By Sarah Hapgood

Comprising of wonderful aircraft, earthquakes, some slapstick, a hex, seaside life, a mysterious hospital, a lighthouse, and A LOT of spanking.

Chapter 1

After Bardin had slain the demon, by running over her in the truck, a sort of state of armed truce had existed between the Indigo-ites and much of the town of Zilligot Bay. For the time being, the Indigo-ites had made the Old Lighthouse their permanent home. It suited them, and they were in no rush to venture back out into the world to see what was happening there. During their roaming up to the Weather Rock and back, they had missed their friends Glynis, Jane, Woolly, Rosa and Ernesto more than they had expected to. Plus there was Doctor Xavier’s gang on the far side of town.

Hillyard set to work building a more professional-looking barrier across Lighthouse Lane. Bardin volunteered Rumble, Shag and Mutton Broth to help him, and Lonts was roped in for some of the more heavy lifting work. The horses were used to bring up some large rocks from the beach, to secure the fence posts into place. It had become a matter of some resourcefulness to find where all the necessary materials could be gleaned from. The cellar of the Old Lighthouse was ransacked once more, the rocks from the beach, they took the truck up into the wooded hillside above the town to look for fallen trees, and Rosa gave them some old wiring she had left over from building a chicken run. “It has to have a large gate that we can open to drive through”, Bardin had dictated at the outset.

“Yeah that thought had occurred to me, Bardin!” said Hillyard.

“Just making sure”, Bardin replied.

Hillyard made it perfectly clear that work could only progress in a satisfactory manner if Bardin dropped his foreman act and made himself scarce.

“Would you want an audience whilst you were working?” said Hillyard.

“We tended to find they were quite important”, said Bardin.

“Smart arse”, said Hillyard.

Whilst the work was in progress Hillyard had other interruptions, usually one of their friends dropping off donations to them in the form of food and alcohol. These, of course, were all greatfully received, but it meant work had to be suspended so that the courtesy of polite conversation could take place. On one occasion Woolly left a large parcel for Bardin. He left it on the ground, gave one of his trademark jolly laughs, and wandered back off again towards home. This left them in a bit of a quandary, as Bardin had never felt at ease around Woolly, who clearly had a soft spot for him.

“We can’t send it back though, mate”, said Rumble “That would be rude, and he means well. Bengo’s just going to have to kick some sense into Bardin and make him accept it”.

Bardin said very little when the box was presented to him. He took it up into the lighthouse tower, and ordered Bengo to come with him.

“I wonder what it is”, said Bengo, once the box had been put on the table in the lighthouse kitchen. The two clowns stood staring at it warily, with their hands behind their back.

“I suppose we won’t find out until we open it”, said Bardin, reluctantly.

“It was nice of him to give you a present, Bardy”, said Bengo “I don’t know why you don’t like him”.

“It’s not a case of like or dislike”, said Bardin “I’m entirely neutral about him. I just don’t find him an easy person to relax around. He’s too full on all the time”.

“Well so are a lot of us”, said Bengo “And you’ve managed alright!”

“He just keeps making it clear that he fancies me all the time”, said Bardin “And I’m not remotely interested in him, and why should I be anyway? I’m more than catered for in that department!”

“He won’t mean you any harm, Bardy”, said Bengo “He’s lonely that’s all. I would be a bit weird too if I had to live all by myself”.

“Bengo, you are a bit weird anyway”, Bardin sighed.

“I would go completely off my nut if I lived all by myself!” Bengo continued, now in full throttle.

“Yes alright, I get the message!” said Bardin “You would be even loopier than you are now! Come on, let’s open this thing”.

They set to work ripping off the brown paper which covered the box, and then Bardin lifted the lid. A slip of paper was folded neatly at the top.

“My Dear Bardin”, Bardin read, struggling not to give a grimace “This is just a token of my esteem for all the splendid work you did in slaying that ghastly demon. I found this up in my attic, and when I played it I thought it had a circus-y vibe, and I thought of you and the other clowns. I hope you like it, your friend, Woolly”.

“Don’t go ‘ugh’!” said Bengo.

“I wasn’t …” Bardin began to protest.

“Yes you were about to”, said Bengo “I could sense it”.

“Oh brilliant, so you can do mind-reading now can you? We should’ve included that in the act! Bengo, He Can Read All Your Thoughts, which is bloody amazing really, as he never has any of his own!”

“Very funny, get on with it. What’s in the box?”

Bardin carefully lifted out a polished wooden box and set it on the table. It had a floral etching on the lid, with the words CALLIOPE picked out in brass letting around it.

“Ooh is it a music box?” said Bengo.

“Something like that”, Bardin opened the lid to reveal a brass circular object with numerous little holes punched all around it. Bardin pressed in a button at the side, and it began to rotate, playing a fairground-style tune as it did so.

“It’s lovely”, said Bengo.

“Quaint”, said Bardin.

“Adam will love it, let’s take it and show him”.

“No I’ve an idea. Why don’t we leave it in here? You and Adam keep saying that you want to make this room more homely, well this will help”.

Rosa had arranged an evening at the Driftwood for a few of her friends. The gloomy closed-in atmosphere in the town hadn’t alleviated much with the slaughter of the demon, and the Inn, her pride and joy, was still bereft of customers. She reasoned that at least they might as well entertain their friends there instead. The dinner-party was to be comprised of three couples, Jane and Woolly, Glynis and Hillyard, and Adam would accompany Rosa. Ernesto, Rosa’s brother, was very happy to wait on table in full silver-service style.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with this town”, said Hillyard, as he drove Adam to the Inn in the truck “I know the Sickness is still out there in the big wide world, but the chances of anyone catching it here at the moment is remote in the extreme. All of us from the outside have been well-quarantined, and no one else has appeared in ages”.

“It’s Fear”, said Adam “Once it takes hold of a community, it takes little short of a miracle to prise it off again. I’m afraid logic and reasoning just doesn’t come into it”.

“So what happens now then?” said Hillyard, slapping the steering-wheel in exasperation “Does the whole community just die a death?”

“We can only hope for commonsense to emerge at some point”, said Adam “We can only carry on with our own lives and hope some of it seeps through to them. It is not down to us to order anyone how to live, Hillyard, so stop fretting about it, old love, and let’s just enjoy the evening”.

The big news of the evening was that Glynis and Jane were going to move in with Woolly.

“Woolly, you old dog!” Adam teased “I would never have had you down as a ladies man!”

“I simply couldn’t bear the thought of them holed up in that cramped little bedsit any longer”, said Woolly “And there’s me rattling around that three-storey house all on my boney-oh. And they are always such splendid company. They will help me cope with the morbid gloom of this town”.

“Yes it’s pretty awful”, said Jane “People constantly ordering you to stand away all the time. It can get awfully depressing. At least we’ll have fun with Woolly”.

“And I’m going to arrange another dinner-party here one night”, said Rosa “And invite the Doctor’s gang. You can all come to that one too”.

“That should be interesting”, said Glynis “H is getting quite a thing about Jane”.

“Well I did notice that he can’t stop looking at her”, said Adam.

“He’s lonely, that’s all”, said Jane “And my god, I don’t know what happened to him in those woods to the north of here, but he’s got the most horrible dose of PTSD I’ve ever seen. There are times when he can’t stop shaking”.

“Elaine wants to start up her own film studio here”, said Glynis “And she wants Bardin to help her”.

“Is that wise?” said Adam.

“Oh she can cope with Bardin”, said Glynis.

“But Bardin’s a theatrical”, said Hillyard “I don’t think he and Bengo did much in the way of film-work”.

“No, but she admires his directorial skills apparently”, said Glynis.

“She doesn’t know what she’s letting herself in for”, said Hillyard “He’s been a pain in the neck whilst we’ve been building the barrier!”

“Oh Hillyard!” Adam laughed “He’s the Captain, it’s his job to be a pain the neck!”

“Yeah and he don’t half manage it pretty well!” said Hillyard “He appeared earlier and had a go at Mutton Broth for sitting down for five minutes. I said Mutton was entitled to a break, and Bardin said ‘if you don’t keep on at him, he’ll be having a break all the time’. He’s a monster!”

“I shall tell him so when we get home”, said Adam, laughing helplessly.

“Elaine would say all great directors are sadists at heart”, said Glynis.

“Bardin must be a genius then!” said Hillyard.

“We can’t criticise Bardin”, said Rosa “Not after what he did to that demon, that takes some courage to do what he did. I can see why you all respect him so much”.

“Oh we all adore Bardin”, said Adam “Even if it doesn’t sound like it at times”.

“You lot have never been empire-builders have you?” said Jane.

“I’m not sure what you mean, old love”, said Adam.

“Well you’ve never been interested in colonising places”, said Jane “I don’t count the Old Lighthouse, I think some of the villagers have been very unreasonable about that. But you’re not interested in taking over places, and laying down rules”.

“Good heavens, what a bizarre idea”, said Adam “We just want to live our own lives, we have no interest in telling others how to live”.

“That makes Kieran pretty unusual for a Prophet”, said Rosa “What is it that makes him tick?”

“He believes in Love”, said Adam “That’s all it is. He wants the world to immerse itself in Love”.

“And yet he has this ruthless streak as well”, said Rosa.

“That’s what happens when he sees an absence of Love”, said Adam “I guess to use some classic understatement, it tries his patience”.

The party broke up around 9:30, just as the dusk was deepening. There was much hugging and kissing, and then Adam and Hillyard went out to the truck. All that could be heard was the sound of the ocean breaking against the rocks nearby. The town itself was deathly silent, and many of the windows around were shuttered.

“There is nothing we can do, Hilly”, Adam sighed, getting into the truck.

They drove the short distance up to the new barrier, past the unnerving site of the Old Temple. The gate had been left open for them, and once the truck had passed through, Adam got out again and dragged the gate into its closed position.

“What are we going to do, Ad?” said Hillyard, staring forlornly straight ahead through the driver’s window “This town is starting to depress me so much, I don’t think I can cope with much more of it”.

“Have a chat with Patsy tomorrow”, said Adam “See what he says”.

Hillyard got a chance to do so straight after breakfast, as he and Kieran worked in the hold together, grooming and mucking out the horses.

“Do you want to leave here then, Hillyard?” said Kieran, who was stripped to the waist, with an old t-shirt wrapped round his hair like a bandana.

“No”, said Hillyard “This place really suits us. We’re doing up the Old Lighthouse, Joby’s started up his indoor garden there, and we’ve got plenty of room to exercise the animals. Plus we can keep an eye on our friends. I think it would depress Glynis if we wandered off again”.

“Then it seems to me you have no choice but to try and blank out the towns people as much as you can”, said Kieran “I know it’s not easy, but if they want to live this way, there’s not much you can do about it. We can only shout when they try and start imposing it on us”.

“They’d better not try”, said Hillyard, grimly.

“I’m not normally one for giving leadership advice”, said Kieran, leaning on one of the dividing partitions “But one thing I did absorb was that, if you want to get people to do something, you have to lead by example. Don’t ask them to do something you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself, and try and persuade them round to your way of thinking by making it look enticing. If we live openly and fearlessly, then they might get the message too”.

“I wouldn’t bank on it”, said Hillyard

“Ach, now you’re sounding like Joby!” Kieran laughed.

“I’m starting to feel just like Joby!” said Hillyard “In fact, he’s as jolly as Bengo compared to me at the moment!”

“You’re just having a temporary blip, that’s all”, said Kieran, squeezing his arm.

Joby and Glynis were chatting outside, sitting on the rock-strewn grass verge at the edge of the lane, a short distance from the barrier.

“I’m glad you’re moving in with Woolly”, said Joby “You three are gonna have a right laugh together”.

“One thing we can rely on with Woolly is that he’s always the same”, said Glynis “Even when drunk he never changes, not like some people do, no horrid personality changes or anything like that”.

“I’ve never really understood why he has such a bad drink problem”, said Joby “He’s usually such a cheery old sod”.

“Loneliness”, said Glynis “That’s what it is. From what he’s told us he was very attached to his mother, and he was never the same again after she passed away. She was the only person he felt he could truly relax and be open with. She was his soul-mate I suppose, and he’s been lost ever since she went. I rather get the impression she spoilt him rotten, he was her little prince and all that sort of thing”.

“Hah!” said Joby “Sounds like Kieran, his mum was the same! ‘My little golden-haired angel, och he’s such an angel from heaven’. Used to do my head in”.

“And then Woolly came here”, said Glynis “And although he loves it here, he’s never really gelled with the rest of the towns people. They’re polite to him, but they sort of keep their distance too. I can understand it in a way, after all Woolly can be a bit too full-on for some people. Look at Bardin, I know he’s not at ease around him, and I thought he would be used to Woolly’s type from his theatre days”.

“I think that’s why”, said Joby “He met too many like Woolly’s type. Saucy old fruits who sort of hang around panting with their tongues out”.

“Oh dear”, said Glynis, sadly.

“He spent all his childhood and teen years trying to protect Bengo from them”, said Joby “Well he had too really, considering Bengo’s never had any chuffing commonsense himself! But he was so busy protecting Bengo, he left himself vulnerable”.

“Poor Bardin”, said Glynis “But I can’t imagine Woolly would go forcing himself on anyone, I just can’t imagine it at all, and as for being so monstrous as to hang around children …”

“No Woolly’s not like that”, said Joby, reassuringly “With Bardin it’s just a reflex action from his childhood that’s all, and Woolly always makes it so bleedin’ obvious all the time. I spose it can make him seem a bit desperate!”

“Yes I’m afraid subtlety isn’t Woolly’s strong point”, said Glynis “I think he accepts he’s never going to get anywhere with Bardin, but he still likes to sort of admire him from a near distance as it were”.

“He’s just gonna have to accept Bardin’s very self-contained”, said Joby “He doesn’t live with all his emotions on display all the time, he always says he leaves all that to Bengo … hang about, who’s this?”

On the other side of the barrier they could see a woman approaching from the track which led to the town. She was middle-aged, wearing a floral-patterned house-coat, and carrying a wicker basket.

“Oh no”, Glynis groaned under her breath.

“Friend or foe?” said Joby.

“Well put it this way I would never regard her as a friend”, said Glynis “Her name’s Eunice, she lives next door to the bakery. She grinds my gears. One of those dreadful, bossy, sanctionious types, who always thinks she knows what’s best for people. When we first moved into our bedsit, she tried to organise things for Jane and me, but when we made it clear we’d rather cope on our own, she turned distinctly snotty with us. And now we’re moving in with Woolly, she REALLY doesn’t approve of us”.

“Sounds a right one”, said Joby “What the fuck does she want with us?”

Eunice in the housecoat approached the barrier very determindedly, as though she was expecting it to magically open up the moment she got to it. It didn’t. Instead Joby wearily approached it, leaving Glynis lazily watching from the roadside. When he reached the barrier he made no effort to open it.

“I wish to see Adam or Bardin”, said Eunice, with that sneering-down-the-nose technique that people like her tend to have.

Joby was pretty certain that neither Adam nor Bardin would have any wish to see her.

“I expect they’re busy right now”, he said “Can I help?”

Eunice was momentarily thrown by this. She glanced rudely at Glynis, something which wasn’t exactly guaranteed to get her on Joby’s right side.

“I have a gift for them”, said Eunice, holding up the wicker basket “It’s a token of my appreciation for them, both in ridding us of the demon, and of helping Rosa with supplies at the Driftwood”.

“But none of you have lot have been using the Driftwood since all this started!” Joby protested.

“Well… nevertheless …” Eunice was clearly now floundering “I would still like to show my appreciation”.

Joby knew this was nothing of the kind. She was either being nosy, or trying to wrangle her way in to tell them what to do, or both. The woman was an absolute horror, the worst kind of small town busybody.

“There’s no need for that”, he said “We’ve got everything we want”.

“I still want to show them my appreciation”, by now Eunice was sounding almost shrill. It wouldn’t have surprised Joby if she had started stamping her foot.

“Look, pass it round the side”, he said, knowing that she wasn’t going to go away until he took the basket.

“Believe me, I know men”, said Eunice “And I know what they need and like. They will appreciate you taking this to them”.

“Apparently she knows men”, said Joby, after putting the basket on the galley table “And she knows what they need and like”.

“I have grave scepticism about that”, said Adam “Rosa has told me all about Eunice, she is an infernal busybody”.

“I can’t say I warmed to her”, said Joby.

“What on earth is in the basket?” said Glynis, who was standing with Bengo, both of them looking impatient “I can’t wait to see what this marvellous thing is that all men need and like”.

“Neither can I!” said Bengo.

“It must be summat pretty impressive”, said Joby “She knows men y’see”.

Adam grunted and removed the cloth which lay neatly folded on the top of the basket. Underneath lay two greaseproof packages.

“Well it’s not a bottle of vintage brandy then”, said Joby. Adam tentatively opened the first package, and then nearly snorted with laughter.

“It’s …” he gulped down the laughter “It seems to be a packet of cheese sandwiches”.

“Cheese sandwiches?” said Bengo.

“What all men need and like”, said Glynis.

“Bengo”, said Adam “You’d better take Bardin’s share into him. I’m sure he’ll be absolutely overwhelmed”.

Bardin was in his cabin, scraping the bottom of his feet with a dry skin remover.

“I have a present for you”, said Bengo, holding out the greaseproof package “Something which all men need and like”.

“Bengo, if this is an attempt at a joke”, said Bardin “I’ll tell you now, it’s not looking promising”.

Bengo explained about Eunice.

“It’s a token of her appreciation”, he said “For slaying the demon”.

“I don’t want any tokens of appreciation”, said Bardin, testily.

“Oh just open it, Bardy”, said Bengo “I can’t wait to see your reaction. Adam’s was hilarious!”

Without saying a word, Bardin put down the foot-scraper, and wearily took the small package from Bengo.

“It’s cheese sandwiches”, said Bengo, once his partner had opened it up.

“So I see”, said Bardin “Does she not think we can make our own cheese sandwiches?!”

“Probably not”, said Bengo “We’re men you see, she probably thinks we need her to do them for us”.

“She’s a bloody nightmare!” said Bardin.

“I know”, said Bengo.

“Look”, Bardin rewrapped the package and handed it back to him “Give it to Lonts, and he can feed the goats with it. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it, they’ll eat anything”.

“I’m afraid that’s often the way with women like her”, said Adam, a short while later “They think men are incapable of doing anything for themselves, not even making a cheese sandwich. It is rather aggravating”. “I don’t want to eat something that’s had her cold, clammy hands all over it anyway!” said Bardin.

“No, the goats can eat it instead”, said Joby.

“They’re not as discerning”, said Bardin.

“I thought this would make a nice little housewarming present for Glynis, Jane and Woolly”, said Adam, putting a bottle of homemade wine on the table “Don’t look like that Joby, we can spare it”.

“I’ll take it in”, said Hillyard “I’m going to pop into town and fetch that flour for you from the bakery”.

“Oh Hilly, that would be a big help”, said Adam “But I can’t think what we can barter with”.

“Won’t the sight of my winning smile and magnificent physique be enough?” said Hillyard.

“I think we’d be better off giving ‘em a jar of pickled onions”, said Joby, dourly. “It’s probably going to have to be that”, said Adam “Take a tin of syrup as well. The worst they can do is refuse”.

Hillyard paid a fleeting visit into town late afternoon. He dropped the bottle of wine off at Woolly’s house, and then went across the road to the bakery, which seemed to be in near darkness. He went inside to find himself accosted by a woman wearing a disposable apron, a hairnet, a face-mask, and rubber gloves. She looked unnervingly like she was about to cut up a human cadaver in the bath-tub.

