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By Sarah Hapgood

“He’s there, in the corner”, said Lonts, pointing at a gaunt man wearing a black sombrero-style hat, who was staring gloomily at his liqueur glass.

“Look, get in the kitchen you”, said Joby, pushing Lonts with difficulty through the kitchen door “We don’t have enough customers that we can start scaring ‘em off, and let’s stop all this talk about vampire shall we?”

“But he does look like a vampire, Joby”, said Toppy, who had been clearing one of the trolleys in the kitchen, heaped with the lunch-time wreckage.

Joby picked up a gravy-boat and dribbled the scant contents over the bib of Toppy’s apron. Toppy, predictably, had a fit of the vapours.

“What on earth is going on in here?” said Adam “If you don’t all calm down at once I shall send Julian in. Lo-Lo, put the kettle on and make some tea. Why isn’t Bengo in here?”

“That’s what I’d like to know!” said Joby.

“I’ll get him for you”, said Bardin, who was halfway between the kitchen and bar.

He saw Bengo amongst the older men like Julian, Ransey and Hillyard, who were grouped around an ever-more regal Mieps. Bardin whistled at him. Bengo looked put-out. Bardin whistled again, rather more insistently this time. Bengo reluctantly shuffled across the room. Bardin aimed a kick at his behind.

Meanwhile, Adam went behind the bar to whisper furtively at Kieran that he was to stay away from the man in the corner.

“You think he is a vampire then?” Kieran teased, grabbing the diminutive Finia as a shield.

“Don’t push your luck”, said Adam “I mean what I say. I have enough to cope with in the kitchen, particularly as Joby now seems to have decided he wants to be a clown, pouring cold gravy over poor little Toppy like that!”

“I always thought Joby’d make a good one!” said Kieran.

The man in the corner slammed his glass on the table, as a rather brusque summons that he wanted a refill.

“I’ll see to him”, said Adam “What’s he drinking?”

“Grappa”, said Rumble, reaching for the bottle.

Adam took it over to the corner on a tray. The man pushed the requisite coinage across the table to him.

“We haven’t seen you in here before”, said Adam, trying to sound chatty “Are you local?”

“I have a place up in the hills”, the man drawled.

“I thought that was perhaps the case”, said Adam.

“It’s recovered then?” said the man.

It took Adam a while to realise he was referring to Mieps, who had his bandaged foot stuck out on a padded stool on the other side of the room. Adam was irritated and unsettled by the man’s offensive way of speaking about Mieps.

“Yes, he’s doing very well, considering”, said Adam “I don’t know if the man-trap was set deliberately, or someone had simply been thoughtless. Either way, it was an act of unspeakable cruelty, and I don’t rate that person’s chances if we find out who did it!”

The man stared at Adam in a bullying, cold, searching way that Adam had become much-acquainted with during his youth, first at school and then in prison. It was a look designed solely to discomfort and intimidate the receiver. Adam had become adept at not flinching from it though. The man pushed more coins across the table and invited Adam to partake of a drink as well. Adam pointedly only took enough money for the man’s drink.

“You serve him, Rumble”, he said, when he got back to the bar “I can rely on you to be sensible and not get riled by him”.

“Was he winding you up then?” said Rumble.

“Oh merely the social ineptitude of someone who’s lived alone too long I expect”, Adam sighed “I’d better go and see what’s going on in the kitchen”.

The kitchen was chaotic. Bengo and Bardin were having a marital. It appeared that Bengo had taken exception to Bardin summoning him in such a brusque fashion, and had concluded that Bardin had been jealous of him sitting there talking with the big boys.

“You’ve always been a vindictive little pig, Bardy”, said Bengo “You used to push pies into my face as though you really hated me, you were so rough”.

“That was all part of the act!” Bardin squawked “There’s no point bringing all that up now!”

Adam clouted both of them with an empty saucepan. Bengo fell dramatically to the floor and crossed his arms on his chest, in the time-honoured stage corpse style.

“Scene-stealer!” said Bardin.

Adam shoved Bardin back through the kitchen door, hitting him on the behind with the saucepan as he went. Joby meanwhile hoisted Bengo to his feet by the belt of his pinny.

“For you information, Bengo”, said Adam “I asked Bardin to fetch you in because we were, are, busy”.

