Troubleshooting: What To Do When Your Wife Has Your Manual/Journal And Will Not Give It Back
In which a rumor is not really just a rumor by any other name, and smells as disturbingly New(s) as ever
The rumor spread through the city like wildfire (which had quite often spread through Ankh-Morpork since the citizens had learned the words 'fire insurance').
The dwarfs can turn lead into gold...
And it reached the Watch's ears, which tended to be scarred and came in all shapes and sizes (except vampire(a)).
"I don't think so, sir," said Captain Carrot, who was standing to attention in front of Commander Vimes' desk so attentively that his tendons and other important stringy things were starting to whine from the tension. "It's not a very Dwarfish thing to do."
"I thought they - er, you, that is," Vimes corrected himself, catching Carrot's mildly reproachful expression, "like gold better than lead?"
"Oh, yes, sir. But we don't try to change one element to the other. We like them as are, generally. It wouldn't be Dwarfish to try to do that sort of thing."
"Yes, yes, you said." Vimes sighed. "What else is happening?"
"Sir, I'm a little concerned about how the rumor was started -"
"A rumor like it goes around about every other hour. I wouldn't be too worried if I were you, Captain. What else?"
Which just goes to show that even the, well, the most cynical of cynics can be too trusting.
(a) Because Commander Vimes didn't like vampires.
Such did not occur to Vimes the next morning, however, when he was woken in a way that was not only rude but also indecent and probably immoral in some of the stricter religions.
He winced and clapped both hands over his ears.
"Bloody hells," said the Duke to no one in particular.
At least, he thought he was saying it to no one in particular. Unfortunately he was proved wrong.
"I meant heck," said Vimes, sitting up and looking as contrite as possible. Sybil had gotten up some time ago, apparently, and was sitting with her back to him at the big old desk(a) by the door.
"I'm sure," she said, but distractedly. There was a subtle shaking to her shoulders that suggested suppressed laughter. Vimes frowned. This was worrying.
"Uh, Sybil," he said, tentatively, "what are you doing?"
"Oh, nothing," she said. Yes, the amusement was creeping into her voice now. Within the confines of his own head, Vimes started to swear again.
"Come on, tell," he said.
"If you must know," said Sybil, apparently savoring the words, "I'm reading your diary. Manual, that is."
"Oh gods," said Vimes, closing his eyes in the manner of one doomed (which he was).
"It's very interesting."
"Like the bit where you wondered what the pillow was actually for and whether we should try it -"
"Help me," said Vimes, to Snouty, who was on the nightstand, chewing a sock solemnly. Snouty looked at him. Vimes looked back, plaintively.
Snouty swallowed his sock and then, thanks to the peculiarities of the draconic digestive system, started chewing it again.
Vimes groaned and rolled back over to face the ceiling. For a while, the only sound was the turning of pages.
Pause. Vimes thought it ominous.
"Hmm," said Sybil.
"Huh," said Sybil.
"Really?" said Sybil.
"Sybil..." said Vimes.
Vimes relaxed slightly. "The nomenclature system of Ankh-Morpork's criminal elements is getting a wee bit complicated."
They shared a moment of silent resignation to the fact that was Carrot, then Sybil remembered that she was holding her husband's diary and thus was forbidden to show any mercy unto him whatsoever. She did at least decide to change tack, however.
"So," she said, in a dangerously calm tone, "why were you using your Dis-organizer's instruction manual?"
"I grabbed the thing closest to hand because I needed to write something down and it became a habit?"
"Conveniently bypassing the log I bought for you last Hogswatch?"
"I didn't want to mar the nice pages," said Vimes, which was in fact true, although it wasn't why he had been using the manual, of course.
"So all those times I told you to go read your manual and you very exaggeratedly took it out and spent a great deal of time with it at your desk and then said there was nothing for it but the hammer again..."
"Would I have kept a diary in my Dis-organizer's manual just to unkindly decieve you, Sybil?" said Vimes innocently.
Luckily (for him), he didn't get a chance to hear her response, because just then Willikins appeared at the door.
"Captain Carrot to see you, sir."
"I am unaware -"
"Right, good man, yes, I see, urgent, I'll just have to be off then," said Vimes, and was dressed and out the door in record time.
"Amazing," murmured Sybil to herself, and waved at the back of his helmet before returning to her fascinating reading.
