Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

When the fog cleared at daybreak the Village of Stairs was found to be at the risk of potential collapse. Cracks and rifts had appeared in the ground all over the town, as though the burst water-main which had been found the previous day had started an infection. Some buildings had already begun to flake and crumble, and pipes (some long-forgotten about) had come to the surface and lay about the streets like slumbering snakes.

Kieran went ashore with some of the other Indigo-ites to have a look at this unsettling phenomenon. Like most of the rest of the population he stood in one of the streets and stared down at the ground, considerably perplexed.

An old man walked past. He briefly touched Kieran’s hand and murmured “your grace”, Kieran’s old title from his President days. After he had got out of earshot, Kieran whispered to Joby:

“I have to see Angel, you know I do”.

“We can’t talk about this here”, Joby replied “We’ll go back to the sloop”.

“No that’s no good”, said Kieran “If we have another row they’ll separate us again”.

“Then we’ll go somewhere else”, said Joby “And if we have another row it’ll serve you right, for keep trying to spring this one on me!”

“Has it never occurred to you that I might be wanting to take you with me?” said Kieran.

“You’ve only just thought of that!” said Joby “To try and appease me”.

“Yeah, but I also think it’s a blood good idea!” said Kieran.

They walked past Lonts, who was standing at the edge of one narrow crack, peering down at it thoughtfully, with Snowy tucked under his arm. In another street a man was sitting on an upturned packing-case, numbly surveying the remains of his house. A complete wall had come down, exposing the rooms within like a doll’s house with the front opened up.

“It’s like after a bomb blast”, said Kieran, very softly so that only Joby could hear. The town was in such a bewildered and emotive state that there was no knowing what innocent speculation might set them off.

“Couldn’t have been an earthquake in the night could there?” said Joby “And we just didn’t notice it?”

“Joby”, said Kieran “For an earthquake to cause this amount of damage you can be sure we’d have noticed it!”

“True”, said Joby “I’m clutching at straws I spose. I mean, for all this to happen, SILENTLY, makes no bleedin’ sense at all does it! Do you remember when those buildings collapsed on the other side of the river in Toondor Lanpin a few years back?”

“At least then some witnesses said they’d heard a rumbling noise just beforehand”, said Kieran “With this one I haven’t come across anyone who says they’ve heard anything! I know thick fog can muffle sound but this is ridiculous!”

“What about all those things Angel said about there being some turmoil in Hell?” Joby whispered “That it was collapsing in on itself”.

“Ssh”, said Kieran “I know what you mean but we have to be damn careful what we say out here. Everybody’s dazed at the moment, but when they start coming round who knows what’ll happen? We don’t wanna start a riot”.

“Promise me if you do go and talk to him though you won’t leave me behind”, said Joby.

“I promise you”, said Kieran “On everything that we’ve ever meant to each other, I promise. I don’t want to do anything without you anyway. I missed you so damn much at Sade’s place”.

Bengo and Bardin came down some nearby steps, having been to inspect their old theatre.

“It’s still in one piece!” said Bengo.

“I thought you’d be pleased about that”, said Joby.

“Where we spent our childhoods shackled into clowns’ slavery?” said Bardin, causing Joby to groan and Kieran to laugh.

“Did your colleagues survive the night in one piece?” said Kieran.

“Yes”, said Bengo.

“Unfortunately”, said Bardin.

“Hal says he heard a loud buzzing noise outside at four in the morning”, said Bengo “He wondered if that had anything to do with what’s happened”.

“A loud buzzing noise?” Kieran exclaimed.

“Don’t take any notice of it”, said Bardin “He’d probably been on the mushrooms or something! Once he took something and was convinced I had turned into a demon, the silly twat!”

“We wouldn’t have to take anything to think that, Bardy!” said Bengo.

“Very funny”, said Bardin “Have you ever thought of going on the stage?!”

Kieran insisted on walking in front with Bardin, anxious to know more about Hal’s buzzing noise, although Bardin couldn’t tell him much more than he had already.

“You’re not still cross with me are you, Joby?” said Bengo “I tried to get in bed next to you last night but Tamaz beat me to it”.

“Bengo, stop it!” said Joby, who found himself getting aroused by these words.

Evie and Maria leaned out of their hotel window overhead and shouted down to them. They called the four of them in for a drink, and Kieran and his friends duly met them in the bar downstairs, whilst a band was tuning up their instruments at the far end. Everything was coated in a thin layer of dust, from where the plasterwork had flaked during the night’s mysterious activities. The girls stuffed Bengo into place between them on the window-seat, enthusing about how cute he was.

