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By Sarah Hapgood

Kieran had been looking out for their return all morning, and when he spotted them through the binoculars coming along the lane towards Indigo Towers he grabbed an umbrella (a warm, light rain was now falling), and ran out to meet them. Julian, feeling that Kieran might be annoyed by various things, left them chatting in the lane and went onto the sloop alone.

“All this attitude Julian’s taking”, said Kieran “That because you’re the brothers you’ve got to sort it out alone is really pissing the rest of us off. There are very dark forces behind all this and I’ve got a right to be in on it”.

“I’m only keeping you out at the moment”, said Joby, huddling under the umbrella with him “Because I don’t want you getting it into your head that you’ve gotta go and see Angel. You’ve done it before”.

“I promise I won’t”, said Kieran “Not without taking you with me. I promise you. And you don’t go near that house alone without me again. What if they had got you last night?”

“What difference would it have made if you’d been there?” said Joby “We could have distracted the guard-dogs I spose by shoving you through the bars, but they’d have found you to be a really scraggy old bone!”

“At least I’d have known what was happening!” said Kieran.

“Alright, alright”, said Joby “What’s been going on round here anyway?”

“Not much”, said Kieran “The usual old things. Apart from Bengo nearly scalping himself on the coffee-grinder this morning. Ach, don’t look so alarmed, he’s fine. Didn’t even lose any hair, we managed to disentangle him from it”.

“I’ve warned him about that before no end of times!” said Joby “He will insist on leaning right over it. You wait til I see him!”

“Go easy on him”, said Kieran “He’s already in a bit of a state ‘cos Bardin just let rip at him about it”.

They walked into the main hall of the house, where Bardin was yelling “you stupid clown!” up the stairs.

“The sounds of home!” said Joby.

“Hello Joby, you o.k?” said Bardin, kissing him on both cheeks “I’m going to have to go up and bring him down. Nothing changes does it!”

“Be careful up there”, said Joby “The whole place is riddled with dry rot, you could end up falling through the floor. We don’t let Lonts go up there at all!”

Bardin sprinted up the stairs two at a time. He found Bengo in the nearest bedroom, lying on the mattress on the wooden bed, which was the only furniture now left in there.

“Idiot! Fool!” said Bardin “There could be anything up here, and I’m not just talking about the dry rot! Get your arse downstairs at once!”

“It is creepy up here isn’t it, Bardy?” Bengo sniffed.

Bardin kicked him in the backside as he left the room, and then kicked him again as they went into the safer environs of the library downstairs. Bengo wrestled him to the floor and pulled his singlet over Bardin’s head, effectively trapping him close to him.

Then, somewhat predictably these days, Piers entered stage-right.

“Piers! You’re home early”, said Bengo “We weren’t expecting you back until tonight”.

“I have come back for the rest of my things”, said Piers “As from tomorrow morning I shall be living elsewhere”.

“Have you found somewhere to live then?” said Bengo.

Piers had already decided that he’d communicated quite enough with the little clown though, and exited the room by the other door.

“What’s going on with him then?” said Bardin.

“Oh who cares, let’s get on with our game”, said Bengo, and he pulled his vest back over Bardin’s head.

“It’s a bit early for such a large measure isn’t it?” said Bardin, walking into the cabin where Julian was nursing a substantial drop of brandy.

“Since when did you turn into Codlik?” Julian snapped “Anyway it’s an aperitif”.

“I know you think those of us born in this time can’t possibly understand what having brothers is like”, Bardin began.

“I’m sorry if I’ve given that impression”, said Julian “But Piers is such a responsibility I didn’t want to put it on you”.

“You think I can’t understand because I was hatched?” said Bardin “Bengo and me grew up as brothers when we were kids. I understand very well”.

“I think you got the better deal somehow!” said Julian.

“Look, if Piers wants to join this crowd”, said Bardin, dragging over a chair and sitting crouched by him “You’ve gotta let him get on with it. He’s old enough to be responsible for himself”.

“Piers has never been old enough to be responsible for himself!” said Julian.

“We’re going to have a little farewell party for him tonight”, said Bardin “Perhaps when he’s had enough of the cider punch we might get some more info out of him”.

The farewell party failed though. Piers made it quite clear he wasn’t in a party mood, and was merely tolerating it, biding his time until the morning came round and he could leave.

“This party could do with some women”, Piers slurred to Adam at one point.

Adam thought this was a bit rich, considering Piers had spent most of the evening ogling Mieps who, due to the heat, wore only his shirt.

“Well I expect there’ll be plenty of women for you as from tomorrow”, said Adam, sadly wondering what had happened to the sweet, somewhat goofy Piers he had known when he was younger.

“And more come all the time”, said Piers “They are novices, taken care of and educated by the older women until they are initiated”.

“A bit like geisha girls?” said Adam “Where do they come from?”

