Chapter 4: Start Reading - Snuff: A Discworld Novel (2023)


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At this point, Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, stopped reading and stared into space. After a few seconds, nothing was dwarfed by the form of Drumknott, his secretary (who, I must say, has spent a career morphing into something next to nothing).

"You look thoughtful, my lord," said Drumknott, adding a faint question mark to this remark, which gradually faded away.

"Tearwashed, Drumknott, tearwashed."

Drumknott stopped dusting the immaculately gleaming black lacquered table. "Pastor Oats is a very convincing writer, isn't he, sir...?"

"Indeed he is, Drumknott, but the fundamental problem remains, and that is this: can mankind deal with the dwarf, the troll, and even the orc, how terrifyingly all of this may have proved frightening at times, and do you know that? Why is that, Drumknott?

The secretary carefully folded the duster she was using and looked up at the ceiling. "Dare I say, my lord, that we recognize ourselves in your violence?"

"Oh, well done Drumknott, I'll make another cynic out of you! Predators respect other predators, don't they? They may even respect the prey: the lion may lie down with the lamb, although probably only the lion will get up again, but the lion will not lie down with the mouse. Worms, Drumknott, a whole race reduced to worms!

Lord Vetinari shook his head sadly and the ever-vigilant Drumknott noted that for the third time that day his lordship's fingers had returned to the page entitled 'Ungue Pots' and he seemed, rather uncharacteristically, to be talking to himself. how he did it...

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Drumknott meticulously timed a cup of coffee in front of his Master just as Lord Vetinari finished his sentence and looked up. "'The Terrible Algebra of Necessity,' Drumknott. Well, we know that, don't we?"

"Indeed, sir. By the way, sir, we received a letter from the Diamond King of Trolls thanking us for our strong stance on the drug issue. Very good, sir.

"Hardly a concession," Vetinari remarked, waving. "You know my position, Drumknott. I don't mind people taking substances that make them feel better or happier, or, for that matter, watching little purple fairies dance - or even their god, for that matter. It's their brain, after all, and society can't claim it unless they're busy operating heavy machinery. However, selling drugs to trolls that really make their heads explode is simply murder, the felony. I am pleased to say that Commander Vimes fully agrees with me on this matter.”

"Indeed sir, and I must remind you that he will be leaving us very soon. Do you want to say goodbye to him?

The patrician shook his head. "I do not believe that. The man must be in a terrible turmoil, and I'm afraid my presence might make matters worse.

There was a touch of pity in Drumknott's voice as he said, “Don't blame yourself, my lord. After all, you and the commander are in the hands of a higher power.”

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, feverishly jabbed a pencil into the side of his boot to stop the itching. It does not work. never happened All her socks made her feet itch. For the hundredth time he thought of telling his wife that among her excellent qualities, and there were many, knitting did not matter. But he would rather cut his foot than do it. It would break your heart.

But they were terrible socks, so thick and knotted and bulky that he had to buy boots one and a half times the size of his feet. And he did it because Samuel Vimes, who had never gone to a house of worship with religious intent, adored the Lady Sybil, and not a day went by that he was not surprised that she seemed to do the same to him. He had made her his wife and she had made him a millionaire; With her at his back, the sad, forsaken, penniless, cynical bull was a rich and powerful duke. He managed to stop the cynic, however, and a pair of steers on steroids couldn't have taken the copper from Sam Vimes; the venom was very deep, coiled in the spine. And then Sam scratched his guts and counted his blessings until he ran out of numbers.

His curses included doing the paperwork.

There was always paperwork. It's a well-known fact that any attempt to reduce paperwork will only result in additional paperwork.

Of course, he had people doing the paperwork, but sooner or later he had to at least sign it and, if there was no way out, even read it. There was no escape: after all, with all police work, there was always a chance that the manure would fall into the windmill. Sam Vimes' initials should have been on the paper for the world to know it wasyourwindmill and thereforeyourfertilize.

But now he stopped to call through the open door to Sergeant Littlebottom, who acted as his orderly.

"Anything already, Cheery?" he said hopefully.

"Not as I believe, sir, but I think you will be pleased to know that I have just received a message from Acting Captain Haddock in Quirm, sir. He says he's fine sir and he's really enjoying it

Vimes sighed. "Anything else?"

"Dead as a doorknob, sir," said the dwarf, poking her head around the door. “It's the heat, sir, it's too hot to fight and too sticky to steal. Isn't it wonderful, sir?

guts grunted. "Where there's police there's crime, Sergeant, remember that."

"Yes sir, although I think it sounds better with a little rearrangement of the words."

"I suppose there's no chance I'll be fired?"

Sergeant Littlebottom looked concerned. "I'm sorry sir, I don't think there is an appeal. Officially, Captain Carrot will strip you of your badge around noon.

Vimes hit his desk and exploded. "I don't deserve this treatment after a lifetime of service to the city!"

"Commander, if I may say so, you deserve so much more."

Vimes leaned back in his chair and groaned. "You too, Cheery?"

"I'm really sorry, sir. I know this is hard for you.

"To be pushed out after so long! I've been begging, you know, and it's not easy for a man like me, that's for sure. Begged!"

Footsteps could be heard on the stairs. Cheery watched as Vimes pulled a brown envelope from his desk drawer, put something in it, licked it hard, sealed it with spit, and tossed it on his desk where it rattled. "Here," he said through clenched teeth. "My badge, just as Vetinari ordered it. I put it on the floor. It will not be said that they took it from me!

Captain Carrot entered the office and ducked as he stepped through the door. He had a package in his hand and several smiling police officers were standing behind him.

"Sorry sir, higher authority and such. If it helps you, I think you're lucky you got away with two weeks. She originally spoke of a month.

He gave Vimes the package and coughed. "Me and the boys had a little argument, Commander," he said with a forced smile.

"You know, I prefer something sensible like the chief of police," Vimes said, taking the package. "You know, I figured if I let them give me enough titles, I'd eventually get one I could live with."

Vimes opened the package and took out a very small, brightly colored bucket and a spade, much to the general amusement of the secret onlookers.

"We know you don't go to the beach, sir," Carrot began, "but..."

"I wish it was by the sea," Vimes complained. “You will find shipwrecks by the sea, smugglers by the sea and drowning and crime by the sea on fire! Something interesting!"

"Lady Sybil says you'll surely find plenty to amuse yourself with, sir," said Carrot.

guts grunted. "The countryside! What's there in the country to amuse you? Do you know why it's called the country, carrot? Because there's nothing there but damn trees to get excited about, but they're really just stiff weeds ! Yes! Boring! It's nothing but a long Sunday! And I shall have to meet noble people!"

"Lord, you will like it. I didn't know you took a day off unless you were injured," Carrot said.

"And yet he was angry and grumbling all the time," said a voice at the door. It belonged to Lady Sybil Vimes, and Vimes resented the way his men had submitted to her. He was, of course, very fond of Lady Sybil, but he couldn't help but notice that his bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich hadn't become as traditionally a tomato and tomato as of late.lettuceand actually became oneTomatoeSpeckSandwich. Of course it was about health. It was a conspiracy. Why didn't they ever find a veg that was bad, huh? And what was so wrong with the onion sauce? It had onions, didn't it? They made you fart, didn't they? That was good for you, wasn't it? He was sure he had read that somewhere.

Two weeksThe holidaywith every meal supervised by his wife. He couldn't think of that, but he did it anyway. And then there was young Sam, growing like weeds and stuff. An outdoor vacation would do him good, his mother said. Vimes hadn't argued. There was no point arguing with Sybil because even if you thought you had won, by some sort of magic unavailable to husbands, you would end up being completely misinformed.

At least he was allowed to leave town in his armor. It was part of him and just as battered as he was, except for the armor, the dents could be hammered out.

Vimes watched the receding city with his son in his arms while the carriage lulled him into an idyllic 14-day sleep. He felt like an exiled man. But on the bright side, there was probably some gruesome murder or grisly theft in town, for the most partvery importantAt least moral purposes would require the presence of the chief of the watch. All he could do was wait.

Sam Vimes had known since their marriage that his wife had a house in the country. One of the reasons he knew that was because she had given it to him. In fact, she had transferred to him all the possessions of her family, which at the moment was just her, in the old-fashioned but endearing belief that a husband should be one who did what she insisted.

From time to time, according to the season, a cart would come from the cottage to his house in Scoone Avenue, Ankh-Morpork, laden with fruit and vegetables, cheese and meat; the entire production from a plot he had never seen before. He wasn't looking forward to seeing him now. One thing he knew about the country was that it was crushed underfoot. Granted, most of the streets of Ankh-Morpork crunched underfoot, but well, this was the right kind of crowd, and a crowd he'd been crushing while he could walk, inevitably slipping.

The place was officially called Crundells, although it was always referred to as Ramkin Hall. Apparently it had a mile trout stream and, as Vimes seemed to recall from the scriptures, a pub. Vimes knew how to have a pub but wondered how to have a trout stream because ifwasit was your part, it had already gurgled down the river while you watched it, right? That meant someone else was fishing inyourWater, the bastard! And the piece in front of you recently belonged to the guy upstream; that bloated plutocrat of a fat neighbor now probably thought he was some kind of poacher, that other bastard! And the fish swam everywhere, didn't they? How did you know what yours is? Maybe they were branded - that soundedveryfield for guts. To be on the field, you had to be constantly on the defensive; Totally opposite the city.

Uncharacteristically, Lord Vetinari laughed out loud. He almost rejoiced at his enemy's downfall and struck his copy of theAnkh-MorporkOpen the crossword puzzle page on his desk. "Cucumiforme shaped like a variety of cucumber or squash! I turn up my nose at you, ma'am!

Drumknott, carefully sorting through the paperwork, smiled and said, "Another triumph, my lord?" Vetinari's battle with the world's leading crossword compilerAnkh-Morpork time plansit was known.

"I'm sure she's losing control," Vetinari said, leaning back in his chair. "What have you got there, Drumknott?" He pointed to a thick brown envelope.

"Commander Vimes' badge, sir, obtained from Captain Carrot."


"Yes indeed."

"So it doesn't have the Vimes badge on it."

"No, sir. Careful examination of the envelope with fingertips suggests that it contains an empty Double Thunder snuffbox. A conclusion confirmed by a casual sniff, my lord.

A still enthusiastic veterinarian said, "But the captain must have realized that, Drumknott."

"Yes indeed."

"Of course that's the nature of the commander," said Vetinari, "and would we take it any differently? He won a small battle, and a man who can win small battles is well prepared to win big ones.”

Unusually, Drumknott hesitated a little before saying, "Yes, sir. By the way,ErasLady Sybil suggested the trip to the country, didn't she?

Vetinari raised an eyebrow. "Yes, of course, Drumknott. I can't imagine who would suggest otherwise. The brave commander is known for his dedication to his work. Who but his loving wife could convince him that a few weeks of merry shore leave would be a good thing?

'Who is it, sir,' said Drumknott, and left it at that, for there was no point in doing anything else. His master seemed to have sources of information not even available to Drumknott, try as he might, and heaven knows who all those running up the long steps in the darkness were. And so, life in the Oblong Office was a world of mystery, speculation, and misdirection, in which the nature of truth changed like the colors of a rainbow. He knew this because he played a not inconsiderable part in the spectrum. But knowing what Lord Vetinari knew andExactlywhat Lord Vetinari considered a psychological impossibility, and a wise man would accept that and proceed with his trial.

Vetinari got up and looked out the window. "It's a town of beggars and thieves, Drumknott, isn't it? I'm proud to have some of the most qualified. In fact, in a city-to-city heist competition, Ankh-Morpork would take home the trophy and probably all the wallets. Theft has a purpose, Drumknott, but one feels that while there are things that are not inherently available to the common man, there are also things that the rich and powerful should not be allowed to do.

Drumknott's understanding of his Master's thought processes would seem magical to an outsider, but it was amazing what could be accomplished by looking at what Lord Vetinari read, listening to seemingly nonsensical remarks, and integrating them into current problems as only Drumknott could integrate. and concerns. He said, "Is this about smuggling, sir?"

"Exactly exactly. I have no problem with smuggling. It includes the qualities of initiative, discretion and original thinking. Attributes that should be stimulated in the common man. In fact, it doesn't do that much harm and leaves the man a bit on the roadfrissonof enjoyment. Everyone should break the law in a nice way occasionally, Drumknott. It's good for brain hygiene.”

Drumknott, whose cranial cleanliness could never be questioned, said: 'Certainly, sir, taxes must be collected and paid. The city is growing. All of this has to be paid for.”

"Indeed," said Vetinari. "I could have taxed all sorts of things, but I chose to tax something you can do without. Hardly addictive, right?

“Some people tend to think that way. There's a certain grumbling, sir.

Vetinari didn't look up from his papers. "Drumknott," he said. "Life is addicting. When people complain too much, I think I have to bring it to their attention."

The patrician smiled again and crossed his fingers. "In short, Drumknott, a measure of harmless banditry among the lower classes must be laughed at, if not encouraged, for the good of the city, but what are we to do when the nobles and wealthy indulge in crime? Indeed, if a poor man spends a year in prison for stealing out of hunger, how high would the gallows be to hang the rich man who breaks the law out of greed?

"I want to repeat, sir, that I buy all my own paperclips," Drumknott said urgently.

"Of course, but in your case I am pleased to say that you have a brain so primitive it glows."

"I'll keep the receipts, sir," Drumknott insisted, "in case you want to see them." There was silence for a moment, then he continued. "Commander Vimes should be on his way to the hall by now, my lord. That can be fortunate.

Vetinari's face was blank. "Yes really, Drumknott, yes really."

The hall had been a full day's journey, which actually meant two in terms of training, with a stop at an inn. Vimes passed the time listening to the sounds of horsemen coming out of town, bearing the longed-for news of a terrible catastrophe. Normally Ankh-Morpork could do this almost every hour, but now it failed singularly to free its desperate son in his hour of vegetation.

ÖFrom othersthe sun was just setting on this special son when the carriage pulled up in front of a gate. After a second or two an elderly man, a very elderly man, appeared out of nowhere and made a great show opening said gates, then stood to attention as the carriage passed, beaming with the knowledge that he was doing a good job had made. Once inside, the bus stopped.

Sybil, who was reading, nudged her husband without looking up from her book and said, "It is customary, Mr. Sarg. My grandfather used to have a little brazier in the carriage, you know, theoretically for warming, but mainly to heat pennies before picking them up with tongs and tossing them to the porter to catch. Apparently everyone liked it, my grandfather said, but we don't do that anymore."

Vimes fumbled in his purse for some change, opened the carriage door and got out, much to the shock of the aforementioned Mr Coffin, who retreated into the thick woods and watched Vimes like a cornered animal.

"Nice work Mr. Coffin, very good bolt lift, excellent work." Vimes held up the coin and Mr. Coffin backed even further, his posture suggesting he was about to run away. Vimes tossed the coin and the frightened man caught it, spat on it deftly and disappeared back into the scene. Vimes seemed annoyed by the lack of hiss.

"How long has your family stopped throwing hot money at employees?" Guts said, leaning back in his seat as the coach walked forward.

Sybil put the book down. "My father finished it. My mother complained. The bouncers too.

"I guess so!"

"No Sam, they complained when customs stopped."

"But it's humiliating!"

Sybil sighed. 'Yes, I know, Sam, but it was also free money, you know. In my great-grandfather's day, when there was a lot to do, a man could make sixpence a day. And since the old man was almost constantly drenched in rum and brandy, he often threw away a dollar. I mean one of the real old fashioned solid gold dollars. You could live in one like that for a year, especially here.

"Yes, but..." Vimes began, but his wife silenced him with a smile. She had a special smile for these occasions; it was warm and friendly and carved into the rock. You had to stop discussing politics or you would get right into it and harm no one but yourself. Wise, with well-learned wisdom, Sam Vimes simply stared out the window.

When the gate was far behind him, he looked out in the fading light for the great house that seemed to be the center of it all, and he could not find it until they had passed through an avenue of trees, past which any wretched poet would have passed "green pastures," which Vimes reasoned almost certainly were strewn with sheep, through a manicured forest, and then he reached a bridge that, at the time Vimes spanned the bridge, wouldn't have been out of place for first kept an ornamental lake, but it turned out to be a very wide river; as they passed him in dignified splendor, Vimes saw a large boat, sailing along in some unknown way, but which, to judge by the smell passing by, must have something to do with livestock. At this point young Sam said, 'These ladies are not dressed! Will you go swimming?

Vimes nodded absently, because the whole area of ​​naked women wasn't something you wanted to discuss with a six-year-old. In any case, his attention was still on the boat; the white water slopped about and the seamen on deck made a possibly nautical gesture to Lady Sybil, or possibly one of the naked women.

"WasIt isa river, right? said guts.

"It is the choir," said Lady Sybil. "It drains most of Octarine's territory and leaves Quirm. However, if I remember correctly, most people call this the "old betrayal". It's funny, but I liked these little boats when I was a kid. They were really very happy.

The carriage went down the end of the bridge and up a long way to, yes, the mansion, probably called that, thought Vimes, because it was the size of an average state. There was a herd of deer on the lawn and a large herd of people gathered around what was evidently the front door. They split into two lines as if they were a wedding party. They were a sort of honor guard indeed, and there must have been more than three hundred of them, from gardeners to footmen, all trying to smile and failing very well. It reminded Vimes of a vigil parade.

Two footmen collided as they tried to take a step near the carriage, and Vimes spoiled the moment entirely by walking out the opposite door, pushing Lady Sybil behind him.

In the crowd of nervous people was a friendly face, and it belonged to Willikins, Vimes' butler and general valet of the town. At least Vimes had insisted. If he went to the field, he would have Willikins there. He pointed out to his wife that Willikins definitely wasNOa cop, so it wasn't the same as bringing his work home. And it was true. Willikins definitely wasNOa cop because most cops don't know how to hit someone with a broken bottle without hurting their hands, or how to make weapons of limited but specific destruction out of ordinary kitchen utensils. Willikins had a story that came up when he had to cut up the turkey. And now young Sam, seeing his scarred but familiar smile, rushed through the line of hesitant servants to push the butler over his knees. For his part, Willikins turned young Sam upside down and spun him around before gently lowering him back to the gravel, which was great entertainment for a six year old. Vimes trusted Willikins. He didn't trust many people. Many years as a police officer have made him very demanding in this regard.

He bowed to his wife. "What do I do now?" he whispered, the rows of worried half-smiles getting on his nerves.

"Whatever you want, love," she said. "You are the boss. You're taking part in the Vigil parade, aren't you?

"Yes, but I know who everyone is and their position and, well, everything! It's never been like this in the city!”

"Yes dear, that's because everyone in Ankh-Morpork knows Commander Guts."

Now how hard could it be? Vimes approached a man with a battered straw hat, a shovel, and, as Vimes approached, in a state of suppressed terror worse than Sam Vimes himself. Vimes held out his hand. The man looked at her as if he had never seen a hand before. Vimes managed to say, "Hi, I'm Sam Vimes. Who are you?"

The man he so approached sought help, support, and guidance, or escape, but there was none; the crowd was dead silent. He said, "William Butler, Your Grace, if you don't care."

"Nice to meet you, William," Vimes said, extending his hand again, which William almost flinched from before offering Vimes a palm the texture of an ancient leather glove.

Well, thought Vimes, that's not so bad and went into unfamiliar territory with: "And what are you doing around here, William?"

"Gardener," William managed to say, raising his spade between himself and Vimes, both for protection and for "A" proof, proof of his good will. Also baffled himself, Vimes decided to test the blade with his finger and murmured, "Well cared for, I see. All right, Mr. Servant.

He winced when he heard a tap on his shoulder and his wife said: "Very good dear, but all you really have to do is go up the steps and congratulate the butler and housekeeper on their wonderful staff involvement. We're here all day if you want to talk to everyone. And with that, Lady Sybil took her husband firmly by the hand and led him up between the rows of owls' eyes.

"Okay," he whispered, "I see the footmen and the cooks and the gardeners, but who are these guys with the thick jackets and bowler hats? Do we have the bailiffs?

"That's pretty unlikely, dear. In fact, they are some of the game wardens.

"Hats don't suit them."

"Do you think? In fact, they were designed by Lord Bowler to protect his gamekeepers from poacher attacks. Deceptively powerful, I'm told, and way better than steel helmets because you don't get that nasty buzzing in your ears.

Apparently unable to hide his displeasure that his new employer had chosen to shake hands with a gardener before approaching one of them, the butler and housekeeper, who shared the traditional waistline and rose Who Vimes could expect on such occasions, they were aware their Master hadn't come for them and, he noted, he came as fast as their small legs would carry them.

Vimes knew about life under the stairs, damn it, he did! Not long ago, a police officer summoned to a large house was sent to the back door to be ordered to drag a crying maid or a not-too-intelligent shoemaker accused without evidence of using a ring or brush Having stolen silver grip which the lady of the house had owned, he would probably find it later, perhaps when he had finished his gin. That's not what police officers should be there for, when in fact, of course, that's what they're there for. It was a matter of privilege, and young Vimes had barely put on his first pair of police boots when his sergeant explained what that meant. It meant private law. Back then, an influential man with the right accent, the right crest on his tie, or the right friends could get away with it, and a young cop who objected could be left with no job and no reference.

It wasn't like that now, not even close.

But back then, young guts saw Butler as a double traitor on both sides, so the tall man in black tails got a piercing look. The fact that he nodded slightly to Vimes didn't help. Vimes lived in a world where people said hello.

"I'm Silver, the butler, Your Grace," the man intoned carefully, in a reproachful tone.

Vimes immediately grabbed his hand and gave it a warm squeeze. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Silver!"

The butler shuddered. "It's Silver, sir, not sir."

"I'm sorry for that,Herr.Silver. So what's your first name?

The butler's face was amused. Mister! Always silver!”

"Well, Mr. "Silver," Vimes said, "I believe it's a matter of belief that all men are the same once you're out of your pants."

The butler's face was impassive as he said, 'That's like maybe, sir, but I am and always will be, Commander, Silver. Good night,your- turned the butler - and good night, Lady Sybil. It must have been seven or eight years since someone from the family was a guest. Can we wait for new visits? And may I please introduce my wife, Mrs. Silver, the housekeeper, whom I don't think you've ever met?

Vimes couldn't stop translating the short speech as follows:EU An molested was she ignored Mim Pro Shake hands com ATo be fair, it wasn't on purpose. In sheer, overwhelming fear, Vimes grabbed the gardener's hand. The translation continued:e now EU An concerned was us it could NO be have von one simply life em A close

'Wait a minute,' said Vimes, 'my wife's a Grace too, you know, that's little more than a lady. Syb... His Grace made me look at the scoreboard.

Lady Sybil knew her husband as people who live on the side of a volcano know the mood of their neighbor. The important thing is to avoid the bang.

"Sam, since I was a girl I have been Lady Sybil to all the servants in our two houses, and so I consider Lady Sybil my name, at least among the people I now consider friends. You know that!” And, she added to herself, we all have our quirks, Sam, even you.

And while that fragrant warning hung in the air, Lady Sybil shook hands with the housekeeper, and then turned to her son. "Now it's off to bed for you, young Sam, right after dinner. And no discussion.

Vimes looked around as the small group entered the entrance hall, which was an armory in every way. It would always be an arsenal in the eyes of any police officer, although to the Ramkins, who hung swords, halberds, sabres, clubs, spears, and shields on every wall, it was undoubtedly little more than a piece of historical furniture. Right in the middle was the huge Ramkin crest. Vimes already knew what the motto means: "What we have, we keep". You could call it a hint.

Soon after, Lady Sybil was busy in the huge laundry and ironing room with Purity, the maid whom Vimes had insisted she employ after young Sam was born, and who he and his wife believed to be well understood: Willikins, although exactly what they understood remained speculation. The two women were absorbed in the feminine pastime of taking off some things and putting on other things. This could go on for a long time and included the ceremony of holding a few things up to the light and letting out a small sad sigh.

With nothing else to do, Vimes returned to the magnificent staircase, where he lit a cigar. Sybil insisted on not smoking in the house. A voice behind him said, "You don't have to, sir. The hall has a good smoking room including a mechanical air vent which is very elegant, sir, believe me you don't see them often. Vimes let Willikins lead the way.

ThisErasa good smoking room, Vimes thought, though admittedly his first-hand experience was limited. The room contained a large pool table and downstairs a basement with more alcohol than any reformed alcoholic would ever see.

"We told you I don't drink, didn't we, Willikins?"

"Oh yes sir. Silver said Hall generally found it appropriate - I believe that was his word - to keep the hold full in case of arrivals.

"Well, it seems a shame to miss the opportunity, Willikins, so make yourself comfortable and have a drink."

Willikins fell back noticeably. "Oh no, sir, I couldn't, sir."

"Why not, man?"

"It's just not ready yet, sir. I'd be a laughing stock in the league of gentlemen if I had the nerve to have a drink with my boss. It would mean putting ideas ahead of my position, sir.

This offended guts for his trembling peer, who said, "I know your position, Willikins, and it's almost the same position as mine with the chips down and the wounds healing."

"Look, sir," Willikins said, almost pleadingly. “Only occasionally do we have to abide by rules. So this time I won't be drinking with you, not being Hogswatch, or the birth of an heir, which the rules allow for, but I'll choose the acceptable alternative, which is to wait until you're in bed and half the bottle drunk.

Well, Vimes thought, we all have our funny little sides, though some of Willikins wouldn't be funny if he was mad at you in a dark alley; but he brightened as he watched Willikins rummage through a well-stocked cocktail cabinet, carefully placing items in a glass.

It shouldn't be possible to get the effects of alcohol in a drink without alcohol, but among the skills Willikins learned, or possibly stole, over the years was the ability to blend common household ingredients into a wholesome lemonade that made it yet tut had pretty much everything you could want in alcohol. Tabasco, cucumber, ginger, and pepper were all in there somewhere, and besides, it was best not to ask too many questions.

Lovely drink in hand, Vimes sat back and said, "Guys, are you alright, Willikins?"

Willikins lowered his voice. "Oh they take things from above sir, but nothing more than normal in my experience. Everyone steals something, that's the perk of the job and the way of the world.

Vimes smiled at Willikin's almost theatrically stiff expression and said aloud to the unseen listener, 'So he's a conscientious man, Silver? That makes me very happy.

"Looks solid to me, sir," said the servant, rolling his eyes skyward and jabbing his finger at a small grate in the wall: the entrance to the legendary extractor hood, which no doubt needed a man backstage to tell the clock to raise. and would any butler worthy of his fat stomach miss an opportunity to keep an eye on what the new master was thinking? He would be hell.

It was a privilege, wasn't it? It is clear that the people would have an advantage here. You didn't need proof. It was human nature. He kept suggesting to Sybil-he wouldn't have dared insist-that the house be closed and sold to someone who really wanted to live in a creaky heap of ice that could have housed a regiment. She didn't want to hear about that. She had fond childhood memories of this place, she said, of climbing trees, swimming and fishing in the river, picking flowers and helping the gardeners and other happy rural enterprises that have been as far away as the moon for Vimes since thenyourThe teenagers' worries were all about staying alive. Youit couldFish in the Ankh River as long as you're careful not to catch anything. In fact, it was amazing what could be achieved by just letting a drop of ankh smack across your lips. And as for picnics, well, in Ankh-Morpork, as a kid, you used to cut and pick, especially on scabs.

It had been a long day and last night's sleep at the inn had been neither healthy nor restful, but before he crawled into the huge bed, Vimes opened a window and looked out at the night. The wind murmured in the trees; Vimes was a bit disapproving of trees, but Sybil liked them, period. Things he didn't want to know rustled and screamed and chattered and inexplicably went mad in the darkness outside. He didn't know what they were and hoped he would never find out. What was that sound when a man was sleeping?

He joined his wife on the bed, struggled for some time before finding her, and sat back. She told him to leave the window open for some supposedly nice fresh air, and Vimes sat miserably, straining to hear the soothing sounds of a drunk walking home or with the owner of the stretcher over the vomit pillow quarreled. , and the occasional street fight, domestic riots, or even uproarious screams, all intermittently interrupted by the chiming of city clocks, none of which is known to have ever rang; and the more subtle sounds, like the rumble of honey trucks as Harry King's nightly garbage truck went about its business. And the best part was the night watchman's cry at the end of the street:snooze Std. e at It is We will!It wasn't long ago that every man who attempted this had his bell, helmet and probably his boots stolen before the echoes faded. But not anymore! Indeed not! This was the modern watch, Vimes' watch, and anyone who challenged the Warden on his rounds with willful malice heard the whistle and learned very quickly that if someone got kicked in the street, they weren't a Warden. The Wardens on duty made a point of calling the time with theatrical clarity and incredible precision outside of Number One Scoone Avenue for the Commander to hear. Now Vimes tucked his head under a huge pillow, trying not to listen to the tremendous, disturbing lack of noise, the absence of which could wake a man who has learned to ignore a carefully timed noise every night for years.

But at five in the morning, Mother Nature pushed a button and the world went mad: every blessed bird and animal and, it seemed, alligator, competed with everyone else to make themselves heard. The cacophony took some time to reach guts. After all, the huge bed had an almost endless supply of pillows. Vimes was a big fan of pillows when he wasn't in his own bed. Not for him one or even two sad little feather bags to bed afterwards – no! He liked cushions that he could burrow into and turn into some sort of soft fortress that left a hole for his oxygen supply.

The dreadful noise died down as he rose to the canvas surface. Oh yeah, he reminded himself, that was another damn thing in this country. It started very early. The Commander was, by habit, necessity, and inclination, a nocturnal man, sometimes even nocturnal; strange for him was the idea of ​​two seven hours in one day. On the other hand, he smelled bacon, and a moment later two nervous young women entered the room carrying trays of intricate metal objects that, when unfolded, made it almost, but not entirely, impossible to sit down and eat the breakfast they contained.

Vimes blinked. It went up! Sybil normally considered it her duty as a wife to ensure that her husband lived forever, and believed that this happy state could be achieved by feeding him nuts, grains, and yogurt, which Vimes considered a type of cheese . that wasn't hard enough. Then there was the sad tampering with his morning snack of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. It was incredible but true that the watchmen in this matter were willing to obey the Lord's wife at her word, and when the Lord cried out and stamped his foot, which was perfectly understandable, nay, pardonable when a man was forbidden to eat a piece of toasted bread in the middle of the morning. Schwein, referring him to his wife's instructions, assuring that all threats of looting were in vain and, if carried out, would be taken back immediately.

Now Sybil appeared from between the pillows and said, "You're on vacation, my dear." The all-you-can-eat-on holiday also included two fried eggs, which he liked, and a sausage - but unfortunately not the fried slice, which apparently was still a sin even on holidays. However, the coffee was thick, black and sweet.

"You slept very well," Sybil said as Vimes glanced over at the unexpected bounty.

He said, "No, I don't know, honey, no winks, I guarantee that."

"Sam, you snored all night. I heard you!"

Vimes' understanding of successful breeding prevented him from making any other comment except, "Really? Was I honey? Oh sorry.

Sybil leafed through a small stack of pastel-colored envelopes that lay on her breakfast tray. "Well, word got around," she said. "The Duchess of Keepsake invited us to a ball, Sir Henry and Lady Withering invited us to a ball, and Lord and Lady Hangfinger asked us to, yes, a ball!"

"Well," said Vimes, "that's a lot..."

"Don't you dare, Sam!" his wife warned, and Vimes finished awkwardly, "...invitations? You know I don't dance darling, I just crawl and stomp on your feet.

"Well, it's mostly for young people, you know? People come to the therapeutic baths at Ham-on-Rye, just down the road. Actually, it's about marrying off the daughters to suitable gentlemen, and that means eggs, almost through eggs.

"I can waltz," said Guts, "it's just a matter of counting, but you know I can't stand all those bouncy guys like Strip the Widow and Gay Gordon."

"Don't worry, Sam. Most older men find a place to sit and smoke or snuff. Mothers do the work of finding suitable bachelors for their daughters. I just hope that my friend Ariadne finds suitable husbands for her daughters. She had sextuplets, very rarely, you know. Of course, the young Mavis is very pious, and again and again a young priest is looking for a wife and, above all, a dowry. And Emily is petite, blonde, an excellent cook, but aware of her enormous breasts.

Vimes looked up at the ceiling. "I suspect that not only will she find a husband," he predicted, "a husband will find her. Call it a man's intuition.

"And then there's Fleur," said Lady Sybil, not taking the bait. "She makes really cute little hats, so I get it." She thought for a moment, then added, "Oh, and then there's Jane. And, uh, Amanda, I think. Apparently he's very interested in frogs, although I'm afraid I misheard your mother. According to her mother, a rather strange girl who doesn't seem to know what to do with her.

Vimes' disinterest in other people's children was boundless, but he could count. "Is the last one?"

"Oh Hermione, she can be difficult because she has upset the family quite a bit, at least in her opinion."


"She's a lumberjack."

Vimes thought for a moment and said, "Well, dear, it's a commonly accepted truth that a man of a lot of wood needs a woman who comes with a big, big..."

Lady Sybil cut in sharply, "Sam Vimes, I believe you intend to make an unkind remark?"

"I think you got there before me," Vimes said, smiling. "You usually do, darling, admit it."

"You may be right, darling," she said, "but that's just in case.sheto say it out loud After all, you're the Duke of Ankh and widely regarded as Lord Vetinari's right-hand man, and that means a certain level of decency would be in order, don't you think?

For a bachelor, this seems like gentle advice; For an experienced husband, it was a command all the more powerful when carried out with delicacy.

When Sir Samuel Vimes and Commander Vimes and His Grace the Duke of left after breakfast, they were all on their best behavior. As it turned out, others weren't.

A maid was sweeping in the hall outside the room, giving Vimes a desperate look as he walked towards her, turned his back and stared at the wall. She looked like she was trembling with fear, and Vimes had learned that the last thing a man should do in these circumstances was to ask a question, or especially to offer help. Screams can result. She was probably just shy, he told himself.

But it seemed that shyness was contagious: there were maids carrying trays or dusting or sweeping as he walked through the building, and every time he approached one of them she would turn abruptly and stare at the wall like her life depended on it .on it. .

When he reached a long gallery lined with his wife's ancestors, guts had enough, and as a young woman with a tray of tea whirled around like the dancer on a music box, he said, 'Excuse me, miss, I'm me here, am i that ugly? Well, that sure was better than asking why she was being so rude, right? So why, in the name of all three gods, had she started running away as she walked down the hall, plates clinking? Among the various mummes, the commander took over; the Duke would be too prohibitive and Blackboard Monitor just wouldn't work. "Stay where you are! Put your tray down and slowly turn around!”

She slid, really slid, turned with perfect grace while still holding the tray, and came to a gentle halt, shaking with anticipation as Vimes caught up with her and said, "What's your name, miss?"

she answered, keeping her face averted. "Hodges, Your Grace, I'm sorry, Your Grace." The dishes were still rattling.

'Look,' said Vimes, 'I can't think with all this noise! Just lay it down gently, okay? Nothing bad will happen to you, but I'd like to see who I'm talking to, thank you.” Reluctantly, the face turned to him.

"Done," he said. "Miss, uh, Hodges, what's the matter? You don't have to run from me, do you?

"Please, sir," and with that, the girl walked to the nearest green felt door and disappeared inside. At that moment, Vimes noticed that another maid was standing directly behind him, practically disguised by her dark uniform, facing the wall and actually shaking. She certainly witnessed everything that happened, so he cautiously approached her and said, "I don't want you to say anything. Just nod or shake your head if I ask a question. Do you understand?" An almost imperceptible nod. "Well, we're making progress! You'll get in trouble if you tell me something?"

Another microscopic nod.

"And are you likely to get in trouble for talking to you?" The maid, rather resourceful, shrugged.

"And the other girl?" Still with her back to him, the invisible girl held out her left hand, thumb down emphatically.

"Thanks," Vimes said to the invisible informant. "You were very helpful."

He walked thoughtfully up the stairs, down an avenue, grateful to meet Willikins at the laundromat on the way. Batman hasn't turned his back on Guts, which a

He folded shirts with the care and attention he might otherwise have given to cutting off the ear of a defeated opponent. As the cuffs of his own spotlessly clean jacket slid up a little, one could only see part of the tattoos on his arm, but fortunately couldn't explain what they said. Vimes said, "Willikins, what are those twirling maids?"

Willkins smiled. "Old custom, sir. One reason for this, of course – there are often stupid looks. No offense Commander, but knowing you, I suggest you let the whirling maids spin until you've got the bottom, so to speak. Her landlady and young Sam are also in kindergarten.

A few minutes later, after some trial and error, Vimes entered what was, in a stuffy way, paradise.

Vimes never had many relatives. Few people bother to make it clear that their distant ancestor was a kingslayer. All of this was history, of course, and it surprised the new Duke of Ankh that the history books were now praising the memory of Old Stoneface, the Warden who had executed the evil bastard on the throne and suddenly struck a blow for liberty and the law. History is what you make of it, he had learned, and Lord Vetinari was a man with access and keys to a whole range of persuasion mechanisms, luckily dating from the days of the regicide and now well oiled in the closet. History is indeed what you make of it, and Lord Vetinari could make of it whatever he wanted. And so the terrible kingslayer was miraculously gone - never been there, you must be wrong, never heard of him, such a person - and by the heroic, if tragically misunderstood, tyrant-slayer Stoneface Vimes, the famous ancestor of the highly respected, Hispanic Grace the Duke of Ankh, has been replaced by Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. The story was a wonderful thing, it moved like the sea and Vimes was swept away by the tide.

The de Vimes family lived one generation after another. There were never any family heirlooms, no family jewellery, no embroidered patterns sewn by a long-dead aunt, no interesting old urns found in Grandma's attic that one would expect the bright young man who dabbled in antiques would tell them they were worth a thousand dollars and you could explode with hubris. And there was absolutely no money, just a certain amount of unpaid debt. But here in the playroom lay neatly stacked generations of toys and games, some a bit worn from long use, most notably the rocking horse, which was practically life-size and had a real leather harnessed saddle (Vimes discovered to his disbelief as he fingered them rubbed) real silver. There was also a fortress large enough for a child to stand and defend himself and a selection of child-sized siege weapons to attack, possibly with the help of crates and crates of tin soldiers all painted in the regimental colors im Detail. For two pins, Vimes would have gotten down on one knee and played with them right there. There were model yachts and a teddy bear so big that Vimes wondered for a horrible moment if it was real, a teddy bear; there were catapults and boomerangs and gliders... and in the midst of it all young Sam was paralyzed, almost in tears from the knowledge that no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't play with everything at once. It was very different from Vime's childhood and playing poop with real poop.

As his eyeball rose timidly to the rocking horse, which had shockingly large teeth, Vimes told his wife about the obnoxious spider girls. She just shrugged and said, "You do, honey. They're used to that."

"How can you say that? It's so humbling!

Lady Sybil had developed an absolutely calm and understanding tone when dealing with her husband. "That's because, technically, they are themthey arehumiliated. They spend a lot of time ministering to people who are far more important than themselves. And you're at the top of the list, honey.

"But I don't think I'm any more important than her!" Guts snapped.

"I think I know what you're saying and that does you credit," Sybil said, "but what you actually said doesn't make any sense. You are a duke, a commander of the city watch and' she paused.

"A blackboard monitor," Vimes said automatically.

"Yes, Sam, the highest honor the dwarf king can bestow." Sybil's eyes lit up. “Blackboard Willow Monitor; someone who can erase the scriptures, someone who can erase what is there. It is you, Sam, and if you were killed the law firms of the world would be in turmoil and, sadly, Sam, would not be troubled by the death of a maid. She held up her hand as he opened his mouth and added, "I knowsheThey would be, Sam, but while I'm sure they are wonderful girls, I'm afraid if they died a family and maybe a young man would be heartbroken and the rest of the world would never know. And you, Sam, know that's true. However, if you were ever murdered, dread the thought, and indeed, every time you go into service, not only Ankh-Morpork but the world would know about it instantly. Wars could break out and I suspect Vetinari's position could become a bit dangerous. You are more important than the girls at work. You are more important than anyone in the Watch. You're confusing value with value I think. She gave him a quick kiss on the worried cheek. “Whatever you think you used to be, Sam Vimes, you are risen and you deserve to be risen. You know the cream goes to the top!

"The scum too," Vimes said automatically, although he immediately regretted it.

"How dare you say that, Sam Vimes! You may have been a diamond in the rough, but you polished yourself! And as much as you cut it, my man, though you are no longer a man of the people, it seems to me that you are a man of the people.ProFolks, and I think folks are a lot better off with that, ya hear?”

Young Sam looked admiringly at his father as the rocking horse began to gallop. Between son and wife, guts never stood a chance. He looked so emaciated that, as wives do, Lady Sybil tried to console herself.

"After all, Sam, you expect your men to do their duty, don't you? Likewise, the housekeeper expects the girls to get on with theirs.”

"It's very different, it really is. Cops watch people and I've never told them they can't spend the day with someone. After all, that someone can provide useful information.” Vimes knew this was technically true, but anyone who gave a cop anything more useful than a time of day on most city streets would soon find that a straw would be needed to help them when to help food. But the analogy was true nonetheless, he thought, or would have been had he been a man who found the word analogy easy. Just because you were a member of someone's team didn't mean you had to act like some kind of mechanical toy...

"Shall I tell you why the maids are spinning, Sam?" Sybil said as young Sam petted the giant teddy bear, startling him with a growl. “It was built in my grandfather's time on behalf of my grandmother. Back then, we hosted non-stop with dozens of guests on some weekends. Of course, many of these guests would be young people from very good families in the city, very well educated and full of, shall we say, energy and drive.

Sybil looked at young Sam and was relieved to see that he was now lining up some small soldiers. "On the other hand, the maids are not naturally well mannered and I am ashamed to say that they may have been a little too lenient towards people they consider their superiors." She blushed and gestured at the boy Sam, who to her delight was still not paying attention. "I'm sure you understand, Sam? Absolutely right, and my grandmother, who would almost certainly hate you, had decent instincts and decreed that all maids not only refrain from speaking to male guests, but also not to make eye contact with them, on pain of dismissal. You could tell she was cruel for the sake of being nice, but not too cruel when I came to think of it. Over time, maids left the room with good references and not ashamed to wear a white dress on their wedding day.”

"But I'm happily married," Vimes protested. "And I can't see Willikins risking Purity's wrath either."

"Yes, darling, and I will be with Mrs. Silber. But this is the country, Sam. Here we take it a little slower. Well, why don't you go down to the river with young Sam? Take Willikins with you, he knows his stuff.

Young Sam didn't need much entertainment. In fact, he crafted his own entertainment, assembling it in bulk from observations of the countryside, the stories that lulled him to sleep the night before before bed, a butterfly thought that had just crossed his mind, and more and more he talks about Mr. Whistle, who lived in a tree house but was sometimes a dragon. He also had a big boot and he didn't like Wednesdays because it smelled bad and he had an umbrella.

Unfazed by the field, young Sam ran ahead of Vimes and Willikins, pointing to trees, sheep, flowers, birds, dragonflies, oddly shaped clouds and a human skull. He seemed quite impressed with the discovery and ran to show it to his father, who looked at it as if he'd seen, well, a human skull. However, it was clearly a long-ago human skull that had apparently been cared for to the point of polishing.

As Vimes turned it over in his hands, forensically checking for signs of foul play, a flip-flop noise approached through the bushes, accompanied by a singing number about what an unknown person would do to people who stole skulls. out. As the bushes parted, the unknown person turned out to be an old man with unsafe teeth, a dirty brown robe, and a beard longer than any Vimes had seen before, and Vimes was a man who killed the Unseen Entering university where wizards lived I thought this wisdom embodied growing a beard that would keep your knees warm. It followed its owner like a comet. He caught up to him as his oversized sandaled feet skidded to a halt, but his momentum got him climbing on his head. Possibly it carried wisdom, for its owner was clever enough to stop suddenly when he saw Vimes' look. There was silence save for young Sam's laughter as the endless beard, with a life of its own, fell on the man like winter snow.

Willikins cleared his throat and said, "I think that's the hermit, Commander."

“What is a hermit doing here? I thought they lived on poles in deserts! Vimes glared at the ragged man, who clearly felt an explanation was needed and would provide it whether it was needed or not.

"Yes sir, I know sir this is a common deception and I personally have never given much credit to it due to the difficulty of dealing with what I would call toilet needs and the like. I mean, that sort of thing might be all right in foreign lands where there's sun and lots of sand, but it wouldn't do for me, sir, not at all.

The apparition held out a filthy hand made up mostly of fingernails and proudly continued, "I do, Grace, although I'm not often at a loss, haha, my little joke."

"Yes, it is," Vimes said, keeping his eyes blank.

"That's true, sir," Stump said. "The only one I have. I have practiced the noble profession of shepherd here for almost 57 years, practicing piety, sobriety, celibacy and seeking true wisdom in the tradition of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather before me. That's my great-grandfather you're holding, sir,” he added happily. "Nice glow, isn't it?" Vimes managed not to drop the skull he was holding. Stump continued, "I think your little boy got into my den sir, no offense intended sir, but the village boys here are a bit playful at times and I only had to pull my grandfather out of the tree two weeks ago."

It was Willikins who found the mental space to say, "You keep your great-grandfather's skull in a cave?"

"Oh yes, gentlemen, and my father. family tradition, see? And my grandfather. Uninterrupted tradition of shepherding for nearly three hundred years, doling out pious thoughts and the knowledge that all roads lead only to the grave, and other somber reflections to all who seek us - which few these days, I might add. I hope my son can wear my sandals when he is old enough. His mother says he's growing up to be a very serious young man, so I live in hope that one day he can give me a good polish. There's plenty of room on the skull shelf in the grotto, I'm glad.

"Your son?" said guts. "Did you mention celibacy?"

"Very thoughtful of you, Your Grace. We have a week off every year. A person cannot live on snails and shore herbs alone..."

Vimes gently indicated that they had work to do, leaving the hermit to carefully carry the family heirloom to his grotto, wherever it might be. When they seemed out of earshot, he said, waving his hands in the air, "Why? I mean why?"

"Oh, some of the really old ancestral houses had a hermit in the dun, sir. It was considered romantic to have a grotto with a hermit.”

"He sniffed his nose a bit," Vimes said.

'You mustn't take a bath, sir, and you should know, sir, that he gets two pounds of potatoes, three pints of beer or cider, three loaves of bread and a pound of pork a week. . . . And probably all the snails and weeds on the river bank that he can hold down. I checked the bills, sir. Not bad nutrition for a rock garden.

"It's not so bad if you add some fruit and the occasional laxative, I suppose," Vimes said. "So Sybil's ancestors always came and talked to the hermit when they were faced with a philosophical puzzle, right?"

Willikins looked confused. "Good heavens, no sir, I can't imagine any of you ever dreaming of doing that. They never had truckloads of philosophers. They were aristocrats, you know? Aristocrats don't understand philosophical puzzles. You just ignore them. Part of philosophy is to consider the possibility that you might be wrong, sir, and a true aristocrat knows he is.alwaysTo the right. It's not vanity, you know, it's a built-in absolute certainty. Sometimes they can be as crazy as a hat full of spoons, but they're always there.finallyecertainlyCrazy."

Vimes looked at him in awe. "How the hell do you know all this, Willikins?"

"I've been watching you, sir." In the good old days, when his landlady's grandfather was still alive, he made sure all the people from Scoone Avenue came here with their families in the summer. As you know I'm not very diligent and frankly neither are you, but when you grow up on the streets you learn fast because if you don't learn fast you die."

They were crossing an ornamental bridge now, probably over the Trout Stream and, Vimes guessed, a tributary of the Old Treachery, a name he still didn't understand the origin of. Two men and a boy walk across a bridge that could have carried crowds, carriages and horses. The world seemed out of balance.

'You see, sir,' said Willikins, 'being destined got them all that money and land. Sometimes, of course, I lost to them too. One of Lady Sybil's great-uncles once lost a mansion and 200 acres of noble land because he believed a wardrobe brand could beat three aces. He was killed in the ensuing duel, but at least he wasfinallydied."

"It's snobbery and I don't like it," said Vimes.

Willikins rubbed the side of his nose. “Well, Commander, that's not snobbery. You don't get much of that with the real McCoy in my experience. The right ones, I mean... they don't care what the neighbors think or they walk around in old clothes. You're confident, see? When Lady Sybil was younger the family used to come here to shear the sheep and her father would fuss with everyone, roll up his sleeves and stuff, and make sure there was a round of beers for all the boys afterwards, and he'd have a drink with them them pitcher by pitcher. Of course, he was first and foremost a boozer, so a little beer wasn't going to bring him down. He never cared about who he was. He was a decent boy, his father - and his grandfather too. Right, you see, never worried.

They walked along an avenue of chestnut trees for a while, and then Vimes said grumpily, "Are you saying I don't know who I am?"

Willikins looked up at the trees and thoughtfully replied, "Looks like there will be a lot of chestnuts this year, Commander, and if you don't mind my proposing it, you might consider bringing this young man over here." bring. when they start falling As a kid, I was the dead rat chestnut advocate for years, until I found out that real things grow on trees and don't compress that easily. Regarding your question," he continued, "I think Sam Vimes is at his best when he's confident that he's Sam Vimes. My goodness, and they are bearing fruit earlier this year!”

The avenue of chestnut trees ended at this point and an apple orchard stretched in front of it. "Not the best fruit, like apples," Willikins said as Vimes and young Sam walked over to her, kicking up dust on the chalky road. The comment seemed unimportant to Vimes, but Willikins seemed to think the orchard was very important.

"The little boy will want to see that," Willikins said enthusiastically. "I saw it myself when I was the boy in the trunk. It totally changed the way I thought about the world. The third Earl, "Mad" Jack Ramkin, had a brother named Woolsthorpe, presumably because of his sins. He was something of a scholar and would have been sent to college to become a magician if his brother had not made it clear that any of his brothers practicing any profession that involved wearing a dress would be disinherited. with a cleaver.

"Yet young Woolsthorpe persisted in his studies of natural philosophy, as a gentleman should, dug up every suspicious-looking grave he could find nearby, filled his lizard press with as many rare specimens as he could collect, and dried every flower he could find before it died out. The story goes that he was dozing under an apple tree on a hot summer's day and was woken up by an apple falling on his head. A lesser man, as his biographer put it, would not have seen anything out of the ordinary, but Woolsthorpe surmised that the world would eventually become dangerously unbalanced, as apples and virtually everything else always fall...unless it were another agency involved. which natural philosophy had yet to be discovered. He wasted no time in dragging one of the lackeys into the orchard and, on pain of dismissal, ordered him to lie under the tree until an apple hit him in the head! The likelihood of this happening was increased by another servant whom Woolsthorpe ordered to shake the tree vigorously until the required apple fell. Woolsthorpe was ready to watch this from afar.

"Who can imagine their joy when the inevitable apple fell and a second apple rose from the tree and quickly disappeared into the vaults of heaven, proving the hypothesis that what goes up must come down again, there that which goes down must come up maintaining the balance of the universe. Unfortunately, this only works with apples, and surprisingly only the apples on this tree,MalusI've heard someone discover that when the tree is shaken, the apples at the top of the tree fill with gas and fly up, allowing it to deposit its seeds some distance away. Wonderful thing nature, too bad the fruit tastes like dog food,” Willikins added as young Sam spat a little. "To tell the truth, Commander, I wouldn't give you two pence for many of the upper classes I knew, especially in the city, but some of them in those old country houses changed the world for the better. Like the ramkin beet that revolutionized agriculture..."

"I think I've heard of him," said Vimes. "Isn't it something to do with rooting? Didn't he get his nickname?

"Almost right, sir," Willikins said. “He actually invented the seeder, which meant more reliable crops and a big savings in corn seed. He just looked like a turnip. People can be so cruel sometimes, sir. There was also his brother "Rubber Ramkin", who invented not only rubber boots but also rubberized fabrics, before the dwarves. Really very interested in rubber from what I've heard but it takes all species to create a world and it would be a fun place if we were all the same and especially if we were all like him. Dry feet and dry shoulders, sir, what every farm hand wants! I made a spell in a winter by cutting cabbage sir the weather was as cold as welfare and the rain fell so fast it had to queue to fall on the ground. I then blessed his name so I did, although what they said about the young women I heard was true, they really enjoyed the experience...”

"That's all well and good," said Vimes, "but it doesn't make up for all the stupidity and arrogance..."

This time it was Willikins who interrupted his master. “And then, of course, there was the flying machine. His landlady's late brother worked hard on the project, but it never got off the ground. Flying without brooms and spells was his goal, but alas, the outbreak of the crisis killed him, poor fellow. By the way, there is a model of him in the children's room. It works with rubber bands.”

"I think there was a lot of material out there unless Rubber Ramkin put it all together themselves," Vimes said.

The drive continued, through meadows that Vimes called cows and around cornfields. They sailed around a ha-ha, keeping their distance from the ho-ho and completely ignoring the he-he, then went up a gentle path to a hilltop where a grove of beech trees was planted and from which practically everything could be seen. places, and certainly to the end of the universe, but that probably meant looking up with no books in the way. It was even possible to make out the high plume of smoke and smoke rising from the city of Ankh-Morpork.

"This is Hangman's Hill," Willikins said as Vimes caught his breath. "And you might not want to go any further," he said as they neared the summit, "unless you want to explain to your young man what a gallows is."

Vimes looked questioningly at his servant. "For real?"

“Well, like I said, this is Hangman's Hill. Why do you think they called it that, sir? "Black Jack" Ramkin was terribly wrong when he made a huge bet with one of his equally drunk friends that he could see the city's smoke from his property. A surveyor who had tested the hypothesis told him the hill was ten meters shorter. Pausing only to try to bribe the surveyor and then flog him unsuccessfully, he rallied all the workers on this property and everyone else here and ordered them to raise the hill by said thirty feet, a most ambitious project. It cost a fortune, of course, but probably every family in the district bought warm winter clothes and new boots. That made him very popular and of course he won the bet.”

Vimes sighed. "Somehow I think I know the answer to that, but I still ask: What was the stake?"

"Two gallons of brandy," said Willikins triumphantly, "which he drank in one gulp while standing in that very spot, to the applause of the assembled working class, and then, according to legend, rolled it down to further applause." .”

"Even when I was drunk, I don't think I could drink two gallons of brandy," said Vimes. "That's twelve bottles!"

"Well, in the end I think a lot of that went down the drain, one way or another. There were many like him, but..."

"Pulls his pants down," interjected young Sam, giving way to the oddly hoarse cackle of a six-year-old who thinks he's heard some dirt. And by the looks of it, so did the workers who applauded the old drunk. Cheer up a man drinking a year's salary at a time? what was the point

Willikins must have read his mind. "The land is not as subtle as the city, commander. They like things big and uncomplicated here, and blackjack was as big and uncomplicated as you might expect. That's why they liked him, because they knew where they were even when he was about to fall. I bet they bragged about him all over the county. I can well imagine.Our drunk alt Herr I can drink more your drunk alt Herr none is von Aand they would be proud of it. I'm sure you thought you did the right thing when you shook hands with the gardener, but you confused people. They don't know what to do with you. Are you a man or a master? Are you a nob or one of them? Because, Commander, where you are, no one can be both. It would be against nature. And the country doesn't like riddles either.

"Big Messy Pants!" said young Sam, falling on the grass, overcome with humor.

"I don't know what to do with myself either," Vimes said, picking up his son and following Willikins down the hill. "But Sybil does. She booked me for balls, balls, dinners and, oh yes, soirees,” he concluded, in the tone of a man genetically programmed to distrust any heavily accented word. "I mean, I've accepted something like that in the city. If I think it's going to be too awful, I make sure I'm called to an emergency midway through - at least I used to be before Sybil started. It's a terrible thing when a man's servants take orders from his wife, you know?

"Yes Commander. She has ordered the kitchen staff not to prepare bacon rolls without her express permission.

Vimes shuddered. "You brought the little cooking set, didn't you?"

"Unfortunately, your lordship knows about our little cooking set, Commander. She has forbidden the kitchen to give me bacon unless the request comes directly from her.

"Honestly, she's just as bad as Vetinari! How does she find out all these things?

"Actually, Commander, I don't think so, at least as an actual fact. you justhe knowsYour. Perhaps you should take it as a friendly suspicion. We must get along well, Commander. I was told they have chicken salad for lunch.

"Do I like chicken salad?"

"Yes, Commander, Your Lordship told me."

Vimes gave in. "Then I accept."

Back in Scoone, Vimes and Sybil usually only ate one meal a day together, in the kitchen, which in those days was always pleasantly cozy. They sat across from each other at the table long enough to support the vast collection of sauce jars, mustard jars, pickles and of course Wicker chutneys, with Wicker espousing the popular belief that no pickle pot is truly empty once you've eaten it shakes the spoon around it long enough.

In the hall it was different. For one, there was too much food. Vimes wasn't born yesterday, not even the day before yesterday, and he refrained from commenting.

Willikins served Vimes and Lady Sybil. Strictly speaking it wasn't his job while they were away from home, but strictly speaking most gentlemen weren't wearing a pair of brass knuckles in their well-tailored jackets either.

"And what did you guys do this morning?" said Sybil cheerfully as the plates were emptied.

"We saw the stinking Bone Man!" said young Sam. "He was all bearded, but smelly! And we found the stinky apple tree that looks like poop!”

Lady Sybil's calm expression didn't change. "And then you came down the big hill, didn't you? What about the ha-ha, the ho-ho and the he-he?”

"Yes, but that's just cow dung! I stepped on them!" Young Sam waited for an adult reply and his mother said, "Well, you've got your new country boots, haven't you? Stepping in cow poo is what they are for.

Sam Vimes watched his son's face light up with incredible joy as his mother continued. "Your grandfather always told me that if I saw a big pile of manure in a field, I should kick it a little to spread it out evenly, because that's the way it isatThe grass will really grow. She smiled at Vimes' expression and said, "Well it's true dear. A lot of farming revolves around manure.”

"As long as he understands that when he comes back to town, he won't step in the gutter," Vimes said. "Some of these things will go back."

“He should learn about the field. He needs to know where the food comes from and how we get it. This is important Sam!

"Of course honey."

Lady Sybil gave her husband a look that only a wife could give. "That was your cocky but obedient voice, Sam."

"Yes, but I don't see..."

Sybil interrupted him. "Young Sam will one day own everything and want him to have an idea of ​​it, just as he wants you to relax and enjoy your holiday. I later take young Sam to the home farm to see how the cows are milked and to collect some eggs. She got up. "But first I'm taking you to the crypt to see your ancestors." She caught her husband's panicked look and quickly added, "It's okay Sam, they're not walking around; they're not walking around." they are indeed in very expensive boxes. Why don't you come too?

Sam Vimes was no stranger to death and vice versa. It was the suicides that brought him down. They were hangings mainly because you would have to be extremely suicidal to jump into the Ankh River, not least because you would have to jump multiple times before breaking through the crust. And they all had to be investigated if it was a matter of murder and Mr. Trooper, the town's current henchman, could throw someone into eternity so quickly and smoothly that he probably wouldn't notice, Vimes had seen many times what amateurs succeeded.

The Ramkin family crypt reminded him of the city mortuary after hours. Was filled; some coffins were stacked on their sides as if they were on morgue shelves, but, unsurprisingly, they did not slide out. Vimes watched carefully as his wife carefully guided her son from panel to panel, reading the names and explaining a little about each inhabitant, and he felt the cold, bottomless depths of time around him, somehow breathing through the walls. How about young Sam knowing the names of all these grandfathers and grandmothers through the ages? Vimes never met his father. His mother told him the man had been run over by a cart, but Vimes suspected that if that was true, it was probably a brewery cart that had "run over" him bit by bit over the years. Oh, of course there was Old Stoneface, the kingslayer, now rehabilitated and with his own statue in town, which was never sprayed because Vimes made it clear what would happen to the criminal.

But Old Stoneface was just a point in time, a kind of true myth. There was no line between him and Sam Vimes, just an aching chasm.

Still, young Sam would be a duke one day, and that was a thought worth considering. He wouldn't worry about what he was, because yes, and his mother's influence might outweigh the huge drag factor of having Samuel Vimes as a father. Young Sam would be able to rock the world just right. It takes confidence to do that, and having a bunch of (seemingly) wacky but interesting ancestors could only impress the man in the street, and Vimes knew many streets and many men.

Willikins hadn't been entirely telling the truth. Even the townsfolk liked a character, especially one who was dark-hearted or interesting enough to make a significant contribution to the insane, never-ending circus show that defined life on the streets of Ankh-Morpork, even though it was a social faux pas having a drunk father, having a great-great-grandfather who drank so much cognac that his urine must surely have been flammable and then, according to Willikins, went home to eat turbot followed by roast goose ( with matching cries) and then threw a saddle hand with his buddies until dawn to recoup their previous losses... Well, people loved that kind of thing and that kind of person who kicked the world's ass and yelled at them. That was an ancestor to be proud of, wasn't it?

"I think...I'd like to go for a walk alone," Vimes said. "You know, look around, poke around a bit, get the hang of this country stuff at my own pace."

"Willikins should accompany you, dear," said Lady Sybil, "just in case."

"For what, my love? I walk the streets of the city every night, don't you? I don't think I need an escort for a country walk, do I? I'm trying to get into the spirit of things. I'll be looking at the daffodils to see if they fill me with joy or whatever they're supposed to do and keep an eye out for the very rare loon and watch for the moles flying by. I've been reading the nature notes in the newspaper for weeks. I think I can do it myself, darling. The watch commander is not afraid to spot the spotted spotted flycatcher!”

Lady Sybil had learned from experience when not to argue, and was content to say, "At least disturb no one, will you, dear?"

After ten minutes of walking, guts were lost. Not lost physically, but lost metaphorically, spiritually and peripherally. The scents of the hedges were flat compared to the strong stench of the city, and he had no idea what was rustling in the undergrowth. He recognized heifers and oxen because he used to walk through the slaughterhouse district, but the locals weren't afraid and watched him intently as he passed, as if quietly taking notes. Yes that was it! The world was backwards! He was a cop, always was a cop, and would die a cop. You never stopped being a cop in general, and as a cop he walked around town more or less invisible except to the people who made it their business to spot cops and whose livelihood depended on them Spot cops before the cops spot them. . Most of the time you were part of the scene until the scream, the clinking of broken glass and the sound of criminal footsteps brought you into focus.

But hereatlooked at him. Things darted behind a hedge, flew in a panic, or just rustled suspiciously in the undergrowth. He was the outsider, the intruder who wasn't wanted here.

He turned another corner and there was the village. He had seen the chimneys some distance away, but the lanes and paths intersected in a tangle, repeated in the overgrown hedges and trees forming shady tunnels - which was welcome - and playing a hilarious hell with his sense of direction. , which it wasn't.

He had lost all sense of direction and was flushed and troubled when he came up a long dusty street with thatched huts on either side and in the middle of a large building with 'pub' written all over it, mostly by the three old men. sitting on the bench outside, looking hopefully at the approaching Vimes if he was the kind of man who would buy another man a beer. They wore clothes that looked like they had been nailed on. Then, as he drew near, one said something to the other two, and they rose as he passed, touching the brims of their hats with their forefingers. One of them said, "Garternoon, yer grace," a phrase that after some thought Vimes interpreted. There was also a slight and distinct tipping of the empty cups to indicate that they were indeed empty cups and therefore an anomaly to be corrected.

Vimes knew what was expected of him. There wasn't a pub in Ankh-Morpork that didn't have the equivalent of three old men sunning themselves outside and always ready to chat to strangers about the good old days, that is, when the pints they drank still They contained beer. And the form said you filled them with cheap beer and got a "Well thank you sir" and possibly little bubbles of information about who was seen, where what was done, with whom and when, all copper mill.

But the expressions on these three's faces changed when another of them hastily whispered to his cronies. They slumped back on the wooden seat as if trying to be inconspicuous, still holding the empty vials because you never know. A sign above the door announced that this was the goblin's head.

In front of the pub there was a large open space, as they say, on the lawn. A few sheep grazed on it, and at the far end was a great heap of wickerwork, wooden obstacles whose purpose Vimes could not guess. However, he was familiar with the term "village catcher" although he had never seen one. Ankh-Morpork didn't like vegetables very much.

The pub smelled of stale beer. It helped as a bulwark against temptation, although Vimes had been clean for years and could tolerate the occasional sherry on formal occasions, hating the taste anyway. The smell of old beer had the same effect. In the sparse light from the tiny windows, Vimes could make out an older man busily polishing a mug. The man looked at Vimes and nodded, the basic nod understood everywhere to mean, "I see you, you see me, it's up to you what happens next," although some innkeepers might nod that too to convey the information that there can only be half a meter of lead pipe under the counter, should the other person involved want to do something, so to speak.

Vimes said, "Are you serving anything non-alcoholic?"

The bartender very carefully hung the mug on a hook above the bar, then looked straight at Vimes and said without resentment, 'Well you see sir, this is what we call a pub. People get stuffy about it when I drop the booze.” He tapped his fingers on the counter briefly and continued uncertainly, “My wife makes root beer, if that's your thing?”

"What root?"

"Beetroot, by the way, sir. It's good to keep it regular.

"Well, I've always thought of myself as a normal person," said Vimes. "Give me a pint... no, make a pint, thanks." There was another nod and the man disappeared backstage briefly, returning with a tall glass brimming with red foam. "There it is," he said, placing it carefully on the counter. "We don't cast it in tin because it does something to the metal. This is on the house, sir. My name is Jiminy, owner of Goblin's Head. I dare say I know yours. My daughter is maid in the main house, and I treat all men equally, for the innkeeper is the friend of every man with money in his pocket, and also, if he feels like it, perhaps even those who find themselves temporarily broken stony , which doesn't include the three Herberts outside for now. The innkeeper welcomes all the men after a few beers and sees no reason to discriminate against them.

Jiminy winked at Vimes, who held out his hand and said, "Then I'll happily shake hands with a Republican!"

Vimes was familiar with the ridiculous litany. Any man who served behind a bar considered himself one of the greatest thinkers in the world, and it was wise to treat him as such. After the handshake, he added, "This juice is really good. Pretty spicy.

"Yes sir, my wife uses chili pepper and celery seed to make a man think he's drinking something with bones."

Vimes leaned against the bar, inexplicably at peace. On the wall above the bar hung the heads of dead animals, mostly those with horns and tusks, but it was a shock to see a goblin's head in the dirty light. I'm on vacation, he thought, and that must have been a long time ago, ancient history, and left it at that.

Mr. Cricket occupied himself with dozens of small tasks that a bartender always has to attend to, while occasionally glancing at his only customer. Vimes thought for a moment, then said, "Would you bring those gentlemen out there a beer, Mr. Jiminy, and pour each a brandy so a man will know he's been drinking?"

"That would be Long Tom, Short Tom, and Tom Tom," Jiminy said, picking up a couple of cups. “Decent boys – triplets actually. They make a living, but as you can see they shared a brain with the three of them, and it wasn't such a great brain to begin with. Pretty good at scaring crows.

'And they were all called Tom?' said Vimes.

"That's right. It's because it's a family name, you see, her father's name is Tom too. Perhaps this will avoid confusion as they are easily confused. They get along well now, of course, but if you give them something you work on, they will do well, and they won't stop until you say so. No beggars in the field, see? There is always little work that needs to be done. With your permission, sir, I'll get you some Brandy. You don't have to be too confusing if you get what I mean.

The innkeeper put the mugs on a tray and disappeared into the bright sunlight. Vimes moved quickly behind the bar and back again without stopping. A few seconds later he was casually leaning against the bar as three faces peered through the open door. With a worried look, three thumbs-up salutes were given to Vimes and faces pulled back out of view, presumably in case he exploded or horns grew.

Jiminy returned with the empty tray and gave Vimes a cheerful smile. "Well, you've made some friends there, sir, but don't let me stay with you. I am sure you are very busy.

