The Bull Singer
Richard Crayel's Story
When Joey closed the bedroom door on Pete, the stricken look on my son's face said it all. I glanced towards Ann and Mother; they had seen it too. When Rosie called everyone into the dining room, Ann nodded that I should speak with him, but I had to be careful. He was no longer a child in need of a cuddle - he had fended for himself for the last four years - so the appeal for help had to come from him. I had to remember that, before we had thrown him out for his own safety, as a teenager he had shown that he wanted to live his own life and not be coddled or wrapped in cotton wool. I had to respect that and wait for him to approach me. Not that I was happy with his lifestyle of course; but he was my boy and he was hurting. I was guilty of hurting him deeply in the past but he didn't deserve what his brother had dished out just now. As we moved to the dining room I placed a fatherly hand on his shoulder. He glanced up at me and I squeezed it, pulling him against me. He nodded that he understood he could talk to me if he wished. With that I had to be content.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our supper; Rosie's stew reviving memories of my toddler days when my mother could rustle up a good pan of mouth-watering delicacies from literally nothing. As I scraped the last spoonful from my bowl, I noticed my mother gazing at me with a smile. She too was remembering those times before my father came into money via a surprise inheritance and we didn't need to watch every penny. Everyone round the table, except Pete, passed favourable comments to which Rosie blushed and scuttled into the kitchen to hide her embarrassment. Pete remained within his own silent world and left most of his meal. Ann, being annoyed at this seeming rudeness, almost upset things by saying something to him. I put a finger to my lips and fortunately she took the hint, but kept an eye on Pete during the rest of the meal when Rosie brought out a homemade apple and cinnamon tart and a jug of cream. We finished everything off with coffee and a bottle of liqueur brandy, which Rosie said was a gift from Harold to the family if and when they came together at his passing. We toasted Uncle Harold and reassured Rosie we would make sure she would remain in the cottage, rent free, for as long as she wished. I was afraid we were getting into a rather morbid mood, and tried to think of an excuse to lift the evening when the front doorbell rang.
I signalled for Mags to answer it while I moved to the lounge window. I stood in the bay and moved the lace curtain slightly. I saw an elderly man with a mane of snow-white hair showing under the brim of his trilby hat, and a younger man carrying a brief case. Satisfied, I signalled for Mags to let them in.
"Something smells good," The younger man said with a smile as they walked into the lounge, "or has it all been eaten?"
The old gentleman's white whiskers wriggled as he sniffed the air, "Mmm! Apple and cinnamon! Rosie's been busy with her rolling pin again." He looked hard at me for a moment then smiled and said, "Hello Richard, you were only a nipper the last time I dangled you on my knee."
I had to think for a few seconds then his widening smile brought back memories of visiting Uncle Harold, and this man jigging me on his knee. "Uncle Tom Crossman! Good heavens, how lovely to see you." We gripped hands until our knuckles turned white. "How did you recognize me?"
"Come on, my boy, you're too much like your father for there to be any mistake. Shame about Harold but he was getting on a bit. Josh, I'd like you to meet Richard Crayel, Harold's nephew; Richard, this is Joss Bennett a senior social worker with
Bristol County Child Protection Services."
We shook hands and Josh said, "Hello, Mr. Crayel. I'm sorry to hear of Harold's passing; he helped many needy kids around here. I don't normally work weekends unless there's an emergency my operators can't handle or have made a mess of. In this case, it looks like both situations have occurred. I was going to visit Rosie any way so I thought I would deal with this at the same time. Jessie Welch has given me all the facts as she saw them, but I need to talk with the family involved. Tom is here as the executor of Harold's estate, so I want him involved in any discussion as well.
"In that case, I think you'd better come into the dining room as most of the family are in there." I took the visitors into the dining room where Rosie made a fuss of Tom, and welcomed Josh as well before introducing the family to them.
While people got settled round the table, I went to let the boys know their presence was needed in the dining room. Tom came with me but when we knocked on the door, we got no answer. We went in and found the room empty, which gave me a second's panic before we heard faint giggling coming from the bathroom. I knocked on the door and Joey popped his head out. "Hi, Richard, come on in." We stepped inside and saw Ricky sitting on a shower stool with a towel round his hips and a beard of white foam covering the lower part of his face." Also naked except for a towel round his hips, Joey had Uncle Harold's safety razor in one hand and a towel in the other.
Ricky smiled and said, "Hi Tom. This is my brother Joey."
"I can see that," Tom chuckled. "Now just what is going on here?"
Joey said, "Ricky needed a shower and a shave but I thought an electric shaver would be too much for his bruises, so I thought this way would be better for him."
"And I suppose you know what you are doing with that razor? Why don't you let the expert give you a hand?" He took his coat off and handed it to me with his hat. "Ricky knows my skills with the scraper, don't you lad?"
"Best barber in Bristol," Ricky replied, "so why don't you guys give us a bit of room. We'll see you later."
"Just a minute, before you go" Tom caught hold of Joey and turned him round, studying his hairstyle. With a grunt he waved us out of the bathroom." Damned modern hairstyles! Can't understand why they want to hide their faces these days. But, if that's what you want, that's what you get."
