'Meaning what?' said Moist. 'Meaning I've never seen someone up here more'n once, sir. Shall we go?' There was a stir when they climbed up into the chilly morning air, followed by a few boos and even some applause. People were strange like that. Steal five dollars and you were a petty thief. Steal thousands of dollars and you were either a government or a hero. Moist stared ahead while the roll call of his crimes was read out. He couldn't help feeling that it was so unfair. He'd never so much as tapped someone on the head. He'd never even broken down a door. He had picked locks on occasion, but he'd always locked them again behind him. Apart from all those repossessions, bankruptcies and sudden insolvencies, what had he actually done that was bad, as such? He'd only been moving numbers around. 'Nice crowd turned out today,' said Mr Trooper, tossing the end of the rope over the beam and busying himself with knots. 'Lot of press, too. What Gallows? covers 'em all, o' course, and there's the Times and the Pseudopolis Herald, prob'ly because of that bank what collapsed there, and I heard there's a man from the Sto Plains Dealer, too. Very good financial section - I always keep an eye on the used rope prices. Looks like a lot of people want to see you dead, sir.' Moist was aware that a black coach had drawn up at the rear of the crowd. There was no coat of arms on the door, unless you were in on the secret, which was that Lord Vetinari's coat of arms featured a sable shield. Black on black. You had to admit that the bastard had style— 'Huh? What?' he said, in response to a nudge. 'I asked if you have any last words, Mr Spangler?' said the hangman. 'It's customary. I wonder if you might have thought of any?'
'I wasn't actually expecting to die,' said Moist. And that was it. He really hadn't, until now. He'd been certain that something would turn up. 'Good one, sir,' said Mr Wilkinson. 'We'll go with that, shall we?' Moist narrowed his eyes. The curtain on a coach window had twitched. The coach door had opened. Hope, that greatest of all treasures, ventured a little glitter. 'No, they're not my actual last words,' he said. 'Er . . . let me think . . .' A slight, clerk-like figure was descending from the coach. 'Er . . . it's not as bad a thing I do now . . . er . . .' Aha, it all made some kind of sense now. Vetinari was out to scare him, that was it. That would be just like the man, from what Moist had heard. There was going to be a reprieve! 'I . . . er . . . I . . .' Down below, the clerk was having difficulty getting through the press of people. 'Do you mind speeding up a bit, Mr Spangler?' said the hangman. 'Fair's fair, eh?'
'I want to get it right,' said Moist haughtily, watching the clerk negotiate his way around a large troll. 'Yes, but there's a limit, sir,' said the hangman, annoyed at this breach of etiquette. 'Otherwise you could go ah, er, um for days! Short and sweet, sir, that's the style.'
'Right, right,' said Spangler. 'Er . . . oh, look, see that man there? Waving at you?' The hangman glanced down at the clerk, who'd struggled to the front of the crowd. 'I bring a message from Lord Vetinari!' the man shouted. 'Right!' said Moist. 'He says to get on with it, it's long past dawn!' said the clerk. 'Oh,' said Moist, staring at the black coach. That damn Vetinari had a warder's sense of humour, too. 'Come on, Mr Spangler, you don't want me to get into trouble, do you?' said the hangman, patting him on the shoulder. 'Just a few words, and then we can all get on with our lives. Present company excepted, obviously.' So this was it. It was, in some strange way, rather liberating. You didn't have to fear the worst that could happen any more, because this was it, and it was nearly over. The warder had been right. What you had to do in this life was get past the pineapple, Moist told himself. It was big and sharp and knobbly, but there might be peaches underneath. It was a myth to live by and so, right now, totally useless. 'In that case,' said Moist von Lipwig, 'I commend my soul to any god that can find it.'
'Nice,' said the hangman, and pulled the lever. Albert Spangler died. It was generally agreed that they had been good last words. 'Ah, Mr Lipwig,' said a distant voice, getting closer. 'I see you are awake. And still alive, at the present time.' There was a slight inflection to that last phrase which told Moist that the length of the present time was entirely in the gift of the speaker. He opened his eyes. He was sitting in a comfortable chair. At a desk opposite him, sitting with his hands steepled reflectively in front of his pursed lips, was Havelock, Lord Vetinari, under whose idio-syncratically despotic rule Ankh-Morpork had become the city where, for some reason, everyone wanted to live. An ancient animal sense also told Moist that other people were standing behind the comfortable chair, and that it could be extremely uncomfortable should he make any sudden movements. But they couldn't be as terrible as the thin, black-robed man with the fussy little beard and the pianist's hands who was watching him. 'Shall I tell you about angels, Mr Lipwig?' said the Patrician pleasantly. 'I know two interesting facts about them.' Moist grunted. There were no obvious escape routes in front of him, and turning round was out of the question. His neck ached horribly. 'Oh, yes. You were hanged,' said Vetinari. 'A very precise science, hanging. Mr Trooper is a master. The slippage and thickness of the rope, whether the knot is placed here rather than there, the relationship between weight and distance . . . oh, I'm sure the man could write a book. You were hanged to within half an inch of your life, I understand. Only an expert standing right next to you would have spotted that, and in this case the expert was our friend Mr Trooper. No, Albert Spangler is dead, Mr Lipwig. Three hundred people would swear they saw him die.' He leaned forward. 'And so, appropriately, it is of angels I wish to talk to you now.' Moist managed a grunt. 'The first interesting thing about angels, Mr Lipwig, is that sometimes, very rarely, at a point in a man's career where he has made such a foul and tangled mess of his life that death appears to be the only sensible option, an angel appears to him, or, I should say, unto him, and offers him a chance to go back to the moment when it all went wrong, and this time do it right. Mr Lipwig, I should like you to think of me as . . . an angel.' Moist stared. He'd felt the snap of the rope, the choke of the noose! He'd seen the blackness welling up! He'd died! 'I'm offering you a job, Mr Lipwig. Albert Spangler is buried, but Mr Lipwig has a future. It may, of course, be a very short one, if he is stupid. I am offering you a job, Mr Lipwig. Work, for wages. I realize the concept may not be familiar.' Only as a form of hell, Moist thought. 'The job is that of Postmaster General of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office.' Moist continued to stare. 'May I just add, Mr Lipwig, that behind you there is a door. If at any time in this interview you feel you wish to leave, you have only to step through it and you will never hear from me again.' Moist filed that under 'deeply suspicious'. 'To continue: the job, Mr Lipwig, involves the refurbishment and running of the city's postal service, preparation of the international packets, maintenance of Post Office property, et cetera, et cetera—'
'If you stick a broom up my arse I could probably sweep the floor, too,' said a voice. Moist realized it was his. His brain was a mess. It had come as a shock to find that the afterlife is this one. Lord Vetinari gave him a long, long look. 'Well, if you wish,' he said, and turned to a hovering clerk. 'Drumknott, does the housekeeper have a store cupboard on this floor, do you know?'
'Oh, yes, my lord,' said the clerk. 'Shall I—'
'It was a joke!' Moist burst out. 'Oh, I'm sorry, I hadn't realized,' said Lord Vetinari, turning back to Moist. 'Do tell me if you feel obliged to make another one, will you?'
'Look,' said Moist, 'I don't know what's happening here, but I don't know anything about delivering post!'