The Cup Bearer
Beside the waiting room there were some chairs out in the reception area, and they sat on these, having found the waiting room rather claustrophobic. Don stopped in front of Sandy, stared down at him for a moment with red-rimmed eyes. "This is getting to me real bad, Sandy; you too, huh? No-one tells you nothing." He sank down on the chair next to MacCaffrey and leaned his head back against the wall with a sigh of dejection. Sandy was about to comment on something he'd been thinking hard about when someone came through the doors at the end of the corridor and walked quickly towards them, a person instantly recognisable and had Sandy out of his chair and striding down the corridor to greet him. Manuel looked haggard with dark shadows under his sunken eyes, indicating hours without sleep, hours filled with nothing to do but sit in a plane and worry about his son and imagine all kinds of dreadful things; the most important being the thought of not reaching his son's bedside in time.
"Hello, Sandy." Manuel's smile only enhanced the tightness of his face as they shook hands. "At least there is one familiar face to meet me."
" 'Ow did you get 'ere so fast?" Sandy asked in amazement as he turned to walk alongside Manuel. "Gypsy said you were in the Far East."
"We were in Israel on the homeward leg of the tour when Thomas Grafton contacted me. For once I am glad money is no object, although my maestro having a wealthy Israeli friend with a private jet certainly helped. I would have spent my last pound to get here."
Don and MacCaffrey, they rose to their feet and waited to be introduced, doing the usual double take as most people do when first seeing Gypsy's father.
"Mr Diaz, this is Don Clooney, Gypsy's minder, and this is James MacCaffrey, headmaster of our school. Folks, this is Gypsy's father, Manuel Diaz Lupino. "
" Ah! Mr. MacCaffrey!" Manuel's eyes suddenly tightened. "Pleased to meet you again; I recall we met briefly at attend Mrs O'Riley's funeral for a few minutes, but we didn't have time to talk." He shook hands with him, then with Don. "Hello Don, you were at the funeral as well, weren't you, but you didn't stay either. My son has talked to me about you recently. Perhaps we might have a talk in private sometime?"
Sandy saw Don's eyes narrow, as if expecting to be accused of something, "Sure, why not?"
At that moment a nurse at the reception desk called out. "Can I help you?"
Manuel turned with a disarming smile. "My name is Manuel Diaz Lupino. I have come to see my son. Gypsy Diaz O'Riley."
"One moment please. " The nurse lifted a phone and spoke quietly for a few seconds and replacing the phone she smiled. "If you'd like to take a seat the doctor will be along shortly."
The smile disappeared from Manuel's face. "Senora, I do not wish to sit down. I wish to see my son as soon as possible. Surely that is not too much to ask." The nurse's hand reached for the phone again and she would have lifted the receiver had not the doors to the ICU ward had not pushed open. Edward Grafton walked through the doors. Relief flooded Manuel's face, Don's shoulders relaxed and Sandy felt a weight lift from his own mind. Here was someone who could cut through hospital red tape and give them some answers. "Edward! Thank The Lord." Manuel breathed as he started towards him. "Tell me what is happening? When can I see Gypsy?"
"Calm down Manuel." Edward smiled as he steered Manuel towards the waiting room. "Your son is out of Intensive Care and I've come to take you up to the surgical wards, but first I think we'd better have a chat; you too Don, and Mr. MacCaffrey."
The weight landed back on Sandy like ton of concrete as yet again he had the feeling he was going to be ignored, but Manuel said, "Sandy is just as anxious to hear how Gypsy is. Perhaps you would not mind if he heard what you have to say. After all he is my son's closest friend."
Edward nodded his head at Sandy. "Of course; shall we use the waiting room?"
Edward waited till they were all seated. "I'll try to explains things as simply as possible and hope I don't sound too blunt. Gypsy was kidnapped and driven away in a van by someone who must have known about his knowledge of the martial arts. During the journey a person or persons used a bar of some kind on his hands and feet to render him incapable of defending himself. When they reached the farm he was handed over to a group of bikers. Rudkin's team found evidence of at least six bikes at the scene, tyre marks, oil and boot prints, that sort of thing. He was stripped, and his clothes burnt before the bikers left the scene. That was the fire Mrs. Fairhold saw from her bedroom window. He was beaten and kicked, and there are bruises on his arms and legs to suggest he was held down on the ground while someone used a knife or a razor on his face causing four major lacerations. Further evidence at the scene, and the state of his elbows and knees, suggests he tried to crawl to safety once his assailants rode off. Unfortunately he crawled in the wrong direction and fell down a dike. It is a day he will be thankful he had long hair. It became tangled in the thorns and halted his descent; otherwise he would have dropped into the dike itself which, at the time, had four feet of water in it."
"How serious are his injuries." Manuel asked him.
Edward frowned and shook his head. "The least serious but obviously more noticeable are the facial lacerations. Fortunately there is little nerve or muscle damage but he still needed extensive surgery. We're fortunate to have an excellent burns and plastic surgery unit in this hospital. More serious are the fractures and contusions to his hands and feet with nerve and tendon damage, particularly to the left hand.
At this Sandy saw Manuel's face turn grey. A guitarist's hands were his life. Sandy's heart sank to his boots as he imagined Gypsy unable to play his beloved guitar or to dance, or skate. "He writes left handed," was all he could think to say.
