~1~

“Mr. Richardson, we would really like you to do this.  We know you have not been acting very long.  But you have the look we need.  After seeing pictures of you with your long hair, we knew we had our leading role for our documentary.”

They looked hopeful while Kevin stayed quiet for the longest time.  He had read the book that had caused so much upheaval.  Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code had intrigued him, the numbers, the paintings, the architecture.  Like so many he had looked at some of Da Vinci’s paintings again and had wondered.

It had not changed his believes but he did get a deeper sense of admiration for his wife.

This documentary they wanted to do would tell the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a kind of ‘what if’ story.  It would dispel some things introduced in the book.  It would also make some things possible.  And National Geographic had a good reputation.  So why not do it.  What did he have to loose?

“OK, gentlemen.  I’ll do it.”

“Fantastic, sir.  We’ll get the contract drawn up.  We would like to start filming in one month.  We’ll send you all the details well in time.  Thank you again.”

The producer and casting director were very please they had been able to get their Jesus.  Now they had to find a good Mary Magdalene.

Kevin showed his guests out and then walked to the kitchen.  Pouring a glass of water, he thought how funny it was.  Only a few months ago he left the group.  And yet it was a photo from the time with his brothers that had landed him this part.

Thinking of his friends made him grab the phone.  He had to call Brian about this.

“Hey, hey , hey.  The B-rock family is not in for the moment.  Leave a message and we’ll get back to you asap.”

Kevin smiled.

“Hey, Bro.  It’s Kevin.  Can you give me a call?  Thanks.”

 

When Kristin came home later that evening, he was all exited when he told her about the new project.

“That is wonderful, Sweetheart.  Have you talked to Brian?”

“I called but he wasn’t home.  I’ll try again tomorrow.”

 

During the next couple of weeks Kevin received his contract and information about the filming.  A hotel had been booked for two weeks even though the filming would last only one week. 

Kevin finally got hold of Brian only a day before leaving.

“Hey, Kev.  Sorry I didn’t call back sooner.  We’ve been in Norway finalizing the new album.”

“How is that coming along?”

“Would you come back if I said we miss your voice?”

“Bri….”

“I know.  I’m just teasing.  It’s actually coming along nicely.  We’ve laid down 17 tracks so now we need to choose which ones to put on the album.  But that’s not what your called about, is it?”

“No.  Brian, I’m off tomorrow to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I’m doing a documentary with National Geographic.”

“Wauw, what’s in Albuquerque?”

“Apparently Israel is.”

Kevin could hear Brian’s confusion through the phone.

“Brian, I’ve been asked to play the part of Jesus in a Da Vinci Code documentary.”

It was quiet for a moment.

“OK.”

“Look, Cous’, I know how you feel.  It’s a type of ‘what if’ documentary.”

“No, Kev.  I’m ok with it.  It’s a book and it does bring up some interesting things.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am.  How did they found you for this?”

“Can you believe it’s the photo from the original drowning video when I had my long hair.”

That made Brian laugh.

“Yeah, exactly.” Kevin smiled as well.

“How long you in New Mexico for?”

“About a week.  But I have a room for two weeks in the Hyatt Tamaya Bernalillo New Mexico Hotel” Kevin read from a piece of paper.

“Good.  I may come and see how you are doing.”

“That would be great.  I have to get on with my packing now.  Hope to see you soon.”

“Count on it” Brian promised.

The next day Kevin left for the airport.  It was only a small hop to one of the smaller airports near Albuquerque.  Kristin was not able to join him.  She had a contract she could not get out of.

And so he left alone with the promise to call each night.

The week passed by quickly.  His co-star was very nice and a lot of help came from the local bible group called The Calvary of Albuquerque.

 

~2~

Friday morning the flight landed on time.  Four men stepped out with just a small overnight bag each.  The taxi soon dropped them of at the Hyatt hotel in Bernalillo.

Unfortunately there were only 2 rooms available.

“That’s ok.  We’re used to sharing.  I’ll bunk with Nick and Howie can share with AJ.  OK guys?” Brian asked.

Everyone nodded.

“Can you please tell me which room Mr. Richardson is in?” Brian asked while checking in.

“We are not at liberty to give that information, sir.”

“I know but he is my cousin and we flew here to see him.”

The man behind the desk hesitated but then seemed to make up his mind.

“He is in room 720, sir.  He should be in.  We have not seen him or the crew leave today.”

“Thank you.”

Picking up his bag he followed his friends to the elevator.  They first dropped of their luggage in their rooms and then walked to Kevin’s room to surprise him.

Nearing the room, they noticed the door was ajar.  That was strange.  Carefully Brian knocked on the door.  They heard a low moan coming from the darkened room.  Brian pushed the door open completely.  The light revealed a man lying unconscious on the floor, blood oozing from a wound on his head.  Brian ran to the man.  Turning him carefully, he could see he was still alive.  Nick had gone to the windows to open the curtains, AJ and Howie looked through the room and bathroom.  Kevin was nowhere to be found.  Howie picked up the phone and called reception.

