The Bull Singer
"I apologise for calling so late. My name is Magnus Alton," I replied, "and I've come to see Mr. Leary about his son Steven."
"Oh, my God, You've found him! Where is he? What's happened to him?" The woman grabbed hold of me and literally dragged me into the house. Slamming the door she turned to face me, her Irish temper showing through in her eyes full of threats if I didn't give her satisfactory answers. "Okay, where is he?"
"Is your name Brydie?" I asked her.
"It is, yes. I'm Stevie's half-sister. And this piece of garbage," she pointed to a tall man in an expensive grey suit with an old but tanned face, and hair that would have put a model to shame, "is Stevie's apology of a father; he isn't mine thank God."
"I have no son," the man said coldly. "I keep on telling you that you stupid girl."
Brydie rounded on him, her eyes blazing. "You might have no son, as you say, but I have a brother who you threw out of his home, the same way you dumped my mother in an EMI home and told the doctors she was doolally. Did you think me stupid enough not to check up on her the minute I got off the plane? I never thought you'd ever do this to my family, you bastard. I knew you were a bad'n the minute you got your hooks into my mother, but I was too young to do anything about it. Well now I'm old enough and have the clout to do something, and Heaven help you when my husband gets here."
"I've done nothing illegal," Leary said with a shrug of his shoulders, and turned to go back into the living room, completely ignoring me.
"Nothing illegal?" Brydie followed him with me trailing behind her. "I suppose those letters hidden in your desk are a figment of my imagination? You stole those letters and that's illegal"
"All the letters I wrote to mother and Stevie. You either destroyed them or I'll bet if I looked in your den I'd find them hidden somewhere." Brydie turned to me and added, "He wrote and told me they didn't want to write me anymore because they thought I had deserted them, and telling me over the phone that my mother now had severe Alzheimer's. I didn't find out until I met up with a friend visiting Sydney, and she asked me why I hadn't written home. In fact she was really cool with me until I told her I'd written every week to Stevie and Mum. May God forgive me, for trusting this piece of garbage, to look after my family? Now, Mr. Alton, I think I've said enough; perhaps you would like to tell me where Stevie is?"
She waved me to the sofa in the small front lounge and I sat down, eyeing Mr. Leary with distaste, and told them all I knew about Steve. While Brydie's face showed all the anger she felt towards Mr. Leary, Steve's father showed no emotion at all except for a self-satisfied smirk, which I hoped would be soon wiped off. There was a bottle of whiskey on the table by his chair with a third of it gone. As I watched him, he filled a tot glass and tossed it back, never once offering Brydie or I a drink. Brydie would probably have thrown hers back in his face. At last I reached the last bit of my story and addressed Mr. Leary.
"I'm advising you I'm pressing charges of child endangerment on Steven's behalf. Because you turned him out of his home, he lived on the streets of Bristol and became the victim of a sexual predator. He's in the Rosscroft Clinic near Kingsbury, and is quite poorly after emergency surgery. I came to see you, Mr. Leary, to give you a chance to make amends for you actions. He needs a home and a loving family to help him get over this."
"Oh My God!" Brydie rose to her feet and took a step towards Leary. "Bastard is too good a name for you."
Leary smiled at me, ignoring Brydie. "I think I've heard enough from you, Mr. whatever your name is. Steven ceased being my son the day he announced he was a faggot, and I was quite within my rights to chuck him out when he turned sixteen. Now, I suggest you leave my house and take this bit of Irish trash with you. I have a friend coming to stay the night and I'd rather you weren't here."
Brydie laughed in his face. "Your house? Perhaps you have forgotten who paid for this house, and whose name is still on the deeds. This house was paid for out of the money my own father left me when I was eighteen; and I have the documents to prove it. I bought it for Mum, not you. So, Mr. Leary, I'm afraid you are the one who needs to leave this house. I'm going back to the nursing home and then I'm going to see Steven, and I don't want to see you still here by the time I get back."
At this I watched the colour drain from Leary's face. "Now wait just a minute -."
