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By Sarah Hapgood

The first edition of the local newspaper was delivered to Julian's room late the next morning, almost at the same time as Brinslee's physician. Adam and Hillyard stood by Julian's bed, listening avidly to the doctor, whilst Julian himself was absorbed in trawling across the front page of the rag, which was devoted to a lengthy and inconclusive tabloid-style grizzle about taking the limits of the creative arts too far. It eventually tailed off into nothingness, mainly because the reporter had absolutely nothing else to go on. The likes of Kieran and his family were a closed book to the outside world, and it was impossible for anyone to gauge all the reactions and emotions without actually being involved in the inner circle themselves.

Eventually Julian grew more and more infuriated with the semi-illiterate reporting and the lack of any solidity to the article, than any personal attacks on Bardin and the others. He screwed up the newspaper and threw it across the room.

"Oh Jules really, you've wrecked the crossword!" said Adam, smoothing it out "You can be very tiresome sometimes".

"Are you still here?" said Julian to the doctor.

"You should be listening to him, Jules", said Adam.

"You're enjoying this aren't you?" said Julian "The boot's well and truly on the other foot now! You can get me back for all those times I nagged you about your smoking years ago".

"And you were quite right to do so", said Adam.

"If you start coming out with pious utterances like that, I shall slug you down where you stand!" said Julian.

"The Doc says you do need to cut right down on your smoking", said Hillyard, who had been gazing at the physician like a head-nurse with a crush on a senior surgeon.

"You don't have to cut out the cigars completely", said the Doctor "But confine yourself to one now and again as a special treat".

Adam felt sorry for Julian. This was exactly the advice Julian had tried giving to him many years before when they were still living at the Ministry H.Q. He hadn't wanted to listen to it either, and in fact had refused to do so. It had taken the lung operation itself to finally cure him of his love of cigars.

"You've got to listen to the Doc", said Hillyard "Or before we know it I'll be pushing you around in a wheelchair, and having to lug you to the bathroom, and I wouldn't look forward to that, as you're such a great lump! It'd be different if you were Kieran's size".

"If I was Kieran's size, I really would be ill!" said Julian.

There was a gentle rap on the door, and Bardin crept softly into the room, removing his cap as he did so, as though in the presence of an open coffin. Julian watched him in annoyed amusement.

"I'm not dead yet", he snapped "Although after last night's little episode, you were probably hoping I would be! Oh clear off Doctor, go and see Brinslee. I expect he's got gastric trouble again. He usually has in the mornings".

The Doctor left, after secretly depositing a small phial of tablets in Hillyard's hand.

"What are they?" Julian barked, after the Doc had gone.

"Cyanide capsules", said Hillyard "I'm to give you one straight after dinner!"

"Very amusing", Julian gestured imperiously at Bardin to move closer to the bed "Right, I won't make a great ceremony out of this, all I shall say is that from now on you are Captain, you are officially head of the family".

Bardin promptly burst into tears.

"But why?" he wailed "You didn't have a seizure, so why? I don't understand".

"I am past retirement age now", said Julian "Whereas you are young and in fine fettle. I don't think having an old man at the helm does anyone any good, it makes things go stale".

"I haven't noticed things being stale", Bardin sobbed, twisting his cap in his hands.

"Jules will still be with us, Bardin", said Adam, gently.

"Yeah!" said Hillyard, unenthusiastically "Like a curse!"

"Hillyard, make yourself useful for a change", said Julian "Hand over the trappings of office to Bardin. Pass him the logbook and the horse-whip".

"No!" Bardin cried "No, you have to keep hold of them. It doesn't seem right me having them".

"Take them, or I shall use the horse-whip on you", said Julian "As I felt like doing last night! Adam, Hillyard, go elsewhere for a moment, and leave us alone".

"Come along, Hilly", said Adam, dragging him along by his elbow.

