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For the past two evenings the Marquis de Sade had been haunting the back room of the ‘Night Jar’, a small but hospitable inn on the shore, a small distance to the north of Magnolia Cove. It was popular in the area for its live music sessions, when anyone who had any kind of musical instrument at all, was welcome to go along and join in.
Sade took advantage of the densely-packed rooms and the general well-meant hullabaloo to sit and watch people. His anonymity wasn’t quite as great as eh would have wished though. His self-imposed isolation, his reluctance to speak to anyone, and his fishy-eyed stare had already caused comment among the bar-staff.
“What do you make of that one in the corner?” said one of the barmaids, during a rare brief lull.
“Makes me shudder”, said her fellow barmaid “There’s something about him, the way he stares but hardly ever speaks”.
“Perhaps he’s shy”, said the first barmaid, who was intrigued by the short, blonde, rather peculiar-looking stranger.
“You go and serve him then!” said her friend.
The first barmaid took a tray over to the corner and asked him coyly if there was anything else he would like. Sade didn’t speak, but he pushed a wad of money across the table at her.
Later that evening, as the ‘Night Jar’ was slowly bringing its business to a close, the air was rent by a woman’s scream. A short while later was a shout of “there he is!” as Sade ran across the garden at the back of the building. Someone fired a gun. The bullet grazed Sade’s leg. He cried out, but with a supreme mental effort honed during his days of active service as an officer in the French army, dragged himself through the snow, and into the woods that eventually led to Starhanger.
“Look at him, like the proverbial cat with the cream”, said Julian, earlier that evening, sitting at one end of the long dining-room table, with Crowley at the other end “He thinks he’s got us all under his thumb”.
“If you carry on like that”, said Adam “He’ll know he has! I’m amazed at you, Jules, letting him get to you like this. Can’t you see how he likes it? It feeds his own monumental self-image. It would be much better to simply ignore him”.
“I can’t”, said Julian “He infuriates me too much!”
“I foolishly thought it would be a good idea to have us all eat together like this”, said Adam “As we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. But on top of your gnashing your teeth at Crowley, I’ve got Hillyard practically threatening to disembowel Codlik!”
Hillyard had volunteered to carve the turkeys on the sideboard, and was irritated when Codlik offered to do the same. They were now working on one each, with Hillyard glaring menacingly at him as he sliced up the meat.
“Hillyard won’t do that”, said Julian.
“I’m not so sure”, said Adam “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry with somebody before, not even you!”
“This could be quite a nice house really couldn’t it?” said Bengo.
“Are you crazy!” Bardin snapped.
“I think what Bengo means is that this could be a very nice house”, said Adam “If one could ignore all the things that have gone on in it”.
“And which are still going on”, Ransey darkly pointed out.
“Bengo was making an objective observation”, said Adam.
“Yes”, said Bengo “That’s exactly what I was doing!”
Bardin sighed and stabbed at a slice of turkey on his plate. Further down the table Joby was talking to Thetis.
“What do you keep in that handbag?” said Joby, who had noticed that Thetis never went anywhere around the house without a rather prim little handbag hanging over her arm “You seem even more attached to it than women usually are to their bags!”
Thetis opened it to disclose a small pearl-handled pistol lying on a lace handkerchief.
“Is that to keep Crowley under control?” said Joby.
“It’s loaded with silver charms”, said Thetis “It’s to ward off demons, not humans”.
“Where Crowley’s concerned it’s hard to know the difference!” said Joby.
“You seem to know a lot about Aleister’s life”, said Thetis “You must have heard about the experiments he made at Boleskine House?”
“Raising the dead?” said Joby “Yeah, but that was a heck of a long time ago”.
“When one lives with Aleister one has to be prepared for all eventualities at all times”, said Thetis.
“Yeah, I can imagine!” said Joby.
“What are you all doing in my house?”
“Monsieur de Sade, we meet again!”
Sade limped into the main hallway, after having almost hacked the front door in with a wood-chopper. Adam had ran to open the door before he destroyed it completely, and had shown him into the hall.
By now everyone had gathered on the marble floor to witness this historic homecoming. It was late at night, and Sade had dragged himself through the snow for some considerable distance, feeling like a wounded animal. They stood in anticipatory silence, and watched s the French aristocrat limped amongst them, indignant at this mass invasion of his territory.
“Donatien!” went up an hysterical cry from the dining-room doorway “My lord has returned!”
“We really should start thinking about keeping her locked up!” said Julian.
Madame de Sade was almost delirious at finding her beloved husband had returned. She rushed at him and then exclaimed even more when she realised he was wounded. Sade though seemed to have his mind on other things. He limped towards the big ground-floor room at the front of the house.
