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A short while later Brinslee tentatively went downstairs, like an amnesiac victim trying to find his way round his old home. There were so many of the Indigo-ites that they were at the moment spread in little clumps all over the house. It was filled with their noise as they went about their different activities. This made up Brinslee’s mind once and for all that he would go back to the Bay with them. He didn’t want to contemplate what the dark, brooding house would be like without them in it. Without them even the very doors and walls would seem menacing.
He found Adam in the kitchen making up a shopping list off all the things to take back to the Bay with them, watched by Hillyard and Joby.
“Space is at a premium, Ad”, Hillyard was saying “What with Brinslee with us and all don’t forget”.
“Not to mention you”, said Adam, prodding Hillyard’s stomach.
“A work of art this is”, said Hillyard.
“I’ve never thought of it in quite that way before!” said Adam.
“You don’t need to buy anything, Adam”, said Brinslee, stepping into the room “Take what you need out of the store-room here”.
“Sweet of you, old love”, said Adam “But we’re actually topping up the medicine chest, and plus we need things like new footwear and clothes. The soles are coming away on Hoowie’s boots”.
“Glue ‘em up again”, said Joby “Do his mouth at the same time whilst you’re about it!”
Brinslee went out shopping with all sixteen of them. People were at large in the market square once more, but although it was business as usual in the shops and bars, there was a tense, pensive atmosphere all around, as though the town was under siege from an outside force.
A pharmacy was the first port of call. Lonts wanted to have a go on the speak-your-weight machine.
“You’ll probably break it, it won’t be able to stand the shock”, said Joby “Look at what you did to the chair yesterday!”
“You won’t get me on it”, said Hillyard “I haven’t weighed meself in years. I think I’d burst into tears if I knew the truth after all this time!”
Joby caught Tamaz pinching mints from an open jar on the counter and took him outside out of harm’s way. They both stood under the portico, waiting for the others to appear, and watched the passing traffic. Joby had an acute snese of shock whilst watching the parade of passing faces, but kept it to himself for fear of worrying Tamaz. Kieran sensed something was wrong though, and managed to get him alone a few minutes later, whilst the others were being served by a popcorn vendor in the street.
“I’ve seen my brother!” Joby murmured to him over by some railings “Here, in Aspiriola! Just for a brief second outside the chemists. He appeared for a flash just walking past, and then he was gone. He looked straight at me”.
“That’s not possible”, said Kieran “He can’t be here”.
“Why not?” said Joby “We are! And you went back to Sade’s time, let alone all that stuff last year with fiction becoming reality!”
“What was he like?” said Kieran “I mean how old was he? Because if he was the same age we’re meant to be he’d be a pensioner by now. I doubt you’d recognise him”.
“I’d know him anywhere!” said Joby “As it was he looked exactly as he did the last time I saw him, early twenties, and every bit as repulsive as I remember him! I had all the good looks in our family!” Kieran felt reassured by Joby’s joking, it meant he wasn’t about to g into a Brinslee-style fug of gloom, but he could still see that his friend was badly shaken. He himself was completely baffled by this unexpected turn of events.
“I don’t like the sound of this at all”, he said.
“Neither do I!” said Joby “He knows I’m here, as I said he looked right at me”.
“You amaze me, you really do”, Kieran laughed “All the real bastard we’ve come across in this time, like Angel, the other vampires, Father Gabriel, and you’re scared of meeting your brother again!”
“I’d rather see Hitler than him!” said Joby “He was a complete bastard, you must remember what he was like. When we were kids he used to throw me down the stairs for a laugh!”
“Perhaps he’s mellowed in 2000 years?” said Kieran “Now cheer up. You’ve got the Vanquisher of Evil here to protect you”.
“You’ve got your bleedin’ work cut out this time I’ll tell yer!” said Joby “I don’t want you going anywhere near him, he always hated you. Mind you, he hated everybody so I spose that’s not surprising!”
“I need to go below and use the lav”, said Kieran, pointing at some stone steps nearby which led underground to the Gents “Will you come with me? You can’t let me go down there alone, there might be men like Julian down there!”
It was empty when they went below, but this didn’t stop Joby pushing open the doors to the stalls nervously, as though expecting his brother to come flying out like the Reptile Man in the cellar. The walls to this entire den of iniquity were daubed with old revolutionary slogans, graphic words about various parts of the human anatomy, and a diagram (remarkably lifelike) of a large cock standing to attention.
