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By Sarah Hapgood

Lady Red ordered another rum and then sat staring at it as though it was hemlock. She was sitting outside the bar of the Little Theatre at one of the battered tables which served to make up the grandly-named Terrace Bar. The evening was hot after the customary afternoon monsoon, and she wore a black evening gown dangerously held up by only two thin diamante straps. In spite of her glamorous attire she looked tired, and when the steward came to ask her if she'd like to see the bar menu she waved him away languidly.

"You don't want to do that too often", said Kieran, who had sneaked into the chair behind her without her knowledge "If you keep refusing meals you'll end up looking like me!"

"I think I've got a way to go yet", Red smiled.

Kieran hopped into the chair next to her in a manner strongly reminiscent of Groucho Marx approaching Margaret Dumont at the beginning of 'A Night At The Opera'.

"Not like you to refuse a meal, Red", he said "You'll be turning down drinks next!"

"Things haven't got quite that bad", said Red, ruefully.

"Isn't there anything I can do for you?" said Kieran, putting his hands on her arm.

"Find some magical potion that'll stop me feeling so damn tired all the time", said Red "I've just about reconciled myself to dying. It helps that I strongly believe no one dies before their time, and mine is obviously up. After all, if I lived to be old I would end up a caricature of myself, a grotesque pantomime dame. But what I can't stand is this bloody listlessness. I've always been so active, and now ... I can't even summon the energy to get my cottage sorted out. And God knows it needs it! The garden looks as though it's harbouring a lion!"

"Get Joby onto it", said Kieran "It'd be right up his street, and you'd be doing me a favour. With any luck he'll be so knackered from digging up weeds he won't have the energy to go fondling Tamaz!"

"He won't be able to fondle you either".

"I don't get it anyway! No sex please I'm the Vanquisher!"

"Perhaps everyone feels you don't need it".

"They're bloody wrong then aren't they!"

"Well", Red sighed "If it wasn't for the fact that our last attempt was such a disaster I'd offer to help you out".

"Oh that was all my fault", said Kieran "I didn't know you then. I thought you were all hardboiled, and I couldn't stand the thought of sex without any emotion. If I'd known you then as I do know it'd be different!"

"Really?" said Red, with a wry twist to her lips "Well I must admit I did feel I wasn't getting the lovely Kieran in all his glory ... and it'd give you an opportunity to turn the tables on Joby".

"Who cares what he thinks!" Kieran exclaimed.

"Keep going! Keep going!" Red panted, holding Kieran onto the top of her by clasping his bony buttocks firmly in her hands. Kieran was frantically trying to stop himself climaxing too soon, as Red was the type of woman who, when once aroused, could happily thrum away for hours, if not days given half a chance!

Kieran was literally half her size, and he had the nicely perverse sensation of feeling that given half a chance she'd ram him inside her whole, which reminded him irresistably of a joke Adam had once made along the same lines! When he finally climaxed he collapsed onto her in a stunned fashion, as though she'd hurled him bodily against the ceiling.

It was some time before he could summon up the wherewithal to go looking for her cigars, and then he lit one each for the both of them. The hotel room was shaded, and above them the ceiling fan whirred away pleasently.

"You're sensational", said Kieran, breaking the silence as he sat on the edge of the bed next to her.

"Pretty good going", said Red "Although I'm so fat I did worry you'd get lost inside me!"

"No worries", said Kieran "I could have always struck a few matches to find me way out again!"

"Am I really the only woman you've had in this time?" said Red.

"Well put it this way, Red, up until recently there wasn't much opportunity!" said Kieran "But even going by all the ones in me own time, you're the best, and that's not just blarney, I really mean it. You're a tremendously exciting woman to be with".

"I can't think of a much better epitaph", Red smiled "I've thought a lot about you since I've been in this town. I've seen the way people look at you. You could have any woman you wanted. You're that irresistable combination to most women, a handsome guru. And yet I'm the only one you've had".

"Shows how special you are you see", said Kieran.

"Perhaps", said Red, doubtfully "Although I strongly suspect it's more a case of how special Joby is. Am I right?"

