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By Sarah Hapgood

“You’ve got lovely hair”, said Joby, who was combing out Kieran’s hair so that it lay spread out over his pillow “It’s so soft and fine, like a woman’s. I’m glad you’ve never had it cut”.

“Oh I have thought about having it hacked off sometimes”, said Kieran “All a lot of people seem to see me as is this scrawny little fella with long blonde hair. I thought if I at least shed the long blonde hair then they might see me as something else”.

“I’m glad you didn’t”, said Joby “You’d look like a right little pixy!”

“Like an Irishman you mean?” Kieran laughed.

They began to slowly get dressed again. As they were in the middle of doing so, Adam tapped on their bedroom door and came in, carrying a large sheet of paper.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you, boys”, he said “But I’m really rather upset”.

“What’s the matter?” said Joby.

“It’s really too tiresome”, said Adam, who sounded very emotional “Aleister has written us a very nasty letter”.

“And why are you taking any notice of it?” said Joby, eyeing the sheet of thick parchment-like paper covered in handwriting that looked like the angry ravings of a madman.

“He makes the most horrible statements about our life together”, said Adam “He says that Julian and I operate some kind of divide-and-rule nonsense. That we stamp on any growing relationships amongst the younger ones out of jealousy and insecurity. That is arrant nonsense. Julian went out of his way to encourage Bengo and Bardin to get back together again. He practically locked them in together! And I only got jealous of you and Patsy in the very early days when we were all at Henang, and that was just because I was lonely, and I was afraid you would both dump me …”

“Ad! Ad! Ad!” said Joby “What are you getting so bleedin’ hysterical about? Can’t you see the old tosser’s just jealous ‘cos we won’t invite him in? Anyway, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. He’s hardly in a position to talk is he? Look what happens to his followers! You’ve only gotta look at Victor. I don’t think I’ve ever met a sadder case in all my life!”

“I know”, said Adam “But he really has got to me. I don’t think I can cope with doing the dinner now”.

“Oh terrific!” said Joby “And we was gonna do cottage pie and all, I’ve been looking forward to that. I like using the piping-bag for the mashed potato”.

Kieran stifled a snort of laughter.

“Ah shaddup!” said Joby “Where’s Lonts? He should be doing all this”.

“He’s running with the dogs round the garden”, said Adam.

“I’m surprised the earth ent shaking!” said Joby.

“Why don’t you go out and have a wander round with him, Addy?” said Kieran.

“And what about the dinner?” said Joby.

“I thought you couldn’t wait to get your hands on the piping-bag!” said Kieran.

“But that’s not like Adam at all”, said Bengo, down in the kitchen a few minutes later “He’s normally the one who calms us down”.

“Oh he can’t help it”, said Joby “He’s a thoroughbred, you’ve gotta expect it from time to time. They can canter round the track for ages, clearing every fence with no trouble at all, and then all of a sudden, for no reason, they’ll spook at a blade of grass. You have to make allowances really. All of his ancestors were raving mad, it’s bound to come out sometimes!”

“Where’s Julian?” said Bengo.

“He went out riding with Hillyard”, said Joby “They ent back yet”.

“And what’s happened to Crowley’s letter?” said Bengo.

“Kieran said to leave it on the hall table”, said Joby “Then if anybody really wants to they can read it when they come in. With any luck Lonts’ll light his pipe with it! Let’s get on with the dinner now. If it goes wrong you know what Julian’s like. He’ll carry on as if civilisation’s crumbling all around us”.

“Well don’t get too carried away bullying me”, said Bengo “Sometimes you’re as bad as Bardy, and I just keep dropping things everywhere. It was like that on stage sometimes”.

“I thought clowns were supposed to drop things”, said Joby “Including their trousers!”

“Yes, but the timing has to be right”, said Bengo.

There was an immense hullabaloo as Lonts let the dogs in through the back door. As it had been raining outside (not exactly an unusual occurrence) the dogs brought in a fair amount of mud with them.

“Hey!” said Joby “Take those hounds round to the side-door. How many more times do I have to tell you that?”

“Come along dogs”, Lonts sighed, hauling them back out again “Nasty Joby doesn’t want you in here”.

“You’d soon moan at Nasty Joby if your dinner went wrong!” said Joby “And where’s Adam?”

“He said he wanted to have a little mooch round by himself for a couple of minutes”, said Lonts.

“Uh-oh, that’s a bad sign”, said Joby, after Lonts and the dogs had gone again “Look at the mud they’ve all brought in! I bet that poncy professional chef of Hal’s wouldn’t work in these conditions!”

Adam came in very shortly afterwards. He was often said by Julian to strongly resemble his mother, as she had been when she was younger. Tall, slim and blonde. The sort of woman usually seen looking very fetching in a pair of jodhpurs. And today Adam resembled her more than ever. His ankle-length trench coat and floppy hat, both rain-splattered, gave him a very androgynous, Home Counties look.

“I’m sorry to have dropped you in it with the dinner, old loves”, he said, shaking his hat “Joby, could you put my coat in the pantry?”

“Oh yeah, it’s a pleasure!” said Joby, sarcastically.

“I thought it might be!” said Adam.

Joby took the apparel into the next room.

“I hope he hasn’t moaned too much”, said Adam to Bengo.

“No he said he understood”, said Bengo “Something about all your ancestors having been raving mad, so we had to expect it sometimes”.

“I think that ALL of them having been mad is a bit of an exaggeration!” said Adam, when Joby came back into the room.

“No but I expect a fair old few were”, said Joby.

“I’m not the one who’s got a mad brother living over the stables!” said Adam.

“Don’t remind me!” said Joby.

“Adam”, said Toppy, poking his head round the kitchen door “Julian wants to see you in the atrium”.

“Oh lor!” said Adam “That’s all I need!”

“Do you seriously mean to tell me that you got upset about this rubbish?” said Julian, who was leaning on the mantelpiece and waving Crowley’s letter in the air.

“Damnit Jules!” said Adam “It was the last straw, the one that broke the camel’s back. I’m sorry I can’t be so sophisticated that I only get worked up about extremely grown-up important things!”

“Alright, well you can go back to the kitchen now”, said Julian.

Adam gave a sound of extreme annoyance.

“Oh and take this”, said Julian, handing him the letter “And put it where it belongs, on the kitchen stove!”

“Have you checked it thoroughly?” said Adam.

“Checked it for what?” said Julian.

“Well sort of in case he’s secreted anything in it”, said Adam, awkwardly “You know, like the runic symbols in ‘Casting The Runes’”.

“ADAM!” Julian roared, impatiently.

“Alright, there’s no need to start bellowing!” said Adam.

“Put it on the stove!” Julian shouted.

“I’m gong to, I’m going!” said Adam.

“I think I’m going to stop being Captain”, said Bardin, as he, Bengo, Joby and Kieran lounged in the atrium after dinner.

“Oh where have we heard this one before?” Bengo groaned, cracking walnuts.

“No I’m going to have to”, said Bardin “I’m bereft of ideas. I don’t know what to do about Crowley, I haven’t the faintest idea”.

“And you think Julian has?” said Joby.

“He’s a natural authority”, said Bardin.

“So are you, Bardy”, said Bengo “You’re certainly bossy enough!”

“Then I’ll just have to stick to bossing you clowns around”, said Bardin.

