The Bull Singer
I sat down beside him and took his hands in mine. "Joey, have you been with another man before?"
He turned his head to frown at me. "No. Why?"
"Joey, I need to know; you're certainly not a virgin."
Joey wrenched away from me and buried his face in his hands. "Leave me alone, it's none of your business."
I rolled away from him, shocked both at the evidence I had seen and at him lying to me. He scrambled to his feet, his face dark with anger. Grabbing for his clothes he began to dress. I wondered what to do; I felt so sorry for him. Coming to the bed, he pressed the call button. "What are you going to do?" I asked him.
"I'm going home." He sat on the bed and put his shoes and socks on, and as he moved to stand up, I leaned over to place a hand on his shoulder. He shot off the bed and turned to scream at me, "Don't touch me!"
Just then, the door opened and Benjamin walked in with my clothes, neatly pressed. "Joey, what's the matter? Has he done something to upset you?"
"I just want you to take me home." Joey spat out. He began to breathe erratically and wouldn't look at either of us as he picked up his jacket. He started for the door but Benjamin tossed my clothes onto the bed and caught him as he went past. Joey jerked away from him and began to run.
Benjamin took a bleeper out of his pocket and pressed it twice. "I think you'd better get dressed, Mr. Alton," he said as he hurried out after Joey. I've never dressed so quick in all my life. In just my pants and socks I ran out of the bedroom and into a converging group of bouncers trying to catch the speeding teen. He avoided them like a centre forward dodging defenders while sprinting for a goal. Anything he could lay his hands, regardless of their value, he pulled into the path of his pursuers as he led us through the house, down corridors and through room after room, trying to find a way out. I wouldn't have liked the job of calculating the cost of smashed ornaments.
One of the more agile men managed to catch him and wrapped his arms round the boy's waist, lifting him off his feet. Joey screamed, "Let go of me you bastard," and brought his feet and elbows into play. A lucky back kick caught the man in the crotch; he let go of Joey and staggered away holding his hurt pride, and Joey fled. The next man nearly reached him but he got away and eventually found a door leading to the rear gardens. He pushed it open and shot through it, and there his flight came to a painful end by a wet patio and a flight of steps.
The men were almost on top of him, their hands clutching at him. He wrenched free, leaving the bouncer holding his jacket. The next one grabbed his shirt and that ripped, and the sudden freedom made him jerk forward. His new shoes slipped on the wet marble and he tumbled down the steps to lie in a crumpled heap at bottom.
"Joey, no!" I thrust everyone aside and ran down the steps, oblivious of the wet soaking into my socks. I reached him with the bouncers close behind and I feared the worst as I knelt to gather him in my arms. Joey was out cold.
"Don't touch him, sir," one of the bouncers warned and pulled me away. "Let me check him over first in case he's broken anything." Wanting to get to him, I tried to push the bouncer away but the others gripped me and hauled me to my feet, and held me there. The man kneeling beside Joey checked his pulse, and pushed his eyelids up to check his pupils. The bouncer checked all his limbs, and felt his chest for cracked ribs with professional ease. Two more bouncers appeared carrying a fold down gurney, and I watched helplessly as they laid it beside Joey and carefully rolled him onto it, turning him on his left side and checking that his breathing as not obstructed. At least they seemed to know their first aid skills; something I knew little about. I thought they were going to carry him up the steps and I started to pull away from my captors to climb up them but they raised the gurney to full height and wheeled it away from the steps.
Puzzled, I walked after them as they wheeled it through a tunnel under the steps and into a lift. This went up to the ground floor and the lift opened out onto a narrow corridor where Elias sat waiting with Charlie, by the open door of a bedroom. He pointed to it and the men wheeled the gurney inside. The look Elias gave me was not at all friendly. He indicated the bedroom with a jerk of his head and I followed the gurney in. If I thought our bedroom was luxurious, this one was out of this world, with silks and velvets, priceless glassware, paintings and gold-work. There was another room beyond, kitted out as a treatment room, complete with a young man in a white surgical tunic. I guessed he was the old man's private physician. Nice if you could afford you own clinic. I was about to follow the gurney and the bouncers into the treatment room but the bouncers came out and pointedly drew the door shut. They stood in front of it with their arms folded across their chests, staring a challenge at me.
