Early morning sunlight made long shadows of the bars on the window. Bars. Shit.
Dean shot up into a sitting position and instantly regretted the move, clutching his head and leaning into the nice cold stone of the wall. It was already a bad day, and that was before
he remembered that he was once again playing the 'stranger in a strange land' game. He peeked through his fingers. Was his jailer a midget? Dean didn't get a very good look at the shape that headed up the stairs as soon as he showed signs of consciousness, but he smirked for a second thinking of the reaction his brother would have had, had Sam been here in his place. The kid had never quite gotten used to his own height, and short people in general always made Sam more self-conscious, making him slouch even more than normal. Midgets drove him nuts. Just another reason to wish that Sam had joined him for this ride.
The cell itself was airy and clean, so far as jail cells went, with that vague scent of someone-had-vomited-here-sometime-recently but an effort had been made to clean it up. It was a little chilly, and Dean hugged his arms around his body, wondering where his jacket was. A quick inventory left him in jeans, t-shirt, skivvies, socks, belt, and boots, and bereft of every single weapon and tool he normally hid on his person. They'd even got the lock pick he'd sewn into the seam of his jeans. "They're good," Dean said to himself, under his breath. It nonetheless elicited a laugh from the guard who was just coming to the bottom of the stairs. This one had a differently-shaped breast plate indicating that real, quite possibly fantastic breasts were underneath. "Real good." Dean gave a passing thought to the dissonance of having a chick cop in what otherwise seemed like a renaissance festival on steroids, but his eyes were busy absorbing the rest of her: tall, blonde, gorgeous, and with a look on her face that made him feel damn near inadequate. He straightened up and managed a smile. "Boy, do I hope you were the one that frisked me."
A curt shake of her head and she didn't even arch her eyebrows. "That would have been Igor, while he was patching you up." Trace of a different accent in her voice, and between that and the name Igor, visions of Bela Lugosi and Marty Feldman flashed through Dean's mind, tempering his smile. He looked down, noticed that the deep cut he'd taken on his right arm last night was not merely patched up, but appeared to have never happened. Then he heard a dull clank and looked up: the guard was letting a pair of handcuffs – hell, they were practically irons – dangle from her hands and strike the bars of his cell. "You have an appointment."
Dean rose to his feet, approaching the door casually with his hands held loosely in front of his body. "I could use some coffee before we get to the fun and games," said Dean. The guard cracked the door open and had one cuff around his right wrist in seconds, and Dean was certain he was going to get away with having his hands cuffed in front of him, but then the woman spun him around and trapped both his wrists behind his back, the cuffs snapping together with a note of finality. One surprisingly strong hand continued to hold his wrists while the other took firm hold of the back of his neck, and Dean could feel her breath on his skin, swore that she actually sniffed him. "Fun and games first, then."
She pushed him along out of the cells. "I'll see what I can do about the coffee after the meeting," she said. Dean let himself be led through the police station, taking it all in. The place bustled: no computers, but plenty of desks weighted down with thick layers of paperwork, standard-looking cops except for the mismatched chain mail and armor, all of them looking at Dean like he was fresh meat; a bunch of bearded midgets with helmets and axes, and another one of those rock monsters, this one even bigger than the one Dean had shot at last night, but it just stood there drinking something out of a chipped mug and no one else paid it any attention. Dean realized then exactly why
he'd woken up in a prison cell and counted himself lucky that he'd woken up at all. His shoulders slumped, but he kept an eye on the local footwear. The sooner Dean found Gabriel and could talk his way out of this nightmare trip, the better. Then there were more stairs and an open door that slammed shut behind them and Dean was pushed down into a rickety wooden chair. He looked back, and the chick guard was leaning back against the door. No way out.
