Night Watch Page 2

'All dwarfs. Stronginthearm wasn't even on duty, sir. He'd signed off and was picking up a rat pie and chips from a shop and walked out straight into Carcer. The devil stabbed him in the neck and ran for it. He must've thought we'd found him.'

'We've been looking for the man for weeksl And he bumped into poor old Stronginthearm when all the dwarf was thinking of was his breakfast? Is Angua on the trail?'

'Up to a point, sir,' said Carrot awkwardly. 'Why only up to a point?'

'He - well, we assume it was Carcer - dropped an aniseed bomb in Sator Square. Almost pure oil.' Vimes sighed. It was amazing how people adapted. The Watch had a werewolf. That news had got around, in an underground kind of way. And so the criminals had evolved to survive in a society where the law had a very sensitive nose. Scent bombs were the solution. They didn't have to be that dramatic. You just dropped a little flask of pure peppermint or aniseed in the street where a lot of people would walk over it, and suddenly Sergeant Angua was facing a hundred, a thousand criss-crossing trails, and went to bed with a terrible headache. He listened glumly as Carrot reported on men brought off leave or put on double shift, on informers pumped, pigeons stooled, grasses rustled, fingers held to the wind, ears put on the street. And he knew how little it all added up to. They still had fewer than a hundred men in the Watch, and that was including the canteen lady. There were a million people in the city, and a billion places to hide. Ankh-Morpork was built of bolt- holes. Besides, Carcer was a nightmare. Vimes was used to the other kinds of nut jobs, the ones that acted quite normally right up to the point where they hauled off and smashed someone with a poker for blowing their nose noisily. But Carcer was different. He was in two minds, but instead of them being in conflict, they were in competition. He had a demon on both shoulders, urging one another on. And yet... he smiled all the time, in a cheerful chirpy sort of way, and he acted like the kind of rascal who made a dodgy living selling gold

watches that go green after a week. And he appeared to be convinced, utterly convinced, that he never did anything really wrong. He'd stand there amid the carnage, blood on his hands and stolen jewellery in his pocket, and with an expression of injured innocence declare, 'Me? What did I do?' And it was believable right up until you looked hard into those cheeky, smiling eyes, and saw, deep down, the demons looking back. . . . but you mustn't spend too much time looking at those eyes, because that'd mean you'd taken your eyes off his hands, and by now one of them held a knife. It was hard for the average copper to deal with people like that. They expected people, when heavily outnumbered, to give in or try to deal or at least just stop moving. They didn't expect people to kill for a five- dollar watch. (A hundred dollar watch, now, that'd be different. This was Ankh-Morpork, after all.) 'Was Stronginthearm married?' he said. 'No, sir. Lived in New Cobblers with his parents.' Parents, thought Vimes. That made it worse. 'Anyone been to tell them?' he asked. 'And don't say it was Nobby. We don't want any repeat of that “bet you a dollar you're the widow Jackson” nonsense.'

'I went, sir. As soon as we got the news.'

'Thank you. They took it badly?'

'They took it ... solemnly, sir.' Vimes groaned. He could imagine the expressions. 'I'll write them the official letter,' he said, pulling open his desk. 'Get someone to take it round, will you? And say I'll be over later. Perhaps this isn't the time to-' No, hold on, they were dwarfs, dwarfs weren't bashful about money. 'Forget that - say we'll have all the details of his pension and so on. Died on duty, too. Well, near enough. That's extra. It all adds up.' He rummaged in his cupboards. 'Where's his file?'

'Here, sir,' said Carrot, handing it over smoothly. 'We are due at the palace at ten, sir. Watch Committee. But I'm sure they'll understand,' he added, seeing Vimes's face. 'I'll go and clean out Stronginthearm's locker, sir, and I expect the lads'll have a whip-round for flowers and everything . . .' Vimes pondered over a sheet of headed paper after the captain had gone. A file, he had to refer to a damn file. But there were so many coppers these days . . . A whip-round for flowers. And a coffin. You look after your own. Sergeant Dickins had said that, a long time ago . . .

He wasn't good with words, least of all ones written down, but after a few glances at the file to refresh his memory he wrote down the best he could think of. And they were all good words and, more or less, they were the right ones. But in truth Stronginthearm was just a decent dwarf who'd been paid to be a copper. He'd joined up because, these days, joining the Watch was quite a good choice of career. The pay wasn't bad, there was a worthwhile pension, there was a wonderful medical scheme if you had the nerve to submit to Igor's ministrations in the cellar and, after a year or so, an Ankh-Morpork trained copper could leave the city and get a job in the Watches of the other cities on the plain with instant promotion. That was happening all the time. Sammies, they were called, even in towns that had never heard of Sam Vimes. He was just a little proud of that. 'Sammies' meant watchmen who could think without their lips moving, who didn't take bribes - much, and then only at the level of beer and doughnuts, which even Vimes recognized as the grease that helps the wheels run smoothly - and were, on the whole, trustworthy. For a given value of 'trust', at least. The sound of running feet indicated that Sergeant Detritus was bringing some of the latest trainees back from their morning run. He could hear the jody Detritus had taught them. Somehow, you could tell it was made up by a troll: 'Now we sing dis stupid song! Sing it as we run along! Why we sing dis we don't know! We can't make der words rhyme prop'ly!'

'Sound off!'

'One! Two!'

'Sound off!'

'Many! Lots!'

'Sound off.'

