Thud!


Chapter 13




Sam unfolded the rather chewed, rather soggy book. "Where"s my cow?" he announced, and Young Sam chuckled. Rain rattled on the window. Where"s my cow? Is that my cow? ... A "thing" that talks, he thought, as his mouth and eyes took over the task in hand. I"m going to have to find out about that. Why"d it make dwarfs want to kill one another? It goes, "Baa!" It is a sheep! ... Why did we go into that mine? Because we heard there"d been a murder, that"s why! That"s not my cow! ... Everyone knows that dwarfs gossip. It was stupid to tell them to keep it from us! That"s the deep-downers for you, they think they just have to say a thing and it"s true! Where"s my cow? ... water dripping on a stone ... Is that my cow? Where did I see one of those Thud boards recently? It goes, "Neigh!" Oh, yes, Helmclever. He was very worried, wasn"t he? It is a horse! He had a board. He said he was a keen player. That"s not my cow! That was a dwarf under pressure if ever I saw one; he looked as if he was dying to tell me something ... Where"s my cow? That look in his eyes ... Is that my cow? I was so angry. Don"t tell the Watch? What did they expect? You"d have thought he would have known ... It goes, "Hruuugh!" He knew I"d go spare! It is a hippopotamus! He wanted me to be angry! That"s not my cow! He damn well wanted me to be angry! Vimes snorted and crowed his way through the rest of the zoo, missing out not one hark or squeak, and tucked up his son with a kiss. There was the sound of tinkling glass from downstairs. Oh, someone"s dropped a glass, said his front brain. But his back brain, which had steered him safely through these mean streets for more than fifty years, whispered: like hell they did! Cook had the evening off. Purity would be up in her room. Sybil was out feeding the dragons. That left Willikins. Butlers didn"t drop things. From below there was a quiet ugh, and then the thud of something hitting meat. And Vimes"s sword was on the hook at the other end of the hall, because Sybil didn"t like him wearing it in the house. As quietly as possible he looked around for something, anything, that could be turned into a weapon. Regrettably, they had, when choosing toys for Young Sam, completely neglected the whole area of hard things with sharp edges. Bunnies, chuckies and piggies there were in plenty, but- Ah. Vimes spotted something that would do, and wrenched it free. Moving soundlessly on thick, over-darned socks, he crept down the stairs. The door to the wine cellar was open. Vimes didn"t drink these days, but guests did, and Willikins in accordance with some butlerian duty to generations just arrived or as yet unborn cared for it and bought in the occasional promising vintage. Was there the crackle of glass being trodden on? Okay, did the stairs creak? He"d find out. He reached the vaulted cellar and stepped carefully out of the light filtering down from the hall. Now he could smell it ... the faint reek of black oil. The little bastards! And they could see in the dark, too, right? He fumbled in his pocket for his matches, while his heart thudded in his ears. His fingers closed over a match, he took a deep breath One hand grasped his wrist, and as he swung madly at the darkness with the hind leg of a rocking-horse this too was wrested from him. Instinctively, he kicked out, and there was a grunt. His arms were released, and from somewhere near the floor the voice of Willikins, rather strained, said, "Excuse me, sir, I appear to have walked into your foot." "Willikins? What the hell"s been happening?" "Some dwarfish gentlemen called while you were upstairs, sir," said the butler, unfolding slowly. "Through the cellar wall, in fact. I regret to say that I found it necessary to deal somewhat strictly with them. I fear one might be dead." Vimes peered around. "Might be dead? Is he still breathing?" "I do not know, sir." Willikins applied a match, with great care, to a stub of candle. "I heard him gurgling, but he appears to have stopped. I"m sorry to say that they came upon me when I was leaving the ice store and I was forced to defend myself with the first thing that came to hand." "Which was....?" "The ice knife, sir," said Willikins levelly. He held up eighteen inches of sharp serrated steel, designed to slice ice into convenient blocks. "The other gentleman I have lodged on a meat hook, sir." "You didn"t " Vimes began, horrified. "Only through his clothing, sir. I am sorry to have laid hands on you, but I feared the wretched oil might have been inflammable. I hope I got all of them. