"Ah, Mr Slant, so good of you to join us," said Lord Vetinari. "Please be seated."
"Oh," said Mrs Palm, "and Mr Honeyplace, too."
Honeyplace drew a chair from the wall and sat. Mr Slant danced like a puppet in his mind.
Physically, Slant marched into the room and fell over his chair.
"Slant!" Mr Boggis grabbed hold of him and pushed him upright.
"Bloody hell," said Vimes. "I can smell the drink from here."
Lord Vetinari turned questioningly to Mr Honeyplace. He raised an eyebrow. "Well, Mr Honeyplace?"
"We were over at Mr Morecombe's late all morning, sir," he explained, aware that he smelt like a sexed-up vampire.
Slant, however, smelt more strongly of zombie and formaldehyde, and passed muster.
Lord Vetinari turned to the dwarfs sitting with them. "I gather Mr Pony is still accumulating –"
Mr Slant spat onto the table.
The guild leaders went quiet in shock and their eyes turned inquiringly to Honeyplace.
"Uh –" said Lord Vetinari. "Mr Slant appears to be unwell."
Slant opened his mouth and whistled.
Honeyplace shifted under the attention.
Most of the guild leaders had flushed, or were definitely staring into the corners, ignoring him as fast as possible.
Vetinari raised an eyebrow at Slant and Honeyplace. "I take it was an… interesting morning, gentlemen?"
Slant regurgitated more of Morecombe's cum onto the table. Then Honeyplace felt it was best to have him slump off the seat.
Mr Boggis caught him again. "Poor old chap," he said aloud. "Swallowed a bit too much, eh?"
"Yes," agreed Downey, ignoring Honeyplace. "Can't think what he gets up to in his spare time."
Slant whistled from beneath the table again. Mr Boggis tried to haul him into a chair, but Honeyplace found if Slant's legs went stiff, he became a very unmanageable raggy-doll.
But it seemed Honeyplace's concentration was waning. Good! he thought. Slant's waking up!
Mr Slant turned round in Honeyplace's mindspace. Pale silver light haloed him. Then he started to wash himself in the way that only elderly zombies thousands of years old could chuckle at.
Honeyplace waited. Zombies never believed they were capable of such psychic acts, even when they were performing them.
Mr Slant awoke in the dark place. He quickly found the back door to his own body, and shoved his arms in fast, in case another zombie had stolen his corpse. He found it empty, but full of vampire mind-smell. It drifted out and surrounded him in a cloud.
He waved it away quickly. It dispersed into the dark place. Whether there was anyone else out here it to smell it, he hadn't found out yet. Zombies were notoriously difficult, especially wizards, in giving any straight advice in handling undead dimensions. It was: "Put your arms in first, your arms out next, in, out, in, out, shake it all about. Put the damn key in and turn around, that's what it's all about."
Or: "Try to break in via that metaphorical wobbly window you keep in your head. You know what I mean." And when she'd winked, her eyelid fell off. "And don't break the glass. Try to jimmy it open instead."
There wasn't any glass. Or any window. But vampires had to metaphorically hold the door open the first time he'd drunk himself unconscious, not dead-dead.
So he fished out a pale silver key that matched his first house's key and fitted it into a dark, dangerous keyhole and swung an invisible door open. He ran in and shut it fast. And locked it. The key disappeared back into a seventeenth century suit pocket on a retracting silver chain.
Now what? Oh yes: "Hook your arms up first, then start your brain, then your heart, then jump into your legs, and do up your back with liver, spleen and lungs like you're doing up your buttons on your robe," the wizard had said.
"If you wear your robe back-to-front these days like students," he had added.
Several organ-restarts later, Slant put his face into his head like wearing a mask, and opened his eyes.
Lord Vetinari prodded him in the chest with his cane.
"Ah, Mr Slant," he said, sounding like he was smothering laughter. "You've woken up!"
Slant had to restart his heart.
Vetinari was still watching him. Drumknott was holding the cane and a clipboard.
Slant moved his head, and commenced breathing.
"Oh, good," said Vetinari. "You're awake."
"Do you know what happened?" asked Downey.
Slant hurried through recent memory. "Possibly not," he said.
"Alcohol?" suggested Mr Boggis. "Lots of drinking come to mind?"
"There's a lot of it on the table," said Downey.
"Hush," said Honeyplace's voice suddenly.
"Why –" said Slant. "What are you doing here?" He concentrated. "We – were drinking…?"
Honeyplace placed a finger to his lips quickly. Slant blinked and checked his memory. He held up a solo image of Honeyplace in his mind, finger almost raised. He fine-tuned it until the finger touched his lips.
"Yes?" he asked, wincing as he switched to outside vision again.
You never work out anything, complained Honeyplace in his mind. A thank you would be wonderful. I've spent two hours trying to pass with you raggy-doll at the guild house.
You've… had me… raggy-doll… and sign… paperwork?
