Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 7

Posted: N/A

Serve and Protect

by Jack Scribe

The click of the lock disengaging echoed in the still, confined space - along with the heavy breathing of the two men. Several thoughts flashed through Oleg's mind as he watched the tense detective touch the doorknob. At 38 and touching the apex of middle age, he was reluctantly ready to traverse the downside of life's slope. It was a life that he judged a success so far. He considered his parents, now comfortably retired in La Jolla, and the dinner that his mom would be making for his monthly visit in a couple of weeks. And what was this new guy, Giorgio, all about? He stepped closer behind Joe Lamanna, shut down his memory replay and prepared for the assault. 'Hope my marksmanship is on the mark,' Oleg considered, 'if I need it.' He still practiced frequently at a local firing range.

"On three," Lamanna said with a husky, whispery rasp. "One...two...three." He turned the doorknob all the way and pushed open the door with sudden force. The metal door swung 180 degrees and created a muffled banging noise when it hit the cushioned, soundproofed wall.

Oleg snapped into practiced assault form as Joe started to run the planned pattern - Lamanna stepped left, giving Oleg room to swing right in a mobile, crouching manner. They quickly advanced into the large space and spread out approximately twelve feet from each other. The woman, now standing, looked in their direction with a frozen surprised expression. The two men who were speaking to her - both Caucasian, unkempt and thirtyish - were more alert and quickly reacted. The man on the left reached behind his back while the other started towards the secured rooms, moving rapidly.

"Police...put your weapons down. I want to see your hands in full view," Lamanna shouted. "11-99." The universal radio code meaning 'Officer in danger, need help now!' was being monitored on his open police radio connection. He brought up his SIG .357 to zero in on his target - his target being the man whose hand was hidden. "Stop right there. Freeze."

The man on the left revealed the black barrel of a gun as his hand became visible. He yelled something that was not English and raised his weapon. The man on the right increased his movement toward the side rooms by breaking into a sprint. Lamanna said, "Go," in a guttural growl and squeezed his trigger. The noisy firearm report was closely followed by a second one.

At the same time, Oleg traced the running man with determined precision. 'This scumbag has to be stopped,' he thought, 'before he gets to those rooms.' There was the distinct possibility that children were sequestered in the separate spaces and they would be ideal hostage material. He aimed his Glock, fired off two rounds and watched his target stop in his tracks when the bullets found their mark. The man let out an excruciating yell and fell, landing on his back. Oleg was pleased that he had accurately hit the man's left leg's femur area and his right kneecap. 'This asshole won't be going anywhere,' he thought, 'and it was all done by the book.' He felt satisfied that the suspect had been stopped within law enforcement guidelines concerning protecting innocent victims from potential violence.

Out of the corner of his eye, Oleg saw that the armed man was also out of commission due to Lamanna's precision shooting. Oleg's attention was diverted when he heard the woman screaming and saw her running towards the front door. At the same time, he picked up the noise of sirens approaching.

"Let her go. Sounds like backup just arrived and is outside." In a louder tone, Lamanna added, "Unarmed suspect is leaving the building." He started walking toward his target and silently motioned for Oleg to check out the man closest to the side rooms who had been felled by his Glock's ferocity.

Oleg quickly observed that the man who had drawn his weapon - the handgun now on the floor and out of reach - was writhing and holding his right shoulder. The upper portion of his tee shirt was now a soaked crimson color and blood was oozing through his fingers. On the way to secure his perp, Oleg noticed that the two rooms were secured by heavy-duty, chicken-wired safety glass. He gritted his teeth when he saw two young girls in one room and a boy in the other. The girls appeared to be about 10 years old and the young boy was probably around 12. The small blond girls, dressed in soiled panties, were crying and hugging each other. The brown-skinned boy, wearing only an oversized tee, was staring at the violent activity with his mouth wide open. All three children were barefooted and disheveled.

