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On their way back to the Bay they called in at No-Name, and then wished they hadn't. Dolores was as gracious as ever, but she was obviously determined to maintain some myth that there was nothing remotely wrong with her family. This was absurd, as Helene hung around in her wake like a doleful ghost, and Thierry's drinking was, if at all possible, even worse than ever. His face now had a very coarse, bloated look, and he didn't even try to be anything other than vile and odious. He sat across the dinner-table from them, giving rat-arsed lectures about purity of blood, and how fine breeding was everything that mattered.
Kieran quietly suggested sending him back to Bertha, who had had some measure of success at reforming him, but Dolores wouldn't hear of it, saying she had looked after her family since she was 11-years-old, and saw no reason to stop doing so.
After dinner a horrible incident occurred, which determined Kieran against attempting anymore Codlik-style nannying on their behalf. Thierry had cornered Bengo alone by the downstairs bathroom, and without any further ado had roughtly tried to get into his leather britches. When Bengo had resisted and said he didn't want to do anything, Thierry had contemptuously retorted that Bengo was riff-raff, common chorus-boy riff-raff, available to anyone who wanted him. And also he, Thierry, took anyone that he desired, and if Bengo resisted he would obligingly break both his legs.
Bengo had winded him by punching him in the stomach, and then ran out of the house. It mortified him that there should have been trouble because of him. He seemed incapable of not drawing attention to himself of late, and knew that both Bardin and Julian would be sure to scold him about it. But short of hiding himself in a sack, he didn't see what he could do. Some people, by looks alone, will always act as a sexual magnet. Bengo was one of them.
Sobbing, he had run out of the village and into the bush. Only when he finally ran out of breath, did he realise that he had committed another Ballast-Brained Bengo Speciality. He had got himself lost. And this, with the silent dusk coming on fast, was every bit as scary as when he had got lost in the forest beyond Midnight Castle.
Back at Dolores's house, the others had found out what had happened. In the ensuing chaos Thierry, Dolores and all the rest of the No-Namers were forgotten, as the Indigo-ites concentrated on searching for Bengo. Lonts tearfully exclaimed that Bengo might get eaten by a wild animal, and if that should happen Thierry would be Doomed For Certain.
Julian got so worked up that Adam became quite concerned for his health, and ordered him back to the sloop, adding the sweetener that someone should be there in case Bengo returned. The rest of them grabbed lanterns and torches, and fanned out beyond the village, calling out Bengo's name.
Adam was the one who found him. Bengo came running towards him through the gloom, and flung himself into his arms, like a distraught child running to his mother.
"I-I didn't mean to go that far!" he cried "I didn't notice where I was going!"
"Why on earth didn't you come to one of us when you got away from him?" said Adam, gripping his shoulders and shaking him gently.
"I thought he'd deny it all", Bengo sobbed "And then everyone would say I was lying".
"You thought we'd listen to a perverted piss-artist like Thierry and not you?" said Adam, in disbelief.
"Because I'm always in trouble", said Bengo, miserably.
"Come along, we'd better find the others", said Adam, tugging him along by the hand "They're all searching for you. Even Bardin, who I know isn't the most reasonable of men where your looks are concerned, is not going to believe that you gave Thierry any encouragement whatsoever! Why can't you learn a bit of rational thought, Bengo? You're not a child anymore!"
Adam knew as soon as he'd said it that he was wrong. It was true that Bengo had all the sophistication and worldliness to be expected from someone who had grown up in a showbiz environment, but in many ways he was still a child. His impulsive reactions and the way he was so easily roused to excitement, could be behaviour every bit as childlike as Lonts's. This also tied in with his showbizzy background. Entertainers, actors, clowns, performers of all kinds, often had to be treated like wilful children. Given treats to encourage them to do well, and alternately punished when they refused to toe the line.
"I'm sorry", Bengo gulped, tears coursing down his unbearably-cute face "Bardy ... Julian ... they must be real mad at me".
"Never mind about them!" said Adam "I'm real mad at you too! If I wasn't so anxious to get you home I'd give your butt a thorough pounding! If Bardin has any sense he'll do it for me!"
