Henri Bragger looked around the seminar room at the World Bank symposium in Washington, D.C., giving a nod here and a little smile there. He was among old friends - or at least long-time colleagues. His own Swiss bank, the Banca Privata Reichstein, was one of the most reputable - and safest - banking institutions throughout the world. And he had been with the bank over thirty years now. He was at the top of his world, with a secure position in playing traffic control for all international transactions coming into and going out of the BPR; a beautiful and rich second wife, Karyn; and two university-student children, who were beautiful in their own right and who worshipped him and didn't blame him for his first divorce. His ex-wife had been decent that way; she had said nothing to the children about the incidents that had led up to the divorce and, anyway, that whole period of his life was more than a decade behind him.
And here he was, in Washington, on a panel of world banking leaders, advising the industrialized nations on how to get out of their shared economic crises. His panel had been very successful, and he had come into this one on secured international bank transfers to rub shoulders with his peers and to rest his brain before he was to appear on his next panel. This seminar wouldn't be taxing; there was absolutely nothing anyone had to teach him about secured international bank transfers.
After glancing around the room, Henri's brain signaled that he had passed on something interesting and a bit disquieting, and he scanned the room again. He almost didn't pick up on it, but his eyes finally focused on a younger man sitting several rows back and to his right. Henri might have let his gaze travel over him again, because in identifying his peers, his brain was gauged to men and women in their fifties, as he was, not men as young as the one who now was giving him a smile.
That smile. Yes, he was a younger version, probably not connected at all, but reminiscent of Sa'eed. Henri hadn't thought about Sa'eed for years - or at least intentionally or very long at one time - or at least that's what he pretended to himself. Sa'eed was part of his closed life. And the Germanic in Henri worked hard at keeping closed internal doors closed - and locked.
Henri looked at the young man again. Dark-complexioned and handsome, a son of the Levant, with a sultry look, velvet brown eyes and black curly hair. The bitter sweet memories crowded into Henri's brain, and perhaps he should have gone to a seminar with a less-familiar topic, because his brain disconnected entirely from the droning of the German banker at the front of the room and roamed back twenty-five years, back to Beirut.
* * * *
It was the silky voice he had and his sultry good looks, even in maturity - especially in maturity - and what he read to me, yes, certainly that too.
Sa'eed Maalouf was a writer and scholar of Arabic literature, destined to be a major writer and, even then, a professor at the American University of Beirut. And I was a young banker, in my late twenties, on an internship in our Beirut branch, and with a pregnant young wife at home in Geneva. I was studying at the American University in the evenings, intent on learning Arabic and the culture of the region, already having decided that specialization in the oil-rich regions of the world was ideal for a banker. I also was lonely, and full of myself, impressionable, and in a place exotic in ways that were way beyond my world in Switzerland.
At my beckon, Ibrahim crossed the stifling hot room, an old ceiling fan ticking overhead, and sat down on the edge of the divan where I was reclining, ready for the night and reading from one of my forbidden books.
Ibrahim looked at the cover of the book and gave a low laugh, 'And is this the cause of those sounds I hear in the night, Mahmud? You have no need of such books as these.'
He laid his palm on my belly and leaned down and looked intently in my face as his hand descended lower, watching the changes in my expression, listening for the soft moaning from my lips, his face like a mirror, reflecting his own rising passion in response to mine.
Please turn down the lamp, Ibrahim, I murmured.
We were in Sa'eed's study at the university, a large room, opulently furnished with Oriental carpeting, massive overloaded bookcases, a large mahogany desk, and in the far corner, wedged behind bookcases, a low divan, spread with tapestry pillows and one overstuffed club chair. The ceiling was high, and an old fan ticked away overhead. It was late in the evening, with little light filtering through a tall, dusty, uncurtained window behind the desk.
Sa'eed, in his customary white dishdasha tunic, was reclining on the divan, reading to me in Arabic from The Red Velvet Jacket, slowly, in silken tones, endeavoring to help me pick up the richness of the language. The text was almost poetry as written in Arabic - and even more so as Sa'eed spoke it - and I was concentrating hard to understand all the nuances of a language that was so much more expressive and visual than mine.
