Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

Adam stood at the porthole in Julian's cabin, and watched the evening sunlight glistening on the water, the view only marred by a few black clouds massing on the horizon. They had been travelling at full steam since first thing that morning, and now the Governor's yacht was nowhere in sight. Everyone hoped it would stay that way.

After breakfast Julian had practically taken Adam prisoner in his cabin, knowing that enforced rest was the only way to stop Adam getting so worked up over what was admittedly a serious problem. Namely, the repeated attempts by other parties to finish Lonts off. Adam had raged at great length that they couldn't even keep him safe from scumbags when out on the high seas.

"It will be easier from now on", Julian had said "If these attempts are connected, as I believe they are, then we are moving further and further out of their control. Unless they intend to tail us all across the world's oceans then we should be alright from now on. Once we've disappeared entirely from view, Tamaz will lose interest".

"Tamaz?" said Adam, sharply "You think Tamaz is behind it all? But why should he have such an obsessive downer on Lo-Lo?"

"Jealous of Baby Lonts's popularity perhaps?"

"Even so, to go to all this trouble ..."

"I don't know the why's and wherefore's Adam, I just think it may be true", said Julian "Tamaz is a pretty peculiar specimen all round, he's a Ghoomer after all, and I'm just glad we're out of it".

"But what if he sends a bounty-hunter after us?"

"Oh for heaven's sake, this isn't the Wild West! Chances are once we've all been out of public life for a few weeks, he'll lose all interest in us. He seems to be trying pretty hard to sell himself and his babies to the general public, and if he succeeds he won't have any cause to get jealous of Lonts or any of us".

Adam had tried to be soothed by Julian's assurances, if only because Julian had threatened to tie him to the funnel if he didn't calm down, but he still couldn't help feeling anxious. Julian had now entered the cabin again, and was placing a supper-tray on his desk.

"Not one of Joby's mixed grills is it?" said Adam, sniffing the air like a dog.

"If there's one thing Spotted Dick can do well, and that's a good fry-up", said Julian, pulling up another chair for him "Come on tuck in, or I'll pinch your sausages".

"It'll be a shame when we run out of those", said Adam.

"We'll worry about that when the time comes".

"Is Lo-Lo alright?"

"Of course he is. He hasn't got you mithering him non-stop", said Julian, robustly "Changing the subject. You know we agreed that it was probably best that Uddle knew our darkest secrets, because we didn't know how long he was going to be with us? Like Lonts's nappy, that kind of thing".

"Well I know you think it's a good idea, but I'm not so sure", said Adam "Everytime I see Uddle he gives me a filthy leer, and I just know he's remembering the sight of me being spanked".

"No need to put up with that", said Julian, dunking his sausage into his fried egg "I've discovered Uddle's darkest secret, you see".

"I dread to think what that is!" Adam exclaimed "Tying himself up with barbed wire perhaps?"

"He wears women's underclothes".

"Oh Jules, you're having me on!"

"No I'm not. Hillyard told me. Said he went down to the black hole of Calcutta earlier, place was pumping away full-blast, so Lurch had stripped to the bare essentials. And there he was, prancing around in a very fetching pair of beige silk knickers".

"Where does he get them from?"

"The same places Finia gets his stuff, dimwit!" said Julian "Eunuch dress and lingerie shops".

"But he's not a eunuch, is he?"

"They don't ask to see your dick before they sell you anything! There are plenty of transvestites around with their cocks intact".

"I know", said Adam "And sadly they're not all as slim and elegant as Finia".

"Quite", said Julian "I sincerely hope Lurch doesn't get it into his head to start wafting around up here in an oyster-pink negligee trimmed with maribou feathers. I don't think my old nerves could stand it".

"Dan Dare in drag!"

"Perish the thought".

Kieran woke up feeling decidedly queasy, and he knew it wasn't entirely due to the eggs and fried bread he'd had for supper (although he was trying not to dwell too much on the memory of that at the moment). The sea had got much choppier, and the Indigo was now pitching about restlessly. For the first time in the trip Kieran realised he was feeling seasick. Matters weren't helped by Joby snoring directly into his ear. Kieran nudged him sharply.

"What d'ya do that for?" said Joby, blearily.

"You making that infernal racket in me ear!"

"Don't you ever stop complaining?"

"That's the pot calling the kettle black", Kieran retorted "I'm not well. I'm feeling seasick".

"Oh", said Joby, unimpressed "Lie there and think of something pleasant".

