Pluto's Child

by DJ

Chapter 36

Towards twelve thirty, Ed went upstairs, promising he would look in on Gypsy. A few minutes later, Sandy and Manuel followed him, and as they passed Erica's room they heard a muffled sound. Frowning at each other they stepped across the landing and peeped in. At that moment Ed came out of Gypsy's suite at a run, and what Sandy and Manuel saw made Manuel flag the man down, signaling for silence. Ed halted his dash and peered into the bedroom, and swore softly.

Gypsy lay on Erica's bed with his daughter's favourite teddy bear clutched to him. Manuel waved Ed and Sandy away and walked alone to the bed. Straightening Gypsy's bathrobe around his legs, Manuel covered him with Erica's quilt. He sat on the bed, his right hand loosely covering the hand which clutched the toy, his own eyes misting over with the tears he had held in check for so long As the crying slowly abated, he asked softly, "When you said you had contacted Lorna, why didn't you mention Erica?"

Gypsy shook his head. "There was nothing of her, Papa, nothing at all." A cold stab of fear went through Manuel. He raised his eyes to Erica's dressing table where her rosary lay; he had given it to her on her third birthday and had promised to teach her what it meant and how to use it. Now he rose from the bed, picked it up, and left the room. He closed the door and spotted Sean slipping into his own room next door to Gypsy's. Puzzled, he knocked on Sean's door. It opened almost immediately, and Sean peered out at him, minus his glasses. "Hello Sean, are you all right?"

"…yes. Just made a visit to the loo before turning in; how is Gypsy now? I heard voices and thought something might be wrong."

"Nothing to worry about. Mr. Bessey wanted to talk to Gypsy about something important. You get some rest, we've got a heavy day tomorrow, and Gypsy will need some extra care. I'll need you bright eyed and ready to dance."

Sean smiled. "Sure thing, Mr. Lupino. I'll be ready."

Manuel went back to his own room. It was a shame he couldn't tell Sean what was happening. That young man had been Gypsy's shadow for so long now that people tended not to notice he was there, he fitted in so well with Gypsy's life. Manuel sat in the darkness, in his easy chair, letting his fingers touch each bead in turn and whispering the accompanying prayer. By the time he had finished he understood exactly what Gypsy intended to do and why; and he wept silent tears for his son.

Around one o'clock, Sandy dreamed he saw the number plate of a car. Then he saw the car itself, a dark green four-door saloon. He walked along a lane and the car stopped a few yards ahead of him. Two men got out of the rear, leaving two more men sitting in the front. The two men who waited for him were taller than him and looked him up and down with sardonic grins. The nearest one jerked his head at the car and told him to get in. Sandy jerked awake, and he could still see the car, moving forward with increasing speed. Wide awake, now, Sandy dived out of bed and grabbed for his dressing gown.

Barney and Manuel stared at the monitor screen in the security room, watching a reporter walk through the main gate, past an unsuspecting policeman. Manuel shook his head. "Are you sure that was him?"

Barney glared at him. "Of course I'm bloody sure; I wouldn't have called you if I hadn't spotted him making his way down the drive. How he made the switch I don't know, but the reporter who came in through that gate a few minutes ago was wearing light coloured pants. It's a wonder that copper didn't notice the difference between them and Gypsy's jeans! And the reporter wasn't wearing heels. I'll have something to say about this to that Inspector bloody Todd, make no mistake!"

Manuel nodded. "I think I know what has happened, Gypsy waylaid the reporter and pinched his anorak and put the hood up to hide his hair, then took the guy's bag and camera.. It's possible you will find the man sitting somewhere among the rhododendrons, half way down the drive, nursing an aching head and wondering what hit him."

"And you're actually going to do nothing about this?" Barney protested yet again. "You must be crazy! At least let me have the car tailed."

"No; not yet, Barney." Manuel sat down on the couch and pulled his dressing gown closer round him. "As I have already explained, Gypsy wishes it this way. He knows he is doomed, at best, to life in a wheelchair. Munante doesn't know this yet and there is a chance Gypsy will gain the release of Erica and Lorna before he does. This is something Gypsy has chosen to do and which I will not prevent, and neither must you. Gypsy believes the police department has been compromised, by someone in authority. If you contact the police, this person will inform Munante, and Munante is a man of his word. According to Gypsy, if he hears about our contacting the police we will surely lose them, and Gypsy would spend the last remaining months of his life going slowly insane with grief, probably locked away on some unknown remote island as Munante's unwilling guest. I had to let him go." Manuel wished he could make Barney understand the despair in his own heart; how he had longed to run after Gypsy and drag him back to his room when Emma had come into his room and jumped into his lap, clawing at him in her frenzied attempt to attract his attention. She had known all along that Gypsy was heading towards a dangerous situation and had wanted Manuel to stop him; the unhappy feline lady getting so cross with him she finally dug her claws and teeth into him.

Manuel glanced from the monitor screen to Barney and was about to try and calm the irate man down when the outside phone rang. Barney grabbed the receiver and barked an angry "Yes?" into the mouthpiece. He looked startled and held out the receiver. "It's Monclare, for you!"

