The Bull Singer
She couldn't have picked a worse time to arrive. I mean there was Joey, naked and covered in soap from head to toe, and unfortunately sporting a boner, with me kneeling in front of him. Both of us froze, our mouths hanging open as three men and a woman came to a halt behind Angela, two were in uniform. The man in plain clothes stepped round Angela and approached us. "Magnus Alton?"
"Yes?" I rose to my feet and cast Angela an angry glare.
"I'm Detective Sergeant Barnes and these are police constables Clark and Wentworth. And this is Miss Moore from Social Services. I'm arresting you on suspicion of sexual assault upon a minor. Will you come with us please?"
"Bullshit," Joey yelled. "He never assaulted me. That bitch did."
"And you can stop that bad language right now, young man," the man snapped at him. "Mr Alton, if you please." He indicated the door.
The police officers moved towards me as I ripped the apron off and grabbed my shirt, socks and jacket; there didn't see much point in resisting arrest and making things worse, although the social worker did look at me with eyes full of sympathy. I slipped my feet into my shoes as Joey turned his back to everyone and grabbed the shower head to rinse the soap away, muttering curses under his breath. Seething with rage but determined to keep from hitting Angela, I let them lead me to the door. Marge hurried past us, giving Angela a look that could have killed, and went to help Joey finish off, deliberately making a show of pulling the shower curtain round the whole of the shower area. Then a thought came to me. How did the cops get here so fast? Out in the bedroom, I found Dad having a go at two men in white coats. These I took to be Sam's colleague and the paediatrician. There was no sign of Ben or Sam. With the officers either side of me, I marched across the room and grabbed Sam's colleague. "Thanks a bunch; you just couldn't wait, could you?"
"I swear it wasn't us who called the police." The man said. "My mother asked us to wait till we had all the facts together. I'm Derek Jones by the way, and this is Steve Parker, our resident paediatrician." Before we could shake hands, the officers grabbed my arms and dragged me away from them.
"Well if it wasn't you," Dad roared, "who the hell did?" Just then, Angela emerged from the bathroom holding a tissue to her eyes, and Dad nodded as the penny dropped. "You! I might have guessed. Well, you'd better have a good lawyer because I can guarantee you're going to have one hell of a fight on your hands."
"And I'll be your star witness, Gramps." Joey hopped out of the bathroom wearing a white bathrobe and leaning heavily on Marge's arm. Letting go of her, he hobbled over to Angela and shoved his face into her. "If you want to play dirty, Mother dear, so will I. Mags didn't assault me; he never touched me. If these guys want to throw someone in jail for sexual abuse, the cuffs will sit very nicely on you."
Angela put on a look of deep hurt on her face, although I don't think anyone except Barnes was fooled. "Darling, why are you doing this? I'm your mother and I love you."
"BULLSHIT, YOU FUCKING, LYING, THIEVING SLUT! You've been abusing me since I was a kid; you and all your boyfriends." Angela's hurt expression changed to one of hatred as she lost it and struck him in the face. As PC Wentworth sprang to intervene, Joey retaliated with a blow that sent her reeling backwards, assuring her of a beautiful black eye if she didn't get it treated. Wentworth grabbed Joey round the waist, which no canny copper would do, and I wondered just how long he had been in uniform as Joey easily used elbows and one good foot to escape from the PC's clutches. The PC limped away nursing a bruised leg and sore ribs and Barnes grabbed Joey as he went for his mother a second time. This time it was a standard arm lock and a swipe to the ankles that brought Joey to the floor, yelling and struggling. Derek and Steve beat me to them, Steve warning Barnes about Joey's state of health. Barnes didn't listen and with a knee in Joey's back and with a firm hold on his wrists, he whipped out a pair handcuffs. But before he could use them, Joey's body started jerking. His mouth opened, gasping for air as his eyes widened for a second before he went limp.
Derek tried to drag Barnes off him. "Get off him now, you stupid fool. Can't you see what's happened?" He pushed Barnes away and he and Steve rolled Joey onto his back. It took only a moment for Steve to yell at Marge. "Cardiac arrest! Get the Crash team in here." As I watched, stunned, Derek pulled Joey's head back, pulled his mouth open and lowered his mouth to the boy's. I have never actually witnessed CPR before, and I found it scary to think that my Joey's heart had stopped beating, that he was dead. For a few seconds, Barnes stared down at the scene then turned to find someone else to use his handcuffs and his anger on. I was now the prime target.
Signalling for his police colleagues to join him, he advanced on me with all the determination of a Rhino on the run. "Mr Alton, I'm not in the mood for any more trouble. You are under arrest on a change of sexual abuse on a minor."
"Prove it," I yelled in his face, and suddenly the Bitch was at my side waving the papers under my nose. They were photos of me and Joey getting cosy at the hospital. I stared at Dad and we both said the name together. "Bernie Reese."
