Using our growing list of deciphered letters, we quickly spotted familiar names embedded in the text. There was METO, and CAESAR… ECO (my other son)… CICERO… even BETHESDA and DIANA, who seemed more amused than alarmed at seeing her name in a dead man's document. As we made further progress, the most devious feature of the text became obvious: not only did the cipher mix Greek and Latin letters, but the text alternated between phrases in both languages, with a patchwork of truncated and irregular grammar. My Greek had grown rusty in recent years. Fortunately, Diana's Egyptomania had included brushing up on the language of the Ptolemies.

With her sharper eyes and quicker stylus, Diana drew ahead of me. Eventually, despite some remaining gaps here and there, she managed to make a hasty translation of the entire passage into Latin, scribbling it out on a long piece of blank parchment. When she was done, I asked her to read it aloud.

' 'Subject: Gordianus, called the Finder. Loyalty to the Great One: Questionable.' '

'A loyalty report!' I shook my head. 'All these bits of parchment must constitute some sort of secret dossier on various men in Rome- someone's evaluation of where they each might stand in the event of a-'

'In the war that's coming between Pompey and Caesar?' How matter-of-factly Diana was able to say the words I choked on; she had no experience of civil war, no memories of Rome besieged and conquered, of enemy lists and seized property and heads on stakes in the Forum.

Diana read on. ' 'Plebeian. Family origins obscure. No known military service. Age about sixty.' Then there's a sort of resume, a chronological list of highlights from your illustrious career.'

'Let's hear it.'

' 'Little known of activities prior to Year of Rome 674, when he gathered information for Cicero for the parricide trial of Sextus Roscius. Earned gratitude of Cicero (his first major defense), enmity of the dictator Sulla. Numerous episodes of employment by Cicero and others in subsequent years, often related to murder trials. Travel to Spain and Sicily.'

' 'Year of Rome 681: Vestal Virgins Fabia and Licinia accused of intercourse with Catilina and Crassus, respectively. Gordianus thought to have some hand in the defense, but his role obscure.'

' 'Year of Rome 682: Employed by Crassus (on the eve of his command against Spartacus) to investigate the murder of a relative in Baiae. Again, his role obscure. His relations with Crassus strained thereafter.'

' 'Year of Rome 684: Birth of his brilliant and beautiful daughter, Diana…' '

'That's not in there!'

'No. Clearly, whoever compiled this little review doesn't know everything. Actually, the next entry reads: 'Year of Rome 690: Death of his patrician patron Lucius Claudius. Inherited Etruscan farm and moved out of Rome.'

' 'Year of Rome 691: Played murky role in conspiracy of Catilina. Spied on Catilina for Cicero, or vice versa, or both? Relations with Cicero strained thereafter. Traded Etruscan farm for his current residence on the Palatine Hill. Assumed pretense of respectability.' '

'Pretense? Don't read that part to your mother! Go on.'

' 'Year of Rome 698: Assisted Clodia in prosecution of Marcus Caelius for the murder of the philosopher Dio.' ' There was a catch in her voice. ' 'Further estrangement from Cicero (defending Caelius).' '

I grunted. 'The less said about that case…'

'… the better,' concluded Diana, who shared with me a secret about the untimely death of Dio. She cleared her throat. ' 'Year of Rome 702: Employed by the Great One to investigate murder of Clodius on the Appian Way. Service satisfactory.' '

'Satisfactory! Is that all, after what this family suffered to find the truth for Pompey?'

'I'm sure Pompey would say we were well rewarded.' Diana cast a wistful glance toward the garden. Davus smiled back at her and waved.

'And the less said about that the better, as well,' I muttered. 'Are those all the entries?'

'There's one more, dated last month. 'December, Year of Rome 704: No known activity for either side in recent…' ' She frowned and showed me her text. 'It's a Greek word I couldn't translate.'

I squinted. 'That's a nautical term. It means 'maneuvering.' '


'In the sense of two ships getting into position so as to engage in battle.'

'Oh. Well, then: 'No known activity for either side in recent maneuvering between Pompey and Caesar.' '

'Is that it? My whole career, reduced to a few arbitrary episodes? I don't think I care for this business of being epitomized by some stranger.'

'There a bit more, about the family.'

'Let's hear it.'

' 'Wife: A former slave, acquired in Alexandria, named Bethesda. Of no political significance.'

' 'One natural offspring, a daughter, Gordiana, addressed as Diana, age about twenty, married to a manumitted slave, one Davus, formerly property of the Great One.' That last part was underlined in the ciphered text.'

I nodded. 'That would make sense, if this document is what it appears to be, a confidential report intended for Pompey. Davus constitutes my only flesh-and-blood tie to Pompey. It's the sort of thing he'd want to see highlighted. Go on.'

' 'Two sons. Eco, adopted as a street urchin, age about forty, married to a daughter of the Menenius family. No military career. Resides in old family house on Esquiline Hill. Sometimes assists his father. Political connections resemble his father's- wide-ranging but fluid and uncertain. Loyalty to the Great One: Questionable.' '

She glanced up from her text. 'The next part was also underlined: 'Of particular interest: second son, Meto, also adopted. Originally a slave owned by Marcus Crassus. Age about thirty. Military career from early age. Rumored to have fought for Catilina at battle of Pistoria. Briefly served under Pompey in Year of Rome 692. Since 693, with Caesar. Numerous episodes of bravery in Gaul. Worked his way up through ranks to join inner circle. Notable for literary skills: handles correspondence, helped to edit Caesar's account of Gallic campaigns. Firmly in Caesar's camp- some say in Caesar's…' ' Her voice trailed off.

'Yes? Go on.'

' 'Some say in Caesar's bed, as well.' '


'That's what it says, Papa. More or less; the original was a bit more uncouth. That part was in Greek, but I knew all the words.'


'Is it?'

'Meto loves Caesar, of course; you'd have to love a man to risk your life for him on any given day. Hero worship- it's a cult among military men. I've never understood it, myself. But that's not the same as…'

Diana shrugged. 'Meto's never said anything explicit to me about himself and Caesar, but even so, just from the way he talks about their relationship, I've always assumed there must be…'

'Assumed what?'

'Papa, there's no need to raise your voice.'

'Well! It appears you're not the only one who's been making wild assumptions. In a confidential report intended for Pompey's eyes, no less! Caesar's enemies have been spreading this kind of tale about him for thirty years, ever since he befriended King Nicomedes. You can still hear him called the Queen of Bithynia in the Forum. But how dare they draw Meto into their rumormongering? Don't roll your eyes, Diana! You seem to think I'm making something out of nothing.'

'I think there's no need to shout, Papa.'

'Yes. Well…'

She laid her hand on mine. 'We're all worried about Meto, Papa. About his being so close to Caesar… and what's going to happen next. Only the gods know how it will all turn out.'

I nodded. The room seemed suddenly very quiet. The sunlight from the garden was already softening; days are short in Januarius. My temples began to throb. We had been working for hours. The only break had been to stoke the fire in the brazier, to ward off the growing chill. The brazier had been burning since first light. The room

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