Warnings: This story contains sexual situations, explicit description of slash (homoerotic, male/male sex), and implied violence and torture. If you are likely to be offended by any of this, or if your government or your parents think you’re too young to be exposed to it, please find something else to read instead.
Disclaimer: Nearly all characters and locales, including Vimes, Vetinari, Carrot, Angua, Sybil, Willikins, Nork the Impaler, the Watch House, the Patrician’s Palace, Harga’s, The Bucket, the Mended Drum, Mr. Scrope's shop, the streets of Ankh-Morpork and the Dis-Organizer Mk 2, belong to my all-time favorite author, Terry Pratchett. No copyright infringement or disrespect is intended. Pits, Cor, Lord Rice, and Bendy Snat belong to me, because no one else would have them.
"Ah, Commander Vimes," the Patrician acknowledged without looking up from the papers on his desk. "I'm glad to see you're up and about. I wasn't expecting you back on duty for several days."
"He isn't supposed to be, sir," Carrot immediately piped up, "Three or four days at least of complete bed rest, that's what the doctor said."
"And precisely when, Carrot, were you appointed my nursemaid?" Vimes growled. Carrot, catching enough of the glare Vimes was giving him to sear his retinas, wisely closed his mouth.
"There's no need for me to be off duty, sir," Sir Samuel continued, turning back to Vetinari, "I'm rather hoping against any lengthy foot chases for a couple days, but I can sit at my desk and push papers as well as ever."
‘I must be totally daft,’ Vimes thought silently. The walk from his home to the Palace had been misery escalating to agony, and he felt light-headed and queasy with exhaustion. ‘I could be home lying flat on my back in my own bed.’ Home, where he could let his heavy eyelids close and where, most urgently, he could strip off the damned leather britches. And his drawers while he was at it. Even the soft linen was chafing.
"So." Vetinari finally put down the paper he had been reading. "Exactly how did the criminal element manage to kidnap the head of the entire City Watch and hold him prisoner for nearly three days?"’
Vimes and Captain Carrot exchanged an uneasy glance, then Vimes spoke up, clearing his throat nervously. "They must have stolen or trapped one of the family pigeons. I received a bogus message that my wife was having the baby, at least a month early, and that I was needed immediately. They must have known I'd hotfoot it home by the most direct route, and that I'd be distracted. So I cut down the alley from the Opera House to King's Way bridge. That's where they were waiting for me. I saw a shadow jump out right in front of me and nearly knocked the guy down. Then came that sickening, oh-shit pain you get when someone comes up behind you and clobbers the back of your head with a thick board. Next thing I remember was waking up chained and blindfolded."
"Sergeant Angua lost his scent on Body Street just off Pseudopolis Yard, " Carrot explained, picking up the story. "We think they put the Commander into a cart at that point. Then, until yesterday evening, we were at a complete standstill. We couldn't pick up a single clue from anyone or anything. That's why we decided to concentrate our search on The Shades. It's not the best location to go knocking on doors, but when people don't want to talk, it's the place they are most likely to not be talking about. We kept hoping Angua could pick up the trail."
"And that's how you found him?"
"Not exactly, sir. First she...heard him."
There was a brief, unhappy silence.
"I was...not enjoying my hosts' hospitality. Eventually I became rather vocal on the point," Vimes said softly. He was staring at the toes of his boots.
"So, having been tortured beyond your endurance, you screamed, and that's what saved you," Vetinari interpreted, "Perhaps you should have started screaming a couple days earlier."
"Then you and Sergeant Angua broke into the building, Captain Carrot, and apprehended the two men holding Sir Samuel hostage."
"Er, something like that, sir," Carrot agreed, looking totally miserable, "At first it was just me. Angua said she couldn't go in there."
"Why was that, Captain?"
"She said she could...smell...what was...going on, sir," Carrot murmured. Vimes stood with his chin on his chest, rubbing his forehead. Carrot looked as though he might cry.
"I wish I could have seen it," Vimes said into the ensuing silence. "Carrot must have come through that door like it was paper, and just kept on going. I heard a crash, then a couple more crashes accompanied by shouts and groans. The next thing, Carrot was untying the blindfold and Pits and Cor were both out cold on the floor."