"Now listen", said Julian, once they were alone he climbed out of bed and began to get dressed "I took over from Adam when his health started failing. Thank the Lord, things didn't turn out as bad as we originally thought, but for convenience I stayed on as Captain, because he was more suited to being den-mother".

"But that's just it", said Bardin "Everyone has their places now and it works just fine. Why can't I just stay on as your deputy? It's hard work enough being in charge of the under-30s! I'll take on any chores you want me to, but why can't you stay in overall charge?"

"Haven't you been listening to anything I said?" said Julian "You are young and dynamic, you should be the one steering us now. I'll still be around, I'm not abandoning you. It's not as if I'm going into some twilight home for aged decadents, and I'll soon tell you if I think you've made a wrong decision anywhere! Don't worry, you won't be allowed to get everything your own way all the time, anymore than I have!"

"Bengo will see to that", said Bardin, wiping his nose on the back of his hand "He's even more angry with me this morning than he was last night. Wehn I said I was coming up here to explain everything to you, he said he hoped you'd give me a thrashing with the razor-strop!"

"Would you like that?" said Julian, practically.

"Yes", Bardin nodded "And I don't even care if it stings".

"It won't sting too much", said Julian, ruffling his hair "I'll just make you tingle a little that's all".

Toppy was running in agitation across the camp-site, still with the tea-towel tied around his waist from where he'd been washing up the breakfast things. He was watched appreciatively by many of the female performers, who were lolling around on the grass drinking coffee. Toppy was a good-looking young man, and he was thoroughly house-trained too, thought the girls, unlike so many men. It was just such a shame he was queer. The truth was, it was impossible to pigeon-hole Toppy's sexuality, he had even stopped trying to work it out for himself!

He came upon Rumble, who was rollerskating around a square of tarmac. Rumble came up to him at high-speed and came to a halt using Toppy as a break-barrier.

"You o.k our kid?" said Rumble, noting the look of extreme anguish on Toppy's face.

"No!" Toppy cried "It's Bengo, he's been kidnapped! That idiot Godle bundled him into the back of a buggy. Zooks was driving it".

"When did this happen?" said Rumble.

"A few minutes ago", said Toppy "I saw Godle talking to him from the caravan window, and the next thing I know he was throwing Bengo into the back seat. Bengo was struggling. I ran outside, but I couldn't catch them!"

"Alright, I'll go on up to the Governor's House and tell the others", said Rumble "I can get up there on these things faster than you can on foot. You follow on".

Bardin had been pleasently tingling in Julian's room until Rumble burst in, with his skates slung over his shoulder, and broke the news of Bengo's abduction. Bardin instantly had trouble breathing, as though stricken with a severe asthma attack.

"Go and find Brinslee", Julian ordered Rumble "Tell him we need his official buggy, it's big enough to get a load of us in. We'll try the Bone-House first. That's the most logical place for Godle to take him round here. The tide should be out, so he'll be able to get across the causeway".

"But what if he's not there?" said Bardin.

"I'll be very surprised if he's not", said Julian "Godle doesn't seem overly-blessed with brains and imagination, and if Zooks is involved, well less said really! We'll put Mieps and Freaky onto their trail too, they'll be able to sniff them out".

Julian's theory had been correct. Bengo had been driven up through the woods to the headland. Godle had bound his wrists and gagged his mouth for the duration of the journey. There was a lingering morning mist in the forest, which gave the area a very eerie feel. Bengo never liked being separated from the others, wherever he was, be it the streets of Toondor Lanpin, or the forest near Midnight Castle. Alone from the others, he felt like a puppy dumped on the motorway, terrified, confused and abandoned. He was also very hurt that Godle should resort to such crackpot measures, and realised how little he really knew him, in spite of their long acquaintanceship and former intimacy.

In no time at all they were at the Bone-House, and Bengo had been dumped in the drawing-room. The house had been shuttered since Kieran and the others had departed it many years before. It was damp and mouldy, and Bengo could hear rats and mice scrabbling in the woodwork. It was a gloomy, neglected place, and it carried an atmosphere of rank evil that was even stronger than it had been when the others had first arrived there to root out Caln. It was as if the atmosphere the vampires had created during their stay had grown into a tangible state, a life-form of its own.

