For Commander Vimes, Head of Ankh-Morpork City Watch, life consists of troubling times, linked together by… well, more troubling times.
Right now, it’s the latter. There’s a werewolf with pre-lunar tension in the city, a dwarf with attitude and a golem who’s begun to think for itself… and that’s just the ordinary trouble. The real problem is more puzzling – people are being murdered, but there’s no trace of anything alive having been at the crime scene.
Now Vimes not only has to find out whodunit, but howdunit too. He’s not even sure what they dun. But soon as he knows what the questions are, he’s going to want some answers.
‘I’ve found something very interesting that you will be very interested to see,’ said Carrot, after a while.
‘That’s interesting,’ said Angua.
‘But I’m not going to tell you what it is because I want it to be a surprise,’ said Carrot.
Angua walked in thought for a while and then said: ‘I wonder if it will be as surprising as the collection of rock samples you showed me last week?’
‘That was good, wasn’t it?’ said Carrot enthusiastically. ‘I’ve been along that street dozens of times and never suspected there was a mineral museum there! All those silicates!’
‘Amazing! You’d imagine people would be flocking to it, wouldn’t you?’
‘Yes, I can’t think why they don’t!’
Angua reminded herself that Carrot appeared to have in his soul not even a trace element of irony. She told herself that it wasn’t his fault he’d been brought up by dwarfs in some mine, and really did think that bits of rock were interesting. The week before they’d visited an iron foundry. That had been interesting, too.
And yet . . . and yet . . . you couldn’t help liking Carrot. Even people he was arresting liked Carrot. Even old ladies living in a permanent smell of fresh paint liked Carrot. She liked Carrot. A lot. Which was going to make leaving him all the harder.
She was a werewolf. That’s all there was to it. You either spent your time trying to make sure people didn’t find out or you let them find out and spent your time watching them keep their distance and whisper behind your back, although of course you’d have to turn round to watch that.
Carrot didn’t mind. But he minded that other people minded. He minded that even quite friendly colleagues tended to carry a bit of silver somewhere on their person. She could see it upsetting him. She could see the tensions building up, and he didn’t know how to deal with them.
It was just as her father had said. Get involved with humans other than at mealtimes and you might as well jump down a silver mine.
‘Apparently there’s going to be a huge firework display after the celebrations next year,’ said Carrot. ‘I like fireworks.’
‘It beats me why Ankh-Morpork wants to celebrate the fact it had a civil war three hundred years ago,’ said Angua, coming back to the here-and-now.
‘Why not? We won,’ said Carrot.
‘Yes, but you lost, too.’
‘Always look on the positive side, that’s what I say. Ah, here we are.’
Angua looked up at the sign. She’d learned to read dwarf runes now.
‘Coo-ee, Mr Hopkinson?’ he called. There was no reply. ‘He does go out sometimes,’ he said.
‘Probably when the excitement gets too much for him,’ said Angua. ‘Hopkinson? That’s not a dwarf name, is it?’
‘Oh, he’s a human,’ said Carrot, stepping inside. ‘But an amazing authority. Bread’s his life. He wrote the definitive work on offensive baking. Well . . . since he’s not here I’ll just take two tickets and leave tuppence on the desk.’
It didn’t look as though Mr Hopkinson got many visitors. There was dust on the floor, and dust on the display cases, and a lot of dust on the exhibits. Most of them were the classic cowpat-like shape, an echo of their taste, but there were also buns, close-combat crumpets, deadly throwing toast and a huge dusty array of other shapes devised by a race that went in for food-fighting in a big and above all terminal way.
‘What are we looking for?’ Angua said. She sniffed. There was a nastily familiar tang in the air.
‘It’s . . . are you ready for this? . . . it’s . . . the Battle Bread of B’hrian Bloodaxe!’ said Carrot, rummaging in a desk by the entrance.
‘A loaf of bread? You brought me here to see a loaf of bread?’ She sniffed again. Yes. Blood. Fresh blood.
‘That’s right,’ said Carrot. ‘It’s only going to be here a couple of weeks on loan. It’s the actual bread he personally wielded at the Battle of Koom Valley, killing fifty-seven trolls although’ – and here Carrot’s tone changed down from enthusiasm to civic respectability – ‘that was a long time ago and we shouldn’t let ancient history blind us to the realities of a multi-ethnic society in the Century of the Fruitbat.’
There was a creak of a door.
‘This battle bread,’ said Angua, indistinctly. ‘Black, isn’t it? Quite a lot bigger than normal bread?’
‘Yes, that’s right,’ said Carrot.
‘And Mr Hopkinson . . . A short man? Little white pointy beard?’
‘And his head all smashed in?’
‘I think you’d better come and look,’ said Angua, backing away.
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