The Only Way to Fly
The drive to Billy's school normally took eighteen minutes; Daley did it ten, leaving me somewhat breathless and holding onto my seat. I followed Daley into the school, turning left into a short corridor where the school offices were situated. We found the one marked "Head Teacher" and Daley marched in without knocking. Billy was sitting on a chair in front of the desk with two policemen standing nearby. A tall grey haired man stood behind the desk with a much younger man sitting by the side of the desk holding a bloody dressing to his nose. I noticed that Billy also had a dressing pressed to his mouth. There was blood on his shirt collar and on his sweater, which also had a tear in the right sleeve, and tearing an acrylic sweater isn't easy.
Daley addressed the grey haired man. "Mr Stevens?"
The man shook his head. "No, I'm Mr Shorrocks the deputy head teacher. Mr Stevens is away today. Are you Mr Roberts?"
"Billy's guardian, I believe?"
"Yes, now what is going on here?"
"Mr Roberts, we have zero tolerance in this school regarding attacks on teachers. We take a very dim view of incidents involving the safety of our teachers, and the normal procedure is to suspend the pupi, or call the police and have them deal with the matter. Mr Wentworth was taking an English class in which Billy lost his temper at something Mr Wentworth said to him and he attacked Mr Wentworth and then proceeded to attack several of the pupils who came to their teacher's aid, causing considerable damage to school property. We can't have that in this school. Indeed, Mr Wentworth is considering pressing charges and I don't blame him."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could a gentle soul like Billy turn into an alleged thug like this? I knelt by his side and eased his hand and the dressing away from his mouth. His rapidly swelling upper lip was split and would need a butterfly stitch at least. His lower lip was equally bruised. There were scratches on his right cheek and his right eye was closed and puffy. On his left cheek there was a long bruise developing from the corner of his mouth towards his eye. That had definitely not been done by a fist; more like a boot. I got to my feet and was about to let fly with my temper when I felt Daley's hand on my arm as he said, "It seems to me that I will be pressing counter-charges as well, Mr Shorrocks; unless I'm satisfied Billy was to blame." He leaned down to talk to Billy. "What happened, Billy?"
Billy looked at him, shook his head and signed, "That nerd called me stupid and made the class laugh at me, so I hit him."
"Did he hit you back?"
"So who did?"
"His twin sons; then their cronies joined in."
"How many, Billy?" Billy shrugged his shoulder indicating he didn't know, and Daley turned to Mr Wentworth. "You must have seen it, how many attacked Billy?"
Wentworth glanced towards the deputy for support but found none. He cleared his throat and said quietly, "Four, maybe five?"
"Great!" I couldn't keep silent any more. "And just why did you call him stupid?"
Wentworth glared at me. "He wasn't paying attention, as usual, and refused to get on with his schoolwork. He also made a deliberate mess of his writing book."
"And you made fun of this in class?" Daley snapped. "How long have you been in this school, Mr Wentworth?"
Daley turned to Mr Shorrocks. "If Mr Stevens had been here, he would have guessed what was happening. I don't suppose you bothered to look in Billy's file and notice, in the medical section, he's been investigated for a medical condition that often causes a complete change of character. And I don't suppose either of you remembered that Billy's a mute. Mr Wentworth can be excused for not knowing, but not you." He then turned to Wentworth and added, "But you just stood back and watched your sons and their cronies beat him up, didn't you, Mr Wentworth?"
"He had to be restrained," Wentworth shouted angrily. "He went crazy."
"Yeah, I'll bet," I sneered, and knelt by Billy again, noticing the two police officers were listening carefully, and one was writing in his notebook. I got Billy's attention and pointed to my ear, and signed, "Why?"
Tears sprang to his eyes and he placed his mouth against my ear and whispered, " I couldn't see the board. "
I stood up and signed to Daley, and he said, "Oh, My God!"
At that moment, the door opened and a thick set man with a cheerful face and rough grey hair walked in, took in the scene and frowned at Shorrocks. "I've just come past B5's classroom and it looks like a bomb's hit it. I suggest you get it sorted. I'll deal with things here."
"Mr Stevens, I think -."
"I'm not bothered what you think, Mr Shorrocks. I'm just glad someone had the sense to phone me. I know what's been going on, so I'll deal with it. Off you go then, there's a good chap."
