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Codlik and Glynis were married, had been so now for all of a week. This trip to Hillyard's new kingdom was in effect their honeymoon.
"This is splendid news", said Adam, appearing behind Julian "I must kiss the bride".
"What about the groom?!" Julian muttered.
Adam nudged him in the ribs as he walked past.
"Better make that one room to get ready", said Hillyard to Bertha, who had also appeared in the hall.
"I'll arrange a cold supper in the dining-room too", said Bertha "The travellers must be hungry".
"A good idea", said Adam "Glynis, why don't you take off your jacket and make yourself at home? I can't think where the others have got to".
The Others were located pretty soon after, all hiding behind the door connecting the Great Hall to the stone corridor which led to the Yellow Salon, all of them spying on the arrivals but not wanting to come out and greet them. Adam ejected them into the hallway.
"You'll have to excuse our grass stains I'm afraid", he said to the visitors "We've all been on a picnic today".
"Sounds fun", said Glynis, in a painfully wistful tone. They were the first audible words she had spoken.
"We're not all here", said Adam, looking around at everyone.
"We never are", said Joby.
"Where are Freaky and Toppy?" said Adam.
"Eloped", said Joby.
Adam felt exasperated, like a games' mistress trying to organise an unenthusiastic netball-team.
"Oh stop twittering, Ada", said Julian "Anyone'd think we were entertaining Royalty, you'll be bobbing curtseys next! It's only Codpiece and Grizzle!"
"Jules", Adam sighed, as though enduring acute indigestion.
Bertha had knocked up a cold collation (or rather the cook had been woken up out of her evening nap in her favourite armchair to do it), and they all adjourned to the dining-room, where Toppy and Lilli were found standing on the table amongst the dishes, examining the ceiling at close range.
"What about a little running frieze of oranges and green leaves?" Toppy asked, earnestly.
"Very nice", said Julian, shortly "Now get off the bloody table when we're about to eat!"
Hillyard lifted Lilli off the table, accidentally exposing a considerable amount of her sheer black stockings as he did so. Codlik pursed his lips, in a combination of embarrassment and disapproval.
"Marriage hasn't mellowed him", Julian muttered to Adam.
"Are you staying here long?" Ransey asked Codlik, abruptly.
"If it's any longer than one night I fear for my sanity", Julian whispered.
"Oh Jules, please do try to behave", said Adam, pleadingly "I can't be the only one to behave in a civilised fashion. It's too much responsibility".
"Don't even try, old fruit", said Julian "No one expects it".
"We thought perhaps a few days", said Codlik "If that's alright with Julian".
"It's Hillyard's house, not mine", said Julian.
They had all just seated themselves when Tamaz made a grand entrance wearing his stage petticoat and corset. To Adam's dismay, Julian had given Tamaz a sly smile, as though he had mentally telegraphed him to behave as badly as possible.
"Sit down", Adam hissed.
"Where?" Tamaz barked, looking round at all the chair which were taken.
"Come and sit on my knee", said Hillyard, pulling him towards him "And Glynis, help yourself to cream. It's the real thing. Made on our estate here".
He pushed towards her a dish of the rich, thick yellow cream, the consistency of butter.
"I've given up dairy products", said Glynis, quietly, as though confessing to an embarrassing secret "It's all part of my new diet, you see".
"I don't think much of this new diet of yours, Glynis", said Adam "You've lost far too much weight in the last 8 months. It can't be good for you".
"If a fat person loses a lot of weight suddenly", said Tamaz "Their skin goes all baggy. Like me with my stretch-marks".
"Oh not them again", Finia groaned.
Glynis hastily wanted to change the subject. She didn't want to discuss diets and her weight with Tamaz in the room, particularly as Tamaz had made a point of standing with his arms akimbo, to emphasise his wasp waist. She turned to talk to Bardin, who was sitting next to her.
"Hawkefish was very upset when both you and Bengo walked out on the Little Theatre", she said "He asked me to tell you that your old jobs are still there anytime you need them".