"Wouldn't you rather do it?" Bengo sniffed, clinging up close to him in a tearfully mischievous way.
"Mad person", said Adam "You don't know what you're asking for!"
Adam had nowhere to sit, but he still managed to hook Bengo over his knee and spanked him with a ferocity that ensured Bengo would tingle from it for some while yt. Bengo was both alarmed and excited by the force of the beating, arching his buttocks like a cat being stroked.
"H-how on earth did you never manage to do permanent damage to Kieran?" said Bengo, afterwards.
"As Patsy always says, he's tougher than he looks!" Adam smiled.
When they got back to the village, Adam found Ransey and told him to round up all the others. The search was thankfully off. Ransey beamed with pride at Adam, for having been the one to locate Bengo.
Back on the sloop Adam found Julian pacing in the cabin, frantically smoking a cigar.
"Jules", said Adam, smiling "I've got a little surprise for you".
Julian advanced on him so rapidly that Bengo recoiled, thinking he was going to be struck across the face. But Julian pulled him into his arms as Adam had done, and Bengo sobbed with relief into his chest. Bardin came in whilst all this was in progress. His little round, brown eyes grew even rounder when he saw Bengo. In his mind he had lived through not ever seeing him again, or not seeing him alive again, and he was furious at Bengo for having subjected him to this intensely traumatic experience. He too approached Bengo like a tidal wave about to devastate a village.
"There's no need for anger or recriminations", said Adam, grabbing his elbow and pulling him back "I've punished him myself".
"That's no good, I expect he enjoyed it!" said Bardin, petulantly.
"Irrelevant", said Adam.
"No it's not!" said Bardin.
"Yes it is!" Adam and Julian both chorused together.
Browbeaten into being tender with Bengo, Bardin took him up to the poop-deck. In the deep gloaming he kissed and soothed him, whilst cursing the madman Thierry with all his heart. Bengo, exhausted by the evening's events, said he just wanted to forget that Thierry had ever existed.
Bardin took him down to the galley for some food. There they found Joby casually tearing strips off a cold roast chicken, supposedly destined for tomorrow's lunch-table. Bengo expected Joby to make caustic remarks about his remarkable ability for getting lost, but to Bengo's surprise he didn't.
"Don't beat yourself up over it, mate", he said "I expect Adam's already done that!"
"How did you guess?" said Bengo.
"I know Adam!" said Joby "I'm surprised he didn't remind you of that time I got him lost in the tunnels below Gabriel's place at Mundaba Heights!"
It dawned on Joby that Bengo was remarkably like him in many ways. They were both prone to believing that disaster was always waiting around the next corner. Both believed they were hapless fools at the mercy of a vindictive fate, and both believed they didn't deserve the love that was lavished on them, that at any moment they were bound to something thoughtless and clumsy to destroy that love. The only real difference between them was that Bengo had been able to use his looks to turn his haplessness into a viable profession.
"God, I must've sounded old!" said Joby, when he was talking to Kieran on deck a little while later.
"You are old!" said Kieran "If we'd had a normal life you could've been a grandfather by now".
"The world's worst!" Joby laughed.
Thierry appeared on the riverbank, so drunk it was a wonder he was still standing.
"Bastards!" he yelled "You think you're fucking something don't you?!"
"Why can't the morons ever think of something original to say?" Joby groaned.
"I'm glad Julian had the foresight to raise the drawbridge", said Kieran, referring to the gangplank which had been retracted as soon as they were all safely on the sloop.
He went below deck, tagging Joby along behind him. Their cabin felt more like a refuge than ever. Thierry's voice had faded to a distant, mildly irritating blur in the background. Fortunately Bardin was making love to Bengo, so Bengo didn't take too much notice of his assailant's taunts.
Dolores insisted on coming aboard to see them very early the next morning, before breakfast in fact. She had brought Rosalind the gypsy with her, as a blatant token of appeasement. Rosalind had helped the Indigo-ites during their hunt for Tamaz, and was a useful ploy, especially now that Lady Red was no longer around to remind them of their positive links with No-Name.
