Fan Fiction : Discworld : Moving Pictures II

Moving Pictures II

Paul Catlow PLC1723 at

Chapter 2: The Cable Street Particulars

Victor hadn't known what to expect of the Cable Street Watch House, having read something of its history. He hadn't, however, considered light, airy, offices painted in a clean aseptic white, with large new windows designed to admit the maximum amount of sunlight.

"Surprised?" Commander Vimes asked him. "When Vetinari gave permission to go ahead and re-open Cable Street, I wanted a complete rebuild. I paid for a complete redesign. I've seen what it used to be like in here (he grimaced) and you can be sure the place was gutted and rebuilt as fit for human beings. Here's how it works: the two upper floors are Cable Street Particulars only, access restricted. Downstairs is a normal functioning Watch House staffed by uniform, including canteen, changing and recreation facilities which will be shared by uniform and CSP. And yes, there are still cells in the cellars as I imagine this Watch House will see its share of candidates to fill them. But you may be sure a lot of what you might call the optional extras, that previous administrations thought were necessary, have been thrown out. The cells are now Watch standard, we give 'em the usual three B's, bed, blanket, and bucket. Having said that, though, when Captain Carrot came up with the idea of starting a Watch museum over at the lemonade factory, I gave him permission to rebuild an interrogation cell from here, as it would have looked in the old days, using some of the…things… we salvaged from down here. And that's what I want those old days to be, Tugelbend, just a museum piece. André, glad you're here, this is your new man. Lance-Constable Tugelbend, this is Inspector André Loudweather. You can take over now? Vetinari wants me down the palace".

Victor shook hands with the head of the CSP, a dapper fair-haired man with the hint of a moustache, in his late twenties, in neat civilian clothes. Vimes left them for his Palace appointment, and Victor asked: "I'd have thought you'd have been another Captain?"

"Commander Vimes thought that would be a problem. You know how the order of seniority works in the Watch? Commander Vimes on the top, then Captain Carrot, then, leaving me out for the moment, Sergeant Angua would be third in line. Then Sergeant Detritus as senior troll, and Segeant Littlebottom as senior Dwarf." He paused, and added, doubtfully, " I suppose Fred Colon comes next, as most senior human. Anyway, Commander Vimes wanted the most senior rank in the Particulars to be lower than a Captain, so that his position in the hierarchy was completely clear. It prevents another Findthee Swing coming along and behaving like a law unto himself if he has to report back to a senior captain every so often. If you have two captains, it muddies the chain of command. Captain Carrot, who's done a lot of the history of the Watch, said that in the old days there used to be a police rank lower than Captain and higher than Sergeant, and suggested it was resurrected for me, so here I am, Inspector Loudweather. Technically third in line after Vimes and Carrot, but believe me I'm happy for Angua to take charge of Uniform if there's a need. This is the canteen, by the way. We share it with Uniform on the ground floor. Mrs Motley sorts out some good plain food and makes the tea. Changing rooms over there."

André led him up the stairs to the offices of the CSP. "Did I tell you I'm technically only part time? I work for the Opera House three days a week. It would be more and I hope it soon will be, but Mr Vimes asked me to stay on until he can train and appoint a successor. I don't think I'm wrong, but you look as if you've got something going for you?"

"The advert did mention "accelerated promotion" Victor admitted.

"That's good, because with the best will in the world, I don't think anyone on the current team is quite cut out to be promoted. Virtually all of them are Specials, for one thing."

"Specials?" queried Victor.

"Part-time policemen. In this case, people with special qualities who put in the time as and when and get paid pro-rata. Our file clerk is full-time, but she's technically a civilian assistant." Victor thought he saw a look of pain pass across André's face. "And while Sergeant Pessimal is notionally full-time and on our payroll, obviously a lot of his time is spent at the Yard making sense of Mr Vimes' and Captain Carrot's paperwork." They arrived at the sort of door that clearly advertises that if it doesn't want to be opened, it stays closed, thank you very much. The large "Access Strictly Restricted" sign was a courtesy detail.

"Ooo's there?" squeaked the door.

"Unlock. Loudweather."

"Door unlocked, guv'nor" squeaked the lock. Victor, recognizing simple technomancy, was interested.

"From the University thaumatological park" André explained. "Was that there in your day? Mr Vimes said you were a student at Unseen. We'll have to get you set up as a door user. Voice recognition technomancy, apparently".

They entered a large, airy, open-plan office, similar to the one downstairs. One end of the office was effectively barred off by a large counter. Behind was a library-like archive of bookshelves and stacked files. And behind the counter was a bulky middle-aged woman with a permanent disapproving scowl, and her dark hair coiled up round her ears into what Überwaldeans called schnecken, or snails.

Ah, thought Tugelbend, the Doorway Demon who has to be appeased in order to access the files.

"Miss Fluorine Maccalariat, our administrative officer and file clerk." André said. "Of the famous Maccalariats and the black sheep of the family, the one who doesn't want to work at the Post Office, ha ha."

"Indeed, André" she said, looking disapprovingly down her nose at Victor. "And I suppose this is yet another young man who's going to make an appalling mess of my files and make my job needlessly harder by replacing everything in the wrong order?"

"I believe I met your sister. At the Post Office, when I went to post a letter?" said Victor, trying to break the ice.

"Young Man! You did NOT meet my sister at the Post Office!" thundered the affronted file clerk. "While I have sisters, who work elsewhere, you would in fact have met my MOTHER, Miss Iodine Maccalariat!"