"Stay put. Understand? Don't even think about moving," Oleg commanded as he approached his man, weapon still in hand. 'Like this miserable piece of shit could get up anyway,' he thought with a cynical glare. He casually studied the man, still writhing a little on his back. The black tank top had ridden up on his torso and Oleg took note of the eight-pointed star tattoo on the perp's stomach. There were more tats on his arms. 'Hardly a Kodak moment. I bet I'd see more ink on his legs if he wasn't wearing jeans,' he thought as he read some of the Cyrillic alphabet on the bicep skin that spelled out 'bratva' or 'brotherhood'. 'A punk soldier of the Russian mob, no doubt. Probably part of Odessa ex-KGB or the Russkaya Mafiya.'

"Ye...yeah," the man replied with an expression of fear and pain.

Oleg bent down and quickly patted around the man's body - it didn't feel or appear that the man was carrying a gun or knife. "I think the slimy turd's clean, but someone should give him a good shakedown. I think we've stumbled onto the 'red fellas' in action." Oleg put on his sunglasses and added, "Suggest we not use our names in conversation. These mob assholes have an annoying habit of killing their enemies." He was going to add 'like their buddy, Putin,' but decided that this wasn't the time to be political.

"Got it." Detective Lamanna kicked away his man's gun and reached in his pocket for his radio. "10-41 ASAP. G.S.W. on two perps. Site secure."

Within moments, the front door opened wider and two uniformed policemen entered with drawn weapons. One of the officers said that a second unit had detained the woman in the parking lot. Just then, two more armed policemen entered the studio through Fine's storeroom.

"Detective, there are children in those rooms," Oleg said loudly as he lowered his weapon. He purposely was formal in addressing Joe Lamanna in front of the uniformed personnel. 'I need to establish I'm one of the good guys,' he thought as he brought his handgun to a rest position. "The kids appear to be more frightened than anything and their presence seems to confirm our suspicions." Oleg wished he had time to rush in and look after the innocent children but he had to deal with the big picture. 'This is only the tip of the friggin' iceberg,' he thought, 'that starts in Deutschland. If the Ruskie mafia is involved, this thing may stretch around the world.' He wondered what else the police would uncover here.

Lamanna said, "Understand," and turned to the newest arrivals. "I'm a detective from Hollywood division - Lamanna - for those who don't know me." He pulled back his suit jacket to show his badge that was clipped on his belt. He pointed to Oleg and continued, "This man was deputized and assisted me in this emergency. I will be preparing the master report after we're finished but I expect each team to submit addendums. Word of warning: don't use your names around these suspects. They may be part of a Russian mob. Doubly check these two and make sure they don't have other weapons."

"How do you want to handle this?" asked one of the men who had most recently arrived, as he pointed to the two rooms and the downed suspects.

"You two take charge of the children...but proceed with caution. They have probably been kidnapped and abused, and should be considered fragile. Take them to Northridge Medical Center for evaluation - physical and psychological. It's vital to establish a rapport with them: find out names, where they're from...anything that makes sense. I don't even know if the little ones speak English. We're all in the dark on this." He turned to the two officers who were inspecting the injured men. "The one man took two shots in the shoulder but the wounds shouldn't be life threatening. EMS is approaching right now. Looks like mystery man number two will be limping for a while. Confiscate any I.D. in their possession but don't Miranda them yet."

"You're saying no questions concerning the crime scene?" one of the sergeants asked for clarification.

"Not until I say so." Joe walked towards Oleg and added, "I want the paramedics to treat them first. That will ensure they can't later claim that the threshold of pain confused their reasoning and understanding. So we won't be questioning them until ER signs off on their status."

"Good call," Oleg replied as he put his handgun back into the small of his back. "I assume you don't have to confiscate my weapon since you deputized me?"

"Forensics will need it at some point. But I don't think it's wise for you to be unarmed right now," Lamanna replied.

"I'll make sure you get it for evidence tomorrow. In the meantime, I'd better gracefully exit and give Andy a 'heads up' that everything is safe." Foremost in his mind was to get out of this live crime scene and disappear as quickly as possible. He didn't want to officially get sucked into the bureaucratic muck; being an active sideline adviser would be enough. 'Probably I'll be asked to submit a report at some point,' he thought. "One suggestion - it might be best to secure the storeroom and door in case other characters show up after hours. My guess is that Harvey didn't tell anyone involved with Frat Loft about this little feature of joining the two structures...but ya can't be sure."

