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By Sarah Hapgood

“So all in all it felt like a complete waste of time”, said Adam, leaning disconsolately against the desk in Julian’s cabin.

“Rubbish”, said Julian “You found out what he meant by the pockets of negative energy, even it if makes no sense at the moment. And you’ve seen the Great Beast in his lair”.

“Yes”, Adam gave a sharp laugh “For what it’s worth. It really was a rather pathetic sight in all. Shabby, dispiriting, and Aleister completely oblivious to the real impression he was making”.

“Who was the old bag in the garden?” said Julian.

“Oh probably just one of his henchwomen”, said Adam “Aleister’s never had any trouble finding dotty, silly women to fall in with him”.

“Or dotty, silly men”, said Julian “Remember Victor?”

“Good heavens, yes”, said Adam “He really was a terribly sad sack”.

“Sounds like Crowley was quite hufty with Kieran this time round”, said Julian “That surprises me. They seemed to tolerate each other last time”.

“To be honest, I can remember remarkably little of those days”, said Adam “Apart from Codlik being a constant pain in the butt, well until he did the decent thing and drowned himself in Loch Ness. This time round Aleister almost seemed to be deliberately blanking Patsy out”.

“He hasn’t got Kieran’s powers that’s why”, said Julian “Oh Crowley can do a few psychic conjuring-tricks, just enough to be able to unsettle us and keep us on our toes. But that’s about it”.

“I’m more flabbergasted that he thinks he can just demand Bardin and Hoowie and he can have them”, said Adam.

“You virtually answered that one yourself, just now”, said Julian “He used to be able to exert some kind of power over people. Remember that yarn he used to like telling? Of how he stood behind a woman outside a shop, and stared intently at her reflection in the window?”

“Oh yes”, said Adam “And she was so dazzled by him, the silly mare practically threw herself at his feet!”

“Well Crowley thinks he can do that with everybody”, said Julian.

Adam thought of the Crowley he had seen that day. A portly, balding man, standing in a dusty, partially-furnished house.

“Seems quite bizarre really”, he said.

“There are always going to be plenty of lonely, frustrated people around for the Crowley’s of this world to prey upon”, said Julian “His mistake though is thinking that EVERYONE will fall under his spell, without question”.

“Alright if I come in?” said Hoowie, opening the door “Or am I getting thrown out of here as well?”

“Don’t be silly, Hoowie”, said Adam “No one’s throwing you out of anywhere. Anyway, I thought you were talking to Bengo”.

“I was”, said Hoowie “Til Bardin turfed me out. I get chucked out of everywhere”.

“No you don’t”, said Julian “It’s just Bardin who throws you out of his cabin, that’s all”.

“Yeah, and he’s always doing it!” said Hoowie “He’s come up with a new threat. Threatening to send me over to Crowley”.

“Dear Bardin”, said Adam “One has to admire his resourcefulness. It’s time I went and thought about dinner”.

“So you want me to put the wireless set together again?” said Umbert, in the dining-room.

“What’s the problem?” said Bardin “I thought you liked fiddling with the wireless”.

“Yeah I do. Normally”, said Umbert “But I’ve got used to it not being there, and that guy keeps coming on the air, chucking his weight around, it was annoying me”.

“I know, but it’s best if we keep an eye on what’s going on out there”, said Bardin “We’re a long way from so-called civilisation here, but we can’t afford to be complacent. No need to check it obsessively though, just every now and again”.

“I guess it might be useful for the weather reports”, said Umbert, reluctantly.

“He used to love messing about with the wireless”, Bardin complained, when he crossed over into the galley “Now he reacts as if I’d asked him to clean the heads!”

“I think he’s been spooked by Aleister’s voice on the airwaves”, said Adam.

“Bleeding great effete old fairy”, said Joby.

“That’s hardly fair, Joby”, said Adam “Anyway, one can scarcely call Umbert a fairy”.

“He’s the only one around here who isn’t!” said Joby.

“Are you finally including yourself amongst our number?” said Adam, sarcastically “Wonders will never cease”.

“Very funny”, said Joby.

“Ransey reckons it could get very cold tonight”, said Bardin “Joby, I’d recommend you move your plants down from the main deck”.

“Yes, go and do it now”, said Adam “And stop trying to batter that tin of peaches”.

“Well this fucking tin-opener’s rubbish”, said Joby.

“No, it just needs sensitive handling, no brute force”, said Adam “Leave it to me”.

“Tin-openers shouldn’t have to come with user instructions”, was Joby’s parting-shot as he left the room.

“If anything should come with user instruction’s it’s him!” said Adam.

They had moved back to their side of the lake immediately after leaving Crowley’s place. Now, Joby stood on the main deck, scanning the opposite side apprehensively.

“What’s the matter with you?” said Hillyard, who had come up to help him move the plants “You’ve seen what’s over there now. There’s nothing more to fear”.

