Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Miletus

The Chief Magistrate was not happy. The young man in front of him, however, was making no move to appease him.
‘You were wrong to try and impose your will on an investigator, Gaius, they are proud people. Useful in their ways… And everyone has a use,’ Miletus ran a perfectly manicured hand through his raven black hair and put on an entirely charming smile.
Gaius had to admit to himself that he hated the man. Hated his habits, hated that someone of only twenty five already had so much power when he himself had been made to work for forty years to get to where he was now, and hated he fact that he couldn’t touch him for what he knew were illegal dealings. Just because he had high ranking relatives, damn him.
‘Do you mean like young girls, Miletus? Do they have their uses?’ Gaius spat, knowing as he did so that he’d lost this discussion going for the cheap shot.
Worse, Miletus knew it too.
‘My sexual interested are my own. As are my business dealings,’ Miletus grinned,’ and you’re so one track Gaius, that’s your problem. People have multiple skills, my friend, and so they also can have multiple uses. You need to think flexibly.’
Miletus got off the garden bench and pretended to look at a flower hanging off the arbour that shaded them. He reached out and gratuitously snapped it off, held it to his noise briefly and the dropped it onto the cobbled garden walkway.
‘I want the girl found alive, Gaius. She is of no use to me – in any way – dead. Is that clear? Or there will be consequences.’
Miletus stepped on the flower and rubbed it into the ground with his sandal.
‘It is all becoming increasing clear,’ said a new voice.
Aquila stepped from where he had been concealed behind a pillar and tried not to smile at the effect of his entrance. Both magistrates looked as though Medusa herself had come upon them with their faces frozen forever in mixture of surprise and nascent outrage.
‘How dare you…’ Spluttered Gaius eventually,’ what gives you the right to eavesdrop on a private conversation?’
‘Gaius calm yourself,’ said Miletus quickly, recovering his composure,’ our friend here dares because it is his job to investigate, by any means necessary. Is that not so?’
Aquila inclined his head, but said nothing. He kept his expression deliberately neutral. He ignored the chief magistrate and concentrated on Miletus.
Miletus looked back with similar interest and open curiosity.
‘You’re supposed to be looking for the damn girl, ‘Gaius said finally,’ do you expect to find her here?’
‘I suspect he was looking for me, Gaius. I am sure he would like me to, let us see, how would you say it?’ Miletus proffered a questioning hand at the Investigator.
‘Help me with my enquiries?’ Aquila proposed.
‘Quite. What would you like to know, Investigator?’
‘Where did you acquire the girl?’
Miletus looked puzzled for a moment. That had not been the question he had expected.
‘I didn’t really. She was a bonus, you might say. I acquired her mother on a visit north. A gift, although not a great one considering she promptly died on me.’
‘And the child Vita, she became a target of you affections?’
‘Ah, subtly put,’ Miletus smiled,’ yes, Investigator, I was good to her, looked after her…’
‘Groomed her,’ Aquila said in a level voice.
‘If you like,’ Miletus’ smile faded,’ look Investigator. My interests in that area are not against the law. I looked after the girl and she betrayed me. You are supposed to uphold the laws of the Empire, no? You know that if one runaway slave is shown a lenient hand then others will think they too can disrespect us. That is not acceptable. She is my property and I want her back.’
‘And that is all she is? We have all this fuss just to uphold the rule of law? ’
‘Is there anything more important?’ Miletus said quietly.
Aquila kept his face set and said nothing.
The man was too calm and too in control and was definitely hiding something. Maybe if Castor could get his hands on the girl she would turn out to be more helpful. Or at least prove a tool to smoke Miletus out of the well constructed dark hole he was lurking in.
‘Good day,’ Aquila said,’ I am sure we will have more to talk about later.’
The Investigator did not wait for a reply but instead walked briskly out of the garden.
Castor was waiting for him outside. His face was grim.
‘You were almost right about the Iceni, sir,’ he said simply,’ except it is far, far worse.’