"Go ahead and lock it up. I'll make sure that everyone uses only the front door of this place. And...thanks, man, big time. You covered my ass. That was excellent work." Lamanna reached out and shook Oleg's hand. "You can be my partner anytime."

"I appreciate your confidence, but I'll take a pass on partnering - except in an emergency. Plus, you're not my type."

"I'm crushed," Lamanna replied, batting his eyelashes a few times.

Oleg laughed and squeezed Lamanna's hand harder before releasing it. "I've got a few things to do. What say I meet you in the parking lot where you're parked in ten minutes?" He had to send Harvey's hard drive files to London and Colorado Springs pronto while the element of surprise was still on the table. "Good bust...partner."

"My sentiments exactly and a few brownie points for the file never hurt. Especially since Internal Affairs will probably be investigating this."

"You can count on me being a friendly witness. And if this goes down like I think it will with the FBI, you'll be a department hero. I suspect that the Russians are involved in this muck up to their eyebrows." Oleg then said in a lower tone, "The guy I neutralized has a bunch of tats in Cyrillic...probably from prison. This porn crap is right up their alley."

"Along with white slave trade, drugs, Internet scams and stock fraud...for openers. I'll emphasize that when I call in my report in a few minutes. We're plugged into the Russian community."

"Then I don't have to mention the ruthless nature of these characters," Oleg replied. "In Russia, dishonesty is a trait that's bred in the womb. Deprivation taught them to be cunning predators - the only way to survive."

"And with Americans being trusting souls, they use that against us."

"In Bush and his love-in with Putin." Oleg didn't have to add that the Russian gangsters operated with limited or no moral ethics. They would murder an enemy's whole family just to make a point. "Can I buy some time before these assholes lawyer up? I'd like to give the FBI as much leeway as possible." Oleg wanted to keep the other parts of this syndicate in the dark as long as possible, also.

"With their medical treatment, you probably have three hours...maybe four. I'll call the Bureau as soon as I let the watch commander know what's happened. He'll have no problem keeping the case mellow for a little while if it'll bring results."

"Much appreciated." Oleg walked away from the scene, returned to the storeroom and closed the door. He locked it and took the key. 'Best find an envelope, label it and give the key to Joe for evidence,' he thought as he pushed the VHS box with the German words. As he expected, the movement triggered the shelving to roll back into place. Satisfied that everything was in place, he secured the storeroom and walked through the offices.

Out in the parking lot, looking through the tinted windows of the SUV, he could make out the dark image of Andy sitting in the passenger seat. Oleg smiled and waved as he approached the vehicle. "All's clear. Come on out," he yelled. He nodded as Andy unlatched the passenger door and slid out.

"I saw the one squad car pull up and two policemen run into the office - but that was all." Andy reached in his pocket and handed Oleg his car keys. "Here ya go...before I forget to give them back."

"LAPD is taking care of everything in that studio behind Harvey's office. For the record, let's agree that you don't know anything about the storeroom or secret door. Trust's better that way." Oleg reached into the back seat, grabbed his laptop bag and closed the door.

"Shouldn't I..."

"Don't even tell friends or the guys over at the studio. This is going to trigger a major investigation and it's best if you're not involved...if you get my drift." Oleg locked the SUV and asked, "Let's go back to your office. Have you got a DSL or modem I could use?" He needed to dispatch the files via email to Dex in London and the associate in Colorado Springs. There wasn't enough time to go back to AOI's offices and he knew Joe Lamanna would need him on site for a while.

"Um, sure. You can plug into the connection at my desk." Andy put his hands in his pockets and followed Oleg back into the office. "Am I in danger with all this stuff that just went down?"

"It's wise to be on the alert, and I think I've got a few ideas that will provide safety for you and help solve this crime." Oleg decided to be as vague as possible and move on to the project at hand. 'I need to line up some personal protection for Andy and set up electronic surveillance,' he thought as he opened the office door and let Andy enter first. "Just let me plug in to your DSL and I'll stay out of your way."

