Thud!


Chapter 3




"No urns," he said at last. "What urns?" said Nobby. "Nude women are only Art if there"s an urn in it," said Fred Colon. This sounded a bit weak even to him, so he added, "or a plinth. Both is best, o"course. It"s a secret sign, see, that they put in to say that it"s Art and okay to look at." "What about a potted plant?" "That"s okay if it"s in an urn. "What about if it"s not got an urn or a plinth or a potted plant?" said Nobby. "Have you one in mind, Nobby?" said Colon suspiciously. "Yes, The Goddess Anoia [1] Arising from the Cutlery," said Nobby. "They"ve got it here. It was painted by a bloke with three i"s in his name, which sounds pretty artistic to me." "The number of i"s is important, Nobby," said Sergeant Colon gravely, "but in these situations you have to ask yourself: where"s the cherub? If there"s a little fat pink kid holding a mirror or a fan or similar, then it"s still okay. Even if he"s grinning. Obviously you can"t get urns everywhere." "All right, but supposing-" Nobby began. The distant door opened, and Sir Reynold came hurrying across the marble floor with a book under his arm. "Ah, I"m afraid there is no copy of the painting; he said. "Clearly, a copy that did it justice hwould be quite hard to make. But, er, this rather sensationalist treatise has many detailed sketches, at least. These days every visitor seems to have a copy, of course. Did you know that more than two thousand, four hundred and ninety individual dwarfs and trolls can be identified by armour or body markings in the original picture? It drove Rascal quite mad, poor fellow. It took him sixteen years to complete!" "That"s nothing," said Nobby cheerfully. "Fred here hasn"t finished painting his kitchen yet, and he started twenty years ago!" "Thank you for that, Nobby," said Colon, coldly. He took the book from the curator. The title was The Koom Valley Codex. "Mad how?" he said. [1] Anoia is the Ankh-Morpork Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers. "Well, he neglected his other work, you see. He was constantly moving his lodgings because he couldn"t pay the rent and he had to drag that huge canvas with him. Imagine! He had to beg for paints in the street, which took up a lot of his time, since not many people have a tube of Burnt Umber on them. He said it talked to him, too. You"ll find it all in there. Rather dramatized, I fear." "The painting talked to him?" Sir Reynold made a face. "We believe that"s what he meant. We don"t really know. He did not have any friends. He was convinced that if he went to sleep at night he would turn into a chicken. He"d leave little notes for himself saying, "You are not a chicken", although sometimes he thought he was lying. The general belief is that he concentrated so much on the painting that it gave him some kind of brain fever. Towards the end he hwas sure he hwas losing his mind. He said he could hearh the battle." "How do you know that, sir?" said Fred Colon. "You said he didn"t have any friends." "Ah, the incisive intellect of the policeman!" said Sir Reynold, smiling. "He left notes to himself, sergeant. All the time. Hwhen his last landlady entered his room, she found many hundreds of them, stuffed in old chicken-feed sacks. Fortunately, she couldn"t read, and since she"d fixed in her mind the ideah that the lodger was some sort of genius and therefore might have something she could sell, she called in a neighbour, a Miss Adelina Happily, hwho painted watercolours, and Miss Happily called in a friend hwho framed pictures, who hurriedly summoned Ephraim Dowster, the noted landscape artist. Scholars have puzzled over the notes ever since, seeking some insight into the poor man"s tortured mind. They are not in order, you see. Some are very ... odd." "Odder than "You are not a chicken"?" said Fred. "Yes," said Sir Reynold. "Oh, there is stuff about voices, omens, ghosts ... He also hwrote his journal on random pieces of paper, you know, and never gave any indication as to the date or hwhere he hwas staying, in case the chicken found him. And he used very guarded language, because he didn"t hwant the chicken to find out." "Sorry, I thought you said he thought he was the chick-" Colon began. "hWho can fathom the thought processes of the sadleah disturbed, sergeant?" said Sir Reynold wearily. "Er ... and does the painting talk?" said Nobby Nobbs. "Stranger things have happened, right?" "Ahah, no," said Sir Reynold. "At least, not in my time. Ever since that book was reprinted