Who Watches the Watch?

Chapter 7

Noakes lay flat on the roof of the Timber Warehouse. His mind was reeling. Below him, charging through the streets baying for his blood was what looked like a mob. And among them were... watchmen? He blinked, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. But it was obvious – the Watch had half of Ankh-Morpork hunting him down! He rolled onto his back and stared at the heavens. Gods, is that how he was viewed now, as a fugitive? But... Commander Vimes had allowed this? His own Watch Commander had betrayed him to a mob?

He plucked at his badge, looking confused, and then got up and staggered away... over the rooftops and in the opposite direction to the Watch House.

-o0o-

Carrot and his team now covered the entire length of Treacle Mine Road. He'd also got a second team moving down The Scours. His plan had been carefully considered. After covering almost the entire city, all that was now left between Noakes' last known position and the place he was supposedly last seen was The Shades. Carrot was quietly confident. That's where the net would close...

-o0o-

Vimes and Angua emerged from Ainsley Quent's flat. Vimes looked anxious.

"You'll have to escort Mr. Quent back to the Yard, Angua," he said, maintaining a vice-like grip on his dis-organizer. "You realize now that it's imperative I catch up with Carrot?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you sure you'll be all right with that?"

"Of course, sir."

Vimes looked grim. "I really thought we'd found our killer, Angua..."

"Yes, sir. So did I."

"You know what this means, don't you?"

"Yes, sir... It means if you don't hurry we're going to find ourselves short of a Watch Captain..."

-o0o-

Carrot had reached the Whore Pits. He was now spearheading his team in a mammoth sweep across The Shades.

Ahead of Carrot, heartsick and confused, was the man he was so desperate to find.

And behind Carrot, because Carrot now had a better handle on things than he did himself, was Walby Birkett...

-o0o-

Vimes got as far as Treacle Mine Road, and then grabbed a runner. "Where's Captain Carrot?" he barked. "I need his exact location! Now!"

"Organizing a sweep down The Shades, sir! They've just passed the Whore Pits!"

"Right! Run on ahead of me! Tell him Commander Vimes has new information, and he's coming to join him! Got that?

"Yessir!"

"Off you go, then! Quick as you can!"

-o0o-

Carrot was nearing Shamlegger Street when a corporal came running up to him.

"Captain Carrot, sir! I think you should see this!" The corporal was waving something about excitedly.

"What is it?" said Carrot, taking it from him. He looked troubled; it was a watchman's badge.

"Where did you find this?" said Carrot.

"End of Shamlegger's, sir!"

"How long ago?"

"Not long, sir! I've just come up from there!"

"Who else is down there?"

"Only Ron and me, and half a dozen volunteers."

"Good. Go back there now. I'm bringing down more men."

"It's his, sir, isn't it?" said the corporal excitedly. "Captain Noakes? I recognize the number!"

"Yes, it is. Now get moving, and keep your voice down..."

Carrot watched him go and then moved off himself to sight himself up with the nearest clacks tower.

The minute he'd gone, Walby Birkett detached himself from the wall. His face split into a grin.

"This way, lads..." he whispered.

-o0o-

Vimes had just reached Shamlegger's himself, when the runner he'd sent off to Carrot returned to him.

"Reply from Captain Carrot, sir!" the runner gasped. "He says please hurry! Captain Noakes has been spotted, sir, and Walby and his gang are there! Carrot's not sure how long he can hold them off!"

Damn, damn, damn! Vimes thought. You must hold them off, Carrot!

"Where are they?" Vimes demanded.

"The Buttermarket, sir!"

"Right! Tell him I'm on my way!"

Vimes ran for the Buttermarket as if in a dream... and as if to remind him of his urgency, Ainsley Quent's nasal whine began replaying itself in his head...

"...Celia Fletcher was an attractive woman, commander. I was hardly complaining when she came on to me like she did..."

"I see. And you thought the perfect place to entertain her was down an alley, did you?"

"No... It was just one of the many places we ended up. She was rather... adventurous, commander. Really, I'd never known anyone quite like her. I found it all a bit... exciting, you know?"

"No. Sorry, Mr. Quent, I can't say that I do."

"Well, anyway, it was fun for a while. She was fun. But when I tried to break it off... oh, then I saw a change."

"What sort of a change?"

"My gods, she turned into a harpy! There was no more sweetness then. I attempted to smooth it over, said I'd reconsider our relationship, and for a while, I thought she seemed fine."

"She wasn't, obviously?"

