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"I bet this'll collapse as soon as I sit on it", said Julian, putting up a deckchair on the poop-deck "It hasn't! Miracles will never cease!"
On the forward deck below Bengo, Lonts and Toppy were playing skittles.
"He hasn't stopped hugging and kissing me since he got home yesterday", said Julian, referring to Bengo.
"He's a lovely boy isn't he?" said Adam, sitting in the chair next ot him.
"He's completely mad", said Julian "What are you reading anyway?"
Adam held up 'Egbod's Punishment'.
"What are you reading that load of rubbish for?" said Julian.
"Well I'm quite intrigued now that Bengo's told me all about the author", said Adam "It is terrible though, even by the standards of pornographic literature! He uses the word 'testicles' rather a lot, and someone really should tell him that it's not he slightest bit erotic".
"Yes, what's wrong with good old balls, eh?" Julian laughed.
Bengo, Lonts and Toppy suddenly hurtled up onto the poop-deck.
"A man's turned up", said Bengo.
"Good luck to him!" said Julian, lighting a cigar.
"He's a steward at Myrtle's hotel", said Toppy.
"Well if he's after a job tell him he's out of luck", said Julian "I've got stewards coming out of my ears!"
"No listen", said Bengo, urgently "He says Tamaz has turned up there".
"Tamaz!" Julian exclaimed "How?"
"He must've sneaked out when we were in the hold getting the skittles", said Lonts "The others are in the saloon, they wouldn't have seen him".
"That's the trouble", said Adam "We always assume someone else is watching him".
"Apparently he's pretending he's a guest", said Lonts.
"He'll be a guest alright when I get hold of him", said Julian "In the cage! I'll have a new set of keys made! Run below and tell Hillyard and Joby to come up. He might not give them any trouble. And fetch my whip whilst you're at it, to be on the safe side".
"Don't be hard on him, Julian", Lonts implored "He probably just got confused".
"Yes well he won't be in the slightest bit confused by the time I've finished with him!" said Julian.
Tamaz was currently sitting in an armchair opposite Myrtle and Octavia. It had been Myrtle's wish to pack him home as soon as he arrived, but Octavia had taken pity on him and invited him into the little back sitting-room.
"Look at him", she hissed to Myrtle "He's all skin and bone, they obviously starve him".
"I don't think we should interfere", said Myrtle "The Ministry put him into their custody".
"And he's not dressed", said Octavia, looking at Tamaz's black teddy and cotton-wrap "It's an utter disgrace. They wouldn't treat him like this if he was completely male".
Tamaz looked from one to the other as they spoke, as though he was watching a tennis-match. He chewed a strand of his hair as he did so. Myrtle was disturbed by his attitude and wished the steward would come back with one of the Indigo-ites.
"Octavia, I know you like doing good works", said Myrtle "But please don't take Tamaz on as a cause. We couldn't cope with him!"
"Nonsense", said Octavia "We would understand him better than they obviously do!"
Julian came in soon after, followed by Adam, Joby and Hillyard. Julian was carrying his whip, and as soon as Tamaz saw it he let out an inhuman shriek and scuttled round the back of his chair.
"Come home at once!" Julian bellowed "You've caused quite enough trouble for one day".
"I had a bad dream", Tamaz wailed.
"Don't roar at the poor child", said Octavia, planting her formidable bulk in Julian's path "Can't you see he's terrified?"
"He's perfectly entitled to be", said Julian, stoutly.
"I forbid you to take him home", said Octavia "You have no right to burst in here brandishing a whip. It's obvious to me that that pitiful creature is treated with utter contempt".
"Madam, I advise you not to interfere", said Julian.
"Are you threatening me?" said Octavia.
"No, I have merely come to take Tamaz home", said Julian.
"Well he's not going", said Octavia "He stays here".
Tamaz screamed and ran at Julian, hurling himself into his arms tearfully.
"It was a dream", he cried "A dream. Father Dalman was in the hold and was after me. I had to get away, and this was the only place I knew!"
