To Catch a Thief - Part One - The Deed is Done (1 of 1)
It happened on a dark and stormy night.
It normally does.
On the disc-shaped world of…Discworld.
Nobody said that Creation had to be creative when it came to names.
Outlined against the moonlit clouds stood a menacing-looking castle, all crenelated turrets, and jutting towers. Had there been a casual observer looking up at this foreboding structure, in just the right light and in just the right way, then a clap of thunder would have sounded, a fork of lightning would have streaked across the sky, and a colony of bats would have shrieked and skittered past the baleful Moon.
All those things happened, observed or not.
A solitary light burned in one of the upper windows, and an indistinct shape was framed by the arched stonework and mullioned glass. Below, the main doors to the castle opened creakily, offering the kind of drawn out death-rattle that only truly ancient and impossibly solid wood and ironwork can achieve, spilling golden light on to the slick flagstones.
It had been raining.
The wind whipped at the hem of the travelling cloak of a hooded figure as they strode hurriedly from the castle and climbed into a waiting carriage. The door was slammed, and the driver bade to make haste. More lightning flashed, picking out the crest of Ankh-Morpork inlaid into the coach’s livery.
The coach departed.
What was done was done.
* * *
A certain amount of time later.
The same castle, a similar dark and stormy night.
Once again, the thunder crashed, and the lightning struck, but this time they were not alone. They were accompanied by screams that pierced the night and tore through the sky. They reached a painful-sounding crescendo and then abated.
They were quickly replaced by the cries of another.
What was done was done.
News travels fast, and this news did not take long to reach the city of Ankh-Morpork. In particular, the Patrician’s Palace, quite specifically the Oblong Office, and precisely the ears of Lord Havelock Vetinari, benevolent (sometimes) tyrant and undisputed (all the time) ruler of the city.
A harried clerk knocked respectfully at the door and waited patiently to be granted ingress.
‘Come,’ came the voice from within.
The clerk stepped inside and found the Patrician standing by the window, hands placed lightly behind his back, staring out into the swamp of humanity that was Ankh-Morpork. The room was almost completely dark, save for the pool of light cast by the ornate candelabra standing on the equally ornate desk. The clerk swallowed; he had important news to deliver. He was just terrified to his very core at what the reaction might be and whether he would be the one to bear the brunt of the Patrician’s displeasure if the news was not received well. Lord Vetinari turned his head slightly.
The clerk shuffled towards the stationary figure, wishing in that moment to be anyone, anywhere else, and said some hushed words to Lord Vetinari.
A moment’s silence passed. Eventually, the Patrician spoke.
‘Very well. See to it that appropriate provisions are made.’ The clerk visibly sagged with relief at getting off so lightly. He mumbled a grateful ‘Yes, Sir’ and departed, as fast as was respectful. On his way out he very nearly knocked over Drumknott, senior clerk and Lord Vetinari’s virtual right-hand man. The veteran administrator raised an eyebrow and joined his master at the window.
There was silence between the two men for quite some time. When the Patrician spoke his voice was quiet, introspective.
‘I have been a fool, Drumknott.’
‘What am I to do?’
Drumknott did not answer at first. This was unfamiliar territory for him. The Patrician looked at him, though, clearly expecting an answer.
‘All I can say, Sir, is that you must do what you feel is right.’
‘Yes. Of course.’
What is right.
More silence. Then the Patrician spoke again.
‘I am sure that it goes without saying, Drumknott, that this is to remain an absolute secret.’
‘Of course, Sir.’
The Patrician inclined his head for a moment, very slightly, and then returned to staring out of the window down on to the darkened city.
What was right.
* * *
Moments later, in the same darkened city that its troubled ruler was observing, a figure moved rapidly through the winding streets. Its identity hidden by the hood of a cloak; the figure paid no one any mind as it trotted towards its destination.
A set of double gates, left unlocked, and the figure arrived. It approached a house and, risking a final glance over its shoulder, knocked on the front door. It was let inside and led to a room where another figure, this one seated, awaited the arrival of news.
Hushed words were exchanged between the two of them.
‘And there can be no doubt?’ said the seated figure, a tinge of predatory hunger in their voice.
‘None,’ answered the standing figure. The seated figure sat back in their chair and allowed a smile to play across their face.
‘Delightful.’ As his informant left, the seated figure looked about him.
His smile faded.
This news was useful, and its timing could not have been better.
Most useful, indeed.
* * *