"It only has to get to Bermuda and back," Clint answered.
He and Danny were standing on the docks below Christopher Street and looking up at the small freighter being loaded with boxes they'd seen were marked with everything from canned goods to dry goods to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Danny walked over to a guy standing near the gangplank who was holding a clipboard and marking off boxes as hulking stevedores wheeled them up the gangplank on dollies. There were cranes working on loading some of the other ships at the dock, but this one apparently didn't merit that attention.
Clint was watching the stevedores work. And a couple of stevedores were giving Clint close scrutiny. He'd seen a couple of them in the Christopher Street bars, he thought. He might even have been fucked by one or more of them in back rooms of the bars.
Focus, he thought, and turned his attention back to Danny and the guy with the clipboard.
"This the Greek ship that makes the run to Bermuda?" Danny asked the guy.
"Yeah, this is the Larnaka Star," he answered in a pure New York accent that indicated he may never actually have ever been to Bermuda himself. "It's not Greek, though. The name pegs it as Cypriot, as does that flag up there. Not all that much difference, though. Both are just flag-of-convenience registration states. From the language I've heard coming off this freighter's decks, I'd say it was more East European or Russian."
"So, do you know who owns it?"
"Nah. I can tell you who the supplier is--Falzone Holdings. But I don't know who owns it."
"Sounds like an Italian name--Sicilian even," Clint said, having been drawn over to the conversation.
"I wouldn't know. But what's this interest? If you're the Feds, all the paperwork is in order. And we do this like every two weeks. Nothin's going on here to raise eyebrows. It's just regular weekly supplies out to Bermuda. Places is pretty much a barren rock, you know. Most everything has to be shipped in. Even a lot of drinking water shipped there."
"No, no, nothing questionable about your paperwork," Danny said quickly. "Some of the guys are just thinking of taking a trip to Bermuda. Hitting on the casinos there, you know--and we've heard that freighters sometimes rent cabins to travelers. You know if this one does?"
"If it does, it would be a pretty rough way to get there," the guy with the clipboard answered. He paused to take down the number of a box going up the gangplank. "And if you know where there's a casino in Bermuda, I'd sure like to know where it is. I've been there three times in the last ten years and every time I've been there casinos have been illegal. Take Royal Caribbean. They got casinos right on the ship. But they have to close down when they're in port in Bermuda."
Danny thanked the guy and he and Clint pulled off to the side.
"Heard that? Could be Sicilian, so maybe this Falzone Holdings is a cutout company owned by Brunelli."
"Should we go aboard and see if we can bluff some information from the captain?" Clint answered.
"No. It would probably just shut him down and alert someone of our interest. We want a list of his crew members who would have been in port when the murders happened. And we'd want to know if Brunelli ever used the ship to get to Bermuda. So, we need a search warrant for all their records. I'll go see what I can do about that. You might wander over to the port authority and see if you can get more information on who owns the ship."
"And we'll meet back at the office?"
"Yeah, it will take some time to get the warrant, I'm sure. It will be too late to get this rapped up today."
"But the ship's going to be going back out when it's loaded. It's carrying fresh produce; that can't just sit here very long. Either another murder might happen, or the ship might be gone before we can get back."
"We'll just have to do what we can," Danny answered. "I can't move a judge any faster than he wants to move. But I'll be sure to mention those possibilities to him. And it won't happen until we get a move on, so I suggest we shove off."
Clint stood a moment longer, looking a bit stubborn. Maybe he could shake something loose sooner. All of the activity he'd seen at the freighter was stevedores on the move. Maybe the crew had dispersed to the local bars. They were at the foot of Christopher Street. It would take Danny a lot longer to get a search warrant than it would for him to see if there were any crew members of the Larnaka Star nearby he could talk to. He waited for Danny to be out of sight and then he turned to head up Christopher Street. As he passed by a line of large metal containers sitting on the land edge of the dock, a callused hand reached out and gripped his arm above the elbow and pulled him into the darkness between two containers.
