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"I really think you should put some clothes on, Lo-Lo", said Adam, who was sitting on the deck of the Indigo MKII with him.
"It's hot, I don't need to", said Lonts, who was sitting with Snowy strategically placed over his genitals.
"At least put your shorts on", said Adam.
"Huh, what next?" said Lonts "A jumper? A coat?!"
"Now you're just being very silly", said Adam "People keep staring at you!"
"Then they obviously need some work to do", said Lonts, leaning languidly against the mast.
"I could do something terrible if you don't obey", said Adam "Like chuck all your revolting pipe tobacco over the side!"
"You wouldn't dare!" said Lonts.
"No, probably not", Adam sighed.
Kieran and the others clambered aboard, having escaped their stalker. He and Joby were going on at each other hammer and tongs, Adam recognised the signs only too well. Bengo meanwhile stripped off all his clothes, and then chased Bardin down to the cabin.
"I'm glad someone's having fun", said Adam.
Kieran and Joby had now got to the time-honoured Hitting Each About The Ears stage of their argument. With the skill and experience of a blood-stained primary-school teacher Adam went to split them up.
Contrary to popular belief, Bengo and Bardin hadn't gone below to instantly launch into mad passionate sex. They had actually sat on the bed under the main window in the cabin, looking out at the turquoise blue sea, chatting gently, before falling asleep in each other's arms. Bengo adored having Bardin to himself at such times. Bardin was coy and giggly when they were intimate, completely dropping the air of hardened professionalism with which he greeted the rest of the world.
Afterwards, they went up to the poop-deck and lay in the sun with Lonts and Tamaz. They idly discussed Toppy, who had gone shopping with Julian and Finia. Bengo confessed that he was secretly afraid of Toppy, a fact which left Lonts and Tamaz almost speechless with disbelief.
"You're afraid of Toppy?" said Lonts "I didn't think anyone in the world could be afraid of Toppy! That is really daft, Bengo!"
"Perhaps", said Bengo.
"Why should you be scared of him?" said Bardin.
"He's so particular about everything", said Bengo "When we lived at the Town House I kept thinking that if he had his way I wouldn't be allowed in it. He'd make me sleep in the yard".
"But he doesn't have things his way", said Lonts.
"No, but say I ended up with him in our old age", said Bengo "He'd treat me like an incontinent old labrador!"
"You're crazy!" said Tamaz, lying on his back with his small breasts poking up into the air.
"That's easy for you to say", said Bengo "He worships you!"
Julian came home soon after, accompanied by Finia and the fearsome Toppy. Julian had been annoyed, and not a little alarmed, to come across a well-dressed man sitting in a rickshaw on the harbour-front, with a pair of binoculars blatantly trained on the sloop.
"He could be anyone, Jules", said Adam, reassuringly "People are always staring at us, and most of them are harmless. Remember The Watcher?"
"I'm not so sure about this one", Julian muttered "He's probably the same one who sent Bengo those flowers last night".
"Glorified fan-mail", said Adam "That's how Bengo sees it anyway".
"Bengo, for all his obvious attractions, is not overly-blessed with brains", said Julian "And there are a lot of unscrupulous men in the world".
"Takes one to know one", said Adam.
"Exactly!" said Julian "I know the type too well, and so do you! He's sitting down there gazing at us with bare-faced nerve, and on here everyone is lying around in the nude! I thought you could have at least made Lonts put something on".
"God help me, I've tried!" said Adam "But the days are gone when I could force him to get dressed!"
"Well he has you under his thumb these days doesn't he!" said Julian.
"Yes he does", said Adam "But then I always knew that would happen. He's now the strong one, and I'm not going to complain because I actually rather like it".
"You never change", said Julian.
"Neither do you!" said Adam, and then he laughed softly "Oh Jules, you are sweet, the way you worry about everyone".
"That's what he's here for", said Ransey, shortly "That's the price he pays for being the old one!"
"Well you've made me feel a whole heap better!" said Julian "I think I'll go and beat up a few youngsters to cheer myself up!"
He went up to the poop-deck and ordered them all below.
"Not you as well, Julian", Lonts groaned "You and Adam didn't worry about us being naked at the Bay".
