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By Sarah Hapgood

The following day Umbert suggested to Bardin that the wireless set could be disconnected for the time being. Bardin agreed.

“It’s not been much use to us for a while”, he said “And it cuts off Crowley’s main source of communication”.

“It’s easy enough to put back together if needs be”, said Umbert.

Depriving Crowley of the airwaves did restore some calm to the galleon, although the were all too uneasily aware that he wasn’t far away.

“If only we knew for absolute certain that he didn’t have a boat”, said Bardin.

By contrast Hoowie was still loving it all.

“Would you come and rescue us if we were kidnapped?” he asked Julian.

“Of course I would, you idiotic nincompoop”, said Julian.

“Reminds me of that time you and Joby got kidnapped up at Wooded Hill”, said Hoowie.

“Oh yes”, Julian recalled “By that bunch of in-breds in that dismal old house. Crowley would have fitted in well with them!”

Soon after, a strange object was seen bobbing about on the now choppy waters of the lake. Mieps managed to haul it in using a fishing-net. At first it looked like a decapitated head, and Bengo nearly fainted.

“It’s a fake”, said Bardin “And not even a very good one at that”.

“Bardy, how can you handle it?” Bengo gasped.

“Because it’s a fake!” Bardin repeated, impatiently “It’s nothing more than a really rubbish stage-prop”.

It was a leather ball which had been plastered in whitewash, and then a clown-ish face crudely painted on.

“But why a clown’s head?” said Bengo “And why was it chucked in the lake?”

“In the hope no doubt that it would get washed over to here”, said Bardin “And have exactly the effect it’s had. Well on you anyway!”

The cooler, autumnal weather came in. With them all spending less time out of doors it would severely restrict Crowley’s opportunities for spying on them. Kieran wasn’t so convinced, and annoyed Joby by pointing out that Crowley could always visit them on the astral plane.

“All I’m saying is that it has to be remembered that Crowley is capable of things like that”, said Kieran “But I can do some Blessings to keep him away”.

“You do that then”, Joby groaned “Anything to keep you happy!”

Julian summoned Adam and Bengo to his cabin for a coffee-meeting.

“Bardin seems to be back to his old yappy self”, he said.

“A bit hard to avoid that, Jules”, said Adam “It’s his natural state”.

“And he’s a bit worse at the moment”, said Bengo “Because I made such a silly arse of myself over the clown’s head. It freaked me out”.

“It was horrible”, said Adam.

“Bardy was magnificent though”, said Bengo “I felt such a wuss next to him”.

“That is entirely another matter”, said Julian “What I’m concerned about is that he seems quite agitated again. He was marvellously mellow after I paddled him the other day, and you lot haven’t kept it up. It’s simply not good enough”.

“Sorry”, said Bengo, in a small voice.

“To be frank, Julian”, said Adam “He was so sore after you’d finished with him that we felt we’d better give him a little holiday”.

“A little holiday?” Julian exclaimed, flinging down the pencil he had been absently fiddling with “What rubbish! Do you want me to take charge of him all the time?! Bengo, you’ve gone back to being meek around him”.

“Only because of the clown’s head”, said Bengo.

“And after that magnificent spanking you doled out to him as well”, said Julian.

“I will do it again, I promise”, said Bengo.

“Bardin needs every bit as much discipline as Kieran does”, said Julian “It’s no good going all soft and cutchy-coo on him just because he’s got sore buttocks!”

“We were planning to light the fire in the old kitchen across the courtyard tomorrow”, said Adam “It’ll be a good time to smack his butt then”.

“Hm”, said Julian “We’ll just try and bear in mind that any spanking, however severe, wears off. You can’t rest on your laurels!”

“What are you up to today?” asked Kieran, as he watched Joby at the wash-stand in their cabin early the next morning.

“You know what I’m up to today”, said Joby, trying to tame his unruly mop of hair with a couple of hair-clips “What I’m up to every bleedin’ day! More cooking!”

