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After a couple of weeks they felt as though they had been in Toondor Lanpin for half their lives. It was a rabbit-warren of seedy buildings, arrayed along a grotty waterfront, and yet it was the friendliest place they had ever stayed in. Being so far from anywhere it lived entirely by its own rules, and there was a couldn't-care-less attitude about it, due to the fact that the natives had long since accepted the human race as absurd, and simply wanted to make sure they generated an aura of benign goodwill in their own small pocket of it.
The whole place was a bizarre meeting-house of bustling reality and surreal dreamscape. There were times when, in the middle of the night, Kieran fancied he could hear the sound of babies crying from some of the myriad barges and waterfront huts. Not only that but some of the "boys" who sold ready-cooked meals from their boats looked rather soft in the jaw and were softly-spoken to match. They all knew it and yet no one commented. Not even amongst themselves in the privacy of the Indigo. Toondor Lanpin made people that way. You accepted what you heard and saw, and then sank back into another contented haze. Even the sight of very small children playing along the waterfront after dark was simply accepted, even if in the rest of the world there existed no one under the age of fifteen.
"Let's not spoil the magic", was all Kieran said to Joby "I rather like the idea of the future of the world belonging to this lot".
It helped of course that cannibis was one of Toondor Lanpin's biggest exports and recreational pursuits. At sundown the entire waterfront area seemed to sink into a mellow, sweet-smelling haze, and Julian nicknamed it "Grass Harbour". So effective was this narcotic paradise that when Joby accidentally spied a bare-breasted woman washing herself one night on the deck of her boat, he simply smiled.
"Wonderful place", he said, afterwards.
"Heaven", Kieran winked "Of course this might explain the gifts they keep pressing on us. Not that they need to, we're not going to tell on them".
This was how the women of Toondor Lanpin had survived the Massacre. Their menfolk simply couldn't be bothered to start killing. Periodically ever since men from the Ministry had come out to investigate weird rumours from passing fishing trawlers, vague sightings of bare-breasted women on the waterfront. Invariably they all fell under the spell of this tatty backwater, and went back blaming the sightings on dope. Some never went back at all, and could still be found living in the dilapidated huts.
It wasn't chronic under-population that caused the decaying buildings, but Toondor Lanpin's general attitude of laissez-faire. But then who could care? Buildings were only buildings after all, and most of the population were happier living on their boats or in their huts.
The Indigo was soon part of the fixtures and fittings. Hillyard and Ransey talked idly about getting jobs, in order to support the others, although with their regular deliveries of food and other goodies from their neighbours, to keep them "sweet", there was no hurry for this. Bengo offered to get a job as a street entertainer, and was roundly told by Julian that he'd probably get himself arrested as a public menace if he did.
Adam revelled in being the Indigo's chatelaine. He spent most of his time on the Indigo and the surrounding jetties. He got to know all their immediate neighbours, including one rather emotional old man. Actually he was the same age as Adam, but looked twenty years older. He had a wife and nine children, of both genders, and lived in constant terror that the Ministry would find out about them. He had initially come round to beg Adam not to inform on them. Adam had reassured him that neither he or any other of the Indigo-ites would do any such thing. Having found an easy listener the old man was now coming round all the time, usually with yet another stressful story about the inordinate worries his family gave him.
Julian was impatient with him, and grew short-tempered that Adam constantly encouraged him into the galley for cosy chats. The old man always seemed permanently on the verge of tears, and constantly moaned that a parent couldn't be expected to control his children all the time. Adam commiserated. Julian said he was a fool.
"His children are all foul-mouthed little brats", he said, stoutly "They should all be thrashed soundly and sent away to a nice military academy!"
"Oh Jules", said Adam "The poor old love's dreadfully worried that the Ministry might find out about his family".
"Believe me, the Ministry could not possibly want to know about his family", said Julian "No one in their right mind would!"
