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Missing!
by Badge177

Chapter 3

Vimes paced the front office.  It was almost 6 o’clock and the clacks requesting Carrot to return to the Watch House had gone unanswered.  He’d already sent out as many officers as he could spare to look for him, but his copper instincts were telling him something was wrong.  It was just a feeling he had in the pit of his stomach; a nagging doubt that all their searching was going to be in vain.

“What the bloody hell’s happened to him, Fred?” he muttered under his breath.

Colon shuffled his feet.  Vimes’ constant pacing was beginning to un-nerve him.  “I don’t expect anything’s happened to him, sir,” he said.  He’s probably just been delayed somewhere.”

“Then why hasn’t he answered the clacks?”  Vimes growled.  “Or sent one himself for that matter?”

“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for it, sir.  Besides, Carrot’s a big lad, he can look after himsel—”

“Exactly,” Vimes snapped.  “Which is precisely why I am worried.”

“Sir?”

“What if he hasn’t answered the clacks because he can’t, Fred?  Supposing he’s injured or something?”  Vimes paced a few more steps, and then threw his hands up in the air.  “Gods, he could be lying in a damned gutter somewhere!”

“It’s possible, sir,” said Colon.  “But, if he were, sir, wouldn’t somebody have found him by now?”

Vimes snorted.  “Why doesn’t that make me feel any better, Fred?”  He rubbed his forehead, and seemed to reach a decision.  “Right, get any extra officers we have available out looking for him.  And make sure there’s someone out there around the clock, do you hear?”

“Yessir.”

“And check with every doctor in the city.  Find out if any of them have been called out in the past six hours, or if anyone’s been injured and taken in to see them.”

“Yessir.”

“And the minute they find out anything I want to know, is that clear?”

“Yessir.  Er... and if it’s late, sir?”

“I don’t care what the damned time is, Fred!  I want to know, is that understood?”

“Yessir!”

Colon hurried away to carry out his orders.  He was sweating profusely; glad for once to have something to do.  He couldn’t help thinking Vimes was worrying himself unnecessarily over Carrot, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen the commander so wound up.

Vimes leaned his knuckles on the nearest desk and took a deep breath.  Damn, he thought.  Why do I get the feeling I should have acted before now?  Fred’s probably right, there probably is a logical explanation, but if anything’s happened to that boy, I’ll never forgive myself...

He moved across to where Captain Noakes was working, keeping track of the officers out on patrol.   “What’s the latest from Sergeant Angua, captain?”

“She’s still out with Corporal Littlebottom, sir.  You sent them to—” 

“Yes, yes...” said Vimes wearily.  “I know where they are.”  His head was starting to spin; he could feel a headache coming on.  “Have they managed to find anything yet?”

“Not yet, sir,” said Noakes patiently.  He glanced up at the clock.  “But they’re due back soon, sir, they may be able to tell you more then.”

Vimes nodded.  ”Right.  Fine.”  He rubbed his temples.  ”I’ll be in my office, let me know the minute they get back, would you?”

”Yes, sir.”

Vimes climbed the stairs to his office.  It was the last place he wanted to be.  He felt so useless stuck in here when he could be out there doing something.  But he had little choice; staying put and waiting for more information was the only way he’d be able to keep abreast of things.

He slumped into his chair and closed his eyes.  Why?  he thought, as the headache began to take hold.  There are a million people in this city; any one of them could have gone missing.  Why did it have to be Carrot?

-o0o-

Watts descended the stone steps and closed the trapdoor behind him.  He glanced at Carrot, and then came over to Sharkey, grinning.  “Been a good boy while I’ve been gone, has he?”

“Yeah, no trouble at all,” said Sharkey.  He hefted his crossbow; it was still aimed at Carrot, even though there was no real need.  “To tell you the truth, it’s the other one I’m worried about.”

Watts gave him a friendly slap on the back.  “You worry too much, my friend.  Have a little faith, will you?”

“I just want to make sure we do this right, that’s all.  It’d only take one mistake to—”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Watts, fixing him with a dark stare.  “So, we’d better make sure we don’t make any, hadn’t we?”

Sharkey averted his eyes.  He had no desire to return that gaze.  If the eyes really were the windows to the soul, then Watts’ soul was as black as pitch.  He turned his attention instead, to Carrot.  “Did you manage to cover our tracks okay?” he asked Watts casually.

“Yeah,” said Watts, walking over to where Carrot was sitting.  “No one’s going to find us in a month of Sundays.”  He sniffed his hands and absently wiped them on his breeches.  “In a couple of hours time that stink will be all over the city.  No werewolf’s going to be able to track us through that.”

“I hope you’re right,” Sharkey grumbled.  “’Cause that stuff cost us a small fortune.”

“Which is what we’ll have if we pull this off, right?”

“Yeah...” Sharkey conceded. 

Carrot was listening to every word.  His heart sank.  He knew Vimes would be relying on Angua to follow his trail.  Without her help it could be weeks, maybe even months, before anyone found him.  Oh, they would keep looking of course, but in a city the size of Ankh-Morpork there were a million and one places you could hide someone.  Their task was next to hopeless.  And Carrot knew it.

Watts knew it too.  He could see it in Carrot’s face.

“Did you hear that, boy?” he said, kicking Carrot’s foot spitefully.  “The only way you’re getting out of here now is if loverboy pays your ransom.”  He made sure to step back after kicking Carrot, just in case he retaliated. 

Carrot ignored him.  The cuffs allowed him only limited movement; he’d be no match for the two men if Watts decided to start something.

When Carrot didn’t react, Watts grinned, cockily.  “’Course,” he said, licking his lips.  “I haven’t decided yet whether I want to give you back.”  His eyes were roaming Carrot’s body again.  “See, I’m in half a mind to keep you for myself...”