“That’ll be a treat for you”, said Kieran, who was sprawling upside-down on one of the sofa’s, with his feet hanging over the back.

“Nobody knows what to do about Crowley”, said Bengo.

“Have him stuffed?” said Joby “We could stand him in the hallway to warn off unwanted visitors!”

The front door bell clanged noisily and somewhat imperiously. Kieran fell off the sofa, and then immediately jumped to his feet.

“It’s Crowley!” he said.

“I’ll go”, said Bardin.

Bengo followed him. Bardin didn’t object.

“I’ll go and get Ransey out of the Smoking-Room”, said Joby. On his way he passed the hand-bell to Kieran “Ring that if anything happens”.

In the stone foyer Bardin collected himself, as if he was back in the wings waiting for his cue to go on stage. Bengo had to stop himself from straightening his friend’s clothes for him. Bardin undid the ornate brass mechanism on the front door, and opened it a crack.

“Can I come in?” said Crowley, with a disgusting leer.

Bardin silently pointed at the carved wooden armchair, which was normally used only for shedding boots and coats. Crowley obediently complied.

“What are you doing?” said Joby, as Ransey collected from his desk drawer in the library not the revolver Joby had been expecting, but a clumpy object which looked like a thick, heavy version of a child’s pop-gun .

“It’s a sort of stun-gun”, said Ransey “I bought it in the village. The locals use them when out hunting. I thought it might come in useful sometimes, probably on you lot when you get hysterical! Now, listen up carefully to what I‘m saying. When I open the door into the foyer you push the clowns back against the wall, ok?”

Joby accomplished this swiftly without a word. And then Ransey breezed in and fired the stun-gun at Crowley, who lolled almost gracefully to one side. Bengo, who mistakenly thought Crowley had been shot for real, fainted clean away.

“Carry Bengo up to the Red Room”, Bardin directed Rumble, after Crowley had been hauled towards the Smoking-Room.

“I’ve gotta cart him all the way up there?” said Rumble, in dismay.

“Yes!” Bardin snapped “I want him out of the way. Put Farnol on to mind him, and then you come back to me”.

Crowley came to consciousness, complaining that he felt as though he had been concussed with a cannon-ball. He struggled to sit up straight and found that he had been securely strapped to a chair with twisted-up bed-sheets. He wasn’t too surprised by this, but he was surprised to find that he was alone in the Smoking-Room with Kieran.

“You’re getting to be too much trouble, Aleister”, said Kieran, pouring himself another brandy from the decanter “I’m going to have to send you back to your own time”.

Crowley felt a genuine panic. Back to that bedsit in Hastings perhaps, where he had spent the last few years of his life, as an impotent junkie, constantly bewildered and bemoaning the waste of it all? Then the leer returned.

“My dear boy”, he smirked “You almost had me fooled. How effective your Irish blarney can be! But you can’t you see. You don’t know how”.

“No”, said Kieran “But I know someone who does. The person who brought you here to start with, you and that depraved Frenchman”.

“Hah!” Crowley laughed “The Devil will help you? I think no. He hates you. Loathes you with a passion!”

Kieran leaned towards him. His presence was making Crowley feel drugged, he kept dipping in and out of Crowley’s vision like the Cheshire Cat.

“Ah yes”, said Kieran “But he hates you even more. He only brought you here to cause trouble, being the compulsive mischief-maker that he is. But he’s disgusted by your antics. There’s a lot of anger in Angel. It’s what drives him. If I asked him I’m sure it’d entertain him considerably to destroy you. You’ve heard what he did to Tomce all those years ago? I don’t think you’d enjoy chomping on your own balls, Aleister!”

“You’re no better than he is!” Crowley spat “Loathsome creature!”

“As Angel once said to me”, said Kieran “He and I are two sides of the same coin. I face the sun, he faces the darkness. He’s the dark angel, I’m the light”.

“What if I took Joby back with me?” said Crowley, desperately playing his one remaining trump card “Oh how he’d fit into 1940s England!”

“I’m sure he would”, said Kieran “But Angel can’t afford for you to do that. He knows that without Joby, there would be nothing to restrain me. I would destroy him like a giant iron fist. I would follow him to the edges of the Universe if I had to, and splatter him”.

“You’re a demon”, said Crowley.

“Oh possibly”, said Kieran “Or not, as the case may be. More likely that the Devil is a fallen angel”.

“You’re going to send me back?” said Crowley “My spirit knew no peace when it passed over”.

“No reason why it should have done”, said Kieran “Your soul knew no peace, because you had abused it like you abused your body. I may not send you back. We’ll see. You can go on probation for a while, but the slightest bit of trouble, even the very slightest, and you’ll be back in dear old 1940s Hastings in no time at all!”

Crowley departed the Castle looking sunk in on himself, like a man ravaged by a terrible cancerous disease. The Indigo-ites were astounded at this transformation.

“You’ve broken him”, said Ransey to Kieran, in wonderment.

“What did you do?” said Joby “Eat his soul?”

“He ate away at his own soul long ago”, said Kieran “I doubt there’s anything left to chew upon. No, I just finally convinced him that I’m really an evil little runt!”

“It took him long enough to realise that one!” said Joby.

“Well at least it means he won’t try corrupting you anymore, Patsy”, said Adam “One must be grateful for small mercies I suppose”.

“What exactly did you say to him?” Julian demanded to know.

“Oh just threatened to send him back to Hastings, that’s all”, said Kieran.

“I guess that would be a sufficient threat for anybody!” said Adam.

“I don’t get it”, said Lonts.

“Don’t even try!” said Joby.

Farnol was spoon feeding Bengo some broth up in the Red Bedroom at the end of the evening, as though Bengo was a chronic invalid making a very tentative recovery from a long illness. Suddenly the door opened and Bardin strode in rather forcefully. He stormed to the bottom of the bed and glared at Bengo.

“Ooh!” said Bengo, trying to retreat by sliding up his pillows.

“So!” said Bardin “Now perhaps you will realise that you are not cut out to be a vigilante!”

And with that he turned on his heel and strode back out again. Farnol stood there clutching the broth-bowl like a chubby monk working in an infirmary.

“I suppose it could have been worse”, Bengo sighed.

Nothing was heard of Crowley for some time. The Indigo-ites knew that he was still living at his ramshackle commune halfway down the mountain, but that was the extent of their knowledge. Sade also seemed to be keeping a low profile. According to Hegley plans to resurrect Silling Productions and make a film seemed to have been abandoned altogether, and Crowley hadn’t shown his face in the rooms above the stables since his altercation with Kieran.

Nobody could entirely relax with this situation though. Everyone was too well aware of what Crowley was capable of to do that. Joby felt that he wouldn’t be entirely happy until Crowley was banished back to 1945, but he knew that to achieve this Kieran would have to track down Angel and do business with him, and Joby wasn’t happy with that idea either.

“You look a little peaky, old love”, said Adam, in the kitchen one morning “Why don’t you get some fresh air? You can take the scraps out to the goats”.

“That’s your idea of me getting fresh air is it?” said Joby “Taking the scraps out to the goats?!”

“Oh go and get on with it”, said Adam “Or I’ll tan your butt!”

“I’ve already had all that from Julian this morning!” said Joby, reaching for the scraps bucket.