"I can't", Kieran sat up hastily. He leaned over Joby's legs towards the edge of the bunk and promptly vomited his dinner onto the floor.

"Brilliant", said Joby, as Kieran continued to retch.

The blanket on the line was twitched back, and Adam stood there, pulling on his robe. Lonts was standing behind him.

"Oh dear. Poor Pats", said Adam, brightly "Fetch a bowl, Lo-Lo".

Lonts got the enamel bowl off the wash-stand, and Adam held it in front of Kieran, whilst trying to scoop his hair out of the way. Joby was pinned under Kieran, who was leaning across his legs, so it was Lonts who busied himself emptying the old bowl down the loo and fetching a clean one from the galley.

This state of affairs went on for the rest of the night. Kieran felt as though he was trying to vomit up every meal he had ever eaten.

At dawn Joby went to see how everyone else was, and reported back that Ransey and Finia had also been struck down by the dreaded lurgey. By now the ship was bucking about so much that everyone staggered around like drunken penguins.

Joby went up on deck with Hillyard later that morning to check for any damage topside. He was appalled by the size of the waves bearing down on them, and twice they both had to hit the deck as the sea came breaking down around them.

"We can't do much up here", Hillyard panted "We've just got to batten down the hatches and hope for the best".

Joby felt he couldn't argue with that, but was furious when Hillyard started fussing about moving the hen-hutches below. This was a hair-raising operation but they finally managed to get them down the steps, and left them blocking the gangway outside the galley.

"Christ, I haven't seen waves that big since we were on the island", said Joby, as Hillyard bolted the topside doors from the inside "I'm surprised we haven't been crushed to matchwood".

"We should be alright", said Hillyard "I'm more worried about us turning over in the water".

"It's being so cheerful keeps you going", said Joby, and he went into the galley to prepare a hot-water bottle for Kieran.

Although they were at anchor Uddle had still retreated to the hold, and was lying on his makeshift day-bed in there, when Hillyard went down to see him with a flask of coffee. He was relieved to see that Uddle had his trousers on this time.

"Adam sent this for you", he said, holding out the flask "He says anytime you want some food go and help yourself from the galley. He's too busy running a hospital-ship to do any cooking".

Uddle burrowed under his bedclothes and withdrew a half-full bottle of whisky. He held it out to Hillyard.

"Yeah alright I'll join you", said Hillyard, sitting down on the floor next to him.

Uddle poured a substantial measure into his cup, and then passed the bottle to Hillyard, who swigged it from the neck.

"Good-looking fella is Mr Adam", said Uddle, eventually.

"Not bad for his age", said Hillyard.

"Got a neat arse on him", Uddle sniggered "Tight as a drum, no saggy bits".

"Been having a good look have you?"

"His flesh wobbles very slightly like a set jelly when he's being walloped. Have you noticed?"

"I think you're spending too much time down here alone".

"Does Mr Julian whack him often?"

"I don't know", said Hillyard, abruptly "I don't tend to eavesdrop on 'em".

"Has he ever whacked you?"

"He bloody well hasn't! That kind of thing's not my scene, and it's up to them two what they do when they're alone together. It certainly isn't any business of yours either".

Hillyard took a final swig of the whisky and handed the bottle back to him.

"Thanks for the drink", he said, and left the hold.

"Our helmsman is ill, Hillyard", said Julian, who was trying to make sense of Ransey's notes and charts in the saloon "So I've got rather more to concern myself with than Uddle's sad little fantasies. He seems quite harmless enough to me".

"I'm sure he is, but I don't like the thought of him listening in and watching us all the time", said Hillyard.

"Since when've you got fastidious and prudish! Anyway, I shouldn't think he's interested in watching you. You don't play his sort of games".

"I'm thinking of the baby".

"Lonts? Why, Uddle's not showing an abnormal interest in him is he?"

"No, but when he misbehaves you sometimes punish him by walloping him in front of everyone".

"Oh I see what you're getting at", said Julian "Well for a start Lonts has been remarkably well-behaved for some time now. If I should have cause to punish him in future though I will make sure Uddle is firmly bolted into his hole first. Satisfied?"

Julian breathed a sigh of relief when Hillyard left the room. He went back to Ransey's notes, and tried to decipher them whilst eating a hunk of fruit-cake which he had grabbed from the galley as a substitute for dinner. He slowly became aware that Uddle was watching him from the doorway.

"You are not allowed in here, you're filthy!" Julian roared, and flung his piece of cake at the stoker. The cake landed on the carpet at Uddle's feet, and the said man looked down at it.