"Don't go saying that in front of him", said Kieran "He's already convinced he's some sex god. Before you issued your charming invitation this evening I was practically resigning meself to a life of monastic celibacy. I had gloomy visions of meself wandering around town in me old age, raging against the promiscuous society, and everyone groaning and saying isn't that boring old tosser dead yet? And I'd be living in some spare room in Joby's house, whilst Tamaz pranced around in lace nighties and silk stockings!"

Red was laughing helplessly. She was only stalled by the sound of the bellboy getting rather agitated out on the stairs. He was obviously engaged in a heated discussion with someone.

"Well our peace didn't last long", said Kieran "Sounds like Joby's found out".

"What already?"

"You can't keep anything quiet in this town. I expect everyone knew we were misbehaving even before we did!"

"Kieran!" Joby bellowed, hammering on the door "Come on out, I know you're in there!"

"So what?" Kieran yelled back.

"So what!" Joby repeated, in disbelief "So come out, that's so what!"

"Go away", said Kieran, in a bored voice.

Joby began to kick at the door like an enraged bull, whilst jiggling the door-handle violently.

"I think we'd better let him in before he damages Myrtle's paintwork", said Red, climbing out of bed and reaching for her filmy robe.

"Ach, he couldn't knock the skin off a rice-pudding", said Kieran, forgetting the many occasions when Joby had managed it rather well.

Joby's intention to have an angry confrontation with Lady Red were swallowed when she opened the door. He felt swamped by her.

"It's all my fault", said Red, blithely.

"Y-you should know better", said Joby, now sounding more desperate than fearsome "W-what do you want him for anyway? He can't be anywhere near big enough to satisfy you!"

"Why don't you come in?" said Red, holding out her hand and enticing him into the room.

Kieran was standing in the middle of the floor, completely naked.

"Do you know what you've just done?" Joby shrieked, on seeing him.

"I should hope so!" said Kieran.

"Don't get smart", said Joby "You've made me a laughing-stock in this town. Everyone knows what you've been doing this evening. Everyone! It's all over the place. Everyone was staring at me as I ran here".

"You ran here?" said Kieran "That would explain why you're reeking like a pole-cat then!"

"There's that bunch of pressmen down in the bar", said Joby.

"Good grief, are they still here?" said Kieran.

"Yes they are", Joby retorted "And you'll be lucky if they let you out of here alive".

"I should imagine you hurtling upstairs like a skunk on heat is going to give them plenty to be going on with", said Kieran.

Joby aimed a swipe at him. Kieran, who had been expecting this since he came into the room, ducked and aimed a swipe back. They had both succeeded in missing each other. Red jumped between them and separated them like a farmer's wife pulling apart two feuding tom-cats.

"I think it's a little late to be worrying about public opinion", she said, firmly "And God forbid we should worry what a few useless hacks think! They'll make up what they don't know anyway, so what does it matter? Joby, for your information, Kieran was simply making a dying woman happy".

"Oh and of course he didn't enjoy it at all!" said Joby, sarcastically.

"Well I hope he did, otherwise it doesn't say much for me", said Red.

"I don't know what I'm saying or doing!" Joby cried, in frustration.

"Nothing new there", said Kieran.

"I may not come from the most civilised place on Earth", said Red "But I do believe we can conclude this little idyll in a civilised manner. I'm going to go downstairs and order a bottle of wine. If the press wish to take a few snaps of me in my robe they may do so. I may be a while, so amuse yourselves until I get back".

"She's a true lady", said Kieran, after Red had left the room.

"And you're a true prat", said Joby, sounding marginally quieter "Everyone's laughing 'emselves sick at us".

"That's hardly anything new either!" said Kieran "Oh sit down Joby, and stop ogling those stockings hanging out of the drawer".

"I wasn't!" said Joby "I just happened to be looking in that direction! You're obviously not going to apologise are you?"

"Why the blazes should I?" said Kieran, indignantly "One session with Red up against years, nay decades ahead, of Tamaz's demented presence ... sounds like you've got more reason to apologise than me!"

"It's the thin end of the wedge", Joby mumbled "Before I know it you'll be screwing everyone in town, and I can't stop you, and everyone'll say it's only to be expected, 'cos all I've got is an ugly face".

"Oh don't give me all that!" said Kieran "And how many more times have I got to tell you that you're not ugly? All that's wrong with you is that you're talking a lot of cobblers! Where's Tamaz at the moment?"