When Mrs Tearful (as the Indigo-ites nicknamed the emotional old man's equally emotional wife) gave birth to her umpteenth child soon after, Adam sent Ransey over with a basket of oranges and some of Lonts's nappies cut down to baby-size. Lonts wanted to send the whole lot and tried to smuggle the entire stock into the basket, but Adam caught him just in time.
Ransey was uncertain about being the messenger. His only direct experience of women had been the dreadful Ghoomer women in Thetislog, who'd taunted him and sexually abused him. Adam had said not all women were so barbaric, and he must stop thinking of them as evil.
"Why didn't you like them in your time then?" said Ransey, caustically.
"I didn't dislike them. I've just always preferred men", said Adam.
"I don't know, these things happen that way sometimes. Now take the basket over".
Ransey came back several hours later, drunk on Mr Tearful's Port, and promptly collapsed in a snoring heap on his bunk. The following day, when asked about his evening, he said simply that Mrs Tearful had looked exhausted, but that was "only to be expected really".
"I saw a cow giving birth once", he added "Terrible experience".
"For you or the cow?" said Joby.
"Nancy Mitford once described childbirth as like pulling an orange out of one's nostril", said Adam.
"Don't be disgusting, Adam", said Julian "I wish the days were still here when it wasn't the done thing to refer to such practices in public".
"We're not in public", said Ransey "We're at home".
The days rolled past, and they all showed every inclination of staying in Toondor Lanpin forever. The local women grew more trusting and allowed themselves to be seen by them in daylight. A red letter day occurred when one actually came aboard the Indigo and asked if she could use their loo, as hers was blocked. It was a sign more than any other that they had been fully accepted into the community.
The cost of living in the town was low, and they were able to live off the remains of Etyn's wad of cash for some time. One morning, after they had been there about a month, everyone but Adam, Julian and Hillyard, went into town to pick up fresh supplies. Adam stayed behind to wash nappies, Julian was having a lie-in, and Hillyard was sulking in his cabin. There was a definite serpent in the Garden of Eden as far as he was concerned. He was still in deepest misery because the relationship between Finia and Bengo was going from strength to strength. Bengo was still affable enough towards Hillyard, but he was deeply in love with Finia, and this was obvious to all. Julian was also especially miffed because he had hoped that Bengo would move in with one of the neighbouring women.
Adam knew Hillyard was truly suffering when he refused to go out with the others. So occasionally he went into the gangway and listened at his cabin door, in case he required his presence in any way. But Hillyard was always ominously silent.
"When are the others due back, Ada?" Julian barked. He was standing in the galley doorway, wearing his nightshirt with the sleeves tied round the waist, leaving his upper half exposed.
"I think they've gone for the day", said Adam, rinsing one of Lonts's nappies in the sink "I was going to suggest we join them at the public baths this afternoon".
"As you wish", said Julian "I did ask them to buy me some more cheroots. I'm completely out. But it appears I'm going to have to grub around for dog-ends until we meet up with them again. It's very inconvenient. Come and help me turn out my desk to look for some".
"Jules, I'm in the middle of ..."
But Julian had already returned to his cabin, in the full and certain expectation that Adam would follow him. Adam dried his hands and went into Julian's cabin, where he found him pulling the drawers out of his desk, and collecting assorted dog-ends in his ash-tray. The floor was littered with papers and odds and ends he had thrown there tempestuously.
"Hilly seems dreadfully unhappy, Jules", said Adam.
"Never mind him", Julian snapped, as he rooted around in one of the bottom drawers "That's your trouble, Adam. Constantly fretting about everyone else, when you should be concentrating on looking after me. If you got your priorities right, I wouldn't be out of smokes, and reduced to grubbing around for dog-ends like some old tramp!"
"I'm far more concerned about Hillyard's state of mind than your cigar situation", Adam retorted.
