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26.12.2018

‘He was shot from the University?’

‘Looks like the library building,’ said Angua. ‘But a wizard wouldn’t do it, surely? They keep out of that sort of thing.’

‘Oh, it’s not too hard to get in there, even when the gates are shut,’ said Carrot. ‘Let’s try the unofficial way, shall we?’

‘OK Carrot?’

‘Yes?’

‘The false moustache… it’s not you, you know. And the nose is far too pink’

‘Doesn’t it make me look inconspicuous?’

‘No. And the hat… I should lose the hat, too’ It is a good hat,’ she added quickly. ‘But a brown bowler… it’s not your style. It doesn’t suit you.’

‘Exactly!’ said Carrot. ‘If it was my style, people would know it’s me, right?’

‘I mean it makes you look like a twerp, Carrot.’

‘Do I normally look like a twerp?’

‘No, not–’

‘Aha!’ Carrot fumbled in the pocket of his large brown overcoat. ‘I got this book of disguises from the joke shop in Phedre Road, look. Funny thing, Nobby was in there buying stuff too. I asked him why and he said it was desperate measures. What d’you think he meant by that?’

‘I can’t imagine,’ said Angua. ‘It’s just amazing the stuff they’ve got. False hair, false noses, false beards, even false…’ He hesitated, and began to blush. ‘Even false… you know, chests. For ladies. But I can’t imagine for the life of me why they’d want to disguise those.’ He probably couldn’t, Angua thought. She took the very small book from Carrot and glanced through it. She sighed. ‘Carrot, these disguises are meant for a potato.’

‘Are they?’

‘Look, they’re all on potatoes, see?’

‘I thought that was just for display.’

‘Carrot, it’s got “Mr Spuddy Face” on it.’ Behind his thick black moustache Carrot looked hurt and perplexed. ‘What does a potato want a disguise for?’ he said. They’d reached the alley alongside the University that had been known informally as Scholars’ Entry for so many centuries that this was now on a nameplate at one end. A couple of student wizards went past. The unofficial entrance to the University has always been known only to students. What most students failed to remember was that the senior members of the faculty had also been students once, and also liked to get out and about after the official shutting of the gates. This naturally led to a certain amount of embarrassment and diplomacy on dark evenings. Carrot and Angua waited patiently as a few more students climbed over, followed by the Dean.

‘Good evening, sir,’ said Carrot, politely. ‘Good evening to you, Spuddy,’ said the Dean, and ambled off into the night. ‘You see?’

‘Ah, but he didn’t call me Carrot,’ said Carrot. ‘The principle is sound.’ They dropped down on to lawns of academia and headed for the library. ‘It’ll be shut,’ said Angua. ‘Remember, we have a man on the inside,’ said Carrot, and knocked. The door opened a little way. ‘Ook?’ Carrot raised his horrible little round hat. ‘Good evening, sir, I wonder if we could come in? It’s Watch business.’

‘Ook eek ook?’

‘ Er…, ‘What did he say?’ said Angua. ‘If you must know, he said, “My goodness me, a walking potato,”’ said Carrot. The Librarian wrinkled his nose at Angua. He did not like the smell of werewolves. But he beckoned them inside and then left them waiting while he knuckled back to his desk and rummaged in a drawer. He produced a Watch Special Constable’s badge on a string, which he hung around the general area where his neck should have been, and then stood as much to attention as an orang–utan can, which is not a great deal. The central ape gets the idea but outlying areas are slow to catch on. ‘Ook ook!’

‘Was that “How may I be of assistance, Captain Tuber?”’ said Angua. ‘We need to have a look on the fifth floor, overlooking the square,’ said Carrot, a shade coldly. ‘Ook oook – ook.’