“I don’t care”, Bengo pouted “He’ been moody all day, he deserved to be shouted at! He was asking for it!”

“Sometimes I feel as though I’m running a three-ring circus, not a kitchen”, said Adam to Julian, as the Indigo-ites relaxed in the bar at the end of the evening’s trading.

“You need a day off, my dear”, said Julian “You haven’t done any sketching since we’ve been here. Have a day as van Gogh tomorrow, and Ransey can run the kitchen. He’s itching to point out where he thinks you’re going wrong, well now he can find out for himself how difficult it is. And I shall be on hand too. Oh don’t look so alarmed, I’m not going to be doing any cooking”.

“I did think that was rather implausible, Jules!” said Adam.

“I shall merely stride through occasionally carrying a suitable instrument of torture as a poignant reminder of authority”, said Julian.

“When did the man in the black hat leave?” said Adam.

“It must have been about 9:30”, said Julian “I didn’t actually see him go. I just heard the outside door slam as he went”.

“Julian!” Lonts bellowed from the counter, where the younger ones were grouped around the clockwork television “There’s a man on television with a dick almost as big as yours!”

“I see the t.v is living down to its usual standards of taste and decency!” said Julian.

He and Adam went across to join them. The t.v screen showed a man in tight shorts ambling along a busy street, with what looked like a mini-draught excluder packed round his groin.

“Good job you don’t dress like that, Julian”, said Kieran “People’d think you had a boa-constrictor shoved down your pants!”

“Not a mistake they would be likely to make with you, Tinkerbell!” said Julian.

“If this conversation is going to degenerate into its usual Christmas Night Special of ‘Who’s Got The Biggest Dick’”, said Ransey “Then I’m going to bed!”

He ordered Rumble to fetch out the rifle which was kept under the bar-counter, just in case it was required on their walk over to the sloop.

The following morning Adam walked up the narrow coastal road which led to the town’s only church, with his sketch-pad under his arm. He remembered the church as an austere, but fairly new box-like structure. He was shocked to now find it in an advanced state of decay. The roof was falling in, and the low wall surrounding the graveyard at the back had crumbled.

He decided against lingering there to do any sketching and walked back to the town. He found Ransey and Kieran standing outside the tavern. Adam couldn’t resist ragging Ransey about needing a break already.

“I would find things a lot easier if Joby didn’t keep arguing all the time”, said Ransey “He seems to have got markedly worse in recent years. Now he contradicts everything”.

Adam chose to ignore this pointed dig at his authority.

“I find Joby very easy to deal with on the whole”, he said “If he gets too bolshy I simply put him across the table and beat him with the birch brush!”

“You know I can’t do things like that!” Ransey snapped, and he headed back into the tavern.

“You haven’t been along to the church since we’ve been here have you, Patsy?” Adam asked Kieran, once they were alone.

“Ach well, you know how it is”, said Kieran “I kept meaning to, but something else always kept cropping up here”.

“It’s derelict”, said Adam “I did wonder why the local priest hadn’t come sniffing round you, and now I know why, it doesn’t appear there is a local priest! And goodness knows what happens when someone dies here. They must just dig a hole in that neglected graveyard and shove them in!”

“No one gets a proper burial?” said Kieran.

“Of course now you’re here they can”, said Adam.

“I can open up a nice little sideline to the pub”, said Kieran “As an undertaker!”

“You know what I mean!” said Adam.

“Do you want me to come back with you and take a look at the place?” said Kieran.

“No I’d rather not”, said Adam “Once a day was enough there. I’m sure we can find out anything we need to know from the customers”.

Adam went over to sketch on the forward deck of the sloop, and Kieran walked round the back of the tavern and into the kitchen. He found Joby in there, sitting alone at the table, rolling balls of raw meat in flour to make hamburgers.

“Are you alone in here?” said Kieran.

“At the moment”, said Joby “I don’t spose it’ll last though”.

Kieran sat on the edge of the table and swung his bare feet. He was wearing only a very old singlet, and a pair of Mieps’s trousers, which were too long and baggy for him, so he had to wear them with the bottoms rolled up and the waist secured by a strong belt.

“This place gets more like a charnel-house everyday”, he said, looking at the meat.

Joby jokingly threatened him with a lump of it.

