What Commander Sam Vimes had on his hands was a headache.

This was actually true in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the term. The headache had started at 6'oclock that morning when he stepped into the Watch House, and had only increased since then. Thus, the literal— he had his head in his hands as he listened to the newest complainant in his office.

"It's just not right, sir, not right at all," said Bit-of-Allright Monten, worrying his hat in his hands. "We can't stand for it, sir, no, not us."

"We know about the issue, Bit," Vimes said, muffled by the desk. "We're looking into it."

"But it's not right!"

The headache pounded behind Vimes' eyes. Bit-of-Allright was part of the Confectioners' Guild, and smelled nauseatingly of sweet. He was a round, fat man, like most of the Confectioners, and his face was currently red with upset, not wine. This was clearly, in Bit-of-Allright's mind, the worst part of this whole business.

Suddenly, Vimes snapped his head up. "What's illegal about this?!" he said, before he could stop himself. "Mr. Monten, I would simply love it if you could tell me what's illegal about this, and I'll get right out to doing my job and trying to stop it from happening again!"

Bit slumped a little bit. There was silence that stretched on for a few blessed minutes. "I don't like it," he said. "Just… well, just look at it."

They looked at it.

Sitting on Vimes' desk, where it had sat since Bit had been led in by Detritus, was an hourglass. It was, all things said, a fairly normal hourglass, with sand pouring slowly but steadily through it. It was made almost entirely of glass, and had a bit of a pinkish sheen, like a candy. Engraved on the top, it said Bartimus Oliver Allright Monten.

Vimes picked it up and turned it over.

The sand flipped orientation so that it was still falling the same direction as before.

It is a little spooky, Vimes did not say, because he was a professional member of the Watch. But he thought it.

The hourglasses had started showing up the night before. The complaints, in the fine tradition of the city, had started very shortly after. There was nothing really that sinister on the face of it: people were suddenly checking their pockets and finding that they had been reverse-pickpocketed.

Ankh-Morpork was the kind of city that had Opinions. And one opinion was that they Did Not Like The Hourglasses. [1]

"It's not like whoever is putting them there is stealing anything from you, right?" Vimes asked, a little desperately. It hadn't worked on any of the others. It wouldn't work on the city, who liked what they considered My Property to stay My Property, Or Else I Have A Long Stick If You Want Something of Mine Up Your— "So it's like a gift."

"That's even worse, sir," sulked Bit, who was still pouty after Vimes' little shout. "I don't want to owe someone something."

"It's even personalized!" Vimes said, shaking the hourglass. The sand seemed unaffected by this. "Very thoughtful."

"Only me old mam calls me Bartimus," Bit said. "Can't you make them take it back?"

"You could throw it away," suggested Vimes.

Bit looked at him, aghast. "It has me name on it, sir."

Vimes lowered his head carefully back onto the desk and closed his eyes. "Thank you, Bit. We're looking into it."

There was a little chink, as Bit-of-Allright picked up his hourglass, then footsteps as he retreated. Then there were footsteps again, new ones.

"Carrot, has the city gone mad?" Vimes asked the desk.

"No sir!" Captain Carrot said, sounding offended by the idea. Vimes had known it was him by the sound of his walking. Carrot was a big man who was used to living among small men, and he had a stride that couldn't be stopped by anything less than a troll, if the troll was feeling up to facing Carrot's disappointed face. "I should think we're exactly as mad as usual."

"Is that reassuring?" Vimes asked rhetorically, and finally raised his head. "Did we get more reports?"

"Yessir," Carrot said. "Almost fifty hourglasses so far, Commander."

"Ye gods," Vimes said. "We must have a very tired reverse-pickpocket on our hands."

Carrot nodded. "I was going to go walk the streets where the reverse-pickpocketer reverse-pickpocketed," he said. "Maybe someone saw something."

Vimes was doubtful. "Ankh-Morporkians usually know better than to see something, Carrot."

