This six-chapter Book One/Prequel of the promiscuous bottom NYPD detection Clint Folsom mystery series doubles back to the beginning of series on posting of this thus-far eight-volume book series. Book Three, "Death on the Rhine," and Book Four, "Death in Eden," have already been posted to Gaydemon (in case you want to read the books in order)
"Now, don't go barging in there, Clint," Robert said as we drove under the bar of the Moreno Valley ranch and were approaching the main house. "In fact, I probably should go in first."
But I was young and hadn't seen my parents in more than a week, and, more than that, I was excited about the brush fire that had driven us away from the Malibu house three days before I was to come back to the ranch. So, as soon as Robert stopped the car in front of the house, I was out and racing for the door.
"Wait, Clint," my tutor-and primary companion and guardian-called out as I took the front steps two at a time. "They have visitors."
And, indeed, I could see that they did. There were two automobiles in the drive, both sleek sports cars-and I remember at the time being surprised to see two of those unusual gull-winged sports coupes together like that, a silver Mercedes, which wasn't familiar to me, and the sand-brown Bricklin I knew that costume designer who was here so much drove.
So, what happened then was in no way Robert's fault. He was blamed for so much after that-and of much more serious failings-but this one was wholly on me. He'd had little choice but to bring me to the ranch early. We'd been everything but hauled out of the Malibu house on short notice-without even any time to telephone ahead to the Moreno Valley ranch-because of the encroaching fire. They didn't think it would get to our house-we were in a line of beachfront houses that the L.A. fire chief would probably have called out the National Guard to save because of who owned them-but there was every reason to believe that the Pacific Highway would be breached by the fire in both directions, and this would have cut us off from civilization. It was quite natural that we would have come straight back to the ranch.
And Robert had tried to stop me-to warn me off-probably knowing all too well what the two automobiles in front of the ranch house meant. If there had been more cars, he probably wouldn't have worried.
My parents entertained pretty much nonstop when they were back in Hollywood. It was more or less expected of them. The presence of many cars would have been safer-but probably not much. Because, regardless of what Robert might have thought, I wasn't wholly oblivious to how my parent lived, what they did-indeed what the whole, narcissistic, hedonist world of Hollywood in the late 80s-or any other decade, for that matter-was like.
I was already half way up the stairs to the second level of the house before Robert had gotten the Chrysler wagon out of gear, so there was little he could have done. And he wasn't the last line of defense. Efenia, our housekeeper, met me on the stairs and put out a restraining hand.
"No, Master Clint. Do not come up here. I have something for you in the kitchen. Come tell me why you are home early while I find you something to eat and drink. It must have been a long, slow ride through the city traffic."
All of the time she had her hands on my arms and was trying to coax me back downstairs, she also was shushing me, imploring me to be silent. But she, herself, was speaking loudly-as if she wanted to be heard on the level above.
And of all that, the only thing I took in and heeded was the admonishment to be quiet. This I understood. My parents could be boisterous and have raucous friends, but I was always to be quiet and withdrawn-usually someplace else. It wasn't that they weren't loving parents-not that I'd have any idea what loving parents were, of course. They were just so busy and hands-on with their work and their paying fans that parenting wasn't something that came easily to their minds or figured centrally in their priorities unless there was a family magazine article in the offing.
Thus, my mother didn't even know I was there when I entered her room and found her in her bed with Magda, the costume designer who seemed always to be around my parents somewhere. Nor did my dad notice I was there when I stumbled upon him and that young actor, Gordon Fields, in the room at the back of the hall that he used as a study and to memorize his movie scripts. My first thought was that he and Mr. Fields were practicing for a motion picture, but as I got a clearer picture of what they were doing-and at age seventeen, very nearly eighteen, I was not a backward child by any means in what one person would do with another in the heat of passion-I saw less of a possibility that they were practicing for the sort of motion pictures my parents starred in.
My parents were stars-both of them. Glittering stars at the moment in Hollywood's firmament. They often worked together in a duet that was an automatic box office draw, though, more often of late, they also worked apart from each other. My dad, the swashbuckling romantic lead, Scott Sloan, holding down leading men roles into his mature years by moving into the more suave roles. And my mother, the mysterious and gorgeous Laura Lake, who was one of the most celebrated dramatic actresses of the decade-and indeed of the decade before that as well.
Scott Sloan and Laura Lake. And, the meaningfulness of it increasingly occurring to me in later years, me, their son-probably a surprise to them both when I arrived and somehow had to be fitted into their filming and carousing schedule. My name was Clint Folsom. I can appreciate the irony of the three different names now-clearly delineating the largely separate lives of the three. And me being the only down-to-earth one, the one going by a legal birth name, while my parents, the ones who were supposed to be the adults, both living a separate fantasy-as separate from me as they were from each other.
And today, which marked the start of the death to my innocence, my mother was living her fantasy with a female costumer hanger-on ten years her junior while my dad was living his with the foremost heartthrob supporting actor of the day who was twenty years his junior. Not much older than I was.