A copper one, Vimes thought. I know a police baton when I see one. That's the cop's dream, isn't it? Get off the streets and run a little bar somewhere, and because you're a cop, and because a cop never lets you down, you'll know what's going on. I know you and you don't know that I know you. And from my point of view I call it the result. Wait a minute, Mr. Cricket. I know where you live.

Now Vimes could hear slow, heavy footsteps in the distance, coming closer. He saw the local men arrive in their work clothes, carrying what most people would consider farm implements, but which Vimes mentally registered as offensive weapons. The troops had stopped outside the door and now he heard whispering. The three toms apparently broadcast today's news, and it seemed to be met with disbelief or contempt. Some kind of conclusion reached, not happy.

And then the men advanced, Vimes's mind timing them for immediate reference. Exhibit one was an elderly man with a long white beard and, dear heavens, an apron. Did they really still use it? Whatever his name, others probably called him "Grandpa". Hesitantly, he tapped his forehead in greeting and headed for the bar, work safely done. He was carrying a large grappling hook, not a good weapon. Test two carried a spade that could have been an ax or a mace if a man knew what he was doing. He frowned too, not catching Vimes' attention, and his greeting was more like a reluctant wave. Exhibit three, holding a toolbox (a fantastic weapon when wielded correctly), rushed past, barely glancing in Vimes' direction. He looked young and quite skinny, but you can still get a good boost out of one of those boxes. Then there was an elderly man who wore a blacksmith's apron but was of the wrong build, so Vimes identified him as a blacksmith. Yes it would be, small and thin, he would easily walk under a horse. The man made a reasonable attempt to salute the topknot, and Vimes could see no dangerous bulges hidden by his apron. He could not avoid this algebra; It was what you did when you did the job. Even if you didn't expect problems, you expected problems.

And then the room froze.

There had been a rambling conversation near Jiminy, but it now ceased when the real Smith entered. Damned. All of Vimes' warning bells rang simultaneously, and no bells rang. They resonated. After a quick look around the room, the man made his way to the bar on the course, which would take him past Sam Vimes, or probably even through Sam Vimes. So Vimes carefully pulled his mug out of the way, lest the man's blatant attempt to "accidentally" spill it fail.

"Sir. Cricket,' called Vimes, 'a round of drinks for these gentlemen, alright?'

This caused some cheers from the other newcomers, but the smith slammed his hand like a shovel on the wood, cracking the glasses.

"I don't mind drinking with them, how they grind up the faces of the poor!"

Vimes met her gaze and said, "Sorry I didn't bring my grinder today." It was silly, as a few giggles from hopeful drinkers in the bar were only stoking the fire the blacksmith had forgotten at the work and made him angry.

"Who are you to think you're a better man than me?"

Vimes shrugged and said, "I don't know if I'm a better man than you." But he thought you look like a big man in a small community to me and you think you're tough because you're strong and metal doesn't sneak up behind you and try to kick your goosebumps. My god, you can't even stand up straight! Even Corporal Nobbs was able to knock you down and kick you diligently at the fork before you realized what was going on.

Like any man who fears that something precious might break, Jiminy came storming across the floor, grabbed the smith's arm and said, "Come on Jethro, we won't be in trouble. His grace is to have but one drink, to which every man is entitled..."

It seemed to be working, although aggression burned Jethro's face and indeed the air around him. From the looks on the other men's faces, this was a performance they were familiar with. He was a poor cop who couldn't read bar crowds, and Vimes could probably write a story with footnotes. Every community has its arsonist, madman or self-taught politician. They are generally tolerated because they add to the joy of the nations, so to speak, and people say, "That's just how he is," and the air clears and life goes on. But Jethro, now sitting in the far corner of the bar, sipping his beer like a lion crouching over his gazelle, well, Jethro, in the Vimes Dictionary of Risks, was a man who was likely to explode. Of course, sometimes the world had to explode, as long as it didn't happen where Vimes drank.

Vimes noticed the pub filling up, mostly with other sons of the country but also with people who, gentlemen or not, would expect to be called that. They wore brightly colored hats and white pants and talked non-stop.

There was more outdoor activity too; Horses and carriages filled the route. There was a pounding somewhere and Cricket's wife was now, or rather, serving the bar while her husband walked around with his tray. Jethro stayed in his corner like a man biding his time, occasionally throwing daggers and probably fists with an assortment of boots if Vimes looked at him.

Vimes decided to take a look through the bar's dirty window. Unfortunately the pub was the spookiest, most picturesque thing, which meant the window was made of small round panes fixed with lead. They were there to let light in, not see out, bending the light so irregularly that it almost broke. A window showed what was probably a sheep but looked like a white whale until it moved and turned into a mushroom. A man walked past without a head until he reached another window and then got a huge eyeball. Young Sam would have loved it, but his father decided to ignore a possible blindness and went out into the sun.

Ah, he thought, some kind of game.

Well, and.

Vimes didn't like games because they led to crowds, and crowds led to working for cops. But he really wasn't a cop here, was he? It was a strange feeling so he left the bar and became an innocent bystander. He couldn't remember when he'd been one before. He looked… vulnerable. He walked up to the nearest man driving stakes into the ground and asked, "What's going on here?" Realizing that he was talking about copper and not ordinary people, he quickly added, "If you mind if I ask?"

The man straightened up. He was one of those people who wore colorful hats. 'Have you never seen a game of crockett, sir? It's the game of games!”

Mr. Civil Vimes did his best to look like a man thirsty for even tastier information. Judging by his informant's enthusiastic smile, he was learning the rules of crockett whether he wanted to or not. Well, he thought, I asked...

“At first glance, sir, crockett may look like just another ball game in which two sides battle each other, trying to throw the ball into some sort of opponent's goal with their hand, bat or other device. However, crockett was caught during a game of croquet at St Onan's Theological College when the novice Father Jackson Fieldfair, now Bishop of Quirm, took his mallet with both hands and, instead of giving the ball a gentle hit..."

After that, Vimes resigned, not only because the rules of the game were in themselves incomprehensible, but also because the enthusiastic young man allowed his enthusiasm to overcome any consideration of the need to explain things in a sensible order, which meant that the The The deluge of information was constantly punctuated by apologetic comments such as "Sorry, I should have explained earlier that a second bowling pin is not allowed more than once per shot, and in normal play there is only one tump, unless of course you is it we're talking about royal crockett..."

Vimes died... The sun fell from the sky, giant lizards took over the world, the stars exploded and went out and all hope disappeared with a gurgle in the trap of oblivion and the gas filled the sky and ignited and lo and behold there was a new one Heaven, a caring owner and a new saucer, and lo and behold, and possibly real, life crawled out of the sea, or possibly not, because it was made by the gods - that was really up to the viewer - and lizards turned into smaller ones Lizards, scaly or maybe not, and lizards turned into birds, and worms turned into butterflies, and some kind of apple turned into bananas, and maybe some kind of monkey fell out of a tree and realized that life was better when She didn't have to spend his time dangling from something, and in just a few million years, embellished striped trousers and hats, and finally the game of crocket, and there, magically reborn, was guts. , a little dazed, standing on the village lawn and looking into the beaming face of an enthusiast.

He managed to say, "Well that's great, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to enjoying the game." At this point, he thought, a brisk walk home might be in order, only to be thwarted by a pathetically familiar voice behind him that said, "You, I mean you, yes you ! Aren't you guts?

It was Lord Rust, usually from Ankh-Morpork, and a fierce old warhorse without whose unique understanding of strategy and tactics several wars would not have been won so bloodily. Now he was in a wheelchair, the modern variety being pushed by a man whose life, knowing his landlord, was probably unbearable.

But hate doesn't usually have a long half-life, and in later years Vimes no longer viewed the man as a titled idiot, helpless with age but still with an irritating horse's voice that, properly harnessed, could be used. for sawing trees. Lord Rust was no longer a problem. Surely it was only a few years before he would rust in peace. And somewhere in his gnarled heart, Vimes still harbored a faint admiration for the grumpy old butcher, with his abiding self-esteem and absolute willingness to change his mind about nothing. The old man reacted to Vimes, the hated policeman, now being a duke and thus much nobler than he was, by simply assuming that this couldn't be true and therefore ignoring him completely. Lord Rust was a dangerous buffoon in Guts' book but, and here's the hard part, incredibly, if suicidally, brave. That would have been absolutely cheap if it weren't for the suicides of those poor fools who followed him into battle.

Witnesses said it was odd: Rust galloped into the jaws of death ahead of his men and was never seen retreating, but arrows and morning clubs always missed him, while invariably hitting the men directly behind him. Spectators - or rather people watching the fight from behind comfortably large rocks - were witnesses. Perhaps he would also be able to ignore the arrows pointed at him. But age could not be easily eclipsed, and the old man, though no less arrogant, had a gaunt appearance.

Rust gave Vimes an uncharacteristic smile and said, "This is the first time I've seen you here, Vimes. Sybil is going back to her roots, huh?

"She wants young Sam to smear some mud in his boots, Rust."

"Well, you, what! It'll do the boy good and make a man out of him, huh?

Vimes never understood where the explosives came from. After all, what's the point, he thought, just "What?" to bark? for no apparent reason? And what "What what!" well, what was that? Because what? they seemed like pegs hammered into conversation, but what the hell for what?

"So I'm not here on any official business, so what?"

Vimes' mind was spinning so fast Rust should have heard the wheels turning. He analyzed the man's tone of voice, the look in the man's eyes, that faint, ever so faint but perceptible hint of hope that the answer would be "no" and made a suggestion that maybe it wouldn't be bad Idea of ​​playing a little kitten among the doves.

He laughed. "Well, Rust, Sybil has been talking about coming here since young Sam was born, and this year she's stepped on the gas, and I suppose an order from his wife must be taken as official if!" Vimes saw , as the man pushed the giant wheelchair, trying to hide a smile, especially when Rust responded with a confused "What?"

Vimes decided not to go with "Wohin" and instead said casually, "Well, you know how it is, Lord Rust. A police officer will find crime everywhere if he decides to look closely.

Lord Rust's smile remained, but it froze a little as he said, "I should take your good lady's advice, Vimes. I don't think you'll find anything of value down here! There was no "what" to follow, and the lack of it was kind of an emphasis.

It was often a good idea, Vimes had always thought, to give the silly parts of the brain something to do so they wouldn't interfere with the important parts that had decent work to do. So he watched his first game of crocket for half an hour before an internal alarm told him he should be back at the hall soon in time to read something to young Sam – something which, with any luck, wasn't mentioned at all . - and put him to bed before dinner.

His immediate arrival received a nod of approval from Sybil, who carefully handed him a new book for young Sam to read.

Vimes looked at the cover. the title wasÖ Welt vonWhen his wife was out of sight, he leafed through it carefully. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had changed and that fairy tales these days probably wouldn't be about shiny little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it occurred to him that whoever wrote this book surely knew what would make children like little Sam laugh. The part about sailing down the river almost made itClearSmile. But interspersed with the scatology was really interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog dung helped make the best leather and other things you never thought you needed to know but kind of settled into stuck in your head.

Apparently it was from the author ofKleinerand if young Sam had a vote for the greatest book ever written, it would do. His enthusiasm was perhaps heightened when a rare mischievous goblin with guts got him to make all the necessary forced noises.

Later, during dinner, Sybil asked him about his afternoon. She was particularly interested when he mentioned stopping to see the crockett.

"Oh, are you still playing? That's wonderful! How was it?"

Vimes put down his knife and fork and gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment or two, then said, "Well, I've spoken with Lord Rust for some time and of course had to go because of young Sam. , but luck was kind to the priests when their attacker managed to knock out some pawns with a cunning use of the basket. There were several appeals to the Hatter because he broke his hammer in the process, and in my opinion the Hatter's decision was perfectly correct, especially since the peasants had performed a hawking maneuver. He took a deep breath. "When play resumed the pawns had not yet found their rhythm, but they had time to catch their breath when a sheep entered the field and the priests, believing that this would end the game, relaxed too soon and Higgins J. fired a great shot and looked under the field. Attacker Ruminant..."

Sybil finally stopped him when she noticed the food getting cold and said, "Sam! How did you become an expert on the noble game of crockett?

Vimes picked up the knife and fork. "Please don't ask me again," he sighed. Meanwhile a small voice in his head said:Herr Rost invoice Mim leaves It is nothing here Pro mine. Oh karo, I walked improve meet For a was The It is, Was?

He cleared his throat and said, "Sybil, have you really looked at the book I'm reading to young Sam?"

"Yes, dear. Felicity Beedle is the most famous children's book author in the world. She's been at it for years. she writesmelvin e A Gigantic Geoffrey e A Magic pillow Ö Little duckling Wer Thought Is Eras one

"Did she write anything about an elephant thinking it was a duckling?"

"No, Sam, because that would be silly. Oh, she wrote tooSeidelbast e A Nose collectoresince Gaston Gigantic Problemwon for her the Gladys H.J. Ferguson Award - the fifth time she has received it. It gets kids interested in reading, you know?

"Yeah," said Vimes, "but they read about poop and brain-dead ducklings!"

"Sam, this is part of the human community, so don't be so prudish. Young Sam is a country boy now and I am very proud of him and he likes books. That is the point! Miss Beedle also funds scholarships to Quirm College for Young Ladies. She must be pretty rich by now, but I hear she rents the Apple Tree Cottage - you can practically see it from here, it's on the hillside - and I guess it's only right if you don't mind, of course, that we invite her.-a here for the hall.

"Of course," Vimes said, although his indifference was entirely due to the way his wife's question had been phrased and the subtle resonances Miss's presence had given her. Beedle was insured.

Vimes slept much better that night, in part because he sensed that somewhere near the universe a clue was waiting for him to draw it. It was already itching in the fingers.

In the morning, as he had promised, he took young Sam for a ride. Vimes could ride, but he hated riding. However, falling headlong off the back of a pony was a skill every young man should learn, if only so that he would resolve never to do it again.

However, the rest of the day did not go well. Vimes, filled with suspicion, was metaphorically and almost literally dragged from Sybil to see her friend Ariadne, the lady blessed with six daughters. In fact, only five could be seen in the colorful living room when he and Sybil were introduced. say it, at least not in those exact words. And then he smiled and endured as they fluttered around him like big moths, and he waved to more scones and teacups, which would have been welcome had they not looked and tasted like real tea is about to become. To Sam Vimes he liked tea, but tea wasn't tea if you could see the bottom of the cup before drinking it.

Even worse than the things he was offered was the conversation that veered towards hoods, a subject where his ignorance was not only appreciated but revered. His pants were also chafing: pathetic stuff, but Sybil had insisted, saying he looked very elegant in them, like a country gentleman. Vimes had to assume that the landlord had taken other precautions in the groin area.

Besides himself and Lady Sybil there was a young vicar from Omnian, elegantly dressed in a voluminous black tunic, who presumably had no groin ailments. Vimes had no idea why the young man was there, but I guess the young women needed someone to fill up on weak tea, suspicious scones, and silly talk when someone like Vimes wasn't around. And when the topic of toques lost its appeal, it seemed that there were only legacies and prospects for future balls. And so, given his restlessness in female company, a growing dislike of urine-colored tea, and small talk that would be barely visible under a microscope, Vimes inevitably said, "Excuse the question, ladies, but what about you really want?" , I actually mean a life, I mean?

That question elicited five truly blank stares. Vimes couldn't tell the daughters apart, except for one named Emily, who must have settled into the mind and possibly the doors, and who now said in a slightly maddened tone, "My apologies, Commander, but I think we don't understand what you just granted?

"I was like, well, how do you make a living? Are any of you employed? How do you make your daily crust? What kind of work do you do?” Vimes didn't like Sybil because he couldn't see her face, but the girl's mother stared at him with amused fascination. Oh, well, if he was going to hit her on the neck, he could just as well hit anywhere."I mean, ladies," he said, "how are you getting on in the world? How do you earn your keep? Other than toques, do you have any "skills, such as cooking?"

Another daughter, possibly Mavis, but Vimes suspected, cleared her throat and said, 'Fortunately, Commander, we have servants for such a thing. We are ladies, understood? It would be completely unthinkable for us to go into retail or business. The scandal! It's just not done.

At this point, there seemed to be a competition as to who could finally confuse whom, or possibly who, first. But Vimes managed to say, "Don't you have a sister in the lumber shop?"

It was amazing, he thought, that neither his mother nor Sybil had added anything to the conversation. And now another sister (possibly Amanda?) seemed to want to speak. Why the hell were they all wearing those stupid sheer dresses? You can't expect to spend a day working on something so small. Amanda (possibly) said cautiously, "I'm afraid our sister is a bit of an embarrassment to the family, Your Excellency."

"What, to get a job! Why?"

Another girl, and Vimes was really very confused by this point, said, "Well, Commander, she has no hope of making a good match, not with a gentleman."

This became a muddle and then Vimes said, "Tell me ladies, what is a gentleman?"

After a whispered conversation, a self-sacrificing daughter said, very nervously, "We understand that the Lord is a man who does not need to get his hands dirty at work."

Adamantium is said to be the strongest of all metals, but it would have taken Sam Vimes' breath away as he said, carefully fusing each syllable: "Oh, a bum. And how do you manage to arrest such a gentleman?

Now the girls looked like they were really praying. One of them managed to say: "You see, Commander, our dear late father was unlucky in the financial market and I fear that until the death of Great-Aunt Marigold, who we are expecting, unfortunately there will be no money for." a dowry for one of us.

Heaven held its breath as the concept of a dowry was explained to Sam Vimes, and ice formed on the windows as he sat in choked thoughts.

Finally he cleared his throat and said, "Ladies, the solution to your problem, I think, would be to rip off your oh-so-attractive asses, get out into the world, and make your own way!" A dowry? You mean it has to be a manI payto marry you? What century do you think you live in? Is it just me or is it the dumbest thing imaginable? He looked at the beautiful Emily and thought what a pity men line up on the lawn to fight one another, my dear. How come no one ever told you? Kindness is all well and good, but practicality has its uses. Get out there and let the world see you and maybe find a new word in your vocabulary like maybe "wow!" He continued aloud, "Honestly, there are a lot of jobs out there for a young woman of your intelligence. For example, Lady Sybil Free Hospital is always looking for bright girls to train as nurses. Good salary, very attractive uniforms and a good chance of arresting a talented young doctor who is on the way up, especially if you support him. Also, of course, as a nurse, you inherit an incredible number of amusing and embarrassing stories about things that make people gain...weight. Averyresponsible work, useful to the community and at the end of a long day the satisfaction of having done something good in the world.”

Vimes looked around at the pink and white faces contemplating a leap into the unknown and continued. "Of course, if you really want to stick with bonnets, Sybil and I own a decent piece of property in Old Cobblers, in the big city, that's vacant. It used to be a tough area, but the trolls and aspiring vampires are moving in now, and the heavy dollar and black dollar are not to be scoffed at, especially since they pay top dollar for what they want. Also quite a demanding area. People actually put tables and chairs on the sidewalk and theyNO always at to takeWe could take you rent free for three months to see how you are doing and then you might need to learn the concept of renting, if only for your own self esteem. Trust me ladies, self respect is what you get when you don't have to spend your life waiting for a rich old lady to open your clogs. Any buyers?

Vimes took the fact that the girls were staring at each other with what you might call mad assumption at the prospect that they weren't entirely useless embellishments as an optimistic sign, then added, "And whatever you." do, stop reading silly romance novels !”

However, there was a niche - or possibly a niche - of resistance to the revolution. A girl stood next to the priest as if he were hers. She looked defiantly at Vimes and said, "Please don't think I'm being rude, Commander, but I'd rather marry Jeremy and help him in his service."

"Very good, very good," said Vimes. "And you love him and he loves you? Speak, you two. They both nodded, flushed with embarrassment, each with an eye on the girl's mother, whose wide smile suggested that this would definitely be an advantage. "Well then I suggest you put yourself in order and your young man is advised to find a better paying job. I can't help you there, but there are many religions these days, and if I were you I'd impress some bishop somewhere with my common sense, which is what a minister needs most of all... Well, almost everything else, and remember, that there's room at the top... Although not at the top in the case of religion, is it?" Vimes thought for a moment, then added, "But perhaps it's best idea, ladies, to look around until you're a young man find someone who has what it takes to be a successful man, noble or not, and if he fits, then stand behind him, support him." -o if necessary, help him up when he is down and generally be close when he is looking for you and make sure he is close when you are looking for him. Well, if you both put your mind to it, it might turn out to be a good thing. It must have worked before, right, Sybil?

Sybil burst out laughing and the downtrodden girls nodded obediently as if they really understood, but Vimes was pleased to feel a little gentle nudge from Lady Sybil that offered hope that he wasn't going to pay too high a price from his wife to speak his mind. to these precious flowers.

He looked around as if trying to put things right. "Well, that seems to be it, yes?"

"Excuse me, Commander?" It took Vimes a moment to realize where the voice was coming from; this daughter didn't say a word all afternoon, but occasionally scribbled in a notebook. Now she fixed him with a look that was a little brighter than her sisters'.

"Can I help you miss? And maybe you tell me your name?

"Jane, Commander. I aspire to be a writer, may I ask if you consider this an acceptable career path for a young woman?

Jane, thought Vimes the stranger. And she was. She was just as reserved as the other sisters, but somehow when he looked at her he got the impression that she saw through him, thoughts and all.

Vimes leaned back in his chair a little defensively and said, "Well, it shouldn't be hard work considering all the words have probably already been made up, so there's a time saver considering you're just typing them." must be in." together in a different order." That was about the limit of his experience in the literary arts, but he added, "What kind of thing do you have in mind to write, Jane?"

The girl looked embarrassed. "Well, Commander, I'm working on a novel about the complexities of personal relationships with all their hopes, dreams and misunderstandings." She coughed nervously as if in apology.

Vimes pursed his lips. "Yes. It actually sounds like a good idea, miss, but I can't really help you on that - although if I were you and I'm talking upside down here I'd be fighting a lot and bodies falling out of closets... .and maybe a war , maybe, in the background?”

Jane nodded uncomfortably. "A remarkable suggestion, Commander, much to be recommended, but perhaps relations somewhat neglected?"

Pondering that opinion, Vimes said, "Well, you might be right." Then, out of nowhere, possibly from a deep hole, a thought hit him as it had many times before, sometimes in nightmares. "I wonder if any author has ever thought about the relationship between the hunter and the prey, the cop and the mysterious killer, the lawman who sometimes has to think like a criminal to do his job and might be unpleasantly surprised how good he is. that's what you might think. Just an idea, you know,' he said awkwardly, wondering where the hell that had come from. Maybe the weird Jane had wrested it out of him and might even be able to solve it.

"Anyone want more tea?" said Ariadne cheerfully.

Lady Sybil was very quiet as the carriage pulled away, so Vimes decided to bite the bullet and be done with it. She looked thoughtful, which was always disconcerting.

"Am I in trouble, Sybil?"

His wife looked at him blankly for a moment, then said, "You mean this bouquet of precious flowers will stop craving a life and go out and make one? Dear heavens, no! You've done everything I asked of you, Sam. you always do I told Ariadne you wouldn't disappoint her. She doesn't have much income, and if you hadn't given them her fair word, she probably would have scooped them out. No, Sam, I'm just wondering what's on your mind, that's all. I mean, I'm sure some people think being a cop is just a job, but you don't, do you? I'm very proud of you Sam and I wouldn't want you to be any different, but sometimes I worry. Anyway, well done! I look forward to what young Jane will write.”

The next day Vimes took his son fishing, somewhat hampered by complete ignorance of the art. Young Sam didn't seem to mind. He'd found a shrimp net in the nursery's hive and combed the shallows, hunting for crayfish and sometimes almost stiffening to look at things. After getting over the shock, Vimes remarked that young Sam did so with great delight, and once pointed out things in the creek to his doting father, "like bugs in the water with a coat of pebbles" that Vimes had to investigate in order to believe this to be absolutely true. This surprised Sam Vimes even more than his son, who actually, as he told his father on the way back to lunch, actually wanted to see if the fish was pooping, a question Sam Vimes had never asked in his life. , but which seemed to be of great importance to his son. So much so that on the way home he had to be stopped at the creek to see if they were coming out, because if they weren't, uh, yuck!

Sybil had promised young Sam another trip around Home Farm that afternoon, which Sam left Vigor to himself or to whatever equipment the cop could find in the quiet streets. Vimes was clever; he didn't know what it would mean, but possibly strangling with things like ermine and knowing if what he'd just said "moo" was a cow or a bull without having to bend down to find out.

And as he walked the rolling acres with aching feet and wished there were cobblestones beneath him, he could feel the tingling again; the tingling that raises the hairs on the back of a cop's neck when his heightened senses tell him something is going on that shouldn't be happening, and he's screaming for something to be done about it.

But here was another cop, there wasn't one, a real flatfoot, free in the grass, but being a cop soiled you to the bone; you never got rid of him. He smiled. Maybe it's time for a social drink with Mr. Cricket.

The Goblin's Head was empty at this time of day apart from the ubiquitous trio on the bench outside. Vimes settled down with a glass of Mrs. Cricket and bowed confidentially to the bartender. "So, Mr. Jiminy, what's interesting here for an old policeman?"

Cricket opened his mouth, but Vimes continued, "Rosewood Club, Pseudopolis City Watch? I know I'm right. It's not a crime. This is a cop's dream, and you take your trusty truncheon with you so you have a little buddy to rely on when the customer can't handle their drink and won't accept a tip. Vimes was now sitting with one elbow on the counter, scribbling in a small puddle of spilled beer. "But work follows you, doesn't it? And when you run a bar, it's doubly so because you hear all sorts of things, things that you don't do anything about because you're not a cop anymore except you know you are. And it must be troubling you somewhere in your soul that something is going wrong here. Even I can say that. It's the copper nose. I can smell it in the air. It climbs over my boots. Secrets and lies, Mr. Cricket, secrets and lies.

Mr. Cricket purposefully wiped the rag over the spilled beer and said distractedly, 'You know, Commander Vimes, things are different in the country. People think you can hide in the country. It's not like that. In the city you are a face in the crowd. On the field, people stare at you until you're out of sight just for the entertainment value. As you say, I'm not a cop anymore: I don't have a warrant and I don't feel like it. And now, if you don't mind, I've got work to do. More customers will be added soon. Be careful where you step, Your Grace.

Vimes wouldn't let him escape. 'An interesting thing, Mr Cricket: I know you own the lease on this pub, but surprisingly I'm still your landlord. I'm sorry but before we got here I looked at a map and saw a pub on our premises and what a waste I thought but that makes me your landlord. Not very Republican of me, I know, but I'm just wondering, Mr. Jiminy, maybe not everyone around here is so keen on having the Commander of the City Watch here in this quiet little hideout, huh? An image of poor old Lord Rust telling him there wasn't anything interesting flashed across Vimes's inner gaze.

Jiminy's expression was frozen, but Vimes, who knew this game, saw that little twitch which, when deciphered, meant, "Yes, but I didn't say anything and no one can prove it. Not even you, my friend.

Discussion on this topic was interrupted when the country's children began to enter one by one to celebrate the end of the working day. This time there was less suspicion in their eyes as they waved Vimes away on the way to the bar, so he sat back, downed his pint of Spicy Beet Juice and just savored the moment. It was a very brief moment, at the end of which the blacksmith entered the bar and walked straight up to him.

"You're sitting in my seat!"

Vimes looked around. Sitting on a bench indistinguishable from any other in the room, but accepting the possibility that there was something mystical about the one he was sitting on, he took his glass and walked over to an empty one, where he sat. just in time to hear the smith say, "That's my place too, got it?"

Oh dear, here was the opening and the starting shot of a fight and Vimes was no beginner, that's for sure, and the blacksmith's eyes had the look of a man who wanted to hit someone and most likely thought Vimes would be the ideal candidate.

He felt the slight pressure of his own brass knuckles in his pocket. Vimes was sparing with the truth when he promised his wife he wouldn't take guns on vacation. However, he argued that brass knuckles were less of a weapon and more a means of ensuring he stayed alive. You could call it a defensive tool, a kind of shield so to speak, especially when you need to defend yourself before being attacked.

He stood up. "Sir. Jethro, I would be grateful if you would be so kind as to select your chair for tonight, thank you, after that I intend to enjoy my drink

Whoever said a gentle reaction deflects anger has never worked in a bar. The blacksmith glowed at about the same temperature as his forge. "To you, I'm not Jethro, not even close. You can call me Mr. Jefferson, do you hear?

"And you can call me Sam Vimes." He watched as Jefferson deliberately placed his drink on the counter before approaching Vimes.

"I know what to call Sir..."

Vimes felt the smooth brass of the spare knuckles, polished as they were from years of abrasion on his pants, and of course the occasional chin. As he was digging, they almost jumped into his hands.

"Sorry, Your Grace," Jiminy said as he gently pushed him out of the way and told the smith. "Well then, Jethro, what about?"

"Your Grace?" jethro scoffed. "I don't call you that! I won't lick your boots like everyone else! You come back here, bossing us around, giving orders like you own the place! And that's it, isn't it? You own the place! A man with this whole country! That is not right! tell me how did it happen Come on, tell me!

Vimes shrugged. "Well, I'm no expert, but as far as I know, my wife's ancestors had an argument with someone about it."

The smith's face lit up with evil pleasure as he removed his leather apron. "All right. No problems. That's how it's done, isn't it? Fair. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll fightsheSo here and now, and tell him what I'm going to do, I'm going to fight you with one hand behind your back because you're a little smaller than me.

Vimes heard the faint sound of wood behind him: it was the sound of a bartender secretly pulling a two-foot rosewood club from its usual place under the bar.

Jethro must have heard it too, because he yelled, "And don't try it, Jim. You know I'll have it out of your hands before you know what's up, and this time I'll put it where the sun doesn't shine.

Vimes glanced at the rest of the clientele, who were making remarkable imitations of stone statues. "Look," he said, "you really don't want to fight me."

"Yeah yeah! You said it yourself. Some ancestor got all this by fighting for it, right? Who says it's time to stop fighting?"

"Burleigh and Stronginthearm, sir," said a polite but cold voice from behind the tall man. To Vime's shock, it was Willikins. "I'm not cruel sir, I won't shoot you in the gut, but I will make you realize how much you took your toes for granted. No, please do not make any jerky movements. The Burleigh and Stronginthearm crossbows have notoriously responsive triggers.

Vimes gasped again as Jethro raised his hands. Somewhere in all that anger there must have been a penny of self-preservation. However, the blacksmith looked at him and said, "You must be protected by a hired assassin, right?"

"Indeed, sir," Willikins said softly, "I am a gentleman's servant to Commander Vimes, and I need this crossbow because sometimes your socks fight." He looked at Vimes. "Do you have instructions, Commander? and then he called out, "Don't move, sir, for I understand that a blacksmith needs two hands to work." He turned to Vimes. "Sorry to interrupt, Commander, but I know his type."

"Willikins, I'm thinking more of youthey arehis type.

"Yes sir, thank you sir, and I wouldn't trust myself an inch, sir. I know a bad one when I see them. i have a mirror

"Now I want you to put the damn thing away, Willikins. People can get hurt! said Vimes in his formal voice.

"Yes sir, that would have been my intention. I could not face your lordship if something had happened to you.

Vimes looked from Willikins to Jethro. There was a boil here that had to be lanced. But you can't blame the guy. It wasn't as if he hadn't often thought like that himself. 'Willikins,' he said, 'please put the wretched thing down carefully and get your notebook.To thankNow please write the following: "I, Samuel Vimes, somewhat reluctantly the Duke of Ankh, intends to be Duke, haha, with my friend Jethro... What's your full name again, Jethro?"

"Now look here, sir, I don't-"

"I asked your damn name, sir! Cricket what's his last name?

"Jefferson," the owner said, holding his baton like a comfort blanket. "But you see, Excellency, you don't want to go..."

Ignoring him, Vimes continued, "Well, where was I? Oh yes: 'my friend Jethro Jefferson, in a friendly struggle for possession of the Manor and the environs, whatever they may be, that shall go which of us does not call 'uncle' first, and I myself should say it all the same there will be no repercussions on my friend Jethro or my husband Willikins for begging me not to engage in this friendly fistfight.” Got it, Willikins? I'll even give you a release card to show your landlady if I get hurt. Now give it to me to sign.

Willikins reluctantly handed over the notebook. "I don't think it will work on your lordship, sir. Look, dukes aren't expected to go out there…” Her voice caught at Vimes' smile.

“You were saying the dukes shouldn't fight, weren't you, Willikins? And if you had, I would have said that the word "duke" absolutely means you fight.

"Oh, very well, sir," said Willikins, "but perhaps you should let him know...?"

Willikins was interrupted by bar patrons racing through the village, leaving Jethro alone and confused. Halfway to the man, Vimes turned to Willikins and said, 'You may think you see me lighting a cigar, Willikins, but on this occasion your eyes could be wrong, you know? ”

"Yes, and in fact I'm deaf too, Commander."

"Good boy. Now let's go outside where there is less glass and a better view.

Jethro looked like a man who had the ground ripped out from under him but didn't know how to fall.

Vimes lit his cigar and savored the forbidden fruit for a moment. He then offered the package to the blacksmith, who wordlessly rejected it.

"Very reasonable," Vimes said. "Well I better tell you that to this day I have to fight at least once a week people trying to kill me with everything from swords to chairs and in one case a very large salmon. They probably don't really want to kill me, but they will try to stop me from arresting them. You see,' he gestured at the sprawling landscape, 'all these . . . things just happened, whether I wanted them to or not. I'm just a cop by trade.

"Yes," Jethro said, looking at him. "Stamp the fighting masses in the face!"

Vimes was used to such things, to say the least. "I can't step on their faces these days, my grinder is in the way. Okay, not very funny, I'll admit. Vimes was aware of people coming back down the path. Including women and children. It seemed the pub's clientele had woken up the neighborhood. He turned to Jethro. "Are we going to do this by the rules of the Marquis de Fantailer?"

"What are you?" said the blacksmith, waving to the approaching horde.

"Marquis de Fantailer sparring rules," said Mumm.

"If they were written by a Marquis, I don't want trucks with them!"

guts nodded. — Willikins?

"I heard that, Commander, and wrote in my notebook: 'Fantailer declined'."

"Well then, Mr. Jefferson," said Vimes. "Suppose we ask Mr. Jiminy to start the process?"

"I want your servant to write in his little notebook that my mother won't be thrown out of the house, come what may, okay?"

"It's a deal," Vimes said. "Willikins, please make a memorandum that Mr. Jefferson is not to be thrown from his cabin, beaten with sticks, put in supplies, or otherwise abused, understand?"

Willikins, trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile, licked his pencil and wrote diligently. Vimes, less loud, made a mental note, and the note read, "This young man's savagery is fading. He wonders if he can really be killed. I haven't thrown a punch, not a single punch, and he's already bracing for the worst. Of course it is right to prepare for the best.”

The crowd grew by the second. As Vimes watched, the people carried a very old man down the street on a mattress, their progress quickened by the pleasure of tapping his cane on the backs of his legs. Mothers at the end of the crowd held their children up for a better view and, all unknown, all men held guns. It was like a peasant uprising, without an uprising and with a very educated peasant class. Men touched their forelocks when Vimes looked his way, women bowed, or at least swayed a little, disconcertingly disorganized, like the trembling of organ pedals.

Jiminy approached Vimes and the blacksmith cautiously and, from the light on his face, very concerned. "So gentlemen, I choose to look at this as a little punching demonstration, a joyous test of strength and skill of the kind found on any summer night, all friends under your skin, ok?" As he continued, there was a pleading expression in his eyes. "And once you've got that out of your systems, there'll be a beer waiting for you at the bar for each of you. Please don't break anything. He took a threadbare handkerchief from a waistcoat pocket and held it in the air. "If that falls on the ground, gentlemen..." he said, walking away quickly.

The length of linen seemed to defy gravity for a while, but the moment it hit the ground Vimes caught the blacksmith's boot in both hands as she turned to face him and said softly to the squirming man, " A while ago wasn't you? ? And what good has it done you? can you hear them all laughing This time I'll let you go

Vimes gave a shove as he loosened his grip on the foot, causing Jethro to stagger back. Vimes took some pleasure in seeing the man lose control so quickly, but the smith collected himself and ran to him and stopped, possibly because Vimes was smiling.

"That's the card, my boy," said Vimes, "you just saved yourself a terrible pain over the unspeakable." He clenched his fists and waved his left fist at his confused opponent. The man came swinging and got a kick in the kneecap, knocking him out, and he was caught by Vimes, who metaphorically knocked him out again.

"Why did you think I would box? That's what we pros call it. Wanna go hug? I would if I were a big guy like you, but you won't get the chance. Vimes sadly shook his head. “I should have chosen the Marquis de Fantailer. I believe it was carved on many tombstones. He took a generous drag on his cigar; the ashes had not yet been stirred.

Incredibly angry, Jethro threw himself on Vimes and received a glancing blow to his head, almost simultaneously getting a knee in his stomach, taking his breath away. They were relegated, along with Vimes, as conductors of that orchestra. He made sure to end up at the top where he bent down and whispered in Jethro's ear, "Let's see how smart you are, shall we? Are you a man who can control his temper? Because if you don't, I'll give you a nose so wide you'll have to hold your handkerchief on the end of a stick. Don't think for a moment that I'm not capable of this. But I think a blacksmith knows when to cool metal and I'll give you a chance to say at least put down the duke in front of all your friends and get up and shake hands like gentlemen, none of us is, and the crowd will applaud and go to the pub to drink the pint I pay for. Are we men of one accord?”

There was a muffled "yes," and Vimes stood, taking the blacksmith's hand and holding it up, causing a slight confusion, but as he said, "Sam Vimes invites you all to join him at Mr. Jiminy's facility." something to drink !" everyone pushed their confusion aside to make room for the beer. Crowds poured into the pub, leaving the smith and guts to their own devices – plus Willikins, who could be remarkably humble when he chose to.

"Blacksmiths need to know about temperament, too," Vimes said as the crowd dispersed towards the pub. “Sometimes cold is better than heat. I don't know much about you, Mr. Jefferson, but City Watch needs people who are quick learners, and I think I'll be a sergeant soon. We could also use him as a blacksmith. It's amazing how old armor can get crumpled when you stand in front of the arms."

Jethro stared at his boots. "Okay, you can beat me in a fight, but that doesn't mean it's right, does it? You don't even know half of it!

Cheers came from the bar. Vimes wondered how complicated this little fight would turn out to be. He turned to the blacksmith, who hadn't moved. "Listen you young fool, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth! When I was a kid the only spoons I saw were made of wood and you were lucky if you ended up with something edible. I was a street kid you know? If I had been dumped here I would have thought it was heaven with food leaping at you from every hedge. But I became a cop because they paid and I was taught to be a cop by decent cops because believe me sir I wake up every night and I know it could have been something else. So I found a nice lady and if I were you I would hope to find one of them too. So I straightened up and then one day, Lord Vetinari - you've heard of him, haven't you, boy? Well he needed a man to do things and the title opens doors so I don't have to kick them in and you know what? I think my boots have seen so much crime over the years that they take me there alone and I know there's something that needs kicking. You too, I can smell it on you. tell me what it is

Jethro was still staring at his own boots and said nothing.

Willikins cleared his throat. "I wonder, Commander, would it be helpful if I had a little chat with the young man from what you would call a lower position? Why not take a look at the beauties of the local landscape?”

guts nodded. "Sure, if you think it'll do any good." And he walked away, looking with considerable interest at a honeysuckle hedge, while Willikins, in his shiny men's shoes and immaculate jacket, went up to Jethro, put an arm around him and said, "That's a stiletto I'm holding on to you. Your throat and that's it not a lady's shoe, it's real, the avant-garde, so to speak. You're a bit of an idiot, and I'm not the commander, and I'll beat you to the bone if you move. Understood?Now NO nod your Kopf!Well, we're learning, aren't we? Well, my boy, the commander here is trusted by the diamond king of trolls and the lowly king of dwarves, who need only say a word for his skinny carcass to be caressed by a multitude of versatile axes, and by Lady Margolotta of Overwood, who are very few Trusted by humans, and by Lord Vetinari of Ankh-Morpork who trusts no one. Understood?Not nod!And you, my little man, have the gall to doubt his word. I'm a quiet guy but stuff like this really upsets me, I don't mind telling you. You understand? I said do you understand? Oh, okay, you can wave now. By the way, young man, be careful who you call a footman, okay? Some people may vehemently object to such a thing. A word to the wise, boy: I know the commander and you've been thinking of your old mother and what might happen to her and I guess that's why I won't see him in lavender because he's a sensitive soul at heart.

Willikins' knife disappeared as quickly as it appeared, and with his other hand the gentleman's gentleman produced a small brush and straightened the blacksmith's collar.

"Willikins," Vimes said from afar. "Would you like to go for a walk now?

As his servant slouched under a tree down the road, Vimes said, "I'm sorry, but every man has his pride. I have that in mind. You should too. I'm a cop, a cop, and something here is calling me. Sounds to me like you have something you'd like to share with me, and it's not just about who sits in the stronghold, am I right? Something bad happened, you're practically sweating. We will?"

Jethro leaned towards him and said, "Dead Man's Grove on the hill. Midnight. i will not wait

The blacksmith then turned and walked away without looking back.

Vimes lit another cigar and walked over to the tree where Willikins seemed to be enjoying the view. He straightened up when he saw Vimes. "We'd better get started, sir. Dinner is at eight o'clock and your landlady wants you to be smart. She makes a big deal out of you being stylish, sir.

Vimes groaned. "Aren't these the official tights?"

"Fortunately not, sir, not in the country, but your lordship was very particular that I bring her the plum gown, sir."

"She says it makes me look classy," Vimes said sullenly. "Do you think that makes me classy? I'm a dashing person, wouldn't you say?” From a low branch of the tree, birds began to sing.

"I'd say you're more of a running type, sir," Willikins said.

They drove home in silence for a while, meaning none of the men spoke as the wild animals sang and hummed and screeched, eventually leading Vimes to say, "I wish I knew what the hell all that stuff is." "

Tilting his head for a moment, Willikins said, "The Parkinson's warbler, the deep-throated toad-eater and the mean believer, sir."

"You know?"

"Oh yes sir. I go to the variety shows a lot, sir, and there's always a bird or animal imitation on the bill. He tends to stay. I also know seventy-three farm noises, my favorite being the sound of a farmer who has had a boot sucked off his foot by the mud he is trying to avoid and has nowhere to put his sock but on the dirt floor. Most amusing, sir.

They were now up the long driveway to the hall, and the gravel crunched under their boots. Softly Vimes said, "I met young Mr. Jefferson at midnight in the woods of Hangman's Hill. He wants to tell me something important. Remind me Willikins whatIt isa grove, right?

“Something between a stock of trees and a small grove. Technically, sir, the one on Hangman's Hill is a beech hanger. It just means, well, a little beech grove on a hill. Do you remember Mad Jack Ramkin? The guy who managed to lift ten meters for a lot of money? He had the beeches planted on it.

Vimes liked the sound of gravel; this would drown out the sound of the conversation. "I spoke to the smith, I swear, no one else within earshot. But that's the country, yes, Willikins?

"There was a man setting traps for rabbits in the hedge behind you," Willikins said. "Completely normal activity, although I think it took him too long."

They went on for a while and Vimes said, 'Tell me, Willikins. If a man were to meet another man at midnight at a place called Dead Man's Copse on Hangman's Hill, given that your wife has forbidden you to bring guns into your house, what would be the most sensible course of action? country house?

Willkins nodded. 'Well, sir, following your maxim that everything is a weapon, if you wish to see it that way, I would advise this man to see if he has any compatriot who has acquired, say, the keys to a cupboard which contains a number superb crafted carving knife, ideal for close combat; and personally I would add a helping of cheese wire, sir, in keeping with my belief that the only important thing in a life-or-death struggle is that death must not be yours.

"Can't wear a string of cheese, man! Not the watch commander!”

"Exactly, Commander, so may I guess your brass knuckles - the gentleman's alternative? I know you never travel without her, sir. There are some bad people out there and I know you must be among them.

"Listen, Willikins, I don't want to involve you in any of this. After all, it's just a guess.

Willikins denied this. "You wouldn't leave me out for a big clock, sir, because all of that stimulates my imagination too. I'll prepare a selection of cutting blades for you in your dressing room, sir, and I'll head into the woods myself half an hour before you arrive, with my trusty bow and a selection of favorite toys. It's almost a full moon, clear skies, there will be shadows everywhere and I'll be in the darkest of them.

Vimes looked at him for a moment and said, "May I correct this suggestion? Couldn't you be there in the second darkest shadow an hour before midnight to see who's walking in the darkest shadow?

"Oh yes, that's why you keep the clock running, sir," Willikins said, and to Vimes' shock the man's voice had tears in it. "You listen to the street, don't you, sir, yes?"

Vimes shrugged. "No roads here, Willikins!"

Willikins shook his head. "Once a street kid, always a street kid, sir. Come with us in need. Mothers go, fathers go - if we ever knew who they were - but the street, well, the street takes care of us. In an emergency, it keeps us alive.

Willikins ran ahead of Vimes and rang the bell so the servant had the door open when Vimes came up the steps. "You'll have plenty of time to hear young Sam read to you, sir," Willikins added, heading upstairs. "Wonderful thing, reading, I wish I had learned it when I was a kid. Your landlady will be in her dressing room and guests will be arriving in about half an hour. You must go, sir. I need to teach that fat toad butler some manners, sir.

Vimes shuddered. "You mustn't strangle Butler, Willikins. I'm pretty sure I read that in an etiquette book.

Willikins gave him a mock insulting look. "There won't be any garroting, sir," Willikins continued, opening the door to Vimes' dressing room, "but he's a snob of the first order. I've never met a butler who wasn't. I just have to give him an orientation lesson.

"Well, he's the butler and this is his house," said Vimes.

"No sir, it isyourhouse, and since I am your personal valet, by the irrevocable laws of the maid's room, I surpass any of the lazy bums! I'll show you how we do things in the real world, sir, don't worry..."

He was interrupted by a loud knock on the door, followed by a determined rattling of the doorknob. Willikins opened the door and young Sam walked in and announced, "Read!"

Vimes picked up his son and sat him in a chair. "How was your afternoon, my boy?"

"Did you know," said young Sam, as if to convey the results of rigorous research, "Cows poop really big and soft, but sheep poop small, like chocolates."

Vimes tried not to look at Willikins, who was shaking from suppressed laughter. He managed to keep his own serious expression and said, "Well, of course the sheep are smaller."

Young Sam thought about it. "Cow dung fails," he said. "I never said thatWhere is that, that, that MeinYoung Sam's voice betrayed a certain annoyance at having been denied this important piece of information. "Miss Felicity Beedle wouldn't have left it out."

Vimes sighed. "I bet she wouldn't."

Willikins opened the door. "Then I'll leave it to you, gentlemen, and see you later, sir."

— Willikins? said Vimes as soon as the man had his hand on the knob. "You seem to think that my brass knuckles are inferior to yours. Is that so?"

Willkins smiled. "You never reallyagreedwith the idea of ​​thorns, isn't it, sir? He carefully closed the door behind him.

Young Sam was already reading by himself these days, which was a great relief. Fortunately, Miss Felicity Beedle's works consisted not only of touching references to Poo in all its guises, but her production of small volumes for children was regular and very popular, at least with children. That's because she carefully researched her audience and kept young Sam laughing throughout the process.Ö Kleiner Kleiner Ö Guerra com A snoteGeoffrey e A Terra vonIn boys of a certain age, they hit the weak point. For the moment he was laughing and choking his wayÖ Young Wer Not saber If Pro Choose Your Teran absolute eye-catcher for a boy who has just turned six. Sybil noticed that books built young Sam's vocabulary, and not just about toilet matters, and it was true that with encouragement he began to read books in which no one defecated. Which, when I thought about it, was a mystery in itself.

Vimes put his son to bed after ten minutes of comfortable listening and managed to shave and put on the dreaded evening wear just before his wife knocked on the door. Separate dressing rooms and bathrooms, Vimes thought...if you had the money, there couldn't be a better way to have a happy marriage. And to maintain a happy marriage, he let Sybil in, practically wearing a shirt to straighten his shirt and collar and get him fit for society.

And then she said, "I understand you gave the blacksmith a little lesson in unarmed combat, my dear..." The pause hung in the air like a silken bow.

Vimes managed to say, "There's something wrong here, I know it."

"I think so too," Sybil said.

"They do?"

"Yes, Sam, but this is not the right time. We have guests arriving any minute. If you could refrain from tossing one of them over your shoulder between the plates, I'd be grateful. By Sybil's normally calm standards, that was a terrible reprimand. Guts did what any thoughtful husband would do, which was nothing dynamic. Suddenly the whole basement was filled with voices and the sound of carriages crunching gravel. Sybil prepared the candles and went downstairs to be the gracious hostess.

Despite what his wife liked to imply, Vimes was quite good at dinner parties, having attended numerous civic events in Ankh-Morpork. The trick was to let the other guests do the talking and occasionally agree with them to give yourself time to think about other things.

Sybil made sure tonight's dinner was an easy one. The guests were mainly people of a certain class who lived in the country but did not, so to speak, belong to him. retired warrior; a priest of Om; Miss Pickings, a spinster, along with her companion, a stiff-looking lady with short hair, a man's shirt, and a pocket watch; and, yes, Miss Felicity Beedle. Vimes thought he put his foot in when he said, "Ah yes, the poop lady," but she burst out laughing and shook his hand, saying, "Don't worry Your Excellency, I'll wash mine well after me." write! ' And it was a big laugh. She was a petite woman with the odd look you see on some people that seems to make her vibrate subtly, even when they're perfectly still. They felt that if an inner restraint suddenly broke, the pent-up energy released would throw them out the nearest window.

Miss Beedle poked him in the stomach. "ANDsheare the famous Commanders Vimes. You came to arrest us all, didn't you? Of course, if you don't stop Sybil from accepting an invitation to another high society party, you have it all the time. But while Mrs. Beedle chuckled, silence fell like a wrought-iron vault over the other guests. They saw Mrs. Beedle and Miss Beedle stared at Vimes and Vimesyou knewThis expression. It was the expression of someone who had a story to tell. It certainly wasn't the time to bring up the subject, so Vimes labeled it "interesting."

Whatever Vimes' concerns, Ramkin Hall cooked up a fine dinner, and—and most importantly—the dictates of popular social relations decreed that Sybil should allow a full menu of things not allowed in the house, if Vimes felt like it asked . . It's one thing to judge one's husband's tastes, but it's frowned upon to do the same with one's guests.

Across the table, a retired military man has been reassured by his wife that, contrary to his beliefs, he doesn't like canned shrimp. In vain the man protested feebly that he thought he liked potted shrimp, to get the friendly reply: "You may like potted shrimp, Charles, but they don't like you."

Vimes felt sorry for the man, who seemed fascinated that he had developed enemies among the lower crustaceans. "Well, um, does the lobster like me, honey?" he said in a voice that didn't express much hope.

"No, honey, that's not like you. Remember what happened on parsley whist night.

The man looked at the creaking counter and tried, "Do you think the scallops will last about five minutes?"

"My God, no, Charles."

He glanced at the sideboard again. "I think the green lettuce is my bosom friend, isn't it?"

"Absolutely dear!"

"Yes, I thought so."

The man looked at Vimes and gave him a desperate smile, followed by, "I think you're a cop, Your Grace. This right?"

Vimes took stock of him properly for the first time: an old warrior with a mustache, now on the grass - and that was probably all his wife would feed him without protest. He had burn scars on his face and hands and a pseudopolis accent. Simply. "You were with the dragons of light, weren't you, sir?"

The old man looked pleased. "Well done that man! A lot of people don't remember us. Unfortunately, I'm the only one left. Colonel Charles Augustus Makepeace... strange name for a military man, or maybe not, I don't know. He sniffed. “We are just a charred page in the history of the war. I daresay you haven't read my memoirsTwenty four Years Which oneNot? Well, you are not alone in this, I must say. I met your lover then. She told us that it was absolutely impossible to create dragons strong enough to be used in war. She was right, without fail. Of course we will keep trying, because that is the military way!”

"You mean stacking terrible failures upon failures?" said guts.

The colonel laughed. "Well, sometimes it works! I'll keep a few kites anyway. Wouldn't be without her. A day without sun is a day without sun. They are a great saver in matches and of course also fend off undesirables.

Vimes reacted like a fisherman who, after dozing by the water for a while, felt the fish rising.

"Oh, you don't have many of those here, do you?"

"Do you think? You don't know half of it, young man. I can tell you a few stories…” He stopped talking abruptly and Vimes' experience as a parent told him that the man had just been kicked under the table by his wife, who didn't look happy and judging by the wrinkles on her face, probably never was. She leaned toward her husband, who was taking another shot from the bartender, and said coolly, "As a police officer, Your Excellency, your jurisdiction extends to the counties?"

Another ring in the water, the fisherman thought in Vimes' head. He said, "No, ma'am, my territory is Ankh-Morpork and some of its surroundings. Traditionally, however, the police officer carries his jurisdiction with him when prosecuting crimes committed in his area. But of course Ankh-Morpork is far from here, and I doubt I can walk that far. This prompted laughter from the general table and a tight-lipped smile from Mrs. Colonel.

Play with the fish, play with the fish... "However," Vimes continued, "if I were a witness to a detectable crime here and now, I would have the authority to make an arrest. Like a citizen arrest, but a little more professional, after which I would have to turn the suspect over to the local police or other relevant authority at my discretion.

The cleric, whom Vimes had noticed out of the corner of his eye, took an interest in the conversation and leaned forward to say, "As you see fit, Your Grace?"

"My goodness wouldn't go into that, sir. As a sworn member of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard, it would be my duty to ensure the safety of my suspect. Ideally I would look for a lock. We don't have them in the city anymore, but as far as I know they still exist in most rural areas, even if they're only holding back drunks and runaway pigs.

There was laughter and Ms. Beedle said, "We have a village constable, Your Honor, and he keeps the pigs tied to the old bridge!"

She glared at Vimes, whose expression was petrified. He said: "Did he ever put people in there? Does he have a driver's license? Does he have a badge?

"Well he occasionally puts a drunk in to sober up and he says the pigs don't seem to mind but I have no idea what a search card is."

There was more laughter, but it quickly faded, being sucked into nowhere by Vime's implacable silence.

He then said: 'I wouldn't consider him a cop and until I find out he works in a proper law enforcement structure I wouldn't consider him a cop by my standards but a slightly bossy street cleaner. Useful, but not a cop.

"By your standards, Your Grace?" said the priest.

"Yes sir, by my standards. My decision. My responsibility. My experience. My ass if something goes wrong.

"But, Excellency, as you said, you are outside your jurisdiction here," said Mrs. Colonel gently.

Vimes could sense her husband's nervousness, and it certainly wasn't the food. The man sincerely wished he weren't there. It was funny how people always wanted to talk to the cops about crime and never noticed the weird little signs that betrayed their fears.

Turning to the man's wife, he smiled and said, "But like I said, ma'am, when a cop is confronted with a blatant crime, his jurisdiction catches up with him like an old friend. And do you mind if we change the subject? Nothing against you ladies and gentlemen, but over the years I've found that bankers, military and businessmen have opportunities to chat about such subjects, while the poor cop needs to talk about policing, which in reality is most of the Time is pretty boring." He smiled again to keep things friendly and continued, "Extremely boring here I imagine. From my point of view, this place is as quiet as the grave.” Result: a shudder from the dear Colonel and the priest who looks down at his plate, although the latter is not to be taken too seriously, he thought, for one seldom sees a cleric who can't throw sparks with a knife and fork.

Sybil broke the silence like an icebreaker with her host voice. "I think it's time for the main course," she said, "that's going to be an excellent lamb, without saying anything about police work. Honestly, if you let Sam go, he'll be citing the laws and ordinances of Ankh-Morpork and enforcing standing orders until you throw a pillow at him!

Well done, Vimes thought, at least I can have dinner in peace now. He relaxed as the conversations around him became less charged and filled again with everyday gossip and grumbling about other people who lived in the area, the troubles with the thralls, the harvest prospects and, oh yes, the problem with the kobolds.

Then Vimes noticed. goblins. The City Watch appeared to include at least one member of every known bipedal sentient species, plus a Nobby Nobbs. It became a tradition: if you can do it like a copper, you can do it like a species. But nobody ever suggested that Vimes should hire a goblin for the simple reason that they were commonly known as fetid, cannibalistic, vicious and untrustworthy bastards.

Clear,athe knew the dwarves were a bunch of blunders who would outsmart you if they could, and the trolls were little more than bandits, and the only jellyfish in town would never look you in the face, and you couldn't face vampires under any circumstances trust . smiled and werewolves were just vampires who couldn't fly when it mattered and the man next door was a real bastard who threw his junk at your wall and his wife wasn't any better than she was supposed to be. But then again, it took a lot to create a world. It wasn't like you were prejudiced, after all, an orc worked at the university, but he liked football, didn't he, and you could forgive him.everyonewho could score from the middle and, well, you took it how you found it... But no damn goblins, thanks a lot. People hunted them when they came into town, and they mostly ended up downriver and worked for the likes of Harry King in the bone grinding, leather tanning, and scrap industries. A fair ride on the outskirts of the city and therefore outside the law.

And now there were some near the hall, as evidenced by the disappearance of chickens and cats and so on. Well, probably, but Vimes remembered when people said trolls stole chickens; There was nothing interesting about a chicken for a troll. It would be like eating plaster of paris. He certainly didn't mention any of that.

Yes, no one had a good word to say about goblins, but Ms. Beedle had nothing to say. His gaze remained fixed on Vimes' face. You could read a dinner table if you knew the rules, and if you were a cop you could get a clear picture of what each guest thinks of the others; it was all apparent. Things said or unsaid. The people who were in the magic circle and the people who weren't. Miss Beedle was an outsider, tolerated because manners were evident, but not entirely included. What was the sentence?Not one von us.

Vimes noticed that he was Ms. Beedle just as she looked at him. They were both smiling, and he figured a curious man would see the lovely lady who had written the books his little boy loved so much, and not because she looked like someone willing to blow so many whistles that they would sound like a whistle.

Miss Beedle often frowned when it came to goblins, and occasionally at people, especially people he Mrs. Colonel, they looked at her as one looks at a child doing something wrong.

And so he kept a good attention to the outside world while at the same time analyzing the affairs of the day. At the trial Mrs. Colonel said: "By the way, Your Excellency, we were very pleased to hear that you beat up Jefferson this afternoon. The man is unbearable! He disturbs people!”

"Well, I've noticed he's not afraid to speak his mind," Vimes said, "but neither are we, right?"

"But you of all people, Your Grace," said the minister, looking up sternly, "can't believe Jack is as good as his master?"

"It's up to Jack. It depends on the master. It depends on what you mean by good,” said Mumm. "I think I was a Jack, but when it comes to the Ankh-Morpork City Guard, I'm the master."

Woman. The Colonel was about to reply when Lady Sybil said cheerfully, 'By the way, Sam, I have a letter from a Mrs Wainwright who praises you very much. Remind me to show you

All long-term couples have their code. Classically, there is one that the wife uses in polite conversation to alert her husband that he is baring his crotch for hasty dressing or distraction.

In the case of Vimes and Lady Sybil, any mention of Mrs Wainwright was code meaning, "If you don't stop pissing people off, Sam Vimes, there will be a marital discord later tonight."

But this time Sam Vimes wanted the last word, saying: "Actually, now that I come to think of it, I know some resurrected Jacks in various places, and let me tell you that they are often better teachers than their previous masters. he has. All they needed was a chance.”

"Remind me to show the letter, Sam!"

Vimes relented and the arrival of the ice cream pudding brought the temperature down a bit, not least because my lady kept all the glasses full - and in the Colonel's case that meant a very regular refill. Vimes would have liked to talk to him more, but he too was under his wife's orders. The man definitely had something important on his mind, which made the presence of a police officer very nervous. And nervousness was evidently contagious.

This was by no means an elegant affair. Sybil had organized this little party before embarking on anything more sumptuous, and some fairly amicable goodbyes were made well before eleven. Vimes listened carefully to the Colonel and his wife as they, unsure in his case, walked to the carriage. However, all he heard was a hiss: "You kept the stable door open all night!"

Followed by a growl, "But the horse was asleep, my dear."

When the last carriage pulled away and the great front door was firmly shut, Sybil said, "Well, Sam, I understand, I really understand, but they were our guests."

"I know, and I'm sorry, but it's like they're not thinking. I just wanted to shake their heads a bit.”

Lady Sybil examined a decanter of sherry and filled the glass. "You don't think the blacksmith really had the right to fight you for this house, do you?"

Sam wished he could drink now. "No, of course not. I mean, there would be no end to it. People have won and lost at the ancient roulette wheel of fate for thousands of years. I know that, but you know I think if you go to stop the wheel, need to think a little about the poor bastards sitting on zero.

His wife gently took his hand. “But we funded the hospital, Sam. You know how expensive that is. The doctor. Lawn will train anyone who shows aptitude for medicine, even if he says they're kicking their butts out of their pants. He even lets the girls train! How he still worries Igorinas! We're changing things, Sam, little by little, helping people help themselves. And look at the clock! Nowadays a child is proud to say that his father or even his mother is a Guardian. And people need pride.”

Vimes took her hand. He said, "Thank you for being so nice to the Cockbill Street boy."

She laughed at that. "I've waited a long time for you to show up, Samuel Vimes, and I have no intention of letting you go to waste!"

This seemed like a good time for Sam Vimes to say, "Do you mind if Willikins and I take a little walk to the Dead Man's Copse before I go to bed?"

Lady Sybil gave him the smile women give their husbands and boys. "Well, I can hardly say no, and there's a strange atmosphere. I'm glad Willikins is involved. And it's really nice up there. Maybe you hear the nightingale.

Vimes gave her a little kiss before changing his clothes and said, "Actually honey I've been waiting to hear a canary."

Probably no duke or even commander of the city watch had ever found anything like it lying on Sam Vimes' bed in his dressing room. First up was a branch hook, which was a useful agricultural implement. He had seen some of them being loaded earlier in the day. He recalled that "farm implement" did not mean "no weapon." They sometimes appeared among street gangs and were almost as terrifying as a troll with a headache.

Then there was a stick. Vimes' own cudgel, carefully brought by his servant. Of course it was decorated with silver because it was the watch commander's ceremonial baton and not a weapon, oh my god no. On the other hand, Vimes knew he wasn't a cheese maker, so it would be quite difficult to explain why he had a foot of cheese wire across his body. It would stay here, but he would get the branch hook. He was a poor watchman when a man wandering in his own country could not take the opportunity to prune a branch or two. But what to do with the pile of bamboo that's transformed into a breastplate with opening parts and an unattractive bamboo helmet? There was a small note on the bed. It read in Willikins' handwriting: from the game warden Freund, Commander. Your in addition!!!"

Vimes grunted and rapped the breastplate with his nightstick. He bent like a living thing and the nightstick bounced across the room.

Well, we live and learn, Vimes thought, or perhaps more importantly, we learn and live. He went down the stairs and out into the night, which was a black and white chessboard. He'd forgotten that outside of the city, where smog and smoke and exhaust fumes painted the world a thousand shades of gray, there was black and white in places like this, and if you were looking for a metaphor, there was. , there.

He knew the way up the hill, you couldn't go wrong. The moon lit up the path as if to make it easier for him. Real farming is over here. The fields gave way to gorse and rabbit-munched peat onto what resembled the felt of a pool table...although rabbits played pool with lots of very small balls, since rabbits did other things than just eat grass. Rabbits scattered as he climbed and he worried he was making too much noise, but it was his land and so it was.Erasjust a walk in the park. Then he walked a little happier, following what seemed the only path, and he saw the gallows in the moonlight.

Well, he thought, the menu says Dead Man's Copse, doesn't it? You used to do that a lot, didn't you? And the metal cage was only there to keep the corpses upright so the crows didn't have to kneel. Good old fashioned police work you could call it if you want to relax a bit. A crumbling heap of ancient bones at the foot of the gallows testified to old-fashioned police work.

Vimes felt the surreptitious movement of a knife in the hair on the back of his neck.

A moment later, Willikins got up off the floor and meticulously brushed the dirt from his clothes. "Oh, well done sir!" he said, a little breathless from lack of air. "I see I can't hurt you, Commander." He stopped, put his hand to his nose and sniffed. "Bring me down, Commander! There's blood all over my clothes! You didn't stab me, did you, sir? They just turned around and kicked me in the balls, what can I say sir, it was very cleverly done.

Vimes sniffled. You learned to smell blood. It smelled like metal. Well, people would say metal doesn't smell, it does, but it does smell like blood.

"Are you here on time?" said guts.

"Yes, sir. I haven't seen a living human soul. Willikins knelt. "I have not seen anything.

I wish I had Igor here, thought Vimes. Today he handed over the expertise to the experts. Then again, you've developed a forensic skill of your own, and beyond the smell of blood he could smell carnage and incredible coincidences. Everyone sees everything on the field. Jefferson wanted to meet with Guts, but here there was a definite lack of Jefferson and no lack of blood, while also presenting a notable absence of corpses. Vimes' brain worked methodically on things. Of course, you assumed that if a citizen were to secretly tell a police officer a secret, there's a good chance someone wouldn't want the citizen to say what they said. And if said citizen is found dead, then said policeman, who was previously seen arguing with him, could ultimately be found slightly guilty, and while all is said and all done, someone who genuinely intends getting Vimes in trouble would have left the blacksmith's body there, wouldn't it?

"I found something, sir," Willikins said, straightening up.

"You what?"

"I found something, sir, felt it on the ground, as you might say."

"But it's blood-soaked, man!"

Willikins didn't seem concerned. "Blood never cared, Commander, at least when it wasn't mine." There was a little draft, then light: Willikins had removed the trapdoor of a Dark Lantern. He handed it to Vimes, then held something small up against the glare. "It's a ring, sir. It looks like it's made of stone.

"What? You mean it's a rock with a hole in it?

He heard Willikins sigh. "No sir, it's polite. And that has a catch. Looks like a goblin to me.

Vimes thought all that blood. cut claw. Goblins aren't that big. Someone bothered to come here to kill a goblin. Where's the rest?

In theory, moonlight should help with the search, but moonlight is deceptive, casting shadows where there shouldn't be, and the wind picked up. Dark Lantern or not, there was little he could do here.

The curtains were drawn and a few lights were still burning in the goblin's head. Apparently there were licensing laws. A good copper should always be ready to test his strength. He led the way to the back of the pub and knocked on the small sliding wooden door at the back of the building. After a few moments, Jiminy pulled the sliding panel aside and Vimes reached into the hole before the man could close it again.

"Please not you, Your Grace, the judges would have my guts like garters!"

"And I'm sure they'll be very decorative," said Vimes, "but that won't happen, because I guarantee you about a third of your regulars are still drinking alcohol at this hour, and there's probably at least one judge among them." ... No, I retract that last comment. Magistrates drink at home where there are no licensing laws. I won't say a word, but it's going to be a bad day for the job when a thirsty cop can't swallow a nightcap from a former colleague. Placing a few coins on the small shelf within the small tablet, he added, "This should get my husband here a double brandy, and me the address of Mr. Jefferson the blacksmith."

"You can't treat me like that, you know."

Vimes looked at Willikins. "I can?"

The gentleman's gentleman cleared his throat. “We are now in the world of feudal law, Commander. You own the land this tavern is on, but he has rights as strong as yours. If he's paid the rent, you can't even enter the property without his permission.

"How do you know all that?"

"Well, Commander, as you know, I've had a tanty holiday or two in my time, and one thing about prison is there's always a lot of books lying around about the law, criminals are very keen on getting through them. . the cool ol' fine print, just in case it might be cool to give a rival gang member a pair of cement boots and toss them in the river after all. This way of learning stays.”

"But I'm investigating a mysterious disappearance. The blacksmith was looking forward to seeing me climb the hill, but when I got to the top there was nothing but blood everywhere. Jefferson wanted to tell me something, and you must know how that smells like a cop.Bis however I am NOsaid Vimes to himself. "Definitely something dodgy."

