The Cup Bearer
Saturday 8th June 1995
It's just as well it's the weekend; I don't think I could have stood the school ghouls digging for details. What a mess Gypsy's face is in! It made me sick to look at him but I just had to. There's one cut running from his left temple to the side of his mouth and a second from his right ear to his nose. A third one runs along the left jawbone and a fourth one from the right side of his nose diagonally to his mouth. That will be the worst to hide, not that Gypsy will want to hide them, knowing him. Dad took me back to the hospital this evening and I was able to sit with him for a few minutes. Manuel and Perquita were there but there was no sign of Don. I won't visit tomorrow because Perquita says her grandparents are coming down; you know what hospitals are like about too many visitors. One piece of good news, Gypsy's being transferred to the Rosscroft in a couple of days. That's means I'll only be a fifteen minute bike ride away. Manuel has contacted his maestro and is staying here until Gypsy is out of hospital at least. He's sacked Mrs Sykes and has taken over the running of Visick Street, much to the delight of the Gomez kids because they'd got a dad again; although I'm not sure about Jose. He's nice to Manuel, face to face, but I've seen his glare at Manuel when he thinks no one is looking. Perquita says Manuel's not bad at cooking and cleaning, which means she can still keep her job at the nursing home. Apparently he even does the shopping, and looking after the family is helping him keep a level head.
Well, it's lights out time and I'm whacked.
PS Perquita says Don's gone back to the garage and he's not answering the phone. Poor man, he's taken all this really bad.
PPS. I hear the police are investigating Mrs. Sykes' possible connection with whoever did this to Gypsy. She seems to have more money than Edward Grafton was paying her.
Saturday 15th June 1995
Sandy bounced into Gypsy's private ward carrying a bunch of flowers from his Mam, and a pile of music magazines. Gypsy was out of bed and sitting in a wheelchair with his facial stitches removed. Sandy fought to ignore his own nausea at such sights and he was here to cheer him up. He had lots of news to tell and a load of cards from their mates at school. He bounced no further than three feet in from the door. Gypsy's high-backed wheelchair was by the window and his mate was sitting with his head back as if dozing. As soon as Sandy said "Hi!" he lowered his eyes and turned his head away. Sandy laid the flowers and the magazines on the table beside his mate's chair and pulled up a grey plastic stacking chair to sit on. Sandy studied his mate for a moment, remembering Manuel's warning. "Don't expect any reaction from him. He's very withdrawn, and panics if a male nurse goes anywhere near him. An all female team right down to the cleaners is looking him after. He knows what his face is like and naturally it has affected him. You will probably find he will not want to talk. You will also think he's not listening to you, but Bryn Adams assures me this is not so. We just have to be patient with him and help him all we can." Fighting the urge to stare at Gypsy's face, Sandy concentrated on his hands first of all. The right one was now in a light splint, and Sandy could see the bruised fingers and one or two stitches. The left was still heavily splinted and strapped to the elbow. His feet were encased in plaster splints. Black judo style pyjamas covered the rest of him. Someone had neatened the remnants of his hair into a close army crop, which didn't help; Sandy almost cried.
"Oh, mate! What can I say?" Gypsy replied with a shake of the head. He looked down at his hands and Sandy watched him try to draw the fingers of the right hand inward, moving them fractionally till pain flooded his face. He stopped and let his head fall back. His eyes turned to the window again and he lost interest in anything else. Minutes later Sandy crept out of the ward and found that Manuel had been watching through the observation window. Adams was with him.
"So now you know," Adams said. "It's going to take time, lad."
Sandy thought for a moment. "Maybe if you could persuade Don to visit, it might 'elp. I thought I 'eard Gypsy say somethin' just now. It sounded like 'Wazdon', but now I think about it 'e must have asked, "Where's Don?" but couldn't work his mouth right." Sandy's eyes switched from one face to the other, looking for signs of understanding.
Manuel and Adams looked at each other, their eyes alight with agreement, and Manuel said, "If you tell me where Don lives. I will go and see him. I know I said I would stay until my son was out of hospital but I didn't realise he would here so long. I cannot stay here indefinitely, even though I am enjoying caring for a readymade family. I need to be sure there is someone responsible at Visick Street that Gypsy is comfortable with before my son goes home."
Adams smiled at Sandy. "For a lad of fifteen, you've got a canny head on your shoulders. Are you sure you're not after my job?"
Halfway between the Rosscroft and home, Evan pulled into a side road. It was something they often did when either of them had something on his mind - go for a drive and stop the car in some remote spot, and just talk, man to man, knowing Mam couldn't hear them. He could see Sandy was upset after seeing his pal and pulled the car into a lay-by. Switching off the engine he twisted round in his seat to face Sandy, but the lad kept his eyes fixed on a point beyond the windscreen. "Dad ... I..."
"Yes, son; I'm listenin'."
Sandy reached into the plastic bag he'd carried Gypsy's gifts to the hospital in and brought out a pile of torn cards. Handing them, over he waited while his dad scanned the doctored messages that once had conveyed wishes for a speedy recovery but now conveyed messages of a nature only someone whose mind was near the gutter could have written. "I found them in the waste paper basket. None of them say who they're from. 'Ow could they send such 'orrible things to a sick person? No wonder 'e's like 'e is, if 'e's 'ad these messages sent him. 'E's in a really bad way, Dad. I've suggested Manuel gets in touch with Don before it all bites any deeper."
Evan nodded his head as he dropped the cards back in the bag. "You're learnin'' son. At least 'e'll have one good friend to turn to when 'e gets out of' 'hospital. And 'e's going' to need one."
"You're not easily fooled, are you Manuel?" Don handed Manuel a cup of coffee.
