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“Where the hell did he get all of this?” said Julian, looking around him in amazement “Has he got Star Trek-style food replicators hidden all over this house?!”
Ransey walked over to one of the dining-tables in Pabbio’s big main room, and ran his hand over some of the plates piled high with fresh fruit.
“This island is made up of nothing but volcanic rock”, he said “Where can he get fresh melons, oranges and bananas from?”
“This is like Mud Island all over again”, said Hillyard.
“They never ate this well on Mud Island!” said Joby.
Pabbio drifted into the room, and Julian asked him bluntly where he acquired his fresh produce from.
“I do have deliveries occasionally”, he said.
“From where?” said Ransey “You’re in the middle of nowhere here!”
Pabbio shrugged irritatingly, and then he saw Kieran for the first time. He went over to him, and dropped to his knees, kissing Kieran’s hands. Kieran didn’t look very impressed by this show of devotion.
“We must talk, Pabbio”, he said.
They (Kieran and Pabbio) withdrew to a small side room halfway up a short flight of stairs.
“I have to ask you this”, said Kieran “Why have you never made yourself known to me before?”
“I have always been alone”, said Pabbio “I was born in the 40th century, the one you crossed into, yet I’ve always been aware I was different. When I was a child the adults whispered that I was a sorcerer. As I got older they started to speculate that I was the Vanquisher. It all felt so absurd to me. As soon as I could I ran away, not just from those I knew, but the rest of the human race. It’s a long story, I hope I get a chance to tell it to you. Unlike you, I had no friends, no loved ones, no one to lean upon for support”.
“But if you’d made yourself known to me”, said Kieran “You could have joined us”.
“I couldn’t keep track of you”, said Pabbio “Sometimes you disappeared for very long stretches of time. And then there was Angel. He’s always kept a close watch on your movements. I was frightened of drawing attention to myself. I knew I could never fight him as you did. I knew he could destroy me, as the vampires at the Winter Palace destroyed Braaw”.
“He could have destroyed me too”, said Kieran.
“But he didn’t”, said Pabbio “And all that business with Codlik. A good man gone bad. He had the potential to be one of us”.
“His ego put paid to that”, said Kieran.
“And that’s just it you see”, said Pabbio “Who is to say, that given the same level of power, my ego would not have done the same?”
“Ah now I think we’re coming to the nub of it”, said Kieran “You believe your ego would run unchecked given the chance. I don’t think it would”.
“There are very few people power does not corrupt eventually, Kieran”, said Pabbio.
“I know that”, said Kieran “I have weaknesses of ego too. I rely on the others to keep me in check at such times”.
“That’s it”, said Pabbio “You rely on the others. Who could I rely upon?”
Kieran felt that the conversation had come full-circle.
“Let’s go and rejoin them”, he said.
It was an uneasy evening. Pabbio said the whole house - in fact the whole island - was theirs to use for as long as they wished. In fact he even knew of a place around the north side of the island where they could moor the galleon discreetly out of sight. He couldn’t have been a more generous host. And yet it was still an uneasy evening.
Mostly this was because the Indigo-ites were still completely nonplussed by the whole situation. Pabbio seemed to know everything there was to know about them, and yet (in spite of his giving Kieran a potted biography of himself), they still knew next to nothing about him. And the whole situation on the island was surreal. Pabbio seemed to be the only one living there, and yet this small, frail man enjoyed a comfortable existence with seemingly little effort at all on his part. It was all SEEM SEEM SEEM. It was very hard at this stage to get beyond how everything SEEMED. Reality in this place was highly elusive.
“It’s like a box of tricks”, Bengo whispered to Joby at one stage of the evening, after he and Bardin had done a little exploring of their own “The whole house. Every time you open a door or lift up a curtain you never know what to expect. We’ve even found a whole ballroom”.
“Show me”, said Joby.
Bengo and Bardin pushed open a set of double doors and, holding candles, they led him into a cavernous, spooky place. A large dance-floor in the middle, surrounded by gilt-decorated balconies and alcoves. Dusty chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
“Blimey”, said Joby “It reminds me of Blackpool Tower!”