“I suggest you worry about that after you get the ransom note written, Watts,” said Sharkey.  ”We are in this for the money after all.”

“Yeah,” said Watts thoughtfully, his eyes still on Carrot.  “There’s plenty of time yet, eh?”  

-o0o-

It was dark outside when Angua and Cheery returned to the Watch House.  The shifts had already changed and the Night Watch was on duty.  Vimes was still there too, refusing to go home until they’d both reported back.  He hurried down the stairs when he heard them come in. 

Angua was just inside the door as Vimes reached the foot of the stairs.

Their eyes met across the room; Vimes held his breath, a questioning look in his eyes.

Angua shook her head slowly.

“Nothing at all?” said Vimes, his shoulders sagging.  “Surely there must be—”

“Oh, there are trails, sir,” said Angua, taking off her helmet.  “But they’re weak, and mostly they just go around in circles.”  She sighed.  “You know how much ground Carrot covers in a day, sir.  He could be anywhere.”

Vimes cursed under his breath.

“And there’s something else, too, sir... another smell.”

“Another smell?” said Vimes.  “What kind of smell?” 

“Well, Cheery thinks it’s scallas... er, scallit—”

“Scallatine, sir,” said Cheery.  “It’s expensive stuff, sir, and not the sort of thing you’d want to go throwing around in the streets.  But it’s everywhere, sir.  Of course, one of the alchemists could have dropped it by accident, but it could have been used to, er... to... ”  She trailed off when she realized Vimes was fixing her with a stare capable of welding her helmet to her head.

“To what, corporal?” Vimes prompted.

“To cover up something, sir.”

“Like tracks, perhaps?” Vimes growled.  It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, sir,” said Cheery meekly.  “Like tracks...”

Vimes looked at Angua.

So did Cheery.

Angua looked concerned, Vimes just looked angry.  Cheery realized Vimes was worried too, getting angry was just his way of dealing with it.  Carrot was his second in command; she knew how important he was to him.  But more than that, of course, they were friends.

Angua shrugged.  “Well, whatever the case, sir, there are trails of the damned stuff over half the city.  I can’t track him through that.  I could go back out and keep looking of course, but...”

”No,” said Vimes, scrubbing his face with his hands.  “I already have half the Watch out looking for him, they have orders to let me know the minute they find anything.  I’ll need you fresh in the morning; you’d best go home and get some rest.  Both of you.”

“What about you, sir?” said Angua, noticing how drained he looked; the circles around his eyes were as dark as the shadow on his chin.  “There can’t be much more you can do here tonight, sir, and one of the captains can contact you if—”

Vimes shook his head.  “No, Angua, I’m staying here.  I can’t rest knowing Carrot’s still out there somewhere.”

Angua touched his arm.  “Sir,” she said firmly,  “I know how important Carrot is to you, but worrying isn’t going to help, and you can’t stay here all night.  Besides, if anyone should be losing sleep over this, it’s me.”  She held his gaze.  “He is my boyfriend, in case you’d forgotten?”

Vimes blinked at her owlishly.  “No, no, of course not.”  He managed to keep his voice even.  “You’re right, I, uh...”  He tore his eyes away from her gaze and rubbed the back of his neck.  “I, uh... I just have a few more things to see to here before I turn in.”

Angua nodded.  “All right.  I’ll see you at first light, then, sir.”  She put her helmet back on.  “Come on, Cheery.”

Cheery stifled a yawn as she followed Angua out the door.  “’Night, sir,” she said.

“Goodnight,” said Vimes, almost to himself.

He watched them leave.

But he didn’t leave himself, not for a long while.  He climbed the stairs to his office and fell into his chair.  He sat there alone, staring blankly at the wall, Angua’s words still ringing in his ears.

“...He is my boyfriend, in case you’d forgotten?”

He had, hadn’t he?  He’d been so wrapped up in his own concerns for Carrot he’d completely forgotten about Angua.  Gods, what must she be going through?  Well, she was handling it better than he was, that was for sure.  She’d never struck him as being overly emotional, so he hadn’t expected her to get hysterical.  But he hadn’t expected her to be quite so... calm about it, either.

“...I know how important Carrot is to you, sir, but worrying isn’t going to help.”

No, worrying wasn’t going to help.  But she had no idea how much Carrot meant to him, and there wasn’t a person on the Disc who would stop him worrying until he was sure Carrot was safe.

He suddenly wondered if the others had noticed how concerned he was about Carrot.  He’d have to be careful; it wouldn’t take much for them to start wondering why Carrot suddenly meant so much to him.  Gods, this relationship was such a strain at times...

He pinched the bridge of his nose.  Just let him be safe, he thought.  That’s all I ask.

His office suddenly seemed unbearably oppressive.

He got up and grabbed his coat, and without bothering to close the door, he left his office, descended the stairs, and left the Yard without saying another word.

-o0o-

Vimes couldn’t remember arriving at the house; he assumed he’d gotten home on automatic.

He crept into the bedroom.  Sybil was already asleep; he recognized the steady rhythm of her breathing.  He undressed and climbed in beside her, taking care not to wake her. 

An hour later, he was still wide-awake, still staring at the ceiling.  He lay there, half hoping, half dreading, that any minute now one of his officers would come knocking on his door with news of Carrot.

No one did.

Finally, unable to fight sleep off any longer, he fell into a fitful slumber.  He managed to get almost three hours before he woke again, got dressed, and headed back to his office.

It was doubtful, however, that he would have slept that long, had he known about the ransom note that was already on its way to the Watch House...

-o0o-

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