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Authors: A.L. Jambor

Pello Island: Cassia (5 page)

BOOK: Pello Island: Cassia
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The following morning she woke up early.  She dressed herself and went to the kitchen to get two pieces of fruit to eat along the way to the river.  She then woke Novia.

“It's much too early, Cassia, and I've not eaten yet.”

“I've taken fruit from the kitchen.  Please Novia, let's go.”  Cassia was pulling Novia's arm, trying to coax her out of bed.  “If we leave now, no one will know we've gone.”

Novia finally got out of bed and changed her clothes.  As they left the domus, the sun was just coming up.  They had to walk several miles to get to the Tiber River, and Novia didn't think one piece of fruit would be enough.

“Do you have any money, Cassia?”

“A few denarii,” she answered.

“We may need to buy some bread if we get hungry,” Novia said.

“We can stop at the Forum,” Cassia said, getting excited.

“You’ll have to hold my hand while we’re there,” Novia replied.

They walked and walked until they saw the Pons Aemilius Bridge.  Cassia wanted to run, but Novia said no.  There were so many people milling about that Novia insisted on holding Cassia's hand.  After walking another mile, they were at the river and Cassia scanned the area for Amatus.

There were quite a few fishermen, and Cassia was getting worried that they wouldn't find Amatus.  Finally, after walking two miles, they spotted Amatus dragging his net up the beach.  Cassia began to run and Novia couldn't stop her.

“AMATUS!” Cassia yelled and waved her hands.  Amatus looked up and smiled.  He was glad to see Cassia.  He dropped his nets and ran toward her.  They met and were just about to hug when they remembered who they were.  Novia was approaching them with a stern look.

“Amatus, I'm so happy I found you.  I have terrible news.”  Cassia was biting her lower lip.  “My father wants me to marry a horrible man.  I'm so scared Amatus.”  Cassia just stared at him as he looked at Novia.

“Is this true?” he asked her.  Novia nodded her head.  “Can she refuse to marry him?” he asked.

“She must prove he is of bad character.  That's the only way.”

“But he is of bad character, Novia.  He’s lazy and slovenly,” Cassia cried.

“Most of the aristocracy is lazy and slovenly, Cassia. He has a title, and that's all your father cares about,” Novia said.

“But what if we can prove he's not worthy of Cassia?  Wouldn't her father have to back down?”  Amatus and Cassia were looking at Novia.

“How would you do that, boy?”  Novia said, looking skeptical.  “You’re talking about a Roman nobleman.  Getting evidence on him would be impossible.”

“Not so impossible.  I deliver fish to their back doors all the time.  I see them with their maids, with their slaves.”  Amatus thought for a minute.  “Would we have to prove it in court?” he asked.

“No… just to her father,” Novia replied.

The three of them stood on the beach trying to think of a way to show Cicero Gaius in a bad light.

“It really isn’t that hard to find out things about him that would show a bad character,” Amatus said.  “Cassia, I'll visit his house and look around.  I promise I’ll find something to help you.”

He took her hand and held it.  She smiled up at him with such trust that he decided even if he had to kill that old fat bastard to save her, he would.

“We have to go, Cassia,” Novia said as she pulled the girl away from Amatus.

“When you find out, Amatus, come to the shop and tell Flavius,” Cassia said as Novia pulled her down the beach.  She waved and Amatus waved back.

Amatus was seething with rage.  Cassia was such an innocent.  Her father must be mad to even think of giving her to that animal.  Amatus knew who Cicero Gaius was.  His appetites were well known throughout the city.  Amatus decided to visit his home on Palatine Hill and gather evidence against him.  He would go there at night when Amatus’ family was asleep.

Cassia and Novia arrived back at the domus just as Flavius was closing the shop for his midday meal.  He let them in and asked them where they’d been.  

“Cassia asked me to take her to the Forum,”  Novia lied.

“You should have asked me to go with you.  It’s not safe for a young girl, and you wouldn’t have been able to protect her,” Flavius said.  “Don’t do that again without telling me.”

“Flavius, please don’t be angry with Novia.  I asked her to take me there because I was sad.”  Cassia had her hand on Flavius arm.

“Why are you sad?”  Flavius showed genuine concern for Cassia.

“My father has betrothed me to Cicero Gaius.  I’m to leave at the end of the week, on my birthday.”  Cassia began to cry.

“Oh, no, please don’t cry.  Maybe we can speak to your father.”  Flavius wanted to make the tears stop.

