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Wind, rain and thunder combined together that evening to put the tin-lid on a thoroughly unpleasant day. Joby and Kieran took themselves off to the caravan, but neither of them expected to remain there the whole night, not with the elements becoming increasingly more violent. Joby took off his clothes in silence, his face wearing its most enigmatic look, and he had a tendency to stare into a far corner as though trying to analyse something mysterious lurking there. Kieran, who was already in bed, flicked a rubber band at his behind.
“Behave!” said Joby.
“Well what are you thinking about at the moment?” said Kieran.
“Knowing you, you can probably tell me that better ‘en I can!” said Joby.
“Are you thinking about Thetis?” said Kieran.
“A bit”, said Joby, climbing into bed “You know the really weird thing is I can’t say I’m that surprised by what’s happened today. I mean I know it’s as spooky as hell and I feel sorry for her, but there was always summat there that we didn’t understand. I think to be blunt she was fooling herself when she thought she could stay here and be forgotten by … by whatever it is she comes from”.
“She was pretending to be normal”, said Kieran “It’s strange that someone could pretend they were normal by living with us, but there you are. What do you think about going out there, to the island I mean?”
“I think it needs a lot more thought”, said Joby “What happened today, horrible though it was, has a feeling that it was meant to happen. We have to think about all this very carefully before we go interfering”.
“I’ve been having some very disturbing thoughts these past few hours”, said Kieran “I keep wondering if she has any connection with that ghostly woman who haunted us when we first came into this time. The one I saw at the Loud House”.
“Don’t be daft”, said Joby “That was years before Thetis was even born!”
“I don’t mean that that was Thetis”, said Kieran “But perhaps something similar to her”.
“Hang on a minute”, said Joby, marshalling his thoughts and memories “That woman had been living at Green Ways when it was corrupted into the Loud House …”
“And so she aged a 100 years overnight”, said Kieran “I saw her again after the fight with Angel and she was back to normal then, because Angel had agreed to leave Life for a while and … oh jaysus, I don’t know, I’m trying to remember something from too long ago, and I never really understood it that well at the time!”
Somebody hammered loudly on the caravan door.
“Who’s that?” Joby asked Kieran.
“It’s me”, said Hillyard, from the other side of the door.
Joby got out of bed and went to open the door. Hillyard came in dressed in dripping oilskins.
“You’d better come back to the pub”, he said “It’s getting rough out there, don’t like the thought of you staying in this rickety old thing with the wind getting like it is”.
“Yeah o.k”, said Joby, gathering up his recently discarded clothes.
The three of them gradually abandoned the caravan and weaved back through the wind and driving rain in the direction of the tavern. Bengo and Bardin were in the yard, fooling around like a couple of mad goblins, dousing each other with water from one of the overflowing water-butts. Joby ordered them indoors.
“Toppy!” Lonts was bellowing through the kitchen door into the bar “Go upstairs and get some towels”.
“How many do we need?” said Toppy, peering through the door.
Lonts sighed and rolled his eyes at Toppy’s prevaricating.
“As many as you can carry downstairs without having an accident, old love”, said Adam.
The towels were fetched and Kieran and Joby stripped off in front of the stove. Bengo and Bardin seemed to have been made even more excitable than usual by the storm and were only brought to heel by Ransey coming in and swiping Bengo on the backside and ordering them to get dry. Julian drifted in smoking a cigar.
“I’ve told you time and again, Jules”, said Adam “No smoking in the kitchen”.
“What sheer blithering hypocrisy”, said Julian “You let Lonts smoke his pipe!”
“You either stub it out or you return to the bar”, said Adam, handing him an old saucer to serve as an ash-tray.
Julian had no intention of leaving when everything looked so interesting in here so he reluctantly stubbed out the cigar.
“We’ll be ill if we try to sleep on the boat in this”, said Toppy, ignoring the amount of storms he had previously slept through on the sloop “Perhaps we should all stay over here tonight”.
“Perhaps we should have shifts to all keep an eye on the island”, said Lonts.
