"Who d'you think it is then?"
"Well, read what it says; one of eight I once knew. They ditched their High Street name last month and they're now calling themselves 'B' Platoon. It's an eight-piece band and they've just cut their first record with Hine Records. There's a reception for them at Hine Studios tomorrow evening and I've been invited to attend as I used to be their lead vocal. It's the usual publicity stunt to cover the signing of a new artist or the release of a first album. TAB Records did it for me if you remember. It was a free food and booze effort for photographers, reporters, record company reps, critics, and any other interested backers and hangers on, to have a closer look at the new star or band; and they all had one thing in common, they did not give a damn about the star as long as they could make pigs of themselves at TAB's expense. We presented them with a pair of miniature gold earrings each and I sang a few songs, but all we got in return was trifle on the walls. I'm not kidding Sandy, they literally threw the food around. I was so disgusted I almost walked out. Only Erskine stopped me from making a fool of myself. But that's beside the point; this one of eight can only be Brian. Northwood is his home, he would have the run of the place and could do anything he liked and no one would be any the wiser. He could set cameras up in the ceilings, in the wood panelling, and no one would suspect anything. I would love to see what he wears round his neck tomorrow night; how about going with me? Ed was supposed to go but he has been looking for an excuse not to, too many gays for his liking."
Sandy laughed with embarrassment. "I don't know; you know I'm no good at parties."
"Gaskin and the boys will be there as well. Come on, amigo, be a sport. It could turn out very interesting."
"Yeah, I can imagine. A regular puffs parlour! Right, twisted my arm, you 'ave. Now what about this wantin' to surrender bit?"
"I am not too sure about that, it's something in the future but I've got to be will be ready for it and determined to fight it. I'm not going to give up anything without a fight."
"And this Venus person?"
Gypsy grinned at Sandy clownish expression, "You're a Libra and your ruling planet is Venus and your hair is the colour of corn. Now do you think the predictions are nonsense?"
"Okay, I know when I'm beaten, isn't it; but what about this one who has scorned you?"
"That's someone who is also a mystery to me yet, but she will come, just as you did."
Sandy looked up from the paper to stare at Gypsy. "You made me come because of this?"
"I didn't have to. It was written in your destiny that you would come, and my great-grandmother saw it." Gypsy shrugged his shoulders. " I'm sorry if you thought there was any other motive in my wanting you to stay except to conquer my enemies. I love you deeply, Sandy; much deeper than I should, and I helped you make the break because I wanted you and Trish to stay together and be happy. I dearly wish we didn't have to keep things that way, but for all our sakes, we have to be sensible about things this time."
"Yeah," Sandy stared down at the paper. "We always 'ave to be sensible, don't we; 'idin' what we really feel all the time."
"It's what we feel now, because we've seen each other again, that's all."
"It's what I feel all the time, damn it." Sandy snapped, his hands gripping the paper till it threatened to tear. "'Ow much longer do I have to go on deceivin' myself? Trish was right. And it's been bloody hard."
Gypsy sighed deeply. He rose to his feet to pace about restlessly while trying to find the right words to explain his own feelings in such a way as not to hurt Sandy. At last he turned to face Sandy. "You talk of how hard it was for you. Just remember it was me who nearly died because of how I felt about us. It took me months to recover and put my past behind me, as I have done many times. I made Erica the most important person in my life, and until someone comes along and loves Erica as her own, I have no intention of involving myself with anyone, including you. I don't wish to sound heartless, and I will always love you, but it has to be as a friend. That friendship must form its own barrier between us while also creating a deeper bond which no one will ever break."
He came to Sandy and knelt before him, taking hold of his right hand to look at it. "Did you know that Romanies don't like shaking hands in the normal manner? A Romany gathers vibrations through his thumb, from the palm of a person's hand, like this." He held Sandy's hand with his thumb planted firmly against the palm. Sandy glanced up at him and saw him smile sadly before saying, "I think you had better phone Trish." Letting go of Sandy's hand, he rose to his feet and made to walk towards the main bedroom. Over his shoulder he said, "To end the prediction, what do you bet the one who thinks I have something which belongs to him is Peter Grafton?"
Sandy listened to the ringing tone over the telephone with one ear, and to Gypsy playing his flute in the bedroom with the other. It was haunting tune and added to the sense of melancholy Sandy felt. Since Gypsy had gone into the bedroom, so that Sandy could use the phone in private, he had felt so foolish about his lack of control. He should have known better than to force Gypsy's hand. Now the damage was done and he wished…
"Hello? Trentham eight one two four?"
"…Oh…Hello Sandy. How strange!" Sandy heard the catch in her voice above the sound of Steven crying in the background. "We were just talking about you. Strange you should ring just now, as if you knew."
"Oh…Nothing. Just a coincidence I suppose…Sandy?"
"The press have been here."
Sandy groaned under his breath. "What did they want?"
"They were asking questions about you and Gypsy."
"Oh…I 'ope you didn't say anythin'."
"No. Mum was upset of course."
"What about your dad?"
"Quietly fuming; not at you, at them. He wants you to come up this weekend and talk things over. He means well, and he wants to help."
