The Bull Singer
The first signs of trouble were the raised voices and the crash of something falling on the floor. Hampered by Harry's carrier, another of Jesse's gifts, I let James hurry ahead of me. He marched into Ricky's ward and yelled, "Hey! Stop that right now!" When I got there, I found him standing between a rather large nurse and one the twins.
The other twin, still in a bathrobe struggled up off the floor, holding a hand to his bloody nose. I dumped Harry's carrier on Ricky's bed and turned to the twin, I guessed was Joey, still trying to get to the nurse. "Okay, Joey, what's going on here?"
"This bitch said some nasty things to Donny and hit him in the belly." Joey spat out as the nurse glared at him.
"That's a lie. He's a self harm case." The nurse snarled back.
"We both heard what you said, and saw what you did, you bitch. And now you've broken my brother's nose."
"He was trying to stop me giving the boy his painkiller."
"What painkiller? I'll bet that syringe in your hand has nothing more than good old HO2 in it."
I grabbed some tissues off the over-bed table and thrust them at Ricky as he tried to stem the flow of blood. He grabbed them and walked unsteadily to Donny's bed, sinking onto it; the nurse had enough weight to do some serious injury. Taking a firm hold on Joey's arms, I pulled him away as two nurses and a white haired gentleman hurried into the room. The man marched straight up to the nurse and took the syringe from her, held it up to the light then squeezed what was left of the contents onto a finger, which he put to his lips. "Catherine, what have you been doing?" The nurse wilted and burst into tears. The man patted her hand and said in a kindly voice, "Now then, Catherine, no need to get upset like this. Why don't you go with Nurse Wade and have a nice cup of tea in my office. I'll be along in a moment." What? I couldn't believe this. This lump of flesh had done my boys some damage, yes I included Donny as well, and the guy was treating her as if she had pinched a sweet out of his cookie jar. I glanced towards James who looked back at me with his mouth open, and I saw the same expression of disbelief on Joey's face as well.
As Nurse Wade led Catherine away, the man spun round to face us. "Forgive me for interrupting but you don't know the whole story. My name is Percival Rosscroft Senior and this is my clinic. Permit me to examine the boys and then I'll tell you about Nurse Granger." He gently moved me aside and leaned over Ricky to examine his nose. "Nothing broken, Nurse Harris, will you fetch an icepack for Mr Monks, please? Mr Monks, kindly get back into bed and stay there." He moved to check on Donny who lay curled up on his right side, clutching his belly one handed and whimpering in pain. "Now, young man, let's see what is happening with you." He whispered something in Donny's ear and the boy rolled over on his back and straightened out so Rosscroft could put his hands under the sheet. Donny let out a scream of agony and Rosscroft lifted the sheet enough to see something. He straightened up, his face grim as he reached for the phone on the wall by the monitor. Dialling a number he said, "Rosscroft here. I need Mr Porter moved back to Theatre One. Quick as you can, please; and prepare for emergency surgery, please; and ask Percy Junior to join me there." Putting the phone back on its hook he leaned down to speak to Donny. "It looks like some stitches have come undone, young man. But not to worry, we'll have you sorted in no time. Just try to relax, now."
"Do you mind if I talk to him first?" James asked. "I'm Inspector James Walker, Bristol CID."
Rosscroft glared at him. "Not unless you want him to bleed to death. You can talk to him later."
"So, what about Nurse Granger?" I asked, determined to have an explanation before the man left the ward.
The little man sighed and nodded at me. "Six years ago today, Tommy Granger was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a notorious homosexual paedophile. He was ten years old." While we dealt with the shock of Mr Rosscroft's tale, a porter and a male nurse hurried in, disconnected Donny's drips and monitor, and moved Donny's bed to the door and out into the corridor. Rosscroft followed it but turned at the door and fired a parting shot at us. "Tommy was also my grandson."
"Oh, my God!" Ricky sank down on his bed and let a nurse settle him into bed and tend to his nose before applying an icepack.
