Go back to previous chapter
Brother Iggy was found suspended in an iron cage outside the fruit and veg farm above Zilligot Bay. He was alive, but only just. He was severely malnourished. His knuckles were bleeding from where he had bashed relentlessly at the iron bars of the cage. Even worse, his teeth were broken from where he had even tried to chew his way out.
He wept with relief when he saw the Indigo-ites. They tried to reassure him as best they could that he would be alright. The cage was taken down to the blacksmiths in the town and the bars knocked away so that he could be finally released.
Whilst he was cleaned up on the sloop, and fed beef broth through a straw, the Indigo-ites tried to fathom out what had happened to him. His story came out garbled in fits and starts. None of them could believe he had been at the fruit and veg farm all this time, and he hadn’t. He told them he had been kept underground. He didn’t know where, and he couldn’t remember getting there. All he could talk about was the intense darkness everywhere, darkness like he had never experienced before. There seemed to be many different layers of it.
He had been kept prisoner by a horrid gnome-like creature who had starved him and tortured him. Later they found out from Finia, who had bathed him, that he had been raped too. Finia was highly disturbed by this discovery, it took him back to his childhood days. After settling Brother Iggy to rest on the sloop, he had gone over to the tavern and drank copious amounts of brandy.
It was unusual for Finia to binge-drink, and Rumble sent for Julian to sort things out. Julian arrived and ordered strong tea. Bengo brought it out and ducked under the hatch to attend to Finia himself. Soon after, Bardin, Farnol and Hoowie came back with the sack-truck. They had been to see a man in the town who now acted as the main fruit and veg supplier, since the untimely demise of the farm in the hills.
“Not as good quality”, said Bardin, as they dragged the sack-truck into the bar “Still, it’ll have to do. Beggars can’t be choosers. Bengo, why aren’t you in the kitchen?”
“Nothing ever stops you complaining, Bardy”, said Bengo “Really, you should be spanked!”
“I’ll have to add that to my list of things to do!” said Julian.
“You’ll complain too when you see the quality of some of this stuff”, said Bardin, holding up a sorry-looking cauliflower “This looks as bedraggled as Hoowie does!”
“I notice nobody’s found out why Brother Iggy took my clothes”, said Hoowie “Or what’s happened to ‘em”.
“Rack off, Hoowie”, said Bardin “Nobody cares about your old rags. We’re just glad to see the back of ‘em!”
Brother Iggy was very ill indeed, but he coped with it with his usual quiet courage. The others tried frantically to think of a way of getting him to a hospital (and a dentist) without exposing themselves to the outside world. (Hillyard even tried to think of using words to contact Glynis, ones that only she would know).
The little monk spent most of this time in the cabin on the sloop, where he watched all the various entrances and exists like a live soap opera. He learnt not to be afraid of Julian, who, with his tall figure, his booming voices, and incredible air of self-confidence, had always slightly intimidated him. Until one day when Tamaz came into the cabin weeping. Tamaz occasionally had fits of melancholy over his murdered child, and if Joby or Kieran weren’t available, he would climb onto Julian’s lap and weep into his shoulder. Brother Iggy was impressed by how tender and non-sarcastic Julian could be at such times.
Like a lot of people who essentially mean well, Brother Iggy tried to give out advice that, if taken, would have been disastrous to the very people he was trying to help! One day he said to Bengo that they should all seriously think about giving themselves up to Codlik and the Church. His logic was that what had happened to him at the hands of The Gnome had been bad enough, what could happen to any of the, especially Kieran, would be unimaginable.
“I tried to get it through to him that there is no way we could go to Codlik”, said Bengo to Bardin later “That he would probably try to split us up, separate us from Kieran. But everything that’s happened to him lately has clouded his mind. He’s convinced himself he’s going to die. I think he wants to die”.
“Rubbish!” said Bardin, pacing up and down the confined space of the galley “Nobody WANTS to die! He’s been through a terrible ordeal, but he’s young, he’ll come through it. He’s just depressed because of his teeth. He’s fed up with eating through a straw”.
Bengo found the galley oppressive in such a hot but overcast morning, and made him go outside and talk to him on a bench on the quayside instead.
“He’s got it into his head he wants to play the tragic romantic lead is all”, said Bardin, taking off his cap and twirling it round in his hands “He’s probably got it all planned out in his head, us all weeping at his graveside”.
“What’s happened to your whistle?” said Bengo “You’re not wearing it”.
“Mieps has confiscated it”, Bardin mumbled “He took it off me whilst I was washing, and he’s hidden it somewhere, but I’ll get it back, you see if I don’t!”
