The longer I sat in Lieutenant Burton Kahn's office, the worse I felt about how I'd let myself go--knowing full well I'd just keep on doing it. I wasn't even sure I could withstand the pressure from Danny.
"Come to the layover room with me," Danny had breathed in my ear when I'd entered the squad room, summoned by Burton to find out why I'd packed my duffel bag for traveling.
That wasn't where the conversation had started, of course.
"Hey, man, I'm sorry about missing your bachelor party," I'd said when I'd entered the room and all nearly seven foot of black, overpowering muscle named Danny Thompson had uncoiled himself from the desk across from mine and slowly sauntered up to me, his eyes boring into mine, hooded so I couldn't quite tell which way he was going to go with this.
There were some others in the squad room, but the bulk of them were off at the side doing a play-by-play on the Yankees' close loss the night before on the baseball diamond, and the ones who weren't chiming in on that were on the telephone, creating or following up leads on their cases.
We were partners, so there was no reason why anyone in the room should think twice about Danny and me having a close conversation, even a tense one. Everyone knew what I was; but they didn't suspect Danny in the least. Danny was getting married in a week.
"It's OK, I understand about it being Brad's birthday and all," Danny answered. He was staring me down, giving me an out.
"It isn't about Brad," I answered. I should have taken the opening, I knew. But we were partners on the dangerous streets. We had to be straight with each other. And this had to be settled. Otherwise we couldn't work together--we will have lost our edge. And that could mean death on the streets.
"Sharenda needn't change anything," Danny said in a low voice.
"Sharenda changes everything, Danny," I shot back.
"Come to the layover room with me, Clint. I expected my party to go on after the other guys left last night. You spoiled it. I understand, but the party wasn't complete."
"It's time to put an end to this, Danny. I should have stopped as soon as I heard you were getting married."
"I never told you I didn't fuck women," Danny said, letting the hurt show in his voice. "I gotta have it. You know that."
Yes, I knew that--knew that very well. My black hunk of a lover was oversexed. That had never been a secret. And with what he had between his legs, he could have just about anything that walked that he wanted. He certainly didn't have any trouble having me.
But it had to stop. "Fucking whoever you want is fine when you're single, Danny. But not when you're married. You don't just cheapen what you have with Sharenda; you also cheapen me--what we've had together--by not seeing the difference."
And then I just walked on by him and into the lieutenant's office, entering another world, a world where under similar circumstances to mine, different choices had been made--choices that sometimes--like now--made me feel tawdry and weak.
The lieutenant wasn't in yet. So I had to wait, wait in the world he'd created after his Mariah had died. Kahn had been left alone--as suddenly and irrevocably as I had when Brad had been murdered and almost at the same time.
He'd come home from the precinct one night after a hard, bloody day on a case--to find Mariah on the floor, dead from a heart attack at a shockingly young age. She'd been there most of the day, the coroner said, turning stone cold on the linoleum floor in front of the kitchen sink, while Burton had been on the street, tracking down a killer who had robbed a liquor store for less than $100 in cash and shot dead the clerk and three patrons in the process.
Mariah had been Kahn's life, all he could talk about in those days I first knew him. He had always said that going home to Mariah every night was all that kept him sane and balanced in his job of catching and putting away sleazeballs.
And yet, when my Brad had been murdered, and his Mariah had left him without so much as a good-bye, Kahn was the one who had managed to control himself; I was the one who had folded and had let myself go wild in grief and blaming everyone but myself--because I knew that I should have been able to prevent Brad's death. And, without Brad there, slowly pulling me back to a more stable life and not so much whoring around, I'd been overcompensating in that department, although there, just for a few brief months, I thought Danny was going to be a Brad for me.
I looked around Kahn's office as I waited for him to prepare. Whereas I had fallen apart--punished myself by moving to a walkup in a seedy part of town and just letting myself go wild to forget--Burton had withdrawn into his job and made it a fortress of the world he'd known. His office, small as it was, was more like the life he had had before Mariah died. It was a self-contained slice of the home he hadn't been able to go back to after finding his wife dead on the kitchen floor. In addition to his desk, he'd brought in a rug, an overstuffed chair, a sofa, and knick knacks and mementos from the home he'd shared with Mariah. And her photograph. There was one on his desk and one on the side table next to the sofa and one on the bookshelf behind the sofa.
I didn't have any photographs of Brad. Whereas I, in guilt, wanted to forget, Kahn, in reverence, wanted to remember.
I couldn't look at the photos of Mariah as I sat there, waiting for Kahn to come down from his morning meeting with the brass two flights up. When I looked at her photo all I saw was Sharenda.
"Thanks for coming in, Clint. I know you'd asked for the day off. This came up, though, and we need to get you out to Denver later today."
I looked across the desk at Kahn. He was all business, but I could see he was a bit distracted. He kept looking at the photographs of Mariah. His anniversary was about to come up as well.
"Yes, well, over the mountains from there. A dude ranch in the Rockies--across the mountains from Denver."
"I don't know if I have the clothes for--"
"You won't need much in the way of clothes where you're going. They'll provide what you need. It's that kind of assignment. Your kind of thing. And highest priority from upstairs."
"Maybe you'd best start from the beginning," I said.
"You've heard of Giacomo Arcardi and Lorenzo Rapino, haven't you?"
"Sure. The heir apparents of two of the busiest crime families in the state. Except Lorenzo's dead, isn't he? Murdered nearly a year ago--a pretty sordid sex thing, if I remember rightly."
"You do. And Jason Jenks? You know who he is?"
"Jason Jenks? I'm not sure. The only Jason Jenks I can think of . . ." But then I stopped. I couldn't see any connection.
"The mystery writer--the crime novelist, yes. That Jason Jenks. You're being called in because of where those three connect."
