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Hillyard was dreaming. In his dream he was in an entirely different place, about as different as it was possible to get. It was cold. Snow and ice everywhere. Dark too. Like that awful winter at Wolf Castle. For some unknown reason they were all reduced to living in a two-roomed cell right by the edge of a frosted Grey Sea. The cell was connected to a maze of underground corridors, all linked by a network of little staircases. He had got separated from the others, and was lost in the corridors. Hirrid had appeared and said he would help him find his way back to the surface, but at a price. He wanted to be with them again. Hillyard didn't want him hanging round his neck again, but he agreed because he so desperately wanted to be above ground. Once there he could see a town in the far distance, barely visible in the icy gloom. There was a fire burning, creating the only bit of light in the darkness. "The fire's too keep Tamaz away", said Lonts, who had come outside to fetch him in "It's to keep Tamaz away from the town".
"Are you still in bed, Hilly?" said Adam, walking into his cabin.
Hillyard sat up in the bunk. The dream had been so vivid that for a moment he was totally disorientated. Instead of an icy vista before him, he was in a hot, untidy cabin on a boat in the middle of the swamp. Adam was standing by his bed. Behind him was Bengo, his long hair wet and straggly from where he'd had a shower on deck.
"I hope you don't mind", Adam continued "But I'm putting Bengo in here from now on. There really isn't room in our cabin. I think Julian's being quite ridiculous in refusing to let him have the spare bunk in his cabin, but there we are, reasonableness was never his middle name!"
"But he'd have to sleep on the floor in here too", Hillyard protested.
"I know, but I still think he'd get more room. And we really don't get any privacy in our cabin now".
"You mean Lonts isn't getting into your bunk in the small hours with him there?" Hillyard laughed.
"Something like that", said Adam "Somehow I didn't think you'd object too strongly to Bengo's presence though".
He gave a knowing wink and left the cabin.
"I hope you don't mind", said Bengo "I offered to bunk down in the saloon, but Adam said Julian wouldn't like it. It gets difficult finding something he does like, doesn't it?"
"You can say that again", Hillyard gulped and looked over Bengo's figure appreciatively "You can stay in here as long as you like. It'll be nice to have a normal person in here. Sometimes, sharing with Ransey and Etyn, I feel like some lumbering great hound who's in the way".
He laughed nervously.
"Don't worry about it", Bengo sat down on the edge of his bunk "You're my kind of guy".
"Am I?" Hillyard gulped again.
"Put it this way I'd rather have you in an audience than either of those two!" said Bengo "You look like a man who enjoys a good belly laugh".
"Yeah. Don't get many in this cabin though", said Hillyard "Still, that might all change now. C-Could I brush your hair for you? You've got such lovely hair".
"Go ahead", Bengo tittered and nudge him playfully "Geddit?"
"I can see no why clowns are usually silent!" said Hillyard.
"Yeah I know", said Bengo, with mild regret "I'm better as a visual comic".
"You certainly are", Hillyard began to brush Bengo's long hair with sweeping strokes "It's so wavy and thick".
"Matches the brain underneath it", Bengo chortled.
Hillyard paused and kissed Bengo's bare shoulder, and the clown gave a small moan of pleasure.
"You don't have to kip on the floor you know", said Hillyard "But then again you might find it a bit of a tight fit being in with me".
"I expect we'll manage somehow", said Bengo "What about the other two though? Won't they mind?"
"I'll rig up a curtain like I did for Kieran and Joby. And if they still don't like it, well they can move out can't they!"
Joby carried his lunch up onto the forward deck, where Lonts was already eating his, whilst perched on a pile of hemp that was used as a park-bench by them all.
"I've been meaning to say", said Joby, sitting down next to him "I hope Julian wasn't too hard on you about the water incident yesterday. It was bad enough Etyn over-reacting like he did".
"Julian was o.k with me", Lonts smiled, suggestively.
"I needn't have worried, need I!" said Joby, sarcastically.
"It's easy to get round Julian", Lonts stuffed a slice of bread into his mouth and chewed on it vigorously.
"Don't get too complacent with him", said Joby "I'd hate it if he hurt you".
"He's very kind to me, Joby. You've got it all wrong about him, honest. He's very nice really".
"Maybe, but I'd still be careful with him".
"He calls me his little Cossack", Lonts giggled.
"You've certainly got the table-manners of one! How do you know what a Cossack is anyway?"
"Julian said they were horsemen who came from a place like Kiskev", said Lonts "Except we didn't have a lot to do with horses. We used mainly dogs and reindeer".
"Lonts", said Joby, looking serious "You wouldn't go with Julian permanently? Leave Adam I mean?"
"Leave Adam?" Lonts's eyes opened wide with shock "Joby, that's a terrible thing to say. I would never leave Adam, never!"
"Alright, calm down. I was just making sure".