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the mess-" But Vimes had gone and was already halfway up the cellar steps. In the hall, his heart stopped. A short dark figure was at the top of the stairs and disappearing into the nursery. The broad, stately staircase soared in front of him, a stairway to the top of the sky. He ran up it, hearing himself screaming -"I"ll kill you"ll killyoukillyoukillyoukillkillkill you"ll kill you kill you"llkill you-"The terrible fury choked him, the rage and dreadful fear set his lungs on fire, and still the stairs unrolled. There was no end to them. They climbed for ever, while he was falling backwards, into hell. But hell buoyed him up, gave wings to his rage, lifted him, sent him back ... And then, his breath now nothing more than one long profane scream, he reached the top step The dwarf came out of the nursery doorway, backwards and fast. He hit the banisters and crashed through them on to the floor below. Vimes ran on, sliding on the polished wood, skidding as he swung into the nursery, dreading the sight of -Young Sam, sleeping peacefully. On the wall, the little lamb rocked the night away. Sam Vimes picked up his son, wrapped in his blue blanket, and sagged to his knees. He hadn"t drawn breath all the way up the stairs and now his body cashed its cheques, sucking in air and redemption in huge, racking sobs. Tears boiled out of him, shaking him wretchedly ... Through the running, wet blur, he saw something on the floor. There, on the rug, were the rag ball, the hoop and the woolly snake, lying where they"d fallen. The ball had rolled, more or less, into the middle of the hoop. The snake lay half uncoiled, its head lying on the edge of the circle. Together, in this weak nursery light, they looked at first glance like a big eye with a tail. "Sir? Is everything all right?" Vimes looked up and focused on the red face of Willikins. "Er ... yeah ... what? ... yeah ... fine ... thanks," he managed, summoning his scattered senses. "Fine, Willikins. Thank you." "One must"ve got past me in the dark-" "Huh? Yeah, very remiss of you, then," said Vimes, getting to his feet but still clutching his son to him. "I"d just bet most butlers round here would have taken out all three with one swipe of their polishing cloth, right?" "Are you all right, sir? Because-" "But you went to the Shamlegger School of Butlering!" Vimes giggled. His knees were trembling. Part of him knew what this was all about. After the terror came that drunken feeling, when you were still alive and suddenly everything was funny. "I mean, other butlers just know how to cut people dead with a look, but you, Willikins, you know how to cut them dead with-" "Listen, sir! He"s outside, sir!" said Willikins urgently. "So is Lady Sybil!" Vimes"s grin froze. "Shall I take the young man, sir?" Willikins said, reaching for him. Vimes backed away. A troll with a crowbar and a tub of grease would not have wrested his son from him. "No! But give me that knife! And go and make sure Purity is all right!" Clutching Young Sam to him, he ran back downstairs, across the hall and out into the garden. It was stupid, stupid, stupid. He told himself that later. But, right now, Sam Vimes was thinking only in primary colours. It had been hard, hard, to go into the nursery in the face of the images that thronged his imagination. He was not going to go through that ever again. And the rage flowed back, easily, under control now. Smooth like a river of fire. He"d find them all, all of them, and they would burn ... The main dragon shed could only be reached now by dodging around three big cast-iron flame-deflector shields, put in place two months ago; dragon breeding was not a hobby for cissies or people who minded having to repaint the whole side of the house occasionally. There were big iron doors at either end; Vimes headed towards one at random, ran into the dragon shed, and bolted the door behind him. It was always warm in there, because the dragons burped all the time; it was that or explode, which occasionally did happen. And there was Sybil in full dragon-keeping gear, walking calmly between the pens with a bucket in each hand, and behind her the doors at the other end were opening, and there was a short dark figure, and there was a rod with a little pilot flame on the end, and "Look out! Behind you!" Vimes yelled. His wife stared at him, turned round, dropped the buckets and started to shout something. And then the flame blossomed. It hit Sybil in the chest, splashed across the pens, and went out abruptly. The dwarf looked down and began to thump the pipe desperately. The pillar of flame