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Ransey woke up the following morning and looked down from his bunk at the dreaded hole in the wall. On the other side of it Tamaz was crouched on his camp-bed, staring at Ransey with his giaconda eyes. Ransey groaned and rolled over to face the other wall.
Tamaz ran out of his cabin and into the heads, where he made very noisy retching sounds over the toilet bowl. This woke the entire boat up in a trice, and soon the gangway was crowded with the other Indigo-ites, all peering anxiously into the heads.
"He can't be", said Adam, in despair "He just can't be".
"If I find out who's responsible for this", said Julian "It won't just be heads that roll!"
Tamaz appeared in the doorway, looking in the rudest of good health.
"Just a little joke", he said, blithely.
"If I wasn't feeling so tender this morning I'd give that creature a damn good birching", said Julian, and he slammed the door of his cabin behind him.
"You people have no sense of humour", said Tamaz, stamping his foot.
"Oh darling, you're not cross with me are you?" said Julian, hovering round Adam in the galley a couple of hours later.
"How can I be?" said Adam "It's not as if I'm not used to you coming home in an unspeakable state".
"You can talk!" said Julian, sitting down at the table "At least my drinking sessions only last for one evening!"
"O.K O.K", Adam sighed, and began to make a pot of coffee.
Julian picked up a magazine from the top of the pile Joby had brought in.
"There are nothing but pictures of pot-plants in this", he said, flicking through the pages restlessly "I hope this huff you're in is not going to last all day".
"I'm not in a huff", said Adam "I'm concerned about poor Lo-Lo actually".
"Why, what's the matter with him?"
"He's got nappy-rash".
Julian roared with laughter.
"Jules, that isn't very nice", said Adam, sharply.
"I can't help it", Julian guffawed "It's the idea of a hulking great thing like him having nappy-rash!"
"He gets awfully bad-tempered about it", said Adam.
"As you would", said Julian "Isn't there anything we can give him?"
"Joby's rubbing some cream into his butt".
"Some people get all the best jobs!"
"This isn't nice, Joby", said Lonts, lying face-down on his bunk.
"If it ent nice for you, it certainly isn't for me!" said Joby, massaging Lonts's bottom.
"People are going to laugh at me", said Lonts, sulkily "Particularly Toppy and Tamaz".
"If either of 'em says a word I'll kick 'em round the deck", said Joby.
"It's all because of that stupid nappy", said Lonts "Everyone thinks I'm a baby because of that".
"You are, aren't yer?" said Joby "I was thinking of getting a reinforced pram for you, and then you can sit in it wearing one of those little frilly bonnets, and scowling at everyone, just like you are now".
"It's not funny", Lonts sat up suddenly "You don't suffer from anything at all, Joby. You don't know what it's like".
"I'm blind in one eye actually!" Joby snapped "And I distinctly remember being told it would only be a temporary thing. Hysterical nervous reaction everyone said. And years later I'm still like it! I live in mortal terror of me other eye getting damaged and ending up completely blind. And all you've got to worry about is a few spots on yer bum!"
"Oh Joby, I'm sorry", Lonts's lip trembled "Would you like me to kiss you?"
"Go on then", said Joby.
Toppy had heard about Lonts's problem, and had gleefully run into the saloon to chortle about it to Bengo, who was standing on his head.
"Give him a break", said Bengo, rolling down like a puzzle "I get caught in the middle of you two all the time. He carps about you, and you carp about him. At least he's not obsessed with his own turds!"
"What do you mean?" said Toppy, indignantly. He got to his feet, looking fussily tidy in his pyjamas, dressing-gown and slippers.
"Well it's you who keeps a bowel diary", said Bengo "I've seen it. You keep it under your pillow".
"You had no right to read my diary!" Toppy squawked.
"It fell out whilst I was getting up the other day", said Bengo "And I couldn't resist a look at the first page. I wished I hadn't bothered! Describing your turds as prawn-shaped and like little sea-horses, that's weird! I mean, what's to get excited about in a turd? Once you've seen one, you've seen them all I would've thought!"
For once in his life Toppy looked close to committing violence. He was stalled by Tamaz coming into the room, as Toppy was scared stiff of Tamaz. He decided to make a dignified exit from the room instead, but only succeeded in shutting his dressing-gown in the door. He had to sheepishly open it again to retrieve it.
