‘Captain Vimes? I think we’d better get that out of here,’ said Carrot, reaching down.

‘Whatever you do, don’t touch it!’ Vimes warned.

‘Why not? It’s only a device,’ said Carrot. He picked up the gonne by the barrel, regarded it for a moment, and then smashed it against the wall. Bits of metal pin-wheeled away.

‘One of a kind,’ he said. ‘One of a kind is always special, my father used to say. Let’s be going.’

He opened the door.

He shut the door.

‘There’s about a hundred Assassins at the bottom of the stairs,’ he said.

‘How many bolts have you got for your bow?’ said Vimes. He was still staring at the twisted gonne.

‘One.’

‘Then it’s a good thing you won’t have any chance to reload anyway.’

There was a polite knock at the door.

Carrot glanced at Vimes, who shrugged. He opened the door.

It was Downey. He raised an empty hand.

‘You can put down your weapons. I assure you they will not be necessary. Where is Dr Cruces?’

Carrot pointed.

Ah.’ He glanced up at the two Watchmen.

‘Would you, please, leave his body with us? We will inhume him in our crypt.’

Vimes pointed at the body.

‘He killed—’

And now he is dead. And now I must ask you to leave.’

Downey opened the door. Assassins lined the wide stairs. There wasn’t a weapon in sight. But, with Assassins, there didn’t need to be.

At the bottom lay the body of Angua. The Watchmen walked down slowly, and Carrot knelt and picked it up.

He nodded to Downey.

‘Shortly we will be sending someone .to collect the body of Dr Cruces,’ he said.

‘But I thought we had agreed that—’

‘No. It must be seen that he is dead. Things must be seen. Things mustn’t happen in the dark, or behind closed doors.’

‘I am afraid I cannot accede to your request,’ said the Assassin firmly.

‘It wasn’t a request, sir.’

Scores of Assassins watched them walk across the courtyard.

The black gates were shut.

No-one seemed about to open them.

‘I agree with you, but perhaps you should have put that another way,’ said Vimes. ‘They don’t look at all happy—’

The doors shattered. A six-foot iron arrow passed Carrot and Vimes and removed a large section of wall on the far side of the courtyard.

A couple of blows removed the rest of the gates, and Detritus stepped through. He looked around at the assembled Assassins, a red glow in his eyes. And growled.

It dawned on the smarter Assassins that there was nothing in their armoury that could kill a troll. They had fine stiletto knives, but they needed sledgehammers.

They had darts armed with exquisite poisons, none of which worked on a troll. No-one had ever thought trolls were important enough to be assassinated. Suddenly, Detritus was very important indeed. He had Cuddy’s axe in one hand and his mighty crossbow in the other.

Some of the brighter Assassins turned and ran for it. Some were not as bright. A couple of arrows bounced off Detritus. Their owners saw his face as he turned towards them, and dropped their bows.

Detritus hefted his club.

‘Acting-Constable Detritus!’

The words rang out across the courtyard.

‘Acting-Constable Detritus! Atten-shun!’

Detritus very slowly raised his hand.

Dink.

‘You listen to me, Acting-Constable Detritus,’ said Carrot. ‘If there’s a heaven for Watchmen, and gods I hope there is, then Acting-Constable Cuddy is there right now, drunk as a bloody monkey, with a rat in one hand and a pint of Bearhugger’s in the other, and he’s looking up[28] at us right now and he’s saying: my friend Acting-Constable Detritus won’t forget he’s a guard. Not Detritus.’

There was a long dangerous moment, and then another dink.

‘Thank you, Acting-Constable. You’ll escort Mr Vimes to the University.’ Carrot looked around at the Assassins. ‘Good afternoon, gentlemen. We may be back.’

The three Watchmen stepped over the wreckage.

Vimes said nothing until they were well out in the street, and then he turned to Carrot.

‘Why did he call you—’

‘If you’ll excuse me, I’ll take her back to the Watch House.’

Vimes looked down at Angua’s corpse and felt a train of thought derail itself. Some things were too hard to think about. He wanted a nice quiet hour somewhere to put it all together. Personal isn’t the same as important. What sort of person could think like that? And it dawned on him that while Ankh in the past had had its share of evil rulers, and simply bad rulers, it had never yet come under the heel of a good ruler. That might be the most terrifying prospect of all.

‘Sir?’ said Carrot, politely.

‘Uh. We’ll bury her up at Small Gods, how about that?’ said Vimes. ‘It’s sort of a Watch tradition . . .’

‘Yes, sir. You go off with Detritus. He’s all right when you give him orders. If you don’t mind, I don’t think I’ll be along to the wedding. You know how it is . . .’

‘Yes. Yes, of course. Um. Carrot?’ Vimes blinked, to drive away suspicions that clamoured for consideration. ‘We shouldn’t be too hard on Cruces. I hated the bastard like hell, so I want to be fair to him. I know what the gonne does to people. We’re all the same, to the gonne. I’d have been just like him.’

‘No, captain. You put it down.’

Vimes smiled wanly.

‘They call me Mister Vimes,’ he said.

Carrot walked back to the Watch House, and laid the body of Angua on the slab in the makeshift morgue. Rigor mortis was already setting in.

He fetched some water and cleaned her fur as best he could.

What he did next would have surprised, say, a troll or a dwarf or anyone who didn’t know about the human mind’s reaction to stressful circumstances.

