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Peppermint and Pressure Cookers

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Logic dictated that the weeks after the holidays should have been peaceful. A respite from the breathless rush of parties and shopping and banquets and grand affairs. A lull in the long string of late nights, early mornings, and sleepless everything-in-betweens. A chance for the people of Ankh-Morpork—for Sam Vimes' Watch, in particular—to rest.

The holidays, after all, were absolutely mad for watchmen. With the annual uptick in unlicensed thievery, the rowdy sort of seasonal joviality that flowed out of the corner pubs in loud, bubbly rivers and ultimately ended in a dozen drunken street brawls a day, and the worst—and often bloodiest—of all, the many, many family reunions, Reg Shoe was suddenly not the only watchman walking dead on his feet. With all of that finally, finally behind them, it would've stood to reason for the post-Hogwatch Watchhouses to be dead quiet.

Instead, they went berserk.

"I do hate to bring it up, thir, but it ith becoming a problem."

Vimes squinted at the reports Igor nudged across the desk. He shuffled through them, his brow furrowing a little deeper with each passing second of perusal. There were many pitfalls to paperwork, not the least of which was having to actually deal with whatever crisis had spawned it whenever someone managed to corral you into reading it. But most of the crises that slid across Vimes’ desk these days revolved around citywide crime statistics or payroll negotiations or guild complaints, not…whatever this was.

"So far, I have treated three minor sthab wounds, a few dozen latherations, and a very nathty business involving Constable Shoe's left eye," Igor continued. "It did reattach well enough, and it's all in a day's fun, of courthe, but we are running through my medical stock far fathter than what we normally budget for...If we could possibly get an extended budget for this month—"

"Candy," Vimes grunted. "All this from candy."

"Special candy, thir. The peppermint canes purchased from Mithter Dibbler before Hogthwatch? I believe the defenthive potential was part of the inithial sales pitch."

"Offensive," Vimes grunted.

"Thir?"

"It's a good deal more offensive than anything else."

Igor frowned and craned forward to peer at the reports spread sullenly across the desk.

"No, thir, I'm almost sure the advertithment said defenthive, not offenthive."

"Well, it offends me," Vimes muttered under his breath. It made sense, he supposed. Give a man a candy cane and the only natural thing to do was slurp it down to a point. He'd lost count of the times this year alone that he'd caught Young Sam twirling a spit-sharpened peppermint stick about like a saber, fencing with invisible villains*. That was all well and good for a six-year-old who wasn't poking holes in anything but Ankh-Morpork's notoriously dense air. But for fully grown watchmen? Who, apparently, were having a go at each other—even in jest—in the canteen? Vimes sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers.

Some things, it seemed, never changed.

The Watch had come a long way in a few short years. From one crumbling Watchhouse to a full network of them mushrooming up across the city. From a force of three grimy veterans limping along to retirement to dozens of solid, well-trained coppers striding shoulder to shoulder through whatever the city threw at them. But even with all that new respect and support and whatnot, it was still a pressure cooker of a job. Even more so with the added strain of the Hogswatch frenzy. And, Vimes mused, the more serious and stressful the profession, the more idiotic the ways in which you inevitably let off steam. He would know.

“What’s wrong with the dartboard? If they want to play with sharp objects, then—”

Igor cleared his throat meaningfully. Vimes sighed.

“The Piecemaker again?”

“Exactly, thir. I believe there might be a few slivers of dartboard about, but not enough to thoot at.”

Vimes sighed and made a mental note to have another one ordered. He suspected they all but kept that particular hobby shop in business with dartboards alone these days. But needs must…Vimes excavated a pencil from the drifts of paperwork around him and signed off on the supplementary medical budget. He’d have to discourage the candy fencing, that much was certain. But he wouldn’t put too much weight behind the hammer. Not yet, anyway. There were, after all, far worse ways to let off the pressure. At least none of them were dozing in gutters.

“Put it out in the canteen that a visit to you for peppermint-related injuries means a little chat with me, too.”

“Very good, thir.”

“And Igor?”

Igor paused in his trot to the door.

“Take that candy cane out of your pocket.”

 


*And, coincidentally, ending most of his battles with a triumphant cry of “You’re nicked!” before moving on to the imaginary handcuffs and the escort to the imaginary jail. Young Sam had had a very thorough education in due process.