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By Sarah Hapgood

The day that followed was strange to say the least. Farnol and Rumble went back to their digs to pack. Rumble then stood in the street outside, smoking a joint, whilst Farnol chucked their bags out of the window at him, to save them both the trouble of carting them down the stairs.

"You two are clowns?" said a young man with a hunchback, whom neither of them had ever seen in the town before.

"Why? Do you want to book us for a party?" Farnol yelled from above.

"You'd better make it snappy if so", said Rumble "We're joining Kieran's mob today".

"That so?" said the hunchback "Won't that make 4 clowns in his gang?"

"You can never have too many clowns!" said Rumble.

"What's he starting a theatre troupe of his own?" said the hunchback.

"Why, are you after a job?" Farnol shouted.

The hunchback suddenly scooted away down a side alley.

"Nutter!" Farnol cried.

Kieran met up with Levka (or the "soup dragon" as Joby nicknamed him) down the marketplace later that morning. Levka expressed dire concerns abut the upsurge of Devil-fears in the town. Kieran tried to get it through to him that this was all superstitious nonsense, but kept wanting to burst into fits of giggles instead. Nearby, an old man was standing in a barrel of grapes, crushing them under his feet as he turned round methodically in a circle. The squelching noises made far too comical a backdrop for a serious conversation.

Also, Kieran didn't feel in the mood for being serious. His conversation with Adam in the theatre box the night before had been a turning-point in his life. He was determined to leave behind what he had always called that "Vanquisher of Evil cobbers" once and for all. He secretly found it highly ironic that he had a world-wide reputation as a rebel, a socialist revolutionary, a maverick, when in his heart of hearts he felt his true vocation would have been as a slave! A slave of love undoubtedly, but a slave nonetheless. He wanted to dedicate himself body and soul to those he loved, to put aside all sense of self and live solely for them, even to be punished soundly if he failed in the slightest way.

"You sort it out, Levka", he said "That's what you were put on this Earth to do. You're a missionary, a crusader".

"But you're ..." Levka stammered.

"I'm nothing", said Kieran "I'm a slave".

"A slave to God's will?" said Levka, enthusiastically.

"That as well", said Kieran.

They were interrupted by a bizarre commotion from the other end of the market-place. What had happened was this. Joby, Hillyard, Tamaz and Toppy, and the two goats on leashes, had come along to do some shopping. Tamaz had sighted what he believed to be a Reptile Man lurking in the shadows at the back of the stalls. He saw it stealthily creep, seemingly oblivious to everyone else, down the back of the stalls, and undoubtedly in Kieran's direction. Tamaz gave a yodel of alarm and had gone careering after him. Joby spotted it too, and had grabbed a small hand-whip from a stander-by, intenting to thrash the Reptile Man within an inch of its life, possibly more for being a bloody nuisance than a grave danger!

Tamaz had nearly caught up with the creature, when it grabbed some ivy overhanging a nearby wall and leapt over it, out of sight. Tamaz, being half-Ghoomer, was more than capable of doing the same, and would have done so if Hillyard hadn't caught him and pulled him back.

"Let me get after it!" Tamaz screamed.

"No!" Hillyard roared, with uncharacteristic ferocity.

Tamaz struggled to get out of his grip, determined to get at his prey, but Hillyard was too big and too strong for him. He picked him up and carrid him away over his shoulder, back to the safety of the sloop. Meanwhile, Toppy was trying to round up the goats, who were causing mayhem of their own.

Back home Julian angrily scolded Tamaz for daring to put himself in such grave danger.

"You do not put yourself in such peril", he said, slapping the surface of the desk with his hand, causing Tamaz to flinch "Do you hear me? You should realise the dangers of Reptile Men. How they can tear people's heads off with one swift movement!"

"I was trying to help", said Tamaz, tearfully, clenching his small fists at his sides "Hillyard had no right to stop me like that. If I hadn't given chase, it might have got Kieran".

"I know", said Julian, calming down "I have a feeling that, strange as it may sound, the creature may well be someone's pet. Rather like Widow Bertha and her surrogate 'child'. Your instincts are very good, but Hillyard was perfectly right to stop you going over the wall after it".

"He carried me back through the market-place!" Tamaz exclaimed, indignantly.