Angua knocked on the open doorframe. "There are more people here to complain about their hourglasses."

"On second thought," Vimes said, shooting to his feet. "It always pays to be thorough."

[1] Other things they Did Not Like were: Taxes (Unfair and Predjudix Against Me Specifically), Hot Summer Days (the river Ankh), Pies Which Cost More Than They Should (self-explanatory), Politicians (even more obvious), and Outsiders Who Complained About Ankh-Morpork's Politicians (because the only ones allowed to complain about Ankh-Morpork was Ankh-Morpork, Thank You).

"Yeah, I got one," said Bricka Deephenge. She produced a squat hourglass from her apron and passed it up to Carrot. Bricka Deephenge was a barkeep at one of the dwarfish bars Carrot frequented. Vimes and Carrot had run into her while she was taking an extended smoke break out back.

Deephenge's hourglass was sturdy, made of more stone than glass. Her name, or what Vimes had to assume was her name, was written in Dwarfish runes.

"It's interesting work," the dwarf said.

"How so?" Vimes accepted the hourglass from Carrot and flipped it over. The sand didn't change direction.

"It can't be destroyed," Deephenge said. "Soon's I got it, I tried to destroy it."

"Dwarfs say it's bad luck to have your True Name writ by someone who isn't you, sir," Carrot said. [2]

Deephenge nodded, scratching at her beard. "And this is the truest of my true names," she said, indicating the hourglass. Vimes handed it back to her. "So I took it to my cousin's forge— not even the hottest fire could melt it, nor the strongest axe break it."

"One of the golems stepped on one by accident this morning," Carrot said thoughtfully. "Not even a scratch."

Vimes was becoming uneasy. Plenty of strange things happened in Ankh-Morpork, but this one was odd even for the city, probably because Vimes had never known anyone to give something out for free when they could make a scam of it. A new trend— personalized hourglass! Don't be caught dead without one! Someone could be making a fortune if they wanted to.

"And you didn't see who slipped it into your pocket?" Vimes asked.

Deephenge blinked. "Oh, no, definitely not. I found it in me boot."

[2] Carrot was naturally predisposed to say things with Capital Letters. It was the earnestness.

No one they talked to had seen the reverse-pickpocketer. Every hourglass was inscribed with the recipient's name, and they all were of different make. A troll they talked to had an hourglass nearly as large as Carrot's head.

None of them could be destroyed.

In Ankh-Morporkian entrepreneurial fashion, several people had started booths where they bought and then sold— at hugely marked-up prices— people's timers.

Just looking at the hourglasses gave Vimes a kind of uncomfortable chill up the back of his neck, under the chainmail. There was nothing sinister about them, and they didn't seem to be hurting anybody as of yet. And, like he said, there was nothing illegal about slipping people thoughtful, personalized gifts in secret.

"Carrot," Vimes said. "Is there anything illegal about slipping people thoughtful, personalized gifts in secret?"

Carrot considered this deeply. "Well, it's illegal to give someone else a murder weapon which hasn't been cleared by the Guild of Assassins," he said. "And The Laws and Ordinances of the Cities Ankh and Morpork section 345b says it's illegal to give Klatchian apple pies as a gift."

"Really?" Vimes asked, momentarily derailed. "Why?"

"Don't know, sir," Carrot said. "But it must be important— it's the law." Carrot had the distinct honor of being the only Watchman who had the Laws and Ordinances memorized [3]. Carrot was usually of the opinion that there had to be a reason behind the things politicians had put on the books. Vimes, a realist, had no such illusions.

"Right," Vimes said, mentally steering the cart back onto the track with a shake of his head. The headache had abated a little as they'd walked the city, and spiked a little as they walked near the Ankh, but that was to be expected in summer. "Where the hell are these things coming from?"

Vimes slunk back to the Watch House when it appeared most of the citizens had given up and gone home. He dismissed Carrot to do— well, Carrot usually did what he wanted— and went to speak to some of his other Watchmen.