“Stay back behind the line!” she yelled, when he had barely ventured into the room.

Hillyard had to fight down an urge to snap at her to pull herself together. He had a feeling that if Bardin had been there, he might well have done so. He felt like turning round and walking out again, but he knew that Adam was counting on him bringing the sack of flour home.

The woman pointed at the counter top, and Hillyard placed their ramshackle collection of donations there.

“A sack of bread flour please”, he said.

The woman carefully placed the sack on the counter, and then watched warily in case Hillyard moved forward too soon. It was all starting to feel like some bizarre dance.

He was glad when this miserable little exchange had finished, and he could get back outside. Hillyard wasn’t a man quick to anger or to be driven into a bad mood, but the town these days was having that effect on him. Apart from the occasional dog-walker, he never saw anyone in the streets, and every shop door seemed to have a list of hectoring rules pinned to it, listing all the things that customers could (or most likely couldn’t) do. The worst was one that ordered “NO BROWSING!” It was miserable. The whole town had got itself so locked into a climate of fear and paranoia, that it seemed as if there was no way out. He knew the Town Council was who was meant to be in charge, but they seemed to have vanished completely from the scene.

Hillyard put the sack of flour onto the passenger seat of the truck, and then climbed in the driver’s side. When he reached the other side of the barrier, he got out and closed it with relief. It was as if, by closing the gate, he was shutting out the gloom of the town.

“Mission accomplished?” said Rumble, greeting him at the end of the track.

“I don’t think I can cope with that place anymore”, said Hillyard “The whole town I mean”.

“Bit grim isn’t it?” said Rumble, lifting out the sack of flour “What’s the matter with ‘em? I thought they’d have seen sense by now. There’s no way any of us, or the Doctor’s gang, can possibly infect them after all this time”.

“It’s called lack of leadership”, said Hillyard “I can’t imagine Bardin letting us get like that. He might have something to say about it”.

“Knowing Bardin, he’d have A LOT to say about it!” said Rumble.

“I forgot to ask if they had any yeast”, said Hillyard, placing the bag of flour on the galley table.

“Oh that doesn’t matter”, said Adam “If we run out we can make our own”.

“Can you do that?”

“Yes, it just takes a few days that’s all. Bit of a slow process”.

“Hah!” said Hillyard, sitting down wearily “You learn something new everyday”.

“Are you alright, old love?” said Adam “You don’t seem quite your usual ebullient self”.

“Just the town depresses me these days”, said Hillyard “I wish it didn’t, but there you are”.

“I think this calls for some cooking brandy”, said Adam, going over to the wall cupboard.

“Funny how we never seem to run out of cooking brandy”, said Hillyard “It’s a bit like Kieran’s Magic Whisky Bottle”.

“Ah one of the great mysterious of Our Noble & Sacred Order”, said Adam, also collecting two tea-cups, and pouring the brandy into them.

“I don’t know how you keep doing it, day in, day out”, said Hillyard “Cooking for us all I mean”.

“Well I must admit it would be nice to be able to provide a bit more variety sometimes”, Adam sighed “Occasionally I think back to the huge shopping emporiums and supermarkets of my time, but on the whole we manage. And here it’s a lot better than some places we’ve known. I’ve got you guys going fishing for a start, and when Joby’s indoor garden starts to produce results it will be even better. Plus kind donations by our friends”.

“So it looks like this place rocks for us”, said Hillyard.

“I think so”, said Adam “I know we occasionally talk about finding another desert island somewhere, but to be honest, I think we’re in danger of overly-romanticising the one we were on way back then. It had its problems too”.

“Same with Midnight Castle”, said Hillyard “Although by God we had some right rollicking fun there!”

“I think we’ve had some right rollicking fun everywhere”, said Adam “Remember Christmas at the Town House in Toondor Lanpin? Or our little bit of land at Snow Lake? The only place I don’t associate Fun with was the Ministry HQ, but then I suppose that’s not terribly surprising”.

“So the startling clue is that it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together?” said Hillyard.

“And this place is better set up for us than a lot of places”, said Adam “Space for the animals, more space for us with the Old Lighthouse, the sea, and our friends nearby. It could be a hell of a lot worse”.

The following morning Glynis approached the barrier, and slipped through a gap in the gate. Glynis was one of the precious few who were allowed through the barrier without giving any advance warning. But even an old and treasured friend like Glynis wasn’t allowed below deck on the galleon without squaring it with one of the Indigo-ites first. This was solely to give Bardin warning to put this trousers on, or to make sure that he wasn’t being spanked by Adam outside the galley door. Fortunately Glynis tended to be pretty regular with her visits, usually turning up at around 10 AM. This usually fitted in with her shift at the hospital, which tended to be from Noon until early evening.

On this occasion, as she approached along the lane, she found Hillyard and Mutton Broth putting the finishing touches to a wooden bench they had built together on the verge. Nearby two of the horses were contentedly cropping at the grass.

“How very tranquil it is here”, she said, shielding her eyes to look at them.

“Not bad as old homesteads go”, said Hillyard “How’s your little gang today?”

“Pretty good”, said Glynis “Jane’s bashing rugs in the back yard, and Woolly’s watching her work”.

“Don’t go sitting on the bench just yet”, said Mutton Broth, who was holding a tin of varnish and a paintbrush “Or you’ll get it all over your trousers”.

“Sounds like one of your old clown routines”, Glynis laughed.

“Aye, that would have been pretty typical”, said Mutton Broth.

“Is it safe to go below?” said Glynis “Or has Bardin still got his pink negligee on?”

“You’re alright, he’s up in the Old Lighthouse”, said Hillyard “So are Adam and Bengo”.

“That’s OK, it’s Julian I want to see”, said Glynis.

“JULIAN?!” Hillyard exclaimed “You actually WANT to see Julian?”

“You make him sound like a monster!” said Glynis.

“Well if the cap fits”, said Hillyard “I can’t imagine what you want to see him for”.

“Oh I’ve got a little suggestion that I hope he’ll like”, said Glynis. When Glynis got below deck she found Julian in the dining-room, with his feet up on the table, towel-drying his hair.

“Hello old girl”, he said, when he saw her “Are you after Joby?”

“No you, as a matter of fact”, said Glynis, sitting on the chair that Julian had pushed in her direction “Woolly wants us to have a proper house-warming party, and if some of you can come. Not all unfortunately, as we haven’t got the room, but some can. I thought I’d better ask you first”.

“Why on earth do you need to ask me first?” Julian laughed “I’m not the prison governor, more like a rather louche Father Superior! It’s Bardin who’s the one who goes around deciding things and barking orders”.

“Yes, but I wasn’t sure how he would take an invite from Woolly”, said Glynis “And it’s a shame as I think Woolly would love him to come”.

“Bardin will go if Bengo orders him to do so”, said Julian.

“Really?” said Glynis, in disbelief.

“Oh yes”, said Julian “Don’t underestimate that one, he’s not all dimples and curls”.

Chapter 2

Adam, Bengo and Bardin were clustered around the window on the first floor of the lighthouse tower, the one that overlooked the lane to the barrier, trying to keep out of sight.

“This is ridiculous”, said Bardin “She could be there all day”.

“Unlikely, old love”, said Adam “She starts a shift at noon”.

“Hey look, something’s happening now”, said Bengo.

Glynis emerged from below deck, and headed purposefully ashore. The trio watched intently as she then crossed over to where Hillyard and Mutton Broth were still working on the bench.

“Damnit, they’ll keep her chatting for hours”, said Bardin.

“I keep telling you she has to be at work soon”, said Adam “She’s just saying ‘cheerio’ to them”.

This did indeed turn out to be the case. They all waved at each other, and Glynis then set off, equally purposefully, towards the barrier.

“Thank God”, said Bardin “If this keeps up I’m going to have to rethink our visitor policy”.

“Why don’t we just make it clear that we have days when NO visitors are allowed”, said Bengo.

“That’s an idea”, said Adam “And Glynis will understand”.

He went over to the music box, lifted the lid and turned the little handle at the side. The tune began to play out, filling the lighthouse kitchen with its innocent jollity.

“That’s really growing on me”, said Bengo.

“Like a fungus”, said Bardin.

“Get his trousers off him, Bengo”, said Adam.

By the time Joby had got up to the kitchen Bardin had been roughly spanked with the paddle, and was lying spent across Adam’s lap.

“What’s this, musical spanking?” said Joby.

“You’re too late”, said Bardin, his voice muffled. He had come far too soon for his own satisfaction. However much he had tried to hold it in, it had come whooshing out, saturating the front of his shorts.

“No he isn’t”, said Adam, giving him a few smacks with his hand instead, for Joby’s amusement. By the time he had finished, Bardin didn’t feel like saying anything, so this was counted as a job well done.

“Anyway I came up to say we’ve been invited to a party at Woolly’s house tonight”, said Joby “Only a few of us, so we’ve suggested Hillyard, me, Kieran, Bengo and Bardin. And you can come too if you want, Ad”.

“I’ll pass, thanks”, said Adam, rubbing Bardin’s starched behind “I’m not really feeling in a party mood”.

Bengo helped Bardin to his feet.

“Way to go, Bard!” said Joby, approvingly, looking at the large damp patch at the front of Bardin’s shorts.

“I need to get better organised”, said a red-faced Bardin “I didn’t bring a spare pair”.

“You’re alright, there’s no outsiders down there now”, said Joby “You can sprint down like that”.

“Cum-ridden in my underwear”, said Bardin, rubbing his behind.

“A work of art”, said Adam “It will bring a smile to everybody’s faces”.

“I haven’t heard any mention of Ransey in all this”, said Bardin “If the rest of The Six are going, why isn’t he?”

“He doesn’t feel like it either”, said Joby.

“Oh so he gets out of it!” said Bardin “And yet I have to go and put up with Woolly, with a sore behind!”

“You must, Bardy”, said Bengo “It’ll be really shit without you”.

“Yeah it’s gonna be hilarious, watching you trying to sit comfortably all evening”, said Joby.

“Nobody is to say a word about it”, said Bardin.

“Why would we?” said Bengo “It’s our business!”

“I’ve been wandering about having a little holiday”, said Adam.

“Where are you going?” said Joby.

“Not just me”, said Adam “A sort of pretend holiday, here in the lighthouse tower”.

“Ooh yes”, said Bengo.

“A Spanking Bardin Club holiday?” said Joby.

“Yes, why not?” said Adam “We could devote a weekend to it. I’ll ask Hillyard to bring the tin-bath up here, and I’ll bring some camping supplies too”.

“The Famous Five Go On A Spanking Holiday?” said Joby.

“Would you like that?” said Adam.

“I might not be here all the time”, said Joby “But I’ll be sauntering up occasionally no doubt”.

“Anyone can saunter up whenever they want”, said Adam “I’m sure Ransey will want to use the wireless set at some point, and Hillyard will probably be doing odd jobs around the place. It will all help aid Bardin’s humiliation if people keep randomly popping in. No outsiders though, we’re all very clear on that one”.

“It sounds wonderful”, said Bengo “I can be the one who rubs the cream into him”.

“You do realise this is going to dominate my thoughts all evening?” said Bardin.

In spite of Woolly’s customary exuberant presence, it was a fairly low-key gathering at his house that evening, as if the dreariness of the rest of the town was having an unwelcome effect. Hillyard went out into the little courtyard garden at the back to have a conversation about air-buggies with H and Jane. As this got highly technical, none of the others felt much inclination to go and join them.

Kieran was picking out random chords on the piano in the cluttered living-room, whilst Elaine tried to persuade Bardin that her ideas for a theatre or a film studio were perfectly sane.

“But you’re missing the point, Elaine”, said Bardin, who was sprawling gingerly on the arm of the sofa “I don’t WANT to go back into showbusiness. I really quite hate the general public at the moment, and I certainly don’t have any inclination to entertain them!”

“To be fair, you’ve always hated the general public, Bardy”, said Bengo.

“You would be amazed how many performers have!” said Elaine.

“No I wouldn’t”, said Bardin “Look, if Bengo wants to join in he can, but count me out”.

“I don’t want to do it without you!” Bengo complained “We’re meant to be a double-act, you fool! I’ve no wish to be a solo performer!”

“But you did the King of Useless”, said Elaine “And from what I’ve been told you were very good”.

“All he had to do was take his clothes off and sit there”, said Bardin “It was scarcely a demanding role. Personally, I thought it was demeaning, and they had a bloody cheek offering it to him. Someone of Bengo’s talents and long experience should have been offered better than that”.

“My talents?” said Bengo “What about all those times you told me I got by on dimples and curls?!”

“That was jealousy, because all you had to do to have an audience eating out of your hand was to go on stage and do this”, Bardin struck a cheesy, grinning pose “But, if you had ever listened properly to what I was saying, you would have also noticed that I said you were a natural clown, with an innate aptitude for comedy. And get all those stupid ideas out of your head about playing villains, because nobody was going to want to see you doing that!”

“I still think it’s a shame”, said Elaine “I would get anything to work with people of your calibre”.

“Oh now you’re just trying the soft-soap routine”, said Bardin.

Joby circulated with a wine-bottle, topping up their glasses.

“You comfy there, Bardin?” he asked, cheekily.

“I am fine, thank you”, said Bardin, stiffly.

“Bengo’s right”, said Woolly “It is no fun being a solo performer, I should know, I had years of it. It’s very lonely having no one else to back you up, particularly during the lean times. I had to do my share of demeaning roles, and in the end that’s all that was being offered to me”.

They all knew that this referred to his drinking, which had led to him being blackballed by many theatres in the City.

“That’s a shame”, said Bengo “I bet audiences loved you”.

“They were kind on the whole”, said Woolly “Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the theatre directors”.

Bardin secretly thought that they had a job to do, and weren’t going to take a risk on an unreliable performer. In the past he had had enough problems trying to find work for Hoowie, only to have him turn up drunk and disorderly, and wasting everyone’s time. For once though, he kept his thoughts to himself. Partly this was due to Adam’s rigorous over-the-knee spanking earlier having mellowed him slightly, but mainly due to the fact that even he could see how lonely Woolly had been in this over-stuffed town house.

“I’m glad you’ve got company now”, he said, awkwardly.

“So am I”, said Woolly, raising his glass in a salute “Spendid girls, absolutely splendid girls”.

Hillyard, Jane and H traipsed in from the back yard.

“Hillyard has agreed to a dual flight soon”, said H, in that nervy, staccato way of his “Out over the ocean”.

“Which ocean?” said Bardin.

“The one on the east coast”, said Hillyard “Just a quick shufty out over the water and back again”.

“Sounds like a good idea”, said Bardin “It might be worth seeing what, if anything, is going on out there”.

“I’m taking the Doctor, Jane and Glynis in my aircraft”, said H.

“I’m suggesting Ransey, Kieran and Bardin in mine”, said Hillyard “And don’t argue, Bardin, you are the Captain after all”.

“Yes, captain of a ship”, said Bardin “Not an air-buggy”.

“You’re still coming with us”, said Kieran, drifting over from the piano “It wouldn’t be the same without you”.

“What a lark!” Woolly laughed.

“Sometimes I wonder if I have any say in anything round here”, said Bardin, lying back on his bunk, whilst Bengo divested him of his shoes and trousers.

“Oh shut up, I’ve been looking forward to this all evening”, said Bengo.

“Before I know it, I’ll be roped into Elaine’s bloody movie-making ideas, or whatever it is as well”, Bardin grumbled.

“Let’s see how things pan out in the near future”, Bengo sighed, draping Bardin’s trousers over the back of an armchair “I certainly won’t be doing it without you, that’s for sure. It felt really strange being without you on the stage last year”.

“You’ve not said that before”, said Bardin.

“It’s not really occurred to me until just now”, said Bengo “But it did feel odd”.

“So how do you really feel about all that?” asked Bardin.

“Not sure”, Bengo shrugged “Like you, I’m very happy with what we’ve got here, I’ve got no overwhelming wish to get involved in showbiz again. And yet, at the same time, it might be fun. Working with Elaine would be fascinating, and I think it would be good for Woolly. Who knows what we might create between us”.

“A mess probably”, said Bardin.

“Probably”, Bengo laughed “But I’m not bothered if we don’t do it either. I’m more excited by the thought of the Weekend In The Lighthouse coming up”.

“I’m glad it’s going to be after the flight tomorrow”, said Bardin “Or there’s no way I’d be able to sit in the back-seat of that air-buggy!”

“Adam says he’s going to draw up an itinerary and everything”, said Bengo “He wants to have a meeting to consult me about it tomorrow, whilst you’re out on the flight”.

“You’ll have to tell me how many pairs of shorts I’m going to need”, said Bardin.

Hillyard and H had made plans for the dual flight before leaving Woolly’s house. Hillyard was to fly the Indigo-ites air-buggy over the Doctor’s house, and then H would take off and join them. It all went to plan. Hillyard was as exuberant as an excited child, and Ransey, in the passenger seat, had to try and stop him from doing anything recklessly spectacular.

“No looping the loop or anything crazy like that”, he said, sternly.

“He’d better not!” said Bardin, glowering from the back seat.

“Are you sitting comfortably, Bardin?” said Kieran, who was sitting next to him.

“You have already asked me that”, Bardin snapped “And I am fine”.

“Just checking”, said Kieran.

Both air-buggies flew out over the sparse, completely treeless, windswept headland, which stretched for miles beyond the Doctor’s house, and at its southern end, bordered the notorious Horn of Wonder. The air-buggies avoided that direction though, and instead flew in a north-easterly direction towards the coast on the other side.

Seeing the East Ocean from the air was an exhilerating experience for everyone, even though Hillyard had seen it before, when he had rescued Jane and Glynis from the Third Island the previous year.

“To think how long it would take us to sail to this part!” Bardin shouted.

“Takes the magic out of travelling if you ask me”, said Ransey.

“Yeah, but handy though for little recce’s like this”, said Hillyard.

“How far are we going?” asked Kieran.

“You’ll see”, said Hillyard.

“Not as far as the Third Island I hope”, said Bardin “I have no wish whatsoever to see Cloris again in a hurry”.

“Nah, don’t be daft”, said Hillyard.

In fact he took them as far as Hy Brasil. Once there they circled the island, and then Peat Bog Island to the south.

“We had some times here didn’t we, Bardin!” Hillyard laughed.

“Yes alright!” said Bardin.

“This is absolutely amazing”, said Kieran, as they flew back over Hy Brasil “This magic island”.

“Did you want to land here?” Bardin asked him.

“No”, said Kieran “Not this time. It’s a bit like flying to Moon, I’d worry we wouldn’t be able to get back again”.

“Hold up”, Ransey reached for a pair of binoculars he had left on the floor, and used them to scan the distant horizon to the east “I can see smoke, can anyone else see it?”

“From the air-buggy?” said Hillyard.

“No, you nit, from direction of The New Continent”, said Ransey.

“Yes there’s something”, said Kieran, taking the binoculars from him “A plume of black smoke”.

A sinister black plume twisted high into the air from the general direction of The New Continent.

“With any luck, the whole damn place is burning”, said Ransey, grimly.

“OK, let’s head back”, said Hillyard.

The aviators returned to the galleon, and a high supper of sliced ham, hard-boiled eggs, pickled onions, and beer.

“Did H enjoy himself?” asked Adam.

“Dunno, haven’t had a chance to ask him yet”, said Hillyard “But he gave me a thumbs up and a wave as we got back into this vicinity. I’ll contact him on the wireless tomorrow”.

“What’s all this about plumes of smoke seen coming from The New Continent?” said Julian.

“Could be anything”, Hillyard shrugged “A volcano erupting, mass fires, who knows? Worth knowing about though, in case any of the smoke drifts over in this direction”.