Everyone in the Castle was having to use Julian’s bathroom at the moment (the only en-suite one there was), as Hillyard had declared that the main bathroom - which had admittedly degenerated into somewhat of a vile eyesore after decades of neglect - should be completely gutted and a new one put in. Three men from the village had been hired for the purpose, with Hillyard ignoring all Joby’s claims that they were probably as big a bunch of cowboys as the one who had tried to renovate their tavern in Zilligot Bay. Julian was enjoying having everyone at his mercy, as the proud possessor of “the only bog and bath in working order”. Anyone using either had to run the gauntlet of his attentions in the process.

Joby took the scraps out to the goats, and then, bucket on arm, ambled round to the front of the house, where the old bath-tub was sitting unloved outside the front door, having been unceremoniously ejected from the house. It was a very warm, sunny day (for a change), but with a distinct autumnal freshness in the air.

“’Ere!” Josh shouted.

“Oh no”, Joby groaned “I’d swear you was the original serpent in the Garden of Eden you was!”

“That’s how you talk when you live with a religious nutter is it?” said Josh, following him as Joby strolled up the drive.

“I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again, I don’t like you slagging Kieran off”, said Joby “If you can’t think of anything positive to say about him, then don’t say anything at all!”

“I’d have done the new bathroom for you if you’d asked me to”, said Josh.

“Thanks”, said Joby “But we want it done properly, not end up with rubble coming out of the taps!”

“Oh c’mon Jobe”, said Josh “Let’s talk like human beings, mate. There’s no one at home I can talk to”.

“Hegley’s alright ent he?”

“Yeah, but he’s always off out hunting, and he likes to go on his own. Piers the toff is always sleeping off his latest binge, and as for that whingeing, wailing old French woman …”

“What’s her old man up to these days?” said Joby “He’s been so quiet it’s unnerving!”

“Working on a new book”, said Josh “Some evenings all you can hear is his pen scratching across the paper. Drives me bleedin’ bonkers. Look I’m lonely alright! Not that you’d know what it’s like…”

“Praps if you spoke to Kieran like he was a human being”, said Joby “I might be more inclined to invite you over sometimes”.

“I can’t help it”, said Josh “He’s weird. Always was. I mean, some of the things he can do…”

“Are you complaining?” said Joby, indicating with a gesture their youthful appearance.

“He won’t …” Josh began, awkwardly “He won’t send me back as well will he?”

“That depends don’t it?” said Joby, thoroughly enjoying having he whip-hand, after years of being bullied by Josh all through his childhood and teens “If you behave yourself or not”.

“Strewth!” said Josh “You sound like a bleedin’ copper sometimes! Look, if you invite me over one evening, I promise not to say anything horrible to the little woman. I’ll even take him some flowers if you like!”

“See! You can’t help yourself can you!” said Joby “Every 5 minutes there’s another sarky comment!”

“Well old habits die hard”, said Josh “I just find the thought of you having sex with HIM a bit sad and pathetic that’s all”.

“Huh, there speaks the bloke who hasn’t come anywhere near getting his leg over within living memory!” said Joby.

“Alright alright”, said Josh “Can I come over then?”

“I’ll take it up with the little woman”, said Joby.

Joby went back into the house via the side-door nearest the swimming-pool. Kieran had been waiting for him sitting at the top of a gloomy flight of stairs which led up to some store-rooms above.

“Shit!” Joby exclaimed, when Kieran softly uttered his name.

“Bit jumpy aren’t you?” said Kieran, coming down the steps and leaning on the post at the bottom.

“Hardly surprising”, said Joby “I’ve always hated that stairway. Gives me the creeps”.

“I saw you chatting to Josh from an upstairs window”, said Kieran “What did he want?”

“Oh the usual”, said Joby “Nobody loves me, nobody wants me, nobody want s to talk to me. Considering what a whingeing old git he is it’s hardly surprising is it! He wants to come over here one evening”.

“Wouldn’t that be bad for his manly, rugged street-cred to come and visit us?” said Kieran.

“I’ve told him he can come on condition he’s nice to you”, said Joby.

“So he’s never going to come then?” said Kieran.

The dogs bounded out and threw themselves at Joby enthusiastically.

“Lonts! LONTS!” Joby roared “Get these bloody dogs off me!”

“They’re just being friendly, Joby”, said Lonts.

“Oh yeah, he looks really friendly don’t he!” said Joby, pointing at Randolph with his bared teeth, lolling tongue and dripping saliva “They shouldn’t be in here”.

“They’ve got more right to be in here than you have, Joby”, said Lonts.

“No they haven’t!” said Joby.

“What’s all this racket out here?” said Adam, looking out from the kitchen doorway “You’re making more noise than the builders. And where have you been?”

“You said I was allowed to go out and get some fresh air”, said Joby.

“Yes, but I wasn’t expecting you to take the whole week’s quota in one go, you little squirt!” said Adam.

Joby slammed into the pantry.

“Patsy, why don’t you take Bengo down to the wine cellar?” said Adam.

“Gladly”, said Kieran “But what for?”

“To select some nice wine for lunch”, said Adam “Our nerves are all on edge with the builders here, we need soothing”.

“When was the last time you and Joby played ‘Maurice and Alec’?” said Kieran.

“Well I don’t feel terribly inclined to play it at the moment”, said Adam “He’s so snappy and snarly, it’s like having a bad-tempered Jack Russell around!”

“No that’s Bardy”, said Bengo “That’s what he sometimes reminds me of!”

He and Kieran headed off in the direction of the wine-cellar. Adam went over to the pantry door and tapped on it.

“Oh Joby, dear”, he cooed “Can I come into your boudoir?”

Joby pulled open the door, scowling. Adam kissed him full on the lips. Joby succumbed, until he saw one of the builders standing in the kitchen doorway, holding a kettle in his hand, and silently watching them with rapt absorption.

“Yes, what is it?” Adam snapped.

“Can I boil up some water on you stove?” the builder asked.

“Oh very well”, Adam sighed.

“You do alright for yourself here don’t yer?” said Josh, standing in front of the fire in the library that evening. The library was cosy and dimly-lit. The moon was bright though that they had left the curtains open.

Joby had decided, as a sort of damage limitation exercise, that Josh should be confined to as small a dinner-party as possible, and decided on a small supper-party for 5 in the library, leaving all the others to eat in the dining-room as usual. Adam had offered that he and Lonts should make up the numbers, but Joby vetoed it.

“I don’t want the risk of Josh picking on the Baby”, he said “Josh can be a nasty bugger when he’s had a few”.

“He can be pretty unpleasant when he’s sober as well!” said Adam.

Joby decided instead to invite Bengo and Bardin, on the grounds that any rotten abrasiveness on Josh’s part would roll off Bengo’s robust innocence.

“And if he gets too much”, said Joby “The clowns can always chuck their dinner at him!”

“Is it haunted?” Josh asked, looking round the library.

(“Only by you”, thought Joby).

“Not that I know of”, he said, aloud “It’s a vast improvement on some places we’ve lived in over the years”.

“Do you ever wish you’d had a normal family life?” said Josh.

“Whatever the hell one of those is!” said Joby.

“You know”, said Josh “Wife and kids. That sort of thing”.

“No, I was never much taken on all that”, said Joby “I used to see some blokes wandering around with their kids, back in our time I mean. Looking like their brains and their balls had been removed!”

The door opened and Bengo and Bardin came in, both wearing their gold waistcoats.

