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The fog cleared with the dawn and it was as if the town was revitalised. As no one knew exactly how long this respite from gloom might last, people spilled out into the streets and thronged the bars and shops. The bright sunlight dispelled all the horrors and unease that had built up in the fog, and Toondor Lanpin, for a little while at any rate, became a normal town.
Adam and Julian went for a walk at midday, and idly inspected some of the makeshift flea-market stalls down by the river.
“You should read more”, said Julian, turning over some battered hardbacked books “I hardly ever see you pick up a book these days”.
“I don’t exactly get much chance do I!” said Adam “I’m normally too busy cooking your bloody dinner, and what little spare time I do get I like to do some sketching in”.
“You can’t beat a good book”, said Julian, imposingly.
“How would you know?” said Adam “You only ever seem to read pornography! In fact, that’s probably what you’re looking for now!”
“Not at all”, said Julian, putting down a book and following him to the low wall which bordered the river “You’re just grumpy because you didn’t sleep well”.
“I kept hearing noises”, said Adam, uneasily “And half the time I couldn’t make out whether they were inside the house or not. I’m glad we insisted on everyone sleeping upstairs, even though the 4 clowns found it rather difficult all in the landing bed. It’s not as big as it looks”.
“They’ll just have to lump it”, said Julian “Anyway, it shouldn’t be for long. A couple more days like this and we’ll be well ahead with preparations to get back to the Bay”.
“Famous last words”, said Adam, sourly “Tomorrow I expect it’ll be more of the bloody fog!”
Julian caressed his bottom furtively.
“Got your thermals on today by any chance?” he said.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I have, you kinky sod!” Adam laughed.
“I hope you’re going to wear them at the Bay?” said Julian “Particularly when we go over to the old lighthouse by ourselves”.
“I’m hardly going to need thermal underwear at the Bay, Jules!” said Adam.
“You can wear your woolly drawers on their own”, said Julian, patting his bottom “You look so gorgeously snake-hipped in them. Only men have truly good thighs”.
A stocky, middle-aged woman stomped past them with a deep-rooted scowl on her face.
“I mean, look how bloody wide hers are!” Julian whispered “Enough to give you agoraphobia being stuck between them!”
“I think that’s what some men actually like”, said Adam “The wide beam”.
“Rather them than me!” said Julian “Come along, I’m getting peckish. Let’s go and find something to eat”.
They turned down a side street and came to a fish bar which had a queue of people forming inside it.
“We must get some more salt”, said Adam, noticing a jar of the stuff on the counter-top “Particularly if Patsy’s going to keep sprinkling it all around the house at night”.
“Give him his due, it seemed to do the trick”, said Julian.
An old man standing behind them wheezed badly.
“Would you like to go in front of us, old love?” said Adam.
“You sure?” the old man wheezed.
“Yes, your time seems to be rather more precious!” said Julian, caustically.
The queue had shuffled forward slightly when Adam noticed Kieran, Joby, Hillyard and Mieps all laughing at them from the open doorway.
“Go away!” Adam mouthed at them, which had the opposite effect of luring them in.
“Oh dear, roughing it in the chippie eh?” said Joby “You do realise they don’t have waiter service in here don’t you?”
“Don’t be tiresome”, said Adam “We have been in one before”.
“Many times in fact”, said Julian. He got Joby in an armlock and aimed mock-punches at his face.
“And what have you done with Lo-Lo?” said Adam “I thought he was going out with you”.
“He changed his mind at the last minute”, said Kieran, scowling at a whole chicken which was roasting on a spit in a glass cabinet “Went down to Persephone’s with Tamaz instead”.
“Bardin’s there too”, said Mieps.
“We wouldn’t let him smoke his filthy old pipe with us”, said Joby “So he got snotty and said he’d smoke it down the bar. That should clear out all the other customers!”
“You lot pushed in”, said the current man behind them in the queue.
“That’s alright”, said Hillyard, pulling out a wad of banknotes “It’s all on me!”
A ripple of appreciation ran down the queue.
