The Cup Bearer
Wondering what to do, he cast his mind back to when he was little and he had nightmares. Mam and Dad used to take him into their bed and cuddle him to sleep. In the morning he would wake up in his own bed, feeling fine, and the nightmare a dim memory. But if Gomez wouldn't let him even touch him, what could he do? Back in his own bed, Sandy left the lamp on and settled down to watch in case his friend needed him, not thinking of sleep, but eventually he dozed, rousing once to the sound of ragged breathing.
When he finally woke up around eight o'clock, his mate was still in the corner, buried under the duvet he had obviously dragged off the spare bed while Sandy slept. He went to the bathroom, had a shower and found the clean clothes his Mam had put out for him. Even if they weren't home, his parents expected him to go to chapel. He peeped into his bedroom before going downstairs and saw the duvet move. Satisfied Gomez would appear when he was ready, he went downstairs to put the living room fire on and start breakfast. While he grilled some bacon and tomatoes he heard the shower being used. He smiled and cracked two eggs in the frying pan, buttered the first two slices of toast and dropped two tea bags in the warmed teapot. Going into the hall he shouted, "Do you want tea or coffee?"
After a few seconds Emilio called back, "Tea please."
Once the breakfast was ready and on the living room table, Sandy shouted, "Grub up!" And was rewarded by footsteps on the landing above. Not wanting Gomez to think he was nosing, he went back into the living room and sat down to pour the tea. As Gomez walked into the room, Sandy noticed the set of his jaw and knew the barriers were up again. Sandy waved him to the table. "Come and eat. I hope egg and bacon meets with your approval."
Gomez sat down at the table and stared solemnly at his breakfast. At first Sandy thought he was going to be sick, then he sighed and raised sad eyes to look at him. "I'm sorry, I can't eat this. And I'm sorry about last night."
Sandy shrugged his shoulders, swallowed a mouthful of food. "It's me who ought to apologise for last night. You 'ad a nightmare and I thought it best to wake you out of it, isn't it? I didn't know what else to do. Do they 'appen often, then?"
"Are they always bad, these nightmares of yours, then?"
"Do you remember them afterwards?"
"Sometimes, but I don't want to talk about them, okay? Let's talk about what happened last night. It wasn't you I pushed away exactly. I just hate being touched, you know? You've been wondering what it would be like to touch someone and hold him or her close. I can't help you with that side of things. Tony's gone to hell because of me and I don't want to be guilty of sending anyone else there. Does that make sense to you?"
Sandy stared at him, a forkful of bacon halfway to his mouth. "'Ow do you know Tony's gone to 'ell?"
Emilio lowered his gaze and stared at his plate then pushed it away and reached for a slice of toast and the butter dish. "We almost went too far. The bible says so."
"Are you sure?"
Emilio glanced up quickly. "Don't you read the bible?"
Sandy blushed and shook his head.
"The son of a preacher and you don't read the bible? Come on, Sandy, Romans Chapter One, verse twenty-six. It's clear enough. We flew back to Tamarigo two days before my birthday. Tony said it was time for me to know what he'd rescued me from, He intended telling me the next day, my birthday. I told him how I felt, how I thought he was hiding his own feelings, and we had just that one night together, but he didn't get the chance to tell me what he knew about me. Some bastard shot him."
"Well, I can't step into Tony's shoes, but if you need a hug anytime, I'm pretty good at that. We hug a lot at our church. No one goes out of our church without a hug from someone. Mam and Dad and me we hug a lot too. It makes us feel good. It's the way we show our love for each other. I'd like to make you feel good too."
Emilio shook his head. "I don't think so, not yet."
Sandy wanted to understand how his mate felt, losing Tony in such terrible circumstances. "Well, at least you could come to chapel with me today. It might help."
"Well, I 'ave to shoot off in a few minutes." Sandy hid his disappointment with a grin. "I 'ave to get some practice in before the service starts. You can wait 'ere for me if you like, I'll be back about one o'clock. Just make yourself at 'ome. We 'ave youth group on Sunday afternoons; we use it to try out new choruses and stuff. If you want to join us for that, you'll be welcome." Emilio just shook his head and continued to eat his toast, which must have been cold by now. Sandy shuddered at the thought.
He was the first to arrive at the tiny independent chapel, and the first thing he did, after the warden opened up, was to get a bible and a concordance from the racks at the back of the church and look up a few passages, including Romans Chapter one.
Tuesday 19 th March 1995
While the kid was inside the Northern Rosscroft clinic, giving Adams a hard time, Don sat in the car and made use of the time to write his weekly report to Edward Grafton. While he didn't want to make it sound all doom and gloom, he didn't want to make Grafton think everything was sweet and rosy either. He wrote for a few minutes then checked it through.