“I’m a total queer though”, said Bengo.

“You don’t get aroused by women?” said Maria.

“Oh I like women very much, but not in that way”, said Bengo “I guess I need strong men to keep me in order you see”.

“Bengo, behave!” said Joby.

“I haven’t said anything awkward here have I?” said Bengo.

“He hasn’t said anything awkward has he?” said Kieran, having a shrewd guess what was going in Joby’s underpants.

Bardin went to the bar to collect more brandies.

“He has a real dancer’s body”, said Maria.

“You’re a dancer and you’re all curvy”, said Joby.

“He’s got a ballet dancer’s body”, said Maria “Tight and very toned. Whereas I’ve got a ballroom dancer’s body, I look good in a lot of spangles and sequins”.

“Perhaps Glynis should have gone in for ballroom dancing”, said Kieran “She’s not a bad hoofer on the quiet”.

“Nah, she’s more into horses these days”, said Joby “She must be in seventh heaven that there’s a set of stables at the Town House”.

“That reminds me”, said Maria “Evie’s got a job here too, minding the horses”.

“You’re going to be an ostler?” said Kieran.

“Yep”, said Evie “The one that looks after the ‘osses!”

After a couple more rounds of brandy they all got up to dance. Bardin with Evie, Maria with Bengo, which left Joby and Kieran to dance with each other.

“I hope the ceiling don’t fall in”, said Joby, glancing nervously upwards.

“We’ll be getting a wee bit plastered if it does!” said Kieran.

“Gawd, that’s an old one!” said Joby.

A short while later they all wandered out into the street in an even bigger daze than they had gone in.

“All disturbances of the ground”, said Kieran, as he and Joby strolled on behind “Everything that has happened to us this past year or so have all been to do with disturbances of the ground. Cellars and … and such like. Remember the underground train at the old mill, where Toppy nearly got pulled into the wall? Even up at the Big House, the epi-centre of the haunting came from the corridor off the Red Salon, which slopes DOWNWARDS”.

“So?” said Joby “What’s the surprise about that? Hell is underneath us after all”.

“But look at all that’s happening here around us now”, said Kieran “You’re the film-buff, this should remind you of something. ‘Quatermass And The Pit’”.

“Yeah, good film that”, said Joby.

“Except this won’t be about crashed spaceships full of dead locusts”, said Kieran “I think we can be sure of that if nothing else!”

On turning into another street they found the old down-at-heel entertainer doing a rather geriatric tap-dance, to an audience of one small boy, who was watching him with rapt attention.

“Have you ever seen a more pathetic sight?” said Bardin.

“Don’t say it!” said Kieran, waving his finger at Joby “You was going to say ‘Kieran with no clothes on!’”

“Well I don’t need to now do I!” said Joby.

“Go and give him some more money, Bengo”, Bardin sighed.

Bengo pulled the pockets of his shorts inside out to show that he didn’t have any money. Bardin sighed again and dug deep into his own trousers.

“Sometimes those two remind me of the tramps in ‘Waiting For Godot’”, Kieran smiled.

“I’ll take your word for it!” said Joby.

“I’d love to have taken you to see that in Dublin”, said Kieran “It would have explained to you all you needed to know about Ireland”.

“Come on”, said Joby, taking his arm “Let’s go home”.

“Lo-Lo overheard you and Joby talking about it in the street”, said Adam, alone with Kieran in the galley.

“He must have followed us round the corner”, said Kieran.

“Patsy”, said Adam “I fully understand that you don’t want to worry Joby any further, but it’s not just him you know. I came over with you as well, we were a three. Do I not have any feelings? Will I not worry frantically when you both disappear together?”

“Of course I know all that”, Kieran leaned his head against Adam’s shoulder “But you can’t come with us because you won’t leave Lonts, and we wouldn’t dream of asking you to. I know you two would practically expire if you were separated from each other”.

“But please promise me you won’t go after Angel without telling me first”, said Adam “I don’t see why you need to go without the rest of us anyway. But if you do decide you have to do it that way at least tell me first. I do have a right to be forewarned”.

“I promise”, said Kieran.

He heard Joby’s voice approaching along the corridor, and not wanting him to see him (Kieran) upset, the excused himself from Adam and fled up the galley steps.

