Men at Arms Page 12


'What gets me is that he was murdered,' said Carrot.

Mr Cheese passed along the line again. They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

Because the fact was that, despite all evidence to the contrary, murder was not a commonplace occurrence in Ankh-Morpork. There were, it was true, assassinations. And as aforesaid there were many ways one could inadvertently commit suicide. And there were occasional domestic fracas on a Saturday night as people sought a cheaper alternative to divorce. There were all these things, but at least they had a reason, however unreasonable.

'Big man in the dwarfs, was Mr Hammerhock,' said Carrot. 'A good citizen, too. Wasn't always stirring up old trouble like Mr Stronginthearm.'

'He's got a workshop in Rime Street,' said Nobby.

'Had,' said Sergeant Colon.

They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

'What I want to know is,' said Angua, 'what put that hole in him?'

'Never see anything like that,' said Colon.

'Hadn't someone better go and tell Mrs Hammer-hock?' said Angua.

'Captain Vimes is doing it,' said Carrot. 'He said he wouldn't ask anyone else to do it.'

'Rather him than me,' said Colon fervently. 'I wouldn't do that for a big clock. They can be fearsome when they're angry, those little buggers.'

Everyone nodded gloomily, including the little bugger and the bigger little bugger by adoption.

They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

'Shouldn't we be finding out who did it?' said Angua.

'Why?' said Nobby.

She opened and shut her mouth once or twice, and finally came out with: 'In case they do it again?'

'It wasn't an assassination, was it?' said Cuddy.

'No,' said Carrot. 'They always leave a note. By law.'

They looked at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

'What a city,' said Angua.

'It all works, that's the funny thing,' said Carrot. 'D'you know, when I first joined the Watch I was so simple I arrested the head of the Thieves' Guild for thieving?'

'Sounds good to me,' said Angua.

'Got into a bit of trouble for that,' said Carrot.

'You see,' said Colon, 'thieves are organized here. I mean, it's official. They're allowed a certain amount of thieving. Not that they do much these days, mind you. If you pay them a little premium every year they give you a card and leave you alone. Saves time and effort all round.'

'And all thieves are members?' said Angua.

'Oh, yes,' said Carrot. 'Can't go thieving in Ankh-Morpork without a Guild permit. Not unless you've got a special talent.'

'Why? What happens? What talent?' she said.

'Well, like being able to survive being hung upside down from one of the gates with your ears nailed to your knees,' said Carrot.

Then Angua said: 'That's terrible.'

'Yes, I know. But the thing is,' said Carrot, 'the thing is: it works. The whole thing. Guilds and organized crimes and everything. It all seems to work.'

'Didn't work for Mr Hammerhock,' said Sergeant Colon.

They looked at their drinks. Very slowly, like a mighty sequoia beginning the first step towards resurrection as a million Save The Trees leaflets, Detritus toppled backwards with his mug still in his hand. Apart from the 90° change in position, he didn't move a muscle.

'It's the sulphur,' said Cuddy, without looking around. 'It goes right to their heads.'

Carrot thumped his fist on the bar.

'We ought to do something!'

'We could nick his boots,' said Nobby.

'I mean about Mr Hammerhock.'

'Oh, yeah, yeah,' said Nobby. 'You sound like old Vimesy. If we was to worry about every dead body in this town—'

'But not like this!' snapped Carrot. 'Normally it's just . . . well . . . suicide, or Guild fighting, stuff like that. But he was just a dwarf! Pillar of the community! Spent all day making swords and axes and burial weapons and crossbows and torture implements! And then he's in the river with a great big hole in his chest! Who's going to do anything about it, if not us?'

'You been putting anything in your milk?' said Colon. 'Look, the dwarfs can sort it out. It's like Quarry Lane. Don't stick your nose where someone can pull it off and eat it.'

'We're the City Watch,' said Carrot. 'That doesn't mean just that part of the city who happens to be over four feet tall and made of flesh!'

'No dwarf did it,' said Cuddy, who was swaying gently. 'No troll, neither.' He tried to tap the side of his nose, and missed. 'The reason being, he still had all his arms and legs on.'

'Captain Vimes'll want it investigated,' said Carrot.

'Captain Vimes is trying to learn to be a civilian,' said Nobby.

'Well, I'm not going to—' Colon began, and got off his stool.

He hopped. He jumped up and down a bit, his mouth opening and shutting. Then the words managed to come out.

'My foot!'

'What about your foot?'

'Something stuck in it!'

He hopped backwards, clutching at one sandal, and fell over Detritus.

'You'd be amazed what can get stuck to your boots in this town,' said Carrot.

'There's something on the bottom of your sandal,' said Angua. 'Stop waving it about, you silly man.'

She drew her dagger.

'Bit of card or something. With a drawing pin in it. You picked it up somewhere. Probably took a while for you to tread it through . . . there.'

'Bit of card?' said Carrot.

'There's something written on it . . .' Angua scraped away the mud.

'GONNE'

'What does that mean?' she said.

'I don't know. Something's gone, I suppose. Perhaps it's Mr Gonne's visiting card, whoever he is,' said Nobby. 'Who cares? Let's have ano—'

Carrot took the card and turned it over and over in his hands.

'Save the pin,' said Cuddy. 'You only get five of them for a penny. My cousin Gimick makes them.'

