Jingo Page 2


'Er... er... you can't,' said Jenkins quickly. 'They... er... stole the paperwork as well...'

'Really? So they can take the stuff back to the shop if it doesn't fit?'

'Er... anyway, the ship's sailed. Yes! Sailed! Got to try and recoup my losses, you know!'

'Sailed? Without its captain?' said Vimes. 'So Mr Scoplett is in charge? Your first officer?'

'Yes, yes–'

'Damn!' said Vimes, snapping his fingers theatrically. 'That man we've got in the cells on a charge of being Naughtily Drunk last night... we're going to have to charge him with impersonation as well, then? I don't know, more blasted paperwork, the stuff just piles up...' Mr Jenkins tried to look away but Vimes's stare kept pulling him back. The occasional tremble of a lip suggested that he was preparing a riposte, but he was bright enough to spot that Vimes's grin was as funny as the one that moves very fast towards drowning men. And has a fin on top. Mr Jenkins made a wise decision, and got down. 'I'll.... er... I'll go and sort... I'd better go and... er...' he said, and pushed his Way through the mob, which waited a little while to see if anything interesting was going to happen and then, disappointed, sought out other entertainment. 'You want I should go ad have a look at his boat?' said Detritus. 'No, sergeant. There won't be any silk, and there won't be any paperwork. There won't be anything except a lingering aroma of fish guts.'

'Wow, dem damn Klatchians steals everything that ain't nailed down, right?' Vimes shook his head and strolled on. 'They don't have trolls in Klatch, do they?' he said.

'Nossir. It's der heat. Troll brains don't work in der heat. If I was to go to Klatch,' said Detritus, his knuckles making little bink–bink noises as he dragged them over the cobbles, 'I'd be really stoopid.'

'Detritus?'

'Yessir?'

'Never go to Klatch.'

'Nossir.' Another speaker was attracting a much larger crowd. He stood in front of a large banner that proclaimed: GREASY FORANE HANDS OFF LESHP. 'Leshp,' said Detritus. 'Now dere's a name that ain't got its teef in.'

'It's the land that came back up from under the sea last week,' said Vimes despondently. . , They listened while the speaker proclaimed that Ankh–Morpork had a duty to protect its kith and kin on the new land. Detritus looked puzzled. 'How come dere's dese kiff and kin on dere when it only just come up from under der water?' he said. 'Good question,' said Vimes. 'Dey been holding dere breath?'

'I doubt it.' There was more in the air than the salt of the sea, Vimes thought. There was some other current. He could sense it. Suddenly, the problem was Klatch. Ankh–Morpork had been at peace with Klatch, or at least in a state of non–war, for almost a century. It was, after all, the neighbouring country. Neighbours... hah! But what did that mean? The Watch could tell you a thing or two about neighbours. So could lawyers, especially the real rich ones to whom 'neighbour' meant a man who'd sue for twenty years over a strip of garden two inches wide. Peopled live for ages side by side, nodding at one another amicably on their way to work every day, and then some trivial thing would happen and someone would he having a garden fork removed from their ear. And now some damn rock had risen up out of the sea and everyone was acting as if Klatch had let its dog bark all night. 'Aagragaah,' said Detritus, mournfully. 'Don't mind me, just don't spit it on my boot,' said Vimes. 'It mean–' Detritus waved a huge hand, 'like... dem things, what only comes in...' he paused and looked at his fingers, while his lips moved'... fours. Aagragaah. It mean lit'rally der time when you see dem little pebbles and you jus' know dere's gonna be a great big landslide on toppa you and it already too late to run. Dat moment, dat's aagragaah.' Vimes's own lips moved. 'Forebodings?'

'Dat's der bunny.'

'Where does the word come from?'

Detritus shrugged. 'Maybe it named after der soun' you make just as a t'ousand ton of rock hit you.'

'Forebodings...' Vimes rubbed his chin. 'Yeah. Well, I've got plenty of them...' Landslides and avalanches, he thought. All the little snowflakes land, light as a feather – and suddenly the whole side of a mountain is moving... Detritus looked at him slyly. 'I know everyone say “Dem two short planks, dey're as fick as Detritus”,' he said, 'but I know which way der wind is blowin'.' Vimes looked at his sergeant with a new respect. 'You can spot it, can you?' The troll's finger tapped his helmet twice, knowingly. 'It pretty obvious,' he said. 'You see up on der roofs dem little chickies and dragons and stuff? And dat poor bugger on der Fieves' Guild? You just has to watch 'em. Dey know. Beats me how dey always pointin' der right way.' Vimes relaxed a little. Detritus's intelligence wasn't too bad for a troll, falling somewhere between a cuttlefish and a linedancer, but you could rely on him not to let it slow him down. Detritus winked. 'An' it look to me like dat time when you go an' find a big club and listen to grandad tellin' you how he beat up all dem dwarfs when he was a boy,' he said. 'Somethin' in der wind, right?'

'Er... yes...' said Vimes. There was a fluttering above him. He sighed. A message was coming in. On a pigeon. But they'd tried everything else, hadn't they? Swamp dragons tended to explode in the air, imps ate the messages and the semaphore helmets had not been a success, especially in high winds. And then Corporal Littlebottom had pointed out that Ankh–Morpork's pigeons were, because of many centuries of depredation by the city's gargoyle population, considerably more intelligent than most pigeons, although Vimes considered that this was not difficult because there were things growing on old damp bread that were more intelligent than most pigeons. He took a handful of corn out of his pocket. The pigeon, obedient to its careful training, settled on his shoulder. In obedience to internal pressures, it relieved itself. 'You know, we've got to find something better,' said Vimes, as he unwrapped the message. 'Every time we send a message to Constable Downspout he eats it.'