“Blimey”, said joby “To what do we owe this honour?”

“Bardy thought it’d be nice to dress up for a change”, said Bengo “We haven’t got all dressed up since the train journey up here”.

“I don’t spose there’s any sign of Kieran on the horizon?” said Joby.

“Here I am”, said Kieran.

He hadn’t gone to the same trouble as the clowns. He had simply put on a clean shirt, which he felt was more than enough effort for supper with Josh. Toppy wheeled in a trolley and ladled out soup for them all. When he had finished Bardin firmly instructed him to leave the room, and not to linger outside the door.

“I was just saying to our Jobe”, said Josh “Nice place you’ve got here”.

Joby tutted at Josh’s remarkably limited use of social conversation.

“Yes”, said Bengo “It needs doing up a bit though. Some of the rooms haven’t been touched in decades. I would love to buy all new things for it, but I’m not allowed”.

“You would fill the place from top to bottom with useless junk”, said Bardin.

“It’s not useless junk, Bardy”, said Bengo “The man in the shop …”

“The man in the shop must think it’s his birthday every time you go anywhere near him!” said Bardin.

Joby was hoping the clowns would keep up their marital squabbling all through the meal, and thus drown out any fatal attempts by Josh to make conversation. It was not to be. Josh had been watching Kieran’s wrists as he ate with a sort of macabre fascination.

“You’re so skinny you look like you never eat at all!” said Josh.

Joby gave a harrumph.

“Well it’s true!” said Josh “Mind you, you always was. You was a skinny little bugger when you first came off the banana boat too”.

“Were you on a banana boat, Kieran?” said Bengo.

“No, he thinks he’s being funny”, said Joby “Shut up, Josh”.

“No wonder your lot nearly all starved to death”, Josh went on, remorselessly.

“When was that?” said an appalled Bengo.

“Long before my time”, said Kieran, to try and reassure him “There was a big famine in the land where I originally came from”.

“Were your people nearly wiped out then?” said Bardin.

“A lot were”, said Kieran “Millions in fact”.

“Shame it never happened round our way!” Joby growled, glaring at Josh.

“God, how terrible!” said Bengo “Is that why you’re so thin though?”

“No”, Kieran smiled “At least I don’t think so, unless it’s in me genes. As I said it was nearly 200 years before my time”.

“I’m gonna want a word with you when we’ve finished”, Joby muttered to Josh.

“Over my dead body am I ever letting you come over here again!” Joby said to his brother, when the meal was over. He had managed to persuade Kieran and the clowns to join the others in the atrium.

“What are you getting so aggravated about?” said Josh “You wanted me to make an effort to get on with him!”

“You call all that making an effort to get on with him!” said Joby “You make stupid jokes about the Famine to an Irishman, that’s like cracking jokes about the Holocaust to a Jew!”

“Well as he said himself, it were a long time ago”, said Josh.

“And also”, Joby continued “As if that’s not bad enough you go on about him not eating!”

“He is a right bone-bag”, said Josh “I’ve heard you say that yourself”.

“He used to be anorexic!” Joby thundered.

“I thought only women got that”, said Josh.

“At one point”, said Joby, pouring out some much-need brandy “His weight dropped down to about 4 stone”.

“Shit!” said Josh “Why did he do that to himself?”

“Kieran punishes himself sometimes”, said Joby “And that was one form it took. The most worrying one”.

“Punishing himself for what?” said Josh.

“Oh all the ills in the world”, said Joby, lolloping back onto the sofa “That’s what he’s like”.

To Joby’s alarm Josh came and sat right next to him on the sofa.

“Now listen, Jobe”, he said “You’re my brother, and I care about yer”.

“Since when?!” said Joby.

“This fella of yours ent right in the head”, said Josh.

“And you would know of course!” said Joby.

“I’m concerned about yer”, said Josh “I don’t think he does you any good”.

“He’s been doing me a lot of good for a very long time now!” said Joby “He’s a special person, so he’s bound to be a bit eccentric now and again. He’s sweet, and he’s kind, and he’s gentle, and he makes me laugh, and a whole load of other things you don’t need to know about!”

There was the sound of a wolf howling from somewhere on the other side of the grounds. Josh turned a whiter shade of pale.

“S’alright”, said Joby “Lonts has been going on about this happening. It’s ‘cos the night’s are turning colder. The wolves come down to a lower level for warmth”.

“I’ve gotta go outside to get home you know!” said Josh.

As it turned out he didn’t. Josh flatly refused to leave the Castle unless, effectively, he had an armed guard in tow. As no one could be bothered to walk him over to the stables Bardin said he could spend the night on one of the sofa’s in the atrium. Joby went up to his own room where he found Kieran vigorously scrubbing himself at the wash-stand.

“Well that was a bleedin’ disaster of an evening weren’t it!” said Joby.

“Ach it was nice eating in the library”, said Kieran “Real cosy in the firelight”.

“Yeah, it’d have been even cosier without Josh with us!” said Joby, beginning to get undressed.

“He really does hate me doesn’t he?” said Kieran.

“I’d take that as a great compliment if I was you”, said Joby “To be hated by someone like Josh must mean you’re doing summat right!”

Josh fretted on one of the sofa’s in the atrium. He was acutely conscious of being alone in the downstairs part of the Castle, and its stone walls felt cavernous around him. Every so often the wolves would howl again in the distance, and Josh fretted even more. Was this any way to treat a guest? Josh was a coward. The old phrase “all mouth and trousers” could have been coined for him. He didn’t have a scrap of Joby’s courage.

As the hands on the clock on the mantelpiece plodded (ever so slowly it seemed) towards two o’clock, Josh decided he’d had enough. He was going to exert his rights, demand better accommodation. He went upstairs taking his pillow and blanket with him. Unfortunately he had no idea where Joby’s room was. He remembered overhearing Joby grumbling that Kieran had bagged them the smallest bedroom in the house, but all the bedroom doors arranged around the upper atrium gave no hint whatsoever of what kind of room lurked behind them.

He opened the door nearest to him, and blinked in the moonlight which shone unhindered through the long windows, with the curtains pulled right back. A quick glance at the bed showed him that this was Bengo and Bardin’s room. He went out again. He finally found Joby lying on his stomach, sleeping heavily. Kieran had his head pillowed on Joby’s back. For a moment Joby was thoroughly disconcerted. Kieran looked like a woman.

Kieran awoke, and Josh was even more spooked. He took a step backwards. Kieran sat up and pointed silently at the door. He then got out of bed. It was true that there wasn’t much manly physique to Kieran, Joby had often joked about it, but what there was still showed quite plainly that Kieran was of the male gender. By the time Josh got out onto the upper atrium he was distressed and physically uncomfortable.

“I just wanted a proper bed”, he whimpered, when Kieran joined him outside the door, and sounding like a peevish child “Up here. Not down there on me own. You must have one going spare”.

“There’s only Dobley’s old bed”, said Kieran “But it’s not made up, and we’re not doing it now. You can sleep on the sofa at the top of the stairs”.

“What’s happening out here?” said Bardin, opening his bedroom door, after having donned his whistle first.

“What’s happening out there, Bardy?” Bengo parroted from the bed.

“Go back to sleep!” Bardin hissed.

“Josh wants another bed”, said Kieran “I’ve said he can sleep on the sofa here”.

