Coffee Break Read – Brutus Gaius Gallus

Julia chivvied the household back to work and Dai was about to return to his own administrative labour, when Gallus intercepted him.
“Submagistratus, I have a favour to ask of you.”
Gallus was a man typical of his class and status. You could slice and dice through him at any point and the solid soldier would be left in every piece. He had the typical legionary contempt for civilians – a contempt that extended to the Vigiles which Dai had served for many years. If the last few months had led Gallus to give Dai some grudging respect for his abilities, it had manifested in a patronising attitude, which was unspoken but omnipresent. And that grated.
Dai squeezed out a polite smile. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s the matter of my application to join the Vigiles. The Magistratus informed me that whilst he had approved it, since I would be working in your district I  would need your formal approval as well.”
It took a moment for Dai to recover. He suspected that his jaw must have dropped slightly open, but was struggling so much for words that he could not be sure.
“You? You are applying to join the Vigiles?” Not, Dai realised, his finest moment of tactful diplomacy.
Gallus’ expression became even more severe than usual and his eyebrows lowered into a frown.
“I’ve already been approved for it.” He sounded defensive. “This is just a matter of courtesy as you are -”
Dai lifted a hand, feeling acutely awkward. “No. I mean – I know. You just said.” He took a steadying breath, “I am simply very surprised. The last time I heard you say the word ‘vigiles’ it was with the words ‘namby-pamby’, ‘play-soldiers’ and ‘glorified lost and found service’ attached, as I recall.”
At least Gallus had the decency to look a little uncomfortable at the memory.
“Yes. Well – uh – that – that was different. And it was a while ago.”
“About two weeks.”
Gallus cleared his throat and came to attention.
“Submagistratus Llewellyn, I apologise for any prior comments I may have made that in anyway disparaged or demeaned the Vigiles. They were inappropriate.”
“I agree.”
Gallus expression shifted slightly.
“You agree to approve my appointment as an Investigator to the local vigiles?”
“I agree your comments were inappropriate.” As a form of revenge it was petty, Dai knew, but then the digs from Gallus had been too. Dai saw something harden in the other man’s face and realised that his own behaviour was rapidly becoming equally ‘inappropriate’.
“Look,” he said, his tone conciliatory, “before we make anything formal, why don’t you go and spend a few days working with SI Cartivel and his team? See if you fit in. See if you suit the work and if it suits you. I don’t see any point you signing up if not. You can go down to the Vigiles House this afternoon and I’ll let them know to expect you.”
For a moment the grey eyes of the older man held his gaze with the familiar, appraising look that Dai found so profoundly irritating. Then Gallus saluted smartly.
“As you instruct, Submagistratus.”
Dai watched him walk smartly towards the gates and then made his own way into the house. His Senior Investigator and friend of many years standing, Bryn Cartivel, was going to love this. Not.

From ‘Dying to be Welcome’ one of the short stories in The Second Dai and Julia Omnibus by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

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