“If it’s something big, then that could be a problem”, said Kieran “Something on the scale of say, Krakatoa, could block the Sun out”.

“It might be worth having another fly out there in a few days time”, said Bardin “As an observation thing. I’d suggest fly more up the coastline this time though. We didn’t see a single person or an animal on the flight today, it might be worth getting some idea how depopulated things are on the east coast”.

“They weren’t too brilliant before”, said Joby.

“No, quite”, said Bardin.

“How far up will you go?” asked Mieps.

“I was thinking perhaps as far as Fire Island”, said Bardin “And a bit along the Gold River, our old stamping-ground”.

“Well at least that’ll be an improvement on sailing along it”, said Adam “I never thought we were going to get off that damn river at one time”.

“Anyway, so what’s been happening here whilst we’ve been out?” said Bardin “Bengo said something about Rosa being unhappy”.

“She paid a fleeting visit to us”, said Adam “She’s having a spot of bother. Some customers have been coming in now in the evenings”.

“Well that’s good isn’t it?” said Bardin.

“These are troublesome”, said Adam “Boring louts who seem to think the bar is now theirs. They camp out there in the evenings, and make it a very uncomfortable atmosphere. Some of the other townsfolk have occasionally looked in, which should be very promising news, but have been deterred by them. It’s not good. I think she’s at her wit’s end. After everything they’ve endured lately, this is the last thing she needs. I am truly losing all faith in the villagers sometimes”.

“Send Ransey in there”, said Julian

“What?” snapped Ransey.

“Oh come on!” said Julian “Your reputation has the Ministry’s top assassin would have them quaking in their pathetic little boots. What’s a bunch of small-town bullies up against a trained professional killer like you?”

“Don’t wind him up, Julian”, said Adam.

“I’m not!” said Julian “It happens to be the truth”.

“He’s got a point, Ransey”, said Bardin, seriously “Everybody should play to their strengths you know”.

“I would rather not have my strengths be recognised solely as a trained professional killer!” said Ransey.

“I dunno why not”, said Hoowie “It always sounds pretty cool to me”.

“Ransey is very sensitive about all that, Hoowie”, said Adam.

“Ransey is being a clot”, said Julian “Look how that bunch of morons at the barrier soon dissipated the minute you turned up. Bardin’s right, you’ve got a strength, use it. Or have you been spending too much time with Kieran?”

“Oh I might have known it would turn out to be my fault somehow!” said Kieran “Now the conch is with me, I’ve got an even better idea … send in the clowns”.

“That sounds even more alarming!” said Ransey.

“We’re talking about personal strengths, right?” said Kieran “What’s the personal strength of the clowns?”

“I’ve often wondered”, said Julian, dryly.

“It’s that they are totally fearless and anarchic”, said Kieran “They have no filter, to use an old expression. I can’t imagine anyone better to face up to a bunch of bullies”.

“I’m not sure about this, Patsy”, said Adam, uneasily “I think Rosa would still like to have a tavern left by the end of the evening”.

“What do you think we’re going to do?” said Bardin “Smash the place up?!”

“It wouldn’t come to that”, said Kieran.

“And tell Rosa I’ll repair any damages”, said Hillyard.

“I’m not sure that is very reassuring, Hillyard!” said Adam “And don’t look at me like that, anarchy on the stage is one thing, anarchy in someone’s own place of business is a rather different matter. I’m sorry to have to be the boring grown-up one here again, but that’s the way I feel. Patsy, I really expected better of you”.

“God knows why!” said Julian “That is the man who tore Angel’s ear off, remember?”

“No, no, everybody shuddup”, said Hillyard “I think it’s a brilliant idea. They’re a bunch of bullies, they’ll soon back down once they realise things have gone beyond their control, and even if they don’t, I’ve got every confidence Bardin and the lads can sort them out in an efficient manner”.

The clowns were now all looking hopefully in Bardin’s direction. Only Bengo had a trace of apprehension.

“We’re not meant to be psycho’s and vandals”, he said.

“Oh for God’s sake Benje”, said Hoowie “Left to you, you’d be dancing for ‘em!”

“Well I don’t see what’s wrong with that”, Bengo pouted.

The other clowns groaned.

“C’mon Bard”, said Hal “Sounds a riot, mate”.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of!” said Bardin “Give it a few more days, I want to have the weekend in the Lighthouse first”.

“It’s going to be bloody brilliant!” Hillyard laughed and slapped the table “Tell you what, Ranz and I will come along as back-up”.

“I do not fancy my chances as a clown”, said Ransey.

“You won’t have to be one”, said Hillyard “We’ll sit at the other end of the bar, and just act as emergency back-up, if required”.

“I’ll come along too in that case”, said Julian.

“And just what are you going to do, Julian?” said Adam “Challenge them to a drinking-contest?”

“Now there’s an idea”, said Julian.

“More like a willy-measuring contest”, said Joby, lugubriously.

“And I would win that too!” said Julian.

Chapter 3

Late on the Friday afternoon Adam and Hillyard took a horse and cart into town to trade supplies with Rosa. She informed them that she was closing the tavern for the weekend. She simply didn’t want the strain of it all any longer.

“I’m hoping 3 days of closure will mean they have a chance to calm down a bit”, she explained “And that they can’t take us for granted. We are the only bar in town, and without us they have nowhere to go and sit and be a damn nuisance. It really saddens me that it has come to this, after all this time, but I feel I have no choice. I’ll open on the Tuesday evening if you want to come along then”.

“We shall do our best”, said Hillyard “Are you going to be OK?”

“Yes”, said Rosa “We’re about to put the storm shutters up, in case they have any bright ideas about coming in through the windows. We will be fine. We will simply treat it like a bad storm we have to ride out”.

“Rumble’s offered to come and sit it out with you if you need backup”, said Hillyard.

“That’s kind, but I’ll see how we get on tonight first”, said Rosa.

“Come to the barrier if you need anything”, said Hillyard.

He and Adam returned to the horse-and-cart in a glum mood, exacerbated by the weather which was grey and humid.

“This bloody village”, Adam seethed “I don’t know what’s happened here. It seems to be some sort of mass hysteria, everyone has lost their bloody marbles!”

“You’re not going to be in any mood for this SB Club weekend if this keeps up”, said Hillyard, squeezing Adam’s leg.

“Oh I will be”, said Adam “I’m counting on it as some much-needed therapy”.

Back at the galleon Joby was perusing the itinerary for the weekend which Adam had left out on the galley table.

“Does it meet with your approval, oh charming one?” said Adam, coming into the room.

“Well the menu doesn’t”, said Joby “You’ve put tinned sardines down for both lunch and supper tomorrow. What’s that all about?”

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to get through some of the backlog we’ve got in the cupboard”, said Adam.

“Isn’t that just bloody typical!” said Joby, nearly dropping the piece of paper in exasperation “Typical tightwad aristocracy!”

“I beg your pardon?!”

“Dig out some old tins from the back of the cupboard and keep serving ‘em up until they’re gone! I’m amazed you don’t go out with a shovel and pick up some roadkill whilst you’re at it!”

“This is going to turn into the Spanking Joby Weekend if there’s much more of this”, said Adam.

“No, Bengo wouldn’t enjoy that anywhere near as much”, said Joby “But seriously, Ad, get a grip. Tinned sardines for both lunch AND supper, bit much innit? I’m glad Julian’s not gonna be with us”.

“So am I!” said Adam “So what do you suggest then? I’m all ears”.

“Sausages and tomatoes for supper”, said Joby “Keep your strength up, ‘cos you’re gonna need it. And if you’re still too scared to use the lighthouse stove, then I’ll use it”.

“Be my guest”, said Adam “I thought you might be too busy down here, taking advantage of my absence to lord it over the galley”.

“I’ll do that in the afternoons”, said Joby “I notice you’ve drawn a big smiley face for the afternoon sessions, is that ‘cos I won’t be there?”

“No”, said Adam “I thought I would spend the afternoons in the tower foyer, doing some painting or sketching. Bengo and Bardin can then have the lighthouse bedroom to themselves, and Bengo can do whatever he likes to Bardin”.

“A sort of honeymoon suite”, said Joby “How was Rosa and Ernesto anyway?”

“I’m awfully worried about them”, said Adam “They’re such a sweet pair, and they don’t deserve this bullying that’s going on. I hope they don’t get any trouble over the weekend”.

“I’m sure Hillyard’ll keep an eye on things”, said Joby “And anyone on night-watch will soon see if there’s any trouble from that direction”.

Toppy had done a deep cleaning of the lighthouse kitchen and bedroom, so that all would be in readiness for “the Captain”. This was much appreciated by the others, as some of them would be spending the night there. Joby though wasn’t one of them.

“You can if you want”, said Kieran “Don’t worry about me”.

“Nah”, said Joby “Those three are all snug together, sometimes I feel like I’m intruding these days”.

“I’m sure they don’t see it that way”, said Kieran “Anyway you’re one of the founder members of the SB Club”.

“Oh I’ll go up for a bit of it”, said Joby “But to be honest, I’d quite like to have some quiet time in the galley all by myself. Ad will be back down in time for supper tomorrow night, so I’m not gonna get much of it!”

Down in their cabin, Bengo and Bardin were sorting out what they would need, mainly Bardin’s shorts.

“I wonder how many times I’ve been spanked over the years”, said Bardin “Sometimes think it must be more times than I’ve had hot dinners”.

“A bit like me being clouted with custard pies”, said Bengo “I’m amazed that was never used as promotional advertising, ‘Bengo will get clouted with 37 pies this week!’”

“You’ve got to admit, you and whipped cream is a pretty irresistible combination”, said Bardin.

“Not as much as you and starched knickers”, said Bengo.

Joby went up ahead to make sure everything was needed for lighting the kitchen stove in the lighthouse. He knew Adam was still jittery about going anywhere near the damn thing. He was checking the kindling stocks, when he heard voices on the stairs, and Adam, Bengo and Bardin came up.

“I shall come back up about 6 o’clock and light it for you”, said Joby “‘Cos I know you’re such a big girl about it”.

“How very thoughtful!” said Adam.

“We’re only going to be cooking on it for one night”, said Bengo “So everything should be alright”.

“Yeah it’ll be sardines the rest of the time”, said Joby, grimly.

“No it won’t”, said Adam, swiping him on the behind.

Bardin was standing at the window, looking out towards the barrier. For a moment he saw the crowd there, the one that had clapped for him the night he drove over the demon. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, and they were gone.

“Are you alright, old love?” said Adam.

“I thought I saw that crowd again”, said Bardin “The night we got Trinity. They were all standing there, just for a couple of seconds. Weird”.

“Perhaps a weekend in bed would do you more good”, said Adam “All of this doesn’t seem fair really”.

“You have got to be kidding me!” said Bardin “To not do it would be unbelievable cruelty!”

“Strip him down to his shorts, Bengo”, said Adam.

Bengo gleefully complied.

A light lunch of tinned sardines and homemade bread, served with brandy-laced coffee was consumed afterwards. The 4 of them sat around the lighthouse’s kitchen table, and enjoyed it in a leisurely fashion. Bardin was sitting awkwardly on a cushion, his behind tingling. Adam had smacked him soundly with his bare hand, in a very satisfying fashion, and all of them agreed that it had been a very good start to the weekend.

“Let’s do a toast to our boy”, said Adam, raising his coffee-cup “For being such a good sport about all this”.

“It’s got nothing to do with being a good sport”, said Bardin “It’s what I enjoy, I can’t get enough of it”.

“Shut up and take the compliment!” said Joby.

“Yes, belt up, Bardy”, said Bengo “You’re supposed to be being all subservient!”

Bardin shrugged and the others raised their cups to him.

After lunch Joby went back down to the galleon, and Adam went down to the foyer to do some artwork all by himself. Bengo and Bardin went in the other direction. They climbed to the top of the lighthouse. In the wireless room at the top, Bardin insisted that Bengo strip down to his pants too, and a jokey tussling session ensued. They then climbed the wall ladder which led up to the light, where they leaned on the barrier, looking out over the West Ocean.

“I love this view”, said Bardin “Mainly because I can’t see the damn town!”

“Aw don’t let them get to you, Bardy”, said Bengo “They let the Fear dominate them so much that they don’t know any way out of it”.

“They are in a damn good position here”, said Bardin “Oh I know they have their dangers, just like anywhere else, but they’re reasonably well protected, with the desert and the mountains on one side, and the Horn on the other”.

“Are you wanting to move on?”

“No. I’ve had enough of the outside world for the time being. Between you and me, that voyage up to the Weather Rock and back down again freaked me out at times. Apart from the little island”.

He pointed at the speck in the ocean, a few miles out, where they had spent a few days the year before.

“I enjoyed that too”, said Bengo “Seems funny to think it was only last year. I suppose we could always have a little sail out there sometime”.

“That might not be a bad idea”, said Bardin “When we need to give the boat a run. At least there I won’t keep thinking I see the villagers at the barrier! No don’t look at me like that, as I said I’m happy to stay here for a while. It suits us very well. Joby’s got his indoor garden, and there’s room for the animals to get some proper fresh air”.

Bengo put his hands down the back of Bardin’s shorts and fondled his warm behind. Bardin giggled with pleasure. He turned to face him and they kissed tenderly. Bengo carried on stroking Bardin’s starched behind. Bardin felt himself in danger of ejaculating again.

“Let’s get below”, said Bengo, gently pulling on Bardin’s erect penis.

Joby had left them jugs of hot water in the lighthouse bedroom, and they took turns bathing each other in the tin bath which Hillyard had brought up from the ship. Bardin briskly rubbed soap into Bengo’s long hair, and kneaded it firmly.

“You should be washing this more often”, said Bardin “I’m amazed you don’t get nits, you great nit!”

“I don’t get a bloody chance do I!” said Bengo.

“Well we’ll have to change all that”, said Bardin “We’ll have to have regular Bathing Bengo nights. Not the Spanking Bardin Club, but the Bathing Bengo Club”.

“I’m gonna put you over my knee in a minute”, said Bengo “And rub some cream into your behind”.

“You don’t have to put me over your knee to do that”, said Bardin.

“No but I want to”, said Bengo “And if you’re not careful you’ll get smacked on your bare behind. I may not be as good at it as Adam is, but you won’t have the protection of your starched knickers either. Adam’s gonna need extra help if we’re gonna get you tamed by tomorrow night!”

Bardin picked up a bucket of cold water and tipped it remorselessly over Bengo’s head. Bengo gave a yelp.

“Serves you right”, said Bardin “Every time you try and get too bossy, I shall chuck cold water at you. The world doesn’t need a bossy Bengo”.

“Probably not”, Bengo laughed, helplessly “But I’m much easier to subdue than you are”.

Bardin grabbed a towel and rubbed Bengo’s hair.

“This should’ve been a sketch of ours”, said Bengo.

“I think we would have got banned!” said Bardin, and he kissed the top of Bengo’s head “It doesn’t matter how many times I get spanked, you’re still doing what I say”.

“Of course!” said Bengo.

“C’mon”, said Bardin “Let’s get into bed”.

“Are you sure it’s Bardin we’re taming?” said Joby, when he came up to prepare the supper “It seems to be Bengo who’s walking around all soppy-eyed”.

“I think it’s called having the best of both worlds”, said Adam, putting his painting equipment in a corner of the kitchen “He gets to watch Bardin being regularly chastised, but still has Bardin bossing him about. He loves it”.

“It gets more complicated by the minute round here”, said Joby “Is it true Ransey’s joining us for supper?”

“Yes I had a little chat with him earlier, from the lighthouse door”, said Adam “I persuaded him to come up into the den of decadence and partake of a little supper with us”.

“And he agreed?” said Joby “I’m amazed!”

“Don’t be silly”, said Adam “It’s a change of scene for him, plus I think he misses the clowns a bit”.

“Misses you more like”, said Joby.

“Misses all of us!” said Adam.

“I’m not sure a weekend’s gonna be long enough for everything we’ve got in mind”, said Joby “There’s no way we’re gonna get Bardin tamed between now and tomorrow night!”

“As I keep saying”, said Adam, putting his hands on Joby’s shoulders “Taming Bardin is a long process, to which we have to apply ourselves with total dedication. And why on earth do you think this has to be the only weekend we have up here? We can do it as often as we like. It’s not as if we have to book anything!”

“No, I hadn’t thought of that”, said Joby “You’re gonna have to up your game a bit though, Ad. You’ve only tanned his behind once since we’ve been here, and that was this morning!”

“That is true”, said Adam, thoughtfully “Perhaps I should leave you and Ransey chatting whilst you cook the supper, and I’ll give Bardin a good old whack with the paddle or the hairbrush downstairs whilst you’re doing that. A little something on account, to be going on with”.

He went over to the knapsack where he kept his vital pieces of equipment, and selected a black hairbrush.

The clowns were sitting in the main doorway of the lighthouse, their legs swinging over the top of the exterior ladder. It was a beautiful, sunny evening, but with a threat of storm clouds on the horizon. The summer sea breeze was ruffling their hair.

“Is it safe to come up?” Ransey shouted from below.

“Of course it is!” said Bengo.

He got to his feet, and then helped Bardin up.

Ransey clambered up the ladder, awkwardly carrying some bottles of beer.

“Thought you might like these”, he said “I hope I’m interrupting something”.

“Come on up, Ransey”, Adam called from the top of the first flight of stairs “Joby’s about to start frying the sausages. I’ve just got time to do a bit more diligent work before we sit down to supper”.

Ransey took the beer up to the kitchen, from where delicious smells were wafting down. Adam came down, carrying the hairbrush. Bengo adjusted and smoothed down Bardin’s shorts. They had been starched, white and pristine when he had put them on before, but now had patches of dust on them from where he had been sitting on the floor.

“You’ve got a bit mucky”, said Adam.

“Good”, said Bengo “Sometimes when he’s all crisp and pristine, I want to chuck handfuls of mud at him”.

“Really Bengo!” said Adam.

“Clown porn”, Bardin growled.

“Now, just for a change”, said Adam “I shall give you a choice, the hairbrush or my hand?”

“A bit of both”, said Bardin.

“That’s my boy”, said Adam.

He sat down on the stool which he had been using for his painting. It was more awkward to put Bardin across his knee like this, but Bengo gave him a hand. Adam firmly held him in his place, and laughed at the dust marks across Bardin’s crisp white bottom. These shorts were tighter and starchier than the ones he had worn that morning, and Bengo loved the way they had got messed up. Adam whacked Bardin’s posterior several times with the hairbrush, causing Bardin to yelp increasingly.

“Having Ransey upstairs adds a bit of a frisson doesn’t it, Bengo?” said Adam, when he paused for a moment “It’s so much fun to think of more and more ideas for humiliation, plus the dusty marks on his shorts”.

“You should’ve seen him earlier with his hair a bit wet”, said Bengo “That would have been fantastic, you spanking him after that”.

“Tomorrow morning I think”, said Adam, and he proceeded to whack Bardin’s behind some more.

“Good heavens”, said Adam, pausing for breath “A real butt-whipping”.

Bardin felt his erection growing even more with those words. Adam put the handle of the hairbrush in his own mouth, and then smacked Bardin’s sore behind with his hand.

“Oh my god!” Bardin cried out in ecstasy, and Bengo laughed.

“I think we’re on our way to getting him tamed, Bengo”, said Adam, when he had finally finished.

Bengo grabbed Bardin round his naked torso, and pulled him to his feet.

“These shorts were too damn tight”, said Bardin, breathlessly.

“Nonsense”, said Adam “They were just right for this session”.

“Particularly with the dust-marks on them!” Bengo laughed.

