[Author’s Note: in a world that might have been, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius devastated the entire Mediterranean basin. Shiploads of Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other refugees eventually found their way to the western hemisphere. The city-state of Magna Athenaia was established in the area we know as San Francisco. Unfortunately, ancient rivalries and dreams of empire followed the refugees from the old world, and still threaten their descendents even centuries later ….]
“… right here, on this very spot, three hundred years ago, that Nestor sang the citizens of Magna Athenaia to victory.” Kiran swept his hand towards the Great Bay that spread out behind him. The morning fog had burned away, offering a spectacular view: vehicles glinted on the Long Bridge as it arced across the iron-blue water, connecting the city proper to the smaller communities and farmlands to the north. The ocean was a smear of color stretching to the western horizon, while, east of the Bridge, the Sacred Island bobbed up out of the bay, covered in gleaming temples and brightly painted statues. At the center shone the temple of great Athena herself, delicate stone columns supporting a bright blue tiled roof.
Kiran smiled at the two dozen children huddled around his feet. The day was warm for spring, but, here in the shade of the Temple of the Muses, it was cool. He rocked on his feet, spreading both arms wide.
“In the millennia since the peoples of Hellas, Aegyptus, Roma, Palestina and many other lands had fled the eruption of Vesuvius and settled in the west, Roma Aeterna had been threatening to conquer the whole of the continent. And now, the final invasion had come. Imagine, for a moment, that you are Nestor, watching as the bay fills with a hundred, two hundred ships, each filled to capacity with soldiers, each soldier determined to strip Magna Athenaia of her treasures and deliver her citizens into slavery. You are hopelessly outnumbered. You don’t have enough weapons. Theonie the Weaver and Stratagos Mathgamhain have organized every man and woman, every priest and beggar, called upon their allies among the Ramaytush, Miwok, and Chochenyo — even ordered the jails emptied and all the slaves freed, for all who fight to protect Magna Athenaia should call themselves citizen. But it is still not enough.”
The breeze off the bay blew in crisp and cold. Across the children’s up-turned faces, Kiran saw Achillea pull her jacket more tightly around her torso. Her dress rippled and goosebumps spread across her bare legs. He had told his apprentice that they would be escorting a class to the Temple today, but she had either forgotten to wear warmer clothing or thought she could do without it.
Kiran crouched, slowly turning on the balls of his feet so that he could look at each of his students. Most appeared excited, a few confused. Isidorus looked bored, and Alexa looked like she had to use the bathroom — again. He paused for a moment when he spotted Calliope off to the side. Usually so attentive and vivacious, today her shoulders were curled in, her head tucked down so that her dark blonde hair covered her face.
He cleared his throat. “But Nestor, with his withered legs, cannot fight. He has only one thing he can offer the Goddess and the people of her city: his voice. And so he sings. He sings all through the day and all through the night, through the roar of cannons and the crash of swords and the crack of rifles, while ships burn and buildings burn and sharks feast. For two days and two nights he sings. And when Eos rises on the third morning, the ruins of the great Roman fleet litter the bay and Roman soldiers lie dead in the streets and Magna Athenaia still stands, a free city.”
The children applauded, grinning. A few whooped and ululated, the sound echoing from the dome above. Around them, the statues of the nine Muses seemed to look on in approval, the candles stacked around their stone feet glowing brightly.
“Now, what can we learn from the example of Nestor? How did he exemplify eudaimonia?” Half-a-dozen hands shot up into the air. “Quintus?”
The red-headed boy scrunched up his nose in thought. “Um. Um. He ex-exemplified the highest good by singing to inspire people.”
“That’s correct.” Kiran nodded in approval. “He used his talent — in this case, song — for the betterment of others. What else?”
Aife yelled from the front row. “He didn’t care about his legs!”
“That is correct, Aife. However,” he gently corrected, “wait until you are called upon to answer. That is respectful of your fellow students.”
“Sorry!” she yelled.