"Remember me?" a voice with a thick European accent asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Maybe," Clint responded, not knowing in the shadows between the containers whether he did or not. He was on assignment, though, and not in the mood. "Don't know if I do, but I'm not--"
The man pulled Clint into his chest. "As I remember, you're always ready to go. Don't get scared or anything. I just want to fuck, and the last time we did you said 'any time, any place.'"
It obviously was one of the stevedores. Heavily muscled. He had a strong arm around Clint's waist, pulling him in, and his mouth was searching for and finding Clint's. Clint was still struggling against the man as the stevedore fumbled with his own belt and zipper and then Clint's. He stuffed a beefy hand down from Clint's belly and under the waistband of Clint's trousers and fisted the detective's cock.
"Oh, God. Oh shit, yes," Clint muttered, going completely docile, as he pulled his lips away. The man knew how to take control of him. All Clint needed was a hand on his cock. Maybe he had been with this guy more than once before.
Clint felt his trousers and briefs being pushed down his legs. He was turned belly against the side of a metal container, and the stevedore kept a hold on his cock while he positioned his own cock head at Clint's hole. Now Clint remembered him. A double cock ring, one thick, the other not. Clint remembered how they clicked and jangled inside him before--in the back room of a Christopher Street bar. He couldn't remember which one, but he'd gone back for it the next night.
"Yes, I remember you now," Clint whispered.
"And you want me, don't you?"
"Yes, I want you."
He groaned and widened his stance as the cock started its invasion. Not thick, but long, as Clint recalled. And those two cock rings did a job on his channel walls. In the saddle now, the man leaned his beefy chest into Clint's back, pinning him to the wall. He released Clint's cock, that no longer being needed for control, and took Clint's wrists in his hands and forced his arms over his head, Clint's fingers gripping the top edge of the metal container. Clint turned his head back and they went into another kiss. The detective moaned as the cock took a long, clicking slide up inside him. A couple of inches inside him and it drew back. Then he gasped as he felt the slide in, farther this time. Out and in a bit farther.
Clint tore his mouth away to mutter an "Oh fuck, yes. Oh shit yes, I remember this. God, do I remember this" and arched his back and laid his head back on the stevedore's shoulder. He was set for the duration of a good fuck now. He was panting and groaning. The stevedore was groaning too, as the cock slid farther up into Clint's channel and then pulled back. He shuddered and started pumping harder. Click, click, click.
"Shit, shit, shit. FUCK."
"Jorge, where the fuck are you? You just had your break." The deep, irritated voice rang out over the dock area. "Am I gonna have to put a bell on you?"
"Stay here," the man whispered in Clint's ear. "Just about done out there."
And then the stevedore pulled away from Clint's back and out of his channel, pulled his trousers up, and was gone from the shadows into the light of the dock.
Clint waited for a few minutes and then he pulled his briefs and trousers up as well. No way in hell he was going to wait for it here. The guy was gone, so the moment had lost its charm. But now he was horny as hell. He'd be looking for more than information in the Christopher Street bars now. He stumbled out at the other end of the containers from the dockside and started up Christopher Street, thinking on which would be the best one to hit. He decided that the first stop he'd make would be in the basement bar called Chris's in the Christopher Hotel--both gay dives he'd seen sailors from the ships on the dock using. He'd used the rooms in the dump of a hotel himself.
The light was dim in the bar, and it took several moments for Clint to adjust his eyes. The inevitable cigarette smoke didn't help. There wasn't room at the bar and several of the tables were occupied, but Clint saw one just a couple of steps from the bar, and he headed for that. On his way past the bar he signaled the bartender, a butch woman named, surprisingly enough, Chris, for a beer, and she waved her acknowledgment. Clint was no stranger to Chris's--or all that much of a stranger to the rent-by-the-hour rooms in the Christopher hotel above it either. He hadn't been in for a while, though.
He took off his suit jacket and draped it over the chair next to him. He did this to dress down to maybe distinguish himself from most of the others if a sailor from the docks came. Most everyone else in the place was a suited businessman of some sort from the Wall Street district. And if there were going to be sailors here today, they must be coming in later.
