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For the first few days after Milich's release things got quite farcical, in a very dark kind of way. Lonts took to shadowing Milich about the town, and Joby took to shadowing Lonts. On the day the Fair arrived, Joby tailed Lonts to the seedy bar down by the old warehouses. He walked in to find him sitting at a plank table with a measure of rum in front of him.
"You know you're not supposed to come into bars alone", Joby hissed, sitting down next to him "Particularly this one! Anything could happen to you in here!"
"I'm not a baby!" Lonts snapped.
"Don't give me that", said Joby "I'm concerned about you 'cos of this fixation you've got about Milich. It's gotta stop Lonts, for your own sake".
"I won't have him hitting Adam ..." Lonts began.
"Look, if you're concerned about Adam you'll stop all this rubbish", said Joby "How do you think Adam's gonna feel when you get done for murder, have you thought about that? You haven't have yer! 'Cos if you did you'll get sent to the City Assizes like Lola did. We may be a Free State now, but serious offenders still get sent up there. And then you won't see Adam for months on end".
"Don't say all that, Joby", Lonts wailed, his bottom lip trembling with emotion "I couldn't bear it".
"Well stop all this and come home", said Joby, sternly "Leave fate to sort Milich out, 'cos it will believe me! You just have to be patient".
Lonts stood up to leave, and Joby drained his glass of rum. He got him outside the bar, and they squelched through the rain-sodden mud on the side of the river.
"I feel like a bloody sheepdog sometimes", said Joby "I seem to do nothing but run around rounding people up. You, Kieran, Tamaz. I keep trying to protect you all".
"I just wish Milich would go away", said Lonts.
"Whatever happens to Milich", said Joby "You're not to have a hand in it!"
All this time Jonner was still lodging on the Indigo, spinning out his sketches of Finia, who sat for him as though he was granting an audience. Jonner was reluctant to disappear back over the river with the Fair now being set up right on his doorstep, and tried to make himself as unobtrusive as possible when Julian was around, so that he wouldn't be evicted. Fortunately Julian, for all his scrappiness at times, was well used to the Indigo being overcrowded and didn't comment on Jonner's presence too much.
The actual setting-up of the Fair resembled Christmas Eve, in that it was almost as exciting as the big event itself. The appearance of the booths, carousels and other paraphernalia in the town centre gave everything a tremendous buzz, in spite of the rain. Late that same afternoon many of the Indigo-ites went to the cellar-bar for a drink and a game of snooker, relishing in the fact that Milich had been barred from the place, even though is assault on Eva hadn't taken place there.
The landlord had recently acquired a juke-box which, old-fashioned as it was, was turning out to be something of a draw. The time-crossers in particular were rendered almost dewy-eyed by an antique recording of Roy Orbison singing "Only The Lonely". It never ceased to amaze them how most traces of their own civilisation had long since disappeared or been destroyed, and then it would resurface in the most unlikely guises!
Their pleasure at this highly unexpected discovery though was fast being dissipated. Hillyard had taken an enormous shine to this record and insisted on playing it over and over again, in spite of Joby's increasingly desperate pleas of "Not again!"
"This could be my anthem", said Hillyard, having put it on for the umpteenth time.
"Oh yeah", said Joby, unconvinced "Like Hell! You never give yourself a chance to get lonely!"
"You want to see what the papers are saying about Joby at the moment", said Kieran, having taken one from the top of the bar.
"I dread to think", Joby groaned.
"There must've been a profile of you recently", said Kieran "Because someone's sent a letter in praising you".
"In what way?" said Hillyard.
"Oh just about everything", said Kieran "Whoever this fella is he's your number one fan. 'Joby is an independent free-spirit who has never conformed to image'".
"Unless you count being a grumpy old sod as an image", said Hillyard.
"'A man of integrity'", Kieran continued "'He is like a lone cowboy riding across the plains defending and protecting his own'".
"Eh?" said Joby, completely perplexed.
