Vimes went into the stoker's van. His gaze lingered on Stoker Blake, who got up rather awkwardly using his shovel like a cane.
"Sir," whispered Vimes, "I've got a small favour to ask."
"Why, Mister Vimes, I'm so chuffed. What is it that you want so early this morn?"
Vimes grabbed him by the arm and dragged him off the footplate and nearer to the furnace buckets.
Stoker Blake automatically leant on his shovel, and pulled down his cap.
Vimes said, "I'm not used to seeing you without a beard."
Stoker Blake raised a sooty eyebrow. "I can barely contain my excitement. What is it that you want that's interrupting my… break?"
Vimes grinned, and produced a thin rasher of bacon from inside his coat.
"What do you say to a little light breakfast, sir?"
Chapter 2—Fried Egg
Stoker Blake tugged his cap further over his eyebrows till his blue eyes were shielded from the sun.
Vimes grinned. "We've got eggs. White ones, sir."
Stoker Blake sighed. "I can't cook eggs in a shovel without fat. The men will be scraping it out for hours."
Vimes said, "You mean, they clean for you?"
Stoker Blake shrugged. "I don't know how to scrub pots," he admitted. "Strange, yet true. It's not a skill I've normally had to apply in running the city."
Stoker Blake was resting against the cabin wall. Vimes perched on the opposite edge of the cab, behind the driver, who was steadfastly ignoring them.
He sighed. "Just cook the white eggs whole in their shells."
"Hmm. We could boil them in the caddy." He sounded dubious of his own ability.
Vimes got him to poke his shovel out. It was the same shovel as last time. He broke one egg in it before Stoker Blake yanked it back.
"Hold it close, like the bacon," he advised. "If it bubbles, it's mine. If it explodes, it's yours, sir."
Stoker Blake gave in. At last Vimes could teach something back.
Chapter 3—Hash Browns
Vimes pulled his arm and held him close.
"Hash browns?" asked Stoker Blake hopefully.
"We've had hash browns this morning." Vimes frowned. "We all had hash browns."
"Yes, but they would come already cooked."
The shovel had burnt bits of egg stuck on since yesterday.
"Well?" asked Stoker Blake.
Vimes gave a wan smile to a grinning Death, who was eyeing the open breakfast package.
"I haven't got all day," hinted Stoker Blake. "Oh, there it is."
"Still in character, sir?" muttered Vimes. "Ah."
"It appears we have 'pizza'."
"No, sir. That's how Detritus grabbed the food. It went through the Piecemaker first." Vimes coughed. "What have you got against pizza? It's easy to cook."
Death stalked over to the package. CAN I JOIN IN, SIR SAMUEL?
Vimes said, "I can't teach everybody! It's bad enough with Blake."
"Who are you talking to? Oh!" he said as Vimes whispered through his cap. "Uh, I don't think… I could cook…"
I CAN. I WORKED AT HARGA'S HOUSE OF RIBS.
Vimes pinched himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
Death, it seemed, was a perfect chef.
Stoker Blake looked dazed. It had all happened very fast. Vimes had sealed them off in the cabin at the very end of his morning shift. He was half-starved.
"Thank you," he said as his pizza slices arrived on a metallic plate.
Vimes looked disgruntled as a mathematically measured pizza slice flew towards him. He took it and cheese burned over his hand.
Death, to Vimes, looked awkward. He pulled a beige hourglass out of his robe.
I HAVE TO LEAVE NOW, he said, and walked through the cabin wall to hover outside wearing his self-made chef's hat. The train left him behind.
"That was interesting," said Stoker Blake, dabbing at his mouth with his handkerchief. "Does that happen often?"
"You tell me." Vimes pushed the shovel into the furnace to sterilise it, uh no, to burn the crusty bits further. He picked them off with his sword, and ate one.
Stoker Blake leaned forward, and with the same corner of his hanky, wiped the cheese from Vimes' hand.
"Thank you." Vimes looked down and smiled. "I could teach you toasted cheese sandwiches next."
Stoker Blake sighed. "As you wish. Meanwhile, I have a shift to end."
Vimes pulled out a cigar and lit it with the poker.
Stoker Blake yanked Vimes into a shadowy corner that smelt of cheap liquor and
Vimes grinned. "Getting used to walking off the train again?"
Stoker Blake brushed Vimes down. "You can't talk to people covered in grass," he
hissed. "What did you do?"
"Oh, investigating a disturbance, sir. But it was a sheep I prodded with my truncheon," he added.
"I see. You and Fred Colon and Nobby arrested a sheep?"
"Correct. Now I've got to go and talk to Rhys again," he said, meaning to continue.
"Wearing grass," stated Stoker Blake. "Turn around."
Stoker Blake stopped brushing him down and starting picking bits out of his hair.
Vimes started laughing. He faced him, and clutched at his upper arms.
"Yes, Vimes?" Stoker Blake peeled a thin grass blade from behind his left temple.
"You could do something more interesting than stand at the back with your shovel,
sir. Come with me."
"You can hardly take a fireman stoker into a, a meeting hall without a few good
shadows available. The cap doesn't cover every eventuality."
Vimes sighed. "Come with me. I'll buy you a hotdog."
Stoker Blake crossed one leg behind the other. "You like bribing me with food."
"I don't bribe anyone," said Vimes. "It's a sausage. They're quite good for the area."
"Hmm." Stoker Blake unwound his leg and shifted his weight around.
Vimes paused. "Leg giving you trouble?" He offered his arm, laughter still
decorating his facial features.
"So kind," said Stoker Blake and accepted it.