The Library, Chapter Five
(The walk home from the restaurant with David and the Custodian minus Fabia.)
“Well, you could, thankfully for the rest of us it was only one room away. I felt sorry for Catherine,” Marius said quietly.
“She was insane to challenge him,” Auticus said.
“Madness ran in the family,” Celer pointed out.
“Isabella was a fanatic,” Paulinus agreed. “You wouldn’t want to cross her.”
“She was good on a horse though,” Auticus added.
“And at other forms of riding,” Junius said with a leering grin. “Or so I heard,” he added.
“Junius, please don’t debase a good queen’s memory with your lewd comments,” Marius said with a sigh.
“Actually,” Celer said adjusting David a little, “I meant Johanna, her sister.”
“Ah, but who wouldn’t go mad married to Philip the Fair.” Auticus said. “He went after everything, men, women, donkeys and sheep, anything except Marius.”
“He thought I was a priest.”
“Ha! That didn’t stop him,” Junius said. “Nor has it stopped priests for that matter.”
“Junius, please have some respect for where we are,” Marius chided with an impatient edge to his voice.
“What, this stinking fetid seat of holy pious corruption?” Junius replied with a glint of malice in his eye.
“Please, not here in public,” Marius told him. “We’re nearly home. Save your spleen for then.”
“You told them often enough, Marius, you often reminded popes and cardinals of their corruption and how the original holy fathers would be turning in their graves,” Auticus said.
“Yes, and nearly got his tongue cut out by John the Twelfth, one of our own people, until Junius sweet-talked him out of it,” Celer said.
“That made him worse because he knew the history. And thank you, Junius,” Marius said stiffly.
“I soon regretted it. It would have been quiet without you nagging whilst your tongue grew back,” he said with a grin.
“Even Joshua Bah Joseph himself would be mortified by his so-called later day followers,” Celer added.
“Who are Josh, Ben and Joseph?” David asked, finally speaking up as the air began to revive him somewhat.
“I thought Elliot said that you went to university,” Junius said.
“Nah, Elliot found him sweeping up in the lecture hall and got confused,” Paulinus called from behind with a grin.
By now they were only a few metres from home and a very relieved Marius hurried ahead to get the door open and the noisy drunkards inside. But as soon as the door was open he stopped, and waited for Junius who wasn’t far behind. “I think we have a guest,” Marius said holding the door open. “Someone’s inside. I think…”
Before he could finish Junius had moved past him and entered the building. The others waited outside, their body language changing swiftly as the tone of the night changed.
David hung his head, unable to sober up like the rest seemed to be doing. Celer was supporting him, but the Custodian was now alert and listening to what was going on. Vaguely David heard Marius inform the others they could go in, but he was determined to prove he wasn’t that bad, so he somehow managed to make it up the stairs with only minimal help from Celer.
The Keres, Chapter Five
They packed away soon after that and on the way home, Celer went off to get some rolls for breakfast. Once back at the apartment, Marius made coffee and they sat around the table having breakfast together, but it was quiet and muted, not the excitable drunken celebration David had been anticipating.
After a while Junius left the group and fell asleep on the sofa, but no one batted an eye at that or made any comment. And the Custodians continued chatting about everyday things, not reminiscing as David had believed they might do.
After about an hour, Marius stood up. “I’m going to watch something.”
“What have you in mind?” Celer asked.
The Custodian seemed thoughtful. “I think I’ll watch The Shawshank Redemption. I like that film.”
“I’ll join you,” Auticus decided, rising to his feet.
“Might as well,” Paulinus agreed.
“I’ll take sleepyhead to bed,” Fabia said to them. “I might join you later.”
“David?” Celer asked. “Are you going to watch the film with us?”
“I’ve already seen it,” David said.
“So have we,” Marius replied and wandered off to the lounge.
David thought about it as he watched Fabia gently wake Junius and coax him to get up and go up the stairs. This wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. It was strangely muted and gentle, but then if it was the best of days, to relax and watch a film in the morning was a pleasant way to spend the time. It certainly beat working. You didn’t have to have wild drunken parties or orgies to enjoy yourself and considering how old the group were they’d probably spent lifetimes doing that and now wanted something a bit tamer.
He ought to read, but Auticus was digging in the cupboard for snacks despite having had breakfast less than an hour ago. To go off by himself might seem churlish, so he went over and helped.
When the film finished, Paulinus immediately wanted to see something else, but Celer said, “One is enough for me. I’ll make some coffee,”
“Good idea,” Iulius said. “Thank you and I’ll check with Natalia to see where she is.”
“What do you want to see?” Marius asked Paulinus.
The stout Roman shrugged and went over to a cupboard which David knew contained DVDs. They waited as Paulinus searched and Iulius stood at the door speaking quietly in Italian on his phone.
“This one, I think. It sets the right tone,” the Custodian declared, standing up with a film in his hand.
“I can’t see it if you wave it around,” Marius complained.
“Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s creepy but good.”
“Fine with me,” Marius said as Paulinus went over to put it on. David settled back happy to watch and stay in this comfortable bubble of indulgence. It was like being a student again after you’d completed an essay; that lovely freedom of liberty with nothing hanging over you.
Soon after the film started, Iulius sat back down again. “She’s back and she’ll phone before she leaves.”
“What time is she aiming to get here?” Marius asked. “Still twelve-ish?”
Iulius nodded. “She might be a bit later. But around then.”
David watched but as the film began he realised that they were going to watch it in its original Spanish without the subtitles.
“Um, I’m sorry, but do you mind turning on the English subtitles? I don’t understand Spanish well enough to keep up with the plot.”
They all leapt forward. “Sorry, David, we didn’t think,” Marius said, as Paulinus reached for the remote control and soon had the subtitles up for him.
“Thank you,” he said, settling down to watch, even though he’d seen the film before.
Celer brought in drinks for them but then went off again and Fabia didn’t come back downstairs. Soon David was busting for the loo, so without drawing attention to himself he went to the washroom by the stairs. The three Custodians who were watching were so absorbed in the film they didn’t even notice. David had to smile at their almost childlike concentration and it made him realise that he took films and music like that for granted having known them all his life. But they would have lived most of their lives without this kind of recorded entertainment so he wondered if it was still an amazing achievement to them. Though they did seem to be keeping up with modern technology incredibly well.
The Keres, Chapter Nine
“Now Natalia reads hers,” Iulius said ignoring Fabia. “Hers is amusing.” Immediately they all were quiet and looked expectantly towards her.
The girl smiled shy and began to read. “Marius and Angela Merkel, met in the STD clinic, he said; ‘get your coat you’ve pulled’ and she said, ‘are you partial to a bit of dogging?’ The consequences are that they had one hundred children all called Albert and they formed a crap band called, wait for it Albert Dross.”
They all groaned, but before any one could read more,