Home > Snuff (Discworld #39)(2)

Snuff (Discworld #39)(2)
Terry Pratchett

His Grace, the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, was feverishly pushing a pencil down the side of his boot in order to stop the itching. It didn’t work. It never did. All his socks made his feet itch. For the hundredth time he considered telling his wife that among her sterling qualities, and they were many, knitting did not feature. But he would rather have chopped his foot off than do so. It would break her heart.

They were dreadful socks, though, so thick, knotted and bulky that he had had to buy boots that were one and a half times bigger than his feet. And he did this because Samuel Vimes, who had never gone into a place of worship with religious aforethought, worshipped Lady Sybil, and not a day went past without his being amazed that she seemed to do the same to him. He had made her his wife and she had made him a millionaire; with her behind him the sad, desolate, penniless and cynical copper was a rich and powerful duke. He’d managed to hold on to the cynical, however, and a brace of oxen on steroids would not have been able to pull the copper out of Sam Vimes; the poison was in too deep, wrapped around the spine. And so Sam Vimes itched, and counted his blessings until he ran out of numbers.

Among his curses was doing the paperwork.

There was always paperwork. It is well known that any drive to reduce paperwork only results in extra paperwork.

Of course, he had people to do the paperwork, but sooner or later he had, at the very least, to sign it and, if no way of escape presented itself, even read it. There was no getting away from it: ultimately, in all police work, there was a definite possibility that the manure would hit the windmill. The initials of Sam Vimes were required to be on the paper to inform the world that it was his windmill, and therefore his manure.

But now he stopped to call through the open door to Sergeant Littlebottom, who was acting as his orderly.

“Anything yet, Cheery?” he said, hopefully.

“Not in the way I think you mean, sir, but I think you’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve just had a clacks message from Acting Captain Haddock down in Quirm, sir. He says he’s getting on fine, sir, and really enjoying the avec.” **

Vimes sighed. “Anything else?”

“Dead as a doorknob, sir,” said the dwarf, poking her head around the door. “It’s the heat, sir, it’s too hot to fight and too sticky to steal. Isn’t that wonderful, sir?”

Vimes grunted. “Where there are policemen there’s crime, sergeant, remember that.”

“Yes, I do, sir, although I think it sounds better with a little reordering of the words.”

“I suppose there’s no chance at all that I’ll be let off?”

Sergeant Littlebottom looked concerned. “I’m sorry, sir, I think there’s no appeal. Officially Captain Carrot will relieve you of your badge at noon.”

Vimes thumped his desk and exploded. “I don’t deserve this treatment after a lifetime of dedication to the city!”

“Commander, if I may say so, you deserve a lot more.”

Vimes leaned back in his chair and groaned. “You too, Cheery?”

“I really am very sorry, sir. I know this is hard for you.”

“To be forced out after all this time! I begged, you know, and that doesn’t come easy to a man like me, you can be sure. Begged!”

There was a sound of footsteps on the stairs. Cheery watched as Vimes pulled a brown envelope out of his desk drawer, inserted something into it, licked it ferociously, sealed it with a spit and dropped it on his desk, where it clanged. “There,” he said, through gritted teeth. “My badge, just like Vetinari ordered. I put it down. It won’t be said they took it off me!”

Captain Carrot stepped into the office, ducking briefly as he came through the door. He had a package in his hand and several grinning coppers were clustered behind him.

“Sorry about this, sir, higher authority and all that. If it’s any help I think you’ve been lucky to be let off with two weeks. She was originally talking about a month.”

He handed Vimes the package and coughed. “Me and the lads had a bit of a whip-round, commander,” he said with a forced grin.

“You know, I prefer something sensible like Chief Constable,” said Vimes, grabbing the package. “Do you know, I reckoned that if I let them give me enough titles I’d eventually get one I could live with.”

Vimes tore open the package and pulled out a very small and colorful bucket and spade, to the general amusement of the surreptitious onlookers.

“We know you’re not going to the seaside, sir,” Carrot began, “but … .”

“I wish it was the seaside,” Vimes complained. “You get shipwrecks at the seaside, you get smugglers at the seaside and you get drownings and crime at the flaming seaside! Something interesting!”

“Lady Sybil says you’re bound to find lots to amuse yourself with, sir,” said Carrot.

Vimes grunted. “The countryside! What’s to amuse you in the countryside? Do you know why it’s called the countryside, Carrot? Because there’s bloody nothing there except damn trees, which we’re supposed to make a fuss about, but really they’re just stiff weeds! It’s dull! It’s nothing but a long Sunday! And I’m going to have to meet nobby people!”

“Sir, you’ll enjoy it. I’ve never known you to take even a day off unless you were injured,” said Carrot.

“And even then he worried and grumbled every moment,” said a voice at the doorway. It belonged to Lady Sybil Vimes, and Vimes found himself resenting the way his men deferred to her. He loved Lady Sybil to distraction, of course, but he couldn’t help noticing how, these days, his bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich had become, not as it had been traditionally, a bacon, tomato and lettuce and had in fact become a lettuce, tomato and bacon sandwich. It was all about health, of course. It was a conspiracy. Why did they never find a vegetable that was bad for you, hey? And what was so wrong with onion gravy anyway? It had onions in it, didn’t it? They made you fart, didn’t they? That was good for you, wasn’t it? He was sure he had read that somewhere.

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