“Fuck you, Felix. This had better not be your idea of a belated April Fools’ joke.” Kavanagh’s alarm clock claimed it was not yet 5:30 a.m. and he hadn’t gotten in from his tension-relieving visit on the other side of the French Quarter until nearly 2:00. It had taken a second phone call, with an ad nauseam number of rings to get him to pick up the phone by the bed. He rolled over, sat up on the side of the bed, and instinctively reached for his cigarettes. His hand wavered over the pack and he didn’t pick it up, saying instead, “Eh, what?”

“All hell’s broken out here at HQ, man, and Leon wants you to come in right away. It’s Brent. He’s dead.”

“Brent? Our Brent? Dead? How can that be? How did it happen?”

“Victim number three,” Felix said. “Found on Canal, just up from your hotel. In the back of an Escalade. Wait a minute, Leon’s saying somethin’. Oh, he says you’re just to walk a couple of blocks toward the river from your hotel, man. You’ll be at the scene. Gotta go.”

The scene wasn’t hard to find. The black Escalade, missing license plates, was surrounded by police cars with their lights on and the side of the road had been cordoned off to keep the curious back from being able to see into the open hatch door. There were scores of black Escalades roaming the city streets, Kavanagh was sure, but, regardless, seeing this one reminded him of seeing something being hustled into an identical vehicle outside the brothel not more than six hours previously.

As he got closer, he could see why the crowd was being held back so far. The group of lurkers and watchers was growing, as it was a busy street, even at this time of the morning, and this was where the All Fools’ Day parades formed up. The festival had one more day, this one, to run. He could see that the body was still in the back of the SUV, although he couldn’t identify it as being Brent, not the least because he looked away as soon as he saw that the victim’s entrails had come out of the lower belly cavity. The clown makeup on Brent’s face also registered in the few seconds Kavanagh had seen the body.

In his book, three of these happening within a week was going to register as a serial killer. The details on the deaths of the first two hadn’t been made public yet. What registered more than the condition of the body, though, from a brief look see was the rug the body was lying on. It looked like the same pattern that Kavanagh had seen being stuffed in the back of an Escalade at the brothel.

He was going to have to be careful here. How much could he tell Monroe and the guys about what he’d seen last night that might link here? Surely they could figure out that the brothel he’d been to was an all-male one. He was going to just let them run on less information than he already had.

He saw where Felix and Marco were standing and walked up to them. “Where’s Leon?” he asked. It was the first thing he thought of asking, although he hadn’t really given any thought to what the first question he was going to ask was. It would seem a natural enough question to Marco and Felix for him to ask, but they’d be wrong why he chose that question. The last time Kavanagh had seen Brent was late in the evening of the previous day. And what he’d seen Brent doing was being fucked by Leon Monroe in a bar and then leaving with the captain.

On that basis, Kavanagh thought that was a pretty good question to be asking.

“He was called back to the station,” Monroe said. “Something big’s going down.”

“What could be bigger than what we have right here?” Kavanagh asked. “One of our own dead--and in connection with the biggest case we have going. It’s like the serial killer is mocking us.”

“So you do think this is a serial killer?” Felix asked. “Yesterday we were told--”

“Yeah, I think that now,” Kavanagh said. “Three in a week, with these markings. How in the hell was he found?” He almost asked how he was found like this so soon--less than nine hours after Kavanagh had last seen him alive and kicking, without the clown makeup or his entrails cut out of him, and with their police captain. But of course he couldn’t tell Marco and Felix this. Brent had been off on his courier runs and unseen by anyone of them, supposedly, since the previous afternoon.

“No parking along here for the festival,” Felix answered. “The area was still supposed to be kept clear for parade staging through today. The Escalade was here, the police were going to have it towed, and then they looked in the back window.”

“Whose Escalade is it?”

“It wasn’t difficult tracing the VIN number. It belongs to the federal government. Just in case the president visits New Orleans, I was told.” This from Marco. “One of several stored in a government storage lot. But it was reported either out without a proper checkout or stolen early this morning. They’re dusting it for prints now, but who knows if they’ll find anything on anyone not connected with the government? Only if someone was really sloppy.”

That’s when Kavanagh remembered something else strange that he’d seen from the brothel window the previous night. The guys carrying the rolled carpet out had been wearing gloves. That hadn’t meant anything then. Of course, there was no reason it meant anything now. It made no sense there could be a connection. There was no reason Brent should have been at the brothel even if he was selling himself at night. He had a sex date last night--with Monroe--and the brothel on Frenchmen Street was way, way out of Brent’s league even if he was a rent-boy. Still, it was that rug in the back of the SUV and the missing tags that had him trying to connect dots.

“He shouldn’t still be here, like this,” Kavanagh said. “He’s one of ours. Where’s the medical examiner?”

“He was on his way but we’re told he was diverted,” Felix said. “We’re waiting on him.”

“And Leon? He should be here,” Kavanagh said. For more reasons than the consulting detective from New York could reveal, he thought.

Marco’s cell rang. “Yeah, Captain, he’s here.” He handed the phone to Kavanagh, who found out why neither Leon nor the medical examiner were here.

“Need you back at another scene, Kavanagh. Got such a hot potato one here that the brass want it bounced to you to tie up in a pretty package.”

“What’s more important than Brent, Leon?” Kavanagh asked, not too politely.

“A dead chief justice of the Fifth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals,” Monroe answered. “Luca Alba.”

“And so?” Kavanagh asked.

“I take it you don’t watch news. Alba is in the center of a political fight. The president nominated him for the Supreme Court and people who are pissed about that have been coming out of the woodwork and digging up dirt on him. He’s from one of New Orleans’ cushiest families. City Hall wants this one tamped down fast. Need you at the scene. It’s just around the corner from where you are, on St. Charles Avenue, in the Garden District. There’s nothing we can do for Brent now.”

