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"Why aren't you eating your breakfast Lonts? You're normally ravenous by now".
"I don't want it", said Lonts, staring down at his plate sullenly.
"Are you sulking?" said Adam, wearily "Look Lonts, I hardly slept at all last night. I was up at sparrow's fart this morning ..."
"Nobody asked you to be", Lonts exclaimed.
"Are you annoyed because we didn't take you onto the 'Coronola'? Believe me, you wouldn't have wanted to see what we saw there. I wish I hadn't seen it".
"Then you shouldn't have gone!" Lonts screwed up his face angrily "I was worried about you. I wake up to find you've disappeared, and Hillyard sitting there saying that you three had gone onto that ship. I wanted to stop you, but he wouldn't let me out of the room. It wasn't fair Adam, to worry me like that".
"Well that's me told off good and proper", Adam sighed "Now you've got that off your chest, eat some breakfast. Or at least take a couple of mouthfuls of my sake".
Lonts picked up his fork and shovelled in a substantial amount of ham and egg muffin, which he then promptly spat in Adam's direction.
"You little savage", Adam slapped him across the face, causing to Lonts to start screaming hysterically "Go to your room! I'm not putting up with that".
When Lonts refused to move Adam hauled him across the cabin and practically threw him into the next room. He slammed the door on Lonts's screaming. When Julian came in to see what the noise was all about he found Adam sitting on the floor, slumped against the door, whilst sounds of general mayhem ensued from the other side.
"What on earth is he doing?" Julian yelled above the din.
"He's pulling everything out of his closet and hurling it around the room", said Adam "It's standard procedure during a Lonts temper tantrum. When he's human again I'll make him put it all back".
"Adam, you have got to get help for that boy. You can't go on like this", said Julian "Look at you, you're exhausted, and he shouldn't be allowed to run rings round you like this".
"He doesn't. And the only reason I'm exhausted is because I was kept awake by the eeriness of this ship last night. It's got nothing to do with Lonts".
"He needs special care Adam. He's incontinent, and he has these rages which should be sedated. I don't care how beautiful he is, the fact remains he's not normal and he needs nursing care".
"Oh really?" said Adam "Nursing care eh? Like the eunuch gave him? Like he had on the convict-ship? I am never going to put Lonts into the hands of strangers ever again".
"You'd be able to visit him".
"Visit him? Are you suggesting I have him put away again?"
"Looking after him is killing you".
"No it's not!" Adam screamed, and instantly broke into a violent coughing fit.
"See what I mean?" said Julian, triumphantly.
"It's you that caused that", said Adam, breathlessly "Stressing me out with all your nonsense. Clear out of here Jules, and don't come back if all you're going to do is talk garbage".
"You stubborn old bastard", Julian roared.
"It takes one to know one!"
"A bit of mess in here isn't it?" said Adam, picking his way over a tangled heap of clothes, shoes and coat-hangers "If you've torn any of these clothes Lonts, I'm not buying you any new ones".
"I'm sorry Adam", Lonts sobbed into the wooden surround of his bed.
"Oh don't apologise to me old love, it's yourself you've let down, not me. If you want everyone to think you're a nutcase you're going the right way about it".
"I was worried about you", Lonts wailed.
"So you said. I get worried about people, particularly Patsy and Joby when they're coming up with some harebrained scheme, but do I start spitting my food out all over them?"
"But nobody ever listens to me when I'm worried. They think my views don't count. It's not fair. Not fair at all".
"I take account of your views", said Adam, stroking the boy's head "Have you messed your nappy?"
Lonts nodded in a shamefaced fashion.
"I'm sorry Adam", he said.
"It doesn't matter", Adam held him close "I don't care what anyone says, I'll always look after you baby".
Trixie was playing ball with his dogs on deck when he saw Gimmit emerge from one of the inside staircases like a Reptile Man coming out of a sewer. One of the dogs ran yapping towards him, and Gimmit responded by kicking it.
"How dare you?" Trixie cried, picking up the yapping dog in his arms "What's the matter with you Gimmit? You never used to be like this!"
"Well perhaps it's being banished to sleep on the deck that's turned me into a beast Your Magnificent Highness", Gimmit snarled.
"But you like sleeping out-of-doors".
"Like?" Gimmit exclaimed "Do you realise how fucking scary it is out here at night? Do you? A man could go off his head with fear. It's not on. Your dogs aren't treated the way I am".
"Talk to Kieran. Tell him how you feel. He'll find a cabin for you. It's just that we all thought you liked it", said Trixie.
