The Cup Bearer
Gypsy was shivering with cold by the time he finally climbed into bed and eased the duvet over himself. He placed his cold feet against Don's legs and slowly wriggled backwards till he had Don's body against his. If the guy wanted to act like a brother he could start now by warming him up. At least he had the satisfaction of feeling Don's arm come round him before he fell asleep, and he thought he heard him mutter something about 'bloody cold feet'. He wondered if all big brothers swore so much.
After waking Gypsy with a dig in the ribs the following morning, Don drew the curtains back and spotted a strange car parked beside Teddy's. The disagreement of the previous night forgotten, he warned Gypsy to stay out of sight while he went to fetch fresh water and check out the visitor. Gypsy heard the ensuing row through the open cottage windows. He slipped into his jeans, T-shirt and trainers, and went to investigate; he felt the hairs on his neck crawl when he looked at the car number plate. He'd never seen it before, but it was as if he had and it meant something. Then he heard Teddy angrily telling Don he was heading for trouble.
"He's prison fodder; Jimmy Boy's just been telling me about him. You should never have brought him here."
"And you ought to mind your own business, Ted. You have no room to talk."
"Oh? And what do you mean by that?"
"Rudkin and the group are on the tail of your boyfriend here. I'm telling you this because I owe you a favour, Teddy; ditch him fast."
"I'll choose my friends, thank you, Don."
"In that case take the consequences and consider the favour paid in full. At least I don't take little boys on cruises without their daddy's say so."
"You have no proof it was -."
"Don't we? We've got the kid where you'll never find him, even his family don't know where he is, and he's willing to go into the witness box. He described Jimmy Boy right down to his birthmark. Now how would a kid know about that if he hadn't seen him with his pants down? He also said there was someone else on the boat. From the description he gave, he looked suspiciously like you."
By this time, Gypsy had reached the first open window and peeped in to have a look. Teddy's visitor was sitting in an arm chair, watching Don stride angrily towards the cottage door, and to Gypsy it seemed as if he was in the grip of a nightmare again as the visitor turned his head to look straight at him through the window. On his way out, Don saw him standing by the window, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away without realising the panic he was in. Literally throwing him into the caravanette, Don jumped into the driving seat and had the vehicle rolling at a dangerous speed down the mountainside, and did not stop until they were rolling past a large lake. Once he found a lakeside parking spot he pulled to a halt and cut the engine. He turned to Gypsy. "You look like you've seen a ghost"
Don gave him a sharp look. "You know that guy?"
Gypsy's anger had been replaced by hatred cold enough to make ice cubes. "He's one of Guido's crowd."
"How do you know that?"
"He was one of the creeps Guido brought to the house. I can see him now, in my bedroom, standing over me, and waiting his turn."
Don cursed as he gripped the top of the steering wheel and leaned his head down on his hands. "Did he see you?"
"You're positive about that?"
"Yeah; we've got to report him."
Gypsy stared at him in surprise. "Why not?"
Don raised his head and slumped back in his seat with a sigh of resignation. "Do you want me to go to jail?" Gypsy didn't catch on and Don had to explain. "We shop Jimmy Boy, and Teddy will tell the police I'm driving around the Welsh mountains with an underage male companion in my van. If Jimmy Boy recognised you, he'll be looking to shut you up before you squeal. You were right when you thought Teddy was jealous. Not jealous of you, jealous of me. We go way back, to pre-group days, and we have a gentleman's agreement; we don't tell anyone what we know about each other. But that agreement doesn't include Jimmy Boy. If Teddy can't persuade him to keep schtum, we've got real problems and you might have to move out of Trentham for you own safety; and I'll have to disappear real fast."
"The agreement doesn't include me either."
"I know that." Don gunned the engine again. "But how are you gonna explain how you came to see Jimmy Boy without bringing me into it? This is a stalemate situation, kid."
They drove on in silence till they arrived in Llanberis where they strolled around the place for a bit. They had breakfast and lunch combined, which Gypsy hardly tasted. He was so wrapped up in his own lust for revenge being thwarted, he stayed in a black mood for the rest of the day; a mood made all the worse by the memories that Jimmy Boy had stirred up and crowded his already tortured mind. They drove around the mountains and came out above Caernarfon. Driving into the town, they visited the castle and carried on along the coast road till they hit the A5 and headed over the Britannia Bridge onto the beautiful Isle of Anglesey. But Gypsy hardly took in the scenery and cared little when they parked for the night in a secluded corner of a trailer camp, the fee for which Don objected to as exorbitant but Gypsy paid it anyway. He forced himself to eat the food Don prepared, having already used his blood monitor, then went out for a walk on his own to try and make a decision.
He inspected the communal facilities and blessed the fact that the van was fully equipped with its own toilet and shower, even though they were cupboard sized. Making his way back to the van, he found Don had made up the double bunk after having a shave, and was already lying under the duvet, looking thoroughly tired. Gypsy reached up to unfasten one of the singles. Don said, "I'll put a bolster down the middle if it will make you happy. Come on, it's late."
