"I hope you're enjoying this charming occasion?" Vetinari asked.
Vimes considered the long wedding ceremony, the afternoon of small talk and vol-au-vents to come, and the way his red tights were creeping into unexplored anatomical regions. "I couldn't stay away, sir."
"Indeed." Vetinari, with Drumknott at his side, returned to his circuit of the room.
"He must've owed Harry King one hell of a favour."
"Language, Sam," said Sybil.
Since I can't drink, Vimes thought, I should be allowed to swear as much as I like. "Just because he had to come, he didn't need to drag me into it. And half the city--even his secretary! What's Vetinari doing, taking notes? Everywhere he goes lately, he's got Drumknott in tow. There's someone who never gets a day off."
Sybil coughed and took a gulp of wine. "I think Havelock is, er, very fond of that young man."
Vimes looked at her. She was the reluctant pink of someone who considered herself too mature to blush. "Do you mean - "
"They're quite attached to one another."
"Exactly how - "
"Don't be narrow-minded, Sam."
"I just . . . don't understand it."
"Fortunately," Sybil said, "you don't need to."
Vetinari sighed. "I do wish people would stop trying to mat me - " Drumknott whispered in his ear. "Frame me for crimes. Assassination attempts are much less inconvenient."
"Best we follow procedure, sir," Vimes said. "Where were you between one and three this morning?"
"It's not much of an alibi, unfortunately, but - "
"I wasn't alone."
"Really? Er, that is, I'll be as discreet as I can, sir, but I'll need to take the lady's statement, so if you'll tell me her name - "
Vimes looked at Vetinari's face, then at Drumknott's. "Oh," he said.
Vimes ran after Vetinari's carriage and swung up on the step. "Sir!" he said, pulling the door open.
In the split second before they flew apart like two ends of a Hogswatch cracker, Vimes saw . . . well, not much if it had been anyone but Vetinari. He and Drumknott were sitting close together, smiling at something, and Vetinari had a hand on Drumknott's arm. But it was Vetinari, and the scene couldn't have been more conclusive or more embarrassing if they'd been naked.
"What is the trouble, Commander?" Vetinari asked, almost calmly.
Vimes swallowed. "You forgot your gloves."
Vimes took the palace stairs two at a time and nearly collided with Drumknott. "Your Grace," the man said, "I wish to speak with you before you see His Lordship."
"To ask you to keep your temper."
"So he really isn't giving us that training budget? Well, sending half-trained coppers onto the streets makes me angry."
"Don't quarrel with him today. Please."
"He's . . . distressed. His dog is very sick."
"His dog? My men - "
"Not today." Drumknott had Vimes's elbow in a hard grip. He wasn't very tall or very muscular. He looked like he'd been bullied a lot as a boy and had never forgotten it. But he didn't let go even when Vimes gave him a scowl that had made trolls think twice. "He is a human being, you know."
"Has he got a note to prove it?"
Drumknott's face went still. It resembled his usual secretarial veneer the way a sword resembles a butter knife.
Vimes knew that look. He'd seen it on mothers. On husbands and wives.
"All right," he said, twisting his arm free. "Not today."
Overprotective little fool. Who would've imagined?
Vimes tried not to.
"Tell me again," Vimes said. "With as much detail as you can."
"I came in at about twenty past three. I had some letters for - " Drumknott briefly closed his eyes. "For His Lordship to sign. He was - you saw. Slumped over the desk. I thought he'd fallen asleep. I tried to wake him." One hand plucked at Drumknott's collar. His other arm was wrapped tightly around his chest.
Cheery Littlebottom walked over. "Igor's got his lab set up downstairs, sir," she whispered. "He's ready for the - for him."
"You can't!" Drumknott's voice shook. "You can't cut him up."
"We need to know what happened." Vimes nodded to two constables by the blanket-covered stretcher.
"You can't take him away. Not yet." Drumknott went blue-pale and crumpled; Vimes caught him, and the man started to sob in his arms.
"Shhh," said Vimes, looking for someone to pass him off to. Angua was busy, and Cheery was just too small. "Shhh, don't cry." He cupped the back of Drumknott's head, the way he would with young Sam. "I'm sorry."
A little later, when Sally came in and freed him, Vimes was surprised to find his own eyes were wet.