For the rest of the day I avoided what sexual encounters I could. I enjoyed being fucked as much as the next male satyriac, but this was a bit much, coming on the heels of the vetting process. Besides I had expected to be contacted by someone else on the inside of the ranch--someone who was supposed to maintain communications with the special unit that had been established down in Denver to work this case and who could watch my back. But thus far he hadn't revealed himself. I worked my way around the periphery of the main compound, thinking I'd be contacted where there was more privacy. And I even took one of the horses out for a practice ride and found that it was like they said about riding a bicycle--I hadn't forgotten how to do it. While I was out toward Granby, I saw a cloud of dust on the road and pulled into a copse of trees and watched Arcardi's Navigator returning to the ranch.
No contact having been made, as soon as I could after I'd returned the horse to the stables and taken a route that avoided a large swimming pool and deck at the back of the main house where most of the ranch's clients now seemed to have retreated to and were cavorting with members of the staff in the altogether, I slipped off to my bunk and drifted off to sleep.
I woke at the nudge to my thigh. Hank was sitting on my bunk beside my legs.
"Didn't see you out at the pool. Aren't being evasive, are you?"
"No . . . but Doc worked me over pretty good this afternoon . . . and . . . I've been out riding around, getting a lay of the land and working back into riding a horse."
"Ah, yes, Doc is . . . enthusiastic and can be quite tiring. I take it that, since you're still here, you passed the checkout."
"Apparently so," I answered.
"And it's a good thing you've gotten acquainted with a horse. Rosey's a good one. She'll give you good service. You're going out on an overnight tomorrow with some of the clients who arrived the same time as you. You'll be taking them east up into the lower reaches of the Rocky Mountain National Park--to Grand Lake. The party'll spend the night there and come back down tomorrow."
"I don't know if I can find--"
"You don't have to find it this time. I'll be leading the party. We're taking another new wrangler or two also. It's one of the easiest trails to follow."
"So, I'm going out so soon because I'm new?"
"No, mostly because a client requested that you go."
"No, Butch told me and the other senior wrangler to keep you away from Arcardi as much as possible. No, the guy calling himself Cliff asked for you. And if you recognize him from any newspaper reporting on Congress, you'll still think of him only as 'Cliff.' Understand?"
"Yes, I get it." I had, in fact, recognized the congressman immediately in the car from the airport to the ranch. But I knew the score on this recognition business.
"It's not always like this with the sex. Much of what you've been getting was the vetting process. And the clients usually go wild right at the beginning, but they get tired of it nonstop soon enough. The heaviest time is when several new clients come in at once--and then sometimes even then they pair off with each other and don't ask much from the wranglers. You've actually got it good. That guy Arcardi bought up a whole wing of the place to have privacy, so we're not full up at the moment."
"But, it's good you're getting some shut eye now," he continued. "It's not a bad ride up that lake, but it's a long one--it'll be bad on your ass if you haven't ridden in a while."
"Yeah, thanks. My ass is already sore from being ridden hard the last twenty-four."
"Not hard enough. Before you go back into lalaland, move your butt over here to the edge of the bunk and open those legs for me."
"Do you need to turn the video cameras on first."
"No, I don't think so. This is just you and me. I want to give you a very personal welcome to the ranch."
Hank was good--very good. And he wasn't rough with me. And for the first time since I'd arrived here--including his first taking, which had been swift and almost impersonal--he paid attention to what I wanted and what was giving me pleasure. And since he had the biggest, fattest dick I'd had on the ranch, when he got started with his slow pumping and was thumbing my nipples and kissing me in the crook of my neck, about all I wanted was more of him, deeper and longer.
Somehow I responded to him better because he didn't turn the cameras on. It was really just two guys making love--and I was starting to think of Hank as more than just another needy dick.
* * * *
There were only three clients on the overnight, the guys I was beginning to think came as a set, although I knew two of them from the real world and would never have paired them there--one being a congressman and the other an evangelistic TV preacher. I didn't have a handle on the younger one, Jim, although it seemed obvious he came from money. And I could see where something Hank had said might be building here. Ted was showing quite a bit of attention to Jim, so it wouldn't surprise me if they paired off before we returned to the ranch compound.
