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After the tumultuous grim weather in the southern ocean, and then their (mercifully brief) stay at the truly dismal Mud Island, the soothing warmth of the Peridot area was having an intoxicating effect on most of the occupants of the galleon. To Ransey’s mind, they were acting like a bunch of over-sexed Easter bunnies. He wished they would at least tone it down until they had left port, and were back out on the isolation of the high seas.
To try and get a brief respite from this heady atmosphere, he took himself ashore to have a look around the market. It was not, as it turned out, to be a wise move. He had just finished buying a basket of mushrooms for Adam, when he was suddenly accosted by a the same heavy, thickset man who had, the day before, been scrutinising Adam and Julian at the café.
“It’s you, Mr Ransey, isn’t it?” he said, in a breathy, cigar-soaked voice.
Ransey was temporarily shocked. Out of all of them he would have thought he was one of the least recognisable.
“It’s alright”, said the man, in a very conspiratorial way “I’ve admired you for as long as I can remember. Come back to my place, there’s some work I might be able to put your way, and it’s bloody good money too”.
Ransey couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He looked around him to see if this unsavoury conversation was being noticed by anyone else. There was a Town Constable in a very dapper and sharply-ironed uniform, standing on the other side of the street, who was glancing over a them with mild curiosity. Suddenly a woman appeared at their side. She was as thickset as the man. In fact, side-by-side they resembled a brace of pepper pots. She had long poker-straight hair parted in the middle. She was quite plain, but decked out all over in gaudy jewellery, like an old Christmas tree abandoned once the season was over.
“My wife”, said the man “She’s a faith-healer, she would love to meet Kieran”.
Ransey thought there was one thing and one thing only he could do for the best at this moment, and that was to head back to the galleon as fast as he could. Without saying a word he turned and marched purposefully back through the crowd.
“Oh my goodness, you are a sexy little beast, Hoowie”, said Adam “I do think you should employ your considerable charms in keeping Julian out of the way all the time”.
He had cornered Hoowie at the bottom of the quarterdeck stairs for a chat, and had pulled him into a dark corner by the boots and outdoor clothing cupboard. He was finding Hoowie’s close proximity quite exhilarating.
“I try me best, Ad”, said Hoowie “But as the sex-kitten of the ship it wouldn’t be fair if I neglected everybody else as well”.
“Cheeky boy”, said Adam, unable to resist having a fumble in the opening of Hoowie’s sarong.
Ransey came down the steps, still clutching the basket of mushrooms, but looking visibly pale under his sun-tan.
“Are you alright, old love?” said Adam “You look as though you’ve had a nasty shock”.
“I have”, said Ransey “I’ve been recognised. And worse than that, he wants me to do a job for him!”
“And I take it you don’t mean accounts?” said Adam.
“No I don’t!” Ransey exclaimed “We need to get away from here. His wife wants to meet Kieran as well, can you believe it! We need to get away from here, NOW. Where is everybody?”
“Well all over the place”, said Adam.
Ransey passed the basket of mushrooms to him.
“I’ll go and find Umbert and we’ll try and round everybody up”, he said, walking away.
“Yes, thanks for the mushrooms by the way“, Adam called after him “Hoowie, could you pop in and tell Bardin what’s happened?”
Hoowie went into Bardin’s cabin. Bardin had been in the middle of doing an old stage-dance of his, involving much scissor-like movements to the legs, and ending in a cartwheel.
“Goddamnit Hoowie, you’re always in the way!” he said, when he sprawled into him and wound up on the floor “I don’t know how the hell you manage it!”
“Something’s happened”, said Hoowie, helping him to his feet, and he gabbled out Ransey’s tale.
“Hell!” said Bardin “He’s right, we need to weigh anchor as soon as everybody’s aboard. This is terrible news”.
“It won’t take long to round everybody up”, said Hoowie “He’s gone to find Umbert and get everybody on-board”.
“OK”, said Bardin “As soon as everybody’s on-board, the very MINUTE everybody’s on-board, we weigh anchor. Go and tell Bengo to put the kettle on. What are you waiting for?”
“Bard, I know this isn’t a good time to ask”, said Hoowie “But then again it never is. Can I help you out with your new therapy?”
“No you can’t!” said Bardin, indignantly.
“Oh I don’t mean the spanky stuff”, said Hoowie “I mean I can help you in another way. Making love. I know I’m good at that. Bengo always says I’m hot stuff in the sack”.
“Well he spends enough time in it with you, so he should know!” said Bardin, but something about Hoowie’s manner touched his thorny old heart. Hoowie was genuinely trying to please him.
“You never know”, said Hoowie “You might even remember it this time!”
“Let’s get out to sea first”, said Bardin “And then we’ll talk about this again”.
Hoowie paused to refasten his sarong, which had come undone in all the kerfuffle.
“When did you start wearing see-through drawers?” asked Bardin.
“Today”, said Hoowie “Bought ’em in town”.
“I’m sure they meet with Julian’s approval!” said Bardin, a flicker of amusement playing around his lips.
“Right, I’m pretty certain everyone’s on-board”, said Umbert, at the massed gathering in the dining-room a few minutes later.
“You are absolutely certain?” said Bardin.
“I can do a check-list if you like!” said Umbert.
“Where’s Mieps?” said Bardin “I can’t see Mieps anywhere”.
“I’m here”, said Mieps, who had been standing behind him all the time.
“Good”, said Bardin “You’re driving”.
“Let’s get going”, said Hillyard “I’ll go and get the engine cranked up. Good job we had it fixed isn’t it?”