“Absolutely not”, said Julian “I don’t see any point in losing sleep over that place!”
Adam was surreptitiously pouring cooking brandy into his tea. Joby knew that Adam wasn’t going to return to his bad old drinking days but he was upset that he needed to do this at this time. Joby announced he was going upstairs to fetch a new biscuit barrel. When he got up to the old bathroom where a lot of things were stored, he sat on the edge of the tub and cried lustily for several minutes. As Kieran was to remark later it was as if a dam had burst inside him. Joby heard Kieran approaching up the stairs. He always knew when it was Kieran’s footsteps as they were so light. Tamaz’s were too, but they tended to be more stealthy as he was usually trying to spy on somebody.
“Can I come in?” Kieran peered tentatively round the door.
Joby nodded and blew his nose.
“Why don’t you come into the bedroom”, said Kieran “We can cuddle each other better in there than sitting on the edge of an old bath-tub”.
Joby followed him into the Landlord’s Bedroom, where he pulled off his apron.
“I seem to spend my whole life in this thing”, he said, hanging it over the bed-rail.
“Ach you look a real peach in it and all!” said Kieran, as they lay on the bed and held each other.
“I’m sorry about … all that”, said Joby, referring to his crying fit.
“It’ll do you good”, said Kieran “Better out than in, as the saying goes”.
“Nobody heard it downstairs did they?” said Joby.
“Too busy putting all the sandbags in place”, said Kieran “Lonts is convinced the water will build up anyway and then all the walls will come crashing in”.
“Oh he’s a great bleedin’ comfort he is!” said Joby “God, this weather! I used to love storms when I was a kid, I used to complain we didn’t have enough of ‘em, now we seem to get one every night!”
“It’s the season for it”, said Kieran “Remember storm season at the Bay? The problem is we’ve lost all track of time lately, and forgotten that it’s autumn”.
“Blimey I know, soon be Christmas at this rate!” said Joby.
“We’ll have a more cheerful one than last year”, said Kieran, remembering the gloomy Christmas they had spent at the church in Magnolia Cove.
“I wouldn’t bank on it”, said Joby.
“Well Codlik won’t be with us so it’s sure to be an improvement!” said Kieran.
“What are we gonna do about Thetis, Kiel?” said Joby.
“Well I don’t believe Aleister for a start”, said Kieran “I mean I don’t believe she can’t be rescued, BUT as Bardin says, we need to think about this very carefully. It needs a lot of thought and planning. Toppy was complaining just after you came upstairs that we need to get away by ourselves for a while, he said he didn’t see why we couldn’t be a contemplative order”.
“What did the others say?” said Joby.
“Adam said he liked this lifestyle”, said Kieran “He said it made him feel like a Benedictine monk in the Middle Ages, running a tavern for the community”.
“He has some strange fantasies he does!” said Joby.
“Adam would have made a good Benedictine”, Kieran protested.
“No he wouldn’t!” said Joby “How would he cope with the celibacy law for a start?! There’d be no Maurice and Alec stuff in that life, or ‘naughty boy’ bits!”
“Anyway he did agree that ‘a little retreat’, as he called it, would be ‘just the thing’”, said Kieran, as Joby groaned “And Bengo looked bewildered and demanded to know what Toppy was talking about”.
“Adam also came up with the idea that we could leave this place in Madame de Sade’s care”, said Kieran “And I thought that’s not a bad idea at all. She knows about food and drink, or so she should anyway, being French, and she’s good at organising things, that’s what she was brought up to do, run a house, it’s just this one has paying visitors in it. And the Cabaret clowns never give her any trouble so she’d be able to get some work out of them”.
“What about Piers drinking all the stock?” said Joby.
“He’d do that even if we were here!” said Kieran “And he might respect Renee a bit, considering she’s one of his lot. Of course if Thetis was here as well we wouldn’t have any qualms at all but there you go …”
“We couldn’t get Glynis down could we?” said Joby.
“We could give it a go, but I’m not sure what she’s up to these days”, said Kieran.