Frowning, Manuel put the receiver to his ear." Hello? Manuel here, what is it?"

"I'm sorry to ring you so late, Manuel." Monclare's voice sounded urgent. "I thought you would like to know right away. Sudermann called from New York, just now, with some interesting news. There is a chance he might still be able to help Gypsy after all. There's a new technique being tried out; so far it seems to be successful where conventional surgery is impossible. Suder mann is on his way here to have talks with the surgeons involved and wants Gypsy put under observation and prevented from doing anything that would prove permanently damaging to the nerves. I suggest we have him –"

"Just one moment, Monclare, my son has already accepted the fate that awaits him without the operation and I do not think he could go through the tension of hoping for something that might not happen."

"This isn't just an idle fancy, Manuel; t his new technique has an eighty percent success rate. Sudermann is jumping around in excitement about this. I would like to admit Gypsy into the Rosscroft as soon as possible, say tomorrow afternoon?"

"I am afraid that will not be possible. Gypsy is not here."

"What! Where is he?"

"He's gone away."

"My God, Manuel; we've got a chance to save him from permanent Paralysis and you say he's gone away?"

Manuel felt the world crashing about him. Beloved Mother, what have I done! Stunned into silence he felt Barney take the receiver off him and heard him say, "Monclare? Manuel is a bit upset right now; I'll get him to call you back, okay? Thanks."

As Barney replaced the rec eiver, the door burst open and Sandy stumbled in, his dressing gown hanging loose over his sleep shorts. "Gypsy's gone," h e blurted out as he stared at Manuel and Barney. " I saw the car, I saw it all!" Then he said in a flat whisper, "You knew! You bloody knew!"

"Yes, Sandy." Manuel stood up, his eyes beginning to glitter. "But wait a minute!" With Sandy's sudden appearance the frame of an idea came to him. " Gypsy's gone, but now we might get him back, and you, Sandy, are going to help us."

"Okay, I'll help, but I've been thinkin' about somethin' and if I don't get it off my chest, I'll go bonkers, isn'it.."

"Later, lad," Barney tried to calm him. "Let's get Gypsy back first."

"No, listen a minute, will you." Sandy glared at both of them. "All these years, someone 'as been feedin' stuff to the guys who want Gypsy dead."

"How do you mean?" Manuel asked him.

"Think about it. Someone got close enough to Gypsy's driver and 'e drove into a lorry, and a large amount of money appeared in 'is bank account. Someone gave Jimmy boy the 'eads up on Gypsy's condition at the London Rosscroft, and someone got into this place looking for the film. It's got to be someone who's been around Gypsy for a long time, and what's the betting 'e's still 'ere. And we never bothered to notice."

Barney shook his head. "I've accounted for everyone who's been within walking distance of Gypsy." Manuel felt the blood drain from his face, and he sat down suddenly. Barney leaned over him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right, Manuel? You don't look good."

"I think Sandy is right, and I think I know who it is."

"Yes, I'm sure of it. They've just let Gypsy leave the house…… Yes, I've put a wire on him." They heard Sean's soft voice as they crept through the door separating Sean and Gypsy's bedrooms. Sean sat on his bed with his back to them. He was so absorbed in the telephone conversation he was having on his mobile phone, he was totally unprepared, for Sandy's bulk landing on him. Sandy hauled him off the bed and turned him to face Manuel and Barney.

"Well, well!" Barney stepped forward with a pair of handcuffs in his hands. "Of all the people in this house, we never suspected it would be you."

"Me? What have I done?" Sean struggled in Sandy's grip.

"What 'aven't you done." Sandy growled in his ear. "You 'urt my best friend, and you can think yourself lucky Barney 'as called the cops. I'd just love to 'ave a go with you, you slimy Twll Dyn."

"Look, you've got it all wrong." Sean stopped struggling as Barney put the cuffs on him. "I wouldn't do anything to hurt Gypsy."

"That's the last thing we'll believe, "Manuel snapped. "Considering Barney found no trace of a Sean Higgins in the nursing profession, perhaps you'd like to tell us your real name."

Sean's face took on an expression of non-cooperation. "I can't tell you. I'm not allowed."

"Oh, so you do admit Sean Higgins isn't your real name. "Barney smiled coldly at him. "We weren't really sure so we played a hunch, and you fell into the trap. You're not very good, are you? I think it's time to call our friend."

Manuel sat in the front seat of Barney's battered green zephyr, watching Barney making a series of phone calls from the phone box outside Barnet General post office. As far as the policeman on duty at the Chilvers main gate was concerned, Barney had driven out of the gate with no passengers in his car, and the residents of Chilvers had retired for the night. Manuel and Sandy had lain, hidden on the floor in the back of the car until they were well away from the house. Now, Manuel sat in the front passenger seat, already putting their rescue plan into action. Manuel saw Barney inch his way out of the telephone booth and said, "He's coming back." Sand roused out of a period of deep concentration in the rear seat.

