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A few days before Christmas the haunting, hitherto confined to sound only, took on a visual aspect. First of all Bengo got up in the night to get a cup of water from the washstand in his room, and on looking out of the window which overlooked a rear courtyard, saw a pale face with large bush-baby eyes peering out of the window opposite. Although there were a lot of people living in the house, he was pretty certain he hadn't seen this one before.
Adam had by far the most extraordinary experience though. He was working alone in the kitchen early one afternoon, when he saw the ghost of a young girl, clad in a long woollen dress and wearing a kerchief around her hair, apparently climbing a flight of invisible steps by the kitchen fireplace. She vanished as she neared the ceiling where the stairs would have finished. Adam lost no time in quizzing Bertha about this, and Ransey came in as well to look at the site of the unexpected visitation.
"Long ago there used to be a bedroom directly above here, where the scullery-maid and pantry-maid both slept", said Bertha "It was reached by a flight of narrow steps by the fireplace here. That must have been what you saw. But this is going back a very long way, to the middle of the last century, before my time here or Mr Woll's for that matter. The staircase was taken out to make more room here, but you can still see the base of the newel post sticking out of the ceiling".
Adam and Ransey both looked upwards.
"Is there no other entrance to that bedroom?" said Ransey.
"None at all", said Bertha.
"So there's been a sealed, empty room up there all this time?" said Adam.
"Yes, but it's absolutely nothing to worry about", said Bertha, lightheartedly "No one was sealed up in there!"
"Even so, I don't like empty rooms directly overhead", said Adam.
"Why not knock an entrance through to it from somewhere else?" said Ransey.
"Perhaps they didn't think it was worth the bother", said Bertha "It was easier to close it off completely".
"Hang on a moment", Ransey went to the back door and pulled it open, letting in a flurry of snow.
"For fuck's sake, Ransey!" said Joby, who was trying to prepare vegetables at the kitchen table.
"As I thought", said Ransey, coming back in "I can see Bengo and Bardin's bedroom window from here. It's highly likely the face Bengo saw last night ..."
"Was in the room overhead", said Adam.
Ransey had barely closed the door before Kieran came in through the other one, accompanied by two monks, who all proceeded to bless the area.
"This is bloody ridiculous!" Joby snapped "How am I expected to work in these conditions?!"
"Stop complaining, Joby", said Adam "Or I shall have to discipline you, most severely!"
"Ach, but Joby enjoys complaining, don't you?" said Kieran, squeezing Joby's shoulder.
"Now what's going on?" said Joby, a few minutes later as Ransey directed two stewards into the kitchen, carrying a ladder. Hillyard followed on behind, carrying some outdoor clothing.
"There's only one way to see if there's anything in that room up there", said Ransey "And that's to look through the window".
"Well you're not gonna see anything are you!" Joby exclaimed "And if you did it'd probably spook you so much you fell off the ladder!"
"You just carry on with your cooking", said Hillyard, pulling on his coat.
Out in the kitchen garden Ransey positioned the ladder so that it rested against the ledge of the upstairs window.
"Right", he said to Hillyard "You hold it, I'll go up".
"Why can't you hold it, and I'll go up?" said Hillyard.
"Because I doubt the ladder could take the strain", said Ransey, prodding Hillyard's stomach.
Ransey climbed up past the kitchen window, and then peered through the window at the top, as best he could considering it was obscured with dust, cobwebs, grime, ice and snow.
"Anything?" said Hillyard.
"It's difficult to see", said Ransey "There's an old bedstead in there and a fireplace. It's hard to tell where the door used to be".
A figure lying on the bed stirred. Ransey peered intently through the gloom at it, certain only of one thing - it hadn't been there when he'd first looked. A shapeless heap of naked white flesh moved as though just waking. It proceeded to sit up and face the window. Ransey clambered hastily back down the ladder.
"There was someone in there wasn't there?" said Hillyard.
"Yeah, but I don't think for one moment it was any mere mortal", said Ransey, visibly shaken.
