Gypsy glanced up at Sandy in the dimness, his features set with a serious expression. "One of eight with the sign of the snake around his neck; it's Brian, I'm certain of it. Did you notice a door at the end of' the passage past the toilets? Brian keeps on disappearing, and he doesn't go to the gents, so he must go through that door. He keeps it locked for some reason."
" How do you know that, then?"
"I just know, that's all."
"You've got a vivid imagination," Sandy scolded him, "that's what you've got!"
"Have I? Then tell me why Brian invited me here in the first place? He knows how I feel about drugs of any kind. I won't even take a pain killer unless I am banging my head against the wall, so I would be the last person to come to a party like this. There has to be another reason, and I know you want to get out of here as quickly as possible, but we have to stay and find out what is going on."
"Who do you think you are, Hercule Poirot?" Sandy's conscience told him to make a break for the stairs and run. Instead he hugged Gypsy to him. "Okay, mate. I just hope it won't take all night." He looked round for any sign of Ball and Vetch for some sort of support. Apparently they had done the right thing and had slipped away.
Sandy wished he had an excuse to leave. He'd danced with a succession of partners for the first hour, Gypsy having been dragged away from him as soon as the smoochy track had ended. Someone wanted to prove to the skeptics that Gypsy was a fake. His pride had been genuinely hurt, and now he was seated on a pile of cushions, surrounded by boobs and bottoms and all kinds of slinky outfits as the females gathered to have their fortunes told, and Gypsy amazed his audience at the secrets he uncovered about their past lives and future possibilities. Sandy was glad in a way as it had brought an early end to Gypsy's game of acting like a couple of gays on the dance floor, which had really embarrassed Sandy, even though Gypsy had turned it into a joke with everyone around. Sandy had promised he would go along with Gypsy's crazy scheme to trap Brian, but he wondered just how long he could keep it up as the stairway to the upper floor seemed more and more inviting as time passed. The next record began and Sandy declined an invitation to groove with a tall girl right out of the deepest African jungle, by the look of her. He needed to go to the gents.
On the way across the cellar he spotted Gypsy, still acting like a fortune teller in a dark corner, in the process of telling one happy little tart in an almost none-existent blue evening top and satin pants that she was going to travel next year, over water, that she would have three children, the first one a girl, but before that happened she would have a very satis fying career, a remark which caused a sarcastic return from one of her friends that she was going to be a hooker. Satisfied that Gypsy was all right, Sandy headed for the toilets through a door cleverly disguised as part of the far wall. He walked down a narrow passage with the gents on the left, and the ladies on the right. At the end of the passage was another door. Was this the one Gypsy had mentioned? Curiosity dug Sandy in the brain a few times while he answered nature's call. Afterwards, he checked that no one was around before sneaking down the passage to try the door and found it locked, just as Gypsy had said. Sandy retraced his steps back to the cellar and found Gypsy on his own and stretched out on the cushions.
He looked tired as Sandy sat down beside him. " Are you okay then, mate?"
Gypsy opened one eye. "Just tired. I can't keep that up for long, it drains me."
Someone had sent them a bottle of wine. It stood, opened, by the cushion. Sandy reached for it and Gypsy said, "I wouldn't if I were you."
"It's been spiked. One mouth full of that and you will be asleep before you know it!"
"How do you know?"
"Like I know lots of things." Gypsy yawned and sat up. " Like I know Trish was wishing you would ring her today ." He looked at the bottle on the floor and stared at it solemnly. " I have to know why this wine was doctored. It has something to do with what's behind that locked door. We will have to take a look."
Sandy snorted. "Bloody 'ell! Gypsy Diaz, Private Detec tive! Think straight, will you, man?"
"I am. Brian didn't bring me here as a guest. I was lured here, perhaps to do with photographs. That's the picture I am getting, but I'm on to his tricks and my eyes are open wide, and so are my ears."
Gypsy looked round to see if anyone was watching him, then poured half the contents of the wine bottle into a nearby dark corner, then rose to his feet, with the bottle and weaved his way unsteadily towards the door leading to the passage. Sandy followed him as one of Brian's friends opened the door for them. Gypsy raised the bottle to his lips as if to drink from it. Five minutes later Brian found Sandy sitting on the floor, opposite the gents with Gypsy's head in his lap. Sandy gazed up at him, smiled sleepily at him. "Hi, Bri. We were... 'avin' a lil drink an'," he waved the almost empty wine bottle aloft, " 'e jus' wen' ta sleep (hic)." He belched loudly.
