The summer solstice arriving a little over a week later, Jesus and his consort continued to take various stragglers, wandering about Jerusalem in the middle of the night. Striking from the shadows, they took soldiers who had gambled for his garments beneath his cross, and other people he recognized, they having mocked him while he walked to his crucifixion. Still intent on taking Caiaphas and another soldier that had kicked him while Decius was nailing him to the cross, they were lurking in the sparse brush outside the garrison one evening when Jesus heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, come over here,” called a voice in Latin from behind a shed near an olive grove, about thirty feet from them.
Seeing the reddish hue of the warm body standing behind the structure, Jesus whispered, “Who is it?” he and Mary moving cautiously toward the voice.
“Get your ass over here; I have to talk to you!”
“Decius!” Jesus exclaimed, recognizing the face.
“Greetings Jesus,” said Decius, nodding to the Magdalene, “Look, I have to warn you, you’d best be careful, they’re on the lookout for you.”
Decius looked about for a moment and replied, “Flavius Maximus and the legionary guards that’s who, and they’ve got a Greek doctor with them – he knows all about vampires.”
“Really,” said Jesus, “So, what do they intend to do?”
“Hunt you down during the day, if I were you I’d make myself scarce.”
“What do they know?” asked Mary in fair Latin.
“Not much, except there are bloodless bodies strewn everywhere, and they’re also aware of the danger oak stakes and the sun present for you.”
“I knew leaving those corpses lying about was stupid!” Mary spat, looking to Jesus.
“Never mind that woman,” said Jesus, putting up a hand in protest, “So Decius, do they have any idea where we sleep during the day?”
“No, but the doctor’s been put in as an advisor to my contubernia. We’ve been ordered to check the graveyards; I’d be on the watch for them.”
“I thank you friend Decius,” said Jesus, “Why are you doing this for us?”
“You did me a favor once friend, now I’m doing you one.”
Jesus, feeling obliged, offered his hand to the Roman soldier that had nailed him to the cross.
Firmly shaking his hand, Decius advised, “You’d best leave Jerusalem as soon as you can. As commander of the contubernia conducting the search, I can cover for you if you tell me where you’re hiding during the day.”
“You will?” asked Jesus, surprised that Decius would disobey his superiors in such a fashion.
“I’ll order them to look elsewhere, but I can't cover for long, perhaps a week at most. I swear on my honor that I will not betray you.”
“It’s the same cemetery where I was originally buried,” said Jesus, knowing in his heart the centurion was telling the truth.
“Good, we won’t look there.”
“Thank you again, friend Decius.”
“Don’t mention it, I’ve got to go now, good luck,” Decius replied, leaving the couple and heading to the garrison.
Jesus, sitting in his tomb after sunup, having heard from Decius of the pronouncements of Dr. Thucydides, spent much of the morning discussing this problem with his consort.
“We’ll have to take off,” said the Magdalene.
“They’re on to us, Jerusalem’s littered with bloodless bodies, and according to Decius they want to hunt us down.”
“So what if they drag us out in the sunlight you stupid bastard!”
“Watch it woman.”
“Watch it my ass, it’s time to leave and you know it, there’s an entire world we can retreat to, why should we hang around Jerusalem tempting fate?”
“Because I haven't killed Caiaphas yet.”
“Who cares?” asked Mary, her hands in the air, “You killed most of them, who gives a damn if you missed one?”
“What are you, obsessed?”
“Yes,” said Mary, “That you’d risk our destruction to get one stupid Sadducee, a mortal who wouldn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground! Forget it, he’ll die within thirty years, time will get him and we’ll have an eternity to be together!”
Jesus stood silent, troubled, knowing in his heart that she was correct. “You’re right,” he conceded, “What would I do without you?”
“Talk funny, and get burned up by the sun,” said the Magdalene, putting a hand on his arm, “Look Jesus, you’ve got to ease up and take it easy, why risk destruction to get one Sadducee?” I care about you, and have since I met you, do you really want to risk our destruction over one hypocritical, deluded man?”
“No, but - ”
“No buts,” she interrupted in a firmer tone of voice, “You’ve always been this way, obsessed, never leaving well enough alone. That’s what got you killed! We’ve been given a second chance to start a new life together, and you’ve got to complicate it with your crazy revenge, who cares about them?”
“I do,” said Jesus, in macabre imitation of his former self.
“Let it go, you got most of them.”
“Yes,” Jesus agreed, “But it’s a shame Caiaphas will get away.”
“Maybe, but you once said revenge can cloud one’s thinking. What advice would you have given someone bent on revenge when you were alive?” she asked, trying once more to get him to see reason.
“I understand, let’s get some sleep,” said an exhausted Jesus, recalling the words he had preached to a crowd in Galilee on a summer day nearly two years earlier. She’s right and using my own words against me, he thought, lying down on a slab.
* * *
The next evening, a resigned Jesus listened to reason, the couple leaving the cemetery and making their way from the city, heading north on a Roman highway leading to Nazareth. At his side, he was carrying a leather satchel acquired from Pharisee Annas’ house. Originally used for Torah scrolls, it now held their change of clothing, and money they had come across, so to speak, in recent times.
“Where are we going?” Mary asked, walking the dark road.
“I figured I’d stop by Nazareth before pressing on further. See mother and dad; kill a few enemies, things like that.”
“You are a vengeful bastard aren’t you?”
“Let’s say I’m not the man I once was.”
“That’s the truth, so, what happened to that idea you told us about called karma, when we were sitting at the shore of Lake Galilee?”
“I imagine the concept of karma applies only to those who are alive,” a bitter Jesus declared, recalling his journeys through India and his ill-fated ministry in southern Galilee.
“Don’t you still believe in karma?”
“I don’t know what to believe in anymore; I tried to spread good karma during my days as a preacher and all it brought me was death.”
“In other words, karma’s bullshit?” Mary asked, hoping he would deny her words.
“More than likely,” said Jesus, at times wishing he had never bothered with his ministry, his father’s prophetic words of doom constantly repeating in his mind.
As they continued along, a thought crossed the Magdalene’s mind. Her friend, Jesus the vampire, was slaughtering his enemies at an alarming rate, and with his peculiar method of selecting them, she wondered what they would do for sustenance after he finished killing them all.
She thought about this for a while, and asked, “What are we going to do for food when you run out of enemies to devour?”
“We’ll find more. People like Judas and the Pharisees are all over the place.”
Mary, reflecting as they walked the dark and lonely road, found to her chagrin that she agreed with him.
The first few hours of their trip were uneventful, the couple strolling in the darkness until they came upon a wooded area near the Jordan River. Out of nowhere appeared a pair of highwaymen, bent on robbery. Jesus eyed the pair warily and asked, “What brings you across our path strangers?”
“You,” answered one, a Samaritan, eyeing the attractive Mary.
“Really,” said Jesus, knowing exactly what they were after, having dealt with robbers before. “What do you want with us?”
“Keep your mouth shut and give us your valuables, Jew,” a Syrian confederate snarled, Jesus rolling his eyes at the ignorance of the thieves, unable to recognize a Levite when they saw one.
“Why don’t you take them from us?” the Magdalene asked, Jesus smiling and allowing Mary to play her game.
“You heard me.”
“She’s a smart one isn’t she?” the Samaritan observed, lust in his eyes, walking over and taking her by the waist as Jesus stood looking to the sky.
“This cowardly Jew won’t even defend her,” said the Syrian.
“I’m a Levite actually, and I’m certain she can defend herself,” Jesus retorted with narrowed eyes, paralyzing the Syrian with a cold stare.
“You’re a good looking bitch,” said the Samaritan, not realizing that for all practical purposes, he was alone, the thought of rape crossing his mind.
