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By Sarah Hapgood

Meanwhile, Kieran had been hatching plans of his own, which came to fruition in his mind as he made the cocoa in the galley. He persuaded the others to set the jaunt to the hills back by a day, in spite of their protestations that the fruit and veg situation could end up becoming dire is something wasn’t done about it soon.

Kieran’s plan was to spend the following night in a clapped-out old caravan, which he had seen for sale at the local rag-and-bone merchants in town. The caravan was to be towed to the side of the coastal road running up to the old church, and parked amongst a clump of trees there. He and Joby were to spend the night in it, with no other plan in mind than to See What Happened. Joby was astonished that, in spite of all the humming and hawing from the others, Kieran seemed to get grudging support for this harebrained plan.

Tamaz naturally wanted to join in, but Bardin vetoed it, refusing to give any reason. Joby said Bardin was in charge so they had to go by his wishes. A remark that Tamaz found wholly unsatisfactory, but he knew Joby well enough by now to know that there was no point pushing this matter.

Hillyard went with Kieran and Joby to collect the caravan, and they were informed that the previous owner had died in it, as though this was some great selling-point.

“You’re gonna keep watch on the old church aren’t you?” the rag-and-bone man said to Kieran “We gave up on that place a few years back when we all redecorated it, ‘cos it was looking a bit shabby”.

“Eh?” said Joby, who naturally could see no connection between redecorating a place and giving up on it at the same time.

“Skeletons were found”, the man said “Under the floorboards and inside the walls”.

“Inside the walls?” Kieran exclaimed.

He was horrified by this latest development. If the bones had been found only under the floor, then it could simply have meant the church had been unknowingly built over an ancient burial-pit. Inside the walls bespoke of something far darker, and for Kieran it also meant the church had been desecrated a lot earlier than he’d originally thought.

“Relax, we’re fine”, said Kieran, playing cards with Joby by the light of a hurricane lamp inside the caravan after dark “Ransey’s given us so many weapons we must look like we’ve a secret IRA stockpile!”

“I don’t think the IRA would have been very impressed by one rifle and a revolver!” said Joby.

“Every little helps”, said Kieran, shuffling cards “C’mon now, concentrate. Your luck might be on the turn and you’ll start winning. Normally I’m having to drag you away from card-tables and lecture you on the evils of gambling”.

“Oh I don’t feel in the mood, Kiel”, said Joby “That wind’s getting on my nerves. We’ve had days of it. It should’ve blown itself out by now. Aren’t you tired at all? I’m knackered”.

“I had a wee nap after lunch”, said Kieran.

“You’ve thought of everything haven’t you!” said Joby “Mind you, I spose it does help if you don’t have to work for a living!”

Kieran suggested that they both have a lie-down on the bed.

“Do you think he died in it?” said Joby “I mean, he’s bound to have ent he?”

“Don’t worry”, said Kieran “I expect they’ve taken him out!”

“Kieran!” said Joby.

They both took off their shoes and trousers. Kieran clambered over to the other side of the bed, and Joby couldn’t resist a giggle at his skinny legs under his shirt.

“Don’t forget to bring the brandy bottle from the table”, Kieran ordered.

Joby, who was already encumbered with the revolver and the hurricane-lamp, had to put them carefully on the floor, before going back for the bottle and cups. He settled down on the bed eventually, and began to fiddle about under Kieran’s shirt.

“This should keep the forces of darkness away”, said Joby.

“It’ll certainly keep Angel away!” said Keiran.

No sooner the word than the sound of heavy footsteps in the undergrowth outside. Joby put out the lamp and they both got out of bed. The footsteps came right up to the caravan door and fumbled with the handle. The door fortunately was locked.

“Don’t fire until we get a good look at it”, said Kieran, in a low voice “Just in case it’s one of the old men from the town”.

“It can’t be one of our lot”, Joby whispered “Or they’d have called out”.

The intruder gave up on the door and moved round to the window at the other end of the caravan. It fumbled and thumped at the glass, obscured by the thin strips of orange curtain material which were hanging over it. There was an ominous crack as the window-catch yielded to the intruder’s efforts.

Kieran instinctively genuflected, and immediately there was the sound of heavy footsteps running away, as the intruder fled back through the trees.

“Jaysus, it worked!” Kieran exclaimed.

Joby rushed over to refasten the window.

“You take my spare crucifix”, said Kieran, taking it off and holding it out “I’ve got me rosary beads in me trouser pockets somewhere”.

“In a minute”, said Joby “I need a piss first”.

“Outside?!” said Kieran.

“What do you think I am, daft or summat?” said Joby “No, Toppy put a plastic po under the bed earlier, I’ll use that”.

“I’ll go after you”, said Kieran “And then we can get on with what we were doing”.

“Are you crazy?” said Joby, peeing into the po “With that thing listening in out there?! Thanks, but I don’t approve of sex in public places, I think that’s dead common that is!”

“That wasn’t what you were saying a few minutes ago”, said Kieran.

“That was before it made its presence felt!” said Joby.

They both got back into bed.

“Here”, said Joby “You don’t think it was Angel do you?”

“No”, said Kieran “A locked door wouldn’t keep him out”.

“That’s true”, said Joby “He had an annoying habit of suddenly appearing in locked rooms. I spose what we really should do is go out there and have a look”.

“You actually want to do that?!” Kieran exclaimed.

“No!” said Joby “But you know how Ransey’ll go on in the morning, ‘what’s the point of having a night-watch if you don’t go out and watch for something’, that sort of thing”.

“Ach, Ransey’ll always find something to go on about!” said Kieran “And it’s easy for him to say, tucked up on the sloop with all the others. He’s not in a rickety wagon, all vulnerable”.

“Well it was your idea!” said Joby.