No. I've had you raggy-doll and attend a council meeting. Honeyplace's mind showed in his mind as a short white light. Thank me, he whispered.
"Thank you, Mr Honeyplace," he said out loud.
"That's all you can remember?" said Downey aghast.
Mr Boggis bent over and amazingly tried to help him to sit upright. "Not now, Mr Boggis," he said quickly. "I need a moment to rest." He lay down again.
A thought occurred. He drove through memory, but nothing but darkness showed up with the odd knee raising up pale and silver. He trotted back to the present date and watched the cloud disperse again. It was annoying that zombie-memory didn't allow him to view himself from third-person anymore.
"What was I doing with my knees?" he asked, as it couldn't get anymore embarrassing than that time with Lord Snapcase.
"Ye gods, man!" said Mr Boggis. "I'll keep quiet about that, if I were you!"
Having a wash, Honeyplace replied. I'll show you, much, much later.
"You always say that," said Slant, quiet from the sudden memory of Snapcase.
Mr Boggis coughed as the guild leaders murmured.
It sounded like there were a few kneeling down – oh, the dwarfs. Either that, or Vetinari's meetings had become a lot more exciting recently.
Vimes appeared in his vision. "How much did you drink?" he demanded.
"It's not the drink that's important," said Boggis.
"Why can't Drumknott clean it up?" Downey asked Vetinari. "Get a servant in here, man!"
At Vetinari's nod, one of the Dark Clerks detached itself from the wall and left the room.
Mrs Palm opened a window, then shut it again.
"Why?" asked a guild leader. "We're, ooh, about seven floors up."
"It still smells worse outside, I'm afraid," she explained. "It's the river."
Slant sniffed. "Yes, it does sm—" He stopped breathing in sheer embarrassment. Yes, it had beaten blowing Snapcase whilst high.
He swivelled his eyes in their sockets towards Honeyplace. "Did we…?"
Honeyplace sighed. "I'll tell you later. Much later."
"Oh dear. Oh very dear."
Mr Boggis patted him. "Don't worry, Mr Slant. We shan't sue for slander, shall we?"
"Yes," said Downey hurriedly. "We'll all keep quiet."
"No problem," added the dwarfs. "Dwarfs don't mind this sort of thing."
Slant tasted his own tongue. "I – urgh."
What do you remember? asked Honeyplace urgently.
Slant rolled over on the floor and spat onto the carpet. "I – oh!"
"Yes," said Lord Vetinari, sounding delighted. "It's a pity Mr de Worde decided to attend the annual swamp dragon show instead of attending today."
"Oh, my! Oh, I – oh, dear."
Lord Vetinari retrieved his cane and proffered it to Mr Slant. Slant rolled over and grabbed it. Mr Boggis came to his rescue and hauled him to his feet.
Lord Vetinari left his cane by his chair and sat down. "Now onto –"
"I'll have someone clean up the mess," murmured Drumknott and left the room.
"The –" said Lord Vetinari and burst out laughing. "Ah!"
Slant glanced at the table expecting a pile of excrement from the taste. "Oh, no!" He shut his eyes. "Please get rid of it!" He waved his hands.
Vimes started laughing.
Someone patted him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes, expecting Mr Boggis. Honeyplace clicked his fingers and the mess vanished.
"I – we – I," spluttered Slant.
"No," said Honeyplace. He leaned forwards and whispered, It was Morecombe.
"Oh gods, no!" said Mr Boggis glancing at the table. "Where did it walk off to now?"
"The what?" asked Vetinari.
"Damn disorganiser imp," muttered Boggis. "It's got all my afternoon appointments on it."
Slant slipped inside. Morecombe? Mr Morecombe is gay?
Bisexual, corrected Honeyplace. But that's not important right now.
As I am, said Slant. "What's important?" he asked aloud. "What did you have me sign at the guild house?"
"Bingley-bingley-beep!" squeaked one disorganiser imp.
"Damn!" said Mr Boggis. "That's your one, Sir Samuel."
"Damn! Damn! Damn!" said Vimes, looking in the corner behind the drinks cabinet. "My one's fucking your imp, sir!"
"Must be the smell," said Mrs Palm. "It still smells very vampire in here."
"Astonishing," said Vetinari, still seated. He rattled his cane.
"If we can get back to the meeting," he suggested, "we need to cover –"
"Oh fuck," said Slant.
"No," said Mr Boggis, "you've had your fun. It's now back inside the box, you bad, bad boy!"
What? asked Slant to Honeyplace. What did he say?
"Are you talking to me?" he asked on top, checking his organs. He was very sure he hadn't hallucinated that.
"The imps, man," snapped Downey. "Vimes, chuck a glass of water on them."
Vimes grabbed Vetinari's glass and threw it over the bonding disorganiser imps. They parted in shock.
"Aha!" said Vetinari, watching the tumbler spin across the table.
A dwarf righted the glass when it reached her.