"Why don't you take my desk? Maybe I should run over to Starbucks and get a Caff Mocha to help me chill out. I really need to get away for a few minutes." Andy disconnected the cable to his computer tower and handed it to Oleg.

"You going to be okay? I realize that you've gotten into something that must seem pretty strange and heavy for a civilian." Oleg opened his Sony Vaio, turned on the power and plugged in the cable. He set down the laptop and looked at Andy.

"I think I'll be okay. Funny thing, Oleg - we've only just met this past weekend and I already trust a big brother."

"Big brother works for me," Oleg replied with a grin. "Get me a Grande extra strength and I'm buying." He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and slipped it into Andy's hand. "I can expense this. Oh, buy one more for Detective Lamanna, and bring the receipt."

"Be back in a few." Andy turned on a pensive smile and left.

It took only moments to bring up his secure AOI email account. Oleg addressed the note to Dex and 'copied' it to the AOI operations desk in Washington, D.C. as well as the associate in Colorado Springs and the L.A. office. At this point, he only had a code number for the associate and not a specific name. In the 'subject' box, he typed in the assigned AOI case number with the local date and time. The generic note stated the general nature of the files and an apology for not having time to review what was attached. He also wrote a brief overview of the secret studio, the activities over the past hour, and strongly urged that the FBI national ops desk and German BKA be notified immediately. After running a spell check and correcting a few errors, he attached the compressed files and flagged it as 'Code Red'. He had learned several years earlier that punctuation and written structure was a big deal within AOI. 'You never know who's going to read this stuff,' he thought as he dispatched the emails.

"Let's see," Oleg said to himself, "it's not quite 11:00 a.m. - jeez, where does the time go when you're having fun?" He took out his satellite phone from the laptop bag, punched in Dex Tate's code number and hit the send button. 'I suspect he's not pub-crawling in SoHo at 7:00 p.m. on a Monday night.' The satellite cell system went through a series of beeps to complete the secure connection. After two rings, the call was answered. Before Dex could say anything, Oleg started the conversation, "Sorry for the early contact but I've got urgent developments."

"Just as well. I was killing time watching an old Prison Break episode on Sky One. The plot's pretty lame, but with Wentworth Miller always running around without a shirt, it's not a complete waste. What's up?"

Oleg smiled at Dex's horn dog observation, but avoided making a randy retort. Instead, he recited a thumbnail accounting of the morning's events, reeling off details with bullet point, chronological precision. It was M.O. to record all official investigation telephone conversations for later review. When he mentioned the email, Oleg paused while Dex powered up his laptop. As a cliffhanger finale, he emphasized the possible Russian mob connection from the incriminating tattoos seen on one of the suspects.

"Whoa...that does expand the base. I'll contact AOI headquarters and have the computer techs tear the files apart for pertinent poop on a priority basis. In addition to the BKA, MI6 and the Yard over here need to be brought up to date. If the Russians are involved, the U.K. is probably infested with their handiwork."

"Can you contact our man in Colorado Springs? He needs to move fast with the Bureau out there. As far as the Congressman is concerned, I assume headquarters has got that covered?"

"The Congressman is in D.C. and being monitored. My boss is handling that situation. My guess is he'll contact the director personally. What's going down will probably be kicked over to SIOC." SIOC, officially known as the Strategic Information Operations Center, was the command post for major FBI operations.

"That's the way it appears to me. LAPD thinks we probably have a three-hour lead-time before the mob hauls out their lawyers and alerts their cast of characters. Also, I'm sure Harvey Fine's death didn't go unnoticed. FYI, I'm working with a friendly detective on this end."

"Then let me get cracking. It's going to be a busy night and I gotta move fast because of the hour. I'll copy you on everything I'm doing and make sure the computer guys do the same."

"Let everyone know that three hours tops is all we have before the suspects start contacting their lawyers."

"How about giving me a call at midnight, BST, so we can regroup? That gives us about five hours."