‘He says that’s just old storerooms,’ said Carrot. ‘And that last “ook’?’ said Angua. ‘ ”Mr Horrible Hat“,’ said Carrot. ‘Still, he hasn’t worked out who you are, eh?’ said Angua. The fifth floor was a corridor of airless rooms, smelling sadly of old, unwanted books. They were stacked not on shelves but on wide racks, bundled up with string. A lot of them were battered and missing their covers. judging by what remained, though, they were old textbooks that not even the most ardent bibliophile could treasure. Carrot picked up a torn copy of Woddeley’s Occult Primer. Several loose pages fell out. Angua picked one up. ”’Chapter Fifteen, Elementary Necromancy",’ she read aloud. `Lesson One: Correct Use of Shovel…’ She put it down again and sniffed the air. The presence of the Librarian filled the nasal room like an elephant in a matchbox, but–

‘Someone else has been in here,’ she said. ‘In the last couple of days. Could you leave us, sir? When it comes to odours, you’re a bit… forthright…’

‘Ook?’ The Librarian nodded at Carrot, shrugged at Angua and ambled out. ‘Don’t move,’ said Angua. ‘Stay right where you are, Carrot. Don’t disturb the air . . She inched forward carefully. Her cars told her the Librarian was down the corridor, because she could hear the floorboards creaking. But her nose told her that he was still here. He was a little fuzzy, but ‘I’m going to have to change,’ she said. ‘I can’t get a proper picture this way. It’s too strange.’ Carrot obediently shut his eyes. Shed forbidden him to watch her en route from a human to a wolf, because of the unpleasant nature of the shapes in between. Back in Uberwald people went from one shape to the other as naturally as ordinary humans would put on a different coat, but even there it was considered polite to do it behind a bush. When he re–opened them Angua was slinking forward, her whole being concentrated in her nose. The olfactory presence of the Librarian was a complex shape, a mere purple blur where he had been moving but almost a solid figure where he’d been standing still. Hands, face, lips… they’d be just the centre of an expanding cloud in a few hours’ time, but now she could still smell them out. There must be only the tiniest air currents in here. There weren’t even any flies buzzing in the dead air to cause a ripple of disturbance. She edged nearer to the window. Vision was a mere shadowy presence, providing a charcoal sketch of a room over which the scents painted their glorious colours. By the window… by the window… Yes! A man had stood there, and by the scent of it he hadn’t moved for some time. The smell wavered in the air, on the edge of her nasal skill. The curling, billowing traces said that the window had been opened and closed again, and was there just the merest, tiniest suggestion that he’d held an arm out in front of him? Her nose raced, trying to form original shapes from the patterns hanging in the room like dead smoke… When she’d finished, Angua went back to her pile of clothes and coughed politely while she was pulling on her boots. ‘There was a man standing by the window,’ she said. ‘Long hair, a bit dry, stinks of expensive shampoo. He was the man who nailed the boards back after Ossie got into the Barbican.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Is this nose ever wrong?’

‘Sorry. Go on.’

‘I’d say he was heavy–set, a bit bulky for his height. He doesn’t wash a lot, but when he does he uses Windpike’s Soap, the cheap brand. But expensive shampoo, which is odd. Quite new boots. And a green coat.’ You can smell the colour?’

‘No. The dye. It comes from Sto Lat, I think. And… I think he shot a bow. An expensive bow. There’s a hint of silk in the air, and that’s what the strongest bowstrings are made of, isn’t it? And you wouldn’t put one of those on a cheap bow.’ Carrot stood by the window. ‘He got a good view,’ he said, and looked down at the floor. And then at the sill. And on the shelves nearby. ‘How long was he here?’

‘Two or three hours, I’d say.’

‘He didn’t move around much.’

‘No.’

‘Or smoke, or spit He just stood and waited. A professional. Mr Vimes was right.’

‘A lot more professional than Ossie,’ said Angua. ‘Green coat,’ said Carrot, as if thinking aloud. ‘Green coat, green coat…’

‘Oh. .. and bad dandruff,’ said Angua, standing up. ‘Snowy Slopes?!’ shouted Carrot. ‘What?’

‘Really bad dandruff?’

