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Chapter Seventeen


The First Miracle




Above the street, waiting for just the right moment to send her powers crashing down to earth, Satan watched her protégé struggle with his captors.  He didn’t know that she could still read his thoughts telepathically; and though he were ten thousand miles away now, she would know what was on his mind.  Right at this moment, hot flashes were coming into her head: he was angry, he felt betrayed, and he was praying desperately to her right now.  Prayer, she rolled the word over in her newly fashioned mouth, that was good.  But the terrified young man was too frightened to see the significance of what was happening to him at this point.  He had forgotten who and what he was suppose to resemble?  He came as a holy man, if not the Savior or long awaited Messiah of the Jews, himself.  He couldn’t see the see the connection between the street surrounding him and the road to Golgotha.  His ascetic Jesus/Rasputin appearance was supposed to have significance.  It had instead made him appear as just one more lunatic on the street.  She wouldn’t make that mistake again.

          Suddenly, an argument broke out between Buff and his friends, as the group huddled around Adam’s trembling frame.  Charlie Blintz told Buff and Louie, who wanted to let him go, to butt out, but the fat man and his friend were standing their ground.  Appearing by Buff Peyton’s side were Stork Channing, Troy Holland, and Alden Taylor.  Not far away Wyatt Brewster, with a strange look on his boyish face, was once more in communion with God.

          “You scrawny weasel,” sneered the fat man. “You’re real tough when it comes to drunks and half-witted men.”

          Charlie lowered his head slightly, his pale eyes locking menacingly on Buff.  Though the nay sayers had the clear advantage, Blintz and his gang were a relatively new element on skid row.  In spite of the recent assault of Ignacio Rosales, no one, including Buff, new what to expect now that Charlie was being put to the test.

          “Come on fellahs, you’ve done enough damage,” said Stork, as Buff doubled up his fists.”

          “Yes,” Alden was the second to speak, “this has gone far enough!”

Buff Peyton, though hardly a knight in shining armor, wanted the staring game to end.  Though he outweighed the younger man by a ratio of two to one, his instincts made him fear hidden knives—the weapon of choice on the street.  Not wanting to lose face with his friends, he would hold his ground.  Already that inexplicable and uneasy feeling defined as conscience, had told him, as it had others, that this had gone far enough.  With the exception of Charlie Blintz’s gang, and a few hangers-on from the original gauntlet, the remaining participants had folded their arms resolutely and joined Buff and his friend in dissent.  Despite the formidable blockade surrounding him, Adam had felt a measure of relief, even when it was apparent that the new gang wouldn’t move.  It appeared as if it had all been a perverted game for these folks, which had gotten out of hand, until the inner circle began closing in, in defiance of the warnings outside the ring. 

At first, after seeing the fat man and friends’ change of heart, Adam sighed with relief, praying instinctively to God that it was over.  Hopefully, now that they had their fun, they would all go their separate ways.  Now, however, with the appearance of the second group, Adam realized that they were worse than the first.  Their sudden appearance and the look on their leader’s splotchy face told him that they, not the fat man or the witch, were top dogs in this corner of skid row.  The yellow haired young man and his gang, who stood passively with previous hecklers in the ring, now took control of this situation.  While members of his gang inched forward with mere looks of merriment, a look of sadistic determination shone on Charlie Blintz’s sallow, buck-toothed face.  It seemed clear to Adam that this new and more menacing group, though holding back originally, had much greater mischief in mind.

They barely spoke a word, as they studied him.  Though he was in shock, Adam understood that the first group who had terrorized him on the street had changed their minds, but were impotent to challenge Charlie’s gang.  The man called Buff had a far greater following.  There must have been, for that matter, a hundred times more men in the general population.  Strangely enough, he also noted, Rhoda, the witch, had disappeared, as had several of his original tormentors, perhaps out of fear for the new gang arriving on the scene.  Even in his frame of mind, this struck him as bizarre.  What was it about a group of men, who would standby and let a handful of rabble torment a fool on the street.  He laughed hysterically to himself…  Down here they were all rabble. 