Bardin wasn’t happy at the thought of having Josh right outside their bedroom door, but there was no point making an issue about it at that time of night.

“What’s going on?” said Joby, blearily, as Kieran slid back into bed again, giggling “What’s so funny?”

“Perhaps the problem with Josh has always been that he secretly fancies me”, said Kieran.

“You think everybody fancies you!” said Joby.

“They do don’t they?!” said Kieran “He’d never be able to cope with it, not someone so determinedly heterosexual”.

“Bit like I used to be you mean”, Joby grunted.

“No I didn’t mean that”, said Kieran “It’s just that I’d swear he got a boner just now”.

“Do you mind!” said Joby “The very last thing I wanna hear about is Josh getting sexually aroused, thank you very much!”

“But it all makes sense doesn’t it?” said Kieran.

“More ’en likely”, Joby grunted.

The next morning dawned sunny and crisp. Josh went back home before breakfast, after Julian had emerged from his room and raised a rumpus about finding his unlovely form sprawled sleeping on the landing.

“Cripes, you’re off the mark early”, said Hillyard, going out to the courtyard and finding Kieran sitting by the standpipe polishing some horse-brasses.

“I thought I’d try and earn some Brownie points”, said Kieran “Seeing as I can’t seem to avoid attracting trouble at the moment”.

“Yeah I heard about your prick-teasing Josh last night”, said Hillyard.

“I am not a prick-tease!” said Kieran.

“Nah, I know that”, said Hillyard “Funny though. I thought you was when I very first knew you. Only ‘cos you was a blonde, mind”.

Kieran was spared from having to reply to this outrageous remark by Adam coming round the corner of the house in his trench-coat.

“I’m popping down to the village”, he said “I need to increase our food-orders with the local suppliers. We’re getting through more than I initially bargained for”.

“Over-consumption at Wolf Castle?” said Hillyard, cheekily “Codlik wouldn’t have approved!”

“Well fortunately at least we don’t have to worry about him anymore!” said Adam “Will you come and collect me in the car in about half-an-hour, Hilly?”

Julian leaned out of his bedroom window, bellowed “KIERAN!” accompanied by an imperious come-hither gesture, and then disappeared again.

“I think you’d better come down to the village with me, Patsy”, said Adam “He wants to take it out on you for finding Josh on the landing this morning, and I don’t think you’re fully recovered from the last session yet!”

“I must make more time to do this sort of thing”, he said, and he and Kieran strolled down the long, winding road towards the village.

“I know”, said Kieran “You haven’t done any painting yet have you?”

“I meant to do some in Marlsblad as well”, said Adam “And yet I never got round to it there either”.

“You should”, said Kieran “This is the sort of area that must inspire creativity”.

“Oh it does that alright!” said Adam.

“Some parts of it remind me of the country park at Killarney”, said Kieran “With the mountains in the distance and all. We had an artist come and live near us there. Englishman like you”.

“Yes, there were a few of us knocking about!” Adam smiled.

“He was always painting”, said Kieran “Even used to sit in bars with his brush out”.

“Well at least that’s all he had out!” said Adam.

“I know”, Kieran laughed “Can never tell with you English sometimes!”

“Was he any good?” said Adam “At painting I mean?”

“He wasn’t bad, put it that way”, said Kieran “He could certainly draw, just they weren’t very exciting. Alright it you want endless pictures of miserable old geezers in cloth-caps playing the fiddle, or scowling at you”.

“Oh I see”, said Adam “He sounds a bit pedestrian, he painted exactly what he saw and that was it”.

“They sold quite well apparently”, said Kieran “I suppose the tourists all wanted to take home a piece of Old Oireland with them. Though why anyone’s want to put pictures of grizzled oldies on their walls is beyond me!”

“Did he ever paint you?” said Adam.

“Not that I know of”, said Kieran.

“That’s astonishing”, said Adam, in genuine surprise “I would have homed in on you like a shot”.

“Ah yes”, said Kieran “But you’re a raving old queer!”

Adam slapped his bottom in reply.

They did the rounds of the shops. Kieran dawdling along in Adam’s breezy, fragrant wake like a dreamy child. Kieran’s presence in the town always caused a minor sensation, and today was no exception. The Mayor sent out a minion to request their presence for a glass of sherry in his office. Adam thought this was a very civilised request, and eagerly agreed.

He exchanged pleasing small talk with the Mayor, whilst Kieran drifted around the room with his sherry glass in his hand. He stood staring out of the window for some time, which looked out over the cemetery.

“The graveyard’s getting a wee bit overgrown isn’t it?” he said, abruptly.

“We have been without a Warden for some time”, said the Mayor “The previous old gentleman had done it for many years, but he’s now one of the inmates himself I’m afraid. It’s not a job that has wide appeal. The pay is poor, and not everyone wants to live in the little cottage on the site”.

“One would have no trouble with the neighbours I would have thought!” said Adam, looking at the tiny two-roomed accommodation which stood by itself just within the cemetery gates.

“But I’m glad to say that someone has applied for the job”, said the Mayor “I get the impression that he is a troubled man, searching for peace”.

“It’s not a Mr Crowley is it?” said Adam, cautiously.

“Yes”, the Mayor said, dreamily “You look concerned, Kieran”.

“Well put it this way”, said Kieran “The words ’putting the rat in charge of the cheese larder’ spring to mind”.

“Mr Crowley is rumoured to have practised necromancy in his time”, said Adam “Raising people from the dead. One of the places where he has lived before had a graveyard just across the road from his house. It is said that he … er … plundered it”.

“But I take it those remain only rumours?” said the Mayor, who didn’t like a decision being queried once he had made it.

“Certainly nothing was actually proved …” said Adam.

“He is a troubled man, as I said”, said the Mayor “I think he has recently suffered some kind of deep trauma”.

Adam cast a look at Kieran. Suddenly there was the tooting of a car-horn from out in the street. Hillyard was reclining in the driver’s seat, beaming at passers-by, and clearly “swanking it about a bit”, as Adam later described it to Julian. It was a good excuse to leave.

“I’m hoping Crowley won’t be as foolish as I think he could be”, said Kieran, as he and Adam went back down the stairs to the street “He might be leaving me no choice but to contact Angel, and I’ll resent that if it happens”.

The noise of the builders had driven Julian out of his room and down the main stairs to the atrium, where he found the Marquis de Sade standing in front of the fireplace, looking around himself with disdain. He was dressed up to the nines, 18th century French-style, complete with dress sword at his hip.

“This place gets more like a bloody bus-station every day!” said Julian “What do you want?”

“Bonjeur Monsieur, ca va?” said Sade.

“Never mind all that”, Julian barked “I repeat, what do you want? You must be after something, you always are!”

“I have come for, as you English say, a leetle chat”, said Sade.

Julian didn’t like the sound of this at all. He physically bustled Sade into the Smoking Room. Sade didn’t take too kindly to being manhandled, and protested vociferously.

“This is an outrage!” he said “I was treated like this in prison, pushed along by ignorant buffoons with sticks in their hands, prodding them into my back!”

“And if I had my way you’d be back there”, said Julian “What’s all this about? And don’t play games with me, I’m not in the mood”

“I am concerned”, said Sade “And so is my wife. In fact she is deeply distressed”.

“She must be used to that by now”, said Julian “After all these years of being married to you!”

