‘What is in these sausages?’ Calgacus demanded, pointing a finger at the contents of the bowl.
‘Meat,’ said Exuperatus,’ Well, mostly meat anyway.’
‘Ah!’ Exhaled the big man triumphantly, ‘I thought they looked suspicious. What are you trying to do, you filthy Gaul? Poison me?’
The bar man pinched his thin forehead and took a deep breath.
‘Calgacus, you barbarian, if you were not one of my best customers I’d have you thrown in the river. Not just out of my Taverna, you understand, but into the river,’ Exuperatus took a deep breath, ’it contains meat, but also herbs and spices, and garlic of course. My own recipe, in fact, I’m rather proud of it.’
‘Exactly what kind of meat is it?’ Calgacus narrowed his eyes.
‘Ah. Now, on that point I have to say it does vary a little. But all high quality…’
‘It depends on what we can lay our hands on, preferably cheaply,’ boomed a voice from the cellar that lay to the rear and under the bar area.
‘Thank you Senodo. I was doing quite well without your quaint idea of customer relations. Have you been drinking the stock again?’ Exuperatus steepled his thin fingers in a gesture that the Calgacus, a regular witness to the bickering of the two men that ran this pokey Taverna, knew suggested extreme annoyance.
‘Quality control,’ slurred the voice from the darkness. Exuperatus tensed his thin body.
As Calgacus realised he had caused this in the first place with his misplaced curiosity the labourer thought he’d better make amends before the two Gauls broke into open war.
‘It doesn’t matter!’ He said loudly,’ sorry I asked. I’m sure they are absolutely delicious.’
For emphasis he shoved one in his mouth and began to chew enthusiastically.
Exuperatus watched him carefully. Calgacus also now noticed he was under observation from Senodo, whose head had emerged from the cellar, his huge nose glowing redder than normal. Obviously a lot of quality control had been required this morning.
Calgacus washed the rest of the sausage down with his wine.
‘Not bad. Tasted of horse?’
‘Very good… I think most of that batch was predominately horsemeat. Good lean stuff, too. Best I’ve been able to get this season, what with the Romans getting all uppity with their patrols and checkpoints.’
‘Well the attacks are on the increase, apparently, or that’s what the Spanish legionaries say,’ Calgacus noted,’ when I can work out their accents. And they stop shivering long enough to talk sense.’
‘Yes, but this is Verulamian. Finest city in Britannia, we have a theatre and everything. At least we should have guaranteed supplies. I mean we are running out of good wine – ’
‘We’ve never had good wine,’ Senodo interrupted.
‘Are you intent on ruining me?’ Snapped Exuperatus as he thumped the table with a clenched fist and then winced at the pain. Calgacus tried very hard not to laugh.
‘Ruin us. It’s my bar too, you old weasel. I just believe in being honest to the punters,’ Senodo gestured at the empty cup looking forlorn in front of their only customer,’ more of our finest gut rot, Calgacus?’
‘I guess so, and some more of those delicious sausages, too,’ the big man winked at Senodo as the rotund Gaul filled his cup, ’after all, nothing exciting is going to happen anytime soon. My mother always said that nothing important would happen until at least a hundred years after that funny Jewish Messiah turned up’
‘Well, that’s alright then. I believe it’s only sixty years…’