Joey grabbed his clothes and dressed quickly, then made to follow me out of the bedroom. Turning to him, I said, "Joey, I know you and Ricky have a stronger bond than you'll ever have with Pete, but just remember he's Ricky's older brother as well as yours, and needs to be with Ricky as much as you do at the moment. Just don't shut him out, okay?"
Joey frowned at me. "I'd never do that."
"Well, you did when you had supper with Ricky and closed the door on him. He's hurting, Joey."
Joey's face crumpled. "Oh, man! He must think I'm some kind of S O B. I'm so sorry, Richard. I'll go and apologize to him."
"If you do, he'll know I've opened my mouth. Just promise me it won't happen again, okay?" We went into the dining room and I introduced Joey to Josh and we made small talk until Tom came in with Ricky. Oh, what a difference a shower, shave and a haircut had made. Wearing one of Harold's bathrobes, he stood by Joey and it was hard to tell them apart, except for the bruises ripening on his face and the dressing on his forehead; Tom having worked wonders at creating an identical hairstyle to Joey's. Now he was as smooth faced and young looking as his brother as they put their arms round each other's waists and grinned at each other. Before they sat down at the table, Joey drew Ricky to where Pete sat watching them with a glum face and, putting his arms round Pete's shoulders, he said, "You thought you had trouble looking after me, now you've got double trouble, so watch your back Bro." As Pete looked up, Joey kissed him then moved back to give Ricky room to do the same. After handing Harry to Rosie, Pete stood up and put his arms round Ricky, and whispered something in his ear, and hugged him close. I sighed with relief as they took the chairs with the twins sitting either side of Pete. I just hoped for my son's sake that things would stay this way.
"Right, everyone, let's get down to business." Josh had taken a folder out of his briefcase and opened it on the table. "Ricky, I am Josh Bennett, senior social worker with Bristol Child Protection Services. I am also a friend of Tom Crossman and was a friend of the late Harold Briggs. As I told Mr Crayel when I arrived, I don't normally work on weekends unless there is an emergency or one of my operators makes a wrong decision and I have to intervene, which isn't often I might add. I have a first class team working with me and none of us like to be made fools of. Being a friend of the family so to speak, I at first didn't want to get involved, but when a colleague from another county approached me with this story of lies and violence, I thought I should come here and find out for myself what was going on. Jessie told me your story, but now I need to know what proof you have to corroborate it, that I can offer to a court in the morning."
At this, Jeremy pushed the envelope with the certificates in across the table. "I think these will satisfy any court about the truth of the story, and I am also willing to testify how I found them."
We watched Josh pull the certificates from the envelope and examine each one. "I see; but these could be the certificates of any children."
Joey tossed the photo on the table. "That's a picture of the family, Pete and I found among our late brother Billy's possessions. Mrs. Crayel also has a copy, and so did Harold, and there is another copy of it in my mother's safe case. If we're not brothers, how come these pictures were found with each family?"
"So who is Angela D' Marco nee Chambers?" Josh asked as he read the information on one of the certificates.
Joey replied in a shaking voice, "She's the bitch that bore us but changed her name to Street, her mother's maiden name, so she could come back to England and hide from the Italian police."
"Language, Joey." My mother nudged him.
"I don't care," Joey spat out. "After what she did to me, I'll call her what she is." He made to rise from his chair but Pete grabbed him and pulled him into a tight hug, whispering something soothing into his ear until Joey muttered sorry to my mother, who gave him a comforting smile. That smile was too much for the lad and he ended up sobbing in Pete's arms.
"She's a bitch all right," Mags said; his voice cold with anger. "I can vouch or that."
Josh glanced up at him. "And you are?"
"Her half-brother, but aren't we digressing here? We're supposed to be talking about Ricky and his claim to be Harry Monks' natural father."
Josh smiled. "Yes, you are right, of course. What I have here are the reports my operators made. I'll go through each one and we can decide if they are correct or otherwise. First they say that Mr. and Mrs. Prescott claim they are the only surviving kin of their daughter's baby and have the right to say what happens to him, and that they wish the Social Services to take him into protective custody; and to have him adopted, as they cannot look after him themselves, any comments?"
"Yeah, plenty," Ricky growled, "I'm Harry's biological father, and I was present at his birth. I'll take a DNA test to prove it. Jenny was living in a flat or should I say a dive rented from her parents. We were already looking for another place to live in when they gave her notice to quit, the day before Harold died. This wasn't the first time they made her homeless. They didn't like her friends or her lifestyle, and made it too uncomfortable for her to live at home. Everywhere she lived they told a pack of lies about her and her friends to her landlords until they turned her out. She didn't know how but they always seemed to find her. She thought she was safe when she found the flat we lived in, but her parents found out where she was living but they didn't just spread lies about us, they went and bought the whole apartment block and doubled her rent. It wasn't until today that I found out they had sold it on to a property developer as vacant possession. After your operators had me thrown out of the hospital I went back to the flat and found Prescott's thugs trashing everything." It seemed Ricky couldn't go on and fell silent.
"And where is the baby now?" Josh asked.