"Oh dear, how embarrassing!" said Julian "I wish he'd beaten the pants off you!"

Tamaz said a lot of words, but they were unintelligible through his tears.

"Ssh ssh", Julian kissed his hair "You're a good kid. We're all proud of you".

"And this is the cabin", said Adam, leading Farnol and Rumble into the room.

Toppy was loitering anxiously in the doorway like an eavesdropper, and Julian sent Tamaz to be consoled by him up on the deck.

"We all sleep in here", said Adam "So I hope you don't mind that".

"Adam, they will have to lump it!" siad Julian, snatching a cigar out of the box on his desk.

"And this is Julian, your new Captain", said Adam "Who isn't really as horrible as he likes to sound!"

Bardin skulked into the room, wearing only a flat cap and a pair of tight trousers, with the braces dangling around his hips. He gave Farnol and Rumble a ferocious scowl.

"Ah, the loving brotherhood of clowns!" said Julian.

"I do wish you'd pull your braces up, Bardin", said Adam "You look like Andy Capp!"

"Who's Andy Capp?" said Bardin.

"Oh never mind", Adam sighed.

"Cheer up, Bardin", said Farnol, placing his hands on Bardin's hips and doing a bump-and-grind dance with him "Think how cosy it'll be with us all here together. You'll have to keep Bengo a safe distance away from me".

"I should think that'll be a dead certainty!" said Julian.

"And as for that Tamaz", Farnol continued "Woo! Those eyes, those eyes! Just looking at them tears me apart. I'm not the same for hours after looking into them".

"I can see at this rate you're going to have a very stressful existence living with us", said Julian, dryly.

Late that afternoon Kieran, Joby, Hillyard, Ransey and Finia went out to the bar on the harbour to deliver a post-mortem on their new recruits. Joby had tried to get Tamaz to join them, but he was spending the afternoon lying with Toppy in a hammock Hillyard had rigged up on deck. Toppy was kissing and soothing him whilst Tamaz, still annoyed by his ignominious exit from the market-place, went over and over that he was treated like a worm.

The bar was even more raucous than normal. A couple of male dancers in g-strings were shimmying around the room, plus most of the clientele were excitedly discussing how soon they would all be dead from Yellow Fever!

"It's not a problem if you just take the right precautions", said Ransey, tirelessly "Mind you, I'm wasting my breath with this lot. Some of them don't seem to have any idea how to cope with hot weather. The amount I see walking around in the middle of the day with no headgear on!"

"Probably best to get one of those hood things that Rumble's got", said Finia "He had it on earlier when he came aboard".

"I know, made him look right shifty", said Joby "Like a drug-dealer!"

"That was the damn great spliff he had on him!" Hillyard laughed.

"I have good vibes about them two", said Kieran.

"They're o.k", said Ransey "As long as we can stop Farnol talking occasionally I don't mind".

"That Rumble makes me laugh", said Joby "He sits there, staring intently whilst we speak, and then'll suddenly launch into a great spiel of something, as though he's just had his batteries put in!"

"It says here", said Ransey, who had been idly leafing through a fashion magazine that Finia had brought along with him "That this season's key-colour is beige".

"That's nice", said Joby, glumly.

"Yes, Codlik'll look a real stunner in that!" said Ransey.

"I wish you'd stop fiddling with your hair", said Joby to Finia "You keep patting it all the time. It makes me nervous".

"I want to make sure it looks alright", said Finia.

"It would, if you'd leave it alone!" said Joby.

"Oho, there's an interview in here with Glynis", said Ransey "Double-page photo-spread of her at home on Mr Hillyard's estate".

"Humph, fashion icon now is she?" said Finia, sarcastically "Style guru!"

"Glynis says that she worries constantly over the future of her little boy", said Ransey, scanning the text "'What kind of a world am I bringing him into?'"

"What is she talking about?" Joby exclaimed "It's a lot better world than it was a few years ago!"

"Mothers have always had those fears", said Kieran "Whatever era they're in".

"There's a picture of your son here, Hillyard", said Ransey, holding up the magazine.

"Jaysus, he's the dead spit of you, Hilly!" said Kieran "Like you in miniature".