“Can anyone explain what Aife meant and how that exemplifies eudaimonia?”
And so they went around for nearly an hour while the Muses looked on, discussing the salvation of Magna Athenaia and the virtues of piety, loyalty, and excellence. Not once, however, did Calliope look up. She sat still, playing with her hair.
Finally, when Alexa was beginning to bounce in place, Kiran motioned for them all to rise. He clapped his hands. “Time for a short break. Citizen Achillea will escort you to the bathroom and, when you return, I want you all to have thought of how you model eudaimonia in your lives. Understood?”
Little faces bobbed up and down. With Achillea slightly to the side, the students trundled out of the main Temple towards the small columned administration building on the far side of the garden.
She stopped, shoulders stiff beneath her white dress.
He knelt in front of her, but she still refused to look up. “What’s wrong? You’ve been very quiet today.” No answer. “You were very excited to visit the Temple of the Muses, remember? You said it’s the prettiest in the city.”
Her voice was so low that he had to strain to hear. “It is the prettiest.”
“Then why are you so quiet? Are you sad about something?”
A faint hesitation, then a shrug and a shake of her head.
“Are you … worried about something?”
A half shrug this time. He was getting closer.
He held out his hand, rising to his feet. “Come here.”
Her fingers curled into his palm, her hand cold. He led her to the statue of her divine namesake. The Muse Calliope smiled into the distance, a scroll of epic poetry unfurled in her hands; the opening line of the Odyssey was carved into the stone. He settled onto the low bench in front of the statue, pulling the little girl up beside him.
“Do you remember the story of Theonie the Weaver and Varro the Proud?”
Calliope nodded slowly. She peeked up at him through her bangs, pulling absently at her heavy green leggings. “Varro came from Roma Aeterna and told her that the ships were coming. He told her to surrender. That if she didn’t, then she would be killed and the city would be burned.”
“And how do you think Theonie felt when she heard that?”
Calliope bit her lip. “Scared?”
“And what did she do?”
“She came here. And she told Nestor and Stratagos Mathgamhain what Varro said.”
“And do you think that she felt better after she told them? That she was less scared?”
Calliope nodded slowly again. She shifted on the bench and finally looked up at him. “Someone’s going to get hurt.” Her voice wobbled.
“Who’s going to get hurt?”
A wordless shrug.
“How do you know someone is going to be hurt?”
“I heard them. I heard them talking. Papa and the others.”
Kiran fought back a frown. “When was this?”
“Last night. I was in bed, but I got thirsty and I got up and I heard them talking.”
“What exactly did they say?”
Calliope’s gaze dropped for a moment. She started to shiver. “They said it was going to burn. They said people would die. They — they — were happy!”
She was crying now, fat tears sliding down her cheeks. He scooped her up and pulled her into his lap, letting her cry into his chest. He stroked her head, making vague shushing sounds while he rolled her words around in his mind.
Papa. Eurus Economides. One of the wealthiest real estate developers in Magna Athenaia. He had won the contract for the new Bouleterion several years ago and — astoundingly — completed the project ahead of time and under budget. That had won him quite a few admirers in the Boule and the Ekklesía. Kiran’s own mother had worked on the Bouleterion with Economides, and designed his newest project, a business center near the shore facing the Long Bridge and the Sacred Island.
In other words, a successful, and loyal citizen of Magna Athenaia.
But Calliope was weeping in his lap.
He caught the chorus of children’s voices as they walked back through the garden to the main Temple. Achillea was reminding them not to grab at the flowers since they belonged to the Goddesses. As the children re-entered the main Temple, Kiran gently slid Calliope off his lap. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and carefully wiped her face.
Aife pointed and yelled, “Calliope’s crying!”
Kiran sighed and rolled his eyes. Tucking the handkerchief into the little girl’s hand, he led her back to the middle of the room while Achillea corralled the other students. Motioning for them all to sit again, Kiran clasped his hands behind his back.
“Now then, how do you each exemplify eudaimonia in your lives …?”