“We have heard what Kieran said to Crowlee”, said Sade “He mustn’t threaten us in that way. I am working on a new book, one for this time. I cannot be pushed back, not now”.

“What’s so special about this new masterpiece of yours then?” said Julian “You always write the same old tosh as far as I can see!”

“I am writing about Kieran”, said Sade.

“I’m sure he’ll be very flattered”, said Julian “Go on, surprise me. A shock expose of the hypocritical reality of a Messianic figure. Haven’t you done that sort of thing before? You’ve certainly ranted about it enough!”

Sade looked deeply vexed, which was very gratifying for Julian.

“Don’t try the hypocrisy lark on Kieran though”, said Julian “One thing he most definitely is not is a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who preaches one thing and practises another, and he hasn’t done that”.

“I want to know about the thrashing you gave him recently”, said Sade, shamelessly.

“I’m sure you do”, said Julian “But you really have no perception of human nature if you think I’m going to give it to you in lurid detail. I’ll say one thing for you, Sadie old chap, you’re always honest. No beating about the bush or false pretence with you is there?”

Julian heard Hillyard’s car approach down the driveway.

“The wanderers return”, he said “You can discuss it with Kieran yourself”.

Kieran was in a deeply anxious mood. Sitting on the back seat during the drive back he had gone into a reflective trance, trying to obtain some hint of where Angel may be lurking. To his own intense horror he had obtained a vision of an abattoir-like building filled with the carcasses of dead animals, and the mutilated and deformed figures of live ones. He remembered the sick playing-cards Crowley had once sent him. Had Angel been inspired by this and was doing it for real?

When he walked into Wolf Castle he erupted at finding Sade there, and bellowed at him to remove himself forthwith. Adam urged him to go to the kitchen and see Joby.

“In Roman times”, Sade shouted after Kieran “You would have been tortured and put to death. Beaten with rods, scourged, torn with pincers, boiled in a bath, sat on a red-hot chair, burnt, beheaded…”

“Oh do stop getting yourself so excited, you silly little man!” said Adam.

Joby had been sitting by the kitchen stove reading a newspaper. He jumped up, startled, when Kieran came in.

“You could have given me a fucking heart-attack!” said Joby, flopping back on the chair “I thought you was Adam”.

“Hah, guilty conscience!” said Kieran.

“I’m entitled to a tea-break”, Joby grumbled.

“Where’s wee Bengo?” said Kieran.

“I sent him out to feed the chickens”, said Joby “He was getting under me feet”.

Kieran felt a wave of love for Joby. As long as Joby was around things would always turn out alright in the end.

“Are you o.k, Kiel?” said Joby “You look a bit done in”.

“Just had Sade ranting at me”, said Kieran, pouring out some tea “Telling me what would have been done to me in Roman times”.

“What, thrown to the lions you mean?” said Joby.

“That would have been the least of it probably!” said Kieran “He’s obviously read the lives of the saints at some point. He knows all the thoroughly nasty little bits of the stories. Mind you, some of all that stuff does read like one of his books. Particularly the really exaggerated things like 5000 people beheaded in one sitting because they converted to Christianity on the spot, that sort of thing, straight out of ‘Juliette‘ is that”.

“The executioner must have been worn out!” said Joby.

“The Catholic Church did like to exaggerate things sometimes”, said Kieran.

“Yeah, and Sade was taught by ’em weren’t he?” said Joby “The Jesuits I mean. It’s where he got his taste for being beaten from”.

(“Along with someone else I could mention!” thought Joby).

“Kieran”, Bengo whooped, coming in through the back door with the empty scraps bucket in his hand.

“Anyone’d think you hadn’t seen him for about 4 years”, said Joby.

“I always get excited when I see Kieran”, said Bengo.

“So does Sade”, said Kieran, ruefully.

Finia struggled into the room carrying a large brown paper parcel, which he announced had just been delivered.

“Have you been shopping again?” Joby asked Bengo, sharply.

“No I haven’t”, Bengo sulked “Bardy’s forbidden me from going anywhere near the village”.

“I ordered this”, said Finia, dumping the parcel on the kitchen table and beginning to unwrap it “Winter underwear”.

“Oh great”, said Joby, unenthusiastically.

“You’ll be glad of these in a few weeks time”, said Finia “The winters get very cold up here”.

“Yeah alright, I do remember”, said Joby “I ent that far gone!”

“As cold as Marlsblad?” Bengo quailed.

“Colder”, said Finia, ruthlessly.

“Hah, you’ll have to wear these when you next pretend to be Alec, Joby”, said Kieran, fishing out a thermal vest and drawers “To add the final touch of authenticity”.

“Winter draws on I see”, said Adam, coming into the room.

“I don’t spose any of these are for you”, Joby sniggered “Julian chooses yours!”

“Make some more tea!” Adam ordered.

There was a timid tap on the back door, and Shag came in, ominously clutching a guitar. He looked about him furtively.

“Is the charming Bardy about?” he asked.

“He’s out in the grounds, somewhere”, said Bengo.

“You make him sound like a scarecrow!” Adam laughed.

“If the cap fits”, said Bengo.

“How is your restaurant coming along, Shag?” said Adam.

“Any customers yet?” said Joby, rather more bluntly.

“We’ve had more since the top chef went home”, said Shag.

“Well I suppose they realise they’ve now got more chance of getting a meal!” said Adam.

“What do you want anyway?” said Bengo.

“I’ve been doing a bit of song writing lately”, said Shag, at which the others all looked frankly appalled “I was wondering if you could listen to some of them”.

“Do you want me to fetch Bardy as well?” said Bengo.

“NO!” Shag exclaimed, in terror “J-just you for the time being”.

“Bengo, why don’t you go and lay the table for lunch?” said Adam, who was anxious to have the amateur songwriter out of the kitchen “And then Shag can sing to you whilst you do so”.

Bengo looked rather disgruntled at this.

Joby nipped into the still-room whilst the impromptu cabaret was in progress, and eavesdropped for a moment, before heading back to the kitchen before he was seen.

“Not bad, I’ve heard worse”, he said, in a tone which implied he’d clearly heard better too “Sounds a bit country-and-western-ish to me”.

“Oh lor!” said Adam.

“Alright if you like lyrics like ’life is an open road’”, said Bengo, having left Shag in the dining-room awaiting Dish Up “And ’making love all the night long’, that sort of thing”.

“That always sounds dreadfully tedious to me, that expression”, said Adam “I have images of two people grinding away relentlessly for hours on end until cock crow, if you’ll pardon the expression!”

“Shag wouldn’t know about any of that anyway”, said Bengo, bluntly “I don’t expect he’s ever had sex in his entire life”.

“Oh the poor little thing!” said Adam, with genuine compassion.

“BENGO!” came Bardin’s dulcet tones, approaching the kitchen door “BENGO!”

“Sometimes I seriously think of changing my name!” Bengo muttered.

“But it suits you so well, old love!” said Adam.

“I’ve just found Shag in the dining-room”, said Bardin, in outrage “And he’s got a guitar with him!”

“I’ve invited him to stay for lunch”, said Bengo, imperiously “And there’s not a thing you can do about it!”

Shag was very well-behaved during lunch. In fact he barely said a word at all, to anyone. He was too busy enjoying everything, and he thought the little pewter mugs of ale they were served were very civilised, although Bengo pointed out that they didn’t have these all the time.