"What did Mr Slant spew?" asked a very innocent dwarf. "It was almost all white stuff."
"Uh," said Vetinari. "I don't –"
A dwarf glared at Slant. "It was rumoured that Snapcase used to sniff three cartfuls of cocaine every evening when he partied till dawn."
"Yes, I think he did," said Slant, more gratefully than he planned. "But he legalised it in those days."
"It's banned?" asked Lord Downey.
"Yes," said Lord Vetinari, examining his fingernails. "So's heroin."
"So's all the troll drugs now," said Vimes. "And five of the dwarfs' herbal remedies."
"Yes, I agree," said the dwarf and sat back down.
Mr Honeyplace enveloped his mental arms around Slant and hugged him. You still haven't asked me what happened with Morecombe this morning, he whispered.
"I can't stand the way your brain bobs up and switches the lights on," said Slant, and pulled away from Honeyplace automatically.
"Lord Vetinari," he said, bowing, "gentlemen, ladies, I'll take my leave now. I have some personal matters to adhere to."
Slant grabbed Honeyplace and bumped into Drumknott re-entering the room.
"Adhere," repeated the dwarf. "Sounds like adhesive."
Slant checked himself. "No, nothing's fallen off."
"We'll be leaving now," said Honeyplace, and waved to the room.
There was a Dark Clerk skulking in the passageway outside.
Honeyplace bit him.
"I wish you wouldn't do that." Slant waved to some of his employees. They had names like Crusher and Mr Vincent and were definitely not lawyers. They dragged the Dark Clerk into a dark corner, and paid the next man that emerged.
"I'm on edge," hissed Honeyplace. "There's too much daylight."
"So…?" said Slant. "What happened… this morning?"
Honeyplace wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
"Why aren't you drunk?" he asked. "There were empty bottles all over the cellar."
"I thought I'd consumed crushed mothballs," said Slant carefully. Crusher snorted with quiet laughter.
"Via the mess?"
"Oh, no, don't! Don't mention today again."
"Can't be more embarrassing than Lord Snapcase," murmured Mr Vincent to Crusher, who chuckled.
"It was!" cried Slant.
Crusher and Mr Vincent fell silent and began hanging back more.
Don't let on we can hear them, advised Honeyplace. It takes ages to replace the trust of these people.
"You sound –" depressed, finished Slant.
Morecombe needed a higher power kick than before, he explained.
"I don't recall anything," said Slant firmly.
"Are you saying you consented? You actually consented before he –" got going with the curtains? And the trousers? With the lid?
"Those are all known objects," said Slant carefully.
No… whips… whispered Slant. Don't… tickle me.
What about the werewolf kink? With the squeaker?
"I don't recall… much."
Well, recall this!
Honeyplace hit him with the last of Morecombe's psychic attack that had clung to his shield. Slant went up on enslavement again.
"Well?" asked Honeyplace.
"I can't feel a thing," said Slant, who'd stopped dead on the stairs.
"You don't feel angry?"
"I'm a zombie. We always feel a bit angry."
"True, but…" Honeyplace shook the last of the peace and calm from the mental shield.
"I don't feel anything. Nothing at all. Why isn't this fantastic?"
Crusher leaned forward. "Can I speak, sir?"
"Yes, Mr Crusher, you may."
"That's 'cos it's psychic enslavement, sir. You mustn't feel a thing so you can't fight back. You can't feel any emotion other than flat so you've got nothing to attack your enslaver with."
"Yes, sir. The master don't like it if you retaliate. You have to do everything they say. Especially if you give your consent and you don't know what they plan to do with you."
"Oh, I see. Thank you, Mr Crusher." Like that? he asked Honeyplace. What Mr Crusher said?
"Yes!" cried Honeyplace, then: "No!"
Mr Vincent held a stake to his throat. "You let Mr Slant go, sir."
"Vincent, let him go!"
"He's enslaved you, sir! He even told you!"
"Mr Vincent!" Slant tried to grab the stake. "Mr Honeyplace is trying to explain something underneath to me."
"Yes, sir," said Crusher. "You think we can't hear telepathically, don't you?"
"Oh, gods," said Slant. "It may the fifth worst day of my existence."
Slant tried. What… is on… my… "Tongue?"
Don't know, sir, whispered Crusher's head voice. Can't see it, sir.
Slant sighed. They were still in the Palace, being spied on by Vetinari and anyone else who can fit an imp in.
See? whispered Crusher. I can feel what you're thinking.
"Thank you, Crusher," said Slant.
It's based on location, said Honeyplace. Three miles ahead, and we'll be out of range.
"That's… useful," said Slant.
"I'll fly you, if you'd like," said Honeyplace.
"It's daylight," Slant reminded him.
"Yes," said Honeyplace, flitting down.
"Take my carriage," offered Slant. "I'll get the bus."
Mr Vincent pocketed the stake finally. "We'll have to walk?"
