Thud!


Chapter 5




"Well, ours don"t," said Vimes. "But murder is murder anywhere. The news has got out. You"ve already got the dwarfs and the trolls simmering nicely, and this will bring it all right to the boil. Do you want a war?" "With the trolls? That is-" "No, with the city. A place inside the walls where the law doesn"t run? His lordship won"t accept that one." "You would not dare!" "Look into my eyes," said Vimes. "There are far more dwarfs than there are watchmen," said Ardent, but the amused expression had fled. "So what you are telling me is that law is just a matter of numbers?" said Vimes. "I thought you dwarfs practically worshipped the idea of law. Is numbers all it is? I"ll swear in more men, then. Trolls, too. They"re citizens, just like me. Are you sure every dwarf is on your side? I"ll raise the regiments. I"ll have to. I know how things run in Llamedos and Uberwald, but they don"t run like that here. One law, Mr Ardent. That"s what we"ve got. If I let people slam their front door on it, I might as well shut down the Watch." Vimes walked to the doorway. "That"s my offer. Now I"m going back to the Yard-" "Wait!" Ardent sat staring at the desktop, drumming his fingers on it. "I do not have ... seniority here," he said. "Let me talk to your grags. I promise to rub out no words." "No. They will not talk to you. They do not talk to humans. They are waiting below. They had word of your arrival. They are frightened. They do not trust humans." Why? "Because you are not dwarfs," said Ardent. "Because you are ... a sort of dream." Vimes put his hands on the dwarf"s shoulders. "Then let"s go downstairs, where you can talk to them about nightmares," he said, and you can point out which one is me." There was a long silence until Ardent said, "Very well. This is under protest, you understand." "I"ll be happy to make a note of that," said Vimes. "Thank you for your co-operative attitude." Ardent stood up and produced a ring of complex keys from his robes. Vimes tried to keep track of the journey, but it was hard. There were twists and turns, in dim tunnels that all seemed alike. There was not a trace of water anywhere. How far did the tunnels go? How far down? How far out? Dwarfs mined through granite. They could probably stroll through river mud. In fact in most places the dwarfs hadn"t so much mined as cleaned house, taking away the silt, tunnelling from one ancient, dripping room to another. And, somehow, the water went away. There were things glittering, possibly magical, half seen in dark archways as they passed. And odd chanting. He knew dwarfish, in a "The axe of my aunt is in your head" kind of way, and it didn"t sound like that at all. It sounded like short words rattled out at very high speed. And with every turn he felt the anger coming back. They were being led in circles, were they? For no other reason than pique. Ardent forged ahead, leaving Vimes to blunder along behind and occasionally bump his head. His temper was bubbling. This was nothing more than a bloody runaround! The dwarfs didn"t care about the law, about him, about the world up above. They undermine our city and they don"t obey our laws! There"s been a damn murder. He admits it! Why am I putting up with this ... this stupid play-acting! He was passing yet another tunnel mouth, but this one had a piece of board nailed across it. He pulled out his sword, yelled, "I wonder what"s down here?", smashed the board and set off down the tunnel, with Angua following. "Is this wise, sir?" she whispered, as they plunged along. "No. But I"m up to here with Mr Ardent," Vimes growled. "I tell you, another twisty tunnel and I"ll be back here with the heavy mob, politics or not." "Calm down, sir!" "Well, everything he says and does is an insult! It makes my blood boil!" said Vimes, striding onwards and ignoring the shouts of Ardent behind him. "There"s a door ahead, sir!" "All right, I"m not blind! Just half blind!" Vimes snapped. He reached out. The big round door had a wheel in its centre, and dwarf runes chalked all over it. "Can you read them, sergeant?" "Er. .. "Mortal Danger! Flooding! No Entry!"" said Angua. "More or less, sir. They"re pressure doors. I"ve seen these used before in other mines. "Chained shut, too," said Vimes, reaching out. "Looks like solid iron- Ow!" "Sir?" "Gashed my hand on a nail!" Vimes rammed his hand into a pocket, where without fail Sybil saw to it that a clean handkerchief was lodged on a daily basis. "A nail in an iron door, sir?" said Angua, looking closely. "A rivet, then. Can"t see a thing in this gloom. Why they-" "You must follow me. This is a mine! There are dangers!" said Ardent, catching up with them. "You still get flooding?" said Vimes. "It is to be expected! We know how to cope! Now, stay close to me!" "I"d be more inclined to do that, sir, if I thought we were taking a direct route!" said Vimes. "Otherwise I might look for short cuts!" "We are nearly there, commander," said Ardent, walking away. "Nearly there!" Aimless and hopeless, the troll wandered ... His name was