"All Maccalariats are "miss". " André whispered, quickly. "Even the married ones. The husbands take their name."

There are actually husbands? thought Victor. And… Children?

André steered him on.

And… More than one child?

"This is one of our part-time Specials, Lance-Constable Turvy. His knowledge of economics is invaluable in detecting financial fraud".

A thin, manic-looking bespectacled redhead. "Commander Vimes excused him street training and put him straight on duty here" said André. "If time allows, he can show you the Glooper later. It's really quite a fine balanced machine: we monitor it for unexpected and dubious money transfers around the city." And, quickly: "You can explain how it works and what to look for later, Hubert".

"And this is Lance-Constable The Right Honourable Bertram Stocks-Constable. Constable Constable for short. His desk covers art theft, fakes and fraud. He works at the Art Gallery most of the week, but Sir Reynold is kind enough to loan him when we need him".

A wide plump face looked up at him with an eye swimming languid blue behind a monocle. The head belonged to a body that made Fred Colon look anorexic by comparison.

"Delighted, old boy!"

"And these are Lance-Constables Gooseberry One and Two".

Two whirling green clouds coalesced into sprites with a vaguely neurotic eager-to-please expression. They saluted, and chorused "Pleased to meet you, Insert-Name-Here!"

"The Gooseberries handle data processing, number-crunching, and so on. And this is Lance-Constable Speaker."

She was around thirty, Victor noted, dressed extremely plainly and severely, her dark hair tortured into a very tight and business-like bun. She looked up from whatever she was writing, spared Victor a smile - at least, the corners of her mouth moved upwards and her teeth were visible - then handed André a bundle of neatly stapled papers.

"This is the analysis Commander Vimes requested" she said, briskly. "I've gone through the statements of all the Watchmen involved to determine the level of collusion, and the degree to which one of them was telling untruths. I've also pieced together an analysis of what is most probably the correct sequence of events on the night in question."

"Thank you, Grace" André said. "Victor, did I tell you that internal security is one of our remits? If you've ever asked the question "who watches the Watchmen", then in this time and place it's us. Grace has been investigating whether there was active involvement from the Watch when Chrysophrase's boys took out the strongroom at the Commercial Bank, or whether it was a case of "It's three in the morning, nothing's happening, let's take it as read that All is Well and bunk off for a coffee and a warm at the all-night café three streets away".

"And while they were away, a group of very large trolls came along, punched the bank wall through, and very literally took out the entire strongroom. One troll at each corner." said Grace. "I'm tasked with determining if they took an inducement to be several streets away, which is corruption, or whether it was just old-fashioned Watch custom and precedent, which is merely ineptitude."

Victor couldn't help noticing that down there at the ankle, her stocking really was blue… and if she styled her hair differently and wore more flattering spectacles, that long angular face could be quite strikingly attractive… and put her in more feminine clothes designed for a woman of thirty years younger… he shook off the thought, aware she was glowering at him.

She gave him an "I have seen and acknowledged you. And you are not especially interesting" look, and asked "Is that all, Inspector? I have got more work to do here"

Caked in mud from the waist down, Angua stomped into the Yard, the expression on her face daring other watchmen to laugh. Ye Gods, that was the last time she was going to go on patrol with the River police! How much gods-damn effort did it take to patch up the holes in a boat… Her sandals squelching with Ankh mud, she stomped down the stairs to the ladies shower room. She could hear a shower running, and sniffed the air. One person. {sniff} The sharp cyan-coloured smell of soap. {sniff}Quinces' brand with artifical apple scent. Masking the underlying… Vampire. Ah well…

Gratefully, Angua undressed, the human side of her pleasantly anticipating a long hot soak. From the other side of the shower curtain, Sally called "Bath time, Angua?"

Inwardly, there was an apprehensive whimper. Mentally comparing her to a bovine creature, Angua stepped out of her condemned sandals and turned to get a towel.

"Afternoon, miss".

"What's he doing in here?" she screamed. Stepping out of the shower and toweling her hair dry, Sally flashed her a toothy grin.

"Don't be so uptight, Angua, he's a troll!"

"And male!"

"Well, yes, but trolls go around virtually naked all the time, by human standards. And we're human. Well, broadly speaking, anyway. You're right, I'd chase him out of here if Jade or Smokie had been doing dirty work, and they were in here hosing it off - there you go, he's blushing, it's the thought of Smokie in here, stripped down to the stone, am I right, Brick? - but human nudity doesn't mean a thing to you, does it, Brick?"

"Don't worry me, miss, but some of dem lads upstairs gets hot under the collar about it. Dey want to know where your birthmarks are and t'ings."

"T'ings?" Angua queried.

"Like your vestigial nipples." Sally clarified. "The two spare pairs you don't need as a human."

"Say nothing" Angua growled. Then relented slightly, looking at the troll's broad honest face. Brick had failed the entry test for a troll officer in the Watch; Vimes, knowing this was Detritus' adopted son, and knowing something of his past history with drugs, had instead offered to keep him on as a general hand, odd-job-troll, catering assistant, and doer of the hundred-and-one everyday jobs the Yard needed in support.

"You know what to say about me, don't you, Brick?" Sally prompted, nonchalantly doing her hair up in a turban.

