'You heard?' Roman asked Folsom when he'd unlocked the storage bin behind his closet and stood back as Folsom stumbled out into the light.
Squinting his eyes, Folsom said. 'Everything.'
'Oh,' was as much as Roman said as he stumbled back and collapsed on the bed. He was holding a tissue to a bleeding nose, and bruises were already beginning to form on his cheek and torso. What looked that finger prints were materializing in blue on either side of his rib cage.
'Thanks, man,' Folsom said as he sat down beside Roman and put his arm around his shoulders protectively. 'Thanks for not giving me up. Who was that, anyway?'
'That was Sten. You'll want to stay away from him.'
'And who is Sten?'
'He's one of three bartenders,' You probably heard that he's making a bid to take over Meister's operations. He's just nasty enough to succeed in that.'
'So let's see. You say I should trust Ralf and can't trust Sten, and they are virtual twins.'
'Well, they're not really twins. When the masks come off you can tell them apart. But I guess that won't help you if you haven't seen them unmasked.'
'Does Sten have a scorpion tattooed on his groin?' Folsom asked.
'No, that would be Ralf.' Then Roman looked up and he smiled. He winced from the pain, but he couldn't help but smile. 'So, you really do know Ralf, don't you?'
'That's right, we've managed to meet.'
'He does get around and I'm not surprised that he zeroed in on you. You're quite a catch.' Then he winced again.
'Come on, you need to get cleaned up,' Folsom said. 'And you'll need to get those bruises attended to.'
'You need a shower too,' Roman said. 'I can tell it was really hot in that storage room. Now, your manly smell turns me on. But if they search the room again, I'd hate to see you give yourself away. Come we'll shower together - then we'll find some clothes for you to wear. We've got to get you out of here sooner or later, and you'll start a riot going through the ship wearing those shredded clothes.'
When they got into the bathroom, Roman rummaged around in the compartment under the sink and came up with a new toothbrush. 'Here, you can brush your teeth. I'll meet you in the shower.'
And meet him in the shower he did. When Folsom pulled aside the shower curtain, there Roman was, under a stream of water, his shoulders and heels plastered to the tiles, but his hips arched out and his cock curved up, hard, ready, and inviting. With a laugh, Folsom turned and backed into the tight shower and settled on Roman's cock and was mined deeply as Roman soaped his conquest up and they rinsed off together.
As soon as they were out of the shower and toweling off, Folsom returned to the crisis at hand.
'So, where do we go from here, and why is the ship under way? Why didn't it dock in Koblenz? Is Manfeld still aboard?'
Roman responded in reserve order. 'Yes, Manfeld's aboard, but the scuttlebutt around the crew is that he got dressed down for having let you slip away and not finding you. The Bundespolizei have directed the ship to go directly on to Cologne, where there's a regional police headquarters. I assume the ship will be swarming with police as soon as we dock there, and they'll take the River God apart board by board if they have to find you.'
'And the up side of that is?' Folsom asked, as he picked through the clothes Roman had on offer for him to wear.
'We do have a plan.'
'We,' Folsom asked. 'How many 'we' are we talking about here.'
'Ralf, Tiho, and I,' Roman answered. 'We've put our heads together, and we'll have you off the ship almost as fast as the police in Cologne are coming on board.'
'I'm not sure what good that will be,' Folsom responded. Roman and his friends were amateurs at this. They had no idea the vice the police would have Folsom in. 'All of the passengers' passports are being held at the reception desk. And I'll be completely lost in Cologne. They'll pick me up there almost as fast as they'd find me on this ship.'
Roman laughed. 'Ralf, Tiho, and I are survivors. You have no idea what Tiho and I had to do to get out of Eastern Europe to the West. Not all of the passports are at the reception desk. Tiho managed to get yours pulled even while the police detective was interviewing you - and he took another one for good measure. They realize yours is gone - and that was another thing Manfeld was dressed down for. But they're not likely to notice that the other passport is missing until the River God docks for the last time in Amsterdam and the passengers are picking up their passports to leave the ship.'
'I don't understand,' Folsom said. 'What good is having the other passport?'
