As they started up the stairs a large longhaired Persian cat watched them with wary yellow eyes. Her white fur, dotted round the back, nose and tail, with the tortoise-shell markings of her mother's infidelity, was dirty and wet. With a low yowl, she sprang at Gypsy who caught her in his arms. "Emma! Where have you been? Ugh! You're filthy and you smell, you bad cat." But Emma ignored Gypsy's scolding remarks and purred happily as she wrapped her front paws round his neck and proceeded to lick his chin.
"Meet the latest addition to the Diaz household! She was already in residence when I bought the building and seems to have adopted me. I asked the previous owners about her and they said she just walked in off the street, one day, and wouldn't leave. She's quite a lady when she's clean and fed, and she spends most days commuting between here and Chilvers in any available car, although Dad, being a Gitano, doesn't approve of pets in the house; so don't be surprised if you find yourself sharing a back seat with her. She is one definite car freak, just like Erica, aren't you, puss?" He continued to make a fuss of her as he carried her up the stairs, "You really are a bad feline hussie, staying out in all that rain, hey, cut that out! Ouch! I know your claws are sharp without you showing me! And you are getting fat, too. I hope you're are not pregnant, one of you is quite enough."
Up in the apartment, Sandy followed Gypsy and his feline collar to the kitchen and listened to him charm Jo into parting with the remains of a chicken she was stripping to add to a rice dish she was preparing. Scraping the last of the meat from the carcass he dropped it into a dish and placed it on the floor beside another filled with milk from the fridge. As Emma began to eat ravenously, he squatted down and stroked her back and tail, and Sandy's cheeks burned as his memory was given a pleasant jolt. Here was the old Emilio Gomez, concerned for children and animals alike. Gypsy glanced up and caught Sandy's gaze. Sandy glanced quickly at Jo, rinsing rice at the sink, and saw the movement of her head as she pretended not to notice what was going on behind her. Sandy turned away and went into the lounge to drop onto the nearest settee. He heard Jo and Gypsy talking in low voices above the rattle of plates and cutlery. He wanted to go and help bring the dinner plates in but he knew he could not trust his ability to control his feelings. He stayed put on the settee and waited. A few minutes later, Jo carried in a tray of cutlery and hors d'ouvres and set it on the table between the settees before leaving the apartment to fetch Ed and Erica. Gypsy came out of the kitchen and sat down beside Sandy, and dropped the paper he had taken from its envelope onto Sandy's lap. "Read that, and tell me what you think."
Sandy unfolded the paper and studied Gypsy's neatly flourishing handwriting while Gypsy reached for a portion of potted shrimps.
"Is this the prophecy then?"
Gypsy nodded as he forked a few shrimps into his mouth. "I'd forgotten about it till the letters started arriving. While I've been laid up this last couple of weeks I've been doing a lot of research on clairvoyance and astrology, and I'm inclined to believe it."
Sandy shook his head. "I've never had much faith in fortune telling and all that stuff."
"Well, I don't believe everything but I believe there's something in all this; and in my own psychic abilities too. Surely you must believe in the link we have. That isn't just imagination; it happened. And if you believe that, how can you disbelieve anything else? I am blessed with a greater gift than I ever imagined, Sandy, and I am experimenting and learning more about myself every day." He grinned suddenly. "Maybe if you cross my palm with silver I might tell you your fortune, you lucky man."
Sandy didn't return his smile and it faded from Gypsy's face as well. His eyes as became frosty as he stared down at his dish of prawns. "No matter what happens, your destiny is with Trish and no one else."
"We 'ave to talk; we can't keep on puttin' it off."
"Yes, I know; later perhaps."
"Please, Sandy. Wait till Ed takes Jo and Erica home first, there will be time enough afterwards." and as if to back up Gypsy's gentle advice, the door to the stairs opened and Jo entered the lounge with Erica in tow. As soon as she saw her father, she broke away from Jo and ran across the carpet to fling herself at him, Gypsy having only just enough time to raise his dish of shrimps out of the way before Erica scrambled eagerly onto his knee. She wanted shrimps too; she would have some of his. No she wouldn't, she would sit down beside him and eat her own. No. Yes, or she would go straight home.
"Aw! No." Erica's lower lip stuck out sulkily but she slid off Gypsy's knee and sat quietly between Sandy and her father, and Gypsy handed her a small dish of shrimps and a fork, winking at Sandy over Erica's head. Ed sat on the opposite settee and Jo sat down beside him.
Ed's usually bland features were tight with trouble as he looked from Sandy to Gypsy and back. "You heard the latest?"
Sandy frowned at him. "No, what?"
