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"Why isn't Lonts speaking to me?" said Kieran, a few days later. He was walking with Joby along the main street in a desultory fashion.
"You've been paranoid ever since that money arrived", said Joby "Convinced no one likes you anymore".
"Well they've all been a wee bit cool, haven't they?"
"Who has?" Joby snapped "No one as far as I can see. Ransey's been wafting around making notes of everything that needs doing to the boat, Julian and Adam have been shopaholics, and Bengo keeps drooling about donations to the Little Theatre. Everyone's enjoying your money except you! And if you give me another depressing spiel about unearned income and undeserved legacies, like you did last night, I'll beat the shit out of you!"
"I don't care if you do", Kieran mumbled, morosely "It'll save me having to do a penance".
"It's more deserved than people who win a fortune on the City Lottery!" Joby exclaimed "The old chap left you this money 'cos he liked you and believed in you. And don't you think we've been through enough fucking hardship? Woll and his bloody insensitive comments really upset the old dears, and Hillyard".
"I know, I know".
"Look, as for Lonts. You know how barmy he is! He's got it into his brain (wherever it is he keeps it) that now we've got some loot you'll make us leave the Indigo and go and live in a posh house somewhere".
"Then why aren't you putting him right?" Kieran wailed.
"I've tried", said Joby, through gritted teeth "But everytime I mention it he just stares at me, swinging that bloody bear about in a threatening manner! Now listen, think how good this is gonna be for local trade, because all this money's gonna have to be spent here you know. The local economy'll be humming like a top by the time we've finished with it. Now for fuck's sake cheer up! How do you think your beloved God feels about you showing such ingratitude? He chucks a crumb of good luck down toyou, and you start carping about it! Nobody gives a present just so's the other person can complain!"
"Alright, I'm sorry", said Kieran "Me tastes have always been simple that's all. I've never wanted much. Adam says it's because I'm a Pisces. We live on a spiritual plane and have no regard for material things".
"Oh yeah?" said Joby, unconvinced "You don't seem very detached from it all when you're getting low on fags!"
"That's because I need them to keep me spiritual balance", said Kieran "Your trouble is you're a Cancerian, and your lot are obsessed with money. You're hoarders by nature. Misers".
"Hang on!" said Joby "I thought you always said you didn't believe in astrology. You've always rubbished it when anyone's mentioned it before".
"Some bits ring true", said Kieran "The character analysis bits, not the predictions. Such as Cancerians being morose and crabby, and overly-sensitive, and mawkishly sentimental, and prudish and old-fashioned ..."
"Have you quite finished?" said Joby, pausing outside the door of a ladies' clothing shop.
"What are you after in there?" said Kieran, perplexed "You'll look lousy in a frock, Jobe, you haven't got the face for it!"
"I'm buying Tamaz some new undies".
"With my money?!"
"Oh so suddenly it's YOUR money now is it?" said Joby "I thought the other night it was gonna be equal shares for all? You can't leave him out of the prezzies. He doesn't get much".
"Given half a chance he'd have the whole bloody lot!" said Kieran "This is the boy remember who once ran up bills all over the City that could've paid off the Third World's debts in our time!"
"Those days are gone", said Joby, pushing open the door "Come on".
"You'd better not buy him any stockings!" said Kieran.
"I've a right to be concerned about you, Joby", said Adam, a couple of hours later "We've known each other a long time. I feel I'm like a father or a mother to you".
"Hardly!" said Joby "Not after some of the things we've been up to together in the past! Anyway, there's nothing to get concerned about. It's my life".
"I know, but I can't help feeling you're getting too attached to Tamaz", said Adam, absently turning over the pile of cotton and lace underclothing which was heaped on the galley table "He's severely mentally disturbed".
"So?" said Joby, belligerently "You might like to remember that so was Lonts when he was very young, but it didn't stop you getting attached to him. And look how much easier he is to live with now as a consequence! I mean, he's still barmy but he's nowhere near as loopy as he was then".
"But if Tamaz should slip back into his old ways ..."
"He won't! That's what I'm trying to avoid. For God's sake Adam, he can't hurt me anywhere near as bad as he did in the past. I just wanna take care of him. Kieran's been alright about it, so I don't see why you can't be!"
Joby picked up the garments and left the room. Adam sighed wearily and fished out a cigar butt from the pocket of his shorts. He had taken it from the ash-tray in Julian's cabin earlier, intending to enjoy a short, clandestine smoke once he was alone. He had barely lit it with the cooking matches though when Julian jabbed him in the backside with the prongs of a fork.
