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They sailed into Toondor Lanpin at the beginning of November, and found the town in the grip of yet another fog-bank. Fog-horns moaned as they steered the Indigo sloop delicately into harbour, and Joby said it made him feel quite at home. He was crouched at the top of the steep wooden steps which ran from the galley up to the area beneath the poop-deck, with Adam crouched next to him, and Bengo on the steps below them.
“It’s such a nerve wracking operation with this visibility”, said Adam. “Crunch, as we run into the harbour-wall!” said Joby, and then looked down at Bengo “That was a joke by the way, we haven’t really done it”.
“Can I have a look at what’s going on too?” said Bengo.
“A quick one”, said Joby, grudgingly “Not that there’s much to see”. He allowed Bengo to lean over him and peer out of the hatch.
“I can’t see very much”, said Bengo. Joby groaned and rolled his eyes.
“Right, back below”, said Adam, closing the hatch to keep out the fog “Work work work!”
“I hope you made the most of that”, Joby said to Bengo “That’s the only bit of fresh air you’re gonna get. It’s back into the dungeon now. If you behave yourself though, tomorrow we might chain you the right way up!”
The fog cleared overnight, and the morning dawned bright and sunny. Joby woke up in the communal bunk and watched the reflection of the water playing on the cabin ceiling. He could hear children out playing already on the dockside. He even caught Kieran’s name mentioned a few times. Not that this was surprising. The Toondorie children had been brought up to regard Kieran almost as a second Father Christmas. The man who had liberated their mothers from the far of Ministry-run baby-farms, and freed the children themselves from the prospect of growing up in these bleak places like battery-hens.
Later that morning most of the Indigo-ites, with the exception of Adam, Joby and Bengo, who were staying behind to prepare the main meal of the day, went across to Persephone’s bar to pick up a couple of kegs of beer to go with it. By now their arrival in town was common knowledge, and plots were being hatched behind the scenes. None of this was sinister or had anything to do with Codlik though. In fact Codlik’s name was conspicuous by its absence so far. Most of the Toondories were disgusted by the heresy charge against Kieran. Not only because it touched on Kieran, who was still as phenomenally popular as he’d ever been, but because they felt the Church was overstepping the mark. It was the Church getting too big for its boots which had led to the massacre of the women at the end of the 38 century, and no one wanted to see those days back again. It was commonly accepted that Codlik had, in Joby’s words, “gone off his head”.
Public solidarity had to be shown for Kieran in some way, but it wasn’t in the Toondories’ nature to be overly-aggressive about it. Instead they wanted to show it in the way they knew best: throwing a party. The best excuse would have been Kieran’s birthday, but that wasn’t until March. So Natalie of the Casino went to the Town I-jail, and dug out biographical details on the Indigo-ites from the archives. She struck gold when she discovered that Adam’s birthday was at the beginning of November.
This was very nearly almost as good. Adam had always been an immensely popular man. His good looks and charm had made him a much-admired President’s Consort. He had also won respect for the way he cared for Baby Lonts. During the Dark Ages, it is fair to say he had been seen as a torchbearer of love and tenderness.
“We don’t know how old he is though”, said Hillyard, when Persephone had informed them all of what the town had in mind “I don’t think he even knows himself these days!”
“All we know is that he’s not quite as old as Julian!” said Kieran.
“None of us know how old we are anymore”, said Julian, briskly “If we did, we could work it out”.
“It didn’t give years in the archives”, said Persephone “It all a bit meaningless when you were born 2000 years ago anyway”.
All through their conversation she had been casting lecherous glances at Tamaz’s pearl necklace. Although in his “boy’s garb” of shirt and trousers, Tamaz had raided his jewellery box before leaving the sloop and had put on the pearls because they were the most expensive item ofjewellery which he possessed.
“That’s a lovely necklace, Tamaz”, said Persephone.
“Thank you”, said Tamaz, rather haughtily.
“Did you dive for them yourself?” said Persephone, causing all the others to laugh.
“Don’t just stand there laughing”, said Joby “Help me clear it up before Old Mother Hubbard gets back”.
