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"Well this is just fine", Joby grumbled "I get lumbered with you again".
Lonts's bottom lip trembled in reply. Joby had him by his wrist and was hauling him around the shops on the promenade.
"I'm not such bad company am I?" said Lonts.
"No", Joby conceded, ungraciously "But did you have to wear that outfit again?"
"Adam likes me in it".
"Yeah, so does everyone else, that's the trouble!"
"I know you're worried about Kieran and that's why you're being grumpy", said Lonts "But he won't become President again. He's said so often enough".
"Maybe, but he's started staying out of sight hasn't he? I mean, look at yesterday. He was walking round with us, no worries. And now today he's decided to stay in the tent, hiding behind Ransey".
"He just wants to give everyone a chance to cool down, that's all".
"Oh what do you know?!"
"I'm not a baby", Lonts protested "I listen to people, I know what they're saying. Adam often talks to me, asks my advice on things. And if he wasn't insisting on keeping an eye on Kieran this morning, he'd be with me now".
"Alright", Joby sighed "Let's take a breather for a moment".
They sat down on a bench near the entrance to the pier, and took turns to swig from a bottle of water.
"We've just got to buy some more bread and then we we can go back to the camp", said Joby, checking the bags of shopping.
"You're annoyed about Kieran saying behind aren't you?"
"It's not his fault. I'm more annoyed at those jerks last night, ruining everything. Kieran's been doing so well these last few months. Eating properly, going out again, ignoring everyone who stares. And now it's all starting again. It get me so frustrated".
"I understand", said Lonts "I sometimes think that if the Ministry won't give us Wolf Castle back, we should find another desert island".
"It might still come to that", said Joby "It'd be the only way we'd get any peace".
"Hello, it's Baby Lonts isn't it?"
Joby didn't like the look of the man standing in front of them who had spoken. He was middle-aged with dark brown hair scraped back from his face, which sported a goatee beard. His eyes were piercing.
"It's just Lonts actually", said Lonts, shortly.
The man continued to stand there. Joby decided it was time for them to make a move.
"I'll take you on a carriage ride before we go back", he said, indicating for Lonts to follow him.
"Didn't he have strange eyes, Joby?" said Lonts, as they walked away from the stranger.
They had hired one of the carriages that regularly patrolled the length of the promenade from one end to the other, pulled by fey-looking little white horses.
"That strange man", said Lonts, once they were ensconced in one the seats "Do you think he was repressed? Adam says Ransey's repressed, and that's what makes him say strange things sometimes".
"More than likely", said Joby.
"I'd hate to be in a relationship with someone who didn't want sex", said Lonts "Wouldn't you?"
"Yeah well we're not are we?" said Joby "And I can't believe Adam keeps you short in that department, seeing as he can't keep his hands off you most of the time".
"And Kieran's the same with you, it's wonderful isn't it?"
Joby smiled at him warmly. They had both been so busy talking that they hadn't noticed the carriage coming slowly to a halt. Joby only gradually became aware that the rocking motion had stopped. When he went to ask the driver what had happened he noticed that the man with the piercing eyes was standing close by the carriage on the kerbside. He had been flagging the carriage down with the kind of urgency that usually meant someone was hurt and needed help. He stepped towards them, pulling something out of his back pocket as he walked.
"SHIT!" Joby roared, and flung himself across Lonts, who had been looking the other way. Something sharp grazed Joby's arm, and he noticed a switchblade knife hurtle out of his line of vision. By the time he had recovered his senses the stranger was nowhere to be seen.
"And you're absolutely certain the knife was intended for Lonts?" said the Constable, after Joby's arm had been stitched up in the Casualty unit of the Magnolia Cove Cottage Hospital.
"He was looking straight at Lonts when he got the knife out of his pocket", said Joby, glancing at the said boy who was looking with fascination at Joby's x-ray pictures "I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant for me, especially as it was Lonts he was talking to earlier. Some crazy idiot with a Baby Lonts fixation probably. There's a lot of it about. It's one reason why we don't let him out on his own".
"You're not having much of a holiday are you?" said the Constable "Trouble in the streets last night and now this".
"Oh I see, so I suppose suddenly all the crime in this town is our fault is it?"
"I never said that".
"No, but I bet you'll be relieved when we're gone".
"I've arranged for you to be escorted back to your camp-site", said the Constable "I have limited resources, but I can post someone on special guard duty for you for the duration of your stay".
"Thanks, that'll really make our holiday that will!" said Joby "I'd rather you put all your resources into catching that nutter. We've got Ransey to protect us".
The Constable left the room, but one of his guards hovered in the doorway pointedly, waiting to escort them back.
"God, I could do with a drink", said Joby "I hope we've still got some back at the camp. We'd better not keep Sherlock waiting, Lonts".
Lonts turned towards him. Although outwardly calm, there were tears on his cheeks.
"You saved my life, Joby", he whispered.
"Try not to think about it, you'll only upset yourself", said Joby, lightly kissing the boy's hair.
"Did you think when you saw him, that you must save me?" said Lonts.
"I didn't really think anything, it was just instinct, reflex action and all that", said Joby "I'm not looking forward to Adam hearing about it, that much I do know. I'm so bleedin' angry though. Jerks like that always make me angry. I think it's because they make me feel helpless too, the way they can just spring on your out of nowhere. One second off your guard and that's it".
"But you were prepared to get hurt to save me".
"Well I wasn't going to sit there whilst he stabbed you in the throat was I!" Joby exclaimed "Let's get back Lonts, my legs are starting to feel a bit wobbly. I think it's delayed reaction".