Only it didn't work that way. Dolores's refusal to recognise her brother's evilness was enough to undo any diplomatic relations Lady Red had forged. As for Rosalind ... well the Indigo-ties had the sensible attitude of never wilfully snubbing a gypsy, but as for help in the past, that was a different matter. No one likes to be reminded of past charity, and the Indigo-ites didn't like to be reminded of the days when they had wanted Tamaz dead.
"We just want you to get help for Thierry", said Adam "If you don't, then one day he's going to do something very very regrettable".
"He's just a little wild that's all", said Dolores.
"You talk about him as though he was a wayward adolescent!" said Adam "He's not! He's a grown man, a very dodgy grown man!"
"ADAM!" Julian cried, seeing that Adam was working his way into a highly volatile lather.
Hillyard clambered back on-board. He had been for a bathe in the river, and hauled himself up looking like a gigantic wet seal.
"I don't understand the men of your village", he said to Dolores "Why can't they take him out on a hunting-trip in the bush, and arrange for a little accident to happen?!"
"He is my brother!" said Dolores.
Normally Adam would have tried to negotiate with her, something along the lines of "Yes we know he's your brother, and so you love him, but the fact remains he's still an evil arsehole!" He couldn't be bothered though. He had come a long way in life, seen a lot of things, learnt a lot of things, and all he knew at the moment was that he was bloody angry and fucking upset because this woman's lunatic brother had tried to rape Bengo! He had met evil too many times, to want to make allowances for it anymore.
He went below deck where he found Lonts swabbing the wooden floor of the corridor outside their cabin with a rag-mop.
"I thought I'd do this", said Lonts "Then I can guard Bengo, in case Thierry comes aboard".
"If Thierry comes aboard, I doubt he'll get this far!" said Adam "Is Bengo still in bed? I'd better go and see how he is".
"I expect you'll have sex with him", said Lonts, bluntly.
"No I will not!" said Adam "You make me sound no better than Thierry!"
Lonts slapped the mop onto Adam's feet. Adam laughed and grabbed it from him.
"Bengo can't help himself", said Lonts "He's good-looking. Those of us that are good-looking can't help the effect we have on others".
"Oi! You big-headed little bastard!" Joby shouted, appearing out of the entrance to the dark corridor that ran through the hold to the galley "You're supposed to be helping me with the breakfast! You said you was gonna cut the bread and get the big teapot ready".
"I changed my mind at the last minute", said Lonts, haughtily "When I heard the No-Namers were on-board".
"Moron!" Joby yelled.
Adam swished the mop across Joby's backside, which sent Lonts into fits of mirth. Joby lunged at Adam and rammed his hand down the front of his shorts.
"Oh you really wanna play don't you?" he said, feeling Adam's penis throbbing and growingn in his hand.
"Only after you've done the breakfast", said Adam, breathlessly "Or we'll have a mutiny on our hands".
He despatched them both to the galley and went into the cabin, where Bengo was lying alone in bed.
"You're not still in bed, you lazy litte bitch!" said Adam, sitting down in the space next to him.
"I could hear women's voices", said Bengo, sitting up "The No-Namers. I didn't want to get up whilst they were here. I didn't wanna be the centre of a fight".
"They'll be gone soon, and then we'll be off", said Adam.
"It's sad it has to be like this", said Bengo, miserably "They've been friends with us up to now. It's all my fault".
"It's Thierry's fault actually", said Adam, propping himself cross-legged against the wall "Dolores won't sort him out. That's the sad thing about it all. It was Red who held that village together, without her they don't seem to have any direction or motivation. do stop being harsh with yourself, Bengo. Julian will get very impatient with you if you insist on moping about the place".
Bengo climbed onto Adam's lap, and felt the hardness of his erection through his shorts. He looked bewitchingly hopeful.
"That was more down to Joby than you", said Adam.
"He might've started it", said Bengo "I kept it going though".
"Wouldn't you rather Bardin continued to lick your wounds?" said Adam.
"I think we should all do it together", said Bengo.
"We practically do!" said Adam.