"Ah, yes, Pits and Cor. I'm interested in why you made the decision, Captain Carrot, that your prisoners should be moved immediately to Sto Helit. Did you consider these two men so crafty and dangerous that you needed to send them out of the area? Are our facilities here in Ankh-Morpork so easily broken out of? "
"More likely he was worried about someone breaking in," Vimes muttered.
"I'll admit I was concerned about their safety, and the difficulties of having a fair trial," Carrot explained, sounding distinctly nervous, "I mean, with the nature of their crimes, and the magnitude of their crimes, and the object of their crimes..." His voice trailed off.
"So you instructed Sergeant Angua, alone, to take the two prisoners to Sto Helit, along with a considerable amount of money."
Vimes suddenly became more alert.
"Sir, Angua is more than capable of managing several large, aggressive suspects unassisted."
"And the money?"
"Pits and Cor were given forty thousand in gold. It was to be the first half of their payment."
Vimes' eyebrows climbed up to his hairline. "Eighty thousand! The Assassins' Guild doesn't think I'm worth a cent over sixty!"
"You set two highly dangerous criminals and forty thousand in gold on the road to Sto Helit with no more protection than the albeit capable Sergeant Angua?" the Patrician queried in a deceptively mild tone.
"Oh no, sir. Thirty thousand is locked up tight. It's to go into the Watch Widows' and Orphans' Fund, because I knew that was what Commander Vimes would want, except he was so busy yelling at the doctor right then that I didn't want to interrupt. I only sent ten thousand with Angua. As evidence. Like I said, it was all in gold pieces."
Vimes was managing to look pleased and extremely worried at the same time.
"And you did this for the suspects' own safety?" Vetinari continued, curiously.
"That turned out to be rather ironic, didn't it, Captain Carrot?"
"Uh, yes, sir..."
"Considering that the party came under attack soon after leaving the city..."
"What!?" Vimes yelled.
"...By a group of several werewolves, more than a dozen dwarves and at least two members of the Assassins' Guild..."
"Carrot, why in blazes didn't you tell me...?!"
"...who not only stole the gold but proceeded to rather messily dispense with both Pits and Cor..."
"Sir, you were supposed to be on sick leave..."
"...Which Sergeant Angua, unharmed but hopelessly outnumbered, was not only powerless to stop...."
"What's that got to do with it?!"
"...and there really was nothing to be done, so I didn't want to bother you..."
"...But now states that because of the darkness and confusion..."
"Nothing to be done?! There are a large number of werewolves and dwarves that will have to answer for this!"
"Technically it happened outside of our jurisdiction, sir, and at any rate..."
"...she will be unable to identify a single member of her assailants. Commander Vimes, would you please lower your voice!"
"Jurisdiction?! The attack was on a member of the Guard in the course of her duty!"
"...Angua is the only witness, and she is not going to say who was involved. And she wasn't attacked, only the prisoners."
Several seconds of silence followed as everyone caught up on the conversation.
"I see," Vimes finally said in a much calmer but more dangerous tone. "Assassins' Guild because Pits and Cor were hired murderers without Guild membership..."
"From what I understand, the Guild was content to observe the entire messy business from a distance, as long as the desired ends were achieved," the Patrician observed dryly.
"...but dwarves. And werewolves. Captain Carrot, is there any chance at all that you were indiscreet with the details of Angua's mission?"
"I certainly didn't intend to be indiscreet, sir. But I'm ashamed to admit that, well, the entire evening had left me a bit shaken, so Angua and I did drop in to one or two dwarf establishments for a few drinks. And it is possible that some of our conversation regarding our feelings about this matter were overheard."
"And the werewolves? Our local undead population is generally very law-abiding."
"Sir, after that we did drop in at the Biers."
"Oh, of course. Certainly you did."
"Angua is, of course, very well-respected among the Ankh-Morpork werewolves. And she was very deeply disturbed about what happened to you. Perhaps some of the local clientele got the wrong impression."
