Jingo Page 13

 

 

'You were having a go at me, don't deny it! just because I'm going through a bit of an emotional wossname, eh?'

'It was just a joke, Nobby. Just a joke.' Nobby peered under the narrow bed. 'Wow!' he said, all emotional wossnames forgotten. 'What is it? What is it?' said Colon. 'It looks like a complete run of Bows and Ammo! And...' Nobby pulled another stack of badly engraved magazines out into the light, 'here's Warrior of Fortune, look! And Practical Siege Weapons...' Colon leafed through page after page of very similarlooking people holding very similar weapons of personal destruction. 'You got to be a bit odd to sit around all day reading this kind of thing,' he said. 'Yeah,' said Nobby. 'Here, don't put that one back, that's last August's issue, I ain't got that one. Hang on, there's a box right at the back...' He wriggled out, towing a small box with him. It was locked, but the cheap metal gave way when he accidentally levered at the lid. Silver coins gleamed. Lots and lots of them. 'Whoops…' he muttered. 'We're in trouble now...'

'That's Klatchian money, that is!' said Colon. 'Sometimes people slip you one instead of a half–dollar in your change. Look, there's all curly writing on them!'

'We're in big trouble,' said Nobby. 'No, no, no, this is a Clue what we have found by patient detectoring,' said Sergeant Colon. 'And it's going to be a feather in our caps and no mistake when Mr Vimes hears about it!'

'How much do you reckon there is?'

'Got to be hundreds and hundreds of dollars' worth,' said Colon. 'And that's a lot of money to a Klatchian. You can probably live like a king for a year on a dollar, in Klatch.'

'It wasn't very patient detectoring,' said Nobby doubtfully. 'All I did was look under the bed.'

'Ah, but that's because you is trained,' said Colon. 'Your basic civilian wouldn't think of that, right? Ah, it all begins to make sense!'

'Does it? Why would the Klatchians give him money to shoot a Klatchian?' said Nobby. . Colon tapped the side of his nose. 'Politics,' he said. 'Ah, politics,' said Nobby. 'Ah, well, politics. I see. Politics. Right. So why?'

'Aha,' said Colon again, tapping the other side of his nose. 'Why're you picking your nose, sarge?'

'I'm tapping it,' said Colon severely. 'That's to show I'm in the know.'

'In the nose,' said Nobby cheerfully. 'It's just the sort of underhand cunning thing they'd do,' said Colon. 'Payin' us to kill them?' said Nobby.

'Ah, you see, some Klatchian nob gets topped here, and then they can send a snotty note saying, “You killed our big nob, you foreign nephews of dogs, this means war!” see? A perfect excuse.'

'Do you need an excuse to have a war?' said Nobby. 'I mean, who for? Can't you just say, “You got lots of cash and land but I've got a big sword so divvy up right now, chop chop?” That's what I'd do,' said Corporal Nobbs, military strategist. 'And I wouldn't even say that until after I'd attacked.'

'Ah, but that's 'cos you don't know about politics,' said Colon. 'You can't do that stuff any more. Mark my words, this case has got politics written all over it. That's why old Vimes put me on it, depend upon it. Politics. Young Carrot's all very well, but you need a hexperienced man of the world in these delicate political situations.'

'You've certainly got the nose–tapping just right,' said Nobby. 'I generally miss.' But he felt troubled, if not in his nose then in whatever small organ propelled his blood around his body. This didn't feel right. Nothing much in Nobby's life had ever felt right, so he knew very well how the feeling felt. He looked up at the bare walls and down at the rough floorboards. 'There's a bit of sand on the floor,' he said. 'Another Clue, then,' said Colon happily. 'A Klatchian has been here. Bugger all else but sand in Klatch. Still got some in his sandals.' Nobby opened the window. It gave on to a gently sloping roof. Someone could get through it easily and be away over the tiles and into the maze of chimneys. 'He could've gone in and out this way, sarge,' he volunteered. 'Good point, Nobby. Write that down. Evidence of conniving and sneaking around.' Nobby peered down. 'Here, there's glass outside, Fred...' Sergeant Colon joined him at the stricken window. One of the panes had been smashed. Outside, glass glittered on the tiles. 'That could be a clue, eh?' said Nobby, hopefully. 'It certainly is,' said Sergeant Colon. 'See the glass fell outside the window? Everyone knows you look at which way the glass fails. I reckon he was just testing his bow and it went off while it was loaded.'

'That's clever, sarge,' said Nobby. 'That's detectoring,' said Colon. 'It's no good just looking at things, Nobby. You got to think straight, too.'

'Cecil, sarge. '

'That's Frederick, Cecil. Come on, I think we've wrapped this up nicely. Old Vimes says he wants a report toot sweet.' Nobby looked out of the broken window. The roof abutted the end wall of a much larger warehouse. For a moment he found himself thinking bendy rather than straight, but he reasoned that his thinking was only a corporal's

thinking, and worth far less per thought than a sergeant's thinking, so he kept his private thoughts to himself. As they went downstairs Mrs Spent watched them suspiciously through a barely opened doorway at the far end of the hall, clearly ready to slam it shut at the first suggestion of any sexual magnetism. 'It's not as if I even know where to get a sexual magnet,' Nobby muttered. 'And she didn't even laugh.' ... Also, we went to the bow shops in the Street of Cunning Artificers and showed the iconograph to the man in Burleigh and Stronginthearm, who vouchsafed, that is him, e.g., he was referring to the Diseased... 'Oh, my...' Vimes's lips moved slightly as his gaze went back up the page. ... also in addition to the Klatchian money you could tell one of them had been there because of, e.g., the sand on the floor... 'He'd still got sand in his sandals?' murmured Vimes. 'Good grief.'