"We've set up bait patrolmen," Angua said, holding her helmet under her arm in the sun of the training area of Pseudopolis Yard. "You know— one to stand in the street, two more to watch him?"

"And?" Vimes said.

"And both the watchers got reverse-pickpocketed," Angua said with a grimace.

Vimes sighed. "Who got it?"

"Igor, sir," Angua said. "And Downspout."

"Downspout?" Vimes asked, aghast. "But he hasn't got clothes!"

"Yes, and we're all confused about it," Angua said. "He won't tell us where he found it, but it was covered in rainwater." The Watch's gargoyle copper was a hard man to sneak up to, and an even harder man to reach. He liked the high places.

"Have you smelled anything?" Commander Vimes asked.

Angua scrunched her nose. "Actually, sir, they all smell a bit off. I don't know how to explain it. Makes me have to sneeze."

The citizens had begun to cotton onto the werewolf in the Watch, though it was only rumor for the moment. But they had started coming up with ideas to mask their scents while doing crime, which was worrying. It was even more worrying if whoever was leaving these "gifts" felt the need to remain undetected even by the Watch.

Vimes hadn't been really hungover in a long time, but he felt suddenly that he'd like to be. Even the light glinting off his badge and helmet was annoying him. "I'm going home for lunch," he announced suddenly. "Will everything be all right here if I step out?"

Angua gave him a sympathetic look. "We'll be fine," she said. "Don't step on any more dragon tails, OK?"

[3] Or had read them.

Young Sam Vimes was doing fine creative work with the vigor of only a one-year-old when Commander Sam Vimes entered Ramkin House.

"Bah-bah!" Young Sam announced, with great cheer.

Vimes felt his face split into a smile, despite himself. With a great creak, he lowered himself to the floor to be on the level with his son, who was finger-painting on a large canvas. Young Sam immediately abandoned the endeavor to crawl towards Vimes, waiting to be picked up.

Vimes did so. "Fine work," he said, examining the canvas, which was a blur of greens, reds, and dragon footprints. "It looks just like a Watchman, if I do say so myself."

"Ah-bah!" Young Sam agreed.

"Don't flatter yourself," said the voice of Sybil, coming in through a side door. "I only stepped away for a moment," she explained. "Mrs. Fluffypoo sounded like she had an upset stomach."

In the world of dragon-rearing, this was a serious threat.

Vimes smiled anyway, tilting his head up to look at her. When you were talking about Lady Sybil Ramkin, you had quite the long way to go.

"You're home early," Sybil said, lowering herself to sit beside them both and examining the canvas with a critical eye.

Vimes grunted. "Thought I'd step out for lunch."

"You're working on the hourglass business?" Sybil asked. Young Sam wriggled, and Vimes let him go, where he attacked the painting once more with a spattering of ugly yellow.

Vimes looked up in alarm. "You haven't got one, have you?" Sybil and Young Sam had been home all day, so far as Vimes knew— no reverse-pickpocketer was getting into his home.

"Don't fret so much, dear," Sybil said, leaning over to peck a dragon-scented kiss to his cheek. She was wearing her big hip-waders and a giant fireproof coat, which meant that she'd been out in the stables that day. She looked beautiful. She leaned over to brush a fleck of dragon goo off her wig, away from Young Sam's painting. "But Marjorie found one in her—" she glanced at Young Sam. "Underthings when she pulled them down to use the privy."

Vimes made a face. While he couldn't keep up with his wife's constant stream of fellow dragon carers, friends, nobles who were willing to give money to said dragon carers, and hobnobbing rich people, he could well picture Marjorie. She would look like all the rest of the fancy people Sybil hung around with— not someone you wanted to be shoving an hourglass down the knickers of.

"Don't make that face," said the Lady Ramkin, at the same time that Young Sam giggled and imitated his father's expression.