"Yes, miss. I'm to tell dem Watchmen all about dem tattoos you has all over you, der ship in sail, der heart and daggers and stuff, and all the scars from when people has killed you wit' der wooden stakes and dey couldn't find der heart."

Angua looked across at Sally's totally smooth unblemished skin, and her eyes narrowed. But she recognized style, and nodded.

"Good lad. You finished the job down here?"

"Yes, miss. I've blocked dem new spy holes that appeared in der ceiling. And filled der hole miss Precious made, when she punched up through der floor at someone who was looking at her."

"And is Constable Williams recovered yet?"

"Mr Igor said the operation went alright, miss."

"Now be a brick, Brick, and go upstairs to the tank, and see about stoking the boiler and getting lots more hot water for Sergeant Angua? She looks like she's been out rolling in mud, dirty girl, and it's high time for her bath."

Angua winced again; she could never prove that Sally was saying it deliberately, but… As Brick saluted and left the room, she stepped into the shower. Damn and drat and blast the bloody vampire: tepid water. But if Brick's on the case, it shouldn't take too long for it to warm up.

Sally followed her in to the wet area and perched on the stone bench. She drew one knee up to her chin and watched Angua through intensely knowing eyes.

"You have to laugh at the lengths they'll go to, don't you? I came down here an hour or two ago with Precious and held back while she used the shower. Right underneath where they put the latest spy-hole, incidentally. The poor girl had the shock of her life when she saw an eye looking down at her. So did Williams, as it was me he was expecting to see! And you know Precious Jolson, all she needed to do was to reach up a few inches and prod her finger up through the hole. She over-did it, though, put her whole fist up through the ceiling. Igor said he should be OK in a few days, though Mr Vimes was thinking of putting him on a charge for a self-inflicted injury. And damage to Watch premises."

"Self-inflicted injury? But it was… oh, I see."

"Trying to perve on a shy girl like Precious while she was in the buff. Nobody defends her privacy like a shy girl." Sally changed subject. "Brick's come on a lot, hasn't he, since Mr Vimes got him this job? It keeps him out of harm's way, the troll officers look out for him because, well, Detritus is Detritus, and since he's been off the drugs, his brain's been healing. OK, he'll never be a philosophy professor, but by troll standards, there's quite a bright lad in there. Reckon he's got a chance with Jade or Smokie?"

Angua thought about the issue. Constable Jade was one of two female trolls on the force: from what she'd heard, the unattached male officers thought both were lookers, but the majority viewpoint tended towards Constable Smoked Obsidian, known to all as "Smokie".

"I think they like him, but maybe not that much" Angua said. "He's not brought in any pretty boulders or massive amounts of aargroohaa for Smokie yet? And neither of them have hit him over the head with a rock yet? Thought not. Besides, they both know how hard Ruby can punch, and there's one protective stepmother for you. Any damn female no better than polished coprolite sniffing around her boy is going to get to know about it, and it makes them wary". The hot water started to kick in. Oh, thank you thank you thank you Brick! "And anyway, he's an immature young male troll. Troll women value strength, and Brick must realise there are a hundred bigger, stronger, and older troll males who'll walk all over him to get a chance with Smokie."

"Angua, have you noticed we always seem to have our best conversations when we're in the shower?" Sally laughed. Yes, hot running water kills the smell of vampire, thought Angua, then chided herself for being petty. If you could manage to put the old werewolf-vampire animosity aside, Sally was actually OK and they got on well. Angua was forced to admit she actually liked the vampire.

"Ah, come here, it's caked all down your back, you mucky pup!". Sally leapt up off the bench. Angua sensed the vampire drawing nearer, and reaching for a sponge and soap.

Grrrr. Angua wondered about protesting, but didn't she and Sally watch each other's backs on the street? Not far from there to washing each other's backs, and anyway it felt quite pleasant.

"I think I know why you're all tensed up. It's Victor, isn't it? He's such an innocent. I don't think he's stopped to realize the impact he's made. Now, let Doctor Sally make her diagnosis. The patient is a normal healthy female werewolf, who for some years now has been in a happy relationship with a human called Carrot. She's never ever considered any other - human - male in that time, simply because nobody comes close to the standard of human male excellence set by Carrot Ironfoundersson. I mean, look at the general standard of men in the Watch. Either they're taking the Fred Colon bodybuilding course - in thirty short years you too can have a body like mine - or else they're religious zealots, Morris dancers, long-dead zombies, not human, just not interested in girls, or they're Nobby Nobbs. No competition. Then out of the blue there suddenly comes this gorgeous man with a lovely body. He's intelligent. His conversation is quite a few levels above beer and curry. He listens. He makes intelligent comments. He's sensitive. He even uses decent aftershave. All of a sudden, Carrot might have competition, right? You're tempted. And it's getting to you, because you want to be faithful to Carrot."

Angua went Grrrr! again inside. The damn bloody vampire had nailed the problem, hadn't she. But she was good at neck massage. (The treacherous inner voice said "yes, to soften up the prey). The tension was just melting away. Oooh, and she's good at backs, too… "I didn't notice you holding back, the other day." Angua said. "Look, Victor's yours if he wants you. And it'd be doing everyone a favour. Just a little bit lower, that's it! But Sally, there was a girl. Oooh, that's the spot! Damn damn drat! I said that out loud! He told me they went touring the world together after Vetinari invited them to leave the city. "The Road to Genua, the Road to Klatch, the Road to Bhangbhangduc, the Road to Sumtri, the Road to Fourecks 1", he said. They split up in Fourecks. You might find he's still sensitive on that score and he hasn't quite left her behind yet. Be gentle, huh?"