Brian took the bottle from him, noted how much there was left and a sly glint appeared in his eyes. "Don't worry, I'll take care of him. My flat is just down the passage, I'll take him there and he can sleep it off." He lifted Gypsy easily in a fireman's lift and eyed Sandy for a moment. "Go and enjoy yourself, he's likely to be asleep for quite a while."
Sandy grinned at him. "Don' worry 'bout me, mate. Us Welsh know 'ow t' enjoy ourselves:" He hiccupped again and closed his eyes, letting his head loll against the wall, but once Brian had disappeared with Gypsy, he was wide awake and cursing another of Gypsy's wild ideas. He gave Brian a few minutes to get into the flat and feel he was safe from interruption then made his way down the passage, found the door locked once more and thumped it loudly. "Hey Brian! Can' fin' th' party. Where's th' party gone?" Almost immediately the door opened and Brian's angry face app eared. He held a finger to his lips and made to step out into the passage, but Sandy leaned on the door and pushed it open wider. "Hi, Brian! Th' party's gone dead; thought y' ad somethin' back 'ere t' liven (hic) thin's up a bit (hic) isn'it?"
Gypsy was stretched out on a leather sofa, minus his bolero and boots. His shirt was open and out of his pants, and he looked dead to the world. Sandy swayed towards him. "Hi, Gypsy, whatcha doin' lyin' there, mate? Brian's gonna get us (hic) some more booze, aren't cha, Brian?" A s Brian moved after him to try and turf him out of the flat Sandy quickly scanned the room. Tasteless, and without the stamp of an owner's personality, the floor was pine with a few scatter rugs strewn about, and a hotchpotch of furniture filled the space, a collection of pieces no longer required in other parts of the house but obviously too good to throw out. Equal disregard for them had been echoed in the selection of abstracts lining the ochre walls. The only thing relative to the present occupant of the flat was the stack of records and tapes on a shelf above an impressive hi-fi unit. Beside the unit was another door. Sandy moved towards it. "Where's the booze, then, mate? In'ere? (hic)"
Brian grabbed him and pulled him back. "No, not in there, Sandy. Just sit down and I'll get you a drink if you want one, then I'd advise you to go. Gypsy will be out for a long time yet. He'll have to stay here tonight, I'm afraid."
"Lager." Sandy mumbled and fell backwards into an armchair. "Make it a large one, yeh?" He watched Brian go to a small cocktail cabinet and fill a glass with the contents of a can of lager. Above the hiss of the brew as Brian tilted the can, Sandy heard faint sounds coming from behind the door Brian had been so eager to stop him opening. He heard the cry of a youngster in pain. Brian frowned and his eyes flicked toward the door. The sound was repeated and Sandy was out of his chair and heading for the door before Brian could stop him. Brian charged after him and as he passed in front of the sofa Gypsy came alive, legs kicking out to catch Brian in the crotch. Brian doubled up and Gypsy' right foot caught him in a vicious chop to the chin. He dropped to the carpet and Sandy didn't bother watching what followed but charged the door. It burst open and he almost fell into the other room. He caught hold of the doorframe to save himself from falling headlong, and stared in disbelief at the scene before him. "Bloody 'ell!"
A magnificent specimen of naked male perfection knelt on the bed with Button Mouth naked beneath him, and sobbing as he tried to break free of the grip another man holding his shoulders to the bed. Taking shots of the proceedings was a tall handsome young man with shiny blonde waves as carefully tended as the creases in his cream suit trousers and the bloom in his lapel. Gypsy landed at Sandy's side as the startled men turned horr ified eyes towards them. Gypsy groaned softly as he gave the blonde man a knowing smile. "I should have known I'd find you here. Sandy, meet Peter Grafton?"
Immediately everyone moved at double speed. The man holding the boy fell off the bed and grabbed for his clothes and went through the window in a shower of glass . S andy went for Peter, snatched the camera and lifted the man off his feet with a right hook that came from somewhere near the floor . Peter hurtled backwards across the end of the bed, crashing into Button Mouth's assailant who was so close to a climax, despite the crisis around him. The man yelled in agony and the boy screamed as they toppled over under Peter's weight. Gypsy hurried forward to pull the boy free as Sandy dealt the man the same treatment Peter had received. Gypsy helped Button Mouth sit up. The boy was sniveling, and Gypsy asked him, "Are you all right?"
The boy nodded and reached for his clothes, in a heap on a bedside chair. Gypsy was nearer; he picked them up and dropped them on the bed. "Is this your first time?" Again the boy nodded. "Well, you've been very stupid. Get dressed and in future stick to the catering trade. Waiting on at reception parties pays less but it's much safer. You understand?"