"No," Brydie replied in a low voice full of built up anger. "Bags. Packed. Out. Now." Picking up her bag she turned to signal for me to follow her out into the hall, where she grabbed a warm coat from the coat stand. Before she opened the front door, she called over her shoulder to Leary, "By the way, Mr. Leary, my husband will be here in half an hour. I don't think you will want to tangle with him when I tell him what's been going on." Once we were outside, she said, "Six foot six of Australian beefcake is not one to be trifled with, I can tell you. He's sitting with Mum at the moment. It won't be the first time John has had to put my stepfather in his place. The first time they clashed was at our wedding; he got drunk and tried his charms on my bridesmaids at the reception. John picked him up and threw him in the hotel fishpond. I was so worried."
"Indeed no, I was thinkin about the poor fish. Right, let's go and see my mother and straighten that nursing home manager out. Mum had tried to tell her how she and Stevie had been treated and that Stevie was in danger, but Leary used his charms on the manager and had her believing Mum was deranged and talking nonsense. One thing I am going to do is investigate the possibility Leary has been doping Mother all these years to keep her docile. No wonder she seemed so addlebrained."
"How was she when you went to see her?" I asked as we approached our cars.
"She's as clear headed as you or I, Mr. Alton. That's why I left John with her to stop them giving her any more medication. I phoned Mr. Wymark, her solicitor, and he's coming to the nursing home tonight. He hasn't done much to protect Mother or my brother from that man and I'll take great delight in telling him to his face that he's been sacked. If you'd like to follow me in your car, I'll lead you to the nursing home, and then you can make your own judgment."
Mally Leary greeted me with all the grace of a beautiful but aging woman holding up against all that life had dealt her. Brydie introduced me and, as I shook her hand, I knew where Steven had got his angelic looks and blonde hair from; and I wondered if Brydie got her fiery red hair and freckles from her biological father. This lady was certainly full of her faculties and not the senile and brainless creature Leary had led people to believe, and I wondered how much he had influenced the managers of this secluded but elegant home for the elderly mentally infirm, financially or otherwise. Then I looked up at Brydie's husband, my eyes continuing up, and up, and up... I mean, I was five eleven but this guy towered over me. But there the threat stopped as I looked into a pair of smiling blue eyes above a cheeky grin ringed by a carefully shaped bush of mousy coloured beard. His wavy hair, the same colour as his beard, reached shoulders which were wide and muscular over which his light jacket strained as he thrust a hand forward to crush mine.
"Pleased to meet ya, mate. I sure hope we can get this little fiasco sorted soon. From Brydie's phone call to let us know she was on her way back here, I gather you know where little Stevie is." The rumble of his voice was as warm, and smooth as chocolate, his accent showing both his English and Australian roots. "Once we've got this little episode over and done with, it will be my privilege to visit our Mr. Leary and give him a piece of my mind." John Silkin's grin widened as he rubbed his large hands together with anticipation. "But he's not the only one who will have the benefit of my displeasure. I've just had the happy job of rousting the manageress out of her nice warm bed. She agreed to come when she realised she was facing a lawsuit. She'll be here in a few minutes to have a nice chat with us. I love a good fight and ten to one she'll lose this one."
"John's a practicing attorney," Brydie explained with pride. Attorney! He looked more like a stand in for Hulk Hogan,
"Which reminds me." John took out a cell phone and dialled a number. "Good evening. Sorry to be ringing so late. My name is John Silkin and I need to speak to either Edward or Thomas Grafton on a matter of some urgency. Yes, please, mate, I'll hang on." After a few moments wait, John said, "Hi Thomas, John Silkin here....... Yes thank you, and how's yourself? Good! Now, I know you don't like being called at home, but I'm actually over here in England, hoping to do some legal work for my wife and her family. Knowing British law, I need a base to work from. Do you think you could take me back on your books on a temporary basis?"......... He raised his thumb at Brydie. "Really? That's great, mate.........I have my laptop with me; would you care to send me some affidavits I can use? Thanks a lot, mate. I'll come and visit before we head back home to Sydney........ Bye." He put his phone away and grinned at us. "Would ya believe it? I'm still on their payroll. They never took me off it! They didn't think I'd stay home for long. Mr. Leary, eat your heart out."