Adam had left him and Bengo to refill the salt cellars whilst he went to the heads. Joby had dropped the salt jar though (mercifully undamaged) and salt was now all over the table in the galley.
“It won’t matter”, said Bengo, fetching the dustpan and brush “We can still use it. Particularly if he doesn’t find out about it”.
“Find out about what?” said Adam, returning to the galley “What an awful mess! Who did this?”
“It’s only a bit of salt!” said Joby, defensively.
“Oh I see, you did it”, said Adam.
“He didn’t do it on purpose”, said Bengo.
“I should think not!” said Adam “As it is I’m going to have to punish you, Joby”. “Figures. But he leaves the room first”, said Joby, jerking his thumb at Bengo. “Absolutely out of the question”, said Adam “How is he to learn if! don’t make an example of you! Come here”.
Adam sat down on the hardbacked wooden chair and beat Joby over his lap. He dealt him several very brisk spanks on his behind.
“There’s someone out in the corridor”, said Joby, raising his head “Not straight up Ad, there is! It feels like a stranger to me”.
“O.K. stand over there you two, out of the way”, said Adam, motioning them to the other side of the galley.
He opened a drawer and pulled out the spare revolver, which Ransey had given to him before they left the Bay. Like Joby and Kieran, Adam was normally squeamish about handling guns, but this time had accepted it without a murmur. Since Codlik’s latest escapade, he refused to trust anyone in the outside world. He loaded it and mobilised it like a pro, before flinging open the door. A shabby, balding, middle-aged man clutching a notebook and pencil, nearly jumped out of his skin on seeing the gun pointed at him.
“Damnit, you’re press aren’t you?” said Adam, lowering the gun to his side “How did you get on here?”
“I-I just walked on”, said the reporter “There was no one about”.
“You’re trespassing”, said Adam “You silly man, I could’ve shot you! I hope you’re not wanting to ask me questions about bloody Codlik!”
“No it was ... er ...“, the man coughed and slowly recovered his equilibrium “About your birthday celebrations actually”.
“I didn’t know what on earth he was talking about”, said Adam, a couple of hours later “I’d completely forgotten my birthday was due. I don’t even know what the date is at the moment. After two weeks sailing up-river it’s very easy to lose all track of time”.
They were all dining at the long trestle table on deck, fish and potato flan washed down with Persephone’s beer. Adam and Julian, as usual, were sitting at opposite ends. Adam was flanked by Ransey and Lonts.
“You gave him quite a scare by all accounts”, said Ransey.
“Good”, said Adam, unrepentantly “Creeping about in the corridor like that. I thought he was an assassin hired by Codlik!”
“Pretty inept assassin”, said Ransey, caustically “If Joby heard him approaching even whilst he was being spanked!”
“Well of course that was my biggest grievance”, said Adam “That he interrupted me whilst I was in the middle of disciplining Joby!”
“Joby was pretty aggrieved about that too”, said Kieran, causing Lonts to hoot with laughter “He was just getting into the swing of it!”
“Very funny”, said Joby, blushing.
Toppy approached from the other end of the table, bearing a hastily-scribbled note from Julian.
“He said I was to wait until you gave a reply”, said Toppy “I’ve got a pencil you can use”.
“How thoughtful”, said Adam, unfolding the scrap of paper, which bore the words
‘ARE YOU WEARING YOUR FLANNEL DRAWERS?’
Adam wrote back ‘WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW!’ and sent Toppy off with
“So what do you think of all the birthday plans then?” said Hillyard.
“I scarcely know what to think of them”, said Adam “It’s all been sprung on me rather quickly. All I know is you’re paying for a street-party in my honour. I hope no one goes to all the trouble of working out my correct age. I doubt I could recover from the shock!”
“I heard as how someone in town’s got up a shop window display for you”, said Hillyard “With the banner ‘100 GLORIOUS YEARS”.
“Oh they haven’t?” said Adam, in dismay “Have they?”
“Only teasing”, Hillyard chuckled.
“Sometimes Hilly, I sincerely regret that your arse is so flabby”, said Adam “Because a good spanking occasionally would benefit you enormously!” “Nah, save that for Joby”, said Hillyard “He needs it!”
