Pluto's Child

by DJ

Chapter 27

Lorna came downstairs from checking on Erica, and found Manuel still sitting by the lounge fire, reading a book. She sat down on the opposite settee and picked up the cardigan she had started to crochet for Erica. Manuel's face was calm and showed no sign of worry about Gypsy's absence. It irritated her. "Is there any news yet?"

Manuel looked up and smiled at her. "No; but there is no need to concern ourselves for the moment. Barney and Ed might want to tear the whole of London apart, but I know Gypsy is all right. We will give him another hour or so to contact us, before we have Barney call the police ."

Lorna was flabbergasted. "But he promised to come back ages ago; aren't you worried about him?"

Manuel said, "Why should I be? Emma will tell me if any thing is wrong."

"Emma?" Lorna thought Manuel was going crazy.

"Yes." Manuel gazed fondly at the cat stretched out in front of the fire. "Emma is a very wise lady. I have always believed that she and Gypsy have a telepathic link. I have watched her carefully since she joined our household, and by her movements I know what is happening to my son when he is away from home. If all is well Emma will stay, as she is now, a lazy house cat, eating and sleeping, and being pampered, as befits a lady. But when Gypsy is on his way home and he thinks of the welcome awaiting him, Emma will go to the front porch to wait for him like a doting wife. She always knows when to go to the gate to meet his car and have a ride back; and woe betide him if the car doesn't stop to pick her. She will hiss and spit at him and act like a lover scorned. If Gypsy is in trouble Emma will prowl around the house like a worried mother and if she knows the nature of the danger she will make herself a nuisance till someone takes notice of her and does something about it.

"I remember one night last year when Gypsy was on his way to a concert and a drunken driver forced his car off the road . The car was only slightly damaged but Gypsy and his driver and bodyguard were shaken up. Emma knew all about it and told us, loud and clear that something was wrong. When Ed and I went out to my car, Emma raced down the drive and stood in the gateway staring in the direction Gypsy had taken. Her tail was twice its size and swishing from side to side, and I realized she was telling us the direction Gypsy had taken." Manuel leaned down to stroke Emma and she rolled over to have her tummy stroked. "That is why I am not in the least bit worried about my son."

For the rest of the evening Lorna found it hard concentrate on her work without glancing down at Emma every few minutes. Emma never moved except to change her position, and preen herself thoroughly.

Apart from the occasional illumination from the moon as it played hide and seek among the clouds, the house was in deep shadow. Sandy was amazed at the changes to the outside of the house as he leaned against the bike where he had parked it on the gravel drive. From what they saw from Gypsy's powerful torch, the pebble dashing had been painted white and the woodwork repainted a deep blue. The front door had been replaced by one of solid oak with a lion's head knocker. Rose bushes of all kinds surrounded the house. Gypsy stood a few yards back and stared up at the house. He had already walked slowly round it twice and Sandy wondered how much longer he was going to wait before doing something. As if in answer to his thoughts, Gypsy came towards him. "This is it; this is MacCaffrey's old house; the one I saw in my vision. This is where I'll find some answers. There's a pantry window with a broken catch, round the back of the house. It's big enough for me to squeeze through if you give me a leg up."

"Oh, no! That's breakin' and enterin'."

"Okay, I understand. Wait for me, I won't be long." Without waiting for an answer, he turned away and disappeared into the shadows.

Cursing, Sandy followed him round into the back garden and onto the back patio. Gypsy stood beneath a small flap window. Still thinking he had gone crazy, Sandy tried to draw him away. "For God's sake, mate, don't be daft."

Gypsy wrenched free and glared at him. "There is something in that house I have to see. There is a room upstairs with pictures, and possibly videos. I can see equipment of some kind and even smell chemicals. I have to take a look and if you don't want to help me, okay, I said I understand. Just don't get in my way."

Sandy stared back at him and knew there was nothing he could do to stop him, apart from tying him to the bike. "All right, mate, you've twisted my arm till it's almost off." Moving towards the window, he bent down to make a stirrup of his hands.

Later, Sandy sat down on the bed in the room they had found, and gazed in disappointment at the photofloods stacked in a corner with reflector shields and canvas backdrops standing against the wall in front of him. His disappointment was echoed on Gypsy's face as he emerged from t he large walk-in cupboard in the opposite corner. It had been turned into a darkroom. Gypsy dropped wearily onto the bed and groaned. "I can't understand it. I was so sure this was the place, and all we found is that MacCaffrey is a part time photographer." He gazed at the dog-eared appoint ment book they had found and was now open on Sandy's knee. "Mr. Markham, portrait of children, three copies, nineteenth of February nineteen eighty. Mr. Booth, portrait of wife, four copies, postcard size, two copies eight by ten, thirtieth of February, nineteen eighty, and so on and so on."

