The Bull Singer
"You're in a lot of pain, aren't you, son?"
"Well, if you let me have a look at you, perhaps I can help. Where are you hurt?"
"My shoulder; my left arm feels funny. Please mister, just let me go. I don't want any trouble."
I listened to his uneven breathing, and heard him shivering. "Are you cold?"
I called over my shoulder for Sandy to bring a blanket, then I took a bold step into the shed,. Turning the torch beam to full, I gazed down at a pathetic sight. A boy, no more than fifteen with pale blonde hair, dressed in torn jeans and an old bomber jacket, cradling his left arm to his body, lay sprawled against an old peat sack. I knelt down so I could get close to him, but he shrank away from me, his baby blue eyes full of fear. "Don't hurt me; please don't..."
"I'm not here to hurt you; can you tell me why you came here?"
"I...I came to...see...Ha...Harold."
Oh, hell! This kid had probably hit a load of trouble and had come to ask Harold to help or to ask for a place to stay for a bit; how could I tell him Harold was dead? "I'm sorry, kid but Harold isn't here." I watched the kid's face screw up with a look of despair, "but Ricky is here with his brothers."
The boy shook his head. "You're lying. Ricky's got no brothers."
"Well, he didn't know he had any brothers until yesterday. I'm his uncle Magnus." Something hit me in the back and dropped down on the floor. I glanced down and saw the blanket that Sandy had thrown to me. I shook it out and folded it once then laid it on the floor beside the boy. "Why don't you slide over onto this blanket and I'll wrap it round you?" The boy tried to move but gasped and clutched his stomach. He fell back, his breathing ragged. "Kid, I think you're hurting in more places than your shoulder. I'm going to lift you onto the blanket, okay?" His eyes glazed over and I knew he was on the point of passing out. While I waited for his eyes to close and his body to relax, I placed my hand on his forehead and felt the heat I suspected was there. Once he was out of it, I put my arms under him to lift him onto the blanket, and couldn't help noticing a damp patch where he had been sitting. I shone the torch on it. It looked black. I touched it with my fingers and brought them up to the torchlight. It looked like blood. I wrapped the blanket round him then tossed the torch to Sandy. "I'm bringing him out, Sandy, and I need you to light the way and I need to move fast. This kid is bleeding." I had just enough room to lift the boy in my arms and rise to my feet. With Sandy keeping the torch-beam a couple of feet in front of me, we made our way back to the cottage without mishap.
While everyone looked on in horror, I laid the boy down on the bed next to Ricky, who reared up, his eyes wide with shock as he stared at the boy. "Oh, my God, Donny!"
In the basement of another house he owned, Prescott stared down at the unconscious boy who lay with his wrists and ankles handcuffed to a filthy iron frame bed, and wondered why someone would put up a missing poster on a club's notice board; probably every branch in the country had a similar poster on display. The notice was no different to any other; a concerned relative asking for news of a missing person, but this one had three tiny red dots in the top left hand corner. Only those who knew what they meant would have recognised them. This lad had upset someone and escaped his clutches, and that someone was prepared to spend some money to get him back; probably to shut his mouth in a very permanent way. Prescott moved to a cabinet at the foot of the bed and lifted a cordless phone from its cradle. Taking a piece of paper from his coat pocket, he dialled the number written on it. When he got an answer, he said, "I believe you're looking for Peter Crayel."
"Who is this? Do you realise what time it is?"
"I don't live by the clock, sir. Now, do you want this young man or not?"
"Where is he?"
"I have him here, with me, safely restrained. I expect the full price you offered but if you want him delivered some distance it will cost you more."
"Where are you? I'll send my own men to pick him up."
"Good God! What the hell is he doing down there?"
"How the hell would I know?"
"I want proof it's him."
The boy began to stir. "He's waking up, would you like to speak to him?" Without waiting for an answer, Prescott slapped the boy's face to speed up the waking process. Once his eyes blinked open, Prescott switched the phone to speaker and put the phone close to the boy's ear. "Here, boy, someone wants to talk to you."
Slowly, the boy's eyes grew wide as he recognised Prescott. "You!" He strained against the handcuffs. "Let me go, you bastard."
Prescott spoke into the phone. "Is that proof enough?"
"Oh, yes. I'd recognise that voice anywhere. Hello Peter."
The boy's eyes grew even wider, and he struggled desperately to free himself while Prescott discussed terms with the man on the other end of the phone. Once Prescott was satisfied he had made a good deal, he ended the call and took of his overcoat. Picking up a knife from a cabinet, he turned back to his prisoner and showed him the weapon. "We won't be moving for some time so I suggest we have a little fun." While the boy watched in horror, Prescott lowered the knife to the hem of the boy's anorak and slipped it inside, savouring the sound of the knife slicing through material. The boy began to whimper.