The landlord shrugged. "That's none of my business, squire."

Vimes' hand grabbed the innkeeper's wrist before the man could pull it away, and yanked so hard his face was pressed against the wood.

"Don't call me squire. Something's going on here, something's wrong; I can feel it in my boots and believe me they are the most sensitive boots ever. The man who runs the village pub knows everything - I know that and so do you. When you're not on my side, you're in my way and you know something, I can see it in your eyes. If you happen to know anything important about the blacksmith, you're inviting yourself to be an accomplice in hindsight, free option if I can get that bit between my teeth before the fact that you're in the thick of it, and that's a fact."

Jiminy squirmed, but Vimes' grip was steel. "Your brand doesn't work here, Mr. Vimes, you know that!"

Vimes heard the low moan of fear in the man's voice, but old cops were tough. If you weren't tough, you would never have been an old cop. "I don't care," said Vimes, which is the police code for "wobbly cube." “You think that legally I don't have a leg to stand on here. That may or may not be true, but my husband here isn't a cop and isn't used to doing things as well as we do at work, and you might end up without a leg to stand on either. I'm telling you this as a friend. We both know the game, huh? I assume you were working the bar when the goblin was killed, right?

"I didn't know a damn goblin got killed, did I? So how would I know when this might or might not have happened? My advice, Jiminy said in the same cryptic tone Vimes used, "is to report the matter to the authorities in the morning. That would be young Feeney, self-proclaimed cop. Look, I came here to retire, Vimes, and staying alive is part of it. I don't poke my nose into things that are none of my business. And I know there's a lot you could do and I know you won't, but just so you don't go home empty-handed, Jethro lives where all the blacksmiths live, right in the center of the village overlooking that Green. He lives with his elderly mother so I wouldn't disturb her at this time. And now, gentlemen, I'd better close the bar. I don't want to break the law.

The panel slid back and there was the sound of a latch snapping into place. A moment later, to the time-honoured exclamation, "Don't you have a home to go to?" They heard the front door open and the street fill with men trying to drive their brains toward their feet, eh the opposite.

In the shade of the pub's backyard, which smelled of old barrels, Willikins said, 'You bet your smith goes to bed tonight, sir?'

"No," said Vimes, "but it stinks. I think I have a murder, but I don't have a body, at least not quite,” he said as Willikins opened his mouth. guts grunted. "For it to be definitely murder, Willikins, you've got to be missing an important part of you that really needs to stay alive, like your head. Okay, or like your blood, but it's hard to collect that in the dark, isn't it?

They left and Vimes said, "The only thing you can say about the dead is they stay dead, well, generally, and stuff... it's been a long day, and that's a long road, and that dude is close ok?

"Not very conspicuous from the outside, Commander," Willikins said loyally.

The door was opened for them by a yawning night attendant, and as soon as he was gone, Willikins took the fetid, severed goblin claw from his coat pocket and placed it on the hall table.

"Not much for a goblin, once you get the hang of it, or so they say. Look, there's the ring on your finger. It definitely looks like stone, pretty good work for a goblin.”

"Animals don't wear jewellery," Vimes said. "You know, Willikins, I've said that before, you'd make a very good cop if you weren't a very good hit man."

Willkins smiled. "I thought of murderers as a boy, sir, but unfortunately I didn't belong to the right social class, and besides, there are rules there." Helping Vimes out of his coat, he continued, "There are no rules on the road, Commander, except one, and that is 'survival', and my dear father would probably roll in his grave if I even thought of it. to become a police officer. ”

"But I thought you never knew who your father was?"

"Indeed, sir, that is the case, but one must consider the fact of heredity." Willikins took a small brush and brushed a smudge of dirt from the coat before hanging it on a hanger, then continued: "I sometimes sense a father's absence and wonder if it wouldn't be a wise idea to walk down the graveyard in Small." Gods and yell 'Daddy I'm going to be a cop' and then see which tombstone has turned over, sir.”

The man was still smiling. Not for the first time, Vimes considered that he had a rather unusual gentleman to be a gentleman-gentleman, especially considering that neither of them were gentlemen at all. "Willikins, and I mean that in all honesty, if I were you, I'd go to Tanty and scream into the lime pit by the gallows."

Willikins' smile widened. "Thank you sir. Needless to say, this means a great deal to me. Excuse me sir, I'll throw my jacket in the incinerator before I go to bed.

Sybil rolled over and made a big, hot noise as Vimes lay down beside her. It had been a long day, and he had fallen into that rosy, semi-conscious daze, which is better than sleep to wake up a little every hour when no one rang a bell down the street to say everything was in be okay.

And when he awoke again, he heard the sound of heavy wagon wheels clattering over stones. Half asleep as Vimes was, the rest of the way he was suspicious. Rock? All around the hall was bloody gravel. He opened a window and looked out at the moonlight. It was an echo bouncing off the hills. Some brain cells working the night shift wondered what kind of farming should be done at night. Did you grow mushrooms? Did the beets have to be taken out of the cold? Was that the so-called crop rotation? Those thoughts coalesced in his sleepy brain like tiny grains of sugar in a teacup, slithering and dripping from cell to synapse to neurotransmitter until they reached the receptor labeled "Suspicious," which is if you're looking at a medical diagram of a police officer's brain , there probably will be a prominent lump, slightly larger than the marked lumpPro I understand bigHe thought,Ah Sim, Smuggling!and, cheerful and hopeful for the future, carefully closed the window and went back to bed.

The food in the hall was plentiful and plentiful and most likely almost everything else that ended up in Vimes was old enough to know that the senior staff ate the leftovers and therefore made sure there was enough food.beleftovers. With that in mind, he ate a large helping of haddock kedgeree and ate all four rashers of bacon on his plate. Sybil complained about this, and Vimes pointed out that he was on vacation after all, and on vacation you don't do the things you do on other days, prompting Sybil to point out with forensic precision that this should include police work, not true, but Vimes was willing and said of course he understood, which is why he would take young Sam for a walk into the village center to put his suspicions in the hands of the local policeman. "All right," Sybil said in a deliberately incredulous tone, and he should make sure he took Willikins with him.

This was another aspect of his wife that deeply intrigued Vimes. Just as Sybil found that Nobby Nobbs, though a diamond in the rough, made a good watchman, so she found that Vimes was safer in the company of a man who never went abroad without the weapons of the road on his person, and who had once opened a beer bottle with someone else's teeth. That was true, but somehow very disturbing.

He heard the bell ring, heard the servant open the front door, heard a muffled conversation followed by someone walking down the gravel path behind the hall. It didn't matter, it was just atmosphere, and the sound of a servant entering the room and whispering to Sybil fell into the same category.

He heard her say, "What? Oh, well, I suppose you'd better let him in,” then she snapped to attention as she addressed him. "This is the local police officer. can you see him in the office Cops never wipe their feet properly, especially you, Sam.

Vimes hadn't seen the study yet. The hall never seemed to run out of rooms. Guided by a maid, he reached the office a few seconds before the local policeman was ushered in by a servant who scowled like a man dealing with a dead mouse. At least it was probably the local copper; He looked like the local cop's son. Seventeen, Vimes guessed, and he smelled like pig. He stood where the servant had put him down and watched.

After a while, Vimes said, "May I help you, officer?"

The young man blinked. "Er, am I addressing Sir Samuel Vimes?"

"Who are you?"

This question seemed to surprise the young man, and after a while Vimes took pity on him and said, "Look, son, the proper exercise is to tell me who you are and then, so to speak, to ask if I am." am . After all, I don't know who you are. You're not wearing a uniform that I recognize, you haven't shown me any badges or badges, and you don't have a helmet. However, I assume, and to wrap up this pre-lunch interview, that you are the chief of police in this neighborhood? What's your name?"

"Er, conclusion sir, Feeney conclusion... um, Chief Constable conclusion?"

Vimes was ashamed, but this kid was posing as a cop and even Nobby Nobbs would have laughed.

Aloud he said: "Well, Chief Constable Conclusions, I am Sir Samuel Vimes, among others, and I was just thinking of speaking to you."

"Er, that's good sir, because I was just thinking it might be time to arrest you on suspicion of causing the death of Jethro Jefferson the blacksmith."

Vimes' expression didn't change. What do I do now? Nothing, that's it. You have the right to remain silent, I've said that to hundreds of people because I know it's nonsense and I'm absolutely certain that I certainly didn't put anything but an educative hand on that damn blacksmith and that's why I will it's very interesting to find out why this idiot thinks he can feel my collar for it.

A police officer must always be willing to learn, and Vimes learned from Lord Vetinari that one should never act on a comment or a situation until one has made a precise decision as to what one is going to do. It had the double appeal of preventing you from saying or doing something wrong while also making other people extremely nervous.

"Sorry sir but it took me an hour to get the pigs out and get the jail cozy sir, it still smells a little bit like disinfectant sir and pig if need be but I have the whitewashed walls and there is a chair and a bed to snuggle into. Oh yes, and so that you don't get bored, I found the magazine. He looked hopefully at Vimes, whose expression hadn't changed, just petrified, but after a lingering look, Vimes said, "What magazine?"

"Sir? I didn't know there was more than one. We always have. It's about pigs. It's a bit shabby now, but pigs are always pigs.

Vimes got up. "I'm going for a walk, Chief of Police. You can follow me if you want.

"Sorry sir, but I caught you!"

"No, son, you don't," Vimes said, walking to the front door.

"But I definitely told you that you were arrested, sir!" It was almost a lawsuit.

Vimes opened the front door and went down the steps while Feeney trotted behind him. Two gardeners who would otherwise have turned away leaned on their brooms at the sight of him and suspected a cabaret.

"What the hell do you have about you that tells me you're a cop?" asked Vimes over his shoulder.

"I have the official baton, sir. It's a family heirloom!”

Sam Vimes stopped and turned around. "Well my boy, if it's official then you better let me check, huh? Come on, give it here. Feeney did.

It was just a giant blackjack with the word "law" clumsily engraved, perhaps with a poker. Still a good weight. Vimes slapped his palm and said, "You indicated to me that you believed I was a potential murderer and you gave me your gun! Don't you think that's reckless?

Vimes watched the landscape roll by as he floated across the terrace and landed on his back in a flower bed, looking up at the sky. Feeney's worried face, a little too big, came into view. "I'm sorry, Commander. I personally wouldn't hurt him, but I didn't want to give him the wrong impression. This movement translates as1 Cara Is Hoch Under Very

Vimes watched the patch of sky above him in a state of inexplicable peace as the boy said, "You know, my grandfather worked on tall ships as a boy and sailed to Bhangbhangduc and all those places where people are so strange and When he came back I brought my grandmother Ming Chang and she taught my father and I this.” He sniffed. "She passed away a few months ago, but at least she taught my mother to cook too. The Bung Ming Suck Dog is still a favorite here and of course, getting the ingredients so close to the sea isn't too difficult. Bong Can Bang Keng doesn't grow very well here, but Packed Shop Chop Muck Dick grows very well. Oh the color is returning to your cheeks sir, glad to say that.

Vimes sat up with pain in every joint. "Don't do that again, do you hear?"

"I'll try not to, sir, but you're under arrest, sir."

"I told you, young man, you didn't lock me up properly." Vimes got up, panting a little. "In order to make a lawful arrest, the arresting officer must physically touch the suspect while clearly uttering the words 'I am arresting you,' although you do not have to identify the crime your suspect is suspected of at this point. While you're doing this..." and here Vimes smacked the boy in the solar plexus so hard he curled up, "'s worth worrying about what you have to do, my boy, if that's what you're going to do arrest me , which I should point out that you haven't already, which is a shame because if you had you would now have a clear case against me for resisting arrest and also assaulting a police officer on duty . Except that nothing about you yet makes me believe you're actually a cop.

Vimes sat down on a handy rock and watched Feeney begin to unfold. "I'm Sam Vimes, young man, so don't try that chop sally thing on me, alright?"

Now Feeney's voice was a sort of muffled squeak: "And one day someone will say to you, 'Do you know who I am, Officer?' it can't contain phrases like "You're falling, little friend" or "I put you in the right place and flawlessly ignored all threats, but remember this. The law is one and immutable. It doesn't matter who you are and in this moment you are in a very real way and therefore you aren't either.”

Vimes gasped when Feeney continued. "We don't usually get itÖ time planshere, but I bought a bundle of swine medicine a year ago and it was wrappedÖ time plansand I saw your name when you talked about being a cop. That made me very proud, sir.

Vimes remembered that speech. He had to write it for the parade of some newly trained officers from the Guard School. He had spent hours jotting down notes, hampered by the fact that for him any form of literature was in every sense a closed book.

He showed it to Sybil and asked if she thought he should get someone to help him, and she patted his head and said, "No, honey, because then it would look like someone had written for someone else. something else, while now pure guts appears like a shining beacon. This cheered him up greatly, for he had never been a shining beacon before.

But now his heart sank as his train of thought was interrupted by a very polite cough and the voice of Willikins saying, 'Excuse me, Commander, I thought it proper to introduce the young gentleman to my friends, Mr Burleigh . and Mr. Strong heart. Lady Sybil would not be pleased to see you arrested, Commander. I'm afraid you'll find it a little... bitter, sir.

Vimes found his voice. "You're an idiot, man! Put the damn thing down! They keep it on a hair trigger! Download it now!

Silently, Willikins placed the glowing crossbow on the banister like a mother putting her baby to bed. There was a whirring noise and a geranium was decapitated fifty feet away. This went unnoticed, save for the geranium and a ragged figure hidden in the rhododendrons that read "Snack!" to himself, but continued to look at Vimes resolutely.

The shock image on the stairs was interrupted by Lady Sybil, who could walk very quietly for a tall woman. "Gentlemen, what's going on here?"

"This young man, rumored to be the local police officer, wants to arrest me on suspicion of murder, my dear."

A look worthy of the status of telepathy was exchanged between husband and wife. Sybil stared at Feeney. "Ah, you would be a young Verdict I suppose. I am sorry to hear of your grandmother's death and trust that your mother is okay. I used to visit her often when I was a little girl. And you want to arrest my husband, don't you?

Feeney managed a wide-eyed, unprofessional "Yes ma'am."

Sybil sighed and said grimly, "Well then, may I hope this at least goes without more vegetable slaughter?" She looked at Vimes. "He's taking you to jail?"

She turned her attention to Feeney, a man who now faced a cannon loaded with a thousand years of upper-class confidence. "He'll need clean clothes, officer. If you tell me where you are taking him and youreadytell me where you are taking him, I will personally bring you suitable clothes. Do I have to sew on the strips or does that happen automatically? And I would be grateful if you would bring it back at tea-time, for we are expecting visitors.

Lady Sybil took a step forward and Feeney took a step back to escape the threatening wrath of the bosom. She said, 'I wish you the best of luck in your endeavour, young man. You will need it. Please excuse me now. I need to talk to the chef.

She walked away leaving Feeney staring at her in disbelief. Then the doors that had just closed behind her opened again and she said, "Are you still single, young man?"

Feeney managed a "yes."

"Then you're invited to tea," she said cheerfully. "Some very suitable young women are coming in and I'm sure they will be very excited to see a young man ready to dance on his own.Randfrom hell. Wear your helmet, Sam, in case of police brutality. Willikins, come with me. I want to talk to you!

Vimes let the silence curdle. After much Feeney said, "Your wife is a very remarkable woman, sir."

guts nodded. "You have no idea. What are you going to do now, chief of police?

The boy hesitated. That was Sybil for you. When she speaks calmly and confidently, she can make you believe that the world has turned upside down and landed on your head.

"Well, sir, do I think I must bring you before the judges?"

Vimes noticed the little question mark. "Who's your boss, Feeney?"

"The bench mentioned above, sir."

Vimes went down the steps and Feeney hurried after him. Vimes waited for the boy to run, then stopped suddenly, colliding with Vimes. "Your boss is the law, Chief Constable, and don't forget that. In fact, one of the judges' jobs is to make sure you don't! Have you ever taken an oath? What did he say? Who did it go to?

"Oh, I remember that very well, sir. He went to the bench, sir.

"It was... it was... what?! Did you take an oath to obey the judges? They can't force you to do this! He stopped. Remember, in the country there's always someone watching you, he thought, and probably listening too.

Feeney looked shocked so Vimes said, "Take me to your prison boy and lock me up. And while you're at it, lock yourself in with me. Take your time, don't ask questions, and keep your voice low, except maybe say things like "I got you right, you scoundrel" and other nonsense of that general kind, because young man, I think someone's in real difficulties, and I believe that person is you. If you're sane, shut up and take me to your jail, okay?

Feeney nodded, eyes wide.

It was a pleasant walk to the prison, which was on a small pier by the river. The area had all the semi-nautical debris one could hope for and there was a swing bridge, presumably to allow the larger boats passage. The sun was shining and nothing was happening, kinda slowly. And then there was the much-discussed lockdown. It looked like a giant stone pepper shaker. A flowering vine grew on it, and by the door and by a chain hung a huge pig. When he saw her approaching, he stood on his hind legs and swayed a little, begging.

"This is Masher," Feeney said. “His father was a wild boar, his mother was surprised. See those fangs? Nobody gives me much trouble if I threaten to remove Masher from your leadership, you, Masher? He ducked behind the cell and immediately returned with a bucket of manure, which Masher tried to bury himself in, squeaking immensely with satisfaction - the size of his tusks. Vimes watched them as a friendly-looking woman in an apron rushed out of a thatched hut, stopped when she saw Vimes, and bowed. She looked at Feeney hopefully. "Who would this handsome gentleman be, my son?"

"It's Commander Vimes, Mother... You know, the Duke."

There was a pause while the woman clearly wished she had worn a better dress, haircut and shoes and cleaned the bathroom, kitchen, scullery and yard, painted the front door and cleaned the interior. from the roof.

Vimes stopped her from digging a hole in the ground by reaching out and saying, "Sam Vimes, ma'am, nice to meet you," but that just made her run in in a panic.

"My mother is very fond of the aristocracy," Feeney confided as he unlocked the prison door with an impossibly large key.

"Why?" said Vimes confused. Prison was reasonably comfortable. Sure, the pigs left a sweet-smelling memory, but to a boy from Ankh-Morpork, that counted as fresh air. Feeney sat down next to him on a clean bench. "Well, sir, when my grandfather was young, Lord Ramkin gave him a full half dollar to open a gate just to let the game through. According to my father, he said: "No hypocrite who talked about human rights ever gave me a quarter pence, so here I say to Lord Ramkin, who gave me a whole half dollar when he was so pissed off as a fart , and never asked about it when he was sober. That's what I call a gentleman.'”

Vimes squirmed in, knowing that the supposedly generous old drunk would have more money than you could ever imagine, and here was a laborer pathetically grateful for a handout from the old piss artist. He growled in his soul for a man long dead. But the part of him that had been married to Sybil for years whispered,But him NO have Pro rather A cara anything, e em That diam one at Half Dollar Eras probably more Box was A alt cara it could Introduce!Sybil once surprised him, in one of their very rare arguments, by blurting out, "Well, Sam, my family started life, your food, if you will, on piracy. You should like this, Sam! Good honest handwork! And look what it cost! The trouble with you, Sam Vimes, is that you're determined to be your own class enemy.

'Is something wrong, Commander?' said Feeney.

"Everything," Vimes said. “On the one hand, no policeman swears allegiance to civil power, he swears allegiance to the law. Oh, politicians can change the law and if the cop doesn't like it he can resign, but while he's in office it's up to him to act in accordance with the law.” He leaned his back against the stone wall. "You do not swear to obey the judges! I'd like to see what you've signed...” Vimes stopped talking as the small metal plate on the closet door opened to reveal Feeney's mother, who looked very nervous.

"I've made Bang Suck Duck, Feeney, with turnips and fries, and is there enough for the Duke too, if he would be condescending enough to take it?"

Vimes leaned forward and whispered, "Does she know you arrested me?"

Feeney winced. "No, and sir, please, please don't tell her, because I don't think she would ever let me in the house again."

Vimes walked to the door and said to the Rift, "I would be honored by your hospitality, Mistress Conclusion."

There was a nervous giggle from across the crack, and Feeney's mother managed to say, "I'm sorry to say we don't have any silver plates, Your Highness!"

At home, Vimes and Sybil ate dishes, cheap, practical and easy to clean. He said loudly, "I'm sorry you don't have silver plaques either, Mistress Upshot, and I'll send you a set direct."

There was something of a scuffle on the other side of the slot, while Feeney said, "Excuse me? Are you crazy sir?

so thathe would beHelp, thought Vimes. "We've got hundreds of bloody silver plaques in the hall, my boy. Useless, they chill the food and turn black as soon as you turn over. I also seem to have been ambushed by silver spoons. I'll see what we have.

"You can't, sir! She is afraid to have valuables in the house!”

"Is there a lot of theft here, Chief of Police?" said Vimes, emphasizing the last two words.

Mr. Feeney opened the prison door and took his mother, who was clearly shocked at the possibility of owning silver records, patting her and saying over her shoulder, "No sir, the reason is nobody has anything to steal. My mother always told me money can't buy happiness, sir.

Yes, Vimes thought, so did my mother, but she was delighted when I gave her my first paycheck because it meant we could eat meat, even if we didn't know what kind of meat it was. That's luck, isn't it? Damn the lies we tell ourselves...

As an embarrassed Mrs. Upshot went to get her food, Vimes said, "Between you, Chief Constable, do you think I'm guilty of murder?"

"No sir!" Feeney said immediately.

"You said that too quickly, young man. Are you saying it's the cop's instinct? Because I get the impression that you haven't been a cop for a long time and don't have much to do. I'm no expert, but I don't think pigs try to lie to you too much either.

Feeney took a deep breath. "Well, sir," he said softly, "my grandfather was a wise old man, and he read people like books. He walked me around, introduced me to people, sir, and then he told me his stories, like the one about the man who got caughtblatant crimewith a mean barn bird..."

Vimes listened in amazement as the flushed, well-washed face spoke across the soft, fragrant landscape as if populated by demons from the most insidious pit. He unfurled a crime sheet that badly needed washing: no big murders, just evil, stupidity, and all the crimes of human ignorance and stupidity. Of course, where there were people, there was crime. It felt out of place in the slow-moving world of large rooms and chirping birds. And yet he had smelled it as soon as he had come here, and now he was in it.

"You feel tingling," Feeney said. "That's what my father told me. He said watch, listen and keep an eye on every man. There's never been a good cop who doesn't have a villain in them somewhere, and that'll drive you nuts. He will say "This man has something to hide" or "This man is a lot more scared than he should be" or "This man is acting very arrogant because he is basically a nervous wreck."readycall you.

Vimes chose admiration over shock, but not too much admiration. "Well, Mr. Feeney, I think your grandfather and father got it right. So am I sending out the right signals, right?

"No sir, absolutely nothing sir. My grandfather and father could act like that sometimes. Completely empty. It makes people nervous." Feeney tilted her head and said, "Wait a minute, sir, I think we have a little problem..."

The cell door slammed open as Chief Constable Upshot slid to the back of the squat little building. Something whimpered and squeaked and then Vimes, sitting peacefully inside, suddenly had goblins on his lap. It was actually just a goblin, but a goblin up close is more than enough. There was the smell at the beginning and not at the end, for it seemed to pervade the world. However, it wasn't the stench - although heaven knew they stank of whatever stink an organic being could create - no, anyone who walked the streets of Ankh-Morpork was more or less immune to stench, and in fact there was now a burgeoning hobby of Dave of Dave's Pin and Stamp Emporium, if that was the right word, put the sign up again over his shop. You couldn't bottle a kobold's inherent smell (or whatever the collectors did) because it was less of a stench and more of a sensation, the feeling of tooth enamel evaporating and armor rusting away, which one might have had some speed . Vimes hit the thing, but it held on with closed arms and legs and screamed in a voice that sounded theoretically like a sack of nuts being attacked. And yet it didn't attack - unless you factor in biological warfare. He was holding on with his legs and thrashing his arms, and Vimes was able to stop Feeney from hitting him with his official nightstick, because as soon as you noticed, the goblin used words, and the words were:Was! Was! Us want just Was! Requirement! Requirement just Was! To the right? Just Was!

Feeney, on the other hand, yelled, "You stink, little devil, I told you what I would do to you if I saw you steal the pig again!" He looked at Vimes as if seeking support. "They can give you terrible diseases, sir!"

"Would you stop dancing with that damn gun boy!" Vimes looked at the now struggling goblin in his hands and said, "As for you, you little idiot, stop using your bat!"

The small room was silent save for the dying notes of "They eat their own babies!". by Feeney and "Just ice!" of the goblin, simply and aptly called "Smelly".

Now no longer panicking, the goblin pointed a claw at Vimes' left wrist, looked him in the face and said, "Just ice cream?" It was a roll call. The claw tugged at his leg. "Just ice cream?" The creature hobbled to the door and looked at the scowling police chief, then turned to Vimes with an expression that pierced the man's face and said very slowly, "Just ice cream? Mr. Po-leess-maan?

Vimes took out his snuffbox. You could say that for the brown stuff: the whole ceremony you had to go through before taking a pinch gave you a lot more time to think than lighting a cigar. It also caught people's attention. He said: "Well, Chief of Police, someone is asking you for justice. What are you going to do about it?

Feeney looked uncertain and backed away in certainty. "That's a smelly goblin!"

"Do you see her often in prison?" said Vimes, keeping his tone light.

"Just stinky," Feeney said, scowling at the goblin sticking his wormlike tongue out at him. "He is always here. The others know what happens if they get caught stealing here!

Vimes looked at the goblin and recognized a misplaced broken leg when he saw one. He turned the snuffbox in his hands several times and did not look at the young man. "But surely a police officer is wondering what happened to make such a miserable thing go under the law and risk being so

It was a jump into the dark, but heck, he'd jumped so many times that the dark was a stepping stone.

His arm itched. He tried to ignore it, but for just a moment there was a leaky cave in front of him and no other thought than terrible, endless revenge. He blinked and the goblin tugged on his sleeve again and Feeney got angry.

"I didn't do it! I haven't seen it yet!"

"But you know that happens, right?" And again Vimes remembered the darkness and the thirst for vengeance, indeed vengeance itself made wise and hungry. And the little bastard touched his arm. It all came back, and he wished he hadn't, because while all cops should have a little bad guy inside them, no cop should walk around with a piece of demon tattooed on them.

Feeney lost his anger now because he was scared. "Bishop Scour says they are demonic and outrageous creations made to mock humanity," he said.

“I don't know about Bishops,” Vimes said, “but something is happening here and I can feel the tingles, I felt it the day I got here and it's tingling everywhere.meinEarth. Listen to me, chief of police. If you arrest the suspect, you should take the time to ask him if he did it and if he says no, you should ask him if he can prove his innocence. I have understood? you should ask I understand? And my answers, in order, are: damn no and damn yes!”

The little clawed hand scratched Vimes' shirt again. "Just ice cream?"

Vimes thought, Well, I thought I'd been nice to the boy up until now. "Police chief, something is wrong and you know something is wrong and you are on your own, so you better get help from someone you know and can trust. Like me, for example, in this case I'm the suspect, who, after being bailed out on penny bail - and here Vimes handed the astonished Feeney a small disk of partially corroded copper - "was asked to assist him in his investigation help as they are and all will be well and good and in accordance with the standard paper on police procedure which my boy was written by me and you had better believe it. I'm not the law, no cop is the law. A cop is just a man, but when he wakes up in the morning, the law is his alarm clock. So far I've been nice and friendly to you, but did you really think I'd spend the night in a pigsty? Time to be a real cop, boy. Do the right thing and fake the paperwork later like I do.

Vimes looked at the stubborn little goblin. "Okay, Stinky, lead the way."

"But my old mother is leaving with her dinner, Commander!" Feeney's voice was a wail, and Vimes hesitated. It's no use upsetting an old mother.

It was time to let the duke out. Vimes never normally bowed to anyone, but he did bow to Mistress Upshot, who nearly dropped her tray in ecstatic confusion. "I am ashamed my dear Mistress Conclusion to have to ask you to keep your Man Dog Suck Poo warm for us for a while because your son here, a credit to his uniform and his parents, has asked me to help him on a." Mission of considerable importance that could only be entrusted to a young man of integrity like your boy here.

As the woman melted with pride and happiness, Vimes pulled the young man away.

“Sir, the dish was Bang Suck Duck, we only have Man Dog Suck Po on Sundays. With carrot puree.

Vimes shook Mrs. Conclusion's hand and said, "I look forward to trying it later, my dear Miss Conclusion, but if you'll excuse me, your son is an advocate of your police work, as I'm sure you know."

Colonel Charles Augustus Makepeace had long ago decided, with the experience of a longtime strategist, to let Letitia have her way in all things. This saved him a lot of trouble and allowed him to tend to his garden, tend to his dragons, and occasionally go trout fishing, a pastime he loved. He hired a half mile creek but unfortunately he was now having a hard time running fast enough. In those days he spent a lot of time in his library, working on the second volume of his memoirs, avoiding his wife's feet and not interfering.

Up until that moment he had been very happy that she had the post of President of the Magistrate because it kept her away from home for hours. He was never one to think in terms of good or bad and guilty or not guilty. He had learned to think in terms of us and them, dead and undead.

And so he wasn't listening closely to the group sitting around the long table on the other side of the library, talking in worried voices, but still he couldn't help but listen.

She had signed that damn document! He should have tried to talk her out of it, but he knew where that would have ended. Commander Vimes! Okay, so to all appearances the man was the type who needed to hurry, and maybe he wasfezArguing with what his name is the blacksmith, who wasn't too bad a bay in his ilk, a little hotheaded of course, but he did a great kite push the other day for a very reasonable price. Pasture? Not a killer, that's for sure. You learned that in the military. You don't last long if you're an assassin. Killing as duty required was something else entirely. Letitia listened to that unspeakable advocate and everyone agreed it was only signed because that bastard Rust wanted it.

He opened this month's issue ofJack eOccasionally someone would lower their voice, which was inevitably taken as an insult since they were sitting in a guy's library and especially when the guy hadn't been consulted. But he didn't protest. He'd learned long ago not to protest, so he focused his eyes on the detachable feature of the flame-retardant incubators and held it out in front of him as if to ward off evil.

But between the words heNOcould be heard: "Of course he only married her for her money, you know." That was his wife's voice. So I heard she was desperately looking for a husband. The oddly high pitch of that voice identified its owner as Miss. Pickings, who the Colonel noted as he stared gloomily at a full-page ad for asbestos kennels, was clearly in no hurry to find a husband.

The Colonel was a live-and-let-live personality by trade, and frankly, if a gel wanted to hang out with another gel who wears a shirt and tie, trains horses, and looks like a bulldog licking vinegar off thistles, then it was wholeyourthe business. After all, he said to himself, what about old "Beefy" Jackson, huh? He wore a dress to mess every night and some pretty flowery aftershave for a guy, but when the call to arms came he could fight like a damn devil. Funny old world.

He tried again to find his place on the page but was stopped by Reverend Mouser. He never got along with priests, he didn't understand why. "I find it very suspicious that the Ramkin family showed up here after so many years, don't you? I keep reading about Vimes in the newspaper, not the kind of person you would imagine just vacationing.

"According to Gravid, he's known as the Vetinaris Terrier," Letitia said.

Across the room, her husband buried his head deeper in the magazine to keep from laughing. Pregnant! Who would name their child pregnant? No one had ever bred dragons or fish, that was for sure. There was a dictionary, of course, but old Lord Rust was never the man to turn to a book if he could help it. The Colonel tried to consider an article on treating zigzag throats in older men, and the woman of his heart continued, "Well, we don't want any veterinary nonsense here. His lordship likes to let guts win in the halls of the mighty. Guts makes no sense of position. But on the contrary. And indeed, it looks like he's ready to ambush a decent worker."

Funny, the Colonel thought, that's the first time I've heard them call the smith anything other than a bloody nuisance. It seemed to him that the gossip at the table was banal, artificial, like the conversation of inexperienced recruits on the eve of their first battle. He thought there's an arrest warrant for Commander Vimes, the hero of Koom Valley (Good show! Wonderful execution. Peace in our time between troll brother and dwarf brother and stuff. Spot on! I've seen a lot of murders in my time) and now you're going to ruin his job and his reputation just because that sleazy boy named after a pregnant frog tricked you into doing it.

"I understand he's very violent," he said, oh what was his name? The Colonel thinks it's a bit bad. Bought a large mansion near Overhang, one of Rust's friends. It never seemed to work. What was his name, oh yes, Edgehill, not a man to be trusted behind or in front of you, but they swore to him anyway.

“And he was just a street kidea drunk!" said Leticia. "What do you think of that?"

The Colonel listened intently to his magazine while his unspoken thoughts said, Sounds very good to me, my dear. All I got when I married you was a promise to get a half share of your father's fish and chips when I got off duty, and I never got that.

"Everyone knows your ancestor killed a king, so I can't imagine a guts would shy away from killing a blacksmith," said the honorable Ambrose. Somewhat mysterious, this one. Something to do with shipping. Sent out of town to hide out here for something involving a girl. And the colonel, who spent a lot of time there, wondered for a long time how you get banned from town for a girl these days, and instinct told him that maybe it had something to do with age. from the girl. After hatching this thought for a while, the Colonel wrote to his old friend "Jankers" Robinson, who always knew a thing or two about this and that and this and that, and who was now a political wallah in the palace. He had made an inquiry to his friend, whom he had once dragged to safety over the pommel of his saddle before a clapping scimitar struck him, as one might wish, and received a small note that said nothing other than, "Yes indeed 'Underage, Quiet', pay dearly', and after that the Colonel was very careful never to shake the bastard's hand again.

The Honorable Ambrose, who always appeared to be a little larger than his clothes - clothes said to be more appropriate for someone twenty years his junior - was happily unaware of the Colonel's thoughts and scoffed, "Frankly, I think so , we make the world a better place. Service. They say he prefers midgets and all kinds of meanness. You can expect anything from a man like that!”

Yes you can, the Colonel thought.

And miss. Pickings said, "But we didn't do anything wrong... did we?"

The Colonel turned a page and smoothed it out with military severity. He thought, Well, you all put up with smuggling when the right people do it because they're friends, and when they're not, they get hefty fines. They apply a law for the poor and none for the rich, my dear, because the poor are a plague.

He suddenly felt eyes on him, because marital telepathy is a terrible thing. His wife said, "It doesn't hurt, everyone does." Her head spun again as her husband turned the page, his eyes on the guy as he thought, as quietly as his brain could understand: and of course there was the… incident a few years ago. This is not good. It is not good. It is not good for babies of any kind to be taken away from their mothers. Not good. And you all know it, and it concerns you, and it should.

The room was quiet for a moment, then Mrs. Oberst continued. "There won't be any problems. Young Lord Rust promised me. After all, we have rights.”

"I blame that bloody blacksmith," said Miss Pickings. "He keeps reminding people, him and that damn author."

Woman. Colonel was irritated by this. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Ms. Reap. Legally, nothing went wrong here. Her head turned to her husband. "Are you alright, darling?" she demanded.

For a moment he looked as if he wasn't, and then the Colonel said, "Oh, yes, my dear. Safe as rain. Safe as rain." But his thoughts went further: You have taken part in what I will strongly argue cynical attempt to ruin the career of a very good man.

"I heard you cough." It felt like an accusation.

"Oh, just a bit of dust or something dear, as well as the rain. Safe as rain.” And then he threw the magazine on the table. He rose and said, "When I was just a subordinate, darling, one of the first things I learned was never to reveal your position with frantic fire. I think I know the type of your Commander Vimes. Young Lord Rust may be secure in his money and connections, but I very much doubt that all of you are. Who knows what would have happened if you hadn't been so hasty? ? You just pulled the dragon's tail and pissed him off!"

When his wife regained control of her tongue, she said, "How dare you Charles!"

"Oh, easy enough dear," the Colonel said, smiling happily. "A little bit of smuggling can be considered a sin, but not if you're supposed to obey the law. It amazes me that none of you seem to realize this. If you have any common sense, ladies and gentlemen, you will explain this whole unfortunate goblin incident to Her Grace in a heartbeat. After all, your friend Gravid organized it. The only small problem is that, as far as I can remember, you allowed him to do that without so much as a grumble.

"But it wasn't illegal," his wife said coldly.

Her husband didn't move, but in an indescribable sense he suddenly grew taller. "I think things got a little confusing: See, you thought things were legal or illegal. Well, I'm just a soldier and I've never been very good, but I think you've become so concerned with right and wrong that you've never stopped thinking about right or wrong. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to the bar.

Automatically, his wife said, "No, darling, you know what drink doesn't suit you."

The Colonel smiled. "Tonight I intend to settle my drinking problems and make you my friend."

The rest of the magistrates saw Mrs. Colonel looking at her husband. "I'll talk to you about that later, Charles," she growled.

To her surprise, his smile didn't change. "Yes dear, I suspect so, but I think you'll find I won't listen. Good night everyone." There was a click as the door closed behind him. It should have knocked, but some doors never quite understand the situation.

The goblin was already moving fairly quickly with a point-and-carry one gait that was deceptively quick. Vimes was surprised to find that Feeney had put in a bad time on the short stretch towards – he wasn't surprised – Hangman's Hill. He could hear the boy panting slightly. Maybe you didn't have to be that fast to overtake a stubborn pig, but you did.veryfast to catch up with a young troll who was hit in the eyes by Slice in a snow storm, and it took you a lot of stamina to pass and punch him before he fell far enough to try and sever your head. Policing obviously varied widely across the country.

There's always someone watching over you in the country, he thought as they accelerated. Well, there was always someone watching you around town too, but usually hoping you'd drop dead and they could get away with your wallet. They never were, but here he thought he felt many eyes resting on him. Maybe they belonged to squirrels or badgers or whatever Vimes heard at night; gorillas maybe

He had no idea what he would see, but he certainly hadn't expected to find the top of the hill glowing with ropes painted yellow. However, he only took a second look at it. Three goblins looked on with their backs to one of the trees and looking very worried. One of them rose, bringing his head and with it his eyes to a level near Vimes' loins, not a good position. Raising a wrinkled hand, he said, "Grass? Hang!"

Vimes looked at him and then at Feeney. "What does he mean by 'Hang'?"

"I was never really sure," Feeney said. "Something like 'Have a nice day I guess, but only in Goblin'."

"Willows!" continued the old goblin. "Tell be you're po-leess-maan. It's great, po-leess-maan! If po-leess-maan, then only ice cream! But only ice cream, be no! And if dark in the dark! Dark Movement! Darkness must come, Vimes! darkness rises! Justice!"

Vimes had no idea of ​​the speaker's gender or even his age. Clothing didn't matter: goblins seemed to wear anything that could be tied on. His companions watched him without blinking. They had stone axes, flint, cruel things, but they lost their points after a few hits, which was no consolation when your neck was bleeding. He had heard that they were angry fighters too. Oh, and what was the other thing people said? Ah yes, whatever you do, don't get scratched...

"You want justice, don't you? justice for what?”

The goblin speaker looked at him and said, "Come with me po-leess-maan." The words sounded like a curse, or at least a threat. The speaker turned and solemnly walked down the other side of the hill. The other three goblins, including the one Vimes knew as Stinky, didn't move.

Feeney whispered, "This could be a trap, sir."

Vimes rolled his eyes and scoffed, "You think so, don't you? I thought it was probably an invite to a magic show starring Amazing Bonko and Doris and the Collapsing Unicycle Brothers with Fido the Cat. What is that yellow rope, Mr. Result?

"Police cord, sir. My mother knitted for me.

"Oh yes, I can see that she managed to write the word PLICE in black several times as well."

"Yes sir, excuse the spelling sir," Feeney said, clearly startled at the looks. He continued, "There was blood on the floor sir so I scraped something into a clean jam jar just in case."

Vimes paid no attention, for the two goblin guards had unfolded and were on their feet. Stinky gestured guts to go ahead of them. Vimes shook his head, crossed his arms and turned to Feeney.

"Let me tell you what you thought, Mr. Result. You acted on the information you received, didn't you? And you heard that the smith and I had a fight outside the bar the other night, and that's true. Surely you were also informed that some time later someone overheard a conversation in which he arranged to meet me at this place, yes? Don't answer, I can tell you still don't understand the policeman's expressionlessness. Mr. Jefferson gone?

Feeney gave up. "Yes, Mister Vimes."

He didn't deserve it, or maybe he didfezdeserved the strength with which Vimes turned on him.

"You won't see me Mr. Vimes, boy, you haven't earned the right.OfCall me 'Sir' or 'Commander' or even 'Your Grace' if you're stupid enough, understand? I might have sent the smith home very awkwardly if I'd thought of doing it the other night. He's a big man, but he's not a street hero. But I let him puff the steam out of his tubes and calm down without losing face. Yes, he said he wanted to meet me here last night. When I came up here with a witness, there was blood on the floor, which I guarantee was goblin blood, and certainly no sign of a blacksmith. You had a stupid case against me when you came to my house, and it's still a stupid case. Any question?"

Feeney looked down at his feet. "No sir, sorry sir."

"Good that makes me happy. Think of it as a training experience, my boy, and it won't cost you a penny. Now those goblins seem to want us to follow them, and I intend to do that, and I intend for you to come with me, too, you know?”

Vimes looked at the two goblin guards. An ax was waved nonchalantly to indicate that they should travel. They left and he could hear a sad Feeney trying to be brave but expressing fear.

"They won't touch us, boy, firstly because they would have done so if they wanted to, and secondly because they want something from me."

Feeney edged a little closer. "And what would that be, sir?"

"Justice," Vimes said. "And I think I have a premonition of what that will mean..."

Commander Vimes was sometimes asked why Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs were still part of the modern Ankh-Morpork City Guard, so to speak, since Nobby had to be turned upside down and shaken occasionally to recover other people's small items, while Fred Colon really was the ability to keep up the pace with your eyes closed and end up still snoring in Pseudopolis Yard, sometimes with graffiti on your chest.

For Lord Vetinari, Commander Vimes presented three defenses. The first was that both men had an enviable knowledge of the city and its inhabitants, official and others rivaling that of Vimes.

The second was the traditional urine argument. It was better letting her piss in than pissing outside. At least it was easy to keep an eye on them.

And last but not least, oh my word, last but not least, they were lucky. Many crimes were solved because things fell on them, tried to kill them, tripped one of them, swam in their lunch and in one case tried to get their balls up Nobby's nose.

And so today every god, or any other force that looked upon them as playthings, directed his steps to the corner of Cheapside and Rhyme Streets and to the fragrant Emporium of Bewilderforce.

Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs entered the building, as cops always do, through the back door and were greeted by Mr. with a hundred percent discount.

"Why, Fred, nice to see you again!" he said as he awakened the mystical third eye developed by all small shopkeepers, especially those who see Nobby Nobbs entering the shop.

"We were patrolling the area, Bewilderforce, and I thought I'd stop by and get my tobacco and see how you're doing, what's with all the fuss about taxes and stuff?"

The sergeant had to speak loudly to be heard over the noise of the snuff mill and the carts moving in a stream down the factory floor. Rows of women at the tables were puffing snuff and - here he leaned to the side to get a better view - cigarette production was also in turmoil.

Sergeant Colon looked around. Police officers are always looking because there is always something to see. Of course, sometimes they find it wise to forget they've seen something, at least officially. Mr. Gumption had a new tie pin with a sparkling diamond on it. Her shoes, too, were clearly new—custom-made, if Fred Colon could tell—and a barely perceptible sniff indicated the use of, let's see, oh yeah, Cedar Fragrance Pour Hommes by Quirm at $15 apiece.

He said, "How's business? Does the new tax affect you?

Mr. Gumption flew into the expression of a worker hard pressed by the machinations of politics and fate. He shook his head sadly. "We're just making ends meet, Fred. Happy to tie at the end of the day.”

Oh yes, and a gold tooth too, thought Sergeant Colon. I almost missed it. Aloud, he said, "I'm so sorry to hear that, Bewilderforce, I'm really sorry. Allow me to increase your bottom line by spending two dollars on my usual three ounce rolling tobacco.

Fred Colon offered his wallet and Mr. Gumption waved it off with a scolding noise. It was a ritual as old as merchants and the police, and it allowed the world to keep turning. He cut a stick of tobacco from the spool on the marble counter, wrapped it quickly and deftly, and as he thought about it he reached out and picked up a large cigar, which he handed to the sergeant.

“Try one of these beautiful Fred cigarettes, freshly bought, not locally sourced, made on the plantation for our valued customers. No, no, please, I insist,” he added while Fred made noises of approval. "It's always good to see the guard here, you know that."

In fact, Mr. Gumption thought as he watched the cops retreat, it was pretty boring: all Nobbs' creature did was look around.

"They'll have to make that up," said Nobby Nobbs as they walked on. “Have you seen the note “Employees wanted” in your shop window? And he wrote a price list at the counter. He downloads them! He must have a good deal with the plantation people, all I can say.

Sergeant Colon smelled the big, fat cigar, the fattest he'd ever seen, smelled so good it was probably illegal, and he felt the tingle, the feeling of stepping on something much bigger than it looked, pulled a thread from this feeling, something big would unfold. He rolled the cigar between his fingers as he had seen gourmets do. Indeed, when it came to tobacco products, Sergeant Colon was something of a bottom feeder, with low cost being the primary concern and a cigar protocol unfamiliar to a man who was very fond of chewing tobacco. What was the other thing he'd seen in fancy guys? Oh yes, you had to wrap it around your fingers and hold it to your ear. He had no idea why it had to be done, but he did it anyway.

And swore.

And dropped it on the floor...

The path from the top of Hangman's Hill led past trees and down, mostly through gorse bushes and outcroppings of rock, with occasional patches of raw, useless earth, all of its substance eroded. Wilderness, wasteland, home to skinny rabbits, hopeless rats, the occasional concussed rat and goblins.

And there among the bushes was the entrance to a cave. A human would have to bend backwards to get down that stinky hole and would be an easy target. But Vimes knew as he dodged that he was safe. He knew it. He had known it in daylight, and down there in the darkness he was... The knowledge was almost physical as the wings of darkness spread over him and he heard the sounds of the cave, every sound.

he suddenlyyou knewthe cave, the waterhole, the mushroom and mushroom gardens, the pathetically empty storerooms and kitchen. These were human translations, of course. Goblins generally ate where they could and slept where they slept; They had no real concept of a space with a specific purpose. He knew it now as if he had known all his life, and he had never been to a place a goblin would call home.

But this was the Dark, and Vimes and the Dark had an… understanding, didn't they? At least that's what the dark ones thought. What Vimes thought was by no means prosaicdrugs, here us or

He was stabbed in the lower back and he heard Feeney gasp. Vimes turned to a grinning goblin and said, "Try again, sunshine, and I'll smack you on the head, got it?" And he said it, and he heard himself say it... Just that something , not quite a different voice, snuck up on his words like a snake coiling around a tree, and both guards dropped their weapons and fled. by daylight. It was instant. They didn't yell or yell. They wanted to save themselves the air to walk.

"Big hells, Commander Vimes! That was truly magical!” Feeney said as he bent down to search for the fallen axes. Vimes watched in the thick darkness as he saw the boy's hands scratching and fortunately found them.

"Drop her! I said drop them right now!”

"But we are unarmed!"

"Don't argue with me, boy!" There were a few thumps as the axes hit the ground.

Vimes breathed again. "Well, let's see this good older goblin, you know, and we'll go without fear becausethey arethe law, got it? And the law can go anywhere for its investigations.”

The headroom kept increasing until Vimes managed to stand fully upright. Feeney, on the other hand, had a hard time. Behind Vimes was a chorus of pops and scrapes and words dear old mothers didn't know, let alone hear. Vimes had to stop and wait for the boy to catch up, stamping his feet on easily avoidable ledges and banging his head where the roof collapsed briefly.

"Come on, Chief of Police!" guts screamed. “A cop must have good night vision! You should be eating more carrots with your Bang Sung Suck Dog or whatever!”

"It's pitch black, sir! I can't see my hand in front of my face... Ouch! Feeney went straight to guts. Light dawned, but not on Feeney.

Vimes looked around the twisting cave. It was lit up like it was day. There were no torches, no candles, just a piercing, moderately bright light - the light he had seen years before in a cave, a large cave far away, and he knew what it meant: he was probably seeing darkness better than the goblins. The darkness became incredibly clear the day Vimes fought underground creatures—creatures that walk and speak—that made their homes far from the light and hatched dark plans. But Vimes fought them, and he won, and so the Koom Valley Agreement was written and signed, and the world's oldest war ended, if not in peace, then in a place where the seeds of peace could hope to be planted. That was good to know, because out of the darkness Vimes had...found a mate. The dwarves had a name for it: Summoning Dark. And they had many explanations for what it was: a devil, a lost god, a curse, a blessing, vengeance incarnate, except that she had no flesh other than the borrowed flesh, a law of her own, a murderer, but sometimes also a protector, or something no one could find the right words for. It could travel through rock and water and air and flesh and, as far as Vimes knew, through time. After all, what limits can you set on a creature out of thin air? Yes, he met him and when they parted ways, for fun, prank, mischief or just as a reward, the Summoning Dark left its mark on him, slipping past him and leaving this little glowing tattoo.

Vimes rolled up his shirt sleeve and there it was, and it seemed lighter. Sometimes he met him in dreams, where they would nod respectfully and then go their separate ways. Months, even years, can pass between meetings, and he may have thought it was forever, but the mark was on his forearm. Sometimes it itched. In short, it was like having a nightmare on a leash. And now it gave him vision in the dark. But wait, that was a goblin cave, not a dwarf cave! And his own thoughts came back to him in that light tone, as if they were a duet: "Yes, but the goblins are stealing the commander."

Here and now it looked as if the goblins had fled. The cave floor was littered with debris, trash, and things the goblins presumably considered important, which probably said it all, considering they religiously collected their own snot. He could see the old goblin beckoning him to follow before disappearing. Before him was a door made by goblins, as evidenced by its rotten appearance and the fact that it was hanging on a hinge that broke when Vimes bumped into the door. Behind him, Feeney said, "What was that? Please sir, I can't see anything!"

Vimes walked over to the boy and patted him on the shoulder, making him wince.

"Sir. Bottom line, I'll walk you to the entrance so you can go home, okay?

He felt the boy shudder. "No, sir! I'd rather stay with you, if you don't mind... Please?"

"But you can't see anything in the dark, boy!"

"I know, sir. I have a rope in my pocket. My grandfather always said that a good cop should always have a piece of string.” Her voice shook.

"ThatIt isgenerally useful, yes,” Vimes said, taking it carefully from the boy's pocket. "It's amazing how helpless a suspect can be with his thumbs tied. Are you sure you wouldn't feel better outdoors?

"Sorry sir, but if it doesn't matter, I think the safest place is behind you now, sir."

"Can't you really see anything, boy?"

"Not a blessed cause, sir. It's like I went blind, sir.

In Vimes' opinion, the young man was on the verge of going insane, and perhaps tying him to Vimes was better than listening to him pass out trying to escape.

"You're not blind boy it's just that I've been doing all the night work... well it looks like I'm doing better than I thought seeing in the dark."

Feeney flinched again at Vimes' touch, but together they managed to tie Chief Upshot to Vimes with about two meters of furry rope that smelled of pig.

There were no goblins behind the broken door, but a fire burned intermittently, with a thankfully unrecognizable piece of meat on a skewer above. A man might think that a leprechaun found a reason to hurry and leave his tea. Speaking of tea, there was a teapot, that is, a rusty tin, bubbling over the embers of the fire. Vimes sniffed at it and was surprised to find it smelled of bergamot, and somehow the image of a leprechaun sipping fine tea with an outstretched pinky managed to temporarily overwhelm his improper functions. Well it's grown, hasn't it? And goblins probably got thirsty, right? Nothing to worry about. However, if he found a plate of tender biscuits, he would definitely need to sit down and rest.

He kept walking, the lights never went out, the goblins never showed up. The cave complex was certainly sloping downwards, and there were still signs of goblins everywhere, but no signs of the goblins themselves, which should be good in theory, since the first sign of a goblin would usually be a landing in its head and an attempt at it turn into a bowling ball. And then there was a flash of color in that desolate subterranean landscape of ice and brown: it was a bouquet of flowers, or whatever bouquet had been before it fell. Vimes was no expert on flowers, and when he bought flowers for Sybil at intervals suitable for the wedding, he usually limited himself to a bouquet of roses or their seemingly acceptable equivalent, a single orchid. He was, of course, vaguely aware of the existence of other flowers brightening the place, sure, but he's never been a fan of names.

There were no roses or orchids here. These flowers were plucked from hedgerows and meadows, and even included the skeletal plants that managed to hang and thrive high up in the desert. Someone had carried her. Someone had dropped her. Someone was in a hurry. Vimes could read it in the flowers. They fell from someone's open hand, scattering their way like a comet's tail. And then more than one person trampled on them, but probably not because they were chasing said bouquet holder, but apparently because they wanted to follow the path he or she had walked and even faster than he or she had done. he has.

There was indeed a rush. Scared people running away. But running from what?

"You, Commander Vimes, you, the majesty of the law. Do you see how I can help you, Commander? The familiarity of the voice bothered him; it sounded a lot like his own voice. "But I'm here because they wanted me to come!" he said to the cave at large. "I had no intention of fighting anyone!" And in his head his own voice said to him: 'Oh, my little ragged, despicable, untrustworthy and untrustworthy people! Proceed carefully, Mr. Policeman; the hated have no reason to love! Oh, the strange and secret people, the last and worst, born of garbage, without hope, without God. Good luck to you, my brother... my brother in the dark... Do what you can for her, Mr. Po-leess-maan.

The sigil of the dark incantation flashed on Vimes' wrist for a moment.

"I'm not your brother!" guts screamed."I am NO one Murderer!"The words echoed through the caverns, but beneath them Vimes thought he felt something slip away. Could something slide without a body? Gods curse the dwarves and their underground folklore!

"Are you, um, fine, sir?" came Feeney's nervous voice behind him. "Er, you screamed, sir."

"I was only swearing because I hit my head on the ceiling, boy," Vimes lied. He needed to provide security quickly before Feeney got nervous enough to attempt a panic exit. "You're doing great, Chief of Police!"

"Only I don't like the dark sir, never have... um, do you think anyone would mind if I pee on the wall?"

"I should move on if I were you boy. I don't think anything could make this place smell any worse.

Vimes heard some faint noises behind her, and then Feeney said in a low, wet voice, "Erm, nature took its course, sir. My apologies."

Vimes smiled to himself. "Don't worry boy, you won't be the first cop to wring your socks and you won't be the last either. I remember the first time I had to arrest a troll. He was a great guy, a very unpleasant character. I was a little wet in my socks that day and I'll gladly admit it. Think of it as a kind of baptism!” Take it easy, he thought, make fun of it. Don't let him dwell on the fact that we're walking into a crime scene he can't see. "Funnily enough, that troll is now my top sergeant and I've trusted him a couple of times to save my life. It just goes to show that you never know, although I suspect we'll never know what we never know.

Vimes turned a corner and there were the goblins. He was glad young Feeney couldn't see her. In fact, Vimes wished he couldn't see her either. There must have been a hundred of them, many of them carrying guns. They were rudimentary weapons, sure, but a flint ax hitting your head doesn't require a physics degree.

"Do we have room, sir?" Feeney said from behind him. "You stopped walking."

They just stand there, Vimes thought, as if they were in a parade. Just watch in silence and wait for the silence to break.

"There are a fewgoblinsin this cave, boy, and they're watching us.

After a few seconds of silence, Feeney said, "Can you tell me exactly what 'some' means, sir?"

Dozens of owl faces stared blankly at Vimes. If the silence was broken by the word "cargo" then he and Feeney would be smudges on the floor, which was pretty stained anyway. Why did I come here? Why was it good for me to do this? Well, the guy's a cop, after all, and it's not like he doesn't already have a problem with clothes. He said: 'I'd say there's about a hundred, lad, all heavily armed, as far as I can see, except for a couple of cripples up front; They could be bosses I suppose. Beards a rabbit could hold, and by the looks of it, can have. It looks like they're waiting for something."

There was a pause before Feeney said, "It's been an education working with you, sir."

"Look," Vimes said, "if I have to turn around and run, wait, okay? Running is another skill that a cop sometimes needs.

He turned to the impassive crowd of goblins and said, "I am Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard! How can I help you?"

"Justice!" The scream dropped things from the ceiling. It echoed through the cave and echoed again as cave after cave caught the scream, spinning around and sending it back. The light grew brighter as the torches were lit. It took Vimes a moment to realize that because the light he had seen, a strange artificial light that was probably inside his head, was brighter and oddly mingled with the smoky orange that now filled the cave.

"Well sir, looks like you're happy to see us, isn't it?"

Feeney's relief and hope should have been bottled and sold to desperate people everywhere. Vimes just nodded, for the ranks parted, leaving a trail of sorts, at the end of which lay a corpse. It was a slight relief to see that it was a goblin corpse, but no corpse is good news, especially when viewed in dim, dirty light and especially for the corpse. And yet something in him rejoiced and cried because there was a body here and he was a cop and this was a crime and this place was smoky and dirty and full of suspicious looking goblins and this was his world. yes, here it wasyourWelt.

In the Ankh-Morpork City Guard forensic laboratory, Igor was brewing coffee, accompanied by distant growls, strange flashes of light, and the smell of electricity. Eventually he pulled the big red lever and a frothy brown liquid gurgled into a pot, to be later delivered in two mugs, one bearing the slogan "Igorth hitch you up" while the other was topped with "Dwarves, do it! "that a little lower". low.” He handed it to Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom, who sometimes worked in the lab due to her previous experience as an alchemist. But at that point the cosiness of the breakfast was interrupted by Nobby Nobbs dragging Sergeant Colon behind him, Igor, so I thought maybe you could help him.”

"Well, I could get him another one," Igor offered as Fred Colon collapsed into a chair that creaked menacingly under his weight. The chair had handles.

'Listen,' said Nobby, 'I'm not kidding! Have you ever heard of tobacco that counts? Well he just smoked a cigar crying. I put it in this evidence bag according to the standing instructions.

Cheery picked up the bag and peered inside. “There are egg sandwiches in there! Honestly, Nobby, has anyone explained what expertise means? Due to the fact that she probably couldn't make it any worse, Cheery emptied the sandwiches onto the table, which was joined by a cigar and mayonnaise. She carefully cleaned it and looked at it. "Well Nobby? I don't smoke and don't know much about cigars, but this one seems pretty happy at the moment.”

"You have to put it to your ear," Nobby said helpfully.

Cheery complied, saying, "All I can hear is the crackle of tobacco, which I suspect hasn't been stored properly." The dwarf took the cigar from her face and eyed it suspiciously, then passed she she wordlessly Igor, who put it to his ear, or at least to the one he was wearing, because you never know with Igor. They looked at each other and Igor broke the silence. "Is there, I think, such a thing as a weevil?"

"I'm sure about that," Cheery said, "but I highly doubt they're... laughing?"

"Laugh? It sounded like someone was crying," Igor said while squinting at the big cigar, adding: "We need to wash the table and clean a scalpel and use tweezers number two and two, no, four sterilized Surgical masks and gloves There could be some unusual insect in there.

"I put that cigar to my ear," Nobby said. "What kind of insect are we talking about?"

"I'm not sure," Igor said, "but in general, places in the world where tobacco is grown are known to be remarkably dangerous. For example, the Howondaland yellow weevil has been known to enter the skull through the ears, lay its eggs in the victim's brain, and cause the poor victim to hallucinate over and over until it exits through the nostrils. Death inevitably follows. My cousin Igor has a tank full of it. They are very good at cleaning skulls conscientiously. Igor paused. "I've been told that, although I can't personally confirm it." He paused again and added, "Of course."

Nobby Nobbs headed for the door, but Sergeant Colon, oddly enough, didn't follow his friend. Instead he said, "I'll keep my fingers in my ears, if you don't mind?"

Craning his head to watch Igor carefully separate the cigar, he said conversationally, “They say cigars made abroad are rolled around young women's thighs. I personally call it disgusting.

There was a clatter and something fell on the table. Cheery leaned forward cautiously. It looked like a small, expensive flask for the finest alchemical experiments, and yet, she later thought, there seemed to be movement in it, movement while it lay still. Igor looked over her shoulder and said, "Oh."

They watched the vial in silence, a silence soon broken by Sergeant Colon. "That looks awesome," he said. "Worth what?"

Cheerful Littlebottom raised her eyebrows at Igor, who shrugged. He said: "Priceless, I think, if you could find a buyer with enough money and, how shall I put it, good taste in ornamentation."

"It's an ointment pot," Cheery said cautiously. "A goblin ceremonial pot, Sergeant."

The dawn of understanding began to flow across the face of Sergeant Colon's gas giant. "Aren't they the things they do to store all their pee and shit?" he said and backed away.

Igor cleared his throat and looked at Cheery as he said coldly, "Not like that, if I'm right, and at least not here on the Plains. Anyone who feels protected in the high mountains makes pots, he also uses ointment brushes and of course ointment masks.” Expectant, but without real hope, he looked at the sergeant. Cheery, who had known him the longest, said, "I understand, Sergeant, that the goblins on the plains find those on the mountains rather strange. As for this pot,' she hesitated, 'I'm afraid this one is very special.'

"Well, looks like the little guys got it right," Fred said happily, picking up the tiny pot to Cheery's horror. "It's mine, too bad for a stinky goblin, but how does it make noise?"

Sergeant Littlebottom, taking one look at Igor's expression, grabbed the sergeant's arm and pulled him out the door, locking it behind him to avoid forensic trouble.

"I'm sorry, Sergeant, but I noticed that Igor is a little excited."

Sergeant Colon straightened up with as much dignity as possible and said, "If it's valuable then I want it, thank you. Finally, it was given to me in good faith. To the right?"

"Of course it is, Sergeant, but look, it already belongs to a goblin."

Sergeant Colon burst out laughing. "The? What else do they have besides huge mountains of rubbish?

Cheerfully hesitated. As lazy and bombastic as Fred Colon was, the records showed that, contrary to all the obvious evidence, he had been a helpful and helpful officer. She had to be diplomatic.

"Sergeant, may I say right away that I appreciate all the help you've given me since I arrived at Pseudopolis Yard?" I will always remember you showing me all the places a security guard could find shelter from the wind and the worst of the rain and I definitely memorized the list of tavernas that would be generous to a thirsty cop after hours . . And indeed, I remember you telling me that a cop should never take a bribe and why a meal is not a bribe. I appreciate your approval, Sergeant, because I know your upbringing doesn't make you particularly happy with the women of the Watch, and especially when one of those women is of dwarven persuasion. I know that throughout your long career you have had to adapt your thinking to changing circumstances. So I'm proud to be your colleague, Sergeant Colon, and I hope you'll forgive me if I say there are times when you should shut up and put some new ideas in your big fat head, instead of constantly repeating old ones. . You took a little trinket, Sergeant, and now it truly is yours, more yours than you can imagine. I wish I could tell you more, but I only know what the average dwarf knows about goblins; and I don't know much about this type of ointment pot, but I think it's what they call it because of the flower decoration and its small sizeAlma vonSergeant, and I think you've suddenly changed your lifeveryinteresting because... May I ask you to stop for a second, please? I sincerely promise I won't take that from you.

Colon's rather pig-eyed eyes regarded Cheery suspiciously, but he said, "Well, if that satisfies you." He went to put the pot on the nearby windowsill and she saw him shake her hand. "It appears to be trapped."

She thought happily to herselfthen that's itAloud she said, "I'm sorry to hear that, Sergeant, but look, in this pot is the living soul of a goblin kid, and it's yours. Congratulations!" she said, trying to keep the rising sarcasm out of her voice.

That night, Sergeant Colon dreamed that he was in a cave where monsters were chatting to him in their horrible language. He put it in the beer, but it was funny how he couldn't make the little thing shine. Her fingers never made it, no matter how hard she tried.

Sam Vimes' mother had by God knows how managed to scrape together the penny a day it took him to attend the Dame School run by Mistress Slightly.

Mistress Slightly was everything a lady should be. She was plump and looked like she was made out of marshmallows, had a gentle understanding that little boys' bladders are almost as delicate as old men's, and generally taught the basics of the alphabet with a minimum of cruelty and a marshmallow -Maximum.

She raised geese as any self-respecting woman should. Later in life, older Wickers wondered if Mistress Slightly wore long johns dyed red and white under endless layers of petticoats. She definitely had a mob hat and a laugh like rainwater down a drain. During class, she invariably peeled potatoes or plucked geese.

There was still a place in her heart for old Mistress Slightly, who occasionally had a mint leaf in her pocket for a boy who knew her alphabet and could say it backwards. And you had to be grateful to someone who taught you not to be afraid.

She had a book in her small living room and when she first gave it to young Sam Vimes to read, he got to page seven when he froze. The page showed a leprechaun: the funny leprechaun, according to the text. Was he laughing, was he frowning, was he hungry, was he about to rip your head off? Young Sam Vimes didn't wait to find out and spent the rest of the morning under a chair. In those days, he apologized by reminding himself that most other kids felt the same way. When it comes to childhood innocence, adults often get it wrong. Anyway, she let him sit on her always slightly damp knee after class and actually let him look at the leprechaun. It was made out of many stitches! Tiny dots if you looked closely. The longer you looked at the goblin, the more he wasn't there. Look down and it's lost all its power to scare. "I've heard they are miserable, ill-made mortals," the lady had said sadly. "Unfinished people, at least that's what I've heard. It's a blessing that he has something to look forward to.

Later, because he had been a good boy, she made him a table overseer, the first time anyone had trusted him with the good old mistress. I'll put a bag of breath mints on your grave if you get out of here alive. He cleared his throat. "Well boy what we seem to have here is a goblin that got into a fight." He looked at the body, then at Feeney. "Perhaps you would like to tell me what you see?"

Feeney was one step away from shaking. "Well, sir, I assume he's dead, sir."

"And how do you deduce that please?"

"Er, isn't the head connected to the body, sir?"

"Yes, we usually recognize that as an indication that the body is really dead. By the way, boy, you can take the string off. I wouldn't say this is the best light I've seen, but it will do. Did you notice anything else, chief of police? Vimes tried to keep his tone level.

"Well, sir, it's very simple, sir."

Vimes smiled encouragingly. "Do you notice anything about that, boy?" Feeney was harsh on it, but the recruits did it at first, staring at her so much they forgot, "You're doing a good job, Chief of Police. Do you want to extrapolate?

„Sir? Extrapolieren, Sir?

“Why would anyone have their arms cut? Think about it."

Feeney's lips actually moved as he thought, and then he smiled. "Did he defend himself with his hands, sir?"

"Very well, young man, and people who fight back with their hands do so because they have neither shield nor weapon. I also bet his head was cut off while he was on the ground. I can't pinpoint it exactly, but that seems like deliberate sorting out rather than hasty cutting up. Everything is messed up but you can see that the abdomen has been cut open but there is almost no blood around it. He was surprised. And because of the belly, I would know a little bit more about him that I wish I didn't," he said.

"What is it, sir?"

"He's her, and she was mugged or maybe arrested." And, he thought, a claw is missing.

It becomes a puzzle after a while, not a corpse, Vimes told himself as he knelt down, but never fast enough and never long enough. Aloud he said, "Look at the marks on that leg, boy. I think she got caught in a rabbit trap, probably because she ran away from... someone.

Vimes got up so quickly that the watching goblins backed away. "My God, boy, we shouldn't do that, not even in the field! Is there some kind of code? You kill money, don't you? And that's not the point at the moment! Someone wanted to drain a lot of blood from this lady! you tell me why

Vimes wasn't sure how Feeney would have reacted if they hadn't been surrounded by straight-faced goblins, which was a good thing.

"It's murder, boy, the capital offence! And do you know why that was done? I'll bet you that based on the information received, Officer Upshot found a lot of blood in Dead Man's Copse where Commander Vimes apparently wanted to have a meeting with an annoying blacksmith and therefore seeing both they were quick-tempered men it could well be that there is a bad game, yes?

