| It was yet another satisfactory evening. Proculus sat at the writing table and surveyed his notes. He managed to complete quite a few of them. He smiled, chewed on his lips and began to compose the next entree.
‘Today everything is so deliciously quiet – it seems as if the whole household has been procrastinating or rather floating in a state of total lethargy. No wonder, since the ‘master’ and his ball and chain departed to their summer villa. Naturally, the remaining domestic staff stopped working at once and now it is on what looks like a spontaneous holiday. Such a pity I have never been closely involved in studies on the subject of the inefficiency of slave labor, otherwise what a wealth of material and food for thoughts I would have had! But, to return to today’s happenings…
My academic struggles with my charge are taking a surprising turn. (It is somewhat strange that from time to time I am forgetting why I am here in the first place – just shows how busy I am these days! But what can I do? I must wait a little longer.)
I must admit that my attitude toward this misguided youth is definitely changing. In fact, my former opinions of his character as well as his learning abilities have changed for the better. And what else is to be expected from him? The poor youngster lives in a state of a total parental neglect. (By the way, his precious guardians ordered him to remain at home, while they rest at their villa, so naturally, he has been entrusted into my care-I understand it was thought to be a punishment for some misdeed he had supposedly committed).
Personally, I do not mind it in the slightest. It is funny that he seems to trust and respect me to a certain degree now -- the state of the affairs I try to use to my (and his) advantage. For instance, he nearly stopped to regard learning as a repulsive activity and even began to study some. The only thing that still concerns and worries me is his sexual tendencies although I must admit that for a growing boy this might be a manifestation of a natural curiosity towards his body. I, on my part, try to assist him with an advice whenever possible. On the other hand, it is a good thing for such an old man as I am now to hang out with a young guy, whose head is full of hopes (alas, much of it is pure foolishness but I hope time will improve him). Sometimes I feel simply stimulated by his eagerness and naiveté. It truly makes me feel if not young again but at least not as old as I used to feel, and not as set on my ways as I had imagined myself to be.’
* * * *
Early in the morning, Cumulus and Menelaus were walking down one of the central thoroughfares towards the Palatine hills. Famous Detective kept chatting away and otherwise seemed to be in the best of spirits while Cumulus was staring sullenly at his feet. In the meantime, they were treading along the upper class part of the city. The pavement grew cleaner and wider, and there were fewer pedestrians but substantially more litters and chariots.
It is a mystery to me why I find living in this city an attractive option, - Menelaus reflected, looking with interest on rows of the walled off private houses, erected on both sides of the street, - Not that I am unable to afford a small villa somewhere but alas! The poisonous atmosphere of the metropolis has already corrupted my brain. If I cannot sniff the stench from gutters or elbow away drunks, I feel bored. Or to speak of my work. I believe it is damaging to one’s morale to deal with crooks and thieves all the time but once again, give me decent company and after a while, I will be bored to tears. A human nature is composed of opposites, my young friend. When they do not fight with each other for a primacy over your being, they let you have an illusion of having achieved a balance but let some minor thing happen and you are thrown into the tumults of doubts again. Hah! What I really like, you know, is a paradox. For example, my whole being is nothing but an example of the utmost paradox. Consider: I have been dealing with criminals for years. Naturally, for the successful solution of cases I have thoroughly studied their tools and methods. By now, I seem to know them all. I would have been surprised if I walked across something that I am not yet familiar with. So one can ask me: why don’t I use my extensive knowledge to my own ends then? Just imagine! It’s simply the other way around. I think I could commit a crime and never get caught, simply because I know how both a detective’s and a criminal’s minds work. And yet, I remain an honest citizen. Why is that? Is it my morals? My beliefs in order and justice? Or is it fear? Hmm… Or perhaps I still have not encountered an opportunity big enough to throw me off balance and commit a crime? Who knows? What do you think? You seem upset with something all morning.