“Anywhere”, Piers mumbled “Outside the house”.

Adam felt quietly alarmed.

“How old are they?” he asked “These novices?”

“Old enough if that’s what you’re getting at”, Piers snapped “What kind of a man do you take me for? Do you think I would stay with people who did that sort of thing?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore”, said Adam “I’ve seen too much decadence in my lifetime to be fooled that all of it is completely harmless. And the excessive secrecy your friends insist upon tells against them I’m afraid. Piers, do these young women come to the house … willingly?”

Piers, without another word, got up and went to bed.

In the morning the hay-cart was got out. Ransey and Hillyard said they were going into town to get provisions and could give Piers a lift. Julian went along too. When Piers was dropped at the end of the muddy lane, Julian got off the cart and walked with him.

“You don’t have to come as far as the gates”, said Piers “I feel as though I’m being dropped off at school!”

“Piers, you don’t have to do this”, said Julian “I know you and I have never been close, but there’s something about this whole racket which concerns me greatly. You don’t know what kind of people they are”.

“I rather think I know them better than you!” said Piers.

“I’m not sure you do!” Julian exclaimed “The whole thing so far has been a masquerade …”

“I’m owed some fun, damnit!” said Piers.

“Look, I know the last few years with Mother weren’t easy”, said Julian.

“You have no idea, no idea at all!” Piers hissed “Not you! You were always the one who had all the fun, whilst I was the boring idiot who stayed at home and ran the estate. I suppose it never occurred to you that I also would have liked the flash convertible, the exotic foreign trips, the wild parties, the swish London flat”.

“You could have had all those things”, said Julian “It wasn’t lack of money which held you back for chrissakes, but the fact that you wouldn’t stand up to Mother!”

“Well she’s gone now isn’t she!” said Piers “And now it’s my turn, MY turn, I’m owed it”.

“O.K, but you don’t have to do it this way”, said Julian “The August Pier Party starts this weekend, the whole town will be going festive. There’ll be women everywhere, tons of booze, oysters and lobster. You’re going to miss all that by holing yourself up with this crowd and their gloomy rituals”.

Piers distinctly wavered, and Julian knew at last that his brother was being manipulated behind the scenes, that this wasn’t all his own decision.

“I have to go”, he said “I’m committed”.

“Committed?” Julian barked “How? Have you signed a contract or something? And even if you have I bet it’s not legally binding. Ransey will soon find a few loop-holes in it for you! Won’t they let you go, is that it? Do you know too much now? Where the bodies are buried? That was just a turn of phrase … unless of course it can be interpreted literally, can it?”

“You’re being absurd”, said Piers.

The heavens opened and some more of the desolate summer rain began to patter down. Piers took that as his cue to leave. Julian watched from the lane as his brother approached the gates. A man, one of the groundsmen judging from his practical attire, and the rifle slung over his shoulder, unpadlocked the gates and let Piers through. Piers gave him no acknowledgement, and disappeared out of view round the side of the house.

“I can check the local newspaper files”, said Ransey, driving the cart back home “See if they have anything on young girls disappearing round here”.

“Not a bad idea”, said Hillyard, sitting in the back with the groceries, and a piece of sacking draped over his head against the rain.

“It’ll give me something to do whilst you’re all raving it up at the Pier Party”, said Ransey.

Julian had been almost silent throughout the short journey, sitting up front next to Ransey, sheltering under an umbrella.

“I think I’ll go for a swim in the river”, he said, as they neared Indigo Towers.

“But it’s raining!” said Hillyard.

“You are such a complete peasant, Hillyard”, said Julian, jumping down from the cart.

“Better ‘en being a complete tosser!” Hillyard retorted.

“He’s probably just washing Piers out of his system”, said Adam, when Hillyard went down into the galley “Symbolic and all that jazz”.

“I think you should go and talk to him”, said Hillyard.

“Perhaps Joby should”, said Bengo, who was cutting up strawberries for a pudding “He’s all lovey with Julian at the moment”.

“You just concentrate on what you’re doing”, said Joby.

“Both of you concentrate on what you’re doing”, said Adam “Alright, I’ll nip up and see what’s going on”.

Adam went up on deck and peered over the edge at Julian, who had stripped off and was gaily swimming about in the river.

“Come on in, the water’s lovely!” he shouted through the soft rain.

“You’re mad!” said Adam, leaning on the bulwark.

“Don’t be such an old woman”, said Julian “Come on in!”

“Certainly not”, said Adam “You silly boy!”

Toppy scampered along the riverbank in the rain, collecting up Julian’s clothes. Julian followed him onto the boat in a more leisurely fashion.

“You’ll get rheumatism”, said Adam, ushering him towards the quarterdeck steps.

“Aha”, said Julian, disappearing below “But at least I’m free of my stupid, STUPID brother!”