"I don't know how you could think that", Lonts pouted "I couldn't leave him anymore than you could leave Kieran".
"I know, you've convinced me! Here, have some of my bread".
"Your evening grog tray, bang on time", said Adam, carrying the brandy decanter into Julian's cabin "I thought I'd better do it. Finia is absorbed in sewing up the hem on one of his frocks and looks like he might be at it quite some time".
"How is everything out there?" said Julian, collecting a glass from his cupboard.
"Oh quiet. A bit soporific in fact. Must be the endless swamp-land surrounding us. We haven't seen anything but that since leaving the Village of Stairs".
"I thought Lonts might pop in sometime today, but he didn't".
"I've been keeping him busy", said Adam, blithely.
"I'm sure you have, you sly old bitch", Julian swatted his bottom "Like I heard you had Bengo moved in with Hillyard. Thought he deserved a treat did you?"
"Not jealous are you, Jules?"
"My dear boy, getting jealous where Hillyard's concerned would be like getting jealous of a City tram-car. Everyone boards him at some point!"
"There is something I wanted to show you", Adam drew out a slip of paper from the pocket of his shorts "Lo-Lo found this when he was making Etyn's bed. It was under the pillow. His reading's not usually good, but he recognised our names and thought it might be important".
Julian unfolded the small slip of paper. On it was a list of all the names of everyone on-board the Indigo, other than Etyn, with a number next to each name, ranging from one to nine. Lonts was placed as one, with Adam second, and Kieran third, running down to Julian at nine.
"I'm bottom of the list, whatever it means", he said.
"I don't like it, Jules", said Adam "I think he's up to something".
"If he is why did he leave it where Lonts could find it?" said Julian "He's always nagging him to make his bed".
"I think he believes Lo-Lo can't read at all".
"Then don't disillusion him", said Julian "He might carry on being careless if that's the case. Tell Lonts to look out for anymore slips of paper and pass them to you. And not to mention them to the others as yet. And try to make sure no one's left alone with him, if possible. Particularly Lonts. For some reason he's at the top of the list, and I can't believe it's a popularity chart somehow".
"Oh Jules, this is so unfair. Wherever we go there's someone out to get him".
"Well Etyn's not going to succeed, so you can relax. Leave it to your Uncle Julian to sort out".
"You seem to be relishing the thought of Lo-Lo in danger!"
"No, more likely I'm relishing the thought of at last having an excuse to dump Etyn!" Julian laced his fingers behind his head and leant back in his chair "I'm thinking of growing a beard".
"What on earth do you want to do that for?" said Adam "You've got a very distinctive face. Why do you want to go covering half of it up?"
"Something to do", Julian shrugged "You do realise we could have nearly a thousand miles of nothing to look forward to. I hope you can think of something to stop this lot going potty".
"If they didn't go potty during that awful winter as the Castle, then I don't see why they should here", said Adam "I have great faith in our lot".
"It's not our lot I'm concerned about".
"I'd better get on with the supper. Promise me you won't grow a beard, Jules. I have never in my life ever fancied a bearded man, and they tend to add years to people".
"Yes, and I can't afford that can I?" Julian smiled, and rubbed his smooth chin.
The sticky heat at night seemed to get worse as the journey progressed. The humidity in the cabins resembled a Turkish bath, and if it wasn't for the fact that they freely admitted they found the surrounding dark jungle too eerie they would have slept on deck.
Ransey couldn't sleep, and as he lay in his top bunk he knew he wasn't the only one. Below him Etyn was scrabbling around frantically in his bedclothes as though he was looking for something. The constant rustling and little exasperated sighs set Ransey's teeth on edge, and he knew if Etyn didn't settle soon strong words would ensue between them.
Suddenly Etyn gave a groan and stumbled out of his bunk and towards the cabin door. He fumbled for the door-handle in a rage and went out into the gangway. Ransey jumped out of his bunk and followed him. Etyn had headed for the next cabin, and had flung himself at Lonts's bunk in an extraordinary manner. He had grabbed Lonts's pillow and was holding it down over the boy's face. By the time Ransey got there the place was in chaos, and it reminded him of chicken-coop with a fox at large in it.
Adam was screaming and trying to wrench Etyn away from Lonts's vicinity. Lonts was wailing at full-volume and gasping for breath at the same time. And Kieran and Joby were trying to make sense of the whole thing.
"He's stolen something from my bed", Etyn yelled "I want it back!"
"And what would that be?" said Adam, angrily.
"I haven't taken anything", said Lonts "He's mad".
Ransey managed to get Etyn back into his own cabin, where Julian demanded an explanation a few minutes later.
"I temporarily lost my head that's all", said Etyn, primly.
"And what's this vitally important thing you're looking for?" said Julian.
"N-Nothing. It wasn't important", Etyn stammered "I thought the boy had stolen something but he hadn't".