'Er . . . what?' It still irked Vimes that the little training school in the old lemonade factory was turning out so many coppers who quit the city the moment their probation was up. But it had its advantages. There were Sammies almost as far as Uberwald now, all speeding up the local promotion ladder. It helped, knowing names, and knowing that those names had been taught to salute him. The ebb and flow of politics often meant that the local rulers weren't talking to one another, but via the semaphore towers, the Sammies talked all the time. He realized he was humming a different song under his breath. It was a tune he'd forgotten for years. It went with the lilac, scent and song together. He stopped, feeling guilty. He was finishing the letter when there was a knock at the door. 'Nearly done!' he shouted.

'It'th me, thur,' said Constable Igor, pushing his head round the door, and then he added, 'Igor, sir.'

'Yes, Igor?' said Vimes, wondering not for the first time why anyone with stitches all round his head needed to tell anyone who he was.* * The Igor employed by the Watch as forensic specialist and medical aide was quite young (in so far as you could tell with an Igor, since useful limbs and other organs were passed on among Igors as others might hand on a pocket watch) and very modern in his thinking. He had a DA haircut with extended quiff, wore crepe soles and sometimes forgot to lisp. 'I would just like to thay, sir, that I could have got young Thtronginthearm back on his feet, thur,' said Igor, a shade reproachfully. Vimes sighed. Igor's face was full of concern, tinged with disappointment. He had been prevented from plying his ... craft. He was naturally disappointed. 'We've been through this, Igor. It's not like sewing a leg back on. And dwarfs are dead set against that sort of thing.'

'There's nothing thupernatural about it, thur. I am a man of Natural Philothophy! And he was still warm when they brought him in-'

'Those are the rules, Igor. Thanks all the same. We know your heart is in the right place-'

'They are in the right places, sir,' said Igor reproachfully. 'That's what I meant,' Vimes said, without missing a beat, just as Igor never did. 'Oh, very well, sir,' said Igor, giving up. He paused, and then said: 'How is her ladyship, sir?' Vimes had been expecting this. It was a terrible thing for a mind to do, but his had already presented him with the idea of Igor and Sybil in the same sentence. Not that he disliked Igor. Quite the reverse. There were watchmen walking around the streets right now who wouldn't have legs if it wasn't for Igor's genius with a needle. But- 'Fine. She's fine,' he said abruptly. 'Only I heard that Mrs Content was a bit worr-'

'Igor, there are some areas where . . . Look, do you know anything about. . . women and babies?'

'Not in so many wordth, sir, but I find that once I've got someone on the slab and had a good, you know, rummage around, I can thort out most thingth-' Vimes's imagination actually shut down at this point. 'Thank you, Igor,' he managed, without his voice trembling, 'but Mrs Content is a very experienced midwife.'

'Jutht as you say, sir,' said Igor, but doubt rode on the words. 'And now I've got to go,' said Vimes. 'It's going to be a long day.' He ran down the stairs, tossed the letter to Sergeant Colon, nodded to Carrot and they set off at a fast walk for the palace. After the door had shut one of the watchmen looked up from the desk where he'd been wrestling with a report and the effort of writing down, as policemen do, what ought to have happened. 'Sarge?'

'Yes, Corporal Ping?'

'Why're some of you wearing purple flowers, sarge?' There was a subtle change in the atmosphere, a suction of sound caused by many pairs of ears listening intently. All the officers in the room had stopped writing. 'I mean, I saw you and Reg and Nobby wearing 'em this time last year, and I wondered if we were all supposed to . . .' Ping faltered. Sergeant Colon's normally amiable eyes had narrowed and the message they were sending was: you're on thin ice, lad, and it's starting to creak . . . 'I mean, my landlady's got a garden and I could easily go and cut a-' Ping went on, in an uncharacteristic attempt at suicide. 'You'd wear the lilac today, would you?' said Colon quietly. 'I just meant that if you wanted me to I could go and-'

'Were you there?' said Colon, getting to his feet so fast that his chair fell over. 'Steady, Fred,' murmured Nobby. 'I didn't mean-' Ping began. 'I mean . . . was I where, sarge?' Colon leaned on the desk, bringing his round red face an inch away from Ping's nose. 'If you don't know where there was, you weren't there,' he said, in the same quiet voice. He stood up straight again. 'Now me an' Nobby has got a job to do,' he said. 'At ease, Ping. We are going out.'

'Er . . .' This was not being a good day for Corporal Ping. 'Yes?' said Colon. 'Er . . . standing orders, sarge . . . you're the ranking officer, you see, and I'm orderly officer for the day, I wouldn't ask otherwise but ... if you're going out, sarge, you've got to tell me where you're going. Just in case anyone has to contact you, see? I got to write it down in the book. In pen and everything,' he added.

'You know what day it is, Ping?' said Colon. 'Er . . . twenty-fifth of May, sarge.'

'And you know what that means, Ping?'

'Er . . .'

'It means,' said Nobby, 'that anyone important enough to ask where we're going-'

'-knows where we've gone,' said Fred Colon. The door slammed behind them. The cemetery of Small Gods was for the people who didn't know what happened next. They didn't know what they believed in or if there was life after death and, often, they didn't know what hit them. They'd gone through life being amiably uncertain, until the ultimate certainty had claimed them at the last. Among the city's bone orchards the cemetery was the equivalent of the drawer marked Misc, where people were interred in the glorious expectation of nothing very much. Most of the Watch got buried there. Policemen, after a few years, found it hard enough to believe in people, let alone anyone they couldn't see. For once, it wasn't raining. The breeze shook the sooty poplars around the wall, making them rustle. 'We ought to have brought some flowers,' said Colon, as they made their way through the long grass. 'I could nick a few off some of the fresh graves, sarge,' Nobby volunteered. 'Not the kind of thing I want to hear you saying at this time, Nobby,' said Colon severely. 'Sorry, sarge.'

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