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“Why are we still here?” Hoowie wailed “Why haven’t we left yet?”
“Because I thought I’d be kind and considerate”, said Bardin, who was in the middle of shaving himself “And let everyone have a lie-in. Why are you so jumpy anyway?”
“It’s because of that place being a mental hospital”, said Hoowie.
“We don’t actually KNOW it’s a mental hospital”, said Bengo “We’re just guessing”.
“What’s the matter, Hoowie?” said Bardin “Frightened I’m going to have you put away at last?”
“That’s just it!” said Hoowie “You’ve been threatening to for years, and now’s your chance. Lonts told me once what they do to people in those places. He was doped up to the eyeballs, and when Kieran and the others finally rescued him he was found strapped to a big wheel …”
“Oh pipe down”, said Bardin, rinsing his face “If I was really going to have you put away I’d have done it long ago”.
“Bardy was only ever joking, Hoowie”, said Bengo “He has a cruel sense of humour sometimes. Nobody knows that better than me”.
“I prefer ’abrasive wit’ myself”, said Bardin.
“Abrasive twit more like”, said Bengo.
“Go and sit quietly in your cabin”, Bardin ordered Hoowie “And stop thinking daft thoughts … if you can”.
Bengo gently escorted Hoowie to the door.
“I’ll come and find you later, Hoowie”, he said “And we’ll have a nice little chat”.
“Don’t go indulging him when he’s being stupid like that”, said Bardin, when Hoowie had gone. He gestured at the mess made by the shaving-tackle “And clear all that up”.
Bengo picked up the skirts of his dressing-gown and dropped an exaggerated curtsey.
It didn’t matter what anybody said to him, Hoowie was convinced that Bardin was going to linger at this place, although as the rest of the morning progressed he did at least discard his fear that Bardin was going to take the opportunity to have him put away.
“Why the blazes would Bardin want us to stop here?” said Julian “It’s a grim old institution run by a grim old man who seems every bit as bonkers as his patients if you ask me! What is there that’s so enticing to keep Bardin here?” “He likes a puzzle”, said Hoowie, sullenly.
“Yes, and this isn’t much of a one!” said Julian “NO ONE’S interested in lingering here. Bardin has said he wants to get round the North before the worst of the Winter sets in, and Kieran - thank God - has shown no interest in trying to Save the inmates! You know what this is all about don’t you? It’s that deranged Yeti of Adam’s filling your head with tales of his time in the nuthouse. You’re too impressionable to go around listening to such stuff”.
The ship’s engines suddenly started up. They were on the move again. Hoowie’s face was a picture of astonishment.
“Oh ye of little faith”, said Julian.
Bengo came running and shouting down the corridor towards their cabin.
“Hoowie, come and look at this”, he shouted, barging into the room “It’ll set your mind at rest”.
“What is it?” said Hoowie.
“Just come and look”, Bengo grabbed him and pulled him out of the room. Julian followed at a more leisurely pace.
“Why didn’t we see it last night?” Joby was saying, when they joined him and the others up on deck.
“Why should we have seen it?” said Kieran, with a shrug “It was dark, and the bit of the house we saw the old man in was intact. All we saw from the outside was a large dark building”.
The great surprise, as they sailed slowly past the hospital, turned out to be that most of the building was in ruins! The main shell of the building was intact, which was what had fooled them when they saw it in the dark, but it had no roof, no glass in the windows, and one of the main stairways had become completely exposed to the elements.
“It may well have been a hospital once”, said Kieran “But not now”.
“The old guy was even nuttier than I thought then!” said Joby.
“Jayz, that must have been a terrible place“, said Kieran, when he and Joby were talking alone together in their cabin a short while later “I keep getting terrible glimpses of it in my head”.
“Oh behave yourself, Kieran”, said Joby “Block ’em out, don’t go down that road, or you’ll end up going all potty on me again”.
“I’m sorry Joby, I couldn’t help it”, said Kieran “The images come in unbidden. I saw it as it must have been when it was still up and running, and then when it was derelict, though not quite as derelict as it is now. They are like images of Hell”.
“Bound to be”, said Joby “Full of souls in torment”.
“Paint peeling off the walls“, said Kieran “Dark corridors, crooked stairways. I think they deliberately built the place crooked to disorientate the inmates”.
“Sounds like the Loud House”, said Joby “That had touches of that to it. The whole place was like some crazy puzzle”.
“And I saw an image of a woman lying in one of the rooms”, said Kieran “Her face was completely bandaged up, nothing exposed, not even the eyes”.
“A gorgon?” said Joby “The old man spoke about gorgons. At the time I thought it sounded like he was speaking from first-hand knowledge of ’em. Did they have gorgons kept up here do you think?”
Kieran got up and walked restlessly around the room.
“Joby”, he said “If I start talking wildly about going back there, ignore me. Something’s trying to pull me back there”.
“Probably the old nutter we spoke to”, said Joby “Don’t worry, I won’t let you go”.
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