“You won’t keep your fortune for much longer at this rate”, said Julian, in a low voice.
“Who cares?” said Hillyard, jovially.
“You will”, said Joby “When you have to go back to doing blow-jobs at the bath-house so that Adam can go food-shopping!”
“We’re not going to need money at the Bay are we!” Hillyard pointed out “Anyway, if for any reason we have to leave there again, and we can’t afford to keep up the Town House, then Codlik and Glynis’ll just have to put us up, won’t they?”
“Don’t say that!” said Adam, horrified “Not even in jest!”
“The thought sends shivers down my spine!” said Julian.
Persephone’s bar was the busiest it had been in several days, and had such a fuggy atmosphere from an assortment of pipes, cigars and cigarettes, plus the log-fire, that Lonts’s odorous pipe was barely noticed. He was sitting by the fire with most of the others, apart from Ransey, Finia and Toppy, who were back at home “minding the house”.
Tamaz was sitting next to Lonts, with his fur coat draped over his shoulders, and admiring his bracelet in the firelight everytime he raised his glass to his lips. Bardin was buried in the latest edition of the local newspaper. A lot of shuffling went on as everyone was seated. Bengo got up so that Julian could sit down and then perched on his knee, nibbling his ear.
“The old fisherman at the bar ent half giving you some funny looks”, Hillyard chuckled, putting down a tray of beer on the hearth.
“He looks like he’s been at sea for about a 100 years”, said Adam “So I can’t imagine Bengo’s showing him anything he hasn’t seen before!”
“Just tell him we’re a bunch of kinky old pirates”, said Joby.
“I’ll take Bengo home in a minute”, said Bardin, distractedly.
“Is there anything interesting in the local rag, Bardin?” asked Adam.
“No”, said Bardin.
“Well you seem to be glued to its pages”, said Adam.
“I’m trying to see if it says anything about what’s been going on in this town lately”, said Bardin “But they just seem to be getting hysterical about the flu epidemic or TB epidemic, they can’t decide what it is. We’re not supposed to go bothering the doctors, apparently”.
“Whyever not?” said Adam “I thought that’s what they were there for!”
“They can’t cope with the amount of people who are ill”, said Bardin “The hospital’s run out of beds. That’s exactly what they told me when I took Bengo there a few days ago”.
“Nobody could make up their minds what was wrong with me either”, said Bengo “First it was flu, then it was TB, then I was hexed!”
“Don’t sound like such an ungrateful little scrote”, said Joby “We got you cured didn’t we!”
“Of course he’s ungrateful”, said Julian “He’s ridiculously spoilt that’s why, like you all are!”
“Including you”, Joby mumbled.
“Perhaps all the people in the hospital are hexed too”, said Lonts.
“Well if they weren’t before they went in, they probably are now!” said Joby.
“Perhaps we should get Kieran to tour the wards”, said Julian “Somebody should’ve thought of that in our time. Free exorcisms on the NHS!”
Ransey pushed through the throng in the room and galloped up to them, breathlessly.
“You haven’t run all the way down the street have you, old love?” said Adam.
“He’s probably just run from the door here”, said Julian “Wants us to believe he’s run all the way down the street!”
“Codlik’s turned up!” Ransey gasped, pointing behind him in the vague direction of the Town House “He’s been trying to get here for days apparently, but the fog held him up. He had to wait until he’d heard it’d cleared at this end”.
“That’s something we’ve got to thank it for anyway!” said Julian.
“You should have sent Toppy down to tell us”, said Adam “Not run here yourself”.
“Wise-up, Ada”, said Julian “He was probably desperate for an excuse to leave the house!”
“Finia went straight back to bed when he heard his voice downstairs!” said Ransey, collapsing into a chair Mieps had vacated for him.
“What does the saintly one want anyway?” said Julian “What excuse has he got for preying on us this time?”
“Glynis wanted to donate a Christmas hamper to the hospital”, said Ransey “But she can’t fly in herself in her condition, so she’s sent Buggerlugs instead. He’s just returned from giving it to them”.
