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My Brother's Keeper
by VimesLady

Chapter 4

For a frozen moment no one moved except Suzanne, who, eyes wide, fell slowly to the ground.

Corbis was the first to recover. Sparing hardly a glance for Suzanne, he struggled to his feet and stumbled to the nearest horse. The animal was near crazed, caught between its excellent training and instinctual terror of the werewolf, but Corbis was desperate enough to pull himself into the saddle. By the time Vimes could sit up, wheezing and gagging, Corbis was heading down Scoone Avenue at a gallop.

"Don't kill him!" Samuel shouted. This was rather unnecessary considering that Carrot and Angua were still involved in untangling themselves. "Whatever you do, do not kill him!" Vimes crawled-scrambled to Suzanne's side. It was immediately obvious she would not have any last words. Sam grabbed his short sword, staggered awkwardly to the remaining horse, and began pulling off the saddlebags, slicing through leather straps in his rush, intent on getting rid of the extra weight. By the time Carrot and Angua had recovered enough to stand, Samuel had mounted the horse and was tearing at full speed after Corbis.

It was a chase that definitely fit into the Ankh-Morpork definition of street theatre, except that it was moving too fast for anyone to get a good view. One man on a heavily laden horse, tearing pell-mell through the streets, leaving a trail of outraged riders, carters, and terrified pedestrians in his path. Following fast on his tail, the Commander of the City Watch and Duke of Ankh rode shouting and waving his short sword, destroying all hopes that the traffic tie-ups might untangle any time soon. A growing group of particularly dedicated spectators trailed after them to see what might happen next.

Traffic thinned as they neared the city walls and Vimes, whose horse now had the strong advantage, caught up to his quarry at Dark Bridge , coincidentally just short of the race course. Standing in the stirrups, Sir Samuel leaned far out in a maneuver he would never have considered had he not been caught up in the heat of the moment. His sword scored a long, shallow cut from Corbis' shoulder to waist, drawing a thin path of blood. Corbisscreamed and swayed in the saddle, but didn't slow his pace.

"You're under arrest," Vimes bellowed, "You're out of options, you're out of chances... Give it up! Stop, godsdamn you!"

The Commander pulled almost even with his prey and slashed out again, this time marking the length of Corbis' forearm. With a cry of despair the man began to fall from his horse. In an act that not only bordered on insane but crossed over without stopping at customs check, Vimes pulled his far leg up to the level of his saddle and leaped. He tackled Corbis in such a way that they both hit the ground on the other side of Corbis' horse, Samuel's impact softened somewhat since he landed on top of the other man. Without a second's hesitation, Vimes struggled to sit upright straddling Corbis' stomach, trapping both of the man's arms with his knees.

"WHERE'S THE ANTIDOTE?"

Corbis had seen better days. He was beyond struggling with Vimes and was struggling instead to breathe. "If... if you... kill me... you'll... you'll never... know."

Vimes punched him. He was that angry, that he would punch a man who was down. On the other hand, there were enough sane brain cells left to pull the punch so as not to break the man's jaw. The same cells registered the audience of vicarious thrill-seekers they had attracted, and the sound of an urgent voice saying, "Excuse me... I'm sorry... City Watch business, I need through, here... Pardon me..."

"I won't kill you, but I damn well can make you wish you were dead. Where. Is. The. Antidote?"

"Get off... Let me up..."

Vimes' fist came down again. The number of sane brain cells was falling dramatically.

"Mr. Vimes, stop. Let the Patrician sort this out."

Samuel heard Carrot's voice without really, well, hearing it.

"I'll tell you... I'll tell you... Let me... let me go...” Corbis pleaded, "Let me go and I'll tell you..."

Sam drew his arm back for another blow.

"Commander Vimes! We have direct orders to appear with this man in front of the Patrician immediately!"

He froze. Sane or not, nearly all of Samuel's brain cells belonged first and foremost to a copper, and they all came to attention at the tone of Carrot's words.

Very, very slowly, Sam let his arm fall to his side.

He was suddenly, devastatingly exhausted. Everything from the soles of his feet to the roots of his hair screamed in agony. Unconsciousness was becoming a definite possibility. The anger and adrenalin that had fueled him drained away. All that was left was the fear.

"We'll have to stop by the house," he said in a quiet, lifeless voice, "Leave these saddlebags. Check on Willikins and the kitchen boy. And I... need to... see Sybil..."

"Yes, sir. Angua is there, she'll be taking care of things. But yes, sir, of course, we can stop by on our way." Carrot was in command because he had to be. It wasn't easy. He didn't know the whole story, but what he knew wasn't good.

Vimes was barely aware of struggling to stand, of Carrot hauling Corbis to his feet and putting on the handcuffs, of Corbis gibbering, still trying to bargain for freedom, of Carrot overriding the pleas by methodically reciting the official rights of an accused prisoner.

