The silence continued for a moment after the door closed. Vimes sat at attention, his eyes fixed on some distant horizon. He didn't see how he could be blamed for being kidnapped, or for any of the events that had happened since Carrot and Angua had rescued him. But he was certain the Patrician was going to point out the error in his thinking.
Vetinari crossed the room, opened the door again and spoke to Drumknott. Vimes caught the words "not to be disturbed." Gods, this was not looking good.
Silence again. Vetinari walked back and took his seat behind his desk. Sitting with his elbows on the desk and his steepled fingers thoughtfully tapping his thin lips, he studied Vimes with the gaze of someone considering an interesting and puzzling lab specimen. Sir Samuel continued to stare over the Patrician's shoulder at, or through, the far wall.
"You intend to keep all of this walled up inside, don't you?" Vetinari said at last.
"Sir Samuel, you are insubordinate, stubborn, violently impulsive, and frequently an intentional fly in whatever ointment I prepare, but nonetheless you have proved yourself on several occasions to be a capable bodyguard as well as a valuable tool toward upholding what we think of as peace in this city. I would not be pleased to see you injured to the point that it interferes with your duties."
"Sir?" Vimes was genuinely confused now, and growing increasingly uncomfortable.
"You were badly hurt, Commander."
"I've survived much worse injuries, sir. I expect to be completely recovered in a few days."
"Sir." His increasing tension lurked behind the word.
"But most of the damage is not physical, is it, Sir Samuel?"
"Vimes, you are using that single word as question, reply and shield, and not all that effectively," Lord Vetinari observed calmly, rising and walking back around the desk.
Sam caught himself and opted for silence.
The Patrician absently moved his inkwell into a more precise line with the other items on the desk. "You were horribly mistreated. You are feeling, justifiably, quite a lot of rage." He turned his penetrating gaze back to Vimes, who continued to studiously avoid it. "And you intend to keep that rage, along with the pain, the humiliation, and the shame, completely to yourself, without outlet. And being the man whom you are, you will allow them to continue to grow, uncontrolled, unreleased and unrelieved. That's a dangerous path, Sir Samuel."
Vimes maintained his silence and stare, but his jaw muscles bunched visibly.
"Sir Samuel, the men who did this to you are dead. The man who paid and instructed them is dead. That's the closest you are going to get to justice in this matter."
Vimes inhaled deeply through his nose, fighting for continued restraint. "Lord Vetinari, just what is it you want from me?"
"Perhaps nothing more than for you to talk, Vimes. Whatever it takes to get your thoughts into the open where you can examine them, before they fester into malignancy."
"And just what is it you expect me to say?" Vimes could feel the tenuous hold on his temper slipping fast. He was still exhausted, sore and, yes, angry as hell. He didn't need Havelock Vetinari prodding at his mind.
"How many people, still living I mean, know anything about your ordeal? You can't talk to Captain Carrot. His mind isn't designed to tolerate the concept of depravity. He has already arranged the execution of three men based solely on what he witnessed when he found you -- oh, come now, Vimes, that's not what the record will show, but you and I both know the difference between reality and history. You certainly aren't going to talk to Angua, although because of her unusual senses she probably knows much more than you realize. And I doubt very much you will talk to Lady Sybil. She's eight months pregnant, you were missing for nearly three days, and she can see the evidence of your mistreatment. She has suffered enough already without being subjected to details."
"Are you saying I should talk to you?!" The words were supposed to come out with a sneer, but anger and outrage staged an ambush and turned them into a shout. Sometime while Vetinari was speaking Vimes had gone from "eyes straight" to wide-eyed glaring.
"Yes," the Patrician replied calmly, leaning back against the desk. "Assuming you don't wish to add to the circle of people who know of your misfortune, I'm really your only choice."
"You already know too damn much! You're not getting the bloody details to mull over at your leisure! I'm busy trying to forget them, and I'm not about to drag them out for your inspection!" Vimes was yelling now. He jumped to his feet, far too fast, and went dead white from pain and vertigo. Blackness with vivid red streaks filled his vision.
Vetinari was at his elbow, steadying him. "Sit down, Sir Samuel."
Vimes sat. Very carefully.
"I am not asking for your story out of some voyeuristic, prurient interest, Commander. And I am not giving you a direct order. But I feel somewhat...responsible for putting you in the line of harm. And I am...concerned about your welfare."