Midday meal. The children gathered in a small courtyard surrounded by low stone walls and rose bushes. The courtyard offered a beautiful view of the main Temple, its rounded dome golden in the sun. Dozens of small shrines to Lugh, Seshat, Kvasir, Sarasvati and other deities were scattered throughout the gardens. Pilgrims wandered about, some making offerings and prayers at specific shrines, others just going where their hearts led them.
Walking far enough away that he could hold a private conversation, but still keep an eye on the children, Kiran pulled his phone from his back pocket. He hit the first number, watching as Achillea dealt with an argument between Isidorus and Quintus.
It rang twice, and then a voice that made his heart quicken answered.
“Placing your dinner order? I was thinking spinach salad with roasted walnuts, goat cheese, and raspberries, a nice ginger-and-lime salmon on the side, red wine, and salted mint lassi for dessert.” Leander paused. “Unless you want us to pick up something on the way home.”
“I want steak,” Wilanu cut in. “Fresh venison caught this morning and brought down from the mountains.”
Kiran chuckled. “That all sounds delicious. Whatever you decide is fine with me. Uh, listen.” He paused, rubbing the back of his neck. “Can you swing by the Temple of the Muses? Something has come up ….”
Their tour of the Temple complex completed and their discussion of eudaimonia concluded (for now), Kiran and Achillea led the students towards the stone-paved parking lot. A long, low vehicle waited for them, the laurel-wreath-and-lyre crest of the Nestor Academy emblazoned on its side.
Just as Arvid was scrambling out of the front seat to open the side door for the students (a battered copy of Cicero’s Hortensius tucked under his arm), a protection and enforcement cruiser pulled into the lot. The bright red gorgoneion of Magna Athenaia gleamed against the black of the cruiser, Polinomia written in equally bright script beneath it.
The car pulled to a stop on the far side of the lot and Wilanu climbed out of the passenger seat, fiddling with his ear mic. His long-sleeved black uniform stretched over his (very nice) muscular frame, the red piping and gorgoneion patch on each shoulder the only splashes of color. The face mask was folded neatly back behind his neck, and his black hair was pulled up into a complicated knot held in place by a pair of lethal-looking hair sticks. A pistol rested on either hip.
Kiran swallowed. Gods, but he did love a man in uniform.
Then Leander got out. Slimmer, but shaped just as nicely. A pistol on one hip and an empty holster for a short rifle on his back.
Two men in uniform were even better.
With a quick word to Achillea, Kiran trotted across the stone. Wilanu watched him the whole way, arms crossed over his broad chest. Leander leaned against the cruiser next to him, the corners of his mouth ticked up into a leering smile. His brown hair was buzzed too short in Kiran’s opinion, he liked something to grab onto, and his thoughts were drifting again ….
He tripped to a halt in front of his husbands, grinning like an idiot.
Wilanu shook his head in mock disbelief. “He called us out here for a quickie.”
“Yep,” Leander agreed, smile getting bigger. “Can see it in his eyes. Took us away from our duties for a backseat tryst. For shame.”
Kiran rolled his eyes, gathering his thoughts. “No. Not so.” He moved a step closer. “See the little girl with the long, dark blonde hair? White dress and green leggings?”
Wilanu gave a single nod of his chin.
“Calliope Economides. Daughter of Eurus — yes, that Economides.” Kiran shifted on his feet. “She says she overheard her father and some others … conspiring. They were planning something that would hurt and possibly kill a lot of people.”
Wilanu straightened. “Specifics?”
“Uh, no. Just that something would burn, people would die, and the conspirators — whoever they are — were laughing about it.”
Leander tilted his head, peering over Kiran’s shoulder. “Any chance she could have misunderstood?”
Kiran shrugged. “Maybe. I’ve had plenty of crying students over the years, but Calliope was legitimately upset. Whatever she heard, it deeply disturbed her. Could you … check?”
Leander’s eyebrows jumped. “Check what?”
