the marks didn't have to know that. All they had to know was that Luke Parker had a God-given gift of healing. He didn't know how it worked, didn't question it. He just knew he had it and he used it to best advantage. He used it to raise a dollar to pay for his pad and for a bottle of Soul Lifter now and

then. If he actually did make life a little less miserable for some poor mark,

that was fine, too, but making life less miserable didn't put a dollar in his pocket unless he found a way to bleed it out of the marks. «In the beginning was the Word,» he preached, standing on the old, cement base in the tiny park with a few marks stopping and listening and

looking up. He was a striking figure, not tall, but straight at five-ten. He had to hold in his stomach. He wore the common costume, tight slacks, long, baggy cotton over-shirt, slip-on shoes. Put him in a crowd of Lays and he would be indistinguishable from the Techs and Fares and Tireds. It was the voice that made Luke Parker different. The voice and the gift. «If ye believe,» Luke called. «If you do but believe—» And they looked up, wanting to believe. East City with its millions spread to all sides, lights, grayness, mold, age, towering walls. Old Town. Off there was the water, river and sea, and there was the continent, spreading in one vast sprawl of wall, roof and milling millions to the Chesapeake, to the mountains, to the small, heavily populated agribelt which was preserved before Middle City built walls and towering anthills to the great western deserts. God, they wanted to believe, for believing made them men, made them more than digits standing in line before the Medcenters waiting for a ration of Newasper. «You must be born again,» Luke preached, watching the little square

fill. The big, preaching Brothers with electronic aids could fill a stadium. Luke Parker, with only his voice, deep, strong, mellow, could fill an

antique little park with its few square yards of true earth, its three trees, could fill it with Lays and Tireds and Techs, although the Techs tended to be a cynical bunch, usually too smartalecky to listen to the true words of faith, putting their trust in Newasper and shakeshock. And dying of cancer and nuflu and heart and black lungs and being mutilated in crash and fall and machine malfunction. «Let him who has not faith approach the mysteries with an open mind,» Luke preached, looking down on a small group of Techs in white uniform. They grinned back, making derisive sounds, talking, passing a bottle of Soul Lifter. They could, Luke knew, spoil the pitch. He had a promising crowd, heavy in Tireds, the older ones leaning on canes and white-haired and hopeless, looking up at

him without life in their eyes but willing to look, to listen, to drink in the promise of Luke's words. «He said, go forth and heal the sick,» Luke said, trying to ignore the

Tech. «He said, this is your gift, mortal man, go and use it wisely. And, my loving friends, I come to you, in faith, in humility, knowing that my poor gift is not enough, but knowing that my gift, combined with your faith, can work miracles. Are there those among you who suffer, who ache, who know pain? Let them step forward.» «I got the clap,» one of the Techs yelled. «Cure me.» «The wages of sin,» Luke said. «First you must cure your conscience, friend.» Out near one of the sick trees, an old Tired man moved forward, looking around nervously. «Come, friend,» Luke encourage. «It only takes faith.» «Make the old schmuck young again, preacher,» yelled the loudmouthed Tech. Luke looked down angrily. «Can we not coexist in peace, friend?» «Lay your hand on this, preacher,» said the Tech, making an obscene gesture toward a private portion of his anatomy. «Let the man preach,» said a voice. A big, ragged Fare man pushed forward. «Just shut up and let him preach.» «Peace, friends,» Luke begged. «Let us have peace.» «Look who's talking,» said the loudmouthed Tech. «Man never did a lick of work in his life. Sits on his ass drawing Fare money, our money. Look who's talking.» «Heal me, brother,» the old Tired man said, standing near the base of Luke's perch. «Yeah, heal those gray hairs,» said the Tech. Two more men joined the big Fare to glare at the Techs. «I said let the man preach,» said the big Fare. « You gonna shut up and let him preach?» The Tech, equally as big as the Fare, looked at his companions. «I think not,» he said. Unnoticed, a group of Fares, reinforced by one or two elderly Tireds had encircled the Techs. Luke watched the action unfold in silence. Below him, the crowd moved away, left the two groups of men confronting each other. A slim, gleaming knife appeared in the hand of the big Fare. From the rear, another Fare felled a Tech with a piece of crumbling brick. The violence was expressed in thudding, flashing blades, groans, curses. The crowd gave it room, looked on with impassive faces. Limp bodies fell, were trampled. The Techs, outnumbered, retreated. The sounds of combat dwindled into the ever-present roar of traffic from old Third Avenue, one block away. «I believe,» said the old, white-haired Tired standing below Luke. Luke

lifted his face. Above him the night was hidden by the reflected glow of the old lights of Old Town on the eternal blanket of choking smog. Luke closed his eyes, saw, in his mind, beyond the smog, the stars, the heavens. He mouthed a silent, sincere prayer. He leaped down, took the old Tired's hand. «My lungs,» said the old Tired. «My lungs.» His voice was raspy. He coughed. Blood flecked his lips. Luke knew the man should have been in

