The Bull Singer
The man looked past us at the porter. "You didn't see anything did you, Jeff?"
"See what, sir?" The porter replied and touched his forehead in salute, sat down behind his desk and went back to reading his newspaper.
The man nodded, grabbed hold of Pete and dragged him into the hall beyond, and beckoned me to follow. Once the door slammed shut behind us the man, whom I guessed was Richard Crayel, said with tears in his eyes, "It's so good to see you again, son. I am so sorry for what I did; will you ever forgive me?" Hovering in the background an old lady leaned on the arm of a woman about the same age as Richard. Both held tissues to their eyes. I watched with relief as Richard threw his arms round Pete and the two women added their arms to the embrace, and Pete wrapped his arms round Richard in a tight hug and seemed happy to lay his head on Richard's chest. At last they broke the hug to look at me, and Richard smiled at me through his tears. "I can't believe it. You must be one of the triplets. Which one are you?"
"This is Giuseppe." Pete sniffed back his own tears and accepted a tissue from his grandmother. "We know him as Joey."
The old lady shuffled forward, peered into my face. "The baby Angela took with her? So like your father. Welcome home, Geuseppe." She kissed me on my cheek and drew me into a gentle hug. "I suppose you want to know everything about your family. Why don't we all go into my lounge and talk over a nice pot of tea?"
The apartment boasted a main lounge, dining room, kitchen and three bedrooms leading off the hall, with a smaller lounge off the dining room. Mrs. Crayel led us into this one and asked Ann, her daughter in law, to make some tea. Richard walked into his mother's sanctuary, with his arm still round Pete's shoulders, and made sure we were all comfortable before sitting down on the settee beside Pete and I, saying in a trembling voice. "You needn't worry any more, Pete. I've had counselling and feel I can accept what you are. I don't really approve of your lifestyle but if that is how you wish to live, then all we can say is you're still our son and we love you deeply."
Pete frowned at him. "If so, why haven't you tried to find me?"
"Because, Pete, your decision to tell us when you did, gave us a golden opportunity to keep you safe."
"Safe? Are you kidding me after what I've been through?"
Just then, his wife came in pushing a loaded tea trolley. "Perhaps we ought to start at the beginning, Richard. Pete, do you remember finding a photo of a family and asked me who they were? I snatched it from you and said you mustn't look at it again?"
I reached into my jacket pocket and drew out the black and white photograph and held it up. "You mean this one?"
All three Crayels gave a gasp of surprise. "Where did you get that?" Mrs. Crayel asked.
"It was in my mother's safe box. We found copy of it in the house of the late, Billy D'Marco."
Mrs Crayel's hands shot up to her face, as she stared wide-eyed at me. "Billy, you mean Guglielmo? You mean he's dead? Oh, My Lord, no! When?"
"A couple of months ago; he had cancer. You might have seen it on the news; he was the front man of Billy Junior."
"Oh, my goodness! Was that our William?" Ann shook her head. "We never realised, even though we always said he looked like his dad. You do too. Our dearest wish was to find you all and adopt you ourselves."
Richard smiled at me. "That's how I knew who you were. You're the image of your real dad when he was your age. You must be almost eighteen now?"
"February 16 th if I remember rightly." Ann smiled as she dried her eyes. She handed me a cup of tea. "Sugar?"
"No thanks. Yes, the date's correct." I glanced at Richard. "You were going to tell us why you threw Pete out?"
"Oh, yes." Richard nodded his thanks when Ann handed him his tea. "You see, Pete, despite all our efforts to keep you safe, certain people who wanted to harm you, found out where we lived, and I was desperate to work out a plan to spirit you away somewhere, when you dropped the solution in my lap. It seemed such a natural way to make you leave the place, to make you believe I objected to you being gay. It satisfied all our nosy neighbours who saw an irate father booting you out of our home. They gossiped about it and anyone nosing around and asking questions would hear that tale and believe it. Enough of our neighbours heard us rowing to make it believable. I hated the deception but I had to make you hate me enough for you to leave and not come back. That's the only reason I said what I did about your adoption." He took hold of Pete's hands and squeezed them. "That was a load of nonsense of course, and Ann and I have shed many tears over it, but at least it saved your life."
"Until now," Mrs Crayel broke in. "It seems we will have to make other plans."
Pete and I exchanged looks of confusion before he addressed his father. "Why would anyone want to harm us?"
