Pluto's Child

by DJ

Chapter 35

He waited until the audience had fallen silent; the conductor stared up at him from the pit and waited for instructions. Gypsy spoke softly, hesitantly, into the mike. "Friends, some time ago, Sandy sent me a new piece of music he had written and, as usual, I gave it to Kenny to write suitable lyrics for it. But the melody was so beautiful Kenny could not find the words to match it. I was disappointed, as I did not want to pass the work on to an outsider. Then I remembered I already had in my possession the perfect lyrics; a poem which had been dedicated to me by a friend." Sandy's stomach lurched as Gypsy turned his head to look at him." You remember the piece of music, Sandy?" Not waiting for an answer, Gypsy turned back to the audience. "Normally, a song has to be rehearsed over and over again before it is perfect. But this time you will hear a new song even before the tune and the lyrics have been united. This is its first rehearsal, but before I sing it, I would like to dedicate it to Sandy himself, and also for his wife Trish; for their love and devotion to me; their strength in times of grief and trouble.

"When I had the accident, it was Sandy and Trish who were at my side. When it was feared I would not make it, it was Sandy who pulled me through, and he is here again when I need him the most. He's a wonderful guy with a wonderful wife, and this is dedicated also to her. Her name is Trish and she is sitting up there, in box number two." There was a united turning of heads as people craned their necks to look at Trish and applaud her. "They are my dearest friends, and I love them both. For them, Your Royal Highnesses, ladies and gentlemen I would like to sing, 'Pebbles In The Tide'; thank you."

Sandy couldn't believe his ears! The guy is crazy! Out of his mind! He took a deep breath and began to play his newest work, and Gypsy began to sing,

"The secret of our love we cannot tell."

"Bloody Hell!" Sandy thought , "It would be no secret now!

"Yet could we only speak our thoughts aloud.

And describe convincingly this magic spell,"

That isn't what a lot of jerks would call it. Sandy could see the headlines. Pop-star's lover is a guy.

"All heaven would our lonely world enshroud."

Iesu, Gypsy! Think about Lorna, think about Trish., will you!

"That day we w alked along the windswept shore,

And tossed the pebbles in the flowing tide,

I wept because I could not hold your hand,

For from the world, our love we had to hide."

Gypsy stood with his eyes closed, holding the mike between the palms of his hands as if in prayer; he looked so tiny, so fragile against the blackness of the footlights, and the embarras sment faded from Sandy's heart. After all, Gypsy only wanted a tiny piece of someone's love, what was wrong with that?

"Yet gladly I would be those pebbles tossed,

If yours the hand that sent me to my grave,"

Sandy felt Gypsy reaching out to him with his mind, to fill him with love.

"S0 too I'd bear the weight of worldly scorn,

If this, our love, eternal sanction gave.

And now we are apart I feel a pain,

So terrible I wish that I could die."

Gypsy's voice faded to a whisper above Sandy's playing, forcing Sandy to extract a lower volume from the piano to avoided swamping him as he sang the final lines of the song.

"And yet in dying

I should dispossess t he pain... of living... even hopelessly."

He sang it through a second time, with Sandy adding more colour to the style of the music, to match the more prayerful mood of Gypsy's rendition. At last, Gypsy lowered the mike to his side, his head bowed. The tabs began to close and the lights slowly dimmed. Looking up, he brought the mike back up again, he said quietly " Adiós mis amigos y muchas gracias. "

Sandy thought that would be it, but the audience were determined to hold Gypsy on that stage as long as possible. They rose as one and applauded him with incensed delight, yelling for more at the tops of their voices. The tabs stopped within three feet of him and drew back again; the roars grew louder and louder even though Gypsy shook his head. He swayed slightly and Sandy rose from the piano and walked to him. Gypsy turned to greet him and held out his right hand but Sandy ignored it and slipped one arm round his waist to support him. Together they turned to bow to the royal box, then to the audience, and stood under a hail of flowers until the tabs finally closed. Gypsy wilted at last as Ed dashed on stage.

"Come on, come on," Ed growled under his breath. It was well after eleven o'clock and the presentation of the company to the Royal party had lingered on and on until he wanted to dive on stage and drag Gypsy away. "Look at all those jerks," he breathed angrily as he, Monclare and Manuel, watched the hangers on trying to get close to Gypsy and the young royal couple as they talked in the middle or the stage. "Petty people trying to rub shoulders with royalty; makes me wanna puke."

Manuel nodded absently, his gaze fixed on Gypsy fighting to concentrate on the conversation in hand, hiding his pain and grief behind a polite smile despite Ed insisting that he use his elbow crutches. Erskine and Sandy stood close, outwardly attentive towards the star but in reality watching for any sign or collapse. Manuel voiced Ed's fears. "I hope this does not carry on much longer, I will be glad when Barney gets him away from here; is he ready with the van?"

