When I woke up the next morning, I was alone in bed. For several minutes, as I was trying to pull up from a haze, the jet lag having finally pushed aside the adrenalin of finding out there was so much more to my parents' deaths than I had known, I wondered if Gordon Field's visit to my room last night had been real. I had almost convinced myself that it had all been a dream when I saw the Trojan Magnum Thin condom packet in the trash can next to the bed along with a spent condom. I knew from experience that this was Gordon's brand, as we'd once searched Key West, frantic to get on with it, to find a supply. These hadn't been in the trash can when I went to bed the night before.
Less than forty-eight hours away from Hank and I'd already had sex with four men. At one time there would have been nothing unusual about this. I had long accepted that I was a satyriasis, unstintingly promiscuous and not particularly discerning, especially when I was stressed. I had acknowledged that I went through life wanting a man's cock inside me--and not just one man's. But I had been working with that in an effort to settle down with Hank. I'd almost reached it before that with Brad, so I knew it could be done--well, for stretches of time; I fell off the wagon every month or so even with Brad. But all I had needed was to come back to Hollywood--where this had all started with me--and I was sinking into my old ways quickly.
In fact, if Gordon had still been here this morning, I would have wanted him again. And thinking of want, the image of the horse trainer I'd seen out in the paddock when I'd driven up to the ranch house swam before my eyes. The housekeeper had said his name was Dave. Gordon was making the ranch pay by stabling horses and letting breeders and trainers use the top-flight facilities my parents had insisted on having but then hadn't paid any attention to. My accountant--the one I'd inherited from my parents--here in Los Angeles, Holi (Holifield) Tasker, had insisted that the ranch either had to pay for me or I should sell it. I wasn't ready to sell it yet, although if I was asked--and Holi asked me frequently, because the land was valuable--I couldn't say why. I had no intentions of ever moving back here permanently.
Dave had been out there, shirtless, working with a smart-looking pinto pony. He'd been pretty smart looking himself--a big, blond Scandinavian type with muscle and a tan, giving proof to working hard under the sun.
At the thought of Gordon and then Dave, the horse trainer--not to mention Danny on the previous afternoon--I lay back on the bed and masturbated myself to an ejaculation. But still, after that, I was feeling horny. I decided that it must be the California air.
While eating pancakes and sausage in the punched-out bay window of the breakfast room, I went over all three files Danny had given me the previous day. Until then I'd only looked at my parents' file, and I hadn't really seen anything in that file once my focus had zeroed in on the supposition that my mother had been behind the wheel of the Bentley and had purposely gone off the side of the Pacific highway.
I was feeling a combination of mellow and keyed up as I ate, which wasn't a bad mix, I found. The breakfast the housekeeper had fixed was the best I'd had since I could remember. It's not something that a bachelor already late for work because he'd awakened to his sleeping partner's hard on often had. That was the mellow part. The keyed up part was that I could see that Dave was already out in the paddock working the pinto. I couldn't help but wonder if he used Trojan Magnums too. If I knew Gordon, he'd make sure that the guys working around him at the ranch weren't straight.
Dave took the pinto into the barn and, with a sigh, I returned to looking through the files. This time I turned to the ones on the swimming pool floater, Emilio Munez. He'd been a sweet young Hispanic, as I remember in the brief period I had known him. Just a few months older than I was when he had died. But that put him slightly beyond eighteen. According to the file, my dad had hired him as a pool boy at the ranch upon the recommendation of the director Charles Tilton. I remembered Tilton really well--a dangerous man that one. He had reminded me of a satyr, all dark aspect and looks, hairy, and always sniffing after a fuck from a young guy. I had wanted him in the worst way in those months as I was turning of age. And after I turned eighteen and before I left for Pennsylvania, I'd had him. Or, rather, he'd had me. He had a BDSM chamber in the basement of his Ventura beach house where he'd take young men--the younger he could find, the better--and teach them the darker art of the fuck. I think that's where I found what would send me to the heights of sexual passion and satisfaction.
As far as I could remember, Tilton was always skirting on the edge of being arrested for making BDSM porno movies with underage guys. I sometimes wondered if the tapes he'd made with me were seized in that case. If so, I would have been easy to recognize. I'm told that I'm the spitting image of my dad--which even now sometimes causes people to do double takes on the street. It, however, also is why I can walk into any gay bar and have my choice of the night--even at the age of thirty-nine.
If my dad had taken Emilio on the recommendation of Tilton, I bet I knew what experience he had come to the ranch with--and why my dad had hired him. And it wasn't because of how well he cleaned the pool. My dad had been into mild BDSM too. I knew he'd been beating and screwing Emilio in his room the night of Emilio's death--while I was trying to sleep just down the hall. I'd been scared that night, because it sounded like my dad was going further into BDSM than ever before--and I was afraid I was the reason. When my dad had taken Emilio away that night it was out of frustration of almost having sex with me, but stopping on the brink.