Hillyard had woken up to find a small pile of wood lying on the floor by his bunk. Stepping over it tentatively he had gone into the galley where he found RAnsey tucking into a plate of ham and eggs.
"I take it that was you who dumped that wood by my bed?" Hillyard barked.
"I brought it up from the hold", said Ransey "Where it's been waiting for some time. I thought I'd give you a bit of help to get started. I take it you're going to begin this morning, like we agreed last night?"
"Did I agree to that?" said Hillyard, in genuine bewilderment.
"You were going on something along the lines of dear old pals, jolly old pals", said Ransey "How you'd do anything for me, anything at all".
"I must've be drunk", Hillyard groaned.
"Don't let me stop you if you want to get on with it", said Ransey.
Finia was doing some sewing in bed at this moment, wearing a pink mohair cardigan against the chilly December morning. He wasn't too pleased when Hillyard walked in carrying a stack of wood.
"You're not going to do that now?" he wailed.
"Don't blame me, blame Rat's Teeth", said Hillyard "A bit of hammering's going to go down well with my hangover!"
Finia got out of bed and went to the wash-bowl, where he splashed water on his face.
"Sounds like you had a good time yesterday", he said "You and Julian get on well together".
"Not all the time", said Hillyard "But on the whole I find him a lot easier to be with than many people give him credit for".
"Mm, I know what you mean", Finia dabbed his face gently with a towel "I know he can be arrogant and bossy, but I've always felt safe with him, protected. I'm glad you've decided to stop messing around at long last and devote yourself to him".
"I don't know about devotion!" Hillyard laughed.
"Haven't you even started yet?" said Ransey, coming into the room.
"Oh give me a break!" said Hillyard "I was talking to Finia".
"It seems I'm going to have to stand over you with a gun", Ransey snapped.
"You do and you'll get your head bashed in with a hammer!" said Hillyard.
"Can't you two jerks even fix a wall without resorting to violence?" Finia rolled his eyes "Go on, give it a try. I dare you!"
Bengo was crouched on the saloon floor in a meditation pose, hampered though by Tamaz, who kept touching Bengo's nose with his foot. Suddenly Bengo gave a growl and yanked at Tamaz's foot, half-dragging him off the sofa.
"What's going on in here?" said Joby.
"Tamaz stuck his foot up my nose", said Bengo, getting up off the floor "I got carried away I guess".
"It takes all sorts", said Joby "Aren't you gonna be late for the theatre?"
"I was putting it off", said Bengo "It feels too cold to go out".
He scuttled away nonetheless. Once they were alone together Tamaz pulled Joby onto the sofa. He shrugged off his cotton wrap and climbed on top of him.
"Tamaz, no sweetheart", Joby groaned "I promised Lady Red I'd take the gardening mags round to her place today and go over 'em with her".
"You'd better not be gone long", said Tamaz, sharply.
"I'll be back before dark", said Joby "Or I'll come home if the fog appears again".
"If you don't I'll come and get you", said Tamaz.
"Don't you dare", said Joby "I don't want you roaming this town in the dark or in the fog. I might not find you again".
"Do I make you helpless?" said Tamaz, running his hand up the inside of Joby's t-shirt.
"You know you do", said Joby, swallowing hard "And I love it. I love it so much it hurts sometimes".
"Don't you go getting ideas about Red", said Tamaz.
"Leave it out, she's a very sick lady", said Joby "I should think the last thing on her mind at the moment is screwing me!"
"Even so, I shall say it", said Tamaz "No ideas about her, or Glynis either. You are with me, and the little blonde guy of course".
"I love your confidence, Tamaz", said Joby, fondly "It makes life so relaxing".
Joby stayed longer at Lady Red's cottage than he'd planned, and he was still there when the fog rolled in during the afternoon. Red was having a bad day. She was confined to bed, and Joby felt he couldn't leave her until her nursing attendent had returned from shopping.
They passed a relaxing couple of hours discussing plants and Kieran. Before Joby left Red plucked a small purple flower from the vase on her bedside and threaded it into the band on Joby's peaked cap, which he now wore during the cold weather.
"You'll look like a romantic brigand", she said.
