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Authors: Terry Pratchett

Tags: #Fantasy:Humour

Jingo (9 page)

BOOK: Jingo
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The tourist looked up at Carrot and tugged his shirt politely.

“Please, what is he doing now?” he said.

“Er…he’s…he’s taking out…”

“Oh,
no
…” said Angua.

“…he’s taking the ceremonial packet of cigars out of his helmet,” said Carrot. “Oh…and he’s, he’s lighting one…”

The tourist pulled the lever a few times.

“Very historic tradition?”

“Memorable,” murmured Angua.

The crowd had fallen silent. No one wanted to break Vimes’s concentration. There was the big gusty silence of a thousand people holding their breath.

“What’s he doing now?” said Carrot.

“Can’t you see?” said Angua.

“Not with my hands over my eyes. Oh, the poor man…”

“He’s…he’s just blown a smoke ring…”

“…first one of the day, he
always
does that…”

“…and now he’s set off again…and now he’s pulled out the truncheon and he’s tossing it up in the air and catching it again, you know the way he does with his sword when he’s thinking…He looks quite happy…”

“I think he’s going to really
treasure
this moment of happiness,” said Carrot.

Then the murmur started. The procession had halted behind Vimes. Some of the more impressionable people who weren’t sure what they should be doing, and those who had partaken too heavily of the University’s rather good sherry, started to fumble around on their person for something to throw up in the air and catch. After all, this was a Traditional Ceremony. If you took the view that you were not going to do things because they were apparently ridiculous, you might as well go home right now.

“He’s tired, that’s what it is,” said Carrot. “He’s been running around overseeing things for days. Night
and
day watches. You know what a hands-on person he is.”

“Let’s hope the Patrician will agree to let him stay that way.”

“Oh, his lordship wouldn’t…He wouldn’t, would he?”

Laughter was starting. Vimes had started to toss the truncheon from one hand to the other.

“He can make his sword spin three times and still catch it—”

Vimes’s head turned. He looked up. His truncheon clattered on to the cobbles and rolled into a puddle, unheeded.

Then he started to run.

Carrot stared at him and then tried to see what the man had been looking at.

“On top of the Barbican…” he said. “In that window…isn’t that someone up there? Excuse me, excuse me, sorry, excuse me—” He began to push his way through the crowd.

Vimes was already a small figure in the distance, his red cloak flying out after him.

“Well? There’s lots of people watching the parade from high places,” said Angua. “What’s so special about—”

“No one should be up there!” said Carrot, starting to run now he was free of the crowd. “It’s all sealed up!”

Angua looked around. Every face was turned toward the street theater, and there was a cart nearby. She sighed and strolled behind it wearing an expression of suspicious nonchalance. There was a gasp, a faint but distinctly organic sound, a muffled yelp and then the clank of armor hitting the ground.

Vimes didn’t know why he ran. It was a sixth sense. It was when the back of the brain picked up out of the ether that something bad was going to happen, and didn’t have time to rationalize, and just took over the spinal cord.

No one could get to the top of the Barbican. The Barbican had been the fortified gateway in the days when Ankh-Morpork didn’t regard an attacking army as a marvelous commercial opportunity. Some parts were still in use, but the bulk of it was six or seven stories of ruin, without stairs that any sensible man would trust. For years it had been used as an unofficial source of masonry for the rest of the city. Bits of it fell off on windy nights. Even gargoyles avoided it.

He was aware that far behind him the noise of the crowd became a lot of shouting. One or two people screamed. He didn’t turn round. Whatever was going on, Carrot could take care of it.

Something overtook him. It looked like a wolf would look if one of its ancestors had been a long-haired Klatchistan hunting dog, one of those graceful things that were all nose and hair.

It bounded ahead and through the crumbling gateway.

The creature was nowhere to be seen when Vimes arrived. But the absence was not a matter that grabbed at his attention, because of the more pressing presence of the corpse, lying in a mess of fallen masonry.

One of the things Vimes had always said—that is to say, one of the things he said he always said, and no one disagrees with the commanding officer—was that sometimes small details, tiny little details, things that no one would notice in ordinary circumstances, grab your senses by the throat and scream, “See me!”

There was a lingering, spicy scent in the air. And in the gap between a couple of cobblestones was a clove.