When they found Emilio floating face down in the swimming pool the next day, the police hadn't come after my dad. They'd looked elsewhere. And they didn't have to look far. Emilio was being screwed by half of the men coming to dad's ranch. That's what he was there for. But I'd always wondered why my father hadn't been suspected--God knows I'd always feared that he did it. So, my first instinct when I had the files was to check whether my father had an alibi for that night. According to Emilio's police file, my dad had been with Gene, one of the gym hunks floating around the ranch trying to sleep their way into the movies--and Gene had confirmed my dad had been with him.
Beyond knowing my father had also been with Emilio earlier in the night, which wasn't mentioned in the file, I found the pairing with Gene a bit strange. Not that Gene was fucking my dad--I didn't find that strange. Gene also was fucking my tutor, Robert. But that dad hadn't spent the night with Gordon Fields. The two of them had been steady for some time, even with the side couplings. But I knew that Fields and my dad and had some sort of fight that night before everything else happened. I checked through the file and found that Gordon said he spent the night with another one of the young "hangers on" named Gustav, who became our pool boy after Emilio died.
Why they'd latched onto my tutor, Robert Sinclair, for murdering Emilio was beyond me, though. Except, of course, that Robert wasn't famous and attached to the movies, which was an important point in Los Angeles, and also except that he disappeared the same day Emilio's body was found and later dove off the top of a Las Vegas hotel, leaving a note claiming he'd killed Emilio. But the motive had always rung untrue to me. The police concluded that Robert had been screwing Emilio and was jealous of him putting out to everyone else, including my father. But I knew better than most that Robert was as much a bottom as Emilio was. I had tried to get Robert interested in me, but he wasn't biting on that. He told me that we both were natural and committed bottoms, so it just wouldn't work out. And I never could get out of my head what I'd heard my dad doing to Emilio that night--and that just suddenly, Emilio's cries and groans had stopped.
I knew too that Robert had no sexual interest in Emilio. Robert was being screwed by Gene. The word was out that the all-male world of my dad; the producer, Theo Klein; and director, Charles Tilton, was the fast road into the movies for a guy willing to give his body up in the chase. But as far as I knew Gene disappeared at the same time Robert did. At the time I had thought they had left the ranch together--and that their leaving had nothing to do with Emilio's death.
Thinking about this is probably what made me zero in on the names in Danny's notes from having interviewed Andrew Dix in the hospital. I couldn't make much out of Danny's notes; his writing was terrible. But I saw two names written in the margin on one of the pages under the quoted word "ask": Jean and Charlie. Asking Danny what that had meant would be my second order of business for the morning.
What I first wanted to do, though, was to find out what Dave was doing in the barn with that pinto.
As it turned out, he was waiting for me, although he probably didn't realize it. I had been right about Gordon not having a hunk of a man working on the ranch who was straight and who wasn't ready to go at a moment's notice.
There wasn't much in the way of preliminaries. I lay on my back on two hay bales, my legs spread and waving in the air when my ankles weren't propped on Dave's shoulders, as he crouched between my thighs and gave it to me deep--not magnum, but big enough for me--while he held my throat in a choke hold with one hand and switched my chest and cock and balls lightly with a riding crop with the other until we both ejaculated, almost in unison. The pinto just stood there and passively watched.
I gave Dave a road map to my room in the ranch house before I went back to shower and prepared to go downtown to start unraveling this mystery. It had been five men now since I'd last been with Hank. And, yes, I was feeling a bit guilty. Especially so about Danny--because of Sharenda. She and Danny might have had a chance, I thought, if I hadn't come back into his life. If, of course, he'd been straight with her since they'd moved to California.
* * * *
"Tell me about these notes, Danny."
"Let me sit down first--and get a cup of coffee. It was a long night with nothing to show for it. Andrew Dix might be comatose, but he's managed to drop off the face of the earth. Hey, Sandy, what's the chance of a couple of cups of coffee? One for my friend, Clint, here too."
Danny hadn't been at police headquarters when I had managed to make it in--much later than I thought I'd be because of the nice encounter with the horse trainer. I'd thought I'd get razzed when I came in and might even be quizzed by Danny on why I was late. But it turned out that he and half the squad had been out all night trying to figure out where Andrew Dix had been taken. I didn't think Dix went anywhere under his own steam considering how the nurse described his departure from the hospital. And no one was coming up with a name on the guy who had wheeled him away.
"Thanks, Sandy," Danny said, as a young guy--the squad's clerk, I'd been told--set two cups of steaming coffee down on Danny's desk. The guy couldn't have been much more than his early twenties. I think I was told that he was still in college, working on his degree in law enforcement. He was tall and lanky, but with a full chest. I'd say he probably was a swimmer. Good looking, with pale, white skin and reddish-blond hair, which probably was where he got the name "Sandy" from. He was a "swisher," moving like a dancer and expressive with his body in ways that made me think all of his movements were practiced, intentional, and meant to be on display--and an open invitation to be manhandled.
I could tell, instantly, from the way he looked down at Danny when he set the coffee cups down and came in close to the ebony giant's side and put a hand on Danny's shoulder--and in how Danny looked up at him too, possessively--that Danny had been fucking him.