Despite his predicament, Adam wanted to believe that this was merely a test Satan was giving him.  Soon his supporters would overwhelm this vermin or his mentor would show up in the nick of time to vanquish his foes.  Adam also realized grimly that, if nothing else, sooner or later the police would get wind of this, break this up, and the mob would disperse like so many cockroaches before a can of Raid.  To add to his hopes as he looked through the bodies surrounding him was the contrite look on Buff’s bloated face.  With the fat man’s opposition, almost all members of the first group had seemed to fall in step.  In spite of his change of heart, however, Adam saw him as the original ringleader and couldn’t help but to blame him for the situation confronting him now.  Their mischief had attracted hundreds of derelicts on skid row.  So why couldn’t they muster up their courage now?

“You look like Jesus, but you sure don’t act like him,” the one-eyed man spoke.

“You fellahs disperse, let the poor guy go,” called Stork, a look of determination on his face.

“Yeah,” declared Alden Taylor, “there’s a lot more of us than you!” 

Troy joined the other two men, who stepped forward as a threesome.  The women standing amongst the twelve nodded with approval.  With arms folded and jaws set, the men and women attempted to generate a united front.  Unfortunately, the mood was not contagious.  Probably a dozen men and one bag lady, resting on her cart, nodded enthusiastically, but the remainder of the idlers and drunks on the street looked over at the black man as if he was insane.

“This is your fault!” Ursula Painter accused Buff. “If you hadn’t got everyone so fired up, they’d never got wind of him.”

          “We’re just funnin’ with’em,” Buff muttered to himself.

          “Some fun!” Spat Ursula.

          “Children,” an old man uttered in the crowd, “believe not this sheep in wolves clothing.  You must try him with the Word, whether he be of God.  For it is written that there shall arise a false Christ and false prophet, who in the End Times shall show great signs and wonders…”

In a rasping voice, the octogenarian, who had appeared on the Leeds television set, had liberally quoted from the Apostles Matthew and John.  Standing in the crowd, his tattered Bible clutched to his chest, he seemed no more out of place than the skid row preacher, and yet, without a single acknowledgment from the assembly, his presence was felt by several souls in the crowd.  Among the believers, Wyatt Brewster, who stood with his friends, looked up from the prayer he was uttering, inexplicably scanning the sky, while Moses Rawlins, who stood closest to the octogenarian, could actually hear the words spoken by the man.

“I hear you,” he whispered discreetly. “Shall I leave these unhallowed grounds?”

Fear gripped the preacher when he realized how close the devil’s advocate stood, and yet he looked around eagerly for the speaker, whose voice sounded very much like the voice he heard in the alley last night.  Wyatt also looked around eagerly for the speaker, as did the old bag lady, a small man, who walked with a limp, and motorist brave enough to leave the safety of her car. 

Roy, the one-eyed member of Charlie’s gang, now pointed to Adam’s beard. “Is that real, sport?” He asked, giving it a yank.  The bald-headed Asian with the jagged scar, also gave his whiskers a tug, as Charlie and the remaining members of his gang snickered amongst themselves.

“Was not Christ also abused?” He muttered under his breath, as the Lord walked invisibly now through the crowd.

An inexplicable feeling of well-being overcame Wyatt Brewster.  A wordless blessing filled him.  It was as if his odyssey on the street had taken a turn.  For Moses Rawlins, whose detour to God began years ago, it was, in fact, justification for his mission to the bums.  He saw the octogenarian at the edge of the crowd, just as the student priest caught sight of him, himself.  Looking across the crowd, the Lord then turned his gaze to the preacher.  Moses knew immediately who He was.  Both men, elbowing their way excitedly back through the assembly, reached out to touch the old man, just as he disappeared back into the crowd.  Moses was chilled and exalted by the cold wind of prophecy.  Wyatt now felt as if he had been officially called by God.  Charlie’s gang whispered amongst themselves, as if, while contemplating the counterfeit Jesus, they were drawing lots.



          Buff, whose opening lines “Hey, are you one of them transvestite fruits?” had sparked the chase, now lapsed into silence.  Only one of his tormentors, who had shrank into the crowd as Adam ran through the gauntlet, even spoke to him directly: an evil looking dwarf with a mouthful of rotten teeth.