"It's a long story, Peter," Mrs Crayel said, "but I suppose, now you're here, you might as well be told everything. This involves you as well, Joey. Like Ann said, it all started around the time that photograph was taken. Your Grandfather Geuseppe D'Marco, whom you are named after, was a very good friend of ours; Richard was actually born in Rome and grew up with the D'Marco brothers, Guglielmo and Pietro, hence one of the triplets being named Ricardo. I think we should use the English versions of names from now on to avoid confusion. Both the boys were very musical; as you will know by now William loved the drums, and Peter loved to sing. But Peter was a wild child, often in trouble, and friendly with certain criminals by the time he was eighteen. One of them had a daughter who ran away from her home in London, and ended up living with him in Rome. She soon set her skirts at Peter; he fell in love with her and before they knew it, you were on the way, Peter. They married and you were born five months later. Her name was Angela Chambers, although she always used her mother's maiden name of Street. They seemed to settle down all right, but the D'Marco family didn't trust her, and their suspicions were confirmed when someone was killed and she and Peter were linked to the crime. That is when Angela showed her true colours. The evidence weighed heavily against her but she managed to plant evidence to make it look like Peter was the culprit. She also threatened to kill all you boys unless Peter pleaded guilty to that and other crimes she and her friends had committed. You triplets were six months old at the time and Peter doted on you; little William had just had surgery on his heart. You boys were his world and he would have given his life for you, but could do nothing from a jail cell. He knew Angela was going to flee the country with you boys. Peter suspected her crimes were linked to some kind of sex slave racket but couldn't prove it, so he asked his family to help him hide you. They were terrified of Angela and as a result, your grandfather promised never to reveal where both the brothers or you babies were, if William would do something to ensure their safety. William got in touch with my brother Harold and I who were visiting Rome at the time. They hatched a plot to kidnap you boys and everything was set for a night when Angela was normally out plotting her illegal schemes with her friends. That very night you decided to upset things, Joey. Your mother rushed you to hospital with breathing problems, and there was no time to wait for her to bring you home. Our travel arrangements had been made and we had to stick to them or lose all four of you. William took little William, my brother took Ricardo and I took Pete, leaving you with your mother. As soon as William knew Billy was safe with his wife, he went back to Rome to try another rescue attempt but Angela had already disappeared with you, leaving no clues as to where she had gone."
My heart sank to my boots. "So Angela really is our mother?"
"I'm afraid so, Joey, and she is the one who is looking for her other sons. By coming here, you two have placed yourselves in grave danger, and Angela will do anything to stop your reunion with Richard. She probably considers you boys to be a force to be reckoned with, who will side with your father against her, should you ever meet him and realise what she's done."
"If that's the case, why hasn't she killed me already?"
Richard smiled sadly. "It's possible she expected to sell you or use you in her sex trade, or you would die of natural causes and it looks like she's been playing the waiting game with you, hoping that a possible hole in your heart would do the job for her. After little William recovered from his own operation, Peter suspected that all three of you had the same defect. Harold promised to have Ricardo treated as soon as they got to Great Britain, William had been operated on in Rome, so that left you."
Things were slowly dropping into place for me. "She must have been really miffed when I didn't die. No wonder the doctors kept on at her to have me looked at? Every time a doctor started poking too close we'd move home. Well she almost got her wish last weekend. If Mags and Grandpa Chambers hadn't intervened, I would have been in a box by now."
"Chambers?" Mrs. Crayel asked with a smile, "as in Elias Chambers?"
"You know him?"
"Only from meeting him when he came to Rome looking for Angela; that was before Peter and Angela got married of course. Such a lovely man! Pity his daughter didn't turn out the same way."
"Amen to that!" I replied bitterly, "although Elias wasn't entirely to blame there. Elias wasn't her dad."
"Oh?" Mrs. Crayel eyed me closely. "Care to tell us more, young man?"
"According to Elias, Marian Chambers had an affair with a man by the name of Edward Alton, and Angela was their daughter. Edward is my biological Grandfather and I'm living with Angela's half brother Mags Alton. Gramps Alton and
Pete look after me when Mags is off playing with Billy Junior."
Mrs Crayel's gaze swept round to Pete, who sat staring at the carpet with a reddening face. "Ah, I see! Another twist in the tail." Her eyes sparkled with mischief, and I realised what a clanger I'd dropped. "What I would like to know is how you two met?"
"Would you believe by sheer coincidence?" Pete said. "I hadn't a clue who Billy was when I joined his band. I came looking for the band just after Billy died to see if I could rejoin. I found that Mags and Joey had got together and they introduced me to Edward. I had my suspicions that it was more of a coincidence, Billy and Joey looking like two peas in a pod. We never twigged until we broke open a case of Angela's papers and saw that photo. We went to Billy's house because Billy had said he thought he had a cousin in Rome, and a friend of Mags was willing to do some research on the D'Marco family. We found this copy of the photo in a photo album of Billy's. That's when we put two and two together and decided to come and see you." He grinned at Richard. "We were hoping to speak to Gran while you weren't here, and I didn't expect such a welcome home. Did you really mean what you said about adopting all of us, Mum?"