Hillyard took him into the kitchen, and they warmed themselves by the fire. Ransey tried to describe what he had seen, but Bertha got agitated and began to protest that never, in all her 30 years at the house, had she ever noticed anything odd concerning the sealed room.
"It was female", said Ransey, over-riding her "Of that much I'm sure, and two girls used to sleep in that room didn't you say?"
"It was all a very long time ago!" said Bertha, shrilly, and she abruptly left the room.
"Oh dear, she's upset", said Adam.
"She knows everything we need to know about that room, I'm certain of it", said Ransey, sitting down at the kitchen table "And she's going to tell us, if I have to drag it out of her with red-hot pincers!"
"I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that!" said Adam "I'm sure she'll tell us in her own time".
"Christmas'll be a good time", said Hillyard, pulling off his boots "Put plenty of brandy in the cream and mince pies. That'll make her relax and get her talking!"
"You look like you could do with a drink now, Ransey", said Adam "Patsy, go into the larder and fetch some of the cooking booze".
"It's just catching up with me", said Ransey, rubbing his head "I'm glad I didn't see its face".
"There's a bottle of cooking sherry here", Kieran called out from the larder.
"That'll do", said Adam.
In spite of Ransey's protestations that he wasn't keen on sherry, he managed to quaff a wine-glass full of it. And then felt better.
"I thought you might be able to force it down somehow!" said Joby.
As his own personal protest against the haunting, and the continued presence of their guests (chiefly the latter), Julian had of late refused to get dressed. Instead he roamed the house attired in his black silk pyjamas and embroidered robe, with his thermals on underneath. To complete the image of ageing decadence, he had taken to carrying Madame Simone's hook-handled cane about with him, mainly for the feeling of confidence and protection it gave him. Sometimes though he would suddenly thrash at the air with it, which rather unnerved the maids.
On this particular afternoon he was roaming the main first floor corridor, looking for any of the other Indigo-ites to serve as companionship-fodder. On hearing sounds of splashing and shrieking coming from one of the bathrooms, he walked in to find Bengo lying in an over-filled tub, whilst Bardin, Lonts, Toppy and Tamaz danced attendance on him. Literally so in Bardin's case, as he was in the process of doing some very accomplished ballet leaps when Julian walked in. There was a universal joyous shriek of "Julian!"
"We're bathing Bengo", said Lonts.
"I see you've find your true vocation at last, Bengo", said Julian "The family's pet labrador!"
Tamaz flung his arms round Julian's neck.
"Hello you wicked creature", said Julian, fondly "Toppy, why aren't you down in the kitchen, helping Mrs Bridges?"
"I've got to go down there at half-past 4", said Toppy "When he starts doing the evening meal".
"It's not far off that now", said Julian "But don't walk down on your own, I'm not keen on people roaming about this house in isolation at the moment".
"I'll walk Toppy down", said Lonts.
"Good, and that rule applies to all of you", said Julian, going back out into the corridor, where he bumped into Thierry.
"I'm surprised you haven't tried using that on me yet", said Thierry, indicating the cane "Or don't you pick on someone your own size?"
"I make it a rule of honour never to pick on a man with permed hair!" said Julian, imperiously. He was gratified that for once in his life Thierry was lost for words, and went back to his room in order to save himself the trouble of responding. Julian paused to light a cigar.
"Have you seen Tamaz?" said Kieran, approaching out of the gloom.
"Bathing Bengo in there", said Julian, indicating the bathroom door.
"That's o.k then", said Kieran "I just thought I'd better check up on him. God, I'm so sick of this cold weather! I had a wonderful dream last night. Me and Joby were walking over the mountains, and it was high summer, the sun beating down on everything green, and people were roaming about with hardly any clothes on".
"It sounds like one of those dreams it is intensely irritating to wake up from", said Julian.
"I had another one just before it", said Kieran "We were all out on the high seas, but not on the Indigo, instead it was one of those big old galleon-type ships with sails. Everything was so beautiful. More sunshine. The sea was blue and calm, a slither of land on the horizon. But the sun was setting, and there were people with lifejackets on, bobbing about in the water, and we had to rescue them before it got dark".