“We don’t have them in there anymore”, said Adam, referring to the young prisoners they had liberated “We’ve sent them home”.
“To make room for you”, said Bardin, and he ordered Sade to be shackled to one of the beds.
“You can’t do this!” cried Madame de Sade “He is wounded, can’t you see?”
“Thetis, keep her out of the way for the time being”, said Adam.
“Why me?” said Thetis.
“Because you’re the only other woman here”, said Adam.
“That’s a matter of opinion”, said Thetis.
“Cheeky little bitch!” said Adam.
Madame de Sade was practically raving by now. Thetis punched her on the jaw and sent her sprawling backwards towards the foot of the main stairs.
“I didn’t mean like that!” said Adam.
“You’re lucky it’s only a flesh wound”, said Hillyard, as he helped to fasten Sade to a bed “If it had gone deep we’d have had to get the hacksaw out!”
“Merde!” Sade spat.
“Oh that’s nice innit!” said Joby “You try and help some people …”
Finia ducked in amongst them with a bowl of water, some disinfectant, and a small pair of scissors. He began to snip away at the material covering Sade’s wounded leg.
“Where are you from, originally?” Sade demanded to know of him.
“Husgalonghi”, said Finia.
“Don’t speak to him, Finia!” said Julian.
Finia tutted and rolled his eyes.
“How did you get this wound?” said Adam “You might as well tell us. We’ll get it out of you eventually, and we’re all that’s protecting you from the person who did it I expect”.
“It was the landlord of the ‘Night Jar’”, Sade winced “A tavern by the sea, to the north of here”.
“Oh him!” said Josh, from the back of the room “He’s a complete nutter he is!”
“Why did he try and shoot you?” said Adam.
“A stupid misunderstanding”, said Sade “Another stupid whore who won’t honour her agreements, they are the bane of my life!”
“What did you do to her?” said Adam.
“Nothing”, said Sade.
“I find that extremely hard to believe!” said Adam.
Finia poured a liberal dose of disinfectant onto Sade’s wound. Sade screamed.
“I paid her for sex”, he gasped “And she refused … after I had started”.
“How do you mean?” said Joby.
“How did you want sex?” said Bardin.
“The only true way”, said Sade.
“He wanted buggery”, Bardin sighed “She probably bottled out”.
“She made a stupid fuss”, said Sade “She started screaming”.
“It can be very painful if one’s not relaxed about it”, said Adam.
“Monsieur de Sade”, said Crowley, who had been trying to inveigle himself to the front of the crowd, in order to finally get an introduction to the most notorious Frenchman in history “We meet at last. My name is Aleister Crowley. I have worked for you on occasion”.
“The English pornographer”, Sade sneered.
Crowley was quite shaken at having himself dismissed in this way.
“I’ve read your books”, Crowley rallied “They bored the arse off me!”
Adam decided to step out of this little nest of vipers for a while, and gestured at Joby to follow him.
“Where’s Patsy?” he asked, when they were at the foot of the stairs.
“He must be around here somewhere”, said Joby “Kieran! Kieran!”
Whilst all the hullabaloo had been going on Kieran had taken one of the resident fur coats and gone up to the top of the house, to the balcony that had given the house its name. There he met Angel.
“What do you want?” said Angel “I’m very busy at the moment”.
“I don’t doubt that at all!” said Kieran “I want that door opened up in the cellar. I can’t wait around forever and play Crowley’s games, I want it freed up now”.
“Oh you want, you want, so we all have to do, is that it?” Angel sneered.
“Angel”, Kieran took a step towards him, but he slunk back into the shadows of the bell-tower which adorned the top of the house.
“Keep your hands to yourself”, Angel growled “You’re always going around pawing people! What do you wanna go down there for anyway? I had enough of that place when you had me shot that time …”
“That’s exactly it”, said Kieran “Don’t you see? If Hell is allowed to push itself to the surface then it will consume the whole world, and it’ll affect everybody, including you! It could alter all the natural laws of the Universe, there won’t be any hiding place from it, not for me or you!”
“Alright, don’t go on”, said Angel, who was now gnawing at his own knuckles “I’ll think about it”.
“What the blazes is there to think about!” Kieran exclaimed.
They heard voices on the stone steps that came up to the balcony. Angel vanished before Adam and Joby reached the top.
“It’s fucking freezing up here”, said Joby “He’s been here hasn’t he? Angel?”
“Let’s go downstairs”, Kieran steered an angry Joby back down the steps.
“I was only talking to him”, Kieran added when they reached the corridor at the bottom.
Joby looked as though he was going to punch Kieran, but Adam managed to intervene.
