"Oi! You there! Stop in the name of the law!" yelled the Watchman. Waleed Sahaffy was most annoyed. Did this watchman not know who he was? Or rather, what he was, for at the moment, what he had chosen for a career and was in the process of performing was more important than his identity as Waleed Sahaffy. Or, for that matter, any of the supporting data thereof, such as the fact that he was half-Klatchian, that he was just over five feet tall, or that he had green eyes. The Sammy not knowing any of that was excusable, and probably advantageous. But his not knowing what Waleed was doing was not excusable in the least.
Regardless, he stopped. It did not do to run from the Watch. If you were innocent, you became guilty of running from the Watch. If you were guilty of something else and then ran, gods help you.
"See here, I saw you fire that crossbow at that merchant."
"Do you know what a man who's dressed all in black prowling the streets at night with a crossbow is?" asked Waleed, hoping he sounded arch.
"Yes, a man who's dressed all in black prowling the streets at night with a crossbow is going to spend a night in jail if he doesn't produce the right paperwork."
"See here. This is clearly a violation of my rights as a Klatchian, and if you were not so eager to run in one of those towelheads you would not have assumed I would not make the rank amateur mistake of attempting to conduct an inhumation without identification. Here is my Assassins' Guild membership card."
"Got a big mouth on you, kid. But this is only a membership card. Where's the contract for that merchant you shot at?"
"I'm positive I have it." But a thorough examination of his pockets, his satchel and even under his hat led only to discoveries of greasy wrappers from the falafel stand, an old copy of the Times which covered the Guild graduation, a medal for Best Language Student—it was claimed that the last person to win the medal with such high scores was Vetinari—and various other odds and ends which were, mainly, odds.
"None of this is an assassination contract. You seem like you just graduated."
"Oh, yes, sir. Only a recent graduate would make such a mistake. A seasoned assassin would have a perfect routine, and a current student wouldn't because the masters would have him killed for the mistake. And because we weren't allowed to practice outside the school before finals, sir."
"Since you missed anyway, I'm just going to let you off with a talking-to from Vimes."
Waleed let the guard lead him to the Watch House, where an older, scruffier guard was sitting behind a desk, one hand pawing through paperwork and another hand poking at a curry that Waleed would possibly, charitably, if he had been a very charitable person to begin with, called a bit inauthentic.
"Caught this towelhead trying to assassinate a merchant, commander," said the guard who had brought Waleed in.
"Why's he here then, if he failed? Assassination paperwork not in order, or you just forgot we're not at war with Klatch anymore?"
"I apologize, Sir Vimes, but it is the former," said Waleed. "I am Waleed Sahaffy, very recently of the Assassins' Guild school."
"And you hardly took offense at being called a towelhead. Interesting."
"Oh, I took very much offense, sir, but unless you paid me to, I couldn't hurt him. Nil Mortifi Sine Lucre, sir."
"Look, I know my guard ran you in for a talking-to, but the city, by which I mean me, is in need of someone who understands more of Klatchian than 'vindaloo'. There's Carrot, but he's so trustworthy that most of your people don't trust him."
"Trying to prevent another debacle like the almost-war, sir? Admirable. But I fail to see how I can help you. An assassin cannot join the Watch."
"We've got Nobby in the watch, and he steals."
"Ah, but he is not a member of the Thieves' Guild, is he?"
"No, and mainly he steals from the petty cash and the mess hall."
"There you have it. I cannot be in the same category as Nobby, because I am not a person who steals yet is not a Thief. I am both a person who kills and an Assassin."
"Well, I wasn't asking you to join the Watch. I was asking you to become an independent consultant. We've put adverts in the Times about the position, but nobody seems to want to do it. The Morporkians won't do it because what they know about you people could fill a thimble, but the Klatchians seem scared to do it too. All you'd have to do is explain problems involving Klatchians to the Watch, or the other big institutions of the city, and explain Ankh-Morpork law and practice to Klatchians."
"I suppose that can't be considered 'joining the Watch,'" said Waleed, but he was still apprehensive. He would, if hired, be the first Assassin to work this closely with the Watch.
Well, perhaps not the first Assassin. But the first Assassin whose "close work with the Watch" wasn't "telling them all what to do because you run the damn city." That was different. This was a much less important job, yet neither Assassins nor Watchmen would be very happy with Waleed's taking it.
"You won't be joining the Watch. You think I'd let an Assassin in the ranks? And you won't be alone. We're getting a Professor Nizam from Unseen University to serve as a consultant as well, but he's more of a learned expert type. You're our man on the Klatchian street, as it were."
"If Klatchians have to live on a certain street of Ankh-Morpork I have more work than I thought!" said Waleed. It was a joke. Vimes did not think so, partly because it was the kind of joke that isn't very funny.