"Shit!" Joey joined him and put an arm round his shoulders. "Tough cheese!"
There were tears in James' eyes as he turned away to stare out of the window at the terraces of carefully tended gardens beyond. "Damn it to hell, Mags, when will it ever end for these kids?"
"When enough people take notice and do something." A soft voice from the doorway made us glance round. A slightly built young man, in a silver grey tracksuit, limped in with the aid of elbow crutches. Startling black eyes looked at us out of a face surrounded by a mane of tumbling black curls, and I wondered if yet another brother had turned up to claim Ricky and Joey as his own, his face was so similar to the twins.
Joey gasped and whispered, "Oh, wow! You're him!" The young guy shifted his elbow crutches to a more comfortable position as he gave Joey a knowing smile.
Ricky's eyes widened with surprise. "Gypsy Diaz; I don't believe it!" And in unison, the twins yelped, "I've got nearly all your albums." While the pop-star chuckled, the twins stared at each other in surprise. "You too?"
My jaw dropped. Oh wow! Standing before me was someone I had admired ever since he took the entertainment world by storm some years ago despite several periods of personal tragedy. Gypsy Diaz eyed me for a moment as if wondering where he had seen me before; then his eyes widened, "Mags Alton! I don't believe it!" Moving towards me he looked me up and down in disbelief. "Man, I've always wanted to meet you and the band. Billy Junior can use my stuff anytime they like." Far from being a lightweight, his handshake was strong. "You're one cool sax player, Mags." Jerking his thumb at the boys, he added, "And I thought I was seeing double when I saw these two; they look the spits of Billy Junior himself."
"That's because he was their brother." I said. "They're also my nephews."
Gypsy's eyes widened, "No way! Really? Too bad he died; I wanted to come and pay my respects, but I was in India at the time." He turned to look at the boys; Ricky lay back against the pillows with his eyes closed, with Harry now nestled, face down on his chest, while Joey held the icepack in place and gently stroked Ricky's hair back off his face. Gypsy said, "This is gonna be one hell of a story! I hope I have time to stay and hear it." Then his gaze fastened on James, "Hi, Tinkerbelle."
James glowered at Diaz. "Trust you to remember my nickname, you cheeky whelp."
"And only you can get away with calling me that." Gypsy manoeuvred his way towards James and they met halfway across the room in a firm handshake.
"Tinkerbelle?" I glanced towards James for an explanation. Gypsy grinned. "Every case James gets hold of, it seems he only has to shake a bit of magic dust over it and it's solved."
While I still recovered from actually being in the same room as my idol, they grinned at each other and continued to shake hands. James looked Gypsy up and down. "What are you doing here? Nothing serious, I hope?"
"Nope; just some minor trouble with my back, plus my three monthly check-up. I just have to be a perfect patient and let nature do its work. With a bit of luck I'll be dancing and skating by the end of next year, as long as I leave the hectic stuff to someone else. So what are you doing here? It must be serious to get you out of mothballs."
"Still the same old battle to catch the nasties; this time we might have got ourselves a chief witness."
"Donny Porter?" The smile disappeared from Gypsy's face. "That makes three boys saved this week alone. Is he going to be okay?"
"The doc's just taken him back to theatre. One of the nurses got a bit too heavy handed; what about the other two?"
"Not good. Remember the two boys who were in the news a couple of days ago?"
"You mean the Carding brothers? I thought they were dead."
Gypsy shook his head. "That's the story Scotland Yard put out to make the perps feel safe from detection. We've got the boys here under Percy's care. Both are in a critical condition in Children's ICU and the younger one is in a coma; so the police can't interview them yet."
"Weren't they found in a burning building or something?" I asked, trying to remember what else I had read in the papers.
"Yeah, it looks like the perps tried to hide the fact that the boys had been sexually assaulted and left for dead by burning the house down with them in it, but the fire services got there too early, thanks to a nosy neighbour who made a 999 call when she spotted smoke coming out of a window." Gypsy turned his attention back to James. "Have you caught Donny's attackers yet?"
