarters in Jerusalem had been in a hotel room. Now, with the British Mandate, they had established themselves in Jerusalem with a more official series of buildings. The notice outside the main building informed him that there would be a lecture tomorrow night on the topic of Jerash in the Trans-Jordan. Jerash was a Roman city in the desert and promised to be a fruitful excavation site. Howard would attend, but decided in the meantime to see what the Palestine Museum was offering.

The Palestine Museum was in a dilapidated building with a small exhibition hall, but it was advertising a lecture for that evening on the topic of some fifth-century B.C. tombs that had been discovered, rather ironically, when construction began to replace the current museum with a new one funded by a certain Mr. John D. Rockefeller of Cleveland, Ohio. Howard would definitely attend although he doubted that tombs would be of interest to any antiquities thief.

As a temporal act of mercy, he decided to return to Harry Crawford. He felt confident that Harry, although he wouldn't want to hear about the local thought-improving lectures, would benefit from some of the Irish whiskey Howard had back in his room.

He stopped first in his own room for the whiskey and some glasses and then returned to Crawford's. He found Crawford up and sitting on the edge of his bed and happy to see Howard.

"I'm thinking of becoming a monk," he said to Howard while Howard poured them each a drink. "Do you absolutely have to be Catholic to be a monk?"

Howard nodded as they downed their whiskey.

"What's that like, to be Catholic?" Crawford asked while Howard poured them each another.

"Much like High Anglican, but we believe the Pope is Christ's vicar on earth."

"That mightn't be so bad," said Crawford, thoughtfully. "Is he a decent fellow, the Pope?"

"The currently one certainly is," said Howard. "I'll be honest with you, though, some of them have had disreputable private lives. But none of them have ever done anything to disturb the doctrines of the Church."

"What do you mean?" asked Crawford, sounding genuinely curious.

"Let me put it this way," said Howard, leaning forward. "A pope in medieval Rome may have had a mistress, but he never changed the doctrines of the Church to say that having a mistress was acceptable."

"I see what you mean," said Crawford, nodding thoughtfully. "Preserved the sense of guilt and all that." He had finished the whiskey and now he stretched out on his bed. "Thanks, old chap. I couldn't sleep. That should do it." Within minutes, he was snoring.

Howard stood. He doubted Crawford would become a monk. In fact, it sobered him to think that Crawford was only considering the life of a religious because his life was currently in a slump. The devil could so easily find ways to distract him back to the cares and concerns of the world. Howard sighed and pulled out his Rosary beads for the bus ride back to the museum. That's why great saints had devoted themselves to Our Lady and Her Rosary.

"Quite dull," Howard reported to O'Rourke, the next day. He had attended the lecture on the tombs found at the site of the soon-coming new museum. Its nickname was 'the Rockefeller' after its benefactor. "Not from the archaeological perspective, but from the perspective of who attended. A retired army officer. I could tell just by looking at him. Two missionary sisters, both in their fifties. They were delighted to tell me about their work with Arab children. Several Franciscans from the Biblical Museum. I recognized them, so no chance of them being in disguise. Some Russian Zionists. The rest were Hebrew scholars, the roly-poly sort who don't actually go out to the sites but spend their days in the library of the Hebrew University."

"Any Arabs in attendance?"

"Not that I noticed. They're thought to be Jewish tombs. They predate the Muslim conquest by about a thousand years."

"And tonight there's another lecture?"

Howard nodded.

"Hopefully it will be more fruitful."

The topic of Jerash brought out more visitors to the American School of Oriental Study and Research. Their clean, modern hall was filled with people milling about and if Howard had a paucity of suspects the previous night, here he had an abundance. In addition to the usual scholars, missionaries and Franciscans, there were at least a dozen young Englishmen, most of them with ladies.

He recognized Gwennie Ashton, caught her eye and smiled at her. She was at the front of the room with a tall, handsome man in dress uniform. Crawford would have found that immensely annoying since the military offered its men far smarter uniforms for their off-hours than the police force. Gwennie returned the smile with a small wave as she and her friend took a seat in the front row.

Howard took one in the back row.

