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I decided to take it as a compliment, it would help keep me from beating Antonius where he stood. I turned my attention to Nikolaos, not wanting to tempt myself further with Antonius and his insolence.
“And what did you see?” I asked.
Now I was once again stuck in the shadow under the cart. I pushed gently at the edge where the second guardsman stood trying to get a reaction from his essence. I only bumped into a wall. I realized that he was probably in the same place I had pushed him to when I was trying to get out. Down here he would have no idea how to move himself, until I prompted him. I circled around and pushed from the other side, hoping that if it caused him to move at least he would be moving closer to the target.
He took this for a dismissal, and left me alone with my wine. I watched the other men in the taverna as I slowly drank each cup until the bottle was empty. The philosophers were the most interesting. They got both louder and more dramatic with each bottle of wine consumed. I suspected somewhere Dionysus was smiling on them, though that was probably not who they were praying to.
“Nothing good,” I said. “Of that you may be certain.”
The guard chuckled. “Vague and ominous. I’m sensing a trend, Signuri.”
I smiled. “True enough, but right now it is not you who need worry about that trend.”
“Good,” he replied. “What else did you need to know?”
“Did you notice what he did, or said... anything that happened shortly before you found yourself among the shadows?”
He bowed, and walked quickly away. He returned quite promptly with a bottle of wine, and a glass. “Please have all you wish,” he said.
I nodded my thanks, and poured the wine. I had barely returned my cup to the table after my first sip, when the manager arrived. “I understand we owe you some thanks,” he said, bowing. He was gracious enough, but also shrewd. He looked at me as though to inquire ‘what do you want in return?’
“It was a small thing,” I said. “I hate to see such a fine establishment fall on hard time because of one man’s rash actions.”
Procurius shuddered. “I will do so. I would not wish his doings to be associated with my inn. I am not certain that Placido’s taverna will recover from one night of his presence, and my inn has had him here for several.”
I nodded in appreciation.
I exited the taverna without further attention. Fortunately the slaves were busy discussing their new found patron, and did not notice me rise, or perhaps one of them would have insisted on seeing me out.
Nikolaos nodded. Antonius merely continued chewing.
“I should like to see where it was you ‘dealt’ with this Valerius, Antonius,” I said. “When you have finished your meal, you will take me there.”
“Yes, Dio,” Antonius muttered through his mouthful.
I awoke to see Nikolaos and Antonius waiting at the foot of my bed. Nikolaos stood calmly awaiting orders, while Antonius grinned like a wolf among sheep.
“Where were you?” I asked Antonius, as I rose. He threw me the evening’s tunic before responding.
“Yanni and I went on an adventure. He took me to see that Roman who’s been causing us such trouble.”
“And?” I had no doubt by the state of Antonius’ grin there had been violence involved. It was only whether the violence was to our benefit or not.
I sat in the taverna trading barbs with Agapios until it was nearly sunrise. There was little enough to talk about. He knew the Romans would soon come for Messana, and was trying to get himself and his goods out before they did. He asked me to recommend a Sicilian shipbuilder. I did. Then we sat, and drank, and discussed the foibles of Rome while he watched his red-haired slave walk back and forth carrying our cups.