"Has been for the last half hour; the van's parked down the side of the building, past the side exit."

"Don't worry," Monclare reassured Manuel, "I will be with him all the way home."

"What about all the crowds outside?"

"They won't see a thing." A nearby stage hand said. "There are double doors across the alley and no-one will see anything until the van comes outta them doors; then all they'll see is a removal van taking scenery away. By the time they wise up to what's in the van, it'll be too late to chase it."

Manuel glanced up at Ed with worried eyes. "What about Jo and Trish?"

"All taken care of; Barney's gonna drive them home after he's seen us off the premises," and hearing a footstep behind him he turned his head. "Talk about the devil and here he is!"

Barney nodded to him then turned to Manuel. "I've just had an interesting phone call from that booking office bloke, Derek Bessey."

"Oh?" Manuel's eyebrows rose slightly. "What did he want?"

"Don't know exactly, he said he had to talk to Gypsy and no-one else. He sounded pretty rattled about something; I've sent one of my men to pick him up and take him straight to Chilvers; I don't suppose it will do any harm to hear what he has to say." Suddenly the formalities on stage were over, and the royal party moved off with the theatre manager enroute for the front foyer. Barney gave Ed a nudge as Sandy and Erskine took advantage of the attention being predominantly on the royals to hustle Gypsy towards the wings. He smiled weakly as he linked arms with his father and everyone closed round him to provide a secure escort down into the auditorium and out through the side exit. Out in the darkened alley the removal van waited with its tailgate down. Once inside it, Gypsy collapsed onto a camp bed . Manuel tucked a warm blanket round him, and once everyone else climbed aboard, the tailgate was raised. During the short drive to Chilvers, Gypsy never stirred as exhaustion swept over him, only his hand gripping his father's indicating he had not fallen asleep. Monclare watched him carefully with a worried frown, checking his pulse every few minutes. O nly Sandy and Manuel sensed Gypsy was trying to make contact with Lorna once more.

No one relaxed until Gypsy had been settled into bed and Monclare had gone home, after promising to call back in the morning. Ed and Sandy saw their respective wives up to bed and that left Manuel to think about Derek Bessey. What could the poor man want to talk to Gypsy about so urgently? Perhaps he's remembered something about the kidnapping, but surely he would have gone straight to the police. Standing on the landing at the top of the stairs, Manuel closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the unfortunate victim of a kidnapper's violence. It was eleven forty-five, nearly six hours since Erica and Lorna had been taken, and in that time no word had come from those responsible. Manuel's thoughts came full circle, back to Derek, and he knew then why the man was here. Clearing his mind he descended the stairs and was met by Sean, who said, "Sir, there is a gentleman to see you, a Mr. Bessey. He says he is expected. He seems quite nervous about something, I offered him a brandy which he refused in preference for tea and a cigarette, I obliged him, of course."

"Thank you, Sean." Manuel turned towards the lounge. "After what has happened today, I could do with a brandy myself, but a little later perhaps. You received my message about today's events?"

"Yes, sir; you and Mr. Gypsy have my deepest sympathy. I only hope Miss Lorna and Miss Erica will soon be found."

In the lounge, Manuel round Derek standing with his back to the door, arms folded a little too tightly across his chest as he studied one or Gypsy's favourite porcelain figurines. His face was pale and drawn as he turned to face Manuel which added weight to Manuel's theory that something had shaken the man.

As they shook hands, and Derek asked after Gypsy. Manuel said, "I don't know, Derek. He is very near to cracking up as there are other problems pressing upon him at the moment as well. I just don't know how much more he can take." He indicated that Derek should sit down by the fire he watched the man sit on the edge of the settee. This was not like Derek Bessey. "Your visit has to do with my grand-daughter and Lorna, am I right?"

Relief flooded across Derek's face. "Was that a calculated guess or are you psychic too?"

Manuel smiled softly, "Not quite as gifted as my son, but I can pick up thoughts from time to time if they are strong enough, and yours were pretty strong just now, so why not tell me what has happened?"

Derek shook his head. "I promised I wouldn't talk to anyone but Gypsy. If I talk to anyone else I'm a dead man, and I'm not joking. I'm coward you see; it's safer that way. When someone says jump or get burned, I jump."

"Very wise." Manuel turned to pace the carpet while he tried to work out what to do. At last he turned back to Derek. "All right, Derek, I'll take you upstairs to see Gypsy where you can talk alone." Smiling mysteriously, he added, "they did not say you would be harmed if anyone sort of listened in, did they?"

Derek caught onto what he meant, smiled back at him. "No, I suppose they didn't."

