'He had no need to be anything other than himself,' said Calpurnia. 'His notoriety opened doors.'

'Notoriety? The man shunned society.'

'Perhaps, but society did not shun him. Everyone in Rome had heard of the Scapegoat. And as Hieronymus quickly discovered, once he began making the rounds, there was hardly a household in Rome that wouldn't admit him if he paid a call. He was a curiosity, don't you see? Exotic, mysterious-the famous Scapegoat of Massilia, the sacrificial victim who was never sacrificed. In times such as these, a man who can cheat death is a man people want to meet. The superstitious hoped that some of his good fortune might rub off. The curious merely wanted to take a good look at him. And once he was admitted to a household, Hieronymus could be quite charming-'

'Charming? He had a tongue like a viper!'

'Amusing, then. Never at a loss for an epigram. Very erudite.'

This was true. As a child, before his father fell into ruin, Hieronymus had received an excellent education from his tutors. He could recite long passages from the Iliad and knew the Greek tragedies by heart. When he chose to show off his learning, it was usually to comic effect-an ironic rejoinder, a whimsical metaphor, an absurdly high- flown bit of poetry that deflated the self-importance of his listener.

'I suppose Hieronymus was something of a character,' I admitted, 'and a good companion, when you got to know him. I can see how he might have been accepted in the households of your friends… and your enemies.'

I looked down at his face. It seemed his grimace had softened a bit. Was the rigor beginning to pass? I looked at his long, gangly limbs; at the pale, thin hair on his head; at the narrow strip of wispy beard that outlined his sharp chin. What a bitter irony, to survive a terrible fate in his native city, only to meet death in a such a manner-alone, in a dark alley, far from home.

'Hieronymus, Hieronymus!' I whispered. 'Who did this to you?'

'We don't know who killed him,' said Calpurnia quietly, 'or why. It might have been any of the subjects on whom he's been delivering reports. Perhaps, Gordianus, if you were to read those reports and pursue the threads that Hieronymus was following, you might discover who killed him.'

I grunted. 'And in the meantime, I'd be doing just as you wish-following in Hieronymus's footsteps and looking for threats to Caesar.' How brazenly she played upon my sympathies to get what she wanted from me! 'Why can't you deduce for yourself what Hieronymus discovered? You say he delivered reports. I presume you've read them. You must know what he was up to.'

Calpurnia shook her head. 'Like all informants, Hieronymus was never entirely forthcoming. It's human nature to hold something back-for the next meeting, the next payment. Hieronymus was more… frustrating in that regard than most of my agents. I knew he wasn't telling me everything, but, given his unique potential, I decided to be patient with him. Perhaps if I had been less indulgent and more demanding, he might still be alive.'

'Or we might at least know who killed him,' said Porsenna.

I glared at the haruspex until he lowered his eyes.

'Don't blame Porsenna,' said Calpurnia. 'No one recruited Hieronymus. He sought me out to offer his services.'

'And your soothsayer-the man who claims to see the future! — advised you to take him on. And now this: the end of Hieronymus.' Tears filled my eyes. I refused to shed them while they watched. I averted my face. 'Leave me alone with him,' I whispered. After a pause, I heard the rustling of their clothing as they left the room.

I touched the corpse's brow. The rigor had begun to release its grip. I straightened the fingers of the bloodstained hands that clutched his chest. I straightened his legs. I smoothed the grimace from his face and closed his eyes.

'Hieronymus!' I whispered. 'When I arrived in Massilia-friendless, miserable, in terrible danger-you took me in. You protected me. You shared your wisdom. You made me laugh. I thought I saw you die, there in Massilia, but you returned from the dead! You came with me to Rome, and I was able to repay your hospitality.' I shook my head. 'It's hard to see a friend die once. Now I've had to bear your death twice! For now you truly are dead, my friend.'

I ran my fingers over his. What long, elegant hands he had!

I stood silently for a while, then left the room. Calpurnia and Porsenna were waiting for me in the next room.

I cleared my throat. 'These written reports…'

Porsenna had already fetched them. He held up a leather tube for carrying scrolls and parchments.

Begrudgingly, I took the collection of documents from Porsenna. 'I'll begin reading these tonight. If I have questions, I'll expect you to answer them. If there seems to be a chance that I might discover how Hieronymus died… and who killed him…'

Calpurnia could not suppress a smile of victory.

'But I'll take no payment from you, Calpurnia. And I'll take no directions from your haruspex. Whatever I discover, I may share with you-or I may not. I work for myself, not for you. I do this for Hieronymus, not for Caesar.'

Her smile faded. Her eyes narrowed. She considered for a moment, then nodded her assent.

On my way out, I passed her uncle, who still sat in the garden. Gnaeus Calpurnius clutched his priestly robes and glared at me.

There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was at its zenith as I left the house of Calpurnia and crossed the Palatine Hill. I moved through a bright, glaring world without shadows. The thick, hot air seemed to eddy sluggishly around me. The windowless walls of the houses of the rich, colored in shades of saffron and rust, looked hot enough to scorch my fingertips.

The month was September, but the weather was hardly autumnal. When I was a boy, September was a month for playing amid fallen leaves and donning cloaks to ward off the chill. No more; September had become the middle of the summer. Those who knew about such things said the Roman calendar was flawed and had gradually fallen out of step with the seasons. The problem was worse now than ever before; the calendar was a full two months behind the place where it should be. Autumn festivals, spring festivals, and summer feast days were still celebrated according to the calendar but made no sense. There was something absurd about making sacrifices to the gods of the harvest when the harvest was another sixty days in the future, or celebrating the parole of Proserpine from Hades when there was still frost on the ground.

Was it only old-timers like me who felt acutely the absurdity of our disjointed calendar? Perhaps the young simply took it for granted that September had become a month of long sweltering days and short nights too hot for sleeping; but to me, the broken calendar represented a broken world. The civil war, which had spread to every corner of the Mediterranean from Egypt to Spain, was over at last, but amid the wreckage lay the centuries-old republic of Rome. We had a calendar that could no longer reckon the days and a Senate that could no longer govern.

But we also had Julius Caesar, and Caesar would put everything right. So his supporters claimed; so Caesar promised. He would rebuild the Roman state, making it stronger than ever. He had even pledged to fix the calendar; according to rumor, the details would be announced at the conclusion of his upcoming triumphs, after which the requisite number of days-two months' worth-would be added to the current year, and the forthcoming year, with newly proportioned months, would commence in harmony with the seasons and the passage of the sun.

But could Caesar repair the broken people of Rome? Even the gods cannot restore a severed hand or a plucked-out eye to a body maimed by warfare. Others, whose bodies might show no signs of damage from violence or deprivation, had nonetheless been changed by the fear and uncertainty that hung over their lives for so many years, while Caesar and Pompey struggled for dominion. Something about those men and women was not as it had been before, not quite right. No doctor could diagnose their nameless disease, yet it burned inside them nonetheless, changing them from the inside out. Like the calendar, they still functioned, but no longer in harmony with the cosmos.

Even Calpurnia might be numbered among these invisible victims. The confederate of Caesar and mistress of his spy ring in the capital-rigorously logical, ruthlessly pragmatic-now confessed to being driven by dreams. She allowed a haruspex to conduct her affairs, and was doing so behind her husband's back.

I came to the Ramp, the long, straight, tree-lined path that led down to a gateway between the House of the Vestals and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. I descended from the quiet calm of the Palatine to the hubbub of the

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