Above the old Ham Alley butchery (or below it, depending on which franchise you considered the butchery), Ann's window looked out just above the plaque with the old motto, "NIL QVID SED QVIS" still engraved deep into the stone. Vimes's eyes were currently drawn to the long, metal rivets between the D and S which once held a red-and-white pole and the dual crest of the barber and butcher, now stolen and likely sold for scrap. The iron rivets were still solid, though, left on the principle that some things nailed down aren't even worth trying to steal, a surprisingly uncommon philosophy in Morpork. They stuck out right under the window.
Perfect handholds? No, they'd rusted to wire-thin lumps of red bubble, they wouldn't hold a kleptomanic sparrow. But, something still bothered him about them.
Vimes pointed to the window below Ann's, identical but for clearance, in both the legal and vertical senses. "I'm going to jump out of that window."
"It's not that bad, sir, honest!"
"I want you to get an iconograph of my fall," he continued, ignoring her. "In particular, when I'm..." he made a quick estimate, "when I'm a foot and a half below the windowsill." He walked into the house without another word, leaving Cheery baffled, but, obediently, unpacking the iconograph. She stood side-on to the window and waited for the window to open.
It didn't. Well, not exactly...
In an explosion of glass and wood, Vimes burst through the window hands first and rolled in the cascade of fragments, one hand in his helmet to steady himself without cutting his hand open, turned and calmly raised an eyebrow.
"Sorry, sir, it didn't flash." She held up the salamander box, in which the lizard was fast asleep.
Vimes hit himself on the forehead with the helmed hand. Cheery quickly looked for any good news before he went spare, as her colleagues so astutely simplified it.
"Hold on, hold on," she tapped the box urgently. "Can you put this one through with better contrast?"
The world's tiniest sigh of annoyance radiated from the box. "If you can give me some light to work by."
"If I point you at the moon?"
"Waning gibbous do you?"
"Should be enough; go on, then." She fed the slide back through the slot and listened to the rapid, careful brushstrokes from inside. It came back out, clear as day.
"Thanks," she said hurriedly and handed it to Vimes. He looked from it, to the upper window, then back. Then repeated. He held it so Cheery could see, too.
"Now, I took a run-up, which our burglar can't have. I'll admit, I'm not as fit as I was but, the run-up will have cancelled most of that out. Bearing that in mind, look at my toes." Cheery looked down. "In the iconograph, sergeant." She looked back up sheepishly. His head and arms were already out of the frame but his feet were perfectly in focus.
"They're a foot and a half below the windowsill, sir."
"I know, as requested, but that's not why I ask." He pointed at two points on the wall using his index and middle fingers - the windowsill and the level of his feet. "If that's a foot and a half," he shifted so one finger was now at his toes and the other level on the wall, "what do you reckon that is?"
Cheery looked for a second, tilting her head forty-five degrees to one side. "About a foot, sir."
Vimes nodded and handed her the iconograph. He pointed up to the rivets. "How long do you reckon they are?"
Cheery craned her neck up, gave up and disappeared into the house, reappearing at the broken bedroom window.
"About a foot and a half, sir," she called down.
"So he can't have jumped out; he'd've hit the rivets and they'd've snapped."
Cheery was half impressed and half annoyed she hadn't noticed this. "Must've gone up from here?" she suggested.
"He'd have cut himself or his clothes on the glass at the top of the frame if he tried." Some vicious glass teeth still clung ominously to the top of the frame, blatantly devoid of blood or fragments of cloth.
"Without breaking the rivets?"
Cheery looked for another way around it. There was none. There was up, down or very down and all three had been ruled out. She smiled in sudden realisation. "The window was a decoy! He left through the door he came in by!"
"The key was in the lock on the inside: Miss Holm specifically remembered that. That would have made it impossible to lock behind him."
Cheery sagged into thought. "One of the other windows?"
"Locked from the inside."
Cheery disappeared from view, re-appearing at the door. "OK, sir, I give in. How'd he do it?"
Vimes looked thoughtful for a minute, then smiled grimly. "He didn't."
"He was still there when she woke up," he announced, triumphantly. "He hid and waited for her to leave for the police station, then left through the door."
"So we're looking for anywhere someone could hide?"
Vimes's face fell back to normal as the sergeant ignored his victory. "Yeah, I suppose so," he sighed.
"I'll get Igor," Cheery announced, calmly. "He's good with hiding-places and inconspicuity, if that's the word."
"You brought me with you, thergeant," a voice inches from her ear stated.
Cheery's face froze. "Constable if you do that again I'll staple you to the floor understood?" she said in one sudden, unpunctuated breath.
"Thorry, tharge. Inthtinctth, you thee." He wiped his mouth with a sleeve and looked up. "Odd motto for a butcher. Or a barber, for that."
"I believe it refers to the pies," Vimes explained.
Cheery's mouth moved a little as she translated. "That's disgusting."
"Hm, barberic," Vimes agreed before he could stop himself.
"That was poor taste, sir."
"No, that was a bad joke. The pies were poor taste."
"Actually, it'th quite nithe with thumb theathoning." Two heads swivelled slowly to look at him. "I'm told..."
"Thumb seasoning?" Cheery inquired. "Is that what I -"
"Thumb theathoning. You know, a bit of?"
"Ah. Some seasoning, eh?"
"That'th what I thaid." They looked up again.
Some of the greatest minds in Ankh-Morpork lost more than stubble here," Vimes sighed.
"What a wathte."
"Yeah, I doubt we'll see the like again."
"Er, I believe we are thpeaking at croth-purpotheth, thur." He let it sink in.
"That," Vimes said, slowly, "was poor taste."