"Get out of my way", Gimmit pushed Trixie to one side "You're just like the nobility were in my time. You don't give a damn at all. As long as you're warm and well-fed, and safe from all the dangers of the night, you couldn't give a fuck about the likes of me!"
"Gimmit please ..."
In spite of his meagre size Gimmit was a terrifying sight. With his long, matted hair and his thin, pointed face, he looked like some half-man half-beast out of folk legend. He had now got into the habit of roaming the decks all day, snarling at whoever crossed his path. The crew were already nervous of him because they had heard of his ability to raise storms, and this behaviour didn't make them any more at ease.
Later that morning he hung around the deck as some of the crew removed equipment and more papers from the "Coronola". It was a grisly operation, and it was difficult to keep up good spirits during it. Gimmit's baleful presence was not a help. In the end one of the crew got sufficiently irritated by him to scare him off. Gimmit scuttled away like a rat.
"Again!" said Lonts, pulling Adam towards him for another kiss.
"How many more do you want?" Adam laughed, standing with the boy in the middle of the cabin "You keep teasing me like this, and I'll take you to bed".
"That's what I want".
"But I've just put a clean nappy on you".
"I'll take it off then", said Lonts, and he began to unpin it.
"Hold on a moment, there's someone at the door".
"Send them away Adam".
"We don't know who it is yet!" Adam opened the door to find Gimmit standing there.
"I need to talk to you", said Gimmit.
"You'd better come in".
"It's not a convenient moment Gimmit", said Lonts, imperiously.
"Take no notice of him, he gets carried away", said Adam "What's your problem Gimmit?"
"Can we go back to the old arrangement?" said Gimmit "I want to sleep in Lonts's room".
"Yes, you can if you want".
"Adam!" Lonts exclaimed "I don't want him in there".
"What difference will it make to you?" said Adam "You'll sleep with me. Gimmit can have the room to himself".
"I appreciate it", Gimmit mumbled "I don't want to spend another night on deck".
"No", said Adam, recalling the strange noises he had heard the night before "It must get pretty hairy up there".
"I'll go and get my things", said Gimmit.
"Adam that's not fair", Lonts complained, after Gimmit had gone "I want it to be just you and me in here. I don't want Gimmit hanging around. He ruins everything".
"He's been a good friend to you these past few years. The least you can do is show a bit of concern when he's having a bad time".
"What bad time?" said Lonts, petulantly.
"I'm not certain", said Adam "But something's disturbing him. He looks haunted to me. Be nice to him when he gets back Lonts, that's all I ask".
"Difficult", Lonts mumbled "As we're going to have no sex now".
"Oh perhaps we can persuade him to go and see Finia this afternoon. You never know your luck".
Kieran was being shaved by Hillyard in his bathroom, in readiness for what everyone sincerely hoped would be the last night of the voyage. By the following evening they were scheduled to be in Port West.
"And not before time", Hillyard muttered "I keep thinking the crew'll jump ship if we stay on here much longer".
"Along with the rest of us", said Kieran "Still, at least Port West should be livelier. Governor Brinslee's my kind of fella. Straightforward, knows how to enjoy himself. Doesn't insist on having glasses of water when you offer him a drink, unlike that wretched consort of his".
"Domino?" said Hillyard "That bloke gives me a headache. Him and Brinslee are about as mismatched as Trixie and Vanod were. You think yourself lucky you were allowed to choose your own consorts. The arranged consorts strategy never seems to work as far as I can see".
"It's been a bad voyage this one", said Kieran "The 'Coronola' seems to have got to everybody. The frozen corpses were bad enough, but those weird messages that were received, and the strange knocking sounds, they were hard to shake off".
"And it's been hard to shake off the feeling that something's joined us ever since", said Hillyard.
"Something has", said Kieran, quietly.
Hillyard looked up to find Angel sitting on the edge of the bath, with a predatory look on his face.
"Leave us Hillyard", said Kieran.
"But I can't!"
"Hillyard, I don't want to start issuing orders, but please leave us".
Hillyard chucked the razor in the basin with a loud clatter and reluctantly left the room.
"What do you want Angel?" said Kieran, wiping the soap from his face.
"You don't normally need to ask, or are you planning to backtrack on our little arrangement, just because those poofter lovers of yours say so?"
"I never said I'd backtrack. But I'm not a focking blood-bank Angel. If you want something out of me, then I want something out of you in return".
"I've got some information about Caln that you're going to find very useful. But then, perhaps you're too afraid of your nagging consorts to take me up on our deal?"
"Leave Adam and Joby out of it. You're only jealous because nobody loves you".
