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The Eye of Cybele


The Ancient Greek thriller from the author of Adios Muchachos, winner of an Edgar Award.

$16.95 $12.71

Excerpt from The Eye of Cybele

Chapter 1

A young slave could be bought for two hundred drachmas. A well-trained Molossian hound cost five hundred.

Well-trained meant that he would always bite on the buttocks and deliver his captive alive and free of fractures.

The Assembly had issued an ordinance providing that anyone who kept a loose Molossian at a distance of less than one stadium from public places would be fined fifteen drachmas. On the streets of Athens, the guards had orders to confiscate all wandering Molossians, no matter who the negligent owner might be.

Molossians were lazy and rather boring dogs. They didn’t even bark, although they yawned a lot when they woke up. They even yawned while they were walking around. And sudden confrontations with those impressive jaws spread wide and gaping down to the uvula had already caused too many fits and near-strokes in the City. Yes, fines had to be severe.

Even wolves shied away from Molossians, these beasts of a single bite. If they chanced to miss their initial attack on the victim’s jugular, they would latch onto the muzzle, the chest, or the stomach, and once their jaws locked, they would howl through the nose and tear at the flesh matter-of-factly until the piece came off.

In their rugged home country back in Molossia, they were known to lock onto large game and let themselves be dragged over cliffs or drowned in mountain rivers rather than let go of their victim. The shepherds knew where to find them, days later, floating in the lower course of the Arachthus, corpses with unflinching jaws.

They were bigger than wolves, and stronger. The hind molars, which they used only to kill, never to chew, could lock together so tightly that the dogs had to slide their jaws sideways, like oxen chewing cud, to get them apart. And they could nip off a man’s wrist with a single chomp.

Molossians could be seen wandering over their snow-covered mountains, alone or in pairs, but they were always loyal to the scattered pack. As soon as one of them bit onto a victim, the pack would hear the howling and move in, yawning all the way, to get a piece of the feast or the fight. That was why the local wolves, even when traveling in packs, gave lone Molossians a wide berth.

In Athens they were trained to catch runaway slaves. They learned to fast until they caught their victim and then to give up those juicy buttocks in exchange for pig’s or goat’s liver and heart, which the kennel master hurried to throw them as soon as their job was done. They then proceeded to devour their prize while the prisoner was being put in irons.

But never, since they had begun to serve the City, had the Molossians had to fast as long as during that month of Scirophorion, when the order went out to hunt down the beggar of the Goddess.
Chapter 2

