The Cup Bearer
He had visions of a swift death and a reunion with the only real man he had ever loved, but it took a long time for things to go dark. In one hand he clutched the diamond-encrusted pin from the box, a scrolled letter T, and in the other the knife he had used. Tired of watching his blood seep into the bedcover, he closed his eyes and waited, but sounds interfered with his longing for peace.
Far away, someone screamed. He heard shouts, then urgent conversation nearby. He felt his wrists being gripped tightly and held above his head. Gillian's voice gave rapid instructions down the phone and in the growing darkness, Gillian and a half remembered face from his past stared down at him. Somewhere behind them, Cara babbled and wailed a prayer, her voice rising and falling between sobs.
"Gemini, you've been warned about using this phone number."
"Yes, I know, M'Lord, but this is important."
"Very well, what is it?"
"Someone tried to kill Ganymede. They killed his guardian instead."
"That's what I would like to know. If you ordered this, I want to know why I wasn't warned in time for me to disappear. My job is to locate and monitor. Now I'm involved in a murder."
"I ordered no such mission. It's to our own benefit that Ganymede be protected. What will happen to him now?"
"As far as I know he'll be released from hospital in a couple of days, then the police will interrogate him. Attempted suicide is a serious offence down here."
"Yes, it's deeper than a guardian-ward relationship. I saw them together, the night before the murder."
"Can you continue to observe him?"
"It won't be easy. I have to play the grieving fiancé, of course, but I'm the last person he wants around, and George Sherbourne is on his way down to take custody of him. Once Grafton's brothers arrive, there will be little chance of speaking to Ganymede alone."
"Grafton? Hmm! I know them. Tread carefully; they're like a pair of Jack Russells. Once they get a decent grip they never let go."
Sunday, 13th November 1994. San Margarita Hospital
Emilio turned over, careful not to disturb the drips in his hands, and tried to sleep. His wrists hurt and his muscles ached with inactivity. The stark white walls of the private hospital room seemed to close in on him. The police had been to grill him about the murder. He'd told them as much as he could, but not about his theory that Tony hadn't been the intended victim. No doubt they would be back to grill him again. Well, let them. He felt too miserable to care. If only Gillian had not turned Tony's car round, half way to the airport, and come back to the villa determined to make up with Tony. If only she hadn't caught up with Cara and his uncle carrying the groceries up to the villa, and given them a lift. If only Gillian hadn't used her quick wits to phone the emergency helicopter while his Uncle Julio held his wrists to stop the bleeding. Interfering bitch. If only …
On the point of drifting off to sleep, he felt the bed dip under a heavy weight. He jerked awake and saw a balding bear of a man sitting down close to him. George Sherbourne's friendly face held an expression of deep concern as he stroked some stray hairs off Emilio's forehead. "Well, you sure don't look like a barrel of laughs this morning." Emilio choked up and turned his face away. "Hey, this is Uncle George talking, not one of those Keystone Cops sitting outside your room." He took hold of Emilio's chin and forced him to look at him. "I understand, kid, more than anyone else. I know about Tony's feelings for you, and his plans to adopt you." He fished in his pocket and brought out the box containing Tony's pin and placed it on the bedside locker. "Don't forget, I know things about you too, and I swear no one is going to force you to say anything you don't want to." Emilio stared at the box and hot tears stung his eyes. He closed them quickly and swallowed hard.
He felt George's hand, gently stroking his hair back. "It's time to move on, kid. I know you're hurting, but Tony's dead and nothing can bring him back. His brothers are flying in from London to wind up his affairs; they'll be arriving later on tomorrow. They'll want to meet with you and decide where you're going to live."
"I can't go anywhere. I have an ice show to do in two weeks, plus two auditions for dance school."
"In your condition?" George indicated the tube feeding whole blood into Emilio's left arm.
Emilio clenched his teeth and closed his eyes but the blackness inside him would not soften. It settled into a hard lump where his heart used to be. He turned over and the bed lifted. Don't cry. Mustn't cry.
In the afternoon, the police came back, arrested him for Tony's murder and dragged him from his bed.
Olo, the elderly airport arrivals clerk, eased his stiffening joints onto a seat at a table in a darkened corner of the restaurant. The man sitting opposite took no notice of his arrival and continued to fork food into his mouth. As always, Olo would have to wait till this paragon of honesty finished his meal and acknowledged him. At last the man pushed his plate away and sat back. Still he didn't look up. "You have something for me?"
"You have five minutes."
"It's worth more than five minutes."