"You can't live on love", said Angel, sounding hurt all the same "I once threatened to destroy you by taking away your love. I could still do it, particularly if you insist on seeing me against their wishes. They might feel betrayed, turn against you".
"I doubt it. Where's this information then?"
"Oh no, I want your side of the bargain first. Just a little squeeze to keep me out of mischief for a while. No harm in that. Or are you afraid you can't pull me back, as you put it?"
"Don't you ever get bored with eavesdropping?" said Kieran "Anyway I can control you. I beat you up once before, I could do it again if I had to".
"You'd have to catch me first", said Angel "Come on then, let's see your wares".
Kieran rolled up the sleeve of his bath-robe, and made a small nick in his arm with the razor Hillyard had flung down. Angel latched onto it immediately like a leech, and sucked vigorously, long and hard. After some time Kieran managed to push him away, and Angel slumped against the toilet, panting like a steam engine.
"Information Angel!" Kieran barked, rolling a hand-towel around his arm to stem the bleeding.
"Have you ever heard of the Bone-House?" Angel gasped.
"It's that rambling old building on an island just off the coast of Port West", said Kieran "Unsavoury place. Once a burial ground for plague victims, then a leper colony, then a home for some demented entrepreneur, now disused. I hope".
"Not quite. Caln's got it".
"No listen. He's based himself there, him and all his evil henchmen. They feed off the spirits of all the dead people earthed there, and then go abroad for the living. They're all there, Vanod, Isaac, Caln himself".
"Good grief", said Kieran "Are the good people of Port West aware of this?"
"You know how superstitious they already were about that place, so they wouldn't go anywhere near it to start with. But now there's a rumour going round that the Devil lives there. They don't even like looking at it in daylight. You'd think it was the Gorgon the way they carry on sometimes".
"I see", said Kieran "And I take it they're waiting for me to turn up, Caln and his ilk I mean?"
"They don't think you'll dare. They're very confident of their strength. And I warn you, don't go charging over to the place as soon as you arrive. You're gonna have to make sure you've got all your strength before you take on that lot. Caln's just itching for a chance to turn you into another Braw".
"I bet he is".
"Well I must be off", said Angel, casually "I'll probably see you again in Port West".
"Angel, do you have to kill people?" said Kieran "Can't you just do what you do with me? Take the odd little sip of blood. Why this mania for tearing out throats and hearts?"
"Because I don't approve of dieting", said Angel "Be seeing you!"
"And you just buggered off and left them together?" Joby shrieked at Hillyard in the corridor.
"He is the President", said Hillyard "He ordered me to leave, I had no choice".
"That is a load of tossing bollocks! He's Kieran, you don't have to give him instant obedience, particularly when Angel's involved. You're fucking useless Hillyard".
"Don't talk to me like that".
"Well you are".
"Kieran knows what he's doing".
"No he doesn't!"
"Don't you two ever do anything but fight?" said Adam, coming towards them with an armful of clean washing "What's going on now?"
"Nothing", Joby mumbled, shooting Hillyard a warning glance to be silent.
"It sounded a lot of noise for nothing. Were you talking about Patsy?"
"It was nothing Adam, just leave it".
"Joby being fucking awkward as always", said Hillyard.
"The path of true love never runs smoothly", Adam sighed.
"Huh!" Hillyard exclaimed, storming towards his own cabin "I wouldn't fancy him if he was poured out of a bottle!"
"What's going on Joby?" said Adam, as Hillyard slammed his door.
"I told you, nothing I can't handle. You concentrate on putting your own house in order. I heard screaming coming from your cabin just now. Sounded like Gimmit".
There was no outward sign of any disorder when he walked in. Lonts was sitting in a chair by the window, humming a tuneless melody to himself. He didn't respond when Adam spoke to him. This was nothing unusual, so Adam took the washing through into the smaller cabin where Gimmit was sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to the door. Adam put the laundry away in the closet before speaking.
"Are you alright?" he asked, after hearing Gimmit sniff a couple of times.
Gimmit made a noise that didn't seem to resemble any known word. Adam caught a glimpse of a strange mark on his neck. Without saying he scooped up a handful of Gimmit's matted hair, and exposed a long red scratch-mark on the skin of his neck.
"How did you get this?" he asked.
"Accident", Gimmit mumbled "I don't wanna say".
"Did Lonts do this? I'm going to find out sooner or later, so you might as well tell me".
"It was an accident!" Gimmit screamed "Let it be!"
"Alright, have it your own way".
Adam went back into his own cabin. Lonts was trying to adopt a casual air, but still looked anxious and guilty.