Other than find his killer and find out where you were when he died, Kavanagh thought, as he passed the cell phone back to Felix. He hadn’t said anything like that to Monroe on the phone with Felix standing right there, though, of course.

* * * *

The address Kavanagh went to on St. Charles was literally just around the corner from the Escalade crime scene on Canal and didn’t take as much as ten minutes for Kavanagh to find. It was in an upscale residential area with huge antebellum mansions that had been cut up into apartments on expensively landscaped postage stamp-sized lots, but, as Kavanagh found out with the federal judge’s apartment, ones that were huge, took up whole floors of the building, and were luxurious.

Alba’s apartment was on the second floor, reached by a private elevator or via a wide marble staircase rising up from a large marble entrance foyer. There probably were only three apartments in the building.

He had it out with Captain Monroe on the curved staircase in initially angry hushed tones that echoed all around the foyer walls, making their words--luckily--largely unintelligible to anyone but themselves. Policeman, guys in white coats, and civilians in suits were swirling around them, careful to stay out of their way as it looked like they’d be using their fists at any point in the conversation.

“Shit, you say?” Monroe said, looking belligerent, shocked, and trapped at the same time.

“You heard me,” Kavanagh countered, poking a finger in the air not far from Monroe’s chest.

“I was there. In the bar, last night. I saw you with Brent. I saw what the two of you were doing. Before we go another step in either case, I need to know where you went with Brent afterward and for how long. And I need to know time of death from the medical examiner. Or I’m going straight to the commissioner.”

“You think I had anything to do with Brent’s death? And therefore with the others?” He either was genuinely indignant or had a lot of gall.

“What would you think if you were me? You did Brent . . .”

At this Monroe reached out and touched Kavanagh’s sleeve and shushed him, looking around at the people streaming past. “I didn’t do him the way you make it sound,” he hissed.

“ . . . you fucked Brent in the bar and left with him.”

“And we parted at the door. Brent was in a tizzy from me hazing him in the morning meeting. He was gonna talk about us, and I had to throw some homo hating flak in the air to put the guys off the scent. Then I had to get him back under control . . . but I had something else on last night and he said he had a date too. We parted outside the bar door. I had a poker game on at my house to go to.”

“Shall we call your wife to verify that?”

“Hell, no, we won’t fuckin’ talk to Mary Ann about this. But I’ll do just as good.” He took out his cell phone, punched in some numbers, and gave Kavanagh a quick look at the name of the screen of who he was calling. “Phil. It’s Leon. I’ve got a guy here who wants to know about where I was last night from 10:00 on till 2:30, what I was doing, and who I was doin’ it with. No, don’t ask and I won’t ask about the golf course going up on that public domain-seized land north of the city. Here, listen to him.”

Monroe handed the phone over to Kavanagh and let him hear what the deputy mayor of New Orleans--in a voice Kavanagh recognized--had to say about the late-starting and ending poker game at Leon Monroe’s house the previous night.

“Now, let’s just wait and see until we get a time of death on Brent,” said when he’d disconnected. “I’m confident that will rule me out. I got you over here to work on the Alba death. Me and City Hall have different takes on this. Marco and Felix will work on Brent and the other clown-face guttings. Believe me, I’m not going to let Brent’s killer get away with that. But before you think of broadcasting what Brent and I were doing, let me tell you that I know about your thing for rent-boys too. And that you give it rough.”

“Shit,” Kavanagh exclaimed.

“Yes, shit. A couple of real fuckers, ain’t we? But that’s how it is and it can stay between us. Now come upstairs and get a load of the stiff before they haul it away.”

“Why me? Why me on this case? But I guess I get it. Alba’s a hot potato. A presidential appointment to the Supreme Court. High profile. But what is it that makes it a hot potato?”

“Between you and me, who are now close buddies, with shared secrets? Yeah, we need an outsider to be the face of this. And we need to tamp this down before a fire starts. I told you the appointment for this guy was going south--that the skeletons were beginning to fall out of his closet--and that some of these skeletons go way back in New Orleans. It was enough to give him--and others, I’m sure--a heart attack. And that’s what the ME is going to put on the death certificate. But between you and me, buddy, this was a murder. The ME said he was suffocated. And I’ve seen my share of transferred and set-up death scenes, and this is one of them. The man was stiffed and probably not here.”

“But why Vice--and why Homicide--if you want to make this a natural causes?”

“It’s not me who wants it to be natural causes. It’s City Hall, and with each passing minute, it’s everyone else up the line--probably to the White House--by now who want it to be natural causes. You’ll be transferred on paper to just being a distinguished visiting colleague who gets this case because you’re from out of town and we’ve got a reputation for police corruption in New Orleans already. But it’s homicide because we’re convinced he was offed and it’s Vice because whoever did him wasn’t careful enough. They didn’t get all of the makeup off his face and they didn’t take his bra off when they put nightclothes on him. Again between thee and me, one of those skeletons falling out of his closet concerns rumors he liked to dress up and be fucked.”

“OK, OK, but if you just want to cover it over--” Kavanagh said.

“I don’t want to just cover it over,” Monroe retorted. “I want to find the fucker who did this--which is your specialty--and I want to see him brought to justice, even if it can’t be done within the system. Even if I have to take care of it myself. I’m still a cop. And I didn’t kill Brent, and we’ll get his guy, even if it has to be outside the books. And now, let’s get upstairs and you start doing an investigation in spite of what we do on the surface. And that means I can’t help you much and neither can the station, but I’ve heard you have your ways of getting things done and settled. Just give me a name when you’re done. And then walk away humming.”

“OK, I’ve got some ideas, but what if these aren’t two different investigations--the clown-face serial killer and Alba’s killer? I’ve been stonewalled on the Garden District roommate of one of the victims. Maybe that was Alba? Or maybe it was someone else who links?”

“It wasn’t Alba, and I’m not giving you that name. I don’t see how you could see a link, though.”