Five minutes later, Mr. Wymark arrived and from his face it seemed he knew he was on the black list as far as the Leary family was concerned. Once Mally informed him his professional services were no longer required and why, he soon left in a hurry with the shadow of legal proceeding od Malpractice hovering over his shoulder. While John and Brydie sat together to work out their next move, I sat with Mrs. Leary and told her all I knew about Stevie. After shedding some tears, she accepted that Stevie would soon recover, and that she would soon be taken to see him. Then the manageress, Miss Haycock, arrived and demanded to know why she had been summoned at such a late hour. When John accused her of keeping Mrs. Leary drugged, she declared it was standard policy to keep troublesome patients docile. Then she had to listen with increasing dread as Brydie told her that all Mrs. Leary's apparent ramblings and complaints about her husband, and her son being in danger, were in fact true. In front of her, John asked Mrs. Leary if she would hire him as her attorney. When Brydie's mother nodded her agreement, John told Miss Haycock, quite bluntly, that he was going to have her and the home charged with chronic patient neglect, and not investigating a patient's complaints, plus any other breaches of contract she might have been involved with that he could find in her connections with Mr Leary. Miss Haycock then confessed that an anonymous female donor had offered a substantial contribution to the upkeep of the nursing home if she would not pry too far into Mrs Leary'saffairs and mental condition.
Half an hour later, after leaving Brydie to supervise Mrs. Leary's removal to hers and John's hotel suite, I drove John to the Leary house. On the way we checked in at Romford police station in case they could offer any help. Surprise, surprise, they were also interested in Mr. Leary. "Oh, yes," the night duty sergeant said as he sat them down in an interview room. "We've had Mr. Leary under surveillance for the last few months, primarily on suspicion of running a house of ill repute but we have a few more crimes we are waiting to pin on him. We haven't much to go on except that the ladies who go there don't look like the average prostitute, and they certainly aren't from round here. We've been looking for an excuse to raid the place but so far we haven't found one. But if you say you represent the owner of the house, in an official capacity, perhaps you could give us permission to enter the premises and have a good look round the place?"
"No permission required, Sir, I'll take you in myself." John grinned at me and rubbed his hands together. "Ever been on a police raid, mate?"
While we waited in my borrowed car, a few yards back from the Leary house, John grabbed his briefcase and drew out all the printed affidavits sent from his old employers, including one from Brydie giving me authority to act as Stevie's representative. In no time at all he had the letters sorted and sealed in addressed envelopes. While we waited for the police sergeant to give the order to go, we watched the front of the house for any sign of life. Lights glimmered behind the drapes of the upper windows, and I thought I saw the faint silhouette of a female body cross the nearest one. Then the arrival of a police sergeant beside our car indicated it was time to move. We stood on the steps leading to the front door with two coppers behind us as Sergeant Fox rapped sharply on the door. A moment later, Leary opened the door. "Yes officer, is there a problem?"
"Mr. Anthony Leary?"
"Mr. Leary, I'm Police Sergeant Thomas Fox, Romford Police Station. We'd like to talk to you about some matters that have come to our notice, may we come in please?"
"Can't you come back in the morning? It is rather late, you know." Leary tried to close the door but Fox put his hand against it. He was a large man, built like a brick house.
"Sorry Tony," John boomed out. "Brydie says we can come in whenever we like." He grinned at Leary and waved one of the letters at him over Fox's shoulder."
Leary's face lost its tanned colour as he stared at John. He seemed to lose all his earlier cockiness. As John gently pushed his way past the sergeant and moved into the house, Leary backed away from him, looking everywhere but at him, his eyes constantly shifting to the stairs. John followed him down the hall and into the lounge on the right, pulling the envelopes out of his coat pocket. "Mr. Leary, I am John Silkin, associate solicitor of Grafton, Grafton and Kearslake, Solicitors of London. I represent Mrs. Brydie Silkin and have documents here, giving me and these police officers authority from the owner, Mrs. Brydie Silkin, to search these premises, in place of a magistrate's search warrant. Also, earlier this evening, the owner requested that you leave these promises. You are now therefore trespassing on her property. There is also the matter of some letters, which Mrs. Silkin wrote to her mother and her brother, which were never delivered. Perhaps you would like to tell me where they are, sir?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Leary gave the game away by glancing towards an open door which led off the lounge into a tiny office."
"Oh, so if I ask these nice officers to search your office, they won't find anything incriminating, will they?" John nodded to the sergeant, who spoke into his radio and asked for backup. Seconds later four more officers walked into the house, already wearing blue gloves. "Mr. Leary, if you tell us where they are, I will not press charges of theft against you, so I'll ask you again, Mr. Leary, where are the letters?"