"I appreciate that", said Bardin "But I don't think we'll be coming back".
"What about Bengo?" said Glynis "What does he feel about it?"
"Bengo does as he's told", said Bardin.
"Both professionally and personally these days", said Ransey, who was sitting on the other side of her.
"Oh I see", said Glynis "Well you have all been busy these past 8 months!"
She had been desperate to see the Indigo-ites again, had looked forward to it for some time. Since they had left Toondor Lanpin her loneliness had been acute. The summer had been almost unbearable, not helped by the Festival coming round again. Hillyard had made a brief appearance at it, in his capacity as Governor, but it had all felt horribly flat compared to the year before. Glynis yearned passionately for the old days, when they had all lived on the waterfront. The days before Kieran and Hillyard had come into their respective legacies, and the Indigo-ites had been her rumbustious, penniless neighbours. When she and Joby had worked on the allotments for food, when Kieran had done his unpaid social worker activities ... and when Tamaz had been safely locked up in the cage.
Shared experiences weld people together closer than anything else, and lack of them can destroy relationships quicker than anything else, and in these past 8 months they had moved away from her, far more so than in physical distance. Glynis was truly to be pitied at this time. She had married Codlik out of despair and already knew it was a mistake, had known it in fact from before they had exchanged the vows in the registrar's office. She was far too kind a woman to tell him that, and she was also wise enough to know that most of her mistakes were of her own doing. She should have made more of her opportunities when Tamaz was still in the cage, but she had been too afraid to push herself forward, until it was too late, and then the results had been disastrous and embarrassing.
And now here they all were assembled together, and the others were all being so kind to her. Codlik had told them that he and Glynis wanted a blessing in the chapel on the estate, and Adam had said he could arrange a belated wedding breakfast for them afterwards. He had in fact got very excited about this, and it was only Kieran and Julian who could sense that Glynis wasn't as enthusiastic about it as he was. Julian had scribbled a note and passed it clandestinely around the table to Adam.
"'CAN'T YOU SEE SHE'S DEPRESSED?'" he wrote "'YOU NEED SORTING OUT, ADA. COME AND SEE ME FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!'"
Adam had blushed violently, and instantly decided it was time Lonts went up to bed. Kieran meanwhile was sitting with his back to the french windows. He smiled at Glynis sympathetically, but it did little to alleviate her pain.
"That was fucking freezing!" Tamaz exclaimed.
He was sitting in the bath-tub Kieran had found earlier, whilst Joby washed the grass-stains off him. It was completely dark by now, and the ground-floor bathroom was lit by a single oil-lamp.
"You always need cooling down", said Joby, wringing out Tamaz's hair like a dishcloth, after having tipped a bowl of water over him.
"I could have behaved a lot worse this evening", Tamaz pouted.
"What would have been the point?" said Joby "You can see how unhappy she is. There's no point torturing someone who's already in pain".
He helped Tamaz out of the bath-tub, wrapped a towel around him and then proceeded to brush his hair for him.
"I supppose you'll fall for her out of sympathy now", said Tamaz, snidely "The poor little damsel in distress!"
"You should know better than that", said Joby, and he dealt Tamaz a whack on his rump with the hairbrush.
"That hurt!" said Tamaz.
"Well you do know better than that, don't you?" said Joby.
"Of course I do", said Tamaz, rubbing his bottom "I was just teasing you that's all, and I suppose I wouldn't blame you though, after everything I put you through with Mieps".
"Enough of that", said Joby "We're something special, you and me. I thought we'd sorted that out long since".
"We have", said Tamaz "Just don't whack me again. We're not on stage now!"
"We had a few laughs with the Indigo Players didn't we?" said Joby "I bet Glynis wouldn't have been as much fun as you were. We would've had to watch our p's and q's too much".
"Poor cow", said Tamaz "I feel sorry for her".
They went up to their room in a subdued frame of mind. When they got there they found Kieran sitting in the big bed with his elbows on his knees, reading his Bible.