          “You shouldn’t be running round dressed like a fruit,” Gus Yorba looked up at him defiantly as he peered through the men’s legs.

          “I accept your apology,” Adam looked down at him with a snarl.

          At that point, as the buck-toothed youth and his friends stood appraising the first group, Adam took advantage of a break in the line and attempted to surge through the blockade.  Charlie immediately stuck out a boot and tripped him.  Luckily, Adam held out his palms to blunt his fall and wound up on all fours on the ground no worse for the fall.  Buff and two of his friends reached out lamely to steady Adam as he rose up shakily onto his feet and regained his composure.  Shirking off the defiling hands, he looked around at the multitude of bums gathered on the sidewalk and street.  The black woman was right; the fat man had started it all.  Surrounded as he was by so many unwashed bodies, his mind was overwhelmed and sickened, as he yearned to break free.

          “There-there,” Stork reached out to steady him, “let’s get you somewhere safe.”

          “Hold on,” came a deep Southern drawl.  “Just you wait a minute,” the yellow-haired and buck-toothed youth demanded. “We jest wanted to talk to the freak.”

          “I ain’t afraid of you Charlie,” Buff said unconvincingly. “We remember what you did to Ignacio.  You and your goons will rough this guy up too.”

“Yes, let go of him; he’s had enough!” Liz Moydin cried out from the crowd. 

          Buff motioned to his friends, but they melted fearfully into the mob, leaving him to face Charlie’s gang alone.  Stork, Troy, Alden, and the women, who had failed to generate a united front to help the beleaguered man, looked on fearfully at this second group of men.  Adam began edging away again toward a break in the circle in preparation for flight.  Wyatt Brewster’s enigmatic expression met Adam’s stare, as if to say, “I know who you are.”  There was no malice or pity in his eyes, only resignation and peace.  From the mouth of the Lord, after all his searching, he knew what his purpose was on earth.  As he realized what was going to happen, however, Moses’ natural compassion to help a down-and-out soul overcame the visions in his head.  Out of nowhere, the Shepherd of Skid Row reappeared in their midst, but this time he was not spouting apocalyptic warning or preaching hell fire but was trying once again to save Adam’s life. 

          “Leave this man alone!” He shouted hoarsely. “He’s done you no harm!”

          “It’s the preacher,” hooted Gus Yorba.  “He’ll give-em what-for.”

          Charlie, who had a score to settle with the preacher, now struck him down with one well-placed blow to the stomach.  Moses doubled up in pain, staggered backed through the mob, and fell forward onto street.

          “You rotten bastard!” “You son-of-a-bitch!” Voices erupted from the crowd.

          At that point, Moses friends, Smokin’ Al Breen, Skunk, Little Tom, and Old Judd appeared and quietly and gently picked their friend up off of the street.  Flashing Moses’ attacker angry looks, they sported the preacher away.

          “You’ll burn in hell for that!” Al called back as they drug Moses though the crowd.

          At that point, Charlie turned to his cohorts, whose numbers had swelled to over a dozen, far more, the other homeless men and women noted, than the usual foursome in Charlie’s gang.  By now Buff had joined his friends and members of the twelve on the sidelines.  A look of guilt seemed frozen on his bloated face.  Crazy Charlie, who preyed upon vagrants in town, now had a bigger following than his original gang, yet members of the crowd looked to the braggart Buff for action.

          “You’re all talk Fat Man and no action,” Liz Moydin sneered.

          With the same suddenness as Moses Rawlins, Rhoda, the witch, reappeared in the crowd, hovering close to the circle surrounding Adam Leeds.  Her long stringy black hair whipped back and forth as she did a crotchety jig outside the ring.  Making hocus pocus signs with her grimy hands and humming madly under her breath, she entered then exited the group, returning in a few seconds later to bring her flaring nostrils and snarling mouth up to Adam’s frightened face.