"At home", said Joby "Why, did you think I was gonna bring him here?"

"No we can't have that, he might get corrupted!"

They both stood staring at each other for some time.

"Everything's gonna be alright", said Joby, moving as though to walk towards him but stopping uncertainly "With us and Tamaz I mean".

"I know", said Kieran, calmly "You've proved that this evening by running up here in such a state. If you were only concerned about Tamaz these days, you'd have just breathed a sigh of relief and left me to get on with it, wouldn't you?"

"Do you honestly think I could've done that?" Joby whispered.

"If you no longer loved me you could", said Kieran "Because you wouldn't care".

"Well I hope that's settled it once and for all!" said Joby "Red seems to be a long time".

"I think she's taking her time on purpose".

Joby got the hint and pulled off his sweaty clothes.

They rolled around on the bed for some time, and Joby eventually forgot his nervousness that Red might reappear at any moment. And he forgot anything else existed at all when came to roger Kieran, who was hanging firmly onto the rail at the foot of the bed.

"Talk about a white-knuckle ride!" Kieran had gasped, afterwards "I thought me teeth were going to break I was gritting them so much!"

"Yeah well I was determined you weren't gonna get a 'comfy fock' as you sometimes call 'em", said Joby, leaning back against the pillows "Red's not an easy act to follow. I didn't want you measuring us both on the Richter scale and me coming off worst".

"Do you think they heard us in the bar?" said Kieran.

"The way this bed was shifting about I'm surprised we didn't fall down on 'em!" Joby laughed.

Kieran lay next to him feeling safe, as he always did with Joby. Chances are they would have stayed that way for several hours if Hillyard hadn't suddenly appeared in the room.

"The press don't seem to be calming down at all", he said.

"I'm not surprised if Red's down there", said Kieran.

"She thought perhaps you could nip out via the fire-exit at the back", said Hillyard, sounding as though he'd been hypnotised "She thinks Myrtle might prefer it if you did it that way".

"Sure", Kieran got off the bed and hunted for his clothes.

Meanwhile the sight of them both naked and in a state of post-coital serenity was too much for Hillyard. He threw himself onto the bed. Joby tried to scramble away but Hillyard grabbed him by his foot and dragged him back towards him.

"What are you two shitheads doing?" Kieran cried, having finally located most of their clothes.

"Aw come on", said Hillyard, fumbling at the buttons on his own shirt "We've all been together before, but not at the same time. Now's the time to put that right".

"No it's not!" said Kieran "This is Red's room, she might want it back at any moment. Haven't you got anything better to do, Hillyard?"

"I'm supposed to be meeting Woll downstairs", Hillyard panted "He's going home tomorrow".

"Well get on with it then!" Joby shrieked "This isn't my fault, Kieran!"

"I can see that!" Kieran exclaimed "Get downstairs, Hillyard. Me and Joby are going home".

"You might be needed there", said Hillyard "Tamaz was threatening to come here as well, but Julian soon sorted him out".

"Sorted him out?" said Joby "Well I'll be sorting Julian out when I get hold of him!"

"What the bloody hell is it meant to be?" said Adam, looking at the large saucepan on the stove.

"Green slime", said Bengo, maliciously "It contains everything awful I can think of. I can't wait to see Bardin's face when he gets a load of this".

"He'll end up in Casualty", said Adam "It's boiling hot!"

"Oh I'll wait til it cools down first", said Bengo.

"This is completely ridiculous", said Adam "I want you out of my galley".

"But I have to do it in here", said Bengo "We haven't got a stove in the props department at the theatre".

"Tough shit!" said Adam.

He grabbed Bengo by his singlet and ejected him into the gangway so sharply that Bengo cannoned into Joby who was just returning.

"Where's Julian?" said Joby "Is he at home?"

"Yes", said Adam, testily "I'm sure it won't take you long to locate him, this isn't exactly Buckingham Palace!"

Joby found Julian lying on the sofa in the saloon, reading a magazine. He jumped onto him and sat astride his chest.

"Bloody typical of your lot this is ennit!" he cried.

"My lot?" said Julian, breathlessly "What are you on about?"

"The aristocracy", said Joby "If you can't tear it limb from limb you beat the shit out of it instead".

