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Authors: John Hagee

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Avenger of Blood

AVENGER
OF BLOOD
A Novel

BOOK TWO: THE APOCALYPSE DIARIES

JOHN HAGEE

Copyright © 2002 by John Hagee

All rights reserved. Written permission must be secured from the publisher to use or reproduce any part of this book, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

All Scripture quotations are taken from The
HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV.
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hagee, John.
Avenger of blood : a novel / John Hagee.
p. cm. — (The apocalypse diaries ; bk. 2)
ISBN 0-7852-6789-1
1. Church history—Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600—Fiction. 2. John, the Apostle, Saint—Fiction. 3. Christian saints—Fiction. 4. Apostles—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3608.A35 A96 2002
813'.54—dc21

2002008943

Printed in the United States of America

02 03 04 05 06 BVG 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

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1

November, A.D. 96

JACOB SAT AT THE elegant mahogany writing desk, intently focused on two goals: composing a letter and ignoring his brother, who was leaning against one of the tall marble columns in the spacious room that had served as their father's library and home office. Ordinarily, ignoring his brother was not a difficult task; this afternoon, however, Peter seemed determined to distract him with questions.

“What are we going to do about Rebecca?” he asked for the second time.

Jacob finally looked up. “What do you mean?”

“Rebecca,” Peter repeated. “I'm worried about her.”

Peter shifted his weight and limped clumsily toward the desk, obviously fatigued after a full day at the harbor, and Jacob frowned. He didn't want to deal with his brother's worries about their younger sister right now. He wanted to finish his correspondence and then finalize his plans to travel to Rome.

“Marcellus is worried too,” Peter said, and the older man nodded his agreement.

“Haven't you noticed how despondent she is?” Peter continued. “She mopes around the house, doesn't talk much—doesn't even come downstairs for dinner some days. I'm very concerned. Rebecca is not the same person she used to be.”

Neither am I,
Jacob thought. He set the pen down and moved a leather weight on top of his unfinished letter. A picture flashed through his mind of his father sitting at the same desk, his bulky frame perched on the same backless chair covered in striped brocade, his massive hand clutching a fragile reed pen as he scratched words and numbers on an unrolled parchment with a flourish. His mother, Elizabeth, entered the mental picture, gently chiding her husband: “Put your work aside, Abraham; dinner is ready. The family is waiting.” But the family was not waiting for Abraham anymore. In fact, both of Jacob's parents were dead now.

Clamping down on the enormous sense of loss that swept over him, Jacob said curtly, “You wouldn't be the same person either if you'd spent the last year on Devil's Island instead of living like this.” He looked around the lavishly furnished room in the sprawling villa his father had built in the hills overlooking the harbor of Ephesus.

Jacob was reluctant to admit, even to himself, just how much he resented the fact that Peter had escaped the previous year's persecution. Granted, Peter had not forsaken his faith and sacrificed to Caesar as their older sister, Naomi, had; instead, Peter had cowered and hidden while the rest of the family was arrested and forced to either make the imperial sacrifice or be sentenced to hard labor. And Jacob did admire the way Peter had overcome his physical disability and his timid personality to take over the daily operation of one of the empire's largest businesses. Still, while Rebecca had endured the living nightmare of Devil's Island and Jacob had been sentenced to backbreaking work as an oarsman on a Roman warship, Peter had enjoyed the benefits of the family's vast wealth. A palatial home, the finest food, luxurious clothes—all the things Jacob had once taken for granted before he lost them in an instant.

“It's not necessary to keep reminding me that you and Rebecca suffered a great deal while I didn't.” Peter started to leave, taking a few stiff steps, then he turned back around. “Our quibbles with each other aren't important,” he said after a moment. “What
is
important is Rebecca. We need to do something so she doesn't become a recluse.”

“I'm sure Rebecca will be fine.” Jacob attempted to soften his tone as well. “She just needs time to adjust to the idea of being home again, to being free.”

“She's been home over a month and she hasn't adjusted,” Peter pointed out. “Instead, she's becoming more and more withdrawn.”

Marcellus finally joined the conversation. “And more fearful. As much as she went through on Devil's Island, Rebecca wasn't as afraid then as she seems to be now. The least noise startles her, and she is so protective of Victor that she will scarcely let him out of her sight.”

“That's not necessarily bad, is it?” Jacob asked the retired medical officer. “After all, he's only three months old.”

Marcellus answered, “It goes beyond maternal instinct, I think.”

“Another thing,” Peter said. “She never cries anymore.” He eased himself onto one of the long settees. “There was a time I would have considered that good news, but somehow it's not.”

