Later that morning when I couldn't raise Hank on the telephone to tell him I was taking the next flight out to Los Angeles, I found out why Lieutenant Kahn had said what he did about it being good that Hank and I weren't fighting and that I'd talked to Hank that morning. At the time I'd been half afraid that Burton knew I'd gone off the casual sex wagon again, but it was just that he already knew that in the morning meeting of Hank's unit, Hank would be put immediately under deep cover to work on the Scarlotti case. This was a specialty of Hank's--just as it was one of mine. That's how I'd met Hank to begin with.
I'd have no idea how long it would be now before I saw Hank again. But it was good, as Burton had been interested in finding out, to know that things were good between Hank and me so that nothing would fester between now and when we got together again. Or at least I hoped things were good between us.
As it was, I couldn't have gone to L.A. with as clear a mind as I did if I had problems with Hank hanging over me. Kahn had called L.A. to ensure that Danny was in the ballpark in suggesting that I come out, and then he was very understanding about me going--he even had admin get me the ticket and put me on per diem while I was out there.
It was a good thing that he arranged for the travel, because I was still in somewhat of a haze on the bombshell Danny had dropped. My parents maybe murdered? I had just arrived at Penn State for my first year of college twenty-one years ago when I was told about their deaths. But all I'd been told was that it was a road accident. To have that questioned now was a real shot to my solar plexus. Especially as I'd always wondered if their deaths had had anything to do with me. That had been one crazy summer--the year I turned eighteen. And theirs weren't the only deaths I'd experienced then. I think that being a bit unsure about what was behind everything that summer--on top of me wanting to be taken by men and suddenly being able to make that decision for myself--was what turned me to wanting to study to be a police detective.
I had plenty of time to resurrect the events of that summer twenty-one years ago--long, and purposely, laying dormant at the back of my mind--as my plane winged its way westward.
The deaths so far in the past of one's parents should be long-buried news, but in my parents' case any reopening of that can of worms would still make headlines. And perhaps this time the two deaths that preceded theirs might become public and connected with them. That doesn't mean these deaths had become connected with me, though, and me going out to L.A. to see what was brewing might not be the best idea from that standpoint.
Scott Sloan and Laura Lake hadn't been just anyone. These were my parents; I took their real last name rather than either of their professional names. For nearly a decade they had been the leading man and lady of a string of iconic motion picture films and were in the highest realms of gods and goddesses in the Hollywood world. I was their only child, and they had worked at keeping me out of the spotlight. That part seemed to have worked well. But beyond that, both of them were near-total losses as parents. At some point, both had decided that they preferred sex with their own kind and had split in nearly all but public knowledge. My dad remained in Hollywood, moving into the roles of the more mature, wise figure heartthrob of yesterday, while my mother--through her costume designer girlfriend, Magda Nadar--came under the sway of an Ingmar Bergman-style Scandinavian director. After age sixteen, thus, my usual contact with her was in telephone calls from Stockholm.
From my mid teens I had virtually been raised by Robert Sinclair, my tutor and companion. My father had taken some interest in me--and I did live with him at his ranch. But his interest increasingly became one of a sexual nature--at least when his best buddy, the film-world young stud actor, Gordon Fields let him up for air. Robert's main job, sometimes even greater than the academic training, became one of holding me off from following my father's interests until I was of age. That was hard for Robert, as he also liked men, but he liked men in the same way as I did. And it was even harder for me, because I wanted Robert (or any well-hung man, I must confess) and was too young to realize that two bottoms didn't make a decent coupling.
Our little family mystery and the start of the crumbling of the house of Sloan and Lake started when the pool boy, hired by my father for other attributes than his ability to clean pools, was found floating in the pool at the ranch. The plot thickened when my tutor fell from the roof of a Las Vegas hotel, leaving a note that he had drowned the pool boy. The edge of homosexuality was there, but the digging that was done by the press didn't get anywhere close to the sordid world of my parents.
