Friday, July 22, 2016

Enemy of the Gods 27

The next day, Nicholas traded his fisherman’s toga for a lawyer’s robe and took his place in the hall of the magistrates. He stood beside Faustinus, the lawyer to whom he was apprenticed, and jotted notes on a wax tablet as Faustinus addressed the magistrates.

“We’ve established he is an honest man,” said Faustinus. “Those who work with him have never known him to cheat or to steal.”

The accused stood off to the side with his wife and four children, all dressed in clean but common clothes. Faustinus made sure they dressed not so rich that they might be seen as having expensive tastes that might drive them to steal, nor so shabby that they appeared desperate enough to steal.

Faustinus continued, “The accuser admits he never saw the household gods being taken. In fact,  he offers no evidence that anyone even broke into the house that night, let alone my client. All we have is the claim of the accuser’s son that he saw my client in the street, running away... on a dark, moonless night.” Faustinus paused to let that sink in. “And that he found the gods behind my client’s stall at the forum some days later.

“We’ve established that my client was at home that night, as he is every night, watching over his family. As for the discovery of the gods behind his stall, I propose that the issue at court today is not theft, but family. While each of us would like to believe everything our children tell us, we all know that this is a luxury we can ill afford.” The accuser seemed to blush at this, and his son shifted uncomfortably. Nicholas restrained a grin, appreciating how deftly Faustinus had shifted the argument back on the accuser. He went on, “We have heard his story, but what do we actually know? We know that the gods disappeared from his home, and that they next appeared in the hands of his son. The simplest, most compelling explanation for the facts is that his own son took them. Why else would his son accuse my client but to cover his own guilt?”

After a brief deliberation, the magistrates declared a verdict of not guilty. The client and his family let out sighs of relief. They happily turned to leave with Faustinus and Nicholas. Once outside, the man cried out on the steps, “Praise the Lord Chris—”

“Hshh!” interrupted Faustinus. He said in a whisper, “Let us save those words for another place.” The man nodded. He quietly paid his fee and was gone.

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