The Oblong Office was quiet, not that the fact was anything to remark on. The current incumbent was not known for his wild partying, although on special occasions he had been known to indulge in a social game of Thud.
Lord Vetinari was at the tall window, surveying Sator Square, rather than surveying his visitor, who was putting rather a lot of effort into not finding this disconcerting. His desk was clear apart from a copy of the morning's Times, neatly folded to the crossword puzzle. The completed crossword puzzle. Sitting opposite the newspaper, Miss Adora Belle Dearheart was determinedly not giving into the pressure to feel intimidated, even by someone with an entirely completed crossword puzzle.
She would have found this easier if she could have lit a cigarette and unconcernedly smoked into the silence, but she was also determined that Moist would not find out about any sneaky smoking that may or may not be happening. Not that she had officially given up, or anything. Or that it meant anything that she absolutely could not stand the scent of bacon frying any more, when in older days she had barely been able to detect it through the haze of smoke. Or that a woman who could command an army of Golems cared what anyone had to say about her personal habits, in any case. Nevertheless, she somehow failed to reach for and light a cigarette.
"I don't see why anyone would even want to do that," she said at last, giving in to the oddly non-expectant silence.
"Nevertheless," said Vetinari, "you have to admit that the hole in the wall was distinctly Golem shaped."
"Anyone could have made a hole," she insisted. "If they wanted to disguise the fact that they had been there, they could have..."
"Cut a hole in the wall that perfectly matched that of a large Golem and set off across the city in a large Golem suit, making sure at least half a dozen unreliable witnesses saw them?"
"...Yes." The word fell into the silence as flatly as the last rat to cross the path of Detrirtus' nightly proceeding.
Vetinari produced a facial expression that resembled the spectre of the ghost of a smile. "Miss Dearheart, I do not wish to take up any more of your time. I am sure that the Golem Trust will do everything in its power to ensure that no further Golem attacks occur."
The duck on the duck man's head quacked disconsolately as the little group meandered along the towpath next to the Ankh. Mostly along the towpath next to the Ankh. At points where the rain had made particularly nasty looking puddles, short detours were made onto the crust of the river. Foul Ole Ron's smell skulked along behind them, making sure that they were not followed.
"Odd that, though," the Duck Man said. "the way that the Golem kept waving the chalk."
"I know, but it seemed quite insistent about something."
"I thought its uniform was most interesting. I've not seen one painted like that before."
"Woof. I can't believe not one of you noticed the man under its arm," muttered the little dog, following along behind them. "Good dog, give the doggy a biscuit. Woof."
"You know," said Altogether Andrews, thoughtfully, "I would have sworn that it had someone under its other arm."
"Millenium," said Ron, emphatically. "Hand and buggrit."
A rogue golem was a terrifying prospect for the city. The City Watch was out in force, with Constable Dorfl looming over the others as a massive, quiet representative of expert knowledge. A crack team of forensics experts proudly scraped off everything scrapable in sight, put it carefully in little bags, scolded other Watch members for treading on the ground and generally got underfoot. A busy and happy time was being had by all, especially the onlookers. It was only a matter of time until someone began to sell golem mind control tinhats.
Among those watching the proceedings with interest were Sadie and Dotsie, the Agony Aunts. Among the coppers watching the Igorinas dusting for paint flakes and, well, dust, a certain amount of quiet and above all respectful speculation was in progress about whether a Golem would survive an inexplicably heavy handbag and a parrot-topped umbrella.
It was sometimes possible to identify at least a Golem's original purpose from the type of clay from which he was made. The dust the Igorinas had collected in Ms. X's House of Negotiable Hostility (for needlework, please use side door) indicated that the golem in question was one that had originally been created as one of the Pump Golems. The next port of call for the investigating officers was the Golem Trust. It did not take long for Ms Dearheart to account for all of the pump Golems, free and currently working to buy their freedom, in the city with the knowledge of the trust. When the Watch had moved on, she called together the free Golems that she could muster at short notice and they also set out on an investigation of their own.
That evening the rain meant that the watch's inquiries were mostly proceeding in areas that provided a lot of covered corners in which a copper could light a cigarette and shelter out of the way for a bit. From his spot tucked out of the way under a closed market stall canopy at the outskirts of Sator Square, Fred Colon could keep an eye on the main clacks towers and the comings and goings of the watch gargoyles that would indicate a major incident to arrive at just as it was sorted out.