Rose left the table and went to a corner of the dining room where a wicker washing-basket stood on a side table. She delved into what I thought was a pile of clean laundry and lifted Harry out, dressed in a white Baby-Grow, and loosely wrapped in a beautiful white shawl. Josh beckoned Rosie to him and she placed Harry in his arms. Cradling him gently, he said, "Well young fella there's no mistaking whose baby you are. Unfortunately, my lovely little sausage, a court will need more proof than that, and that's what I'm here to discover." He handed Harry back to Rosie and fished for a handkerchief while Rosie carried the baby to where Ricky was sitting and placed him in his arms. "Now, back to work; the next item is the fact that the Prescotts said you are not yet eighteen, Ricky, and are homeless and have no means of support. They stated that you earn a few pounds begging on the streets of Bristol; in fact I've seen you there a few times myself and must say you are a very talented performer. But they also say that you hang about with certain unsavoury friends, and that you are gay. Can you make sense of these statements?"
"You've got my birth certificate in front of you, and I could have produced my adoption papers but I think Prescott's thugs trashed them or burned them. I've tried to get jobs but all I know is music and stage. So I busk for money and have a license to perform on the streets of Bristol. I wasn't homeless up to Prescott sticking his knife into our lives. As for my friends, they're musicians waiting to go off to college or jobs elsewhere; we don't do drugs, we don't run about the streets causing trouble, we're not into crime, we just want to enjoy making music. And yeah, I'm gay, not that it's anyone's business. End of story."
Tom Crossman cleared his throat to gain Josh's attention. "I can verify what Ricky says, Josh. He and his friends have been part of the project Harold and I have been working on for the last ten years. It's a shame the Old Clay Theatre is being pulled down. It was a haven for kids like Ricky as you well know, and several of our group have made it into art colleges and theatres all over the country. In fact, two of our older members are now working for Gypsy Diaz and about to go on his American tour next year, as part of his supporting act. We were going to announce this bit of news at the theatre's closing down performance this next Wednesday. Now it looks like it will be Harold's Memorial Service instead."
Josh nodded his head at this. "There aren't enough projects like this. I only wish you could find another venue. If I hear of anywhere, I'll certainly let you know. Now, the last item of what I now suspect is a load of rubbish but I must check on; the Prescotts say you have no other relatives to support you in your efforts to provide a home for your baby. Looking round at this gathering I know that is a load of nonsense, but might I ask what other members of the family there are, and where you will live with the baby."
"He's got me," Mags said, "and he's also got his father and grandfather and family in Italy; he has a grandfather and two great aunts in Little Fordage, in Lancashire. He also has a step grandfather Elias Chambers of Marble House, near Rochdale. He has the freedom of two large farmhouses to choose from as a home in which to raise Harry, who is now the future heir to the Alton estates after me; one in Bingford near Flixton and the one in Little Fordage where Joey already lives as my father's tenant."
"Yeah, my dad is Edward Alton, Angela's natural father."
"Whoa! Now I am getting confused."
"Yeah, and if my dad has anything to say, this little bundle of trouble, here, will be the next Bull Singer after his granddaddy and his Uncle Joey."
While Joey and Pete giggled at this, the rest of us stared at Mags, wondering what on earth he was on about, but before we could ask him to explain, yet another visitor knocked on the front door. Mags and I went through the same procedure as before, and through the lounge curtain I saw a very large shadow standing on the doorstep. The lounge door into the hall was almost adjacent to the front door. Mags looked at me and I frowned my reluctance to accept the visitor, and he called out,
"Who is it?"
"It's Charlie, Mr Alton. Mr Benjamin sent me."
"I don't care a hell who sent you," a familiar voice roared from somewhere outside. "Get off that doorstep and identify yourself to me before I bring down the wrath of Hades on you."
I ran to the front door, ready to help restrain whoever the owner of the voice had tangled with, as Mags wrenched it open to save someone from a fate worse than...
"Hi, Charlie," Mags smiled at the hulking figure, staring in astonishment at the vixen who held him in an arm lock; a laughable scene considering her captive could have squashed the living daylights out of her in two seconds flat. "It's okay, Jessie, I thought you'd recognize him from the clinic. He's Mr. Chambers' minder."
"Oh, couldn't see properly in the dark." Jessie scowled at Charlie before releasing him, "Just being cautious. We'd better get inside before anyone else comes creeping around. I spotted this one making a survey of the property."
"Only doing my job, ma'am," Charlie replied as he stepped back to allow Jessie to precede him into the cottage.
"Apology accepted. Perhaps you can make yourself useful; there's a taxi parked a few yards down the road with some bags in the boot. Here's some money, would you kindly pay the fare and collect the bags? Thank you so much. Now, Mr Crayel, where is everyone?"
I indicated the dining room and she marched ahead of me into the gathering. She froze in the doorway with her mouth agape as she stared at Jeremy, "JJ!"
Jeremy stared back at her, his eyes wide with surprise, "Pippin!"
If anyone wishes to know what Joey and Ricky look like, Google "The Jonus Brothers/early years" and check out Joey Jonus the lead singer. Of course I'm biased. My boys can sing a lot better and can wrap their tonsils round any style of song.
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