“I know I’ve been with you lot for a very long time now”, said Ransey, over supper “And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s each to their own, but I will never for the life of me understand what pleasure there is in being beaten up!”

“It’s not being beaten up, Ransey”, Adam chuckled, spearing a sausage from the plate in the centre of the table “Spanking has long been acknowledged as a very erotic practice”.

“Well as I said, each to their own”, said Ransey “But it just sounds painful to me”.

“It’s not really”, said Bengo “Well not the way we do it anyway. Some people can take it too far, the real hard-core ones, but we’re not like that”.

“That’s always been a relief, I must admit”, said Ransey “Although the way Kieran used to get carried away, I did worry about him at times. He’s such a little scrap of a thing, there’s nothing to him. It’s different with big bastards like Julian”.

The others all laughed at that, and more beer was poured.

“Bengo’s right”, said Adam “Some people do get carried away with it, and I don’t see much pleasure in that either. That’s more like proper full-on floggings, which I find very unappealing, the sort of thing Sade did, whereas what we do … well spankings are different”.

“Yes, but what pleasure does it give?” said Ransey “I’d really like to know”.

“It makes the bum tingle”, said Bardin, with a mouthful of sausage.

“Well can’t you get that sensation some other way?” said Ransey “Caressing for instance?”

“Of course”, said Adam “And we do that too”.

“It’s all of it”, said Bardin, swallowing the sausage “The whole experience. When I’m lying across his knee, I can feel my penis rubbing against his leg. And when he whacks my behind, everything gets excited. But as I said, it’s the whole experience. He’s holding me firmly in place, which gives me a feeling of security, plus it’s someone else taking charge, taking control of me, pulling me into line. It’s a myriad of emotions all at once. And some of the pleasure is the feeling of anticipation, of knowing what he’s going to do, and once it’s over, my arse is usually so sore that I’m feeling it for hours afterwards. It’s just … it’s just divine I suppose”.

“And what do you get out of it?” Ransey asked Adam.

“Need you ask that?” Adam laughed “Bardin is just so adorable, cute and sexy. He has the cutest behind”.

“Particularly when it’s in starched underwear”, said Joby.

“And there’s a certain challenge and pleasure”, said Adam “In taking this cross, bossy little man, with the weight of the world on him, and making him gentle and tender for a while”.

“He usually still seems bossy to me”, said Ransey, which made Bengo roar with laughter.

“No there are subtle differences”, said Adam “I mean, look at him right now. He’s not sitting at the head of the table, barking orders at everyone”.

“That’s because the other clowns aren’t here”, Ransey pointed out.

“Come on, admit it”, said Joby “He gets mellowed down on the ship as well”.

“Yes OK”, said Ransey “Don’t get me wrong, if it makes you all happy, and particularly if it makes Bardin happy, then that’s fine by me. I was just curious that’s all”.

“Nothing wrong with being curious, old love”, said Adam, biting delicately into a sausage.

After they had eaten they spent a couple of hours playing cards by lamplight. They only decided to call it a night when the twilight deepened.

“I’d still like to be able to find my way down the ladder in one piece”, said Ransey.

“I’ll stand at the top with the lamp and guide you down”, said Adam.

Joby began collecting the cups and dishes into a washing-up bowl.

“Leave all that, old love”, said Adam “I’ll do it in the morning”.

“OK”, said Joby “I’ll come up and join you for lunch”.

“I might want to have a fiddle with the wireless set in the afternoon”, said Ransey “Is that alright?”

“Of course it is”, said Adam, picking up the lantern.

“Are you going to be alright?” said Ransey “I don’t fancy spending the night in this place, it feels a bit creepy, as if it might be haunted or something”.

“Hah! The ruthless Ministry hit man speaks!” said Joby.

“Be quiet”, said Ransey.

“We’ll be fine”, said Adam “The nightwatch will be on the deck right below us, and it’s not exactly going to be a long night. It will start getting light again at 4 o’clock”.

“Fair enough”, said Ransey.

Adam stood at the top of the exterior ladder and held the lantern so that Joby and Ransey could climb down safely. When they reached the poop-deck at the bottom, Adam waved and closed the lighthouse door. Joby and Ransey walked down to the main deck, to where Hillyard was leaning on the bulwark, talking to Julian.

“So how was it then?” Hillyard beamed “A riotous old evening?”

“It was very pleasant, I enjoyed it”, said Ransey “Although I still don’t understand what the appeal of spanking is”.

“Neither do I”, said Hillyard “But if it keeps ‘em happy”.

“You’d better be ready to give Bardin a full massage when he emerges tomorrow”, said Julian.

“I think he’s gonna need it”, said Joby.

“You’d also better tell them about Elaine”, said Julian to Hillyard.

“Elaine?” said Joby “Why? What’s happened to her?”

“Nothing”, said Hillyard “But she came up to the barrier earlier for a little chat”.

“If it’s about her film or theatre idea, or whatever it is”, said Joby “I can tell her now that Bardin’s not interested, and Bengo won’t do it without him on board”.

“No it’s not that”, said Hillyard, solemnly “There’s been a new development in the village. They’ve started putting drawings of Bardin in some of their windows”.

“Eh?” said Joby.

“Wanted posters?” said Ransey.

“No, you daft old …” said Hillyard “More like tribute posters. They’re appearing everywhere. Like some kind of fan-worshipping thing”.

“He won’t like that”, said Joby.

“No he won’t”, said Ransey “That is quite disturbing to hear”.

“I suggest we don’t tell him until he comes back down tomorrow night”, said Julian “Let him enjoy his weekend. There’s no sense in riling him now, not when I expect Adam is making good progress on him”.

“Julian’s right”, said Kieran, who was in the middle of putting fresh sheets on the bunk he shared with Joby “There’s no sense in wrecking their weekend because the villagers are being bloody silly again”.

“Are they appointing him as the next Vanquisher of Evil?” said Joby.

“Well to be honest I can’t think of a better candidate”, said Kieran.

“I wouldn’t wish that on him”, said Joby “Not after all the crap you’ve been through over the years, literally sometimes”.

“Hm yes, I don’t need reminding of that!” said Kieran, punching a pillow into submission “I have every confidence Bardin could cope with anything that was thrown at him. Well he is a professional clown after all, and Adam must be doing a fine job of knocking him into shape at the moment”.

“That’s what annoys me”, said Joby “He’ll come down tomorrow all mellow, and then he’ll just all wound up again with this fucking cobblers. I am getting really sick of people at the moment”.

“Ach come on now”, said Kieran “Don’t let it sour you. There’s still plenty of good sorts around, the Doctor’s Gang, Woolly and the girls, Rosa and Ernesto. We have to concentrate on them”.

“Why are you making the bed up?” said Joby “That’s Toppy’s job”.

“He’s been busy clearing up in the dining-room”, said Kieran “Doing all the stuff that Bengo normally does, so I thought I’d help out by doing our bunk for him. Now I am pretty good at making beds. I did grow up in a B&B after all!”

“Hospital corners?” said Joby.

“Naturally”, said Kieran.

Chapter 4

The Indigo-ites wanted to arrange a Welcome Back supper for Bardin and the others on the Sunday evening, but Joby persuaded them that Bardin would probably prefer to have a quiet supper with Bengo in his cabin, after all the physical exertions of the weekend. He turned out to be correct in this. Bardin had come down from the lighthouse looking deliciously mellow, and the others all felt dismayed that at some point he was going to have to be wound up with news from the town.

“Those bastards”, said Julian, summing up everybody’s feelings.

It had been a very pleasant Sunday in the lighthouse tower. Adam had got up very early, almost at first light, and gone downstairs to rake the stove into some form of life. Then he heated pans of water on it, both for coffee-making purposes, and for bath water. He and Bengo then bathed Bardin, cleansing him of all the dust and cobwebs he had accumulated wandering around the stairs in the tower. Adam towelled him down, but left Bardin’s hair damp, as Bengo had requested.

“So when should the first spanking be, Bengo?” Adam winked at the little clown “Perhaps we need to give him time to recover from yesterday’s events first”.

“No, you can’t do that!” said Bengo “I’ve got an idea, do the first session in two halves. The first up here, and then you can do the next whilst I’m preparing breakfast”.

Adam was taken with this idea. Bardin was put into a pair of baggier shorts, but still crisp, white and immaculately ironed. Adam then put him over his knee and smacked his behind, ensuring at the same time that Bardin’s hair got trailed in the bath water. With his bottom “fizzing” Bardin helped them take the tin bath-tub back down to the foyer, where it would eventually be emptied out of the lighthouse door.

“You were right about his wet hair”, Adam whispered to Bardin.

“We always find new ways to get pleasure out of Bardy”, said Bengo.

He then prepared more coffee, to be accompanied by soft white rolls and butter for breakfast. Whilst he was doing this, Adam did as he had been requested, and put Bardin over his knee again.

“I love all this!” Bengo giggled, softening the butter up a bit on the stove.

The noise of the firm smacks on Bardin’s crisp, white behind resonated pleasingly amongst the stone walls of the lighthouse kitchen. Bardin hadn’t said a single word throughout all this, not even a customary sarcastic comment. Bengo thought it was a shame that all this good work would probably be undone within a few minutes of being back down on the galleon.

“Bengo, it doesn’t matter”, said Adam, pausing with his hand on Bardin’s behind “I’m sure this won’t be the only little holiday we’ll have up here. Hopefully we’ll get plenty of opportunities. The Summer is still young after all”.

“Why can’t we do it in the Autumn as well?” Bardin finally spoke, still upside down.

“But of course”, said Adam “Stormy October nights in the tower, wind whistling round, lamps lit. Sounds very atmospheric!”

He put Bardin back on his feet, as Bengo took the breakfast stuff to the table. Bardin stood, breathlessly, barefoot, his damp hair hanging over his face, and rubbing his sore behind.

“Would you prefer to eat standing up, old love?” said Adam, cheekily “Eat off the mantlepiece perhaps?”

“I’ll try and sit down”, said Bardin “It’ll be easier to chat”.

“Are you OK?” said Adam “We haven’t gone too far have we?”

“Not at all”, said Bardin, still rubbing his behind “Just after all the hidings I’m bound to be feeling a bit wobbly”.

“You’ll take it easy for the rest of the day, that’s an order”, said Adam “I’m going to do some painting this morning, so you and Bengo will have the rest of the lighthouse to yourselves. Joby’s joining us at lunchtime, and then Ransey will be in the wireless room in the afternoon”.

Bardin smoothed his shorts, and then sat down gingerly. Bengo found it all very amusing. Over breakfast they compared notes on all the different spankings, and asked Bardin which he preferred.

“I can’t decide that”, he said, with a mouthful of bread roll “They’re all bloody sensational”.

“They are”, said Bengo “And they just keep getting better and better”.

“Sometimes it reminds me of doing a really wild and anarchic comedy sketch”, said Bardin “Where things just keep getting madder and madder, and everything gets muckier and muckier. It’s amazing. Yesterday’s was like that”.

“Particularly you getting all dusty and cobwebby”, said Bengo.

“There are the angry spanks too”, said Bardin.

“Yes but I’m rarely truly angry with you, old love”, said Adam “It’s always pretense”.

“Maybe, but those spankings are bloody brilliant too”, said Bardin “You just haul me over your knee and wallop me hard. But then there’s also the low-key cozy ones. Like just now. Just us 3, with me getting my bottom smacked. I love that too”.

“It is pretty special isn’t it?” said Adam “I’m almost reluctant to go downstairs and open up the main door, but, as I keep saying, we will be doing this again. Like all good holidays, they are always over too soon”.

After breakfast Adam went down to open up the main entrance, and then to do some painting, as he had said. Bengo and Bardin tidied up around the lighthouse, and then went back up to the very top again, to have another look at the ocean.

“It’s hard to believe there’s anything horrible in the world”, said Bengo, as they looked at the sunlight sparkling off the waves “When you look at a view like this”.

Bardin quietly concurred. He couldn’t help rubbing his behind, and the memory of that morning’s chastistement was nourishing him. Bengo turned to look at him, his brown eyes almost making Bardin melt inside.

“I adore you”, said Bengo, softly.

“I know”, said Bardin, feeling tearful “And I adore you, you little herbert. Adam should’ve spanked me the moment he first saw me, then I might have become more human quicker”.

“You are fine just as you are”, said Bengo.

Joby brought up some mackerel for lunch, which Mieps had caught that morning, and they had it fried in butter. When Ransey appeared to use the wireless, Bengo and Bardin went to have a nap together in the bedroom. Joby and Adam chatted in the kitchen. Joby told Adam about what had happened with the villagers.

“We were gonna leave it until you got back below”, he said “But … well you might as well know now”.

“They are a menace aren’t they?” Adam sighed “But I do have confidence that Bardin will just quietly ignore it all”.

“I hope so”, said Joby “Or all your good work has gone in vain”.

“I can’t believe that for one moment!” said Adam.

At the end of the afternoon Joby and Ransey returned to the ship.

“We’ll be down in a couple of hours ourselves”, said Adam, following them down the main stairs of the lighthouse.

“Do you want me to take your painting kit back down with me?” said Joby.

“Could you?” said Adam “That would be a big help, as we’re going to have to bring our belongings back down with us”.

Adam went back up to the kitchen and took out the remains of the brandy they had brought with them, and set out three glasses on the table. He then went back upstairs to call the clowns. He enjoyed roaming the lighthouse stairs. The place was starting to feel more homely, and less cold and empty.

“Oh fellers”, he called from the bedroom doorway “Come down and have a final brandy. Bardin, put a clean pair of shorts on”.

Bengo and Bardin gave themselves a quick wash in the shaving bowl, and then Bardin slipped into a crisp, slightly loose pair of shorts, which hung nearly down to his knees. Bengo couldn’t resist squeezing his buttocks.

“You’ll mess them up”, said Bardin, batting him away.

“I expect they’re going to get messed up anyway”, said Bengo.

“So we’re nearly at the end”, said Adam, when they joined him in the kitchen “For now, I should add. It really does feel like the end of a holiday”.

“It’s not exactly far to come back”, said Bardin.

“I know”, said Adam, pouring out the brandy “We’re so lucky”.

“Are you going to spank him again?” asked Bengo.

“You would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t”, said Adam “AND it would be a total waste, considering how sexy he looks right now. He has a glow about him”.

“Roaming the lighthouse in my underwear tends to have that effect”, said Bardin.

“It’s all part of it isn’t it”, said Adam “Bardin, you can make the choice, rough or low-key”.

“A bit of everything”, said Bardin “Put some angry spanks in as well. Do whatever you want”.

Adam walked over and closed the kitchen door. Nobody was likely to come up, but it all added to the atmosphere of seclusion. He then roughly grabbed Bardin by the wrist, and hauled him over his knee. Bardin spread his legs so that his shorts felt tighter against him. Bengo selected the paddle from the bag on the table, and handed it to Adam, who whacked Bardin with it mercilessly. Bardin, already sore, yelped at the top of his voice.

“Yell as loud as you like, Bardin”, said Adam.

He put the paddle down and caressed the starched behind, using a circular motion that had Bardin groaning with desire. He felt pleasingly helpless, and just wanted to lie groaning for hours.

“I don’t think I can move”, he said.

“Oh dear”, Adam teased “Bengo and I will have to stay with you like this for several hours, we can sit here just chatting”.

He gave Bardin a few more gentle smacks with his hands, and then pushed him to the floor. Bengo was delighted with this, as it meant Bardin got a bit more dust on him. A heady mix of blowjobs and brandy followed all round. When Bardin was finally helped to his feet, his shorts fell down, and Bengo, laughingly, helped him to pull them up, straightening the legs as he did so.

“Holy cow”, said Bardin, breathlessly.

“I never understood the clown mania for messing each other up”, said Adam “But looking at you now I can see the appeal”.

“You’d love it if we were covering each other with whipped cream”, said Bengo.

“Stop it, you little tease”, said Adam, swiping Bengo on the behind “Let’s finish the brandy”.

Hillyard was elected to break the news to Bardin about what had happened in the village, when he went in to give him a massage early that evening. Fortunately Bardin was still feeling mellow, and didn’t get angry, just perplexed.

“Well I guess I won’t be venturing into town much then”, he sighed, lying face down on the sofa in his cabin “The last thing I want to see is posters of my fizzog all over the place. I used to hate doing promo posters as it was. It was alright for Bengo, being so photogenic”.

“Glad you’re taking it alright, mate”, said Hillyard, rubbing massage oil into his torso.

“I’ve had more than 24 hours of indulging in my favourite erotic fantasies”, Bardin groaned “It’s going to take more than that lot to rile me! I just think it’s all a bit pathetic, that’s all. In truth, I don’t know what to do about that lot. In years gone past I’d have been tempted to let us all move on and find somewhere else. But this place suits us, we love it here, plus our friends are nearby. I guess we can stick it out for a bit longer, and hope the idiots in town don’t get too carried away”.

“Yeah, all that hero worship might go to your head!” Hillyard laughed.

“The amount I get spanked?” said Bardin “Unlikely. Although I suppose I could pretend it had, and get Adam to take me down a peg or two. That might be worth trying”.

“I’m amazed you haven’t lost a layer of skin”, Hillyard joked, now kneading Bardin’s sore behind.

“As I’m sure Kieran would point out”, said Bardin “My knickers protect me. Oh God, where did you learn to do massages like that?”

“I’ve been doing it since our days at the Ministry HQ”, said Hillyard “I used to massage Kieran regularly when I was his valet, used to knead all the tension out of him. I hope that’s not hurting your behind”.

“Adam and Bengo have been roughly squeezing my sore backside all weekend”, said Bardin “I can cope with it”.

Hillyard reported to Adam afterwards that “you must have done a bloody fine job”, as Bardin had taken the news about the townsfolk remarkably calmly. He had not voiced major irritation once.

“One tries one’s best”, said Adam “I consider it work well done. I do like the idea of turning the Lighthouse into a Love Tower. Our very own erotic holiday resort right on our doorstep”.

“Well if you need me to do any work around the place”, said Hillyard “To make it even more tempting I will”.

“I shall have to give that some thought”, said Adam “Thank you, Hillyard”.

“I’ll have a word with Finia too”, said Hillyard “He says if he can get hold of some new material, he’d like to make soft cushions. I expect Bardin’s going to need them to sit on!”

For their quiet intimate supper a deux Bengo and Bardin chose to put on their best clothes.

“I feel like I’ve just come back from a desert island”, said Bardin, as they went over to the folding card table which had been set up in their cabin “And wearing a full set of clothes for the first time”.

“You’ve spent all weekend in nothing but your shorts”, Bengo giggled.

“I must admit I did enjoy that”, said Bardin, pouring them both out some wine from an earthenware carafe “It all helped with the subservience I suppose, made me feel like a love slave. It’s a bit harder to get into that mindset when I’m dressed properly”.

“Are you comfy enough there?” asked Bengo.

“Yep”, said Bardin “I’m wearing trousers, extra protective covering”.

They toasted each other and sipped at the wine.

“This is more of Rosa’s homemade stuff”, said Bengo “It’s pretty potent, a little goes a long way”.

“I suppose I’m going to have to start thinking about this evening at the Driftwood”, said Bardin “Where we sort out her troublesome visitors. Don’t get me wrong, I want to do it, but it’s going to take some planning, some rehearsal”.

“I hope they don’t give us too much trouble”, said Bengo “I mean I will do it, Bardy, but I’m not a violent clown. It was always me on the receiving end of everything”.

“Apart from buckets of water”, said Bardin “It was usually me who got that! You’ll be alright, just stick close by me, and listen to instructions”.

