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By Sarah Hapgood

The rainy season began in earnest soon after this. Weeks of torrential rain hammering down relentlessly. The galleon sprang several leaks, and Hillyard insisted it was moved to the boatyard for repairs. It meant they would all be living at the quayside for the time being, (in order to be close to the boatyard), and Ransey, Umbert and Rumble (the brewery-workers) would commute back to the brewery each day by truck. Hillyard would be overseeing the repairs to the ship.

Throughout the dark, wet weeks of Autumn they almost became “townies”, as Joby put it, except they were living on the galleon. They had every intention of being back in their old spot for when the worst of the Winter came on.

One exceptionally dark, gloomy afternoon Bardin announced that the was going over to the chandler’s shop to have another look at the maps.

“But we’ve got tonnes of maps, Bardin”, said Bengo.

“Yes, but we haven’t any for the lakes area to the west of here”, said Bardin “You know, where we had our holiday, and where we’re planning to go next year?”

“Ooh of course”, said Bengo.

“Can you come with me?” said Bardin.

“Yes, I can’t imagine Adam will object”, said Bengo.

They both got clobbered up in their coats and boots.

“It feels weird putting all these things on”, said Bardin “After months of being hauled around in my underwear”.

Bengo felt a frisson at the thought of all that crisply ironed cotton hidden under Bardin’s trousers. They went out to the foot of the quarterdeck steps. Adam was leaning in the galley doorway.

“We won’t be long”, said Bengo.

“Be as long as you like, old love”, said Adam.

Bardin was tongue-tied. He had been spanked that morning very soundly in the galley, and it was as if his backside flared up again on seeing Adam. He suddenly felt weak at the knees.

“You can always pop into the covered market”, said Joby “See what their thermal knickers are like!”

“Well we can get some new ones for Bardy”, said Bengo “But I’m in no hurry to start wearing them again!”

It was very cosy (as always) over at the chandler’s shop. He had the stove lit in the office, and a kettle resting on the top of it. As soon as the clowns turned up, Bengo was ensconced - almost regally - in the chair by the stove, and Bardin was taken into the back room to look at the maps. The shop-owner’s attitude to Bardin was one of great respect, but without tipping over into obsequiousness. Bardin in return acted with grave decorum, which tickled Bengo, who kept thinking of him being soundly smacked in his shorts, with his trousers round his ankles.

“It’s mainly just lakes and rolling hills in that area”, said the shop-keeper “Quite a maze of lakes really”.

“Does the area have a name?” said Bardin.

“Not as far as I know”, said the shop-keeper. He looked quizzically at Bardin “Are you planning to travel that way?”

“We’ve just had a holiday near there”, said Bardin, carefully avoiding revealing their future plans “It was so good we thought we’d do it again next year”.

“Oh I see”, said the shop-keeper, dubiously “Can’t see what you’d do there on holiday, apart from fishing I suppose”.

“It was a fishing-holiday”, said Bardin.

Bengo had dozed off by this time, lulled by the crackle of the fire, the rain on the window, and the ticking of a clock. He snapped awake when Bardin and the shop-keeper returned into the main room.

“Nice clock”, said Bardin, as he gathered up his duffel-coat.

“Yes it was my father’s”, said the shop-keeper “I had a man in here fairly recently who was quite interested in it”.

“I’m not surprised”, said Bardin “It’s a handsome piece”.

“Oh he didn’t want to buy it”, said the shop-keeper “He was more interested in how it worked. Seemed quite puzzled by it. Odd really. I mean, it’s a pretty standard clock, as far as its mechanism goes”.

Bengo and Bardin repaired to The Dancing Dog after they had finished at the shop, and settled themselves with pints in the main bar. Bardin, who was facing the door which led into the small hotel lobby, saw Monika, Jarvis’s daughter, wandering in a zombiefied fashion to the main entrance. Jarvis spotted her, and gently led her away.

“Very sad”, said Bardin, gruffly.

“What beautiful hair she has”, said Bengo “So long and almost platinum blond, like Kieran’s”.

“I must talk to him about her”, said Bardin “There must be something we can do. Try and help in some way”.

“I’m not sure, Bardy”, said Bengo “If there was I’m sure Kieran would have tried it by now. That he hasn’t, makes me wonder”.

Kieran and Bardin went on the poop-deck to chat the following morning. The rain had stopped (briefly) and a watery sunshine was in its place.

“The reason I haven’t helped Monika is because she can’t be helped”, said Kieran “She’s beyond saving”.

Bardin looked at Kieran as if Kieran’s personality had been replaced by an alien.

“Remember what I told you when we were at the Moss Palace?” Kieran explained “And you saw those poor creatures in Hell? They were beyond help. Their souls had been removed”.

“And that’s what happened to her?” said Bardin.

“That is why what we have left is only the shell of her”, said Kieran “That poor zombiefied creature”.

“Where did they do this?” Bardin demanded “At that Turd House place? Is that one of their portals?”

“It could have happened anywhere”, said Kieran “There, in the woods, anywhere. The only way we’d know is if she told us … and she can’t”.

“But why her especially?” said Bardin.

“Partly she wandered into their locality”, said Kieran “Or was lured there perhaps. Either is possible. But she might also have been an ideal target for them. She was a gentle soul by all accounts. Hedda, her mother, said she was almost too sensitive at times. It was as if a layer of skin was missing from her. She was very creative too. She was a talented fiddle-player amongst other things”.

“Oh God, it’s too much”, said Bardin.

“That’s the nature of Evil”, said Kieran “To destroy. And if it can destroy something good, all to the better”.

“We must protect you”, said Bardin “They already attacked you in the woods that time”.

“That was nothing”, said Kieran “They’re not interested in me, not this time around. The most they can hope for is that they can humiliate me a bit, but as I’m used to that they’ve got their work cut out. No, it’s you we’ve got to watch”.

“Me?” Bardin exclaimed “Just because of that stupid dream that time?!”

“Yes”, said Kieran “They’re after you. They were thwarted that time at the Moss Palace, when they tried to pull you through the wall”.

“Well I’m scarcely likely to go wandering off alone”, said Bardin “I’ve no interest in doing that. Anyway, like you, I get plenty of humiliation”.

“The nightmare you had was nothing to do with humiliation”, said Kieran.

“They want my soul?” said Bardin “They want to make me like Monika?”

Kieran nodded, and squeezed Bardin’s arm.

“It won’t happen”, said Kieran “We’ll protect you to the hilt”.

“Kieran”, Bardin swallowed “I-I’ll admit it. I’m scared”.

“It would be very odd if you weren’t”, said Kieran “Particularly after seeing Monika. Have faith though, in our love protecting you”.

Bardin turned and gripped the bulwark firmly for a moment. Then he realised they were being watched with abject fascination by some people on the quayside.

“God”, said Bardin, straightening up “It’s like being back on the stage. Let’s go below”.

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