"I think he's referring to the way you look after and defend feeble-minded eejits like Tamaz and me", said Kieran "He obviously sees you as some strong protector, defying public opinion to look after his own".
"Sounds like a right old woofter to me", said Joby "Probably wears leather trousers and reads body-building magazines!"
"Don't knock it", Kieran laughed "Everything he says is true. Anyway, count yourself lucky. The only letters that get printed about me are usually from pedantic old gits with some religious axe to grind. I never get compared to John Wayne!"
"I never thought I would be!" Joby exclaimed.
"What's this bit here about life in outer space?" said Ransey, who had picked up a different section.
"Oh just some longwinded piece speculating on the possibility of alien life-forms", said Kieran "Quite reassuring really to see some things never change. We had enough of that in our time. 2000 years on and they're still debating it!"
"'What would an alien look like?'" said Ransey, reading one of the sub-headings.
"Tamaz I expect", said Hillyard.
Nearby Tamaz was currently dancing by himself to the juke-box. Lonts and Toppy were playing snooker.
"'What would we do in the event of an alien invasion?'" said Ransey.
"We wouldn't have any worries there", said Joby "They'd take one look at Adam and Julian and run a mile!"
"What's made them start on this kick then?" said Hillyard.
"Something to fill the pages up I expect", said Ransey "A bit short of news now all the rioting's stopped".
"Little green men were always a trusty standby", said Kieran.
"Can I join you?" said Jonner, appearing out of the blue.
"This is a public bar", said Ransey "You don't have to ask our permission".
"I didn't want to intrude", said Jonner.
"On what?" said Joby "You're always creeping around, you are. I dunno what you feel you've got to keep apologising for".
"You always look so self-contained together, all of you", said Jonner.
"We're not completely exclusive, Jonner", said Kieran "Anyway, a lot of that's just habit that's grown up over the years".
"Usually because no one else wants to speak to us", said Hillyard.
"Not if they had any sense", said Joby "Anyway, you seem to be living with us these days so I spose you count as an Indigo-ite at the moment".
"Is it that easy?" said Jonner.
"What's he on about?" said Ransey.
"To become an Indigo-ite, is it that easy?" said Jonner.
"Did you think we have initiation rites or something?" said Kieran "Take blood oaths and roll up our trouser legs!"
"And we don't have membership cards and subscription fees either", said Ransey, sounding wistful.
"We have anyone living with us", said Joby "We used to have Angel at one time, even though we used to keep trying to shake the little bastard off".
"No you see the thing is", said Jonner, fumbling for his cigarettes "I lived in a commune for a while, before I came to Toondor Lanpin. Not exactly a religious commune, it was more a group of people trying to find an identity together. We all used to wear black and go out everywhere together. It sounds awful, but it was actually quite invigorating. It gives you enormous strength to go out with a crowd and look the world in the eye and say you belong somewhere".
"It doesn't surprise me", Kieran sighed "A lot of that sort of thing went on before women were re-discovered, and still does. It's men searching for a family substitute".
"That's what we used to call ourselves", said Jonner "The Family".
"The tribal instinct in human beings will never disappear", said Kieran "It's inherent in all of us, even us genuine free-spirits. We all want to belong somewhere".
"What sort of things did you get up to in this commune?" said Joby.
"Nothing dramatic", said Jonner "We were just looking for unity and harmony, to reassure each other that we weren't alone in the world. It was a bit like a continuation of the camp, but without the Elders. We had no leader as such. All decisions were made democratically, we were very hot on that. Trouble was, it meant things could get rather beaurocratic at times!"
"Yes, it always helps to have a chief", said Kieran "An Elder or an overseer. In the early days with us it used to be Adam, mainly because he was the eldest by quite a few years, and because me and Joby had worked for him in the old life. He was our leader for a long while. Julian just gradually took over when Adam's health started failing, but even though Adam's better now we've Julian at the helm, mainly because Adam prefers it that way".
