Go back to previous chapter
“Well what a bleedin’ waste of time that was!” said Joby, walking into the bedroom at the ‘Blue Dial’ which he had previously shared with Julian “We sit around down there all evening, and the bastard doesn’t show up!”
“I expect he’s biding his time”, said Kieran, sitting down on the edge of the bed and beginning to get undressed “He must have felt it didn’t suit him to make a grand entrance down there”.
“Tosser”, said Joby “Him I mean, not you”.
“Still, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the evening was it?” said Kieran.
“Not with you, no”, said Joby “But I dunno, it might be old age or summat, but I don’t enjoy going out much these days. When you see some of the ones down there I realise why I like living on a boat in the middle of nowhere!”
“Ach, civilisation can have it’s drawbacks, that’s for sure”, said Kieran.
They both climbed into bed and turned down the lamp. They were just beginning to get mellow when there was the rustle of a key in the lock of the door that communicated with the next room.
“I have a feeling this might be our man”, Kieran whispered.
“He picks his bleedin’ moments don’t he!” said Joby.
A tall, well-built figure glided into the room. Joby had only ever seen pictures before a middle-aged bald Crowley with a demonic stare, the youthful, handsome Crowley was a pleasant surprise by contrast. The stare was still disconcerting, but it was leavened by a young complexion and a mop of luxuriant brown hair. He was wearing a fleece-lined dressing-gown and a black patent leather slippers with gold buckles on them.
Crowley didn’t speak, he was enjoying his role of Byronic midnight prowler too much to shatter the illusion with words. He approached Kieran, wilfully oblivious of Joby’s presence and leant towards him on the bed, grabbing Kieran’s leg under the eiderdown. Joby was annoyed by this blatant seduction of his partner and jumped out of bed. He grabbed the nearest weapon, an empty chamber-pot, and brandished it at Crowley, who was unfazed.
“Come into my room”, he said “It’s warmer there, I have a fire going”.
He glided out as suavely as he had glided in.
“O.K”, said Joby to Kieran “But we get dressed first”.
“Too right we do!” said Kieran.
“One little misconception I must clear up about myself before we go any further”, said Crowley, preparing glasses of absinthe in his room “I am not a Satanist. I regard such people as pathetic in the extreme. All they do is take one religion, Catholicism, and turn it inside out. I created my own religion. Thelemites have nothing whatsoever to do with Satanism”.
“Why did you ask to see me?” said Kieran, sitting on a sofa by the fire with Joby.
“We are both prophets, you and I”, said Crowley The only differences between us are that you are a prophet in a time which tolerates them, I was not. I was a prophet in a world which mocked and refused to see”.
“You became a cult figure after your death though”, said Joby.
“It was ‘cult’ you said wasn’t it?” said Crowley.
The other two laughed in spite of themselves.
“My ability to laugh at myself was always my saving grace”, said Crowley “Without it they would have destroyed me, but they didn’t! It was the drugs which destroyed me, I realised their true power only after it was too late. I am not here solely to enjoy my youth again, although Lord knows that would be an enticing enough prospect for any man, but I am still searching for answers. Why was I chosen as an instrument for transcribing the Book of the Law in Cairo in 1904 when the world didn’t want to know? I had to meet you. How can a man such as yourself choose to embody Christianity when it is such a dead, oppressive religion?”
“Only in the wrong hands”, said Kieran, thinking of Codlik and the worst members of his Church.
“We have so much in common, you and I”, said Crowley “We believe the spirit of love is all that matters, we believe one’s sexual orientations should not be persecuted, but neither do we use it as a moral crusade, we believe in the vital importance of Sex Magick, you have used your semen to vanquish evil. We lost our fathers too young. We were let down by our wives, and we are both Irish”.
“I thought you was born in Leamington Spa!” said Joby.
“I am of Irish descent”, said Crowley “A fact of which I am very proud. The English are so damn restrained sexually”.
“I wish someone’d tell Julian that!” said Joby.
“I make no secret that I want to have sex with you both”, said Crowley “That’s why I chose to meet you up here, not below with all the rabble”.
“You tended to be a bit of a jinx with people you got involved with, Aleister”, said Kieran “So many suicides and insanities were left in your wake”.
“People were always weaker than I thought”, said Crowley “It is a fact of my personality that when I lost interest in a person or a thing, that emotional severance was then total. Sometimes that was hard for them to take. To give you an example, when I was a young man I became infatuated with a married woman, an American, whom I met in Hawaii. We sailed to Japan together. We had 50 days of the most intense love and passion. I wrote a poem about it, a stanza for each day”.