that was Lady Sybil said, in an authoritative voice that brooked no disobeying: "Lie down, Sam. Right now." And Sybil dropped to the sandy floor as, all down the lines of pens, dragon heads rose on long dragon necks. Their nostrils were flaring. They were breathing in. They"d been challenged. They"d been offended. And they"d just had their supper. "Good boys," said Sybil, from the floor. Twenty-six streams of answering dragon fire rose to the occasion. Vimes, lying on the floor so that his body shielded Young Sam, felt the hairs crisp on the back of his neck. This wasn"t the smoky red of the dwarf fire; this was something only a dragon"s stomach could cook up. The flames were practically invisible. At least one of them must have hit the dwarf"s weapon, because there was an explosion and something went through the roof. The dragon pens were built like a firework factory: the walls were very thick, and the roof was as thin as possible to provide a faster exit to heaven. When the noise had died to an excited hiccuping, Vimes risked looking up. Sybil was getting to her feet, a little clumsily because of all the special clothing every dragon breeder wore.[1] The iron of the far doors glowed around the black outline of a [1] That is to say, every dragon breeder not currently occupying a small artistic urn. dwarf. A little way in front of them, two iron boots were cooling from white heat in a puddle of molten sand. Metal went plink. Lady Sybil reached up with heavy gloved hands, patted out some patches of burning oil on her leather apron, and lifted off her helmet. It landed on the sand with a thud. "Oh, Sam ..: she said softly. "Are you all right? Young Sam is fine. We"ve got to get out of here!" "Oh, Sam. .." "Sybil, I need you to take him!" Vimes said, speaking slowly and clearly to get through the shock. "There could be others out there!" Lady Sybil"s eyes focused. "Give him to me," she ordered. "And you take Raja!" Vimes looked where she was indicating. A young dragon with floppy ears and an expression of mildly concussed good humour blinked at him. He was a Golden Wouter, a breed with a flame so strong that one of them had once been used by thieves to melt their way into a bank vault. Vimes picked him up carefully. "Coal him up," Sybil commanded. It"s in the bloodline, Vimes told himself as he fed anthracite into Raja"s eager gullet. Sybil"s female forebears had valiantly backed up their husbands as distant embassies were besieged, had given birth on a camel or in the shade of a stricken elephant, had handed around the little gold chocolates while trolls were trying to break into the compound, or had merely stayed at home and nursed such bits of husbands and sons as made it back from endless little wars. The result was a species of woman who, when duty called, turned into solid steel. Vimes flinched as Raja burped. "That was a dwarf, wasn"t it?" said Sybil, cradling Young Sam. "One of those deep-down ones?" "Yes: "Why did it try to kill me?" When people are trying to kill you, it means you"re doing something right. It was a rule Sam had lived by. But this ... even a real stone killer like Chrysoprase wouldn"t have tried something like this. It was insane. They will burn. They will burn. "I think they"re frightened of what I"m going to find out," said Vimes. "I think it"s all gone wrong for them, and they want to stop me." Could they have been that stupid? he wondered. A dead wife? A dead child? Could they think that would mean for one moment that I"d stop? As it is, when I catch up with whoever ordered this, and I will, I hope there"s someone there to hold me back. They will burn for what they did. "Oh, Sam..." murmured Sybil, the iron mask falling for a moment. "I"m sorry. I never expected this," said Vimes. He put the dragon down and held her carefully, almost fearfully. The rage had been so strong; he had felt he might grow spikes, or snap into shards. And the headache was coming back, like a lump of lead nailed just over his eyes. "Whatever happened to all that, you know, hi-ho, hi-ho and being kind to poor lost orphans in the forest, Sam?" Sybil whispered. "Willikins is in the house," he said. "Purity is as well." "Let"s go and find them, then," said Sybil. She grinned, a little damply. "I wish you wouldn"t bring your work home with you, Sam." "This time it followed me, "said Vimes grimly. "But I intend to tidy it up, believe me." They shall bur- No! They shall be hunted down to any hole they hide in and brought back to face justice. Unless (oh, please!) they resist arrest ... Purity was standing in the hall, alongside Willikins. She