Cumulus shook his head slowly. Menelaus smiled and patted him on a shoulder,
Ah! Troubles with a fairer sex, perhaps? Well, love affairs have this annoying tendency to upset one’s mind. This is another reason why I prefer to stay away from those things. They mess your brain and I do not want that. In our profession, my friend, it is highly advisable to keep a cool head. A tiny detail will speak volumes only if you give it your proper, undivided attention. You can spot it only if your head stays untroubled and as clear as a crystal. Well, I think we are almost there.
Where are we going? - Cumulus opened his mouth for the first time in an hour.
To the Temple of Castor and Pollux, my melancholic companion. It is a fascinating place, no doubt. But you will see for yourself. Do you know that it is connected directly with the Caesarean palace by a long passage, unnoticeable from the outside? The passage was built by the order of the Caesar himself. Our Illustrious Ruler is a very religious person, you know, although I am wondering if I should even use this term ‘a person’. He is a demigod or at least he claims a certain divinity so a word ‘person’ is certainly not applicable here. That is why he disclosed a strong desire to have this passage constructed for his exclusive use. This way he can walk over to the temple and be in the company of his equals without the bother of leaving his residence.
Which God does he honor anyway?
Hmm… An interesting question, an interesting question indeed. Personally, I believe he honors only one God – himself. Otherwise, he would not have proclaimed himself a demigod, or a full god, come to think of it. Now we are coming to the heart of the matter: I mean the case I was ordered to take care of. A certain divine image has been erected in that temple not long ago. It was, and still is, a fine image. The only problem is that approximately forty hours ago it was desecrated. Of course, nobody knows who committed this deplorable deed and why, and, the most important thing, how he or she managed to do it. The Temple is well guarded and there are always people inside, I mean -- designated people, no strangers. And yet, somebody desecrated the image. Well, it sounds like a nice mystery, does it not?
Yes, a statue. A little bit bigger than a living man. Richly adorned. A very expensive work of art, I understand.
I see. Whom it depicts?
Hah! It depicts the Caesar himself, my friend.
* * * *
A temple ground was indeed located close to the Palace although the temple itself was much smaller than the Caesarian residence. It looked like a usual quadrangle with the forest of Dorian columns and a portico with some sculptures, placed on the top. Two grim Praetorians, armed with long pikes and shields, guarded the entrance. Menelaus showed them his credentials then he and Cumulus were allowed to step inside.
The interior of the temple was cloaked in a soft semidarkness in which several marble statues, placed in their respective niches, were visible. It was very quiet and the air smelled strongly of incense. Three-legged incense burners stood in front of each statue.
Caligula’s effigy was placed in the far right niche, next to Castor and Pollux. Menelaus and Cumulus approached the niche and took a close look.
See? It is very interesting, - said Menelaus, - Somebody drew a moustache on the statue’s upper lip.
I see it, yes.
Note the graffiti below. ‘Who will cure us from Caliginosus?’ Hmm… Rather a silly pun. Now, what kind of paint the miscreant had used? What do you think?
Umgh… I do not know.
But it is elementary, my dear Cumulus. Look what stands in the front of the statue. Huh?
Correct. So our crafty scoundrel did not need to bring with him any paint at all. He simply dipped his finger into the ashes and here you go! Clever, isn’t it? You can perform the whole operation in a few seconds. On the other hand, he was definitely a tall person.
Why is that? Because the statue is taller than the real Caesar?
Huh, no. Because there are no footprints on a pedestal. To be able to draw a moustache, a normal person would have to climb on the pedestal. Yet there are no traces of the footprints visible anywhere. That is why I am saying our miscreant was an exceptionally tall man. And it was a man. Have you ever met a woman that tall?
Correct, you haven’t. Neither have I. Besides women who come here are normally accompanied by the temple’s guide.
Menelaus squatted at the foot of the statue and peered at the floor.
Nothing interesting so far, - He concluded, getting up and readjusting his robe, - Sometimes you can spot curious things, such as muddy footprints. I can tell the difference between the mud from the Tiber riverbank and the mud from the valley. I can just as well tell with a certain accuracy regular street mud and I can even tell you what part of the city that mud came from.