“A tower?” said Bengo.
“A tower with a ballroom in it”, said Joby “You’ll have to take my word for it”.
“And this is it?” said Bengo, perplexed.
“No I said it reminds me of it”, said Joby, as patiently as he could “I wonder if it’s got a pop-up organ as well!”
“Oh now you’ve got me really confused”, said Bengo.
“An organ that you play”, said Joby “A musical instrument. Not what you’re probably thinking of! It comes up out of the floor”.
“Why?” said Bengo.
“Oh for god’s sake, Bengo”, said Bardin “It’s show business, you shouldn’t need that explaining to you, and if you do, I despair!”
“Well we never had one of those”, said Bengo, sounding aggrieved.
“No I wish we had”, said Bardin “It would have been a showstopper”.
“Spooky as hell this place”, said Joby “Can’t imagine it’s been used in a good long while. Not unless Pabbio puts on shows all by himself here. I wouldn’t put that past him!”
A door nearby swung open in a cold draught, and Bardin wandered through it. He gave an agonised squeal. Bengo immediately hot-footed it after him, like a little knight on a charger. Joby followed at a more sedate pace. When he got into the corridor beyond the open door, he found Bardin standing in front of a life-size wax model of a clown, dressed in full clown’s rig-out of baggy checked jacket, trousers and kipper tie. Joby burst out laughing.
“You squealed like a girl!” he said.
“Well I wasn’t expecting to see HIM standing there was I!” said Bardin.
He grabbed Bengo and pulled him in front of him.
“What’s the matter?” said Joby “Frightened our friend here’s gonna drag you off down into Clowns’ Hell?”
“I wouldn’t put anything beyond this house!” said Bardin.
“I used to have a pair of shoes just like that”, said Bengo, pointing at the outsized footwear the waxwork was wearing.
“That doesn’t surprise me”, said Joby.
“We all did, twerp”, said Bardin to his partner.
“I know”, said Bengo “I’m just saying I did”.
“Behave, you two”, said Joby “Or I’ll leave you with old laughing-boy here”.
“Perhaps Pabbio secretly longs to be a clown”, said Bengo, with a distinct note of hope in his voice.
“This place goes on forever”, said Bardin, shining his torch down the endless length of corridor “How can he live here all alone?”
“We don’t know that he does”, said Joby “We’ve only got his word for it that he’s all alone here”.
“You think there might be others around?” said Bengo.
“Dunno”, Joby shrugged “It’s big enough to hide anybody, and we’ve only got his word on anything, that’s what bothers me more ’en anything else”.
Suddenly, in the near distance, a blare of jolly Tyrolean-style accordion music went up.
“Now what the bleedin’ hell’s going on?” said Joby “I can’t believe this place is happening!”
In the main living-area an atmosphere of almost manic jollification was taking place, with Pabbio, at the centre of it all, looking like a ghost who had been unexpectedly brought back to earth and was thoroughly enjoying the experience. The only one who didn’t seem to be enjoying himself very much was Julian, who was sitting smoking a cigar and trying to look as contemptuous as possible.
“Did we hear you cry out just now, Bardin?” said Adam.
Bardin explained (somewhat huffily) about the waxwork clown.
“Oh I thought you’d like him”, said Pabbio “I got a number of clown things in, especially for you”.
“Got them in from where?” Bardin barked “Please tell us where you get all this stuff from!”
“EBay?” said Joby.
Pabbio looked round at them all like a teacher who was about to spring a nice surprise on his pupils.
“I produce it”, he said.
“What?” said Bardin “You mean you just magic things out of thin air?!”
“If you like”, said Pabbio “I’m like The Man Who Could Work Miracles. I can do things like that”.
This statement didn’t quite have the impact on the party that perhaps Pabbio would have wished. It went flat after that, and rapidly broke up. No one doubted what he was saying. On the contrary, it seemed all too plausible where he was concerned. But it was simply too much to take in at once.
They drifted back to the galleon in dribs and drabs. Kieran found Joby sitting on the main deck, leaning forward with his head in his hands.
“Come along Joby”, Kieran whispered, gently but firmly “Let me take you below and sort you out”.
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