Erskine and Ed twisted round in their seats and Erskine said, "Looks familiar. Can't say where I've seen him before."
Ed chuckled. "Well if that don't shake my roots! That's Gypsy's old head teacher, James MacCaffrey."
"Oh yes, now I remember; he was a witness at Gypsy's trial, wasn't he?"
Satisfied Gypsy was in no danger, Barney drank his coffee and watched Gypsy lead the man back to his own table.
They sat down and Gypsy made the introductions. "You remember Lorna Basset? She was in school the same time as I was."
"Of course I do," MacCaffrey shook Lorna's hand. "Who could ever forget that mane of red hair? How are you Lorna?"
"Very well, sir."
MacCaffrey gave a soft bellow of laughter. "Less of the sir if you please, I'm not a teacher now, you know. I had a stroke of luck a couple of years ago and had some books published; so last year I decided I couldn't devote my time to writing and remain a headteacher so I resigned and now I write full time."
Gypsy's eyebrows rose in surprise. "You're a novelist?".
"Nothing so grand; I write books for young children, nature books mostly with a bit of Geology thrown in to make things interesting. I find it so much more rewarding, helping children to understand the natural complexity of the earth, than trying to keep sixteen hundred or so pupils in line, not to mention keeping up with an ever changing faculty. I majored in child psychology before I became a teacher as a matter of fact, so I'm also researching child behavior, and hope to have a series or books published on that topic too. Between you and me, I hated that damned school bell as much as you kids did, and believe me; I'm enjoying the freedom. The only timetable I have to stick to now is my publisher's deadline, and that," he looked at his watch, "is why I must leave you and have my lunch. I have my agent joining me in a few minutes." As he shook hands with Gypsy once more, he added, "Why don't you two come over to my hotel and have dinner with me tonight, we could talk about old times."
Gypsy caught Lorna's eye and saw the pleading in her eyes, obviously she did not want their own private dinner date to be spoilt. "I have a better idea. Lorna and I have a prior dinner date but I'm throwing a party for her at my place afterwards. We'd love to have you as a guest."
MacCaffrey beamed happily. "Well, that's very nice of you, I'd love to come."He returned to his table, leaving them gazing after him and still not believing their eyes and ears. Finally, they went back to their meal and as Lorna finished her sweet, Gypsy looked at his watched. "Jus t time for coffee, all right?"
Lorna shook her head. "Not for me, thank you. I'd hate to spoil such a lovely meal by being a glutton."
Gypsy spread his hands in deference to her wishes. "As you wish your highness; I take it you enjoyed your meal?"
Lorna glanced up at him, gazed straight into his luminous eyes. "Yes, I did, and not just the meal."
What Gypsy saw in her eyes made him feel as if someone had picked him up, turned him head over heels and set him down in his chair again; and what he read in her mind gave him a jolt. She wanted to stop dashing about and to just sit down quietly with him and tell everything about herself. She wanted to make closer contact with him before the day was through, and to find out why little Erica was so tiny for her age. She was also afraid he would reject her as she had rejected him on Blackpool Beach. She was hoping he would make the first move but was terrified that once he made it she would shrink away from him once more. What she didn't know was that he would never reject her or laugh at her. Something made him remember the words of the prophecy, and he suddenly saw things more clearly; he knew him meeting Loran again had been preordained. He also remembered that when he had held her hand at Chilvers, Aida had appeared to him and repeated her prediction, that Lorna was the one who had scorned him as she had scorned others. He reached across the table and, covered her hand. "I know you're a little tired of all this running around, so why don't we cut and run?"
"Cut and run?"
Gypsy looked down at their touching hands and hoped Lorna didn't notice how his cheeks burned. "We could head back to Chilvers and spend the rest of the day with Erica and Emma. Don't look now but there is a bright-blue battle cruiser hovering by the entrance to the restaurant. I don't think you could stand another three hours of her any more than I could." Gypsy raised his eyes to hers and waited for her reply, and mentally crossing his fingers.
Lorna shook her head."What about your schedule? Wouldn't Marla Frank act like a persistent shadow even at Chilvers?"
Gypsy signaled Erskine over to their table, and waited till the man had settled his ponderous weight in the chair beside him. "I want to change the schedule a bit, Erskine, can you handle things?"
"How much of a change?"
Gypsy rewarded him with a self-conscious grin. "An early flit back home while keeping the blue monster out of my firing line; at least till the party tonight. We can always give her a press release later on. Just tell her the story she gets will be worth the wait, all right?"