Barnes gripped my left wrist with undue force. "You've seen the evidence; are you going to resist arrest like your lover boy, or are you going to go quietly?"
My first thought was to sock him in the gob for what he'd done to Joey, but a gentle hand on my arm stopped me. Benjamin was there, shaking his head at me. "It's all right, Mags, Elias will sort things out."
I pointed to where Sam and Derek still battled to save Joey's life. "I'm not going anywhere till I know he's okay."
At that moment the crash team hurried in with their equipment trolley, followed by a two porters pushing a gurney. We were pushed hastily aside and I lost sight of Joey as he disappeared below a pile of white coats. Angela walked away to sit like a triumphant queen in Joy's bedside chair. The room suddenly seemed overcrowded and we all had to stand back to let them do their work. The police made no move to remove me from the room, and from the looks on their faces, all three were just as interested in the spectacle of a life being saved as Joe Public. Two minutes later one of the team raised an arm to indicate success, and those kneeling round Joey relaxed. Taking advantage of the police being distracted, Benjamin squeezed my arm and leaned down to whisper in my ear. "He's going to be fine, Mags. Now you go with Mr Barnes and Elias will have his lawyer meet you at the police station. No offence, but you are just a small cog in the works as far as Elias's fight with Angela is concerned. This has been coming to a head for some time, and Elias is now ready to blow Angle's little schemes wide open. A plan is already in motion and you will have the best legal team at your disposal"
"What about, Joey?"
"We will try our best to make sure he isn't hurt in the process, but we will have to be prepared for some backlash from Angela to affect him. It also depends on what the Social Services decide to do about him, although I can guarantee Miss Moore from Social Services is a good sort according to Marge, and inclined to favour the needs of the child rather than go by the book. I have had dealings with her on the odd occasion." I stared up at him in surprise. He smiled and said, "Trust me, Mags."
I felt like shit. My chest hurt like someone had stepped on it, my head pounded and my body felt as if someone had plugged me into an outlet and drained all my energy away. My eyelids were ton weights as I tried to lift them. Something enclosed my mouth and nose and smelled of plastic, and hissed and gurgled as I breathed. An oxygen mask! Why? What was happening? Once I got my eyes to focus I realised I was back in bed but in a white walled room with lots of equipment round the bed, and Marge sitting beside me. "Well, hello! Welcome back to the land of the living. Feeling better now?"
I shook my head, wondering what I should be feeling better from. "My chest hurts; what happened?" My throat hurt when I spoke and my voice came out as a croak.
"I think I'll let the doctor explain things. Would you like a drink?" Marge removed the mask put a straw to my lips. I sucked at it and felt the coolness of iced water as it trickled down my throat. Marge replaced the mask over my face and I settled back and closed my eyes, wondering why I felt so tired. I must have drifted off because I roused to find one of the doctors gazing down at me.
"Hello, young man." The doctor smiled at me and glanced up at a monitor. "Things seem to be back to normal, so let's get you unhooked from all this stuff."
As he proceeded to remove the oxygen mask and pull the contacts from various parts of my body, he said, "Marge says you're feeling sore. That's because your heart stopped and we had to work fast and thump your chest a few times to get it beating again. At least we didn't have to shock you. And we had to put a tube down your throat to keep you breathing for a few hours so that will be sore for a bit as well. We took it out this morning."
"What?" Confused, I stared at him.
The doctor nodded. "It took us a few minutes to get your heart started again then you slipped into a coma. That's nature's way of shutting down your body while it deals with any trauma. Fortunately the coma only lasted for about twenty hours and you're fine now. Hopefully, after some more tests and a few days rest you'll be well enough to leave here." Once the wires had been cleared away, he removed the IV from my arm then sat down on the chair Marge had used. Leaning close he gave me a gentle smile. "I don't know whether you remember me, I'm Steve Parker, the resident paediatrician. First of all I'd like to apologise for what happened yesterday. How that woman and those policemen got past our security is a mystery, which is being investigated. Normally, getting into this clinic is worse than getting into the Bank of England vaults. And I can assure you no one at this clinic contacted the police or the Social Services." He grinned. "Marge looks like a sweetie but she rules this place and Derek wouldn't dare upset her because she's his mum. Her strict instructions were not to call anyone till we'd had a talk with you and Mags." He grinned again. "I must say, you really had the cops on a roll. I can see Barnes being given a right talking to about police brutality over this. He's not the right kind of copper to be handling juvenile cases. Not all kids have the guts to stand up to him like you did."
I was totally confused. "Why what did he do?"
Steve stopped laughing and frowned at me. "Don't you remember? He tried to arrest you for attacking your mother. You were so angry, your stress factor kicked in and you collapsed. Your heart stopped and it was like a scene from Casualty in there till they got you going again."
I closed my eyes and tried to remember. I thought back to when I was in the shower with Mags and then Angela coming in and him being arrested. My eyes shot open. "Mags! Where is he? What's happened to him?"
