After a long silence, the sacrifice was made.

I ate my cake, then walked away from them across the Forum. I hid a smile. I knew that Titus Caesar had told the senator he would intervene with the praetor only on condition that the charge died, with no repercussions. Titus would never have backed me publicly. Still, Silius and Paccius must both be aware that sometimes in legal bargaining it is necessary to bluff.

My post as Procurator of the Sacred Geese was abolished shortly after all this, in a round of Treasury cutbacks. I was disappointed. The salary had been useful; losing it curtailed Helena's plans to build an out door dining room with a shell-lined nymphaeum and miniature canals.

Besides, the Sacred Geese of Juno and the Augurs' Chickens were good layers. When I was looking after them, I used to enjoy my omelettes.

I had begun this enterprise disenchanted – and had all my prejudice confirmed. I would wait in vain to see the grizzled old legals come good despite their cynicism. It was equally futile to hope that their idealistic apprentice, Honorius, would stay clean. I had escaped harm, more or less. Perhaps in some circles I had even increased my reputation.

Nobody was ever convicted of the murder of Rubirius Metellus, but nobody was wrongly condemned either. Saffia was dead, so she was beyond the courts. If Licinius Lutea escaped temporarily, he had become a target for the most patient of predators. So perhaps despite the efforts and machinations of my prosecuting colleagues, justice would one day be done.

The state had its own perspective. The following year, Ti Catius Silius Italicus was awarded a powerful post as proconsul of the province of Asia, while C. Paccius Africanus became proconsul of Africa. These were the Empire's chief prizes – honourable governorships where unscrupulous men could, by applying the right kind of diligence, acquire enormous wealth.

But that would be only greedy and corrupt proconsuls, of course.

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