“What’s this I hear about you being too argumentative with old Ransey?” said Kieran.

“Well he thinks he can swan in here like Mr Efficiency and tell us how it’s all meant to be done”, said Joby “He tries to have me doing Bengo’s jobs and Bengo doing my jobs, and that ent right. After all, it undermines my place in the line of official superiority”.

“Jaysus, you’ll be quoting the union rule-book at him next!” said Kieran.

“You wouldn’t understand the importance of these things”, said Joby “You ent a worker”.

“I work!” Kieran protested.

“No you don’t”, said Joby “You ponce around all day eavesdropping on everybody! Occasionally, very occasionally that is, you polish a few glasses behind the bar. And I’ve known Toppy do that quicker ‘en you!”

“Just because I like to do a thorough job!” said Kieran.

“If you insist on coming in here”, said Ransey, coming through from the bar “You can do a thorough job of the washing-up”.

“You know how to give a lad a good time!” said Kieran.

He went over to the sink and began to laboriously pump water into the bowl. He saw Bengo, through the back window, trying to escape from the chicken-run, where he had been collecting eggs.

“That cockerel has it in for me”, said Bengo, when he finally arrived breathlessly in the kitchen “He keeps going for the backs of my legs. Nip nip nip with his beak”.

“He knows a nice bit of fleshy meat when he sees it!” said Joby “Just think yourself lucky he can’t reach your arse!”

Ransey headed for the back door.

“NOW where are you going?” said Joby.

The outside loo was Ransey’s destination. Bardin meanwhile could be heard in the bar, blowing his whistle as he directed the tables being put back in their right places.

“He’s got that bloody whistle out again”, said Joby “It’s like living next to a football-ground! We should wait until he’s asleep one night and chuck it over the side”.

“That’s no good”, said Bengo “He’ll only go out and buy another one. If we were going to do that we should have done it before we came to civilisation”.

Bardin came through from the bar.

“Half-time is it?” said Joby. “He’s back again”, said Bardin “The man in the black hat”.

Rumble slammed his drinks-tray down on the bar-counter.

“He wants to be served by Adam”, he whispered “Only Adam will do apparently”.

“Does he indeed?” said Julian, laying his cigar in the ash-tray “We’ll soon see about that”.

Julian took the tray over to the corner.

“I wish to be served by Adam”, said the man in the black hat.

“I’m the best offer you’re going to get today”, said Julian “Adam isn’t here, and when he is he rarely waits on table. Is it grappa as usual?”

The man irritably shoved his coins across the table. They could easily have spilled onto the floor but Julian deftly caught them in his hand.

“Grappa”, said Julian to Rumble, when he got back to the bar.

“Julian, where are you going?” said Lonts, as Julian picked up his cane.

“Over to the sloop”, said Julian “You treat him like any other customer, understand? He wants to unsettle us, he’s doing it all for effect. Don’t give him that satisfaction”.

Outside the front door he met Tamaz going in. Julian took exception to Tamaz’s outfit of flimsy drawers and sleeveless shirt, and marched him back over to the sloop. At the bottom of the quarterdeck steps they bumped into Adam emerging from the heads.

“Adam, he stopped me from going into the bar to see Joby”, Tamaz complained.

“Did you allow him to leave home looking like that?” said Julian.

“What on earth is wrong with it?” said Adam “His bubbies are covered up”.

“For what it’s worth!” said Julian “You seem to have lost whatever commonsense you once had. You never used to like Lonts running around in skimpies. By the way, your friend in the black hat is back”.

“He is not my friend!” said Adam “Freaky, go and put some trousers on, old love”.

Tamaz tutted and went into the cabin.

“Well he was specifically asking for you today”, said Julian “In fact, he didn’t want to be served by anyone else. He had to put up with being served by me instead”.

“You waited on table, Jules?” said Adam “I bet that was a sight for sore eyes!”

“I merely took his order”, said Julian.

They went into the cabin where Tamaz had emptied out all his clothes onto the floor.

“And you can tidy all that away again before you leave”, said Julian.

Mieps was lying on the communal bed.

“I think you should be careful where you go whilst he’s around as well”, said Julian.

“I have trouble going anywhere at the moment!” Mieps hissed.

“Good!” said Julian.

