Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Developments

Exuperatus came through the door of the Taverna as though Cerberus itself was after him. His eyes swept across the empty bar. He slammed the door behind him.
‘We’re closed,’ he said to the surprised man who had just been about to enter,’ we’re, um, stocktaking. Open again in an hour.’
He slammed the basket he was carrying on the nearest table.
‘And our apologies for any inconvenience caused! ‘Exuperatus added through the now closed door.
‘What’s the matter? Senodo asked.
Exuperatus ignored him and went straight over to Vita. Before she had time to react he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her violently. Vita yelped in pain.
‘What are you not telling me, girl?’ Exuperatus almost screamed at the girl.
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Vita cried desperately, ‘I really don’t.’
A big hand landed on the smaller man’s wiry shoulders.
‘Enough. Let her go, old friend,’ Senodo said,’ you’re hurting her and that won’t help any of us.’
Exuperatus let go and sat down suddenly looking extremely tired. He looked over at the terrified girl.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said simply. Vita just nodded and looked at the two men with her eyes wide, unsure what was going to happen next, and wondering whether it was a good idea to run now.
‘What’s the matter?’ Senodo repeated.
‘She is the matter,’ Exuperatus pointed at Vita,’ or rather her former master. Something is very strange here Senodo. Apparently he has sent for an Imperial investigator.’
‘That’s ridiculous,’ said Senodo,’ they only get called in for serious crimes against officials or acts of treason against the Empire. Not runaway slaves.’
‘Exactly – which is why I want to know from Stolen Goods here exactly what it is that she is not telling us.’
Both men looked at Vita expectantly. The girl just looked confused.
‘I don’t know why. I just ran away. I did not hurt anyone if that is what you mean or stole anything.’
‘I think she’s telling the truth,’ Senodo rested a hand gently, protectively, on the girl’s head.
‘I can see that,’ snapped Exuperatus,’ now. The man must just be obsessed. And unfortunately for us has friends in very high places. Why could you not be a runaway from some jumped up local yokel, girl? ‘
Vita shrugged and said nothing.
‘What do we do?’ Senodo asked.
‘Do? We do nothing. We stick with the plan and hope that the investigator, if indeed one comes, isn’t one of the brighter ones. Or one that “always gets his man” and doesn’t give up.’
‘It looks like you might have to be a boy for a bit longer than we hoped,’ Senodo said to Vita sadly.
‘That’s alright,’ Vita said, shrugging once more,’ I’m making good money on tips.’
Exuperatus looked at her in shock.
‘You didn’t tell me about that.’
‘I don’t have to. They’re my tips.’
‘Now wait a minute you little…’
‘That’s enough,’ Senodo interrupted again,’ Vita, please go and get some wine for my partner here from the cellar. The drinkable stuff I mean. And one for me while you are there.’
When she had gone, Senodo’s voice dropped to a whisper.
‘You’re thinking of turning her in aren’t you?’ He asked.
Exuperatus looked the Senodo straight in the eyes to make sure he understood.
‘Yes. Of course I am. If an investigator comes stomping around and finds her, he’ll start looking into us too. I know these people. They’re never satisfied until they know everyone’s secrets, even if they are not relevant to the case. And we have too many secrets, remember.’
‘I do,’ Senodo began calmly,’ but I won’t let you betray her. I believe that she is a gift from the gods. A chance at redemption… I will not give her up.’
‘Even if it mean you had to kill me? It might come to that you know. Where is your redemption in that?’
Senodo sighed.
‘She’s young and innocent and you’re not. But it is not going to come to that, is it?’
Exuperatus sighed. He felt he was sighing a lot recently.
‘No, I guess not.’
Vita returned with two cups of wine. Senodo picked one up and gave the other to Exuperatus.
‘Let’s drink to that, shall we,’ he said and both men downed their wine in front of a confused girl.