"Do you want him to help?"
"Sandy! He's not trying to interfere! Come up this weekend and we can talk."
"I can't, see?" Sandy noticed the flute was silent and he sensed that Gypsy had come from the bedroom and was listening.
He twisted round on the settee and saw Gypsy standing by the bedroom door. "You go if you want to. Perhaps it's best."
Sandy shook his head, knowing Gypsy was trying to make things as simple as possible for him. Into the phone, he said, "Gypsy needs me 'ere for a while. I know what you think but it isn't true, see. I'll be 'ome as soon as I can and explain things, isn'it"
There was a cold silence then a quiet voice saying, "All right, next week perhaps? Good bye."
"Wait, wait! Sandy yelled down the phone, "'Ang about, Trish: Give us a chance, will you? Gypsy's in trouble and 'e needs my 'elp."
"I need you too," Trish replied sharply, "or hadn't you noticed."
"You 'ave a strange way of showin' it sometimes." Trish did not reply. "Trish? Are you still there?"
"Yes. I'm still here. "
The crying was nearer now, Stevie's pitiful wail tugging at Sandy's heart. "You never said 'ow Steven is."
"Can't you hear him? I was just about to put him to bed when you kindly rang!"
Sandy wanted to snap back a sarcastic reply, but bit his tongue instead. "Look. Love, I don't want to argue, see? I forgot what time it was. Surely it's a bit late for Stevie's bedtime?"
"Why don't you come up here and find out."
"It wasn't me who left you in the first place. You wouldn't come down here with me, right?" Slowly he began to make out what Steven was screaming. "I wan' my daddy: I wan' my daddy." The heart wrenching cries fading as someone carried the tot away from the phone. Sandy felt like the lowest kind of heel. "Trish, I'm sorry, Cariad. I miss you so much, and I wish you 'ad come with me, and Stevie too. I'll be up there as soon as I can, I promise."
There was another pause, and then Trish said in a softer voice. "I miss you too, you big lumbering fool, but I just can't compete with Gypsy any more. You have to make up your mind, Sandy. It's him or me."
"Of course it's you!"
"I mean it, Sandy:"
"So do I. We'll talk next week, I promise."
"Promise you'll be there when I come?"
"Bye then Trish; I love you."
The phone went dead. Trish hadn't said she loved him. Sandy sat holding the receiver in his hand, feeling gutted, for a long time as if it were glued to him. Then he realized he was staring at the handset. Placing it on its cradle, he looked round at Gypsy and found him no longer there. Going into the bedroom he found Gypsy sitting on the cream silk draped bed, staring at something in his hands. As Sandy sat down beside him he dropped the object into Sandy's hands and Sandy eyed it thoughtfully, turning the medallion over slowly. "This is the talisman, then?"
"Yes, the Opal is my birthstone and the Peridot is the birthstone of Virgo my descendant. The silver is the metal of my ascendant Pisces, and the other signs represent my Planets, Mars and Pluto, and iron my own metal." He took the talisman back and slipping the chain over his head he tucked the disc inside the blue sweater he had changed into.
"You really think it brings you luck, then?
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders. "Not really. Luck is what you make for yourself."
Sandy pulled a wry face. "I'm sorry mate, I don't believe in magic. I only believe in Devine providence."
"Even God, needs a little help from time to time."
"What about me, don't I count?"
"Yes," Gypsy said with a laugh, "but-."
"No buts. I'm here and I'm stayin'." Reaching out, he caught hold of Gypsy's hand and squeezed it hard. He felt Gypsy try to pull away he refused to let go. Slowly he raised his eyes to look at Gypsy. Gypsy did the same and Sandy saw the turmoil in his eyes, and the tears that formed in the inner corners.
Gypsy nodded. "It will be hard, for both of us."
Sandy nodded and, squeezed the hand within his own. "Yes, mate, bloody hard: But we'll make it all right, you'll see."
Ed and Erskine sat in Sir Geoffrey Monclare's office at the Rosscroft Clinic, and gazed silently at the two men behind the large mahogany desk. Monclare, passive faced and very much the distinguished professional medical man had introduced his American colleague and they were waiting patiently for him to do the talking. Professor Sudermann looked anything but a surgeon, his tall lean frame being more suited to saddle and Stetson, Hollywood style, than a scalpel and theatre greens. His dark hair was speckled with the odd streak of gray and there were lines etched deeply into his face, but Ed could not have put an age to him if he had been paid a thousand dollars.
The gray eyes were friendly and gentle but there was sternness in them. "Gentlemen, Sir Geoffrey and I have discussed Gypsy's case at great length and I am only too happy to give any help I can. Unfortunately I'm due in Edinburgh tomorrow afternoon for a conference and I've not been able to examine Gypsy as fully as I would have liked. But what little time we had leaves us in no doubt that Gypsy definitely has a tumour invading the spinal column at the junction of the Sciatic nerve."
"Oh, Jesus Christ!" Erskine hid his eyes with one hand,
Ed remained steely calm. "You sure on that?"
Sudermann nodded his head. "I only wish I had happier news."
"Can you operate?"
