Addi felt nervous his entire walk home thinking through what Kohath had said and the apparent willingness to have him, a key member of the Pesachya group, stoned for listening to Jesus. More importantly, for overhearing that Hadar had already put things in motion to have Jesus killed. Joseph already pointed out in their last Pesachya meeting Hadar's willingness to do so, with Caiaphas' direction; but he had refused to believe it until tonight.
Should he warn Jesus? He thought back on all that Jesus had spoken to the crowds about the Pharisees. His parables and direct responses were clearly meant to tell them he knew of their plans to kill him; so why stay? Surely he knew he had not changed their minds today. If anything, he made them more determined than before. What good could come from his death?
Typically, he walked in confidence, not just because he usually had his bodyguards with him, but because he had no reason for fear. Now each alley he passed, each stranger he saw walking toward him or behind him, hinted at a new type of helpless fear growing inside him that Kohath had started. It was a fear he had not felt since childhood as he stood and watched his parents on that fateful night.
As he wrestled with his fear, he thought of the same pain and sadness the young woman disciple would feel if Jesus were killed. She would be alone as Addi was left alone when his parents were killed. His heart felt heavy at the thought of such sadness for someone else, then for the thought of losing the Messiah. He was a little surprised he had embraced the idea of Jesus as the Messiah, but did he truly believe it?
He glanced up seeing the front doors of his estate and his guards watching him approach.
"We were getting a little worried, Addi. In fact, Heber is inside organizing a detail to go find you," Hezron said and smiled.
"Yeah, I think next time I will keep you close by," Addi said and smiled. "Has my guest arrived yet?" Hezron shook his head as Addi passed by and started up the stairs to change his clothing. Try as he might, he could not clear his mind of the events that had transpired earlier. It was only when Heber came in to announce his guest had arrived that he finally manage to shake the dark thoughts.
"I'll meet him in the office," Addi said. Heber raised an eyebrow questioning the directive. But Add continued, "And Heber, that will be all for the night. Please tell the others," Addi said, not wanting to be disturbed during their discussion. Heber nodded as Addi moved to the far side of his desk and glanced around long enough to make sure everything was where it belonged and then waited for Cleopas to arrive.
When Cleopas walked into the office, he carried a large leather tube. Addi assumed it contain the report for him. Hesitantly, he glanced around the room before finally resting his gaze on Addi.
"Hello, Addi. Thank you for meeting with me," Cleopas said humbly and somewhat awkwardly.
"As always, it is good to see you my friend," Addi replied, but felt if he was reading his reactions correctly, Cleopas seemed almost nervous. This was something he had never seen him display before. He motioned for Cleopas to take a seat across the desk from him and settled in to hear Cleopas' report. He was looking forward to asking his own questions when he was finished. As Cleopas sat down, he placed the leather tube on his lap, cleared his throat and took a deep breath.
"I wanted to inform you I have come to the end of our agreement concerning Jesus," he said, looking down at the tube in his lap. Addi nodded in response.
"What have you determined about him? Is he the Messiah or not?" Addi asked, still curious about why Cleopas was so nervous. Perhaps Hadar had learned he was working for Addi and had threatened him? Cleopas reluctantly gave his answer.
"He is the Messiah!" He seemed to want to say more, but for some reason was not willing to continue. Addi's heart raced when he heard Cleopas' statement, but still could not understand what might be bothering him. Addi thought about what they had agreed to.
"I'm glad to hear you have found him. I guess the agreement was only if you found the Messiah would I be required to pay for your services. So let me know what the amount is and I will have the money for you tomorrow," Addi replied, but Cleopas shook his head.
"I am not here for payment," Cleopas said sheepishly. This was a very strange and unlikely answer that really bothered Addi, who no longer had the patience to play this guessing game.
"What is it then Cleopas? What has you so uncomfortable?" He asked, and Cleopas looked up at him and sighed. He reached over and sat the large leather tube on the desk in front of Addi.
