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Three months went past. The thaw finally came to Woll's place and the Indigo-ites arranged for the boatyard to collect the Indigo and transport her back to Toondor Lanpin for re-fitting. In the town itself the weather had returned to its normal sunny sultryness, which at least made the Indigo-ites feel more at home.
Adam spent a lot of time in his studio on the waterfront, and he was there painting a nude study of Tamaz sitting in a chair, when there was a knock at the door.
"Answer that, Lo-Lo", said Adam "And if it's Jonner come round for yet another spy at what I'm doing, tell him I'm going to shove my paintbrushes up his arse!"
Lonts was engaged in a lengthy conversation at the door.
"Adam, you've got to go the boatyard", said Lonts, reappearing by the easel "The Indigo's arrived there".
"So why have I got to go?" said Adam.
"The man said that after all the trouble last time when we falsely accused them of wrecking the Indigo", said Lonts "They want one of us to go along and check for damage BEFORE they start, so if there are any holes there already we can't accuse them of doing it. The man said he doesn't want Ransey coming in and chucking panelling at him again, which Ransey had wrecked himself, but accused him of doing. That's what the man said anyway".
"Very wise", Adam sighed "But I still don't understand why I have to go?"
"Because he says he called in at home but no one was in", said Lonts.
"Oh for heaven's sake", Adam put down his brushes and wiped his fingers on a stained cloth "This means if anything does go wrong this time Jules will blame me".
"He will anyway", said Tamaz.
"O.K Lo-Lo, you stay here with Freaky, until I get back", said Adam "But before you both start getting carried away together, I want the brushes cleaned. If I come back to find them all stuck together I shall be very cross indeed".
He went to leave the room, but remembered just in time to put his trousers on first, as he delighted in telling everyone how he favoured the Gaugain approach of painting in only his shirt.
"Oh dear", said Adam, prowling around below deck "I hadn't realised quite what an emotional experience this would be".
It was only on seeing the rooms again that he realised quite how much he missed the Indigo, and how much of their lives were bound up in her. The two boatyard men who were following him round though were unnerved by him, and had a depressing habit of flattening themselves back against the wall when he passed by.
"The hold's the important bit", one of them growled.
"Yes of course", said Adam, lifting up the hatch "You'd better come down with me hadn't you? Just to be sure".
"We've had some peculiar customers in here", said the boatyard-owner, standing at his office window, dripping cigarette ash "But he takes the biscuit!"
"The whole lot of them are weird if you ask me", said his clerk, sitting fussily at his typewriter.
"Have you seen his chest?" said the owner, in a gossipy whisper "How he can have his nipples pierced beats me. Makes me feel ill just to think of it! Do you reckon he might be one of them sado-masochists?"
"I really don't want to know", the clerk sniffed.
"It makes you wonder what goes on in that house sometimes", said the owner "Hey watch out, he's coming in!"
Adam walked into the building, tying up the tails of his shirt into a knot to expose his midriff.
"Thinks he's a bloody beach belle now!" the owner muttered.
"Well all is in order", said Adam "I can't find any holes or damage, but then you haven't started work yet!"
"Bloody cheek!" the owner cried "That's professional slander that is. I could have you for that!"
"Thanks all the same, old love, but you're not my type", Adam drawled.
"I meant, set my lawyer onto you", said the owner, indignantly.
"Oh I don't believe in lawyers, and we're a lot richer than you so I really wouldn't advise it anyway", said Adam "Now our Ransey will be popping in from time to time to see how you're getting on".
"That bloody maniac!" said the owner.
"Don't fret yourself", said Adam "I'll make sure he leaves his Luger at home!"
"I'm making up your quotation now", said the clerk.
"That's awfully thoughtful of you", said Adam "But we'll wait for the invoice to come out".
"But we need one for our files", the clerk protested.
"Then you have it, sweetie", said Adam "Honestly, I don't mind at all!"
"Well I was hoping to present you with the quotation for the refit on the Indigo", said Ransey "But Adam told them not to bother".
"Adam?" said Julian, turning round from where he'd been looking out of the French windows at the sunlit back garden "What's he got to do with it? I thought you were overseeing all the boatyard details".
"No one was in when the Indigo arrived this afternoon", said Ransey, throwing himself into an armchair "Adam was the only one they could find, so he went and checked her over".
"We left it to Adam?!" Julian exclaimed "Of all people!"
"Give him a break, Julian", said Ransey "He's very astute. I have the greatest respect for his intellect".
"Except when it comes to anything technical or practical", said Julian "Apart from cooking, he's hopeless at anything that requires a modicum of praticality or commonsense. He's like a babe in arms then. And you have to admit that too. On all trips and adventures it's always anyone else who does the graft".