"Then you shouldn't be!" said Julian "Hillyard'll get over it. He's not really in love with Bengo. He's in love with the idea of being in love. That's always been his trouble. God, the crud that's accumulated in here. Look at this!"
"It's an old hairbrush", said Adam, sulkily.
"It's one of the glorified curry-combs Finia uses for doing his wigs", Julian flung it on the desk "Come on, don't just stand there. I haven't found a decent enough stub yet".
"You are such a self-centred little brat, Jules", said Adam, vehemently "I am very tired and ..."
"And whose fault is that?" said Julian "Your own! For instance, why can't Lonts wash his own nappies?"
"Be reasonable, Jules. I have to look after him".
"Very well, but don't whine to me then about how over-worked you are".
"Damnit Jules!"" Adam seized the hairbrush, pulled Julian over his knee and whacked him on the backside with it several times.
Hillyard had been disturbed out of his misery by the sound of their quarrel, and had stormed into Julian's cabin with every intention of screaming the place down in an uncharacteristic fit of temper. He had been stalled in his tracks by the sight of Julian being given a sound spanking by an angry Adam. It was a sight so rewarding that he burst out laughing.
"Piss off Hillyard!" Julian roared.
"Would you like a go, Hilly?" Adam pulled up the back of Julian's nightshirt and handed the hairbrush to Hillyard. He in turn whacked Julian so hard that the hairbrush broke in two.
"Thanks for that", Hillyard laughed, helplessly "I feel so much better. I think I'll go out now!"
"Well I hope you're satisfied", Julian stood up after Hillyard had gone.
"Oh cheer up Jules", said Adam "Think of yourself as having performed a public service. Hillyard no longer wishes to kill himself. In fact I think he's back to normal".
"God help us".
"I don't know what you're looking so upset about".
"I'm not upset!"
"Yes you are", said Adam "It's no big deal. You've often asked me to thrash you".
"There's a bit of a difference between being thrashed manfully with a belt, and being spanked with a hairbrush like some wayward toddler in the nursery!"
"You needn't think I'm going to apologise. You had it coming to you".
"Oh-ho, you wait until the next time I sort you out!" Julian lit the stub of a cheroot "You won't know what's hit you".
"Aren't you pleased Hillyard's sorted out though?"
"Ecstatic", Julian spat "I had no sympathy for him. He had no intention of being faithful to Bengo anyway".
"It would have been bad news for you if he had been", said Adam "Admit it, wouldn't you rather miss Hillyard's little visits to see you?"
"I suppose he is the perfect mistress", Julian laughed, softly "Back in the France of La Belle Epoque I would have set him up in a small apartment near the Bois de Boulogne, and visited him between the hours of two and four every afternoon. He's discreet, he doesn't get jealous, he doesn't whine, he's not unsightly, and above all he's a good screw. Yes, I would miss him".
"I take it I'm not mistress material then?"
"You're the wife, dear. Shrewish and fussy, constantly nagging, and fretting about the children and putting them before me".
"And I love you dearly", said Julian, and he kissed him.
Hillyard found Kieran and Joby sitting in one of the bars in town, drinking beer in a darkened room conspicuous by its silence and deadening atmosphere.
"Hello my little babes", he boomed, slapping them both on the back "You two so desperate to be alone you had to come to this morgue?"
"What are you being so bloody cheerful about?" said Joby "Last time I saw you, you looked as though you were about to shoot yerself".
"I've come to me senses since then", said Hillyard "Where are the others?"
"Ransey's taken Lonts and Toppy to watch some beetle racing in the other room", said Kieran, fanning himself with a beer-mat "And ... well Bengo and Finia have gone shopping".
"Good for them", Hillyard ordered another beer.
"So, much as we're relieved to have you back to you old self, Hilly", said Kieran "I'd like to know what's put the smile back on your face".
"You should've seen what I've just seen!" Hillyard paused to take his first sip of the beer "Adam was giving Julian a proper old-fashioned spanking. Hairbrush and everything. I even had a go! You lot'll be pig sick with jealousy that you missed it!"