"It's a legitimate conclusion, sir, you have to admit it."

"Of course I did, and now it's a totally stupid conclusion, and nowshegotta admit it."

"Yes sir, I'm sorry sir and I apologize. However, I would like to inspect the premises for signs of Mr. Jefferson. Feeney looked half embarrassed, half defiant.

"And why would you do that, Chief of Police?"

Feeney stuck out his chin. "Because I was an idiot once and I have no intention of being an idiot again. Besides, sir, you could be wrong. That poor lady may have had an argument with the blacksmith, I don't know, but I know that if I don't search here under the circumstances, someone important will ask me why I didn't. t. And that person would be you, wouldn't you, Commander?”

"Good answer, young man! And I have to admit I've been a fool more times than I can count, so I can sympathize.

Vimes looked back at the body and it was suddenly urgent to find out what Willikins had done with the claw, complete with ring, that they had found the night before. He said awkwardly to the assembled goblins, "I think I've found some jewelry that belongs to this young lady, and of course I'll bring them to you."

There was not even a confirmation from the impassive horde. Vimes pondered that thought. Hordes come, kill and rob. This group looks like a bunch of worried people. He walked up to an old grey-haired goblin he had seen on the surface maybe a thousand years ago and said, 'I'd like to see more of this place, sir. I'm sorry about the lady's death. I will bring the killers to justice.

"Justice!" Once more it echoed through the cave. The old goblin stepped forward very gently and touched Vimes on the sleeve. "Darkness is your friend, Mr. Po-leess-maan. i hear you, you hear me You can go where you want in the dark. Mr. Po-leess-maan, please don't kill us.

Vimes looked past the goblin to the ranks behind, most of them rake-thin, and this one, well, probably the boss, who looked like he was rotting on his feet, didn't want him to hurt her? He remembered the scattered flowers. Orphaned Bergamot Tea. The uneaten meal.she we are attempt Pro disguise Away von Mein?He nodded and said, "I don't attack anyone who doesn't attack me, sir, and I'm not going to start today. Can you tell me how this lady...was killed?"

"She was thrown into our cave last night, Mr. Po-leess-maan. She had gone out to check the rabbit traps. Knocked down like old bones, Mr. Po-leess-maan, like old bones. No blood on her. Like old bones.

"How was her name?"

The old goblin looked at Vimes in shock and after a moment said, "Her name wasÖ Pleasant Contrast von A Orange e Gelb petals em A Flor von AThank you Mr. Po-leess-maan of darkness.

"I'm afraid I'm just beginning to investigate this crime," Vimes said, feeling strangely ashamed.

"I mean, Mr. Po-leess-maan, thanks for believing goblins have names. My name isvon A Regen em StandShe was my second wife.

Vimes looked at the grim face that only a mother could endure and perhaps love, looking for any sign of anger or regret. There was just a feeling of sadness and desperate resignation at the fact that the world was the way it was and always would be, and that there was nothing that could be done about it. The goblin was a sigh on his feet. Dejectedly, he looked at Vimes and said, "They used to send hungry dogs into the den, Mr. Po-leess-maan. Those were good days; we eat well.”

"That's itmeincountry," Vimes said, "and I think I can see you won't be disturbed here."

Something like laughter made its way through the old goblin's shaggy beard. "We know the law, Mr. Po-leess-maan. The law is the land. You say, "'This is my land,' but you didn't make the land. You didn't make your sheep, you didn't make the rabbits we live with, you didn't make the cows or the horses, but you say, 'These things are mine.' This can not be true. I make my axe, my pots, and this is mine. What I wear is mine. Some love was mine Now he is gone. I think you're a good man, Mr. Po-leess-maan, but we're seeing a turning point. Maybe a hundred or two hundred years ago the world was what people called "the desert" or "no man's land" or "desert land" and we lived in places like that, we were lonely people. There was the troll race, the dwarf race, the human race and I'm sorry for the goblin race that we can't run that fast."

Someone tugged at Vimes' shirt. This time it was Feeney. "You better go now, sir."

Vimes turned. "Why?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but your lordship has instructed you to return to tea."

"We're conducting a murder investigation, Chief of Police! I don't mean to be rude, but I'm sure Mr. Rain on Hard Ground will understand here. We'll have to see for ourselves that the missing blacksmith isn't here.

Feeney wriggled. "I couldn't help but notice that your lordship was very forthcoming on the matter, sir."

Vimes nodded to the old goblin. "I will find out who killed your wife, sir, and I will bring her to justice." He was just pausing when another chorus of "Just ice!" echoed through the caverns. "But first, for police reasons, I need to inspect the rest of this... facility, if you don't mind."

The goblin looked at him with bright eyes. "What if I object, Mr. Po-leess-maan?"

Guts matched his look. 'An interesting question,' he said, 'and if you threaten us with violence, I'll leave. In fact, if you didn't tell me to look, I'd walk away, and sir, the worst of it, I wouldn't come back. Sir, I respectfully request that, as part of my investigation, show you the rest of these facilities.

Was that a smile on the old goblin's face? "Of course, Mr. Po-leess-maan."

Behind the old goblin, the rest of the crowd began to move away, presumably to make or fill pots. Rain on Hard Ground, who one has to assume, since nothing to the contrary was said, was either a boss (as Vimes would understand it) or simply a goblin tasked with talking to stupid people, said, "You're looking ? the blacksmith? He visits us sometimes. There's iron down here, not much, but he finds it useful. Of course, it's not suitable for pans, but we'll trade it for food. I don't think I've seen him for several days. However, be sure to seek it unhindered. darkness is within you. I would not do thatCarStand in your way, Mr. Po-leess-maan. As it is, this place is yours.

With that, the old goblin motioned to some teenage goblins to take his wife's remains and went to another entrance of the cave.

"Did you see many bodies, Commander?" Feeney said in a voice that almost managed not to tremble.

"Oh yeah boy, and I helped make some of them."

"Have you killed people?"

Vimes looked up at the ceiling so he wouldn't have to look Feeney in the face. "I like to think I did my best," he said, "and by and large I was good at it, but sooner or later there's always going to be someone who's determined to bring you down, and in the end." you have to take her down anyway, wrong because he's too dumb to give up. It's not getting any better, and I've never seen a body look good.

The mourners had now disappeared into the other cave and the two policemen were left alone, but still sensed that people were going about their business around them.

The old goblin just stood there and almost casually mentioned that the woman was his wife. He didn't even raise his voice! Vimes couldn't have stopped like that if it had been Sybil's body on the floor in front of him, and he wouldn't have been bloody polite to any goblin standing in front of him. how can you stay like this How can life bring you down?

The road was always with you, like Willikins said. And Vimes remembered the cleaning ladies. Cockbill Street had been mopped so many times that it was surprising it wasn't now at a lower level than the ground around it. The door was scrubbed and then whitewashed; the red tiles on the interior floor were scrubbed and then polished with red lead; and the black stove was made still darker by rubbing it vigorously with black lead. Women back then had elbows that moved like pistons. And it was about survival, and survival was about pride. You didn't have much control over your life, but you could keep it clean for Jimmy and show the world that you're poor but respectable. That was the fear: the fear of falling behind, of losing standards, of not becoming any better than the people who bred and fought and stole in this wild riot of a slum called Shadows.

The goblins succumbed, didn't they? Now, as the world gently pushed them away, they gave up, let go... but murder was murder, in any jurisdiction or none. He knotted his thoughts under his chin, grabbed some smoldering torches and said, "Come on, Chief of Police, let's fight crime."

"Yes sir," Feeney said, "but may I ask one more question?"

"Of course," Vimes said, walking into a tunnel that was noticeably sloping.

"What's going on here, sir, if I may ask? I mean, I know there was a murder and maybe some bastard wanted me to think you did it, but how is it, sir, that you understand their pagan tongue? I mean, I hear you talking to them, and they must understand you, because they answer, sir, but they talk like someone cracking nuts under their feet, sir, and I don't understand a damn word, sir, if you're excuse me Klatchian, not a damn word. I want an answer sir because I feel like an idiot the way I am; I don't want to be any more stupid than I feel right now.

Vimes experienced the confirmation in the privacy of his own mind: "Now that you ask, I have a mortal demon sharing my thoughts that seems to be helping me for reasons of its own. It allows me to see in that darkness and somehow allows me and the goblins to communicate. It's called Summoning Darkness. I don't know what your interest in goblins is, but the dwarves think it brings wrath to the unjust. If there's been a murder, I'll need all the help I can get. He didn't really articulate this as most people would have left pretty quickly when he was done, so he settled for saying, "I have the support of a Higher Power, Chief Constable. Well, let's check this place out. This didn't satisfy Feeney, but he seemed to understand that that was all it was going to get.

It's been a scary journey. The hill was criss-crossed with natural and occasionally, it seemed, man-made passages. It was a small town. There were dung heaps, rough cages that were now empty, and here and there large patches of mushrooms, in some cases being picked very, very slowly by goblins who scarcely looked at the cops. At one point, they walked through an opening that by the sound appeared to lead into a nursery, in which case baby goblins were chirping like birds. Vimes couldn't look any further inside.

As they descended, they found a very small stream running down a wall. The goblins roughly and promptly built a passage so that their journey forward resulted in the sound of rushing water. And there were goblins everywhere, and the goblins were making pots. Vimes was prepared for this, but ill-prepared. He expected something like the dwarf workshops he had seen in Uberwald - noisy, busy and full of purposeful activity. But that wasn't the goblin way. Apparently, if a goblin wanted to start with a pot, all he had to do was find a place to crouch, rummage through whatever was in his pockets, and get to work, so slowly it was hard to tell that something happened. . . Several times Vimes thought he heard stone on stone, or the sound of scraping, or what might be sawn off, but whenever he approached a crouching goblin he squirmed politely and bent over his work like a child, holding a stance. Secret. How much snot, he thought, how many nails cut, how much wax has a goblin accumulated in a year? Would an annual pot of snot be something like a lady's delicate snuffbox, or would it be a big, full bucket?

And why not, yes, why not teeth? Even humans were wary of teeth slipping out, and indeed there were humans, particularly wizards, who caused their toenails to become useless. He smiled to himself. Maybe goblins weren't that stupid, just dumber than humans, which, come to think of it, took some effort.

And then, as they passed a cross-legged goblin, he sat on his hind legs and held... lightly. Vimes had seen a lot of jewellery: generations of rings, brooches, necklaces and tiaras had accumulated over the centuries and fallen into Lady Sybil's lap, although most of them were now kept in a safe. It always amused him.

Brilliant as Sybil's jewels were, he could have sworn none of them could have filled the air with as much light as the little pot did when its maker held it up for scrutiny. The goblin turned him around and inspected him like a man considering buying a horse from someone named Honest Harry. Beams of white and yellow light glowed as he moved, filling the gloomy cavern with things Vimes could only discern as echoes of light. Feeney looked forward to the way a child would approach their first party. The goblin, however, seemed to mock his creation and tossed him behind him, crashing into the wall.

"Why did you do that?" Vimes screamed so loud that the goblin he was addressing flinched and looked like he was expecting to be hit. He managed to say, "Bad weed! Bad work! Feel ashamed! Make it even better! Here we go!" He gave Vimes another frightened look and ran into the darkness of the cave.

"It broke! It really broke! Feeney glared at Vimes. "He took one look and broke! And it was wonderful! That was criminal! You can't just destroy something so wonderful, can you?

Vimes put a hand on Feeney's shoulder. "I think you can if you just did it and think you could have done better. After all, even the best craftsmen sometimes make mistakes, don't they?"

"Do you think it was a mistake?" Feeney hurried to where the debris from the last pot had hit the ground and picked up a handful of glittering remains. "Sir, did he throw that away, sir?"

Vimes opened his mouth to answer, but he heard Feeney's hand rattle softly: dust trickled between his fingers like the sands of time. Feeney gave Vimes a nervous smile and said, "Maybe it was a bit shabby after all, sir!"

Vimes crouched down and ran his fingers through the pile of dust. And it was just dust, stone dust, with no more color or luster than you would find in a roadside stone. There was no sign of the sparkling rainbow they had just seen. But on the other side of that cave, another goblin tried to look inconspicuous while working on what was probably another pot. Vimes approached him cautiously, holding his pot as if ready to use it in his defense.

To show he meant no harm, Vimes casually threw his arms behind his back and said in a scholarly tone to his wife, "My word! It looks like a very good pot. Tell me how do you make a pot sir? you can tell me?"

The potter looked at the thing in his hands, or the thing in his claws if you wanted to be angry, and maybe a little more precisely, and said, "I'll make the pot." Increased work in progress.

Korb wasn't very good on stone that wasn't part of the masonry, but this one was slightly yellow and shiny. He said, "Yes, I can see that, but how do you actually make the pot?" Once again, Potter sought the enlightenment of the universe, looking up and down and everywhere Vimes wasn't. Finally, inspiration struck. "I make weed."

Vimes nodded gravely. "Thanks for sharing the secrets of your success," he said, turning to Feeney. "Come on, let's continue."

It felt like a goblin den - or a lair or a cave, depending on what effect you wanted to give it - wasn't quite the hell hole you might have imagined. Instead, it was just, well, a stuffy hole with smoke from the myriad little fires the goblins seemed to need, along with their accompanying little pile of rotten kindlers, not to mention their personal junk.

Leprechauns old and young watched them intently as they passed, as if expecting them to put on some entertainment. There were certainly juvenile goblins. Vimes had to admit that goblin babies were the only talking species that were pretty ugly, just tiny versions of their parents that weren't oil paintings, not even a watercolor. Vimes told himself they couldn't help it, that an incompetent god had found too many leftover parts and decided the world needed a creature that looked like a cross between a wolf and a monkey and gave them what certainly was one was. of the useless bits of religious dogma, even by the standards of heavenly idiocy. sheviewlike the bad guys, and without Summoning Dark's intervention, they sounded like them too. If nuts could scream when they were cracked, people would say, "Doesn't that remind you of a leprechaun?" And it seemed that the laughing god, not pleased with all of this, had obviously given them the worst gift of all, self-knowledge, and made them so certain that they would irrevocably go like garbage that, metaphorically, they couldn't even find the energy were able to clean up the mess.

"Oh explosion! I'm stepping on something… something,” Feeney said. "You seem to be able to see much better than I do down here, sir."

"Good clean life, boy, carrots and all."

“Jefferson could be around here somewhere. I'm sure there are caves we miss.

"I know he's not here boy, just don't ask me how I know because I'd have to lie to you. I do the movements to help me think. It's an old copper trick.

"Yes sir, I'll step on your every move I guess!"

Vimes smiled in the dark. "Very good, boy. Humor is a cop's friend. I always say the day isn't complete without a giggle...” He stopped as something rattled against his helmet. "We've arrived at the Jefferson Ironworks, my boy. I just found an oil lamp; I'm sure I haven't seen any bigger ones. He fumbled in his pocket and soon a match lit up.

Well, thought Vimes, not exactly a mine, but I bet it works better than paying dwarven prices.

"I see no way out," Feeney offered. "I think he's hauling the ore through the main entrance."

"I don't think goblins are stupid enough to live in a series of caves with only one entrance. There is probably one that is not even visible from the outside. Look, you can see where someone is carrying heavy weights over the rocks... Vimes paused. There was another human in the cave. Thank you Darkness, he thought. I suppose asking who it is might be ok?

“Sir, I don't think it's just mining here. Check this out,” Feeney said from behind Vimes.

Feeney held out some books, children's books by the looks of it. They were dirty - after all, this was the home of the goblins - but Vimes turned to the first page of the first book and wasn't surprised to see an impossibly large red apple, which was currently quite dirty from the pressure of many dirty hands.

A voice in the darkness, a female voice, said, "Not all questions will be answered, Commander, but fortunately some answers will be questioned. I'm trying to teach the goblin kids. Of course I had to bring an apple for the younger ones to see," added the woman in the shadows. "Many didn't know what it was, let alone what it was called. Troll language is incredibly complex compared to what these poor devils have. "Good morning to you too, Mr. Result. Don't you hide from the truth in your prison?

Vimes turned when he heard that voice for the first time and now stared up. "You? You're not the, uh..."

"The poop lady, yes, Commander Vimes. It's amazing, isn't it, how people remember it?"

"Well, you must admit it's - how shall I put it? - in the head, Miss Felicity Beedle."

"Well, Commander, considering we only met once!"

And now Vimes noticed that with her was a goblin, a young man for his size but more conspicuous because he was looking straight at him with a piercing and interested gaze, quite unusual for the goblins he had seen before, save for the wretched one stinky . Feeney, on the other hand, was very careful not to draw the lady's attention, Vimes noted.

Guts smiled Ms. Beetle. “Ma'am, I think I see your name at least once a day. When I put my son to bed yesterday, do you know what he said? He said, "Dad, do you know why cows make big wet messy poop and horses are all nice and soft and smell like grass? Because it's weird, isn't it? That you get two different kinds of poo when they're both about the same size and it's the same weed, isn't it, Dad? Well the poop lady says it's because the cows have room in the ants and the ants help them get more food out of their feed but since the horses don't have room in the ants they don't chew as much, so her poop is still very grassy and doesn't smell too bad.'”

Vimes saw the woman smile and continued, "I think tomorrow he's going to ask his mum if he's chewing his dinner well tonight and not too much the next day and see if he can eat. different smells. What do you think of that, ma'am?

Miss Beedle laughed. It was a very nice laugh. "Well, Commander, it appears your son combines analytical thinking with Ramkin's inherited talent for experimentation. You must be very proud? I really hope you are.

“You bet, ma'am. The child who smiled in Mrs. Too Beedle, the first smile he had seen in a goblin. But before he could say anything, Ms. Beedle shot Feeney a disapproving look and continued, "I only wish I could meet you in better company, Commander. I was wondering if you know where my friend Jethro is, officer?”

Even in the lamplight, Feeney looked angry, but if you read people, and Vimes was an avid reader, it was clear that the anger was tempered by shame and fear. Then Vimes looked at the stool where there were some tools and some books with brightly colored covers. It was the streets that had taught Vimes that there were times when you felt it was better to let a nervous person get really nervous, so he picked up a book as if the previous awful exchange hadn't happened and said : "Oh! , here it isWhere is that, that, that MeinYoung Sam loves it. Do you teach the goblins, miss?

Still looking at an excited Feeney, Ms. Beedle said, "Yes, for what it's worth." It's hard work. Technically, I am, by the waySra.Beetle. My husband was killed in the Klatchian War. I went back to 'Miss' because it's more authoritative and I didn't have much time to get used to 'Mrs'."

"I'm sorry ma'am, if I had known that I would have been a lot less flippant," Vimes said.

Miss Beedle gave him a faint smile. "Don't worry, sometimes being disrespectful is enough." Next to the teacher, the little goblin said, "Flip-ant? Is the ant standing?”

“Tears of the Mushroom is my best student. You're wonderful, aren't you, Tears of the Mushroom?

"Wonderful is good," said the goblin, as if enjoying every word. “Mild is good, mushroom is good. tears are soft I am the tears of the mushroom, that means now."

It was an odd little speech: the girl spoke as if she were pulling words off a shelf and putting them back in their place as soon as they were spoken. It looked very serious and came from a strange face, flat and pale. In a way, Tears of the Mushroom looked pretty, if not exactly pretty, in a wrap-around apron of sorts, and Vimes wondered how old she was. Thirteen? Fourteen maybe? And he wondered if they would all look so dapper if they could get their hands on decent clothes and do something about their horrible hair. The girl's hair was long, braided, and pure white. Surprisingly, in this place, she looked like a fragile piece of china.

Not knowing what to say, he said anyway, "Nice to meet you, Mushroom Tears." Vimes held out his hand. The goblin girl looked at him, then looked at him, then turned to Ms. Beedle, who said, "You don't shake hands, Commander. For people who seem so simple, they are incredibly complicated.”

She turned to Vimes. "It seems, Commander, that Providence brought you here in time to solve the murder of that goblin girl who was a distinguished student. I came here as soon as I heard about it, but goblins are used to random, undeserved deaths. I'll escort you to the entrance and then I have a class to teach.

Feeney dragged Vimes with her as they headed towards the surface and the blessed fresh air of Ms. Beedle and his charge. He wondered what had become of the body. What did they do with their dead? Bury, eat, throw in the trash? Or he just wasn't thinking straight, a thought that had been pounding in his brain for some time. Without thinking, he said, "What else are you going to teach them, Ms. Kaefer?" To be better citizens?”

The punch landed on his jaw, probably because Ms. Beedle noticed he was still wearing his steel helmet. It was a cork, though, and from the corner of his smoldering gaze he saw Feeney take a step back. At least the boy had some common sense.

"You are the fool of the gods, Commander Vimes! No, I'm not teaching them to be fake people, I'm teaching them to be goblins, clever goblins! Did you know they only have five names for colors? Even trolls have about sixty, and many more if they meet a paint seller! Does that mean goblins are stupid? No, they have a lot of names for things that even poets didn't invent, for things like the way colors change and change, the merging of one hue with another. You have simple words for the most complicated feelings; I know about two hundred of them I think and I'm sure there are many more! What you might think are grunts, snarls, and growls actually contain a massive amount of information! They're like an iceberg, commander: most of them are where you can't see or understand, and I teach Tears of the Mushroom and some of your friends so they can talk to people like you who they think are stupid. And guess what, commander? Not a long time ago! You will be slaughtered! It's not called that, of course, but it ends up killing, because those are just stupid annoyances, you know? Why don't you ask Mr. Conclusion, what happened to the other goblins three years ago, Commander Vimes?

And with that, Mrs. Beedle turned and disappeared into the darkness of the cave, tears of the mushroom floating behind her, leaving Vimes to walk the last few yards into the glorious sunlight.

The sensation that came over Samuel Vimes as he emerged was as if someone had pushed an iron wire through his body and immediately pulled it out again. He struggled to keep his balance and the boy grabbed his arm. Full marks, Vimes thought, for being smart enough to see how the country was doing, or at least smart enough not to run now.

He sat on the grass, enjoying the breeze through the gorse bushes and breathing in the fresh, clean air. Whatever you thought about goblins, their lair had the kind of vibe that people say, "I'd wait two minutes before going in there if I were you."

"I'd like to speak to you, Chief of Police," he said now. “Copper for copper. About the past and maybe the shape of the future.”

"Actually, I wanted to thank you, Commander, for mistaking me for a police officer."

"Your father was a policeman here three years ago, wasn't he?"

Feeney stared straight ahead. "Yes indeed."

"So what happened to the goblins, Feeney?"

Feeney cleared his throat. "Well, Dad told Mom and I to stay inside. He said not to look but he couldn't tell us not to listen and there was a lot of shouting and I don't know what and my elderly mother was very upset. I later heard that a bunch of goblins had been taken down from the hill, but my father didn't mention it until much later. I think it broke him, sir, it really broke him. He said he saw a group of men, game wardens and mostly beasts, come down from the cave with goblins trailing behind them, sir. Many of them. He said the scariest thing was that the goblins were all kind of tame, you know? As if they didn't know what to do.

Vimes sagged a little at the sight of Feeney's face. "Come on boy."

"Well sir, he was telling me people were coming out of their houses and there was a lot of running around and he started asking questions and, well, the judges said that was fine because they were nothing but vermin, and they would be taken to the docks where, for a change, they could earn a living and not bother other people. It was okay, said Dad. They went to a sunny place far away from here.

"Just out of interest Mr. Feeney, how did he know about this?"

"Dad said the magistrates were very firm, sir. They should only work to earn a living. He said he was doing them a favor. It wasn't like they were killed.

Vimes kept his expression blank on purpose. He sighed. "Without their consent, that would be slavery, and if a slave does not work for a living, he is dead. You understand?"

Feeney looked down at his boots. If his eyeballs were polished, his boots would shine. "After he told me that, my dad told me I'm a policeman now and I should look after mom and he gave me his nightstick and badge. And then his hands started shaking, sir, and a few days later he was dead, sir. I think something got into him, sir, into his head, eh. It overwhelmed him.”

"Have you heard of Lord Vetinari, Feeney? I can't say I like him very much, but sometimes he makes money. Well, there was a bit of confusion, as we say, and it so happened that a man had a dog, a half-dead thing, according to onlookers, and he tried to get him to stop pulling the leash, and than he did, growling at him, he grabbed an ax from the butcher shop next to him, threw the dog to the ground and cut off his hind legs, just like that. I suppose people would say 'unpleasant fellow but it was his dog' and so on, but Lord Vetinari called me and said, 'A man who would do that to a dog is a man who is in breach of the law should pay special attention. Search his house immediately. The man was hanged a week later, not because of the dog, though I wouldn't have shed a tear, but because of what we found in his basement. In terms of content, I will not overload you. And dammit, Vetinari got away with it, because he was right: where there's little crime, there's big crime.

Vimes looked out at the rolling acres stretching out below him: his fields, his trees, his fields of yellow corn... all his, though he had never sown a seed in his life except when he was a kid trying mustard to plant and watercress in washcloths. , who later vomited because no one told her to wash the washcloth first to get all the soap out. Not a good track record for a landowner. But... your country, right? And he was sure that neither he nor Sybil had ever said yes to taking a bunch of sad looking goblins out of the mess they liked to call home and taking them who knows where.

"Nobody told us!"

Feeney sat back to escape this particular tantrum. "I wouldn't know, sir."

Vimes stood and held out his arms. "I've heard enough, boy, and I've heard enough too! It's time to report to a higher authority!"

"I think it would take at least a day and a half to gallop into town, sir, and you'd have to be lucky with the horses."

Sam Vimes walked briskly down the hill. “I was speaking of Lady Sybil, boy.

Sybil was in a drawing room full of teacups and ladies when Vimes ran into the hall, Feeney trailing behind. She glanced at him and said, a little brighter than warranted, "Oh, I see you have something to talk to me about." Turning to the ladies, she smiled and said, "My apologies, ladies. I should just talk to my husband. And with that, she grabbed Guts and, not too gently, pulled him back down the hall. She opened her mouth to deliver a womanly lecture on the importance of punctuality, sniffled, and backed away. "Sam Vimes, you stink! Have you gotten into something rural? I haven't seen you since breakfast this morning! And why are you still dragging that young cop behind you? I'm sure he has more important things to do. He didn't want to arrest you? Does he come for tea? I hope he washes up first. This was said to Vimes but addressed to Feeney, who kept his distance and looked ready to run.

'That was a misunderstanding,' said Vimes hastily, 'and I'm sure if I ever find out where my crest is there won't be a stain on it, but Mr Feeney here has been generous and on his own. will transmit information to me."

And when the conversation between husband and wife was in full swing, it included shouted whispers of "Certainly not!" and "I think he's telling the truth," Feeney looked ready to run.

"And you didn't fight?" said Sybil. The young policeman tried to avoid her eyes, but she had a look that searched you everywhere.

"No, Your Lordship," was all he could say.

Lady Sybil looked at her husband and shrugged. “It would be quite a struggle with someone who wanted to takeMimSomewhere I didn't want to go," she said, "and I thought goblins had guns? Pretty bad fighters from what I've heard. I would have thought there would be a war! We would have heard about it! The way you talk about them, it sounds like they're sleepwalking. Or maybe they were starving? I didn't notice many rabbits here compared to my childhood. And why leave anything behind? It's all some kind of mystery, Sam. Almost everyone here is a family friend... She quickly raised her hand. "I would not dream of asking you to fail in your duty Sam, you must understand that, but be careful and make sure every step of the way. And please, Sam - and I know you, Sam - don't go in there like a bull through a gate. People here might get the wrong idea.

Sam Vimes was sure he had the wrong idea and frowned as he said, "I don't know Sybil, how does a bull get in a gate? Does he just stand there and look confused?”

"No, darling, she breaks everything into pieces."

Lady Sybil smiled warningly and brushed her hair. "I don't think we need to hold you any longer, Mr. Conclusion," she told the grateful Feeney. "Remind me of your dear mother. If she doesn't mind, I'd love to meet up with her while I'm back here to talk about old times. In the meantime, I suggest you go through the kitchen, no matter what my husband thinks about a policeman using the servants' entrance, and tell the chef to get you whatever your mother wants.

She turned to her husband. "Why don't you accompany him there, Sam? And while you're enjoying the fresh air, why not find young Sam? I think he's back with Willikins in the barnyard.

Feeney was silent as they walked down the long corridors, but Vimes sensed the boy working on a problem that came when he said, "Lady Sybil is a very kind lady, isn't she, sir?"

"I don't need to be reminded of that," Vimes said, "and I want you to understand that she stands in stark contrast to me. I get nervous when I think there's an unsolved crime. An unsolved crime is against nature.”

"I keep thinking about the goblin girl, sir. She looked like a statue and the way she spoke, well I don't know what to say. I mean, they can be bloody annoying - they'll rip your shoelaces off if you don't move fast enough - but when you see them in your cave you realize there are, well, kids, old goblins and... "

"Old Goblin Mothers?" Vimes suggested calmly.

Once again, Mrs. Conclusion struggled against the unfamiliar, startling grip of philosophy and rose with, "Now sir, dare I say cows make good mothers, but at the end of the day a calf is a calf in a hoof, Yes?"

"Maybe, but what would you say if the calf came up to you and said, 'Hello, my name is mushroom tears?'"

Feeney's face twisted again with the effort of new thoughts. "I think I'll have the salad, sir."

Vimes smiled. "You've been in a tough spot, kid, and I'll tell you what, I was, too. It's called a police officer. That's why I like it when they run. It makes everything so easy. You run and I hunt. I don't know if it's metaphysical or something. but thereErasA corpse. You see, so do I, and so does Ms. Beedle. Remember that."

Young Sam sat in the yard on a bale of hay and watched the horses come in. He ran to his father looking very pleased with himself and said, "Dad, do you know chickens?"

Vimes took his son and said, "Yes, I heard about you, Sam."

Young Sam squirmed from his father's grasp as if it were improper activity for a serious investigator in eschatological studies to be picked up and rocked, and he looked grave. "Did you know, dad, that when a chicken poops, there's a little white chunk on top, that's piss? Sometimes it's like the toppings on a loaf of bread, dad!"

"Thanks for letting me know," Vimes said. "I'll remember that the next time I eat a bagel." And after that he added every time. "I take it you know all about poop by now, Sam?" said Vimes hopefully, seeing Willikins smile.

Young Sam, now looking at a pile of chicken droppings through a small magnifying glass, shook his head without looking up. "Oh no, Father, Mr..." Here young Sam stopped and looked hopefully at Willikins.

Willikins cleared his throat and said, "Mr. Trout, one of the game wardens, was there about half an hour, and of course his boy will strike up a conversation with everyone, with the result that young Sam, it seems, sir, would like to collect a collection of dung and a number of woodland creatures ."

Game Warden, Vimes thought. He played that through his head and thought about who really surrounded the goblins three years ago. And then he thought how important is that compared to the questionWHO counted you Pro?I think I smelled this place: people do what they're told because they've always done what they're told. But game wardens are very clever; it's not just people who need to get smarter. And remember, this is the field where everyone knows everyone and notices everyone else. I don't think Feeney is lying so other people know what happened here one night three years ago. I can't be a bull in the gate, said Sybil, and she's right. I need to know where I stand. What happened three years ago? I can afford to spend my time doing this. Aloud he said, "How far can I take this?"

"Looks like you've had a busy day, sir," Willikins said. "This morning you went to jail with a little tit who thinks she's a policeman, and then, accompanied by a goblin, you and said little tit went to Dead Man's Grove, where you stayed for quite a while, until you and said titties left and you got here minus one tit just now.” Willikins smiled at Vimes. "People are in and out of the kitchen all the time, sir, and gossip is kind of currency when you walk through the green door. You must remember, sir, that despite Mr. Silver, I'm the first Nob up the ladder and I can go where I want and do what I want, and you canstrangleabout it if you like. The whole hill can be seen from one or two windows in this house and the maids are very cooperative, sir. It seems all the girls are looking for a job at the Scone Avenue facility. You are very interested in the city lights, sir. Very cooperative. I also found a really nice telescope in the office. Fantastic view from Hangman's Hill, you know. I could practically read his lips. Young Sam really enjoyed the game of finding dad.”

Vimes felt a pang of guilt at those words. It was supposed to be a family vacation, right? But... "Someone killed a goblin girl in Dead Man's Copse," he said in a weak voice. “They made sure there was enough blood to give our young cop something to think of as a case. he fights; I don't think he's ever seen a dead body before.

Willikins looked genuinely surprised. "What, never? Maybe I'll retire here, only I'd die of boredom.

A thought struck Vimes and he said, "When you looked through the telescope, did you see anyone else coming up the hill?"

Willikins shook his head. "No, sir, only you."

They both turned to watch young Sam carefully drawing chicken shit in his notebook and Willikins said softly, "You've got a nice boy there, very bright. Make the most of your time, sir.

Vimes shook his head. "God knows you're right, but, well, it was cut and made of steel, definitely steel.sheonly have stone weapons. They cut it open to make sure there was enough blood for even a stupid flatfoot to see. And she was named after the colors of a flower.

There was a disapproving noise from Willikins. "Cops shouldn't get sentimental, it's bad for judgement. you said it yourself You're in a horrific domestic scene and you think kicking someone could make things better, but how do you know when to stop? That is what you have said. You said hitting a guy in a fight is one thing, but when he's handcuffed it's not okay.

To Vimes' surprise, Willikins gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder (you'd know right away if Willikins slapped you hostilely).

“Take my advice, Commander, and have tomorrow off too. There's a houseboat on the lake, and later you can go into the woods with the little boy who's said to be knee-deep in all kinds of poo. He'll be in poop heaven! Oh, and he also told me he wanted to see the smelly skull man again. Tell you what, I think with a mind like his he'll be Dean of Unseen University by the time he's sixty!

Willikins must have seen the grimace on Vimes' face because he continued, 'Why so surprised, sir? Maybe he wants to be an alchemist, right? Don't say you wish he was a cop: you wouldn't, would you? At least when you're a magician, people don't try to kick your fork, right? Of course you have to face terrible creatures from hellish dimensions, but they don't carry knives and you will be trained. It's worth pondering, Commander, because he's growing like weeds and you should put him on the right path through life. And now, if you'll excuse me, Commander, I'm going to annoy the servants.

Willikins took a few steps, then stopped, looked at Vimes and said, 'Look at this, sir, if you take time off the guilty won't be any less guilty, and the dead won't be any less dead, and his Lordship will not try to decapitate you with a hanger.

Lady Sybil's tea guests were leaving when Vimes returned to the hall. He scraped the field of his boots and walked to the hall's main bathroom.

Of course, there were plenty of bathrooms everywhere—probably more than any street in most parts of town, where a tin tub, jug and basin, or nothing were the washes of choice or necessity... but this bathroom was made to a design by Mad Jack Ramkin and resembled the famous Unseen University bathroom, although Mad Jack designed itwasone that should have been called Obscene University as Mad Jack had healthy (or possibly unhealthy) taste in women and his bathroom showed oh dear he did. Of course, the white marble favorites were adorned with urns, marble bunches of grapes, and the ever-popular piece of gauze, which luckily ended up in just the right spot to keep the art from becoming pornography. It was also most likely the only bathtub with labeled faucets

And then there were the frescoes, so if you were a persuasive man, it was good that there was a cold water tap, because not to overdo it, so to speak, there were a lot of nice spots on it, yes indeed, and the women were just the beginning of the problem. There were also marble gentlemen, definitely gentlemen, even those with crowbars. What was surprising was that the water in the bathtub did not boil by itself. He had asked Sybil about it, and she said it was an important feature of the hall, and that gentleman collectors of antiques used to come to inspect it. Vimes had said he hoped so, oh yes, indeed. Sybil had said that tone wasn't necessary as she had bathed there occasionally since she was twelve and had seen nothing wrong with it. This, she said, saved her from being caught off guard later.

And now Vimes lay in the luxurious tub, feeling like he was trying to put all the pieces of his brain together. He was only vaguely aware that the bathroom door opened and he heard Sybil say, "I put young Sam to bed and he's fast asleep, although I can't imagine what he's dreaming about."

Then Vimes was floating again in the hot, humid atmosphere, barely noticing the rustle of fabric falling to the ground. Lady Sybil glided beside him. The water rose and, consistent with the physics of this deal, Sam Vimes' spirits rose as well.

AA few hours later, nearly drowning on the pillows of the huge bed and hovering just above unconsciousness in a hot pink glow, Sam Vimes was sure he heard his own voice whispering to himself. And he said, "Think about the things that don't fit. I wonder why the nice lady from the noble classes would go into a goblin den like it's a natural thing. He replied, "Well, Sybil spends half her time at home in heavy armor and a fireproof helmet because she likes dragons. Noble ladies tend to do such things.

He considered what he had to say and answered himself, "Yes, but dragons are what you might call socially acceptable. Goblins, on the other hand, definitely aren't. No one has a good word to say about goblins except Ms. Beetle. Why don't you take young Sam to her tomorrow? After all, she's the one who got him into this shitty business, and she's a writer, so I hope she's pretty happy about the break. Yes, that would be a good idea, and it would be educational for young Sam and not an investigation...' So contentedly he waited for sleep to begin, against a chorus of howls, screams, eerie distant growls, stealthy rustles, screeches , unsettling ticking, hideous scratching, horrible up-close wing flapping and all the rest of the profane orchestra known as the peace of the countryside.

He'd enjoyed a late-night game of billiards with Willikins just to keep his hand straight, and Vimes, now half-listening to the odd cacophony, wondered if the solution to a complex crime that required a certain degree of care might be in the Compare to a game of billiards. Of course there were a lot of red balls and they were in the way so you had to shoot them but your target, your final target would be black.

Powerful folk lived in the Shire, so he would tread carefully. Metaphorically, somewhere in his head, Sam Vimes took his cue.

Vimes lay down on the bed, enjoying the wonderful feeling of being gradually eaten up by the pillows, and said to Sybil: "Does the Rust family have a place down here?"

Too late he reflected that this might be a bad move because she might as well have told him everything on one of those occasions when, so unusual for a married man, he wasn't paying close attention to what his wife was doing said, and , that's why he can be the cause of bad mood in those precious and warm minutes before bedtime. All he could see of her now was the tip of her nose as the pillows claimed her, but she murmured sleepily, "Oh, they bought Hangnail Manor ten or more years ago after the Marquess of Fantailer murdered his wife with a branch knife had the pineapple house. do not you remember? They've been looking for him around town for weeks. In the end, everyone seemed to think he went to Fourecks and disguised himself so as not to call himself the Marquis of Fantailer.

'Oh yes,' said Vimes, 'and I remember a lot of your friends were quite outraged by the investigation! They said he only committed one murder and that it was his wife's fault that she had bad taste in dying with just one stab!

Lady Sybil rolled over, which meant that, being a woman rich in attraction, as she rolled over, the pillow closest to Sam behaved like a cog in a chain, gently turning into the opposite direction so that Sam Vimes found himself. is now lying face down. He came back to the surface and said, "And Rust bought it, didn't he? It is unusual for the old man to spend a penny more than necessary.

"It wasn't him honey, it was Gravid."

Vimes woke up a little more. "The son? The criminal?"

"I think Sam the word is up and I want to sleep now if you don't mind."

Sam Vimes knew the best he could say was nothing, and he sank down thinking of words like:Scharf inserter von one clever crowbar in between was It is To the right eemine e far Financiereinviolable...

Floating gently into a nightmare world where the good guys and the bad guys swapped hats, often without warning, Vimes battled insomnia and made it last for eight hours.

The next morning Vimes thoughtfully approached Miss hand in hand with his son. Beedle, not knowing what to expect. He had little experience of the literary world, much preferring the literal, and he had heard that writers spent all day drinking in their dressing gowns. . On the one hand, the "chalet" had a garden that would do credit to a farm. Peering over the fence he saw rows of soft vegetables and fruit and there was an orchard and what was probably a pigsty and a proper outside toilet there, done very professionally, in the almost obligatory moon shape. sawn at the door and the woodpile in close proximity to allow every trip along the way to be used as efficiently as possible. There was a sensible and serious vibe to the whole place, and it certainly wasn't what you'd expect from someone who deals with words every day.

Miss Beedle opened the door a split second after he knocked. She didn't look surprised.

"I've been waiting for you, Your Grace," she said, "or is it Mr. Policeman today? From what I've heard it's always Mr. Cop either way. Then she looked down. "And that must be young Sam." She looked at his father and said, "You tend to be speechless, don't you?"

"You know, I have a lot of poop," said young Sam proudly. "I keep it in jam jars and have a lab in the bathroom. Do you have elephant droppings? Go” – and here he paused

For a moment, Mrs. Beedle displayed that slightly glassy glow that's often seen on the face of someone meeting young Sam for the first time. She looked at Vimes. "You must be very proud of him."

The proud dad said: "It's really hard to keep up – I know that."

Miss Beedle led the way out of the hall into a room in which the cheetah played a large part, and led young Sam to a large chest of drawers. She opened a drawer and handed the boy what appeared to be a small book. “That is bound evidenceÖ Luck vonand I'll sign for you if you like.

Young Sam stared at him as if he had been given a sacred object and his father, who temporarily became his mother, said, "What do you think?" To which young Sam responded with a smile and a thank you and one: "Please don't scribble on it. I'm not allowed to doodle in books.

As young Sam happily flipped through the pages of his new book, his father was introduced to an upholstered chair. Miss Beedle smiled at him and hurried into the kitchen so Vimes didn't see much except a room full of bookshelves, more upholstered furniture, a large concert harp and a wall clock that looked like an owl. , whose eyes tick-tocked hypnotically - probably to the point where you either committed suicide or snatched the poker from the nearby fireplace and banged the damn thing until the springs snapped.

As Vimes thought about it, he realized he was being watched and saw the worried face and prognathic jaw of the goblin named Mushroom Tears.

Instinctively he looked at young Sam, and suddenly the biggest icing on his cake was apprehension: What will young Sam do? How many books has he read? Didn't they tell him awkward tales about goblins, tell or read to him many of those innocent and colorful storybooks that contained ready-made nightmares and some needless fears that would one day cause trouble?

And what young Sam did was march across the floor and stand in front of the girl and say, "I know a lot about poop. It's very interesting!"

Mushroom Tears frantically searched for Ms. Beedle while Young Sam relaxed into a brief discourse on sheep shit. In response, words clicking together like little bricks, she said:

Young Sam frowned as if someone were questioning his life's work. Then he looked up, beaming, and said, "No, you would explode!" And he stood there beaming, the meaning of life completely clear.

And tears of the mushroom laughed. It was a more choppy laugh, reminding Vimes of the laugh certain types of women get after too much gin. But it was a laugh - direct, genuine, and unaffected - and young Sam bathed in it, laughing, as did Sam Vimes, and the sweat was beginning to cool on his neck.

Then young Sam said, "I wish I had big hands like yours. What's your name?"

In that gruff way that Vimes learned to recognize, the goblin said, "I am the tears of the mushroom."

Immediately, young Sam threw his arms around her as tightly as he could and yelled, "Mushrooms shouldn't cry!"

The look the goblin gave Vimes was one he had seen many times before on the face of someone receiving young Sam's hugs: a mixture of surprise and what Vimes called confusion.

At this point, Mrs. Beedle returned to the room with a plate, which he passed to Tears of the Mushroom. "Please be so kind as to serve our guests, my dear."

Tears of the Mushroom picked up the plate, shyly pushed it towards Vimes and said what sounded like half a dozen coconuts rolling down the stairs but somehow managed to lock in the syllablessheeCornereEUThere seemed to be a pleading in her expression, as if trying to make him understand.

Vimes stared at her for a while and then thought, Well, I see, don't I? It must be worth a try, and he closed his eyes, a touch of doubt when faced with a jaw like that. With his eyes shut tight and a hand over them to block out the last light, he said, "Will you say that again, young...lady?" And in the darkness of his skull he heard very clearly, "I baked cookies today , Mr. Po-leees man. I washed my hands," she added nervously. “They are clean and delicious. That's what I said, and it's a precise thing.

Roasted by a leprechaun, thought Vimes as he opened his eyes and picked up a gnarly but appetizing looking biscuit from the plate, then closed his eyes again and asked, "Why is the mushroom crying?"

In the dark, he heard the leprechaun gasp and then say, "He's crying so much there's a lot more mushrooms. That's a sure bet.”

Vimes heard the tinkle of dishes behind him, but when he took his hands from his eyes, Miss was there. Beedle said, "No, stay in the dark, Commander. So what the dwarves say about you is true.

"I wouldn't know. What the dwarves say about me, Ms. Beetle?

Vimes opened his eyes. Miss Beedle sat in a chair almost opposite while Tears of the Mushroom waited for more biscuits with the air of someone who would probably wait forever or until told not to. She looked pleadingly at Vimes and then at Young Sam, who was studying mushroom tears with interest, although, knowing Young Sam, most interest was centered on the plate of biscuits. Then he said, "All right, young man, you can ask the lady for a biscuit, but have good manners."

"You say the darkness is within you, Commander, but you keep it in a cage. A gift from the Koom Valley, they say.

Vimes blinked in the light. "A dwarven superstition in a goblin den? Do you know much about dwarves?

"Very," Miss said. Beedle, "but a lot more about goblins, and they believe in the Summoning Darkness just like the dwarves, after all they're both cave creatures and the Summoning Darkness isn't all in their heads. Head, Commander: No matter what you hear, sometimes I hear it too. Oh dear, are you supposed to recognize a surrogate when you're obsessed with it? It's the opposite of superstition: it's real, even if you don't believe it. My mother taught me that; She was a goblin.

Vimes looked at the friendly brown-haired woman in front of him and said politely, "No."

"Okay, maybe allow me a little theatrics and deception for effect? To be honest, my mother was found as a child when she was three years old and raised by goblins in Uberwald. Until she was about eleven - and I sayvicinitybecause she was never really sure about the passage of time - she thought and acted pretty much like a goblin and learned her language, which is incredibly difficult to learn unless you're trained for it. She ate with them, had her own piece of land on the mushroom farm, and was well appreciated by them for the way she took care of the mouse farm. She once told me that all of her fondest memories of the years in the goblin cave were up until she met my father.

Miss Beedle stirred her coffee and continued. "And she also shared with me her worst memories, the ones that haunted her nightmares and, dare I say, are now haunting mine too: of a day after some people nearby discovered it was a human girl with golden hair and rosy cheeks that roamed underground with beasts. evil and treacherous, who, as everyone knows, eat babies. Well, she screamed and fought as they tried to take her away, especially since the people she considered family were being slaughtered all around her.

There was a pause. And Vimes looked a little apprehensively at young Sam, who luckily went back to bed.Ö Luck von earwaxand therefore forgot everything else.

"You haven't touched your coffee, Commander. You just hold it in your hand and look at me.

Vimes took a long sip of boiling hot coffee, which he was enjoying a lot at the moment. He said, "Is that true? I'm sorry, I don't know what to say."

Tears of the Mushroom watched him intently, ready in case he saw a cookie attack coming. They were actually pretty good, and to hide his confusion, he thanked them and got another one.

"Then you'd better not say anything," Miss said. Beetle. "All slaughtered for no reason. It happens. Everyone knows they're worthless people, right? I'm telling you, Commander, it's true that some of the most terrible things in the world are done by people who think, really think they're doing it for good, especially when a god is involved. Well, it took a lot of those things and a lot of time to convince a little girl that she wasn't one of the evil goblins anymore and really was one of those people who weren't evil at all because one they were sure of was that one day she would understand that the whole horrible thing with the bucket of cold water and the beating every time she spoke in the goblin language or started absent-mindedly singing a goblin song, she cared. Luckily, although she probably didn't believe it at the time, she was strong and smart, and she learned: she learned to be a good girl, she learned to wear decent clothes, to eat with a knife and fork, and to get on her knees to help herself for everything she did, including the beatings. And she learned not to be a goblin so successfully that she was allowed to work in the garden, where she climbed over the wall. They never broke it, and it told me there would always be a goblin inside. I never met my father. According to my mother, he was a decent, hardworking man, but also caring and understanding, I suppose.

Miss Beedle stood up and smoothed her dress as if trying to brush away the crumbs of history. Standing there in the fancy room with the harp, she said, "I don't know who those people were that killed the goblins and beat my mother, but if I found out I would kill them without a second thought because good ones." People aren't supposed to be that bad. Kindness is about what you do. Not what you're praying for. And that was it," she said. "My father was a jeweler and soon discovered that my mother was absolutely talented in this regard, probably due to her pixie background which led her to have a feeling for stones. I'm sure it was worth having a wife who cursed goblins when she was irritated - and let me tell you, a good goblin curse can last at least fifteen minutes. She didn't like books, as you might expect, but my father did, and one day I thought, 'How hard can writing be? After all, most of the words will beAeEUand so on, and there's a huge range to choose from, so a lot of the work has already been done for you. That was fifty-seven books ago. It seems to have worked.”

Miss Beedle leaned back in her chair and leaned forward. "You have the most complex language imaginable, Commander. The meaning of each word depends on the words around it, who is speaking, who is listening, the time of year, the weather, oh, and so many other things. They have something equivalent to what we mean by poetry; they use and control fire... And about three years ago, almost all of them in this camp were rounded up and taken away because they were a nuisance. Isn't that why you're here?

Vimes took a deep breath. "Actually, Miss Beedle, I came here to see my wife's family estate and to teach my son about the countryside. I've already been arrested on suspicion of murdering a blacksmith and saw the brutally butchered corpse of a female goblin. Also, I have no knowledge of the whereabouts of said blacksmith and Ms. Beedle, I would like someone to enlighten me, preferably yourself.

"Yeah, I saw the poor thing and I'm sorry I can't tell you where Jethro is."

Vimes looked at her and thought she was probably telling the truth. "He's not hiding somewhere in the mine, is he?"

"No, I checked. I've looked everywhere. No notes, nothing. And your parents have no idea either. He's a free spirit, but he's not the type to leave without telling me. She looked down, clearly embarrassed.

The silence said a lot. Vimes broke down and said, "The murder of that poor girl on the hill will not go unpunished as long as I live. I take it personally, you might say. I think someone tried to set me and mud sticks up. He stopped. “Tell me these pots are made by the goblins. Do you wear them all the time?”

"Well, yes, of course, but of course only those who are currently filling up," said Ms. Beedle, with a touch of annoyance. "Is that relevant?"

“Well, a cop, you might say, thinks in leprechaun terms: everything depends on everything. By the way, how many other people know you have a tunnel in the hill?”

"What makes you think I have a tunnel that goes down the hill?"

"Now let me see. This place is practically at the bottom of the hill and if I lived here I would have dug myself a decent basement. That's one reason and the other is because I saw the twinkle in his eyes when I asked the question. Should I ask the question again?"

The woman opened her mouth to speak, and Vimes held up a finger. "It's not ready yet. What is not so simple is the fact that you arrived at the cave the other day without anyone seeing you going up the hill. Everyone tells me there are eyes watching you across the country, and luckily I had some working for me yesterday. Please don't waste my time. As far as I know, you haven't committed any crimes - do you understand that being friendly to goblins isn't a crime? Reflecting on it, he added: "Although maybe some people for here you might think it is. But I'm not, and I'm not stupid, Miss Beedle. I saw this goblin head at the pub. It looked like he had been there for years. Now I just want to get back to the cave without anyone seeing me, if not, if you mind, because I have some questions to ask.

Miss Beedle said, "Would you like to interrogate the goblins?"

"No, that word suggests that I intend to intimidate her. I just need to get the information I need before I start investigating the girl's murder. If you don't want to help me, I'm afraid that's your choice.

The next day, Sergeant Colon didn't show up for work. Woman. Colon sent a message for a boy as soon as he got back from work

When Fred Colon got home, there was nothing romantic about Fred Colon, so she rushed to Pseudopolis after sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, wiping down all surfaces, and spending some time brushing off scraps of mud that had gotten stuck on the doormat, as she was visiting to her friend Mildred who had a beautiful china vase and bowl set that she wanted to sell. When she finally got to the guardhouse, she explained that Fred was in terrible shape, sweating like a bastard and rambling on about rabbits.

Sergeant Littlebottom was sent to investigate and returned with a serious expression as she went upstairs to Vimes' office, now occupied by Captain Carrot. You could tell he was the seated one now, not only because he was sitting in the chair, which was a convincing sign, but also because all the paperwork was done and in order, a quality that made Inspector A.E. Pessimal, a little man , who was always impressive, had the heart of a lion and the physical strength of a kitten and the face, disposition and general demeanor that made even the most hardened accountant say, "Look at him." Doesn't he look like a typical accountant to you?

But that didn't bother the Lionheart of A.E. Pessimal. It was the guard's secret weapon. There wasn't an accountant in town who would welcome a visit from A.E. Pessimal, unless, of course, he was perfectly innocent—though that could usually be ruled out, for Mr. all the way through the ledger and down to the basement, where therealBooks were hidden. And all Inspector A.E. Pessimal wanted for his genius was a carefully calculated salary and the occasional chance to walk the streets with a real cop, brandish his nightstick, and face the trolls.

Carrot leaned back. "So, how's Fred, Cheery?"

"Not much I can see, really, um..."

"That was a big buzz, Cheery."

The problem was that Captain Carrot had a kind, honest, open face that made you who you werewantto tell you things It didn't help that Sergeant Littlebottom held a small torch for the Captain, though really and honestly he was being told - he was also a midget, well, technically, and one can't help but dream. "Well..." she began reluctantly.

Carrot leaned forward. "Yes, happy?"

She gave in. "Well, sir, it's an ointment. You're from Copperhead... Did you find a lot of goblins up there?"

"No, but I know that Ungue is their religion, if you can call it that."

Cheerful Littlebottom shook her head, trying to rid herself of all speculation about the role a reasonably tall stool might play in a relationship, and told herself that Sergeant Hammer-of-Gold in the Dolly sisters' guardhouse had caught her eye Every time they were on patrol she was busy trying to get his attention, and it would probably be a nice catch if she could muster up the courage to ask him if it really was him. She said: "Unggue isn't a religion, it's a superstition. The goblins don't believe in you, they're ferocious scavengers, but…” She hesitated again. "I was told something once, and it's unbelievable, but sometimes they eat the babies, sir, or at least the mother eats her child, her child.newbornson when there is hunger. You canbelieveWas?"

Carrot's mouth opened for a moment, then a small voice said, "Yes, I think I can, Sergeant, if you'll excuse me."

A.E. Pessimal looked defiantly at their expressions and tried to stand a little straighter. "It's a matter of logic, you know? Without food? But the mother can survive by eating the child, so to speak, while the child dies when all other food is gone. In fact, once the riddle is posited, the child is dead. The mother, on the other hand, can survive long enough to have more food available and, over time, have another child.”

"You know, that's veryaccountingwhat to say!” said Fröhlich.

A.E. Pessimal remained calm. "Thank you, Sergeant Littlebottom, I take that as a compliment as the logic is impeccable. It's the so-called terrible logic of necessity. I am familiar with the logistics of survival situations.”

The chair creaked as Captain Carrot leaned forward. "No offense, Inspector Pessimal, but may I ask what sort of survival problems arise with double-entry bookkeeping?"

A.E. Pessimal sighed. "It can get very dangerous as the end of the fiscal year approaches, Captain. However, I understand your point and I want you to understand that I believe I have read all the memoirs, manuals, notes and messages in a bottle - by which I mean messages, of courseout of stockout of the bottle - this is available right now, and I can guarantee you would be amazed at the terrible decisions that must sometimes be made by a group of people in order for them, if not all, to survive. Classically, we have castaways adrift in an open boat in the ocean with extremely unlikely rescue. Generally the procedure is to eat each other's legs, although sooner or later the supply of legs runs out, if I may use the word, runs out; and then there is the question of who will die so that some may live. Terrible algebra, captain. Just then, A.E. Pessimal blushed. "I'm sorry. I know I am a small, weak man, but I have amassed a great library; I dream of dangerous places.”

'Perhaps you should walk through the shadows, Inspector,' said Carrot, 'you needn't be dreaming. Keep it up.

Cheerful Littlebottom shrugged. "But eating your own child must be wrong, right?"

"Well, Sergeant," said A.E. Pessimal, "I have read about these things, and if you think of the consequences of the death of both the mother and theechild or the death of the child, but the possible life of the mother, it must be concluded that your decision is correct. in your bookA Banquet von wormsColonel FJ Massingham mentions this about goblins, and apparently in accordance with the goblin worldview, a consumed child, clearly born of the mother, has been taken back to where it came from and hopefully will be reborn at a later date. if the circumstances are more favorable, i.e. no real damage occurs. One might think that this view would not stand up to scrutiny, but when you turn to dreadful algebra, the world becomes a very different place."

There was silence as everyone thought about it.

Carrot said, "You know what a street fight is like, Cheery. Sometimes when things are heating up and you know it's you or they - that's when you do the algebra.

"Fred doesn't seem to know where he is," Cheery said. "He doesn't have a fever and his room isn't particularly hot, but he's acting like he's too hot and won't let go of that damn pot. He screams when someone tries to get close to him. In fact, he yelled at me! And that's another thing, his voice has changed, it sounds like a man gargling stones. I spoke to Ponder Stibbons at the university but they don't seem to have anyone who knows much about goblins.

Captain Carrot raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure? I know they have a professor of dust, various particles and filaments, and you're telling me there isn't an expert on an entire species of talking humanoids?

"That's right, sir. All we could find was stuff about what a damn nuisance they are - you know.

Do you know anything about goblins? I mean things to know?

A.E. Pessimal actually saluted. "Harry King, yes, Captain. There are some of them downstream. However, they don't come to town very often. You will recall that Lord Vetinari was kind enough to ask me to allocate the proceeds to Mr King as all the other inspectors were afraid to set foot on his property. I myself, sir, wentNOFear," said A.E. Pessimal proudly, "because I am protected by my badge and the majesty of the law. Harry King can kick a tax collector out of a building, but he's smart enough not to try it on one of Commander Vimes' men, not really! They could have lit up the city with the proud glow on AE Pessimal's face as he tried to stuff a suitcase that almost went inside.

It swelled a little more when Carrot said, "Very good, Inspector. You're a bad man with a smoking abacus. I think I'll pay our old friend Harry a visit first thing in the morning.

Vimes pondered the problem of getting young Sam to the crime scene, but honestly, the boy was prepared for any encounter. Also, every boy wants to see where his father works. He looked at his son. "Are you afraid of a long walk in the dark, boy? With me and these ladies?

Young Sam looked serious for a moment and then said, "I think I'll let Mr.

The door to the secret tunnel, if it was secret at all, was in Ms. Beedle, which had a well-stocked wine cellar and a general, not objectionable, smell of, well, a cellar. But as soon as he walked through the door, he smelled goblins in the distance.

ThisErasa long walk in the dark, especially when you had to climb a rather steep incline almost to your knees.

The goblin smell got stronger after a while, but you get used to it during that time. Here and there, light shone through the darkness from holes into the outside world, which Vimes thought was sound engineering until he realized that rabbits also used this tunnel, leaving plenty of feces as evidence. He considered bagging some specimens for Young Sam's collection and suggested it to Young Sam working hard behind him, who said, 'No Dad, I have rabbits. Wants elephants if we find one.

Rabbit poop, Vimes remarked, was about the size of a chocolate raisin, a thought that immediately took him back to his youth when, somehow never quite legally, he would earn some money he would spend on a ticket to Fleapit Music Hall and buy you a packet of chocolate raisins with the change. Nobody knew or wanted to guess what those things were that were sliding and scratching under the seats, but you soon learned a very important rule: if you dropped your chocolate raisins, it was extremely important not to pick them up!

Vimes stopped and caused miss. Beedle stepped into the bag of apples she'd asked him for, and he controlled himself enough to say, "I'd like a moment or two to catch my breath, Ms. Beetle. Sorry not as young as I was and all. I catch you. What are we carrying these bags for anyway?

"Fruit and vegetables, Commander."

"What? For goblins? I would have thought they would find their own sustenance.

Miss Beedle walked slowly around him and up into the darkness and said over her shoulder, "Yes, they do."

Vimes sat with young Sam for a moment until he felt better and said, "How are you boy?"

In the dark, a small voice said, "I told Mr. Whistle not to worry, Dad, because he's kind of silly."

So is your father, thought Vimes, and probably will remain so. But he was hot on his heels. One way or another he was hot on his heels. Whoever you were chasing, they could wait. The hunt was the thing.

Fury helped Vimes climb the final leg of the climb. Anger at himself and whoever ruined his vacation. But it was disturbing: he wanted something to happen, and now it has happened. Someone was dead. Sometimes you had to take a look at yourself and then look away.

He found Miss Beedle and Tears of the Mushroom waiting with a dozen or so...ladies. It was a calculated guess, as he still hadn't found a reliable way to tell one goblin from another - except, of course, that Tears of the Mushroom wore his apron with pockets he'd apparently never seen before, as did the other ladies not, as Tears of the Mushroom was now the hit of the season as far as the sisters were concerned, as they were currently sporting risqué outfits made of distressed burlap, braided grass and rabbit fur. They rallied around her, presumably chanting the leprechaun equivalent of "Oh my darling, you look like

Miss Beedle went to Vimes and said, 'I know what you're thinking, but it's a start. Carrying things, useful things, without having to use your hands – well, that's a step in the right direction.” She pulled Vimes away from the newly formed Goblin branch of the Women's Institute, which was already attracting young Sam's attention whose cheerful reluctance to be intimidated by anything clearly won over the girls, leading to him being where he has always been. felt like he should be the center of attention. It was a way.

Miss Beedle continued: 'If you want to change a whole people, start with the girls. Logical: They learn faster and pass on what they have learned to their children. I suppose you're wondering why we came all this way with all these bags?

Behind, the apron was tried on by girls for girls: this year's must-have. Vimes turned to the woman and said, "Well that's just a guess, but I see a lot of rabbit bones lying around and I've heard that if you only live on rabbits you can die, I just don't know why that's the way it is."

Miss Beedle brightened. "Well, Commander Vimes, I think you've definitely leveled up! Yes, the rabbit was the scourge of the goblin nation! I understand that if you don't eat other things as well, it deprives the body of some vital nutrients. Pretty much anything green will do, but goblins will find a suitable meal to be a rabbit on a skewer. she sighed. "The dwarves know this and are absolutely obsessed with good food, as one should be when spending a lot of time underground, but no one bothered to tell the goblins like they'd be listening anyway, and stuff sick and premature death is their fate. Some survive, of course, mostly those who prefer rats or who eatatRabbits, not just the apparently edible parts, or they just eat their veggies.”

She began to untie a bag of cabbage and continued, “I was fine with the chief's wife here because he got sick and I made sure he got something nice to eat. Of course he swears it was because he did magic, but his wife was extremely sensible and the other men don't care what the girls do, so they put fruit and veg in their stews and call it magic. , and so they have children who survive, and so we change the world one meal at a time. That is, if the goblins even stand a chance of surviving. She looked sadly at the gossip and said, "What they really need is a top theologian, because they agree with the rest of the world:youI think they are rubbish! They think they did something very bad a long time ago and that's why they live like this. They think they deserve it as you can see.

Vimes frowned. He could not recall ever entering a church or temple or any of countless other places of greater or lesser spirituality for any reason other than the occasional exigencies of the job. He often came these days for Sybil's reasons, namely so that his wife could drag him away, so that he could be seen and if possible awake.

No, the world of the next worlds, the afterlife and the fates of purgatory just didn't fit in her head. Like it or not, you were born, did your best, and then, like it or not, died. Those were the only certainties, and so it was best for a cop to get on with his job. And it's about time Sam Vimes got his hands on him again.

By this time young Sam was tired of the company of petticoats and walked over to an older pixie who was working on a pot and was watching with utter fascination, to the older pixie's apparent delight, as far as Vimes could tell. This is a lesson for us… I don't know what lesson, but it's a lesson, he thought.

Vimes waited for Miss. Beedle was returning from a discussion about the possible new fashion boom involving girls, so he politely asked her, "Does the victim have any ointment on her?"

"I would be surprised if she hadn't," said Ms. Kaefer. "At least one or two, but probably fairly small ones for daytime use."

"I see," Vimes said, "but were any found on her, um, after, I mean, she was killed?" He didn't know what the protocol was and continued, "Look, Ms. Beedle, it is possible she had an ointment pot that's gone now? I know, of course, that they are valuable...they are brilliant.

"I don't know, but I'll ask the Cold Bone Wakes. He's the chief goblin. He will know.

It reminded guts. Embarrassed, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small, carefully wrapped package and handed it to Ms. Beedle with a pleading look. "I think that belonged to the dead girl," he said. "A stone ring with a small blue pearl? Can you see it reaching someone here who appreciates it? She only had a stone ring, he thought, and even that was taken from her.

There was a time when the world didn't need cops because whatTruthwhat was needed was someone who knew what they were doing to shut it all down and start all over again so it could be done right this time...

But before despair could set in, miss. Beedle was back and excited. "How fitting of you to ask that question, Commander! One of themErasAbsence of! Anoint cat!”

Vimes could register utter, listless incomprehension, just like any copper man. It emanated a spotlight of ignorance, but that was okay because Ms. Beedle was willing to be a source of information. "I'm sure you know what everyone else knows, Commander, that goblins, I must say faithfully, keep certain bodily wastes in jars, believing that they will be collected with their corpses when they are buried. This obligation is called Ungue. All goblins are required to keep the unggue had, the trinity of snot, nail clippings, and earwax, by custom, which is very strict among goblins. The missing pot in this case is the cat pot, which contains nail clippings. Don't let the word "cat" fool you. The cats don't come into the picture...there are just so many syllables in the world.

"And this is the first time you have heard that you are missing, Miss Beedle?"

"Well this is my first time since yesterday and it's a difficult time speaking to her family as you can imagine..."

"I see," Vimes said, though he didn't, not quite—though he felt a tiny trickle of light grow in the darkness of his mind. He looked back at young Sam, who was eyeing the potter with every sign of forensic interest. That's my boy. He continued, "Did you look for the pot?"

"He's been looking everywhere, Commander, even outside. And it will be very small. You see, each goblin makes a series of pots that are kept deep in the cave. I don't know where they are, although they trust me about most other things. That's because people steal pots. For this reason, most goblins make other, comparatively small pots for everyday use and for exiting the lair, and later secretly transfer them into larger pots." She tried to smile and said, "I'm sure that sounds odd to You, Commander, but making and keeping the pots is a religion to you.”

At this point, Samuel Vimes didn't want to be heard giving his opinion on pots, so he was content to say, "Is it possible that another goblin stole the pot? Anyway, what is the "very small" size?

Miss Beedle gave him a surprised look. "If you trust me with anything, Commander, trust me with this. No leprechaun would dream of stealing another leprechaun's pot. The concept of doing that would be totally foreign to them, I assure you. The size? Oh, generally similar to a powder compact or maybe a snuff box. They sparkle like opals.

"Yes," said Vimes, "I know," and he thought about itbright Nuclear em AHe said, 'I don't mean to be difficult, but could I borrow another one of the poor lady's pots? I might need one to show people what I'm looking for.

Miss Beedle looked surprised again. "That would be, but I think if I speak to Tears of the Mushroom, maybe, just maybe, she could lend you one of hers, and in that case I can tell you that you're going to be a very special person, Commander. Usually a pot only changes hands because of fear, but Tears of the Mushroom spends a lot of time with me and has, shall we say, learned the use of flexible thinking, and if I may say so, it took a bit of a shine on you .”

She walked away, leaving the startled Vimes and young Sam to their own devices. Here and there goblins did what they did, lighting small fires, sleeping, or in many cases stirring their pots. And some just sat and stared into space like a cop trying to figure out how to spell ghostly.