“Good, now you and Bengo have both come in here we’d better get started on the lunch”, said Adam, tossing their canvas aprons at them “We know that the whole town is disintegrating, but Jules will still expect everything to be done as normal. Otherwise he’ll go on about it endlessly”.

“You can imagine him in the trenches can’t you” said Joby, tying Bengo’s pinny whilst Adam tied his “Bombs going off, and blokes getting mutilated and killed left, right and centre, but Julian’d still insist on dressing for dinner!”

“He’s not quite that bad”, Adam laughed “But he would want a gramophone and his cigars in the dug-out!”

“What’s the trenches?” said Bengo “And the dug-out?”

“A horrible place where they send naughty clowns to be punished”, said Joby.

“I thought that was the Cabaret of Horrors actually!” said Bengo.

Rumble came upon Bardin on the forward deck reading a copy of the local newspaper. Bardin lowered the crumpled rag in his hands and glared at Rumble.

“He’s here”, he said.

“Who?” said Rumble.

“Sade”, said Bardin “He’s here in the Village of Stairs”.

“He can’t be”, said Rumble “How could he have got over into our time?”

“Probably the same mysterious unknown way we got over into his!” said Bardin “There’s a case in this paper that has his fingerprints all over it”.

According to the paper a woman in her thirties, one of the new arrivals in town, had gone out looking for work on the previous Thursday. She was accosted by a man in the street who said he could offer her cleaning work at his rooms. She described him as roughly the same age as herself, short but well-built, with long fair hair tied back. He was very smartly-dressed, and had a strange accent which she’d never heard before.

She went with him to his apartment, one of many in the rabbit-warren of alley-ways and stair-wells that chiefly made up the centre of the town. Once there, he pulled a knife on her and ordered her to undress. When she had done so he had made her trample on a crucifix, then he tied up her hands and whipped her. Finally, he stabbed her several times in the buttocks and thighs with a penknife, and smeared the wounds with melted candle-wax. The woman managed to escape when the mysterious man went out at sunset. She was found in the street in a highly distressed state, but when questioned by the Town Constable was unable to remember exactly where the man’s apartment was. “We are anxious to locate this man before he re-offends”, said the Town Constable “Such shocking incidents as this can only damage our town’s reputation, particularly when we are anxious to finally establish ourselves as a mixed-gender colony”. He was appealing for witnesses. Door-to-door enquiries in the town centre had failed to unearth a man fitting the attacker’s description.

“Rose Keller”, said Rumble “Kieran told us about her. Sade served seven months in the jug for what he did to her. It’s all the same as what he did to her”.

“It all matches”, said Bardin “Right down to the description she gave of him. It’s him alright or I’ll eat this!” he plucked his cap off his head and then put it back on again.

“Shouldn’t we go and tell the Guards?” said Rumble.

“Tell them what?” Bardin exclaimed “Can you imagine how much explaining it’d all take! Where he comes from, how we know him … it doesn’t bear thinking about!”

“Well what do we do then?” said Rumble.

“He must know we’re here”, said Bardin “Kieran always generates a lot of publicity when he’s in town. Chances are high he’ll come and seek us out”.

“Oh that’s a nice thought!” said Rumble.

“The plot thickens doesn’t it?” said Bardin.

“Yeah”, said Rumble, with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

“You go over to the ‘Butterfly Queen’, and warn Maria and Evie to be on their guard”, said Bardin “Particularly Maria. Warn her to be careful of any punters who start showing a keen interest in seeing her after her show, that kind of thing”.

“She’s a big girl, and she’s been doing exhibition dancing before”, said Rumble “She should already know all that”.

“It never hurts to remind her”, said Bardin, stuffing the crumpled mass of newsprint into Rumble’s hands “Give ‘em that to read!”

“What I don’t understand is what does he want to come here for?” said Joby, who had gone for a walk round the dilapidated streets with Adam after lunch “I mean, there are women everywhere in Aspiriola and Toondor Lanpin. And yet he comes here where there’s still only a few. And from everything I’ve heard a few wouldn’t be enough for him! He certainly liked to put it about a bit!”

“Perhaps he feels less conspicuous here”, said Adam “The very fact that he’s operating from the centre of town and yet the police haven’t found him says it all. I think he’d be picked up much easier in Aspiriola or Toondor Lanpin”.

“I spose so”, said Joby.

He stood next to a damaged pipe that was gently sputtering water into the air.

