The Bull Singer
Once I was satisfied the boys were safe and taken care of, I had the chopper fly me back to Bristol. Pete was still missing and I felt it best to get back to the cottage and give Richard and Ann whatever support I could. I certainly didn't expect to find a conference going on when I arrived. Tom Crossman was there with Joss Bennett and another man who introduced himself as Dave Saunders, a part time youth worker and a supporter of the Claythorn project. He was also the owner of a taxi firm and had issued a directive to his drivers to help the police find Harold's missing blue Ford Cortina. Another surprise was the fact that Mr. Worthington had made a list of all the stuff that Prescott's men had tried to destroy, and Dave had contacted all Ricky and Jenny's friends to find out how much they had paid for the gifts. A lot of them still had the receipts and it made for a tidy sum, should Prescott be brought to account and made to cough up the money to replace the gifts.
I took to Dave straight away; he was a good-looking guy, I guessed a few years older than me, about my height with dark hair and a friendly smile enhanced by the way his twinkling eyes swept up and down me. I felt a buzz run through me and I felt the need to have a private chat with him sometime. He reported that his men had Pete's description and were searching for him as well as the car.
"How he drove that old car away without any of you hearing it amazes me," Tom said as I sat down on the recliner and accepted a cup of tea from Ann. "The exhaust is on the way out and the car is a noisy shed."
"Well, the drive is sloped towards the road," Dave said, "and the road itself is sloped southwards. Whoever took it probably freewheeled it down the road until he was far enough away not to be heard when he started the engine. That's why I've had my drivers concentrate their search on the southern outskirts of Bristol first."
Charlie frowned at him. "What about the guys who clobbered me? If Pete had gone off on his own he would have contacted Richard by now, just to let him know he was okay. Sorry to say this, Richard, but I still believe he's been kidnapped as I am sure now that the guy I saw trying to get into the garage was Pete, and the car was taken to make it look like he drove it away. And whoever hit me had to pack a hefty wallop to put me out, not some young kid like Donny."
Having got over the initial shock of Pete leaving, Richard appeared to be quite calm as he and Ann listened to Tom and Josh discussing Pete's reason for leaving so suddenly. Richard explained Pete's reactions to both Joey and Ricky cutting him out of their quiet time, even if it was unintentional. At this point I decided it was time I opened my mouth about Pete's run in with Mr Faring.
"I think I might have some information that might explain how Pete was feeling," I said. When I had everyone's attention, I said, "Pete's mental state is not as healthy as it may seem. What he went through since he left home is his business but a few months ago he had an affair with a man called Faring which he hoped was the real thing; it turned sour on him in the worst way. At first, Faring offered him a home in an apartment in Manchester and it was okay to begin with. As far as Pete knew, Faring was a bachelor who had a good job in the overseas banking trade and could well afford to keep Pete there, rent-free. Slowly, Faring changed from a contented cat to a bad tempered jungle animal with an appetite for alcohol and rough sex. Pete became a virtual prisoner in the apartment and Faring used him as a sex slave." I glanced towards Ann and Richard and found them staring back at me with shocked eyes. "I'm sorry, for being so blunt, but you have to know the kind of people you forced your son to mix with. Pete made his escape the night Faring fell asleep in a drunken stupor. He used the same handcuffs Faring had used on him, and secured him to the bed and locked him in the apartment. He went straight to the police and the complaint was followed up with Faring appearing in court on a charge of serious sexual assault and false imprisonment. Faring's defence was that he was a happily married man who had made the mistake of offering a home to a homeless person, who had ensnared him and had held him prisoner in the apartment; his evidence being that fact that the police found him handcuffed to his own bed. Faring had friends in high places who made sure that people listened to him instead of Pete, and he walked out on bail pending further investigations. Ever since then, Faring and his men, have been searching for Pete, and he came to me for help. I'm wondering if it's Faring who has kidnapped Pete, and not Angela."
Ann's face filled with a look of disbelief. "But how would he know where Pete was?"
"I don't know, so let's look at what we do know. Someone has been following Pete and Joey, and we've only assumed that it was just Angela. We now know there is someone else on Pete's tail. Pete has been suffering from stress and trying to hide it for Joey's sake, and for yours. I introduced Pete to my dad in the hope that he would be a steadying influence on Pete, and Pete would have a father figure to lean on, and it worked for a couple of days until Joey took ill and Jesse got him Joey's guardianship. All this and the shock of learning about his family, and meeting Ricky, have all been too much and I'm not surprised he flipped. I know by the look on your faces that you think I'm out of order, here, but just remember, I'm a blood relative. I'm his uncle." Richard rose to his feet, ready to challenge me, his eyes glittering with anger, and I stood up to face him. I had seen this kind of dual personality many times, outwardly a solid citizen and a likeable person, but inside a man with enough prejudices and bigotry boiling round to make him a dangerous man unable to control the switching of his Jekyll and Hyde personalities. I grabbed him by the forearms to prevent him hitting me. "Just calm down and listen to me, Richard. Be honest with yourself. The reason you threw him out wasn't just because he was in danger from Angel's mob; you threw him out because he's gay. While your temper ruled you brain, I'll bet you even took delight in telling him to his face that he was adopted. This revelation about his life being in danger was just the right excuse to cover your own homophobia when he turned up on your doorstep on Saturday. I'll bet anything you didn't know what to do, so you made a show of welcoming him home."