And a new image appeared in Vimes' memory. It was a bunch of little blue men shouting "Crivens!" Ah yes, the Nac Mac Feegle! They also lived in burrows. Granted, they were considered far healthier than this dunghill-filled cave system, but whichever way you looked at it, they were in the same situation as the kobolds. They also lived on the edge, but they - theydancedOn the ledge they would jump, grimace, wrinkle their noses, refuse to see the danger in their situation, and generally seem to have a tremendous appetite for life, alcohol, adventure, and booze. As a cop, he shouldn't say that because they could be a damn nuisance, but there was something commendable about the cheerful, aggressive way they did, well, everything...

Someone tugged at his sleeve. He looked into the face of Tears of the Mushroom, with Ms. Beedle standing over her like an escort. The other goblin girls fell after them like an ephebian chorus.

The little face's solemn voice said, "Hearts must give, Mr. Po-leess-man."

With horribly bad timing, Ms. Beedle cut him off like a hyperactive teacher, and Vimes was particularly pleased to see a brief annoyed look on Tears of the Mushroom's face.

"She thinks if she has to trust you with a pot, then you have to trust her with something equally valuable. I suppose you would call this a hostage situation.

No, I wouldn't, thought Vimes, looking into the goblin girl's dark eyes. That was odd: moving beyond what could be described as homely at best, depending on what kind of home you had in mind, the eyes were as human as you can imagine. They had a depth that not even the smartest animal could reach. He took the wallet and Mrs. Beedle said brusquely, "Money isn't enough!"

Ignoring her, he finished picking up the photo of Young Sam he carried with him everywhere and carefully handed it to Tears of the Mushroom, who took it as if he was holding a rare and delicate object - what it was quite certain from Vimes' point of view. She looked at him, then at the boy himself, who gave her a bright smile, and her eyes confirmed that the grimace on his face was indeed a smile in return. For young Sam, the goblin cave was an interesting fairyland. One had to admire his ability not to be immediately afraid of anything.

Mushroom Tears looked at the photo and then at Young Sam and then at Vimes' face. She carefully tucked the photo into her apron and pulled out her hand, which was holding a small iridescent pot. She held it out to Vimes, her hand shaking slightly, and he found himself holding it gently with both hands. Then Tears of the Mushroom said in his strange voice like a living filing cabinet: "Hearts gave." Which almost brought Vimes to his knees.

He thought: It might as well be her head smiling on the bar wall!Someoneit will burn!

In the back of his mind, a happy voice said, "Well done, Commander Vimes, you're finally singing my hymnal!"

He ignored it and fingered the pot; it was as soft as the skin. Whatever it was supposed to contain, and he wouldn't ask, the contents were hidden behind a carved trellis of flowers and mushrooms.

In the cool depths of his cellar, Mister Jiminy, the tavern's keeper, was preparing for the night's onslaught when he heard a noise in the darkness between the barrels. He dismissed it as just another mouse until a hand went to his mouth.

"Excuse me sir, I have reason to believe you can help me with my questions." The man struggled, but Vimes knew all the tricks when it came to apprehending a suspect. He whispered, "You know who I am, sir, and I know what you are. We're both cops and we walk around houses. You said the bartender sees all, hears all and says nothing, and I'm a fair man, Mr Cricket, but I'm investigating a murder. Murder, sir, the felony, and maybe something much, much worse. So excuse me if I consider those who don't have my back as standing in my way, and all that entails.

Jiminy was out of breath now and squirming weakly. "Ah, too much alcohol and not enough rhythm, I suppose," said Vimes. "Well, I wouldn't ask a man to break the bartender's solemn oath, so let's just sit quietly and play a little charade when I take my hand away." I'm letting"

The bartender snorted a curse and added, “You didn't have to do that, Commander. I have a breast problem, you know!

'It's not as bad as it could be, Mr Cricket. And now a word about being too smart.

The tavern keeper glared at him as Vimes continued, "I'm a regular cop. I don't kill people unless they try to kill me. You must know my Batman, Mr. Willikins. You saw him the other day. Unfortunately, he is more direct and also extremely loyal. A few years ago he killed a dwarf armed with an ordinary ice knife to save my family. And he has other talents: I have to say that he can iron a shirt as well as any man I know. And like I said, very loyal. Come on Jiminy. I am a cop and you are a cop. You're still a cop, whatever you say, the stain never leaves you. You know what I can do and I know what you can do and you're smart enough to choose the right side.

"Well, you don't have to rub it in your face," Jiminy grumbled. "We both know the pros and cons." His voice was suddenly and almost theatrically helpful as he whispered, "How may I help you, Officer, and also as the good citizen that I am?"

Vimes carefully took the small pot out of his coat. In fact, it was the size of a snuffbox. The incongruity was not lost on Vimes: in one pocket he carried the glorious jewel, most likely the lair for goblin snots, and in the other he carried his own snuffbox. How hilarious would it be if he mixed them up?

Jiminy certainly reacted when he saw him, although he probably thought he didn't. There's a subtle difference between hiding your reaction and showing that you're hiding your reaction.

"All right, all right, Mr. Vimes, you're right. We don't have to play games, old cops like us. I give up. I know what it is. I saw a similar one the other day to tell the truth.


“Can I give you a name, Mr. Willow. Why? Because he's a nut, a scoundrel, and he's not from around here. Stratford name, or whatever they call it. A switchblade, the kind of guy you never want to see walk through the door of his bar, I like to say. Thank God he's not always here. The other day was the first time I had seen him in months. I don't know where he lives, but the snot he was hanging out with is called Ted Flutter, he works for young Lord Rust in Hangnail. His landlady eats a lot of tobacco, they told me. Cricket has stopped.

Vimes took it exactly the way Cricket wanted it, he was sure. Lord Rust was up to no good, Jiminy hinted, and threw a bone at Vimes to get the man off his back. Some people would have found that despicable, but the man was an ex-cop, after all.

Jiminy coughed a little as he tried to find another victim for Vimes to track. "But Flutter, well, you know, he's just a guy. If anyone needs help with a thing or two, he's the guy to stand guard or have the bones removed. When he's not in the mood for mischief I think he hangs wallpaper and runs a turkey farm on the road to Overhang. You can't miss it, it's a smelly place and he doesn't care about his birds. Not quite there, in my opinion.

Vimes capitalized on his opening. "Tobacco, huh? Oh yes, Mr. Cricket, I thought I smelled a lot more tobacco in here than you would expect and as a cop I obviously have to investigate when time permits. He blinked and Cricket nodded knowingly.

With the atmosphere now tentatively optimistic, Grilo said: "They bring a few kegs over here some nights and then come back for them when and when. Okay, I know it's the recipe and all, but I don't see any harm. And how do we get on so well, Mr. Vimes, I've only been here three years. I know there were some things back there, maybe they got some goblins, I don't know, none of my business. I don't know why, I don't know who, if you know what I mean?” Cricket was sweating like a pig, Vimes noticed.

There are times when the reaction is such that simple, general decency requirements serve no greater purpose, and so Vimes just gave the man a small smile and said, 'One day, Mr Cricket, I'll bring a lady here. I think she would be very interested in seeing your establishment.

Jiminy was intrigued but had the decency to say, "Looking forward to it, Commander."

'What I'm saying,' said Vimes, 'is if there's still a leprechaun's head hanging over the bar in this pub, there's going to be a mysterious fire the next time I come here, you know? No doubt you want to keep in touch with young Lord Rust and his friends because the powerful always pay. I know that very well. You will make me a good friend, Mr. Jiminy, and I would like to point out that it would not be in your interest to have Commander Vimes as your enemy. Just a word to the wise guys, you know, from one cop to another.

With forced glee, Jiminy said in a voice dripping with butter and sugar, "Nobody ever said Officer Jiminy didn't know how the wind blows, and since you've been so kind as to visit my humble establishment, I think you might consider that the wind started to blow due to Vimes.

Vimes lifted the hold hatch to leave and said, "Oh, me too, Mr. Jiminy, me too, and if the weathervane ever decides to blow the other way, I'll take your damn head off."

Cricket smiled uncertainly and said, "Are you in charge here, Commander?"

And he was pulled an inch from Vimes' face by his shirt, eye to eye, and Vimes said, "Try me."

Quite happily after this interlude, Vimes hurried to the path leading up the hill and found Ms. Beedle and Tears of the Mushroom by the cabin door. It looks like they were picking apples; several fruit baskets were piled up. He thought Tears of the Mushroom smiled when she saw him, but how could you really tell? The goblins' faces were difficult to read.

The pot was dutifully traded back for the photograph, and Vimes couldn't help but notice, as he always emphasized, that both he and the girl discreetly attempted to examine his prized items without offense. He was sure that Ms. Beedle stifled a sigh of relief. "Have you found the killer?" she said and leaned forward anxiously. She turned to the girl. "Go in, dear, while I speak to Commander Vimes, will you?"

"Yes madam. Beedle, I will enter at your request."

There it was again: a language of boxes that open and close as needed. The girl disappeared into the house and Vimes said: "I have information that two men were in the bar on the night of the murder and one of them must have had some marijuana. None of them, I was persuaded, was a pillar of society.

Miss Beedle clapped her hands. "Well, that's good, isn't it? You placed them in the right place!

Samuel Vimes was always embarrassed when civilians tried to speak to him in what they took to be "the police." If so, he hated thinking of them as civilians. What was a cop if not a civilian in uniform and badges? But they tended to use the term these days to describe people who weren't cops. It was a dangerous habit: once the police stopped being civilians, they could only be soldiers. He sighed. "As far as I know, miss, it's not illegal to own a goblin pot. In fact, it's not illegal to be called a non-pillar of society either. Do goblins sign their pots somehow?”

"Ah yes, Commander, leprechaun pots are always excellent. These criminals have aAway

Vimes' heart sank. "No, and I don't think they would recognize one if they saw one." He tried to say it firmly because Ms. Beedle seemed ready to show up at any moment with a magnifying glass and a bloodhound.

Then the music fell into her world like a sound rainbow and wafted out of the open window of the cottage. He listened with his mouth open and completely forgot about the conversation.

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, was not a man to attend classical music performances, or indeed any music one could not whistle on the way home. But apparently a nobleman came with the obligation to attend opera, ballet, and as many musical venues as Sybil could lug him along. Luckily, they usually had a box, and Sybil, who very cleverly dragged him to the performance, later didn't pull him into consciousness. But a little bit trickled in and it was enough for him to know that what he was hearing was real, intellectual stuff: you couldn't hum and at no point was anyone shouting 'Oops! Eat a banana!” It was the pure compassion of the song, a sound that made you want to fall on your knees and vow to be a better person. He turned wordlessly to Mrs Beedle, who said, "She's quite good, isn't she?"

"It's a harp, isn't it? A goblin playing the harp?

Miss Beedle looked embarrassed at the confusion. "Sure, why shouldn't she? Interestingly, his large hands are appropriate for the instrument. I don't think she understands the concept of reading music yet and I have to help her tune it, but she plays really well. God knows where she got the music from..."

"Paradise?" said Vimes, adding urgently, "How long will she play? Do I have time to bring Sybil here? He didn't wait for an answer but instead ran across the street, climbed a gate, exploded a flock of sheep in all directions, cursed a kissing gate, skipped the ha-ha, totally ignored the he-he, and totally avoided the ho -hum. He charged down the path, up the steps and, fortunately, through the front door, just as a servant opened it.

Sybil was having tea with a group of ladies in what seemed like obligatory afternoon procedure, but Vimes leaned against the wall and gasped, "You must come and hear this music! Bring on young Sam! Bring these ladies if they want to come, but whatever you do, let's go! I've never heard anything so good!"

Sybil looked around. "So wewe areI just finished Sam. You know, you look very flushed. There is a problem? She looked pleadingly at her friends, who were already rising from their seats, and said, "I hope you'll forgive me, ladies. It is very difficult to be the wife of an important man. There was a light chip on the last syllable. "I'm sure Sam, whatever it is, can wait until I say goodbye to my guests, right?"

And then Sam Vimes shook hands, smiled, shook hands, smiled and worried until the last tweeter tweeted and the last lady left.

After seeing the last carriage leave, Lady Sybil returned, plopped down in a chair across from Sam, and listened to Vimes' garbled report.

"And this is that young goblin girl Miss Beedle taught to speak?"

Vimes was almost beside himself. "Yes! And she plays wonderful music! Wonderful!"

"Sam Vimes, if I take you to a show, you'll be asleep in ten minutes. You know what? You've convinced me. let's go, shall we?

"Where from?" said Vimes in marital confusion.

Sybil feigned surprise. 'But of course to hear the girl play the harp. I thought that was itshesearched. I'll get my jacket while you find young Sam, please? He's in the lab.

Confusion grew for Vimes. "THE..."

"The lab, Sam! You know my family was famous for busybodies, right? Willikins is with him and I think they're dissecting some, say, excrement? Make sure you both wash your hands thoroughly," she added as she exited the room. "And tell them I was emphatic, and tell young Sam what emphatic means!"

The wagon stood empty on the route. They didn't dare knock on the door, not with that heavenly music coming through the cottage window. Sybil was in tears, but she often looked up and said things like, "That shouldn't be possible on a harp!" Even young Sam was paralyzed, standing with his mouth open as the music came in and for a moment in the world lifted all hearts and forgave all sins - their work was not interrupted in young Sam's case, some of that guts managed to think , but did excellent, heavy work on his father. And when the music stopped, young Sam said, "More!" and so did her parents. They stood there, not looking at each other, and then the cabin door opened and Miss Beedle was gone.

"Of course I saw you out there. Enter, but in silence. I made lemonade. She led them down the hallway into the living room.

Tears of the Mushroom must have been pointed out by Miss Beedle. She sat on a chair by the harp, her huge hands clasped demurely over her apron. Without saying anything, young Sam walked over to her and hugged her leg. The elf girl looked panicked and Vimes said, "Don't worry, he just wants to show you that he loves you." And he thought I just told a goblin not to be scared of my son because he loves her and the world has been turned upside down and all sins are forgiven except maybe mine.

As the carriage rocked gently back to Ramkin Hall, Lady Sybil said softly to Vimes, "I understand that the young goblin who was ... murdered played the harp as well as Miss Mushroom."

Vimes awoke from his inner thoughts and said, "I didn't know that."

"Oh yes," Sybil said in an oddly garrulous voice. "Apparently Miss Beedle wants the young goblins to have something to be proud of." She cleared her throat and after a pause said, "Any suspects, Sam?"

"Oh yes, two. I have credible testimony that they were in the area after the incident and I am beginning to consider a chain of events which also leads me to the whereabouts of Mr. Jefferson, the blacksmith. After all, this is the field. Everyone sees where you're going, and you never know who's behind a hedge. I think you heard him invite me to Dead Man's CopseÖ time planswould call that fateful night.

Sybil looked at young Sam who was dozing between them and said, "Do you know where they live?"

"Yes, at least one of them. I think the other one stops there as they say. And now the crunch of gravel under the wheel told them they were going down the long road.

Sybil cleared her throat again and said in a low voice, "I'm afraid you thought I was being rather snappy with you, Sam, by allowing your professional concerns to get in the way of our vacation. I might have been a little... blunt at times.

"No way Sybil, I totally understand your concern."

It looked like Lady Sybil really could have grabbed some cough drops, but she went on cautiously and said, "Sam, I'd be very grateful if you could think of a way maybe to take Willikins wherever those scoundrels are going." poison world. ” their existence and bring them to justice if you can.

He could feel her shaking with anger and he said: "I was thinking of doing this as soon as possible, dear, but I have to tell you things may not go quite by the rules. After all, I'm outside my jurisdiction here.

But his wife said: 'You're a champion of the book, Sam, and I admire that, but a good man's jurisdiction stretches to the ends of the earth - but who will you take it to? Havelock would hang her, you know that. But he's too far away. But Sam, I'm sure of one thing, and it's this: The worst thing you can do is do nothing. Go ahead Sam.

"Actually, Sybil, I was thinking of handing them over to the local court."

"What? They're a horrible bunch, they seem to be using what they call the law here for their own ends! There will be a huge stench!

Vimes smiled. "Oh dear, do you really believe that?"

No point in going to bed, Vimes thought later that night, so he kissed his wife goodnight and headed to the billiards room, where Willikins idly demonstrated one of the most socially acceptable skills he learned in his youth had. The man straightened as Vimes entered and said, “Good evening, Commander. Would you like a drink with that?

Vimes also indulged in a rare cigar, because what's the use of a smoke-free billiards room, swirling among lights and bathing the air in a desolate blue, the color of dead hopes and missed opportunities?

Willikins, who knew protocol, waited for Vimes to fire his shot before coughing softly. "Oh, very good, sir, and I understand that your lordship is quite irritated by the goblin situation, sir. I think that's the case, sir, because I met her in the hallway earlier and she used language I haven't heard a woman say since my aged mother died. God bless them if they can find them. Well done again sir.

Vimes put the cue aside. “I want them all, Willikins. There's no use beating up a local thug.

"Yes indeed, Commander, it's about potting the black."

Vimes looked up from his fiery drink. 'I see you must have played a great deal in your time, Willikins. Have you seen Pelvic Williams? A very religious man in his own way, he lived somewhere in the Galinheiro with his sister, he played like I've never seen anyone play before or since. I swear he could bounce a ball off the table, roll off the edge and land right back on the cloth, right where he wanted it to land perfectly in his pocket. Vimes gave a satisfied grunt and continued, "Of course everyone said it was cheating, but he was there, meek as milk, just repeating 'The ball fell.' He was never hit, it was polite to watch the man. Once he dumped a bouncing ball in a lamp and a beer mug. But like I said, the ball fell. Vimes relaxed and said, "The problem, of course, is that the rules are stricter in real life."

"Yes, indeed, Commander," Willikins said. "Where I used to play, the only rule was that after you hit your opponent in the head, you had to be able to run really fast. I hear from your lordship that you might need my help tonight?

"Yes, please. Let's go to Hangnails village. It's about twenty miles upriver.

Willkins nodded. "Yes sir, once the seat of the Hangnail family and particularly of Lord Justice Hangnail, who stated that he never pleaded innocence on the grounds that 'criminals always lie' and was, by serendipity, the Worshipful Master of the Benevolent Company of Rope and Braid Makers. With any luck, we won't see him again."

"Excellent, Willikins, and we'll stop along the way to pick up our young local constable who will see to fairness. I will take care of that.

"Glad to hear it, sir," Willikins said, "but remember: what does it matter if the ball's down?"

It was Mrs. Score who opened the cabin door, squeaked, slammed the door, opened the door to apologize for slamming the door, then carefully closed the door, leaving Vimes in the door. Thirty seconds later, Feeney opened the door, his nightgown tucked into his pants. "Commander Vimes! Is something wrong?" he said, bravely trying to tuck the whole nightgown in.

Vimes quickly rubbed his hands together. “Yes, Chief Constable Conclusion, almost everything, but there is one part that can be fixed with your help. Regarding the murder of the goblin girl, I have enough information to warrant the arrest of two men for questioning. This is your mansion, so I think it's professionally right and proper that you help me with the arrests.

Entering the room so that Willikins' face was visible, Vimes continued, "And I think you know Willikins, my valet, who offered to drive my carriage and of course deliver me a clean white shirt. when i need it

"Yerrr," Willikins grumbled, turning to wink at Vimes.

"Police Commissioner conclusion I would be grateful if you could arm yourself with whatever you think you might need and since you don't have a worthwhile pair of handcuffs oh sorry can you at least get some rope?"

Feeney Upshot's face was a palette of conflicting emotions. I'll be working with the famous Commander Vimes - hooray! But this is big and serious - oh dear. But it will be like a real cop - hooray! But there's already a hot-water bottle on my bed - oh dear. On the other hand, if everything goes wrong, after all, the Duke of Ankh owns most of this place, so he'll have to take most of the blame - hooray! And maybe if I stand out, I'll get a job in town so my mom can live somewhere where you don't lie up at night listening to the rats fight the bug.

It was a pleasure for Vimes to watch the boy's face in the candlelight, especially when Feeney moved his lips thoughtfully. And then he said, "I'm sure, Chief Constable Conclusion, assistance on this matter will be very helpful in your future career."

That last comment prompted Mrs Upshot to peer over her son's shoulder, blushing with pride, and saying, "Hear your grace, Feeney! You could make something of yourself just like I always tell you! No argument now, go away my boy.

This motherly advice was bounced up and down by Mrs. Upshot so fast it could have been strapped to a sewing machine. Thank goodness for old mothers, thought Vimes as Feeney finally climbed into the carriage with a bottle of hot tea, a pair of clean underpants and half an apple pie.

As the wheels began to turn and Feeney had finished waving to his elderly mother through the window, Vimes, leaning cautiously against the swing, lit the little lamp that was all that lit the carriage. He dropped back into his seat and said: 'I would be grateful, young man, if you would take the time to write in your notebook everything I have said to you since I arrived this evening. It could be useful for both of us. Feeney practically saluted, and Vimes continued, "When we saw that dead goblin girl the other day, Mr. Feeney, did you write that in your notebook?"

"Yes indeed!" Feeney almost saluted again. "My grandfather always told me to write everything in my exercise book!"

They were rocking in their seats when the carriage hit a rock, and Vimes said softly, "Did he ever tell you to accidentally turn two pages at a time so you have a blank page every once in a while?"

"Oh no, sir. I have to?"

The seat rocked again as Vimes said, "Actually, boy, the answer is no, especially when you never work with me. Now please write everything down as I asked you. And since I'm not as young as you, I'll try to get some rest.

"Yes sir, I understand that, sir. Just one thing sir? Mr. Stoner, the secretary to the magistrate, came and spoke to me this afternoon and said not to worry about the goblin girl because goblins are officially vermin. He was very kind and brought my elderly mother some brandy and said you were a good gentleman but one tended to get angry at being upper class and aloof, sir. Mister? Mister? Did you go to sleep, sir?

Vimes turned his head and said sweetly, "Did you write that in your notebook, boy?"

"Oh yes, sir!"

"And you got into the carriage with me anyway? Why did you do that, Mr. Feeney?

The gravel rattled behind them and it seemed to take Feeney Upshot some time to gather his thoughts to his satisfaction. He said: 'Well, Commander Vimes, I thought, well, Mr Stoner is a mediocre nobleman, and so is Commander Vimes, only he's a duke and therefore a great nobleman, and if you want to get between nobles, you might choose better the biggest one on your side. He heard Vimes grunt and continued, "And then sir, I thought, well, I was up there, I saw that poor creature and what had been done to it, and I remembered Stoner trying to make a fool of me keep your good self sir and I thought about the goblins and I thought well they're dirty and they stink and the old goblin cried and animals don't cry and goblins well they do things nice things and stuff from pinching our pig turds and being dirty in general, there's certainly no shortage of people here who are pretty big on that front, I could tell you a couple of stories, so I thought about it and thought, well, this Mr Stoner , I thought he must have misunderstood.

As the carriage crossed a bridge, there was a rumble, and then the sound of wheels on trampled stone returned. Feeney said worriedly, "Are you all right, sir?" He waited nervously. And then Vimes' voice said, and this time it sounded far away, "Do you know what that little speech was called, Mr. Feeney?"

"I don't know sir, that's just my opinion."

“It was called Redemption, Mr. Feeney. hold it

Vimes awoke from a nap in which he had dreamed of young Sam playing the harp and when he realized it was a dream the rumble of the carriage wheels had changed as they slowed and stopped.

Willikins opened the small gap that allowed conversation between the passenger and the driver and said softly, 'Get up, sir, we're about a quarter of a mile from Hangnails, population thirty-seven, and still stupid. And you can smell turkey from here and wish you couldn't, sorry my Klatchian. I thought it would be a good idea to take it easy the rest of the way, sir.

Vimes got out of the carriage and worked the cramp out of his limbs. The air reeked of the oddly overpowering odor of birds; not even goblins hunted the sinuses that much. But that was a minor distraction compared to the excitement, yes, the excitement. How long had it been since he had led an attack at dawn? Long time, that's the time, and now captains and non-commissioned officers got the job while he stayed in the office,Histhe Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Well, not today.

As they walked through the knee-deep fog he said in a whisper, 'You, Chief Constable Conclusion, you knock on the front door when I give the sign and I'll park outside the back door if the gentleman does the hallway, okay?

They were approaching the property now, yes, they would only need the two of them. The farmhouse barely looked big enough to have two doors, let alone three.

"What shall I say, Commander?" Feeney hissed.

"Oh damn, you're the goddamn son and grandson of cops, my boy, what the hell do you think you're supposed to yell at? Let me give you a hint. Does not contain the word "please". I'll whistle when I'm in position, understand? Good."

They walked cautiously through the stinking yard and Vimes positioned himself at the back where an interesting thought struck him and jotted it down in his mind. Then he leaned against the dirty wall of the house a little way from the back door, took a pinch of snuff to clear the air from the turkey, and let out a soft whistle.

"Open in the name of the law! You are surrounded! You have one minute to open the door! I think! Open the door! It's the police!'

Vimes leaned comfortably against the wall and reluctantly rated it very good for a beginner, deducting a point for adding "I mean it," so he held out his boot as a man flew in through the back door.

"Good morning, sir. My name is Commander Vimes! I hope you are able to remember yours!

In the pens, the turkeys were freaking out, leading to a slight increase in smell. The man struggled to his feet and looked around desperately.

"Oh yes you could run, yes you could do that," Vimes said conversationally, "but others might think it might indicate that you knew you had a reason to run away. Well, personally I would agree that anyone who gets pulled over by a cop should, by basic principle, walk like a sodomite, innocent or not. Also, nowadays we are getting so fat that we need exercise. But run if you want, Mr. Flatter, because I can run too, andveryfast."

At this point, Flutter smiled the smile of a man who thinks that this cop is not very smart.

"I bet you don't have a warrant from the judge, do you?"

"Well, Mr. Flutter, why do you think that, huh? Maybe you think the judges won't issue a warrant for your arrest, don't you? By the way, thanks for showing me where the tobacco barrels are. Your cooperation will be taken into account.”

Some days are bad, like looking directly at the mutilated corpse of a young woman, and then you have good days, when the suspect's eyes dart across the backyard and show you exactly where the loot is hidden.

"Of course I have to mention your cooperation with the authorities and of course in the local pub, oh yes."

And now Mr. Flutter relished the idea of ​​being seen as a type of weed, so dumb that she said, "I've never told you about tobacco, and you know it, copper!"

At this point, Feeney came around the corner with his fearsome bat raised and an almost comical look of aggression on his face. "You want me to give him the old one-two, Commander, just say it, boss!"

Vimes rolled his eyes in mock desperation. "No need, Feeney, no need, especially when Mr. Flutter is so anxious to speak to us here, understand?"

Flutter decided the way forward was an appeal to Feeney. "Look, Feeney, you know me..."

He went this far and no further because Feeney said, "That's Constable's bottom line for you, Flutter. My dad got you a couple of dozen times, you know. He used to call it a bluebottle because whenever there was a lot of shit going on he'd see you banging on it. And he told me to take care of you, which I actually do now. He looked at Vimes, who gave him a nod of encouragement and said, "You see my problem Mr. Flutter, we're not here to talk about tobacco smuggling, okay? Well, I never saw myself as a fundraiser or a popular profession. I'm a cop, plain and simple, and I'm stuck with this man who's just doing his boss a favor by keeping a few kegs of tobacco in his shed, but imFrom othersHand, well, if I find a killer in the other hand, why gods bless you, I might forget the first hand altogether... Don't ask me to draw a picture, Flutter, because my hands are busy.

Flutter looked horrified. "This is about that goblin, right? Look, it wasn't me! Okay, I'm a naughty boy, I put my hand in it, but I don't like him! I'm a crook, not a fucking killer!

Vimes looked at Feeney. It's fair to say that some people are as content as punch. You could say that Feeney looked just as content as Punch, Judy, the dog Toby, the crocodile and most importantly the policeman all put together. Vimes raised an eyebrow at further questions and Feeney said, "I believe him boss. He doesn't have it in him, I swear. The best he could do would be to knock over an old woman to get her purse, and even then she'd probably have to be blind, too.

"There you are!" Flutter said triumphantly. "I'm not really onespaciousPerson!"

"No," said Vimes, "you're a real choirboy, Mr. Flutter, I can see that, and I'm quite religious too, and I like chapters and verses, but are you willing to swear that the person acting as Stratford is known to have stabbed a goblin girl on Hangman's Hill in the grounds of Ramkin Hall, three nights ago?

Flutter held up a finger. "I can tell you I told him to stop and he laughed and I didn't know it was a girl either – I mean how did you know that?"

Vimes' face was expressionless. "Tell me Ted, what would you have done ifhe hadknown? I am fascinated."

Flutter looked down at her feet. "Well, I, well, well, I mean... not a girl, I mean... well, not a girl... I mean, that's not right, you know what I mean?"

And you'll find someone like that dangerous clown in almost every neighborhood, thought Vimes. “Cheval is clearly not dead, Mr. Flutter. All right, Feeney, let's move on. Mr. Flutter, why were you at Hangman's Hill that night?

"We just went for a walk," Flutter said.

Vimes' face was blank again, so blank he looked embarrassed. "Of course, Mr. Flutter. Really stupid of me to ask the question. Constable conclusion, I can see Willikins smoking over there. He pushed open the door and pulled Flutter inside. "Does this building have a basement?"

Flutter was only a step away from going to the bathroom, but still, like the kind of idiot who digs deeper, she managed to sneer: "It could be. And?"

"Sir Flutter, I have told you that I am a religious man, and as you would try a saint's patience, I must spend a moment in quiet contemplation, do you understand? I'm sure you know there's always an easy way out, and again, there's always a hard way. For now, that's the easy way, but the hard way is also pretty easy, so to speak. Before I talk to you again, I want to be alone with my thoughts. And it happens to me, Mr. Flutter, that you might have some ideas about leggings, so my colleague, Chief Constable Upshot, will guard the door, and I'll send my batman, Mr. Willikins, to keep you company . ”

Before Vimes could knock on the window, the door opened and Willikins, spotless as ever, entered the filthy room, all neat and tidy, with shiny shoes and a touch of pomade in her hair. The three men then watched as Vimes got up in what appeared to be a ring on the floor, which retreated to reveal a trapdoor to a dark basement and a ladder leading down.

Vimes said: "Constable conclusion, I need a little time to think in the dark. I won't be long. He descended the ladder and closed the trapdoor behind him.

The darkness said, "Ah, Commander, finally. I assume you're here to hear a witness testimony.

That's wrong, Vimes told himself. How can one get a demon's testimony, especially a homeless one? But then again, who needs testimony when you've got a confession?

Above, Ted Flutter's eyes rolled back and forth as he took in the situation. Let's see: we have a young idiot playing cop and a snooty butler dude, all pink and shiny. I think Mrs. Flutter's little son is out of here. At this point, at this pointveryAt this point, without looking at Flutter, Willikins reached into his jacket and there was a smack as he placed a steel comb on the table in front of him. It glowed. And in Flutter's mind it shone even brighter. He took one look at Willikins' expression and Mrs. Flutter decided to keep quiet until that friendly Commander Vimes returned. From another pocket, Willikins pulled out the sharpest knife Flutter had ever seen and, ignoring Flutter, began cleaning his fingernails.

In fact, it was only a matter of seconds before the trapdoor opened and Vimes emerged, then waved at Willikins, who grabbed the comb and left the room without a word. Vimes retrieved the chair. "Sir Flutter, I have testimony placing you with another man at Hangman's Hill on the night in question, said man being known as Stratford. but he said there were rabbits everywhere and he never missed with his slingshot. At this point, the witness says, a young goblin came out of the bushes and her companion lashed out at her as she begged for her life - and angry, to the point where you even tell him, in your words, to stop, at which point he turned to you, still holding the knife described to me as a machete, so fast you urinated on your boots.

"No, don't talk, I'm not done yet. However, I am informed that you told your companion to only leave blood and not, as you said, "guts everywhere", after which he obliged you to put it back in the corpse and hide it. further down the hill into some gorse bushes. No, I said don't talk! In your pocket you had a pork pie you brought from home and three dollars in cash, which was your payment for this little errand.

'After that you and Stratford walked a little way back to your horses, which you temporarily stashed in the ramshackle old barn on the other side of the village. The horses were a chestnut mare and a gray gelding, both damaged from abuse. In fact, the capon threw a shoe as you left, and you had to stop your pal from killing him on the spot. Oh, and the witness tells me you were naked from the waist up when you left, your shirt was soaked in blood and you left it in the barn after a fight with Stratford. I'll get it back when we get back. Your friend told you to take off your pants too, but you refused; I've noticed blood splatters on it before, though. I don't want the luxury of sending a rider back to town to have my Igor check if it's human, goblin, or turkey blood. I said don't talk, right? I have part of the other conversation between you and Mr Stratford, because Feeney is listening, and you should be relieved; Gossip can be so cruel.

"And now, Mr. Flutter, I'm going to stop talking, and as I do so, I want the first words you say -- listen to me -- 'I want to use King's evidence.' Yes I know we don't have kings but nobody changed the law. You're a piece of shit, but I'm reluctantly convinced that you've been drawn into something beyond your control and worse than you could ever imagine. The good news is that Lord Vetinari will almost certainly take my advice and you will live. Remember, "I want to present King's evidence," that's what I want to hear, Mr. Flutter will go and Mr. Willikins will comb his hair.

Flutter, who was listening to most of it with her eyes closed, blurted out the words so quickly that Vimes had to ask him to repeat them more slowly. When he was done, he was allowed to use the bathroom while Willikins waited outside, trimming his nails with his knife, and Feeney was sent away to feed the frantic turkeys.

Vimes, for his part, went into one of the stinking sheds and rummaged through the filthy straw for what he would find there. He wasn't disappointed. Close enough, the smell of tobacco was barely perceptible over the suffocating stench of turkey. He unrolled a keg, found Feeney and said: 'I believe that is full of tobacco and I intend to use that as evidence. Your job now is to find a jemmy for me and someone you know to be an honest and decent citizen, if there is one around here.

"Well, there's Dave who runs the Dog and Badger," Feeney volunteered.

'And is he an honest citizen?' said Vimes.

"I saw him sit down," Feeney said, "but he knows the score, if you know what I mean."

Vimes nodded and waited a few minutes before Feeney returned with a crowbar, a bowleg-legged man and a small group of people who, for the moment, should be counted as "innocent bystanders" until proven otherwise.

They gathered as Vimes prepared to open the barrel. He announced: “Be careful, gentlemen. I believe this barrel contains contraband. He rolled up his sleeves - "See, I've got nothing up my sleeves but a crowbar in my hand" - and with some effort on his part the top of the barrel came loose and the smell of tobacco was overpowering. And some of the viewers decided now was the time to take the wonderful opportunity for a light-hearted, brisk walk.

Vimes pulled out bale after bale of brown leaves tied with cotton. "I can't stay on the bus long," he said, "but if Mr. Feeney will make a brief statement and we can all go about our business."

Feeney smiled. "Oh, good point, Commander! I guess that stench could hide anything, right? After a moment he looked at Vimes and said, "Commander?"

Vimes appeared to be looking right through him and said, "You're going far, Chief Constable, verdict. Let's empty the whole barrel, shall we?

He didn't know where the thought had come from. Maybe from the first principles. If you wanted to smuggle, where would you stop? What would your market be? How would you get the best price per kilogram of transported product? He pulled and pulled at the bales, and one at the bottom of the barrel was noticeably heavier than the others. Trying to keep his expression unchanged, he handed the heavy package to Feeney and said, "I would appreciate it if you and Mr. Dave would open this package and tell me what you see inside." He sat down on the barrel and took a pinch of snuff, hearing the rustle behind him, and then Feeney said, "Well, Commander, how does that sound..."

Vimes raised his hand. "Does it look like stone dust to you, Feeney?"

"Yes but-"

Vimes raised his hand again. "Does it appear to have little red and blue dots when you hold it up to the light?"

Sometimes the old copper in Feeney captured the mood. "Yes, Commander Vimes!"

"So it's a good job for you and your friend Dave" - ​​Vimes gave said Dave a second look and decided to agree when the doubt came up - "that you two aren't trolls, because if you were you." I would be dead now, so to speak. The things you are holding are deadCrystalI'd bet my brand on that. Troll boys take it like a drug, did you know that? They take a punch as small as your pinky and think they can walk through walls, which they invariably do, and if they do it a few more times they drop dead. It is illegal all over the world and very difficult to make because the smell is unmistakable when cooking; You also get a lot of sparks. Selling is a hanging crime in Ankh-Morpork, Overwood, and all troll towns. Diamond King of Trolls gives a very nice reward to anyone who presents it with proof of crafting.”

Vimes glanced hopefully at the aforementioned Dave, just in case the man had taken the bait. No, he thought, they wouldn't do that here. All the smoke has to come from somewhere hot, and that means far away.

Cautiously they opened more casks and found plenty of tobacco and several packets of quality cigars, one or two of which Vimes slipped into his shirt pocket for forensic examination later, and somewhere at the bottom of each cask lay packets of Crystal Slam, Slunkie, Slab, Slice and cigars Slap, all pretty nasty—although slap was generally considered a recreational drug, at least if your idea of ​​recreation was waking up in the gutter not knowing whose head you're on.

As many samples as possible were stacked on the carts and the Vimes only stopped when it started to creak. The other casks were piled up and, at Vimes' instigation, set on fire by a proud Chief Constable Endshot. As the controlled drugs caught fire, there was a brief display of pyrotechnics and Vimes thought to himself that this was just the beginning of the fireworks.

As people rushed over to see what was going on, Vimes assured them of his good faith and explained that Mr. Flutter would be gone for a while and someone could tend to the birds. The answers he received made it clear that the neighborhood would be a much better world without Mr. Flutter and their stinking turkeys, so the last thing Vimes does is open the sheds and let the wretched creatures try their luck permit.

As the last bright idea, Vimes nodded to a nervous Dave and said, "Diamond King of Trolls will be very grateful for the day's work. Of course, as officers on duty, we could not receive any remuneration..."

"Wouldn't we?" Feeney said desperately.

Vimes ignored this and continued, "However, I will ensure that your help today is properly rewarded." The innkeeper's face brightened. Something about the words diamond and rewarded in the same sentence makes a face of it.

They traveled with the carriage doors squeaky shut but the window slightly open because Mr. Flutter wasn't one to be close quarters with: he looked like a sweaty turkey.

The proof of the king! That was a result! Flutter didn't think to argue, and Vimes saw the look on her face as Summoning Dark's explanation was presented to him. Vimes noted each shudder and shudder of memory, which added up to well-battered rights. The proof of the king! Any man would choose to save his ass, or maybe a better class of cells. You took King's testimony to save your miserable skin, and it can indeed happen, but at a price, and that price was hanging if you lied. It was one of the absolute: lies, if you turned King's evidence over, was the lie of lies. You lied to the judge, you lied to the king, you lied to society, you lied to the world, and that's why the merry Mr. Trooper would meet you on the gallows and shake your hand to show you don't have negative feelings, then pull the lever that would take you out of the world you betrayed and stop halfway.

And then, of course, there were the troll drugs. The evidence of their existence troubled Flutter so much that he invented new gods to swear he knew nothing about them. Vimes believed him. For Flutter, the barrels contained only tobacco. Good old tobacco, nothing wrong with tobacco, and smuggling was, well, it really was like a game, everyone knew that. There's nothing wrong with cheating the recipe, that's what the recipe thought of Vimes, didn't I always say that's how it works? Small crimes that breed big crimes. You smile at small crimes and then big crimes overwhelm you.

Flutter sat unhappily on the opposite bench, probably afraid of being kicked to death by trolls, but then again, as Vimes had pointed out, Flutter was probably afraid of everyone else. And so Vimes decided not to offer him a crumb so much as a bacon sandwich with good news. "You were in the company of a violent man, Ted. You thought you were making life difficult for a cop and suddenly you were an accomplice in the first part of the murder and, albeit unintentionally, involved in a very serious troll narcotic, the worst there is. But you're in bad company, Ted, and I'll say that in court.

Hope appeared in Flutter's red eyes and he said, "That's very kind of you, sir." It was. No arrogance, no wailing, just gratitude for graces received and eagerly awaited.

Vimes leaned forward and offered the confused man his snuffbox. Flutter took a large pinch and sniffed so hard that the inevitable sneeze tried to escape through her ears. Ignoring this and the faint brown haze in the air, Vimes sat back and said happily, "I'll talk to the screws on Tanty, they always owe me anyway..." Vimes looked hopefully into his face and thought, Explosion. I know they are very busy right now. A squirt like him would hide for nothing no matter what I do. Oh well. He continued, "No, Mr. Flutter, tell him what I'm going to do, at least put him in a cell at Pseudopolis Yard. What about it? Being alone in a cell can be lonely, but some might find that a blessing, especially after fifteen minutes into some parts of Tanty, plus my boys get quite chatty when it's not busy. We also have a better rat class, the straw is fresh and we don't spoil your rush and if you're helpful and don't keep people up at night you're as good as rain.

"You won't have any problems with me, Commander!" The words stumbled out, frantic to be heard and afraid they would not be heard.

"Glad to hear it, Ted," Vimes said jovially. “I like a man who makes the right decisions! By the way, Ted, who suggested you play the little trick on the hill?

"Honestly, sir, that's itErasStratford, sir. He said it was a little joke. And I know what you're going to ask me next, sir, and I asked him who's behind all this, because it worried me a little, since I only raise turkeys and roll barrels around, you know? Flutter adopted the expression of a simple, honest worker. "He said if he told me he would have to kill me, and I told him, I said, 'Thanks anyway, Mr Stratford, but I won't bother you,' and I shut up because he had an odd." had an expression in his eyes. Flutter seemed to think for a moment, adding, "Healwayshe has a funny look in his eyes.

Vimes tried to pretend this was of little interest. Like a man with a butterfly net, a killing jar and a passion for pinning to a cork board the last of the very rare blue Lancre butterflies that have just come to rest on a nearby thistle, he has tried to do everything in order to manage its prey, stand out.

He casually said, "But you know, don't you, Ted? I mean, you're smart, Ted, underneath everything. A lot of people would say that two boards are smarter than you, but honestly you can't make it big in this old world without keeping your eyes open and your ears open, right?

But of course, who would say anything important to an idiot like Flutter? He wasn't even a Henchman - you needed a certain amount of tactical thinking before you could properly protect - but Henchmen stick around, and when they're with someone as thick as Flutter, they don't always guard their tongue.

Aloud he said: "It really sucks Ted you're the only one who got hurt by all this as you really just helped a guy for a few bucks and a beer don't you think? ? Terrible, not that decent people have to take the blame, right? Especially if it's a big rap." He stopped talking and watched Flutter's face.

'Well,' said Flutter, 'one day, when he was a little excited, he told me that Lord Rust was dependent on him, trusted him and everything, and kept his pockets jingling all the time, but I thought that was it just bragging..."

Impressed by his own patience, Vimes said, "Look, Ted, did you hear one of them talk about the goblin girl?"

A terrible smile flooded the man's face. "I could if you wish, Commander!"

Vimes stared at Flutter for a moment and said, "Ted, I want to know what you saw or heard. Not things you might have imagined and, most importantly, Ted, not things made up to please me, okay? Otherwise I won't be your friend anymore…” Vimes paused to think for a moment. "Did you ever hear Lord Rust or Stratford say anything about the blacksmith?"

It was education to watch the prisoner rack his brains. He looked like a big dog nibbling on a toffee. Apparently he found something, because his next words were, "The smith? I didn't know it was about the blacksmith. Yes, while we were crammed in the yard, young Lord Rust came into Stratford and said something like, 'Any news of our friend?' and, well, Stratford said, "Don't worry sir, he'll see the Queen. ' and they both laughed, sir. Into the silence he said, "Are you alright, sir?"

Vimes ignored this and said, "Any idea what he meant?"

„Nosir“, disse Flutter.

“Is there such a thing as a queen here? Maybe a tavern? Maybe a river boat? Vimes thought, yes, they all have strange names, there must be a queen amongst them.

Once again the dog chewed on the caramel. "Sorry, Commander, I really don't know anything about it. No river boat named Queen.

Vimes left it at that. It was a result. Not the best result. Nothing that satisfied Vetinari, but at least a hint of a small conspiracy to send Jethro somewhere he didn't want to be. At least Vimes had to be satisfied.

Vimes noticed Flutter raise her hand cautiously, like a child half afraid of a teacher's scolding.

"Yes, Teddy?" he said tiredly.

The man lowered his hand. "Will I be able to find a god, sir?"

"What? find this god

Flutter looked embarrassed but bravely recovered. "Well sir I hear about people going to jail and finding a god sir and if you find a god you'll be treated better because of prayer and maybe released sooner and I was wondering if that's the case In the Watch House there could be more or less chances that God would be available if you get my meaning. Of course I don't want to be a problem.

"Well, Ted, if there were any justice in the universe, I suppose there would be some gods in the tanty, but if I were you and faced with the choice between the possibility of heavenly intervention and three fixed meals a day, which were no spit and none big guys snoring in your ear all night and the knowledge that if you have to get on your knees it's only for prayer, I'd say heaven can wait.

The sun was up now and Willikins kept her at a good pace. Vimes noted this fact. The street spoke to him, even if it was really just a wide alley. He nudged Feeney awake. "I'll be home soon now, boy, and I think Mr. Flutter can be put up in his pretty prison, can't he?"

Flutter looked confused and Vimes said, "Oh my god man. Surely you didn't think I could take you to Ankh-Morpork all of a sudden? It looks like I'll have to send someone here in the express truck! Don't worry, the lock is strong, cozy and made of stone, plus - and I think that's actually a big plus - Mrs. The result will probably make you a delicious Bang Suck Muck Muck Dog with carrots and peas. Maisonette specialty.

Rank has its privileges, Vimes thought as he landed near the old prison a little later. "Police chief conclusion, please calm down our prisoner, make sure he is fed and watered and so on, okay, and of course do the paperwork."

"I'm sorry, what?"

Vimes blinked. "Is it possible, Mr. Feeney, that you don't know what paperwork is?"

Feeney was amazed. "Well sir, of course, but I usually just write the name in my notebook, sir. I mean, I know who he is and I know where he is and what he's been doing. Oh yes, and since the problem we had with old Mr. Parsley after he ate a piece of skin, I also check if the prisoner is allergic to anything in Bhangbhangduc's kitchen. It took me all day to clean the apartment because there was a little wink. Seeing Vimes' expression, he continued, "Very popular herb, sir."

Young! You wanna be the cop here, right? So Mr. flapping isyourPrisoner! You are responsible for this. If he gets sick, it's himyourProblem, if he dies, it's himyourcorpse, and when he leaves and walks away, you find yourself in such a problematic situation that the word "problem" just wouldn't fit the situation. I'm trying to be honest, but I could easily put you in the hall. We have many basements and could easily accommodate you in one of them, no problem. But if I have to do it, what good are you?

Feeney looked shocked. He straightened up. "I don't want to hear that, sir, and neither do my ancestors, sir. After all, we've never had anyone come close to murder.

"All right then, give me a prisoner's receipt, which is very important, and I'll return to the hall for a nap."

Vimes backed away as a riverboat came into view and a very small wave of muddy water lapped gently on the small dock. The boat was another with paddle wheels; Sybil had explained everything to them. An ox walked patiently around a mat in the basement and a wonderful mechanism made the paddle wheels turn.

The pilot of it waved at him. As he drove by, he saw a woman hanging up clothes at the stern and being watched by a cat. A good life at the speed of an ox, he thought, where probably no one will ever try to kill him. And for a moment he was jealous as a line of barges followed the boat past a flotilla of ducklings. Vimes sighed, went back to the carriage, was led into the hall by Willikins, after a quick bath he sank back on his pillows and disappeared into the darkness.

People said that Ankh-Morpork is moving these days. Others have said that while this may be true, so is a sufficiently aged cheese. And like the hypothetical cheese, it broke free from its shape, in this case from the outer walls, which in the words of Lord Vetinari "were a corset to be untied". One of the first to spread was Harry King, now of course known as Sir Harold King. He was a con artist, an adventurer, a ruthless fighter and a dangerous bargain hunter over the speed limit. Since it was all a bit of an exaggeration, he was considered a successful businessman because it all came down to more or less the same thing. And he had the gift of turning trash into money. As Captains Carrot and Angua walked down the towpath to the Reed Marshes, Harry King's flame burned in front of them. Everything was grain for the dung king's mills. His armies of workers swept the streets, emptied the cesspools, cleaned the chimneys, rummaged through the heaps of the slaughterhouse district, and carried away from these very houses all those remains of formerly living matter which, for reasons of propriety, could not be placed in a sausage. They said Harry King would suck smoke out of thin air if he thought he could get a good price for it. And if you wanted a job, Harry King would give you one for a salary not much less than you could get anywhere else in town, and if you stole from Harry King you would get what you deserved . Harry King's mills stunk, of course, but not the town itself, at least not as badly as it used to, and some people complained about the loss of Ankh-Morpork's famous smell, said to be so strong it caused diseases ward off and disease from all over the world, happiness, and also there was chest hair and felt good.

A Scent Preservation Society already existed in Ankh-Morpork.

The two guards began to breathe less deeply as they approached the smoke and fumes. A small town surrounded the workplaces, a slum built by the workers themselves, with Harry's blessing, because after all it meant they wouldn't be late for work.

The security guard at the gate opened it as soon as they approached. Harry probably wasn't being honest, but when there was dishonesty, it happened at times and places that were none of the Watch's business, and faded from everyone's memories once the waves of splashing died down and the tide receded. .

As Carrot and Angua climbed the outside stairs to the large office where Harry presided over his kingdom, a man moving horizontally at great speed was also walking, being grabbed by the collar and crotch of his trousers by King Harry's large hands and finally thrown down the steps , accompanied by a yell, "You're fired!" The guards stood to one side as the man rolled down the steps. "And if I see you again, dogs are always hungry! Oh, hello, Captain Carrot," Harry said, his voice suddenly all friendly, "and the charming Ms. Angua too. Gosh what a nice surprise, come on it's always a pleasure to help vigilance!

"Sir Harry, you really shouldn't be throwing people down the stairs like that," Carrot said.

Looking innocent, Harry King opened his huge hands and said, "What? Are those damn steps still there? I gave orders to take her away! Thanks for the advice, Captain, but as far as I can see I caught him trying to steal my money, so I think we're pretty much even if he's alive. Coffee? Tea? Something stronger? No, I didn't think so, but sit down, at least it doesn't hurt.

They sat down and Carrot said, "We need to talk about goblins."

Harry King looked blank but said: "I have a few of them working for me if that helps. Decent workers, you may be surprised to learn. A bit odd in their way, not the fastest but once they get the hang of what you want them to do you can just let them do it until you tell them to stop. I pay them half what I pay people and I think they do twice the work and are better. Feel free to hire a hundred more if they come along.

"But you pay them a lot less than humans?" said Angua.

Harry gave her a pitying look. "And who else would pay you, dear? Well, business is business. It's not like I chained her. Okay, a lot of people wouldn't want to hire goblins because of the smell, but I know from your pretty face, Captain, I smell, too. go with work Also I let them stay on my land and they make these weird pots in their free time and I make sure they don't have too much of it and when they have money for what they want they go back to where they came from are from. Young Slick and his grandmother are the only ones left. He'll make a name for himself.

"We'd like to speak to some of the goblins about the pots you mentioned, if that's okay with you Harry?" said carrot.

Harry King smiled and wagged a finger at him. "Well I'm going to take that away from you both because we've all seen a bit of the world and know what's going on, but outside of this office it's like thatHerrHarry, are you okay? Personally, I don't mind that much, but your landlady is an advocate, oh my god yes! Nose so high it drops sparrows, I tell you! Still, I can't say it's bad. Harry King, or possibly Sir Harold King, thought for a moment. "Interestingly, why do you want to talk about goblin pots?"

Angua hesitated, but Carrot said, "We're both very interested in goblin stories, Sir Harry."

Harry King laughed. "You know, I could never read your face, Captain Carrot. I would hate to play poker with you! Okay, none of my business, I'll take your word for it. Just go downstairs and go to the belts of rank and find Billy Slick and tell him that Harry King would consider it a favor if he would be so kind as to take him to his old grandma's, okay? No need to thank me, I suppose old Vimes spoke well of me to Vetinari when the medals were presented, if you get my meaning. They say one hand washes the other, but I bet when it came to old Harry King you had to rub it.”

They found Billy Slick stacking old copies of theAnkh-Morpork time plansin a truck. You could always spot a goblin, even though he looked like any other worker in town in his dirty overalls. The only difference was that he was aElfworker.

Carrot patted him gently on the shoulder and Billy looked around. "Oh, cops."

"We come from Harry King, Billy," Carrot said, quickly adding, "You didn't do anything wrong. We just want to learn about ointment pots.”

Want to learn about Ungue?” Billy looked at Carrot. "I know I didn't do anything wrong, boss, and you don't have to tell me, and I wouldn't touch any of those damn pots to save my life. I'm working to level up, that's me. I don't like fairy tales.

Angua stepped forward and said, "Mr. Slick, that's very important. We need to find someone who can tell us about the ointment pots. Do you know someone who can help?”

Billy looked her up and down haughtily. "You're a werewolf, aren't you? I can smell you from miles away And what would you do if I said I don't know anyone?

"Then," said Carrot, "I'm afraid we must go about our business."

Billy blinked at him. "Would that be the task of giving me a good kick?"

The morning sun shone enthusiastically on Carrot's polished breastplate. "No, Mr. Slick, it wouldn't be."

Billy looked him up and down. "Well, there's my grandmother. Maybe she talks to you, maybe not. I'm only telling you this because of Mr. König. She's very careful who she talks to, you can bet your helmet on that. What do you even want to talk about pots for? She hasn't been able to get out of bed lately. I can't imagine her doing a robbery!

"Neither do we, Billy, we just want some information about the pots."

"Well you've found the right woman, she's an expert I guess who's always worrying about the damn things. Do you have a bottle of cognac with you? She doesn't like strangers, my grandmother, but I guess anyone who has a bottle of schnapps is no stranger to grandmother as long as the drink lasts.

Angua whispered to Carrot, "Harry has a huge liquor cabinet in his office and that's not a bribe. Worth a try?"

She waited with Billy Slick while Carrot completed the quest, and to say something, she said, "Doesn't Billy Slick sound a lot like a goblin name?"

Billy made a face. "Very true! Grandma calls me Of the regrettable gone wind. What's that name I ask you? Who takes you seriously with a name like that? It's modern times, isn't it? He looked at her defiantly, and she thought them: and so, one by one, we all became human—human werewolves, human midgets, human trolls... the cauldron only melts one way, and that's how we move forward. proud of your goblin name?”

He gaped at her, showing his sharp teeth. "What? Pride? Why bother with breakfasteveryonebestolzto be one, except of course my grandma. Come in, and I do hope the brandy comes quickly. Without the brandy, she might get cranky.

Billy Slick and his grandmother lived in a kind of house in the slums. The willows and other seedlings were freed from the wet swamps and processed into a fairly large hemisphere, the size of a small hut. It seemed to Angua that some skill and thought had gone into the construction: twigs and smaller twigs had been woven through the structure and some, like the willow, had taken root and sprouted, and then someone, presumably Billy Slick, had woven them in yet times, plus the new growth, so that it was a nice base at least in the summer, especially since someone had laboriously filled most of the gaps with smaller plots. Inside it was a smoky cave, but the werewolf's dark-accustomed eye saw that the interior walls were lined with great care with old canvas and whatever other junk he could fold up to keep drafts out. Okay, it probably took less than two days to build and it didn't cost anything, but the city was full of people who would love to live there.

"Sorry," said Billy. "I can't say Harry is a big payer, but he turns a blind eye to us and occasionally trades things when we're not getting cheeky."

"But you even have a stovepipe!" said Angua, startled.

Billy looked down. “It leaks a little; I'm waiting to solder some patches, that's all. Wait here, I'll just make sure she's ready for you. I know she'll be ready for the brandy.

There was a polite knock on the door, which turned out to be courtesy of Captain Carrot, who returned with the brandy. He carefully opened the battered and often painted outer door and let in a little light. Then he looked around and said: Comfortable!

Angua stamped her foot. "See, he even pieced broken pieces of tile together into decent flooring. There is a lot of construction going on here. She lowered her voice and whispered, "And he's a goblin. Not what I expected-"

"I can hear very well too, miss," said Billy as he re-entered the room. "Amazing, isn't it, what tricks we goblins can learn. Color, you could almost think we are human! He pointed to a curtain of some sort that covered the other side of the room. "Have you got the brandy? There we go then. Hold the bottle in front of you, that's usually enough. Officers, you are not my grandmother per se, she is my great-grandmother, but that was very difficult for me when I was a child, so she became a grandmother. Let me tell you because unless you're a fucking genius you won't understand a blind word she says! Come on in, hurry up, I have to make her lunch in half an hour, and like I said, you'll probably have time before the drink runs out.

"I can't see anything," Carrot said as the felt swayed darkly behind them, and Angua said cautiously, "I can. Could you introduce us to your great-grandmother, Billy?

Carrot was still struggling to see, but heard what he thought was the goblin boy, though it sounded like he was chewing gravel at the same time. Then, after a sense of movement in the darkness, another voice answered him, crackling like ice. Then Billy said simply, "Regret of the Falling Leaf welcomes you, Warden, and asks that you give her the blood schnapps immediately."

Carrot held the bottle in the direction of Billy's voice, and it was quickly passed to the shape that was beginning to form in front of him as his vision returned. The form apparently said, according to Billy, "Why did you come to me, po-less man? Why do you need help from the dying woman? What's ointment to you, Mr. Po-leess-man? Unggue is ours, ours! It's not good for you here, big Mr. Po-Leess-Man!

"What is ungue, ma'am?" said Carrot.

"No religion, no ringing of the bells, no bowed knees, no choir, no hallelujah, no apology, just anoint,reinanoint! Only anoint who comes when he needs it. Little Salve! When the gods wash their hands and go away, there's ointment rolling up their sleeves! Unggue attacks in the dark. If the ointment does not come himself, he sends it. Unggue is everywhere!”

Carrot cleared his throat. "Regrets of the Fallen Leaf, we've got a man, a cop, a good man dying of ointment. We do not understand; Please help us understand. In his hand he holds a jar of ointment.

The screeching must have echoed through the works; it certainly made the small cabin rock. "Thief anoints! pot thief! Not viable!” Billy translated with every trace of embarrassment. The old goblin tried to get up and sank back on his pillows, muttering.

Angua tried: “You're wrong, old lady. This pot came to him by accident. He found it, it's the pot called Soul of Tears."

Regret of the Falling Leaf filled the world with noise. Now she seemed to empty it with silence. She said bitterly, and it came to that, oddly given that her great-grandson said she didn't know much about Ankh-Morporkian, "Found in the goblin cave, oh yeah! Found on the tip of the shovel, oh yeah! bad luck for him!

"NO!" Suddenly, Carrot found himself face to face with the goblin woman. “It came to him by accident, like a curse. He never wanted and didn't know what it was. He found it in a cigar.

There was a pause during which the old woman was probably thinking a little complicatedly because she said, "Would you pay my price, Mr. Po-leess-man?"

"We gave you the brandy," Angua said.

"Indeed, wolf cub, but that was just an indication. Now is the price of diagnosis and cure, which consists of the snuff mill, two pounds of sweet raspberry, a pound of Fischer, and a pound of Dr.medicalvertical mixing, only work on a winter day. Something like a laugh escaped the old goblin's mouth. "I'm glad for the fresh air," she added. "My boy, he goes around saying you can be trusted, but the goblins have learned not to trust that word, so let's seal the deal the old-fashioned way we've all understood since time immemorial."

Confused Billy winced as a long hand with longer nails grabbed Carrot, who spat into his own hand and, with no thought for health or safety, slammed it into the palm of Regret of the Fallen Leaf, who cackled again. “This cannot be broken, this cannot be broken. After a moment's hesitation, she said in a casual voice, "Wash your hands after use."

There was a sip from the brandy bottle and Billy Slick's old granny continued, "A pot full of tears you say?" Angua nodded. “If so, only one meaning. A poor goblin woman, ato starveWoman, had to eat her newborn baby because she could not feed him. I hear you stop breathing for a moment. That things like this happen? It's awfully true, oh yeah It's often a terrible truth in a bad country when times are hard and the food is nothing. And so, crying, she carved a little pot of ointment for her baby's soul and cried the life into it and sent it away until better times when the baby comes back."

Carrot said quietly, "Anything else you can tell us, ma'am?"

The old goblin was silent for a moment and then said: "In the cigar, wrapped in tobacco? Ask the man who sells tobacco!”

Billy turned his grandmother's brandy bottle upside down and not a drop came out.

“One last thing please ma'am: how can we help our friend? By the looks of it, he's dreaming he's a leprechaun!

Small black eyes shone as the goblin said, "I trust you smoke. Now I entrust you with another bottle of cognac. Find the goblin cave! Find the goblin girl! Only such a person will be able to hold the pot in hopes of having a child one day! That's it, there's no other way. And the big problem for you, Mr. Po-leess-man, it's just that this goblin girl is hard to find these days. None here. Maybe nowhere. We wither and shrivel like old leaves. Goodbye for more cognac. NO! Make that quirm brandy. special reservation. Sixty bucks at Horrids on Broadway or two for a bargain at the Twister Boats bottle shop in Shades. Slightly anchovy, but no questions and no answers.

The old voice fell silent and the Wardens gently returned to the reality around them, disturbing images disappearing from recent memory.

Carrot managed to say, "I'm sorry to ask, but will this harm my sergeant?" He seems to be having nightmares all the time and we can't get our hands on the pot!"

"Three bottles of brandy, Mr. Po-leess-man?" Billy translated.

Carrot nodded. "OK."

"How long has marijuana taken over you?"

Carrot looked at Angua. "About two days, ma'am."

"Then take your man to a goblin den as soon as possible, Mr. Po-leess-man. He can live. He can die. Anyway, three bottles of brandy, Mr. Po-leess man. Small black eyes glared at Carrot. "So nice to meet a real gentleman. Hurry up Mr Po-leess man.

The old lady fell back on her pile of cushions and rugs. The audience is gone, the schnapps too.

"Yoursthere mayYou,' said Billy in a puzzled voice as he led her out. "I can tell. She never threw anything at you. Better get her some snuff and schnapps soon, otherwise she might secretly get a little nervous if you listen to what I say, or better said, of course, what I don't say. Nice, you get to know each other, but old King doesn't like it when people don't work.

"Excuse me, Billy," Carrot said, grabbing his skinny arm. "Is there a goblin den around here somewhere?"

"You got what you wanted, officer. As far as I know, there aren't any. I do not mind. You could try the interior, that's my advice, but I don't really care. If you find a goblin den on a map, you can bet there are no goblins left there, at least not alive ones.

"Thank you for your help, Mr. Slick, and may I congratulate you on having a grandmother who knows modern vocabulary so well?" said Carrot.

From the direction of the dome, the walls of which were very thin, came a shout of joy.

"Right! Grandma Slick isn't that fat!

"Well, maybe we'll have a result," said Carrot as they walked back into town, "but, well, I know Ankh-Morpork is a melting pot of cities, but don't you find it rather sad when people come here and forget your ancestors?”

"Yes," Angua said without looking at him. "That's it."

When they got back to the courtyard of Pseudopolis, Carrot provided Cheery with as much information as he could. "I want you to see the tobacconist. Ask him where the tobacco comes from. We know there's a lot of smuggling going on anyway, so he'll be worried. It might be a good idea to take an officer with you, whose mere presence will make you a little more concerned. Wee Mad Arthur has returned from vacation.

Happy smiled. "In that case, I'll take you with me. He cares

Mr. Bewilderforce Gumption has had a good day so far. He had gone to the bank to deposit his winnings and bought two tickets to the opera. Woman. Gumption would be very happy to be called Gumption, even more than she would be. She always pushed him to join high society, or at least society, but somehow the Gumption name always held him back. And now he opened the door of his shop and saw the policeman sitting patiently in the chair.

Happy Littlebottom levantou-se. "Senor. Bewilderforce Gumption?

He tried to smile. "I usually see Fred Colon, officer."

"Yes. And it's Sergeant Littlebottom. But oddly enough, it's Sergeant Colon that I'm visiting you about today. Do you remember giving him a cigar?

Mr. Gumption suffered from the delusion many people have that cops don't see people lying all the time, so he said, "Not that I recall," to which Cheery replied, "Mr. Gumption, it is a well known fact that Sergeant Colon buys or sources his tobacco supplies from his posh establishment.

Once again, Bewilderforce started off on the wrong note. "I want to see my lawyer!"

"I'd also like to see your attorney, Mr. Gumball. Perhaps you could send someone to pick it up while my colleague and I wait here?

Bewilderforce looked around confused. "Which colleague?"

"Oh yeah, that's enough for me," said the officer, sometimes known briefly as Wee Mad Arthur, hiding behind a pack of cigarettes.

Two cops are a lot more than twice as bad as one, and Cheery Littlebottom took advantage of the sudden panic to say cautiously, "That's a very simple question, Mr. Gumball. Where does this cigar come from?”

Cheery knew that Commander Vimes didn't like the phrase "The innocent have nothing to fear" as he believed that the innocent had everything to fear, mainly from the guilty but in the long run even more from those who say things like " The innocent have nothing to fear. Fear." Fear"; but Bewilderforce was afraid - she could see him sweating.

"We know you're a smuggler, Mr. Gumption, or maybe I should say you get some really good deals when they're presented to you. But now I just have to say where this cigar comes from. Having kindly let me know, we will leave this building in a happy and cooperative mood.

Power of Confusion lit up. Cheery continued, “Of course other watch departments would like to pay a visit in due course. For now, sir, you only have to take care of me. Do you know where this batch of cigars came from?

Bravely Bewilderforce has been experimenting. "I buy from dealers all the time," he said. "It would take me ages to review the records!"

Cheery kept smiling. "No problem, Mr. Gumption, I am calling my colleague, Mr. AE Pessimal, right now. I don't know if you know him? It's amazing how quickly he can do the paperwork and I'm sure he will find time in his busy schedule to help you at no cost.

Five minutes later, a grey-faced, breathless Bewilderforce handed Cheery a small piece of paper.

Cheery looked at him. "Howondaland? I thought tobacco came mostly from Klatch?

Confusion shrugged. "Well, they're starting plantations in Howondaland now. Good stuff too. Bewilderforce felt a little braver and continued. "All properly paid, I can assure you. Yes, I know there is contraband, but we don't have trucks with them. No need when you can get a good deal by buying in bulk. It's all in my books. Any bill. Any payment. Everything set correctly.

Cheery relented. A.E. Pessimal could probably find something that excites yousomewherein the Gumption books. After all, business was business. But there were deals and there were bad deals. There was no point in complicating it. She got up. “Thank you very much for your help, Mr. Gum. We won't bother you anymore.

Bewilderforce hesitated and said, "What's wrong with Fred Colon? He's a bit of a thief, I don't mind saying so, but I'd hate to see anything happen to him. It wasn't...poison or anything, was it?

"No, Mr. Chewing gum. His cigar began to sing to him.

"They don't usually do that," Bewilderforce said nervously. "I need to check my inventory."

"Please do this, sir. And while you're at it, maybe take a look at this short list of snuff products?

The tobacconist carefully picked it up. His lips moved and he said, "That's a lot of snuff, you know."

"Yes sir," Cheery said. "I am entitled to pay cash."

Bewilderforce looked extremely confused. "What? Are the cops paying?

Walking the streets in the company of Wee Mad Arthur was a struggle even for a midget like Cheery Littlebottom. He was about 15 cm tall, so talking to him while walking made him sound like a madman. On the other hand, he didn't like getting caught. You just had to persevere. Most people took a little detour when they saw Wee Mad Arthur anyway.

They went back to the guardhouse and reported Carrot, and the first thing he said to Cheery was, "Do you know where goblin dens are, Cheery?"

"No, sir. Why do you ask?"

"I'll explain later," Carrot said. "It's pretty incredible. Did you discover something with the old Gumption?

Happy nodded. "Yes, sir. Sergeant Colon's spooky cigar undoubtedly hails from Howondaland.

