"Oh great!" Gypsy groaned. Erskine rose to his feet but Gypsy waved him back. "All right, Barney, you had better send them up."
"Right-o, they're on their way."
Gypsy switched off the intercom and threw the lift lock to open; the light changed to green and Gypsy came back to the settees and sat on the arm of the nearest one with his arms folded tightly. Erskine and Ed exchanged knowing glances. Gypsy was just in the mood to blast someone, and his two dancers were right in the firing line.
The lift arrived and the doors opened. Denny and Paula, clad in practice gear under their outdoor jackets, entered the room. They were angry eyed and stared defiantly at Gypsy as they strode towards him. The boy pointed an accusing finger at Erskine. "That creep fired us yesterday, did he tell you?"
"He didn't have to. I sacked you because you broke your contracts."
"We've done nothing," Paula lisped. "We've been with you for a whole year and we've been loyal to the team, tho how can we have broken our contraths?"
"You know the rules, Paula," Gypsy said shortly, "You two have been taking and dealing drugs."
Denny groaned and looked away guiltily, "That! A few uppers, that's all."
Paula lisped defensively, "It ithn't ath if we're on the hard drugths."
"I am not interested in what you are on," Gypsy snapped, "you read your contracts before you signed them. They state quite clearly that I'm against anyone on my team taking drugs other than for medical purposes, from myself to the staff who clean the toilets. They also state that anyone found using drugs other than those approved by our own company doctor will face instant dismissal, and that is what you are facing now."
Denny glared at him. "We're the best dancers you've got and you know it."
"I know that," Gypsy replied, "and that is what makes me so angry. Madame Marsaud and I trained you ourselves because we thought you had the potential and the talent to be great performers one day. I realize now that we've been wasting our time."
Denny snorted in disgust. "What a fuss you're making over a couple of pep pills."
At last, Gypsy's control snapped. "I make a fuss because the Chilvers Project involves abused kids we're hoping to return to society. Last week, Madame had a little girl, no more than fifteen, collapse during ballet class, and yesterday two boys from the Chilvers Project were found in the second floor changing room in a drugged stupor. All three had bought and used drugs supplied by you two; and it certainly wasn't pep pills they were on either. I know what drugs can do, I have been there and it almost killed me; so now you know why I won't have drugs on these premises or at Chilvers, or used by any of my team. Now go and pack your things and get out of here, if I see or hear of you setting foot in this building again, I will inform the authorities of your activities."
Denny's face split with a sneer. "You won't tell the police, you wouldn't want the publicity linked with this place."
Gypsy fixed him with a mystical stare. "Perhaps I don't need to tell anyone, the parents of those three children might already have done that."
Denny's face went white, and he swallowed hard while Paula stared up at him, obviously waiting for him to decide what to do and willing to follow his lead, like the sheep she was.
Gypsy pointed to the lift. "Will you go now, please? I don't want to have Barney publicly turn you and your girl out into the street."
Denny decided it was time to leave, but as he dragged Paula with him towards the lift, he pointed a finger at Gypsy. "I won't forget this,O'Riley. I know things about you and you're due for a nasty fall. Then we'll see what your damned halo is made of."
No one moved till the lift doors had closed, and for a few seconds the film of life had stuck in the projector of time, producing a still frame. Then Erskine coughed and Gypsy came to life with a frown on his face. Ed rose to his feet and stretched. "You should've told the cops about them two, you know that?"
"Not yet." Gypsy walked towards the lift to call it back, the prophecy obviously forgotten much to Sandy's disappointment. "You heard what Denny said just now. I think I'll have Barney follow them for a while; it could be they're connected with the letters I've been getting. Come on, it is time we did some work, before Madame blows a fuse."
Suite two was the largest in the building with its own showers, changing rooms, and secondary practice rooms; the main room had a low ceiling with mirrors and bars lining three of the walls. A low two-tier balcony ran along the fourth where those conducting the activities could command a good view of those even at the back of the room. On the lowest level a long desk stood with several chairs tucked under it, and on the higher one a row of chairs for visitors. On the long desk was a microphone to eliminate the need to shout, and air conditioning in the whole suite provided a comfortable atmosphere for both dancers and observers.