"Doubtless of great psychological significance", said Julian "Your messianic desire to save people coming out".
"I don't know", said Kieran "But I'm reassured by the calm sea bit. Joby once read a book on dreams, and apparently it means a great deal if you dream about the sea and what the state of it is. A turbulent sea means inner strife and turmoil. A calm sea means inner calm, so that's something anyway".
"Don't worry, you're o.k", said Julian "The way you've been handling the monks I keep thinking of you as a modern-day King Solomon".
"Hardly!" said Kieran "Although I did think his wisdom was a wee bit suspect at times. All that cutting the baby in half for instance. The non-mother would've had to have been a complete monster to have wanted to go along with it!"
"Wasn't he supposed to have tamed a whole race of genies and made them work for him?" said Julian "Well you've achieved that".
"No I haven't, I don't know any genies", said Kieran.
"You know a couple of Ghoomers so that's your equivalent", said Julian "Freaky has been tamed".
"By Joby mainly", said Kieran "And I'm still not entirely sure about Mieps, although for as long as he wants Tamaz we're safe where he's concerned".
The bathroom door opened. Lonts and Toppy came out, greeted Kieran, and then headed towards the main staircase.
"I thought I heard your voice", said Tamaz, following them out "Do you know what that old snake did to me earlier?"
"Mieps, I take it?" said Kieran.
"He tied my hands behind my back with the belt of his bath-robe!" said Tamaz.
"The kinky bastard", said Julian.
"He's gone back to saying I should be tied up all the time!" said Tamaz, indignantly.
"So what are you doing loose again then?" said Julian.
"It was only for a moment I suppose", said Tamaz, grudgingly.
"I think he was just teasing you from the sounds of things", said Kieran "Just a bit of horseplay".
"What if he meant me harm?" Tamaz squawked "What if he really threatened me?!"
"I'd rely on you to tell me or Joby about it instantly", said Kieran.
"I might not be able to tell you", said Tamaz "He might have bullied me into a state of mute terror".
"Extremely unlikely!" said Julian, tartly "Don't go exaggerating things, Freaky. Or we might not believe you if something serious did happen. And are you really trying to tell me you can't take care of yourself where he's concerned?!"
Tamaz mumbled something inaudible. He would dearly like to have stamped his foot, but had to be content with shuffling it instead.
"You can walk me down to the Yellow Salon now", said Julian "I have a feeling Finia might be down there. He usually is at this hour".
Blizzards and high winds were forecast for the following night, so during the brief period of daylight at lunchtime Julian told Lonts, the clowns, Tamaz and Toppy to take a couple of small hand-drawn sledges down to the bar in the village and collect a few flagons of the notorious local cider. He sent them on this errand mainly to give them all a change of scenery, as there was a strong possibility they might be snowed up completely over the next few days.
At the back door Adam fussed round Lonts so much that Julian came close to losing his temper.
"If anyone should be able to cope in the snow it's him!" Julian exclaimed "And on one in their right mind is going to want to abduct the hulking great thing!"
He then espied Simeon wandering around the kitchen-garden with a sack in one hand, into which he was spearing bits of litter.
"What's the point?" said Julian "After tonight and another fall of snow we won't be able to see any of it anyway!"
"He likes to make himself useful", said Adam.
"Well we all have our own an impossible dreams I suppose!" said Julian.
The younger ones all walked briskly down to the village, dragging the sledges along tracks that had been cleared and salted earlier by the gardeners. The sun hung like a blood orange over the forest. That, combined with the mountains in the background, reminded Lonts acutely of the journey he had made with the others many years before, from the Winter Palace to the Freaky Colony. It was at times like this that he was completely awed by everything that had happened to him in his life, all the places he had seen and the experiences he had had.
He hadn't realised how long he had been standing staring into the distance. Bardin spoke to him, and he turned to stare at the clown, who wore a flat cap tied over his head with a long scarf. Behind him Tamaz had a woollen cap pulled down over his ears, which emphasised his beautiful, androgynous features. None of these younger people knew Lonts now as he had been during those disturbing early days, they were too young for that. Lonts suddenly felt confused and uneasy, made acutely aware of the rapid passage of time. He was the eldest one of this group, whereas for so long he had been the baby of the family, everyone's pet darling. In those days Adam had been in his prime, now he was approaching old age. Lonts wanted to cry.
