The Cup Bearer
Tuesday 12th November. 1995
Sandy didn't recognise her at first. He just saw a blur of pale blue trench-coat and black hair as she stepped off the pavement, and he had to slam on his brakes of Pete Gaskin's new racer. "Hey, look where you're goin'. Oh, it's you! Hello."
Shana froze, her eyes filled with alarm, and then she relaxed and rewarded their sudden meeting with a bright smile. "Sandy! I'll get you for this, frightening a poor defenceless female like that!"
"'Ang on! I wasn't to know you'd try to commit suicide, isn'it?" His quick grin swept any anger from his words.
"And I wasn't to know there was a Milk Race in progress up Visick Street," was Shana's tongue in cheek reply. "Where are you off to in a hurry? Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Lunch time, isn'it? Gypsy wasn't in school this mornin' and I'm on my way to 'is 'ouse to see if he's okay; how about you?"
"I'm on my way there as well, but I was hoping Gypsy wouldn't be there. Don't you dare tell anyone I told you, but Perquita and I are giving him a surprise party, and we wanted to get everything ready before he got home from school."
"Oh, aren't I invited then?" Sandy asked, feeling more than a little disappointed that he wasn't included in the plan.
"Of course you are, and so is Trish." Shana said as they moved on down the road with Sandy wheeling Pete's bike alongside her. "It was all a bit sudden, having this party, and you'll probably find Perquita phoned your mother this morning to let you know, the same with Gypsy's backing group and any of Gypsy's friends we know of. We'd better hurry; we only have four hours to organise things. You can help Barry blow up some balloons." She fell silent for a moment, and Sandy had the feeling she was worried about something.
Sandy moved closer and ran the bike up onto the pavement so he could talk quietly. "Somethin's worrying you, Shana. What is it?"
Shana shook her head and slowed her steps. "I'm just hoping Gypsy's friends accept me the same as you've done."
"No need to worry your 'ead, about that?" Sandy said confidently. "Most of Gypsy's mates know 'e's got a girlfriend from out of town."
"I know, but do they know I'm older and black?."
"I shouldn't worry about that old problem either; if they don't like it; tough."
Shana smiled nervously. "I wish I had your confidence. Gypsy's had enough problems in the past without me making more for him. The night we met in Blackpool, he told me all there is to know about him."
Sandy stopped pushing the bike and waited till Shana turned to face him. "Shana, you're the best medicine 'e could ever 'ave. I've never known 'im to be so 'appy. I 'eard you and 'im are dancin' and skatin' regular, and 'e says you're good. So don't you even think of takin' a back seat at this party; knowin' Gypsy, 'e'll want to show you off, isn'it?"
Shana nodded her head and turned to continue down the street and Sandy knew she was still worried. He knew there was no need for her concern. Gypsy had been keeping him informed about their friendship and how he was sure Shana would be his skating partner. "She's so light to lift," Gypsy had told him. "The first time I tried it. I was able to lift her at full arm stretch above my head. That's something I've always had problems with, even with the little ones. Your partner has to help you lift by leaping in the air the same time as you lift, and half my partners have never got it right. Shana's got an uncanny sense of timing, almost as if she knows what I'm thinking."
"Well, that makes a change." Sandy had commented and had received a dig in the ribs.
On reaching number eight, Sandy and Shana were let into the house by Barry, who looked less than his usual jovial self. The minder had made himself quite at home in the Gomez household, and he and Perquita were showing all the signs of a full-blown romance.
"What's up, Barry?" Sandy asked as they stepped into the hall.
"Someone's played a nasty little joke on Gypsy; they sent 'im somethin' in the post."
"What somethin' is that, then?"
"Some stuff from 'is last birthday. You know the story?"
"Course I do."
Barry beckoned them into the back living room where Perquita was sitting at the table wiping her eyes with a damp tissue. He pointed to some items on the table and invited Shana and Sandy to take a look. "We couldn't get much out of Gypsy, 'e was too upset to think straight. He said some items 'ad been stolen from the Tamarigan villa while 'e was in 'ospital 'avin' 'is wrists stitched. When 'e got back to the villa, these and other items were missin'. The police investigated and put it down to looters. Now it seems whoever took 'em, knew what they meant to Gypsy and decided to open up the wound again."
"Oh how cruel!" Shana exclaimed.
Perquita nodded and pushed a greeting card across the table. "Gypsy told me this morning that this was the card Tony gave him last year."
"How can he be sure?"
"He was having breakfast with Tony, on the patio, when he opened his cards. There's a small tea stain in the top right hand corner. There's also a blood stain on the back. Edward told me Gypsy was holding the card when the servants found him unconscious on Tony's bed."
Sandy picked up the gold embossed card, opened it, and read the words Felicidades - Love Tony. He looked closely at it then held it out for Shana to see for herself; the stain was faint but clear enough. On the back was a red smear.
Perquita sniffed into her tissue. "That ruby ring is Tony's too. I've seen a photograph of him wearing it in Gypsy's album. The watch was a present to Gypsy from Tony's Nashville housekeeper and her husband. Gypsy thinks the theft has something to do with the murder."