“You’d think they’d send someone out to fix this wouldn’t you?” he said “You really get the impression no one in charge round here gives a toss. Ad, are you alright?”

“Yes, I just feel a bit dazed with the heat that’s all”, said Adam “Let’s get a cab home shall we?”

They went across to a rickshaw rank on the other side of the street. The boy had been dozing with his feet up on the handlebars when they approached him.

“I’m gonna have to take you the long way round”, he said “Mill Street’s closed off this afternoon, they’re fixing it”.

“God, wonders’ll never cease!” said Joby.

They both climbed into the canopied passenger section. The “long way home” unfortunately entailed going down Nightingale Road, which in spite of its tranquil-sounding name, was the most down-at-heel part of the entire town. No one (officially) lived down Nightingale Road anymore. Most of the houses had been gutted in a bad fire many years before and no one had ever bothered to replace them. Gradually the remaining buildings had also become deserted and fell into disrepair, until Nightingale Road was now only inhabited by vagrants, drunks, druggies, and the severely mentally ill.

The rickshaw passed down it like a spaceship gliding through an electrical storm. The few people they saw about were like zombies, gaping at them with burnt-out eyes. Some occasionally roused themselves to chuck a stone at the passing vehicle, but it was generally a lacklustre effort.

At the far end they had to wait whilst two horse-drawn trams took an age to cross the street at the far end. Whilst waiting Joby noticed The Nightingale Tavern on the corner, another derelict building, which had been boarded-up all over the ground floor. Something about it caught Joby’s eye, and he suddenly leapt out of the rickshaw and ran across the road for a closer inspection.

Graffiti had been scrawled across the boards over the main doors, including what appeared to be some large scratch-marks, voodoo symbols, and the message “DEMONS WALK HERE”.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Adam bolted over him “Get back in the rickshaw at once!”

Joby though was in a daze, running his fingers along the grooves in the wood made by the scratch-marks. Adam bundled him like a six-year-old back across to the rickshaw. By now some of the “zombies” had noticed the hiatus and were edging along the street, picking up stones and rocks for ammunition as they went.

“Don’t look at them!” Adam shouted at the boy-driver “It’ll make them worse. Get us all out of here!”

“You and your old films, Joby!” Adam sighed, once they were safely back down at the waterfront.

The two of them, on leaving the rickshaw, had gone for a stroll down beyond the fish-market to recuperate. Joby had begun telling him about ‘Quatermass And The Pit’.

“It was Kieran who mentioned it actually”, said Joby “Have you ever seen it?”

“Yes, years ago”, said Adam “It was one of the things that first got me interested in the paranormal actually. Oh not all the dead aliens nonsense, but the poltergeist activity and the folklore about demons. But what has any of that to do with you making a spectacular twit of yourself up there?”

“Hob’s Lane”, said Joby “The abandoned houses. The old copper going into a spin over the scratch-marks on the walls. The derelict pub reminded me of that, and the bit ‘Demons Walk Here’, and the way this town seems to be breaking up underneath everyone”.

“Yes alright, calm down”, said Adam, fanning himself with his sun-hat “I could quite believe Nightingale Road is haunted by demons, it’s a vile place. Not for the faint-hearted at all”.

“You were brave”, said Joby “I’m gonna tell Julian about that. He always talks to you as though you’re some ditzy housewife who’s just pranged the car again! He should know about your bottle”.

“He already does”, said Adam “It just suits him to play the big man all the time where I’m concerned. Now I’ll take you back onto the sloop. You need to spend some time alone with Patsy. You’ve been in contact with evil”.

“You believe that don’t you?” said Joby “I thought you might just shout at me that I was a fool”.

“You were”, said Adam “I was very angry at you getting out of the rickshaw, but Nightingale Road is awash with evil, and that derelict pub most of all!”

“I’ve told Tamaz you’ve just got a stroke of the sun”, said Kieran, plying Adam and Joby with brandy up on the forward deck “Otherwise he’ll be coming up here worrying about you”.

The three of them watched as Rumble gingerly made his way off the ‘Butterfly Queen’, past the deck where Maria was tap-dancing to a gramophone record, and up onto the boardwalks. It would have been obvious to anyone that he was one over the eight. The Indigo-ites watched in trepidation as he made his way along the boardwalk and up the gang-plank. On trying to come aboard the sloop he got stuck climbing over the bulwark.