"Why is that?" said Jonner.
"I think he got fed up with being the Babysitter as he used to call it", Kieran laughed "Lonts is enough of a handful for him, without having to worry about the rest of us too!"
"And he enjoys Julian telling him what to do", Joby grunted.
"Why did you leave this commune then?" said Hillyard.
"Well I haven't officially", said Jonner "I sort of went off to become a lay brother. I found the cloistered life too restricting for my art. I can go back if I wish, but I can't see that happening in the near future. I think perhaps I'm too selfish, I got resentful of the way EVERYTHING had to be shared. It got quite ridiculous at times. For instance, I remember once getting so fed up with the cheap loo-paper that I went out and bought a softer pack of two, and then was told I had to divide it up equally between the 8 of us!"
"You're joking!" said Joby "Why didn't you just put the rolls in the bathroom like most people do?"
"Because it was feared some might take more than their equal share that way", said Jonner.
This caused so much hilarity that Lonts and Toppy abandoned their game and came back to join them.
"Doesn't make allowances for anyone with diarrhoea obviously!" said Kieran "Communism in the true sense of the word!"
"Even Ransey doesn't get as fanatical as that", said Hillyard.
"You didn't actually sit there and count out the squares?" said Joby, in disbelief.
Jonner nodded solemnly.
"I think the phrase 'obviously nothing better to do' springs to mind", said Ransey.
"You lot were completely crackers!" said Joby.
"But their ideas of fairness and pacifisism have stayed with me to this day", said Jonner.
"God help us", said Joby.
When Ransey got back to the Indigo later he found Finia already in bed.
"I kept hoping you'd turn up in the bar", he said.
"I had another of my headaches", said Finia, from his pillow "Did you have a good evening?"
"Well Hillyard played the same record over and over again", said Ransey "And Jonner told us a lot of bizarre tales about some commune he'd been in, but otherwise it was uneventful".
"A bit of a relief really", Finia smiled "After the other night".
"I really wish you'd go and get your eyes tested", said Ransey "If you don't you're going to end up as boss-eyed as Jonner".
"It's vanity", said Finia.
"Vanity's worth these headaches is it?" said Ransey, dubiously.
"Perhaps not", said Finia.
The following day the Fair was up and running in earnest, and everyone had made plans to spend the evening there. Finia though, newly-wired for a pair of spectacles, had a fit of self-consciousness and refused to come out of his cabin. Ransey dragged Adam in to reassure him that all was well and that Finia still looked human, in spite of his worst fears.
"It's all my fault that he's so vain", said Julian, stoutly "All that money I spent on him years ago buying him wigs and frocks. All he can see is his outer image".
Finia was stung by this remark, but enough to finally leave his cabin, particularly after being told by Adam that a white stick wasn't the most elegant fashion accessory either, and he would be sure to end up with that if he refused to wear his glasses.
Someone else with an excess of "vanity, vanity, all is vanity" (which Adam told Finia was his favourite Biblical quotation) was Tamaz, who appeared in the corridor just prior to setting off, wearing his flimsiest set of underwear.
"You can't go out in just that!" Joby squawked "You've gotta put something on over the top".
"I don't see why", said Tamaz "As I'm always saying, it's too hot for that".
"Because some woman'll get raped tonight because of you if you go out looking like that!" said Joby.
"I am not going out as a guy", said Tamaz, stamping his foot, indignantly.
"You can put your trousers on at least", said Joby.
"I am not wearing them!" said Tamaz, and he spat at Joby.
Joby promptly boxed his ears, which led to Tamaz making a great show of being upset.
"Look I'm sorry", said Joby, as Tamaz nuckled his eyes like a small child "But you can't go out as you are".
Kieran helped him to stuff a reluctant Tamaz into his trousers, an operation that was akin to wrestling with a particularly difficult duvet cover.
"You dunno what's it like, Ad", said Joby, afterwards "Even Lonts was never as awkward as him".
