The Bull Singer
As if I didn't have enough to make me wish I was dead. It wasn't so much that I had them but where they were and how embarrassing it was to have them treated. The nurses were kind and understanding and explained that they needed to massage my butt, and heels, to keep the circulation going, and rub the sores with ointment, as well as treating my wounds and replacing the dressings down there as well as on my belly. But I still ended up red faced and in tears of shame. Why didn't they just let me die? On top of all that, they had to move me every three hours to stop more sores developing, and no matter how gentle they were, I hurt all over. They dosed me with high strength Tramadol, but like all analgesics, they took time to kick in and lost their power long before another dose was due, and all they really did was to make me sleep or feel like a zombie. My hair was a mess and I needed a bath. That was another source of embarrassment, having bed baths. I had dreamed a lot since Mr. Alton left, and one of the dreams I had was that my idol, Gypsy Diaz, sat by my bed with a little ginger haired toddler on his knee, and told me I would get better soon, that he had been in the same trouble when he was my age, and that it would work out okay. In my fogged state I kept on thinking he was Ricky in a wig. In my more lucid periods, I wallowed in my misery and wept almost incessantly; I just couldn't stop myself. I knew what was wrong with me but no one could do anything about it. I wanted my mum; and I wanted my Brydie.
They came to turn me yet again and I asked what time it was. A nurse said, "Twelve minutes past eleven and you should be fast asleep." I gasped as they turned me onto my right side and propped my back against some extra pillows to stop me falling on my back again. I gasped as all my bruises started to throb, and my left shoulder protested at the move. "There, there, lad, it'll soon be over now. I'll give you something to help you sleep in a minute. Just let me see to this drainage tube first." I hated the pulling and probing when they did this at night, but it had to be done. "You've started with sores on the backs of your heels, too, I see. Nurse Gate, would you go and get a pair of heel protectors, please; the fleece ones are best."
Five minutes later, I was allowed to cry into the pillow in private, wishing Brydie would come. Not a chance; not all the way from Australia. Then I heard voices arguing in the distance; and one of them sounded like Brydie's. A hand touched my cheek and I opened my eyes, and Brydie was there, gazing down at me with tears in her eyes. "Oh, me darlin, what on earth have those horrible men done to ye?"
"Brydie?" I wasn't dreaming. She was there, gathering me up into a fierce embrace; and despite how much pain it caused me, I let her hold me while we cried together. I was a four year old again, being rocked in my big sister's arms after my dad had smacked me for something trivial, and seeking comfort before she carried upstairs to my bed; my Brydie.
When at last there seemed no more tears to shed, she laid me back down against the pillows and leaned over to kiss me all over my face. "Now you listen to me, darlin', I have no time to explain things to ye tonight, but I promise I'll come back to see you first thing in the mornin' and I promise I'll bring Mum to see you as soon as I can, okay? I have to go now, or the nurses will throw me out"
Fresh tears sprang from my eyes at the thought of her going away even for a moment. "Wait a minute, please, just tell me how you found me."
"Well, it's a long story, but I went to the house and bumped into a man called Mr. Alton and he told me all about what happened to ye."
"Mags? Is he here? I want to speak to him." I tried to sit up, to look round the room for him, but the pain kicked in and I had to lie down again.
"I'm right here, kiddo." His face appeared behind Brydie's and Brydie moved out of the way to let him sit down on the bed. He took hold of my right hand and squeezed it tight. "Your dad turned out to be a regular bad guy, so you won't be seeing him for a long time. Now you relax and get some sleep, and we'll be back to see you tomorrow, okay?"
Relief at seeing him and Brydie again, and the effects of the pill, the nurse had given me, kicking in at last, made me feel quite sleepy. I managed to say thank you to him for saving my life and fell asleep, clinging to his hand. Everything was going to be okay.
The nurse looking after Stevie led us into the lounge where coffee and biscuits had been laid on the coffee table by the sofas. John already had a cup poured for himself. He glanced up at Brydie with worried eyes. "Is the lad okay?"
"Yes." Brydie sank down onto the sofa beside him. "Totally exhausted, and in a lot of pain, poor lamb. He was so pleased to see me."
"Can I take a peek at him? He was only a nipper when I last saw him."
"Okay, but don't wake him." I watched Brydie's eyes follow her husband and he went to the bedroom door and peeped in. He came back to the sofa, sniffing loudly. "Handsome little tyke, ain't he? He's grown some." John smiled at me. "The last time I saw him was all dressed up in white satin as a page boy at our wedding. I remember he hated that suit."
"Yeah," Brydie smiled at the memory. "But he wore it because Grandpa Leary wanted him to, and Stevie would do anything to please his grandpa."