"Bandages are fascinating aren't they!" said Joby sarcastically, as Kieran finished his inspection of his friend's arm.
"You were damn lucky, Jobe", Kieran whispered.
"Funny how you're always saying that to me", said Joby "All across the years I can hear you telling me how lucky I am. When I got my feet broken by Gabriel, I was lucky. When I got blinded in on eye, I was lucky. Now I've been attacked by a knife-wielding psychopath, I'm lucky again! You wouldn't be Irish by any chance?"
"I mean it could have been worse than a few stitches".
"It wouldn't have happened at all I expect if you'd been there", said Joby, getting emotional in spite of himself "See what happens when you're not around to keep an eye on me! I'm a walking bloody disaster area! Nutters have always been able to single me out, right from when I was at primary school. It'd always be me who got cornered in the bogs by the class thug".
"But that's because you're irresistible, Joby", Kieran laughed and kissed him tenderly "I'm sorry I wasn't there. I wished I'd gone with you as soon as you left this morning".
"You should've done", said Joby "Not hung around here, hiding in Ransey's trouser-pocket".
"I'm sorry, it won't happen again".
"You keep saying that".
Kieran sat down on Joby's knee and began to kiss him very thoroughly. They were interrupted by Hillyard coughing in a very pointed fashion.
"Sorry", he said, leading Lonts into the tent "But I'm gonna settle Lonts for the night. He keeps getting tearful. I think he's tired more than anything".
"You obviously haven't had enough brandy, Lonts", said Kieran.
"Where's Adam then?" said Joby.
"Gone for a little stroll", said Hillyard "Not far, just up the coast for a bit".
"Is he still upset?" said Kieran.
"Well according to Julian just now we shouldn't be surprised", said Hillyard "His comment was that Adam could make a five-hour opera out of the milk going off!"
"That's true", said Joby.
"Julian's gone after him, try and calm him down. He says where Adam's concerned he sometimes feels like a jockey with a frisky racehorse".
"Go away, Jules", said Adam, who was sitting on a tree-stump, staring out across the mud flats. The power-station hummed continuously in the distance.
"Well that's a nice thing to say", said Julian "After I've taken my trousers off to cheer you up too!"
Julian wore only a white shirt flapping over his bathing-trunks. It certainly was an uplifting sight, but Adam was determined not to be cheered for too long. He suddenly got up and began to run across the mud flats, sending the mud splattering up his bare legs. Julian gave pursuit and managed to over-take him after a short distance.
"I always was a better runner than you", he said, triumphantly "Even more so now you're chest is so completely knackered".
Adam pushed him violently and Julian fell backwards onto the ground, landing heavily in the mud. He managed to pull himself away and lobbed a small dollop of it at Adam, who caught it on the side of his face.
"And my aim's always been better too!" Julian roared.
He grabbed Adam by his shirt and pulled him down onto the mud. Keeping his hair grasped in one hand he kissed him with such ferocity that Adam felt exhausted at the end of it.
"Oh Jules", Adam whispered.
"I sometimes think where you're concerned you little tart, that I should wear spurs!" said Julian.
Back at the camp once more Kieran hosed them down with water from the stand-pipe.
"You might find this easier to do if you weren't three feet shorter than us", said Julian.
"Cold enough for you, this water?" said Kieran.
"Lonts was anxious earlier that what happened today shouldn't stop our holiday", said Adam, when they were towelling themselves dry "Trouble is, I can't relax knowing there's some madman in the area with designs on him".
"Things wouldn't be any better in the City", said Julian "Seeing as the entire world always seems to know our exact whereabouts these days, the psychopath could just as easily follow us back there. And the humidity on the streets wouldn't be any good for your chest".
"No, and I don't fancy living in that grotty house again whilst this hot weather's on", said Joby, sitting by the camp-fire "It gets like a furnace in the summer, and we've only got that pathetic scrap of garden to sit in, and the neighbours are always bloody complaining about everything".
"Anyway it means he's won if we go scurrying back now", said Finia.
"The trouble is, Joby was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street", said Kieran "That makes me feel uneasy about staying here".
"We'll be more on our guard from now on", said Joby "And I got a good look at him, I'll know him again if I see him".
"That doesn't reassure me any", said Kieran "He's as aware of that fact as you are!"
"It's too late to start worrying about that", said Joby "I've already given a full description of him to the Constable".
"What does Securicor say?" said Julian, gesturing towards Ransey.
"The only advantage the City has over staying here", said Ransey "Is that there we can lock and bolt all the doors at night. But having said that, there is no reason why we can't be equally safe here. I'm assuming it's only Lonts this madman is after, Joby just got in the way, so Lonts will be alright provided he's not left alone. At night he's well sandwiched in between the rest of us so I don't see a problem".
"It's this propensity of his for flinging knives from a distance I don't like", said Adam "Looking at it from that level he could attack Lo-Lo from the trees whilst we're all sat here now for instance".
"He could just as easily do that when we're sitting in our back garden in that case", said Ransey.
"But what possible satisfaction would he get out of hurling a knife at Lonts?" said Julian "There's no personal contact involved, which implies he just wants Lonts dead. Now infuriating though I know he can be, I don't see the point of that".
"He's a nutter", said Joby "There doesn't have to be any logic to what he does. I once heard of a bloke who got orgasms by causing train crashes. What I'm saying is nutters don't need a reason for what they do".
"At the end of the day we are all animals", Adam sighed.
"There are always going to be monsters like him around", said Ransey "We can't suspend all normal activity because of him. What we can do is just be more alert and exercise caution. If he's flinging knives at least it means he doesn't possess a gun".
"Yet", said Joby.
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