(Joby instantly looked wary. He didn’t put it past Crowley to get the wretched epic out and read it to them!).
“Our parting in Yokohama was the sheerest agony”, Crowley continued “A heartbreaking experience. But almost the instant she had gone I felt a wave of relief, thank God that’s over! I thought. My emotional bruises healed quick. It’s not the same for everyone, alas”.
Joby felt himself getting quite painfully bored with Crowley. He grew drowsy with the boredom, plus the alcohol, and the heat from the fire which Kieran had stoked with more logs, complaining that it was getting cold in the room. Joby had no wish to spend half the night listening to Crowley’s musings on his past sex life, and then, even worse, spending the other half of the night trying to fend the revved-up old bastard off!
“Look, I don’t wanna be rude”, said Joby “But what do you want exactly?”
“Spiritual communion”, said Crowley “I want answers to the crippling puzzlement that I felt in my final years. An answer to a lifetime spent searching for the Truth”.
“You’re not drinking much”, said Kieran to Crowley, rejoining Joby on the sofa.
“I have painful ulcers on my tongue”, said Crowley.
“What have you been doing with it?” Joby sniggered.
“Eating shit”, said Crowley.
“Well I did ask I spose!” said Joby.
“Why?” Kieran exclaimed “Why such idiocy, Aleister?”
“To get at my inner spirit”, said Crowley “To release it, to understand it. You know that a degradation of the body can lead to an opening of the spirit”.
“Eating shit has nothing to do with the religious significance of mortifying the flesh!” said Kieran.
“Look, let’s cut the poncey-ness and put it on a level”, said Joby to Crowley “You do that stuff ‘cos you’re into sado-masochism. That’s it. Don’t try dressing it up as summat religious! Anyway, whose was it? Victor’s?”
“No, my Scarlet Woman”, said Crowley “Thetis. She is stronger than me spiritually. I prostrate myself before her. I adopt passive female role when I’m with her. Here”.
He pulled open part of his robe to reveal cigarette-burns on his flabby chest. Joby winced and vowed silently that never again would he complain about Julian’s spanking, or Kieran’s little whip, his mortifier. He also felt queasy at the thought of the ulcers on Crowley’s tongue.
“It’s depravity”, said Kieran “You’re trying to tear out your own sense of sin. You’re ashamed of the morality instilled in you as a child. And so you’re trying to banish it by sordid depravity. It doesn’t work that way. No amount of this Sadeian behaviour can banish the good from a man’s soul, not as long as he has it in him to do good anyway, and you have. Whether you like it or not. You’ll only hurt yourself more and more”.
“Haven’t you yourself used your own sexual behaviour to cow evil?” said Crowley.
“Yes, bare your arse and shame the Devil”, said Kieran “He hates the way humans enjoy lust. He knows he has no power over them then. But you’re degrading your soul, not enhancing it, and you’re degrading those of the people around you as well. And you can’t cope with it! If you could you wouldn’t have kept fleeing Cefalu and running to Paris. You vitally needed that change of scene. The stench of Cefalu was too much, even for you! You’re doing it all the wrong way. You’re doing it the Devil’s way, even if you don’t regard yourself as a Satanist. The Devil hates the enjoyment humans have in each other, but by abusing yourself and others the way you have been, you’re falling into his trap. Because like him you can’t escape your inner loathing. You can only vanquish that with love”.
“There’s no difference between what you’ve done”, said Joby “And what Sade did when he hired prostitutes to spit on crucifixes”.
“By all those things you’ve done”, said Kierna “You become more and more like the man who runs frantically on the spot but never gets anywhere …”
“The Devil possesses all the wisdom in the Universe!” Crowley suddenly thundered “The Devil had the true balance of the natural laws …”
“And he lost it all by removing himself from me!” Kieran thundered back, his voice seeming to rock the very foundations of the house in which they sat.
For a moment not a sound was heard in the room but the spitting of the logs in the fireplace. Then Kieran resumed, in a calmer voice this time.
“He lost it all, and punished himself for eternity”, he said “Because he’s afraid of love”.
Joby recalled the scene at the Winter Palace when they had found the body of Tomce the pervert, his testicles hacked off and rammed in his mouth.
“Don’t play games with the Devil, Crowley”, said Joby “It did you no good before, and it’ll do you no good again. He has his own motivations”.
“Once he stubbornly won’t face”, said Kieran.