"He was far worse!" Adam exclaimed "The tussles you have with Tamaz are nothing compared to what I had with him. Lo-Lo used to wreck whole rooms when he was being awkward! His tantrums were the terror of the Ministry H.Q! Time has mercifully blotted out some of his worst excesses".
"But Tamaz bites me and spits at me", said Joby.
"So did Lonts to me!" said Adam "And he was a lot bigger than Tamaz to handle, and you've never had dirty nappies to contend with, just sanitary protection four times a year. You don't know you're born!"
"I know, I must seem a wimp to you", Joby conceded.
"You'll get there, old love", said Adam, warmly "It's not easy. Just remember the two F's: firm and fair. Particularly the firm bit. Lay it on with a trowel when things get too bad!"
"I'm scared I won't be able to cope", said Joby, candidly.
"You don't have to cope alone", said Adam "You've got all of us, particularly Patsy. Like Julian's been a great help to me with Lo-Lo, and remember you do get many compensations from them in return".
"You must've loosened every focking tooth in me head!" said Kieran, walking away from the dodgems with Joby.
"It was Ransey's fault", Joby bellowed above the din "He kept reversing into me. He was like a man with a mission".
"Wouldn't it be funny if people drove like that all the time?" said Lonts.
"Joby did!" Kieran exclaimed.
"I'll get you back on the rifle range", said Ransey, coming up and dragging Joby away by his sleeve.
Lonts looked round for Toppy. So far this evening he had subjected him to the Ghost Train and the Big Wheel, both of which had reduced Toppy to tears, and was now preparing to go for his hat-trick.
"I wish you wouldn't bully him", said Kieran, as though reading his thoughts "You've been bullied yourself enough in life, Lonts, you should know by now it's nice".
"But it's silly how sensitive he is", said Lonts "He'll cry at anything. Whoever heard of anyone crying on the Big Wheel!"
"I think you should go and talk to him", said Kieran, who had espied Toppy sitting on some steps near the candyfloss stall "Adam would tell you the same. He looks pretty upset to me. Now you wouldn't want me to think you were just like Angel would you?"
Lonts looked appalled by this idea.
"I'll buy him some of the pink sticky stuff", he said, and thumped off towards him.
He bought two sticks of candyfloss and took them over to Toppy. Lonts was moved by how upset Toppy was and, more practically, worried what Adam and Julian would say if they found out he was the cause of it.
"I'm sorry, Toppy", he said, sitting down next to him "I know you're sensitive. I got carried away".
"I just wanted to sit quietly for a moment", Toppy wailed "It's the noise and all the people, it frightens me sometimes. I can't handle it. I'm still not used to it, I don't think I'll ever be used to it".
"I w-wish you'd told me", Lonts cried, in despair "I thought you were just a coward!"
They both sobbed and collapsed into each other's arms, which wasn't easy when handling two candy-floss sticks. Unbeknown to them they were being watched by Adam, Hillyard and Kieran, who had migrated to the stall which made cannabis cakes to order.
"Oh aren't they sweet!" Adam cooed "Patsy, what did you say to him?"
"Not very much", said Kieran "Most of it must've come from Lonts".
"Grub's up", said Hillyard, once their order of cakes was ready "Now watch this, Adam. Remember that cannabis makes you start trying to seduce me!"
(This was a very old joke, which always got resurrected when soft drugs were around).
"And yet I must be one of the few people left on Earth you've never been to bed with", said Adam.
"A bloody miracle", said Kieran "Although I wouldn't get carried away now, here comes Julian".
Julian walked up, dragging Tamaz along by his wrist.
"Why have I been left with him?" he snapped, furiously pointing at Tamaz "I look around and everyone else has buggered off to enjoy themselves, and I'm left minding Tamaz!"
"Give Tamaz a hash cake and he won't be any trouble", said Kieran "Next best thing to a tranquilliser dart!"
