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Bardin woke up at noon, in the four-poster in the main bedroom. Bengo was next to him. Kieran, Joby and Tamaz were sprawled asleep in the communal bed. Bright, warm sunlight flooded the room, and apart from the ubiquitous distant sound of hammering, everywhere was peaceful.
He got out of bed and took a swig from the water jug on the washstand. Bengo looked over at him sleepily and then put his head back on the pillow again.
“C’mon get up”, said Bardin “We’ll go down and get some food”.
“I was asleep”, said Bengo.
“No you weren’t, I saw you looking at me”, said Bardin.
Bengo reluctantly followed his friend out of bed. They put on a smattering of clothes, and began the long walk down the stairs and across the great hall to the dining-room. Bardin fetched some bread and cheese from the kitchen.
“Toppy’s doing us some coffee”, said Bardin, slicing up part of the loaf.
Bengo gnawed on a slice of bread rather grumpily. Adam came in, carrying a sheaf of photographs.
“I wanted you both to see these”, he said “Hawkefish gave me them last year, when we were in town for my birthday. I put them between the pages of a book for safekeeping and must have forgotten about them”.
“Are they of us?” said Bengo.
“Taken when you were at the Little Theatre”, said Adam, spreading them out on the table “I thought you could get Hillyard to knock up some frames for them, and hang them up in here. Make the place look less monastic and austere”.
“Only if you really want this place to look like a theatre bar instead!” said Bardin.
Toppy came in with the coffee-pot. He set if down and gave a snigger at the photographs.
“Clear off”, said Bardin “No wonder the service in this hotel’s so slow with you doing things! You’ve seen all these sort of photo’s before, Ad. Me and Bengo posing. Him looking cute, and me looking miserable!”
“No, no, they’re not all like that”, said Adam “Here’s one, with you smiling and Bengo looking grumpy”.
It was an informal shot, taken backstage after a show. Both of them were wearing the remains of a custard pie fight. Bardin was grinning broadly, holding out hands caked in whipped cream. There were also smears of it in his hair on his nose. Even more was on Bengo, whose little face was caked in cream, and he didn’t look too pleased about it.
“Did you always come off worst, Bengo?” said Adam.
“No!” said Bengo “He got it in the face too, it’s just he’d managed to get his face wiped by one of the others before the picture was taken”.
“It’s so unusual to have a picture of Bardin smiling”, said Adam “I think this one definitely has to go up”.
Toppy sniggered again, and Adam thought he’d better remove him from the room, before one of the clowns punched him. They had barely left Bengo and Bardin alone when a prolonged tremor shook he floor with tremendous violence.
“Under the table!” Bardin yelled at Bengo.
They both dived under the table sat crouched there, whilst the windows rattled in their panes, flakes of plaster fell off the walls, and shouts could be heard from within the house and from the monks over the river. It all lasted for about thirty seconds.
“Somebody’s copped a bloody great earthquake somewhere”, said Bardin, as they nervously stayed under the table, in case a second quake followed on quick “We were getting the outer reaches of it”.
“Like the one which destroyed the City?” said Bengo “Oh I hope it wasn’t Toondor Lanpin, remember all those little tremors we used to have there?”
“No, they’d be too far away”, said Bardin “This one must have been about 50 miles from here, out towards Aspiriola way, or further up the river”.
“Are you two alright?” Kieran shouted from the doorway.
The clowns scrambled out and followed him into the hall. Joby was standing in the porch, where he’d found three frogs hopping about in understandable bewilderment.
“They must have got flung out of the river”, said Joby.
Bengo gave a high-pitched squeal and hurtled across the room to the library. It would have been a hilarious sight if it hadn’t taken the others so by surprise.
“It’s been a pretty hairy couple of days what with one thing and another”, said Kieran.
The three of them sauntered casually over to the library, where Bardin broke into an enraged gallop when he saw Bengo swigging brandy directly from the decanter, as though it was water.
“Are you crazy?” said Bardin, snatching it from him.
“That stuff’s like rocket fuel!” said Kieran.
“Can you imagine what Julian’s going to say when he sees how much of it you’ve had?” said Bardin.
