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They heard the sirens in the night but nobody thought for one minute that it could signify a fire at the boatyard. Come the morning though they realised soon enough, and when they all trooped out there together they discovered the horrible truth. So horrible that the boatyard owner ws in tears, inconsolable, facing ruination. It still wasn't clear how it had started, although, like the Great Fire of London, it may have been ignited by a spark from a stove in someone's kitchen nearby, as that had been gutted too.
The Indigo-ites faced the charred remains of the vessel they had come to look upon as their surrogate mother. For a long while it was as though they had been frozen into a dumb-show tableaux. Lonts broke it first by running hysterically out into the street. Ransey pursued him and managed to get hold of him just before he would have come into collision with a horse-drawn rickshaw. Ransey held him tightly until Adam appeared.
"Lonts, don't you ever do that again!" he rebuked him "I don't care how upset you are".
"But it's terrible, Adam", Lonts wailed "It's so terrible!"
"I know it is", said Adam "I'm as bitterly upset as you are, but it's not the end of the world. Remember two things. One, no one has been killed or injured, and two, we are not homeless. Much as we all loved the Indigo and we shall miss her greatly, she wasn't flesh and blood. There hasn't been a death in the family, although there might well have been if Ransey hadn't caught you in time!"
"I'm sorry", Lonts blubbed "Oh what are we going to do now, Adam? What are we going to do!"
"We're all going over the road to have a drink", said Julian, firmly "Look upon it as a wake for the Indigo. I'm sure Tinker Belle, as an Irishman, will approve of that".
They went across the bar opposite, which seemed to squint and recoil in the harsh morning sunlight, like an ageing beauty suddenly exposed to a bright overhead light. All bar-rooms, even when they've been swept and dusted, are revolting places first thing in the morning, but the Indigo-ites weren't too interested in their surroundings, although they began to relax when they'd had a toast to the resilient little tug-boat who had seen them safely all around the world.
"She was getting too small for us anyway", said Ransey, glumly "Crazy idea trying to fit 13 people into a 9-berth vessel".
"I should have known something like this was going to happen", said Adam "I had a very disturbing dream last night. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a portent of doom. I dreamt I was married to my Father!"
"Not legal, Ada", said Julian, as everyone else erupted into wild laughter "Not in our time or this".
"It was a perfectly ghastly dream", said Adam "I dread to think what Freud would have made of it! It doesn't bear thinking about!"
"Ah, but did you enjoy being married to him?" said Kieran, teasingly.
"Certainly not, it was absolutely disgusting", said Adam "In it I went round protesting that it couldn't be true, we couldn't be married as he was 32 years older than me, as though that was the only possible objection I could think of!"
"I hope I never get a dream like that", said Joby "I don't think I'd ever recover from it!"
"But no one's talking about the important thing", Lonts protested "What are we going to do now? We can't leave!"
"There are other ways", said Ransey "It just needs a re-think that's all".
"Perhaps we're not meant to leave", said Kieran "Perhaps the Almighty has other plans for us".
"Oh don't start all that", said Julian, pouring out another glass of a rich coffee liqueur.
"I'm not saying it means we have to stay here", said Kieran "Just that perhaps we have to wait for another sign as to what we're supposed to do".
"The writing on the wall perhaps?" said Julian, sarcastically "Don't talk out of your arse, Tinker Belle. Our fate's usually at the mercy of things far more prosaic than the hand of God".
"I'm just saying He moves in mysterious ways", said Kieran.
"And I'm going to throw a blanket over you if you insist on keep parroting on like that", said Julian.
"Don't go on at Kieran, Julian", said Lonts "He's only trying to help".
"I'm just trying to say that God never deserts us", said Kieran.
"That wasn't what Christ said when he was pinned up on the Cross!" Julian retorted "Lord, why has Thou forsaken me?!"
"And the Resurrection proved that He hadn't forsaken him", said Kieran, persistently "That illustrates perfectly that we have to look at the big picture all the time, not just what's happening in the immediate here and now".
"Catholics are very good at looking at the big picture", said Adam "Often at the detriment of the small one! They're no good at the day-to-day trivialities of life".
"Like forgetting to eat, in his case", said Joby.
"Yes, that's an idea", said Adam "Let's have some breakfast here".
"Where have you all been?" said Codlik, standing in the hallway of their house "I've been waiting for hours for you to come home!"
"Strewth", said Joby "Why don't you get the rolling-pin out whilst you're at it?!"
"The goats have been delivered", said Codlik, pursing his lips primly.
"Oh lor, I'd forgotten all about them!" said Adam.
"I've had to put them in the garden", said Codlik.
"Well it's an improvement on keeping them in the house, old love", said Adam.
"I see you've been drinking", Codlik went on.
"I haven't", said Adam, brightly "As a reward for exemplary behaviour do I get made head prefect now?!"
