The Bull Singer
"Woah, woah there! Hang on just a minute, Sam." The sharpness in Dad's voice made Sam sit up. "This isn't something you've just discovered. You knew the boy had been abused and you didn't do anything about it then. Neither did you tell Mags to back off at Marble House."
Already feeling the hands of a blue clad officer on my collar, I watched Sam shake his head. "I'm sorry Edward; at Marble House I take orders from Elias. Here I have joint responsibility with my colleague although, being a senior partner, his word has more weight than mine. Had it been just me who examined Joey when he was admitted, I could have kept things quiet. As it is, my colleague happened to be still on duty when I was called away to deal with an urgent admission. He's a bit of a 'by the book' guy, and by the time I got back, my colleague had completed Joey's admission. Before I could speak to him, he had called our resident paediatrician in. There was nothing I could do except ask him not to call the police till I had a chance to talk to you two and Joey. The kid won't be in any state to answer any questions for another couple of hours any way; he'll be too drowsy from the medication. That will give you time to decide what you're going to say to them."
While I tried to put my rattled brain back together, Dad shook his head once more. "I don't think Mags or I need to talk to the police or anyone else. Whatever damage was done happened a long time ago, and certainly before Mags ever met him."
"I realize that, Mr. Alton, but samples have been taken for DNA matching, and if Mags had sex with Joey within the last five days –."
Dad glowered at Sam. "Who's to say they had sex?"
Sam looked from Dad to me then back to Dad, an expression of uncertainty on his face. "I just assumed -."
"Well you assumed wrong," Dad snapped. "Assuming things can get folks into a load of trouble, Sam. As far as you or this clinic's concerned, we are his family, and Mags is his uncle, his mother's brother. And if anyone says otherwise we'll know who's been talking, won't we?" Déjà vu, I thought. It seemed Dad was fond of that phrase. It hadn't worked with Joey's schoolmates so why should work with Sam? "Let's put that on one side for the moment, you haven't told us the results of the tests yet. How is Joey?"
Sam's face lightened. "It was as I suspected; Joey is completely stressed out, and I'm not surprised. I did get him to tell me a bit about his mother. I'm going to give him another sedative after he's had his breakfast to help him sleep a bit longer. In fact, I hope it will keep him fairly well sedated for another twenty-four hours or so. He is so stressed out it's a good thing you called me when you did. Another few days I'm sure he would have collapsed, both mentally as well as physically; I had my suspicions when I examined him after his fall at Marble House. Stress can manifest itself in all sorts of ways, from a series of psychosomatic ailments that aren't really there to putting a strain on the heart."
My eyebrows shot up. "Surely not!"
Sam smiled at my disbelief. "Oh yes. There was a case in the Evening News only last week, of a sixteen-year old soccer player dying on the pitch? He had a heart attack brought on by stress because he knew he wasn't going to pass his GCSEs next June. It turned out he'd been messing about with a girlfriend instead of studying for the exams, and his dad threatened all sorts of punishment, including the physical kind. Apparently his dad expected straight 'A's and nothing less. The thought of his overbearing father being angry with his low end of term marks put too much strain on his heart. Now, if we can persuade the CP people and the police that you aren't involved with Joey other than as his concerned relative, they might work in our favour. I agree with Elias, the boy needs to be kept away from his mother. Edward, Elias thinks you and your sisters should follow up your idea of applying for custody as foster parents. Get the CP people on your side and they'll sort things out for you. Meanwhile, the police will look for Joey's mother and take the necessary steps to throw the book at her."
"What about her threats against Elias?" Dad asked him.
"That's a chance Elias is prepared to take. Our priority is Joey's safety, and Elias understands that. I can assure you, Elias can well take care of himself. And by the way, he has already dealt with Bernie Reece and his family. Two of Ben's men nabbed Bernie coming out a youth club last night and took him for a walk. Apparently Angela used him as a plant to keep an eye on Joey in school. I think you'll find the invitation for Joey to join Paper Dolls was Bernie's idea, but he got a bit jealous when he found Jimmy sharing Joey's bed at Home Farm. Guess who encouraged the boys to play matadors with your bull?"
