Jingo Page 7

'I just wanted to... check up on things,' said Vimes. 'You could have left it all to me, sir,' said Carrot. 'delegation is the key to successful command.'

'Really? Is it?' said Vimes sourly. 'My word, we live and learn, don't we.' And you certainly learn, he added in the privacy of his head. And he was almost sure he was being mean and stupid. 'We've just about finished, sir. We've checked all the empty buildings. And there will be an extra squad of constables on the route. And the gargoyles will be up as high as they can. You know how good they are at watching, sir.'

'Gargoyles? I thought we just had Constable Downspout...'

'And Constable Pediment now, sir.'

'One of yours?'

'One of ours, sir. You signed–'

'Yes, yes, I'm sure I did. Damn!' A gust of wind caught the water pouring from an overloaded gutter and dumped it down Vimes's neck. 'They say this new island's upset the air streams" said Carrot. 'Not just the air,' said Vimes. 'A lot of damn fuss over a few square miles of silt and some old ruins! Who cares?'

'They say it's strategically very important,' said Carrot, falling into step beside him. 'What for? We're not at war with anyone. Hah! But we might go to war to keep some damn island that's only useful in case we have to go to war, right?'

'Oh, his lordship will have it all sorted out today. I'm sure that when moderate–mannered men of goodwill can get round a table there's no problem that can't be resolved,' said Carrot cheerfully. He is, thought Vimes glumly. He really is sure. 'Know much about Klatch?' he said. 'I've read a little, sir.'

'Very sandy place, they say.'

'Yes, sir. Apparently.' There was a crash somewhere ahead of them, and a scream. Coppers learned to be good at screams. There was to the connoisseur a world of difference between 'I'm drunk and I've just trodden on my fingers and I can't get up!' and 'Look out! He's got a knife!' Both men started to run. Light blazed out in a narrow street. Heavy footsteps vanished into the darkness. The light flickered beyond a shop's broken window. Vimes stumbled through the doorway pulled off his sodden cape and threw it over the fire in the middle of the floor. There was a hiss, and a smell of hot leather. Then Vimes stood back and tried to work out where the hell he was. People were staring at him. Dimly, his mind assembled clues: the turban, the beard, the woman's jewellery... ‘Where did he come from? Who is this man?’ ‘Er . good morning?' he said. 'Looks like there's been a bit of an accident?' He raised the cape gingerly. A broken bottle lay in a pool of sizzling oil. Vimes looked up at the broken window. 'Oh...' The other two people were a boy almost as tall as his father and a small girl trying to hide behind her mother. Vimes felt his stomach turn to lead. Carrot arrived in the doorway.

'I lost them,' he panted. 'There were three of them, I think. Can't see anything in this rain... Oh, it’s you Mr Goriff. What happened here?’ ‘Captain Carrot! Someone threw a burning bottle through out window and then this beggar man rushed in and put it out!’ 'What'd he say? What did you say?' said Vimes. 'You speak Klatchian?'

'Not very well,' said Carrot modestly. 'I just can't get the backof–the– throat sound to–'

'But... you can understand what he said?'

'Oh, yes. He just thanked you very much, by the way. It’s all right, Mr Goriff, He’s a watchman.’ 'But you speak–' Carrot knelt down and looked at the broken bottle. 'Oh, you know how it is. You come in here on night shift for a hot caraway bun and you just get chatting. You must have picked up the odd word, sir.'

'Well... vindaloo maybe, but.. .'

'This is a firebomb, sir.'

'I know, captain.'

'This is very bad. Who would do a thing like this?'

'Right now?' said Vimes. 'Half the city, I should think.' He looked helplessly at Goriff. He vaguely recognized the face. He vaguely recognized Mrs Goriff's face. They were... faces. They were usually at the other end of some arms holding a portion of carry or a kebab. Sometimes the boy ran the place. The shop opened very early in the morning and very late at night, when the streets were owned by bakers, thieves and watchmen. Vimes knew the place as Mundane Meals. Nobby Nobbs had said that Goriff had wanted a word that meant ordinary, everyday, straight–forward, and had asked around until he found one he liked the sound of. 'Er... tell him... tell him you're staying here, and I'll go back to the Watch House and send someone out to relieve you,' said Vimes. 'Thank you,' said Goriff. 'Oh, you underst–' Vimes felt like an idiot. 'Of course you do, you must have been here, what, five, six years?'

'Ten years, sir.'

'Really?' said Vimes manically. 'That long? Really? My word... well, I'd better get along... Good morning to you–' He hurried out into the rain. I must have been going in there for years, he thought, as he splashed through the darkness. And I know how to say 'vindaloo'. And... 'korma'... ? Carrot's hardly been here five minutes and he gargles the language like a native.

Good grief, I can get by in dwarfish and I can at least say,' cut down that rock, you're under arrest,' in troll, but... He stamped into the Watch House, water pooling off him. Prod Colon was dozing quietly at the desk. In deference to the fact that he'd known Fwd. all these years, Vimes was extra noisy about taking off his cape. When he officially turned round, the sergeant was sitting at attention. 'I didn't know you were on tonight, Mr Vimes...'

