The Bull Singer
At this point in my story, I felt so choked up I couldn't speak. Mr. Alton helped me take a few sips of water and handed me some tissues to dry my eyes and blow my nose with. Inspector Walker asked me if I wanted to have break but I knew if I didn't talk now I never would. I intended to kill myself, maybe not here at the clinic but somewhere out of sight once I was released. No one wanted me, I had nowhere to live, no family, and certainly no friends, as they would probably have disappeared by now, either kidnapped or gone into hiding if they had any sense. I really hoped it was the latter case. I glanced round and spotted a bottle of pills by the water jug. I wondered if I could sneak a few when no one was looking. If they were painkillers they would do the dirty deed. I saw Mr. Alton watching me and, as I blushed and looked away; he moved the pills out of my reach. Busted! The next thing I knew I was in his arms and soaking his shirt again. What was with this guy, wanting to hug me? Not that I didn't want him to; the last real hug I ever had was when Brydie and I hugged goodbye at the airport. Mr. Alton was a nice, friendly looking guy with warm, brown, eyes, and a clean, earthy smell to him, and I felt I could trust him not to be a bad guy, like Prescottt and his animals. After my tears stopped, he didn't lay me down but eased me into a more comfortable position and whispered that I needn't talk any more if I didn't want to. I shook my head and laid my head against his chest. Maybe if he wanted to help me, I wouldn't need to kill myself after all. But first I had to give the Inspector enough info to get him off my back. Exhaustion threatened to overwhelm me but I took a deep breath and started to talk again.
"Getting back to my dad; I ran up to my room and found a padlock on my door. I dragged my bags out of the house and used my cell phone to call a taxi. Dad had given me a measly fifty pounds and I knew that wouldn't last me all that long; and it was no use staying around my home-town as too many folks knew me and would start asking questions. I had the taxi drop me at the train station and jumped on the first train to London. I found a bed and breakfast place for the night, but vowed to move on as soon as I could get my bearings; the landlady seemed too nosey for my liking. Not wanting to drag two heavy bags around, I sorted through them to find that `Father Dear' had only packed clothes that I had discarded as too worn or too small and had already thrown in the recycling bag. The bastard! To think that all the clothes I had bought, with my carefully saved pocket money, were still hanging in my wardrobe or probably in the bin by now, knowing Dad. The clothes I could still wear only half filled one bag. I packed the others in the second bag and a black bag I begged off the landlady, and asked her if she could take them to a charity shop. Then I took a train to Bristol. I chose that place because my mother had a friend who ran a guest-house there, and we often stayed there in the summer when I was little. No such luck! I found the place boarded up and a `For Sale' sign in the garden. A neighbour said Auntie Sal had died three months ago.
"I wasn't too worried about having somewhere to live at the moment as it was April and the weather was good. There were plenty of parks and woods to sleep in and I found a den that someone had built; probably someone like me with nowhere to live. I stashed my gear and went to look for food. While I was out there, I bought a local paper in case there were jobs advertised. It didn't take me long to read it; half the pages being taken up with a motoring section, but the middle pages drew my attention. There was an advert for a charity show by an amateur group in a place called Claythorn. I grabbed something to eat at a nearby cafe and caught a bus to Claythorn. I didn't think much of the crumbling old theatre, but you don't judge a gift by its wrapper, do you? That's where I met Ricky. Boy can that guy play the keyboards! He seemed to be everywhere, dancing, singing, playing instruments and helping with the scenery. They didn't have curtains to hide the scenery changes; they just dressed up in silly costumes and turned the work into part of the show; like the clowns in a circus used to do.
"I hung around the place after the show finished and I introduced myself to Ricky who in turn introduced me to this old guy, Harold, who owned the place and ran the amateur theatre group. I said I was interested in joining but he said I would have to audition some time the following week, and there was a waiting list. I was in heaven, and so full of the idea of joining the group I failed to take precautions. Three thugs followed me back to my den and gave me a right pasting, took my stuff, what little money I had in my pockets, and left me unable to move for two days. Thankfully I had hidden a few quid inside my trainers so I had enough to buy some food. When that ran out I had to think of my options. At first I was scared at the thought of begging. I'd heard about boys like me getting into all sorts of trouble, so I decided to see how other kids fared before I tried anything, but I had to eat. Heading towards the centre of Bristol, I noticed a couple of boys busking and no one seemed to move them on. I wondered; could this be for me? Then I spotted a familiar figure playing a guitar and singing. It was Ricky.