"Now, now, don't play the 'I Am But A Klatchian And Do Not Understand You' game with me. I've beaten 71-Hour Ahmed at it."
"71-Hour Ahmed is my father's third cousin!" Waleed exclaimed.
"Will wonders never cease," muttered Vimes. "Anyway, he was educated at the Assassins' Guild school, and he became a policeman in Al-Khali."
"They do things differently in Al-Khali, as anyone in Ankh-Morpork takes such delight in pointing out. The Assassins would not let me be an Ankh-Morpork Assassin and an Ankh-Morpork Watchman, regardless of what they let my cousin do. He is out of sight and out of mind."
"Well, you've got the second part right. Are you taking the position or not?"
"Taking it. Oh and one more thing. Is there any truth to the rumors that His Lordship speaks Klatchian?"
"Colon and Nobby will swear on their mums' Shepherd's Pie that he does. For that reason, I am equally sure—though I am past the point of swearing on dinner, unless Sybil burns it—that he does not."
"But he supports this measure?"
"Yes. He's met with Professor Nizam already. But Nizam's Morporkian is better than mine, so Lord Vetinari would not have had to speak Klatchian even if he did, in fact, know how to do so."
Waleed put his hat back on—he was very annoyed that people kept calling him a "towelhead" even though he was clearly not wearing a turban, but rather a hat in the style that was known in Ankh-Morpork as an Ephebian Fisherman's Cap—and left the Watch House. He was certain of three things. First, that he would rather usher in a new era in Klatchian-Morporkian relations than just be another Asssassin. Second, that he would make sure the merchant he still had a contract for died quietly, so that nobody would suspect Waleed Sahaffy the archer, seeing as one of the many things archery was not was quiet. And third, Vimes had been lying through his teeth. Waleed had in fact sat in classes with the man who had taught Vetinari to speak Klatchian.
Well, slept in classes. The man required assistance from the Department of Post-Mortem Communications to come in these days, had never been an engaging communicator even while pre-mortem, and at any rate taught Klatchian. Waleed, who had grown up speaking both Klatchian and Morporkian, felt that someone trying to teach him Klatchian was rather like telling an artist how to paint a self-portrait.
About the only thing Waleed had learned in that professor's classes was that he had taught Vetinari. He was immensely fond of saying "Bad crop of students this year. Of course, none of you will ever measure up to Vetinari" or "Here's a handy bit of Klatchian Vetinari's sure to remember if you ever go up before him" or even, once, memorably, "Sahaffy! Your own father was Klatchian, and you just made a mistake I got Vetinari to stop making on his first day!"
Waleed had had to point out that in the Hersheban dialect (which was his own), what he had said was not a mistake.
And was told "Good, good, you passed the test! Vetinari pointed that out as well!"
Waleed looked up to Vetinari.
He did not however look up to an Old Master—or rather, a Dead Master—who thought the epitome of learning Klatchian had been achieved by a white boy thirty years ago just because that white boy had coincidentally found himself ruler of the city. Was it some bizarre way of currying favor with Vetinari? Waleed giggled a bit. Currying. With Klatchian. It was a Pun, or Play On Words. Albeit not a very good one.
He put a quickly-written dispatch in the Times' inbox and sent some messenger pigeons to friends and acquaintances of his before he went home, as well as one to Unseen University asking for Professor Nizam, who fit into the category of friend on a special case; Waleed had never met Nizam, but he was Klatchian, and believed fully in the adage about the enemy of your enemy being your friend. If the enemy was bad treatment of Klatchians in Ankh-Morpork, and Nizam was also fighting it, then he was Waleed's friend.
Messages to friends sent, he hurried home. The Sahaffy family had done fairly well for themselves, and were widely considered people who had achieved The Ankh-Morpork Dream. Waleed's father was a Klatchian imports merchant, selling rugs and other decorations made in Al-Khali and the other great cities of Klatch to the well-to-do of Ankh-Morpork, who while they fancied themselves Cosmopolitan and would spend very much money on any of Mr. Sahaffy's luxury goods, always seemed to want to get rid of Mr. Sahaffy himself very quickly. But in the scheme of things, you made no less money on rugs because you had to send your green-eyed, harmless-looking son to deliver them, and the Sahaffys had brought themselves to the ranks of the rich. They had two houses now. The smaller one, only recently acquired, belonged to Waleed, and while not quite as nice as the first one, was sturdy, and clean, and a nice place to go home to after a night of assassinating. Or even of being asked to explain things to the Watch because you failed at assassinating. The next morning would be…interesting. Waleed remembered an Agatean phrase about interesting times, and wished he hadn't.