"Better yet, find out if headquarters wants to have a conference call. Because of all these developments, I'm sure the big boys will want a video briefing. I'm going to the office very soon and will call if anything breaks at this end. Good luck, buddy."

Oleg pressed his 'end' button on the satellite phone, reached for his Blackberry and punched the AOI L.A. office speed dial. He quickly asked the receptionist to page the resident partner when the call was picked up. After a few moments, his official boss - in the organizational chart sense only - answered and Oleg briefed him of the morning's activity and flurry of emails. The managing partner, however, had already been alerted to the situation because of the Code Red status. Oleg decided to ask his partner's advice - as a courtesy - about utilizing an additional man and requisitioning special surveillance equipment to cover the Frat Loft location. The partner agreed with Oleg's assessment and said he looked forward to an in-person update later in the afternoon.

Oleg was unplugging the DSL line from his laptop when Andy returned with three coffees. They had a brief discussion while Andy rearranged his workspace and they drank their coffee. When a couple of the chat room pay-for-view studs stopped in to ask about the police car in front, Andy casually replied that the police were there to investigate Harvey's death. He added that it was 'all very routine, as far as he could tell,' and asked the guys to let everyone know that it was business as usual at Frat Loft.

"You handled that well," Oleg replied after the hunky lads departed for makeup. He looked further out the window after the guys were out of sight and added, "I see one of the officers is moving the black and white. That should keep down the curiosity."

"I plan on going over to the studio later to reassure everyone that I'm doing payroll and their commission checks will still be flowing," Andy replied. "Like me, all the guys need rent money and bucks to cover their living expenses."

"And I've got to meet the detective out front. Here's what I've planned in order to make sure you're safe from any remote possibility that something might happen." Oleg took another sip of coffee and stood up. "I've got one of my men coming here to provide protection. His name is Gordon Bostwick and you'll like him." There was a risk in this strategy, but he felt that the potential recon yield was too valuable to pass up.

"Like a security guy?" Andy frowned with an inquisitive expression.

"Right. Gordy's a retired florist who picks up eight bucks an hour on the side to supplement his Social Security. You'll love his uniform and whistle." Oleg kept a straight face briefly before bursting out in laughter. "Gotcha."

"Oh, had me going. I was just picturing this grandpa guy shuffling around with his John Deere cap and a flashlight." Andy joined the laughter and shrugged. "Seriously, who is this guy?"

"Bostwick's an ex-Army Special Forces Green Beret and has been with AOI for over three years. He's about your age and will blend in very well with the scenery." Oleg decided not to mention how well he'd blend in. Gordon was a goodlooking, lithe man about 5' 10" with sandy hair and prominent dimples when he smiled. Some of his closer friends nicknamed him Harry due to a vague resemblance - without the ruddy cheeks - to Britain's royal prince. Oleg remembered some bulging crotch pictures of HRH on the Internet and wondered if Gordy could match the royal's equipment. "He'll be here in about an hour with a technician. The plan is to set up surveillance cameras in these offices, and the parking lot, so that our ops center can monitor the area 24/7 for a while."

"I feel better already."

"That's just for openers. I propose that we set up a workspace over on that table against the wall. Gordy will bring a laptop and handle his other case reports while he watches this office. He'll have concealed weaponry and can promptly react to any problem. As I said, this is purely precautionary and probably not necessary. He'll be wearing a loose shirt and jeans so he can blend in. If anyone asks, just say he's assisting you with the books." Oleg moved over to the conference table and studied the location he wanted. "Give me a hand, will you?"

"How long will he be here?" Andy got up and joined Oleg.

"Perhaps for the week, but we'll reevaluate the situation on Friday." Oleg put his hands on one end of the table and said, "Help me move this table closer to the corner. It'll give Gordy a better view of the entrance." He smiled at Andy as they rearranged the table and set up the space. Oleg placed two chairs on the front side of the table to conceal any activity that might be required under the top of the table. 'Best for Gordy to set his handgun on a low file box next to his seat,' he thought, 'and be ready to jump up if required.'

