Pluto's Child

by DJ

Chapter 5


In the Roberts house, Jean and Evan wanted to know the details as tea came to an end and they watched Sandy across the table. Sandy knew he would have to tell them eventually and now he wished he hadn't had to come home to pack his gear for college. He stared down at his half empty teacup and thought about Trish doing exactly the same thing and feeling exactly the same way in the Beresford house. Neither of them had wanted the ordeal of telling the tale twice over and had agreed to split up for the evening, each one tackling their respective parents. Now it had happened and Sandy longed for Trish at his side as he glanced up at last and caught his dad's eye. "Well?" Evan asked him. "Are you, goin' to tell us or not, then? You don't 'ave to if you don't want to, we'd understand, wouldn't we, Jean?"

Jean wasn't so sure. "Better out than in, though, seein' as it was so bad, love. Prays on the mind, it does."

"Aye, it was bad." Sandy stared down into his teacup. "It wasn't an accident."

"What!" Shocked, his parents looked at each other and then stared across the table.

"The bodyguard sittin' in the front passenger seat was injured but 'e regained consciousness last night. The police interviewed 'im and 'e said the chauffeur deliberately drove into the lorry. He didn't know why. The car clipped the lorry and rolled over several times, and the following cars ran into it."

"A suicide bid?"

"Could be, only, because it concerns Gypsy, the police aren't ruling out attempted murder."

"Why should they think that, then?" Jean asked.

"It won't be the first time someone's tried to kill Gypsy, will it? Remember last year at the Webster Theatre when a lightin' gantry fell from the flies. Gypsy managed to dive out of the way, and the police were called in when the stage-hands found some of the ropes 'ad been cut through. Erskine told me there 'ave been several small incidents like that, and they thought they weren't connected. Now the police are siftin' through all the reports to see if there's a link somewhere."

"Well, Erskine will 'ave to increase security won't 'e?"

"If Gypsy pulls through. There wasn't much we could do, except to bathe 'is face and put cream on 'is lips. All dry and cracked, they were! And the oxygen made 'im dry so we fed 'im drinks and wiped 'is mouth out and that, you know? It 'urts me to see 'im like that, it really does, but what can we do? The worst part was when 'e demanded to know 'ow Shana was, and Manuel 'ad to tell him about 'er dyin'. Cried a lot, 'e did. If it 'adn't been for Erica..." A lump came into his throat and he took a deep breath and pulled himself together. "As time goes on 'e spends more time awake and 'e watches 'er. Today they took 'im back to the theatre to 'ave more work done on his legs. 'E was in a lot of pain again afterwards. They wouldn't let us see 'im, so we decided to come 'ome and get packed now so we can spend more time with 'im later. Rosscroft is movin' him to his clinic at the end of this week, so we'll want to be with 'im as long as we can, won't we?"

Evan nodded. "Of course; we understand, lad. Don't worry about your bags. Just put what you need to pack on your bed; me and Mam will pack it all up and have it ready for when you come back, isn't that right Jean?"

Sandy saw his mam's lips tighten as she got up and turned away from the table "We could do with another cup of tea." Sandy remembered what she had said on his wedding day. Poor Mam!

Sandy and Trish stayed with Gypsy till the last possible moment before leaving for London, glad that he was improving and beginning to take an interest in people other than Erica. When at last they went to say goodbye for the last time they were surprised to find Erskine, Ed and Jo in Gypsy's room with Manuel. "What's this, then; a gatherin' of conspirators?"

"You could say that." Manuel stepped back to let Sandy and Trish approach the bed and Gypsy smiled weakly at them.

"I suppose you've come to say goodbye."

"I'm afraid so, mate," Sandy replied. "College starts the day after tomorrow isn'it?"

Behind them Manuel said, "There really is no need for you to say goodbye, you know." He came to stand beside Trish. "Chilvers has loads of room for you to come and stay with us. Monclare has decided the best place for Gypsy would be the London Rosscroft, not the Northern. I'm sure Gypsy would love to have you close enough to visit, and when he comes home, you'll be company for him." Sandy and Trish stared at each other in stunned surprise and Manuel laughed. "I mean it, Sandy. Gypsy's London Studio apartment is due for urgent repairs so you wouldn't be able to live there for long. So, you do not have a choice, unless you have somewhere else to go."

Gypsy's weary voice made Sandy look down at him. "Our cars would be at your disposal so our new chauffeur would take you to and from college and take Trish to work every day so what's the problem? I would love you to stay with me. Please say yes."

Sandy glanced round at Trish. "It's up to you, Cariad."

Trish bit her lip, then said, "No, Sandy, it's up to you," even if she didn't look too pleased at the idea.

Sandy's heart leapt. Did she really mean it? "All right, it's a deal."

"Well now," Ed's big voice boomed out. "That sure is one problem out of the way. I guess Jo and me could use a piece of that house too. How about it Gypsy?"

Gypsy moved his head, as far as he dare, to try and look at Ed and Jo standing with their arms about each other. "What's happened to the kiosk all of a sudden?"