Carrot looked at her. "I didn't think there were goblins in Howondaland? All of Jolson's family is from there." He snapped his fingers. "Wait a minute." He ran down the hall to the cafeteria and back, followed by Constable Precious Jolson, a lady for whom the word tall just wouldn't cut it. Everything about her was sort of family, including her good nature. Everyone liked Precious. She seemed to be a source of joy and always had a cheerful word for everyone, even when she picked up a few drunks and threw them into the speeding car.

After a quick questioning, Precious said: “Dad sent me there last year, remember he wanted me to find my roots. I can't really say I accepted it. Nice weather. Nothing much to do. It's actually not very exciting unless you're trying to pet one of the cats they get kind of nervous. I've never heard of goblins there, not the kind of place for them I suspect. Excuse me Captain, can I go back to my tea now?

The silence that followed was broken by Carrot, who said, 'Howondaland is months away by boat, and brooms don't work very well on the water, even if we could persuade the wizards to lend us one. Any idea?"

"Criven!" said crazy little Arthur. "No problems! I think I can do it in less than a day, you know.

They stared at him. Wee Mad Arthur was small enough to ride on the back of any bird larger than a medium-sized hawk – his aerial transmissions from the skies over traffic stops were not a regular part of Ankh-Morpork street life – but to Another Continent?

He smiled. "As you know, I've been away for a while lately to meet up with my brothers, Nac mac Feegle? Well, they fly with the birds a lot, and there's this thing they call a goiter step, you know? And I think I'm smart enough to use it, you know.

"That's three kens in one speech, Wee Mad Arthur," Angua said to the laughter of the rest of the guards. "You really got into the Feegle thing, didn't you?"

"Oh, you may scoff at this, but I'm the only one who knows why there are so many large birds flying over the city at this time of year. Ankh-Morpork is hot! Do you see the big cloud of smoke and fumes? It's all heat. He lifts you up, a free ride that puts the wind under his wings. Have you heard of the secret albatross? No, because only me and the professor of ornithology at the university know about it, and he only knows because I told the scunner. Outside of the mating season, he never touches the ground. That's not the only weird thing. It is an eagle disguised as an albatross. You could call it a skyshark, and I think one of them will serve me well. you like the city They float where you'll never see them unless you really know how to look. There's always one there, and I could go today. What are you saying?"

"But officer," Carrot said, "you're going to be freezing that high in the sky, aren't you?"

"Oh yes, I know my thermals might not be enough, which is why the word 'brandy' pops up right away. Trust me, captain. I think I can be back in two days.

"How many?" said Angua.

Little crazy Arthur rolled his eyes. Captain, for your kind.

In fact, it only took Wee Mad Arthur an hour to spot the peaceful-looking bird, hovering happily above the city with the meal it had just eaten, courtesy of a seagull, whose feathers were now gently waving towards the city below . The stealthy albatross had no enemies he couldn't easily digest, and he paid little attention to the unassuming and relatively harmless hawk flying towards him until he landed Wee Mad Arthur on his back. He struggled, but couldn't reach Feegle because he was comfortably seated with his hands around his neck; Wee Mad Arthur leaned towards the quick methods of taming wild animals.

The stealthy albatross struggled for even more height, spiraling steadily up the huge, wide, free-standing pillar - as Ankh-Morpork was known and understood by the bird community - and Wee Mad Arthur spent the time making a little pencil map of the world to memorize . . Seriously, it wasn't difficult. By and large, continents are not difficult to find, nor are the edges of continents where ships are docked by common understanding. Wee Mad Arthur was the world's expert at looking at things from above, which amused him since most people who wanted to see Wee Mad Arthur had to look down.

Well, he thought, let's go!

It was called the crow step, and Nac mac Feegle of the Chalk lands carefully showed his brother how to sit on a large bird.

The people of Ankh-Morpork watched itbanghigh up and then lost interest as the sky was still clear. Meanwhile, on top of a stunned, stealthy albatross, sat an extremely contented little one, who reclined on his feathers and began eating a piece of the only hard-boiled egg and a two-inch slice of bread that were his rations while the universe raced make a noise like

The darkness lasted about four hours when Vimes was woken up by a little boy jumping up and down on the bed and thus on Sam Vimes and saying, "Willikins found a bird that just died. Father! Mom says I can dissect it if you say it's okay dad!

Vimes managed to murmur, "Yeah, fine, if your mother says so," before slipping back into the darkness. And black spread around him. He heard himself thinking, The Summoning Darkness could tell me everything I need to know, and that's the truth. But would it be the truth she told me?Atrue, and how should I know? If I rely on it, somehow I become your creature. Or maybe become mine? Maybe we got a deal and it helped me in the Koom Valley and that's why the world is a better place? Surely the dark has no reason to lie? I've always liked the night, the stillness of the night, those nights that are pure black, make dogs nervous and sheep jump over their hoops in fear. Darkness has always been my friend, but I can't let it be my master, though sooner or later I'll have to swear an oath, and if I lie, I the police chief, what am I? How could I ever berate a cop for looking the other way again?

He turned between the pillows. And yet the thing is good. It's for a good cause! The man Stratford killed the goblin girl. I have the evidence of his associate and the word of a being whose assistance was of material benefit to society. I'll admit I scare a man, but people like Flutter arealwaysScared, and better scared of me than Stratford because at least I know when to stop. He's just another red ball in the sack, and by the way, I assume Stratford is too. He will have a boss. They always have a noble boss, because almost everyone here is either a worker or a noble, and as far as I can tell, pretty much everyone doesn't have a good word to say about goblins. It's a goal-rich environment, and the problem with a goal-rich environment is that it's useless if you don't know what goal you should be aiming for.

Vimes fell into a deep sleep again and was awakened almost instantly by the best efforts of his son, who was busily tapping on the pile on which Vimes was sleeping. "Mommy said come on daddy. She says there's a man.

Vimes wasn't the type to wear a robe, so he made an effort to dress and look as handsome as possible for a man who needed a shave and didn't seem to have time.

Sitting in the lobby was a man wearing a fantailer hat, pants, and a nervous smile, three things that bothered Vimes a bit. A nervous smile usually meant someone was after something they weren't supposed to be; he personally thought a fantailer looked goofy; and as for breeches, no man should meet a policeman wearing breeches that make his legs look like he's just stolen a houseful of cutlery and hastily stuffed it into his trousers. In fact, Vimes thought he could see the outline of a teapot, but maybe his eyes were playing a mischievous trick on him.

The user of this supposedly self-inflicted triple woe rose to his feet as Vimes entered. "Your Grace?"

"Sometimes," Vimes said. "What can I do for you?"

The man looked worriedly at Lady Sybil, who was sitting comfortably in the corner with a small smile on her face, and said: From the judges of this district. I'm sorry, Your Grace, and I hope you understand that it is against nature to do this to a gentleman, but no one is above the law and the law must be obeyed. I myself am William Stoner, clerk to said judges... Mr. Stoner hesitated as Vimes walked to the door.

"Just making sure you don't leave so fast," Vimes said as he locked the door. "Sit down, Mr. Stoner, for you are exactly the man I wish to speak to."

The clerk sat down cautiously, obviously not wanting to be this man. He held out a parchment with a red wax seal attached, the kind of thing that's supposed to make an official document - or at least expensive and hard to understand what actually amounts to the same thing.

Vimes suddenly realized that all those years of confronting Lord Vetinari had indeed been a master class, if only he'd known. Well, it was time for the exam. He went back to his chair, settled back comfortably, laced his fingers and frowned at the clerk above them for a full ten seconds, a period of time that baffled him every time it happened, and that's the way it should be here certainly work little tit.

Then he broke the silence with, "Mr. Stoner, a few nights ago a murder was committed on my land. Land ownership means something here, doesn't it, Mr. Stoner? Apparently this was done to implicate me in the disappearance of one Jethro Jefferson, a blacksmith. You may find me a little offended, but it was nothing compared to the amount of insult I felt when I first met Constable Feeney Upshot, our local constable, a decent young man who was kind to his elderly mother who, however, seemed to feel that he was answering a mysterious council of magistrates and not the law. The judge? Who are the judges? Some kind of local body? There seems to be no oversight of these people, no circuit judges and... I'm not done talking!

Mr. Stoner sank into his seat, face gray. Vimes too, trying not to draw Sybil's attention in case she laughed. Restoring his face to a mask of calm, he continued, "And it seems, Mr. Stoner, that goblins are officially vermin in this community. Rats are worms, just like mice, and I think pigeons and crows can be, too. But you don't play the harp, Mr. Stoner, you don't make exquisitely shaped pots, and, Mr., your nose is charming, which actually made me bang the hammer. But I digress. Goblins can be miserable, unsanitary, and malnourished, and in this they are very similar to most of humanity. Where will your magistrates place the ruler, Mr. Stoner? On the other hand, we don't use a ruler in Ankh-Morpork because since kobolds are worms, poor people are worms, dwarves are worms, and trolls are worms. She wasn't a worm and was begging not to die.

He sat back and waited for Mr. Stoner to realize that he did indeed have the power of speech. When she did, the clerk treated her situation in a truly clerical manner and ignored her. "Indeed, Mr. Vimes, you are outside your jurisdiction and I may say you are encouraging Constable Upshot to think and I must say behave that does not bode well for his career..."

The employee didn't go any further, because Vimes interrupted him with: "What career? He has no career! He's a cop all by himself, except for maybe a few pigs. At heart he's a good guy who isn't easily intimidated, and he writes with clean, round handwriting and he can also spell, which in my eyes automatically makes him a sergeant. As for bloody justice, murder is the crime of crimes. According to the Omnians, it was the third crime in history. I don't know of any society anywhere in the world that doesn't consider this a crime that must be vigorously prosecuted, you know? And as for the law, don't try to talk to me about the law. I'm not above the law, but I'm right under it and I uphold it! And I'm currently working with Mr. Feeney, and we have an accessory to murder in his cell, and justice, not expediency, will be done.

"Well done, Sam," Sybil said loyally, clapping the small but distinctive claps people give when they want others to join in.

Mr. Stoner, on the other hand, simply said, "Very well, sir, but my orders are to arrest you anyway. The judges installed me as a police officer, you know, and young Upshot got relieved. He was shaking from the sudden freezing.

Vimes got up and said, "I don't think you're going to have me arrested today, Mr. Pothead! I suppose Sybil will let you have a cup of tea if you like, but I see Chief Constable Upshot. And he got up, unlocked the door and walked out of the room, out of the hall, and down to the prison at a reasonable pace.

Halfway down the descent, Willikins caught up with him and said, 'I couldn't help but hear all this nonsense, Commander, because I was listening at the door under section five of the gentleman's code. What a nerve! You will need me to take care of you!

Vimes shook his head. "I don't think a civilian should interfere, Willikins."

Willikins had to run faster because Vimes was accelerating, but he managed to gasp, "That's an amazing thing you're telling me, Commander." And hurried on his own.

Something was going on in prison - it seemed gutsy that it could be a domestic riot, a riot, possibly a brawl or even a fight, in which case it was definitely unlucky for some. A happy thought occurred to me: Yes, maybe it was a struggle, always a useful word because no one knows exactly what it means, but it sounds dangerous.

Vimes burst out laughing as soon as he saw what was happening. Feeney stood in front of the jail, face flushed and his ancestral truncheon in hand. It was quite possible that it had already been used on the small mob that tried to storm the prison, because there was a man on the ground, clutching his abdomen and moaning. Vimes' long experience told him, however, that the man's carefully controlled misfortune dealt much with Mrs Upshot, who found herself in a semi-circle of men all ready to jump back the moment she waved her broom at them. "Don't you dare say my boy Feeney isn't a cop! HeIt isa copper, just like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him. She paused for a moment and reluctantly continued, "Forgive me, I'm lying,himwas a criminal, but that's anywayfasthow to be a cop!”

The broom made a hissing sound as she swung it back and forth. "I know you very well! Some of you are game wardens, some of you are smugglers and some of you are bastards, sorry my Klatchian! It was then that she saw Vimes and only stopped to slam her broom like a sledgehammer on the foot of a man who had taken a step in the wrong direction, pointing a finger at Vimes and shouting, "See? Now he's a gentleman and also a great cop! You can tell a real cop like my henry god bless his soul and commander vimes too because they have proper badges that were used to open thousands of beer bottles up his nose. Those flimsy pieces of cardboard you wave around with make me laugh! Go on, Davey Hackett," she said to the next man, "and I'll stick this broom in your ear, believe me I will!"

Scanning the crowd, trying to separate the hideous and dangerous from the innocent and stupid, Vimes was about to brush a fly off his head when he heard the sighs of the crowd and saw the arrow in the stones and Mrs. on his broom , which split into two parts.

Technically, Mrs. Conclusion should have yelled, but she'd been surrounded by cops a long time ago, so she pointed to the broken broom, red-faced, and said, as only an old mother could say, "That cost half a dollar! They don't grow on trees, you know! Do you want to pay!”

The clattering of frantic hands in the pockets could be heard immediately. A man with great presence of mind took off his hat and coins rained down on him. Since many of these coins were hastily stolen dollars and half dollars, Mrs. The result would clearly be lifelong self-sufficiency with broomsticks.

But Feeney, who was cooking, threw the hat on the floor as soon as it was offered. "No! It's like a bribe, Mom! Someone shot you. I saw the arrow, it came right out of this parking lot, right in the middle! Now I want you to come in mom because I won't miss you as much as dad, you know? Shit, come in the house, mother, the reason is, as soon as you close the door, I plan to show these gentlemen their manners!

Feeney was on fire. If a chestnut had fallen on his head he would have exploded, and his anger, pure righteous anger—the kind of anger in which a man can find the idea and the inclination and, above all, the stamina, to beat everyone to death—the worry Wetting the pants of the bewildered citizens far outweighed the secondary one, which was that there was at least six dollars of money from someone on the rocks, and how much of that could they get in reparation?

Vimes didn't say a word. There was no space to say a word. A word could loosen the brakes that held vengeance at bay. Feeney's ancestral mace slung over his shoulder felt like a warning from the gods. In his hands would be sudden death. Nobody dared to run; Laufen would certainly go to a whistle-crushing oak-crushing candidate.

Maybe now was the time. "Chief of Police conclusion, may I speak to the officers for a moment?"

Feeney gave Vimes a bleak look, like a man trying to focus on the other side of the universe. One of the men on the periphery took this as his cue to move on, and from the back of the crowd came a thump and the voice of Willikins saying, "Oh, excuse me, Your Grace, but that gentleman has stumbled off my feet." . Foot. Unfortunately, I have very large feet.” And to follow up the apology, Willikins pitched a man whose nose will likely look a lot better by the end of next week.

All eyes turned to Willikins except Vimes's – because there in the shadows, keeping his distance from the mob, was that damned lawyer again. Not with the mob of course, a serious lawyer couldn't be part of a mob, oh no, he was just there

Feeney glanced at the other men because it was so easy for a man to stumble. "I appreciate your husband's help, Commander, but this is my mansion, if you know what I mean, and I will speak my mind."

Feeney was panting heavily, but his eyes darted back and forth to find the first man to move, or even look like someone who might move at some point in the future. "I'm a cop! Not always good or smart, but I'm a cop and the man in my cell is my prisoner and I'll defend him to the death, and if it's the deaths of some bastards who with crossbows in front of my old one Mother stood that they didn't know how to use it, well, be it!" He lowered his voice to less than a scream. "Well, I know you, as do my father and grandfather—well, at least some of you guys know that - and I know you're not that bad..."

He stopped for a moment and looked. "What are you doing here, Mr Stoner? Stand next to a crowd? Did you make some bags jingle?

"That statement is actionable, young man," Stoner said.

Vimes walked cautiously over to Stoner and whispered, "I won't say you're taking your luck, Mr. Stoner, because your luck ran out the moment you saw me." He tapped the side of his nose. "A word to the wise: I have big feet too."

Without realizing it, Feeney continued, "I want you all to know that a few nights ago a goblin girl was slaughtered on the hilltop as she was pleading for her life. This is bad.Verybad! And one of the reasons is that a man who can kill a goblin girl will one day kill his sister. But I will bring my..." Feeney hesitated, then said, "Colleague, Commander Vimes, and bring those responsible to justice. And that's not all, oh dear, not by a long shot, because you see, I know as you do, three years ago a band of goblins were grabbed in the night and rounded up to be thrown down the river. My poor father did as he was told and turned a blind eye, but I don't do the same. I don't know if any of you helped and that doesn't worry me too much now because people tend to do as they're told here, although some may prefer to do as they're told than others. ”

Feeney turned and made sure everyone knew they were there. "And I know something else! I know that yesterday afternoon, while we were on our way to Hangnails, a bunch of Overhang Goblins were grabbed and put on a bullock boat down the river to..."

"What! Why didn't you tell me all this before?” Vimes yelled.

Feeney didn't look her way but kept her gaze on the crowd. "And before that? I'm sorry, Commander, but everything went wrong and I only found out shortly before the arrival of this gang since when everything is full. Probably the boat passed through here while we were still opening barrels in Hangnails. This one Heaps wanted me to hand over the prisoner, so of course my old mother got involved, so to speak, and you know it's always difficult when it comes to an old mother.EU Never counted everyone Pro Movement, fez

This was for a man in some distress, almost bent over with his hands on his crotch.

"I'm sorry, uh, Feeney, uh, officer, uh, chief constable bottom line, but I really need the restroom, if you don't mind, please, thank you very much?"

Vimes looked at the crouching man and said, "Oh my god, is that you Mr Stoner! Willikins! Take him somewhere where he can go about his business, okay? But make sure you bring it back here. And if it turns out he really didn't need to do business, be so kind as to make sure he does. There was a lot more he wanted to say at this point, but that was Feeney's band-aid, after all, and the kid was surprisingly good at pushing people who were pressuring old moms.

And the boy wasn't done yet; his mood simply changed from molten steel to cold, hard iron. "Before I tell you what happens next, gentlemen, I want to draw your attention to the goblin that's sitting up there in the tree, watching you all. Everything you locals know about Stinky, and you know sometimes you kick him, or sometimes he stubs out a cigarette for you, and sometimes he runs you a little errand, right?

The crowd was relieved that the worst seemed to be over. Actually, it's just getting started. "Commander Vimes wants you to know, and so do I, that the law applies to everyone, and that means it applies to goblins, too."

There was a slight nod and Feeney continued, "But if the law applies to leprechauns then leprechauns have rights, and if leprechauns have rights then it would be right to have a leprechaun cop in the police force."

Vimes looked at Feeney with amazement and a fair amount of admiration. It got them: they were all nodding, and he was leading them through the wave, and before they knew it, they were nodding to a goblin officer.

"Well, gentlemen, I intend to make Stinky a probationer just so he can keep me informed of what's happening on the Hill. He will have a badge, and kicking him from now on will attack a police officer on duty. I think the punishment for that is not just being hanged, but having you jump up and down a bit afterwards. This is a decision of internal violence that does not require the authority of a judge. Isn't that right, Commander Vimes?

Vimes was surprised at how his mouth reacted without reference to his brain. "Yes, Chief Constable Conclusion, in accordance with Section 12, Part 3 of the Laws and Regulations of Ankh-Morpork, generally regarded as a paragon of policing," he added confidently, knowing full well that none of those present had ever seen them and very much unlikely to be able to read them even if they had.

Inwardly, Vimes shuddered. He managed to bring dwarves, trolls, and eventually even werewolves and vampires into the Watch, albeit under certain obvious conditions, but that was the result of influence over the years. Vetinari always said: “What is normal? Normal is yesterday, last week, and last month together.” And, Guts guessed, they added things one at a time so that normal could gradually develop – although Mr Stinky, or rather Special Probationary Constable Stinky, hadTruthIt's best to limit your police activities to the cave. Yeah, not a bad idea actually, if he could get her to leave the chickens alone, maybe Normal would have a chance. After all, people seemed pretty cool about having their rights and freedoms taken away from those they looked up to, but somehow a place to sleep was a slap in the face and treated as such.

And now Feeney, running out of breath, was almost taken. "I can't force any of you to tell me anything, but would anyone like to help me with my questions?"

Vimes tried not to let anyone see his expression, least of all Feeney. Of course Captain Carrot was like that once, and - was it possible? say: "Yes, officer! I shall be very happy to tell you all that I know, and I want these fine gentlemen to be my witnesses.

What youfezafter such a gig it was just waiting, waiting for someone to come over and whisper something when you were alone, or just tilt your head in the right direction, or, and this is what happened to Vimes, wrote three initials in the spilled beer on the top Strip and gently wipe clean in two seconds. A bright spark would think: You never know your luck; After all, Feeney could be a close man, right? And a happy relationship might come in handy one day.

Vimes pushed away the pink cloud of embarrassment. "Well, gentlemen, as Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard, it seems to me that your chief constable is very lenient with you. I wouldn't be, so be thankful for him. How many of them...' and here Vimes added a smirk, do you really know Chief Constable Verdict?'

"Oh, about half of them, Commander, that is, their names, families, addresses and so on. The rest comes from somewhere else. I can't say they're all angels, but most aren't that bad."

That little speech, sensible under the circumstances, earned Feeney a few grins and a certain relieved look around, and luckily an opening for Vimes, who said, "Well, which one of you had a dart in your crossbow ready you think? Mr. Feeney?

But before Feeney had time to open his mouth, Vimes whirled around the returning Mr. Stoner, whose digestion was failing him. Willikins, whose instincts seldom failed him, still had his eye on him. In a loud, cheery voice, Vimes said, 'I see my good friend Mr Stoner is back and he's a lawyer and I'm a police officer and we know how to talk. Come this way, Mr. Pothead.

He gently but firmly grabbed the reluctant lawyer's arm and led him away from the crowd, which Vimes was pleased to discover was watching him with immediate deep suspicion.

"Ofthey areLawyer, aren't you, Mr. Stoner? Aren't you a criminal lawyer by any chance?

"No, Your Grace, I specialize primarily in real estate and property matters."

"Ah, much less dangerous," said Vimes, "and I take it you're a member of the Ankh Morpork bar, my old friend Mr. Oblique?" He'd said it cheerfully, but Vimes knew the old man's name Zombies would terrify any lawyer's heart - although if Mr. Slant even had one of his own was debatable. And now Mr. Stoner has to think fast. If he had any common sense, and read hisLei Dailybetween the lines he would be aware that Mr. Slant bowed (rather rigidly) to the rich and influential, he disliked mistakes and disliked the law being discredited by incompetent barristers and laymen because he believed that these special duty experienced lawyers like Mr. Slant who could do it with diligence and panache and AM$300 an hour. and Mr. Stoner must have thought Mr. Slant wasn't a happy zombie; and with custom and practice now dictating that he should no longer groan about walking about with his hands stretched out straight in front of him (one of them might have held a severed head for effect), he was known to vent his still-sizable spleen in snot young lawyers with above-average ideas spoke to them in low, calm voices for some time, which afterwards led them to say that the severed head was the vegetarian option instead.

Vimes watched the young man's face as he considered his few options and realized there was no plural.

"I have of course endeavored to advise the judges appropriately on their situation," he said, like a man rehearsing an appeal, "but I am sorry to say that they have considered that, as they Country around here belongs, so they decide law of said country. I have to say that they are actually quite decent people.”

Vimes was surprised at how well his temper held up. He said: "Earth, I really like the earth, it's one of my favorite things to stand on. But land, landlord and law, well... A man can get mixed up, can't he? Especially with a very good fee? And it's all too easy for people to be decent people when they can afford to hire totally naughty people, people who don't even need orders, just a nod and a wink.

At this point a thunderclap sounded, not quite fitting to the last comment and therefore without any hidden meaning. However, it was a giant roller rolling across the sky dropping blocks of noise. Vimes looked up to see a horizon the color of a bruise, while around him the air was still and warm, and insects and other creatures he couldn't make out buzzed in the undergrowth. Satisfied that he hadn't had to seek cover yet, he turned his attention to the squirming lawyer.

"May I suggest, Mr. Stoner, that you suddenly find compelling reason to go into town and possibly speak to some of the experienced lawyers there? I suggest you describe yourself as an idiot and when they see your wet pants that will serve as confirmation, trust me. If need be, I can bring myself to make a statement on your behalf that I believe you have been foolish and misguided rather than a criminal.

The look of gratitude sounded good, so Vimes added, "Why not try criminal justice? Today it's mostly aggravated assault and murder. You could call it an ointment for the soul. But just a few things: What do you know about goblins being sent down the river? And what do you know about the blacksmith Jefferson's disappearance?

It is never good to ask yourself a difficult question when you are thinking of riding a horse and covering long distances at high speed. 'I can assure you, Excellency,' the man replied, 'that I know nothing of the blacksmith's disappearance, if indeed he has just gone off to work elsewhere. And elves? Yes, I know some were released a few years ago, but I took on this role two years ago and can't comment on the circumstances." "I'm not aware of any goblins being evicted from their lairs recently, eh the police chief seems to believe,” he added.

Vimes turned her back so the crowd couldn't see what was going on and glared at him. "I congratulate you on your careful ignorance, Mr. Stoner." He then grabbed the strutting lawyer by the throat and said, "Listen to me, you little bastard. Strictly speaking, what you're telling me may be true, but you're a stupid lawyer if you haven't already realized that a bunch of peasants can't decide for themselves that they only want justice. If you want to stay on both sides, Mr. Stoner, and I imagine you do, so maybe you can find a time in your busy schedule to tell youaltEmployers that Commander Vimes knows all about them and Commander Vimes knows what to do with them. I know who you are, Mr. Stoner, because Chief Constable Upshot gave me a list of names.

Vimes gently released the pressure and said softly, "Very soon, this will be an unfortunate place for you, Mr. Stoner." Then turning for the crowd to see, he took the astonished Lawyer's hand, shook it liberally, and said in a loud voice, "Thank you for this valuable information, sir. It will make my investigations much easier, I can assure you! And I'm sure Police Chief Upshot will feel the same way. It would make life so much easier for all of us if other honest people were so quick to help the police with their investigation." He looked at the distraught lawyer and said more calmly, "I'm not a judge, but some of these men look to one particular person way out. I know this guy, I probably have more teeth than brain cells, and now Mr. Attorney, you're wondering how much you know and how much you've told me. I wouldn't stop packing if I were you, and I hope you have a fast horse.

The lawyer sped away, and with a definite wave from Feeney, so did the crowd, more or less fading into the background; and Vimes thought another snooker. Take the reds, take the colors, but sooner or later you'll be after the blacks.

And now he was joined only by Willikins and the chief of police, who looked around as if realizing that he might not only have bitten off more than he could chew, but more than he could lift. He straightened up when he saw Vimes looking at him. It was time for a little backup, so Vimes walked over and patted the boy on the back. "Well, I don't know, I'm sure! Well done Chief Constable Conclusion and this time I'm not laughing at you Feeney, I'm not making fun of you, I'm not badmouthing you and I can't believe you're the guy I was a few years ago days ago! You must have stood up for her! A bunch of dangerous idiots! With a lawyer!”

"They shot an arrow at my old mother! Oh, they said no because they hoped to scare us! They said they had no arrows! So I said in a flash, well you wouldn't have any arrows now if you shot my old mother, right? So that proves I told them I said that makes sense and they didn't know what to say!

"Well, I'm at a loss for words myself, Feeney, because I think I heard you say more goblins were being sent down the river. How did you find out?"

Feeney jerked his thumb in the direction of the jail and smiled. "Here is the key, sir, speak to our prisoner. You'll love it sir, he was beside himself when he heard they were coming for him and he sang like a nightingale, didn't he?

"We usually say you sing like a canary," Vimes said, turning to face the squat little building.

"Yes sir but this is a country police station sir and I know my birds sir and he sang like a nightingale right! A nice watery cadence, sir, just after the thrush's trill in my opinion, possibly caused by his very, very great fear, sir. I'll have to throw a bucket in there right away.

"Well done Feeney! May I now suggest that you go to your elderly mother? She will worry about you. Old mothers worry, you know.

Wee Mad Arthur was impressed. Why hadn't anyone ever told him about the crow level? Well, only recently did he learn that he was born a nac-mac panty and not, as he had been led to believe, the son of peaceful shoemaker gnomes. The little ones didn't wear shoes and they weren't peaceful. Like many people before and after, Wee Mad Arthur always thought he was in the wrong life.

When the truth was accidentally discovered, everything seemed to make sense. He could boast of being a Nac mac Feegle, although he enjoyed the occasional visit to the ballet and could read a menu in Quirmian and could read nothing at all.

He circled in great circles across the warm blue sky of Howondaland, enjoying it endlessly. The whole continent! There were people on it, he understood, but what he saw from the air was mostly desert, mountains or, above all, green jungle. He let the albatross float on the thermal currents while his keen eyes searched for what he suspected was there. In fact, it wasn't a thing as such, but a concept: rectangular. people who planted thingsvaluedrectangular. It was ordained. It made things easier.

She was! Right on the coast. Definitely square and calm. After a quick meal of boiled eggs, he persuaded the bird to land in a tree. Jumping to the ground was not a daunting task for one of the Feegle family.

As night fell, Wee Mad Arthur walked between rows and rows of fragrant tobacco plants. But also visibly rectangular, in this terrain where geometry was rare, were the scales that could be seen not far away.

He moved stealthily at first, and more stealthily as he saw the heap, white and complex in the twilight. The white was bone. Small bones, not Feegle, but too small for humans; and then, investigating further, he saw the bodies. One of them was still moving, more or less.

Wee Mad Arthur knew a goblin when he saw one. There were enough people who didn't like Feegles for Feegles' sake not to get too cocky on the subject of goblins. They were annoying as hell, but even the tallest would gladly agree that they were, too. And being a nuisance isn't something to die for. In short, Wee Mad Arthur recognized this situation as very dire.

He glanced at the one that was moving. There were wounds everywhere. One leg was twisted and pus scars covered his body. Wee Mad Arthur knew death when he saw it, and it was in the air right now. Seeing the pleading in the goblin's only remaining eye, he took his knife and ended his suffering.

As he watched, a voice behind him said, "And where the hell did you escape from?"

Wee Mad Arthur pointed to his badge, which for him was the size of a shield, and said, "Ankh-Morpork City Watch, you know?"

The burly human looked at him and said, "There's no law here, whatever you are, you little squirt."

As Commander Vimes used to say in his occasional rousing speech to his men, what makes a good officer is the ability to improvise in unfamiliar circumstances. Wee Mad Arthur remembered the words very clearly. "No one expects you to be a first-rate attorney," Vimes had said, "but if you have evidence that your proposed action appears to be justified, then you should take it."

And then, weighing the points, Wee Mad Arthur thought: Slavery is illegal. I know it was done before, but I don't know of any other place. Dwarves don't do that, and neither do trolls, and I know Lord Vetinari is totally against it. He double-checked all of this to make sure he was right, and then he looked at the scowling human and said, "Excuse me, sir? what did you just tell me

The man grinned terribly and clutched the handle of his whip. "I said there's no law here, you rabid skunk."

There was a pause and Wee Mad Arthur looked at the dead goblin on the stinking pile of bones. "Guess again," he said.

As far as battles go, it was one of the most one-sided because that side belonged to Wee Mad Arthur. There were only about a dozen guards on the plantation, because hungry creatures in chains don't usually fight back. And they never knew who they were fighting. It was a kind of force that accelerated back and forth across the floor and then up your pant leg, leaving you in no mood to fight or anything else.

The punches came out of nowhere. Those who ran were tripped. Those who did not fell unconscious. Of course it was an unfair fight. This is usually the case when fighting a single Nac mac Feegle, even if you're a platoon.

Afterwards, Wee Mad Arthur found chains in some of the huts and carefully chained up all the lying guards. Only then did he open the other huts.

The iron prison door slammed against stone as Vimes entered; however, he watched where he put his feet.

and Mr. Flutter sang, he certainly sang. Vimes wasn't in the ornithological position to judge the song in terms of nightingale or robin equivalents, but even if he had sung like a toad it wouldn't have mattered because he was singing about a tramp named Benny No-Nose who such a one went around. Men do hoping to catch reckless trifles and have traded a pair of boots - "I don't know where they came from, and neither do you?" - for a turkey the night before Ted's nightmare begins.

"Good, sir," Flutter told him. "You asked me what happened years ago, you know, and with the odd thing that could have happened yesterday, it didn't occur to me, you know what I mean? It all came so suddenly. Anyway yes he said they tied a dinghy behind a two ox boat that same afternoon and to him it smelled like goblins, he lived near their cave in Overhang and that smell you never forget, or something like that, he told The Stauer, a man known to all as Wobbly no-name because he often walks awkwardly when drunk, and was told: "Yeah, they'll send her down while things are good." and you've never seen them, and neither have I, see?" Someone must think it's very important because Stratford is on the boat. Someone must have taken care of it because Stratford, well, likes it no boats I don't like water c'mon you won't travel by boat if you can avoid it.

Vimes didn't scream. He wasn't even smiling, he hoped—you were careful not to smile if you could help it—but he gave himself a point for being polite to Flutter. There was no escaping Feegle after a charge of aiding and abetting murder, but there were ways and means of serving time, and if things went as he had hoped, Flutter would find time passing comfortably, and perhaps even faster would The normal.

He said, "Well thanks Ted, I'll take care of that. In the meantime, I leave you in the capable hands of Chief Constable Upshot, who believes me, a prisoner is as sacred as his dear mother. He pulled the key to get out and then stopped as if an important point had hit him aimlessly. "A boat with two oxen? Is it twice as fast?

And now Flutter was an expert on river boats. "Not really, but you can even pull more at night, see? Now your boat from a steer has to stop at a cattle dock overnight for the animal to get its rations and a good chew and get some sleep before sunrise and it costs time and money right there.

Prisoner or not, Ted was now a wannabe teacher for the sadly ignorant. "But with two oxen, well, one can rest a bit while the other keeps the boat moving. I think there were three barges behind, not far for an ox downriver at this time of year. He sniffed. “I wanted to be a bull driver, but of course the damned made me sew. I've done a season on one, cleaned and fed it, but I prefer turkeys.

'And the name of the boat?' said Vimes cautiously.

"Oh, everyone knows that! It's the largest on the river. everyone knows themToll

Internal monologues can go pretty fast, and guts was: let me think. Oh yes, there was almost certainly a captain who had a wife who was probably named Francesca at birth, but that's too much and he named his boat after her because he loved her so much. And there it is. You don't have to go into the subject too long because there are so many words, letters and syllables for the language and if you can't accept that, it's best not to get out of bed at all. And so, after sorting his brain, he unclipped his stupid, embarrassed-looking reflection in the mirror and said, Boat!'

Flutter looked at him in astonishment. “Take the blessed one, sir, a man with only one leg could do it! She's a bulk carrier, not a striker! Even if she's out all night, she won't get much past Fender's Bend until now. There are curves everywhere, you know? I don't think you ever drive more than half a mile without making a turn! And it's also full of stones. Seriously, you have to zigzag so much in Old Treachery that you often end up crossing your own lane.

guts nodded. "One last thing, Ted. Remind me again... What exactly is Mr. Stratford?”

"Oh you know the type sir, kind of average. I don't know how old he is. Maybe twenty five. Maybe twenty. Brown hair type. Surprisingly no visible scars. Ted looked embarrassed at the lack of information and shrugged. "Average height, sir." He searched for details and gave up. "To tell you the truth, he kind of looks like everyone else, sir, until he gets angry, that is" - Ted's face lit up - "and sir, then he looks like Stratford."

Willikins sat on the bench under the chestnut tree, his hands resting peacefully on his knees. He was good at it. He had a talent for calm that Vimes missed. This must be a servant thing, Vimes thought: if you have nothing to do, do nothing. And at this momenthimcould use a break. Perhaps the evidence was lowering while he was there, but judging by the noise, at a speed that could almost be beaten on foot. Unfortunately, Sybil was right. At his age you had to be reasonable. Sometimes you had to catch your breath while you still had a little. He sat down next to the man and said, "An interesting day, Willikins."

"Yes indeed, Commander, and I can say that young Constable Upshot has discharged his responsibilities with great aplomb. You have a talent for inspiring people, sir, if I may say so.

There was a silence for a while, then Vimes said, "Well, of course it helped that some idiot actually fired an arrow! You can see them thinking about what might happen if you were one of the gang members who killed a dear old lady. This is a type of problem that is not easy to get out of. It opened them! And of course that was a real stroke of luck for us,” added Mumm without turning his head. He let the silence linger while the storm raged in the distance, while nearby whatever was chirping in the bushes continued to do so in the hot, muggy afternoon.

"But it fascinates me," he continued, as if an idea had just occurred to him. "If it had been someone in the front of the crowd firing his crossbow I certainly would have seen it, and if it had been someone in the back he would have had to be clever and skilled enough to aim through perhaps a very narrow passage . Place. That wouldveryTiro Inteligente, Willikins.

Willikins was still looking straight ahead. Squinting, Vimes saw no sign of moisture on his forehead. Then the gentleman's gentleman said, "I hope these country boys are excellent at target shooting, Commander."

Vimes slapped his back and laughed. "Well that's funny, don't you think? I mean have you seen their gear? It was poor quality, poorly preserved material in my opinion, the kind of material that grandfather had brought back from some war while that arrow, I recognized this nasty little package as a custom made screw for Burleigh and Stronginthearm Piecemaker Mark IX, remember ?

"I'm afraid you need to refresh my memory, Commander."

Vimes started enjoying himself and said, "Oh you have to! Only three of these were made, and two of them are still locked with keys and padlocks in the company's safes, and the other - remember that, I'm sure? - Is it securely locked in that little safe we ​​built in the basement on Scone Avenue last year? You and I poured concrete while Sybil and the boy were gone, and we rubbed dirt all over the floor so you'd know he was there to find you. According to Vetinari and the Assassin's Guild, if someone is found with one of them, it's a matter of hangingtime plansThis hanging would be a picnic compared to what would happen to someone they found in possession of one. I mean, think about it: I can hardly say it's a beast. Silent, it folds into a pocket in an instant, is easy to hide, and deadly in the hands of a skilled man like you or me.” Vimes laughed again. "Don't be surprised Willikins, I remember your prowess even with a standard military bow during the war. God knows what someone like you might do to the damn Piecemaker. I'm just wondering how one appeared here in the country. Eventually, Feeney confiscated every gun he could find, but maybe one of those guys had it hidden in his trunk. What do you think?"

Willikins cleared his throat. "Well, Commander, if I may speak freely, I can assume there are many workers in Burleigh and Stronginthearm, which is a factor, and of course the directors of the most famous arms manufacturer in the Plains may also have decided to sell some souvenirs beforehand hide that field has been locked and who knows where they might have ended up. I can't think of any other explanation.

"Well, of course you could be right," said Vimes. "And while it's scary to think that one of these things might be out on the street somewhere, I have to admit that the idiot who used it really pissed us off." He paused, then said : "Have you had a raise lately, Willikins?"

"I'm perfectly happy with my pay, Commander."

"That's fully deserved, but just in case, as soon as we get home, I'd like you to take a look in the basement, just in case, yes? Because if there are more of these damn things out there, of course I want to make sure I have one too. And as Willikins walked away, Vimes continued, "Oh, and Willikins, it's a good job for you that Feeney can't put two and two together."

Was that the faintest sigh of relief? Certainly not. "I'll arrange that once we're in the building, Commander, and I'm sure if you decide to go there yourself sometime later to do a personal check, you'll find it resting where it always was."

'I'm sure of it, Willikins; but I was wondering if you could solve a problem for me? I have to get theseToll

He hastily added, "Of course it's a boat."

“Yes sir, I know the ship in question. Remember I was here some time before you and your lordship arrived, and I was by the river when she came up. I remember people pointing this out to me. I was made to understand that it was going up to the overhang to load, probably with iron ore brought in from the dwarven mine, which surprised me a lot as they usually smelted directly from their mines and exported the stock in ingots, this be a method more economical, sir.

"Fascinating," Vimes said, "but as slow as it is, I think I'll have to go after her."

Feeney had just left the cottage.

“I heard about the… the boat, boy. We should go while it's still light.

Feeney actually saluted. "Yes, that's in my hands, sir, but what about my prisoner? I mean my old mama could feed him and empty the bucket for him, it wouldn't be the first time she has to do something like that, but I don't like leaving her alone now, if you get my point. Thought?

guts nodded. At home, all he had to do was snap his fingers for a guard to be immediately available, but now... Well, he had no choice. "Willikins!"

"Yes Commander?"

"Willikins, against my better judgement, and I dare say yours, I am promoting you to the rank of Special Constable and ordering you to take the prisoner back to the hall and hold him there under lock and key. Even a damn army would go mad attacking the hall with Sybil in it. But just in case, Willikins, I can't think of a man better suited to protect my family.

Willikins smiled and saluted. "Yes sir, orders received and understood, sir. You can count on me, sir, just... uh, well, when we get back to town, would you, uh, please not let anyone know that I was a cop for a while? I have friends, sir, dear friends, who have known me for a long time and would cut off my ears if they knew I was a policeman.

"Well, far be it from me to bleach a man's name against his will," said Vimes. "Do we have an understanding? I would be grateful if you could do without too many adventures. Just guard the prisoner and make sure nothing happens to him. If that means doing a little sane harm to someone else, I'll take the fact with regret.

Willikins looked serious. "Yes sir, perfectly understood sir. My comb won't come out of my pocket."

Vimes sighed. “You've got a lot in your pocket, Willikins. Ration their use, man. And by the way, please tell Sybil and young Sam that Papa hunts the bad men and will see them again soon.

Feeney looked from Guts to Willikins. "I'm glad it's settled, gentlemen," he said, smiling nervously. "Well, if you're ready, Commander, let's go to the stable and get some horses." With that, he quickly walked towards the village, leaving Sam Vimes no choice but to follow him.

Guts said, "Horses?"

"Sure, commander. From what I've heard, we should achieve thatfannyin an hour. To tell the truth, we could probably outrun him, but it's better to be on the safe side, don't you think?

Feeney looked embarrassed for a moment, then added, "I don't ride much sir, but I'll try not to embarrass myself in front of you."

Vimes opened his mouth. Then Vimes fell silent, stifling his words:Young, I walked rather than walk from one pork meat was one Horse, What happened if that's it at A The same thing Pro Of? EU mean, pigs just run together, rather horses? More von A Tempo I have he recorded nothing against horses, e then EU Pro under very fest against horses, e then I am Jack about em A ar again then was once more EU have nothing against horses, rather EU to know was em a half one second A at drug Ding Beginning again, e sim Before she Pro For a com A at the business von "Your at To the right What happened if she rising up about If you or low" leave Mim to say was tem Never always worked Pro Mein, why then I am any about e one little bit behind A Horse or against A Horse then fest was I am Truth alegre was Sybil e EU have decided Pro have just one Kind...

However, Feeney was lively and talkative. "I suppose there were many horses in the Koom Valley, weren't there, sir?"

And Vimes was trapped. "Actually, boy, the trolls have no use for them and the dwarves shall eat them in silence."

"Gosh, that must have been a blow for a fighter like you, Commander?"

fighting man? Maybe, thought Vimes, at least when there were no other options, but how the hell did you think I'm comfortable even with horses? And why are we still walking towards a barn that's gonna be full of these miserable things stamping their feet and huffing and drooling and rolling their eyes back like they do? Well I'll tell you why. Because I'm too scared to tell Feeney I'm too scared. Hah, the story of my life, too cowardly to be a coward!

Now Feeney pushed aside a heavy wooden gate that creaked in Vimes' sensitive ear like a fresh gallows, and he groaned as they passed. Yes it was a rental stable and did Vimes liveries. And there they were, the inevitable followers: bow-legged, no more than a button on the coat and a certain hint of rat on the nose and wishbones on the legs. You could have played crockett with them. Each of them would have a straw in their mouth, presumably because they made a living out of it. And helplessly, Vimes was introduced to men who knew they'd heard of him, certainly a very important cop, while Feeney portrayed him as just the sort of man who would insist on riding the fastest crossbow she installs in the stalls had . .

Two evil-looking mounts were led out, and Feeney generously brought the larger one to Vimes. "There you are, sir. Back in the saddle again, eh? he said, handing Vimes the reins.

As Feeney negotiated the lease, Vimes felt his leg tug and saw the smiling face of Special Trooper Stinky, who hissed, "Big trouble, mate Po-leess-maan? A big problem for a man with a fear of horses. Damn right!? I hate horses, you can smell the fear. You take me, po-leess-maan. I repair. Don't worry. You need Stinky anyway, yes? Can you find a scared goblin? panic panic panic! But Stinky quietly tells Gob Gob Goblins, this man is not a big asshole despite appearances, yes indeed!

The miserable little goblin lowered his cracked voice even further and added, so Vimes could barely hear him, "And Stinky never said anything about the man who washes po-leess-maan shirts and lots of crossbows, eh? Mr. Pasture?leaves It is NO Run then miserable was leaves It is NO something For a leaves was Worries - he cares Pro you, Herr.

The words hit Vimes like a slap in the face. Did the little bug say that? Did Vimes really hear that? The words had fallen into the conversation as if they came from somewhere else, from somewhereveryat an other place. He glanced at Stinky, who gritted her teeth in glee and swayed terribly under her horse, just as across the courtyard the group of equestrian debate specialists settled their negotiations with Feeney. The apparent boss spat on his hand and Feeney, contrary to all public safety precautions, spat on his hand.yourHand and then shook hands and then the money changed hands and Vimes expected him to wash his hands.

Then, perhaps to his own astonishment, the horse fell to its knees in front of Vimes. Vimes had only seen it in one circus before, and everyone else pretended they had never seen it.

Stinky had miraculously disappeared, but with incredulous eyes watching, as the venerable philosopher Ly Tin Weedle says, one must do something or, by and large, be considered a tit. And so Vimes went bow-legged and crawled as casually as he could beside the horse and made that strange clicking noise he heard grooms use for each command, and the horse rose and lifted Vimes into its cradle as gently as a horse Amazement and subsequent wild applause from the bowleg-legged crowd, who cheered and said things like, "Health sir, you should get a job in the circus! And at the same time, unfortunately, Feeney was full of admiration.

The wind was blowing, but it was still a bit light, and Vimes let the policeman lead the way at a gentle trot, which turned out to be a gentle one.

"Looks like it's going to rain, Commander, so I think we'll hold on a little cautiously until we're past Piper's Holding and then around the shallows at Johnson's Neck where we can canter around the melon patch, and by then we should be able to see that. Is that ok sir?

Sam Vimes solemnly waited a few seconds to look as if he had the faintest idea of ​​the local landscape, and then said, "Well, yes, I think that must be true, Feeney."

Stinky dragged himself along the horse's mane, grinned again, and gave a big thumbs up, luckily his own.

Feeney gathered the reins. "Well, sir, we had better hurry then!"

It took Vimes a while to fully understand what was going on. There was Feeney, on his horse, there was the cool bang, and then no Feeney, no horse, but lots of dust in the distance and Stinky's cracking voice saying, "Wait, Mr. Po-leess-maan!" And then the horizon jumped towards him. Cantering wasn't as bad as trotting, somehow, and he more or less managed to get on the horse and wait for someone to find out what was going on. Stinky seemed to be in charge.

The path was quite wide and they thundered down it, leaving a trail of white dust; and then, suddenly, they descended as the land rose to Vimes' right and the river appeared from behind some trees. He already knew it was a river that saw no reason to run. After all, it was made out of water, and it's widely accepted that water has memory. He knew the result: you evaporated, you floated on a cloud until someone sorted them all out, and then you came down like rain. Happened all the time There was no point in being in a hurry. After your first splash, you've seen it all before.

And so the river meandered. Even the ankh was faster—and though it stank like a drain, it didn't slowly rock back and forth, bank to bank, like Old Treachery did, as if unsure of the entire water cycle. And just as the river meandered like a snake, so did the banks, which befitting the calm, leisurely landscape were overgrown and dense with vegetation.

However, Feeney kept up and Vimes simply followed suit, reasoning that horses probably didn't try to fall into the water of their own accord. He stayed where the hanging branches and tangled foliage threatened to knock him off his mount like a fly.

Ah yes, the flies. They were raised by the millions on the river bank. He could feel them crawling over his hair until some leaf or twig pulled them free. The odds of spotting the boat without getting your head ripped off seemed extremely slim.

And yet here was a sudden respite for Vimes' aching back, the sandbank with a few abandoned logs in it, and Feeney stopping his horse. Vimes managed to get to his feet just in time, and both men slid to the ground.

"Well done, Commander! You were obviously born in the saddle! Good news! can you smell it

Vimes sniffed, nose full of flies and a very strong stench of cattle manure. "It feels like air doesn't it?" said Feeney. "It's the smell of a two-ox boat, right! They get dirty along the way, you know.

Vimes looked at the sultry water. "I am not suprised." Maybe, he thought, now is the right time for a little discussion with the boy. He cleared his throat and stared blankly at the mud as he collected his thoughts; a small trickle of water trickled down the pole and the horses stirred restlessly.

"Feeney, I don't know what's in store for us when we get to the boat, understand? I don't know if we can turn around, or get the goblins out and then bring them home overland, or if we have to go down to the shore, but I'm in charge, right? You understand? I'm in charge because I'm so used to people not wanting to see me in front of them or even alive."

"Yes sir," Feeney began, "but I think..."

Vimes continued. "I don't know what we'll find, but I suspect that people who try to take over boats, even a floating manure machine like this, will probably be immediately treated like pirates and all by the crewI amYou're going to give the orders, and I want you to do exactly what I say, okay?"

For a moment it looked like Feeney would disagree, then he just nodded, patted his horse and waited for another small wave to splash alongside the horses. The sudden silence from someone who was usually so talkative rattled Vimes, and he said, "Waiting for something, Feeney?"

Feeney nodded and said, "I didn't mean to interrupt you, Commander, and as you say, you're in charge, but I waited until you said something I wanted to hear."

"Oh yeah? Like what?"

"Well sir, for starters I'd like to hear you say it's time to get on your horse and get out of here real quick because the water is rising and the alligators will be waking up soon."

Vimes looked around. One of the logs that he had so carelessly thrown away stretched its legs. He landed on his horse's back, reins in hand, in just over a second.

"Then I take this order for granted, right?" screamed Feeney as he ran after Vimes.

Mumm versuchte nicht, langsamer zu werden, bis er feststellte, dass sie hoch genug am Ufer lagen, um für alles, was im Wasser lebte, uninteressant zu sein, und dann wartete er darauf, dass Feeney aufholte.

"Okay, Chief Constable Conclusion, I'm still responsible, but I agree to respect your local knowledge. Will it satisfy you? WhereIt isIs the water coming?”

It certainly rose: when they started, you would have needed a ruler to be sure it was flowing, but now small waves danced one after the other and a light rain began to fall.

"It's this storm coming our way," Feeney said, "but don't worry sir, that just means thefannyit will bind if it gets too strong. Then we can just get in.

The rain was falling faster now and Vimes said: "What happens if he decides to move on? It's not too far from sunset, is it?

"That won't be a problem, Commander, don't worry!" yelled Feeney with unnerving glee. “Let's stay on the trails. No water comes that far. Wherever she is, thefannyit will have lights on, red ones, actually oil lamps. So don't worry," Feeney finished. "If she's still on the river we'll find her, sir, one way or another, and may I ask, sir, what are your intentions then?"

Vimes wasn't sure, but no officer likes to say that, so instead he asked a question of his own. "Sir. Feeney, you make this river look like a picnic! He pointed across the river to a spot where the water swirled and gurgled, almost visibly rising as they watched.

'Oh,' said Feeney, 'there's always debris falling on Old Betrayal. The only time to worry is when you care. They are very rare when the circumstances are right, sir, and rest assured the captain will have themfannywell out of harm's way if any of these occur. Also, he cannot navigate the river at night in bad weather; Old Treachery is full of obstacles and sandbars. It would be suicide, even for a pilot as good as Mr. Sillitoe!

They rode in silence save for the terrible eddy and gurgle of the dark water in the torrent below the bank. There was only a bit of daylight left and it was a dirty orange, aided occasionally by lightning followed by thunder that smashed rocks. In the woods on either side of the river, the trees smoldered and occasionally burned, which Vimes thought was at least an aid to navigation. The rain was seeping through his clothes now, and then he called out in a voice that betrayed his belief that he wouldn't like the answer to his question: "Speaking of nothing, and just to pass the time, boy, can you tell me something sayExactlya damn bang, right?

Feeney's voice was initially drowned out by the thunder behind them, but the next time he managed to say, "It's an occasional phenomenon caused by a storm that gets stuck in the valley and the storm debris piles up in a certain way, sir. ..."

Stinky climbed onto the horse's head from who dares to guess where. It glowed with a faint blue corpse light. Vimes reached out a finger to touch it, and a small blue flame danced in his hand. He knew it. "St. Erratic fire,' he said aloud, wishing he could light his last cigar with it, even if it was a Drowning whiff. sometimes you are simplenecessarysome tobacco.

Feeney stared into the blue light with an expression of such horror that Vimes scarcely dared interrupt him. But he said, "What happens then, boy?"

Lightning, with a flair for the dramatic moment, lit Feeney's face as he turned. "Well, Commander, the debris will gather and tangle into a mass, and the river will build up behind him so much that sooner or later it will overcome the force of the natural dam that will plow through the river. mercilessly sweeping away or knocking over everything in its path, all the way down to the sea, sir. That's why this river is called 'Old Treason'!”

"Well, of course," said Vimes. "I'm a simple townsfolk who doesn't know much about these things, but I understand that a collection of debris finding its way downstream and sweeping away or knocking over everything on its way to the sea is generally considered a bad thing? "

There was a long creaking sound behind them as another tree was struck by lightning. "Yes, sir. You left out the word 'merciless', sir," Feeney said cautiously.we musttry to keep upfannyAS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE."

"I think you're right, boy, and now I suggest..."

Whatever Stinky was doing, and whatever Stinky really was, the horses were getting nervous enough to break out. There was so much water in the air and so little light left that the difference between the river and the shore could only be judged by seeing where you landed.

And it was raining heavily now, rain blowing from every direction, including upwards, and the symphony of dark destruction was broken by the sound of banks relentlessly sliding on the churning water. The horses were frantic now and steering was meaningless and the heat and the world was nothing but darkness and water and cold despair and two red eyes.

Feeney saw her first and then Vimes smelled her. It was the strong, desperate smell of oxenTruthworried and was fat enough to get out of the commotion. Surprisingly, the boat was still churning up the water and making some headway, despite the fact that its flotilla of barges were dragging, tangling, and generally dangling across the river like a mad cat's tail.

"Why didn't she tie it somewhere?" Feeney screamed into the storm. It looked desperate, but Vimes dismounted, grabbed Stinky's slimy form and slapped his horse's bottom. After all, she now had a better chance alone than with him.

And then his inner eyes gazed out over the Koom Valley for a moment. He almost died that day as water poured from the valley walls and thundered through the endless caves in the limestone, smashing him against the walls, smashing him against the floor and ceiling and finally dropping him onto a small sandy beach in total darkness. . And the darkness had been his friend and Vimes had soared in the face of the darkness and there he found growing enlightenment and he understood that fear and anger can be hammered into a sword and the desire to read a book again for a child it might be forged into a shield and armor for a dying shipwrecked man, who henceforth shook hands with kings.

After that, what could be scary about rescuing goblins, and who knows how many other people tumble down a treacherous black river from a boat in the raging, steaming darkness?

He was running along the scorching shore now, the water running down his neck. But running wasn't enough. you had to think They thought the boatman knew the river and the boat. He could have landed at any moment, right? And he hadn't, but obviously he wasn't a fool, because although he'd only known the river a few hours, Vimes knew no fool would survive more than a few trips down it. It was built to be a trap for the stupid.

On the other hand, if you weren't stupid, ox pilot was a very good job: you'd have prestige, respect, responsibility, and a steady salary for a steady job, plus the envy of every little boy at all stages of the landing. . Sybil, with some enthusiasm, told him all about it one evening. Why, then, should a man in such a decent position steer such a valuable boat, with valuable cargo, down the river on a night that promised destruction at every turn of the snake, when mooring would not be blamed for a while?

Money? No, Vimes thought. They call this river the Old Treason, and money certainly hasn't been good for you when you're sinking horribly into its muddy arms. Besides, Vimes knew men like that, and they tended to be proud, confident, and impossible to bribe. He probably wouldn't endanger the boat even if you put a knife to his throat... But traditionally the family comes too; the pilot always worked from home, right?

And what would a desperate pilot do then? What would he do if a knife was held to the throat of a woman or child? What choice did he have but sail away, relying on his life's experience to get them all to safety? And it would not be an unwelcome guest, no, for then you would be trying to beach the boat heavily while, muscles tense, relying on the confusion to leap on the fallen one and strangle him with your bare hands, but that would only work if you didn't bring an ally with you. And so you sat behind the wheel, hoping and praying and expecting the rumble of the damn crash at any moment.

Feeney was now running down the bench behind him and managed to gasp, "What are we going to do, sir? Seriously, what are we supposed to do!”

Vimes ignored Feeney for a moment. The rain, surf, and fallen logs were enough to deal with, but he kept his eyes on the line of barges. There was a rhythm now as they weaved back and forth, but it was constantly being broken by bits of driftwood and whatever was going on there in the wheelhouse to steer. Every time the rear barge touched shore there was a moment, a precious little moment, when a man could jump on board if that man were a fool.

So he jumped, realizing that a jump must be followed by another jump and if he didn't keep up he would fall back into the tide, but jumping to the next barge, which was rocking and bucking on the swell, one only hoped that one was not left with one foot wedged between the two, for two twenty-five foot barges sandwiched together with the foot in the middle would leave more than a bruise. But Stinky was running and jumping and pirouetting right in front of him, and Vimes was quick enough to get the message and landed right on the nearest barge, and surprisingly so was Feeney, who was actually laughing, despite having to be less than a foot away . be. to hear it.

"Well done, sir! We did it when I was a boy... every boy did it... the big ones were the best..."

Vimes held his breath after the first two jumps. From what Feeney told him, theToll fannyIt was a bulk carrier, big and slow, but it could carry any cargo. Could be anything on those barges, he thought, but it still didn't smell of goblins and there were two barges to go and the weather was trying to get worse.

With that thought, there was Stinky again, seemingly able to come and go without ever being seen coming or going. And it was still glowing faintly. Vimes had to crouch to speak to him. "Where are you, stinker?"

The goblin farted, probably clown-like, more for amusement than relief. Apparently pleased with the answer, he snapped, "Ship number one! Easy to reach! Easy to feed!”

Vimes watched the distance to the barge just behind the boat. Shouldn't there be some kind of catwalk? Any way to get onto the barges so the crew can access the cargo? He turned back to Feeney, dripping with rain and lit by another flash. "What do you think, how many crew members?"

Even so close, Feeney had to scream. "Probably two men, or a man and a boy, down there in what they call a stable! Along with the Engineer and usually a Cargo Master or Cargo Captain! Sometimes a cook when the captain's wife doesn't want to do the job, although they mostly do, and then a lad or two to learn the trade and act as general watchmen and wharf rats!

"That's all? no guard?

"No, sir, that's not the high seas!"

Two barges collided, sending up a cloud of water that eventually managed to fill Vimes' boots to the top. No point emptying it, but he managed to growl through the storm, "I've got news for you, boy. The water rises.

Preparing to jump onto the next unpredictable barge, he wondered, Still, where are the people? You don't all want to die, do you? He waited and jumped again as the barge approached, landing heavily just in time to see his sword do a mischievous somersault in the stormy water. Cursing and struggling for his balance, he waited for the next opportunity to narrowly survive and this time succeed. He jumped again and almost fell backwards between the clashing rafters, but as he balanced dangerously he fell forward and landed in and through a tarp, at a slurred face screaming, "Please! Please!" Please do not kill me! I'm just a complicated chicken farmer! I don't carry guns! I don't even like killing chickens!"

Vimes managed to land his arms around a fat man, who would have screamed again if Vimes hadn't put his hand over his mouth and hissed, "It's the police, sir. Sorry for the inconvenience sir, but who the hell are you and what's going on? Come on, we have no time to waste." He pushed the man further into the barge, and a sodden darkness and a recognizable smell told Sam Vimes he hadn't lied about the chickens, whether the frenetic speaker was complicated or not. Off from the clucking, feathery darkness in the wire baskets beyond, emanated another smell, announcing that large numbers of chickens, which even in the best of times were never the most stoic of creatures, were now thereverydisturbed.

A vague silhouette asked: "The police? Here? Pull that other leg, man! Who do you Think You Are? Damn Commander Guts?

The barge rocked again and a stray egg came out of the darkness and crashed into Vimes' face. He wiped it off, or at least smeared it around a little, and said, "Well, well, sir, are you always so lucky?"

His name was wrong; in full it was False Praise and Redemption, and if you have a false name you inevitably insist on explaining why, even if impending watery death is staring you in the eye not only but everywhere else, possibly including both trouser legs . "You see sir my family is originally from Klatch and our name was Thalassa but of course over time people tend to mispronounce the way they..."

Vimes stopped him because strangling him was a more acceptable alternative. "Please, Mr. Fake, can you tell me what's going on in the

"Oh dear, it was horrible, it was really extremely horrible! There was screaming and screaming and I'm pretty sure I heard a woman scream! And now we keep hitting the bench, or so it seems! And the storm, sir, will bring us down in no time, I'm sure!

"And you haven't looked at it, Mr. Fake?" said guts.

The man looked scared. "Commander, I raise complicated chickens, sir, extremely complicated chickens. I know nothing about fighting! Chickens never get that aggressive! I'm sorry sir, but I haven't looked at it, if I did see it, sir, do you understand? And if I did, sir, then surely people would see me, sir, and as I thought it would be humans who would be alive afterwards, other humans might be dead, sir, and perhaps the responsibility for such deaths wear sir, i made sure they don't see me, sir, you know what i mean? Also, I have no weapons, weak lungs, and a wooden foot. And I'm alive right now.

In fact, Vimes thought there was an inescapable logic to all of this, so he said, "Don't worry about that, Mr. False, I bet you've got enough to do with your complicated chickens as it is. So no guns?

"I am very sorry to disappoint you, Commander, but I am not a strong man. It was all I could do to lug my tool kit on board!”

Vimes' face was blank. "Toolbox? Do you have a toolbox?"

Mr. False was grabbing the wall again as the barge hit something it shouldn't have and said, "Well, yes, sure. When we get to Quirm I've got land to prepare for a hundred chicken coops, and these days if you're going to do a job right you've got to do it yourself, right?

"You tell an expert," Vimes said as another accident staggered them both. "I wonder if I could take a look at your tool box?"

There are times in the symphony of the world when your auditory kaleidoscope of rumbles, thunders, screams and storms suddenly merge into one great hallelujah! And the contents of the chicken farmer's innocent toolbox, which contained nothing but ordinary iron, steel, and wood, still shone like the hosts of heaven in the eyes of Commander Sam Vimes. Sledgehammers, hammers, saws, oh my god! There was even a large spiral awl! What could Willikins have done with a toy like Hal-le-lu-jah! Oh, and here was a crowbar! Vimes balanced it in his hand and felt the road rise and touch his feet. The tricky chicken man heard a woman scream...

Vimes spun around as the tarpaulin was pushed aside and Feeney landed on the barge in a drizzle. "I know you didn't give me the signal, Commander, but thought I'd let you know the water was receding."

Vimes saw Mr False close his eyes and groan, but he turned to Feeney and said, "Well that's good, isn't it? The water? sink?

"No, it's not, sir!" screamed Feeney. "It's still raining heavily and the water level is falling and that means trees and bushes, mud and other debris are piling up upstream from us to form a dam that's getting bigger and bigger, growing sideways as the water collects at. behind him, sir. can you see what i mean

Yes you did. "Damn coup?"

Feeney nodded. "Right! We have two choices: Would you rather die in the river or under it? What are your orders, please, sir?

Another collision rocked the barge and Vimes stared into the darkness. In that terrible twilight someone managed to save this boat from sinking. A woman screamed and Vimes had a crowbar. Almost absent-mindedly, he reached into the open toolbox, took out a sledgehammer and handed it to Feeney. "There you go, boy. I know you have your official firewood, but things can get up close and personal. Attribute it to the dreadful algebra of necessity, but try not to catch me with it.

He heard Feeney's voice say, more frantically this time, "What are we going to do, Commander?!"

And Vimes blinked and said:"Everything!"

The wind caught the canvas as Vimes opened it and it flew across the river leaving behind the complicated chicken farmer living on hope and broken eggs. They walked out into the darkness, their shadows dancing to the rhythm of the lightning. How the hell did the pilot navigate all this? pears in front? Surely there was nothing they could do on a night like this but show the darkness. But although with every punch and punch there was a suspicion that thefannywas in trouble, Vimes could now hear the clatter of the paddle wheels like a solid, dependable theme in the cacophony, a steady, soothing sound. It paved the way. There was some order in the world, but how did the pilot manage the chaos? How could you drive if you couldn't see?

Feeney explained in a hurry and Vimes even faster uttered utter disbelief. "It is true, sir! He knows every bend in the river, he knows the wind, he knows how fast we're going, and he has a spare stopwatch and hourglass. He goes for a walk when it's time. Okay, it does scratch the edges a bit with the old one, but it's pretty stiff.

They jumped onto the last barge together and found a locked hatch. However, a crowbar is a universal access key. And there, under the hatch, were goblins, all bound hand and foot, and they were piled up like cabbage. There were hundreds of them. Overwhelmed, Vimes looked around to see Stinky standing behind him.

"Okay, my friend, for you. We'll certainly release them, but I wouldn't mind a little reassurance that suddenly a bunch of angry goblins won't be turning my head this way and that to see how I get it, got it?

Stinky, already skeletal thin, looked even thinner as he shrugged. He pointed to the groaning heaps. "Very sore, very hard, also very hungry..." Stinky eyed a goblin at the bottom of a pile and touched a limp hand. "Too dead to hunt anyone, Mr. Po-leess-maan. There are! But then give them food, give them water and they hunt. Oh, they stalk like a bastard, you bet! As soon as I speak to them, oh you bet! But I'll tell them, po-leess-maan, that big asshole, okay, but friendly asshole. I'll tell them you hit him, I hit you 'cause I'm po-leess-maan now. Special Po-leess-maan Stinky!

Vimes thought it the best farewell he could hope for under the circumstances. Only then did Feeney manage to dislodge the lid of a large drum, one of several rolling around on deck. Instantly, the terrible stench on the barge doubled, and he backed away, hands over his mouth. Stinky, on the other hand, sniffed appreciatively. "Damn it! turkey stomach! Food of the gods! Bastard murder trip, but good food.

Vimes looked at him. All right, he thought, he hangs around with people, so he's learning vocabulary, maybe that's suspiciously clever. Maybe miss. Beedle gave you language lessons? Or maybe he's just a hidden adventurer from hell who knows where to have fun at the expense of a hard-working cop. Not for the first time.

Feeney was already cutting ropes and Vimes was trying to revive as many goblins as possible in a hurry. It was no job for anyone who cared about hygiene or even had a sense of what the word meant - although after an hour in a downpour in Old Treachery it had no meaning anyway. They staggered back and forth, finding their way to the overturned barrel of dead turkey chunks, and stumbling across slippery decks to a sloshing and now half-empty water trough, which Feeney had found and filled by simply shoving a bucket into it. over the side. They came back to life;most of timeThey came back to life.

The barge bounced off an embankment again, and amidst the falling goblins, Vimes clung to a railing. Half of the whole punt was filled with barrels which, if you sniffed anywhere nearby, certainly weren't filled with sweet roses. He challenged the swing deck again, saying, "I don't think that's all for a little trip to the sea, is it? There are more barrels of stinking turkey entrails than this bunch of poor devils could eat in a week! Someone expected a long journey! Oh my!"

The barge had hit something, and with the sound of breaking glass, something had broken. Feeney stood up, holding a rope, brushed the turkey muscles off his coat and said, "Travel, sir. no trip sir You don't need all this when traveling overland. I think they're going somewhere far away.

