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By Sarah Hapgood

Farnol and Rumble walked round to look at the S&M building as part of their sandwich board duties towards the end of the town’s August Pier Party. They found it bang in the middle of Temple Street, Magnolia Cove’s rather sweet red light district. The building was a rambling affair, a typical case of a once well-to-do house that had since fallen into the distressed gentry bracket, buried as it was amongst peepshows, topless dancing clubs, and hotel where you rented the rooms by the hour.

“Although what the hell we’re supposed to do with all this bitty information that we keep getting I don’t know!” said Julian, sitting on the poop-deck with Adam on the morning of the last day of the Pier Party “Ransey is becoming obsessed with research. He keeps coming back from the library with bits of info that he thinks significant. At the moment he would think ANYTHING was significant!”

“I don’t think we can do anything at the moment but keep an eye on things”, said Adam “I’m rather more concerned about Patsy. It must be apparent to one and all now that he is alive and well”.

“Everyone seems to have coped with the shock o.k”, said Julian “Or at least they seem to have in this neck of the woods anyway”.

“It’s how his enemies will cope that bothers me”, said Adam.

“They must have known he was going to re-surface at some point!” said Julian “Codlik may well be mad enough to think that because he says Kieran’s dead that’ll make it so, but I think his church might not be quite so batty!”

“But it’s keeping him safe from them that’s the problem, Jules”, said Adam “He stays at home a lot, but now people have started coming out here to see him. He’s got quite a little confessional service going”.

“I know”, said Julian “What a shame he’s not charging for any of it, all our money worries would be over! Perhaps we should install a collection box, say it’s the Indigo Towers Restoration Fund!”

Hillyard climbed up the gangplank and onto the forward deck. He had been to the fishmongers in town, and came back with a large basket of shiny mackerel. Joby walked across the deck to collect it from him.

“I see you’ve finally got Joby back in harness”, Julian observed.

“He really did push his luck this time”, said Adam “I’m glad he’s back today though. I wouldn’t want Bengo and Bardin at large in the galley with a pile of wet fish about!”

Adam went below, brooding all the while on their dwindling financial fortunes. The nest-egg Ransey had proudly unearthed from beneath the floorboards had already had a substantial dent made in it. It costs a lot to feed 16 people everyday, not including the animals, and the guests they had had to house up until recently. Adam remembered their penniless days living on the old Indigo on the waterfront at Toondor Lanpin, surviving on Bengo’s earnings from the Little Theatre, and Hillyard’s from the local bath-house, it had been a time of endless worry.

“You look tired today, Adam”, said Bengo, when Adam got down to the galley.

“Oh I’m o.k, old love”, said Adam “I think I drank a little too much whisky last night, and am now suffering the consequences that’s all”.

“You’re not gonna start boozing again are you?” said Joby.

“No I am not!” Adam exploded.

“Stop it, both of you!” Bengo burst into tears.

Adam and Joby looked appalled as the little clown dug his fists into his eyes to try and stop the tears.

“As if it’s not bad enough I have to put up with Bardy being stressed”, Bengo wept “Now I’m getting it with you two as well”.

“Has Bardin been particularly crotchety today then, Bengo?” asked Adam, rubbing his back to calm him down.

“He’s started on about my weight again”, said Bengo “He always does that when he’s stressed. Starts telling me how podgy I am”.

“Well just tell him not everyone wants to be a scrawny old stick like him!” said Joby.

“He says it’s bad me handling food all day”, said Bengo.

“That’s a bit hard to avoid when one works in a kitchen I would’ve thought!” said Adam.

“I’m worried he’ll take me out of here again”, said Bengo “Like he did when we were at the old lighthouse on the lake. He put me onto polishing the tack instead”.

“We’ll soon see about that”, said Adam “I’ll have a word with Julian and he can sort it out”.

Tamaz came through from the hold carrying a bundle of kindling for the stove.