"I regret to say we are not at the Bay", said Julian "And until our friend with the field-glasses gets bored and clears off, I want you all below out of sight".
They were going to obey, but the temptation to annoy their stalker was too much for the clowns and Tamaz. They scooted down to the harbour, whooping with the joy of having someone new to terrorise. Lonts was too old for such tactics. In his younger days he would have joined in, but he had learnt that the fun involved wasn't worth the punishment that would inevitably follow. He'd rather sit down and smoke his pipe, and watch with resignation as hubris descended on the wild young 'uns.
The rickshaw driver had been told to simply wait until his customer was ready to leave, so he had gone and sat on a heap of rope nearby. Tamaz and Bengo, both butt-naked, had climbed on the rickshaw and jeered at the man in the broard-brimmed hat and sunglasses, who was now frantically signalling for his driver to return. He seemed to panic even more when Julian appeared on the quayside. Bardin managed to pull Bengo and Tamaz off the vehicle before their mystery admirer left.
Joby was as furious as Julian at their antics. He had imagined Tamaz being pulled into the rickshaw and driven off at the point of a gun, ironically in the same way Tamaz had once abducted him!
"I've had enough of both of you for one day!" he roared at Tamaz and Kieran "I'm surprised you haven't both made me hairless! I'm going out for a drink. Tamaz, you can stay with Mieps til I get back".
"No!" Tamaz wept "No you can't, Joby, you can't! He'll beat me, he'll shut me in the hold with the horses!"
"Good!" said Joby.
He went to the nearest bar he could find, and ordered a neat rum. He downed it in such a determined fashion that the bar-tender was ready and waiting to top him up immediately.
"Glad to see you're taking your medicine", said Kieran.
He was holding hands with Tamaz (now back in his shirt and trousers).
"I said he was to stay with Mieps", said Joby, which sent Tamaz off into a fresh orgy of bawling.
"C'mon now", said Kieran, signalling for the bar-tender to pour two rums for him and Tamaz as well "The punishment would be far worse than the crime".
"That's a matter of opinion", Joby mumbled.
"Can you pay for these?" said Kieran "Only we came out in such a rush I forgot to bring any money with me".
"Oho!" said Joby "There's an Irishman's excuse! Short arms, deep pockets!"
"Now I know you're getting rat-arsed", said Kieran "The bigoted remarks are starting to pour out!"
Joby mumbled something, mercifully unintelligible. Kieran ordered a large slab of the local dark chocolate, which was also heavily spiced with rum. It came on a tray with a little hammer, so that they could break chunks off. He and Tamaz began to enjoy themselves with it.
"You know, it's a good job I'm here", said Kieran.
"How do you work that one out?" said Joby, fiercely.
"Because you'd be too damn hard on this poor kid if I wasn't", said Kieran "You and Mieps between you are hard taskmasters".
"Tamaz is not a 'poor kid'", said Joby.
Tamaz knuckled his eyes sorrowfully, and Joby was finally undone.
"It was just high spirits", said Kieran "Exactly the sort of thing we'd have done at his age".
"Yeah, and Adam would have gone on about it for eons afterwards!" said Joby "I was scared stiff of him at that age. Still am at times!"
"Mm, and Tamaz is scared stiff of Mieps", said Kieran.
"Mieps is far worse than Adam", said Tamaz, emotionally "You can't talk Mieps round or kiss him out of it, whereas Adam's a big softy really".
"He's just appeared", said Kieran, looking behind them at the doorway "You can tell him that if you like".
Adam was with Lonts, who had also conceeded to get dressed.
"Lo-Lo badly wanted to come and see you, Joby", said Adam.
"Why?" said Joby, warily.
"I wanted to ask you not to be too hard on Tamaz", said Lonts.
"Oh don't you start!" said Joby.
"It was all my fault", said Lonts, sounding wretched "I should have kept an eye on them all, not let them run ashore like that. Well perhaps not all 3 of them, but I should certainly have stopped Tamaz. I could have picked him up and carried him below, but no I let him do it. Oh it's terrible what could have happened, and I would have had it all on my conscience, until the day I died, and it would only have been what I deserved".
"Lonts!" Joby cried, imploringly "No more for God's sake, I don't think I could take it! You're worse than Kieran!"
