The Cup Bearer

by DJ

Chapter 23

Sandy's knuckles hurt, but it was such a beautiful pain. Then a startled gasp made him spin round. Perquita stood in the doorway, unbuttoning her coat. Lucia was with her and they both stared in disbelief at their unconscious father. With a moan of concern, Perquita rushed forward and knelt by Guido and lifted his head onto her lap. "Papa, what has he done to you?" Lucia started whimpering and Sandy scooped her up in his arms to comfort her.

"We found him trying to do something nasty to Ramon."

Perquita looked up at him and screamed, "Don't tell lies, you brute. Get out of our house!"

At that moment, Emilio appeared in the doorway, wiping his mouth with a damp face cloth. "This isn't our house, Perquita, it's mine, and Sandy wasn't lying. I saw it and so did Jose."

"Don't you tell lies, either." Perquita used a tissue from her pocket to staunch the blood running from Guido's nose. He groaned and opened his eyes, then closed them again. Grabbing a pillow off Ramon's bed she placed it under his head. "Stay still, Papa, and keep this to your nose while I go and get the first aid box." Suddenly she was on her feet and striding towards the door. "I'm going to get the bottom of this." Grabbing hold of Emilio, she pushed him out of the bedroom ahead of her. "You and your karate stuff; I knew it would cause trouble one day. I'm calling the police."

"Perquita, please listen to me."

"Save your breath. Where's Ramon?"

"In your room with Jose."

"Right. Lucia, you go and play with Jose and Ramon. Emilio, I want you, and you're bullying friend downstairs."

"But Per-."

"NOW! I've had enough of what's been going on since Papa came here and we're going to get it sorted, once and for all."

"Perquita, will you listen?"

"I said NOW, Emilio." Perquita hurried down the stairs and Sandy and Emilio stared after her till she reached the hall. Emilio shook his head in despair. Sandy lowered Lucia to the floor and Emilio led her to the where the boys were. He knocked on the door and had Jose unlock it. Handing Lucia over to him, he trudged down the stairs.

Sandy followed him down. "I'd better get back to school. Dad will go spare if I lose all that new school stuff. Do you want me to pick up your stuff as well?"

"I'd rather you stayed. We've got to stop her phoning the fuzz till we've made her understand what's been going on."

When they walked into the back living room, Perquita had the medical box out on the table and was sorting through it. She turned to face them and stood with her arms folded firmly across her chest. The expression on her face was one of angry impatience.

Emilio went towards her "Perquita, will you just listen for a minute?"

"Nada." Perquita dark eyes reflected her anger. "Instead, you will listen to me. I remember Papa hitting you in the past, but you can't carry on this vendetta against him. It's disgusting. He's our dad and I won't have you telling obscene lies about him. You've never liked him coming back into our lives, have you? I might be living in YOUR house, as you so grandly remind me, and having to live off your late foster father's money; I have no choice yet. But whatever my father did to us in the past is over. He's said he's sorry and we're entitled to some life with him, without you blackening his name."

"If that's so, why did Mum run away from him?"

"If you must know she brought us back here so we wouldn't starve after you conveniently disappeared."

"Whose fault is it we starved in the first place?" Emilio yelled at her. "And who fed you? I did."

"Liar, the food came from Mr. Grafton."

Emilio's laugh was harsh. "You believed that tale because it was what I was forced to tell you. It was Tony's son Peter who sent the food, but it was me who had to pay for it."

"How?"

At that moment Sandy heard the front door open and close, and muted voices in the hall, then someone pushed open the living room door and he moved away to admit Maria. In the hall, behind her, loomed MacCaffrey. Sandy stepped out into the hall and before MacCaffrey could demand an explanation, he whispered the story to the Beak.

"Oh, my goodness!" MacCaffrey gave a sigh of despair. "Did you get here in time?"

Sandy swallowed his anger and nodded.

"Right. You go back in there and keep an eye on Emilio. I'll take a look at Guido. By the sound of things he may need a doctor, not that he deserves one." He paused with one foot on the bottom tread. "Has anyone phoned the police yet?"

"No."

"Well, perhaps we should wait a moment. I'll be down in a minute."

Sandy returned to the back room, but he might have been invisible as Perquita and Emilio shouted at each other in their own native tongue, while Maria just gaped open mouthed at them. Suddenly Emilio noticed Sandy was there. He broke into English. "You might as well know the gory details too. I was nine years old when some pervert, attacking boys in the mountains, raped me. The guy was never caught."

Maria listened in breathless horror as Emilio took them back to their early days and forced her to relive memories that were almost too painful to bear. "Remember the village kids not wanting to play with me any more?" he said bitterly. "That's when Guido started using me. The only one who would listen to me was my friend Benito. Some friend! Every time Guido beat me, Benito was there to comfort me. Great! The big brother I always wanted. I told him everything Guido was doing. Then he started offering me food if I'd play games with him. No play, no food."

Perquita put her hands to her ears and yelled, "I don't want to hear this!"