"I wish, but we have new information which may change things. Donny told these boys that he and some friends were kidnapped, held in a house, and assaulted by a man we know as Mr Prescott who owns several properties in the Bristol area. Unless my men have located and arrested him, he may already know that Donny escaped, and will try to come after him to shut him up."
"Mmm! Much as I admire Percy Rosscroft's security improvements this year, I don't think they would stop any determined ring from making a move on the kid." He shuffled over to where Donny's bed had been and used the phone. "Hi, Margaret, can you have Fort Knox made ready for two post-op patients and a brother, please? Yes, their names are Donny Porter and... a Mr Monks, thanks." Replacing the handset, he turned to address James and I. "I think I'd better explain; Fort Knox is my own suite, and security there is tighter than the Bank of England. I also have a security team that's second to none, as Tinkerbelle will confirm."
"So why move Donny to your suite?"
Gypsy smiled. "Because he knows too much for his own safety, and that goes for these twins. Not only do I have to cope with all the security baggage that comes with being an international star, I developed my own security network with the help of my main bodyguard, Barney when we went after the paedo ring that kidnapped me. James was involved in that to a minor degree."
"At least that's one ring behind bars." James commented.
"Not quite, James," Gypsy said. "We've found two more links who might be connected. Barney is still investigating, but these two have gone to ground, somewhere up North. Barney suspects that one of them is a sister in law of the family who ran the ring. We don't know where the other woman is, other than that she's based somewhere in the Manchester area."
I frowned and jerked my head towards the boys. "Don't you think this should be discussed in a more private place?"
Gypsy shook his head. "I'm playing a hunch here, Mags. I heard Percy mention the name of one of these boys; Joseph Street?"
"One of the women we're looking for is called Angela Street."
Ricky looked shocked but from Joey's expression, Gypsy was well aware he had struck pay-dirt.
"Okay, Joey, what can you tell us about Angela Street?"
We were sitting round a coffee table in Gypsy's luxuriously furnished lounge, enjoying a late afternoon tea, and James had his notebook out, ready to jot down any relevant information. Ricky had been ordered to rest and shared Gypsy's oversized recliner with Joey, with Harry once again sleeping on his chest. His brother had an arm round his shoulders and they cuddled together as if to give each other the support they needed. The look on Joey's face told me that talking about his mother was the last thing he wanted to do. Donny had been brought from Theatre One and now lay in Gypsy's second bedroom surrounded by State of the Art monitoring equipment, with Gypsy's private nurse, Sean, in attendance. Knowing it would be some time before James could interview Donny, the inspector had decided to help Gypsy question Joey about his mother. I just hoped they would treat the boy gently, and that Joey would trust them enough to tell them everything about his life with Angela.
Gypsy must have picked up the same signals as I had. He moved to the end of the sofa nearest to the boys and said in a gentle voice, "Boys, have you ever heard of the Shanna Royle Foundation? I set up the organisation to find boys like Donny and myself and help them build their lives again, and hopefully reconcile them with their families while we go after the people who hurt them. James will back me up when I say the police are tied down by red tape and procedures that don't let them move too freely. Sometimes my foundation uses methods of detection that the authorities can't, and is able to dig deeper than they can, but we support the police one hundred percent, and everything we find we turn over to them. Now, my friends have turned up information which links Angela Street to the paedophile ring we helped to smash a few years ago, and I'm begging you, for the sake of boys like Donny and you, to tell us everything you know about her. For example, how is she related to you?"
Joey looked at me, his eyes pleading with me. I nodded, that is was all right. He sighed deeply and said, "She's our biological mother."
"And where is she now?"
"I don't know. I'm sorry, I can't tell you anything. The best person to speak to is my social worker, Jessie Welch. She might know where she is."
I said, "Joey, I think you should cooperate with -."