Vimes tried his best to look guilty.

"Well, anyhow, lunch is almost ready," Sybil said. "I'm glad you're here to take it with us, no matter the reason."

And Vimes stopped himself from saying anything soppy like me too. A man had a reputation to uphold.

Despite his best efforts, Vimes ended up running into Marjorie on his way back to the Yard. He could tell she was a Marjorie just by the way she dressed. Vimes never knew dragon-keeping gear could look so expensive, or so shiny.

"Oh, Sam, dear!" she shouted from the gate leading into the dragon sanctuary. Shoulders slumping, Vimes turned to look at her. Marjorie beckoned him to come closer.

That was always the type, thought Vimes. They could never come to you when they were asking for a favor, always making you do all the work. And yet here I come anyway…

She waved her handkerchief at him. "I wasn't expecting you home," she said, with the familiarity of someone who had met him before. Probably she had. Vimes made a habit of forgetting the faces of the rich and famous. "I'm afraid I have a little problem I need your help with."

"If it's about the hourglasses, the Watch is doing all it can," Vimes said. He glanced behind him, like a man on death row with hope of a reprieve. As often happens on death row, no one else was willing to stick their neck out instead.

"Oh, it is," Marjorie said. She pulled out an hourglass from the depths of a handbag. The smells of mothballs and brandy wafted out with it, gasping for air, and were trapped again once more as she snapped it shut. "Look at this!"

Vimes looked.

It was one of the more ornate hourglasses, made with very fine and delicate glass, and lots of flourishes. Some kind of flower pattern was etched into the glass itself, and her name was written in cursive so elegant as to be almost illegible.

"Very nice," he said politely.

Marjorie rolled her eyes. That was another thing about the Marjories of the world. They had a way of making you feel like a very young boy, regardless of how long ago you had been young or whether or not you now had your own young boy. "No, young man. Look!" She shook it, which of course did not make the sand fall any faster or slower.

"It's almost empty," Vimes observed, a little interested despite himself. None of the hourglasses he'd seen so far were almost empty. They varied in fullness and speed of sand, but not enough that Vimes had thought it was important.

"Oh, really?" Marjorie asked. "You see, I was watching your Young Sam while Sybil did feeding time with the dragons, and I stepped out to, er, powder my nose. And this fell out of my, er, powerdering bag!" She pressed it further into his face. "I want you to find out why I don't have as much sand and where I can buy more."

"Buy… more?" Vimes said slowly.

"Yes, well, there must be someplace to get more. It's embarrassing, you know, when all your high-class friends have almost full hourglasses, and yours has so little." She sniffed. "When you catch the pickpocketer—"

"Reverse pickpocketer."

"Be sure to ask him where to buy it." She looked him over consideringly, eyeing the rusted armor, the boots which he had dug out of the trash before Sybil could stop him, the Watch badge. "Well, if you catch him. Good day, Sir Vimes."

Oooh. Sir Vimes. Commander Vimes hated that, and Marjorie knew it, by the look in her eye. These old women were canny. Vimes forced a smile. "I'll be sure," he said. "Good day."

On instinct, Vimes looked back at the manor. Sybil was standing in the front window with Young Sam on her hip, stifling a smile that oozed schadenfreude. Vimes made the same face as earlier, but with his eyes crossed and his cheeks puffed.

Young Sam squealed with laughter as Vimes turned away again, with a little bit more of a skip in his step.

Vimes entered the Watch House through the coach yard, hoping to avoid more suddenly begifted citizens. Dorfl was standing by the desk when he came in, staring stolidly at a wall. Sergeants Colon and Cheery were demonstrating their great professionalism to the lower-ranked members of the Watch by playing tic-tac-toe on Dorfl's clay skin. The golem didn't seem to mind.

"Allright, Watch?" Vimes asked, nodding in brusque greeting.