“We’ll tell him we were all so distraught by the earthquake that we all had a bit”, said Kieran.
“Don’t try and keep him out of trouble, he doesn’t deserve it”, said Bardin, grabbing a handful of Bengo’s long hair and steering him over to a chair.
“What he really needs is a good hiding”, said Joby “That’s the only thing that sorts him out”.
“Oh thank you, Uncle Joby”, said Kieran “Renowned for his sympathy and gentle words of wisdom!”
“Just sit quietly, Bengo!” Bardin roared, just as Lonts and Adam came into the room.
“Is Bengo having hysterics?” said Lonts “If I chuck some cold water over him that’ll sort him out”.
“No Lo-Lo, I really …” Adam began, but Lonts was striding purposefully towards the laundry-room.
“You’ve really done it now”, said Joby to Bengo.
“I’m sorry”, Bengo bleated “Oh I’m such a fool!”
“I don’t think any of us are gonna argue with that!” said Joby.
“Why was I born such a fool?” said Bengo “It can’t just be because I’m a clown. Rumble’s a clown and he’s not like me”.
“Rumble’s rather more … um … languid”, said Adam.
“Perhaps I should’ve been sent to a psychiatrist when I was little”, said Bengo.
“It wouldn’t have made any bloody difference at all!” said Bardin, leaning against the mantelpiece in despair.
Lonts returned carrying a bowl of water, followed warily by Farnol and Rumble, whom he had unearthed in the laundry-room. The cold water ceremoniously chucked over Bengo, who sat wretchedly under the onslaught like a sodden puppy.
“That always worked in the hospital”, said Lonts, with grim satisfaction.
“I bet they must’ve needed more ‘en a bowlful for you”, said Joby.
“They used hoses”, said Lonts.
“Can’t say I’m surprised”, said Joby.
“Don’t talk about Lo-Lo’s hospital days”, said Adam “You know it was a very upsetting time for him”.
“He started it!” said Joby.
“The mangle fell on my hand”, Farnol announced, seeing as no one was going to ask him why he was clenching and unclenching his fist.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s not as if you use it for anything!” said Bardin.
“The quake’s really improved your temper hasn’t it!” said Rumble.
Lonts sat down majestically on the sofa, and adopted his customary pose of swinging Snowy by his foot and sucking his thumb, all the while staring fiercely at Bengo, as though to instantly jump up and chuck more water over him if required.
Suddenly Julian’s voice was heard on the main staircase.
“The decanter!” said Kieran “We’ve all had a bit out of it, right?”
“Chance’d be a fine thing!” said Joby.
Julian came in, followed by everyone else who lived in the house. After glancing round at everyone and checking that they were all in one piece, he became his usual self again.
“Would you like a straw with that?” he said to Adam, who was holding the much-depleted brandy decanter “And what’s happened to Bengo? Why is he all wet?”
“He was hysterical, so I chucked some cold water over him”, said Lonts.
“There’s been quite enough hysterics round here lately”, said Julian, glaring significantly at Mieps. He then turned back to Bengo “And as for you, did you have hysterics before or after you drained the brandy decanter of its contents?”
“Oh how did you guess that?” Bengo wailed, firmly convinced that Julian had godlike powers at times.
“By the fact that you don’t seem particularly sober!” said Julian “Using my stunning powers of observation, I looked at you and I looked at the brandy decanter, and put two and two together”.
“It doesn’t help that he’s hardly eaten anything today”, said Adam.
“I’ll take him upstairs and get him cleaned and sobered up”, said Bardin, hauling Bengo out of the chair “And then I suggest we have some lunch!”
Ransey, for once, wasn’t only concerned about the meal. He was anxious that they should try and find out where the epi-centre of the quake had occurred. The monks possessed a wireless set on their boat, so he left the house to go and use it, only to meet two of the monks coming across the river to find out if their beloved Saint Kieran was still in one piece. By talking to them Rnasey found out that they not only had a wireless but a clockwork television too, “to keep the patients amused”, (i.e Codlik and Jonner).
The clockwork television was sent over on loan to the Castle after the belated lunch/early dinner. It was set up on a table dragged out of the laundry-room and into the library. The Indigo-ites migrated in there, and drew the curtains so that they could see the screen.