"No." Gypsy raised a hand to silence me, "It's okay, Mags. I guess now isn't the time to talk, and it's not like I can force him to. It's not like I'm a copper. Perhaps we can talk again some other time, when you're feeling better. How would you like to visit me at my home? The band and I are cutting a new album after Christmas so you could sit in on the recording, if you want." I watched the brothers stare wide eyed at Gypsy, not believing their ears. Gypsy grinned at them as he rose to his feet. "Get in touch with Warrick Shackland, he's my new manager. He'll make all the arrangements." He turned to me and added, "Perhaps you'd like to chaperone them?" I opened my mouth to answer with an affirmative when a bell chimed and an orange light started winking on a panel by the entrance door. The smile disappeared from Gypsy's face. "Gentlemen, please come with me to Donny's room; this is a security alert. James, would you mind bringing my wheelchair over here for Ricky? It will make things easier if we have to move fast." He turned to lead us into the bedroom where Donny had been put to bed. His private nurse was already on his feet, ready to protect his charge. Once we were all inside, Gypsy locked the door and turned to a panel beside it. Opening it, he pressed some keys on a pad then waited for a few seconds. I heard the sound of heavy locks bring activated within the door, then a voice spoke out of the panel. "Condition orange, Gypsy; have you activated your security system?"
"Yes; what's happening, Barney?"
"There's an intruder on the premises and the clinic is on lock down until they find him. Don't deactivate until you hear the code from me."
"Will do, Barney." Gypsy closed the panel and turned to explain things to us. "I've had a few attempts on my life over the past few years, two of them here at the Rosscroft; Barney had this suite specially built to protect me during several stays here. This particular room has state of the art security devises built into the walls and windows, and Sean, my nurse is a police sergeant and a fully trained bodyguard. It's possible Donny is the target, not me, but whoever the target is, no one will get into this room even if they do get through to the lounge." He indicated a Taser in his hand. "But that doesn't say we can't be prepared."
I remembered the procedure we had to go through to get into the suite with its steel security doors at each end of a short corridor that led to Fort Knox, and guarded by some tough looking bodyguards who scanned us before allowing us through, even though we were escorted by Gypsy himself. That alone assured me that Gypsy was serious about our safety. Gypsy suddenly grinned. "Mind you, this is the only the third time we've had an orange alert. If it goes to red it will be a first for us." Even as he spoke, a bleeper sounded, and a red light winked on the panel. Immediately, Gypsy was all business. "James, please put the boys behind the sofas, Mags, help Sean put Donny under his bed."
The nurse sprang into action, transferring Donny's drips to a portable stand and unplugging Donny from the monitors. We lifted Donny, still unconscious, off the bed and carefully laid him down beneath it, while Gypsy opened a built-in cupboard beneath the panel. He turned and tossed what I at first thought were large mobile phones across the room, one to James, and the other to Sean who swapped places with Gypsy who knelt down beside Donny and shielded him with his body. I realised I was looking at handguns. Gypsy also had one in his hand as he signalled James and Sean to move to the door and listen. All we could do was wait for someone to rescue us or break down the door. I joined the boys behind a sofa and gathered them and Harry into a hug, to offer what protection I could from whatever might happen. To be quite honest I was as scared as they were. What use were these sofas against someone with a gun if they came through that door firing their weapons?
As I crouched down with the boys, a metallic voice said, "Code green, Gypsy. Do any of the boys know someone called Jill Prescott?"
"We all do," James replied. "Her daughter was Ricky's girlfriend."
"She's here and wants to talk to you."
"She says she has information about her husband. Everything is safe now, and she poses no threat."
I rose to my feet and watched as James and Sean remained on full alert, their pistols still pointing at the door. "What about Tamarigo?" Gypsy asked.
"Niki is in charge," the voice replied.
Gypsy lowered his own gun with a sigh of relief. "Okay, Barney, we're deactivating the system." He nodded to Sean who moved to the panel, opened it and punched in some numbers. The locks inside the lounge door rumbled again and Sean unlocked it. Someone pushed the door from the other side and as it swung open we stared in surprise as Jill Prescott staggered into the room, her face badly bruised and her right arm in a makeshift sling; behind her stood the towering figure of Jessie Welch.
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