"Take it easy, kiddo. It's okay, he's safe." Steve had to grip my shoulders to stop me sitting up. "He was taken to Oldham Police Station for questioning, but Mr. Chambers sent his own lawyer to sort things out. Your uncle will probably be released on bail with the usual conditions attached, like not having any unsupervised contact with you. Now, if you want to help him, what you need to do is to help us to make you better so we can get you out of here. If you don't, we'll only give you another dose of happy-land juice for another twenty-four hours. Somehow I'd rather do as I'm told and eat some decent grub rather than be fed by IV. The food in this place is certainly not your standard hospital food, but even better, Mr Chambers has his own chef cook for him when he's here, and he's sent the man in to cook for you. Now that's luxury for you. Now then, I have some questions I need to ask." Steve took a tiny voice recorder from his coat pocket. "I hope you don't mind if I record everything. It's just for my own research into child development, and I promise the recording will be wiped once I've collated the information. Okay?" I shrugged my shoulders. I was sure he had his reasons. "Well first of all, can you tell me how far back you can remember about your health?"
I racked my brains, trying to think back as far as I could. I closed my eyes so I could concentrate as pictures of my past life appeared. "I was about two I think. Angela tried to look after me but I was always sick. I was sick for years. I remember seeing lots of doctors. Funny, we always moved after seeing doctors anywhere."
"Can you describe your symptoms?"
"Just the usual kids stuff, I think. Perhaps I had less energy than other kids, I don't know; I found it hard to do sports. One doctor thought I was Asthmatic; another said I suffered from Hay fever but nothing was ever done about it. Another one said I was susceptible to viruses because my Immune system wasn't working as it should."
"So how did you have the energy for dancing?"
"You've heard about that, huh? When I was about ten, I started to look after myself, health-wise. I read a lot of books about illnesses and how to avoid them by eating healthily. If I felt ill I went to the doctor by myself."
"Can you remember the names of any of the doctors you saw, and where their surgeries were?"
"Some of them. There was a Doctor Saunders, he was in Birmingham somewhere; and then there was a Doctor Shillington in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, and a nice Egyptian doctor in Bangor North Wales by the name of Khan. I remember him because he got stroppy with Angela about something and made an appointment for me to see a doctor at Ysybty Gwynedd, that's the hospital in Bangor."
"Did you keep the appointment?"
"No way; we moved again." I reeled off several more that I could think of and wondered why he wanted to know. He just smiled and said the records my current doctor had faxed to the clinic seemed to be incomplete and needed to be updated. I shrugged my shoulders. "Ben's the one to ask. He always kept track of us; wherever we were he'd find us.
"How old are you?"
That came as a surprise. "What? I thought you already knew, I'm sixteen in February 2008. You can see my birth certificate if you like. Why do you ask?"
"Just a theory." Steve had a strange look in his eyes. "Do you remember the ex-rays and other tests Sam did on you at Marble House when he first discovered you'd been abused? We took further x-rays of you yesterday, along with other tests. Those ex-rays show not only the current state of your skeletal frame in case there was more damage; they also revealed any bruising or damage from earlier times. Most of the tests we did are routine when a child is brought in with any sign of abuse. I heard what you accused your mother of, and from what Derek and I discovered, we're inclined to believe that you are older than you think. I can also tell you that Sam wasn't one hundred percent certain of his first diagnosis about you suffering purely from stress but he didn't want to worry you so he said nothing and asked us to run the new tests just to make sure. Some tests we run can also establish the age of a child. Is there any reason your mother would hide your correct age from you?"
Where was this guy coming from? "Why would she do that?"
"I'm not sure. How do you find school? Do you find the work easy?"
"It's a doddle. It always has been; so much it's mostly boring. I'm only staying in school so I can take my GCSE's to go to stage school somewhere. Why are you asking me all this?"
"Just a theory I'm exploring. I believe you about your high grades. Your head teacher came to see you but you were out for the count, so we chatted for bit and he told us you are very bright, and he's thinking of moving you up a year to give you more of a challenge."
I fixed him with a look of exasperation. "Doctor, I don't think I like this interrogation. Just what are you getting at?"
Steve sighed and studied his hands for a moment, then he looked at me and said, "I remember you saying that Mags didn't assault you; is that true?"
"Of course it's true. Now tell me what you're getting at or leave me alone." I folded my arms across my chest and looked away.
Steve sighed again. "Unfortunately Angela producing those photos put Mags in a position where he had no choice but to plead guilty.
"But he didn't abuse me."
"I'm sorry, Joey, but the law says that he should have resisted you and said no. The onus is on the adult not to have sex with a minor, no matter how loving and consensual the relationship."
"He – never – touched – me; even though I wanted him to. He just hugged me and made me feel safe, just like any uncle would. He gave me something I never got from my mum. It's called love."
"There is one way you can help him."
I turned my head to look at him. "How?"
Steve smiled at me. "Have you noticed any bodily changes lately?"
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