The Bull Singer
"What's she doing here?" Joey rose from behind the sofa, ready to attack. For someone only recently recovered from surgery, he fought hard to get to her, and it took all my strength to stop him from doing something stupid. While he struggled in my arms, Jessie pushed Mrs Prescott further into the room.
"Hold everything. Before anyone has ideas about retribution, I suggest you listen to what Mrs Prescott has to say. Are you alright, Ricky?"
"I'm okay." With my help, Ricky rose from behind the sofa with Harry in his arms, his hate filled eyes fixed on Jenny's mother. "I suppose you've come to tell me I was right about your husband. It took you long enough to realise we were telling the truth. Jenny and I tried to tell you what he was like but you wouldn't listen. You just went along with whatever he said, and believed everything he told you. Well I hope you've come to your senses. Because of your husband, I've lost the mother of my son, you've lost your daughter, and this boy, here," he indicated me and the nurse lifting Donny back into his bed, "and Lord knows how many others, almost died because of the things Prescott and his friends did to them." He shuffled round the end of the sofa and sat down on it, cuddling Harry close to his chest.
"I'm so sorry." Jill's face filled with genuine grief as tears fell from her eyes. "I've been so stupid." Her free hand pulled nervously at the sling. "I was brought up to honour my marriage vows; they were sacred to me; to obey my husband in everything, and never doubt his word. He made me believe Jenny was mixing with bad people and doing drugs and all sorts of rubbish. He went on and on about her, it was like he was brainwashing me till I was convinced he was telling me the truth. He even brought me evidence of her shady life, even photographs which I now know to have been doctored thanks to Mr Worthington. He's a keen amateur photographer and loves restoring old photographs."
"So you sneaked into this clinic and set off a red alert, to tell us this?" Joey spat at her. "I don't believe a word of it After what you did to my brother."
Jessie glared across the room at him. "Mrs Prescott didn't set off the alarm, her husband did. Now if everyone will just sit down, shut up, and stop jumping to conclusions, we'll tell you what happened."
"Whatever." Joey threw up his hands in a gesture of defeat, and flopped down on the sofa beside his brother. Gypsy stared at Jessie for a moment then raised an eyebrow at me before taking a seat on the end of Donny's bed. I moved towards Jessie, hoping to have a quiet word with her but James beat me to it, so I led Jill to an easy chair and had her sit down. After a few hasty whispers, Jessie nodded and James left the room, leaving us at her mercy.
"Right then!" She pulled off her gloves and moved into the centre of the room, fully in command. "First of all, Mr Diaz, I'd like to apologise for disturbing your appointment at this clinic. I'm sure you will understand when you hear our story." She quickly told Gypsy what had transpired since Joey and Pete came in search of Ricky. Once Gypsy knew the background of Ricky's problems with Mr Prescott, and why the boys were here at the Rosscroft, she said, "On my return to Bristol, I decided to visit the Prescotts and have a quiet word with them, to try and persuade them not to try and gatecrash tomorrow's court proceedings to cause any trouble. When I arrived at their house, I found the front door open and Mrs Prescott lying at the bottom of the stairs. She told me that she had discovered the unsavoury side of her husband's life, of which she had no prior knowledge. The silly woman confronted him and threatened to tell the police, resulting in him giving her a thorough beating. He carelessly let her know he had captured one brother and he was going after the other two, that the three of them would fetch a good price from the right person. I took that to mean Peter and the twins. He also let her know he's been tipped off where they were. Prescott had a good three hours start on us so I called the clinic to warn them of Prescott's intentions then commandeered the Chambers helicopter to bring us here. We arrived here too late to stop him entering the clinic disguised as a surgeon. His downfall was that he didn't know all the doctors and staff here are on first name terms with each other; and a strange face would stand out in a crowd. By the time we entered the building, the red alert had been called and Gypsy's team helped the Rosscroft security apprehend him. Mr Walker has gone to interrogate him to find out where he has hidden Peter and what other houses he is using to house boys like Donny Porter. And if you have any thoughts of wavering from your promise to give evidence against him, Mrs Prescott, I suggest you take a look at the boy in that bed. He's a good example of your husband's handy-work." She nodded to me. "Would you stay with the boys, Mags? I need to go and see how James is doing. The sooner we hear where Peter is, the happier I'll be."
As Jessie left the room, Mrs Prescott rose to her feet. "I think I should go too. My husband will need me." She turned and limped towards the door.
"Wait." Ricky's voice made her hesitate. He struggled to his feet and carried Harry towards her. She turned to face him, and stared at him through her tears. He said softly, "I think there is someone here who needs you more."
Joey and I rose to our feet, ready to go into action if the woman made any unwanted move, but Ricky stopped in front of the woman and let her gaze upon her grandson. Jill raised a shaking hand to her mouth as she caught her breath in a sob of despair. She shook her head and gasped, "I don't deserve this."