Sally laughed, put the sponge down, patted Angua on the back, and went back to combing her hair. "You can manage to do the rest on your own, Angua? I hear André Loudweather2 invited Victor to his club tonight. Now I don't think our Vic's that much in touch with his feminine side, so very soon, there's another heart he'll have broken."

"André? André who's into musicals? His… club? Oh dear…"

They dried and dressed in silence: Angua unwillingly contemplating the concept that her closest girlfriend in the Watch had turned out to be a Gods-damned bloody undead dratted vampire. And somehow I'm bonded to her.

"We should have another choir night3 soon." Sally suggested. "Invite the trolls." She paused and added: "First item on the hymn sheet: the delectably lovely Victor Tugelbend, who we're all falling in lust with".

After meeting the selection of oddballs, misfits and generally strange people who made up the Cable Street Particulars, Victor was grateful to accept Inspector Loudweather's invitation to a spot of dinner at his club. One thing made Tugelbend eternally grateful: he couldn't see any of them applying gleeful and sadistically inventive torture to helpless prisoners. The most Grace Speaker might do would be to tongue-lash a man to within an inch of his life, and Hubert Turvy's creation sounded as if the Agatean Water Torture might be an occupational hazard - but certainly not an integral part of its design.

At least his future boss seemed reassuringly normal in every discernable way.

Victor and André walked on through the city, and Victor noted with vague interest that their path was taking them towards the Whor… he checked himself and reminded himself that these days it was the Streets of Negotiable Affection. His beat partners had all been emphatic on this point: It might have been called the Whore Pits before you went away, but the Seamstresses' Guild have had the place taken upmarket since then. Don't let them hear you using the W word. Or the P word. André didn't seem like the sort of guy who'd take his pleasures here, he seemed a bit more refined than that. But a gentlemen's' club, in the Wh… Streets of Negotiable Affection?

"We're here", André said, with satisfaction, arriving at a door, unmarked except for as painted blue cat, posed as stretching itself langorously. He knocked: the classic spy's hatch opened, and a voice said "Ooh, it's you, dear heart! Just a moment!"

The voice turned out to belong to one of the largest human doormen Victor had ever seen. Bald, except for a luxuriant upper-lip, and all muscle, shown off to advantage in a tight white vest. Leather trousers, and a curious peaked cap in the same material.

"Tippytoes, this is Victor. My guest for tonight. Victor, this is Tiptoes, the doorman. He makes sure undesirables don't get in."

"Oooh, a new boy in town! Go right in, heartface, you're with our André!"

Victor was led into a large room, laid out as a bar-room, with a stage at one end, a bar down each side, and tabled seating for nearly a hundred. "Usual table, André?" said a waiter. As he walked away, Victor wondered what it must be like to work in trousers that were so tight, and his eyes watered. As he got used to the low lighting, he could see the décor consisted of statues and paintings of young men, largely dressed classically4 and posed to best show off details of musculature and skin tone. André ordered drinks, and they perused the menu, talking about details of structure and organization of the Particulars.

Victor, looking for a conversational opener, mentioned he'd seen almost a full shelf of files labelled "Postmaster General", and asked if the post-holder was a crook under investigation.

"That's just it, we're not quite sure" said André. "Which is one reason why Mr. Vimes wants us to keep an open file on Mr. von Lipwig. The only problem is, everything he does keeps filling the files up, but there's no actual hard evidence of criminality. Oh hell, why are we talking shop?" André's intelligent sad eyes looked hard at Victor, who felt there was something odd going on that he couldn't quite identify. "There's a wonderful cabaret on tonight. You'll enjoy it! Did I mention I also work for the Opera House? If any act here is outstanding in any way, I usually try to get them on the bill and give them an opportunity in front of a far larger audience, if their material fits."

The club was filling up as they ate. Victor wondered why there appeared to be no women among the diners. Then he put it from his mind: André had said this was a gentlemens' club, after all. This is the sort of place where men come to get away from wives and girlfriends?

"Annnn-DRÉ!" a shout that was almost a high-pitched shriek.

"Oh, hi, Jules!"

The two men exchanged a hug and kisses on the cheek. Be cosmopolitan, Victor told himself. This is how perfectly normal men in places like Quirm and Brindisi greet each other. When in Quirm…

"How are you getting on among all those big butch policemen these days?" Jules asked.

"I've brought one with me. Victor, this is Julian. He works at Hugo's"

Victor sighed, and opened his arms for a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. It wasn't as bad as he thought, but he wondered about the hand that briefly fell on his bottom.

"Oooh, inn'e bold! He's forward, inn'e, 'Dré!" sighed Jules, who pulled up a free chair at the table. André signed for more drinks from a waiter, who this time was wearing very tight Borogravian lederhosen.

"And how are you getting on in the rough tough take-no-prisoners world of hairdressing?"

"Perfectly bloody. Mr Hugo's still in a hissy fit about losing his shop frontage to the Post Office - you know they sent an actual golem round to rip his name down? - but he stole them big letters from the Post Office in the first place, what can the silly mare expect? And Lady Sybil give me a flea in my ear, she did. I said to her, she'd have lovely thick riah if she gave up the dragons. God's gift to fat omis, lovely riah, it's compensation for chunky lallies, but not when smelly foul dragons are burning it off all the time! So of course she got into a right madam paddy when I advised her to give up dragons. You should have vada'd the look on her eek. Nasty smelly things. I can't see the point, myself!"

