'H't d'gg'ty,' snuffled the gnoll. The cart started to judder forward. The watchmen watched it lurch and scrape around the corner. 'They're good fellows at heart,' said Carrot. 'I think it says a lot for the spirit of tolerance in this city that even gnolls can call it home.'
'They turn my stomach,' said Angua, as they set off again. [.'That one had plants growing on him!'
'Mr Vimes says we ought to do something for them,' said Carrot. 'All heart, that man.'
'With a flamethrower, he says.'
'Wouldn't work. Too soggy. Has anyone ever really found out what they eat?'
'It's better to think of them as... cleaners. You certainly don't see as much rubbish and dead animals on the streets as you used to.'
'Yes, but have you ever seen a gnoll with a brush and shovel?'
'Well, that's society for you, I'm afraid,' said Carrot. 'Everything is dumped on the people below until you find someone who's prepared to eat it. That's what Mr Vimes says.'
'Yes,' said Angua. They walked in silence for a while, and then she said. 'You care a lot about what Mr Vimes says, don't you... ?'
'He is a fine officer and an example to us all.'
'And... you've never thought of getting a job in Quirm or somewhere, have you? The other cities are headhunting Ankh–Morpork watchmen now.'
'What, leave Ankh–Morpork?' The tone of voice included the answer. 'No... I suppose not,' said Angua sadly. 'Anyway, I don't know what Mr Vimes would do without me running around all the time.'
'It's a point of view, certainly,' said Angua. It wasn't far to Money Trap Lane. It was in a ghetto of what Lord Rust would probably call 'skilled artisans', the people too low down the social scale to be movers and shakers but slightly too high to be easily moved or shook. The sanders and polishers, generally.
The people who hadn't got very much but were proud even of that. There were little clues. Shiny house numbers, for a start. And, on the walls of houses that were effectively just one long continuous row, after centuries of building and inbuilding, very careful boundaries in the paint where people had brushed up to the very border of their property and not a gnat's blink to each side. Carrot always said it showed the people were the kind who instinctively realized that civilization was based on a shared respect for ownership; Angua thought they were just tight little bastards who'd sell you the time of day. Carrot walked noiselessly down the alley beside the sweetshop. There was a rough wooden staircase going up to the first floor. He pointed silently to the midden below it. It seemed to consist almost entirely of bottles. 'Big drinker?' Angua mouthed. Carrot shook his head. She crouched down and looked at the labels, but her nose was already giving her a hint. Dibbler's Homeopathic Shampoo. Mere and Stingbat's Herbal Wash – with Herbs! Rinse 'n' Run Scalp Tonic – with Extra Herbs!... There were others. Herbs, she thought. Chuck a handful of weeds in the pot and you've got herbs... Carrot was starting up the stairs when she put her hand on his shoulder. There was another smell. It was one that drove through all the other scents of the streets like a spear. It was one that a werewolf's nose is particularly attuned to. He nodded and went carefully to the door. Then he pointed down. There was a stain under the gap. Carrot drew his sword and kicked the door open. Daceyville Slopes hadn't taken his condition lightly. Bottles of all shapes and colours occupied most flat surfaces, giving testimony to the alchemist's art and humanity's optimism. The suds of his latest experiment were still in a bowl on the table, and his body on the floor had a towel around his neck. The watchmen looked down at it. Snowy had cleaned, washed and gone. 'I think we can say life is extinct,' said Carrot. 'Yuk,' said Angua. She grabbed the open shampoo bottle and sniffed deeply. The sickly scent of marinated herbs assailed her sinuses, but anything was better than the sharp, beguiling smell of blood. 'I wonder where his head is at?' said Carrot, in a determinedly matter–of– fact voice. 'Oh, it's rolled over there... What's the horrible smell?'
'This!' Angua flourished the shampoo. 'Four dollars a bottle, it says. Sheesh!' Angua took another deep sniff at the herbal goo, to drown out the call of the wolf. 'Doesn't look as if they stole anything,' said Carrot. 'Unless they were very neat– What's the matter?'
'Don't ask!' She managed to get a window open and sucked down great draughts of comparatively fresh air, while Carrot went through the corpse's pockets. 'Er... you can't tell if there's a clove around, can you?' he said. 'Carrot! Please! This is a room with blood all over the floor! Have you any idea? Excuse me...' She rushed out and down the steps. The alley had the generic smell of all alleys everywhere, overlaid on the basic all–embracing smell of the city. But at least it didn't make your hair grow and your teeth try to lengthen. She leaned against the wall and fought for control. Shampoo? She could have saved Snowy a hell of a lot of money with just one careful bite. Then he'd know all about a really bad hair day... Carrot came down a couple of minutes later, locking the door behind him. 'Are you feeling better?'
'A bit. ..'
'There was something else,' said Carrot, looking thoughtful. 'I think he wrote a note before he died. But it's all rather odd.' He waved in the air what looked like a cheap notepad. 'This needs careful looking at.' He shook his head. 'Poor old Snowy.'
'He was a killer!'
'Yes, but that's a nasty way to die.'
'Decapitation? With a very sharp sword, by the look of it. I can think of worse.'
'Yes, but I can't help thinking that if only the chap had better hair or had found the right shampoo at an early age he'd have led a different life...'
'Well, at least he won't have to worry about dandruff any more.'
'That was a little tasteless.'
'Sorry, but you know how blood makes me, tense.'