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'This is unofficial, Fred,' said Vimes. He accepted 'Me from certain people. In an odd way, they'd earned it. 'Send someone along to Mundane Meals in Scandal Alley, will you? A bit of trouble there.' He reached the stairs. 'You stopping, sir?' said Fred. 'Oh, yes,' said Vimes grimly. 'I've got to catch up on the paperwork.' The rain fell on Leshp so hard it probably hadn't been worth the island's bother of rising from the bottom of the sea. Most of the explorers slept in their boats now. There were buildings on the risen island, but... ... the buildings weren't quite right. Solid Jackson peered out from the tarpaulin he'd rigged up on deck. Mist was rising off the soaking ground and was made luminous by the occasional flash of lightning. The city, by storm light, looked far too malevolent. There were things he could recognize – columns and steps and archways and so on – but there were others... he shuddered. It looked as if people had once tried to add human touches to structures that were already ancient... It was because of his son that everyone was staying in the boats. A party of Ankh–Morpork fishermen had gone ashore that morning to search for the heaps of treasure that everyone knew littered the ocean bottom and had found a tiled floor, washed clean by the rain. Pretty blue and white squares showed a pattern of waves and shells, and, in the middle, a squid. And Les had said, 'That looks pretty big, Dad.' And everyone had looked around at the weedcovered buildings and had shared the Thought, which remained unspoken but was made up of a lot of little thoughts like the occasional ripples in the pools, and the little splashes in the dark water of cellars that made the mind think of claws, winnowing the deeps, and the odd things that sometimes got washed up on beaches or tamed up in nets. Sometimes you pulled things over the side that'd put a man off fish for life. And suddenly no–one wanted to explore any more, just in case they found something. Solid Jackson pulled his head back under the cover.

'Why'n't we going home, Dad?' said his son. 'You said this place gives you the willies.'

'All right, but they're Ankh–Morpork willies, see? And no foreigner's going to get his hands on them.'


'Yes, lad?'

'Who was Mr Hong?'

'How should I know?'

'Only, when we was all heading back for the boats one of the other men said, 'We all know what happened to Mr Hong when he opened the Three Jolly Luck Take–Away Fish Bar on the site of the old fish–god temple in Dagon Street on the night of the full moon, don't we... ?" Well, I don't know.'

'Ah...' Solid Jackson hesitated. Still, Les was a big lad now... 'He... closed up and left in a bit of a hurry, lad. So quick he had to leave some things behind.'

'Like what?'

'If you must know... half an earhole and one kidney.'

'Cool!' The boat rocked, and wood splintered. Jackson jerked the cover up. Spray washed over him. Somewhere close in the wet darkness a voice shouted: 'Why you not carrying lights, you second cousin of a jackal?' Jackson pulled out the lantern and held it up. 'What're you doing in Ankh–Morpork territorial waters, you camel–eating devil?'

'These waters belong to us!'

'We were here first!'

'Yeah? We were here first!'

'We were here first first!'

'You damaged my boat! That's piracy, that is!' There were other shouts around them. In the darkness the two flotillas had collided. Bowsprits tore away rigging. Hulls boomed. The controlled panic that is normal sailing became the frantic panic camposed of darkness, spray and too much rigging coming unrigged. At times like this the ancient traditions of the sea that unite all mariners should some to the fore and see them combine in the face of their common foe, the hungry and relentless ocean. However, at this point Mr Arif hit Mr Jackson over the head with an oar. 'Hnh? Wuh?' Vimes opened the only eye that appeared to respond. A horrible sight met it. ...I read him his rites, whereupon, he said up, yours copper. Sgnt Detritus then, cautioned him, upon which he said, ouch...

There may be a lot of things I'm not good at, thought Vimes, but at least I don't treat tile punctuation of a sentence like a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey... He rolled his head away from Carrot's fractured grammar. The pile of paper shifted under him. Vimes's desk was becoming famous. Once there were piles, but they had slipped as piles do, forming this dense compacted layer that was now turning into something like peat. It was said there were plates and unfinished meals somewhere down there. No–one wanted to check. Some people said they'd heard movement. There was a genteel cough. Vimes rolled his head again and looked up into the big pink face of Willikins, Lady Sybil's butler. His butler too, technically, although Vimes hated to think of him like that. 'I think we had better proceed with alacrity, Sir Samuel. I have brought your dress uniform, and your shaving things are by the basin.'

'What? What?'

'You are due at the University in half an hour. Lady Sybil has vouchsafed to me that if you are not there she will utilize your intestines for hosiery accessories, sir.'

'Was she smiling?' said Vimes, staggering to his feet and making his way to the steaming basin on the wash stand. 'Only slightly, sir.'

'Oh gods...'

'Yes, sir.' Vimes made an attempt at shaving while, behind him, Willikins brushed and polished. Outside, the city's clocks began to strike ten. It must've been almost four when I sat down Vimes thought. I know I heard the shift change at eight, and then I had to sort out Nobby's expenses, that's advanced mathematics if ever there was some... He tried to yawn and shave at the same time, which is never a good idea. 'Damn!'

'I shall fetch some tissue paper directly, sir,' said Willikins, without looking round. As Vimes dabbed at his chin, the butler went on: 'I should like to take this opportunity to raise a matter of some import, sir...'

'Yes?' Vimes shared blearily at the red tights that seemed to be a major item of his dress uniform. 'Regretfully, I am afraid I must ask leave to give in my notice, sir. I wish to join the Colours.'

'Which colours are these, Willikins?' said Vimes, holding up a shirt with puffed sleeves. Then his brain caught up with his cars. 'You want to become a soldier?'

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