He swished his cane across Adam’s behind before leaving the room again.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he put that man-trap there”, said Mieps “So as to disable me on purpose, like when he once pushed Kieran off the steps”.

“Don’t be silly!” said Adam “Jules has been very upset by your accident. He smashed up the man-trap himself because he was so angry about it”.

“The fact remains that he likes me to be immobilised”, said Mieps.

“I must admit it does make life easier for us!” said Adam “Sorry old love, but you did ask for that. Coming out with absurd allegations like you were. Now I’m going back up on deck. Ring the hand-bell if you require anything”.

Rumble started off a whole new train of speculation at lunchtime by remarking to Julian back at the tavern that the man in the black hat had eyes very like Tamaz’s, only more filmy and with less sparkle. Julian instantly went into the kitchen, where Tamaz was now drinking tea at the table, whilst Kieran, Joby and Bengo buttered rolls, and Ransey fried the hamburgers.

“I haven’t taken any notice of him”, said Tamaz, effectively dismissing the man the black hat as being of no importance whatsoever “He has nothing to interest me”.

“He doesn’t’ wear any jewellery you mean!” said Joby.

“If he’s still here after lunch”, said Julian “I want you to serve him”.

“Me?” Tamaz exclaimed “Normally you’re telling me to stay away from the customers in case I disturb them! Anyway, if you really want to know if he’s a Ghoomer, get Mieps to talk to him, he’s normally sitting around doing nothing”.

“I can hardly ask Mieps to chat with him”, said Julian “When we think he was responsible for Mieps getting his foot caught in the man-trap! It’s a very small favour, Freaky, and if you do this I’ll buy you something nice”.

“There isn’t anything nice to buy in this town”, said Tamaz “And I should know, I’ve looked”.

“Thoroughly”, said Joby.

“If you do this”, said Julian “You can have a leg next time Adam does a roast bird”.

“I want that written down”, said Tamaz “Otherwise everyone’ll forget and they’ll claim I made it up”.

“You certainly know how to get your pound of flesh don’t you!” said Julian.

“I have to”, said Tamaz “Or I’ll always be treated like a worm!”

Julian returned to the sloop to keep Adam informed as to what was going on, and found him lunching by himself on the forward deck.

“I refuse to eat with Mieps”, said Adam, polishing off his cheese sandwich “He’s in such a filthy mood. I gave him his sandwiches, and left him there with Finia’s magazines”.

“Well I hope he takes care of them”, said Julian “Finia’s very possessive about his collection of glossies. I came over to tell you the latest developments. Rumble thinks our visitor may be a Ghoomer”.

“Good Lord, really?” said Adam “An hermaphrodite you mean?”

“We haven’t scrutinised him that closely yet”, said Julian “But it’s a distinct possibility”.

“Well he certainly has a Ghoomer’s social graces!” said Adam “They keep popping up out of the woodwork don’t they? Just when we think they’re all gone, apart from our two of course”.

“Ones who lived alone, like Mieps did, and not in a colony, could be anywhere”, said Julian.

“He’s very bold”, said Adam “Coming down into town like this”.

“He must have heard about Mieps and Freaky”, said Julian “We’d better be extra-vigilant in case he’s after one of them as a mate. That may have been the purpose of the man-trap”.

“I can’t believe even a Ghoomer would set a man-trap as part of a courting-ritual!” said Adam “Then again, perhaps I can!”

“We’re going to get Freaky to serve him”, said Julian “See what he thinks”.

“Jules, are you sure that’s wise?” said Adam.

“Rumble will be keeping an eye on him the whole time”, said Julian “And I doubt Lonts’ll leave the bar, even if his bladder was bursting!”

“There’s no need to be coarse, old love”, said Adam.

“Anyway”, Julian sighed “I’d better go downstairs and tell the wife what’s going on”.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea either”, said Adam “It’ll make him even more frustrated and aggravated. He might insist on being taken over to the bar”.

“He can insist as much as he likes, he’s not going!” said Julian “We’ve got enough problems at the moment without having that bad-tempered old viper over there!”

“Are you all satisfied now?” said Tamaz, finally biting into his hamburger “Now I’m finally allowed to eat my lunch! Did you get the result you wanted?”

“What happened?” said Bengo, in the kitchen with him “Nobody’ll tell me. All I heard was some peculiar squealing noise”.

