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Authors: Aiden James,Michelle Wright

Curse of Stigmata (The Judas Reflections) (9 page)

BOOK: Curse of Stigmata (The Judas Reflections)
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Caught between logic and Juan’s impassioned plea, Dario had a difficult decision on his hands.

“I’m being held against my will!” Rachel insisted. “Before you came in, I was bound to the bedpost. They even attempted to take me across the border in the hope of avoiding capture, until they met a passing stranger. This person knew my father who told them of his buried gold. What do they do next? They bring me back here in great haste to dispose of the body and torture me to extract information. Look at me Dario, I’m a hostage, a prisoner!”

There was no evidence of her being tied to her bed. Juan had kicked the rope into a corner before Dario had to chance to spot it. In the faint light of a dwindling lamp, it was Rachel’s word against ours. Who in their right mind would believe the ramblings of a crazy girl with blood coming from her eyes against the word of two respectful and well-behaved citizens?

“Look here,” I suggested. “I brought water and a cloth to wipe the blood away. Is that something a captor would do?”

“It would seem an odd thing to do, I grant you that…. Rachel, it’s possible you’re suffering from hysteria and grief. Being a stigmatic does make you unstable, does it not?” Dario was beginning to doubt her accusations. Exactly what I’d hoped for, although it didn’t exonerate me completely.

“Doubt all you want. The fact is, Emmanuel is guilty.”

I was beginning to see how her mind worked, especially when she referred to
her gold,
the spoils donated to her from naive believers. It was a slip of the tongue. She wasn’t defending her father’s honor; it was more about Rachel looking after her own interests. This included the belief that she now owned my precious coins. I chastised myself for not seeing it sooner.

Rachel was smart and way beyond her years. It was time to stop underestimating her abilities to destroy everything in her path and become one step ahead of her every move. Dario was none too happy with the outcome of what should have been a successful transaction. I’d paid him handsomely for the contact. Now, ironically, I considered it as money wasted.

Dario’s face was taut with anxiety as he addressed us all. “I must take a moral stand and report Isaac’s demise to the authorities. I can’t conceal what’s happened and you have no right to ask me to do so. But in view of my respect for Juan, I will give you two full days to remove yourselves—all of you. After that, the Gendarmerie will come. You leave me no choice. With or without a body, I
point the finger.”

Two days to find the coins and get far enough away and over the border. Rachel had to see the finger of justice would point in her direction if she stayed. It was now in her best interest to dig up the gold and my coins, respectively.

“I will be back in two days and I expect the place to be abandoned. The goats will be sold off and profits shared amongst the poor. It’s the least you can all offer, considering your greed,” he continued.

Juan didn’t take kindly to the insult. “I beg of you Dario, please. Rethink your damning comment. The only vested interest I have is in my friend Emmanuel, who has helped me on numerous occasions. I object to being thought of as greedy. Shame on you, for you know me well!”

“I will say it for the last time, you have two days to leave, a fighting chance to reach the border.”

Dario left our presence, before either of Juan or I could comment. Rachel responded by screaming obscenities, refusing to aid us to dig up the gold and adamant she would stay put no matter the outcome.

I wanted to throttle her, badly.

he early morning light brought no reprieve. It only served to highlight how monstrous I could be and the mess I’d brought on Juan. I needed to find a solution and a quick way out. The idea of prison or a drawn-out execution bringing no death were unappealing.

“Juan,” I said, waking his sleeping form next to me. “Get her up, we need to start digging.”

He looked at me despairingly, and I could guess what he was thinking: how to succeed in changing the mind of a stubborn mule?

“I’ll do what I can to get her to comply, but please, don’t blame me if she doesn’t.”

I agreed. Then, with a need for sustenance, I foraged around, finding a supply of bread and cheese. Feeling only inclined to lay a plate for Juan and me, the chance of Rachel having something to eat depended solely on her co-operation.

She appeared from behind the curtain looking more like a madwoman, with her hair hanging loose over her face. Dressed in little more than a see-through nightgown, without saying a word, she sat at the table and grabbed a piece of bread, tearing at it with her teeth like a wild animal. I noticed then she bore fresh stigmata wounds.

“Did I say you could eat?” I remarked.

“You don’t tell me what to do in my own home, nor do you scare me,” she replied angrily.

“I could easily walk away and leave you to the wolves who will be here in less than two days. Dario was deadly serious, Rachel, you’ll be taken away. What makes you think you’re above the law?”

She didn’t answer, chewing on the bread as if her life depended on it as she stared hard at me. It had become a game she seemed determined to win at any cost.

A firm decision had to be made, or we could all perish in prison.

“If you don’t comply willingly, then you leave me no choice but to drag you outside and force you to dig from the front of the door to the top of the hill, until you drop dead from exhaustion. Even if I can sense where they’re buried, you will keep going,” I warned.

Her expression melted to one of fear. Her immaturity and bravado was no match. It was time to teach her a lesson in authority.

“Get up, you can eat later,” I demanded. “We’re going outside.”