"Yeah, ugly little bastard isn't he!" said Joby.

"Well that's done it now", said Ransey "The whole world's going to guess he's yours".

"Especially with her living in your house", said Joby.

"What did she want to put him in the photo's for?" said Hillyard "He's too young to be on the centre pages of magazines!"

"S'alright, he's got his clothes on!" said Joby.

"Don't you feel any great emotional pangs looking at his picture, Hillyard?" said Ransey.

"Don't ask him questions that are beyond him!" said Joby.

"Oh put the lid on it!" said Hillyard, wearily "And I'm not being lectured on bloody fatherhood by you, Ransey, you of all people! For years you didn't tell us Tamaz was yours. Kept it all to yourself".

"Make a good poker-player would our Ransey", said Kieran.

"I wanted to be sure that's why", said Ransey.

"No you didn't", said Hillyard "If that nutter hadn't turned up that time, the truth would never have come out. Makes me wonder how many more dark secrets of yours are lying hidden in the woodwork. You didn't tell us you'd been a paid assassin until you'd been living with us for a couple of years!"

"Well it's not exactly the sort of thing you want your best friends to know!" said Ransey "Not unless you're of a warped mentality anyway! It's not a part of my life I'm proud of".

"Let's not go raking up old hurts", said Kieran "We went through all that in Hell".

"You can say that again!" said Ransey.

"Yeah, don't be a jerk, Hillyard", said Joby.

"More bottled beer I think", said Hillyard, waving at the bar-man "This stuff's so grim it takes your mind off everything else!"

"Even drinking that's better 'en having a bar-room brawl", said Joby "Finia might get his hair messed up!"

At twilight they went back to the sloop, where general noises of chatter and hubbub were coming from the cabin.

"I'm gonna make some cocoa", said Joby, going down the steps to the hold, followed by Kieran "We're gonna need help sleeping. With two more jammed in with us we won't even be able to turn over!"

Kieran got down on his hands and knees to follow him down the corridor.

"What are you up to, you daft sod?" said Joby.

"I'm your slave", said Kieran "So I can only walk on all fours".

"That beer's lethal", Joby muttered.

Kieran went to kiss his knees.

"Leave it out!" said Joby "If you wanna kiss something aim a bit higher!"

"That's it, that's what you have to do", said Kieran "Give me orders, and I have to obey instantly".

"Yeah, sure!"

"And I can only speak when given permission to do so".

"That bit sounds alright!" said Joby.

"And then we can reverse roles sometimes", said Kieran, being pulled to his feet by Joby "You be the slave and I be the master. Oh you'd make a brilliant slave, Joby. You're much better at practical things than I am".

"Not hard!" said Joby.

"I'd make a very fair master", said Kieran "I wouldn't leave you tied up for too long".

"You won't leave me tied up at all!" said Joby, jabbing him in the shoulder. Kieran jabbed him back, playfully.

They went into the galley, where Lonts and Bengo were dancing and singing. Bengo wore a black fur jockstrap, and Lonts had covered his own naked dick with shaving-foam.

"We're pretending to be strippers", said Lonts, proudly.

"You look disgusting", said Joby, pulling a towel out of a drawer "As though you've had a nasty accident! Wipe yourself off".

"Don't we do things for you, Joby?" said Bengo, grabbing Joby's crotch.

"Behave yourself, or I'll give you a good hiding!" said Joby.

"That's it!" said Kieran, crouching on his haunches on the floor "That's the spirit!"

"What are you vile little buggers up to?" said Adam, coming into the room.

Kieran kissed his ankle.

"Patsy, do be careful", said Adam "You nearly tripped me up".

"He's bonkers at the moment", said Joby "Got it into his head he wants to be a sex-slave or summat".

"I could be a sex-slave", said Bengo, dropping to his knees.

"So could I", said Lonts, also enthusiastically dropping to his knees.

Joby stood in the midst of them and rolled his eyes.

"Oh really?" said Adam, passing Lonts his clothes "Well I might just hold you to that. Come with me".

He led them all along the corridor, after having first picked up a small bag of coins he kept on the dresser in the galley for buying provisions with. At the entrance to the sloop Mieps was just preparing to bring in the gangplank.

"We're going back ashore", said Adam.