"Times are changing," Jo said. "Blackpool's Golden Mile is under review and it looks like it's time for us to move out, and we only rent our house on a six month renewable contract which will need renewing at the end of this month if we want to stay. In any case who'd look after Miss Loud Mouth here, if I'm not around? That baby of yours is going to be a handful before she's much older."

"And another thing," Ed chipped in again. "I passed all my exams and I am now a qualified Physical Therapist, and guess who my first guinea pig is gonna be?" He pointed a finger at Gypsy. "You and me have got work to do."

Gypsy stared at him, swallowed hard and closed his eyes. "What is the point? I'll never walk again, I know that."

"Bullshit!" Ed walked round the opposite side of the bed and leaned down with one hand planted against the wall while the other reached down to take hold of Gypsy's left hand. "You want to get off this contraption they call a bed, don't you? I did it for Shana and I'll do it for you, but you've got to want that and real bad too, 'cos it's gonna be tough, Gypsy; damned tough. There'll be times, just like this one, when you'll want to give up, you'll feel like sticking a knife in my guts for pushing you so hard, you'll bawl your head off 'cos your body won't do what it's supposed to do, but I won't let you give up; no sir. I'll bully you and be one heluva bastard but I'll get you on your feet."

"But the doctor said -."

"Didn't you listen to Monclare? He said maybe, and that means it's up to you. You had the will to live and you got this far when the doctors were giving up on you. You're halfway there, kid, why stop now?"

Gypsy studied Ed's dark face for a moment. "I can be a bastard too; do you think you could handle me?"

Ed gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "You bet I can. Meanwhile, you've got yourself a mighty good substitute mother for Erica. It's only right Jo should want to take care of her sister's baby, so you've got us both, for free. All we need to do is get a few pairs of hands around the place to help me get you on your feet again."

Undecided, Gypsy looked up at his father in silent plea for advice, Manuel smiled softly and nodded his approval, and at the foot of the bed Erskine and Jo did the same. Gypsy closed his eyes again with a weary sigh. "All right, I'll try. "

He licked his lips and Ed reached for a glass of water. He slipped the flexi-straw between Gypsy's lips. "You're doing fine, kid. All we have to do now to is get you down to London where Monclare can work his magic, then it's home to Chilvers."

"And the sooner the better," Erskine piped up. "Then we can talk about earning the bread to pay the ruddy bills with."

Sandy glared at him. "You must be jokin', man."

"Indeed I am not," Erskine said firmly.' "It's his voice I'm interested in, not his bones. Being flat on his back or in a wheelchair isn't going to stop him warbling, and it's his warbling that makes the money."

Manuel rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Sandy may have a point though, Erskine. It does seem a little early to talk about work."

"In this kind of business, Manuel, the longer he delays getting back on the bike after falling off, the further he goes down the road to obscurity, and the harder it will be for Gypsy to get back where he belongs, on the top rung of the ladder. And remember, pop fans are fickle people. They soon turn their attention elsewhere and find another star to follow."

Gypsy's head moved restlessly on the pillow. "Who says I want to get back on top?"

Erskine planted his hands on the foot of the bed and looked him straight in the eye. "Look, sonny, I've been in this business for a long, long time. I've seen stars give up, and not one was happy they stepped down off the stage. Remember Shana wanting to dance again after she saw you performing? There'll be a time when you'll feel just the same. Right now, work is the farthest thing from your mind and I can understand that. But you're a fighter and you won't stay down for long. You're only eighteen and already you've been through a life time of being kicked where it hurts, but on the way up you've picked up a professional polish a lot of stars take years to achieve. Why waste it?

"When I saw you at Bernie's and said I was interested in managing you, I picked you out because I could smell the greasepaint in you. I've managed some good acts in my time and if you give up now, you'll be the first to prove my nose wrong." Turning away, he picked up his bowler hat from a chair. "What you're feeling now is a natural reaction after the accident. Get over it and give me a ring, right?" He nodded to the others and walked towards the door. "See you at Chilvers, Manuel. We've still got an album to finish."

Sandy saw Gypsy's troubled eyes follow Erskine, and wished he could help him decide what to do, but it was a choice Gypsy had to make on his own; no-one could make it for him. He alone knew whether he could carry on without Shana. Sandy glanced up and saw Manuel watching him. Was he thinking the same thing? At last, as Erskine opened the door, Gypsy said, "How do I get a bed into a studio, Erskine?"

Smiling, Erskine opened the door but looked over his shoulder at Gypsy. "You don't. You build the studio round your bed, sonny. There's plenty of room in that house of yours. We'll convert one of the utility rooms on the ground floor into a lift space to get you and your bed down to the recording studio."

"It would cost too much," Gypsy argued.

"Chicken and egg time, sonny. You speculate to accumulate."

"The trust's gone and you know it."