"Did I mention that Jules styles Lady Sybil's hair?" André inquired. "Well, her wigs, to be exact."

"Is he speaking the same language as us?" Victor said, perplexed.

"Sorry. "Lallies" are legs. "Riah" is hair. "Omi" is a woman. Think of it as a sort of canting slang."

A dapper, well-dressed little man came over to the table: Victor was fascinated by his gait, which took the form of a lot of little steps done very quickly, that was halfway to being a sort of dance step. He also noted how the waiters deferred to him, in a way that had "proprietor" written all over him.

"André!" he beamed, and then the double peck on the cheek. "Jules!" (double-peck). "And who's THIS? New trade?"

"A colleague from the Watch, Frank."

"Oooh, nice to have a police presence with us tonight!"

"Frank Harris5, proprietor of the Blue Cat Club, may I present Victor Tugelbend, City Watch?"

"Charmed, I'm sure!" Again, Victor did as the Quirmians do, and Mr Harris stepped back, smiling. "Seems like a nice boy. We've got a live one here, André!"

"Cabaret's starting". The lights dimmed and the club hushed.

The curtains drew back on a rather boyish-looking girl - the first one Victor had seen in the club - wearing a scanty leotard, stockings and high-heels, topped off with a bowler hat. She was sitting astride a cane-backed chair, and staring out into the audience. The music started, and she performed a song about the inadvisability of sitting at home in your room when you could be out having fun. Victor quite enjoyed the next hour and a half, although he was sure people were rubbing their legs against his under the table, and at one point he distinctly felt a hand on his thigh, which he gently but firmly removed. So dark in here people are missing their own legs, he thought. André was taking notes: using the essential Watchman's skill of reading upside down, he read

Not sure about VT. Mixed signals. And Must find way of re-writing this for the O.H. Too good for small venue like BCC.

Now, the lights had dimmed. The manic compére had set the scene with "And meanwhile, out in the Überwaldean mountains!" (a wolf howled) "A new movement has arisen! Wolfgang, Fuhrer or - perhaps - even Furrier, of the Greater Werewolf Reich, we salute you! "

The light picked out a tall solo singer, in ornate black military uniform, wearing a wolf's head. He began an anthem - Fatherland, Fatherland, give me a sign… which swelled up into a full chorus of werewolves singing Tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs to me!

He read, with difficulty, André's notes:

Simply must stage this at the O.H. VT - vanilla? (hope) or straight? (no hope) Memo - do not invite Angua. Suspect this is too close to family for her. Recent memories.

The interval curtain rose. The girl singer with the cabaret came front of house, wrapped in a red dressing gown with an Agatean dragon rising up the back. Fending off appreciative fans, she came to André's table and sat down.

"How was I, darlings?" she inquired, in a surprisingly husky voice.

"You get better and better, Lola!"6 André assured her.

"So why haven't you got me a spot at the Opera House yet?" Lola complained.

"I'm still looking for the right vehicle for you. And I have to deal with Mr Bucket, who is a very conservative man in certain respects. Who just happens to own the building."

She pouted. Then "Who's this?", simultaneously moving her chair nearer to Victor.

Victor swallowed, and hastily introduced himself. The need for further conversation was removed by the compére bouncing back on stage.

"And now! A very special treat for habituées of the Blue Cat Club and one which you will all love. In this second half of our cabaret performance! All the way from Fourecks on their first major residency in Ankh-Morpork! Give a great big Blue Cat Club welcome to… Petunia, the Desert Princess!"

The crowd thundered out its applause. Four women in elaborate evening dresses and heavy makeup appeared on stage. Victor squinted: there was something a little bit strange about them that he couldn't quite make out. They launched into a crowd-pleaser that really couldn't go wrong with an Ankh-Morpork audience, who appreciate their songs being easy to hum and packed with entendres of various pluralities. Something about a man who discovers a kookaburra stuck in his dunnie and who tries to extract it from the inexorable grip of his funnel-web, whilst using only a woggle-iron that has seen better days.

Oh, that's it, Victor thought, working it out. It's one of those comedy acts where men dress as women to get the maximum impact as regards visual humour. He'd had the growing suspicion that aspects of the evening had passed him by and that he might be out of his depth with some things that were going on around him. But he'd seen enough pantomime dames to know where he was with a drag act. No worries, mate, as they say in Fourecks. Lola was still skewering him with hungry looks and he could have sworn here was something of the same in André's eyes, but the performance was good and the champagne was hitting the right spots. Lola put a circulation-stopping hand on his thigh and edged closer. He gulped.

To distract himself, he looked back to the stage. Funny, he thought, there was none of the exaggeration nor the big red bloomers with white dots that characterized Ankh-Morpork drag. It was as if those four men down there were trying their hardest to look like elegant, sophisticated, attractive, glamorous women. Those four men? There was something odd about the one second from the right, something hard to quantify… something out of place here. Ah she's coming out into the audience with a torch song. I shouldn't have drunk so much champagne. It's losing its impact now, it tastes just like fizzy soda.

"Do you want to dance later?" Lola asked him.

Victor wouldn't exactly have described himself as the world's most passionate man, but something about the night, the champagne, and Lola, was acting on him. She smiled and squeezed his hand and breathed an invitation that went straight to his hindbrain for an RSVP. Won't you come home with me?

