Gypsy smiled contemptuously and opened the camera to take out the film. "Sorry to disappoint you, Bev, I was thinking about signing with you, but after seeing the kind of vermin you keep under your floor boards, I'll see you roast first."
"Please, Gypsy," Jerry was on his feet and joining in his wife's pleas. "Think about it before you decide. We'll pay any price you want, just don't let us sink like this. We were going to get you started once, weren't we? Surely that means something to you!"
Gypsy tossed the camera onto a side table and opened the door again, signaling for Sandy to join him. "Do you really want my answer to that, Jerry? By the way, what month were you two born ?"
Bev and Jerry stared at each other then at Gypsy. Bev said, "I was born in January and Jerry was born in April, Why?"
"Nothing, just curiosity." Gypsy held out his right hand. "I would appreciate the keys to one of your cars, please, I don't intend walking home." Jerry's eyes flicked to the film in Gypsy's left hand and Gypsy's eyes narrowed, sensing what Jerry was thinking. The man turned to a small chest of drawers by the door, made to open the top drawer and lunged for the film instead. The film was already on its way through the air and Sandy caught it by instinct and held it aloft. Jerry turned in mid stride and tried to grab it, and Sandy pointed a finger at him. "Just try it, mate. Just you bloody try it. I'm no Henry Cooper but I'm good at breakin' noses and crackin' a few jaws as Peter and 'is mate will confirm when they wake up."
Jerry's shoulders sagged in defeat and he indicated the top drawer of the chest. "The keys to my Mercedes are in there. It's parked down the side of the house. Take it and get out."
Gypsy took possession of the keys and backed out of the door. "Stop whoever's blackmailing me and destroy the evidence to my satisfaction or I go to the police with this film. You have until Saturday, and don't get the idea that I'm bluffing; I'm not."
No one stopped them as they hurried out of the house even though Sandy had the feeling they were being watched. By the time he slid into the front seat of the Mercedes beside Gypsy he was shaking like a leaf. Three miles from Bev's house, Gypsy parked the car in a lay-by and they sat in the darkness to collect their thoughts.
Gypsy sighed. "I think we came a bit unstuck back there."
"You can say that again; well and truly, mate!"
"I think we made our play too soon. Before you came barging into the flat, I heard Peter giving Brian a row for bringing me into the flat too early. He said he wasn't ready for me. You know what I think?"
"You're the mind reader, not me," Sandy yawned and looked at his watch." almost one thirty."
"Time flies when you're having fun. I think Brian was supposed to lure me into the flat so Peter could take a series of' pictures of me in a compromising situation with those two men and that boy, but we sprang the trap too soon."
"Fortunately for the kid."
"Yeah, poor kid,"
"Bloody stupid kid, more like."
"No, Sandy, he was led into it as I was but not for the same reasons; he was just too greedy for his own good. It's so easily done. Kids like him just don't know any better and they fall into the money trap so easily." Gypsy opened the door on his side. "You can drive now, if you like, my back has the toothache."
Once they had changed seats, Sandy asked in a concerned voice, "Are you sure you're all right?"
Gypsy nodded. "I just don't think I could stand a grilling from Ed tonight, whether from his tongue or his hands. Let's head for the studios."
"Y ou're sure now?"
"Yes, I am sure, now let's get moving."
"Okay, you're the boss." Sandy grunted and switched on the engine.
Emma showed Sandy where Gypsy had got to in the early hours of Wednesday morning, digging her claws into him and yowling down his ear till h e assured her he was awake. At first he thought she wanted to go for a nocturnal prowl, but on following her out of the spare bedroom and into the lounge, he found Gypsy's bedroom door wide open. The room was empty. Emma headed straight for the door leading to the private stairs and stood waiting for him to open it yowling impatiently at him.
Sandy stifled a yawn. "Oh well, I suppose you know best." He shuffled back into the spare bedroom and grabbed Ed's spare bathrobe. "Okay, let's put you out of your misery. Look at me, talkin' to a bloody cat now, I am." He opened the door and watched Emma trot down the stairs, her tail waving like a flag. When she had pounced on Gypsy on their arrival at the apartment, Gypsy had remarked that she loved to follow him around when he was at the studios. "She's like a shadow; if you ever want to find me just follow Emma, she's better than a St. Bernard in a snow storm."