It was five o’clock. Vimes and Carrot sat in the Patrician’s outer office, in silence except for the irregular ticking of the clock.

After a while Vimes said: “Let me have a look at that again.”

Carrot obediently pulled out the small square of paper. Vimes looked at it. There was no mistaking what it showed. He tucked it into his own pocket.

“Er…why do you want to keep it, sir?”

“Keep what?” said Vimes.

“The iconograph I borrowed from the tourist.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Vimes.

“But you—”

“I can’t see you going very far in the Watch, captain, if you go around seeing things that aren’t there.”

“Oh.”

The clock seemed to tick louder.

“You’re thinking something, sir. Aren’t you?”

“It is a use to which I occasionally put my brain, captain. Strange as it may seem.”


What
are you thinking, sir?”

“What they want me to think,” said Vimes.

“Who’s
they
?”

“I don’t know yet. One step at a time.”

A bell tinkled.

Vimes stood up. “You know what I always say,” he said.

Carrot removed his helmet and polished it with his sleeve. “Yes, sir. ‘Everyone’s guilty of something, especially the ones that aren’t,’ sir.”

“No, not that one…”

“Er…‘Always take into consideration the fact that you might be dead wrong,’ sir?”

“No, nor that one either.”

“Er…‘How come Nobby ever got a job as a watchman?’, sir? You say that a lot.”

“No! I meant ‘Always act stupid,’ Carrot.”

“Ah, right, sir. From now on I shall remember that you always said that, sir.”

They put their helmets under their arms. Vimes knocked at the door.

“Come,” said a voice.

The Patrician was standing at the window.

Sitting or standing around the office were Lord Rust and the others. Vimes never quite understood how the civic leaders were chosen. They just seemed to turn up, like a tack on the sole of your shoe.

“Ah, Vimes,” said Vetinari.

“Sir.”

“Let us not beat about the bush, Vimes. How did the man get up there when your people had so thoroughly checked everything last night? Magic?”

“Couldn’t say, sir.”

Carrot, still staring straight ahead, blinked.

“Your people
did
check the Barbican, I assume?”

“No, sir.”

“They
didn’t
?”

“No, sir. I did that myself.”

“You physically checked it yourself, Vimes?” said Boggis of the Thieves’ Guild.

Captain Carrot could
feel
Vimes’s thoughts at this point.

“That is correct…Boggis,” said Vimes, without turning his head. “But…we think someone got in where the windows are boarded up and pulled the boards back after him. Dust has been disturbed and—”

“And you didn’t spot this, Vimes?”

Vimes sighed. “It’d be hard enough to spot the nailed-back boards in daylight, Boggis, let alone in the middle of the night.” Not that we did, he added to himself. Angua smelled the scent on them.

Lord Vetinari sat down at his desk. “The situation is grave, Vimes.”

“Yes, sir?”

“His Highness is very seriously injured. And Prince Cadram, we understand, is beside himself with rage.”

“They
insist
on keeping his brother in the embassy,” said Lord Rust. “A studied insult. As if we haven’t good surgeons in this city.”

“That’s right, of course,” said Vimes. “And many of them could give him a decent shave and a haircut, too.”

“Are you making fun of me, Vimes?”

“Certainly not, my lord,” said Vimes. “In my opinion, no surgeons anywhere have cleaner sawdust on their floors than the ones in this city.”

Rust glared at him.

The Patrician coughed.

“You have identified the assassin?” said the Patrician.

Carrot was expecting Vimes to say, “Alleged assassin, sir,” but instead he said:

“Yes. He is—He
was
called Ossie Brunt, sir. No other name that we know. Lived in Market Street. Did odd jobs from time to time. Bit of a loner. No relatives or friends that we can find. We are making enquiries.”

“And that’s all you fellows know?” said Lord Downey.

“It took some time to identify him, sir,” said Vimes stolidly.

“Oh? Why should that be?”

“Couldn’t give you the technical answer, sir, but it looked to me like they wouldn’t need to make him a coffin, they could just have posted him between two barn doors.”

“Was he acting alone?”

“We only found the one body, sir. And a lot of recently fallen masonry, so it looks as—”

“I
meant
does he belong to any organization? Any suggestion that he’s anti-Klatchian?”