"These are copies of important documents that belonged to your father, but there is so much more you need to know before you read them," Cleopas stated. Addi's heart raced at the thought of finding something that belonged to his father.
"What? Where did you find them?" Addi asked incredulously, looking up at Cleopas, who sat motionless as he tried to formulate an answer. "It's okay, Cleopas. We are friends and you can tell me," Addi said trying to reassure him. But instead of building his confidence, tears suddenly began to flow down Cleopas' face, a response he would have never guessed the man was capable of. It was Addi's turn to sit silently as he tried to understand what inner battle his friend was going through.
"I found them here," Cleopas said with a quivering voice and pointed to the shelf behind Addi, the very shelf he had mentioned the last time he was here. Addi stared at the shelf and then back at Cleopas trying to understand what he was talking about. Cleopas stood and walked across the room and with a simple 'press and pull' movement, the shelf swung open revealing a hidden compartment Addi had never seen before. Addi stood up and looked into the empty cavity and then back at Cleopas.
"You broke into my home after our last meeting and stole them?" Addi asked, stunned by the idea his friend would do such a thing. Cleopas shook his head and shuddered again.
“I took it 16 years ago,” Cleopas mumbled. Addi’s mind raced back in time to that dreadful night.
"No! There was just the assassin and the older man," Addi said stumbling through the words. But Cleopas shook his head again.
"It was me Addi," he said.
"No, no he was much older, and his voice was different," Addi stammered, shaking his head back in forth in disbelief.
"Not the boy…Those were the orders, so if you want to get paid and live, you had better keep them.” Cleopas repeated the words the man had spoken, but in a far deeper and sinister voice. His body shuddered again in tears and silent crying. "I am so sorry," he interjected and lowered his head. A chill shot through Addi. Although strained with emotion, he had heard the same voice over fifteen years ago, standing in the very spot Cleopas stood now.
All the fears and feelings came rushing through his mind as he looked up at who he thought was his friend. How could it be? He had sought out Cleopas to find his killer, and all along the very man he had hired was him. No wonder he was never brought to justice. The hatred and bitterness that had been building for all these years was screaming in his head for justice. He thought about calling the guards to have Cleopas taken captive and brought to justice, but instead he turned and opened a drawer in the desk and withdrew the dagger he knew would be laying there. Standing up, he raised the dagger above his head, aiming for Cleopas' chest in front of him and preparing to bring the dagger down in the powerful thrust he had been taught. He wanted to watch him die as his father and mother had died, with his lifeblood slowing flowing out of him. He grunted in anger and withheld his thrust, looking Cleopas in the eyes. There was no fear or pleading in them, only a welcome relief from a man in torture and guilt who knows what his actions deserve and welcomes the release from it. Cleopas was not trying to block Addi's attack, or to dodge it; but instead was leaning toward it as he sorrowfully stared Addi in the eyes. Addi tried again to bring himself to thrust the blade downward, but there was a deeper inner desire to know why they had been killed and no one knew that answer better than this man.
Addi glared at his former friend as he grabbed him by the front of his tunic and pushed him around the desk towards the chair and shoved him into it. Addi again moved as if he were going to stab him, but instead stepped away and crossed the room shutting the door and locking them both inside.
"Why?" Addi asked and then shook his head in anger, "Why! You were my friend!" He shouted, and Cleopas shook his head.
"Addi, I was not your friend then. In fact, I refused at first to work for you, but I had no choice except to take the position," he said and tried to compose himself in order to continue. "I became your friend many years later after knowing you and watching the young man you became despite the pain I had caused," he said sniffing back the fluid coming out his nose and smiling sadly as he shook his head. "In fact, I worked harder for you than any other client, as if I could somehow earn your forgiveness. But it burned within me every time we were together. Despite my social awkwardness and character strangeness, you always treated me with kindness and fairness. You never mocked me or spoke disparagingly of me to anyone," he chuckled nervously, "I know, because I looked long and hard for a reason to dislike you; but you were a true friend and it only made it worse knowing it," he said and looked down at his shaking hands.