Everyone expressed amazement that it worked out here at all, and then got exasperated by the one and only channel, which seemed oblivious to any earthquakes and was showing instead a home improvement and cookery show.
“Where’s the main t.v company based these days?” said Adam “Now that the City’s no longer there”.
“Krindei I think”, said Ransey “Which means we’ll probably have to wait for the news to come on, whenever that is!”
“I’m surprised they want this sort of programme up there, they’re such a pampered old lot”, said Adam “You’d think for all this kind of thing they’d just say ‘oh let’s get a little man in’!”
On the screen a middle-aged man was standing in front of a door.
“Now just look at this awful old door”, he said.
“Looks like one of ours!” said Hillyard.
“I’ll now show you how to simply and effectively transform this door into something rather more tasteful”.
“Oh Christ”, said Joby, putting his head in his hands “It’s like being back at school!”
Bardin felt rather gleeful. The fierce pride of the theatre performer vindicated by the drab state of entertainment the television had to offer. He broke into a loud chortle. Ransey glared down at him from the sofa. Bengo jokingly put his hands round Bardin’s throat as though to choke him off. They both laughed uncontrollably and rolled around on the floor. Bengo playfully smacking Bardin’s bottom.
“Be quiet!” Ransey barked “If you keep that up we’ll never notice any news flashes”.
“What news flashes?” said Joby “Obviously if the quake doesn’t happen in Krindei they don’t wanna know! The City used to be like that, before it was destroyed”.
The clowns showed no sign of calming down, so Julian ordered Bengo and Bardin to the kitchen to make tea for all of them.
“I don’t know why we had to have that thing brought into the house”, said Bengo, sitting disconsolately at the kitchen table.
“They wanted to find out where the epi-centre of the quake was”, said Bardin, putting kettles on the stove.
“The monks’ wireless could have told us all that”, said Bengo “But no, the t.v had to be used instead. And so now they’ve drawn the curtains and we have to sit there in the dark, in total silence, waiting for news flashes”.
“We need to know if it happened out at sea”, said Bardin.
“The tidal-wave would have hit us by now if there was one”, said Bengo.
“We’re too far inland here at the Castle to be affected by it anyway”, said Bardin “And the Bay’s so sheltered it would probably skim the edge of it. It’s areas up round the ruined chapel that would be most at risk”.
He felt shaky at the thought that they could so easily be at sea when one of these awesome phenomena of nature occurred, that he reached for Mieps’s homemade rhubarb wine.
“You’ve had enough alcohol for one day”, he said, when Bengo asked for some as well.
“That’s a really mean attitude, Bardy”, said Bengo “Reminds me of that time when we were kids when you flushed all my sweets down the loo”.
“I was trying to get all that puppy-fat off you that’s why!” said Bardin.
“You’re the woman of our partnership you are”, said Bengo “All nagging and lecturing”.
“I’m not a woman, I haven’t got tits”, said Bardin “And I don’t wear dresses”.
Bengo picked up one of Finia’s nighties, which was lying on top of the washing-basket.
“I can’t put that on”, said Bardin “Where Finia’s concerned his nightdresses are sacred”.
“He’ll never know”, said Bengo “As long as you don’t tear it”.
“You’re the clumsy one, not me”, said Bardin, stripping down to his underpants and then pulling the pink, frilly nightdress carefully over his head. He felt it float gently around his legs, and the softness of it against his skin was like a caress.
“You could wear something like that any time you wanted”, said Bengo “It doesn’t bother me”.
“Most of the time I like wearing trousers”, said Bardin “But sometimes, when I’m with you, I-I …”
“Get the urge to play the woman”, said Bengo “You don’t have to be embarrassed, not with me”.
“It’s alright for Tamaz”, said Bardin “He can pick and choose what he wants to be, and no one cares. He gets to wear the silky drawers!”
Bengo rummaged in the washing-basket and pulled out a pair of Tamaz’s knickers.
“Someone’s coming though!” said Bardin, hearing footsteps in the corridor.
Bengo shoved him up the staircase behind the stove, as though they were taking part in a bedroom farce. Bardin had barely disappeared when Hoowie entered.