was holding a trophy Klatchian sword, without much conviction. The butler had augmented his weaponry with a couple of meat cleavers, which he hefted with a certain worrying expertise. "My gods, man, you"re covered in blood!" Sybil burst out. "Yes, your ladyship," said Willikins smoothly. "May I say in mitigation that it is not, in fact, mine." "There was a dwarf in the dragon house," said Vimes. "Any sign of others?" "No, sir. The ones in the cellar had an apparatus for projecting fire, sir." "The dwarf we saw had one too," said Vimes, adding: "It didn"t do him any good." "Indeed, sir? I apprised myself of its use, sir, and tested my understanding by firing it down the tunnel they had arrived by until it ran out of igniferous juice, sir. Just in case there were more. It is for this reason, I suspect, that the shrubbery at Number Five is on fire." Vimes hadn"t met Willikins when they were both young. The Cockbill Street Roaring Lads had a treaty with Shamlegger Street, thus allowing them to ignore that flank while they concentrated on stopping the territorial aggression of the Pigsty Hill Dead Marmoset Gang. He was glad he hadn"t fetched up against young Willikins. "They must have come up for air there," he said. "The Jeffersons are on holiday." "Well, if they"re not ready for that sort of thing, they shouldn"t be growing rhododendrons," said Sybil matter of factly. "What now, Sam?" "We"re staying the night at Pseudopolis Yard," said Vimes. "Don"t argue. "Ramkins have never run away from anything," Sybil declared. "Vimeses have run like hell all the time," said Vimes, too diplomatic to mention the aforesaid ancestors who came home in pieces. "That means you fight where you want to fight. We"re all going to go and get the coach, and we"re all going down to the Yard. When we"re there I"ll send people back to pick up our stuff. Just for one night, all right?" "What would you like me to do with the visitors, sir?" said Willikins, with a sidelong glance at Lady Sybil. "One is indeed dead, I am afraid. If you recall, I must have stabbed him with the ice knife I happened to be holding, having been cutting ice for the kitchen," he added, poker-faced. "Put him on the roof of the coach," said Vimes. "The other one also appears to be dead, sir. I"d swear he was fine when I tied him up, sir, because he was cursing me in their lingo ." "You didn"t hit him too hard, did-" Vimes began, and gave up on it. If Willikins had wanted someone dead, he wouldn"t have taken them prisoner. It must have been a surprise, breaking into a cellar and meeting something like Willikins. Anyway, to hell with them. "Just ... died?" he said. "Yes, sir. Do dwarfs naturally salivate green?" "What?" "There is green around his mouth, sir. Could be a clue, in my opinion. "All right, put him on the roof of the coach too. Let"s go, shall we?" Vimes had to insist that Sybil travel on the inside. Usually she got her own way and he was happy to give it to her, but the unspoken agreement was that when he really insisted, she listened. It"s a married couple thing. Vimes rode beside Willikins, and got him to stop halfway down the hill where a man was selling the evening edition of the Times, still damp from the press. The picture on the front page was of a mob of dwarfs. They were pulling open one of the mine"s big, round metal doors; it was hanging off its hinges. In the middle of the group, hands gripping the edge of the frame and muscles bulging, was Captain Carrot. Gleaming, with his shirt off. Vimes grunted happily, folded up the paper, and lit a cheroot. The shaking in his legs was barely noticeable now, the fires of that terrible rage banked but still glowing. "A free press, Willikins. You just can"t beat it," he said. "I have often heard you remark as much, sir," said Willikins. The entity slithered through the rainy streets. Confounded again! It was getting through, it knew it! It was being heard! And yet every time it tried to follow the words, it was thrown back. Bars had blocked its way, doors that had been open locked themselves as it approached. And what was this? Some kind of low-class soldier! By now it would have had berserkers biting their shields in half! That was not the main problem, though. It was being watched. And that had never happened before. There was a crowd of dwarfs milling around outside the Yard. They did not look belligerent - that is to say, any more belligerent than a species the members of which, by custom and practice, wear a big heavy helmet, mail and iron boots and carry an axe all the time will automatically look - but they did seem lost