Jingo Page 9


'Er... all my wives,' said Vimes. 'That is–'

'Could I offer you twenty camels for her?' Vimes looked back into the dark eyes for a moment, glanced at 71–hour Ahmed's 24–carat grin, and said: 'This is another test, isn't it... ?' The Prince straightened up, looking pleased. 'Well done, Sir Samuel. You're good at this. Do you know, Mr Boggis of the Thieves' Guild was prepared to accept fifteen?'

'For Mrs Boos?' Vimes waggled a hand dismissively. 'Nah... four camels, maybe four camels and a goat in a good light. And when she's had a shave.' The milling guests turned at the sound of the Prince's explosion of laughter. 'Very good! Very good! I am afraid, commander, that some of your fellow citizens feel that just because my people invented advanced mathematics and allday camping we are complete barbarians who'd try to buy their wives at the drop of, shall we say, a turban. I am surprised they're giving me an honorary degree, considering how incredibly backward I am.'

'Oh? What degree is that?' said Vimes. No wonder this man was a diplomat. You couldn't trust him an inch, he thought in loops, and you couldn't help liking him despite it. The Prince pulled a letter out of his robe. 'Apparently it's a Doctorum Adamus cum Flabello Dulci – Is there something wrong, Sir Samuel?' Vimes managed to turn the treacherous laugh into a coughing fit. 'No, no, nothing,' he said. 'No.' He desperately wanted to change the subject. And fortunately there was something here to provide just the opportunity. 'Why has Mr Ahmed got such a big curved sword slung on his back?' he said. 'Ah, you are a policeman, you notice such things–'

'It's hardly a concealed weapon, is it? It's nearly bigger than him. He's practically a concealed owner!'

'It's ceremonial,' said the Prince. 'And he does fret so if he has to leave it behind.'

'And what exactly is his––'

'Ah, there you are,' said Ridcully. 'I think we're just about ready. You know you go right at the front, Sam–'

'Yes, I know,' said Vimes. 'I was just asking His Highness what'

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'–and if you, Your Highness, and you, Mr... my word, what a big sword, and you come back here and take your place among the honoured guests, and we'll be ready in a brace of sheikhs...' What a thing it is to have a copper's mind, Vimes thought, as the great file of wizards and guests tried to form a dignified and orderly line behind him. just because someone makes himself pleasant and likeable you start to be suspicious of him, for no other reason than the fact that anyone who goes

out of their way to be nice to a copper has got something on their mind. Of course, he's a diplomat, but still... I just hope he never studied ancient languages, and that's a fact. Someone tapped Vimes on the shoulder. He turned and looked right into the grin of 71–hour Ahmed. 'If hyou changing your mind, offendi, I give hyou twenty–five camels, no problem,' he said, pulling a clove from his teeth. 'May your hlions be full of fruit.' He winked. It was the most suggestive gesture Vimes had ever seen. 'Is this another–' he began, but the man had vanished into the crowd. 'My loins be full of fruit?' he repeated to himself. 'Good grief!' 71–hour Ahmed reappeared at his other elbow in a gust of cloves. 'I go, I hcome back,' he growled happily. 'The Prince hsays the degree is Doctor of Sweet Fanny Adams. A hwizard Wheeze, yes? Oh, how we are laughing.' And then he was gone. The Convivium was Unseen University's Big Day. Originally it had just been the degree ceremony, but over the years it had developed into a kind of celebration of the amicable relationship between the University and the city, in particular celebrating the fact that people were hardly ever turned to clams any more. In the absence of anything resembling a .Lord Mayor's Show or a state opening of Parliament, it was one of the few formal opportunities the citizens had of jeering at their social superiors, or at least at people wearing tights and ridiculous costumes. It had grown so big that it was now held in the city's Opera House. Distrustful people – that is to say, people like Vimes considered that this was so there could be a procession. There was nothing like the massed ranks of wizardry walking sedately through the city in a spirit of civic amicability to subtly remind the more thoughtful kind of person that it hadn't always been this way. Look at us, the wizards seemed to be saying. We used to rule this city. Look at our big staffs with the knobs on the end. Any one of these could do some very serious damage in the wrong hands so it's a good thing, isn't it, that they're in the right hands at the moment? Isn't it nice that we all get along so well? And someone, once, had decided that the Commander of the Watch should walk in front, for symbolic reasons. That hadn't mattered for years because there hadn't been a Commander of the Watch, but now there was, and he was Sam Vimes. In a red shirt with silly baggy sleeves, red tights, some kind of puffed shorts in a style that went out of fashion, by the lock of it, at the time when flint was at the cutting edge of cuttingedge technology, a tiny shiny breastplate and a helmet with feathers in it. And he really did need some sleep. And he had to carry the truncheon.