Sandy yawned. He was tired and the bed felt so inviting. "It does n't sound like porno to me."

Gypsy fell backwards on the bed with a sigh, and closed his eyes. "Those draw ers and cupboards in there are full of negatives and photographs; j ust ordinary pictures."

"Some are quite beautiful," Sandy remarked. " MacCaffrey cert ainly 'as a gift 'e could make a mint with! There's a file full of prints of wild flowers in there; you know the type; close ups showin' every detail, and there are some of insects too. M ust've taken ages to do."

"I wonder if he illustrates his own books that way. He was always keen on biology."

"So, what's next?"

"We put everything back as we found it and head for home." Gypsy yawned again and tried to flex his shoulder muscles. "Next time I get a hairy idea like this just throw me in a cupboard and swallow the key."

Sandy rose to his f eet and lifted Gypsy's legs onto the bed. "Y ou 'ave a rest, I'll clear up. I'm too knackered to ride back so, if you don't mind, we'll go to Mam's for a kip. We'll phone your dad from there."

Too tired to argue Gypsy closed his eyes and Sandy went into the darkroom. Gypsy had pulled quite a lot of stuff out of the upper drawers and he found one impossible to close. He decided to start again and took everything out. The lower layer of files and wallets, which Gypsy had put back himself, was uneven. Sandy lifted them to find out why, and found an old album bound in worn green leatherette. Curiosity made him take it out, to have a look at, and he opened it on the processing bench. Feeling tired, he leaned one elbow on the bench and crossed his feet. Resting his head against his supporting hand he turned the pages of the album. It wasn't long before he realized they were looking at MacCaffrey's life in picture form. Through them, he watched the ex-headmaster pass through nursery and governess education, private senior school and finally college. Further photographs showed his marriage, the birth of his daughters and their own child hood. Sandy felt his right foot going to sleep and he shifted his weight, uncrossed his feet and the toe of his left boot connected sharply with the kick-board under the chemical cupboard he was leaning against. The kick-board fell outward onto his foot and he bent down to put it back. What he saw made him swear. Under the cupboard was a large flat cardboard box. He eased it out and opened the lid, and gaped at the canisters of cine-film; all neatly labeled with titles and dates. Why hide them? He stared at the kick boards under the other cupboards. Maybe they were also hiding something interesting. Taking out his penknife, he pried the next kick-board loose and found another box. This one contained flat brown paper parcels, similarly dated and titled. Sandy picked one at random, dated August ninety five and titled 'Tommy'. Careful not to damage the wrapper, he opened it. The face in the first photograph made his hands tremble. "Hell's Bells, Roddy Jameson! Gypsy, come and look at these." The second picture was of Jameson, naked but posing i n such a way that nothing could be seen, it was just an art picture of a thirteen-year old boy. But each photo was a little more daring, recording his transition from adolescence to full rampant maturity. As Gypsy joined him in the cupboard, Sandy turned the last one over and saw the date written on the back. Tenth of August, nineteen ninety-nine. Sandy glanced at the dates on the other packets and found one as recent as a week ago. "I wonder who 'is favourite pin up is now, then?" He opened the packet, saw who it was. "Next time I don't believe you just give me a bloody good kickin', will you? T hat's the lad the cops are looking for, isn't it?"

Gypsy gazed down at the packets and swore softly. "Stephen Kendricks! Now I'm beginning to understand. I've seen this pattern before. These are more than just porn pictures, Sandy. These are adverts. These boys are lured into vice, trained to satisfy special customers then photographed and copies sent to likely buyers."

Sandy's jaw dropped." Pulling my leg, you are."

Gypsy's face hardened. "Sandy, when will you open your eyes for once and look at the big bad world you're living in? Rem ember what I went through as a kid, and what Guido was up to? A lready there are syndicates scouring the world for pretty little boys to satisfy this trade. Look at the way MacCaffrey was all over me when we were in school; this is what he had in store for me when he started acting the friendly teacher bit. And if you think it couldn't happen in a sleepy town like Trentham, think how many boys went missing or ran away from home since you came to live here. I'll bet you a year's salary you'll find photographs of at least forty percent of them in these packets."

Sandy still wasn't convinced, and Gypsy insisted on opening all the packets to prove he was right. By the time the last packet had been opened, Sandy had identified eight boys he had known personally, and another ten others he had read about in the papers.

"Were those eight boys in our school?" Gypsy asked.