On the way upstairs, Manuel got Derek talking about himself and his life in the theatre world and how he rose from theatre ticket seller in a music shop to booking office manager of one of the world's most famous theatres. By the time they reached Gypsy's bedroom, Manuel had managed to calm Derek's nerves to such an extent that when the man was seated on the edge of Gypsy's bed, he talked as easily as if he and Gypsy were old friends reminiscing about old times. In the lounge next door, Manuel sat in the darkness and concentrated his mind; Gypsy's thoughts being clearer than a radio at full volume.

On arriving home from hospital, Derek had taken one of the tablets the doctors had given him and had gone to bed. Around nine thirty, he had been woken by a phone call from Inspector Todd, asking him to call in at the local station in the morning to make a formal statement. After that there had been a stream of calls from reporters wanting interviews. When the phone rang yet again, he had almost thrown the thing out of the window but had been stopped by a weird voice telling him to listen carefully if he valued his life. He had listened.

The voice had been so strange, so quiet and low, with a very measured speech with a foreign accent. Manuel sensed the dark fear in Gypsy's mind and for a second had a vision of someone in his past, before Derek continued his story. The caller had the girl and the child, and Derek was to bring Gypsy a message and to talk to no one else. If he did, and the police were informed, the caller would know almost immediately; and the girl and the child would die, and so would Derek. If Gypsy wanted to see his child alive again, he was to follow the instructions Derek gave him, and he and Derek had to tell no-one of the phone call or the message. Just after one o' clock, when the dogs had completed their two hourly patrol, Gypsy was to walk out of the main gate of Chilvers, alone, and head Northwards until a car stopped to pick him up. That was all. Derek had no idea who the caller was, but he was told to describe the voice and Gypsy would know who he was.

"Yes, I do know who it is; a very cunning man called Marcus Munan te. He obviously knew Chilvers would be swarming with detectives and my own security men, and the phones would be tapped, so he used you to bring the message; very ingenious ."

"But why should this man want to do you or your family any harm?" Derek wanted to know, and as quickly as possible, Gypsy told him about Munante and why he wanted Gypsy back.

"If he had contacted me direct, and had asked me to go with him I would have told the police where to find him, so he grabbed Erica and Lorna to guarantee I would keep my mouth shut and return to his harem like a lost lamb; and that is exactly what I will have to do."

Panic rose like a tidal wave that Manuel had to fight to control. Don't give up, Gypsy, don't give up. Rising quickly he went to the bedroom door and opened it. Derek and Gypsy looked towards him as he walked to the bed; he stood gazing down at his son. "If you go to Munante now, you will still be without Erica and Lorna."

Gypsy struggled to sit up. "I know that, but there is nothing else I can do. At least they will be safe. It looks like Munante has someone on the police force keeping him informed, so it's up to us to see this thing through by ourselves."

"Don't be ridiculous:" Manuel protested, forcing Gypsy to lie down again. "You are exhausted and confused right now; in this state you are more likely to make rash decisions which would only lead to disaster. Let Barney handle things his way, please?" In a gentler tone, he added, "All you should think about now is sleep."

Gypsy's eyes glistened. "Sleep; how can I? If I leave things until the morning, it will be too late, and I would rather die myself than have anything happen to Erica or Lorna; if that is what it will take, then I will do as Munante asks."

At that point Manuel realized there was no changing Gypsy's mind; he had made up his mind. He turned to Derek. "I don't see the point in you returning home tonight, Derek. There is plenty of room here at Chilvers, and you would be spared the disturbance of more phone calls." After bidding Gypsy goodnight, he led Derek to a guest room along the corridor.

Derek was frowning deeply as Manuel open the guest room door. "I don't understand how Gypsy can be so calm about all this; if I was him I'd be out of my mind by now, and all this talk about dying, it's so morbid."

Manuel smiled as he stepped back to allow Derek to enter the room. "You should study astrology, my friend. Death holds no terror for a Scorpio; he has the wisdom of life and death woven into his soul and he can walk in step with Satan or the Angel Gabriel and know them both."

Derek's eyebrows shot upwards but Manuel said no more, leaving the man to make him-self comfortable. He headed back along the corridor and spotted Emma sitting outside Gypsy's bedroom door and gazing fixedly at it. Sean was crouched beside her, stroking and fussing her. Manuel bent to stroke her head and said, "I might have known she would show up sometime." He opened the door to let her in; she mewed softly and disappeared inside. Sean grinned at the sight of her, and then sobered as he and Manuel looked towards the bed. Gypsy looked the same as when Manuel had left him, but his eyes were closed, and he seemed peaceful enough; Manuel decided to leave him alone with Sean to look after him, and went downstairs for a nightcap with Ed and Sandy. As they sat by the fire to gether, the topic was how the police seemed to be dragging their heels in their investigations. Manuel kept quiet about what he knew; his heart full of fear for his son.

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