Oh really? – Cumulus glanced at his employer, visibly impressed.
Oh yeah. Attention to the details, my young friend! Attention to the details! It is a great help in our business. Now, I believe it is time to interview the Head Priest. Perhaps he knows something. Let us go and find him. He must be lurking in the vicinity.
Instead of the head priest, they found another temple official who introduced himself as the ‘Junior Head of Ceremonies’. He was a gaunt man of an unidentifiable age with a pallid skin, preciously little hair on his head, and nervous expression. He kept rubbing the palms of his hands and nodding solemnly.
A terrible crime, simply terrible, - He whispered, shifting his bleak eyes from Menelaus to Cumulus, then back to the Detective, - Who would have thought that such a blasphemy could occur within the sacred walls of this temple? Thanks Gods our Caesar possesses an infinite amount of patience and is willing to follow the procedures to locate the blasphemer otherwise…
The holy man shuddered and rubbed his hands with a renewed vigor.
- So, did you notice any suspicious characters entering the temple around the time the crime occurred? – Menelaus bored at the man with what he believed was his most piercing professional look.
- No! Everything was quiet, as usual, I must say.
- Do you have any ideas as to who the miscreant could be?
- Me? No! I certainly have no idea. I must say that I am a man of strong beliefs. Such conduct is simply beyond my comprehension. A desecration of the image of a deity is simply…
- All right. We are still wondering if we might have a word with the Head Priest. It is very important, you understand.
- Oh, I understand. His Reverence is usually tries to avoid all contacts with laymen hence my natural hesitation to assist you into his office but if you insist…
- I am afraid I do insist.
- Let me pop into his office and check if he is available. I am sure if he possesses a bit of free time between his duties that he infallibly serves day after day then…
- Certainly. We understand. The Head Priest is a busy man but still, we hope he will find a free minute or two in his tight schedule.
- Yes, just let me see…
The Junior Master of Ceremonies performed a gesture that could be fitted somewhere in between a clumsy bow and sneezing jerk and headed into the inner sanctorum. He returned a few minutes later and uttered solemnly:
- His Reverence will see you presently. Let me show the way.
Two investigators found the Head Priest sitting at his desk with a huge flask, placed on his right, and staring into empty space, contemplating some higher matters.
Thank you, man! Off you go then! I will talk to these men alone, – The Head Priest barked at the Junior, who bowed and flew silently out of the office.
Jeez! Can’t stand this fellow. Pretends to be holier than thou but you have to watch him all the time, – The Head Priest coughed loudly, - So, how can I help you, gentlemen?
We just have a few question for Your Reverence, - Replied Menelaus smoothly.
Oh yeah? Then fire away, man, - The Head Priest grinned and nodded towards the flask, - A drop of wine to help us concentrate, maybe?
Why, yes, thank you.
The Head Priest grunted and produced three glasses out of the recesses of his desk.
- Falernian, believe it or not, - He commented, filling the glasses, - This job is nothing to write home about but I still manage. People of importance love to come here, not to mention the Caesar himself. Hence the good wine. Help yourself, gentlemen, do not be shy.
Thank you, - said Menelaus and Cumulus in the unison and lifted their glasses.
So? A bit of an investigation? – The Head Priest emptied his glass in one go and patted his enormous belly.
Would not be able to stand this damp without some good stuff, you know, - He added, smacking his lips.
We were wondering if you happened to notice anything strange prior to or during the night of the crime, - said Menelaus.
The night? How do you know it happened during the night? – The Head Priest cackled, pouring himself another glass.
A simple logic…
A simple logic wouldn’t stand a chance here, believe me. I have been in this business for too long not to know the difference. If you wanna talk about logic or better still, some divinity, ask the Junior. He will talk your ear off. I, on the other hand, am too old to spend my time on mind games. You wanna ask me if I noticed anything suspicious during the last few days? My answer is ‘No!’ I haven’t! No suspicious characters, nothing. What would you make out of it is your business, not mine. Another drop of wine, gentlemen?