and bewildered and unsure why they were there. Vimes got Willikins to drive in through the coach arch and take the bodies of the attackers down to Igor, who knew about things like people dying with green mouths. Sybil, Purity and Young Sam were hustled away to a clean office. Interesting thing, Vimes thought, as he watched Cheery and a group of dwarf officers fuss over the child: even now - in fact especially now, given the way the tension had made everyone revert to old certainties - he wasn"t sure how many female dwarf officers he had. It was a brave female dwarf who advertised the fact, in a society where the wearing of even a decent, floor-length, leatherand-chain-mail dress instead of leggings positioned you, on the moral map, on the far side of Tawneee and her hard-working coworkers at the Pink PussyCat Club. But introduce a gurgling kid into the room and you could spot them instantly, for all their fearsome clang and beards you could lose a rat in. Carrot pushed his way through the crowd and saluted. "A lot"s been happening, sir!" "My word, has it?" said Vimes, with manic brightness. "Yessir. Everyone was pretty ... angry when we brought the dead dwarfs up from the mine, and what with one thing and another, opening the big door in Treacle Street was pretty popular. All the deep-downers have gone, except one-" "That"d be Helmclever," said Vimes, heading for his own office. Carrot looked surprised. "That"s right, sir. He"s in a cell. I"d like you to have a look at him, if you don"t mind. He was crying and moaning and trembling in a corner with lit candles all round him." "More candles? Afraid of the dark?" Vimes suggested. "Could be, sir. Igor says the trouble"s in his head." "Don"t let Igor try to give him a new one!" said Vimes quickly. "I"ll go down there as soon as I can." "I"ve tried talking to him but he just looks blank, sir. How did you know he was the one we found?" "I"ve got some edges and some bits that are an interesting shape," said Vimes, sitting down at his desk. When Carrot looked blank, he went on: "Of the jigsaw puzzle, captain. But there are lots of bits of sky. However, I think I might be nearly there, because I think I"ve been handed a corner. What talks underground?" "Sir?" "You know the dwarfs were listening for something underground? You wondered if someone was trapped, right? But is there ... I don"t know ... something dwarf-made that speaks?" Carrot"s brow wrinkled. "You"re not talking about a cube, are you, sir?" "I don"t know. Am I? You tell me!" "The deep-downers have some in their mine, sir, but I"m sure there"s none buried here. They"re generally found in hard rocks. Anyway, you wouldn"t listen for one. I"ve never heard of them talking when they"re found. Some dwarfs have spent years learning how to use just one of them!" "Good! Now: What Is A Cube?" said Vimes, glancing at his in-tray. Oh, good. There weren"t any memos from A. E. Pessimal. "It"s, um ... it"s like a book, sir. Which talks. A bit like your Gooseberry, I suppose. Most of them contain interpretations of dwarf lore by ancient lawmasters. It"s very old ... magic, I suppose." "Suppose?" said Vimes. "Well, technomantic Devices look like things that are built, you know, out of-" "Captain, you"ve lost me again. What are Devices and why do you pronounce the capital D?" "Cubes are a type of Device, sir. No one knows who made them or for what original purpose. They might be older than the world. They have been found in volcanoes and the deepest rocks. The deep-downers have most of them. They come in all sorts of-, "Hold on, you mean that when they"re dug up there"s dwarf voices from millions of years ago? Surely dwarfs haven"t been-" "No, sir. Dwarfs put them on later. I"m not too well up on this. I think when they"re first found they mostly have natural noises, like moving water or birdsong or rocks moving, that sort of thing. The grags find out how to get rid of those to make room for words, I think. I did hear about one that was the sounds of a forest. Ten years of sounds, in a cube less than two inches across." "And they"re valuable, these things?" "Unbelievably valuable, especially the cubes. Worth mining through a mountain of granite, as we say ... er, that"s a dwarf we, not a copper "we", sir. "So digging through a few thousand tons of Ankh-Morpork muck would be worth it, then?" "For a cube? Yes! Is that what all this is about? But how would it get here? The average dwarf might never see one in his whole life. Only grags and great chieftains use them! And why would it be talking? All dwarf ones can only be brought to life by a key