“Really,” replied the Magdalene as the Samaritan started kissing her neck. She looked to Jesus over the thief’s shoulder, bared fangs and plunged them deep in the neck of her assailant, draining him in seconds as the terrified Syrian looked on in horror. She dropped the body to the pavement and said, “That was delicious, now it’s your turn.”
“Yes,” said a smiling Jesus, looking to the Syrian. “You love to play games with them don’t you?”
“It’s fun, and better than revenge, don’t you think?”
“Not really, but I’ll take your word for it,” said Jesus, baring fangs, going for the jugular and sucking the Syrian’s blood. “That was good,” he added in his vampiric monotone, the body collapsing in a heap on the road.
“We’d best hide these guys so no one can find them,” Mary advised. “Remember, Decius told us leaving bodies all over the place is what tipped them off.”
“He came in handy didn’t he?” Jesus asked in his Dracula voice.
“You sound funny again.”
“Oh,” said an embarrassed Jesus, disguising his voice, “Yes, let’s dump them in the woods,” jerking a thumb in the direction of the trees.
Grabbing the Syrian by his foot and the Samaritan by his hair, Jesus dragged the corpses from the road, dumping them in a wooded ravine after checking for valuables.
He had taken to robbing the bodies during the past few weeks, and had already acquired 750 Roman denarii in various currencies from his victims, most notably Pharisee Annas; this was not a small sum of money in those days. A group of jackals prowled in the distance, Jesus noting they would also have a good meal that evening. Returning to the road, he told Mary that he had found shekels, drachmae and jewelry, along with Roman gold aureus and silver denarius coins on the bodies.
“Ironic,” he observed with a sinister chuckle, “They meant to rob us and we robbed them instead.”
“We robbed them of more than money, we robbed them of their lives,” she replied, “Incidentally, isn’t our stealing supposed to be a sin according to the Torah?”
“Who knows and who cares, they’re dead, so I don’t think they’ll have any use for it.”
“True, I’ve always liked jewelry, can I have it?”
“Sure,” said Jesus, handing her the baubles.
Thus were the humble beginnings of their monetary fortune, Jesus usually handling the cash, his lovely consort controlling the jewelry. After a few weeks of night travel by foot and wing, along with the killing and robbing of several highwaymen for pleasure, nourishment and profit, they arrived in Nazareth, his home before he had begun his short-lived ministry.
Stopping at an inn late in the night, as no tombs or caves were readily available, Jesus purchased lodging from the innkeeper with some of his stolen funds. He also informed him they liked to sleep late in the day, and not to disturb them during their slumber.
The sleepy innkeeper nodded, the couple heading to their room.
“Why didn’t you stop at your parent’s house instead of this inn?” Mary asked as he closed the door.
“It’s very late, and I don’t know what mother may say, showing up like we are now. She was in Jerusalem at the time of my crucifixion, and probably heard the rumors of my resurrection,” said Jesus, sitting down in a dilapidated chair.
“So what, you said you’d resurrect, why should it bother her?”
“I don’t think she imagined I’d return as a vampire,” answered Jesus, “If we come early tomorrow evening it may be easier for me to inform her of that, and not risk harm to ourselves if she and dad find it unacceptable.”
“If they don’t, why not kill them and be done with it?”
“Because they are my parents Mary, you will not harm them,” ordered Jesus. She again felt her master’s power, remembering that she must obey him. “Besides,” he added, “There’s plenty of food around here, as most people in this town hated me when I was alive.”
“So that’s why you went to Capernaum,” said Mary, as if finally solving a puzzle that had eluded her, lying down and relaxing on the bed.
“That’s right, they wanted to stone me because the town rabbi said I was a blasphemer,” said Jesus, joining her in the bed.
“Just like the Pharisees, I suppose you want to make them pay for that by killing them all,” said an exasperated Mary.
“Correct,” Jesus replied, settling into bed for a good day’s sleep.
After sundown, they checked out, almost immediately finding a pair of his enemies, sating their hunger pangs. After robbing and disposing of the remains, they made their way to his parent’s home. Walking along the street, they observed people going about their businesses, none recognizing the risen Son of Man. Arriving at the house, Jesus knocked on the door. His mother answered, recognized him and collapsed in his arms in a dead faint. Joseph saw him and while shaken, simply sat down in a padded chair while they entered, Jesus placing his unconscious mother on a couch and his satchel on the floor.
After a few moments, his mother regained consciousness and exclaimed, “You have risen!”
“In a way,” said Jesus.
“Uh, how are you son?” asked Joseph, not believing his eyes.
“I’m fine; a lot has happened since I last saw you.”
“You sure have developed a talent for understatements,” his consort observed.
“Really,” agreed Joseph.
“You’ve returned from the dead,” said his mother, regaining her composure and sitting up on the couch. “We should worship you, you said you would rise, and must truly be the Son of God.”
“I don’t know about that anymore,” said Jesus. “If I were you I’d forget about the stuff I told you and stick with Hebraic monotheism, or something like that.”
“Why?” asked Joseph, staring at his undead son with his head to one side, narrowing his blue-gray eyes, his eye color the same as his firstborn.
“Um, because, I uh, well, things have changed, and not necessarily for the better, at least with regard to most people I’ve encountered recently.”
“What do you mean?” his mother asked, sensing that her son was having trouble relating what he had to tell them.
The room fell silent, Jesus Christ at a rare loss for words.
“Well, Jesus?” asked the Magdalene, giggling.
“I don’t think I’m God anymore,” said Jesus.
“Or any less,” the Magdalene retorted, bursting into laughter.
“That’s great, really great,” Joseph spat, rising from his chair and folding arms over his chest. “After all the shit your mother and I have been through in the past few months, not to mention your precocious childhood and that ministry of yours, you come back here and tell us this? Get on with it, if you’re not God and you rose from the dead, what the hell are you?”
“I am a vampire.”
His mother’s jaw dropped. Joseph stared at his eldest in disgust and said, “That figures, I knew it was too damn good to be true!”
“Oh Jesus,” said his mother, “You’re a vampire? My God, what will I tell your brothers and sisters?”
“I don’t know,” said Jesus, “Perhaps you shouldn’t tell them anything.”
“That’s the truth,” said a frowning Joseph, “That’s all we’d need, we’ve had enough problems already from the Pharisees and the stupid Romans. I don’t believe this, you’ve become a vampire? Shit, that really tears it!”
Jesus, realizing he hadn’t introduced the Magdalene, offered politely, “This is my friend, Mary the Magdalene, she was a follower of mine hailing from Magdala.”
“I suppose she’s a vampire too?” asked Joseph.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
Joseph threw his hands up and cried, “I should have known, why did I even ask?”
“At least they haven’t tried to destroy us yet,” the Magdalene observed between stifled giggles.
After they had absorbed the incredible news, Joseph and Mary invited their son and his consort to spend the evening with them. Jesus’ mother headed to the kitchen to serve supper, as Joseph, Jesus and the Magdalene followed to the dining area.
“I’d offer you dinner, but we don’t have blood!” Joseph spat, sitting down at the table.
“Don’t worry father, we had someone to eat before we came here,” said Jesus, taking a seat.
“Someone!” exclaimed Joseph, staring at him in astonishment, “I swear, you’ve always been weird, but this takes the cake!”
Jesus’ mother entered, placing an earthenware serving bowl and two smaller ones on the table.
“Guess what Mary, I told them we had no blood in our larder, and your son said they had already had someone to eat before they arrived,” said Joseph, Mary handing him a wooden spoon and sitting down.
“We both had someone father.”
“Whatever,” retorted Joseph, eating a simple dinner of bread and a pottage of lentils cooked in meat broth, seasoned with onions and garlic.
