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When Lonts realised what the others were intending to do he got quite upset. They were standing on the quay in the sleepy, run-down town of Zilligot Bay, and he was suddenly faced with the appalling prospect of spending several hours alone with Julian, whilst the others were going to be enjoying themselves.
"You're not missing anything", said Joby, indicating the dust-track that passed for the coastal road, and the ramshackle collection of dwellings that lined one side of it "The most we're gonna be having is a couple of beers in the bar, and then we'll do a bit of shopping and head back to the Indigo".
"Whereas you're going for a nice wee drive", said Kieran "With Julian".
"You were doing fine there, until you mentioned the 'with Julian' bit", said Joby.
"If that's all you're doing why can't I join you?" said Lonts.
"Because you'll be safer in a buggy in the hills than in some seedy bar", said Ransey.
"Not necessarily", Lonts retorted "There might be all sorts of people lurking in the hills. Murderers and rapists".
"Insurance salesmen", said Kieran.
"Well don't worry", said Ransey "Whoever they are, Julian'll see them off".
"I don't know what you're getting so worked up about", said Joby "You used to go skiing with Julian up at the Castle".
"That was different", said Lonts "I know I'm good at skiing, so he had no reason to get cross with me. He might find all sorts of reasons to get cross with me today".
"Lonts!" Julian bellowed, from the other side of the quay, where he had finally finished haggling a hire-charge fee for the buggy.
Lonts looked so wretched by the prospect ahead that the others began to feel quite sorry for him. He walked heavily towards Julian, his flip-flops slapping disconsolately in the dust.
"Now I feel cruel", said Kieran, watching them leave.
"I just hope Julian's gentle with him", said Hillyard, jokingly "Come on, let's have those beers".
Up in the hills overlooking Zilligot Bay, they had an uninterrupted view of the sparkling blue ocean (although the Indigo was out of sight, being anchored too close in-land). The landscape on the hilltops though was monotonous. A winding dust-choked road weaved through endless scrubland, bleached yellow by the tropical sun. They passed very few buildings on the road, and even fewer vehicles. What men they encountered were usually herding cattle or pushing bicycles.
"Stop fidgeting!" Julian shouted, above the roar of the antiquated buggy mechanism.
"I can't help it", said Lonts, squirming uncomfortably in the passenger seat.
"Don't tell me you need to cock your leg again!" said Julian.
"I'm thirsty", Lonts pouted.
"There is a bottle of water on the back seat", said Julian, with forced patience "You should know that, you saw me put it there before we set off".
Lonts turned in his seat and leaned over the back of it to search for the water. Julian found himself getting mesmerised by the sight of Lonts's bottom sticking in the air, and he took one hand off the wheel to smack it irritably.
"Why did you do that?" Lonts yelled "I haven't done anything wrong".
"How the blazes am I supposed to concentrate on driving when your arse is sticking in my face! Now sit down!"
"But you said I could have a drink of water!"
"You can wait until we get to the fruit farm. It shouldn't be long now".
"First you tell me I can have some, and then you say I can't".
"Stop arguing with me!"
Julian's temper wasn't helped by a farmer choosing that moment to herd a collection of skinny cattle across the road in front of them. Julian sat impatiently whilst the unlovely tableau took an age to unfold. Julian beeped his horn impatiently and the farmer gave him the finger in response.
Lonts suddenly climbed out of the passenger door and ran into the nearest field. Gibbering with rage and disbelief, Julian slammed out after him. He chased him for some distance before finally catching up with him.
"I don't want to be with you", Lonts screamed "I'm going back to Adam, and I'll tell him how mean you've been to me".
"You'll be lucky if you get a chance to, you silly little wretch", said Julian "This is no place for you to wander off".
He picked Lonts up and carried him like a bundle of washing back to the buggy. Lonts screamed and wept, but knew it as pointless to struggle. In fact he was a little relieved when Julian dumped him unceremoniously into the passenger seat and then walked back round to the driver's side. He was so thankful he hadn't been given a hiding that he tried hard not to cry too loudly.
Julian re-started the buggy, which had stalled from its long idling, and drove forward without another ward. Lonts slid down in his seat and tried to make himself invisible. As they drove past the farmer he winked at them cheerily from the side of the road. In fact he all but cheered Julian, who couldn't help feeling that back in his own time some conscientious soul would no doubt be giving his licence number to the local constabulary, for having been seen acting suspiciously with a much younger man, who was blatantly terrified and being put in the vehicle against his will.