"As you've just said, he's a good cook", said Ransey "And he's always looked after Lonts beautifully. Washes him, changes him, dresses him ..."
"Alright, so he's o.k with anything where his little darling is concerned", said Julian "But Adam in a boatyard! Like the Hon. Letitia on a building-site! And you say because of him we haven't got an official quotation from these clowns?"
Ransey laughed, even though he was trying to sound gravely serious.
"He told them to keep it", he said "Said to me just now he didn't think we'd be interested in a copy, as quotes weren't very exciting to read!"
"Well I'm glad you find it amusing", Julian rasped "Now they can charge us what they damn well like, and we've got no comeback at all! Has there ever been a more absurd airhead than him?!"
"I resent that remark, Jules", said Adam, coming into the room, followed by Kieran and Joby "I didn't think there'd be all this fuss over a silly quote".
"You wouldn't, because you're going senile!" said Julian "I need a cigar. Where's Toppy tidied them away this time?"
"Mantelpiece", said Joby.
"I am not going senile", said Adam "I haven't had a moment's absentmindedness since Woll's place".
"How can you tell?" said Julian "Your life has been one long whirl of opaque delusion!"
"Are you being awful to Adam, Julian?" said Lonts, looking in at the French windows, flanked by Tamaz and Toppy.
"He's always being awful to him", said Ransey.
"I might have known you'd defend him!" said Julian.
"Don't start", said Ransey "What's done is done, and I will keep an eye on things at the boatyard. They won't be able to get anything past me".
"I do hope you're not going to go on about this all evening, Jules", said Adam "Because I tell you this now, I won't put up with it. I did my best under the circumstances".
"You'll have to give him another hiding, Adam", said Joby "He's about due for one, and let us all watch this time. It's always Hillyard who gets all the best entertainment!"
"We'll tear all his clothes off him first", said Lonts, excitedly.
He ran into the room and jumped on the sofa, nearly knocking the wind out of Julian. Tamaz followed, yodelling merrily.
"Oh be gentle with him, you pair of little savages", said Adam, trying to tug them off.
"Why?" said Ransey.
Julian surfaced from under them and gave a horrified scream when he looked over at the doorway. Codlik was standing there, carrying a suitcase.
"Who let you in?" Julian gasped.
"Bengo answered the door to me", said Codlik.
"Lonts, fetch the razor-strop", said Julian "I'm going to thrash the living daylights out of that clown!"
"He doesn't mean it, Bengo", said Lonts.
"What are you doing here, Codlik?" said Adam, wearily.
"I flew in just now", said Codlik "Dolores loaned me her air-buggy and pilot. He's staying at Myrtle's".
"So why aren't you there as well?" said Julian.
"Because I felt it would be rather silly to stay in town and not look up old friends", said Codlik.
"But why are you here?" said Adam "And where's Glynis?"
"Glynis is still at the big house", said Codlik "She's a bit poorly at the moment".
"What's wrong with her?" said Adam "There's not a complication with the baby is there?"
"Oh no, it's nothing serious", said Codlik "Just daily wear and tear. The doctor said some women take to pregnancy smoothly, with no problems, and others have an awful time of it, and I'm rather afraid Glynis is one of the latter".
"You surprise me", said Julian "I would have thought with her figure she'd make a natural brood-mare".
Codlik's lips twitched disapprovingly at this decidedly un-politically correct assessment of his wife.
"So why aren't you with her?" said Adam, sharply.
"She doesn't need me there", said Codlik, hurtfully "She has Dolores, Bertha and all the maids looking after her. I was rather surplus to requirements".
"Oh I get it", said Julian gleefully "The tabbies have thrown you out! Come on admit it, they have haven't they?"
"They merely felt it would be best if I went on a little trip", said Codlik, stiffly.
"You mean they strongly advised you went on a little trip!" said Joby.
"If you knew what was good for you!" Kieran laughed.
"I wanted to stay and help", said Codlik "I strongly believe a man should be as supportive as possible at such times".
"I suspect you were a little too supportive, old love", said Adam "Women don't appreciate men giving advice at such times".
"She said she couldn't bear the thought of me being around during the birth", said Codlik, sounding on the verge of tears "She said I'd just get in everyone's way. All I ever try to do is help and I'm never appreciated!"
"I'm sure Glynis does appreciate you", said Adam "But perhaps she really is better off with the other women to look after her. She's in excellent hands. Bertha's had a lot of experience of helping expectant mothers on the estate".
"And in the meantime you want to stay here?" Julian barked.
"It's going to be hard to find room for you, old love", said Adam "This house looks substantial, but there are already 12 of us in it".
"As long as he doesn't come in with us I don't care where he goes", said Joby.