The lecturer, a dashing older American archaeologist in working apparel, appeared from a side door and there was the usual rustling of programs and last minute arrivals before everyone settled down to listen. The lecturer had slides to share and the lights were dimmed, so it was hard for Howard to make notes of everyone in attendance. After the intermission, though, things improved significantly. There was a question-and-answer session and most people introduced themselves to the visiting archaeologist before asking their question. None of the ladies asked questions, but many of their escorts did. Some of them seemed more interested in life in the Trans-Jordan than in the actual excavations at Jerash which caused Howard to think they were considering a transfer to the Arab Legion. The lecturer might have turned them off, though, with his tales of bloodshed among the feuding Bedouins. Howard suspected he was embellishing. No such reports had ever passed through the office of the Palestine Police. The Bedouin liked their camel raids and there was a lot of rifle fire into the air when one happened, but most people were smart enough to keep their heads low during them.

In the end, there were only two people among the British set who did not ask a question: Gwennie Ashton's escort and one young Englishman who looked like he probably worked in administration. Howard made a sketch of the latter and he knew that someone on the force would recognize him.

O'Rourke was pleased with the list of names. He took the list and began making phone calls to both the army and to administration to find out who was with whom. Howard took his sketch over to the constable on Station Diary Duty. Even though the constable didn't recognize the man, so many men passed through the small office that within a half hour a sergeant had identified the man as one James McVitie, with administration over at the King David Hotel. Education, he thought.

"Works with the Jews," the man said.

Howard nodded. The Jews were doing a good job of creating a public education system for the children of the new arrivals. The biggest push was to get them into a program where they would all grow up as Hebrew-speakers.

He returned to find that O'Rourke had occupations for the remaining Englishmen. Three of them were with the army in Sarafand, on leave in Jerusalem; seven were with administration and one was a constable. Gwennie's friend was the only one with the mounted patrol.

"All hard-working men above reproach, at least according to their supervisors. Especially young St. John. He seems to up for some kind of medal for taking on an entire gang of brigands by himself."

Howard, thinking of the morose Crawford said, "There's a good chance he stumbled upon them by accident and had to fight for his life."

O'Rourke nodded.

"That's usually the way it is. Still, circumstances can make a hero of a man. Are you much of a reader?"

The question was abrupt.

"Of course," he said. "When I have the time." Howard's opinion of literature was that it was a way of working things out in a sin-filled world.

"I was thinking the libraries might be of some help." O'Rourke looked at him more with amusement than reproach. "Especially as you do not seem inclined to mingle socially."

"I should have thought of that," said Howard nodding. There were several public libraries in Jerusalem. The Dominican Library of St. Etienne. St. George's Cathedral Library. The Franciscans had one at Terra Santa. For those who liked manuscripts, the Orthodox Patriarchate maintained an impressive collection. The Jews also had their own libraries. None of them, except perhaps the library at the newly-opened YMCA, carried light fiction, so one could expect serious-minded scholars to frequent all of them.

He set out on foot to do the rounds. He had a special affinity for the Dominicans since it was their founder, St. Dominic, who had done so much to promote the Rosary. It was even said he was the one to have organized the prayers the way they were said to this day. Of course, the Our Father went back to the days of the Lord himself. The Hail Mary had begun with the greeting of Gabriel to Mary and contained Elizabeth's words to the Blessed Mother. But to put them all together into the rose garden that was the Rosary was the work of St. Dominic.

The chief librarian at the Dominican Library had no information for him. No Englishman (or Englishwoman) had been in to look through their fine collection. The Franciscans, with their perennial interest in archaeology, reported that while they had many of their own coming in to read about the latest archaeological sites and findings, only one layperson had come in to visit in the last month. From the description given to Howard, he sounded like James McVitie. That was logical considering his post in the Department of Education but it also made him a viable suspect.

The librarian on Mount Scopus also said that someone fitting James McVitie's description often frequented the library of the Hebrew University.

It was late when Howard returned to the police compound, but O'Rourke was still in his office. He reported his findings.

O'Rourke nodded.

"That's timely," he said. He held up what he been reading. "Something else has disappeared."

"What is it this time?" said Howard, coming forward.