word!" "Search me. What do they look like? Apart from being cubical, I assume?" "I"ve only ever seen a few, sir. They"re, oh, up to six inches on a side, look like old bronze, and they glitter." "Green and blue?" said Vimes sharply. "Yes, sir! They had a few in the mine in Treacle Street." "I think I saw them," said Vimes. "And I think they"ve got one more. Voices from the past, eh? How come I"ve never heard of them before?" Carrot hesitated. "You"re a very busy man, sir. You can"t know everything." Vimes detected just a soupcon of a smidgen of a reproach there. "Are you saying I"m a man of narrow horizons, captain?" "Oh no, sir. You"re interested in every aspect of police work and criminology." Sometimes it was impossible to read Captain Carrot"s face. Vimes didn"t bother to try. "I"m missing something," he said. "But this is about Koom Valley, I know it. Look, what is the secret of Koom Valley?" "I don"t know, sir. I don"t think there is one. I suppose the big secret would be which side attacked first. You know, sir, both sides say they were ambushed by the other side." "Does that sound very interesting to you?" said Vimes. "Would it matter much now?" "Who started it all? I should say so, sir!" said Carrot. "But I thought they"d been scrapping since time began?" "Yes. But Koom Valley was the first official one, sir." "Who won?" said Vimes. "Sir?" "It"s not a difficult question, is it? Who won the first battle of Koom Valley?" "I suppose you could say it was rained off, sir," said Carrot. "They stopped a grudge match like that because of a bit of rain?" "For a lot of rain, sir. A thunderstorm just sat there in the mountains above it. There were flash floods, full of boulders. The fighters were knocked off their feet and washed away, some were struck by lightning-" "It quite ruined the whole day," said Vimes. "All right, captain, do we have any idea where the bastards have gone?" "They had an escape tunnel-" "I bet they did!" -and collapsed it after them. I"ve got men digging-" "Stand them down. They could be in a safe house, they could have got out in a cart, hell, they could all be wearing helmets and chain mail and passing for city dwarfs. Enough of that. We"ve been running people ragged. Let them go for now. I think we"ll be able to find them again." "Yes, sir. The grags went so fast, sir, that they left some other Devices. I have secured them for the city. They must have been very frightened. They just took the cubes and ran. Are you all right, sir? You look a bit flustered." "Actually, captain, I feel inexplicably cheerful. Would you like to hear how my day went?" The showers in the Watch House were the talk of the city. Vimes had paid for them himself, after Vetinari made an acidic comment about the cost. They were a bit primitive and were really no more than watering-can heads connected to a couple of water tanks on the next floor, but after a night in Ankh-Morpork"s underworld the thought of being really clean was very attractive. Even so, Angua hesitated. "This is wonderful," said Sally, turning gently under a spray. "What"s wrong?" "Look, I"m dealing with it, all right?" snapped Angua, standing just beyond the shower. "It"s full moon, okay? The wolf is a bit strong." Sally stopped scrubbing. "Oh, I see," she said. "Is it the whole B.A.T.H. thing?" "You just had to say that, didn"t you?" said Angua, and forced herself to step on to the tiles. "Well, what do you do normally?" said Sally, handing her the soap. "Cold water, and pretend it"s rain. Don"t you dare laugh! Change of subject, right now!" "All right. What did you think of Nobby"s girlfriend?" said Sally. "Tawneee? Friendly. Good-looking. . "Try perfect physical beauty? Astonishing proportions? A walking classic?" "Well ... yes. Pretty much," Angua conceded. "And all that is Nobby Nobbs"s girlfriend?" "She seems to think so." "You"re not telling me she deserves Nobby?" said Sally. "Look, Verity Pushpram doesn"t deserve Nobby, and she"s got a weird squint, arms like a stevedore and cooks shellfish for a living," said Angua. "That"s how things are." "Is she his old girlfriend?" "He used to say so. As far as I know, the physical side of the relationship consists of her hitting him with a wet fish whenever he goes near her." Angua squeezed the last of the slime out of her hair. It was tough stuff to lose. As it was, some of it was fighting not to go down the plughole. That was enough. She didn"t like to spend too much time in the S.H.O.W.E.R. Another six or so sessions and the smell would have quite gone away. The important thing now was to remember to use a towel and not to