“Oh lor”, said Adam “So he’s probably wafting around all pious and sanctimonious, consumed with the virtue of doing good works”.
“He’s already asked us if we’ve done anything like that”, said Ransey, tartly.
“Yes we have”, said Julian “Hillyard practically bought the entire town fish-and-chips for lunch!”
“Anyway, it’s really me who’s donated the hamper”, said Hillyard “It’s my food she’s giving away”.
“Yes, but even you can’t manage to eat it all yourself!” said Ransey.
“Oh I dunno”, said Joby, prodding Hillyard’s stomach.
“Is he staying long?” said Julian, warily “I mean, shouldn’t he get away NOW before the fog comes back again?”
“You think I haven’t already mentioned that!” said Ransey “But he doesn’t seem in any hurry to get back to the hen-coop”.
“Well we can’t leave poor little Toppy to entertain him all alone”, said Adam.
“Sounds like a great meeting of minds to me!” said Joby, which made Lonts hoot with laughter.
Everybody sat absorbing the joke for a few minutes, staring into the fire.
“So are you going to come home and see him then?” said Ransey, abruptly.
“Do we have a choice?” Julian spat “Do we ever have a choice where anything with Codlik’s concerned?!”
Toppy was immensely relieved when they all finally returned. He had tried to make small talk with Codlik in the living-room over the tea-cups, but had been constantly distracted by the sordid post-Christmas state of the room. There was dust everywhere, and the Christmas tree, as well as shedding baubles at a rate of knots, was beginning to lurch drunkenly in one direction. He suddenly had a mad urge to spring-clean the room, but he could hardly do that with Codlik sitting there.
The others piled back into the house. Lonts ordered Toppy to make more tea. Bardin could be heard ordering Hoowie to stay upstairs out of the way, as he couldn’t be trusted not to upset their distinguished guest. As it turned out, Julian was going to make a pretty good job of that himself. It transpired that one of the men on the estate, who fancied himself as a bit of a poet, had made up a song about Codlik, depicting him as a serial heartbreaker. Codlik was rather upset about this. Julian thought it was hilarious.
“If you’re going to slander someone”, he guffawed “At least try and make it remotely plausible!”
“Jules”, Adam hissed, and nodded his head in Mieps’s direction. Mieps was picking out random chords on the piano.
“Oh yes, I almost forgot about that little incident”, said Julian, lying, he hadn’t forgotten about it at all.
“What has Glynis said about it all?” said Adam.
“She laughed”, said Codlik, in an injured tone.
“Well she always did have a fairly broad sense of humour”, Adam sighed.
“Matches the rest of her”, Julian muttered.
“Julian!” said Adam, just as the foghorns started up yet again outside “Oh that bloody fog!”
“Shouldn’t you be getting off now?” said Julian to Codlik “Whilst you still can”.
“Actually my pilot wanted to spend the night with his family here in the town”, said Codlik “So I wondered if … if …”
“Not up to me”, said Julian, curtly “Bardin’s in charge now”.
“We can hardly turn him out onto the street!” said Bardin.
Joby had opened the window which overlooked the street, and was leaning out of it to see how quickly the fog was coming down.
“You’re letting the heat out”, said Hillyard, slapping his rump and pulling him back in, then shutting the window.
“Joby, behave yourself”, said Kieran, observing the giggly, girly state Hillyard’s close proximity had induced in Joby “Or I’ll have to take the riding-crop to you again!”
The vital question then arose, where was Codlik to sleep? Julian’s over-riding concern was that it shouldn’t be anywhere near Mieps. Ransey suggested he could sleep alone downstairs in Bengo and Bardin’s bed, and he could have the spare revolver with him for protection. Codlik was more than capable of handling a gun, like all presidents he had been taught how to shoot for self-defence purposes, but like the other ex-President in the house, Kieran (also a crack-shot on the quiet), he didn’t like handling them, and baulked at the idea. It was decided eventually that he could sleep in the big armchair in Kieran’s room, the one in Julian’s room being out of bounds because Mieps would be up there.