“Hey I’m famous!” said Kieran, emerging from one of the stalls “Somebody wrote on the walls in there that ‘Kieran’s got a cute ass’”.
“Kieran hasn’t got any arse more like!” said Joby, patting Kieran’s flat behind.
They returned above to daylight, and found Bengo and Bardin fooling about by a clapboard fence, and collecting a small audience in the process. They were prancing about as though trying to see over the top of it, using some extraordinarily graceful gymnastic movements, standing on the points of their toes and doing perfect, springing little leaps into the air, keeping their arms pinned to their sides and their backs gracefully arched. Bardin leapt onto Bengo’s back and was held there like a rucksack so that Bardin could see over the top of the fence.
An elderly man emerged from a door in the fence and shouted at them for invading his privacy. Bengo and Bardin sloped off hand-in-hand. The Indigo-ites next decamped to a shoe-shop, where Hoowie was delirious with excitement at being measured up for a new pair of boots. Hoowie had no idea what his real shoe size was. He had never owned new footwear in his life before, making do with second-hand cast-offs that roughly fitted him, more or less. Adam decided it was high time this was put right.
“We normally only use this on children”, said the shop-assistant, sniffily producing the foot-measuring device.
“He is a child really”, said Adam “He’s the baby of the family”.
“Bloody ugly baby!” said Joby “Could we leave him on a doorstep somewhere in that case?”
“We tried that once before, sort of, remember?” said Bardin “Glynis sent him back!”
“I’m gonna look real impressive in these, aint I?” said Hoowie, eyeing up the new black boots.
“I wouldn’t bank on it if I was you!” said Joby “It’d take more ‘en a pair of boots to manage that!”
The nearest bar was the next stopping-point, for beers and something to eat. The oldies sat in one booth, and the not-so-oldies in the next one. Bengo pushed open part of the glass partition which divided the booths.
“There’s a flyer here which says there’s a fair in the Pleasure Gardens”, he said “Shall we go?”
“On condition you behave yourself completely”, said Julian.
“Don’t ask the impossible of him!” said Joby.
“If you give me cause to shout at you just one more time on this trip you know what’ll happen don’t you?” said Julian.
Bengo thought, with some foreboding, of the razor-strop, currently hanging up in the bathroom back at the Governor’s House. He felt even more anxious when they got to the Pleasure Gardens and found that his old friend and foe Godle was doing exhibition wrestling matches, challenging anyone to take him on for a fixed price. Godle had lost weight. His biceps were still in good form, but he was no longer impressive round the torso, looking like a slender man who just happened to have big biceps.
“More like Godle the mighty puny man these days”, said Farnol.
“I had no idea he was here!” Bengo bleated, in terror “What’s he doing here?”
“He must be part of this travelling fair”, said Bardin, who was holding Bengo with one hand and the horsewhip with the other.
“Bardy, tell Julian I had no idea he was gonna be here”, said Bengo “Please tell him, or he’ll think I dragged everyone here on purpose”.
“Don’t be stupid!” said Bardin “He is not going to think that at all”.
“Let’s go up the other end before Godle notices us”, said Rumble.
At which point Godle yelled “Seen yer!” from the platform.
“Ignore him, Bardy”, said Bengo, pulling Bardin towards the other end of the fairground.
Meanwhile Brinslee was attempting to bring himself out of himself, and had tried to start a conversation with Mieps, who reacted as though he’d been stung by a wasp and ran towards the shooting-gallery to join Ransey and Joby. Adam had to reassure a much-shaken Brinslee that Mieps meant nothing personal by it.
“Because of all that nonsense we had with Codlik, Jules had been rather watchful of him”, said Adam “Things got rather fraught at times, and now I expect Mieps thinks Jules is going to punish him if he sees him talking to you. But please don’t alarm yourself, old love”.
“I never could keep my hands off something I coveted”, said Brinslee “I tried it with little Lonts and Finia didn’t I? And then Bardin. I wouldn’t blame Julian for not trusting me”.
“But he does!” Adam protested.
In despair he called Finia over, who was looking very striking in a black-and-white hat, and asked him to take Brinslee to the ice-cream stall.
“Really Jules, this is all your fault”, said Adam, when he found his old friend standing by one of the carousels, smoking a cigar “You can be such an ogre to people”.