“No good probably!” said Joby “Imagining what some of the old men around here would be like if they clapped eyes on her! Probably finish ‘em off! But also, there’s the problem of Renee’s old man”.
“Sade?” said Kieran “Ach he won’t be no trouble. There’s no danger of him doing any work, not being an aristocrat and an officer …”
“In the French army!” Joby concluded, completing Sade’s usual mantra when anyone suggested doing anything remotely normal to him.
“Anyway he’s at work writing a new story”, said Kieran.
“Oh shit!” said Joby, which was quite an apt statement considering the usual content of Sade’s fiction “What’s brought that on?”
“I hate to say it, but Thetis’ disappearance”, said Kieran “He began it this afternoon. Adam thinks it’s probably all about an attractive young woman being taken against her will to a remote island where doubtless all sorts of wretched things will happen to her. Adam says be grateful our French isn’t up to reading it!”
“Hasn’t he got any shame at all?” Joby exclaimed.
“You know the answer to that one as well as I do!” said Kieran.
“It’s always the same with the bloody French!” said Joby “They just don’t give a shit who they offend or care about anybody else’s feelings!”
“Now come on”, said Kieran, soothingly “Whilst he’s doing that he can’t cause any trouble. Writing’s probably the best occupation for him, and it’s not as if any of us have to read it now is it!”
“Yeah well on second thoughts”, said Joby “Cancel the idea of inviting Glynis down whilst we’re not here, I don’t want her getting mixed up with him! Let alone Crowley! Can you imagine what either of ‘em would be like if she appeared! It’d be like sex had only just been invented!”
“Flying’s the answer”, said Bardin, who was helping Hillyard to settle the horses in the stables.
“How do you mean?” said Hillyard.
“Fly an air-buggy over the island”, said Bardin “Like we did that time over the Big House, after the beheadings there. It’s the safest way to case the joint”.
“Where do we get the air-buggy from?” said Hillyard.
“Do I have to think of everything round here?” Bardin exclaimed, chucking down a bridle in a fit of temper.
“Alright!” said Hillyard “I was just thinking aloud that was all, marshalling my thoughts”.
“Sorry”, Bardin mumbled “It’s ‘cos I’m used to dealing with Bengo!”
“I’ll run it past Ransey”, said Hillyard “He’s bound to have a few ideas how to go about it”.
When Bardin returned to the kitchen he found Bengo sitting alone in there with his feet up on the table, eating from a packet of potato crisps and reading a very old magazine.
“What are you doing?” Bardin barked.
“Waiting for you”, said Bengo, not taking his eyes off the magazine.
“I don’t like you being on your own round here”, said Bardin.
“Oh for God’s sake Bardy, nothing’s gonna happen to me in here!” said Bengo.
“What’s this?” said Bardin, indicating a strange muslin-wrapped lump sitting on the draining-board.
“An ancient Christmas pudding”, said Bengo “We found it at the back of one of the cupboards. We’re not gonna cook it though as it’s years old, but it’s given Adam some ideas for planning for Christmas this year”.
“Nothing like planning in advance I suppose”, Bardin growled.
“It’s only a couple of months away”, said Bengo “That’s not long in cooking terms”.
He put down the crisps and the magazine and jumped over to join Bardin.
“I love Christmas”, he said “Don’t you, Bardy?”
“I seem to remember when we were kids some little fat clown would jump all over the bed shouting ‘ooh it’s Christmas, ooh it’s Christmas!’” said Bardin “I’m glad you’re looking a bit happier, I was getting quite worried about you”.
“Oh I’m alright”, said Bengo “It was just a shock Thetis suddenly disappearing like that, but perhaps it was meant to be”.
Bengo’s breath-taking resilience was something that Bardin never ceased to be awed by. It wasn’t callousness on Bengo’s part, it was just that he was simply a true child of showbusiness, one minute wailing and crying in despair, next adopting the attitude of The Show Must Go On. The only thing Bardin could think of where Bengo wouldn’t bounce back quite so gamely would be if anything happened to himself (Bardin) or Kieran or the other Indigo-ites.