Dad nodded. "I told you so; those other boys looked too sensible to do it on their own."
A soft whistle of relief escaped my lips. "So Bernie's dad and uncle are working for Angela Street!"
"Not at first, they weren't. According to what Ben found out, Bernie was the first to have dealings with Angela through her porn movie empire and her liking of young lovers. That's how Ben traced the Reece family, through a recently released hardcore porn movie about grooming twinks, starring none other than Bernie himself. His dad and uncle are a pair of thugs who now make a bit of money for themselves by helping Angela out from time to time. And you'll be glad to hear that his dad and his uncle have been persuaded to move to a safer climate and sever all links with their past employer. Bernie won't be going with them, of course; I can't see him being all that safe when his dad finds out he opened his mouth. But I'm digressing here. Our immediate concern now is persuading Derek not to pursue things any further till we can explain things to Joey."
"And just who is Derek?"
"My medical colleague."
Dad frowned at him. "Can he be persuaded?"
"It might take some doing, but we do have a weapon we can use."
"Not a what, a who." Sam stood up and walked to the bedroom door. He knocked, opened it and stuck his head round the edge. "Marge, can you spare us a few minutes?"
A minute later, the blue uniformed nurse came out and sat down beside Sam. She looked round at our puzzled faces before Sam said, "Marge, we have a problem which I hope you'll agree to helps us with. Derek is calling in the CPS and the police about Joey."
Marge's face took on a solemn expression. "Oh, I see. Is Derek still in the clinic?"
"I think so."
"And you want me to persuade him to back off. I agree the boy needs to be left alone for a while. I'll go and see him now." She stood up and smoothed her uniform down. "Magnus, would you like to help Joey finish his breakfast? He'll need to use the bathroom afterwards."
Bemused, I watched her march out of the suite, and then turned my attention back to Sam. "I don't understand. How can Marge help?"
Sam grinned. "When your mother's on the warpath or in your case your aunts, you either comply or have a hell of a life. She might look like your elderly Florence Nightingale but believe me, she is one mother I'd hate to cross swords with"
I entered Joey's room and found him lying back against a mound of pillows. Marge had drawn a rolling table across his legs and he was gazing down, sleepy eyed, at the half eaten breakfast Marge had set on it. He glanced up at me and his mouth pulled into a slight smile. I leaned down and placed a kiss on his forehead. "Hi Kiddo; how are you feeling?"
I looked at the breakfast. "You've hardly eaten anything. Aren't you hungry?"
"Yeah, but I don't seem to have the energy. I keep on dropping things."
I noticed there were several bits of scrambled egg on the sheets, and the fingers of his right hand only just grasped a spoon. I caught it as it slipped onto the sheet. "Here, let me help you." I sat down on the chair by the bed, and lifted the plate of toast and eggs, picked up the spoon and proceeded to feed him small spoonfuls. It took some time but he managed to eat a fair amount of egg, and one slice of toast, which I tore into tiny pieces.
After that, he rested for a few minutes, with his eyes closed, and I thought he had fallen asleep when he said in a sleepy voice, "I need to pee pretty bad." I looked round for a bottle and finding none asked him if he would like to use the bathroom instead. "You'll have to help me. I have to stay off my ankle for at least a week."
"Sure." I pulled the table away and drew back the sheets to reveal the neat pair of paper shorts he was wearing. "I see; modelling the latest in gentlemen's undies are we?" At least it got a smile from Joey as he sat up and swung his legs to the side of the bed. I picked him up in my arms and carried him into the bathroom, which would have done the London Hilton justice.
Looking a little bit brighter, Joey stared round at the place. "Wow, swank! We could fit a whole ice hockey team in here!"
"Well, old Elias has the means and this is his private suite." I set Joey down in front of the toilet. "Can you manage to balance yourself or should I stay with you?"
Joey thought for a moment. "I think I'll be okay. Just lift the lid and turn me round. I, um, I think I need to do the other. I'll call you when I'm finished."