"I have the same bond with Gypsy as I had with my own father," Manuel explained as he accepted the coffee. "We think alike even when separated by many miles. It is the Romany in us I suppose, but I have left all that behind me and I believe this is something more spiritual that happens. Naturally I have had my son on my mind a lot since he first wrote to me. Indeed my maestro once had to chastise me for sitting daydreaming about him instead of attending to rehearsals. Since the funeral, I have had this feeling that he was troubled about something. I believe now that it is you who is linked with this unease. On the day of the funeral Edward told me about Gypsy's past life and Gypsy later added more details. It seems he has become an adult very quickly."
"Oh, now wait a minute." Don he rose to his feet, his face darkening. "I don't think -."
"Please, Don." Manuel held up his hand to stay the man. "Hear what I have to say before you throw me out. I haven't come here to accuse you of anything improper. Edward Grafton would have done that through legal channels long before now, if it had been necessary. I waited till I could speak to both of you, and find out personally why Gypsy feels he needs you, and why you seem to need him, that is if you do need him. What he needs now is someone who is strong enough, spiritually as well as physically, to lead him out of the kind of life he was forced into. After examining the facts in my mind, I believe your friendship with my son is what it should be, perfectly correct in every way. I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart."
Don sank down into his chair again and sat with his hands hanging between his knees and his head down. "Thanks, Manuel, I appreciate that, but I have to admit I'm not as lily white as you make me out to be. It's been hard for me, and it was Gypsy who brought me through. For fifteen years I've been sort of okay; then he came along and completely floored me." He lifted his head and. looking directly into Manuel's eyes. "I took a hard look at myself and what I saw was a hypocrite. Then Gypsy pulled me up about something and it caused me to rethink my life. We took a look at the Bible and I can't say I understand much of it yet but, you know, I feel free for the first time in years. So free I'm confident enough to tell my girl everything the minute she comes home, if she ever does. I can't contact her because I don't know where she is. She could be anywhere in the world. She knows I've got problems but not the details. She always wanted me to find myself first. She might have married someone else by now for all I know. But this happening to Gypsy is my fault, because I made a promise to him, that I'd make sure no one ever hurt him ever again. I've failed him; and it's something I can never forgive myself for. Seeing him in that hospital bed like that, I just couldn't take it. I'm sorry."
"You also were abused as a child were you not?"
"Yeah; and by the same group of people, by the looks of things."
"Really! Do you have proof?"
"Sort of; Gypsy and I talked once, about what we'd been through and he described something he'd experienced at the sex club which was identical to what I'd experienced years earlier. It involved a staged ritual with an audience, an eight-foot idol, and sacrificial victims. The idol was no stone statue if you get my meaning. I'll leave you to guess who the sacrifices were."
"Do you intend to do anything about it?"
"Sure do, as soon as I have enough cash together. I'm going after the bastards, starting in California where it happened to me."
"That is also what my son intends to do isn't it?"
"I guess so."
"And in his case it happened on the island of Tamarigo?"
"That's what he told me."
Manuel sat deep in thought, one hand pressed against his mouth. Then, having made a decision, he reached into his inside jacket pocket. He drew out a notebook and pen, and wrote quickly. "I notice you have a 'for sale' sign above your garage door. This is a written promise that if you will take the sign down, take the garage off the market, and stay and care for my son at least till his sixteenth birthday, I will buy the garage for a sum which I am sure we will agree on most amicably. By then I hope to be free to be a full time father, not just to Gypsy but also to the rest of the Gomez family. My buying the garage will help towards raising the capital you require for your venture, and give me a small business to come back to. As for the relationship between you and Gypsy, I trust you will take utmost care that it remains one of mutual respect and friendship. I believe you offered to act as his older brother. That is fine by me, Don. I'd happily look upon you as an older son if it weren't for the fact that you are two years older than I." He leaned forward, his hand outstretched for Don to take the note. Their eyes met once more in silent agreement. Don's eyes filled with tears and Manuel sensed that from now on the relationship would be on strictly brotherly terms. As Don took the note, Manuel gave him a nod of satisfaction. "We have to thank Gypsy's friend for bringing us together like this. It was his idea that I come and see you."
"Sandy? That kid sure gets around."
Manuel looked at him quizzically. "That sounds as if it is not the first time that young man has intervened in Gypsy's life."
"Like I said, he gets around. Your son could not have a better guardian angel. As for Gypsy and me, you've heard what Sandy said about Gypsy's safari into female territory. I guess he's going in the right direction; more coffee?"
"If that is the case," Manuel said as he handed Don his empty cup, "why were you so upset?"
"Don't you hate to see something beautiful ruined through your own stupidity?"
"Don, it was not your fault. I wish you would accept that. Gypsy was safe in the house when you went after your car."
"I let him down, Manuel. Too bad my move to Visick Street didn't do the job it was meant to."
"But you can never prevent what is predicted in a premonition, Don. If anyone was to blame, it was Mrs. Sykes for pursuing her own pleasures when she should have attended to the duties she was paid for. When you ran out of the ward, Gypsy was trying to communicate with you. I sensed it."
"Oh, he made contact all right. He reminded me of my promise."
"I also sensed the loss my son experienced with your going. He still feels that loss and has withdrawn into a world of his own, and is now nursed by an all-female team who can't get through to him either. Edward has even sent for George Sherbourne to come over. The last thing Edward feels is that you are to blame. So, what I suggest is that you have a shower, get rid of that beard and go and see your brother. Help bring him back to us. It may take some time but I feel there is no-one more qualified to do it than you."
"When's he due to go home?"
"As soon as he comes out of his self made shell."
"I bet you got a kick out of sacking Mrs. Sykes."
"'Indeed I did."
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