"Dear Mr. Grafton
Whatever was troubling Emilio these last few weeks is still bothering him but he's not letting it interfere with his life. From my chats with him, it seems he's coping with his schoolwork. He's also skating hard, throwing people around the Judo mat like nobody's business and showing that band he's joined what's what. I hope Brian MacCaffrey is shrewd enough to know he's got a winner on his team. I'd like to take Emilio to my mate's club in Stretford and introduce him to Bernie who is always on the look out for new talent. It's not a night club, it's a music club with a bar. The kid would like it there. They have regular Country nights, Rock nights, and Jazz nights, mostly amateur and semi-pro entertainers with the occasional established acts. They even have a Latino night once a month when all the Lambada fans come out to play .
In short, Emilio is packing his days like a suitcase about to burst its straps. But he still finds time to keep his appointments with Bryn Adams, which I think are a waste of time. Emilio thinks the same but is too polite to tell the twit where to go. Bryn says that trying to get the boy to talk is like trying to open a can of beans with a plastic spoon. Personally, I think Adams is the wrong choice for Emilio. If I were you I'd advise Mr. Sherbourne to find another psychiatrist, A.S.A.P. As for Guido, he's still around and hanging onto the boy like a leach these days; I've had the job of bodyguard literally taken out of my hands, except when the car is needed. I'm afraid that is one fellow I do not like, at all.
"Emilio doesn't like him either but as Guido seems to be behaving himself, there isn't much I can do about the situation. Please be assured that when Guido takes Emilio anywhere, the group keeps them under close watch. The group is trying out some new panic buttons that have just come on the market. So far they are working fine although we do get the odd one that doesn't work so well. I have given one to Emilio to wear under his jacket lapel. He knows the signals, one buzz for alert, two for us to follow whoever he's been with and three for us to get in there fast. I've been telling him a bit about how the group works, and about the crisis phone-line. He seems interested in joining us as fish bait. I don't want him involved but whether we use him is your decision. Meanwhile, we have a lead on the Wirral problem and I will be away in Birkenhead for a few days from Friday. I've delegated my garage mechanic Gary Norton, a new member of our group, to chauffeur Emilio around till I get back; he'll be safe enough with him.
Thursday 21st March, 1995
"Trentham eight six one eight two?"
"Emilio? This is Gary Norton, Don's mate."
"Hi, Gary, what can I do for you?"
"Nothing, it's just that, well...there's been an accident. Don's in Withington Hospital." Emilio was stunned. Don was like a solid rock, dependable, an unstoppable tank. Men like him didn't have accidents. "Emilio, are you still with me?"
"Sorry, yeah, what happened?"
"We're not sure. You know he lives in that converted loft above his garage? I found him at the bottom of the concrete staircase leading up to it, when I went to work this morning. He's got severe concussion. The police say he must have fallen from top to bottom to get that kind of injury, apart from that they're not giving much out. The reason I'm calling is it might not have been an accident. The group are looking for another minder for you as I'm going to have to run the garage till Don's okay. Meanwhile, we want you to be extra careful. I might not be able to get you to Altrincham tonight; we've got a red alert in the Crewe area. Just take care, okay?" Emilio told him not to worry, and put the phone down. Poor Don! I'll send him a card first thing in the morning on the way to school. He looked at his watch. It was almost seven thirty, which meant he had fifteen minutes to catch a bus to Altrincham. He was almost ready to step out of the front door when the phone rang again. This time it was Guido.
"I want you to meet someone. Come to the flat."
Something in Guido's voice warned Emilio that something was not quite right. "I'm on my way to Altrincham."
"This is very important."
"So is my skating practice."
"Here, talk to the man himself."
Emilio heard the rustling of someone taking over the phone and a different breathing pattern. "Emilio? Unless you do as you are told, something nasty will happen to your family. Is that clear?"
"Go to Hell!"
"I'm not playing games, Emilio."
"Neither am I."
"Be at the flat in five minutes." The phone went dead.
When Emilio walked into the flat, Guido was sitting on a dining chair in the middle of his decorating clutter, with a look of utter dejection on his face. Sitting on another chair by the main bedroom door was a man dressed in an expensive grey suit and toning overcoat. He smiled coldly and pierced Emilio with almost colourless eyes. "Hello Emilio. Come here and let me have a look at you."
Ignoring the man's command, Emilio turned to Guido. "What's going on? Who is this guy?"
"Who I am is of no importance," the man said patiently. "The people I represent pay me in a month what your Grafton brothers earn in net profits in a year. Your stepfather owes them a lot of money, and they want it back."
Emilio eyed the man coldly. "What money?" He glanced towards Guido and was about to ask what it had to do with him and saw Guido shrug his shoulders. A chill ran down Emilio's spine as he backed to the door.
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