This reading was all too visual, and even though I was blushing and Sa'eed was murmuring that I need not dwell on the deeper meaning of it as much as how the language was being woven on the surface, I found myself responding in ways that embarrassed me.
I was not a novice to homoerotic texts or even to youthful experimentation in the all-boys prep school I had attended in Zurich. But I was a husband now and soon to be a father. I'm sure I could have resisted if I hadn't been alone in an exotic atmosphere, with a handsome, honey-voiced poet exhibiting a special attraction to me.
'Come, come over here, Henri, and sit on the divan beside me and take up the book and read to me. Here, I will find another passage. Ah, yes, this will do. The verbs are not too difficult.'
I sat beside Sa'eed's hip, and he brushed his fingers along the hairs on my forearm as I concentrated hard on speaking the words properly.
The night is so quiet out on the sands of the desert, a day's journey between the oases. The warm leather of the camel saddle slides gently across my belly, as I dig my fists and toes into the sand and stare up at the stars, searching for the largest, panting, his hot breath on my neck, his teeth nibbling at my ear, his chest rising and falling on my back and his strong hands holding my wrists. Never before feeling so filled, so deeply pene -
'No, Sa'eed,' I said, my voice breaking, my trembling hands lowering the book. 'I don't think I can - '
He had drawn his dishdasha off and was nude underneath. He was sitting behind me on the edge of the bed now, his thighs enclosing mine. One hand on my belly under my shirt and the other hand unbuttoning my shirt and fly. He was breathing heavily on my neck and raised his lips to my ear and took my lobe in his teeth for a moment before I heard that soft, arousing voice of his.
'I think you can. I think you must.' He had encased my now-freed hard cock in his fist. 'I will be gentle.'
'Please, can we turn out the light?' I murmured in a shaky voice.
In darkness, I felt my body being lifted up on the divan, and my thighs spread and Sa'eed kneeling between them. He was reciting verse to me in a singsong voice.
The velvet sheath whispers its sadness at the wandering sword
The sword hears the song; its blade shimmers and sings in return
Searching for its velvet sheath, singing to it to open to the sword . . .
My legs were raised slowly onto Sa'eed shoulders, and I felt the cool, oiled fingers at my entrance, and I moaned and felt my hips begin to roll as my prostate felt the touch. I closed my eyes and went with the passion of the moment. He was still speaking of the sword and velvet sheath as he entered me, and I cried out and he thrust deeper each time the word sword was spoken.
Afterward, after Sa'eed's lips left mine and he had declared me as his - and I had not demurred - he gave a low laugh and whispered, 'Next time we leave the lamp on.'
My awakening to Sa'eed's world was followed by a blissful summer with pledges and plans for meeting after I returned to Geneva. On my final day in Lebanon, as I was approaching the departure gate at the airport, I was called aside into a small room and shown photographs of more than one of my couplings with Sa'eed. I was told that, of course, the men present in the room could fully understand a love between me and the poet, but that I had to return to Switzerland to a family and Sa'eed had to remain in Lebanon, where such activities were illegal and severely punished. But, of course, if I were to cooperate with the needs of their organization, they were sure that none of these photographs would come to light.
But what could I do, I asked, so besotted at the moment that Sa'eed's safety was uppermost in my mind.
Quite simple, they said. They knew that, with my training, I could manage an assignment to the Arab section of the Banca Privata Reichstein, a bank in which their organization, a patriotic Palestinian organization, wished to open a secret secured account. All I needed to do was to smooth that and, as I rose in the bank, as they knew I would, to work in the organization's interest.
I never saw Sa'eed again. He answered my letters for a while - and sent me the love poetry he was working on, but it never seemed convenient or safe for us to meet again. And then, barely more than a decade later, he was dead, killed in a bombing in Lebanon during a time when there was so much bombing that no one knew for sure who set what bomb off against what target and for what purpose.
But by then I was firmly trapped into handling the secret bank account interests of more than one Arab revolutionary organization. And after I discovered I couldn't be as clever as I thought in pursuing my proclivities in Geneva and my first wife divorced me, I did all I could to close off that aspect of my being. I remarried and started all over again.
* * * *
Henri snapped out of his flashback in time to chat and greet at the close of the dull seminar. He looked around the room, but the young man who had caused his remembrance was not in sight.