"We are holding the official Indigo wake", said Julian, tipsily "It may go on for quite some time".
"I don't want to ever sober up", said Lonts, sounding griefstricken "Because I shall really feel if it I do. It'll hit me really hard".
"I shall hit you really hard if you don't stop moping on", said Joby.
"Codlik, it wasn't you who set fire to the Indigo was it?" said Lonts.
"Oh don't be a cretin, Lonts!" said Joby "Codlik wouldn't break the law if his life depended on it!"
"I can understand your grief", said Codlik "I know how attached you all were to her".
"When I think of the memories tied up in her", said Julian, giving a heavy sigh "Well I suppose those are just the breaks aren't they? I'm going upstairs for a little while".
Adam was woken early the following morning by agitated conversation on the landing outside his room. He went out to find Kieran and Joby, undressed, having a ferocious argument.
"It's him!" said Joby, pointing at Kieran "I can't stand it anymore. He keeps mithering me, going about how everything's gonna be alright".
"Joby, for heaven's sake", said Adam "He's Irish. You know what they're like, they always insist on looking on the bright side".
"Yeah well I've had enough of it", said Joby "Tamaz left us at 4 o'clock this morning, and all because of him!"
"Where on earth's he gone?" said Adam.
"Only down to the clowns", said Joby "And I'm going to the karsey, and if he insists on following me in there, I'm gonna flush him down it!"
Joby went into the bathroom. He opened the window which led out onto the roof of the kitchen, and sat down on the ledge, drinking in the early morning sunlight and birdsong. He noticed the goats were methodically decimating one of the flower beds, but he couldn't get unduly worked up about it. Kieran came in.
"Stay away!" said Joby, picking up the loo-brush and brandishing it at him "Stay away from me!"
"I promise I won't speak", said Kieran, holding up his hands in surrender "I just want to be with you that's all".
"O.K", said Joby, and he patted the window-ledge "Come and sit here".
Kieran joined him.
"What do you think we should do now then?" said Joby, eventually.
"I'm fresh out of ideas at the moment", said Kieran "What do you suggest we do?"
"Sit here for a while?" Joby shrugged.
"Suits me", said Kieran.
Tamaz and the clowns had been engaged in a rather vigorous threesome which concluded with Tamaz peddling his legs in the air joyously.
"That was something else", Bardin panted "Now I can say I've had an hermaphrodite! Perhaps we should call Mieps down here and make it a foursome".
"Count me out", said Bengo, trying on Tamaz's drawers "He scares the crap out of me".
"But think of the ways", said Bardin "How do you two do it, Tamaz? Man-woman? Man-man? Woman-woman?"
"Lesbians!" said Bengo "I always wondered what they got up to!"
"Artificial aids, you dimwit", said Bardin "You probably have images of them trying to rub two cunts together! So what do you and MIeps do, Tamaz?"
"He sticks his prick into my hole", said Tamaz, casually.
"What, the same way all the time?" said Bardin.
"You don't get much chance to discuss tactics with Ghoomers", said Tamaz, polishing an apple between his breasts "They tend to just get on with it".
"Don't you ever stick yours in his?" said Bardin "Just for a change?"
"Nah, it probably healed up years ago", said Tamaz, dismissively.
That evening Hillyard dragged himself out of the house to go and officially hand over the Governorship to his successor. He had hoped to get out of doing this by leaving town first, but it was not to be. Julian, Adam and Ransey also came along to boost the meagre audience in the town-hall. The new Governor had managed to add a bit more to his speech, other than "What does the New Era mean to you?" Quite a bit in fact. He went on at great length about nothing in particular (Julian said he must have picked up a few tips from Codlik), and all the while Hillyard waited impatiently on the platform to do the official handshake and embrace.
"He's quite a good public speaker", said Ransey, grudgingly.
"So was Hitler!" Julian retorted "And look how he turned out! Politicians, pah! All of them are a complete waste of space".
"Very true", said Ransey "It's us back-room boys who do all the real work, we always did. It's us who always ran things".
"That would account for a lot", Julian muttered.
"Jules!" said Adam, in a warning voice "Poor Hilly, he looks absolutely wretched with boredom".
"Probably having trouble concentrating", said Ransey, caustically "Unless the subject matter concerns his dick he never can for longer than four seconds!"
A loud, booming laugh rent the air, coming from the foyer behind them. The new Governor looked understandably disconcerted by this, but carried on anyway.
"Was that Lonts?" said Ransey, sharply.
"Yes, I have a feeling it was", Adam sighed.
The deep, booming laugh was followed by a high-pitched yodelling one.
"Well I wonder who that could be!" said Julian.
"I'll go and see what they're doing", said Adam, getting up from his seat.
Out in the foyer Lonts and Tamaz, both of whom were very drunk, were waltzing, watched with heat-soaked detachment by the town-hall caretaker. Tamaz was wearing a new red frock, which had tiny mirrors sewn into the full skirt.
