"Wake up, you lazy fing." Erica's shrill voice pierced the air as she jumped up and down on him." I wanna see my Daddy."
"Hey dere! Who you calling a lazy fing?" He wrapped his muscular arms round the little tot and growled in her ear while pretending to squeeze her to death.
Jo came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel, and smiled at the pair of them. "Still lively, I see? You'd never believe she spent the whole morning dragging me round Hyde Park would you? That's her latest phrase, by the way. Anyone lying around the place is 'You lazy fing' and gets jumped on till they get up. The trouble is she can't tell the time yet and ends up running into people's bedrooms at the most ungodly hours."
Unaware of her Aunt's remarks, Erica squealed happily and fought Ed but lost the battle when the friendly giant held her aloft by the straps of her blue dungarees and stood up to raise her to a lofty height. Her dusky face screwed up with childish glee as she chuckled down at him. Suddenly he dropped her and she landed across his left shoulder, trapped by one arm across her thighs while he slapped her backside smartly. Hanging down his back Erica spotted Sandy and her laughter faded. She wriggled back over Ed's shoulder and sat in his arms, staring fixedly at the stranger.
"Who's this, Erica? Uncle Sandy? You remember your Daddy tellin' you about Sandy and Trish, don't you? Well this here is Sandy. How about saying hello?" Erica's stare was coldly calculating, and had her father's penetrating way of looking at people and sizing them up. Sandy wondered if she too had inherited the mystic gift of second sight.
Slowly her face broke into a confident smile of acceptance. Ed kissed her. "You wanna see your Daddy? Okay, China Doll, let's go and see if he's awake yet." He started across the lounge, swinging the child about like a rag doll and bringing from her a series of gurgles and squeals that had Sandy grinning as he followed them.
As they opened the bedroom door the lift bell rang and Jo went to answer it. Ed walked to the left hand side of the bed and put Erica down while Sandy went to the other side. Gypsy opened his eyes and Sandy saw the agony in them, Ed leaned over him. "Why in hell didn't you call me, you damned fool."
"It's been worse." Gypsy turned his head to look at Erica peeping over the edge of the bed. "Hi, Baby? How did you get here?"
"Jo had some shopping to do and brought her along for the ride." Ed explained "Spent more time in Hyde Park than anywhere else." He poured a glass of water and took a tablet out of a bottle on the bedside table. He held them out towards Gypsy and Gypsy's face went tight as he raised himself up on one elbow. After Gypsy had taken the tablet Erica climbed onto the bed and cuddled into him, chattering like a squirrel about the things she had been doing in Hyde Park. Ed and Sandy were temporarily forgotten as Gypsy lay back against the pillows Ed put behind him, and father and daughter gave their full attention to each other. Ed raised an eyebrow at Sandy and the two of them decided to leave them alone for a few minutes. Going back into the lounge, they found Erskine Trumble sitting talking to Jo and Edward Grafton and a short, narrow faced middle-aged man Sandy vaguely remembered as Winston K. Tillet, the senior partner and managing director of TAB Records.
Grafton was a fine specimen of the well-preserved man, tall and slender, grey hair carefully kept, and not a mark or a crease in his neat pin-stripe suit. It was the eyes that made Sandy think of Anthony in the photographs Gypsy had shown him, same dark sparkle. Their eyes met and they nodded and smiled at each other.
"Ah, Ed," Erskine rose from the settee, waited till he was within whispering distance, then said guardedly, "I've just told Grafton the news. How's Gypsy taking it?"
"I haven't told him!" Ed replied in a low voice.
"Damn!" Erskine frowned. "What did Monclare say exactly?"
"He didn't give us any more details but I know he's worried."
"Is it true Gypsy's going back to the Rosscroft?" Tillet's reedy voice cut across their conversation. "Will he have to stay for long?"
Ed glanced round at him, hard eyed. "Don't you ever put business outa your mind, Winston? We all know why you're here and it isn't about G ypsy's welfare!" He indicated his forehead. "All I can see is next month's balance sheet ticking across here in coloured lights and bank-notes. Your piggy ears have been soaking up the scuttlebutt again, haven't they? Why don't you leave the scandal mags in the trash can where they belong?"
"Easy, Ed!" Erskine warned him.
Tillet's face was tight as he fought to control his temper. "I heard a whisper about Hine Records. I'll admit we ARE concerned. If Gypsy isn't fit enough to carry on, we'll have to put our finances behind another name. Gypsy has to make his mind up soon, Erskine. We can't hold his contract open forever. We've given him a month's extension as it is, as well you know!"
Ed turned away in disgust and Grafton coughed to gain Tillet's attention. He spoke in a deep voice with precise diction. "We all appreciate what you have done for Gypsy, Winston, but do remember he bailed you out in ninety eight when you were a half a million in the red. There aren't many record companies who can boast their biggest asset was earning them money while still flat on his back in plaster."
Tillet rewarded Edward Grafton with a cold smile. "If you knew a bit more about the recording industry, Edward, you'd realise that although we are grateful for what Gypsy did for us in the past, we can't afford at this moment to be too generous with our time."