MedCenter. He felt a hint of despair, but he controlled it. It was not, after all, his fault that the old Tired had the lung failure. It came to most, sooner or later. «Yea, friend,» Luke said. «How old are you?» «I've done my twenty,» the Tired said, not without pride. «I went to work for the City when I was twelve. Got my Watch last year.» Luke added. «Then you're thirty-three.» «Yes, Brother.» «I'll pray,» Luke said. He put his hand on the old Tired's head. He lifted his head and his voice. «Lord, look down on this, your lamb. Here he

stands in the fullness of his years with faith in his heart and the death in his lungs. Here he stands, Lord, asking this, your humble servant, for healing help. I ask you, Lord, giver of gifts, healer of ills, sender of happiness, is it right that his poor servant, this man who has done his duty to his fellow men, this servant who has toiled in the canyons for twenty long years to cough up his life's blood from his poor, charred lungs? I beg you. Lord, Jesus, redeemer, heal this poor servant of God. Help him, Lord.» Luke lowered his head. «Pray, friend,» he said quietly. Around him, the crowd was silent. The fighting men had moved away, chasing the fleeing Techs. The roar of ground traffic was loud. Onto the bared heads of the crowd rained the waste of the vastness of the East City, soot, carbon, particles carrying sickness and death, the efflorescence of their civilization. «Heal,» Luke said, giving the Tired's head a shake. «Heal!» He pressed down hard. The old man's knees buckled, but he fought back to stand upright under the shaking, pressing pressure of Luke's strong hand. «Heal!» Luke roared. «Heal! Heal! HEAL!» Then, with one final shake which rattled the old Tired's eyeballs, he released the quaking head. «Feel

it friend,» Luke shouted joyfully. «Feel the power of God slowly flowing into

your pain. Feel it heal.» But he knew it wasn't working. He cursed silently. He hated the lung cases. There was no helping them. Oh, now and then one of them got carried away and said he felt better and that helped with the other marks, because if a man can be cured of the lung sickness, there is no limit to the power of the healer. So Luke used his most persuasive voice. «You feel better, friend,» he said. «You feel the soothing power of God soaking into your lungs.» «Amen,» said the Tired, a mesmerized glaze to his eyes. «Praise God!» «You are healed!» Luke exhaulted. «Healed! Do you hear?» he shouted to the awed crowd. «God, in his mercy, has healed this dying Tired.» «Amen,» they shouted. And they crowded around him, wanting to touch him. The Tired was pushed aside. A buxom Negro Fare with a short, kicky shirt, pressed soft breasts against Luke's shoulder and screamed at him. He singled her out. «Yes, sister?» he asked. «Do you have faith?» «I got this pain in my side,» the Fare said, putting Luke's hand onto her waist. « 'Bout here.» «Heal!» Luke shouted. He was beginning to feel it now. The power. The gift. He knew he hadn't healed the old Fare with bloody lungs, but he could

heal a pain in the side. «Heal,» he said, shaking the soft female flesh under his hand, knowing a sensuous power as he felt her warmth, heard her excited breathing. «The pain is slowly going away,» he told her, his face close to hers. The crowd was silent, watching in awe. «Oh, God,» she screamed, «it's going away!» «Heal!» Luke shouted joyfully. «Let the devil out and let the Lord in!» «Oh, God,» the Fare screamed. «I can feel the devil leaving!» An old Fare woman with a cancerous nose was pressing her sickening face close to Luke. He pulled away. Another of the ones he couldn't help. But he had to put on a show. «Faith, sister!» he told the cancerous woman. «And slowly, slowly, the Lord will help.» He put his hand on her head, shook her head vigorously. «Let the Lord in!» he shouted. «Don't expect instant miracles, sister, but wait until morning. Then you'll see a change. Let the Lord in. Kick the devil out!» And then it was time to make the pitch. «I am but a poor, wandering Brother,» he told the crowd, after working his miracles. He'd felt it with the Negro Fare and the pain in the side. He'd actually felt the little, wrinkled think deep inside which was causing her pain and he'd ironed out the wrinkles and he'd felt the pain subside. He'd had the gift during

the brief moment, and he'd tried to feel it with the more serious cases, the lungs, the cancers, the slobbering, retarded child which they'd pushed into his arms. He had put his hand on the jerking, spastic head. He'd said the magic words. He'd felt the sheer idiocy radiating from the jumbled brain of the idiot. And he'd said, «This is too much, friends. The devil in this child is too strong!» And now he was making his pitch, holding out his

hands. «All I need is food,» he said. «Just a few dollars for the basic needs of life, for even a man of God must eat.» And they dug into frayed pockets and gave him useless coins. Dimes, quarters, half-dollars, two metal

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