Men at Arms Page 32


'You didn't have to do that,' he said.

'I just wanted to get into the spirit of the thing,' said Carrot. 'I'm Corporal Carrot and this is the citizens' militia, and we all enjoy a good laugh.'

' 'Scuse me—'

'Except for Lance-Constable Cuddy. And Lance-Constable Detritus enjoys a good laugh too, although some minutes after everyone else. And we're here to see Dr Whiteface.'

The clown's hair rose. Water squirted from his buttonhole.

'Have – have you got an appointment?' he said.

'I don't know,' said Carrot. 'Have we got an appointment?'

'I've got an iron ball with spikes on,' Nobby volunteered.

'That's a morningstar, Nobby.'

'Is it?'

'Yes,' said Carrot. 'An appointment is an engagement to see someone, while a morningstar is a large lump of metal used for viciously crushing skulls. It is important not to confuse the two, isn't it, Mr—?' He raised his eyebrows.

'Boffo, sir. But—'

'So if you could perhaps run along and tell Dr White-face we're here with an iron ball with spi— What am I saying? I mean, without an appointment to see him? Please? Thank you.'

The clown scuttled off.

'There,' said Carrot. 'Was that all right, sergeant?'

'He's probably going to be satirical, even,' said Colon, morosely.

They waited. After a while Lance-Constable Cuddy took a screwdriver from his pocket and inspected the custard-pie-throwing machine bolted to the door. The rest of them shuffled their feet, except for Nobby, who kept dropping things on his.

Boffo reappeared, flanked by two muscular jesters who didn't look as though they had a sense of humour at all.

'Dr Whiteface says there's no such thing as a city militia,' he ventured. 'But. Um. Dr Whiteface says, if it's really important he'll see some of you. But not the trolls or the dwarf. We heard there's gangs of trolls and dwarfs terrorizing the city.'

'Dat's what they say,' said Detritus, nodding.

'Incidentally, do you know what it is they—' Cuddy began, but Nobby nudged him into silence.

'You and me, sergeant?' said Carrot. And you, Lance-Constable Angua.'

'Oh dear,' said Sergeant Colon.

But they followed Carrot into the sombre buildings and along the gloomy corridors to Dr Whiteface's office. The chief of all the clowns, fools and jesters was standing in the middle of the floor, while a jester tried to sew extra sequins on his coat.

'Well?'

' 'Evening, doctor,' said Carrot.

'I should like to make it clear that Lord Vetinari will be hearing about this directly,' said Dr Whiteface.

'Oh, yes. I shall tell him,' said Carrot.

'I can't imagine why you're bothering me when there's rioting in the streets.'

Ah, well . . . we shall deal with that later. But Captain Vimes always told me, sir, that there's big crimes and little crimes. Sometimes the little crimes look big and the big crimes you can hardly see, but the crucial thing is to decide which is which.'

They stared at one another.

'Well?' the clown demanded.

'I should like you to tell me,' said Carrot, 'about events in this Guild House the night before last.'

Dr Whiteface stared at him in silence.

Then he said, 'If I don't?'

'Then,' said Carrot, 'I am afraid I shall, with extreme reluctance, be forced to carry out the order I was given just before entering.'

He glanced at Colon. 'That's right, isn't it, sergeant?'

'What? Eh? Well, yes—'

'I would much prefer not to do so, but I have no choice,' said Carrot.

Dr Whiteface glared at the two of them.

'But this is Guild property! You have no right to . . . to . . .'

'I don't know about that, I'm only a corporal,' said Carrot. 'But I've never disobeyed a direct order yet, and I am sorry to have to tell you that I will carry out this one fully and to the letter.'

'Now, see here—'

Carrot moved a little closer.

'If it's any comfort, I'll probably be ashamed about it,' he said.

The clown stared into his honest eyes and saw, as did everyone, only simple truth.

'Listen! If I shout,' said Dr Whiteface, going red under his makeup, 'I can have a dozen men in here.'

'Believe me,' said Carrot, 'that will only make it easier for me to obey.'

Dr Whiteface prided himself on his ability to judge character. In Carrot's resolute expression there was nothing but absolute, meticulous honesty. He fiddled with a quill pen and then threw it down in a sudden movement.

'Confound it!' he shouted. 'How did you find out, eh? Who told you?'

'I really couldn't say,' said Carrot. 'But it makes sense anyway. There's only one entrance to each Guild, but the Guild Houses are back to back. Someone just had to cut through the wall.'

'I assure you we didn't know about it,' said the clown.

Sergeant Colon was lost in admiration. He'd seen people bluff on a bad hand, but he'd never seen anyone bluff with no cards.

'We thought it was just a prank,' said the clown. 'We thought young Beano had just done it with humorous intent, and then he turned up dead and we didn't—' 'You'd better show me the hole,' said Carrot.

The rest of the Watch stood to variations on the theme of At Ease in the courtyard.

'Corporal Nobbs?'

'Yes, Lance-Constable Cuddy?'

'What is it everyone says about dwarfs?'

'Oh, come on, you're pulling my leg, right? Everyone knows that who knows anything about dwarfs,' said Nobby.

Cuddy coughed.

'Dwarfs don't,' he said.

'What do you mean, dwarfs don't?'

'No-one's told us what everyone knows about dwarfs,' said Cuddy.

'Well . . . I expect they thought you knew,' said Nobby, weakly.

'Not me.'

'Oh, all right,' said Nobby. He glanced at the trolls, then leaned across to Cuddy and whispered in the approximate region of his ear.