"Yes, Mr Vincent. The Guild isn't far, now, is it?"
They reached the end of the Palace's grounds in the carriage.
"I still have to walk, don't I?" grumbled Mr Vincent.
The coach driver turned round and opened the little window.
"Argh!" cried Honeyplace and shut the window.
"Why did you do that?" asked Slant. He leaned back and opened the window. "Drop us off at the bus stop and then take Honeyplace back home. You'll need all the hours of daylight," he said to Honeyplace. "The traffic is horrendous these days."
"Bus stop?" asked Mr Vincent. "We have to take the bus, sir? With everyone else?"
"Well… Crusher may have to stay in the coach with Mr Honeyplace, along with anyone else who's daylight-avertent. The rest of us can take the bus."
At the bus stop, Mr Slant got out, hauling Mr Vincent with him. Everyone else stayed in the carriage.
"I'll see you all back in the Guild," he said. "If traffic allows. Goodbye everyone!"
They watched the carriage drive off.
"Was it that embarrassing, sir?" asked Mr Vincent.
"Did I say you could ask questions?"
"No, sir. Sir?"
Mr Vincent fished in his pockets. "Here's your bus fare."
Slant palmed a bankroll from his pocket and added the pale Ankh-Morpork dollar on top.
"I shouldn't do that in public, sir," said Mr Vincent hurriedly. "We're on the other side of the river now."
We're all… paid up… at the Thieves'… Guild, he tried.
No, we're not, said Honeyplace back. You missed that meeting this morning.
Raggy-doll day, reminded Crusher, with a hint of a laugh.
A troll bus limped into the bus shelter. Mr Vincent got on first, followed by two dwarfs hand-in-hand, five human women, two werewolves by the smell of them, and six gnomes. One gnome wore a hat.
The hat fell off as the bus moved again. The troll conductor stopped the bus, retrieved the hat to gnomish cheers, and helped Mr Slant onto the bus.
"Didn't see you dere in the shadows," said the conductor. "Dat's a dollar you need to pay."
Slant palmed a dollar from his pocket. "Here, my good man – troll – conductor."
"No problemo," sniffed the troll. "Dem gnomes are der trouble. Der hat fell off again."
"Falls off every day!" complained a human.
Slant produced a tube of adhesive. "You could try this," he offered.
The gnome sniffed it. "What's tis?"
"It's glue," said the human. "You don't sniff it like that, you squeeze it like this!"
Slant watched the glue pass around the passengers. Even the conductor sniffed it until his eyes watered.
"Dat's good glue," he said.
"What's that?" called Mr Vincent from further down the bus.
"I'd say!" called a werewolf. "Sir! Sir!"
Slant leaned forward in his seat to look down the bus.
"Oh, crap," said the conductor. "What dey doing, down dere?"
The conductor blew his whistle. Three more whistles answered in return… from the Watch!
Slant held his tongue. He had three more retorts as to where his glue had gone, but the approaching helmets of the multi-specied Watch held him fast to his seat.
"Dis bus," shouted Detritus, "is under arrest!"
Vimes stared at Mr Slant as Detritus threw him into a chair. The handcuffs jangled.
"Commander Vimes," Slant greeted him, and held up his wrists. "I don't suppose you –"
"You were arresting for passing drugs around on a bus, sir!" said Vimes.
"I'm a zombie. I always have glue on me."
"You were seen –" here Vimes consulted the paperwork "– by five humans, two werewolves and six gnomes taking the top of a tube of highly addictive glue and passing it to a gnome who sniffed it and only sniffed it. We have two high trolls, five high humans, one extremely excited werewolf and three dead gnomes!"
Vimes slammed the paperwork down. The pile toppled and cascaded to the floor.
"From the glue! It was too strong for their sinuses to handle!"
Slant coughed. A moth flew out and began circling the lamp.
"There are some laws that cope with this sort of problem, Commander."
"Which ones do you suggest?" growled Vimes.
Slant searched his encyclopedic memory, and found an image of Honeyplace's fingers dancing up and down the sodomy laws. What?
He swallowed and switched his taste-buds on. Urgh. The taste-buds danced, and so did his nose, at the remaining smells of glue and sex.
"Well?" asked Vimes, and looked worried. "You're not going to puke again, are you?" He pushed a metal can towards Slant with his foot. It was coated with shredded paper.
"No. The laws. Let's see. Um, sodomy…"
"No," said Vimes. "Drug taking."
"Glue and sex," he said, rummaging through damaged file cabinets. Most of them looked like they needed a clean. Others were stuck together.
Vimes sighed. "I'm not having a good day," he said. "Nor are you, I take it."
"Glue, glue… no, I'm not. I can't get my memory open on adhesive laws."
"Argh! No! That's not a good place."
"In law?" Vimes' eyes met his.
"We've got lots of laws about murder in Ankh-Morpork. The first laws of murder, however, were legit only in Sto Lat."
