Marcus Polonius entered the taverna. The interior was dimly lit, smelled of of wine and herbs. It was a warm spring evening of the second year of Caligula’s rule in Rome, and Marcus Polonius had an agenda.
He looked around, the same shady characters as always were getting drunk and ready to brawl, but it was still early, still time for polite conversations. He spotted the man he wanted to see tonight.
“Petronius,” he said, as he approached the muscular figure slumped over a table. Petronius had the broad shoulders and the facial scars of a former legionnaire, but he was badly groomed and beginning to grow a civilian belly.
“Marcus,” Petronius raised his weary head, “What the hell are you doing in this fucking shithole?”
“I have a business opportunity for you,” said Marcus Polonius as he sat down.
“Business? I’m not a merchant. Why would I do business.”
Marcus Polonius rolled his eyes and spoke: “I mean I want to hire your sword. Or, to be more precise, I want to hire you to wield the sword. Against somebody I indicate.”
“Oh. You should of started with that. Who do you need me to whack?”
“My wife’s suitor. Gaius Africanus Spinotius.”
“So, Clarentia is up to funky stuff again? You should have me slit the bitch’s throat instead.”
“I cannot do that. She is my wife. But I can’t have a fennel like him laugh behind my back. It makes me look weak?”
“He’s a faggot and he’s fucking your wife? Has she grown a dick?”
Marcus Polonius shook his head, “He’s not a real fag. He’s just one of those men who spend too much time working on their looks. You know what I mean, shave their chest and arms, use skin ointments and perfumes.”
“Oh, yeah, I know the type. Fucking nancies. You know what I think, Marcus? It’s these fucking statues. They create an… what’s the word? An unrealistic image of the human body. No man is that fit and muscular, but people have learned to expect that. A guy like me, a real man, would never…”
Marcus Polonius remained silent.
“Irregardless,” Petronius picked up again, “I’ll take care of this faggot for you. He’ll be sleeping with the fishes.”
“Thank you, Petronius, you will be rewarded for your service to me. Now get a drink, it’s on me.”
The former legionnaire smiled, showing his shattered teeth, and nodded his head slowly as the other man was leaving the taverna.