She was about to say more when a male nurse came in and introduced himself. "Hello, I'm Sean Higgson, Mr. Diaz's private nurse practitioner; you must be Stevie's sister Brydie. My boss asked me to take care of Stevie over the next few days." He glanced over at me. "Mr. Alton, I believe? Glad to meet you; I couldn't believe my luck when Gypsy told me you were here; I'm a big fan of yours." We shook hands and I introduce John to him. He sat down with us and accepted a cup of coffee. "I suppose you want to know how Stevie is. He's coming along fine. He's young and healthy so I don't see any problems. He's wearing a temporary colostomy bag to allow his lower colon and his rectum to heal, but that will be removed and the operation reversed in about ten days or so. I'm starting him on Physio for his shoulder tomorrow. Gypsy's private therapist is coming to oversee the treatment, and what Ed Thompson can't do, with torn tendons and muscles, nobody can do. All being well, I'll be removing the drips and drainage tubes tomorrow. I'll also start getting him out of bed; he can sit in a wheel chair on a special ring cushion for part of the day, and do gentle exercises. That will help his circulation and help get rid of the bed sores." He blinked at us through his horn-rimmed glasses and thrust a nervous hand through his thatch of straw-coloured hair. "Now, are there any questions you would like to ask me?"
"Yes," Brydie said. "Will he have to stay in hospital until the bag is removed?"
"Under normal circumstances, I'd say yes, but my boss has invited him to spend the next few days at Chilvers where I can still be in charge of his recovery; that's Gypsy's home a few miles away from here. You see, it isn't just his body which needs to heal, and when Gypsy's team finds someone like Stevie in need of intensive counselling, we usually have them at Chilvers where they and their families can heal together under the supervision of Gypsy's psychiatrist and myself; while there, they can be kept safe from the press and prying eyes. Of course, if a member of the family is the cause of the problem, that member will not be allowed any access at all. I'll be supervising Stevie's return to the Rosscroft for the removal of the bag and any check-ups he might need."
Brydie frowned. "That's all very well, but we could never afford such intensive care."
Sean smiled and shook his head. "You don't have to pay for anything, Mrs. Silkin. All medical fees are paid for, by the Shanna Royle Foundation. Word has it, Stevie's a talented singer. If he wants to pay us back, all he needs to do is to take part in a couple of the fund-raising concerts Gypsy organises, but he doesn't have to if he doesn't want to. Anyone who comes under Gypsy's notice is given the opportunity to develop a career in the entertainment business if they wish it; if Gypsy thinks they are talented enough, he offers to sign them up to his own record label. Now, if you and your husband would like to stay overnight, you can sleep in the bedroom on the other side of the bathroom. Mr. Alton, I can't offer you the same facilities but you'll be welcome to bunk down on this sofa bed; I promise it's very comfortable, I've used it myself often enough. I'll have some blankets and a pillow sent in. By the way, I have a message from reception. A Detective Inspector Walker phoned while you were out. He'd like you to call him on this number. Mobile reception doesn't work very well from here; too much electronic security; you're welcome to use the land-line in here. Just press seven-seven-one and that won't set the alarms off." Sean held out a slip of paper to me and I recognized James's mobile phone number. "Oh, by the way, Gypsy sends his congratulations on bagging Angela Street. He said to tell you "Nice one".
"Me? I didn't do anything. It was just a happy fluke that she was in the same place as me."
We said goodnight, and Sean led Brydie and John back into Stevie's bedroom and through into Gypsy's second bedroom while I found the phone and dialled James's number.
"Where the hell have you been?" was the burly detective's greeting.
"James, you'd never believe me in a hundred years. Angela Street is under wraps; caught red-handed with Stevie's dad as her accomplice. Remember me telling you what she did to Joey? Well she almost did it again, and guess who the victim was this time. Donny Cooper."
"You're kidding me! How the hell did he end up at the Leary place?"
"My guess is he went to see if Stevie had come home so he could get his ID card back. Leary nabbed him and Angela had him handcuffed to a bed in Leary's front bedroom and was about to do all sorts of nasty stuff to him. We interrupted her before she could hurt him too bad. He's here in the Rosscroft. Now if you don't mind telling me why you called, I've had a long day and I want to get some sleep."
"Sorry, Mags, I can't let you do that. I need you here in hurry."
I felt chilled. "Why, has something happened to the boys?"
"No, but we've found a lead on Pete, or at least we think we have. We found some clothes in the basement of that house that Stevie escaped from. We need you to come and identify them."
"Well Joey would be the best one to do that. He's had more contact with Pete than I have."
"I thought it best not to involve Joey at this point. Ricky isn't too good and Joey won't leave him and the baby. I couldn't prise them two apart with a crowbar if I tried."
"Okay, I'm on my way." I said with a yawn. I didn't much like the idea of driving at night when I was tired; but Pete's safety came first. I put my coat back on and made sure I hadn't forgotten anything, and went to tell Sean I was leaving. The door opened and Sean came out of the bedroom as I reached it.
"Oh, hi Mr. Alton.; leaving so soon?"