"I am wretched and miserable", said Lonts.
"Strewth I'll say!" said Joby "Have some chocolate".
Bardin had recognised the rickshaw-driver as Rumble, a part-time clown at the Cabaret, who had more often than not been assigned to sweeping-up duties instead. He and Bengo were delighted to recognise him, as this might give them a chance to redeem themselves. They could force him to reveal the identitiy of his customer, and thus they would win some much-needed praise from the others. The thought lurked at the back of their minds that Rumble might not have any idea who the mystery man was either. He was after all only paid to ferry people along the waterfront, not to know all their darkest secrets! Still, it was worth a try.
Late that afternoon they left the sloop, after having been soundly chastised by Julian, and went prowling up and down the stairways and alleys of the town, looking for a bar that had always been a favourite with the clowns in the old days. Their detective work was hampered though by the beauty of the evening, and by the fact that they were both young and fancied each other something rotten. They kept stopping in the middle of the steps bathed in mellow sunshine, to kiss each other, and wonder why they hadn't had the sense to become lovers when they had lived here before.
"We'll never find him at this rate", said Bengo, with his arms round Bardin's neck.
"I don't want to move too fast anyway", said Bardin "I'm as sore as hell!"
Julian had thrashed them both with the wooden paddle. It was a ferocious punishment because it was done more through anger than sexual desire. Fierce and painful as it was though, it had still excited the clowns considerably. Both enjoyed the intimacy of lying across Julian's lap, however undignified and humiliating an intimacy it was. It was an old joke amongst the Indigo-ites that Adam and Julian were world-authorities on corporal punishment, but it was true. They knew how to chastise without causing serious or permanent damage, how to achieve the much-coveted "baboon's arse" effect without causing injury.
The clowns found Rumble in the bar down a narrow alleyway. He was with his friend Farnol, a chubby man with close-cropped blonde hair. They were both sucking on opium pipes, and bemoaning the ineffectualness of it.
"Like sucking up the dirt off the carpet for kicks!" said Farnol.
Bengo and Bardin sat down gingerly on a cheap sofa which was placed in a window overlooking the harbour many feet below. Bardin, drawing up his bare feet under him, asked about Rumble's customer. Rumble was like a tall, intelligent version of Bengo. Very lean of build, with long dark hair drawn back in a ponytail, and the whisperings of a beard around his chin, he bore an expression of calm implacability at all times.
"He was just a customer, mate", he said, which was exactly the news that Bengo and Bardin didn't want to hear "I didn't take too much notice of him. He seemed harmless enough".
"I thought you wanted to be an entertainer", said Bardin, accusingly, rattled at the lack of information forthcoming "So what are you doing driving rickshaws?"
"Ully doesn't pay us B-list clowns enough to live on", said Rumble, still amiable and placid "So I work on the waterfront for a bit extra".
"That's the way it goes", said Farnol, who was also a clown "When the town's really busy, we sometimes do a bit of street entertaining to keep our hand in, although it doesn't pay bog-all. We haven't got Bengo's legs!"
This was said entirely without malice. Farnol and Rumble were refreshingly free of such defects. Bengo though was acutely aware of Hillyard's billions, which kept him and Bardin free from having to do anything they didn't want to do, and he wished Bardin hadn't been so quick to condemn them for their part-time jobs. Farnol and Rumble didn't bear grudges, and in fact were keen for Bengo and Bardin to spend the evening with them, in the way that like-minded souls always try to gather together whenever possible.
The bar was showing a projector film, an unintentionally hilarious public information effort which Codlik had had put together when women had first arrived on the scene during his presidency. 'How To Respect Your Lover' was a dreadfully earnest sex-education piece, about how to make love to a woman. Shot throughout in soft-focus, with a great preponderence of lace and satin everywhere, it was incredibly tedious, and only fit viewing if you were doped out of your brain!
"What's wrong with a bit of good old-fashioned shagging I say?" said Farnol "Let's have a bit of spunk on display!"
"I like women", said Bengo "I'm glad they're around, but I don't think anything can beat the sight of men kissing".
Rumble leaned forward and deftly kissed Farnol on the cheek. Farnol gave a whoop of appreciation.