Unbeknown to Joby, Tamaz had disobeyed instructions and had sneaked out of the Indigo to find him. He had been left alone all afternoon, and the noise of the fog-horns was disturbing him again. It had been easy to get off the boat unnoticed. A lot of the others were out. Adam and Lonts at the studio, Hillyard at the bath-house, and Kieran had gone to see Codlik at Myrtle's. The others were in their cabins, apart from Toppy, who was sitting in the saloon industriously correcting the printing mistakes in a book he'd got out of the library. No one knew why Toppy went to so much trouble (and it certainly wasn't appreciated by later readers), but he liked to return books with the officious words "corrections made" on the inside cover.
Tamaz had grabbed a lightweight jacket from the heads, put it on over his shirt and trousers, and then gone ashore. The jacket belonged to Hillyard and was too big for Tamaz, and he nervously trotted through the fog, hugging the baggy jacket close to him. There were very few people about, and after a while he began to get weary and tearful. He was cold and lonely, and the unearthly silence generated by the fog was playing on his nerves. He didn't like being alone for too long anymore. Being separated from the others reminded him of being in the cage, and being with the others was the only way he could stop feeling like an unwanted freak.
Lights from houses shone out dimly, and Tamaz was aware of people moving about in their own homes. He was back to Ghoomer status again. He knew if he were to knock on any of these doors he would be greeted with caution, fear or outright hostility.
He began to whimper and call Joby's name. He no longer knew which street he was in, and the buildings were indiscernable in the fog. Even his acute hunter's eyesight and hearing was having trouble picking out helpful clues in this peasouper.
Joby had been rounding the corner at the top of the main street, when he'd heard his name being called eerily through the fog.
"Tamaz!" he shouted "Keep calling me, I'll try and find you by your voice. Keep calling me!"
"Joby!" Tamaz called again and again.
Joby glimpsed him through the fog eventually and grabbed him as though he was saving him from drowning. Tamaz was crying quite noisily by now.
"It's alright, it's alright", said Joby, holding him close.
"I've been so lonely", Tamaz gulped "It was like being back in the cage. I've ... I've spent my life alone. I couldn't stand it anymore".
"It's o.k, I understand", said Joby "I know what loneliness is like. I'm not angry".
Bengo approached out of the gloom, on his way home from the matinee. He carried a tote-bag containing some dirty towels over his shoulder, and looked like a schoolboy warily going up to his new class-mates.
"Can I walk back with you?" he said "Only I keep hearing things behind me".
"What are you asking for, you daft idiot?" said Joby.
"I thought you might still be annoyed with me about this morning", said Bengo.
"I'd clean forgotten about it", said Joby.
"Everyone's narked at me at the moment", said Bengo, sounding very sorry for himself "Fradie's given us another lousy review in the local rag. Says all our performances are 'over-ripe'. Hawkefish blames me for having upset him".
This all looked as though Bengo was going to launch into a full list of his trials and tribulations. Joby stalled him.
"Look, let's slip into Myrtle's and drag Kieran out", he said "He's been talking to Codlik quite long enough".
The three of them went into the lobby of the hotel, and sent a steward to page Kieran. Two other members of staff were putting up decorations for the oncoming Yuletide season.
"Hawkefish says can you put in a couple of turns as the village idiot again?" said Bengo "At the Christmas performances at Woll's place".
"Sure", said Joby "But we're not doing 'Murder At Nightmare Hall' again? Everyone must be fed up to the back teeth of it by now!"
"The Governors won't have seen it", said Bengo, indignantly.
"Lucky sods", said Joby.
"We're doing a double-bill", said Bengo "'Murder At Nightmare Hall' and 'The Yuletide Strangler'".
"Nice cheery festive entertainment", said Joby.
"There'll be plenty of the usual stuff too", said Bengo "I'm getting a whole new acrobatics routine sorted out. Do you want to see a bit of it now?"
"I think we'd better wait til we get home", said Joby "There are too many breakable objects round here!"
Kieran rushed into the hall, putting on his goatskin cap as he did so.
"You rescued me!" he cried "I was trapped with Codlik for so long I was beginning to think he'd sent out a ransom note!"
Joby gave him a progress report on Lady Red, and informed him that it was unlikely she would be able to go to Woll's place, as the journey was clearly beyond her.