Brick, although currently he couldn"t remember this. His head ached. It really ached. It was der Scrape that did it. What did dey always say? When you sinkin" to where you was cookin" up Scrape you was so low even der cockroaches had to bend down to spitting on you? Last night ... what had happenin"? What bits did he see, what bits did he do, what bits in der thumpin", scaldin" cauldron of his brain were real? The bit with der giant woolly elephants, dey prob"ly weren"t real. He was pretty sure there weren"t any giant woolly elephants in dis city, "cos if dere were, he would"ve seen "em before, and dere"d be big steamin" turds in der streets an" similar, you wouldn"t miss "em ... He was called Brick because he had been born in the city, and trolls, being made of metamorphorical rock, often take on the nature of the local rocks. His hide was a dirty orange, with a network of horizontal and vertical lines; if Brick stood up close to a wall, he was quite hard to see. But most people didn"t see Brick anyway. He was the kind of person whose mere existence is an insult to all decent folk, in their opinion. Dat mine wi" dem dwarfs, was dat real? You go an" find a place to lie down and watch der pretty pitchurs, suddenly you"re in dis dwarf hole? That couldn"a bin real! Only ... word on der street was dat some troll had got into a dwarf hole, yeah, and everyone was lookin" for dat troll an" not to shake him by der han" ... Der word said der Breccia wanted to find out real hard, and by der sound of it dey were not happy. Not happy that some dwarf who"d been puttin" der bad word on the clans was offed by a troll? Were dey mad? Actually, it didn"t matter if dey was mad or not, "cos they had ways of asking questions dat didn"t heal for months, so he better keepin" out dere way. On der other hand ... a dwarf wouldn"t know one troll from another, right? And no one else had seen him. So act normal, right? He"d be fine. He"d be fine. Anyway, it couldn"a bin him ... It occurred to Brick - yeah, dat"s my name, knew it all der time - that he still had a bit of the white powder at the bottom of the bag. All he needed to do now was find a startled pigeon and some alcohol, any alcohol at all, and he"d be fine. Yeah. Fine. Nothin" to worry about at all ... Yeah. When Vimes stepped out into the brilliant daylight the first thing he did was draw a deep breath. The second thing he did was draw his sword, wincing as his sore hand protested. Fresh air, that was the stuff. He"d felt quite dizzy underground, and the tiny cut on his hand itched like mad. He"d better get Igor to take a look at it. You could probably catch anything in the muck down there. Ah, that was better. He could feel himself cooling down. The air down there had made him feel really strange. The crowd was a lot more like a mob now, but he saw at the second glance that it was what he thought of as a plum cake mob. It doesn"t take many people to turn a worried, anxious crowd into a mob. A shout here, a shove there, something thrown here ... and with care every hesitant, nervous individual is being drawn into a majority that does not in fact exist. Detritus was still standing like a statue, apparently oblivious of the growing din. But Ringfounder ... damn. He was arguing hotly with people at the front of the crowd. You never argued! You never got drawn in! "Corporal Ringfounder!" he bellowed. "To me!" The dwarf turned as a half-brick sailed over the heads of the mob and clanged off his helmet. He went over like a tree. Detritus moved so fast that he was halfway through the crowd before the dwarf hit the cobbles. His arm dipped into the press of bodies and hauled up a struggling figure. He spun round, thudded back through the gap that hadn"t had time to close yet, and was beside Vimes before Ringfounder"s helmet had stopped rolling. "Well done, sergeant," said Vimes out of the corner of his mouth. "Did you have a plan for the next bit?" "I"m more der tactical kind, sir," said Detritus. Oh, well. At times like this you didn"t argue, and you didn"t step back. Vimes pulled out his badge and held it up. "This dwarf is under arrest for assaulting a Watch officer!" he shouted. "Let us through, in the name of the law!" And to his amazement, the crowd went quiet, like a lot of children when they sense that this time teacher is really, really angry. Perhaps it was the words on the badge, he thought. You couldn"t rub them out. In the silence, another half-brick dropped out of the free hand of the dwarf in Detritus"s very solid custody. Years later, Vimes would shut his eyes and still be able to recall the crunch it made when it hit the ground. Angua stood up, with the unconscious Ringfounder in her arms. "He"s concussed," she said. "And I suggest, sir, that you turn round, just for a moment?" Vimes risked a glance. Ardent - or, at least, a leather-shrouded dwarf that could have been him - was standing in the shadows of the doorway. He had the attention of the crowd. "We"re being allowed to go?" he said to Angua, nodding to the figure. "I think the going is