Despite the hatred of having the killer of his family sitting in front of him, Addi somehow began to feel sorry for the man.
"Why? What did they do to deserve death?" Addi asked.
"It was just a job that I was hired to do," he said. "They wanted your parents and all the family killed, except for you, and to secure all the documents, writings and research your father had accumulated about the Messiah," he replied. Addi thought about the 'they' Cleopas had used.
"The Romans wanted them dead because of his research on the Messiah?" Addi asked and Cleopas seemed shocked by the question and then shook his head.
"No Addi, it was the Pharisees that wanted them dead," Cleopas said and Addi felt a wave of nausea flow through him at the thought of another betrayal of what he thought were close friends. "They wanted you alive to keep the business entities your father had built in place and operational until they could train you to take them over," he said. Addi thought about standing up and walking to the window, but felt his legs would not carry him. He sat back in the chair and again tried to put all the pieces together.
"But why kill my parents?" Addi asked.
"At first, your father agreed with what the Pesachya group was looking for in the Messiah. But as time passed, his research began to uncover key items that did not agree with them and began to propose them during the meetings, which did not sit well with the new leader," Cleopas said. Addi immediately knew it was Hadar whom he spoke about.
"Like what?" Addi asked and Cleopas tapped the leather tube on the desk.
"It is a strange curse, but I remember everything I read and hear. Everything. So, as I read through the research and documents your father had hidden, or left on the desk, I put it to memory and have carried it around in my mind for the past 15 years," he said. Addi knew this to be true. Cleopas was capable of the very thing he had stated.
"So why share it now?"
"I knew the kind of Messiah the Pharisees were looking for, but I also carried in my head the details of the Messiah your father was looking for. They obviously did not agree with each other, nor had any possible Messiah come along that even came close to what your father believed in. That is, not until John the Baptist and Jesus came along," Cleopas said and waited, as if making sure Addi had grasped the meaning. "That's why I know Jesus is the true Messiah, for no one could have predicted the coming of this man except through the prophecies of the word of God. Your father's research has been accurate every step of the way," Cleopas said.
"Like what?" Addi asked and Cleopas quietly looked at the leather tube on the desk.
"It's all in there Addi. I have spent the last five months writing it all down word for word, even the little side notes on the edges of the paper. It is the least I could do for someone I care deeply for, and whose parents' lives I took," he said somberly.
Addi started to walk through each step and decision of his life after his parents had been murdered. Every step of the way the Pharisees had been there to provide guidance and training for him. They had strongly recommended Gavriel be hired to help him run the business entities. Cleopas was right. It was also the Pharisees that strongly advised Addi to hire Cleopas to find his parents’ killers, 'the very best money can buy' they had said. How much did Gavriel know? Addi wondered and realized that Gavriel had even been the one who preselected and interviewed the guards he had hired to protect him. How deep did this deception go? He wondered and felt sick at the idea of how stupid and trusting he had been.
"I'm just a tool they are using," Addi mumbled and Cleopas nodded slightly. Addi looked over at Cleopas as if looking for something missing.
"Why are you telling me this? If what you say is true, then you are a dead man for betraying them," Addi said and Cleopas shrugged.
"Once they find out I have told you, they may risk crossing me, but I've made it clear there are triggers in place that would be shared should my people discover who was behind such an attempt, If it turns out to be them, then there would be a great deal of light shed on what they are up too," he said and smiled. "I'm more worried about you Addi, for you are following in your father’s footsteps in resisting them and you are close to having the same horrible ending as your parents," Cleopas stated.
"How do you know for sure that is true?" Addi asked even though he knew that Cleopas was well connected.
"Because they told me to be ready to finish the job they started fifteen years ago," Cleopas said and looked down.
