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“Well I suppose it’s very easy to keep up morale on here”, said Hillyar, standing in the doorway of the galley “We just give Bardin a good hiding!”
“Bless him, he is a good sport”, said Adam.
“He loves it”, said Joby, who was kneading dough “He can’t get enough of it”.
“Here you are”, said Adam, handing a mug of tea to Hillyard “Wrap your fingers round that”.
“Crazy, it’s not really that cold yet”, said Hillyard “Yet I aint half feeling it”.
“All that time we’ve spent in the tropics, that’s why”, said Adam.
There was the sound of a conversation from overhead, and a scampering of nimble feet on the quarterdeck steps.
“Summat’s up”, said Joby.
Umbert appeared in the doorway.
“Where’s Bardin?” he panted “An island’s appeared on the horizon. This could be it. The Watcher’s Island”.
Bardin constantly scanned the island all during the leisurely approach to it. it was a substantial rocky outcrop rising out of the increasingly grey and choppy waters. The only viable approach to it was on the south side, where a landing-jetty jutted out.
Perched high on the island was a sprawling construction built out of stone and glass.
“Looks promising”, said Bardin, lowering the binoculars “Let’s prepare to land”.
Farnol and Bengo were despatched to help Malachi come ashore. He seemed more frail and thin than ever, and had to be supported when he walked.
“Will you be able to make it up to the top of the island?” asked Bardin.
“Yes”, said Malachi “I have to go there”.
Nevertheless, in spite of his grim determination, it was a lengthy struggle to get him up the shallow concrete steps which were cut into the side of the island.
In spite of Malachi’s desperate hopes, there was no getting away from it that the island had an overwhelming feeling of abandonment to it.
This was reinforced when they reached the building at the top. The main double doors were hanging adrift on their hinges. Inside was a large, circular hallway, done out almost entirely in marble. Overhead was a circular skylight. A staircase swept up from the right-hand side. Directly overhead was another set of broken double doors gaping open.
“She’s not here!” Malachi cried “She’s not here!”
He looked as if he was about to faint. At a nod from Bardin, Farnol dragged over an old wooden chair that was resting against a wall. Malachi was helped onto it.
“We don’t know she’s not here yet”, said Bardin “We haven’t been all over this place”.
“I know she’s not here”, said Malachi.
“Well we’ll have a bit of a look round anyway”, said Adam.
A small group of them moved over to the doors opposite, and went down a few steps into another circular hallway. Due to the absence of a skylight this one was darker. Strange plant-life was growing up out of the floor and through the walls, giving everything a dark and oppressive feel. Randomly arrayed around the room were small, mysterious-looking doorways and archways, beyond which could be glimpsed little except darkness.
Back in the first hallway Malachi could be heard weeping.
“What’s the matter with him?” Joby whispered “I know he’s disappointed his friend’s not here but …”
“I think he seemed to pin all his hopes on her being here”, said Adam “We’d better get him back to Lord Robert’s yacht”.
Joby looked around him.
“Where’s Kieran?” he asked “God Almighty, I’ll wring his neck when I get hold of him”.
He found him standing just inside a nearby doorway.
“Don’t come in”, said Kieran, gesturing for him to stand back.
In the corner of the small room, which was lit by a slit-like window covered with an iron grille, was a cage. Sprawled at the bottom of it, one hand tightly gripping the bars, was what appeared to be the corpse of a woman, in an advanced stage of decomposition. All around it snakes slithered around the floor, some rolling over the human remains.
Kieran pushed everyone back out of the room and firmly closed the door.
“Is it her?” asked Joby, in a soft voice.
“I don’t know”, said Kieran “But I think it’s best at the moment if we don’t tell the old man about it”.
“Agreed”, said Adam.
Ransey nodded behind him.
“There’s nothing to be gained by telling him about this at the moment”, Kieran continued “He’s in enough of a state as it is”.
“Well someone else must’ve been on this island”, said Joby “She didn’t put herself in there”.
“It’s Satanic”, said Kieran “The snakes. Everything. But yes, you’re right, someone else has been on this island, and they conducted that murderous depravity in there”.
“I suppose the million dollar question is, are they still here?” said Adam.
“My gut feeling is no”, said Kieran “They got what they wanted and cleared out”.
“The main doors were wrenched open from the outside”, said Ransey “I noticed that as we came in, so that would fit”.
“Have you found anything?” Lord Robert appeared “We’ve searched upstairs, but the rooms are all empty”.
“It would seem to be that way here to”, said Kieran, cautiously.
“This place is depressing”, said Tamaz.
“It sure is”, said Adam “Let’s get out of here”.
“I’m very glad Freaky said that”, said Adam, when the Indigo-ites were back on the galleon “It gave us the excuse we needed to leave”.
“Well it was depressing”, said Tamaz, now seated at a corner of the dining-table.
Mugs of tea and plates of bread and jam were being passed around.
“How long do we leave it before we tell the old man what we saw?” said Hillyard.
“Oh let’s not think about that just yet”, Adam sighed, sitting down wearily.
“Well we’re such a bunch of gasbags on here, we could let it slip out anytime”, said Hillyard.
“You might”, said Joby.
“Huh!” said Hillyard.
“I’m not so sure”, said Adam “We don’t tend to gossip that much outside the family. It’s mainly on here”.
“Toppy might blurt it out when he goes over there”, Lonts boomed.
“No I won’t, Lonts”, said Toppy, in an injured tone “And I can scarcely blurt it out when we’re out at sea!”
“Which we will be very soon”, said Bardin “In fact, right when we’ve finished tea. There’s no earthly reason to hang around here. This island’s unhealthy”.
“And not exactly brimming over with fresh produce either”, said Adam.
“What direction shall we give ‘em?” Said Hiillyard “As to where we’re going? Still vaguely North?”
“Yes, but keeping a safe distance from the mainland”, said Bardin.
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