“I know it all looks cushy now”, he explained, when he walked Shag to the main gates afterwards “But we’ve really known some tough old times as well. We don’t do poverty and chastity very well!”

“How do you get to join your order?” said Shag.

“There isn’t any way as such”, said Bengo “It just sorta happens”.

“You let Hoowie in”, said Shag, as if to imply that if they let Hoowie in they’d let anyone in.

“He had no one else to look after him”, said Bengo “And if he’d been left out at large he’d have probably wound up in jail, or in the nuthouse!”

“Like Dobley”, said Shag.

“We failed with Dobley”, said Bengo “But he wouldn’t try and meet us halfway. He was too wrapped up in himself. It would have helped him a lot if he’d shown an interest in other people. Bardy sometimes complains that we all spend too much time gossiping, but it helps the wheels to go round. Dobley had his head too much up his own arse though”.

When Bengo returned down the driveway to the house, enjoying the aroma of wood-smoke in the air, he noticed Bardin hanging around the stone griffins which flanked the front door, and scowling. Bengo knew that he’d take him to task for inviting Shag to lunch, and decided that if he did he (Bengo that is) would give him a good hiding. Fortunately, Bardin was distracted by a horrendous noise from the atrium. Hoowie had been instructed to take some fuel upstairs to light the bedroom fires with later, and had dropped a basket of logs down the main stairs. This kept Bardin occupied in exercising his vocal chords long enough for Bengo to hot-foot it out of the way round to the kitchen, and safety.

The bathroom was finished late that afternoon, and Adam led Hillyard, Ransey and Joby in for a tour of inspection. Adam particularly approved of having the bath-tub in the centre of the room, with the taps facing the window.

“So that one can look out at the scenery whilst one is soaking”, he mused.

“And ‘cos there are no neighbours we don’t have to have frosted glass in the windows”, said Joby.

“Quite”, said Adam “I must say Toppy has done the dressing of it very well indeed”.

Toppy had gone into the room barely a whisker after the builders had left it, and decorated it with towels, candles, plants, plus silver hairbrushes and silver shaving-brushes.

Ransey hadn’t said anything yet, but had merely walked around the room turning on taps and flushing the loo, in that way that men have.

“Go on”, said Hillyard, who had been watching him warily “Complain how much it all cost!”

“I won’t know that until the bills come in”, said Ransey “But it all seems o.k”.

“Blimey steady on, mate!” said Joby “Don’t get too carried away!”

“So this is it is it?” said Julian, coming into the room.

“Really Jules, this room is no concern of yours”, said Adam “You have your own bathroom”.

“Yeah, we want one room in the house where we’re safe from you!” said Joby.

“If this isn’t any concern of mine”, said Julian “What are my hairbrushes doing in here?”

“Oh are those yours?” said Adam “I thought they were one of Bengo’s recent acquisitions”.

“You know full well they are mine!” said Julian.

He patted Adam on the backside with one of them.

“God I do love your arse, Ada!” he said.

“Yes I had rather gathered that!” said Adam.

After Shag’s departure Bengo had begun to realise (better late than never) that Shag might have been fishing for a way to join them at the Castle. Bengo knew only too well what Bardin would say to all that, and would say at great length too, possibly for many decades to come.

Once supper was out of the way Bardin had been ceremoniously escorted to the bathroom by Toppy and Hoowie, who relayed to Bengo afterwards that they had left him reclining in the scented bath-tub in a stupor of tranquillity and contentment. Even Bengo knew though that his distant hope that his would somehow completely rob Bardin of the powers of speech for quite some while, would not come to pass.

When Bardin emerged, in his bath-robe with a towel over his shoulder, he found Bengo sat in front of the bedroom fire, in his nightshirt, looking pensive.

“Bardy!” he gulped, desperately “Isn’t it romantic having a fire in the bedroom? We can go to bed by firelight”.

“Tell me exactly what Shag said to you on the drive earlier”, said Bardin, ruthlessly.

“Oh how can I remember that, it was hours ago!” said Bengo “I’m not gonna put up with you shouting at me, Bardy. It terrifies me, it always did. That’s why when we were kids I used to go and hide up in the flies”.

“Well don’t do that here”, said Bardin “I don’t think that top floor’s particularly safe, that’s why we don’t use it much. Just give me the general gist of the conversation”.

“He asked me how anyone got to join our order”, said Bengo, miserably “It’s not my fault, Bardy. I love talking about our life together. I don’t think when anyone asks about it WHY they’re asking about it. I just like talking about it. Oh I’m going to bed, I feel wretched”.

Forlornly he went over to the big bed and climbed in. Bardin came and stood by the side of it.

“And don’t’ stand looming over me like that either”, said Bengo “You remind me of that demon at Starhanger!”

Everybody was woken in the night by Kieran having a nightmare about Angel’s Abattoir (as it had become known). Kieran was desperate that news of his bad dream should not become known at all outside the Castle.

“We’ve got Aleister on the run”, he said, after Joby had managed to bring him to consciousness “If he suspects for one minute that I might not be up to going in after Angel, then we’re done for. He’s a dangerous man to be given even the slightest scrap of power”.

After breakfast the next morning, Bengo’s worst fears were realised. Shag appeared at the back door, with his guitar in one hand, and his pathetic bundle of worldly goods in the other. He had come to stay. Adam directed Farnol to take him upstairs, and make up Dobley’s old bed for him. He then put Bengo safely in the pantry, giving him some chores in there to keep him out of Bardin’s way.

“He’s a very harmless little thing”, said Adam, who had now gone up to Julian’s room to inform him of the gladsome news “Just a little bit in a world of his own that’s all”.

“He never seems quite the full picnic if you ask me”, said Julian, who up until yesterday had barely noticed Shag’s existence on the planet “And he’s trying to look like Kieran, that’s an ominous sign”.

“Oh Jules, he looks nothing like Patsy!” said Adam.

Although he wasn’t entirely confident that this was true. Shag was small and sparsely-built, with wispy fair hair, which looked as though it hadn’t seen the attentions of shampoo and comb for quite some time. These days it hung some way down his back, which made him look like Kieran’s less charismatic brother. He didn’t have Kieran’s startling blue eyes, but there was often an other-worldly look to them (“entirely due to an absence of brain”, as Bardin would later put it).

“Well for Bengo’s sake, try not to go on about it too much”, said Adam “Bardin is going to give him a horrendous time over this”.

“No he won’t”, said Julian, firmly “Send Bardin up to see me forthwith”.

When Adam returned to the kitchen he found Joby reading the paper by the stove, and Bengo sat glumly at the table, desultorily polishing a silver-jug with a rag.

“Don’t look so distraught, old love”, said Adam “Julian has asked to see Bardin, so hopefully that should persuade him to ease up on you now”.

“It might”, said Bengo, glumly.

“Oh you know it will”, said Adam “Bardin is always much easier to deal with once he’s been tamed a little”.

“You don’t think the other clowns are gonna follow him up here do you, Adam?” said Bengo.

“No”, said Adam “Hal seems too intent on making his restaurant work to want to join us”.

“I’ll die if Hal joins us”, said Bengo “Bardy will never forgive me that one!”

“Here, things seem to be going a bit pear-shaped up in Krindei”, said Joby.