"I don't find your explanation remotely convincing!" Julian spat "From now on you stay in here after dark, and you don't go intruding into anyone else's cabin. Do I make myself clear?"
Etyn crossed one leg over the other and slouched against the wall. Julian could see what he was doing. The other man was copying his mannerisms. This slouched position was one Julian often adopted when talking to the others. Adam had once nicknamed it his "hello sailor!" pose. On Etyn, who was normally so prime and fussy, it looked bizarre and insolent.
"Don't push your luck, Etyn", Julian whispered "Remember we're a long way from anywhere out here".
"Yes we are, aren't we?" said Etyn, slyly.
"I didn't think even Hillyard could mess up beans on toast", said Joby, after lunch the following day "But he did".
"Was a bit grim wasn't it?" said Kieran "Adam only agreed to let him cook 'cos it was something simple. I don't think he'll be let in the galley again in a hurry".
They were lying on the forward deck in the intense heat of the afternoon, having lugged their mattress up from the cabin. Lonts lay between them, sucking his thumb and scratching himself contentedly. He seemed remarkably calm after his ordeal of the night before, but this was mainly because he hadn't seen Etyn all morning. The said man had stayed closeted in his cabin, and Hillyard had reported that he seemed restless and preoccupied. Lonts had been forbidden to clean that cabin until further notice.
The incident had shaken the others greatly. To have Lonts attacked whilst in bed, in a room he shared with three others, was worrying. Etyn could easily have got hold of Ransey's revolver, or one of the galley knives. The consequences didn't bear thinking about.
"Old footbridge up ahead", said Joby, forcing himself into a sitting position "Spanning the river".
"Looks rotted right through to me", said Kieran, squinting against the sunshine "Probably hasn't been used in decades".
"Still it means there were people here once", said Joby "You never know what we might find as we go further up the river".
"A lost tribe of women perhaps?" Kieran laughed.
"As long as they're not Ghoomers I don't mind", said Joby.
"I expect Ransey would second that", said Kieran.
They lay back down and lazily watched the sky as they approached the old footbridge and then chugged underneath it. Once they had passed through the other side, something made Joby sit up and look behind him. Somebody was standing up on the footbridge. With the sun so strong it was hard to get a clear view, other than a silhouette leaning on the rotted wooden handrail.
"Kieran!" he cried, excitedly "Look up. There's someone there!"
"I can't see anyone", said Kieran, trying to shield his eyes with his sun-hat.
"Someone there I'm telling you!"
"I can't see anyone either, Joby", said Lonts.
"You're both fucking hopeless", Joby screamed, as he stormed towards the topside doors "Hopeless!"
"Joby, you must calm down, old love", said Adam, looking concerned as Joby paced violently up and down the saloon "This isn't good for you, not in this heat".
"We could have months of this, Adam", Joby yelled "Nothing but steamy heat and swamp. Cooped up on this bloody boat. Nothing to do but chores, sleep and waiting for the next lot of grub to be dished up. It's like one endless family Christmas!"
"Oh not that bad surely?"
"It's not funny, Adam. I could go off my fucking head. I might have already done so. That's why I'm seeing things. Seeing people who aren't there".
"You mustn't be so hard on yourself. Out in the glare of the sun it would be very easy to see strange shadows".
"It's not just that though is it?" said Joby, emotionally "We've got a nutter on-board here. Someone who tried to smother the baby in his bed, and all because he thought he'd taken something, and then says he isn't sure if he misled it or not! You and Julian aren't happy having him here, particularly after all that, and I can't see why we are putting up with him. I mean, we've got no use for his money out here have we?"
"No, but we will need it when we next come to civilisation", said Adam.
"That could be ages off! It's worse than having Uddle back. We need eyes in the back of our heads".
"We can't just dump him though".
"Oh no? You'll still be saying that when Lonts gets a knife in his belly, eh?"
"Don't talk like that", said Adam, finding himself fingering the brandy bottle.
"I will talk like it", said Joby "Someone's gotta face reality round here. What sane person tries to smother someone in bed in the middle of the night, just 'cos something's gone missing?"
"You're not still worked up, Joby?" said Kieran, coming into the room.
"Well someone's got to be!" said Joby "Look, I don't wanna go on at you, Adam ..."
"That's reassuring", said Adam, dryly.
"More than anything I think you should be resting", Joby continued "You've only recently had a major operation. The doc told you to rest, and you've done anything but. All this stress isn't good for you".
"One minute you're telling me I'm not getting worked up enough", said Adam "The next I mustn't get too stressed. Make your mind up for heaven's sake!"
"Logic was never Joby's strong point", said Kieran.
"We must all try and keep a level head", said Adam, grabbing them both by the hand "The last thing we need at the moment is an attack of cabin-fever".
"I'll second that", said Ransey, carrying his revolver and holster "I want you to take care of this, Adam".