"That is something we can only determine by further examination. Under the circumstances, I am keeping my stay in Edinburgh as short as possible. I'll be back here by late Friday morning and I'll want Gypsy admitted for at least twenty four hours for deeper investigation, including a Myelogram, more commonly known as a CT-scan."
Ed frowned, studied his fingers for a moment, then after casting a side-glance at Erskine, he said, "What happens meantime?"
"Well, we did the usual tests on the motor and sensory nerves of the legs and lower spine, and we compared the results with tests Sir. Geoffrey carried out the last time Gypsy was in the clinic. There is a slight deterioration, and I would rather Gypsy to be admitted right away and kept under observation. But waiting for me to return would only serve to cause him anxiety. We've said nothing to him yet, as requested by you, Mr. Thompson. It would only make him suspect the truth. He seems to be preoccupied about something and I don't want to make things worse so, I would rather he be kept fully occupied until I return. I hear he's going to a reception tonight and has a heavy schedule tomorrow. That's great. Let him do what he wants for a few hours. If he comes to the Rosscroft in a happy frame of mind, it'll make our job that much easier. There will be no problems as long as he takes things easy and doesn't go mad. Mr. Thompson, I think I can rely on you to keep an eye on him? You know the symptoms to look for, pins and needles, and numbness in the legs, no matter how slight, a weakness in the muscles coming on suddenly. Note all you observe and if in doubt contact Sir. Geoffrey immediately, but please don't let him notice what you are doing. I see no reason why he should be told what we've found till we know for sure if we can operate or not, do you agree, gentlemen?"
Both Ed and Erskine nodded their heads, and Erskine asked, "What about Saturday? Will he be fit to do the gig?"
"Saturday? That's the Drury Lane date, isn't it? I won't raise your hopes too high, Mr. Trumble. It all depends on what we find on Friday. If we can operate we might allow him out just long enough to do the show, although if in the meantime his condition deteriorates further I shall have to refuse and keep him in."
Erskine said heavily, "You don't beat about the bush, do you? Is it Cancer?"
Monclare spoke for the first time. "It doesn't have to be cancer to make a load of trouble. We won't know till we have had the results of the biopsy we performed today. Don't worry, Mr. Trumble, it was only a tiny incision and won't inconvenience Gypsy very much. But whether the tumour is malignant or not is of no consequence, it will continue to grow and cause increasing pressure on the spinal chord and sciatic nerves, eventually resulting in loss of use of the lower limbs with increasing paralysis as the tumour advances upwards. The important issue is whether we can operate with any degree of safety."
"And if you can't?" Ed drawled.
Monclare stared at him sadly. "For starters, it will herald the end of Gypsy's stage career. In cases like this, surgery would do more harm than allowing the tumour to remain."
"How soon will you know for certain?" Erskine asked him.
"As soon as the results of the Friday tests are through and we also have those of the biopsy. I'm sorry we have such bad news for you. I only hope the news will be more favourable after Friday. Meanwhile, I think you will find Gypsy just about ready to leave for home in a short while. I'm glad Sean volunteered to come in with him. It makes a difference having someone familiar being with him through all the procedures. Gypsy will be a bit subdued as a result all the tests but he should be fine in time for the reception. Just make sure he takes things easy for the next few days. Friday will be no cakewalk for him and that's putting it mildly."
In Gypsy's suite, Ed and Erskine found Gypsy sitting on the side of the bed, still in his theatre gown, about to be helped into his clothes by Sean who stepped aside to let Ed take over the task. His expression was one of sleepy sullenness. Seeing Ed and Erskine, he thanked Sean and asked him to wait outside. He avoided looking at Erskine or Ed. "There's no need to keep quiet about it, I already know."
"How come?" Ed growled as he reached for Gypsy's briefs.
"It was easy to read Monclare's mind."
"Oh shit." Ed tried to stifle the oath as he knelt to slip the briefs over Gypsy's feet and up his legs. He looked up and said sincerely, "Kid, I'm sorry. Tough, huh?"
Erskine placed a comforting hand on Gypsy's right shoulder. "If you want to cancel the show, lad, I won't stop you."
Gypsy frowned. "I am not ready for the long box yet, Erskine. Nothing changes because of a stupid tumour! Just get me home and let me rest, but keep things to yourselves okay?"
Erskine's eyes flashed angrily but his mouth clammed shut, remaining so till Gypsy was fully dressed and ready to leave.
A wheelchair stood by the bed and Gypsy eyed it with disgust. He linked arms with Ed and Erskine and stood up slowly. He tried a few steps, found he could walk, even though the two stitches in his back pulled a bit, and gazed at the elbow crutches propped against the wheelchair. If he compromised and used them, he wouldn't be forced to use the chair. Letting go of Ed and Erskine he took them up and positioned them under his elbows. Feeling suddenly weak and unsure of himself, he walked towards the door with Ed and Erskine close behind him. In the corridor, a scuffle was in progress between two of Barney's men and some reporters who had slipped through Barney's security net. Gypsy ignored them and continued down the corridor, despite their pleas for a few minutes of his time. He longed for the peace and solitude of Chilvers.
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