It turned out that Farnol and Rumble were living in Bengo and Bardin's old room, and the 4 of them adjourned there to booze in private. The room was exactly as they remembered it, complete with the same large, lumpy old bed. Bengo jumped on it and rolled around in delight. Rumble put a record on the gramophone and danced with Bardin. In spite of his gangly arms and legs, Rumble was the same dancer's grace as Bardin.
"You guys should come back here to live", said Farnol, yelling above the music.
"Bit of a tight-fit for the 4 of us in that bed!" said Bardin, facetiously.
"We'll get another bed put in here", said Farnol "There's room".
"It'll bugger up the dancing-space though", said Rumble.
"Hey Bardy", Bengo leaned out of the window, inspecting the narrow ledge that ran just below it "Remember that time you climbed out onto here and walked round it? You had the bloke opposite crapping himself in terror in case you fell!"
"Seriously folks", said Farnol "You should come back. Ully's lost it completely these days, the theatre needs stronger direction. Bardin, you could do it".
"And you'd get us taken on full-time", said Rumble, dryly "But of course don't let that influence you at all!"
"We've retired", said Bardin "Haven't we, Bengo?"
Bengo nodded, amiably.
"Can't you talk him round to it, Bengo?" said Farnol.
"Bengo does as I tell him", said Bardin "Just like he used to in the old days".
"Before he ran off", said Rumble.
"That won't happen again", said Bardin, firmly "I don't let him out of my sight these days".
Bengo looked infuriatingly smitten after this remark.
"You're clowns!" said Farnol, in exasperation "Clowns for fuck's sake, not religious disciples! You should be performing on-stage, not following Kieran to the ends of the Earth! You're living in an unnatural way".
"We like it", said Bengo, genially.
"You're not even going to argue with me are you?" said Farnol "At least come up with a dozen feeble excuses as to why you do this!"
"We haven't got any excuses", said Bardin "It just ... is".
"You were always the great professional", said Farnol "The stage was everything!"
"Yeah well it's not anymore", said Bardin.
"Come and meet Kieran and the others", said Bengo.
"Oh we'll have a great religious conversion then will we?" said Farnol.
"No, but you'll like him", said Bengo.
"I expect I will", said Farnol "But I still won't understand it any better".
"I'd like to meet him", said Rumble.
The 4 of them finished the bottled beer and then ran down the steps to the harbour. They espied Kieran, Joby, Lonts, Tamaz and Adam through the window of the bar and went in to join them.
"Our friend, Mouth Almighty here", said Bardin, introducing Farnol "Can't understand Kieran's attractions".
"I never said that!" said Farnol.
"So we've brought him in to meet you in person", Bardin continued.
"You're beautiful", said Farnol to Kieran "And so are you", he said to Lonts.
"Yes, we are such a good-looking family!" Adam giggled.
"Ignore him, he's been on the rum chocolate", said Joby "I did warn him, but he wouldn't listen".
"No cheek out of you!" said Adam "Don't forget I broke a wooden spatula over your butt the other day!"
"Good job we don't have health and safety executives anymore!" said Kieran.
"We do, it's called Ransey", said Joby.
"But he has absolutely no say over how I discipline my assistant", said Adam "Bengo, are you going to be sick? You look horribly green around the gills".
"Can you take me outside?" Bengo whimpered, pathetically.
Lonts picked Bengo up under his arm and carted him out of the door. Adam followed and held Bengo's hair out of the way whilst he was sick on the pavement.
"It's the heat I expect", said Lonts, sombrely.
"Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the dodgy local beer!" said Adam.
They took him back into the bar, and Bengo spent the rest of the evening with his chin resting dejectedly on Adam's arm. Meanwhile, Rumble astonished Joby by asking him to dance, and they were heavily scrutinised by Tamaz, who watched them intensely. At the same time Kieran was approached by a man who was obviously out of his head on something.
"We'll move through time together", he said, grabbing Kieran round the waist "I can feel it happening now. Time has no meaning. It's moving around us. Can't you feel it?"
"Clear off, junkie!" said Joby, angrily.
"I think it's time we went home", said Adam.
"Everyone in this town is a nutter", said Joby "It must be the humidity!"
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