Yes, thank you, - said Menelaus. Cumulus simply nodded.
You see, no bugger from the street would be able to enter this Temple without the guards’ knowledge, - The Head Priest continued, - As I said before, there are always too many important people, who love to pop in for a chat or a quick prayer. Does not make sense to leave the praying hall unattended. The same goes for any space: passages, offices and so on. As you probably know, the Temple is connected with the Palace so… It is a matter of the state security.
Still, sir. The crime was committed, - Menelaus replied.
Of course, of course. Some clever bugger outsmarted us all.
Do you personally suspect anyone, who is capable of such an act?
Huh! If you are hinting on that fool Junior, I would say ‘no’. Guards are too stupid to do anything like that and speaking of other people… Hmm… No, I do not suspect anyone.
Then I would like to ask you the last question, - Menelaus said, - How many people are usually present in the Temple during the night?
The night? During the night all normal people are usually asleep, including me, but… lemme see… We have a janitor who cleans the place after the hours.
Does he? – Menelaus suddenly looked interested.
Oh. yeah. Why, you can talk to the fellow yourself. Ask him if he have seen anything or anyone. I must say we know him for quite a while, you know, so if you mean that he might be the very bastard who desecrated that thing, I doubt it. He’s a poor fellow and he cares about this job, besides he is as stupid as a log. Nah… I don’t think he’s the right guy for you, Detective, but go ahead and talk to him anyway. You would not feel your time was absolutely wasted.
Can I talk to him now?
No, I am afraid his shift is after ten. You can come back here around ten today or I can send him over to your office tomorrow.
I’d prefer to question him today, if you do not mind, sir, - Menelaus said.
No problem. Do whatever you need to do. After all, I don’t think you’re doing it for fun, huh?
Maybe you know his home address?
No, I am afraid I don’t.
That’s a pity.
I guess it is. Well, gentlemen, - The Head Priest rose to his feet unsteadily, - I must step out now. Sorry, but my bladder gives me troubles. It was nice talking to you. I hope you’ll find your criminal quickly.
It was nice talking to you too, sir, - Menelaus and Cumulus got up also, bowed to the Head Priest and left the office.
I cannot help thinking that he knows something, - Menelaus said musingly, once they were safely out of the earshot of the High Divine Authority.
Do you think so, sir?
Of course. Well, let us leave this place for now. I am feeling a bit claustrophobic within its walls.
They emerged back onto the square in front of the temple and started walking towards the city center. Menelaus seemed to be preoccupied with thoughts and kept frowning and muttering. They were walking for sometime when Menelaus turned to Cumulus and said,
I think we might learn something this evening. Of course, my young friend, your presence is not required if you do not want to be there. After all, I hired you to do research. But if you are curious…
I’d rather go with you again, sir. I am a bit curious, yes.
Very good then. I think you can go home now, or whenever you want to go. Come to my office around nine, all right?
Good. I’ll see you later.
They parted ways near the Coliseum. Menelaus headed back to his office while Cumulus started walking towards Mama Proserpine’s place. Excursion to the Temple had taken his mind off several upsetting subjects but now they came back with a renewed force. He slowed down and whispered to himself ‘It can’t be, dammit! It just can’t be! I wish Cletius were around…’ He didn’t utter anything else until he nearly reached Mama’s Proserpine house. He was turning the last corner when suddenly someone grabbed him by the arm and hissed ‘Ah! It’s you then! I was right!’ Cumulus froze for a millisecond then spun around and cried out in horror.
* * * *
A grim, swarthy man, dressed in what seemed to be worthless rugs and who was known to a certain circle of people as Hector the Broom, was crawling along a dark passage, shuddering with an anticipation and anxiety. One of his long and rather unpleasant undercover operations, during which he was ordered to act as a janitor, was approaching the end. Now he expected new orders and another portion of his handsome bi-monthly pay. His meetings with the boss were always unnerving events but then his pockets were filled with hard cash, and their weight calmed him down tremendously. This time did not seem to be any different from others. Luckily, the meeting never lasted more than five, ten minutes. When your future prospects looked so bright, you could suffer for ten minutes. He had never told any of it to any of his current girlfriends (three at the last count). They did not need to know exactly what did he do for the living, whom he saw, and what he heard. The only thing these silly girls were ever told about his profession could be summed up in a vague, but terrifying term a ‘secret agent’.