"We'll soon be at the inn", said Bardin, tenderly "Come on, let's keep moving".
They reached the village inn, and instantly made for the big, open peat fire, ordering bread and sausages from the landlord, plus goblets of hot, spicy wine. A few locals were scattered about on the hard benches, and most were cordial to them, although it was obvious they still didn't know what on earth to make of Tamaz!
"I thought you'd be enjoying all this, Lonts", said Bengo.
"I am", said Lonts "I just get sad sometimes when I think how quickly time goes. People age and die".
"There's no avoiding that I'm afraid", said Bardin, with the breeziness of youth.
They sat down around the plate of long, juicy sausages. Tamaz was indignantly removing his outdoor clothes, like an empress being forced to manage without her personal maid. He was normally accustomed to Joby, Kieran, Hillyard or Mieps being on hand to attend to him.
"It's a problem we all have to face", said Toppy "When we'll all disappear I mean. One day it might just be us lot here looking after each other".
"And Finia too", said Lonts "He's younger than me by a little bit".
"That's going to be hopeless", said Bardin "None of us can cook properly for a start".
"Toppy can", said Lonts "He used to cook for Pendor, and he did all the housework too".
"On my own", said Toppy "With no help at all".
"And Finia can cook as well", said Lonts "He looked after Julian when they lived alone together, so we'll manage".
"You lot are crazy if you think everyone's going to die off neatly in order of age", said Tamaz, covering a sausage with mustard and then sandwiching it neatly between two slices of bread "It won't happen like that at all".
"I hope not", said Toppy "Otherwise one day I'm going to be left alone with you!"
"And you'll never cope, Drippy-Topps", Tamaz sneered.
"It's easy enough to control Tamaz", said Bardin, teasingly "That's what I've heard Mieps say anyway".
"You couldn't control me, you scrawny little squirt", said Tamaz.
"Alright, when we get home we'll put it to the test", said Bardin "We'll have a wrestling match, and I'll bet you any money you like I'll get you down on the floor for the count within one minute".
Tamaz looked at him over his sausage sandwich, as though sizing him up.
"What's the matter, Tamaz?" Bardin smiled "Is your girly side showing?!"
Tamaz gave an indignant hiss in reply, and flicked his tongue like an agitated ant-eater.
Once back home and in the Great Hall, divested of their outdoor clothing, Bardin and Tamaz grappled each other and managed to both hold one another firmly without achieving any throws. Both were pleasently awed at the hidden strength of the other. But with a trick more attributable to clowning than wrestling, Bardin finally managed to manhandle Tamaz to the floor, where he pulled him over on top of him and held him close, pinning his arms to his side.
"Not bad at all", said Bardin "I thought I was going to have an easier ride than that".
"Why?" Tamaz snapped "Because I'm half a girl?!"
"Perhaps", said Bardin, still holding him "I never get tired of discovering new talents of yours".
Tamaz looked up to find Julian standing nearby, holding the cane in both hands.
"There are about 50 bedrooms in this house", he said "If you want to fool around, go to one of those. I expected you to have more decorum, Bardin".
"We were wrestling", said Tamaz, struggling to his feet and finding that his shirt had come undone.
"You're a little trollop", said Julian.
"Ignore him, he's jealous", said Adam, who was on his way to the dining-room "Nobody'll wrestle him anymore!"
"In my youth I could have seen off anyone on the wrestling mat", said Julian "I had the physique of an Ancient Greek discus-thrower!"
"You're still pretty good now", said Bengo.
"Thank you, Bengo", said Julian "Nice to see someone still appreciates my awesome qualities".
"Tamaz, go and see if you can find Mieps", said Adam "He went out the back to chuck some scraps to the chickens. Tell him to hurry up, it's nearly dinner-time".
