'He's actually sneakily trying to keep his diary in the manual so his wife won't find out he's never bothered to learn how to use me,' said the demon. 'What about the Vimes manual, then?' snapped Vimes. 'I notice you've never bothered to learn how to use me!' The demon hesitated. 'Humans come with a manual?' it said. 'It'd be a damn good idea!' said Vimes. 'True,' murmured Angua. 'It could say things like “Chapter One: Bingeley–bingeley beep and other damn fool things to spring on people at six in the morning,” ' said Vimes, his eyes wild. 'And “Toubleshooting: my owner keeps trying to drop me in the privy, what am I doing wrong?” And–' Carrot patted him gently on the back. 'I should sign off now, sir,' he said gently. 'It's been a busy few days.' Vimes rubbed his forehead. 'I daresay I could do with a rest,' he said. 'Come on, there's nothing more to see here. Let's go home.'
'I thought you said you weren't going––' Carrot began, but Vimes's mind was already scolding him. 'I meant the Yard, of course,' he said. 'I'll go home afterwards.' A ball of lamplight floated through the Ramkin library, drifting across the shelves of huge, leatherbound books. Many of them had never been read, Sybil knew. Various ancestors had simply ordered them from the engravers and put them on the shelves, because a library was something you had to have, don'tcherknow, like a stableyard and a servants' wing and some ghastly landscaping mistake created by 'Bloody Stupid' Johnson, although in the latter case her grandfather had shot the man before he could do any real damage. She held the lamp higher. Ramkins looked down their noses at her from their frames, through the brown varnish of the centuries. Portraits were another thing that had been collected out of unregarded habit. Most of them were of men. They were invariably in armour and always on horseback. And every single one of them had fought the sworn enemies of AnkhMorpork. In recent times this had been quite difficult and her grandfather, for example, had to lead an expedition all the way to Howondaland in order to find some sworn enemies, although there was an adequate supply and a lot of swearing by the time he left. Earlier, of course, it had been a lot easier. Ramkin regiments had fought the city's enemies all over the Sto Plains and
had inflicted heroic casualties, quite often on people in the opposing armies. 8 There were a few women among the sitters, none of them holding anything heavier than a glove or a small pet dragon. Their job had largely been to roll bandages and await the return of their husbands with, she liked to think, resolution and fortitude and a general hope that said husbands would return with as many of their bits as possible. The point was, though, that they never thought about it. There was a war, and off they went. If there wasn't a war, they looked for one. They didn't even use words like 'duty'. It was all built in at bone level. She sighed. It was all so difficult these days, and Lady Sybil came from a class that was not used to difficulty, or at least the kind that couldn't be sorted out by shouting at a servant. Five hundred years ago one of her ancestors had cut off a Klatchian's head in baffle and had brought it home on a pole, and no–one thought any the worse of him, given what the Klatchians would have cut off if they'd caught him. That seemed straightforward. You fought them, they fought you, everyone knew the rules, and if you got your head cut off you jolly well didn't blub about it afterwards. Certainly, things were better now. But they were just... more difficult. And of course some of those antique husbands were away for months or years at a time, and for them wives and families were pretty much like the library and stableyard and the Johnson Exploding Pagoda. You got them sorted out and then didn't think much about it. At least Sam was home every day. Well, most days. Every night, anyway. Well... part of most nights, certainly. At least they ate meals together. Well, most meals. Well, at least they made a start on most meals. Well, at least she knew he was never very far away, just somewhere where he was trying to do too much and run too fast and people were trying to kill him. All in all, she considered, she was jolly lucky. Vimes stared at Carrot, who was standing in front of his desk. 'So what does all that add up to?' he said. 'The man we know didn't get the Prince is dead. The man who probably did... is dead. Someone tried very clumsily to make it look as if Ossie was paid by the Klatchians. OK, I can see why someone might want to do that. That's what Fred calls politics. They 8 It is a long–cherished tradition among a certain type of military thinker that huge casualties are the main thing. If they are on the other side then this is a valuable bonus.
get Snowy to do the real business, and he helps poor dumb Ossie who's there to take the fall, and then the Watch proves that Ossie was in the pay of the Klatchians and that's another reason for fighting. And Snowy just slopes off. Only someone cured his dandruff for him.'
