Jingo Page 10


'Er... why do you want to keep it, sir?'

'Keep what?' said Vimes. 'The iconograph I borrowed from the tourist.'

'I don't know what you're talking about,' said Vimes. 'But you–'

'I can't see you going very far in the Watch, captain, if you go around seeing things that aren't there.'

'Oh.' The clock seemed to tick louder. 'You're thinking something, sir. Aren't you?'

'It is a use to which I occasionally put my brain, captain. Strange as it may seem.'

'What are you thinking, sir?'

'What they want me to think,' said Vimes. 'Who's they?'

'I don't know yet. One step at a time.' A bell tinkled. Vimes stood up. 'You know what I always say,' he said. Carrot removed his helmet and polished it with his sleeve. 'Yes, sir. “Everyone's guilty of something, especially the ones that aren't,” sir.'

'No, not that one...'

'Er... “Always take into consideration the fact that you might be dead wrong,” sir?'

'No, nor that one either.'

'Er... “How come Nobby ever got a job as a watchman?”, sir? You say that a lot.'

'No! I meant “Alwaysact stupid,” Carrot.'

'Ah, right, sir. From now on I shall remember that you always said that, sir.' They put their helmets under their arms. Vimes knocked at the door. 'Come, ' said a voice. The Patrician was standing at the window. Sitting or standing around the office were Lord Rust and the others. Vimes never quite understood how the civic leaders were chosen. They just seemed to turn up, like a tack on the sole of your shoe. 'Ah, Vimes,' said Vetinari. 'Sir.'

'Let us not beat about the bush, Vimes. How did the man get up there when your people had so thoroughly checked everything last night? Magic?'

'Couldn't say, sir.' Carrot, still staring straight ahead, blinked. 'Your people did check the Barbican, I assume?'

'No, sir.'

'They didn't?'

'No, sir. I did that myself.'

'You physically checked it yourself, Vimes?' said Boggis of the Thieves' Guild. Captain Carrot could feel Vimes's thoughts at this point. 'That is correct... Boggis,' said Vimes, without turning his head. 'But... we think someone got in where the windows are boarded up and pulled the boards back after him. Dust has been disturbed and–'

'And you didn't spot this, Vimes?' Vimes sighed. 'It'd be hard enough to spot the nailed–back boards in daylight, Boggis, let alone in the middle of the night.' Not that we did, he added to himself. Angua smelled the scent on them. Lord Vetinari sat down at his desk. 'The situation is grave, Vimes.'

'Yes, sir?'

'His Highness is very seriously injured. And Prince Cadram, we understand, is beside himself with rage.'

'They insist on keeping his brother in the embassy,' said Lord Rust. 'A studied insult. As if we haven't good surgeons in this city.'

'That's right, of course,' said Vimes. 'And many of them could give him a decent shave and a haircut too.'

'Are you making fun of me, Vimes?'

'Certainly not, my lord,' said Vimes. 'ln my opinion, no surgeons anywhere have cleaner sawdust on their floors than the ones in this city.' Rust glared at him. The Patrician coughed. 'You have identified the assassin?' said the Patrician. Carrot was expecting Vimes to say, 'Alleged assassin, sir,' but instead he said: 'Yes. He is– He was called Ossie Brunt, sir. No other name that we know. Lived in Market Street. Did odd jobs from time to time. Bit of a loner. No relatives or friends that we can find. We are making enquiries.'

'And that's all you fellows know?' said Lord Downey. 'It took some time to identify him sir,' said Vimes stolidly. 'Oh? Why should that be?'

'Couldn't give you the technical answer, sir, but it looked to me like they wouldn't need to make him a coffin, they could just have posted him between two barn doors.'

'Was he acting alone?'

'We only found the one body, sir. And a lot of recently fallen masonry, so it looks as–'

'I meant does he belong to any organization? Any suggestion that he's anti– Klatchian?'

'Apart from him trying to kill one? Enquiries are continuing.'

'Are you taking this seriously, Vimes?'

'I have put my best men on the job, sir.' Who's looking worried? 'Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs.' Who's looking relieved? 'Very experienced men. The keystones of the Watch.'

'Colon and Nobbs?' said the Patrician. 'Really?'

'Yes, sir.' Their gazes met, very briefly. 'We're getting some very threatening noises, Vimes,' said Vetinari. 'What can I say, sir? I saw someone up on the tower, I ran, someone shot the Prince with an arrow and then I found the man at the bottom of the tower very obviously dead, with a broken bow and a lot of rock beside him. The storm last night probably loosened things up. I can't make up facts that don't exist, sir.' Carrot watched the faces round the table. The general expression was one of relief. 'A lone bowman,' said Vetinari. 'An idiot with some kind of mad grudge. Who died in the execution of the, uh, attempted execution. And, of course, valiant action by our watchmen probably at least prevented an immediately fatal shot.'

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'Valiant action?' said Downey. 'I know Captain Carrot here ran towards the VIPs and Vimes headed for the tower, but frankly, Vimes, your strange behaviour beforehand–'

'Somewhat immaterial now,' said Lord Vetinari. Once again he adopted a slightly faraway voice, as if reporting to somebody else. 'If Commander Vimes had not slowed down the procession, the wretch would undoubtedly have got a much better shot. As it was, the man panicked. Yes... the Prince, possibly, would accept that.'

'Prince?' said Vimes. 'But the poor devil–'

'His brother,' said the Patrician. 'Ah. The nice one?'