The conversation continued for a time, Joseph making sarcastic remarks, as the thought of his eldest son being a vampire was rather unsettling. His mother seemed to accept this fact after the initial shock and quietly conversed with them.
“So, your friend Mary is also a vampire, that’s very interesting,” said his mother.
“Yes mother, she came to my grave one evening and I made her a vampire outside the tomb.”
“Oh for God’s sake!” exclaimed Joseph, slamming his spoon down and rising from the table. “This is ridiculous, I need air!”
“What’s wrong father?” asked an oblivious Jesus.
“A lot is wrong; I’m heading to the courtyard. After you’re finished talking with your mother I’d like to speak with you privately,” answered Joseph, leaning on the table with both hands.
“Velly vell father,” said Jesus in his vampiric accent, troubled by his father’s remarks.
“Velly vell – what the hell’s wrong with your voice?”
“It’s a long story dad,” said Jesus, disguising his voice while stroking his beard.
Joseph left the kitchen as his mother said, “Please don’t worry Jesus, even though you’re a vampire, your father and I still love you.”
“Yeah, thanks ma,” said a weakly smiling Jesus.
After his mother finished supper, Jesus left her and the Magdalene. He walked to the courtyard, his sandals making a scuffing sound on the flagstones, where Joseph was relaxing by oil lamp in a chair, enjoying the cool night. He was drinking fruit juice instead of his usual evening wine, feeling the need to be clear headed for the conversation he was going to have with his undead firstborn son.
“Please sit down,” said Joseph, waving to a chair next to him. Jesus took a seat, his father continuing, “We need to talk about this new situation of yours.”
“We do?” asked Jesus, wondering if his father had finally had enough and was going to ask him to leave the family forever.
“Yes,” said Joseph, eyeing Jesus in exasperation, “I don’t believe this, first, you agitate so many people in this town that you end up having to leave, then you piss off so many people in Jerusalem that you manage to get yourself killed. That was bad enough, now you return, as a vampire! What the hell happened, and don’t tell me it was some sort of miracle, I’m not going to buy that at all.”
“I don’t know, when I awoke in the sepulchre I had become a vampire.”
“How? There’s nothing in any scriptural prophecy I’ve ever read stating that you, or anyone else for that matter, would become a vampire. Not that I’ve ever given much credence to those writings, but –”
“I really don’t know father, perhaps people should forget about what I preached. I mean, since I was crucified, I’ve honestly wondered if there even is a God.”
“I agree with you there,” said Joseph, taking a sip of juice, “Especially with society the way it is today. Who knows, maybe God’s disgusted and has finally given up on us.”
“I wouldn’t be a damn bit surprised,” Jesus replied, turning from his father and looking to small herb garden his mother had planted.
A frowning Joseph finished his juice and thought, Perhaps I should have had something stronger, watching his undead offspring look to the heavens. Both were quiet for a while, Joseph breaking the silence by asking, “You and the girl, you kill people and suck their blood, right?”
“Yes father, we have to, and I try to take only those who have crossed me, or lately, have tried to rob us.”
“Really, I suppose that’s somewhat commendable; you came back here to take revenge upon your enemies, correct?”
“Yes, but I also came to visit you and mother,” said Jesus, turning to his father.
“That’s nice,” Joseph retorted, gripping his cup, “I imagine you intend to kill half this town during your visit?”
“It has crossed my mind, probably more than half actually.”
“I don’t blame you, the people here are a bunch of bastards,” said a frowning Joseph, looking to his empty cup. “Frankly, I’ve never liked them; most are deadbeats who owe me money for carpentry work. I don’t even care if you kill them all, just leave your mother and I out of it.”
“You don’t care?” asked Jesus, surprised at his father’s literal endorsement of death for the entire town.
“Hell no, I’m well over fifty and too damn old to care, but your mother, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand such things. So, if you decide to hang around, at least be discrete in your killings, after all, a lack of discretion is what got you killed in the first place.”
“I intend to, a friend named Decius Publius told us leaving bodies all over the place is the reason we had to leave Jerusalem.”
“So, who’s Decius, another vampire, or a Roman werewolf?” asked a smirking Joseph, closing eyes as if in pain.
“He’s the centurion who nailed me to the cross.”
“A friend crucified you? What did you do to him to make him do that?” asked Joseph, opening his eyes and sitting up straight in his chair, his back making an audible crack.
“He wasn’t a friend at the time, we befriended him after I became a vampire.”
“Oh,” Joseph replied, leaning back in his chair.
“Thank you for understanding father,” said a polite Jesus, as if he were still a boy.
“Don’t mention it, and it’s not that I truly understand you son, or anything else for that matter.”
“Really?” asked Jesus, needing clarification.
“Really,” said Joseph, “Incidentally, I think after all you’ve been through, you’ve found out there’s a lot we don’t understand about almost everything.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jesus, interested in his father’s philosophy.
“Well,” said Joseph, waving hands as if encompassing the world, “Like why are we even here in the first place, and why are we always bothered by weirdos who cause nothing but trouble for everyone, like the Pharisees and the Romans. Or, what exactly is this place called earth, and what is the floating disk up there we call the moon, and just what are all those lights twinkling in the sky on a clear night? Get it?”
“Yes,” Jesus answered, remembering his cynical father was also a very wise man.
“Anyway, that’s a damn good-looking girl you have at your side, you said she was one of your followers?”
“I met her walking the streets of Magdala. She used to be a whore.”
“A streetwalker, that figures,” said Joseph, wondering if his son had ever done anything not out of the ordinary.
“She’s not a whore anymore.”
“No, now she’s a vampire, thanks to you!”
“She’s very good company.”
“That’s good,” said Joseph, resting his chin in the palm of a hand, “Your mother and I had been worried about that, after all, you are thirty-three, and haven’t exactly had too many women hanging around, if you know what I mean by that.”
“Others have thought that too, in fact, a pimp at a brothel thought – ”
“What did you expect, surrounding yourself with men?”
“I see what you mean.”
All became quiet while Joseph and Jesus sat silently, lost in their own thoughts.
“It’s said that vampires are endowed with great powers,” said Joseph, breaking the silence.
“That’s true father.”
“So, they’d best not cross you now, should they?” asked Joseph, rising from his seat.
“I suppose not.”
* * *
During the next months, Jesus and Mary stayed at the home of his parents. Various townsfolk began to disappear, quietly, as Jesus and consort walked the night, preying on his enemies, or at other times taking criminals lurking outside town. This pastime had become very lucrative for the pair. After feeding, Jesus would rob bodies before he dumped them, and at times would enter his vanquished enemies’ domiciles like a catburglar, so he could steal valuables.
Adding more loot to his stash, one dark night after he murdered Samuel Bar Saklas, the town rabbi, and disposed of the body, Jesus broke into his house, looking about for items of value. Mary followed, closing the door behind them.
Seeing a pair of silver menorahs on a small family altar, he grabbed them, dumped the unlit holy candles to the floor and slipped them into his robe.
“Aren’t those rather large?” Mary whispered, looking for other valuable articles.
“They’re made of silver; we can break them up and melt them down later.”
The rabbi’s wife appeared from the bedroom, woke by the noise. Before she could utter a word, the Magdalene leapt upon her like a wildcat, sunk fangs in her neck and sucked her dry.
“Now we have another body to get rid of!” Jesus exclaimed under his breath.
“What did you want me to do, let her scream her head off?” asked Mary, dropping the corpse to the stone floor, “Besides, it’s drizzling outside, there’s no one around who will see us.”
“True, hand me those gold goblets over there,” said Jesus, returning to his thievery. “Hey, there’s a box of money here too; please find a sack.”
Mary walked to the bedroom. Finding a shelf, she grabbed a finely woven linen bedsheet imported from Egypt. Tying the corners together and making a suitable sack, she returned and handed her creation to Jesus, who dumped the booty in it as she retrieved and handed him the goblets.