"Go on then", said Julian, imperiously "You can have it. Pick it up".

Playing the game, Uddle got down onto his knees and picked up the cake. Julian moved towards him and Uddle went to kiss his ankles, but Julian kicked him away and sent him sprawling.

"Uddle, leave!" Adam snapped, as though talking to a disobedient dog.

"Just a harmless bit of fun, Ada", said Julian, when Uddle had scampered away "He enjoys it".

"And exactly how far are you prepared to take it, that's what I want to know?" said Adam, swaying across the saloon.

"As far as you saw just then", said Julian.

"I don't believe you. Before we know it you'll be putting him on a leash and dragging him round the deck".

"I wouldn't dare do anything you disapprove of. If I get carried away I promise I'll drop my trousers so you can thrash me again".

"Yes, and I most certainly will".

Adam gave a tired moan, and pushed his fair hair out of his eyes. He looked exhausted and bedraggled, having spent the day fetching sick-bowls, changing bed-sheets and attending to numerous other little chores.

"You look just like your mother at the moment. It's quite spooky", said Julian.

"When she's had a few, you mean?" Adam laughed "Here comes the Honourable Letitia, about to fall arse over tit again!"

"What started her boozing in the first place? Was it just your father?"

"Oh she'd always had a wayward streak in her".

"Yes, I've always been aware of where you got it from!"

"I think it all went back to her chalet-girl days. It wasn't just the booze she was mixed up in then, I think it was cocaine too and God knows what else. That's one of the reasons her family were so keen for her to marry dear old Dad. Thought with all his Bible-thumping he might be a stabilising influence. That was a misjudgement if ever there was one! He made her a thousand times worse".

"I expect the fact that he had pots of money helped to secure the match too".

"All her family had were ancient and meaningless titles. No longer had the dosh to back it up, like yours did. Poppa dearest may have been a 'frightful little man' but he did have the filthy lucre, so they were more than keen to overlook his less grand origins. Poor old mother. I do feel sorry for her, particularly when I see how well things turned out for me in the end, after my equally wild youth. I wish it could have been the same for her. I remember the last time I ever saw her. It was after I'd got transferred back to Britain. She came to see me. She was completely rat-arsed, I can't imagine how the guards let her in, she must have been a security hazard! I said 'Mother, give it up, look where the bloody booze has landed me'".

"What did she say?"

"'Oh but darling I am getting better. I walked right past the King's Arms this morning without going in'".

"It was probably shut", said Julian, dryly.

"Either that or she'd been barred, that wasn't at all unusual!" said Adam "She had my problem, in that she had a lot of love to give, and no one wanted to know".

"She could've tried giving a bit to you".

"She didn't know how. I think she might've done eventually, if HE hadn't been around, casting a blight on everything she said and did. After all, I found it hard to cope with Lonts in the early days, and now look!"

As soon as he had finished speaking Adam looked as though he was ready to slide off the sofa in a dead faint. Julian pulled him upright.

"I think you'd better get some sleep", he said "I bet you haven't had anything to eat today either have you?"

"Jules, after watching people spewing into bowls all day I haven't had the heart!"

"Let me get you into your cabin".

"What about you? I hope you're going to bed also".

"Eventually. And don't go fussing round Tinkerbell either. Let Joby do some work for a change".

"Oh be fair Jules, he has been. He's been sitting with Patsy for hours. He's even been reading to him to take his mind off things".

"Good grief, I didn't know Joby could read!"

"It was brilliant for the first 200 pages", said Kieran, lying on his back in his bunk with a hot-water bottle on his stomach "But then it started losing it".

"How?" said Joby, indignantly "I thought it was a brilliant adventure story".

"Yes, but you get a bit tired of the endless shoot-outs and train hold-ups, don't you?" said Kieran "I mean, after about half-a-dozen they all get to seem the same".

"I liked the central character though", said Joby, pushing the tattered paperback into his rucksack "Resourceful and tough, but kind-hearted. If I was an actor I'd like to play him in a film".

"I thought he reminded me of Lonts actually", said Kieran "Particularly the way he was bluffing with those outlaws who'd captured him, playing innocent".

"Yeah, 'cept with Lonts it wouldn't have been an act", Joby groaned "And after a couple of days the outlaws would've abandoned him out of sheer exasperation".

"I heard that, Joby!" Lonts exclaimed, from the top bunk above Adam's bed.

"You're supposed to be asleep", said Joby, removing his trousers prior to getting into bed.

"I was listening to your story", said Lonts "And I thought it was really stupid".