"Nice to know he's got a taste of his own medicine for a change", said Joby.
"Adam saw to that!" said Hillyard.
"So that's cured you has it?" said Joby "You're gonna stop mooning all over the place now? It would never have worked you know, you being in a serious relationship".
"No, you'll have to stick with screwing Julian and being in love with Joby", said Kieran.
"Looks like it, don't it!" said Hillyard.
They all met up at the public baths later that afternoon. These really were communal bath-tubs, there for washing and not swimming in. Because there were ten of them in Kieran's group they were able to get one to themselves, although Julian griped that the institutional white tiles and anaemic slabs of heavy-duty soap rather put the kibosh on any kind of hedonistic atmosphere. Added to that Bengo insisted on swimming up and down with a new gazoo clamped between his teeth.
The news of Julian's chastisement had got round like wildfire, and everyone enjoyed the joke immensely.
"You're a good sport to take it so well, Jules", said Adam, sitting at one end of the bath with him "I feel rather guilty now".
"And so you should", said Julian "And I would appreciate it if they'd all find something else to snigger about eventually. Ring for some more hot water, Ada".
Afterwards they all strolled back through the town. Adam and Julian walked arm-in-arm at the head of them like a couple of parents in charge of a large brood of unruly children.
"There's someone on the Indigo!" Lonts shouted, pointing at three figures standing on the forward deck.
"Probably someone else wanting to use the loo", said Joby.
"No it's not", said Kieran, in dismay "It's those bloody priests again".
"Oh shit, it's not is it?" said Joby "I didn't think anyone would be able to find us here".
"I hope some of the neighbours are undercover", said Kieran "'Cos I wouldn't trust Dalman as far as I could throw him".
He needn't have worried. The word had got round very quickly that three undesirable strangers were on the scene, and as a consequence the waterfront was abnormally quiet for the hour of day. Kieran briefly wondered how Mrs Tearful was keeping her new-born so subdued, and thought the old man's Port might have something to do with it.
"Good afternoon Your Grace, been swimming?" Father Dalman fingered a lock of Kieran's hair, which was still damp from his bath.
"You're trespassing", said Julian, stepping off the jetty and onto the Indigo "I'm asking you to leave".
"How did you know we were here?" said Joby "Did you bug us?"
"Don't know anything about any bugs", said Dalman, sighing with impatience "We followed you up-river in our own vessel. It didn't take us long to ... er ... persuade Pendor to tell us which way you had come. It was only a matter of time before we caught up".
Kieran was upset to think what they might have done to Pendor, in order to get him to reveal the existence of the secret lock gates. These priests. Priests of the church he had created. He gave a loud cry of pain and leaned on the bulwark. And now his priests were here, and the lives of this entire unique community were in jeopardy.
"Yes it would be quite tragic if Tamaz were to find out the truth about Toondor Lanpin, wouldn't it Your Grace?" said Dalman, as though reading his thoughts "He wouldn't take at all kindly to the existence of real women. That would really upset him. He would lose all rights to supremacy then. Who would want him and his four half-demonic hermaphrodite children when they now have the real thing? So I'm afraid you'll have to come back and depose him in his absence. I would do it myself but priests can't run for office ..."
"Hang on", said Kieran "What do you mean by 'in his absence'? Where is Tamaz now then?"
"He's here", said Dalman "In Toondor Lanpin. He arrived this afternoon by air-buggy. You don't think it's entirely on my account that the women are hiding do you?"
"Where exactly in Toondor Lanpin is he?" said Kieran.
"No one knows, Your Grace", said Monene "He's really gone to earth. He could be in any of these buildings. He could be watching us now".
"There is no governor's house as far as we know", said Adam.
"There's no governor as such", said Joby.
"You have to come back to the City with us", said Dalman, firmly "Now. Depose that murdering Ghoomer and take your rightful place as President".
