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My Brother's Keeper
by VimesLady

Chapter 2

'I'm alive.  Gods, I'm alive.  Not an assassin, then.'  At least, he was fairly sure he was alive. For one thing, he needed very badly to throw up. He was determined he would not, however, since heaving would no doubt make the horrendous pounding in his head even worse.

For another thing, he was tied to a chair. Wrists, ankles, bindings around his chest. Sir Samuel didn't have strong opinions about what would happen after his death, but he was almost certain it would not involve nausea, headaches and ropes.

"So, Lord Vimes, you're awake."

"Unfortunately. And don't ever call me that." Sam realized he must have made some sound or movement in his struggle toward consciousness. He forced his eyes open, which turned out to be Not a Good Idea. The room was spinning and the light felt like it was piercing his brain. He closed them long enough to swallow bile, then stubbornly opened them again, albeit more slowly. Eventually he was able to lift his eyes and focus, quite fuzzily, on the man standing in front of him. "Who're you?"

The man backhanded him, hard. "Wrong question, Your Grace. And I can call you whatever I want."

More pain, and the taste of blood where his lip had split, but anger had germinated now and was growing at an impressive rate. He bit back even the slightest groan, and forced himself to start taking stock of his surroundings.

He was still at home, still in the dining room, tied to one of the straight-back chairs. His wrists were secured tightly behind the chair back, and additional rope secured him to the chair at chest level. His ankles were tied together and... damn, this was bad... there seemed to be a rope around his neck leading behind him to his feet. It wasn't terribly uncomfortable as long as he didn't try to kick out. He figured that if he did he would effectively choke himself.

The man, who was dark, stocky, and perhaps slightly younger than Vimes, seemed only very vaguely familiar. Suzanne was in the room, standing in the background. And the sun was blazing in through the rimward windows. Gods, it was morning already.

"What did you do to me? Where's Sybil?"

"Oh, Your Lordship, I'm sorry to say that the Duchess is not feeling well. Not well at all. She's upstairs in bed. In fact, she's been there since early yesterday afternoon. There was nothing but a slug of sleeping potion in your food and drink. I'm afraid she's not as lucky."

Rage and panic overcame logic for an instant, and Vimes struggled futilely against his bonds. "Are you telling me she was here, upstairs, when I came home? What have you done to her? What the hell have you done to her?"

"We'll get to that in time," the man replied infuriatingly.

"Why are you doing this? Sybil's never hurt anyone! Get me out of these ropes and let me see her! NOW!"

The man chuckled. "Lord Vimes, you are in no position to make demands or ask questions. Those are my... what's the word? Prerogatives? Right now, I want you to tell me about your family.

"Sybil is my family. She and our baby that she's carrying. You can't..."

The man struck him again, the blow to his temple making his ears ring.

"Wrong answer again! Try something else."

Sam spat out blood from his injured lip. He could feel the hot numbness of a spreading bruise making it difficult to keep his right eye fully open.

"I said to try something else!" the man growled, anger pouring into his voice.

"Tell me what the hell you want."

This time the blow hit his jaw.

"Jack, stop it!" Suzanne spoke up, her voice nervously shrill, "This will never work if he looks like he's been beat up!"

"Oh, he'll just tell everyone he got into a fight with some dangerous criminal while he was playing at being a brave po-lice man, won't you, Your Grace?"

Sam was breathing hard through his nose now. The last blow had cut the inside of his cheek on his teeth. He could feel blood dribbling from his mouth and had to fight from gagging on the taste. He had to stay conscious. Damn, he just had to stay conscious.

"Now, we'll try again," Jack said with mock patience. Tell me about your family.Your real family."

'The only family I have aside from Sybil is the Watch.  Carrot? Fred?  Detritus?  Where are you?  I need some help here.

'Family…'

"My father's name was Thomas. He died decades ago."

"Good start! Keep going."

His mother, Tommy, and Loretta were all dead as well. Ron... Ron had gone off to find his fortune. Vimes hadn't heard from him since they were kids, but this wasn't him. Alice...

He hadn't seen Alice since her wedding, maybe, what? At least twenty-five years ago. He'd gotten drunk. Bloody, stinking drunk. A good way to insure that your little sister would never want to see your face again. Not that they'd ever been what you'd call close. She'd married... someone from out of town. They'd moved off to find a better life than Cockbill Street and the Shades had to offer. Name. Name, damn it!

Jack.

"JackCorbis," Vimes muttered, suddenly certain.

"Very, very good, Duke Samuel! Well done!"

Vimes lifted his eyes to Suzanne. She didn't resemble Alice in any way. Alice had been dark haired and, to be honest, not particularly pretty. And she'd be at the very least twenty years older than Suzanne by now.

Sam spat out another mouthful of blood. "Where's Alice?"

"Aww, I'm afraid I'm just full of bad news for you today. Your sister's dead. She had this terrible accident, falling off a cliff. Probably wouldn't have had to happen, you know, if you'd just given some thought to your family. All that money, millions and millions of dollars, and you never once thought to send anything to poor Alice and me."

"I hadn't... We didn't... I didn't even know... It isn't really my..." Vimes sputtered, and then gave up. Corbis was right. He hadn't even thought. Guilt fell like a heavy blanket over the flames of his anger.