However, the young man was in the next seminar where Henri was impaneled, and it took all of Henri's strength to stay in the discussions and not let his eyes drift to where the young man was sitting, smiling at him throughout.
'Hello, Herr Bragger, wonderful comments. I'm sure they will help us set a new path in our economic plans.'
'Umm, thank you,' Henri said rather perfunctorily, not the least because he suddenly felt unable to breathe. The young man had walked up to the panelists' rostrum as the seminar was breaking up and colleagues were making quick, brief comments to each other before they rushed off to their next session. Henri - reluctantly - moved to turn away and join the departing crowd, but the young man placed a hand on his forearm, and Henri felt the electricity of the touch race up his arm. With resolution mixed with an almost sensual forbidden and forbidding pleasure, he turned back to the young man.
'I'm sorry, if you are in a hurry, Herr Bragger, but I wanted to meet you. My name is Salim. Salim Maalouf, and I work at the U.S Department of the Treasury and saw your name on the list of attendees.'
Henri hadn't really heard anything beyond the 'Maalouf' part.
'Maalouf. Not - ?'
'Yes, that Maalouf. The writer, Sa'eed Maalouf. He was my father. I know about you. That's why I wanted to meet you.'
Knew about him? Henri's brain was bursting. What context was there in that? What did this young man know about what transpired between him and his father all those years ago. Was the young man going to denounce him on the basis of family honor? Or was it something else altogether that he knew - Henri's connection with the Palestinian organizations purpose perhaps? Henri was doing everything he was being asked to do; why would they be sending someone to Washington, D.C., to contact him directly? But, hadn't the young man said he worked for the U.S. government? Was Henri's complicity with Mideast terrorist groups - something that had now become quite an international crime - being exposed? Or was it both family honor and criminal activity? Or something else altogether?
'Listen, I don't have a seminar scheduled now,' the young man said. 'Do you? Perhaps we could go somewhere quiet for lunch?'
Did Henri really have a choice? The sudden shock of it left him almost speechless - and without choices.
They lunched in a dimly lit alcove at a discrete little restaurant in Georgetown, and Henri was both relieved and aroused that Salim seemed to only know of his relationship with Sa'eed as being lovers; nothing was mentioned of Henri's business with secret Palestinian bank accounts and Sa'eed's possible connection with that.
'I never could forget what my father said of his love for you and the consummation of that love,' Salim said.
'He told you of that?' Henri asked. 'Weren't you rather - ?'
'My father was a very special man; and we were a very special family. He spoke of everything. And he lived life deeply, even with his own family. He wrote of you and let me read it.'
'He wrote of me?' Henri asked, feeling a bit breathless.
'Yes, my father had much love to give,' Salim answered. He reached over and took Henri's hand and traced the lifeline on Henri's palm with his forefinger. Henri began to tremble. The young man was beautiful and sultry. He had his father's voice, rich and with unexpected, exciting rhythms. Henri had cut himself off so completely from the past, that it was like a flood of memories when the dike was breached.
'His favorite story he read to me before . . . well it was of you. Did you read any of the writings about you that have been published?'
'Yes,' Henri answered in a small voice. 'Or at least I hoped they were about me - that our couplings meant as much to him as they did to me.'
'And to me also.' Salim reached up and cupped Henri's chin with his hand so that Henri had to stare him in the face. 'I want the same things with you as you had with my father.'
Both men had rooms at the Willard hotel, and Salim made the practical suggestion that they use his room rather than Henri's, as there were European colleagues of Henri's with rooms on the same floor as his.
* * * *
I was his from the moment we entered the room, he made that perfectly clear. The shades were drawn and one light was on, at the side of the bed.
We stood just inside the door, facing each other, close. He cupped my face in his hands and kept my eyes trapped with his as I - at his demand - unbuttoned my shirt, unbuckled my belt, and unzipped my trousers. Then his face and hands disappeared from view, traveling down my chest and belly, and, trembling, I was being held up by his palms cupping my buttocks and my cock in his mouth. His hands were spreading my buttocks and fingers were entering my channel.
Memories were crowding in, and I felt like my spirit was rising out of my body, being transported to another place, another time, another man. I was being taken by Sa'eed, and it was his name I murmured.