Dean turned his attention to the man behind the desk, his appointment. A small plaque on the desk pronounced this to be the office of "Sir Samuel Vimes, Cmdr." Just behind the plaque was a man about Dean's father's age, craggy face freshly-shaven, with a hint of barely-contained violence in his eyes despite the neutral expression. "You're causing me a lot of paperwork, lad." Vimes looked down at his desk, scribbling something on a piece of paper, and Dean noticed that all of his missing possessions except for his jacket were littered over Vimes' desk. His jacket hung neatly from a hook by the door. "I can do you a receipt for the knives and the flasks. Seeing as you haven't got a Thieves' Guild license you might want to reconsider the lock picks, the guild tends to be a little less forgiving than I am. And you're going to need a new Dis-Organizer, I'm afraid." He pointed to Dean's cell phone with its newly cracked screen. Then Dean's wallet was held up. "Some interesting reading in here though, Mister Marsellus Wallace." Vimes looked up. "Or was that Mister Bon Scott?" Dean couldn't help the slight curl of his lip. "I'd wager it's not Mister L. Vargosian either. Had Moist Von Lipwig up here earlier this morning," and Dean had to snort at that
name, " a real expert at these sorts of things, he couldn't even tell what sort of paper you'd used on half of these cards and bills, not to mention who'd engraved them or what most of them were supposed to do. Sends you his compliments on your work, though. I managed to get back all the items he'd pocketed - well, I'm pretty sure."
Vimes set down his pen, sat back in his chair, reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver cigar case. Dean looked around the room, refusing to let himself be intimidated while Vimes went through the slow ritual of lighting his cigar. "So what name should I call you by?" asked Vimes, twirling the cigar in his fingers.
Decisions, decisions: a little honesty here might pay off later, and what did Dean have to lose? It wasn't like these guys had access to the F.B.I. database or like Dean was going to stumble into any direct ancestors here. Winchesters had been French or something like that, he was pretty sure. "Name's Dean Winchester," he said, meeting the commander's eyes.
Vimes looked back down and added a note to the top of the file. "New to town then, Dean Winchester? All these beautifully engraved dollars in your wallet say 'United States of America' on them, not a place I'm familiar with, and I've developed a reputation as something of a diplomat lately." Vimes' smile indicated that he found that idea of himself as a diplomat about as ridiculous as Dean did, but if America wasn't around yet, it must be before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The angels had sent him way
back. "I'll go out on a limb and say they don't have trolls there, and more specifically that they don't hire trolls for the Watch, because Sergeant Detritus isn't usually the officer involved in 'assaulting an officer of the Watch' charges, most criminals around here not being recklessly suicidal. So I'd be willing to forgive so much about what you did last night, cough it up to genuine stupidity, save for the fact that you brought pure evil into my city." Dean's breath caught for a moment, but Vimes didn't go on about three-headed dogs; instead, Vimes held up Dean's Colt 1911. "Where the hell did you get this thing
Dean wished he could see if this disturbingly intelligent and downright scary policeman was wearing white tennis shoes, because if this guy wasn't Gabriel then Dean had already made a formidable enemy, and Dean already had more than enough of those. He was tired of formidable enemies; he missed routine salt and burns and wendigos and even fucking racist trucks. This place was too damn weird by half and Dean was sick of these games and didn't give a shit about whatever angelic lesson it was supposed to teach him. He was done playing along. Dean leaned forward. "What if I told you that last night I was in a library a few hundred years in the future hunting an evil three-headed dog, until I took a wrong turn, and next thing I know Nobby Nobbs is giving me dating advice before I got knocked out by a rock monster? That you're all part of some scenario dreamed up by angels to convince me to do something that," Dean paused and looked straight up for a second, raising his voice, "I am still never going to fucking do," Dean returned his gaze to Vimes, "and it's a little hard for me to take you seriously?" Dean straightened out, leaned back in the chair as much as was comfortable with his hands cuffed. "As for the gun, my Dad gave it to me as an eighteenth birthday present and I'd like it back."
Dean braced himself for the worst, but was still riding high on the tide of righteous indignation. "Are you quite done?" asked Vimes, who puffed on his cigar, once, twice, then set it in the ashtray. "Frankly, if I were going to have delusions of being sent somewhere by angels, I'd have picked a place that smelled better. But to each his own." Vimes sighed, the expression on his face one Dean knew from countless times that his father had made a rash but insightful decision. "Running in a library in the future, you say?"
