Vimes looked from one officer to the other, not trying too hard to keep his impatience hidden.
CMOT Dibbler had started selling shirts with such witty slogans as "My brother went to Ankh-Morpork and all he got was this lousy stab wound," written on them in garish colours. If this man had one, Vimes reflected, it would read "sidekick" in large, neon letters, with the first four letters hastily scribbled out.
"It's perfect," the not-a-sidekick said. "No one knows him."
Vimes had to give him that. "Indeed. In fact, I don't remember signing off on--"
"I have the paperwork, sir," said the putative dwarf, drawing himself up to his full heigh of a rather undwarfish six feet and change.
"You're sure you're not related to Captain Carrot?" Vimes tried, a little weakly.
"Sir," said the dwarf, settling the matter. There couldn't possibly be two different genetic lines able to fit that much reproach into a single word. "Captain Carrot is a member of the Hsf'dsk clan. I am a member of the Cn'dsk clan. I first came to Ankh-Morpork on the trail of the killers of my father and, for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I have remained, attached as liaison officer with the Dwarves Guild."
Vimes gave up. "And you," he said, changing his line of attack. "You're sure you're not a wizard?"
"I'm sure," said the well-maybe-a-sidekick.
"But hey, maybe we could all do with being a little more sure," said the okay-but-you'd-better-not-call-me-that-to-my-face. "I mean--"
Vimes glared some more.
At last, the sidekick shut up.
"He's hit his head," said Kowalski. His face had paled another shade, making him look like the cheap, fragile paper de Worde used for his daily attempt to upset the running of Vimes' city.
"So bring him back," Vimes said.
"He's hit his head and escaped." Kowalski slumped against one of Vimes' many piles of paperwork, resting his head against a stack of invitations to various balls, galas and public executions.
Vimes's effort to keep the look of so what? off his face didn't seem to be successful.
"He's hit his head, escaped, and is now embroiled in the world of crime," Kowalski said.
"But really, do you see organised crime appealing to Fraser?" Vimes said comfortingly.
Kowalski looked at him as if he'd sprouted a second head.
"Chief," he said, despite Vimes' best efforts. "It's poorly organised crime."
Carrot was lying to them. It was like watching a rabbit relieve itself -- every word was an effort, after which he paused to look slightly smug and deeply, deeply guilty.
"I didn't see anything," Carrot finally got out.
Carrot was lying to them.
Vimes and Kowalski swapped a look of disbelief. What next? Nobby would start telling the truth?
"It's true," Nobby said.
Vimes breathed out a sigh of relief. Next to him, he could hear Kowalski doing the same.
"None of us saw nothing," Nobby continued. "Not a dicky bird. Not a whistle. Not a toot of the old horn. Not a single group of--"
"Exactly," Carrot said. "Nothing."
"That is the whole truth, is it?" Vimes said, a little meanly. There was a group of them? That made all the difference. If Fraser had managed to work his way up the hierarchy of the Thieves' Guild that quickly, there'd be no way to extract him without causing a major incident. And much as Vimes enjoyed causing major incidents, Vetinari would look at him. "You wouldn't be bending the truth just because the money went straight to help the widows and orphans of the Shades?" A group, he didn't add, normally perfectly able to steal for themselves, though less likely to use the earnings to fund a school.
"Sir," Carrot managed.
Kowalski looked a little wistful.
"He has a werewolf?" Vimes bellowed.
"Half-werewolf!" Kowalski said, holding his hands up in an appeasing gesture. "Half-werewolf, half-dog, all potentially useful. If we just get Dfn'bkr to--"
"Dfn'bkr?" Vimes repeated.
"Old Dwarvish name," said Kowalski a little defensively. "After one of the first kings of Cn'dsk."
Vimes allowed himself a sigh. After this, he had an investigation pending into the Fools' Guild that Kowalski would be perfect for. A man who could say that with a straight face was a man with an egg that needed painting.
"So your plan," he said, making full use of the tone of voice Sybil had banned him from using in front of the children, "having failed to persuade him of his unlikely but true origins on any number of occasions--"
Kowalski ducked his head, then looked up, fiercely angry with the world.
"--is to get his half-werewolf to talk to him. Can this half-werewolf, dare I ask, talk?"
But Kowalski was prepared for this, the answer out of his mouth before either of them could think too hard about the numerous occasions when Kowalski had failed to persuade their favourite six foot something crime lord that he was secretly a dwarf. "He can to Fraser, chief."
Vimes took a deep breath. "Kowalski."
"You have single-handedly caused the worse crime spree in my city since the Thieves' Guild strike of '34. Seven Guilds, three lords and the entire Church of Om are clamoring for a stop to this madness; eight Guilds, thirteen lords and every other religious body in this city are clamoring for a stop to the people trying to stop this madness -- that, by the way, would be us -- and you wish to continue, against my express wishes, calling me chief?"
"Sorry," Kowalski said. "Guv?"
The worst part, Vimes reflected later, worse than the look Vetinari gave him, worse than the way Kowalski and Fraser were now making sickeningly happy eyes at each other, worse than the fact Sybil found the whole affair so funny she had framed the cartoon in de Worde's paper and hung it in the master bedroom, worse than all that, was that Kowalski's damned fool plan had worked.
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