I was on my back on the bed, my knees bent and legs spread, my Arab lover was between my legs, his chest hovering over mine. I cried out in long-dormant passion as a hot cock slid into me, deep, and held there as I felt him throbbing and still filling out, deep inside me. He cupped my head in his hands again and held his beautiful, sultry face just above mine. His milk-chocolate eyes possessed mine.
'Recite your poetry to me, your love poetry,' I sighed, seeing Sa'eed's face above mine. 'In Arabic.' I loved being fucked to Sa'eed's love poetry.
'I don't know any poetry,' he answered. 'My cock is my poetry. My cock will sing your praises.'
'No matter,' I answered with a sigh.
And then, just before he started to stroke inside me, once again a memory stole up from the depths of me, and I whispered, 'Shall we turn off the light?'
'No,' He answered. 'I want to see the working of my cock reflected in your eyes. That is poetry to me.' And he was smiling, enjoying every flicker and pop of my eyes as his cock explored every nook and cranny of my channel.
'Your moan,' he whispered, 'Your moan told me you liked that phrase.'
'Yes, yes,' I whispered, moving into a deep, long groan.
'And you liked that better. My poetry is reaching you, each stanza making you sing.'
'Yes, yes, yes,' I moaned. 'Oh, gawwwd!'
And after that there was no more talk, as I moved my hips in motion with his and he took my lips in his - and I drifted off into a reverie of my nights on the divan in Sa'eed's university study.
* * * *
The next morning Henri fled Washington, leaving the conference early and rushing back to Geneva with the breathless tale that he could not stay away from his Karyn and his children for one more evening.
He was good then, a devoted husband and father, and diligent in his work, only permitting his eyes to glaze over for a moment or two in remembrance of his afternoon in the Willard Hotel, still having trouble keeping straight who it was - the father or the son - who had made love to him.
Life had almost gone back to normal for him; it had been nearly a week since he had locked himself in his bathroom and stood under the shower and masturbated to the memory of his fucking by the ghost of his long-lost lover.
Thus, it was a shock when he looked up from his desk one day and standing there in the door, smiling at him, was Salim Maalouf.
'I had a room available at the Kipling Hotel on the Rue de Navigator. They have a very private elevator and they ask no questions,' was all Salim had to say.
* * * *
I was bent over the bed on my belly, my arms spread out wide, held at the wrists by strong hands, my legs spread, and Salim's cock sliding into me. I knew it was Salim now. No illusions. I no longer needed Sa'eed as a buffer. I had had weeks since the encounter and I had worked it all out in my mind, had relived the taking by the son - not the father - over and over again. This was a strong, young, virile cock stretching my channel walls as it moved up inside me.
His chest was hovering over my back and his lips were in the hollow of my neck. He raised them and nipped me on the ear lobe and then put his mouth near mine. 'You wanted Sa'eed last time,' he growled. 'Well I have found some of his love poetry, if that's what you want.'
The velvet sheath whispers its sadness at the wandering sword
The sword hears the song; its blade shimmers and sings in return
Searching for its velvet sheath, singing to it to open to the sword . . .
At each use of the word 'sword,' he thrust his cock deeper inside me. I struggled again with the confusion of who was covering me and making love to me.
'No, no, Salim,' I protested. 'It's you I want, not the ghost of your father.'
'Then this is how Salim fucks his men,' he barked. And he turned me and flung me to the carpet, bringing me up on all fours and mounted my ass like a dog and pistoned me with long, rapid, deep strokes and slapping my butt with the palm of his hand as I cried out and grunted and moaned - and came in three gushes on the carpet. But still he rode me, until my knees and palms were bruised from carpet burns and gave out and I went down flat on the floor while he rode me some more - to his own completion.
I loved every second of it. I'd never felt so taken before.
* * * *
'I suppose you wondered why I came to Geneva,' Salim said as we were laying in the bed and enjoying a smoke and talking of his father - with me doing most of the talking. Salim didn't seem all that interested in talking about his father.
'Are you going to tell me?' I asked. I hadn't, in fact, wondered a bit why he was here. I had assumed, foolish old man that I was, that he had come for me, that he couldn't stay away from me - but I couldn't say I'd actually thought about it. I could tell by his asking of the question, however, that there was something he wanted to tell me - no doubt something he wanted me to do for him. And I was right.