Vimes was slowly shaking his bowed head, one hand covering his eyes.
"Sir Samuel, I think perhaps you should be seated," the Patrician observed.
The thoroughly distracted Vimes dropped carelessly into the nearest chair, then doubled over in a frantic attempt to avoid screaming from pain.
"Perhaps more carefully, next time," Vetinari suggested with a sigh, "Now, Captain Carrot, regarding the unusual death of Lord Rice..."
Vimes sat up straight, eyes wide. "Lord Rice is dead? Carrot, why didn't you tell me...?"
"You were supposed to be on sick leave..."
"...and there was nothing to be done about it," Vimes finished for him. He slumped back down and buried his face in his hands. "What was unusual about Lord Rice's death?"
"It seems Captain Carrot is suggesting it be ruled a suicide."
"Sir, when a man of Lord Rice's obvious wealth chooses to take a walk, unaccompanied, in the depths of The Shades, it is a clear case of suicide."
Vimes lifted his head enough to give Carrot a glower that clearly said, 'I want to know what's going on, I want to know it right now, and whatever it is I'm not going to like it.'
"I am somewhat unclear on the details of why Lord Rice was in The Shades in the first place, Captain," the Patrician said curiously.
Carrot swallowed hard and fixed his eyes on the spot on the wall that Vimes generally took such interest in. "After questioning Cor and Pits, I went to Lord Rice's home to continue the investigation."
"At 2:00 in the morning?"
"Commander Vimes always says that clues need to be followed quickly before they get away, sir."
"I see. Go on."
Carrot took a shaky breath. "After a brief conversation, Lord Rice confessed readily and of his own free will to hiring the men known as Pits and Cor to...to kidnap...to kidnap, t-t-torture and kill Commander Vimes."
"Rice," Vimes muttered emptily, "Lord Rice. Okay, we didn't see eye to eye, I knew he hated me at least as much as most of the rich nobs in this city do, but this...Rice...why...?"
Silently, Carrot took a slim black box out of his pocket and placed it on Vetinari's desk.
"It's a Personal Dis-organizer Mk II," Vimes said, in the tone one would say, 'It's a slimy green cockroach with 52 legs oozing a trail of purple goo.' Then his eyes went very wide. "Where did you get that?!" He moved to grab the device, but Vetinari was faster than any snake and all Vimes succeeded in grabbing was the Patrician's outstretched hand. He let go very quickly.
"I found it at the...scene of the...crime, sir."
Vimes went very, very still. When he spoke, the words came out in frozen monochrome. "Did you listen to it?"
"I...heard...about five seconds, sir. Then I...told it to...erase its memory. Then I told it to erase its memory again...to make sure. Then I told the imp inside that if it ever...accidentally remembered a single word of...what it had previously heard, I would...chop it into very tiny pieces which I would then stomp into slime." Carrot was struggling to get the words out. His eyes were swimming with tears.
Vimes looked back down at the carpet between his feet. "Why did you keep the damned thing?"
"I thought it might be useful when I spoke to Lord Rice, sir." Carrot opened the lid.
The tiny imp crouching inside said "Bingely-bingely-beep?" in a quavering voice.
Reaching out one slightly shaking finger, Carrot pressed the recall button.
"Ouch...nyap-nyark-nyee nyip-nyap wheedlewheed...uh, sir? This stuff I remembering now, this is stuff you want me to remember, right? Not stuff I'll get sliced up for remembering, like the other stuff, of which I have absolutely no memory. Right?"
"Er, okay, if you're sure...nyip nyipnyip...wheedlewheedlewheedlewheedle nyap...'Samuel Vimes is an affront, a slap in the face to everything the aristocracy of this city holds dear and sacred.'"
"That's Rice alright," Vimes verified wryly.
"'An uncouth, ill-mannered, worthless member of the Watch, a drunkard, born and raised in the gutter, whose only ancestor of note was guilty of regicide! His idea of entertainment is disparaging and ridiculing those superior to him on the social ladder.'"
"Well, he does have me there," Vimes muttered.