Sandy nodded, being slightly sick. "Yeah; and I'll tell you somethin' as well. Remember MacCaffrey's Friday first aid sessions, Gypsy?"

They stared at each other, and Gypsy nodded. " They all took first aid on Fridays. Now we know why he was so keen to keep you out and get me in."

They wrapped the packets again and, stowed them in the box then Gypsy eyed the remaining two kick-boards. "I think we'd better take a look behind those two. We have to make sure there are no pictures of me before we go." Sandy used his knife gain and worked the first one free, found nothing and loosened the second one. Behind it was a smaller box containing a carefully bound album of assorted porno shots. Sandy turned his face away at the filth that flicked before his eyes and he said, "MacCaffrey's private collection, no doubt?"

Gypsy scanned through them. "Not a private collection, Sandy, it's MacCaffrey's blackmail book. Take a look."

"No thank you," Sandy retorted. "I've seen enough."

"Don't look at the bodies or what they are doing," Gypsy snapped. "Just look at the faces. I wasn't in Trentham all that long but I can put a name to some of them. How about Richard Fairbanks, your friendly deputy mayor; or Edward Gregg, managing director of Trentham and West Construction?" They were all there; public faces they had seen in newspapers, minor businessmen and politicians, and even one nationally known foreign merchant who had made the headlines a few years ago when he had embezzled his company's funds. It was clear now why he had needed the cash.

Gypsy didn't dwell on any particular picture, turning the pages quickly as if longing to reach the end. Then suddenly they were looking at a face that shocked them both. They were looking at a blow up of Gypsy's face, showing his eyes half closed in an expr ession of inner enjoyment. The next photograph revealed the rea son for that enjoyment. In the picture Gypsy was lying on a bed blue draped bed, the lower half of his body hidden by the kneeling figure of a naked man. Other pictures showed him in an assortment of positions. In some, he was with just the man; in others a woman was with them and in every picture Gypsy's face was the only one on view.

"Well, now I know for sure." Gypsy pointed to one photograph in particular. "What happened at Northwood was no nightmare. I thought I dreamed about Jerry and Bev, the man in my bed! It was all fucking real. And this…this is the picture I'm being blackmailed with. Now we know who the blackmailer is, and to think I trusted him. He's nothing but scum." Suddenly there were tears in his eyes and he doubled over as if in pain. Sandy put an arm round his shoulder to comfort him and he straightened slowly, wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands and stared at the mess they had made.

Sandy patted his shoulder. "Come on, Mate, you go and lie down. It won't take me a moment to get this lot put away then we can go home."

Gypsy shook his head vigorously." We can't, not yet. We can't just pack things up and leave. We have to find the negatives or things will never end." The bulk of MacC affrey's negatives were openly displayed in plastic trays, titled and dated as the packets had been. Sandy started looking through them but Gypsy shook his head. "You are wasting your time, he wouldn't store porn negatives where anyone could find them. He will have hidden them well somewhere."

"Okay," Sandy replied, closing the tray he had pulled out, "Where then?"

Gypsy limped into the bedroom and flopped down on the bed, closed his eyes and sighed. Sandy knew he was more than just tired and it was then he realized just how tired he was himself, but one of them had to stay awake. He went to the bedroom window, opened it and let the cold early morning air blow in his face. A moment later, he closed it again and turned t o look at Gypsy and found his friend staring up at the ceiling with wide, unfocused eyes. "We don't have to look any further," Gypsy said quietly. "They're right above my head."

Out on the landing, Sandy stared up at the ceiling. Reaching up he could just about push the hatch up and to one side. "We'll need your torch."

Gypsy shook his head. "I won't. I can find them in the dark."

Sandy glared at him. "You're not goin' up there!"

"You don't know where they are or what to look for. I do."

"I know what negatives look like, Dumbhead!"

"Stop arguing and lift me up."

"No way."

Gypsy's eyes blazed at Sandy. "You think MacCaffrey's left them lying about like a bunch of flowers waiting to be picked? My nose will lead me to them and I will not need a torch. " His anger faded until his eyes were smiling." Now will you please lift me up? We're wasting time:"

Sandy gave a sigh of annoyance. He knew it was impossible to dissuade Gypsy from doing something when he was in this mood. He stepped forward to give Gypsy a boost when Gypsy stiffened, listening with a finger to his lips. Sandy listened, and heard a footstep below him. Both of them crept silently into the bedroom and switched off the light, leaving the door open an inch so they see out onto the landing. He knew they were in a load of trouble when heavy boots started climbing the stairs, and Sandy felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck.

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