            Making more nonsensical signs with her fingers, Rhoda hummed under her breath, her dark eyes rolling madly in her head.  Darting out of the circle, she did what appeared to be a more elaborate dance around the group, returning a few seconds later to once more stare menacingly into Adam’s face.  Too exhausted to understand the meaning of this ritual, the reverend looked away.  Again his eyes locked onto the student priest’s, but this time he saw compassion and pity in the young man’s gaze.

“Who are you suppose to be?” Rhoda taunted the holy man in their midst. “A counterfeit Jesus?”  “If you’re the Christ, show us your stuff,” she pointed at Charlie. “Zap that clown!  Turn into him into a pillar of salt!”

“Yeah,” Gus jumped up and down foolishly, “turn us all into millionaires, so we can all leave skid row!”

          “Watch it Rhoda,” warned Charlie, looking with contempt at the dwarf and at the hundred or more vagrants murmuring amongst themselves at the scene.



          Adam’s worst ordeal now began.  He had been wrong about Rhoda Simms; she was not afraid of Charlie.  She was not afraid of anyone... because Rhoda was insane.  He was caught between a mad woman and a man who had almost killed an innocent vagrant in the park.  Adam understood Rhoda’s motive; she was psychotic, but he would never know what possessed Charlie Blintz, who, in broad daylight, would attempt such an unspeakable deed.  Did a free-roaming demon indwell Charlie or was it merely the feral non-supernatural force of evil driving this man.  Even now, after all her effort, he wondered if this wasn’t all a test?  Why was she allowing this to happen?  The street people, though they outnumbered Charlie’s group twenty to one, wouldn’t lift a finger on his on his behalf.  Why didn’t they pull him to safety into their ranks?  How could he ever forgive the indolence of the mob?  Above all, how could he forgive her?

Once again, the base elements of skid row, those too cowardly to perform the deed, themselves, laughed at this spectacle, while the others stood by impotently, allowing Charlie’s gang to drag him, kicking and scratching, into an alley near the hotel.  The crowd followed as far as they could go, without confronting Charlie’s gang, stopping at the mouth of the alley.  As they ripped off his clothes, his hands clutched the shreds of his tunic in pop-eyed mortification.  The finely spun robe conjured up by his mentor, had been yanked off by the witch, who paraded it in front of onlookers as a trophy in her bony hands.  Because his vocal chords were frozen in horror, only croaking sounds escaped Adam’s trembling lips.  Were it not for this sudden paralysis, his audience would not only be seeing this example of mortal fear, they would be hearing it as well.  He would be shrieking in terror and probably be cursing Satan’s name.

          Where was his faith? wondered his mentor.  After all she had promised him, where was his courage?  He was supposed to call his master’s wrath down upon those street people in a gesture of spiritual élan.  Instead, he was cowering like a fool.  It was a wonder he had not soiled himself.  Satan had waited long enough to act.  He was, because of his inaction, in danger of being raped and becoming even more traumatized than he had been before they made love.

          Pressing her long, perfectly formed and beautifully manicured fingers to her temples she began sending her protégé a message, hoping that she could prepare him for what she now had in mind.

          “Come on sweat meat,” the witch, wearing the robe like a hood around her face, now bellowed, pulling at the remnants of the tunic he had managed to hold onto as they tore off his clothes.

          “Yeah, hot lips,” the one-eyed bum prodded, “we want to see your goods!”

          Fortunately, Satan had allowed him to keep his underwear when she transformed him into a counterfeit Christ, but even that was in danger of being pulled off by this perverted crew. 

Pointing a dirty finger at a nearby wall, Charlie ordered his men to stretch his arms onto the wall in a cruciform position.  Rhoda was roaring with maniacal laughter.  Two men pried his first hand away and slammed his arm against the bricks.  After the second hand slammed onto the wall, the two men stepped forward to grip his wrists, which allowed his shredded tunic to fall away.  As the police often do when apprehending a suspect, his legs were also spread apart on the pavement as his palms rested on the bricks.  Fortunately for Adam, he was still left with his tee shirt and a conservative pare of men’s briefs.  A pare of speedos, he realized, would have added fuel at this point to their notion that he was in drag.