"Oh, yes. Your Gran thought she was too old to adopt so we jumped at the chance, and the Italian authorities were happy to let us take you off their hands. They arranged for Peter and Angela to be stripped of their parental rights, and Peter agreed for the sake of you boys; Angela had disappeared so was dealt with in-absentia. But there was nothing we could do about bringing you together until we knew for certain Angela was out of the way and her underworld empire was at an end."
"So, you had to forego having contact with your brother because of us?" I asked Gran Crayel. "I'm sorry you had to do that."
Gran Crayel nodded her head, tears springing to her eyes. "It was a vow we made with William, and with your grandfather William, and I was determined to keep it no matter what I had to sacrifice."
I shook my head in amazement. "Madam that is one sacrifice I'd hate to make! Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Mrs Crayel's features crumpled as she wiped a tear from her face. "It was my pleasure, dear. Even though you may be in danger, I'm glad to have you here." Suddenly she stood up and looked round her extended family. "Now then, no more moping about and wondering what might or might not happen; I'm hungry and in need of supper."
Ann looked shocked. "Mother! You've only just had tea."
"So?" Mrs Crayel chuckled, "I always was a social eater. Come on everyone, let's see what Ann's got hidden away in the kitchen. I'm sure you boys know enough about cooking to lend a hand."
"Got any crayfish tails?" I asked with a grin, and received a dig in the ribs from Pete. "Sorry, a private joke."
"Hey, wait a minute!" Pete brought us to a stand still. "I've just thought of something." When he had our full attention, he said, "This friend of Mag's started doing some research in London but he hasn't found any marriage, birth or adoption records for me, Joey or Angela. He's been looking in the wrong place hasn't he?"
Richard nodded his head. "Unfortunately, you are right, Pete. Angela was married in Rome, all of you have Italian birth certificates, which your grandfather William has in his possession, or has them secreted away somewhere. And your adoption took place in Turin under the guidance of a magistrate who is a friend of mother's. If my uncle was able to have Ricardo adopted that would have been here in the UK, and Billy wasn't adopted. William just passed him off as his biological son."
"Well there is nothing we can do to help matters along tonight," Mrs Crayel said. "Let's just eat and get to bed early. We'll start our search for my brother and Ricardo, in the morning."
"Can I just phone Mags?" I asked. "He'll be worried sick where we are."
"And we have to phone Joey's social worker as well" Pete chipped in.
While Richard and Ann followed Mrs Crayel into the kitchen, Pete showed me where the phone was in the main lounge. I used it first and got through to Mags on his mobile, "Hi, Mags."
"Joey! Where the hell are you?" Mags sounded frantic. "I've been trying to ring you but Pete's isn't answering his phone and yours seems to be out of action."
"Sorry, Mags," I said with a chuckle, "Pete left his phone at the place we had lunch at, and I forgot to charge mine up. We're at the Crayels place in Colchester."
"Oh, I see. Daley told me about the D'Marcos."
"Did he tell you everything?"
"Everything he knows, which isn't the whole story apparently, and we know we have to be careful. We've heard from Benjamin’s spies that Angela is on your tail and heading south. But so are we."
I frowned at Pete who had put the receiver on speakerphone. "Who's we?"
Mags laughed. "Let's just say when Custer says charge they send in the cavalry; I'll see you in the morning."
I put the phone down and Pete and I stared at each other. "Cavalry? I think we'd better have a pow-wow with your folks." We hurried into the kitchen and informed the Crayels about Mags's warning. We didn't talk much during supper, as if each of us were chewing over the situation and deciding what would be the best to do. Finally, we cleared the dishes and Mrs Crayel announced that time had beaten us and we should all have an early night and to leave the discussion until the morning. Pete and I were disappointed, but hopefully Mags would arrive by then, and I for one would feel safer. Pete had a quiet word with Ann, who glanced my way, smiled and nodded. Pete led me into what had been his own bedroom and I raised an eyebrow at him.
He grinned at me, and said, "Don't worry, sport; where else would you sleep, on a not so comfortable sofa? I think not." I glanced at Pete's bed, a big one covered with an old fashioned crocheted throw, probably made by one of the Crayel ladies. It certainly looked inviting, and I suddenly realised how tired I was. I sighed with relief when Pete turned me to face him and began to undress me. In minutes we curled up together and drifted off to sleep.
[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.]