Bardin was narked by a snotty comment Toppy had made earlier that the boat and the house were a complete shambles, and so when the rain stopped in the afternoon he organised a spring-clean, with the deck being scrubbed and the backlog of washing being tackled. At one point he went over to the kitchen at Indigo Towers, where Rumble was scrubbing the old table in there.

“Don’t tell me you’re brooding about Piers as well”, said Rumble, noticing Bardin’s rather forlorn expression “I thought everyone’d relax now he was gone. After all, if he wants to spend his whole time with a bunch of dodgy sex-maniacs that’s up to him”.

“I can’t understand people who make such a fuss about shagging”, said Bardin “But then I guess I’m not very highly-sexed myself”.

“Yeah sure!” said Rumble, playfully flicking some soapy water at him.

“No I’m not really”, said Bardin “After all, sex is no big deal to get. Even when desperate you can always pay for it or do-it-yourself. It’s warmth and affection I think are more valuable”.

“I won’t argue with that”, said Rumble.

He got exasperated though with Bardin’s brooding look, and checked even more soapy water at him.

“We’ve got a lot to do around here”, said Rumble “We could really make something of this room, and instead you and all the others moon about that toffee-nosed plank!”

Bardin shuffled towards the door.

“I said I’d join Bengo for his afternoon break”, he mumbled.

“I hope he kicks you out of all this!” said Rumble, chucking a bowl of clean water over the table.

Bengo didn’t do anything so energetic. Instead he lay in a double hammock with Bardin, which they had strung up outside Indigo Towers. Bengo dozed in the sun, occasionally farted, and occasionally scratched himself.

“I wish you’d relax, Bardy”, he said.

“The way you’re farting I’d say you’re relaxing enough for the both of us!” said Bardin.

“I don’t know why you’re worrying about Piers”, said Bengo “I didn’t like him very much, I thought he was rude”.

“It’s the idiocy of the whole thing that gets me”, said Bardin “We never stopped him from doing anything. He could have enjoyed himself in town as much as he liked. Why chuck in his lot with a sinister bunch of wankers for?”

“Because some people take sex too seriously”, said Bengo “Instead of just doing it when they need it, they have to make a big ritual out of it. Remember Sade?”

“Not exactly an easy person to forget!” said Bardin.

“That orgy he tried to organise at his house”, said Bengo “What a load of old cobblers it was! We would have had a lot more fun if he hadn’t been there, poncing around giving stage directions all the time!”

Rumble walked past them carrying a bucket of soapy water. Bardin watched him suspiciously, and with good reason too, as Rumble suddenly turned and chucked the lot over them. Bengo had had his face turned towards Bardin so he got most of it in his hair. Bardin got the in-your-face part.

“Moron!” Bardin spluttered “That went in my eyes!”

“We should have known he was gonna do that, Bardy”, said Bengo, scooping swathes of soggy hair from his face.

“Some clowns are never off-duty!” Bardin spat.

The fortnight-long August Pier Party got underway, and for the first couple of days the Indigo-ites weren’t touched by it much, apart from a visit by a young girl who was doing a puppet-show, and who came along to ask stage advice from Bardin. And then there was the astonishing news that Hegley was to take part in one of the revues. The news became even more astonishing when it transpired that this particular revue was being staged by the local S&M group, who were doing it in a sort of evangelical way, to make the public more aware of the joys of dressing up in real leather and having clothes pegs attached to strategic parts of one’s body.

Hegley said he was not into any of this at all, but he always tried to get some kind of paid employment at the August Pier Party, so that he had some cash in reserve for the winter months. Farnol and Rumble also got jobs to help bring the shekels in. They were hired as sandwich men, to walk around the town with boards on advertising some of the numerous parties and sideshows that would be in progress.

On the third evening Kieran and Joby decided to take Lonts and Tamaz to see some of the sights. Ransey was going to the library to do some research. Adam and Julian wanted to go and see Hegley’s revue, as Julian said he wouldn’t be able to resist the sight of Hegley the poacher being thrashed within an inch of his life! Finia, Toppy, Hoowie and Mieps all elected to stay at home and “mind Brother Iggy”, who these days did very little but stare beatifically into space.

Hegley’s part in the revue at the moment seemed to comprise of himself, dressed in a little leather shift, being chained to a wall and having a girl in a leather swimsuit rubbing herself up against him. Hegley responded with an erection, eagerly noted by the sparse audience, who erupted into laughs and whistles.

“This should put bromide in his tea though”, said Julian, as a monstrously fat woman in a red leather corset appeared on stage brandishing a whip in a very threatening manner.