'Sam?' Vimes looked up from his reading. 'Your soup will be cold,' said Lady Sybil from the far end of the table. 'You've been holding that spoonful in the air for the last five minutes by the clock.'

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'Sorry, dear.'

'What are you reading?'

'Oh, just a little masterpiece,' said Vimes, pushing Fred Colon's report aside. 'Interesting, is it?' said Lady Sybil a little sourly. 'Practically unparalleled,' said Vimes. 'The only things they haven't found are the bunch of dates and the camel hidden under the pillow...' Belatedly, his nuptial radar detected a certain chilliness from the far side of the cruet. 'Is, er, there something wrong, dear?' he said. 'Can you remember when we last had dinner together, Sam?'

'Tuesday, wasn't it?'

'That was the Guild of Merchants' annual dinner, Sam.' Vimes's brow wrinkled. 'But you were there too, weren't you?' A further subtle change in the dragonhouse quotient told him that this was not a well chosen answer. 'And then you rushed off afterwards because of that business with the barber in Gleam Street.'

'Sweeney Jones,' said Vimes. 'Well, he was killing people, Sybil. The best you could say is that he didn't mean to. He was just very bad at shaving–'

'But you didn't have to go, I'm sure.'

'Policing's a twenty–four–hour job, dear.'

'Only for you! Your constables do their ten hours and that's it. But you're always working. It's not good for you. You're always running around during

the day, and when I wake up in the middle of the night there's always a cold space beside me.. .' The dots hung in the air, the ghosts of words unsaid. Little things, thought Vimes. That's how a war starts. 'There's so much to do, Sybil,' he said, as patiently as he could. 'There's always been a lot to do. And the bigger the Watch gets the more there is to do, have you noticed that?' Vimes nodded. That was true. Rotas, receipts, notebooks, reports... the Watch might or might not be making a difference in the city, but it was certainly frightening a lot of trees. 'You ought to delegate,' said Lady Sybil. 'So he tells me,' muttered Vimes. 'Pardon?'

'Just thinking aloud, dear.' Vimes pushed the paperwork away. 'I'll tell you what... let's have an evening in,' he said. 'There's a nice fire in the drawing room–'

'Er... no, Sam, there isn't.'

'Hasn't young Forthright lit it?' Forthright was the Boy; it came as news to Vimes that this was an official servant position, but the Boy's job was to light the fires, clean the privies, help the gardener and take the blame. 'He's gone off to be a drummer boy in the Duke of Eorle's regiment,' said Lady Sybil. 'Him too? He seemed a bright lad! Isn't he too young?'

'He said he was going to lie about his age.'

'I hope he lies about his musical ability. I've heard him whistling.' Vimes shook his head. 'Whatever possessed him to do such a daft thing?'

'He thinks the uniform will impress the girls.' Sybil gave him a gentle smile. An evening at home suddenly began to seem very inviting. 'Well, it won't take a genius to find the woodshed,' said Vimes. 'And then we can bolt the doors and–' One of the aforesaid doors shook to the sound of frantic knocking. Vimes caught Sybil's gaze. 'Go on, then. Answer it,' she sighed, and sat down. The door admitted Corporal Littlebottom, seriously out of breath. 'You... got to come quick, sir... it's... murder this... time!' Vimes looked helplessly at his wife. 'Of course you must go,' she said. Angua brushed out her hair in front of the mirror. 'I don't like this,' said Carrot. 'It's not a proper way to behave.' She patted him on the shoulder. 'Don't worry,' she said. 'Vimes explained it all. You're acting as though we're doing something wrong.'

'I like being a watchman,' said Carrot, still in the mournful depths. 'And you've got to wear a uniform. If you don't wear a uniform it's like spying on people. He knows I think that.' Angua looked at his short red hair and honest cars. 'I've taken a lot of the work off his shoulders,' Carrot went on. 'He doesn't have to go on patrol at all, but he still tries to do everything.'

'Perhaps he doesn't want you to be quite so helpful?' said Angua, as tactfully as possible. 'It's not as if he's getting any younger, either. I've tried to point that out.'

'That was kind of you.'

'And I've never worn plain clothes.'

'On you they'll never be very plain,' said Angua, pulling on her coat. It was a relief to be out of that armour. As for Carrot, there was no disguising him. The size, the ears, the red hair, the expression of muscular good–naturedness... 'I suppose a werewolf is in plain clothes all the time, when you think about it,' said Carrot. 'Thank you, Carrot. And you are absolutely right.'

'I just don't feel comfortable, living a lie.'

'Walk a mile on these paws.'

'Pardon?'

'Oh... nothing.' Goriff's son Janil had been angry. He didn't know why. The anger was built up of a lot of things. The firebomb last night was a big part. So were some of the words he'd been hearing in the street. He'd had an argument with his father about sending that food round to the Watch House this morning. They were an official part of the city. They had those stupid badges. They had uniforms. He was angry about a lot of things, including the fact that he was thirteen. So when, at nine in the evening while his father was baking bread, the door had slammed back and a man had rushed in, Janil had pulled his father's elderly crossbow from under the counter and aimed it where he thought the heart was and pulled the trigger. Carrot stamped his feet once or twice and looked around. 'Here,' he said. 'I was standing here. And the Prince was... in that direction.' Angua obediently walked across the square. Several people turned to look curiously at Carrot. 'All right... stop... no, on a bit... stop... turn a little bit to the left... I mean my left... back a bit... now throw your arms up...' He walked over to her and followed her gaze.

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