'I am more or less, as we say in the States, on the lam,' he said.
'What have you done?'
'Nothing, of course. But there seem to be some Treasury Department funds missing.'
'Not much. About $120,000. A computer system upgrade was contracted and delivered, but somehow the payment is missing.'
'And you want me to help you?' I knew the answer to that question, so I just continued on. 'How?'
'Can you launder the money for me?'
I had done many things that were not completely on the up and up in my career - especially in the similar favors I did for Arab groups - and I was in love. So, my answer was not that much of a decision for me.
Our trysts in the Kipling Hotel room continued until I informed Salim that his money was clean. The cocking that afternoon after I told him his money was clear seemed a little desultory, but I reasoned that even young men would have their off days now and again.
When I came out of the shower, Salim was gone, and an expensively suited middle-aged man of military bearing was sitting in the club chair.
'Hello, Herr Bragger,' he said. 'I am Sam Winterberry of the American embassy, and I believe that you are the principal attendant of several secret Mideast terrorist bank accounts at the Banca Privata Reichstein.'
* * * *
All through my 'chat' with Mr. Winterberry, I kept waiting for the accusation that I knowingly was working with the Mideast terrorist groups - that they had had me under their thumbs for years - but that wasn't even hinted at. I was treated like I was a completely honest banker who just happened to control the traffic in Arab banking transactions for BPR and could be approached just because I was so smitten with a homosexual lover that I would do illegal things for him.
And thus my quandary. What they were asking me seemed low risk to them - but to me it was a death sentence - and quite possibly for my wife and children too.
'We want all the information you can give us on any Mideast organization with a secret account at the bank that we ask you about, and promptly when we ask, Herr Bragger.'
'Is that all?' I asked. I was jumping at shadows; I knew that this was too elaborate of a scheme for that to be all.
'When we are closing down the groups, we want you to transfer their funds into a U.S. government account,' Winterberry said. And he had the audacity to smile as he said it.
'The risk,' I said.
'Is minimal,' Winterberry said.
'Is phenomenal,' I countered. And Winterberry didn't know how phenomenal it was. All it would take was a hint of what I'd done on one account to reach the still-viable holders of other accounts, and I and my family would be dead. And after just a few such groups being hunted down, the rest would be able to figure where the information that brought them down would come from.
'My family,' I said.
'Will be protected,' Winterberry answered.
There was no arguing. Winterberry just didn't know it all, and I couldn't tell him all. And it was dangerous enough even with what Winterberry did know. Already my brain was spinning. I would have to transfer assets - there was a slight chance I could disappear on both of my oppressors. And I would have to force something that would cause Karyn to divorce me quickly and my children to part with me so publicly and irrevocably that the terrorists thought there was no bond at all between us. I was a dead man, but I would do what I could do for my family. Maybe a real mistress to anger my wife. Not reveal my homosexuality, of course. I could not humiliate my family that way - and my first wife had been good enough to keep the secret all these years - but another woman, that might work. At that contemplation, of course, my thoughts went to Salim.
'And Salim?' I asked Winterberry.
'He will be there for you as long as we are pleased with your efforts,' Winterberry said, with a smile.
At least I'll die happy, I thought.
Later, after Winterberry had gone, my Arab lover did return. I refrained from recriminations - it was far too late for those to matter anyway - and when he had proved, because of my response, to have regained all of his vigor and virility, he fucked me silly, first missionary style on the bed and then, when I was washing the sex of him off me in the shower, he took me there too, my belly against the wall and his cock lifting my feet off the soapy tiled floor with the force of its thrusts.
'I'm so happy you'll be helping us out and that you and I can be together,' he murmured.
I would indeed die happy.
One thing I needed to know, regardless, which I asked him when he had agreed to let me spend the night in his bed and we were in the dark in an embrace.
'Tell me one thing, please - and it doesn't matter either way - but I would like to know. You are not Sa'eed Maalouf's son, are you?'
'No,' he answered with an edge of slight regret in his voice, which I noted with appreciation. 'My name is Jamil Jallud. I'm third generation American. You can call me Jaime. And, as you may also have guessed already, I don't work for the U.S. Treasury Department.'
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