The Bull Singer
After my phone call to Jesse, I was so engrossed in my exploration of Bill's study and my own sorrow at not having really known Billy before he died, I didn't realise Joey had come back to the study until I heard him say my name in a hushed voice. I turned from the shelves behind the desk to find him standing in the doorway with a book in his hands, tears streaming down his cheeks and a look of dejection on his face. As I reached him, he said, "I've found the photograph." He handed me the book and I opened it, finding the picture, now loose within the cover.
With a choked feeling, I translated the caption, "Pietro and Angela D'Marco with Peter two and a half years old, and William, Joseph and Richard aged five months, born on February sixteenth nineteen ninety." Joey turned the picture over for me and I read what our father had written and translated it for Joey. "Dear William, good news, William's hole in heart operation was a success. Love and best wishes, your loving brother Pietro. Oh, My God! He had the same problem as you!"
There it was; the undeniable truth about our birth, and who our parents were. Bursting with emotion, I looked up at Joey to find him swaying and about to collapse. I tossed the book onto the desk and grabbed him before his knees gave way. I helped him to the desk and sat him down in the chair. Wanting to collapse myself, I knew I had to be strong for both of us.
Together we opened the book and went through it, seeing Billy's life in pictures; first as a tiny baby with us, his brothers, and then at two year old with someone who looked very much like our father but older. This we took to be his brother, William, and the woman in the picture obviously William's wife. Then there were a series of pictures with just Billy and William's wife, and no sign of William until Billy was about eight years old, a sad and withdrawn looking child. After that there were pictures of Billy as a happy kid behind a full size drum-kit with William smiling proudly at him. Later pictures showed him as a teenager wearing dark glasses sitting beside Mags and leaning into him in a show of obvious affection. The last picture in the album broke our hearts the most; that of a gravestone at the head of a flower-strewn grave, with just one word engraved on it. "Billy." Joey was the worst affected of us, and I picked him up off the chair and sat him on my knee so I could hold him close while he sobbed on my shoulder. It took a while to calm him down, by which time we were both tired and needed to rest. Neither of us was hungry, so I guided Joey up the stairs to Mags's bedroom. I stripped him down to his boxers and helped him into bed. Stripping off my clothes, I slipped in beside him, and drew him into a brotherly cuddle with the duvet pulled up over our shoulders. I didn't think Joey had any more tears to shed but as we clung tightly to each other we both sobbed our hearts out until at last we could cry no more. Slowly, our embrace turned to one of gentle comfort as I cradled my brother against me. He looked into my eyes, smiled before relaxing against me, his eyes closing. I switched off the bedside light and held him until he fell asleep, and I lay awake, savouring the closeness of my brother, and wondered if he would need comfort in a sexual way; who was I to deny him?
Recalling my conversation with Mags, I vowed to keep my promise, but in a special way that only brothers could understand while helping each other over our grief. I too, wished I could have known who Billy was before he died. I was more fortunate than Joey in that I had actually known our brother, had played the drums with him, and had watched him blossom into a star of the cover bands. Billy and I had known and loved each other as friends without knowing we were brothers, and that made my pain so much harder to bear. I sighed and closed my eyes, and tried to sleep. In the morning we would begin our search for our lost brother, Richard, and travel down to Colchester to see Mary Crayel. Until then………As I dreamed, Billy came to us and sat on the bed, smiling his approval. He said he loved us and that all would be well, but our brother Ricardo would need us in the next few days, that we must find him quickly. I dreamed that Joey was also awake, and when he asked Billy how we could find Richard, Billy smiled at me and said, "Ask your grandmother." Then he blew us a kiss and faded from our sight.
I woke around three thirty to a room filled with silvery moonlight, and something pressing against my left hip. Joey's head was under my chin and the smell of his hair reminded me of Mags. Joey had his left arm round my waist and his left leg lay heavy over mine. My left arm still clutched him in a loose embrace; I felt Joey's hand begin to stroke my right hip and I tightened my arm about him and kissed the top of his head in response. "We shouldn't," I heard him whisper, "but I wish we…I mean…."