Tamaz could trail Mieps easily enough, simply by following his scent. He located him at the end of one of the ground-floor corridors, by the door that led out into the back-yard where the chicken-run was situated. The door was wide open, letting in thick flurries of snow, and Mieps was lying on the floor with blood on his shirt.
"Mieps!" Tamaz cried, running towards him.
Mieps looked up at him blearily, and Tamaz noticed chicken feathers around his mouth.
"You stupid sod!" said Tamaz "You've had one of the chickens haven't you?"
"I couldn't help myself", Mieps groaned "One got out and ran around the yard. The stupid thing was squawking and flapping its stupid wings, well I got hungry I guess".
"If the others find out they'll go manic", said Tamaz "Humans are soft when it comes to animals. They have some daft laws of etiquette about killing and eating them. They mustn't find out about this".
"W-what about the blood on my shirt?" said Mieps.
"We'll tell them you had a nose-bleed", said Tamaz, helping him to his feet.
"I don't get nose-bleeds", said Mieps.
"They don't know that do they!" said Tamaz, impatiently "If they see the feathers in the yard, hopefully they'll think a wolf or a fox got it. Anyway I've been sent to tell you dinner's ready, although I shouldn't think you need it now!"
When they got back to the Great Hall it was to find that Thierry had already broken open one of the cider-flagons, and had been liberally draining it of its contents. He was now sitting astride the bottom of one of the bannisters in the Great Hall, hugging the marble pillar at the bottom and singing an excrutiatingly tuneless song.
"I want a woman!!!" he suddenly cried.
"Will these do?" said Adam, indicating Mieps and Tamaz.
"A real woman!!!" he yelled "For a real man!!!"
"That's a matter of opinion", Joby grunted.
Thierry fell off the bannister and landed heavily on the stairs.
"Is he alright?" said Adam.
"Who cares?" said Joby.
He and Adam went back into the dining-room, where they were in the process of sorting out the dishes on the sideboard. Julian appeared and took a swipe at Adam's bottom with the cane.
"Jules!" Adam shouted "You made me jump. I could've dropped the sprouts!"
"Have you been swigging the cider too?" Joby asked Julian.
"Well I'm not letting the boorish Thierry have it all", said Julian.
"This whole evening is going to be a nightmare, I can see it", said Adam "I'll be the only one that's sober!"
"Don't worry, old fruit", said Julian "I will still fancy you".
Dolores came in, wearing a thick woollen cardigan over a black evening-gown, and clutching her knitting-bag to her stomach.
"Dolores, old love, can't you do something about Thierry?" said Adam "He seems far too excited all the time. He is your brother, it's up to you really".
"He's a grown man", said Dolores "I can't control him".
"Oh what rubbish!" Adam snapped "Lo-Lo is a grown man, extremely grown, and yet I still have to discipline him occasionally. Oh this is all so crazy!"
Adam left the room rather suddenly. Julian pursued him into the Green Salon, which lay near the entrance to the Service Wing. Adam had previously nicknamed it "the Tate Gallery", because it was full of good pictures on the walls, plus a couple of hard sofas, and nothing else. It was lit entirely by the fire in the grate. When Julian got there he found Adam lying on one of the sofas with his arm flung over his eyes.
"Come along now", said Julian, flinging his cane onto a nearby sofa "This really isn't good enough. Everyone is under pressure, not just you".
"I don't care", said Adam "Everyone is entitled to the odd fit of rebellion too, and as I can't get pissed on cider, this will have to be mine, and nothing you can say will alter my stance".
"Very well", said Julian, and he began to undo Adam's trousers.
"Jules", said Adam, propping himself up on his elbows "Someone might come in!"
"Then they'll simply have to leave again", said Julian.
He undid Adam's shirt and fondled his nipple-rings. He then jammed his hand between Adam's legs and roughly kneaded his crotch. Adam arched his back and groaned helplessly. Then he screamed.
"Adam, for fuck's sake!" Julian cried "What the hell is it?"
"The old man", Adam panted "The Thing. It was standing in the corner, watching us".
"Shit, I thought you were having a heart-attack!" said Julian, looking into the corner where Adam was pointing "Well he's not there now, God rot him!"