The scene got murky as I came of age and started coupling with every man who wanted me--which was nearly every man in my father's telephone book, including, almost, my own father. After the "almost," my parents locked horns in a dramatic scene they each would have loved seen filmed, and I was bundled off across the country to start college at Penn State. A couple of weeks later, both of my parents were dead.
All Hollywood had mourned, and the tabloids were full of stories--some half true, most not even close in scandal to the real world of Scott Sloan and Laura Lake. But so thickly was the story of the double loss to the screen iced over that no one then--and no one for at least a day or two more--had any inkling of the flavor of the cake itself.
So, although the history was stale on the story I was flying into, just the mention of the names Scott Sloan and Laura Lake, in conjunction with the word "murder," was going to be enough to feed the tabloids for weeks.
Danny Thompson met my plane at L.A. International, his LAPD Homicide badge getting him closer to me at the arrival gate than any of the other greeting parties could come.
He was looking better than I remembered him, and I had a slight pang of jealously that this probably was because of the attentions of Sharenda, who, I had to admit, was quite a beauty. He was even more bulked up than before and maybe a waist size trimmer, and was all ebony muscle and a million-dollar smile. He put his hand possessively on the small of my back as we were going down the escalator, and although I melted to the contact, I started raising my defensive barriers. If Danny thought he could just take up with me again like this, I had some bad news for him.
"Let's get you squared away, and we can get started tomorrow morning. I know you must be bushed from the coast-to-coast flight. You got luggage to pick up?"
"We can start right now, if those files you've got are what I think they are. Surely they've got bars in this airport. And, nope, this suit bag is all I brought."
"Really traveling light, aren't you? Think we can wrap this up in a couple of days?"
"I've got a stash of clothes and supplies here."
Danny gave me a funny look, but he didn't ask for an explanation. Instead, he started looking for bars on the airport concourse that were almost deserted--which were most of them this time of day--and ushered me into one that seemed to suit our need.
"Yep, I brought files. But you sure you don't want to give it a rest first?"
"No, thanks. I'll take those. Go see if you can rustle up a couple of drinks. I'll be happy with a Corona."
As Danny went off to the bar, me watching the roll of his buttocks as he moved and sighing a sigh of remembered good times, I picked up the folders. There were three of them. One on my parents' deaths and one each on that of the pool boy, Emilio Munez, and my tutor, Robert Sinclair. Naturally, I opened the file on my parents first. It was by far the thickest, but most of that consisted of newspaper clippings. It had been a major event two decades ago. I hoped to hell it wouldn't become a major event again. But what caught my eye challenged that hope.
Danny returned to the table with four Coronas--bless him--and, after lining them up on the table top, turned a chair and sat on it across from me, it's back facing me. I remembered it as he favorite way of straddling a chair, and with his legs spread like that, it brought back memories of him straddling me the same way, and I had to fight back the look of longing my eyes wanted to give him.
"What's this shit?" I asked, as if it was something Danny had written into the file. "No one told me anything about this."
"About the suspicion at the time that it wasn't an accident--that it was murder and suicide."
"What did you think it was?"
"A pure accident, straight and simple. They'd both been at a beach house--Theo Kline's--at Santa Barbara, and both had been drinking, which was what everyone in films did after leaving the studio. Except they'd come down from the mountains, where they were shooting a high-timber movie my dad was starring in. It's a treacherous ocean-side drive back to L.A. My father lost control of the Bentley, and it went over the side and down to the rocks beside the surf."
"You were how old when your parents died?"
"I'd just turned eighteen. I'd just arrived in Pennsylvania to start college."
"Ah. The authorities and your family friends probably thought that's all you should know at that age. It's what they kept the story to for the papers too. The media would have had even more of a field day than they did if there was any hint then of anything else, wouldn't they?"
"But this--what Mom's girlfriend, Magda, said. This is a bunch of shit, and yet the police report hints at believing her."
"Well, she was close to your mother, wasn't she?"
"Yes. But these are lies. The suggestion that my mother drove off the road purposely. Just a bunch of shit."
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize you didn't know anything about that," Danny said, laying a hand on my forearm. I felt the warmth--no, the heat--of him. And I winced. "If I'd known, I would have prepared you before you read into the file."