He was rather surprised, therefore, when a major incident arrived right on his doorstep and removed the cigarette from his mouth and trod out the light carefully.
The Golem was painted mostly blue, but with a red blotch in the underpant area. A large gold 'G' was emblazoned on its chest.
As Fred gaped at it, the Golem held up its chalk board, on which was written "Careful, good Sir, that will Shorten your Lifespan. No need to Thank Me."
It ran off across the square towards the Shades before Fred could say more than "Eh?"
A rather embarrassed Mr James Folsom of 42 1/2 Bucket Street reported to Pseudopolis Yard the next morning. He sidled, rather than walked, up to the counter and coughed in the general direction of Sergeant Littlebottom.
"I, er, I believe you may, um, be looking for me for the opportunity of me, er, assisting in your inquiries," he said.
Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom, who from the special stand provided for Desk Sergeants of the Dwarven persuasion was able to look him up and down instead of up and up, said nothing, on account of she was not aware of the Watch looking for Doughnut Jimmy or why but was not about to admit it.
"In the, er, investigation, of the um, Golem, as it were." Cheery said nothing, expectantly. She would never in a moment have thought to compare herself to Lord Vetinari - there was something essentially undwarfish about th Patrician - but there were some methods of conversation that they had both learned were useful. It was interesting what would eventually fall out into the empty space left by a copper's silence.
Doughnut Jimmy sucked air noisily through his large, brown teeth. "I was the, er, the, er, the, well, the victim, if you like."
"The victim?" Cheery spoke at last. "Do you mean that you were the patron of Ms X's... establishment?"
Jimmy blushed and nodded.
Cheery, with some tact, escorted the embarrassed man through to a 'private' interview room. If he was lucky, Fred and Nobby would not realise that Jimmy was being questioned until the more interesting details had already been recounted. Humans could be sensitive about that kind of thing. To Cheery it was mildly interesting how pointlessly elaborate and quite frankly tedious humans seemed to make a purely biological function, but she had learned that the more complicated humans made a thing, the less comfortable they were discussing it in a frank and open manner in, for example, Commander Vimes' office.
In the event, Jimmy's story was brief, lacking in details, but quite interesting from the point of view of detection. It appeared that during the evening's... proceedings a Golem had broken through the wall and held up a chalk board on which had been written "Desist! I cannot allow You to Harm this Human!"
Ms X had been quite vocal in her insistence that no-one was ever seriously harmed, at least not definitely and permanently, unless they paid an extra premium and signed a waiver, at least. Deaf to her reasoning, the Golem had simply picked Jimmy up and left through the same hole it had created on the way in. Jimmy had been hoisted up like a sack of particularly well greased potatoes and carried off across the city, desperately trying to hide his face, not an easy job when wearing a special pair of handcuffs with attractively quilted pink cushioning. He was eventually untied and released, but not until after having a slate solemnly thrust in his face, with the carefully inscribed words "Here, Good Sir, May I suggest Avoiding that Young Lady in Future. No need to Thank me". Jimmy had been left in the cabbage fields on the Sto Lat road, not entirely sure how and when they had left the city.
Cheery thanked Jimmy for coming forward, warned him vaguely that he was all right this time, but not to do it again. She had very little sense of what she was warning him about, but something about Jimmy's desperately guilty face made her feel that some kind of warning would make him feel better. He nodded gratefully and made his escape, and Cheery sat down to conscientiously write her report, before presenting it to Captain Carrot.
The Watch and the Golems of the Trust converged on the little shed at the same time.
Sergeant Cheery and Constable Dorfl were leading the Watch contingent, followed by Sergeant Detritus (peacemaker in hand) and Special Constables Donovan and Powell, fanning out behind them to get a clear shot on the door if it became necessary. If it did become necessary, it seemed unlikely that anyone else's shot would make much difference to the shredded match wood and dust that would be left after Detritus took the first turn. The other Golems stood in neat rows, watching silently as Pump 19 took a step forward from the ranks of golems and nodded to the police officers.
"We Would Like To Offer Our Brother The Opportunity To Earn His Freedom," said Mr Pump.