The odd-one-out-looking one of the Petunias was approaching his table, performing her song and schmoozing diners. Oddly enough, the ones she schmoozed appeared to be doing double-takes and appeared indifferent or resentful, as if they'd been short-changed. Victor heard scandalized whispers "She's a real woman!" and "that's an omipaloni if ever I vada'd one!", and then she was at their table, just feet away. He sat bolt upright, suddenly sober. He saw the sudden light of appalled recognition in her eyes and she faltered, then stopped.



"You? Here?"

"Well, I was just going to ask you that."

Ankh-Morpork people, regardless of age, gender, species, race and sexual preference, all love a good piece of spontaneous street theatre, and this was street theatre. The entire nightclub watched, agog.

"Told you she was a real omi!" said a languid voice, and was shushed.

"Well, that just about does it." She said, in a towering voice, trying to keep her anger in. "How is it that every time, and I mean every time, I'm onto something good, I'm working in entertainment, people like what I do, and I feel I'm getting somewhere, up pops Victor bloody Tugelbend to put a great big spoke in it and spoil it all for me? I'd never have clocked you in a million years as a customer in a place like this, Victor, and now I find you've either changed horses in mid-stream, or else you're too maddeningly bloody innocent to know what sort of a place this is, because here you bloody well are, messing things up for me AGAIN, and I'm bloody well sick of it!"

Victor, feeling he had to make a contribution, aware of all eyes suddenly on him, turned apologetically to André.

"Ginger. That is, Theda Withel. My ex-girlfriend."

André nodded back, understanding. He reflexively made a note. Victor read: "VT conclusively straight. Alas."

Jules made a contribution. "Well, if we're all getting introduced, that's Lola. And hi, I'm Julian, and this is my friend André!"7.

Ginger fixed Victor with a fiery stare. A wisp of red hair flipped down her brow from under a suddenly askew wig.

"Getting on well with Lola, are you?" she inquired, noticing the proprietary hand on his thigh.

Victor babbled. "Well, she seems like a nice girl and she's a good singer and seems jolly interesting to know…"

"She's really called Derek. But good luck, if that's what you want."

"Bitch" said Derek.

"Neilette? If you've quite finished down there, we've got a show to do!" a nasal Fourecksian voice shouted from the stage.


"My stage name". Ginger hissed. "And I won't be seeing you later, so don't wait!" She turned and flounced off with a finality Victor had seen at least twice before. Victor turned to André, Jules and Lola/Derek, and looked apologetic.

"Could we start again from the top, please? With all the missing bits filled in? Assume I've been, I don't know, brought up by nuns or something."

Sally sidled up to Victor in the crush of Watchmen the next morning. She was grinning, never a comfortable sight from a vampire.

"Had a gay old time last night, did you?"

Hungover and short of sleep, Victor winced.

"Never mind, I can tell you were saved from a fate worse than death. All I can read in you is lack of sleep and too much of that cheap fizzy slop Frank Harris passes off as champagne towards the end of the night, when people are too pissed to notice. Pure hangover fodder!"

Victor remembered that he'd been absolutely intoxicated with Lola and… had… almost… gone… home… with… her - HIM… oh dear Gods… he grimaced and put his head in his hands.

Sally put gentle hands on his shoulders as he rocked back and forth making mumbling noises. She exuded warmth, concern, and sympathy, and then, hugging him from behind nd leaning down to whisper in his ear, said, softly:

"Never mind, Victor. I'm sure Derek would have been gentle with you!"

On the way out, Victor tried to ignore remarks of the "I heard you woke up feeling a little queer this morning!" variety, but suspected this one might well need time to settle down.

Later in the morning at Cable Street, Victor tried to faithfully follow the instruction from André to make himself at home and read some case notes, get a feel for the way we operate around here. He wasn't surprised to discover that the Inspector was absent from duty: he'd left a note to say he'd be busy at the Opera House.

Steeling himself, he went to put a file request in with Miss Maccalariat. She glowered at him across the top of her half-spectacles.

"You want to see the file on the Blue Cat Club. Reason?"

"I want to find out which theatrical agencies they use to source their performers, Miss Maccalariat." (There is no better cover than the truth, he thought).

"Oh, yes. They're renowned for seditious, distasteful and satirical comedy about the Patrician and other leading figures. I understand exactly. That's why André keeps them under close personal surveillance." For a moment her severity melted and a mistiness intruded on her hard eyes. "He must trust you already, if he's taking you on sensitive missions! I'll bring the files to your desk, Mr Tugelbend".

Memo, thought Victor. Middle-aged spinster file clerk who has God-like power to grant or deny access requests. She is quietly in love with André and doesn't think anyone has noticed. He has cooked up a cover story to explain why he visits the club so often. And having led a sheltered life and thinking her beloved André can't possibly be one of those, she believes it. This can be exploited. At the least, it got me a "Mr".

The files arrived. Victor sat down for an informative read. He opened the one labelled Blue Cat Club. Access: restricted.

Hmm, a brief summary page at the front. André had dismissively called this the "See Spot Run" page.8 Victor skipped this, then passed quickly through the inserts: playbills, advertising flyers, iconographed copies of Frank Harris's membership cards for the Seamstresses' Guild, and Guild of Ecdysiasts, Nautchers, Cancanieres and Exponents of Exotic Dance, location map, iconographs of the club premises, and assorted reviews of past acts.