“So he’s best avoided”, said Joby.
The hours that followed seemed endless. Kieran only tolerated it because he wanted to pump Crowley for information, abut the S&M building, plus the one Pies had disappeared into, plus the house on the rock in the wilderness they had spent that one mysterious night in before leaving Zilligot Bay. Crowley was difficult to pin down on any of it though. He was too much in need of answers himself. Somewhat predictably he was fascinated by Mieps and Tamaz, and claimed that he had always regarded himself as something of a hermaphrodite. He got his flabby boobs out again as if to illustrate this fact. By then Joby had had enough and insisted he and Kieran went to bed – in their own room. They locked the middle door behind them for good measure.
Joby and Kieran spent the night in a state of armed truce, unfortunately because Joby had remarked that he was glad Kieran didn’t get up to any of “those weird things Crowley did”, and Kieran took umbrage, as why would anyone assume he would anyway!
It was daylight when Joby woke up after a restless night. Hillyard was coming to pick them up at 9 o’clock in Hegley’s dog-cart, and so Joby got out of bed and went over to the wash-stand. On the way he was distracted by sounds of movement on the other side of the communicating door and pressed his ear up against it.
“Come through, come through”, came Crowley’s Orson-ish voice through the wood panelling.
Joby turned the key in the lock and stepped across the threshold. Crowley faced him, his hypnotic eyes ablaze with some kind of manic hidden fire. Too late, Joby took regard of his own nakedness and turned to leave, but Crowley seized him round his torso and lifted him clean off his feet. Crowley planted his mouth over Joby’s and forced his ulcerous tongue between his lips.
“Put him down!” Kieran cried from the doorway.
He flew at the entwined figures, closely followed by Hillyard, who had arrived and instantly remarked to a sleepy Kieran on Joby’s non-presence in the room.
Hillyard carried considerably more bulk than Joby and Kieran and was able to take on Crowley as an even match. He wrested Joby from his clutches and hauled him back into the other room.
”You ever attempt to do anything like that again”, said Kieran to Crowley “And no demon from Hell will be able to protect you!”
In the other room Hillyard had what he called later “a brainstorm”. He had never hit anyone in anger in his entire life but he found himself slapping Joby. Joby meantime screamed to be released, and when he was he was violently sick into the bowl on the washstand.
“Now he’s calmed down I think he’s more shocked by Hillyard hitting him than anything else”, said Kieran.
He was sitting at the bottom of the stairs at Indigo Towers, drinking a bowl of coffee with Julian and Bardin. Bardin was sitting up a couple of steps behind them and was watching them both like an anxious spectator at a tennis-match.
“For some God knows what reason, Hillyard has always been besotted with Joby”, said Julian “I cannot for the life of me understand why, when you consider that Joby with-held his sexual favours from him even longer than he did with you!”
Bardin gave a chirrup of agony, recalling how he had also done the same with Bengo.
“Anyway this might all be for the good”, said Julian “It might lead to a tamer Joby, no more of that surliness and grumpiness which is so much his hallmark”.
“I hope not”, said Kieran “It wouldn’t be the same! I’ll go back and see how he is now”.
“Yes, and tell him if he doesn’t stop his dying swan act”, said Julian “I’ll really give him arse-burn!”
Kieran went into the library where Joby was lying on the sofa in his underwear, and had been ever since he got home.
“We’re going to have to get Hillyard in here”, said Kieran “You lads make it up”.
“As long as he promises not to have another brainstorm”, said Joby “I kept trying to tell him I wanted to be sick, but he wouldn’t have it! He was lucky I didn’t throw up all over him!”
Kieran despatched Tamaz to find Hillyard. Tamaz had been posted outside the door to “take messages”, and protested strongly about not being allowed in to comfort Joby. As a parting-shot he added that he was treated like a worm by everybody.
In spite of this Hillyward was dug up from the hold, where he had retreated to on returning home. Hollow-eyed with grief he came over to the house to see Joby, who greeted him lying on his cushions like a Roman emperor.
“Are you alright, mate?” Hillyard asked, looking sorrowfully down on him.
“Yeah”, Joby grunted.
“I dunno what came over me you know”, said Hillyard.
“Don’t worry about it”, said Joby “It’s being made to kiss Crowley that got to me! I haven’t been able to eat all day, what with knowing what else has been in his mouth!”
“Yeah, his bird must be a weird ‘un mustn’t she?” said Hillyard “Your nausea’ll pass though. I got a bit like that after all that with the Wang Man. It passes”.
