The Cup Bearer

by DJ

Chapter 32

When Don finally dropped him, Emilio stood on trembling legs while Don backed slowly away from him and sat down again with his head resting on clenched fists.

Emilio straightened his jacket and backed towards the hall. "You know what I feel right now? I'm a pier that's falling into the sea; because someone's started taking the supports away. Thanks a bunch!" On reaching the hall door he hesitated, hoping Don would call him back. When he didn't, Emilio let himself out of the flat and flung himself down the steps; angry for having made himself look a prize fool. How could he have read the signs wrong? Well, at least he had someone he could take his anger out on.

Reaching the Volvo, he yanked open the driver ' s door. "Get out. Come on, out of my car." His new minder rolled out of the car and a waft of unwashed feet drifted past Emilio's nose. He demanded to know what was going on and was stunned when Emilio took the keys out of the ignition. "You're not riding in my car anymore," Emilio snarled at him, "you make it stink."

"How do I get home?"

"Try walking, it'll help you get rid of some of that fat."

"You cheeky upstart," the redundant minder took a step towards him. "It isn't your car, it's Grafton's."

"You wanna bet? And it's Mr. Grafton to you."

"Wait till he hears about this."

"There's a phone box down the road. I'll race you." By the time Emilio reached the phone box he was breathless but all his anger had dissipated with each gasp. Getting one over some pea-brained jerk was always the best medicine for the blues. When he got through to Edward, he said, "Hi Edward, what dust bin did you pick my new minder from? He smells, and he's a threat to the Volvo's suspension. He's lazy and always late and has to step on the gas to get me to places on time, which smacks of dangerous driving."

"Why not have a word with Clooney. He might change his mind if you speak to him yourself."

"I've just tried that. Look, can you ring me back? I'm out of change." Emilio gave Edward the call box number and hung up. While he waited for Edward to ring back, he glanced up the road and saw Smelly trundling towards him. As soon as the phone rang he snatched the hand piece from its cradle. "Hi, Edward. Listen, I understand Don's problem so I wouldn't push him to come back. We had words. Can you find someone else?"

"I'll have to dismiss Eddie first."

"Be my guest, he's here now." Emilio leaned out of the call box. "Hey, Smelly Feet! You wanted to talk to Mr. Grafton? You'd better hurry; he's paying for the call, like national rates? Peak time?"

Leaving the phone dangling on its cable, Emilio stepped out of the box to make room for Smelly who shuffled his way breathlessly to the box, swinging out at Emilio as he passed him. Emilio danced out of harm's way and backed off a few feet. He didn't believe in listening in on other people's phone conversations. When the call was finished Eddie slammed the phone back on its cradle and shuffled towards Emilio like an angry hippo. Emilio sensed he was going to land him one and dropped into a karate defence stance. "Just try it, buster. Guys like you shouldn't mess with a karate black belt." Smelly kept on coming and Emilio danced out of the way then whirled and struck out with his left foot, aiming for a point two inches in front of the man's face. Smelly's eyes widened with surprise and he back-pedalled before shuffling off down the road. Emilio wasn't bothered about him; there was a bus stop where the road joined the main road to Trentham. He went to stand in the call box and waited, sensing Edward would ring again. The phone rang and when Emilio lifted the hand piece he heard Edward say, "I understand what you mean, I'm sorry. He offered his services through Bryn Adams. I'll get in touch with Rudkin and ask him to recommend someone. As for Don Clooney, we've lost a good man there. It's a pity he's resigned from the group as well. "

"Are you blaming me?"

"Of course not; it's something Don has to work out himself. No one can help him with something so personal."

"I could," Emilio said without thinking, and wished he hadn't.

"Now listen to me, Emilio. I realise now that you tried to help my brother accept what he was, but Don is different."

"Yeah, he was abused, just like I was, and by the same bastards. I can help him because I understand him like no one else does."

"Emilio?" There was a sharp edge to Edward's voice. "I forbid you to interfere any more in Don Clooney's affairs. Being underage, you could only make trouble for him, as I am sure he has already explained to you. Now I'm reminding you of the ultimatum regarding Tony's will. You keep your nose clean and you do not bring the name of Grafton into disrepute or the trust is forfeit. The same goes for our guardianship agreement and the services of Grafton, Grafton and Kearslake. Do you understand me, Emilio?"

Deflation hit Emilio, shredding the high spirits created by roasting Eddie. "Yes, sir," was all he could mumble. If criminals couldn't get the better of Edward in court, what chance did he have long distance?

"Thank you. Now, I believe Eddie has left the Volvo in an awkward place. He said you have the keys. You'd better give them to Eddie so he can at least take you home."

"No can do, sir. The incredible hulk has gone and caught a bus."

"In that case you had better go back to the garage and ask Gary Norton to chauffeur you home. And please, Emilio, be polite and keep your temper."

"Yes sir." It was grey lizard time again, with a vengeance.