Shana's face tightened with pain. "Who could do such a horrible thing? I'd like to see Gypsy now, Perquita; where is he?"
Perquita looked up at her then looked away again and shook her head. "No, it wouldn't do any good. He's..." her words died with a sob.
Shana knelt down beside her and took the girl's hands in hers. "Perquita, I'm more than just a friend or a skating partner. Please tell me where he is."
Perquita's eyes filled with alarm. "But you're -."
"Yes, I'm older and I'm black, but does it really matter? We love each other very much and that does matter."
Perquita looked from Shana to Sandy and seeing the encouragement in his eyes, she sighed. "He was sleeping when I last looked in on him. Dr Beresford gave him something to make him sleep because Manuel isn't flying back from Paris till sometime this afternoon. He's stopping off in London to see Edward about something. He said it was important."
"I would still like to see him." Shana was gently insistent. "Even if it's only to let him know I'm here."
Perquita nodded. "He's in his bedroom." Sandy and Shana walked out of the living room, noting how Barry put a protective arm round Perquita's shoulder, Perquita's right hand moving up to cover his. Yeah, Sandy thought, they're an item all right.
Sandy knocked on Gypsy's door before opening it to peep in; the room was empty. He was about to call Barry when a faint thud from somewhere up above them told him where Gypsy was. Sandy called Perquita, and she and Barry followed him and Shana up the stairs to the attic landing. He pushed open the door to the box room and saw Gypsy kneeling on the floor in front of a large sea trunk, with some of the contents already scattered about him. He glanced up as Sandy and Shana walked into the room and Sandy saw the wretchedness in his tear-filled eyes. Perquita pushed her way in and, dropped to her knees to gather him in her arms.
"Gypsy, what on earth are you doing?"
Gypsy said nothing, seeming content to rest his head on her shoulder for a moment before lifting yet another article from the trunk. He didn't seem to be searching for anything in particular, holding each item for a moment before laying it down with the others and occasionally wiping away a tear, content just to touch and remember. As the pile around him grew, Sandy realised they all had the same thing in common. They were all brand-new; some still in their original see-through wrappers. All of them were expensive luxuries - a diamond tiepin and matching cufflinks, a camera and lenses, expensive handmade shoes, silk shirts, a white tropical suit, a gold watch and a cine camera. There were also two squash racquets, a Japanese short sword in a richly tooled scabbard, a football covered in autographs and the words Argentina 1989 and, underneath the precious items, layers of books in French and Spanish, strongly bound and heavily embossed.
"Oh my goodness!" Shana breathed. "Last year's Birthday Presents?"
Gypsy nodded. "That's right. I kept them packed away because I thought they'd remind me too much of what happened. Now someone else has done that, so there's no point in hiding them away anymore." Gypsy went on emptying the trunk; the last thing lifted out being a white silk bathrobe which he brought to his face with a sob of despair before unfolding it. Shaking it out, he slipped it round his shoulders and fingered it lovingly. "This was a present from Tony too. I was wearing it when he was killed." He gazed down at a faint brown stain down the front of the robe as he touched it reverently. "I tried to help him but there was nothing I could do." He raised his eyes to meet Perquita's gaze. "I loved him so much."
"I know," Perquita said gently, trying to embrace him once more.
Gypsy resisted. "Do you? I don't think so. We had a wonderful father and son relationship and nothing else mattered. Then I had to go and spoil it all." Gypsy's eyes pleaded with Perquita to understand. She smiled at him, kissed him on both cheeks and rose to go out of the room.
Passing Sandy, she said. "Would you stay with him for a while? I need to go and have a jolly good cry somewhere."
Shana was the first to reach Gypsy. As she knelt at his side, Gypsy reached out to grip her hand. "I'm so glad Perquita knows about us."
"So am I."
"Me too, Mate," Sandy fought to swallow a lump in his throat. Out on the landing he thought deeply about Gypsy and Shana. So this is it, then. Gypsy won't need me now . The thought made him feel so empty inside. He looked at his watch and realised he had twenty minutes to get something to eat and get back to school. Hurrying downstairs, he found Barry in the kitchen making some sandwiches. The minder let Sandy demolish a few and said that the party was definitely on and ordered Sandy to round up all their friends for the event, then tying the Pete's bike to the top of the Volvo, Barry gave him a lift back to school.
The party was a success, with Mrs. Cole helping with the food once more, and Barry acting as DJ for the night. An hour into the party, Gypsy came downstairs with Shana, looking as if he really did have a cold; the excuse Sandy had given for his absence from school. Everyone noticed how tightly he kept hold of Shana's hand and wasn't shy about embracing her in front of them. Shana didn't look her age, and Sandy decided they did look good together. When Barry wheeled the birthday cake into the front lounge, on Perquita's tea trolley, Shana helped Gypsy blow out the sixteen candles, then Barry handed Gypsy the unopened birthday cards which had been forgotten after Gypsy had opened the mysterious package. Sandy watched him rip them open and comment on each one. He opened one which he smiled at sadly and handed it to Sandy. Sandy read it and smiled as well. Gypsy was quiet after that and only gave the rest of the cards a cursory glance and spent most of the time sitting on the stairs with Shana and watching the front door.
