Theater of Cruelty (Pratchett)

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Theater of Cruelty
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A city guard investigated a man's death, discovering he was a cruel children's entertainer. The victim's small puppet troupe admitted to attacking him, but the guard found he choked on a voice-changing device.

On a fine summer morning, a man was found dead in an alley. Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard, Night Watch, discovered that the man had been beaten with a blunt instrument, strangled with a string of sausages, and savaged by animals with sharp teeth. They brought the body back to the Watch House for further investigation.

Sergeant Colon — Ankh-Morpork City Guard, Night Watch; slow-thinking, loyal.
Corporal Nobbs — Ankh-Morpork City Guard, Night Watch; cunning, resourceful.

Captain Vimes, the senior policeman in Ankh-Morpork, examined the body and found clues that the man was a showman named Chas Slumber, who entertained children. Vimes sent young Constable Carrot to find witnesses to the murder. Carrot, a simple but determined officer, sought the help of Death, who was always present at homicides.

Captain Vimes — senior policeman in Ankh-Morpork; logical, determined.
Constable Carrot — Watch's youngest member; simple, linear thinker, dedicated.

Death revealed that no one had killed Slumber, leaving Carrot to piece together the clues. Carrot's investigation led him to a sausage maker and a group of children. He then returned to the alley where the body was found and discovered a group of gnomes hiding in the rubbish. The gnomes confessed that they had been forced to perform by Slumber, who had beaten them and taken their money. They admitted to hitting Slumber, but not hard enough to kill him.

He made us do it. He used to beat us. Even the alligator.

Carrot found a small leather disc called a swozzle stuck in Slumber's throat, which had caused him to choke to death. He advised the gnomes to run away and start a new life, free from the cruelty they had experienced. The gnomes expressed their desire to start a people's cooperative and experiment with new forms of entertainment, leaving behind the violence of their past.