"A Canaanite deity of some sort. Stone thing. Quite ugly." O'Rourke held up a photo. "But quite significant, I'm told. Found in the north, somewhere in Galilee. It was on its way to Jerusalem for an appraisal and disappeared along the way."

"What do you mean, disappeared?" Howard took a seat across from O'Rourke.

"That's what we're looking into. The archaeologist was travelling by car. A student, really, by the name of Eric Baker. He stopped off at Jericho for lunch and to meet with some of his fellow archeologists there. The idol was being carried in a rucksack. When he opened it to show it off, he found it had been replaced by a stone of similar weight."

"A stone from Jericho?"

O'Rourke nodded.

"That was my question, too. While you were gone, I sent a telegram to one of the archaeologists in Jericho. He kindly replied right away. Yes, it was a type of stone common to Jericho. In fact, it came from the archeological site. From one of the walls. It was a wall made of uncut stone, not one of the mud brick walls that was brought down by Joshua. The stone wall was believed to be some kind of a flood barrier. Definitely not the kind of stone found in the Galilee region."

"So the statue was exchanged in Jericho," said Howard, stating the obvious, but they were both thinking it.

"Yes, probably during lunch. They ate outside, at a table. The rucksack was by the foot of the chair, but there were so many people milling around that it seems like the only possible time for the exchange to have taken place."

"Were any of those people milling around, by chance, our Mr. McVitie?"

"Send off a telegram and find out," said O'Rourke, standing. "I'm tired. I'm hungry. The Duck and Doodle awaits."

The telegram office was closed so Howard joined O'Rourke for a late supper at the Duck and Doodle, a pub that served a quaint Indian-version of English cuisine. Their fellow Britons eschewed it for more fashionable establishments, but that was how O'Rourke preferred it. So they ate along with the Indian soldiers who were stationed in Palestine. There were enough to keep the Duck and Doodle in business. In the background, the radio was set to JCKW, a station that broadcasted in Hindi.

Christian Arabs who worked for the Administration also enjoyed the unique ambience and that hint of curry that showed up in the most English of meals, fish-and-chips.

"It occurs to me," said Howard, as he reached for the malt vinegar to sprinkle generously on his chips. "That our dealer is somebody trustworthy."

"That occurred to me, too," said O'Rourke. "What brought you to that conclusion?"

"Art forgeries are easy to expose," said Howard. "If you sell someone a Monet, then there can't be any other Monet like it in the world or else it's obviously a copy. But when it comes to Canaanite deities, there could be thousands of them. The buyer is trusting that this particular one is actually authentic and not just made by some cottage-industry in Hebron."

"Excellent," said O'Rourke, nodding. "I have to admit, that line of reasoning didn't occur to me. I was simply thinking that despite all the hustle and bustle of an archaeological dig site, whoever approached the table and managed to exchange the statue for a stone was someone that they all expected to see there. And it wouldn't be a common Arab labourer, although it might be a trusted Arab servant."

"That's certainly true," agreed Howard.

"If Mr. McVitie was there, then we'll start by questioning him," said O'Rourke. "However, if he wasn't, then I'm afraid you'll have to go out to the dig site itself and see what you can find." O'Rourke had finished his steak and kidney pie and his eyes were now reading the daily menu on the chalkboard. "Ah, good. I see there's jam roly-poly for pudding."

The one other time Howard had visited Jericho, it was in an elegant Vauxhall. Today he arrived in an army truck. O'Rourke had arranged for transport with an army vehicle on it's way to the Trans-Jordan after the telegram from the dig site came back saying that no one from the Department of Education had been present on the day the statue had been exchanged.

Howard arrived at ancient Jericho feeling dusty. No matter. He would only feel dustier the longer he stayed. Although the newer part of Jericho was a reasonably civilized Arab town, ancient Jericho was a heap of dusty ruins. The dig site bustled with the labour of Arab workers supervised by British and American overseers. Some of the trenches were quite deep, Howard estimated somewhere between 30 and 40 feet, as the workers excavated the original walls. Just beyond the site was an arrangement of white tents, some portable showers and some wooden tables. That was of more interest to Howard because it was most likely where the statue had been lost. Howard approached one of the supervisors, showed his Palestine Police badge and asked to talk to the senior archaeologist.