There was a commotion outside the door. Kieran, who had been sitting discreetly a short distance away, went to see what it was all about. Tamaz was having a fit at Bengo, who had innocently appeared with a pot of tea for Joby.
“That’s it, that’s the last straw!” said Tamaz “He gets to see Joby and I’m still shut out like a stay dog!”
“Tamaz!” Joby shouted.
Tamaz ducked round Kieran and ran across the room, flinging himself on Joby in a rather theatrical manner.
“Yeah o.k”, said Joby, patting him whilst trying to get himself into a sitting-up position “Calm down now, calm down”.
Aleister Crowley, and his adoring minion, Victor, turned up at Indigo Towers late that afternoon. Joby had been playing draughts with Lonts on the forward deck when he saw them arrive in a hired dog-cart. Crowley was extravagantly dressed in a sort of mock-Oriental costume. Victor, aka the Great God Pan, paled into insignificance beside him.
“Who the fuck does he think he is, the Sultan of Brunei!” said Joby.
Having no wish to encounter Crowley twice in one day Joby retreated down to the galley, and insisted Lonts and Kieran go down with him. Bardin left the sloop and went over to see what Crowley wanted. Adam followed him.
“How absolutely fascinating”, said Crowley, gazing at Bardin’s face “What terrible accident there must have been in the laboratory to cause such deformity prior to your being hatched”.
Bardin was rendered speechless by such rudeness, even though he’d encountered far worse in his life. For once Hoowie made a welcome distraction. He came out of the kitchen at the house and broke into a cackle on seeing Crowley.
“Are you the guy who likes eating shit?” he said.
“Bardin, take Mr … er … Crowley into the library and introduce him to Julian will you?” said Adam “I’ll remove Hoowie from the scene as it were”.
Adam took Hoowie down to the galley and instructed Joby to find him something to do.
“Oh wot!” Joby exclaimed “It’s already crowded enough down here as it is!”
“Let him help Lo-Lo peel the potatoes”, said Adam.
“God, it’s gonna look like work-therapy hour at the local nuthouse!” said Joby.
“Nonsense”, said Adam.
He turned to Kieran, who was sat at the bottom of the galley steps, drinking tea.
“You’re not coming over are you, Patsy?” Adam asked.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea”, said Kieran “I need more time to recover from our last meeting”.
“Very wise”, said Adam “One needs all one’s psychic forces intact when dealing with him!”
“The fact is”, said Crowley, pacing around the library, watched warily by Julian, Adam, Ransey, Hillyard and Bardin, with Victor relegated to a windowseat “I am rather embarrassed, financially. I need cash, immediately”.
“Why don’t you sell some of your apparently extensive wardrobe?” said Adam “You certainly aren’t dressed like a man on his uppers”.
Crowley decided to ignore this remark. He had picked up a pack of playing cards from the mantelpiece and was flicking them restlessly.
“I once designed my own pack of Tarot cards”, he said “They were widely used too. Is Kieran not here?”
“He’s unavailable at the present time”, said Julian.
“Could I see him?” said Crowley “I dreamt about him you see. It was similar to a dream I had once before, many years ago. A Christ-like figure pinned to a table whilst vampires drank his blood, a sort of literal interpretation of the Holy Communion if you like. I’ve had a vision of Kieran being visited by the Devil in such a way, on board a ship. That has happened has it not?”
During Kieran’s Presidenting days he had allowed Angel to drink his blood, in the insane hope that it would stop him haunting other victims. This had happened on-board the Presidential yacht. It was still a bad memory for the Indigo-ites.
“You can’t see him”, said Julian “And we have no money”.
A look crossed Crowley’s face that was proof that under it all Crowley was still the essence of the spoilt only child of Victorian upper middle-class parents.
“I’ve obviously been mistaken about you”, he said, chucking the playing-cards on the table “I thought I could deal honourably with a man reared as a gentleman, like myself. You will be sorry you have crossed me. Good-day. Come, Victor”.
After the two visitors had gone Julian took the playing-cards and chucked them onto the small fire in the grate.
“What did you do that for?” said Hillyard.
“Oh don’t upset yourself, we have another pack on the sloop”, said Julian “I don’t trust him not to have sneaked something into them”.
“Runic symbols perhaps?” said Adam “As in ‘Casting The Runes’?”
“Possibly”, said Julian.