"Heya, Commander," Cheery said. She was perched on a desk for better ease of access, and holding a piece of charcoal with a look of concentration. "Five more hourglasses came in whiles you were out, and Shoe found one in his helmet."

"Great," Vimes grumbled.

Colon smirked. "Pop home for lunch, Commander?"

Vimes bristled. "There's a crisis going on in these streets, Sergeant."

"You have a blue handprint up the side of your breastplate, sir," Cheery said helpfully. Deliberately, she marked an X on Dorfl's tic-tac-toe board. There were several other grids scattered here and there— on most of them, the X's were the victor.

Vimes and Colon both swore, for different reasons. Colon scowled, clearly wondering where his great tic-tac-toe mistake was.

"I'll be in my office," Vimes said. "Tell the patrolmen on the front to start screening the people complaining about their hourglasses— only let them in if they know something new."

"Wait, Sir," Dorfl said, moving only his head so the game wouldn't be interrupted. His eyes shone deep in their sockets. "You Have A Visitor."

"A visitor?" Vimes asked, halfway through his escape up the back stairs to his office. "Don't tell me this is about the damned—"

"It Is About The Hourglasses, Sir," said Dorfl. "But He Was Very Insistent, Sir, and Captain Carrot Says We Should Make Nice With The City Officials."

Vimes paled. "It's not Vetinari, is it?"

"No Sir. It Is The Postmaster General."

"Oh," Vimes relaxed, then tensed up again remembering how much of a handful a conversation with Moist von Lipwig usually turned out to be. "Oh." He sighed.

Colon was scratching his head as Cheery drew up the next board. "We could send Carrot in to deal with him instead," he suggested. "The lad actually seems to like talking to the common man."

"I ran into him on the way out," Vimes said, starting the trek up the stairs again. "C.M.O.T Dibbler started selling counterfeit hourglasses— Carrot's on his way to break it up."

The upstairs of the Watch House was far more crowded than on a regular day. Angua was taking complaints in her office still, and some of the other Watchmen had been roped in to take routine grievances as well. Lines stretched out the doors of most of the offices, and a few Ankh-Morporkians were slouched on chairs scattered throughout the hallway. Most looked sulky and were clutching hourglasses.

Vimes scanned the hall once, then twice, and didn't see Moist. He stepped towards his office, wondering if he was in there. From a chair a few steps away, there was a little cough.

"Oh, Postmaster," Vimes said. "Didn't see you there."

Moist stood up, smiling. Vimes didn't like his smile. It was very honest— suspiciously honest, if on a very, very ordinary face. "Understandable, Commander," he said.

"Not wearing the gold suit today then?" Vimes asked, stepping towards his office to unlock it. Moist followed at his heels.

"No," Moist said. "It does things to a man's reputation to be seen at a Watch House voluntarily."

Vimes eyed him suspiciously as he moved aside to let Moist into the room. "The reputation of a Postmaster General?"

"That too, sure," Moist said, and waited politely for Vimes to sit at the desk before he followed suit on the other end. He wasn't wearing the winged cap or the top hat today either, but he took off his ordinary slouched hat and decorously balanced it on his knees. Vimes did not like Moist von Lipwig.

"Sergeant Dorfl tells me you had an important matter to speak to me about," Vimes said, leaning back in his desk chair.

Moist put an hourglass on the desk. "I found this in my pocket this afternoon."

Vimes stared despairingly at it. "Yes, that seems to be catching," he said.

Moist's hourglass was not as golden as Vimes had imagined, or as shiny. It was, in fact, made mostly of glass, with a practical wooden frame. It was hard to see the sand inside for all the engraving on the glass.

"Why are there so many names on it?" Vimes asked.

"Ha-ha, never mind," Moist said, spiriting away the hourglass somewhere onto his person. "The point of this is that there's no way someone could have slipped it into my pocket."

"Yes, we've heard that one before. Listen, don't feel bad about it; whoever's doing this is mighty fast."