Vimes hunched in the chair, head spinning, fearing he was on the losing end of this battle and, more than anything, confused at the Patrician's words and tone. He might have been driven nearly insane by the events of the past three days, but he wasn't crazy enough to believe Vetinari actually cared about his problems. Not as long as they didn't impact the Patrician himself.
But Vimes wanted him to care. He realized, with a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, that he actually wanted Vetinari to know everything, and care. He didn't want the man's pity, which he was certain not to get. It was just that he ached for someone to understand. What he really wanted was for the Patrician to be angry on his behalf.
Vetinari had gone back to leaning against the desk. Vimes' own harsh breathing sounded loud to him in the silence, and he struggled to stifle it.
"You were raped," the Patrician said softly at last, "Repeatedly, I suspect."
"I'm sure you've read the damned doctor's report," Sir Samuel replied, his voice a rough whisper.
"But there was more to it than that."
"You know there was, damn you!"
Vetinari drew a paper out of the neat piles on his desk, as though every word on it wasn't already etched upon his brain.
"’Prolonged or repeated exposure...’” ‘of the testicles, penis and anus’ “‘...to unidentified topical irritant...’"
Vimes patted his pockets until he'd found a cigar. "Beats the hell out of me what it was. Felt like essence of fire ant."
"...accompanied by mild to moderate abrasions..."
'Mild my ass! Nothing you do to that part of a man's anatomy can be classified as mild.' Vimes had located a match now. He moved to light the cigar, his hand trembling slightly in spite of his determination to keep it steady. Then he realized what he was doing, froze and, with a cautious look to Vetinari, carefully removed the cigar from his mouth.
"Oh, go ahead, please," the Patrician granted with a slight wave of his hand. "In your case, it's a preferable substitute for a stiff drink, which I'm certain is what you really need right now."
Vimes' gaze darted to Vetinari's liquor cabinet and lingered there. Then he momentarily closed his eyes, sighed deeply, lit the cigar, and studied the end of it.
"Whiskey," he said very softly at last, "They had whiskey. The first time, they forced it down my throat. It was swallow or drown." There was a hint of self-defense, or even pride, in his tone.
"Most men would have been quite willing to swallow."
"From then on, I drank as much as they would give me, as fast as I could gulp it," Samuel added darkly. He studied the carpet at his feet.
"A wise decision for a man being tortured, I would say."
"Tell me what happened."
Vimes was too distracted to be surprised at the gentleness of the Patrician's tone. "They...they wanted..." He pinched the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes for a moment, swallowed in a dry throat and tried again, "My arms and legs were chained. Shackled. I couldn't do...anything."
"I know. Captain Carrot mentioned that in his report."
"They were trying to make me... to get me to ask them... to beg for... release. Uh, not... not from the chains, I mean, for..." Vimes' voice faded to silence. He was at a complete loss for words, he didn't want to go on, and he was unsure if he could continue even if he'd wanted to.
"For... carnal release." Vetinari's voice was still uncharacteristically gentle. Vimes, totally incapable of looking up from the floor, missed the arctic ice that flashed in the Patrician's eyes.
"Yeah. I was blindfolded, never knew what to expect next. They did...used...everything. Everywhere." hands, mouths, even something that felt like feathers... Sam shuddered violently, almost convulsively, again and yet again. ".... And then that powder... stuff gives a whole new definition to the word 'itch'. Bloody hellfire. I could only take that... for so long..." It was intolerable, like a million red ants crawling over him, biting him, but he was absolutely helpless, there was nothing he could do, no relief, not unless he would beg them to touch him, to rub him... Vimes suddenly retched, violently. He became aware that the Patrician had quickly moved the trash bin within reach, and he managed to aim for it as he lost what little breakfast he'd choked down that morning. His stomach had turned into a coiling serpent, his head was about to explode, the damn room was spinning around him... he felt himself start to fall sideways off the chair...
And Havelock Vetinari was crouched beside him, arm around his shoulders, supporting him. Vimes looked him square in the face and, through the red-black haze, saw concern, saw black anger, cold as death. Then the moment had passed. The Patrician reached with his free hand for his walking stick, which was leaning against the desk. With a look of mild distaste, he used it to push the bin away from the immediate proximity.
Sam looked back down at the carpet. Picked up the cigar and puffed it back to life. He'd gone this far. He had to finish it. The words forced themselves out in a rush...