‘Oh, yes, it–’

‘That’s why they call him Snowy,’ said Carrot. ‘Daceyville Slopes, the man with the reinforced comb. But I’d heard he’d moved to Sto Lat–’ In unison they said: ‘–where the dye comes from––’

‘Is he good with a bow?’ said Angua. ‘Very good. He’s good at killing people he never met, too.’

‘He’s an Assassin, is he?’

‘Oh, no. He just kills people for money. No style. Snowy can’t read and write.’ Carrot scratched his head in sympathetic recollection. ‘He doesn’t even look at complicated pictures. We’d have got him last year, but he shook his head fast and got away while we were trying to dig out Nobby. Well, well. I wonder where he’s staying?’

‘Don’t ask me to follow him in these streets. Thousands of people will have walked over the trail.’

‘Oh, there’s people who will know. Someone sees everything in this town.’ MR SLOPES? Snowy Slopes gingerly felt his neck, or at least the neck of his soul. The human soul tends to keep to the shape of the original body for some time after death. Habit is a wonderful thing. ‘Who the hell was he?’ he said.

NOT SOMEONE YOU KNOW? said Death. ‘Well, no! I don’t know many people who cut my head off!’ Snowy Slopes’s body had knocked against the table as it fell. Several bottles of medicated shampoo now dripped and mixed their contents into the other more intimate fluids from the Slopes corpse. ‘That stuff with the special oil in it cost me nearly four dollars,’ said Snowy. Yet, somehow, it all seemed slightly… irrelevant now. Death happens to other people. The other person in this case had been him. That is, the one down there. Not the one standing here looking at it. In life, Snowy hadn’t even been able to spell ‘metaphysical’, but he was already beginning to view life in a different way. From the outside, for a start. ‘Four dollars,’ he repeated. ‘I never even had time to try it!’ IT WOULDN’T HAVE WORKED, said Death, patting the man on a fading shoulder. BUT, IF I MIGHT SUGGEST THAT YOU LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, IT WILL NO LONGER BE NECESSSARY. ‘No more dandruff?’ said Snowy, now quite transparent and fading fast. EVER, said Death. TRUST ME ON THIS. Commander Vimes ran down darkened streets, trying to buckle on his breastplate as he ran. ‘All right, Cheery, what’s happening?’

‘They say a Klatchian killed someone, sir. There’s a mob up in Scandal Alley and it’s looking bad. I was on the desk and I thought you ought to be told, sir.’

‘Right!’

‘And anyway I couldn’t find Captain Carrot, sir.’ A little bit of acid ink scribbled its subtle entry on the ledger of Vimes’s soul. ‘Oh, gods… so who’s the officer in charge?’

‘Sergeant Detritus, sir.’ It seemed to the dwarf that she was suddenly standing still. Commander Vimes had become a rapidly disappearing blur. With the calm expression of someone who was methodically doing his duty, Detritus picked up a man and used him to hit some other men. When he had a clear area around him and a groaning heap of former rioters, he climbed the heap and cupped his hands round his mouth. ‘Listen to me, youse people!’ A troll shouting at the top of his voice could easily be heard above a riot. When he seemed to have their attention he pulled a scroll out of his breastplate and waved it over his head.

‘Dis is der Riot Act,’ he said. ‘You know what dat means? It means if’n I reads it out and youse don’t disb… disp… go away, der Watch can use deadly force, you unnerstand?’

‘What did you just use, then?’ moaned someone from underneath his feet. ‘Dat was you helpin’ der Watch,’ said Detritus, shifting his weight. He unrolled the scroll. Although there was some scuffling in alleyways and shouts from the next street, a ring of silence expanded outwards from the troll. An almost genetic component of the citizens of Ankh–Morpork was their ability to spot an opportunity for amusement. Detritus held the document at arm’s length. And then a few inches from his face. He tried turning it round. a few times. His lips moved uneasily. Finally, he leaned down and showed it to Constable Visit. ‘What dis word?’