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Aeterna Roma RPG

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May, 75 AD

After discovering that his money had been stolen under Aglaea's inattentive eye, Secundus had been looking for a way to find the culprit. Secundus happily seized on her mention of a male slave, Rufus, that she had spoken with shortly before she noticed the purse missing. Now, Secundus had elected to investigate the matter personally. Although they were due back in Tibur soon, he could not let this matter rest. No one could steal from the Varus family without some action being taken. It did not take long to arrange the meeting. Rufus served a master who moved in much the same circles as Secundus, and finding him lingering while his master attended to some business was easy enough. Spotting him across the way, Secundus strode purposefully towards the man. The physical description did not quite due the hair justice, he thought with some amusement.

"Are you Rufus? You spoke to one of my slaves, by the name of Aglaea. I have urgent business which requires your assistance."

@Sharpie

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Rufus was getting used to being left to kick his heels while waiting for his master to finish whatever business he was conducting. He was not used to being accosted by large irate-looking men who seemed to be of a similar social status to his master, and who addressed him by name. 

Well, that was marginally worse than the 'Hey, you!' that he would generally expect from people who weren't his master.

"Sir?" he said, trying to think whether this man had ever called at his master's house, and what he might want.

He had not expected the name 'Aglaea' to enter the conversation. Nor could he begin to imagine what sort of business the other might need him for.

"What sort of business, sir?" He hoped that whatever it was, he was not going to be in trouble for talking to the man 

@Járnviðr

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Secundus fixed Rufus with a stern, level gaze. He had dealt with many a liar in politics. If a slave tried to lie to him- firstly, it would be easier to detect due to the rightful fear slaves felt in the presence of their betters, but secondly, if the answers disappointed him, Secundus could reach out to Rufus' master to request assistance. A crime against a patrician could not simply be ignored.

"My wife's slave, Aglaea, told me that when she was conducting some shopping for her mistress, her purse was stolen. Now, shortly after this unidentified pickpocket stole her purse without her noticing his presence at all, she spoke to you. I was wondering if you might have seen any evidence of potential suspect, any sign of someone who could have done this. Tell me anything that could help us investigate this crime against our household."

@Sharpie

Edited by Járnviðr
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The other man fixed Rufus with the sort of glare that communicated Rufus was worth less than nothing and was being spoken to just because there was no other choice.

How in the world was Rufus supposed to be able to answer the man's questions without getting Aglaea in trouble?

"She'd sat down for a moment, sir, and we had a chat. Then she went to get the purse out to check the change, and it wasn't there. That's all I know, sir."

Hopefully that would be the end of it, but Rufus had a sinking feeling that it wouldn't be.

@Járnviðr

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Secundus frowned. The slave's story matched Aglaea's. However, he had been the only potential witness. He remained Secundus' best avenue to learning more about this craven pickpocket. He would simply need to ask further questions to elicit a more elaborate recounting. There had to be some details that were missing. Secundus could not simply ignore the crime, no matter how little evidence he had now of the culprit. Perhaps if they retraced his steps.

"Do you recall anything else about that day? Had you seen anyone suspiciously loitering nearby? Would you recognize any of the people that passed by, if you saw them again?"

Even as he said it, Secundus' hopes were fading fast. The trail had already run cold, perhaps the moment that Aglaea had discovered the loss of the money. It was too late for him to hunt anyone down. Reluctant to admit defeat, the senator fixed Rufus with a serious look of consideration. Any knowledge, any information would be too valuable to pass up. He was desparate to punish someone for this, and he would take anyone as a target if there was the slightest hint that they might have done it.

@Sharpie

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"Sir, I'm sorry." Rufus very nearly shrugged, and caught himself; a man like this would not appreciate such a gesture. "The Forum's always busy, sir, and I didn't see her until after it had happened."

Pickpockets were skilled; it would have been a very small motion indeed, and nobody was going to draw attention to what they'd just done by running away from the scene of the crime. They would walk, exactly as everybody else was - the Forum was always bustling and full of people. Pickpockets tended not to loiter anywhere, either. They walked around, looking just like any innocent shopper, until they found a target.

Anyway, it could only have been a few sesterces tat had been lifted - Aglaea had said as much at the time, in fact. If a Senator was worried about the loss of a few sesterces... He didn't look hard up enough to worry about a paltry sum like that, although it would have meant far more to Rufus and presumably to Aglaea.