Kiean and Joby went upstairs to sort out spare blankets. Tamaz followed them up, but got sidetracked by the stern lecture Julian was delivering to Mieps in the doorway of one of the bathrooms, about The Absolute Necessity For His Behaviour To Be Completely Beyond Reproach Whilst Codlik Was In The House. Mieps was looking practically demonic about it all. The truth was though, that in spite of his normally quiet, reserved behaviour, he could be as outrageous as Tamaz if he sensed the opportunity to toy with a victim in the offing.
“You should hear the old snake getting an earful out there”, said Tamaz, going into his room where Kieran and Joby were exchanging snide comments “Oh what’s got into you two? Kieran, you’re crazy if you’re getting jealous of Hillyard”.
“He’s not really”, said Joby “He just wants an excuse to get all masterful with me”.
“Yeah, and it might also have something to do with the fact that I didn’t want you sticking your head out of the window whilst the fog was coming down!” said Kieran.
“I’m sick of that fucking fog dictating to us how we live”, said Joby.
“And you think I’m not?” Kieran squawked.
Tamaz listened with growing annoyance to them bickering. When they quarrelled they got completely absorbed in their own words and each other, and tended to forget he was in the room.
“Stop it!” he cried “You two get really boring when you carry on like that. Joby, you’re being unreasonable. This is exactly what Angel wants, he wants us all falling out like this. Me and Kieran know that, we know what makes him tick”.
“You bloomin’ well should”, Joby grumbled “You’re all 3 of you kindred spirits!”
“Would you like to smack the self-opinionated little pillock or shall I?” said Kieran to Tamaz.
Tamaz mischievously whispered something in Kieran’s ear, which made them both laugh. Joby noticed the way Kieran glanced upwards.
“This had better not be anything to do with Julian!” he exclaimed.
“Hah!” said Kieran “I don’t need Julian’s help to keep you in line, I can do it meself”.
Adam banged on the living-room ceiling with a broom, summoning Joby downstairs for kitchen duty.
“Better not keep Sir waiting”, said Kieran.
“Joby, don’t make me come up there and fetch you”, Adam called from the bottom of the stairs.
Joby galloped downstairs in a filthy temper. Adam was standing by the newel-post, holding onto the broom.
“Don’t you give me a hard time this evening”, Joby jabbed his finger at him warningly “’Cos if you do I’m liable to shove that broom up your arse! Mind you, being such an old faggot you’d probably enjoy that!”
Adam pushed him into the kitchen, where a tired-looking Lonts was sitting at the table, sucking his thumb and absorbed in one of his ‘Happy Bears’ books. Hillyard was also there, putting fresh kindling in the stove.
“What’s he doing in here?” Joby pointed at Lonts “Getting in the way I suppose”.
“Don’t start on Lo-Lo, he’s very tired”, said Adam “He didn’t sleep very well last night, and he didn’t get his nap this afternoon”.
Joby grave a strangulated cry, which sounded half-human, and ran into the pantry, slamming the door behind him.
“Shall I go and talk to him, Adam?” said Lonts.
“No it’s o.k, I’ll go”, said Adam, squeezing Lonts’s shoulder as he went past.
Adam found Joby sitting on the stool in the pantry, hugging himself and crying.
“I know you’re worried about Patsy”, said Adam, cradling Joby’s head in his arms.
“It never stops!” Joby gulped.
“No my little one, and it never will”, said Adam, gently “I know it’s shitty, but that’s the price you pay I’m afraid”.
“I have tried so hard these last few years to stop fighting and accept it more”, said Joby.
“And you’ve got it right”, said Adam “After all, you don’t want to stop fighting completely. Your fighting spirit is such an adorable part of you”.
“I just wish he’d get rid of Angel!” said Joby.
“How many times have we got rid of Angel now?” said Adam “We’ve tried everything, and he always comes back! The best we’ve ever had is a few years respite from him. He’s playing a different game at the moment that’s all. Instead of carnage and mayhem, he’s causing day-by-day worries and stresses”.