'Thank you, commander, ' said the Patrician. 'Thank you, gentlemen. Do not let me detain you. Oh, Vimes... just a brief word, if you would be so good. Not you, Captain Carrot. I'm sure someone is committing some crime somewhere.' Vimes remained staring at the far wall while the room emptied. Vetinari left his chair and went over to the window. 'Strange days indeed, commander,' he said. ‘Sir.'

' For example, I gather that this afternoon Captain Carrot was on the roof of the Opera House firing arrows down towards the archery butts.'

'Very keen lad, sir.'

'It could well be that the distance between the Opera House and the targets is about the same, you know, as the distance between the top of the Barbican and the spot where the Prince was hit.'

'Just fancy that, sir.' Vetinari sighed. 'And why was he doing this?'

'It's a funny thing, sir, but he was telling me the other day that in fact it is still law that every citizen should do one hour's archery practice every day. Apparently the law was made in 1356 and it's never been–'

'Do you know why I sent Captain Carrot away just now, Vimes?'

'Couldn't say, sir.'

'Captain Carrot is an honest young man, Vimes.'

'Yes, sir.'

'And did you know that he winces when he hears you tell a direct lie?'

'Really, sir?' Damn. 'I can't stand to see his poor face twitch all the time, Vimes.'

'Very thoughtful of you, sir.'

'Where was the second bowman, Vimes?' Damn! 'Second bowman, sir?'

'Have you ever had a hankering to go on the stage, Vimes?' Yes, at the moment I’d leap on it wherever it's heading, thought Vimes. 'No, sir.'

'Pity. I am certain you're a great loss to the acting profession. I believe you said the man had put the boards back after him.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Nailed them back?' Blast. 'Yes, sir.'

'From the outside.' Damn. 'Yes, sir.'

'A Particularly resourceful lone bowman, then.' Vimes didn't bother to comment. Vetinari sat down at his desk, raised his steepled fingers to his lips and stared at Vimes over the top of them. 'Colon and Nobbs are investigating this? Really?'

'Yes, sir.'

'If I were to ask you why, you'd pretend not to understand?' Vimes let his forehead wrinkle in honest perplexity 'Sir?'

'If you say “Sir?” again in that stupid voice, Vimes, I swear there will be trouble.'

'They're good men, sir.'

'However, some people might consider them to be unimaginative, stolid and... how can I put this?... possessed of an inbuilt disposition to accept the first explanation that presents itself and then bunk off somewhere for a quiet smoke? A certain lack of imagination? An ability to get out of their depth on a wet pavement? A tendency to rush to judgement?'

'I hope you are not impugning my men, sir.'

'Vimes, Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs have never been pugn'd in their entire lives.' ‘Sir?’?'

'And yet... in fact, we do not need complications, Vimes. An ingenious lone madman... well, there are many madmen. A regrettable incident.'

'Yes, sir.' The man was looking harassed and Vimes felt there was room for a pinch of sympathy. 'Fred and Nobby don't like complications either, sir.'

'We need simple answers, Vimes.'

'Sir. Fred and Nobby are good at simple.' The Patrician turned away and looked out over the city. 'Ah,' he said, in a quieter voice. 'Simple men to see the simple truth.'

'This is a fact, sir.'

'You are learning fast, Vimes.'

'Couldn't say about that, sir.'

'And when they have found the simple truth, Vimes?'

'Can't argue with the truth, sir.'

'In my experience, Vimes, you can argue with anything.' When Vimes had gone Lord Vetinari sat at his desk for a while, staring at nothing. Then he took a key from a drawer and walked across to a wall, where he pressed a particular area. There was a rattle of a counterweight. The wall swung back. The Patrician walked softly through the narrow passageway beyond. Here and there it was illuminated by a very faint glow from around the edges of the little panels which, if gently slid back, would allow someone to look out through the eyesockets of a handy portrait. They were a relic of a previous ruler. Vetinari never bothered with them. Looking out of someone else's eyes wasn't the trick. There was a certain amount of travel up dark stairways and along musty corridors. Occasionally he'd make movements the meaning of which might not be readily apparent. He'd touch a wall here and here, apparently without thinking, as he passed. Along one stone–flagged passage, lit only by the grey fight from a window forgotten by everyone except the most optimistic flies, he appeared to play a game of hopscotch, robes flying around him and calves twinkling as he skipped from stone to stone. These various activities did not seem to cause anything to happen. Eventually he reached a door, which he unlocked. He did this with some caution. The air beyond was full of acrid smoke, and the steady pop–pop sound which he had begun to hear further back along the passage was now quite loud. It faltered for a moment, was followed by a much louder bang, and then a piece of hot metal whirled past the Patrician's car and buried itself in the wall. In the smoke a voice said, 'Oh dear.'

It didn't seem unhappy, but sounded rather like the voice one might use to a sweet and ingratiating little puppy which, despite one's best efforts, is sitting next to a spreading damp patch on the carpet. As the billows cleared the indistinct shape of the speaker turned to Vetinari with a wan little smile and said, 'Fully fifteen seconds this time, my lord! There is no doubt that the principle is sound.' That was one of Leonard of Quirm's traits: he picked up conversations out of the air, he assumed everyone was an interested friend, and he took it for granted that you were as intelligent as he was. Vetinari peered at a small heap of bent and twisted metal. 'What was it, Leonard?' he said. 'An experimental device for turning chemical energy into rotary motion,' said Leonard. 'The problem, you see, is getting the little pellets of black powder into the combustion chamber at exactly the right speed and one at a time. If two ignite together, well, what we have is the external combustion engine.'

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