The Bull Singer
We both sat staring at the picture, silent with our thoughts until Pete said, "This is crazy. Why would your mother have a copy of a picture that belongs to Grandmother Crayel? For all her cantankerous ways, Gran is a sweet old lady who would never have any dealing with a witch like Angela Street. It just doesn't make sense."
I stared some more at the picture, trying to make out the details of the faces. Admitting defeat, I went to fetch a magnifying glass from my room. I used it to look at the picture once more, and slowly an idea began to form in my brain, and an excitement filled me as never before at the hope of fulfilling a recurring dream. "Pete, have you ever had the feeling you are missing something, or someone in your life?"
"I don't get you."
"Well, I've heard that twins who've been separated at birth seem to sense they have a sibling somewhere."
I gazed straight into his eyes "I've always had that feeling. What if one of those three babies is me; and the toddler is you?" When Pete started to laugh, I thrust the magnifying glass at him. "Take a look and see for yourself."
Pete almost sneered at the idea but took the glass and examined the picture, while my face stretched into a wide grin of triumph. Slowly, his mouth dropped open. "Hell, Joey, you may be right. That toddler is me. I remember seeing other photos of me around that age. But, how...if you are saying one of these babies is you; that means you have two more like you. You're one of three and I'm...Oh My God, I'm your older brother!"
We stared at each other for a moment before he grinned as well. Then we flung our arms about each other and I couldn't help bursting into tears. My older brother held me tight as I sobbed on his shoulder, and when I lifted my head to look at him I saw tears falling down his cheeks as well. "Hi Big Bro, I always wanted an older brother."
"Hi Little Bro," he replied, and kissed me. "I've always yearned for a brother as well." We both looked round for something to dry our faces with, found nothing and just laughed and cried some more. No wonder I had loved Pete from the moment I first saw him, knowing then that he was someone special. We went into the kitchen to look for tissues but had to make do with kitchen towel. Suddenly, Pete laughed. "I wonder what Gramps will say when he hears he's got another three grandkids."
I sobered quickly. "What if Angela isn't my mother? What if she kidnapped me?"
Pete nodded. "It would also mean Mags isn't your uncle." He led me back into the lounge and picked up the picture and the glass again. He studied it again. "How sure are you that Angela is a true blonde?" He tapped the picture and gave me the glass. "Look at the mother; can she be Angela some sixteen or so years ago?"
I studied the mother and tried to imagine her with blonde hair then thought of something and slapped my forehead hard.
"Shit! Why didn't I think of it before? Wait a minute." I went upstairs to the bathroom, still full of Angela's toiletries, and searched for something half remembered. There in a top cupboard I found what I was looking for. I took the bottle downstairs and showed it to Pete. "Peroxide root treatment. I remember seeing her doing something with her hair a few years ago when she left the bathroom door open by accident. Now I come to think of it, the bathroom always smelled funny." I unscrewed the cap and smelled the contents. "Yep, that's the smell I remember."
"The plot thickens." Pete agreed.
I thought of something else and muttered, "The Marilyn Munro look!"
"Blonde hair, black eyebrows. Something you see but don't see when you see it every day. I never really noticed till now.
Angela's eyebrows are black."
"So what do we do?"
"Look for our missing brothers."
"Where?" Pete frowned and then his eyes grew enormous. "Oh Jeez! If you are older, like Steve Parker believes, you could be the same age as the late Billy D' Marco."
It was my turn to gaze at him, wide-eyed with astonishment. "Are you saying Billy was my brother?"
"Well, you look the spitting image of him. I hear you even had Mags fooled for a minute."
"So what can we do to find out?"
"Well, we're supposed to go over to Bingford; why don't we go there now and put our theory to the test?"
I felt my enthusiasm waning. "I can't go there yet, can I?"
"You can if your guardian says you can." Pete grinned at me. "And I'm your guardian so let's get moving."
I pointed to Angela's box. "What about that? We can't leave that lying around for the bitch to find."
Pete shook his head. "The court has barred her from coming anywhere near this place and Edward has had her tenancy revoked. He's also had the locks changed on all the outer doors just in case she does try anything. And, Elias has put a cordon of his heavies round the whole two farms, so, if she sends any friends of hers up here to cause trouble, Edward will call Elias and his friends in."
I nodded my agreement that Elias and Gramps seemed to have things under control but I didn't see the wisdom of going over to Bingford before we went to see Grandma Crayel. When I said so, Pete shook his head. "If we go all the way down to Colchester with no proof to back up a half story, Gran can only give us half the answers. Then we'll have to traipse all the way back up to Bingford where we should have gone in the first place. I have a feeling I'm right, Joey. Just like the feeling you have about having brothers. Let's go to Bingford first and see if we can find the Italian link with Billy D'Marco. Then we'll go and see Grandma Crayel."
"Will she see you, do you think?"
"What? Grandma Crayel turning away her only grandson?" Pete grinned and hugged meclose. "No way, little bro; she may be a match for Jesse Welch but I'm her blue-eyed boy, even if I don't have blue eyes. As long as I make sure Mum and Dad Crayel aren't around when we get there, she'll see us."
