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“And did you find anybody?” asked Finia, who was confined to bed on the galleon, riddled with cold.
“No”, said Hillyard, shedding his outdoor garments in the saloon “There was some scuttling about in the dark corners sometimes, but nobody who wanted to reveal themselves There was a deserted shower-block … ugh … gave me the creeps”.
“That was like something out of a horror film”, Joby shuddered “Grim. Kept expecting some maniac in a hockey-mask to appear, clutching a machete”.
“Let’s have some brandy”, said Hillyard, going over to the table in the corner.
“So what are we up to now?” said Finia, looking over his shoulder at the window “The weather’s getting worse”.
Before anyone could answer Julian stormed into the room, his long overcoat splattered with snow. He was clutching what seemed to be a large, heavy accounts ledger.
“Get a load of this”, he said.
“What is it?” said Joby “Crowley’s tax returns?”
“No, nincompoop”, said Julian “His blasted manual for world destruction. It’s a list of all the misery he intended to achieve”.
“Yeah take it away”, said Hillyard, waving his hand “I’ve had enough of all that for one day”.
“Keep it in a cupboard somewhere”, said Joby “We can use it to throw at the Ministry one day”.
Captain Cloris cornered Bardin in the doorway of the galleon’s dining-room, and demanded to know what his plans were. Bardin, caught on the hop, said the first thing that came into his head.
“We’re turning round”, he said “Heading back South. But not back to that cursed river we were on. We’ll find another. Try and head to the City that way”.
“Oh I suppose now I’ll get your speech about how you’re going and it’s entirely up to us whether we follow you or not, as you don’t care”, said Cloris “Well we are hardly likely to stay where we are! Or go further North in these conditions. Tell the time you’re moving on”.
“Five o’clock”, said Bardin, snappily.
“Very well”, Cloris turned and left.
Bengo burst out laughing.
“What’s so bloody funny?” said Bardin.
“You were lucky to get a word in at all there”, Bengo chortled.
Bardin cupped him round the ear with his cap. He went through to the galley, shedding his coat as he went and leaving it on the floor. He found Adam in the galley, trying to set a pan of water on the stove, but his hands were shaking.
“Damnit, my hands are too cold to work properly”, he said.
“That’s not the cold”, said Badin, taking the pan from him “It’s delayed reaction. Saw that in the theatre once. A dancer nearly got hit by a falling lighting-rig”.
“Good heavens”, said Adam.
“He was fine at the time”, said Bardin “Went all shivery and hysterical afterwards. That was a pretty awesome thing you did over there”.
“I had no plan to do it at all”, said Adam “Normally I leave all that sort of thing to Ransey. But when I saw him there. Aleister. So damn smug and and superior …”
“I know”, said Bardin.
“After all the damn trouble he’s caused as well”, Adam continued.
“Well he’s got his comeuppance”, said Bardin “I wouldn’t want to be left to rot in that place, but I sure as hell am not dragging him round the world with us. It wouldn’t be fair on anyone. He wants to be the Great Beast of Darkness. Well he can be it there”.
“This can damn well come off”, said Adam, unbuckling his gun holster and slinging it on the table “I feel utterly ridiculous walking around with that on”.
A tea-break was called in the dining-room half-an-hour before Bardin’s announced set-off time of 5 o’clock.
“I suppose we’d better stick to that now we’ve announced it to Cloris”, said Hillyard.
“Oh yes, let’s have her dictating everything”, snarled Bardin, chewing bread and jam at the end of the table “She put me on the spot, demanded an answer instantly, didn’t give me a chance to think!”
“Yeah, bit like dealing with you really!” said Hillyard.
“Oh very good, Hilly”, Adam laughed.
“Anyway”, said Julian “It’s still a good idea to head south. We can find a way to get to the City, going via our old haunt of Toondor Lanpin”.
“I was looking forward to going back to Snow Lake”, said Lonts
“We’ll go back there”, said Bardin “But we’ve got more unfinished business first. Crowley’s only the tip of a very rotten iceberg. Taking him out isn’t going to change anything on it’s own”.
The weather continued to be bad as they ventured back South. They steamed through an almost perpetual blizzard. Ransey came into the dining-room one afternoon to find Bardin and Hillyard knitting by the fire, supervised by Finia, heavily-wrapped up in a blanket.
“What are you up to?” said Ransey, in disbelief, shedding his oilskin jacket.
“Finia’s teaching us how to knit”, said Hillyard.
“What’s that meant to be?” said Ransey, pointing at the strange, elongated shape taking form under Bardin’s hands.
“Socks”, said Bardin.
“For whose feet?!” Ransey exclaimed.
He went into the galley, where Adam was sitting by the stove, stroking the ship’s cat.
“Have you seen that bunch of old women in there?” said Ransey, pointing to the dining-room “Knitting!”
“Oh well, if it keeps them out of mischief”, Adam laughed.
“Has Julian seen them?” said Ransey “God knows what he’s going to say”.
“Now don’t go all macho on us, old love”, said Adam “Bardin says he finds it relaxing”.
“That won’t last”, said Bengo, who was kneading dough at the table “He’ll get bored with it”.
“So will Hillyard”, said Ransey “I can’t see it becoming a permanent thing with him”.
“You’re hoping are you?” said Adam.
“Knitting is Finia’s job”, said Ransey “I don’t like it when people step out of their niches. You cook, I’m in charge of security, Finia knits and is in charge of the medicine chest”.
“Bardin stamps around shouting and blowing his whistle”, said Bengo.
“Well Toppy’s supposed to be in charge of housework and laundry”, said Joby, coming into the room “But that don’t stop you encouraging him to fire guns off!”
“Toppy is a crackshot”, said Ransey “I believe in people playing to their strengths. And I don’t see Bardin and Hillyard being natural old women”.
“Oh I dunno”, said Joby, and Bengo laughed.
Ransey was walking past Julian’s cabin door when Julian summoned him in, in a rather furtive manner.
“Come and have a look at this”, he said, brandishing one of the ledgers they had retrieved from Crowley’s room.
“What now?” said Ransey, in dismay.
“You’re an accountant”, said Julian “I thought you’d love looking at ledgers”.
“These aren’t accountancy ledgers, Julian”, said Ransey “They are catalogues of depravity. Written by a man who can’t think of anything better to do with this time than to hate the world”.
“Yes yes I know”, said Julian “But knowledge is power, and we need to understand what he’s been up to, if there’s any hope of fixing the mess he’s made”.
“And have you found anything useful?” said Ransey, sceptically.
“He likes his numbers”, said Julian, flicking through the pages “They are a complete obsession with him. He will put numerical significance on just about anything”.
“And what does that tell us?” said Ransey “I only want to know about Crowley if it’s something vitally important”.
“That everything is governed by dates and the possible numerical significance of people’s names”, said Julian “To name just two things. Now you can roll your eyes, but what we have to face is that his devoted followers place great emphasis on all this. Just about everything they do is ruled by it”.
“Well I’ll leave you to work it all out”, said Ransey “I’m going to have a nap”.
“Oh I’m not wasting my time working it all out”, said Julian, tossing the ledger to one side on his desk “I just think we need to know as much as possible about the mentality we’re up against that’s all”.
“The mentality we’re up against is Evil in human form”, said Ransey “There is nothing they will stop at to spread misery and destruction. THAT is all we need to know, Julian”.
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