The Bull Singer
"Yes, I was in Rome at a friend's wedding, so I thought a bit of research on your behalf wouldn't go amiss. I'm glad I did, too; even if I almost got scalped for my efforts. That's where I lost my mobile and I certainly wasn't going to have my head slit open to retrieve it." He suddenly spotted Joey rising from the recliner with the baby, and said, "And you must be one of the triplets." We all stared at him in astonishment, and he grinned. "Someone, make me a good cup of British tea and I'll tell you what I found." Shrugging out of his coat, he let Dad take it from him and he sat down on the settee. Reaching into the inside pocket of his jacket, he drew out a thick envelope. "I located the village where the D'Marco family lived around the time of Angela's marriage and found that the family had moved away. The villagers were reluctant to talk about them, except for one old man who mentioned that one of the sons had gone to jail. I eventually found the family living on the other side of Rome, where a Giuseppe D'Marco runs a restaurant. I went to see him and I assure you, Mags, I was most polite when I enquired if I might speak to the gentleman about Angela Chambers. This Senor D'Marco comes roaring out of the kitchen with the biggest meat cleaver I have ever seen. Believe me, I got out of there with seconds to spare. I knew I wouldn't get any information from him so I took a look at the birth and marriage records, and these are what I found." He handed the envelope to Mags who tore it open and drew out the contents. Unfolding them he caught his breath as he read the documents.
"Pete, do you realise what these are?" Joey and I both craned our necks to look over his arm, and saw they were birth certificates. Jeremy accepted a cup of tea from Mum and after taking a sip, he said "I wasted some time searching the entries for nineteen ninety two, then I decided to find Angela's marriage to Pietro D'Marco, I found that and worked my way forward from that date in the births." He glanced my way and said, "I take it you are Pietro. I found your entry of birth in Rome, in nineteen-eighty-seven, and the birth of the triplets in nineteen-ninety." He turned to Joey. "Now which one are you?"
Joey smiled and said, "I'm Joey."
"Ah yes! Giuseppe! So where are Ricardo and Guglielmo?"
Mags answered quietly, "Ricardo is asleep in the bedroom, and Guglielmo was my Billy."
"Oh, I see. THE Billy D'Marco! I take it the boys know what happened to him?"
"Pete and Joey do. We haven't had a chance to tell Ricky yet," Mags replied, "but what I'd like to know is how you knew we were here" I saw the suspicion in his eyes. It didn't do to trust just anyone with the bitch on the loose.
"Remember you gave me your home phone number? I was about to drive up to your place but I decided to phone you first, in case you were off on a gig. Your dad told me where you were after phoning Elias Chambers. It's a good thing we contacted Elias because he gave me a message for you. Someone called Benjamin is tailing Angela and a man called Jose Gomez, one of her henchmen. Apparently he's been sniffing around Top Farm. Have you seen the evening news?" He looked straight at Joey and I as he added, "There was an attack on a roadside caterer just outside Cambridge, yesterday. His wife returned from shopping and found him badly beaten up. He's in a critical condition. The trouble is, someone reported seeing a dark grey BMW parked by the trailer shortly before the attack."
As Joey and I exchanged looks of horror, Rosie piped up and said, "Well they won't find it here. I had Ann drive Harold's car out of the garage and the Mag's car is locked up inside where no one can see it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get the supper started. Mr. Crayel, we'll need to extend the table in the dining room, and there are spare chairs in the bedroom if you'd like to bring them out. It'll be a bit crowded in there but at least we can eat in a civilised manner."
Ann made to follow her into the kitchen. "Can I help?"
"No thankyou, Ann. I guessed I would have a few visitors besides your selves so I made a large pan of stew. I only have to heat it through. You could lay the table if you like."
Joey whispered in my ear that one of us should check Ricky's bedroom for chairs, and I took the baby from him and let him go in to check on our brother. Well, that was my excuse to hold our nephew for a bit; I could also watch Gran and Jeremy sitting together and having a good old chinwag about old films.
When I approached the bed, I found Ricky already awake and staring around the room as if trying to puzzle out how he had got here. We had left him asleep, lying on his back but he had rolled over onto his left side and was trying to raise himself up on his elbow while his bruised face registered that the pain killers the doctor had given him were no longer controlling the pain. He finally noticed me, fell back against the pillows, sighed and opened his eyes, blinked in surprise and blinked at me. "Hello Me."
I grinned down at him and sat on the bed. "Hi Ricky." He stared at me for a moment, and his eyes slowly widened. I laughed and said, "You're not seeing things, Ricky, and this isn't a dream. I'm your brother, Joey."
