Fulvius turned back to the corpse and examined it further. He turned its head this way and that, picked up the limbs, even examined the entrails, grasping the fly-covered, glistening ropes in his hands and letting them slide through his fingers. The he stood up, wiped his hands on his tunic, and shook his head.
“I cut off legs and sew skin back together. You need a physician for this.”
“You mean you don’t know what it is?” asked Oclatinius, surprised. Fulvius had always seemed so self-assured, if distant and curmudgeonly. Now, he seemed, not alarmed. Just confused.
“Look, it’s some sort of imbalance of the humours, or a curse from the one of the nastier gods. Or maybe it’s a miasma. I don’t know, it’s not what I do. I met this fellow in Rome once, what was his name? Galen. He was different from all the other physicians I have known. Always enquiring, wondering what made people ill, how he could treat them better. He would have loved to take a look at this.
“But I think you are all missing the point.”
“And what’s that?” asked Flaccus.
“His guts are over the floor. That’s what killed him. Not this rash. Unpleasant as it looks, I’m sure it’s just cosmetic.”
He stood. “If that’s all, I have somewhere I need to be.” He picked up his flask and headed back towards the temple.
Oclatinius looked down at the dead man’s face. Cosmetic? He didn’t think so. An involuntary shudder went down his spine.