shake herself dry. "You think I went down there to impress Captain Carrot, don"t you?" said Sally, behind her. Angua stopped, her head wrapped in towelling. Oh well, it was going to happen sooner or later ... "No," she said. "Your heartbeat says otherwise," Sally said meekly. "Don"t worry. I wouldn"t have a chance. His heart beats faster every time he looks at you, and yours skips a beat every time you see him." Okay, then, this is it, said the wolf who was never far away, this is where we sort it out, claw against fang ... No! Don"t listen to the wolf! But it would help, wouldn"t it, if this stupid bitch stopped listening to the bat ... "Stay out of people"s hearts," she growled. "I can"t. You can"t switch off your nose, can you? Can you?" The moment of the wolf had passed. Angua relaxed a little. His heart beat faster, did it? "No" "she said, "I can"t." "Has he ever seen you without your uniform?" Ye gods, thought Angua, and headed for her clothes. "Well ... of course..." she mumbled. "I meant wearing something else. Like - a dress?" Sally went on. "Come on. Every copper spends some time out of uniform. That"s how you know you"re off duty." "But it"s pretty much a 24/8 job for us," said Angua. "There"s always-" "You mean it is for him because he likes it that way, and so you go along with it?" said the vampire, and that one got through all Angua"s defences. "It"s my life! Why should I listen to advice from a vampire?" "Because you"re a werewolf," said Sally. "Only a vampire would dare to give it, right? You don"t have to be at his heel all the time." "Look, I"ve been through all this, understand? It"s a werewolf thing. We are what we are!" "I"m not. You don"t get the black ribbon just for signing the pledge, you know. And it doesn"t mean you stop craving blood. You just don"t do anything about it. At least you can go out at night and chase chickens." There was a stony silence. Then Angua said, "You know about the chickens?" "Yes: "I pay for them, you know." "I"m sure you do." "And it"s not as though it"s every night." "I"m sure it isn"t. Look, do you know there are people out there who will volunteer to be a vampire"s ... dinner companion? Providing it"s all done with style? And we are considered weird?" She sniffed. "By the way, what did you wash your hair in?" "Willard Brothers "Good Girl!" Flea Shampoo," said Angua. "It brings up the gloss," she added defensively. "Look, I want to get this clear, right? Just because we spent hours wading around under the city, and, okay, maybe saved each other"s life once or twice, it does not mean we"re friends, okay? We just happened to ... be there at the same time!" "You do need some time off," said Sally. "I was going to buy a drink for Tawneee anyway, to say thanks, and Cheery wants to tag along. How about it? We"ve been stood down for now. Time out for a little fun?" Angua struggled with a seething snake"s nest of emotions. Tawneee had been very kind, and far more helpful than you might expect from someone wearing six inches of heel and four square inches of clothing. "Come on, "said Sally encouragingly. "I don"t know about you, but it"s going to take a bit of effort to get the taste of that mud out of my mouth." "Oh, all right! But this doesn"t mean we"re bonding!" "Fine. Fine." "I"m not a bondage kind of person," added Angua. "Yes, yes," said Sally. "I can see that." Vimes sat and stared at his notebook. He"d got "talking cube" written down and circled. Out of the corner of his ear he could hear the sounds of the City Watch rising from below: the bustle in the yard of the old lemonade factory, where the Specials were assembling again, just in case, the rattle of the hurry-up wagon, the general murmur of voices coming up through the floor ... After some thinking, he wrote "old well" and circled that, too. He"d scrumped plums in the gardens of Empirical Crescent with all the other kids. Half the houses were empty and no one cared much. Yes, there had been a well, but it had long been full up with garbage, even then. Grass was growing on the top. They only found the bricks because they looked for them. So let"s say that anything buried right at the bottom, where the dwarfs had headed, had been dumped, oh, more than fifty, sixty years ago ... You seldom saw a dwarf in Ankh-Morpork even forty years ago, and they weren"t anything like rich or powerful enough to own a cube. They were hard workers, seeking - just possibly - a better life. So what human would throw away a talking box worth a mountain of gold? He"d have to be bloody mad





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