He walked to the end of a passage and knocked on a small door. The door was reinforced with bronze plates. His knock reverberated though the passage with a dull thud. A few moments later, he heard a key tuning in the lock then the door swayed open and a dark silhouette of a man beckoned for him to come in.
Nice to see you, my faithful dog, - The man said in a slightly husky voice.
I am your slave, si…
Tshsh! Not so loud, man! Save your niceties for later. Come!
They were standing in a windowless room, in a nearly complete darkness. A half of the room was obscured from the view by heavy curtains. The other half, illuminated by a jar with burning oil, contained nothing but a single chair. The man sat on the chair and said:
So, has that long nosed cockroach of a Detective visited the Temple? Say simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Did he talk to the Old Fool?
Good. What are his plans anyway?
He wants to meet the Temple Janitor this evening.
In the other words, he wishes to meet you, my man.
I know what to say to him.
I am sure you do. Well, I must say your job was done well. By the way, what kind of a nickname they assigned to you? I believe they are heavy on nicknames, those clowns down at the Temple.
It is Hector the Broom.
Hector the Broom? You don’t say. I wonder who came up with this.
I think it was the Junior Master of Ceremonies.
Ah! That one! Perhaps I should invite that man for a chat some time. He seems to posses a sense of humor. Anyway, let us talk business. For now, I have no further orders for you. Now, let me pay you your due, my brave man. Step closer.
The bogus janitor grinned happily and stepped forward. The man on the chair produced a small purse from the folds of his toga and waived it in the air.
- Well, what is wrong with you, my faithful? Take it, - He uttered softly.
The janitor protruded his arm and was about to take hold of his payment when the sitting man made a quick movement with his other hand. The janitor yelped and dropped on his knees. The man chuckled and pushed him away with his foot. The janitor gurgled and fell sideways on the floor, wriggling in agony.
Steady, steady, my dog, - The man whispered, - It´s almost over. Soon you will see Elysium. Lucky for you, huh? I told you: you work for me, you go places.
The janitor produced a weak moan and became still. The man rose from the chair and poked the dead with a toe of his shoe, then turned around and disappeared behind the curtains.
* * * *
- So, is this where you live, huh?
Cumulus looked at angry Zenaya and nodded guiltily. They were sitting on the bed in his room, in Mama Proserpine’s house and talking in half-whispers.
Hey, what’s going on? What are you doing here, anyway? – Zenaya’s voice rang with fury.
Do you know what I went though in the last couple of days, and all because of you, huh? – She continued.
Well, listen Jo…
Tshsh! Are you crazy? Anyone might listen. Call me Zenaya, OK?
Right. It’s my assumed name. And how they call you here?
Hey, I’m sorry, OK?
But why Cumulus?
Well, you see… I was in shock, kinda… Anyway, I had a sort of amnesia or something… Cumulus was the word I remembered… So anyway, when the first guy I met asked me my name I said ‘Cumulus’.
Hey, are you stupid or what? Ah, never mind. At least I found you. Too bad the Professor is not here right now. I bet he’s going nuts freaking out about your disappearance and stuff.
You mean, you came here with the Professor?
Don’t shout! Gosh! Of course! That’s what I was gonna tell you, before I was so shocked. The Professor came here too but you see, when we came to this city on foot, we’ve got arrested by the local cops and oh well, there was some mistake or something, but anyway, they mistook him for somebody else, some runaway teacher or something. So now he’s captive somewhere, in some local household, I guess. I dunno… Jeez! That was an adventure, I can tell you.
Yeah. And it was all your fault.
Listen, I’m sorry, OK?
And what about you…Zenaya? What have you been doing?