There were more wranglers on the trip than clients. But I understood this wasn't out of the ordinary. Three official wranglers--Hank, me, and the other guy who had come in with me, Chuck. But, then, there were a couple of older guys who were real cowboys and did the brunt of the work--and weren't for sale, apparently. And a cook, who was called Cookie, naturally, and a couple of step-and-fetch it assistants of his, Sam and Julio, who advertised their availability by wearing red bandanas and who apparently were on offer for someone who liked his meat tender (Sam) or Hispanic (Julio).
This wasn't exactly the Old West roughing it approach to an overnight ride up into the higher Rockies. The men and horses were trucked down route 40 almost to Granby and then north on 30 to the edge of the national park, where the wranglers took the dudes on up to the Green Ridge area overlooking Grand Lake, while Cookie and his assistants drove on up in Range Rovers and had the camp all set up for us.
Still, it was a four-hour ride up a narrow, steep, but well-marked trail into the high timber, upward and toward the continental divide that ran down Olive Ridge to the east of the lake. The dudes were pretty green, so the going was slow, and Hank called frequent stops for them to stretch their legs, wet their gullets with the Coors beer that one of the old cowpokes had in a cooler strapped behind his saddle, and piss behind pine trees.
We were on a longer break while Ted and Jim went off to a rock overhang to admire the view back down toward the rest and for Ted to lap-fuck Jim. I was walking around, trying to work the knots out of my legs, Hank and Chuck were conferring off to one side, and the two wizened cowpokes were trying their best not to show their disgust of this whole venture. Cliff was walking in circles near me, moving in closer and closer--and I knew he had the same thing on his mind that Ted and Jim were already off doing.
Hank must not have wanted us to be held up for longer than it took Ted to fuck Jim, though, because he broke off talking with Chuck and came over to me before Cliff could make his move.
"I want you to ride on ahead and let them know how far out we are. We're not more than an hour from the camp. The trail's well marked, and Cookie's going to fly a Big O Ranch flag high enough for you to see from across the lake when you get to it. The camp's on the other side of the lake from here."
I said OK and got onto my horse and started out. Within fifteen minutes, though, I thought maybe Hank had sent someone else to go with me, because I could hear sounds of movement not far in my wake. I slowed down to let whoever it was catch up to me, but they slowed down too. This began to spook me, though, so I moved out a little smarter.
He was waiting for me in a glade of trees right after a steep, winding, rock path came out to a small meadow bordered by pines. He was standing, holding the reins of his horse, right at the verge of the pine trees where I couldn't miss him. He gestured to me when I saw him and retreated back far enough from the trees to be hidden from the path.
I rode over to and into the pines where I'd last seen him because I recognized him. It was the dude with the handlebar mustache from the Chicago airport who had covered my avoidance of Giacomo Arcardi.
"You've been tracking me?" I asked as I dismounted within natural speaking distance of him. I was wary and didn't want to get too close.
"Yep. It was me. I've been waiting to get you alone."
"I was out alone around the ranch for nearly two hours yesterday, waiting for whoever might show up."
"Sorry, I was in Granby trying to catch up with a surprise. And it would be best if I didn't come on ranch property. It would be hard to explain what I was doing there."
"Would the surprise be a meeting there between a Rapino and an Arcardi?"
"Yep. And you would know about that because?"
"Maybe I should see a badge or something first. Some verification."
"Sorry. The name's Price. Ron Price. Denver Specials Unit--on loan from the Chicago department. Part of the team following your action up here."
He showed me a badge and it panned out. It had been obvious he had my back in Chicago, so there was no real surprise. "The two of them met up just outside the ranch. I wasn't sure that it wasn't a sellout. Are you saying that it really was both Mario Rapino and Giacomo Arcardi in a meet yesterday."
"Yep. Surprised the hell out of us. We'll have to do some rethinking now. We were moving on the theory that Giacomo murdered Lorenzo Rapino and we had a gang war on our hands."
"Still possible he did, isn't it?" I answered. "And that Mario doesn't know that and is being played--and maybe was enticed up here to join Lorenzo in the great beyond in the same sort of sex snuff act."
"Yep, we're still playing that record as a possibility, but it makes your work a little stickier now. You aren't just protecting the witness, Jason Jenks, now, but you also have to try to figure out what Giacomo is up to if it's deeper than just being up here to silence the novelist."
"And you're my contact? I thought it would be someone on the inside."
"There's someone on the inside. But he'll contact you when and as needed. I hope you understand; we have to compartmentalize this. If you fail--and are interrogated--we need to protect our backup."
"Making out OK so far?"
