Read an extract from The Fifth Elephant

The Fifth Elephant Extract

‘What’s that, sergeant?’

Colon looked down at the very large, brown, upturned face, and smiled.

‘Afternoon, All,’ he said, climbing ponderously down the ladder. ‘What you’re looking at, Mister Jolson, is the modern Watch for the new millenienienum . . . num.’

‘’s a bit big, Fred,’ said All Jolson, looking at it critically. ‘I’ve seen lots of smaller ones.’

‘Watch as in City Watch, All.’

‘Ah, right.’

‘Anyone goes too fast around here and Lord Vetinari’ll be looking at his picture next morning. The iconographs do not lie, All.’

‘Right, Fred. ’cos they’re too stupid.’

‘His lordship’s got fed up with carts speeding over the bridge, see, and asked us to do something about it. I’m Head of Traffic now, you know.’

‘Is that good, Fred?’

‘I should just think so!’ said Sergeant Colon expansively. ‘It’s up to me to keep the, er, arteries of the city from clogging up, leadin’ to a complete breakdown of commerce and ruination for us all. Most vital job there is, you could say.’

‘And it’s just you doing it, is it?’

‘Well, mainly. Mainly. Corporal Nobbs and the other lads help, of course.’

All Jolson scratched his nose. ‘It was on a similar subject that I wanted to talk to you, Fred,’ he said.

‘No problem, All.’

‘Something very odd’s turned up outside my restaurant, Fred.’

Sergeant Colon followed the huge man around the corner. Fred usually liked All’s company because, next to All, he was very skinny indeed. All Jolson was a man who’d show up on an atlas and change the orbit of small planets. Paving stones cracked under his feet. He combined in one body – and there was plenty of room left over – Ankh-Morpork’s best chef and its keenest eater, a circumstance made in mashed potato heaven. Sergeant Colon couldn’t remember what the man’s real first name had been; he’d picked up the nickname by general acclaim, since no one seeing him in the street for the first time could believe that it was all Jolson.

There was a big cart on Broad Way. Other traffic was backed up trying to manoeuvre around it.

‘Had my meat delivered at lunchtime, Fred, and when my carter came out . . .’All Jolson pointed to the large triangular construction locked around one wheel of the cart. It was made of oak and steel, with yellow paint sloshed over it.

Fred tapped it carefully. ‘I can see where your problem is, right here,’ he said. ‘So how long was your carter in there?’

‘Well. I gave him lunch . . .’

‘And very good lunches you do, All, I’ve always said. What was the special today?’

‘Smitten steak with cream sauce and slumpie, and black death meringue to follow,’ said All Jolson.

There was a moment of silence as they both pictured this meal. Fred Colon gave a little sigh.

‘Butter on the slumpie?’

‘You wouldn’t insult me by suggesting I’d leave it off, would you?’

‘A man could linger a long time over a meal like that,’ said Fred. ‘The trouble is, the Patrician, All, gets very short about carts parking on the street for more than ten minutes. He reckons that’s a sort of crime.’

‘Taking ten minutes to eat one of my lunches isn’t a crime, Fred, it’s a tragedy,’ said All. ‘It says here “City Watch – $15 removal”, Fred. That’s a couple of days’ profits, Fred.’

‘Thing is,’ said Fred Colon, ‘it’ll be paperwork, see? I can’t just wave that away. I only wish I could. There’s all them counterfoils on the spike in my office. If it was me running the Watch, of course . . . but my hands are tied, see . . .’

The two men stood some way apart, hands in pockets, apparently paying little attention to one another. Sergeant Colon began to whistle under his breath.

‘I know a thing or two,’ said All, carefully. ‘People think waiters ain’t got ears.’

‘I know lots of stuff, All,’ said Colon, jingling his pocket change.

Both men stared at the sky for a while.

‘I may have some honey ice cream left over from yesterday—’

Sergeant Colon looked down at the cart.

‘Here, Mister Jolson,’ he said, in a voice of absolute surprise. ‘Some complete bastard’s put some sort of clamp on your wheel! Well, we’ll soon see about that.’

Colon pulled a couple of round,white-painted paddles from his belt, sighted on the Watch House semaphore tower peeking over the top of the old lemonade factory, waited until the watching gargoyle signalled him, and with a certain amount of verve and flair ripped off an impression of a man with stiff arms playing two games of table tennis at once.

‘The team’ll be along any minute – ah, watch this . . .’

A little further along the street two trolls were carefully clamping a hay wagon.After a minute or two one of them happened to glance at the Watch House tower, nudged his colleague, produced two bats of his own and, with rather less elan than Sergeant Colon, sent a signal.When it was answered the trolls looked around, spotted Colon and lumbered towards him.

‘Ta-da!’ said Colon proudly.

‘Amazing, this new technology,’ said All Jolson admiringly. ‘And they must’ve been, what, forty or fifty yards away?’

‘ ’s’right, All. In the old days I’d’ve had to blow a whistle. And they’ll arrive here knowin’ it was me who wanted ’em, too.’

‘Instead of having to look and see it was you,’ said Jolson.


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