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.
As she wavered on the edge of tears there came a polite tap on the door. Boudicca stepped away from Decimus as he straightened his spine.
The Praetorian who came into the room looked about as shocked as it is possible for a properly hard man to be.
“Sorry dominus. Marcella Tullia Junius. We went to her apartment. There was nobody there. At least nobody alive. There was a dead servant, female, poison suspected, and two lap dogs.” The man stopped and Julia could see a muscle working in his cheek. He got himself together and carried on. “Two lap dogs. You know sir, them little balls of fluff. My mother has one, it’s a soft little thing. They was kicked to death.”
Julia could understand the soldier’s repugnance and gave him the ghost of a smile. He thanked her with his eyes before pressing on.
“We thought that whoever had taken the lady must have killed her dogs before abducting her. But it doesn’t seem as if that can be true. One of the neighbours saw her leaving. On the arm of a very well dressed man. Overheard her saying that all loose ends were now tied up.”
“Good man,” Decimus spoke kindly. “Cut along now and get yourself a big drink. Tell them I said.”
When the door had closed behind the obviously shaken man, Julia looked at Decimus.
“Cold culpa,” she said before pouring a cup of mead and draining it in one gulp. “One assumes,” she spoke carefully lest her voice shake, “that Domina Marcella had no more use for her lap dogs.”
“So it would appear,” Dai sounded just as sick as she felt. “And can anybody tell me why that seems worse than killing her servant?”
“I can,” Boudicca volunteered, “them animals was small and helpless and she will have petted and spoiled them until she turned on them. I’m doubting whether the servant was ever a pet and she must have known what sort of person her mistress was.”
Julia lifted one small shoulder and spoke softly.
“Indeed. I just don’t think we’ll ever find their mistress and that disturbs me almost more than I can say. But for now I have to go and make a long and complicated call.”
Dai offered her a conspiratorial look.
“You want me to come and hold your hand?”
“Tempting. But I won’t put you in the firing line. Himself is liable to fry my ears until he calms down.”
“Wait with me,” Decimus said with gruff entreaty, “I could do with another drink and somebody to talk to.”
Dai looked uncomfortable and Boudicca favoured him with a singularly charming smile.
“You are all right,” she said. “I’ve got work.”
She kissed Decimus and rolled out of the room. Julia followed her, trying very hard not to laugh at the men’s faces.
“Score one to you,” she said as the door shut behind them.
Boudicca laughed and clapped Julia on the shoulder with one meaty hand.
“You need not worry about Decimus. I’ll look after him.”
She headed for wherever, leaving Julia to make for the comms room and a secure line to the Praetor.