Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Contingency

‘There is something about that man that gave me the creeps,’ said Exuperatus. He popped a piece of sausage in his mouth and chewed furiously, as though it would make him think clearer.
‘The old scholar, the one who like your sausages quite so much?’ Vita asked, ‘I thought he was sweet.’
They sat together in the now empty Taverna.
Senodo said nothing but quietly continued to clean tables. It had been a good night for business. This however meant a lot of clearing up and the big man whistled cheerfully as he did so, to his partner’s stressed annoyance.
‘What you made you think that he was a scholar?’ Exuperatus gave up on chewing and washed the gristle down with some wine,’ to me he looks like that rare thing – an old street rat. The very fact he’s a stranger and looks like the type who should have been dead in a gutter with a knife in his back when he was twenty makes me very suspicious.’
‘His hands are covered with ink stains,’ Vita replied smugly,’ so that means a scholar or a scribe. Maybe like you, he started bad and made good?’
‘That makes me more worried as I know me too well. I don’t want to be looked at by me as he was looking at me.’
Vita just looked confused at that and shrugged.
‘I don’t think he saw through my disguise. I know who he was talking to though.’
‘Yes,’ said Senodo from the other side of the room,’ I know him too, at least by reputation. Cunomoltus, I think his name is. Local trouble maker, thief and thug for hire. ‘
‘Not the kind of person a scholar would obviously spend time with, then,’ Exuperatus said triumphantly, fixing Vita with a glare.
‘Do you think he is the Imperial spy?’ Senodo mused.
‘No. He’s definitely low born and Investigators tend to be aristocracy. But he could be one of his lackeys.’
There was a knock at the door. The two men looked at each other suspiciously as Vita walked over to it.
‘Who is there? We’re closed,’ she said through the keyhole.
‘It’s me, Calgacus,’ was the whispered reply.
Vita opened the door. The young man came in. He then gasped as Vita, having shut the door and locked it again, and hugged him tightly around the middle.
‘Well?’ sighed Exuperatus,’ what do you want?’
‘Escape route,’ said Calgacus simply,’ I’ve got one. But it is not easy.’
‘They rarely are. Well?’
‘The new bath house we are building. The outflow pipes go down through the wall of the city and into the river. That’s my construction area. I’ve left some loose bricks down near to that point under the hypocaust. With a little effort we can push them aside, and crawl out and into the river.’
‘Just as well none of us are scared of small places,’ said Exuperatus.
Senodo had gone quite pale.
Exuperatus saw the reaction and groaned.
‘It’ll be alright,’ said Vita to the big man, ’I’ll help you.’
‘Just so it’s clear,’ Exuperatus said,’ I go first. Sorry old friend, but if I am going to crawl through a dark and hot hypocaust I don’t want you freezing up in front of me.’
‘Hopefully we won’t need to use it at all,’ said Calgacus.
Exuperatus shook his head.
‘We think they are sniffing around us already. We had all better start packing as we’ll have only a few minutes warning – at best – when the soldiers come for us.’