Shit! You know what I’ve been doing. Didn’t you see me the other day in that tacky place? And why did you run away, huh? Hey, I thought ‘Oh Gosh, this guy just went plain bananas!’ Why did you run away?
Hey, I was in a shock. See? I had been half-crazy, I mean, I still hadn’t remembered anything except, well, maybe a few things and then I saw you and something in my head went ‘Wham!’ I thought I was hallucinating or something.
Hey, listen! Well, I am not exactly lying, OK? But I don’t want to get my ass expelled from … you know, OK? I was kinda hoping to find a way to get myself back and then…
Aha! And to leave me behind, huh?
I thought you were all right. Can’t you go back now?
Jeez, no! That’s what I am telling you, dummy. The Professor knows how to get back and he is not here. We’ve got to free him first. Oh, this place sucks! The whole city sucks. Man! I have not had a proper hair wash for Gods’ only knows how long! I stink!
Nah, not really.
Hah! Thanks a lot. And what about you? What you’ve been doing?
I found a job.
A job? You mean, you found a job in here? Boy, you are nuts. What kind of job?
Assistant of a Private Detective.
They don’t have Private Detectives around here.
Yes, they do. I am working for one right now.
Hey! We are running around like crazy, worrying our heads off and stuff and you are working as an assistant of a private detective, smug as I don’t know who, huh? You wanna know what such behavior is called?
I said I am sorry.
Hah! Wait till you get back. I am sure they are going to expel you. You screwed up the whole program! You broke the Rules!
Cumulus dropped his head and moaned.
Hey, that was stupid, OK? But it was more like…an accident. Something went wrong. I lost my memories and stuff. I had been walking around this place like a loony. I was mugged. By the way, how did you find me?
Thanks to this buddy of yours.
Why, a huge one, a gladiator or something. I think his name is… Cretinus?
Oh Gosh! Whatever! He’s a great fan of, you know, those places… Anyway, he came into my room after you had left and asked about you and stuff… I had seen you two out of the window, walking into that place and I said to myself ‘Hey, that’s HIM!’ but I couldn’t get away from eh, a customer, so I waited and then you came and ran away and your friend came after you and I asked him for your address and stuff, and so that is how I found you. By sheer luck! Now we have to act while it’s not too late ‘cause I don’t know what’s going on with the Professor.
But how they mistook him for some other guy? I mean, the whole thing is crazy.
Well, it’s like, he assumed his own fictitious name, like we all suppose to, you see. He called himself Proculus. So it turned out that the runaway teacher’s name was also Proculus, besides this slave teacher’s master had never seen him before, can you imagine. I mean, his secretary or something bought the guy. So they figured the Professor was that runaway Proculus and they dragged him away. Jeez! It was horrid!
What about you?
Me? What about me?
How did you end up in that place anyway?
It was nearly the same story. They mistook me for a runaway slave from some Temple so they dragged me into that Temple and started like, to brainwash me about their religion and stuff but I said that I am an agnostic so they dragged me to that other place where we’d met, OK?
You mean, a lupanarium, right?
Well, actually, yes, but it turned out that all men who kept coming there were badly in need of counseling. It was just like I said to them, ‘Hey guys, why don’t you try to figure out why you wish to come here and stuff. I mean, it’s not really normal. You are supposed to find you a date, fall in love and stuff. You’ve got to think about forming a normal, healthy family. I’m sure you need kids and a better job.’ So they started coming over there exclusively for these Counseling sessions I provided. I mean, it was a huge success and all other girls, who worked there, started, like buggering me with all kinda questions, like ‘How you’re doing it?’ and all that. But anyway, once this friend of yours told me where you live, I told the girls ‘Oops, sorry girls, I gotta go now.’
And did they try to stop you or anything?
Nah. They were so happy to help me run away, you know. I suppose they were all nice girls at heart, even the coarsest ones. I said to them ‘Wow, girls! I’ll miss you!’ and they said ‘You’d better not stay around here.’ So that’s how it was. Hey, listen…
So you’re Zenaya now, huh?