"You're kidding me."
"Nope" I showed him the black and white photograph and he stared at it, reaching out to touch it, confirming it was real. He turned it over and saw the faded writing but couldn't read it. I turned it over again and read it out to him. "Pietro and Angela with their children, Pietro aged two and a half, and triplets Guglielmo, Giuseppe, and Ricardo, born sixteenth of February nineteen-ninety. I'm Joseph, you're Richard and the third triplet was William. You might have known him as Billy Junior who died of cancer a few weeks ago."
"Billy Junior was my brother?"
"Yep, Pietro, our older brother is known as Pete. He was with Billy Junior for a short while. He's here too." Ricky's face crumbled as he reached out to me.
In seconds we were wrapped in a tight hug, and I felt his body shudder against mine. "I don't believe this is happening," he sobbed. "I knew there was someone out there that I should know. How did you find me?"
"That's a long story, Bro, but we're here now, and everything is going to be okay." I laid him down again and handed him some tissues from a box on the bedside cabinet, while I fought hard to control my own emotions.
"But how come we didn't grow up together?"
"The short story is, our mum did some bad things in Italy and laid the blame on our dad, and threatened us kids and Dad's family if he didn't plead guilty. Dad arranged a snatch. Our Uncle William took Billy, Harold took you, and Harold's sister, Mary, took Pete. They managed to hide you three until now in case Mum carried out her threats. I was the unlucky one; they couldn't snatch me in time and I ended up with Mum. My life wasn't very nice but that's another story."
From behind a tissue, Ricky choked out, "If only you'd have found me a week ago. Harold's gone, and my girlfriend is dead, and my baby's going to be brought up by some stranger. I'll never see him again."
I handed him fresh tissue and stoked his hair back off his forehead. "I can't do anything about Harold, or Jenny, but perhaps I can do something about your baby." I got up off the bed. "Just hang in there, Bro, I just have to get something from the lounge, okay?"
I opened the bedroom door to find Pete and Dad standing close by with the ladies all looking at me, expecting a chair and a report on Ricky. Pete was still nursing the baby who was beginning to fret. "He's awake, and I think it's time he met his son." I took the baby from Pete. "Can you make up a feed, please? It'll do Ricky good to feed him." I didn't get any argument about it except that Pete looked disappointed when I said to hold off for a few minutes before bringing the bottle in. Going back into the bedroom I saw that Ricky was now sitting up. "Here we are, Bro; one baby who needs a bit of love."
Ricky looked at the baby with suspicion and hurt in his eyes. "Nice, whose is it?"
"Well it certainly isn't mine," I said with a laugh and leaned down to place the baby in his arms. Once more he burst into tears as he recognised his son, and he cuddled him gently. He laughed and cried alternately, clearly wondering how this miracle had occurred. He glanced up at me with an enquiring expression. "How…?"
"We have a friend who's busy persuading the Social Services that they've been told a pack of lies, so, you'd better get busy thinking of a name for him. We need to get him registered first thing on Monday."
Ricky managed to sniff back his tears enough to say, "He's already got one. It's Harry, after Harold and Monks after my parents."
"How about the surname D'Marco?"
I decided it wouldn't hurt to give him a few details. "Our birth name is D'Marco, and we were born in Rome. Our dad, Pietro D'Marco married our mum, Angela Chambers. When Mum fled to England she took her mother's maiden name of Street, which is my currant surname. Pete was adopted by Mary's son, Richard Crayel and his wife Ann. Harold brought you to England and had you adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Monks. Our Uncle William and his wife adopted Billy in Rome and brought him to England. William was a founder member of the band that became Billy Junior. He died two years ago and another member of the band, Mags Alton, took care of Billy and they became a couple."
Ricky stared at me, wide-eyed "Mags Alton, the sax player?"
"Yeah, but here's the twist in the tail; it turns out that Mags is Mum's younger half-brother, and he and Billy never knew they were related because William died before he could tell Billy the truth about his birth. Billy never knew he was adopted, and Pete and I only discovered who we were when we decided to try and find out who our Dads were. Mum had a forged birth certificate made, to show I had an unknown father, and her name as Angela Street, and that I was born in Manchester in nineteen ninety-two. We ended up living in a house owned by Mags's dad, and that's when I found out who Mags was, you see, I…" I felt my cheeks burn.
"He thought you were Billy come back from the dead?"
Now it was my turn to stare. "How did you know?"
"I don't know; I just felt it. What happened?"
"It was a mistake, he was half asleep and didn't know I was in the bathroom, and…he kissed me."