Gypsy's heart sank. Sleep was the last thing he wanted. Since the restoration of his memory, he'd been dealing with each nightmare and slowly locking it away. Now Jimmy Boy had opened the safe again, and right now, if he went to sleep he'd end up in the middle of Nightmare Alley; too tired to stay awake, too scared to sleep. What a life! He hitched himself onto the drainer of the sink unit and sat there staring at the floor. "I've decided; I'm not going to say anything. There's more than keeping you out of jail at stake and it would make a load of trouble for a lot of people, including Edward. He's been great over what happened with Guido, but one of the clauses in Tony's will is that I keep my nose clean and don't give the name of Grafton a bad smell. If I do, I lose everything including the capital I'll need to deal with creeps who've abused me. Edward even warned me off helping you. I guess he's worried we'd get too close and things would back fire on us. If you won't let me go to the cops about this guy, I'll just have to put him on my hit list with all the others, and there's nothing you can do to stop me."
"Who said anything about stopping you?" Don turned over and punched his pillow. "Get some sleep first, we can make plans tomorrow. If you're gonna nail all those slime balls you're gonna need more than just cash." Don yawned. "Come to bed. I'm bushed even if you aren't."
That only served to make Gypsy feel more miserable than ever and he remained sitting with his head down, suddenly longing for Grey Rabbit and the childhood he'd missed out on.
Don rolled over, studied him for a moment then sat up. "What's wrong now?"
"Me." Gypsy had to fight hard not to start blubbering. "I'm wrong, that's what."
It took a few seconds for Don to realise that this wasn't just a continuation of the daylong sulk Gypsy was in. Diving out of bed he struggled into his shorts.
With him standing and the kid sitting on the drainer they were about head level. He gently eased Gypsy's knees apart so he could stand between them, and slipped his arms round his waist. The kid rested his head on his shoulder, facing outwards. Don drew him close and as he did so he felt the delicate moisture of a tear on his bare skin. "I'm sorry. Don. I don't know why I keep on breaking down. Scorpios don't cry so easy."
"Lizards do, and at the moment you can't be blamed for wanting to hide under rocks. First Tony, then Guido's tricks, now your mother's death, and all that stuff from your past, it's a wonder you're not in the Rosscroft, permanent. And by the way, who told you not to cry; was it your mother? Believe me, kid, she was so wrong."
As soon as he said it Don knew it was the right thing to say. He felt the gentle shakes vibrate through the boy's shoulders. There came an in-drawing of breath then the boy whimpered. "Please, Don, I want Grey Rabbit back." And it was then that Don realised he was dealing with a child who'd lost his mother, with no one around to love him and nothing but nightmares for company. Gypsy had managed very successfully to act the man of the family, but had to be forgiven for wanting to lapse back into his childhood and hide. It seemed no one had thought of that. Blast Jimmy Boy for bringing it all back.
He tightened his embrace. "I understand how you're hurting. You're not fifty you're fifteen, and have every right to feel like a little kid sometimes. For now I suggest you let me be a big brother for a while, huh?"
Gypsy's head came up and he stared at Don with eyes brimming with tears. "I'm sorry. Don. I think you'd better take me home."
"I wish I could, Don replied. "We're almost out of gas and I don't know if there's an all-night garage near enough. In any case, if anyone sees us moving out in the middle of the night, folks will start thinking things they shouldn't. So why don't you have a good cry instead."
Again, the boy dropped his head onto Don's shoulder and began to sob, and Don tightened his arms and held him for a long time, slowly rocking him from side to side while he wept. When the boy was quiet, and heavy against him, he lifted him from the sink unit and carried him to the bed, laying him down and pulling the duvet over him. Lying down beside him, Don stared up at the ceiling of the van and whispered the prayer he had learned as a child; "Our Father who art in heaven…lead me not into temptation; amen."
In the morning, they smiled at each other and Gypsy said, "Thanks. Don. I feel I've let some of the gas out of the balloon in my head. I know you can't make my mother come back but I'd love you to be my brother. Maybe moving into Visick Street will be a good move after all."
"It's me who should be thanking you," Don replied. "You've made me look at myself and I've made a decision. I'm gonna ask Cissy to marry me."
Gypsy rewarded Don with one of his rare smiles. "Right on Bro!" Their right hands gripped in a crushing handshake. "Let me know if you need a best man."
On the way home they stopped in Chester for a late breakfast and did a spot of shopping. Back in the camper Gypsy handed Don something in a brown paper bag.
"What's this?" Don asked him.
"It's a thank you present. I thought it would be an appropriate gift.'
Don took out the book, and gave Gypsy a crooked smile; "How To Make Love All Night?"
Gypsy grinned at him. "Get reading man; it'll open your eyes. Tony had a copy and I used to sneak a look at it. You've a lot of work to do if you're going to make it with Cissy." With a devilish grin, he added, "Maybe I'll let you practise on me a few times." Don slapped him on the back of his head.
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