"Oh what would you know! You're hardly literary critic of the year".

"Well why did they bring in all those people in one chapter. All five of them at once, which was really confusing", said Lonts "And then just as you've got to know them, they all get shot in the next chapter".

"I was wondering that", said Kieran "Took me ages to tell them apart, and then they all get killed!"

"You two are hopeless", said Joby "You're not meant to get to know the characters. The whole point of them getting killed is to show how hard and ruthless the outlaw's life is".

"Downright wasteful if you ask me", said Kieran "The writer had to go to all that trouble thinking of names and hair colours for nothing".

The boat did a sudden lurch and Joby fell backwards, landing on his spine.

"Are you alright, Joby?" asked Lonts.

"Just fine", Joby snarled "I must be black and blue, the amount of times I've fallen over today".

"Get into bed then, before you cause anymore damage", said Kieran "Although you'd better leave the lamp lit for Adam".

"Don't worry about me", Adam yawned, as he lurched into the room "I can just about find my way to tumble into bed. I hope no one else goes down with seasickness tomorrow".

"Fat lot of use Finia's been", said Joby, pulling off his socks "He's supposed to be ship's nurse, and he's the first one to go down with it!"

Adam swayed violently and went to grab the blanket on the line for support, but it fell off and he lunged against Kieran's bunk. Joby caught him.

"Sorry about that", said Adam, trying to straighten himself "I'm walking like the Honourable Letitia again".

"The who?" said Joby.

"My Mother. She walked like this all the time. Julian told me this evening that I look just like her".

"Oh yeah?" Joby smiled "Reckon I could've fancied your Mum then".

"You certainly know how to make a tired old man feel good, Joby!" Adam laughed.

For three days this state of affairs continued. Each morning they awoke, hoping to see a millpond outside, and instead they got a violently turbulent monster, constantly rearing its forbidding head against the portholes.

Things were very claustrophobic below deck. The chickens caused the gangway to smell appallingly, and the seasickness epidemic showed no sign of abating. Everyone, with the unique exception of Julian, fell prey to it at one time or another. When it did abate briefly, individual members could be found roaming the gangway and cabins like lost souls.

"Grim", said Julian, one evening, wishing the oil-lamp in the saloon would make the place less depressing, not more so "I'm beginning to get a good idea of how Noah must've felt".

"It has to slacken off at some point", said Ransey, who had finally risen from his sickbed, but who still looked decidedly green around the gills "And we've got to expect this kind of thing from time to time".

"If you say so", said Joby, stumbling around the room in his robe and socks "I'm beginning to think we'll end up like the 'Coronola'. In years to come someone'll find this ghost-ship full of dead bodies, floating in the middle of nowhere. You've heard of the Curse of the Flying Dutchman, well we'll be the Curse of the Indigo".

"Oh yes, I can just see future composers creating operas about Julian making a pact with the Devil", said Adam.

"He is the Devil", said Joby "He must be. He's the only one of us who hasn't fallen ill".

"The amount of time you've spent reading that medical dictionary Adam, I would've expected you to come up with a cure for seasickness by now", said Julian.

"Where did you get it from?" said Joby, looking across at Adam, who was reading a book the size of several telephone directories.

"It came as part of the fixtures and fittings of the ship", said Adam, who had been engrossed in it for some time "It was in the little bookcase in the corner. It claims to cover just about every sickness and disease known to man".

"All very well, but you still haven't found a cure for the dreaded lurgey yet", Julian snapped.

"Oh God!" Joby gasped, and bolted from the room. He knocked over on of the hen-hutches in his haste to get to the heads, and one of the chickens batted its wings against the wire grid in terror.

"And the sooner you find one the better", said Julian.

Fortune began to smile on them the following day when the storm abated slightly. Rain continued to lash down relentlessly, but at least the sea stopped hurling itself about as though it had taken gross offence to their presence on its back.

Finia managed to climb out of his bunk for the first time in days, and staggered to the galley to make himself a pot of tea. The others were all arguing in the saloon, which he felt was hardly anything unusual. He was stirring the tea in the pot when he became aware that he was being watched.

Uddle found Finia's waiflike figure a fascinating sight. Finia looked pretty and vulnerable in his sleeveless white cotton nightgown. A breeze from the steps leading up to the topside door had caught under the hem of it and billowed it out, giving Uddle a tantalising glimpse of Finia's slim, brown legs.

"Shit, you scared me!" Finia exclaimed, and dropped the lid of the teapot "Now look what you've made me do! It's one of Julian's too. He's bound to carry on about it if it's damaged".