“The only way is to prove he’s of bad character, you know that, Flavius.”  Novia glared at Flavius.  She didn’t want Flavius filling Cassia with false hope.

“Then that’s what we’ll do.  We’ll find a way to discredit him.”

“It’s okay, Flavius.  We’ve already spoken to …” Cassia stopped.  She didn’t want to get Amatus in trouble.

“Who, who did you speak to?”

Cassia bit her lower lip.  She looked up at Novia and didn’t speak.

“Tell me girl, who have you spoken to?” Flavius looked angry.  He didn’t like the idea of anyone knowing their business.

“We spoke to Amatus.”

“What, the boy who delivers the fish?”  Flavius said incredulously.

“Yes, he said he would find evidence against Cicero Gaius.  I think we can trust him,” Novia said.  She then crossed her arms over her chest.  “I believed him.”

Flavius could see that the two women were standing together and would never listen to anything he had to say.  He knew Amatus, too, and felt the boy was trustworthy, but he couldn’t understand how this boy could possibly find evidence that would persuade Quintus to break the engagement.

“Fine, just don’t mention it to anyone else.  I’ll keep my ears open, too.  Go on now, get home.”

Cassia and Novia went into the house through the back of the shop.  Novia went off to prepare Cassia’s bath, while Cassia went to her room and sat on her bed.  She tried to concentrate on Amatus’ promise rather than think about Cicero Gaius.

When Novia came to collect her, Cassia asked her what would happen on her wedding night.  Novia said she would tell her all about it after supper that night.  As Novia took the towel from Cassia, she looked at her young body and a picture of Cicero Gaius entered her mind.  She could see him leering at that young, innocent girl and the thought turned her stomach.  Even if she had to comb the city herself, she would find a way save Cassia from that dreadful man.


Amatus on the Hill

Amatus walked through the dark city.  He listened for the footsteps of thieves and cutthroats coming up behind him.  He ran past alleys and darkened shops, and he sighed in relief when he reached the hill unmolested.

 Cicero Gaius lived in a large house near the bottom of the hill.  It wasn’t far from the road.  The hill had become quite popular with the imperials and was patrolled frequently by the imperial guards.  If he were caught on the Palatine, his presence would be suspect.  He had to keep to the shadows to avoid the guards.

Cicero Gaius’ villa was large, and he could see that the lamps were lighted.  He crawled through the grass toward the outside wall of the house, and then he stood up next to the wall and inched his way across it until he came to the archway leading into the first courtyard.  There were several windows overlooking the courtyard.  As he inched his way along the wall, he stopped and looked into the first window.

The room was a kitchen, and there were slaves working, preparing food.  He continued on, passing more windows until he reached the atrium.

Rome’s decadent nobility were enjoying their leisure.  Many of them were half-dressed, cavorting in a manner that disgusted Amatus.  There were couples making love right in the middle of the floor.  Underneath the window, a man and woman lay on a couch, engaged in a heated argument.

As Amatus scanned the room, he saw Cicero Gaius sitting on a couch near a wall.  He had two young girls on each side of him, fondling them as they cried and tried to pull away from him.  Amatus felt a knot growing in his stomach as he watched the disgusting man kiss one of the girls.  The other girl looked as though she would be sick.  Cicero Gaius then picked up the girl he was kissing and placed her on his lap, pulling her close.  She screamed out in pain, but no one came to help her, and Cicero Gaius put his arm around her chest, pinning her arms.  He moved behind her, pushing himself inside of her while she cried out over and over.  Finally, as he was about to climax, he put his hand around her neck and slowly squeezed.  The girl’s legs kicked out in front of her as Cicero squeezed tighter and tighter.

Suddenly the woman on the couch in front of the window stood up, blocking Amatus’ view.  He wanted to yell at her to get out of the way, but he caught himself.  He moved along the window, trying to see around her, until finally she moved away and he could see Cicero Gaius once more.

Cicero Gaius was sitting alone, obviously sleeping.  Amatus couldn’t see either girl now, only the fat, drunken slob.  He turned around and slid down the wall, sitting on the ground.  In all his life, Amatus had never seen anything so depraved.  The girl couldn’t have been more than ten years of age, younger than Cassia.  He began to cry in frustration.  He wished he could climb in the window and kill Cicero Gaius himself.