“I looked into his eyes”, said Tamaz “As they wanted me to, and he started screaming and threw his arm across his eyes, and then ran out of the building”.

“Oh I see”, said Bengo “He thought you were gonna turn him to stone”.

“The stupid fool”, said Tamaz “As if I’d do that in front of a bar-ful of people!”

“I guess he didn’t know that”, said Bengo.

“Have you remembered about my reward?” said Tamaz.

“It’s all written down”, said Bengo, showing him Adam’s kitchen notebook, on a page of which was written in shaky capital letters ‘TAMAZ GETS A LEG NEXT TIME’.

“Did you write that?” said Tamaz “I thought as much!”

“What, you mean my handwriting’s almost as bad as yours?!” Bengo retorted.

At dusk Hillyard carried Mieps over to the bar for the evening. Once they had gone Adam and Toppy set about tidying up the cabin on the sloop.

“Look at what he’s done to Finia’s magazines”, said Adam, trying to smooth them out “He really is very naughty”.

“I can run the steam-iron over them tomorrow”, said Toppy.

Adam was amused and touched by this very butler-ish idea.

“The wind seems to be getting up”, he said “It’s quite squally out there”.

He lit a lamp and they went aloft. Apart from the noises coming from the bar, the most dominant noise was the wind screeching.

“It’s getting quite strong”, said Toppy, his normally immaculate hair ruffled by the breeze.

“It must be because we’re so exposed here”, said Adam “Hark!”

Carried along on the wind was the peculiar and mildly unsettling sound of a drunken man singing wordlessly.

“He’s over there”, said Toppy, pointing west.

Adam could discern in the gloom the bulky dark shape of a man in the distance, weaving along the narrow coastal road that led to the abandoned church and the graveyard. The drunk was heading away from them, away from the town.

“What on earth’s he going up there for?” said Adam “Oh well, no good speculating I suppose, seeing as I doubt he knows himself!”

They put the lamp on a hook in the passage, and watched a tiny lizard scuttle along the wall away from the sudden glare of the lamp.

“We used to get them back at the Castle too”, said Toppy, sounding wistful and nostalgic.

The main bar area was a barrage of noise. All the rest of the Indigo-ites were assembled there, as well as their regulars, including the ubiquitous chess-players, and the bearded old man who liked winding Julian up with his filthy stories. There was no sign of the man in the black hat. Tamaz was remarking to Finia that he thought it was high time Mieps’s bandages came off.

“He only sticks his foot out on that stool now to get everyone to make a fuss of him”, said Tamaz.

Lonts and Joby were playing draughts, watched by Kieran and Bengo.

“I tell you, I can’t stick another day of that whistle”, said Joby.

“Do you want me to have a word with him?” said Bengo, perched on the arm of the bench “I doubt he’ll listen though. Bardy seems to be very attached to it”.

“The way he’s going on he’ll be lucky if he’s not buried with it!” said Joby.

Adam asked Rumble for a brandy.

“Not going into meltdown are you?” said Julian, fishing a cigarillo out of his waistcoat pocket.

“Don’t be silly, Jules”, said Adam “Can’t I have a proper drink these days without you thinking I’m going nuts! It is Boxing Night after all”.

“I think Ransey’s getting concerned that you’re enjoying being a man of leisure too much”, said Julian “He won’t let on, but he’s found his day in the kitchen rather hard work”.

“Good!” said Adam “Perhaps next you could have a go at it too then I won’t have to put up with either of you carping in future”.

“Don’t you want to know from your little darlings how much they’ve missed you and are clamouring for your return?” said Julian.

“There’ll be plenty of time for all that tomorrow”, said Adam “Have you had any drunks in here this evening? Staggering-about-type drunks I mean?”

“No, but give it time!” said Julian “Why do you ask?”

“Toppy and I just saw one weaving his way up to the old church”, said Adam “Pissed as a newt”.

“He’d need to be to go up there after dark!” said Julian “From everything you’ve told me about it it sounds like the setting for a horror film! Nope, it doesn’t sound like one of ours. He must have got drunk on his own territory”.

Hillyard began to hammer out a jaunty tune on the piano, which had now been moved into a corner of the bar. The bearded old man instantly began to sing, badly.

