| "Death in Vesunna" |
Set in OTL
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
|Nationality:||Greek citizen of the Roman Empire|
Kleandros was the physician in the Roman town of Vesunna in Aquitaine. He was a Greek with a slim build and wore his hair in black ringlets. He attended the scene of the murder of Clodius Eprius and was confounded by the cause of death.
He was glad when Gaius Tero, the tesserarius who commanded the town's vigiles arrived on the scene. The two were good friends despite constantly arguing. He led Tero to the dinning room where the body lay only saying that he best see the body himself in answer to the tesserarius' questions.
He let Tero examine the scene without comment. Before either could speak, Larcius Afer, the vigil who had the watch that night, entered and reported that several neighbours had heard Eprius cry out and then the roar of a thunderbolt. No one reported seeing anyone leave the villa. Afer also expressed the opinion that Jupiter's thunderbolt slew Eprius.
The last caused Kleandros throw back his head and laugh in skepticism. He asked how many men they knew had been killed by the gods. He had been a doctor for over 20 years and hadn't seen one. Afer replied that there is always the first one, to which Kleandros agreed. However, Eprius was not an evil man. The worst he ever did was to drink too much wine so his friends had to carry him home. If the gods slew for that, then not five men would be left alive in the Empire. No, if the gods left it to Nero to kill himself and to soldiers to do away with Caligula, then they would not be very interested in Eprius.
Afer demanded to know what had killed Eprius. Kleandros replied he had no idea but intended to try to find out rather than moaning about Zeus (his name for Jupiter). This heartened Tero who went and quizzed the neighbors himself but when he returned, he indicated he had not learned anything more than Afer had.
Tero's eyes kept straying to the blood on the wall and he noticed the plaster in the middle of the stain had a ragged hole. Kleandros dismissed it, saying that Eprius may have had a tapestry there and was clumsy taking it down. Tero probed into the hole with his knife and found a small button or flower of lead. The two examined it but didn't know what to make of it. Kleandros said he couldn't understand it any more than he could understand what killed Eprius. This remark led Tero to connect the two events, that the lead button had traveled at a high speed through Eprius' head and then made the hole in the wall.
This left two problems: how to make the object go fast enough and why aim it at Eprius. Kleandros suggested robbery to which Tero agreed. However, as they were leaving, Tero noticed a small leather bag under one of the couches. He picked it up and found it was full of aurei. So much for robbery.
He and Kleandros examined the aurei and the latter noticed that they were fresh minted even though some bore the likeness of Emperor Trajan who had been dead for 30 years. Also, he noticed that the Trajan coins were identical and did not show the normal variation in shape and thickness of coins stamped by hand. One more little impossibility among the big ones.
That evening, Kleandros went to Tero's home for supper so they could discuss the case further. Tero informed him that Titus, Eprius' valet, confirmed that the gold was definitely not Eprius' and that after a quick search of the villa, nothing appeared to be missing. Also, Tero had consulted with Rusticius, the jeweller, who determined that the aurei were pure gold and not short weight.
Kleandros felt a sense of satisfaction and told Tero of Heron son of Ktesibios. He was a famous artificer from the previous generation and some of his machines seemed magical. One in particular was a caldron with a hollow ball on its lid. The ball had a tube from the caldron on one side and a pivot on the other. It also had bent nozzles around its circumference. When the caldron was heated, steam would fill the ball and escape through the nozzles causing the ball to spin. If some way could be found to block the steam for a while and then release it at once, then it could give a small pellet of metal a very strong push, strong enough to kill.
Tero thought about it and came up with some difficulties. The caldron would be large and obvious. Also, Eprius would have to sit in his dinning room while someone lit a fire under the caldron, let the steam build up and then aimed the pellet at him. No, whatever had killed Eprius would have to be compact so it could be carried without being seen and be usable immediately. Kleandros was disappointed since he could find no flaw in Tero's logic.
Tero suggested they concentrate on who rather than how. Kleandros agreed and said that the individual had to have come from outside the Empire since they had a weapon unknown within it. Also, no citizen would need to carry coins that were not genuine and since they had full value they were not counterfeit. Tero suggest a spy and Kleandros agreed. After some thought, Tero suggested Men from Atlantis. Kleandros indicated that while he held Platon in the highest regard, and while the Timaios had been one of his favorite dialogues, nevertheless Atlantis was an invention to portray an idealized way of life.
Tero indicated that his suggestion was one of desperation since any known nation that possessed such a weapon would have made themselves masters of the world long ago. This left them where they had begun, nowhere. Tero suggested that they instead continue studying Homer Iliad in the original Greek. Kleandros agreed and they did so for the rest of the evening.
A few days later, Kleandros was approached by Tero who told him that Titus had found that Eprius' copy of Sophokles' Aleadai was missing. He also explained his reasoning that led him to conclude that the killer was from the future. Kleandros agreed with his reasoning and with the idea of setting a trap with a copy of Hieronymos of Kardin's history as bait.
Shortly, Kleandros approached Aemilius Ruso, the town's scribe, and offered to sell him the history but asked for too many aurei for Ruso to buy it. As they had hoped, the news of the rare work enticed an itinerant bookseller named Lucius to contact him and offer to buy the scroll. Kleandros agreed to meet with him privately but arranged with Tero for his vigiles to hide in his home prior to the meeting.
At the appointed time Lucius and his partner Marcus arrived and met with Kleandros in his courtyard. After a long and hard haggle, they agreed to a price of 28 aurei. Kleandros went inside to fetch the document and when he returned he handed the scroll to Lucius and scooped up the gold coins that were stacked on a table. He looked at the money intently, studying it to see if it had the same anomalies as the aurei found at Eprius'. He noticed a worried Marcus was watching him study the coins but reassured him with a joke about how handsome emperors looked on gold.
Just then, Lucius gave a shout saying that the work was that of Diodoros of Sicily and not of Hieronymos and demanded to know what he was trying to do. As the two confronted Kleandros, Tero and the vigiles rushed them. Lucius turned and fled but was tackled and brought down to the ground. Marcus reached into his tunic and pulled out his thunderbolt weapon, firing it once before Kleandros dragged his weapon hand down. Marcus struck Kleandros with his left fist, stunning him, but the vigiles were on him before he could do anything else.
As he stood there with a dark bruise forming under his left eye, he apologized for using Diodoros, but no one in the town had a copy of Hieronymos.