"See!" Julian exclaimed, indicating the farmer with his thumb, who was now some distance behind them "That's the sort of unscrupulous rogue that's around these days. He could take you down to the town and roger you in full view of everyone in the main street, and no one do give a damn thing to help you. In fact, they'd probably all queue up to take turns! So don't you give me anymore trouble, is that clear? Say 'yes Julian'".
"Yes Julian", Lonts muttered.
The fruit farm was a large place full of harsh colours, painful on the naked eye, and ugly noises. Julian walked around ordering vast quantities of bananas, melons and pineapples, and supervising the stacking of them in the back of the buggy. Lonts followed him wearily, having been told in no uncertain terms not to speak or do anything without getting permission first.
Julian's temper was hardly improved by the fact that the mozzies seemed to find him a far juicier target than Lonts. At one point he peeled off his shirt in desperation to find his back looking like a before picture in an advertisement for acne cream.
It was late afternoon by the time they left the farm, and Julian was beginning to doubt that they would get back down to the Bay before the night came on with its customary tropical speed. He wasn't relishing the idea of finding his way back down through the hills in the dark. Things were hardly improved when a storm broke and showered them with hard, relentless rain. They stopped the buggy and leapt out to pull up the canopy. It was only when he had got back into the driver's seat again that Julian realised he didn't in fact recognise the road they were on.
He grabbed at the map they had bought in town before setting off and shone his flashlight over it. The map was a crudely-drawn effort, which seemed to have been designed for the express purpose of giving the traveller as little information as possible.
"We're lost", Julian sighed, wearily "Although what can you expect when every bloody road looks exactly the same?"
"Perhaps if we just keep going downhill we're bound to come to the town at some point", said Lonts, tentatively.
"Now why didn't I think of that!" Julian snarled sarcastically, re-starting the buggy "Of course all downhill roads lead to the town don't they!"
"They might, round here", Lonts pouted.
At that moment Lonts couldn't think of anyone in the world he'd least like to be lost with. He was also concerned that Adam would be getting very agitated if they didn't return to the Indigo soon.
"It could take all fucking night", Julian spat "Driving round in bloody circles".
Lonts recalled, during one of their late-night chats, how Adam had once told him that Julian's main failing was being a bully. Julian could spot a weakness in someone at ten paces, and would happily make their life a misery because of it, if he was allowed. Whereas if he was stood up to occasionally he could be, in Adam's words, "a perfect delight". Lonts seriously doubted that he would ever find Julian to be a perfect delight, but if they were going to be lost all night, he didn't want to spend it cowering in his seat, afraid to open his mouth.
"We can't keep driving round in circles, Julian", he said "Or the key-card will need re-charging, and we'll never carry all that fruit ourselves".
"One more word out of you and you can get out and walk!"
"You won't make me walk. Because if you do something might happen to me and Adam'll never forgive you. Never!"
"I don't know which If find more irksome", said Julian "You when you're at your doziest, or you when you're trying to be smart".
"I just don't think anything can be achieved by you picking on me all the time".
"Why not?" Julian bellowed "It is the only thing that's going to keep me sane!"
"Adam used to be like you. He used to threaten to kill me".
"I know exactly how he felt".
"But now he couldn't live without me".
"Are you trying to say that by the time we get back to the Indigo I'll feel the same?"
"No", said Lonts, sulkily "Because Adam's kind at heart. You're not. You're just mean".
"Shut up!" said Julian, in exasperation "If all Kiskevians were as maddening as you are, then Father Isaac should be awarded a posthumous medal for services to humanity!"
Lonts screamed in anger and flew at Julian, grabbing a handful of his hair and yanking him sideways. Julian shrieked and tried to fight him off. The buggy veered sharply to the side of the road. Julian went to grab at the steering-wheel, but it was sticky from the sweat of his hands and slid out of his grasp. They plunged clumsily into a muddy ditch beyond the road, and the engine cut out instantly, indicating with a deadening certainty that something unwanted had got into the works, and it would take little short of a miracle to get it started again. To add insult to injury a pile of melons dislodged themselves and cascaded over their shoulders. The rain continued to patter soullessly on the canvas canopy overhead.
"An apology right now might go some small way to alleviating the direness of the situation", said Julian, quietly.
"I'm not apologising to you", said Lonts "You shouldn't have said what you did about Kiskev".
Julian wrenched open the driver's door and stepped out into the rain. He sank up to his ankles in thick glutinous mud and plodded soddenly round to the passenger side. Lonts watched him imperiously, like a duchess being forced to tolerate a particularly incompetent chauffeur. Julian pulled open the passenger door and glared at him.