'Your hair always looks amazing,' said Carrot, changing the subject with, Angua thought, unusual tact. 'I don't know what you use, but it's a shame he never tried it.'
'I doubt if he went to the right shop,' said Angua. 'It says “For a Glossy Coat” on the bottles I usually buy– What's the matter?'
'Can you smell smoke?' said Carrot. 'Carrot, it's going to be five minutes before I can smell anything except–' But he was staring past her, at the big red glow in the sky. Vimes coughed. And then coughed some more. And eventually opened his streaming eyes in the confident expectation of seeing his own lungs in front of him. 'Class of water, Mr Vimes?' Vimes peered through the tears at the shifting shape of Fred Colon. 'Thanks, Fred. What's the horrible burning smell?'
'It's you, sir.'
Vimes was sitting on a low wall outside the wreck of the embassy. Cool air washed around him. He felt like underdone beef. The heat was radiating off him. 'You was passed on for a while there, sir,' said Sergeant Colon helpfully. 'But everyone saw you swing in that window, sir! And you threw that woman out for Detritus to catch! That'll be a feather in your cap and no mistake, sir! I bet the ragh– I bet the Klatchians'll be giving you the Order of the Camel or something for this night's work, sir!' Colon beamed, bursting with pride by association. 'A feather in my cap...' murmured Vimes. He undid his helmet and with a certain amount of exhausted delight saw that every single plume had been burned to a stub. He blinked slowly. 'What about the man, Fred? Did he get out?'
'There was.. .' Vimes blinked again. Various parts of his body, aware that he hadn't been taking calls, were ringing in to complain. There had been... some man? Vimes had landed on a bed of something, and there was a woman clutching at him, and he had smashed out what was left of the window, seen the big, broad and above all strong arms of Detritus down below, and had thrown her out as politely as the circumstances allowed. Then the man from the roof had come out of the smoke again, carrying another figure over his shoulder, screamed something at him and beckoned him to follow and... ...then the floor had given way... 'There were... two other people in there,' he said, coughing again. 'They didn't get out the front way, then,' said Colon. 'How did I get out?' said Vimes. 'Oh, Dorfl was stamping on the fire down below, sir. Very handy, a ceramic constable. You landed right on him, so of course he stopped what he was doing and brought you out. 's gonna be handshakes and buns all round in the morning, sir!' There weren't any right now, Vimes noted There were still plenty of people around, carrying bundles, putting out small fires, arguing with one another... but there was a big hole where congratulating–the–hero–of–the– hour should have been. 'Oh, everyone's always a bit preoccupied after something like this, sir,' said Colon, as if reading his thoughts. 'I think I'll have a nice cold bath,' said Vimes, to the world in general. 'And then some sleep. Sybil's got some wonderful ointment for burns... Ah, hello, you two.'
'We saw the fire–' Carrot began, running up. 'Is it all over?'
'Mr Vimes saved the day!' said Sergeant Colon excitedly. 'Just went straight in and saved everyone, in the finest tradition of the Watch!'
'Fred?' said Vimes, wearily.
'Fred, the finest tradition of the Watch is having a quiet smoke somewhere out of the wind at 3 a.m. Let's not get carried away, eh?' Colon looked crestfallen. 'Well–' He began. Vimes staggered to his feet and patted his sergeant on the back 'Oh, all right, it's a tradition,' he conceded. 'You can do the next one, Fred. And now,' he steadied himself as he stood up, 'I'm going down to the Yard to write my report.'
'You're covered in ash and you're swaying,' said Carrot. 'I should just get on home, sir.'
'Oh no,' said Vimes. 'Got to do the paperwork. Anyone know the time?'
'Bingeley–bingeley beep!' said a cheerful voice from his pocket. 'Damn!' said Vimes, but it was too late. 'It is,' said the voice, which had the squeaky friendly quality that begs to be strangled, 'about... nineish.'
'Yep. Nineish. Precisely about nineish.' Vimes rolled his eyes. 'Precisely about nineish?' he said, pulling a small box out of his pocket and opening the lid. The demon inside gave him an angry look. 'Yesterday you said,' it said, 'that if I, and I quote, Didn't Stop all that Eight Fifty–Six and Six Seconds Precisely business I Would Be Looking at a Hammer From Below. And when I said, Mr Insert Name Here, that this would invalidate my warranty, you said that I could take my warranty and–'
'I thought you'd lost that thing,' said Carrot. 'Hah,' said the Dis–organizer, 'really? You thought he did? I don't call putting something in your trouser pockets just before they go into the wash losing it.'
'That was an accident,' muttered Vimes. 'Oh? Oh? And dropping me in the dragon's feeding bowl, that was accidental too, was it?' The demon mumbled to itself for a moment and then said, 'Anyway, do you want to know your appointments for this evening?' Vimes looked at the smouldering wreckage of the embassy. 'Do tell,' he said. 'You don't have any,' said the demon sulkily. 'You haven't told me any.'
'You see?' said Vimes. 'That's what drives me lived! Why should I have to tell you? Why didn't you tell me, '
'Eightish: break up riot at Mundane Meals and stop Detritus shooting people," eh?'
'You didn't tell me to tell you!'
'I didn't know! And that's how real life works! How can I tell you to warn me about things that no–one knows are going to happen? If you were any good, that'd be your job!'
'He writes in the manual,' said the demon nastily. 'Did you know that, everybody? He writes in the manual.'
'Well, of course I make notes–'