“Well it won’t do that pampered lot any harm to have a hard time for a change”, said Adam “What’s happening there then?”

“Town curfew’s been imposed”, said Joby “No one allowed out after dark, on grounds of public safety. Strange people are wandering the streets at night apparently. I wish they’d try and be a bit more bleedin’ specific!”

“Perhaps they don’t know anymore than that”, said Adam.

“Remember Dobley’s letter to Bardy!” said Bengo, excitedly “He said something about things trying to break into the clinic, I think”.

“But Dobley’s clinic is quite some way north of the city of Krindei”, said Adam “Up into the mountains. We’ll get the globe out of the library after lunch and have a look”.

“Fat lot of help that’ll be!” said Joby “Most of it seems to just have ’uncharted’ on it, and the bits that are there seem to weirdly change from one year to the next”.

“Yes it’s quite intriguing isn’t it?” said Adam “How glad I am to live in a surreal world these days, and not a sad, tragic one”.

Joby went up to his room to shave before lunch. Tamaz came and sat on the chair next to the wash-stand, coiled up like a little imp.

“If Angel is in that abattoir place”, he said “There is no way Kieran’s going to be able to go in after him, you know that as well as I do”.

“Yeah well it is a sort of vegetarian’s worst nightmare”, said Joby “I can’t say I’d be too keen meself. I objected when Mieps said she was gonna go out and shoot roe deer”.

“I know”, said Tamaz “So she told me. But we’ve had the idea that if you and he don’t want to do it, then we’ll go in after him. It doesn’t bother us”.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that”, said Joby “And Kieran doesn’t want any of this talked about outside the Castle, so don’t go blathering in the village”.

“Oh yes, that’s really likely to happen isn’t it!” said Tamaz, sarcastically “There’s me, the Gorgon’s spawn, the one who led the Ghoomers ransacking the place all those years ago, everybody’s queuing up to have a cosy chinwag with me aren’t they!”

“Behave yourself!” Joby laughed “And why are you too snooty to come and sleep in here at all these days?”

“I’d like to sometimes”, said Tamaz “But Toppy has hysterics whenever I mention it. Says he doesn’t want to be alone in the other room. Says he’ll come and sleep on the floor in here if I do. Says he misses the communal bed”.

“I wonder how that would have fitted into his book of etiquette!” said Joby.

After lunch Bengo joined Shag on one of the windowseats in the library, to find out how he was settling in. Shag had spent the morning being given a guided tour of the ground floor of the Castle by Farnol, and had been awed by the size of some of the rooms he had seen.

“I hope Bardin’s not giving you too much of a hard time, kid”, said Shag, rolling up a roll-up, as the rain pelted down on the windows.

“He’ll get over it”, said Bengo “Give or take a few centuries! At the moment he still sees you as part of the enemy camp. I guess that’ll pass …. Eventually”.

“I never had anything personal against you two”, said Shag.

“I know, a lot of it was Hal’s doing”, Bengo sighed.

“He was jealous of Bardin”, said Shag “Course, we all know now that there was summat else in the pot as well don’t we?”

Bengo shuddered at the reference to The Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name, or at least not anywhere near Bardin anyway.

“Funny though”, said Bengo “It used to be me you lot all gunned for. I was the one who most often had to take the pie-hit”.

“That’s ‘cos you was the only pretty one”, said Shag “We used to get fed up with the punters going on about ‘that little guy with the curly hair, ent he cute!’”

Bengo stuck his fingers in his mouth and imitated being sick. Shag laughed.

“You were also the nicest one of us I think”, he said.

“Come on”, said Bengo “I’ll show you round upstairs”.

“What a huge bed!” said Shag, in the Red Bedroom “Must be handy for when you’re not speaking to each other!”

“That doesn’t happen very often”, said Bengo “Unfortunately!”

Kieran and Joby’s little room by contrast seemed like a monastic cell.

“You should hear Joby complain about it”, said Bengo “I did try and jazz it up a bit by having the new china cabinet moved in here, but he complained about that as well!”

Shag spotted Kieran’s Bible and rosary beads on his bedside table.

“He really is into all that then?” he said, in astonishment.

“Yes”, said Bengo “Didn’t you think he was then?”

“Well you know”, said Shag “Some people do things just for public effect”.

“You’ve spent too long in show business!” Bengo smiled.

He took him along the atrium gallery towards Julian’s room at the far end. He knew it was safe to take him in there, as Julian was down in the Smoking Room playing cards with Hillyard, Mieps and Ransey.

“But it’s unlikely you’ll ever get called in here”, said Bengo “As I don’t expect he fancies you”.

“Story of my life!” said Shag.

He picked up Julian’s cane which was resting in an armchair, and looked at it in horror.

“Oh c’mon”, said Bengo “You know all about us”.

“I know you’re what’s called a flagellant order”, said Shag “That’s right isn’t it?”

Bengo was quite impressed that Shag knew the word, and also knew what it meant.

“Bet you can’t spell it though!” he giggled “Don’t worry, it’s not compulsory. Some of our lot aren’t into it at all. Farnol for instance, and Finia. Neither’s Ransey or Hillyard come to that. In fact the only ones that really are in it for kicks are Adam, Julian, me, Bardy, Kieran, and nobody’s quite sure about Joby!”

Bengo disappeared behind the lacquered screen in the corner, and then poked his head out again, mischievously. Shag laughed and followed him behind it.

“We sometimes call this Blow-Job Corner”, said Bengo “That’s not all that happens behind here though”.

He opened a drawer-full of paddles. Shag quailed at the sight.

“If you think that’s bad”, said Bengo “Come into the bathroom”.

Once in there he showed Shag the razor-strop hanging on the wall by the basin.

“I’m not gonna lie to you”, said Bengo “We are very disciplined. I know it probably doesn’t always look like it but things can be very strict around here. That’s only used for really serious offences though. It stings like hell”.

“You mean he’d use that on me?” said Shag.

“Oh no, Julian wouldn’t bother with you”, said Bengo, blithely “Bardy would do that. He does most of the discipline on the younger half. ’Cept Julian wallops me a lot, and of course someone has to wallop Bardy, other than me that is”.

“That happens a lot I hope?” said Shag.

Bengo laughed.

“Actually”, he said “Bardy’s only ever used the strap on Hoowie. You know what a handful he can be sometimes”.

“But you do it for pleasure as well as punishment don’t you?” said Shag “You yourself I mean?”

“Oh yes, I love being spanked”, said Bengo, with his customary disarming frankness “But I hate the strap. Fortunately Bardy’s never used it on me, and Julian tends to sue the cane more on me these days when I foul up big-time. Bardy’s got a blinkin’ good spanking arm though. When he paddles in anger it makes your eyes water!”

“What are you doing in here?” said Bardin.

“I was showing Shag round”, said Bengo.

“He doesn’t need to be shown this”, said Bardin “It’s very unlikely Julian will ever send for HIM!”

“So I’ve already been told”, said Shag, glumly.

“What have you got your hat on indoors for, Bardy?” said Bengo “Do you think the roof’s gonna leak or something?”

“With all this rain, anything’s likely”, said Bardin, taking off his cap and smoothing his hair.

“Anyway”, said Bengo “I thought it only fair that Shag should know all about the discipline, the strap and everything”.

“And if all that doesn’t put him off”, said Bardin “Nothing will!”


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