“Freaky, I’m not sure you should be doing that”, said Adam, watching uneasily as Tamaz unhooked the iron lid from the top preparatory to feeding the stove.

“No he’s alright”, said Joby “It does him good to have a bit of responsibility now and again”.

Julian caught hold of Bardin whilst he was washing himself in the cabin and gave a sound thrashing, telling him afterwards that Adam’s word had to be law in the galley, and it would be highly unprofessional and inconsiderate of Bardin to go taking his assistants away from him on a whim.

After Julian had gone Bardin went to bed, intending to sulk for a few minutes, but he fell asleep and slept for a couple of hours instead. When he woke up the cabin seemed a lot darker, and at first he thought he had slept the entire afternoon away and it was now evening. A distant rumble of thunder though told him that it was more due to an oncoming storm. The month of August at Magnolia Cove had been sultry and thundery almost consistently.

The cabin door was slightly ajar, and the area outside was lit by a hurricane lamp someone had hooked to the wall at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps. Farnol galloped down them making a lot of noise. He and Rumble had just finished their temporary stint as sandwich men. The Pier Party was due to finish that evening, and there was no more need for their advertising services. It meant they would have just been paid, and Bardin held out his hand almost as soon as Farnol came into the room. Farnol handed over the small but precious selection of coins.

“We bought a beer with some of it before we left town”, said Farnol “We thought you wouldn’t mind, it being thirsty work pounding the streets in this heat and all”.

“I guess not”, said Bardin, putting the coins into a tin box on Julian’s desk and giving it a shake.

“There’s a big kids’ party on at the town hall tomorrow afternoon”, said Farnol “We’ve been hired for it, so that’ll help as well. And we’ve been given the nod and the wink that if we do well there we might get asked to appear at an old people’s home as well”.

“You’ll be able to reinstate all your dirty jokes if that one comes off!” said Bardin.

Bengo came in with a cup of tea for Bardin, who took one swig from the mug and nearly spat it back out again.

“How much sugar have you put in this?” Bardin exclaimed “It tastes like syrup!”

“It’s good for you”, said Bengo “It’s a pick-me-up. And don’t complain about the amount of sugar and how we’re economising, because it’s so boring!”

An air-buggy passed overhead. The three of them paused and looked up apprehensively.

“That’s the first one we’ve heard since we’ve been here”, Bardin whispered.

“Bound to happen sometime”, said Farnol, trying to sound calm and fatalistic about it “It don’t have to mean anything in particular, do it?” Bardin heard the noise again during the night, and so by dawn he was practically a basket-case. Fortunately, after breakfast, Hegley created a diversion by turning up and offering to show them how to make black-pudding. He had had one of his pigs slaughtered, and had brought over a bucket of pig’s blood for this lurid operation.

Hillyard was beside himself with enthusiasm, and annoyed Adam by saying that really Kieran should be locked away whilst all this was going on. Adam insisted this wouldn’t be necessary, and Joby pointed out that Kieran “had a couple of customers” this morning, whom he would “see to” in the hall, and so thus be kept out of the way. Ransey said he was all for Kieran’s new confessional service as there was no knowing what vital information he might glean from it. Adam, somewhat nervously, said that the confessional was supposed to be strictly confidential and Kieran would be unable to disclose what was said. Ransey said, as far as he could see, that this was simply just another case of Kieran being wilfully awkward. Bengo meanwhile couldn’t take anymore of the sight of the copper dipper coming out of the bucket filled to the brim with crimson blood, and had to be dragged outside by Joby to be sick.

“It tasted like black pudding though”, said Bardin, talking to his partner on deck later that afternoon “I didn’t realise it was so simple to make”.

“You make it then!” Bengo shuddered “It makes me glad we gave our pigs away! I think I’ll become a vegetarian like Kieran”.

“You’ll never keep it up”, said Bardin “You like sausages too much!”