"No, you misunderstand me, Commander Vimes," Moist said. "There is no way someone put this in my pocket. I know every trick in the book." He coughed. "Through study, of course. I watch out for that sort of thing. And anyway, I spent most of my day sequestered in my office with only the occasional company of the Head Post Office Cat, and Mr. Tiddles certainly doesn't have the age for reverse-pickpocketing any more."

There was that chill again. "What are you saying, Moist?"

"I'm saying, Vimes, that maybe it's time you start looking beyond the natural for this little problem of ours."

"I was afraid you'd say that," said Vimes, sighing.

Moist nodded, satisfied with the turn the conversation had gone even if Vimes wasn't particularly. Then, suddenly, he grinned. This, Vimes thought, was Moist von Lipwig's real smile. It was worrying. "And you better get on it quick," Moist said. "Because no golems have gotten one yet, and my fiancee is raring ready to go with a discrimination lawsuit."

Vimes goggled. "They want hourglasses?"

"Oh, no, they're as wary as a golem can be, which I have to admit is not that much. But Adora Belle says it's the principle of the thing."

"Who is Miss Dearheart planning on suing?"

"Oh, I expect she'll find someone," said Moist, proudly. "Goodbye, Commander Vimes. Good luck with this mystery."

"Don't say that," Vimes groaned as Moist exited the office as unmemorably as he came. "I hate mysteries."

After a moment of consideration, deep longing for the bottle of rotgut in his top desk drawer that Sybil had already confiscated, and deep despair, Vimes made himself get up and go to Angua's office.

"I'm going to see the University," he told her, looking under the desk.

She poked a head up. "These nutters are going to drive me mad," she said. "No one saw you come in here, did they?" Then his words registered and she stood up, brushing off her knees. "Oh, is that an invitation? If not, I'm coming anyway."

"Yes, it's an invitation, Captain von Uberwald," Vimes said. What he didn't say was, you think I'm going to talk to the wizards all on my own?

No one liked going to the Unseen University. There was something about it that bothered the mind, made your eyes want to skip over it if you weren't a wizard or a student. Maybe it was the fact that it sometimes looked like the top floors had been built before the bottom, or that you could occasionally happen on a professor who was not so much ignoring the laws of physics as sticking his thumbs in his ears and yelling "neener-neener-neener!"

Vimes sulked along the octagonal lawn.

Angua sneezed. "I hate the smell of magic," she said.

"What does it smell like?" Vimes asked, morbidly curious. In Ankh-Morpork, morbid was often the only kind of curiosity you'd got.

"You know Corporal Nobbs?"

"Oh, gods," said Vimes, suddenly overwhelmed with sympathy for Angua.

"Kind of like that tobacco he gets from the hat shop on Widdershins Avenue that's not a hat shop," Angua said. "And lightning. And Klatchian apple pies."

Vimes grunted in response, still recovering from the shock of having to imagine smelling Nobby with anything but a regular nose and a good position upwind.

They were greeted at the main door by a student who was obviously in training for something or other, and whose pointy shoes fit him badly. He had apparently been informed by the gates that they were coming, because he didn't ask questions, just led them up a corridor and then a long series of winding staircases.

Angua was apparently holding her breath, with a pinched look on her face. Vimes should have brought Detritus, who had no sense of smell, except he wouldn't fit in the hallways. Someone who wouldn't be bothered by the smell.

The student eventually led them to what felt like a very high tower. Vimes had been there before, but only once or twice— it was Archchancellor Ridcully's office. He raised his eyebrows, trying to catch his breath.

"Yeah, sorry about the stairs," said the student, misinterpreting the eyebrows. "Archancellor Ridcully thinks we should all be getting more exercise." He shrugged and ambled off, in the plodding defeated way of a man who has to climb several sets of stairs each way to get to his boss' office.

He left them there.

"Why are we getting sent straight to the Archchancellor?" asked Angua, who was a little quicker on the uptake, Eyebrow-wise. "By all rights, we should be talking to the assistant of an assistant right now."