the thing, sir, don"t you?" "You"ve got that right, sergeant. Detritus, keep a grip on that little bugger. Back to the nick, all of us." The crowd parted to let them through, with barely a murmur. The silence followed them all the way back to the Watch House ... ... where Otto Chriek of the Times was waiting in the street, iconograph at the ready. "Oh no you don"t, Otto," said Vimes, as his squad approached. "I"m standing on the public highway, Mister Vimes," said Otto meekly. "Smile, please. . And took a picture of a troll officer holding a dwarf up in the air. Oh well, said Vimes to himself, that"s Page One sorted out. And probably the bloody cartoon, too. One dwarf in the cells, one in the tender loving care of Igor, Vimes thought as he trudged up the stairs to his office. And it"s only going to get worse. Those dwarfs were obeying Ardent, weren"t they? What would they have done if the dwarf had shaken his head? He landed in his chair so hard that it rolled back a foot. He"d met deep-down dwarfs before. They"d been weird, but he"d been able to deal with them. The Low King was a deep-downer, and Vimes had got on with him well enough, once you accepted that the fairytale dwarf in the Hogfather beard was an astute politician. He was a dwarf with vision. He dealt with the world. Ha, "he"d seen the light. But those in the new mine ... He hadn"t seen them, even though they were sitting in a room made brilliant with the light of hundreds of candles. That seemed odd, since the grags themselves were completely shrouded in their pointy black leather. But maybe it was some mystic ceremony, and who"d look for sense there? Maybe you got a more holy dark in the midst of light? The brighter the light the blacker the shadow? Ardent had spoken in a language that sounded like dwarfish, and out of the dark hoods had come answers and questions, all barked out in the same harsh brief syllables. At one point Vimes was asked to repeat the meat of his statement made up above, which had seemed too far away now. He"d done so, and there"d been a long drawn out discussion in what he"d come to think of as Deep Dwarf. And all the time he felt that eyes he could not see were watching him very hard indeed. It didn"t help that his head had been aching like mad and there were shooting pains going up and down his arm. And that was it. Had they understood him? He didn"t know. Ardent had said that they agreed with considerable reluctance. Had they? He hadn"t a clue, not a clue, to what had really been said . Would Carrot be given access to a crime scene that had not been interfered with in any way? Vimes grunted. Huh. What do you think, boys and girls? He pinched his nose, and then stared at his right hand. Igor had gone on at length about "tiny invithible biting creatureth" and used some vicious ointment that probably killed anything of any size or visibility. It had stung like seven hells for five minutes, but then had gone and seemed to have taken the pain with it. Anyway, what mattered was that the Watch was officially on this case. His eye was caught by the top sheet of paperwork in his in-tray [1] He groaned as he picked it up. To: His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the Watch From: Mr A E Pessimal, Inspector of the Watch Your Grace, I hope you will not mind giving me as soon as possible the answers to the following questions: 1 What is Corporal "Nobby" Nobbs for? why do you employ a known petty thief." 2 I timed two officers in Broadway- earlier, and in the space of one hour they made no arrests. Why was this an economic use of their time 3 The level of violence used by troll officers against troll prisoners appears excessive. Could you please comment upon this? [1] Vimes maintained three trays: In, Out and Shake It All About; the last one was where he put everything he was too busy, angry, tired or bewildered to do anything about. ... and so on. Vimes read on with his mouth open. All right, the man wasn"t a copper - definitely not - but surely he had a fully functional brain. Oh, good grief, he"d even spotted the monthly discrepancy in the petty cash box! Would A. E. Pessimal understand if Vimes explained that Nobby"s services over the years more than made up for the casual petty theft, which you accepted as a kind of mild nuisance? Would that be an economic use of my time? I think not. As he put the paper back in the tray he spotted a sheet underneath, in Cheery"s handwriting. He picked it up and read it. Two dwarfs and one troll had handed in their badges that morning, citing "family reasons". Damn. That was seven officers lost this week. Bloody Koom Valley, it got everywhere. Oh, it couldn"t be fun, heavens knew, being a troll holding the line against a bunch of your fellow trolls and defending a dwarf like the late Hamcrusher. It probably wasn"t any funnier being a dwarf hearing that some troll street gang beat up your brother because of what that idiot had said. Some people would be asking: whose side are you on? If you"re not for us, you"re against us. Huh. If you"re not an