“He came!” Farnol cried, appearing on deck “He saw! He conquered!”

“Yes, but did he get paid though?” said Bardin.

Farnol handed over his earnings.

“That was all Choppsy’s hard work”, said Rumble “I was never more than a glorified conjuror’s assistant”.

“What was your young audience like?” said Bengo.

“Pretty good really”, said Farnol “Apart from one little git who called me a fat bastard, and seemed to spend my whole act shouting ‘hey you!’ I ignored him ‘cos if I’d tried to quell him I wouldn’t have had time for the act!”

“Sounds like an embryonic Hoowie to me”, said Bardin.

“So Uncle Farnol’s got a long career ahead of him has he?” said Bengo.

“I rather fancy myself as chief provider, see?” said Farnol.

“What’s up, lad?” said Adam, going over to Hillyard further along the deck, who was leaning gloomily against the bulwark.

“Listening to the clowns just now”, said Hillyard “All this having to worry about money again”.

“Well I guess it was nice being rich whilst it lasted”, said Adam.

“But Woll left that money to us!” said Hillyard “Codlik’s had no right grabbing it”.

“Actually Woll left the money to you”, said Adam.

“Yeah, but he knew I was going to spend it on you lot”, said Hillyard “I’m not a vindictive man, but I think I could kill Codlik sometimes, I really do”.

“You’re not alone”, said Adam “I may be a wussy old pansy but I would happily throttle him with my bare hands! Come below, I’ll make you some tea. If you’re a very good boy I may even put some cooking brandy in it for you”.

“What if Joby’s there?” said Hillyard, conscious of his watery eyes “He might say something. You know what a sarcastic little bugger he can be”.

“If he does I’ll smack his butt”, said Adam.

When they got down into the galley Joby’s lugubrious growl could be heard in the food-hold.

“Joby?” said Adam “Who are you talking to in there?”

“Kieran”, said Joby, emerging “Why?”

“I thought you may have had Josh in there that’s all”, said Adam.

Kieran came out, eating a handful of plums.

“Hegley’s left some of his equipment behind”, said Adam “Perhaps somebody would like a little walk later, to take it back to him”.

“Well it won’t be me will it!” Joby grumbled “I’m lucky if I ever see daylight at all!”

“Nonsense”, said Adam.

In the end Joby was let out to go to Hegley’s, joined by Hillyard and Lonts. Over at Hegley’s cottage Hillyard took Lonts round the smallholding, to show him all the animals.

“I hope I didn’t show it”, said Hegley, watching with Joby from the kitchen window “But Lonts can be a daunting individual”.

“Yeah I know” said Joby “It’s ‘cos he’s so bloody big! Those ruddy great hands of his!”

“He could crack a man’s skull as easy as winking”, said Hegley.

“That might come in useful if Codlik calls round!” said Joby.

“I overheard Bardin earlier”, said Hegley “When I was at your place. He seemed very anxious about it all”.

“Oh Bardin’s always getting anxious about summat”, said Joby “You know what these theatricals are like”.

“I think he has a right to be concerned”, said Hegley “If Codlik triumphs over you the first thing he’ll do I’m sure is to split you all up. I’ve seen enough now since I’ve met you to know that none of you could stand that. I can help though”.

“How?” said Joby.

“I know places out in the countryside around here where you could hide”, said Hegley “It would be almost impossible for you to be found by outsiders who didn’t know the area well. A lot of it is still uncharted you see”.

“Well I’m hoping it won’t come to that”, said Joby “We’ve been on the run too long and we’re sick of it. If anyone comes and picks on us now we’ll stand and fight”.

“I wish you wouldn’t”, said Hegley “I don’t think you’re aware of what the consequences could be”.

As a means to change the subject Joby went over to a box of whisky on the kitchen table.

“You having a party?” he asked.

“Somebody left that for me”, said Hegley “I don’t know who. It was just left outside my door. I think perhaps it might be a sweetener from the S&M crowd to shut me up!”

