24. Let It Be
Jesus came pretty quietly. The hellavator out of Gabon was a little cramped. I saw Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and L Ron among the thirty-or-so ascenders. They were all looking at Jeez as if he was someone they couldn't quite remember from high school. Hubbard kept staring at the space six inches above Jesus Josephson's head. Maybe he was looking for antennae. JJ didn't look like someone who'd taken shop at Union High School, back in Bremerton. The rest of them looked over at the Son of God and wished they'd waited for the next hellavator car.
'I got gas, is all. Give a guy a break.'
Then the Messiah gave out the high-pitched giggle of a schoolboy and I wished I'd followed Nelson and our returnee in the car behind too.
If there can be a low-rent part of all the seven heavens I guess it would be in First Heaven. Properties are all rentals and temporary. No-one expects to stay there long. Mary Maryam has been there for ever, or for as long as the Earthbound have believed in her. We headed over to a twenty-flight block on the edge of Wicket Gate Developments pride and joy, a huge swathe of similar tower blocks containing efficiency apartments all going by the name 'God's Little Acre'.
I had last been in God's Little Acre looking for a Catholic Priest who had made it through the Pearlies. Word had come from down below that Mr D had been expecting him. I had to escort him to the Hellavator and send him one way to where, no doubt, Satan would be meeting him personally. I thought about the Reverend Ronald Paquin as we pressed the button for the 13th floor. I was pretty sure he'd have seen Satan's tail when he finally arrived where he belonged.
Mary Maryam's name was on the card under the bell outside 13 B. Nelson beat me to the push. The son of Mary was sweating hard and I wondered how he'd have looked if we'd used the stairs.
Inside the flat it was clean but full of furniture. I bumped against every low table and chair arm on the way in. Jesus smashed many of the figurines that covered every available surface as they fell to the floor to mark his passing. Nelson stood in the doorway, hands in pockets staring around at the thousands of Jesus figures. At least those that weren't in pieces on the linoleum floor. Most were the standard Caucasian with beard and kindly blue eyes. Some looked vaguely Semitic, at least they had a swarthy color representing skin. None of them looked like Mary Maryam's prodigal son. They were all too handsome and too thin.
'All this time? Not a phone call, not a letter? You don't have one of those mobility telephones? '
She wasn't so tall and I could see why her son had a tendency to run to fat. Maybe that should have been sprint. Jesus' mom made a token effort to get out of her lazy-boy and gave up with a huff that smelled of garlic and gefillte fisch.
The Son of Man looked down at where his feet would have been if his gut hadn't been in the way and shrugged.
'What? No kiss for your only mother?'
They shared an awkward embrace, since the son couldn't bend down too far and his mother certainly couldn't stand up.
Nelson gave a cough from the door.
'Ah, the bounty, you said...'
Mary Maryam gave a sniff and produced a purse the size of a saddlebag from somewhere under her bosom. She took something block-shaped wrapped in a muslin cloth and was going to hand it to me. Nelson got there first. He almost dropped it.
'Come on,' he said.
I turned to say goodbye to the happy family, but they only had eyes for each other.
In the elevator on the way down, Nelson showed me the gold bar. I thought about Mr D's trick with the Spanish dubloons.
'You'll pay me, and if not. I'll think of something, a fair exchange.'
'You'll get your money, Gabriel.'
The lift doors opened and I didn't see Nelson again until I saw him with his wings amputated, floating in the Potomac under the Key Bridge.