Cuddy nodded.

'Oh, is that all?'

'Yes. Er . . . is it true?'

'What? Oh, yes. Of course. It's nat'ral for a dwarf. Some have got more than others, of course.'

'That's the case all round,' said Nobby.

'I myself, for example, have saved more than seventy-eight dollars.'

'No! I mean, no. I mean, I don't mean well-endowed with money. I mean . . .' Nobby whispered again. Cuddy's expression didn't change.

Nobby waggled his eyebrows. 'True, is it?'

'How should I know? I don't know how much money humans generally have.'

Nobby subsided.

'There's one thing that's true at least,' he said. 'You dwarfs really love gold, don't you?'

'Of course we don't. Don't be silly.'

'Well—'

'We just say that to get it into bed.'

It was in a clown's bedroom. Colon had occasionally wondered what clowns did in private, and it was all here – the overlarge shoe tree, the very wide trouser press, the mirror with all the candles round it, some industrial-sized sticks of make-up . . . and a bed which looked like nothing more complicated than a blanket on the floor, because that's what it was. Clowns and fools weren't encouraged to live the soft life. Humour was a serious business.

There was also a hole in the wall, just big enough to admit a man. A little pile of crumbling bricks was heaped next to it.

There was darkness on the other side.

On the other side, people killed other people for money.

Carrot stuck his head and shoulders through the hole, but Colon tried to pull him back.

'Hang on, lad, you don't know what horrors lie beyond these walls—'

'I'm just having a look to find out.'

'It could be a torture chamber or a dungeon or a hideous pit or anything!'

'It's just a student's bedroom, sergeant.'

'You see?'

Carrot stepped through. They could hear him moving around in the gloom. It was Assassin's gloom, somehow richer and less gloomy than clown's gloom.

He poked his head through again.

'No-one's been in here for a while, though,' he said. 'There's dust all over the floor but there's footprints in it. And the door's locked and bolted. On this side.'

The rest of his body followed Carrot.

'I just want to make sure I fully understand this,' he said to Dr Whiteface. 'Beano made a hole into the Assassins' Guild, yes? And then he went and exploded that dragon? And then he came back through this hole? So how did he get killed?'

'By the Assassins, surely,' said Dr Whiteface. 'They'd be within their rights. Trespass on Guild property is a very serious offence, after all.'

'Did anyone see Beano after the explosion?' said Carrot.

'Oh yes. Boffo was on gate duty and he distinctly remembers him going out.'

'He knows it was him?'

Dr Whiteface looked blank.

'Of course.'

'How?'

'How? He recognized him, of course. That's how you know who people are. You look at them and you say . . . that's him. That's called re-cog-nit-ion,' said the clown, with pointed deliberation. 'It was Beano. Boffo said he looked very worried.'

'Ah. Fine. No more questions, doctor. Did Beano have any friends among the Assassins?'

'Well . . . possibly, possibly. We don't discourage visitors.'

Carrot stared at the clown's face. Then he smiled.

'Of course. Well, that about wraps it all up, I think.'

'If only he'd stuck to something, you know, original,' said Dr Whiteface.

'Like a bucket of whitewash over the door, or a custard pie?' said Sergeant Colon.

'That's right!'

'Well, we might as well be going,' said Carrot. 'I imagine you don't want to lay a complaint about the Assassins?'

Dr Whiteface tried to look panicky, but this did not work very well under a mouth painted into a wide grin.

'What? No! I mean – if an Assassin broke into our Guild, I mean, not on proper business, and stole something, well, we'd definitely consider we were within our rights to, well—'

'Pour jelly into his shirt?' said Angua.

'Hit him around the head with a bladder on a stick?' said Colon.

'Possibly.'

'Each Guild to their own, of course,' said Carrot. 'I suggest we might as well be going, sergeant. Nothing more for us to do here. Sorry to have troubled you, Dr Whiteface. I can see this must have been a great strain on you.'

The clown was limp with relief.

'Don't mention it. Don't mention it. Happy to help. I know you have your job to do.'

He ushered them down the stairs and into the courtyard, bubbling with small talk now. The rest of the Watch clanked to attention.

'Actually . . .' said Carrot, just as he was being ushered out of the gate, 'there is one thing you could do.'

'Of course, of course.'

'Um, I know it's a bit cheeky,' said Carrot, 'but I've always been very interested in Guild customs . . . so . . . do you think someone could show me your museum?'

'Sorry? What museum?'

'The clown museum?'

'Oh, you mean the Hall of Faces. That's not a museum. Of course. Nothing secret about it. Boffo, make a note. We'd be happy to show you around any time, corporal.'

'Thank you very much, Dr Whiteface.'

Any time.'

'I'm just going off duty,' said Carrot. 'Right now would be nice. Since I happen to be here.'

'You can't go off duty when— ow!' said Colon.

'Sorry, sergeant?'

'You kicked me!'

'I accidentally trod on your sandal, sergeant. I'm sorry.'

Colon tried to see a message in Carrot's face. He'd got used to simple Carrot. Complicated Carrot was as unnerving as being savaged by a duck.

'We'll, er, we'll just be going, then, shall we?' he said.

'No point in staying here now it's all settled,' said Carrot, mugging furiously. 'May as well take the night off, really.'

He glanced at the rooftops.

'Oh, well, now it's all settled we'll be off, right,' said Colon. 'Right, Nobby?'

'Oh, yeah, we'll be off all right, because it's all settled,' said Nobby. 'You hear that, Cuddy?'

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