"I guess there's only one way to find out," Vimes said, and knocked on the huge, forbidding doors of the office.

"Come in, come in!" shouted an irritated voice from the depths, and Angua and Vimes worked together to push the doors open.

They entered to find Archchancellor Ridcully sans wizard robes but plus a tracksuit and his wizard hat, which stood to an impressive point considering the man was doing pushups. Vimes, who had unfortunately met the man before, was not surprised.

Angua had presumably heard rumors, or Vimes' complaints each and every time he came back to the Watch House after having to deal with the man at some event or another. Vimes was sure he couldn't say which one it was. She didn't look surprised either way.

The two members of the Watch looked down at him as Ridcully strained down, then up again. "…and, one-hundred," he said, then stood up. "I was wondering when you would show up."

"You were welcome to come down to the Yard if you had any complaints," said Vimes innocently. He didn't appreciate the implication that the Watch was remiss in their duties— and if Ridcully had thought he could help, he should have just come in.

"I appreciate the invitation," said Ridcully, glaring.

"Thanks for taking the time to speak to us," Angua said. She had clearly been spending too much time with Carrot of late. "I suppose you know why we're here."

Ridcully looked smug. "Of course I do. I'm a wizard."

"How nice for you," Vimes said, and took a seat in front of Ridcully's desk without asking for permission. Angua followed, then, after a discomfited pause, Ridcully came up from behind him and sat in his chair. There were all sorts of dangerous-looking things scattered over the desk: glowing green things, things that spun without anything spinning them, and sports magazines.

"You're here about the hourglasses," Ridcully said, seizing on the opportunity to make himself look impressive again.

"Have you been getting them here at the University?" Angua asked.

Ridcully shifted uncomfortably. He didn't want to admit there was something at his school going on that he didn't know about— besides, of course, the sanctioned mysteries in the Creative Uncertainty department, and whatever was going on in the Library. "Here and there," he admitted. "We wizards can sometimes be distracted by our rigorous academic studies; too busy, you see, to worry about things like timers."

The kind of silence passed that indicated that three out of the three conversants knew what had just been said was utter nonsense, but wouldn't mention it.

"So do you know what they are?" Vimes asked, before his mouth could run off without him and mention it anyway.

The Archchancellor frowned. "Not as such," he said. "We're looking into it. The most I can tell you is that it's not a result of any experiments going on here. I've checked in with each department myself. Some of the fellows are actually wondering how to duplicate it." He was lost for a moment to the glaze of an academic wondering how he could show up another, smarter man, but shook it off quickly.

"But it is magic?" Vimes said.

"Er, probably," hedged the Archchancellor. He saw the expressions on Vimes and Angua's faces. "You see, that is, they must be, because of certain properties they possess."

"Like miraculously showing up in people's pockets and underthings and socks," Angua suggested.

"Or being completely indestructible," Vimes said.

"Yes, there is that," said Ridcully. "But you see, we are very advanced here at the University, with capabilities beyond your measure. And we have ways of measuring magic." He paused. "Well, not measuring, the last chaps who tried that ended up with their brains leaking out their ears. But we can detect it, you understand."

"And you're not detecting it from the hourglasses?" asked Angua.

"Have you ever tried to look for a black cat in a black room?"

"No," said Vimes.

"Well, it's like that," Ridcully said. "Only it's a room full of black cats, and you're trying to hear past static and someone keeps thumping you 'round the head."

They stared uncomprehendingly.

"Whatever it is, this is no magic we've ever seen on the Disc," Ridcully said. "And that worries us, just a bit."

So it was still up to the Watch to solve this, not that Vimes had actually expected the wizards to be helpful. He stood up. "Come down to the Watch House if you uncover anything," he said.

He and Angua gave brief, brusque nods, and left unceremoniously.

That headache of his was returning with full force.