"Julian!" he yelled, and then yelled it again when Julian tossed the cigar-butt into the sink "Damnit Jules. The amount of passive smoking I do around you and Patsy, one iddy-biddy cigar butt isn't going to make any difference!"
"Do you want to go back to wheezing and rattling?" said Julian.
"I can't help it", Adam pouted "I'm extremely stressed out. Joby is getting obsessed with that breasted freak. He's carrying on like Professor Higgins, with Tamaz as an eccentric Eliza Doolittle!"
"Well as long as Tinkerbell is happy to play Colonel Pickering I don't see what the problem is", said Julian "At least this way we're keeping it in the family. Imagine how much worse it'd be if he got this enraptured with Glynis!"
"I can't see him buying Glynis's underwear for her", said Adam "She'd probably take it as a gross affront".
"Exactly", said Julian "All men, if they've got any sexual maturity, want someone they can devote themselves to, body and soul. The likes of Glynis won't get devotion because she's too sturdy and self-sufficient".
"They have to be feeble both mentally and physically, like Tamaz, do they?" said Adam, dubiously.
"Tamaz is an extreme example. But we are all attracted to vulnerability", Julian slipped his arm round Adam's waist "And at the same time we want someone we can be enslaved to".
"I don't have any argument with that, but I'm concerned about Pats and Joby".
"Why should you be? Kieran is a vulnerable person who inspires devotion. Joby's in heaven now he's got the two of them to pander to!" Julian gave a deep sigh "Glynis showed her vulnerability too little and too late. It's her problem. It takes courage to show one's vulnerability, and if one's not prepared to be courageous in matters of the heart then ..."
"One doesn't deserve matters of the heart", said Adam "Oh Jules, you're so right".
"Of course I am, what a strange thing to say!" said Julian "Why do you think I never found anyone as exciting as you? They were all but pale imitations".
"And you were always a compulsive flatterer", Adam giggled, sexily.
The following morning Julian went out for a walk round the town, exuding the confidence and serenity he always acquired after a lengthy bout of love-making with Adam. In his crumpled white linen jacket and battered panama, he looked like an old-fashioned British envoy in some far-flung, rundown colony. Kieran's legacy hadn't so far run to new clothes (Tamaz's knickers didn't count), not when far more pressing items such as brandy, bottled beer, cigars, gardening catalogues (for Joby) and new fishing-rods got highter priority. At this rate clothes would have to wait until a year next Shrovetide!
Passing Myrtle's hotel he saw Lady Red leaning out of her window in her dressing-gown. He shouted something flattering up to her, and she yelled back with gusto: "don't be daft Julian, my arse would be too lumpy for your tastes!" Julian was satisfied that Malevolent Myrtle, who was watering her hanging-baskets at the time, looked disgusted by this exchange.
He found Lonts sitting on the steps of the town-hall, without Snowy in attendance, which was a sure sign that something was wrong. Lonts had been crying heavily, but had looked so fierce when anyone approached him that they had instantly backed away again.
"Is it really necessary to come out here and do this?" said Julian, fishing his handkerchief out of his jacket pocket "Blow your nose, you're looking decidedly shiney around the gills".
"I don't see the point of being at home if it's not going to be my home for much longer", Lonts wailed.
"Why, are you going somewhere we're not?" said Julian, sitting down next to him on the steps.
"We're moving out. Going into a house!"
"Are we? News to me", said Julian "Take it from your beloved Captain that we are doing no such thing".
"But Toppy said we'd have to get rooms somewhere because the Indigo was going to have to be destroyed", said Lonts, snorting lustily.
"Toppy is going to be thrashed very soundly when I get hold of him", said Julian, which at least caused Lonts to smile "The only time we're going to have to rent rooms is when we put the Indigo into the boatyard to have her bottom scraped and sundry other nasty little maintenance jobs, and that won't be until the winter".
"But we're not moving out permanently?" said Lonts.
"No, we're simply going to improve the Indigo as much as we can", said Julian "Have you quite finished making a spectacle of yourself now? I'll take you down to the cellar-bar. It's the only place in town where we can get a beer at this time of day".
They weren't the only ones with that idea. When they got down there they found Ransey and Bengo sitting at a table in the corner. Ransey was obviously worked oup about something and was making his point quite firmly. Bengo looked acutely miserable, and was slumped in his seat, looking like a lump of dough with two currents for eyes. He looked quite wretched with relief to see Lonts and Julian approaching.
"I was just saying", said Ransey "That the money needs more thought than it's getting if we're to utilise it properly".