"Are you on the mints again?" said Joby.
"I must have the sweetest breath in the whole district by now!" said Kieran.
"You've managed the day a lot better than I thought you would", said Joby, taking off his clothes and storing them roughly in the laundry chest "I thought you'd be suffering a lot worse than this".
"I'll probably have nightmares tonight instead", said Kieran, closing his Bible.
"Reading that stuff last thing at night I'm not surprised!" said Joby.
He and Tamaz got into the bed, with Tamaz in the middle as usual.
"Let down the curtains, Jobe", said Kieran.
Joby turned down the lamp, and then released the bed-hangings, until all three of them were enclosed in their own little world once more.
"Glynis? Glynis? What's up?" Joby called out into the darkness "Where are you?"
"What's going on?" Kieran sat up, blearily.
"Glynis is calling out", said Joby "Can't you hear her?"
There was unmistakeably the sound of Glynis's voice in the distance, coming from outside the house, crying out what sounded like "Help me!"
"What's she doing outside at this hour?" said Kieran, puzzled.
"Probably trying to get away from Codlik!" Joby grunted.
"Does she sleepwalk?" said Kieran.
"How should I know?!" Joby exclaimed "Anyway if she'd sleepwalked back on the barge, she'd have probably fallen in the river!"
"She's only been here a few hours and she's already being a bloody menace", said Tamaz, sleepily.
Joby slid out of bed and went across to the window, which he pushed open. The voice had faded away, and the garden was still and empty in the moonlight.
"I think we'd better go and check if she's in her room", said Kieran, turning up the lamp again "Codlik probably won't thank us for it, but I'm not going to be able to sleep after that until I know she's alright. You two come with me, I don't fancy walking through the house on me own at this time of night!"
"All this fuss over a few lights outside", said Glynis, pacing the room she shared with Codlik "You get this sort of thing in the countryside, it's not unusual".
"Oh yes?" said Codlik, who had been standing at the window for the past half-hour "It's usual to have people carrying lamps across the fields at 3 in the morning is it?"
"Why not?" said Glynis "There could be a cow calving somewhere for instance".
"I-I suppose so", said Codlik, uncertainly "I'm just a bit nervous that's all. I'm not used to this intense silence at night".
There was a knock on the door.
"I'll answer it", Glynis sighed.
She found Kieran standing there, holding the oil-lamp, with Joby and Tamaz behind him.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"We were gonna ask you that", said Joby.
"We thought we heard you calling for help outside", said Kieran.
"She's been in here the whole time", said Codlik, primly.
"What made you think it was me?" said Glynis, gesturing for them to come in "It could have been anyone. Perhaps one of the maids was having a nightmare".
"It sounded like you", said Joby.
"We were mistaken", said Kieran "We just wanted to check you were alright. I'm sorry if we disturbed you".
"I'm fine, really", said Glynis "Thank you for being so concerned".
They really had no choice now but to leave. Even so, Kieran felt reluctant to do so. Both he and Joby felt definite that it had been her voice they'd heard.
"What happened to your pink silk pyjamas?" said Kieran, indicating her white nightgown "You used to look like a film star in those".
"They're too big for me these days", Glynis smiled "I can't hold the bottoms up!"
"Yes, it's a shame", said Kieran "You've lost all your lovely curves".
"Well I'll have to see if I can get them back whilst I'm here", said Glynis.
"We'll fatten you up like a sacred cow!" said Tamaz.
"I really think we should all try and get some sleep", said Codlik "This is hardly an appropriate conversation for this time of night. There was no need for you all to come along here. I can look after my own wife".
"Oh yeah?" said Joby, dubiously "Putting her on starvation diets is looking after her is it?"
"I don't need to be lectured on marital conduct by you", said Codlik.
"O.K fellas, let's put the lid back on the pressure-cooker", said Kieran, holding up his hands "We're on our way, Codlik".
