The Ankh-Morpork Post Office is running like . . . well, not at all like a government office. The mail is delivered promptly; meetings start and end on time; five out of six letters relegated to the Blind Letter Office ultimately wend their way to the correct addresses. Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig, former arch-swindler and confidence man, has exceeded all expectations--including his own. So it's somewhat disconcerting when Lord Vetinari summons Moist to the palace and asks, "Tell me, Mr. Lipwig, would you like to make some real money?"
Vetinari isn't talking about wages, of course. He's referring, rather, to the Royal Mint of Ankh-Morpork, a venerable institution that haas run for centuries on the hereditary employment of the Men of the Sheds and their loyal outworkers, who do make money in their spare time. Unfortunately, it costs more than a penny to make a penny, so the whole process seems somewhat counterintuitive.
Next door, at the Royal Bank, the Glooper, an "analogy machine," has scientifically established that one never has quite as much money at the end of the week as one thinks one should, and the bank's chairman, one elderly Topsy (n�e Turvy) Lavish, keeps two loaded crossbows at her desk. Oh, and the chief clerk is probably a vampire.
But before Moist has time to fully consider Vetinari's question, fate answers it for him. Now he's not only making money, but enemies too; he's got to spring a prisoner from jail, break into his own bank vault, stop the new manager from licking his face, and, above all, find out where all the gold has gone--otherwise, his life in banking, while very exciting, is going to be really, really short. . . .
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1 . LOL
Posted November 22, 2009 by MaryBeth , Milwaukee WIThanks for the send up of the banking industry! The return of Moist von Lipwig is good. Vetinari has put Moist's skills to use for the most profit (again) much to Moist's suprise. I'll read this one again and again. Thanks for the satire!
September 30, 2007
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Excerpt from Making Money by Terry Pratchett
Waiting in darkness
A bargain sealed
The hanging man
Golem with a blue dress on
Crime and punishment
A chance to make real money
The chain of goldish
No unkindness to bears
Mr. Bent keeps time
They lay in the dark, guarding. There was no way of measuring the passage of time, nor any inclination to measure it. There was a time when they had not been here, and there would be a time, presumably, when they would, once more, not be here. They would be somewhere else. This time in between was immaterial.
But some had shattered and some,
the younger ones, had gone silent.
The weight was increasing.
Something must be done.
One of them raised his
mind in song.
It was a hard bargain, but hard on whom? That was the question. And Mr. Blister the lawyer wasn't getting an answer. He would have liked an answer. When parties are interested in unprepossessing land, it might just pay for smaller parties to buy up any neighboring plots, just in case the party of the first part had heard something, possibly at a party.
But it was hard to see what there was to know.
He gave the woman on the other side of his desk a suitable concerned smile.
"You understand, Miss Dearheart, that this area is subject to dwarf mining law? That means all metals and metal ore are owned by the Low King of the dwarfs. You will have to pay him a considerable royalty on any that you remove. Not that there will be any, I'm bound to say. It is said to be sand and silt all the way down, and apparently it is a very long way down."
He waited for any kind of reaction from the woman opposite, but she just stared at him. Blue smoke from her cigarette spiraled toward the office ceiling.
"Then there is the matter of antiquities," said the lawyer, watching as much of her expression as could be seen through the haze. "The Low King has decreed that all jewelry, armor, ancient items classified as Devices, weaponry, pots, scrolls, bones extracted by you from the land in question will also be subject to a tax or confiscation."
Miss Dearheart paused as if to compare the litany against an internal list, stubbed out her cigarette, and said, "Is there any reason to believe that there are any of those things there?"
"None whatsoever," said the lawyer, with a wry smile. "Everyone knows that we are dealing with a barren waste, but the king is insuring against 'what everyone knows' being wrong. It so often is."
"He is asking for a lot of money for a very short lease!"