Looking suitably chastened, Shorrocks left the room and Wentworth got to his feet, intending to follow. "Not you, Wentworth, sit down!" Stevens glanced at Daley and me and nodded. "It's all right, Mr Roberts, I know all about Billy's problem and I had quite a chat with his specialist about my own observations during Billy's school time." He gazed down at
Billy and said gently, "Those clumsy little episodes, bumping into things? And your writing going a bit skew whiff? I bet you don't use your home computer all that much these days either." He turned his attention to Wentworth. "Billy has a brain tumour, Mr Wentworth, which is obviously beginning to affect his behaviour, and unfortunately his sight. Now, you've only been in this school a short while so you wouldn't know too much about Billy, but your boys have been here a year and in that time they have shown themselves to be thoughtless bullies, whom you seem to take great delight in encouraging. They have caused more incidents than anyone else I have known to walk these corridors. But this time they have gone too far. I won't be pressing charges against you; I'll just write you three off as a bad experience, but you will pack your bags and be ready to leave this school after these police officers have completed their investigation. And you can take those bullying twins of yours with you; they are suspended till further notice. I won't be pressing charges on behalf of the school, but it doesn't mean Billy won't press charges on all three of you."
Wentworth's face took on the colour of a bleached sheet as he tried to get his mouth to work. He probably realised he wouldn't get another teaching post in a hurry if news of his handling of the incident got out. He knew he was beaten and he left the office. Stevens turned his attention to Billy and leaned down to examine his face. "I think a trip to hospital is best for you, young man; a check-up and a couple of stitches, eh? Just be thankful you have a few good friends in that class of yours who were quick to phone me with the real story." Billy nodded and started to get up of the chair, winced and sat down again. I stared up at Stevens and he shook his head. "I'm afraid there might be more injuries than a bruised face. From what I was told by several of Billy's friends, those thugs gave him a right kicking.
"In that case," one of the officers said, "I think we'll have a word with the rest of the class, if you wouldn't mind having them brought here one by one. I'll radio for backup to talk to the Shorrocks boys and their father. Then we'll give Billy a police escort to the hospital."
Billy shook his head furiously, but I had to agree with the officer. We were asked to wait outside the office while the officers dealt with the four offenders, a bunch of kids who looked like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths with smart uniforms and tidy haircuts. They sneered at Billy as they passed him on their way into the office. I doubted they would be sneering when they came back out with the police for company. While we waited, I sat Billy on a chair outside the secretary's office and Daley and I persuaded him to take off his blood stained shirt and sweater. There were red marks all over his back and chest, and I wondered about his kidneys. He was reluctant to undo his belt and pants but Daley insisted. I pulled his pants down and appraised the bruises around the lumber area and lower. There were enough marks for me to be worried enough to call Stevens and an officer out. They took a look and, the way they eyed each other, it boded ill for the four thugs and the Shorrocks twins. It was a good thing the police were there or I would have sorted those thugs out myself and I'm sure Daley felt the same way. Knowing how the Social Services and the do-gooders worked, they would probably be given an ASBO and sent home with slapped wrists, which in my mind was not enough. A police van arrived to take the offending parties away, and then we were escorted to the hospital where the officers stayed with Billy to see his injuries were properly photographed and recorded as evidence. By now, Billy could hardly walk and the doctor advised that, after having some x-rays done and his lip stitched, he should stay in overnight for observation. Billy hit the roof, of course, but I manage to calm him down enough for him to see sense. He had his appointment with Dr Brent the day after tomorrow and Daley and I needed him calm and co-operative by then.
When the results of the x-rays came back, I was glad we had sat on him. They showed a hairline fracture of his left cheek-bone, which the officers and the doctors agreed had been made by a kick to the face, and he had a lump behind his left ear. The bruises on his torso proved to be not too serious, but were sound evidence of the attack, and the doctors wanted to monitor his kidneys for twenty-four hours. The officers left with their evidence and Billy's statement, and we accompanied Billy to a side ward in the renal unit where we saw him into bed and left him seething and plotting vengeance. I hated to think what he would put the nurses through till we came to collect him the next day. On the way home, I asked Daley how they would monitor his kidneys. "They'll monitor his liquid intake and urine output," he said, "and they'll take a sample every time he takes a leek. They'll watch the colour of it; if the kidneys are bleeding, his urine will be darker than normal. If it turns clear then his kidneys are okay." When we got home and Daley told the band what had happened, they were ready to go round to the Wentworth house and do some damage. It was just as well the twins were in custody for the night, but I couldn't vouch for their father's safety. I lay awake that night, worrying about my young lover, but my fears were unfounded because, when we went back to the hospital, we found Billy had fallen asleep minutes after we had left, and had slept for several hours. He had behaved impeccably towards the nurses and was in pretty good spirits when we arrived. That put me on the alert as I felt the kid was planning something.