The room was softly lit with semi-diffused lights that created a restful mood, calming butterflies in sensitive stomachs among the eight hundred plus applicants who filled the room with busy talk, some limbering up, other practising their individual routines. Still others relaxed on the floor on the edge of the room and watched Patrick, Gypsy's red haired Irish lead dancer, teaching the last twenty arrivals the short dance they were expected to perform for the audition, and this was the scene which met Sandy's eyes as he followed Gypsy's small entourage into the suite. The music stopped and the chatter faded at the appearance of the one person who at the end of the day could make dreams come true for some and sadden the hearts of many others. A middle aged lady in clerical grey, glasses, and dark hair swept up into a severe bun, stepped up off the floor to join Gypsy at the desk, her starchy appearance softened by radiant smile as Gypsy greeted her. He introduced her to Sandy as his dance secretary, Sarah Babbing.
Behind her, Madame fixed Gypsy with a scolding glare for being late, and as Sara and Erskine took their places at the desk, Gypsy hugged Madame's annoyance away till she smiled and told him not to be such a silly little school boy after his teachers favours. Weeks ago, Sarah had issued each applicant with a number, prepared an information card for each number and had filled in all relevant details of each applicant's details. As Gypsy sat down with Madame, Sarah pushed the first twenty cards towards him. He waved Sandy to a seat on the upper level beside Ed, reached for the microphone and addressed the dancers.
"Good morning, everyone; welcome to the Shana Royle Studios. There are over eight hundred of you here today and I am sorry I cannot accommodate you all in my plans. However, those of you who get through to this afternoon's second audition but are not chosen for my teams will be given a special introduction which can be used as a personal reference from me at other auditions at these studios run by other producers and companies. Now, as you know, my dancers have just returned from a murderous tour of Europe and the Far East, and they do need a rest. Next month we start a provincial tour of the UK, so I've decided to split the tour and create two new teams; one to cope with the northern venues and the other to cope with the southern ones, and I will be commuting between the two, with one team resting for a few days while the other team takes over. Some of you may have heard that these new teams are only temporary. That depends on the success of the tour. What I will probably do is to take the best out of each team to form a permanent one. I also have my own Children's Christmas Show to raise funds for The Chilvers Project, for which I'll need twenty dancers. This, of course will be a one off event. For the show I have the honour of the assistance of Henry Bernard as co-choreographer.
A murmur of surprise ran through the waiting dancers as Gypsy continued. "After the auditions close, the last thirty I select for my teams, and the dancers picked for the Christmas Show, will meet Mr. Bernard and I in my private studio on the fourth floor. Now, back to this audition; I'm not looking for perfection at this stage, "co-but it is essential that you show me your personalities. I want to see
free and relaxed movement, neat and fresh interpretation of instruction, and your reaction to the music. Perfection will come to those who are chosen through the tuition of Madame Marsaud and myself, from whom I still take lessons. We will teach you the standard we demand. After the routine my lead dancer, Patrick, has taught you, we will play music from selected tapes for you to improvise to.
"During this preliminary audition, if someone taps you on your shoulder, will you please step into the rest room at the back of this room. Those remaining on the floor at the end of the audition will be asked to leave as quietly as possible with our thanks for turning up. The one hundred chosen dancers will be invited to use their own CDs and perform their own individual pieces during the second audition. I know this will seem a bit upside down to what you are used to, but with so many turning up I feel it's the best way to work. I have an idea in my mind what I am looking for, but I can't explain it until I see it in you. If I see it in a dancer, he or she will definitely dance this afternoon in the second audition. It does not mean that those not chosen in the second audition are not good dancers. Their names will be kept on record and offered places in future auditions. Is there anyone among you who does not understand? Great! Thank you, can we have dancers numbered one to thirty on the floor, please?"
By one-o-clock the numbers had been reduced to the one hundred possibilities and, despite the two breaks Gypsy had insisted upon, he looked tired as he leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms above his head. Lowering them he did a few shoulder circles while he listened to what Erskine was saying. Ed had gone upstairs to help Jo prepare lunch for Gypsy and his guests, so Sandy went down to him, placed his hands either side of Gypsy's neck and began massaging the stiffened muscles as he had often seen Ed do. A groan of relief escaped Gypsy's lips. "Ah, that's better. Thank you. All these dancers are good; I wish I could use them all.
"I agree." Madame gazed down at the dancers filing out of the room for a well-deserved lunch break. "But enough of zees work, Gypsy, you need rest now. You go upstairs and 'ave Eddie make you loose, no?"
"Sound's a good idea," Erskine growled before Gypsy could protest. "You've done enough down here for now." He glanced at his watch and sprang to his feet with a look of horror. Is that the time? Hell Fire, I'll get my ears clipped. Got a lunch date I daren't miss."
