Coffee Break Read – A Sharp Dagger

The next morning, Julia set herself two tasks. The first involved waiting for Hywel to come up with the list of those whose insurance wasn’t going to pay out, but the second could only be accomplished under her own steam. After she fed Aelwen and they had some small conversation, she took herself to her office and firmly shut the door.
“I’m not to be disturbed,” she said, so fiercely that even the most forward notarus or adparitor would not dare to tap on the panels. “Take anything that matters that much to Manius.” She knew she could rely on the primus secretarius to handle whatever might need attention for one morning.
Using the full authority of her position as Magistratus she called up details of the life and times of Bevan Falx. It didn’t make pretty reading. He was a career thief, who capped a life of youthful follies by beating his mother so badly she was hospitalised for a month. And yet that mother still loved him. Julia bit her thumb while she thought through what she must do, before putting in a call to Gallus to ask him to come to her office. While she waited she printed off a picture of Bevan and stared unseeingly at the ugly, vicious expression that could so easily have been so different. How was it that people who clearly loved their children and tried to raise them well, still wound up with monsters sometimes?
Gallus arrived promptly.
“Shut the door.”
He obliged and Julia gestured him to a seat.
“I have a problem, the solution to which rests on a certain young man not surviving the raid planned on the factory ship. Thing is, I can’t tell you why, and I need you not to discuss this with Dai or Bryn. Or, basically, anybody. Ever.”
There was no discernible hesitation before he replied. “You don’t have to explain, domina. Just tell me who needs killing.”
Julia had the sudden knowledge that this was a man used to receiving unpleasant orders and never questioning their necessity. She showed him the photograph.
“Alright. He’s dead.”
“Thank you, my friend.”
Gallus maybe sensed how hard she was finding this because, in a gesture utterly unlike his usual gruff manner, he reached over the desk and briefly gripped her hand. Then he got up and turned away. Julia looked at the strong lines of his back and realised she owed him better.
“Gallus. Wait.”
He turned back.
“There’s a mother who loves that young man, though he doesn’t deserve it. Whose life is being poisoned by him, and to whom we probably owe Caudinus’ life. This is the only way I can think of to protect her from the very worst.”
Gallus smiled gently. “Sometimes,” he said, “compassion wears a sharp dagger. Leave it in my hands, cara.”
He was gone before Julia had chance to register the endearment. While she was still trying to get her head around it and whether it was patronising or supportive, her printer started to chatter. Hywel had come through.

From The Second Dai and Julia Omnibus  by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

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