The Bull Singer
Claythorn Memorial Hospital
At the nurses' station in the baby unit, Maisie put the phone down and hoped Dr Green would get here in time. She had paged him twice already, and the two ladies from Social Services were already hassling her nurses to get a move on with dressing the baby. Maisie had already told the ladies that Dr Green had not yet declared Baby Monks fit to be released into their custody, and they were threatening to have an independent examination performed. Besides that, they seemed to treat her as nothing more than an old biddy, which made her temper even worse. At last, a welcome sound reached her ears and she turned to see Dr Green walking into the department, his face dark with anger. He winked at her as he marched past the station to confront the ladies, one of whom had actually lifted Baby Monks from his crib and was proceeding to wrap him in a shawl they had brought with them. "What do you think you're doing with my patient?"
"I'm sorry doctor, but this baby seems fine to me. We are executing our duties as authorised guardians of this baby."
"Authorised guardians? What the hell are you talking about? The baby's father is the legal guardian and has the sole right to say what happens to that baby."
The one holding the baby said, "We have it on good authority that the baby's father is in no position to care for him. He is homeless and has no means of income. We also understand that the baby has no other family except Mr and Mrs Prescott on record as being the baby's next of kin. Until we are told otherwise, we have their authority to take charge of the baby. Now if you would kindly step out of our way, we will leave peacefully or I will have no option but to call the police officer waiting in reception."
"Not with that baby you won't." A voice full of authority called out, and a group of people walked towards them, headed by a tall woman with a face that bore the expression of someone used to getting her own way. "Allow me to present myself; I am Ms Jesse Welch, senior social worker with Oldham Social Service; my card." She thrust a card at the woman not holding the baby. "Although this is not my area of operations, I have been given special leave by your superiors to act on behalf of this baby. If you will telephone your office, you will learn that you were misinformed about Mr and Mrs Prescott being the baby's next of kin, and also that his father is certainly not homeless. Here behind me are the family of Mr Monks with more than enough means to care for the child. I think Sister Banks and Dr Green will confirm that the baby's father, Richard Monks, was present at the birth, and that the baby's name is Monks, not Prescott." She reached out her arms. "I'll take the baby now, thank you."
The woman holding the baby took three steps back, clutching the baby to her. "We have no record of the baby or his father having any living relatives, except Mr and Mrs Prescott." She glanced towards her colleague. "Sheila, call the police officers down in the main foyer."
Her colleague turned to walk away but Jessie stopped her with a look. "Hold it right there, madam; as I just said, you were misinformed." Turning, Jessie grabbed one of the young men by the arm and dragged him forward. "Take a look at this young man and tell me who he looks like." At first Maisie thought Ricky had cleaned himself up and had found some decent clothes from somewhere, but when she looked again the face was the same but there were no dark shadows under the eyes. He looked a little shorter, his hair a lot neater. "Allow me to introduce Joseph Street, the brother of Richard Monks, along with his older brother Peter Crayel, and also his uncle, Magnus Alton. In Little Fordage in Lancashire, he has a grandfather and two great aunts, all with the means to help Mr Monks care for his baby. He also has two homes in Lancashire and one here in Claythorn. And once the estate of the late Mr Brigs is settled, including the sale of the Old Clay Theatre, Mr Monks will be financially independent. Now, the baby, if you please?"
Dumbstruck, the social worker transferred the baby into Ms Welch's waiting arms, grabbed her colleague and beat a hasty retreat out of the unit, calling over her shoulder, "We'll see what Mr Prescott has to say about this."
"Good! I'll be glad to hear it too." To Maisie's amazement, Ms Welch's crusty features broke into a gentle, loving smile as she cradled the baby to her breast and gazed down at the tiny bundle. "Well now, you sweet little bundle, aren't you going to be a handsome young man one day?" Maisie glanced at Dr Green and they winked at each other; happy that their delaying tactics had worked, as the rest of the party moved forward to have a look at the baby.
Maisie's hand disappeared into that of the older of the two gentlemen as he smiled down at her. "Thank you so much for phoning us, Sister. We were trying to find Uncle Harold when you rang."
"It was my pleasure, sir; I was only too glad to help. Mrs Crayel phoned us a few minutes ago and filled us in about Ricky having brothers. It's just too good to be true. I only hope you can find him. He was so distraught when the police took him away. I can't get over how like his brother he is."
"Actually they were triplets but one brother died just recently. You say the police took Richard away? Why was that?"