"I-I only mentioned a small donation to the Little Theatre", Bengo whimpered.
"We can't afford to go giving donations", said Ransey "Particularly not to a theatre! It's hardly a necessary cause!"
"Yes it is", said Julian "It keeps Bengo out of mischief for a start, and it's entirely up to him what he does with his share. He's entitled to one-tenth of it for a start".
"Isn't Tamaz getting any then?" said Lonts.
"No he's not!" said Julian, firmly.
"I don't agree with this percentage business", said Ransey "It means nothing useful will get done with it. Everyone will use his own small share to do what he damn well likes with!"
"When really we should have you telling us how to spend every last cent of it", said Julian, sarcastically "Otherwise we might spend it on luxuries like food ... lighten up Ransey, there'll be time enough for sensible expenditure once the initial euphoria's worn off. At the moment it's good for morale".
"I agree", said Ransey "But ..."
"Look, if Bengo wants to spend his share on a new box of tissues for his dressing-room, who are we to begrudge the poor little waif such a harmless pleasure?"
"The snooker table's free at the moment", said Lonts, pointedly.
"Right, let's make it a foursome", said Julian "You partner Ransey, and Bengo can partner me. Don't cry if you lose".
"We won't lose", said Ransey "Back in the camp we used to have a competition on our pool table called Deadly Eye. I always won it".
"That doesn't surprise me in the slightest", said Julian.
Later that morning a cargo of journalists flew in unexpectedly to Toondor Lanpin. Bored with covering the clean-up operation in the City, and even more bored with Codlik's endless pontificating on his plans for the future, a handful of them had taken it into their heads to go down and flush out Kieran for themselves, particularly now that the details of the old tutor's will had just been made public.
No one had been expecting their arrival, and so Kieran couldn't be warned in advance. As such, he was at large in the streets when they descended. His recent restlessness hadn't worn off at all, and he wished he could join in with the others in their delight with the money, but other than buying himself even more cigarettes he couldn't think of anything worth dragging himself round the shops for. Joby and Hillyard had run off to the Anglers' Emporium like two excited schoolboys, determined to examine all the fishing-rods on offer. They had invited Kieran to join them, but he knew Joby would want to gaze at his own particular object of desire in mute adoration for some considerable time, and Kieran felt he himself would be able to absorb any points of interest it may have in about three seconds at the very most!
Air-buggies flying into Toondor Lanpin had got more regular since the Festival had made them all into a tourist attraction, so no one gibbered with speculation anymore at the sound of one. As such Kieran didn't realise he was being stalked until half-a-dozen pressmen had literally backed into a corner by the iron gates leading into the coal merchants' yard.
"How does it feel to be a beneficiary?" one cried, notebook at the ready.
"Did you know he was going to spite the University in order to give it to you?" said another.
"None of this is your concern", said Kieran, remembering the old golden maxim from his presidenting days that the press must either be told all or nothing.
They all let fly at him after that, like a pack of hounds falling on a fox, goading him with taunts and very thinly-disguised insults, by the end of which they made him feel like an obscene parasite. Normally he would have handled such scenes more casually, but he was tired. This was all coming at the end of a hard year, one which had seen almost unceasing money worries and fears over the future, plus the nightmare sojourn at Cockroach Mansions, and the exhausting schedule of the Festival, followed by Myrtle's hate campaign, and the City rioting, and the revelation of Lady Red's illness. And now, just as there was the smallest glimmer of hope on the horizon, this lot had arrived to spoil it, in the time-honoured manner of the "gentlemen" of the press.
Kieran was aware as he sprawled desperately against the iron gates that he must look as mad as a hatter to them, with his long, tangled hair, whip-thin arms and legs, and his blue eyes popping out of his head. It was exactly how he would look in the photographs on the front pages, like a Biblical prophet who had been dragged up from the darkest dungeons in order to be sentanced to death. He began to laugh, and the more he laughed the more alarmed they all looked, until it was obvious they thought he had gone off his head. Everyone fears a madman. He can see too much.
"Leave me alone!" he cried "For God's sake, leave me alone! Once and for all!"
It was Lady Red who came to his rescue, having heard the commotion from inside a nearby hat-shop. She sent the pressmen scattering like a horde of peasents fleeing an invading tank. She all but picked Kieran up and carried him away from their midst.
"Bastards", was all she said, which was remarkably restrained for her.
Kieran rested on his bunk until seven o'clock that evening, when he wearily got up and wandered down the gangway to the saloon. The late summer sunlight was filtering into all the room, which were remarkably devoid of occupants.