Bengo suddenly pounced on him and kissed him thoroughly on the mouth.
“What was that for?” said Bardin, when he could get a chance.
“I just felt like it”, said Bengo “Didn’t you like it then?”
“Y-yes of course”, said Bardin “But not right out here. What if They were watching? The Satanists I mean”.
“I don’t expect they know what kissing is!” said Bengo “They spend all their time sacrificing goats and digging up graveyards!”
“Even so, I’m taking you back to the kitchen”, said Bardin.
Bengo allowed himself to be frogmarched round to the back of the tavern, where they found Joby standing pensively at the back door.
“Have you seen Kieran anywhere?” he asked.
“I haven’t seen him since breakfast-time”, said Bengo.
“He wasn’t on the sloop”, said Bardin “Unless he was in the hold, I wouldn’t have seen him there”.
“The little bugger’s up to summat”, said Joby “I swear it!”
“You should keep a better eye on him”, said Bardin.
“How can I when I’m trapped in here for most of the day?” Joby exclaimed. He asked Adam if he could take a few minutes off to go for a walk.
“Certainly not!” said Adam “We’re in the middle of doing lunch”.
“But that ain’t fair!” said Joby “Bengo’s just had a few minutes off!”
“You can have a little time off after lunch”, said Adam, to Joby’s annoyance.
Bardin suddenly got a flash of inspiration as to where his whistle might be. He ran back over to the sloop, where Mieps was sitting regally in the armchair in the cabin. Bardin lunged at him and retrieved his whistle from Mieps’s underpants. Mieps hissed and scratched, and as a last resort hurled his walking-stick at the cabin door as Bardin ran out.
But Bardin was triumphant in victory. He put his whistle back on and sauntered over the road. As he was walking past the outbuilding where they now stored the truck, he heard Kieran and Hillyard conversing earnestly in low tones. They couldn’t have sounded more conspiratorial if they’d tried.
Bardin hid behind the building until they left to go to the sloop, and then he sneaked into the building, convinced they’d hidden something in there. He found, concealed under some tarpaulin on a bench, an alarming collection of bottles of weed-killer, bags of sugar, plus some distress flares for good measure. Kieran had obviously been inspired by Their bridge-blowing antics.
Lunch was announced, and Bardin took the opportunity of watching Kieran throughout the meal. Kieran though gave nothing away. He was silent and inscrutable. Afterwards, Bardin took Joby into his confidence.
Joby acted with great resolution. He waited until Kieran had gone upstairs to use the bathroom. Then he ambushed him on his way out, manhandled him into The Landlord’s Bedroom, and locked him in. Downstairs once more, he took the mop off Bengo, who had been scrubbing the kitchen floor with it, and went after Hillyard.
When he had got all the information he required, he went back upstairs to see Kieran.
“Hillyard’s squealed on me?” said Kieran, who had been lying on the bed when Joby walked in.
“I threatened him with the filthy old mop”, said Joby “Nobody wants that in their face! What the fuck were you thinking of, Kieran? I didn’t think even you was daft enough to come up with a plan like that! And why go to all the trouble of blowing up an empty building?!”
“It may be an empty building”, said Kieran “But that church has been vilely desecrated. It has become a focal-point for evil, and it casts a blight on this town. I know that removing it won’t get Crowley and his henchmen off our backs, but it would do wonders for communal morale. It’s been sitting there for too long, all festering and poisonous. And it would show the other lot that we won’t be messed with”.
“But why all the secrecy though?” said Joby “Al.l this you and Hillyard going behind our backs. You should at least have told Bardin”.
“He’s got enough to think about at the moment”, said Kieran “I was sparing him yet more hassle”.
“Oh yeah, very thoughtful!” said Joby “And think of the hassle he would have faced when you blew yourselves up!”
“Where are you going?” said Kieran.
“I’m going outside to collect the eggs”, said Joby.
“Are you gonna lock me in again?” said Kieran.
“No”, said Joby “Tho’ by the time you’ve been picked on by all the others you’ll wish I had!”
Kieran decided it was safest to stay with Joby than brave any of the others on his own, and he went with him out to the chicken-pen. Whilst Joby collected the eggs, Kieran watched as Bengo sauntered across to the outside loo. Bengo had barely stepped inside it when he shot out again, screaming.
“What?” said Joby “What is it?”
Kieran looked inside the privy, but he saw nothing that shouldn’t be there.
“Bengo?” Bardin came hareing out of the back door.