Andy understood why the blinds should be closed while the cameras were being installed and agreed to take a long lunch hour - he left a note on the door saying the office was closed, so that Gordy and the technician could set up the equipment without being observed. Andy gave Oleg a set of keys to the office as they walked out to the parking lot and confirmed that he'd be back in an hour.

Oleg looked at his watch and was surprised Lamanna hadn't shown up yet. The unmarked Ford Crown Victoria was still parked in the same spot, but no Detective Lamanna. Down by the building that housed the Frat Loft production facilities were several parked cars, including a black Pontiac Solstice. 'Perhaps I should informally interview Rory Reed a little later,' Oleg considered with a smirk as he got into his SUV, 'I'm sure he'll have nothing to the biblical sense.' Although he had never visited an adult entertainment cam site operation, he could vividly imagine the various small cubical sets with rigged cameras to record all the customer's requests.

Two quick left turns and he was now in the parking lot of the warehouse complex next door. Except for one black and white, an unmarked city-plated SUV and an older Econoline van, the area looked benign to the casual, untrained eye. The door below the Elbe Imports business sign was partially open and Oleg assumed Lamanna was inside still wrapping up the investigation with one of the uniformed teams and a CSI unit. He parked next to the van, concluded this was probably the vehicle the suspects had used and got out. As much as he wanted to, Oleg decided not to touch the van or check out the interior.

Inside, he saw Lamanna conferring with two uniformed policemen in one of the rooms that had held the children. Another man, in casual civilian dress wearing latex gloves, was busy scouring the studio for evidence. On the opposite side were the nursery room sets. The space lacked the tension of an hour earlier and a hint of mustiness hung in the air. The blood on the concrete floor - where the two suspects were shot - had dried to a dull, brown color. He looked at the concealed door and could barely see its outline in the soundproofed wall. The seams of the cushioned material cleverly concealed the creases from the doorjamb. For the first time, he noticed several cardboard boxes scattered on the floor. 'They must have been stored in front of the doorway,' he decided, 'to further hide the door.' He walked toward the four men and nodded when they looked his way.

"Oleg, come on over. Some major problems came up after you left."

"Hi, fellas," Oleg said as he joined Lamanna. He shook hands with the two policemen and thanked them for their earlier performance. The sincerity was influenced by the need of maintaining the best working relationships with the LAPD whenever possible. He was also aware that, to them, he had a handicap - he wasn't one of them. "I hope there were no problems with the suspects or the kids?"

"The two characters are in ER being treated as we speak. As we suspected, there were no life-threatening injuries. The children are being evaluated and I have detectives trying to determine where they're from. We think the boy is Honduran. However, the girls seem to be European. CSI is here to get fingerprints and any DNA that's in these rooms and on the set. It's just a long shot. However, there are other details to discuss. I'll meet you outside." Lamanna took a deep breath and turned to the two policemen. "Let's wrap this up. As soon as the locksmith comes to secure the building and CSI is finished, you can take off."

Oleg automatically backed away a few steps after deciding the detective needed space to finish giving his instructions. He turned and walked out of the building. The overcast, early 'June gloom' day was changing to herald the first indication of sunny skies. He stood by the outside entrance, put on his sunglasses and decided he should get over to the Century City AOI offices when Joe and he were finished.

"Thanks for waiting. It was just routine departmental stuff that I needed to remind the guys about. Come over here." Lamanna waved Oleg to follow him over to the back of the van. He was still wearing gloves. "This is the new detail I mentioned," he said while opening the rear door.

"Whew," Oleg reacted as he poked his head inside the van. He knew not to touch anything. The pungent, stale odor of feces and urine permeated the interior. He instantly noticed chains welded to rib supports on the walls. 'Gotta get some fresh air,' he decided as he quickly stepped back into the sunlight.

"Six," was all Lamanna said. He shook his head and closed the door. "Those animals we confronted were bringing six more children to this place. Two boys and four girls...all about eight to ten years old. Makes ya want to puke. They're all over at Northridge Medical. The Deputy Chief officially asked for the FBI's help and they're also over at the hospital."