 

@Járnviðr

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Secundus did not budge at the news. Of course the slave thought he had seen nothing, or he would have told his master at once- and accordingly, would be forthcoming with Secundus now. Pickpockets worked subtly, and it would be easy to miss one at work. Most of them went unnoticed if they were clever and dexterous.  It was possible that Rufus was telling the truth. It was probable, but it did not satisfy Secundus' desire for blood.

"Perhaps you did see something. A man who looked as though he did not belong there, someone out of place."

Secundus could not let this go. He hunted the pickpocket in his mind, running through the forum with a blunt weapon at his side- blunt, because the damage would take time to kill the criminal. He was a senator; if a senator could not solve a problem through the application of his power, no one could.

"There may have been someone who looked suspiciously out of place; a slave without a master, a merchant far from his merchandise."

@Sharpie

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If slaves without masters were considered suspicious, then Rufus himself was a suspicious person, as were all the house slaves out buying groceries for their masters' dinners, and all the other slaves running various errands - surely there were more slaves out without their masters than there were slaves accompanying their masters to whatever appointments they had. 

As for anyone else, there were always foreigners gawping at the sights and street traders hawking their goods. Pickpockets worked such areas because the pickings would be good and the crowds meant they blended in.

"It was a day like today, sir," Rufus said, by which he meant just as busy and noisy. "She said it was only a few sesterces, sir."

Perhaps it hadn't been, perhaps it had been more and she hadn't wanted to tell Rufus that because she didn't know him. But if she'd been telling the truth, why was this Senator so obsessed with getting it back? Much better reconcile himself to the fact it was gone for good, and presumably to someone who needed it far more than the Senator did. 

 

@Járnviðr

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Secundus gave no indication that he recognized the irrationality of his paranoia. If his suspicions tarred all slaves in Rome with the same brush, he would investigate every single one of them. For now, that meant scrutinizing Rufus. The young man seemed to be certain of him assessment. Could he really trust him? Secundus huffed, not willing to admit that he had overreacted to a minor theft. Listening to Rufus calmly describe the scenario, though, the mundanity of it all continued to stare him in the face.

Only a few sesterces- he could accept the loss without losing sleep over it. He should do so. Secundus stewed in his impotent rage, despite what might be the preferred method of coping with such a loss. He wanted to strangle the criminal that had stolen from him, and Rufus was his last clue, the last possible chance to find out who had done this. He could not simply let the grievance go. He refused to.

Nevertheless,” he spat out, unable to resist letting anger color his voice. “You have seen nothing else? Nothing useful?

@Sharpie

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"No, sir," Rufus said, well aware that he was inching closer to receiving a backhand across the face, at the very least. Which was a risk all slaves ran at some point in their lives, just by virtue of the fact they were slaves, and property, and utterly without any sort of rights at all. "She didn't know she'd been pickpocketed herself until afterwards."

It wasn't as though the thieves were obvious about it, after all; that would completely defeat the whole point of doing what they did because they'd be caught and prosecuted the first time they went out. For all either of them knew, the man (or woman or boy or girl, or slave) responsible could be any one of the crowd around them, still working their trade and calmly making off with someone else's hard-earned coins.

 

@Járnviðr - I am so sorry it's been so long!!!

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Secundus gritted his teeth. The impertinence! Of course he had known that catching this thief would be difficult, but the idea that there was no trail, no clues that could lead him to the person who had just- taken from him like this- Secundus reminded himself that this was not his slave. It was not his business how this ‘Rufus’ behaved. He would behave appropriately, as befitted a senator. Any anger he felt was not a matter of public debate. He would return home and punish his own slaves, instead, for whatever it was that they had done wrong today. He could control his own anger better than this- he was not some kind of animal. He had not left behind his self-control in Germania.

Of course. Does your master realize how helpful you can be?” Secundus said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Thank you for your time."

With that, Secundus turned on his heel and stalked off.

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Rufus had the exact same sense of observation and self-preservation that any slave had when it came to seeing things about free people, and noticed how the Senator's jaw clenched. He braced himself for that hard strike to the face that such an expression usually presaged, but it didn't come. The Senator's hand clenched in self-restraint and when he spoke, his words were laced and dripping in sarcasm.

Rufus had not acted obstructively or done anything to hinder the other's finding out what he needed to know, it was simply that the information was not there to be found out.

He merely bowed his head in submission as the other turned on his heel and stalked away, the crowd parting before his rage as if he were accompanied by the full complement of lictors that a consul commanded.

Rufus let out a long breath, suddenly finding his knees a little weak and made his way to a hot-food stand, the crowd not parting for him in the least.

 

Thanks, @Járnviðr, that was an... interesting thread!

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