“Yes alright!” said Bardin. He clicked his fingers imperiously at the clowns, and told them to weigh anchor at once.
Everybody scattered to their allotted tasks. Bardin went to his cabin, closely followed by Kieran.
“I can’t start it today”, said Bardin, impatiently “The therapy. I want us to get further out at sea before I can relax properly”.
“It’s alright, I just wanted to have a little chat with you”, said Kieran.
They were by now both standing by the open port-hole in the cabin. An intoxicating waft of salt-spray was coming in.
“First off, I have to decide where we’re going next”, said Bardin, anxiously.
“Oh Bardin, Bardin”, Kieran picked up Bardin’s hand and kissed it tenderly “One thing I’m hoping to achieve in the near future is to try and stop you being so controlling. I know you’re the Captain, but why can’t we just explore the high seas at random for a while?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that idea at all”, said Bardin “It’s just it’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime”.
“All that discipline you learnt in the theatre?” said Kieran.
“Yes. I liked it, bringing order out of chaos. Polishing it, honing it”, said Bardin “A straightforward sequence of events. First script read-through, lighting rehearsal, dress rehearsal, publicity stunts, first night, last night. And then start it all over again. I loved it. But”, he gave a heavy sigh “I would like to roll with things a bit more. Sail the high seas forever if needs be”.
“I’ll help you, Bardin”, said Kieran.
“You’re not going to read large chunks of the Bible at me are you?” said Bardin.
“Not unless you want me to”, he said.
“You’re just going to smack me?”
“Very hard. Very often”, said Kieran.
Bardin felt himself tingle with anticipation.
“Although Joby’s told me he’ll thrash me within an inch of my life if I’m too harsh with you”, Kieran continued.
“Joby said that?”
“Oh he gets very tender and protective towards you sometimes”.
“I thought he’d want me walloped the harder the better!” said Bardin.
“He wants you to get a good sound spanking alright”, said Kieran “But nothing brutal. No canes or straps. But I’m not Julian, I don’t get carried away, so you’ve nothing to worry about”.
“I trust you, I know that”.
“And trust is very important in this situation”.
For the next couple of days Ransey kept himself fiercely busy. He turned out parts of the hold, and he swept all the decks. In his cleaning he looked like a man hell-bent on a mission.
“Adam’s sent me up with some tea for you”, said Kieran.
“That was kind”, said Ransey, pausing in his labours.
“Trying to scrub the world clean?” Kieran asked with a half-smile.
“Is that what it looks like?” said Ransey “Damnit Kieran, I could do without idiots admiring me for being a hitman!”
“Well that sort aren’t going to admire you for being an accountant”, said Kieran.
“Nobody admires accountants”, Ransey sighed “I don’t want to be a bore about it, but it’s something I have trouble with. I’ve always prided myself on not being a violent man …”
“You’re a very un-violent man”, said Kieran “I’ve never known you to raise your hand in anger to anyone, although you did once threaten to beat the shit out of someone years ago at Wolf Castle. I can’t remember who it was now”.
“Must have been Julian surely?” said Ransey “But perhaps there’s a side to me I don’t like and I hide from”.
“No there’s not”, said Kieran “You do a job that needs to be done sometimes that’s all. I’ve never known you to take excessive pleasure from it. You’re like a surgeon hacking out a cancerous growth. It’s a horrible, cruel job, but it has to be done to stop it getting worse. If you start believing that what you’ve done is wrong, then I’ll have to start feeling sorry for any demons and vampires I’ve destroyed!”
“That would be insane”, said Ransey.
“Possibly”, said Kieran “Anyway, I’d better go down and make some more tea. I promised Adam I would”.
“Oh yes, and that’s another thing”, said Ransey “He’s taken to groping up Hoowie in dark corners. I think that needs watching. He’s probably doing it just to wind Julian up, and that’s not fair on young Hoowie”.
“Adam’s a very sexual man”, said Kieran “If he’s groping up Hoowie, it’s simply because he’s aroused by him. Mind you, if it winds up Julian as well I’m sure he’d see that as the icing on the cake!”
When he returned to the galley he found it awash with steam from some pots on the stove, in spite of Bengo’s violent attempts to try and waft it out through the port-hole.
“I don’t think the window is going to open any further, old love”, said Adam “Oh hello Patsy, how is Ransey now?”
“Not going into a long, gloomy spell of introspection I hope”, said Joby.
“Probably wisest to leave all that to you, Joby”, said Adam “Being the expert …”
“I think he’ll be alright”, said Kieran “Working it out of his system. Literally. He did say he was concerned about you getting the hots for Hoowie though. Thought you were doing it just to wind up Julian”.
“What utter nonsense!” said Adam “How am I supposed to react when Hoowie keeps shaking his butt near me!”
“It’d be just like you with your dark, Machiavellian soul”, said Joby.
“Dark, Machiavellian soul?!” Adam exclaimed.
“All that intense Scorpio sexuality”, said Joby “Like that time you ruthlessly dragged me upstairs in Husgalonghi”.
“My memory of all that may be getting a bit hazy with the passing of the years”, said Adam “But I’m pretty certain I didn’t need to drag you anywhere. Any seduction that went on was you to me, and done rather drunkenly from what I recall”.
“I wish I’d been there!” Bengo laughed “Anyway, don’t worry about Hoowie. He’s a big boy now, a fact a lot round here seem to forget sometimes”.
“Probably ’cos he don’t act like one!” said Joby.
“More like a frisky little horse I’d say”, said Adam.
“He’s been rubbing himself up against Bardy as well”, said Bengo.
“At this rate Julian’s gonna hve to put the leash back on him”, said Joby.
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