Good thing to know, I thought. I'd been doing a pity thing about Sharenda and about me coming to town and getting inserted in their relationship again. Sharenda had every reason to believe that Danny was off the man cruise now. Danny hadn't done that for me, though. When he was being possessive with me, he was still banging any cute piece of male ass that he could get his dick into. So, no more guilt feelings from me. Sharenda could just watch out for herself. Danny was still Danny.
"These names in the margin here, of your notes on the interviews with Dix. What are these about?"
"Here. You have 'ask' underlined and, under that, in the margin here, you've written what looks like 'Jean' and 'Charlie.'"
"Oh, those. I couldn't make heads or tails what he was trying to say. He kept drifting in and out. When he was lucid, he wasn't saying much of anything. He said this, 'ask Jean' and 'ask Charlie.' But it was when he was about to zonk out."
"So, he said this when his guard wasn't up." I made it more of a statement than a question. I wanted Danny to figure out his mistake here, which, being basically a real good cop, he did almost immediately.
"Yeah, you're right. If he was trying to keep information back, what he said when half looped would be more significant than what he didn't say when he was awake. Sorry, I didn't see the importance of that at the time. So, do you have any idea who Jean and Charlie might be?"
"I'd guess Charlie is Charles Tilton, the director. He was running with my dad's crowd at the time. And what you have written as Jean might be the man's name, Gene, with a G. There was a guy hanging around at the ranch with that name. He disappeared not long after Robert Sinclair did. I know that they were lovers. So, maybe he figures in this more than anyone thought. Is there anything about him in this file that I didn't find? I did look, but I've just been through the files a couple of times. You've lived the files."
"No, there isn't anything that I can recall. Maybe if I'd seen the name 'Gene,' it would have clicked that it was a man's name rather that the woman's name I wrote down. I guess I just assumed it was a dame."
"Well, we'll both pore over the files again, and maybe we'll see something. But what about the name 'Charlie'? Charles Tilton's name is all over the files."
"Yeah, I have it on the agenda to go out to Pelican Bay and talk with him. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was up to his neck in this."
"Yeah, Pelican Bay State Prison in Corcoran. According to his sheet, he's serving there for child porn and pedophilia."
"Child porn? Yeah, I guess that figures. He was doing that when I knew him. I even heard Theo Klein warn him about doing it so openly."
"No, not when I was underage," I answered. Danny looked at me sharply, expecting more, I was sure. But I wasn't in the mood to provide more information. I could tell that the thought of Charles Tilton manhandling me as a youth turned him on, though. He had a hand on my thigh where we were sitting--we were out of sight from most of the squad room from the waist down. I let his mitt roam up to my crotch before I put my hand on his and moved it away.
"It's been a long night," he said. "I was just going to check in this morning and then get some shut eye. The motel's closer than my place. I could use something to make me mellow and sleep good."
"I came out here to help clear this case up, Danny. I need to start somewhere. It's Magda Nadar's lie that has me most worked up now. You give me her address now, and I want to go talk to her. The motel can wait."
"You got me hard. Just seeing you this morning got me hard. I need to fuck."
"Not now, Danny. Some business first."
Danny's eyes narrowed. "I've never known you not to want it when it was offered by someone you liked. You gone off me?"
"No, Danny, of course not."
"I know you. You can't go half a day without wantin' it. You've fucked since we last did it--just yesterday. Haven't you?"
"Yes. Twice. Two different guys, if you must know." I'd said it to cool him off--and also to signal that he didn't own me anymore. He stopped owning me when he told me he was marrying Sharenda. But what I said had a different effect altogether.
"Oh, god, you're so hot. Come on, a quickie at the motel. Then you can go see the Nadar dame."
"Write Magna Nadar's address down, Danny."
"Then we'll go to the motel, right?"
"The address, Danny."
I watched him check his computer and then write her address down for me on a slip of paper. "Now--" he started.
"Now, why don't you sign Sandy, the clerk, out for lunch and take him to the motel and fuck his lights out, Danny? I know he'll want it. We'll see about you and me later."
"Bastard," Danny said. But he said it in a friendly sort of way. We both looked over at Sandy and he looked up. I waved and he gave me a smile.
"Sandy, you lucky bastard," I murmured loud enough for Danny to hear but no one else, "You're about to have giant, smoked sausage for lunch."
Danny growled, but he didn't stop me when I stood up from beside his desk and headed for the door.
As I left, I turned, and said, "After you've had your . . . nap, could you start the machine in motion in finding this Gene guy?"
"Easier said than done," Danny countered. "We don't even have a surname."
"Yeah, but my parents had a financial manager. As I recalled, Gene did some handyman work for us while he was at the ranch. The financial manager's name is there in my parents' file. It's Holifield Tasker. I'll bet he didn't make checks out to too many men named Gene during those last months."
"Always thinking, aren't you?"
"Yeah, but sometimes I'm thinking about you," I said. I don't know how anyone else in the squad room understood what I'd said. But I knew--especially when I saw Danny's face break out into a smile--that he understood that I wasn't really turning him off. I was just giving him a rain check on the two of us at the motel.
Again, I turned and looked at Sandy. I knew how Danny was when he was horny like this. "You are one lucky bastard," I thought to myself.