“You take the sack, I’ll get the body,” said Jesus, rolling the cadaver up in a rug.
“Okay,” Mary replied, the couple slipping unnoticed from the house into the dark and rainy night. As the rug and body bounced down a steep ravine, she asked, “You didn’t mind me killing her did you?”
“Not at all, she was a mean old bitch,” the vampiric Christ replied, walking from the brink.
The Magdalene smiled and handed him the sack of loot, wondering how Jesus had been such a kind, generous man in life, especially when most people in his hometown were so arrogant and self-righteous.
Night after night, Jesus continued in his depredations, slaughtering and robbing those who had wanted to stone him for blasphemy. Unknown to the prying Roman tax collectors, he found that many residents of Nazareth were loaded, hundreds of denarii and aurei stashed in their homes, he and Mary happily filling his sacks with their money. When morning approached, they would hide the loot in a nearby cave, return to his parent’s house and settle in for a good day’s sleep in a windowless storeroom next to the kitchen.
Joseph grew used to their odd hours, and came to like Mary Magdalene, remarking one evening in the courtyard that had she and Jesus not been vampires, he would have approved of a marriage between them.
“I don’t think vampires can get married,” said his mother.
Joseph frowned at the crass statement and retorted, “I don’t think vampires need to get married woman, after all, they’re vampires!”
“But what if they have vampire babies?” she asked.
Joseph closed his eyes as if in pain and answered, “Forget it Mary, just forget it.”
Jesus looked impassively to his mother, who had never been known to be particularly glib with regard to the world. Rising, she and the Magdalene headed into the house, leaving Joseph and Jesus alone in the courtyard. Joseph was drinking a glass of wine, while Jesus sat contemplating his undead existence.
His reverie was broken by his father remarking, “Did you know your brother James is wandering about Jerusalem, preaching the good news?”
“Good news, what’s that?”
“Who knows, but he and some of your disciples are claiming that you rose from the dead as the Son of God,” Joseph answered, reaching for more wine.
“Oh brother,” said Jesus, thinking of other tragedies the family might suffer thanks to his ministry, “I really screwed up telling them all that didn’t I?”
“Maybe, but look at it this way son, you could have done worse, you could have said you were the son of Satan, or even a demon,” Joseph replied, staring up at the night sky.
“I suppose,” said Jesus, frowning at the remark.
* * *
As more townspeople began to disappear, rumors began to circulate in southern Galilee of the vampire attacks in Jerusalem. The perpetrator was said to be none other than the risen Jesus of Nazareth, also known as Jesus Christ, and that possibly he had made his way to his hometown, preying upon those living there. In time, this news made its way to Jerusalem, the authorities there looking to Nazareth as the new feeding ground of Jesus, the vampire. Mary instinctively sensed this, and voiced these concerns one night while they were preying on highwaymen outside town.
“I talked with your father this evening,” she began after they had finished their version of the evening meal.
“About what?” asked Jesus, preparing to dispose of the bodies.
“I told him I was beginning to feel uneasy, with most of the folks in town now dead thanks to us.”
“It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out why, and your father told me he’d heard rumors that the new procurator Marcellus is sending soldiers here to track us,” said Mary, Jesus heaving two corpses into a ravine.
“So we’d best be moving on, unless you’ve discovered some way to walk about in the sun,” she advised, several fat jackals beginning to feast on the bodies, sinew tearing and bones cracking in their powerful jaws.
“I don’t think we have to leave yet,” said Jesus as they headed to the house, “I’m not finished here and we can’t run away all the time.”
“Your father said King Herod Antipas might be getting involved in the investigation too.”
“Big deal, he’s nothing but a depraved, drunken asshole.”
“Jesus, what of your parents?” asked Mary, turning to look at him.
“What do you mean?”
“You know very well what I mean, if Marcellus is sending soldiers, they’ll probably just kill your folks and ask questions later.”
“No they won’t, you and I will stop them,” said Jesus, not concerned at all.
“Like this,” Jesus replied, assuming chiropteric form.
The Magdalene, believing she understood, also transformed, both heading south toward Jerusalem. Flying over the highway, about thirty miles south of Nazareth the couple spied their quarry; a small contingent of Roman soldiers encamped by the road.
Assuming human form a few hundred yards from the encampment, Mary whispered, “We’re going to kill them all, right?”
“Wrong,” said Jesus.
“I’ll lead them to believe they came to Nazareth, found nothing and are returning from whence they came.”
“What if there are ones who can’t be entranced?” asked Mary, having encountered such an individual recently, preparing for the worst and hoping the coming encounter would be as easy as her love thought.
“Don’t worry woman, we’ll simply kill any like them.”
Strolling to the encampment, Jesus spied the sentinel.
“Who goes there?” he barked, issuing a challenge that had and would always echo in a soldier’s camp.
Jesus walked up and answered in Latin, “My name is James, a Samaritan trader from Bethlehem. This woman and I are travelers and are hungry. I was wondering if you might have food to spare. We are not beggars, and have money to pay your commander for any sustenance he can provide.”
“Wait here, I’ll ask Commander Valerian,” said the sentinel.
“Thank you,” Jesus replied as he turned and left.
“What do you intend to do, we can’t eat, at least not the way these people do, it’ll make us sick,” said Mary, recalling an evening when she had tried to eat a pomegranate. One of her favorite foods when alive, she had violently choked on the fruit and spat it out in seconds.
“Quiet woman, just watch, you’re not the only one among us who is cunning.”
“The commander says to come to our tent,” said the sentinel, walking back to them.
“Thank you friend,” Jesus replied as they were led to the tent. Sixteen soldiers were inside finishing their meals, two contubernia with the exception of the sentinel, and Jesus nodded in greeting to the commander.
“We have hot venison stew, bread, cheese, olives and wine,” offered Valerian with his hand out, “Ten sestertii or a finger of salt will cover it for both of you.”
“Thank you,” said Jesus, entrancing him and the others within a second.
Dropping coins in the commander’s open palm, Jesus waved a hand, motioning for him to put the coins in his money belt. Looking to all of them, he intoned in his vampire voice, “Verily I say, you are returning from Nazareth and found no evidence that Jesus, also called the Christ, was ever there. Further, the deaths you were told of are from a plague, and the commander will advise the procurator that everyone should avoid Nazareth until it passes. Do you understand?”
Each nodded, zombielike, before the Christ, as Mary beheld the powerful vampire using his incredible talent for hypnosis. She also found she was beginning to easily comprehend much of what was being said. Standing before the stupefied group, Jesus advised her in Aramaic, “Retrieve the sentinel; I’ll tell him the same story.”
“Right, and watch your voice,” she answered, bringing him before Jesus moments later.
Sending the sentinel back to his post, Jesus said in his disguised voice, “Quickly Mary, fill two bowls, empty them in the pot, dirty a pair of spoons and place them before us. Then fill two cups with wine, bring them here and have a seat.”
She did as told, sat down beside Jesus and observed, “I thought there would be at least one who couldn’t be entranced.”
“Folks like that are rather rare.”
“Can we drink this wine?” she asked, lifting the cup and sniffing at it cautiously.
“Yes, I discovered that the night I killed Pilate. I’ve always enjoyed wine, so I tasted some in a goblet at his home. Finding it satisfactory, I took the bottle back to the tomb and drank it before I rested.”
“I like wine too, that’s good to know.”
“Be careful woman, we can still get drunk, I found that out too.”
“Okay,” she replied, taking a sip.
Jesus told a filthy joke to the soldiers, waved a hand and they reanimated, bursting into riotous laughter. “That was a delightful meal kind gentlemen, thank you,” said Jesus to the commander, finishing his cup of wine.