Emma stopped halfway down the stairs and looked back up at him as if to say, "Well, don't just stand there, you big dumb human, come on." The stairs were cold to Sandy's feet as he followed her down into the darkness below. He shivered and pulled the bathrobe closer about him. Outside the rehearsal room Emma put her nose to the crack between the doors, her tail up straight and very still; Gypsy was in there. Sandy pushed the door open and Emma, unable to control her impatience, forced her way through as soon as the gap was wide enough, disappearing into the darkened room chirruping happily. She trotted quickly towards a shadowy shape in the middle of the floor. Gypsy was sitting with his knees drawn up towards his chest, arms wrapped round them, a pose Emma was determined to break as she climbed up to butt him on the chin with her head, purring softly. Sensing Gypsy wanted to remain in the dark, Sandy left the lights off and went to sit down beside him. Gypsy wore a simple white knee-length kaftan but didn't seem to notice the cold. Sandy turned to face the other way so he could look into his face. "This won't do any good, mate, you should be in bed."
Gypsy shook his head as he looked down at Emma forcing herself into the angle made by his thighs and body. "I couldn't sleep; I have too much to think about. I am sorry if Emma disturbed you."
"That's okay, Mate, I'm glad she did."
Gypsy lowered his legs and gathered Emma to him. "I think she knew I was thinking of you. I've a feeling she can read my mind, and I find it very disturbing, but also very intriguing. Sometimes I feel frightened of these gifts I have. Last night, when we were in Brian's flat, I was frightened. There was evil in that place and I wanted to run away fast. We should have stayed and got the truth out of Bev and Jerry but I couldn't stand being in the place a moment longer. Then there was Peter. The moment I set eyes on him, I remembered everything he had done to me, and it was like looking into the mind of a monster."
"I noticed you avoided lookin' straight at him."
Gypsy nodded. "It threw me for a few seconds; I actually felt quite ill. I' m sorry I couldn't help you put those guys out. I just couldn't move, but only because I was caught off guard. I just wasn't prepared to see him there."
"So what do we do now, then; where do we go from here'?"
"I am not sure. That's why I came down here to think things out. I find it peaceful here in the dark. When Shana and I lived here, before Erica was born, and we rented the top floor apartment and this floor for rehearsals, we never told anyone, not even you, but our rel ationship was not always good. Not because of our relationship but because of the attitudes of others; you know, mixed couples plus the age gap. We used to have rows and I would come down here to cool off and try to sort myself out. Later, Shana would follow me down and… " Gypsy's voice died almost to a whisper. "Sometimes we would end up making love, right here in the dark, with no one else in the building. Maybe there was a telepathic link with Shana, I don't know. Yesterday when you and I were talking and I held your hand, I saw Trish on the phone. That's why I told y ou to ring her. It's a weird feeling, touching someone and getting these visions. I still can't get used to it. Then there are things I've not tried yet, not that I want to, like reading the Tarot and trying out psychometry and stuff."
Psychometry; it's the belief that you can read the history and ownership of an object, by holding it in your hands. Then there is the phenomenon of making something happen just by concentrating your mind, and also -."
"Woe, woe there! Losin' me you are. Just concentrate your mind on your own problem for the moment, right?"
"I wish it was that easy, as I said I am still learning; that's why I tried to reach Emma. And I wish it was Shana." Gypsy stroked the cat's silky fur, freshly cleaned by the lady herself before submitting willingly enough to a good brushing. Emma rewarded Gypsy's caresses by putting her front paws round his neck and nuzzling his chin with a cold moist nose. "I miss her so much, Sandy."
In an instant, Sandy had him and the cat in his arms, opening his bathrobe to enclose Gypsy in its warm folds and wishing he could materialize Shana out of the ether for him. He kissed the top of Gypsy's head and felt his friend relax against his chest. "So, what do we do first?"
Gypsy sniffed."I'll ask Barney to check Peter and Brian out first thing tomorrow; I don't think we'll get anywhere, though. I have a feeling we're being led away from the real target. Our Gemini man isn't round here but further north; my thoughts about him are always the strongest when I'm facing in that direction. I also feel it's someone I ought to know but all I get is a dark shadow. I ought to know who he is and at some time he has already given me a clue to his identity and I've forgotten it. I know that one of these days I am going to find out who he is, and I'll kick myself."