Jacob silently agreed that the changes in his sister were not good news, and he realized just how much he missed her stormy outbursts of tears as well as the sunshine of her quick laugh. These days her behavior, as well as her appearance, was dull and flat. Rebecca truly wasn't the same person. None of them were, really, but especially not Rebecca. And her suffering hadn't ended once they'd been set free. When they returned home, she'd endured yet another crushing blow.

That thought galled Jacob, and he suddenly gave the desk a resounding thump with the heel of his hand. “How I'd love to get my hands on—”

“That won't help,” Peter said quickly. “You know how we all feel about not seeking revenge.”

“I wasn't referring to Damian this time, although I'd like a piece of his hide as well.” Jacob clenched and unclenched his fist reflexively. From the moment he'd been released, Jacob had been determined to pursue his family's persecutor and to exact vengeance for the deaths of his mother and father, not to mention what Damian had done to Rebecca. But the apostle John had reasoned with Jacob and, when that failed, had argued with him and pleaded with Jacob not to seek revenge. John had eventually worn him down, but Jacob's anger still boiled over from time to time, and his relationship with John had become strained.

Now there were not only Damian's atrocities to consider, but someone else had wounded his sister, and Jacob's instincts were to go after him as well. For the moment, however, he suppressed those instincts and conceded to his brother's original question.

“All right,” Jacob said. “What are we going to do about Rebecca?”

“She needs to be distracted from her situation,” Marcellus suggested. “To get involved with something outside of herself.”

Peter spoke slowly and thoughtfully, as was his custom. “She often accompanied Mother on visits to the sick and needy. Rebecca's very good with people—at least, she used to be.”

“That's a wonderful idea.” Jacob drummed his fingers on the desk, then abruptly stood and began giving directions. Once his mind latched onto a solution to a problem, he saw no reason to delay its implementation. “Instruct the household staff to prepare additional food, and find out which of the church members are in need. Then tell Rebecca she's to carry on Mother's ministry of good works.”

“Not so fast,” Peter objected. “You don't just
tell
someone to take over a ministry like that. Besides, Helena has been coordinating the charitable efforts Mother used to oversee, and she's already tried to enlist Rebecca's help. Rebecca wouldn't do it.”

Jacob groaned and sat back down. “If Helena's involved, I pity the poor and needy more than ever. The woman's spiritual gifts must be confusion and calamity.”

With a smile that momentarily widened his thin face, Peter said, “Helena can be rather flighty sometimes, but she's a good-hearted soul. Her compassion manages to overcome her confusion, and she gets the job done.” His face resumed a somber expression. “And it's been quite a job. There have been far greater needs in the church body since the emperor's persecution.”

“The
late
emperor, thank God.” Jacob shuddered slightly. If Domitian hadn't been assassinated, he and Rebecca and John would still be prisoners.

Peter explained to Marcellus that a number of families had been split up when one or both parents were sent to Devil's Island. “The consequences have been devastating,” he said.

“All the more reason for Rebecca to get involved in helping the prisoners' families.” Jacob spread his hands in an appeal to the other two. “So how do we persuade her to do it?”

Marcellus rose and stretched. The late afternoon sun streamed in through an unshuttered window, highlighting the few streaks of gray in his dark wavy hair. “I can talk to her if you like. Perhaps she'll listen to me.”

Jacob nodded. “Then do it.” He knew Rebecca regarded the retired soldier as a father figure, and, sad to say, she'd be more likely to listen to him right now than she would to Jacob. He'd been separated from his sister for almost their entire imprisonment, and their relationship had not quite gotten back to its original footing.

Jacob watched as Marcellus clapped Peter on the shoulder and the two of them left to find Rebecca. Then he picked up the reed pen and returned to his letter, thinking of what Peter had said about so many families being torn apart.

All the more reason for me to go to Rome,
Jacob thought. Dozens of Christians from Ephesus and Smyrna and the surrounding cities were still being held on Devil's Island. The new emperor, Marcus Cocceius Nerva, had indicated that Domitian's political exiles would be recalled. Jacob had a few contacts in the higher echelons of Roman politics, and he intended to go there and plead the case for the religious exiles as well.

Just as you interceded for me,
he silently promised his late father.

Marcellus knew where he would find her: at the top of Mount Koressos. Like a tortoise reluctant to stick its head out of its shell, Rebecca seldom left the house. When she did, it was only for an afternoon walk in the high hills surrounding the villa.

It grieved him that she no longer showed any flash of spontaneity or stubborn endurance, qualities Marcellus had seen her exhibit under the direst of circumstances. He had been stationed on Devil's Island as the medical officer for the prison camp. It was not a posting he relished, but one he had endured with a certain stoicism. His long stint in the army had ended about the time Rebecca, her brother, and the apostle John were released, and Marcellus had returned to Ephesus with them. He had been so openly welcomed into the family, and into the family of believers, that it seemed he had been there for years, not a matter of weeks.

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