“You tell good jokes, have another belt stranger,” a smiling Valerian replied, grabbing a wine bottle and refilling their cups to the brim.
“Where are you headed?” asked an optiones, or junior officer, sitting across from Jesus.
“North, we were going to stop at Nazareth for food but it is very late. It’s a good thing you gentlemen were here, as the inns and restaurants there are probably closed for the night.”
“Stay away from Nazareth,” warned Valerian, “We’ve just returned from there, a plague has struck the town and it’s nearly deserted.”
Jesus looked to Mary for a moment and replied, “Thank you for telling us commander, we were unaware of that.” Quickly finishing the second cup, he rose and said, “I’m sorry, but we must be on our way. The town of Gennesar is north of Nazareth and a friend, the Samaritan Mehomet, can put us up there.”
“I know nothing of that town stranger, just remember to avoid Nazareth,” the commander replied, “Procurator Marcellus originally sent us there to look for vampires, but when we arrived there it was practically deserted.”
“Vampires?” Jesus asked, a smile crossing his face.
“It may sound ridiculous, but there was a guy named Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified in Jerusalem some months ago. Some crazies there and a nutty Greek physician are saying he resurrected as a vampire.” Pulling loose the collar of his leather armor, he added, “See this garlic he tied around our necks? The goofy bastard claims it will protect us against vampire attacks.”
“Really,” said Jesus, noting the innocuous cloves and offering his hand to the commander. “I’ve heard of this Jesus fellow, I suppose from what you tell me they believe he went to Nazareth in search of blood.”
Valerian nodded, giving him a firm Roman handshake. “If you think that’s crazy, these are strange times, you should hear what’s going on in Rome these days.”
“Would you believe Tiberius is taxing the folks who run the brothels, you can’t even get laid without paying tribute to Caesar!”
Jesus nodded and chuckled, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, I guess,” as he and the Magdalene left the tent. They bid farewell to the sentinel, heading up the highway to Nazareth. Assuming chiropteric form further on, they flew to his parent’s home and walked in. It was past midnight, and they made their way to the secluded room in the rear.
“That was incredible, you made them believe they had been here and left!” Mary exclaimed.
“It was easy, but I know not how I accomplish it.”
“Do you think such power may come from God?” she asked, sensing there was more to what had happened to her love than he was willing to admit.
“Who knows,” said Jesus, not wanting to talk of it.
“You sure have changed when it comes to religion.”
“You’d better believe it,” Jesus replied, sitting down heavily in a chair.
“So, I guess that takes care of our problem,” said Mary, lying down on their bed to relax.
“What problem’s that?” Jesus asked, stroking his beard.
“You got rid of the soldiers, so I guess that solves our problem.”
“Only temporarily, they’ll be back, maybe not the same ones, but others will follow shortly if I read my Romans correctly.”
“They won’t be fooled that easily, at least not for long, sooner or later someone else will journey to Nazareth to verify their story.”
“True,” said Mary, thinking of what could be done to protect not only themselves, but also his parents.
Frowning, Jesus added, “I now believe you were right in what you said earlier. I’ve only bought us time, a few weeks or months at most; we and my folks will have to take off.”
“To where?” asked Mary, surprised she would not have to argue with him.
“I reckon we should head north toward Anatolia. There are several large cities and Roman outposts there, we can feed on criminals and lose ourselves in the population.”
“Sounds good to me, but what of your folks?”
“I imagine I’ll have to buy them a house when we get there; we have plenty of money.”
“So, what was it I heard about garlic cloves?”
“I don’t know, the commander told me some people believe if they carry garlic it will ward those like us off.”
“Didn’t stop us did it?”
“Not at all,” said Jesus, smiling.
They spent the remainder of the night discussing the evening’s events, Jesus resolving that he would tell his father of the situation, and decided to advise his parents that they should prepare to leave Nazareth as quickly as possible for their own safety.
* * *
“Are you crazy?” came the angry reply from Joseph after Jesus suggested that they leave. “We’ve lived here for over thirty years!”
“Yes, but we’ve killed most of the people here, so there isn’t really a town left after all. Besides, you said they were all bastards anyway, what do you care?”
“I don’t, but where can we go?” demanded Joseph, “I can’t even sell this goddamn dump now – you slaughtered anyone who could have bought it!”
“You don’t have to worry about money father, I robbed them all too.”
“Oh Jesus,” said his mother, looking to her son, wondering what happened to the moral training she and Joseph had given him.
“My son, the thieving vampire,” Joseph spat, “First you rob them of their lives, and then you steal their money!”
“He steals their jewelry too, and any other valuables they have when he breaks into their houses,” added the Magdalene, playing with a bejeweled bauble around her neck. “Look at this necklace I’m wearing, isn’t it lovely?”
“My God,” said Joseph, “I finally understand the meaning of blood money!”
“Really father, they don’t have any further use for it, since they’re dead after we’re through with them. So, I figured we can use it for ourselves.”
“You have a point there,” Joseph replied. Narrowing his eyes, he asked, “Just how much money do you have?”
“A lot of silver, some gold, rubies, diamonds, emeralds – ”
“A small fortune in other words.”
“Joseph, we can’t take stolen money!”
“Shut up Mary,” said Joseph, “I’ve put up with this shit for years, having an idiot wife, working as a carpenter who never gets paid, having an eldest son who thought he was God, who now is a vampire for God’s sake! Now he tells us we’ll be killed if we don’t leave this forsaken town. I’m taking the money and leaving, and don’t tell me that I can’t!”
“It’s not all money, some is stolen jewelry,” the Magdalene corrected, still playing with her necklace.
“Whatever,” retorted Joseph, looking to the bejeweled Magdalene.
“But what will God think?” asked his wife, still devout in her Hebrew faith, even after all the tragedy that had happened in her life. Reflecting, she recalled the painful humiliation of becoming pregnant before marriage, and the slow, agonizing death of her firstborn son, nailed to a cross only months earlier, standing before her as a risen vampire.
“In my opinion Mary dear, God must be thinking some strange things lately,” said Joseph, glancing at his vampiric son, Jesus looking to the ceiling.
“But – ” started his wife, a hand out.
“But my ass, look at it this way woman, with the crazy Pharisees, the goofy Romans, and vampires walking about Judea, I suspect God must be loony too if he permits all these things to happen!”
Mary fell silent and looked to the floor.
“Like I said, if you need money dad, I have plenty,” said Jesus.
“That’s good to know,” Joseph replied, exhaling heavily.
“It is indeed,” said Jesus, “I’ve stashed most of the loot in a cave north of town. A hundred aurei should be more than enough to buy a house or perhaps a nice farm, and I’ll give you a pile of silver coins too. Incidentally, do you folks need diamonds or other gems, we have lots of them.”
Joseph broke into a smile and replied, “Sure, at least I’m finally getting some sort of return on my investment in this farce.”
“Excellent,” said Jesus, “We’ll take off tomorrow night.”
They prepared to leave the next evening. Joseph had filled a large leather satchel with his carpentry tools during the afternoon while his wife filled two linen sacks with provisions, clothing, bedrolls, blankets and precious family heirlooms, including an antique Roman latrunculi game board. Joseph and wife sat down for dinner, as Jesus called from the living room, “Mary and I are heading out for someone to eat.”
“Enjoy your meals,” Joseph replied, eating his stew, hearing the door close.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this,” said Mary.
“You will, it’s human nature,” Joseph retorted, grabbing a piece of bread to soak up the remainder of his meal in the wooden bowl.
After he and the Magdalene slaughtered two of his fellow Nazarenes and returned to the house, Jesus voiced his plans for the evening. “Mary and I will be taking you north toward Syria, first we’ll stop at the cave where I have the loot stashed. After we arrive, I’ll fly back here as a bat and set fire to the house. That way everyone will think you perished when the house burned down.”