Monday 29 th April 1995

Tiredness accompanied Emilio to school. The exams loomed closer, as well as the school Open day and Sports day next Monday and Tuesday. That meant loads of rehearsals between and after classes, as well as extra sports sessions fixed for Saturday and Sunday. MacCaffrey had asked for one hundred percent performances next week and most of the pupils were behind him, and more than willing to forgo one weekend. Even Emilio, having been told by MacCaffrey that he'd understand if he wanted to pull out of anything, had gone back to rehearsals as if nothing had happened to him. He was determined to give one hundred percent despite the letter he had received from Edward, telling him formally that Don Clooney had resigned as his minder and as a member of the group. That had really knocked him sideways; after losing Sandy's friendship as well for some obscure reason. Ironically, one thing he had an answer to was the question he had asked himself when he first came to the school - what was it about MacCaffrey that drew the pupils to him and made them call him their friend. Now he knew.

The man was like a pied piper, treating his pupils, especially the boys, as equals, gaining their confidence while he wove his own spell around them. Emilio had never seen so much idol worship in the eyes of so many children before. Even at weekends, MacCaffrey couldn't walk down Trentham high street without having some schoolboy in tow or parents greeting him as if he were the fellow next door. And now, without Sandy or Don to fill his life, even Emilio felt his independence being overtaken by this smiling, pipe smoking man. The Beak had said he wanted a "better than best" performance in all exhibitions and that was what Emilio was determined to give him. The only thing was, although his body was striving for the best against the feeling of being off colour, his mind was elsewhere.

In gym practice he was at the top of the ropes in a tableau with five other boys and found himself thinking about Clooney. He missed his timing and almost knocked the boy below him off the rope. Sweetnam gave him a roasting. On the exercise mat his timing was out again, he fumbled about; trying to get into his rhythm till Sweetnam drew him to one side. "Look Gomez, if something's bothering you I'll put someone in your place for next Tuesday, if you'd rather."

"I'm all right, sir, I just wasn't concentrating."

"Are you sure? Headmaster told me about your mother. I'd rather make the change now than have you pull out at the last minute."

"No, sir, I'll be all right."

Sweetnam placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and shook his head. "I think it'll be best if you stepped down. I know the speciality spot of yours is a good idea but I can't risk -."

Emilio felt the heat rise to his cheeks. He jerked angrily away from Sweetnam's grip and stepped round him and onto the mat. The gym fell silent as everyone turned to watch him. He cleared his mind and thought only of the routine he was about to perform, and went into the exercise. He had to get things right or he would be out of the team, and he didn't want that. He was an entertainer; it was in his blood - from his own father - from his Romany ancestors both in Ireland and on the Continent. He also thought of all the training he had gone through in the States; not pushed from behind and endured, but encouraged to aim for the top by his own free will; if only for a short time. His training had taught him to put his problems away in the darkest corner of his mind and lock them there; the only thing of importance being that he performed to the best of his ability. Nothing else mattered.

His ninety-second display was eighty percent perfect and even Sweetnam joined in the spontaneous applause, but as soon as he left the mat his depression returned, leaving him feeling like a deflated balloon. The same thing happened in orchestra practice and in Music and Mime. His performance was mediocre and he made blunders that left his teachers baffled; Emilio Gomez just didn't make mistakes. The way they looked at him, he knew they sensed something was wrong and took it for granted that he was suffering from the after effects of his recent trauma, and that he was worried about his sick mother. How could he tell people the simple truth? He missed Sandy and Don, but he missed Don the most.

The next day would have just as many rehearsals and practice sessions, and he didn't really know how he was going to cope. Monclare had arranged for his mother's admission to the Rosscroft on Monday. If everything went well , he and his team would operate on Tuesday, on the school open day.

Late that night, in a cottage somewhere near Trentham.

"I'm sorry, Guido, but you'll have to find somewhere else to hide. My daughter s are having friends to stay for the Spring Bank Holiday and we need to have this garage apartment refurbished before the twenty fifth of May. My wife has arranged for the decorators to start work next week. I can't have you hanging around here as well, it would be too dangerous, and not just for you."

"Where can I go?"

"That's your problem, not mine. I helped you get away from Visick Street and I provided you with medical help without you having to go to a hospital where you might have been recognised. I've provided you with money and clothes, and I've kept you informed about the boy, and about police movements. I can do no more for you. No-one must know you've been here, is that understood?"

"What about The Farm? I could go there."

"Maybe; I'd have to have a word with M'Lady ."

"If not, can you get me to Liverpool? There's a ship due to sail for Buenos Aries on Friday night, the captain is a friend of mine and he owes me a big favour."

"Very well, if M'Lady says no to The Farm, I'll arrange for someone to take you to the docks; then you are on your own. But you must do something for me, in return."

"What's that?"

"Something certain young friends of yours might be interested in helping you with."

"You want the boy warned to keep his mouth shut? Is that it?"

"How astute of you; by the way, that last video we made sold very well; you'll have some royalties to come next month. You and my wife are very good together."

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