It took fifty minutes to reach the Bingford Farmhouse, and by the time we found out which key off Mags's bunch of keys opened the front door, we were ready for something to eat. Once the kitchen was tidy again, we went on an inspection of the house, more to satisfy Joey's own curiosity about the place, not having seen much of it during his last visit. We decided to stay the night so we didn't have to rush our search, but the place was chilly, so I went down to the basement to switch on the central heating boiler while Joey switched on the Desktop computer in Bill D'Marco's study. Happy that the boiler was working properly, I joined Joey in the study and his face showed he wasn't too pleased. "So far there is nothing on this PC to indicate any dealings with the D'Marco family, except for one file that needs a password. Jimmy would get into it, no problem."
"Why don't we ring him? He might suggest something." I handed him my mobile phone and started to inspect the desk drawers. They were jam packed with an assortment of stuff from bits of hand written music and scribbled notes to music magazines and household bills. Billy senior may have been a fantastic drummer but he certainly wasn't a master of the filing cabinet. I decided to tackle the top left hand drawer first.
Joey shook his head at me. "Hey, we can't do that."
"Why not?" I pulled the top drawer out of its housing. "This house belongs to Mags and he wants us to search it for clues, so here goes." I placed the drawer on the carpet and knelt down beside it. Joey got through to Jimmy who said he was tied up till Sunday and to try the simplest of password ideas to unlock the file. While Joey spent the next half hour trying to unlock the file, I went through the contents of the drawer, found nothing of interest and lifted it back into its holding. The middle drawer also yielded nothing we could use. By the time I finished with that one, darkness had fallen and Joey went to switch the lights on. I pulled out the bottom drawer with the same result and we hefted it back into place but found it wouldn't close properly. I pulled it out again and lay down to see what the problem was. Right at the back of the holding I found a crumpled file wedged at the back. I pulled it out, looked through it and found it of little interest and tossed it aside. Looking again, I saw a wad of letters, tied together with string. Takinggreat care, I pulled it out and rose to my feet. I untied the bundle, took the first letter out of its envelope and unfolded it with great care. It was so faded I could hardly make out the writing. We checked several more, all of them having an Italian stamp on the front, till I picked up one we could read.
"Oh wow!" Joey gasped as we read the date on it. 10th July 1990. "I can't read Italian, can you?"
"A bit." I deciphered the neat handwriting as best I could. My knowledge of the language was limited to restaurant Italian from when I worked as a waiter in London, but I managed to make out the gist of the letter. Then I saw a name and I knew, in this first letter that we could understand, that we had hit the jackpot. "Joey, I think we've got something here. This person is talking to his brother and talks about being afraid for his babies. He's asking for help. He mentions your mother by name. He says, "Angela is...something...to harm..." I don't know what the rest of the sentence says, but further on he says, something about taking them away and Mary's brother will help. Oh shit! Grandmother Crayel's first name is Mary." My head swam and I found myself sitting in the chair behind the desk with Joey slapping my face and asking me if I was all right.
"Come on Big Bro, it's me who had a hole in the heart, not you." I made Pete take a few mouthfuls of water from the glass I had brought from the kitchen, and watched the colour come back into his cheeks.
He sat with his head in his hands for a few minutes then straightened up to look at me. "All this can't be just a coincidence, Joey. This is so real I can hardly believe what I'm seeing."
"Well, I've heard it said, life is stranger than fiction." I made him drink the rest of the water. "I can't believe all this either but it seems real enough to me. This guy mentions Angela in his letter and says his kids are in danger from her, and both Angela and your Gran have copies of the same photo. What's the betting there's a copy of it somewhere in this house?"
"And what's the betting Bill D'Marco was Billy's uncle, not his dad?" He glanced at his watch. "Oh hell; I was supposed to check in with Jesse ten minutes ago. She'll be getting ready to call Benjamin and his boys in to look for us."
"Elmira Gulch herself." He reached in his jacket pocket for his mobile phone and dialled a number. I listened for a moment to Pete having his ear chewed by the irate social worker before I left to try Billy's computer, suddenly thinking perhaps his dad, or uncle as may be, had transferred secret stuff onto that one, believing no one, like Angela, would think of looking there for stuff on a kid's PC. Nothing; zilch; just a load of old schoolwork, games, and emails to friends shortly before his death from cancer. With that thought, my spirits took a dive. Billy, my possible brother, dead before I even met him; never to hear him, touch, kiss or hug him. Oh, Billy! My brother! My dead brother!
I wept, quietly mourning the loss of part of me. Then I surveyed the study, wondering where I might find clues about Billy. I so wanted to feel him, to touch him, to know him. There were shelves on three sides of the room, full of books, box files, albums, and general teenage gear. Albums? Of course, photo albums. Every kid had at least one album full of favourite pictures. I chose the album that looked the oldest, about nine inches by seven, and took it down from its shelf. Carrying it carefully to the desk I laid it down and opened the cover, and there, stuck inside the cover was a copy of the picture we had found at Home Farm.
Above it were the words, "Pietro ed Angela D'Marco, con bambini Pietro 2-1/2 anni vecchi, e Guglielmo, Geuseppi, e Ricardo, hanna invecchiato 5 mesi, nati Febrairo 16 1990."
With fresh tears running down my face, I managed to lift the picture from the cover and turned it over. As if the picture itself and the names written above weren't enough to confirm the link, the writing on the back made me sit down on a hurry. Even I, being ignorant of the language, could understand the words.
"Guglielmo caro Felice di dire, il foro del Guglielmo nell' operzione il cuore eradi successo. Amare ed I migliori auguri
Il Suo Pietro di Fratelio amando"
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