(a) It had first been purchased by her great-great-great-grandfather, Wilhelm Ramkin, or more accurately by her great-great-great-grandfather's first wife, who had ordered it on the basis that, well, it was in style, wasn't it? Even if it clashed terribly with the Horrible Pink(b) of the drawing room they had intended to put it in. Other less fashion-conscious, weaker-stomached individuals eventually relegated it to the bedroom.
(b) It probably will not surprise the reader to learn that the look of Horrible Pink and Brownish Orangish was, two hundred years after Wilhelm's death, finally in fashion.
It was a nice day.
Admittedly, it was a chilly nice day, but a nice day nevertheless. The sun was shining, weakly, the icy fog was clearing up, the birds were making squelching noises, the ice was slushifying in the streets, etc. Vimes liked days like these; the cold was almost as good as rain for keeping people - 'people' in this case including the unspoken appendage of 'who break the law' - indoors.
"Morning, Carrot," he said as he emerged from the Ramkin mansion.
"Good morning, sir," said Carrot, saluting. "I didn't wake you up, then? It's rather early."
"Oh no, not at all," said Vimes, and deciding not to mention the Complex Situation he had just escaped continued, "I was already awake. Yes. Right."
"If you say so, sir. Anyway, I thought you should know that the rumor wasn't just a rumor. Or at least, not quite. And there seems to be quite a lot of fuss about it..."
"What? What rumor?"
"The rumor I was telling you about the other day? You remember, the one about the dwarves turning lead into gold?"
"Oh. Yes. What about it?"
Carrot hesitated. "It's... printing, sir."
"Printing?" Vimes looked blank. "Who the hells would be dense enough to try printing within twenty miles of an Engravers' Guild?"
"Sir," said Carrot, but without malice. It was true - you'd have to be a complete numbskull or have been raised under a big, big rock to try that - and they both knew it.
He sighed. "All right. Start a new file in our Suicides Drawer, will you?"
Vimes remembered that Carrot, while fully comprehending the Morporkian conception of suicide, always failed to understand how Vimes was able to predict... suicides... five seconds into Carrot's description of such a case. "Never mind. Lead printing presses, eh?"
"Mr. Goodmountain and associates."
"Huh." Absently, Vimes took out a cigar, lit one end, and inhaled deeply(a), and stuck it in his mouth. "What are they using the presses for, exactly?"
"I'm not sure, sir."
They started down Scoone Avenue, falling automatically into a watchmen's strolling walk. They were interrupted in their path towards the Yard fairly quickly, however, when none other than Altogether Andrews came barreling out of the alleyway.
Altogether Andrews was a sad example of what happens to mediums less poised than Mrs. Cake in such a occultly potent city. Vimes was pretty sure he could vaguely recall seeing an advertisement for 'A Spiritual Aide for anyone with juft ten pence to spare for a half hour session with Andrew, Famous Medium!' years and years ago, and perhaps it was for that reason that he always looked upon the many-faced Andrews with a slight feeling of guilt, accompanied, naturally, by a rather more prominent desire to laugh, which he did his utmost best to suppress.
"Anakanak...EXT!" bellowed the current inhabitant of Andrews' body.
"Excuse me?" said Vimes. Carrot wisely took a step back.
"Oh, hallo there yer graciousness," said a voice that Vimes recognized as Mr. Viddle's. The Commander changed his stance ever so slightly, and looked less hostile - he had once, at a distance, caught a glimpse of Burke, but Viddle was all right, or at least no worse than, say, Dibbler(b).
"Good morning, Mr. Viddle," said Carrot, just behind him.
"Right you are, cap'n. A fine morning it is, an' would you care for a fine copy of Ankh-Morpork's new news sheet - the Ankh-Morpork Times?"
Vimes opened his mouth to say something sarcastic that would have amounted to a 'no thanks', but the Captain spoke first.
"Yes indeed, Mr. Viddle, we would like a copy. How much is it?"
"There you are, sir," said Carrot to the triumphant Viddle, unperturbed by his superior officer's amusement. "Twenty pence, and good day to you."
"Thankee very much, cap'n," said Viddle, proffering a damp greyish sheet. Vimes took it, cautiously, and Viddle disappeared as suddenly as he had come through some secret alleyway that only Beggars - or ex-Beggars - knew(c).
"The Ankh-Morpork Times," Vimes read aloud off the top of the page. "Why did you buy this, Carrot?"
"I think that's what the printing press dwarves have been working on, sir."