“There has been quite enough hollering and punching going on in this house this evening”, he said “Was it about the door in the cellar, Patsy?”
“Where Crowley’s concerned I’m starting to feel like a beetle being wound slowly round a nail”, said Kieran “I guess I wanted to show him he’s not the only one with dark influence round here”.
“What a very silly thing to say!” said Adam.
“Do you want to spend the rest of the winter in this focking house?” said Kieran “Whilst the outside world slides nearer to the abyss?”
“Of course not”, said Adam “You’ll just have to make allowances for me that’s all, I’m very wary about making deals with Angel”.
“So am I”, said Kieran “And ordinarily I wouldn’t, but I’m starting to feel we have no choice!”
“I keep worrying you’re gonna blow your ear off with that thing, Bardy”, said Bengo, as Bardin once more put his gun under his pillow.
“I know what I’m doing!” said Bardin, climbing into bed next to him “Try and get some sleep”.
“Bardy”, said Bengo “I just wanted to say, in case I don’t get the chance again, that you’re the best clown the world has ever seen, and I admire you very much”.
“You’re the best actually”, Bardin squeezed his hand “The tops”.
Bardin kissed him.
And then it started up again, that hideous, unnerving, shrieking sound. The Ghoomers were on the move once more.
Joby woke up with a start.
“Oh God!” he cried “We’re still in this fucking house!”
Tamaz tried to crawl out from the middle of them. Joby pulled him back.
“No you must let me join in”, said Tamaz.
“Join in what?” said Joby.
“Mieps has got a crossbow”, said Tamaz “He’s going to use it to get the Ghoomers!”
“Where the fock did he get a crossbow?” said Kieran, who was struggling to get dressed in a hurry.
“One of the out-houses”, said Tamaz.
Mieps stalked the Ghoomers through the upper regions of the house, down dark corridors which the others had avoided as sleeping accommodation. He got one of them full-on as it emerged from a service staircase. He found the other vomiting over a slice of the meat which had been laced with rat-poison. He felt it was almost embarrassingly easy to get that one.
The bodies were buried that very night out in the snow-covered grounds. Afterwards everyone was dosed with cocoa and brandy, and the normal business of the night was resumed once more.
“What on earth are you doing in here?” said Adam, before breakfast the next morning “Food is kept in here!”
Mieps was rogering Bengo in the meat-larder. Adam pulled Mieps away.
“I know you’re still very excited after last night”, said Adam “But that’s no excuse. Now go and chop some wood. And as for you, young man …”
“He used to do it to me all the time back at the Castle, he used to get in the laundry-room”, said Bengo, breathlessly trying to pull his breeches back up “Oh you won’t tell Bardy, will you, please?”
“I sent you in here to fetch some sausages”, said Adam “Now get on with it. Everybody’s going to need breakfast after last night!”
Julian came into the kitchen with Tamaz.
“Where’s that hysterical French woman gone?” said Julian.
“I have no idea”, said Adam “Presumably she’s with her husband. It’s quite alright, she can’t help him escape, he’s well chained up”.
“But she’s not with him”, said Julian “He’s up there now, bawling that he wants his nappy changed or something, and of her there is no sign”.
“She’s playing cards with Crowley”, said Hillyard, pouring himself some tea.
“Oh he’s oozing over her now is he?” said Julian “That man’s like a bloody disease the way he infects everybody!”
“Missus likes playing cards”, said Bengo.
“And the divine Mr Crowley was considered to be the best whist player of his generation”, said Adam.
“Yes alright!” said Julian.
“He also won a chess blue at Cambridge I believe”, said Adam.
“Adam!” said Julian “This is bloody rich isn’t it? She wails on about her poor persecuted ‘Usband, and then as soon as he reappears she abandons him for Crowley! Oh the opera had it right indeed, women are fickle!”
“Monsieur de Sade is a lot to cope with in person”, said Adam “After all, she stood by him loyally whilst he was safely locked up in prison, and divorced him as soon as he was let out!”
“You can’t blame her can you!” said Joby.
Bardin came in from outside, accompanied by Farnol.
“I’m taking all us juniors out for a short while”, said Bardin (he was referring to himself, the other clowns, Tamaz, Toppy and Hoowie) “After breakfast, we’re going for a walk down to the boathouse by the lake”.
“What boathouse?” said Joby “What lake come to that?”
“It’s what we’ve heard referred to as The Pond”, said Bardin.
“Only it’s fucking big, man!” said Farnol.
“It’s down beyond the trees on the south side of the grounds”, said Bardin.
“Well, is it absolutely necessary that you take Bengo with you?” said Adam.
“Yes”, said Bardin “He needs fresh air, he’s looking peaky”.
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