He kept his eyes fixed on the damn thing as he walked out of the University's main gate. Last night's rain had cleaned the sky. The city steamed. If he stared at the truncheon he didn't have to see who was giggling at him. The downside was that he had to keep staring at the thing. It said, on a little tarnished shield that he'd had to clean before reading it, Protecter of thee Kinge's Piece. That had brightened the occasion slightly. Feathers and antiques, gold braid and fur... Perhaps it was because he was tired, or just because he was trying to shut out the world, but Vimes found himself slowing down into the traditional watchman's walk and the traditional idling thought process. It was an almost Pavlovian response. 4 The legs swung, the feet moved, the mind began to work in a certain way. It wasn't a dream state, exactly. It was just that the ears, nose and eyeballs wired themselves straight into the ancient 'suspicious bastard' node of his brain, leaving his higher brain centre free to freewheel. ... Fur and tights... what kind of wear was that for a watchman? Bashed–in armour, greasy leather breeches and a tatty shirt with bloodstains on it, someone else's for preference... that was the stuff... nice feel of the cobbles through his boots, it was really comforting... Behind him, confusion running up and down the ranks, the procession slowed down to keep in step. ... Hah, Protecter of thee Kinge's Piece indeed... he'd said to the old man who'd delivered it, 'Which piece did you have in mind?' but that had fallen on stony cars... damn silly thing anyway, he'd thought, a short length of wood with a lump of silver on the end... even a constable got a decent sword, what was he supposed to do, wave it at people?... ye gods, it was months since he'd had a good walk through the streets... lot of people about today... some parade on, wasn't there... ? 'Oh dear,' said Captain Carrot, in the crowd. 'What's he doing?' Next to him an Agatean tourist was industriously pulling the lever of his iconograph. Commander Vimes stopped and, with a faraway look in his eyes, tucked his truncheon under one arm and reached up to his helmet. The tourist locked up at Carrot and tugged his shirt politely. 'Please, what is he doing now?' he said. 'Er... he's... he's taking out. . 'Oh, no...' said Angua. 4 A term invented by the wizard Denephew Boot*, who had found that by a system of rewards and punishments he could train a dog, at the ringing of a bell, to immediately eat a strawberry meringue. *His parents, who were uncomplicated country people, had wanted a girl. They were expecting to call her Denise.

'... he's taking the ceremonial packet of cigars out of his helmet,' said Carrot. 'Oh... and he's, he's lighting one...' The tourist pulled the lever a few times. 'Very historic tradition?'

'Memorable,' murmured Angua. The crowd had fallen silent. No one wanted to break Vimes's concentration. There was the big gusty silence of a thousand people holding their breath. 'What's he doing now?' said Carrot. 'Can't you see?' said Angua. 'Not with my hands over my eyes. Oh, the poor man...'

'He's... he's just blown a smoke ring... '

'…first one of the day, he always does that…'

'…and now he's set off again... and now he's pulled out the truncheon and he's tossing it up in the air and catching it again, you know the way he does with his sword when he's thinking... He looks quite happy...'

'I think he's going to really treasure this moment of happiness,' said Carrot. Then the murmur started. The procession had halted behind Vimes. Some of the more impressionable people who weren't sure what they should be doing, and those who had partaken too heavily of the University's rather good sherry, started to fumble around on their person for something to throw up in the air and catch. After all, this was a Traditional Ceremony. If you took the view that you were not going to do things because they were apparently ridiculous, you might as well go home right now. 'He's tired, that's what it is,' said Carrot. 'He's been running around overseeing things for days. Night and day watches. You know what a hands– on person he is.'

'Let's hope the Patrician will agree to let him stay that way.'

'Oh, his lordship wouldn't... He wouldn't, would he?' Laughter was starting. Vimes had started to toss the truncheon from one hand to the other. 'He can make his sword spin three times and still catch it––' Vimes's head turned. He looked up. His truncheon clattered on to the cobbles and rolled into a puddle, unheeded. Then he started to run. Carrot stared at him and then tried to see what the man had been looking at. 'On top of the Barbican...' he said. 'In that window... isn't that someone up there? Excuse me, excuse me, sorry, excuse me–' He began to push his way through the crowd. Vimes was already a small figure in the distance, his red cloack flying out after him.

'Well? There's lots of people watching the parade from high places,' said Angua. 'What's so special about–'

'No one should be up there!' said Carrot, starting to run now he was free of the crowd. 'It's all sealed up!' Angua looked around. Every face was turned towards the street theatre, and there was a cart near by. She sighed and strolled behind it wearing an expression of suspicious nonchalance. There was a gasp, a faint but distinctly organic sound, a muffled yelp and then the clank of armour hitting the ground. Vimes didn't know why he ran. It was a sixth sense. It was when the back of the brain picked up out of the ether that something bad was going to happen, and didn't have time to rationalize, and just took over the spinal cord. No one could get to the top of the Barbican. The Barbican had been the fortified gateway in the days when Ankh–Morpork didn't regard an attacking army as a marvellous commercial opportunity. Some parts were still in use, but the bulk of it was six or seven storeys of ruin, without stairs that any sensible man would trust. For years it had been used as an unofficial source of masonry for the rest of the city. Bits of it fell off on windy nights. Even gargoyles avoided it. He was aware that far behind him the noise of the crowd became a lot of shouting. One or two people screamed. He didn't turn round. Whatever was going on, Carrot could take care of it. Something overtook him. It looked like a wolf would look if one of its ancestors had been a longhaired Klatchistan hunting dog, one of those graceful things that were all nose and hair. It bounded ahead and through the crumbling gateway. The creature was nowhere to be seen when Vimes arrived. But the absence was not a matter that grabbed at his attention, because of the more pressing presence of the corpse, lying in a mess of fallen masonry. One of the things Vimes had always said – that is to say, one of the things he said he always said, and no one disagrees with the commanding officer – was that sometimes small details, tiny little details, things that no one would notice in ordinary circumstances, grab your senses by the throat and scream, 'See me!' There was a lingering, spicy scent in the air. And in the gap between a couple of cobblestones was a clove. It was five o'clock. Vimes and Carrot sat in the Patrician's outer office, in silence except for the irregular ticking of the dock. After a while Vimes said: 'Let me have a look at that again.' Carrot obediently pulled out the small square of paper. Vimes looked at it. There was no mistaking what it showed. He tucked it into his own pocket.

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