“Oh God”, said Julian “It’s going to be a long night!”

“It’s no good you having a go at me”, said Joby to Adam, the following morning “I could take grave offence about you putting Ransey in over my head yesterday. I thought I was supposed to be your second-in-command”.

“It would have been no good me leaving you and Bengo to work on your own”, said Adam “You would have spent all day chasing each other around the back-yard like a pair of over-excitable adolescents! At least with Ransey here something got done. By all accounts he even got Patsy to do some work! And my criticism still stands, you shouldn’t have argued the toss with him at every turn”.

“You’d have hated it if I hadn’t!” said Joby.

Bengo and Hillyard came in from the passage which led out to the front of the building, both looking windswept. The squally winds were still much in evidence. Joby jumped off Adam’s lamp, where he had been reclining.

“Hillyard’s got a surprise for us!” Bengo exclaimed.

“Oh gawd!” said Joby.

Hillyard dumped a large cardboard box on the table.

“I got this from one of the store-keepers in town”, he said “He had it in his back room for years and never used it”.

“What is it?” said Adam.

“It’s a wonderful machine”, said Bengo.

“And what does it do, this wonderful machine?” said Adam.

“Break down probably”, said Joby “Like all wonderful machines!”

Hillyard glared at him and removed the contraption from its box.

“It’s a potato-slicer”, Bengo gushed.

“Alright, calm down”, said Joby “He hasn’t just invented the wheel!”

“You’re always complaining about how you spend your life making chips”, said Hillyard “So this’ll save you loads of time. Just stick a spud in the top of it and it slices it for you”.

“I still have to peel it first though!” said Joby.

“God, there’s no pleasing some people!” said Hillyard “What do you want it to do? Go down the market and buy ‘em for you as well!”

“I bet it slices ‘em too thin”, said Joby “Everyone complains when the chips are too thin”.

“That’s no problem”, said Hillyard “You can adjust the setting to any width you like. You can have ‘em from Kieran size to …”

“Hillyard size”, Joby growled.

“Demonstrate one, go on”, Bengo clapped his hands.

“You can tell the telly’s bad round here can’t you!” said Joby “We’ll be sitting around watching Toppy putting the washing through the mangle next!”

“Actually I’d like it if someone would go outside and shut that shed door”, said Adam “It keeps banging in the wind, it’s most annoying”.

“I’ll go and do it”, said Joby “Put off the excitement of the potato-slicer until my nerves can stand it!”

He had just fastened the shed door when Kieran looked down from the back window of The Landlord’s Bedroom.

“What are you doing up there?” said Joby.

“A spot of housework”, said Kieran, holding up a broom as evidence.

“Likely story!” said Joby.

“Come up and find out”, said Kieran.

Joby went up to him via the front of the pub, so that he wouldn’t have to pass through the kitchen and put up with Adam making a fuss about him having an unscheduled break.

“I feel like we’re having an affair”, said Joby, when Kieran furtively pulled him in through the bedroom doorway.

“I know, isn’t it great!” said Kieran.

They fooled around on the bed for a few minutes.

“Come out with me after lunch”, said Kieran.

“I might have known it!” Joby teased “You didn’t want me up here for my body at all, you’re up to summat”.

“I want to go and have a look at the old church”, said Kieran “The customers don’t seem very forthcoming on the subject. I’d rather have you with me than go on me own”.

“You always try that one and all!” said Joby “’If you don’t come with me I’ll have to go on me own’. Emotional blackmail that’s what it is. Anyway, I’m not sure I can get the time off”.

“Oh yes you can”, said Kieran “Adam doesn’t keep you on a ball and chain. You can make some excuse to slip out”.

“And then face him again when I get back!” said Joby.

“The worst thing he’ll do is tan your hide”, said Kieran “And I can be your whipping-boy for you if you like”.

“You won’t be quite so keen if he gets the birch brush out!” said Joby “Alright, I’ll come. You bleedin’ well knew I’d come!”

“That’s my boy!” said Kieran.

Adam banged on the kitchen ceiling with the broom-handle.

“He’s found out you’re up here”, said Kieran.

“I bet Lonts has told him”, said Joby.

The expedition to the ruined church turned out to be far more disturbing than even Joby had expected. The sheer neglected state of the place, the isolation of it, the squally wind, all combined to produce an atmosphere of oppressive evil.