"Not a good idea when there are Reptile Men in the town", said Mieps.

"We're not going far", said Adam "Only back to the restaurant we were at yesterday. I believe they do rooms. I'm going to see if I can hire one for a couple of hours. I'm goig to corrupt my sex-slaves here".

"Julian won't like that", said Mieps.

"Feel perfectly at liberty to tell him", said Adam "In fact tell him exactly where we've gone, but try and give us 30 minutes head-start".

"What's it worth?" said Mieps.

"A kick in the pants?" said Joby.

"Just do this little favour for us", said Adam "Or I shall declare Freaky out of bounds to you for a whole week".

"I can take Tamaz whenever I want", said Mieps, loftily.

"Not if I say you can't, you can't", said Joby, firmly.

"Thirty minutes?" said Mieps, more reasonably "I'll see what I can do".

Kieran, Bengo, Lonts and Joby had sat outside on their haunches whilst Adam went into the busy restaurant to see about availability of the room. Then he came out and signalled them to follow him through the eating area, and up the stairs. One of the customers, a thin, dried-up individual, had given him a venomous look as he passed, but Adam was hardly in a position to care by this time!

The room directly above the bar was very comfortable, with a large oak bed, and a plentiful supply of lighted candles and flagons of wine to add to the atmosphere of expectant sexual gratification. A very hedonistic few minutes followed, and the 5 of them were a forest of naked arms and legs on the bed when the door opened with such force that it slammed back against the wall. Julian was standing there, clutching his horse-whip. He reminded Adam so much of an irate father that he couldn't stop laughing.

"Oh Jules, it's not fair", he gurgled, lying on his back with the other 4 festooned around his body like Christmas tree decorations "Mieps was supposed to give us half-an-hour".

"Look at you!" said Julian, standing at the foot of the bed "What would Age Concern have said?!"

"They'd have probably used me as advertising material!" Adam laughed, helplessly.

Bengo was looking terrified at the thought of the horse-whip. Being beaten with the paddle or the back of Julian's hand was one thing, but being flogged with a horse-whip ws an altogether more terrifying prospect.

"You have a right to look afraid", said Julian.

Bengo whimpered.

"I have a surprise for you", said Julian.

Bengo whimpered again.

"Bardin, come in here!" Julian shouted.

Bardin was an even more terrifying prospect than the horse-whip! Bengo jumped off the bed and ran to the opposite wall, as though expecting a door to magically materialise in it. Bardin came into the room, wearing his short bath-robe, which barely covered his buttocks.

"Jules, you didn't bring him here like that?" said Adam, scandalised "At least I got the others dressed first!"

"Snakes alive, what will the neighbours say!" said Julian.

Bardin slid out of the robe. Underneath he was wearing only a leopard-print jockstrap. Lonts gave a whoop that could have roused the dead.

"I have another little surprise too", said Julian.

He went to the door and called in Tamaz from the landing. Tamaz had put put on his stage petticoat for the occasion, but he looked aggrieved at Joby.

"Why didn't you invite me?" he cried "You're still punishing me!"

"You were the one who ignored me", said Joby "I asked you to come out with us earlier, but you were too busy telling Toppy how hard done-by you were!"

"Adam, pour me some wine", said Julian, closing the door.

Adam looked indignantly at him, but climbed over the wooden rail at the foot of the bed and went to the sideboard, where a flagon of red wine was standing.

Bardin pulled at the skirt of Tamaz's petticoat and tore it away. Joby roughly grabbed Tamaz and began to unlace the back of his bodice.

"Of course I am still most displeased with you, Adam", said Julian, reclining in an armchair by the window "That was a gross act of insubordination when all's said and done".

"I did instruct Mieps to tell you exactly where we were", said Adam, undoing Julian's shirt for him.

"Even so", said Julian, throwing back his head like a lazy cat "You'll have to make it up to me".

Adam got down on his knees and ran his tongue down Julian's chest and over his stomach, heading ever relentlessly towards his pelvis and all th delights situated there.