"Which you are willing to pay. This makes dwarfs nervous, you see. It's very unusual for a dwarf to part with land, even for a few years. I gather he needs the money because of all this Koom Valley business."
"I'm paying the sum demanded!"
"Quite so, quite so. But I--"
"Will he honor the contract?"
"To the letter. That at least is certain. Dwarfs are sticklers in such matters. All you need to do is sign and, regrettably, pay."
Miss Dearheart reached into her bag and placed a thick sheet of paper on the table.
"This is a banker's note for five thousand dollars, drawn on the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork."
The lawyer smiled. "A name to trust," he said, and added, "traditionally, at least. Do sign where I've put the crosses, will you?"
He watched carefully as she signed, and she got the impression he was holding his breath.
"There," she said, pushing the contract across the desk.
"Perhaps you could assuage my curiosity, madam?" he said. "Since the ink is drying on the lease?"
Miss Dearheart looked around the room conspiratorially, as if the heavy old bookcases concealed a multitude of ears.
"Can you keep a secret, Mr. Blister?"
"Oh, indeed, madam. Indeed!"
She looked around cautiously.
"Even so, this should be said quietly," she hissed.
He nodded hopefully, leaned forward, and for the first time in many years felt a woman's breath in his ear:
"So can I," she said.
That was nearly three weeks ago . . .
Some of the things you could learn up a drainpipe at night were surprising. For example, people paid attention to small sounds--the click of a window catch, the clink of a lock pick--more than they did to big sounds, like a brick falling into the street or even (for this was, after all, Ankh-Morpork) a scream.
These were loud sounds, which were, therefore, public sounds, which, in turn, meant they were everyone's problem and, therefore, not mine. But small sounds were nearby and suggested such things as stealth betrayed, and were, therefore, pressing and personal.
Therefore, he tried not to make little noises.
Below him, the coach yard of the Central Post Office buzzed like an overturned hive. They'd got the turntable working really well now. The overnight coaches were arriving and the new ?berwald Flyer was gleaming in the lamplight. Everything was going right, which was, to the nighttime climber, why everything was going wrong.
The climber thrust a brick key into soft mortar, shifted his weight, moved his foo--
Damn pigeon! It flew up in panic, his other foot slipped, his fingers lost their grip on the drainpipe, and when the world had stopped churning, he was owing the postponement of his meeting with the distant cobbles to his hold on a brick key, which was, let's face it, nothing more than a long, flat nail with a T-piece grip.
And you can't bluff a wall, he thought. If you swing, you might get your hand and foot on the pipe, or the key might come out.
Oh . . . kay . . .
He had other keys and a small hammer. Could he knock one in without losing his grip on the other?
Above him, the pigeon joined its colleagues on a higher ledge.
The climber thrust the nail into the mortar with as much force as he dared, pulled the hammer out of his pocket, and, as the Flyer departed below with clattering and jingling, dealt the nail one massive blow.
It went in. He dropped the hammer, hoping the sound of its impact would be masked by the general bustle, and grabbed the new hold before it had hit the ground.
Oh . . . kay. And now I am . . . stuck?
The pipe was less than three feet away. Fine. This would work. Move both hands onto the new hold, swing gently, get his left hand around the pipe, and he could drag himself across the gap. Then it would be just--
The pigeon was nervous. For pigeons, it's the default state of being. It chose this point to lighten the load.
Oh . . . kay. Correction: Two hands were now gripping the suddenly very slippery nail.
And at this point, because nervousness runs through pigeons faster than a streaker through a convent, a gentle patter began.
There are times when "it does not get any better than this" does not spring to mind.
And then a voice from below said: "Who's up there?"
Thank you, hammer. They can't possibly see me, he thought. People look up from the well-lit yard with their night vision in shreds. But so what? They know I'm here now.
Oh . . . kay.
"All right, it's a fair cop, guv," he called down.
"A thief, eh?" said the voice below.
"Haven't touched a thing, guv. Could do with a hand up, guv."
