23,688
07.03.2019

“I mean the man,” said Vimes wearily.

“Nnnnn,” said Brother Fingers.

Colon peered under the hood. "Oh, I know him,

sir,“ he said. ”Bengy ‘Lightfoot’ Boggis, sir. He’s a capo de monty in the Thieves’ Guild. I know him of old, sir. Sly little bugger. Used to work at the University."

“What, as a wizard?” said Vimes.

“Odd job man, sir. Gardening and carpentry and that.”

“Oh. Did he?”

“Can’t we do something for the poor man?” said Lady Ramkin.

Nobby saluted smartly. “I could kick him in the bollocks for you if you like, m’lady.”

“Dddrrr,” said Brother Fingers, beginning to shake uncontrollably, while Lady Ramkin smiled the iron-hard blank smile of a high-born lady who is determined not to show that she has understood what has just been said to her.

“Put him in the coach, you two,” said Vimes. “If it’s all right with you, Lady Ramkin-”

“-Sybil-” corrected Lady Ramkin. Vimes blushed, and plunged on-“it might be a good idea to get him indoors. Charge him with the theft of one book, to wit, The Summoning of Dragons. ”

“Right you are, sir,” said Sergeant Colon. “The pizzas’re getting cold, too. You know how the cheese goes all manky when it gets cold.”

“And no kicking him, either,” Vimes warned. “Not even where it doesn’t show. Carrot, you come with me.”

“DDddrrraa,” Brother Fingers volunteered.

“And take Errol,” added Vimes. “He’s driving himself mad here. Game little devil, I’ll give him that.”

“Marvellous, when you come to think about it,” said Colon.

Errol was trotting up and down in front of the ravaged building, whining.

“Look at him,” said Vimes. “Can’t wait to get to grips.” His gaze found itself drawn, as though by wires, up to the rolling clouds of fog.

It’s in there somewhere, he thought.

“What we going to do now, sir?” said Carrot, as the carriage rattled off.

“Not nervous, are you?” said Vimes.

“No, sir.”

The way he said it jogged something in Vimes’s mind.

“No,” he said, “you’re not, are you? I suppose it’s being brought up by the dwarfs that did it. You’ve got no imagination.”

“I’m sure I try to do my best, sir,” said Carrot firmly.

“Still sending all your pay home to your mother?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re a good boy.”

“Yessir. So what are we going to do, Captain Vimes?” Carrot repeated.

Vimes looked around him. He walked a few aimless, exasperated steps. He spread his arms wide and then flopped them down by his sides.

“How should I know?” he said. “Warn people, I guess. We’d better get over to the Patrician’s palace. And then-”

There were footsteps in the fog. Vimes stiffened, put his finger to his lips and pulled Carrot into the shelter of a doorway.

A figure loomed out of the billows.

Another one of ’em, thought Vimes. Well, there’s no law about wearing long black robes and deep cowls. There could be dozens of perfectly innocent reasons why this person is wearing long black robes and a deep cowl and standing in front of a melted-down house at dawn.

Perhaps I should ask him to name just one.

He stepped out.

“Excuse me, sir-” he began.

The cowl swung around. There was a hiss of indrawn breath.

‘ ‘I just wonder if you would mind-after him, lance-constable! ”

The figure had a good start. It scuttled along the street and had reached the corner before Vimes was halfway there. He skidded around it in time to see a shape vanish down an alley.

Vimes realised he was running alone. He panted to a halt and looked back just in time to see Carrot jog gently around the corner.

“What’s wrong?” he wheezed.

“Sergeant Colon said I wasn’t to run,” said Carrot.

Vimes looked at him vaguely. Then slow comprehension dawned.

“Oh,” he said. “I, er, see. I don’t think he meant in every circumstance, lad.” He stared back into the fog. “Not that we had much of a chance in this fog and these streets.”

“Might have been just an innocent bystander, sir,” said Carrot.

“What, in Ankh-Morpork?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We should have grabbed him, then, just for the rarity value,” said Vimes.

He patted Carrot on the shoulder. “Come on. We’d better get along to the Patrician’s palace.”

“The King’s palace,” corrected Carrot.

“What?” said Vimes, his train of thought temporarily shunted.

“It’s the King’s palace now,” said Carrot. Vimes squinted sideways at him.

He gave a short, mirthless laugh.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he conceded. “Our dragon-killing king. Well done that man.” He sighed. “They’re not going to like this.”

They didn’t. None of them did.

The first problem was the palace guard.

Vimes had never liked them. They’d never liked him. Okay, so maybe the rank were only one step away from petty scofflaws, but in Vimes’s professional opinion the palace guard these days were only one step away from being the worst criminal scum the city had ever produced. A step further down. They’d have to reform a bit before they could even be considered for inclusion in the Ten Most Unwanted list.

