‘Corp— Captain Carrot?’
‘Sah!’ Carrot stared straight ahead of him with the glistening air of one busting with duty and efficiency and an absolute resolve to duck and dodge any direct questions put to him.
‘I—’ Vimes picked up the paper again, put it down, picked it up, and then passed it over to Sybil.
‘My word!’ she said. ‘A knighthood? Not a moment too soon, either!’
‘Oh, no! Not me! You know what I think about the so-called aristocrats in this city – apart from you, Sybil, of course.’
‘Perhaps it’s about time the general stock was improved, then,’ said Lady Ramkin.
‘His lordship did say,’ said Carrot, ‘that no part of the package was negotiable, sir. I mean, it’s all or nothing, if you understand me.’
‘All . . .?’
‘. . . or nothing.’
Vimes drummed his ringers on the table.
‘You’ve won, haven’t you?’ he said. ‘You’ve won.’
‘Sir? Don’t understand, sir,’ said Carrot, radiating honest ignorance.
There was another dangerous silence.
‘But, of course,’ said Vimes, ‘there’s no possible way I could oversee this sort of thing.’
‘What do you mean, sir?’ said Carrot.
Vimes pulled the candelabra towards him and thumped the paper with a finger.
‘Well, look what it says here. I mean, opening those old Watch Houses? On the gates? What’s the point in that? Right out there on the edge?’
‘Oh, I’m sure matters of organization detail can be changed, sir,’ said Carrot.
‘Keep a general gate guard, yes, but if you’re going to have any kind of finger on the pulse of . . . look, you’d need one along Elm Street somewhere, dose to the Shades and the docks, and another one halfway up Short Street, and maybe a smaller one in Kingsway. Somewhere up there, anyway. You’ve got to think about population centres. How many men based per Watch House?’
‘I thought ten, sir. Allowing for shifts.’
‘No, can’t do that. Use six at most. A corporal, say, and one other per shift. The rest you’ll move around on, oh, a monthly rota. You want to keep everyone on their toes, yes? And that way everyone gets to walk every street. That’s very important. And . . . wish I had a map here . . . oh . . . thank you, dear. Right. Now, see here. You’ve got a strength of fixty-six, nominal, OK? But you’re taking over day watch too, plus you’ve got to allow for days off, two grandmother’s funerals per year per man – gods know how your undead’ll sort out that one, maybe they get time off to go to their own funerals – and then there’s sickness and so on. So . . . we want four shifts, staggered around the city. Got a light? Thanks. We don’t want the whole guard changing shift at once. On the other hand, you’ve got to allow each Watch House officer a certain amount of initiative. But we should maintain a special squad in Pseudopolis Yard for emergencies . . . look, give me that pencil. Now give me that notebook. Right . . .’
Cigar smoke filled the room. The little presentation watch played every quarter of an hour, entirely unheeded.
Lady Sybil smiled and shut the door behind her, and went to feed the dragons.
‘Dearest Mumm and Dad,
Well here is Amazing news for, I am now Captain!! It has been a very busy and vareid Week all round as, I shall now recount. . .’
And only one thing more . . .
There was a large house in one of the nicer areas of Ankh, with a spacious garden with a children’s tree-house in it and, quite probably, a warm spot by the fire.
And a window, breaking . . .
Gaspode landed on the lawn, and ran like hell towards the fence. Flower-scented bubbles streamed off his coat. He was wearing a ribbon with a bow on it, and carrying in his mouth a bowl labelled MR HUGGY.
He dug his way frantically under the fence and squirmed into the road.
A fresh pile of horse droppings took care of the floral smell, and five minutes of scratching removed the bow.
‘Not a bloody flea left,’ he moaned, dropping the bowl. ‘An’ I had nearly the complete set. Whee-ooo! I’m well out of that. Huh!’
Gaspode brightened up. It was Tuesday. That meant steak-and-suspicious-organs pie at the Thieves’ Guild, and the head cook there was known to be susceptible to a thumping tail and a penetrating stare. And holding an empty bowl in your mouth and looking pathetic was a sure-fire winner, if Gaspode was any judge. It shouldn’t take too long to claw off MR HUGGY.
Perhaps this wasn’t the way it ought to be. But it was the way it was.
On the whole, he reflected, it could have been a lot worse.