Brunhilde, as Julian nicknamed her, ordered the girl to unchain Hegley and lay him on the floor. This was only accomplished after much tortuous rattling of chains and Hegley getting caught up in it all. The audience began to get restive, and so Brunhilde decided to speed up the action by bringing on two more girls, who proceeded to beat Hegley all over his body with paddles and straps. Whilst this wince-making extravaganza was going on the four clowns appeared in the auditorium. Farnol and Rumble came complete with sandwich-boards.

“What are you doing here?” Julian barked.

“We could hear his screams from outside”, said Farnol “So we had to come in and have a look”.

Brunhilde cracked her whip in annoyance at this interruption to the sacred proceedings. Bengo gave a startled jump and fell over the back of one of the seats, landing on top of Adam.

“Bengo”, Bardin sighed.

“There there!” said Adam, consoling Bengo “This isn’t a proper theatrical show, Bardin, you’ll be awfully disappointed”.

“I can see that!” said Bardin.

Hegley was at last allowed to stand up, after hollering the place down. An exotic raven-haired woman walked on stage, looking like a glamorous female spy from an old thriller. She was leading a very portly man, naked apart from a thong and a black leather mask, on a chain. The sight of the slave’s hairy pot-belly sent the clowns into sniggers. The “slave” was instructed to lie on the floor, and the girls proceeded to walk up and down him, pot-belly and all, in their high heels. By now Farnol was helpless with laughter, and the giggling virus seemed to have spread to the girls on stage, who were having trouble keeping straight faces. The bad-tempered cracking of Brunhilde’s whip began to get more and more ominous. Julian grabbed Farnol by the ear and roughly escorted him from the room. The others followed.

They met up with Kieran, Joby, Lonts and Tamaz by the pier. These four had been to a magic show. Adam was concerned to hear that a hypnotist had been part of the show, but they told him none of them had been got out of the audience to participate. Adam, who had been imagining Lonts re-living the human bonfire at Kiskev, was immensely relieved about this.

“Joby nearly got picked up”, said Lonts “By the woman sitting next to him”.

“She was just lonely that’s all”, Joby snapped “She was on her own and she wanted someone to talk to. She must have thought I had a friendly face”.

The others sniggered at this implausibility.

“Ah shaddup!” said Joby.

There was a shout as Hillyard steered the hay-cart through the chaos that thronged the road. He was collecting them on his way to picking up Ransey at the library.

“Gawd, I’ve seen some bug-ugly drag acts in my time”, said Hillyard “But some of the ones round here could give you nightmares!”

“I thought some were rather good”, said Adam, looking at two she-men, both tall and slender, and built like racehorses, who were standing in the doorway of a bar, wearing elegant gold-coloured gowns.

“I don’t mean them!” said Hillyard “There’s three I’ve just passed on the road back there. Not exactly in the first flush of youth I can tell you! They looked like a bunch of evil old crones looking for someone to prey on”.

“They probably are”, said Julian, climbing up onto the box next to him.

“You should’ve persuaded Mieps to come out”, said Hillyard “He’s hardly left home since we got here”.

“He insisted he didn’t want to come”, said Julian “He finds all this sort of thing a bit much. You try and persuade him if you think you can do any better than me”.

“Look, look, there they are”, Hillyard nudged Julian and pointed at the side of the road.

“Good grief, I see what you mean”, said Julian.

Three scrawny, ageing men crept along the pavement like humanoid reptiles. They wore the kind of clothes normally associated with genteel dowagers from years gone by, such as long skirts, elbow-length gloves, feathered turbans, fans and handbags, all done out in shades of lilac. Their faces were repellent, flat and hard.

“You wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night!” said Julian.

As they went past Hillyard yelled at them: “Get out of the road, you’ll frighten my horses!”

“Calm down”, said Julian “It’s just a bunch of ugly old fruits”.

“It’s not though”, said Hillyard “Is it, Kieran?”

“No”, said Kieran.

“We’ll talk about all this when we get home”, said Julian.

They found Ransey standing impatiently on the steps of the town’s library.

“Stood you up again has she?” Hillyard bellowed, recovering his equilibrium.

“Did you find out anything useful, old love?” said Adam, as Ransey clambered onto the cart.

“Precious little”, said Ransey “The house was built just before the Quake in the City, but no idea by whom. The only reason the building of it got into the press was because builders were contracted from the City, not here, which caused a lot of bad feeling round here at the time”.

“Twas ever thus”, said Julian.

“Before that it was public parkland”, said Ransey “Two people disappeared there in those days. They were pat of a large walking-party, by large I mean dozens of people had got together as part of some charity event. At this time of year it was too, it might even have been as part of the August festivities”.

“How did they disappear?” said Adam.

“No one knows”, said Ransey “It’s not at all clear. When the head-count was done t the end of the evening two were missing, that’s all we know”.

“They miscounted”, said Hillyard “Or thought there had been two extra when there hadn’t been”.