"Ah, I see. Hmm." He flipped through it idly. "Fifty-six hurt in a tavern brawl? No there bloody well weren't! Can't have been more than half a dozen who were out of it by the time the place closed. I ought to know, I was the one banging old Nork's head against the wall-"
"It does seem a little odd, sir. Perhaps a misprint?"
"No doubt. Here, you take a look." He thrust the paper towards Carrot, who hesitated ever so slightly. "It won't bite."
"Sir," said Carrot, taking the paper and reading it carefully, index finger out. Vimes waited patiently for about 0.000067 seconds before proceeding onwards and ignoring Carrot's reproachful looks as the young man hurried, several moments later, to catch up.
"Well, there's nothing very interesting written inside."
"Hah!" said Vimes, again. "Famous last words, Carrot, famous last words."
"Really, sir? Whose?"
Still after perusing it more meticulously, even Vimes had to admit it seemed quite harmless. He even forgot about it, or rather, he didn't think about it once he got to the Watch House until he heard the excited shouting nearby and went out just in time to see William de Worde climbing onto the parapet of Welcome Soap, notebook and pen in hand.
(a) Generally a dangerous enterprise in Ankh-Morpork, but Vimes was in relatively good shape and had a few years left before his sense of smell even thought about returning.
(b) Not that that was hard.
(c) And Viddle was, in fact, an ex-Beggar. Once an esteemed(d) member of that noble Guild, he had been thrown out by Queen Molly's Merry Men when it was discovered that he was, on the side, disguised in false mustache and glasses, working in a job at the local pharmacy, by way of a sort of secret vice. He died whilst in a scheduled explosion at the Alchemists' Guild House, through a freak incident involving several alembics and a cork. His wandering spirit found the pleasantly open mind of Andrew a few days later... and, well, the rest is history.
(d) Esteemed by other Beggars, that is.
There was another man up on the ledge, besides the lad currently ascending the narrow stairs that led up to it. Vimes squinted at him.
"Is that... Arthur Crank?" he asked Corporal Nobbs, who was standing at ease - or rather slouching at ease - beside him.
"Looks like it, sir."
"Who's that other fellow, the skinny bloke with the notebook?"
"Dunno, sir. He was saying something about 'getting the story' earlier, though."
"Yessir. We din't know what to make of it either, sir."
"I don't doubt that," Vimes muttered darkly, his eyes on the figures above him. "Stay where you our, Corporal, I've got a hunch that one of the two is going to need some help."
"Yessir!" said Nobby, bringing himself proudly to something slightly more vertical, in an averaged out sort of way, than previously. Vimes was already lost in the crowd.
The amiably disfigured watchman turned back to the scene on the parapet, cheering everyone on indiscriminately and doing so especially loudly when the other fellow, the skinny bloke with the notebook, fainted, which he considered well worth the loss of the sight of Mrs. Crank haranguing her morbidly inclined husband.
Vimes was less pleased about the whole business, but since it appeared that Detritus' bucket of chalk would be unnecessary, he left Nobbs to terrorize the unfortunate young man with the notebook in order to find Angua.
"Sergeant!" he said loudly, catching a glimpse of long blonde hair as the werewolf sergeant passed.
"Sir?" she said, turning around and ignoring the large man with the revolving eyeball who almost walked into her.
"What were they saying up there? I couldn't hear."
"Nothing very special, sir."
"Is that the phrase of the a day, or what?" He waved a hand dismissively at her blank look. "Never mind. Look, special or no I'd like to know."
"If you say so, sir."
"That one too!"
"Er... nothing. Thinking of something Captain Carrot said. Well?"
"Uh... de Worde -"
"That was Lord de Worde up there? You're kidding me!"
"Oh, no sir. That was his son - William, I think it is. They're... estranged," she added.
"That would make more sense - hmm," said Vimes, thoughtfully. "Estranged, eh? Go on."
"Er, de Worde said that he wanted the man's name and address and profession."
Vimes thought of the neat little names on the first page of the Ankh-Morpork Times, details about their owners next to them...
"Bugger," he said.
"What is it?"
"I'm... not sure. I'll bet you anything, though, that that there de Worde boy is trouble."
"You really think so, sir? He looks like a nice enough young man."
"Who said he wasn't a nice young man?" said Vimes, and didn't answer any more questions on the subject. But he did keep an ear open for... well, for news on the news. One way or another.
He was also distracted by the unfortunate knowledge that his bloody wife was probably reading his bloody diary at this very bloody moment. Many were the woes of Samuel Vimes - and that was the day before all the trouble really started.