Truncheon and Lysis liked to make love in the afternoon, before the clients began to come in, but that night Lysis got home at the crack of dawn and slipped into Truncheon’s room with her ointments and perfumes, and, ugh, she should never have agreed to go with her flute to Timarcus’s house, and Truncheon undressing her, and Lysis with her hand on her hips, oh, if Truncheon only knew what a rotten scrape she had been through, but who could ever imagine that the Acarnanian ambassador’s mouth would smell so putrid, and Truncheon listening and stroking her all the while, because from a distance the Acarnanian looked attractive, but when you got within range of his drunken emanations, gagh, and Lysis, still on her feet, anointing her underarms with minted mastic oil, letting Truncheon unfasten her bracelets and the brooch at the back of her neck, and the Acarnanian had first offered two hundred drachmas for the night, and Truncheon caressing her waist and taking off the lavender-scented peplus, and then he had gone up to two hundred and fifty, and Truncheon all over her neck, and then to three hundred, but Lysis had begun to play and dance to keep him away while she prayed for the arrival of dawn, and the younger Acarnanian would not keep still, and every time Lysis danced by the couch he would caress her buttocks, and she complained to Timarcus that if they went on kneading her she would take her flute and leave, and the ambassador offering three hundred drachmas, very drunk, and Truncheon, on her knees to take off one of her anklets, listening and nibbling at the most perfect hams in Athens, and Lysis would have taken him for a fortune if he had not smelled like a corpse, phew, her mouth tasted like a latrine just from imagining one of his kisses, and she kept saying yes, to be patient, that as soon as she finished they would be together, but she was going to disappear at first light, and the other slob just would not leave her ass alone and had pinched her, just let Truncheon look at the mark, and then Lysis had whacked him across the forehead with a silver chalice, and the uproar and the row, and Euclid, the fighter, perhaps Truncheon remembered him, had defended her until Otep got there with the dog, and she, feeling protected, had made them wash her feet, dress her, and put her sandals on, and she had left without being paid, ah, but Timarcus would have to pay double for getting her mixed up with vile-smelling heathens, as if she were common whorehouse fare, and Truncheon lowering the flame to the point where it made wrinkles invisible and accented Lysis’s nacreous pinkish hues, and the Acarnanians fuming, and Timarcus screaming, Euclid protecting, and finally Otep and that monster dog to the rescue, oh, how Truncheon suffered when Lysis had engagements that took her out of the house, the horror of another crisis of her sickness with no one to help her, in that City, where banquets broke up in fights over women, but she had to be coddled, she was as fickle as the Aegean in the autumn, and to keep her, Truncheon tolerated her whims, escapades, infidelities, and slights, but with each passing day, the web of love became stronger and the mesh of care and affection brought her closer, and surely Truncheon couldn’t guess whom Lysis had run into on the Street of the Stonecutters, why Alcibiades, Clinias’s son, who had cantered past her on his white stallion without so much as a glance, yes, another snub, and he had violets in his hair, a woman riding behind him and a train of admirers trailing along, and Lysis was suddenly seized by the notion to seduce him and offer his humiliation up to Aphrodite Pandemos, didn’t Truncheon think the Goddess herself had inspired that thought? and that very instant Lysis took an oath, body and soul, to offer him as a victim, and Truncheon shuddered at the news but never dared say a word for fear of angering her or chilling her ardors that night that she had come of her own volition, and all the while listening and caressing, after months of living together, Truncheon had never feared any rival, but Alcibiades was a notorious favorite of Eros, wiser in the wiles of love than an old courtesan, and all the City knew that he had been tyrannizing lovers ever since he was a child, Lysis could never humiliate him before Aphrodite, Truncheon knew that all too well, there wasn’t a woman in the City who could seduce him, and Lysis would wind up the victim, oh, rash, stubborn, unthinking child, how to make her understand that she was too green for that master rogue, and Truncheon would also come out the loser, for Alcibiades was eighteen and Truncheon was thirty-five, and Lysis naked in the bed, cupping her breasts, closing her eyes and begging to be caressed, Alcibiades, with his blond curls, was the most beautiful youth in the City, while Truncheon had to use wigs and perform miracles to keep the crow’s feet from showing, and Lysis on her stomach now, her bent arm framing her perfect profile, oh, rounded legs, oh, taut and graceful tendons, Alcibiades was of an illustrious Athenian family, a godson of Pericles, while Truncheon was not even Athenian, caressing that torso that might tomorrow belong to Alcibiades, and in three years, when he came into his inheritance from Clinias and Deinomache, Alcibiades would be much richer than Truncheon, and he was bold and graceful, a Panathenian champion, a favorite of Pallas, the son of a hero, a formidable enemy, and Lysis was determined to find out about his life and to have Otep follow him around, and as soon as she was certain that he had been invited to a feast, she would show up in full make-up, with her finest jewels, but Truncheon, senses overwhelmed by the smell of Lysis’s lush blossoming sex, was no longer listening, oh, may the Gods make that sweet child respond again to those tender kisses, and thinking about Alcibiades, and Truncheon thinking about Aphrodite, Sweet-Rump of the Temple of Solon, the only one who could compare to the callipygian splendor of this beautiful doll, this morsel, this delight that now turned on her back, loving, legs apart, breasts erect, gasping for love, oh, yes, Truncheon would fight for her with every trick and artifice, would buy whatever service was required, whether filter or dagger, would risk everything to keep her, Alcibiades would never have her, and now Truncheon adjusted the short saffron wig and the Amorgos linen she wore to flatten her generous breasts when making love to Lysis of Miletus.