"Oh yes?" Gypsy grinned up at him: "Blonde or brunette?"
Erskine pushed his face close to Gypsy's and said in a mock, cockney accent, "She 'appens to 'ave white 'air, wears false teef, an' takes an 'ot water bottle to bed wiv 'er, even though 'er 'ouse is central 'eated, and 'er name is Muvver; all right, Smarty Pants?"
And above Gypsy's fit of giggling, Madame piped up, "I too 'ave zee' lunch date, Mr. Trumble. Per'aps you would escort me down to zer ground floor, you know 'ow I 'ate zee lift on my own."
Erskine beamed down at her and offered her his arm. "Madame, it will be a pleasure!" They left the suite arm in arm, leaving Sandy and Gypsy to make their way up to the penthouse on their own. Gypsy's step was slow as he headed towards the private lift and by the time they reached the apartment his face was strained. Ed rose from one of the settees with a scowl of annoyance. "I told you it was too soon. All this work when you should still be in that damned chair! One of' these days, kid, you're gonna listen to me."
"Yeah, I hear you." Gypsy's smile was tight as he limped towards the main bedroom. "If I didn't work, there would be no money to pay you, and you wouldn't have to growl at me, so I work to pay you to growl at me; Catch Twenty Two." And with a grunt of exasperation, he disappeared from view. By the time Ed and Sandy followed him in, he was already stretched out on his bed, waiting for Ed to sit down beside him and start work on his aching muscles. Ed did sit down but made no move to massage the pain away. Gypsy caught his eye and raised his head off the pillows, to look at him properly. "Something's wrong?"
"There was a phone call from the Rosscroft while you were downstairs. Monclare's been going over your notes again and he's been talkin' to an American consultant friend of his. He wants the guy to have a look at you before the he goes back to the States on Saturday. Monclare' s booked you an appointment for two thirty tomorrow."
Gypsy blinked at him, his eyes filling with apprehension. "But Monclare said he would leave me alone till after the Saturday gig!"
"I know," Ed said as gently as he could, "but from what Monclare's secretary was saying, he doesn't want you to miss seeing this guy." He took hold of Gypsy's left arm and started on the shoulder muscles. "Best not miss a chance to find out what's what, kid."
Gypsy sighed his annoyance and relaxed against the pillows. "What can this man find that Monclare hasn't already? I can't take much more of this messing around."
"Yeah, I know." Ed soothed him as his hands worked down the arm. "One thing's sure, it'll be a theatre job so I'll want you fit and rested by the morning. I'll need to prep you good if those guys are going to pull you about some. Best leave the audition to Madame and Patrick, and come back to Chilvers."
Gypsy shook his head firmly. "I'm going nowhere. I can't let these kids down; I'll finish the audition first."
Ed's lips tightened for a moment, and then he relented. "All right; no sense in trying to drag a stubborn mule where he doesn't want to go. But you've got to promise to stay put now, y'hear? You've got till two thirty to rest easy; I'll even spoon feed you if I have to, y'hear me now?"
Gypsy suddenly giggled at the thought. "I have never been fed sandwiches on a spoon before. Yes, oh master, I'll stay put."
Satisfied, Ed brought extra pillows and after placing them under Gypsy's knees, arms and the small of his back, he and Sandy left Gypsy to sleep. Back in the lounge Ed's lips tightened again as he went to the phone and lifted the receiver. As soon as he was connected with the reception desk, he asked for Sarah. "Try and reach Manuel will you, there's a doll. Yeah...he's in Geneva...Tell him we've heard from Monclare...yeah, he'll understand." Replacing the receiver he raised worried eyes towards Sandy. "I don't have the heart to tell him myself. I guess you were right after all, kid. Monclare's worried."
Sandy stretched his arms aloft and yawned, swung his feet off the settee and sat up. Ed lay sprawled on the opposite settee, eyes closed, snoring softly. He had certainly earned his rest, Sandy mused. Gypsy had never been the ideal patient. Ed and Sean took a lot of verbal abuse off him which they took in their stride, knowing Gypsy didn't mean anything he said in temper but had no-one else to vent his frustrations on and substituted Ed and the medic for mental punch-bags.
From Ed's prone position, things seemed not to have altered much, the man's mental clock and sense of alarm waking him seconds before Gypsy called him, just as he woke now, eyes shooting open, head raised to check his watch. He cocked one ear to listen for the summons, and was totally unprepared for the little brown bundle that launched itself at him and jumped onto his chest.
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