Sunday Serial – Dying to be Roman VII

Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook is a whodunit set in a modern day Britain where the Roman Empire still rules. If you missed previous episodes you can start reading from the beginning. You can listen to this on YouTube.

As they left their vehicle Julia stopped suddenly.
“You have to understand how I see it, Dai. My thinking is that this is something that could kill more people if we don’t act fast – Britons and Romans both.” Her expression was a taut mix of appeal and demand. “We know that three bodies turned up in the arena and no one saw anything and there was nothing on the external security. The internal surveillance was offline both times and no one seems to know how or why that could come about. The one person who might have had some idea is now dead. To me that says there is something happening here.” She gestured to the Augusta Arena. “That means it would have been a complete waste of time searching that apartment.”
“But what if there is something there that -”
“Then the forensic people will find it. They will be over the place with a pixel by pixel search.”
“But we didn’t even log the murder, that is basic procedure. If my Prefect – “
“I will get Decimus to pull rank and silence her if she gives you any grief. I am sorry if that offends your integrity, but it is the best I can do.”
Dai stared at her, wondering why she couldn’t see how that was so wrong.
“It’s not about that – it’s not even about my integrity. It’s about the fact that all this – this magic, can happen for a Roman. But if it was only those poor bastards from the Game who had been killed, regular Britons, there would be no magic, and odds are it’d be filed as unsolved when my resource allocation and timesheet expired on it.”
She frowned for a moment then seemed to look at him as if she had just seen something there she had missed before.
“Dai, I didn’t make the rules and I don’t like them any more than you do. If you think I’m only in this to find out who killed some Senator’s spoiled brat, then you are missing the point. If I can use my ‘magic’ for your Britons too, then I’m going to do so. It’s called justice and that happens to be something I care about a lot.”
She did not wait to see his reaction and despite her shorter stride he didn’t catch up with her again until they went up the steps to the dramatic portico that fronted the building. Dai scanned the area for the security, both static and mobile, he had seen on the plans.
“I want to talk to their security guy again,” he said as the door slid open and a cool breeze washed over them from the perfectly conditioned air inside. Julia glanced up at him.
“Your report said he had no idea how it had happened,” she said. “And your own IT people reported it had been an internal virus. What more is there to ask? You changed your mind and think he might have done something?”
“I don’t think he had anything to do with it. But I think he might know who did – just not that he knows it. Or at least not yet.”
Julia’s face resolved from a frown into a smile.
“I would like to say that makes sense, but it doesn’t. So maybe we should talk to him after all.”
Torkel Njord was typical of his people. He was big boned, blond and bearded. He also had an attitude problem that Dai had found to be typical of his people too. It was easy enough to understand. The Gens Germanicus had been the last part of the continent to be drawn into the Roman Empire. The original resistance from the early Germanic tribes had coalesced in the far north where they succeeded in maintaining their ferocious independence until a little over a hundred years ago when, the rest of the world comfortably subdued, the then Emperor Aurelius Galerius Valerius Pravus had reneged on a centuries-old treaty and invaded. The northern lands had been created a new diocese, broken up into provinces and placed under the Prefecture of Gaul.
Which was no doubt why Torkel, who had been very willing to co-operate with Dai and Bryn, took one look at Julia and clammed up.
“The domina is welcome to look at my records. She will find they are all in order,” he said when she asked.
“The records are not of so much interest as your thoughts,” Julia told him and was rewarded by a glacial stare.
“I am sure my thoughts could never be anything of value to the most noble domina.”
“You might be surprised, I find most people very interesting and valuable.”
“If the domina says so.”

Part VIII will be here next Sunday. If you can’t wait to find what happens next you can snag the full novella here.

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