"But why did Magda say that? And why didn't anyone do any checking? Where's an interview with her chauffeur, Grayson?"
"Oh, you didn't know about that, either. The chauffeur had had a heart attack. He was in the hospital--and he died soon thereafter. There is something about that in there. His condition apparently wasn't helped by hearing of your parents' deaths."
"But Magda knew she'd lied. Why didn't they pin her down on this?"
"I'm not sure I understand. I saw nothing wrong with her testimony, and there are no notes from the interviewers suggesting she was lying or misleading them. She was very cooperative--and, as it's written there, she was clearly distraught about your mother's death. She said your parents had been fighting--about you, actually--and your mother was angry. Magda said your mother had said several times she could kill your father, and--"
"Yes, yes, they had fought over me. I'd almost had sex with my father and my mother--and Magda--had walked in on us. But threatening to kill my father? I don't think my mother felt that much heat for either my father--or for me, for that matter. And surely Magda knew that. My parents were professional hams. They overdramatized everything. Magda knew that."
"--and," Danny overrode me, "Your mother was behind the wheel. Your dad's body was thrown clear of the car, but your mother's body was trapped behind the wheel."
"That's the part that should have been checked out," I said, being just as intense with my words as I could. "That's the part Magda was lying about. And that's the part that Grayson could have answered--or any number of other people too, I'll bet, if they had been asked. They could have asked me."
"At the time they were trying to protect your parents' memories, I'm sure," Danny interjected. "Your parents were major stars and the L.A. police did what they could to help out Hollywood. Characterizing it as an accident was, I'm sure, the expedient, kind thing to do--for everyone."
But I steamed right through that. "Why did they think that my mother--not my parents, just my mother--had a chauffeur. It was because my mother couldn't drive. They wouldn't have given her a license, and she never tried to learn. My mother was epileptic--not something they released to the fan magazines. She couldn't trust herself to be behind the wheel of a car. She couldn't have been driving the Bentley that day. She would have crashed right after leaving Klein's house--that is if she'd figured out how to get the car in gear to begin with."
Danny sat there, stunned. But only for about half a minute.
"That fits on how this is all opening up again then, I guess."
"How so?" I asked.
"Do you know a guy named Andrew Dix?"
"The man who used to be a television game show host?"
"Yep, that one."
"Yeah, sure. He ran with my dad's crowd back when I was living here. He spent most of his time at the ranch. My dad had it stocked with every bit-part pretty boy wannabe in pictures who was willing to sleep with men to get there. Dix liked to get blow jobs and make promises he couldn't keep. What about him?"
"He's in the hospital here. That's where we were going to start tomorrow, but we can go there today if you want. He's dying, and suddenly has gotten religion. He slips in and out of a coma, but he started all of this by wanting to confess that your parents' death wasn't an accident."
"Killed? by who?"
"He won't say. He wants to tell you. That's why it was so easy for me to get my bosses to bring you out here to help with the investigation. The old guy's stubborn. But he also says that your tutor, Sinclair, didn't kill the pool boy in the earlier case out at your dad's ranch--and didn't commit suicide. He said he had a part in that--and he's sorry--but that he wants to give his confession to you."
"God," I answered, otherwise speechless, if only for a moment.
"I'm sorry, that's a lot for you to process. I probably should have insisted that you get some shut-eye before being hit with all of this. Come on, down that second beer, and I'll take you someplace you can rent a car. Someplace cheaper and with better cars than you can get here at the airport. And then we'll stop at the motel before going to the hospital."
"Stop at the motel?" I said. My guard immediately went up.
"Sure. Or did you make reservations yourself for someplace to stay. I didn't think you'd think of that--and you can't stay with us. We've only got the one bedroom. You wouldn't believe the housing prices out here. Even worse than New York. The motel isn't anything fancy, but it's convenient to here, and you can switch if--"
"I've already got someplace to stay out here, Danny," I interjected. "It's why I could travel light. I've still got my dad's ranch. I hardly ever go there--it's rented to someone. But I still have squatting rights and my old bedroom. I've been out a couple of times in the last years--and I keep some clothes here. I'll take you up on the car rental idea, though."