It’s not a Roman name, you know. No wonder people looked at you like, weird.
Hey, do you think Cumulus is a more Roman name? Anyway, let’s think how to find the Professor. I mean, without him, we’ll be stuck in this horrid place forever, you know. These few days I realized that I simply hate Rome. It’s like living in a slave shop, you know. I hate slavery.
By the way, where are you going to stay? You need someplace to stay.
Yeah! Actually, you’re right. Hey, how about this place? We can say to whoever run this place that I am your girlfriend and …
No, that’s not a good plan.
Why not? What’s wrong with this plan?
Well, you’re not really my girlfriend and … how are we gonna fit into this room? I mean, it’s tiny!
You think only about yourself. You’re a perfect egoist. No wonder you’ve got yourself, and us too, into this mess.
Zenaya snorted angrily, jumped on her feet and began to pace across what little space was available. Soon Cumulus cried out,
Stop! You are treading on my feet!
You deserve much worse than that, - Zenaya snapped back.
Hey, be cool. Calm down and sit down. I guess, I found a solution.
What’s that? – Zenaya stopped her pacing and sat back on the bed.
Cumulus scratched his head and said,
I am employed now, right?
Sort of, yeah.
No, I’ve got a real job, you know. The guy I am working for pays me.
So I’ve got money.
We, I mean, the Professor and I, had some money but they were all confiscated during our arrest.
I arrived here with some money too. It’s not the point. I’ve got a salary.
So? Are you boasting about how smart you are or what?
Shut up, you dummy, and listen! I can pay for your own room.
I guess. The landlady is cool. Her name is Mama Proserpine.
It’s a nickname, obviously but she’s OK. Besides, she doesn’t charge much. And the place is full of all kinds of weirdoes so you won’t look out of place.
Hey, thanks a lot, man. You know how to compliment a girl.
Oh. come on. How about that?
I suppose. I’ve no idea what to do, you know.
Cool. Let me talk to the landlady.
* * * *
- Are you his girlfriend? – Mama Pro looked intently at Zenaya and chewed her lower lip.
- Eh, yes, - Zenaya said.
- No, - Cumulus said.
- Well, we kinda haven’t decide yet, - Zenaya said.
- But she needs some place to stay so I decided to ask you if you have a free room, - Cumulus explained.
- Yes, I have a free room, - Mama Pro nodded with a tiny smile.
- Well, great. We would like to rent it then.
- Don’t you want to have a look at it first?
- Nah, it’s fine, thanks all the same.
- All right. Follow me
The available room turned out to be slightly bigger than the one occupied by Cumulus, and a bit nicer. Once Cumulus handed over to Mama the requested sum of money, the landlady took Zenya aside and said,
You need some new clothes, my girl. Right now, you look like a runaway floozy from a cheap lupanarium, if you excuse me for being frank.
She is a … -began Cumulus but caught himself in time.
She is eh… thinking about buying some new stuff, - He added quickly.
Good. I can give you the address of a nice clothing shop that sells for reduced prices, - Mama Proserpine said.
Thanks, - Zenaya said, blushing violently.
Within a half an hour Zenaya was settled down completely and she and Cumulus went to the abovementioned shop.
I didn’t do any shopping for Gods only knows how long, - Zenaya noted.
Is shopping good in Rome?
It’s OK. I don’t know… I didn’t…
Yeah, but you went to the certain places a lot.
Oh, come on. You wanna eat something?
Yes, thanks but I want to buy some clothes first. Hey, eh… Cumulus, you sure you don’t mind paying for me?
I’ll remember how much you own me at the end.
Hah! Then I’ll pay you with what kind of money they’ve got around here? Denarii or something?
Yeah, that’s right.
OK, so I’ll pay you back with these denarii.
Hey, here’s the shop, I think.
They walked into the clothing shop without a back glance. For the man who was following them for some time it was very convenient. He stopped near the shop entrance and pretended to be looking at the food, piled up on the nearby food stall, without letting the shop entrance out of his vision.
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