'Well, he are a gargoyle,' said Detritus. 'He fink it lunch arriving.'

'Oh,' said Vimes, 'his lordship requires my attendance. How nice.' Lord Vetinari looked attentive, because he'd always found that listening keenly to people tended to put them off.

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And at meetings Eke this, when he was advised by the leaders of the city, he listened with great care because what people said was what they wanted him to hear. He paid a lot of attention to the spaces outside the words, though. That's where the things were that they hoped he didn't know and didn't want him to find out. Currently he was paying attention to the things that Lord Downey of the Assassins' Guild was failing to say in a lengthy exposition of the Guild's high level of training and value to the city. The voice, eventually, came to a stop in the face of Vetinari's aggressive listening. 'Thank you, Lord Downey,' he said. 'I'm sure we shall all he able to sleep a lot more uneasily for knowing all that. just one minor point... I believe the word “assassin” actually comes from Klatch?'

'Well... indeed...'

'And I believe also that many of your students are, as it turns out, from Klatch and its neighbouring countries?'

'The unrivalled quality of our education. . 'Quite so. What you are telling me, in point of fact, is that their assassins have been doing it longer, know their way around our city and have had their traditional skills honed by you?'

'Er...' The Patrician turned to Mr Burleigh. 'We surely have superiority in weapons, Mr BurIeigh?'

'Oh, yes. Say what you like about dwarfs, but we've been turning out some superb stuff lately,' said the President of the Guild of Armourers. 'Ah. That at least is some comfort.'

'Yes,' said Burleigh. He looked wretched. 'However, the thing about weapons manufacture... the important thing... '

'I believe you are about to say that the important thing about the business of weaponry is that it is a business,' said the Patrician. Burleigh looked as though he'd been let off the hook on to a bigger hook. 'Er... yes.'

'That, in fact, the weapons are for selling.'

'Er... exactly.'

'To anyone who wishes to buy them.'

'Er... yes.'

'Regardless of the use to which they are going to be put?' The armaments manufacturer looked affronted. 'Pardon me? Of course. They're weapons.'

'And I suspect that in recent years a very lucrative market has been Klatch?'

'Well, yes... the Seriph needs them to pacify the outlying regions...' The Patrician held up his hand. Drumknott, his clerk, gave him a piece of paper.

'The “Great Leveller” Cart–Mounted Ten–Bank 500–pound Crossbow?' he said. 'And, let me see... the “Meteor” Automated Throwing Star Hurler, Decapitates at Twenty Paces, Money Back If Not Completely Decapitated?'

'Have you ever heard of the D'regs, my lord?' said Burleigh. 'They say the only way to pacify one of them is to hit him repeatedly with an axe and bury what's left under a rock. And even then, choose a heavy rock.' The Patrician seemed to be staring at a large drawing of the 'Dervish` Mk III Razor–Wire Bolas. There was a painful silence. Burleigh tried to fill it up, always a bad mistake. 'Besides, we provide much–needed jobs in AnkhMorpork,' he murmured. 'Exporting these weapons to other countries,' said Lord Vetinari. He handed the paper back and fixed Burleigh with a friendly smile. 'I'm very pleased to see that the industry has done so well,' he said. 'I will bear this particularly in mind.' He placed his hands together carefully. 'The situation is grave, gentlemen.'

'Whose?' said Mr Burleigh. 'I'm sorry?'

'What? Oh... I was thinking about something else, my lord...'

'I was referring to the fact that a number of our citizens have gone out to this wretched island. As have, I understand, a number of Klatchians.'

'Why are our people going out there?' said Mr Boggis of the Thieves' Guild. 'Because they are showing a brisk pioneering spirit and seeking wealth and... additional wealth in a new land,' said Lord Vetinari. 'What's in it for the Klatchians?' said Lord Downey. 'Oh, they've gone out there because they are a bunch of unprincipled opportunists always ready to grab something for nothing,' said Lord Vetinari. 'A masterly summation, if I may say so, my lord,' said Mr Burleigh, who felt he had some ground to make up. The Patrician looked down again at his notes. 'Oh, I do beg your pardon,' he said, 'I seem to have read those last two sentences in the wrong order... Mr Slant, I believe you have something to say here?' The president of the Guild of Lawyers cleared his throat. The sound was like a death rattle and technically it was, since the man had been a zombie for several hundred years although historical accounts suggested that the only difference dying had made to W Slant was that he'd started to work through his lunch break. 'Yes, indeed,' he said, opening a large legal tome. 'The history of the city of Leshp and its surrounding country is a little obscure. It is known to have been above the sea almost a thousand years ago, however, when records suggest that it was considered part of the Ankh–Morpork empire––

'What is the nature of these records and do they tell us who was doing the considering?' said the Patrician. The door opened and Vimes stepped in. 'Ah, commander, do take a seat. Continue, Mr Slant.' The zombie did not like interruptions. He coughed again. 'The records relating to the lost country date back several hundred years, my lord. And they are of course our records.'

'Only ours?'

'I hardly see how any others could apply,' said Mr Slant severely. 'Klatchian ones, for example?' said Vimes, from the far end of the table. 'Sir Samuel, the Klatchian language does not even have a word for lawyer,' said Mr Slant. 'Doesn't it?' said Vimes. 'Good for them.'

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