"What about Ankh-Morpork suicide, sir? I've always meant to ask."
"None. Apart from the Laws of the Shades. Do not go there. Ask your friends to read the Merchant's Guide to the City and pass the secrets therein onto their enemies and spies. That sort of thing."
Vimes read from the paperwork, once he'd gathered it on his desk. "Three dead gnomes. You've got no idea these days, have you? They've complained to their embassy already, and we've got a zombie-gnome dispute already brewing up the Palace. Vetinari, incidentally, doesn't want to see you. It was just too odd, it's rumoured, this meeting today. Everyone's used to you being too old for sex. Why did you bring Honeyplace with you?"
"He brought me, I think," replied Slant. He coughed up a dead moth, then had to discreetly spit it into Vimes' bin.
"Oh gods," said Vimes.
There was a lot of stomping going on outside the office. The door burst open.
Mr de Worde hurried forward, ahead of the crowd of reporters. He managed to get the door shut again in all.
"Mr Slant! Do you have a comment for the Times?" he shouted.
"Drugs," said Slant quickly. "Sex. Sodomy. Rimming, I think, as well."
He watched in alarm as William de Worde scribbled down something nonetheless. "Anything else?"
"Fuck," said Slant. "Not shit, though. More fuck. Lots of fuck. Damn." He looked at Vimes for inspiration. "Bloody hell. Bastards. Fuckers."
Vimes produced a key for the handcuffs and tossed it up and down.
"Prison. Jail. Um. Sodomy."
"You said that," said William de Worde.
"Crossword. Eleven across: bitches. Britches. Knickers. Tits."
William coughed. "Which apparently Mr Honeyplace lacks, sir."
"Balls. Testes. Cocks. Willies."
William de Worde wrote everything down, it seemed. "I think that's all I can cope with, Mr Slant," he said. "And Vimes."
Vimes looked even more worried, and crossed his fingers.
"Um. Balls, lack thereof. Vetinari. Mime artists –"
"Can you say anything suitable for a family audience?" asked Mr de Worde.
"Fuck! Cunt! Arse! Um," Slant was stuck.
Do you know another word for 'cunt'? he asked inside his head.
Are you asking me? asked Crusher. We don't abuse this type of talk, he added.
"Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Fuck me all over, you filthy bastard!" Slant paused. A drawer in his memory-cabinet unlocked.
"Shut up and bang your balls together like knockers!" he shouted, as a result. "Can I piss in your mouth, sir? Oh, fuck, no!"
Slant came to in a Watch cell. He blinked, and an iconograph stapled to the wall flashed. The photo slid down a string into a hole in the wall.
Moments later, footsteps banged outside, and the door opened.
"Hello, sir!" said Captain Carrot. "You had a bit of a nasty turn upstairs."
"I did?" said Slant. He'd spent the past half hour trying to jam the mental drawer shut again.
Carrot coughed politely. "Mr Honeyplace hasn't arrived at home yet. No one seems to know where he is."
"And Mr Morecombe?"
Carrot consulted a note. "He's sleeping in his house, sir."
Slant concentrated. "Where's Mr Honeyplace again?"
Carrot shrugged. "No one at the Lawyers Guild knows. Most of your people are out looking for him already, they said."
"What about Mr Vincent? He was on the bus with me."
Carrot produced a notepad and pencil. "What were you doing on the bus, sir?"
Mr Slant sat upright with his legs sticking out in a V-shape. "Mr Honeyplace is within my carriage stuck in the traffic queue along with several of our private employees. As a result, myself and Mr Vincent decided to quicken our journey back to the Guild using the bus. I've seen it before, and it's only two stops from outside the Palace."
Captain Carrot duly wrote everything down.
"I see, sir. What were you doing so far apart from Mr Vincent on the bus, sir?"
"It was a very strange seating plan, but I gathered that different species sit in different places. There was a gap between the humans and the gnomes," he volunteered as information.
Carrot smiled. "Mr Vincent is either a human or a werewolf, then," he supplied.
"Perhaps," said Slant.
"Is there anything else you can tell the Watch?" Carrot said.
"My glue is strong enough to stick someone's hat to their collar so that it doesn't blow off anymore. Which is why I handed it over."
"Yes, sir," said Carrot sadly. "Mrs Mouse-Nose had a very bad hat according to the bus' regulars."
"Gods," said Slant. "I don't think I can face the trial if the gnomes' names are translated directly."
"She's Ankh-Morporkian, sir," chided Carrot.
"Everyone is these days," said Slant. "Can you help me up, please?"
"No, sir," said Carrot. "Your smell is very important and cannot be contaminated with, sir."
Slant switched his nose and taste-buds on. "Urgh."
"Really?" said Carrot. "Angua couldn't stop laughing."
"What does my… personal life have to do with this case?"
"Uh, it's all very complicated," said Carrot. "If we can find Honeyplace, the newspaper people may calm down."