“It’s that vintage whisky Evie gave me”, he said, as the others tried to pull him onto his feet “I think I’m gonna lose the use of me legs at any moment!”

“I’ll get you below”, Adam sighed.

“Can you be trusted?” Rumble leered.

“Believe me, Rumble”, said Adam “At this moment you are very resistable!”

Tamaz came up the quarterdeck steps.

“Tamaz!” Rumble cried, lurching at him “Queen of my heart!”

“You’re drunk”, Tamaz spat.

“Very”, said Rumble.

Adam got him down to the cabin, where Mieps was stripped to the waist, sponging himself down at the wash-stand. As you would expect Rumble lunged at him as well, and Mieps tried to fend him off with a face-towel.

That was Rumble’s last coherent memory for a while. When he regained consciousness he found he was alone in the cabin with Bengo, who had bought him in some coffee, but instead decided to feed him a cup of water.

“Where’s Farnol?” said Rumble.

“Gone out exercising the horses with Julian and Hillyard”, said Bengo “He said he didn’t want to be here when you woke up in case you vomited over him”.

“Huh, some best friend he is!” said Rumble “I suppose Bardin’s cranking up his mouth for a long nagging session?”

“You might be lucky”, said Bengo “He’s very preoccupied with the Sade news at the moment”.

“Yeah I’ve been thinking about that, believe it or not”, said Rumble “I wonder if his wife has crossed over with him”.

“I’d be very surprised if she hadn’t”, said Bengo “She adored him”.

“Why though?” said Rumble.

“I guess he gave a zest to her life she wouldn’t have had otherwise”, Bengo shrugged “And she probably saw the real him, all the vulnerability under the shouting and the tantrums. The other clowns could never understand why I put up with Bardy, but they didn’t see him all the time like I did”.

“I wonder if that was one of the reasons why she had such a soft spot for you”, said Rumble “Kindred spirit and all that”.

“She had a soft spot for all of us I think”, said Bengo “In her own way. She wanted Toppy to be her personal steward, and she felt sorry for Tamaz. She was convinced he was really a girl with a deformity”.

“But it was you most of all”, said Rumble “The way she used to look at you sometimes, I’m amazed his nibs never got jealous! Particularly as I think he’s the sort who could get very jealous. They’ll do any amount of depravity themselves, but they want those closest to them to stay clean!”

“Perhaps she did sense we were similar”, said Bengo “Bardy can be very impossible but I’d do anything for him, and she was the same with the old bugger”.

After super Julian had imperiously ordered coffee to be served to him up on deck. Joby took it up. Tamaz and some of the others were playing boule. Rumble was softly strumming his banjo.

“We’ll make a good serving-boy of you yet”, said Julian, as Joby poured out his coffee.

“Don’t try and wind me up, it ent gonna work”, said Joby “Save it for Bardin”.

He glanced towards Bardin, who was sitting on the poop-deck, with his feet up on the bulwark, next to Ransey.

“No it’s no fun with him at the moment”, said Julian “He’s all preoccupied and full of Captainly self-absorption. What are you doing?”

Joby had sat himself down on Julian’s lap.

“Well I don’t see why Bengo should have all the fun”, said Joby.

“Tinkerbell won’t like this”, said Julian.

“It’s nothing compared to what he gets up to with you!” said Joby.

“Not half as much as I’d like”, said Julian “He won’t let me! You seem strange tonight, almost contented”.

“I got thinking down below”, said Joby “About how I’d feel if Josh did manage to get me back to our time. I don’t think I could handle it, it’d crush me to death. I’d give up”.

“And that thought has made you happy has it?!” said Julian.

“In a perverse sort of way”, said Joby.

“Yes well you’re certainly a perverse sort of creature!” said Julian.

“There are things in our time I would never have got to do”, said Joby “Never”.

“Loving an hermaphrodite?” said Julian, watching Joby watching Tamaz “It’s a bit of a long shot I know, but they were around in our time, although not quite as spectacular as Freaky perhaps”.

“I mean sitting here like this, with you”, said Joby “That would never have happened would it?”

“That sort of speculation is entirely fruitless, dear boy”, said Julian “Mind you, it’s a massive boost to my ego to know that you would be prepared to cross 2000 years just to sit on me!”

“Joby”, Lonts plodded across the forward deck towards them with a book under his arm “You said you’d read to me this evening”.

“No I didn’t”, said Joby, climbing off Julian.