When I turned to face Elias, Benjamin had joined him and looked equally suspicious. I felt like a schoolboy brought before the headmaster as Elias said, "Well? Are you going to tell me what happened or do I let Charlie's boys beat it out of you?"
I didn't think Joey would want me to tell everyone what I'd found. "I'll talk to you in private, if you don't mind," and indicated the bouncers. I waited till they returned to the treatment room, closing the door behind them. "I haven't even touched him yet, but Joey is not a virgin; someone's hurt him pretty bad in the past. Why don't you ask your physician to check him out if you don't believe me?"
Elias looked up at Benjamin and nodded. Benjamin went into the treatment room, honouring me with an angry Frankenstein glare as he passed me. A moment later, the two minders came out and took up their positions again. Elias said to me, "If you've hurt him I'll have you flogged."
"I haven't, I swear. I wouldn't, I love him too much."
Elias didn't look as if he believed me and I was thankful when Benjamin re-appeared, his eyes filled with angry tears. Through the open door, I watched the physician pull off a pair of latex gloves and throw them in a waste bin before joining us in the bedroom."
"Well, Sam?" Elias asked him.
The physician looked at the two minders and they moved back into the treatment room. Once the door was shut, Sam said, "Mr Alton is quite correct, sir. Your grandson has been seriously abused. As far as I can tell, it's happened over a period of time. There is evidence of tearing of the anal ring on several occasions, which has been allowed to heal without medical attention. I noticed the fading bruising on his back and buttocks, but they are of a more recent nature, but not as recent as Joey and Mr Alton's arrival here."
"Thank you, Sam," Elias said, "and what about the fall he had?"
"I haven't finished my examination, sir, but there's nothing broken. I don't think I'll find anything more than concussion"
"Very well; return to your patient and let me know the details as soon as you can." Now it was my turn. "Mags, I'm sorry I misjudged you. And I thank you for being so honest." Slowly his face wrinkled with emotion as the full force of the situation hit him. He passed a hand over his eyes for a moment, and when he took his hand away he looked haggard. "I've failed the boy. I should have listened to you, Ben. Who could have done it?"
"I asked Joey if he had ever been with a man," I offered, "and he said no." I went to sit on the edge of Ly's bed. I too, was feeling pretty wretched.
Elias looked up at Benjamin. "What do you think, Ben?"
"Treat the boy, gently, Ly. He is obviously frightened about something, or someone."
"Yes, and I can guess who."
"You don't know that, Ly. Let's wait till the boy is awake and can tell us what has happened."
Elias nodded. "You're right of course Ben. We can only wait." Just then, Charlie came into the room with a dark look on his face. "Charlie, will you bring Joey a new shirt, and the rest of Mr. Alton's clothes and a dry pair of socks. Mags, you wait here with Ben, please; I'm going to pull in some outside help."
Charlie wheeled him away and I frowned at Benjamin. "What does he mean, outside help?"
"We have several contacts capable of searching out the truth, Mr Alton. They are the same people I call upon when I have to find Ms Street every time she disappears. Let's just say they work in a not quite legal way, but they are far better than private detectives and have never let me down yet. They already have a dossier on most of Angela's ex-boyfriends and her current ones. If any of them have shown an inclination to abuse any child in the past, our contacts will find out and report to my brother. Please make yourself comfortable, Mr Alton." He indicated an armchair beside a coffee table. "Your clothes will be brought to you, shortly. I'll just go and check on Joey."
"Thanks, Benjamin, and the name is Mags."
"Thank you, Mags, and my name is Ben or Benjie as Joey calls me."
Left to my own devices, I settled down in the chair, and wondered if Joey would ever let me go near him again. Whatever trust had been built up would be in the dustbin now, and I felt sad at the thought of our relationship being scuppered before it got started. I had to admit that I was really falling in love with him. Then my thoughts turned to Billy, and I wondered whether I was being unfaithful to his memory; surely not. "What would you have me do, Billy? You are still my love, my everything." But would he want me to be on my own? No, he wouldn't, and there was my answer.
One of the minders arrived with my clothes and I got dressed in time for Ben to open the door of the treatment room and beckon me in. Joey sat on the edge of a treatment table in just his briefs. He held a plastic cup of water while the medic dropped some pills into his hand. Joey downed the pills with some water, gave the cup to Sam and reached out for me. I went to him and took hold of his hand. Sam had shaved patch of hair at the back of his head and there was a nasty cut there that Sam was ready to stitch. "This may hurt a bit," Sam said as he lifted the suture-threaded needle. Joey gripped my hand tightly and grimaced as the first stitch went in. While I held Joey's hand I searched his body for fresh bruises, and found plenty along with grazes on his legs and hips. I wasn't surprised; you don't fall down ten stone steps without some kind of damage. These had been cleaned, and shone with a salve.
