The Cup Bearer
When Emilio walked back into the house much later, Perquita was on her way downstairs after making sure the boys were in bed and not messing about. He looked up at her and she stared in horror at his swollen cheek. "Emmie, what's happened?"
At that moment, Guido came into the house and closed the front door behind him. Emilio glanced round at him and saw the warning look in Guido's eyes. He turned back to Perquita. "I walked into a door."
Guido smiled cheerfully. "My fault, I left some decorating stuff lying about and he tripped over it." He pushed past Emilio and walked on into the kitchen, leaving Emilio and Perquita staring at each other. Slowly, the look in Perquita's eye changed from frosty to horrified understanding. Yeah, now you're getting the picture, sister dear. He wanted to lay into her for being so ignorant, but how could he tell her that Guido had hit him when he discovered the panic button while Emilio had been "otherwise occupied" in the main bedroom of Guido's flat? As Emilio put his jacket back on, Guido had said softly, "I think this is yours." and held up the button. Without thinking, Emilio had checked his lapel, and Guido had back- handed him across the face. Stunned he had fallen against the bedroom door, his face throbbing. When his head had cleared, he had rolled over onto his back to find Guido standing over him. "Tell your friends I'm not as stupid as they think." Guido had tossed the button at him. "You step out of line or talk out of turn and I will make you disappear. It won't be the first time you've ended up in someone's harem, will it?" Out on the pavement Emilio had thrown the useless button as far as he could across the street. Now Perquita turned and hurried back upstairs to her room, leaving Emilio feeling alone and rejected.
Friday 22nd March 1995
"Dear Diary," Sandy wrote before he went to bed, "Gomez was in a right state at school today. My guess he's up tight about Guido, and boy didn't he let us know it! Even I got a taste of his wrath. I've never seen him so nasty with people. I hope he's better company next week. If he doesn't snap out of it soon I'm going to MacCaffrey.
Signed S R
Tuesday 2nd April 1995
How could Mum be so blind? Right in front of her, Emilio dealt with Guido in his own way; throwing him looks of hate and walking out of a room as soon as Guido walked in. He even carried his meals into the back living room rather than sit at the kitchen same table with him. It wasn't often he had time to join the family in front of the TV but when he did, he pointedly sat on the floor at Mum's feet rather than on the settee with Guido and the boys; otherwise, he shut himself in his room and watched his own TV in moody isolation. Some day, I'll tell Mum why, but not while she's so ill. Thank God she's on the waiting list for an appointment with a heart specialist. When that was over he would tell her everything. One thing in his favour, however, was the change in Perquita's behaviour towards him. She no longer treated him with contempt, and observed him with puzzled frowns although she still hardly spoke to him; she also seemed a little cooler towards the father. Now, Emilio had only one and a half weeks left before the Easter Holidays when he would have no excuse to be out of the house. He didn't know how he was going to get through it.
That night there was an Ice Gala in Altrincham. When Emilio pulled out tickets for the family, Jose demanded one for Guido. He grudgingly pulled out the ticket intended for Sandy and threw it on the kitchen table. His mother frowned her disapproval at him. Ah! A reaction from Mum at last! Okay, fine. Take Guido's side. One day you'll find out how great Guido Gomez is.
During the show, every time Emilio ended one of his spots, Guido clapped and cheered the loudest and longest, causing looks of both amusement and annoyance from the spectators nearest to them. Emilio cursed him every time. On reaching home, Jose turned on Emilio. "Why don't you and Papa shake hands and make friends? You're always nasty to him."
Emilio froze. Guido's eyes fastened on him, and they stared at each other before Guido laughed. "What gives you the idea we aren't friends, Jose? We just need time to get re-acquainted with each other; isn't that so, Emilio?"
Emilio shivered because he read something in Guido's mind that blotted out any thoughts of friendship, a warning of bad weather looming across the distant sky on a sunny day. He didn't answer, but turned to go quickly up the stairs to the bathroom. There, he slammed the door and leaned upon it, and his legs began to shake.
Wednesday 3rd April 1995
For the third time since Don's accident, Emilio walked into Withington Hospital, this time with a bouquet of flowers. Don was on the mend but still in a lot of pain, so he was in a drugged sleep again and the nurses didn't want him disturbed. He looked awful with the left side of his face a mass of bruises. Not knowing if it would work, Emilio sat by his bed once more and began to talk to him. The doctors said it was good therapy for Don. Not only did he talk, Emilio willed him to wake up. When it was time to leave, he leaned over and put his mouth close to Don's ear. "Don, I don't know if you can hear me but... please, Don, I need to talk to you. I'm in big trouble and I don't know what to do. For crying out loud, why did you pick now to fall down those stairs, just when I need you! Wake up, Don, please wake up!" A nurse walked into the room and he felt such fool. He left the flowers with her and said he'd come back another day.
Thursday 4th April, 1995
In 5B's classroom, the only sound was the occasional rustle of paper as sheets of old mock test papers were turned over. Sandy's head was down on one fist while he struggled to come up with a more fitting sentence to the one he had formulated in his mind. Geography was his worst subject; Plate Tectonics was so boring. He tapped his pen against his lips and gave Emilio's paper a glance. It was shaking. He looked up at his mate and found him sitting rigid in his seat, eyes half closed and his face tight with tension. His hands gripped the paper so hard it began to tear. Sandy quickly put his right arm round Emilio's shoulders and waved his left hand in front of his face. Emilio didn't even blink. Oh, no! Not another one! He was used to his mate going into little trances like this; his mate having explained the occasional visions he had. Usually they happened so subtly that no one ever took much notice, and put them down to some kind of epileptic fit. Sandy knew this was a serious one and he caught Miss Wayne's attention. Just as he did so, Emilio came out of the spasm, and gasped for air. Miss Wayne reached him and began loosening his tie, and the class woke up to the fact that there was a crisis in the room. He blinked up at Sandy with horror filled eyes. "He's got Ramon!"
