He rushes in, slips into a seat, his eyes fixed on the view beyond the window. Cars flash by, people still pace the street as if it’s just any old day, heading home or going out late; but no one looks his way.
‘Can I get you something, sir?’
He starts a little, looks up at the redheaded waitress as she hovers with her coffee pot. She places a cup and a napkin in front of him.
‘Coffee?’ she says, and pours without waiting for his answer. ‘We have key lime pie, or bacon and pancakes?’
He notices that she has an unusual scar above her right eyebrow, as she leans close to pour the steaming liquid. Looks familiar. He takes a futile glance at the menu then freezes as the doors behind him swing open again. He daren’t look. ‘Coffee, just coffee thanks,’ he mutters, still catching his breath from his race through the gathering darkness.
She gives him a smile and moves on. He waits to feel that tap on his shoulder, or a gripping hand. Nothing comes, he grabs the cup and sips, it’s hot and bitter. He reaches for the sugar.
‘Mind if I join you?’
He spills the sugar, creates a little sparkling hill on the table. Glances up at the new arrival. Him? Why him? What’s he doing here? He glares across the table at the figure now sitting opposite. At least it’s not the authorities.
‘You here too?’ the other guy says, glancing out of the window as he talks, his head drooping a little, trying to avoid being lit up by the lights of the passing cars. ‘Man that was crazy wasn’t it?’ he puffs out his cheeks, ‘I never expected all that. Not like that, I thought…’
Si sips his coffee and scalds his lips, then suddenly snaps at the new guy. ‘Why were you with them like that?’
‘Me? I was… I was with you guys.’
Si shakes his head. ‘No, you came with them. What did you think you were doing?’
J looks away, can’t hold his gaze, stares at nothing. ‘I’m not sure now.’
‘Coffee sir? We have key lime pie and bacon and pancakes if you’d like?’
The other guy looks at the redhead, gives her a broad smile. ‘Pie. Pie would be great…’ he looks at her name badge, ‘…Angela, thanks.’
‘I don’t know how you can eat at time like this,’ Si says as the waitress slips away.
‘What happened in the yard?’ J says, ‘after I let you in?’
‘Yea, that’s another thing? How come you had access? How come you can get in to a place like that? No questions asked. Why didn’t someone stop you? Accuse you?’
J narrows his eyes, leans close across the table, his forearm crushing the hill of spilt sugar.
‘Did someone accuse you?’ he whispers. ‘You got spotted?’
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
Si tips more coffee into his mouth. The other guy sniffs, wipes the back of his hand across nose.
‘I know people,’ J says, ‘powerful people. But it’s not what you think.’
‘I don’t think anything. I need to get out of here.’ Si stands but J reaches across the table, grabs at his sleeve. ‘Sit down, it’s not safe out there.’
Si drops and scans the window again. ‘You were followed?’
J laughs, a sardonic kind of noise. ‘No. No one cares about me. But they care about you. Believe me it’s safer in here.’
The waitress returns with the pie and a fork. J smiles at her, and makes conversation. Si watches, tries to get his head straight on the night’s events.
‘I still don’t get it,’ he hisses the moment she leaves. ‘You turn up with those other guys, you have free access to their headquarters, and now here you are eating pie like the world’s a wonderful place. They’ll kill him you know.’
J freezes in mid-chew, then makes himself swallow.
‘No they won’t, he’s too powerful. You know him. They’ve tried before. He always walks away. This time, he’ll show them all. They won’t be able to dismiss him.’
‘Is that what this is about? You set him up so he can prove himself?’
‘Why not? Like I say, I know people, I just gave him a leg up.’
‘And suppose he doesn’t escape? What then? What about us?’
J shovels more pie in, chews for a while. ‘At the meal tonight, you heard him right?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He looked right at me, said “Go and do it.” Like he knew all about it. Like he’s in charge. He wanted this confrontation. He’s always talking about his time coming. This is it. Trust me, you’ll all thank me tomorrow morning.’
Si stares hard at the other guy.
The doors behind them open quietly. Before they know it a third figure hovers at the table.
‘Did you hear?’
They look up at John, young, wild eyed, his cheeks flushed.
‘They’re taking him to the governor. There’s talk of crucifixion.’
There’s a clatter as J drops the fork. ‘Seriously?’ he says.
‘How did you find us here?’ Si asks.
‘Only a few places I figured you’d run.’
Si flinches, scowls. J stands.
‘Where you going?’ Si asks.
‘Pay for the pie will you, I have something to do.’
‘Sort out this mess, this isn’t going to happen. There’ll be no crucifixion. Trust me.’
J pushes past John and leaves so fast the doors are still swinging.
‘Where did you go? After the garden?’ John asks, slipping into the empty seat opposite him. ‘Did you follow him? Did you see anything?’
Si looks down. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ He shakes his head. ‘It’s over isn’t it? After everything, when it all looked so good. It’s going to end. What was the point of it all? Three years and… nothing.’
John reaches across the table, grabs Si’s tightening fist. ‘Don’t say that.’
‘Too late. It’s just like all the others. Challenge the system and the system comes down on your head. Crushes you.’
‘They can’t crush him. I don’t believe it.’
Si stands, throws money on the table. ‘Well you’d better start, because this is going nowhere. better find a place to lay low for a while.’
Si gives him a hard stare then turns and leaves, shouldering the waitress as he goes.
‘Coffee?’ she says, recovering and making her way to John. ‘We have key lime pie and bacon and pancakes.’
John looks up at her.
‘I know you don’t I?’ he says.
She frowns. ‘From here you mean?’
He shakes his head. ‘They brought you to Jesus, wanted him to accuse you, pass some kind of judgement on you.’
She blushes a little, but can’t suppress a smile. ‘It didn’t go the way they wanted,’ she says quietly.
John shakes his head and smiles back. ‘No. And neither will this.’
She starts as he reaches up and grabs her arm, almost spilling coffee from the pot. ‘It can’t end like this can it?’ he says. ‘Not after everything. They can’t kill him.’
‘They’re going to kill him?’ she says.
‘They want to, but I don’t believe it.’ He turns away, stares out of the window.
‘I got my life back,’ she says, ‘I’m sure he will too. Key lime pie, honey?’
[John 8 vv 1-11]