“They probably won’t even notice, considering most of them are dead thanks to you and your friend, but it is a good idea,” said Joseph. “I’ll stoke up the fire to make it easier for you.”
“Don’t mention it, I’ve always hated this dump anyway,” Joseph spat, walking to the fireplace.
They started off later in the evening, each laden with a sack, satchel or bedroll, leaving the nearly empty town of Nazareth behind. Arriving at the secluded cave near midnight, Jesus and Mary entered.
“Come in folks,” said Jesus.
“Are you insane, we can’t see a thing!” Joseph exclaimed, standing at the mouth of the pitch-black cavern.
“I’m sorry,” said Jesus, “We can see in the dark but you can’t.”
“Obviously, that’s because we’re normal.”
Jesus quickly fashioned and lit torches for his parents, using flint and iron to set them off, and they entered the cave. “I’m heading back to burn the house down,” he said while his mother set out bedrolls for herself and Joseph.
“Hold on, before you incinerate my home, where’s the money you have stashed?” Joseph asked, demanding proof of his son’s wealth.
“Please follow me,” said Jesus, beckoning his father, both walking by torchlight several hundred feet into the cave.
Arriving at a bend, they headed through a narrow crevice and continued on to a widening area of the cavern, where Joseph beheld a glittering pile of gold and silver coins, a set of golden goblets, two silver menorahs and a pile of precious gems.
“You’ve collected a king’s ransom!” Joseph exclaimed, overwhelmed by the sight of the hoard.
“I’ve found many of our victims are loaded,” said Jesus with a smile. “Religious clerics and highwaymen seem to have the most loot, along with plenty of jewelry. That’s fortunate, as the Magdalene seems to have quite an appetite for precious gems.”
“She was a whore son; a lot of them go for gaudy baubles.”
“True,” said Jesus, handing his father the torch, “Let’s get you loaded up and we’ll make our way back to the encampment.” Producing a leather satchel, he filled it with 200 aurei in Roman gold, thirty or so pounds of silver coins and several handfuls of glittering diamonds, rubies, sapphires, precious lapis lazuli, and emeralds. “This will make you set,” he declared, taking the torch and handing the bag to his father. Joseph, at first not realizing the weight of such a hoard, dropped the bag to the floor as his arm was pulled down, almost wrenching it from its socket.
“It’s a bit heavy father, if you like I can remove some of the silver and gold to reduce the weight.”
“No, I’ll manage,” Joseph answered, lifting the heavy bag and swinging it over his shoulder.
“Let me carry it,” offered Jesus, taking the bag with one arm.
“You’re certainly a hell of a lot stronger than I ever remember,” Joseph said with a surprised look, Jesus lifting the bag as if it were nothing.
“As a vampire I have at least ten times the strength of any mortal.”
“That sure would’ve come in handy when I was doing carpentry, except you always struck me as too lazy to do real work,” Joseph replied, getting in yet another dig at Jesus as they started back.
“Yeah, you usually had your head in the clouds,” said Joseph, heading through the crevice.
“I never liked working; it was too much trouble to bother with that.”
“You found even more trouble by not working, or haven’t you realized that?”
“Yes, I have father,” Jesus replied, making their way by torchlight to the mouth of the cave.
Sitting on a bedroll, Joseph opened the bag and called to his wife. “Look at this Mary, we have a fortune!”
“That’s nice, but I don’t think God will like us very much for taking it,” said Mary, eyeing the treasure in the satchel.
“God doesn’t care Mary, if God didn’t want us to have it he wouldn’t have lead us to it, now would he?”
“Jesus led you to it.”
“Yes, and God made Jesus, you and me, along with everything else, so I believe God wants us to have it, don’t you?” asked Joseph, attempting to get his wife to accept what the fates had dealt them.
“I’ll have to think about that for a while.”
“I’m taking off to torch the house,” Jesus advised, “Mary, please take care of my folks.”
“Okay,” the Magdalene answered, “Come back soon.”
“I won’t be long,” said Jesus, heading from the cave.
Walking outside, Jesus assumed chiropteric form and flew south. Transforming in the courtyard, he walked into his parent’s house, a two-story structure made of stone and wood with an extended kitchen and porch built onto the rear. Looking about for suitable fuel, he dumped two barrels of olive oil onto the rug-covered floor of the living room. Moving several pieces of stuffed furniture to the center of the room, he placed kindling beneath.
I need something to set the fire, thought Jesus. Looking about, he noticed Torah scrolls on a shelf. Grabbing these, he moved one end of the Leviticus parchment into the lit fireplace, setting it ablaze, tossing the burning scroll toward the kindling. The fire quickly caught, while Jesus moved to the kitchen, holding a flaming copy of Genesis. Lighting Deuteronomy on fire, he tossed it and the remains of Genesis into the rafters, leaving the scrolls of Exodus and Numbers on the kitchen table. The house went up quickly as Jesus flew into the night, flames starting to come through the roof.
His father had been right regarding the blaze. No one noticed the collapsed ruins until the next day, and none of those who did cared. Some of the greedier among the remaining people thanked their god Yahweh for making certain they didn’t have to pay Joseph the money they owed him.
Returning to the dimly illuminated cave, Jesus noticed that his father had filled and lit a small oil lamp, as the torches had gone out. Sitting down, he announced the house was in flames and that his parents should remain awake until dawn.
“Why?” a weary Joseph asked, lying on his side, head resting on his treasure satchel.
“I’d like to accompany both of you until you’re settled in your new home and for the time being, we must travel by night.”
“Oh yes, the sun can destroy you and your lady friend, I forgot that.”
“Aside from that and a few other things, we’re practically invincible father.”
“What other things are those?” Joseph asked, familiar with the legend of vampires but wanting to hear what Jesus had to say about it.
“Oak stakes through the heart, and prolonged contact with fire.”
“Both will kill just about anybody, not just vampires.”
“Quite true,” said Jesus as his father looked on impassively, thinking his undead son wasn’t quite right in the head.
For the remainder of the night the group remained awake, discussing such things as the couple’s future plans, why his voice sounded weird at times, and why he had become a vampire in the first place. Jesus replied they planned to dwell in Anatolia for a while and then perhaps proceed west into Europe. As for his voice, he theorized it was a speech impediment, and if he consciously disguised it, he sounded normal. The only times it became apparent was when he grew stressed or angered, and since he was a generally placid individual he didn’t see it being much of a problem.
“You certainly sound bizarre when you lapse into that silly accent,” Joseph observed.
“Yes, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it,” said Jesus, Mary Magdalene snickering in the background.
Giving her a glare, Jesus intoned, “Vellily I say unto you voman, vone day – ”
“Come off it, you sound hilarious!” she exclaimed with a howling laugh, falling onto her back.
Jesus sat a moment, breaking into a smile, realizing she was right.
“Son, how the hell did you become a vampire?” asked Joseph, changing the subject.
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said Jesus, “All I remember about the whole affair is I was dead and then awoke as a vampire.”
“You remember that you were dead?” his mother asked in surprise, wondering if he would have remembered an afterlife had he stayed dead a little longer.
“It’s a figure of speech you half-wit!” Joseph exclaimed.
“Oh yes,” she replied, realizing what he meant.
As the sky lightened, the group settled into sleep, but only after Jesus had ripped a large tree from the ground, placing it at the mouth of the cave to hinder discovery. Joseph was amazed to observe his son accomplish such a feat, stating he was better than any saw or axe ever was when it came to felling timber.
* * *
Jesus awoke almost an hour before dusk and roused the Magdalene, his mother, and Joseph.
“God does my back hurt!” Joseph cried in agony, “That’s what I get for sleeping on the ground all damn day!”