"That's right," said Dean, shifting his shoulders. This wasn't exactly the reaction he'd anticipated.
Vimes was looking past Dean, to the guard at the door. "What time does Carrot come on duty, Angua?"
"Ten in the morning today, sir."
Vimes stood. "Very good. Sergeant, could you unlock these cuffs?"
Dean's "What?" came out simultaneously with Angua's "Sir?"
"Young Mr. Winchester and I shall be taking a quick walk. Have Carrot read the file and tell him that I might have a special duty for him when I return." Angua had removed the cuffs and Dean was rubbing his wrists as Vimes hoisted him to his feet.
"Should I…?" and Angua let the question trail off. She was looking Dean up and down and Dean wasn't optimistic enough to hope that she was just undressing him with her eyes, sensing something predatory in her look. He then found himself wondering for a second why she wore her badge on a collar around her neck unlike her male counterparts who all wore them on their chests, something about it bugging him, but he decided it must be because those assets drew enough attention on their own.
"Nah," and here Vimes jostled Dean's elbow, "I'm certain Mr. Winchester here is aware that any attempt to flee at this point is an admission of guilt and that if he tries anything I will run him down like the lying scum that he is and send him directly to the Tanty." Dean had no idea what the Tanty might be, but he remembered the end of Braveheart
and suspected he wouldn't like the Tanty very much, so he nodded in vigorous agreement with Vimes. With one last look at her commanding officer, Angua stood down. She retrieved Dean's jacket and handed it to him. Dean shrugged into it, the familiarity of his coat ever so welcome in a situation where he had no idea what was going on. Vimes led him back through the police station, and Dean felt the odd stares of the motley group of cops on him, but Vimes paid no mind, practically whistling around his cigar. Not wearing white tennis shoes after all, but what all with the heavy leather boots and exposed knee caps: that just wasn't angelic style.
Then they were outside - and it was bright, noisy, and crowded. Keeping in mind that he needed to stick close to Vimes, Dean hugged the walls as best he could. Cities had never really been Dean's thing, and the bigger they were the worse he felt. There wasn't any privacy and there were too many civilians wandering around: a guarantee that one of them would be there at the wrong place and the wrong time. Hell, the one time he'd gone to New York to get rid of those ghouls in the subway system, he'd found their lair in a spur that hadn't been used in over eighty years and an MTA engineer still walked into the middle of the carnage. Ankh-Morpork took all of the things that Dean hated about cities and made them smaller, closer, and more personal. He was also beginning to sympathize with Sam: not even including the midget guys, the people here were just a little bit shorter than the people back home. Dean had at least three or four inches on Vimes, who looked to be on the tall-ish side in this place. Dean hunched his shoulders and ducked his head, but kept his eyes open.
What Dean had mistaken for a massive open sewer in the dark last night turned out to be a large river that shared many characteristics with an open sewer. They'd crossed a bridge over it before Vimes turned to him. "You haven't asked where we're going."
Dean shrugged. "I don't know if you've noticed, but given that I have no idea where I am, finding out where we're going really isn't going to tell me much. It's just going to be a different place where I have no idea where I am."
Vimes' lips curled to one side. "The past really is another country, eh, son? If it's anything, time travel is disorienting, I'll give you that."
Something in the cop's voice gave Dean pause. "You speak like a man who knows."
Vimes got a distant look in his eye. "I may." He focused back on Dean. "Which is the only reason you're not already in the Tanty." The hand that wasn't occupied with the cigar caressed the handle of the baton which swung from Vimes' belt, conveying to Dean the commander's complete willingness to use the truncheon against him, and use it effectively at that. "There's some fellows in town who'll be able to tell me if you're pulling my leg on this, and if you're not, they might be able to get you home. Which will have the added bonus of getting you and your gonne
," Vimes practically spat on the word, "out of my hair."