“It was The Gnome!” Bengo jabbered “I swear it was The Gnome, Brother Iggy’s torturer. He turned round, he had his sweaty cock in his hand! B-Bardy, he reminded me of our old landlord!”
“Have you nearly finished here?” said Julian, late that evening, as Hillyard locked and bolted the back door “Only I’m going to need help getting our boy over to the sloop”.
“Bardin’s been putting it away this evening hasn’t he?” said Hillyard “Why does he have to get so intense about everything? It doesn’t do him any good”.
“Artistic temperament I expect”, said Julian.
They walked into the main bar area, Julian carrying a hurricane lamp, and Hillyard a large bunch of keys. Bardin was sitting alone up at the counter, rather the worse for drink.
“Come on now”, said Hillyard, laying a hand on Bardin’s arm “Time for bye-byes”.
Bardin jumped violently.
“Steady now, lad”, said Hillyard, as though talking to a frisky horse “Calm yourself”.
“He got me once”, said Bardin ”The old landlord. Bengo doesn’t know, no one knows. I never told anyone”.
“What did he do to you?” said Julian.
“When I was 8, Bengo was 7”, said Bardin “We had just done an afternoon matinee. Bengo and Farnol wanted to go out for an ice-cream, but I had a stomach-bug, so I went home on my own. I forgot to lock our door. He came in. He buggered me. I bled. He wiped his cock over me. He kept kissing my face and telling me he loved me. I’ve never told anyone, but I’m still angry about it. S-so angry”.
He cried helplessly.
“Let’s get you home, my dear chap”, said Julian.
“B-Bengo”, Bardin woke up bleary-eyed in the cabin the next morning. Bengo was the only other person there. “Where’s Brother Iggy?”
“We’ve moved him up on deck for the morning”, said Bengo, as though Brother Iggy was a cumbersome piece of furniture “It’s a nice morning, he’ll enjoy it up there. Oh Bardy, why didn’t you tell me? It all explains so much. All the trouble you had going through puberty, being scared of sex like you were …”
“I wasn’t scared of sex!” Bardin snapped “I just saw it as a necessary evil that’s all. I didn’t think it could be like it is now. I need a drink. A soft drink. My mouth’s as dry as old bones”.
“Adam thought you’d need one, he sent some lemonade over”, said Bengo, pouring out a glass, which Bardin almost gulped at one sitting “You should have told me though, Bardy. I could have helped you. Oh it gets me so angry to think of it!”
“I didn’t want you to know”, said Bardin “I wanted something in my life that was innocent, and you were it. All curls and dimples, running round on your little fat legs, squeaking at everybody. Nothing much has changed really! You did help me in your own way. I remember you came home all excited, ‘cos you and Farnol had had double helpings of chocolate peppermint chip, or something like that. You still had some of it on your face!”
“I was such a little pig wasn’t I!” Bengo exclaimed “No wonder I kept bursting my breeches! Ully should have advertised me as Bengo the dancing butterball, come and watch him bounce around the stage. Boing!”
“That’s how you help me, by being you?” said Bardin “Not being all serious and intense, that’s not what Bengo’s are for! I suppose all the others know now?”
“Why shouldn’t they know?” said Bengo “Tamaz is amazed you kept it to yourself for so long”.
“He can talk!” said Bardin “He kept his gorgonising skills under wraps long enough!”
“Hoowie thinks you must have other secrets you haven’t told us”, said Bengo “Like a secret love-child”.
“Hardly!” said Bardin “And if I had, knowing my luck it’d look exactly like him! Who explained it all to you last night?”
“Julian and Hillyard”, said Bengo “They called me into the galley after you’d been put to bed. They were very kind. Hillyard held my hand, but I didn’t think you’d mind on this occasion. Julian was so angry, we had to calm him down for his own sake”.
“Not angry at me?” Bardin quailed.
“Don’t be silly, Bardy”, said Bengo “At old greasy slob-guts, the landlord”.
“There’s no point getting angry at him”, said Bardin “Hopefully the old git’s being prodded by little demons with pitchforks in Hell as we speak. And if he’s not I’m sure Kieran can arrange it somehow!”
“Adam, sit down!” said Julian, in a deckchair up on the poop-deck “How can I have a serious conversation with you when you’re sticking your arse in my face!”
“Well what is it you wanted to say to me?” said Adam, who had been leaning on the bulwark gazing out over the town.
“I’m about to grant Bardin his wish”, said Julian “We’ll sail round the Horn. The entire west coast has been made impossible for us in one way or another, so let’s try going up the east”.
