Pluto's Child

by DJ

Chapter 23

Gypsy nodded. "I'm not sure what I'm getting. All I know is, someone in this house wishes me ill."

"Then you will have to be alone with each of your guests in turn and eliminate them one by one."

Gypsy looked aghast. "But that would take all night."

"I know, but it's the o nly way. I will try to help but these vibrations are directed at you and they would have to be very strong for me to feel them even slightly. My psychic powers are not as keen as yours." Giving Gypsy a reassuring hug he urged him to rejoin the party where they played their guitars and sang till their fingers were sore and their throats were dry.

In the middle of their performance, MacCaffrey indicated he wished to speak to them in the hall. He grabbed Gypsy's hand and pumped it vigorously. " That was marvelous, Gypsy. I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. It has been a wonderful night and now I really must leave. Thank you so much for inviting me. " He turned to Manuel and drew a fold of paper from his breast pocket. "This is what you asked for, Manuel. I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I've written down my new address on the back of the list, just in case you should need to call me. If you can't reach me there, try my old address, I've kept the old Trentham cottage on as a holiday retreat." They saw him to his car and, as he revved up the engine, he wound the window of the driving side down and shouted, " I knew you'd make it, Gypsy, and I was damned well right, wasn't I?" Then he waved and was gone, his departure seeming to herald the general breakup of the party.

Within an hour of him leaving, the last of the guests drove off down the drive , leaving the house peacefully quiet; but still Gypsy was uneasy. When Manuel asked him how he felt, he shook his head and said the strong sensation he had felt had disappeared but he still had a hunch that all was not well. David brought nightcaps into the lounge, and as Sandy, Erskine and Sarah joined the family gathering by the fire, Gypsy said, "I can't describe what I feel. I can't relate it to anything I've felt before except when I was in the cellar at Bev's place. I thought it would go when the guests left but it hasn't; the threat is still here in this house." He turned to David who was settling the fire for the night. "D avid, would you have Mike bring the dogs in, please?"

"What are you going to do?" Lorna asked anxiously.

"If there is anyone in the house who shouldn't be, the dogs will find him."

The dogs found nothing, and the household retired for the night, feeling Gypsy had made a mistake; but Manuel lay awake for a long time, wondering about it, before he got to sleep . Since Gypsy had developed his psychic abilities, he had rarely been wrong.

In the early hours of the morning, Butch lifted his head, his ears pricked forward, listening. Whatever had disturbed his snooze was close to the bedroom door. He rose from his basket by Erica's bed and padded quietly to the door, putting his nose to the gap between wood and carpet. He detected a strange scent and a low growl started deep in his throat, his powerful jaws parting, and snout rippling in a suppressed snarl. As the danger came closer his hackles stood on end and his snarl grew to warning pitch. The child roused and sat up in her bed, whimpering. The danger moved away down the corridor and Butch calmed down, his snout still at the gap. The child climbed off the bed and tottered towards the door, hands rubbing at her eyes. She began to whimper again, not quite awake, as she reached for the door handle. Butch took a mouthful of her nightie and pulled her away from the door. Butting her in the back, he steered her back to her bed, but she stumbled over his basket and fell onto the cushion. He whined at her, but she was already curling up and falling asleep.

Gypsy woke with a nagging pain in his back. His tablets were on the bedside locker but he wasn't due for one yet, not with the Champagne he had consumed at the party. The alternative was to take a walk. Damned if he was going to disturb Ed on one of his rare nights in bed with Jo. He glanced down at Lorna; asleep beside him with her red hair all messed up on the pillow. If she ever tried to cut it he would disown her, she was too beautiful as she was. No need to disturb her either. Gypsy limped into the dressing room and hunted for the woolen djelleba Manuel had brought back from Morocco for him. Finding it he slipped it on and pulled the hood over his head to keep his neck warm. He reached for his elbow crutches, and froze. It was as if someone was standing on his head. He could feel the weight and al most see the person, slight, wiry, but very strong. The feeling passed as quickly as it came and Gypsy wondered if had felt it at all. He waited quietly, but the feeling did not return. Opening the door to the corridor, he walked as far as the stairs and back, turned again and retraced his steps as far as Erica's bedroom. Still feeling uneasy, he opened the door and peeped in. Butch lifted his head from where he lay in his basket, and whined softly. Gypsy went to the basket and, kneeling down, he patted the dog's head. The dog had curled himself round his daughter like a bitch round her pup. "Sleepwalking again?" Butch's mouth opened in a happy pant. Gypsy tried to lift Erica out of the basket. The pain got worse as he took her weight. In the end he had to rouse her.

The moment she was awake, she put her arms round his neck and whimpered a little. "A man."

Gypsy felt cold fingers touch his spine. "What man, darling?"

Erica's eyes were closing and he had to ask her again. She pointed to the ceiling. "Up there, a man."

"All right, Baby, you get back into bed and go to sleep. Butch and I will look for him."

Erica murmured, "Carry, Daddy."