"Don't let him bully you, Glynis", Joby whispered, as he passed close to her on the way out "We all know what he can be like. He grins like a letterbox and tells people how to run their lives at the same time".
Glynis followed him out into the darkened corridor, and implored him, in a hushed voice, not to talk to her in such a personal way.
"Why not?" Joby hissed back "We've been friends a long time now, no matter what's happened between us".
"Yes", said Tamaz "And I happen to know you didn't come here just to have a blessing in a little country church!"
"Tamaz, don't stir it", said Joby "Or I'll give you a good hiding when we get back to our room!"
"I wasn't referring to you, actually", said Tamaz, haughtily "But the fact that she's lonely and wants to be with old acquaintances. That's everyone, not just you".
"Tamaz, you have a remarkable degree of insight at times", said Glynis.
"Doesn't he just!" said Joby "When he took me hostage he knew every possible way he could torment me, and he still does!"
"It's his speciality", said Kieran, fondly.
Codlik appeared in the doorway, like a mobile stopwatch. The others retraced their steps through the house.
"When we were talking to her just now", said Kieran, once they were safely back in their room "I think that was the first time I'd seen her smile since she arrived here. What do you think?"
"I expect so", Joby sighed, flopping back on the bed "All I do know is Tamaz is right, she's only been here a few hours and we're already fretting over her, and worrying about her. Can you imagine what this past 8 months would have been like if she'd come with us? Doesn't bear thinking about! God knows what it is with her. When you're with her she seems nice enough, a good friend to have, but when you're away from her the thought of her bores you rigid!"
"Nobody else seemed to hear anything", said Tamaz "Don't you think that's odd?"
"We won't know for sure until the morning", said Kieran.
Julian paced the carpet in his room, occasionally stopping to look at the clock on the mantelpiece, which said half-past ten. As it chimed the half-hour Adam came in.
"I thought you were never going to appear", said Julian.
"I'm sorry", said Adam "But Lo-Lo messed his nappy, so I had to sort him out first".
"What, again?" said Julian "Another nightmare?"
"I think so", said Adam "He's terribly upset about it. I sent him across to say 'good morning' to Tamaz, Pats and Joby. They have quite a good effect on him at times like this. And then he said he was going downstairs".
"Well now you're here I'm going to give you your briefing for the next few days. I want you to stop acting like an hysterical hostess all the time. Codpiece and Grizzle invited themselves here, so they can take us as they find us. I don't want another repitition of last night's behaviour".
"I know how you feel, Jules", said Adam "But I just wanted to cheer poor little Glynis up. She looked so dreadfully down in the dumps".
"So would you be if you were on honeymoon with Codlik!" said Julian "Just give Bertha your ideas of the wedding breakfast, whenever it's to be, and then leave everything to the servants. I don't want any arguments on the subject. As far as I'm concerned, it's a closed subject".
"Yes, Jules", said Adam, meekly.
"Goddamnit, they're getting a free honeymoon out of us!" said Julian "And a belated wedding reception! I don't see why slavish attention to all their needs has to be part of the package as well!"
"I fully agree", said Adam "Do calm down, Jules. In a house this size we should be able to leave them alone. I'll tell the others to simply act as normal as possible".
"That will be interesting to see!" said Julian.
"Alright, I mean to leave the honeymooners alone", Adam laughed "It's a shame the East Wing's not finished, they could have it all to themselves, and then we wouldn't have to see them at all".
"Have you got to rush back?" said Julian.
"Well Lo-Lo's a bit concerned", said Adam "He thinks you've called me here to punish me, so perhaps I should reassure him I'm still in one piece".
"It could be arranged", said Julian, pulling him towards him "If you're a very lucky boy".
"Good morning", said Codlik, opening the door. He had face that looked as though he'd been sucking on a crate of lemons.
"Don't you believe in knocking?!" Julian snapped "If you're looking for Hillyard to lecture him yet again on the joys of governorship, he's not here. He's gone down to the stables to take the horses their early morning cup of tea!"