"It won't be the same without her", said Kieran, with great sadness "But I suppose we have to start getting used to that ... Tamaz, you look frozen. I know you don't feel the cold as much as us, but ..."
"He panicked and came out at the last moment", said Joby.
"You should take more care of yourself, Tamaz", Kieran gently admonished him.
Bengo suddenly kissed them all impulsively and they were all thus engaged when Glynis came out of the little sitting-room behind the bar. She looked magnificent in a low-cut red wool dress.
"I'm having a little drink with Jonner", she said, sounding more like she'd been having a big drink with Jonner "We would like you to join us".
"What are you doing with him again, Glynis?" said Kieran "I can't imagine you get much change out of him. He's as bent as a corkscrew!"
"I have been on my own all day", said Glynis, irritably "If he hadn't come round and offered to take me out, I would not have seen a soul. And why are you wearing a goatskin cap, Kieran? Doesn't that offend your vegetarian principles?"
"Why?" said Kieran "I wasn't planning on eating it! Come on, take us in and point us at the bottle. With any luck Codlik won't be able to find us in there".
"I'll have to have a glass of water instead", said Bengo, following them into the little room, where Jonner was already seated in front of a brandy bottle.
"Oh for chrissake, Bengo", said Joby "Why?"
"I'm on a diet", said Bengo, miserably "Hawkefish says I'm putting on too much weight".
"Where?" said Joby, looking him up and down "Your feet?!"
"Bardin says if my stomach gets any bigger they'll have to widen the stage for me", said Bengo.
"He's winding you up", said Joby "He's just jealous because you're better-looking than him. After all, it's you the women punters go mad over, not him".
"Talking of which", Bengo indicated his tote-bag "I've collected together some of the presents the women send me. There are quite a few pairs of knickers ..."
"The brazen hussies", said Kieran.
"I thought Tamaz might like them", said Bengo "Some of 'em just need washing that's all".
Tamaz's eyes lit up greedily, and he went to open the bag.
"Do it when we get home", said Joby "Or Myrtle'll think we're holding a knicker-party in here!"
More glasses were fetched and Glynis settled down to enjoy being the only female in the gathering. At least that had been her intention, but Tamaz was putting the mockers on it. When she had seen him in the foyer in his dreary boy's clothes, she had been prepared to be magnanimous in victory. After all, she was the one with the blonde hair and the substantial bosom, and her dress very much fitted where it touched.
Being bitchy the other night had been out of character, and she hadn't been happy with it. She knew that her greatest strengths lay in her wholesome beauty and her good nature. She still clung to the belief that Joby would eventually get sick and tired of Tamaz's selfishness and grasping nature, and then come looking for her. The soothing balm of hurt minds. At least that was how it always happened in books.
When she had gone out into the foyer to fetch them in, she had fully believed that this evening she couldn't possibly fail. She was attractive, and in this dress, sexy, and she had another man with her. All the things guaranteed to drive the man of her dreams wild with desire.
Only it wasn't quite working out that way.
Next to Tamaz she felt blowsy and fat. Tamaz's small breasts, unhindered by any rigging, were poking at the front of his white shirt in a tantalising way. She knew that under his trousers he probably wore something exciting and lacey. His amber eyes, thick lips and saucer-shaped cheekbones all gave his face a look of erotic mystery. Tamaz gave off an overwhelming aura of forbidden fruit. He was like an exotic wild animal which crackled primitive sex with every movement. And his wilfulness, greed and blatant manipulation were all simply part of the package.
All Glynis had to offer in return was big breasts, an ability to bake cakes and make homemade wine, and a good nature. But when it comes to sexual attraction, no one ever said a truer word than Mae West: "Goodness had nothing to do with it!"
Sitting there with them all, Glynis felt like their mother. They were even teasing her in that gentle and affectionate way that men do to women they are fond of but would never entertain any sexual thoughts about.
"You're not one of these women that's been sending your panties round to Bengo, are you, Glynis?" said Kieran.
"If you did, you'd better taken them back before Tamaz gets his paws on them", said Bengo.
"I wouldn't wear them", said Tamaz, haughtily "They're probably so big they'd fall down".
Joby clouted him with a rolled-up copy of Myrtle's Christmas menu. Tamaz pouted but didn't say anything.
"You are coming to Woll's aren't you, Glynis?" said Kieran.