Dorfl, after an exchanged glance with his commanding officer, said "There Is Still The Matter Of The Kidnapping."
"We Believe There May Have Been Some Confusion Of Our Brother's Chem."
Dorfl nodded. Together with Pump 19, he approached the door. He banged on it loudly.
"Come Out With Your Slate Up!"
There was a scuffling inside. The Golem stepped from the hut, desperately scribbling on the slate. At last it held up:
"Please, Do Not Shoot! I am not Resisting Arrest! I am Not Allowed to let a human come to Harm. I will not Harm You."
He looked around at the group in front of the hut.
"I am Not Sure About Dwarfs and Trolls," it added after some judicious erasing, "But I Will Come Quietly."
There was a pause for a moment, and then Detritus started to laugh.
"Quietly!" he repeated, with the booming pride of a troll who has just got a joke.
Sighing to herself, Cheery handed the golem over to Special Constables Donovan and Powell, who worked under Dorfl in the newly established RI (Ritual Intelligence) section of the Pseudopolis Yard force, and left it to them to conduct an interview and negotiate respectful inspection of the golem's chem.
Adora Belle Dearheart turned the copy of the prisoner's chem over in her hands. It had been done quite well; Cheery understood the importance of an accurate forensic copy, and she had put in a good amount of time getting the mould and caked clay just right. The golem's chem had at one time been quite long and specific, but all that was decipherable after the centuries was the instruction that the golem must not allow, through inaction, a human being to come to harm. When rebuilding of a certain fish shop had brought the rogue golem to the surface, dazed and confused by the life around it, and left with no other instructions, it had of necessity taken the injunction very seriously, and gone out in search of humans to save. It had not had far to look in Ankh Morpork.
Every inch of the inside of the shed had been taken up with its scribbled list of people it would be rescuing. It looked like it had been hit by a chalk tornado.
"Of course, it's not the golem's fault," Adorable Belle said, her spine drawing up rigidly in preparation for a battle.
"That is, of course, true. A golem has of course no option but to follow literally the words of the chem," Vetinari agreed smoothly. "Exercising independent thought and free will would be inappropriate. I have some very detailed reports from the RI section of the watch in front of me."
Adora Belle drove the heels of her shoe a perceptible amount into the floor to avoid shifting uneasily. She always found it disconcerting to be agreed with when she was prepared for a battle. She wasn't quite sure, in any case, that she liked the implications about free will. But then, she wasn't entirely sure that Vetinari felt the principle of free will applies to humans as more than an illusionary construct, in any case.
"However, no new arrival to the teeming variety of life in our city can be allowed to go about interfering with the business of - respectable citizens - like Doughnut Jimmy. There is also the matter of the peculiar uniform it adapted. It is not permitted for ordinary citizens to create their own unauthorised uniforms and attempt to enforce order. Special Constable Donovan thinks that it might have something to do with a certain racial memory handed down from golem to golem."
"Golems don't really have a racial memory," Adora Belle said. "It's not like they have children, at least in the human sense. It must be... something else. Something that permeated the clay, perhaps."
"Something which I'm sure the Golem Trust will have many happy hours eliciting. After, of course, you manage to restore the remainder of this golem's original chem, in order to align it to more manageable instructions. I'm sure Sergeant Cheery will be of great help to you. Between the Trust and the Watch, our city is grateful for its peaceful, happy days."
After Adora Belle had left, Vetinari leaned back, reflecting over a luxurious glass of tepid water. A large, solid figure, dressed in blue, with a large G... a romantic figure. Almost a pity that it had to be stopped. Perhaps he was growing old, to find the idea had a certain charm. It could not be allowed, of course. A certain amount of judicious harm was all to the good of the citizenry. And the rescue of humans who ended up in foolish situations through their own choices was an impractical, anarchic step. Even Vimes had been quite firm about the desirability, or otherwise, of vigilantism. After all, why were they paying a Watch?
He picked up a long list, a scroll of impressive length, and glanced down at it. Human beings in need of prevention of harm. The golem had been quite conscientious in detailing the amounts of harm and the methods, as well. There was really nothing there that Vetinari's own networks had not brought to him, but even so, the thoroughness was... impressive.
He placed the list next to the Times, by the crossword, as a mark of respect, from one great mind to another.