"I've come to see you actually", said Codlik, shutting the door behind him.
"Why?" said Julian "Is there something wrong with the carpet in your room?!"
"I was bothered at 3 o'clock this morning", said Codlik.
"I can't imagine that happens too often", Adam sighed.
"And you've come to share it with us", Julian cooed, facetiously "How thoughtful!"
"Joby came to my room at 3 o'clock this morning and harassed my wife", said Codlik.
"Joby wouldn't do anything so outrageous", Adam protested.
"Oh he might", said Julian "Particularly if he's been drinking".
"What exactly do you mean by 'harassed', Codlik?" said Adam.
"Yes, tell us exactly what happened, Codlik", said Julian "And not with your usual colourful embellishments".
"Joby came to my room at 3 o'clock this morning with Kieran and Tamaz", Codlik began.
"You didn't say Pats and Freaky were with him", said Adam "That makes a huge difference to the story".
"They were spinning some ridiculous story about hearing my wife in the garden", said Codlik.
"What was Glynis doing in the garden at that hour?" said Julian.
"She wasn't", said Codlik, impatiently "But they were claiming she was. It was complete nonsense, just an excuse for Joby to come and ogle at Glynis".
"Oh don't be absurd", said Julian "It seems a helluva lot of trouble for him to go to just for a glimpse of Glynis in her nightie!"
"Surely you must agree with us, Codlik?" said Adam "Anyway, if they thought Glynis in trouble, surely it's to their credit that they went to check up on her?"
Codlik's mouth twitched like a ferret's bottom with diarrhoea.
"I'm going downstairs to get some breakfast", he said, eventually.
At that moment Glynis was doing a complete external circuit of the house, accompanied by Bengo and Lonts, who were filling her in on everything that had happened to them since they had last seen her in Toondor Lanpin. Although they left out the part where Toppy had nearly been pulled through the wall in the underground station, simply because they still found it too disturbing.
"Did you get to see much of the Barlazzi Constable when he went to Toondor Lanpin?" said Bengo.
"Not much", said Glynis "Only briefly from a distance. I didn't get much of an impression of him, other than that he seemed a rather surly old man. I can't believe that he got away with treating his wife like that for so long, and everyone in their town knew about it too!"
"We don't understand it either", said Lonts "Do we, Bengo?"
"You two are spoilt", said Glynis, fondly "You're used to someone always come running when you're lonely or in trouble".
Neither of the boys spoke. They were too confused, uncertain as to what she was getting at.
"And all that unpleasentness that happened in Barlazzi during your stay", she said "Was because of Tamaz's part in your show?"
"It wasn't Tamaz's fault", said Lonts.
"He and Joby were perfect", said Bengo "They have a terrific rapport on stage".
"They're rather well-suited", said Glynis "Both are a bit ... er ... rough-and-tumble, shall we say. Joby's finally got a woman that suits him. He can hit her and no one worries, unlike poor Myrtle for instance".
"That's not fair, Glynis", said Lonts "Joby felt terrible after what happened with Myrtle. He was really upset about it".
"But I thought Myrtle had forgiven him long since", said Bengo.
"He does rather make a habit of it though", said Glynis "Hitting people. He's hit Kieran enough times".
"Kieran's hit him too", said Lonts.
"Exactly", Glynis sighed "Rough-and-tumble again, you see. Rough-and-tumble".
Codlik had got into the dining-room to find it almost empty, apart from Ransey, who was standing at the sideboard lifting up dish-covers. They both went for the one remaining sausage at the same time, but Codlik was luckier and speared it onto his plate.
"Isn't Glynis having any breakfast?" said Ransey, sitting down at the table, where he had put a stack of accounts ledgers.
"She doesn't eat breakfast these days", said Codlik "It's all part of her new diet".
"Some diet", said Ransey "You take a perfectly healthy-looking woman, full of youthful vigour, and turn her into a someone who looks in the advanced stages of a terminal illness! Glynis wasn't meant to be that thin. It's not her natural size".