"They'd do things, take me to the very edge, then say all I had to do was beg and they'd make me... let me... over and over again. Oh, they'd stop to rest, maybe give me half a swallow of water, they'd eat or play cards, whatever, but then it would start again. I never knew what to expect with the whiskey... sometimes they'd hold the cup up to my mouth, and then pour it on my boots. Sometimes they'd let me have a few gulps. After a while I caught on that what they did let me drink was drugged. They wanted me out cold while they slept. I knew the damned stuff was drugged and I still drank every drop they'd give me! I'd wake up, then it would all start over again. Even when they were buggering me, they knew how to... Eventually I couldn't stop it... damn it, I had no control left..." Helpless, unable to get his body to do what it must do, feeling sanity slipping away...can't say please, cannot say please, don't say please... "I'd think I was going to... it was inevitable... I'd feel it start... but they'd always do something to stop it. Edge of a knife on a man's most private areas has a way of putting a stop to things like that. There was nothing... there wasn't one godsdamned bloody thing I could do!"
There was a long silence. Vimes concentrated on breathing without gasping, sobbing or hiccupping. He almost managed, eventually, to stop shaking.
"They never did get what they wanted. I never did beg, not for that." He managed a grim, rueful smile. "If I had, they would have gotten what they were after. I figure then they would have killed me."
What Vimes would have easily interpreted as a fond smile on any other lips tugged at one corner of Lord Vetinari's mouth. The one arm, still resting lightly on Vimes' shoulders, hugged him tightly, which would have shocked Sam beyond belief had he not been so preoccupied with how to surreptitiously wipe away the dampness that had somehow appeared on his cheeks.
"My dear Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. It seems you stay alive simply by being so bloody stubborn." There was a tremor, a small but undeniable tremor, that Vimes had never believed he would hear in the Patrician's voice. "Damn Carrot. Those men should still be alive. They should still be begging this moment to cease being alive. There will be no honor left to the name of Lord Rice, of course. Perhaps I shall have his body dismembered and buried in multiple graves, as was done to your famous ancestor. But there is unfortunately little satisfaction in doing so when he is not alive to experience it."
"No." Vimes said flatly. This was what he had wanted, to share the rage, because there was too much for any one man to carry. But now...
"No?" Vetinari repeated.
"No. I won't allow anyone to be tortured on my account. I don't need to hear people beg or scream. They're dead, that's the end of it. As for Lord Rice, his family will suffer enough shame over the manner of his death. What good is there in dragging their name through the muck? I doubt they even knew what the bastard was up to."
"Justice, Sir Samuel."
Vimes sighed and slumped in the chair, rubbing his hands over his face. "Justice, or revenge? You said it yourself, Lord Vetinari. They're dead, and that's the closest I'm getting to justice. It's over."
"Deterrence, then. Something to give other men pause should they consider similar crimes."
"Everyone involved is dead. Death's a pretty good deterrent."
The Patrician rose slowly, composing himself to his usual imperturbable mien. "Just so. There will be no testimonies to be heard, no questions you don't wish to answer. It happened, Sir Samuel, and can't be made to un-happen. But perhaps eventually it can be let go."
"I can hardly bear to face Sybil." Vimes said at last, his voice almost casual. "Every time I lay eyes on her, part of me screams to take her straight to bed. Trouble is, the same parts of me are still screaming in pain." He found himself smiling, however ruefully. He felt irrationally like laughing at his own quandary.
The Patrician cleared his throat delicately. "An interesting predicament. I suspect this entire misfortune will rest more easily on your mind once it is resolved."
For one instant Havelock Vetinari allowed himself to fantasize on how pleasant it would be to solve Sam's problem for him. It would require no more than a handful of fine lubricating gel and some particularly careful manipulation. How satisfying to give him the intense pleasure of that much-needed release. But even if Samuel would consent, which was unthinkable, it would be unwise to take advantage of the situation. Still, how sad to let pass the only opportunity that might ever present itself.
The Commander's gaze, fortunately, was still riveted to the carpet. Vetinari turned to his desk, apparently to straighten papers. Within a short moment he was certain he could face Sir Samuel with the required indifference. When he turned back and saw the man, sitting more or less at attention now, staring at some point on the far wall, his resolve nearly cracked.
"You would do good to remember that, should you need to shout out the injustice and outrage, you are safe to do so here."
"You mean, I assume, as long as it has to do with this one incident."
"That, Commander, goes without saying."
"Are we finished with this discussion now, sir?"
The Patrician turned to look out the window, onto the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Vimes would never imagine in his wildest speculations that it was to hide the expression in his eyes.
"Yes, Sir Samuel. Don't let me detain you. Most certainly, don't let me detain you."