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At first it felt very strange to be away from the galleon, and living on land. The galleon was such a part of them that they felt as though someone was missing. Jane had reassured them that they would look after it scrupulously, backed up by Hannah.
“I don’t know why you have to leave though”, she said “Surely it would be better to stay here?”
Adam repeated to her what Julian had said.
“But what if you end up in one of those dreadful internment camps?” said Hannah.
“We will make sure that doesn’t happen”, said Adam, with a confidence he wished he really felt.
On the first day they didn’t go far into the forest, mainly because of all the rigmarole involved in leaving Hannah’s house. In the end they left the gypsy wagon behind, and travelled using the bus and the caravan towed by the truck. By the time everything was loaded, and all farewells said, it was late afternoon.
The first night’s encampment was in a convenient forest clearing. The intense stillness of their surroundings was unsettling.
“What’s the route for tomorrow, Bard?” asked Hillyard.
“Follow the path through the trees”, said Bardin, sitting on the bottom deck of the bus with a map on his knees, as though he was a confused passenger “This map’s no damn use”.
“They never are”, said Bengo “I dunno why you keep bothering with them”.
“Are you OK?” said Hillyard, fearing that Bardin looked in one of his contemplative moods.
“Mm yes, just a touch of stage fright”, Bardin mumbled “Wondering what we’re doing”.
“We can go back”, said Bengo “It’ll scarcely take us long!”
“No, we have to find out what’s going on”, said Bardin.
“OK”, Bengo sighed, and went to help Adam with preparing the evening meal.
“This will be the worst aspect of this”, said Adam “Cooking outside”.
“If that’s the worst thing we’re gonna have to face we’ll be laughing”, said Joby.
“Yes, I see your point”, said Adam “And Mieps says she’s looking forward to all the hunting, so plenty of fresh protein”.
Nearby, Farnol and Rumble, both stripped to the waist, were play-wrestling.
“Is there some point to this?” asked Adam.
“If it’s meant to be porn, I’ll tell you now, it doesn’t work”, said Joby.
“No it’s a routine we’re doing”, said Farnol “To send up professional wrestling. We’re still tinkering with it”.
“Well tinker a bit further away from the fire”, said Joby “Or it’ll end up being even more hilarious than you intended”.
“Sounds like something they would have done in that ghastly Cabaret Of Horrors”, said Adam.
“Don’t give Bardin ideas”, said Joby.
“There’s just one thing though”, said Rumble, pausing in his exertions “Where’s our audience coming from? Has Bardin thought of that?”
“Probably round up and kidnap the first poor bastards we meet”, said Joby.
“The travelling circus is a cover”, said Bardin, advancing on the scene “I thought I’d explained all that. We’re not doing it to earn a living”.
“Which is probably just as well”, said Joby.
The seats on the top deck of the bus had been ripped out long ago, to make living accommodation. The Indigo-ites had dragged mattresses up from the galleon to put on the floor. Julian stood amongst this basic bedding, wishing he still smoked.
“Julian”, said Hoowie, appearing at the top of the stairs “Why are you letting Bardin have his way on this trip? It all seems crazy to me”.
“I think there’s method i his madness, that’s why”, said Julian “Believe me, if I thought he’d lost the plot and his idea was crazy, I’d have slapped him down back home. But it’s not”.
“Well none of it makes sense to me”, said Hoowie.
“Now don’t adopt that wheedling tone, Hoowie”, said Julian “Come here”.
He grabbed him round the waist and squeezed his buttocks.
“Do you think I won’t miss our cabin, eh?” he said “I’ve got used to the comforts of home. I’m not sure I want to do all this. Sleeping on a rickety old bus, but needs must”.
“When the Devil drives”, said Hoowie.
“I don’t think it’s him behind all this”, said Julian “I get the impression Angel has every bit as much contempt for these dark forces as we do”.
“Why wouldn’t he? Why would anyone respect idiots like that who choose to live their lives that way?”
“Even when they’re devoted to him though?”
“Angel’s no fool. He knows they’re not capable of love. If they weren’t worshipping him, it’d be something equally pointless”.
“I think we need to leave the caravan here”, Bardin announced at the campfire supper.
