Sunday, 6 January 2013

Peter Alan Orchard: 'A Pig in the Roses' - new excerpt

A Pig in the Roses
Smashwords 2010

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Here's a new paragraph or two, a bit lighter than usual, from my ancient Greece whodunit. After a little formal business relating to a charge of murder, posh cavalry commander Aristarkhos goes back to his party:


As Aristarkhos wandered back into the men’s dining room, the sound of laughter replaced gloomy formality as the guests arrived. Two friends of Perikles sailed into the room first, wearing smiles fit to polish the silver with. Behind them came, unknown to his father, a slight boy with a red face and no beard yet worth the name, the King-Arkhon’s son Polystratos.
Draped around Polystratos, chattering to him breathlessly in a confidential tone which explained the redness of his face, was Aristarkhos' favourite courtesan.
Aristarkhos held out both arms. 'Melitta, my dear girl, stop teasing the poor boy and sit with me. I've just had serious unexpected business and you must relax me.' Being able to wear a full-length  dress, at least three layers of patterned fabric swathed around the shoulders and arms, numerous decorative belts and chains and still seem naked was one of Melitta’s gifts, and Aristarkhos was grateful for it.
Melitta flowed from the young man’s hot grasp to a reclining position next to Aristarkhos. Ensuring that at least one sleek leg was visible from thigh to ankle-bracelet to painted toenails, she opened her eyes wide and ran both jewelled hands across her tumble of blonde hair. 'Business, Aristarkhos? What a rude person to interrupt you in the evening. What was it about, or can't you tell?'
'A denunciation, I'm afraid.'
'Oh, wonderful! A robbery was it, or something better? Let me guess. It was a fisherman who sank someone else's boat with his own, and it was full of sardines, and -'
Aristarkhos gave her a look that stopped her like a stone wall. 'It was a murder.'
Embarrassed, Melitta squirmed slightly on the couch. 'Anyone I know?'
'Not your class, my girl, and far too old. If he has any sense he’ll flee the city and Tellias won’t have to send him for trial.'
‘Is that enough? For a murder?’
‘Maybe not in Samos, but in Athens, yes. If he is genuinely tainted by murder, the Solemn Ones will eventually hook their talons into his soul and tear him apart on behalf of his victim. Meanwhile the city is polluted by the disease of his presence, so if he stays in Athens we execute him. If he leaves, he is no longer a citizen, which for a proper Athenian, comes to much the same thing. Some people still think it’s worth trying some inferior life elsewhere.’ Aristarkhos looked around the room and remembered something. He went to the door. 'Boy!'
The sound of footsteps grew louder in the corridor.
'Olives!' Aristarkhos returned to his couch and looked around the room with a puzzled expression on his leather face. 'What happened to the flute-girls?'
The door opened again and two young Lydian girls sidled in, each with blonde hair and an expression of winsome nervousness.
'At last!' Aristarkhos lay back on the couch. Just out of Melitta’s line of vision, he gave each girl a look of pure lust. Then he turned to the final guest, who had appeared in the doorway behind the Lydians. 'Last again, Kleitias,' he said irritably. 'Why do you always have to keep us waiting?'   

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