The next supply-run into town was undertaken by Ransey (who had painstakingly written out cards advertising his accounting skills, and was going to leave them at strategic spots around the town, rather like a tart, as Julian caustically observed), Hillyard, Adam, Joby, and Bardin who had schemes of his own which didn’t involve shopping. As such, when they got into Magnolia Cove Bardin took off by himself. He headed for Temple Street.

It was reasonably quiet at that time of day, and the S&M building looked fairly innocuous. Bardin felt conspicuous standing outside it, so when he found a side alley leading to the back he went down it. If anyone accosted him he had a well-worn tale worked out about being lost. If anyone tried to get nasty he would rely on his clown’s skills to wriggle (literally if needs be) out of a tight spot and run away.

The building was peaceful. At the back of the alley Bardin found a side door standing slightly ajar. He looked in cautiously and found he was in the room with the film canisters Hegley had talked about. A projector screen had been pinned up against the far wall and a camera placed in front of it. Bardin approached, hoping to perhaps find out the title of any of these cinematic masterpieces.

Suddenly the screen flickered into a rather grainy bad-quality life. Bardin looked around him in bewilderment, wondering how he had managed to inadvertently set off the film. A man’s face slowly materialised on screen. Bardin recognised him instantly as the man on the tram in Lixix, and the man in their galley that time with the pig. The man was speaking in gibberish, or so it sounded like, as though he was a man possessed, speaking in tongues. Then maggots began to pour out of his mouth as he spoke, and worms crawled over his face.

Bardin ran outside and didn’t stop until he reached the end of the street. He was mad with relief at bumping into Ransey, who was standing there with a bundle under his arm.

“T-too fucking weird”, Bardin jabbered “All too fucking weird”.

“Well I hope that’s taught you a lesson!” Ransey thundered, when Bardin had finally related his experience “When you’re as old as me …”

“I’m pretty old myself!” Bardin protested.

“When you’re as old as me”, Ransey continued, unabashed “You will realise there is nothing wonderful about being gung-ho. Those idiots tend to be the ones who get killed!”

Fortunately a diversion was created when they all met up back at the hay-cart. The bundle Ransey had been carrying turned out to be t-shirts, all inscribed with the legend ‘THE INDIGO-ITES AT MAGNOLIA COVE’, and featuring a simple picture of a ship seemingly sailing into a black hole. Ransey had discovered a local shop-keeper selling them, and in his embarrassment at being found out had pressed several of them onto Ransey for free.

“I ent wearing that!” said Joby “I’ll look like a waiter at a really naff wine-bar!”

“Julian will absolutely hate this, Ransey”, Adam murmured.

“I know!” Ransey snapped “But what could I do? I’m not exactly too pleased people’ll be walking around advertising our presence here, it’s not exactly keeping a low profile is it! But what could I do? I can’t march in and confiscate the lot now can I!”

Back home again the only one who seemed to get at all enthusiastic about wearing the t-shirts was Farnol. Everyone else treated them with withering disdain. To escape the further cries of “I’m not wearing that!” (instigated by Tamaz) Joby went across to the kitchen at the house to collect some of the stored supplies for dinner.

At first, when he entered the room, he thought he was seeing a wild animal scavenging amongst the sacks and tins. A wild feral creature standing upright on its two back legs. A startled look from the creature’s face convinced Joby that it was vaguely human. Albeit an undernourished, filthy human.

“Oi!” said Joby, and then held up his hand to placate him “S’alright, don’t be alarmed, I just wanna know who you are”.

The creature had a face like an ugly fawn, a look enhanced by the fact that his head had been shaved recently, leaving only two little tufts of hair at the front of his head. He panicked visibly when Bardin, Hillyard and Adam also came into the room, and thus effectively blocked his exit.

“Please let me go”, the creature wailed “I-I didn’t mean any harm. My Master will be expecting me. Please let me go”.