Olo leaned forward and folded his arms on the table. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Your handcuff toting friends really overstepped the mark yesterday. That kid they arrested was still in a hospital gown and still had drips in his arms, and I hear your friends didn't even wait for the nurses to dress the wounds when they tore them from him."
"I was not aware of that. I only got back from Porto Dominique an hour ago and haven't read the reports yet."
"Well now you know. And that's not all. They threw him into jail still in his theatre gown."
His friend shrugged. "He killed his guardian. We found the murder weapon with his finger prints on it."
Olo's smile held no warmth. "Things might not be so simple. The kid has some powerful friends." His companion looked up at last and gave Olo a nod to indicate his interest. "I was on duty at the airport this afternoon. Two men arrived from England. According to their passports they are the dead man's brothers. That American, Senor Sherbourne, met them and he had plenty to say about the situation, about a sweet little kid like that having to share a holding cell with hardened criminals and possible a couple of perverts; jails being the same the world over. Their passports said they're lawyers, and they look like they know their business. You know the type, straight off the parade ground, probably ex-guards if I know the British, even if they do wear business suits and homburgs."
"Olo, you always like to dramatise things. You watch too many films. They have no official status on Tamarigo, other than grieving brothers."
"Maybe, but one of them used my phone to speak to someone who has all the status to give you a very big headache; someone who is also English?" Olo smiled and pointed a finger toward the ceiling.
His friend's mouth fell open. "No!"
"Oh, yes." Olo glanced at his watch. "They should be sitting in their hotel room by now, awaiting a visit from an envoy from the great lady herself."
His friend shot to his feet, pulled on the hem of his uniform tunic and grabbed his hat. Olo held out a hand, palm up, and waited. When the required reward did not materialise, his rubbed the tips of his thumb and fingers together. With a sigh of frustration, his friend took out a wallet, drew out some notes and tossed them on the table. Olo watched the police officer hurry out of the restaurant, then picked up the menu to choose a more expensive lunch than usual.
Emilio gripped the bars of the holding cage and tried to forget several pairs of eyes boring into his back. Twenty-four hours ago, the guards had thrown him into the cage, and he had stood by the bars watching for someone, anyone, to come and tell him it had all been a silly mistake. He looked at the manacles on his wrists and the wounds beneath them and saw that one of them had started to bleed again. Behind him, one of his fellow inmates had a sore gut, and groaned in a corner. Serve the creep right, but that lucky kick had sapped Emilio's energy too much for him to do anything else if they decided to jump him together. He had to get out of here fast, thanks to Guido and his big mouth.
They had been let out of the cage to receive what passed for the morning meal of yesterday's bread and a tin bowl of something vile from a small wagon, pushed by a trustie and watched over by several guards. He and the trustie had stared in shock at each other. Emilio recovered first and took a chance that the man would speak up for him.
"Papa, you have to help me. I need to talk to Pepe Torres but no one will listen to me. He'll see me, I know he will."
Guido's belly shook as he bellowed with laughter. "You hear that, friends? He wants to talk to Pepe Torres." The guards and the other prisoners laughed at this. "Now why would the Police Commandant be interested in a piece of garbage like you?"
"Commandant? I thought he was a Captain."
"Well, anyone can make a mistake, like I did when I let your mother keep you."
Confused, Emilio reached out to take the bowl Guido held out. "Keep me? What are you talking about?"
Guido's smile turned icy. "Didn't your mother tell you? You're no get of mine. You're the spawn of gypsy scum."
Emilio froze half wishing it were true. Who'd want this ugly monster for a father anyway? As his fingertips touched the bowl, Guido let go and his first meal in ten hours dropped to the floor.
The guards pushed forward and one grabbed him by his hair. "All right, break this up. Gomez, get on with your work, you've still got others to feed. You others get back to your cells, and you," he thumped Emilio in the back, "clear up this mess."
The guards had stood around him as a mop and bucket were brought and the guards made him mop up the mess, but more humiliating were the parting words Guido shouted so the inmates of all the cells could hear. "If no one made you happy last night, amigos, maybe the new inmate will oblige you. He's got the best little ass in the business."
Now he just clung to the bars of the cell, weak-kneed and miserable as hunger gnawed at his belly. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He wrapped the chain of the manacles round his hands, whipped round and lashed out. The would-be assailant staggered back, his hands to a bloody face where the manacles had gouged him. Then the cell spun and his sank to the floor, the last of his energy spent. He heard two things, the man calling him crazy, and running footsteps. The man with the bloody face raised his foot to kick him then Emilio heard the cell being unlocked and a voice shouting, "Back away, now, all of you." Two men walked into the cell, one in a police officer's uniform with a lot of braid on it, and a young man in a pale grey suit.