“Ooh”, said Bengo, excitedly.

“The important thing is to sort them out, without wrecking the inn”, said Bardin “I really will get walloped angrily by Adam if that happens”.

Chapter 5

Bardin called a meeting of the other clowns in the dining-room after breakfast the following day. Julian, Hillyard and Ransey also sat in on it. To Bengo’s annoyance, Bardin insisted on wearing his trousers.

“I have to show authority to that bunch of good-for-nothings”, said Bardin “And I can’t do that if I’m wearing my love slave gear!”

“OK”, Bengo sighed.

“Obviously we have no idea how tomorrow evening is going to pan out”, said Bardin, now standing at the head of the dining-table “But we can make a go of some sort of choreography. Now my first suggestion is that Julian and Hillyard get there first, and sit having a quiet drink at one end of the bar”.

“How cozy”, said Julian.

“Where am I in all this?” said Ransey.

“You can sit in Rosa’s kitchen”, said Bardin.

“What for?” said Ransey.

“Look”, said Bardin, as if having to explain something unduly complicated “You are our trump card, our big unveiling, the grand finale. You scare the shit out of that bunch of jerks in the village, so it is absolutely imperative that we don’t reveal your presence right until the very end”.

“And then he comes out and shoots them”, said Hillyard.

“That wasn’t what I had in mind!” said Bardin.

“What happens in between?” said Rumble “I mean, what do WE do?”

“We wait in the back of the truck outside”, said Bardin “And then, say after about 10 minutes, we all troop into the bar, and we take our places as if we’re having a drink”.

“I suppose what happens next depends on what the thugs do”, said Mutton Broth, nervously.

“What if they don’t do anything?” said Bengo “Don’t look at me like that, Bardy, all possibilities have to be considered. Props can go wrong. What if they just carry on sitting there?”

“Trust me on this one, I can’t see that happening”, said Bardin “We might be lucky of course and they just get up and leave, and never bother Rosa and Ernesto again, but to be honest, I can’t see that happening either. I fully expect then that they will give us trouble”.

“And then the rumpus starts?” said Rumble.

“Is it going to be a fight?” said Bengo.

“Not a fist-fight, no”, said Bardin “We are going to use soda syphons. I’ve been told Rosa’s got a whole collection of them under the bar-top. Adam is going to call on her later, and ask her to make sure they’re all filled up. We are going to blast that bloody lot of goons with as much water as we can get our hands on”.

“She’s got a hosepipe attached to the outside tap as well”, said Ransey.

“Great, you’re getting the picture”, said Bardin “We’ll make a clown out of you yet”.

“Over my dead body!” said Ransey.

“And what if the water attack doesn’t work?” said Julian.

“Trust me again, it will”, said Bardin “Nobody can withstand an onslaught from a spray of water. It changes everything. Believe me, we all have experience on this one. And then, when they’re sodden and helpless, and if they’re STILL refusing to get the hint, then we bring Ransey out”.

“And shoot them?” said Hillyard.

“No!” Bardin exclaimed “And we use him to get it through to them that we mean business. And if they’re STILL being bloody awkward, then we’ll arrange for some of us to be sitting in the bar every evening for as long as it takes to get the message into their thick skulls that they’re not wanted on-board”. *

It was a suitably gloomy, oppressive evening, when the showdown at The Driftwood took place. There was a lowering sky, and occasional lightning flashes far out to sea. They pulled up in the truck outside, and Ransey went around to the back door, to be let in by Rosa. Hillyard and Julian went into the main bar, leaving the clowns sitting cooped up in the back of the truck.

The Village Idiots were arranged along a long bench set against the far wall of the bar, looking ominously like the birds on the climbing-frame who appeared behind Tippi Hedren. The ring-leader was the mountainously obese one in the middle, who seemed to take up three parking spaces. His stomach, spilling out over the top of the trousers, looked as if he was about to roll off his lap and go for a walk all by itself. He was flanked by men who frankly would have been hard pushed to rustle up enough brain-cells between them to do the 2 times table. One at the far end looked oddly out of place, as if he had just tagged along for protection. He was young and very thin, with a smooth, round, billiard ball-like face, and large glasses.

Julian and Hillyard sat on stool at the far end of the bar, and Rosa busied herself pouring their beers. She did a discreet nod to indicate that the soda syphons had been arranged on the shelf below the bar counter, as Bardin had requested. The atmosphere in the room was highly charged, so much so that it almost felt palpable. Julian and Hillyard could feel the eyes of the men boring into them.

“I’ll be in the back if you need anything else”, said Rosa, gratefully removing herself from the scene.

The two Indigo-ites chatted quietly amongst themselves, making a determined effort at banal conversation by discussing the storm out to sea. Occasionally a cough or a grunt from the other side of the room suggested that the natives were getting restless, and would no doubt be swinging into action very soon.

Suddenly voices could be heard outside the building, and they knew the clowns were there. Julian climbed off the stool, ready to bolt the main doors the minute all the clowns were inside. Unlike Julian and Hillyard, the clowns made no effort to be quiet, or play-act at being there just for a discreet drink. They marched into the room as if they were walking out on stage. The energy in the room went up several notches. There were 8 clowns in number. That, combined with Julian and Hillyard, meant that the Village Idiots were out-numbered by five.

Bardin stood in the middle of the bar, and appraised the enemy. He wasn’t impressed. He turned to the other clowns.

“I don’t think we’ll bother with any preamble”, he said “Let’s get straight down to it”.

“What’s going on?” shouted Lard Arse.

“We don’t like your presence here”, said Bardin, using all the Theatrical Voice Projection techniques he had been taught as a child “You are upsetting friends of ours”.

“This is a public fucking bar isn’t it?” said Lard Arse “One minute you’re complaining ‘cos we’re all staying indoors, next you’re complaining ‘cos we’re going to the pub!”

“Well that’s just it y’see”, said Bardin “By sitting here like this, and making this such a horrible atmosphere, you’re stopping anyone else from coming here. This is NOT your pub, it’s Rosa and Ernesto’s, and you’re stopping them from having any other customers”.

“We’re not stopping anybody!” shouted Lard Arse “It’s not our fucking fault if the rest of ‘em wanna stay at home and act shit scared all the time!”

“And they’re not likely to come out with you here are they?” said Bardin.

Lard Arse laboriously pulled himself to his feet. It was amazing that he didn’t need the others to haul him up. He pulled his trousers up over his hips (Bardin said afterwards that he found it hard not to laugh out loud at that point), and shuffled over to Bardin, who stood firmly in place. Lard Arse leaned over him intimidatingly.

“And just what are you going to do, Haystack?” said Bardin “Sit on me?!”

He turned to the other clowns and instructed them to “fetch the weapons”.

Rumble and Farnol went behind the bar and began lining up the soda syphons on the top.

“What the fuck?” said one of Lard Arse’s henchmen.

The clowns lined up in a row, each grabbing a soda syphon. Rosa had leant them a couple of spares so that they could practise back on the galleon, on the grounds that Bardin didn’t want any technical mishaps in the performance. Bardin stood to one side, near the kitchen door, and shouted “on the count of 3 … 1, 2, 3 … and FIRE!”

The Village Idiots were hit with the full blast of the soda water. Bardin called a brief halt for a couple of seconds, and then shouted another round of “on the count of 3 … 1, 2, 3 … and FIRE!”

“Fucking pack it in!” yelled Lard Arse, now drenched “You’re completely fucking nuts! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Making it clear you are not welcome here”, said Bardin “If you attempt to come here again, I promise you that this will be the kind of customer service that you will get each and every time. It is our speciality. And don’t get any ideas about coming back when we’re not here, because I will be leaving guards in this place for the foreseeable future!”

At this point Ransey came out of the kitchen, and the atmosphere in the room changed again.

“I think it’s time you left”, he said to the Village Idiots, and he pulled his gun out of its holster.

“For fuck’s sake!” one of Lard Arse’s henchmen snivelled “We only wanted a fucking beer! It wasn’t meant to be like this!”

Julian went and unbolted the main doors, and pointed the Village Idiots in that general direction.

The little odd one stopped by Bardin and said “everyone gets jealous of me, because I’m really hot”.

“You look like a pea in glasses”, said Bardin, with characteristic bluntness.

The Village Idiots squelched their way out of the door, and it was shut behind them with almost universal relief.

“OK”, said Bardin “Let’s get this mess cleaned up. Bengo, go and find out where they keep their mops”.

“I’ll show you, old chap”, said Ernesto, putting an arm round Bengo’s shoulders and leading him away.

Bardin watched them suspiciously. He was so intent on this that he nearly jumped out of his skin when Rosa spoke to him.

“I was just saying I was watching you through the crack in the door”, she said “You were brilliant! I’ve never seen anything like it”.

“Well it was mainly the other clowns”, said Bardin, awkwardly “I was just choreographing it. I’m not anticipating you’ll get any further trouble. In fact I think the morons realise they’re out of their depth, but I’ll leave Rumble and Farnol with you anyway, just in case”.

“Farnol?” said Hoowie “What good’s he gonna be for protection? Talk them into submission?”

“Safety in numbers”, said Bardin “Plus Rumble will be armed”.

Fortunately Farnol and Rumble were able to report the next day that a peaceful night had ensued at the Inn. They had breakfasted there and returned to the galleon late the following morning.

“Rosa’s breakfasts are sublime!” Farnol enthused.

“Better than mine?” asked Adam.

“Be careful what you say there, mate”, said Joby to Farnol.

“Both excellent”, said Farnol, trying to be as tactful as possible “The main reason I was eulogising about Rosa’s is her homemade muffins. Absolute Mwah!”

“Yes, they are good”, Adam graciously conceded.

“What’s the general vibe in the village?” said Bardin, coming out of his cabin to where the others were talking at the foot of the quarterdeck steps “Could you get any impression?”

“No, but Rosa reckons you will be even more worshipped than you are now, when word gets round about what you did”, said Farnol “Those guys have been pissing everybody off for a while now. The big one uses his size to intimidate people smaller than him”.

“That sort always do”, said Bardin “Not everyone’s a gentle giant like Lonts”.

“Classic big fish in a small pond”, said Rumble “That’s why they’re easily wrong-footed, they’re not used to punching above their weight”.

Toppy suddenly came hurtling down the steps in a frenzy of excitement. As this wasn’t Toppy’s usual genteel style, the others could only look on in astonishment.

“That one was almost as good as mine”, said Bengo, when Toppy missed his footing and slipped down the last couple of steps.

“Toppy, what on earth’s the matter?” said Adam.

“What’s happened now?” said Bardin.

“I was just chatting with Glynis at the front gate”, said Toppy, breathlessly “And then we saw PEOPLE going into the Driftwood!”

“What kind of people?” said Bardin, warily.

“Ordinary people!” said Toppy “Townspeople!! Glynis reckoned they must be going in there for lunch! She’s gone home to fetch Woolly and Jane, and they’re going to go in as well! Word must have got round about what you did last night!”

Bardin, Hillyard, Joby and Adam were watching from the stern end of the galleon, as several people all wandered towards the Driftwood. Some were even standing outside the main doors, nursing pint pots of beer.

“Well”, said Hillyard “It’s just what was needed. I think you’ve broken the spell Bard, mate”.

“I hope so”, said Bardin, quietly “As long as that bunch of louts don’t make a nuisance of themselves again”.

“I don’t think they will”, said Hillyard “Farnol was right. They stepped out of their comfort zone. Next thing should be that they go back on the fishing-boats. That’s how they normally earn their living. At least that might work off some of their energy, and use up some of their time”.

“Mm”, said Bardin “Particularly night-fishing, that would get them out of Rosa’s way”.

“I’m amazed Lard Arse can get on a boat without it sinking!” said Joby.

“Cheer up, Bard!” said Hillyard, slapping his shoulder “That was a good night’s work!”

“I think he’s worried his fan base might get even more uncontrollable”, said Adam.

“We had enough of that sometimes with Kieran’s disciples”, said Joby “Used to be a right pain in the wotsits, all that hand-kissing and stuff”.

“I bloody hope they don’t start that game!” said Bardin.

“You need to relax again”, said Hillyard “I mean, look at you, standing up here with your trousers on!”

“I can’t wander about up here in my underwear”, said Bardin “I might get seen from the village”.

“They can’t see much from all this way”, said Hillyard “And even if they did, so what? It’s just a man in shorts, scarcely anything unusual, particularly in this weather”.

“Kieran comes up here most days with nothing on at all!” said Joby.

“Yes well that’s Kieran isn’t it”, said Bardin “He’s wrapped up in his praying”.

“On who?” said Joby.

“Hillyard’s right, Bardin”, said Adam “You’re all stuffed up in clothes all the time. We’ll be careful not to let anyone beyond the front gate without due warning. It’s silly to be poncing around in long trousers in this weather. You will look perfectly respectable”.

“More respectable than Kieran usually does, that’s for sure!” said Joby.

“Yeah come on, give us a treat”, said Hillyard “It seems weird not being able to see your legs. Not like you to be all stuffy”.

“I don’t want to be all stuffy, as you put it”, said Bardin “In fact, quite the opposite”.

“We’re all ears, old love”, said Adam.

Bardin absent-mindedly rubbed his own behind.

“Do you remember that Spanking Holiday we had up in Snow Lake?” he said.

“How could we forget?” said Joby “Was a right old time”.

“And on Peat Bog Island”, said Hillyard.

“Snow Lake was even better”, said Bardin “Because I often got spanked outside, and that’s what I’m missing here a bit. That we don’t ever do that”.

“Why?” said Hillyard “What’s stopping you?”

“I would have thought it was obvious”, said Bardin, pointing in the direction of the town “Because I might get seen! Spanking is our business, I don’t want any of them to know about it. It would ruin everything”.

“Is that all that’s worrying you?” said Hillyard “That’s easily sorted. I’ll park the truck across the lane, width-wise, blocking it. No one’ll be able to see past it. As long as you stay on the lighthouse side of it, you’ll be fine”.

“Hilly, what a splendid idea!” said Adam.

“I am a fount of splendid ideas”, said Hillyard.

“What about the air-buggy?” said Bardin “That’s parked there too”.

“There’s bags of room”, said Hillyard “I’ll park the truck behind it, give us even more privacy! I’m going to go and do it now. No time like the present”.

“We should have done this before”, Hillyard shouted, when he had finished maneuvering the truck into position across the lane “It does give us more privacy, and not just for your high-jinks”.

“It does”, said Adam, talking to him through the passenger window. He gestured behind him “We have a secluded little courtyard here now”.

“And we’ll lose it every time we take the truck into town”, said Bardin.

“I’m not planning to take it in very often from now on”, said Hillyard “It’s more important to give the horses some exercise with the cart. Anyway, you daft bugger, we’ll still have the air-buggy here! Stop trying to find problems”.

“He’ll be fine in a moment”, said Adam “We might as well christen it now”.

“Can anything be seen?” Bardin called out to Bengo, who had gone a bit further up the track, to get the view from the town end.

“Don’t be stupid, Bardy!” Bengo called back “You’d have to have X-ray vision to see through all this!”

“OK”, said Bardin.

When Bengo had rejoined them, Adam asked him to “strip him down”. Bengo wasted no time in applying himself to his task, and Bardin was soon stripped down to his shorts.

“That’s a bit more like it”, said Hillyard “Now perhaps you might start relaxing again”.

Adam brought over an old broken-down chair that Joby had been using to prepare vegetables on. He then put Bardin across his knee, and Hillyard gave an appreciative whistle.

“Are we converting you to the joys of spanking, old love?” Adam asked.

“No, just the sight of Bardin’s bum”, said Hillyard.

Adam began to smack Bardin very firmly, punctuating each slap with comments “I will not have you getting tense again. This is to teach you a lesson. I will not have all my good work undone by you getting worked up again. Your behaviour just now was inexcusable. You will behave!”

By the time he had finished, Bardin’s face was almost as red as his behind. He knew Adam wasn’t really angry with him, that it was all part of the kinky act, but the telling off and the firm smacks had well and truly put him in his place.

“Is that understood?” said Adam, pausing with his hand on Bardin’s behind.

“I’ll try”, Bardin mumbled.

“You will do more than damn well try”, said Adam, spanking him again.

Bardin’s embarrassment at this outdoor chastisement was immense, and yet at the same time he didn’t want it to end, and he wanted to pledge undying obedience to Adam forever. He genuinely regretted having allowed himself to get tense a short while before. He remembered how tamed and mellow he had been in the old lighthouse a few days ago, and regretted allowing all that “good work” to lapse, however temporarily.

By the time Adam had finished smacking his bottom, Bardin wouldn’t have cared if the truck and the air-buggy had both vanished on the spot. All he could think about was that his behind had been tanned.

When he had finished, Adam tipped him onto the ground, and Bardin landed with a smack on the dusty track. Bengo went to help him up, and was delighted to see more dust marks across Bardin’s starched white posterior. Bengo rubbed Bardin’s bottom so that the marks got spread around more.

“Well I think that was a job well done”, said Adam “Although I mustn’t be so laggardly again”.

“Perhaps we should do this every day”, said Bengo “When the weather’s nice I mean”.

“Yes”, said Adam, getting to his feet “Every day at Noon, like our version of a noon-day gun, except when we’re having a lighthouse weekend of course”.

“You look like you could do with a drink, Bard”, said Hillyard.

“I’ll take him below”, said Bengo, straightening his partner’s shorts.

“He’s brilliant”, said Bengo, once they were alone in their cabin. He had thrust his hands down the back of Bardin’s shorts to feel his warm behind “No one could do it better than him. He really sorts you out. You looked as if you were about to cry at one point!”

“I felt like I was!” said Bardin “That would have been the final indignity! I am going to be like jelly for the rest of the day”.

“It was needed though”, said Bengo “You were worrying far too much about those jerks in the town. Shall I pour us some brandy?”

“Need you ask?” said Bardin.

Bengo went over to the drinks table.

“You were slipping back into old tense ways”, he said, pouring out the drinks “You deserved to have your bottom smacked”.

“I’ve wanted an outdoor spanking ever since we got here”, said Bardin.

“Well why the fuck didn’t you say?!” said Bengo “Oh I know, the damn villagers again. Well I hope that one’s sorted you out”.

“It was Heaven”, said Bardin “All those other annoying thoughts just went out of my head”.

“OK loves?” said Adam, peering round the door.

“He is absolutely fine”, said Bengo.

“I think Hillyard quite enjoyed it too”, said Adam “But then who wouldn’t enjoy the sight of you in your shorts, Bardin?”

“Getting walloped”, said Bengo.

“Hillyard’s now got all sorts of plans for turning that into a little courtyard area”, said Adam “Including a fire-pit”.

“A fire-pit?” Bardin nearly spluttered on his drink “That sounds precarious!”

“Not really”, said Adam “It’s just about putting some coals into a fireproof bowl, as a sort of improvised camp-fire for the evenings. The others are very excited by that idea. Anyway, I’ll leave you to it”.

He came over and smacked Bardin on the behind first.

“And you stay in your shorts from now on”, said Adam “Unless we have visitors, and I think we’re going to try very hard to repel them at every turn”.

“It sounds like it was quite a show”, said Julian “And you had a ringside view as well! I’m jealous”.

“Well you’ll just have to get out there at 12 o’clock tomorrow won’t you”, said Hillyard, sitting on the windowseat in Julian’s cabin.

“If it all keeps Bardin mellow, then that’s just fine and dandy”, said Julian “With all this rubbish that’s gone on in town, I was getting concerned that it would undo all Adam’s hard work from last weekend”.

