“No he didn’t.” The round features of the prefect’s clerk creased into a frown as he looked up from slotting a writing-tablet into one of the polished filing boxes beside his desk. “Why would he send for you?”
“I don’t know, sir. I was told—”
“If the prefect had sent for you,” Eunus said, in the tone of a civilized man explaining table manners to a barbarian, “He would have done it through me. Aren’t you supposed to be teaching?”
“Sir, the young woman who works in the kitchen—”
“Who?” said Eunus, not making a very good job of pretending he had forgotten. “Oh, her. The dimwitted one. Came barging in here just now wanting to tell the prefect that you’re very good at murders.”
Albanus swallowed. “Oh dear.”
“I told her we don’t want any more murders, thank you.” Eunus could not resist a small smile at his own joke. “To which she replied, ‘I will fetch him for you.’ And then when I said ‘don’t bother’, she said, ‘It is no trouble. I will fetch him now’, and rushed off.”
“It’s very hard to say no to Virana,” said Albanus, not knowing how to defend her from the accusation of being dimwitted. “She’s very…” He paused, searching for a word. “Enthusiastic.”
“Anyway, the prefect hasn’t sent for you and neither have I. If the baker’s family want anyone to look into this murder business, it’s up them to put in a request.”
Albanus offered a “Sorry to have troubled you, sir,” and left, musing on both Eunus’s indifference to the murder and the injustice of having to call him “sir”. It was true that Eunus was clerk to an officer in charge of five hundred men, whereas even at the pinnacle of his military career, Albanus had only been clerk to one medic. But Albanus had seen how Eunus ran the prefect’s filing. He was not impressed. ‘All show and no substance,’ as he had once confided to Virana in a rash moment—and then wished he hadn’t, because there was no telling who she might repeat it to. Luckily it seemed Virana hadn’t deemed the state of Eunus’s filing system to be interesting enough to pass on. So Eunus remained oblivious to Albanus’s contempt for the flashy polished filing-boxes whose contents were in an order that apparently only Eunus could discern.
It was clear to Albanus that Eunus was playing a nice game of making himself indispensable by being the only man who could find anything, but nobody else seemed to have noticed. And if nobody here was interested in the question of who had stabbed Virana’s landlord, Albanus was not going to argue. To judge by the shrill sounds from the distant classroom, there was more immediate violence to be dealt with.
He flung open the door to find a cluster of boys around a squealing tangle on the floor that turned out to be Lucius sitting on top of Marcus. When they were all finally back in their seats and he had ascertained that nobody was injured, he tried Virana’s suggestion. “If you carry on like this,” he told them, “I shall have to tell your fathers.”
There was a brief silence in which he dared to hope that the boys were impressed. Then Lucius leaned back and folded his arms. “If you go to Pa,” he said, “I’ll have to tell him how you keep talking to that kitchen girl instead of looking after us.”