'That's “Whereby”, sergeant.'
'I knew dat.' He straightened up again. “'Whereby... it is...” ' Beads of the troll equivalent of sweat began to form on Detritus's forehead. `Whereby it is... ack–no–legg–ed. ..“'
'Acknowledged,' whispered Constable Visit. 'I knew dat.' Detritus stared at the paper again, and then gave up. 'Youse don't want to stand here listenin' to me all day!' he bellowed. 'Dis is der Riot Act and you've all got to read it, right? Pass it round.'
'What if we don't read it?' said a voice in the crowd. 'You got to read it. It legal.'
'And then what happens?'
'Den I shoot you,' said Detritus. 'That's not allowed!' said another voice. 'You've got to shout ”Stop! Armed Watchman!" first.'
'Sure, dat suits me,' said Detritus. He shrugged one huge shoulder to bring his crossbow under his arm. It was a siege bow, intended to be mounted on the cart. The bolt was six feet long. 'It harder to hit runnin' targets.' He released the safety catch. 'Anyone finishing readin' dat thing yet?'
'Sergeant!' Vimes pushed his way through the crowd. And it was a crowd now. Ankh– Morpork was always a good audience. There was a clang as Detritus saluted. 'Were you proposing to shoot these people in cold blood, sergeant?'
'Nossir. just a warning shot inna head, sir.'
'Really? Just give me a moment to talk to them, then.' Vimes looked at the man next to him. He was holding a flaming torch in one hand and a long length of wood in the other. He gave Vimes the
nervously defiant stare of someone who has just felt the ground shift under his feet. Vimes pulled the torch towards him and lit a cigar. 'What's happening here, friend?'
'The Klatchians have been shooting people, Mr Vimes! Unprovoked attack!'
'People have been killed!'
'I... there were... everyone knows they've been killing people!' The man's mental footsteps found safer ground. 'Who do they think they are, coming over–'
'That's enough,' said Vimes. He stood back and raised his voice. 'I recognize a lot of you,' he said. 'And I know you've got homes to go to. See this?' He pulled his baton of office out of his pocket. 'This says I've got to keep the peace. So in ten seconds I'm going somewhere else to find some peace to keep, but Detritus is going to stay here. And I just hope he doesn't do anything to disgrace the uniform. Or get it very dirty, at least.' irony was not a degree–level subject among the listeners, but the brighter ones recognized Vimes's expression. It said that here was a man hanging on to his patience by his teeth. The mob dispersed, going ragged at the edges as people legged it down side alleys, threw away their makeshift weapons and emerged at the other end walking the grave, thoughtful walk of honest citizens. 'All right, what happened?' said Vimes, turning to the troll. 'We're hearing where dis boy shot dis man,' said Detritus. 'We got here, next minute it rainin' people from everywhere, shoutin'.'
'He smote him as Hudrun smote the fleshpots of Ur,' said Constable Visit. 6 'Smote?' said Vimes, bewildered. 'He killed someone?'
'Not by der way der man was cussing, sir,' said Detritus. 'Hit him in der arm. His friends brought him round der Watch House to complain. He a baker on der night shift. He said he was late for work, he come runnin' in to pick up his dinner, next minute he flat on der floor.' 6 Constable Visit–The–Ungodly–With–Explanatory–Pamphlets was a good copper, Vimes always said, and that was his highest term of praise. He was an Omnian with his countrymen's almost pathological interest in evangelical religion and spent all his wages on pamphlets; he even had his own printing press. The results were handed out to anyone interested and everyone who wasn't interested as well. Even Detritus couldn't clear a crowd faster than Visit, Vimes said. And on his days off he could be seen tramping the streets with his colleague, Smite–TheUnbeliever–With–Cunning–Arguments. So far they hadn't made a single convert. Vimes thought that Visit was probably a really nice man underneath it all, but somehow he could never face the task of finding out.
Vimes walked across the street and tried the door of the shop. It opened a little way, and then fetched up against what seemed to be a barricade. Furniture had been piled up against the window as well. 'How many people were there, constable?'
'A multitude thereof, sir.' And four people in here, thought Vimes. A family. The door moved a fraction and Vimes realized he was ducking even before the crossbow protruded. There was the thung of the string. The bolt tumbled rather than sped. It corkscrewed wildly across the alley and was almost moving sideways when it hit the opposite wall. 'Look,' said Vimes, keeping his body down but raising his voice. 'Anyone who got hit with that, it must have been an accident. This is the Watch. Open the door. Otherwise Detritus will open it. And when he opens a door, it stays open. You know what I mean?' There was no reply. 'All right. Detritus, just step over here–' There was a hissed argument inside, and then the sound of scraping as furniture was moved. He tried the door. It swung inwards. The family were at the far end of the room. Vimes felt eight eyes on him. The atmosphere had a hot, worrying feel, spiced with the smell of burnt food. Mr Goriff was holding the crossbow gingerly, and the expression on his son's face told Vimes a lot of what he needed to know. 'All right,' he said. 'Now you all listen to me. I'm not arresting anyone right now, you hear? This sounds like one of those things that make his lordship yawn. But you'd do better spending the rest of the night in the Watch House. I can't spare the men to stand guard here. Do you understand? I could arrest you. But this is just a request.' Mr Goriff cleared his throat. 'The man I shot–' he began, and left the question and the lie hanging in the air. Vimes forced himself not to glance at the boy. 'Not badly hurt,' he said. 'He... ran in,' said Mr Goriff. 'And after last night–'
'You thought you were being attacked again and grabbed the crossbow?'