"I'm not sure that's true," Manuel said. "The Graftons did not want you to know till everything was settled but there is still a sizeable chunk of Tony's capital invested in several lucrative deals. Also, when Peter tried to get the trust invalidated on the grounds that you broke the conditions of the trust, they fought him in the high court and won. The judge ruled that it was Peter, and not you, who had brought the name of Grafton into disrepute.. It was Peter's meddling that made the whole thing so cheap and sordid. Now you have the full backing of the Grafton family; not just Edward and Thomas."

"I didn't know. When did all this happen?"

"While you've been building a career on stage, the Grafton's have been bulldozing Peter through the courts. So, part of the trust that wasn't released to pay for Chilvers is still intact and the Graftons have invested Tony's money on your behalf, the original two hundred thousand pounds now stands at half a million after tax." and while Gypsy gaped at him and Sandy and Trish stared in astonishment, he added, "You still have most of what Tony put in your own account plus the sale of the Visick Street house. I know you want to pay off the mortgage on your grandparents' farm as security for their old age but you will still have more than enough to get you started again, wouldn't you say, Erskine?"

The burly manager nodded. "Short-term only, mind. You'll have enough to carry on till the pennies start dropping into the piggy bank again, but it won't last forever. You still need to pay staff at Chilvers and keep that place going, and don't forget you have your investors' dividends to pay."

"I don't know." Gypsy shook his head. "It's a gamble."

"All life's a gamble, sonny," Erskine insisted. "Why not start putting that money to good use. It's what Tony gave it you for, isn't it? Never did anyone any good lying in the bank. Look at it this way, too many people have the idea you're a write-off, in other words your backers aren't your backers no more, except me and my mother who'd never dream of ditching you. You're on your own, son, and you'll have to finance you own comeback. It's a gamble, like you said, but you can do it."

Gypsy chewed over Erskine's words in silence, his eyes searching ceiling, then as Erica began to stir, his eyes moved to the mirror. "It takes a lot of money to bring up a child. If I did go back to work it would only be for Erica."

"Then do it for her!" Erskine said with a confident air; suddenly his cigar waved in the air. "I'll go back to London and get things moving. You'll need the gang from TAB Records to engineer things, of course?"

"I'd like to try things myself, with Sandy as musical arranger and director."

"Me!" Sandy yelped. "What's wrong with John Parton?"

"You wrote most of my songs, Sandy, it is time you had a say how they are recorded." Gypsy smiled sleepily. "Now you'll have to live at Chilvers whether you want to or not."

"I think I'd better live there too," a voice said behind Erskine. He turned to find Sean Higgins standing in the doorway. Blinking owlishly behind his glasses, he smiled at Gypsy and said, "My contract with the Rosscroft is about to finish; I'm only a supply nurse, you see, and I was hired specially to look after you. I'll be looking for a new job soon and you'll need a qualified nurse for some time yet, Gypsy. If you feel I've done an adequate job, I'd be happy to carry on the role of carer." He shrugged his shoulders. "Better the devil you know, eh?"

Back in his own room, Sean opened his clam mobile and chose a number from his address book. Once he was through, he said, "I'm in."

"Any problems?" a voice said in his ear.

"Nope; piece of cake. They bought it; they need a nurse and I'm it."

Rudkin looked up from reading a report on the crash that killed Shana O'Riley as his duty sergeant ushered a tiny sparrow of a woman into his office. He rose to his feet and shook her hand. "Hello Mrs. West, I'm sorry you lost your husband in such a traumatic way. Manuel Diaz told me he was a superb chauffeur. Please sit down. Now, Mrs. West, I believe you want to talk to me about him."

"Yes, I…I…feel awful."

"About what?"

Mrs. West reached into her handbag and brought out a folded document. She passed it to Rudkin and he unfolded it to reveal a bank statement. "Why are you showing me your bank statement, Mrs. West?"

"Look at a credit entry for 28th August 1998." Rudkin found the entry and stared at the amount, then looked up to find Mrs. West nodding her head as tears flowed down her cheeks. "Yes, Mr. Rudkin; there is no way my husband could earn that kind of money even on the generous salary Mr. Diaz paid him. I knew he was tearing his hair out, about leaving the kids and I without a father to support us. Someone must have known Bill was dying of cancer and must have offered him the money to kill himself and Mr. and Mrs. Diaz as well. Now what am I going to do? I could never accept money connected to a crime. I'll have to give it back but I don't know who it's from, and the insurance company will only pay a reduced amount because Bill committed suicide."

"I'm sorry, to hear this, Mrs. West. Do you have any other finance?"

"Only my widow's pension."

"I see. Well, I don't see why your honesty should leave you in distress. Do you know who this Mr. Vine is that paid this into your account?"

"As I said, sir, I don't know who he is or where he can be contacted."

"In that case I'll investigate the matter. Leave it with me and I'll see what I can do. Thank you for coming to see me."

As soon as Mrs. West had left the office, Rudkin phoned Edward Grafton. "You were right Edward. The chauffeur was got at, to the tune of two hundred thousand pounds. That makes Gypsy a very expensive target for someone."

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