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It Looks Like Murder, Phoebe

In “The Dagger,” a story in The Deadliest Deceptions, Miriam’s deputy Phoebe and Professor Jason, the physician from the medical school, are sent to The Pegasus, a sleazy waterfront inn, to determine how a retired gladiator died.

Wiping his bloody hands on his tunic, the professor answered. “It’s a puzzle all right. The gladiator died this afternoon, no more than a few hours ago. I know because his body has lost only a little heat. And my nose tells me he was hardly intoxicated. It looks like murder—clearest case I’ve ever seen—but no one came in or out of the inn, and even together, the maid, boy, and hostess couldn’t have overpowered a man this big. And something else: His throat was slit with a pugio, the long straight-bladed dagger a gladiator uses to slit his opponent’s throat. Such a dagger, along with all the other weaponry a gladiator uses, would be the property of his gladiator school. Quite unusual to find it anywhere else. So, we’ll have to look farther. You check the window, and I’ll see whether I can find the weapon.”

The term pugio derives from the Latin term pugnus meaning fist. The word refers to the shape of the hand in the closed position necessary to hold this Roman sword. It is a double-bladed dagger with a leaf-shaped blade and a length exceeding 20 cm (almost 8 inches). The blade is covered from one end to the other with a single central nerve or with several which cross the blade in a parallel way offering solidity and consistency to the piece.

Fortunately, you won’t need a pugio to get your hands on a copy of The Deadliest Deceptions. The collection of stories will be available this fall. Just watch for its publication here:


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