So far so good; the operation had gone well, I was fully awake and feeling great except for feeling a bit tired. It was early Monday evening, and the doctors at the London Rosscroft had agreed I could still attend the magistrate's court in Claythorn in the morning, a delay Jesse and Josh had managed to obtain after the doctors insisted I used a wheelchair. Fine; I would go to court on a stretcher as long as it meant my gaining custody of Harry. I couldn't believe how fast things had moved once Charlie took charge despite his injuries. He was so calm after Mags told him that he thought Donny had been raped and was bleeding pretty bad, when everyone else was panicking. He had Mags drive Donny, Joey and me to Bristol airport, fifteen minutes away, in the BMW, with Charlie's men as escort. There, we were transferred to a neat looking chopper complete with Medivac equipment, which they used to put an IV line into Donny's arm and monitor his vital signs. Within ten minutes of lift off, we landed on the roof of this clinic somewhere north of London, and Donny was whisked away to undergo surgery. Not long after, I underwent a series of tests on my heart, and was soon having my own operation, and woke up later with Joey holding my hand. Wow, what a room! Talk about luxury! I'd never seen anything like it, but Joey said the clinic where he had his own heart op done was even better. That was hard to believe. He stayed with me until I felt tired and the nurse ordered me to have a nap. When I woke up again I noticed the other bed in my room was occupied. I hardly recognised Donny, all wrapped up with wires and tubes attached to him. He was ghostly white; and seemed so small as the mask over his mouth hissed and gurgled.
I made to sit up so I could take a better look at him, and a hand on my shoulder pushed me back down. "Take it easy, Bro." Joey smiled down at me. "Just lie back and relax. No stress or strain for a few hours at least. Your friend is going to be all right but the doctors thought it would be best if he saw a familiar face when he wakes up. He's sedated for the moment."
"What happened to him?" I asked.
"Someone beat him up and raped him; he has internal injuries and has a bit of infection in his belly. His shoulder isn't fractured, just dislocated, although that can often be more painful; now what about you?"
"I feel okay, thanks, but where's Harry; and what about Pete, has he been found yet?"
The smile left Joey's face. "Harry's fine. Ann's looking after him and spoiling him rotten and he's taking her mind off Pete. There's no sign of him yet. After Charlie talked to his boss, he had no choice but to call the police in."
"But I thought Charlie didn't want them to know about him and his friends being down here?"
"Yeah, well now there's been a kidnapping and a serious sexual assault on Donny, Elias gave Charlie the okay to call the authorities in. All Charlie's men have disappeared for the moment, and Charlie and Richard have given the police enough details about what happened without them asking too many questions. Richard phoned Tom Crossman and Josh Bennett, and they're talking to the police about you and Pete, and Donny. It appears that a paedophile ring has been operating for some time in the Bristol area but as soon as the police got a lead, the perps disappeared. If they've got Pete, it won't be the first time he had trouble like that, or me." I noticed Joey's face creased with a worried frown, and the last two words were spoken in a whisper."
I felt a surge of sadness emanating from my brother. I squeezed his hand. "Something happened to you, right?"
"Yeah, and I hate Angela for it."
Shocked, I gripped his hand until he winced in pain. "Are you telling me she ran a paedo ring? No wonder you called her The Bitch."
Joey shook his head. "I'm not sure if she ran it or was just a member, but she..." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then looked me straight in the eyes. "Over the years, she did things to me that no mother should ever do. And I witnessed her and her friends assaulting another boy in the basement of an apartment block we lived in. She warned me, if I said anything, she would kill not only me but my family as well."
"So you knew you had a family?"
"Not really. She refused to tell me who my dad was, and I thought she meant him and she knew where he was. Even the birth certificate I thought was mine had no father's name on it. It wasn't until Pete and I found the photographs that I realised I had a real family. That's why we came south to ask Pete's adoptive parents for the truth, and to look for you." He squeezed my hand and gave me a tight smile. "I know we've put you and Harry in danger but I wouldn't have missed meeting you for anything." He glanced towards the other bed and nodded. "I think he's waking up, do you want to check on him?" Joey stood up and pulled a wheelchair next to my bed. "I've had strict instructions from the doc that you can only get out of bed if you use this. I had to do the same for a couple of days after I had my op." Moving my bed covers aside, he helped me sit up and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, and it wasn't until I tried to stand up that I realised just how weak I felt. But Joey took control and lowered me into the chair, pulled a blanket off the bed and tucked it round me. Wheeling me to the other bed, he parked me as close as he could and we both gazed down at the pitiful sight.
Donny had the face of an angel and blonde hair to match, but now it was marked with cuts and bruises that had a strange round centre the size of a penny piece. I leaned closer and studied them, noticing a shape within the centre that was a lot darker. "What do you make of these, Joey?"
Joey went round to the other side of the bed to get a closer look. "Someone with an engraved ring did this."
"Can you make out the shape?"
"I'm not sure. Something like a snake, I think."
As we watched, Donny's head moved on the pillow and a frown creased his face. Joey backed off, whispering that it wouldn't do Donny any good to think he had double vision. While we waited for Donny to open his eyes, I reached out and took hold of his right hand and stroked it gently. At last his eyelids flickered open. He gazed up at the ceiling, took in the equipment on the wall by his bed, and then finally his eyes came to rest on me. "Ricky?" His voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"Hi Donny," I gave his hand a squeeze. "You're okay now; you're safe, and you're going to get better." As I spoke those words I realised how lame they sounded.
Donny shook his head and his chin quivered. "No, you have to save them."
I glanced quickly at Joey before asking, "Who Donny?"
"The others, they helped me escape."
"They kept...the men...occupied, so I...I...could get...away." Donny closed his eyes as tears began to fall down his cheeks.
I stared at the bruises again, and wondered why the centres looked familiar. Memories came back in a flood and I curse under my breath. I knew where I had seen a ring with a snake on it before. "Donny, was your landlord's name Prescott?" Donny nodded and I turned to face Joey. "Bro, this doesn't look good, I think we need to get hold of Charlie."
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