"You are a savage", he said, to Lonts's indignant profile "An ill-bred, bad-tempered, moronic little savage. And when I've finished giving you the thrashing of your life, you are going to help me get this confounded contraption out of this ditch, even if it takes us all bloody night to do it!"
"If I'm a savage, you're a bully!" said Lonts, screwing up his face angrily "A nasty-minded bullying snob. And all this is your fault because you said a really horrible thing about Kiskev. Really, really horrible. And if you lay one finger on me I'll tell Adam how mean you've been to me today, and he won't like it at all!"
"I don't care", Julian exploded "I don't care if he pounds the living daylights out of me, I'm not going to be messed around by a little savage like you!"
He stamped aggressively over to a bush and pulled out a long twig, which he then angrily stripped of leaves. Lonts was under no illusions about what he intended to do with it. He jumped out of the buggy, and reached into the back for a couple of melons, which he then proceeded to lob at Julian with deadly accuracy. Caught off-balance Julian fell backwards into the mud. Lonts meanwhile had now progressed to pineapples as ammunition, which were even more deadly.
Julian pulled himself out of the mud, and stamped towards Lonts with every intention of removing a layer of skin from his back. He dodged a couple of pineapples and grabbed Lonts's arm. He had managed to get a stroke of the birch across Lonts's buttocks before a torch was flashed on them from the road overhead.
"What's going on down there?"
Julian looked up to find they were being watched by a rather nerdy-looking individual, who had red curly hair and black spectacles. He was protected from the rain by a waterproof coat, belted fussily at the front.
"I'm teaching this little savage a lesson", said Julian, landing another swipe across Lonts's bottom. Lonts yelped and bounce into the air.
"Well you can't do it there", said the Nerd, authoritatively "Not on my land".
"I didn't know it was your land", said Julian, testily. Mud was splattering from his hair down his back, and he was in no mood for appeasement "Our buggy's in the ditch".
"If you leave it there until the rain eases off I can arrange to have it towed out".
"It could be raining for the rest of the night!"
"Come and wait in our place then", said the Nerd "You can have a drink and get cleaned up".
Faced with that option or sitting in a buggy quarrelling with Lonts for several hours, Julian took up the offer.
"You stay close to me at all times", he hissed at Lonts.
"I hate you", Lonts sniffed "I'm going to tell Adam all about you when we get back".
After a few minutes in the Nerd's house Julian could only conclude Lonts would have plenty to tell. Julian had taken out Adam's little darling and not only succeeded in getting them both lost, but they were now enjoying hospitality in what was to all appearances a house of ill-repute.
The cheap swirly-patterned carpet and red flock wallpaper in the entrance hall would have been a dead giveaway to anyone. It looked like it belonged in scene from a Victorian soft porn novel. All that was missing was a fat madame with a flower stuck behind her ear. Instead they had the Nerd, who looked like he should have been more at home poring over disk drives, or bringing his trainspotter's notebook up to date.
He fussed around them spreading newspapers on the carpet to catch the muddy water that was pouring off them. Julian was dismayed to see that not only were Lonts's skimpy clothes sopping wet, but his shorts had also become transparent.
"Oh marvellous!" he said, brushing a lock of muddy hair out of his eyes "Not only do I bring you to a bloody brothel, but I make you look like the hottest chick in town! This is a nightmare".
"It was your fault", said Lonts, trying to pull his wet shorts away from his stinging bottom.
"I know, I shouldn't have mentioned the hallowed shrine of Kiskev in a joking fashion", said Julian "Adam is never going to let hear me hear the end of this!"
"Is this a bar?" asked Lonts "Or a hotel?"
"A private club", said the Nerd.
"And we all know what that's a euphemism for!" said Julian.
"Perhaps you would care to step into my office for a dry-off?" said the Nerd.
"Somebody might steal our fruit from the buggy, Julian", said Lonts.
"I doubt anyone around here would be interested in the fruit", said Julian.
The Nerd's office was windowless and panelled throughout in dark wood, which gave it a very claustrophobic feel. Absolutely no noise was coming from the rest of the house at all, and Julian began to have a worrying suspicion that the rooms might be sound-proofed. It had been impossible in the dark to get an idea of how big the place was from the outside, but it gave the impression of being very big.
Julian had refused the Nerd's request that they hand over their clothes to be cleaned and dried, as their clothes were their only insurance for getting out again in a hurry. So the Nerd had then shown them into an adjoining bathroom, which had two fluffy white bath-robes hanging on the door.
"You can have a shower and slip these on whilst your clothes are dried", said the Nerd, in a very obliging fashion "When you've finished come back into the office and help yourselves to brandy".
"He's very kind isn't he?" said Lonts, after the Nerd had left them alone.