"Adam, for God's sake remove him", said Julian, trying to disentangle Tamaz's claws from his shirt "At this rate I'm not going to have any clothes left intact!"
"Father Dalman is dead, Tamaz", said Adam, gently "He died at the tower. Ransey shot him. He's dead".
"I got confused", Tamaz wept, transferring himself to Adam and bawling over him "I want to go home now".
Julian sighed and rolled his eyes.
"He could have saved us a lot of time and trouble if he'd said that as soon as we got here", he snapped.
Adam passed the boy onto Hillyard, who picked him up in his arms and carried him out of the room, followed by Joby. Julian apologised to Myrtle, who waved it aside. Octavia had retired to her chair in a subdued frame of mind. After the men had gone Myrtle patted her knee affectionately.
"Why don't you have a biscuit?" she said "They're your favourites".
Octavia took one and nibbled at it joylessly.
"I'm glad Julian didn't punish Tamaz", said Lonts, sitting with Adam on a bench in Persephone's bar that evening "It wasn't his fault. I know what those sort of dreams are like. I've had enough myself".
"Fortunately there was no harm done", said Adam, feeding Lonts with a stuffed olive "Although we really should watch him more closely. I don't like the thought of him roaming the town on his own. Anything could happen, particularly if he met up with Milich, say".
"He seems o.k now", said Lonts "He was dancing to the gramophone when we left. It's busy in here tonight, isn't it?"
"I know, I was hoping for a quiet drink with you", said Adam "And it's more like a bloody rugby scrum!"
The bar was packed with men who were steadily getting more and more raucous. Adam recognised a few of them as Milich's friends, and he was nervous in case they suddenly decided to pick on him and Lonts.
"They're supposed to be moving on soon", said Lonts "I heard them talking. There's a snooker tournament on later at the cellar-bar".
Seated at the bar, the sole woman in the gang, was Eva. Although with her cropped hair and white vest she looked like one of the lads anyway.
"I know it's a terribly old-fashioned thing to say", said Adam "But I could never understand why women want to be like men, particularly boorish, boozy men. I don't see what they get out of it. I'll have to ask her one day, when I'm feeling brave".
"Perhaps she wishes she was a boy", Lonts shrugged "Like Finia wanting to be a girl".
"Yes, and I suppose he's rather more extreme!" Adam laughed "I suppose deep down we all have a mix of both sexes in us".
"Like Tamaz", Lonts giggled.
"Are we interrupting?" said Joby, appearing at their table with Kieran "Or did you want to be alone?"
"Fat chance with this lot around!" said Adam "Sit down. Safety in numbers in case they decide to start causing trouble. You look very smart, Joby. Has someone died?"
"Very funny", Joby groaned "I've already had all the sarcastic remarks from Kieran".
"Well he's put me to shame", said Kieran.
"I've only put a clean shirt on that's all", said Joby "Anyone'd think I was done up in evening dress! Do you have to do that?"
"What?" said Kieran.
"Get your fags out and put 'em on the table as soon as you sit down", said Joby.
"Convenience", said Kieran.
"For someone who claimed the other day he was trying to cut down I haven't seen much evidence of it", said Joby.
"I have actually, you just haven't noticed", said Kieran.
"Watch out, here comes someone who's not exactly going to set a good example", said Adam, as Jonner hove into view.
"Can I join you?" Jonner lisped.
"Yes, the more the merrier", said Adam "Our gang'll be bigger than their's at this rate!"
"You make it all sound very tribal", said Jonner, who was looking very seedy. His hair really did look like a tangled mop, and he wore a shapeless dung-coloured t-shirt over a stomach that looked in dire need of a few toning exercises.
"Jonner's a case in point", said Joby "Look at the state of his teeth! There, that should be a lesson to you".
"Joby, that was rather rude, old love", said Adam.
"I'm not getting at Jonner", said Joby "I'm trying to point out to Kieran what smoking can do to you".
"I wish you'd give it a rest", said Kieran "You sound like one of Codlik's public information films!"
"I haven't smoked for nearly 20 years", Joby went on "And there's nothing wrong with my teeth is there?"
