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Authors: Terry Pratchett

Tags: #Fantasy:Humour

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BOOK: Men at Arms
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“I haven’t really had a chance to look around,” she said. “But I saw a place in Gleam Street.”

Which meant that they had to cross the river, at least two of them trying to indicate to passers-by that they weren’t with at least one of the other two. Which meant that, with desperate nonchalance, they were looking around.

Which meant that Cuddy saw the dwarf in the water.

If you could call it water.

If you could still call it a dwarf.

They looked down.

“You know,” said Detritus, after a while, “that look like that dwarf who make weapons in Rime Street.”

“Bjorn Hammerhock?” said Cuddy.

“That the one, yeah.”

“It looks a
like him,” Cuddy conceded, still talking in a cold flat voice, “but not
like him.”

“What d’you mean?” said Angua.

“Because Mr. Hammerhock,” said Cuddy, “didn’t have such a great big hole where his chest should be.”

Doesn’t he ever sleep? thought Vimes. Doesn’t the bloody man ever get his head down? Isn’t there a room somewhere with a black dressing gown hanging on the door?

He knocked on the door of the Oblong Office.

“Ah, captain,” said the Patrician, looking up from his paperwork. “You were commendably quick.”

“Was I?”

“You got my message?” said Lord Vetinari.

“No, sir. I’ve been…occupied.”

“Indeed. And what could occupy you?”

“Someone has killed Mr. Hammerhock, sir. A big man in the dwarf community. He’s been…shot with something, some kind of siege weapon or something, and dumped in the river. We’ve just fished him out. I was on the way to tell his wife. I think he lives in Treacle Street. And then I thought, since I was passing…”

“This is very unfortunate.”

“Certainly it was for Mr. Hammerhock,” said Vimes.

The Patrician leaned back and stared at Vimes.

“Tell me,” he said, “how was he killed?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it…there was just a great big hole. But I’m going to find out what it was.”

“Hmm. Did I mention that Dr. Cruces came to see me this morning?”

“No, sir.”

“He was very…concerned.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think you upset him.”


The Patrician seemed to be reaching a decision. His chair thumped forward.

“Captain Vimes—”


“I know that you are retiring the day after tomorrow and feel, therefore, a little…restless. But while you are captain of the Night Watch I am asking you to follow two very specific instructions…”


“You will cease
investigations connected with this theft from the Assassins’ Guild. Do you understand? It is entirely Guild business.”

“Sir,” Vimes kept his face carefully immobile.

“I’m choosing to believe that the unspoken word in that sentence was a
, captain.”


“And that one, too. As for the matter of the unfortunate Mr. Hammerhock…The body was discovered just a short while ago?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then it’s out of your jurisdiction, captain.”

“What? Sir?”

“The Day Watch can deal with it.”

“But we’ve
bothered with that hours-of-day-light jurisdiction stuff!”

“Nevertheless, in the current circumstances I shall instruct Captain Quirke to take over the investigation, if it turns out that one is necessary.”

If one is necessary. If people don’t end up with half their chest gone by accident. Meteorite strike, perhaps
, thought Vimes.

He took a deep breath and leaned on the Patrician’s desk.

“Mayonnaise Quirke couldn’t find his arse with an atlas! And he’s got no idea about how to talk to dwarfs! He calls them gritsuckers! My men found the body! It’s my jurisdiction!”

The Patrician glanced at Vimes’ hands. Vimes removed them from the desk as if it had suddenly grown red-hot.

“Night Watch. That’s what you are, captain. Your writ runs in the hours of darkness.”

we’re talking about! If we don’t get it right, they’ll take the law into their own hands! That usually means chopping the head off the nearest troll! And you’ll put
on this?”

“I’ve given you an order, captain.”


“You may go.”

“You can’t—”

“I said you may
, Captain Vimes!”


Vimes saluted. Then he turned about, and marched out of the room. He closed the door carefully, so that there was barely a click.

The Patrician heard him thump the wall outside. Vimes wasn’t aware, but there were a number of barely perceptible dents in the wall outside the Oblong Office, their depths corresponding to his emotional state at the time.