Grafton nodded graciously. "I took a look at the new contract, Winston. It would seem you cannot afford to be too generous with your cash either."
"It's the best we can offer, for the moment."
"Then as Gypsy's financial advisor, I shall tell him not to sign the contract."
"Why?" Tillet snapped, never knowing how to handle a man like Grafton. His eyes flitted quickly round the gathering. "Has Jerry Hine been gazumping us?"
"Not to my knowledge." Sandy watched Grafton flick an imaginary fleck of dust off the sleeve of his jacket. "Unless of course they have put in a new offer, since I talked with Jerry last week."
Tillet stood up, his anger finally reaching his eyes. "Then, gentlemen, I can only assume that Gypsy Diaz is no longer interested in remaining with TAB Records."
"Now hold on, Winnie," Erskine said sharply, "we didn't say that, did we? After all, we do have a number of engagements to do. We owe you that much, and the last thing we want is to have people saying Gypsy doesn't keep his word. Let's get the clinic appointment over with first, then we'll talk."
"What about Saturday's concert?" Tillet wanted to know.
"That ain't your gig, man," Ed chipped in, "so keep your nose out of what don't concern you."
Tillet ground his teeth at Ed and looked just about ready to kick him in the shins. "And you keep your nose out of our business too. Your job is to keep Gypsy on his feet and you don't seem to be doing a very good job of that lately. Saturday's gig IS my concern. Gypsy only performs outside our contract by permission of TAB Records, namely ME."
Erskine rewarded him with a patronising smile, "Tut-tut, Winnie, dear! I do believe your memory is failing' you at last. Edward has an interim agreement in his office, signed by yourself, giving full permission for Gypsy and his backing groups, to perform for and support, for payment or for free, any charity concerts of his choice. You signed it last December twelfth, knowing TAB Records would reap a rich harvest from the publicity. So, my dear little Winnie, I suggest you crawl back into your little hole and leave Gypsy alone. And don't think you can slap an order on us forbidding us access to Gypsy or you will find one slapped on yourself, and your company. Right, Winnie?"
Tillet's face reddened, and realising he was being given the turn around he fairly breathed fire. "Right. If that's the way you want to play the game, Erskine? Fine. You can consider the extension time over as of today."
Erskine snorted in disgust. "You can't do that,"
Grafton said, "I'm afraid he can, Erskine. The extension is continued entirely at the record company's discretion." To Tillet he said, "If that is all you have to say, Winnie, I am sure you have more important things to attend to, like finding another star to put your money on; but don't forget, Winnie, TAB Records still owes Gypsy a good three quarters of what they borrowed off him, plus interest of course. And please don't forget the terms of the loan, will you? The balance outstanding to be paid in full by the end of the year in which Gypsy leaves TAB Records."
The lift doors closed on Tillet's angry scowl and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Grafton smiled as he rose to his feet. "Gentlemen, I think we can safely say we have our Mr. Tillet and TAB Records just where we want them; by the throat! I haven't got Gypsy's second sight but I have the feeling Mr. Winston K. Tillet will soon come up with a better offer when he realises it will work out cheaper to give Gypsy the figure I suggested last month then to settle the outstanding debt by the end of this year." He turned his beaming smile upon Erskine. "Will you go and tell Gypsy or shall I?"
Sandy eyed the dancer with the long dark pageboy hairstyle, and a neat figure enclosed in a pink and white leotard, "She's good."
"Twenty-nine?" Gypsy looked up from the sheet in front of him." She's not the best I've seen but there's something about her. I keep putting her back in the line-up so I can watch her."
"What a body!" Sandy agreed and they laughed softly. Sarah gave them a look of disgust. "Honestly, Gypsy! You have the dirtiest laugh at times! Dirty laugh, dirty mind!"
"Only dirty, is it?" Sandy exclaimed. "His is bloody filthy."
Gypsy grinned happily. "Well, I never said I was an angel, did I?" He reached for the mike, thanked the remaining dancers for their patience and telling those whose numbers would not be called not to give up but to keep on trying, the fact that they had got almost the whole way through the audition proving they were good. Then he sat back in his chair while Sarah read out the list of lucky dancers." Dios! Am I glad that's over! I thought we'd never finish! What time is it?"
"Six forty five." Sandy hoped that now the audition was over he would at last get to see the prophecy. Gypsy's eyes glazed a little as he stared at Sandy, grinned and said, "Just curb your impatience a little longer, Sandy. I've not forgotten about it!"
Sarah caught Gypsy's attention. "Gypsy there are sixty one numbers here; you only need sixty."
"I know," Gypsy said and reached for the mike again. He read the name off card number twenty-nine. "Pamela Steele, would you come to the desk, please?"
The girl with the pageboy hairstyle glanced round at the other dancers before walking quickly to the balcony. Gypsy leaned forward across the desk and smiled down at her. "You're a very good dancer, Pamela. I could possibly use you as a lead, and maybe as a partner for myself, that is if you like the idea?"