“And without a name I’m not revealing anything I know as a possible link.”

“Well, all I can say is if the name you give me matches the name I’ve been told not to give out, I’ll still take care of it.”

“You’ll take care of it?”

“I’ll gut the bastard myself and paint him a clown face, OK? I wasn’t just messing around with Brent--it was more than that. OK? Now, let’s get out of this traffic and go upstairs. There’s a nervous Nelly up there for you to talk to and maybe interrogate in your own way--he looks your type.”

“There’s one thing you could do for me that would show effort up the line on the case,” Kavanagh said as they continued up the stairs. “See if you can get a listing of what sort of dirt was coming up on Alba in the appointment investigations. The key to his murder might be there.”

“Will do. I’ll make calls as soon as we’re finished upstairs. What in the hell is that noise outside?”

“Guess the parade is starting up again for the All Fools’ Day festival. Glad it’s the last day for that.”

“You and me both, buddy. Guess we have more in common that just liking to nail young guys.”

* * * *

What a surprise Kavanagh got when he and Monroe entered Alba’s apartment. Sitting there in his living room much the way the guy had been sitting in the parlor of the brothel was the blond late-twenties honey Madame Zena had told Kavanagh was an aide to one of her clients and was waiting for him to be done. The guy was sitting, looking both nervous and forlorn, and smoking a cigarette.

He looked up at Kavanagh and smiled wanly, his hand fluttering to his blond hair as if to check for stray strands so the detective wouldn’t get a bad impression. His cheeks were wet like he’d been crying. There was interest in his face when he looked at Kavanagh, but no sign of recognition that the detective walked by him the previous night in the brothel.

He was good looking but too old for Kavanagh’s interests. He would have been happy to fuck the guy ten years earlier--not that he’d throw him out of bed now. Kavanagh smiled back, but it wasn’t a “let’s connect” smile.

“This is Alba’s law clerk, Paul Worth,” Monroe said, gesturing to the young man. “He says he lives here. This here’s Detective Mike Kavanagh, on loan from the NYPD. He’s lead on this case.”

“This case?” Worth asked. “Luca died in his sleep of a heart attack. It wasn’t expected, but his doctors said that heart trouble was developing. He was under a lot of stress over an important appointment. The heart issue was causing him to consider dropping consideration for the appointment. I think it’s the stress that did it.” Turning to Kavanagh, he smiled and said, “Detective Kavanagh,” in recognition of the introduction. It was a special smile--a special interest smile.

“Mr. Worth,” Kavanagh responded. Was that a flutter of eyelashes he saw--and maybe just a bit too much information on Alba’s condition?

“He’s an important man. We just have to cover all of the bases,” Monroe said. “Can you hold tight here to talk with Detective Kavanagh after we’ve checked out the justice’s bedroom?”

“Certainly, detective,” Worth answered. “I live here and my life was completely in service to the justice’s. I have nowhere else I need to be.”

Just how fully in service to Alba was Worth, Kavanagh wondered as he followed Monroe down the hall. They passed the door of an obviously inhabited bedroom en route, so at least it seemed that the two men had separate bedrooms.

When they got to Alba’s bedroom, Kavanagh saw what Monroe meant about the justice not dying here. He’d already been told about the bra, which was under what must have passed in the dark as an undershirt but what turned out to be a camisole. And his sleeping pants had been put on him backwards. The rest of the room was immaculate, though. There was a dressing table, but no sign of any of the makeup the judge had been wearing. He was laying there, arms crossed on his chest, legs pulled together. Not really how the last minutes of a heart attack victim would go.

Without speaking, Monroe leaned over and brought Kavanagh attention to the dead man’s hands. His fingernails were all broken and bloody. He fought being offed but had lost--and as neatly as the bed was made, that fight didn’t happen here.

“This led me to call someone before bringing in the Medical Examiner.” Monroe whispered to Kavanagh because the ME was still in the room, putting his tools back in his bag and looking none too happy. “The ME had to be put in line on what he’d put on the certificate no matter what he found. What he found was suffocation, probably by a pillow, but nothing like that is here--his nose bled and he had makeup on his face. There’s nothing here that mirrors that. So . . .” and here Monroe raised his voice, “. . . we have a case of heart attack.”

The ME snapped his bag shut, gave Monroe a dirty look, gave some instructions to one of the coroners’ office technicians standing by to take the body away, and then abruptly turned and left the room. It was only then that Kavanagh honed in on one of the technicians being Manny Lopez, a sexy young Hispanic who Kavanagh had seen both on the job and at a gay bar. Manny was young and had been on the make for Kavanagh in the bar. But he wasn’t blond, he didn’t rent himself out, and Kavanagh had this rule about hooking up with guys from the office, the coroner’s office being part of the police establishment. So, Kavanagh hadn’t responded to Manny’s signaling . . . until now. Now Kavanagh had the thought in the back of his mind that Lopez could be a source for information the detective sorely needed and was officially being denied.

“Good to see you, Manny,” he said. He didn’t need to get the young Hispanic’s attention. Manny had been salivating over Kavanagh and posing for him since Kavanagh and Monroe had entered the room. “Been meaning to talk to you. You free for a drink and lunch today--maybe at Good Friends on Dauphine?”

“You bet,” Manny asked, nearly panting like a puppy dog. “Would 1:30 be too late? I can’t get off before that.”

“That would be just fine. I have some fish to fry, so later is better than earlier.” Kavanagh told Monroe he, indeed, had a lead or two to follow and Monroe said he’d get what Kavanagh asked for on Alba’s background to him as soon as he could. Then Kavanagh left the room and went back to the living room, where the justice’s aide was still sitting.

“Do you know where the justice spent the evening?” he asked.

“Right here,” Worth answered, sitting up straight on the sofa and showing Kavanagh his best profile. “We went over some legal case files until he said he was tired and then he went to bed a little after midnight. I put the files in order and then I went to bed. The justice is an early riser. When he didn’t come out of his room for coffee this morning, I went in and found he had passed away.”