there"s been a guard in here during visiting hours and he says it has never uttered a word. Certainly it has always fascinated people and there have always been stories about hidden treasure there. That is hwhy the book has been republished. People love a mystereah, don"t they?" "Not us," said Fred Colon. "I don"t even know what a mister rear is," said Nobby, leafing through the Codex. "Here, I heard about this book. My friend Dave who runs the stamp shop says there"s this story about a dwarf, right, who turned up in this town near Koom Valley, more"n two weeks after the battle, an" he was all injured "cos he"d been ambushed by trolls, an" starvin, right, an" no one knew much dwarfish but it was like he wanted them to follow him and he kept sayin" this word over and over again which turned out, right, to be dwarfish for "treasure"; right, only when they followed him back to the valley, right, he died on the way an" they never found nothin, an" then this artist bloke found some ... thing in Koom Valley and hid the place where he"d found it in this painting, but it drove him bananas. Like it was haunted, Dave said. He said the government hushed it up., "Yeah, but your mate Dave says the government always hushes things up, Nobby," said Fred. "Well, they do." "Except he always gets to hear about "em, and he never gets hushed up," said Fred. "I know you like to point the finger of scoff, sarge, but there"s a lot goes on that we don"t know about." "Like what, exactly?" Colon retorted. "Name me one thing that"s going on that you don"t know about. There - you can"t, can you?" Sir Reynold cleared his throat. "That is certainly one of the theoreahs," he said, speaking carefully as people tended to after hearing the Colon-Nobbs Brains Trust crossing purposes. "Regrettably, Methodia Rascal"s notes support just about any theoreah one may prefer. The current populariteah of the painting is, I suspect, because the book does indeed revisit the old story that there"s some huge secret hidden in the painting." "Oh?" said Fred Colon, perking up. "What kind of secret? "I have no idea. The landscape hwas painted in great detail. A pointer to a secret cave, perhaps? Something about the positioning of some of the combatants? There are all kinds of theoreahs. Rather strange people come along with tape measures and rather hworryingly intent expressions, but I don"t think they ever find anything." "Perhaps one of them pinched it?" Nobby suggested. "I doubt it. They tend to be rather furtive individuals who bring sandwiches and a flask and stay here all day. The sort of people who love anagrams and secret signs and have little theoreahs and pimples. Probably quite harmless except to one another. Besides, hwhy steal it? We like people to take an interest in it. I don"t think that kind of person would want to take it home, because it would be too large to fit under the bed. Did you know that Rascal wrote that sometimes in the night he heard screams? The noise of battle, one is forced to assume. So sad: "Not something you"d want over the fireplace, then," said Fred Colon. "Precisely, sergeant. Even if it hwere possible to have a fireplace fifty feet long." "Thank you, sir. One other thing, though. How many doors are there into this place?" "Three," said Sir Reynold promptly. "But two are always locked." "But if the troll-" "-or the dwarfs," said Nobby. "Or, as my junior colleague points out, the dwarfs tried to get it out-" "Gargoyles," said Sir Reynold proudly. "Two hwatch the main door constantleah from the building opposite, and there"s one each on the other doors. And there are staff on during the day, of course." "This may sound a silly question, sir, but have you looked everywhere?" "I"ve had the staff searching all morning, sergeant. It would be a very big and very heavy roll. This place is full of odd corners, but it would be very obvious. Colon saluted. "Thank you, sir. We"ll just have a look around, if you don"t mind: "Yes - for urns," said Nobby Nobbs. Vimes eased himself into his chair and looked at the damned vampire. She could have passed for sixteen; it was certainly hard to believe that she was not a lot younger than Vimes. She had short hair, which Vimes had never seen on a vampire before, and looked, if not like a boy, then like a girl who wouldn"t mind passing for one. "Sorry about the ... remark down there," he said. "It"s not been a good week and it"s getting worse by the hour." "You don"t have to be frightened," said Sally. "If it"s any help, I don"t