"There will be in a minute!" Kieran growled.
"In fact I look better than I've ever done", said Joby.
"Tamaz told you that, did he?" said Adam.
"Probably", said Kieran "I can just imagine the little weasel going 'oh Joby I do think you're a sex god!'"
Lonts found this extremely funny, which annoyed Joby.
"Is Tamaz alright now?" said Jonner "I heard about his little adventure earlier".
"Yeah, he's over it all now", said Joby.
"Now there is someone with dodgy teeth", said Adam "Tamaz's teeth look like they've been sharpened with a file ... Patsy, are you o.k? You've gone rather pale".
"Kieran?" said Joby, anxiously "What is it, mate?"
"I've just seen Milich go past the window", said Kieran, in a small voice.
"That's all we need", Joby groaned.
"If he starts anything we can always walk away", said Jonner.
"There's going to be trouble", said Kieran "I can feel it".
Milich came in through the door as though he'd been shot out of a cannon. Without a word to anyone he barged through the scrum at the bar and struck Eva so hard across the face she fell off the bar-stool. It all happened so quick that everyone in the room was momentarily as stunned as she was. Milich took advantage of the lull to kick her in the ribs and stomach several times. By now she was screaming hysterically.
Adam was the first to react from his table. Yelling frantically he ran towards Milich to drag him away from the girl. Milich screamed "I don't need poofters to fight me!" and punched him in the stomach. For one terrifying moment Kieran thought Adam had been hit in the chest.
"You focking bastard!" he cried, which at least distracted Milich from re-attacking Eva.
Milich wasn't the only one in a psychopathic mood by now. Having seen what had happened Lonts let out a roar that would have terrified a far braver person than Milich. He knocked the drunken bully to the floor and then jumped on him, knocking the wind out of him. He seized Milich's neck in his two sizeable hands and showed every intention of breaking it. Joby clawed at him to try and get him away.
"Lonts, for God's sake", he screamed, in despair "Don't! He's not worth it. Kieran, help me!"
Kieran had been attending to Adam and the girl, but he stopped and clapped his hands a couple of times by Lonts's face. This helped to break the dark spell that had come over Lonts, and Joby was able to pull him off Milich completely. He trapped him in his arms like a human straitjacket.
"You should let me kill him, Joby", Lonts roared.
"And have you locked up in the jug for the next 10 years!" Joby cried, emotionally "What fucking good would that do?"
All of this had happened in a very very short space of time. Adam recovered himself and was relieved to hear that Persephone had sent for the Town Constable (for Milich) and the doctor (for Eva). Eva was in a terrible state, weeping hysterically. Kieran had her in his arms and was trying to soothe her.
"He's a fucking nutter", she wept "Why did I ever get mixed up with him! I'm through with him. I want everyone to know that. I'm through with him!"
"I hope you mean it", said Kieran.
"Yeah I mean it!" Eva shouted, catching her breath "His shitty bloody temper! He'll kill someone one day. Well I'm bloody determined it won't be me!"
Milich had burst into loud, drunken tears.
"I've lost the girl I love!" he squealed, which would've sounded comical in any other situation.
"You should've thought about that, you stupid bastard", said Joby.
"You can fucking talk", Milich retorted, tears pouring down his fat little face "You hit my mother!"
"I didn't knock her off a bar-stool and kick her in the stomach!" Joby raged.
The Constable and the doctor arrived at the same time, and some semblance of order was imposed. Milich was led away weeping to the cells, and Eva was taken home. Jonner was instructed by Kieran to take Adam and Lonts back to the Indigo. Once they had gone Kieran stood and surveyed the men at the bar in disgust.
"What a useless focking lot you were", he said "You just stood there! Would anyone have helped her if we weren't here, eh?"
"Well what was Milich supposed to do?" said one of them "He walks into a bar to find his girlfriend with a load of other blokes, he was bound to erupt a bit".
"Erupt A BIT?!" Kieran screamed.
He advanced on the young lad as though he was going to erupt a lot! Joby grabbed him by the scruff of the neck though and yanked him away.