The crowds were slowly dispersing now that the show appeared to be over. Whether because of their superb training or because of the wall of spectators, the horses were standing nearby. After seeing what Vimes was currently capable of, no one had dared touch them.

Sometime in all the confusion, Sam had dropped his short sword. He picked it up now, pulled out a grubby handkerchief, and began very carefully cleaning the blood from its edge.

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Vimes was sitting on the lounge in the upstairs foyer of his home, smoking a cigar and staring at the carpet. He had never sat there before. No one did. It was kept uncovered and presentable only because one had to walk by it on the way to the upstairs bedrooms. Sam had a horrible suspicion that the couch was kept specifically for times like this; a place to sit while awaiting word on a patient lying in one of the bedrooms. It didn't have much dragon damage, since the little blighters mainly stayed downstairs.

The dragons. He'd have to get someone from the Sanctuary to feed and care for the dragons.

Willikins was settled comfortably into his bed. He and the kitchen boy hadn't consumed nearly as much of the sleeping potion as Vimes (he remembered how thirsty he had been, how he'd guzzled the lemonade), but they had been through quite an ordeal, lying tied up on the floor of the wine cellar since early afternoon of the day before. Willikins was made of stern stuff. He'd be up on his feet by tomorrow. As for the kitchen boy, as soon as he had swallowed enough water to speak, he had resigned, effective immediately, and asked to be taken home to his family.

All of the saddlebags into which Corbis had stuffed valuables now sat in a corner of the living room, guarded by the particularly effective bulk of Sergeant Detritus.

The meeting with the Patrician had been blessedly short. Between the note he'd received from Mr. Slant and what his spies had reported, Vetinari appeared to already know, or to have surmised, a great deal about what was happening. He had sent Carrot and Vimes back to the Ramkin house, but insisted on keeping custody of Corbis. "I'm afraid this gentleman and I have a great deal to talk about," he'd said, "I'm quite sure he would very much like to tell me about the antidote." Such innocent words. A part of Vimes could almost feel sorry for Corbis.

Mrs. Content, the midwife, came out of the Almost Orange Bedroom. Vimes glanced up at her briefly, long enough to see her smile.

"The little one seems to be doin' fine, Sir Samuel," she said in a forced-cheerful voice, "I don't think the poison's affectin' it none. Everything seems to be like it should be at this time. Little heart's pumpin' away at a good speed, not slowed down like... like your wife's, sir."

"It's got a heart?" Vimes said numbly. He still hadn't quite gotten his mind totally around the idea of Sybil carrying a real baby.

Mrs. Content gave a short laugh. "Well, you can just barely hear it, if you know where to listen an' what you're listenin' for, but it does indeed have a heart an' it's beatin' away just fine." She sobered, lowering her voice, "'Course, it's not near far enough along... what I mean to say is, if Lady Sybil doesn't... I mean, it couldn't begin to survive..."

"I understand," Vimes said shortly. Maybe that was just as well. He wasn't at all sure yet how he was going to manage being a father. Being a parent alone, without Sybil, was unthinkable.

"Sir Vimes, I do wish you, wish her, all the luck in the world..."

Sam managed a brief nod. He still hadn't looked up from the carpet.

There was a sudden commotion downstairs, saving them both from further embarrassment. Sam heard Carrot's voice saying, "Your lordship, I'm surprised..." and he jumped to his feet and rushed down the stairs.

Lord Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician himself, was standing in the entryway. Two younger men dressed impeccably and stylishly in black, carrying various cases and bits of what appeared to be glassware, accompanied him. Sam froze when he saw them.

"Lord Vetinari?"

"These two gentlemen will go ahead and set up in the kitchen. No one else is to go in there. Do not touch anything that may have been used to eat or drink. If any of you spot dishware or cutlery outside of the kitchen, bring it to the attention of these gentlemen immediately. Do not move or even touch it. Good afternoon, Sir Samuel, you will excuse the intrusion."

"Why are there assassins in my house, sir?"

"All contracts on you are temporarily in abeyance, Commander. In fact, these gentlemen realize that the consequences to them would be quite harsh were you or anyone else in this house to come to any harm. Sir Samuel, is there someplace where we can speak in private?"

"This way," Sam growled, leading Vetinari back to the Mildly Yellow Sitting Room.

He barely waited until the Patrician had cleared the doorway. "What the hell is going on? What did Corbis say?"

"Sit down, Sir Samuel"

"I'd rather not, sir."

The Patrician sighed. There was no easy way to go about this. "Sir Samuel, there never was any antidote hidden away. Jack Corbis only told you that in an effort to buy time and cooperation. Suzanne Alberts took care of the poisons and sleeping potions. Mr. Corbis knew nothing about what she gave to Lady Sybil."

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