'Tiho was clever. He took one of a man who looks a bit like you but has noticeably different colored hair and a distinctive tattoo on his neck. He's got an ear stud too.'
'And so?' Folsom asked.
'And so, look around you. This is a dressing room for a stage show. By the time we dock in Cologne, you're going to have that hair color and an inked tattoo. I'm sorry to say that the ear piercing isn't going to be temporary, except that the hole should close up again fairly quickly if you don't want to keep it. Personally, I think you'll look stunning with a diamond in your ear. The important thing is that you'll have a relatively clean passport to use in Cologne and you'll still have your own to help you get out of the European Union area at some port the police won't be watching.'
'I've never been to Cologne; it's unlikely I'll be able to maneuver there,' Folsom said, 'and I can't just walk away from this case. I don't care who killed Meister, other than resenting that they got there before me, but Dieter deserves having his murder solved.'
'If you didn't kill Dieter, the German police will find out who did. They are very good at their jobs,' Roman responded. 'But why do you say you resent someone else getting to Meister before you did?'
Then Folsom told Roman everything - about the murder of his partner and lover, Brad Roberts, and about his decision to track Meister down and personally making him pay for that crime.
'Yes, I can understand that kind of anger and wish for revenge,' Roman said with a quiet sense of determination in his voice. 'I feel the same way about Dieter. But don't worry, we'll get you out of here and I've already been in contact with someone in Cologne who will take care of you if you give him what he wants?'
'Give him what he wants?' Folsom asked.
'Yes. He's partial to handsome American tail. He'll let you stay in his flat. But he says if he's to take the risk of harboring a fugitive, his price is that you share his bed as well. Do you think you can handle that?'
'No problem, I'm sure,' Folsom answered.
'You sure? He's a big bruiser of a guy - and can be pretty rough.'
'Even better,' Folsom answered with a grin.
'OK, so let's see how you do as a silver blond. I guess we'd better make you a total silver blond. You never know when . . .'
The sound of a buzzer cut through the walls of the cabin, and Folsom was bundled back into the storage bin behind the closet and he was locked into the darkness while yet another search was conducted by the policeman who had accompanied Detective Manfeld on board in Koblenz.
This time, Folsom was able to keep his calm even though he didn't like being shut up in this coffin the second time any better than the first. But this time, he could begin to see a way out of this predicament. He realized, though, that the case would have to be solved, and someone other than he had to be fingered for the murders on the ship, before he would have a prayer of returning to the States, not to mention to his NYPD duties. So, it was up to him to help solve these crimes. And the longer he thought and calmly weighed the evidence and the possibilities, the more a nagging question needled at him. As soon as he could if he was successful in disappearing into the streets of Cologne, he'd have to get to a phone with an international connection and check this nagging question out.
When Roman opened the door again, they barely had time for Folsom's cosmetic transformation before Tiho was knocking at the door and saying it was time for them to try to move forward.
Folsom did ask Roman to check out one thing for him, though, and pass the answer on through the big bruiser friend, if possible. 'Could you find a subtle way to ask the captain if he will confirm that Sigmund Frist was on board? I'm worried about what has happened to Frist, and I saw he and the captain together; I know the captain knows he was here when the bodies were found. Oh, and do you have a roster of the ship's crew I could have?'
Roman rummaged around in a drawer and came up with a roster and handed it to Folsom. Then he said he would query the captain about Frist but that Folsom needed to worry about Folsom. He and Tiho needed to try to get to the other part of the ship while coffee and desserts were still being served in the Ambrosia Restaurant and everyone was watching their approach to Cologne.
This was the most dangerous part of Roman's plan. Getting to the other side of the ship and to the other store room that Tiho had picked out to hide Folsom in until they could execute their escape plan. The timing on that would have to be precise.
They had no trouble getting through the public areas of the ship. They encountered no one but passengers, who were more interested in each other than in a waiter and a bottle blond, no matter how cute they both were. It was only as they were approaching an alcove off to the left of the main corridor of the stern crew area that they encountered a threat. And it was a threat in big time. Manfeld was bearing down on them. He was holding a cell phone to his ear and was having an animated conversation.