Adam was surprised that none of the younger ones showed any inclination to go out that evening. Instead they fetched a couple more kegs of beer in from Persephone’s, and set up the folding pool-table on the forward deck. Whilst this game was in progress Adam and Julian managed to get alone together in the main cabin.
“I don’t think it’s all entirely down to that”, said Julian, when Adam said that the birthday celebrations were a good way for everyone to show public support for Kieran “And I don’t think the Toondories are doing it just because they love a knees-up either. I think they genuinely have a lot of respect for you”.
“Well that’s awfully sweet of them”, said Adam, reclining in the armchair “But I haven’t done anything to merit it”.
“You’ve got style”, said Julian, unbuttoning Adam’s shirt “And there’s no side to you whatsoever”.
“Oh Jules”, Adam purred. Julian moved down to his fly-buttons.
“So you have got your flannel drawers on”, he said “I thought the bright sunshine might have deterred you”.
“Not at all”, said Adam “I quite like wearing them. In some perverse way they make me feel all wired-up. It must be the associations they have with certain events”. “Then we mustn’t break the cycle must we”, said Julian “Spanky-Poos for birthday boy!”
There was a maelstrom of male voices from the foot of the quaterdeck steps. “Those little varmints!” said Julian “This had better be serious or I shall horsewhip the lot of them!”
“Adam!” Lonts burst into the room “There’s a man from the Town Council wants to see you!”
“Oh very well”, Adam sighed, hastily rebuttoning himself.
“Out of the way, Bengo”, said Lonts, clearing a path from Adam out of the cabin. Adam met the man from the Town Council at the foot of the quarterdeck steps. The man instantly launched into a rather pompous spiel about the need for them to rehearse the following day’s events with him.
“What nonsense”, said Adam, interrupting him in mid-flow “Since when do we need to rehearse a party? I’ve never heard anything so absurd. Go home this instant, or I shall get very cross with you!”
Adam flounced back into the cabin and slammed the door, leaving the unfortunate official looking rather shaken.
“Isn’t he magnificent when he’s angry!” said Julian.
The only formal part of the celebrations was Adam’s speech officially opening them, which he delivered from the top of the Town Hall steps. All the other Indigo-ites stood behind him, jostling for space. They were wearing their best clothes, which were all remarkably similar, being cravats and waistcoats. Except Kieran who wore his customary white silk pyjamas. Even Tamaz had put on this raffish male attire, instead of a ballgown. Adam was the only one who refused to wear a cravat or a waistcoat, he said it reminded him too much of his schooldays.
Before going out Hillyard had surprised them all by presenting them with fob watches, sixteen of them, clearing out the jeweller’s entire stock. When Joby caught the news footage of them on Persephone’s television (with the sound turned down), he was surprised by how distinguished and striking they all looked standing on the Town Hall steps. He had now escaped the street-party, in order to go into the bar and eat a plate of fried onion-rings.
“Your breath’ 11 stink something rotten”, said Kieran, coming in with Hillyard “I won’t b able to kiss you”.
“So don’t kiss me then!” said Joby.
Hillyard and Kieran sat on either side of him and began to help themselves to onion rings from his plate. Joby watched the silent tv footage of them climbing down the Town Hall steps. There was a very distinct shot of Hillyard goosing Bengo’s behind. “Hey, I saw that!” said Joby “You dirty old basket! You’d better hope Bardin doesn’t get to see it”.
“He won’t, he never watches telly”, said Hillyard “He doesn’t approve of it”. “Ah, but they might use that bit on all the souvenir postcards and jigsaws”, said Kieran.
“Not to mention the tea-towels”, said Joby “And it could be all over the front pages of the papers tomorrow”.
“A Fun Moment In A Joyful Day”, said Kieran, picturing the headlines “You’ll have to get down to the shops first thing and buy up all the copies!”
“It’s not as if you can’t afford it”, Joby grunted.
“They won’t show that”, said Hillyard, although there was a trace of uncertainty in his voice “All the shots’ 11 be of Adam. They won’t wanna look at the rest of us”.