"All at once though", said Bengo "As Lonts suggests".
"Who's to say what will happen when we get back into our own territory?" said Adam, kissing Bengo's face tenderly, lingering on the tip of his nose which Adam had always secretly found enchanting.
"Kieran's right", said Bengo, softly "Love is the most important thing".
Adam laid him down gently on the bed and continued to stroke his hair.
"I sometimes think there's too much of the artist in me", Adam whispered "When I look at you I get the same feeling I had before I first made love to Lo-Lo. How can I ask something so beautiful to do something so coarse and disgusting! Perhaps I'm more of an artist than I am a man".
"But it's not coarse and disgusting", said Bengo.
"Oh it is", said Adam "But it's as vital to us as defecating".
"Would it upset Lonts if we ...?" said Bengo.
"I think 'upset's' a bit of a strong way to describe it", said Adam "He would quietly bristle instead".
"He's very lucky to have you", said Bengo.
"It's me who's the lucky one!" said Adam "How are your 'wounds' now?"
"You've healed them", said Bengo.
By the time breakfast was finally served, the Indigo MKII had left No-Name, and had even left the main river. They had turned onto the estuary that led to the Bay, and even though they were still several days journey from their destination, they felt they were at last in home waters.
Adam sat on the forward deck with his sketch-pad and a stick of charcoal, drawing the clowns, who were lying near him side-by-side, dozing in the sunshine.
"I'm glad you're sticking to people sketches", said Julian, sitting beside him "I thought we were going to get endless drawings of flat, featurless meadowland. Or is it that you just can't take your eyes off Bengo?"
"Don't start!" said Adam, shortly.
"I'm not being funny, old fruit", said Julian "I was immensely relieved you found him and brought him home, and that you gave him a good hiding into the bargain! Although he's got rather more pleasure from that than I expected. Whenever I've threatened him with the strap in the past he's always had the screaming ab-dabs".
"He'd got himself in such a state I think he needed something drastic to get himself out of it", said Adam "He wanted someone to take control, and he must know that if I can sort you out I can sort anyone out!"
Julian glowered at him, squinting against the sunlight. Tamaz came over. He was wearing an extraordinary new outfit of a long singlet over a pair of patchwork drawers, which Finia had cobbled together for him from all the various scraps of material in his sewing-box.
"Why don't you draw me?" he said.
"O.K", said Adam, turnign over onto a fresh page "Sit down and make your face completely expressionless, the way I've done you before".
He had barely started when Hillyard suggested taking some of the animals ashore for exercise. Julian, who badly needed to work off some of his anger over last night's activities, agreed with alacrity. They now had two donkeys, as well as the two horses, and Julian ordered Adam and Kieran to come ashore with him and Hillyard. Adam wanted to give Julian moral support, or he would never have agreed to ride one of the donkeys, an animal he resolutely didn't trust. Kieran was also dubious about it.
"Just pretend you're riding into Jerusalem", said Julian "Ready to turn over a few tables in the temple!"
"Don't be blasphemous!" said Kieran.
The 4 of them set off along the river-bank, trotting along behind the sloop. Kieran found himself getting left behind. His donkey was by far the doziest, concerned only with farting loudly and eating up as much of the countryside as he could find. He also had an inconvenient habit of wanting to walk around in a circle.
"Do try and keep up, Patsy", said Adam, turning round his old nag to come and fetch him "You know what Jules is like. He'll get impatient if we hold things up".
"It's alright for you!" said Kieran "Yours isn't stuck in reverse! Why did I get this one and not you?"
"Because he's the shortest", said Adam "I'm too tall for him. My feet would have been practically dragging on the ground. So would Jules. And Hillyard's far too fat to be inflicted on him".
"I think he's got worms", said Kieran "He must have, 'cos he keeps trying to stick his nose up his own arse!"
"You need to master it", said Julian, wheeling round "You're not being firm enough".
"That's your answer to everything!" said Kieran, and he bent low to stroke the donkey's ears, whispering as he did so "C'mon now. Don't let me down. Don't let that plummy-voiced Englishman have a chance to act even more focking superior!"
