Authors: Gary Corby
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #Cozy
The Pericles Commission
The Ionia Sanction
Copyright © 2014 Gary Corby
All rights reserved.
First published in the United States in 2014
Soho Press, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The Marathon conspiracy / Gary Corby.
1. Nicolaos (Fictitious character : Corby)—Fiction. 2. Diotima (Legendarycharacter)—Fiction. 3. Hippias, -490 B.C.—Fiction. 4. Private investigators—Greece—Athens—Fiction. 5. Girls—Crimes against—Fiction. 6. Missing children—Fiction. 7. Skull—Fiction. 8. Greece—History—Athenian supremacy, 479–431 B.C.—Fiction.
Interior design by Janine Agro, Soho Press, Inc.
Map illustration by Katherine Grames
For my own Little Bears, Catriona and Megan
OME NAMES FROM
the classical world remain in use to this day, such as Ophelia and Doris. Others are familiar anyway because they’re famous people, like Socrates and Pericles. And some names look slightly odd, names such as Antobius and Gaïs. I hope you’ll say each name however sounds happiest to you, and have fun reading the story. For those who’d like a little more guidance, I’ve suggested a way to say each name in the character list. My suggestions do not match ancient pronounciation. They’re how I think the names will sound best in an English sentence. That’s all you need to read the book!
Characters with an asterisk by their name were real historical people.
|Our protagonist||“I am Nicolaos, son of Sophroniscus.”|
|A politician||“I suppose you’re wondering why there’s a skull on my desk.”|
|An irritant||“Nico, I don’t think this can be right.”|
|A priestess of Artemis, fiancée to Nicolaos||“I’ll just hit him again, shall I?”|
|A dead schoolgirl||“Allike was one of the smart ones. She could read anything.”|
|A missing schoolgirl||“Why did Ophelia say someone wanted her dead?”|
The modern Zeke
|A handyman||“It’s obvious I’m too old to be any use.”|
The modern Thea
|High Priestess of the Sanctuary of Artemis||“Age does terrible things.”|
The modern Doris
|A priestess of Artemis|
(the nice one)
|“What are you doing with that goat?”|
The modern Sabina
|A priestess of Artemis|
(the bossy one)
|“No immorality in front of the girls!”|
|A priestess of Artemis|
(the naked one)
|“Do you know what they drink in Hades? They drink dust.”|
|A tyrant||He’s dead. Very dead.|
|A veteran of Marathon. Also, he writes plays||“I write military adventure. That, and family drama like this trilogy I’m doing now. Dysfunctional families slaughtering one another. You know the sort of thing.”|
|A veteran of Marathon. Also, he’s the richest man in Athens||“Don’t push the limits of my bodyguards, Nico. Just point and say ‘kill.’ ”|
|Chief of the city guard of Athens, future father-in-law of Nicolaos||“Dear Gods, boy, didn’t I teach you anything?”|
|Father of Nicolaos||“I see you’re bent on self-destruction. Well, most young men are, I suppose.”|
|Mother of Nicolaos, future mother-in-law of Diotima||“It’s a good thing Diotima is joining us. It’s going to take the two of us to keep you alive. You obviously can’t do it on your own.”|
|Mother of Diotima, a social climber||“I was thinking for the wedding guests, something along the lines of all the best families in Athens.”|
(origin of our word “Basilica”)
|The city official in charge of religious affairs||“Don’t you have anything better to do than take up my time?”|
|Assistant to the Basileus||“Record tablets are paid for out of public monies. There’s plenty more where that comes from.”|
|Melo||A forlorn fiancé||“I’m not going to shirk my duties just because they’re not official yet.”|
|Sim||A farm manager||“If it weren’t for me, Pericles would be broke.”|
|Ascetos the Healer|
|A doctor||“I’ve lost count of how many people have died on that couch …”|
|Father of Ophelia||“Take my advice, young man, and avoid both borrowing and lending. These new-fangled bank businesses seem to be springing up all over the place, but frankly, I see no future for Athens in banking.”|
|Father of Allike||“Get out of my way!”|
|Mother of Allike||“What can I do? Tend the grave of my daughter and care for my family.”|
|Mother of Ophelia||“I pray to every god that will listen that I will not soon wear my hair like Aposila.”|
|Blossom||A donkey||If someone called me Blossom, I’d probably bite him too.|
Assorted thugs, slaves, agora idlers, dodgy salesmen, wedding guests, and uncontrollable schoolgirls.
keep a human skull on his desk, but there was one there now. The skull lay upon a battered old scroll case and stared at me with a vacant expression, as if it were bored by the whole process of being dead.
I stood mute, determined not to mention the skull. Pericles had a taste for theatrics, and I saw no reason to pander to it.
Pericles sat behind the desk, a man of astonishing good looks but for the shape of his head, which was unnaturally elongated. This one blemish seemed a fair bargain for someone on whom the gods had bestowed almost every possible talent, yet Pericles was as vain as a woman about his head and frequently wore a hat to cover it. He didn’t at the moment, though; he knew there was no point trying to impress me.
In the lengthening silence, he eventually said, “I suppose you’re wondering why there’s a skull on my desk.”
I was tempted to say, “What skull?” But I knew he’d never believe it. So instead I said, “It does rather stand out. A former enemy?”
“I’m not sure. You might be right.”
I blinked. I thought I’d been joking.
“We have a problem, Nicolaos.” Pericles picked up the skull and set it aside to reveal the case beneath, which he handed to me. “This case came with the skull.”
I turned the scroll case this way and that to examine every part without opening the flap. It was made of leather that looked as if it had been nibbled by generations of mice. Clearly it was very old.
The case was the sort that held more than one scroll: five, I estimated from the size, five cylindrical scrolls held side by side. The surface on the back of the case was much less damaged than the front, but dry and cracked; this leather hadn’t been oiled in a long time.
I said, “The case has been lying on its back for many years. Perhaps decades. Probably in a dry place such as a cupboard.”
Pericles tapped his desk. “The skull and the case were sent to Athens by a priestess from the temple at Brauron. Brauron is a fishing village on the east coast. The accompanying note from the priestess who sent it said that two girl-children had discovered a complete skeleton in a cave, and that lying beside it was this case. For what macabre reason the priestess thought we’d want the skull I can’t imagine, but the contents of the case are of interest. Open the flap.”
Inside were four scrolls, and one empty slot. I removed one of the scrolls and unrolled it a little. I was worried the parchment might be brittle and crack, but it rolled well enough, despite its age. This was high-quality papyrus, no doubt imported at great expense from Egypt.
I read a few words, then a few more, unwinding as I did. The scroll was full of dates, places, people. Notes of obvious sensitivity. I saw the names of men who I knew for a fact had died decades ago. Whatever this was, it dated from before the democracy. In fact, if what I read was genuine, these notes referred to the years when Athens was ruled by a tyrant, and the author—
I looked up at Pericles, startled.
He read my expression. “I believe you’re holding the private notes of Hippias, the last tyrant of Athens.”
Hippias had ruled many years before I was born. He was so hated that men still spoke about how awful he was; so hated that the people had rebelled against him. He ran to the Persians, who sent an army to reinstate him, so they could rule over Athens via the deposed tyrant. The Athenians and the Persians met upon
the beach at Marathon, where we won a mighty victory to retain our freedom.