Emilio shouted back, "Too bad! Every bit of food you ate, I traded for games. The more food we needed, the more I had to play. Then he said he wanted to do what Guido was doing to me, and he promised you'd never be hungry again, any of you. It was Benito who got me the job at the Grafton villa and I found out he was just a lure for Peter. You know what a lure is, Perquita? It's someone who entices another person into a trap. I soon found out that everything Benito did was on Peter's orders. When I realised what Peter and his English friends wanted me for, I kicked Peter in the balls and ran home." At last the fury left Emilio and he said in a calmer voice, "The food stopped, but I couldn't tell you why; no one would have believed me, like you don't believe me now. You blamed me for losing my job like I'd done something wrong." By now Perquita had turned away, still with her hands over her ears, and Maria's heart went out to Emilio as he grabbed their elder sister and spun her round to face him. "You know what sent me back? Your faces when there was no food on the table. You never once asked how I got that food. You just took it for granted. You were all so wrapped up in your own rotten little worlds you didn't see what was happening to me. When Tony came home and found out what Peter was doing, he gave him a whipping and sent for Guido to deal with me, and played right into his hands. Guido threatened to tell Mum about Peter and Benito and told me what he'd do to you and Maria if I didn't do what he wanted."

"You filthy little liar!" Perquita made to hit him but he blocked the blow.

"Am I? Why do you think I ran away? How would you like to be beaten black and blue till you can hardly stand, and not be able sit down because your ass hurt?"

Perquita slapped him across the face. "Don't you dare use that kind of filthy language at me!"

"Why not?" Emilio appeared not to feel the slap. "It's the only kind that gets your attention these days. Guido was raping me then and he's doing it now."

"No!"

"Haven't you noticed your bedtime chocolate's tasted funny lately? He's been drugging us, you so you wouldn't hear anything and me so I couldn't fight him."

"No, no, no! I don't believe you. It's all horrible lies."

"You know I'm not lying, you saw the bruise I had last week. You guessed who did it and what did you do? Just what you've always done; you ran up to your room and hid. You want to hear the latest? He's using me to pay off a twenty thousand pound debt at fifty pounds a trick and he's been bringing men into this house and they pay him for an hour with me." This last outburst was given in a voice which had slowly risen to a high-pitched yell as Perquita slapped him again, harder this time. Emilio rode the blow and glared defiantly at her. "You can slap me all you want to, I'm telling the truth and you can go to Hell."

Maria heard an intake of breath behind her and turned to find her mother standing in the doorway with Jose. One hand was held to her ashen face, the other clutched her dressing gown closed. Behind them Don Clooney's bruised features were tight with shock and the Beak's grim expression indicated he understood a lot more about Emilio moods in school. Sinking into her chair, Rita stared at Emilio "This is a horrible dream. It can't be true."

Emilio shrugged his shoulders. "Believe what you like, I don't much care any more."

"Emilio, I want to know what's going on. What debt are you talking about?"

"The one that made Guido run back to Tamarigo in the first place."

"Oh, that! A couple of hundred pounds; my dad paid that off before we left. But if all this is true, why didn't you tell me?"

"You're ill, Mum, shocks can kill you, right?" Emilio's voice held a note of sarcasm. "That's what Guido blackmailed me with. He came here threatening to tell you things about me if I didn't do what he wanted. He said he'd do the same to the kids as well. What was I to do? He took me for a fool because he was doing it any way. Ask the boys."

"What things about you?"

Sandy saw Emilio's eyes flick towards Don and MacCaffrey before he turned away and thrust his hands through his hair. "It's to do with what Tony rescued me from."

"Well, I've weathered the shock, and I haven't died yet, have I?" Rita tried to smile.

"No thanks to him!" Perquita snapped

"Perquita, will you shut up. Emilio, believe me; the debt was paid; years ago. But I don't understand; if all this is true, how have you coped with it all and none of us knew?"

Emilio's face twisted in a bitter smile. "What would you have me do, let him carry out his threats and rape my sisters?" Rita and the girls gasped of horror. Then Emilio's shoulders sagged and he pushed his way past MacCaffrey and walked quickly into the kitchen. The back door slammed shut and Sandy wished he could go and hug his mate without being rebuffed. That bastard had taken Emilio for a sucker all right. By today's events it looked like his mate's sacrifice had been for nothing. He remembered the Minox, took it out of his pocket and dropped it into Don's hand. "The last ten shots will make good evidence." Then he remembered something else. "But you're -."

"Yeah, I'm in a hospital bed. I woke up and was sure I'd heard Emilio calling me. I sensed something was wrong so I phoned Gary to pick me up and signed myself out."

"You don't look too good, are you okay?"

"How would you feel with a base drum in your head? I think I'd better sit down." Don made it to a fireside chair before his legs collapsed under him, and Sandy guessed it was more from the feeling he had let Emilio down than the effects of his injuries.

Maria's voice broke the emotion of the moment. "It's true, Mama, Emmie isn't telling lies."

"How would you know?" Perquita retorted. "You were only little."

Sandy saw Maria's face redden as she glared at Perquita. "I saw what Papa did to him. I followed them one day. I was too young to understand then, but I understand now, and I think Papa's a monster. And I saw when Emmie was raped, too."

"That's rubbish," Perquita snapped at her.

"No it isn't. I remember it all now. Remember the soldiers coming to our village to warn us not to play alone so we went to the river together? I lost the locket Grandmamma O'Riley sent me; I lost it down by the river, and Emilio went to look for it. I didn't want him to go alone so I followed him; I used to follow him everywhere, didn't I, Mum? I heard him scream and I ran as fast as I could but I was too late. I saw the man running away."

"Who was it?" Rita asked.

Maria licked her lips nervously and took a deep breath before saying, "It was Papa."

"Oh Lord!" Rita dropped her head into her hands. "Oh, Mother of God, what have I done!"

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