A set of interlinked memos made him pause:-

Sir. I remain firmly, of the opinion that, this Club should be closed. It contravenes the Immoral Practices Act (1645), the Licencing of Bawdy Houses Regulations of 1722, the various Obscene Displays and Publications Acts, and encourages certainne Practices of, an Unspeakable Nature. It represents a moral Blackspotte on the face of, the City, and allows those of a Certaine, Undesirable Ilk to congregate together.

Not a bloody chance, Carrot. Have you seen the backing Harris has got? Rosie Palm, for instance. If she admits him to the Guild then this is Guild business - not ours. We have a demarcation agreement with the Seamstresses and they police their own - you aren't the one who has to face Rosie at the Palace, not to mention the Aunts, and explain why you've broken the rules.

And how many times do I have to tell you the old laws don't apply any more? We have an agreement, Carrot: except in certain very precisely defined circumstances, we do not do Vice. The Seamstresses, however, Do. "Immoral", as that zombie bastard Slant will charge you a thousand dollars to tell you, does not mean "Illegal". Sometimes, in fact, it means "lucrative", and you're Dwarf enough to know that people who own gold mines can afford really good security.

Good grief, Carrot. Will you listen to yourself? For somebody as fair-minded and well-balanced as you, you have got such an enormous blind spot it makes Blind Hugh look like he's got twenty-twenty vision. Come on, say the s-word, you'll feel so much better for it. Sex. Sex. Sex. How is it that you come over all embarrassed about talking about this, and you ram your head so far up your bum that you can see daylight through your own nostrils? Besides, you work with André and you know about him - that's never worried you before , surely?
A. v.Ü.

Sir. I had no intention to impugne the Professional, Reputation of Inspector Loudweather, who, remains a Watch officer of Integrity and Ability. It has to be Saidde that the Circles he mixes in are notte especially respectable or of High Morals. Also the Blue Catte Clubbe is a place where the Entertainment, when it isn't about certainne Strange Practices, consists of, scurrrilousJokes and Satires against the person of the Patrician which, are notte fair or deserved as, he is a hard-working Servante of the City. As this is a place of Moral Iniquity and Political Sedition, there must be a case for closure?

I'll ignore the insubordination to a senior officer expressed by a certain sergeant, as I can see where she might just have a point.

Carrot, may I quote His Lordship to you? Vetinari is on record as having said that he actively approves of having a place in the city where disaffected citizens can gather to harmlessly release their tension by sharing witty topical and satirical jokes at the expense of its leading figures. In particular he highly approves of knowing exactly where it's located, exactly who is making the jokes, exactly who laughs at them, and exactly where they'll all be going home to afterwards. Which is work best done by Mr Drumknott's secretariat and I therefore see no reason for us to duplicate it. I repeat, Carrot, we are not a political police nor are we a moral enforcer.

As I have remarked, I don't give a stuff what my Watchmen do for entertainment when they're off-duty, provided it doesn't break the law nor does it bring the Watch into disrepute. (Ye Gods, I even tolerate Nobby Nobbs's leisure activities). If the Palace wants this place closed down, that's its decision. But for now it remains open.

Incidentally, Angua, while we're on this theme, do try not to sing so loudly at "choir practice". I draw the line at the Watch being called out to deal with a late-night bar disturbance, only to discover the offenders are my own Watchwomen.

Point taken, sir. I will advise other "choir members" accordingly.
A. v.Ü.

c/o Temple of Small Gods
I demand to know what you are going to do about this abomination against Man and Gods that calls itself the Blue Cat Club. Synod has just carried the motion that these ungodly, un-Scriptural, perverted and if you ask me, downright insanitary and positively unhygienic, practices should be rooted up and taken out of our city and burnt, before some vengeful and trigger-happy God starts turning people into pillars of Salt left, right, and centre. Thirty-six of our major religions have voted for this, Vimes, and that's a lot of the religious vote there! Divinely yours
The Extremely Reverend Hughnon Ridcully
High Priest of Blind Io

Thoughts, anyone, before I tell him where to stick this memo?

It's a long way to Lancre, sir, and the High Priest is a busy man. Can he be relied on to take it there?

If I may interject, sir. It is true that thirty-six major religions voted for the closure of the BCC with extreme prejudice, but our observations suggest that priests of thirty-five of those are regular and very surreptitious plain-clothes visitors to the Club, including several of Bishop's rank and above, together with lay personnel such as the Choirmaster from the Temple of Small Gods. Perhaps the Extremely Reverend could discreetly be made aware of these facts?
A.E Pessimal, Sergeant, and Gooseberry 1, Lance- constable, CSP.

Well done, A.E. You have made me a happy man, as I have an interview scheduled with Hughnon at three, and I am now quite looking forward to it. Put the evidence on my desk, would you?

To All on Mailing list 1 (senior ranks) :-
I will instruct the C.S.P. to raise a file on the Blue Cat Club and its activities. If there is a need in the future, at least we've got a file to show, which clears us. And now can we say "correspondence closed"?

Victor smiled, and put the memos back in the file. What's this… a cutting from the Ankh-Morpork Times, dated about two months ago.


By your roving entertainments correspondent, Reg O'Biscuit.

Great news coming out of God*'s Own Country! Roving Reg O'Biscuit has learnt that one of Foureck's greatest girl-groups is being exported, like a fine lager, for the delight and entertainment of all you Pommie bladgers.