I wasn't completely surprised. There had been hints and signals earlier-and there had been open sex aplenty at my parents' almost continuous pool parties at the ranch. And the private separation of my parents in contrast to their public "can't get enough of each other" pretense was something I fully understood.
I can't say I was shocked by it at all. Mine had been an unusual upbringing in an unusual circumstance. Nothing that I had experienced in life instilled the sort of moral foundation that would see hedonist sex as shocking. But this was the day-my day rather than my parents' because I tip-toed away from both trysts unseen and unheard and never mentioned my early homecoming to either of them ever-all self-denial was at an end. And this was what I marked as the beginning of death to my innocence.
Robert was standing in the foyer, running his hand over the brim of his hat and looking hangdog and devastated when I came down the stairs.
"I should not be here. I wasn't expected," was all I said through tight lips. I could not say more, because I was perplexed. When I had seen them, in their separate rooms and their separate embraces, something had stirred inside me-especially in the tableau in my dad's study. I'm ashamed to note, now that I look back on it, that it wasn't repulsive, just perplexing. What it had stirred inside me was an arousal, a sense of want.
"Yes," Robert said in a low, said voice. "Perhaps we should-"
"Back into L.A., maybe. We can maybe stay in a hotel or something until we were expected."
"Yes, right. Back in the car, I guess."
Robert was a brick about the whole thing. We drove back toward the city, and he stopped at a motel that looked slightly on the seedy side to me.
"I thought the Belvedere," I said as he pulled into the forecourt of the motel, which consisted of a series of early-50s style cottages in a semicircle around a small, empty concrete swimming pool in the center of a nearly grass-less square.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," he said tightly. "A man and a boy-here in L.A. And we wouldn't want any place where you might be recognized and where there might be press."
For the first time, the "big bad world" was beginning to descend on me, and I was becoming aware of the problem this was for Robert and the possible risks he was taking.
My mind started to work lickety-split, maturing and becoming more worldly wise by the second. That people "did it" was something I'd grown up with and had often seen the preliminaries for-and sometimes the act itself-as I quietly walked the perimeter of my parents' lives. I had taken it as natural and for granted. Only now was I beginning to see how complicated and problematical it was-and how desperately I wanted to do it too.
I could see the implications of what Robert was taking responsibility for in the eyes of the desk clerk at the motel, as I sat in the car while Robert registered for a room and the clerk cast furtive, "knowing" glances through the plate glass window at me sitting in the Chrysler.
And hours later, as I watched Robert preparing for bed, having carefully gone through a ritual of making me choose one of the two lumpy-mattress twin beds and quite deliberately placing his small suitcase on the other bed, my quickened education in what was what in the world of people relating intimately with other people caught up to me. I had reached the point where I realized I was in love with my tutor, Robert Sinclair-and probably had been for years. Or at least I thought of it as love at the time, only then beginning to open up to the existence of lust.
He had come into our lives when I was twelve and it had dawned on my parents that I was more than an occasional hanger-on in their entourages and that I was getting only the minimal amount of education-and thus wouldn't be half as entertaining for their friends as I might be with better preparation.. During my early years, my parents were establishing themselves as a "couple" in the cinema, churning out drama after comedy of "dashing him and clever her" movies that the public delighted in-and tucking me away somewhere in the entourage they traveled the movie studios and sets of the world with.
Apparently someone clued them into the fact that, as practical as my exposure was to their world, it didn't provide the basics in an education that would lead to college or being celebrated as their offspring in mansion lounges. In response, they had hired Robert to be my live-in tutor.
Over nearly six years, he had become so much more than my tutor. My parents were always around somewhere, no matter how vaguely their presence was to me, so Robert wasn't, in my awareness, a parent figure for me. But he most certainly was my most constant companion, someone who had been there-focused on me as my parents weren't-for almost as long as I could remember.
So, ultimately, it was natural for me to form an attachment to Robert and even, nothing about my life being conventional, to become emotionally attached to him to the point of infatuation.
What I lacked was a compass, a sense of social barriers and limitations. I had grown up with the running joke that everyone in Hollywood was a Jew and/or queer-and there was no one in my life to suggest that there was anything questionable or wrong or limiting about that. Which, of course, there isn't. I had seen men showing affection for men and women for women. And now, within the last few hours, I had seen how deeply that had seeped into my own family unit.
There was nothing in my upbringing that established any barriers or even second thoughts in this regard. When I saw my parents earlier in the day, I wasn't shocked that they were having same-gender sex. What was new and shocking to me was the obvious separation-and the obvious mutual-consent separation-that existed between them.
I had no defenses to the realization-or belief, genuine or mistaken-that I loved, or, more precisely, lusted for my tutor. And there were no barriers to believing that if it was OK with my dad, there was no reason why it shouldn't be OK with me.
Nothing happened that night. Robert shrank from me and carefully kept his distance. It was weeks before he could acknowledge that the attraction was mutual. And even then nothing sexually intimate-other than an exploratory kiss-happened between us-at least from his side-because, although I soon was looking for the same satisfaction my dad did and Robert also sought that satisfaction, we both were looking for the same experience. We didn't fit each other.