“The organisers were insistent that wasn’t the case”, said Ransey “And several in the party did notice them when they all set out. The really weird thing though is that no one knew who these people were, and no one came forward to report them missing after the event”.

“Didn’t the fact that whoever built the house”, said Adam “That they took over public parkland, didn’t that cause any resentment round here?”

“It doesn’t seem to have”, said Ransey “And I couldn’t seem to get anywhere with finding out who owns it now. My instinct is that they aren’t local, and may even have been from the City originally”.

The three hideous old men in drag began to prey on Bardin’s mind. Kieran had confirmed Hillyard’s gut feeling that there was something intrinsically evil about them. This stirred up bad memories and bad vibes within Bardin, he couldn’t help remembering their predatory look. He became restless and bad-tempered. Bengo was sympathetic but firm with him, instinctively knowing that Bardin shouldn’t be allowed to brood on it too much.

When Farnol and Rumble brought home their first earnings, Bardin had looked at the handful of loose change with disdain. Bengo was furious with him and ordered him over to the kitchen at Indigo Towers, where he said he would put him across his knee. He did so. Bardin retreated to the library afterwards in a Piers-like sulk, and fell into a disgruntled sleep on the sofa. Joby woke him up at 4 o’clock with a cup of tea.

“There’s a lot of sugar in it”, said Bardin, sipping at the brew.

“Adam thought it might give you a boost”, said Joby.

“I’m glad you’ve come over and not old boot-face”, said Bardin, referring to his loving partner “I can’t stand it when he takes the moral high-ground, it really pisses me off”.

“Yeah well he’s got a bit of a point though hasn’t he?” said Joby, sitting on the floor by the sofa “It is good of Farnol and Rumble to go out and earn some extra dosh”.

“EARN it?” Bardin exclaimed “Walking around in the sunshine all day? With Farnol talking the hind-legs of everyone he meets?! Not exactly hard graft is it! The way Bengo carried on you’d think they were toiling down the salt-mines! Sometimes I think I’d like to divorce Bengo”.

“There wouldn’t be much point”, said Joby “You’d still be living together, unless you’re planning on moving out”.

“No”, Bardin mumbled.

“Well Bengo can hardly move out can he!” said Joby “The thought of him living on his own sends shivers down my spine. Gawd, he wouldn’t half mope!”

“Because he’s useless without me!” said Bardin “He moved in with Godle for a while once, when we were in our teens. After a few days I went round to see him. The place was a shambles, they hadn’t even emptied the bath-water! And Bengo had lost a pair of his clown’s shoes. He had taken them to a cobblers to be repaired, and couldn’t remember which shop it was! That’s what happens when I’m not with him!”

“Hang on a minute”, said Joby.

He got up and went over to the door, dragging in Bengo who had been loitering behind it.

“I’ve told you about that before!” said Joby “I can’t stand people who do that. Now you sit there and I’ll go over to the sloop and help Adam”.

Bengo wearily took Joby’s place on the floor. Bardin watched him cautiously, spooning up the tea-soaked dregs of sugar from the bottom of his cup.

“Brother Iggy wants to leave us”, Bengo sighed, after a lengthy pause “Get a place of his own in town”.

“If he thinks he can manage on his own I’m certainly not going to object”, said Bardin “Take all your clothes off, let’s lie down”.

Thye both stripped and lay down on the sofa, pulling the thin blanket over them which had been draped across the back of it.

“He says we’re too much for him”, said Bengo “That he’s not as homosexual as he thought, and he fancies the girl who came here the other day with her hand-puppets”.

“Knowing him he’ll probably go stalking her!” said Bardin “I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see him go, he gets on my nerves. He always has!”

“It’ll be nice to be on our own again won’t it, Bardy” said Bengo “We’ve not been here alone yet, there’s always been Brother Iggy and Piers with us”.

“It’ll certainly be nice to unload Brother Iggy!” said Bardin.

He decided that finding Brother Iggy a new home should be done without any further delay. The following morning he took Bengo with him into town and they went flat-hunting. Both wore their best clothes and Bardin adopted a foppish swagger, taken with the idea of acting the man of means about town.

They were sidetracked by the Pier Party, which seemed to be getting more tacky and sleazy by the day. The S&M group, obviously desperate to get more noticed, had decided to hold a mock-wedding on the beach. It culminated in poor old Hegley getting smacked in the face with the wedding cake.

“Oh what a shame”, said Bengo, watching from the safety of the prom “He wasn’t expecting that, you could tell”.

“A bunch of sleazeballs, the lot of them”, said Baridn.

They walked further along the prom and were hailed by Farnol, who was having an ice-cream break. He taken off his boards and propped them against the prom railings. He pointed out Rumble, who was on the other side of the street, juggling some coloured balls in front of a group of children.

“We’ve decided we could bring in some money as children’s entertainers”, said Farnol.