apple, you"re a banana... Carrot came in quietly and placed a plate on the desk. "Angua told me all about it," he said. "Well done, sir." "What do you mean, well done?" said Vimes, looking at his healthy sandwich lunch. "I nearly started a war!" "Ah, but they didn"t know you were bluffing." "I probably wasn"t: Vimes carefully lifted the top of the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and smiled inwardly. Good old Cheery. She knew what a Vimes BIT was all about. It was about having to lift up quite a lot of crispy bacon before you found the miserable skulking vegetables. You might never notice them at all. "I want you to take Angua down there with you again," he said. "And ... yes, Lance-Constable Humpeding. Our little Sally. Just the job for a vampire who fortuitously has arrived in the nick of time, eh? Let"s see how good she is." "Just those two, sir?" "Er, yes. They both have very good night vision, yes?" Vimes looked down at his sandwich and mumbled, "We can"t take any artificial light down there." "A murder investigation in the dark, sir?" "I had no choice!" said Vimes hotly. "I know a sticking point when I see one, captain. No artificial light. Well, if they want to play silly buggers, I"m their boy. You know about mines, and both the ladies have got night vision built in. Well, the vampire has, and Angua can practically see with her nose. So that"s it. Do the best you can. The place is full of those damn glow beetles. They should help." "They"ve got vurms?" said Carrot. "Oh. Well, I know some tricks there, sir. "Good. They say a big troll did it and ran away. Make of that what you will., "There might be some protests about Sally, sir," said Carrot. "Why? Will they spot she"s a vampire?" "No, Sir, I don"t think they-" "Then don"t tell "em," said Vimes. "You"re the ... smelter, it"s up to you what, er, tools you use. Seen this?" He waved the report about the three officers he was trying not to think of as deserters. "Yes, Sir. I was meaning to talk to you about that. It might help if we changed the patrols a bit," said Carrot. "How do you mean?, "Er, it would be quite easy to arrange the patrol schedules so that trolls and dwarfs don"t have to go on the beat together, sir. Um ... some of the lads say they"d be a bit happier if we could. . Carrot let the sentence die away in the stony glare. "We"ve never paid any attention to an officer"s species when we do the roster, captain," said Vimes coldly. "Except for the gnomes, of course. "There"s your precedent, then-" Carrot began. "Don"t be daft. A typical gnome room is about twice the size of a shoebox, captain! Look, you can see this idea is nuts. Dangerous nuts, too. We"d have to patrol troll with troll, dwarf with dwarf and human with human-" "Not necessarily, sir. Humans could patrol with either of the others." Vimes rocked his chair forward. "No, they couldn"t! This is not about common sense, this is about fear! If a troll sees a dwarf and a human patrolling together, he"ll think: "There"s the enemy, two against one." Can"t you see where this is going? When a copper"s in a tight corner and blows his whistle for back-up, I don"t want him demanding that when it arrives it"s the right damn shape!" He calmed down a little, opened his notebook, and tossed it on to the desk. "And talking of shapes, do you know what this means? I spotted it in the mine, and a dwarf called Helmclever scrawled it in some spilt coffee, and you know what? I think he was only half aware that he"d done it." Carrot picked up the notebook and regarded the sketch solemnly for a moment. "Mine sign, sir," he said. "It means "the Following Dark"." "And what does that mean?" "Er, that things are pretty bad down there, sir," said Carrot earnestly. "Oh dear." He put the notebook down slowly, as if half afraid that it might explode. "Well, there has been a murder, captain," Vimes pointed out. "Yes, Sir. But this might mean something worse, sir. Mine-sign is a very strange phenomenon." "There was a sign like it over the door, only there was just one line and it was horizontal," Vimes added. "Oh, that"d be the Long Dark rune, sir," said Carrot dismissively. "It"s just the symbol for a mine. Nothing to worry about." "But this other one is? Is it anything to do with grags sitting in a room surrounded by lighted candles?" It was always nice to surprise Carrot, and this time he looked amazed. "How did you work that out, sir?" "It"s only words, captain," said Vimes, waving a hand. ""The Following Dark" doesn"t sound good. Time to stay brightly lit, maybe? When I met them they were surrounded by candles. I thought maybe it was some kind of ceremony." "Could be," Carrot agreed, carefully. "Thank you for this, sir. I"ll go prepared." As Carrot reached the door, Vimes added, "One thing, captain?" "Yes, sir?" Vimes didn"t look up from the sandwich, out of which he was daintily separating the fragments of L and the T from the crispy B. "Just remember you"re a copper, will you?" he said. Sally knew something was up as soon as she got back into the locker room, in her