"Quite." Edward replied. "The bruises on his arms and legs, although severe, will heal and are of minor concern, but it appears he was kicked several times in the bladder area. The bladder, penis, and testicles are severely bruised with the possibility that he may never father any children. Tests will have to be completed, sometime in the future, before a definite pronouncement can be made. It's almost as if it was a deliberate attempt to render him incapable of performing the sexual act." Sandy thought he heard Manuel give a groan of despair, and Edward said gently. "I'm sorry, Manuel, but you did say on the telephone you would want all the details and to spare you nothing. I have almost finished but I'm afraid there is something else." Edward hesitated before saying in a voice full of pain. "They didn't just beat him." Manuel's eyes came up quickly to fix Edward with a look of open-eyed horror. "I'm sorry, Manuel. There is internal damage and -."
Sandy felt sick as what Edward meant sank in. Manuel gave a moan of horror and turned his face away from everyone. " No! Oh no! Not again. Dios Mio! Not again."
"They had to stabilise him first; he was suffering from the early signs of Hypothermia. Then they had to make sure every thorn and foreign body was removed, which is why he was so long in the theatre. There were a lot of them, and he'll be very sore for quite a few days. They'll perform a detailed colonoscopy as soon as they can."
No one spoke, each digesting in his own way what Edward had said, each face indicating they appreciated not being spared the harsh facts.
Sandy looked round at Manuel and Don and the Beak, and saw how immersed they were in their own thoughts, and decided it was time to air what was on his mind. "May I add somethin'?" Four pairs of eyes swivelled towards him and Edward waved a hand in consent. "You were sayin' about the kidnappers knowin' Gypsy did martial arts, right? Well they must have known about him having a duff ankle too, because the first thing Ramon said was that those creeps came out of nowhere and went straight for 'is legs."
Don nodded. "That's what Ramon told me too. I put it in my report to Rudkin."
Sandy continued. "What I'm sayin' is, 'e 'ad a row with Brian MacCaffrey, right?" He told them in brief about the fight over Shana, Brian's visit on Wednesday and the threats he had made. "Now I don't know whether it ties in or not, but Gypsy's made a real enemy of that one, isn't it?" then remembering the relationship between Brian and MacCaffrey he blushed. "I'm sorry sir; I 'ad to say it."
MacCaffrey shook his head "That's all right, lad. My nephew got what he deserved from what I've heard."
"As for Gypsy," Edward said, "that boy is becoming harder to control as time goes on."
Manuel stared coldly at him. "Is it surprising? What he's been through is more than can be tolerated by any fifteen-year old."
"I'm not disputing that, Manuel, but if he wishes to have more freedom to make his own decisions, which Thomas and I dearly wish him to have, he has to show he can be responsible for his actions, and obey the law. Under the circumstances the sooner he reaches his sixteenth birthday the easier I will feel."
"Surely my presence will make a difference? I'm more than ready to take over his guardianship."
"I dearly hope so, Manuel, I really do. He certainly needs someone younger to hold the reins and not control them from so far away as we are. Thomas and I are feeling our age, being a lot older than our late brother; neither of us have had any personal experience with children other than through the justice system. Now, if you would like to come with me, I will take you to see Gypsy."
Manuel stood up. "First, I want you to assure me that only the best surgeons in the country will attend to my son's injuries. As for any medical bills that are incurred, I will bankrupt myself if necessary."
Edward placed a comforting hand on Manuel's shoulder. "That has already been attended to, Manuel. Percival Rosscroft Junior and his team are the best. Percival's in consultation with the surgeons even as we speak, and will have Gypsy transferred to the Northern Rosscroft Clinic as soon as this hospital allows. Now I suggest we all go up and see your son."
Sandy had often seen photographs in papers and magazines, of little bomb victims lying in hospital beds with their damaged limbs heavily bandaged and raised on pillows, tubes in their bodies supplying life giving substances, their battered bodies and faces stitched, and looking as if they had just fallen asleep. He looked through the observation window of the private ward that Manuel had insisted on paying for, and wept at such a sight now. Sleeping, but not really sleeping, bandaged hands and feet surrounded by ice packs and elevated on pads, and what little they could see of the rest of his body a mass of scratches and abrasions. The face was not Gypsy's but a cartoon version of him, a swollen crisscross of black lines, and his hair just a cropped untidy cap. What shocked Sandy the most was how small and vulnerable he looked. Don had been allowed in at Manuel's insistence, and had collapsed onto a chair with his head in his hands while Manuel stood with a hand on his shoulder. It was obvious the guy was still blaming himself for what had happened.
Edward had taken Perquita to where the other Gomez children were waiting, to hear about their brother. Sandy's Dad was waiting with them but Sandy would not leave his mate, not till Gypsy knew he was here. He just wished he could go in and touch him. He stared at his mate's ruined face and almost believed he saw Gypsy's head move ever so slightly. He so desperately wanted to believe it. Gypsy's eyes opened just a fraction and were looking straight at him. A thought came to him. "Touch?" before Gypsy's eyes closed again. Joy burst into song in Sandy's heart as Manuel suddenly lifted his head to look at his son then at him, and signalled for him to enter the ward. He marched straight to the bed and reached out to touch his mate but hesitated, his hand hovering uncertainly, not knowing where his mate didn't hurt, he had that many scratches. He leaned over to touch his mate on the left shoulder and was astonished to see Manuel do the same on the right. Manuel glanced his way and smiled, relief making the man look so much younger and less tired.
"He'll be all right now. He won't be able to talk for a while, some of those stitches are too close to his mouth, but at least he knows we're here. That is what is important, is it not?" Sandy couldn't speak, and just nodded dumbly. Don had risen to his feet at the sudden muted activity and came to stand at the foot of the bed. Sandy saw Gypsy's eyes open again to stare straight at Don, and he managed to whisper, "You promised."
With his hand still on Gypsy's shoulder, Sandy looked round and saw the anguish on Don's face before the man turned to stumble out of the ward.
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