'This is important,' said Carrot, slowly. 'The captain ought to know about this. I think he was looking for it.'

'What's important about it?' said Sergeant Colon. 'Apart from my foot hurting like blazes.'

'I don't know. The captain'll know,' said Carrot stubbornly.

'You tell him, then,' said Colon. 'He's staying up at her ladyship's now.'

'Learning to be a gentleman,' said Nobby.

'I'm going to tell him,' said Carrot.

Angua glanced through the grubby window. The moon would be up soon. That was one trouble with cities. The damn thing could be lurking behind a tower if you weren't careful.

'And I'd better be getting back to my lodgings,' she said.

'I'll accompany you,' said Carrot, quickly. 'I ought to go and find Captain Vimes in any case.'

'It'll be out of your way . . .'

'Honestly, I'd like to.'

She looked at his earnest expression.

'I couldn't put you to the trouble,' she said.

'That's all right. I like walking. It helps me think.'

Angua smiled, despite her desperation.

They stepped out into the softer heat of the evening. Instinctively, Carrot settled into the policeman's pace.

'Very old street, this,' he said. 'They say there's an underground stream under it. I read that. What do you think?'

'Do you really like walking?' said Angua, falling into step.

'Oh, yes. There are many interesting byways and historical buildings to be seen. I often go for walks on my day off.'

She looked at his face. Ye gods, she thought.

'Why did you join the Watch?' she said.

'My father said it'd make a man of me.'

'It seems to have worked.'

'Yes. It's the best job there is.'

'Really?'

'Oh, yes. Do you know what “policeman” means?'

Angua shrugged. 'No.'

'It means “man of the polis”. That's an old word for city.'

'Yes?'

'I read it in a book. Man of the city.'

She glanced sideways at him again. His face glowed in the light of a torch on the street corner, but it had some inner glow of its own.

He's proud. She remembered the oath.

Proud of being in the damn Watch, for gods 'sake—

'Why did you join?' he said.

'Me? Oh, I . . . I like to eat meals and sleep indoors. Anyway, there isn't that much choice, is there? It was that or become . . . hah . . . a seamstress.'[10]

'And you're not very good at sewing?'

Angua's sharp glance saw nothing but honest innocence in his face.

'Yes,' she said, giving up, 'that's right. And then I saw this poster. “The City Watche Needs Men! Be A Man In The City Watche!” So I thought I'd give it a go. After all, I'd only have something to gain.'

She waited to see if he'd fail to pick this one up, too. He did.

'Sergeant Colon wrote the notice,' said Carrot. 'He's a fairly direct thinker.'

He sniffed.

'Can you smell something?' he said. 'Smells like . . . a bit like someone's thrown away an old privy carpet?'

'Oh, thank you very much,' said a voice very low down, somewhere in the darkness. 'Oh, yes. Thank you very much. That's very wossname of you. Old privy carpet. Oh, yes.'

'Can't smell anything,' Angua lied.

'Liar,' said the voice.

'Or hear anything.'

Captain Vimes' boots told him he was in Scoone Avenue. His feet were doing the walking of their own volition; his mind was somewhere else. In fact, some of it was dissolving gently in Jimkin Bearhugger's finest nectar. If only they hadn't been so damn polite! There were a number of things he'd seen in his life which he'd always try, without success, to forget. Up until now he would have put, at the top of the list, looking at the tonsils of a giant dragon as it drew the breath intended to turn him into a small pile of impure charcoal. He still woke up sweating at the memory of the little pilot light. But he dreaded now that it was going to be replaced by the recollection of all those impassive dwarf faces, watching him politely, and the feeling that his words were dropping into a deep pit.

After all, what could he say? 'Sorry he's dead – and that's official. We're putting our worst men on the case' ?

The late Bjorn Hammerhock's house had been full of dwarfs – silent, owlish, polite dwarfs. The news had got around. He wasn't telling anyone anything they didn't know. Many of them were holding weapons. Mr Strong-inthearm was there. Captain Vimes had talked to him before about his speeches on the subject of the need for grinding all trolls in little bits and using them to make roads. But the dwarf wasn't saying anything now. He was just looking smug. There was an air of quiet, polite menace, that said: We'll listen to you. Then we'll do what we decide to do.

He hadn't even been sure which one was Mrs Ham-merhock. They all looked alike to him. When she was introduced – helmeted, bearded – he'd got polite, noncommittal answers. No, she'd locked his workshop and seemed to have mislaid the key. Thank you.

He'd tried to indicate as subtly as possible that a wholesale march on Quarry Lane would be frowned upon by the guard (probably from a vantage point at a safe distance) but hadn't the face to spell it out. He couldn't say: don't take matters into your own hands for the guard are mightily in pursuit of the wrongdoer, because he didn't have a clue where to start. Had your husband any enemies? Yes, someone put a huge great hole in him, but apart from that, did he have any enemies?

So he'd extracted himself with as much dignity as possible, which wasn't very much, and after a battle with himself which he'd lost, he'd picked up half a bottle of Bearhugger's Old Persnickety and wandered into the night.

Carrot and Angua reached the end of Gleam Street.

'Where are you staying?' said Carrot.

'Just down there.' She pointed.

'Elm Street? Not Mrs Cake's?'

'Yes. Why not? I just wanted a clean place, reasonably priced. What's wrong with that?'

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