"Leave it", he ordered "Enough's enough for one night. We're going home".
"What on earth makes you think you can get away with playing Sir Galahad at your age?" said Julian.
"Well what do you suggest I should have done?" said Adam "Sat back and waited for someone younger to go to the rescue, whilst he kicked the stuffing out of her?"
"No of course not", said Julian "Ransey's never around when you want him is he!"
They were in Julian's cabin. Arrayed along Julian's bunk like the three wise monkeys were Lonts, Kieran and Joby, all looking rather glum. Julian stroked Lonts's hair gently as he walked past. Lonts gave a weak smile in return but didn't say anything.
"I'm glad you didn't decide to continue the fight", Julian said to Kieran.
"It wasn't up to me", said Kieran "Joby dragged me out by force. He can be very masterful sometimes!"
Joby decided to continue his masterful behaviour by offering to help Lonts to bed.
"I want you to promise me one thing", he said a few minutes later, when he was pinning on Lonts's nappy "When Milich's fianlly let out of the cells, whenever that's going to be, I want you to promise me you'll stay away from him. I wouldn't ask this if I didn't care about you".
"He can't be allowed to get away with what he does!" Lonts retorted.
"He won't", said Joby "I'm pretty sure he'll get what's coming to him eventually, but I don't want you to have anything to do with it. Promise me. PROMISE ME!"
"I promise", Lonts growled.
"Right, you've given me your word now and I know how much importance you place on all that", said Joby "So you can't go back on it".
Jonner spent the night on the Indigo, sleeping on the sofa in the saloon. He awoke very early, and as usual he groped for his spectacles first and then his cigarettes. He had just secured both when he saw Hillyard emerge from his cabin and move up the corridor to the steps. Jonner followed him up onto the forward deck, where Hillyard was letting out the hens and feeding them.
"Bumper crop this morning", he said "Of eggs I mean. Do you fancy an omelette for breakfast?"
"Only if you can spare them", said Jonner.
"No problems these days", said Hillyard "Now we've got Kieran's money we can always buy some more if we run out. Come below, I'll knock something up for you".
Jonner followed him back down the galley, where Hillyard began preparing breakfast for them both.
"Quite an evening by all accounts", said Hillyard, pouring oil into the frying-pan.
"It all happened so quick", said Jonner, sitting down at the table "I didn't take it in at first. All I keep thinking though is that I'm glad it wasn't any worse. Even so, I did find it horrifying. I've never seen anyone attack another person like that before. I've always lived under the principle that you should never hit anyone, under any circumstances".
"I don't like it either", said Hillyard "Although I think sometimes you have to make allowances".
"Self-defence perhaps", said Jonner.
"Yes, and sometimes just emotion", said Hillyard "But not the way Milich carried on!"
"He's a brute", said Jonner "I once had neighbours who chucked saucepans at each other, I found it rather upsetting".
"Other people's rows always are".
"What are you doing here?" said Joby, appearing in the doorway, wearing his robe.
"I live here", said Hillyard.
"He's cooking me breakfast", said Jonner.
"You poor bastard", said Joby "What have you done to deserve that? Hillyard could pass as a mass poisoner! I still have nightmares about his carrot stew".
There was a strong smell of burning coming from the hot plate, and Hillyard flipped a blackened omelette onto a plate.
"Hillyard, are you trying to burn down my galley?" said Adam, looking sleepy.
"He's torturing Jonner with an omelette", said Joby.
"Well it doesn't look too bad for one of Hillyard's efforts", Adam conceeded "I mean, at least you can tell it was once food! I really should warn you Jonner old love, never to go accepting offers from Hilly to cook for you. The rest of us are all wise to it".
"From bitter experience", said Joby.
"So he's always desperate for someone to prey on", said Adam.
"I do try", said Hillyard "Really hard, but it never comes out right. I do it all exactly as you do Ad, but it still gets messed up. Why is that?"
"Well in this instance you've got the pan too hot", said Adam "A lot of people make that mistake when frying".
"What on earth are you doing conducting a cookery lesson at this hour?" said Julian "It's practically the middle of the night!"