"Peace and calm," said Slant, without meaning to.
"Sorry, sir?" Carrot wrote everything down.
"What Mr Morecombe said to me, apparently. Something, something."
"Mr Morecombe was involved too?" asked Carrot.
Slant coughed. "Will it help?"
"Anything may help you at this point of the arrest," said Carrot.
"It's official, then. Hmm. Both myself and Mr Honeyplace stayed at Mr Morecombe's early this morning."
"Good gods, sir. What a busy night you must have had!"
"I… can't remember."
"It must've been a guild emergency of some sort," hinted Carrot.
"No, not at all. Mr Morecombe had a very large power kink that needed sorting out."
"Power kink," repeated Carrot, staring at his pencil.
"I must have been a very bad boy though for not remembering much," murmured Slant.
"Bad boy?" asked Carrot.
"If it's good, and I'm very, very good, I get to remember," said Slant.
"Can you remember anything else?" said Carrot, falling back on a stock question.
"Honeyplace was in a very uncomfortable position when I woke up," growled Slant, "that I did not expect. It was supposed to be just myself and Morecombe, as I intended, from last night."
"When was that?" asked Carrot.
"Oh, around one in the morning, as I recall. We headed back to his place, and I had one too many brandys, and one thing led to another –"
"Urgh," said Carrot, and was rescued by Angua opening the door. She was grinning.
"Good evening, Mr Slant," she said. Carrot threw his notepad to her. She held up a pencil.
Carrot left the room, looking slightly green.
"We need to talk to Morecombe," was the last thing Mr Slant heard him say before the door shut.
"Can I help you, Captain Angua?" he asked, looking at her up and down.
"There's an urgent gnomish committee up at the Palace," she said. "There's a crowd of protest already."
"A human crowd of allies, or a crowd of gnomes?" he queried.
"Humans, sir. It's the Campaign for Equal Heights, or the Right Ratio of Amounts, sir. The tube of glue was too heavy for the gnomes to lift to sniff correctly, they've said."
Slant shook himself. "How much heavier did it not needed to be?"
Slant looked at her. She always had her blonde hair tumbling in an early style. She suited it, despite not looking very modern.
"Mr Slant, can you see me?" She waved her hand in front of his eyes.
"Yes," he said gruffly. "The Campaign for Equal Heights, did you say?"
At which moment, his mental filing cabinet jerked to the side. A drawer a little higher up unstuck and slid open.
"Oh gods! He didn't! I-I –"
"Sir, are you all right?"
Angua left the room, and planted Carrot in the centre of the cell.
"Stay here," she warned him. "He's not himself again."
Help! called Slant from the dark place. It had taken ages to unlock himself without alcohol or drugs, and he sat a little way outside his corpse on whatever passed for the ground here.
Yes? replied Morecombe.
I've been a bad boy, he said automatically, words spilling out the cabinet drawer. How do I stop chatting like this, sir?
Morecombe hit the locked mental door. Damn, he said. I'm too far away. Where are you? The Palace?
Pseudopolis Yard, sir. It's been… highly embarrassing today, sir.
He felt Morecombe shudder. What do you mean, Mr Slant?
People know. About us and Honeyplace.
Morecombe banged his fist into his door. Bah!
Who did you tell? asked Morecombe.
The Watch, said Slant meekly. I do tell the truth on occasion.
He felt Morecombe still. Honeyplace… went to the Watch?
No, sir. I did. I'm in a cell. I'll get bailed out later. I was arrested for–
Rimming? queried Morecombe. You can use the old palace laws of sodomy, can't you? Get yourself unarrested, man, and leave!
Slant sighed into him as he withdrew. He looked at his locked-out corpse, and set about finding his key.
He awoke to Vimes' voice. "I'm sure he's awake."
"No, sir," said Angua. "I think he's had too much to drink and he's drifting in and out on a much longer timescale than a human does. It's probably still sloshing around in his system because he can't get rid of it as easy."
She coughed. "Reg?"
"Yes, Captain. As the zombie muscles degrade, it's much harder to push substances such as food and drink around the body. It's easier after a while to get the body to absorb preservatives like formaldehyde than to digest solids, like biscuits."
"It's also easier," said Slant, "to go along to the Embalmer's Guild and pay them to have a clean-out every few years." He glared at Reg Shoe. "I don't know what you've been eating, but if you lack any sense of smell, it rots a lot faster than you think."
"You're awake," said Carrot. "I was sure you'd wake up soon."
Reg Shoe produced a pair of handcuffs and locked Slant's wrists up again.
"I'm still under arrest," said Slant. "I hoped that part was a bad dream."
There was a knock at the door, lower down.
"Come in, Cheery," said Vimes.
Cheery Littlebottom entered. "There's another gnome dead, sir. Too much alcohol after the glue."
"We haven't caught all the bus load yet?" Angua asked.