"Where is everyone?" he said, finding Joby alone in the saloon.
"All gone out for a drink at the Little Theatre", said Joby, leisurely turning over the pages of a newspaper.
"Yeah, I don't think they'll be long though. It's more a show of defiance, in case the pressmen think we're gonna hide away out of shame just 'cos we've got a bit of money at last".
"Aren't you going out anywhere?" said Kieran "I thought you said you wanted to try your luck at the tables tonight".
"Nah", said Joby "Don't see the point. Anyway, I'm quite happy here".
"Really", said Kieran, peering over his shoulder at the paper "Reading an article on someone who's allergic to knicker elastic? Well that's a more interesting way of passing the time I suppose!"
"Yeah o.k I admit it I didn't wanna leave you here alone", said Joby, roughly folding up the paper "In case They come back".
"You make them sound like vampires", said Kieran.
"If the cap fits", said Joby "Look, come to the casino with me".
"I'll cramp your style", said Kieran "Natalie's bound to think I'm going to start lecturing everyone on the evils of gambling or some such nonsense".
"No she won't. C'mon, put a clean shirt on and we'll be off".
"That's just it", said Kieran "I haven't got one".
"Well you can't go out in that old rag", said Joby, looking at his friend's disreputable attire "I know, borrow one of Julian's. He's always got a clean shirt, what with Finia and Toppy waiting on him all the time".
Joby dragged him by the hand into Julian's cabin, where he pulled a pale blue shirt out of the closet.
"Here you are", he said "Perfect. It helps with you and him both being blondes, the same thing's suit you".
"That's about all we've got in common", said Kieran "Jobe, it doesn't fit me. He's about a foot taller than me and a lot fuller in the figure".
"That's not hard is it!" Joby retorted "Stop arguing and put it on".
Kieran peeled off his own shirt and put Julian's on.
"There", said Joby "How does that feel?"
"Like I'm a wee boy wearing his dad's nightshirt", said Kieran.
"You look cute", said Joby, fondly.
"I know", said Kieran "That's what I was afraid of!"
Natalie looked askance to see Kieran in her domain, and he had to reassure her that he hadn't come to cause any trouble. At the roulette table Woll was sandwiched in next to Lady Red, looking like a terrified gazelle about to be torn limb from limb by a ravenous lioness.
"I'm not sure about the wheel", said Joby "Craps is more my game".
"Rubbish", said Red, fanning herself with her chips "Just think of your lucky number and put your money on that".
"That's the trouble", said Joby, glumly "I don't have one".
Nonetheless he took the seat opposite Red and joined in the game. Woll got up to stretch his legs and went over to join Kieran. All the time he spoke to the Irishman he fiddled with his cufflinks nervously.
"P-people seem to be avoiding me", he said.
"Like who?" said Kieran.
"All of you", said Woll, tentatively "I heard about your good fortune. I suppose now there's no cause of anyone to speak to me, now you've got money of your own".
"That's what you think we're like is it!" Kieran snapped "Since when have we ever asked you for money, apart from what Hillyard earnt from you fair and square ... and I don't envy him that privilege one bloody bit!"
"Kieran", Joby hissed "Not here!"
Natalie had already come out from behind her desk and presented herself at Kieran's side.
"You're disturbing the punters", she said "If you can't be quiet I'm going to have to ask you to go".
"He's only been here two minutes", Joby sighed to Lady Red, who was staring at Woll as though he had two heads.
"Looks like I'm being thrown out", said Kieran, going over to Joby.
"Serves you damn well right", said Joby "You're incapable of behaving yourself".
"You should have heard what he was saying about us!" said Kieran, indignantly "As though we're nothing but a bunch of gold-diggers".
"Count me out", said Joby to the croupier, as he rose from the table.
After they had gone back up the narrow wooden stairs Red turned a fiercesome expression on Woll. With her red hair, red satin gown and ruby necklace she looked like a vengeful goddess of fire.
"If they'd wanted a donation from you", she said, imperiously "They would have asked for it".
"I didn't mean it to come out that way", said Woll, very awkwardly "What can I do?"
"Apologise?" said Red.
"One gets so used ..." Woll trailed his hands about as though he'd just discovered them and didn't know what they were for "When one has money. No one wants one for oneself ..."
Lady Red gave an "ach!" of annoyance and went back to her game.
When he got upstairs to Persephone's bar he found it occupied solely by the pressmen who'd earlier hounded Kieran. Their main talker was a round, plummy-voiced man who was pontificating about the best way to cope with Toondor Lanpin and its natives.