By the sound of it, this one would need the services of a plasterer.

Lord Vetinari permitted himself a smile, although there was no humor in it.

The city
. It was a self-regulating college of Guilds linked by the inexorable laws of mutual self-interest, and it
. On average. By and large. Overall. Normally.

The last thing you needed was some Watchman blundering around upsetting things, like a loose…a loose…a loose siege catapult.


Vimes seemed in a suitable emotional state. With any luck, the orders would have the desired effect…

There’s a bar like it in every big city. It’s where the coppers drink.

The Guard seldom drank in Ankh-Morpork’s more cheerful taverns when they were off duty. It was too easy to see something that would put them back on duty again.
So they generally went to The Bucket, in Gleam Street. It was small and low-ceilinged, and the presence of city guards tended to discourage other drinkers. But Mr. Cheese, the owner, wasn’t too worried about this. No one drinks like a copper who has seen too much to stay sober.

Carrot counted out his change on the counter.

“That’s three beers, one milk, one molten sulphur on coke with phosphoric acid—”

“With umbrella in it,” said Detritus.

“—and A Slow Comfortable Double-Entendre with lemonade.”

“With a fruit salad in it,” said Nobby.


“And some beer in a bowl,” said Angua.

“That little dog seems to have taken quite a shine to you,” said Carrot.

“Yes,” said Angua. “I can’t think why.”

The drinks were put in front of them. They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

Mr. Cheese, who knew coppers, wordlessly refilled the glasses and Detritus’ insulated mug.

They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

“You know,” said Colon, after a while, “what gets me, what really
me, is they just dumped him in the water. I mean, not even weights. Just dumped him. Like it didn’t matter if he was found. You know what I mean?”

“What gets
,” said Cuddy, “is that he was a dwarf.”

“What gets me is that he was murdered,” said Carrot.

Mr. Cheese passed along the line again. They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

Because the fact was that, despite all evidence to the contrary, murder was not a commonplace occurrence in Ankh-Morpork. There were, it was true, assassinations. And as aforesaid there were many ways one could inadvertently commit suicide. And there were occasional domestic fracas on a Saturday night as people sought a cheaper alternative to divorce. There were all these things, but at least they had a
, however unreasonable.

“Big man in the dwarfs, was Mr. Hammerhock,” said Carrot. “A good citizen, too. Wasn’t always stirring up old trouble like Mr. Stronginthearm.”

“He’s got a workshop in Rime Street,” said Nobby.

“Had,” said Sergeant Colon.

They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

“What I want to know
,” said Angua, “what put that hole in him?”

“Never see anything like that,” said Colon.

“Hadn’t someone better go and tell Mrs. Hammerhock?” said Angua.

“Captain Vimes is doing it,” said Carrot. “He said he wouldn’t ask anyone else to do it.”

“Rather him than me,” said Colon fervently. “I wouldn’t do that for a big clock. They can be fearsome when they’re angry, those little buggers.”

Everyone nodded gloomily, including the little bugger and the bigger little bugger by adoption.

They stared at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

“Shouldn’t we be finding out who did it?” said Angua.

“Why?” said Nobby.

She opened and shut her mouth once or twice, and finally came out with: “In case they do it again?”

“It wasn’t an assassination, was it?” said Cuddy.

“No,” said Carrot. “They always leave a note. By law.”

They looked at the drinks. They drank the drinks.

“What a city,” said Angua.

“It all works, that’s the funny thing,” said Carrot. “D’you know, when I first joined the Watch I was so simple I arrested the head of the Thieves’ Guild for thieving?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Angua.

“Got into a bit of trouble for that,” said Carrot.

“You see,” said Colon, “thieves are
here. I mean, it’s
. They’re
a certain amount of thieving. Not that they do much these days, mind you. If you pay them a little premium every year they give you a card and leave you alone. Saves time and effort all around.”

“And all thieves are members?” said Angua.