“Children’s entertainers?” Bardin gasped, almost hoarse with horror “What happened to the clowns on the cutting edge of comedy?”

“It doesn’t pay very much”, said Farnol “If anything at all, see? Whereas as children’s entertainers you can get a nice regular income if you play your cards right”.

“Performing at birthday parties of spoilt brats!” said Bardin “We are not that desperate for money! We could sell some of Tamaz’s jewellery”.

“That’s not fair on him”, said Farnol “He spends hours polishing and sorting out his gems”.

“You’re almost as soft where he’s concerned as Toppy is!” said Bardin.

“I think they’d be very good at it, Bardy”, said Bengo “Kids warm to them. We’d be no good as children’s entertainers, we’d just frighten them”. (Particularly you, thought Bengo).

“Well we’re going to do it anyway”, said Farnol to Bardin “See how you complain when we bring home the loot every week”.

“You’ll have to clean up your act you know”, said Bardin “No anal jokes, no setting fire to Rumble’s flies, no giant false dicks, and definitely no masturbating hand-puppets!”

“Shame”, said Bengo “The kids’d probably love all that!”

Farnol laughed, and then caught sight of Hegley coming towards them along the prom. He didn’t look a happy bunny.

“Is that it then?” said Farnol “Are you hanging up your leather tunic for good?”

“I thought having my head flushed down a lavatory the other day was bad enough”, Hegley snapped, still wearing bits of the wedding cake “But I didn’t agree to be a clown! I’m sorry, I meant no disrespect. You must all think I’m making a lot of fuss about nothing”.

“No we understand”, said Bengo “You never really get used to it”.

“It’s the mess that drives you mad sometimes”, said Bardin “We could spend hours trying to wash the stuff out of our hair”.

“What’s the bloody point?” said Hegley “Just to give people a quick laugh”.

“Because it’s worth it when you give them a big long laugh”, said Bardin.

“What did you agree to do it for, Hegley?” said Bengo.

“I thought it’d be a more interesting way of earning cash than washing-up or waiting on tables”, said Hegley “Which is what I normally do during the Pier Party. But I’d rather do that! At least then I get tips occasionally. And I’d rather work with anyone than that bunch of arseholes!”

“The girls seemed nice enough”, said Bengo.

“Oh they’re o.k”, said Hegley “I’d have jacked it in the first day if it hadn’t been for them. But him”, he pointed at the burly hard-nosed man who played the bridegroom “He’s a sadistic shit and no mistake! Spends his life debauching everything in sight, and then goes ape when anyone goes near his missus. That’s why I got it in the face today, because I’d kissed his wife earlier. It was only a friendly peck on the cheek too. She was a bit down in the dump, so I thought I’d cheer her up”.

“He obviously didn’t see it that way”, said Bardin.

“H does look a nasty piece of work don’t he?” said Farnol, leaning over the railings.

“Well thank God I won’t have to deal with him anymore”, said Hegley, walking off along the prom “And I’m not coming back into town until the Party’s over!”

Bardin found a ground-floor room for Brother Iggy, not far from the sea-front.

“Won’t he get lonely here on his own?” said Bengo, standing in the middle of it.

“It seems to be what he wants”, Bardin shrugged.

“I’ve never lived on my own”, said Bengo.

“I have!” Bardin snapped “When you were all cosily set up on the old Indigo, I was on my own in a room like this”.

“Hm”, said Bengo “Apart from the odd chorus-girl staying the night of course!”

Bardin recalled one in particular who had stayed with him for a few weeks. She was a greedy, manipulative woman who had slapped his face because he wouldn’t buy her something she wanted. Bardin had thrown her out. Literally. On remembering this Bardin went over to Bengo and shook him firmly by the shoulders.

“Fool!” he shouted.

“Oo!” said Bengo.

Determined not to waste any time, Bardin arranged for Brother Iggy to be moved the following morning. Brother Iggy was in a whirl with all that was happening, but managed to get some time alone with Kieran before the grand departure. He felt like a man on the day of his execution!

At 10 o’clock Bardin came up on deck, where Farnol was demonstrating how to make animals out of balloons in front of Lonts, Toppy, Hoowie, Mieps and Tamaz, who were acting as his try-out audience for his new career as Uncle Farnol, Children’s Entertainer. Lonts was watching with rapt attention, but Tamaz disparagingly said that it looked nothing like a dog at all, and since when did anyone see bright red dogs with knots in them.

“All good practice”, said Farnol “I’m bound to get one knowing little bastard in the audience just like you!”

“Never mind all that for the moment, Uncle Farnol”, Bardin rasped “Come and see His Ignatius-ship off”.