"I told him what had happened and he invited me to sing with him and have a cut of the dibs. Ricky seemed to be well known and a lot of people called him by his name and wished him well. And there were more five-pound notes in his guitar case than I'd seen in many a busker's box. Our voices blended quite well, and he knew a lot of the songs I used to sing, so we stayed around for a good few hours and I came away with twenty quid in my pocket and a guitar Ricky loaned me for as long as I needed to. I spent the rest of the summer at the theatre, and busking, sometimes with Ricky, sometimes on my own. I had a good strong voice and, from my theatre club days, a varied repertoire. One guy approached us and said we should form a band together and make a CD to hawk around; he said we were as good as any of the bands on the radio. I was all for it but Ricky warned me that bad guys often offered kids like us the chance of cutting a disc, just to lure us into the sex trade. Ricky was living with his pregnant girlfriend now and I saw less and less of him on the streets, so I more often than not busked on my own. When the weather turned cold I had to think about finding a place to live. By October I had saved just over two hundred pounds. Not much when you thought of the long winter ahead. I used half the money to buy myself a decent winter coat, gloves and warm hat. Then I got mugged a second time.
I came to in an alley in the city centre, minus my money, my new coat and hat, and I realised how stupid I was to carry my money on me instead of burying it in a hole somewhere. I was penniless again, and hurting. Then some guys found me and offered to help. They took me back to a guest-house type of hostel in Berk Street where they lived with several other boys. I don't remember the number but it was a big red house. The guy that ran it cleaned me up and the boys took me to a room where I could sleep. Over the next few days they fed me and saw to my needs. When I was fit enough, they took me downstairs to meet the other guys. There were eight of them ranging from ten to eighteen years of age, and they kept the place clean and worked in the small dining room and kitchen in return for food and a safe place to stay. I didn't really take notice of the men who came and went until one night the boys invited me downstairs to a party in the back of the house. They took me through a door marked `Private, No Admittance' and down some steps into a large, dimly lit basement room with loads of sofas and stuff. A music station played relaxing music, and I was offered a soft drink, although I could see some of the older boys were drinking spirits and lager. A couple of the guests joined us. Some of the boys got very friendly and started cuddling up to these guys; then they went off into other rooms, taking some of the boys with them.
"After about half an hour I started to feel a bit strange and wondered if my drink had been spiked. I had only drunk a third of it so I left the rest. One of the older boys sat beside me and started to ask me questions about my sex life, and they made a joke about me being a virgin; and he started stroking my thighs. I went to sit on another seat but he came after me. I knew what he was trying to do so I told him, "No thank you," and he said, "Okay," and they let me leave the party. I went up to my room and locked the door. In the night, I roused to find someone trying to open the door. In the morning the guys were just as friendly as before and said nothing about what happened in the basement. Later on, the landlord came to chat with me and explained that, as I had no money, I might like to pay him for my board in other ways, like being nice to guests who came to the house. It was then I realised what I was getting into; it was either that or live on the streets. I told him I had never done anything like that before and he said the boys would teach me. Like a fool I agreed as long as folks were gentle with me. That night I experienced my very first blow-job, and I was hooked.
"The boys were gentle enough with me and each night progressed until the only thing I refused to do was anal sex. The guys just laughed and said it had to happen sometime. Then the landlord introduced me to Mr. Prescottt who invited me to help him run a guest-house in Claythorn. Again, my foolish brain thought about the theatre and I said okay. He took me to this place in Grebe Street in Claythorn, number twenty-four, where I was told it was a commercial traveller's hotel. I would have to wait on tables and help in the bedrooms, and if I behaved myself and didn't talk about the place to people or friends outside, I would be free to do what I wanted after work. I didn't like Prescottt but he gave me pocket money and free bed and board. What he didn't tell me was that I would have to share my bed with the guests. The first night it happened was a sharp shock the system, waking up to find some guy climbing into my bed and groping me. This went on for a couple of weeks and when Ricky asked me if I was okay, I let slip that I wasn't very happy with my situation. I didn't give any details but someone must have overheard me talking to him. Prescottt grabbed me the minute I stepped back into the house. He said I'd been talking outside and needed to be punished." As I reached this part of my story, I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. I had been watching Mr. Alton and the inspector, trying to assess their reactions to my story. The inspector's face showed no emotion at all; he had probably heard many similar stories and was past being shocked. Mr. Alton's face, on the other hand, was an artist's easel showing all kinds of emotion from compassion to anger, but all the time he either held me in his arms or squeezed my hand.
"There were two bruisers with him," I continued. "They marched me upstairs into a bathroom and made me trip. They stripped down to their underpants and held me under the shower while they washed me thoroughly; and I mean thoroughly, including parts I had never thought needed washing. They made me bend over and shoved something like a chrome tube up my butt. That hurt at first, and the filling of my butt with water felt really weird. They dumped me on the loo for a bit, and then one of them told me to jerk myself off. I refused and he said if I didn't, he'd do it for me and it wouldn't be so pleasant. I was so embarrassed, doing it in front of them, but after it was over, one of them grinned and said, "First test passed. Everything seems to be working." I told him to fuck off and received a slap across the mouth. Once I was dry, they took me down to another part of the basement for my punishment. They tied me to a frame, stuck a gag in my mouth and left the basement. Then Prescott came in and I understood, painfully, why they had washed me out.