"Do you think it's going to be a holiday of sun, sea, surfing and fun?" said Vimes.

'No sir,' said Feeney, 'and they wouldn't like it if you were, would they? Leprechauns like the dark.

Vimes clapped him on the shoulder. "Okay, Chief Constable Bottom Line, don't hit someone who surrenders, and if a man drops his gun, be a little careful with him until you're sure he doesn't have another one stashed somewhere, okay? When in doubt, knock them down. And you know how to do it: Use the old Bang Suck Cling Buck, huh?!”

"Yes sir, it's a shoe polish recipe sir, but I'll keep that in mind."

Vimes turned to Stinky, who looked a little fatter than usual. "Stinky, I have no idea what's going to happen next. I can see your friends are starting to look alive and so you have a chance we all sink or swim and I can't put it better than that. Come on Feeney.

So close thatToll fannynow it was a squeaky, rolling mess, half-covered with weeds and flying sticks. Except for the storm and the noise and creaking of the mechanisms, all was silent.

"Okay," Feeney said quietly, "we'd better come through the cattle door at the back, sir, or as you would say 'back'. It won't be a difficult jump, there are a lot of kicks because the loadmaster has to come over here to take care of the punts. Do you see the double doors and the small gate? We're going that way. There'll probably be more cargo at the cattle ramp, because a loadmaster never wastes space, and then we'll go midships..."

"Does that mean 'midships'?" said guts.

Feeney smiled. "Yes sir, and be careful because it's a mass of machines. You'll see what I mean because you're smart. Take the wrong step and you could fall into a gear or onto an ox, never a lucky opportunity. It's loud, smelly and dangerous. So if there are a lot of bad guys on that boat, I wouldn't expect to find them there."

I would, Vimes thought; our Mr. Stratford is the kind of lunatic who wants to keep going under suicidal circumstances. Why? So that the cargo is too far away before anyone finds out about it? And Stratford works for Lord Rust and the Rusts think they own the world. We're taking goblins somewhere, but they want to keep them alive - why?

The shock of another collision brought him back to the horrifying here and now, and he said: "I expect any crew here to be watched like hawks should they ever get a wrench in the works."

"Oh, very smart, sir, very smart indeed. There has to be some light in there to be on the safe side, but not too much and everything behind glass because of..."

Feeney hesitated, so Vimes suggested, "Fire maybe? I've never met an engineer who didn't put grease on wherever he could."

"Oh, it's not necessarily the fat, sir, it's the beasts. If gas builds up, then this happens! And when the glass breaks, it's pathetically spectacular. Two years ago theSplendid Peggywas thrown out of the water for this reason!

"Do they eat Hang Suck Butt Dog with turnips here?"

“No sir, not as far as I know, but bhangbhangduc fusion cuisine is very popular on boats, it is true. Anyway, further aft you'll find the cockpit, the sleeping quarters, and then the wheelhouse, which has fairly wide windows, which is another good reason to attack from behind.”

Refreshingly it was a short jump with a nice kick at the end. Vimes didn't want to be overheard. The deck creaked under his feet as he dragged himself insideToll fannyand it slid into the middle of the ship, or whatever it's actually called, but then it creaked everywhere and all the time, and it groaned too. The boat was so noisy that a sudden silence could have drawn attention. And I'm looking for someone who looks like everyone else, he thought, until he looks like the ruthless killer he is. Well that sounds easy.

Vimes was vaguely aware of huge wheels frantically spinning sideways and chains racing over him, and now, here, at the top of the stairs, was someone who was clearly not where he was supposed to be...

It was a woman with a little girl clinging to her dress. They were tied loosely to a creaking beam, and a small oil lamp held them in the center of their circle of light above them. And probably because a little way from them, on a stool, sat a man with a crossbow on his lap.

And here was a riddle, because there was a piece of string tied around each of her legs. A cord ran across the floor and disappeared into what, judging by the heat, the stench of the farm, and the occasional screeching of deranged hoofed animals, Stable Vimes had just passed. The other rope disappeared towards the wheelhouse.

The woman saw him and immediately hugged the child to her chest and very slowly put a finger to her lips. He had to hope the man hadn't noticed, andNOI have to hope the woman realized he was there to save her and not add to her problems. It wasn't necessary, but he felt better because she was an easygoing lady. He raised a hand in front of Feeney, but the boy was definitely future captain material; he hadn't moved. Like Vimes, he became an observer. And Vimes watched, letting the darkness rise to assess the situation in his own inimitable way. This wasn't Summoning Dark, or at least he fervently hoped it wasn't. It was only his own human darkness and inner enemy who knew his every thought, who knew that every time Commander Vimes found a vicious and inventive assassin of either mercy or justice determined by the law in his unpredictable wisdom, there was another Vimes, a spirit Vimes whose desire to hack this creature to pieces on the spot needed to be chained. Unfortunately, this was becoming increasingly difficult and he wondered if one day that darkness would fall and claim his inheritance and he wouldn't know it... the brakes and chains and doors and locks in his mind would be gone and he wouldn't knowledge.

Just now, as he looked at the frightened child, he feared that moment was drawing near. Possibly only Feeney's presence kept the darkness at bay, the dreadful desire to kill the hangman of his right to a dollar for the fall, threepence for the rope and sixpence for his beer. How easy it is to kill, yes, but not when a smart young cop who thinks you're a nice guy is looking at you. At home, the Warden and his family surrounded Vimes like a wall. Here the good guy was the good guy because he didn't want anyone to see that he was bad. He didn't want to be ashamed. He didn't want to be the dark one.

The bow was aimed at the two hostages, and its owner would be instructed to fire if a leg jerk sounded the alarm. Would he? It took a bit of aging for the dark to show up, although there was always one or two who were born dark with legs and killed for a hobby. He was a? Even if he wasn't, would he panic? How easy was the trigger? Could a sudden jolt set it off?

Outside the storm was raging. Whether the water went down or not didn't seem to matter that much since there was already so much out there. The woman watched him out of the corner of her eye. Well, every moment counted...

Timed his steps carefully, as if a footstep could be heard above all the thunder and creaks, Vimes crawled over to the unsuspecting guard, wrapped both hands around his neck, and pulled to his feet. The arrow hit the ceiling.

"I don't want anyone to get hurt." Vimes tried to put it mildly but continued, "If you think you can pull strings boy let me tell you, you'll run out of air before I run out of grip." . Chief of Police Conclusion, get your gun and tie this gentleman's legs. You can have his gun. i know you like her

He must have accidentally relieved the pressure, because his prisoner said hoarsely, "I don't want to kill anyone, sir, please! They gave me the bow and told me to shoot when the boat stops or I pull the strings! Do you think I would, sir? Do you really think I would do that? I was just sitting here in case one of them comes in! Please sir, I never thought of anything like that! It's Stratford, sir, he's a total nutcase, sir, a bloody killer, that's him!

There was a bang and the whole boat rocked. Maybe the pilot's timer had failed him. "What is your name, sir?"

'Eddie, sir, Eddie Brassbound. I'm just a water rat, sir!” The man was shaking. Vimes could see his hand shaking. He turned to the woman with the child, now being held by Feeney, touched her topknot and revealed her carefully hidden badge. "Ma'am, I'm Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard. Has this man abused you or the little girl in any way?”

The woman hardly moved. She reminded him of the younger Sybil, calm and composed and more ready to fight than scream, but she wouldn't fight until she was ready. "Well done Commander, just as I was putting Grace to bed. The bastards arrived with cargo and acted like decent fellows until my husband said he was afraid the weather was going to get really bad. I was in the kitchen, I heard a lot of shouting, and then we were brought here. Personally, sir, I'd consider it a favor if you killed all the men, but life can't be that much fun. As for this one, well, he could have been less chivalrous, so while I'd ask you to throw him in the river, I wouldn't mind if you refused to strap a heavy weight to his leg.

Feeney laughed. “Wouldn't need weights ma'am! The river is celebrating and we're all invited! I'm a good swimmer and wouldn't dare jump into what's out there.

Vimes grabbed Brassbound and looked him in the eye. After a moment he said, "No, I know a murderer's eyes when I see them. That doesn't mean you're not a pirate, so we're keeping an eye on you, ok, so don't try anything. I trust you. Heaven help you if I'm wrong.

Brassbound opened his mouth to speak, but Vimes quickly added, "Could you make your life a little easier and possibly longer, Mr.

"I don't know, sir. I don't know who's alive, see?

Vimes glanced at the woman as the boat lurched. It was a strange feeling – Vimes felt almost weightless for a moment – ​​and there was a commotion behind them in the stable between the big spinning wheels. Regaining his balance, he managed to say, "I think youthey areMrs. Sillitoe, ma'am?

She nodded. "Yes, I am, Commander," she said as the little girl clung tighter to her. "I know my husband is still alive because so are we ... right now." She stopped as another wave lifted the entire boat, she saidfannycame down with a splash and a deafening bang, followed by the sustained bleat of an ox that had had enough,ethe beginning of a scream.

Vimes, Feeney, and Brassbound rose from the floor. Woman. Sillitoe and her daughter were surprisingly still erect, and Mrs. Sillitoe smiled grimly. "The sound you heard was one of the pirates dying, I'm happy to say that! That means everyone else in the stable is alive. Do you want me to tell you why? He almost certainly didn't jump! Those ups and downs are little bumps to me: somewhere behind us a damn bump gets so big that parts of it break off and come down on us at high speed, you see, raise the water level and fall like a stone as they pass - and then you must know enough to dance to the beat! Because if you don't dance to the slam beat, you'll soon be dancing with the devil! A man was going down there with a crossbow when the fighting started. From the looks of it, he was unfamiliar with dancing. I assume it was Ten Gallon Charlie who picked him up when he was down, poor lamb. Charlie is the Bullock Wrangler. Once he hits a man, no one ever has to hit him again.” Woman. Sillitoe said this in a matter of fact, satisfied voice. "If you try to steal our boat, you must expect serious inconvenience."

And I thought soCityhe was on the hard side, thought Vimes. Noting that a prudent Feeney had loaded the confiscated crossbow, he said: "I'll go down and make sure. Woman. Sillitoe, how many other pirates do you think there are?

"There were four who came on board as owners of the cargo." She began counting them on her fingers. "Sir. Harrison, the loadmaster, caught one of them, but another stabbed him, the devil. I know only one of them went into the stables and another helped this affected son of a bitch tie the ropes for someone to stay To try something fun we were hostages and then this other man got into the wheelhouse. I was told we would be fine as long as my husband took the load to Quirm. The little girl clung to her dress as the woman walked on, face still. "I personally don't believe it, but he hasn't done anything to my husband yet. He counts, all the time he counts. My husband heard Old Treachery and remembered! Tried to get murderous water over sixty miles! What if he dies, he wins wherever you are..."

"Feeney, keep your crossbow trained on that gentleman, will you?" said guts. "And if he makes any movement, including attempting to blow his nose, you have all my authority to shoot him anywhere that would be seriously impractical."

Vimes walked up the steps and nodded to Feeney and Mrs. Sillitoe, held up a finger and said, "I'll be with you in a minute!" And fell on the hot and disgusting heart ofTollSnooker, thought Guts. Hit the balls until you get the timing right.

He felt the pressure in his feet build as the vehicle took off and immediately bounced into the air and landed cleanlyfannyhit back into the water.

He was confronted with a man who would certainly make Willikins think. “Would you be ten gallons? Woman. Sillitoe sent me here. I'm Commander Vimes, Ankh-Morpork City Guard!"

And the man with the matching troll face and body said, "I've heard about you. I thought you were dead!

"I usually look like this at the end of a boat trip, Mr. Gals," Vimes said. He then pointed to an apparent corpse on the floor between them: "What happened to him?"

"I believehimhe's dead.” Ten Gallons blinked. "I've never seen a man choke on his own nose."

In the stable, little could be heard over the din of the oxen and the menacing hum of overloaded gears, but Vimes called out, "Has he a crossbow?"

Ten Gallons nodded, and fingers thicker than Vimes' wrist plucked said gun from a nail in the wall. "I'd like to go with you, sir, but there's nothing the three of us can do to keep things together here!" He spitted. "There's no hope anyway, the damn beat is right behind us! See you on the other side, officer!

Vimes nodded to him, studied the crossbow for a moment, made a small adjustment, and headed up the steps contentedly.

Vimes looked at the few people left in the houseToll fannythat they did not throw water on the backs of steaming oxen or try to keep the boat intact and afloat. The tremors would really come, he was sure of it, and once the hole was big enough the whole damn dam would give way.

All cabin occupants except Brassbound, who fell, jumped as another wave lifted the boat.

Feeney breathed a sigh of relief as Vimes walked over to the shaky Brassbound, who clearly realized he was likely to be the unlucky winner of the first over-the-side contest. And Feeney did groan as Vimes handed the man the found crossbow and said: 'I told you, Chief Constable, I know a murderer when I see one and I need reinforcements and I'm sure our Mr Brassbound is very eager to side with the good side of the law right now, a decision that may make him look better in court. I'm not sure, Mr. Brass Band?

The young man nodded fervently.

Vimes added: "I'd rather you were here Feeney. Until I know exactly who else is in that tub, I want you to take care of the ladies. Right now I'm not sure I know who's alive and who's dead.

fannyit's not a bathtub, Commander," said Mrs. Sillitoe gruffly. "But this time I'll forgive you."

Vimes gave a quick salute as everyone but Brassbound jumped up and the idiot struggled again.

Vimes turned toward the stairs. "It'll be Stratford up there with the pilot, won't it, Mr. Brassband?"

Another bigger wave this time and Brassbound went down heavily. He managed to say, "And he's heard from you, you know what it's like, and he's determined to get down to the sea before you catch up with him." He's a murderer, sir, a stone murderer! Don't give him a chance, sir, I beg you for the sake of all of us, and hurry up for yours! The air was electric, really electric. Everything metallic rattled and made noises. "They say the dam is going to burst very soon," Brassbound said.

"Thank you for that, Mr. Brassbound. You strike me as a sensible young man, and I will tell the authorities as much.

The worried young man's face was full of smiles as he said, "And you are the famous Commander Vimes, sir! I am happy to be by your side.

There were many steps up to the wheelhouse. The pilot was king, and he rode high above the river, ruler of all he surveyed, even as the rain pounded, as it was now, against the expensive glass windows as if attacking the solid plates of the sky. Vimes entered quickly. It wasn't worth shouting as the storm drowned out everything, but you had to be able to tell you were saying, "Commander Vimes, Ankh-Morpork City Guard! Statute of Action Required!” Which didn't exist, but he vowed to himself that he'd approve of it when he got back, even if he had to call in a favor from everyone. A lawyer faced with a dire emergency should at least have some kind of fig leaf to shove down the lawyers' throats!

He could see Mr. Sillitoe's back in his pilot's hat. The pilot didn't pay any attention to Vimes, but a young man stood and looked at Vimes, knees drawn up and horror that wet his pants. The sword he was carrying landed heavily on the deck.

Brassbound hopped from one foot to the other. "You better take care of him now, Commander, he'll have a trick or two up his sleeve and won't make a mistake!"

Vimes ignored this and searched the boy carefully, releasing a short knife of the sort a river rat might wield. He used it to cut a length of rope and tied the man's hands behind his back. "Okay, Mr. Stratford, let's go down. But if you want to jump in the water first, I won't stop you.

And then the man spoke for the first time. "I'm not Stratford, sir," he said pleadingly. "I'm Squeezy McIntyre. It's Stratford behind you, pointing the crossbow at you, sir.

The man formerly known as Brassbound chuckled as Vimes turned away. "Oh my god, the great Commander Vimes! I'll be damned if you're not as dumb as a bunch of horse shit! You know a killer's eyes when you see them, right? Well, I think I killed maybe sixteen people, not including goblins of course, they don't count.

Stratford aimed at Vimes and smiled. "Maybe it's my boyish features, wouldn't you say? What idiot cares about goblins, huh? Oh they say they can talk but you know how these little bastards can lie! The crossbow tip swung hypnotically in Stratford's hands. "But I'm curious. I mean, I don't like you and I'm definitely going to shoot you, but do me a favor and tell me what you saw in my eyes, okay?

Squeezy took the opportunity to frantically jump down the steps just as Vimes said with a shrug, "I saw a goblin girl get murdered. what lies didIs it over theretell you? I know a murderer's eyes, Mr. Stratford, oh, I certainly do, because I've looked into eyes like that before. And when I need a reminder, I look in my shaving mirror. Oh yes, I recognize your eyes and I can't wait to see what you do next, Mr Stratford. But now that I think about it, maybe it wasn't wise of me to give you that crossbow. maybe I reallyAnStupid for giving you the opportunity to surrender to me here and now, and I'll only do it once.

Stratford stared, mouth agape, then said, "Hell, Commander, I'm in control of you andshewantMimto surrender I'm sorry, Commander, but I'll see you in Hell!

There was room in the world for the beast to sing as the grinning Stratford pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, the sound it made was close to the word He was staring at.

"I took the safety pin and stuck it in the dung," Vimes said. "You can't shoot without a needle! Well, I suppose you've got some knives with you, so if you want to cut your way past me I'll happily oblige, though I'll tell you that first you won't succeed, and second, if you passing a kid who grew up on the streets of Ankh-Morpork, there's a one-punch man down there who can KO an elephant, and if you stab him you'll only make him angrier..."

The wave was bigger than ever this time and Vimes banged his head on the cockpit canopy before landing again in front of Stratford, kicking him hard and also in the groin, following official police method.

"Oh come on, Mr. Stratford, don't you have a reputation to uphold? Dreaded Assassin? You should spend some time in town, my boy, and I'll make sure you do. Stratford fell back and Vimes continued: "And then you'll be hanged, as is right and proper, but don't worry, Mr. The policeman gives a nice bow and they say it hardly hurts. I'll tell you what, just to get the adrenaline pumping, Mr. Stratford, pretend I'm the goblin girl. She was begging for her life, Mr. Stratford, remember? I do! And you too. You fell for the first wave, Mr. Stratford. River rats know what to do. You didn't, although I have to say you covered it pretty well. Oops!

That's because Stratford really tried his hand at a knife. Vimes twisted his wrist and hurled the blade down the stairs just as the glass in the wheelhouse shattered and a branch larger than Vimes sliced ​​across the room, kicking up leaves and trailing torrential rain and darkness in its wake.

Both lights went out and, as it turned out, so did Stratford, hopefully through a broken window, possibly to his death, but Vimes wasn't sure. He would have preferred it. But there was no time to worry about him, for now there was another wave, and water was seeping in through the unglazed windows.

Vimes opened the small gate on the pilot deck and found Mr. Sillitoe struggling to get out of the storm-swept wreckage. He moaned, "I've stopped counting, I've stopped counting!"

Vimes pulled him up and helped him into the big chair, where he slapped his arms in frustration. "And now I can't see anything in all this darkness! Can't count, can't see, can't drive! It will not survive!”

"I see, Mr. Sillitoe," Vimes said. "What should I do?"

"You can?"

Vimes looked at the murderous river. "There is a large Thunderrock rising to the left. Should I do this? Looks like there's a broken boat dock there.

"Oh gods! That's the baker's knob! Here, let me behind the wheel! how close is it now

"Maybe fifty yards?"

"And can you see that in all of this? Damn it, sir, you must have been born in a cave! That means we're not that far from Quirm now, just under nineteen miles. Do you think you could stand guard? My family is doing well? This little snot threatened to harm them if I didn't keep itfannyon time!" Something large and heavy bounced off the roof and spun off into the night, and the pilot continued, "Gastric Sillitoe, nice to meet you, sir." He looked straight ahead. "I heard about you. Koom-Tal , right? I'm glad to have you on board.

"Uh, stomach? Whole tree turns in the current on the left bank, ten meters ahead! Not much to see on the right.

The wheel spun wildly again. "Thank you, sir, and I hope you don't mind if I say we're talking port and starboard in general?"

"I didn't know that Gastric, I never drank starboard. What appears to be broken tree trunks forty yards ahead looks small and I see a faint light high up to our right I can't tell how far away. Vimes ducked and a jagged log ricocheted off the back of the wheelhouse. The pilot next to him seemed to get it now.

"Okay, Commander, that would be Jackson's Light, most welcome sight! Now that I've found my directions and an unbroken hourglass, would I owe you even more if you go down there and tell ten gallons to cut the barges? There's a chicken farmer in one of them! Better get him on board before the dam bursts.

"And hundreds of goblins, Gastric."

"Don't worry about it, sir. Goblins are just goblins.”

For a moment, Vimes stared into the darkness, and into the darknesswithindarkness and said to him, "You're having fun, aren't you, commander! This is Sam Vimes who is Sam Vimes in the dark, in the rain, and in danger, and because you're a cop, you won't believe Stratford is dead until you see the body. You know. Some people take one demon from many kills. You know you saw him come out of the cabin but there's all sorts of ropes and grab handles on the boat and the bastard was lean and agile and you know when day follows night he'll be back. Double jeopardy, Commander Vimes, rescuing all the pieces on the board, goblins, catching an assassin... and every time you remember there's a wife and son waiting for your return.

"I always remember!"

"Of course, Commander Vimes," the voice continued, "of course. But I know you, and sometimes with every sun comes a shadow. However, the darkness will always be yours, my stubborn friend.”

And then reality came or went and Vimes said, "We're bringing the goblins on board, Gastric, because they...youare evidence in an important police investigation!”

There was another wave, and this time Vimes landed on the deck, softened now by the tattered carpet of leaves and twigs. Standing up, Mr. Sillitoe said, "Police investigation, you say? So thefannyI've always been a friend of the law, but they stink like hell and that's the truth! You will frighten the oxen in a terrible way!

'Don't you think they're scared already?' said Vimes. "Uh, little traffic jam right in front. Everything clear on the left. Vimes sniffled. "Believe me, sir, from the smell you're pretty nervous. Can't you just stop and tie us to the bank?

Sillitoe's laugh was brittle. “Sir, there are no banks now, none that I'm trying to access. I know this river and it's angry and there's a goddamn rumble coming. I can't stop this any more than I could stop the storm. You've signed up for the long haul, Commander: either we run into the river, or we fold our hands, pray to the gods, and die instantly. He greeted. "However, I see that you are a man, sir, who does what he thinks needs to be done, and damn it, I cannot disagree! You've done human labor already, Commander Vimes, and may the gods go with you. May they accompany us all.”

Vimes ran down the steps and grabbed Feeney as he danced across the broken ground towards the stable. 'Come on boy, it's time to leave the barges. There is a lot of resistance. Mr. Ten gallons? Let's open these doors, shall we? Mr. Sillitoe put me in charge here. If you want to discuss, feel free!”

The huge man didn't even try to argue and slammed open the doors.

Vimes cursed. Mr. Sillitoe was right. There was a roar not far behind them, and a torrent of lightning and blue fire swept through the valley like a flood. He was hypnotized for a moment, and then he was in control. "Okay, Feeney, you get the goblins on board and I'll get our chicken farmer! Damn iron ore can sink for me.

In the blinding light of the damn crash, Vimes jumped twice to land on the barge, from which the screeching of frightened birds could already be heard. Water poured out of him as he opened the hatch and called out, "Mr. INCORRECT! No, don't start catching the chickens! Better a farmer without chickens than a bunch of chickens without a farmer! Anyway, they'll probably levitate or fly or something!"

He lured the terrified man to the nearest barge, where he was still full of confused goblins. Feeney looked through the open door behind and over the roar, and the hissing guts heard him call out, "Is that Mr. Ten Gallons, sir! He says there are no goblins!

Vimes looked past them and then turned to Feeney. "Very well, Mr. Feeney, keep an eye on the goblin punt while I discuss the matter with Mr. Ten Gallons, understood?"

He played Mr. Wrong on deckfannyand looked for ten gallons. He shook his head. What copper would this man give if properly guided by men. He sighed. "Sir. Ten gallons? I told you Mr. Sillitoe gave me carte blanche.

The giant snarled, "I don't have a wagon and I don't know any blanches, and I won't have goblins on my deck, okay?"

Vimes nodded listlessly and looked wearily at the deck. "Is that your last word, Mr. Ten Gallons?"

"And even!"

"Okay, that's mine."

Ten gallons fell back like a tree and started sleeping like a log.

Ö two Never leaves Her...

And the University of the Road told you that fighting is a science, the science of getting your opponent out of your face and on your face with maximum speed and minimum effort. After that, of course, you had a number of attractive options and the leisure to think about them. But if you wanted to fight cleanly, or at least fairer than most other street options, then you had to know how to hit, what to hit, and exactly what angle to hit from. Of course, his precious brass knuckles were an optional but useful extra, but, thought Vimes as he tried to squeeze some blood back onto his knuckles, probably any court would have forgiven Vimes after seeing Ten Gallons, even if he used a sledgehammer had . .

He looked at the brass knuckles. They didn't even bow: good old Ankh Morpork know-how. The country may have the power, but the city has the technology, he thought as he pocketed it.

"Okay, Mr. Feeney, let's put them on, shall we? Find Stinky, he's the head of the team.

possibly smellyErasthe brain of clothing. Even towards the end, Vimes was never quite sure what Stinky was. But the goblins, spurred on by their crispy chatter, ran and leaped past Vimes and into the boat like ugly gazelles. He took one look at the snarling death behind them, made the last jump in the boat and helped Feeney close and lock the doors. And that meant that now that the ventilation was turned off, the cops in the basement were getting their nostrils full of goblins. It wasn't so bad, Vimes thought, once you got used to it - more alchemical than a dung heap - but there was a lot of shouting and bucking down there as the beasts tried to charge out of their wake.

Despite the boat's shaking, Vimes ignored it and yelled, "Let the barges off, Chief of Police! I really hope you know how!”

Feeney nodded and opened the hatch in the floor. The spray came in and stopped as he knelt and reached into the hole.

"Turn around a few times before you fall, Commander. If I were you, I'd hold something when the iron ore ran out!

Vimes pushed his way through the frightened goblins, carefully climbed back into the wheelhouse and clapped Gastric on the shoulder. "We'll be dropping the barges any minute!" The pilot, still holding the helm and squinting into the darkness, nodded curtly; only a scream could be heard from the wheelhouse. The wind and debris shattered all the windows.

Vimes looked out the stern window and saw the great hovering and flying havoc of wood, intertwined with lightning, mud and falling rocks approaching. defended the remnants of his modesty from the deluge. He blinked and she was gone... Maybe he imagined it... He called out, "I hope you can swim, sir?" Just as the damn punch landed and the apparition named Stratford popped through the window and was picked up by Vimes too much to Stratford's surprise.

"Do you think I'm a baby, Mr. Stratford? Do you think thatEUdo not you think?

Stratford wriggled out of Vimes' grip, turned cautiously, and threw a punch that Vimes almost avoided. It was more difficult than he expected and Stratford knew how to defend himself to give a devil his due and mind you he was younger than Vimes, much younger. Yes, you could see a killer's eyes, at least after they did more than three or more and got away with it. His eyes had the look some gods probably had. But a murderer trying to kill was always absorbed, constantly calculating, and drawing on some hideous power. If you cut off their leg, they wouldn't notice until they fell. The tricks didn't work and the ground was slick with the debris of half a forest. As they kicked and punched back and forth across the wheelhouse deck, Stratford won. When was the last time Vimes ate, drank a decent amount of water, or slept properly?

And then came the call from below, "Step aside!" And thatToll fannyfought back like a thoroughbred, throwing both combatants to the ground where Vimes barely had room to kick and deflect the punches. Water poured over them, filling the cabin up to their hips and reducing Vimes' resistance to almost nothing. Stratford had his hands around his neck and Vimes' world turned dark blue and filled with water, lapping at his ears. He tried to think about young Sam and Sybil, but the water kept washing them away... except that suddenly the pressure was gone and his body, deciding his brain had finally gone on vacation, thumped up.

And there was Stratford kneeling in the water, which was falling very fast, which probably didn't bother him now that he was clutching his head and screaming, because suddenly there was Stinky, stretched over Stratford's head, hand outstretched hand after down and kicking and clawing anything that could be kicked or clawed or, with a long yell, pulled.

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, aided by Sir Samuel Vimes, with the help of Commander Vimes, with the help of Blackboard Monitor Vimes, rose at the last minute and they all merged into one man when he was too late to hear of the tremor of the Decks jumped to stop Stratford from pulling Stinky - and a certain amount of hair - from his head and throwing him onto the floating deck and stomping him violently. There was no doubt. He heard the cracking of bones even while airborne, so Stratford hit the full force of the law and his rage.

The street is old and chic; but the road is always willing to learn and so in the air Vimes felt his legs unfurl and the full majesty of the law hit Stratford with the traditionally unstoppable one man he up down very sorry. Even Vimes was surprised and wondered if he could do it again.

"We're on the wave!" Magen screamed. "We stand on it, not under it! We're sailing to Quirm, Commander! It's light ahead! Glory be!

Vimes grunted as he wrapped the last of the rope in his bag around the stunned Stratford and tied him securely to a strut. "Sink or swim, you pay, Mr. Stratford, heaven, hell or tide, I don't care."

And then there was a creaking and roaring as the desperate oxen redoubled their attempts to escape the stench of the goblins just behind them, a wave to the sky and though it would be more poetic to say the water was on earth, actually was seen mainly on Samuel Vimes' face.

Vimes woke up in absolute damp darkness with sand under his cheek. Some parts of her body volunteered for service, others protested because they received a note from their mother. After a while, a few persistent clues emerged: there was the sound of the surf, the chatter of people, and for some reason what sounded like an elephant's trumpeting.

At that moment, something stuck a finger in one of his nostrils and tugged hard. "Oopsee-daisies, Mr. Po-leess-maan, otherwise your biggest pancake I've ever seen! Upsee Daisy! Hail goblins! Big Hero! Alive! Everyone applaud!

It was a familiar voice, but it couldn't be Stinky, because Vimes had seen the little goblin completely crushed. But Vimes tried to get up anyway, and it was almost impossible because of the fishy-smelly debris covering him like a shroud. He couldn't move his arm to smack the damn thing that was still tugging at his nostril, but he managed to get up enough at least to realize there was oneManyof debris on it.

He could make out what appeared to be an elephant's thumping, and in his comfortable hallucinatory state, he imagined what an elephant was doing by the sea and how careful that elephant would be just to avoid another shipwreck. That thought just crystallized when the tugging at his nose stopped and the cracked voice called out, "Rise and shine, Mr. Mumm, because here comes Jumbo!"

Vimes landed the all-time push-up champion and jumped, dripping with driftwood and barnacles, just as a foot the size of a garbage can landed where his head had been.

"Yay, no flattery for Mr. Vimes!"

Vimes looked down and about half an inch from the elephant's family-size toenail, which, by the way, now wore an expression of some embarrassment, saw the figure of Stinky bouncing excitedly on the tip of his trunk. Other people had also spotted Vimes and were running towards him, and with terrible relief he spotted the Quirm City Watch's distinctive helmets, which he had always found too sophisticated and militaristic for a real police force, but which were now seen as a beacon.

An officer in a captain's helmet said, "Commander? Are you all right? Everyone thought you were drawn!

Trying to brush mud and sand from his torn shirt, Vimes managed to say, "Well, the Ankh Morpork boys got me a bucket and spade for my vacation, so I thought I'd give it a try. It doesn't matter about me, and about the E about them

"Okay sir, as far as we know. A few bumps and bruises, of course. It was amazing sir, the men who take care of the elephants at Quirm Zoo witnessed this! They take the creatures out onto the surf in the mornings to wash and play for a while before the crowds show up and one said he saw thatfannyWalk across the pier onto the crest of the wave sir and settle down on the beach. I've had a look inside and I'd say she's going to take about a month in the yard and the paddlewheels are totally destroyed, but everyone will be talking about her for years to come!

At this point, an apologetic janitor led his attack away from Vimes, leaving him to see a beach covered in wet garbage and, he was surprisingly pleased to note, large numbers of chickens eagerly pecking at worms. One of them, who was totally oblivious to Vimes, scratched at seaweed for a moment, squatted down, eyes crossed, gargled once or twice, then stood up and looked rather relieved. He saw that he had left an egg in the sand. At least he assumed it was an egg. It was square. He picked it up and looked at the chickens and in his half-mad state said, "Well, that definitely sounds complicated to me."

In the surf, the two oxen were almost up to their necks in water, and perhaps it was just his imagination that made Vimes think the water was steaming around them.

And now more people were running, and chickens were running, and there were even ten gallons, and Mrs. Sillitoe with her daughter, looking wet and with blankets around her, but most importantly not looking dead. Vimes, who had been holding his breath for a long time, exhaled. He took another breath as ten gallons patted him on the back and Mrs. Sillitoe gave him a kiss. "What about the stomach?" he said, "And where's Feeney?"

Woman. Sillitoe smiled. "As far as we know, they're fine, Commander Vimes. You're a little shaky, but you're asleep. No long-term problems according to the doctor. I'm sure they'll be fine, thanks to you!"

She winced when a Kyrmian officer handed Vimes a cup of coffee. It had sand, but coffee with sand never tasted better. "Everything went very well, one might say, sir. We even made sure those damn goblins took their boat!”

Never before has so much of the stuff been thrown so far and over so many in the field of coffee making. Vimes looked across the surf to where in the distance a ship had left harbor and was sailing well. He said, "Bring me the acting Captain Haddock at once!"

Acting captain Haddock rushed in six minutes later and Vimes couldn't help but notice he had a bit of breakfast in the corner of his mouth. "Our relationship with Commander Fournier is cordial at the moment, isn't it?" said guts.

Haddock grinned widely. "Commander, if he comes down here, you might have to work hard to keep him from kissing you on both cheeks. Mistress Sillitoe is his daughter.

"I was happy to do so," said Vimes, looking around absently, "and to tell these gentlemen that I need a fast boat, fast enough to catch this ship, and a decent squadron of men to take it." man, and I want it now, and while I'm waiting, I want someone to bring me a clean shirt and a bacon sandwich... no avec.

"You have a very fast cutter, Commander, to hunt down smugglers!"

"Good, and give me a cleaver. Always wanted to try one." Vimes thought for a moment, then added, "And make two more bacon sandwiches. And a lot more coffee. And make another bacon sandwich. And, Haddock, if you can get me a bottle of Merkel and Stingbat's famous old brown gravy, I swear I'll make you a sergeant at the end of your term because any man who can find a good dirty Ankh-Morpork gravy in Quirm, home to five hundred kinds of bloody mayonnaise without your eyes filling with salivato deserveto be a sergeant in everyone's power!

And then, when what had held Sam Vimes was gone, he fell back gently and dreamed of bacon sandwiches and brown gravy.

Even Constable Haddock, or acting Captain Haddock as he was now, would agree that he wasn't the sharpest knife in the box, but it was amazing what a blunt instrument could open. As he rushed off on this prestigious mission, he was stopped by one of the Quirm officers, who said, "Have you heard of a guard named Petit Fou Artour?

"Crazy little Arthur? Yes, he is one of our boys!

"Well, you'd better come quick, my friend, because he's in our guardhouse. Strong little guy, isn't he? Some of the other officers laughed at him, he said, but I think they learned their mistakes the hard way, as it happened. Apparently he was sent to find Commander Vimes.

Sam Vimes awoke from a pig nightmare to find himself in a pile of sacks in a warehouse on the docks. He was carefully picked up by Deputy Officer Haddock and staggered to a rough table behind which stood a cook presiding over the scalding ingredients of a bacon sandwich, or rather several bacon sandwiches. "He squeaked a little," Haddock said, "when I insisted he didn't put mayonnaise on it, but you can't go wrong now, Commander. And I have an unopened bottle of Merkel and Stingbat finest, sir, the only one in town. Unfortunately, you have to eat on the go, but the chef packs the sandwiches in a basket, with hot coals to keep them warm. There's no time to wait, sir. The cutter will leave the dock in ten minutes.

A notebook was shoved under Vimes' nose. "What is it?"

"Your signature for my promotion to Sergeant, Commander," Haddock said carefully. "I hope you don't mind, but you promised."

"Good man," Vimes said. "Always write things down."

Haddock looked proud. "I have also made sure I have a selection of sabers on board for your perusal, Commander."

Vimes slipped into his new shirt and when his head came out he said, 'I want you to come too, Kipper. You know your way around here better than I do. By the way, what did you do with the prisoner?

Haddock said, "What prisoner would that be, Commander?"

And for a moment Vimes' blood froze. “They haven't found a man tied up anywhere in the world.

Now Haddock looked worried. “No sir, nobody when we got there. The place was a mess, sir. Sorry sir, we didn't know that!

"There is no reason for you to do this. I'm sorry to yell, but if the quirm police thinks the sun's shining on my butt, tell them to look for a young looking person named Stratford. He's a double killer, to say the least...ruthless and now safely armed. Tell them that they're doing everyone a favor by keeping watch on the boat, the walking wounded, and all the boys in their infirmary, and that they should also send a clack to Pseudopolis Yard immediately to say that Commander Vimes these two members of the Watch are required to rush to Ramkin Hall on a golem horse to guard Lady Sybil and young Sam. I don't want them hanging around: I know these things are bad news for walkers, but Stratford is crazy - themhe mustPress!"

"Excuse me, Commander," said one of the Quirm officers, "we all speak Morpork very well here.Worldwidehere speaks Morpork. If you hear us speaking Quirmian, it's because we want to talk about you behind your back. Greetings, Commander Vimes, we will send your clatter and search far and wide for your killer and take very good care of the wounded. Please walk to the pier now. thequeen von QuirmIt's quite old, one step away from being a colossus. Our mower should catch up in a few hours. Shall we go?"

Come along, sir,' said Haddock, 'and Wee Mad Arthur will give you directions.'

"Klein Crazy Arthur!"

"Yes Commander. Apparently he was sent abroad to take care of this goblin thing, flown back to Ankh-Morpork and then sent straight here to you. He has a story to tell, no doubt.

"Where is he?" said guts.

"You should be released from custody immediately, sir. A ridiculous misunderstanding, no real harm done, all forgiven and probably all healed I'm sure.

Vimes was smart enough to leave it at that.

Of course, seasickness didn't help, but that didn't show until later, when Wee Mad Arthur breathlessly finished his story. 'And what did you find in the huts?' said Vimes.

"More goblins, sir, of all shapes and sizes, including small ones. Most of them are dead, the rest in pretty bad shape I think. I did what I could for her, just as it was. To tell you the truth, sir, I think they were confused about everything, poor bastards, but there's some kind of maggot and water in there, and I don't think those guards are going to leave anytime soon, you know. He grimaced and added, "Very strange, those goblins. I let them out and they just walked around not knowing what to do. I mean, Crivens, if it were me, I'd rush out there and give those Scuunners a nice fork kick while they're down. As for the men, well, I knew it was urgent, and I could always fly back tomorrow and at least pour some water on them, but I figured the guard should know, so I ran back to Ankh-Morpork, and they told me where you were. I'd gone on holiday and Lady Sybil said you'd gone down that dirty old river so all I had to do was fly to Quirm and when I found a big awful mess I knew I had something to do. with you, commander.”

Little Mad Arthur hesitated. He was never sure what Vimes thought of him, as the man generally considered Feegles a nuisance. When Vimes answered slowly, he asked, "I hope I did what you would have done, Commander?"

Vimes looked at Wee Mad Arthur as if seeing him for the first time. "No, Officer, you did not do what I would have done, which is fortunate because if you had you would stand before me for using brutally excessive force in the performance of your duties. Nonetheless,sheYou'll get a medal and an official commendation for that, officer. Now we're chasing another ship that's bringing more goblins to this wretched place. And although I imagine you must be very tired, I would imagine that you would like a ride? By the way, may I congratulate you personally, officer: for someone who grew up as a gnome, you really nailed the whole Feegle story, didn't you? You beat up a dozen gunmen alone?

'Oh yes sir,' said Wee Mad Arthur slyly, 'but it wasn't fair, I outnumbered them. Oh, and by the way, there were all kinds of alchemy supplies in some of those sheds. I didn't know what it was, but you might find it interesting.

"Nice spot," said Vimes. "Why don't you go downstairs and have a rest?"

"Yes, yes sir, but as soon as I can I need to get a message across on Sergeant Colon, who's really unwell." He saw Vimes' blank expression and continued. "Didn't you know? He was gifted a Geegaw goblin which affected him quite viciously and according to Sergeant Littlebottom he screamed and screamed and screamed like a goblin all day. She transferred him to the sanatorium.

“Sargento Colon!”

"Yeah. And according to Captain Angua, we need to find a goblin den to break the scary, you know? Seems a bit odd to me, but half the watch is out looking for goblins and they can't even find one of the poor little things, as they're like little critters they hardly ever advertise these days if you know what I mean."Another Wee Mad Arthur looked at Vimes once.

“Sargento Colon!”

'I told you so, sir.

Blood returned to Vimes' face as rational thoughts returned to his brain. "Can he travel?" Little crazy Arthur shrugged. Before them thequeen von Quirmit seemed a bit closer. "Now please, officer, can you go back to the clackers at the Quirm Watch House and tell them to put Fred on a bus to Ramkin Hall as soon as possible, okay?" Vimes added, "I think it is better if Cheery is with you.” And in his head he added:Fred colon! Is hates anything not human, em AAnd he left it at that in view of what was to come, but thought: Fred Colon! I wonder what kind of potshimfaria.

Behind him, Wee Mad Arthur whistled a strange note, and a seagull, following the cutter in the vague hope of a free meal of fish intestines, found a weight on his back and a voice in his ear saying, "Hello beast, my name is Wee Crazy Arthur.

Vimes liked stepping on something solid, like boots, and he liked it when boots did the same. the candle ofqueen von Quirmnow clearly visible, the cutter left the safe harbor and encountered a swell that was generally described as moderate. And Commander Vimes, the Duke of Ankh-Morpork, Sir Samuel Vimes and last but not least Blackboard Monitor Vimes werefinallywill eat your bacon sandwiches and not puke in front of other guards.

And he didn't know, and he didn't know how, though at one point he thought he saw the shape of a little goblin, high up in the rigging, smiling down at him. He attributed it to the bacon sandwiches valiantly trying to get up, just as he valiantly held them down.

Stratford would have climbed into that damn colossus, he was sure of it. Damn sure. For one thing, he would want to pay, and he didn't want to be hanged. Vimes hesitated. How sure should Vimes have been of that? How much was he willing to bet on a hunch? After all, it was Stratford. He was smart and evil, so you've got every angle covered, despite knowing that a smart man can find a new angle for himself in a hurry.

And so all the people that made up Sam Vimes walked back and forth across the poop deck or the scuppers or starboard or whatever on that damn slippery rock he was on, vacillating between hope, nausea, despair and doubt . , nausea and the thrill of the hunt and nausea when the cutter seemed to hit the hard spots of each wave as it dived pastqueen von Quirmand justice.

The lieutenant approached him, greeted him quite politely, and said, "Commander, you asked us to chase the ship because it has goblins on board, but I am not aware of any law against taking goblins.

"There should be a law, for surely there is a crime, you understand?" said guts. He patted the lieutenant on the shoulder and continued, "Congratulations! That mower of yours drives faster than the law. Lieutenant, the lawreadyto reach. Goblins can talk, they have company, and I heard one of them play music that would make a bronze statue burst into tears. The modern police process is such that I'm sure they've been taken from their homes and the ship we're tracking is taking them to a place they don't want to go. If that bothers you, just help me get on the ship and I'll sort things out myself, okay? And besides, I think our killer might be on the boat, too. But it's up to you, Lieutenant.

Nodding to the bow, Vimes added, "We're so close I can see the faces of your crew. Perhaps you should tell me your intentions, Lieutenant?

Vimes felt a little sorry for the boy, but not much. He took the job, he took the promotion and the money that came with it, didn't he? Any cop worth their salt would at least take a lookqueennow they've come this far, haven't they?

"Well done, Commander," the lieutenant said. "I'm not sure of my course, but we'll salute themqueenand ask permission to come on board.

"No! You don't tell them to wait to be checked by the police! And if you're not worried about the goblins, the fact of the matter is I'm chasing a killer," added Vimes.

In fact, he could see thatqueento his great surprise, he was already raising and raising a white flag.

And her captain was waiting for her as the cutter drew near. He had a resigned look on his face and said, "We won't cause trouble, officers. I know it was stupid to do that. We've got the man you've been looking for, and we're bringing him now. It's not like we're pirates. Good morning, Lieutenant Perdix, sorry to disturb you.

Vimes turned to the lieutenant. "Do you know the captain?"

"Ah yes, Commander, Captain Assassin is well respected on this coast," said the Lieutenant as the cutter kissed the smugglers gently, "of course they all do. It's kind of a game.”

"But said Vimes.

The lieutenant easily climbed onto the deck and helped Vimes by saying, "The Assassins are a well-respected family here. To tell you the truth, Commander, I think you like the name. They would oppose Smuggler more, I suppose.

"We're getting the guy in now, Lieutenant," said the captain, "and he's not very happy."

Vimes looked him up and down and said, "I am Commander Vimes, Ankh-Morpork City Watch, who is currently investigating at least two murders."

Captain Assassin's eyes fluttered shut and he cupped his hand over his mouth for a moment before saying in a voice that whimpered with lost hope, "Wouldn't bewasCommander Vimes, right?

“Captain… assassin… bring me the man I'm after, so I'm sure you'll find me in a friendly position. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?

There were some screams and punches below, and several indications that someone was being kicked too hard. Finally, a man with a cloth tied around his face like a blindfold was half pushed and half pulled onto the deck. "Actually, I'm glad to see you from behind," said the captain and turned away.

Vimes made sure the man was secured by the sailors and pulled off the mask. He looked into the bloodshot eyes for a moment and then said very calmly, "Lieutenant, please take thesequeen von Quirmand the Captain and First Officer on charges of kidnapping and possible kidnapping of several persons, notably Mr. Jethro Jefferson, also goblins, fifty or more in number. Other fees may apply.

"You can't kidnap goblins," said Captain Assassin. "Imps are cargo!"

Vimes let that pass for a moment. Captain Assassin would orient himself to the world Commander Vimes sees in Commander Vimes's free time. For now, he said to the lieutenant: "I also suggest that you put the captain and first mate in jail, if that's what it's called, because as Mr. Jefferson has his hands free here, I think he's going to try to tell someone that." turn off light. I'm sure it can all be resolved, but someone will suffer for it and it's just a matter of deciding who it will be."

He thought for a moment and then recanted, "No, I think I'll speak to the captain first, in the captain's quarters. Kipper, I want you to come and take notes.Manyof notes. Nice to see you, Mr. Jefferson. Lieutenant, as far as I know, Mr. Jefferson is guilty of no other crime than having a short temper. But while I'm very glad I found him, he's not the bastard I'm looking for right now.

It was good, thought Captain Haddock, that he had a decent spot in his notebook...

"Captain Assassin, let me recap," Sam Vimes said after a while, swiveling lazily in the captain's chair; he squeaked. "Some men unknown to you but whom you wanted to treat with respect because they had the right password, ie. H. the password which you used in your dealings and which you have come to understand, as I might call it, handed you a man bound and gagged and told you to take said man to Howondaland and I quote ' cool your heels for a while'; and you also told me that these men told you that it was right by law.

The swivel chair beneath Vimes creaked once or twice as he swiveled for dramatic effect and he continued, "Captain Assassin, I represent the law in Ankh-Morpork and you should be aware that several influential politicians on the whole world trust my process. and Captain Assassin, I don't know of any laws that legalize kidnapping, but I will ask my colleague and expert in Kyrgyz law if he knows of any local ordinances that make it legal to arrest and kidnap someone who has not committed a crime to a boat and sends it to a questionable remote location against his will.

The swivel chair could only creak once more before Lieutenant Perdix said thoughtfully, "Commander Vimes, I am not aware of any such change in law and therefore arrest you, Captain Assassin," and here the Lieutenant placed his hand on the Captain's shoulder shot, "Under Charges of kidnapping, aiding and abetting kidnapping, actual and potentially aggravated assault, and other charges that may arise in the course of our ongoing investigation. When returning to port, thequeen von Quirmit will be confiscated and, as you can be sure, checked to the railing.

Vimes swiveled his chair around again until his face was clear to the thin captain but clear to the lieutenant, then winked at him and got a small nod in return. He swung his chair around again and said, "To deprive an innocent man of his liberty, even for a week, Captain, is a very serious crime. However, the lieutenant tells me that you are well respected on this coast and are generally regarded as a model citizen. Personally, I don't like a world where little men who act out of fear or even misguided deference are thrown in jail while big men, the instigators, if not the perpetrators, of crimes are set free. I can imagine that you don't like this world either, do you?

Captain Assassin eyed his sea boots as if expecting them to explode or maybe start singing. He managed to murmur, "You're right, Commander!"

"Thank you, Captain! You are a man of the world. Now you need a friend and I need names. I need the names of the people who got you into this mess. Well Mr. Jefferson, the blacksmith, tells me he can't in good conscience say he was treated particularly badly when he was in hisillegalHospitality. Apparently he was reasonably well fed, getting beer and a daily dose of rum and even several back issues of the magazine.Girl, laughs e DiseasesSpend time.IsHe also wants names, Captain Assassin, and if we had those names, all legally recorded on an affidavit, he could be persuaded to forget about his arrest in exchange for a certain sum of money to negotiate and a chance Staying hand in hand, fair and honest, no strings attached, with his first mate, whom he refers to as a "booty full of shit," a nautical term I pretend not to understand. Apparently the man in question took pleasure in hitting him when he objected to his arrest and Mr Jefferson would like to sort of foot the bill.

Vimes stood and held out his arms as if relieving his spasm. "Of course, Captain, this is all very erratic, especially since we have our lieutenant here, a decent, clean and orderly young officer, but I suppose if hequeenon the docks and you before the authorities for smuggling, he can settle for his honor. It would be a little awkward for you, but not as bad as complicity in a kidnapping. Do not you agree? Vimes continued cheerfully, "The lieutenant here must have a feather in his hat and can set onegut againstI presume on your behalf, since you are an honest person and above allusefulCitizens."

Vimes winked at Lieutenant Perdix. "I'm teaching this young man bad habits, Captain, and that's why I'm suggesting thissheTreat him like a friend, especially if he asks innocent questions about shipping, movement of goods, and similar questions at some point in the future. It's up to you, Captain Assassin. I think you know the names, at least the names of the men you deal with and also the name of your employer? Do you want to tell me something?

The boots rattled. "Listen, Commander, I don't want to make enemies of powerful men, if you know what I mean?"

Vimes nodded and leaned forward so he could meet the man's eyes. "Of course I understand this captain perfectly," he said softly, "so you should tell me the names.ÖCaptain.ÖBecause, Captain Assassin, I understand that you do not wish to disturb men of influence, and I am now considering having your ship impounded and destroyed for dealing in living, breathing, intelligent, creative, if somewhat filthy and clever, creatures have . In fact, I'd be in trouble for approving this, but who knows? The world can change fast and it's changing fast for you.” He slapped the captain on the back. "Captain Assassin, here and now, I want you to consider me a friend."

And Vimes listened and the red balls bounced off the felt, shot at the colored balls, and the law was broken indiscriminately to keep the law. How do you explain that to a layman? How do you explain that to a lawyer? How could he explain that? But everything happened quickly and you rose or died. So you did your best and faced the music that everyone wants to play.

Öqueen von Quirmdocked two and a half months earlier than expected that day, to the dismay, despair or possibly even delight of the women of the crew. The harbor master took note of this and was also surprised that after disembarking, most of the crew immediately walked past the other ships in the harbor to a quiet stretch of beach near the repair yard where the slightly damaged ship layToll fannythe slipway has already been pulled down.

Captain Sillitoe walked beside his boat like a hen with a huge chick, and had a plaster cast on his arm; he brightened when he saw Vimes. "Well sir, I have to admit, for my halibut I have to too! You did a great job to get us home safely sir! I won't forget it, neither will my wife and my daughter!"

Vimes looked at the boat and hoped for the best. "She seems extremely mistreated, Captain, I mean the boat, not your wife of course."

But it seemed the captain was determined to be optimistic. “We lost a lot of gear on the Paddlewheels but to be honest it was long overdue to refurbish anyway. But, my dear commander, we're driving a damn slam, with all souls safe! And besides - what are the seven hellsyoumanufacture?"

Vimes had already heard the shrill notes of a flute, but he had to look down to see a large number of goblins marching determinedly along the beach. In front of them, and light blue for a moment, was Stinky, representing an old, empty crab leg. Passing Vimes, he stopped playing long enough to say, "No shore rocks for goblins! Alive! Back home, back home, as fast as you can! And they stand up like clocks, they applaud! And what tries to stop, oh yes, Constable Stinky and his little friends, he discovers that Stinky is going to be his worst nightmare.

guts laughed. "What? What do you think? A goblin with a badge? He had to go as quickly as he said because Stinky was understandably determined to get the goblins out of there as soon as possible.

"Stinky doesn't need badges, fellow po-leess-maan! Worst smelly nightmare alone! Do you remember a little boy? Boy open book? And he sees the bad goblin, and I see the bad little boy! Glad for us, little boy, that it was usbothto the right!"

Vimes watched them march away, accelerating until they reached the undergrowth at the edge of the wharf, where they disappeared, and for a moment it occurred to Vimes that even if he ran for any sign of a goblin, he wouldn't find them would search . 1. He was perplexed. It didn't matter much; Confusion used to be a cop's burden. His job was to make sense of the world, and sometimes he wished the world would come to meet him.

"Are you alright, Commander?"

Vimes turned and looked grimly at Lieutenant Perdix. "Well, I'm not sure when I last slept properly, but at least I can get up! And I have all the names and descriptions. Three names and one, oh what a name that was, if you took the word for it from someone happy to be called Killer Captain. Well, the man was in his fifties, not a good age to be running and hiding. No, Assassin wouldn't be a problem. Neither was Jefferson, idiot as he was. What Jefferson suspected, Captain Assassin But Vimes hadn't asked for a chance to give the first officer a chance, admittedly an ugly looking bay with a chin like a butcher's boot. He was walking toward her now, with the worried Captain Assassin behind him.

Vimes walked over to the blacksmith, who looked no worse after his impromptu trip. "Come on sir, the assassin will pay whatever it takes to keep the lieutenant happy and his own ship. Put that on experience, don't you?

"There's that damned first mate," said the smith. "The rest of the team was polite enough, but he's a rowdy bastard!"

'Well,' said Vimes, 'here he is and so are you, it's man to man and I'm staying here to ensure fair play. It's an interesting day here. We're trying a different kind of justice, one that's quick and doesn't have to bother lawyers. Come on, he knows what you want, and so do you, Mr Jefferson.

Other crew members gathered at that end of the beach. Vimes looked at each other face to face, all bearing the workman's intuition that a healthy dose of violence is to be expected, and reading the unspoken language. The first mate looked like a man who made good use of his fists and temper, so, thought Vimes, there washe would beprobably many in the crew would love to see him get a little lesson - or even a big lesson. He waved the two men over.

“Gentlemen, this is a grudge game; You both know the score. If I see a knife, the gods help whoever is holding it. There must be no murder here, you will of course be saved, Captain, and in front of everyone I give my word that I will stop the fighting when I feel a man has definitely had enough. Gentlemen, for you. And with that, he deftly backed away.

Neither of them moved, but Jefferson said, "Are you aware of the Marquis de Fantailer's rules of proper conduct in a slugfest?"

The first mate's smile was evil. He said, "Yes, I did!"

Vimes didn't see it, not reallyverWith their own eyes, what happened next, certainly no one could, but it was later agreed that Jefferson whirled in one spot and knocked the sailors off their feet. The sound of his heavy body hitting the sand was all that broke the silence.

After a second, Jefferson, massaging some blood back into his fist, looked at the fallen giant and said, "Not me." He turned and looked at Vimes. "Do you know? He pissed on the goblins in the basement on purpose.

Vimes tensed in case the fallen man had friends with no sense of humor, but there was laughter indeed. After all, a big man fell hard enough, straight right, and that was definitely a result that cost everyone's money. "Very good, Mr. Jefferson, a fair fight if I've ever seen one. Perhaps these gentlemen will take the mate back to the ship to lie down.

Vimes conveyed this as an order, which was immediately followed as one, but added: "Are you okay with that, Captain Assassin? Good. And now, I think you and I will, by mutual agreement, go with the lieutenant here to Quirm Watch headquarters, where there will be a little affidavit to be signed.

"I assume you want to leave in a hurry, Commander," the lieutenant said as they walked down the Rue de Wakening.

"Well, yes," said Vimes. "I should be on vacation. I'll get young Feeney out of the infirmary and find a way back to the hall.

The lieutenant looked surprised. "And you don't want to return to the killer as soon as possible, sir?"

"His? I'll see him soon, no doubt about that, but hey, he's not exactly the end of things either. do you play billiards here

"Well, I haven't learned to play the game, but I understand the game if you ask."

“Then you know that the ultimate goal of the game is to sink black, although over the course of a frame you will be hitting every other color and red over and over again, sometimes using them to advance your strategy. Well I know where to find black and black can't escape. The others? The captain provided us with names and descriptions. If you wish to arrest her yourself for aiding and abetting the lucrative trade in intelligent creatures, then I will leave that honor to the Quirm Police Department.

Vimes smiled. "As for me, after receiving the affidavits, I intend to go straight back to visit my wife and son, whom I've been shamefully, no, desperately neglecting for the past few days, and you know what? As soon as I get there, I'll bring her back here! My wife will enjoy the fresh air and young Sam will enjoy itlovethe elephants, oh, it won't be easy!"

The lieutenant perked up. "May I suggest that you take the night ship after dinner? will beblack eyedquite quickly, like its namesake, according to popular legend. She has to go upstream in, let's see, forty-five minutes. She's very fast, she doesn't carry a lot of load, so they pushed her into overdrive. You'll be home in the morning, how about that? It's time to get ready, and if you like the idea, I'll have one of the men find the captain and make sure she doesn't leave without you.

Vimes smiled. "What is the weather forecast?"

"Clear skies, Commander, and Old Betrayal is flat as a millpond, cleared of all snags and pebbles for the rest of the season. From now on it's easy to navigate.

"Good night, Your Grace!" The voice sounded vaguely familiar, and Vimes saw as he strolled down the boulevard what appeared at first to be a man wearing an enormous sash around his waist, until a quick forensic examination showed it to be the hermit of the hall . His beard was remarkably clean and curled around his body, as did two young ladies of a giggling disposition.

Vimes looked at him. "Toco? What are you doing down here?"

That got more laughs.

"I'm on vacation, Commander! Yes indeed! Every man should have a holiday, sir!”

Vimes didn't know what to say, so he patted the man on the shoulder and said, "Be careful, Mr. Stump, and don't forget the nutritious herbs."

"I think I'll need them, Commander..."

Say what you will, the food in the Quirm Guardhouse canteen was very good, even if they used a little too much avec, thought Guts; avec at

Wickers, well fed and clean and with someveryImportant papers tucked into his freshly washed and immaculately ironed shirt, he walked down the pier to the office with Chief Constable Upshotblack eyedThe lieutenant and two of the guards escorted him to his cabin, where the dwarf butler showed him how to clean the bed and sheets.

"I am honored that you sleep in it, Commander. you will find thatSusanneGives a very smooth ride, although it can bounce a bit at times, much like its namesake but less said, faster fixed. And of course there's a seat next door for Officer Feeney. You're welcome to see themSusannemaybe start?

They did. theSusannehad two oxen, just like themTollbut with no heavy cargo and only about ten passengers, she was the express of Velha Traição. Its high-toothed paddle wheels left a whitewater line across the valley.

"What happens now, Commander?" Feeney said, leaning against the railing as they watched Quirm disappear behind them. "I mean what do we do next?"

Vimes smoked a cigar with great pleasure. Somehow that felt like the time and place. The snuff was very good, but a good cigar took time, wisdom and personality. He would be unhappy if this one left.

"I don't have to do anything now," he said, turning to watch the sunset. And I don't see sunsets very often these days either, he thought. Mostly I see midnight; and I don't have to chase Stratford either. I know him as I know myself. He paused mentally, momentarily shocked by the implication.

He continued in a loud voice, "You saw those two Quirmian officers get into the boat, didn't you? I organized it. They will of course ensure that we have a smooth journey. The crew was also informed that an assassin might attempt to board the boat. According to the lieutenant, Captain Harbinger can testify that his entire crew sailed faithfully with him for many years. Personally, I will of course ensure my bunk door is locked, and I suggest you do the same, Feeney.

“The focus is greed, greed and poisons from hell. Both are killers and greed is by far the worst. You know, usually when I'm talking to young officers like you, I say that in certain cases you should always go after the money, you should ask, 'Who's losing? Who's going to win?'” Vimes regretfully dropped the butt of his cigar into the water. "But sometimes you have to follow arrogance... You have to watch out for those who can't believe the law will get them, who believe they are acting for a right the rest of us don't have." The law enforcement officer's job is to let them know they're wrong!"

The sun went down. "I believe, Commander Vimes, that you have something in you that would turn the wheels of this boat by itself if a man could yoke you!" Feeney said admiringly. "And I remember reading somewhere that you would arrest the gods for doing something wrong."

Vimes shook his head. "I'm sure I never said that! But law is order and order is law and must be supreme. The world turns in it, the sky turns in it, and without order, boy, no second can follow another.”

He felt himself sway. Lack of sleep can poison the mind and take it in strange directions. Vimes felt Feeney's hand on his shoulder. "I'll help you to your cabin, Commander. was averylong day."

Vimes didn't remember undressing and going to bed, or rather to his bunk, but he clearly had, and judging by the tiny bits of white soapy water in the cabin's tiny sink, he had his teeth broken too cleaned. He'd slept the sleep of the dead, except for the part where the pieces fall and you crumble to dust, and all he could remember was cold darkness and a certainty that now rose to the surface, like a message would have been sent. left in the dark to await the return of thought.Is It is after She, Table Monitor Mumm. Of to know be why she recognize was Eras em your Eyes. Of to know was Art. she want Pro to die von A is you they are we are born rather something turns e then you Matar instead of. Is ready meet She, e then ready EU. EU Hope A three von us meet em Darkness.

As the message faded, Vimes glanced towards the far wall, where a cursory knock opened the door to reveal the butler carrying the one thing guaranteed to banish all nightmares, a cup of hot water.

"You don't need to get up, Captain," was the purser's cheerful greeting as he carefully placed his teacup in a small alcove that had created a foresight in the small cabin to keep the cup from slipping. “The Captain would like to inform you that we will be docking in about twenty minutes, although you are welcome to remain on board and finish your breakfast while we clean the scuppers and fetch fresh oxen and of course sort through mail and fodder and more some passengers. In the kitchen today I have…” and here the butler enthusiastically unraveled a menu of belly-filling proportions, ending triumphantly with “a bacon sandwich!”

Vimes cleared his throat and said wistfully, "I don't think you have any cereal, do you?" After all, Sybil was only twenty minutes away.

The butler looked confused. "Well yes we would have the ingredients of course but I didn't think you were one.coelho FoodCara?"

Vimes thought of Sybil again. "Well, maybe my little nose is twitching today."

As luxurious as the cabin was, it wasn't spacious. Vimes managed to shave with a razor donated by the steward, "Compliments from the Captain, Commander," and a carefully placed bowl, soap, washcloth, and a tiny towel, which at least helped him cope with the shape of the ablution, which his earlier had her mother called it "washing away the bits that showed up". He did, however, pay attention to her, agonizing over the knowledge that all too soon this little wooden world would vanish and he would be back in the world of Sam Vimes, husband and father. From time to time, when he became respectable, he would turn to himself in the shaving mirror and say, "Fred Colon!"

The deluxe cabin proved wonderful for sleeping in, despite being so small that in reality it would only fit a meticulous corpse. But finally, when every bit of guts he could reach had been decently if unevenly scrubbed and the butler had brought him a recluse-sized helping of fruit, nuts and grains, he looked around to see what else he could left behind and saw a face in the shaving mirror. It was his, although it must be said that the phenomenon is not uncommon in shaving mirrors. guts in the mirror said:Of to know him NO just want Pro Matar Your. Was wouldn't go be Boa or enough Pro one Bastard if Was, NO von one big Behavior. Is Do you want Pro to destroy she e ready attempt at bis him

"I know," Vimes said, adding, "You're not a demon, are you?"

"Absolutely not," said her reflection. "Iit couldmade up of his subconscious and a momentary case of muesli poisoning brought on by a fermenting raisin. Watch where you're walking, Commander. Look everywhere.” And then he was gone.

Vimes turned away from the mirror and slowly turned around. Thishe mustI would have felt the same way, he told himself, otherwise it would have been the other way around, wouldn't it?

He walked down the runway into reality and what turned out to be Corporal Nobby Nobbs, beyond which reality doesn't get much more real.

"Nice to see you, Mr. Weide! My word, you're in shape! Your vacation will certainly do you a lot of good. do you have bags This was asked with the absolute certainty that Guts would haveNOScholarships, but a gesture of goodwill is always worth trying.

"All is well?" said Vimes, ignoring this.

Nobby scratched his nose and fell a little. Oh yes, thought Vimes, I'm back, all right!

"Well, the normal things that happen happen, but we're in control. May I draw your attention to that hill over there? They were very careful not to harm the trees, and Lady Sybil herself promised a slow death to anyone who disturbed the goblins.

Stunned, Vimes scanned the horizon and saw Hangman's Hill. "Hell bells! It's a tower of clacks, it's damnedcracksTower! Sybil will be totally librarian about it!

"Actually Mr. Guts, Lady Sybil was in favour, reading Captain Carrot's entire note. He said it wasn't time to lose touch. You know that sir, very convincing officer, which is why he brought Clacks company here with a makeshift turret. They worked all night, they did, and they strung it up the Grand Trunk, sweet as a nut!

This time Nobby picked his nose, briefly examined the contents for interest or value, then tossed them away and continued, "Just one thing, sir, thatAnkh-Morpork time planswant to interview you about what a great hero you are, what saved someone's wonderful ass...

There was a pause while they waited for Feeney to stop choking on his laughter and catch his breath, and then Vimes said, 'Corporal Nobby Nobbs, that's the Chief Constable's conclusion. I call him the chief of police because he's the only law in this area, that is, until now. That's ityourPatch, so you'll respect it, ok? Who else came with you from Fumaça?

"Sergeant Detritus, Mr. Vimes, but he is in the hall protecting his lordship and young Sam with delicate discretion.

Part of Vimes unconsciously held his breath. Debris and Willikins? Together they could take on an army. He shook himself. "But not Fred Colon?"

"No, Mr Vimes, I understand we were on our way when the second cheer rang out, but I think he'll be here shortly."

"Gentlemen, I'm going home," said Vimes, "but Mr. Feeney, when will another boat go down to Quirm?"

Feeney smiled. "You're in luck, Commander. Roberta E. Biscuit is leaving tomorrow morning! Just work for what I think you want. Big and slow but you don't mind as there is gambling and entertainment. Lots of tourists on it, but don't worry sir, your name is already big on the river. Trust me! Say the word and the captain ofCrackerI will make sure there is a king size bed, I mean sorry, a captain size cabin for you, how about that?

Vimes opened his mouth to ask is it expensive? And he closed it again with the embarrassed realization that Ramkin's fortune could almost certainly buy all of Old Treachery's ships.

Feeney, like the good cop he'd become, caught that brief moment of hesitation and said, "Your money won't do well on the river, Commander, believe me. the savior offannyNo need to buy your own cigars or a box anywhere along the Old Treachery!

Nobby Nobbs burst out laughing and blurted out:

Vimes sighed. “Nobby, her name was Francesca, Fanny for short. I see?” It didn't work for some people, it just happened for Vimes. 'And, Nobby, I want you to wait here, and as soon as Fred's trainer arrives, take him to the goblin den up the hill. , OK?"

"Year. Vickers,' Nobby said, looking down at his boots.