"Are you going to tell me what's happened?" said Adam.
"I don't know what you mean", Lonts shrugged "Let's have a game of draughts".
"If I find out you've been bullying Gimmit", said Adam, grabbing Lonts's wrist as he went to fetch the draughts board "You are going to be in very serious trouble, do you understand?"
"Would I lie to you Adam?"
"Yes! To save your own skin, you little horror".
"Well you shouldn't leave me alone with him", said Lonts "You keep saying you want me to go back to being friends with him Adam, but I can't. He's a beast, he's not human".
"I sometimes wonder if you are!"
"Please don't leave me alone with him again Adam".
"Alright I won't, seeing as you two carry on worse than Joby and Hillyard anyway", Adam sighed "Set the board up. I need some coffee, and a nice long cigar".
Dinner had been a more lighthearted affair than of late, simply because it was the last night of the voyage, a voyage that seemed to have been cursed since Day One, and the crew were practically in a partying mood. Even the Captain, who had looked as though he'd had the weight of the world on his shoulders lately, managed a laugh or two. The compasses were working properly once more, and so were the engines. The "Coronola" and its grisly cargo were behind them. Nobody had suggested bringing the dead on-board for a decent burial. As far as everyone was concerned the "Coronola" could disappear back into an ice-pack for all eternity.
Back in their cabin later that evening Lonts clung to Adam like an over-affectionate cat. Even with the communicating door shut he was only too aware of Gimmit's presence, and it made him nervous.
Exhausted, Adam had fallen asleep almost immediately. Lonts though had lain awake, lying as close to Adam's side of the bed as he could get without annoying him. At around three a.m came the noises he had dreaded hearing.
Gimmit was snorting and snarling in the next room. Lonts sat up in bed and could make out the shadow of him at the bottom of the door scuffling restlessly like a dog in a sandpit. If there was one skill Lonts had acquired in life it was an instinct for when danger was near, and now this primitive intuition was going into overdrive.
"What is it Lonts?" said Adam irritably, when the boy shook him awake.
"We've got to get out of here Adam", said Lonts, hurling Adam's robe at him, and then pulling on his own.
"What are you talking about?" Adam sat up drowsily "What's going on?"
"Please Adam, don't argue! Just do everything I say".
Somehow Lonts quietly got Adam out of the cabin. He removed the key from the inside of the lock and then once they were both out in the corridor, he locked it from the outside.
"Now tell me what's ..." Adam began, only to be stalled by the sound of Gimmit hurling himself against the door from the other side, pounding on it and growling like a wild bear.
"I told you he was a beast", said Lonts.
Kieran had fallen asleep with his head resting in the small of Joby's back. Consequently he had a terrible crick in his neck when he was woken up by the sound of heavy hammering on his door.
"Gimmit's a beast", said Lonts, leading a dazed Adam into the stateroom "You'd better lock your door Kieran, in case he gets out".
"Adam, has the boy really flipped this time?" said Kieran, rubbing his neck tiredly.
"It's all true, but I don't think Gimmit can get out. The locks are pretty strong on these doors. Even so, I think we should wake Ransey up and get him to sit outside the door with his revolver".
"Revolver?" said Joby, from the bed "What the hell's going on?"
"I'm not sure", said Adam "Something awful's happened to Gimmit. He's lost his marbles, they weren't all there to start with. There's not a full moon tonight is there?"
"There is actually", said Kieran "Joby mentioned it when he went to draw the curtains earlier".
"I thought I was joking when I said that", said Adam "Now I'm not so sure!"
Gimmit was flinging himself against the other side of the door. The noise was so horrendous that everyone in the immediate area had been alerted by it, and gathered in the corridor outside.
"What's going on?" Trixie demanded to know.
"It's Gimmit", said Adam "He seems to have gone crazy. Beastlike. We're even beginning to think he's turned into a werewolf!"
"Well I don't wish to crow", said Trixie "But it's been obvious to me for some time that he's been acting strangely".
"I don't suppose any of you morons has thought of fetching the M.O?" said Julian.
"I really don't know where we'd be without your wisdom and leadership Julian", said Adam, sarcastically "Hillyard's gone to fetch him actually".
The M.O arrived clutching his bag against his green silk robe.
"He sounds like he needs a sedative first and foremost", he said, on hearing the grunts and squeals coming from within the cabin.
"I'll go in ahead", said Ransey, cocking the revolver.
"Where's the key to the door?" said the M.O, on realising that the lock was empty.
"Who's got the focking key?" Kieran yelled.