“I think I preferred the carnage and mayhem!” Joby sniffed.
“Is he winning over us, hm?” said Adam.
“Seems to be”, said Joby, glumly.
“Nonsense!” said Adam “We’re all still here, we all still have a good time. He’s the sad loser who’s out there in the cold, with nothing better to do than to plot petty tortures for us”.
“What if he gets bored with that though, and decides to really harm one of us?” Joby dropped his voice to a whisper “I mean, he could kill one of us whilst we slept. The baby, say”.
“He won’t”, said Adam, firmly “He’s had more than enough chances to do that over the years, and it must have been very tempting for him, the ultimate way to cause us pain. But by doing that he would make Patsy stronger than ever. He would put him in the position of having nothing to lose. Angel can’t afford to play his trump card, it would leave him with nowhere further to go”.
“I just hope he’s got the sense to realise that”, said Joby, sceptically.
Hillyard’s stocky form appeared in the doorway.
“I’m going to make some coffee. Does he want any?” he said, nodding at Joby.
“I’m not off me head you know, you can talk to me direct!” said Joby.
“We’ll all have one, Hillyard”, said Adam.
Kieran could be heard in the kitchen soon after this.
“Joby’s having hysterics in the pantry”, Hillyard informed him.
“Oh terrific”, Joby sighed “Nice one, Hillyard!”
“What’s up?” said Kieran, coming into the pantry.
“I think he just gets a little stressed out with being with you”, said Adam.
“Me?” Kieran exclaimed “What’s so wrong with me then?”
“Joby can find you quite wearing to live with sometimes”, said Adam.
“Not half as wearing as I find him!” said Kieran “You’re too soft on him, that’s your trouble”.
“For heaven’s sake, I get quite enough of comments like that from Julian!” said Adam “And that reminds me, I shall you two to be extra kind to me this evening. He’s bound to take it out on me because Codlik’s here”.
“Why?” said Joby “It’s not your fault. You didn’t invite him here”.
“Don’t you know Julian yet after all these years of living with him?” said Adam “Logic and reasoning don’t come into it in the slightest! Now let’s get started on the dinner. Toppy took in the grocer’s delivery whilst we were out, so we’ve got fresh fruit and vegetables. I thought we’d do carrot and orange soup. Any snide remarks about the seasoning, Joby, and I shall do to you with the cheese-board what Julian once did to me!”
“Well it’ll make a change from the wooden spatula!” said Joby.
“Patsy, you can give us a hand”, said Adam.
“Me?” said Kieran, in astonishment.
“Even you can manage to scrape the carrots!” Adam retorted.
“Joby, my eyes are getting tired”, said Lonts, when they all gathered round the kitchen table “Can you read to me?”
“How can I when I’m working?” said Joby.
“Well, will you read to me after dinner then?” said Lonts.
“Do I have a choice!” said Joby.
“Don’t be churlish, Joby”, said Adam “You know how much he enjoys you reading to him”.
Hillyard suddenly had an attack of giggles.
“Is he alright?” said Joby, looking at him warily.
“I was just thinking”, said Hillyard “We’re the original lot aren’t we? The original 5, the ones who’ve been together the longest”.
“And that’s funny is it?” said Joby, dubiously.
“I bet when we were travelling in the litter to the Freak Colony that we couldn’t have imagined, all these years on, we’d be sat around here like this”, said Hillyard.
“Oh I don’t know, Hilly”, said Adam “I think we always suspected deep down that there was something special binding us all together”.
“Except when you put me in hospital”, Lonts boomed.
“I might’ve known that’d come up!” said Joby.
“We didn’t have the wit to understand you in those days, Lonts”, said Kieran “Seeing as we didn’t even understand ourselves”.
“One bit of commonsense we have learned though”, said Joby “And that’s to keep Hillyard from making his carrot stew!”
“Now listen to me, Ugly Git”, said Hillyard “If it wasn’t for my much-maligned carrot stew, you’d have died!”
“You can see we get on just as well now as we did then!” said Kieran.