"Are you Thieves' Guild? You're using their lingo."
"Not me, guv. I always use the word guv, guv."
He wasn't able to look down very easily now, but sounds below indicated that hostlers and off-duty coachmen were strolling over. That was not going to be helpful. Coachmen met most of their thieves out on lonely road, where the highwaymen seldom bothered to ask sissy questions like "Your money or your life?" When one was caught, justice and vengeance were happily combined by means of a handy length of lead pipe.
There was a muttering beneath him, and it appeared that a consensus had been reached.
"Right, Mister Post Office Robber," a cheery voice bellowed. "Here's what we're gonna do, okay? We're gonna go into the building, right, and lower you a rope. Can't say fairer'n that, right?"
It had been the wrong kind of cheery. It had been the cheery of the word pal in "You lookin' at me, pal?" The Guild of Thieves paid a twenty-dollar bounty fee for a nonaccredited thief brought in alive, and there were oh, so many ways of still being alive when you were dragged in and poured out on the floor.
He looked up. The window of the postmaster general's apartment was right above him.
Oh . . . kay.
His hands and arms were numb yet painful at the same time.
He heard the rattle of the big freight elevator inside the building, the thud of a hatch being slapped back, the footsteps across the roof, felt the rope hit his arm.
"Grab it or drop," said a voice, as he flailed to grasp it. "It's all the same in the long run." There was laughter in the dark.
The men heaved hard at the rope. The figure dangled in the air, then kicked out and swung back. Glass shattered, just below the guttering, and the rope came up empty.
The rescue party turned to one another.
"All right, you two, front and back doors right now!" said a coachman who was faster on the uptake. "Head him off ! Go down in the elevator! The rest of you, we'll squeeze him out, floor by floor!"
As they clattered back down the stairs and ran along the corridor, a man in a dressing gown poked his head out of one of the rooms, stared at them in amazement, and then snapped, "Who the hell are you lot? Go on, get after him!"
"Oh yeah? And who are you?" said a hostler, slowing down and glaring at him.
"He's Mr. Moist von Lipwick, he is!" said a coachman at the back. "He's the postmaster general!"
"Someone came crashing through the window, landed right between-- I mean, nearly landed on me!" shouted the man in the dressing gown. "He ran off down the corridor! Ten dollars a man if you catch him! And it's Lipwig, actually!"
That would have restarted the stampede, but the hostler said, in a suspicious voice, "Here, say the word guv, will you?"
"What are you on about?" said the coachman.
"He doesn't half sound like that bloke," said the hostler. "And he's out of breath!"
"Are you stupid?" said the coachman. "He's the postmaster! He's got a bloody key! He's got all the keys! Why the hell would he want to break into his own post office?"
"I reckon we ought to take a look in that room," said the hostler.
"Really? Well, I reckon what Mr. Lipwig does to get out of breath in his own room is his own affair," said the coachman, giving Moist a huge wink. "An' I reckon ten dollars a man is running away from me 'cos of you being a tit. Sorry about this, sir," he said to Moist, "he's new and he ain't got no manners. We will now be leaving you, sir," he added, touching where he thought his forelock was, "with further apologies for any inconvenience which may have been caused. Now get cracking, you bastards!"
When they were out of sight, Moist went back into his room and carefully bolted the door behind him.
Well, at least he had some skills. That slight hint that there was a woman in his room had definitely swung it. Anyway, he was the postmaster general and he did have all the keys.
It was only an hour before dawn. He'd never get to sleep again. He might as well arise formally and enhance a reputation for keenness.
They might have shot him right off the wall, he thought, as he sorted out a shirt. They could have left him to hang there and taken bets on how long it'd be before he lost his grip; that would be the Ankh-Morpork way. It was just his good luck that they'd decided to give him a righteous smack or two before posting him through the guild's letter box. And luck came to those who left a space for it--
There was a heavy yet somehow still polite knock on the door.