“Is he up to it though?” said Adam.
“My dear boy, even going round the Horn has got to be easier than staying here!” said Julian “We’ve got hobgoblins appearing in the outside privy and Kieran starting up his own bomb-factory! And it all gets too much for Bardin, I can temporarily resume the Captaincy, as I keep offering to do. And Bardin can go back to being cabin-boy, or whatever it was he did before I plucked him from the gutter. Where is Kieran at the moment, anyway? No one seems to be keeping an eye on him”.
“Joby is”, said Adam “They went out for a walk together. And before you start, no they haven’t gone up to the old church. I can see them returning now, from the exact opposite direction, so there!”
Rumble came up on the poop-deck with a bottle of whisky and an assortment of glasses, having been despatched on this errand by Julian.
“Did you never have any idea about any of that with Bardin?” said Julian.
“No”, said Rumble “It’s obvious now it’s been pointed out, but no, not at the time. It makes sense why he wanted to stop Bengo from growing up though. What a pointless exercise that was, it was clear from the off that Bengo was gonna be a sexy little brat”.
“Yes”, said Adam “It’s much the same problem I used to have with Lo-Lo when he was much younger”.
Bengo chose that moment to appear on the forward deck. Julian yelled at him to come up to them, nearly frightening the wits out of Brother Iggy in the process. Bengo cautiously approached the poop-deck. He had every reason to be nervous as Julian upended him and spanked him very soundly.
“What’s he done now?” said Bardin, coming up aloft in the midst of all this.
“Nothing!” said Bengo, rubbing his behind.
“I’ve decided to grant you your wish, my boy”, said Julian “We’re going round the Horn”.
“You mean it?” said Bardin.
“Of course I mean it!” said Julian “Do I ever say things I don’t mean sincerely?”
“Frequently!” said Adam.
“I’m going below to write up my log-book”, said Julian, draining his glass “Tell Kieran I want to see him when he gets back on-board. I would demand to see him instantly, but Kieran never obeys orders instantly so it would be a complete waste of time!”
“Ah, you’re doing your diary”, said Kieran, sidling round the cabin-door.
“It’s a log-book, not a diary”, said Julian “There is a difference. None of your whimsy today, I’m not in the mood. Why have you stuck your hands under your armpits like that, it’s not cold”.
“They keep shaking”, said Kieran “Nervous attacks. It’s a purely physical thing, and a wee bit embarrassing, I can’t control it”.
“Getting you away from here sounds like a good idea too!” said Julian, pouring them both a brandy “I take it you’ve heard my plan?”
“Yes, a good one”, said Kieran “I’ve never seen much of the east coast, it’ll be interesting”.
“It’ll take us a couple of days to get prepared”, said Julian “And in the meantime I want you to confine yourself to either here, the sloop I mean, or the tavern. I don’t know what you and Hillyad were thinking of with your bloody bomb-factory. The chances are you’d have blown yourselves up, not the church!”
“We knew what we were doing”, said Kieran.
“Highly unlikely!” said Julian “You never have yet! And be honest with me, were you and Joby looking for Sawney Beane’s lair this afternoon?”
“A little sort of a look”, said Kieran “Just a sort of casual browse really. It must be further south than we thought”.
A party was held in the tavern that evening, mainly in order to drink up all the beer that they wouldn’t be able to take on the boat with them.
“Do you think he’ll be o.k when we’ve gone round the Horn?” said Joby to Bengo, referring to Bardin “That he’ll have got summat out of his system?”
“It’d better!” said Bengo, sitting up at the bar-counter “I’ve been looking at some of those old maps the customers have given us. The Horn looks like the gates of Hell!”
“Godforsaken place it was”, said Joby “I’ll be glad when we’ve come out the other side”.
“Bengo!” Bardin shouted from a table in the centre of the room, where he was playing cards with Adam, Julian and Ransey “Do the little dance you used to do when you were a tot”.
“Oh not that one, Bardy!” said Bengo “It’ll make everyone throw up!”
“Go on”, said Joby “We could all do with a laugh”.
Hillyard played the piano whilst Bengo cavorted around the room. Kieran, who had been sitting next to Brother Iggy, came over to get more beer.
“Brother Iggy’s got a bad dose of evangelism”, said Kieran “Thinks it’s wrong for Bengo to be dancing on a Sunday”.
“I didn’t even know it was a Sunday!” said Joby “He’s obviously been exposed to Codlik too much! Do we have to take him round the Horn with us, Brother Iggy I mean? He’s not up to it in his condition, and I’m not up to the Horn AND him!”