"Seeing the suspects?" Oleg was a little alarmed that his lead-time had been apparently blown.

"Don't worry, Oleg. They understand the drill and are checking out the little ones first. Those three hours are sacred. I understand that the L.A. Bureau is getting some very strong marching orders from the Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Would I be correct in assuming that you and your associates back east have been busy with the febbies?"

"Busted," Oleg replied with an exaggerated cringe. "And add to that list our point man in Europe. I know you understand that our conversations must be completely confidential." He paused to allow the gravity of the matter to set in. "Harvey Fine's murder accidentally opened the door - no puns intended - to another investigation that I'm working on as part of a team. Harvey's duplicity with the Russians is International in scope. However, there is also a National twist to this debauched mess that goes beyond simple implication. That's about as far as I can go, at this point. Anything else will have to be revealed by the F.B.I. agent in charge."

"Understand completely. Perhaps we can 'Monday morning quarterback' after this case is behind us." Lamanna put on his aviator sunglasses and took out his car keys. "In the meantime, how about dropping me off at my car. It's only a two-minute walk but suddenly I'm feeling my age."

"Hop in, old man, and I'll give you a lift," Oleg replied with a grin. He opened the door locks with his remote and walked around to the driver's door as Lamanna got in. "I'm due at the office."

The clock to the side of the 'dorm room' set indicated his 'on-cam' performance was almost finished. Rory had been called to come in on his normal schedule. He was pleased that the financial gravy train was still up and running despite the loss of their leader. In fact, he had been told that the cameraman had volunteered to finish the Frat Conquest video that they were shooting last week so it could be released. He was expected to be ready for 'a go at it' with Baby Dahl in the morning.

The cam operations Webmaster scheduled Rory to come in for the first two-hour shift because it hit the prime time in the U.K. and Europe. With the increased value of the Euro and British Pound, sales overseas had become more important. A maximum of 15 paying viewers could watch Rory Reed perform carnal acts in his dorm room for 20.00 each per ten minute segment. However, for the final 10 minutes of the shift, the fee was doubled. This was when regulars expected a voluminous 'money shot'. And afterwards, his underwear and the actual towels used to clean his chest - along with dildo replicas of Rory's erection - would be shown and sold to bidders on-line. The actual dildo had already been pre-sold to a loyal viewer who lived in Saudi Arabia.

Typed commands on the video computer screen just beyond the set were going wild as Rory stroked himself in a frenzy to finish on time. Each paid viewer made requests this way. He had all the facial expressions and groans down pat as he plunged the plastic phallic member up his chute. He casually looked at his image in another video monitor and was pleased that he had been able to work up a sweat on his brow.

"Oh, yeah," he groaned, "Do it to me, Sam." Sam Sapphire from London was a frequent paying participant in these fantasy games. Rory pulled out the dildo and tossed it aside. 'Time for my two-hand action,' he thought as he roughly - an effect for another fan - pinched his nipple. "Suck it, Jorge." Jorge was another regular and a real estate mogul from Budapest who had promised to fly him over to Paris for a debauched weekend at the George V. They were, separately from Frat Loft, in negotiations on the financial details of such a meeting via email.

He had less than two minutes left and needed to 'milk' the moment to the very end. 'Better lay off my dick or I'll finish too soon.' He flipped himself over and presented his pucker to the International audience. After pouring more lube on his hand, he slowly reached around, inserted two fingers and started playfully stretching himself. His fans always liked this intimate, open position as his suspended balls swung around. 'Can't lose my hardon, though,' he thought as he added a third finger. "Ummm, oh fuck, Charlie," he yelled. Good old Charlie in Boston loved his mid-afternoon playtime. 'Probably cums and then watches Oprah.'

Out of the corner of his eye, Rory noticed that he was approaching the final minute. "Let's go for it, Sophie." He didn't have the foggiest idea why this fag hag from New Orleans was watching, but her bucks were as good as the next guy's. "Ready to bust a nut," he growled as his lubed hand started pumping with ferocity. He smiled into the camera before going into his pre-orgasmic trance. The clock showed 30 seconds. "Here's a big one." He grabbed his balls and squeezed as he successfully erupted. "Ieee," he shouted as the first rope of cum flew onto his face. Seven shots later the screens went blank and a red light started blinking.