"I was left in the basement, over night, in the cold with just my pain for company, and a promise that I had to `toe the line' or receive worse punishment. What could be worse punishment than the pain in my butt. Once I was released, I was allowed back upstairs to the tender mercies of my fellow prisoners, for that was what we were. I was not allowed out of the house for the next two weeks, and then only when I promised to keep my mouth shut. One of the boys warned me that I would be watched and followed very closely; other boys in the past had opened their mouths and had disappeared in the night. The night before I escaped, a client was particularly vicious and hurt me and I decided enough was enough. He wasn't a big man; not much taller than me. I fought him off and gave him a black eye and a bloody nose as well as badly bruised genitals. This time Prescott threw me down the basement steps and gave me a beating. Then he tied me to the frame and raped me. Again, he left me there, and I knew I was bleeding, and I hurt inside. The boys must have taken a liking to me because they came down in the middle of the night, freed me from the rack and helped me get dressed. While other boys kept Prescott and the landlord occupied my friends helped me crawl through a window. I remembered Harold telling me, if ever I needed help, to go to him. I managed to make my way to Harold's cottage. You know the rest."
I expected these guys to be disgusted with me. I had allowed myself to be used by the worst type of predator, all for the sake of a full belly and a roof over my head. Mr. Alton still held me in his arms without saying anything. I looked up and found him gazing down at me with eyes full of concern, and I burst into fresh tears. He hugged me close and said, "It's okay, Stevie, we don't think anything less of you. You've had a raw deal and I'll make things right if I can; just tell us where you lived in Hornchurch."
I shook my head. "What's the point? Dad would never take me back even if I wanted to go home."
"Well at least we can try and make contact with your sister."
"I don't have her number any more. The last time Dad tried it, he got a dead line signal. Australia's a big place; she could be anywhere." I watched the Inspector use his cell phone to contact his department. All he said when he got through was, "Berk Street, Red house, and twenty-four Grebe Street Claythorn. All units move in but don't do anything until I get there; observation only." He stood up, put his pad away and said, "Sorry to break things up, folks, but I need to get back to Bristol and sink my teeth into Mr. Prescott and his gang. Are you coming with me or not, Mags?"
I was disappointed when Mags laid me down and got to his feet, but his eyes never left my face as he said, "I think not, James. I think I have something else more important to do, first."
I borrowed a car from the Diaz Security team, and set out for Hornchurch with Stevie's address in my pocket; but stopped for diesel a few miles from the clinic and made a call to Harold's cottage to speak to Ricky. "I have just one question, Ricky, why didn't you tell me Donny's real name?"
"Come on, Ricky. What's going on?"
"He isn't in any trouble, Mags. I swear."
"So tell me."
"How did you know?"
"You must have known him as Donny Cooper long before he ever met Prescott, or you would have said something. Now just what is going on?"
"I er...he has a friend in Hornchurch who looks the spits of him. Stevie needed an ID card of some kind to stop folks asking questions about him travelling on his own, so Donny lent him his. It went missing when Stevie was mugged. That's when Stevie told me he wasn't Donny but asked me not to say anything about it in case Donny got into trouble. Stevie was supposed to post it back to him before Donny's dad found out. I know it seems a weird story but as far as I know it's the truth. So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing," I said, "It's up to Stevie to sort it out himself. Stevie thinks his life is down the shoot, that no one wants him and I've asked Rosscroft to put him on suicide watch, at least for tonight, and I'm off to Hornchurch to talk some sense into Mr. Leary."
"Better you than me," Ricky chuckled. "From what Stevie told me he sounds like a right bag of bull's turd."
"Thanks for the warning. James is on his way back to Bristol, and you should hear from him soon. We just might be lucky and have Pete back with us before the night's out. How are things your end?"
"Richard's gone back to Colchester with his tail between his legs and Mary and Mrs. Crayel are squabbling over who's turn it is to look after Harry. Charlie's gone back to Lancashire with a headache and I'm getting ready to face the magistrates in the morning. I'll give you a call when it's all over."
When I pulled up outside a sizeable semi-detached house in a quiet street, I could hear the row going on from the roadway. I noticed the lights in the house next door come on and the front door open, the head of a curious neighbour bobbing her head round the door jam. As I got out of the car and walked up the path I heard a shrill voice shouting in full Irish fury and the sound of something smashing on a hard floor, followed by a male voice raised in anger. I knocked on the door, hoping I wouldn't be the next recipient of a stray missile coming my way.
The door flew open and a young lady stood there ready to let fly with the teapot in her hand. "And who the bloody hell are you?"
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