“Have you seen enough now?” said Joby.

They had brought one of the goats with them on a leash, a young pure white kid, whom they had called Beautiful because she looked enchanting. During their brief visit to the ruined church she had bleated incessantly.

“She don’t like it here either”, said Joby “And some of these graves look as though they’ve been disturbed to me. I dread to think for what reason!”

Kieran quietly agreed and they walked round to the front of the church, which overlooked the ocean. They had approached by the side of the building, so they hadn’t looked at the main entrance before. They found a dead rabbit skewered to the door, flies buzzing round its congealed blood.

“Demons!” Kieran snapped, as they walked smartly back along the coastal road “Someone’s using that place for black witchery”.

“That thing can’t have been there yesterday”, said Joby “Or else Adam would have seen it. Someone’s put it there since”.

Once they felt they were safe way from the church they sat down for a moment by the side of the road. Joby fed Beautiful some scraps which he had put in his pocket earlier.

“Poor old Bugs Bunny”, said Joby, after they had been silent for a while “Ending up like that! Skewered to a church door!”

Kieran tried not to laugh but found he couldn’t help it. He looked skywards at the gathering dark clouds.

“Looks like it’s gonna be a real humdinger of a storm”, he said.

“It’s no good you saying I shouldn’t give in to him”, said Joby, when he and Adam were alone in the kitchen about an hour later “You say it every time and you should know better. I can’t stop him when he gets a bee in his bonnet about sumat, and I should know ‘cos I’ve tried everything! I even knocked him to the ground once when he was President. All it did was shut him up for a few seconds!”

Adam finished raking the stove. It had gone very dark outside, and they had lit a lamp on the table.

“I know it’s difficult”, he began.

“Difficult aint the word!” said Joby “If he wasn’t such a good snogger I don’t know why I’d put up with him! Except yes I do. Because he’s kind and he’s gentle, and in spite of all the stupid things I’ve said and done over the years he’s always loved me”.

Adam was surprised and touched by this rare emotional candour from Joby. He came and sat on the table next to him.

“At least we don’t have to worry about him going up to the old church without us”, said Adam “He seems to be genuinely disturbed by your visit there”.

“It wasn’t just the rabbit on the door”, said Joby “It was seeing some of the graves messed about. I keep thinking of all the reasons why anyone would want to open a grave, and none of ‘em are very nice, to put it mildly!”

“Who’s doing all this”, said Adam “That is the question”.

“I can’t believe it’s any of our customers”, said Joby “Most of ‘em look as though getting out of bed in the mornings is too much excitement for ‘em, let alone performing Satanic rites!”

“You two, come in here quick!” said Bengo, from the doorway to the bar “We’re on the telly!”

“Eh?” said Joby.

“The most wanted criminals programme probably!” said Adam.

“No, not any of you lot”, said Bengo “Us clowns. Somebody came to the Cabaret of Horrors and made a programme about us when we were little. I don’t know why they’re showing it now but they are”. “It’s not in good nick is it?” said Joby, peering at the crackly black and white film footage, which showed a row of small boys on stage singing and swinging their arms in unison.

“Are you surprised?” said Bardin “It’s probably been in a rusty film canister in someone’s back room for years!”

“I can’t even remember this being made”, said Rumble.

“I can vaguely remember some bloke wandering about with a big microphone that’s all”, said Bengo.

“I can’t make any of you out”, said Adam “How very disappointing”.

“’There is no doubt that these small boys have all the professionalism of adult performers’”, said the rather pompous-sounding narrator “’During what spare time they have though they are very much encouraged to be children’”.

Cut to a shot of Rumble, looking very lanky indeed, kicking a football around in the yard behind the theatre. The Indigo-ites cheered.

“Oh God, wake me up when it’s over!” said Rumble.

“He’s like a spider, all legs”, said Julian.

Cut to a backstage shot of the interviewer talking to a miniature Bengo and Bardin. An eruption of “arghs!” broke out amongst the Indigo-ites. Bengo in particular looked impossibly cute, with his mop of curls and dark eyes.

“He’s still got that expression on his face!” Joby exclaimed “The could-someone-tell-me-what’s-going-on look!”