Adam's cry had been heard by nearly everyone in the house it seemed, as they all piled into the room soon after. Lonts ran up and hugged Adam, who was now on his feet and trying to stop his trousers from sliding down to his knees.
Julian, thwarted in the heat of passion, was in a filthy temper by now. He grabbed his cane and wrapped the hook end of it around Kieran's neck, pulling him towards him.
"Have you blessed this room yet?" he said.
"We've blessed all the rooms that are in use", said Kieran "We're even getting round to some of the ones that aren't in use now".
"Well it's not working is it?!" Julian roared.
"Every little helps", Kieran stammered.
"It's not Kieran's fault", said Joby.
"Out of my sight, begone!" said Julian "All ofyou, go!"
Most of them filed out, muttering.
"Dolores", Julian sighed "Why do you keep clutching that knitting-bag to you? What have you got in it, a bottle of vodka?!"
"My knitting-needles", said Dolores "If you can carry that cane around with you for protection, I don't see why I can't have my own form of it".
"Let us all go and have some dinner", Lonts boomed.
Dinner took on a boisterously doleful affair, like Catherine the Great's wedding reception. Thierry slept through most of it with his head on the table, and nobody felt too inclined to wake him up. Lonts fed the dogs from the scraps on everyone's plates, a lot of alcohol was drunk, and it was generally felt it all only needed a couple of gypsy violinists playing a melancholy tune to complete the picture of Imperial Russian seediness.
"Finia has suggested", said Dolores, still clutching her knitting-bag "That we should perhaps try a voodoo exorcism".
"Great", said Joby "Except none of us knows any voodoo incantations!"
"I remember cigars were used", said Finia "I saw one once in Husgalonghi. Cigars fumes, plus bells were rung to attract the spirits".
"No no no", said Ransey, shaking his head sorrowfully. He banged on the table with the salt-cellar, even though he already had everyone's attention "Practical solutions are the answer, not spells and exorcisms. It was a practical solution which killed Angel after all, and that's what we need here. I propose we lure this Thing, whatever it is, into a remote part of the building, and dynamite it".
"And how do we lure it in?" said Julian "It's a demon. It's not like Santa Claus, going to be happy with a glass of sherry and a few mince pies!"
"We use a bait that it wants", said Ransey "A bait that will placate it".
"Of course", said Julian, facetiously "Why didn't I think of it before? Kieran! Just think Tinker Belle, you will be revered as a martyr forevermore!"
"Terrific", said Kieran "I think that cider's addled your senses, Ransey. Dynamiting sounds too dangerous to me, it could endanger the structure of the whole house".
"I wasn't suggesting Kieran on his own", Ransey continued "But perhaps all of us, to lure it in".
"I like that idea even less!" said Kieran.
"Listen, oh listen!" said Helene, for once in her life sounding excited "What's that whistling noise?"
"Its the wind in the telegraph wires", said Ransey.
"Are you sure?" said Helene, wide-eyed.
"Quite sure", said Ransey "I've heard it before, loads of times".
"I think it's time we all went up to bed", said Adam "I trust no one is going to be alone tonight?"
"They'd have to be raving mad if they were!" said Joby.
"I was more annoyed at my passion being thwarted than anything else", said Julian, sitting on the edge of his bed "Adam did look so scrumptious in the firelight. I fancy him as much now as I did years ago. His body is so superb".
He prodded Hillyard's stomach, but Hillyard was far too amiable to take offence.
"I've always quite fancied him myself", he said "And Lonts. I've missed out a lot in one way or another".
"Hm, well-served", said Julian, with a wry smile.
Too tired to argue, he allowed Hillyard to help him remove his black silk pyjamas, and then slipped between the bedcovers.
"Oh to be back on the Indigo, out on the high seas", said Julian, nuzzling into his pillow "Away from all this torment".
There was a loud knock on the door and Ransey walked in.
"Go away", Julian muttered.
"I can't", said Ransey "There's something you have to see. Come with me".
"Where to?" said Hillyard.