All the time Worth was saying this, he was showing mixed emotions. He clearly was nervous as hell--either overwhelmed by events or holding something back--but he also was signaling interest like mad to Kavanagh. To Kavanagh it came across as fishy as hell, though.

“So, you had a lot of legal files to work on?” He made show of looking around the room for said files.

“Yes, and I put them in order . . . in the justice’s home office . . . before I went to bed.”

“And you were with him all evening?”

“Yes. Here, working.”

“Well, that’s it for now, thank you. I’m very sorry for your loss. Looks like a simple heart attack.”

“He was a great and brilliant man,” Worth said, rising from the sofa. “The world will miss not having him on the Supreme Court.”

Kavanagh had remained standing, indicating that the interview wouldn’t be long. “Who will be making the arrangements for him?” he asked.

“The circuit court will do the detail work, I guess,” Worth said. “He had no family . . . living . . . other than me. We worked so closely together that I guess you could consider me family. I’ll shepherd the arrangements.”

“And then what? What after he’s taken care of?” Kavanagh asked.

“You mean what will I do?”

Kavanagh nodded.

“Well, I guess I’ll have to find another position--law clerk for someone else, I guess,” Worth said, appearing to be thinking of the matter for the first time. But there was something about him and the way he carefully presented himself that made Kavanagh think that the man had already considered all of the angles. It was certain that he was covering something else.

Kavanagh had seen him in the Frenchmen’s Street brothel the previous night--most likely waiting for Alba, who was with one of the Sams--considering how close an aide he claimed to be to the justice. And Madame Zena had called Worth an aide to a client she wouldn’t name as well. And Worth’s scenario of the evening was a bunch of baloney. The ME estimated time of death for between 10:15 and 11:15 the previous night--near the time when Kavanagh saw Worth in the brothel, and not long before Kavanagh saw Worth and another man bundling something out of the brothel and into a black Escalade.

Kavanagh decided that Worth needed to be knocked off center. “You say you and Justice Alba were inseparable and that he had no family. The body in there has been wearing makeup and women’s clothes. He was dressed for sex. Were you and Alba fucking?”

The bald question did, as expected, knock Worth off his pins, but he recovered quickly, having reviewed his options in a flash. To be a circuit court judge’s law clerk, you had to be fast on your reflexes.

“Yes, Detective Kavanagh, I serviced Justice Alba in every way. I gave him whatever he wanted and expected. He was a very important and demanding man. And he didn’t have time to take care of his needs himself. I gave him what he needed. Now, let me ask you something. Did you ask as part of the official investigation or because you want to fuck me too? Did you want to know what I was doing tonight rather than professionally, in the long term?”

It was Kavanagh’s turn to be knocked for a loop, but he also recovered quickly and considered his options just as quickly.

“Perhaps both, but the official work takes precedence. Can I give you my card for you to contact me if anything else comes to mind that would help us . . . me.”

Worth took the card, and they both permitted their hands to touch for longer than necessary on the exchange.

“Certainly. When I’ve done what has to be done with the arrangements for the justice, I certainly will call you,” Worth said. They exchanged a meaningful look before Kavanagh withdrew.

When Kavanagh left the Garden District apartment, he didn’t go straight to the police station. He walked, instead, across the French Quarter to Frenchmen’s Street. Madame Zena was going to have to reveal to him who the client had been who was there with Worth the previous evening. Kavanagh bet it was Alba and also that Alba died in the brothel and Worth was helping someone cover that up.

He was out of luck when he got to the brothel, though. Sam 1 was there and apparently in charge for the moment.

“Madame Z and Sam 4 aren’t here. They weren’t here this morning. Her car is here, so they must have taken a taxi. But, no, that’s not unusual for her to go off for a few days with one of the guys when she has the itch.”

“I’ll leave my card then,” Kavanagh said. “It’s important that she contact me. There may be some bad publicity coming her way that she’ll need help tamping down.”

“Thanks, I know she’ll appreciate it,” Sam 1 said, taking Kavanagh’s card. The detective knew that, with what he’d said, Madame Zena indeed would get back to him as quickly as she could. Then he’d maybe get a two-fer: both vital information from Madame Z and, in her gratitude for the heads up, some free servicing from Sam 3.

From there he went back to the office and stewed. He didn’t simmer for long, though. The information he’d requested on the recently known skeletons in Alba’s closet was delivered to him and he poured over it. Reflected in the documents were some payments and perks in kind to the judge connected to rulings over the years and some contributions by him to politicians who might have helped him rise in the bench assignments. There were some questionable real estate deals, including for the St. Charles Avenue apartment, that would cause smiles but no real shock or surprise in New Orleans society. And then there were hints and more than hints of the sexual proclivities that Kavanagh had already seen firsthand. The more than hints dealt with a never-married justice and his closeness to his legal clerks. The lesser hints were attachments to other men, including another justice on the circuit court who once had been his law clerk.

As he was finishing absorbing this, Marco and Felix came into the squad room following what, as their mood and discussion indicated, was an unsuccessful morning of detection on the serial killing case.

After commiserating with them, Kavanagh asked a question that got all three of them going again. “Marco, yesterday Brent spent the afternoon couriering documents around to government offices, you said. Was one of them the building where the Fifth Circuit Court is located?”

“Sure. The Hebert Federal Building on Maestri Place. Why do you? . . . oh, shit.”

“Shit is right,” Kavanagh said. “That’s your connection. All of the victims in your case have a connection with that building or the street in front of it.”

All three detectives popped up out of their seats. Marco and Felix were off to Maestri Place.

“You coming with us, Mike?” Felix asked. “I thought the captain said you--”

“No, I’ve got a date with a stiff handler,” Kavanagh said. “But I may have something to help you with when I get back.”

