Disclaimer: All Discworld characters belong to Terry Pratchett. I own nothing. I'm just inspired to write stuff Mr. Pratchett isn't likely to. No disrespect is intended.
Who Watches the Watch?
Captain James Noakes, City Watch, was making his way home. He savoured finishing his shift on winter evenings. Yes, it was cold, but at this time of year Ankh-Morpork always seemed fresh and still. And best of all, it was peaceful.
He passed a beggar and dropped a few coins into his hat. "You should go home," he said, "there's no one else around."
The old man raised milky eyes and chuckled, "there's always you, kind sir..."
Noakes grinned and walked on.
Across the street, a couple slipped down an alleyway. Noakes had always wondered about the attraction of alleys. There were better places to court a young lady, surely? Not that he was an expert on the subject. Most likely it was someone playing the field. Which wasn't against the law... so it wasn't his concern.
A gasp escaped the alley...
Noakes walked on.
And then, a sudden "No...!"
And then, a scream.
Noakes ran back.
Now it was his concern!
High above the alley, an upstairs window opened. A woman's head poked out – alerted by the scream and the commotion below. In the gloom of the alley it took her a while to make out what was happening. And then it became clear… and she saw the dead woman, and the watchman standing over her holding a bloodied knife.
A second scream pierced the night.
Commander Vimes looked across the dining table at his wife. Her auburn hair was glowing like fire in the candlelight. He'd given Willikins, the butler, the night off; stoked up the fire and locked all the doors. Nights like this were rare and he was determined to make the most of it. Sybil smiled as his hand slid across the table. She slipped her hand into his... and someone rapped on the door.
"Oh, for the love of—"
Sybil tried not to look disappointed. "I'll wait while you answer it, Sam."
Vimes got up and went to the door. It was Carrot, looking more earnest than usual. Vimes scowled at him and slipped outside, partly closing the door behind him.
"Carrot, I thought I told you to—"
"Yes, sir, I know you did. But I thought you'd want to know about this, sir."
"This had better be good, Carrot."
"No, sir, it's awful. A woman's been murdered, sir. And the killer is a watchman."
Vimes' mind reeled as he and Carrot made their way back to the Watch House.
"Noakes?" said Vimes. "A murderer?"
"Yes, sir," said Carrot. "We have a witness who said she saw everything, sir."
"Drunk, was she?"
"Oh no, sir! Edna Winslow is a reliable member of the community."
Oh yes, thought Vimes, we have lots of them...
"She said she heard voices outside, sir, and then a woman's scream. And when she looked out, she said Noakes and the woman were, er..."
"Were what, Carrot?"
"Yes, sir. But she said the woman didn't appear, um... willing, sir."
"Willing? Willing to do what?"
"We'll probably never know, sir. That's when Noakes stabbed her."
Word of the killer watchman had got around fast. By the time Vimes and Carrot had reached the Watch House, a crowd was already gathering outside. The questions started flying as soon as the pair appeared.
"What are you gonna do about this, Commander Vimes?" a voice demanded.
Vimes didn't bother looking at the speaker. "Well, we'll investigate, of course," he said.
"What's the point?" the voice insisted. "You already know who the killer is."
"No. We don't. All we have is one woman's word."
"And you'd rather believe one of your own, eh? Even if he's a killer?"
Vimes turned now and looked at the speaker. Walby Birkett.
"No, I just want the truth," said Vimes.
"And meanwhile, we got a killer loose in our city?"
Our city, Vimes noted. "Walby, we'd have a killer loose in our city anyway. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather we hang the right man."
Vimes pushed his way past him and made his way into the Watch House.
"How long's that lot been out there?" he growled at Colon, who appeared to have shrunk somewhat behind his high desk.
"Not long, sir. They seem a bit agitated, though, don't they, sir?"
"Well, they can remain agitated outside, Fred. No one's to come in here unless they've got useful information, you understand?"
Vimes took the stairs to his office two at a time. "Come on, Carrot!"
Carrot followed, gathering the necessary paperwork on the way.
"Right," said Vimes, when Carrot had closed the door. "What do we have?"
"Well, we have a dead woman, sir – stabbed – and one witness who said she saw Noakes kill her."
"Then all we really have is a dead woman."
"And a witness, sir."
"No, sir. Noakes must have taken the knife with him."
"You still think Noakes did this, Carrot?"
"Well, the evidence does suggest—"
"What evidence? We don't have anything except a dead woman!"
"Well, that and the fact that Noakes has done a runner, sir..."
Vimes fell into his chair.
"All right..." He struggled to take it all in. "If he panicked, that would be his first thought, naturally. But that only means he's scared, Carrot. It doesn't mean he's a killer."
"Well, we'll still need to find him, sir."
"Yes, Carrot, we will. And we'll need to find him fast. Because I want to find out who really killed that woman."
Nobby peered from a Watch House window. "There's more of 'em out there now, Fred..."
"Nobby, I told you to come away!"
"I'm trying to hear what they're saying..." Nobby craned his neck. "They think he did it, Fred."
"Well, maybe he did..."
"Fred! You can't really think that?"
"It don't matter what I think, Nobby. We have to deal with facts. And the fact is, the witness swears she saw him do it, and now he's done a runner. Innocent men don't run, Nobby, they give themselves up."
"I don't think he did it, Fred..."
"No, well, you haven't seen all the things I've seen, have you?"
Nobby pondered this; Sergeant Colon was a Man of the World. "I've seen him be kind to Errol, Fred..."
Colon scoffed. "So he likes animals." He lowered his voice and looked around conspiratorially. "But we both know he don't like wimmin."
Vimes drummed his fingers on his desk. "Damn. We need more witnesses, Carrot."
"There's already men on it, sir."
"Which men? I want people on this I can trust, Carrot!"
"Well, you know, people who aren't... biased in any way. Against Noakes, I mean."
"They're all good men, sir," said Carrot reproachfully, "And one woman."
"Angua's on this? Good... good." Vimes continued to drum his fingers. "What about Cheery?"
"On her way as we speak, sir."
"Right. I want to investigate that scene myself, too. And speak to our witness. I'm determined to get to the bottom of this, Carrot. I want the truth – whatever it turns out to be."
Sergeant Angua prowled the scene. The witness had been telling the truth. Captain Noakes had been here recently.
So had about a score of other people...
The multicolour display was bewildering, but it was nowhere near as bad as the reek.
Amid the time-honoured concoction of urine and vomit, she could detect... Anger... Fear... and Blood.
Well, those weren't totally unexpected.
But there was something else. Something she didn't usually find at crime scenes...