"No, Captain. Mr Vincent is still hiding in Biers as are the two werewolves. Mr Morecombe came forward and admitted something terrible, and Detritus jumped on him, but they're still fighting; and Mr Morecombe said he's your lawyer, Mister Vimes, and that he needs to talk to your wife, whom he's a good friend of, and –"
Vimes threw down his helmet. "Fine. Send a clacks to my wife, and we'll meet with Morecombe. Any sign of Honeyplace?"
"No, sir. Nor the carriage. It may have gotten lost in the diversion round Detritus."
"Right, Slant," said Vimes. "You're coming with me."
Vimes sat in his coach with Slant sitting opposite. Carrot sat on one side, and Constable Haddock on the other.
Haddock produced a pair of handcuffs and played with them.
"Another pair?" said Vimes.
"Yes, sir," said Haddock.
"I can juggle twelve," said Vimes. The coach stopped at the next crowded street junction.
Vimes opened the door and yelled, "Lance-Constable Brick! Get us through the traffic, please!"
The coach started moving, faster.
Slant spat another moth out. It flew out the window.
Vimes glared at him. "Do the moths get travel sick?"
"Uh, no. It's breeding season. I think. They used to infiltrate my jumpers round about the same time I had to stop wearing them."
Vimes grunted. "So's there's more than the suit? Reg doesn't change, nor do some of the other zombies."
"Uh, the zombies I know from Ankh get changed every few decades to stay up with fashion. These days they all wear robes, but I can't bear them. I'm a suit fellow."
Carrot said, "Where are the rest of the zombies? Reg can hardly find any!"
"Most of the ones I know are lords and ladies of leisure, even the wizards. We all stay in the City of Ankh. It's tidier."
"Cleaner," said Carrot. "Healthier. Safer," he added, "providing you can pay for it."
"Yes, that's Ankh," said Slant delightfully. "Of course, it'll be a lot better if we didn't have Morpork in our view."
The coach turned uphill, beginning the long journey up Kings Way.
"I don't think Morpork can help that, sir," said Constable Haddock, looking over Mr Slant's head at Carrot.
Slant snuggled down his seat, patted his hair, and said, "May I?" to Vimes.
"I need to rest my knees, I think." Slant put his legs on Vimes' seat in a V-shape.
"Gods, don't start that again! I think if Vetinari had his way, every quote from that meeting would be in the Times. What are you doing?"
"My knees don't bend very well. Even sitting upright hurts sometimes."
Carrot smiled. "Mr Slant is over three hundred and fifty years old."
Haddock interrupted him. "That's nothing. Some of the older zombies in Uberwald reach over ten thousand."
"I hate to think what their corpses look like," murmured Slant. "It was bad enough after the first hour of being dead."
Vimes said, "Did you have to dig yourself out?"
"No, I was lying in state. It was the head I had trouble with. I'd spent some years with cataracts, and I didn't know what I looked like from the outside, sir."
"You had the wrong head?"
"No, I had no head. I blundered around the funeral service without having a brain and not much in sensory. The wizards understand this sort of thing better, but they were too busy getting their own corpses restarted to help me. As I result I was chased by the procession into the river."
"When was this?" said Carrot.
"After the Civil War," said Slant. "Many records don't report this. I've got my own records, but the city was in disarray, and we'd run out of clerks. That's why we started having Patricians."
"Stoneface Vimes mentioned you once," said Vimes. "In his diary."
Slant glared at him, and tightened his legs. "I helped him more than once. I'm sure I've told you, Sir Samuel."
"Yes, you did," said Vimes. "You were stonk-raving drunk at the time. It was the first time I've seen you drunk. Then you called Vetinari 'Havelock' again, in case I buggered up his name or something."
"You've never called him Havelock."
Carrot said, "Yes, he has. You were practising in the mirror that day, weren't you, sir?"
"He's my boss," said Vimes. "You don't go on first name terms with the boss."
"No, Sam," said Carrot.
"Oh my. It's no wonder you were never promoted out of the Night Watch before. That's how Downey became a lord, I think. He just called him Havelock excessively."
"It's my wife," said Vimes. "She 'havelocks' him more than anyone, I think."
"Other than his family, I presume. He hasn't got much left."
"I think the balls," said Haddock, "have rendered him incapable!"
"Thank you, Constable," said Carrot. "We needed someone to check the clacks at the next traffic junction."
"Right, sir," said Haddock, climbing over Slant's leg, and jumping out of the opposite door in the coach. He was hanging onto the side as Vimes closed the door.
"All right, Haddock?" he yelled.
"Yes, sir!" said Haddock, retrieving the clacks mailbag from the Watch tower. He kicked the door open and re-entered the coach. "Here you are, sir!"
Vimes fished in the mailbag, finding partially-completed fragments of translated clacks code.
"Fuck," he read. "Balls. Testes –"
"Shut up," hissed Slant.
"We stopped it from hitting the Times," said Vimes happily.