"Grafton's had word this morning that the Royles have been contacted by some jerk who says he's got some dirt to sell about Gypsy." He accepted a dish of shrimps and picked at them slowly. "Could be the guy with the photographs."
Sandy groaned. "That's all we need."
"That ain't all. We've got Fleet Street sniffing around, too. Did you see them this morning?"
"Where?" Gypsy asked.
"At the Lodge, they were watching the place like hawks when we left."
Gypsy and Sandy exchanged puzzled glances before Gypsy said, "There was no-one around when we left."
"Must have got fed up of waiting for some folks to quit hogging the' sack, like some I could mention."
Gypsy laughed. "Wasn't my fault this time, Ed, it was this lazy hound who forgot that folks at Chilvers like to make an early start. What did the news boys want this time?"
"Some dog's been sneaking things to them. I almost busted one of them for asking about you and Sandy." He placed his now empty dish on the table and helped himself to a plateful of the steaming Chicken Risotto, which Jo had brought in. "I know you two don't care a hell what folks think about you, but you've both got kids and they're important. There's Trish to think of too, and don't forget, those Royles are still trying to get their hands on Erica."
When Jo had finished dishing the Risotto and was on her way to the kitchen with the dirty dish, he whispered, "Best decide which way you want the river to run, boys. And remember, a river don't run upstream so easy."
Sandy knew what he meant and felt the colour rising to his cheeks. He stared hard at his plate, knowing that just out of sight Gypsy was signalling to Ed to leave them alone for a while. Ed took Erica to the kitchen for some ice cream, and Sandy could hardly stand the silence that followed. At last, he put his plate down and picked up the paper, and reread the prophecy.
Turning the paper over, Sandy found that the rest of the letter was a personal message from Aida herself.
Fighting to keep his voice steady, Sandy said, "Some of it I can understand but the rest is just a load of words. Perhaps if I knew somethin' about Astrology it would make sense."
Gypsy looked up from eating his rice. "The thorns are my enemies and the jewel is Erica. The Royles could be the ones who want to take her from me, but I suspect someone else. The other Scorpio I can't identify yet, I can't think of anyone who has a birthday near mine or who hates me enough to cause any trouble. But whoever he is he has a black heart and he could be the one behind the blackmail." He put his plate back on the table and immediately Emma appeared from nowhere and jumped up onto his knee. He pushed her off. "Not when I am eating, thank you, lady! You know the rules. You are still dirty; go and wash yourself, go on, in your basket." Emma swished her tail angrily at him then walked away with her head in the air and her tail waving haughtily. Her basket was under another coffee table; she climbed into it and sat glaring at Gypsy, who giggled. "Just look at her! Waiting her chance to jump back on my knee the minute she thinks I am not watching; crafty cat! What is the next one?"
"That means someone who has Mercury as his or her ruling planet. He's either a Virgo or a Gemini and my guess he is a Gemini as Virgos are too perfect and open. Also whoever it is has the infamous Grand Star in his astrological chart.
"The Grand Star?"
"Four or more planets with bad influences forming a cross in his chart."
"He is probably a very good actor, very good at covering his real intent; sometimes quite a Jekyll and Hide character. A Gemini is known to have a split personality, mostly the result are harmless, like twins in one body, but on rare occasions good and evil live side by side and the evil comes to the surface as the dominant trait, hiding behind the angelic exterior of its twin. That next bit, about the hidden eye of evil; that could be a camera. It sees all and tells all, and never lies. It has the power to make time stand still hasn't it?"
"Oh yeah! I never thought of that."
"And what's the betting the Gemini man has it, and the photographs are in his possession. Like the next bit says, he's used it on me and on others like me. I've thought about this a lot lately and I believe he's still using it. I was a teenager when I was at Northwood, that is the only place I can think of where the photographs could have come from, and I believe I was lucky to escape the clutches of someone who likes boys and lures them into vice. Someone in that house was up to something. There's a very lucrative market for porn these days. Marcus Munante was into it in a big way when I was with him. What he and his guests filmed and performed in front of the cameras would stretch your imagination to the limit and beyond. It's possible our Gemini man has been doing the same thing." Gypsy leaned closer to Sandy and craned his head round to read the paper. "You see this?" He pointed to a particular line, "I am not the first and I will not be the last. He is still up to his tricks; if we can pick up enough clues to his identity, we might catch him in the act, but you mustn't think I would be crazy enough to try a schoolboy detective stunt unless I really have to. Barney was a qualified private Investigator before we hired him, and I'm feeding him with all the clues I can dig up."
"So, you 'ave no idea yet who it might be?"
"No. I'm trying to make sense of all the flashbacks I'm getting, but they're so jumbled up; although I think I know who his accomplice might be."
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