"Hillyard's cooking Jonner breakfast", said Joby.
Julian stared at Jonner as though he'd never seen him before. Jonner looked rather uncomfortable under his grey-eyed gaze.
"Thank you for allowing me to stay, Julian", he wisped, sounding like visiting royalty.
"Oh think nothing of it", said Julian "Liberty Hall this is! Put the kettle on, Ada".
Julian slumped onto the nearest chair and propped his bare feet on the table, dangerously near Jonner's omelette. Jonner was practically having to saw through the charcoaled egg whilst trying to avoid Julian's toes.
"This is bloody typical isn't it?" Julian went on "When we were out sailing the seven seas I had to practically use dynamite to get you out of bed in the mornings, and now it's up with sparrrow's fart!"
"Oh come off it, Julian", said Joby "You yourself hate getting up before noon".
"I was wondering", said Jonner, nervously "If I could stay a little longer".
"Why?" Julian barked.
"I would like to do some painting here", said Jonner.
"Not another one of Tamaz?" said Julian "You must have covered him from just about every angle!"
"I was thinking that I'd like to start with Finia actually", Jonner went on "He has an equally extraordinary figure".
"You'll have to ask him", said Julian "But I really can't see him consenting to a nude shot".
"Too stuck-up for that", said Joby, tearing the heal off a loaf of bread.
"I would've said too private", said Julian.
"That's o.k, I'm not fussed about a nude shot", said Jonner "After all most people, most men certainly, would very easily be able to imagine his chief characteristic! I would like to do him in full wig, slap and dress. Emphasise the man who so desperately yearns to be female".
"You could get that from any transvestite or drag queen", said Joby.
"Perhaps, but I know that in Finia's case it really is a deep inner yearning and not just a love of the trappings", said Jonner.
"Sounds fine to me", said Julian "And if it's any good I might ask you to do one of him for me. Try and get the vulnerable look in his eyes".
"That's what I'll be aiming for most of all", said Jonner.
Milich was in the cells for nearly a week. This was unprecedented for a drunken assault. Normally the Constable kept them locked in until they'd completely sobered up, and then arranged for someone to stump up bail money in order that they could then be bound over to keep the peace.
Unfortunately no one came forward to bail out Milich. No one. The Constable was getting frantic, faced with the prospect of having to put up with Milich's self-pitying tears and recriminations for some interminable time to come. In desperation he called on Myrtle to try and persuade her to take him back. She refused point blank to do so.
"But you're his mother!" he protested.
"I'm aware of that!" she snapped, emotionally "Although why I should still be having to carry this cross I don't know. I've had nearly 20 years of having to put up with him and I don't want anymore! Most mothers are shot of their sons by this time, but he keeps coming back to me again and again. It's not right and it's not fair, and I don't want anymore of it! He's big enough and ugly enough to take responsibility for himself".
The Constable doubted that Milich would ever be capable of doing that, but it wasn't his job to offer family counselling. He released Milich, with dire threats as to what would happen to him if he went anywhere near Eva.
Once free, Milich tried to persuade Eva to change her mind about him through intermediaries. He bribed friends to carry notes to her professing his undying love. They agreed to do so, but at the same time advised him that the best thing he could do would be to get out of town for a while. He stubbornly refused, misguidedly believing that Eva would succomb to his charms again eventually, even though the only time she replied to one of his notes was with a terse one of her own: "Drop dead!" Milich simply refused to believe that anyone could live without him in their lives forever, and didn't give up home that she would eventually come round.
In the meantime, barred from his mother's hotel, he took up with a woman 10 years older than him who lived in one of the huts on stilts that waded out into the river. Quite what this pathetic creature got out of the relationship no one knew. It couldn't have been sex, because as far as Milich was concerned carnal pleasures took up valuable drinking time. Friends believed she was desperately looking for a father for her small child, and so even the gruesome Milich was better than nothing in her eyes.
This then was the state of affairs when the nomads brought the Equinox Fair to town a couple of weeks later. And meanwhile it continued to rain.
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