Someone's missing , Sandy decided, and looked around at the partymakers. Everyone who was supposed to be here was here, so who? In the din from the downstairs rooms, no one heard someone unlocking the front door but Sandy saw Gypsy shoot down the stairs and whip open the door to admit the missing guest.
"Hi. Dad! You're late." Gypsy dragged Manuel into the hall and as soon as he closed the door they hugged each other.
"I tried to get here earlier but my flight was delayed." Manuel relaxed his embrace and studied him carefully before allowing Gypsy to draw him towards the stairs. On the rare times time Shana visited Visick Street, Manuel had been away on business, playing at a concert or supervising things at the garage; so this was the first time Manuel had set eyes on this petite young lady who had caused his son so much trouble. He liked what he saw and greeted her warmly enough while Gypsy smiled proudly, a cat that definitely had the cream. Then Manuel asked if he could talk to Gypsy in private.
In the privacy of Gypsy's bedroom, Manuel turned Gypsy to face him. "All right, you can drop the charade; tell me what has happened." Gypsy told him about the offending articles and showed them to him. Manuel said, "I think Edward ought to know about this. I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner. Have you still got the wrapper?"
"That's how they came, in that brown envelope."
Manuel examined the envelope and pointed to the stamps and the post mark. "Did you notice these?"
"I was too upset. Are they important?"
"Very. These are British stamps and this packet was posted in London. I'll send this to Edward, he'll soon find out who sent it."
"How will he do that?"
"Edward has most of New Scotland Yard eating out of his hand, the way he wins prosecution cases for them. It might mean having Rudkin's team take fingerprints of everyone in this house who handled the package, just to eliminate you all." Manuel shook his head at Gypsy. "What a bad start for possibly the most important birthday of your life."
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders, already dismissing the event. "There'll be others."
"Not like this one." Manuel pulled some papers from his inner jacket pocket and handed them to Gypsy. "Edward sends these with his compliments."
"What are they?"
"They are the Papers legally ending Edward and Thomas's guardianship. Any control still required is now in my hands as your father; although legally you have control over your own estates and can own your own house as of today. You are also legally entitled to manage your bank account yourself. All you have to do is to go into the local branch with the papers Edward has enclosed and give them a specimen of your signature. I'll have to go with you this one time so Barry and I will pick you up after school tomorrow if you like. As soon as your signature is accepted, the bank will send you a check guarantee card, your own cheque book and paying in book, and any other documents you may need;plus any credit and debit cards you may need."
"Great, when can I start using them?"
"As soon as you receive them; it takes about three weeks to process." Manuel smiled as Gypsy's face fell. "If you look among the documents you'll find an opening statement of account."
Gypsy scanned through the documents and drew one out of the pile. His eyes widened as he read it then looked up at Manuel in astonishment. "Four hundred thousand pounds; where did that come from?"
"The sale of the Tamarigan villa."
"Edward sold it? When?"
"The sale was finalised last week, but Edward didn't tell you because he wanted it to be a birthday surprise."
"It's that all right. The villa was mine so this money is mine, right?"
"And I can use it for whatever I want?"
"Yes but as I still have parental control till you're eighteen, I advise you to use it wisely and not fritter it away. Compared to many sixteen year olds you're a rich young man, but money can easily drain away if you don't treat it with respect." Manuel didn't like the way his son smiled at the statement and became lost in thought, as frozen as a statue. "Gypsy, are you all right?"
Gypsy came out of his trance and glanced up at Manuel. "What? Oh. Yeah, I'm all right. I'm just planning what I can use this money for."
"Have you any ideas?"
"Maybe; one in particular." Gypsy turned to drop the papers into his desk drawer. "Don will need a big chunk of it."
"He wants to catch some bad guys as much as I do. I can't help him physically but I can see him all right for cash. But we'll talk about that later; right now I have a house full of guests to introduce you to."
"Haven't you forgotten something?"
"You haven't demanded a present from me yet."
Gypsy laughed. "I never demand presents off anyone, least of all you. So okay, what have you got me?"
"Nothing," Manuel teased, and smiled as Gypsy frowned. "Now you know how Lucia felt when we forgot her birthday. But I haven't forgotten. I thought I'd let you choose your own present. Is there anything special you would like, or any place you would like to go?"
Gypsy stared down at the carpet. "Yes, there is something I'd like, more than anything."
"Tell me and it's yours."
Gypsy raised his eyes to look into Manuel's. "I'd like to meet my family."
It was Manuel's turn to frown till it dawned on him which family Gypsy was talking about. "You'd like to go to Spain?"
Gypsy nodded, and smiled wistfully at Manuel. "Please?"
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