“They’ll put in whatever they think’ll sell copies”, said Joby, darkly. “And a picture of Bengo must be worth shifting a few”, said Kieran. “Airight, don’t go on”, said Hillyard “You’re making me nervous now”. Suddenly the screen changed to a shot of Codlik striding grim-faced into the church headquarters at Krindei.
“Do you want me to ask Persephone to turn it up?” said Joby.
“Turn it off more like!” said Kieran, getting off his barstool “They should’ve issued a public health warning before putting that on! I’m going back outside”.
The three of them found Adam chatting to Bardin at one of the many wooden tables dotted about the quayside. A sprightly Bengo had just marched Hoowie off to fetch some more beer.
“It’s done wonders for him these past three weeks, working with you”, said Bardin. “Perhaps he thrives better on board the stoop”, said Adam “We’ve just spent weeks on that don’t forget”.
“No, it’s all down to you”, said Bardin “I knew that an ordered routine would be good for him, and working with you has done it”.
‘The kitchen-work does have its advantages there”, said Adam “And it’s all about temperament. Some people would find it tedious, but I find it quite relaxing, and Bengo and I are quite similar in temperament really. So’s Joby”.
“I ent like that little squirt”, said Joby, referring to Bengo.
“Oh Joby, you are”, said Adam ‘And you’ve said as much yourself in the past. You both get anxious easily, and pensive. Perhaps he could help you in the garden sometimes too”.
“No, I draw the line at that!” said Joby ‘It bad enough you make me have Lonts working there, without him as well. The vegetables wouldn’t stand a chance!” Lonts came over and put his arms round Adam’s neck.
“And he has such strong capable hands too’S, said Adam, kissing Lonts’ great sunburnt paws.
“Yeah”, said Joby “Capable of mass destruction!”
“Tamaz has won a prize at the hoopla”, said Lonts, proudly.
“It’s not a goldfish is it?” said Adam.
“No, this”, said Tamaz, disdainfully holding out a beige handknitted rabbit with mismatched buttons for eyes ‘It’s hideous. I’ll give it to Toppy”.
“I’m sure he’ll treasure it, old love!” said Adam.
“I’ve had so much to drink I’m surprised I haven’t gone down with gout!” said Julian, as they all returned to the sloop later that evening. He stumbled at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps.
“Steady your lordship”, said Hillyard, grabbing Julian’s arm.
“Behave yourself, Hillyard”, said Julian, shaking him off “Go and see to the animals”.
Julian went into the cabin, where Adam and Lonts were swooning over each other. “I’ve got a birthday present for you”, said Julian.
He took a squashy brown paper parcel out of his desk and handed it to Adam. It contained several pair of flannel drawers.
“Got a job lot from the men’s outfitters in town”, said Julian “It would be a tragedy if you were left without any”.
“Wouldn’t it!” said Adam.
The following day they split into two separate groups. One lot stayed on the sloop to supervise the delivery of some of the supplies. The other half went to check over the Town House.
“It’s nowhere near as dusty as I thought it was going to be”, said Adam, as they returned down the main street.
“No fires have been lit in there”, said Joby “And no doors open to let in grit from the garden”.
They paused outside a second-hand clothes shop, which had a display of photographs of the birthday celebrations in the window, including, to Bengo’s dismay, the shot of him being goosed by Hillyard.
“Oh no!” he cried “And he’s been so pleased with me lately as well. He’ll kill me when he sees that!”
“Nonsense”, said Adam “He knows what Hillyard’s like. Hillyard would touch up anyone who was standing next to him!”
“Yes, and it just had to be me didn’t it!” said Bengo.
“You’ll just have to brazen it out”, said Julian.
“Oh yes, Julian can give you lots of advice on that”, Adam drawled, sarcastically “He’s an expert on brazening it out!”
“He’s right though”, said Joby ‘it won’t do any good having a nervous breakdown. You’ll have to be defiant, say ‘yeah that’s right, so what!”
He went silent when he caught Kieran watching him with wry amusement. Bengo was even more dismayed when they returned to the sloop to find a stack of the local papers piled up on the forward deck. Bardin was more concerned though with organising the arrival of all the food. He got quite bad-tempered when Bengo mentioned the newspapers.