Barney slid into the driving seat and fixed Manuel with a confident gaze. "All set, Manuel. My lads will be on the air and ready for action in about half a minute. All we need now is for Sandy here to tell us where to start looking. "He picked up a radio mike and switched on the radio it was attached to, adjusted a couple of knobs then spoke into the mike. "One four, one four-the-flock, one four one four, for the flock, do you copy the shepherd?" He waited a few seconds then repeated the call and added, "Go to channel four for copy, channel four for copy." Turning the channel selector to four, he received an immediate response. Within a matter of fifteen seconds he had eight calls. "Okay, little sheep, this is the shepherd here. We're going hunting for Pluto's Child. Keep on this channel for details and contacts, ten-ten." H e turned round in his seat and eyed Sandy with a certain amount of disbelief. "Got any clues yet, lad?"

Sandy nodded. "They're 'eadin' for the river."

Barney's eyes rolled skyward. "The river he says; a lot of help that is. Do you realize just how long the Thames is my son? We'll just take a few hours to search it."

Sandy ignored the caustic remark and closed his eyes once more. " They're ' eadin' south, down Gray's Inn Road...approachin' 'Ol bourn...turnin' left....changin' direction....up Charterhouse... right turn into Lindsey...left into Long Lane...I got it now: t hey're drivin' round anywhere until they're sure they're not bein' followed..."

"Oh yeah?" Barney sneered at him. "A lot of help you are."

Manuel touched his arm. " Please, Barney, he's doing his best!"

Barney turned round to face front and folded his arms across his chest, took a huge breath and sighed deeply. "It's just bit ridiculous."

As the car turned into Aldersgate Street, the men either side of Gypsy edged closer, giving him knowing looks. The one on the left touched the man in the front passenger seat on the shoulder. "Hey boss! Shouldn't we frisk this chicken before we reach the boat?"

Sandy said suddenly." It's definitely the river. Enterin' Aldersgate Street. They're 'eadin' for a boat."

The Boss looked over his shoulder at Gypsy and smiled. "Not a bad idea, go ahead; have fun."

Gypsy knew that what they had in mind had nothing to do with searching for, hidden weapons and he said calmly, "Just what do you hope to find?"

The man on his right leaned over and looked down into his eyes. " Who knows?"

As the man's left hand began to stroke Gypsy's right thigh, Gypsy thought deeply. What would Munante do to you if he knew the goods had been sampled by one of his oily rags?" A look of uncertainty came into the man's eyes and he drew back, puzzled. Gypsy turned his attention to the other man and found he had changed his mind too. Secretly pleased he c0uld control anyone's mind, he decided to try something else. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the man to his right; his left shoulder, hurt, you bastard, hurt."

Slowly the man began to flex his shoulder and eventually brought his right hand up inside his jacket to rub at it. He noticed his mate's look of concern and said, "Ruddy pain in my shoulder. Like someone stuck a ruddy knife in me." Elated, Gypsy pushed and pushed the thoughts out until the man on is left leaned forward with a gasp of pain. At that moment, Gypsy relaxed and cleared his mind. The art of psycho kinetics was possible after all. The man sat up again, mystified. "Bloody pain in my guts. It's gone; just like that."

"What was i t?" the boss asked him.

The man shook his head and rubbed his stomach. "How the hell do I know? Something I ate, I suppose." For the rest of the ride, Gypsy was left alone to concentrate on where they were going.

Sandy leaned forward. "I was right, see? They're in Cheapside...turnin' right into Queen street; headin' for Southwark Bridge. They're stoppin' there. There're steps down to the river from there, aren't there?"

Barney nodded. "Loads of them; all along the river."

"But at the Bridge, there are steps by the railway station approach aren't there? At the bottom there's some kind of narrow key with green barriers along it."

"Have you been there before, son?" Barney asked.

Sandy shook his head. "No, it's what Gypsy's seein', isn' it?"

Cursing, Barney reached for the radio mike again. "Shepherd to flock, do you copy?" and when he had several responses he said, " Rendezvous at Cannon street Station. Black Sheep are you on channel, come back?"

"That's a four, Shepherd," a young voice came over the radio.

Barney said, "Someone's going for a pleasure trip off Southwark. T ake a look, sonny."

"Will do; how long will you be?"

"ETA about ten to fifteen minutes, out."

Gypsy felt the chill of something evil as he stepped down into the well of the powerful motor launch tied up by the Southwark steps; an evil he had felt at his trial and had not expected to feel again. The Boss eyed him with amusement and indicated the doors of a cabin with a jerk of his thumb. Gypsy stepped through them into the darkness of the cabin, feeling the launch's engines rev up prior to pulling away from its mooring. The doors slammed shut behind him and the evil seemed stronger than before. Now he recognized it for what it was; the presence of an evil mind. A tall shadow rose from a bunk to the left of him, and Gypsy read the sadistic intentions of the mind that belonged to it. "Hello, Peter; I never thought you and Marcus would be in league, but you certainly suit each other."

Shock filled Peter's mind. "Well, well; Munante's little bedm ate! You must have more guts than I gave you credit for. I never really believed you would come back to him."

"The only reason I've come back is for the safety and wellbeing of my daughter and my fiancé. Now where are they?"

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