"Richard!" His mother stared up at him with cold eyes. "I hope for your sake this isn't true. You swore to me that you would love that boy no matter how he turned out. How could you?" Her voice held a bitter note as she added, "Richard Briggs Crayel, I am ashamed of you."
Richard glared at his mother. "I can't help not liking how he is. Gays just leave me cold, as if I've been touched by something unclean. I just can't believe people are born that way. Someone must have made him...touched him...spoiled him. I took him in for your sake, Mother. You wanted the boy, not me. Ann and I were quite prepared to follow a program of IVF treatment, but you stuck your nose in our affairs, as usual. You never even asked me if I liked the idea of taking on the baby of some gangster's moll, because that was all Pietro D'Marco was, a gangster."
"Richard! Pietro was your closest friend!"
Richard wrenched free of my hands. "With the emphasis on WAS. I followed my father into law; Pietro went into petty crime. Hurts to know the truth, doesn't it, Mother? You always expect people to do things your way and fall in with your plans. Well now you can reap the hurt that you've sowed." He turned his gaze on Ann. "You can follow my mother in her plans if you want to, like the meek lamb you are, but I won't; not anymore."
Mary's hands flew to her face as the colour drained from it, and Ann drew her into a comforting hug as she glared at Richard and said, "Your feelings are not the issue here Richard, Pete's safety is, no matter what you think of him. So either, sit down and act like a responsible adult or go and lie down somewhere and let us handle things."
"Wait a minute," Mary raised her angry eyes and stared up at Richard. "The day Pete left, you told me you had one of your many rows and he decided to leave. You never said you threw Pete out because he was gay."
"And just what would you have done if I told you the truth?" Richard sneered at her.
"I would certainly have put you in your place and made you bring him back." Mary stood up and, after giving Richard a look of disappointment. "And then I would have asked you to leave. You seem to have forgotten that Rosebury Apartments is the house I was born in. I still own the building and you live in the apartment by my generosity. And just for your information, when you threw Pete out I changed my will, I am leaving Rosebury Apartments to Peter; it will be up to him whether he lets you stay on in the apartment you so grandly assume to be your own." While all of us looked on with our mouths open, Mary suddenly looked old and frail. She glanced down at Ann. "I think I would like to have a rest, dear. Would you mind helping me upstairs?"
Ann steered Mary out of the lounge while Richard seethed with anger. I remained standings; ready to deal with any trouble he might create. To everyone's relief, he marched into the bedroom and slammed the door. I forgot Harry was sleeping in there, and he made his reaction at being woken up loud and clear. As I got up to go and rescue him, the bedroom door opened and Richard appeared carrying Harry's makeshift crib. He dumped the crib on the floor just outside the bedroom, turned and marched into the bedroom. Again, he slammed the door and Harry let out another scream of fright at the sudden noise. I had held my temper long enough. Lifting the crib I set it on the sofa then headed for the bedroom. Flinging the door open I found Richard about to lie down on the bed. Sensing he was in trouble, he backed away from me, the colour draining from his face. "This is for waking Harry up," I gritted, and landed a right hook to his chin, rocking him back on his heels. "And this is from Pete." The second one sent him sprawling on his back. Not bothering to see if he was still conscious, I grabbed Harry's bag and went back into the lounge to find Joss pacing the carpet, cuddling the still screaming Harry. I dumped the bag on the sofa and rummaged in it until I found what I was looking for; a new comforter still in its sterile packet. Ripping the packet open I offered it to Harry and the screaming faded as his lips fastened on it; the noise reduced to unhappy crowing.
As Harry settled down with a few grunts of relief, Joss smiled at me. "I can see you weren't brought up to deny a dummy to an unhappy child."