The policeman smiled down at him. "Hello Emilio."
Emilio stared up at him in disbelief. Pepe Torres? Here? He wanted to get to his feet and jump for joy but he body refused to obey him.
The young man leaned down and lifted him to his feet. "Emilio, my name is Jimmy Monzanoz. We've come to take you out of here."
He remembered little of the next few minutes apart from being wrapped in a blanket and carried outside to a massive limousine. When he finally roused out of his stupor, he found himself lying on a bed in a richly furnished room, having his wounds bandaged by a beautiful lady with silver grey hair. Beside the bed, a small table held a silver tea service and someone held a cup to his lips. He drank, and grimaced.
"I know it's old fashioned, but my dad used to swear by sweet tea as a pick-me-up." Emilio looked up and stared at a lady with blonde cropped hair and friendly brown eyes. His mouth dropped open. Tamarigo's First Lady, Susanna Monzanoz, was actually offering him tea? He closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the pillows. This couldn't be happening. He opened his eyes again and other faces came into view. George Sherbourne smiled down at him, and the young man who had rescued him hovered in the background with Pepe Torres. All of a sudden things clicked together as he remembered historical facts about Tamarigo. While the President was an acclaimed Viet Nam war hero, his youngest son James was quite a hero himself, having rescued his mother and grandmother from kidnappers who had tried to kill the president last year. The President was still recovering from his injuries and confined to a wheelchair.
George leaned down and ruffled his hair. "I didn't mean for you to take my words about moving on so literally."
"I didn't have much choice," Emilio groaned a reply. He struggled to sit up, and his head swam.
"Come on now, get this down you, then we'll see about some food." Mrs. Monzanoz pushed the cup into his hands. Knowing he had to have the sugar, he forced himself to drink the stuff without heaving it back up. How anyone could drink sweet tea all day long horrified him. While he drank the brew, someone packed more pillows behind him and he relaxed back against them. As he handed the empty cup back, Mrs. Monzanoz smiled at him. "I think you know who I am, but I haven't got my official hat on so you can call me Sue. This is my son, Jimmy, and your personal nurse is my mother in law, Anna. You already know Commandant Torres of course. He'd like to ask you some questions but I can put my official hat on and tell him to come back later."
Struck dumb by all the attention he received from this famous Tamarigan family, Emilio could only shake his head. Anna Monzanoz rose from the chair she was sitting on. "I would rather you rest before Commandant Torres gets his teeth into you, but it's up to you."
Emilio shook his head again and returned the policeman's smile. Torres sat down in the chair Anna had vacated, and offered him a small plate of sandwiches from the tea tray. "You may as well eat while we talk. I just want to get things clear in my own mind and have your version about what happened before I read the reports sitting on my desk." Emilio tasted one of the sandwiches, liked it and shoved the whole thing in his mouth, and felt his cheeks flame as he remembered his manners. Torres laughed. "You must be very hungry."
Emilio nodded. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Why am I under arrest?"
"My men found the murder weapon in the bushes below the parapet, with your fingerprints on it. I know Senor Grafton had a fine collection of rifles, I've seen them on several occasions. My men found one missing from the collection."
"Then that explains my fingerprints being on it." Emilio stuffed another sandwich in his mouth. He chewed while the policeman sat straighter and stared at him. He felt better now, more his old self, not just from eating but the idea of besting the most senior policeman in the land over such a simple clue."We cleaned the rifles the night we arrived at the villa, we always do. We clean them, oil them, and check the sights. Then I put them all back in their racks and lock the racks. I'm the last person to touch any of them."
"Except the murderer."
"Yes, and that wasn't me. I was with Tony when he was shot. I couldn't be in two places at once, could I? Take a look at my bathrobe, it's soaked with Tony's blood." Emilio found he didn't want to talk any more. He lay back and closed his eyes, thankful that Anna insisted he be left alone to rest. After a while he realised that someone sat near him. He opened his eyes and found Anna studying him with motherly interest.
"Do you often have these funny turns?"
"I don't really know."
"After missed meals or strenuous exercise?"
Anna nodded and opened a small case resting on her lap. "Perhaps I could help you find out what's wrong?"
"A simple blood test, but only if you agree."
Emilio considered her offer and decided it would save him going to the doctor when he got home, if he ever got home. This was a country where the wheels of law turned a lot slower than in the States. He lay back and watched Anna get to work.
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