"I can't, Baby. I have a bad pain, I can't lift you." Erica started to whimper but after a little coaxing she climbed into bed and went to sleep. Gypsy covered her over and turned to look at Butch. The basket was empty, the dog already waiting at the door. Out in the corridor, Butch put his snout to the floor and followed the scent he had found. Gypsy followed him along the corridor to the far end where the back stairs to the upper floor were no longer in use, in favour of the more modern one leading off from the main stairs. The dog growled as they looked up the tightly curving steps. Gypsy had two choices, leave Butch on guard and fetch help and have Ed laugh at him if it turned out to be nothing but a bad dream, or go and take a look first.

"Okay, Butch. Up we go, but no rough stuff, understand?" He started up the stairs and found it hard going. The pain in his back increased and he paused halfway, Butch waiting impatiently at his side. The dog growled again. Someone was definitely up there. Butch's lips curled back off his teeth and the simple command, 'GO', had him charging up the stairs like a rocket. Gypsy turned to hurry back downstairs to raise the alarm and slipped. He twisted awkwardly trying to grab the banister to stop him falling and his left leg gave way. He felt his grip weakening and tumbled down the rest of the stairs.

In the haze that followed, he heard Butch barking franticly. He knew he had to get help, if only he could.…..

Barney slept in a small suite on the ground floor, at the back of the house and within reach of the security room. Having taken a night remedy for a heavy cold, his natural instinct did not kick in and rouse him to an emergency. When he did awake, he thought he was hearing things so he turned over to go back to sleep, confident that Pete, on night watch, would call him. Then the dogs started barking in the back yard. In a flash Barney had the light on and was reaching for his dressing gown and his gun. Where the hell was Pete? Men on duty had strict orders to wake him at the first sign of trouble. He pressed the intercom button; nothing happened. He threw open his bedroom door and heard it all. Butch was making a nose somewhere upstairs, Ed's voice could be heard yelling for someone to give him a hand, and little Erica's frightened wails mingled with the sound of running footsteps along the corridor above. Barney's suite was down a short passage beside the study, and alongside the study off the entrance hall was the small utility room Gypsy had turned into a security room. Ten foot by twelve, it was just big enough to house the closed circuit television monitors and the remote controls to the dog cage, plus a settee for those on duty to put their feet up between rounds. When Miki was not was not on duty, the cage could be opened if necessary from the security room. The dogs, were then released and trained to know exactly what to do, would find and shepherd any intruder back to the house to be dealt with. No one ever argued with a Doberman. The room also housed a direct line to the local police station and to Barney's head office in London. Barney dived round the corner into the room intending to give Pete a piece of his mind and tripped over Pete's legs. He was lying in the security room doorway with a deep gash in the back of his head. Barney checked his pulse and made sure his breathing was unimpaired then rose to his feet. Diving into the office, he saw that every monitor was blank. He flipped the controls; nothing happened. He threw the switch to the police alarm and released the dogs, then took the stairs three at a time . At the far end of the first floor corridor, Manuel and Ed were kneeling beside Gypsy, helping him to sit up. Lorna was standing nearby trying to pacify a very frightened and confused child in her arms, and Sandy was heading up the upper stairs to check what Butch was sounding off at. As Jo came hurrying from her room with a blanket to wrap round Gypsy, Barney caught Manuel's angry look. "I know; we've had visitors and Pete's out cold with a cut head. The close circuit's down. What happened here?"

Gypsy seemed too dazed to speak but little Erica started crying again and pointed to the upper stairs. "A man, up there."

Barney dived up the stairs after Sandy and they found Butch in the first bedroom, barking furiously at an open window. Barney stuck his head out of the window and looked along the guttering beside the gable; no one there. He gazed down into the garden, now ablaze with independently controlled security lights. "Well, that's that, Butch old boy, you did your best. Let's hope those kids of your have better luck." In the distance, they were creating loudly somewhere towards the southern boundary. "Our phantom friend must have got out by this window and shimmied down the drain pipe at the end of this wing by the look of things. I released the dogs before coming upstairs, and they must have chased him to the boundary wall; here 'em?" He patted Butch's head. "You would have made a meal of him if you'd have caught him, wouldn't you boy?"

"Hadn't you better c all the police, then?" Sandy asked.

"Already taken care off; we'd better get downstairs, they'll be here any minute." Taking the reluctant dog by the collar, he dragged him away from the window and led him down the stairs with Sandy trailing after them. They found Ed and Manuel moving slowly towards Gypsy's bedroom with Gypsy between t hem, limping badly.

Barney noted Ed's grim expression. " You want me to ring Monclare?"

"No." Gypsy got in before Ed could reply. "I'll be all right. It is just twisted my ankle a bit."

But Ed glowered at him. "Take no heed of him, man, go call Monclare and keep on calling till you speak to him yourself. Tell him what's happened and ask him to come and look this damn fool over."

"Ed, I'm all right."

"Bullshit," Ed growled and picked Gypsy up in his arms, wringing a gasp of pain from him. "I oughta batten you down with six inch nails; taking a walk in the middle of the night just for the sake of not calling me outta bed. What d'ya think you are, some kinda cupid?"

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