They had borrowed Hegley’s dog-cart to transport Brother Iggy into town, and Bardin, Julian, Ransey and Hillyard were going to escort him there. The others all went ashore to see him off. Kieran watched from one of the upper windows at Indigo Towers. Brother Iggy was very emotional, and started whining that he was unsure if he wanted this new life after all. Bardin closed his ears to all this. He couldn’t stand anymore of Brother Iggy’s mooning presence, and had him put on the back of the dog-cart. He was waved off by everyone else standing in the lane, with the kind of euphoria shown by people who didn’t actively dislike someone, but were nonetheless very relieved to see them go! “I’m not sure this is a good idea”, said Ransey, standing on the front steps outside Brother Iggy’s new place of abode.

“He’ll be alright”, said Julian “The landlady seems a decent enough sort”.

“No, I mean it might be safer to have him at home where we can keep an eye on him”, said Ransey “Out of our control there’s no knowing who he could get mixed up with”.

“He’s going to have a go at living here”, Bardin insisted “We can’t take in every lame duck we find because we don’t trust them! That way madness lies”.

Bardin felt that the sight of Brother Iggy was now more than he could bear. He couldn’t forget that under that rather gormless exterior was someone who had quite bizarre values and priorities when it came to human life. He reminded him of Codlik!

When the removal party had returned Joby went up to see Kieran, who was still upstairs in Indigo Towers.

“Adam’s released you for a bit has he?” said Kieran, who had been reading on the windowsill of the most intact bedroom.

“I insisted”, said Joby “Bengo’s had more ‘en enough time off lately”.

“He seems to be working today”, said Kieran “I saw him in his pinny earlier”.

“Yeah that’s about it”, said Joby “He’s put his pinny on, that’s about the sum total of his efforts so far today! If he has the cheek to ask for any time off later I’ll take the laundry-beater to him!”

“That thing leaves welts”, said Kieran.

“Good!” said Joby.

“Talking of all that”, said Kieran “I’d like you and me to go over and see Hegley later. I’m a wee bi concerned about him. I can’t help feeling it’s our fault he got mixed up with the S&M crowd in town”.

“OUR fault?” Joby exclaimed “How can it be our fault?”

“Because we make all that stuff seem harmless and fun”, said Kieran.

“But we’re not into all that”, said Joby “Julian’s a bit smack-happy at times that’s all, and that’s all the fault of you and Adam for encouraging him! But we don’t dress up in leather gear and go round swishing at each other”.

He gave an impression of someone very effete prancing around with a riding-crop.

“Will you come with me though?” said Kieran.

“Yeah why not?” said Joby “I can skive off for a change instead of Bengo”.

Things nearly came a cropper though when they decided to make love on the very old wooden bed, and it collapsed underneath them. Joby, who was on top of Kieran at the time, found he couldn’t move. His back had locked after receiving a major jolt. They both screamed for help, and after what seemed like an absolute age, there was the sound of heavy footsteps thumping up the stairs.

“I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening”, said Hillyard, from the doorway “Do you want me to run into town and fetch the fire brigade to separate you?”

“Bloody funny, Hillyard”, said Joby “It’s the fucking woodworm in this bed”.

“Well what did you go on it for then?” said Hillyard “Couldn’t you wait til you got downstairs?! You were lucky you didn’t go through the floor, seriously”.

“Jaysus, I thought there’d been an earthquake!” said Kieran.

“No predictable jokes abut the earth moving either!” said Joby.

“Joby’s hurt his back”, said Kieran.

“Silly sod”, said Hillyard “Alright, I’ll get you off, but it might hurt”.

“Yeah that really surprises me!” said Joby.

Hillyard expertly put his arms like a heist around Joby’s torso and pulled at him. He came free but not without a lot of screaming from him and Kieran.

“What a couple of babies!” said Hillyard.

He got Joby propped on his feet, and having ascertained that the gist of the problem was in the small of his back thumped him there with his fist.

“Fuck!” Joby yelled.

“That should have freed it up a bit”, said Hillyard “I’ll take you downstairs and give you a rub-down. I dunno about lecturing Lonts about not coming up here, I think you two need telling as well!”

“I wondered what was keeping you”, said Adam, going into the library a short while later, where Joby was now face-down on the sofa being massaged by Hillyard. Kieran, wearing only his shirt, was perched in a chair nearby.

“A right pair of idiots”, said Hillyard “You all talk about me being sex-mad, but at least I wouldn’t try shagging on the top floor of a condemned building!”

“You look like you could be out of action for the rest of the day”, said Adam to Joby.

“He’s lucky he didn’t break his neck falling through the floor!” said Hillyard.

“O.K Hilly”, said Adam “I think he’s learnt his lesson”.

“You’ll have to get Bengo to do some work for a change won’t you!” said Joby.

“Bengo is working as we speak”, said Adam “He’s making a fruit fool for pudding”.

“How bleedin’ appropriate”, said Joby “He could call it a clowns’ pudding!”

