Go back to previous chapter
Joby ran through the house until he found Lonts in the kitchen. Lonts was methodically pushing a broom around the dusty floor.
“Where’s Kieran?” Joby panted.
“Isn’t he with you?” said Lonts.
“If he was I wouldn’t be asking would I!” said Joby, and then he had a moment of inspiration “I know where the little sod is”.
He hurtled recklessly down the steep stairs which led down to the cellar. Kieran was standing right at the bottom, surveying the dank, unappealing area.
“What the fuck …” Joby had trouble getting his breath “What the fuck are you doing down here alone, Kieran?”
“I couldn’t get anyone to come down with me”, said Kieran “And that wasn’t out of cowardice, they didn’t want to upset you”.
“And you have no problem with that I spose?” said Joby.
“Calm yourself”, said Kieran “You’ll do yourself an injury carrying on like this. Joby, if we’re going to set up home here, we need to find out all we can about this place, and clear it of its darker mysteries”.
“Oh why can’t you just leave things alone?” said Joby, in exasperation “Why can’t you be one of those spiritual people who just sits on his arse all day, praying? Why do you have to keep poking your nose into things?”
“Is that what you’d rather I did?” said Kieran, his Irish-blue eyes blazing “Do nothing but dwell on me inner most thoughts? Never try to learn anything?”
“No”, said Joby “Now it’s you who needs to calm down. I just got angry ’cos I don’t trust this house. I don’t like anybody wandering around it on their own, but particularly not you, it might have it in for you”.
“But we can turn this place into another Midnight Castle”, said Kieran “But I can’t carry on cleansing it, if I have no idea what it is I’m cleansing!”
“Perhaps it can only be done by some sort of osmosis”, said Joby “We need to saturate it with ourselves on a daily basis, and hope that finally drives out whatever’s lurking here”.
“You might have a point there”, said Kieran.
“What’s all the shouting down here?” said Hillyard, coming down the steps “You’re disturbing my equilibrium”.
“Don’t look at me”, said Joby “It’s him”.
He smacked Kieran on the buttocks and then hauled him back up the steps. Hillyard scanned the basement room distrustfully, and then followed at a more leisurely pace. The three of them went into the library and gravitated towards the windowseat.
“That cellar’s a rabbit-warren”, said Hillyard “Anyone could easily get lost down there. It’s far worse than the attic, because we can’t see where it’s limits are. For all we know it could sprawl for miles, or even burrow deep into the hill”.
“See?” said Joby to Kieran.
“But I was only standing at the foot of the steps”, Kieran protested “I had no intention of going any further!”
“Me and Ransey want to map it sometime”, said Hillyard “Well we want to map the whole house, but it’s going to have to be under controlled conditions”.
“It’s nowhere near as big as Pabbio’s house was”, said Kieran.
“You don’t know that”, said Joby “You heard what Hillyard just said, we have no idea how huge the cellar area is. Just can it, Kieran! Sometimes I think I need to put you on a leash!”
“You can if you like”, said Kieran.
“You’re hopeless”, Joby laughed.
“Let’s go and have a walk out in the sunshine”, said Hillyard.
They heard heavy footsteps walking purposefully about overhead.
“That must be Julian”, said Hillyard “He’s having a look-round upstairs”.
“I like the way HE’S allowed to wander about on his own!” said Kieran.
“Yeah well with Julian you’d be more concerned for whoever he met wouldn’t you!” said Joby.
“Julian can take care of himself”, said Hillyard.
“I can take care of meself!” said Kieran.
“I’m starting to have some sympathy for what old Joby has to put up with!” said Hillyard.
“Oh good”, said Joby “It’s only taken hundreds of years!”
Joby soundly spanked Kieran before they left the library, with Hillyard blocking the doorway, in case Julian suddenly appeared and “it set him off”. Afterwards, they left the house via the broken front door.
“That’s going to have to be fixed if we’re moving in here”, said Hillyard.
“I spose we don’t need to worry about fitting a letterbox and a doorbell!” said Joby.
“I’ve had an idea”, said Hillyard, as the three of them strolled around the eastern side of the house “Now the weather’s getting better we should camp out up here, outside the back door”.
“And use the kitchen for facilities”, said Kieran, who was clutching his own backside.
“Yeah”, said Hillyard “That way we get to keep an eye on the house all night, but we’re not trapped inside it. We need to try and sit out a whole night up here sometime, otherwise there’s not much point us thinking about moving in is there!”
“I wonder if that roving glass eye’ll appear again”, said Joby.
“If we’re in the tepee we might stand a chance of capturing it”, said Kieran “Although it can clearly get through obstacles”.
He turned and gazed over towards the tower in the far distance. His face was inscrutable. And then he abruptly turned and headed for the shed at the end of the house. The others followed him.
“We could always camps in here if the weather turned bad”, he said.
“Yeah it’s not bad in here”, said Hillyard “Just need to move a few things out of the way”.
They sat down on some old packing cases and boxes.
“Bring some of that moonshine rum back in here”, said Joby “It’s disgusting muck, but better ’en nothing”.
“You really know how to sell it to us!” said Hillyard “Don’t ever become a waiter, Jobe”.
“I’m a sous-chef, not a waiter”, said Joby, grandly.
“You also lay the table and carry the food to it”, Hillyard pointed out “So that makes you a waiter as well”.
“Only ‘cos Toppy’s always too busy ironing Bardin’s bleedin’ clothes!” said Joby “He should be doing it really”.
