Killer in the Shadows #9

Rome night

Aquila took up his heavy stick and beckoned to Hanno. Expressing his thanks to Porcius for his information and apologising for the fact that he couldn’t stay to talk, he led the way out of the offices into the bright morning sunlight.

“Some person or people have been busy Hanno. That two men were killed on the same street hardly be a coincidence. Perhaps our benefactor will be reassured to know that the death of the soldier might not be related to his person or property.”

The young clerk followed all that his master said as they walked past the courthouses. Hanno felt more curious now than he had when they stood over the corpse earlier that day, caught up as he was in the older man’s excitement.

The two men reached the arched gateway in the later part of the morning. Aquila had decided to deliver what good news there was to his benefactor before proceeding with his investigation.

The sun had risen higher in the sky and the wind had receded. Beads of sweat on their brows threatened an exhausting midday heat was soon to come. A group of poor men, women and petitioners were turned away from the gate as they approached. Aquila knew some of them from his patron’s waiting rooms.

Two porters stood at the gate, while a mean-looking, thick-set man with a scarred face leaned lazily against the archway. His eyes followed their approach, focused on the stick in Aquila’s hand and his broad arm reached for a short club resting by his side. One of the porters, the taller of the two, waved his hand dismissively to the guard. He slowly manoeuvred to lean back against the archway.

Aquila was informed by the porters that the master of the house had taken his wife to a friend’s funeral. The mistress’ friend had lost her husband earlier that day, the murdered senator.

The master had left instructions that nobody should be let in and had hired a local thug to stand guard. Having been shown the direction in which his patron had travelled, Aquila once more led the way up the Via Plenium.

They passed rich merchants, important statesmen and their wives. Labourers, servants and other people of lower social standing hurried about their business. All suffered equally under the hot midday sun.



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