As he sat there, he saw two men carrying a small bundle to a wagon. They hitched a horse to it and drove past Amatus, who was concealed by the darkness.  Amatus got up and began to follow the wagon, which was traveling at a leisurely pace.  Very shortly, he knew where the wagon was going.

The wagon pulled up along the Tiber, away from the fishing areas.  A man got out of the wagon and grabbed the bundle from the back.  It couldn’t have been very heavy as he had no trouble taking it to the river and throwing it in.  After he left in the wagon, Amatus went to see if he could find out what the man had thrown in the river.

The man had left too soon.  The river had brought the bundle back to the shore, where it rested in the sand.  As Amatus approached it, he looked around to be sure no one was watching.  When he was satisfied he was alone, he knelt down and opened the end of the sack encasing the bundle.  A small hand fell out, and Amatus’ worst fears were realized.  He didn’t look any further; he knew it was that poor little girl Cicero Gaius had killed.

Amatus got up and ran away from the girl’s body.  If someone saw him there, he would be hanged, or worse, crucified.  When he reached the street, he slowed down, not wanting to draw attention to himself.

The sky was growing lighter as Amatus made his way to Quintus’ shop.  When he arrived, the shop was open and he could see Flavius sweeping the floor.

“Amatus, what brings you here?”  Flavius asked him.

“I have to speak to Quintus, Flavius.  Is he at home?”

“You think he would speak to you just like that, little fisherman?  As it is, he’s not here.  He won’t be back for two more days.”

“Then can I speak to Cassia’s mother?”

Flavius looked at the earnest young man.  “If this has to do with Cicero Gaius, she will be of no help.”  Flavius’ face said it all.  Cassia’s mother would be more delighted than disturbed to hear anything bad about her daughter’s betrothed.

“Then I’ll speak to you.  I’ve been to Cicero Gaius’ home and I’ve seen his debauchery.  We can’t let Cassia marry him.”

“You’ve witnessed his debauchery and you think that will change Quintus’ mind.  Amatus, everyone knows that Cicero Gaius is a debaucher of women, girls, and boys.  He uses his slaves for his illicit purposes and then sells them to others to do the same.  Quintus is well aware of this, I assure you.”

“But does Quintus know he kills them?”

Flavius looked at Amatus, trying to determine if the boy was lying.  Amatus looked extremely sincere.

“What do you mean kills them?”

“I saw him kill a girl last night.  He forced her to sit on his lap and, and he hurt her.  I saw him choke her, Flavius.  I saw her die.  Then one of his men took her body to the river and threw her in.  I saw it with my own eyes, Flavius.  She couldn’t have been more than ten years old!”

Flavius sat on the stool.  He could see tears in the boy’s eyes, and knew Amatus was telling the truth.  Flavius knew the elite were capable of many things but for his own sanity, he didn’t want to think of children being murdered for some old miscreant’s pleasure.

“Do you want Cassia bound to that?”  Amatus’ eyes were pleading with Flavius.

“No, never.”

“Then you have to tell Quintus.  He has to know.  Please, Flavius, tell him what I saw.”

Flavius sat thinking for several minutes.  He wasn’t sure Quintus would believe him, but then he imagined Cassia being taken by brute force at the hands of that libertine, and the image made up his mind.

“Amatus,” he said, “go home.  Get some rest.  Tell me, where does Cicero Gaius live?”

“At the foot of the Palatine, it’s at the bottom, close to the main road.  I didn’t see a guard anywhere.”

“When Quintus comes home, I’ll tell him.  I can’t let her go to that house.  No title is worth that,” Flavius said.

Amatus calmed down.  He could see the love Flavius felt for Cassia written on his face, and he knew Flavius would fight for her.  When he left the shop that morning, he asked Flavius to find him if Quintus refused to listen.  Flavius promised he would.

Amatus walked home with a heavy heart.  He’d never seen anything like what he’d witnessed at Cicero Gaius’ villa, and he hoped he never would again.  When he got home, he dragged the nets out to the river.

As he watched his sisters working at the river’s edge, he vowed to watch over them, to protect them from the evil things he’d seen.  But more than anything, he vowed to protect Cassia, even if it meant death to Cicero Gaius.


Aspen, Colorado

Amatus watched the cocktail waitress as she walked toward him.  She had on one of those short little costumes, and her legs were long.  She had short blond hair and her eyes smiled underneath a ton of makeup.  Still, she was cute.

BOOK: Pello Island: Cassia
4.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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