Dagger For Sale
Geremia drew the Roman parazonium dagger across the sharpening stone a final time. Shaving a dark curl of hair from his forearm he nodded, satisfied. Tomorrow, he would introduce it to that rich cow from Thyatira.
“Are you sure she will come to the Gangitis tomorrow, Geremia?”
“Tomorrow is a Sabbath day according to the Jews, Mario. Lydia is a Godfearer. She will be first to the river bank. She worships there with some Jews and other women because they have no synagogue. I have spied on her many times.”
“She will come by herself?”
“Some of her servants accompany her. After they spread rugs and coverings, they leave. She will be alone for a while, praying. I will kill her then.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lydia awakened and rejoiced at the sunlight streaming through the curtained window. After washing her face, she picked up a twig of aromatic chew-stick and freshened her breath. “Eva! The Sabbath is dawning. Help me dress.”
Her servant nimbly sprang into the room and assisted Lydia into a white tunica. After wrapping an ankle length pale blue stola around Lydia, Eva fastened it securely with two ornate gold pins, leaving her shoulders bare. Her mistress would select the necklace and rings but… “Do you want a hairpiece? I added dark hair from the Italian servant girl to this one.” Eva held it up. “It will make your hair fuller.”
“Thank you, Eva. Help me get it on and bring the bronze mirror.”
After adding perfume, some carefully applied makeup and eye shadow, Lydia reached for a blue shawl. “Oh!” she said to Eva, “A seller of purple should advertise, don’t you think? Get my purple belt.” Trying it first around her hips, then her waist, she decided it looked best beneath her breasts and tied it there.
“You are beautiful, my mistress,” Eva said, and she meant it. Lydia might be middle-aged, taller than most women, but her commanding presence, sparkling dark eyes and quick smile endeared her to most people. The few that hated her mistress for being a successful business woman and rich dared not do so publicly.
Lydia walked outside. Her servants were waiting with a donkey loaded with rugs, a basket full of figs, dates, nuts, cheese and a wineskin. With a nod of her head, they followed her on the Egnatian Way, eventually turning off on a trail leading to the river.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Wait! Mario” Geremia said, peering around the boulder that hid them. “Her servants are leaving but two men approach. I’ve never seen these Jews. How can this happen? I want to kill her so bad I can taste it.”
“If not this Sabbath, then another, Geremia. What’s the difference?”
“I’m moving closer, Mario. I want to hear what they are saying. If they leave soon, we act.”
Geremia didn’t hear it all, but he heard Lydia telling the one named Paul that she left servants in Thyatira in charge of her flax fields and linen weavers, the indigo dyeing vats and madden root harvesters. She said the synagogue priest refused her becoming a proselyte because she was a leader in the dyers guild. The guild honored Trimnos, the sun god, at feats.
She moved her headquarters to Philippi and now produced “purple of the ancients” from shell fish. Her workers harvested the murex shells, processing them in decomposing vats. She controlled the process from start to finish, receiving linen from Thyatira. Tomorrow, the emperor’s tailor would purchase a purple toga she had finished, trading silver equal to its weight.
“Strange,” Lydia said, “but after all I’ve accomplished, something is missing in my life.”
Paul said something about a Damascus Road, and they continued talking earnestly. Others arrived and joined in, asking questions and listening to Paul and the other man.
Amazingly, Paul waded into waist deep water, extending his hand to Lydia. When she stood beside him he proclaimed, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Lydia stood, water cascading from her clothing. Unnoticed, her purple belt floated downstream.
The beautiful smile on Lydia’s mascara-smeared face was unsettling to Geremia. Something had happened, though he could not say what. The joy radiating from Lydia pulled him from his hiding place.
“Come, Mario. I want what she has. Perhaps that man will talk to me.” He slid the dagger into a sheath hidden in his toga.
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