Bengo looked at the heaps of dust everywhere, and the long skeins of cobwebs which hung down in thick ropes from the ceiling like ectoplasm. He also looked up at Godle, who was having a whispered conversation with Zooks in the corner. Godle had a weak face, entirely at variance with his massive physique. He had beautiful large brown eyes, but his lips and chin were flabby and badly-defined, gving his whole face a slightly debauched look.

"You can't leave me down here alone", Zooks was bleating, giving Bengo a feeling of satisfaction that this pathetic individual was at least living down to his true colours!

Godle took Bengo upstairs, carrying him up in his thick-set arms. Bengo kicked and squirmed, but being trussed and gagged he was as helpless as a baby. Godle took him into the room that Adam and Lonts had used during their stay there. He removed the gag but didn't unbind Bengo's wrists.

"Why are you doing this to me, why?" Bengo screamed "You can't seriously think you're gonna get away with it!"

"I'm not trying to get away with it", said Godle, sitting at the foot of the bed "I needed time to talk to you alone, I was desperate for space for us. We can't talk anywhere else, everytime I get near you Bardin appears".

"He's my partner", said Bengo "He looks after me".

"I can look after you!" said Godle "Look at me! Don't you think I could look after you?"

"No", said Bengo, using the kind of crippling haughty disdain that Tamaz would have used "I'd probably end up looking after you! You might be Godle The Mighty Strong Man, but you're weak. You're not like Bardy".

Godle pushed himself on Bengo, nearly crushing him under his weight. He almost had Bengo by the ears.

"You bastard, leave me alone!" Bengo cried, extremely scared and genuinely fearing for his life "Why do you do this to me? You must hate me really. I hate you! I wish you'd just disappear and leave me alone!"

Godle wasn't a malicious psychopath. Bengo's words shocked him, he never thought he'd ever hear him talking to him like that.

"Why did you say that to me?" he said.

"Because you ruin everything", Bengo sobbed "Me and Bardin have been through so much, we've been through everything to get where we are, caused each other so much unhappiness on the way. But we've passed through that now, only you've ... you've come along and ruined it all!"

Bengo couldn't speak anymore, he was crying too much. Godle came to his senses and backed away.

Zooks drifted around the hallway, wishing he'd never fallen in with Godle's mad plan. He had gone along with it, because he liked the idea of doing anything that would really upset Bardin. He did not like Bardin. He hated his talent, the respect he got from Hawkefish, the way that he could be as obnoxious and bullying as he wanted, and everyone let him get away with it because he had TALENT. Immense talent. To make matters worse, Bengo these days made no bones about how much he adored him, which could only mean one thing, Zooks surmised, bloody Bardin was hot stuff in the sack too! Bardin wasn't a work colleague whom it was easy to like by any means, but everyone wanted to be liked and noticed by him. The chorus-girls complained that he was bumptious and charmless, but they would willingly have run naked round the waterfront if it meant he gave them a word of praise. Everyone, especially Julian and Hawkefish, wanted this crochety, insecure young man with the deformed mouth, to be in charge. So naturally Zooks, one of life's perennial inadequates, hated him.

Whilst Zooks was alternating between hating Bardin and worrying that untold demons were watching him, the Governor's buggy had arrived at the causeway. Julian had rebuffed Brinslee's offer of summoning the Town Guards, and insisted they could all sort it out for themselves. The Indigo-ites all decanted from the buggy and grabbed at the stack of pistols, rifles and knives that they had thrown under the seats.

The tide was beginning to trickle over the causeway, but they surged across it on foot like an invading army landing on a beach. Everyone had only one single-minded purpose, to rescue Bengo.

"I might have known you'd be here", said Tamaz, running into the hallway and confronting Zooks "You pathetic little worm!"