'Yes,' said the boy, defiantly, before his father could speak. There was a brief argument in Klatchian. Then Mr Goriff said: 'We must leave the house?'
'For your own good. We'll try to have someone watch it. Now, get something together and go off with the sergeant. And give me that crossbow.' Goriff handed it over with a look of relief. It was a typical Saturday Night Special, so badly made and erratic that the only safe place to be when it was
fired would be directly behind it, and even then you would be running a risk. And then no–one had told its owner that under the counter in a steamy shop and a perpetual rain of grease wasn't the best place to keep it strung. The string sagged. Probably the only way you could reliably hurt someone with it was to beat them over the head. Vimes waited until they'd been ushered out and took a last look around the room. It wasn't large. In the kitchen behind the shop something spicy in a pot was boiling dry. After burning his fingers a couple of times he managed to tip the pot on to the fire to put it out and then, vaguely remembering his mother doing something like this, put the pot under the pump to soak Then he barricaded the windows as best he could and went out, locking the door behind him. A discreetly obvious brass Thieves' Guild plaque over the door told the world that Mr Goriff had conscientiously paid his annual fee, 7 but the world had plenty of less formal dangers and so Vimes took a piece of chalk out of his pocket and wrote on the door: UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE WATCH As an afterthought he signed it: SGT DETRITUS In the imaginations of the less civically minded the majesty of the rule of law didn't carry anything like as much weight as the dread of Detritus. The Riot Act! Where the hell had he dredged that from? Carrot, probably. It hadn't been used for as long as Vimes could remember, and that was no wonder when you knew what it really did. Even Vetinari would hesitate to use it. Now it was nothing more than a phrase. Thank goodness for trollish illiteracy... It was when Vimes stood back to admire his handiwork that he saw the glow in the sky over Park Lane, almost at the same time as he heard the clatter of iron boots on the street. 'Oh, hello, Littlebottom,' he said. 'What now? Don't tell me – someone's set fire to the Klatchian embassy.'
'All right, sir,' said the dwarf. She stood uncertainly in the middle of the alley, looking worried. 'Well?' said Vimes. 'Er... you said–' With a sinking feeling Vimes remembered that the generic dwarfish skill with iron was matched only by the fumblefingered grasp of irony. 'The Klatchian embassy is really on fire?' 7 And would not, therefore, be officially burgled. AnkhMorpork had a very direct approach to the idea of insurance. When the middle–man was cut out, that wasn't a figure of speech.
'Yes, sir!' Mrs Spent opened the door a crack. 'Yes?'
'I'm a friend of...' Carrot hesitated, wondering if Fred would have given his real name. 'Er... big fat man, suit doesn't fit–'
'The one who goes around with the sex maniac?'
'Skinny little twerp, dresses like a clown?'
'They said you'd have a room,' said Carrot desperately. 'They've got it,' said Mrs Spent, trying to shut the door. 'They said I could use it–'
'They said I should pay you two dollars!' The pressure of the door was released a little. 'On top of what they paid?' said Mrs Spent. 'Of course.'
'Well...' She looked Carrot up and down and sniffed. 'All right. What shift are you on?'
'You're a watchman, right?'
'Er...' Carrot hesitated, and then raised his voice. 'No, I am not a watchman. Haha, you think I'm a watchman? Do I look like a watchman?'
'Yes, you do,' said Mrs Spent. 'You're Captain Carrot. I seen you walking about the town. Still, I suppose even coppers have to sleep somewhere.' On the roof, Angua rolled her eyes. 'No wimmin, no cookin', no music, no pets,' said Mrs Spent, as she led the way up the creaking stairs. Angua waited in the dark until she heard the window open. 'She's gone,' Carrot hissed. 'There's glass on the tiles out here, just like Fred reported,' said Angua, as she swung herself over the sill. Inside the room she took a deep breath and shut her eyes. First she had to forget the smell of Carrot – anxious sweat, soap, the lingering hints of armour polish... ...and Fred Colon, all perspiration with a hint of beer, and then the odd ointment Nobby used for his skin condition, and the smells of feet, bodies, clothes, polish, fingernails... After an hour it was possible for the eye of the nose to see someone walk across the room, frozen in time by their smell. But after a day smells criss– crossed and entangled. You had to take them apart, remove the familiar pieces, and what you had left 'They're so mixed up!'
'All right, all right,' said Carrot soothingly.
'At least three people! But I think one of them is Ossie... It's stronger round the bed... and. ..' She opened her eyes wide and looked down at the floor. 'Somewhere here!'
'What? What is?' Angua crouched down with her nose just above the floorboards. 'I can smell it but I can't see it!' A knife appeared in front of her. Carrot got down on his knees and ran the blade along the dust–filled crack between the floorboards. Something splintery and brown popped up. It had been trodden on and rolled underfoot, but at this distance even Carrot could pick up traces of the clove smell. 'Do you think Ossie made a lot of apple pies?' he whispered. 'No cookin', remember?' said Angua, and grinned. 'There's something else...' Carrot levered out more dirt and dust. In it, something glittered. 'Fred said all the glass was outside, didn't he?'