When the medic had finished, Joey still clung to my hand, looked into my eyes once then lowered his eyes, an expression of shame on his face. "I'm sorry, Mags, I didn't mean to cause any trouble. Can we still be friends?"
"I never thought we weren't." I said, and put my arms round him, careful to avoid the fresh bruises. I wanted to give him much more than a gentle hug, and I looked at Ben who took the hint and ushered Sam out of the room, telling him to go and make his report to Elias. The moment the door was shut, Joey turned to me and put his arms round my neck. I held him close and shushed him as he started to cry. I felt him start to shiver. "It's okay Joey; your grandfather is going to sort things out. All you have to do is tell us who did this to you."
I felt Joey stiffen. "I can't."
"Why, Joey? There's nothing to be afraid of now. Elias and Ben and I are going to keep you safe. Nothing's going to happen to you. Okay?"
"No, I daren't. If I do they'll know, and they'll kill him."
"My…my dad…and his family."
"I thought you didn't know your dad?"
"I don't, but…they do. Please, I can't say anything. I'm sorry Mags, my head hurts and I don't feel too good. Can I lie down please?" He started to wilt and I sensed he was going into shock. I laid him down on his side and held his hands while his eyelids slowly closed.
"Okay, sport, just stay put and I'll I find a wheelchair or something; you can't walk back to bed as you are." I released him and looked round for something to cover him with. Spotting a blanket, I opened it out and draped it over him, and then I went to the door; Ben was sitting in the armchair, and stood as soon as he saw me. "Could you get me a wheelchair and something to wrap him in? He's in shock and I need to get him to bed. He's got a headache as well."
Ben nodded his head. "Sam gave him something for the pain. Wait here with him, please?" He left the room and came back a minute later, pushing a wheelchair, with a folded bathrobe on it. We managed to sit Joey up and put the bathrobe on him and Ben picked him up while I draped the blanket over the chair. We placed him in the wheelchair and wrapped the blanket round him, and wheeled him back to our bedroom. I helped Ben put him to bed and accepted Ben's invitation to have some tea brought in. I just didn't want to leave him for one moment longer than I had to; but Elias had to be told what Joey had said. "Before you go, Ben, I need to have a word with Elias and you. Can someone come and sit with Joey while I go and see Elias?"
Ben nodded. "I've bleeped Sam and he's coming to check him over. I'll ask him to get a move on." Ben used his bleeper to summon the medic again, and when he arrived, Ben took me to see Elias.
The old man was sitting in his private lounge, having a cup of tea. Once he had dismissed his entourage of minders, he bade me sit down beside him and offered me a cup of tea. I refused because I wanted to get back to Joey as soon as I could. Ben sat down on a nearby chair, to hear what I had to say without being obvious. "Well?" Elias asked. "What is it you want to see me about?"
I told them what Joey had said, and Elias put his cup down quickly. He sat back and stared, first at me then at his brother.
"What do you make of it, Ben?"
"I don't know, Ly. I've never seen evidence of the boy being attacked by any of Angela's boyfriends; mind you, I've only visited them on the times I have found her for you. But we've seen these bruises this time, and they didn't happen just by chance. This is all very new to my ears, and very distressing. I hope you will listen to me in future, brother."
Elias squirmed under Ben's disapproving gaze. "So what do you advise?"
"Why don't you ask Edward Alton to apply for custody of the boy? Failing that, have Edward transfer the tenancy of Home Farm from Angela to Joey. That way he could legally throw her out and Edward could still provide a home for the boy."
"You know I can't do that. The woman has me over a barrel and well you know it. And now it looks like Joey's father's life is threatened as well."
"But it wouldn't be from you, would it?" Ben remarked. "She has no argument with Edward. And Edward does have the right."
At this point the two men had lost me. "What has my dad got to do with Joey?"
Elias glared at Ben then he looked at me and said, "Mags, what I tell you now goes no further than this room. Do you understand me?" When I nodded my agreement, he said, "My wife had an affair with Edward and Angela was the product of it. Angela is your sister."
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