"Yeah, so far. Although I have to say it's one ass-breaking assignment."
"I was told you liked it that way." He was looking amused at me. And, I'll have to admit that he was looking mighty fine and capable to me.
"Yeah, but there are limits even for me."
"I hear you like rough and leather--and that the limits are pretty far out there."
"You've got quite an informant."
"Maybe after all this is over you might want to stop in Denver for a debriefing . . . a private debriefing." The signaling couldn't get much more obvious than that. And he looked good to me, so I saw no reason to hold him off.
"Yeah, I might like that. But now, if you don't have more for me, I'd best get back on the trail so that I'm there before the party that sent me ahead is."
"Good luck. And it starts sooner than we expected. We've had to send in some temporary protection at the ranch for Jason Jenks tonight."
"Tonight? Jenks isn't arriving until this weekend."
"Those were the plans. But the guy is a real arrogant piece of work. He hasn't paid a bit of attention to any of the advice he's been given. He's arriving there today--and so Arcardi has all tonight and most of tomorrow to snuff him without you being there if he wants. But we read Arcardi for someone who likes to play with his victims. We got someone in there, supposedly doing some electrical work, but he'll have to be gone before you come down out of the mountains tomorrow. We can always hope Arcardi's got another meeting with Rapino in Granby tomorrow to keep him busy."
"This is all a little loose. I hope it all works out," I said, as I got back onto my horse.
"You'd have to be loose to take me," Price answered, which is as close to a challenge as he had given me.
"Maybe we'll see," I answered as I trotted off.
"Yep. Everything works out well and you come out of this alive--and maybe we'll just see. In the meantime, take care of that pretty little ass of yours."
* * * *
The camp wasn't anything like roughing it, but we were outside and we did have a beautiful view of a full moon shining off the surface of the lake. The sky was clear and the stars were putting on quite a show and the air was crisp and smelled of the pine trees that backed up the rocky promontory overlooking the lake where Cookie had set up camp. The side of the back of one of the Land Rovers folded down into a pretty fancy kitchen unit, and folding tables and chairs had appeared on which we ate a hearty broiled steak meal that would have gotten a good tip in one of Denver's finest steak houses.
The cowpokes turned out to be the entertainment too, with one of them playing a mean harmonica and the other a guitar. The guitarist had a mellow deep baritone voice that put the dudes into a mood. Preacher Ted was fucking Jim again in one of the tents, making the nylon side shimmy with his vigor, and Cliff had taken a shine to the diminutive, barely legal Sam, who was making virginal noises as Cliff split him on a blanket just beyond the light of the camp downhill toward the lake.
The dudes were really feeling their oats, though, because Ted came out of the tent and told Chuck that Jim wanted him now, and Ted laid a hand on the Hispanic Julio's arm and ushered him off into the pines at the side of the camp. Chuck shrugged and went into the tent, and Jim was vocal for him in the song of taking that Ted hadn't managed to pull out of him. It made me curious about Chuck, not for the first time.
I was sitting there, legs stretched out and back against a saddle lying on the ground and imagining what Chuck must have between his legs to get such a response on seconds when Hank came over to me.
"Cliff wants you now."
I sighed and stood. I figured this was inevitable, although there was some hope that Sam would be enough for Congressman Cliff tonight--and I had become partial to Hank, and hoped he'd be doing me as soon as it was evident that the clients were satiated.
I found both of them on their backs, Cliff on the blanket and the little Sam on the grass off to the side. Sam had his legs parted like he couldn't get them back together again and was moaning softly. Cliff was still in full erection. He had a good eight inches on him and it was all hard and standing straight up.
"The little fucker couldn't handle it," he muttered in a "complaint to management" voice. "Tried for a good half hour and I couldn't get it all stuffed in. Cried like a stuck pig. He should be prepared to take it all."
"Some like that," I said by way of a soothing apology as I stood over him and slowly unbuttoned my jeans. "We cater to all kinds here. Sam's not one of the wranglers. He's softer and less experienced, but, as I said, some like it. You could have just forced it in, if you wanted. He'd have taken it. But I'm here now. It's time for the adults to play."
I lowered my pelvis onto his cock as I straddled his hips with my knees, and I gave him a deep-fuck ride that left him cooing, exhausted, and totally satiated, as Sam watched us, eyes wide open, mouth gaping, from the sideline.