He wrote his report. He swept the main room’s floor; there was a rota, and it was his turn. He had a wash. He changed his shirt, and dressed the wound on his shoulder, and cleaned his armour, rubbing with wire wool and a graded series of cloths until he could, once again, see his face in it.

He heard, far off, Fondel’s ‘Wedding March’ scored for Monstrous Organ with Miscellaneous Farmyard Noises accompaniment. He fished out a half bottle of rum from what Sergeant Colon thought was his secure hiding place, poured himself a very small amount, and drank a toast to the sound, saying, ‘Here’s to Mr Vimes and Lady Ramkin!’ in a clear, sincere voice which would have severely embarrassed anyone who had heard it.

There was a scratching at the door. He let Gaspode in. The little dog slunk under the table, saying nothing.

Then Carrot went up to his room, and sat in his chair and looked out of the window.

The afternoon wore on. The rain stopped around teatime.

Lights came on, all over the city.

Presently, the moon rose.

The door opened. Angua entered, walking softly.

Carrot turned, and smiled.

‘I wasn’t certain,’ he said. ‘But I thought, well, isn’t it only silver that kills them? I just had to hope.’

It was two days later. The rain had set in. It didn’t pour, it slouched out of the grey clouds, running in rivulets through the mud. It filled the Ankh, which slurped once again through its underground kingdom. It poured from the mouths of gargoyles. It hit the ground so hard there was sort of a mist of ricochets.

It drummed off the gravestones in the cemetery behind the Temple of Small Gods, and into the small pit dug for Acting-Constable Cuddy.

There were always only guards at a guard’s funeral, Vimes told himself. Oh, sometimes there were relatives, like Lady Ramkin and Detritus’ Ruby here today, but you never got crowds. Perhaps Carrot was right. When you became a guard, you stopped being everything else.

Although there were other people today, standing silently at the railings around the cemetery. They weren’t at the funeral, but they were watching it.

There was a small priest who gave the generic fill-in-deceased’s-name-here service, designed to be vaguely satisfactory to any gods who might be listening. Then Detritus lowered the coffin into the grave, and the priest threw a ceremonial handful of dirt on to the coffin, except that instead of the rattle of soil there was a very final splat.

And Carrot, to Vimes’ surprise, made a speech. It echoed across the soggy ground to the rain-dripping trees. It was really based around the only text you could use on this occasion: he was my friend, he was one of us, he was a good copper.

He was a good copper. That had got said at every guard funeral Vimes had ever attended. If d probably be said even at Corporal Nobbs’ funeral, although everyone would have their fingers crossed behind their backs. It was what you had to say.

Vimes stared at the coffin. And then a strange feeling came creeping over him, as insidiously as the rain trickling down the back of his neck. It wasn’t exactly a suspicion. If it stayed in his mind long enough it would be a suspicion, but right now it was only a faint tingle of a hunch.

He had to ask. He’d never stop thinking about it if he didn’t at least ask.

So as they were walking away from the grave he said, ‘Corporal?’

‘Yessir?’

‘No-one’s found the gonne, then?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Someone said you had it last.’

‘I must have put it down somewhere. You know how busy it all was.’

‘Yes. Oh, yes. I’m pretty sure I saw you carry most of it out of the Guild . . .’

‘Must have done, sir.’

‘Yes. Er. I hope you put it somewhere safe, then. Do you, er, do you think you left it somewhere safe?’

Behind them, the gravedigger began to shovel the wet, clinging loam of Ankh-Morpork into the hole.

‘I think I must have done, sir. Don’t you? Seeing as no-one has found it. I mean, we’d soon know if anyone’d found it!’

‘Maybe it’s all for the best, Corporal Carrot.’

‘I certainly hope so.’

‘He was a good copper.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Vimes went for broke.

‘And . . . it seemed to me, as we were carrying that little coffin . . . slightly heavier . . .?’

‘Really, sir? I really couldn’t say I noticed.’

‘But at least he’s got a proper dwarf burial.’

‘Oh, yes. I saw to that, sir,’ said Carrot.

The rain gurgled off the roofs of the Palace. The gargoyles had taken up their stations at every corner, straining gnats and flies via their ears.

Corporal Carrot shook the drops off his leather rain cape and exchanged salutes with the troll on guard. He strolled through the clerks in the outer rooms and knocked respectfully on the door of the Oblong Office.

‘Come.’

Carrot entered, marched to the desk, saluted and stood at ease.

Lord Vetinari tensed, very slightly.

‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘Corporal Carrot. I was expecting . . . something like this. I’m sure you’ve come to ask me for . . . something?’

Carrot unfolded a piece of grubby paper, and cleared his throat.

‘Well, sir . . . we could do with a new dartboard. You know. For when we’re off duty?’

The Patrician blinked. It was not often that he blinked.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘A new dartboard, sir. It helps the men relax after their shift, sir.’

Vetinari recovered a little.

‘Another one? But you had one only last year!’

‘It’s the Librarian, sir. Nobby lets him play and he just leans a bit and hammers the darts in with his fist. It ruins the board. Anyway, Detritus threw one through it. Through the wall behind it, too.’

‘Very well. And?’

‘Well . . . Acting-Constable Detritus needs to be let off having to pay for five holes in his breastplate.’

‘Granted. Tell him not to do it again.’

‘Yes, sir. Well, I think that’s about it. Except for a new kettle.’

The Patrician’s hand moved in front of his lips. He was trying not to smile. ,

‘Dear me. Another kettle as well? What happened to the old one?’

‘Oh, we still use it, sir, we still use it. But we’re going to need another because of the new arrangements.’