How to be a Good Copper (Part 2 of 2)
‘And then some,’ added Nobby.
‘So, why isn’t going down there and trying to help the right thing to do?’ asked Colin.
‘Oh, right, yeah,’ said Colon, mentally backtracking to his earlier point. ‘I agree lad that, to many, the Right thing to do would be for us to be in the thick of it. Makin’ arrests, keepin’ order, all that sort of thing, but it wouldn’t be Sensible.’
‘Simply put: we’d be dead meat down there.’
‘Deader than dead meat,’ added Nobby.
‘So the city’s just going to rip itself to shreds with no police prevention whatsoever?’ Colin sounded crestfallen.
‘Oh no, lad, no,’ said Colon, reassuringly.
‘Don’t be daft,’ said Nobby.
‘No no, there are some of our number down there.’
‘There are?’ Colin perked up at hearing this.
‘Bloody mental, if you ask me,’ said Nobby, not as under his breath as he’d hoped.
‘Corporal!’ said Colon, stiffly.
‘Sorry, Sarge. Didn’t know you was listenin’.’
‘A Sergeant is always listenin’, Nobby. Even if he’s not in the room. Remember that.’
‘Always listening,’ repeated Colin to himself.
‘Now, where was I?’ asked Colon.
‘You were telling me that there are officers down in the city, Sergeant,’ said Colin, helpfully.
‘Oh yes, so I was. Anyway, Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot will have taken a team into the city to see what can be done.’
‘You met old Vimesy yet, lad?’ asked Nobby, as he dug in his ear with his pinkie finger.
‘Yes, Corporal. All new recruits meet the Commander on their first day. That’s what I was told.’
‘Great man, Commander Vimes,’ said Colon.
‘Especially when he smiles,’ said Nobby, grinning.
‘But Corporal, I don’t believe I saw him smile once…’
Colon shot Nobby another look and the Corporal looked down to inspect his toecaps.
‘Corporal Nobbs was just havin’ a little joke, lad,’ said Colon. ‘A very little joke.’
‘You’ll learn, lad, that Commander Vimes is a serious man, and serious men don’t have time to go about smilin’ all the time.’
‘But he’ll be down there, with Carrot, and Angua and Detritus, too, I wouldn’t wonder.’
‘I’ve not met everyone on the Watch yet, Sergeant. Who are Angua and Detritus?’
‘Captain Angua and Sergeant Detritus, a werewolf and a troll respectively, are very good for this kind of work.’
‘How so?’ asked Colin, wonderstruck that the Watch kept such a diverse staff.
‘Because,’ said Nobby. ‘Everyone in the city knows they’re a werewolf and a troll.’
‘Yes, lad. Trouble does tend to strap on its running shoes when Angua and Detritus are on the beat.’
‘’Ere Sarge. You reckon Bluejohn’s with ‘em, an’ all?’
‘I’d say it’s highly likely, Corporal. Highly likely indeed.’
‘Who’s Bluejohn?’ asked Colin, desperate to know as much as could about his colleagues.
‘Constable Bluejohn is another of our troll officers,’ said Colon.
‘I’m not sure I’ve met him,’ said Colin.
‘You’d know if you had,’ said Colon.
‘Yeah. Big lad.’
‘To be fair,’ said Nobby, cutting in. ‘You might have walked past him and mistook him for a part of the station house. It’s easily done.’
Colin’s eyes widened in amazement.
‘Like I said, big lad.’
‘So why hasn’t Commander Vimes taken a larger team into what clearly looks and sounds like such a large civil disturbance?’
‘Because, lad, that wouldn’t be the Sensible thing to do.’
‘Why wouldn’t it?’ Colin felt like he was owed some answers.
‘This city’s a tricky animal to tame, lad. If the entire Watch went stormin’ in every time something like this happened we’d be having to hire new recruits every other week. It’s not about sending in all the coppers, it’s about sending the right coppers to the right places at the right time.’
‘So what are we doing here then?’ asked Colin, desperately; indicating the well-removed position that they had been occupying since the city erupted into chaos.
‘That’s a bit philosophical for the time of day, ain’t it?’ asked Nobby.
‘I think the lad means what are the three of us doing up here instead of down there,’ said Colon, sagely. ‘Am I right?’
‘Yes, Sergeant.’ Colin saluted again, but it was a little half-hearted. He was beginning to lose spirit.
‘We’re here, lad, because this is where we’re supposed to be.’
‘Orders is orders, lad.’
‘We were ordered up here?’
‘By Commander Vimes himself.’
‘It’s not our job to question orders, lad,’ said Colon, sagely. ‘It’s our job to take ‘em.’
Colin continued to look crestfallen. He sat, slumped, with his chin resting in both his hands. He looked thoroughly fed up.
‘What’s the matter, lad?’
‘Seargent, I came to Ankh-Morpork to be a copper. I want to be a copper. Some day I want to be a great copper.’
The word “great” hung in the air for a moment while Colon and Nobby looked at Colin. The expression on their faces looked as if the Constable had just sprouted another head.
‘What?’ asked Colin, as he began to feel rather self-conscious. ‘What is it?’
‘Did he just say “a great copper”, Sarge?’ asked Nobby, cautiously.
‘I think he did, Nobby.’
‘What?’ asked Colin again.
‘Oh dear,’ said Colon.
‘Oh dear oh dear,’ said Nobby.
‘WHAT?’ Colin realised that he was not only shouting, but he was shouting at two superior officers. ‘Sorry, Sergeant. Corporal. But what’s the matter, please? All I said was that one day I wanted to be a great copper.’
