My book, The Q Fragments, is set in two very different periods. It begins in contemporary times with characters caught up in the discovery of scroll fragments that may have information concerning Jesus of Nazareth and the early Christians. They go to Israel to search for the remaining fragments and to follow the clues in those fragments to discover something secret hidden in the Judaean desert two thousand years ago. Then, the main part of the tale moves to Judea of Christ and Pilate’s time where new characters tell the story of what actually happened to Jesus and some of his followers, the real events that formed the foundation of the fantastical, contradictory and supernatural Jesus and Gospel stories told today.
Because the characters, historical settings and dialog of the two eras – modern and ancient – are so different, and I have attempted to make them so, I will be posting a number of excerpts from the book here to give you of how I have handled the flavor of those time, characters and events. I won’t be giving away too many secrets or betraying plot lines, but the excerpts should give you a look into the characters and the tale I have to tell.
Excerpt from Part 1: Two characters, Edith Donaldson and Walker Burnett discussing why Edith has hired Walker to investigate the newly discovered scroll fragments. Earlier in this scene, it is established that “she” is Edith, and “he” is Walker.
She brought the drinks back to a large driftwood coffee table. She sat on a sofa, poured his ale into a cold glass and handed it to him and leaned back with her glass of zinfandel, stretching her Levi clad legs out on the table, crossing her ankles, her beat up pair of running shoes dangling over the edge.
“Private jet. A car meets me at the airport. What’s so urgent?” he said, taking a long swallow of the ale.
“It is a matter of timing, obviously. I need to get some information quickly without anyone else knowing that I am interested.”
“I thought you had resources for this kind of thing.”
“Yes, but the information I need isn’t available here. You’ll have to go to Israel,” she said, looking at him, amusement wrinkling her eyes.
“Sure. I suppose that would be right away, seeing as how you are so much in a hurry. Why couldn’t you tell me this on the phone, instead of this James Bond routine?”
“I don’t think you will have to shoot someone, unlike that unfortunate person in Los Angeles, so that isn’t really a good analogy.”
“Dizzy Bones was about to shoot me at the time. Better him than me and besides, I was working for you, remember?” he said. “What analogy would you suggest?”
“None. I have encountered nothing quite like this. Let me get to the point. A young associate of mine, a scholar I am supporting in Israel, called me yesterday. He is working with the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem translating old documents. You’ve heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls?”.”
“Sure. Very old scrolls found somewhere in Israel, in the desert, I think.”
“Close enough. They were discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin boy out looking for his goats, or that’s the story. Anyway, after a few years of searching, most of the scrolls were recovered. They are really beyond price, quite valuable in an historical sense. Until now, it was thought they had all been found.”
“But, someone found more.”
“My associate in Israel, Nathaniel Benjamin, came across new fragments, pieces of a scroll. More importantly, it may be that these fragments are special, very special and very valuable.”
“If they are real.”
“Yes, that’s our first consideration. Fake documents and relics surface regularly, especially in that part of the world. Nathaniel thinks these are authentic, but they have not yet been tested. It is not their age but what is written on them, that is important. If they are authentic, they could be the most valuable of all the scrolls.”
“What do they say?”
“There are are references to important figures and places in the earliest days of Christianity.”
“Don’t the Dead Sea Scrolls do that?”
“No. They concern themselves with commentaries on the early Jewish books of what we call the Old Testament, and some of them describe the rules of the Essene community, but there is nothing at all in the scrolls about Jesus or any of the early Christians.”
“Until now,” he said. “Maybe.”
“Yes, until now. Maybe.”
Excerpt from Part 2, introducing two main characters for this ‘ancient’ part of the tale, Lucius and Kasha, in Rome.
“Lucius Antonius Quintus, you must arise now. Your father is asking for you.”
It was Kasha’s voice. Lucius could tell with his eyes closed, which they were, and he intended to keep them that way.
“Go away,” Lucius groaned. “Too early. Head hurts.”
“I am not surprised at this. Why should you be so? Last night you drank enough for both of us,” Kasha said.
“You don’t drink,” Lucius said, his voice seeming to come from outside his head.
“You continue to provide me with sufficient reason not to begin,” Kasha said. “Now, arise young Lucius, and attend your father.”
The bed covers were abruptly yanked away and one of the house slaves drew back the window curtains admitting a painful spill of light. Lucius cracked one eye open and there was Kasha towering above him, his ebony skin bright in the light, smiling broadly at his discomfort. Kasha held a large bronze pitcher over the bed.
“What’s in that pitcher?” Lucius asked.
“It is not more wine,” Kasha said. “It is cold mountain water to assist with your rising.”
“You wouldn’t,” Lucius said.
Kasha’s grin grew wider.
“You would… I am getting up. Egyptians…” Lucius said.
“I am not Egyptian, as well you know,” Kasha replied. He stood taller than anyone Lucius had ever seen, his body roped with long muscle, the ritual identifying scars of his warrior family furrowing in three serpentine lines on each cheek. His thick hair was pulled back and secured behind his neck with a gold band. The bright contrast of his white tunic and ebony skin was painful to Lucius’ sight.
Lucius rolled upright, the inside of his head seeming to follow a heartbeat later. Kasha motioned to a house slave who took the pitcher from him and poured a large cup full. Kasha handed the cup to Lucius.
“Make haste, young Lucius, your father awaits,” Kasha said.
Lucius grumbled but dressed hurriedly. He was not yet thirty years of age, tall, not nearly as tall as Kasha, and, like all Romans who lived and fought with the Legions, he was fit and strong. His brown hair was cut short in the Roman style, his eyes were green and, this morning, bloodshot. Although his nose was rather long and thin, like his father’s, he was considered handsome and a good catch for an unmarried woman of equal rank. So far, he had eluded all their efforts to capture him.
In future posts I will add more excerpts that illustrate other characters and scenes from both periods – ancient and contemporary. Pilate, Miriam, Magdalene, Jesus, the Baptizer, and others will make their brief appearance. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.