“This is room 720.  Get an ambulance immediately.  We have found a hurt man on the floor.”

Within minutes hotel security rushed into the room.

“Who are you?  What have you done?”

Before anyone could answer, the man on the floor briefly regained consciousness.  He grabbed Brian’s arm and whispered:

“The SKULL, . . . .  the skull took Kevin.”

“Who is the skull?” Brian asked urgently.

But the man was unconscious again.  At that moment, the paramedics entered the room and Brian was pushed to the side.

The four friends walked out in the corridor with the security man.

“Who is this skull?” Howie asked the man.

The man looked worried.

“If your friend has been taken by the skull, I’m afraid it is not good news.  The Skull is a group of people who re-enact Christ’s crucifixion.  They believe it takes away the sins of the world and brings about peace.  We have been looking for them but so far no luck.”

“What do you mean by re-enact?” Nick asked.

“We have found 4 bodies in the last 4 years, nailed to the cross.  Each man had some resemblance to the image of Christ.”

“And Kevin grew his hair again for this documentary.”  Brian realised.

“Where is this supposed to happen and when?”

“Hard to say.  Each body was found somewhere else.”

“Can you show us on a map?” Brian insisted.

As the man nodded, they all rushed downstairs to reception for a map of the region.  On it the security man marked each location where a body had been found.

“Told you they were at different locations.”

Indeed, it seemed that there was a body in each corner of the area.  Suddenly Brian grabbed the pen and connected the opposing points.  And before their eyes a cross appeared on the map.

“They created the cross first and now Kevin is going to end up on it.  I bet you it is somewhere right here.” And Brian pointed to the location on the map where the lines crossed, at the centre.

“I know that place.  It is not far from here: the Petroglyph National Monument.  But mind you that is still a large area to look through.”

“I don’t care.  We need to go.  Does the hotel have a car we can use?”

“There is.  I’ll warn the sheriff and try to convince him to get a search party together.”

The man, Nicholas, brought them to the basement where a big four wheel drive was parked.

“Here, take my car.  You will need it in that terrain.  Good luck!”

And with that everyone got on the way. 

But where was Kevin in the meantime?

 

~3~

Kevin woke up in a dark room.  His head was hurting from where he had been hit.  Carefully he came up to a sitting position.  His stomach protested as the pain in his head increased with the sudden movement.  He leaned against a cold wall and allowed his body to relax.  Some time ago, he did not know how long, some men had forced their way into his room.  They had knocked him down and now he was here.

Suddenly a bright light went on in the room.  Kevin squinted his eyes until he felt more comfortable opening them.  The same men stood in front of him.  Without a word two men grabbed him by the arms and pulled him up, pushing him towards a door.  Kevin was in no position to resist.

They walked him into a big barn crowded with people.  They seemed to be humming something.  Kevin and the men slowly walked to the front.

‘Christ who takes away all the sins and pain in the world, glory!’

Did he hear that right?  Were they praying?  Then why was he here?  He looked around a bit more careful and noticed all the people were dressed in traditional Roman clothes.  The guards were dressed like Roman centurion, including a sharp looking short sword.  This had to be a play he had been dragged in.  What else could these people want from him?

The men stopped in front of a raised podium.  They left Kevin standing in the middle alone.

‘Good people, see here the man who is the centre of so many tales.  He walks on water, feeds thousands with a fish and a loaf of bread, he even raises the dead!  They call him the king of the Jews.’ 

The man paused his rhetoric’s to let his words sink in with everyone gathered.  Kevin stole a glance to the side but all the eyes were looking at the stage, not at him.

‘He does not look a lot like a king.  Guards, see to it this man is dressed and treated the way he should be!”

The guards had appeared next to Kevin again and pulled him back to the room he had woken up in.  He was totally confused.

‘What are you doing?  What is the meaning of this?’ he shouted.  But no one paid him any attention.  It was like he was a prop in a film, used to make a picture complete but of no further consequence.

More men were now waiting in the dark room.  Grabbing Kevin’s hands, a man tied them together.  The rope cut in his wrists.  Kevin was getting scared.  What did they have in mind with him?  Another man came with a hook, which he put through Kevin’s ropes.  Then they pulled him up.  His feet could barely reach the floor.

‘Stop it!  What do you want!’ Kevin screamed again.

While he was hanging there, the men stripped him of his clothes except for his boxers. 

‘Jesus of Nazareth, you will be cleansed and given the proper attire for a king’

‘What are you on about.  I’m not Jesus.  I was just acting for a documentary!’