“Apart from him trying to kill one? Enquiries are continuing.”

“Are you taking this
seriously
, Vimes?”

“I have put my best men on the job, sir.”
Who’s looking worried
? “Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs.”
Who’s looking relieved
? “Very experienced men. The keystones of the Watch.”

“Colon and Nobbs?” said the Patrician. “Really?”

“Yes, sir.”

Their gazes met, very briefly.

“We’re getting some very threatening noises, Vimes,” said Vetinari.

“What can I say, sir? I saw someone up on the tower, I ran, someone shot the Prince with an arrow and then I found the man at the bottom of the tower very obviously dead, with a broken bow and a lot of rock beside him. The storm last night probably loosened things up. I can’t make up facts that don’t exist, sir.”

Carrot watched the faces round the table. The general expression was one of relief.

“A lone bowman,” said Vetinari. “An idiot with some kind of mad grudge. Who died in the execution of the, uh, attempted execution. And, of course, valiant action by our watchmen probably at least prevented an immediately fatal shot.”

“Valiant action?” said Downey. “I know Captain Carrot here ran toward the VIPs and Vimes headed for the tower, but frankly, Vimes, your strange behavior beforehand—”

“Somewhat immaterial now,” said Lord Vetinari. Once again he adopted a slightly faraway voice, as if reporting to somebody else. “If Commander Vimes had not slowed down the procession, the wretch would undoubtedly have got a much better shot. As it was, the man panicked. Yes…the Prince, possibly, would accept that.”

“Prince?” said Vimes. “But the poor devil—”

“His brother,” said the Patrician.

“Ah. The nice one?”

“Thank you, commander,” said the Patrician. “Thank you, gentlemen. Do not let me detain you. Oh, Vimes…just a brief word, if you would be so good. Not you, Captain Carrot. I’m sure someone is committing some crime somewhere.”

Vimes remained staring at the far wall while the room emptied. Vetinari left his chair and went over to the window.

“Strange days indeed, commander,” he said.

“Sir.”

“For example, I gather that this afternoon Captain Carrot was on the roof of the Opera House firing arrows down toward the archery butts.”

“Very keen lad, sir.”

“It could well be that the distance between the Opera House and the targets is about the same, you know, as the distance between the top of the Barbican and the spot where the Prince was hit.”

“Just fancy that, sir.”

Vetinari sighed. “And why was he doing this?”

“It’s a funny thing, sir, but he was telling me the other day that in fact it is still law that every citizen should do one hour’s archery practice every day. Apparently the law was made in 1356 and it’s never been—”

“Do you know why I sent Captain Carrot away just now, Vimes?”

“Couldn’t say, sir.”

“Captain Carrot is an honest young man, Vimes.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And did you know that he winces when he hears you tell a direct lie?”

“Really, sir?”
Damn
.

“I can’t stand to see his poor face twitch all the time, Vimes.”

“Very thoughtful of you, sir.”

“Where was the second bowman, Vimes?”

Damn
! “Second bowman, sir?”

“Have you ever had a hankering to go on the stage, Vimes?”

Yes, at the moment I’d leap on it wherever it’s heading
, thought Vimes.

“No, sir.”

“Pity. I am certain you’re a great loss to the acting profession. I believe you said the man had put the boards back after him.”

“Yes, sir.”


Nailed
them back?”

Blast
. “Yes, sir.”

“From the outside.”

Damn
. “Yes, sir.”

“A particularly
resourceful
lone bowman, then.”

Vimes didn’t bother to comment. Vetinari sat down at his desk, raised his steepled fingers to his lips and stared at Vimes over the top of them.

“Colon and Nobbs are investigating this? Really?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If I were to ask you why, you’d pretend not to understand?”

Vimes let his forehead wrinkle in honest perplexity. “Sir?”

“If you say ‘Sir?’ again in that stupid voice, Vimes, I swear there will be trouble.”

“They’re good men, sir.”

“However, some people might consider them to be unimaginative, stolid and…how can I put this?…possessed of an inbuilt disposition to accept the first explanation that presents itself and then bunk off somewhere for a quiet smoke? A certain lack of imagination? An ability to get out of their depth on a wet pavement? A tendency to rush to judgment?”

BOOK: Jingo
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