"It's okay Joey; love doesn't care what the rules are." I replied.
"I was reading something on the net the other day. It was a story called Ark, by a guy calling himself Akeentia. He used that phrase in a chapter and I thought it so right. Love doesn't care what the rules are. It's true; love is such a strange phenomenon. You can't plan who to love; it just happens. It's all to do with body chemistry and the way one individual attracts another; like two magnets."
"I loved you the minute I saw you, Pete; do you remember coming to me when I learned Edward was my grandpa? You smiled at me and tried to comfort me. I knew then you were someone special. I love you Pete."
"And I love you too, Joey. I hope Richard will love us too."
"I just dreamed about him. Do you think we'll ever find him?"
"We'll have a damned good try. What was the dream about?"
"Billy was here, sitting on the bed and talking to us. He said Ricardo would need us soon."
Wide awake now, I said, "You know what? I've just had the same dream."
Joey raised his head to look at me. "I guess it wasn't a dream we had then. Billy was really here."
I felt suddenly chilled. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"Not really, but I really believe Billy came back to comfort us."
I looked at Joey as if he'd gone mad. "You really believe that?"
Joey nodded his head and laid his head back down on my chest. "I think he wants to help us find Richard. What I can't understand is why we were separated in the first place. Why did Angela take me and not you, Billy and Richard?"
"Now that is weird!"
"What are your parents like?"
"Up to the moment I told them I was gay, they were great. When that happened, everything went pear-shaped. Not so much Mum, but she always did what Dad said; the typically dutiful wife. He threw me out and she had to agree or have a divorce on her hands. Gran tried to talk to Dad but he threatened to turn her out as well. But enough of this talk of bad things, what do you want to do?"
Joey's head rolled in a negative reply. "I want to be loved, Pete, but…I don't need the sex after all. It's like all my sexual feelings have been wiped away, what with Mags being a wise owl about it, and now you. Will you love me, Pete, as a brother should?"
My answer was to hold him even tighter, and I heard him give a contented sigh. We spent the next half hour, gently exchanging brotherly kisses and affection in a vow of deep brotherly bonding. Many lovers and one-night stands had used me but none had done what Joey accomplished this night. For once I felt really loved for myself, and I realised that what I had thought was a need for sex had really been a yearning for a loving family. And I thought, Peter Crayel, you are one lucky guy! Afterwards we did actually get some sleep, nestled together in Mags's bed with our arms and legs entwined, and ready to face the world together, come what may.
Seven o'clock came far too soon. Joey was still using my chest as a pillow, with his hair tickling my nostrils and a stiffy prodding my left hip once more. My own body told me a bathroom visit would be a good idea so I moved a little and was rewarded with a moan of contentment and a muttered, "I like it here, why don't we stay here for a bit?"
"Somehow I don't think Mags would appreciate us wetting his bed.
"Not just now, silly. And it won't be me upsetting Mags. I went to the loo half an hour ago. You were still sawing logs so I left you alone. And do you realise this was Billy's bed first? But now, big brother dear, I'm hungry, even though this bed is too comfortable to move from." As if to confirm his hunger, Joey's stomach rumbled.
"Well, if you don't need the loo, why is that pea shooter trying to drill a hole in my hip."
Joey giggled. "Do you mean pea shooter or pee shooter? I think it wants what I no longer want." He tightened his embrace. "I didn't know finding a brother could be so exciting. Thanks, bro."
"Well, much as I appreciate your compliment but I have to move even if you don't." I scrambled out of bed and made it to the loo just in time. "What are we going to do about breakfast?" I called over my shoulder.
"I don't know. I hoped to surprise you with breakfast in bed but I don't think we ought to make such a big dent in Mag's food stores. If you really insist on travelling today, we could have breakfast on the road?"
"Have you noticed what's happening outside, bro?" I finished at the loo and turned to switch on the shower. "It's bucketing down with a high wind blowing. I don't much like the idea of driving all the way down to Colchester in that. Come and have a shower with me; we'll find something to eat later, no problem."