like this any more than you do." "I am not frightened," said Vimes sharply. "Sorry, Mister Vimes. You smell frightened. Not badly," Sally added. "But just a bit. And your heart is beating faster. I am sorry if I have offended. I was just trying to put you at your ease." Vimes leaned back. "Don"t try to put me at my ease, Miss von Humpeding," he said. "It makes me nervous when people do that. It"s not as though I have any ease to be put at. And do not comment on my smell either, thank you. Oh, and it"s Commander Vimes or sir, understand? Not Mister Vimes." "And I would prefer to be called Sally" said the vampire. They looked at each other, both aware that this was not going well, both uncertain that they could make it go any better. "So ... Sally ... you want to be a copper?" said Vimes. "A policeman? Yes." "Any history of policing in your family?" said Vimes. It was a standard opening question. It always helped if they"d inherited some idea about coppering. "No, just the throat-biting," said Sally. There was another pause. Vimes sighed. "Look, I just want to know one thing," he said. "Did John Not-A-Vampire-At-All Smith and Doreen Winkings put you up to this?" "No!" said Sally. "I approached them. And if it"s any help to you, I didn"t think there"d be all this fuss, either." Vimes looked surprised. "But you applied to join," he said. "Yes, but I don"t see why there has to be all this ... interest!" "Don"t blame me. That was your League of Temperance." "Really? Your Lord Vetinari was quoted in the newspaper," said Sally. "All that stuff about the lack of species discrimination being in the finest traditions of the Watch." "Hah!" said Vimes. "Well, it"s true that a copper"s a copper as far as I"m concerned, but the fine traditions of the Watch, Miss von Humpeding, largely consist of finding somewhere out of the rain, mumping for free beer round the backs of pubs, and always keeping two notebooks!" "You don"t want me, then?" said Sally. "I thought you needed all the recruits you could get. Look, I"m probably stronger than anyone on your payroll who isn"t a troll, I"m quite clever, I don"t mind hard work and I"ve got excellent night vision. I can be useful. I want to be useful: "Can you turn into a bat?" She looked shocked . "What? What kind of question is that to ask me?" "Probably amongst the less tricky ones," said Vimes. "Besides, it might be useful. Can you?" "No. "Oh, well, never mind-" "I can turn into a lot of bats," said Sally. "One bat is hard to do because you have to deal with changes in body mass, and you can"t do that if you"ve been Reformed for a while. Anyway, it gives me a headache." "What was your last job?" "Didn"t have one. I was a musician." Vimes brightened up. "Really? Some of the lads have been talking about setting up a Watch band." "Could they use a cello?" "Probably not." Vimes drummed his fingers on the desk. Well, she hadn"t gone for his throat yet, had she? That was the problem, of course. Vampires were fine right up until the point where, suddenly, they weren"t. But, in truth, right now, he had to admit it: he needed anyone who could stand upright and finish a sentence. This damn business was taking its toll. He needed men out there all the time, just to keep the lid on things. Oh, right now it was just scuffles and stone-throwing and breaking windows and running away, but all that stuff added up, like snowflakes on an avalanche slope. People needed to see coppers at a time like this. They gave the illusion that the whole world hadn"t gone insane. And the Temperance League were pretty good and very supportive of their members. It was in the interests of them all that no one found themselves standing in a strange bedroom with an embarrassingly full feeling. They"d be watching her ... "We"ve got no room for passengers in the Watch," he said. "We"re too pressed right now to give you any more than what is laughingly known as on-the-job training, but you"ll be on the streets from day one ... Er, how are you with the daylight thing?" "I"m fine with long sleeves and a wide brim. I carry the kit, anyway. Vimes nodded. A small dustpan and brush, a phial of animal blood and a card saying: Help, I have crumbled and I can"t get up. Please sweep me into a heap and crush vial. I am a Black Ribboner and will not harm you. Thanking you in advance. His fingers rattled on the desktop again. She returned his stare. "All right, you"re in," Vimes said at last. "On probation, to start with. Everyone starts that way. Sort out the