"Women have to be at ease with their own bodies", said Codlik "Otherwise it's just body fascism".
"Sometimes you don't make a word of sense", Ransey muttered, shaking out his napkin.
Julian came into the room, dragging Tamaz along behind him, who was hanging onto his waist.
"I'm eating now", said Julian, disentangling himself so that he could sit down "Run along and put some trousers on, we've got guests".
Tamaz flung his arms round Ransey's neck, crying out theatrically "Daddy dear!"
"Go away", said Ransey.
"He loves me really", said Tamaz "That's why he let me out of the cage".
"I didn't", said Ransey "That was Joby's foolish notion".
Julian flicked his napkin at Tamaz's bottom. Tamaz inched round the table until he was standing right by Codlik, who looked very discomforted being so near to him.
"I have had everyting used on my bottom", said Tamaz, causing Codlik to go beetroot with embarrassment "Slippers, hairbrushes ..."
"Accounts ledgers", said Ransey, bashing him with one.
Tamaz had barely gone out of the door into the hall, before Glynis, Bengo and Lonts came in through the french windows. Bengo got down on all fours and did his spider walk.
"Isn't that amazing!" said Glynis "Look Codlik".
"He'll hurt his back doing that", said Codlik.
"Oh no, he's very fit and supple", said Glynis.
"I once tried doing that when I was completely rat-arsed", said Ransey "I bashed headfirst into my cabin-door!"
"Come along, Glynis", said Lonts "We'll show you what we've been doing in the East Wing".
"I'd like that", said Glynis, as they led her out of the room.
"All the young people round here act like 10-year-olds", said Codlik.
"I can't believe you were ever 10-years-old, Codlik", said Hillyard, coming in through the window, hot and sweaty after his morning ride.
"You smell of horse-sweat", said Ransey "Couldn't you take a bath before coming in here?"
"Nah, I'm too hungry to wait", Hillyard went over to the sideboard "Where have all the sausages gone?"
"Codlik's had them", said Julian "Every one".
"I suppose I'll have to make do with eggs then", said Hillyard "You could do with cutting down too. Your arse is getting bigger".
"I'm growing it to match your stomach", said Julian.
"I'd better get on with arranging the blessing", said Codlik, rising to his feet.
"We never seem to have a good effect on him", said Adam, after he had crossed Codlik in the doorway.
"He's usually about as relaxed with us as an Arab at a barmitzvah", said Julian.
"Oh well the sooner they're blessed the sooner they'll be on their way", said Ransey.
The blessing was arranged for the following afternoon in the little chapel on the estate, (the one still working that is), and Julian had every intention of the whole thing being got through at breakneck speed. He certainly had no time for the tradition of the bride arriving late, and so when Glynis wasn't at her post when he turned up, he despatched some of the others to round her up. Adam found her eventually at the stables. By this time he was thoroughly fed up with the whole thing, or rather fed up with Julian being fed up with the whole thing. And so when Glynis looked as though she was about to launch into one of her tragic monologues, he seized her by her shoulders and shook her gently but effectively.
"Please be careful", she cried "You'll dislodge my hair!"
"Good!" said Adam "It doesn't suit you in a chignon anyway. Take the damn thing off and let your hair flow freely. I cannot bear women who look too smart. You look like visiting Royalty, as though you're about to unveil a plaque or plant a tree".
"But it's my blessing-day", Glynis laughed, carefully removing her chignon nonetheless.
"Exactly", said Adam "So what are you doing here? Planning on getting spliced to one of the horses?!"
"I just wanted a bit of time to think", said Glynis, picking up her purse and bouquet "I mean, I know the damage is done, we're already married, and don't get me wrong, I am very fond of him. In spite of what people say, he is a decent man. But I don't love him, and he doesn't love me".