Joey stepped into the shower with me, and we turned the temperature as high as we could stand it, soaped each other all over then letting the water do its job, helping us relax and leaving us refreshed. As we dried ourselves, Joey's face took on a thoughtful expression. I raised an eyebrow at him. "What's up, little bro?"
Joey sighed. "I've just thought of something. If our birthday was Feb 16 th 1990 that makes me seventeen, not fifteen..."
"Which means Mags isn't guilty of sex abuse, even if you did have sex." I finished for him.
Joey looked sad. "But we didn't. We still have no real proof we're Pietro and Geuseppe D'Marco. I mean we never found my original birth certificate among Angela's papers, and the copy I have has her as Angela Street, and no father named. We could be totally off track here."
"Come to think of it, I have my own birth certificate and it definitely says the Crayels are my parents All the more reason to go and see Mary Crayel; but not in this weather. Come on Sprout, the sooner we get dressed the sooner we can raid the freezer."
"Hey!" Joey dug me in the ribs. "Who are you calling a sprout? You're not much taller than me."
"I'll have you know, I'm all of five foot seven." I protested.
"And I'm five foot four and still growing, thank you very much. Ask Steven Parker." Joey stuck his tongue out at me and we made faces at each other, which set off a tickling match. Eventually we finished dressing and walked hand in hand down the stairs. We found a loaf of thick sliced bread in the freezer, and some butter, and Marmalade, and the milk we had brought with us, in the fridge, so we made a pile of toast and a large pot of tea. We caught the BBC TV weather report and I sighed with relief that the bad weather seemed to be heading northeast and would clear by lunchtime. Meanwhile we had a few hours to kill.
I needed to do some drum practice and I invited Joey to join me in the barn where I took the dust wraps off the drum kit. Joey spotted Billy's keyboards and synthesizer and to my surprise he plugged them in and switched them on and sat down on the piano stool. While I adjusted the drums to my satisfaction, Joey messed about, trying out various sounds. "Hey, little bro, aren't you a dark horse? You never said you could play the keyboards!"
"I don't; not really. I just mess around enough to play chords while I sing. I play the guitar a bit too. Maybe some day I'll have lessons. I've never really had the time or the money, what with dancing and being dragged around the country by 'she who claims to be our mother'."
"In that case, why don't we mess around together?" I played a roll I hoped Joey would recognise. Immediately, he laughed and picked up the opening chords of "I Love To Boogie". We sang together as he played the guitar part on the synth, our voices very alike in tone; well, we were brothers weren't we? After that, it was Joey's turn to lead, and I joined in as he sang, "The Bitch Is Back" with the same gusto as Billy. A shiver ran through me; if I closed my eyes it was Billy I was listening to; the same tone, the same phrasing. When the song ended, I said, "That was Billy's favourite."
Joey nodded, suddenly solemn. "Yeah, I know. That's one of the only songs I can play well enough; I learned it off by heart by listening to Billy Junior."
"Yeah, like I did the drums, listening to the greats like Phil Collins until I actually met Billy and he gave me some tuition."
Suddenly Joey grinned at me. "Remember another of Billy's hits?" The chords were unmistakeable as the opening to "Crocodile Rock" and we were soon bopping around on our stools with Joey singing and playing the chords, and me bashing the beat out of Billy's drums.
As we jammed, an idea came to me, and when we finished, I broached it to Joey. "Why don't we join forces with Billy Junior? That way we could bring Billy back to life and give him back to the band."
Joey cocked his head at me. "Do you think we're good enough? I mean the band is getting a reputation as a top cover band; I wouldn't want to spoil things for them."
"Are you kidding? All we need to do is to practise hard, just like you learned 'The Bitch'. What else do you know?"
"How about 'How Long'?"
"The Eagles hit? Great!" Soon we were having fun, our voices blending in a pleasing harmony. 'Tequila' and other great tunes followed with Joey mimicking various instruments on the synth, and we were having so much fun, we lost track of time until we heard the house phone ringing. I ran into the house and grabbed the phone. "Hello, Top Farm, Bingford."