The girl's mouth dropped open and Gypsy waited patiently for her to recover from her surprise. "I... why yes! I'd like that very much."
"Great. See Patrick and tell him what I've decided; you can rehearse with the new teams for the time being and attend lessons with them till after the Saturday gig, okay?"
The girl walked away with her head in the clouds and Gypsy laughed softly, knowing he had made someone realise a dream. Then dropping the rest of the proceedings into Sarah's hands he signalled for Sandy to follow him out of the room. They took the private lift and as soon as they arrived in the apartment, Gypsy sought Jo out in the kitchen to ask her where Erica was.
Jo looked up from where she stood at the hob, stirring something in a pan. "Need you ask?"
Grinning, Gypsy beckoned Sandy to follow him and headed for the door leading to his own rehearsal suite. "You want to see something crazy?" He pushed open the door and led the way down the steps. At the bottom was a small landing with a pair of heavy swing doors shutting off the stairs continuing down to the lower floors Inside the heavy doors a narrow corridor on the left led to a half glazed partition door through which Gypsy peered. Careful that no-one inside could see him he indicated that Sandy should do the same. Sandy chuckled at what he saw. Erica was having a ballet lesson with Madame, dressed in the tiniest leotard and white ballet shoes, her hair tied up on top of her head with a yellow ribbon. What amused them was the sight of Ed standing by her side with a Goofy look on his face, while Erica repeated everything Madame said, her hands on her hips, and ordering Ed about in a shrill little voice. She pointed a determined finger at his feet and ticked him off when he failed to place his feet where they ought to go, once even bending to tug at the toe of his left foot in an effort to show him where he was going wrong, as Madame had obviously done to her at some stage. And while all this was going on Ed kept that stupidly innocent look on his face as he played up to his tiny charge.
Gypsy giggled. "I wouldn't go in there if I were you, Sandy. That daughter of mine thinks everyone stepping through this door is duty bound to join her in her lessons."
Sandy grinned. "Got 'er dad's feet all right, isn't it?" He shook his head at the spectacle, "I seem to remember another three year old who used to 'ypnotise people into to doin' the daftest things."
"Lucia? Well you ought to know, you were her biggest victim. She is quite grown up now."
"You see much of your family, then?" Sandy asked him.
Gypsy shook his head." Not as often as I'd like. Perquita and I keep in touch by telephone as often as we can. I had a call from her last week. She's worried about Maria's latest boyfriend. Do you realise Maria is almost twenty?"
"Get away man! I bet she's a dazzler too, and the boys must be quite grown up."
"Yes, which worries me. I didn't tell you the real reason why my grandparents took Jose to live with them in West Houghton, did I? Ramon came to me at the wedding and asked if he could come down and live at Chilvers. When I told him we were making arrangements for all the family to come and live there, he looked rather disappointed. Then I saw him glaring at Jose. Then I remembered getting up one night to go to the loo while Guido lived with us, and hearing someone on the attic stairs. I checked on the boys and Jose said Ramon had been sleepwalking and he'd just got him back to bed. I smelt something and asked if he'd let off; he said he had, so I thought no more about it. Then it came out at my trial that Guido had been abusing Jose as well. But when Ramon came to me at the wedding I put two and two together and realised Jose had been a willing partner in Guido's dirty schemes and now it looked like he'd turned his attention to Ramon. I just had to get him away from the family with as little fuss as possible. I got hold of Jose and warned him, he either went to live with the O'Rileys or I would get in touch with the child protection people. He went to the farm willingly enough, and Granddad said he was a good farm worker. He's seventeen now and training to be a chef in a big hotel in Manchester and hopes one day to have a restaurant of his own. I'm just hoping he's going to behave himself from now on. Ramon is staying on at school to take his 'A' levels, he is fifteen now and would like to go to business college."
"Wow! That's a revelation all right."
"Yeah, as long as I can keep them apart, the problem might come to nothing. Maria hasn't decided what she wants to do yet; she is having too good a time being the sister of a famous pop star and wallowing in reflected glory. She has a job in an insurance broker's office but I don't think she is very interested in tapping a typewriter all day. I think perhaps she will suddenly leave home on the arm of some handsome playboy and have a good time, or she will marry a moneybags and have half a dozen babies. She's pretty enough to attract either type, the thing is I don't want my sister to get in with the wrong kind of guy. I would rather have Barney check them out than have that happen."
Gypsy turned his attention to his daughter once more and watched her sitting on a chair having her ballet shoes changed for a pair of red tap shoes. His smile was one of pride. "There's my future partner, Sandy. Fifteen years from now she will be as beautiful and as great a dancer as her mother was. I can't say that for Ed, though; I don't think he would make a dancer in a million years." Erica glanced up and looked towards the door and Gypsy stepped back out of sight. "Oh! That was close! The last thing I want right now is to be dragged into dancing lessons with that canny little lady. Come on, we will go and have a look at that prophecy while we have the chance to be alone. You don't have to tell me your patience is running low!"
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