They were rough. They were tough. They weren’t the sweepings of the gutter, they were what you still found sticking to the gutter when the gutter sweepers had given up in exhaustion. They had been extremely well-paid by the Patrician, and presumably were extremely well-paid by someone else now, because when Vimes walked up to the gates a couple of them stopped lounging against the walls and straightened up while still maintaining just the right amount of psychological slouch to cause maximum offense.

“Captain Vimes,” said Vimes, staring straight ahead. “To see the king. It’s of the utmost importance.”

“Yeah? Well, it’d have to be,” said a guard. “Captain Slimes, was it?”

“Vimes,” said Vimes evenly. “With a Vee.”

One of the guards nodded to his companion.

“Vimes,” he said. “With a Vee.”

“Fancy,” said the other guard.

“It’s most urgent,” said Vimes, maintaining a wooden expression. He tried to move forward.

The first guard sidestepped neatly and pushed him sharply in the chest.

“No-one is going nowhere,” he said. “Orders of the king, see? So you can push off back to your pit, Captain Vimes with a Vee.”

It wasn’t the words which made up Vimes’s mind. It was the way the other man sniggered.

“Stand aside,” he said.

The guard leaned down. “Who’s going to make me,” he rapped on Vimes’s helmet, “copper?”

There are times when it is a veritable pleasure to drop the bomb right away.

“Lance-constable Carrot, I want you to charge these men,” said Vimes.

Carrot saluted. “Very good, sir,” he said, and turned and trotted smartly back the way they had come.

“Hey!” shouted Vimes, as the boy disappeared around a corner.

“That’s what I like to see,” said the first guard, leaning on his speak. “That’s a young man with initiative, that young man. A bright lad. He doesn’t want to stop along here and have his ears twisted off. That’s a young man who’s going to go a long way, if he’s got any sense.”

“Very sensible,” said the other guard.

He leaned the spear against the wall.

“You Watch men make me want to throw up,” he said conversationally. “Poncing around all the time, never doing a proper job of work. Throwing your weight about as if you counted for something. So me and Clarence are going to show you what real guarding is all about, isn’t that right?”

I could just about manage one of them, Vimes thought as he took a few steps backward. If he was facing the other way, at least.

Clarence propped his spear against the gateway and spat on his hands.

There was a long, terrifying ululation. Vimes was amazed to realise it wasn’t coming from him.

Carrot appeared around the corner at a dead run. He had a felling axe in either hand.

His huge leather sandals flapped on the cobblestones as he bounded closer, accelerating all the time. And all the time there was this cry, deedahdeedahdeedah, like something caught in a trap at the bottom of a two-tone echo canyon.

The two palace guards stood rigid with astonishment.

“I should duck, if I was you,” said Vimes from near ground level.

The two axes left Carrot’s hands and whirred through the air making a noise like a brace of partridges. One of them hit the palace gate, burying half the head in the woodwork. The other one hit the shaft of the first one, and split it. Then Carrot arrived.

Vimes went and sat down on a nearby bench for a while, and rolled himself a cigarette.

Eventually he said, “I think that’s about enough, constable. I think they’d like to come quietly now.”

“Yes, sir. What are they accused of, sir?” said Carrot, holding one limp body in either hand.

“Assaulting an officer of the Watch in the execution of his duty and … oh, yes. Resisting arrest.”

“Under Section (vii) of the Public Order Act of 1457?” said Carrot.

“Yes,” said Vimes solemnly. “Yes. Yes, I suppose so.”

“But they didn’t resist very much, sir,” Carrot pointed out.

“Well, attempting to resist arrest. I should just leave them over by the wall until we come back. I don’t expect they’ll want to go anywhere.”

“Right you are, sir.”

“Don’t hurt them, mind,” said Vimes. “You mustn’t hurt prisoners.”

“That’s right, sir,” said Carrot, conscientiously. “Prisoners once Charged have Rights, sir. It says so in the Dignity of Man (Civic Rights) Act of 1341. I keep telling Corporal Nobbs. They have Rights, I tell him. This means you do not Put the Boot in.”

“Very well put, constable.”

Carrot looked down. “You have the right to remain silent,” he said. “You have the right not to injure yourself falling down the steps on the way to the cells. You have the right not to jump out of high windows. You do not have to say anything, you see, but any thing you do say, well, I have to take it down and it might be used in evidence.” He pulled out his notebook and licked his pencil. He leaned down further.

“Pardon?” he said. He looked up at Vimes.

“How do you spell ‘groan’, sir?” he said.

“G-R-O-N-E, I think.”

“Very good, sir.”

"Oh, and constable?’

“Yes, sir?”

“Why the axes?”

“They were armed, sir. I got them from the blacksmith in Market Street, sir. I said you’d be along later to pay for them.”

“And the cry?” said Vimes weakly.

“Dwarfish war yodel, sir,” said Carrot proudly.

“It’s a good cry,” said Vimes, picking his words with care. “But I’d be grateful if you’d warn me first another time, all right?”

“Certainly, sir.”

❮❯