“We’re making too much of all this”, said Bardin, deciding that the atmosphere in the room had got too tense and gloomy “The man’s just a poseur, that’s all. I’ve met enough of them in my time, so I should know! He knows what a big effect image can have. But it’s all image and sleight-of-hand. He’d have made a good magician at the Cabaret of Horrors!”
“I would be inclined to agree with you”, said Ransey “If it wasn’t for … how the hell did he know about Kieran and Angel on the yacht? It all happened years ago!”
“He could have read it somewhere”, Bardin shrugged.
“No one but us lot know about it!” Ransey retorted.
“There is the possibility that Angel might have told him”, said Adam “Either that or he is genuinely clairvoyant”.
“More likely that Angel is messing around with him”, said Julian “Angel is doing a lot to cause mischief at the moment. He brought Piers and Josh into this time, so why not Crowley and Sade too? He’s probably also the one scrambling Codlik’s brains! Crowley always claimed he was able to raise demons, but this time it might well have been the demon who raised him!”
For a couple of days the most dramatic event at home was Ransey announcing that he had got a job at the bank in town. Julian asked if the bank was aware that it would be employing the world’s oldest cashier, and Hillyard expressed himself miffed that Ransey could just swan into a top position with little effort at all.
Ransey went off to work one morning looking very important, and carrying some sandwiches Adam had made for him. About half-an-hour later he had gone a plague of black cats suddenly infested the sloop, seemingly from nowhere.
“This is bloody Crowley’s doing ent it?” said Hillyard, helping Adam to chase a few of them down the long corridor with brooms “I think I’d like to assassinate him almost as much as I’d like to shoot Codlik!”
“Both eminently worthy of instant death!” said Julian, standing at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps.
Kieran appeared, carrying one of the black cats in his arms.
“Can we keep one of them?” he said “I’ve always thought we could do with a ship’s cat”.
“One of them, ONE!” said Julian “But I want the rest of this caterwauling infestation removed by the time I come home”.
Joby opened the galley door and threw out another cat by the scruff of its neck, before slamming the door again.
“Where are you going, Julian?” said Adam ”You’re not going to go hassling Ransey on his first day are you? That would be terribly unfair”.
“I’m going for a walk”, was Julian’s parting-shot.
“Cripes”, said Hillyard “Things must be bad!”
Julian had found out from Hegley where Crowley’s commune was situated. It was about a mile-and-a-half away across the fields. Julian strolled there in a leisurely fashion with his umbrella over his arm.
Crowley’s house was an ancient farmstead at the end of an overgrown lane. The house looked desolate and unloved, buried behind an unkempt garden. As Julian approached it along the lane a young man came running towards him carrying a bulging suitcase.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I was you”, said the young man as he hurried past “That jerk’s a bloody maniac!”
“Another satisfied customer evidently!” said Julian.
He used his umbrella to hack his way through the brambles up the garden path. Some distance away, behind the house, he could hear women’s voices, and assumed that yet more of Crowley’s lovers would also be inside the house. The barn-like kitchen, the only room that appeared to be on the ground floor, was conspicuously empty when he entered it though.
“Anyone home?” he called, rapping on the table with the handle of his umbrella.
He thought that Crowley’s pleas of poverty might be well-founded after all. The house contained only the bare necessities as far as furniture went, and there were no luxuries at all, not even curtains at the window. It looked like a house belonging to someone who had gradually had to sell or pawn everything they had, to ensure survival. It was also none-too clean. The cooking-pot on the stove contained the remnants of a stew that could have been considered of archaeological interest.
Julian went up the broad wooden steps at one end of the room and found himself in a bedroom that looked sordid, but at least more comfortable than the austere kitchen. This room was dominated by a huge divan-style bed littered with cast-off clothing. A painted screen obscured one side of the room. Over the bed someone had daubed in a red substance (Julian shuddered to think what) “ALYS CAN BUGGER HERSELF FOR ALL I CARE”!
Crowley emerged from behind the screen, where he had been washing himself. He didn’t look remotely surprised to see Julian there, and continued to run a damp cloth over his face. He was wearing the fleece-lined dressing-gown that he had worn at the ‘Blue Dial’.
“Who is Alys?” said Julian.
“Ah you’re reading the handiwork of one of my disgruntled young friends”, said Crowley “Not exactly a budding Michaelangelo is he! Alys is myself, my female alter-ego”.
“I might have guessed really!” said Julian.
“Usually I only assume the female role when with Thetis, my Scarlet Woman”, said Crowley “But … well we’re both men of the world, you and I, I like to be passive with my men too, if you know what I mean”.