"Lo-Lo", said Adam, sternly "I am very cross with you. You've been drinking again".
"But we're still having the wake for the Indigo", Lonts protested.
"At home", said Adam "Not here. Tamaz, where did you get that dress from? I haven't seen it before".
"Bought it", said Tamaz "Today. I haven't stolen it if that's what you're thinking!"
"One can never be too sure with you", Adam replied.
Tamaz flung up the skirt, exposing himself. The caretaker didn't react in the slightest.
"Stop that!" Adam shrieked, re-adjusting the dress "Where are your drawers?"
"Don't know", Tamaz shrugged, indifferently "Last time I saw them Bengo had 'em on".
"Well you've got more than one pair!" Adam cried "And I'm not even going to ask what Bengo was doing wearing them!"
Lonts was laughing so helplessly he had to grope for a chair and sit down.
"Where's Toppy?" said Adam "I thought you were going to stay with him this evening".
"We've left him at home with Codlik", said Lonts.
Joby and Kieran came into the foyer from outside, both of them were also considerably the worse for drink.
"I might have known", said Adam "This is fast becoming like an episode of 'The Muppet Show'. Totally irresponsible and ridiculous".
"Who are you then?" Joby laughed "Miss Piggy!"
"Well if I am", Adam snapped "You're bloody Gonzo!"
"Except instead of blowing a horn he breaks windows", said Kieran.
"Yeah I've er ... broken our bedroom window", Joby confessed, awkwrdly.
"Why?!" Adam squawked.
"I didn't do it on purpose", said Joby, defensively "I was trying to close the sash and it slipped out of me hands".
"But it's not going to rain tonight", said Kieran "So we're alright on that score".
"You've left it like that?" said Adam, in disbelief.
"Aw c'mon Ad", said Joby "We'd never get a glazier at this time of night".
Adam gave a cry of exasperation and went back into the foyer, where Julian and Ransey were tucking into some bottles of beer they had brought with them. Hillyard was watching from the platform, with a look of acute longing on his face. Suddenly he got up, gave the new Governor the official kiss and handshake, and climbed down to join them. He selected a bottle from the bag at Ransey's feet, and then went out into the foyer to dance with Tamaz.
"Are you carrying on again, Ada?" said Julian, appearing with his beer bottle "You're a bloody old woman!"
"Oh go to Hell!" Adam exclaimed, and left the building.
Lonts followed him, wracked with concern.
"Hey come on Ad", Hillyard followed him round the kitchen, groping him in all the strategic places "I can make you feel better. You name it, we'll do it, anything you want. Anything at all".
"I'm going upstairs to put Lo-Lo to bed", said Adam.
"Toppy can do that", said Hillyard.
"No he can't", said Adam "He's terrified of Lonts when he's drunk, and I'm not in the mood for 'anything I want' either".
"You shouldn't let Julian upset you", said Hillyard "You should know what he's like by now".
"I hate it when he shows me up in front of everyone", said Adam "I can't bear it, I really can't. He's always done it, and it gets me down everytime. Sometimes I really wish I'd never met him. When I think how much easier my life would have been! I wish I could damn well resist him, just once!"
Hillyard burst out laughing. Adam snarled a 'goodnight' and went up to bed, where he found Lonts lying on his back with Snowy clasped to his chest.
"You're such a great big lug of a thing", said Adam, trying to undress him.
"Then let me wear my clothes in bed", said Lonts, drowsily.
"Certainly not", said Adam, and was annoyed because he couldn't think of a single good reason as to why he couldn't.
He was distracted by the weird sound of hissing coming from the landing. He went out there to find Mieps hauling Tamaz up the stairs by the back of his dress. Tamaz was hammering his feet on the stairs in protest.
"Julian told me I should keep a closer eye on him", said Mieps.
"I'm not going in my room", Tamaz squawked "There's no window in it!"
"Behave, Freaky", said Adam "I'm not letting you leave the house again until I've checked you're wearing your drawers first! You should have been with us this evening, Mieps. I need back-up sometimes".
"With pleasure", said Mieps.
It took Adam some while to get to sleep, and when he did he slept long and heavy. He woke up very late the following morning to find Lonts and Toppy both absent, but a sprig of pink blossom from one of the trees in the garden was lying next to his pillow.
"Lonts left it there for you", said Hillyard, carrying in a cup of tea for him "He and Toppy are in the garden".
"Goodness, what time is it?" said Adam.
"Gone noon", said Hillyard.
"Yikes! Who did breakfast?" said Adam, sitting up abruptly.
"Joby did it", said Hillyard "Stop panicking. Codlik says all this is part of the healing process".
"I suppose he does talk sense sometimes", said Adam, sipping his tea.
