Coffee Break Read – The Second Corpse

Action replay.
Same arena.
Twenty-four hours later.
This time, though, there were two bodies.

One was another British contestant, Tam Docca ‘Fly Boy’, from the Valentia Game team, but it was the second corpse lying as if awaiting funeral rites that had Dai’s fullest attention. Quintillas Publius Luca – son of a Roman Senator and a proper one at that, from proper Rome – not one of those who sat in Augusta Treverorum, giving themselves airs.
Trev, as Dai and most Britons thought of it, was the capital of Prefecture Galliae, home to the man who ruled Britannia and much of the Northern and Western parts of the continent as well. It was one of the four original Prefectures, each governed by its own Caesar, established by the Divine Diocletian under his sole rule as God-Emperor of a new Roman Empire.
According to the information Dai was getting, Luca was not supposed to even be in the province. There were media images which showed him in some small provincial town, identified as Lutetia in Gallia Lugdunensis, sipping cocktails on a terrace overlooking a river, with his gorgeous patrician bride of a year, one Marcella Tullia Junius. The same article claimed Luca was away from Rome on a long-term project to regenerate and oversee the family’s estates in Gallia.
“You would think,” Bryn observed dryly, “that after last night they would have kept a watch. Security cameras all down still and I bet no one saw a thing, just like before. That’ll put a sour look on the face of that jobsworth Flavia.”
Dai shot his decanus a look.
“Shut up, Bryn, you spado. I’m thinking.”
The decanus chuckled.
“It ain’t often I can get the Bard to swear,” he remarked happily. “Let’s see if I can shake a few more curses out of those pure Celtic lips. You know they’ll sic a Roman on us? This is too big for us local yokels.”
“Yeah. Just as long as it isn’t Titillicus…”
“Oh, course you won’t have heard. Titillicus is no longer a factor. He got in a ruck with the Tribune, who sent him home to his mammy.”
“In disgrace?”
“Nah. In a body bag. Seems he pulled a knife.”
“Moron. But what was the row about?”
“As if you couldn’t guess.”
“He didn’t?”
“Yep. The Tribune’s wife under the very eyes of the family lares.”
Dai grinned viciously. He had never liked working with Titillicus, the kind of Roman who assumed he ruled the Province and owned every provincial he encountered. Surely whoever they sent from Trev HQ would have to be better than that?

From Dying to be Roman by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

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