[Disclaimer: Although the Bourbon Street Pub in Key West is real and a good place to cruise, alas, The Pile isn't real. When this book was first published, some guys did go looking for it.]

"Damn," I exclaimed as I let myself into a second-floor room at the Days Inn off a balcony overlooking an atrium pool. In the embarrassment and the rush to get out from underneath the suspicion of the DEA and FBI guys, I'd completely forgotten what I should have told Sylvia Browne.

I tossed my bag down on a luggage rack, lowered myself onto the bed, and flipped open my cell phone. I was exhausted, still feeling the effects of the Mickey I'd been slipped, and overheated from the trudge cross town on Duval only to discover that the Days Inn was at the northwest corner of the key not far from the airport-about as far away from Duval as you could go without getting your feet wet. The place I'd been thinking of when Meltzer mentioned the Days Inn obviously wasn't where I'd thought it was. I rented a moped then and gave my feet a rest for the remainder of the trip.

Luckily I hadn't had much trouble getting a room once I'd gotten here. No one had bothered to cancel Gary Meltzer's reservation, and the assistant manager on duty was a little huffy when I mentioned the name. But he got all apologetic and cooperative when I said Meltzer had been murdered and flipped out my badge and said I was working the case and would take his reservation for at least a night or two if they had a room.

"Sylvia, it's me," I breathed into the phone. "Got settled here at the Days Inn on Roosevelt, at the airport end of the key. I hadn't remembered it was way the hell as far away from everything here as it could be. But maybe that's a good thing."

"I promise not to tell the FBI where you are unless they waterboard me," Sylvia answered.

"Very funny," I said, "but I called you because I forgot to ask if there was a blond, athletic guy in his late twenties among the boat or ship crew who might have gone by the name of Derek Dominick. He's the guy I told you about-one of the ones I think might be connected with Meltzer killing. He wasn't partying topside with Kline's guests, so I thought he might have been with one of the crews."

"No, nobody by that description is in the group we found," Sylvia said, "I'll let the FBI guys know they should look for him. But I'm glad you called. We're trying to unravel a mystery about the crew. A barkeep at a dive off Mallory Square insists some of the crewmen from the yacht were in his place, tearing it up pretty well, last night. But all of the ship's crew let loose this morning matched the records of who was included in the crew, and the crew all said they were locked up all night. So, someone's lying about that."

"Or the whole ship's crew is," I answered. "So, are the agents grilling them about that? Did the captain vouch for them?"

"Nope, they let everyone go already, and they've disappeared. The agents are trying to run them to ground again."

"The captain too?-I think his name is Alarcon."

"Yep, he's gone too. I bet half the crew are illegals, and he doesn't want to be questioned about that anymore than they want to be identified. Oh, and another thing, Clint. They found the float plane."

"Where? Anyone with it?"

"If you look out your window, you might see it," Sylvia said. "It's tied up at the marina over by your motel. Convenient to the airport. And we found out that the movie company owned a Cessna 182 that was kept at the airport and that it took off this morning-several people aboard, but no one at the airport counted. Key West is woefully laid back about these things."

"Flight plan?" I asked.

"Yeah, for Biloxi, but, you know, a plane like that could be headed almost anywhere. The FBI has a nationwide callout for it. We'll find it sooner or later. Eddie Lund signed on as the pilot. No real surprise there."

Sooner or later I thought, as I flipped off the phone and laid my head back on the pillow. Everything works out sooner or later. I started to doze off; I could hear Theo's voice saying "look for the connections" and "everything isn't what it seems." But before I could form a serious thought, I was asleep.

I dreamt of Jerome fucking me while Theo watched and whispered directions, and I woke up in the twilight with a hard on. And all I could think of was that I needed to get up to Duval Street and get drunk and laid and put all of this out of my mind. I was the kind who did better by clearing my mind of everything and letting my brain chew on a problem by itself. When successful, I'd have sudden flashes of insight. All the time I was doing something else, my brain would be processing everything and coming up with those connections Theo nagged me about.

I got up, went into the bathroom, and cleaned myself out well and showered. After drying myself off with a threadbare towel well past its "use by" date, I pulled on a pair of faded, soft, well-worked jeans cutoffs-no underwear-and a muscle T and sandals. I stripped my wallet down to the essentials-some cash, the hotel door card, and my most expendable credit card-and slipped that along with several condoms and the keys to the moped in my pocket. Then I was good to go. I caught a quick meal at a burger joint nearby and was off tooling down North Roosevelt toward Duval on the moped. When stripping my wallet, I came across the slip of paper with the name of the Bourbon Street Pub on it that the college jock hunk on the flight from Miami had given me, so I had at least the start of a destination in my mind.

The Bourbon Street Pub was right on Duval, and the crowd around its entrance left no doubt that it was a gay bar. I got enough cat calls and offers as I pushed my way through the crowd and entered the dimly lit bar area that I knew I wouldn't be lonely tonight unless I wanted to be. It was noisy and crowded. Soft-core porn films were flashing on screens on all four walls, and the shadows on three sides of the room enveloped booths offering some semblance of privacy, although I could see from the undulating bodies there that all forms of pleasure were being explored from smoking weed to blowing cocks and even more intimate pursuits. That's what I loved about Key West. Anything goes there; no need for inhibitions. One of the deep-side walls was fronted its entire length with a long bar, and along this at intervals were shiny metal poles running up from the bar top to the high ceiling, and barely legal young men in thong bikinis were playing the poles to something close to the beat of the loud, heavy-metal music.

I had saddled up to the bar and taken charge of a mug of beer long before I heard his voice.

"You came."

I turned at the sound of his rich baritone. "Hi. It's Steve, isn't it? You recommended this place, so I thought I'd come and check it out."