Leary sank down into a large fireside chair and put his head in his hands. "They're in my desk; bottom drawer, left side."
Sergeant Fox sent two of his men into the office, one of whom had a camera in his hands, He then turned his attention back to Leary. "Is there anyone else in this house, Mr. Leary?" Leary didn't move or look up. "Mr Leary, I have reason to believe there is someone upstairs, in one of the front bedrooms. I'm arresting you for trespass, and on suspicion of running a brothel. My officers will now take you out to a police car while we search these premises. It would be in your own interests if you tell us who is upstairs."
"Just a friend." said Leary softly as he let the two remaining officers pull him up out of the chair and handcuff him. "There is no law stopping me from having a friend to stay, is there?"
"There is when you don't own the property, mate," John replied, "and don't have the owner's permission to entertain guests here." One of the officers who had gone into the office came out with a string-bound pack of envelopes, and pointed out the post mark on the first one to John, who nodded and said, "Yep. That's my wife's handwriting right enough. And it's postmarked from Sydney."
Once Leary was taken away, Fox ordered the four extra officers to search the upper floor, while John and I went into the office to see what other information we could gather. "Should we be doing this?" I asked as John upended one of the desk drawers onto the desktop.
"Sure do, mate." John started rooting through the mess. "Anything in this house except Leary's clothes and personal items belong to Brydie and, as I am her husband and her legal rep, I have every right to tear this place apart if I need to. Leary has done the dirty on my nearest and dearest and her family; and I intend to put things right, one way or another. I have a suspicion Leary has been ciphering off some of Mrs. Leary's savings, and I might just find the evidence in this lot."
I moved forward to help him. "What are you looking for, exactly?"
"Bank statements for starters, that don't appear to belong to Leary. He may be a lush, but he wouldn't be daft enough to use his own bank account. If we find one that has an in-payment from Mrs. Leary's accounts, then we might be on the road to nailing her husband for misappropriation of funds, even if he was named as her executor. Hello? What do we have here?" He picked up a folder and leafed through it. "Looks like he was in the process applying to the Court of Protection to become her receiver. The application form isn't here, so that means he's already sent it off to the Courts.
"Are we too late to stop it going through?"
John shook his head. "I don't think so. I'll have Thom Grafton make enquiries in the morning. He can find out how far it's gone. If he can put a stop on it, the powers that be will start sniffing at a possible scam, and that will certainly put Leary in the firing line of the big boys. Sometimes it seems that British Law grinds ever so slowly but that's fine in a case like this. They'll examine every dot and comma before they allow an application like this to go through. Wait until they find out there's been a plot to hide my mother in law's mental state; they'll throw a brick the size of Big Ben at him."
I mulled over what John had just told me as we sorted the papers into piles, and an idea crossed my mind. "I wonder what Mr. Wymark's position is in all of this? Leary can't have got away with much without legal help from somewhere."
John straightened up, his eyes glinting with interest. He started to speak when a shout came from upstairs, followed by a woman's voice raised in anger and the sound of a struggle. We dived out into the lounge in time to see Sergeant Fox dashing up the stairs. As he came back downstairs, he used his radio to call for an ambulance, two female police officers, and some wire cutters. "It's worse than you thought, Mr. Silkin. There's a lad handcuffed to a bed up there and the woman who is with him swallowed the key before we could get to her. Now I suggest you make sure you and Mrs. Silkin have undeniable proof you aren't involved in any way with what has been going on here, just to cover your backs. Cases like this tend to get a bit nasty once the press get their noses in the trough." A distant siren heralded the approach of an ambulance as two female officers entered the house.
Fox took them upstairs and they came down a few minutes later dragging a struggling woman between them, dressed in a bathrobe. Her blonde hair fell about her face and it wasn't until she reached the bottom steps and straightened up that I recognised her. "Well, well; fancy seeing you here!" It took a few moments for her brain to kick in to the fact she had been caught with the goods at last. "Still playing with little boys, I see?"
"Do you know this lady, sir?" Fox asked.
"Unfortunately yes, although I wouldn't call her much of a lady. Meet my sister, Angela Street."
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