“I thought we could keep them as clippings”, said Bardin.
“But have you seen them all?” said Bengo.
“You mean including the one of you being groped by Hillyard?” said Bardin, waspishly “Of course I have! And do you think I’ve got nothing better to do than get worked up about that? You may not have noticed this, but I am very VERY busy!” Once the goods had all been delivered and stored safely away, the Indigo-ites went to the bath-house, to freshen up properly before their return journey to the Bay. By now Bengo was beginning to get quite sulky at Bardin’s indifference to the agitation he had endured. He had a quick dip in the communal bath and then sat forlornly on the edge of it, wearing a towel.
Bardin swam over to him and kissed his foot and then his ankle. Bengo was determinedly unresponsive.
“I’m in the doghouse am IT’ said Bardin.
He heaved himself up out of the water and sat next to Bengo.
“Bengo”, he said “I’ve been thinking about hardly anything else than you these past few months. And now, just lately, I’ve been able to ease up off the brake a bit. I’m not gonna ruin that just because Hillyard couldn’t keep his hands off you, which after all is hardly anything new is it!”
“Oh Bardy”, Bengo blubbed “I’m such a fool! You’re always having to carry me”. “That’s what I’m here for”, said Bardin “When we first got together when we were tots, Ully said to me ‘Bengo’s got the makings of a fine performer, but he lacks discipline. And his timing might get affected as a result. You’ll probably find there’s loads of times when you have to carry him’. But even then I didn’t mind, not really. I’m the strong one. You see, something’s got to make up for me not having dimples!” “Oh Bardy”, Bengo sobbed again, and got his partner in a soggy embrace. Joby gave a moan of exasperation with the pair of them, and got out of the bath. He wrapped a towel around his waist and then went out to the Attendant to ask for some more. He found the Attendant slumped in front of a television set in his cubicle, eating a sausage roll out of a paperbag. On the t.v was the unwelcome sight of Codlik, standing in a street in Krindei, talking directly to the camera.
“What are you watching him for?” said Joby.
“Cos there’s nothing else on”, said the Attendant.
“Oh”, said Joby “Even after all these years I keep forgetting we’ve only got one t.v channel these days”.
Codlik was spouting the most ridiculous rubbish, even by his standards. He said (clearly rattled, with his eyes rolling dementedly), that the events in Toondor Lanpin were typical of people who are in the wrong, and feel under threat. In that the Indigo ites had got all their friends to put on a show of support for Kieran, no doubt paid for out of Hillyard’s pockets. It was all facile appearance and nothing else. Codlik was showing all the signs of pathological paranoia.
“Don’t take no notice of him”, said the bath attendant “He’s crazy”.
“You can say that again!” said Joby.
He went back to the others, where he found Adam and Kieran sitting on a slatted wooden bench in the steam-room.
“Ad! Kiel!” Joby cried “Codlik’s gone off his head!”
“Well we know that, old love”, said Adam.
“No I mean right off it, out of his tree”, said Joby “I’ve just seen him on the telly. I’d stake money on it that he’s completely bonkers, certifiable. I almost felt sorry for him! They shouldn’t have given him airspace, it’s cruel”.
“So why on earth are the Church cooking up conspiracies with him said Adam. “Because they’re an unscrupulous bunch of bastards”, said Kieran, bluntly “They’ll do anything to get their own way, even using a madman. Codlik’s still got a fairly high profile, the second most famous man in the world, after me of course!” “And they’re so desperate for help they probably don’t care if he’s mad”, said Joby “What are we gonna do with him then?”
“We could entice him down here, kidnap him and stow him away back to the Bay”, said Adam.
“Oh God, do we have to?” said Joby, in dismay “He’s unbearable enough when he’s sane. Now he’s mad he probably NEVER shuts up!”
“I suggest we go back to the Bay as planned”, said Kieran “He’s bound to come seeking us out soon, particularly now the rough weather’s passed. We’ll feel more confident on home territory, and at least now we know what we’re dealing with”. “We might even be able to help him”, said Adam “Provided we can get him away from the Church!”
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