“Who’s your master?” said Joby “It’s Crowley innit?”

“That would make sense”, said Adam “He wasn’t terribly good at looking after his acolytes”.

“He governs my whole life”, the creature whimpered, somewhat defensively.

“And has you reduced to scavenging to get food”, Adam retorted “Come into the library and we’ll give you some brandy. Joby, bring some food through”.

The creature complied. His hunger getting the better of his total obedience to his Master. It’s hard to keep up an ideal of blind devotion when your stomach is racked with hunger pains.

“We’ll be having supper soon”, said Adam, when they were all in the library “If you’d care to join us. Try not to gulp that fruit so fast. If you haven’t eaten much for a while it could make you ill”.

“You’ll be having supper?” the creature quivered.

“Yeah, you know”, said Joby “Last meal of the day and all that, or perhaps you’ve forgotten what mealtimes are like!”

“Nobody likes cooking at our commune”, said the creature.

“Well somebody has to do it surely?” said Hillyard.

“We had a girl, a new recruit, who did it for a few days”, said the creature “But she got fed up with cooking for 9 people and ran away”.

“Only 9?” said Joby “God, almost a holiday that would be!”

“It sounds like she was doing it all by herself though”, said Adam “How do you eat then … um … what’s your name?”

“Victor”, said Victor, looking about as un-victorious as anyone could get, who was still breathing at any rate “I represent the Great God Pan”.

“Good grief”, muttered Joby.

“We just eat what’s around when we get hungry”, Victor continued “Sometimes there isn’t much there. Our Master has been short of money since he came to this town”.

“So are we”, said Bardin “But you still have to have A System”.

“A System”, said Adam “Oh Bardin bless you, you sound just like Ransey!”

“It’s true”, said Bardin “Anything else would be anarchy”.

“Mealtimes are a good time for everyone to all meet together and have a good gossip anyway”, said Hillyard “Don’t you lot do that?”

“Only at the Master’s ceremonies”, said Victor “And we don’t gossip”.

“What ceremonies?” said Joby.

“The first one is at dawn”, said Victor “A drum is banged and we all assemble outside to worship the sun”.

“What if it don’t come out?” said Joby, with an Englishman’s understandable distrust of the weather ever doing what it’s supposed to do.

“What other sort of ceremonies are there?” said Adam.

“And do you slaughter animals?” Kieran shouted from the doorway.

“Oh Patsy really”, Adam sighed “We were questioning him just fine then”.

“And I suppose I can’t say anything can I?” Kieran exclaimed “Not after the great black pudding massacre you all did!”

“We’ve only done it once”, Victor stammered “At a ritual, w-we made cakes out of honey and goat’s blood. B-but it’s only what a lot of top-class restaurants do all the time, w-well similar sort of things anyway. That’s what Our Master says”.

“Sounds quite a wag does your master”, said Hillyard.

“He likes a joke”, Victor smiled for the first time “He’s a bit of a prankster really”.

“So I’ve heard”, said Kieran.

“If that film of him I saw was meant to be a joke”, Bardin blurted out “Tell him I wasn’t impressed. That sort of thing used to get done all the time at the Cabaret of Horrors!”

Kieran’s presence was clearly agitating Victor, so they let him go soon after, with a clear warning to stay away from their goats. Over the next couple of days gifts were delivered to the Indigo, both wanted and unwanted. The unwanted was a pack of playing-cards bearing illustrations of mutilated animals. Kieran chucked them on the stove, but he did say that he had doubts that these were really from Crowley. A gift of a case of whisky the following day was more in Crowley’s line, accompanied by a note from him, in which he said he had a “craving” to “converse affably” with Kieran at the ‘Blue Dial’ late the following evening. He would appreciate it if Kieran came alone, or if that wasn’t feasible with just one other person. The note was signed “Saint E A Crowley, King of Ireland”.

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