“I wouldn’t say that, Hillyard”, said Joby “We saw one room of Crowley’s house, that’s it, and a fraction of the land. Fuck me, we ballsed it up! We didn’t ask about the Wood Demon, or the clown’s head”.

“What’s to ask?” said Hillyard “He might not know anything about the Wood Demon, and as for the clown’s head, that just seems like a stupid prank to me. It achieved what he wanted it to do, get us over there. He’s a trickster that’s all. In the old days Bardin could’ve got him a job at the Cabaret of Horrors as a conjuror!”

“He’d have fitted in well there!” said Joby.

“Now stop mucking about”, said Hillyard “And let’s get these plants moved”.

“Yeah alright!” said Joby.

“Well you need bossing about”, said Hillyard “You get too much your own way mastering Kieran all the time”.

“I don’t get anything my own way!” said Joby “You wanna try working for Adam all day, you’d soon see what being bossed about was really like!”

“He’s too soft if you ask me”, said Hillyard.

“Adam?” Joby exclaimed “Too soft?! That’ll be the bleedin’ day!”

There came the sound of wolves in the far distance.

“God”, said Joby “Always gives me the creeps, that noise”.

“The drop in temperature’s bringing them down from the mountains”, said Hillyard “We’re safe on here. Just have to keep an extra-close eye on the animals when we take them out, that’s all”.

“Really windy out there”, said Bardin, coming into his cabin late that evening “Makes it feel even colder”.

“Come and stand by the fire”, said Bengo, ushering him over, and divesting him of his coat and cap.

“Crowley’s got me so damn paranoid now that I’m starting to think he’s arranged it”, said Bardin, holding out his hands to the flames “I think he could raise storms from what I remember”.

“So what if he has?” said Bengo “It’s gonna take more than a bit of wind to spook us!”

“I feel more sort of weary that we’ve got to expect him to keep trying these things”, said Bardin.

“It probably is just wind”, said Bengo “If we start thinking that old buffoon controls the weather all the time, then we’re done for”.

“True”, said Bardin “Hey!”

Bengo was undoing Bardin’s fly-buttons.

“You know you should take your trousers off when we’re alone in here”, he said “I can put you over my knee and see the firelight reflected on your white, starchy behind”.

“Perhaps I should run away across the lake”, said Bardin “Then I wouldn’t get spanked all the time!”

“You know you need it”, said Bengo.

He bolted the cabin door, put Bardin across his knee so that Bardin’s bottom was facing the fire, and smacked him with the hairbrush.

“The damn hairbrush again!” Bardin protested.

“It’s to keep you in order”, said Bengo “Oh Bardy, this is heaven!”

In spite of his protestations Bardin was fairly ecstatic about it too.

“I’m going to be sore as hell again tomorrow”, he complained.

“Good, it’ll remind you of your place”, said Bengo.

He discarded the hairbrush and simply smacked his bottom. The chastisement only stopped when they were both breathless.

“God I feel weak now”, said Bardin, when he had been set back gently on his feet on the hearth-rug.

“Wonderful wasn’t it”, said Bengo “You’re so sexy”.

“It’s the shorts that are sexy”, said Bardin, clutching his own behind “I probably wouldn’t be so spankeable without them”.

“Oh yes you would”, said Bengo “We’d be able to see your bottom changing colour”.

“I think I’ll largely leave the bare-arsed stuff to Kieran”, said Bardin “I like the feel of the shorts too much. Let’s have some port”.

They poured the drinks. Then Bengo sat in the armchair by the fire, and Bardin sat on his lap.

“Nice to think we’ve got all winter of chastising you by firelight”, said Bengo.

“Mm, it’s heady stuff”, said Bardin “And come the summer you want to spank me in the forest!”

“You’ll have to discard your trousers more in the warm weather”, said Bengo “You used to when we were at the Bay”.

“Yes I did”, said Bardin “I keep wondering if we should head back there one day, just to see what it’s like now. It’s been so long”.

“It’ll be nice if we could have it to ourselves again”, said Bengo.

“Who knows?” said Bardin “After all this time. We never got to explore up the river fully either”.

They were interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Oh who’s this, at this time of night?” said Bardin, putting down his glass.

With a rustle of starch he walked stiffly across the room and unbolted the door. Umbert was outside, looking agitated.

“He’s on the airwaves again”, he said “That Crowley guy”.

“What are you doing mucking about with the wireless at this time of the night?” said Bardin “Earlier you were complaining about it!”

“Yeah I know”, said Umbert “But I couldn’t sleep, and I wanted to see if I could pick up any news broadcasts”.

“We’ll dismantle it again”, said Bardin “I’ve changed my mind. Clown’s privilege. Just dismantle it and leave it alone. Get some sleep”.

Umbert sheepishly obeyed. Bardin returned to the fireside.

“Ah now you see”, said Bengo “A spanking has you making sensible decisions for a change”.

“Yeah, what’s this ‘for a change’ stuff?” said Bardin “Anyway, lay off the hairbrush tomorrow”.

“I might”, said Bengo “See how I feel”.

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