          As the men gleefully obeyed their leader and Rhoda danced another jig, he tried once more to scream, but found Charlie’s grimy hand cupping his mouth.  Soon, while he was in this position, the other derelicts paused to argue over who got first dibs on his rear-end.  The symbolism was not lost on him.  Because of his cruciform position, it was a close enough parody to the crucifixion to register in his terror-stricken mind, and yet he could not believe what they had in mind.  The vast majority of the street people, who stood behind the vagrants clogging the alley, couldn’t see this event and were now silent.  No one uttered a word of protest during those moments.  To make matters worse, their bodies effectively hid him from the view of motorists.  With the exception of truck drivers passing through, who were elevated high enough to see some of the commotion from their cabs, the dreadful ordeal went unseen by the world, and yet the mere presence of that many homeless people in one spot caused drivers alarm.

          Once again a strange irony was taking place, in spite of the lack of visibility, in which travelers on the street, itself, were moved to action, while the people, who lived on the street, stood by helplessly looking on.

          “The police are on their way,” the truck driver hollered from the window of his cab.

          “Help him you cowards,” demanded the old bag lady, who stood by on the curb with a shopping cart filled with her life’s worth.

          At that point, a familiar voice came into Adam’s head.  “Get ready.  After what I’m going to do, you’ll never again doubt me again!”

          As the remainder of the gang pulled at the young man’s underwear and tee shirt, two of Charlie’s men shrank away from the deed, slipping through the audience, never to be seen in skid row again.  Rhoda, the witch, took it upon herself to pull down his boxer shorts and play with the flaccid muscle, while Charlie unzipped his fly as if he was going to penetrate Adam’s rear-end.  A deep moan seemed to come from the earth as this last outrage sank into the minds of those looking on.

          “Well ol’ Buff was wrong,” cackled Rhoda, jerking at it awhile. “He doesn’t have a va- gi-na!” She rolled the word provocatively around in her mouth.

          “No vagina?” A thin, hallow-eyed young man with rotten teeth asked, reaching out as if to touch Adam’s rear.

          “No,” the old crone cackled, giving it a yank, “just a plain old dick—not a very big one at that.”

          Charlie stuck a grimy thumb through his fly to simulate an erection, laughing uproariously as it touched Adam’s skin. 

“No tits, no female organs—only a tight little rear end,” the one-eyed bum snickered, giving it a pinch.

          Charlie looked back at the audience, as if they were enjoying this humiliation. “That settles it, folks,” he called out theatrically, “he’s just a plain old fruit!”  “Which means he’s fair game,” he slapped Adam’s buttocks, “up for grabs.  Line forms in back of Roy!”

          One-Eyed Roy giggled foolishly, pretending to hump the prostrate man, as a third man, who had been standing on the sidelines exited the scene.  There were now, counting the witch, only five tormentors in the alley, which included members of Charlie’s original gang.  Several of the twelve now pushed forward with Buff in tow through the entrance of the alley. 

“Let go of him, you sick bastard,” Buff called out in an unsteady voice. “This is gone far enough!”

          “Says who, fat man,” spat Charlie, as Adam, now naked, crumpled in mortification to the ground.

          “You heard that trucker: the police are coming,” a croaking voice sounded in the background. “You’d all better hightail it out of here before they show up!” 

“I don’t think so,” said the old bag lady, looking back at the street. “Unless there’s a murder down here, those cops won’t come.” 

Several of the vagrants on the sidewalk, who had an ingrained fear of the police, now fled the scene.  Pushing through the onlookers blocking the alley, Ursula, Liz, and Effie now joined Buff, Troy, Adam, and Wyatt in confrontation with the remainder of Charlie’s gang.  For reasons even Heck couldn’t fathom, he found himself right behind them with Johnny by his side.  With the twelve homeless people outnumbering Charlie’s gang almost three to one now, the odds seemed to favor the twelve.  Adam, who managed to pull his boxer shorts back up, huddled against the alley wall, relieved that they had finally come to his aid.

For several moments, the two sides just looked at each other, and fear seemed to be etched on Charlie’s splotchy face.

          “This is all your fault Buff,” Effie scolded the fat man. “You and Rhoda got this crowd worked up.  Now you want them to stop.  Will let’s see some action.  You’re a lot bigger than that scrawny man!”