“I been sent to find out what’s happened to you two”, he said.
“Something’s come up”, said Bengo “We’re going upstairs. You’ll have to make the tea”.
“What? All of it?” said Hoowie.
“Yeah, you go for it, mate”, said Bengo, disappearing up the stairs “Have fun!”
Finia’s nightdress was lying carefully on top of the chest of drawers in the four-poster room. Bengo and Bardin were in the bed, lying next to each other casually with their hands behind their heads.
“I know some blokes used to get really jealous of Kieran and the other time-crossers”, Bardin was saying “Because they’d lived in a normal time, lived normal lives. But I’m glad we weren’t born then”.
“We’d have probably still been partners”, said Bengo.
“Yeah, work-wise perhaps”, said Bardin “They had comedy double acts then too. But we’d have also probably got married and had kids. Whatever happened I would have always cared about you, but other people would have got in the way. I wouldn’t have been able to keep a strict eye on you. You’d have probably gone and done something really daft like O.D’d”.
“What on?” said Bengo “I’ve never touched drugs, except a bit of pot now and again and everybody’s done that, even you!”
“You would’ve gone off the rails left entirely to your own devices”, said Bardin.
Bengo couldn’t argue with that, because deep down he suspected it might well have been true.
“I can smell incense”, he said, sniffing the air.
“Kieran must be burning something in his vestry”, said Bardin.
Adam came to the door with tea and oat-biscuits for them. Bardin took them off him and asked if there had been anything at all on the television about the earthquake.
“Not a thing, old love”, said Adam “I have a nasty feeling we’re going to be watching it all evening too. At the moment there’s some interminable soap opera on. I’m sure it’s the same one we saw in Port West two years ago. At least it seems to be exactly the same scene that’s playing, just with different actors that’s all!”
Bardin gleefully digested this criticism of television.
“Is Kieran burning incense over the corridor?” he asked.
“Yes, I think Patsy wanted an excuse to get away from the t.v as well!” said Adam.
Kieran had lit the joss-sticks in his vestry and then settled down in the armchair to read. Joby crept up the staircase from the kitchen corridor and sprung on him, taking him completely by surprise.
“You focking eejit!” said Kieran “You could have given me a focking heart-attack!”
“Ha ha, guilty conscience, that’s what you’ve got”, said Joby “There are we, thinking you’ve gone upstairs to read your Bible, like a good little Catholic boy, and there are you, reading ‘The Mystery of Knoll Place’ instead!”
Joby indicated the cover of Kieran’s book, which showed a picture of a bloodstained carpet with a broken cup and saucer lying nearby, and the shadow of a revolver lying over the whole scene.
“Sit down”, said Kieran, more as an order than a request “And pour yourself some communion wine”, referring to the wine supply he kept in his room.
“I’ve been thinking”, he went on.
“What about?” said Joby.
“The Marquis de Sade”, said Kieran.
“I thought we’d heard the last of him! Boring little jerk. Or has that trouble-making little twat Angel gone and got him out of the Bastille again?”
“It’s a possibility”.
“You think it’s him stalking us in the forest?”
“No he wouldn’t do his own stalking”, said Kieran “Anymore than Julian would! He’s got someone or something working for him. If it is him and he continues to cause trouble then we go after him”.
“Just you and me?” said Joby.
“Not scared are you? Of a poxy little Frenchman?” said Kieran “You could sort him out with one lash of your cactus tongue! Anyway, although I would actually like it to just be us who after him, I can’t see it happening somehow. Our wife wouldn’t like us going off without him”.
“Tamaz?” said Joby “I sometimes think we should never have let him out of the cage!”
“And Captain Bardin won’t want to quietly sit at home with his needlepoint whilst we go after the depraved Marquis”, said Kieran “And Bengo won’t let him go without him”.
“That little scrote should do as he’s fucking told!” said Joby.
“And all we need then is for Lonts to insist on coming”, Kieran continued “And that’ll rope in Adam too. It goes without saying that Mieps won’t want to miss the action. And Ransey won’t trust me to behave, so he’ll want to come…”
“O.K O.K, I get the message”, said Joby “It’ll be a family outing, fun! But it doesn’t ring true to me that Sade is behind all the hassle we’ve had. What happened up at the Big House seems darker somehow”.