"There has to be another solution", said Kieran.
"There isn't one", said Dalman "It is your fault Tamaz is here. Because he is here the whole of these women and children are at risk".
"And how can me fleeing make them more secure?" Kieran exclaimed, angrily "Chances are as soon as I left Tamaz would go on the rampage. No, you can't keep expecting me to go wading in as the solution to everything. If I was dead you'd have to think of something else. Look, just clear off for a few hours Dalman, and give me time to think. A few hours, that's all I ask. Tamaz can't do much in that time".
"I only hope you're right", said Dalman.
"If he's got any sense he won't overplay his hand too soon", said Kieran "Come back later tonight. I'll have a plan for you then".
Dalman bowed his head in reluctant acquiescence and turned to leave.
"I want to know why you lied to me, Ketts", said Lonts, grabbing Ketts by his cassock.
"Not now, Lonts", said Joby.
"It's important, Joby", said Lonts "He's hiding something, and we need to know what it is".
"You ridiculous person", said Ketts, sneeringly.
Lonts gave a cry of rage and promptly pushed Ketts over the side and into the murky waters of the harbour.
"Oh fish him out", said Julian, wearily.
Hillyard grabbed one of the poles and leaned over the side. Julian swatted Lonts on the backside and ordered Adam to take him below. Ketts was hauled back onto the deck. His cassock hung heavy and sodden around him. The filthy water had got into his hair, and it now hung muddily around his dirty face.
"Not so pretty now are you?" said Julian.
Ketts was shivering, with rage mostly.
"He's a dead man", he rasped, his teeth chattering violently.
"Not a very tolerant and forgiving attitude", said Julian "See you at Evensong!"
The small children of the waterfront didn't come out to play at twilight, as was usually their custom. Instead the whole area was much quieter than normal, and this added to the ominous feel of the evening.
Things were less quiet below deck on the Indigo. Adam hadn't spanked Lonts for his treatment of Ketts, and the boy found this acutely worrying. It could only mean that he was leaving Julian to do the honours, and Lonts remembered how he had sniggered endlessly on hearing of Julian's own chastisement earlier. Julian would be sure to recall this at the most inopportune moment.
Squealing with terror Lonts had begged to be allowed to barricade himself in his cabin. It had taken Adam some time to persuade him that Julian wasn't remotely interested in avenging Ketts's humiliation, in fact he had found it rather amusing.
"You're sure?" said Lonts, sitting huddled in a corner of the sofa.
"Positive", said Adam "But I wouldn't go tossing anyone else in the drink if I were you, Lo-Lo".
Kieran went up on deck, and leaned pensively against the bulwark. He had that old and dreaded Night Before My Execution feeling, the same one he had had just prior to going to the Winter Palace all those years before. He had often joked in the past that no one could actually force him into being President, but not it seemed they could. He tried desperately to think of ways to make the job bearable, but everything about it filled him with misery. He had found his favoured reality, here on the Indigo in Toondor Lanpin harbour. He did not want to go back to a life of endless meetings, of never being off-duty, of being holed up in the Headquarters day-in day-out, of everyone watching and reinterpreting his every movement, word and gesture. And to be forced to live that way until death was downright sadistic in the extreme. He would rather wash men's underpants everyday than go back to that!
"Come to a solution yet?" said Joby, appearing beside him.
"No", said Kieran, muttering into his arm "What am I going to do, Jobe? Dalman was right. If Tamaz isn't stopped he could wreck even more havoc than Gabriel, and that's saying a lot! Certainly no one in this harbour would be safe".
"Perhaps we could evacuate the place for a while", said Joby "It'd take some doing to keep it all secret, but it's the sort of thing that's been done before. Move all the women and children out under cover of darkness to somewhere safe, and then we corner Tamaz and kill the bastard, and then everyone can come back again. They can have who they like as President after that".
"Where would we move them to?"