A half hour later, Danny had pulled out of traffic and into the parking area of a motel straight out of the sixties. It wasn't run down, but was well on its way--which must have been a perpetual look it was cultivating--because as we rolled in, I realized I'd been here before, and it had evoked the same mood twenty years ago. That I'd returned to a scene from the past was ironic, because it was all tied up with the murder cases that had brought me back to L.A.
Shortly before I'd turned eighteen, my tutor, Robert, and I had spent a couple of tense nights in this motel. We'd been staying at my parents' Malibu beach house, where Robert was giving me a crash brushup for my high school exams, when a rogue fire in the hills above the coast caused us to evacuate. Robert had driven us back to the ranch, where we weren't expected to be, and there I found my mother in bed with Magda in one room and my dad in bed with the actor, Gordon Fields, in another room. The shock--not so much of what they were doing, because my eyes weren't closed to my parents' proclivities--but that they didn't care that the other was doing it--and under the same roof--had sent me reeling out of the house. Robert had driven us to a motel--this motel--where we'd checked in for a couple of nights so we could return to the ranch when we were expected.
As shocked as I was, I also was horny--and for another man, just as my father was. I'd known for a couple of years that this was what I wanted, and I couldn't wait until I was eighteen and could get in on the fun. At the motel, I had tried to rush that. I wanted Robert, and I thought this was my chance. But he rebuffed me, trying to make the rejection as painless as possible.
As Danny pulled into the motel, all of this history swept over me. I couldn't talk immediately, and when I could, it came out in a hoarse croak. Danny got the wrong idea.
"Clint," he said. His voice was hoarse too. One of his hands wrapped around my neck and brought my face to his, my lips to his. His other hand went to my basket, and I responded to him. But after a moment, I pulled away.
"Danny, no," I whispered. "Why are we here? Rental car and then hospital. That's what this trip was about. I said I didn't need a place to stay."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. This is the motel. We have a room here. I meant from the beginning that we had a room here. Just now. The kiss. Your cock. I know you want me, that you still want it."
"No, Danny. It's a mistake. I don't--"
"I'm getting out of the car and going into the room, Clint. You can sit out here in the car if you want. When you're ready, though, I'll be on the bed."
By the time he reached the door to the room and was inserting a key into the lock, I was by his side.
We didn't make it to the bed for the first time. He took me on the carpet between the door and the bed doggie style, me on all fours and him crouched over my pelvis and riding me hard. And then on the bed, every which way, all of the ways we had fucked before. He strapped my wrists to the headboard with his knotted belt and made me take his cock, hard and deep, in punishing thrusts, as my groans and grunts and whimpers harmonized with the angry squeaking of the coils of the box springs.
He was the Danny of old, with all of the power in his cocking that he'd had when he'd claimed me as his territory in New York. And there, for an hour, I was his again--completely, with full satisfaction--with no thought to my resolve or my pride or to his wife, Sharenda, no doubt waiting for him in a one-bedroom love nest across town.
"Should I cancel out on the room?" Danny asked between kisses, as we cooled down, our bodies still stretched out against each other, my rump cuddled into his crotch, and his dick still deep inside me.
"No, we can keep it for a while," I murmured.
We decided we needed to get to the hospital to interview Dix--if he was having one of his lucid moments--before picking out a rental car, as the hour was getting late by the time we'd showered and gotten back on the road.
"Mr. Dix? Why, your people came and took him away not more than an hour ago."
"Our people? Took him away?" Danny asked the charge nurse on Dix's floor at the hospital after we'd been to his room and found him and all of his stuff gone and orderlies changing the bed linen.
"Why, yes, a nice man in a police uniform came and took him away. He said Mr. Dix was going over to rehab, where he'd be safer. We did have some newspaper reporters nosing around here. But none of my nurses told them anything. I can assure you of that. If you police thought we did--"
"Thank you. Please call over to rehab and ask where his new room is. We have to talk with him today if he's awake."