"When you're ready to get up", said Hillyard "Could you pop up and see Julian?"
"Isn't he up yet either?" said Adam "Lazy old sod".
"He's in a bad way, Ad", said Hillyard "I'm a bit worried about him. He's taking the loss of the Indigo harder than he's showing. You can help him at times like this better than I can. I know he got on your nerves last night, but could you go up and see him for my sake?"
"Yes, very well", Adam sighed.
When he went out onto the landing a short while later he found that all their bags and rucksacks, which had been packed ready for the Indigo voyage that never was, had been brought up from the hall and dumped on the floor. No one had had the heart to unpack them again. It illustrated better than anything how acutely disappointed they all were to still be here. Adam felt a wave of compassion for Julian and went up to the next floor. Julian's room was in darkness. Adam pulled back the curtains and sat down in the chair nearest the bed.
"Jules", he said, softly "These things happen, old love. It's life".
Julian got out of bed and sat at his feet, resting his head in Adam's lap.
"With the Indigo", he said "For the first time in my life I felt worthwhile, as though there was some purpose to my existence. I remember all the time we were chasing that little horror Tamaz, I felt like a real person, not someone living up to an ideal. Of course I was probably fooling myself, playing at being the strong leader".
"Jules, you were", said Adam, stroking his hair "Strong and good. Do you think that unruly rabble downstairs would have put up with you if they hadn't wanted to?! You even won Joby's respect, and that's not easy by any means, particularly as he's a closet Robespierre!"
"I wanted to feel I'd done something that was just down to me", said Julian "And had nothing to do with where or what I came from. And the Indigo gave me that. I know I'm being selfish. Everyone's suffering. Hillyard summed it up well this morning. He said he couldn't believe we'd never wake up on-board there again".
"That's hard for all of us to take in", said Adam "It's like someone dying, but as I said to Lo-Lo, no one has really, and we have to bear that in mind. Perhaps we should look for another Indigo, one that's equipped to take all of us".
"Thirteen berths", said Julian.
"At least then we won't have to put up with Freaky grizzling because he has to sleep on a camp-bed!" said Adam.
"I think we should get the gorilla cage back for Freaky!" said Julian, wryly "Tow him along behind us, like we used to!"
Loud hammering broke out in the room directly below.
"The glazier must have arrived to fix Patsy's window", said Adam.
"Goddamnit!" Julian stood up and began to pace the room angrily "To think by now we could have been up-river, in the middle of nowhere, on our peaceful re ... peaceful retreat", his voice trailed off as though he'd suddenly had a religious vision "Retreat! That's it, retreat!"
"Jules?" said Adam, perplexed.
"Go and fetch Kieran", Julian ordered "Tell him I want to see him".
"Why?" said Adam, suspiciously.
"Stop twittering Ada, and just do as I say", said Julian "Fresh plans are afoot!"
Adam went down to the next floor. In the bedroom directly below Julian's he found Kieran, Joby and Tamaz watching the glazier, who was busy complaining that he had a hangover, as he'd been out of his head the night before, and bragging that a girl had come up to him in the bar whom he couldn't remember sleeping with, even though she'd sworn he had.
"Bloody marvellous innit!" Joby muttered, coming out onto the landing "How does a boring little jerk like him get to have such a hectic sex life that he can't remember bits of it!"
"Stop going on", said Kieran "You do alright".
"Yeah sure", said Joby "Everybody else has sex, but me".
"Even Toppy?" said Kieran "You know you only have to say the word and I'm on you like a shot. And you have Tamaz".
"No, correction, Lonts has Tamaz", said Joby "Mieps has Tamaz. And now the little tart's been with the clowns, both of 'em!"
"Well I'm just glad he's having a bit of fun in that department", said Kieran "He didn't get much before he met us".
"Fair enough", Joby growled.
"Pats", said Adam "Jules wants a word with you upstairs. He's carrying on as though it's something important".
Tamaz was alerted at once, aware that something was going on, and he went to follow him.
"Not you", said Adam, pulling him back.
"Is the monastery empty?" said Julian, who was pulling on his clothes when Kieran got up there "Don't look so bewildered, I'm talking about the monastery up in the mountains near here".
"Yes", said Kieran "The monks are all still in the East Wing at Woll's place, apart from a few in the town here. But the monastery itself is empty".
"What about the poltergeist?" said Julian.
"I doubt it's there", said Kieran "Demonic spirits tend to be attracted to people, not places. It's a person who triggers them off. I doubt it's there now, and if it is ..."
"You can exorcise it?" said Julian.
"I'd give it a try", said Kieran.
"Good", said Julian "Because we're going up there for a short while, in spiritual retreat. We need to get out of this town and give some quite thought to our future. Go and tell the others".
"Sure", said Kieran, happily.
"And then send Toppy up here", said Julian "I haven't had a shave yet!"
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