"Looks like the place has been upscaled," he said to Chris when she delivered his beer--along with a saucer of peanuts that wouldn't have been provided when he had been here before. He could tell that the place had been painted and new chairs and tables had been brought in too. And there was a platform in the corner with a piano, so they must now feature live music here some time or other.
"New owner," Chris said. "Some sort of hush-hush bigwig, I understand. But his renovations are bringing in better spenders and less riff raff."
"Guess it's outclassed me then," Clint said.
"Nothing outclasses you, doll. With those movie star looks, you always did dress up the place."
When she had returned to the bar, Clint looked around again. There were guys eyeing him from the bar and from the tables as they always did when he came into one of these bars. But their attention was being divided. As his eyes became better adjusted to the low light, he saw that there was another good-looking blond guy, incongruously sporting an abbreviated Mohawk and the same five-O'clock shadow Clint was now cultivating and wearing a trim three-piece suit. Most of the guys in the place had been circling his table when Clint came in, and only some of them were switching to Clint or showing their indecision.
The blond caught Clint's eye and gave him what Clint interpreted as a "No problem; there are enough for both of us" look, and Clint raised his glass. The guy probably didn't like it rough like Clint did and thus was more satisfied with the type of men in here at the moment. Clint needed it now that he'd had a taste. But he'd probably have to wait for later.
But then the composition of the room started to change. Must be closing time on the docks, Clint thought, as more and more rough stevedore and sailor types were coming down the steps into the smoke-filled bar. The Wall Street types were sensing the change in mood and were hooking up and leaving or just leaving. Clint half expected the double-cock ring guy to come in. If he did, Clint was willing to resume their encounter.
Clint noticed a few of the new arrivals moving in on the other blond guy--more aggressively than the Wall Street types had been doing earlier--and he also noticed that the blond guy didn't seem to mind. So, maybe they weren't as different in their tastes as Clint had thought.
"Hey, we meet again. Maybe we start up where we left off again too."
Clint turned, expecting it to be the guy he'd recently left. But it wasn't. He would have asked the new arrival if he wanted to sit down, but he was already sitting. It was the big sailor type with the Russian accent who had evaporated from an advanced move on Clint in The Dugout bar the night Brunelli and his driver had taken him for that first ride.
He quite evidently was from the docks. A good place to start on learning about the crew of the Larnaka Star, Clint thought. "Buy me another beer?" he asked. He'd been nursing his and it was down to suds rimming the bottom of the glass.
But the Russian was thinking along a different, faster route. "Been hard for you since the other night. Didn't want to start a fight, but I bet I can do you better than that old punk did." The man was already pushing a knee into Clint's thigh and had a hand on his cock through the material of his suit trousers.
That hand on Clint's cock was pretty much all he needed to do, even if Clint hadn't come in looking for relief as soon as he could get it.
"This place have rooms in the back?" the Russian asked in a thick voice. "Buy you a beer afterward. Then we can go someplace for more fun. But right now--"
"It's a hotel. Their rooms are above us. The back is just a corridor leading to the john and maybe a store room or two."
"Come," The Russian said, standing and pulling Clint up with a firm grasp on his wrist. "I need to piss. So do you."
Clint's eyes surveyed the room again before he let the Russian nudge him toward the back. He could see that the Russian hadn't come in alone. A couple others like him, including the Baltic hulk that had been putting the moves on him at The Dugout along with the Russian, were here and had taken possession of the table where the blond guy with the Mohawk was. Everyone who had been at that table before had cleared away, willingly or not, Clint didn't know. But seeing how bulky and mean-looking the Russian's friends were, Clint assumed the Wall Street types hadn't put up much of a defense.
The Mohawk guy was sitting in the lap of the Russian's friend, who held him in a bear hug. From the expression on the blond's face and the way they were moving in the chair, Clint wondered if there was any trouser material between the two.
The Russian fucked Clint up against the graffiti-covered cinderblock wall half way down the dimly lit corridor from the bar room to the restrooms. He'd knelt in front of Clint, pushing him up against the wall, unbuckled and unzipped him, and pulled his trousers and briefs off him while he was sucking Clint's cock.