"Hi, Pete. How's your new charge?"
"Mags! Hi there! Joey's okay. How did you know we were here?"
"Dad told me. So what's happening?"
"A lot; here's Joey. I'll let him tell you the news while I secure the house. We're going on a little trip." I handed the phone to Joey and scuttled round the house, switching everything but the fridge and freezers off and checking the doors and windows were locked. Silly, I know, as we had never touched the windows and had only used the front door, but that's how Mum and Dad had brought me up, always check things before leaving the house. Thinking about Mum and Dad brought me back to reality with a jerk. I just hoped we were doing the right thing. When I got back to the lounge, Joey had just put the phone down and was wiping fresh tears from his cheeks. "What's up, bro?"
Joey smiled and stood up to wrap his arms round me. "Nothing, bro; I've told Mags everything and he's happy for us. He cried a bit too, thinking about Billy I suppose. I also told him about you and me last night, and he's happy we can love as brothers; and you know what? The rain has stopped, and the wind. Can we go now? We can stop for lunch on the way."
It took us seconds to grab our coats and head for the car, but as we reached it we saw an old jeep making its way up the lane. It stopped behind the beamer and Farmer Watson got out. He waved to us and shuffled up to the beamer. "Hello Pete. I'm glad I caught you." He stared at Joey for a few seconds then shrugged his shoulders. "It looks like someone is watching you. I saw you arrive yesterday and recognised Mr. Alton's car, so I didn't come up to check the place. Mr. Alton asked me to keep an eye on the place, you know? Any way, I was out this morning, getting my ladies in for milking and I spotted someone in a strange car down the road. He was using a pair of binoculars and seemed very interested in this place."
Joey and I exchanged worried glances. "Is he still there?" I asked.
Mr.. Watson nodded. "You don't have to worry though. I'm having a bit of trouble getting my ladies back into the field; they sort of went the wrong way and ended up in the lane; can't seem to shift them off the road. My ladies can be right stubborn at times."
"So if that man is trapped, so are we." Joey mused.
"Not quite." Mr Watson smiled and pointed back to the house. "If you don't mind a bit of mud on your tyres, I don't mind you chewing up a bit of my field. Go round the back of the house and head up the field towards the woods. There's a gate up there that opens onto the old Bingford road; hasn't been used much since the new road was built. Turn left and keep on until you reach a crossroads. Head left again and carry on down the hill until you see the signs for Warrington."
"Won't they be watching that gate as well?" I asked.
Mr. Watson shook his head. "It can't be seen from the road these days. You might have a bit of trouble getting it open; all overgrown with weeds and brambles last time I checked it. Off you go, now, I'd best be getting back to my ladies. Young Jake's looking after them; they love Jake and they won't move a muscle while he's there. Just like his dad he is. You know who his sire was?" We both shook our heads and Mr Watson smiled. "Old Jake was Daley Roberts's dog, the one that got killed when young Billy D'Marco got attacked. Mr Alton can tell you the rest of the story better than I can. Old Jake took a liking to my bitch Connie and young Jake is the result. Now get you gone while my ladies keep them busy protecting their car and themselves to do any spying."
We thanked him and shook his hand, and got into the beamer, wondering just who could be watching us and vowing not to stop for lunch until we were well south of Manchester. I decided it was best to avoid the motorways in case there was a chance of being followed, and we found our way onto the A41. We stopped at a small pub called the Fox and Hounds and indulged ourselves with homemade steak pies, real roast potatoes and farm fresh vegetables. While we ate I phoned Jesse, giving her a brief outline of what we had found and why we were going to Colchester. With her blessing, we continued south, still avoiding the main routes until we were almost into Birmingham. Here, we finally had to use the motorways or face a long detour further south. We headed east and finally got onto the dreaded M6 where we hit our first traffic jam. While trapped in a tailback caused by a serious road accident I searched my pockets for the sweets I had bought a couple of days ago, and realised something was missing. I searched all my pockets. "Damn!"