“I would have to be a pretty dense old fruit if I didn’t!” said Julian.
Crowley laughed, almost affably.
“Ah how I admire your supreme sexual self-confidence”, he said “Of course you might not have found it so easy in my time, we had to be rather more clandestine in our pursuits”.
“Does that mean you are more at ease with your bi-sexuality these days?” said Julian, wandering over to look out of the window, which overlooked the lane.
“Inevitably so”, said Crowley “I understand even the English got round to accepting homosexuality in the end”.
“It was legalised about 20 years after you first departed this mortal coil”, said Julian “Incidentally, what has happened to you in the interim period?”
“I dearly wish I knew, old chap!” said Crowley “I keep hoping that by probing the inner recesses of my mind that I might eventually find out. But you see, I don’t trust my own judgement fully anymore. When I look back at the phenomenal work I did in the years between 1908 and 1914 I have no idea now whether what I experienced was fully real, or an illusion created by the hashish that I at first thought was so wonderful in the way it unlocked the doors in my mind”.
“Those blasted cats you sent to us this morning seemed real enough!” said Julian “How did you do that?”
“A very minor ritual”, said Crowley “A very benign psychic attack, compared to what I know can be done”.
“Is that a threat?” said Julian.
“You are a courageous man to come and see me alone in this way”, said Crowley.
“I admit I’m wary of you, and like anyone who has even a grain of commonsense I distrust you immensely”, said Julian “But you’re deluding yourself if you think I’m afraid of you, in spite of your … er … conjuring tricks”.
“We shall see”, said Crowley, with irritating smugness.
“We shall indeed”, said Julian.
A babble of voices broke out in the room below. Hoowie had followed Julian to the house and was now engaged in a rather infantile slanging-match with Victor about which of them was the more manly. Victor said Hoowie was “a girl” because of hs long hair. Hoowie in return said he couldn’t possibly accept that Victor could ever think of himself as more manly than anyone! Julian forcibly evicted Hoowie from the house.
“Thanks to you that entire visit has been a complete waste of time”, said Julian, prodding Hoowie back down the footpath with his umbrella.
“It aint my fault you couldn’t get any sense out of the fat ponce!” said Hoowie “The amount of shit he stuffs his body with I’m amazed he can be understood at all! Real shit as well as all the other stuff!”
“Don’t remind me!” said Julian “Christ, what a sordid little hole that place is! I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would choose to live that way. After all, there’s no reason why one can’t have one’s kicks in comfort”.
“Well he aint got any money has he”, said Hoowie “That jerk Victor told me Crowley earns a bit writing porn for the S&M crowd, but it all soon gets swallowed up by his commune. That lot all sponge off him and expect him to support ‘em”.
“More fool him then!” said Julian “So much for the magnificent brain he claims to possess!”
“Is this true?” Ransey exclaimed, running down the galley steps late that afternoon.
“Hello, old love”, said Adam “How was your first day?”
“Never mind that”, said Ransey, chucking his empty sandwich box onto the draining-board “Is it true Julian and Hoowie went off to Crowley’s house the minute my back was turned?”
“How on earth have you heard all that already?” said Adam “You’ve barely set foot back home!”
“Tamaz met me in the lane”, said Ransey “And told me everything”.
“Oh the little rat”, said Adam “I sometimes think we should bring back the cage for him!”
“Nah, he used to spread gossip when he was locked up in that as well!” said Joby.
“This is what’s going to happen whilst I’m out at work all day is it?” said Ransey “Anarchy and deceit will abound!”
“Nonsense”, said Adam.
Ransey turned on his way back to the stairs and said “And another thing, what’s all this about a swarm of black cats?”
“I refuse to be intimidated by him”, said Julian, sitting on the poop-deck with Ransey a few minutes later “I know that the man is basically a coward at heart, and all his hocus-pocus doesn’t change that”.
“I still think you need to tread with more caution”, said Ransey.
“Back in his own time”, said Julian “He led an expedition to climb one of the most difficult mountains in the world”.
“No small achievement”, said Ransey.
“It failed”, said Julian “Partly because the idea was ahead of it’s time, and partly due to Crowley’s abominable lack of organisational and leadership skills. As a result of which several men died through negligence on his part. He wasn’t directly responsible for their deaths, but as leader of the expedition he should have taken responsibility. The very fact that he didn’t and consistently denied he had responsibility proves to me that the man is a coward at heart, and I won’t be intimidated by him!”
Julian slammed the book he had been reading onto his deck-chair and stormed off.