“I’ll tell you something”, said Hillyard “I bet we’re getting on better in here than the living-room lot are!”
Julian was wretched with boredom. He had been marooned in the living-room, entertaining Codlik. Finia and Ransey were also there, but Finia was absorbed in his sewing-box, and Ransey was avidly going over all the tradesmens’ invoices which had come in since Christmas, chewing the end of his pencil with a zealous look in his eye, like a fanatical tax inspector. The clowns were flitting around the ground floor of the house like a gang of hyperactive children, not staying around long enough to take the burden of conversation away from Julian. At least Mieps was mercifully out of the way, sulking upstairs somewhere after his scolding earlier.
Codlik had whined about various things to do with estate, and had then turned his attention to the Indigo-ites set-up, criticism of which was usually never too slow in coming from him. He found it hard to believe that Julian had really relinquished power to Bardin. Codlik would have been appalled to be called a snob, and he sincerely believed in equality for all, and everyone being judged on their own merits. In practise though he had spent most of his adult life in fairly exclusive circles, and to those kind of people, vaudeville performers like the clowns were regarded as being barely one step away from tramps and beggars on the ladder of society. It wasn’t as if they were even serious actors or classically-trained dancers (an opinion that would have quite rightly infuriated Bardin), and as such Codlik was amazed that Julian had put a theatrical clown in charge.
He made digs about Bardin’s leadership qualities, which only made Julian yearn for a cigar. He slapped the arms of his chair in frustration as he tried to work out where Hillyard might have hidden the key to the drawer in their room this time.
“I don’t believe a word of this bill from the butchers”, Ransey suddenly spoke “I think the whole things a tissue of lies, a gigantic try-on. Even we can’t have ordered this much over Christmas!”
He screwed it up and tossed it over to Julian, who caught it deftly and smoothed it out.
“You’d better check with Adam before you go making threatening noises in the town”, he said “For all we know, he might well have ordered all this”.
“I’ll be having strong words with him if he did”, said Ransey, sternly.
“No you won’t”, said Julian “You go as soft as butter when you’re around Adam. I’ll tell him off for you”.
“I’m sure you will”, said Ransey, dryly.
Julian looked at Bengo, who had come into the room and who was now holding his leg up against the piano, doing muscle-flexing exercises like a ballet-dancer.
“Bengo, go and find Hillyard”, said Julian “And tell him I desperately need a cigar”.
Bengo came over to him and stood there, looking disconcerted.
“Well go on!” said Julian “Do as you’re told”.
“I can’t!” Bengo exclaimed, dropping to his knees and grasping Julian’s arm “You see, Bardy doesn’t approve of your smoking either, and if I go helping you I’ll be an accomplice!”
Julian found Bengo’s whole attitude too amusing to get annoyed. Instead he said, softly “O.K, send Hoowie to find him then. Mercifully, he hasn’t got a conscience!”
Bengo obeyed this time.
“As you can see”, Julian remarked to Codlik “It’s Bardin who instills the most terror around here!”
“A good leader has no need to inspire terror”, said Codlik, primly.
“It was a joke!” Julian roared, causing Finia to drop the needle he was trying to thread.
“Heaven help us, he gets worse!” said Julian, a couple of hours later, when he was having a quiet drink alone with Adam in his bedroom on the top floor.
“I don’t think he does, Jules”, said Adam, who was perched cross-legged in the armchair by the fire “It’s simply that we forget when we’re apart from him just how earnest he can be”.
“That man’s a walking nightmare”, said Julian, pouring out a couple of brandies for them “The guest from Hell!”
“Oh by tomorrow he’ll have settled down”, said Adam “He wasn’t too much trouble when he stayed here before”.
“That was before the great affair with Mieps started”, said Julian “I swear that if I catch him fondling his tits in front of Codlik again, half-woman or not, I’ll thrash the living daylights out of him”.
“That would delight Freaky no end”, said Adam.
“I’ll do him too”, said Julian, sitting down on the other side of the hearth “No beating is ever wasted on Freaky. We’ll have Worldwide Hermaphrodite-Bashing Day! And I expect Codlik wouldn’t like that joke either!”