Tiho pushed Folsom off into the alcove, backed himself against the door into the laundry room, and pulled Folsom to him. He took Folsom's hand and planted on his basket and brought Folsom's lips down to his and went into a firm lip lock, accompanied by deep-throated moaning. Manfeld passed them right by, carefully not even looking at them, up to his chin now with disgust about what was going on on this ship.
'OK,' it's safe to go on now,' Tiho said, moving to push Folsom away. 'It's just a bit farther now. You can wait in a storage closet for a half an hour or so while we dock in Cologne.'
'No,' Folsom said in a husky voice. 'You shouldn't start something you don't want to see finished. And I've had enough of storage closets. This laundry room suits me just fine.'
For nearly the next half hour, several of the crew members passed the laundry room, and they even looked in to check out the moaning and groaning, but none of them were surprised. It was just Tiho and one of the passengers again. Tiho was bare-assed on the top of a washing machine, and a studly silver-blond passenger with a flashy diamond ear stud had Tiho's legs spread wide and was fucking him hard and chewing on his tits.
Before they departed, Tiho was looking quite worried and concerned, and it seemed like he wanted to tell Folsom something but couldn't.
'What is it? What's wrong, Tiho?'
'I can't say. Not here, not now. But if you are able to meet me in the cathedral tomorrow afternoon at four, I do have something you need to know. But I'm afraid of telling you now; afraid of what you'll do.'
There was no time to pin Tiho down on this. Folsom almost tried to make time, but suddenly Tiho was gone and Folsom was standing in a corner of the kitchen, ready for the plan to unfold, a plan that did not allow him to linger beyond the assigned time.
Even Folsom had to admit with appreciation that the escape plan was quite sleek. The ship docked on the Rhine right next to the train station and the famous Cologne cathedral. The main gangplank came down and the waiting legion of police officials bustled on board. As the last of them entered the ship's foyer, the service gangplank at the stern of the ship, where the kitchen was, came down for fewer than ten seconds, a figure scurried off and moved quickly into the shadows of the trees on the river promenade, and the gangplank was pulled right back in, as if it had never been extended in the first place.
The directions on the slip of paper in Folsom's hand were quite clear in coordination with the tourist map of Cologne he had been given. As directed, he went through the bustling train station, where it would have been nearly impossible to follow him from any distance if someone was tracking him from the ship and then up into the Dom Platz, the cathedral square. Three streets past cathedral square, down the Hohe Strasse shopping street with its teaming masses of people aching to drop their euros, Folsom turned on Brückenstrasse, which melded into Glockengasse. One more turn into Krebsgasse, and he found the innocuous section of flats he was seeking. He pressed the button above the name he had been given and he was buzzed in immediately. The connection had been made. The man named Fritz was waiting for him on the third landing.
Roman had been spot on. He was a big bruiser of a brute - well over six feet tall, bald and heavily tattooed and muscled. Folsom had been told he was a bouncer in a popular nightclub in Cologne, and Folsom could well believe he'd be really good at that job.
There was no language barrier. His English was excellent - and explicit and to the point.
'Roman said I could try you out before I committed. You have a problem with that?'
'No,' Folsom answered. What would it have mattered even if he did, Folsom wondered.
'Well, come on in then and strip.'
'Oh God, oh God, Oh Jesus. Yesssss!'
Folsom was headed toward a good death.
Fritz had shown him a thick strip of black leather with thinner belt-like extensions at either end and asked if Folsom knew what it was for. Folsom had seen a plow belt before and didn't register consternation that Fritz had one. He was amazed and fully appreciative, though, that Fritz could support his full weight with it from behind him, with the belt stretched around Folsom's belly and holding him suspended in air in front of Fritz, as the burly German bouncer fucked him hard and deep from the rear. And fucked him and fucked him and fucked him.
When Folsom was allowed to fall, exhausted on the three-quarter bed in Fritz's one-room flat, he had only two questions. 'Did I pass? Can I stay?'
'Oh, yes, you passed,' Fritz answered with a big grin on his face. 'Sehr Gut!'
It was good that Folsom had gotten a good nap the second time he'd been locked in the storage bin behind Roman's closet, because Fritz was so pleased with his new toy that he woke Folsom repeatedly through the night with panzer assaults on his ass canal.