"Quick one here, for a taste. Then I really give it to you upstairs," The Russian said as he went downstairs and, with one finger wrapped around the base of Clint's cock, laced his other fingers around Clint's balls and separated, squeezed, and pulled them down away from Clint's groin. Clint rewarded him with a gasp and a groan.
Clint was completely lost as soon as the guy's lips opened over his cock. The Russian had reached up and unbuttoned Clint's dress shirt as he was sucking him and at some point pulled his own T-shirt over his head so that when he rose from the kneeling position and palmed and lifted, spread, and tilted Clint's buttocks into his crotch, their bare torsos were rubbing against each other. He had rings in both of his nipples, and as Clint moaned at the entry of the man's cock into his channel, he realized that the man had a thick cock ring as well. The sensation that this would essentially be an extension of the earlier, disrupted fuck, excited Clint. He hitched his knees on the man's hips and began moving his pelvis in countermotion to the Russian's thrusts.
Men brushed past them going and coming from the restroom, and a few of them paused to watch, but Clint didn't notice them and the Russian obviously didn't care.
All was marching relentlessly to ejaculation when Clint felt the Russian jerking away from him and opened his eyes to see the Russian's head turning to the side in time to meet a fist. The Russian dropped to the floor and Clint would have too, if Brunelli's driver hadn't been quick enough to support his body in a slower slide down the wall.
"You follow the boss here?" he asked in a gruff voice.
"Who? What are you . . . no, I didn't follow anyone here. I come here often. You can ask the woman behind the bar." Clint was suddenly frightened. The last thing he wanted Brunelli to think was that he was following him. No, the last thing he wanted Brunelli to find out was that he was a homicide cop and was working Brunelli as a suspect.
"No matter. The boss, he said to bring you upstairs. Put on your pants and let's go." Clint was pulling on his briefs and trousers as he stepped over the prone body of the Russian, who was moaning softly but not necessarily consciously. He was a big man, but he was hunched over, so Clint thought he might have taken a fist to the kidneys at the same time as his nose was readjusted yet again.
Clint was hustled through a door across the corridor that was open now but hadn't been open when the Russian had brought Clint back here. This led into yet another corridor that T'ed into the main one. Two elevators were accessed from this side corridor. One of them had its door open and the manual stop engaged.
Clint had no idea how many floors the elevator rose before it stopped and he was manhandled down the hotel corridor, which had a thug with a machine gun stationed at either end, and shoved through a door and into what was set up as a bedroom. The room was dominated by a four-poster bed. Marko Brunelli was sitting in a wingback chair near a window and drinking a Budweiser beer from a can. He was wearing a business suit and looked pretty spiffy for a chunky, middle-aged mobster.
The first thing he said when the bodyguard had pushed Clint to the center of the room and exited through a side door was just a repeat of what Clint had already heard. "You following me around town and scoping me out, or what?"
"No, as I told your bruiser, I come to Chris's downstairs fairly often. I was in the neighborhood and stopped in for a drink. The bartender knows me. You can ask her." By the time he got to the end of that sentence, Clint could have kicked himself. He hoped he wasn't bringing any trouble to Chris.
"You cruising for men down there?"
"I just came in for a drink."
"But Jocko tells me you found a man, that you was ridin' a man's cock in the hallway."
Jocko. That's what he'd been called before. The bodyguard cum driver's name was Jocko. Clint filed that away in his mind. His mind was actually very good as a file of information that might be useful later.
"He found me. Unfinished business. I don't know him, but I hope he's OK. You play pretty rough."
"And I fuck rough . . . and you like it," Brunelli said. His voice was ice cold, and Clint had no trouble seeing him as someone people feared, tried to steer clear of when they could, and tried to satisfy when they couldn't. "I don't like that you mess around with other men when I'm using you."
Clint didn't know what to say to that that wouldn't bring him trouble, so he said nothing.
"Sit down. The bed's OK. You'll be finding that out," Brunelli said.
Clint sat on the side of the bed. He looked up into the framing at the top of the bed and saw the leads and cuffs at all four corners. He had a feeling he'd been trussed up in those shortly.
"You want a job? Pay would be very good. You'd have a room."
