I was thinking about the next victim I had been paid to kill; paid very generously with Roman bloodmoney, because these Romans were loathe to sully their hands or their cognomens with the stain of bloodguilt; and how their fantasies of unlimited power perform in the arena where men hack each other apart, and women who worship a dead man, and their children with them, are fed to lions and other predators that have been carefully starved. I was thinking about the confidence my clients have in me: my professional discretion never compromises regardless how much lurid curiosity I encounter, and the precision of the death I deliver--- whether swift or slow---is never misguided; and bystanders are never targeted, nor suffer needlessly. I have studied more murders than ever I have performed--- murders both ancient, or legendary, or yesterday's news--- and I ask myself what went right, or what could have gone wrong, and how was the right accomplished, the wrong avoided. I have never harmed a woman or child in the line of work, or for fun. When I make love, I worship my partners--- never revealing to them who I am or who I have been, preventing even the slightest discomfort of flesh or emotion, because lovemaking should be a deluge of delectation as ardent as artist's inspiration. I was thinking of all this and the next scheduled murder when I saw the boy arrive in the clearing (surreptitiously, implied by the way he glanced about), and the small, whimpering dog he had bound with leather straps, and the instruments of torture he kept in a souvenir box--- the kind you can buy, and overpay for, in places like Ostia and Corinth and Ephesus.
The boy took out his instruments of torture like a successful jewel merchant showing treasues to a customer. The small dog, still bound, was panting heavily between whimpers, and its eyes darted about in terror. I knew, at once, that the small bow and short arrow-- with its tip already steeped in a slow, psinful poison--- was the most appropriate means of intervention. I took a leisurely aim and let the arrow fly before the boy could reach for the small, bound dog. Upon the sudden impact, the boy dropped to his knees and the metal objects in his hands fell from his loosened grip. When I was sure the poison had begun to work, I stepped into his line of fading sight. He looked at me as if to inquire why I had interfered; as if to answer, I looked at the small, bound dog. I had no wish to hasten the poison's slow action, although I loosed the dog, which snuggled against me as though to seek comfort after such ghastly terrors. In time, the boy's hands begin to flail, and his entire body trembled like a fly in a storm's wind. He looked at me again, his face twisted in pain's rictus. Then a loud gurgle sounded from his throat, as his limbs relaxed in death and he toppled over. And I wished the torments of hell upon him swiftly.
I took the small dog to my home in the suburbs of Rome, to present it as a gift to my lover Kalligeneia, who delighted in it and was appropriately grateful for the rescue of an unfortunate, innocent stray. Later that night, in the darkest hours of the night, after hours of slow, uninhibited love, I snuggled my sleepy Kalligeneia in my arms, with her new pet in the bed with us at our feet. And I thought about Kalligeneia's difficult past--- in childhood, brutally castrated, emasculated, who now presents as a girl in body and beauty, long hair in tight curls falling over her small breasts. I thought of how, like her dog, she had been made a victim, but no one had intervened to prevent her suffering. Nor can she help what she has been made to be, nor could I wish that she should be, now, other. And given to my responsibility is her comfort and safety, and her happiness (as much of that as I can offer her). The bastard who did that to her disappeared not many days after I met Kalligeneia, not many hours after I fell in love with her, with no hesitation for what some others might think (for most of the teeming multitudes in Rome do not think); and where that bastard's unburied carcass still rots (formerly food for some vultures and a whole tribe of flies) only I know. Kalligeneia is not to be bothered. Nothing at all must be permitted to disrupt her plands tomorrow--- a long barefoot walk with her dog in a place we know, where the grass is always well-trimmed; and, in the morning, dew-wet and sun-softened for her immediate pleasure.