Ransey was dismayed by all this. He had never taken Julian to be particularly hot-headed before, but he knew that Julian didn’t lack pride and courage, and it was these two qualities that Ransey feared might become liabilities. Julian simply refused to be cowed by a man he regarded as a “fat, spoilt, overgrown Cambridge student”. In turn, Ransey understood this, but his natural caution determined that he wasn’t prepared to go throwing challenges to Crowley until he had a more clearer measure of the man.
The following morning Ransey went off to work with grim forebodings. He told Adam that he was to send one of the others to him if anything, ANYTHING, untoward happened. Adam secretly had absolutely no intention of doing anything so inconvenient, unless it was a matter of life and death of course.
Julian retreated to the cabin to bring his log-book up to date, but was constantly distracted by Toppy who, in the process of changing the sheets on the communal bed, was being pursued by Lonts, who had control of the carpet-sweeper. In exasperation Julian ordered them both from the room.
Alone now, he sat down at his desk to try and resume work. Fingers of smoke began to billow under the cabin door. Julian stood up and watched as a form materialised in the room. It evolved into the figure of an attractive young woman, her naked body clothed only in a fur wrap.
Giving a yell of impatience Julian ransacked the desk for one of Kieran’s crucifixes. He eventually unearthed one from underneath Kieran’s Bible, and unceremoniously slammed it against the creature’s forehead. She spat, hissed, but eventually evaporated.
“What on earth’s going on in here?” said Adam, leading a posse of the others into the room “Who were you yelling at? Lo-Lo got quite alarmed”.
“Crowley’s sent over a bloody demon to get at me now”, said Julian, pouring a hefty slug of brandy into a glass.
“What kind of demon?” said Bardin.
“Some pretty little she-tart”, said Julian “To try and seduce me no doubt”.
“Eh?” said Joby.
“The silly fool obviously got his ingredients mixed-up”, Adam sighed.
“I shall go and see him”, said Kieran, heading out of the door.
“Oh no you don’t!” said Julian “Lonts, fetch him back!”
“No, Julian”, said Lonts “Kieran’ll be able to scare this awful man”.
“Joby and I will go with him”, said Adam, untying his pinny.
“Damnit, Ransey’s right”, said Bardin “This is anarchy!”
“Bardin, you make an absolutely adorable Captain”, said Adam “But trust us, we know what we’re doing”.
“Come along to the galley, Bardy”, said Bengo, taking his friend’s hand “I’ll make us some tea”.
The three of them were greeted at Crowley’s house by Thetis, his Scarlet Woman. She rose up out of the seedy debris of the kitchen like an exotic bird, dressed up in an Eastern Cleopatra-style costume. Even though she kept her physical presence from them by staying at the far end of the room, she was an overpowering sight.
“Quite a vision”, Adam whispered.
“Hm”, said Joby “Spoils it a bit when you think what she gets up to with him though don’t it!”
Kieran was ominously silent. He had felt himself spooked as they approached the house along the lane. Like Julian and Hoowie, he had heard the women’s voices behind the house, but something about it struck him as awry, not quite right, not quite real.
As the Irishman moved round the table the Scarlet Woman retreated silently to the back of the room. It felt like an optical illusion when she left, very much a case of now-you-see-her now-you-don’t.
Crowley appeared on the stairs. Adam and Joby communicated quietly with each other, and both of them separated and took a different route round the table to back up Kieran.
“Well you’ve got what you asked for, Aleister”, said Kieran “I’m here, that was one of your demands wasn’t it?”
“How very gratifying”, said Crowley, trying to sound gratifying but appearing uneasy all the same “But it’s no good now, the damage is done you see”.
“You mean you can’t call off the demons don’t you?” said Kieran “Typical of you isn’t it now? You start things and then never know how to finish them! When will you ever learn that you can’t mess around with evil in a half-arsed way! You’re not in control, and you never will be, for all your fine intelligence and charisma”.
“If it is a choice between the evil being directed at you, or rebounding to me”, said Crowley “Then I know which I prefer to happen”.
“You irresponsible maniac!” Kieran exploded.
“Come along”, said Adam “Let’s leave”.
“No I want to say one more thing first”, said Kieran “One day Crowley, the evil will get through your protection. Those ‘magic circles’ you draw round yourself aren’t completely impregnable. And if any harm happens to anyone, by God I’ll make you pay!”