“Yes you did”, said Lonts “I asked you at breakfast, and you said you’d read to me later”.

“Yeah, and since when has ‘later’ meant today?” said Joby. “You promised”, said Lonts “You’ve gone back on your word!”

“Alright!” said Joby, making silencing gestures “Don’t start all that. We’ll go below. Well come on then! And you’d better enjoy it and all!”

Joby woke up in the night to hear a man shouting incoherently on the quayside. He was raging at someone or something, and the only intelligible words were “get away from me!”

Come morning Joby excused himself from breakfast-duty, in order that he could go for a walk along the quayside and think for himself. In the close confines of the Indigo such an announcement caused a lot of consternation below deck.

“But Bardy’s dragging us clowns off to the theatre at noon”, Bengo protested “He wants to sneer at the afternoon matinee”.

“For God’s sake I’m only gonna be gone for a few minutes”, said Joby “I’ll be here at lunchtime to help out”.

“You’re not going to help out at breakfast though are you?” said Adam.

“Even slaves get time off!” said Joby.

“I wasn’t aware that they did actually!” said Adam.

“Get Toppy to fill in for me”, said Joby “It won’t hurt him”.

Bengo groaned at the thought of working with Toppy, but Joby left the sloop anyway. He had barely touched the quayside when Levka appeared out of nowhere and startled him. Joby had been pleasantly surprised by how Levka had turned out. In spite of his gloomy forebodings Levka hadn’t turned into another David Koresh or Rev. Jim Jones. Once away from the Big House, Levka had thrown himself into good works, helping out the poor and needy of the Village of Stairs. He may have had a distressing tendency to preach at those he was feeding, but on the whole he was harmless. Kieran had got it right when he had surmised that Levka’s problem was that he simply wasn’t suited to a life of rural solitude. He was one of those holy-men better fitted instead for a life of bustle in a busy town.

“Please tell Kieran for me”, he beseeched Joby in a low voice “That I have personally seen the vampire that is haunting this town”.

“You’ve seen him, I mean it?” said Joby “Face to face?”

“I was told by several people that they had been menaced by it whilst sleeping rough in the old cemetery here”, said Levka “They claimed to be terrified by a dark shape that tried to bite them. So I went there myself one night, alone”.

“Wasn’t that a bit of a daft thing to do?” said Joby.

“It reared up out of one of the big stone mausoleums there”, said Levka “A tall black shape. I confess I was very afraid. I threw myself onto the ground, flat on my face. It passed right over me, I felt a distinct chill as it went past. I don’t know why it didn’t attack me. I can only assume my crucifix protected me”.

Joby had a suspicion that no amount of crucifixes would repel Josh, but he took Levka back to the sloop to see Kieran.

Later that morning the clowns had an encounter of their own. They had gone to the Cabaret of Horrors to see the lunchtime show, and Bardin had thoroughly enjoyed himself by hating every minute of it.

“The feeble-minded copycats”, he snapped, as Hal and Shag did a mock-wrestling match on the stage “You and me did that one years ago, only we did it better”.

“Their costumes are too bulky”, said Bengo, as ever trying to be more charitable “When we did it the only clowns’ props we used were baggy trousers and big shoes. They’ve got all that padding on which hampers them”.

“They’d still be useless even if they didn’t have it!” said Bardin, with grim satisfaction “God, this show’s really gone to the dogs since we left. They shouldn’t still be allowed to work, they’re getting money under false pretences!”

“Bardy”, Bengo sighed “We’re annoying the rest of the audience”.

“What audience?” said Bardin, looking round at the sparsely-populated auditorium.

Bengo was relieved when the show finished and the four of them left. He walked on ahead, not wanting to hear yet more criticism as Bardin indulged in a vicious post-mortem with Rumble and Farnol. As he rounded a corner he thought that the middle-aged lady in the low-cut white dress looked vaguely familiar, but it took him a while to actually realise that she was Madame de Sade, simply because it’s hard to recognise someone when you simply don’t expect to see them.

Madame de Sade recognised him almost immediately. Bengo, her “little pet”, had clearly been her favourite out of the clowns, and she gave a breathless exclamation of pleasure when she saw him. She had picked up a smattering of English, in order to move about more freely in this time, and now she poured out a torrent of half-English half-French terms of affection on him. She was almost as enthusiastic when she saw the other three, and suddenly this whole bizarre meeting took on an air of normality, as though they really were just old acquaintances meeting up again unexpectedly. But of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site