Kiran opened his mouth, stopped, opened it again. “Check his … associates? I don’t know. Look into his financials? See if he has a reason to want to kill anyone?”
Wilanu was already shaking his head. “Economides is a well-known, up-standing citizen. If we take this to Chiliarchos Egilsdottir, she’s going to want more than crying child as our reason.”
“I ….” Kiran huffed in exasperation, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “She heard something.”
Wilanu rolled a shoulder, gaze momentarily directed towards the gaggle of children. He turned back to Kiran. “I’m sure she did. But what she relayed to you isn’t enough to launch any kind of investigation. She may also have misunderstood. She’s, what, eight? Seven?”
“Eight,” Kiran muttered.
Leander flashed him a sympathetic smile. “Sorry, but I have to go with tall, dark, and grumpy on this one — ”
“ — Not grumpy — ”
“ — but we can’t go to the Chiliarchos with a few garbled words from a child. It’s also possible she dreamt the whole thing.”
Leander pushed away from the car, covering the distance between them in a few steps. He tipped Kiran’s chin up. “Thank you for calling. Always call.” He bent in for a quick kiss, his lips warm.
Wilanu was next, his mouth lingering as if in apology. He rested his forehead against Kiran’s for a moment, then turned to climb back into the cruiser.
“Venison steak,” Kiran called after them.
One leg in the car, Leander threw his hands up in surrender. “Fine. Upend all of my dinner plans.” He pointed a figure at Kiran. “But you’re picking up the steaks.”
Kiran offered a mock salute, hand to his heart.
With a final wink, Leander pulled the cruiser out of the lot and sped away.
Two days until Eleutheria and the city was already filled with revelers, dedicants, tourists, priests, and drunks.
Leander slammed down on the brake again. The cruiser lurched to a halt.
He frowned through the windshield at the herd of youngsters — barely old enough to be citizens — their faces splashed with silver, blue, and grey paint. Flower-and-laurel wreaths and strands of multicolored beads hung in fat bunches around their necks. The group waved and threw giggled apologies before staggering away.
From the corner of his eye, Leander saw Wilanu’s mouth flatten.
“Remember the good old days when Eleutheria was a somber festival, meant to evoke feelings of patriotism and responsibility?”
Leander shook his head. “Nope.”
Wilanu shot him an irritated look.
“Really.” Leander pressed down on the accelerator, carefully guiding the cruiser around an illegally parked bakery truck and a knot of Hindu pujari, their saffron robes flapping in the wind. Once he got passed them, he had to slow down again to allow a long school car to merge in front of them; a few of the children made faces at him through the windows. The small tablet attached to the cruiser’s dash flickered, updating the traffic grid. “I have no idea what Eleutheria you attended back in the day — which wasn’t all thatlong ago, and don’t pretend otherwise — but it has never been ‘somber.’ I remember going to the temple of the God of the Bay with my parents for grilled fish and fireworks. When the idol of Athena was carried passed by the priests, we would run over and throw the fish bones at it.”
“You … you threw fish bones at the statue of the Goddess?”
Leander grinned, barely suppressing a laugh at Wilanu’s horrified expression. “It was symbolic. The fish bones represented the bones of the Romans, the invaders who fell into the Bay and became food for the God and the sharks. We were asking for Athena’s continued protection.”
“After … when I went to live at the Brauroneion … the priestesses made sure that Eleutheria was — well, fun. Too easy for an orphan to lose all connection to the polis, to not feel any ‘patriotism’ or ‘responsibility.’” Leander arced an eyebrow at his husband. Wilanu grimaced in sympathy and reached over to gently press a hand against his thigh. “So, there were more fireworks and sweet cakes and we dressed up and put on plays and danced.” He shifted in the seat. “A holy day, yes — ”
The tablet flashed, a bright red spot appearing on the map, and a voice sounded through his ear mic. “Unit Twelve, altercation in progress, Rufus, corner of Delta and Second, please respond.”
