WHITENESS, COOLNESS, the smell of starch.
'Good morning, my lord.'
Cosmo opened his eyes. A female face, surrounded by a white cap, was looking down at him.
Ah, so it had worked. He had known it would.
'Would you like to get up?' said the woman, stepping back. There were a couple of heavily built men behind her, also in white. This was just as it should be.
He looked down at the place where a whole finger should be, and saw a stump covered in a bandage. He couldn't quite remember how this had happened, but that was fine. After all, in order to change, something had to be lost as well as gained. That was fine. So this was a hospital. That was fine.
'This is a hospital, yes?' he said, sitting up in the bed.
'Well done, your lordship. You are in the Lord Vetinari ward, as a matter of fact.'
That is fine, Cosmo thought. I endowed a ward at some time. That was very forward-looking of me.
'And those men are bodyguards?' he said, nodding at the men.
'Well, they are here to see that no harm comes to you,' said the nurse, 'so I suppose that's true.'
There were a number of other patients in the long ward, all in white robes, some of them seated and playing board games, and a number of them standing at the big window, staring out. They stood in identical poses, their hands clasped behind their backs. Cosmo watched them for some time.
Then he stared at the small table where two men were sitting opposite one another, apparently taking it in turns to measure each other's forehead. He had to pay careful attention for some time before he worked out what was going on. But Lord Vetinari was not a man to jump to conclusions.
'Excuse me, nurse,' said Cosmo, and she hurried over. He beckoned her closer, and the two burly men drew nearer, too, watching him carefully.
'I know those people are not entirely sane,' he said. 'They think they are Lord Vetinari, am I right? This is a ward for such people, yes? Those two are having an eyebrow-raising competition!'
'You are quite right,' said the nurse. 'Well done, my lord.'
'Doesn't it puzzle them when they see one another?'
'Not really, my lord. Each one thinks he's the real one.'
'So they don't know that I am the real one?'
One of the guards leaned forward. 'No, my lord, we're keeping very quiet about it,' he said, winking at his colleague.
Cosmo nodded. 'Very good. This is a wonderful place to stay while I'm getting better. The perfect place to be incognito. Who would think of looking for me in this room of poor, sad madmen?'
'That's exactly the plan, sir.'
'You know, some sort of artificial skyline would make things more interesting for the poor souls at the window,' he said.
'Ah, we can tell you're the real thing, sir,' said the man.
Cosmo beamed. And two weeks later, when he won the eyebrow-raising competition, he was happier than he'd ever been before.
The Pink PussyCat Club was packed - except for seat seven (front row, centre).
The record for anyone remaining in seat seven was nine seconds. The baffled management had replaced the cushions and the springs several times. It made no difference. On the other hand, everything else was going so inexplicably well there seemed to be a good atmosphere in the place, especially among the dancers, who were working extra hard now that someone had invented a currency that could be stuck into a garter. The place was happy, the management concluded. That was worth a seat, especially in view of what had happened when they tried to take the damn thing away…READ MORE >>