          “All right Effie.” Buff nodded, shaken by the results of his own mischief. “There’s a lot more of us than them.  Come on folks, let’s put an end to this now!”

          Charlie took a few swipes at Buff with a large bowie knife he pulled out of his boot as soon as Buff stepped forward and managed to nick the bigger man’s coat.  At that point, the other two men pulled out bowie knives, too.  The three to one ratio was suddenly nullified by superior arms.  Adam could scarcely believe it as his rescuers began backing off one-by-one.  Stork and Troy, who carried small sized pocketknives, were no match for their opponents’ weapons.  The three women, having seen Charlie pull his knife, had already fled.  Although Heck Reyes and Johnny Trueblood had stilettos and Buff Peyton had a small switchblade he waved widely at Charlie and his men, the large bowie knives in the other men’s hands were far more menacing than their three blades.  Glancing back, as Heck and Johnny backed slowly into the crowd, Buff, was effectively stymied by the other two men’s indecision. 

          “Go wan, rush’em you guys,” Kaz’s head poked through a forest of legs, “Buff can’t do it alone.”

          “Are you insane?” Heck looked down at the dwarf. “Look at their knives!”

“Where’s the goddamn police,” Liz called from the crowd.

“Somebody got a club?  Somebody got a gun?” Ursula looked around frantically for support.

          Troy, the ex-marine and gulf veteran, however, just stood there, along with Stork, Alden, Wyatt, Heck, and Johnny, while the women—Effie, Ursula, and Liz cursed and wrung their hands.  In spite of their own lack of resolve, the fact that the remaining mob on the sidewalk did not rush in, seemed unconscionable to them.

          “Get in there and help him you cowards,” the bag lady wrung her fists.

          “Them boys got better weapons,” Buff now wept. “Where’s them damn police?”

          A familiar, very human, sight greeted Adam’s eyes as he studied the crowd.  Once again, when confronted with determined men with big knives, they did what he any sane folks would do; they retreated from the fight.  In the distance he thought he heard the whine of a patrol car, but it could have been a fire truck or ambulance.  By the time the distant sound was close enough to even matter, it might be too late.  What if the crazed Charlie decided to knife him too?  During these terrible moments, Crazy Charlie and his bunch grabbed the terror-stricken Adam by the wrists and hair and dragged him further into the alley.  Before the foursome was swallowed up in the shadows, Buff, stricken with guilt, made one fateful move forward in a pleading gesture and received a knife wound in his arm.  While the fat man howled in pain and his friends rushed to pull him away from further injury from the knife, Charlie followed his men, walking backwards while waving his bloodied knife to guard their retreat into the shadowy corridor.

          Once more Adam was slammed against the wall, this time without fanfare.  This time as he crumpled out of breath to the ground, Charlie and his friends made no move to pull him to his feet.    

“Okay,” he said, tucking his knife back into a sheath on his leg, let’s give him the treatment.  Then I’ll slit this dandy’s throat.”

The other men looked at him with horror.  Only Rhoda nodded her head madly at the idea.

“What treatment?” The hallow-eyed youth asked.

“It’s true,” one-eyed Roy exclaimed, “you are crazy!”

On that note, Roy and the bald-headed Asian fled the scene, but the younger man attempted to talk his leader out of this madness as the witch cackled and wrung her hands.  As the women hung back fearfully in the alley, Stork, Troy, Alden, Wyatt, Heck, and Johnny with Buff clutching his wounded arm, moved hesitantly back up to the scene.

          “Hey, funs over, let him go!” Stork called into the shadows through cupped hands.   

          “You son-of-a-bitch Buff!” Effie shouted after them. “This is all your fault.”

          “Stop, I tell you!  Stop!” The bag lady cried from the sidewalk, not realizing that much of the damage had already been done. “The police are coming!  I heard them.  Stop what you’re doing right now before it’s too late!”

          “The only time those guys come down here is when there’s a homicide,” Adam heard Charlie remind them, as he cowered on the ground.

          “Don’t do this Charlie,” the last member of his gang begged.  “This poor bastard won’t tell the cops.  Look at him; he’s crazy, addled in the head!” 