Wilanu double-tapped his own mic as Leander accelerated through the traffic, swerving around pedestrians and smaller vehicles. “Unit Twelve responding.”
And so the afternoon continued. A drunk at Rufus’ overturning tables and pillaging the stock of wine. A pickpocket targeting pilgrims near the Stoa of Theonie. A drunken tussle in the middle of the street. A dispute over territory between food vendors and icon vendors that was beginning to spiral out of control.
As evening and the end of their shift approached, a call to respond to a violent assault came in. Wilanu answered, even as units eight and fifteen also called in, circling from the east and north. Leander flashed the headlights red and white, scattering pedestrians as the cruiser leaped forward.
Two minutes later, they pulled up next to a shady green space that had been set aside for farmers and grocers. Several of the stands were over-turned, the small pots of mesquite beans, pine nuts, almonds, and nahavita spilled across the ground. Groups of citizens stood in clusters, some on phones, others trying to clean up the mess.
Leander pulled the cruiser to a sharp stop. Wilanu was out a split second later. Leander followed, double-tapping his ear mic and grabbing his short rifle from the inside of the door to slide it into the holster on his back. A quick jog brought them to the center of the mess, where a pujari was kneeling in front of a woman, blood running from her forehead and arm. A dark bruise was already beginning to form on the right side of her face. Cracked pots of herbs and nuts littered the ground around her.
“That way!” The priest thrust his chin towards the far side of the green space where a narrow street separated it from a line of businesses and apartments. An alley angled between two of the buildings. “Two men. Uh, green jacket and blue shirt. Long hair.”
Leander nodded. He took off a dead run, Wilanu at his side, and spoke rapidly into his mic. “Unit twelve in foot pursuit. Suspects north-bound from Apple Tree Square. Two males, green jacket, blue shirt, long hair. Med assist required. ”
“Affirmative, unit twelve. Med inbound.”
Wilanu pulled ahead of him as they raced across the street. Horns honked in irritation.
A green jacket, about a block ahead, down the alley. Further, waving blue cloth and bouncing dark hair.
Leander pushed harder with his legs, arms pumping. The slim chain of devotional medallions slid around inside his shirt, bouncing against his chest. Trash containers, empty boxes, broken furniture, and emergency escape ladders were a blur around him.
Green dove to the left, disappearing down a side alley. Wilanu took off after him, yelling after the suspect to “Halt! In the name of Athena!”
Yeah. That never worked.
Blue was closer now. Only half a block.
Street. The alley ended abruptly, bisected by a cross street. Brakes squealed and horns sounded angrily as Blue dove through the traffic, making for the alley on the far side.
Breath loud in his ears, Leander sprinted after him. He narrowly avoided colliding with a woman weighed down by a stack of pastry boxes. Dodging around her, he lost precious seconds.
Blue glanced over his shoulder at Leander, his expression grim and determined. Not scared.
Growling, Leander put on a burst of speed, narrowing the distance between them.
Blue leaped, scrambling for the escape ladder on the side of the nearest building. He heaved himself up, hands snatching at the metal, feet banging on the rungs.
“Nope,” Leander said.
He grabbed at a mattress as he ran passed, dragging it along beside him. Straining, he heaved the mattress ahead with one hand and pulled his pistol free of the holster with the other. The mattress flopped to the ground with a nasty wet sound.
Leander took aim and pulled the trigger.
A shock dart exploded from the barrel, crossed the distance in a blink, and embedded itself in the middle of Blue’s back.
There was a loud crack, a hiss, an arc of electricity. Blue jerked, shuddered hard, and froze — and pitched backwards off the ladder.
He landed on the wet mattress with a disgusting splotch. Dirty water shot out of the sides of the mattress and pooled from beneath. An equally disgusting cloud of stink puffed into the air.
Leander wrinkled his nose, holding back until the mattress stopped dribbling.
Blue twitched. His right leg spasmed.
Leander bent over at the waist, grinning. “There, now aren’t I a nice polinomia? I gave you something soft to land on.”