He had not seen the first one.  So when the whip hit his bare back, the pain was excruciating.  Kevin screamed but it did not seem to bother any of the men in that room.  Soon three of the men were hitting him from all sides.  His brain tried to cope with the pain the only way it could.  Kevin passed out.

Kevin startled awake when a bucket of cold water hit him.  He had been untied and was lying on the floor.  He dare not move to much.  Looking down at his body, he noticed the whip marks and the blood running freely out of them.

‘Get up!’ a man shouted at him, pulling him up by his hair.

Kevin struggled to his feet.  From behind, someone threw a purple gown over him.  The men started laughing.

‘That is already a lot better.  Untie his hands.’

The ropes were cut and Kevin quickly rubbed his hands to get some circulation going again.  The man who seemed to take the lead in this ordeal, turned to Kevin.

‘Feeling better now?’ he asked sarcastically.

‘Much.  Nothing like a good massage to get the blood going.’ Kevin hissed between clenched  teeth.

Kevin didn’t even see the man lift his hand.  But the impact against his face, send him reeling to the other side of the room.  Kevin sat on his knees and hands, carefully shaking his head, actually hearing bells ring. 

‘Get him up.  It is time!’

Two man grabbed Kevin, pulling him back up and pushing him to the door.  By now Kevin knew nothing good was going to happen next.  He knew the story in the bible very well.

They were about to walk out the door, when the leader stopped them.

‘Wait, we can’t have a king without a crown.  Bring me a crown’

From behind Kevin, someone handed the man a crown of thorns.  Kevin tried to pull away.  He did not want this.  He could not believe this was happening.  But with the help of an extra man, holding his head fixed, the leader pushed down the crown.  Kevin felt the thorns penetrate his flesh, blood running down his face soon.

‘Now he is ready’ the leader said with a pleased smile on his face.

The door opened again.  The crowd was still sitting there, praying as they had been before.  But Kevin did not want to go.  He resisted every step of the way to the podium.  This time, he was pushed on top of it, next to the man in charge.  There was another young man standing with them, only dressed in his underwear, hands tied.  It was obvious he was very much afraid of what was going to happen next.

‘Good people, may I present the king of the Jews.  Why did he not use his magic to save himself from this ordeal?  Could it be he is not so powerful after all?  You must choose who lives: Jesus of Nazareth or this thief who only stole one apple.  Think carefully, decide wisely.  Choose now!!’

Kevin looked out over the crowd but they seemed to be in a trance, not really seeing what was happing but living in a storyboard, taking it for real.  He knew who would be saved.  He knew his chances of surviving this were getting smaller every minute. 

He thought of his wife, his friends.  He wished he could have talked to them once more.

The crowd started chanting:

‘Let the thief live!  Let the thief live!  Let the thief live!’

The leader turned to Kevin.

‘I must follow the will of the people.’

Kevin just shook his head.  It was no use trying to argue with this man.  This story had been told long ago and these people were intend on going all the way.

The people spilled out of the barn and Kevin was surrounded by the guards again.  They pushed him to the exit as well.  Looking out over the sun covered hills, he saw the crowd line a road up one of the hills.  He thought how funny all this would be if only it was not so maddeningly real.

‘You have been found wanting, Jesus of Nazareth.  Penalty is death by crucifixion.’

Kevin refused to move.  But behind him a whip cracked again.  Kevin saw the heavy beam lying on the ground.  Two men lifted it up high enough for Kevin to put it on his shoulders.  And then the slow walk began.  With each step Kevin’s tears spilled in front of him.  He was in pain from the beating, the whipping, the crown and now the beam.  He realised how much the real Christ must have suffered for his believes and felt very humble.

 

~4~

They had been driving for an hour now without seeing anything.  Where was Kevin?

In the distance they saw a barn with lots of cars parked around it.

‘Let’s go and ask over there.’

Brian parked the car and they all got out.

The barn was locked so they walked around the building.  They were hopeful as they heard people in the distance.

Walking up the mountain they saw this group of people.  They quickly ran to them.

“Excuse me, can we ask you a question?”

No reply.

“I’m sorry, what is happening here?” Nick tried.

Again no reply.

Each of them now tried to get through the crowd to see what was happening as no one was answering their questions.

Nick was the first to see the lined road ahead and the man struggling up the mountain.  A chill ran down his spine.  He knew that figure.

“Kevin!” he shouted and forced his way through, followed closely by Brain, Howie and AJ.

The Roman centurions created a block around Kevin immediately.

“You are not to approach the prisoner.”

“Are you mad!  That’s my cousin.” Brian shouted.

Kevin noticed the commotion behind him.  Did he really just hear Brian?  He missed a step and crashed down on the dirt.  A woman ran to him, wiping his face.  He just brushed her off.

But the beam was too heavy to lift alone again.  He could not get up.