shiny new breastplate and soup-bowl helmet. Coppers of various species were standing around trying to look nonchalant. Coppers are never any good at this. They watched as she approached her locker. She opened the door, therefore, with due care. The shelf was full of garlic. Ah. It starts, and so soon, too. Just as well she"d been prepared ... Here and there, behind her, she heard the faint coughs and throat-clearings of people trying not to laugh. And there was smirking going on; a smirk makes a subtle noise if you"re listening for it. She reached into the locker with both hands and pulled out two big fat bulbs. All eyes were on her, all coppers were motionless as she walked slowly around the room. The reek of garlic was strong on one young constable, whose big grin was suddenly caked with nervousness at the corners. He had the look about him of the kind of fool who"d do anything for a giggle. "Excuse me, constable, but what is your name?" she said meekly. "Er ... Fittly miss. .." "Are these from you?" Sally demanded. She let her canines extend just enough to notice. "... er, only a joke, miss. . "Nothing funny about it," said Sally sweetly. "I like garlic. I love garlic. Don"t you?" "Er, yeah," said the unhappy Fittly. "Good," said Sally. With a speed that made him flinch, she rammed a bulb into her mouth and bit down heavily. The crunching was the only sound in the locker room. And then, she swallowed. "Oh dear, where are my manners, constable?" she said, holding out the other bulb. "This one"s yours . . Laughter broke out around the room. Coppers are like any other mob. The table"s been turned, and this way round it"s funnier. It"s a bit of a laugh, a bit of fun. No harm done, eh? "Come on, Fittly" said someone. "It"s only fair. She ate hers!" And someone else, as someone always does, began to clap and urge "Eat! Eat!" Others took it up, encouraged by the fact that Fittly had gone bright red. "Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!Eat!Eat!" A man without an option, Fittly grabbed the bulb, forced it into his mouth and bit it hard, to the accompaniment of cheers. A moment later, Sally saw his eyes widen. "Lance-Constable Humpeding?" She turned. A young man of godlike proportions [1] was standing [1] The better class of gods, anyway. Not the ones with the tentacles, obviously. in the doorway. Unlike the armour of the other officers, his breastplate shone and the chain mail was quite devoid of rust. "Everything all right?" The officer glanced at Fittly, who"d dropped to his knees and was coughing garlic across the room, but somehow quite failed to see him. "Er, fine, sir," said Sally, puzzled, as Fittly began to throw up. "We"ve met already. Everyone calls me Captain Carrot. Come with me, please." Out in the main office Carrot stopped and turned. "All right, lance-constable ... you had a bulb already prepared, right? Don"t look like that, there"s a vegetable barrow out in the square today. It"s not hard to work out." "Er, Sergeant Angua did warn me. . "So?" "So I carved a garlic out of a radish, sir." "And the one you gave Fittly?" "Oh, that was a carved radish, too. I try not to touch garlic, sir," said Sally. Oh gods, this one really was attractive ... "Really? Just a radish? He seemed to take it badly," said Carrot. "I put a few fresh chilli seeds in it," Sally added. "About thirty, I think." "Oh? Why did you do that?" "Oh, you know, sir," said Sally, radiating innocence. "A bit of a laugh, a bit of fun. No harm done, eh?" The captain appeared to consider this. "We"ll leave it at that, then," he said. "Now, lance-corporal, have you ever seen a dead body?" Sally waited to see if he was serious. Apparently, he was. "Strictly speaking, no, sir," she said. Vimes fretted through the afternoon. There was, of course, the paperwork. There was always the paperwork. The trays were only the start. Heaps of it were ranged accusingly along one wall, and gently merging.[1] He knew that he had to do it. Warrants, dockets, Watch Orders, signatures - that was what made the Watch a police force rather than just a bunch of rather rough fellows with inquisitive habits. Paperwork: you had to have lots of it, and it had to be signed by him. He signed the arrests book, the occurrences book, even the lost property book. Lost property book! They"d never had one of those in the old days. If someone turned up complaining that they"d lost some small item, you just held Nobby Nobbs upside down and sorted through what dropped out. But he didn"t know two thirds of the coppers he employed now - not know, in the sense of knowing when they"d stand and when they"d run, knowing the little giveaways that"d tell him when they were lying or scared witless. It wasn"t really his Watch any more. It was the city"s Watch. He just ran it. He went through the Station Sergeant"s reports, the Watch Officers" reports, the Sick reports, the Disciplinary reports, the Petty Cash reports "Duddle-dum-duddle-dum-duddle-"





Back to Table of content


Copyright © novelfull thefreeonlinenovel.com All Rights Reserved.