"You have to remember they're poor", he drawled "So it's wisest not to wear smart clothes in the street, and not to go too far out of one's way alone".
His cheek was further illustrated when he actually patted the pot-boy on the head.
"Are you looking for someone?" said Persephone, meeting Woll in the corridor.
"K-Kieran", said Woll.
"I let him out through the kitchen", said Persephone "That lot in there would've seen him otherwise. I expect he took the side alley back onto the quayside".
"Thank you, Persephone", said Woll gently, and headed out through the front door onto the quayside.
Although it was now dark there were some very small boys playing soccer, still clad only in their singlets. Woll dodged them and went out onto the jetty towards the Indigo. He could see a light burning from it so somone was obviously in. When he got there he found Kieran sitting on the quarterdeck steps.
"I'd invite you in", he said "But you might get the wrong idea!"
"Please Kieran", said Woll, helplessly "I seem to have given you the wrong impression all round".
"Are you sure you wanna come in?" said Joby, standing in the doorway of the galley, swigging from a bottle of milk "I mean, we wouldn't want you to catch something!"
There was a commotion of voices outside, which signalled that the others were home. Lonts came hurtling down the quarterdeck steps.
"Nobody get in my way!" he yelled "I need the heads!"
"It might be safer if we went into the saloon", said Kieran, pulling Woll along by the elbow.
"I don't know where you got the impression we were after you for your money", said Kieran, once they were in there "Because as far as I can tell we've never given you that impression".
"It's what you said about Hillyard", said Woll "You seem to be under the impression I was ... that I w-was paying him for services rendered".
"Well weren't you?" said Kieran, sharply.
"No!" Woll protested "I was helping him out, as one friend to another. I knew he, all of you, were desperately short of money. I thought that was what friends did, helped each other out. A-and all this time he s-seemed to be regarding me as a customer, a client. I thought he w-wanted ... what we did ... I thought it was what he wanted too".
Kieran stared back at him, appalled.
"Oh God, Woll", he said, eventually "There's been the most almighty communication breakdown here, all along the line".
"Why did he think that of me?" said Woll.
"B-because that's what he's been doing", said Kieran, feeling that he would burst into tears at any moment "We've been so short of money at times. If it hadn't been for Hilly's earning power I don't know what we would have done. He did it for us. He sold his only commodity, himself".
"How many?" said Woll, bluntly.
"What do you mean?"
"How many were there other than me?"
"Woll, you mustn't look at it that way", said Kieran "Hillyard's very fond of you ..."
"I don't know. Does it matter?"
"Of course it matters!" Woll spat "I thought all this time we had something, I really did".
"That hasn't changed", said Kieran.
"I thought he wanted me for myself!" Woll shouted "And all this time ... I-I was a client!"
"What's going on here?" said Julian, coming into the room "And why are you wearing my shirt?"
Kieran briefly explained the situation, whilst feeling and sounding totally wretched.
"Don't be ridiculous, Woll", said Julian, stoutly "Hillyard was helping us".
There was no appeasing Woll though. He excused himself and went up onto the forward deck, where he found Hillyard leaning against the bulwark contemplatively.
"Where's the romance?" Woll screamed at him, unreasonably "It's all so damn grubby!"
"It's sex!" Hillyard shouted back "Just sex. A physical, animal thing, nothing more, nothing less. A release of pressure, and a job like any other. Why can't you understand that?"
"It's a new game, Joby", said Lonts, standing in the corridor "I stand up against the doorpost here, and tie a handkerchief over my eyes, and you pretend to shoot me".
"This is a stupid game even by your standards, Lonts", said Joby.
"You'll have to shout when your gun goes off", Lonts continued, regardless "Or I won't know I've been shot".
"Hillyard", said Joby, as the said man walked past him "Has Woll been giving you a hard time?"
"I don't know where some people get off", Hillyard sighed "What right does he have to make judgement? Oh it's nothing, g'night".
He went into his cabin where he found Toppy and Bengo already asleep. Tamaz was lying on his bedding watching Julian, who was undressing.
"If he's worth his salt as a friend he'll come round", said Julian, on seeing Hillyard's look of misery.
"I've been tarting for too long perhaps", said Hillyard "It never occurred to me that he could get the wrong idea. Oh why does this keep happening to me? Why do men always get heavy? Why can't they just take it as it comes?"
"I haven't a clue", said Julian, turning the oil-lamp down "How much do you care, really care, whether you see him again or not?"
"Not enough to go through all this hassle", said Hillyard.
"Then you have your answer", said Julian.
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