“That’s not a very Christian attitude now is it?” said Kieran.
“I never claimed to be a Christian!” said Joby.
“You didn’t watch me”, said Bengo, returning breathlessly to the counter.
“Yeah I did”, said Joby “I was watching you out of the corner of my eye, all the time Kieran was going on”.
“What about?” said Bengo.
“Religion I think”, said Joby.
“Oh I’ve never got into all that”, said Bengo “I don’t understand it. I mean it’s supposed to make people better, and yet it only seems to work on Kieran!”
“It works on a lot of people”, said Kieran “But most of the time they go unnoticed because the ambitious ones, the evangelical ones, overshadow them”.
“Like Codlik?” said Bengo.
“Two mentions of Codlik is too much for me in one evening”, said Joby “If we don’t change the conversation I’m going home to bed!”
“Joby”, said Lonts, coming over to them “Have you got any pickled onions?”
“Not on me, no”, said Joby.
“I’ve really got a craving for pickled onions at the moment”, said Lonts.
“You’re not pregnant are you, Lonts?” said Kieran.
“Don’t say things like that!” said Joby “It’s bad enough having to put up with Snowy!”
“Perhaps Brother Iggy would like a pickled onion?” said Lonts.
“How could he eat a pickled onion through a straw?!” said Joby “You get bloody dafter you do!”
Rumble and Farnol had been drunkenly fiddling with the clockwork television, and had at last managed to get a picture. Two men were talking very earnestly in a studio, both wearing sombre clothes. The impression was very obvious that Something Big Had Happened.
“And just to recap for those of you who have just come in”, said one of them, swivelling round to face the camera “We have heard from the Ruling Council of Aspiriola that Kieran, Ex-President and Vanquisher of Evil, has died. He passed away peacefully in his sleep at around 6 o’clock this evening, local time”.
“This is all focking Codlik’s doing!” Kieran roared.
“Now we understand that Kieran had been living as a virtual recluse at the Governor’s House in Aspiriola for quite some time, and was rarely seen by anyone”, the newsreader had turned back to face his captive guest “Has there been an estrangement between him and his followers? They were famed for their devotion to one another”.
“I’m afraid it rather looks that way”, replied the captive guest “Nothing has been heard of them for a long while now. They have effectively all disappeared, probably dispersed and gone their separate ways”.
“The gospel according to Codlik”, said Julian.
“This is too fucking eerie”, said Joby “I’m starting to plan your funeral!”
“What do you think it’s like for me?” Kieran exclaimed “I’ll be able to read me own obituaries!”
Upsetting shots followed of people weeping, lighting candles, and laying flowers at the gates of the old Governor’s House. This was in turn followed by an even more upsetting shot of Codlik being interviewed, looking grave and insufferably pious in a black suit.
“Kieran’s impact on the world was immense”, Codlik intoned “In a bygone age he stood as a beacon of light and hope in a much darker, less secure time than we have now”.
“You focking old bastard!” Kieran picked up a bar-stool as though he was about to hurl it through the television screen, but Adam managed to extract it from him.
“They’ll get someone to impersonate your body at the lying-in-state”, said a solemn Tamaz “That’s the sort of thing the men from the Ministry would have done”.
“He don’t look too well does he?” said Hillyard, referring to Codlik.
“He’ll look even worse when I get my focking hands on him!” said Kieran.
“Now that’s not a very Christian attitude is it!” said Joby.
“You will NOT emerge to put everyone right”, said Julian “Rumble, switch that damn thing off. You will not emerge, Tinkerbell, because that’s what that snivelling little guttersnipe is hoping you will do”.
“You think he’s done all this to smoke Kieran out?” said Hillyard.
“Of course”, said Julian “No man wants to be told that he’s officially died, not unless he’s a genuine fugitive from justice anyway, and not only that but he died alone and unloved, estranged from his nearest and dearest. No man would be able to resist coming out and saying it simply isn’t so, rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated, to coin an old joke. We will continue with our plans to go round the Horn. And then, given time, people in obscure parts of the east coast will claim to have seen Kieran alive and well, and nestled in the bosom of his tribe”.
“Yes!” Bardin joyfully picked up the thread, as though it was an idea for the grand finale to a show “The rumours will grow and grow, until one day Kieran returns, triumphant, the conquering hero, the big stage entry to top them all!”
Bengo gave an “ooh!” of delight and clapped his hands.
“It will …” said Bardin, giving a sigh of ecstatic anticipation “It will be quite … quite magical!”
Go forward to next chapter
Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site