Roll out the red carpet and a crate of lager at the dockside when the packet ship Wollamalloo docks at Ankh, for Petunia the Desert Princess are arriving! There's going to be a change to the lineup your humble scribe last saw in the salubrious surroundings of the Dingo's Armpit Working Men's Social Club in Bugarup, as the original Neilette only bloody well managed to go and inherit the family brewery on the death of her father, talk about a stroke of luck, don't all go rushing at once, fellas. However, Darleen, Noelene and Letita assure me they've recruited a new Neilette to take her place, and the group are going to be up to strength for their residency in Ankh-Morpork. They open at the Blue Cat Club Cabaret , date to be arranged, and the tour is sponsored by Roo Beer - it really gets you leaping! - and the Fourecksian Embassy Department of Culture, in association with the C.M.O.T. Dibbler Management Consultancy. So for a taste of Fourecksian culture, it's the Blue Cat!
(*Insert name of deity of choice)

Victor sat bolt upright. Damn: the file hadn't been updated for weeks. No more cuttings. "Hubert" he asked, "Do we get the Times daily?"

"Several copies, Victor. Going through the papers is a daily routine."

For some time, files forgotten, Victor scanned the back copies of the papers, hampered by the fact many articles had been scissored out for inclusion in various files.

O'Biscuit had been meticulous in acting as an evangelist for Fourecksian culture: Victor located three more articles charting the Petunias' arrival in Ankh. He scanned these for the information he wanted, then meticulously cut them out and added them to the Blue Cat Club file. The second-last one was an interview with the new (otherwise un-named) Neilette, in which she denied that being a Pom was a disadvantage to her in learning the part.

"Fair go's, I've been resident in Fourecks for a year two, since just after the Big Wet! And I'm re&lly looking forw@^~ard to being part of the entertainment business in Ankh-Morpork again.

O'Biscuit then interjected to say he'd heard they were staying at a really swank hotel, is that right?

Yes, Mr Dibbler said not to worry about the cost. I've worked with him before, so I just know he won't do anything like deduct the hotel bill from our pay. I'm also sure he'll pay us a percentage of the take, too, as well as the back pay still owing from when I last worked for him! We're all every excited to be staying at one of the best places, the

And the cutting ended there. No!!! screamed Victor, inside. He turned the page. Wouldn't you just bloody know it - somebody else had decided a cutting of their choice was more important and that had also neatly excised the last few lines of O'Biscuit's Showbiz Shearings together with the information as to where Ginger was staying. He left the current issue of the Times unread.

He looked up the newspaper office address. Hmm. Gleam Street. Returning the files to Miss Maccalariat with thanks, he explained he was just going to gather a little intelligence in the field, and should be back for lunchtime. Resolutely, he stepped out, wondering how to secure an interview with the Press.

  1. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK… Of course, on Roundworld in the 1930's and 1940's, a popular series of movies were the Road To… films, musical comedies usually starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and a love interest, such as Dorothy Lamarr, playing Americans abroad, on the road to some exotic foreign destination. Go back to 1
  2. Who's awake? André's surname was never revealed in Maskerade. It seemed like fun to give him one that sounded not a million miles removed from Lloyd-Webber… Go back to 2
  3. Terry Pratchett freely acknowledges that a favourite novel, and an influence on the development of the Watch series, is Joseph Wambaugh's The Choirboys, a very black comedy about the Los Angeles Police Department. Here, "choir practice" is a euphemism for rank-and-file cops letting off steam by getting riotously drunk. Any LAPD cop in the "choir" could call a "choir practice" if policing had left them seeing something worse, or more emotionally troubling, or just plain distasteful, than usual… Go back to 3
  4. A euphemism for "not wearing much of anything at all, really". Go back to 4
  5. The original Frank Harris was a nineteenth century sexual libertine, who scandalised Victorian morality with his, er, frank, and candid accounts of liaisons with men and women. These run into eleven rather repetitive volumes of My Life and Loves. This Mr Harris and the Blue Cat Club are a footnote in one of the Watch books: again I thought it would be fun to run with an idea Terry Pratchett appears to discard in one passing joke. Go back to 5
  6. Alert readers might be thinking of a certain Kinks song here. They may be correct. Go back to 6
  7. Having dropped Victor right in it, as a straight innocent in Ankh-Morpork's only known gay nightclub, I was dying to be able to slip this line in… for younger readers, the reference is to a BBC radio comedy show called "Round The Horne" which broadcast in the late 1960's, at a time when male homosexuality was still illegal and attracted dire sanctions. Two recurring characters were an outrageous gay couple played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, who were introduced with the catchphrase "Oh, hello! I'm Julian and this is my friend Sandy!" They also spoke the palare slang, very much an in-language used by gay men so as to be able to identify each other, at a time when getting it wrong could destroy a life and a career. This section of the story is sprinkled with palare, which should hopefully be translatable in context. "Round the Horne" is repeated on a never-ending Moebious loop on BBC Radio Seven and, for fans of Pratchett references, is yet another of those influences on his comic writing. Go back to 7
  8. In the novelisations of the TV programme "Yes, Minister", the cynical civil servant Sir Humphrey explains that every complex file should have a one-page summary at the front, written in very simple English, to spare people of limited intelligence, like politicians, from reading the whole thing. He called this the "Janet and John" page, after the first reading primer all British schoolchildren Go back to 8

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