          “Yeah, crazy like me,” buck-toothed Charlie’s pale eyes held an eerie glow.

          On that note, the last member of Charlie’s gang fled through the crowd, leaving Charlie and Rhoda alone to finish the deed.  Charlie attempted to urinate on the reverend now, but even Rhoda found this distasteful and pulled him away.

          “Here give me the knife,” she insisted. “You’re taking too much time!”

          “Forgive me!…What’ve I done? “ Buff groaned, as and the other men stopped in the alley and looked into the shadows beyond.

          “Brace yourself!” The icy voice came into Adam’s head.

          “For what?” Adam rasped, wriggling frantically as Charlie grabbed his hair. “His knife?  He’s going to slit my throat.  Why’ve your forsaken me?”

          This haunting question meant nothing to his tormentors, but was understood by Wyatt Brewster now.  Though not intended as a parody on Jesus, Adam grimly remembered this same question being asked by another tormented man but aimed at the heavens, while Adam was now looking down into the shadow of the wall in the direction of his new master, who was being just as unresponsive as God had been those many centuries ago.

          Then suddenly, to the accompaniment of the small earthquake he had prayed for, he heard the peel of thunder overhead, and felt his hair being released as Charlie and Rhoda backed away into the shadows of the alley in terror.  Just as he turned to watch them depart, he saw a blinding flash before his eyes: his captors now burst into what seemed to the onlookers to be spontaneous combustion but Adam knew as Satan’s wrath.  The hands of the remaining two evildoers, who had dared defile Adam, shriveled like burning bacon up their burning sleeves, and each mind that plotted against her beloved was burned to smoldering cinders inside its flaming skull.  Charlie Blintz and Rhoda the Witch continued to be incinerated in front of Adam’s and the seven men’s horror-stricken eyes.  When there was nothing left to burn, their two bodies disintegrated crisply as if in a crematorium as so many parched and blackened leaves and then crumbled into ashes on the pavement below.  For a brief moment, many onlookers swore they smelled brimstone in the air.

          It was awful.  It was beautiful.  It demonstrated to half of the twelve homeless people that Adam had great power.  As Gus Yorba, the little Hispanic dwarf would say later, “no one better mess with that man!”

          Yet Wyatt was not fooled.  Only those privileged to be standing this far into alley saw the incineration, a factor that would adversely affect the miracle’s credibility.  Those who crowded at the entrance of the alley, which included the frightened women, heard only the audio portion of the miracle.  After hearing the victims’ screams, the seven witnesses watched the powdery debris of Adam’s attackers being blown mysteriously into the depths of the alley as if carried into the bowels of hell.  Derelicts and commuters alike elbowed each other for space and stood on abandoned crates in the alley to get a better vantage point of the event, but all they could see inside the darkened corridor were seven shaken men moving toward them.  As soon as this eerie phenomena ceased, all eyes turned as quickly back to Adam Leeds, the recipient of this great miracle, who was supported lovingly between Alden and Stork.  The five women and the dwarf were the first to reach the seven.  Within the heady moment following the miracle, Ursula and Liz placed Adam’s robe over his shoulders and tied its sash.  After listening to the awed comments of the seven witnesses, who had seen a man and woman cremated by a bolt of lightning, the crowd wanted to know who this strange young man was.  Those folks behind the second group of vagrants at the mouth of the alley (which included members of the twelve), who had at least witnessed his attackers drag him into the dark corridor, but hadn’t seen the altercation between the two groups, provided a third audience of the blessed.  Everyone on foot in the vicinity of the alley had felt the earth move beneath their feet, heard the peel of thunder, and listened to those ghastly screams.   

Now, moreover, there was a fourth group of witnesses, to be listed in Wyatt Brewster’s chronicle, who would give an account of the aftermath of the miracle and actions of the crowd.  Drawn recently to the scene were those more distant pedestrians, motorists pulled over to the curb, and a pair of truck drivers calling the police, whose vantage point overlooked the horde of homeless people surrounding the twelve disciples and holy man, as they emerged from what Wyatt called the “valley of the shadow of death.” 



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