“We’ll be o.k”, said Kieran “I’ve got the power of genuflection on my side!”

“I can’t for the life of me understand why you’re so popular sometimes”, said Joby “Considering sinister things always happen around you. You’re no better ‘en Angel”.

“I’m better than him!” said Kieran “I don’t go around taking chunks out of people”.

“At least people know where they are with him”, said Joby.

“Yeah, eaten usually!” said Kieran “Well digested!”

As the first fingers of grey, stormy daylight began to filter into the caravan, Joby leapt out of bed and put on his trousers.

“What’s up?” Kieran yawned.

“There was someone in this wagon, I swear it”, said Joby “Actually inside it”.

“You were probably dreaming”, said Kieran “I’d have sensed it if someone was here”.

“Not necessarily”, said Joby “You’ve probably blocked yourself off”.

“Joby, I swear to you I haven’t”, said Kieran.

He was alarmed when Joby picked up the rifle and geared it ready for action. Joby unlocked the door and pulled it open. Kieran jumped out of the end of the bed, and Joby pushed him roughly back onto it.

Joby ran out into the tumultuous early morning. He had a distinct and eerie feeling as of some invisible force pulling backwards into the trees away from him. He fired the rifle twice into the air.

“Joby, listen to me”, said Kieran “Get back in here, now!”

Joby returned to the wagon, looking around him suspiciously as he went.

“You’re crazy”, said Kieran, who had sensed the strange feeling outside, and was dismayed to find he’d had to fight down a feeling of panic.

“Sorry, but I was getting annoyed”, said Joby, putting the rifle on the table “It felt as though summat was playing games with us, mind-games. I wanted to show ‘em we weren’t just gonna sit here and let ‘em get away with it”.

“You’re very brave”, said Kieran, chaffing Joby’s hands which felt unnaturally cold “But whatever that was out there just now was a force of nature, something elemental. You can’t fight that just by using a gun”.

“It seemed to work for the time being”, Joby growled.

“Hey!” Hillyard shouted from outside “Are you two alright in there? I’ve heard gunshots. What’s going on?”

“You tell us!” said Joby.

“What’s happened?” said Ransey, following Hillyard into the wagon “Who fired the gun?”

“Me”, Joby mumbled.

“What were you shooting at?” said Ransey.

“The forces of darkness”, said Joby.

“I think you’d better come home”, said Ransey “Right now!”

“Stop staring at me”, said Joby, as he and Kieran breakfasted alone together in the galley on the sloop a few hours later.

“Cat can look at a queen”, said Kieran.

“It’s giving me the creeps”, said Joby “Everytime I look up I get your mad, piercing blue eyes boreing into me”.

“Serves you right”, said Kieran “You scared the shit out of me earlier”.

“Stop going on about it”, said Joby “I didn’t get kidnapped by the little people, so that’s that”.

“Make some more tea!” Kieran bellowed.

Joby collected the mugs and the teapot, and put some more water on the gas stove to boil.

“It’s been raining so much the water’s started seeping in under the hatch”, he said, gazing up the galley steps.

“Joby, come here”, Kieran tugged the sleeve of Joby’s dressing-gown. Joby sat on his lap.

“I couldn’t do anything without you, you know”, said Kieran.

“It’s the same for me and all!” said Joby “But I don’t go on and on about it when you do summat foolish”.

“Yes you do, you’re worse than me!” said Kieran “Worse than I could ever be!”

“No one could be worse than you”, said Joby, rubbing noses with his old friend “Who’s the bottles of milk stout for on the side there?”

“Mieps”, said Kieran “He’s taken to drinking it since he first got laid up”.

“Good grief”, said Joby “Minnie Cauldwell is alive and kicking!”

There came the tapping sound of a walking-stick along the corridor.

“And here she comes and all!” said Joby.

Both he and Kieran were trying not to laugh when Mieps came into the kitchen.

“Tea?” Mieps barked at Joby.

“Just making a fresh pot”, said Joby “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a milk-stout though?”

Mieps gave him a withering look and sat down.

“A bit early in the day is it?” said Joby “Or do you only have one at Christmas?”

“Purely for medicinal purposes of course!” said Kieran.

“You should have taken me with you last night”, said Mieps, hooking his stick onto the back of his chair.

“And what makes you think you’d have solved the mystery?” said Joby “You ent exactly fully mobile at the moment are yer?”

“I don’t have to be”, said Mieps “Whilst you lot have all been fighting, as usual, I’ve been sitting in the bar”.

“With your milk-stout”, said Joby.

“Listening to some of the customers talking”, said Mieps.

“In the days when we still had customers!” said Kieran.

“Alright, what was it you heard then?” said Joby.

“Before we came here”, said Mieps “Body parts were found washed up on the coast to the south of here. Human body-parts. They don’t know who it was, and they think it might have been more than one person. They suspect cannibalism. The bits were brought to town in a sack and buried up in the hills somewhere. Apparently that wasn’t the only time it’s happened either. There are rumours of it happening many years ago as well”.

“Why haven’t you told us this before?” said Kieran.

“There hasn’t been the opportunity”, said Mieps “Not with Bengo nearly getting kidnapped and everything else that’s gone on”.

“You could have brought it up at the meeting the other day”, said Joby.

“That fiasco?” said Mieps “It had barely got started before Bardin finished it!”

“But where would the remains have come from?” said Kieran “There is nowhere to the south of here. Not unless there’s an inhabited island we haven’t come across, or someone’s living in a cave or something …”

He stopped and exchanged a horrified look with Joby.

“Surely not?” said Kieran “Not HIM?!”

“If Josh and the Marquis de Sade can time-cross”, said Joby “Then why not him?”

“Who?” said Mieps.

“Sawney Beane”, said both Kieran and Joby, in chorus.

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