"Well, he wasn't very awake when your man wheeled him out of here. I'll tell you that," the charge nurse said, as she picked up the telephone.
But of course no one at the rehab unit knew anything about an Andrew Dix. And no one at police headquarters, for that matter, knew anything about sending a policeman over to transfer Dix.
I had fucked my time and opportunity away. It wouldn't be the last mistake I'd make out in L.A. But I'd been on the West Coast for less than three hours and I'd already fucked up twice.
* * * *
I picked out a red Mustang convertible on the rental car lot, finishing the paper work after Danny let me off to go start trying to find Andrew Dix. I hadn't meant to get anything quite so flashy. But this was L.A. Everyone renting a car, it seemed, wanted a pimp mobile. So, that was pretty much the only thing the rental companies carried. At least I hit the lower end on cost and ostentation.
As I drove out to the ranch, not having seen it for several months, I wondered if its current tenant was in residence or was off on some film location. Gordon Fields had been my father's main sex partner when my parents died. He was a young, heartthrob actor at the time, who'd appeared in several of my father's films. He hadn't shown up, though, until after my parents had stopped making films together. He and my dad apparently made good box office in films. They were working on such a film--one marketed on two levels--when my dad had died. It was to be called High Timber, about logging operations, and included a lot of dialogue and scenes between two bare-chested hunks that could be taken more than one way. I played a young lumber jack apprentice in that movie--also bare-chested. It was a nonspeaking role and my only claim to movie fame. Homosexuality, like socialist politics, seemed to have been a film industry undercurrent and in joke in the late eighties and early nineties, just as they had been fifty years before then. My father and Fields appeared to make as much of a winning pair on the screen as they did off. Those who were straight saw them in one dimension--two he men who knew how men should act and had a healthy mentor-student relationship that they eventually moved to in a film. But to gay men, their relationship on film took a whole different, titillating meaning.
When my parents died, Fields had wanted to stay on at the ranch, and I found it convenient to rent it to him very cheaply as long as he took responsibility for all of the maintenance. Essentially all he paid to me was enough to cover the taxes, which had reached small-fortune heights. We didn't need to find oil or gold under our land; the land itself was more valuable than either of those commodities.
I was an easy touch for Fields at the time, because he had become my lover as well as my father's. When I turned eighteen, he and the producer of most of the dad's films, Theo Klein, had taken me to Klein's mountain cabin up in the San Rafael mountains above Santa Barbara and had taken turns--Klein first--in fucking me for nearly a week. I hadn't been forced. I had wanted it. It had been presented as my eighteenth birthday present, and I had considered it the best present I got that year.
Although my mother had seen that I was bundled off to Pennsylvania early for college to get me away from my dad, my dad had been willing to see me go to get me away from his lover, Gordon Fields.
I had seen both Klein and Fields again just this past year. Klein had gotten himself tied up in--and murdered for--something illegal down in the Florida Keys while filming a movie with Fields in it. Fields was now taking the more mature hunk roles my father was performing when he died. Klein had asked me to come down to help extricate him from his troubles, although they caught up with him and did him in before I could do anything about it. I had been bedded again by Fields then and, after he returned to Hollywood, I'd visited the ranch some thereafter. That had been the last time I was here.
I hadn't come back this time because of Fields. But I did wonder if he'd be at the ranch.
He wasn't there when I arrived in my red Mustang, as far as I could tell. The housekeeper at the ranch told me she didn't know where he was or when he'd be back. She offered to make me a hearty dinner and made the observation that I looked done in and should go right to bed after eating. I thanked her for both.
I was deep in sleep, laying naked on my belly under a revolving ceiling fan and on top of the sheets in my old bedroom at the ranch when I realized that Gordon Fields had returned to the ranch.
He lowered his naked body on mine after wedging his face between my butt cheeks until I squirmed and whimpered and begged for him. Exhausted, I lay there, giving no resistance or help, as he straddled my hips and slid inside me and, his hands clutching my waist, started to ride me slow and deep. I moaned my welcome for him as long as I could, but sometime between my ejaculation and his I drifted off to sleep.