“Good!” said Julian “Where our lot are concerned I am completely unrepentant. If it was left to you anarchy would reign”.
“Nonsense”, said Adam “But even if it did at least everybody wouldn’t be jumping around like frightened rabbits”.
“If their consciences were entirely guilt-free they wouldn’t have any need to behave that way”, said Julian “Don’t have a go at me just for trying to look out for people. If Brinslee wants to come back with us he’ll have to abide by my … our rules”.
“You got it right the first time!” Adam snapped.
The clowns met up with Godle at the close of the evening’s business. They went to a bar nearby where Bardin managed to persuade Godle to accept a dish of steak and potatoes. Godle was too hungry to refuse. The clowns kept him company by ordering lemon meringue pie.
“So how did you end up here?” said Bardin, asking the question they all wanted to ask.
“I was sacked from the Cabaret of Horrors back home”, said Godle “Ully’s successor didn’t like the fact that I’m not very aggressive anymore. Since what happened with us all in Port West I’ve learnt to control my negative emotions too much”.
“Ooh!” said Bengo, instantly blaming himself.
“But you’re still fighting for a living”, said Bardin.
“This is kid’s stuff”, said Godle “The men round here are a scrawny lot, not as fit as they like to think they are. As long as I don’t take a fall too often the governor’s happy. It was different back at the Cabaret, there had to be a lot more blood, sweat and tears there”.
“Particularly blood!” said Rumble.
“I heard about your show the other day”, said Godle “I’m surprised Hal didn’t enjoy telling you I was here”.
“Hal and us aren’t exactly on gossiping terms”, said Bardin.
Godle shovelled so much meat and potatoes into his mouth that he looked like a hamster.
“I’m glad I’m not at the Cabaret anymore”, he said, eventually “It hasn’t been the same since you guys left. Ully wanted you to take over as his successor you know”.
“Just because Ully’s dead doesn’t give him any right to tell me how to run my life!” said Bardin, who was beginning to feel very tired and keyed-up at the thought of the night ahead in the haunted bedroom, and the arduous journey home tomorrow.
Bengo sensed all this and urged the others to finish up their drinks and return to the house. He had no wish to hang around anymore, in case Godle started once more on how he (Bengo) was the cause of his “negative emotions”. As they left Bardin put a roll of banknotes he’d been given earlier by Hillyard, into Godle’s lap, and left hurriedly, in case Godle’s pride got too irrational and he tried to refuse it.
Back at the Governor’s House, Ransey and Hillyard worked by torchlight in the gloaming to check over the truck. Bardin and Rumble had been standing nearby with the torches, and as they finished Rumble walked round to the back of the truck, where Bengo was sitting on the tail-gate, eating a banana.
“Are you eating again?” said Rumble, shining the torch on him.
“I’m knackered”, said Bengo.
“Well go up to bed then you daft bugger!” said Rumble.
“Not on my own”, said Bengo “I know it sounds pathetic, but that thing Bardy saw last night might be there”.
“He’ll be finished down here in a moment”, said Rumble.
“Bengo!” Bardin called, as if on cue. He was going up the steps to the front door.
Bengo scampered after him.
“Oi!” Joby exclaimed, after Bengo had casually left the banana skin on the hall table “You lazy little sod, don’t leave it there, it’ll go all off”.
“I’ve just had an idea”, said Bengo “Joby, would you and Kieran like to spend the night with us in our room?”
“Be a bit cramped won’t it?” said Joby.
“Nothing we’re not used to”, said Bardin, clutching at this idea.
“I’ll go and have a word with Kieran”, said Joby.
“It was a good idea of mine, don’t you think, Bardy?” said Bengo, bouncing around in their bedroom upstairs.
“Yes”, said Bardin, for the umpteenth time “You don’t have to get so anxious about pleasing me, Bengo. Help me sort the bed out”.
“I do get so anxious about pleasing you though”, said Bengo “I sometimes think it’s my every waking thought”.
“No wonder you’re such a basket case all the time then!” said Bardin.
Kieran and Joby came into the room, carrying their bags and pillows. Bardin looked as blissful and relieved by their presence as if he had been stuffed full of cocaine.
“It’s gonna be like sleeping in the litter again”, said Kieran.
“A bit more comfortable than that I hope, Patsy”, said Adam, coming in with Lonts to say goodnight to them.