Bengo had been keeping Julian in a state of calm all morning whilst The Three were out at Crowley’s house. When they returned Julian rewarded him with a little more “immoral earnings” and the clowns went off to town for lunch, reluctantly taking Hoowie with them, (at Adam’s insistence).
Hoowie teased the public all along the prom in Magnolia Cove by pretending he was a rent-boy camping it up for potential clientele. It was a relief to Bardin when they finally reached the seafood restaurant he had chosen.
“I could use him as my warm-up man”, said Farnol, when they were finally ensconced in the window with beers and menu’s.
“You’re a children’s entertainer!” said Bardin “You couldn’t have him pretending to be some bit of old loo-fluff as your warm-up man!”
“I did that once”, said Hoowie “When I was really hard-up. Gave a bloke a hand-job in a public loo for some cash”.
“Hoowie!” said Bardin, because the waitress was hovering nearby. When she had taken their order and departed he snapped “Could you embarrass me anymore than you have already!”
“I’m sure he could think of something!” said Rumble.
“I thought you said you never had to do anything like that”, said Bengo to Hoowie.
“Bengo, don’t encourage him!” said Bardin.
“Only the once”, said Hoowie “I was so ashamed I didn’t know what to do with meself afterwards”.
“You never do know what to do with yourself!” said Bardin.
“Anyway, it’s only what Bengo’s been doing to Julian this morning to earn us this nosh”, said Hoowie.
“I’ll kill you in a minute!” Bardin muttered.
“I didn’t actually do very much at all”, said Bengo “He mainly wanted to squeeze me and cuddle me”.
“Nice work if you can get it!” said Rumble.
“Yeah well Bengo is pretty squeezable aint he?” said Hoowie “You was all calling him the Butterball Clown the other day!”
A short while later the food was delivered to the table and everyone began to tuck in. Bengo noticed a shadow at the window. He looked up and found himself being watched by one of the three ugly cross-dressers that Hillyard had seen in town during the August Pier Party. The “hag” was staring lasciviously through the window at him.
“What is it?” said Bardin, as Bengo choked on a mouthful of food. He slapped him on the back.
“The f-face at the window”, Bengo gasped.
“I thought you had choked on a fishbone or something!” said Bardin “Anyway, what face? There’s no one there!”
“There was, Bardy”, said Bengo “It was like a vampire, one looking for a feed”.
“Bengo, there’s no one there”, said Bardin, and he pointed insistently at the window, which showed only the normal week-day bustle of the prom.
“Didn’t anybody else see it at all?” said Bengo, appealing helplessly to the table at large.
“Probably just someone who glanced in as they walked past”, said Rumble.
“You can’t hold it against them just for being ugly”, Farnol teased “Not everyone’s blessed with our cute looks is they!”
“Oh you’re all hopeless”, said Bengo, stabbing at his fish sulkily “With everything that’s gone on lately I don’t’ know how anyone can still insist on being sceptical!”
“Neither should you go looking for hobgoblins in every corner!” Bardin retorted.
“That’s it, I am seriously thinking of chucking in my job”, Ransey announced in the galley, when he got home that evening.
“But you’ve only been there two days!” said Adam, who was stirring a pot on the stove “You must give it a chance, old love”.
“It’s not the job that’s the problem!” said Ransey “It’s you lot! One day I’m going to come home and find you’ve all disappeared!”
“Has Freaky been tittle-tattling to you again?” said Adam.
“No, Finia told me what has happened”, said Ransey “By all accounts Crowley can’t call off this thing he’s started”.
“Well that’s Patsy’s theory anyway”, said Adam “I’ve rarely seen him as angry as he was this morning”.
Joby, who had been chopping celery morosely, muttered something unintelligible.
“What are we having for dinner?” said Ransey.
“Mushroom soup”, said Adam “It’s one of Hegley’s recipes”.
“I dread to think what’s in it then!” said Ransey.
“The mushrooms are perfectly sound”, said Adam “Hillyard took Lo-Lo and Freaky mushrooming in the fields this morning. The most toxic thing in it is the small dollop of cooking sherry left over from the hefty swig Joby took from the bottle when we got home earlier! Why don’t you go up and have a little chat with Julian until it’s ready? And try not to upset each other too much!”
“I dread to imagine what might happen next!” said Ransey, stamping up the galley steps.
“He’s dreading a lot at the moment isn’t he!” said Adam.
What did happen next exceeded even the most macabre of expectations. Brother Iggy was murdered. He was found by his landlady crucified against the wall of his bedsit. His heart had been cut out and removed from the scene completely.
Go forward to next chapter
Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site