'After he'd written something, sir,' said Carrot. 'Ah... yes.' Vimes looked at the notepad retrieved from Snowy's room. It was a crude affair, the wads of mismatched bits of scrap that the engravers sold off cheaply. He sniffed at it. 'Soap on the edges,' he said. 'His new shampoo,' said Carrot. 'First time he'd used it.'
'How do you know?'
'We looked at all the bottles on the heap, sir.'
'Hmm. Looks like fresh blood here, at the spine, where they're stitched together.. 'His, sir,' said Angua. Vimes nodded. You never argued with Angua about blood. 'But none of the actual pages have blood on them... said Vimes. 'Which is a bit odd. Messy business, decapitation. People tend to... spray. So the top page–'
'–has been taken away, sir,' said Carrot, grinning and nodding. 'But that's not the funny part, sir. See if you can guess, sir!' Vimes glared at him and then moved the lamp closer. 'Very faint impression of writing on. the top page...' he muttered. 'Can't make it out...'
'We can't either, sir. We know he wrote in pencil, sir. There was one on the table.'
'Very faint traces,' said Vimes. 'Blokes like Snowy write as though they're chipping stone.' He flicked the notebook. 'Someone tore out... not just the page he'd written on but several below it as well.'
'Clever, eh, sir? Everyone knows–'
'–you can read the suspicious note by looking at the marks on the page below,' said Vimes. He tossed the book on to the table again. 'Hmm. There's a message there, yes...'
'Perhaps he was blackmailing whoever's behind all this?' said Angua. 'That's not his style,' said Vimes. 'No, what I meant was––' There was a knock on the door, and Fred Colon entered. 'Brung you a mug of coffee,' he said, 'and there's a bunch of wo– Klatchians to see you downstairs, Mr Vimes. Probably come to give you a medal and gabble at you in their lingo. And if you're on for late supper, Mrs Goriffs doing goat and rice and foreign gravy.'
'I suppose I'd better go down and see them,' said Vimes. 'But I haven't even had time for a wash–'
'That's evidence of your heroic endeavours,' said Colon stoutly. 'Oh, all right.'
Unease began about halfway down the stairs. Vimes had never run into a group of citizens wishing to give him a medal and so he did not have a lot of experience on this score, but the group waiting for him in a tight cluster near the sergeant's desk did not look like a committee of welcome. They were Klatchian. At least, they were wearing foreign-looking clothes and one or two of them had caught more sun than you generally got in Ankh-Morpork. The feeling crept over Vimes that Klatch was a very big place in which his city and the whole of the Sto Plains would be lost, and so there must be room in it for all kinds of peoples, including this short chap in the red fez who was practically vibrating with indignation. 'Are you the man Vimes?' the enfezzed one demanded. 'Well, I'm Commander Vimes–'
'We demand the release of the Goriff family! And we won't take any excuses!' Vimes blinked. 'Release?'
'You have locked them up! And confiscated their shop!' Vimes stared at the man, and then he looked across the room at Sergeant Detritus. 'Where did you put the family, sergeant?' Detritus saluted. 'In der cells, sir.'
'Aha!' said the man in the fez. 'You admit it!'
'Excuse me, who are you?' said Vimes, blinking with tiredness. 'I don't have to tell you and you can't beat it out of me!' said the man, sticking out his chest. 'Oh, thank you for telling me,' said Vimes. 'I do hate wasted effort.'
'Oh, hello, Mr Wazir,' said Carrot, appearing behind Vimes. 'Did you get the note about that book?' There was one of those silences that happen when everyone has to reprogramme their faces. Then Vimes said, 'What?'