Zacher peered around the doorframe before stepping inside. The house was quiet. The only sounds his ears picked up came from outside; people getting ready for the Passover feasts. Keeping one eye on the interior, he tipped his face back toward the door. "It's clear Amol."
His comrade slipped inside the door to his side. Hard lines crossed his tanned face, and he looked older than his twenty years. The result of the life he lived. Zacher wondered if his would be the same before long.
Amol pushed past him. "I told you they would be gone. They're very devout people. They would want everything in order before the feasts."
Zacher followed him further into the house. "I'd rather be cautious. You don't know everything. One of these days you'll be caught, and I don't plan to be with you."
Amol made a dismissive sound and found his way to the bed chamber. "They're well off. I'm sure she has jewels here somewhere."
Zacher needed no more prodding. He moved through the families belongings with speed, making sure to return things back to their places just as quickly. He slid coins and necklaces and rings into the pouch at his waist. Every once in a while he could hear a pleased exclamation come from Amol on the other side of the room.
Replacing the lid on a wood box he turned. "Let's get out of here, before they get back."
Amol straightened, sliding something into his pouch. "You worry too much. No ones home, and they wont be for hours. There's whole other rooms to look through."
Zacher patted his pouch. "Mine's full."
"I thought you were smart. Surely you can find room for more."
Zacher rolled his eyes. "Lead the way, Akan."
Amol shot him a glare. "That's not my name."
"You're parents didn't call you One who troubles? Shame." Zacher shook his head.
Amol looked smug. "You follow me around. What does that make you?"
"The more sensible of the two. You'll charge right into any trouble to be had first, and I'll have time to escape."
"Bah." Amol turned away and continued his search throughout the house. Zacher moved through with him, stuffing items as he went. One thing Amol was right about. These people had money. He'd be eating good off this one for a while. Finally Amol was satisfied with his search, and Zacher's pouch truly was full to overflowing.
He grinned excitedly at his friend as he made his way to the door. "Let's get out of here. I want to see how much more I got than you." He faced forward and collided with someone coming in the door.
Zacher staggered back with a startled yelp, as the man he'd rammed yelled in anger.
"Thieves! Stop them!" Zacher whirled and passed Amol in a dash back inside, heading for one of the nearest window. The man followed him in, still yelling. A boy a bit younger than Zacher ran in from the back and Zacher veered to avoid him. He swore when he saw there was no way out and pulled a knife out of his belt. His heart pounded in his ears and he thought his head might explode. "Stay back!" He shouted, pressed against the wall. Amol was to his right, spewing threats and curses. The boy took a step closer and Zacher threw the knife at him. He cried out in pain and fell back and Zacher darted past him. The man thundered behind him and he could hear the boy's cries for help.
"Hurry up!" Amol insisted, shoving him from behind and almost knocking him over. He stumbled out into the street, Amol running past him. Zacher darted the other way, hoping to get lost in one of the crowds that had been coming into Jerusalem.
The angry homeowners shouts followed him and he cursed again when he saw a human wall begin to hem him in. He skidded to a halt, gravel underfoot almost dropping him and looked for some way of escape.
A furious scream behind him caused him to jerk and two men seized on his arms. "Let go!" He hollered, kicking and flailing. They couldn't take him! They couldn't take him! They'd crucify him!
He struggled but more men moved to bind him and he couldn't fight them all off. Someone struck him over the head and the world flashed to darkness.
***Zacher groaned and forced his eyes open. He'd expected light to blind him but it was dark where he found himself. Only a dim light hung in the area from a source he couldn't see. He knew immediately where he was though. Prison.
"About time you woke up." Zacher hadn't seen Amol sitting against the opposite wall. "Why'd you have to take us to a dead end?"
Zacher heaved himself to a sitting position, head spinning. "If you'd just left when I said so we wouldn't be in here." He snarled.
"Of course, Zacher always knows best." Amol spat the words out.
Zacher lunged to his feet and curled his hands around Amol's throat. "You got my caught!" He screamed. "You know what they're going to do? You know what's going to happen?!"
Amol twisted and flung Zacher to the ground. The hard floor sent a shock of pain through his head. "Don't you ever touch me again you little rat! This is your fault!"
Zacher kicked at him and moved back on the floor against the other wall. "You just stay away from me." He growled, holding his head.
He tried to calm his breathing, think clearly. Maybe he could get out. Maybe there was a way. "Have they charged us yet?"
Amol nodded slowly. "You took a big crack to the head. You've been unconscious for hours. They already know who we are. How many people we've robbed."
Zacher glared. "You told them." His eyes picked up on blood smeared across Amol's face.
"They already knew." He snapped.