“Don’t mention that bloody town to me”, said Hillyard “Sometimes I wonder if we should put up some stage backdrop and block the whole damn thing out. Today’s fun just reinforces it”.

“Do you have to take much notice of it?” said Julian “I certainly haven’t much inclination to go swanning around there at the moment”.

“No probably not”, said Hillyard “Adam and me are going into town first thing tomorrow, to do a bit of trading with Rosa, and make sure everything’s alright. We might persuade Old Jobe to come with us, but after that … well I don’t feel much inclination to leave again, unless H wants to take the air-buggies for another spin sometime”.

“And you don’t need to go into town for that”, said Julian “Just fly over it!”

Chapter 6

When Adam and Hillyard, plus Old Jobe, took a pony and trap into the village the next morning, they found that someone (no prizes for guessing that it was one of The Village Idiots) had urinated up their barrier.

“How classy”, said Adam, with a sigh.

“Don’t worry”, said Hillyard “Bardin’ll probably have it all sorted by the time we get back”.

Whilst they were parking the trap outside the Driftwood, a man emerged from the bakery over the road, carrying a whicker tray loaded with small rolls and cakes. Adam vaguely recognised him as someone to do with the Town Council (who seemed to have been remarkably elusive throughout the past few weeks). He came over to them, with an emphatically apologetic, and somewhat unctuous air about him.

“We are so sorry for what was done to your barrier”, he said.

“It’s alright, old love”, said Adam, climbing down from the trap “Boys will be boys, as the saying goes”.

“Disgusting pigs will be disgusting pigs”, said Joby, far more bluntly.

“Yes … er … quite”, said the man from the Council, who appeared to be trying to bow low over his tray of rolls and cakes “The young person concerned will be sent to clear up his mess”.

“We’d much rather you didn’t bother”, said Adam “We are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves”.

The man from the Council went to protest, but Adam held up his hand “Frankly, I would much rather you gave us some reassurance that neither he nor his little friends were to come anywhere near the barrier again. This isn’t the first time we’ve had the pleasure of their company”.

“That will be taken care of”, said Council Man, gravely.

Adam had no idea if that meant the lad was going to be confined to his room, or taken out and shot, and by that point, he was beyond caring.

“If you ask me, they’ve got too much time and energy on their hands”, said Hillyard “I was bought up in a boy’s camp, and we were kept occupied all the time. Not a single minute of the day was wasted. Sounds to me like it’s about time you gave them something to do. Getting the fishing boats out again would be a start”.

Hillyard so rarely ever mentioned his childhood, that Adam was quite taken aback. He was also pleasantly surprised at Hillyard’s authoritative tone. It clearly impressed Council Man as well as he became, if at all possible, even more obsequious.

“There must be a tonne of things around town that need doing by now”, was Hillyard’s parting shot as he headed into the Inn.

“Quite so”, said Adam “Come along, Joby”.

Inside the Driftwood, Rosa and Ernesto were sweeping the floor in the main bar area, both swathed in long white aprons. Both stopped at once when the Indigo-ites appeared, and greeted them warmly.

“We’ve come to do another little exchange of goods”, said Adam, as he and Joby put various bags on the counter-top.

“There will be no more bartering”, said Rosa “No, don’t look so alarmed! We want to gift it to you from now on. Please don’t argue, Adam, my brother and I have discussed this, and we both want to do this. What Bardin did the other night has been invaluable to us. This is our way of thanking him”.

“Well at least take these anyway”, said Adam “After we’ve gone to all the trouble of bringing them here”.

“OK”, said Rosa “And I’ve got some jars of freshly-made homemade piccalilli for you”.

Rosa came out to stroke Katinka, the little grey pony who had brought them into town, and then they piled back onto the car (with the piccalilli), and headed back along Lighthouse Lane. When they reached the barrier they found Shag and Mutton Broth both busy with buckets of water.

“Bloody low-lifes”, Shag grumbled “And we thought we was fucking dragged up!”

“Hopefully they won’t be doing it again”, said Adam.

He and Joby climbed down out of the trap when they reached the area where both the air-buggy and the truck were parked. They left Hillyard to untether Katinka, and turn her loose for grazing, and sidled round the side of the truck. They encountered Bardin, who wasn’t too pleased to hear about the free gifts.

“Please humour her, old love”, said Adam “She wants to do this. It’s her way of saying thank you. What you did was an enormous help to her”.

“It was no problem”, said Bardin “It does us no harm to get a bit of Clown Practice in now and again. Stops us getting rusty”.

“Even so, let her have her way”, said Adam.

Bardin shrugged.

“OK”, he said.

“Good”, said Adam, patting his shoulder “It’s nearly 12 o’clock, I’d better go and fetch Julian. He won’t be pleased if he misses today’s matinee”.

Bardin tried to hold back his erection, but it was impossible. The spanking, as usual, was simply too good. Adam felt it growing as it rubbed against his leg, and said to Bengo “I think you’d better have your chance with him whilst you can, old love”. Bengo seized Bardin round the waist and hustled him round the side of the lighthouse.

There, he pinned him up against the exterior of the tower, pulled down Bardin’s shorts to his knees, and then filled his mouth with his cock. Bardin groaned and grabbed Bengo’s hair. He felt as if at any moment he would be hurled upwards by an invisible force.

“Did you get some of it in your hair?” he asked, when Bengo sat back on his haunches, wiping his mouth in a satisfied way.

“I expect so”, said Bengo.

After he had collected himself for a moment, he then stood up and pulled Bardin over to the sandy, rocky track which led up to the top of the hills overlooking the Saturn Desert. Bardin found it impossible to walk properly and roughly pulled up his shorts. They both rolled on the path, holding onto each other, and kissing hungrily.

“Damnit”, said Bardin “I wanted it to go on much longer, but I just couldn’t hold myself in”.

“I’m not surprised!” said Bengo “The way Adam was smacking you and telling you off for being awkward and gobby!”

“I’d been looking forward to that all morning”, said Bardin “And then it was over in seconds”.

“Adam would normally have carried on”, said Bengo “But he said to me that he wanted me to have a cock-feast today. I wasn’t gonna complain about that! Anyway, you’re gonna get plenty more smacks I suspect. Kieran says we should make this our Summer Of Love”.

“That sounds like Kieran”, said Bardin.

Julian and Adam rounded the corner of the lighthouse.

“Sorry to be a bore, old loves”, said Adam “But Bengo I’m going to need you. If we don’t make a start on lunch soon, I expect there will be a mutiny”.

He helped Bengo to his feet. Julian did the same with Bardin, and Bardin’s shorts promptly slithered to his ankles. Bardin blushed frantically. He bent down to retrieve them, and Julian smacked him on the behind.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow’s display”, said Julian.

“Tomorrow I shall keep it going for much longer”, said Adam “Regardless”.

Back on the galleon, Bardin took off his shorts and put them to soak in the washing bowl in his cabin. He was in the middle of rinsing them, when Kieran came in.

“Now don’t start telling me I’m a lightweight, because I don’t do it naked”, said Bardin “Or I shall flick this soapy water at you”.

“I wouldn’t dream of it!” said Kieran.

“For some unknown reason everyone is captivated by my underwear”, said Bardin.

“It must be the rustle of the starch”, said Kieran “Julian hasn’t been able to stop talking about it. Anyone’d think he’d never seen you being spanked before!”

Bardin paused and rubbed his own behind. It was still fizzing from the walloping.

“Bengo’s been telling me about your Summer of Love idea”, he said.

“Well we can try our best at any rate”, said Kieran “Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be able to re-create our days at Midnight Castle and the Bay, because the world’s in a pretty shocking state, but we can have a go”.

“That sounds fine by me”, said Bardin.

The floor beneath them began to shake, and there was a pounding noise as if an elephant was stamping its feet nearby. One of the dogs began barking in the dining-room next door, and Lonts could be heard trying to reassure him. Kieran fell against the armchair, and Bardin had to pull him up. They held onto each other until the rumbling stopped.

“Earth tremor”, said Bardin “We had another one of those not long ago. It all feels a bit ominous”.

“I’ve never heard of a biggie hitting this area”, said Kieran.

He caught sight of Ransey walking past the cabin door, and went over to speak to him. Bardin followed on behind.

“I’m going to wireless through to the Doctor’s house”, said Ransey “He might be able to tell us if they’ve had any more of these lately, whilst we weren’t here”.

“Ask if if they’ve seen any sign of that smoke we sat from the direction of the New Continent”, said Bardin.

“H wants to take the air-buggies out again”, said Ransey, when he had finished his call to the Doctor’s house.

“I had a feeling that would happen”, said Hillyard, in the dining-room “We were planning to anyway”.

“The Earth has a restless feel to it”, said Kieran “Like a dog trying to shake off its fleas”.

“Get back in touch with the Doctor”, said Bardin “And say we’ll take the buggies out first thing tomorrow”.

“Top man”, said Hillyard, raising his thumb.

Hillyard, Ransey, Bardin and Kieran set off in their air-buggy soon after dawn, flying over the town and towards the Doctor’s house. Over the wireless set the night before Ransey had given H the approximate time they woud appear, and H, accompanied by Lissa, the Doctor and Elaine, were able to take off soon after.

They all headed for the East Coast once more, but then flew up the coastline. The vast expanse of the rocky cliffline stretched ahead, with nothing but empty countryside on one side, and the ocean on the other. At one point they had to raise height as a cliff-fall was in progress, and masses of rubble and mud fell into the sea.

“Makes you start wondering if there’s anyone else left out there af all”, Hillyard shouted, from the pilot’s seat.

“It’s like the beginning of Time”, said Bardin, in a contemplative voice.

Kieran glanced at him quizzically, but Bardin didn’t expand on this. Instead he suggested that they fly out briefly over the ocean once more.

“See if we can glimpse any of the smoke from the New Continent”, he said.

Hillyard did a swoop round, and H followed on. They swept out over the grey, rolling ocean. The black smoke was clearly still billowing out from the direction of the New Continent.

“Let us hope the wind doesn’t change direction soon”, said Ransey.

“It wouldn’t reach us would it?” said Hillyard.

“I’m not so sure”, said Ransey “If it’s a volcanic eruption, then it depends how big it is”.

At that point they noticed a ship ploughing through the waters below.

“Bloody hell, a sign of life!” said Hillyard.

“It’s the yacht!” Bardin shouted, pointing ahead “It’s coming from the Third Island!”

“They must be fleeing from the eruption”, said Ransey.

“Looks like they’re heading in our direction”, said Hillyard “What do you suggest, Bard? Do we swoop down and give ‘em a wave?”

“Like hell”, said Bardin, who had never forgiven Cloris for suddenly changing direction on them that time with no warning, and abandoning them in the vicinity of the New Continent “Make our presence felt, so that you can show off the air-buggy, but then we head back. The weather’s closing in”.

He was right. The wind was getting up, and spots of rain were beginning to splatter on the windows. Hillyard swooped the air-buggy in the general direction of the yacht, and then headed off back in a south-westerly direction. *

Several of the other Indigo-ites were waiting for them on the track leading to the Old Lighthouse, when Hillyard skillfully landed the air-buggy. When everything was switched off, Bengo opened one of the back doors and pulled Bardin out.

“God, I’ve missed you”, he said.

“I’ve only been gone a couple of hours!” said Bardin.

“I don’t care”, said Bengo.

“Soppy sod”, said Bardin, kissing the top of his head.

The rain was now coming down much more steadily here.

“Is there anything to report?” asked Julian.

“Yes, but let’s get below deck”, said Ransey.

“I’ll contact H on the wireless”, said Hillyard “See what he makes of it all”.

“All what?” said Julian.

“We’ve sighted the yacht, heading this way”, said Kieran “Cloris and Co”.

“That’s all we need”, said Joby.

“She’s heading here?!” Mutton Broth exclaimed.

“Stop panicking, she’s not a witch”, said Bardin “She doesn’t eat scrawny little clowns! Anyway, it’s going to take her several days to navigate the Horn, and then, if she does come here, they’ll have to spend about 2 weeks in Quarantine”.

“I’d forgotten about all that”, said Bengo.

“I hadn’t”, said Bardin, gleefully.

The other Indigo-ites headed back below deck, leaving Adam, Bengo and Bardin standing by the truck.

“Are you two waiting for something?” said Bardin.

“What about …” said Adam “In the rain?”

“You two are nuts!” Bardin laughed.

“Well if you’re not up to it, old love”, said Adam.

“Of course I’m up to it”, said Bardin “What’s a touch of pleurisy anyway”.

“Bengo and I were wondering whether to suggest it when we saw the rain coming on”, said Adam “Thought it’d be a little treat for you when you got back”.

“I am going to need A LOT of distraction from bloody Cloris heading this way!” said Bardin.

“Yes, I can see you’re tense”, said Adam.

Bengo pulled Bardin’s trousers down to his knees, exposing the serviceable shorts he wore for flying in. Adam sat down on the rickety old chair, and put Bardin across his knee. Bengo pulled off Bardin’s trousers, and slung them over his shoulder. Adam proceeded to give several very firm smacks on Bardin’s damp behind.

“I’d love to tan your behind for much longer”, said Adam, when he paused “But the rain’s coming down quite hard now, I think we’d better get below”.

He tanned Bardin a bit more, and then turfed him onto the soggy ground. Bengo hauled him up, and playfully pinged his muddy shorts.

“I love messing you up, Bardy!” he said “It’s so much more special when it’s just the three of us isn’t it?”

Adam engulfed them both in a hug, kissing them. He then squeezed Bardin’s buttocks.

“Let’s get below”, he said “We can’t say we ever pass up an opportunity to spank Bardin”. *

After a cacophonous lunch, in which everyone excitedly discussed the news from the flight, the Indigo-ites closed the hatches against the torrential onslaught of the rain, and settled in for the rest of the day. Adam went along to Julian’s cabin.

“If I were you”, said Julian, pouring out two glasses of sherry “I wouldn’t leave it too long before you have your next night in the Lighthouse”.

“That sounds dreadfully ominous”, said Adam, sitting on the windowseat.

“Well I’m not saying it is”, said Julian “But I don’t like the sound of what is happening on The New Continent, and these damn earth tremors lately … it’s not reassuring. I think it’s a time for taking one’s pleasures as immediately as you can”.

“We’ve certainly been doing that”, said Adam, thinking of the spanking in the rain earlier.

“That’s the one damn good thing about Cloris heading here”, said Julian “At least she might be able to tell us what’s going on over there”.

“We’re presuming that’s why they’ve fled the Third Island”, said Adam “I feel sorry for Glynis and Jane though, I can’t imagine they are going to be terribly excited about seeing her again”.

“They’ve got nothing to fear from her”, said Julian “And I’ll bloody well have a go at her if she tries anything on them!”

“I’ve always thought you’d make a good father of daughters, Jules”, said Adam “Sons no, too much of the Alpha Male about you, but daughters yes, you’d be quite protective of them”.

“Well as long as they had some spark to them, and fortunately Glynis and Jane both have”, said Julian “I wouldn’t want some mopey little thing constantly shivering in terror from me. Have you ever thought perhaps we’re the only ones left down here?”

“Sometimes”, said Adam “But Ransey has detected other voices occasionally on the wireless. Not that they ever seem to make much sense”.

“That hasn’t been for a while though”, said Julian “And he’s constantly searching the airwaves. Does make you wonder”.

“Certainly the others haven’t detected any signs of life on their air travels”, said Adam “It all sounds quite spooky in fact. That’s a rather unsettling thought”.

“You just concentrate on sorting Bardin out”, said Julian, playfully slapping Adam’s leg “Otherwise he’ll be getting himself in a state about Cloris heading here. He’s not her biggest fan. Well none of us are, but she really pissed him off by suddenly veering off direction that time. Try and keep him distracted before she gets here, in your own inimitable way”.

Chapter 7

They were all going to further discuss the “fascinating” subject of Cloris over supper, but instead a musical evening developed, and the subject was quietly dropped. At one end of the table Toppy was informing Bardin that he had a secret wish.

“Well go on, spit it out”, said Bardin “You’ve got the floor, we’re all ears”.

“I want to give the ship a good overhaul”, said Toppy.

“If that involves knocking down walls, then the answer is emphatically No!” said Bardin.

“No of course it doesn’t, Captain”, said Toppy “I want to give everywhere a good deep clean”.

“There’s nothing stopping you”, said Bardin “If it stops raining tomorrow, then start then, the rest of us can all get out of the way”.

“Oh thank you”, said Toppy, with a satisfied sigh “I can start with this room first and foremost”.

“One proviso”, said Adam, holding up his hand “You are not to touch the galley. The last time you cleaned up in there for us I couldn’t seem to find anything for ages afterwards, and anyway, that’s my little domain”.

“As if we could ever forget!” said Joby.

“If we head up to the Lighthouse tomorrow”, said Bardin “Then you can clean our cabin as well”.

“I shall look forward to that”, said Toppy.

“I wish all problems were this easily sorted”, said Bardin.

They all spent the night in the Saloon. At daybreak Ransey got up to use the wireless set. He had decided lately to use the wireless at random hours of the day or night, to see if this was any more useful in detecting anyone else who might be out there on the airwaves. Very soon after this, he rushed back along the main corridor to the Saloon, and tried impatiently to detect Bardin amongst the sprawling mass of bodies tangled up in the communal bed. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that both Bardin and Kieran’s hair had become almost bleached white by the sun lately and they were hard to tell apart at a first glance.

“What? What is it?” said Bardin, when Ransey finally unearthed him.

“Cloris is on the wireless”, said Ransey “She’s halfway through the Horn”.

“Poor old Horn”, muttered Joby.

“And you woke me up just to tell me that?” said Bardin.

“It could have been a lot worse”, said Ransey “She wanted to speak to you!”

Bardin glared back, his little round brown eyes could have felled someone at ten paces at that point.

“Said she wanted to know if you and … I quote … your team would be there to meet her in Zilligot Bay”, said Ransey.

“My team?!” Bardin spat “My team?! What does she think we are, footballers?!”

“Sounds like some kind of corporate office speak”, said Joby.

“Well she did used to work for the Ministry, don’t forget”, said Ransey.

“I hope she isn’t still on the line”, said Julian.

“No, I disconnected the wire”, said Ransey.

“Good!” said Bardin “Keep it disconnected for the next couple of days!”

Bardin was incensed by this latest unwanted development, and could be heard muttering “my team” in a disgusted tone of voice for the rest of the morning. Adam thought it was best to start taking some stuff up into the lighthouse, where they would spend the night.

“We will be back down here after breakfast tomorrow morning”, he said to Joby.

“Yeah, you’ve already told me that!” said Joby “What’s the matter? Frightened I’m gonna change the locks on the door or summat?! Look, just go and enjoy yerself, because we’re gonna have fat chance of enjoying ourselves when she gets here!”

“You will break it gently to Glynis about the imminent visitation won’t you?” said Adam.

“Course I will”, said Joby “I’m heading down to the barrier to meet her now. Best she hears it from one of us and not someone in the town”.

They both went above deck. Joby headed off down the lane, and Adam hefted a tote bag full of supplies onto his shoulder. He met Hillyard on his way to the lighthouse.

“I’m going to build an outside cupboard”, said Hillyard, proudly “Round the side of the lighthouse”.

“Where Bardin had his blow-job?” said Adam.

“You can have blow-jobs anywhere!” said Hillyard “I thought I’d make a convenient storage area for some of my tools”.

“Why not use the entrance floor in the lighthouse?” said Adam.

“Because I don’t want to climb up and down that ladder everytime I need something!” said Hillyard “Shouldn’t you be getting on with preparations for your night of decadence?”

“I’m starting to get paranoid, the way everybody is so keen to be shot of me”, said Adam.

