Ilario: The Lion's Eye by Mary Gentle

Ilario: The Lion's Eye by Mary Gentle

Author:Mary Gentle [Gentle, Mary]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
ISBN: 9780575080416
Publisher: Victor Gollancz Limited
Published: 2008-01-10T06:00:00+00:00


17

I had no need to uncover Masaccio's face. The blue, crushed, swollen flesh was imprinted in detail in my mind. I glanced around the room; then back at Rekhmire'.

'How can we make this look like a natural death!'

Rekhmire' frowned. 'I don't know.'

'You don't know?'

His lip twitched. If a man had not lain dead on the floor beside us, I think it would have been a smile, if blackly sardonic.

'You expect much of me, Ilario. This isn't easy...Help me put him on that.' Rekhmire' nodded at the flat-bed cart.

'What?'

'Would it be the first time a man's been brought home drunk from the taverna like this? On his own cart?' The Egyptian shook his head, answering his own rhetorical questions. 'Whatever we do, first we must take him away from here. Quickly.'

I nodded, and knelt. Masaccio's cheek felt colder. But still soft. Bodies stiffen some time after death.

The water-clock chimed.

It's not an hour, yet!

How can I believe he's dead?

It felt almost as if, should I sufficiently refuse to believe it, Masaccio might not be dead. All this might yet resolve into some nightmare delusion.

But that false hope often accompanies sudden death.

As if he still breathed, I gently eased my hands under Masaccio's armpits, waiting for Rekhmire' to lift him at the knees.

We put him on the hand-cart. Rekhmire' reached out to shift his limbs. I protested; cut myself off. The Egyptian arranged Masaccio's body on its side, cloak-hood drawn across to shelter the blue, bruised face.

With the macabre humour that comes with death, I felt a terrible grin stretching at my mouth. 'He does look dead drunk, not dead.'

'The Eight grant the Watch think so, if we meet them!'

The handles of the cart moved easily as I lifted them. Iron wheel-rims gritted over rush mats laid down on the way out of the room.

I didn't turn my head to look back at the stone golem.

Let it stay half painted: half-statue and half-man. It's all the monument Mastro Tommaso Cassai will have.

There was no rain outside. The air was damp and clear. A swollen moon hung high enough to guide us in the fetid alleys.

The cart makes it too easy, I thought. He should be more of a weight.

This is not how he expected to come home. Nor the burden he expected this cart to bear.

'We might claim he died of plague.' Rekhmire' spoke quietly, walking beside me. 'That would keep people from viewing the body...But a Roman physician would need to sign the certificate. No physician can look at him. There's no disguising an evident death by violence--'

'Murder.' My bare hands clenched on the cold wood. A sudden jolt went through me. 'Master-Rekhmire'-I've just realised! There'll be witnesses to say that he and I quarrelled. People will say, Masaccio loved the girl first...There'll be enough gossip to make us enemies; justify me having battered Masaccio to death. I could be accused of his murder. Easily!'

Rekhmire' shot me a glance from those oval, dark eyes. Even by the guttering light of the one embassy torch, I could read his agreement.



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