RETALIO - excerpt

The first page …

‘Betrayal and collaboration used to lead automatically to a death sentence. You should be grateful this is the 1980s.’

She refused to look at me and instead jabbed her spoon into the coffee cup, almost scraping the glaze off as she rattled it round the tiny amount of liquid at the bottom.

‘Is that what you really think I’ve done, Maia Quirinia?’

‘I’m an accountant, Aurelia, used to looking at facts and figures. And the evidence against you adds up, if you’ll forgive the pun.’

This was my childhood friend, my fellow minister, one of the inner circle I had trusted with my secrets, my failures as well as my successes. The person who’d comforted me when I was nearly raped as a fifteen-year-old, whose common sense gave me balance and whose life I’d saved on the dreadful night of fires.

She looked tired; her hair was neat, but she obviously hadn’t had it cut and shaped for weeks. She’d draped her coat, pressed wool from a chain store, over the back of the chair and kept the acrylic scarf round her neck. That and the knitted gloves she would once have been embarrassed to give to a charity shop told me how hard things were for her. And it was probably the same for the rest of them.

She glanced at the wall clock. Ten past eight on a freezing December morning in a Vienna backstreet. She wriggled on the hard wooden chair. The workman’s café, warm from the fug of cigarette smoke, wasn’t the most comfortable place to start the day. It was full of people arguing about the previous evening’s football and how much everything cost, and the whirr and clatter of the coffee machines and the snappy retorts of the server trying to get to all twelve tables at once; crowded enough to drown our words.

‘I have a job interview in twenty minutes.’ She stood up. ‘I’m sorry, more than you can imagine, but this is goodbye. If any of the others find out I’ve been meeting you, I’ll be proscribed as well.’

She’d said it. That terrible word. Proscribed. Not that it meant much coming from a group of exiles stripped of authority, living on the edge of financial ruin, but it stung all the same.

Find out more …
Where to buy RETALIO

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

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