paperwork with Sergeant Littlebottom downstairs, report to Sergeant Detritus for your gear and orientation lecture and try not to laugh. And now you"ve got what you want, and we"re not being official ... tell me why." "Pardon?" said Sally. "A vampire wanting to be a copper?" said Vimes, leaning back in his chair. "I can"t quite make that fit, "Sally"." "I thought it would be an interesting job in the fresh air which would offer opportunities to help people, Commander Vimes." "Hmm," said Vimes. "If you can say that without smiling you might make a copper after all. Welcome to the job, lance-constable. I hope you have-" The door slammed. Captain Carrot took two steps into the room, saw Sally and hesitated. "Lance- Constable von Humpeding has just joined us, captain," said Vimes. "Er ... fine ... hello, miss," said Carrot quickly, and turned to Vimes. "Sir, someone"s killed Hamcrusher!" Ankh-Morpork"s Finest strolled back down towards the Yard. "What I"d do, said Nobby, "is cut the painting up into little bits, like, oh, a few inches across?" "That"s diamonds, Nobby. It"s how you get rid of stolen diamonds." "All right, then, how about this one? You cut the muriel up into bits the size of ordinary paintings, okay? Then you paint a painting on the other side of each one, an" put "em in frames, an" leave "em around the place. No one will notice extra paintings, right? An" then you can go an" pinch "em when the fuss has died down." "And how do you get them out, Nobby?" "Well, first you get some glue, and a really long stick, and-" Fred Colon shook his head. "Can"t see it happening, Nobby." "All right, then, you get some paint that"s the same colour as the walls, and you glue the painting to the wall somewhere it"ll fit, and you paint over it with your wall paint so it looks just like wall." "Got a convenient bit of wall in mind, then?" "How about inside the frame that"s there already, sarge?" "Bloody hell, Nobby, that"s clever," said Fred, stopping dead. "Thank you, sarge. That means a lot, coming from you." "But you"ve still got to get it out, Nobby." "Remember all those dust sheets, sarge? I bet in a few weeks" time a couple of blokes in overalls will be able to walk out of the place with a big white roll under their arms and no one"d think twice about it, "cos they"d, like, be thinkin" the muriel had been pinched weeks before." There were a few moments of silence before Sergeant Colon said, in a hushed voice: "That"s a very dangerous mind you got there, Nobby. Very dangerous indeed. How"d you get the new paint off, though?" "Oh, that"s easy," said Nobby. "And I know where to get some painters" aprons, too. "Nobby!" said Fred, shocked. "All right, sarge. You can"t blame a man for dreaming, though." "This could be a feather in our caps, Nobby. And we could do with one now." "Your water playing up again, sarge?" "You may laugh, Nobby, but you"ve only got to look around," said Fred gloomily. "It"s just gang fights now, but it"s going to get worse, you mark my words. All this scrapping over something that happened thousands of years ago! I don"t know why they don"t go back to where they came from if they want to do that!" "Most of "em come from here now," said Nobby. Fred grunted his disdain for a mere fact of geography. "War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for?" he said. "Dunno, sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?" "Absol- Well, okay." "Defending yourself from a totalitarian aggressor?" "All right, I"ll grant you that, but-" "Saving civilization against a horde of-" "It doesn"t do any good in the long run is what I"m saying, Nobby, if you"d listen for five seconds together," said Fred Colon sharply. "Yeah, but in the long run what does, sarge?" "Say that again paying attention to every word, will you?" said Vimes. "He"s dead, sir. Hamcrusher is dead. The dwarfs are sure of it., Vimes stared at his captain. Then he glanced at Sally and said, "I gave you an order, Lance-Constable Humpeding. Go and get joined up!" When the girl had hurried out, he said, "I hope you"re sure about it as well, captain . . "It"s spreading through the dwarfs like, like-" Carrot began. "Alcohol?" Vimes suggested. "Very fast, anyway," Carrot conceded. "Last night, they say. A troll got into his place in Treacle Street and beat him to death. I heard some of the lads talking about it." "Carrot, wouldn"t we know if something like that had happened?" said Vimes, but in the theatre of his mind Angua and Fred Colon uttered their cassandraic