"Well, one thing is certain, mate; I'll never forget what we saw in Brian's f lat." He hadn't said anything yet, but that scene with Button Mouth had had an unsettling affect on him, shaking his moral beliefs and also his feeling for Gypsy to the core. When they had reached the apartment a little before two o'clock Gypsy had been exhausted and in too much pain to do anything but sleep, and after Sandy had carried him into the flat and put him to bed, Sandy had gone to bed in the spare room and had lain awake, thinking about his conversation with Trish. He had honestly believed he had spoken truthfully to her; now he was not so sure. Gypsy was ill, perhaps fatally. Except for their very first night together when Gypsy had the nightmare, he had wanted take him in his arms to comfort him, but Gypsy had rejected him. He had also rejected his poem and his early advances, saying it was just a schoolboy crush. Now, on this night, Gypsy had let him embrace him, relaxed and comfortable in his arms. Why? Was he missing Shana so much, or was he slowly realizing that their feelings for each other could no longer be ignored?
"I think we ought to get to bed," Gypsy said at last, but he didn't move except to let Emma move off his lap.
Sandy let go of him, got to his feet and helped Gypsy up. Together they walked upstairs to the apartment and on reaching Gypsy's bedroom, Gypsy turned to take hold of his hand. He gazed up at him and there were tears in his eyes. "I don't want to be alone tonight."
Knowing he should be strong about the situation, Sandy felt his reserve turning to water as Gypsy drew him to the bed and pulled away his rumpled duvet. He slipped off his kaftan and lay down; the love in his eyes a silent invitation for Sandy to join him. Sandy slipped off his bathrobe, slipped into bed and pulled the duvet over them. They lay apart for a few minutes, then Sandy turned on his aside and gazed at his friend, drinking in the sight of him, the smell of him. He reached out to touch him, his hand caressing his chest. He leaned forward to place his lips on Gypsy's, and all the yearnings of his youth came back with a rush. He took Gypsy in his arms and they kissed for a long time while their hands explored and caressed. Sandy loved the silkiness of Gypsy's skin as he ran his hands down the length of him from armpit to hip and beyond, and he thought back to the first time he had set eyes on him, realizing now that he had fallen in love with Gypsy then, and still loved him just as much now. Why hadn't Gypsy seen it before now? He'd been putting out enough signals ever since he knew him. Perhaps he wouldn't have married Trish; perhaps Gypsy wouldn't have married Shana. Perhaps…
He felt Gypsy shifting onto his back, taking Sandy with him till Sandy covered him with his heavy body, and he let his weight bear his friend into the mattress, surprised that he felt no desire to do more. He felt no response from his manhood or that of his friend. As he deepened his kiss and pushed his tongue into Gypsy's waiting mouth, he felt Gypsy spread his legs to enable Sandy to get closer to him. All of a sudden, he thought about Trish and his nerve went, and he wondered whether he could do it. As if reading his mind again, Gypsy said, "We don't have to do anything if you don't want to. I just want you to hold me and make me feel safe."
With a sign of relief, Sandy rolled to one side and gathered Gypsy to him, and felt Gypsy start to shake as his tears overflowed. Sandy held him close till he stopped crying, and his thoughts turned to the poem he had written. As Gypsy lay in the protection of his arms he spoke the words aloud.
"I want to share the 'urts you feel, and take the blows for you.
I want to be your champion, and fight your battles too.
I want to be your overcoat to shield you from the cold.
I want to be the strongest 'and you'll ever need to 'old.
My strength is yours to lean upon, my shoulder on which to cry.
My 'eart is yours, my friend, my love, until the day I die."
Gypsy began to shed fresh tears, and Sandy felt a deep sadness, not from the parting yet to come but from the knowledge of how difficult it would be to make Trish understand that, yes he loved Gypsy, but he loved her more and in a different way. He knew now, even as he held Gypsy in the protection of his arms; that he wanted to be with her and Stevie. He had to be honest with himself and open his heart to her; he had to reassure her that he would never leave her, that once they had resolved Gypsy's problems, his friend would release him and give him his blessing. Such was their destiny, and one thing was sure; Sandy's vows to Trish were as sound now as they when he made them. The love he and Gypsy had was as deep as his love for Trish but it was different; it was the bond between the dearest of friends, and that was what he hoped Trish would understand.
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