"And, Nobby, if you see a goblin that stinks like a latrine and glows a faint blue, well, that's a cop, and don't forget that."

Sybil was halfway there when Vimes clambered up, and young Sam ran ahead and slammed into his father's legs, throwing his arms around them as best he could.

"Dad! I can milk a goat, dad! You gotta pull out the boobs dad, they're all twisted! Vimes' expression didn't change as young Sam continued. "And I'm learning how to make cheese! And I've got some badger droppings now, and some weasel droppings too!

"Gosh, you've been busy," Vimes said. "Who told you the word 'boobs', boy?"

Young Sam smiled. "That was Willy the cowboy, Dad."

guts nodded. "I'll talk to you about this a little later, Sam, but first I think I'll talk to Willy the cowboy." He picked up young Sam, ignoring a pang in his back. "I hope washing your hands played a part in these adventures?"

"I'll take care of it," said Lady Sybil, holding out her hand. "Honestly Sam, I've had my eyes off you for almost no time and here you are a hero, seriously! Honestly, the whole river is talking about it! Fighting on a boat? Maritime occupations? Oh my god I don't know where to put my face, so if you would be so kind as to gently lower our son, I'll press that face firmly against yours!

When Vimes surfaced for air, he growled, "It's arealDamn tower of clacks, huh, yeah? And nowÖ time plansWhen they get all that, they're going to think I'm some kind of hero, you goddamn idiots!

After the pull was broken, Lady Sybil said, "No, Sam - well, maybe a little bit of that, but you'd be surprised at how quickly news travels down the river. Apparently you were standing on the roof of the pilot's wheelhouse.Toll fannyfought an assassin and he threw a crossbow at you and it ricocheted off! I've been told there will be an impression of a great artist in tomorrow's newspaper! Again, I don't know where to put my face!" And then Sybil couldn't contain herself and burst out laughing. "Honestly, Sam, you might haveanythingYou want to have dinner tonight.

Vimes leaned forward and whispered, prompting his wife to pat his hand and say, "Maybe later!"

At this point Vimes said, somewhat emboldened, "I couldn't help but notice that the bridge is seriously damaged?"

Sybil nodded. "Oh dear, a terrible storm, isn't it? It removed the entire center arc and all three “I remember them from my childhood. My mother used to put her hand over my eyes when we crossed the bridge, so I became very interested in them, especially when one of them scratched his butt. Her smile brightened. "But don't worry Sam, naked women aren't hard to find."

Vimes found solace in her smile and a sneaky little suspicion rose again. He thought he stepped on it, but the damn thing kept coming back. And then he cleared his throat and said, "Sybil, you discussed my vacation plans with Vetinari, didn't you?"

Sybil looked surprised. "Yes, darling, of course. After all, he's technically your boss. Only technically, of course. I've spoken to him about it at a charity party or two. I don't remember which ones anymore because there are always so many. But there were no difficulties. He said it was time for you to rest from your brave activities!”

Vimes was wise enough not to say the words that came into his mouth, and instead said cautiously, "Um, so he really didn't suggest you come to the Shire?"

"To be honest Sam it's been a while but we both have the best for you as I'm sure you know. We usually discuss things and that's pretty much it.

Vimes left it at that. He would never know for sure. And yet the ball fell.

Later, Samuel Vimes showered himself in the huge bathroom with his nose just above the surface and came out feeling the same as before, but at least a lot cleaner. The statements were in the safe, and when the Ramkins design a safe, you're not going to rush into a room: first you needed a combination that would open a smaller, but still dangerously efficient safe, simply to remove a key from it then had to be inserted into hidden locks on three separate clocks in the hall, and each key triggered a timing mechanism. Sybil told him she fondly remembered her grandfather, who, with what the old man called a broken tail, ran through the main hall to get the key in the last lock before the clock that controlled the first lock stopped and certainly in front of the guillotines. dejected.Was us have usthought Vimes as he tried. Well, they certainly meant it. Now he wore clothes that didn't smell like fish. What's next?

It was nice to be walking with young Sam again. Dad deliberately went for a walk with his son, yes? That was the photo. Unfortunately,beThe image included a distant perspective of Sergeant Detritus blending into the landscape, a feat a troll officer can accomplish simply by shedding his armor and tucking a geranium behind his ear, making him a rocky conviction and stone , prettier much of the countryside without even trying. Typically, troll officers wore oversized versions of standard armor, as that is what constitutes a large part of a cop's powersearchas safety considerations played no part; There were many weapons that, if used skillfully, could penetrate steel armor, but all that would do to a naked troll would be to enrage him.

Detritus wasn't able to keep a low profile at the moment. He was a bodyguard, that was the truth, and he also wore his peacekeeper who could sort of do what the box said. Some weapons are designated as Saturday Night Specials; Detritus' multi-dart crossbow would last all week. And somewhere Vimes couldn't see him, which meant no one else could, was Willikins.leavesit was his picture: Dad walking his son in the presence of enough firepower to kill a train. Sybil insisted, and that was it. Vimes being in danger was one thing, and Sybil had accepted that from the start, but young Sam? Never!

As they walked up Hangman's Hill to see the new bascule tower, Vimes told himself Stratford wasn't going to use an arch. A bow was handy, but a killer… now a killer would want to be close by where he could see. Stratford had killed the goblin girl and continued to kill her long after she was dead. He was a boy who liked to have fun. He would want Vimes to know who killed him. Vimes, Vimes realized, knew assassins too well to have his own peace of mind.

As they reached the hill, they were met by a smiling Nobby, who greeted them with a variation on the Cleverness theme, but a little embarrassed that he wasn't alone. Next to him sat a young goblin. Nobby hastily tried to push her away, and she backed away to a minimal safe distance, seemingly reluctantly, still gazing admiringly at the corporal.

Reluctantly, Vimes tried to suppress the urge to smile and managed to turn it into a stern look.

"You fraternize with the natives, don't you, Nobby?"

Young Sam walked up to the goblin girl and took her hand, something he used to do with every woman he met for the first time, a habit his father figured would potentially open doors for him later in life . The girl gently tried to pull her hand away, but young Sam was a wild grab.

Nobby looked embarrassed. "I'm not fraternizing with her, Mr. Vimes, she wants to fraternize with me! She came out with the straw basket of mushrooms and honestly gave it to me!”

"Are you sure they aren't poisonous?"

Nobby looked expressionless. "I don't know, Mr. Willow. I had them anyway, very good, very crunchy, you could say slightly nutty, and Fred is here now, sir. This young woman' - and to Vimes' surprise and approval, Nobby did not put quotation marks around the word lady - 'went up to him and took this oddly shiny pot from his hand, which was amazing, because no one else could have taken it.' out, and there it was! Absolutely normal! Although I think we need to remind him to wash himself, just defecate in the toilet and so on.

Vimes gave up. It was true that every organization had to have its backbone, so it made sense that there should also be someone who would pull together the little things that usually go to dog food. But Nobby was loyal and lucky, and if there's one thing a cop really needs, it's luck. Maybe Nobby had been lucky.

"What are you doing here, Nobby?" he said. Nobby looked at Vimes like he was crazy and pointed to the makeshift clack tower. "I need to check the Clack messages, Mr. Willow. Indeed, young Tony in chargehimKind of reps them and wraps them in a rock and they fall, what... There was a clatter from Nobby's helmet and he deftly caught a rock wrapped in a piece of paper before it hit the ground. "That's why I'm here, Mr. Vimes." Nobby unrolled the newspaper and announced, "One double and one single cabin on theRoberta E.Departure at 9:00 p.m. morning! Lucky you, Mr Willow. Applause! What would we do without her, huh?

A shout came from above: "Move down, man coming down!" and Vimes saw the entire structure of the clack tower tremble as the boy lowered himself carefully from one tumble to the next, testing each one before putting his weight on it. He descended the last few meters and held out his hand to Vimes. "Nice to meet you, Sir Samuel! Sorry it's unstable but we were still working on it last night. A real rush job! When Lord Vetinari drives, necessities must arise, one might say. We'll make it right later, if that's okay with you? I've strung it up in a Grand Trunk tower, and they'll toss it anywhere you want it, plus feed it to a no brainer in your house too. Of course someone has to take care of maintaining the link, but as far as I can see that's not a problem. The young man saluted Vimes, adding, "Good luck, sir, and now I'm going to eat and have a bath."

There was another crack from Nobby Nobbs' helmet and a piece of paper wrapped around a pebble fell at his feet.

The young Clacksman mistook it for the owner and read the message. "Oh it's just a confirmation of the shutdown confirming that I will be giving up for a break. My assistant typed. He didn't really have to think about it, but he's a conscientious son of a bitch and I've never seen such a quick study. Show him how to do something once and that's enough! Reliable little devil too. And with those big hands, he has no problem with the keyboard.”

As the man whistled down the hill, Guts ended like a locust. "Smelly! Just come here, you little spoil!" He screamed.

"Here, Commander!" The little goblin was almost standing between Vimes' boots.

"You you!OfCan you read?"

Stinky held out both large hands. "No, but you can look, but you can remember! The green man says, "Stinky, that pointy thing's called A," and Stinky doesn't have to say it twice, and he says, "This looks like a bum, he named it B." Enjoy! The cracked voice was coaxing, but in a way that made Vimes feel full of cynical insight. “Is the leprechaun useful, is the leprechaun reliable, is the leprechaun useful?Elf it is not

And it seemed to Vimes that he was the only one who heard those words. Young Sam tried to take Stinky's hand but changed his mind. In a low voice, Sam Vimes said, "Whatthey areYou, Stink?

"What are Sam Vimes?" Stink smiled. "Wait, Sam Vimes. Hang together or hang separately. Above all, wait. Wait a minute, Mr. Willow.

Vimes sighed. "I think it's quite likely," he said wistfully. He looked around and found himself in the eyes of young Sam, Nobby Nobbs and the goblin girl who was looking at Nobby as if the little corporal were an Adonis. Embarrassed, he shrugged and said, "Just a passing thought."

Anyway, Fred Colon was one of Vimes' oldest friends - and it was sobering to think that Nobby Nobbs was, too. Vimes found the sergeant in the middle of the goblin den looking oddly pink, confused but still quite cheerful, possibly because he was eating a roast rabbit like there was no tomorrow - which the rabbit clearly was. Cheery watched him from afar with some care, and when she saw Vimes she smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, which was reassuring.

Fred Colon tried to shake his hand but had to think for a moment. "Sorry Mr. Vimes, I had a kind of nasty turn of events. It's actually all a bit vague, and suddenly I'm here among these people.

Vimes held his breath and Colon continued, "Very good, very helpful, also very generous. They gave me all kinds of mushrooms, very tasty. I'm not well versed in the pants department, but I speak as I see fit. It makes you think; I'm not sure what, but it does. He looked around with a strange glow in his eyes. "Nice here, isn't it? Nice and quiet away from the crazy crowd. Wouldn't mind staying here for a while... Cool.

Sergeant Colon stopped, slung his rabbit bones over his shoulder, and quickly grabbed the tangle of rocks beside him. He took one. Was it Vimes' imagination, or did it flare up for a moment as he turned back to just stone.

"Stay as long as you like, Fred," Vimes said. "I have to go, but Nobby will be around, and almost everyone else from the station, it seems. Stay as long as you like” – he looked at Cheery Littlebottom – “but maybe notin additionlarge."

More thoughts passed as young Sam sauntered down the hill and through the village each day, and when the Jiminy appeared in the pub door and gave Vimes a little and nodded, Vimes' passing thought was that a clever tavern owner would know which way the wind was blowing blows and adjusts its sails accordingly. No one knew better than he that no one knows where rumors come from and how they spread, but the little convoy, although it included Nobby Nobbs and the goblin girl, received smiles and nods where a week ago there would have been blank stares. Because the awful truth is that no one wants to support the losing side.

When they got back to Ramkin Hall, Vimes found Sybil in the rose garden looking dejected, something that had to be done because it was on the list of things to do in the country, whether you liked it or not. She looked at her husband and then continued what she was doing and said quietly, "You've been worrying people, haven't you, Sam? Lady Rust stopped by for a social visit shortly after her departure.Cut! Cut!the secateurs went off furiously.

"Did you let her in?"

Cut! Cut!"Of course, of course!"

there was another oneCut! Cut!“And I gave her tea and chocolate chip cookies too. She may be a pale-faced, ignorant slut giving herself a title she doesn't rightfully deserve, but there's such a thing as good manners when all is said and done.Cut! Cut! Photo!"I only did it because it ruins the symmetry a bit, to be honest. Anyway, I've had a conversation about upholding standards and sticking together to defend our culture, you know, stuff like that, it's always just code."

Lady Sybil sat back, shears at the ready, and surveyed the rosebushes like a bloodied-handed revolutionary seeking his next aristocrat. "You know what the bitch said? She said: "My dear, who cares what happens to some trolls! Let them do drugs if they want, that's what I say.'" Eyes burning, Sybil continued, "And then I thought about Sergeant Detritus and how many times he'd saved your life, and then there was the boy Brick, that troll he adopted. . And it made me so angry that I almost said something unrepeatable! They think I'm like them! I hate that! You just don't get it! They've found their way around for years without ever having to think differently, and now they don't know how!"Cut! Cut! Crack!

"You just killed a rosebush, darling," Vimes said, impressed. It took a lot of force to drive those blades through an inch of what appeared to be a small tree.

"It was a bush, Sam, it would never do any good."

"Could you have given him a chance?"

"Sam Vimes, you appreciate your ignorance about gardening, so don't start spinning a social hypothesis in front of an angry woman holding a blade! thereIt isa difference between plants and humans!”

"You think her husband sent her?" said Vimes, pulling back a little. "He's in the picture, you know, and hopefully at the end of the day I can link him to the smuggling, the goblin trade, and certainly trying to send Jethro Jefferson overseas to take him out. I know what happens to goblins that are brought to Howondaland and it's not good for their health. Jefferson told me that Rust was behind the eviction of the local goblins three years ago. I hope for a confirmation soon. In short, it will at least wipe the smile off your aristocratic face.

The birds sang and the roses spread fragrance in the air, and Lady Sybil put the scissors in her apron pocket.

"You will be ashamedaltLord Rust, you know.

"Don't think I don't know," Vimes said. "The old man tried to warn me when we got here, which shows his talent as a strategist. But I say this for the old bastard: he's honorable, honest, and direct. Too bad he's also stubborn, stupid and incompetent. But you're right, it's going to hurt, though he must have killed so many soldiers through his own incompetence that shame should have become second nature to him, an old friend so to speak. He sighed. "Sybil, every time I have to arrest some asshole who thought they could get away with cheating or extortion or extortion, well I know there's probably going to be some family trouble, you know? I'm thinking about it. It bothers me. The problem is that idiots commit crimes! As it stands, I'm trying to spare some of the parasites in this case as long as their gratitude leads to a statement. I can enforce the law for the public good, but that's all."

Sybil nodded sadly, then sniffled and said, "Can you smell smoke?"

Willikins, standing patiently, said, "Corporal Nobbs and his, er, little girl... have been wandering through the bushes with young Sam, his lordship. Sergeant Detritus escorted them with what I now believe was called... Willikins tasted the word like caramel, "secretly."

This last fact was witnessed by the bush itself, for no bush, no matter how large, could hide the fact that a troll had just passed through it.

A small fire burned in the bushes, watched passively by Detritus and young Sam and nervously by Corporal Nobbs, who watched his new girl cook something on a skewer.

"Oh, she cooks snails," Sybil said with all the applause. "What a visionary young man."

"Snails?" said Vimes, shocked.

"Pretty traditional here, actually," Sybil said. "My dad and his friends used to do them sometimes after a drinking bout. Very healthy and full of vitamins and minerals, at least that's what I understand. Apparently if you feed them garlic they taste like garlic.”

Vimes shrugged. "I think it must be better than the ones that taste like snails."

Sybil pulled Sam aside and said softly, "I think they call the leprechaun Rainbow Glow. Felicity says she's very smart.

"Well, I don't think she'll get anywhere with Nobby," said Guts. “He carries a torch for Verity Pushpram. You know the fishmonger?

Sybil whispered, "She got engaged last month, Sam. For a young man building his own fishing fleet. They looked through the leaves and tiptoed away.

"But she's a goblin!" said Vimes from his depths.

"And he's Nobby Nobbs, Sam. And she's pretty attractive in a leprechaun way, don't you think? And to be honest, I'm not even sure if Nobby's elderly mother knows what species her son belongs to. Honestly, Sam, it's none of our business.

"But what if young Sam eats snails?"

"Sam, considering what he's eaten in his short life, if I were you I wouldn't worry. I assume the girl knows what she's doing, they usually do, Sam, trust me. Also, this is limestone country and there is nothing poisonous for snails to eat. Don't worry Sam!

"Yes, but how are you..."

"Don't worry Sam!"

"Yes, but I mean..."

"Don't worry, Sam! I hear a troll and a dwarf live together in Lobbin Clout. Good for them, I say, it's their problem and certainly not ours.

"Yes but-"


In the afternoon, Sam Vimes was worried. He wrote despatches and went to the new tower to send them off. Goblins now sat around the tower and watched it. He touched one of them on the shoulder, handed him the messages and watched him climb the tower as if it were horizontal. A few minutes later she landed with a blurry transmission receipt, which she handed him along with several other messages before sitting down to look at the tower again.

He thought: You've lived your life in and around a cave on a hill, and now here's this magical thing that will send words straight to your door. That has to inspire respect! Then he opened the two messages that had arrived for him, carefully folded the paper, and walked down the hill, breathing carefully and being careful not to hit the air and scream.

When Vimes reached the cabin of the woman who would forever be young Sam's poop lady, he stopped to listen to the music. It came and went, there were false starts and then the world spun as liquid sounds screamed out the window. Only then did he dare to knock on the door.

Half an hour later he made his way to the prison with the measured gait of a career policeman. Jethro Jefferson was sitting on a stool outside. He wore a badge. Feeney was a fast learner. The Waterside Police had one badge made out of a metal pot, and so pinned to the blacksmith's shirt was a circle of carefully cut cardboard with the words 'Constable Jefferson works for me' in meticulous calligraphy. to be counted! Signed: Chief of Police result.

A second empty stool stood next to the blacksmith, reflecting the doubling of the staff. Vimes sat up with a grunt. "Do you like being a police officer, Mr. Jefferson?"

"If you're looking for Feeney, Commander, he's on his lunch break. And since you're asking, I can't say copper suits me very well, but maybe that's what you're growing on. Also, forging is a little quiet at the moment, as is crime. The smith smiled. "No one wants itMimhunt them. I hear things happen, right?

guts nodded. "If you see Feeney tell him that Quirm police have arrested two men who appear to have voluntarily disclosed information that they robbed him, among other offenses, and it appears they have a great deal of other information that you really want to tell us. in exchange for some leniency.”

Jefferson growled. "Give me five minutes with them and I will show them mercy."

"You're a cop now, Jethro, so you don't have to think like that," Vimes said cheerfully. "Besides, the balls all line up."

Jefferson laughed hollowly, full of malice. "I would line up your balls for her... and you see the distance. I was a kid when the first batch came out and there was this damn Rust kid, yeah, goading everyone and laughing at those poor goblins. And when I ran into the street to stop him, some of his friends gave me the right to care. That was shortly after my father died. I was a bit naive at the time, I thought some people were better than me, hats off to nobility and stuff like that, and then I took over the forge and if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger."

And he blinked and Vimes thought you could do it. You probably will. you have the fire

Vimes felt in his shirt pocket and heard the reassuring rustle of paper. He was quite proud of the note at the end of the message from the Clack who was the commander's staff at Quirm. It said, "When they found out you were working the case Sam, they got so chatty we wasted two pencils!"

And then Sam Vimes went to the bar just as the men came in and sat in the corner, holding a pint of beetroot juice with a hint of pepper to accompany a snack made of a pickled egg and Pickled onion bag of chips. Vimes knew nothing about gastronomy, but he knew what he liked. And as he sat there he saw people talking and looking at him, and then slowly one of them approached, holding his hat in front of him with both hands as if in penance. 'Hasty's name, sir, William Hasty. Thatcher by trade, sir.

Vimes moved his legs to make room and said, 'Nice to meet you, Mr Hasty. What can I do for you?"

Mr. Hasty looked around at his companions and heard that mix of nods and hoarse whispers that add up to a "Go on!" Reluctantly, he turned to Vimes, cleared his throat and said, "Well, sir, yes, of course we knew about the goblins, and no one liked it very much. I mean, they're really annoying when you forget to lock the chicken coop and stuff like that, but we don't like what was done because it wasn't... I mean, it wasn't done that way, and some of us said we would suffer for it. Correct! We're just ordinary people sir, tenants and such, not big or strong or important, so who would listen to people like us? I mean what could we have

Heads bent forward a little, breaths caught, and Vimes chewed the last bite of vinegar potato chips. Then he said, looking up at the ceiling, "You all have weapons. Any man of you. Huge, dangerous and deadly weapons. You could have done it, you could have done it, you could have done anything. But you didn't, and I'm not sure, but I wouldn't have done anything if I were you. Yes?"

Hasty raised a hand. "I'm sorry sir, but we don't have guns."

"Oh dear God. Look around. One of the things you could have done was think. It's been a long day gentlemen, it's been a long week. Remember, that's all. Remember next time .

Silently, Vimes walked over to Jiminy at the bar and noticed a stain on the wall above the man, showing light paint in the plaster. For a moment, Vimes' memory filled this room with a goblin's head. Another small triumph.

"Galido, these gentlemen will drink the rest of the night at my expense. See if they get home safe even if wheelbarrows have to be used. I'll send Willikins out in the morning to reckon with you.

Only the sound of his boots broke the silence as he walked to the bar door and closed it quietly behind him. Fifty yards down the street he smiled as he heard the applause.

ÖRoberta E. Crackerwas, as opposed toTolla boat showing off its stuff. It looked like Hogswatch decor and on one deck a small band tried to play as hard as a big band. However, waiting at the docks was a man wearing a hat that every fleet captain wanted. "Welcome aboard, Your Grace and of course Your Lordship. I'm Captain O'Farrell, master of the razor. Then he looked at young Sam and said, 'You want a ride behind the wheel, young razor? This needs to be arranged! And I bet your dad would like a chance too. Shaking Vimes' hand diligently, the Captain said, "Captain Sillitoe has only good things to say about you, sir, nothing but good things indeed! And he hopes to see you again one day. But in the meantime, it's my duty to make you king!

Sam Vimes' mind collided in his haste to get through first. Something about the word "king" got in his way.

Still smiling, the captain said, "I mean, King of Rio, sir, a small honor bestowed upon the heroes who have faced and defeated the ancient treachery! Allow me to present you with this gold medal, sir. It's a small sign, but show it to any captain on the river, and it'll be carried from the mountains to the sea for free if you want!

Ecstatic with prayer, the crowd erupted in applause and the band sang into the old classic "Surprised, Are't You?" and bouquets of flowers were thrown in the air and then carefully picked up again, for don't waste it, don't want it. And the band played and the wheels spun and the water turned to foam as the Vimes family headed down the river for a wonderful vacation.

Young Sam was allowed to stay up to watch the dancers, although he didn't understand why. However, Vimes did. And there was an illusionist and all the other distractions that people indulge in in the name of fun, although he chuckled a little when the illusionist fumbled in his pocket for the ace of spades and found he was holding the knife that Sam just brought in his pocket. If you don't wait, then you should wait!

And the wizard hadNOwaited, staring wide-eyed at Vimes until he said, "Oh my god, isn't it? Commander Vimes himself! And addressing the crowd, to Vimes' horror, he said, "A big hug please, ladies and gentlemen, to the hero of theToll

In the end, Vimes had to take a bow, which of course meant that young Sam bowed beside him, causing many wet female eyes throughout the restaurant. And so the bartender, who apparently didn't know the notes, immediately created the "Sam Vimes," which Sam would later embarrassingly fake when it was part of the repertoire in all the bars on the Plains, except of course for those where the customers opened their bottles with theirs , and he was so thrilled with the honor that he drank one of the cocktails and another afterwards, reasoning that under the circumstances Sybil couldn't really mind. So he sat there signing coasters and slips of paper and talking a little louder than usual until even the bartender decided to call it a day and Sybil put her tipsy husband to bed.

And on the way to their suite, he clearly heard one lady saying to another as she passed, "Who's the new bartender?" I've never seen him in this race..."

ÖRoberta E. Crackerit sailed into the night, water leaving a momentary white trail behind its broad stern. One ox had been stabled in the scuppers while the other made a sensible headway as the pleasure cruiser rowed toward the morning. All but the pilot and lookout were asleep, drunk, or depressed. The bartender was nowhere to be seen; Bartenders come and go eventually - who notices the bartender? And in the corridor to the cabins, a figure waited in the shadows, listening. He heard rising rustles and creaks and rumbles.

There was a snore, oh yes! The shadow floated down the darkened corridor, the occasional telltale creak lost in the symphony of sounds made by each moving wooden boat. There was a door. There was a lock. There was smooth exploration; to be the guy whorepresentscunning and strength instead of actually having them. There was a lock pick, a delicate movement of the hinges, and the same movement again as the door closed gently from the inside. There was a smile so evil you could almost see it in the dark, especially with the darkly observing eye, and then there was a scream that was immediately cut off...

"Let me tell you how this is going to play out," Sam Vimes said as sudden urgent sounds filled the hallway. He bent over the body lying on the ground. "You will be humanely handcuffed for the remainder of this journey and carefully monitored by my valet, Willikins, who not only makes a great cocktail but has no burden of being a police officer." He pressed a little harder and continued conversationally : “Once in a while I have to fire a decent cop for police brutality, and IHe doesdismiss them, you can be sure of that, for they are doing what the common man would do if he were brave enough to see the dying child or the remains of the old woman. They would do this to restore the balance of terror in her mind.” Vimes squeezed again. “Often the law treatsyouKindly, if that worries you at all, but a cop, now, he's a lawman - certainly when he works for me - and that means your job ends up in prison, Mr. Stratford. So what's stopping me from squeezing the life out of a murderer who broke into the room he thought was harboring my son with, oh my god, a bunch of little knives? Why will I just squeeze you into unconsciousness while despising myself for every breath I envy you? I tell you, sir, what now stands between you and sudden death is the law, which you do not recognize. And now I'll let you go if you die on me, and I couldn't let that happen. However, I suggest you don't try to run away, because Willikins isn't bound by the same covenant as I am, and he's also quite reckless and very fond of young Sam, who sleeps with his mother. I'm happy to say. I understand? You chose the single room, didn't you, where the boy would be. It's lucky for you I'm a bastard, Mr Stratford, because if you'd broken into the cabin where, though I never dare tell her, my wife snores at least as loudly as any other man, you would have discovers that she has a considerable amount of guns, and, if she knew Ramkins' temper, she probably would have done things to you that would make Willikins say, "Wow, that's taking it too far." Hold on, Mr Stratford.

Vimes briefly changed hands. "And you must think I'm an idiot. A guy they thought was a great thinker once said, "Know thyself." Face in the shaving mirror. You're just a bully who always found it easier and decided that not everyone is really a real person, unlike you, and when you know that, no crime is too big, right? There's no crime you won't commit. You may think that Lord Rust, your boss, will probably be set free as long as you hang. Did you really think he would protect you?

The prone Stratford mumbled something.

"Excuse me sir, did I misunderstand?"

"The King's Proof!" Stratford blurted out.

Vimes shook his head, though Stratford couldn't see it. "Mr. Stratford, you will hang whatever you say. I will not negotiate with you. I am sure you must realize that you have nothing to negotiate. It's as simple as that."

On the ground, Stratford growled, "Damn! I'll tell you anyway! I hate the crawling bastard! What do you want to tell me?"

It was a good thing he couldn't see Vimes' face, and Vimes just said, 'However, I'm sure Lord Vetinari will be only too pleased to hear anything you have to say. I'm sure it hangs or

Falling to the ground and gasping, Stratford said: "Everybody had that damn cocktail, I saw it! You had three and everyone says you're a voluptuous one!

There was laughter as the door opened and let in a little light. "His grace had what you might call a Virgin Sam Vimes," Willikins said, "no offense to the captain: ginger and pepper, a sprinkling of pickle juice and lots of coconut milk."

"And very tasty," said Vimes. "Take him away, Willikins, please, and if he tries anything, you know what to were born knowing what to do."

Willikins touched his topknot for a moment and said, "Thank you, Commander, I appreciate the compliment."

And Sam Vimes ended his vacation.

Of course it couldn't be quite fun, not with the cheers, not with people texting like, "I don't want to bother you, but this is just going to take a little time..."

A lot of people didn't want to bother Sam Vimes, but with a great effort of will they somehow managed to overcome their reluctance and do it anyway. One of them, and this message contained no apologies, came from Havelock, Lord Vetinari, and read: 'Let's talk about it'.

That morning Vimes hired a small boat with his captain, and spent some happy time with young Sam, plucking periwinkles from the rocks on one of the many islets off Quirm's shore, and then they gathered driftwood, made a fire, cooked, and ate. rushed with a pin to be the first to get a wavy piece out of the shell, and of course there was brown bread and butter and finally plenty of salt and vinegar so that the periwinkles tasted like salt and vinegar. as a periwinkle, what would be a

With the boys out of the way, Sybil changed the world in her own quiet way, sitting at the table in her apartment and writing innumerable clack messages in the elegant cursive hand she had learned as a girl. One was for the director of the Royal Opera House, whose lordship was one of the principal patrons, another was for Lord Vetinari, and three more were for the secretary to the Low King of the Dwarfs, the secretary to the Diamond King of the Trolls, and the secretary to Lady Margolotta of Überwald, the ruler of all the above-ground land.

But it didn't stop there. As soon as the maid returned to the top of the hill from carrying the first batch, she was told to spin there again with the rest. Lady Sybil was an avid letter writer, and if there was one important person on the Plains and beyond who did not receive a letter from Sybil that day, it was because her name was missing from her beautifully bound, constantly updated little book. black book that was actually a soft pink with embroidered flowers, and a small bottle of perfume. However, the only comparable weapon in the entire history of persuasion was probably the ballista.

In the afternoon Lady Sybil drank tea with some of her friends, all old ladies from the Quirm College for Young Ladies, and conversed in silence about other people's children, propelled by messages that fell on the snow with precision and speed. that no wizard would have considered, the world began to change its mind.

At the same time, Vimes took young Sam to the zoo, where he met the keepers, almost all of whom knew someone at the zoo.Toll fannyand who opened to them all the doors and almost all the cages. The curator himself appeared to witness this cheerful six-year-old boy methodically weighing giraffe droppings on an antique snuff scale, dissecting it with two vintage kitchen knives, and making notes in a notebook with a picture of a leprechaun. in advance. But for Sam Vimes, a highlight was the delivery of the elephant that young Sam had been waiting for - as soon as Vimes' party approached, Jumbo complied and his son was literally in pig heaven. Not even the philatelist who found a rare blue upside-down triangle stamp in an unnoticed second-hand stamp collection could have been happier than young Sam, who stumbled away with his steaming bucket. Young Sam had seen the elephant.

And Sam Vimes too. The curator had said that young Sam was incredibly talented and seemed to have a natural grasp of the disciplines of natural philosophy, a remark that made Sam's father nod sagely and hope for the best.

They ended the day with a visit to the amusement park, where Vimes gave the man a dollar to ride the reverse machine and got a quarter in change. When he objected, the man berated Vimes, charged and, surprised to be caught by a steel grab, marched through a cheering crowd and handed him to the nearest Quirm police officer, who saluted and asked if Vimes could sign his helmet. It was a small thing, but like Vimes always said, behind the little things you can always find the big things. He also got a coconut, a definite result, and young Sam got a lump of rock candy through with "Quirm," which made him jittery, another memorable occasion.

In the middle of the night Vimes, who had been listening to the waves for some time, said, "Are you awake, honey?" And then, because that's the way things are done, when he didn't get an answer, he raised his voice a little and repeated:"It is she Awakening, Karo?"

"Yes Sam. I am now."

Vimes looked up at the ceiling. "I'm curious if it will all work out."

"Of course it will! People are very excited about that, you know; they are fascinated. And I've pulled more strings than an elephant's corset. It will work.

A gecko hung from the ceiling; They didn't get them in Ankh-Morpork. He looked at Vimes with jeweled eyes. He said, "Well, it's going to be more or less standard procedure." He stirred uneasily and the gecko retreated to a corner of the room. "Even so, I'm a little concerned, some things I've done are lawful and one or two others are legitimateTo sueso to speak."

“You just cleared the way for the law to flow, Sam. The end justifies the means."

"I'm afraid a lot of bad men have used that to justify bad things, dear."

Under the covers, Sybil's hand reached out to touch his. "That's no reason why a good man shouldn't use it to justify a good cause. No Sam!

Woman logic, Sam thought: everything will be fine, becauseit shouldbe all right. The problem is that reality is never that simple and doesn't allow for bureaucracy.

Vimes dozed comfortably for a while and then heard Sybil say in a whisper, "He's not going to escape, is he, Sam? You said he's good with locks.

'Well, they have very good cell locks here at Quirm, there is a guard constantly watching over him, and he is taken to Ankh-Morpork in his hasty carriage under armed escort. I cannot imagine the circumstances that would have allowed him to escape. After all, the Quirm boys want to do it by the numbers. I bet they must have polished their armor until it looks like silver. You're gonna want to impress me, you know? Don't worry, I'm sure nothing will go wrong.

They lay close together, and then Vimes said, "The zoo curator was very commendable to young Sam."

Sybil murmured sleepily, "Maybe he's another Woolsthorpe, but this time maybe with the missing ingredient, common sense."

"Well, I don't know what he's going to be," Sam Vimes said, "but I know he's going to be good at it."

"Then he'll be Sam Vimes," Sybil said. "Let's get some sleep."

The next day, the family drove home, meaning that after a brief lull that resulted in Young Sam's growing collection being removed from the carriage and tied to the ceiling, Sybil and Young Sam headed to Ankh-Morpork in a fast carriage drove while Sam took the gutsblack eyed Susanneback to the house, as there was still one matter to be settled. Being king of the river, the pilot let him drive part of the way, admittedly obsessively looking over his shoulder, just in case. And Vimes enjoyed himself, a rare occurrence. It's weird doing something you seem to have always wanted to do, although up until that moment you never knew you always wanted to do it or what it was, but Sam Vimes was for a moment in the world a boatman and was as happy as a cat with sixpence.

That night he stood alone in the vastness of Ramkin Hall - apart from the hundred or so servants, of course - and kept thinking about the events of the past week and especially about his own actions during that time. Again and again he mercilessly questioned himself. Did he cheat? Not exactly. Did he cheat? Not exactly. Was he behaving like a cop should? now thatErasThe question right?

In the morning two young maids brought him breakfast, and Vimes was amused to find that a servant chaperoned with them. Somehow he found that rather flattering. Then he would walk in the beautiful scenery, listening to the liquid sounds of the robin, etc.

And as he walked he was aware that eyes were staring at him from every hut and field. One or two people approached him, shook his hand frantically and fled just as quickly, and Vimes thought the world was dragging behind him. Nervousness filled the atmosphere so much that he felt like he was going to yell "BOOO!" at any moment. at the top of your lungs.

But Vimes just waited... waited for the night.

The coaches arrived at the Ankh-Morpork Opera House very early. This would be a momentous occasion: it was said that not only would the patrician be there, but that he would be accompanied by Lady Margolotta, ruler of all Overwood, as well as the dwarven ambassador and the diamond king's black ruby ​​viceroy of the trolls, who with almost as many courtiers, secretaries, bodyguards, cooks, and advisers arrived in the city as the dwarf ambassador had brought in.

The people of Ankh-Morpork were very cultured in a simple way, and the streets were busier than usual. That was important. Great questions of state would be solved over canapés. The fate of millions and the like would probably be decided by a silent word in a corner somewhere, and the world would be a slightly different place from then on, you see, if not.

If you didn't have a gold-edged invitation to the opera house that night, this wasn't an opportunity to be elegantly late if you stood elegantly at the back and craned your neck unfashionably to look over other people's heads.

Toward sunset, Vimes rested outside the jail, enjoying a brotherly salute from the pilot of a passing small boat. So he walked down the street until he reached the pub and sat on the bench outside. He picked up his snuffbox, studied it for a moment, and decided that on such an occasion, Sybil would probably have given him a cigar.

Through the smoke of the first luxurious train, he looked across the mansion's lawn and in particular at that pillar that looked like broken wickerwork. Somehow it was talking to him softly, calling out to him, just like it had when he first saw him. After a few more thoughtful puffs, he headed for the bar door. The cricket smiled at him from beneath the freshly painted sign of the Commander's Arms, where he savored the beer the thrifty innkeeper drinks each day while cleaning his pipes. It's obviously stale beer, but what's beer but runny bread, eh? And bread can't hurt you.

"You look a little worried, Commander," the innkeeper said. "A little thoughtful, so to speak?"

Vimes nodded towards the swaying tower. "How important is it, my friend?"

The bartender looked at the stack like he didn't care. "Well, you know, it's just a bunch of old wicker barriers, that's all. They just stack them there after the annual sheep fair so they don't get in the way. A milestone, you could say, but not quite.”

"Oh," Vimes said. He looked at the tower. Nothing really, but she spoke to him anyway.

Vimes looked at the stack for a while, then followed Jiminy to the bar.

"How much brandy do you have here?"

"Not asking much, but I'd say five or six bottles and a small keg." Jiminy stared at Vimes. Vimes knew Jiminy for what he was: nothing more than a man who knew enough to always be on the winning side.

Mumm nahm noch einen Zug von seiner Zigarre. „Legen Sie zwei davon für mich beiseite, ja? Und sorgen Sie besser dafür, dass Sie ein gutes Bier vom Fass haben, denn Sie werden bald viele Kunden haben.

He confused the bartender when he came back outside and continued to stare, his mind elsewhere and in many places. Of course it will work, he told himself. They all have clocks and I know they have synced them even if they don't know how to spell sync. It's a scream like any other, and I've trained most of them, and I think they know it when someone says to them, "Do you know who I am?" they know enough to say, "Yes, you were robbed!" and he smiled inwardly at the thought that among the city officials summoned were two trolls, two vampires, a werewolf, and a dwarf. That's probably called symbolic, he thought. Just as the first candidates for an evening beer appeared, he pulled out his own watch again. Well, about... now.

There was a huge gathering of carriages around the Opera House as would-be guests, high and low, left their carriages and stood to weave their way through the crowd to seek entry. Of course it helped if you had a troop of trolls or dwarves with you.

Ankh-Morpork liked surprises, as long as they didn't involve revenue. There was only an hour left until the curtain went up, but that didn't matter because the most important thing was to be there and more importantly to be seen, especially by the peoplesheI wanted to see. Whatever it was, it would be an occasion and you would be there and people would see you there and it was important and that's whythen we are

It was going to be a night to remember, even if the mystery performance was an act to forget. The really rich tend to wear these things out of vanity, but this one looked particularly mysterious and possibly a good laugh when it fell flat on the nose.

Day turned into night. The pub filled as did the drinkers hearing from Cricket that they were drinking again courtesy of Commander Vimes. And Jiminy watched him intently from the door while the shadows lengthened and Vimes stood motionless, occasionally glancing at his watch.

Eventually the boy everyone knew as young Feeney appeared, his arm still in a cast, but despite this the old men were nodding to each other and looking a little more grown up than they had ever seen him before. He was accompanied by Jefferson the blacksmith, whom they viewed as a ticking time bomb at best, and he had a badge, as did Feeney. People poured out of the pub as they headed to the Vimes and the conversation was outrageous. They wondered why the smith was carrying a bullhorn but now they saw him hand it to Vimes and Feeney and the smith went back into the bar and people parted like a wave to let them through.

Vimes checked his watch again. More and more people ran towards the lawn. People with an instinct for the dramatic rushed home to say something was wrong and you'd better come and see it. And the peasants liked a show, or even a hard death, like the townspeople. They also liked to say "I was in it" even when it came out "I was in it, oh-arr."

Vimes pocketed his watch one last time and raised the megaphone to his lips.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!" The smith had forged a very fine speaker, and the voice echoed across the lawn. "I've heard, ladies and gentlemen, that in the end all sins are forgiven." Out of the corner of his mouth, for only Feeney and the smith to hear, he said, "We'll see." And so he went on. “Bad things have been done. Bad things were ordered. Bad orders were followed. But they never will again... will they, ladies and gentlemen? For there must be a law, but before there is a law there must be a crime!”

There was absolute stillness in the darkness as he walked across the lawn to the tower and smashed the two brandy bottles against the wood, stepping back and tossing the glowing end of his cigar at them.

At the opera, rumors vanished and died when Lady Sybil stepped through the curtains onto the stage. She was a woman of, as they say, voluptuous proportions, although she felt that some of them were more than voluptuous. However, she could afford the best seamstresses and actually had the manners and demeanor that were the epitome of her class, or at least the class she was born into, so she stepped in front of the curtain and applause broke out. and grew. When she realized she'd talked long enough, she made a small gesture that magically silenced the audience.

Lady Sybil had just the right voice for these occasions. Somehow she managed to make everyone believe that she was only talking to them. She said: "My Lord Patrick, Lady Margolotta, His Grace the Viceroy, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so thrilled that you have all chosen to come with me to my little Twilight soirée, especially as I am quite naughty and very naughty was information savvy. ”. Lady Sybil took a deep breath, causing several elderly gentlemen in the front of the audience to explode with anger.

"I've recently had the privilege of meeting a musician like no other, and I'm going to share this wonderful secret with you straight away. Can we turn off the light in the house, Jeffrey? Good. Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to present Tears of the Mushroom with his own composition tonight,Ö duskI hope you like it and I even know you will like it.

Lady Sybil stepped back as the curtains opened and sat down next to Tears of the Mushroom, who obediently followed the music of her harp.

Beneath her seemingly unassailable composure, Sybil's heart beat like that of a flamenco dancer. A dim light - that was the problem. The girl shouldn't be able to see the thousands outside. Sybil held on, fearing that sudden contact with Ankh-Morpork's vast gaze far from home would have dire effects, but it really didn't work that way. The girl had an odd calm, as if she didn't know she should be happy. She smiled at Sybil in her odd way and waited, fingers raised over the strings. There was no sound save the whispers of people asking each other what the small, intense figure they saw really was. Lady Sybil smiled to herself. By the time they realized it would be too late. She looked at her watch.

The flames were so high over the Ramkin property that the fire could be seen with certainty as far as Ankh-Morpork (a gallon of brandy and a few turbot). There was hardly any wind and it stayed there like a lighthouse.

Vimes announced to the assembled crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, the area known as the Shire is under the rule of law tonight, and by that I mean its own law, the law that is written for all to see and can even be changed if enough people vote to. Police Chief Upshot and Constable Jefferson are currently acting with the support of their colleagues at Ankh-Morpork City Watch, who want to ensure their colleagues are given the respect they deserve. At the moment several people from the Shire are being politely brought here, albeit possibly to your dismay. Some of them will be the people who call themselves their judges, and they will be led away and asked to explain to a lawyer what right they have to take that position. If any of you want to argue with me, please come and do it. The law is for the people, not the other way around. If it's the other way around, don't hesitate to pick up your weapons, got it? The bar is still free BUT BEFORE YOU ASK THERE IS ONE MORE!”

Vimes had to put the megaphone back in his mouth because the mention of "bar" and "free" suddenly has such an invigorating effect on people. "Right now, ladies and gentlemen, the goblins of Hangman's Hill, and indeed all other goblins in this area, are under my protection and the protection of the law. They too are subject to it, and I will see that they have their own police force. It looks like they're making natural clack operators, so they can make a recipe out of it if they want. I'm paying to make this clack tower permanent. You will benefit and so will you! You don't have to steal your chickens because they buy them from you, and if they doHe doespinch, it is a crime and will be treated as such. One law, ladies and gentlemen... one size fits all!”

This was followed by applause, as loud as any applause around can be at the prospect of a free bar. Of course, some of that could have been cause for celebration that there's some justice in the world now, but overall the bar would likely prevail. You didn't have to be cynical, you just had to understand people.

Vimes walked slowly towards the brightly lit pub, although the chances of him getting inside were slim. On the other hand, the chances of a hug from Ms. Felicity Beedle were exactly one hundred percent, because that's exactly what she did while the blacksmith looked at her sheepishly.

Vimes let go of her hand as he said, "You are a great man, Commander, and I hope you erect a statue!"

"Oh dear, I hope not! You only get a statue when you're dead!"

She laughed, but Vimes said, "Listen, Ms. Beedle, now I don't know if I'm seeing a statue or a bag. Some of my behaviors were pretty cool, and some of my behaviors were a little... controversial. I have an officer who can do with numbers what Sergeant Detritus can do with a hammer, and he's looking at the records of the son of one of the most influential people in Ankh-Morpork. At the same time, experienced police officers visited the homes of all members of the local judges' list. You hand them a document with my seal, informing them that they are no longer members of the self-elected Council of District Judges and repeating that formal charges may need to be filed. My reason for thatit shouldwork, but now? It will probably be about who has the best lawyers.

"The future, Miss Beedle, is a bit uncertain, but I have to tell you that, thanks to you, young Sam will probably be the world's expert on poop. I have to tell you that his mother and I are very happy and we only hope that he strives for more.

In the distance the sound of wagons and carriages could already be heard; the sound of pigeons coming home to perch. "I think I'll have people to talk to soon, Ms. Beedle, although I suspect they'd rather not talk to me."

"Of course, Commander. May I say the kobolds are very attached to their corporal nobbs? They actually treat him like one of their own, and he seems to like Shine of the Rainbow a lot, just like she likes him. You might be interested to know that his goblin name is Breaking Wind?”

She didn't seem to smile and Vimes said, "Yeah, very decent. I've always thought of Nobby as a pull extruder. Actually with my wifeto expressI've given him the rank of sergeant at his suggestion for his stay here and hope he'll help the kobolds understand the benefits of the law - although of course the merger could simply mean people's chickens are more adroitly stolen from now on . against."

"Oh, you're a prankster, Commander!"

Vimes' expression hadn't changed, and it wasn't changing now. "Yes, is not it?"

He turned to Jefferson. "You know, it would have been a lot easier if you had trusted me from the start."

The blacksmith shrugged. "Why should I have trusted you? You are a noble.

"Do you trust me now?"

The blacksmith's gaze stayed steady longer than Vimes could be satisfied, but eventually the man smiled and said, "Yes, for now."

There was only one answer Vimes could give. He smiled back and said, "A cop's answer, if I ever heard one."

As the pair walked away, Vimes coughed politely behind. He turned and saw the Colonel's worried face. "Do you have a minute, Commander?"

Oh God, Vimes thought.

"May I first say, Commander, that I fully agree with what you are doing and heaven knows it had to be done." The Colonel coughed again and said, "You will not disagree with me on this point ." Vimes waited and he continued, "My wife is a rather stupid woman who seems to love such things as titles and, if I may say so, shows airs. Her father was a fisherman, a very good fisherman, but guess what? I think she would rather die than let anyone know.

There was another pause, and in the red light Vimes could see the glow on the old man's face. "What will happen to her, Commander? At the moment she is guarded in our house by two polite young women in Ankh-Morpork City Watch uniforms. I don't know if it helps much but the first thing she did when the cops came was make them tea. There's such a thing as good manners, you know. is she going to jail

Vimes wanted to say, "Would you like her to?" but he choked on tears. "It's Charles, isn't it?"

The Colonel looked surprised. "Commander actually, for my friends it's Chas."

"Am I one of them?" And Vimes continued: "Other people will decide what to do here. I was just making sure no one accidentally left before I had a chance to talk to everyone, you know? I'm not the judge and I'm not allowed to sit on a jury. They are not copper. And now I'm not even sure what the punishment for stupidity, vanity, and irrationality is, although it occurs to me that if I put everyone guilty of these crimes in jail, we'd have to build about five hundred more.

"I speak for myself," continued Vimes, "I want murderers, when I find them, to be seen and treated as murderers, and for the fearful and thoughtless obedient to be treated as they deserve, too." And now, sir, I wish I didn't live in a world of damn fools. Personally, I have no particular interest in seeing your wife in prison, although I suspect placement in Tanty's women's section would usefully broaden her horizons, and I imagine she would be so bossy that she would have run away from the place after a few years.weeks.

"I love her, you know," the Colonel said. “We have been married for fifty-five years. I'm very sorry you bothered, and as I said, I envy your work.

"I think maybe I should envy her husband," Vimes said. "You know, Colonel, I'm happy when the truth comes out, preferably on the front page of the newspaperAnkh-Morporkif you understand me."

"Sure, Commander."

Vimes looked at the man, who now looked quite relieved, and added, "For all it's worth, I suspect Lord Vetinari will pledge his support and there may be some token penalties. Lots of skeletons, you see, lots of closets. Lots of things around the world that may have happened a long time ago. What the hell can you do when a cop goes around digging her up? It's called Realpolitik, sir, and that's why I suspect the world will go on and you won't be without your wife for long, which I think should mean you can pretty much have whatever you want for dinner the next week.

The idea seemed to cheer the Colonel. The old man smiled. "You know, Commander, I'm sure pot shrimp, if treated with respect, can become my bosom buddies."

The Colonel held out his hand and Vimes took it, shook it and said, "Enjoy your meal."

Several explanations were later given as to why Quirm's wagon carrying a very important prisoner overturned in the middle of the night and rolled down a very steep hill, collapsing in the process. You could blame the darkness, you could blame the fog, you could blame its speed, and most importantly, you could blame the Ankh-Morpork Express Mail bus for hitting it on the corner.

Once the wounded were able to understand what had happened, they were less a prisoner who appeared to have picked the lock on his handcuffs and more a guard whose throat had been cut.

It was dark, cold, foggy and the survivors hunched over until dawn. After all, how could you find a man in the dark?

Stratford was good at pace. Speed ​​was always useful, and he stayed on the road, which was barely visible in the dark. It didn't matter where he went; after all, he knew that no one had ever given a helpful description of him. It was an indescribable gift.

After a while, however, he was surprised and delighted when he heard a horse trotting down the street behind him. Some brave traveller, he thought, smiling into the mist and waiting. To his great surprise, the horse stopped short of him and the rider slipped. Stratford could barely make out a figure in the glittering, water-laden air.

"My word! The famous Mr. Stratford," said a cheerful voice as the stranger approached. You would have to run back."

"I know you! Wickers later sent

"Oh my God, no, sir," Willikins said. "The commander doesn't know I'm here, sir, and he never will. That's a certainty. No, sir, I'm here out of professional pride, so to speak. By the way, sir, if you're thinking of killing me and taking my horse, I'd be most grateful if you'd try that right now.

Stratford hesitated. There was something in the voice that caused hesitation. It was quiet, friendly, and... worrying.

Willikins walked a little closer, laughter in his voice. "Gosh sir I'm a bit of a fighter myself and when I heard you stabbed that girl I thought my god I thought. And so the other day when I had my day off - very important, your day off if you're a worker - I took a trip to Overhang and I learned a few things about you and, my word, I have a few things learned . YouTruthscares people, doesn't it?

Stratford still hesitated. That didn't feel right. The man had a direct, cheerful voice, like a man you don't know very well who speaks pleasantly in the pub, and Stratford was used to people being very nervous when they spoke to him.

"Well I," Willikins said, "was raised on the street as a fighter and I fight dirty, trust me and I'll fight anyone, but I've never hit a girl... oh, except for Kinky Elsie, who always has." ready for something like that and had me through the mentions of not doing it at the time, and my hands were tied, sort of, in more ways than one, so I had to give him a hard nudge with my foot. Happy Days. But you? You're just a killer Useless. A bully. I fight because I might get killed and the other might win, or maybe we'll both end up in the gutter, too weak to take another punch when we'd most likely back off and go to the bar for a drink and a Laundry.

He took another step closer. Stratford took a step back. “And you, Mr. Stratford, set out to kill Commander Vimes' son, or worse. And do you know what's even worse? I think if you had done that, the commander would have arrested you and dragged you to the nearest police station. But inside he would cut himself from top to bottom with razor blades. And he would do it because the poor fellow is afraid of being as bad as you are. Willkins laughed. "The truth is, Mr Stratford, from where I'm sitting, he's a choirboy, he really is, but there's got to be a little bit of justice in the world, you understand, not necessarily legal justice, butjusticeJustice, and that's why I'll kill you. Although, as a fair man, I'll give you the chance to kill me first. That means one or two of us will die, so whatever happens, the world is going to be a better place, isn't it? Call it... cleaning. I know you've got a gun, otherwise I'd have run away, so I'm assuming you got a blade from one of those poor bastards in Quirm, and I guarantee you, in all the confusion, you probably stabbed him with it.

"Me too," Stratford said. "And he was a cop and you're just a butler."

"True," Willikins said, "and a lot older than you, and heavier than you, and slower than you, but still a little agile. What do you have to lose?

Only the horse, patiently steaming in the mist, saw what happened next, and as a horse he was unable to articulate his thoughts on the subject. If it had been able to do that, it would have given the impression that one human was running towards another human with a giant metal pole while the other human calmly put his hand in his shirt pocket. This was followed by a terrible scream, a gurgling noise, and then silence.

Willikins stumbled to the side of the road and sat down on a rock, panting a little. Stratford was certainly quick, no question. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, lit one and stared out at nothing but the fog. Then he got up, looked at the shadow on the ground and said:"But NO fastSo, like a good citizen, Willikins went back to see if he could help the hapless lawmen who seemed to be in trouble. You must always help the Lords of the Law. Where would we be without her?

The Deputy Editor-in-Chief ofAnkh-Morpork time plansTruthhatedPoetry. He was an everyman and had spent much of his career trying to keep it out of the paper. But they were a smart bunch of poets, and they could surprise you if your back was turned. And tonight, with the paper getting late enough for the boys to be working overtime downstairs, he looked down at the report that Knatchbull Harrington, the paper's music critic, had just delivered in person. A man he deeply suspected. He turned to his deputy and waved the bellboy angrily. "'Where did this ethereal music come from?' Do you understand what I mean? What's wrong with "Where does this song come from"? Damn stupid introductory sentence in any case. And what does ethereal even mean?

The deputy sub hesitated. "I think it means dismissal. Might be wrong.

The deputy editor was penniless. "Definitely poetry!"

Someone played a really good song. Apparently this left everyone in awe. Why didn't that idiot in his rather girly purple silk shirts just write something like that? After all, he told you everything you needed to know, didn't he? He picked up his red pencil, and just as he was rubbing it on the damned manuscript, there was a noise on the metal staircase, and Mr. de Worde, the editor, staggered into the office looking as if he had seen a ghost, or perhaps had one ghost seen him.

Dazedly looking at the two confused men, he managed to say, "Did Harrington send your things?"

The underboss laid out the objectionable material in front of him. "Yeah boss, a bunch of junk in my opinion."

De Worde picked it up, read it with moving lips, and tossed it back to the man. "Don't you dare change a single word. Front page, Bugsy, and I hope Otto has an iconographer.

„Ja, Sir, aber Sir…“

"And don't bloody argue!" exclaimed De Worde. "And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm in my office."

He rumbled upstairs while the assistant editor and his deputy sadly reread Knatchbull Harrington's copy. It began:

Where did this ethereal music come from, what hidden cave or secret cell? Which dark cave? Which window to paradise? We watched the small figure in the spotlight and the music flooded us, sometimes soothing, sometimes blessing, sometimes accusing. Each of us confronts ghosts, demons and ancient memories. The performance of Tears of the Mushroom, a young woman from the goblin band, lasted only half an hour, or maybe a lifetime, and then it was over, a silence that spread and grew and stretched until it finally exploded. Every regular stood up and clapped, tears streaming down our faces. We had been taken somewhere and brought back, and we were different people longing for another trip to heaven, no matter what hell we had to suffer along the way.

The underboss and his deputy looked at each other with what Knatchbull would surely call a "mad guess." Finally, the deputy editor ventured: "I think he liked it".

Three days passed. Those were busy days for Vimes. He had to get back on the swings, although, to tell the truth, it involved going from one swing to the other while both were swinging. So much paperwork to read! So much paperwork to get rid of! How much paperwork to delegate! So much paperwork to pretend you didn't get it and it might have been eaten by the gargoyles.

But today, in the Oblong Office, Lord Vetinari was about to complain. Admittedly, you had to know him very well to see that. He drummed his fingers on the table. "Snarkenfaugister? I'm sure she makes these things up!

Drumknott carefully placed a cup of coffee on his master's desk. “Unfortunately, sir, there really is such a word. At Nothingfjord, it means a maker of small but necessary items, such as very small blobs and clothespins for indoor use, and medium-sized cocktail sticks for people who don't drink much. The term can be considered historically interesting as my research this morning revealed the fact that the last known Snarkenfaugister died in a bizarre pencil sharpener accident twenty seven years ago. In fact, I conclude that your own crossword is indeed from Nothingfjord.

"Ah! Here it is! All those long winters sitting around the stove! What terrible patience! But she runs the pet shop on Pellicool Steps! Dog collars! Cat biscuits! Mealworms! How nasty! What an escape! What vocabulary! Snarkenfaugister!

"Well sir, she's the main crossword puzzle maker for them now and I suppose those things fit the field."

Lord Vetinari calmed down. "One down, one across. She won and I'm angry. And as you know, I rarely get angry, Drumknott. Calm, if cynical, detachment is usually my forte. I can change the fate of nations, but I am thwarted at every turn by a seemingly innocent crossword puzzle-solving woman!”

Drumknott nodded. "Sure, sir, but by the way, if you'll allow me to lengthen the note a little, I must remind you that Commander Vimes is waiting in the other room."

"Really? Please send him in.

Vimes marched, saluted a lotfastsmart and stood to attention.

"Ah, Your Grace, it's good to finally see you again. Except for illegal actions, ad hoc actions, brawls, harassment on land and sea and even in fresh water, illicit spending and, of course, farting in the halls of the powerful, how was your vacation?

Vimes' gaze was steady and just above the Patrician's eye line. – Detail, sir: he didn't fart, he might have accidentally picked his nose.

"The requirements of the service, I assume?" said Lord Vetinari wryly. "Vimes, you've spread a fair amount of paperwork on my desk over the last few days. In some cases the writers wanted his head on a plate, others were more cautious because the writers were scared to death of a jail cell. I can state one thing very clearly, Your Grace, the law cannot be retrospective. If that were so, none of us would be safe.

"Lord Rust junior might indeed have done ittemhas done many bad things, but making goblins slaves under the law cannot be one of them. However, I suspect that recent revelations about his further activities have done a great deal to damage his reputation. You may not know this, Vimes, but in society it can be worse than prison, possibly worse than death. Young Gravid is a man with few friends at the moment. Hope this brings you some joy.

Vimes said nothing but thought:A she was

Vetinari looked at him and said: "I have here an eloquent letter from Lord Rust Sr. pleading for the life, if not the liberty, of his son, who he admits has trampled on the family honour." Lord Vetinari raised his hand. "Your lordship is an old man, so, Vimes, if your next remark is anything like'until further'So I suggest you plant a little charity. His lordship is anxious to avoid scandal. Besides, I can haveyourviews?"

"Yes. "The scandal happened more than once, sir," Vimes said coldly. "He dealt in living, breathing, thinking people. Many of them died!"

"Again, Vimes, I must tell you that laws cannot be made retroactively."

'Could be,' said Vimes, 'but what about the troll boys who took that damn junk? They will ask the Diamond King ifyoushould it be retrospective?”

"I can assure you, Vimes, that the laws are upheld, and since you ask, I must now deal with the king, who demandschallengingIt is I - I, Vimes - that young Lord Rust is to be handed over for questioning in connection with the manufacture and distribution of deadly troll narcotics. Of course, by troll law, an unfortunate man would be killed, and I'm sorry to say that at this point in the complex world of human, troll, and dwarf politics, I feel like this could have some long-term implications, and it is one unfortunate option for this city. I have to negotiate this issue and believe me it's going to cost a lot for the pro quo. And it's only half past eight in the morning!

Vimes' knuckles turned red. "They are living creatures that can speak and think and have songs and names, and he treated them as a kind of disposable tool."

"Indeed, Vimes, but like I said, goblins have always been considered a species of vermin. However, Ankh-Morpork, the kingdoms of the Low King, as well as that of the Diamond King, Overwood, Lancre, and all independent cities in the plain pass a law stating that goblins are henceforth to be regarded as equal, if not equal, beings as, Trolls and dwarves and humans and werewolves and so on and so on, responsible for what we call 'common law' and also protected by it. That means it would be a capital offense to kill one. You've won, Commander, you've won. Because of a song, Commander. Oh, and other endeavors, of course, but it was his wife that drew most of the ambassadors into their little distraction, which, if I may say, was guts, eloquence personified. Although, frankly, guts, I'm embarrassed. You spend your life making plans, negotiating, giving and taking, and oiling wheels like squeaks, and generally doing your best to keep this battered old world from shattering. And now, because of a piece of music, Vimes, apiece vonSome very powerful states have agreed to work together to solve another autonomous state's problems and, almost as a guarantee, turn a few animals into humans at a time. Can you imagine that, spunk? In what world could this happen? All because of a song in the twilight, why von oneIt was a thing of weird sounding tones and incredible cadences that somehow found their way into our souls and reminded some of us that we have them. Lady Sybil is worth a dozen diplomats. You are a lucky man, Commander.”

Vimes opened his mouth to speak, but Vetinari cut him off. "And a damn fool too, a stubborn damn fool. Should the law start with a crime? I understand, but don't forgive.” Vetinari picked up the letter from his desk. "Lord Rust is asking that his son be sentenced to a moderately short prison sentence, after which he may emigrate to Fourecks to start a new life. Since the man was deeply involved in smuggling, the fine will be hefty.

He held up his hand. “No, listen to me; after all, I'm the tyrant around here. Vetinari sank back in his chair, wiped his brow and said, "And I've already lost patience with a sweet, harmless lady who compiles crosswords for the, Guts, but Lord Rust calls you a man of honor and integrity and amazing integrity and vigilance. He also disinherits his son, meaning that upon his death, the title passes to his daughter Regina, a wild, very difficult, and hot-tempered woman. And that, Vimes, creates another problem for me. Your landlady is extremely frail and frankly I was looking forward to dealing with her son who is an ignorant, arrogant, pompous idiot, but his sister? She's smart!' and then, almost to himself, Lord Vetinari added, 'But at least she doesn't put together crosswords...Now you can talk, Commander.'

"There's been a murder," Vimes said sullenly.

Vetinari sighed heavily. "No, Mom! There was a massacre! You do not understand? At this point, goblins were bugs and no, don't yell at me! Right now, goblins in palaces and law offices around the world are becoming as human as you or me, but that was then. I wish you were fully aware that the reason Stratford went to Mr. Trooper is because he and his thugs got on boardGiganticYes, what is it?"

Vetinari looked around as Drumknott slapped him on the shoulder. There was a muffled whisper before Vetinari cleared his throat and said, "Of course I meant thatTolland he didn't meet Vimes' eyes as he continued. "It was an act of piracy and the good people of Quirm, where the boat in question was registered, are all for the death penalty for something like that. I know of his various other crimes, but unfortunately a man can only be hanged once... Although it appears, as it turned out, Mr Stratford was mortally wounded in a collision three nights ago when he was walking with his throat surgically cut some distance from thrown into the rubble. Comfortable, don't you think?

"Don't you dare look at me like that

"God, I didn't mean to blame you Commander, I was just wondering if you know anyone else who has a grudge against the corpse?"

"Nossir," Vimes said, coming to attention.

"You know, Vimes, sometimes your expression gets so rigid I think I could make a table out of it. Just tell me this: did you give any instructions?”

How does he do that? thought guts. When? Aloud he said: 'I don't know what you're talking about, sir, but if what I suspect is true then the answer is no. If there was a crime that night, it wasn't my orders. I wanted to see Stratford hang. And he thought I'd never ask Willikins about it.

Vetinari's eyebrows rose as Vimes continued, "But his lordship's miserable son is granted a long holiday of sun, sea, surf and sand and cheap wines!" He slammed his fist on the table and Vetinari glared at him until Vimes removed him. "Are you going to leave it at that?"

“It is well known how people say that the leopard changes its shorts. We all hope for a little redemption, whether we deserve it or not. We'll keep an eye on the young fool, you can be sure.

"Oh, are you going to send the Dark Clerks after him?"

“Vimes, the Dark Clerks are a myth, as everyone knows. In fact, a servant from our embassy below will be watching your progress. And now the world is a better place, Commander. You don't understand, Vimes, you don't understand the invisible deals and strategies and ways out that some of us make changes to make sure it stays that way. Don't strive for perfection. There is none. We can only try. Understand that, Commander, because you have no choice where I sit from. And remember for this week's workshethat will be remembered. Lord Rust may not like it, but news travels fast. The truth will be known and written in the history books.” Vetinari smiled weakly. "It'll be fine, I'll take care of it. And the world will keep turning a little bit better than before.”

Vetinari picked up another piece of paper, seemed to be looking at it, and said, "You may go, Commander, knowing that I envy you for many reasons. My compliments to your good lady.

Vimes looked at Drumknott. The man's face diligently betrayed nothing, which betrayed everything.

Vetinari pulled out a file for him and picked up his pen. "Don't let me stop you, Commander."

An hour later, Lord Vetinari sat at his desk, fingers interlaced, seemingly absent-minded, gazing up at the ceiling and, to Drumknott's surprise, occasionally waving his hand as if conducting hidden music. Drumknott knew enough not to anger him, but finally dared to say, "That was a memorable lecture, wasn't it, sir?"

Vetinari stopped being the invisible conductor and said happily, "Yes, that was it, wasn't it? It is said that some paintings' eyes can follow you across a room, a fact I doubt, but I wonder if music can follow you forever. Appearing to collect himself, he continued, "On the whole the Rust dynasty, while not exactly gifted with brains, is rather an honorable and patriotic bunch, on the whole, am I not right, Drumknott?"

Drumknott carefully and unnecessarily sorted through some papers and said: 'It's true. Young Gravid is an unfortunate exception.

"Do you think he's beyond saving?" said Vetinari.

"Probably not," said Drumknott, carefully folding a pen cleaner. “However, Arachne is currently working in Fourecks as an archivist in our embassy. She applied for the position because she is particularly attracted to venomous spiders.”

"Well, I think every girl should have a hobby," Vetinari said. "And there are many of them in Fourecks?"

"The store is definitely overbooked, I hear, sir, and apparently Arachne already has a large selection."

Vetinari said nothing but remained seated with his eyes closed.

Drumknott cleared his throat. "You say, sir, that in the end all sins are forgiven?"

Reluctantly, Havelock, Lord Vetinari tore up his memory of the beautiful music he longed to hear again. "Not all, Drumknott, not all."

That night Vimes lay in bed on Scoone Avenue, listening to the absence of owls and nightjars: 'You know, darling, I've got to get back to the counties soon. Feeney's a good guy, but they need proper HQ and leadership, and that doesn't just mean Nobby Nobbs and Fred Colon.

Sybil turned. "Oh, I don't know, Sam. Fred and Nobby aren't that bad, and they might be just what we need right now. I mean, they're cops, but they walk extremely slowly, and overall it's nice to see them. Now you have two young men full of energy and panache, and if you don't want to mix things up, maybe slow and steady should help you in that confusing place, don't you think?"

"You're right, as always, my dear."

"Also, I've seen Fred and it definitely shook him a little that he had to reconsider his worldview."

"He'll get over it," Vimes said. "Once you get past stupid Fred, against all odds, there's a decent man."

Sybil sighed. "Yes, Sam, but this decent man needs a vacation in the sun, away from the smoke and dirt and horrible spells.

'But they're the best parts!' said Vimes, laughing.

"No, he needs a vacation. Everyone needs a vacation, Sam, even you.

"I just had one, honey, thanks."

"No, you've had a few days that were interspersed with fighting and flooding and murder and whatnot. Check out your table, make sure everyone's busy, and then we'll be there for another week, hear Sam Vimes?

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