When the birds started singing at dawn, Bengo woke up in the armchair by the window. He was nestling there with Bardin, both of them squeezed together under a thin, summer blanket. The others were all heaped on the bed, sleeping in spite of the heat of the cramped space. Bengo remembered some of his choicier exploits from last night. At one point Bardin had put Julian's trouser-belt round his neck and led him round the room on all fours. Bardin had then got down on his knees and rogered him rather brusquely.

"I didn't hurt you last night did I?" Bardin whispered, as though reading his mind "I don't want to hurt you".

"It was wonderful!" said Bengo "I'm not a softie, I can handle a bit of pain. I've been soundly spanked by Adam and Julian enough times to know that! I can handle anything. Except the strap perhaps, that stings too much, and it's only ever been used on me in anger. Lonts always says the feeling of having upset someone and let them down is worse than the physical punishment".

"He's right", said Bardin "There's nothing you can tell a Kiskevian about conscience! You're so cute, Bengo. I just want to cherish you".

They nuzzled each other. Julian disentangled himself from the mass of arms and legs and stood up, stretching himself, before crossing to the window. There, he touched their heads as though passing a blessing on them.

"Sweet clowns", he said, gently.

Very soon after, the whole building was beginning to wake up. Julian ordered a bath-tub and hot water to be brought to their room, so that they could all freshen up. An unfortunate incident occurred. One of the young stewards was shocked by the sight of Tamaz's nude body.

"She's a witch!" he cried "A witch!"

"No she's not", said Joby "I mean, he's not. Clear off. You're all weird in this crazy town. Go on, go!"

After washing they all went downstairs for breakfast, determined to put the incident with the young steward behind them. Whilst they were all sitting cramped round a small table Hillyard appeared, looking disgruntled, and ordered them all to go home.

"We will, very shortly", said Adam "Sit down and have some brekkie".

"I've already eaten", said Hillyard, tersely.

"Now don't get shitty, Hilly", said Adam "There'll be other orgies. You should have come along with Jules and the others".

"I expect he couldn't", said Tamaz "I expect he was too busy poking the arse off Mieps. They're always at it, particularly in the hold".

"It must be being around horses what does it!" said Joby.

"All had a good time did you?" said Hillyard, pulling up a stool.

He looked longingly at Lonts. Chances were very strong that he could have had him last night. It was absurd, he felt, that he had never yet managed to get it together with him.

"I hope you're feeling fit, Hillyard", said Julian "I'm proposing that we raise anchor later today. I don't like the atmosphere in this town at the moment. I've been able to put it down to the humidity up to now, but now the locals seem to be starting to believe that Freaky is a witch".

"Really?" Hillyard looked shocked and worried.

"All nonsense of course", said Julian "Freaky's not subversive enough to be capable of such underhand activities as witchcraft!"

"We should definitely leave", said Lonts, firmly "But where do we go? The hurricane season's still going on at the Bay".

"Not Zilligot Bay surely?" said Adam "I don't want to go there, it's such a dreary little town, and last time I was there I was convinced I was dying! It doesn't bring back nice memories".

"We'll all put out to sea for a while", said Julian "Like we used to in the old days, when we had the Indigo. Just drift around on the ocean until it's time to go home".

The others agreed with this, except Hillyard, who didn't join in the general chorus of assent.

"There's a problem", he said "That's why I came here and told you to come home. You see, Codlik's turned up".

"What?" said Julian, icily.

"He turned up in the early hours of this morning, out of the blue", said Hillyard "Flew in. To see us".

"How did he know we were here?" said Adam.

"It was in the local paper", said Hillyard "He takes all the newspapers you see".

"Oh I'm sure he does", said Adam "Reads them all diligently from cover to cover!"

"Why has he come here?" said Julian, with ominous calm.

"I didn't hang around to find out", said Hillyard "When he turned up we were all still in bed. He wouldn't have been able to get aboard so easily, but we'd left the gangplank out for you lot! I said I'd come and fetch you all. I left Ransey to entertain him".

"After we'd had such nice night too", said Adam, mournfully.

"After the pleasure, the pain!" said Julian.

"When Codlik turns up, it's like your parents coming home in the middle of a party!" said Joby.

"Of course we don't HAVE to put up with him", said Adam "There's no law about it, and we're all free adults".

"Yeah, but I have a feeling we're going to!" said Joby.

"I think I will have some more breakfast after all!" said Hillyard.

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