Addi was stunned by the arrogance and evil that was within the Pharisee leadership. Was there anything they would not do to see their will enforced? Remembering the role he played in the Pesachya group, Addi looked back at Cleopas.
"Then they would lose everything my father and I have built," Addi said sternly, but Cleopas shook his head.
"You do not have an heir, so you have designated the Temple to receive your inheritance should anything happen to you, something your father refused to do. Gavriel will be the executor of your estate. Although your talents and wisdom are exceptional, to them you are just a face and a signature that can be replaced," Cleopas replied.
"Is the whole Pesachya group aware of this?" Addi asked, thinking of Joseph’s and Nicodemas' concern for him. Addi was relieved to see Cleopas shake his head.
"No, only the Pharisee leadership group, although the majority in the group have been handpicked to ensure they would follow their lead," Cleopas said and then hesitated.
"Generally, anyone in the past who became a problem was forced out of the group or came to a tragic end," he said and looked down as if he may have played a part in that too.
Addi still did not know whom he could trust, and tried to think of the various ways he could defeat their plans, but realized anything he did to change either the name or will of his estate would be noticed by Gavriel and the Pharisees. They would then simply have him killed before he could follow through with it. If he went to the Romans, he knew they would not turn on the Priestly order for fear of the people. They would make them pay dearly for such betrayal, but they would extract payment from the weakest and most profitable link in the chain, him. There seemed to be nothing he could do except await his own death, or continue playing the role of their money tool.
Could a day get any worse than this? He wondered as he looked across the desk again at Cleopas who was staring at his hands lying in his lap.
"So, what will you do now?" Addi asked and Cleopas looked up and shrugged.
"I had not planned to live past this moment, so I have not given it much thought or made too many plans," he said. "He told me to come here and tell you about the role I have played in your life," Cleopas said and smiled.
"He?" Addi asked.
"Jesus," he replied and took a deep breath. "He said there was nothing I could do to earn your forgiveness, but if I wanted to be free from my guilt, I needed to confess it to you and tell you how sorry I was," he said softly.
"What makes you think I will forgive you?" Addi asked and Cleopas shook his head and looked at the dagger sitting on the desktop.
"I didn't. In fact, I told Jesus you would kill me with the very dagger I had seen sitting in the top drawer of the desk fifteen years ago," he said.
"And what did he say?" Addi asked.
"He just smiled and said it would be better to enter heaven free of guilt than suffer in hell for eternity with it," he replied.
"He didn’t forgive you of your sins?" Addi asked, knowing Jesus had forgiven so many in the temple courts. Why not Cleopas?
"He knew I could never truly follow him with a clear conscience if I carried such guilt around my neck. He was right. I'm ready to die now that I have told you everything and how sorry I am for killing your parents," Cleopas ended, tears forming in his eyes again.
"You didn’t kill my parents and family," Addi hesitated a moment. "The Pharisees did." But Cleopas only shook his head.
"Addi, I hired the assassin who killed them."
"No, the Pharisees hired you to find a man who would kill them. Like me, you were just the tool they used to keep their conscience clear and the blood from their hands," Addi stated and gritted his teeth as he thought about Hadar giving the orders, probably without regret or remorse. His heart suddenly froze in his chest as he remembered what he had overheard earlier in the evening.
"You need to tell Jesus he should leave Jerusalem tonight because Hadar is planning on killing him either tomorrow or the next day!" Addi almost yelled across the desk.
"I have already tried to tell him repeatedly" said Cleopas. "But he just smiles and tells me not to worry. It is strange, but I almost believe he came to Jerusalem to die and your father's research seems to support it. Jesus has even alluded to it in his teachings."
"Then you need to have the inside source you hired to convince him, or his life and teachings will be for nothing and his followers will be scattered or killed," Addi pleaded, but once again Cleopas shook his head.
"He no longer works for me. I could not in good conscience profess to believe in Jesus as the Messiah while at the same time paying one of his disciples thirty pieces of silver a month to spy on him," Cleopas said and then furrowed his brow. "He was not happy when I told him. He apparently had already made plans on how he was going to spend those thirty silver pieces and was desperate to find a way to earn it."
