The Eighth Veil

The Eighth Veil by Frederick Ramsay Read Free Book Online

Book: The Eighth Veil by Frederick Ramsay Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederick Ramsay
Tags: Mystery & Detective
that Pilate would not grant it.
    He dreaded the trip back to the palace. Murder, rape, and palace intrigue were as far from his normal life, the one he desperately wished he could return to, as the moon is from the sun. Were it not for Pilate’s reputation as an implacably brutal man who brooked no dissent, he would have folded the whole business up as an unsolvable mystery and returned to his scrolls, books, and students. As that did not appear to be a viable option, he trudged on to the palace, his timeline now reduced to seven days, one of which would be Shabbat when nothing of substance could be done. Barak met him at the gate and escorted him once again to the bath house.
    He had fulfilled his order; servants had been tasked to drain the bath. They had done so during the night. They had also been instructed to leave anything left in it undisturbed. Gamaliel stood at the bath’s edge and contemplated how best to proceed. The area was not deep and he would have no trouble entering or leaving, but there remained puddles of bloody water and all of the items in it, if any, would be similarly befouled. He sighed with resignation and lowered himself into the now empty but fetid space and began to scan the bottom. What appeared to be a scarf of some sort lay in one corner, still soggy and stained with blood. He used a stick to spread it out. The folds revealed nothing. He lifted it to the pool’s rim with the stick and resumed his search. He moved carefully across the width of the pool, back and forth, and at each transit moved one pace closer to the opposite end. He found a handful of coins of various origins and denominations which he placed in a leather pouch he wore beneath his cloak. Further along he found a ceramic medallion of foreign design. A cubit farther a cut leather thong still knotted at one point along its length lay like a soggy snake against the pool’s edge. In one corner he discovered a small cloth that served as some sort of undergarment, perhaps belonging to, and more likely lost by a woman, probably the dead girl although there was no certainty as to that. As it seemed unlikely the bathers and frolickers were segregated by gender, the Law’s proscription of sharing water with the opposite sexes had not applied to this bath, at least not on the night of the murder.
    At the far end lay what he hoped for but did not expect to find: a knife of foreign design glittered against the tiles. Judging by the gold inlay and semi-precious stones set in its handle he surmised it to be valuable and that caused him to frown as well. He lifted it carefully and set it on the ledge of the pool with the other items. It might or might not be the weapon used to finish the girl. It seemed unlikely a knife, any knife, would be left to corrode in the water on the one hand, and what sort of killer would leave the murder weapon at the scene of his crime? He also had to concede that he knew little or nothing about criminals, criminal behavior, or the likelihood one would or would not leave incriminating evidence behind. But it did seem unlikely.
    Barak announced the arrival of the steward. Gamaliel sighed again and climbed back to floor level.
    “Let us speak outside in the atrium, Steward. It is uncommonly hot and sticky in this place. Do you suppose we could have some incense burned in here until we are finished with this area?”
    Chuzas nodded and told Barak to see to it. He paused on the way out and stared at the knife. “Is that the weapon used to murder the girl?”
    “Possibly, I don’t know. Is it likely? I will not be able to say one way or the other until I have made certain tests on it.”
    In truth he had no idea how to determine if a knife, any knife, were the one that had slashed the girl’s throat. He rather hoped, but he guessed in vain, that Loukas, the clever physician, would know how to do that. In any event, he intended for the steward to believe him capable of accomplishing such a feat. The steward, he

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