Blue blinked up at him and groaned.
Leander pulled the cuffs from the back of his belt, grabbed Blue’s arm, and flipped him face down. It made for an awkward angle, but he made sure not to touch the mattress. It would be disgusting enough having Blue in the cruiser without getting that filthy water and other unmentionable stuff all over his uniform.
He slipped the cuffs around Blue’s wrists and tugged the broken shock dart from the man’s back. He hefted and heaved, wrangling a still-twitching Blue to his feet. One hand firmly on Blue’s arm, the other on the back of his sopping wet collar, Leander started back towards the cruiser. “Unit twelve, Avramidis, suspect in custody. Log single dart. Unit twelve, Wilanu, please respond.”
“Central, unit twelve, Avramidis, confirm. Unit twelve, Wilanu, please respond. Med assist on scene. Unit eight, standby. Unit fifteen, return to patrol.”
Leander pressed his mic into his ear. “Unit twelve, Wilanu, please respond.”
There was a low growl, the voice beside him and tinging in his ear. “I’m right here. Central, Wilanu, suspect in custody.”
“Did — oooohhh.”
Blue started laughing.
Leander tightened his grip on the man’s collar and his laugh choked off.
“Um.” Leander blinked at his husband.
Wilanu was covered in … stuff. It was red and sticky and kinda slimy looking and he was absolutely covered from head to foot. One hair stick was missing — ah, there it was, embedded in Green’s left thigh — so the complicated knot of hair was half unraveled and slumping to the side. His boots made a sucking squich-squich-squich sound when he walked.
Some of the gunk was on Green, too, but not nearly as much.
“Unit twelve, Wilanu, confirm.”
“Is that … red wine?”
Wilanu’s jaw twitched. His nose twitched. His eyelid twitched. “And olive oil. And honey.”
Leander bit his lips. Hard. “And if I made a joke about licking it off — Right. That’s a no.” He shoved Blue forward. “Back we go. The two of you will be taken to Garrison Zeta where you will be processed, cleaned up, housed, and fed while the woman you attacked and robbed files charges against you for that and — I’m sure — lots of other bad things, at which point you will be tried, likely convicted, and then spend several years repaying your debt to society. Do you enjoy the outdoors? The city always needs people to build firebreaks, dredge the bay, and maintain the roads.”
Blue glared back at him.
Wilanu grunted. “Or perhaps you would rather pay restitution to the woman you assaulted. And the merchants whose stores of wine, oil, and honey were destroyed.”
“That was you,” Green snarled, still limping. “Not me.”
“Ancillary crimes, which never would have happened if you had not committed the initial assault. Therefore you are ultimately responsible.”
Leander pushed Blue out of the alley. Across the street in Apple Tree Square, he could see the officers from unit eight recording the scene with their tablets. Two med units were also waiting, the injured woman already loaded into the back of one vehicle; a wide bandage was wrapped around her head and blood stained her clothing. He gripped Blue’s collar tighter. “Or maybe the court will just exile you.”
The bells chimed lightly three times. Two dozen students looked up at him expectantly from their floor pillows, tablets glowing brightly in their laps.
Kiran clasped his hands behind his back. He loved teaching the second year students in the morning (particularly when it meant a field trip), but with the fifth year students in the afternoon he could really dive deep into the ancient masters.
“Since we are only two days from Eleutheria and I know how excited you all are at the prospect of a day off — ” chuckles and snorts of laughter of the students “ — for tomorrow, I want you all to come in with a question about Protagoras’ ethical relativism and how it impacts the concepts of the polis and civic responsibility. Clear?”
Silence, a few students shifting impatiently.
The bells chimed again, this time more loudly. The students scrambled to their feet and saluted Kiran, hands to heart. He returned the gesture with a smile. In a flurry of giggles and whispers, bags were thrown open, yanked shut, and the classroom emptied in under a minute.