"That was lucky," said Haddock, squeezing in next to Carrot.
Vimes' coach drew level with Detritus.
Morecombe was shielded by two elite mansions and an avenue of trees. He sat upon an ornamental lion atop a gatepost. He was bleeding, or oozing, whatever vampires did.
Detritus oozed from the jaw.
"All right, Detritus?" asked Vimes.
"No, sir. Permission to go to Igor, sir?"
"Permission granted," said Carrot, helping him stand up. Haddock led Detritus into the coach.
Mr Slant swivelled a key in his handcuffs without success. He'd gotten out the coach, still in arrest.
"Slant!" cried Morecombe. Get me out of this!
Slant's handcuffs went click and sprang open.
"What did you tell them, sir?" he shouted.
Bah! Keep the noise down, man! I'm a vampire, for fuck's sake!
"I've committed a terrible crime of treason," he said to the Watch. "We used a whip, when whips are not allowed under Vetinari."
"That's legal!" shouted Vimes. "We had to check when we explored Moist von Lipwig's former predecessor's closet in the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork."
"But it was truly terrible," said Morecombe, pleading. "Mr Slant had not given me full consent to use it."
"Well, Mr Slant," said Vimes. "You do remember what you've been arrested for, don't you?"
Which was what? said Morecombe.
"Murder," said Slant. "Guilty as charged for adhesive, er, drug-taking."
"That's it?" cried Morecombe. "I've been fighting that damn troll for nothing?"
"You're under arrest!" shouted Carrot. "For assaulting an officer of the Watch, and under law 450 dot eye eye for using a whip on a non-consenting adult."
"Who happens to be a lawman," replied Morecombe.
"Carrot, I've told you before," said Slant. "We don't use the old laws and ordinances the same way as modern law. It was only meant for humans, who resided in the Tump."
"Like the King," said Morecombe, "when the Morporkian Palace became too smelly from the unwashed masses protesting. The Tump Ruins became equipped with their own laws."
"Sir," said Carrot to Slant. "Do you have open wounds from the whip?"
"I doubt it," said Slant, switching more nerve endings on. "No," he said, after checking.
"Morecombe," shouted Vimes. "What have you done with Honeyplace?"
"Nothing! He's still going round in circles from the traffic diversions."
Have I… been a bad boy? Slant asked Morecombe. He, however, detected a hint of a snigger from Crusher, nearby.
Tell him what happened, advised Honeyplace.
Morecombe blinked as if from a psychic attack. He fell off the gatepost and onto Carrot.
There was a brief fight until Carrot locked Morecombe's arms behind his back. Carrot's breastplate had a long scratch down the front.
"You're under arrest for assaulting two officers of the Watch, myself and Detritus, and for whipping a non-consenting adult of the homosexual persuasion."
"No one persuaded me," said Slant. "I've always been bisexual."
"Tell that to the Times," said Morecombe, spitting onto the pavement. "Bah!"
"What did they said?" queried Slant.
"It's not just about us," said Morecombe, smoking slightly as Carrot led him into the dull sunlight. "Damn it, Captain!"
"It's what Vetinari said," said Lady Sybil rushing towards Vimes.
Vimes smiled. "How was the dragon party?" he asked quick.
"Fabulous, dear! But we were interrupted by Sacharissa shouting that Havelock's out!"
"Out of what?" said Vimes.
"The closet, dear," said Sybil. "He did so after the papers outted Slant and Honeyplace. Mr Boggis had a lot to say as well."
"What about me?" asked Morecombe as Carrot dragged him away to the coach.
Vimes relocked Slant's handcuffs. "You're still under arrest for manslaughter, sir. Four gnomes dead from glue-sniffing. Anything else you say about Morecombe will be taken –"
"– as evidence," finished Slant for him.
"What does 'out' mean?" whispered Vimes.
"'Out of the closet'," said Slant. "Openly gay or homosexual. I'm bisexual. I'm not sure about Havelock."
"He's had a lot of girlfriends," said Vimes, sounding dubious. "Sybil writes to most of them."
"Ah," said Slant. "Just one of those things to keep the papers entertained, I'd count on it."
"Lord Vetinari," gulped William de Worde as Otto took an iconograph and burst into flames.
"What about Lady Margolotta?"
"What about her? She's a highly trained politician."
Someone shouted out from the crowd. "Have you ever fucked Vimes?"
"No," answered Lord Vetinari. "Next question."
Mr de Worde looked around for Otto. "Why have you released Mr Slant from office?"
"Have you ever fucked Carrot?" said the crowd.
Vetinari flushed around his collar. "Er, no. Never with Carrot. Uh, Mr Slant has apparently 'done a runner' with Mr Honeyplace. I wish Vimes were here, he's much better at –"
Vetinari leaned in as Drumknott whispered.
"Mr Slant has been found!" he told them. "Both he and Mr Honeyplace are presumably hiding atop the Tower of Art."