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By Sarah Hapgood

Joby said it was absolutely essential that Kieran appear at the dinner-table, if only to get some proper food inside him. Julian had finally had his cigar-fix, so was feeling more benign (for Julian anyway), and merely asked caustically if Kieran required a cushion to sit upon.

“No I’m used to having a sore arse, Julian”, Kieran replied, shamelessly.

“What penances are you going to give us, Kieran?” said Hillyard.

“Oh nothing too extreme“, Kieran smiled “Perhaps a couple of onerous tasks that’s all”.

“Be like a normal working day for me then”, said Hillyard.

“I’ll get me violin out shall I?” said Joby.

“I suppose I’d better get it as well, Absolution I mean”, said Bardin “I may not have fired any shots, but I did order it, and I was up there when it all happened”.

Kieran was so touched by this that he wanted to jump up and hug Bardin, but he knew this would get in the way of the food being served, so he remained seated.

“Can you make sure Bardy’s onerous tasks are not in the galley though, Kieran?” said Bengo “Only he gets me all stressed when he helps us out in there”.

“You can rely on Kieran to be fair”, said Lonts, as though this was the final word on the subject.

“Unlike someone else we could mention”, said Adam.

“Oh be quiet, you mad old fairy”, said Julian “Anyone would think that scrounging a box of cigars was the most heinous crime imaginable!”

“These sausages are good, Ad”, said Hillyard.

“Yes, a lady in the village makes them herself”, said Adam.

“I bet that’s like a scene from a horror film”, said Kieran.

“Kieran!” said Joby, who had warned him beforehand to not say anything that could possibly rile Julian this evening.

“I want to make sure of something”, said Ransey “When the work is finished here, that we are still heading due south?”

“Yep”, said Hillyard “In the direction of the Bay. Kieran can do us all Absolution on the way”.

After supper Umbert played with the wireless set, but only succeeded in digging up a very faint broadcast with barely any words discernable.

“Turn it up as far as you can”, said Julian.

“Righto”, said Umbert.

“Hold on”, said Adam, after a little while of craning to hear what was being broadcast “I’m sure that’s from the Weather Rock. It sounds like one of their broadcasts. The Weather Rock is on the east coast, so that would explain why it sounds so distant”.

“Something about a missing ship”, said Umbert “A rescue ship has been sent out to look for it”.

“Keep it on that channel” said Bardin “That sounds like it could be vaguely interesting”.

The following morning the workmen astonished everybody by turning up promptly at 8 o’clock sharp. This was surprising because so far they seemed to have adopted a leisurely policy of “you’ll see us when you see us”. Adam had still been in bed, and was grumpy and flustered at being hauled out of it to make them all mugs of strong, sweet tea.

Some of the Indigo-ites escaped from the ensuing racket by taking out the horses and goats to graze on the hillside. Bardin and Kieran retreated to the main deck with a couple of newspapers gleaned from the village store.

“This is ridiculous”, said Bardin, impatiently turning the pages “It feels like we haven’t been gone 6 days, let alone 60 years. Everything’s just the same! Even the money hasn’t changed!”

“Be grateful for that one, or we’d be in trouble“, said Kieran “Anyway, there are some major differences, you just have to look for them. The City’s finally been rebuilt for one thing”.

“Where did you find that out?” said Bardin.

“Page 5”, said Kieran “There’s been a big trade exhibition on there recently. Oh don’t look at me in bafflement, I haven’t got me head in the clouds all the time you know!”

“Hey, you two!” Joby suddenly galloped up onto the deck. He looked bouncy and animated.

“Joby?” said Kieran, in amusement.

“What’s got into you?” said Bardin to Joby “Yesterday Mutton Broth said you had been doing a jig, and now you look like somebody’s given you money!”

“A man can look cheerful can’t he?” said Joby.

“Yes, but not usually you!” said Kieran “This is really out of character”.

“Oh very funny”, said Joby “Umbert’s been on the wireless again. Got a clearer channel this time”.

“And?” said Bardin, getting to his feet.