"Yes, Hawkefish wants me to continue with the mime act", said Glynis, numbly.
"Julian says that apparently we're all staying inside the house this time", said Bengo.
"I should hope so, it'll be too cold for the teepee", said Joby.
"Will he have room for us all?" said Glynis "I mean, the Governors will be staying there too".
"Oh I expect us performers will get a wing to ourselves", said Kieran "His place is vast. Even so, there'll be a fair amount of doubling-up going on. Still, that'll make it all the more exciting!"
"You might get a room with Joby, Glynis", Jonner simpered.
Joby looked as though he'd happily punch Jonner's lights out.
"He's sleeping with me", said Tamaz, firmly.
The anger left Joby as quickly as it had come. He looked at Tamaz with that happy and tamed expression which could make his face seem temporarily beautiful. Because for that moment he had stopped struggling with the world. Glynis had only ever seen him turn it on Kieran before. All was lost.
Fuelled by loneliness and brandy, Glynis had burst into tears and run from the room.
"What brought that on?" said Joby "She's not pregnant is she?"
Kieran stood up and looked at Jonner with acute disgust.
"I'll go after her shall I?" he said "Don't you bestir yourself, you great fat lump!"
Kieran caught up with Glynis in the corridor that led to the kitchens. He could only assume she had run in this direction, as it was an improvement on running outside.
"Glynis, now listen to me", he said, pulling her hands away from her face.
"No!" Glynis cried "I already know what you're going to say. Find somebody else. Well I've tried and I can't".
"Because you're trying in all the wrong places", said Kieran "You won't get very far keep hanging around with a bunch of pansies like us and Jonner".
"Oh so I'm a fag-hag now am I?" Glynis sniffed.
"I would never call you such a horrible thing", said Kieran "For a start you're certainly not a hag".
"But I like being with you lot", said Glynis "You're easy company. So many men are such bores. All they think about is one thing".
"Mm, and then you complain because we don't go leaping all over you!" said Kieran.
"It's not logical is it?"
"Human nature rarely is. But once and for all, Glynis, you can't have Joby. He's with me. And I am getting a wee bit fed up that you seem to think my feelings don't come into this. I'm not a saint. I get jealous, even if I don't show it. And where Joby's concerned I've had a lot to get jealous about these past couple of years".
"But you accept him with Tamaz", Glynis protested "In fact you've even taken on Tamaz yourself now! What the hell is it about that ... that sideshow exhibit?!"
"He's exciting I suppose", said Kieran "He keeps us on our toes".
"And what will happen if that fascination wears off?" said Glynis "And he just becomes a tiresome charge?"
"I don't believe he will", said Kieran "Adam's never found Lonts to be a tiresome charge, so I don't see why that should be so with us".
"I think I'd like to go home now", said Glynis "I don't want to drink anymore this evening. It does strange things to me".
"We'll walk you back", said Kieran "It's not nice walking on your own in this fog".
"O.K, but I'd like to visit the ladies first".
"We'll wait in the foyer for you".
When he got to the foyer Kieran found the other three standing waiting for him. Jonner was nowhere in sight.
"She'll be with us in a minute", said Kieran "She just seems a wee bit tired to me".
"I thought we'd got all this sorted out before the Equinox Fair", Joby sighed.
"We nearly did", said Kieran "But it takes time, this sort of thing. She fell for you heavy, Jobe. Such things don't get resolved overnight. In a few years time she'll wonder what the blazes she ever saw in you!"
"Thanks, Kiel", said Joby, dryly.
"Where's the flash of lightening?" said Kieran, referring to Jonner.
"Men's loo", said Bengo.
"Best place for him", said Kieran.
"I don't think I've ever seen the blonde heifer so worked up before", said Tamaz, tartly.
"You're really asking for a good hiding you are!" said Joby.
"Yes, button your lip, Tamaz", said Kieran "I don't want a word out of you until we get home, and we're safely out of earshot of her!"
"Only saying", Tamaz shrugged.
"You 'only say' one more time before we've dropped Glynis off", said Kieran "And I'll put you over my knee!"
"You'll excite him even more if you come out with things like that", said Joby.
Glynis came towards them, straightening her dress.
"I feel rather foolish now", she said, grandly.
"No harm in feeling foolish", said Joby "After all, Bengo makes his living out of it!"
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