"You'll want Professor Garstang," said the young man, pointing toward a trim man with a beard and mustache, wearing a flyer jacket with dark pants, dark sunglasses and an Arab keffiyah around his head. He looked to be in his late fifties or early sixties.

Howard approached the man, who was crouched by one of the trenches, watching the progress down below.

Howard introduced himself and Garstang stood. He hardly took note of the badge. His mind seemed to remain in the trench until Howard started talking about the missing statue.

"Ah, yes, that's a bad business." Garstang's mind started to focus on Howard. "Not my affair, of course. The statue was unearthed somewhere in the Galilee." Garstang started walking. "You know, though, it's an odd thing."

"What's that?" asked Howard.

"I thought we were having an archaeologist from Sepphoris visiting us. As you know, Leroy Waterman is up there."

Howard didn't know.

"In fact, I was certain that the young man who visited us that day said Sepphoris. And he definitely knew Leroy Waterman. Waterman has a sizeable team up there now."

"Is there any significance in that?" asked Howard, not afraid to admit his ignorance.

"Well, yes," said Garstang, as they headed toward another trench. "I was expecting some Crusader piece. Maybe even a sword."

Howard still didn't see his point.

"It's a Crusader site," explained Garstang. "A fort. The site shows promise."

"The Crusader period is separated from the Canaanite period by several thousand years," said Howard, now comprehending. "It will take years to get to the Canaanite period."

"If ever," said Garstang, pausing to examine the progress down below him. "The Bible does not even mention the city. Perhaps it did not even exist at that time."

"And yet, the statue was of a Canaanite deity," Howard said, stating the obvious, but speaking slowly to absorb this new information.

Garstang nodded.

"I have to admit, I was mystified. But, of course, there never really was a statue in the sense that we did not examine it. It was only the young man's word that there ever was one."

That was an interesting line of thought.

Garstang invited him to stay for lunch before briskly walking away to consult with one of his many student supervisors.

Howard knew he'd have to stay for lunch, just to observe how easy it might be to exchange a stone for a statue. But his mind was already moving forward with the investigation. It would seem that the investigation would be better centered on Sepphoris than on Jericho.

At lunch, around a long table that seated twenty people, Howard observed that there was so much laughing and talking, one would hardly even notice someone crouching down and fiddling with a rucksack. In addition to the archaeologists, there were some visitors from London, as well as a couple of cavalry officers who he learned often stopped by the Jericho site just to ensure that they were safe from marauders.

"All in all, it's rather hopeless," said Howard to O'Rourke the next day. He had returned to Jerusalem with one of the archaeologists who had needed to pick up some more quinine in Jerusalem. "Anyone could have done it. But frankly, I don't think that's the interesting part." He told O'Rourke what Garstang had said to him.

"We'll send a telegram off right away," said O'Rourke. "Maybe this Leroy Waterman has never even heard of the young man transporting the Canaanite deity."

But a telegram came back by late afternoon saying that yes indeed, the stone deity was found at the Sepphoris site. It was signed Leroy Waterman.

Howard and O'Rourke exchanged looks. It was too late in the day to send another telegram.

"We're going to have to go to Sepphoris," said Howard.

O'Rourke shook his head.

"No, I am pretty certain that Sepphoris has come to us. Come." O'Rourke stood. "I just hope we're not too late."

They spent the waning hours of the day going from museum to museum, but no one said they had received a visitor from the Sepphoris dig site.

"The Franciscans!" Howard snapped his fingers. "They have some keen archaeologists. And if you want an expert on Crusader architecture and artifacts, they're better than most."

"I forgot that it was your people who started the Crusades," said O'Rourke dryly. They were standing on King George Avenue, now filled with people out enjoying the cool night air and the open cafes.

"I think it could be argued that the Crusades were necessary," said Howard. "We'd all be Muslim now without them. Besides, St. Francis offered to walk through fire if it would cause the Sultan to turn to Christ as his Saviour."

"I'll admit, the gesture was impressive," said O'Rourke. "OK, the Franciscans it is."