I helped him tear the pants away and once he was seated, I let him have his privacy and made myself comfortable on a chair in the bedroom. After a few minutes, I heard him give a groan. I shot to my feet and burst into the bathroom expecting to see him writhing in agony. Far from it; he'd finished using the toilet and was leaning, bare arsed, against the washbasin, and he had a glum expression on his face as he stared at himself in the mirror above it. "What's wrong, sport?"
"Take a look," he grumped and turned to face me.
At first I saw nothing different about him, then I moved closer and he tilted his face so I could see better. Then I realised what he was on about and started to laugh. "What is this? Do I spy a trace of fuzz above your upper lip?"
I traced it with my left index finger and he swatted my hand away with a scowl. "It's not funny."
"Sorry. I just don't understand why you're so grumpy about the first definite signs of adulthood. I think you'd look good with a moustache."
"Well I don't." Joey's head dropped forward so he didn't have to look at me. "All that scraping and razor blades and stuff; I don't want to grow up."
"No one can stay in their childhood forever."
"Some childhood, I've had."
I put a hand under his chin and raised it, and I saw the tears in his eyes. "Hey, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to upset you." I chuckled again. "It won't be the first time you've used a razor; you didn't think twice then, did you?" He jerked his head out of my hand and tried to turn away from me.
I let go of him and he took a deep breath. "Okay, if I have to grow up, so, I'll grow up." He nodded toward the beautifully tiled open style shower where a seat stood over the drainage hole in the sloped floor. "Perhaps I could take a shower. I guess I must stink a bit."
"Wait here," I said with a smile. "I'll go and check with Marge."
Joey blinked at me. "Marge? Who's Marge?"
"Your ministering angel in blue; actually she's the mother of Sam's partner and also a friend of Elias and Ben." I left the bathroom to look for Marge and found two nurses changing the sheets and tidying up the place. "Is it all right if Joey has a shower?" I asked.
The elder of the nurses smiled and grabbed a roll of something that looked like cling film from the cleaning trolley. "No problem, sir. I'll have to wrap the cast first," and she marched towards the bathroom.
"Ladies approaching," I managed to shout as she pushed the door open, and I had to laugh at the sight of Joey grabbing a towel off a rail by the basin to hide his crotch with, his face reddening with embarrassment.
"Oh my! Aren't we the shy one?" the nurse chuckled. "It won't be the first time I've seen what you're hiding since you took up residence in your grandfather's bed. Now then, come and sit down on the shower seat while I wrap your ankle." With him refusing to let go of the towel and glaring at me for grinning at his plight, I helped him to the shower and sat him down and the nurse unrolled a good length of the clear plastic and wrapped it round the injured ankle till it was fully enclosed. "There we are. Now you can stay in the shower as long as you want." Turning to me, she showed me a built in cupboard containing everything Joey needed, from huge snow-white bath sheets to a new toothbrush. When I asked her if there was a shaving kit there, she shook her head but said she would go and get one while I helped Joey with his shower. After showing me how to use the shower, she left and I chose some toiletries and towels from the cupboard. After setting these on a table by the shower, I took off my jacket and unbuttoned my shirt.
Joey raised his eyebrows at me. "What're you doing?"
"Making sure I don't get soaked."
Soon the water was flowing at a comfortable temperature and I handed Joey the shampoo. I let the spray wash over him while I tied one of the plastic aprons from the cupboard round my waist to save my pants from getting too damp, and then spread another one on the floor to kneel on. Turning the showerhead to one side, I lathered a sponge and attacked his back and shoulders. By the time he had finished shampooing his hair and washing his front, I was ready to help him wash his feet; a difficult task as Joey was so ticklish. The next minute was filled with Joey's noisy giggles and shouts of protest but at last the job was done; so much for the sedative he was supposed to need; he seemed to be calm enough to me. I was about to rise to my feet when we heard the sound of angry voices in the bedroom. I heard Marge shout angrily for someone not to come into the bathroom, that it was private; then the door burst open and the place filled with people. One of them was Angela.
With a smile of cold triumph on the face as she waved a bunch of papers in the ai r, she turned to the men behind her. "There you are gentlemen. There's your abuser."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]