"That may all come in time, if you let it", said Adam "I think love at first sight is a vastly over-rated concept. The best, most enduring relationships have to be given time to grow. I didn't fall in love with Lo-Lo for a long time, in fact I went out of my way to try and avoid doing so. And I hated Julian! Still do at times, but he's one of those people it's impossible to love all the time. They're too provocative for that".
"He's always been very charming with me", said Glynis, as they walked together.
"Oh he is with ladies", said Adam "To put it bluntly it's because he doesn't have to prove himself with you. With men he's constantly showing off and trying to get noticed".
"What about Kieran?" said Glynis "Didn't you fall for him straightaway?"
"I think I fell in lust wth him", said Adam "But the rest followed very quickly. We've had an incredibly enduring relationship, all through its many transitions. It's a lot different now to what it used to be. It's not as physical, we both have too many other commitments to get together as often as we used to, but there is a bond between us I don't think will ever be broken".
"Have I done the right thing?" said Glynis, suddenly.
"You need to be with someone", said Adam "And preferably someone who isn't already spoken for! I know you still love Joby ..."
Glynis looked at him as though he'd slapped her.
"You do don't you?" he continued "Don't try and kid a romantic old fool like me when it comes to love! Everytime he speaks, or his name is mentioned, you react aggressively".
"You don't have to say anymore", said Glynis "Even if Tamaz got run over by a hay-cart tomorrow ..."
"You'd feel sorry for the horse!" said Adam "For goodness sake, Glynis. There is no way it's ever going to happen between you and Joby, for a 1001 different reasons. I wish you'd try and make the best of things, instead of pining all the time for what you can't have".
"There speaks someone who gets the lovers he wants easily", said Glynis, sourly.
"Oh really?" said Adam "Remind me to fill you in sometime on what the first 38 years of my life were like. I think you'll find it quite educational. Now come along!"
"This is disgusting behaviour!" Kieran roared, standing in the vestry at the back of the chapel "You don't exactly have onerous duties on this estate. In fact for most of the time you're like a pig in muck, and now when one of our closest friends wants to get blessed, you choose to get ratted!"
"It was just a little drink", the priest blubbed, plucking at the bobbled fringe on the tablecloth "To calm my nerves".
"A little drink!" said Kieran, indicating the empty wine bottles "You've had all the focking Communion wine!"
"Oh Kieran, please forgive me", the priest fell to the floor and clasped him round his knees.
"For God's sake get up", said Kieran, holding onto his clothes "You're pulling me pants down!"
"It was the face at the window you see", said the priest, hauling himself up by the chair-leg "Last night. The ugly old man. The one you said you've seen. It's the old local legends ..."
"What exactly do the old local legends say this Thing is?" said Kieran.
"A physical manifestation of evil", said the priest, with enormous difficulty.
"I could've worked that one out for meself!" said Kieran, impatiently "What is it, and where does it come from?"
"There have always been folk-legends in this area", said the priest, sitting down at the table "Spirits of the mountains. There is one, a chameleon-like figure, who changes appearance to fit the image of the person who is causing you most trouble. Many years ago it appeared as a young girl to torment some local boys who'd ... who'd done some rather unspeakable things to a girl here. It's not a force for vengeance or good though. It ... it ..."
"Sees an opportunity for causing misery and grabs it", said Kieran "A creature of chaos. So this time it's manifesting itself as the Barlazzi Constable. Why didn't you tell me all about this first-off? Why hit the sauce? You're supposed to be ... oh never mind".
"Mr Woll was very interested in the legends", said the priest "I did discuss it with him once or twice. He had some old books, written locally, on the very subject. You should have them up at the house somewhere".
Kieran told him to get himself sobered up, and then went out into the chapel to conduct the blessing himself, telling Codlik and Glynis that the priest was feeling a bit under the weather. Technically this was true, so he felt it couldn't be regarded as lying in church. As he stood to face the congregation of familiar faces, he saw the old man standing by the back pew, seemingly undetected by anyone else. This time Kieran felt ready for him though, and got through the blessing quite smoothly.
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