Addi began to wrestle with a new thought.
"If Jesus is truly the Messiah, then he must know about one of his disciples spying on him," Addi said. But Cleopas only shrugged and nodded.
"You would think so, but he does not treat Judas any differently than the other disciples. Knowing what I have observed personally and what my people have discovered during background checks on each of his disciples, he is bad news. Yet Jesus keeps him on as a part of his inner circle."
They both sat in silence while they tried to figure out what to do next. A murderer and former friend now sat in front of him, and yet he did not know how to go on. It was Cleopas who finally broke the silence.
"Tell me how you would like me to continue and I will do it. If it means turning myself into the authorities to confess to the murder of your family, then I will do so. My conscience and convictions will not let me take my own life, but it is yours to take if you wish it," Cleopas ended and sat quietly waiting for Addi to determine his fate.
"What do you want to do?" Addi asked him, the question seeming to surprise both of them. Cleopas took another deep breath and exhaled.
"I would like to spend my last days learning from Jesus. If it is in my power to do so, I want to prevent the Pharisees from taking his life and see him placed on the throne of his kingdom," he said and held Addi's attention for several moments.
"Then go. Jesus is going to need someone with your talents if he is to survive the night, let alone live long enough to sit on his throne," Addi said softly. He suddenly realized every friend he once thought he had was now either plotting to take his life and possessions, or walk out the door, never to be seen again. He felt painfully alone.
Addi finally willed himself to stand. He walked to the door and unlocked it while motioning Cleopas toward it. Cleopas stood up, reached over and tapped the leather tube on the desk.
"Your father was an incredible man and your mother very brave. They both loved you very much and I am so sorry for taking them from you," he said, again fighting back tears and choking on the last words as he walked to the door.
"Cleo…" Addi began and then paused as Cleopas hesitated at the doorway. Addi took a deep breath as he looked at the crushed spirit of the man in front of him. "I forgive you," he finally said. Cleopas just stood in the doorway; his body convulsing with each inner rumble that came from silent crying as tears flowed down his face.
"Thank you Addi," Cleopas replied in a voice that was wracked with pain and choked with tears. Addi at first only watched him, but then reached out his hand, placing it on his shoulder. Then suddenly he moved toward the man and embraced him as a friend.
To Addi's surprise, he felt a flood of emotions well up and pour out from him as he held on to Cleopas. It was as if all the years of hatred, bitterness and anger suddenly began streaming out of his eyes, slowly changing into tears of relief, bringing inner peace. It was Cleopas who then returned the embrace and the two of them stood there crying together. After a long period, the two of them stepped apart, smiled and wiped the tears from their own faces and tried to somehow return to normal. It did not make sense to Addi, but despite the pain and horror of everything that had been revealed, their relationship seemed renewed, even stronger, as a result. If they could make it through this, they could survive any challenge as brothers.
"I have a lot of reading to do tonight, and you need to go save our savior," Addi said as he cleared his throat. They both nodded then turned away, one toward the door downstairs, the other to the desk where a leather tube was waiting to be opened and its contents read. Cleopas stopped and turned back toward Addi.
"I know it might seem strange to offer this, but if you need my help, I will have one of my men waiting outside. Just step out onto the veranda and signal. They will come to the back gate. You can either ask them to come and get me, or give them a message and they will bring it to me," Cleopas said and Addi nodded.
"What were your men going to do if I had taken your life?" Addi asked and waited.
"They were to notify my parents and return to Jesus," he said. Addi seemed perplexed and even raised an eyebrow.
"You have parents?" he asked? Cleopas nodded and smiled.
"They don't know I exist, but I know who they are," Cleopas smiled.
"Of course you do," Addi smiled and then continued. "I'd like to learn more about them, assuming we make it out of all this alive." Cleopas just nodded and then turned and left.