"Are You Decent, Mr. Lipwig?" a voice boomed.
Regrettably, yes, thought Moist, but said aloud: "Come in, Gladys."
The floorboards creaked and furniture rattled on the other side of the room as Gladys entered.
Gladys was a golem, a clay man (or, for the sake of not having an argument, a clay woman) nearly seven feet tall. She--well, with a name like Gladys "it" was unthinkable and "he" just didn't do the job--wore a very large blue dress.
Moist shook his head. The whole silly business had been a matter of etiquette, really. Miss Maccalariat, who ruled the Post Office counters with a rod of steel and lungs of brass, had objected to a male golem cleaning the ladies' privies. How Miss Maccalariat had arrived at the conclusion that they were male by nature rather than custom was a fascinating mystery, but there was no profit in arguing with such as her.
And thus, with the addition of one extremely large cotton print dress, a golem became female enough for Miss Maccalariat.
The odd thing was that Gladys was female now, somehow. It wasn't just the dress. She tended to spend time around the counter girls, who seemed to accept her into the sisterhood despite the fact that she weighed half a ton. They even passed their fashion magazine on to her, although it was hard to imagine what winter skin-care tips would mean to someone a thousand years old, with eyes that glowed like holes into a furnace.
And now she was asking him if he was decent. How would she tell?
She'd brought him a cup of tea and the city edition of the Times, still damp from the press. Both were placed, with care, on the table.
And . . . oh gods, they'd printed his picture. His actual picture! Him and Vetinari and various notables last night, all looking up at the new chandelier! He'd managed to move slightly so that the picture blurred a little, but it was still the face that looked out at him from the shaving mirror every morning. All the way to Genua there were people who'd been duped, fooled, swindled, and cheated by that face. The only thing he hadn't done was hornswoggle, and that was only because he hadn't found out how to.
Okay, he did have the kind of all-purpose face that reminded you of lots of other faces, but it was a terrible thing to see it nailed down in print. Some people thought that pictures could steal your soul, but it was liberty that was on Moist's mind.
Moist von Lipwig, pillar of the community. Hah . . .
Something made him look closer. Who was that man behind him? He seemed to be staring over Moist's shoulder. Fat face, small beard which looked like Lord Vetinari's, but whereas the Patrician's was a goatee, the same style on that other man looked like the result of haphazard shaving. Someone from the bank, right? There'd been so many faces, so many hands to shake, and everyone wanted to get into the picture. The man looked hypnotized, but having your picture taken often did that to people. Just another guest at just another function . . .
And they'd only used the picture on page one because someone had decided that the main story, which was about another bank going bust and a mob of angry customers trying to hang the manager in the street, did not merit illustration. Did the editor have the common decency to print a picture of that and put a sparkle in everyone's day? Oh no, it had to be a picture of Moist von bloody Lipwig!
And the gods, once they've got a man against the ropes, can't resist one more thunderbolt. There, lower down the front page, was the headline "Stamp Forger Will Hang." They were going to execute Owlswick Jenkins. And for what? For murder? For being a notorious banker? No, just for knocking out a few hundred sheets of stamps. Quality work, too; the Watch would never have had a case if they hadn't burst into his attic and found half a dozen sheets of halfpenny reds hanging up to dry.
And Moist had testified, right there in the court. He'd had to. It was his civic duty. Forging stamps was held to be as bad as forging coins, and he couldn't dodge. He was the postmaster general, after all, a respected figure in the community. He'd have felt a tiny bit better if the man had sworn or glared at him, but he'd just stood in the dock, a little figure with a wispy beard, looking lost and bewildered.
He'd forged halfpenny stamps, he really had. It broke your heart, it really did. Oh, he'd done higher values too, but what kind of person takes all that trouble for half a penny? Owlswick Jenkins was, and now he was in one of the condemned cells down in the Tanty, with a few days to ponder on the nature of cruel fate before he was taken out to dance on air.