"A saint, obviously", Julian snapped, and walked around the bathroom pulling at the mirrors. He was pleasantly surprised to find they all swung away from the wall.
"What are you checking for?" asked Lonts.
"Making sure they're not two-way", said Julian "I wondered if there were a lot of fat old slobs in the next room with their cocks in their hands, waiting with eager anticipation to see if we got down to it in the shower".
"You've got a dirty mind", said Lonts "The others are always saying you only ever think of one thing".
"That's bloody rich coming from them! Now stop getting at me all the time. I've got quite enough to worry about as it is".
They took turns to shower. Julian went first and was towelling his hair dry in the Nerd's office when a young man walked in, carrying a pot of coffee. The stranger was vaguely attractive in a sallow kind of way, but his eyes were perfectly repellent. Hard and spiteful.
"He thought you might want a warm drink too", said the young man, placing the pot of coffee on the Nerd's desk "He says you're to make yourselves at home. He's had to go off and attend to something. If you're hungry the restaurant's in the basement. Just walk out of here, and go down the stairs at the end of the right-hand corridor".
Lonts chose that moment to walk into the room, naked and damp from the shower. The hard-eyed man gave him a look which clearly signalled his acute resentment of Lonts's beauty, although he was given some mild amusement by the weediness of Lonts's cock.
"Put your robe on!" Julian screeched.
Lonts sighed and picked up the other robe from the back of a chair. Hard Eyes noticed the switch-marks on Lonts's bottom. Somehow he hoped they had hurt, and that Lonts was subjected to such practices frequently.
"If you want anything else", he said to Julian, in a grotesque attempt to be coquettish "Just ring the bell on the desk. I am here to answer to all your needs".
"That won't be necessary", said Julian, crisply.
"Are you sure?"
"I have got more than enough on my plate at the moment, thank you".
"If you should change your mind", Hard Eyes cast a look of contempt in Lonts's direction "I'm certain we could find somewhere to put HIM in the meantime".
Julian felt like saying that a kennel might be a good place to house Lonts, but realised it was wise not to say this out loud. In this sort of place he might be taken literally!
"Why didn't he ask me if I wanted anything?" said Lonts, once the boy had left.
"He's not interested in what you want", said Julian, pouring a generous measure of brandy into his coffee.
"Because he obviously believes I'm the one with the filthy lucre, and you're nothing but my fag".
"I don't understand".
"He thinks you're my pet, my own personal rent-boy, my little tart, to put it bluntly".
To Lonts, who was tired and hungry and missing Adam desperately, this news was the last straw. He burst into tears.
"I'm not", he wept "I'm Adam's lover, not yours".
"I'm just telling you what that scrubber thinks, not what I think", said Julian "Have some coffee, it might make you feel better".
"I don't want any rotten coffee", Lonts wailed "I wouldn't be your lover if we were stuck here forever. You've been horrible to me all day. You just snap at me and tell me what to do all the time. You yell at me, and you hit me with a stick!"
"Let me also point out that you tried to run away from me, putting yourself in great danger I might add, you went for me like a pit-bull terrier, and you caused me to drive the buggy into a ditch! It's not all one-sided you know. Adam would've beaten you for that little lot too!"
"He wouldn't keep being horrible to me though", Lonts retorted.
"I'm sorry", said Julian, simply "But you've been giving as good as you've got, believe me".
"I'm sorry too", Lonts mumbled, and thrust his hands into the pockets of his robe "It's just that you frighten me. You always have".
"All I'm ever trying to do is look after you, for Adam's sake. I'll be the first to admit I'm not doing a terribly good job of it at the moment!"
"Do we have much money on us?"
"A bit left over from the fruit-buying, why?"
"Can we go down and use the restaurant?"
"I'm not at all sure that's a good idea, Lonts".
"But I'm hungry", Lonts flung himself at Julian and buried his face in his neck "Please Julian! I'll be good, I promise".
"It's not your behaviour that would worry me".
"But we've hardly eaten all day".
Julian felt he didn't need reminding of that fact. It wasn't just tension that was causing his nerves to jangle, but lack of sustenance too.
"Alright", he said, reluctantly "We'll go downstairs and see what it's like, but if I decide then we're leaving straightaway, we are, right?"
He held onto Lonts's hand firmly as he led him down the green-carpeted corridor to the back to the back of the building. The same thought kept going through his mind. You must be mad. You're dragging the most toothsome-looking boy you've ever seen through a house of ill-repute, and you expect to get him out unscathed!