“We must supply something he needs though”, said Adam “Because he enjoys staying with us, in spite of all his criticising. The Big House must get very tedious for him at times. It’ll be different when Leon’s a little older, but at the moment Codlik’s surrounded by women up there. I’d be bored out of my mind in his place, and I don’t want any snide comments from you about how well I’d fit in!”
“As far as they’re concerned you would!” said Julian “Anyway, he’s not surrounded by women. There are plenty of stewards up there”.
“They’re even worse!” said Bardin, carrying a bucket of coal into the room “Living with them must be like living in a houseful of Toppy’s!”
“Oh you clowns are so cruel about Toppy”, said Adam “You don’t take any pains to understand him”.
“Listen”, said Bardin, putting a shovel-load of coal on the fire “If he had his way we’d all be sleeping in kennels outside, so that we couldn’t mess the house up! He gives as good as he gets, believe me! You didn’t live in the caravan with him!”
“Why is Bengo skulking out on the landing?” said Julian, glancing over at the door, which was slightly ajar.
“I didn’t know he was”, said Bardin “He must’ve followed me upstairs”.
“Don’t hang around out there, Bengo”, said Adam “It’s draughty, and you’re not completely well yet”.
Bengo drifted into the room, sobbing and knuckling his eyes like a little boy.
“What is it now?” Bardin exclaimed.
“I heard the wolves in the bathroom”, Bengo blubbed.
“We’ve got wolves in our bathroom?” said Julian “That’s going to make things a trifle inconvenient isn’t it?!”
“There’s no need to get upset, Bengo”, said Adam “They can’t get in the house”.
“Pull yourself together”, said Bardin, sternly.
“Aw Bengo, ignore nasty man and come to Daddy!” Julian cooed.
Bengo threw himself on his lap.
“There there!” said Julian, patting his bottom “What a nice, juicy little arse you’ve got. There there!”
“He’s always done this!” Bardin squawked “Gets himself in a state about nothing at all. It’s a good job we’re not still on the stage or he’d have climbed up into the flies and got himself stuck, and then Muggins here would be the one who would have to get him down! He used to sit up there, bawling!”
“Oh I bet he was so sweet”, said Adam.
“No damn difference to now”, said Bardin “He hasn’t changed at all!”
“Perhaps it’s not just us wrinklies who are getting younger then”, said Adam “Perhaps Bengo’s going into his second childhood”.
“He never came out of the first!” said Bardin.
“I’m sorry, Bardy”, Bengo whimpered “But that eerie sound really got to me”.
“Be patient with him, Bardin”, said Adam “It’s a touch of cabin-fever, and he’s been so under the weather these past couple of weeks. I don’t think we’ll get him fully right again until we get back to the Bay”.
“Why don’t you two younger ones cheer yourselves up with a bit of fun?” said Julian “Fool around naked on my bed over there, and then we can watch!”
“Jules, you’re utterly depraved!” said Adam.
“Have I ever pretended to be anything else?” said Julian, as the clowns hurriedly undressed and then ran hand-in-hand over to the bed.
In the room below Codlik was arranging his personal things on the washstand. He could very clearly hear the sounds of exuberant lovemaking above, but for once wasn’t getting vexed about it. For once he couldn’t bring himself to disapprove of the Indigo-ites. When the fog had come down in all its full force after dark, he realised just what they had all been living under these past couple of weeks. He had heard all about it at the hospital earlier, and Ransey had just brought him up to date on all their own tribulations. Bengo’s illness, the possibility of a zombie lurking on their doorstep after dark, Angel’s annoying visits, the way that the sense of evil nearby was now so palpable that Kieran sealed them in with salt at night and nobody was to sleep downstairs. Codlik marvelled that they hadn’t all gone mad under the strain. The Town House was a substantial, 5-bedroomed detached building, but after the Big House it felt like a rabbit-hutch. Codlik was amazed they hadn’t cracked from claustrophobia and cabin-fever.