"Well, it was the Prescotts who had him taken away; they didn't want him to have anything to do with the baby. In fact they're here now." Maisie pointed to where Jenny's parents had just entered the unit followed by the two grim faced social workers and two police officers.
Prescott marched up to Ricky's twin, and Maisie saw open hatred in his eyes as he grabbed the young man's arm. "I see! Got another sugar daddy now the old man's gone? Fast worker aren't you? Well you might deceive these people but you don't fool me." Before Mr Alton or Mr Crayel could react, Mr Prescott hauled the young man towards the police officers and sent him staggering into them. "You were told to remove this piece of garbage from these premises. I suggest you do your job
properly this time."
He turned to face Maisie and Dr Green, ready to confront them, but was unprepared for the right upper cut that laid him out on the floor. Had Maisie not been suffering from arthritis she would have jumped for joy; the older brother certainly knew how to use his fists. He calmly stepped over the dazed man to speak to the officers who were holding his brother between them. "I suggest you let go of my brother and arrest that guy for assault." The young man took hold of his dazed brother and pulled him away. "I'm Peter Crayel and this is Joseph Street and we are Richard Monks' brothers. I am also Joseph's guardian, and that lady holding our nephew is Joseph's social worker. We don't take kindly to him being accosted like this, so you'd better do something about the situation before you land yourselves in a load of trouble for neglect of duty." Turning to Mrs Prescott, he added, "And you, madam, should be ashamed of yourself. You had no intention of caring for your grandson yourselves but you were determined to keep his father from claiming him by contacting the social services behind his back and telling them a load of lies, and slandering him as well. How callous is that?"
By this time, Mr Alton and Mr Crayel had hauled Mr Prescott to his feet, looking as if they would like to flatten him themselves. Instead they pushed him into the arms of the police officers. "I think you'd better deal with this trash before we do," Mr Alton said sternly. Maisie hoped they would read him the riot act before they threw him off the premises, but knowing how the police preferred not to get too violent these days, she doubted it would happen. If only she had the strength and the courage to have a go at him…
Ms Welch approached Maisie and Dr Green, gently rocking the baby. "I take it we may now take Baby Monks to meet his daddy?"
"Absolutely." Dr Green grinned at her.
"So there's nothing wrong with him?"
"Nothing at all. It was only a case of Rushtonitis."
"Yes, we had a case some time ago where the dreaded SS tried to take a baby away from its rightful parents in similar circumstances. I'm glad to say baby Rushton proved a turning point in the care and protection of our more vulnerable babies. We use the name as an alert between departments. Quite ironic that it also means someone wants to remove a baby in a rush."
Ms Welch chuckled. "Oh, I see. Rushtonitis! I must remember that one." She turned to look at Richard's triplet brother.
"Are you all right, Joey? You look a bit pale."
"Just a bit shaken, that's all." The young man rubbed his left shoulder and winced. "Look, I know things have to be signed and stuff, but I really need to go and find my brother. I have a gut feeling we need to find him fast."
"Me too," his elder brother placed an arm round his shoulder and turned to face the police officers. "Do you know where he went after you sent him away?"
"Sorry, lad, he just walked off by himself," one of them said. Mrs Prescott turned to run and he grabbed hold of her arm.
"Not so fast, lady; Mr and Mrs Prescott, I'm arresting you both on suspicion of child endangerment for a start." He quoted them their rights then said, "if you know where Mr Monks is, you had better tell us now, or you could face more charges."
"To hell with you!" was her snarled reply. "I know where he's gone but he won't find anything left. We've seen to that."
Mr Prescott tried to reach her but the other police officer had a firm hold on him. "Shut your mouth, you stupid cow, we're in enough trouble as it is."
Mr Alton stepped up to the man until they were nose to nose. "Where is he?" The way he said those few words, Maisie realised this was one dangerous man to rile. The man just sneered back at him, and the police officer warned Mr Alton off with a stern look.
As the Prescotts were marched away, protesting their innocence, Maisie wondered how she could help. She turned to the nurses' station and reached for the admissions file for the past week. Turning the pages back to two days ago she found the entry for Jenny Prescott. Finding her address, she wrote it down on a sticky note and went to Mr Crayel. "I'm not supposed to divulge information like this but as it's a special case I don't mind my wrists being slapped. This is where Jenny Prescott lived. Is it possible Ricky Monks went back there? I can't think of any other place he could be unless he went to Mr Briggs' cottage."
Mr Crayel shook his head. "We went there first to see his housekeeper, and she hadn't seen Ricky since the day before Mr Briggs was brought in."