“And thrashing Bardin?” Kieran smiled.

“We’re under orders from Julian”, said Joby “I spose we have let things slip a bit. Got distracted with all this Crowley cobblers. It’ll probably be tomorrow though, not today”.

“Hah, Bardin’s doing a fine job”, said Kieran “Playing you lot off against each other”.

“Nooo, just you stop it with the jealousy act”, said Joby “’Cos I know that’s all it is. An act. You’re just trying to wind me up!”

“Just a bit”, Kieran laughed “You can’t blame me for enjoying the thought of Bardin getting all the hidings! Julian’s right though, you have been slipping down on the game these past few days”.

“Nothing to stop you giving a hand now and again”, said Joby “Resume the old therapy sessions”.

“No, I think that should be wee Bengo’s job from now on”, said Kieran “When he remembers to do it!”

Bardin ordered for the clown’s head to be burnt on a small bonfire that they had got going in the courtyard.

“Better than burning it on one of the fires around here”, he said, when he joined Bengo in their cabin “It would’ve smelled something horrible”.

“Let’s hope by burning it, it destroys any bad spells that have come with it”, said Bengo.

“Have you been talking to Kieran?” said Bardin, sharply.

“Kieran doesn’t approve of spells and all that”, said Bengo “It’s against his religion”.

“He doesn’t approve of it”, said Bardin “But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in it! Look at all that astral plane stuff he was jibbering about to Joby”.

“You’re going to be spanked tomorrow, I hope you realise that”, said Bengo, sternly “The Club’s meeting. And not before time!”

“Well I hope it’s not outside”, said Bardin “I don’t want Crowley watching”.

“Ugh, what a horrible thought”, Bengo shuddered “No, we’ll take you in the kitchen and bar the door”.

“Who’s spanking me?” said Bardin “Adam?”

“Yes”, said Bengo “And then I’ll have to chastise you again soon afterwards, just to show I can be as strict as he can!”

Late that night Bardin walked into the galley, where Adam was alone, making cocoa.

“I understand you’re spanking me tomorrow”, said Bardin, closing the door behind him.

“Indeed I shall”, said Adam “I shall be smacking your behind very soundly. Make sure your shorts are nice and crisp”.

“It’s weird”, said Bardin, leaning on the table “I’ve been chastised quite a bit lately, and yet I find I’m still getting too agitated about things”.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, old love”, said Adam, gently smoothing a strand of hair behind Bardin’s ear “It’s an ongoing process, and we have been neglecting you a little. Not out of choice I promise you”.

“Bloody Crowley and his antics”, said Bardin “Adam, can I confide in you? Something I haven’t told anybody?”

“I’m not sure I want you to tell me something you won’t tell Bengo”, said Adam.

“Oh I will tell him”, said Bardin “I’m just a bit embarrassed at the moment. He’s been so adoring of me over that fake head rubbish. And I feel a big fraud. Because the truth is I’m scared. I’m scared of what Crowley can do”.

“Personally I’ve always found Aleister to be a bit of a buffoon”, said Adam “A bloated egoist, and a crashing snob to boot. But I agree that he is capable of certain things that means he should never be under-estimated”.

“Why is he targeting Hoowie?” said Bardin “Demanding he be handed over like that! What a nerve! Hoowie thinks it’s all lust, well he would, he thinks everything is. But I don’t believe that”.

“I think it’s partly lust”, said Adam “But not all. With Hoowie, I think it’s because he wants to take him from Julian. And with you … well Aleister always used to say you reminded him of himself. In personality I mean”.

“Oh great”, Bardin snapped.

“I think that was wishful thinking on Aleister’s part”, said Adam “He has highly romantic notions about himself”.

“And so he wants a mirror-image of his own personality around, is that it?” said Bardin.

“Something about you fascinates him”, said Adam “I can actually understand that!”

“That silly great jerk, Hoowie, thinks it’s all a lark!” said Bardin “He wants us to be kidnapped so that you lot can come and rescue us!”