“I mean when I stop and really think about it”, said Bengo “I get quite upset for her sake, as she didn’t want to go, and I know how I’d hate it if you and me got sent back to the Cabaret with the other clowns, but oh I don’t know …”
“Then I think it’s best if you try not to think about it!” said Bardin “Anyway, I’ve got an idea”.
And he told him about his conversation with Hillyard.
“And Hillyard went along with it?” said Bengo “Normally he hates flying, he keeps up a right fuss about it! He’s always convinced every air-buggy is gonna crash!”
“Well perhaps he could see the stunning good sense of what I was saying!” said Bardin.
Suddenly a shout went up of “tornado!” from the bar. The clowns ran into the bar where everyone else was fighting for space at the window.
“Is it coming this way?” said Bardin.
“No”, said Hillyard, who was now up by the window “It’s miles out at sea, going to miss us completely by the looks of things”.
“It’s near the island, Bardin”, said Lonts.
“No it’s going to miss the island too”, said Ransey “I would say it’s beyond that, further out on the ocean”.
The horizon was a rather grisly mess of black clouds, isolated sheets of rain, and the unmistakeable sight of a twister corkscrewing down. It did appear to be beyond the island.
“It would be a bit too convenient for us if it came and sorted the island out wouldn’t it?” said Crowley. The others wisely decided to ignore this remark.
Adam overslept the next morning and when he awoke, in The Landlord’s Bedroom, he found the storm had completely passed, and the day was bathed in warm sunshine. The island on the horizon was still there, which was a strange surprise, as Adam almost expected it to have disappeared with the storm.
Joby had been in charge of the breakfasts, and had given Bengo a good hiding for breaking two dinner-plates when washing-up. Kieran found the little clown in the back yard feeling sorry for himself, and on his way to the chicken-run where he could have a few minutes of moping in peace.
“Is Bengo alright?” said Hillyard, when Kieran returned to the stables.
“Ach he’s fine”, said Kieran “It’s just that Joby can be a bit of a hard task-master at times”.
“So can Bardin”, said Hillyard.
“As Bardin would no doubt tell you”, said Kieran “Bengo needs discipline”.
“Yeah I don’t think he needs quite as much of it as he gets though!” said Hillyard.
“Let’s go and annoy Joby by asking for some tea”, said Kieran.
The two of them left the stables and went back across the yard. Joby could be heard in the kitchen vigorously sweeping the floor. Hillyard hesitated.
“I don’t like going in there when he’s cleaning”, he astounded Kieran by saying “He’s always really bad-tempered when he’s cleaning”.
“Joby’s bad-tempered all the time!” said Kieran “Except for that precious few minutes after he’s just had a shag!”
“Oh it’s alright now”, said Hillyard, surreptitiously peering through the window “Adam’s just come in”.
“Jaysus, you’re a great wuss on the quiet aren’t you!” said Kieran “If you was his partner you’d be one of the most hen-pecked men in existence!”
Kieran breezed into the kitchen and demanded access to the teapot. Unfortunately this was at the same time as Adam asked Joby to take Julian’s morning-coffee across to him.
“I can’t do both can I!” said Joby, standing there with the broom in his hand “What do you think I am!”
“Well from the way you’re standing there”, said Adam “You look rather like Brittania with her trident! You take the coffee over to the sloop and Patsy can make his own tea. Even you have to concede he knows how to do that!”
Joby went over to the sloop and got ensnared by Julian.
“How many more times do I have to say this?” said Ransey, bursting in on them as they lay on the bed afterwards “For an intelligent man, Julian, you can be quite spectacularly obtuse at times!”
“What are you on about now, geek?” said Julian.
“Bolt the fucking door before you get down to it!” said Ransey, which was rather colourful language for him “We have some very disreputable people around here”.
“Yes, and you’re one of them!” said Julian “I forgot, o.k?”
“No it’s not o.k”, said Ransey “Joby, get dressed before you find yourself as a character in Sade’s new book!”