They both remained there when I returned to the circle of light of the camping area, and I heard later in the night that Cliff had taken my statement to heart and was getting all he wanted from Sam. I noticed the whiskey bottle Cookie had out on the kitchen drop counter was suddenly almost empty, though, so my guess was that Sam had help opening up.
I'd hoped that I'd share a tent with Hank, but it turned out that Jim wanted to try him too, so I was alone in what was to be our shared tent--at least deep into the night, when I heard a rustling and looked up to see Chuck hunched over me in the dark.
"We're both raw wranglers," he whispered, "so I can't demand it, but it will be all the sweeter for both of us if you give it to me of your free will."
Chuck was one mighty fine looking guy, so I pulled his mouth down to mine as we both reached out for the other's cock.
He gave slow, deep fuck, changing position frequently, fucking me at great depth. When he got around to side splitting me, he put his lips to my ear and whispered, "Are you all set to be watching over Jenks? Got it all under control?"
My contact at the ranch; my connection with Price and the Denver Special Unit. "We'll see," I whispered back. "It's going to be hairy standing between him and Arcardi, but we'll manage somehow. Glad you've got my back."
"Your back, your ass, your nipples . . ." he was slow pumping me from behind and thumbing my nipples ". . . and your sweet mouth." Our dueling tongues prevented further talk. He was a good fuck--and one of the biggest at the ranch. But I still would have preferred Hank.
* * * *
The first thing I noticed when the convoy of Land Rovers and horse trailers drove under the Big O arch and up the dusty drive into the main ranch compound were the two police cars and the meat wagon.
"I thought the police never drove into here," Congressman Cliff said with a strangled voice from the backseat of the Land Rover we were in. I looked around to find both he and Ted shrinking into the upholstery. Jim was in one of the other vehicles, but I assumed he was doing the same thing.
Hank, who was driving, said "It's OK, we'll drive around to the side and you can go on into the main house from the swimming pool patio. Don't worry. You won't have to meet the police."
Still, his voice seemed a little worried. He wasn't half as concerned as I was, though. I was out of the door while he was still rolling around toward the back and hurrying toward the police vehicles. I knew what a meat wagon was and what it was for. And I was very much afraid of what this one was here for.
But as I was rounding the corner of the main house, I looked up on the porch and he was staring down at me and my heart slipped back out of my throat and into its proper place. I'd been shown several photos of Jason Jenks, so I knew it was him instantly. He was even more imposing in life than in his photos--a man who knew his worth and demanded every inch of what anyone would give him. Well over six feet and big boned, but not in a fat way--in a towering way. Gray eyes that pierced right through you and a fine head of wavy gray hair. He looked just like the actor who had played in several of my parents' movies--the benign, old lawyer type who dispensed wisdom and justice and commanded any scene he was in--and who had visited our ranch in California while my parents were filming in Egypt and for my high school graduation present had taught me to give and take hand jobs--anything more than this, he said, would be considered sex, and he had too much respect for my parents to go down that road. In other words an insufferable, egomaniac windbag in person. It was left for later in that same summer that another good friend of my parents, a producer, took me all the way down that road.
"You're new here," he said. The voice was booming, a deep baritone. Another similarity to that early initiator of mine--not, by any means, the only friend of my parents who was happy to show me what men could do with men.
"Yes, yes, I am," I answered. "Can you tell me what the police are here for? Is this a raid of some sort?"
"A police raid at the Big O Ranch?" he said with a snort, clearly amused at the suggestion that the ranch didn't know how to arrange its affairs. "Hardly. Some young man has gotten himself killed. My name is Jay. I like the looks of you. I think you should sleep in my room tonight. I'm going to fuck you."
"I would like that," I answered. "I'm Clint. And I was told that you might like me. So, no problem. Do you have any idea who it is? Who has died? And how?"
Jenks didn't have to answer that--and, truly, he seemed more interested in me than in discussing that--because just then, the stretcher was being rolled out from around the side of the main building.
They hadn't covered him with a sheet yet. It was Little Sandy--Jesse. He was naked, with bruises and whip marks on his body, his wrists were tied together with rope, and he was quite dead. I could see in an instant what had killed him--I knew what a strangulation victim in death looked like. All I could think of was that Giacomo Arcardi hadn't had enough of him in the Navigator coming from the airport. He couldn't be satisfied sexually short of this. This was just how Lorenzo Rapino and the mechanical bull rider at the men's club had been killed. The serial killings had moved west.