* * * *

“Yes, Paul, is there? . . . you know we really shouldn’t be seeing each other until this blows over. You don’t really need to be here today. Everyone would understand.”

“I think I do need to be here today and that we should get some things established right now,” Paul Worth said, as he pulled the shade down over the window in the door to the office of Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals justice Jim Peters and turned the lock. He undid and threw to the side his tie and started unbuttoning his shirt as he walked across the carpeted floor toward where Peters sat behind his vast mahogany desk. Peters watched the younger man, Justice Alba’s law clerk, with bugged-out eyes. There was a deep rumble in his throat.

“I want to do it with you in your judicial robe and nothing else,” Paul said in a low, hoarse voice.

Ten minutes later, just in his black judge’s robe, Jim Peters was hunched down in his padded executive chair, his legs, sheathed only in his knee-high black silk stockings held up with garters, draped over the arms of his chair. He was panting heavily and moaning, as, crouched over the chair, just in his open white shirt and knee-high socks with garters, Paul Worth was gripping the arms of the chairs under the bent knees of Justice Peters and straining his pelvis forward. His cock, encased by the condom he’d walked into the office wearing, knowing what his objective was, was inside Peter’s anal passage and moving deep and slow.

“Yes, yes, oh god yes,” Peters croaked before Worth dipped his face down, took Peters’ mouth with his, and moved into a punishing, possessive kiss.

They held there afterward after both had ejaculated.

“This is dangerous. We really shouldn’t--” Peters murmured.

“But then you never could resist me, could you? Do you want me to do it again?” Worth said, his voice mocking and perhaps with an edge of hysteria to it.

“Yes, oh, yes.”

“And then, later, you can fuck me.”

“Yes, yes.”

“We need to settle on something first then, Jim. I did you a big favor--a huge favor. And now I’m at loose ends. I need something from you to continue protecting you.”

“What? What do you need?”

“I need a job, and I don’t wish to take anything lower than what I have now--law clerk to a federal appellate judge.”

“But all of us have law clerks already. . . maybe when Alba is replaced.”

“That’s not soon enough or good enough, Jim. The best way for you to keep me happy and quiet is if I am your law clerk. I can give you all of the loyalty and servicing that I gave Luca.”

“But I have a law clerk already. Cary Ulster.”

“And I’m sure there will be some way to create a vacancy in that position.”

“I think you need to be very careful on how far you push me, Paul,” Peters responded, leaving the two of them staring hard at each other, belying the position they were in, Worth still crouched over Peters in the chair, his cock going flaccid, but buried up in Peters’ passage and Peters’ arms and legs stretched out in supplication, clearly being dominated.

Rising from the chair, retrieving his clothes, and dressing, Worth said, “We need to discuss this further. Dinner at your house? I’ll bring carryout. I’ll have it warming in your oven for whenever you can make it home. Then it will be your turn.”

Paul had locked the door to the justice’s reception area, but he had neglected to lock the side door into the office of Peters’ law clerk. Cary Ulster, young, tall and willowy, cute, and red-haired, had nearly walked in on the men having sex on Peter’s chair--nearly. He’d heard the sounds of passion and had just cracked the door open enough to see what was happening. He also heard what the two were hatching on getting rid of him so that Paul could be Peters’ law clerk.

“Note to self,” he murmured, “bring it out into the open and have it out with him tonight.” This was a man he had sex with too. He didn’t appreciate the competition on that level any more than he did having his job put into jeopardy.

* * * *

At the same time, across the French Quarter, in Mike Kavanagh’s hotel room, the coroner’s office tech, Manny Lopez, being held captive by Kavanagh, was riding the detective’s cock far more freely. He was captive in that his wrists were handcuffed behind his back as Kavanagh lay on his back on the bed and, hands on Kavanagh’s sternum and facing toward his feet, the young Hispanic man moved up and down and revolved on Kavanagh’s shaft. Manny’s vocal responses were muted by the ball gag in his mouth as a precaution against calls to the hotel desk from hotel rooms up and down the corridor.

It wasn’t Manny’s idea to be bound; it admittedly was a preference by Kavanagh in maximizing his pleasure, which needed a boost in this circumstance not because Manny wasn’t sexy and good at taking the fuck but because he wasn’t Kavanagh’s preferred type. Manny obviously didn’t give a fuck how Kavanagh screwed him, however--just as long as he did.

All Manny cared about was what was happening now. All Kavanagh cared about was what he might learn afterward. Yes, Mike felt a bit guilty about this. It didn’t stop him from doing it, though, which, when he thought about it, didn’t make him much “holier than thou” than Captain Monroe and New Orleans City Hall. He was from the NYPD, though, so this gave him only a short pause to give play to any feelings of guilt.

Grabbing Manny’s waist, Kavanagh took command, slamming the young Hispanic’s channel vigorously up and down on the staff, while Manny writhed, gasped, and cried out the pain-pleasure of his rough taking through his ball gag. Manny ejaculated, but Kavanagh held off, repositioning the young man’s body so that Kavanagh was sitting on the end of the bed, with Manny impaled on his dick and in his lap, facing away from him, legs streaming around and behind Kavanagh’s hips, Manny’s handcuffed wrists wedged behind Kavanagh’s neck and his torso tautly bowed back, while Kavanagh pulled his channel on and off the cock to his first and Manny’s second spouting of seed.

Twenty minutes later, the two of them stretched out against each other, Manny no longer handcuffed or gagged and each fisting and stroking the cock of the other, Kavanagh murmured, “If you want, there’s time, I think for another--”

“Yes, please,” the Hispanic medical technician pleaded.

“There’s something you could help me with . . .” Kavanagh whispered.

“What? Anything.”

“The disemboweled bodies of two young men went through the morgue recently.”

“Parin and Brandon, yes. I remember them.”

“And my unit’s research clerk just this morning.”

“Yes. He was on the table when I returned from the judge’s apartment this morning.”