A broad flight of stairs led them down to the basement. The overpowering aroma of hashish floated up to greet them, and squeals of laughter came from the restaurant. The scene inside wasn't quite as bad as Julian had been expecting. There were no naked men hanging upside down above the dinner-table, or waiters dishing out floggings with each course. Instead it looked more like a party of over-grown schoolboys enjoying an illicit midnight feast. A group of about a dozen men were sitting around a table, all of them completely starkers, which was a shame as they'd all seen better days. The table was heaped with plates of whipped cream, profiteroles and strawberries. It all looked rather pathetic really, like a bunch of old ladies getting turned on by the sight of a young actor with his shirt off.
Lonts's eyes lit up at the sight of the food. The men's eyes lit up at the sight of Lonts. Some were even ogling Julian. Ordinarily he would have been the first to admit he had aged far better than most of them, but the thought of being propositioned by a bunch of men his own age or even older was depressing beyond belief. It reminded him of the special rooms he had seen in brothels, when he used to frequent them before Adam came back on the scene. The rooms that were set aside for "mature men to meet with other mature men". Julian had always wanted to ask if jump-leads were thrown in as part of the deal!
"OUT!" he roared, grabbing Lonts by his arm and pulling him back out of the door and onto the stairs.
"He wants to stay!" yelled one of the men, which caused to the others to all fall about laughing.
Julian hauled Lonts back up the stairs and along the corridor. By now Lonts was tired of being dragged about and began to cry very loudly, reiterating again and again that he was hungry.
"I noticed a bowl of peaches in the Nerd's office, you can have a couple of them", said Julian.
"Fruit?" said Lonts, in disgust "If we're only going to have fruit we might as well have stayed in the buggy".
"Stop arguing with me, Lonts!" Julian roared, as they reached the office door "If you argue with me just one more time I won't be responsible for my actions".
"Don't you dare spank me", said Lonts, angrily "Not after what you did to me earlier".
"Get in there!" Julian shoved open the office door and pushed Lonts inside.
A surprisingly peaceful half-hour had followed. Julian had peeled a peach for Lonts, and then apologised to him.
"I shouldn't have made that crack about Kiskev and Father Isaac and all that earlier", he said "The joke was in bad taste, even by my standards".
"It doesn't matter now", said Lonts, spitting a peach-stone into his hand.
"Our whole relationship seems to have been like this", Julian sighed "Brief moments of reconciliation, and then we're fighting tooth and nail again".
"Our fights are nothing like the ones me and Adam have had", Lonts giggled.
"Yes, you two are well-matched. Both can be vicious little brutes when you want to be. Believe it or not I am a peace-loving person. I've never enjoyed quarrelling. And I don't like raising my hand in anger. I expect when it comes to assault and battery Adam's clouted me far more times than I have him".
"Adam says you'd always much rather have blind obedience".
"It is much less wearing on the nerves", said Julian "And partly in some ways I'm afraid of confrontations. It's always upset me to overhear people quarrelling".
"But you've had plenty of it with Adam", Lonts pointed out.
"You can say that again", Julian sighed "But that's the price I'm willing to pay to be with someone who is emotional and passionate. Back in my own time I knew too many people who were dead from the neck up. Little, tightly-controlled people with little, tightly-controlled lives. The sort who got to bed at night and think 'one day I'll be dead and I won't have to pretend anymore'. Not something that could ever be said of Adam. I'd rather have someone who feels too much, than who feels too little, however wearing it can be at times!"
"Why did you hurt him all those years ago?"
"Because as I once said to him, I was afraid of his intensity", said Julian "I hadn't been brought up by human beings. I didn't know how to cope with emotional people. So foolishly I tried to cope by making it clear to him I wanted something kept back for myself. It was a mistake both Kieran and I made in our early days of dealing with him. Not one you ever made though".
"I bet he's really worried at the moment", said Lonts, sombrely "I hope the others are keeping him calm".
"They'll need plenty of tranquilliser darts then", Julian chuckled.
The door opened and a fat man walked in, looking like a galleon in full sail in a midnight-blue silk frock. The drag queen look was completed by a peroxide blonde wig. He looked like an aged, obese travesty of Marilyn Monroe.
"Oh God, what now?" said Julian, tiredly.
"Sondro is ready to offer his services", the drag queen said, huskily "You've met Sondro haven't you?"
"Have I?" said Julian, warily.
Hard Eyes walked in. This time he wore only a leather jock-strap and nipple-clamps.
"He's all yours", said the drag queen, all but winking "Do you want me to take your pet away for a little while? I can feed him for you".
"He stays here", said Julian, firmly.
"Ooh, as you wish", the drag queen blew a kiss and left the three of them alone together.
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