Coffee Break Read – A Busy Morning

Having seen the Magistratus to his office, Dai was heading for his own office on the first floor of the building and had reached the door when he got a call from Bryn, his voice heavy.
“We got an ID on the body. It’s Manius Terfel.”
Dai struggled for a moment. “But he’s the Magistratus’ primus secretarius. He was with Caudinus for years. He was…” Realising how he sounded Dai stopped talking and drew quick breath. “He was a good man.”
“I was wondering if you wanted to be the one to tell the Magistratus. He might be…”
“Yeah. I’ll do it. And you ought to know he’s planning to perch on your shoulder for this investigation. I tried to talk him out of it but he seems to think it’s his duty to do so in order to protect you lot from any chance of getting blamed for missing something since he says this could make it all the way to Rome.”
“Merda.”
“Exactly.”
“It’s like the man has his heart in the right place but not always his brain. I’m not going to leave you on the sidelines with this even if Dominus Sextus Catus is. Meet for prandium, usual taberna?”
Dai agreed and finished the call then headed back down to the Magistratus’ office.
On the way he ran into Senior Investigator Brutus Gaius Gallus. The older man had been a Praetorian Decanus until a few months ago, part of a vexillation sent to help Dai secure law and order when he first took on the role of Submagistratus. When the Praetorians were recalled to Londinium, Gallus had surprised everyone by choosing to stay behind and take a transfer to the Vigiles as a Senior Investigator.
He was a man typical of his generation and upbringing and although Dai had begun to appreciate the honesty and intelligence that the ex-soldier brought to the job, there was still something he thought Gallus held back when in conversation with him. Bryn seemed to find a good measure of social ease with his colleague, but then they were of an age. But a reserve remained between Dai and Gallus that neither really seemed able to completely overcome.
With all his mind concentrated on the task to hand the last thing Dai wanted right now was yet another awkwardly polite exchange.
Gallus put a hand on his arm. “If I could have a word.” Torn between duties, Dai hesitated, which was clearly enough for Gallus to presume he was willing to listen there and then.
“I wanted to ask how the Citizen recruitment program is progressing. I still only have two Citizens in my team and if we are to work towards producing the local armed response force we need…”
Hard pressed though he was Dai had to admit Gallus had a point, it was a project they were both committed to and recent events had proved even a small number of armed Vigiles could make a big difference when tackling groups of criminals. So he suppressed his irritation.
“I know. And I wish I had a way to attract more applicants. But I’m not sure there is one.”
Gallus dredged up half a grin. “You don’t think it’s to do with working under me then?”
The question took Dai aback. “No. Not in the slightest. I think your team are very happy with you. It’s just that most Citizens seem to think a career in the Vigiles is beneath them.”
Gallus grunted. “I used to think that.” Then he presented Dai with half a salute before striding off.
Bestia was emerging from the room as Dai reached it, a frown on his face.
“Ah. Llewellyn. I don’t suppose you’ve seen Turbel have you? I can’t seem to raise him. I was just heading to his office to see if he was out.”
“Terfel,” Dai said carefully. “Manius Terfel and if we could step into your office for a moment please, dominus.” The frown deepened for a moment, but Bestia must have seen something in Dai’s expression because he opened the door again and gestured Dai inside.
“What is it? You look quite green around the gills.”
“SI Cartivel has just identified the corpse in the portico, dominus. It is that of Manius Terfel.”
Bestia blinked a few times then gulped in some air.
“Surely – there must be some mistake. I only spoke to the man yesterday evening. He was…” Then the Magistratus broke off and shook his head. “Dead you say? That is not good. Not good at all.”

From Dying on the Mosaics by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

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