warnings again. The dwarfs knew something. The dwarfs were worried. "Don"t we, sir?" said Carrot. "I mean, I"ve just told you." "I mean, why aren"t his people shouting it in the streets? Political assassination and all that sort of thing? Shouldn"t they be screaming bloody murder? Who told you this?" "Constable Ironbender and Corporal Ringfounder, sir. They"re steady lads. Ringfounder"s up for sergeant soon. Er ... there was something else, sir. I did ask them why we hadn"t heard officially, and Ironbender said ... you won"t like this, sir ... he said the Watch wasn"t to be told." Carrot watched Vimes carefully. It was hard to see the change of expression on the commander"s face, but certain small muscles set firmly. "On whose orders?" said Vimes. "Someone called Ardent, apparently. He"s Hamcrusher"s ... interpreter, I suppose you could say. He says it"s dwarf business. "But this is Ankh-Morpork, captain. And murder is Murder." "Yes, sir." "And we are the City Watch," Vimes went on. "It says so on the door." "Actually it mostly says "Copers are Barstuds" on the door at the moment, but I"ve got someone scrubbing it off," said Carrot. "And "That means if anyone gets murdered, we"re responsible," said Vimes. "I know what you mean, sir," said Carrot carefully. "Does Vetinari know?" "I can"t imagine that he doesn"t." "Me neither." Vimes thought for a moment. "What about the Times? There"s plenty of dwarfs working there. "I"d be surprised if they passed it on to humans, sir. I only got to hear about it because I"m a dwarf and Ringfounder really wants to make sergeant and frankly I overheard them, but I doubt if the printing dwarfs would mention it to the editor." "Are you telling me, captain, that dwarfs in the Watch would keep a murder secret?" Carrot looked shocked. "Oh no, sir!" "Good! "They"d just keep it secret from humans. Sorry, sir. The important thing is not to shout at this point, Vimes told himself. Do not ... what do they call it ... go spare? Treat this as a learning exercise. Find out why the world is not as you thought it was. Assemble the facts, digest the information, consider the implications. Then go spare. But with precision. "Dwarfs have always been law-abiding citizens, captain," he said. "They even pay their taxes. Suddenly they think it"s okay not to report a possible murder?" Carrot could see the steely glint in Vimes"s eyes. "Well, the fact is-"he began. "Yes?" "You see, Hamcrusher is a deep-down dwarf, sir. I mean really deep down. Hates coming to the surface. They say he lives at subsub-basement level. .." "I know all that. So?" "So how far down does our jurisdiction go, sir?" said Carrot. "What? As far down as we like!" "Er, does it say that anywhere, sir? Most of the dwarfs here are from Copperhead and Llamedos and Uberwald," said Carrot. "Those places have surface laws and underground laws. I know it"s not the same here but ... well, it"s how they see the world. And of course Hamcrusher"s dwarfs are all deep-downers, and you know how ordinary dwarfs think about them." They come bloody close to worshipping them, Vimes thought, pinching the bridge of his nose and shutting his eyes. It just gets worse and worse. "All right," he said. "But this is Ankh-Morpork and we have our own laws. There can be no harm in us just checking up on the health of brother Hamcrusher, can there? We can knock on the door, can"t we? Say we"ve got good reason to ask? I know it"s only a rumour, but if enough people believe a rumour like that we will not be able to keep a lid on it." "Good idea, sir." "Go and tell Angua I want her along. And ... oh, Haddock. And Ringfounder, maybe. You come too, of course." "Er, not a good idea, sir. I happen to know most deep-downers are nervous about me. They believe I"m too human to be a dwarf." "Really?" Six feet three inches in his stockinged feet, thought Vimes. Adopted and raised by dwarfs in a little dwarf mine in the mountains. His dwarfish name is Kzad-bhat, which means Head Banger. He coughed. "Why on earth should they think that, I wonder?" he said. "All right, I know I"m ... technically human, sir, but size has traditionally never been a dwarfish definition of a dwarf. Hamcrusher"s group aren"t happy about me, though." "Sorry to hear it. I"ll take Cheery, then." "Are you mad, sir? You know what they think about female dwarfs who actually admit it!" "All right, then, I"ll take Sergeant Detritus. They"ll believe in him all right, won"t they?"





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