“That was Brent. He was supposed to bring up the address for me where Steve Parin lived--in the Garden District, I think. It would make everything faster for me, and I’d show my gratitude, if someone could look in the records in your office for that address. No privacy issues involved. The guy is dead.”

“Sure, no problem. As soon as I get back to work.”

“Which won’t be for a little while yet,” Kavanagh said, as he rolled over on top of the young Hispanic, and Manny cried out at the painful angle Kavanagh imprisoned the young man’s arms up his back and power with which he thrust his cock inside Manny’s ass to--in gratitude for Manny’s help with the address--resume the fucking.

When Kavanagh made it back to his desk it was to find that there had been three hang-up calls into his landline work telephone. He didn’t have time to wonder what those were about--he was just a consultant and that was mainly used as a tip line; his colleagues called him on a cell phone--when the phone rang again.

A muffled voice said, “Can you put me in contact with someone working on the Justice Alba death?”

“Yes, that would be me, Detective Mike Kavanagh. Who is this?”

“It doesn’t matter who this is. Just a heads up. Alba’s death wasn’t an accident. Look into the past. You might want to search Jim Peters’ house.”

And that was that. The caller disconnected.

“Jim Peters?” Kavanagh said out loud. “Where have I heard that name before? Oh, yes, I think . . .” He reached for the documents Monroe had sent him on the dirt dug up on Luca Alba. He’d remembered rightly. The name of the current appellate court judge and Alba’s law clerk earlier for which there were rumors of a sexual relationship was . . . Jim Peters.

While digesting this, he received Manny Lopez’ phone call giving him Steve Parin’s address--or, as he’d previously been told, the address of the mystery man working in the Hebert Federal Building who Steve Parin lived with in the Garden District. The address was on Magazine Street, in another one of those large apartments in a refurbished old mansion in an exclusive residential area. Using a reverse telephone and address directory the police department found essential, he discovered the name of the actual owner of that address. No surprise. It was Jim Peters.

Kavanagh experienced a twinge of guilt and regret on what he’d done to get Lopez to give him information, but he needed to start somewhere in cracking this case. He did have a rule about hooking up with a work colleague, but if he worked hard at rationalizing it, he probably could convince himself that the coroner’s office wasn’t really the same as the police department. He couldn’t lie to himself. He knew if he had an opportunity to nail Manny again, he would do so, even though Manny wasn’t his favorite type. And the way Manny was purring after the second time Kavanagh had spiked him, the detective was quite sure Manny would be game for it.

The problem was that Kavanagh did like variety from time to time and he had to get his rocks off with a young man at least daily or he was a grouch. Nobody liked him when he was a grouch, so it was a favor to everyone around him when he laid someone daily. He was going for two today, he thought, as he considered his plans to nail that sweet waiter, Kyle, at the Dauphine Street coffee house tonight.

It was getting dark and he was hungry and feeling overwhelmed with easy help. When Marco and Felix returned, having spent hours canvassing those assigned to the Hebert Federal Building and working regularly on the streets surrounding it but not having come up with much that would help their investigation into the clown-face serial murders, Kavanagh sighed and rose from his desk. As he put on his suit coat, he called out, “Just a possibility, but you might check out if you can find connections between any of the victims and an appellate court justice by the name of Jim Peters, or whoever is listed as his law clerk--or anyone on Justice Alba’s staff.”

He knew he should follow up on the tip about Peters’ place, but the information was thin and suspicious--just a bit too pat. Maybe Marco and Felix could come up with something that would justify a search warrant. He didn’t have much doubt what the warrant could say they were looking for. Since the caller seemed to be so much in the know of what happened to Alba, they’d be looking for a pillow with blood and cosmetic stains and the scent of death on it. One certainly hadn’t been found in Alba’s apartment.

“You getting somewhere on your case, good buddy, or ours?” Marco asked, jovially enough, considering how long he and Felix had been pounding the pavement and pursuing thin air.

“Maybe both,” Kavanagh said, as he headed for the door.

“You aren’t holding out on us, are you?” Felix added.

“Nope,” Kavanagh answered as he hit the door. “At least not any more than your system here is holding out on me,” he muttered as he got out into the stair hall, where they couldn’t hear him. He liked Marco and Felix. It was Monroe’s idea to keep his investigation close to his chest, not his.

Getting out on the street, he had to wade his way through drunken and weaving festival revelers making the most of the last day of the All Fools’ Day festival as he tried to get to the steakhouse he’d been dreaming about for hours. God, he’d be glad when tomorrow came and the street festival would be finished. With luck, he thought, this insidious clown-face serial killing would end with the end of this festival as well. But it was a double-edged sword. If the serial killings stopped, it would be that much harder to find the killer.

Finding it harder to try to move against the flow of the revelers, he turned and headed east, across the French Quarter, on Dauphine and then down the Esplanade to Frenchmen Street. At the corner of Charles and Frenchmen, a golden boy with spiked red hair accosted Kavanagh.

“Hello, gorgeous,” the glittering sprite said. “Why no costume or are you a plumber going as a businessman tonight? You look like a good sport and a real bruiser. We could have good sport together. I’m in the mood for a rough fuck. No charge.”

Kavanagh was sorely tested, even though the willowy red-headed young man, body covered with gold glitter, wasn’t precisely his type. He even gave the young man’s crotch a feel and let the man cup his package as well. The golden one whistled, with a comment on how big and ready Kavanagh was--and indeed the detective was half hard from the view of all the luscious bared man flesh he’d waded through in the French Quarter. But Kavanagh had gotten release earlier today by fucking Manny Lopez, and, although his libido said he was good to go again, his needs weren’t immediate. Besides, he was saving himself for the cute waiter, Kyle, for later.

“Sorry, on the job,” he muttered, as he let his suit coat open so that the young sprite could see the badge attached to his belt. The effect was immediate; the golden sprite disappeared back into the crowd, and Kavanagh, somewhat regretfully, as the offer had been a tempting one, continued onto Frenchmen’s Street.