"No way! I remember my mum telling the tale of her bringing me home from the hospital wondering why I wouldn't stop crying. My gran called her doctor in and, the minute he walked into the house, he demanded to know where my dummy was. Mum looked at him in horror and said, "My babies are never going to have dummies." The doctor turned round on her and said, "Good heavens, woman, all my five children had dummies. If it isn't used as a substitute for cuddles there's no harm. They'll throw them away when they're ready to." Apparently Gran produced one she'd been hiding in her handbag. With three aunts living close by I was never short of hugs, so I threw mine out when I was about six months old, according to Gran." We gazed down at Harry and realised he had fallen back to sleep, his mouth running on auto around the dummy.
A knock on the door halted any remarks from those watching. Charlie went to answer the door with me on guard in the hall. I listened to Charlie talking to someone then stood back to allow a middle-aged man with receding hair and a friendly twinkle in his eyes step into the hall. Charlie said, "Mags, this is Detective Inspector James Walker, Bristol CID. Jim, this is Mags Alton, Peter's uncle, and you already know Tom."
"Good evening, Mr Alton. I'm investigating Peter's disappearance and also the attack on a boy called Donald Porter. Can we go into the lounge? I have quite a bit of info to check out." We made our way back into the lounge where he nodded to the others. "Hi Joss; Dave, we meet again; I believe you have your bloodhounds out; much appreciated. One of your drivers spotted a blue ford Cortina abandoned in a quarry about five miles south of here, about twenty minutes ago." He held out a piece of paper to Tom. "Is that the registration number of Mr. Briggs's car?"
Tom looked at the number. "That's it. Any sign of Peter?"
"No, but there's evidence of a kidnap in it; whoever moved it used an anaesthetic to put their victim to sleep; the car reeks of it. My boys are trying to identify the vehicle used to transport him elsewhere. There are some faint tyre marks but this frost we're having has made the earth rock hard. We've had several kidnappings similar to this over the last twelve months, as well as kids turning up worse for wear like Donny. They're scared stiff of talking so we're going through all the files to see if we can come up with a pattern; slow work but standard procedure in cases like this. All we have to do is find out who these kids are keeping quiet about. My teams are sifting through all the statements to find a common denominator." He turned to me and nodded. "Mr. Alton, I believe you escorted Donny Porter to the Rosscroft Clinic. How is he now?"
"Still in surgery when I left. He suffered a beating and internal bleeding as a result of a vicious sexual assault. The doctors said he'll be okay but won't be fit to tell us anything until later on this evening. I came back to see if Pete had been found, and to take my nephews a change of clothes."
"Ah, yes; Ricky Monks and Joey Street? If you don't mind, I'd like to accompany you to the Rosscroft and interview Donny Porter and the boys myself."
"Wait a minute." Joss handed Harry over to Tom and worked his way behind the sofa, lifting out two large plastic shopping bags. "I think you'll find some clothes in these bags. Jessie bought them when she went shopping yesterday." I went to have a look in the bags and I found three sets of jeans, t-shirts, sweat shirts, socks and underwear. One set was a little larger than the other two and I assumed they were for Pete, so I took them out of the bags and handed the rest to James. Ann came downstairs and insisted on my having a couple of hours rest and a good meal before I went back to the Rosscroft. I put up a half-hearted argument but Inspector Walker sided with Ann, saying he had some things he had to do and would meet me at Bristol airport later. The Zee bed was still there in the dining room so I stretched out on it, not really intending to do more than doze, and was surprised when Charlie woke me out of a deep sleep two hours later. There was a phone call for me on my mobile.
"Mags, Joey here. We've got some info for you from Donny."
I sat up and signalled for Charlie to stay. "What have you got?"
"The name of the creep who beat him up and raped him is our friend Prescott."
"What? Are you sure?"
"That's what Donny said. He was locked up with some other boys, in a house owned by Prescott. What's the betting the creep has other similar properties?"
"Put him on, let me speak to him."
"No can do, he's in a lot of pain and keeps on going under. I'm not sure but I don't think things are okay here. I can't understand why he's like this. According to his chart, he's had the maximum dosage of painkiller. And the nurse that gave him the doses isn't all that friendly. Ricky and I think you should come and take a look at what's going on here."
"Hang on kiddo, I'm on my way."
"Right; and can you bring Harry with you? We're missing him."
"I'll see what I can do." I ended the call, and smiled at the thought of Joey feeling broody as well as his brother. After a shower and a shave, and a late Sunday lunch, I felt so much better. While I ate, James phoned to let us know that a project was in now force to investigate Prescott and his alleged imprisonment of boys. Once he was sure his department would follow his orders he set Charlie up as our liaison officer and said he would be waiting for me at the airport. On arrival at the Rosscroft, the inspector's ID badge got us through the clinic security without incident and I led him down to the surgical wing where we walked into a mini war.
The incident with the dummy is taken from real life. When my eldest child was born, Mum sent for her doctor when my daughter wouldn't stop crying, and he actually said those words to me. ~ DJ
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