"I'm glad it's here for a few days", said Hillyard "The Fair I mean. We won't get to see everything tonight".
"You won't get to see all the crumpet you mean", said Kieran.
"Particularly if you stuff your head with that muck", said Julian.
"Let's order a whole batch", said Hillyard "We can afford it now".
They did just that, and whilst they were waiting for it to be prepared they slipped across to one of the platforms where various performers from the Little Theatre were putting on an advance "screening" of the Hallowe'en show. At the moment the chorus-girls were doing a routine which looked like a bizarre cross between a Gothic striptease and a clog-dance, whilst the tattoed lady stood completely starkers to one side of the stage.
Whilst they were watching Bengo came out to see them. Usually he did his routine in nothing more elaborate than a jock-strap, plus eblow and knee-pads. But for once he was in full clown make-up in the old traditional Harlequin style.
"Everyone comes to watch the girls", he growled "But if you knew the trouble we had with them backstage you wouldn't bother!"
"But Bengo, sweetie", said Adam, already a little high "What's all this rig-out? You're wearing far too many clothes. You're covering up your best assets".
"You'll have to come again tomorrow night", said Bengo "I'm back to normal then. I've only got all this on because our narrator's ill, and I had to step in to take his place. It's traditional for the Harlequin to be narrator you see".
"That is absolutely fascinating", said Adam, in genuine awe "I never realised there was all this to it. Astonishing".
"Are you going to save some of what you've had for me?" Bengo laughed.
"When you've finished narrating", said Julian.
"Jules is an absolute poppet isn't he?" said Adam, giddily.
"I hope you come and watch me tomorrow night", said Bengo "Bardin and me have got a whole new routine to try out on you".
"More cakes will obviously be needed", said Julian, dryly.
Much later that night Julian woke up in the saloon on the Indigo to find himself surrounded by most of the others, who were all without exception completely in the nude and contentedly asleep. Julian rolled himself onto all fours and crawled out of the saloon towards the galley, where he found Adam, who at least had a robe on, making coffee.
"What happened?" said Julian, pulling himself to his feet.
"Oh it's not as bad as it looks", said Adam.
"Not as bad as it looks!" Julian cried "It looks like the sacking of Carthage! I woke up to find myself surrounded by nearly a dozen men, inlcuding one hermaphrodite, with all their dangly bits on display. Quite disgusting for a man of my age to find himself in such a predicament!"
"Nothing much happened", said Adam "We all got a bit lightheaded and decided to chill out with no clothes on".
"You're not sparing my feelings are you?" said Julian, wincing as his bare bottom touched the cold wooden seat of the chair "I mean, I didn't do something unspeakably disgusting like kiss Ransey?"
"Nothing like that happened", said Adam "The most energetic thing was Lo-Lo doing a little dance, and Jonner sang a couple of verses of a folk-song, but we managed to shut him up before too much damage was done".
"God, it sounds grim", said Julian "Like those ridiculous illustrations in old sex manuals about how to have an orgy! There was usually some bearded twat sitting there with a guitar from what I remember! I never could understand why!"
"And everyone would have those ridiculously beatific, moony expressions on their faces", Adam giggled "As though it was a great spiritual experience!"
"It wasn't like that was it?" said Julian, warily.
"Not in the slightest", said Adam "We didn't have an orgy for a start. It was more like a nude debating circle. I told you, the naked bit was more for convenience and comfort because it was so hot, like you would in a sauna".
"It's still dark outside", said Julian, in surprise "What time is it?"
"About three-thirty", said Adam.
"We really need to replace that carpet in the saloon", said Julian, yawning and stretching "The underfelt's completely worn away in parts".
"Oh please, not yet", said Adam "It would be such a ghastly upheaval".
A voice could be heard shouting outside in the darkness. At first they took no notice, assuming it was just a drunk. But as it got nearer they realised that whoever it was was shouting one word over and over again through the rain. The word was "Murder!"
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