Ricky reached out to grip my hand. "Maybe we're more alike than just in looks. Maybe Billy was too." Harry came awake all of a sudden, screwed his face and hands up, and got ready to scream. And as if on cue, the bedroom door opened and Pete came in with the bottled lifesaver. With a smile, he came to sit on the other side of the bed. "Hi, Ricky, I'm Pete, your older brother." While I supported Harry, my brothers hugged each other tight and shed a few tears before Pete let Ricky go and handed the bottle to him.
Ricky laughed through his tears as Harry latched onto the teat and settled down to feed. "I remember you now; you and Joey were at the apartment."
"Do you remember what happened there?" Pete enquired.
"Could I ever forget it?" Ricky laid Harry across his lap so he could free a hand to reach for a tissue, wipe his face and blow his nose. "Prescott's thugs used me as a punch bag then made me watch our stuff being trashed. Then they dragged me down the stairs and made me watch our other stuff being burned and smashed up." He touched his face again. "Jeez, my face hurts!" He touched it again and felt the roughness of his chin. "I think I need a shave and a shower. Anyway, there I was, wishing I was dead and thinking I'm going crazy, listening to someone telling me to hang on, that help was coming, then seeing myself and talking to myself. Right! Send for the white van and lock me away! Then you two were there with another guy keeping me warm. The next thing I knew I woke up in here." Fresh tears fell as he added, "I've always felt I wasn't alone, that I had a brother somewhere."
"Me too" I wiped my own tears away and saw Pete do the same.
Ricky shook his head as he watched his son guzzle the contents of the bottle. "I'm sorry I can't take all this in right now. Can I lie down please I guess I don't f…feel…"
I caught Harry and the bottle as Ricky collapsed against the pillows. Pete lifted his head and whipped the pillows away, laying Ricky flat on the bed. Pete looked hard at me. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking; hole in the heart?" He rushed into the bathroom, brought out a damp flannel and wiped Ricky's face with it.
Ricky moaned, gasped for air and opened his eyes. "Mmm, what happened?"
"You fainted." Pete wiped his face again. "Does it happen often?"
"Lately yeah; why?"
"Same here, until a few days ago." I said. "I had a hole in my heart and I had it fixed last Monday. Billy's was done in Rome, before Angela kicked off and caused our break-up. It could be you've got the same problem but we know just the right person to put you right, don't we Pete?"
"Yeah, thanks to Grandpa Chambers."
Ricky wrapped an arm over his eyes, still breathing heavily. "I don't get it. I've hardly ever needed to see a doctor since I was a nipper. Why didn't it show up earlier?"
"Sometimes it shows, sometimes it doesn't," I said. "This is the way it happened to me." Harry growled and pushed the teat out of his mouth and got ready to bellow. I sat him up, leaned him over my left arm and patted his back. Ricky lowered his arm and watched what I was doing. I grinned at him. "Watch the expert at work, Bro; with Pete and me around, who needs women?"
As soon as I said it, I knew I had goofed badly. Ricky closed his eyes and the tears began again. I shoved Harry into Pete's lap and leaned down with my face close to Ricky's. "Hey, Bro, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way. Of course you need Jenny and you'll miss her terribly, but what I meant was, you'll never be alone, ever. I know we can never take her place but we'll help you look after Harry."
I stroked his hair back off his face and he opened his eyes and gazed up at me. "Promise?"
I smiled and planted a quick kiss on his nose. "I promise; now you just relax and get some more rest. That's what I was ordered to do when they discovered the hole in my ticker. Pete and I will look after Harry and we'll go and see how supper's coming along. Rosie's made some stew for us."
Ricky gave me a weak smile. "I know Rosie's stews. You won't be disappointed. I wouldn't mind some myself."
"When did you last eat?"
Ricky shook his head. "I don't remember. I think it was the night before Harold died, except for a bit of breakfast at the hospital this morning. Food was the last thing on my mind."
"Right; one bowl of 'Stew à La Rosie' coming up." There were three dining chairs in the bedroom. "Come on, Uncle Pete; let's get these chairs into the dining room. We can't have your mum and your gran sitting on their thumbs."
Pete took one chair and Harry, and I took the other two, and found Rosie just about to dish up supper. I took two bowls and begged to be excused, explaining that I wanted to eat with my brother.
"I'll come too," Pete said and turned to hand Harry to his mother.
"No, that's okay, I can manage. It's Uncle Pete time." I scooted into the bedroom; there were things I wanted to say to Ricky that Pete would not understand; I wanted to bond with my brother as soon as possible, and I felt we had to be alone to do that. What I didn't know was how big a cloud of trouble I was creating.
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