Although the Franciscan Bible Museum was closed at this time of day, the Franciscan community kept their doors open and they were able to speak to one Father Bauer who said that, yes, a young man from the Sepphoris dig site had consulted with him about several Crusader items they had unearthed.

"He had several lovely pendants. A stone cross. A few dinals, the currency of the day, as you know." Howard knew. O'Rourke didn't but asked "Do you have any idea where we might find this man?"

"Oh yes," said Father Bauer, nodding. "He's staying with us."

Eric Baker, had he been an Israelite, would have been the type that Jesus would have described as being without guile.

"Oh yes," he said, nodding vigorously. "It was a deception, really." Baker was a tall sunburnt young man, with red hair and freckles. But he wasn't frail looking. His arms were muscular and his chest was filled out. Clearly, he liked to pitch in and help with the physical labour at the site.

He was sitting on the edge of the narrow bed in one of the tiny rooms provided for pilgrims. Howard was standing. O'Rourke had the straight-back wooden chair.

"Well, a deception to protect ourselves, if you know what I mean."

They didn't, but both of them were beginning to, even if it was still through a glass darkly.

"We have valuable items at Sepphoris," Eric Baker continued. "I think I can speak freely with you blokes. There's a sword. And swords are valuable." Eric leaned forward. "But the word is out that artifacts are disappearing. And we didn't want to lose ours. So Dr. Waterman suggested this little scheme. Make a big deal out of an artifact, trumpet it to the world that we're taking it to Jerusalem to be appraised. Schedule a stop in Jericho for lunch." Eric shook his head. "Well, you see what happened. I just thank God I didn't have the sword with me. I telegrammed Dr. Waterman. He advised me to stay in Jerusalem for a few days and keep my ears to the ground, so to speak. We don't dare move any of our artifacts from our safe until we know we won't lose them."

O'Rourke was silent. Howard wondered what he thought of Dr. Waterman and Mr. Baker's amateur detective work.

"But you had a Canaanite statue," said Howard.

Baker nodded.

"I know what you're thinking. We just used a stone statue we bought in the souk in Nazareth. We would have liked something more consistent with the Crusader period, but alas, the artisans of Nazareth are making Canaanite pieces these days. They sell quite well, I'm told," he added.

"Well," said O'Rourke, speaking at last. "We know one thing." He glanced at Howard. "We were giving our thief too much credit. He's a bit of a nincompoop if he can't tell the difference between Canaanite and Crusader."

Baker laughed and said "Yes, I suppose I shouldn't be keeping an eye on anyone in scholarly circles, eh, sir?"

"A lesson to us all," said O'Rourke dryly as Howard thought about all his visits to the lectures and to the libraries.

"Tell us about the people that were there that day," said Howard.

Baker nodded.

"I've been thinking back to that day myself. Of course there were all the archaeologists. And a few hangers-on. You know the type. They fancy themselves amateur archaeologists. They're tolerated because they give generously to the causes they believe in. A couple of lads on horses stopped by. Police, I think. Or maybe army."

"That fits with my day at Jericho," said Howard to O'Rourke. "There were a couple of the mounted patrol for lunch. To protect things, I'm told."

"I don't know why," said Baker. "They don't have anything particularly valuable at Jericho. It's all just walls and pottery."

"Thank you for being frank with us," said O'Rourke, standing. "I think you can rely on us to take it from here."

Baker smiled.

"I know when I'm being told to clear off." He stood, too, and extended a hand to O'Rourke. "Yes, I shall head back to Sepphoris. The Palestine Post will inform us when you catch the thieves."

"I assure you, we will keep the world safe for antiquities," said O'Rourke. It was hard to tell whether he was being humorous.

O'Rourke and Howard left the Franciscan hostel and went out into the night air.

"I'm going back to the office," said O'Rourke. From that, Howard knew that when O'Rourke had made a promise to keep the world safe for antiquities, he was going to keep it.

"I had planned to go see Crawford," said Howard, candidly. He knew his boss expected him to work just as hard, but the temporal and spiritual state of Crawford was as important to Howard as catching any criminal.

"Give him my best," said O'Rourke, tipping his hat and heading off into the darkness. Howard appreciated the way his boss didn't make him feel like less of a detective for wanting to take the time to perform an act of mercy.