“He wasn’t behind that, you’re right there”, said Kieran “But somehow it’s all linked”.
“I don’t like us messing with Sade again”, said Joby “Because it involves time-crosses. And you’ve said yourself you did worry that you could have all got stuck at Sade’s chateau”.
“It got a bit hairy”, Kieran admitted “I did think at one point I’d taken on more than I could solve. I can’t say I was happy at the thought of getting stuck in 18th-century France, and certainly not without you along, with your loveable grumpiness. I felt half a person without you there. You give me the strength to cope with Sade and Angel, particularly Angel”.
“From everything the others have told me, you coped with old Sadie pretty well”, said Joby.
Kieran laughed at the arrogant French aristocrat being referred to as “old Sadie”.
“Sorry to butt in, fellas”, said Hillyard, coming through the tapestry from the upstairs corridor “But we’ve actually had an important news flash”.
“Bloody hell”, said Joby “The soap fanatics won’t like that, having their viewing interrupted by summat important!”
“The earthquake?” said Kieran “Hillyard, what is it?”
“Go on, out with it”, said Joby.
“The quake must’ve been under the sea after all”, said Hillyard “The news is real bad. A massive tidal-wave has hit Port West, completely obliterated the place”.
“Shit!” said Joby.
“Port West?” said Kieran “The whole town?”
“Seems to be”, said Hillyard “The news has only just come in though, so we don’t know much yet. Nothing about Brinslee”.
“Knowing Brinslee he’s probably off on one of his world tours!” said Joby.
“You’d better go over the corridor and tell Bardin”, said Kieran.
“No it’s alright, I’ve heard”, said Bardin, coming through the tapestry with Bengo, both naked “I’ll go and put some clothes on, and then we’ll come down”.
“Seems a shame to cover up Bengo’s body at a time like this”, said Hillyard “A bit of uplift is what we need right now”.
“Bengo!” Bardin snapped, from out in the corridor.
Joby made barking noises, as if to imply Bengo was a puppy being summoned by his master.
They eventually all appeared downstairs, where the news broadcast was still going on. Brinslee was safe and well, having been visiting Lixix on the east coast when the tidal occurred. But the Indigo-ites still found it all too upsetting. They all had fond memories of Port West, from Kieran’s presidency days, when Brinslee had showed them with hospitality, to the Festival of two years before. It was going to be a very long time before they fully took in the destruction of Port West.
Barely had they returned the clockwork television to the monks (with much relief) then preparations had to start being made for that night’s in-house vigil. Kieran decided to combine his watch with a spot of praying for the souls of the dead, which he and Joby could do upstairs in his vestry. Meanwhile, Bardin organised a downstairs vigil in the library, with the other clowns, plus Mieps and Tamaz. The night-time vigils were staring to get on everyone’s nerves.
“I used to dread me and Bengo ending up as two aged clowns sharing a bedsit, and just spending all our times bitching at each other”, Bardin said to Julian, when he went upstairs to see him at the end of the evening “Now it sounds like heaven! Nothing to worry about except where the next rent money’s coming from!”
“Don’t start suggesting that you abdicate the Captaincy, dear boy”, said Julian “No one else can do the job as well as you. You’re the only one with any commonsense, apart from Rumble, and awesomely level-headed as he is, he’s not leadership material”.
“I sometimes think why can’t Kieran be Captain?” said Bardin “He’s the reason we’re all here after all”.
“Don’t be absurd”, said Julian “Have that skinny little squirt in charge?! We’d end up having confessionals everyday, eating fish on Fridays, and being sent off on bare-footed pilgrimages!”
“That doesn’t sound too bad”, said Bardin, as it all appealed to his masochistic side.
“Giving up alcohol for 40 days during Lent?” said Julian.
“He wouldn’t make us do that”, said Bardin “Would he?”
“He’s Irish, he’s perverse enough to do anything!” said Julian.
Downstairs in the laundry-room, Joby and Bengo were sorting out blankets for the nightwatchmen.
“You don’t look like you should be doing another night of it to me”, said Joby “You look exhausted”.