"No, she became more and more demanding; almost as if she was testing me. Eventually, it reached a point where I just wanted to end it. It just wasn't enjoyable any more. It was her idea to go down the alley again. Really, I don't know why I agreed, but she was so insistent."

"Is that why you were carrying a knife?"

"I'm sorry?

"You were carrying a knife when you entered the alley. Is that the reason why?"

"I'm sorry, commander, I think you've misunderstood. It was Celia who produced the knife."

"Are you saying she was intending to kill you?"

"Oh no, commander. That wasn't her intention, at all."

Vimes reached the Buttermarket. Noakes could be seen on top of the main building. He was surrounded and perilously close to the edge. Carrot could be seen at the head of the mob, his arms outstretched, trying to hold back Walby Birkett. Below, the streets were congested. Market traders were stopping to watch, parking their carts just anywhere. "What in the hells are you playing at?" Vimes yelled at them. "Get those damn carts out of the road! Park them over there!" Vimes pushed his way through the crowd, searching for the way up. Damnit! he thought, I've only got one chance at this and it's slipping away! Then he spotted the fire escape, and ran for it like hell.

-o0o-

Back on the roof, Carrot had managed to calm things down just a little...

"It's all right, Noakes..." he said. "No one's going to hurt you. We just want to talk... Now, you've never lied to me before, have you?"

"No..." Noakes quavered.

"So tell me the truth now, Noakes. Who killed that woman?"

"I-I did..."

"I told you that!" Edna Winslow screamed, suddenly stepping out from behind Walby Birkett. "I saw him!"

"I know what she saw!" Vimes yelled, pushing his way through them.

"We all know what she saw, commander!" said Walby Birkett; full of himself now, stepping out in front of Vimes as though Vimes had just interrupted his investigation. "And we all know if it wasn't for me, the killer might never have been found!" He grinned and turned to the crowd, looking for all the world as if he was expecting a round of applause.

Noakes moved like lightning.

"Stay back!" he said, pressing a blade to Walby's throat.

Walby's Adam's apple bobbed.

Well, you asked for that, Walby... Vimes thought.

He took a step forward.

A wet patch blossomed on the front of Walby's trousers.

Oh, this was a moment to savour...

Vimes casually took out a Pantweed's slim panetella and stuck it between his teeth. "You should be careful with that knife, Noakes," he said, patting his pockets for a match. "One careless slip, and it could be 'Goodnight Walby'. And that would be a shame, because Walby here has been invaluable in helping me to hunt you down." Vimes lit his cigar and took a deep, satisfying draw. "See, this lynch mob here was all Walby's idea, wasn't it, Walby? And you know something, Noakes? Supposing you were to just... carelessly slit his throat, well, I wouldn't even be able to punish you for it. Because everyone knows a man can't hang twice..." He smiled beatifically.

Noakes looked disgusted. He threw down the knife, and jumped.

Everyone ran to the edge.

Walby was left standing like a statue.

"How did you know he wouldn't kill me...?" he croaked, as Vimes strolled towards him in a cloud of cigar smoke.

"I didn't," said Vimes.

"You're kidding... right?"

"Nope."

"You mean I might have actually been killed?"

"If he'd been a bad man, yes. But I've always tried to discourage that sort of thing in the Watch, Walby. You see, we've never yet had a killer watchman. And we still don't."

"But he said—"

"I know what he said, Walby. And I have it all here..." Vimes waved the dis-organizer at him. "The truth."

"So, what just happened to him...?"

"He'll be in our safekeeping, and he'll get a fair trial. Like he deserves."

"It's all right, commander!" Carrot called out. "It looks as though Captain Noakes has been safely gathered up!"

Vimes acknowledged him with a nod, and then turned back to Walby. "And now, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Birkett, I have an investigation to wrap up. I'm sure you won't mind my officers accompanying you back to the Yard?"

Vimes turned to the crowd. "All right, everyone! Show's over! Get back to whatever it was you were doing!"

"Gosh, that was lucky, sir!" said Carrot, falling in beside him.

"What, Noakes not killing Walby? Hardly."

"No, sir!" said Carrot. "I meant the way those carts down there were just parked like that!"

-o0o-

Back at the Watch House, Vimes and Angua were playing back the remainder of the dis-organizer recording for the benefit of Carrot...

"...So, just what was Celia's intention, Mr. Quent?"

"She said I was going to have to live with the consequences of my actions."

"And you knew what she meant by that?"

"At the time, no. But now, it's obvious!"

"It is?"

"Of course it is! The woman was unhinged! She was capable of anything!"

"Even so, I'd rather I heard it in your own words, Mr. Quent..."