Sharing an amused shake of his head with Achillea, Kiran followed them out into the colonnaded, open-air walkway that lined the wide circle of classrooms. Busts and mosaics of various philosophers and poets decorated the inner walls. Kiran paused at the sight of several coins and candle stubs clustered around a bust of Pythagoras; apparently more than a few of Camilla’s students were worried about their mathematics exam tomorrow.
Adding his own coin and a quick prayer on the students’ behalf, Kiran watched the confusing swarm of students in the colonnade for a few minutes, then made his way out into the central courtyard. Aife and Quintus were tussling in the grass, while Isidorus danced around the rim of the fountain. Other students shouted back and forth to one another, compared notes, munched on snacks. Teachers and their apprentices patrolled the green space, keeping an eye on the students as parents and grandparents and nannies and servants of one sort or another entered through the great arched doorway; a few paused to speak with teachers or other parents; most just grabbed their children and headed right back out to the parking lot.
Calliope sat by herself on the lip of the fountain, bag hugged to her chest. Her fingers were stained with paint from her afternoon art class, and there was a yellow streak on her cheek.
Hands in his pockets, Kiran strolled over and plopped down next to her. “Did you enjoy your art lesson today?”
Calliope nodded, eyes fixed on the ground.
“And what did you paint?”
The little girl kicked her feet, dragging her shoes across the grass. “A fire.”
“ … I see. May I — ”
“There’s my dove!”
Calliope leaped to her feet.
Kiran stood more slowly. He dipped his head in greeting. “Citizen Economides.”
They were of roughly the same height, but Economides was beginning to round and soften with age. Deep lines surrounded his blue eyes, and his hair was now more grey than dark blonde. A woman hovered a few steps behind him, her grey skirt and jacket strikingly plain, her dark hair pinned and shoved under a grey cap.
Economides held open his arms, inviting Calliope in for a hug. She dropped her bag and rushed forward, grabbing him hard. He hefted his daughter into the air, chuckling and whispering questions about her day. She just buried her face in his shoulder and shook her head.
Kiran bent to pick up her bag. When he held it out, Economides smiled broadly and gestured the woman forward.
“Folia, if you would, please.”
Steps stiff, she took the bag from Kiran and then moved back into position behind Economides.
“And how is my dove performing in your class, Citizen Lal?”
Kiran smiled. “Quite well. She is one of my brightest students, and always raises good questions.” He drew a breath, changed his mind, decided on a different tactic. “And how are you? When I spoke to my mother last, she indicated that the new business center was nearing completion.”
“Indeed it is. The grand opening is planned for the end of the summer. Your mother’s design was aesthetic and practical, as always. She possesses a true architect’s eye. There will be an observation gallery and art museum on the top floor, if you would like to bring any of your classes for a visit.”
“I would love to, thank you. And what are your plans for the holy day?”
“Hm? Oh, the usual. It will be a small family affair. And you?”
“My husbands will be on shift, so I will be spending the day with my parents at the temple of Sarasvati. Once the procession has passed, we will return home to indulge in too much food and drink.”
Economides chuckled and lowered Calliope to the ground. She refused to let go of his hand. “Ah, yes, that’s right. They’re polinomia, aren’t they? They do right and noble work.”
“Yes, they do. I’m very proud of them.”
Economides nodded vaguely. “Just so. Well, we had best be off. If I do not see you tomorrow, have a blessed Eleutheria.”
He was already turning on his heel, Folia a step behind, as Kiran offered his own farewell.
Nodding to the straggling students and parents, and a few of his fellow teachers, Kiran followed them slowly. He paused when he reached the wide archway, stepped into the shadows, and leaned against a pillar. He watched as the trio made their way around other vehicles to Economides’ sleek luxury car. Folia held the door open for him and Calliope, then dropped the girl’s bag onto the seat.
As she was climbing into the front of the car, Folia cast a glance over her shoulder at the archway, her expression hard and suspicious.
[End Part One. Continue to Part Two.]
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published stories and poems can be found there.]