The Senator's Daughter

Except from a historical fiction short story in Heartened by Crime

Decima Sextys ran her hand over a bolt of silk. Bright yellow circles were woven onto a background of effervescent blue. Such a beautiful pattern, cheerful and bright. 

“Do you know how far these bolts must travel to reach my stall?” The Carthaginian merchant held her gaze. Years of exposure to the sun had turned his face to cracked leather. 

“I’m willing to pay a fair price. What do you think, Vianna?” She looked over her shoulder towards her friend. In Vianna’s place was another marketgoer, an older woman with a shawl drawn over her head. “Vi?” Decima turned, her gaze sweeping over dozens of unfamiliar faces. A woman’s scream punctured the din of the ground. Decima spun around towards the shriek. Thirty feet away, Vi’s terrified eyes peered above a firm hand that covered her mouth. Chiselled arms looped under her waist and dragged her away. 

“Stop them!” Decima pointed at the kidnappers. A group of litter carriers picked up their poles and exited the opposite end of the forum at a jog. Dozens of bystanders looked on, dumbfounded. Merchants returned to their negotiations. A flock of pigeons took flight. 

Curse them all. 

This couldn’t be happening. Not to her friend. Not in broad daylight in the forum. Not with dozens of people around. Vianna—Decima’s sister in all but birth. 

“Stop them.” She gathered her tunic and charged after her friend and the kidnappers, racing past stupefied onlookers, ignoring their gawks and stares, and ran into an alleyway. Her cleated sandals clicked against the cobblestone. 

A second terrified scream rattled off the stone walls of the buildings. “Stop,” Decima yelled. “Stop them.” Her lungs tore apart from the force of her breaths, but Decima pushed forward. She spotted the red tunic of a cohortes urbanae and waved at him. “They’ve kidnaped my friend.”