"What are you trying to do, Tinker Belle?" Julian shouted back "Make love to it?! Start showing some mastery or we'll get left behind by the others on the sloop".
"Can't you show him some mastery!" Kieran said to Adam.
"We'll have to wait til we get back to the sloop", Adam laughed. He clicked his tongue and slapped the rump of Kieran's donkey, but this had no effect at all.
Hillyard came back, and grabbed the bridle, effectively towing Kieran along behind him.
"All he wants to do is eat and fart", said Kieran "And he has no sense of direction at all!"
"Yeah I know", said Hillyard "Perhaps we should call him Bengo!"
The 3 of them laughed uproariously at this.
"Oh for heaven's sake, Jules", said Adam, when Julian snapped at them to hurry up again "The others aren't going to abandon us, and we're not meeting a deadline. You'll be going on about team-work and efficiency next, like some ghastly management consultant!"
"I won't forget you said that!" said Julian, pointing his riding-crop at him playfully.
"It's a good job we're doing this now", said Hillyard "We're going to be relying on the animals when we go up-country. So Bengo needs to be broken in a bit".
"Are we still talking about the donkey?" said Julian "Or that rather fetching little clown we keep for ornamentation?!"
"I could ride him any day!" said Hillyard.
"We know!" said Adam "But you didn't appreciate him enough so we took him away and gave him to Bardin instead".
"Not exactly for his exclusive use though", said Hillyard "Not after what you got up to last night!"
"I was maintaining discipline, as always", said Adam "After that he'll think twice before he runs off and gets himself lost again".
"Cobblers!" said Kieran "If he's got any sense he'll do it countless times!"
"Here lies Joby Long. A good, wise and brave man. He died as he had lived, with a fucking potato-peeler in his hand!"
"Aren't you very happy, Joby?" said Lonts, looking at him with concern.
"Delirious", said Joby, leaning with exhaustion against one of the cupboards in the galley "It doesn't matter how often I complain, rant and rage, I still end up down here working like a mug, whilst everyone else does exactly what they want!"
"At least we have each other to keep us company", said Lonts.
"Yeah, that'll be a great comfort to me in my dying moments", said Joby.
"You're not dying, don't be silly", said Lonts "If you were you'd be ill".
"I am ill, I've got spud-itus!" said Joby, tossing another naked potato into the big cauldron of cold water in front of him "And you're no fucking help! You peel about one spud to my every 5! You keep going off into a daydream".
They worked in silence for a couple of minutes, and then Joby calmly nudged Snowy off the draining-board and into the cauldron.
"That was really unkind, Joby!" said Lonts, fishing the toy-bear out again.
"As if he cares!" said Joby "He's still got the same soppy look on his face!"
He yawned and stretched, and then resumed his despondent hunched posture.
"Perhaps Adam should do a picture of us like this", he said "He could call it 'Eternity'. That's what it feels like anyway. Me peeling spuds forever, with a weirdo for company".
"You're the weirdo, not me", said Lonts "I thought you said at the monastery you weren't ever going to complain, ever again. I didn't think you really meant it".
"'Cos I never said it, that's why!" said Joby "You live on a different planet, you do".
"I know what you would enjoy", said Lonts.
"What?" said Joby, warily.
"To lie in bed and listen to the engines", said Lonts.
"Fat chance!" said Joby "Adam'll go ape if he comes back and finds the spuds not done".
"You've said yourself that it's not fair he's left us to do them", said Lonts "So if he complains I shall be firm with him".
"He'll like that!" said Joby.
"Then we'll all be happy won't we?" said Lonts.
He picked Joby up in his arms and carried through the hold to the cabin, kicking open the door roughly on his way in. They both undressed and lay under the open window, as if grabbing at the faint breeze coming in off the river. After a while they heard the engines stop, and they knew they were at anchor once more, waiting for the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse to catch them up. From the clatter of horses and the cacophony of voices in the hold soon after, it seemed they finally had. Joby felt infinitely refreshed for his lie-down.
"That was better than workingn wasn't it, Joby?" said Lonts.
Joby agreed, enthusiastically.
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