“I notice Tamaz hasn’t come in”, said Joby.
“Freaky was very tired”, said Adam “He’s already fallen asleep”.
“We’d better go back”, said Lonts “We mustn’t leave Tamaz alone”.
He glowered at Joby, as though Joby had dumped Tamaz by the side of a motorway.
“Yeah clear off and goodnight”, said Joby.
They had left their bathroom light on in the adjoining room so that they weren’t in complete darkness, which was just as well as Bengo had to go and relieve himself after Kieran and Joby had fallen asleep. He had finished on the loo when he heard a voice sounding as though it was trying to make itself audible through a mass of heavy blankets.
“Listen to me”, it crackled, like a bad radio transmission “I’m from the dead zone”.
Bengo ran terrified into the bedroom, where he clung to Bardin, shivering like a frightened animal. Kieran and Joby went into the bathroom and searched it thoroughly. From Bengo’s description Joby was convinced that it was a tape-recorder on a timer that someone had hidden in there. But their search uncovered nothing of the kind.
“None of the tiles are loose”, said Kieran, who had got in the bath and inspected the wall above it.
“Let’s leave it”, said Joby, looking round him suspiciously “We’re out of here tomorrow anyway. Bloody dead zone indeed!”
Bengo was still shaking come daylight, and Julian tried to comfort him whilst the others sorted out breakfast and loaded the truck with their belongings.
“Here he is”, said Tamaz, coming into the dining-room where Bengo was sitting on Julian’s lap “He’s your favourite isn’t he? You love him inordinately”.
“I also love you inordinately, Freaky”, said Julian “Otherwise there’s no way I could have put up with you all these years!”
“Julian”, said Hillyard “We’re gonna have to take the horses with us, from the stables here”.
“We’ll never get them on the truck!” said Julian.
“I’m being serious”, said Hillyard “We can’t leave ‘em here on their own”.
“Well can’t we get someone in to look after them?” said Adam, who was setting out dishes on the sideboard.
“Like who?” said Hillyard “We can’t get anybody to come here, it’s hopeless”.
“If we take them back with us we’ll have to drive the truck at a crawl”, said Julian.
“We should’ve travelled here on the sloop”, said Tamaz “Then there wouldn’t be a problem”.
“What a very helpful contribution to the debate, Freaky!” said Julian.
“Just saying”, Tamaz shrugged.
“I suppose half could stay here”, said Hillyard “And the other half go home, and bring the sloop here. It’d take about a week in all”.
“That’s about as intelligent as Freaky’s remark!” said Adam “With everything that’s been going on here I absolutely refuse to countenance the idea of anyone staying here a day longer. Don’t be ridiculous, Hillyard!”
Adam stormed out of the room.
“That told you didn’t it!” said Julian.
“I didn’t think there was any need for that reaction”, said Hillyard “I’m gonna go out and see to the horses”.
“What will happen to the horses when we get them back to the Bay, Hillyard?” said Lonts, as he and Kieran helped Hillyard to lead the three horses round to the front of the house “Will we be able to keep them?”
“That’s up to Brinslee, they’re his after all”, said Hillyard “But try not to get too attached to ‘em, Lonts, in case he decides to take them back to Port West one day”.
“O.K”, Lonts sighed.
Kieran noticed Joby leaning disconsolately against the main gates, staring out into the street.
“Cheer up, we get released from here today”, said Kieran, going over to him “Have you got your squashy brown paper parcel ready?! You’re thinking about him aren’t you? Your lovely brother”.
“What if he’s been sent here as some kind of emissary”, said Joby “He might be being used by Angel to take me back to our time. Angel knows it’s the last thing either you or me would want! I couldn’t stand going back there, not just being separated from you, but seeing that lot again!”
“Lonts is coming over”, Kieran whispered “We’d better lighten up or he’ll get anxious”.
“There’s something the matter isn’t there?” said Lonts.
“Mind your own business”, said Joby.
“You can tell me you know”, said Lonts “I don’t know why people think they have to keep things from me. It’s not as if I’m going to fall over out of shock or something”.
“I hope not, we’ve had enough earth tremors round here lately!” said Joby “We’d have to shout timber!”
“Joby’s just a wee bit down in the dumps with everything that’s been happening, Lonts”, said Kieran.
“Things are always going to keep happening, Joby”, said Lonts “You should have learnt that one by now!”
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