The nightclubs here were in full swing as well and he was slowed down by encountering an overabundance of men to his liking, many of them indicating liking of him as well, but eventually he made it to the brothel, where he wanted to see if Madame Zena had reappeared yet. She hadn’t, and this time Sam 1 was a bit worried and asked if Kavanagh would ask for some discreet help at the police department to locate her. Kavanagh said he could, accepting a blow job from Sam 1 as just a friendly gesture.

If Kavanagh thought that the relief of a blow job would tamper his libido down after having milled through a street clogged with barely dressed and luscious young men propositioning him, he was mistaken. If he could have afforded it and wasn’t saving himself for trying to be at the coffee shop on Dauphine when Kyle closed it up that evening, he would have stayed for a more testing dalliance with one of the Sams, but after zipping up and leaning down and sharing a bit of his cum with Sam 1 in a kiss, he was off again in search of a steakhouse with a free table for one.

* * * *

Caught in the swirl of the dancers spilling out of the French Quarter on Charles Street and continuing on to Frenchmen Street, Cary Ulster giggled as strong hands pulled him off the teeming street into the darkness of an alley and behind a dustbin. At last he’d found a playmate.

The strong hands belonged to a Grim Reaper costumed in a hooded black, flowing robe, masked, and carrying a machete instead of a traditional long scythe. In contrast, Cary was wearing next to nothing, gold lamé bikini briefs covered with gold glitter, arm and thigh and throat bands similarly in gold lamé, and gold sandals on his feet. His face and body were covered in gold glitter and gold glitter was brushed through his spiked red hair. A small gold purse containing the bare necessities hung from his shoulder on a long gold chain. He was quite the willowy sprite and he was on the make tonight, the last day of the festival.

He was letting loose after an afternoon and evening of fretting over the possibility of losing his job as Justice Peters’ law clerk. It was a good job. It wasn’t quite as lucrative as he made at night on the streets of New Orleans, but it was more assured income and the promise of a comfortable future after his cute, strawberry-red curls looks deserted him. Tonight he wanted to let loose. He wanted to be laid without the contract that usually entailed. The hedonist celebration of All Fools’ Day on the streets of New Orleans provided the perfect release for him and the moments of forgetting the problems of his day. Getting laid right here in this alley was quite all right with him.

And get laid, he did, right there in the alley, behind the dustbin, backed up against a brick wall, his legs hooked on the hips of a masked Grim Reaper, who had bunched up his robe to his waist to reveal that he was naked underneath, horse hung, and in full, sheathed erection. It took less than a moment for Cary’s bikini briefs to be ripped from his crotch and for his thin body to be lifted in strong arms, his channel to be forced down on the possessing cock, and for the Grim Reaper to be pumping him hard and deep, Cary crying out in passion and want. Getting under Cary’s pelvis and pushing up and against the wall, the assaulter’s hands went to the wall on either side of Cary’s head. Hanging on for dear life, Cary let the more powerful man move his body up and down the brick wall with the strength of the thrusts of his cock. Cary arched his back against the wall, grasped the costumed assaulter’s biceps with his hands, howled to the slit of sky between the close-set buildings of the alley, and reveled in just the release he had been seeking.

There was a familiarity about the man who was working his body, pushing him into the wall with his palms against the wall, trapping Cary and demonstrating his control. There was a familiar scent to him, a sense that his cock had known Cary’s channel before. He was manipulating Cary’s body as if they had fucked before, and Cary was going with his demands. But there had been so many man who had been there, and Cary was enjoying the rough taking too much to be analytical.

He came and so must the Grim Reaper have done, as he was pulling out of Cary and stripping the used condom off his cock and carefully depositing it in a hidden pocket of his robe. But then he held Cary there, fumbling around with something in his hand. Cary opened his eyes in surprise and shock. His mouth opened wide too in a silent scream that produced no sound.

* * * *

After a great steak at a busy restaurant on Frenchmen Street, just on the other side of the wall from where Cary Ulster was just then having his face painted in a clown mask by the Grim Reaper, Kavanagh swam upstream of a growing raucous crowd in the French Quarter to police headquarters, where he made some calls for an informal check on the whereabouts of Madame Zena and the Sam she’d taken with her. He knew that the blow job by Sam 1 hadn’t come for free.

Then he sat at his desk, contemplating the puzzle he needed to unravel, before checking his supply of Trojan Magnum condoms and leaving the police station a bit before 9:00 to walk over to the coffee shop on Dauphine. The mission was to help the waiter, Kyle, close up shop--and with anything else he could convince Kyle he needed help with. It remained to be seen if Kyle really was still a virgin, as advertised, but Kavanagh didn’t mind taking up the burden of finding out and then curing the young man of that problem.

Kavanagh stood momentarily on the front steps of the police department, savoring the warmth of the evening and the sounds of joyful partying in the streets. A good night to ravish a virgin, he thought, a smile on his lips.

The place was practically deserted when Kavanagh got there. Potential patrons were either out on the street getting the most they could out of the last night of the All Fools’ Day festival or in their own homes, trying to avoid the raucous crowds that had taken over the streets of the French Quarter. Happily, Kyle was the only one on duty in the café. Kavanagh sat at the window, dividing his attention between the hedonist partying going on outside on the street, which had made him hard and was keeping him that way, and watching the small, blond Kyle moving about the shop, serving the few patrons present, cleaning off the tables, and tidying up behind the counter. Kyle’s movements were keeping Kavanagh hard too, and the furtive looks Kyle was giving him strongly suggested that the waiter was just as aroused.

At 9:30 closing, the two of them were the last ones in the place and Kyle had done everything but turn out the lights, leave, and lock the front door. He stood there, expectantly by the light switch at the back of the shop, beside the counter and the door into the back.