"I've been doing a bit of exploring", said Ransey.
"I obviously should have saved my breath", said Julian, testily "I gave specific orders that no one was to be alone. What have you done with Finia?"
"He's in with Dolores", said Ransey "I was careful not to leave him alone, but something's been bugging me about the tower in the West Wing. I feel we haven't been paying enough attention to it".
"Bertha said most of it wasn't structurally safe that's why", said Hillyard.
"I'd start taking what she says with a truckload of salt!" said Ransey "I saw her coming out of it earlier this evening, carrying a covered bowl. It's been on my mind ever since. I think there's someone in there she doesn't want us to see, and it's the key to this so-called haunting".
"I appreciate your scepticism, Ransey", said Julian "Believe me I do, but no amount of tales of mad earls in the West Wing is going to convince me we haven't got a real haunting on our hands. Too many have seen this apparition of a hideous old man to say otherwise".
"At least let's get the mystery of these awful night noises sorted out once and for all", said Ransey "Then we all might at least get some sleep".
"Just who do you expect to find up there?" said Julian, reaching for his slippers "Woll's secret love-child?!"
He followed Ransey and Hillyard down a maze of darkened corridors to the West Wing. The tower was attached to the back of the house and contained an impressive spiral staircase, which wound up inside it like a lighthouse. The three of them went up it, making no attempt to disguise their movements, as there was a general feeling that there had been more than enough secret movement in the house already.
At teh very top, a makeshift safety-net had been slung across the stairwell.
"It was looking up and seeing this that convinced me", said Ransey.
Nearby a door stood open. They went in cautiously and found themselves in a room entirely empty apart from a divan in the middle. The walls were lined with orange and pink silk curtains.
"There are mattresses behind them", said Hillyard, lifting up one of the curtains "It looks like the entire room's lined with mattresses".
"As a sound-break I suppose", said Ransey "Although corkboard would have been just as effective".
"No, this was meant for padding", said Julian "Like in a padded cell, to stop the inmates hurting themselves against the walls. That also accounts for the safety-net on the landing, and this".
He picked up a length of chain attached to the divan, on the end of which was a foot manacle that had been unlocked.
"You mean someone's been kept in here?" said Hillyard.
"Yes, and Bertha knows all about it", said Ransey, and he turned to Julian "What do you suggest we do now?"
"Whatever it is it hasn't hurt anyone yet", said Julian "Mainly because it's relied on us to assume it was part of the haunting. For the rest of tonight we'll continue to go along with the deception. But first thing tomorrow we come back up here. Whatever it is doesn't seem to roam during the daytime, so I assume it comes back here to its lair. After we've come here tomorrow, and hopefully figured out what it is, we go down to Bertha and demand a few answers. Agreed?"
Julian was restive for the rest of the night though. He hardly slept at all, and at half-past 6 he pulled on his robe over his thermals and slipped out to Adam's room, hotly pursued by Hillyard, like a nurse chasing a troublesome charge.
As he had expected, Adam was already up and dressed, prior to going down to the kitchen to start another long shift. Lonts was lying on the bed in his nappy and bath-robe, smoking his pipe. Toppy had just shaved Adam, and was getting ready to perform the same service on Lonts.
"Jules", said Adam "I've never known you up at this hour before, not unless you've been up all night anyway".
"I have been, practically", said Julian.
"I slept like a log", said Adam "Quite remarkable really, considering what happened yesterday evening. It must be all due to the presence of my two boys".
"Alright, don't crow", said Julian "Just because you get to bed down with two luscious nymphs, whereas I get Margaret Rutherford in drag!"
"To what do we have this honour then?" said Adam.
"I want you to come with me now", said Julian "All of you. We're going into the West Wing".
"To see Codlik?" said Lonts.
"To the tower in the West Wing", said Julian.
"I thought Bertha said it wasn't safe?" said Adam.
"She must have her own reasons for saying that", said Hillyard.
"We are all going", said Julian "I just decided to collect you three first, and then we're going to collect Kieran and his menagerie. There have been too many secrets in this house, but it's all about to stop!"
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