"I think we'll have to put you in with Mieps", said Adam "He has a room all to himself. You can sleep on the floor, if you don't mind".
"That'll be fine", said Codlik, bravely.
"Oh how the mighty have fallen!" said Julian.
"Does that piano work?" said Codlik.
"Yeah, as long as you remember to put the coal in!" said Joby.
"Good", said Codlik "I fancy myself as quite a musician you know".
They all dined out that evening. This hadn't been the intention, but the chickens originally destined for the dinner-table had been slung out of the kitchen window by Adam. He had had a fit of pique after discovering that Hillyard (who had tiptoed away from the living-room on hearing Codlik's voice within) had removed the giblets. It was a general rule that Hillyard should not be allowed to do any jobs in the kitchen, other than lighting the stove. By removing the giblets he had contravened the unwritten law.
So dinner on the back patio of Persephone's bar was called for, and the hot sultry spring evening complimented the atmosphere, although there were grumblings from another customer because they all insisted on pushing a few tables together to accommodate their large group.
"Don't blame the rest of us", said Hillyard "We wouldn't have had to come out this evening at all if a certain daft blonde hadn't chucked our dinner out of the kitchen window! I don't know why everyone has hysterics whenever I touch food. It's not fair".
"That's it, bore the arse off complete strangers about all our problems!" said Joby.
"I think it's very ill-advised of you to want to disappear into an enclosed community when you so obviously don't get on", said Codlik.
"Oh it's always like this", said Joby "Take no notice".
"Anyway we do get on", said Adam, stiffly "But you can't expect us to be all lovey-dovey all the time, it would be unreal".
They sat down to chicken gumbo, accompanied by generous quantities of iced rum.
"All we need is a doe-eyed senorita to sing us a song", said Adam "And the scene would be complete".
"I hope we go and live somewhere warm", said Finia "I get sick of the cold weather very quickly".
"Well if Ransey has his way we'll end up on some dreary set of islands near the South Pole", said Adam.
"I find them on the map and said they might be worth a thought, that's all", said Ransey, for the umpteenth time.
"You said the natives abandoned 'em 60 years ago", said Joby "What I wanna know is why!"
"There was no sinister reason", said Ransey "It was simply that the population had shrunk drastically, and the remaining ones didn't want to live so far out from everywhere".
"It sounds awful", said Adam "Like the Falkland Islands".
"Probably find they are the Falkland Islands", said Joby.
"I suggest we look for somewhere where the summer temperatures actually manage to get into double figures occasionally", said Julian "Not some grey, bleak, windswept clump of rocks".
"White sands, blue sea", said Adam, dreamily "Coconut trees, exotic birds and animals ..."
"The Swiss Family Robinson to knock us up a luxury tree-house in 30 minutes flat!" said Julian.
"I think we should go back to our old island", said Lonts "That had all the things Adam mentioned".
"It also had a colony of crazed Virus victims", said Joby, impatiently.
"They didn't bother us until Yentzi crashed the air-buggy on their part of the island", Lonts protested "Anyway I expect they're all dead now. That was a long time ago".
"Even so", said Adam "We always found the interior of the island a disturbing place. I'd rather we found somewhere that had no terrible secrets".
"Why does it have to be an island?" said Codlik.
"It doesn't", said Adam "But an island seems the logical place to take the Indigo".
"Then why not a colony up the river somewhere?" said Codlik "There are numerous quiet, unspoilt places, and you won't be quite so cut off from the rest of the world, in case of an emergency".
"I had been thinking a bit along those lines myself", said Ransey.
"We'd just get plagued by Reptile Men like I was", said Mieps.
"Everywhere is going to have its risks", said Codlik "Nowhere in the world is completely safe and idyllic. I used to think the City was the safest place in the world, and alas, look what happened!"
Codlik was continually haunted by Kieran's determination to disappear. He wanted to use all his shrewdness and hard-earned diplomatic skills to get him to stay. He had got an assurance out of Adam that the exodus wouldn't take place until Glynis had had her baby, so that gave Codlik a few weeks breathing space in which to alter the course of things.
Back at the house later that night, whilst Joby and Hillyard were complaining about the heat that had built up in the closed building whilst they had been out, Codlik went through into the living-room, where Adam had just opened the French windows.
"What a beautiful evening", said Adam, softly "There's a tune by Delius I keep trying to remember. It sums it up so well. That's the one thing I regret about having crossed over. I miss the sheer breadth of culture we had easy access to then. It's so sad to think of all the music, art, books and films that have been lost. Very sad indeed".
"Some occasionally resurface", said Codlik "Perhaps now the world seems to be settling down for a while, we might get more teams doing archaelogical digs and such like. Who know what they might uncover?"