“Just when things were getting settled and vaguely normal again”, Glynis sighed.

She and Joby were sitting on fold-up stools at the barrier. The town did seem livelier that day. Someone had even set up a seafood stall at the entrance to the harbour.

“Now listen to me”, said Joby, squeezing her leg “You don’t have to see her at all if you don’t want to”.

“It’s going to be quite hard to avoid her in a town this size!” said Glynis.

“Not for the first 10 days”, said Joby “They’re gonna have to quarantine, whether they like it or not. That’s one thing we can be sure of, the townsfolk won’t want them just swanning in and spreading themselves around, even if there is zero chance of them having the Sweating Sickness. I can’t imagine there’s been much chance of them catching it on the Third Island”.

“We don’t know why they’ve left yet”, said Glynis “You think it’s to do with the smoke that was seen on the New Continent?”

“Seems the most likely thing”, said Joby “Chances are they might have been right in the path of it, and decided to evacuate”.

“And where else can they go but here”, said Glynis, pensively “At least they know us. There might not even be anyone left in the outside world”.

“We’re all starting to wonder that too”, said Joby.

“I suppose they’re might be the odd stray traveller from time to time”, said Glynis “Like H in the forest”.

“Or Elaine and Nixx at the old railway station”, said Joby “They were there, all by themselves, for 7 years!”

“The poor things”, said Glynis “No wonder they’re enjoying it at the Doctor’s house so much”.

“How’s life at the hospital?” asked Joby.

“Very quiet”, said Glynis “I think the staff outnumber the patients! We do have a quarantine ward there. Perhaps we could persuade the yacht crew to go in there for a few days?”

“What, and lock the doors on ‘em?” Joby joked “Nice try, but I think she might expect to be let out at some point!”

“Sometimes that building gives me the creeps”.

“I know what you mean, I felt that when I visited Jane when she was in there last year. Kept feeling like we were being watched. Anyway, Julian says that if Cloris gets heavy with you, you’re to tell us, and he’ll have a go at her”.

“Well that’s kind of him”, Glynis laughed “But I’m a big girl now, I can fight my own battles”.

“Now don’t stop him when he’s having one of his rare moments of trying to be kind!” said Joby.

Adam was up in the lighthouse kitchen, preparing to get the stove ready, when another earth tremor struck the area. Whilst it lasted he hung onto the stove, and waited for the shaking to stop. When it had he went over to the window, and opened it. Down below Hillyard, who had been sorting out his equipment for building the outdoor cupboard, was looking around him in consternation.

“Another one”, he shouted up at Adam “Dunno how you feel mate, but might not be a bad idea to come down again”.

“That’s what I was thinking”, said Adam.

He shut the window, and calmly picked up the tote-bag of goodies that he had carried up with him. Hillyard was waiting for him when he climbed to the bottom of the ladder which led up to the main entrance fo the tower.

“I’m the last person to stop anyone having a night of debauchery”, said Hillyard, clamping a hand on Adam’s shoulder “But it might be an idea to move it down to the ship”.

“Yes”, said Adam “I agree”.

“Are you OK, Ad?” said Hillyard “Did the tremor shake you up a bit?”

“No, not that particularly”, said Adam “But I must admit the lighthouse didn’t feel quite as welcoming this time round. Perhaps it was because I was alone in it, I don’t know, but it almost felt sinister. My imagination must have got the better of me”.

“Or survival instinct”, said Hillyard “Don’t underestimate that”.

“I’ll go below and break the news to the boys”, said Adam.

He bumped into Joby at the bottom of the quarterdeck stairs.

“I’m afraid you won’t get your day of peace after all”, said Adam.

“That’s alright”, said Joby “You can prepare the salad for tea, you’ve got more patience with all that fiddly chopping than I have. Were you up in the tower when it happened just now?”

“Yes”, said Adam “I keep telling myself I’ve never heard of a major quake hitting this area, but each tremor seems to bely that one. I hope Bengo and Bardin aren’t too disappointed”.

“From the amount of shrieking and laughing going on just now I shouldn’t think so!” said Joby.

Bengo was engrossed in trying to pinch Bardin’s bottom, when Adam walked in.

“I’m afraid our latest little holiday is off, boys”, said Adam, putting the tote-bag down on the floor.

“Not off”, said Bardin “Just moved down here, that’s all. I think, after the latest rumble, I’d rather we all stayed in one place anyway, and keep an eye on the ship for one thing”.

“It would be nicer down here”, said Adam, rubbing his arms, which felt goose-pimply “The tower felt … inhospitable today. And we all had so much fun down here last night”.

“If the Earth is going to move for us, then we might as well all enjoy it at once”, said Bardin.

“That almost sounded carefree for you, Bardin!” Adam teased.

“So much is bloody unsettling at the moment, that I’m taking pleasure where it is”, said Bardin “It feels cosier down here anyway. The only one who’ll be disappointed is Toppy, he won’t get to deep clean our cabin”.

“Good!” said Bengo “He always makes me feel completely unwanted when he’s farting about in here. As if I’m not civilised enough to live here”.

“Well you’re not”, said Bardin “Like a shaggy, great, clumsy hound”.

“Smack him, Adam!” said Bengo, pulling the paddle off Adam’s belt and handing it to him.

Adam gave Bardin such a severe paddling that he said afterwards it felt as if he’d had “a complete upper-body workout”. Bardin had yelled “ow!” so much that he was developing a sore throat.

“I hope I wasn’t too harsh”, he said, when he paused in his labours.

“Be as harsh as you like”, said Bengo “He can take any amount of it”.

They both helped Bardin over to the sofa, and gently lay him face-down on the cushions.

“Not quite tomato-like yet”, said Adam, peering down the back of Bardin’s shorts “We shall have to have another go later”.

“Give him blisters”, said Bengo, adjusting the legs of Bardin’s shorts until they were neat again.

“Bengo, you are such a little sadist on the quiet”, said Adam.

“Oh you’ve noticed!” said Bardin.

“Perhaps you should have a little rest before supper”, said Adam, caressing Bardin’s starched behind “That is an order, not a suggestion”.

The latest spanking had eased such a lot of tension out of Bardin that, in spite of the earth tremor, he managed to fall asleep for a little while. When he woke up, he could still feel the the imprint of the paddle on his behind. He gave a moan of pleasure, shivered deliciously, and hugged the cushion he was resting on.

“OK?” said Adam, softly.

“Hell yeah”, said Bardin.

Adam knelt on the carpet, and kissed him ravenously.

“I shall go off my head at this rate”, Bardin groaned, when they finally came up for air.

“There are worse ways to go loopy”, said Adam.

He stuffed his hand down the front of Bardin’s shorts, and Bardin came almost immediately.

“You were well ready”, Adam laughed.

Bardin rested back on the cushion.

“Bengo might be disappointed he missed his chance there”, said Adam.

“No he won’t”, said Bardin “He just wants me well-used. You can do what you like with me. Says he wants me so sore I’ll have to eat my dinner off the mantlepiece! Is it me or are the gulls making even more noise than usual?”

“They are”, said Adam “And the dogs are restless too. I thought it was just the heat at first, but Lo-Lo thinks the earth tremor unsettled them. It seems to be same with the gulls”.

“Don’t tell me we’re going to get an avian attack on top of everything else!” said Bardin.

“Animals often pick up on these things ahead of us”, said Adam “Julian’s gone into the village to see if he can get any information out of the library about past earthquakes. It’s a bloody nuisance being so in the dark about what could be happening. Back in my time we’d have known straight away what was happening on the New Continent, and if it was triggering anything here. Whereas we seem to have to rely constantly on guesswork”.

“Something big is happening, that’s for sure”, said Bardin “I’ll clean up, and then go up on deck, see what the others are saying”.

He found Ransey, Bengo and Hillyard chatting towards the stern end of the ship. Bardin stood and looked at the gulls who were whirling round, screaming in a frenzy. “Alright Bardin?” said Hillyard.

“Well apart from thinking the gates of Hell are opening, yes I’m fine”, said Bardin.

“Here comes Julian”, said Hillyard, turning to face the lane “He might have some info for us”.

Julian ambled along, fanning himself with his sun-hat. When he got to the ship, Bengo and Hillyard helped him aboard.

“Thank you, I know I’ve been alive for a long time”, said Julian “But I’m not decrepit”.

“OK, we’ll leave you to fall in then!” said Hillyard, as they pulled him aboard.

“What a sight for sore eyes you are, Bardin”, said Julian, appreciatively eyeing Bardin in his smooth white shorts “What a shame you’re not wearing trousers though”.

“Why?” said Bardin.

“It would be quite fun to pull them down!” said Julian.

“Never mind all that for now”, said Ransey, testily “Did you find out anything at the library?”

“The last major earthquake to hit this area, was a 7.1, and it happened well over 200 years ago”, said Julian “That was even before we first knew this area … at least I think it was anyway. The most they’ve ever had since were random tiddly tremors, but nothing like the ones we’ve been having lately”.

“Hm”, said Bardin “Not very reassuring”.

“There’s more”, said Julian “The last big one, the one that was over 200 years ago, coincided with a massive volcanic eruption on the New Continent”.

There was a general murmur of confirmation from everyone gathered.

“As we thought”, said Ransey.

“So what do we do now?” said Bengo.

“Pray that the wind doesn’t change direction”, said Ransey.

Chapter 8

Over the next day things began to feel more ominous. The temperatures had risen markedly, and in the early hours of the morning there was another minor tremor, plus a strange, eerie whistling noise, which Kieran likened to an Irish banshee. There was a horribly unsettling feeling of Apprehension everywhere. Later that morning, Bengo found Bardin standing by the porthole in their cabin, pensively chewing on his fingernails.

“I’ve made you some tea, Bardy”, said Bengo, putting the mug down on the wash-stand, and then batted Bardin’s hand away from his mouth “Don’t start that again”.

“Can’t help it”, mumbled Bardin.

“You seem all cold and shivery”, said Bengo, running his hand along Bardin’s arm “Do you want me to find your bath-robe?”

“No I’m OK”, said Bardin “I feel quite hot actually”.

“I hope you’re not going down with something”.

“I think it’s just … well Everything. We’re going to have to have some kind of contingency plan in place for if all this gets much worse. We can’t ignore these tremors. But what the fuck do we do about the villagers? I’d like to say Ignore Them, but we can’t”.

“Tell them what’s going on”, said Bengo “And if they choose to ignore it after that, then it’s their look-out”.

“You can have some very good ideas sometimes”, said Bardin, nodding approvingly.

“Well try not to sound so shocked!” said Bengo “Put a poster up in Rosa’s window at the Driftwood, like a playbill, everybody’s bound to see it there, telling them what’s what, although to be honest they should already be aware of it!”

“Two good ideas in one day!” said Bardin “This must be a record!”

“Oh shut up”, said Bengo “I hope Adam smacks your bottom again today”.

“So do I”, said Bardin “I’m going to need all the spankings I can get! If things get much worse there could be a tidal-wave, we’re going to have to face the prospect that the villagers will have to evacuate”.

“Where would they go though?”

“Onto higher ground, up into the hills”.

“They won’t like that”, said Bengo “It’s too near the Saturn Desert. You know what they’re like about that place”.

“Well that’s just tough isn’t it!” said Bardin “What a bunch of entitled freaks they all are! I’m at the end of my patience with them!”

“I know”, Bengo agreed “And yet they might listen to you, Bardy. They have a lot of respect for you. What happens to us? I hope we don’t have to abandon the galleon”.

“Of course we don’t”, said Bardin “We’ll sail it back up the West Coast a bit, and try and find a sheltered nook. Batten down the hatches and ride it out. Trouble is, we don’t know what the timescale of all this could be. Julian’s been telling me about some massive volcano called Krakatoa. That started rumbling away in the May, but didn’t finally erupt until the end of August. If we warn the villagers to evacuate too soon, it could be 6 months before anything happens, and they’ll all start trooping back down again. It’s a bloody nightmare”.

“You can only give them advice”, said Bengo “You’re not responsible for them”.

“Thank God!” said Bardin.

Ransey set to designing the poster, and said he would take it to Rosa immediately it was done. Hillyard offered to drive him there in the truck. They both turned up at the inn’s back door later that afternoon. Rosa and Ernesto were both pleased to see them.

“I wish I wasn’t the bearer of bad news”, said Ransey “But we feel this is very important”.

“We knew something was afoot”, said Rosa, having unrolled the poster Ransey had designed and read it “A shepherd had come back from the headland recently and said he had seen smoke in the direction of The New Continent. It does sound ominous”.

“Mm”, said Ransey “I want you and Ernesto to promise us that if things take a marked turn for the worst, you won’t hesitate. You’ll move up into the hills. I know what a reputation the hills have round here, but it would be for the best. We care a lot about you two, the Doctor’s Gang, and Woolly and the Girls, but frankly, the rest of the villagers … not so much”.

“I will make up a couple of emergency bags”, said Ernesto “Something we can grab at the last minute to take with us”.

“I’ll put this in your front window”, said Ransey.

The others followed him through into the main bar area. Ransey pulled out a small roll of plasticine from his pocket, and used it to tack the poster to the large picture window at the front. When he had finished he turned and faced the painting of the Saturn Desert which Adam had done the previous year.

“Whatever nonsense there is locally about the Saturn Desert”, said Ransey “You will still be safer up in the hills than down here under water!”

“Will you lot be alright?” said Ernesto.

“Yeah”, said Hillyard “We won’t be abandoning the ship, we’ll take it to a safer location, and wait for everything to blow over. Fortunately H and me have got the air-buggies, so we can use them to keep an eye on everything”.

“Would you like some beer?” said Rosa, heading over to the bar.

“That’s the best suggestion I’ve heard all day”, said Ransey.

“Things never calm down do they?” said Ernesto.

Hillyard decided this would be a good time to tell them about Cloris’s imminent arrival.

“She knows they’ll have to quarantine”, he said “We’ve told them, but I can’t see how they can possibly be infected, they’ve been stuck out on a remote island all by themselves all this time”.

“I hope they get here safely in time”, said Ernesto.

Hillyard thought it was best if he didn’t comment on this one.

During their absence Bardin had been pacing around below deck. He felt as restless as the dogs.

“Ask if him if he wants any more tea, Bengo”, Adam whispered in the galley “He’s like Patsy, he does take the weight of the whole world on his shoulders sometimes”.

“To be honest I think he could more do with a bloody good spanking”, said Bengo.

“You’re falling down on the job there, mate”, said Joby to Adam.

“Well the one I gave him yesterday was so severe I thought I’d better give him a little time off”, said Adam.

“Some disciplinarian you are!” said Joby “I can just imagine what Julian would say”.

“Never mind what Julian would say!” said Adam “And it’ll be Spanking Joby time if you keep that up”.

“Bardin needs it more”, said Joby.

“Adam”, said Bengo “He’ll be really, really disappointed if you don’t, and give him a really angry spanking. He does need it”.

“That might require all my acting skills”, said Adam “But I shall give it a go”.

He grabbed Bardin and put him over his knee on the stool outside the galley door. Joby and Bengo gathered to watch, joined by Julian, who floated over from the dining-room. The air rang to some very satisfying smacks on Bardin’s behind. Bardin yelped as Adam held him firmly in place under his arm.

“I was wondering how long it would take you”, said Julian.

Adam retaliated by administering more hearty smacks on the back of Bardin’s shorts. There was a rumble of voices overhead, and Hillyard clambered awkwardly down the quarterdeck steps. Ransey was behind him, and between them they were maneuvering a small beer barrel.

“A present from Rosa”, said Hillyard “We couldn’t stop her. Mind you, we didn’t try very hard!”

“How wonderful”, said Adam, pausing with his hand on Bardin’s behind.

“Don’t let us interrupt”, said Hillyard, breezily.

“Sounds like you’ve been on it already”, said Julian.

“Well she insisted y’know?” said Hillyard “Would have been rude to refuse”.

They got the beer barrel to the bottom of the steps, and then half-dragged half-pushed it into the dining-room. Adam continued to thwack Bardin until he was sure he was sore enough.

The yacht glided into the harbour the following day, like some phantom image from another world. Although Glynis had put the word around that it was expected, the locals still found it unsettling. Ransey volunteered to be the one who would go and give her any information she required, not because he particularly wanted to, but because the others were approaching the prospect with all the enthusiasm of someone facing root canal surgery.

A very squally wind had risen, and was whipping up sand from the Saturn Desert and blowing it over the hills. Ransey wrapped a long scarf around his head as a form of turban and face-mask, and hoped it would scare anybody like Eunice away from coming up and bothering him.

The conversation he had with Cloris was very unsatisfying to say the least. He stood on the harbourside, and shouted to her above the noise of the sea and gulls. Cloris stood at the front of the yacht. She wore a pair of tinted glasses throughout the entire conversation, which meant it was hard to gauge how she really felt, particularly as she spoke in a monosyllabic tone. When she wasn’t speaking her mouth was set in a grim line. The only time she showed any animation at all was when she demanded to know why Bardin had arrived to greet her.

“He’s very busy at the moment”, said Ransey “There are a lot of plans to be made if the volcano on the New Continent really blows. We were hoping you’d be able to help us there”.

“We fled here to escape it”, she said, tersely “The smoke was drenching our island. I can’t tell you anymore than that”.

Ransey didn’t feel there was anything he could add to the conversation, and didn’t see any point pursuing it. He was glad he had the walk home in which to help walk off excess nervy energy.

“So that’s all she said”, said Julian “The smoke drove them off the island?”

“To be fair, I suppose that’s all she can say”, Ransey sighed “What else was there to say? She probably doesn’t know anymore about the volcano than we do”.

“You tried anyway”, said Bardin, who was perusing maps at the other end of the table, looking for a sheltered nook along the West Coast they could flee to if needs be.

“Found anywhere?” said Ransey, sitting down and pouring out a mug of strong tea.

“I’m starting to think it would be better if we took sanctuary on that small island we stayed at briefly last year”, said Bardin “I know it’s no good for a long stay, but just to sit it out until this all blows over …”

“It certainly sounds more enticing than some gloomy demon-infested wood just up the coastline here”, said Julian “And we’d be sufficiently far out into the ocean there to be reasonably safe”.

“That’s settled then”, said Bardin, roughly folding up the maps “We have a plan”.

“How did Cloris seem, Ransey?” asked Lonts.

“Extremely tense”, said Ransey “And older, more haggard, but I guess that’s not terribly surprising. I can’t imagine life has been easy on the Third Island”.

“It was a total dump”, said Hillyard, bluntly “Glynis and Jane nearly starved there! I don’t know what the fuck possessed Cloris to take them there. I’ll never understand it”.

He got up in a huff and left the room.

“BENGO!” Bardin hollered, causing Ransey to jump.

“Yes, Bardy?” said Bengo, creeping into the room cautiously, clutching a tea-towel.

“Make a fresh pot of tea for Ransey”, said Bardin.

“OK”, Bengo slung the tea-towel over his shoulder, and went to reach for the teapot.

“I think I would rather face the bloody gorgon at the Old Temple than see her again!” Ransey exclaimed.

Bengo nodded his head and took the teapot into the galley.

“It’s shocking the change that’s come over Cloris”, said Adam, as they waited for a pan of water to heat in the galley “She always used to be such a sensible girl. It’s upsetting to see someone take such a negative turn”.

“She’s certainly wound Ransey up”, said Bengo “It’s pretty weird seeing him like that”.

“He will recover”, said Adam “But probably best if we keep him away from the yacht for a while”.

“I’ve an idea”, said Bardin, standing in the doorway “Make up a box of any spare groceries you have for the yacht”.