"All right. She said she was never going to be left alone, and I'd pay for trying to abandon her! Well, I didn't stop to think, I just snatched the knife away. My gods, how she screamed! Before I knew it, a watchman was disarming me. He pushed me aside, and for some stupid reason I thought Celia was going to run off. But no, she went mad then - flew at him like a banshee! They fell against the wall, struggling for the knife, and I left them to it. I just ran off. It was only later, when that woman screamed 'Murder!', that I realized what Celia had been intending. And to think I could have been framed for that!"

"You could have told someone this. Why didn't you?"

"Isn't that obvious, commander? I wasn't supposed to be there! Celia was someone else's wife!"

"That didn't seem to bother you when you started your affair."

"Oh, don't look at me like that, commander! That was different. Anyway, what was there to gain by telling anyone? No one knew about us, and I didn't know how I was going to end it, so... let's just say I didn't exactly mourn her passing."

"You cold bastard."

"Are you allowed to talk to me like that? Is he allowed to talk to me like that, miss? And anyway, I don't suppose you can charge me with being a cold bastard, can you?"

"I won't need to. I'll think of something better...!"

Vimes closed the lid of the dis-organizer...

"I don't think it's necessary for you to hear the rest, Carrot..." he said, retrieving his dis-organizer from Angua. "So, Celia Fletcher accomplished half of what she'd set out to do," he continued. "Except it was poor Noakes who was holding the knife when she did it. Noakes was just trying to restrain her; that's what Edna Winslow witnessed as her 'unwillingness'. But Celia wasn't trying to push the knife away; she was trying to draw it nearer. It was easy for her then. I don't think Noakes even realized what had happened..."

"But Noakes knew Ainsley was in the alley..." said Carrot. "Why didn't he say anything?"

"Because by now Noakes was running for his life. And what would he say? Ainsley wasn't guilty of anything. As far as Noakes knew, he'd killed the woman."

"Gods, the torment he must have been in," said Angua. "Oh... and that badge Carrot picked up, sir? It was covered in the same smell as the smell I detected in the alley. Only much, much stronger..."

"You mean the sadness?" said Vimes.

"Yes... but it wasn't sadness, at all," said Angua. "It was sorrow. Noakes didn't drop his badge, he threw it away."

"No!" said Carrot. "Noakes loved his badge!"

"Yes..." said Angua; and shook her head. "And to think we were expecting him to come in."

"I think he was," said Vimes. "Why else risk leaving the relative safety of the sewers? But one look at us lot hunting him down must have put the fear of the gods into him. Poor bastard."

"At least you taught Walby Birkett a lesson, sir," said Carrot.

"Well, I hope so," said Vimes.

"But you were sure of Noakes' innocence even before all this, weren't you, sir?" said Angua. "And yet, even on the roof, you couldn't have been certain, could you?"

"I was as certain as I was ever going to be, Angua. And in the end, Noakes himself proved it."

"I don't understand..."

Vimes looked thoughtful. "What's that saying Sergeant Colon's fond of?" he said.

"I know, sir!" said Carrot. "'Bugger this for a game of soldiers'?"

"No, that's Nobby's favourite, Carrot."

"I think I know, sir..." said Angua. "'You never find out a person's true nature until the chips are down'?"

"Yeah..." said Vimes, nodding. "That's the one."

-o0o-

Downstairs, Nobby and Colon were happily returning to more routine police procedures...

Nobby was pouring the tea while Colon doled out the biscuits.

"This is more like it, eh, Nobby?" said Colon. "A bit of normalcy?"

"Yeah..." said Nobby, who didn't exactly feel qualified to comment on any condition beginning with the word 'normal'.

Two mugs of tea were picked up and thoughtfully sipped.

"You know, I can't say I've ever been keen on excitement, Nobby," Colon mused.

"I can't say I've ever been offered any, Fred..."

Two biscuits were ritually dunked.

"But I'll tell you something, Nobby. I'm glad I was wrong about Noakes."

"Yeah, so am I, Fred," said Nobby, brightening up. "'Cos that's five dollars you owe me..."

-o0o-

The End.

A/n: Well, that's it. I hope it entertained you for a while. I am planning another story, if anyone's interested. Reader enjoyment is my only incentive to post, so please let me know what you thought of this one (without spoiling the ending for others, please!)

And now, to everyone who's read this story: Thank you. Your time is appreciated more than you'll ever know.

To those who reviewed: VimesLady, Matroushka, Failed Redemption, ihadanepiphany, Mad Possum, jingle360, and Rambina, I dedicate this fic to you.

Thank you, one and all. I couldn't have done it without you.