"Came to play or just to look?"

I knew what I'd come for, and I saw no reason to mince words. This was Key West. "I'm lonely tonight. I came to drink and get fucked," I answered.

"Any particular order?"

"I'm not particular. You mentioned something about a 'pile.'"

"You want to see it-with me?"

"Sure," I answered breezily. He was young and hard-bodied and handsome. And here. "Where's your boyfriend, though? Won't he mind?"

"He knows I cruise," Steve said. "He's still working the Saloon 1 stage. We're down here because he has a singing gig over the spring break at school. I'll catch up with him later. Come on, I'll show you the Pile."

The Pile proved to be well worth the trip. Steve led me down a dark hall at the back of the main bar and down a flight of stairs that twisted around so that we entered a darkened room under the main bar. The music from above permeated down to this space and reverberated off the concrete walls. At first the room appeared to be pitch black, but as we entered I could see that the total darkness had just been a momentary break in flashes of rod-shaped neon-like colors of several different shades-blues and greens and yellows and oranges and purples moving around before my eyes near ground level.

Steve was standing close behind me, and after we took a couple of steps into the darkness, he was encircling my waist with his strong arms. As I leaned back into him, his mouth went to the hollow of my neck and I sighed, ready to put all of the worries of the day behind me. I could feel his stiff cock pressing at the small of my back, and I gauged it to be more than enough to take care of my needs. I turned my face to his and we kissed. I felt a growl of want move up from deep inside the college jock and he was trembling.

"You are so, so very nice," he was whispering. "I want you so bad. Let's move up to the rail."

The rail, I thought. I couldn't see any rail. But when I turned my face forward again, I found that my eyes were adjusting to the dark and that now I could see the rail. Slowly, I began to see that the room was large and square but that there was a circular room set inside it. The room was divided from the larger room by metal-framed floor-to-ceiling glass panels. And there was a padded railing encircling this room at knee height-and another one running around at a bit higher than shoulder height.

My eyes adjusted further and I laughed in surprise and awe. It immediately dawned on me that the moving neon-colored rods were condoms-their color picked up because the room was being bathed in black light-and that inside the glass-walled room and around the sides at the padded railings were fucking bodies, making good use of the neon condoms. And what was in the center of the glassed-in room was, indeed a pile-a pile of young, virile, naked bodies of men fucking indiscriminately and vigorously.

Steve pushed me gently into the room and up against the rail. He pulled my T over my head and my cutoffs down and off my legs. As he moved my wrists and ankles outward, I discovered there were padded wrist restraints along the upper railings and padded cups to insert knees in along the lower rail. In a few seconds I was spread and bound to the upper railing at my wrists and was pressing my knees into wide-spread cups on the lower rail. Steve leaned down and wrapped bindings around my knees, and then I was effectively held in place for fucking. I watched Steve select a glowing, blue condom from the tray of a passing attendant, and then Steve showed me what he'd learned in college about preparing and fucking another man, I moaned and sighed and grunted as I watched the writhing swarm of young, hard, copulating bodies on the Pile in the circular room beyond the glass-paneled walls.

After he had opened me up with his tongue, Steve stood behind me, rubbing the underside of his hard cock across my entrance within the folds of my buttocks and breathed heavily in my ear.

"Tell me that you want it," he said. "Last chance."

"Yes, yes!" I cried out over the din of the booming rhythm from above our heads and the sounds of many men in deep rut.

And I cried out again as he slowly slid up into me and, standing stock still and, with his hands grabbing my waist on each side, began to move me up and down on the length of his shaft in ever-quickening movements. I lost myself in a deep, stretching fuck that washed all of my cares and worries away.

I opened my eyes to see before me a Cheshire cat-like full set of grinning teeth before my eyes. It took me a second to realize that it was a black guy in a dark room, not an illusion. He leaned into me and I moved my lips to his and he gave me a full-tongued kiss. His lips moved down to my nipples and then he was crouching inside the rail in front of me and giving me soft, languid head.

"Do you mind?" Steve whispered in my ear. He was still plowing my channel in slow, long strokes.

"No, not at all," I murmured.

"You really mean that?" he asked in a low, hoarse voice.

"Yes. You got any friends here who want to help?"

"Let's move this to one of the rooms," he whispered after a moment of silence. His voice was husky and breathy and I felt his condom fill out inside me at the mere of thought of what I was volunteering for.

We had passed doors off the hallway on our way back from the bar area, and I soon found myself being guided through one of these doors, into a black-walled room with only a vinyl cube in the center of the room, which provided several different positions giving a whole sports team of Steve's hunky friends maximum access to my channel, as I moaned and sighed the playing out of one of my favorite fantasies-giving it all to multiple partners.

Afterward Steve proved he could drink me under the table as well. In fact, I lathered up so well that I couldn't decide if what I saw when we emerged from the Bourbon Street Pub was an apparition or a bothersome reality. As I turned this way and that, trying to remember in my stupor where I'd left the moped, I saw her mincing down Duval toward Mallory Square-the petite China doll, complete with bouffant black hairdo, with two metallic long hairpins extending out of it like chop sticks in a bowl of noodles. I started to take out in her direction, but Steve grasped my arm and said he saw my moped right where the rack for them was, and when I looked up Duval again, she was gone.

I have no idea how we made it to Steve's room, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't driving-or at least I sincerely hope I wasn't. When I woke the next morning, I was laying on one side of Steve and his boyfriend was laying on his other side on a double bed in a seedy little gay guest hotel off Fogarty Avenue, and I was struggling to remember how Steve had managed to take us both at intervals throughout the night. And I wondered if my smile was as broad as the one on Steve's purring-in-his-sleep boyfriend.



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