It was cold and slowly turning to winter, not long before the ground would be covered with a hard frost, making it impossible to penetrate. The first heavy snowfall was expected within a week. Covered with a shawl, Rachel remained by the door, unable to look me in the eye.

“Where is it, girl? Unless you want me to work you to death, it’s best you come clean with it now. Or you start digging, right here,” I brought a spade to her, holding an axe in readiness just in case she tried to attack me. In defiance, she dropped it by my feet.

“Pick it up,” I said.


Until now, Juan had stayed inside, not wanting to become involved. But her sheer insolence forced him to come outside and drag her off the porch in anger.

“Foolish girl, you are without a doubt your own worst enemy!” he proclaimed. Her response was to throw her head back and laugh and, with a wild and restless gesture of a hand, she pointed.

“Mon Dieu, the gold is over there, under the tree. Take it, I don’t care anymore. I only want to be left alone.”

While I hoped she was telling the truth, something told me she wasn’t. Juan and I raced over and began to dig but an hour later we had nothing to show for our hard work. Meanwhile, Rachel was back inside warming herself by the fire, surely unaware Juan often possessed a much shorter fuse than me. She was in for a surprise when he stormed into the hut to retrieve her.

“Where is it girl?!” he shouted. “Do not play games now or you will suffer worse. I swear it!”

I could hear her pleas to him she was being honest, and that she was certain her father had buried the gold beneath the bigger tree to the left. Juan didn’t believe her any more, and could be heard berating her as a liar and a host of other things…

“If you don’t tell me what you’ve done with it, Judas, you will feel my rod against your back. Where is it boy?” My father’s voice echoed over Juan’s. Centuries dispersed into a thousand tiny particles. I was no more than twelve years old, already with an acquired taste for the finer things, which I soon understood couldn’t be obtained without funds. My father found me employment helping fishermen unload their boats on the Galilee. I despised the work as much as I did the condescending fishermen who mocked my aspirations of becoming a merchant. I wanted to be like my father but was told on numerous occasions I wasn’t smart enough. Instead, he demanded I knuckled down to hard work for a pittance.

Determined to prove him wrong, I found an easy way to make money. As I grew into late adolescence, I needed to prove to myself I
clever enough, and not the stupid ox he thought me to be.

I stole small artifacts from my father’s collection and those of neighbors I had access to. When I could get away, I’d take my ill-gotten gains to sell in the marketplace, delighted in how lucrative it became. Over time, the thefts had gone unnoticed, my father was too distracted, and my mother uninterested in the comings and goings of her brood. Their complacency encouraged me to continue, which I did, brazenly. Even going as far as burying the small quantity of precious silver I earned close to the house in a small box. By then, the greed set in. The more I had, the more I wanted. It was never enough.

I didn’t bargain on the day my father began to notice items missing. Some were gifts bestowed on him in gratitude, others bought at auction or market. I had chosen the good items, the most saleable and left the oddities naively convinced he would never point a finger my way. I was wrong, he knew me better than I anticipated.

I feared his wrath and the rod more than my spoils, so reluctantly I confessed to everything. I got the rod anyway, and he expected his artifacts back. Discovering I’d sold them all, he was angry and horrified, lashing me three times more for good measure.

“If this is a sign of what’s to come, I must surely beat the greed out of you. I cannot have a son of mine stealing. God will surely curse you; theft is the work of Satan!”

Simon Iscariot was a firm man who believed most sternly in the holy word of God and all that was sacrament. I had become the thorn in his side, a bad seed, the black sheep who ultimately caused him the greatest shame. Rachel was me, a headstrong dishonest girl with a devious nature and a lust for gold far greater than her well-being and thought for others. I imagined stigmatics to be devout, clean living creatures. Not so, this one.

“Stop daydreaming and dig by the small bush,” said Rachel breaking my thoughts. She had been marched out of the house by Juan, apparently to confess. “I swear on my life, it’s there.”

“You had better be telling the truth this time,” I told her. “We’ve dug at least a hundred molehills for nothing.”

She shrugged as if my words were meaningless. Juan passed me a mug of wine, something to calm my steadily rising anger, and set out to dig near the bush.

“I’ve hit something!” he soon exclaimed, pushing the spade down on what sounded like a wooden object buried just under the earth.

“It’s my box, I know it is,” Rachel said.

With our bare hands, we dug out a muddy locked box. I wasn’t foolish enough to ask Rachel for the key, as she would conveniently forget its location. Thus, I wasted no time in using the edge of Juan’s spade to break it open. Gold, silver and jewels tumbled onto the uneven ground.

“I only want my coins, the rest is yours,” I assured her.

“That suits me. I’m taking what’s mine and leaving immediately. I’m considering a journey to Paris for a new wardrobe then off to Lake Como and Venice. I hear the men there are desperate for women, they’ll grab your hand and kiss it when they don’t even know you.”

BOOK: Curse of Stigmata (The Judas Reflections)
9.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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