“Don’t worry, with the money you have soon you’ll be able to buy a down stuffed bed to sleep in,” said Jesus, trying to soothe him, knowing it was much too late for him to back out.
“That isn’t helping my back now is it?” Joseph retorted, rising to his feet, “I need food Mary, what do we have in the bag?”
“Bread, dates, honey, cheese, and wine.”
“Give me a stiff belt of wine will you?”
“You should eat something too, on an empty stomach you could get drunk,” she admonished, handing him a bottle.
“That’s the idea, maybe it will make my back stop hurting!”
“Don’t get too drunk dad, we have traveling to do tonight. I want to find horses and an enclosed wagon in Gennesar,” said Jesus.
“Don’t worry, I’m not that foolish son, I need it for the pain.”
“Velly – I mean very well, father.”
Joseph looked to Jesus and took a long drink from the bottle.
“Could I have a slug of that, I could use some,” said Jesus, his father sitting the bottle on the cave floor.
“Sure, you can still drink wine?” asked a surprised Joseph, handing him the bottle.
“I found that out at Pilate’s house, when I uh, visited him,” Jesus answered, looking to his mother.
“So I suppose you’re still a drunk.”
“No more than you are dad,” said Jesus, chugalugging from the bottle as his father smiled, an odd camaraderie growing between them.
Joseph and wife ate a meager breakfast as the sun slipped below the horizon. Jesus pushed away the tree and looked to the darkening sky. It was going to be a clear night with a full moon, perfect for traveling. “Let’s get a move on, Gennesar’s five miles away and we need to get there quickly,” Jesus urged from the mouth of the cave.
“What’s the hurry?” asked the Magdalene, “We can walk five lousy miles in an hour.”
“I want to get there early and find a merchant so we can buy horses and a wagon,” said Jesus.
“Why don’t you eat up the owners and steal them, you seem to steal everything else,” Joseph suggested, looking him in the eyes.
“This way will be easier father, we have plenty of money and will find more than enough food in the form of thieves or highwaymen during the trip to Anatolia.”
“That’s nice,” said Joseph, frowning at his son’s bizarre utterances.
The Magdalene grabbed his treasure sack while Joseph hid their other belongings further back in the cave. Satisfied as to security, the group left and headed north.
Walking along the road, Joseph asked, “Why do we need an enclosed wagon, wouldn’t four horses be sufficient?”
“We need one so we can travel by day, Mary and I can sleep inside while you drive the horses,” answered Jesus. “During mornings and early evenings, we can let the animals feed and rest; I’ll drive them at night while you and mother sleep in back. I also want to return to the cave and pick up your tools and the loot. We definitely need a wagon for that.”
“Good idea,” Joseph agreed, “You seem to have developed a talent when it comes to planning.”
“He’s a genius,” said Mary, “You should see the way he entrances people.”
“I’d rather not see such a thing,” Joseph replied, having an instinctive aversion to the vampiric lifestyle, thinking of Jesus or Mary entrancing their prey like cobras, and of his outwardly gentle son feeding on the blood of his human victims.
They arrived in Gennesar, Jesus quickly scouting the area for his needed items. Advising the others to wait at a nearby tavern, he stopped by a blacksmith’s shop and inquired of the owner if he knew anyone who had horses or an enclosed wagon for sale.
“I have a sturdy wagon I can sell you and my friend Barnabas has horses,” said the man, a muscular Hebrew-Samaritan named Jonas.
“How much do you want for your wagon?”
“Thirty denarii should do, I haven’t used it for a year or two but it’s in good shape,” said Jonas in an opening gambit, “Come take a look.” Opening a wide door to his shop, he showed Jesus his carriage. It was complete with harness, fully enclosed and in excellent condition, with front steerable wheels, all ironclad, and a four point, iron shackle, leather strap box suspension for a relatively smooth ride.
“Really sir, this wagon is worth much more than 30 denarii,” said Jesus while inspecting it, “Are you sure that’s all you want?” Unaware he had made a social gaff in his own country, he looked to the man. A seasoned traveler, Jesus was much more used to the idea of simply paying the asking price, as he had customarily done in Europe, India and Cathay.
“I have no further use for it so 30 denarii will cover it,” Jonas replied, a little put off by the way his customer bargained, “Besides, wait till old Barnabas charges you 100 denarii for each of his horses.”
“You have a deal,” said Jesus, handing him money, having decided on the spot that he wanted the carriage. Feeling pressed for time, he asked, “Can you show me to this Barnabas fellow’s house?”
“Sure, his place is up the street, he’s probably having dinner with his family, but the sound of silver coins will pull him from his table,” Jonas answered, surprised how fast the transaction had taken place. They headed to Barnabas’ house, situated on several acres of land, surrounded by a fenced pasture and well kept stables. “Hey Barney, I have a customer for you,” Jonas called, rapping loudly on the door.
An older gentleman with a long beard appeared in the doorway, asking Jesus, “What can I do for you stranger?”
“I need a pair of strong horses for pulling a wagon,” said Jesus, as straightforward as the horse trader.
“You came to the right place, do you want mares, geldings or stallions?”
“I’d prefer mares or geldings,” said Jesus, aware either were much more docile than stallions.
“Two hundred denarii for a pair of geldings, want to have a look?”
Walking to the stable, he surveyed the lot. All were fine horses, Jesus selecting a pair of common gray Arabian geldings, blankets over their backs.
“They’re a good pair of horses, strong as any oxen,” said an exaggerating Barnabas while Jesus pulled out a moneybag and paid him. Signing over and handing him the titles, the trader was amazed how fast the stranger had purchased the animals. After all, in Judea even the most hurried bargaining took at least ten minutes to settle on the price.
“Thank you, I’m certain they’re fine animals,” Jesus replied, leading the horses from the stable.
“I thank you sir,” said a surprised Barnabas, looking to the money in his hand.
“I’ll help you hitch them up, it’s a bit tricky if you haven’t done it before,” Jonas offered as Jesus led the geldings to the blacksmith shop. Hitching the horses proved no problem, the capable Jonas completing the task for Jesus while he watched.
“So friend, where are you headed with this rig?” Jonas asked, tightening the harnesses as Jesus folded the blankets and placed them on the seat of the carriage.
“North into Anatolia,” said Jesus, embellishing a bit, “I have Roman relatives there, and am claiming an inheritance from an uncle in the northeastern sector.”
“I figured you for a Roman of sorts,” Jonas replied, slipping into Latin from Aramaic as he pulled the cinches tight, “I suppose living down here gave you that beard and long hair.”
“I’m half Samaritan,” Jesus lied, answering in Latin.
“So am I, that explains it,” said Jonas, stepping away from the rig.
“I thank you sir, you’re a kind gentleman,” Jesus replied, mounting the wagon, “Let me give you twenty more denarii for your trouble.”
“There’s no need of that,” said Jonas, declining, surprised at how much of a spendthrift the traveler was.
“I insist,” Jesus replied, dropping 20 silver coins in his hand. “Thank you and goodbye,” he added, leaning down and giving him a firm Roman handshake. Taking the reins, he pulled out and headed to the tavern, leaving blacksmith Jonas staring at his handful of coins in disbelief. Familiar with horses, Jesus drove the wagon to the tavern, stepped down and walked into the establishment. It was almost closing time, he observing his parents enjoying a meal.
The Magdalene was occupied protecting his parents from danger, as she had grown rather fond of the two over the past months. Holding Joseph’s satchel of treasure in her lap, she kept a close watch on other patrons for threatening moves.
In his usual detached manner, Jesus walked over, sat down and said, “We have transportation for the trip north, an enclosed wagon and two gelding horses.”
“How much did it cost you?” asked Joseph, finishing a bowl of venison and cabbage soup.