Joey frowned at me. "What's up, bro?"
I slumped back in my seat. "I've left my phone in that pub where we had lunch. Damn!"
"No sweat." Joey took his own mobile out of his coat pocket and handed it to me. "You've still got the receipt for our lunch, haven't you? It should have a phone number on it. Phone them and ask them to keep it for you, if someone hasn't already pinched it. We can pick it up on the way home."
I studied his phone for a moment. "Good thinking bro, except for one thing."
"Your battery's flat."
"Oh, fish! Now what do we do?"
The car in front of us started to move. "Wait until we get to Colchester and phone from there. If it's gone, it's gone. It's only a phone. I only had a couple of phone numbers stored on it and I need a new one anyway. That one's a bit of a dinosaur." I didn't tell him that anyone following us could have picked it up and knew they were on the right trail. We got under way and soon reached the M1 - yet another motorist's headache. After a while, Joey switched on the radio and found a local station giving out traffic news in between playing some decent music. What we heard was not good and I searched the road signs for Northampton. As we headed off the motorway, Joey asked where we were headed. I explained that it would be quicker to go through Bedford to Cambridge and head south from there direct to Colchester instead of battling our way through London's outer ring roads. The style of music changed to heavy metal hell and Joey searched for a better station. Finding none he switched the radio off. We arrived on the outskirts of Cambridge in darkness; I needed a break from driving so we found a roadside takeaway trailer. Unfortunately there was no sign of a phone booth anywhere, and the guy serving didn't take kindly to us asking if he had one we could use. The only reason I didn't jump back in the car and drive away in disgust was that Joey spotted something on the menu. "Oh, yummy; wild crayfish tails!"
"Yuk! Too salty for me." I replied, looking at the rest of the menu.
"Oh, come on! Not when they've been soaked to get the salt out. Just like soaking ham. If you can't soak them, make sure you add plenty of cream or yoghurt to the sauce." Joey turned to the grumpy trader. "Excuse me, sir; your menu looks very interesting; it isn't often you see crayfish tails on offer. Are they pre-soaked?"
The trader's face lit up with a sunny smile. "Yes, young man, they are. Are you a trainee chef by any chance?"
"No, sir, I'm just interested in healthy eating. Too much salt and all that, you know?"
"Same here, son; I'm on a low salt diet myself. Anything you see on my menu has reduced salt and sugar." The trader's ponderous belly wobbled as he laughed. "How else can I eat my own food? Here, boys, have a sample of something before you buy. And as for the phone, young man, sorry, I should have explained. My wife has gone off to the warehouse to get more stock for tomorrow, and my phone is in the car. Knowing my wife, she won't be back until it's time to close up and go home."
Much to my annoyance, Joey picked up a tail with a cocktail stick and thrust it at me. As I opened my mouth to protest I had a mouthful of fishtail. I had to admit, Joey was right, and it tasted as good as a prawn if not stronger. Within minutes we were feasting on plastic tubs overflowing with tails, in a tasty Marie Rose sauce the trader swore was homemade, on a bed of crunchy mixed salad. Despite it being cold, we sat on a bench near the takeaway and washed everything down with a surprisingly good beaker of coffee. Halfway through our meal, Joey asked, "What was Billy like, Pete? I mean, was he anything like me?"
I glanced up at him and saw the need in his eyes to be like Billy. "Joey, if you and Billy were just twins, you'd be identical, not just in looks but in every way. He was just like you; sweet and sensitive with a bit of a temper when he knew he was right. He was talented but with no sign of arrogance because of how he looked. As for a more personal side, you'd have to ask Mags. That's a weird thought, isn't it? A guy falling for twins without knowing it."
Joey stared down at his meal. "Yeah, and he didn't know their relationship either. I know Mags said he was happy for us but I'm wondering if he was just saying that, just to please me."