Godle came out onto the minstrel's gallery, and instantly held up his arms when he saw how everyone was armed.

"Don't turn me to stone, please don't!" Zooks had fallen to his knees and was grabbing Tamaz's feet.

"You really are a jerk", said Tamaz, pushing him over backwards.

"Well we're back here again", said Hillyard, putting his hands in his pockets and gazing up at the rafters.

"We haven't got time for a nostalgia trip", snapped Julian "The tide's coming in fast. Where's Bengo?"

Bengo stumbled out of the bedroom and over to the top of the stairs. His hands were still bound in front of him, which hampered his movements, so when in his excitement, he went to run down the stairs towards them he fell instead, slipping down several steps and spraining his ankle in the process.

"What's going to happen to the act tonight?" said Bengo, lying on their bunk in the caravan, whilst Bardin propped the injured ankle up on a heap of pillows.

"Farnol and Rumble are going to adapt one of their old routines", said Bardin "And fit Tamaz and Hoowie in with it somehow. You're not to worry about it".

"You've had an eventful first day as Captain", said Bengo, ruefully.

"Captain!" Bardin exclaimed "Some Captain I am! When Rumble first told us the news I stood there gaping like a fish, whilst Julian made all the decisions. All I did was panic!"

"Because you were worried about me", said Bengo.

"Yeah but Captains are supposed to be above such things", said Bardin "Act coolly and unemotionally and all that".

"I'm just glad you decided not to prosecute Godle", said Bengo "I don't want all that dragging on for weeks on end".

"No, you've been through enough", said Bardin "And I saw the look on his face when I walked into the Bone-House. I think it's scared him that he scared you so much. That should've brought him to his senses".

"He didn't expect me to say I hated him", said Bengo "And I did at that moment, I surprised myself, I didn't think I was capable of hating someone like that. But all I could think was this stupid goon's going to ruin everything. I was so goddamn mad at him!"

Brinslee, looking a vision in a floor-length scarlet kaftan, had unearthed Julian sitting at the back of the main tent, watching a girl swimming with some giant turtles round a large acquarium. Another girl was standing on the barrier reciting poetry to a sparse mid-afternoon audience. Brinslee was annoyed that Julian wasn't going to set the forces of law and order on Godle and Zooks.

"Don't take it up with me", said Julian, languidly "I'm not in charge anymore. It's now all up to Bardin, it's his decision".

"And you agree with it?" said Brinslee "Anything could have happened to young Bengo".

"Well it didn't", said Julian, firmly "And I don't want to mull over the 'what ifs'. I've had enough stress for one day!"

"How's things, Julian?" said Kieran "You look like how I feel, I've just had Codlik carrying on at me like a member of Victim Support, clasping me hand and telling me what a difficult time I've had the past couple of days. Nice of him to keep me informed! Do you know where Adam is?"

"Probably faffing over his little darling somewhere", said Julian.

"That's just the point", said Kieran "His little darling's taken Godle for a ride on the Ghost Train!"

As plastic skeletans whizzed past their heads, and open coffins lay by the side of the track, Godle was trapped next to Lonts in the car. Lonts had got Godle into the Ghost Train with little effort and was now berating him in his formidable, rich Kiskevian voice. He spelt out to Godle in graphic detail what he would like to do to him, and what he would most certainly do to him if he ever bothered Bengo again.

"I don't usually give a warning", said Lonts.

Back outside again, Lonts climbed out of the car leaving a shaken Godle behind. Lonts spotted Toppy standing nearby, and roared at him, having the same effect on everyone around as a nuclear bomb blast on a row of trees.

"Leave me alone!" said Toppy, as Lonts approached him "I've had a right day, and you're not starting on me now. I shall just walk away and shun you".

"Don't be silly, Toppy", Lonts boomed "I wanted to kiss you. If you hadn't seen Godle taking Bengo, we wouldn't have known what had happened to him. You are a hero!"

"Oh", said Toppy, and gave a deep sigh of relief.

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