The Bull Singer
It didn't take me long to realise that all was not well with Joey. At first he had seemed satisfied that he now had his birth certificate even though it did not show the name of his father, and the fact that Dad had put the bitch firmly in her place. But by the time we got back to the cottage, his protective shell had closed up once more, and he regarded us all with a sad face and moody silence. That got me worrying. Pete and I were busy organising some lunch when Dad shuffled into the kitchen and pointed out that he too had noticed Joey's sulkiness. "He's gone and shut himself in your bedroom. I think you'd better go and see what's what. I don't mind looking after him while you're away but if he's got problems we don't know about, they need to be dealt with now; not at the end of a phone while you're some hundred odd miles away."
I left Dad to help Pete and went to my room, and found it locked. "Joey, can I come in please?" It took a few more words of encouragement before I heard the door being unlocked. I opened the door and found Joey already turning away to walk back to the bed where he sat down and proceeded to bite his nails and stare at the floor. "What's up, babe?" He shrugged his shoulders and turned his face away from me. I sat down beside him and reached out to rub his back, and he moved away from me. "Come on, kiddo, something's wrong? I want to know what it is so I can sort it before I go."
"You're going away and leaving me on my own."
I shook my head at him. "It's only till Christmas, and I'll be phoning you every day."
"You don't understand; nobody does."
"Understand what?" When I got no reply, I moved up close and gathered him in my arms, feeling him resisting as he tensed up. "You're doing it again, expecting people to help you without telling them what's eating you. The band is leaving here in two hours and I'm going with them, but not before I find out what's wrong."
He struggled to get free, but I held him tight against me. "You'll hate me."
"Now what on earth would I hate you for?"
"Because of what I am; I'm bad, I'm dirty, and you won't want me anymore."
"I still don't understand."
He wrenched free of me and went to stand in the middle of the room, facing away from me with his arms tight round his body. "I told you when you found me at Flixton. I need it." From the sound of his voice, I knew he was talking though clenched teeth. "I've always needed it, even when the bitch hurt me, I let her do it because I'm a…I'm what she says I am. I'm a whore." With a sob of anguish, Joey sank to the carpet and curled himself into a ball, just as it hit me what he was trying to say.
I went to him, knelt on the carpet, and wrapped myself round him. "She's a liar; she told you that because she wants to control you. You're not a whore, you're just a normal kid with raging hormones and she's let you believe you are something dirty, but you're not." I lifted him into my lap and cuddled him close. "I know what's going on, I've been there myself. You've probably been walking around with an almost permanent hard-on for the last couple of years because of what your mother has done to you, and you've not known what to do about it or who to talk to. That's where having a dad or an older brother, or even a close friend, comes in handy. But you're not bad or dirty. I suppose I came along and gave you some relief and you want more. I remember when Pete joined the band and he came out to us; the boys showed him all about gay sex and he couldn't get enough of it; so you're not so unique; you just have to learn to control your urges and not go overboard, like having sex with any man who gives you the eye, or offering yourself to any of your school friends. Now that would be getting down and dirty, and I wouldn't like that to happen, because that's the way some guys get STDs. It would also hurt our relationship."
"But what if… what if someone at school… someone special wanted to… wanted me to…?"
"Well, it's natural for you to want to do something with someone your own age. And if it was just one person and you and he were really interested in each other, I suppose that would be okay, but both of you would have to use protection and be in a safe environment and not in some old shed."
"But what about you and me; how would that affect us?"
"Joey, there is no US. I'm a little disappointed that I can't have you to myself but, we did rather fall into each other's arms quite by accident, and I am your uncle, which I suppose prevents us from having a real sexual relationship; and you're also too young for me anyway. If you can't wait until then you're a lot older, I won't stop you from enjoying yourself with a friend."
I felt him burrow his face against my shoulder. "But what about now; I can't stand the thought of being without you and…?"
"I'm afraid. I don't want to be on my own in that house with her any more. She talked about bringing her friends in and making me do things with them. If I do stuff, I want it to be because I want it."
"Has she threatened you with these friends before?"
Joey lifted his head and straightened up, wiping his tears away. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah; there's one who comes here a lot. He's Mr Walker, her big fat chauffeur or bodyguard or something. He was there the day you brought the CDs to the house. He's always eyeing me up, and leering at me. So far the bitch has kept him off me, but she threatened she'd let him loose if I don't do as I'm told. He might look like an overgrown slug but he's fast on his feet. If I'm up there when she's away, I'm afraid he'll come and…I know what he can do; I've seen it. "
"How do mean, you've seen it?"