“Leave the caravan here?” Hillyard exclaimed “What about the truck?!”
“Did I say the truck?” said Bardin “Did I? No. I said the CARAVAN. It’s cumbersome, and we don’t need it. OK?”
“Yeah alright, calm down”, said Hillyard.
“But it’s Hannah’s caravan, Bardin”, Lonts felt compelled to point out.
“I know”, said Bardin “We’ll collect it on the way back”.
“Still be here will it?” said Joby.
“Yeah, we can leave you here to guard it”, said Bardin.
“No we won’t”, said Adam I refuse to be parted from my assistants in these trying conditions”.
“It was a joke!” said Bardin “It wasn’t a serious suggestion. Everyone needs to bloody well calm down!”
“Yeah, including you”, said Hillyard.
“Why have we gotta sleep on the bottom deck?” said Joby, looking with dismay at the narrow seat which was to serve as his bed.
“I suppose because we’re skinny”, said Kieran “We can fit on the seats down here. Can you imagine Hillyard or Lonts trying to squeeze onto these?”
“Huh”, said Joby “So we get punished by sleeping down here, and the fatties get the soft mattresses upstairs. I’m amazed if the bus doesn’t topple over for being top-heavy”.
“Joby, will you stop your bellyaching”, said Kieran, unfolding a blanket to spread over his seat “Or we’ll never get to sleep”.
“Are you alright down here?” said Bardin, appearing at the bottom of the steps in his pink nightie.
“Oh hello skinny-ribs”, said Joby “I notice you’re upstairs though”.
“I can come down here, I don’t care”, said Bardin “I only settled in upstairs because Bengo had got our mattress already made up”.
“He’s not as daft as he looks sometimes”, said Joby.
“Don’t worry about coming down here”, said Kieran “We’ll be fine. Joby’s just having a wee grumble”.
Rumble and Ransey thumped down the narrow stairs, carrying bedding.
“Don’t worry, we’re down here to protect you”, said Rumble “Even if I have to sleep with my feet hanging over the end”.
“Oh now that does it”, said Bardin “I shall sleep down here”.
“Bardin, I think you should go upstairs”, said Kieran.
“And the sooner the better”, said Ransey.
Suddenly there was an earsplitting scream from nearby.
“That came from outside”, said Bardin.
“Well I damn well hope it didn’t come from inside!” said Ransey.
“It was out in the woods”, said Joby.
“Probably an animal”, said Kieran.
“Do you think we should go and investigate?” said Bardin.
“Bardin, I really do think you should go to bed”, said Kieran.
“We’re prepared for anything down here”, said Ransey, digging out a rifle.
“If anyone gets on we’ll demand their fare”, said Joby.
To everyone’s annoyance Bardin was up and about early the following morning, prodding the bus-camp reluctantly into life.
“We can’t leave the animals by themselves overnight”, he decreed “Not with strange noises in the woods. There could be anything out there”.
“What do you suggest then?” said Hillyard.
“Some of us will have to sleep in the teepee”, said Bardin “Good job we thought to bring it with us”.
“Everybody had better make the most of the eggs this morning”, said Adam, stoking up the camp-fire “They’ll be the least they’re going to get for a while”.
“It’s a shame the chickens couldn’t come with us”, said Lonts, sitting smoking his pipe nearby.
“It wasn’t very practical, Lo-Lo”, said Adam “It would have been very difficult to bring them along with us”.
“What are we gonna do for breakfast from now on then?” said Joby.
“Porridge”, said Adam.
“Had a horrible feeling you was gonna say that”, said Joby.
“We have plenty of oatmeal”, said Adam.
“Course we have”, said Joby “It’s the sort of shit we never run out of!”
A strange silence fell over the camp, apart from a tentative scrunching of twigs underfoot. Out of the trees emerged three emaciated figures, all wearing torn clothing. They were so far gone that it was even impossible to make out what gender they were.
“Joby”, Adam hissed “Go and get Bardin”.
As Joby rushed off towards the bus, the three human scarecrows unanimously put their arms up in the air, in the universally-recognised surrender gesture.
“Please”, one of them spoke, with great difficulty, through cracked lips “Please help us”.
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