“250 denarii,” said Jesus, “Practically a steal.”
“You can say that again,” Joseph replied, “The horses alone would have cost maybe 400 in southern Galilee, and 500 or so in Jerusalem.”
“Are you ready to go?” asked Jesus, impatient to resume the journey.
“In a moment,” his mother admonished as if he were a fidgety child, “We’ll leave as soon as we finish dinner.”
“Yes mother, but we have a lot of work to do tonight and I’m a little hungry myself.”
“So am I,” the Magdalene added.
“Imagine that,” said Joseph, sitting his spoon down and reaching for a cup of wine.
Shortly thereafter the group was heading south at a leisurely pace to the cave, Jesus at the reins beside his consort. His parents were sitting in the wagon, Joseph having slid aside a movable wooden panel to converse with him and the Magdalene.
“Don’t tell me you’re really heading back for the loot,” said Joseph, thinking that with his son’s talent for thievery it was pointless.
“That’s right,” Jesus replied, “We’ll be traveling a great distance into Anatolia, so there’s no point leaving it here.”
“Why bother, just steal more, you seem rather good at it,” Joseph suggested, seemingly intent on insulting Jesus.
“I will, but why should I go through the trouble of robbing people if I don’t take it with me, besides, your tools and other belongings are there too,” Jesus replied, oblivious of his father’s sarcasm.
“You’re right,” said Joseph, surprised his son could think that far ahead.
They arrived quickly, Jesus and father entering the pitch-black cave by torchlight. Joseph loaded his tools and other belongings in the wagon, with Jesus returning from the depths of the cavern, effortlessly carrying his loot over a shoulder in a sack weighing approximately 200 pounds.
Heaving the heavy sack in the rear of the wagon, his father observed, “You vampires certainly have the rest of us beat when it comes to strength.”
“Yes,” said Jesus, “It comes in handy when one has work to do.”
“Really,” Joseph replied, closing and latching the rear door, wondering if vampirism was a type of infection that made hard workers out of lazy philosophers.
They passed Gennesar, heading north. It was getting near midnight, Mary Magdalene breaking the silence by remarking, “We’ll have to find someone to eat soon.”
“They’ll turn up, they always do,” said Jesus, “The road to Lebanon’s desolate and a perfect hunting ground for thieves and highwaymen.”
“Perfect for them or for us?”
“For us of course,” a smiling Jesus answered, remembering when a traveler he had been the one to take precautions, having carried weapons of many types, and having had to use them on more than one occasion. Their wait for a nutritious hemoglobin dinner did not take long, for exactly as Jesus had predicted, a band of robbers were lurking only a few hundred yards up the road. They spotted them in the distance by the heat of their bodies, long before the group would have any chance of surprise, not that it would have mattered.
“Lock the carriage doors and wait inside father,” said Jesus, turning his head to the wagon for a moment, trying to prepare his parents for the inevitable as they approached a trio of highwaymen lurking in the chaparral.
“Why?” his father asked.
“Robbers are ahead and it’s time for our supper.”
“Ah yes,” said Joseph, raising an eyebrow. Noting that Jesus and consort would be dining out again, he closed and bolted the doors.
The robbers moved into the road, blocking their path, Jesus bringing the wagon to a gentle stop.
“That’s a nice wagon, want to sell it?” came a question from one of the men, a rotund creature of nearly 300 pounds.
“No,” Jesus answered.
“How about the woman, is she for sale?” another asked with an evil smile, eyeing Mary.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask her,” said Jesus, waving in his consort’s direction.
“Jesus!” the Magdalene exclaimed, “I don’t do that any more!”
“Perhaps not, but you did say you like to have fun with them didn’t you?”
“I get it.”
They stepped from the wagon and headed toward the robbers. With a broad smile, Jesus asked, “I suppose you fellows are merchants of sorts?”
“This guy’s even stupider than he looks,” one remarked to the fat man, the leader of the band.
“We’re not merchants, just thieves,” said the third, anticipating a victim’s usual fear.
“So you steal things,” Jesus replied, walking up with Mary at his side, “So do we.”
The highwaymen moved back a few steps, intimidated by the fearlessness of the undead Son of Man. “What do you steal?” asked one, looking up to the much taller Jesus.
“Lives,” said Mary, baring fangs while Jesus froze them to their spots.
“Now who’s stupid?” asked Jesus of the statuesque thieves.
Mary grabbed one; sinking fangs deep, she sucked him dry as the others looked on in horror. Pulling from the throat, she released and the corpse fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. “One down, two to go,” she said, wiping blood dripping from her mouth.
“Save one for me will you woman?”
“Take the fat one – he’s probably filled with blood.”
“Sure,” said Jesus, grabbing the entranced fat man and draining his life from him while Mary gorged on the blood of the other.
“Joseph, why did the wagon stop?” his wife asked.
“Our son and his friend have found someone to eat along the way,” said Joseph, becoming used to the fact that Jesus was a vampire.
“Oh,” she replied, not wanting to press further.
A few minutes later a knock came on the door, Jesus announcing, “You can come out, folks, it’s safe.”
The rear door opened, his mother remarking to Jesus as he helped her down, “It was getting stuffy in there with the doors and windows closed.” She looked about, saw the bodies and fainted in Joseph’s arms.
“This is going to take a little getting used to,” said Joseph, laying his wife in the back of the wagon on a blanket.
“You’re doing rather well with it, father.”
“Nothing bothers me, but your mother’s another story,” said Joseph, eyeing the corpses.
“I’ve noticed she’s always been that way, kind of flighty,” Jesus observed, feeling a twinge of embarrassment at the implied criticism of his mother.
“You’re telling me,” said Joseph, “And I’ve had to live with her for thirty-four years.”
“You must truly love her after all this time,” the Magdalene replied, kneeling by her victim, rummaging through his clothes with thorough ruthlessness, searching for valuables.
“Of course, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t crazy at times,” Joseph answered, fondly thinking of his wife.
“We’d best clean up our mess,” said Jesus, walking to the bodies. Finding a hoard of silver on the fat one, he added, “Will you bring a sack father, this man is loaded with hundreds of denarii!”
“Sure,” Joseph replied as his wife awakened. “Stay here Mary, I don’t think you’re ready for all this yet,” he ordered, grabbing an empty satchel.
His wife did as told while Joseph brought the satchel to Jesus.
“He was a fat one wasn’t he?” Joseph observed, watching Jesus rip a gold pendant from the corpse’s neck.
“Yeah, I almost broke one of my fangs on the necklace this bastard was wearing,” an annoyed Jesus spat.
“They’ll grow back if you break one won’t they?”
“Of course, but why go through the bother,” said Jesus as he filled the satchel, “Garlic may not work on us, but I think a metal torque around the neck just might!”
“Let’s hope they don’t come into general fashion,” Mary snickered, eyeing the pendant. Noticing this, Jesus tossed the gleaming bauble to his partner.
“Just bite them someplace else,” suggested Joseph, Jesus and the Magdalene looking to him.
“You’d make a good vampire dad,” said Jesus, handing him the treasure-laden satchel.
“No I wouldn’t, but thanks just the same,” Joseph replied, heading to the wagon and climbing in.
“Let’s ditch these guys,” said Jesus.
“There’s a cliff over there, we can throw them over it.”
“Good idea,” said Jesus, dragging the fat one by his feet and heaving the other cadaver over a shoulder, the Magdalene lifting the third corpse with one arm. Heading to the cliff, they disposed of their victims, tossing them into a deep ravine. “That takes care of that,” he added as the bodies bounced down the cliff, landing in broken heaps at the bottom.
They walked to the wagon and Jesus climbed aboard, taking the reins while Mary made sure his parents were safely inside. Taking her place beside him, they resumed the trip north.