It was late when Howard arrived back at Mount Scopus after a short bus ride. But he decided he'd knock gently to see if Crawford was still awake.

"Hello, old man." Crawford opened the door wearing a robe. There were bags under his eyes.

"I shouldn't have woken you," said Howard.

"I wasn't sleeping. I haven't slept in days. I've been sleepwalking on patrol through the Old City..." He stepped aside to let Howard in.

Howard took the chair and Crawford flopped on the rumpled bed.

"You're taking this hard."

Crawford groaned.

"The rotten part is, I took her for granted. I thought nobody else would want her. You know, the homely type." He held up his hand anticipating Howard's protest. "She is, old man. Not the glamorous type. But good through and through. And I was still making up my mind about her. How prideful." He shook his head. "Now all that's left for me is to join a monastery. There’s no other place for me, I'm afraid." He groaned louder this time. Howard had never seen a man brought so low by love.

"I swear, with God as my witness..." Despite being in a prone position, Crawford held up a hand. "If I get her back by some miracle, I will love her, cherish her, honour her, die for her if necessary."

"Sounds a bit like the wedding vow," said Howard.

"Oh yes," said Crawford, nodding, his hand still raised. "And I will marry her. That's a given, of course." His hand flopped down and he rolled over on his side, groaning a little more quietly. "Did you hear the news?" He wasn't looking to see Howard shake his head, but he continued speaking. "The blighter has given her a silver bracelet. One of those tennis things dangling with charms. One of the constables says he hasn't seen it, but his girl has. Not too shabby, I’m told."

"At least it's not a diamond ring," said Howard, leaning forward.

"Yes, we can thank God for small mercies," agreed Crawford. "Tell me, old man, what's your philosophy of life?"

Howard gave it some thought. "Well," he replied. "If Man was made for Eden, it seems natural that he should love his fellow man, love animals and love God. But since we also live in a fallen world, we need the Church."

"I'm still thinking of joining your Church," said Crawford. "As a last resort," he added. "God doesn't seem to talk me these days. Not that he ever did."

Howard understood that Crawford was saying that God would get Crawford's soul once he had lost all hope of regaining love. It seemed a grim sort theology, like something out of a Faustian novel.

"I've always found that the people who are most successful in communicating with God are the ones who have made his Church their first resort," he said.

"I don't know what your family was like," said Crawford, still facing the wall. "But in mine, God was always the last resort."

"I find great solace in theology..."

"Don't be tiresome," said Crawford. "You say that because you're not in love."

Howard knew the rudeness was due to Crawford's lack of sleep, but he thought that it still might be the right time to leave. He rose to his feet.

As he was leaving, Crawford muttered something. His back was still to him and Howard only heard one word. Jericho.

"What did you just say?" Howard asked, turning around.

"At least he's in Jericho," said Crawford, rolling over.

"What do you mean?"

"Another small mercy," explained Crawford. "The blighter is posted in Jericho, not here."

"I just assumed St. John was in Jerusalem. But when I saw him at that lecture, he must have had leave."

O'Rourke, behind his desk nodded while Howard paced.

"It's just a hunch," said Howard. "It's a number of things. He's the younger son of a baron. It means being used to the high life but not inheriting anything. A silver tennis bracelet on a cavalry officer's salary. The fact that there's nothing to guard at the dig site itself and yet the mounted patrols are regulars there. As Baker pointed out, it’s all walls and pottery. Why have a continual presence there? Unless you want to be in touch with the Arabs and their smuggling routes. The Arabs have a considerable presence in Jericho."

"There's something else that's even more compelling," said O'Rourke.

"What's that?" said Howard, pausing in his pacing.

"Gweneviere Ashton's father is District Superintendent of the Southern District. He's stationed in Jaffa."

"That's right," Howard snapped his fingers. "When we were investigating the Romeo death, I remember you telling me that her father was one of the earliest members of the Palestine Police force. But how does dating his daughter give St. John immunity?"