"Emilio, are you all right?" Miss Wayne asked gently. "Roberts, I think you'd better take him outside for some fresh air and a drink of water."
Suddenly Emilio shot to his feet. "I've got to stop him."
He pushed Miss Wayne out of the way and dived to the classroom door. Instantly Sandy was up from his desk, yelling for Emilio to wait, but his mate already had the door open and disappeared from sight. Jose's classroom was at the end of the corridor before it turned left towards the cloakrooms. As Sandy dived into the corridor he saw Emilio disappear into it. He heard a commotion and a teacher's voice raised in protest. Then the two brothers appeared, the older dragging the younger by his sweater. As Sandy reached them, Jose shook himself free and demanded to know why he had to go with Emilio. Emilio grabbed him by the shoulders. "Has Papa ever touched you?"
Jose looked blankly at him. "What?"
Miss Wayne came hurrying down the corridor towards them just as Jose's teacher came charging out of the classroom. Both stared in astonishment as Emilio's rage overflowed. He asked the question once more but in Spanish. Jose coloured and averted his face from his brother and whispered a reply. Emilio swore and snarled something about Ramon, and started running for the cloakroom with Jose after him.
Miss Wayne shouted after them. "Boys; come back here this minute!" Emilio turned and gave her a one-finger salute and disappeared round the corner.
Jose's young teacher gasped in astonishment. "Well, really!" Worldly-wise Miss Wayne just raised an eyebrow and headed in the direction of the headmaster's office.
Sandy caught up with Emilio and Jose as they raced across the schoolyard, and the three of them skidded to a halt just outside the gates. A bus was pulling into the stop lower down the street and, with his long legs Sandy beat the brothers to it and prevented it from driving off.
Bus passes were checked and handed back then Emilio led the way to seats half way down the bus. Sandy turned round to look at the brothers who were having a whispered argument in rapid Spanish. They fell silent and Jose stared out of the window, pale and shocked, and by the hard stare Emilio gave him, Sandy knew his mate really believed something serious was going on, Emilio having told him that Ramon was not in school because he had a bad cold. Turning to face the front again Sandy shoved his hands deep in his jacket pockets. His left hand touched something hard and rectangular, and an idea formed in his mind. He took his Minox out and checked how many shots he had left then fished in his right trouser pocket and brought out the miniature flash he been trying out at lunchtime. He clipped the two together and placed them back in his pocket.
Ten minutes later, Emilio led the dash into Visick Street. On reaching the house, Emilio unlocked the door then signalled for silence, and led the way into the hall and up the stairs. Sandy brought out the Minox and switched on the flash. As they reached the landing they heard Guido's muffled voice then Ramon's lighter one pleading, "No, Papa...no me gusta... Por favor, Papa, no. Por favor dejeme!"
Emilio pointed to a rear bedroom and without being told to, Sandy shoulder charged it. The door burst open under his weight and he had a brief flash of Star Trek curtains and twin bed covers, before he raised the Minox ready for action. Then the scene before him hit his senses and he almost forgot to press the shutter release. Guido was sitting on one of the beds and had hold of Ramon by one arm. His trousers were unzipped and the boy, his little face full of distress, was attempting to hitch his pyjama bottoms up round his hips, one handed. Guido looked round, startled, and Sandy began snapping as fast as the little flash would recharge.
"You bastard!" Emilio dived forward to snatch his little brother from Guido's clutches. Lifting Ramon off his feet he swung round and thrust him into Jose's arms. "Take him to Perquita's room; stay with him and lock the door."
Guido came off the bed and snarled a stream of Spanish expletives as he struggled to zip his pants up and hide an obvious erection. Sandy hoped he had enough film left as he carried on filming. To Sandy's amazement, Emilio dropped into a karate stance and spat out a stream of Spanish, of which Sandy recognised the words for hands, feet, and realised he was giving Guido the official warning required by all Karate experts. He repeated the same phrase two more times. Guido sneered and moved to hit him. The sneer changed to a grunt of pain as Emilio twisted slightly to the left and his right leg shot out from the hip and his foot made contact with the man's stomach. The strike was so quick and smooth, neither Sandy nor Guido saw it in detail, just the after effects. The man's eyes bulged and he doubled over, holding his stomach. Emilio followed with hand strikes to the face and still more foot strikes, forcing Guido to lose his balance and fall backwards, landing on the floor between the beds. Blood gushed from his nose and mouth, and he clutched at his gut where most of the foot strikes had landed. Emilio would have carried on the assault had the Minox not run out of film. Sandy grabbed hold of him and he struggled to break free as he glared his hatred at Guido. When he stopped struggling, Sandy let him go, and he backed to the door, his eyes never leaving Guido. At the door he turned without a word and left the room. Seconds later Sandy heard someone throwing up in the bathroom.
Everything had happened so fast since leaving the school, it took Sandy a few seconds to realise the enormity of the situation and just how important the evidence on the film would be. How long had the bastard been abusing his sons while making Emilio believe he wouldn't if he...? Sandy felt a rising tide of rage as Guido struggled, first onto his knees then to his feet. The man staggered forward holding his nose and his gut and moaning softly. Sandy waited till the man was within hitting distance. "'Ere's a little present from the Welsh valleys for what you've done to my mate, you slimy twll dyn." (Welsh for arsehole) Guido's teeth snapped together as Sandy caught him under the chin with a right hook Sandy's Uncle Howel would have been proud of. Guido went down again and stayed down.
[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.]