"I told Alice we needed to get in touch, sorta establish things. Cause after all, if you and the Duchess were to both be killed, why, we're your next of kin. But Alice, she was a proud one, said we had no right begging. No right begging, that's what she said! And then to top things off you had to go and start a family. At your age! Which means this brat, if it's born, becomes your next of kin. Well, I thought it was obvious we had to do something, but Alice just got all upset, and next thing you know she's fallen into a crevice so deep no one can even find her body. Now Suzanne here, as well as being half as old and three times as pretty as Alice, she understands how these financial matters between family members ought to work."

Vimes' brain felt numb. His stomach was still on the verge of revolt, and the pain from Corbis' beating had joined his headache to become a universe of throbbing agony. He was so tired, so damn tired. He didn't dare think. He was sure that if he let himself think, there'd be an ambush of guilt and pain and fear waiting for him.

He wanted a drink. Oh gods, gods, he really needed a drink.

"So that's what this is all about? Money? What have you done to Sybil? Tell me what you've done to Sybil."

"Well, now, that's what we need to talk about. Suzanne and I have already been through this house pretty thoroughly. Found a couple nice stashes of house money, the Duchess's lovely collection of jewels, things like that. First, you're going to tell us about anything we've missed. Then you're going to visit your solicitor and get your hands on all the ready cash you can. I know all about investments, and I realize it'll only be a few hundred thousand, but I'm sure you'll do everything you can."

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SYBIL?!"

"I'm trying to explain, Your Lordship. See, the Duchess has ingested some poison. Very lethal, I'm afraid, but very slow acting. She'll live for three or four days, I'm sure. Now, we don't really want your lovely wife and child to die. There is an antidote, and we've hidden it away for safekeeping. Once you've given us everything of value you can lay your hands on, and we're safely on our way to a better future, I'll send you a message telling you where it is, and you can save their lives. Of course, if you don't cooperate, or if you try to stop us, well, their deaths will be on your hands."

"You're out of your damn mind. Why on disc would I trust you to send the message?"

"Because from your point of view, Duke, it is so much preferable to the alternative."

"Alternative?"

"Yes. If you don't cooperate, your wife and the kid-to-be die. And you, with our assistance, will be so... bereaved? Is that the word? ...that you'll just do yourself in. Now here it gets a bit tricky. It would have been so much better if Alice had been cooperative. But fortunately, her death is not common knowledge, even back home. So. After an appropriate few days, I'll come into town prepared to bury my brother-in-law. Maybe I'll make up a simple story about why Alice couldn't accompany me. Hell, maybe I'll even hire me a nice actress type to play the part of Alice. No one here would know the difference. And you see, 'Alice' will be your next-of-kin. No one else to inherit all those millions except for some of the Duchess's looney uncles. Oh, and what's his name? Your brother Ron? Hell, Alice didn't have a clue where he is, and I doubt anyone else will either. So you see, this alternative is riskier for me, but potentially so much more lucrative.

"You bastard! You godsdamn bloody bastard! I promise you, you won't get away with this!"

"Oh, and of course, your two servants we have drugged and tied up in the wine cellar would have to die, too. I notice you haven't even thought about them."

"You'll murder your wife, a pregnant woman, and three men. For stinking gold. You foul, sick streak of piss. Suzanne, you really think you can trust this monster?"

"Hey now, no one said I murdered Alice. As for the rest, that all lays directly on your head, Lord Vimes. Suzanne can see that. If you have such a low opinion of money, just give me everything you can and a free pass out of town. And no one else will have to die. It's all up to you."

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"Carrot?" Sergeant Angua generally walked with preternatural silence, but this morning, as she burst through the doors of the Watch House, she was stomping. Quite effectively. "Carrot, if Vimes and Vetinari want a K-9 unit in the Watch, they are going to have to give the Training School money for supplies. Damn it, Carrot, I turned in the requisition forms two weeks ago, and I haven't heard a thing! We're out of everything!"

Captain Carrot turned from the filing cabinets where he was working. "I'm afraid I remember seeing the requisition forms on Mister Vimes' desk," he said sadly.

"Well, where is he? Can you get him to sign them?"

"He hasn't come in all morning. Hasn't even sent a message reporting in. I'm actually getting a little concerned. I was thinking of sending a pigeon out for him, but there's nothing really urgent that needs his attention, and if he's actually taking a few extra hours for himself, I don't want to interrupt him."

Angua blew her hair out of her eyes in exasperation.

"Tell you what. We'll go upstairs and find those requisition forms, and I'll make sure he signs them as soon as he comes in."

"Dig through the Commander's desk?" Angua replied, horrified.

"It's okay. It's kinda like digging a mine shaft. If you take it slow and watch what you're doing, you can avoid an avalanche. And I don't really think it's true that there's anything bigger than a cockroach living in there."

They made their way up to Commander Vimes' office. Carrot started on the newest in-basket while Angua tried a promising pile that had migrated to the floor.

"Oh, here's..." Carrot exclaimed after a moment.

"Did you find them?"

Carrot didn't answer. He was staring intently at a piece of paper, his lips moving as he read. "Oh, no," he whispered hoarsely, "This is... Angua, we're heading over to the Commander's house, right now. He needs to see this. There could be trouble."

"Carrot, what is it?"

The Captain handed Angua the clacks message. "Come on, we've got to get over there."

Angua followed him down the stairs, reading as she went.

It was a message dated a week ago, from Queen Margrat of Lancre. She stated politely that regrettably she had never employed, or even been acquainted with, a Suzanne Alberts.

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