"Go on. I'm dying to hear what this has to do with Denver."
"Nothing," Kahn said. And then he laughed. "I said across the Rockies from there. A dude ranch--a special dude ranch--to be specific. I'm sure you can appreciate what it would mean in this city for the Arcardis and Rapinos to be set against each other."
"Major war. Blood on the streets. Probably a lot of collateral damage"
"Right. And that's what we've just about got. War between those two. And all because of Jason Jenks."
"He's written about them?"
"You could say so. His publisher brought it to our attention. Jenks isn't cooperating, and thus far there's not much we can do about it. But we are beginning to get across to him, we think, that he needs to tell us more of what he knows, more of where he got what he's written about--hopefully before his latest novel comes out, and certainly before any of the Rapinos read the book."
"So, this is about Lorenzo's murder?"
"Yes, if you'll recall, Lorenzo was found dead in a hotel room--naked--suffocated to death and covered with bruises. There was semen, so it was logged as a sex crime. But it turned out to be his own semen. He'd been fucked--whether willingly or not, we don't know--but the assailant had used a condom."
"And the connection to Giacomo Arcardi and Jenks?"
"Jenks has written a book about a murder closely paralleling the death of Lorenzo Rapino--and the murderer in his book closely parallels the real-life Giacomo Arcardi. When that book comes out, we're afraid the shit will hit the fan--that the Rapinos will decide that Jenks has evidence linking Giacomo to the murder and a full-scale crime family war will break out. There are a couple of wrinkles. First, this isn't the only murder like this in the city in the last year. We think there have been at least three murders with the same M.O. And Jenks is dragging his feet on us and we may be running out of time on finding out if he can help us solve the case."
"There's an indication the Arcardis have gotten wind of the book. Someone's already been trying to buy up the rights to the book from the publisher, probably to squelch publication. And if the Arcardis know about it, we have to assume the Rapinos do too. We're afraid that Jenks might be in danger as well. It's not just the book that would have to be squelched if the Arcardis want to bury this."
"And so, I'm supposed to hold Jenks's hand until you've gotten whatever you want out of him--including through a trial, if he has to testify?"
"Well, more than his hand--and we don't want him to know we're watching over him--and we'd like to get him to talk to someone if it isn't to us directly."
I raised my eyebrow. "And so?"
"He's gay. He's promiscuous. And he likes younger, handsome, athletic-cut men. That's you."
"And this dude ranch beyond Denver?"
"It's a gays-only retreat. He's going there whether we like it or not--we don't have any means to keep him here and don't want to encourage him to clam up by letting him know the danger he could be in. It's called the Big O Ranch--very openly a gay sex service for wealthy men. We've already arranged to put you on the staff. The owner will cooperate in putting you close to Jenks--both to protect him and to find out what, if anything, he knows that will close this case and get this serial killer off the streets--using your special talents."
At that point, one of the other guys poked his head in the door, and gruffly announced. "We're up, Chief. Another gay suffocation murder. Over in Chelsea."
Kahn stood up from behind his desk and quizzed the other officer briefly as he strapped his gun holster on.
"Where in Chelsea?"
"In a leather cowboy bar, the Ranchero. One of their bull-riding performers. Young guy. Found him in one of their special back rooms. Pretty well marked up and snuffed."
I stood. "So, should I--?"
"No," Kahn said. "You need to get to admin and collect your tickets and per diem. This will clear the squad room--got to get them out on the street and both milking their sources and tamping down the communities. Danny will stay long enough to brief you on who to report to and how to report back. I briefed him yesterday. You need to get on a plane to Denver."
The squad room was deserted when I came up from admin. The light was on in Kahn's office, though, so that's where I headed.
Danny was there, sitting behind Kahn's desk, watching the door.
"OK, Danny," I said as I entered the office. "Chief told me you'd brief me."
"I will, but first, shut the door."
I did so.
"Now strip. First I want you. I want you bad."
"Danny, no. It's over. Not again."
"Once. Just once. You'll be in Denver. I'm transferring to Los Angeles. Sharenda's got a job out there, and I can get one. No problem. Once more, and then you won't see me again."
"Danny, no," I said. But then he stood up and I saw that he was naked from the waist down. And he was unbuttoning his shirt, showing me that magnificent, shiny-black body of his. And what was between his legs, stiff and standing proud. Wanting me.
And I wanted it. I couldn't help myself.
At least I had a small shred of decency left. Before I stripped, I turned down the photos of Mariah, Burton's Mariah, on the bookcase and the side table--and then, as Danny lowered me on my back on the top of Kahn's desk and moved his meaty, brown thighs between mine and brought his huge, jet-black cock to my puckering hole, I turned over the photo on Kahn's desk as well--and, because I knew that it was what Danny wanted, the signal of my complete surrender to him, I reached down and grasped his cock in both of my hands and thrust my hips up, impaling my channel on the tool that I had loved moving inside me so much.
We fucked like there was no tomorrow--as, indeed, there wasn't for us. And then, after he pounded me to my ejaculation on the desk, I made the surrender complete, as he pulled me up and back across the rug and sat down in the sofa, and I came down into his lap, straddling his still-hard cock and fucked myself as he leaned his head down and feasted on my nipples--for the last time, I thought.
But the surrender was more complete than that.
"I can't give you up, man, you know that," he whispered in my ear. "When I want you again, you gonna give it me?"
"Make that a yes, man."
"Yes," was all I said in reply. Now the surrender was complete.
"And tonight? My place? Sharenda's got an all-night bachelorette party to go to."
"If that's what you want," I muttered. And as his hands went to my butt cheeks, pulling them apart to make deeper room for him inside me, I put my face in the hollow of his neck and then started to slow pump him.