“What in your opinion does it take to be a successful clown?” the interviewer leaned down to ask Bardin, who was looking very suspiciously at him “What vital qualities do you need?”

“To be able to make people laugh”, mini-Bardin replied, as though humouring an idiot.

Mini-Bengo gave a nervous giggle and tugged awkwardly at his jacket.

Cut to shot of mini-Bengo on stage, sitting on a wall of fake bricks, swinging his plump little legs and singing a song.

“Bengo, I could eat you up!” Adam gushed.

“Sick-making wasn’t I?” said Bengo “I should’ve been banned! I could’ve started a vomiting epidemic!”

Cut to the wings where mini-Bardin was preparing to emerge, ominously carrying a custard pie.

“No prizes for guessing where that’s going!” said Bengo.

Mini-Bardin skipped across the stage with agility and grace, and slammed the pie into Bengo’s little face. Bengo didn’t fall off the wall, as the others expected him to, but remained in place, still looking bewildered, albeit now through a veneer of shaving-foam.

“I’m amazed I didn’t get hate-mail after that was shown!” said Bardin.

Bengo and Bardin were now being filmed backstage, where Bardin was wiping Bengo’s face with a towel and telling him he’d done well.

“That must have been because the cameras were there”, said Bengo “Normally I’d be getting a list of everything I’d done wrong and how it should be corrected!”

“Do you enjoy being a clown?” the interviewer asked mini-Bengo.

“Yes”, mini-Bengo squeaked.

“Daft sod”, said adult-Bengo “Like asking me if I enjoyed breathing!”

The final shot was of Bengo and Bardin walking back to the dressing-room, hand in hand. It was a shot laden with pathos, and the loneliness of the showbusiness life, the little clowns with only each other to lean upon. No doubt exactly as the director intended. The end credits finished rolling, and an advert for denture cream came on.

“I’ve often found life is rather like that!” Adam remarked.

“Bonsoir Monsieur? Ca va?”

Angel sidled into the restaurant cubicle and sat down next to the Marquis de Sade, who was making a hearty meal of rare beefsteak and fried potatoes, washed down with copious amounts of red wine.

“Would you care to join me?” Sade continued.

“I’ve eaten”, said Angel.

He pushed back his hat which he had worn low over his brow, to avoid being recognised. He looked bloated and heavily satiated.

“I’m not gonna waste time here”, said Angel “I know why you wanted to see me. You’ve seen the television this evening I take it?”

“A fascinating invention”, said Sade, pulling a lace-trimmed handkerchief out of his sleeve and dabbing fastidiously at his lips “Rather like the old magic lantern shows. Moving figures …”

“You want the clowns back?” Angel interrupted him “You surprise me, when you’ve got all the women in this town at your disposal”.

“I love women, I adore them in fact”, said Sade “ALL women! But my senses get jaded easily, I’m sure you know how it is. One is constantly on the alert for new sensations. And there is one thing above all others I cannot resist, the lure of innocence. The little clown with the curls …”

“He’s not innocent!” Angel snapped “He grew up in the theatre, a right den of iniquity!”

“Oh but he is innocent, in spite of that”, said Sade “What I want to know is is he incorruptible? You know where Kieran is, do you not? And yet you haven’t been there to cause mischief. I’m surprised at you, my beautiful devil”.

“I have an agent working down there”, said Angel “On my behalf”.

“DOWN there?” said Sade “You mean he’s further south than here?”

“What’s it to you?” said Angel “Are you in cahoots with Codlik then?”

“Hardly, my dear friend!” said Sade “I have met far too many Codliks in the course of my life”.

“He’s got problems of his own at the moment”, said Angel “His girlfriend keeps trying to throttle herself in her sleep. The monks have had to straitjacket her at night for her own safety”.

“How very intriguing”, said Sade “Is it all her own doing? Or are you not saying?”

“You want to corrupt innocence, with the clown Bengo I mean?” said Angel.

“Surely you wouldn’t object if it turned him against Kieran?” said Sade “Him and the other one, Bardin. Both of them … for me. Two for the price of one”.

“I don’t care what happens to either of ‘em”, said Angel “All innocence has to end sometime. Even I was innocent once!”

“Ah but I already know that, my friend”, said Sade “Everyone knows that the Devil is a fallen angel. It is my favourite story of all!”

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