I found an old rope, maybe an abandoned halter, and bound him tightly.

'What's this about?' he quaked.

'Have you got a brother who does something medical?'

'Barber and tooth-puller. Same as me,' he added unconvincingly.

'Father of Alexas, on the palace site, I take it? Or is he just a cousin? Alexas certainly tried to put me off finding you. Even your partner tried to pretend he had lost you in Gaul. But once I found him, I was ready for you too. So are you going to own up?' He trembled feebly. 'All right, I'll say it. You're Cotta. A builder. The firm Stephanus worked for. You come from Rome. You ran away because of how Stephanus died- who killed him?'


'How curious. He said you did it.'

'It wasn't me.'

'You know-' now he was trussed, I sat him up playfully'I don't care which of you hit him over the head. You both hid the body and you both scarpered. You have to share responsibility. Gloccus died tonight but don't worry, that was an accident. You will have longer in the world. Much longer. I'm going to make sure of it. I know just the punishment for you, Cotta. You are going to the silver mines. It's final, Cotta, but it's ghastly and slow. If the beatings, hard labour and starvation don't kill you, you'll be grey-faced and die of lead poisoning. There is no escape except through death- and that can take years.'

'It wasn't me! Gloccus killed Stephanus '

'Maybe I even believe that.'

'Let me go, then. Falco, what have I ever done to you?'

'Something really criminal! You built my bath house, Cotta.'

It had been a long night, but a good one. Now I felt no pain.

The End

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