Home » Uncategorized » Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Panic

Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Panic

The four of them sat in the empty Taverna, quite deliberately avoiding eye contact with each other.
‘So,’ Senodo said slowly,’ what do we do?’
Silence reigned for a couple of minutes. Finally Calgacus gave a resigned sigh and got up, seemingly coming to a decision.
‘I’ll leave the city and take Vita with me. I’m a good worker – and with Empire constantly expanding there is more than enough construction jobs to go around.’
‘That is only if Vita wants to go with you,’ cautioned Senodo.
Calgacus looked at the girl.
‘Well?’
Vita said nothing, but let her tiny fingers rest on his scarred and callused hand. Calgacus felt his heart was about to burst.
He saw Senodo smile although Calgacus felt there was sadness in it too. The girl had touched them both in such a short time, he thought.
‘Oh please, enough with the sweetness,’ snapped Exuperatus,’ Yet again it is up to me to be the cold fish of reality. You won’t be able to get her through the gates. If the soldiers are on alert and they know an Investigator is coming they’ll already be carefully checking anyone travelling on the roads. I mean, would you like to be the legionary who had to explain to a senior official that he had his prey and had let it slip through his fingers? He’d be pushed off a cliff faster than you could say “Decimation”.’
‘We could at least try,’ Calgacus protested.
‘Can we not just stick to the original plan,’ Vita said quietly.
The three men looked at her.
‘I can do this act, you know’ she went on,’ I can fool this Investigator. And maybe it is not really true – maybe the rumours are being circulated deliberately, to make me and anyone helping me panic.’
‘And reveal ourselves through acting oddly,’ Senodo mused.
Exuperatus looked at Vita keenly.
‘You may well be right. But I don’t like the idea, because I do not want this Investigator sniffing around my bar.’
‘Our bar, my friend,’ Senodo reminded him gently.
Exuperatus brushed the formality aside as if it were a fly.
‘You know what I mean. Both of us have enough to hide from the authorities. We need to keep as low profile as possible,’ he sighed and gave Vita a glare,’ but we will stick with plan as Vita suggests. She is right. For the moment it is the best we’ve got, the gods help us.’
Exuperatus took a sip of wine before continuing.
‘Here’s the story. The ‘boy’ here is yours, Calgacus. Congratulations, by the way. He’s the result of a liaison with a prostitute… She’s died of some horrible disease (luckily you did not contract it, eh?) and foisted the little bastard onto you, and you’ve taken responsibility out of some sense of misguided guilt.’
‘And you’ve managed to get him to work his way in our bar,’ added Senodo.
‘Because we are all heart,’ Exuperatus said without a trace of sarcasm.
‘That’s a bit farfetched, surely?’ Calgacus looked uncertain.
‘You are an innocent aren’t you?’ Exuperatus laughed,’ you’ve not been in the prostitutes quarter have you? This is an everyday story of whores and their unwanted children, my friend. Most of them starve or end up knifed. But you – everyone knows you are a bit of a soft touch. The farfetched bit is that you’ve been with a prostitute at all, which I doubt.’
Calgacus blushed and said nothing.
‘Vita understands, don’t you?’ Exuperatus asked Vita.
The girl nodded then frowned.
‘The only bit that sounds strange to me is that my father should help me… Rather than dump my body in a ditch. I think that would be the normal response I would expect.’
Calgacus looked at her open mouthed.
‘I would never do that, even if you were my unwanted child,’ he gasped.
‘I know,’ Vita said,’ but you’re a good man. There aren’t many around. That’s why I trusted you. I saw in your eyes that you were given to me by the gods.’
‘I feel sick,’ Exuperatus muttered,’ but now we’re now decided. Senodo – open the bar up. Being closed for too long makes people talk and we need to make a living. You, Calgacus, get back to your job. Vita, with me please, I want to show you how to make sausages. We have a business to run and I may be busy doing other things in the next few days.’
The older man led the girl into the cellar and took down a slab of cured meat and a large knife. He began to cut sections. Vita tensed a little, as she suspected Exuperatus had another message specifically for her. She was not disappointed.
‘Just to be clear Vita, if you give us away then both Senodo and myself will be executed. Not because of you, but… Let’s just say we both have history with the Roman authorities.’
‘I won’t fail,’ Vita said.
Exuperatus whirled around suddenly and the large knife hovered in the air before the girl, the point pressed gently against her neck. Vita looked surprised but held his intense gaze without fear.
‘I’m not like Calgacus, girl,’ Exuperatus warned in a whisper,’ Or Senodo. If I had my way you would be lying in a ditch now. And if I come to grief now because of you, I’ll drag you down into the darkest depths of Hades with me, this I swear.’
He lowered the knife.
‘Now, go get me some onions.’

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