"Sorry", Uddle grinned "Will he get cross with you? Will he punish you?"

"Don't be stupid", said Finia, nervously. He didn't like Uddle's tone at all "He's never done anything like that to me".

"You surprise me", said Uddle, who carried on leering.

"Are you alright, Finia?" said Adam, coming into the room "You shouldn't be out of bed, you're still not well".

"I wanted some tea", said Finia, shakily "That great, greasy moron startled me. I think I've broken the lid off Julian's teapot".

"It's gone under the kitchen-table", said Adam "I can see it. Get back to your bunk, Finia. I'll bring you some tea in as soon as I've poured it".

"He shouldn't be allowed to creep about like that", said Finia "That guy is one crazy turnip-head".

"Go back to bed", said Adam, steering the boy through the doorway "I'll be along very shortly".

"I only wanted some food", said Uddle, after Finia had gone.

"There's some bread in the bin. I made it yesterday, help yourself", said Adam, tersely "And don't creep up on people like that, it's not fair".

"I'm sorry Mr Adam", Uddle looked suitably shame-faced and turned his attention to the bread-bin.

Adam sighed, and got down on his hands and knees to retrieve the lid of the teapot. He was considerably startled himself to find Uddle roughly groping his bottom as soon as he had turned his back on him. He tried hurriedly to get out from under the table, and succeeded in crashing his head against it, which didn't improve his temper any.

"Uddle, what the fuck are you doing?" he roared.

"You shouldn't use naughty language", said Uddle, sounding like a chronic imbecile.


"Naughty", Uddle began to smack Adam's bottom in a very heavy-handed way.

By now Adam was spitting with rage, and he was almost hysterical with relief when he heard Lonts hollering.

"How dare you do that to Adam!" Lonts bellowed, grabbing Uddle by his grimy vest and hauling him into the gangway.

Lonts yanked open the hatchway to the hold and pointed down it.

"You get down there!" he yelled "And you don't come up until I say so. You're a beast!"

"For heaven's sake stop carrying on so, Adam", said Julian, passing Adam a cup of tea in his cabin a few minutes later "You sound like some prim old virgin who's been touched up in a lift!"

"Thank God for Lo-Lo I say", Adam retorted "He's the only one who seems to have any inkling of what I've been through. The rest of you all seem to find it wildly amusing. But it's assault, that's what it is. If I was a woman in our time I could've had him for serious sexual harassment".

"Not out on the high seas you couldn't, in the middle of nowhere, with no guarantee as to when we'd get home!"

Finia groaned and pulled his pillow over his head, to shut out their quarrelling.

"You're going soft in your old age, Adam", said Julian "When you were younger you'd have smacked him in the mouth and left it at that, not started wittering on about sexual harassment".

"If I am to be your First Officer on this tub, surely I'm entitled to some respect?" Adam spat.

"But you've got respect, you silly wotsit. Everyone is nuts about you, including Uddle", Julian sniggered.


"Look, I'm going to reprimand him for what he did, have no fear about that".

"And I'm sure he'll thoroughly enjoy it".

"Do you want me to tell him off or not?"

"Yes I do".

"Then I will" said Julian "If I'm not acting as outraged as you it's probably because I can only commend Uddle for showing a modicum of good taste. If you don't want us all to admire your gorgeous arse you shouldn't go wafting around in those tight shorts, let alone sticking it up in the air as an open invitation".

"I just want your guarantee that Uddle doesn't do it again", Adam pouted "He hit me very hard, Jules".

"I shall explain it to him", said Julian, trying not to laugh "I shall say I'm the only one entitled to give you a very sound spanking!"

"Jules, I am deeply traumatised".

"Nonsense, a tough old bird like you? I bet you've had far worse from me in your time".

"That's different", Adam mumbled "I wanted it from you, whereas I don't want Uddle's greasy great paws all over me".

"Nor me", said Finia "He kept going onto me about did you punish me and all that. The sort of boring talk we used to get in the whorehouse, usually from guys who wanted to play master and servant".

"Perhaps you'll listen to Finia?" said Adam, tartly.

"The trouble is my dear lovelies, I don't really know what to do", Julian sighed "If I start yelling at him and threatening to punish him, I'm playing into his hands. It's what he wants. It might even encourage him to act up even more. But at the same time I can't ignore it, as I don't want him going around terrorising you all".

"Then threaten to make him like me if he does", said Finia, crossly "That usually sorts them out!"

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site