"Oh it's still with Lonts", said Adam.
"Fucking marvellous", said Joby, and went into the stateroom where Lonts was holding the key behind his back "Give it here!"
"No I won't Joby", said Lonts, slipping the key down the front of his nappy "If you or any of you goes into that room Gimmit will tear you limb from limb".
"I'll tear you limb from limb if you don't stop pratting about", Joby pushed Lonts back against the bed, and roughly pulled the key out of his nappy "Now stay out of the bloody way!"
Joby passed the key to the M.O, who inserted it into the lock and turned it. Ransey then threw the door open and marched in brandishing the revolver. The mattress had been pulled off the bed and hurled against the wall, everything was broken that could be broken, and he'd even had a go at pulling up the carpet. A naked Gimmit was now running around the far end of the room on all fours, like a pig hunting for truffles. He stood upright when he saw them all come in, and spat in their direction. Ransey fired the revolver and a bullet hit the washstand immediately to Gimmit's right. The wild man instantly crouched on his haunches and sobbed pathetically.
"You missed him", said Hillyard.
"I wasn't aiming to hit him", said Ransey "Just frighten him".
They took advantage of Gimmit's sobbing state to hold him down whilst the M.O prepared a syringe. Surprisingly Gimmit offered no resistance to the needle. He simply sobbed, as though everything in his life was now hopeless.
"It's a good job we reach Port West later today, I can tell you", said the Captain, showing Kieran down into the hold "This'd be the last straw otherwise. A bloody werewolf on-board! I mean no disrespect by my language Your Grace, but this entire voyage has been ... er ... difficult to say the least".
"What will happen to Gimmit?" said Kieran.
"That's entirely up to you. He hasn't actually done anything illegal, unless you can count wrecking Mr Adam's cabin as criminal damage. We've locked him in the hold to stop him intimidating the crew any further. He's been doing that a lot lately. If you want my advice I'd have him sectioned for his own good".
"I need to talk to him before I go doing anything", said Kieran.
A couple of ratings were standing nervously at the entrance to the cargo hold, although Gimmit looked such a pathetic spectacle that an outsider couldn't have guessed what they were being so nervous about. He had been locked in one of the cages normally reserved for livestock, and he was sitting on a straw bale looking depressed and numb when Kieran found him.
"Don't come in Kieran", he said "Just in case I start again".
"It's daylight", Kieran laughed gently "You're probably quite harmless in daylight".
The Captain unlocked the cage door and Kieran went inside. The door was shut firmly behind him.
"Everyone's saying I should turn you over to the authorities when we reach Port West", said Kieran "But I don't want to, not unless you leave me no choice. What's brought all this on Gimmit? In all the years I've known you I've never seen quite such an extraordinary outburst from you before".
"I'm frightened Kieran", Gimmit burst into tears "I'm so scared".
"What of?" said Kieran "Who's causing you to act like this? Because I don't believe you're doing this off your own bat".
"I can't say. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I can't. I'll be punished if I do".
"How? For God's sake Gimmit, tell me everything that's happened. It all began when you were sleeping up on deck didn't it? You were very frightened after that. Did somebody approach you? Was it a vampire?"
"Don't ask me Kieran, please!" Gimmit cried.
"Then is there anything I can do to help?"
"Don't turn me over to the authorities. Please! They won't even try and understand".
"It's all a bit difficult to understand when you won't tell anyone anything".
"It'll pass with the full moon", Gimmit stammered "These rages I mean. Keep me locked down here until the phase of the moon changes, and then I'll be fine. For another month anyway".
"I can't do that Gimmit. The cages in here aren't very strong. If you were to break out and attack someone then I'd never forgive myself. If you won't tell me anything else then I have no choice but to hand you over to the Port West authorities. It would just be a temporary measure. I'll explain everything, or as much as you've told me anyway, to the Town Constable, and he will keep you in a holding cell until the moon enters a new phase. You're not under arrest Gimmit. It's just a temporary measure. If you won't give me any further information, then I have no choice. I have the safety of everyone on this ship to consider. I'm afraid that rather cancels out your finer feelings".
"And when the moon changes I'll be let out?"
"But you said ..."
"I have to be sure that this new condition of yours isn't permanent. After all, the full moon bit could just be a coincidence. When I'm satisfied that everything is as we think it is, then you'll be released again".
"You won't forget about me? Leave me in Port West?"
"We won't be moving on for a while, and anyway we won't leave you behind", said Kieran "I do wish you'd tell me what's going on though".
"I can't", said Gimmit "I just can't".
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