Erskine's eyebrow rose slowly then returned to its normal position. "She's not going to like it."
"I am not asking her to."
Erskine's eyes flicked from Gypsy to Lorna and back before his face creased with a knowing grin. "All right, I'll see what I can do. There's your appointment with Grafton at two fifteen, and the trip to Thames TV at three thirty. The rest can be dispensed with I suppose, with a bit of juggling and bribery in the right quarters."
Gypsy smiled his satisfaction. "There's one more thing; the man we were talking to is my old headmaster."
"Yes, Ed told us."
"Did he also tell you he's Bev Hine's brother?"
Erskine's eyes flashed. "Get away! Oh, yes, I remember now. What about him?"
"I've invited him to the party tonight. Perhaps we could get him talking. He may know something we don't."
Lorna stared at both of them. "Know what?"
Erskine patted her hand. "Nothing to worry your head about, my dear. If you're ready to go, Gypsy, I'll get Barney on the move."
"That won't be necessary," Gypsy nodded to where Barney was already striding towards the restaurant entrance. Barney had been lip-reading again.
Lorna was aware of the interested stares she received as they moved towards the exit. She felt her cheeks burn and only the way Gypsy held Lorna's hand tightly within his own, and kept her close to him, helped her deal with the fact that she was being seen in public with a famous star. Once in the Lamborghini they sat close together, holding hands, and Gypsy's eyes were warm and affectionate as he glanced sideways at her; and her hand was still clasped tightly in his as Gypsy led her up the short flight of steps to Grafton's chambers. In the stern looking barrister's inner sanctum, he introduced Edward and Lorna to each other and Lorna had a heady feeling of elation as Edward's eyes flicked over her appreciatively before his gaunt features cracked into a welcoming smile. He showed her to a comfortable chair in front of his desk. Sitting down beside her, Gypsy looked as happy as a cat that had pinched the cook's supply of cream; so happy, Lorna thought he could twist Edward round his little finger, or anyone else for that matter, any way he pleased. Something had happened to him while they ate lunch and Lorna wished she knew what it was.
Grafton sat down behind his desk and eyed the two of them. "I presume it is all right to talk in front of Miss Basset otherwise you wouldn't have brought her with you, so I will proceed. I have the figures you asked for." He handed Gypsy a thin folder and Lorna watched as he opened it, scanning the papers inside. "Mr. Wheast, your new accountant, dropped them in only a few minutes ago. He apologized for not being here to meet you in person; he had a prior appointment with another client. As you will see you do not have much moveable capital right now. And you do not have many shares you can sell easily before Friday. Mr. Wheast has listed the shares in order of dispensability, the first being the least valuable in terms of hanging on to them, down to the last, which you would be mad to get rid of. Just how much do you need to raise?"
"About sixteen million." Gypsy said without looking up. His calm statement made Lorna catch her breath and he rewarded her with a smile. "You didn't know I'm a business tycoon, did you? Thanks to this wise old owl here investing the remains of my late foster father's trust carefully, I am quite a rich little boy. For a lawyer he makes an excellent stock broker."
Grafton coughed with embarrassment. "Gypsy is being painfully modest, my dear, he has quite a shrewd eye when it comes to spotting a bargain.
"Look who taught me! If you want to make money, Lorna, stick close to Edward Grafton."
"Oh, I'm afraid I can't take all the credit for any increase in Gypsy's fortunes. Since the Grafton family came into money in the late eighteenth century, they have always been blessed with the cream of stock brokers and accounting firms to look after their affairs, of which Mr. Wheast is the latest whiz kid on the block to use one of these new fangled idioms." Edward chuckled and shook his head. "I've never seen my family as happy as they have been since Johnnie Wheast landed on our doorstep, especially my father. It's given the old man a new lease of life, if only to watch that young man give some of the so called stalwarts of the financial world a run for their money, and my father's no slouch at making a few sacks of gold himself!"
Gypsy grinned and went back to studying the file. Borrowing a pen from Edward he did some calculations on the side of the first page then ticked off several items before passing the file back to Edward. "If we sell the ones I have marked, we could raise fourteen and a half without touching Shana Royle Holdings. That's Erica's security for the future and I do n't want to use it."
"You have enough capital from your own business earnings. Diaz Enterprises can carry sixteen million surely."