“That WAS the Weather Rock yesterday”, said Joby.

“Yes we know”, said Kieran “We figured that out last night”.

“You still don’t get it”, said Joby “IT WAS BUSKIN!!!”

“It can’t be“, said Kieran “Not after all these years”.

“It is I tell yer!” said Joby “Adam had a good listen. So did I. It’s him alright”.

“Buskin?” said Bardin “Wasn’t he the old man you stayed with all those years ago when you first arrived in this time?”

“That’s the one”, said Joby “He lived in this crazy old house on the Weather Rock. He did all the weather forecasts and the shipping news”.

“He was very kind to us”, Kieran recalled “Took us in and gave us shelter when we were really on our uppers”.

“And when we got you back from being beaten up by Angel at The Loud House”, said Joby.

Bardin hastily scanned the date at the top of the newspaper he was holding, even though he had already done so several times.

“No, we are 60 years ahead”, he said “I thought for a minute we had time-slipped backwards”.

“Gawd don’t say that”, said Joby “I wouldn’t wanna go through Kieran being President again!”

“Neither would I!” said Kieran.

They went below deck, listened in on the wireless set, and waited impatiently for the others to get back from grazing the animals. When everyone was finally gathered together in the dining-room, a meeting was hastily convened.

“This is fantastic news”, said Adam “In both senses of the word. Dear old Buskin!”

“I don’t get it at all”, said Julian “Does that mean he’s like us? Perhaps it’s a descendent who sounds like him?”

“Let’s go and find out”, said Bardin, as though this was a simple matter of popping next door.

A terrific shout of support went up for this one, except from Bengo.

“You said we’d go back to the Bay”, he fretted “You promised!”

“And we will”, said Bardin, putting his arm around him “But this is too incredible to ignore. We’ve got to go and find out what’s what”.

“And find out about those missing ships”, said Umbert “What that’s all about”.

“Ships plural?” said Julian “It was one yesterday”.

“There’s been a development”, said Umbert “The rescue ship that was sent out has disappeared as well”.

“Good grief” said Adam “Shades of The Bermuda Triangle”.

“And there’s something else you might want to know”, said Umbert “The first ship that went missing was sailing to the west coast of The New Continent!”

“Curioser and curioser”, said Adam.

“We definitely have to go and find out”, said Bardin.

“Which route will we take?” said Ransey.

“I hope you’re not going to suggest the northern one again?” said Hillyard.

“Not the bleedin’ Sea of Torment again!” said Joby.

“We’ll go south”, said Bardin “The Horn of Wonder isn’t a brilliant route, but it’s the lesser of two evils and we’ve done it before”.

Tudde appeared in the doorway, unshaven and unkempt. He looked upon the raucous scene like the spectre arriving at the feast.

“Oh you’re back are you?” said Hillyard.

“You didn’t come after me!” said Tudde, accusingly.

“Sorry old love”, said Adam “We didn’t realise it was a game!”

“You were hoping we’d come and find were you?” said Bardin.

“We’ve got to get rid of the tavern!” Tudde bleated, completely unaware that the plot-line had moved on.

“I thought you were doing that”, said Bardin.

“Watch out for the Cyanide Sisters whilst you’re up there!” said Joby.

“We’ve had a change of plan”, Bardin explained to Tudde “A SIGNIFICANT change of plan. We’re sailing to the east coast. There’s stuff going on there … well let’s just say there’s stuff going on there”.

“Which is rather more enthralling than an inn full of thugs”, said Adam “But then again, most things would be!”

“Particularly ones that shoot at us”, said Hillyard.

“But”, Tudde protested “I thought you were gonna help me in cleansing the area. I assumed …”

“Yes”, said Bardin “You assumed. Probably best in future if you find out what WE want to do next, and not automatically take it for granted that we’ll follow you into the scum-infested wilderness like sheep!”

“But it’s an evil area!” said Tudde.

“Yes it is”, said Joby “And we’ve seen enough of it!”

“Toppy”, said Bardin “Break out the gin. We’ve all got some serious planning to do!”


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