“Uh, it was nice of you to stay around and keep me company tonight,” Kyle said. “Guess it’s time for me to close up and us to go our separate ways.”

“I like it right here,” Kavanagh said, coming up close to Kyle and placing a possessive hand on the young man’s arm. He could feel Kyle trembling. “Why don’t you close up in a different order tonight? Lock up first and then come back and turn out the lights.”

“Umm. That would mean . . . I really can’t--”

“I think you can, Kyle.” Kavanagh reached up, cupped the back of Kyle’s head, and brought his him for a kiss. The other arm went around his waist. Kyle writhed a bit and resisted the kiss at first, but slowly he gave way, relaxed in Kavanagh’s embrace, and was giving as good as he was getting in the exchange of tongue swabbing in each other’s mouth cavities.

“Turn out the lights and drop your pants,” Kavanagh growled when they came out of the kiss.

“Please. I can’t. I’ve never--”

“Yes, you can. You’ve wanted to, haven’t you? You’re ripe for it, and you want it from me. Turn out the lights and drop your pants. You have to do that. You have to commit to it.”

“Not here. We can’t . . . here,” Kyle whispered. That he’d backed off from not doing it and not doing it with Kavanagh was not lost on the detective.

“Yes, here. Now. Turn off the lights and drop your pants. I’m going to fuck you here, now. I’ll treat you right the first time.”

With a whimper, Kyle reached over and turned off the lights. Kavanagh smiled at the sound of Kyle’s belt buckle opening and his pants falling to the floor. Seconds later Kavanagh’s had done the same and Kyle was whimpering and moaning louder, as Kavanagh held him close and frotted their already nearly engorged cocks together with one hand while still holding Kyle around the waist with the other.

Kavanagh indeed treated the young virgin right the first time. The randy detective had two approaches to sex: the hardened rent-boys he took immediately hard and rough; the inexperienced he took slow and methodically, building up toward their edges of tolerance. He fucked Kyle on a table near the rear of the shop, in darkness, so they couldn’t be seen from the street, while the hedonist swirl of nearly unclad bodies bringing the festival to a close out on the lit street and frantically pairing off to reach their own climaxes provided the two, the experienced detective and the ripe virgin waiter, with heightened arousal.

Kyle lay on his back on a table, his arms outstretched and legs hung over Kavanagh’s shoulders, bare below the waist and his shirt flared open to give play access to nipples by Kavanagh’s search fingers, while Kavanagh sucked his cock and balls to a quick, moaning ejaculation. After Kyle had come Kavanagh turned his attention to opening up and preparing Kyle’s passage with his fingers and tongue.

Kyle gasped, arched his back, and cried out to the ceiling, his cry drowned by the noise of the revelry out on the street, as Kavanagh slowly opened and sank into him with his sheathed cock. Kavanagh, thick and long, only entered him far enough, this first time, to reach and work Kyle’s prostate to a second, explosive, groaning ejaculation. Even with Kavanagh holding back to this, Kyle was whimpering and near sobs at the stretching of the penetration, prompting Kavanagh to ask, “Too much pain? Do you want me to stop?” willing to try to do so, but not sure he could now short of a climax.

“No, please, don’t stop. I need this. I want this. Oh, god, I’m coming again. I can feel it! I can feel yours too!”

Kavanagh’s release of cum was punctuated with a “Shit. Oh, fuck!”

“What’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?” Kyle asked. “God, that felt . . . amazing.”

“No, you didn’t do something fuckin’ wrong,” Kavanagh answered. “Equipment malfunction. The rubber split. You were feeling me come inside you, raw . . . barebacked. I wasn’t supposed to do that.”

“Yeah . . . I guess not. So, what . . . ?”

“You really a virgin?” Kavanagh asked?

“Not anymore.”

“Smart ass. Although you don’t know all of what not being a virgin means yet. I’m asking if you were straight with me? This was your first taking it in the ass . . . being barebacked?”


“Well, no harm done then. You wouldn’t have picked up anything. And I was checked in my physical before I came down here and have used rubbers since.”

“Well . . . I liked it,” Kyle said.

“Of course you did. But that was just a taste of it. It’ll get better and better.”

“You mean . . .”

“Yes, unless you run away from me.”

“I can’t very well run in this position,” Kyle answered in a low, hoarse voice.

“No you can’t.”

They lay there, both panting heavily, Kavanagh crouched over Kyle’s body, Kyle’s ankles hooked behind Kavanagh’s waist and his hands stroking Kavanagh’s shoulder blades, both of them aware of the older cop, flaccid, but still all-possessing inside Kyle. Both aware too as Kavanagh engorged again.

“I’m going to turn you on the table now and fuck you doggy style.”


“Deeper and harder. Helping you to learn to take it all. But let me know if it’s too much.”

“Does that mean you’ll stop if I say it’s too much?”

“It means I’ll take it slower. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to take it all. Do you want me to fuck you again?”

A hesitation, but then a “Yes.” This was followed, though, by a, “Do you need a new condom?”

“Why bother now? Horses and open barn doors and all. We’ll both enjoy it more.”

“Yeah, I guess. Oh shit, oh fuck. Yes! Yes, yes! Fuck me!”

Gentle and slow were now a thing of the past. The senses of both men focused on a band outside, on the rhythmic beating of a drum. Kavanagh’s thrust moved to the beat of the drum. Bent over his back as Kyle was bent over the table, Kavanagh was arching the young man’s torso back to him with one hand cupping Kyle’s chin and the other fisting Kyle’s wrist and pinning one of Kyle’s arms to his back. Kavanagh’s cock was forcing Kyle’s passage walls to stretch and shimmer as it explored new depth and vigor of the stroke, keeping just barely ahead of Kyle’s increased ability to accommodate him. Thrusting to the beat of the drum.

Kyle writhing under him, panting hard, nearly sobbing--but not asking Kavanagh to stop.



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