"Yes you're right", said Adam "Things are improving all the time. When I think how dark and lacking in hope the world was when we first cross over back in '99, well it scarce seems the same place. So much has happened in only 20 years. It's as if we're emerging from a dark fortress to a sunny meadow. Shall we go and say goodnight to the horses?"
They crossed the peaceful walled garden at the back of the house.
"It's hard to believe we're right in the centre of Toondor Lanpin", said Codlik "And you have quite a bit of privacy here too".
"Yes, I think it's quite one of the loveliest homes we've ever had", said Adam "And the house is just large enough to accommodate us all, but nicely compact at the same time".
"Then why not take out a long lease on it?!" said Codlik, in exasperation "I've heard of closed orders of monks who manage to live in the centre of towns, so I don't see why you all can't! You can have as much privacy and space as you wish here. Everyone in the town is used to Kieran, he doesn't get hassled by anyone. I don't even see why Hillyard had to give up the Governorship, when he's here he makes a good job of it. Glynis is very upset that you all want to disappear. She doesn't see any need for it anymore than I can. I know the world can be a trying place at times, but hiding yourselves away from it is not the answer. I beg you to reconsider. You have enormous influence over Kieran. I've often felt that you would only have to tell him to stay here and he would!"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that", Adam laughed, stroking the nose of one of the horses "I can think of plenty of occasions when he's gone directly against my wishes! Patsy is notoriously bad at doing as he's told!"
They both walked back along the gravel driveway which led from the stables to the side entrance of the house. Hillyard was shutting the big double doors to the street. Lonts was standing nearby with Snowy under his arm, inspecting a set or ornate iron dog-hooks which were next to the kitchen door.
"Why would they have put the dogs here, Hillyard?" he asked.
"As watchdogs at night", said Hillyard "In case anyone tried to break in through the drive doors".
"Of course", said Lonts "How stupid of me, I should've realised. It's like the dog-pen we had up at Wolf Castle. Why don't we get dogs for here?"
"Well we don't really need guard-dogs in the middle of Toondor Lanpin", said Hillyard "Even if someone was daft enough to break in, there's enough of us here to see 'em off".
"And we've hardly got anything worth nicking", said Joby, standing on the doorstep "Unless you think someone might wanna come in and swipe Snowy!"
"Kidnap him perhaps", Hillyard chuckled.
"Tell 'em there's no hurry with the ransom note!" said Joby.
"Nobody would dare kidnap Snowy", said Lonts, haughtily "I've trained him to be fierce, particularly after Helene took a shine to him up at Woll's place. Anyway, I don't see why we can't have dogs just as pets. They've got all the garden to run about in. That would be nice, wouldn't it, Adam?"
"You'll have to have a word with Julian", said Adam "But as long as they don't get too much in the way I don't see a problem, although I suspect he'll insist they sleep outside, so you must be prepared for that".
"Apart from when it rains", said Lonts "Dogs howl in the rain".
"Oh great", said Joby "That'll give Julian something to complain about!"
"It doesn't take much to give Julian something to complain about", said Hillyard "So I wouldn't worry about it!"
"Of course you're not thinking ahead though", said Codlik, with triumphant smugness "Where would you put the dogs on the Indigo? Hm?!"
"You don't give up easily do you!" said Joby.
"Tenacious to a fault", said Adam.
"Dos are alright on boats", said Hillyard "In fact they love it usually. Plenty of boat-people on the waterfront keep dogs".
"Exactly", said Lonts "It's not a problem, Codlik".
Up in his new bedroom Codlik tried to get undressed and ready for bed without encroaching on Mieps too much, which wasn't easy as the room was as narrow as a broom-cupboard. He had watched Mieps quite a lot through dinner, fascinated by this enigmatic Ghoomer, who had so unusually (for a Ghoomer) abandoned his own kind for so many years. Like so many people he hadn't before realised that Ghoomers, who were such a brutal, bestial race, could be capable of such a refined emotion as love. It was true that both Mieps and Tamaz were a little too abrasive in their affections for a human as finely sensitive as Codlik, but affection it undoubtedly was.
Codlik felt they were like hunting-dogs. Tamaz was the excitable puppy, constantly yapping for attention and full of intense energy. Mieps was the older, quieter dog, who lovingly tolerated the puppy's taunts, but who occasionally gave him a nip or a cuff to keep him in line. Codlik felt he now had a remarkable ability to find out more about this mysterious race of people, but he couldn't think of a suitable way to open a conversation with him.
Mieps showed no inclination to talk though. He undressed and climbed into bed. He lay on his back for a short while, staring at Codlik as though he was a vaguely familiar-looking person he had seen on the other side of a restaurant, but then he rolled over to face the window without saying a word.
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