‘Yeah, we heard,’ said Nobby, darkly.
‘So, what’s wrong with that? Doesn’t every copper want to be great?’
‘In a word, lad, no,’ said Colon, flatly.
‘Dangerous game, chasin’ greatness,’ said Nobby.
‘It is?’ Colin’s inner notebook was filling up as fast as his mental pencil could keep up.
‘Well lad,’ said Colon, taking charge of the instruction of the new recruit once again. ‘As I said earlier, Ankh-Morpork can be a harsh mistress, and one thing this city don’t tolerate is people gettin’ ideas above their station.’
‘Risky business, that,’ agreed Nobby.
Colin was sitting up more alert now, lapping up every bit of knowledge he could from his two comrades.
‘Yes, you’re not the first recruit we’ve had with big ideas,’ said Colon, as he leaned back and got a little more comfortable.
‘Oh no. Not by a long-shot. And I’ll tell you this for nothing, for almost every one of ‘em who’s told me they wanted to be great, that’s one more copper’s funeral I’ve had to attend.’
‘Oh.’ Colin felt his throat constrict a little. He certainly hadn’t come all the way to the big city to die. ‘So, Sergeant? Are you telling me that no one who wants to join the Watch can ever be a great copper?’
‘Not at all, lad. The Watch currently boasts more great coppers at once than I’ve ever seen before, or am likely to see again.’
‘Really? Who are they?’
‘Vimes, Carrot and Angua, of course,’ said the Sergeant.
‘Wow!’ Colin sat, star-struck, for a moment; unable to believe his luck that he’d joined a force with not one but three great coppers amongst their ranks.
‘Yeah, it’s the canniest thing,’ said Colon. ‘Proof that you never know what the city will allow.’
Colin looked at the sergeant, puzzled.
‘Basically, lad, the city will allow a certain amount of greatness to exist inside it, but usually only in small amounts and for limited periods of time. It knows what’s good for it and it has ways of stopping things that are bad for it from getting out of hand.
Colin’s mouth moved soundlessly as he worked something out.
‘You mean…like what’s going on at the moment?’
‘Exactly! Now you’re catching on.’
‘So take it from me, lad. There’s all kinds of greatness in this world. Some of it’s more obvious than others, like in the cases of Commander Vimes and Captains Carrot and Angua. Other kinds…well,’ Colon looked at Nobby for a moment. ‘Other kinds are more…below the surface.’
Nobby, oblivious that his Sergeant was possibly talking about him, was absentmindedly scratching an itch on the underside of his arm.
‘And it’s up to you, lad, as to whether you scratch below that surface.’
The Sergeant finished talking and took a satisfied pull on his cigarette; confident that he had passed on, in his opinion, at least, a great amount of wisdom that day. Colin sat silent for a moment before his commanding officers realised he hadn’t asked yet another question.
‘You alright, lad?’ asked Colon.
‘I suppose so,’ said Colin.
‘But?’ said Colon, sensing the word in the air.
‘But it makes me wonder what’s going to happen to me.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, I came to Ankh-Morpork wanting to be a great copper, and now you tell me that the very city might very well beat me down if a try.’
‘Now the lad’s gettin’ it,’ said Nobby, cheerily, clearly assuming that Colin felt okay with this. Sergeant Colon, on the other hand, had just enough presence of mind to know that the boy was not speaking positively.
‘Hush up, Nobby.’
‘Ever since I realised I’d never make a shepherd I’ve wanted to be a copper,’ said Colin, to himself as much to Colon and Nobby. ‘I dreamed about becoming a great copper. Of taking down criminals and being known throughout the city as someone to look up to. Someone to trust.’
Colin looked up at his Sergeant with a pleading look in his eye.
‘Now that I know all of this, what do I do?’
Sergeant Colon blew out a long stream of smoke and clapped his fat hand on the Constable’s skinny shoulder.
‘The best you can, lad. The best you can.’
‘At least until no one’s looking,’ said Nobby, slyly. ‘And then you can nip round the corner for a smoke break.’
‘Nobby, if I have to tell you again you’ll be reportin’ for duty tomorrow with a fat lip. Is that understood?’
‘Yes, Sarge. Sorry, Sarge.’
‘The best any copper can hope for, lad,’ said Colon, as he looked out at the city of Ankh-Morpork. ‘Is to die an old man in his bed with all his limbs still attached. Anything on top of that is just gravy.’
Colin instinctively mouthed the word “gravy”.
‘So plod your beat, lad,’ continued Colon. ‘Get to know the city. Learn how to deal with its people. In time you’ll know how and when to keep your eyes and ears open and when to keep your mouth shut. This city can be very good to you, but it can turn on you like that. So don’t strive for greatness, lad. If greatness finds you then the very best of luck. If not, don’t spend your life frettin’ that you’re not a great copper. Just concentrate on being a good copper.’
* * *
Thirty years later.
A crime is committed in Ankh-Morpork, as crimes are wont to do.
A plump young man in a Watch uniform sprang to his feet, unsheathing a sword that looked like it not only wouldn’t cut butter, but the butter would laugh and tell all its mates.
‘Sergeant!’ said the shiny-faced Constable. ‘Did you hear that? It sounded like trouble!’ The young man bounded for the mouth of the alley that he had been standing in, but his path was quietly and carefully blocked by an older man with a Sergeant’s insignia on his chest.
‘Simmer down, lad,’ said Sergeant Colin Spanner. ‘And put that sword away, you’ll have someone’s eye out.’