The boy nodded dumbly and got dressed while Gypsy turned his attention to Peter, searching the man's pockets. He found a wallet full of money, a pile of credit cards and a driving license. He counted out one hundred pounds and held them out to Button Mouth, keeping them just out of reach of him. "First you tell me what you know."
The boy shook his head. "I don't know anything." Gypsy stared to replace the money in the wallet and his face fell. He licked his lips nervously. "All right, I'll tell y ou. I've worked for Brian before, but it was nothing like this, just modeling and soft porn shots. Tonight he said I could earn a lot of money posing for the man you call Peter. He mentioned something about Swedish hard porn mags." H e lowered his eyes with shame. "I didn't think it would go this far."
"How much were you offered?" Gypsy asked.
Gypsy tossed the notes on the bed. "There is half and think yourself lucky we're not the police on a raid. Keep your mouth shut about this or your mother will find out her little boy is not as sweet and innocent as she believes."
Fright made the boy finish dressing at top speed, grab the money and climb carefully out of the broken window while Gypsy began to search the flat, finding only a lot of photographic equipment including cine cameras .
Sandy took more shots of the room and the two men. "I guess Brian is the one behind the photographs, then?"
"I'm not so sure." Gypsy eyed Peter and his mate. "I have a feeling about this place and it's a bad one." He took the camera from Sandy and studied it carefully. "The evil eye; maybe we could use this against him and help draw out the missing Gemini man? What amazes me is that Brian and Peter know each other . Two snakes together."
"Perhaps Peter is the Gemini man."
Gypsy shook his head , walked out of the bedroom to take some shots of Brian still out cold in the lounge. After retrieving his boots and bolero he checked the number of unexposed shots and headed for the passage. "It's a pity this isn't a digital camera. We've only got ten shots left." Sandy was careful to lock the flat door before following Gypsy into the cellar where he took more shots of the place and its occupants, most of whom were too far gone on drugs or booze to realize what was going on. On reaching the stairs Gypsy spotted a youth passing a suspicious packet to a girl and receiving money in return. He nudged Sandy and watched him zoom in for a close up. The youth looked up, startled but Gypsy was already halfway up the stairs with Sandy close behind him before the youth had time to think about what had happened.
On the ground floor, the party had fizzled out completely; most of the guests having left the house or joined those in the cellar. The door of the front lounge was ajar and Sandy heard the feminine tinkle of Bev's voice. Gypsy moved towards it with Sandy close behind. Suddenly the door opened wide and they were face to face with Jerry Hine. Sandy snapped him quickly and he blinked in the light of the flash. "What the hell -."
"Later," Gypsy snapped. " Where' s Bev?"
Confused, Jerry indicated the lounge and Sandy pushed him roughly backwards into it. Gypsy followed them in and closed the door.
They looked round the cherry and white lounge and saw Bev rising slowly from an arm chair by the rough-hewn stone fireplace, her eyes flashing angrily. "How dare you burst in here, this is private property."
"Shut your mouth, and listen," Gypsy hissed back at her. "I don't know how you came to know Peter Grafton but the game is over. I know you and Brian are involved in the blackmail plot and if you don't hand over the photographs and the negatives, I'll go to the police with the film from this camera. I've taken some excellent shots of your little drugs racket downstairs and some of a boy being forced into sex. The police will be very interested to see them."
Bev sat down suddenly, ashen mouthed and Gypsy pushed Jerry into the chair next to hers. He stood over them while Sandy checked the number of shots left on the film. Jerry looked suddenly tired and quite old. "It's Brian, and someone else, I don't know who, he won't say."
Gypsy shook his head. "I don't believe you."
"It's true," Bev replied. "We knew nothing of this blackmail plot till Eddie Thompson came and asked questions about it, honestly, Gypsy. We told him about the fire at the cottage; we lost everything, didn't we Jerry?"
Sandy laughed. "Do you expect us to believe all that after what we've seen downstairs? A right little film studio, Peter's runnin' in that flat; 'ow would you like a visit from the fuzz?"
Bev glared at him. "That's Peter's problem, not ours."
"Under your bloody roof, isn't it?".
Ignoring him, Bev rose to her feet and came towards Gypsy, fingers twisting the handkerchief she held. "Gypsy, forget about the blackmail for now; we're desperate and we need your help. Hine Records is washed up without a name like yours on our books. We've tried all kinds of persuasion; now I'm begging you. N ame your own price and sign with us. Please?"
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