"'And Havelock, for unknown reasons, delights in using the miscreant to taunt the decent men of this city. His Grace the Duke of Ankh! Ha! He's unfit to polish the boots...' nyip nyipnyap... 'Certainly I want him dead, but an Assassin's bolt is much too honorable for him. I wanted to know he had been utterly humiliated, broken, forced to see himself as the despicable piece of scum that he is...' wheedlewheedlewheedle ..."
‘I’ve seen myself that way,’ Vimes thought wearily, ‘reflected from the bottom of an empty whiskey bottle. The fool. You can’t make anyone feel that kind of worthlessness. A man has to bring that on himself.’
"'...wasn't easy, or cheap, to find professionals with the necessary twisted talent. Cor and Pits came to me with high recommendations and credentials. I'm disappointed, and surprised, they were apprehended before they could finish the job.'
"'Lord Rice,'" (Carrot's voice came from the Dis-Organizer), "'I am placing you under arrest under Section...' nyee-nyap wheedle..."
"My goodness," Vimes said brightly, "Do we have laws in this City forbidding someone to hire people to drive another person insane?" It was the voice of a man skirting the edge of hysteria.
"I can have the imp go back and remember the official list of violations," Carrot offered.
"Please don't," Vetinari and Vimes chorused.
"Wheewheedlewheedlewheed...'lawyer would force you to release me before you could finish the paperwork. But there's no point in your arresting me at any rate, Captain Carrot. Vimes will never press charges. Do you really believe that man, with his misplaced sense of dignity, could endure the embarrassment of standing up in public and testifying about what was done to him? As for intent to murder, well, you really have no proof at all of that, now do you?'
"'What exactly do you believe they did to him, Lord Rice?'
"'I was given a generalized outline, of course. There was supposed to be a verbal record. I don't suppose you happened to find that?'
"'Do you know where they took Commander Vimes, sir?'
"'The exact location? No, of course not. Those gentlemen knew they would have to return to me with proof of Vimes' demoralizing demise in order to receive the final installment of their payment. I didn't care to be burdened with the petty details of when, where or how.'
"'I could take you there. Let you see first hand the place where your orders were carried out. You could look for your 'verbal record' yourself.'
"'Oh, Captain Carrot! Do you actually believe the sights will fill me with regrets and remorse? I'm not ashamed of hiring Cor and Pits, only abashed that they were caught before they managed to dispense with Vimes. By all means, take me to the site. I will enjoy seeing it.'"
The nervous imp spotted Carrot's large hand, visibly trembling, coming near, and managed to disappear within the scant depths of the Dis-Organizer case seconds before the lid clicked shut.
A long moment of hush settled over the room. Eventually Sam cleared his throat and spoke, his voice rough.
"You took him into The Shades, in the middle of the night."
"He was perfectly safe, sir. We took his coach, and I was well armed."
"Keep going, Carrot."
"Well, sir, I took him to the building where we found you. Then I left him alone for a few minutes to contemplate the atrocity of his crimes in solitude."
"You left him alone, without the coach, in The Shades. Did you even tell him you were coming back for him?"
"Sir, I don't believe I mentioned it as such. It's simple common sense. He was my prisoner, after all. And I wouldn't abandon even a man as inhuman as Lord Rice in the middle of The Shades."
"You left him there alone, he panicked, and..."
"Committed suicide, sir."
Lord Vetinari picked up the Dis-Organizer and thoughtfully examined it, toying with it with slender, pale fingers. "Clearly," he agreed at last. After a moment the polished box disappeared into the mysterious recesses of the Patrician's desk.
"Thank you, Captain Carrot. You've had quite a busy night. I suggest you take off the rest of the day and get some rest."
Vimes started to gingerly get to his feet, but the Patrician stopped him with a sharp look. "No, Commander Vimes. You and I still have matters to discuss." Carrot opened his mouth, then shut it again. He would have preferred to accompany Vimes directly back to his home, where he could hand the man over to Lady Sybil and be assured he'd be put back to bed where he belonged. What he did not prefer was to see Vimes put through any additional ordeals. But even Carrot was disinclined to argue with Lord Vetinari when he used that tone of voice. The Captain saluted and escaped.