“Oh I couldn’t sleep tonight”, said Bengo “I’m too twizzled-up inside. My heart seems to be going like the clappers”.
“I still think you should take it easy”, said Joby.
“No Joby, don’t”, said Bengo “I want to prove to Bardy that he can rely on me, you see”.
“Oh Bengo, you daft kid”, said Joby, reaching out and cradling him in his arms “I sometimes think you’ve lost what few brain cells you had since Bardin joined us!”
“Not really, I was pretty daft in those days too”, said Bengo.
“Let’s get on with all this!” Bardin shouted from the hall.
“If you insist”, Joby sighed.
He woke himself up with a loud snore a few hours later, and had to think for a moment before he realised that it was he himself who had been making the awful noise. He was sprawled in the armchair upstairs in Kieran’s Vestry. Kieran was sitting nearby on the windowseat, with his rosary beads wrapped round his hand.
“Good grief, are you still at it?” said Joby, looking round him “You were praying when I fell asleep. I should think all our souls must be well redeemed by now!”
“It’s not yours I was praying for”, said Kieran “I can take care of yours meself! It’s all those who died today in the tsunami”.
Joby stood up and stretched himself with his arms above his head. He then flipped open his fob-watch and found it was half after midnight.
“Is that all?” he said “It feels more like about 3 o’clock”.
“Come here”, Kieran suddenly whispered urgently, reaching out for his hand as though to pull him over “There’s something out there”.
A hazy purple mist filled a small patch at the edge of the forest to the north of the garden. It took a couple of minutes of intense staring before they could discern a figure crouched in the middle of the mist.
“What is it?” said Joby “Is it human?”
It was impossible to tell, crouched so low and so motionless as it was, and surrounded in that inexplicable purple mist.
It had been noticed downstairs as well. Feeling more vulnerable on the ground floor, Bardin ordered everybody to kneel down and look at it over the edge of the window-ledge. It was Rumble who noticed the most disturbing aspect of the whole scene, in that the creature, who wasn’t looking in the direction of the Castle, appeared to be listening to them, as though eavesdropping on them all. For that reason none of them barely spoke whilst the creature was in-view. No one knew how long it was there, and no one knew when it got up and moved. At the close of its visitation the purple haze merely retreated back through the trees.
“Have you any idea what it was?” Bardin asked Mieps.
“None whatsoever”, was Mieps’s reply “I haven’t seen anything like that before”.
“Why are we whispering?” said Rumble “It’s gone, and anyway it must know we’re onto it by now”.
“Yeah, it was quaking in its boots wasn’t it!” said Bardin, so fiercely that Rumble jokingly put his arms up to his face as though Bardin was about to hit him, although if he had tried it would have been like a Jack Russell attacking a Great Dane.
“We’ll stay down here for the rest of the night”, Bardin continued “But we’ll abandon the watch. Let’s get some sleep”, he noticed that Tamaz was kneeling at one of the side tables laboriously scraping out words on a piece of paper “And what are you doing?”
“Making an entry in our watch records”, said Tamaz, showing him the painfully-executed words ‘PERPLE FING SEEN IN WOODS’. “We have to be professional about this”, he added.
The others were desperately trying to conceal their amusement at Bardin being clobbered with his own motto. An uncomfortable moment was averted by Kieran and Joby coming in, with their blankets wrapped round their shoulders.
“You’re supposed to be watching from upstairs”, said Bardin.
“Leave it out”, said Joby “It’s getting too bloody spooky up there!”
“So we thought we’d come and join you lot”, said Kieran “We’ve brought our own blankets”.
When daybreak had finally arrived they all clambered out of the library window and went across the lawn to see if the ‘Perple Fing’ had left any trace. Nothing. At least not on the ground anyway, but Rumble found what looked like fresh scorch-marks on the bark of a tree nearby. Mieps was annoyed by such mysteries, as was Bardin.
“There will be no more night-watches”, he exclaimed “We seem to have been doing them forever!”
“Three nights”, Rumble pointed out.
“Whatever it wants it can come right up to the house and get us”, said Bardin, stamping back across the lawn “It’s time we all went to bed!”
“Said Zebedee”, said Joby.
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