Not many people were on the streets. It was too hot, even for an Ankh-Morpork summer. Heat radiated from every surface. The river slunk sullenly in the bottom of its bed, like a student around 11 a.m. People with no pressing business out of doors lurked in cellars and only came out at night.
Carrot moved through the baking streets with a proprietorial air and a slight patina of honest sweat, occasionally exchanging a greeting. Everyone knew Carrot. He was easily recognizable. No-one else was about two metres tall with flame-red hair. Besides, he walked as if he owned the city.
“Who was that man with the granite face I saw in the Watch House?” said Angua, as they proceeded along Broad Way.
“That was Detritus the troll,” said Carrot. “He used to be a bit of a criminal, but now he's courting Ruby she says he's got to—”
“No, that man,” said Angua, learning as had so many others that Carrot tended to have a bit of trouble with metaphors. “Face like thu—face like someone very disgruntled.”
“Oh, that was Captain Vimes. But he's never been gruntled, I think. He's retiring at the end of the week, and getting married.”
“Doesn't look very happy about it,” said Angua.
“I don't think he likes the new recruits.”
The other thing about Constable Carrot was that he was incapable of lying.
“Well, he doesn't like trolls much,” he said. “We couldn't get a word out of him all day when he heard we had to advertise for a troll recruit. And then we had to have a dwarf, otherwise they'd be trouble. I'm a dwarf, too, but the dwarfs here don't believe it.”
“You don't say?” said Angua, looking up at him.
“My mother had me by adoption.”
“Oh. Yes, but I'm not a troll or a dwarf,” said Angua sweetly.
“No, but you're a w—”
Angua stopped. “That's it, is it? Good grief! This is the Century of the Fruitbat, you know. Ye gods, does he really think like that?”
“He's a bit set in his ways.”
“Congealed, I should think.”
“The Patrician said we had to have a bit of representation from the minority groups,” said Carrot.
“Sorry. Anyway, he's only got a few more days—”
There was a splintering noise across the street. They turned as a figure sprinted out of a tavern and hared away up the street, closely followed—at least for a few steps—by a fat man in an apron.
“Stop! Stop! Unlicensed thief!”
“Ah,” said Carrot. He crossed the road, with Angua padding along behind him, as the fat man slowed to a waddle.
“'Morning, Mr Flannel,” he said. “Bit of trouble?”
“He took seven dollars and I never saw no Thief Licence!” said Mr Flannel. “What you going to do about it? I pay my taxes!”
“We shall be hotly in pursuit any moment,” said Carrot calmly, taking out his notebook. “Seven dollars, was it?”
“At least fourteen.”
Mr Flannel looked Angua up and down. Men seldom missed the opportunity.
“Why's she got a helmet on?” he said.
“She's a new recruit, Mr Flannel.”
Angua gave Mr Flannel a smile. He stepped back.
“But she's a—”
“Got to move with the times, Mr Flannel,” said Carrot, putting his notebook away.
Mr Flannel drew his mind back to business.
“In the meantime, there's eighteen dollars of mine that I won't see again,” he said sharply.
“Oh, nil desperandum, Mr Flannel, nil desperandum,” said Carrot cheerfully. “Come, Constable Angua. Let us proceed upon our inquiries.”
He proceeded off, with Flannel staring at them with his mouth open.
“Don't forget my twenty-five dollars,” he shouted.
“Aren't you going to chase the man?” said Angua, running to keep up.
“No point,” said Carrot, stepping sideways into an alley that was so narrow as to be barely visible. He strolled between the damp, moss-grown walls, in deep shadow.
“Interesting thing,” he said. “I bet there's not many people know that you can get to Zephire Street from Broad Way. You ask anyone. They'll say you can't get out of the other end of Shirt Alley. But you can because, all you do, you go up Mormius Street, and then you can squeeze between these bollards here into Borborygmic Lane—good, aren't they, very good iron—and here we are in Whilom Alley—”
He wandered to the end of the alley and stood listening for a while.
“What are we waiting for?” said Angua.
There was the sound of running feet. Carrot leaned against the wall, and stuck out one arm into Zephire Street. There was a thud. Carrot's arm didn't move an inch. It must have been like running into a girder.
They looked down at the unconscious figure. Silver dollars rolled across the cobbles.
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” said Carrot. “Poor old Here'n'now. He promised me he was going to give it up, too. Oh well…” He picked up a leg.
“How much money?” he said.
“Looks like three dollars,” said Angua.
“Well done. The exact amount.”
“No, the shopkeeper said—”
“Come on. Back to the Watch House. Come on, Here'n'now. It's your lucky day.”
“Why is it his lucky day?” said Angua. “He was caught, wasn't he?”
“Yes. By us. Thieves' Guild didn't get him first. They aren't so kind as us.”
Here'n'now's head bounced from cobblestone to cobblestone.
“Pinching three dollars and then trotting straight home,” sighed Carrot. “That's Here'n'now. Worst thief in the world.”
“But you said Thieves' Guild—”
“When you've been here a while, you'll understand how it all works,” said Carrot. Here'n'now's head banged on the kerb. “Eventually,” Carrot added. “But it all does work. You'd be amazed. It all works. I wish it didn't. But it does.”
While Here'n'now was being mildly concussed on the way to the safety of the Watch's jail, a clown was being killed.
He was ambling along an alley with the assurance of one who is fully paid up this year with the Thieves' Guild when a hooded figure stepped out in front of him.
“Oh, hello… it's Edward, right?”
The figure hesitated.
“I was just going back to the Guild,” said Beano.
The hooded figure nodded.
“Are you OK?” said Beano.
“I'm sorry about th-is,” it said. “But it is for the good of the city. It is nothing p-ersonal.”
He stepped behind the clown. Beano felt a crunch, and then his own personal internal universe switched off.
Then he sat up.
“Ow,” he said, “that hur—”
But it didn't.
Edward d'Eath was looking down at him with a horrified expression.
“Oh… I didn't mean to hit you that hard! I only wanted you out of the way!”
“Why'd you have to hit me at all?”
And then the feeling stole over Beano that Edward wasn't exactly looking at him, and certainly wasn't talking to him.
He glanced at the ground, and experienced that peculiar sensation known only to the recently dead—horror at what you see lying in front of you, followed by the nagging question: so who's doing the looking?
He looked up. “Who's there?”
There was a chill in the air. Beano waited. Edward was frantically patting his face… well, what until recently had been his face.
I WONDER… CAN WE START AGAIN? I DON'T SEEM TO HAVE THE HANG OF THIS.
“Sorry?” said Beano.
“I'm s-orry!” moaned Edward, “I meant it for the best!”
Beano watched his murderer drag his… the… body away.
“Nothing personal, he says,” he said. “I'm glad it wasn't anything personal. I should hate to think I've just been killed because it was personal.”
IT'S JUST THAT IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED THAT I SHOULD BE MORE OF A PEOPLE PERSON.
“I mean, why? I thought we were getting on really well. It's very hard to make friends in my job. In your job too, I suppose.”
BREAK IT TO THEM GENTLY, AS IT WERE.