Zacher closed his eyes. How had this happened? He'd been stealing for years. No one had even come close to catching him. "Oh God." He groaned. Maybe he would hear and blast the walls down. He'd heard a story like that from his grandfather. That seemed so long ago. Like a different life. With a little boy that wasn't him at all.
"God can't help you now." Amol's voice cut through his thoughts. "They're going to crucify us."
Zacher tried to block out the angry screams of the people outside. The deadly chant that had come up, throwing his destiny into his face with every breath.
"Why won't they stop? We're not that infamous." He groaned.
Amol sneered, seeming determined to remain vile until the end. "They've got that Jesus fellow out there. That one everyone's been talking about lately? The King of the Jews." He spit. "Guess he wasn't a king after all."
Zacher opened his eyes, a reply ready on his tongue when the door swung open and two guards walked in. Zacher's eyes widened in panic and he screamed and thrashed as they tied his arms and dragged him outside.
The path to the hill seemed too short. The end was coming too fast. It was entirely too long. He couldn't stand to look at the rocks stood out from the ground like bones. It only took longer, and burned the terror deeper into his body every time the other prisoner, that Jesus, fell with his cross.
Zacher wished he could just die on the way. His heart was beating fast enough. It might give out. He couldn't take this.
His stomach rolled and he vomited, stumbling when one of the soldiers shoved him to keep moving. He staggered and fell and almost started crying when he realized where he was. This was the place. The hill of the skull.
His mind fogged over and all he could grasp was pain. Pain and fear, and the metallic smell of blood. Screams rang in his ears. Were those his? Amol's? His body shook violently and he seemed to have no control of it at all. Nerves screamed in his ears and he alternated feeling on fire and frozen. There was a horrible moment of dizzying motion and then a terrible jar and he screamed when he realized it was his cross falling into the hole.
Burning pain ran through his body but he couldn't force another scream out. He couldn't breathe. Panic seized him and he could hardly force himself to push up on his legs to catch a breath. For a agonizing minute he hung there and when he opened his eyes again he was able to recognize what was happening around him. Amol was on the far side, and the Jesus man was between them. A crowd was down below him, but they were focused on Jesus.
"Come down. Come down, King of Israel. Can't God save his own son? Maybe he doesn't want you. Come on, save yourself!"
Anger flared inside him. "You said you're the King of the Jews! I don't see you doing anything for us! Why don't you save us, if you're our king?" He gasped and pushed himself up for another breath. Don't talk. He chided himself. Breathe. Breathe.
Time seemed to drag on and the weight of the world crushed in on his chest. There was no way out. No way down off this beam. He was dead already. Tears choked inside his throat but he didn't have enough air to cry properly. His heart beat frantically, as he struggled to breathe, searing in his hands and feet with every throb. He couldn't get out of this. They'd finally caught him. And now they were making him pay. Pay. He wished he could give it all back. Pay back every item he'd stolen. he would do anything. Anything. But he couldn't. Because he was nailed to a cross and dying. He was paying.
Amol's voice rang out through the others. "If you're really the Christ, save yourself. And us too. Go on!"
Zacher forced his eyes open and turned his head slowly. What was Amol doing? This man said he was the son of God, and Amol was railing on him while he himself died? "Don't you fear God? You're dying same as him." He swallowed and sucked in another hard breath. "We deserve this. We're paying for our crime. This man didn't do anything wrong." He closed his eyes as a wave of nausea washed over him then looked at Jesus. "Lord..." He forced the words out of his dry throat. "Remember me...when you come into you Kingdom."
He blinked hard and Jesus turned to look at him. Zacher was startled by the expression he saw. It wasn't just pain, or anger, or fear, or sorrow, or any of the things Zacher felt or saw on Amol's face. It was love. "For sure," He said. "Today, You're going to be there with me, in Paradise."
Zacher's eyes widened and he started to respond but the world suddenly went dark. Zacher screamed, terrified that death had come for him already, but then he felt the pain still and he realized he was still alive. Why was it dark? What was happening? A rumble filled the air and he could hear Jesus crying out, but the noise and his own pain induced delirium wouldn't let him understand the words.
Time seemed to come to a stop in the dark and he wished for the end. The pain grew with every breath, and it was getting harder to push himself up to inhale. He didn't noticed the soldier getting up until he felt the pain go through his legs as they snapped.
Zacher opened his eyes and the pain wasn't there anymore. He looked around? What? What had happened? His eyes dropped to his hands but there was no more blood, no more holes, or spikes.
He looked up quickly for whoever had said his name and smiled suddenly. "Jesus." He dropped to his knees, no pain in his legs anymore. "You were right, my King."