Dean nodded. "Right." They kept walking. If this was one of Gabriel's illusions, it was definitely the most detailed one so far. The sights, sounds, and smells, oh God, the smells of this place kept up a constant assault on Dean's senses. A man with a tray vending some brand of street meat passed by and Dean couldn't keep his head from turning or his mouth from watering.
Vimes noticed and barked out a laugh. "Makes you damn hungry too, as I recall. Fancy a taste of history? Dibbler's pies certainly qualify."
"Pie?" Dean could only nod. Vimes motioned for Dean to lean up against the wall while he obtained sustenance from the apparently very chatty Dibbler. Dean only caught a few words of the conversation, but heard enough to pique his curiosity. Vimes returned with two paper-wrapped pastries and offered one to Dean with all the slippery charm of a serpent in an apple tree.
Dean accepted the pie and sniffed. "Smells like meat."
Vimes shrugged. "It's a good sign, for Dibbler."
Vimes continued to look at Dean expectantly so Dean exhaled, brought the pastry to his lips and took a solid bite. He chewed, ignored something springy that he didn't really want to think about, and swallowed. "Pretty good." Kind of like an empanada, with more gravy. Dean took another bite and Vimes clapped him on the shoulder before they started walking again. Dean understood he'd passed some kind of test without even knowing it and was suddenly thankful not to have Sammy with him on this adventure, as baby brother would probably have been puking in the gutter by now.
"Ha! Dibbler's pies. Once tasted, never forgotten." Vimes grinned in the throes of some fond memory as they walked. When he saw that Dean had finished the first pie Vimes offered him the second, and Dean happily accepted it, which caused Vimes to stifle another laugh by chomping on his cigar. Dean didn't quite get it: if you ignored the springy bits and the occasional bristle, the pies weren't half bad.
But his tolerance for road food had put Vimes into a good mood, which gave Dean the courage to ask, "So, the rock monsters are trolls?"
Vimes looked around. "You really don't have them in the future? Yes, and don't call them rock monsters, lad. Detritus and Blue John do the job of ten men each."
"I guess that means the short guys with the beards are dwarfs," said Dean, hoping to high heavens that they weren't actually munchkins, because if they were, there was no way he was getting out of this town without one of those axes embedded in his knee.
Vimes nodded. "Very fine coppers, the dwarfs."
Dean let out a sigh of relief. Then a thought occurred to him. "What's Nobby?"
That earned a snort. "He's a Nobbs."
Dean figured he wasn't the first one to ask. Vimes was still smiling though, so Dean decided to press his luck. "That guy with the pies called you the Duke of Ankh."
Vimes rolled his eyes. "I've collected a few titles over the years."
Dean looked Vimes over. "You look like a beat-cop to me," said Dean after further review.
Vimes grunted. "Started on the streets, long time ago."
Dean finished the last of the second pie. "So how does a beat-cop become the Duke of Ankh?"
"Unintended consequence of doing my job. And I'm a damned fine copper." Vimes bit down on his cigar and Dean supposed that was the end of the subject. It was quite a long walk from the police station to wherever it was Vimes was taking him, the streets getting progressively narrower and poorer but paradoxically cleaner, before finally Vimes pulled Dean's arm and they entered a poorly lit shop. Well, everything in this city was poorly lit so far as Dean was concerned, but this particular shop was especially so, and the air inside had a peculiar musty quality to it. Dean looked around at the goods for sale and concluded that this must be the Ankh-Morpork equivalent of a Salvation Army shop, and one in a lousy neighborhood at that. Vimes strode through the clutter straight up to the Asian-looking man behind the counter. "Is the Sweeper around?"
The man behind the counter didn't say anything, just drew back the beaded curtain to invite Vimes into the back. Dean followed Vimes down the darkened corridor into a back alley where someone had taken time to rake the gravel into careful geometric patterns upon which litter had been liberally sprinkled. A wrinkled man in yellow robes was setting a tea tray down on a rock before straightening. The little old man walked straight up to Dean and pinched Dean's chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Ah, Sir Samuel, I see you've brought me a Destroyer of Worlds." Vimes' jaw dropped, but the old man just smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you."