,” said Carrot. “Can’t go thieving in Ankh-Morpork without a Guild permit. Not unless you’ve got a special talent.”

“Why? What happens? What
” she said.

“Well, like being able to survive being hung upside down from one of the gates with your ears nailed to your knees,” said Carrot.

Then Angua said: “That’s terrible.”

“Yes, I know. But the thing is,” said Carrot, “the thing is: it works. The whole thing. Guilds and organized crimes and everything. It all seems to work.”

“Didn’t work for Mr. Hammerhock,” said Sergeant Colon.

They looked at their drinks. Very slowly, like a mighty sequoia beginning the first step towards resurrection as a million Save The Trees leaflets, Detritus toppled backward with his mug still in his hand. Apart from the 90
change in position, he didn’t move a muscle.

“It’s the sulphur,” said Cuddy, without looking around. “It goes right to their heads.”

Carrot thumped his fist on the bar.

“We ought to do something!”

“We could nick his boots,” said Nobby.

“I mean about Mr. Hammerhock.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah,” said Nobby. “You sound like old Vimesy. If we was to worry about every dead body in this town—”

“But not like this!” snapped Carrot. “Normally it’s just…well…suicide, or Guild fighting, stuff like that. But he was just a dwarf! Pillar of the community! Spent all day making swords and axes and burial weapons and crossbows and torture implements! And then he’s in the river with a great big hole in his chest! Who’s going to do anything about it, if not us?”

“You been putting anything in your milk?” said Colon. “Look, the dwarfs can sort it out. It’s like Quarry Lane. Don’t stick your nose where someone can pull it off and eat it.”

“We’re the
Watch,” said Carrot. “That doesn’t mean just that part of the city who happens to be over four feet tall and made of flesh!”

“No dwarf did it,” said Cuddy, who was swaying gently. “No troll, neither.” He tried to tap the side of his nose, and missed. “The reason being, he still had all his arms and legs on.”

“Captain Vimes’ll want it investigated,” said Carrot.

“Captain Vimes is trying to learn to be a civilian,” said Nobby.

“Well, I’m not going to—” Colon began, and got off his stool.

He hopped. He jumped up and down a bit, his mouth opening and shutting. Then the words managed to come out.

“My foot!”

“What about your foot?”

“Something stuck in it!”

He hopped backward, clutching at one sandal, and fell over Detritus.

“You’d be amazed what can get stuck to your boots in this town,” said Carrot.

“There’s something on the bottom of your sandal,” said Angua. “Stop waving it about, you silly man.”

She drew her dagger.

“Bit of card or something. With a drawing pin in it. You picked it up somewhere. Probably took a while for you to tread it through…there.”

“Bit of card?” said Carrot.

“There’s something written on it…” Angua scraped away the mud.


“What does that mean?” she said.

“I don’t know. Something’s gone, I suppose. Perhaps it’s Mr. Gonne’s visiting card, whoever he is,” said Nobby. “Who cares? Let’s have ano—”

Carrot took the card and turned it over and over in his hands.

“Save the pin,” said Cuddy. “You only get five of them for a penny. My cousin Gimick makes them.”

“This is important,” said Carrot, slowly. “The captain ought to know about this. I think he was looking for it.”

“What’s important about it?” said Sergeant Colon. “Apart from my foot hurting like blazes.”

“I don’t know. The captain’ll know,” said Carrot stubbornly.

“You tell him, then,” said Colon. “He’s staying up at her ladyship’s now.”

“Learning to be a gentleman,” said Nobby.

to tell him,” said Carrot.

Angua glanced through the grubby window. The moon would be up soon. That was one trouble with cities. The damn thing could be lurking behind a tower if you weren’t careful.

“And I’d better be getting back to my lodgings,” she said.

“I’ll accompany you,” said Carrot, quickly. “I ought to go and find Captain Vimes in any case.”

“It’ll be out of your way…”

“Honestly, I’d like to.”

She looked at his earnest expression.

“I couldn’t put you to the trouble,” she said.

BOOK: Men at Arms
10.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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