They sat enjoying the bracing sunshine from the open doorway.
“All we need now is a pack of cards”, said Hillyard.
“Bring those next time as well”, said Joby.
“A nice game of strip-poker”, said Hillyard.
“Trust you to think of that one!” said Joby.
“Well with any luck Kieran’ll get to lose his trousers again”, said Hillyard.
“Oh that’s why you were happy to watch me being whacked”, said Kieran “You got to see me pants!”
“You deserved to have your arse whipped for going down into the cellar”, said Joby “I’ll take the paddle to you when we get home”.
“You’re a heartless old sod”, said Hillyard “No milk of human kindness running through your veins is there!”
“Don’t you worry about me”, said Kieran “I needed spanking. It won’t do me any harm”.
“You’re marvellous you are!” Hillyard laughed “Bloody marvellous. I’ve always thought that, right from the first moment I saw you”.
“No you didn’t!” said Kieran “You thought I was a tart!”
“Only because I thought you were like the pretty boys I used to see back in the City”, said Hillyard “The ones who’d have the marrow out of your bones given half a chance. I soon revised my opinion. I’ve never once been disappointed in you, do you know that, not once”.
“I’m really liking this shed”, said Kieran “People say nice things to me in it! And there was me thinking you were totally dazzled by Joby in those days”.
“I was”, said Hillyard “The surly little git. But I still knew you were special”.
“And you accept my kinky-ness”, said Kieran.
“You’re so down-to-earth about it”, said Hillyard “I like that. Julian always makes it seem so dark and depraved”.
“Julian makes everything seem dark and depraved!” said Joby “Comes of being a debauched old toff”.
“Ach I owe that to Joby”, said Kieran “He’s so brilliantly practical about chastising me. Treats it like his second job”.
“It’s my joint first job”, said Joby “I juggle it along with the cooking”.
They sat for quite some time, just chatting idly and gazing out through the open door of the shed. Eventually the light began to fade, and they emerged into the early twilight. They noticed a bat flicker past from the top of the house, and then whirl frantically out over the deep valley beneath them.
“We must have bats up there”, said Hillyard, glancing up towards the attics.
“That figures”, said Joby “With this house!”
Kieran paused and gazed out over at the distant tower, then he shook his head.
“I’m getting as obsessed with it as Bardin”, he said.
“You’d better snap out of it or you and him’ll be sitting up here with the binoculars all the time”, said Hillyard.
“You don’t wanna joke about that”, said Joby “I can see it happening!”
“You know what”, said Hillyard, looking out over the valley “This is where I wish we still had the truck”.
“What for?” Joby barked.
“So that I could drive it along the valley to the tower there”, said Hillyard.
“It’s an ice road”, said Kieran.
“Yeah, but it’ll be melting now”, said Hillyard.
“Exactly!” said Joby “So how could you drive a truck along it, you great buffoon?!”
“When it melts completely”, said Hillyard, with something approaching magnificent disdain.
“No Bengo, no stop, not in here”, said Bardin, pushed into a corner of the cavernous dining-room.
“Why can’t I kiss you in here?” said Bengo, the dusty sun-rays coming through the high church-like windows highlighting his mane of chestnut hair “It must be the spring getting to me, and Kieran says we need to fill this house with love”.
“Yes I know”, said Bardin, helplessly “But it feels as if we’re being watched”.
“Good”, said Bengo, fumbling at Bardin’s fly-buttons “Then let’s give them something to look at“.
Bardin’s trousers dropped round his ankles.
“Bengo, no, look really”, said Bardin “Let’s keep all this for when we get back to our cabin”.
“OK well let’s go there now”, said Bengo “I can hear the others in the hallway. We’ll hitch a ride in the bucket contraption with them”.
Bardin bent down to pull his trousers up. Bengo dealt a ringing slap on the starch-covered behind.
“Ooh, the acoustics are good in here”, he said, and dealt him another one “I could put you over my knee. Think how wonderful the smacks would sound”.
“No look Bengo I mean it”, said Bardin, who was flustered and not at all sure that he did mean it.
He refastened his trousers and they walked back the length of the dining-room.
“Everything’s so big here”, said Bardin, taking in the heavy mahogany sideboard and the banquet-sized table “Reminds me of The Big House”.
“We could have a brilliant custard pie fight in here”, said Bengo “Have them all arranged along the table”.
“There’s no way we’d get away with having a food-fight at the moment”, said Bardin.
“No”, said Bengo, sadly “That’ll have to wait for the future”.
In the hallway they met up with Kieran, Joby and Hillyard on their way out.
“Are you alright, Bardin?” said Kieran, cheekily “You’re walking a bit odd”.
“He’s got his starchiest knickers on”, said Bengo.
“You’ll cut of all your circulation if you’re not careful”, said Joby.
“He loves it”, said Bengo “Says it helps him to stay focussed when he’s up here“.
“I’ve often said you’d make a good Catholic, Bardin”, said Kieran “You’ve got the right mindset”.
“God forbid, no”, said Joby “One of you around here is enough!”
When they got out to the trolley lift, Hillyard picked Bardin up and lifted him into the contraption. Bardin protested at this unseemly, gallant treatment.
“Well you looked like you might be having trouble”, said Hillyard.
“Particularly with that bona you’ve got on you”, said Bengo.
“I dunno how you manage to get an erection wearing those pants!” said Joby.
“Look, that’s enough!” said Bardin.
“Oh we can never get enough of you, sexy pants!” said Hillyard.
Go forward to next chapter
Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site