It sometimes annoyed Julian the way Joby always seemed to obey Ransey without question, as he did on this occasion.
“You don’t have to give me a police escort back to the pub”, said Joby, as Ransey followed him out to the quarterdeck steps “I do know the way you know!”
“It’s whether you can get there without mishap that concerns me!” said Ransey “Sometimes you and Kieran have a knack for getting yourselves into scrapes. Look at that time at Mundaba Heights”.
“I wasn’t much more than a kid then!” Joby protested “It wouldn’t all happen that way now”.
“I’m not entirely convinced of that!” said Ransey.
Bardin was beginning to wish he had never thought of the idea about the air-buggy. Ransey had said that a four-seater was the best idea, like the one they had used to fly over the Big House. As such Bardin had said he, Ransey, Mieps and Kieran would fly out to the island. He didn’t want to upset Hillyard by asking him to get in something he plainly didn’t enjoy. Bengo got quite upset that he wasn’t even considered in the running for the mission, and he and Bardin had a row in the hold about it that afternoon. Bardin got quite impatient with him and let rip with a scolding that was reminiscent of their days on stage. Ransey soon after found Bengo quite overcome with emotion from all this, and was surprisingly tender with him.
“I wish I was more like you, Ransey”, Bengo sniffed “You’re so professional all the time. You never make a fool of yourself”.
“I’ve made a fool of myself plenty of times”, said Ransey “It’s just I’ve never got paid to do it in public like you did!”
“Are you still snivelling?” Bardin barked, on returning to the hold “Don’t listen to him, Ransey. He’s just feeling sorry for himself”.
“I’ve got a lot to feel sorry for myself about!” said Bengo “I’ve spent my entire life being beaten up, nagged by you, or having pies pushed in my face!”
“Well what else are you any use for?” said Bardin.
Bengo stood up and stormed out of the hold.
“Get after him”, Ransey ordered Bardin.
Up on the forward deck Bengo pushed Bardin backwards into the laundry-tub from which Toppy had been working. Toppy had hysterics and demanded to know how he could possibly work in such circumstances. Bardin removed himself from the tub and kicked Toppy squarely in the pants. This not only shut Toppy up in mid-flow but successfully united the clowns once more.
All of this had been watched by Julian up on the poop-deck, sitting with a tray of brandy-and-soda at his feet. Hillyard came up to join him, looking unusually morose.
“I’ve just been giving Joby a massage”, he grunted “He was all stiff after your attentions”.
“So you get the mopping up after I’ve had the pleasure”, Julian smiled.
“You smug old bastard!” said Hillyard, helping himself to a brandy-and-soda.
“It’s your own fault”, said Julian “All these little infatuations of yours. You’re too much of a gentleman for your own good. That may work all very well for the ladies, but it’s no good for men. Men are base, uncivilised creatures. All men need discipline. Absolutely essential. You pussy-foot round Joby, putting up with his carping and his sour looks, whereas I give him a few good smacks and he’s ready for anything!”
“That’s not my way”, said Hillyard.
“Well stop grizzling then when it doesn’t work!” said Julian.
Ransey came up to join them.
“Julian says all men need discipline”, said Hillyard.
“This one needs a drink actually”, said Ransey, helping himself to another of the glasses.
“Where’s Mieps? Have you seen him on your travels?” said Julian.
“He’s playing Solitaire down in the galley”, said Ransey “Said he’ll be up in a little while”.
Bengo and Bardin came out of the bar carrying two old wooden tennis racquets they had found. They began to bat a ball about lethargically on the quayside. Crowley seemed to magic himself up from nowhere, doing his usual trick of suddenly appearing silently on the scene. He was clearly much taken with the sight of the clowns and their impromptu tennis match.
“No fool like an old fool”, said Julian “Why in God’s name he thinks they’d be interested in an old twat like him I don’t know!”
“The triumph of optimism over experience I would say”, said Ransey.
“Yeah ‘cept he has had a lot of experience!” said Hillyard “We’re going to have to do something about him”.
“I’m working on it”, said Julian.
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