Ricky stepped closer. "It's what Jenny would have wanted." He placed Harry against Jill's breast, forcing her to take the baby's weight in her free arm. "Jenny always wanted you to be a grandmother for Harry and I haven't the right to say otherwise." Tears welled up into his eyes as Jill bent her head to kiss the baby's forehead. "I promise, I'm not the bad guy your husband made me out to be. I just wanted Jenny to be happy, and I miss her just as much as you do." He put his arms round her and drew her and the baby into a loving embrace, and Jill wept on his shoulder. I glanced towards Joey and found him with tears in his own eyes as he watched them before turning away to sit back down on the sofa, but from the look on his face I didn't think he was crying for the same reason as his twin. He glanced my way for a moment then turned his face away from me, as if trying to deny his emotions. Instinct made me move towards him; he needed comfort and I wanted to let him know I was there for him.
It wasn't jealousy I felt towards Ricky; for crying out loud he deserved a hug, even from a suspect mother in law. From what he had told me, apart from Harold doing his best to foster him, Ricky had had a pretty hard life ending in the death of his girlfriend and the loss of what few things he and Jenny had possessed; and the possible loss of his son if the custody court case went against him tomorrow. No, it wasn't jealousy; it was the sense that there was something missing in my life too. I couldn't remember when Angela had last hugged me; certainly before I started going to school. All I remembered were the rapes and the beatings, and hate filled eyes. I guess I was lucky I had survived till now, but survival didn't mean I didn't long to be loved. Mags had given me a brief respite from my longings, and I had loved every minute we were together, but that was at an end now. He was my uncle, and any further dealings with him could only be on a platonic level. Ricky had Harry and his mother-in-law, who did I have? I had to move, I had to get out of here, but apart from my fingers intertwining till they hurt, I couldn't get anything to work. Then a shadow moved in front of me, and Mags was standing there. He knelt in front of me but I waved him away and tried to wipe the tears from my eyes. "I'm okay, really."
"No you're not." Mags took my hands in his. "I think you need a hug too." I felt him trying to draw me towards him.
Not looking at him, I pulled back and struggled to free my hands. "No. Please, we can't. It isn't right."
Letting go of my left hand, he grabbed my chin and forced me to look up at him, and he smiled gently at me. "I'm still your uncle, and what are uncles for?"
"Uncles are for hugging, in lieu of parents, so come here."
I still couldn't move. Didn't he know I wanted more than the hug of an uncle? God, how I missed him! How could he think I would ever forget what we once had? I shut my eyes and let the tears fall, too weak and too tired to resist, I let him take me in his arms. He sat back on his heels and drew me onto his lap, cuddling me close while I sobbed on his shoulder. "Why Mags, why couldn't she love me? She used to, but then it all stopped. Why?" my voice ended in a pitiful squeak and I completely lost it.
Mags tightened his arms about me and pressed his cheek against mine. "I don't know kiddo. People change for different reasons, some for the better, others for worse. I know one thing though; she's the loser, not you."
It seemed that he held me for ages till I had cried all my sorrow away; and I finally relaxed, knowing I had soaked his jacket, and feeling so tired and drained. Sniffing back more tears, I whispered, "I'm sorry, Mags. I feel such a baby."
"You're no baby; you're just expressing your emotions the only way you know. You're tired as well. You've had a hard forty-eight hours to cope with, worrying about Ricky as well. I think you ought to get some rest." He sat me back on the couch and rose to his feet, offering his hands to help me to my feet. Standing up was no joke, with my knees all rubbery and my head spinning, and I would have fallen but for Mags catching me. Gypsy Diaz came to us and said, "I guess someone's overdone things a bit. You and your brother can use my wife's bedroom for a bit of private time while we wait for James and Ms Welch to come back and report. Come on, this way." Taking a firm grip on my left arm, he led me through another door into a bathroom the size of a barn, and into an adjoining bedroom. The only thing that interested me was the bed. It beckoned me like a honey-pot to a bee, and my eyes were already closing as I sank down on it. I heard soft voices around me but I was too tired to listen, and I drifted off to the touch of a cold stethoscope searching inside my shirt and a pair of warm arms holding me close.
At last the twins were in bed and dead to the world and Gypsy had excused himself, having his own appointment with Mr Rosscroft Senior, followed by a press engagement in London. James informed us that there was still no word about Pete and that Prescott had refused to answer any questions as to where he owned any property possibly containing more boys; and I was ready for some sleep myself. After checking that Donny was okay, Gypsy's nurse had gone for a short break with my assurance that I would keep an eye on him till he got back. The sofa was too comfortable for me to stay awake much longer and soon my head was falling back against the cushions, then I heard a hoarse voice call to me. "Mister, can you help me?" I raised my head and forced my eyes open. Looking towards the bed I saw Donny gazing at me. "Please, mister, can I have some water?"
"Yeah, sure." I shook my head to get rid of the fog and struggled to my feet. From Donny's skewed position in the bed, it was obvious he had tried to get a drink but couldn't reach the water jug. There was a plastic tumbler and a straw beside the jug. I filled half full and turned to help him take a drink, and fell into a two glistening pools of baby blue.
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