"I repeat, what are you on about?"

"Tamaz. You've thrashed him, Hillyard told me!"

"Then Hillyard's a liar", said Julian "As a matter of fact I packed Tamaz off to your cabin, without so much as laying a single finger on him. I find the threat suffices quite enough these days".

"Oh", said Joby, humbled "Sorry".

"One would've thought that the sins of my birth might be forgiven after all these years", said Julian "And I think I need a drink after you leaping on me like that".

Joby climbed off him, and Julian located the brandy bottle, only to find no glasses nearby.

"Adam!" he yelled "There are no glasses in here".

"There you are", said Adam, slamming one into his hand. He looked hot and flustered "And as I've had quite enough for one day I'm going out for a drink".

"A drink?" said Julian, nervously.

"Yes, I'm going to get completely rat-arsed and then I'm going to lock myself in Tamaz's cage!" said Adam "Goodnight!"

"He doesn't mean it", said Kieran, after Adam had fled the coop "If he was really going to get drunk he wouldn't have told us first".

"Nevertheless", said Julian, grimly "If he's not back in 20 minutes I'm going after him with my horse-whip!" ***

"You know about the worst of me", said Hillyard, sitting with Woll in the dining-room of Myrtle's hotel "I try and change, but I never seem to. We're just too different, you and me, it would never have worked".

Woll didn't say anything, but he was fiddling with his cufflinks nervously. At the moment Hillyard only found this mildly annoying, but he knew that if they were to live together it would rapidly grow into extremely irritating.

"I know there's a saying that opposites attract", Hillyard continued "And it's true. I've seen it with me own eyes, but only if there's something there to start with. Some common-ground. Like Adam and Lonts both having the same emotional needs for instance. But with you and me, well the blunt truth is there's just nothing in common. Nothing at all. I've amused you a bit, that's all".

"B-but what about ...?" Woll began, awkwardly "The physical side?"

"That's just sex, Woll", said Hillyard "I don't think too much about it. If I want it I go for it. Right or wrong, I don't know, but that's just me I'm afraid. I'm either attracted to someone or I'm not, and nine times out of ten I am! I wouldn't take it as a sure sign that I'm meant to be with someone for good!"

"I see", said Woll, grimly.

"You're not being fair on me", Hillyard pleaded "I've never pretended to be anything I'm not. You make me feel like a bastard and that was never how it was meant to be".

"No, I was just a client", said Woll, snidely.

"Can't you forgive me for that?" said Hillyard "It was a genuine misunderstanding after all".

"Tell me one thing", said Woll "Do you like me at all?"

"Yes, I like you a lot!" said Hillyard "If I didn't I'd grab everything you were offering and leave you in the lurch when I'd had enough. But I've never done that to anyone. It's because I like you I'm being honest with you!"

"HILLYARD!" Bengo shouted from the entrance to the dining-room.

The few customers that were in the room turned to look at him. He looked like a ragged child that had found its way in from the street. His legs, which had achieved historic status amongst his fans, were looking their best, offset by his skimpy shorts.

"Hillyard", he ran up to the table, obviously in some distress "I'm leaving home. I'm leaving home if you can't find something nice to say to me. I am a man, not a dog, but that is how I'm treated. Both you and Julian use me, and Adam won't let me make up my green slime in the galley! Well that's it. Either I get some instant respect or I'm leaving for good".

"Don't be daft", said Hillyard.

"Is that it?" Bengo squawked "Is that all you can say?"

"Who treats you like a dog?" said Hillyard.

"Julian does", Bengo sniffed "He uses me and is off-hand with me".

"He's like that with all of us, why should you be any different?" said Hillyard "You're not going anywhere, Bengo. The Indigo's your home".

"B-b-b-but that's what I wanted to hear!" Bengo cried, and flung his arms round Hillyard's neck.

"Artistic temperament", Hillyard sighed.

Woll looked at Bengo's young, slim, toned body. This, combined with his youthful passion, lack of cynicism or bitterness, and overwhelming urge to please, made him an insurmountable opponent. Woll knew he himself had the money, and the comfortable, luxurious lifestyle to offer, but even so he was still a sad, lonely, and horribly defensive old man. There were just some things money couldn't buy, and a genuine love of life was one of them.


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