"One of the houses we lived in had a cellar. I wasn't allowed down there, but one night I couldn't sleep and I decided to go downstairs to get a drink. I got to the halfway landing when the front door opened and I saw the bitch come in, followed by three guys and Mr Walker dragging a boy into the house. He was about fifteen, and he walked as if he was drugged. They took him down into the cellar. I crept downstairs and went to the cellar door and peeped in. The guys had stripped the boy and were tying him over a kind of frame thing, with his body bent forward and his bum exposed. He started moaning and they put a gag in his mouth, then they… they took off their clothes and…they took turns raping him, and not just with their dicks. They used all sorts of stuff on him, and they were hurting him. Mr Walker was the worst."
"Did you tell anyone?"
"I couldn't. One of the guys spotted me and told the bitch. She chased me up to my room and gave me such a beating, thought I was going to die. She said if I told anyone, Mr Walker would come and I'd have it worse than the boy did; him and his boyfriend are a pair of real sadistic no goods. It's strange; I haven't seen his boyfriend for a couple of years. He's probably off on tour with some band or other. Shame he's such a bastard, Ken's a brilliant guitar player." Shock froze me into a block of ice. It couldn't be real, what I was suddenly thinking. I felt a hand tapping my left cheek. "Mags?" His voice was a distant echo in my ears. "Mags, are you all right? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
I came out of my shock-induced trance and felt my stomach churning as I remembered what had happened to Billy. "What was the bitch doing while this was going on?"
"She had the men strip her and she…she had her dildo with her…and…when the guys had finished, she…used it…on the boy; and one of the thugs was behind her, doing - you know?" By now Joey's face was streaming with tears, and I held him tight against me as I wondered how I could deal with all this. Not only was my sister involved with running a prostitution and money laundering business, she was aiding and abetting a paedophile ring, or was she running it herself. One thing I knew I had to do, I had to keep Joey out of that house, at least while his mother was living there. "Joey, do you trust me?"
Joey looked up at me, his dark eyes full of alarm. "You're not going to tell the police, are you? Please, you can't."
"No, I'm not going to tell the police, for the moment." I asked him again, "Do you trust me?"
"Will you trust my dad and Pete?"
"If you want me to."
"In that case, I'll go and talk to them about letting you live here till I get back, okay? Now I want you to describe this boyfriend of Mr Walker's."
Once Trilby, Dad and Pete walked into the last bedroom along the corridor at the back of the cottage, I closed the door and locked it against anyone interrupting what I had to say. When I had their complete attention, I said, "I think I know what's bothering Joey, and it's quite simple, really; raging teenage hormones and awakening sexuality, vying with an ingrained fear of the bitch and her friends; besides not wanting to be alone." I quickly related what Joey had told me, and by their faces, they began to feel as angry as me, especially when I said at the end, "I asked Joey for a description of the bodyguard's boyfriend and it sounds like someone we already know."
Trilby caught on and named him for me. "Ken?"
"Sounds like it."
"And just who is this Ken?" Dad asked.
"He's someone you would not want meet," Trilby said. "He's the one who put Billy and Mags in hospital and killed Daley's dog. But at least Joey doesn't need to worry about him coming round here; he got twenty five to life for the murder of Billy's mum, and the assault on Billy and Mags."
"But that still leaves Mr Walker and his friends," I said, "and the bitch of course."
"Don't you worry about them," Dad said firmly. "Pete and I can look after Joey here, and we have Elias to back us up if we need help. Besides the heavies up at Marble House, he's got a few pieces of muscle based in Oldham who can be here inside ten minutes. Now what about the other little problem?"
Trilby smiled at me. "Rather like d'javu, Mags. I seem to remember another young sprout who had you running round in a blue fuzz till you got him sorted."
"So what do you suggest?" I asked him, my face burning. "I can't just stay here and let the band down; the circumstances were different with Billy. There's no way we could take Joey on the road with us; the education authorities already have a watch on him and have him down as a truancy risk. His mother has had several written warnings about his absences from school; they'd have a fit if he disappeared now, and Donald Mitchell won't be able to keep the wolves off his back for much longer; Joey's already lost too much school time while being suspended."
Trilby winked at me, smiled. "I think sexy Pete can help here, can't you Pete?"
Pete was sitting between Trilby and Dad, and when those two old codgers closed in on him, it was as if they were both thinking the same thing. Pete's head did a tennis umpire credit, his head whizzing back and forth as he looked at one then the other. "Who, me?" He stood no chance against them and I felt really sorry for him as Dad started rubbing his back and kissing his cheek. Trilby just leaned against him and grinned. Pete blushed, stared at me and squeaked, "Help!"
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