“Has it been as bad as this all the time?” he asked Kieran, who had joined him at the bedroom window.
“On and off since Solstice Night”, said Kieran “More often on than off unfortunately”.
“I had no idea it got this bad”, said Codlik “When we heard about it at the Big House we thought it was just river fog”.
“Oh this is something else”, said Kieran “It’s coming up from below. Something’s happened down there. I think the atmosphere of Hell is trying to impinge itself on us all up here. It’s happened before. During monsoon seasons for instance”.
“What can be done?” said Codlik “Are you going to go down there again?”
“Not if I can possibly help it!” said Kieran, emphatically “Twice was more than enough! We’re completely at the mercy of serious mischief-makers like Angel down there. It’s a horrible thought”.
“Everybody here has coped very well”, said Codlik.
“I know”, said Kieran “They’re special. That’s why I …”
He stopped, abruptly. But Codlik knew what he was going to say. All along Kieran had made out that his people had made a choice to be with him, the truth was more likely though that he had chosen them, sensing some hidden quality in them that they probably weren’t even aware of themselves, and which would be impossible to summarise.
When Ransey and Hillyard walked around the house, sealing it up for the night, Codlik went with them. He held a candle whilst Hillyard locked and bolted the back door. It was the first time he had ever been alone with Hillyard and, conscientious to a fault as he was, he felt he should say something about Leon’s progress.
“Glad you didn’t bring him with you”, was all Hillyard said “This town’s no place for him at the moment”.
There was no arguing with this unassailable fact, and for Codlik to start going on about Glynis at this time would have been very petty, considering the circumstances.
Joby came out of the bathroom wearing only a damp towel. When he went into his bedroom he found Bengo and Tamaz both trying to wrestle each other without using their arms. They did this by trying to trap each other with their legs and thighs, whilst all the time keeping their hands behind their backs.
“Clear off, Bengo”, said Joby, chucking the towel at him.
Bengo released his legs from around Tamaz and promptly fell back onto the floor.
“I see you’ve hung onto this”, he said, finding the riding-crop sticking out from under the bed “You must like it too. In future, I can say you’re just as weird as me when it comes to getting your kicks”.
“Don’t be cheeky”, said Joby, sitting on the edge of the bed and beginning to clean out his ears with a cotton wool-bud “Anyway, I couldn’t possibly be as weird as you!” “Wanna bet?” said Bengo “I’ve got an idea for an experiment which will show you just how kinky you can be”.
He flung himself across Joby’s bony knees and pulled up his shirt, the only item of clothing he was wearing.
“Smack my butt”, he ordered Joby, causing Tamaz to yodel with delight.
“What for?” said Joby.
“I’ll tell you when you’ve done it”, said Bengo “Smack my butt”.
Joby dealt him such a ringing blow on the behind that not only did Bengo flinch, but Tamaz did as well!
“Did you enjoy that?” Bengo mumbled.
“Yeah. So what does that prove then?” said Joby, when Bengo had got up again.
“That … um …” Bengo was slightly shaken by the force of the blow and was rubbing his behind “That you get your kicks out of being walloped as much as I do”.
“Eh?” said Joby “But I was the one doing the smacking, not getting smacked meself!”
“Oh … yes”, said Bengo, disconcerted “I’ll have to think of another experiment won’t I?”
“You’re just plain daft you are”, said Joby, shooing him out of the room “In fact, if you got any dafter it’d be frightening!”
Kieran crossed in the doorway with Bengo.
“If he had a brain he’d be dangerous!” said Joby.
“Very!” said Kieran, slapping Joby’s extending penis.
“Kieran!” Joby exclaimed.
He went to the door and looked out onto the landing. He was embarrassed to find all 4 clowns now in the bed there and staring at him, 3 of them with blatant amusement, and Bengo with mild apprehension, as though Joby was about to come and smack him again. Bardin, who was wearing his flat cap for warmth, gave him a gay little wave. Joby slammed the door on them.
“Codlik isn’t in here yet!” Kieran could be heard shouting.
Joby muttered something unintelligible in reply.
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