“OK”, Adam sighed.

“But don’t put any treats in it”, said Bardin, firmly “No booze or cakes, things like that, they can bloody well go without. Just any basic items you can spare, and we’ll send it down to them”.

“How?” said Bengo, crossly “Who’s taking it there?”

“And don’t look at me”, said Adam “I flatly refuse to go”.

“But you’re the most diplomatic one of the lot of us”, Bardin protested.

“So I have to be punished is that it?” said Adam “Anyway, I would argue that was Patsy, not me”.

“I’m not sure he will”, said Bardin “He’s as pissed off with them as I am. He’s said all along that she was bloody reckless to head to the Third Island like that, with it being so close to the New Continent”.

“That’s true”, said Joby, who had followed Bardin in.

“I’ve often thought Hillyard would make a good diplomat”, said Adam “He has the ability to charm anybody”.

“He’s not gonna bloody go is he!” said Joby “He’s furious at Cloris for the state he found he girls in! Jane had to be put in hospital! If it comes to it send Julian. I’ve often thought he could be a politician, the way he can turn on the fake charm when he needs to”.

“Yes”, said Bengo “And he could shout at her if she carries on being stupid”.

“I’m not sure that’s going to help matters!” said Adam.

In the end it was Kieran who got lumbered with having to go and see Cloris the following day, on the grounds that “that is what he is there for”. Kieran reacted to this by saying that he was going to suddenly become a devil-worshipper.

“Yeah right”, said Joby “You’re gonna worship Angel?! I know you can be chief winder-upper Kieran, but nobody’s gonna believe that!”

Adam put together a box of supplies for the yacht, only to return to the galley to find Bardin going through each item in the box like an over-zealous custom’s official.

“What ARE you doing?!” Adam demanded to know.

“I’m just making sure that you’re not giving them anything that is not a basic, essential item”, said Bardin.

“I am hardly likely to am I!” said Adam “Stop meddling! Patsy and Hillyard are getting ready to take the trap into town”.

“What’s this?” said Bardin, holding up a small jar.

“It’s a jar of mustard, Bardin”, said Bengo, as if explaining something to a halfwit.

“Mustard is hardly a basic, essential item”, said Bardin “I knew this would happen. I knew you’d go sneaking things in”.

Adam was so incensed he couldn’t speak.

“And what’s this?” said Bardin, now holding up a small, paper-wrapped parcel.

“It is a bar of soap”, said Adam, with as much forced patience as he could muster “Finia thought it would be a good idea to put that in. You can’t argue that soap isn’t a basic, essential item”.

“I suppose not”, said Baridn, reluctantly putting it back.

“HILLYARD!” Adam yelled.

“Yeah alright, where’s the fire?” said Hillyard, coming into the room.

“Take that box and remove it at once”, said Adam “Before I start lobbing all its contents at Bardin”.

“Ooh go on!” said Bardin.

Hillyard picked up the box and walked out.

“I shall go up aloft and see them off”, said Adam, in a dignified fashion “I feel I need a few moments to compose myself”.

“Don’t look at me like that”, said Bardin, when Adam had gone “He’ll be alright”.

Bengo grabbed him and shook him roughly by the shoulders.

“Alright, calm down!” said Bardin.

“Bardy, I am telling you”, said Bengo “As one Sagittarian to another, put a sock in it! You were really pushing your luck there”.

“He’ll get his own back, you can be sure of that”, said Bardin.

“Huh, and I wouldn’t wanna be in your shoes when he does!” said Bengo.

Up on the main deck Adam found Kieran staring at the sky in the eastern direction. In the far distance it had turned black.

“Is that more of the volcano or a storm at sea, I wonder”, said Adam.

“I don’t know”, said Kieran “But I don’t like the look of it. We won’t be very long, see you in a wee while”.

Hillyard parked the horse-and-trap outside the Driftwood.

“I’m sure you understand, mate”, he said to Kieran.

“But you’re not joining me on the neighbourly visit”, said Kieran.

“Can you manage the box?”

“Hillyard, I know I’m a puny little bastard, but I think I can just about manage to carry a cardboard box a few feet without flaking out!”

Kieran borrowed a fold-up chair from the Harbourmaster, and sat on the quayside to talk to Cloris. Tomas had come ashore briefly to pick up the cardboard box, and had returned with it to the yacht, where he placed it at Cloris’s feet like a sacrificial offering to a particularly surly goddess. Like she had when talking to Ransey, Cloris refused to take off her tinted glasses. She was also wearing a large, floppy-brimmed straw hat, which put most of her face in the shade. It gave the whole conversation an unreal air to it, exacerbated by the pre-storm feel of apprehension which was hanging over the whole town.

“So Bardin hasn’t come to see me”, said Cloris, in clipped tones.

Kieran decided that bluntness was the only order of the day.

“He won’t”, he replied “He still hasn’t forgiven you for the way you suddenly veered off from us towards the Third Island”.

“It was very simple”, said Cloris, crisply “I didn’t want to go to the New Continent”.

“I understand”, said Kieran “But it really wouldn’t have hurt you to have let us know over the wireless first, what your intentions were, or immediately afterwards. The whole thing felt rude. We were left somewhat confused by your actions”.

“Oh dear”, said Cloris, with a veneer of sarcasm in her voice “And he’s been nurturing this hurt ever since?”

“It wasn’t just that”, said Kieran, patiently “It was the fact that you accused us of cowardice for running away from the New Continent. That was unfair. We were vastly out-numbered by the demons there. They would have over-run us and destroyed us. Any reasonable person would have understood that”.

“You men”, Cloris snorted “You do like to nurse these little grievances don’t you”.

“OK”, Kieran sighed, realising that he was in that most impossible of situations, trying to hold a reasonable conversation with someone who was stubbornly insisting on being unreasonable “Before I go, I think it’s only fair to say that if the situation on the New Continent gets any worse the town will probably have to be evacuated. We’ve recommended the townsfolk move up into the hills if that happens, seek higher ground. We ourselves will sail out into the West Ocean, I would urge you to do the same. The land mass here will protect us from the worst of any big waves that come over”.

He stood up to leave.

“Keep a close eye on the eastern horizon for any major changes”, he said “That’s all I can suggest”.

Without another word, he returned the folding chair to the Harbourmaster’s office, and then walked around the corner in the direction of the Driftwood. He could feel Cloris’s eyes boring into his back until he was safely out of her view.

He found Hillyard chatting to Rosa outside the Inn. Rosa was feeding the horse with a couple of carrots from her garden. Hillyard saw at once that Kieran was tense.

“Well I’ve told her to keep an eye on things”, said Kieran, mopping his forehead with an old hanky “We can’t do much more than that”.

Hillyard squeezed his shoulder in a comforting fashion.

“What in God’s name has happened to that woman? It’s as if she’s got no soul anymore!” said Kieran “It’s painful to see”.

“She’s got herself locked in somewhere”, said Hillyard “It must be bloody awful to be that miserable all the time, like being one of the living dead”.

They bade ‘good day’ to Rosa, and clambered up into the cart. Hillyard wheeled it around in the direction of the lighthouse.

“Did she at least like the box of groceries?” said Hillyard.

“She didn’t say a word about them”, said Kieran “Not even a ‘thanks’”.

“Bloody hell”, Hillyard mumbled.

Chapter 9

Kieran found he couldn’t sleep after the visit to Cloris. He carefully got out of bed late that night, leaving a sleeping Joby, and put on his dressing-gown. He walked down the long corridor below deck to the direction of voices murmuring in the dining-room. He found Julian, Ransey and Hillyard playing cards by the light of a hissing hurricane lamp.

“Do you want us to count you in the next round?” said Julian “We’re playing Rummy”.

“Yes please”, said Kieran, pouring himself out a small glass of cider from the terracotta jug on the table.

“Can’t you sleep either?” said Hillyard.

“No”, said Kieran “I think it’s the heat”.

“It is oppressive”, said Ransey.

“Probably Cloris has got you jangled as well”, said Julian.

“I think I’ll go and see the Girls tomorrow”, said Kieran “See if they can tell me much more about life on the Third Island”.

“Haven’t they told us everything already?” said Ransey “Cloris was totally irresponsible, left them practically starving, and cut down so much wood for fuel that the island was in danger of becoming bare”.

“That’s one of the things that’s been bugging me”, said Kieran “That’s not the Cloris we used to know. She would have been more careful than that”.

“People change”, said Julian “She’d been under a lot of strain for a long time. I think something collapsed inside her. Do you remember when she first appeared on Hy Brasil? She looked completely done in”.

“Having to take over from Lord Robert was the catalyst”, said Hillyard.

“Some people aren’t meant to be leaders”, said Ransey “Cloris is a back-room girl, like me”.

“You’re a back-room girl?” said Julian.

“Ha ha!” said Ransey.

“She would have still organised things better than that”, said Kieran “Ruthlessly stripping the island of its few meagre assets just doesn’t sound like the Cloris we used to know. She would have conserved things better. I have to speak to Glynis and Jane”.

“I can give you a lift in if you like”, said Hillyard “The truck could do with a run. Hillyard’s Taxi Service”.

Hillyard left the truck outside the Driftwood and they walked the short distance to Woolly’s house. To their relief Woolly wasn’t in, he had gone for a walk around the harbour (“men watching” as Glynis put it), so they were able to talk to the Girls on their own. Glynis served mugs of milky coffee, and Kieran stood in the middle of the living-room looking around him at all the furniture.

“Has somebody mentioned to Woolly that perhaps he doesn’t need quite so many sofa’s?” he said.

“I don’t know where he got all this stuff from”, Glynis laughed “I think it came with the house. He’s constantly finding more bits and pieces hidden away”.

“Like the Calliope machine he gave Bardin”, said Kieran “This reminds me of an old lady’s living-room in Ireland, where I came from. Stuffed to the gills with everything you can possibly imagine”.

“Pull up a spare sofa and have a seat”, said Glynis “Hillyard told me in the kitchen that you wanted to speak to us about Cloris”.

“Yes”, Kieran sat down in a cavernous armchair “I don’t want to rake over bad memories, but it would be useful for me if you could tell me a bit more about life on the Third Island”.

“I don’t think there’s much more to tell”, said Jane “It was bloody miserable, we seemed to live hand-to-mouth from one day to the next. Cloris was issuing random orders that increasingly didn’t make any sense”.

“I think she had a massive nervous breakdown and has never recovered”, said Glynis “It’s very sad”.

“Certainly sounds that way”, said Kieran “But when did the change come over her? It’s hard to equate the Cloris we’ve seen in recent times with the old Cloris. I remember her playing the piano with you [to Jane] in the inn on the Gold River”.

“Cloris has always been diligent”, said Jane “And when Lord Robert decided to have his meltdown, she was suddenly plunged into taking over. I think she took the responsibility too earnestly. That was in the beginning anyway. But later on, I think it was something else. Something much darker. She had what amounted to a personality change. It’s very disturbing in someone you know well. Quite upsetting. I don’t want to see her since she came back here. It’s just too much. Like looking at the shell of someone you love. It must be like it is when someone you know gets dementia”.

“Did this change, the really bad stuff I mean, come over her before or after you arrived on Hy Brasil?” said Kieran “Because to us, she just seemed very very tired at first”.

“She was”, said Jane “And I think the strain of carrying it all had got too much. She was very relieved to find you all there y’know. A sort of sharing of the load. She said that to me in private. That’s why I don’t understand why she treated you so badly. That’s not the real Cloris”.

“OK”, said Kieran “In some ways it’s starting to make sense”.

“Is it?” said Hillyard “I feel as in the dark as ever!”

“Do you think something happened to her on Hy Brasil?” said Jane.

“That place is a magical island”, said Kieran “I can’t stress that enough. That’s why I was glad we didn’t stay there too long”.

“But it treated us OK”, said Hillyard “Remember that lovely music coming out of the wireless that time?”

“There’s good and bad magic”, said Kieran “We were protected from the bad side, because we had each other. Cloris though was completely exhausted, she was drained, she was running on empty. I should have seen that from the word go that she would be vulnerable to whatever mischievous forces were there”.

“Here you go again”, said Hillyard “Blaming yourself! I can just imagine what Old Jobe would be saying if he was here!”

“Yes, that’s silly, Kieran”, said Glynis.

“And very self-indulgent!” said Hillyard “It’s not all about you!”

“Hah! Have you got some secret ear-piece connecting you to Joby at the moment?” said Kieran “‘Cos you’re sounding just like him!”

This at least lightened the atmosphere a bit, as the girls laughed.

“Now my memory of the last few years can be a chronic muddle at times”, said Kieran “But from what I vaguely remember, when we had our little sanctuary on Peat Bog Island, you lot all stayed on Hy Brasil”.

“We did”, said Glynis.

“So she was exposed to it for even longer?” said Jane “And without you there too, Kieran”.

“Mm”, said Kieran, biting his lip thoughtfully.

“But what are you saying?” said Glynis “That she became demonically possessed on the island?!”

“Nothing quite as dramatic as that”, said Kieran “I think it was more of a case that something slowly vampirised her”.

“Like a psychic vampire?” said Jane.

“A soul-eater”, said Kieran “The Cloris I spoke to yesterday felt soulless, like you were saying just now, a mere shell of a person. Something gradually - not all at once - ate away at her soul, and left nothing behind in its wake. That’s the problem with places like Hy Brasil, they can end up ensuring that you leave something behind when you leave”.

“In this case, her soul?” said Jane.

“I think she took the random decision to go to the Third Island, but she didn’t know what she was doing”, said Kieran “Something drove her there. And then to effectively rape the island, rob of its few natural resources, and leave nothing behind, well that’s the essence of Evil. It is there to destroy, not to create”.

“Oh my God, that’s horrible”, said Glynis “So is the real Cloris lost to us forever?!”

“I don’t know”, said Kieran, diplomatically “We can’t do much anyway whilst she’s still in quarantine, let alone with all the other stuff that’s going on at the moment”.

When they left the house and returned to where the truck was parked outside the Driftwood, Kieran looked so down in the dumps that Hillyard suggested they pop in and have a drink. When they got back to the galleon they found Joby leaning on the bulwark.

“How did it all go?” he asked.

“Not the easiest of social visits”, said Kieran “I have an uneasy feeling I’ve depressed everybody”.

“Trouble is, you did need to ask ‘em, mate”, said Joby.

“It had to be done”, said Hillyard “Although I don’t know what we do about Cloris from now on”.

“Do we have to do anything about her?” said Joby “She’s not our responsibility, and haven’t we got enough going on at the moment? Take this for example”.

He led them to the stern end of the ship, and pointed down at the water. Several dead fish littered the ocean, bobbing up and down lifelessly.

“Have they swept all the way here from the far side of the East Ocean?” said Hillyard.

That might be the case”, said Kieran “We’ll probably get more of that too. Possibly even some dead birds as well”.

Suddenly a loud growl erupted from the hills overlooking them.

“Mountain lion”, said Hillyard.

“Are all the animals on-board?” asked Kieran.

“Yeah”, said Joby “Even the cat’s asleep by the stove”.

“Good”, said Kieran “It probably won’t come down from the hills, but just to be on the safe side”. *

Bardin was standing by the porthole in his cabin, anxiously chewing on his nails. The thought of when they needed to evacuate was dominating his thoughts. Ransey had said earlier that he would make twice-daily trips to the top of the lighthouse, to keep an eye on the horizon in the direction of the New Continent. At the moment the darkness simply seemed to be hanging there in the far distance, like a lurking menace. Bardin was starting to wonder if it was volcano smoke at all, but something more supernatural and unsettling, that had a life force of its own.

“OK Bardy?” said Bengo, putting his head round the door.

“Yeah yeah I’m fine”, said Bardin, turning to face him.

“Are you up to a little surprise?” said Bengo.

“A nice one I hope”, said Bardin.

“Adam’s got one for you”, said Bengo “Just whether you’re up to it or not”.

Bardin moved briskly across the room with a distinct rustle of starch. Adam crept into the room, holding something behind his back.

“Are you ready for this?” he asked, mischeviously.

He pulled out a long wooden paddle.

“I borrowed this from Julian”, he said “It should leave some very satisfying welts across your cute butt”.

“Why haven’t we used it before?” said Bardin.

“Because it’s only just occurred to me”, said Adam.

“And did it do the trick?” said Julian, when Adam went along to return the paddle to him a little later.

“Well it’s made some interesting patterns on his behind”, said Adam.

“No, you hang onto it”, said Julian “I largely keep it for ornamentation these days, and I suspect Bardin is going to need A LOT of heavy-duty treatment in the near future. He’s like Kieran in that respect. He takes too much damn personal responsibility on himself. There’s no need for it. He is not responsible for anyone in the village. They should be looking out for themselves”.

“I wish I thought that a walloping, however severe, would calm him down”, said Adam “But I suspect that might be asking too much at the moment”.

“It can help though”, said Julian.

Bardin, rubbing his sore behind, bumped into Hillyard outside his cabin door. Hillyard had just been down below to check on the horses and the goats.

“Are they OK?” asked Bardin.

“As much as can be expected”, said Hillyard “Everything’s unsettling them though”.

“I know the feeling”, said Bardin.

Joby emerged from the galley, with a tea-towel slung over his shoulder.

“I bet you wish you had stayed in your own time these days”, said Bardin.

“Are you kidding me?” said Joby “No I don’t! Believe it or not, these times are more fun, and also believe it or not, people are nicer in this one, in spite of the odd awkward shit”.

Rumble galloped down the quarterdeck steps yelling “Bard! Bard!” at the top of his voice.

“What now?” said Bardin.

“Cloris has appeared at the barricade”, said Rumble.

“She can’t!” said Bardin “She’s supposed to still be in quarantine on her yacht!”

“Well she’s there”, said Rumble “And it looks as if she’s trying to unlock the gate”.

“Damn her!” Bardin exploded “OK, wait a moment whilst I put my trousers on. I am not confronting that wretched woman in my underwear. Damn her!”

Normally Ransey would have trouble trying to persuade Bardin, Adam or Kieran to arm themselves with a gun, but on this occasion Bardin needed no coercion. He put on his gun-holder (as well as his trousers) before leaving the ship.

Accompanied by Ransey, Kieran and Hillyard he set off down Lighthouse Lane towards the barrier, where Cloris, still kitted out in big hat and tinted glasses, seemed to be trying to unlock the barrier like a zombie trying to negotiate her way through an obstacle.

“What the hell are you doing, Cloris?” Bardin shouted, although he wasn’t even sure these days if it really was Cloris he was addressing “You’re supposed to be in quarantine on your ship!”

“I’m trying to open the gate”, she mumbled, continuing to fiddle with the latch on the gate. The latch was a fairly standard, simple affair, but Cloris was struggling with it as if it was an intricate puzzle.

“CLORIS!” Kieran yelled, which at least caused her to pause in her fumblings. As Joby had sometimes put it “for such a little guy, Kieran’s got one helluva big gob on him sometimes”.

“You’re not supposed to be here!” Kieran continued “You are supposed to be in quarantine!”

Cloris raised her head and peered at him through her tinted glasses.

“Frightened I’ll spook the townsfolk?” she said “I could scare them just by walking through the town”.

“Get back on your focking ship!!” Kieran yelled “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, get back on your focking ship!”

Cloris turned and began to plod back the way she had come. She had the shuffling gate of a very old person.

“Why did she do that?!” Bardin exclaimed.

“To cause chaos and confusion in us”, said Kieran “And it worked too”.

“Yeah, but not for long”, said Hillyard.

“It doesn’t matter”, said Kieran “It’s jangled us, and that’s all she wanted. That’s how an empty soul operates”.


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