The centurions noticed.

“You!” he pointed to Nick.

“Pick up that beam!”

They let Nick through their cordon.  Nick rushed forward to Kevin.

‘Kevin, . . . .”

“Nick, help me.  They are going to kill me.”

“We won’t let them!  I’ll help you now.”

Nick first helped up Kevin.  But a whip hit him from behind.

“Leave him!  I said to pick up the beam, nothing else.”

Nick’s eye could have killed the man.  Turning back to Kevin, he ignored him and still helped Kevin up.

“Nick, better let me go or you’ll get hurt as well.” Kevin said with difficulty.

“Please, Nick, just listen.”

He did not want to upset him so Nick released Kevin.  The beam was very heavy.  Nick was surprised Kevin had been able to drag it up as high as he had already.

Kevin’s hands were tied together and a rope was attached to pull him along.

The whole procession started going up again.

Kevin was forced up the mountain, whips hitting him intermittently.  Nick laboured up the mountain with the heavy beam.  AJ, Brian and Howie were each surrounded by guards, unable to do anything to help their friend.

 

Finally they reached the top of the mountain.  A wooden pole already stood upright.

“Put the beam down and move away!” Nick was instructed.

He dropped his heavy load and took one step to the side.

“Back I said!” The man shouted at him.

Nick moved a few steps further.

 

The guards surrounded Kevin now, releasing his hands and tearing of the purple robe.

AJ, Brian, Nick and Howie gasped at the sights of Kevin’s battered body.  They all wanted to rush forward but strong men held them back.

“Lie down.”

Kevin looked up at the man and refused to move.

“I said, lie down!”

“Never.” Kevin said quietly.

But a guard hit Kevin on the back of the knees, making him go down.  Then the guard pulled him back by his hair.  Kevin was pinned down.  He could not move.

All his strength he put in resisting those men.  But they were strong and forced his arm to the side, his hand open on the beam.

Kevin looked up and saw into the face of the huge man holding a big hammer.

“No!” he shouted.  The hammer came down hard onto the nail hovering above Kevin’s hand.

“Aah!” Kevin screamed as the metal penetrated his hand.

The crowd went wild!

Aiming for a second hit to hammer the nail in completely, the man got ready.

But the guards had loosened their grip.  Nick felt it.  And before the hammer could hit Kevin a second time, Nick lunged forward and threw himself in between. 

The hammer came down hard.  Not on Kevin but on Nick.  He could actually hear his clavicle break.

AJ, Brian and Howie used the momentum to break free as well and pounce on the men holding Kevin down.  An outright fight resulted.

Nick held his arm protectively but managed to crawl to Kevin.

Kevin’s hand was still attached to the beam.

“Nick, pull it out!” he cried.

“What if I hurt you.” Nick was worried.

“Nick, it’s hurting already.  Please, help me!” Kevin pleaded.

Nick took a deep breath and pulled hard on the nail.  It took a while before it finally popped free of the wood.  Immediately Nick helped Kevin to sit up.  With his other hand, Kevin pulled off the crown of thorns and threw it away.  Then Nick let him lean against him.  Looking at the scene around them, they saw their friends fighting. 

 

Suddenly, sirens were coming closer.  People started scattering, policemen invaded the area.   And then everything went quiet. 

AJ, Howie and Brian stumbled back to Kevin and Nick and dropped on the ground.

“How’s Kevin?” AJ asked.

Nick looked at his older brother.  Kevin was lying in Nick’s arms:

“He passed out.”

“That may be for the best.  He looks terrible.” Brian said tired.

“Have you looked at yourselves?” Nick smiled.

The three of them had cuts and bruises, their clothes torn.  Howie was going to have a beautiful black eye.  They all laughed.

 

The sheriff walked to them as the medics also came running.

“Thank you for your help.” He said.

“what did we do?” Brian asked.

“You held on long enough for us to get here.”

“How did you know where we were?” AJ wondered.

“The car you used has GPS and we can track it.” The sheriff explained.

 

The medics loaded Kevin on the stretcher just has he came around again.

“Nick?”

“I’m here, Kev.  Told you all would be ok.”

Kevin looked at his friends.

“Thank you!” then he closed his eyes and the medics took him to the ambulance.

Nick would drive along as well but Brian, AJ and Howie would follow in the car.

 

Brian was quiet, looking up at what would have been Kevin’s cross.  Howie noticed the worried eyes and walked to him.

“Let’s go home.” Howie said quietly and put his arm around Brian’s shoulder to lead him to the car.

Once seated they stopped for a moment to reflect on what had happened.

“Let’s agree on one thing.” AJ suggested.

“What’s that?” Brian and Howie said simultaneously.

“Kevin has to cut his hair!”

And still laughing, Brian started the car to follow the ambulance.

 

The end

 

26/07/2007

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