"I have a job," Clint answered. He saw the mistake of saying that as soon as it was out of his mouth. He wanted to keep Brunelli as far away from knowing his job as he could.
"Uh, this and that. Nothing permanent."
"So, I got a job to offer you."
"Doing what?" Clint asked.
"You know what."
"How permanent would that be?"
"That would be up to how long you keep me interested. And speaking of interested." He was putting his beer can down, and Clint didn't have to guess hard what was coming next.
But he was wrong. There was a knock on the door that Jocko had exited and it opened to reveal Jocko filling the space with his hulking figure.
"Your appointment is here, Boss. Should I have him wait over here or downstairs? You gonna make some noise here you don't want him to hear, I can take the guy downstairs till you're done."
"No, no. It's fine. This can wait," Brunelli said, as he rose from his chair and started crossing the room. He gave a "Later" stare to Clint in passing.
When Clint was alone, he let his eyes roam around the room. This wasn't a short-term hotel room. This was set up for long-term occupancy. The furniture was too good and there was too much personal-type stuff sitting around. The bed itself was very expensive looking and was obviously a special piece of equipment. Clint opened the drawers of the nightstand next to where he was sitting and wasn't surprised to find condoms in bulk, lube, and various sex toys.
His attention was arrested by the sound of voices coming from the next room--the room that Brunelli and Jocko had gone into. He realized it probably was a sitting room attached to this bedroom. Clint would check on who had recently bought this hotel and was renovating it, but his vote went to Brunelli.
He could hear Brunelli's fairly high-pitched-voice and a deeper, richer one of another man. There was no question who was in charge and who was trying to please the other one, even though Clint couldn't hear what was said. Brunelli obviously wanted something and wanted it now--and the other man was going to do what he could to make it happen.
After a while, Clint didn't hear the voices anymore. He walked over and put his ear to the door. Nothing. And nothing for a bunch of minutes. He quietly turned the handle of the door and opened it a crack, fully anticipating to feel Jocko's fist come pushing through the opening, but not being able to help himself. Nothing. Opening the door further, he could see that the room, which, as he had surmised was furnished as a setting room--and quite expensively so--was deserted. He clicked the door shut, went to the door from the bedroom to the corridor, and slowly opened that. No one was in the hall.
He took the elevator down to the basement floor. He saw a bit of blood on the main corridor floor where the Russian had been dropped, but no other sign of the sailor. When he entered the bar, however, his eyes opened wide. Danny was sitting at the table he had occupied before the Russian had muscled him into the back. The table was otherwise unoccupied. Clint's suit jacket was on the chair next to Danny. Danny gestured him to the table.
"How did you know I'd be here?" Clint asked as he took a seat. He looked around the room, but there was no Russian. The Wall Street clientele had also turned over completely to something rough this late in the day.
"I followed you here--after your little escapade at the docks." The way Danny said that, clued Clint that he wasn't wild about Clint's little encounter with the stevedore. "I knew you were up to something. I saw you and those stevedores eyeing each other. When I got here, Chris told me you'd gone to the back, so I've been sittin' here, waiting for you. I was about to go exploring for you, though. What gives?"
"Brunelli picked me up here," Clint answered. "I was going to see if maybe there were any crew members of the Larnaka Star cruising around here before I went over to the port authority. That wasn't going to take long."
"And yet you didn't get to the port authority."
"No I didn't. But I found out something very useful, I think."
"And I didn't get the search warrant. We'll have to do that . . . you say you found out something useful?"
"Brunelli has a hidey hole here. And he wants to hire me. I can be close to him until we find out what we need to know. I think that's two useful pieces of information."
Danny whistled. "OK, you win. That's two very useful pieces of information indeed."
"But for now, we'd better clear out of here," Clint said. "I wouldn't want Brunelli or his driver to see us together--in case they saw you in the courtroom."
"OK. Your place or mine, then?"
Clint gave Danny a questioning look.
"You don't have that finished look about you," Danny said. "You gonna let me polish you off, or are you going to go back to cruising as soon as we part ways?"
"I don't think I need to answer to you on that."
"Right. My place then. It's closer."