Coffee Break Read – Flamingo

As far as discreet went, Bene Placito served that up in buckets. The place was in one wing of a small villa, presumably also the home of the chef who owned it, that nestled in the hills behind Viriconium. The villa had a long private driveway which wound past fields of vegetables and livestock, showing off the produce that they would soon be eating.
Dai and Bryn were greeted at the door by a simply dressed waitress who asked their names and explained that each party or individual was given their own secluded dining room.
“Domina Cynddylan is in the Rose Room. If you will come with me…”
Bene Placito was a small slice of Roman elegance and opulence thrust into the British countryside. The decor and furnishings were all items that might grace the pages of patrician’s lifestyle magazines and set in amongst the modern, sophisticated, decor were exquisite examples of ancient Roman statuary and other artefacts.
The Rose Room turned out to be well named. It had a window onto a small walled rose garden, though at this time of year the bushes were little more than pruned back twigs, and there were several pots of indoor miniature roses sitting on small pedestals. Dai’s heart sank as they were shown in. he should have expected it, but somehow he had not. It was a triclinium. The three couches had been set to overlap, in three sides of a square with the table in the middle.
Justina Cynddylan was already ensconced on the central couch, helping herself to some olives from a bowl on the table. She smiled as the two men were shown in and made a sweeping gesture to the empty couches on either side of her.
“Thank you for joining me, please make yourselves comfortable and we will see what the chef is providing today.” Dai eased himself on to a couch, feeling awkward, but noticed with surprise that Bryn seemed completely unperturbed and slid onto his couch as if patrician born.
“You will have to excuse me from getting right down to business, but we can’t be assured of complete privacy until the meal has been served. The timing of that is always a little uncertain as Chef can be very temperamental.”
“I understand,” Dai said, though he was not sure he really did. But he sought an alternative topic of conversation. “There are a few antiquities here I see.”
“Oh yes. I have sold several genuine ancient pieces to Chef. He is a bit of a connoisseur of Etruscan art and it has been my pleasure to help locate and arrange the purchase of one or two for him.” She lowered her voice “To be honest he is a little obsessed, he is convinced he is descended from Etruscan ancestors, but when one is such a great artist as he is, one can be forgiven such foibles.”
The door opened as she was speaking and the waiting staff piled the table with heated stands and small covered pots, as well as plates with a few multi-coloured leaves strewn over them. A bottle of good wine and glasses completed the spread, then the staff withdrew.
Justina lifted a few lids and helped herself to some of the contents, and made the same imperious sweeping gesture with which she had greeted them. “Eat up. We can talk and eat.”
Dai eyed the items on her plate with some suspicion. He went for a plentiful portion of the grains and vegetables and only a couple of the more innocent looking meat slices, spooning garum over the whole lot to disguise any odd flavours. Bryn, meanwhile, was cheerfully piling his plate with samples from all that was on offer.
“The flamingo is excellent, don’t you think?” Justina nodded towards the meat Dai had chosen. He had some in his mouth at the time and chewed and made himself swallow before managing a nod. Why did the Romans insist on eating such things?

From Dying for a Vacation a Dai and Julia Mystery by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

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