Gypsy shook his head. "Not for this particular venture. I do n't want my company involved; this has to be a completely unconnected transaction."
"And just what are you hoping to transact?"
"The purchase of Hine Records."
Edward sat up straight in his chair, his jaw dropping slightly. "You are joking, of course."
"I'm quite serious, and I think I know just where I can get the other one and a half million."
"TAB Records. They owe me some change so all you have to do is drop a hint to Tillet that I will sign with TAB if he comes up with the money, otherwise I sign with Hine. If I do that, Tillet will have to pay me what TAB Records owe me. As you said at the apartment, he'll opt for the cheapest way out and the most profitable, which is to provide me with a loan to buy out a competitor, in return for which I will take the world by storm with my next two albums and make TAB a mint of money. Tillet will not like one of his stars owning a rival company and will try for a friendly takeover, which I will happily accept for five million above the price I pay for Hine, as long as I remain CEO of Hine Records."
Edward smiled slowly. "You are a cheeky devil, aren't you!."
"And sharp too."
Edward toyed with the file before sitting back in his chair and looking directly into Gypsy's eyes. "There is a snag, of course. Tillet might not want you to sign with him."
"Oh, Edward!" Gypsy looked hurt. "What do you take me for? I'm one jump ahead of that weasel and you know it. He's probably sitting in his office right now trying to figure a way to cook the books so he can raise his offer. Of course he wants me; ring him up and ask him. He'll blow you kisses over the phone and promise to kiss your boots the next time you meet him. He can't do without me any more than I can do without him and TAB Records. Ring him up and tell him I'll accept his offer with an increase of fifty thousand a year plus what he owes me, we won't need a fishing rod to hook him. He'll jump out of the river and into your basket."
Edward gave a nod of defeat. "All right, you seem to have done your research on this one. But aren't you forgetting something? Hine Records are not on the market yet."
"They will be," Gypsy said confidently. "Jerry is on his way to a director's meeting this very minute, he'll persuade his partners to sell, and seeing as the directors are the sole shareholders with the exception of two whose names are unknown to me, there won't be much opposition, will there? When they make their move I want to be the first to make an offer. And by the way, I might give Tillet a hint where he can get a loan to buy out Hine, once they're in my hands."
"And where might that be?"
"I'm sure, if he's as good as you say, my new accountant can pull a few strings with your family and release a few of those millions your dad is sitting on." Edward stared, speechless at him, and he went on, "Come on Edward, where's your sense of adventure? It's only till I buy Tillet out as well. That will create such a surge of interest with my fans, I'll have to reprise all my old albums, and do another British tour next year. That way Tillet will make enough to pay your dad back in full in two years tops." By the stunned expression on Edward's face as they rose to their feet, Lorna sensed he knew he had been outmaneuvered.
Outside Grafton's office Lorna turned to Gypsy as he began to lead her down the steps, her green eyes alive with amusement. "What makes you so sure about this business deal? You're exuding enthusiasm and confidence like the Flying Scotsman pushing steam."
"It's all to do with knowing things before anyone else does."
Lorna mocked him with her eyes, "Next thing you'll be telling me you have a crystal ball hidden up your sleeve!"
"Come back to Chilvers," Gypsy said mysteriously, "and I just might let you take a peep."
"I'll bet that's what you say to all the girls," Lorna giggled as she hung back, causing him to pause on him way down the steps.
Gypsy laughed up at her, pulled her quickly after him, and caught her in his arms on the bottom step. "Not all of them, just those with red hair who take me for a walk under seaside piers; at least you didn't try to spray me with perfume in a rather private place."
Lorna laughed and tried to struggle free herself. "Oh, yes? Tell me more."
"The girls I was with tried to get me into the tunnel of love but as soon as I realized what they were going to do, I split and bumped into you." Gypsy gave her a quick kiss on the end of her nose and they were still giggling about Blackpool when they fell into the back of the car.
Erskine turned round to stare at them, puzzled. "You two are in a good mood, what's up?"
"Nothing," Gypsy said with forced innocence. He looked at Lorna who giggled again and started him off once more.
Erskine waited till they had calmed down a bit, then said, "I think I can add to your fun. Sarah had a call from 'Thames' TV. The chat show's been cancelled; technicians dispute or something. The rest of the afternoon is yours. What would you like to do?"
Lorna smiled at Gypsy. "Cut and Run?"
Gypsy nodded and turned to Erskine. "Let's head for home."
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