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By Sarah Hapgood

This turned out to be truer than Joby's wildest dreams could have imagined. Angel had gone round the abandoned house with them but had somehow got separated from the rest of the party. He had ventured up into the attic, which was bare apart from a mattress on the floor. There was a strange smell in the room, a heady incense aroma. By the time he had ventured up close to the mattress the smell had knocked him unconscious.

Even in Angel's short and at times decidedly unreal life, he hadn't had experiences to match what happened next. At the time it occurred it was all an extraordinary blur. He had come round to find himself lying on the mattress, tied to four wooden pegs staked into the floor at each corner.

Angel had never seen a woman in the flesh before, let alone a semi-naked one, yet there was no doubt in his mind that the creature who came through the trapdoor at him was such a person. She wore only a pair of black stockings, and in her hand carried an ominous-looking whip.

"Squeal little pig, squeal!" she cried, crouching over him "Oh won't squeal eh? I'll just have to make you".

He wept and he pleaded. He yelled and he screamed, and yet the whip came crashing down on him again and again. Relentlessly, until his whole body felt as though it was on fire. The pain was so all-consuming that he remembered little of his tormentor. Her face was a parchment mask some distance above him, pitted with black spots on one side. The flesh around her thighs wobbled with her exertions, and her black curly pubic hair was a quite mesmerising sight. But the pain shut it out.

"Squeal! Squeal!" she yelled, until in the end he was reduced to doing just that. She untied him from the wooden pegs but he was far too demoralised and in pain by now to even think of fighting her or running away.

"Squeal pig! Squeal!" she continued to yell, until he was on all fours, scuttling around the room just like a farmyard animal.

The nightmare was almost over. The woman disappeared without saying another word. Angel knew he had to get out, that he didn't have the luxury of lying and licking his wounds. If she came back and started on him again, he didn't like to think of the condition she would leave him in. He had to get out now, whilst he still had a modicum of a chance of managing it alive.

Wincing with agony he slid out of the trapdoor and made his way down through the house. He fully expected to encounter the terrifying apparition once more on the stairs or on the landing, but she was nowhere in sight. The journey back to the camp seemed endless, and when he finally got there he was so blinded by rage and humiliation that he could only fall on Kieran and attempt to pummel him into the ground. Ransey managed to restrain him with a length of rope. It was only then that the full extent of his injuries could be gauged.

"Yea, take a good look at 'em", Angel wept, exposing the shocking red weals on his stomach "It was no fucking hallucination. This is proof if ever you wanted it that I'm not imagining any of it".

Angel wept and sobbed continuously for hours. Kieran watched him, feeling helpless.

"Nobody fucking cares", Angel sniffed "You don't fucking care. She could have hung my carcass up for the flies and you wouldn't have fucking cared one bit. It would have solved all your problems then wouldn't it?"

Every word of this was true. Kieran couldn't bear to admit it to himself, but he knew this was the case. Feeling unable to answer in any way that wasn't hypocritical, cliched or downright dishonest, he ran into the bushes and made it quite clear that he wanted to be alone.

"Yea, you can stare Kiskev", Angel cried, noticing Lonts nearby "This could have been you, but oh no, people care about you, so they get you away from her, but not me".

"Give it a rest Angel", said Joby "I don't know what good you think grizzling at Lonts is gonna do".

"It should've been him that's why", said Angel "She wanted him really, only you had to go and interfere".

"That isn't true", Joby suddenly noticed Lonts bolting away "Lonts! Come back!"

Lonts hadn't gone far. He had merely located the nearest accessible tree and shinned up it, so that he could sob in peace. Joby managed to coax him down again without too much trouble, although by the time Adam got there his chest was gurgling like a set of old pipes.

"Look at the worry you've caused", Joby yelled at the boy "You're always doing it".

"Yes alright Joby", Adam wheezed.

"It's not alright", said Joby "Listen to the state of you for a start. He should be told".

"He's going to be", said Adam "Julian wants a word with him".

"No Adam!" Lonts wailed in terror.

"He's not going to beat you", said Adam.

"Just give you some constructive criticism", said Julian, pointing imperiously at a spot on the ground where Lonts was to stand whilst he received his telling-off.

Lonts nodded weakly all through it, and returned to Adam in a subdued but much calmer state of mind. Adam hugged him, although Lonts kept glancing nervously at Julian, as if he expected him to come back for a reprise.

"Will you look at those three", said Joby, when Kieran returned from his mini-retreat "Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear and Baby Bear!"

"With Angel as Goldilocks I suppose", said Kieran.

"Yea, talk about Grim Fairy Tales", said Joby. He took Kieran's hand and squeezed it "Are you alright?"

"What the hell are we going to do about Angel, Joby?"

"I wish I knew", Joby sighed "If I'd known how much trouble he was going to be for us I'd have throttled him when we first me him on the prison steps. He just doesn't seem to give a damn how unhappy he makes people".

"I think in some ways he sees it as his right", said Kieran "Because he's been so unhappy himself. That's why he's got us all tied up in knots".

"But why does he keep having a go at Lonts though?"

"He doesn't understand how Lonts has succeeded", said Kieran "He knows Lonts is beautiful, and yet so was he at one time, but it didn't endear us to him any the more, so why did it work for Lonts?"

"I don't know", said Joby "All I know is you can't compare Lonts with Angel. Not at the end of the day. Chalk and cheese".

"Enough of this gloom", said Ransey, walking up to them "The sooner we get to the Bandorra township the better. I've heard that new hotel there is quite spectacular".

"It won't solve the problem of Angel, Ransey", said Kieran.

"No, but something will one day", said Ransey "All problems have a solution in the end. Even him".

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