"I have to; I need to get back to Bristol in a hurry."
Sean smiled and went to the telephone. Lifting the receiver, he punched number one and said, "Barn-owl here, Barney. I need the bird to transport Mr. Alton to Bristol; police business. ..... Fine; thanks." Putting the phone down he beckoned me to follow him. He took me out of the suite and down a short corridor to the back of the clinic and through a pair of security doors which he opened by punching a number into a wall pad. They stepped outside onto a glassed in porch and Sean said, "Wait here and one of Barney's men will pick you up in about five minutes. He'll take you to Chilvers and Gypsy's chopper will fly you to Bristol."
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open as he grinned and went back into the clinic. Barn-owl? Could that be because his glasses made him look like one? I had no time to ask him as a sleek black limousine slid to a halt beside me. A chunky guy with grey hair wound the driver's window down. "Mr. Alton? I'm Barney, Gypsy's chief of security. The chopper will be ready by the time we get to Chilvers. Would you care to ride in the front or in the back?"
I grinned. "I never was a good back seat passenger." I went round to the passenger side and got in beside him. "So tell me, where is this Chilvers place?"
"Not far; about ten minutes from here. We could have got the chopper to pick you up here but Rosscroft would not have been a happy bunny. He doesn't like his patients woken up unless it's a life and death case." Barney swung the car out of the clinic grounds and headed west. "By the way, Gypsy sends his regards. He's very pleased to hear about Angela Street's arrest."
"So Sean was telling me." I frowned at him. "How did he hear about that?"
Barney smiled. "Shall we say, friends in the right places and leave it at that. Don't worry about your hired car, sir; my boys will make sure it's delivered to the garage you got it from."
When the chopper arrived at Bristol airport, I found a police car waiting to take me to Claythorn. We stopped outside a large, shabby guest-house in Grebe Street and a police officer took me inside. Down in the basement, James shook my hand. "You got here fast! Did you fly?"
"That I did; courtesy of Mr Diaz. What do we have here?" My eyes were already checking the place over, and it seemed normal enough. A couple of old sofas, coffee table and a rather battered hi-fi unit with several CDs stacked beside it. Then James pointed to a pile of neatly folded clothes. "So?"
James lifted the top one; a pair of dark coloured jeans. He unfolded them and held them up to me to see that they had been sliced open down the front, the legs almost severed from the body. The zip had been removed. "Do you recognize these?"
I took them from James and examined them; then I smelt them and wished I hadn't. "Yes, these are Pete's. I bought these for him a few days ago, and the first time he put them on he went into the bathroom to finish off and spilled some cologne on them." I rummaged through the clothes and found his shirt. "Yes, it's on his shirt as well. So what the hell did they do to him?"
"We don't know yet, and Prescott still isn't talking." James shook his head as he gazed round the room. "This doesn't look much like a torture room, does it?"
"Someone cutting my clothes off almost stitch by stitch would be enough torture for me." I walked round the room, checking the walls, thinking hard about what Steve had said about his time down here. I notice there was a large wardrobe in one corner of the room. I tried to move it in case it hid a secret door.
"I've already checked it." James said as he came to stand beside me. "It's built onto the wall."
"Have you got the transcript of Stevie's statement handy?"
"Yes, it's in my case; why?"
"Didn't he say something about there being another part of the basement?"
"No; that was when he was talking about the other house in Berk Street."
"Well maybe this is built the same way." I stared at the wardrobe and thought of the most famous children's story of all. "Well thank you Mr. Lewis!"
I opened the wardrobe and looked at the back of it. I knocked on it and it seemed solid enough. "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Have you got a torch handy?"
James lost his cynical expression as he produced a bunch of keys from his coat pocket. Hanging from the fob was a tiny torch, he twisted the head and a narrow daylight blue beam shone into the wardrobe. I stepped out of his way as he examined the joint all around where the unit had been attached to the wall. When he reached the floor, he gave a grunt of satisfaction. "What do you make of this?" I crouched down beside him and saw him pointing with the torch to a tiny button set right in the corner of the unit, and almost hidden by dust and fluff. "I don't think we'd better touch that until forensics take a look and take some photographs."
James used his radio to call for a forensics team and while we stood in the unit, I put my ear to the wall, and thought I heard something. I put my mouth to the plaster. "Hello? Is anyone there?" Someone moaned and I said, "There's someone there. Pete? Is that you? Don't worry; we'll get you out of there as soon as we can."
In the ensuing minutes, I was pushed aside as the room became full of blue uniformed men doing their job with no thought of including a member of the public. I didn't mind; I just wanted to get Pete out of there. Lots of photographs of the unit, the wall, and the surrounding area, then the police examined the button before one of them pressed it. There was an ominous rumble and the wall slid back and to the side to reveal another section of the basement.
What we saw in the middle of the revealed room made us all stare in horror as we said as one voice, "Oh, My God!"
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]