"Me?" Adam exclaimed "I don't want it, old love. I think you should keep it".
"No, I'm not happy about having it in my cabin overnight, not with Etyn in there", said Ransey "Even if I wear it in my holster when I'm asleep he can still get at it. I'd rather you had it on you all the time, after what happened with Lonts. Put the holster on".
"This is ridiculous, Ransey", Adam cried "I can't clank around here like Wyatt Earp!"
"Show some concern for Lonts", Ransey barked, shaking the holster at him.
"I beg your pardon?" said Adam, in a scandalised voice.
"Julian told me about that list Lonts found", Ransey hissed "If it's a hit list, as I think it is, then Lonts is first, followed by you, followed by Kieran, and then the rest of us. I'm not prepared to take any risks when we've got someone with a mentality like that around".
"Why does he want to kill us all though?" said Joby.
"To be alone with Julian", said Ransey "That's why Julian's last on the list. He's got an obsession with Julian, and I feel guilty because I'm the one who brought him here, so please do as I say, Adam".
Adam sighed and buckled the holster around his waist.
"Good", said Ransey, approvingly "Wear it all the time, at least until I've thought of a solution to this problem".
"I have already", said Joby "Shoot him and bury him in the swamp".
"I'm not shooting anyone, unless it's absolutely necessary", said Ransey "I've told Julian to keep the gun the Governor gave us by him at all times too. On top of that Etyn isn't to be allowed in the galley under any circumstances, too many knives there, and I won't let him have access to a shaving-razor unless I'm with him. And he can eat his meals with a spoon. We'll review the situation again in a couple of day's time".
"I take it this meeting is now adjourned?" said Adam, sarcastically.
He left the saloon and went into Julian's cabin. The first thing he noticed was the second revolver lying in its holster on the desk. Julian meanwhile was standing in the middle of the room whilst Finia made adjustments to the trousers he was wearing.
"You've lost an awful lot of weight, Jules", said Adam "I don't think I've ever seen you that thin before. The seat of your trousers are sagging".
"That's why Finia is making vital adjustments", said Julian.
"Are you sure you're not sickening for something?"
"No, but I will be if I have to eat anymore meals prepared by Hillyard!" said Julian "I take it it was your brilliant idea to put him on cookhouse duties today?"
"Oh he keeps asking, you know what he's like. He does it enjoy it so".
"Yes, shame his talents didn't match his enthusiasm", said Julian, as Adam hove into his line of vision "Good grief, it's Bonnie Parker! What the well-dressed old reprobate is wearing this season. The gun goes just right with your nipple-rings!"
"Oh don't", Adam groaned "It's all Ransey's idea. I feel completely absurd. I'd never be able to use the damn thing anyway".
"Yes you would, if your little darling's life was being threatened".
"I expect so", Adam sighed "It's just a shame we have to live in this climate of fear because of one person".
"Did I hear Joby carrying on just now?" said Julian "Was it anything in particular, or was he just exercising his usual skill at complaining?"
"You know what he's like", said Adam "It's his way of coping".
"As he sounded near hysteria, it didn't' sound very like coping to me", said Julian "If he starts doing that again I may have to deal with him personally".
"You'll enjoy that, even if he doesn't", Finia muttered.
"I watched him walk into a door-frame this morning", said Julian "He's not drinking too much is he? I expect you to monitor that sort of thing closely, Adam".
"He wasn't drunk at all", Adam protested "It's his eye, his duff one. It makes it difficult for him to judge distances sometimes. Back at the house he was always marching into tables and tripping up the stairs".
"We really should have got it seen to", said Julian.
"I doubt there's anything anyone can do, Jules".
"You said that about your chest!"
"Are you sure you're not ill, Jules?"
"I'm perfectly fine, thank you".
"He's never ill", said Finia.
"If I've lost weight it's because there's bugger all to get fat on round here, apart from alcohol, and I'm so scared of running out of brandy that I've started rationing it, so stop fussing".
"I can't help it", said Adam "It was Ransey going on just now about making Etyn eat with a spoon because he's so dangerous. I mean, I don't know what's happening anymore. I don't feel like the First Officer on the Indigo these days, more like a prison guard at Alacatraz!"
"If you'd listened to me in the first place none of this would be happening", said Julian "I have never had any time for Etyn the cretin".
"Excuse me", Adam exclaimed "Did I just hear you right? If we HADN'T listened to you Jules, then we would have taken Etyn back to Zilligot Bay and none of this would be happening. But you were so tight-arsed you were determined not to waste any fuel on him. You have the most unspeakable nerve sometimes. I'm going to leave the room before I do something I might regret".
"He has a point there", said Finia, once Adam had gone.
"I know!" Julian snapped "Spoiling the ship for a happorth of tar was never more apt. Well, nobody regrets it more than me, I can assure you of that!"
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