It started, as these things normally do, in my office inside the walls of Jerusalem. It was late and I was getting bored of looking out through the rain of the early evening into the crowded streets below. Scholars, priests, guards, vendors: all making their way home. It made me want to go home too.
I’d made up my mind to leave when Effie Perine of Judea, my secretary, stepped inside and leaned her body against me.
"Samuel, there’s a woman outside," she said, looking up into my face with her dark, oval eyes.
"A client? Or am I becoming attractive in my old age?" I asked.
"You’re the detective," she quipped back. "Detect. And no, you’re not." And she stepped back out again. I had a few seconds to brush out the creases in my tunic and make sure my sandals were on straight before she returned.
With Effie was a dark-haired beauty, a real looker. She had a face that would stop a runaway mule in its tracks and legs under her dress right up to under her chin. In my mind. I cleared my throat and tried to clear my mind.
"Samuel Spadius," I introduced myself and pointed to the chair. "Won’t you take a seat Miss …?"
"Thankyou Mr Spadius," she said. "Magdalene. Mary Magdalene."
I watched her sit down. She looked like full-bodied wine pouring slowly into place as she folded into the seat. I caught a glimpse of ankle as she crossed her feet and turned slightly away from me. I wouldn’t need to visit Matthias The Adult Stone Tablet Seller for a while. My money lender would be pleased. Effie too.
"That’ll be all Effie," I said. I knew she was probably giving me a look as she turned and left but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the siren in my office. That was one lucky chair. I tried to snap out of it. "So what can I do for you Miss Magdalene?" All business. Business pays the bills.
"I’ve heard you’re good, Mr Spadius." she said. Her voice was like silk from the East. I liked the way her lips pursed when she said "good". Made me feel like behaving anything but.
"I’m not good." I replied. "But I’m good at what I do." That made her raise her eyebrows. "And my friends call me Sam."
"And your enemies, Mr Spadius? What do they call you?"
"Anything they want dollface." I kept my eyes locked on her, trying to read the broad. Maybe she was rich, her rich magistrate husband missing, presumed dead. Maybe she was lonely. Maybe she’d read some of the more positive comments scrawled about me on the walls downtown.
"Mr Spadius – Sam – do you know Jesus?"
I had a pretty good idea who she was talking about. You didn’t live in a big city doing the job I do without knowing what goes on but it never hurt to play it dumb. The more a client tells you the less chance there is of finding a gladius in your back and I didn’t want a gladius in my back.
"I know plenty of Jesuses," I said. I wondered whether the plural was Jesi. "You got a Jesus in particular?"
She told me which Jesus it was. Yeah, it was the one who everyone had been talking about for the last couple of years. I’d done some checking into his background six months before for Pilate. He’d been crucified the other day. Read about it but I never attended those things. In my line of work you see a lot of death. Besides, I was involved in the Free Uncle Barrabas Caper at the time. I felt like pressing her in more ways than one but I settled on information. Once she started it all came spilling out. My intoxicating client and a couple of friends had gone to anoint the body of Jesus just this morning only to discover the tomb open and empty.
"And you want the body found?" I asked.
"No, Mr Spadius," she replied. "I know where the body is. It’s in Galilee. And it’s walking and talking. And I want you to investigate how and why."
That brought me up short. Investigating living people is easy, dead ones easier still. The living-dead was new to me. I wasn’t about to let so valuable a client know I was scared though.
"It’s five pieces of silver a day Miss Magdalene. And you pay the expenses too." I said. Now I’d find out how rich she was.
She tossed over a small leather bag. I caught it on the third attempt and hoped I hadn’t looked like a floundering girl. Unless she liked that sort of thing. There was a lot of Greek influence in Jerusalem these days. Taramasalata I could do without. I was more accepting of other contributions though.
"There’s thirty there. That should be more than enough for someone as good as you say you are Mr Spadius. You can keep the change."
I got the feeling it wasn’t her money but I didn’t care where she’d got it from. I told my new client I’d be in touch and told her to leave her contact details and those of any next-of-kin – plus anything else she thought might be pertinent – with Effie on the way out. I hoped she’d take the hint.
It was still raining in the morning when I walked down to Galilee. I was soaked through. It fitted my mood. The delectable Miss Magdalene hadn’t taken my hint. It wasn’t hard to find Jesus. Something about rising from the dead attracts a crowd. I decided to take the direct approach but a couple of goons – they looked like brothers – stepped in my way.
"I’m here to see Jesus," I said. I flashed them my winning smile. I didn’t think it would work so I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t.
"Mister Jesus is a very popular man right now," said the older-looking of the two. "Maybe you should come back tomorrow."
"Yeah." That was his companion. These two weren’t in a discussing frame of mind. I turned and bowed slightly. I wanted them to think I was obeying but all I really wanted was to mask my movements. Quickly I spun back. In my hands I now had my trusty Smith & Ishmael .22 Slingshot, pulled back and fully loaded. I kept it pointed at Righty. Lefty froze too which was handy for both of us.
"Tell Mr Jesus that a friend of a friend is here to see him," I instructed Lefty. "Tell him now or I’ll plug your pal here so full of pebbles you can take day trips to the beach in his stomach." Lefty didn’t waste any time and disappeared into the mass of friends or well-wishers or tourists flocking to see this living miracle or whatever the hell they were. I kept my eyes peeled. Righty kept dead still. Smart move Righty.
"You can put that thing away now." It was a voice from behind me. I turned and looked at the speaker. Fanned out behind him were ten slabs of men. Nice moves. I hadn’t seen them coming. Three had slingshots of their own pointed in my general direction so I pocketed mine. I’ve learned when to be polite.
"You’re Jesus then?"
"Who are you?" he asked. I told him, and I explained why I was there. I left out who my client was. You’ve got to protect your client or word gets out and business dries up.
"You want to investigate me?" he continued after I’d finished. "Okay, investigate away detective man. Tell me what you find."
I looked him up and down. Tall guy. Long hair and beard. Followed the current fashion I saw. Smelled fresh, or as fresh as anyone ever got in Jerusalem. Didn’t look like he’d been dead any time recently in any case. The robe looked brand new, as did the sandals.
"You’re not how I imagined you’d be," I said. "From the stories people tell I thought you’d be a little humbler."
"What can I say?" he answered, arms spread wide, smiling. "Resurrection changes a man." His henchmob laughed.
"Then I’ll be off," I said.
"So soon? And just what are you going to tell your client?"
"The truth." He smiled at that so I continued. "Six months ago I found out some interesting facts about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. This weekend Jesus’ twin brother Abe stole the body of his brother from the tomb so as to take his place. It’s a perfectly simple scam to cash in on someone else’s good name and these unemployed Apostles were only too happy to trade on their reputations for a taste of the good life too."
The new and improved Jesus shrugged. "Well done gumshoe. Of course nobody’s going to believe you over us. In the meantime we’ve got a church to set up and money to start counting."
I walked away heading up the hill on the road to Jerusalem once more. "Don’t start trouble Mr Spadius," I heard shouted from behind me. "Or you’ll be reading about the miracle of the detective who couldn’t swim from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee." They laughed. I thought Dead Sea might have been more appropriate.
It hadn’t stopped raining when I left or, indeed, when I got back to the office. I’d done what my client wanted and I’d been threatened. I told Effie and a few other people who I thought might care. They didn’t and I couldn’t blame them. Miss Magdalene wanted nothing to do with me – and I couldn’t blame her either – and in a month had started up a little business called Bible Publications on the outskirts of Nazareth. I learned she’d started seeing Abe soon after. Matthias The Adult Stone Tablet Seller ended up getting most of my hard-earned money after all.