“Which we undoubtedly would”, said Adam.

“I wouldn’t be much of a Captain if I allowed myself to be kidnapped now would I!” said Bardin, making Adam laugh.

Adam pulled him towards him and hugged him.

“Now don’t worry about a thing”, he said “Trust in us all to deal with it as it comes”.

Adam, Joby and Bengo got the wood-burning stove blazing in the old kitchen. They had picked the right day for it. An icy rain was pattering down.

“This is just the thing”, said Adam “There’s so much more room than the galley”.

“More hassle to carry everything about though”, said Joby.

“We’ll use this just for the serious baking, then it won’t matter”, said Adam.

“Here he comes!” said Bengo, who had been on lookout at the door.

Bardin was rushing across the courtyard, his duffel-coat flying open. Bengo smothered him in a hug as soon as he came into the building.

“I hope you’re going to secure the door”, said Bardin.

“We’ll take every precaution”, said Adam “Even if Aleister was right outside he wouldn’t be able to see a thing”.

Bengo divested his partner of his coat and cap. Then his shoes, and lastly his trousers. In the meantime Joby put a wooden bar across the inside of the door. Bardin stood there, in his top, shorts and white socks. Once they were secured in, Bengo and Joby gathered round closely. Adam balanced Bardin compactly over his knees, and spanked his bottom firmly with his hand. As usual, the spanking went on for quite some time, until in the end Adam had to pause and rest his hand.

“Do you want the hairbrush?” said Joby.

“No I think I’ll leave that for Bengo for later”, said Adam.

Bengo helped Bardin gently to his feet.

“I think we all deserve a brandy after that”, said Adam.

Bengo put Bardin’s trousers over the fireguard near the stove to warm up, and then he led him to a nearby chair, on which he had placed a cushion. As Bardin walked over the others could hear the rustle and swish of the starched cotton as his legs rubbed together. When he sat down his shorts even pinged. He blushed slightly with embarrassment.

“You three all in trousers and me in shorts”, he said.

“Of course”, said Adam, handing round the brandies in assorted drinking-vessels “All part of the exquisite humiliation for you”.

“That should keep Julian quiet for a while”, said Joby.

“Oh he’ll find something to grumble about”, said Adam “Though there’s no reason why he should. That was a good no-nonsense spanking”.

“I still think you’ll get bored”, said Bardin.

“Very unlikely”, said Adam “And you deserve another spanking just for suggesting it! Just let me rest my hand a moment”.

Bardin looked suitably abashed.

“When next summer comes”, Adam continued “We’ll take you into the forest and smack you there”.

“With the paddle”, said Joby “So it’ll echo!”

“I hadn’t thought of that”, said Adam “What a jolly good idea! Let’s have another brandy to celebrate”.

“Blimey”, said Joby.

“Oh I think we can push the boat out a little”, said Adam “Hillyard’s going to set up his cider-making soon. We’ve really got to get going with establishing our little religious colony here. Even if it is a bit of a crackpot one”.

“Well we’ve got a crackpot spiritual leader in Kieran haven’t we!” said Joby.

“We did waste a lot of time over the summer”, said Bardin.

“You’ve been listening to Julian too much”, said Joby “All that stuff about us not doing any work, coming from a man who’s never done a day’s work in his life! Not what I’d call Real Work anyway“.

“Oh that’s Julian all over”, said Adam “His personal mantra has always been very much of the don’t-do-as-I-do-do-as-I-tell-you variety”.

There was a hammering on the door, and Hillyard called “it’s only me, let down the drawbridge!”

Adam went over to unbar the door.

“I won’t come in”, said Hillyard “I know you’re all engrossed with ogling Bardin’s legs. I just wanted to know if you wanted me to clean the stove flue in the galley whilst you was over here”.

“Oh Hillyard, that would be splendid”, Adam purred “I don’t know what we’d do without you”.

Joby groaned.

“Neither do I!” Hillyard retorted “I’ll go and get on with that now. As you were”.

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