O'Rourke leaned forward. "Not immunity. But it does give him an excuse for being in Jaffa, one of our port towns, and it guarantees that his name will get dropped fairly early on in any investigation involving smuggling. It's the human element, I'm afraid. If Gweneviere Ashton is deliriously happy with her cavalry officer, her father is hardly likely to push forward his name as a possible suspect."

"I have no evidence, you understand."

"He's the officer in charge at Jericho," said O'Rourke, standing. "For now, that's good enough for me. At least I can bring him to discuss why he allowed a supposedly valuable statue to disappear on his watch."

St. John stood firm under questioning.

Yes, he had been present the day the statue disappeared. No, there had been no suspicious people at the site that day, although everyone knew you couldn't trust the Arabs. They'd steal the food from their aged mother's mouth if it suited them.

Howard hung back, allowing O'Rourke to carry out the interrogation. O'Rourke allowed the foolish remark about the Arabs to pass and moved on with a withering remark about the need to protect the walls of Jericho from disappearing.

"I think your time would be better spent clearing the hills of brigands than guarding walls that have been there for thousands of years."

Howard leaned forward. It was amongst the archaeologists of Jericho that St. John could learn about all the valuable finds in Palestine. The gossip would be regular and plentiful. Archaeology was a competitive field. Funding went to the sites with the promising finds. A valuable find at a site could mean that the interest of private investors could shift from one place to another.

"A man's got to take a break every now and then," said St. John.

"A strange remark from a man up for a medal. Cleared out a whole patch of brigands by yourself, did you?" O'Rourke slid a piece of paper across the table to St. John. "I looked it up. Not a single Arab was killed. One, possibly, might have taken a bullet to his arm. You were surrounded by them. Then one of your men arrived on the scene. You started shouting and shooting and they all cleared out." O'Rourke shook his head. "Strange. I've never known an Arab to back down like that. Two patrol officers? They could have shot both of you and retreated to the hills. Instead, no one gets hurt and you come out looking like a hero." O'Rourke leaned forward. "It seems pretty obvious to me now that those particular bandits were on your side, your smugglers, in fact. Arabs are notoriously good at crossing borders. Between them and you, you were prepared for every contingency. You have contacts in England. And they can move freely around Palestine and the Trans-Jordan."

St. John was silent.

"It will not be hard to find out who you sold those artifacts to. We have telegrammed your father and asked him to give us the names of all the aristocratic families in your circle who might be interested in purchasing stolen antiquities from you."

"He won't tell you anything," St. John burst out. Too late, he realized it was as good as an admission of guilt.

"We didn't think he would," said O'Rourke, standing. "So we didn't waste any money telegramming him." He nodded to Howard and said to St. John, "Detective Sergeant Howard will escort you to your cell."

"He'll be quietly sent back to England," said Howard shaking his head and refilling his glass of whiskey. He was in Crawford's room and Crawford was a new man. "The artifacts will never be retrieved, I'm afraid. They've been quietly sold to prominent English families who will keep them in their private collections from now until the Second Coming."

Crawford hardly heard him. He had on a freshly-pressed suit and was inspecting himself in the small glass hanging on the wall.

"I can't believe she's agreed to go out with me," he said, ecstatically. "After St. John, I didn't think I had a chance."

Howard wasn't surprised that Gweneviere was willing to lean on Crawford for emotional support. The poor girl had suffered a serious loss. Not only had she lost her dashing cavalry officer, but by now she probably strongly suspected that he had only been using her as a way to deflect suspicion from himself. Sure enough, they had found that the old port at Jaffa, rather than the newly-opened one at Haifa, had been the one St. John used to get his artifacts out of the country.

"Well, old man," said Crawford turning back to Howard. "It won't be the monastery for me because I am off to see a lady."

"He sends her roses everyday," Howard reported to O'Rourke, several weeks later.

"The man is crazy," said O'Rourke, not looking up from his desk. "Majnoon, as the Arabs would say." Things were quiet in Jerusalem. The inhabitants were behaving themselves, but there was still always the paperwork to catch up on.

"Oh, I don't know about that," said Howard pulling out his Rosary and taking a seat. Rosary literally meant 'garland of roses.' Every Hail Mary was considered a rose for the Blessed Virgin. Howard smiled. "Every man should send his lady roses."

THE END