The guys made a fuss of him when we got him home but not as much as Jake. We just couldn't get that hound away from him. Not that Billy minded, and I had to take second place in his affection for a while. Daley advised Billy to rest up but he was having none of it; he had things to do. He explained to Daley and me that he was worried about his finances now that Bill's money wasn't coming in any more. He needed to adjust his dad's computer settings to a larger font so he could read the files more easily. Apparently he had been talking to the hospital almoner who said he could apply for benefits as he was still in school but living on his own, and he wanted to access the website she had told him about. He knew Bill's life insurance policy would pay the rest of the mortgage off, and pay for his dad's funeral, and also leave some cash in the bank to pay immediate bills, but how much and when it would be paid, he didn't know. All this had to be checked and he wanted to do it himself before he went to see Dr Brent. Also, any benefits, if he was entitled to them, would take a few weeks to come through, even though it would be backdated. And he had to think of some way to bridge the gap. The band solved the problem themselves, all of us promising to put some money in the kitty. Billy was grateful and promised it was just a loan.
After tea, Billy took me up to the attics, climbing slowly, with each step a huge effort. Once there, he showed me an attic set out like a miniature gym. He had changed into a sweatshirt, jogging bottoms and trainers, and he now invited me to help him loosen up seized muscles and aching bones. We worked together for about half an hour till we could no longer keep our hands off each other, and we made love on the practice mat, being extra careful of his injuries. We ended up with him resting in my arms, both of us tired but content, while he whispered in my ear about his wish to get back at the Wentworth boys and their cronies. He asked if the band would help, and I said "No Way." The band would not want to get involved in any heavy stuff. Billy whispered that that was not what he had in mind. He explained his plan to me and I thought it a good one. Whether Daley would agree to it was another matter. We worked out for a bit longer then went downstairs to put Billy's plan to the band.
The day of Billy's appointment at Christies arrived, and Billy felt a lot better. The bruises on his face were ripening beautifully, and his right eye was beginning to open: a good sign I thought. His appointment wasn't until the afternoon, so we all dressed in clothes that made us look pretty tough. Indian had painted his face with war paint and had braided his hair and stuck a feather in it, and Billy wore his black muscle outfit. We all had a good breakfast and piled into the bus. Daley drove us down towards the school and turned right just before we hit town. Following Billy's directions we followed the road round the back of the school and on for about three hundred yards till we came to a house set back off the road and surrounded by an old wall with a rusty gate. The Wentworth car was parked by the front door, indicating that at least the father was home. Daley parked the van a few yards back from the gate, in a clearing under some trees.
I left the van and hid in the bushes opposite the gate from where I could watch the front door of the house. The time was ten forty-five am. Billy had explained that the Wentworth twins and their friends usually met up at the house on the days they were not in school. He didn't see why this day would be any different. We only had to wait about fifteen minutes before two of the thugs arrived, walking straight past the van without noticing it, to wait at the gate for their mates. The other two arrived ten minutes later and the four went up to the house. Someone must have been watching for them, and the door opened before they reached it. I went back to the van to report, where I tried for one last time to stop Billy from pursuing this crazy scheme. Billy smiled and signed, "If you guys do what I asked you to do, I can handle them. Ask Daley."
I stared at Daley and he just grinned as he opened the driver's door. "Ready boys?" Indian grinned and flexed his arm muscles, and Rob cracked his finger joints. Billy and the others piled out of the van and we made our way through the gate and up to the house. Rod was given the honour of knocking on the door. He did it with great relish, creating quote a din, then stepped away to allow Billy to stand about ten feet away from it while we found ourselves places around the place and far enough away to stop the Wentworth gang from thinking we'd join in and paste them to the floor. Our only intention was to infer to them that Billy was not alone and we were only there to see fair play. The first to poke his nose out of the house was Mr Wentworth. He called back over his shoulder and the twins appeared. Billy beckoned to them, folded his arms and stood waiting. Wentworth literally pushed his sons out of the house. Their mates followed like the sheep they were.
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