“He ent the one lying here with a bad back though is he!” said Hillyard.

Joby assigned himself sick leave, and for the rest sat on the deck giving a very good impression of someone who had lost the use of his arms and legs. Bardin came to the rescue and offered to take his place in the galley. Bengo was horrified, certain he would never be able to work without mishap with the strain of Bardin watching him. Not helped by Bardin donning his pinny like a surgeon scrubbing himself up before an operation. Adam announced that they were going to make toad-in-the-hole, and Bardin received his instructions with a forbidding grim-faced purposefulness, as though they were a complicated set of stage directions.

Meanwhile, Joby received the news of Bardin’s professionalism with ill-concealed disgruntlement, his only satisfaction coming when he was told that Adam had had to speak firmly to the clowns when they had threatened to chuck the batter over each other. Kieran announced, late afternoon, that he was going to return the dog-cart to Hegley, and Joby could come with him. Joby agreed, although he knew Adam would make plenty of comments about him apparently being fit enough to ride in a dog-cart, but not fit enough to work.

“It wasn’t just that farce on the beach that was the last straw”, said Hegley, pouring out cupfuls of cider punch in his dark, but surprisingly well-equipped little kitchen “I’d felt uneasy with them right from the beginning. Before the Pier Party started they’d asked me if I’d like to be an extra in one of their films”.

“Films?” said Joby “Porn films I take it?”

“Yeah, they knock ‘em out dirt-cheap on the premises”, said Hegley.

“What premises?” said Kieran “Where are they based?”

“Right in the middle of the town”, said Hegley, dashing Kieran’s hopes that Hegley might have actually been inside the mysterious house behind the iron gates “It was originally two big houses they’ve knocked into one. A real rabbit-warren of a place, all dark narrow corridors and stairs. Dead easy to get lost in there I would’ve thought, ‘cept I was never allowed to walk around it on my own, I always had to be escorted”.

“Huh, frightened you might see summat you shouldn’t from the sounds of things”, said Joby.

“And they’ve got things to hide believe me!” said Hegley “Anyway, I agreed, ‘cos the film-work pays better than the stage stuff, and it’s easier. You don’t take quite so much punishment! They were filming my scene in the walled yard that’s out the back. Talk about low-budget! A guy with a camera and another shouting orders and that’s about it! Well all they wanted me to do was to get into one of the flower-beds”.

“Eh?” said Joby “What was it for God’s sake? Sex Tips For Red-Hot Gardeners?!”

“That’d be right up your street wouldn’t it!” said Kieran.

“I had to lie down on the soil”, said Hegley “In my leather tunic, and this woman comes over and shovels a load of earth over me, including my face, and that was it, that was the scene”.

“It doesn’t sound very erotic to me”, said Kieran “I can’t even imagine Codlik getting excited by that one!”

“But you haven’t heard the weirdest bit”, said Hegley.

“You mean there’s summat even weirder than that?” said Joby.

“I had to wait a fair old while in a back room beforehand”, said Hegley “Whilst they pissed about outside getting the lighting right or whatever. This room was some kind of office-cum-store-room. There was shed-loads of old movie tape canisters stacked up in there. Some of it looked years old. On the desk was a list of some of their movie titles, all the usual kind of thing, really bad puns, and confessions of this that and the other”.

“It never changes much does it!” said Joby.

“Right at the bottom of the page there was a separate section”, said Hegley “It was actually called the Sealed Section, so obviously stuff in another league, more full-bodied. You know what I mean, for those who like it stronger. I can’t remember the names of the films, it’s gone from my mind, but I got really bad vibes about it. A short while later, during the Pier Party, I heard a couple of the girls chatting. One of their friends had left the organisation. She was one of their actresses, if you can call it that. She left ‘cos she said she’d accidentally seen a storyboard for a film in the pipeline. She said it was sick stuff and she wanted no part of it, it was tortures, REAL tortures, not acting, and people being made to eat shit for instance”.

“Sade!” said Kieran “Focking Sade, I should’ve known! Hegley, where do these films get sent to when they’re finished?”

“All over the world I guess”, said Hegley “Anyone would buy the soft porn, they must make a fair bit on that, as for the sick stuff I suppose it’s privately commissioned by people who’ve got a lot of money and nothing better to do with it. I can’t imagine there’s many round here, it’d be more the likes of them in Krindei I expect, where all the big money is. The firm has a distributor who handles all that, liaises with the clients as they say in business-speak”.

“Have you ever heard anyone mention a man called Sade, de Sade?” said Kieran.

“Where the word sadism originally comes from”, said Joby.

“Does it?” said Hegley “No, it doesn’t ring a bell”.

“If he’s involved”, said Joby “Is he commissioning it, or distributing it?”

“Good question”, said Kieran “Although knowing him he’s more likely to be the creative genius writing it!”

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