I reached over to grasp his hand. "I don't think Mags says things just to please people. He'll keep silent rather than do that. Don't worry bro; we can phone him when we get to Colchester." Once we had finished eating, I glanced at my watch. "It's almost six thirty. If we leave now, we should be there by eight o'clock. Are you ready to go?" Joey nodded and rose to his feet.
Dumping our empty tubs into the waste bin, he enquired about the nearest loo and the trader kindly allowed us to use his own, behind the trailer. "No use running this place from six in the morning until ten at night without somewhere to pee. You look like nice lads and I don't mind helping nice people when I can." Far from finding an old privy, we were pleased do find a tiny but pristine clean brick built loo complete with full plumbing and a miniature sink, soap and a towel. Talk about luxury on the road! When we got back to the front of the trailer, the trader was standing by our car, scratching his head.
"Everything okay now?" he asked us.
"Yes thank you, sir," Joey replied, "but you don't look so happy. What's wrong?"
The trader smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing, I just thought I knew you from somewhere. Your face looks familiar."
Before I could stop him, Joey grinned and said, "Do you like cover bands?"
"Well, yeah. When you can't get to see the real thing, they're the best compromise. Oh, now I get it, you look like the kid from Billy Junior, right? He died a few weeks ago so I know you couldn't be him."
Joey grinned. "Well we all have doubles somewhere."
He would have said more but I grabbed him, and said, "Sorry, mate, gotta go." and shoved him into the beamer. As I pulled out onto the road, Joey glared at me. "There was no need to be so rude, after him helping us."
"Are you dumb or something?" I replied as I put my foot to the floor. "We're trying to get to Colchester without anyone noticing us, and you're almost telling that guy who you are. It only needs for him to blab to the wrong person that he's seen a Billy look-alike and whoever wants to finds us will know where to look."
Joey stared out through the windscreen for a few minutes, before he said softly, "I'm sorry, Pete, I didn't think. Do you think we're being followed?"
I shook my head and reached out to squeeze his arm. "I don't know bro. It's just a feeling I have, and we just have to be careful. If Angela has contacts all over the place, who knows what she'll get up to. And don't forget, that restraining order is only for her, not for her friends. And it only covers an area within five miles of Home Farm, unless Jesse can get it extended."
"And that would take time, wouldn't it? I'm so sorry, bro. I seem to have put my foot in Bosun's doo-doo."
I had to laugh at that. "Well at least you still know how to lift my spirits. Not to worry bro, we're almost home."
The band knew, as soon as I closed my mobile, that something good had happened, but telling them had to wait while we went on stage to perform at the charity fair we had offered to help with, while Daley went off to Hull to negotiate a deal with a national venue. Our original booking for the coming weekend had been scratched due to severe flooding and we were desperate to fill the gap with anything substantial that we could find. Luckily for us, someone had heard we were in the area and had asked Daley to meet with him. The crowds were good to us, they liked the sound we made and kept us on stage for a good three hours interspersed with ten minute breaks, at the end if which time Daley arrived back with a smile on his face. "It's in the bag, folks; a two day festival in Hull, complete with fair ground and vintage car and tractor show; which means, our kind of followers will be there in force. The only drawback is that we don't get paid on site, but there is nothing to stop us having our own buckets out front."
"Which often pays better than a booking cheque," Indian grunted with satisfaction. "I'll go with that."
The other band members nodded their approval and Daley turned to me. "What's got you looking like a kid in a toyshop?"
"Can I talk to you in private?"
He beckoned me to follow him to my Peugeot at the back of the stage. He leaned against it and folded his arms across his chest. "Okay, what's up?" I quickly told Daley what Joey and Pete had found out, but instead of Daley looking pleased at the news, his face took on a grey hue as his eyes grew wide with fright "Oh, God, no! Mags, you have to stop them."
Confused, I stared at him. "Why, should I stop them? I just want them to find their brother and be happy. I mean they've already lost one brother. I can't stop them looking for this other one."
Daley shook his head at me. "I'm not on about you and Joey. If they try to find Ricardo, they'll be killed."
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