"Well, there is the lovely old gentleman who was your uncle's friend. Tom…. Tom Cross or Crossman I think his name is. He might know where the lad is."
Mr Crayel thanked her and she promised to tell his mother to go straight to her brother's cottage when she arrived in Claythorn, if she called again. Maisie showed the family out of the unit with tears in her eyes, turned and let Dr Green put his arm round her waist and give her a quick hug. "Come on, Maisie; don't break down now. Somewhere, out there, are more babies to keep an eye on, and we must be ready for them."
"It's well padlocked." I examined the huge padlock securing the front door of the shabby apartment block. "There's no way I can break that open." Pete and Joey stood behind me, staring up at the windows of the four-story building.
Richard stood a few feet further back. "I don't think he's inside, if it's been locked from the outside." He sniffed the air. "I smell smoke." He turned to walk round the south end of the building. Suddenly he shouted, "Mags! Here!" and disappeared from view. We ran to the end of the building and slid to a halt at the sight that met our eyes round the corner. Someone had lit a fire, and had started burning a variety of goods including a baby-blue crib, a pile of baby clothes and some fluffy toys. And kneeling beside the fire was the pitiful figure of someone clutching a blue teddy. On the other side of the fire were the smashed remains of a tumble dryer, a washing machine, a bicycle, and an expensive, classic big-wheeled pram. While Richard and Pete tried to rescue what they could out of the fire, Joey and I knelt beside a shabby, longhaired version of Joey dressed in a bloodstained shirt and dirty jeans. With gentle fingers, I lifted his chin and we saw the bruises and the cut just above his left eye.
"Ricky?" Joey put his arms round his brother, but the eyes stared at the fire, unaware that they were there. "I think he's in shock, Mags. And he's so cold."
I put a hand inside his shirt and felt the chilled skin. Again there was no response. Damn! We had sent Jessie off in a taxi to the cottage with the baby, and had taken another here to the flat, the taxi having taken off as soon as the fare was paid. Now we needed at least one blanket, and this building stood in its own grounds with the nearest house about three hundred yards away, and this was the middle of winter. Remembering Joey's experience with Hypothermia, I didn't want Ricky to suffer the same way. Putting my hands under his arms I raised him enough to drag him nearer to the fire, which was burning fiercely by now. "Pete, Richard. Throw that stuff back on the fire; we need to keep it burning."
"But we've just rescued the stuff," Richard protested.
"Right now, Ricky needs the heat more than baby stuff. Keep it going until I can find something to wrap him in."
Pete grabbed my arm. "Is he going to be all right?"
"Yes if we can keep him warm." I turned and ran to the gate leading to the street and was almost knocked down as a 4X4 swung in and jerked to halt inches away from me.
"What the hell!" The driver dived out of the vehicle, ready to have a go.
I yelled back at him. "A blanket; have you got one?"
"Yes, or a travel rug."
"What the hell for?"
"An emergency. A kid's in shock."
"Oh, that's different." The driver turned back and reached into the back of the vehicle and dragged out a tartan travel rug. I grabbed it and ran back to where the guys were trying to keep Ricky warm. Joey was kneeling behind his brother with his arms wrapped tightly round him, while Pete and Richard scurried round, flinging anything burnable into the flames. As I knelt to wrap the rug round the boy, I felt a tap on the shoulder. I looked up and found the driver staring at the fire and the debris. "What in hell is going on here? I was told everything would be cleared by the time I got here."
"And just who are you?" I asked him.
"I own the bloody place. I bought it last week and the seller promised vacant possession and all rubbish cleared. If you're the cause of this mess, I'll have you."
I shot to my feet and faced him. "Watch it, buster, or you'll find yourself charged with possession of stolen property."
"Stolen? You're joking. Mr Prescott -."
"Ah, right! Our dear Mr Prescott; I might have guessed. Did he sell you this property?"
"Then I suggest you let us have a look inside the building and especially the top floor flat, which this young man has just been thrown out of, with obvious violence."
Leaving Pete and Joey to look after their brother, Richard and I followed the new owner round to the front of the house. He took one look at the padlock, shook his head and ran back to his car. He ran back a minute later carrying a long handled lump hammer. Telling us to stand back, he swung the hammer over his head with practiced ease and slammed it down on the padlock; the padlock dropped to the ground, useless bits of scrap metal. The new landlord produced a ring of keys and tried several before he had the door open. I pushed past him and ran up all three flights of stairs. The door to the top flat was a flimsy affair made of plywood and two by one framing. I took a run at it and it collapsed under my weight. Fuming, I stared round at the mess.
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