"I'm not sure. Just take a few boats up-river perhaps, out of his reach. It'd only be a temporary thing. This town's a maze, but even so it shouldn't take us that long to find him".
"I wouldn't be so sure about that. I have a very nice little bolt-hole, thank you very much!"
They turned round slowly and came face-to-face with Tamaz. He was standing on the deck behind them. He was still in female mode, wearing a boned purple satin dress which pushed his meagre breasts up into some semblance of a cleavage. His hair was brushed into a frenzy of brown curls, and his cheekbones looked like upturned saucers.
"You murdering little shit!" Kieran bellowed "What did you do to Gorth?"
"Curare on the end of a hatpin", said Tamaz "I jabbed it into him at the concert. He was dead within fifteen minutes. As he died though I was very quick to get the presidential ring off his finger", he held up his hand and brandished the clumpy red stone on his third fingers "Fits me like a glove. I expect you found it rather awkward though didn't you?"
"Ransey!" Joby screamed.
"Don't do that", said Tamaz, calmly "I have a gun too you see".
He pulled a small pistol out of his cleavage. He grabbed Joby by the elbow and yanked him towards him. He jammed the nozzle of the gun into Joby's temple. Kieran watched in horror as Tamaz released the safety-catch and began to put the faintest of pressure on the trigger.
"Please!" he screamed "I'll do whatever you want".
"Get your rotweiler to stand back", said Tamaz, indicating Ransey who was now inching closer across the deck.
Kieran waved at Ransey to stand still, and the man obeyed. He prayed inwardly that Lonts was under strict supervision below deck, as he wouldn't put it past him to try and rescue Joby.
"Please", Kieran repeated "Let Joby go, and I'll agree to anything you want".
"You don't seem to understand", said Tamaz, petulantly "You're not in any position to make bargains".
"Alright I appreciate that, but please let Joby go".
"No, I want to have a bit of fun with him first".
"What do you mean?"
"I'm taking him back to my place for a while", said Tamaz "It would be too simple to kill him, you see. Although I won't hesitate to do so if anyone attempts to get in my way at the moment! But preferably I want you to sweat about him for a while, before I do the dirty deed".
"I'm sweating now", said Kieran.
"Not in the way I'm thinking", said Tamaz "Joby dead would be bad enough for you wouldn't it? But Joby dying and hating your guts to his last breath, oh you won't want that at all, will you? That would destroy you utterly, if you knew that his last thoughts had been contempt of you".
"How do you propose to achieve that?" said Kieran, nervously.
"By making him mine, by turning him against you".
"In your dreams", said Joby.
"Don't speak so surely", Tamaz hissed, pressing the gun further into his temple "I am going to reduce the so-called saintly Vanquisher of Evil into a bitter and twisted wreck with a rotted soul. Destroy the essence of the man before destroying the man himself".
"Is that what you did to Gorth?" said Kieran "Was that why he looked so weak and lifeless during his final months? I've seen the pictures ..."
"Gorth was pitifully easy to torment, but you are no less predictable. We all know, yawn-yawn, about your great love for Joby. How you gave up the Presidency for his sake. How you've made no secret of the fact that you couldn't do anything if it weren't for him. Well I'm going to put that to the test".
"You don't need to, it's true", said Kieran.
"It's going to be such fun", said Tamaz "Such a challenge. I am going to enjoy myself. March on ... Mr Joby!"
"Joby, don't say or do anything rash", said Kieran "We'll come and find you. Just sit it out until we get there".
"Don't leave it too long", said Joby, stumbling across the deck with the gun in the small of his back "I don't think I can take too much of his company".
"Don't get antagonised by him", Kieran implored "And remember I love you!"
"Oh shut up", said Tamaz "You're making me feel ill".
"Love you too", Joby said, emotionally "And when we finally get this bastard, remember that you don't have to be President".
"He won't be fit to be anything", said Tamaz "Not by the time I've finished with you!"
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