"Great job, Champ," said the Webmaster as he threw Rory several towels. He wiped himself, one dab at a time, until all 10 towels had been used. They would also be part of the auction. He was aware that at least a couple dozen CK tighty whities were soiled by other guys on the set and sold as Rory Reed's used underwear. However, as long as he got the commission, he wouldn't complain.

It would be nice to take a shower but that set was being used for water sports. However, he was given a wet towel to pull himself together. He stepped aside while an assistant readied the dorm room for the next model. Guys who were at various levels of porn stardom would use this set for two-hour sessions throughout the day. No one, however, ranked close to Rory - and he planned on keeping it that way. 'If everything stays cool, I can continue playing this for more big bucks.'

He put on his trademark tank top, camo shorts and flip-flops, and walked around on the way out to see what some of the other guys were doing. Rory wanted to make sure that his position was secure. 'No problem,' he thought as he walked outside to his car. As he pulled out his car keys, the office manager approached him. "Hey, dude. How y'all doin'?"

"Doing okay. Wanted to stop by and let everyone know that the studio will go on like normal until we know what the ownership situation is." Andy walked up to Rory and shook his hand. "Sorry about Harvey."

"Y'all know anything more about what happened?" Rory asked in his cornpone accent. 'This dickhead might know something about the police,' he thought as he smiled.

"Nada. Guess Harvey's death is a mystery. I'm just running the bookkeeping end and boring stuff like that. Nobody tells me much of anything." Andy smiled back and added, "Gotta git, y'all. By the way, my name is Andy." He flipped a thumb up and walked away.

Rory didn't understand what exactly had just happened in their exchange but decided the dude was just being an asshole and probably couldn't do much more than figure out simple bookkeeping. 'Not worth my effort,' he decided as he slid into his low-slung roadster.

Andy shook his head at Rory's phoniness as he continued on his way to the studio. He had briefly met Gordy Bostwick and the technician when he'd returned from lunch. The AOI guys still needed a few more minutes to install their surveillance equipment so Andy decided to check out the studio. 'Bostwick seems really cool,' he'd thought, 'and doesn't take a back seat to any of our guys in the looks department.' Andy was anxious to get back to the office and get to know his personal bodyguard better - his gaydar had pinged loudly when he met Gordy. However, that would have to wait until the technicians were finished. Therefore, he decided to use the spare time to visit the studio and pump up the morale of the studio's workers. 'Wouldn't mind pumping up a few of the models myself, if I didn't work here.' A few of the guys had come on to him in the past, but he'd decided that playing with the staff - however tempting - was not a good idea.

Noon was a good time to see everyone. There was a shift change happening, so Andy didn't feel he was interrupting anything. After assuring the worker bees that business would continue as normal, he sought out Denny - Webmaster for the lucrative paid cam sessions. Although they had briefly spoken of the recent events on the telephone over the past weekend, Andy wanted to verify that the guy supported the idea of running Frat Loft as a three-man committee until Harvey's estate was settled. Andy would handle business affairs and the third man was the photographer/videographer who would produce the feature productions. Like all the others, Denny was also happy that work would continue and was ecstatic when Andy proposed that each of the committee receive an additional $500.00 per week for the added responsibility.

'Mission accomplished,' Andy thought as he walked back to the office. The technician's van was gone, so he assumed the work was finished. He opened the office door with his key, stepped inside and smiled at Gordy. His new 'assistant' was sitting at the table in front of a laptop.

"Hey. Welcome back to your slightly new and improved office." Gordy stood up and walked around to join Andy. He bumped Andy's knuckles and said, "We're all wired and the operations center says everything is clear. So no jerking off at your desk." He laughed, winked and patted Andy's shoulder.

"I guess there are limitations that I hadn't considered," Andy replied with a smile. "No picking my nose, either." He walked over to his desk and powered up his computer. "How do you want to play this? I think you've seen the complete layout of the two offices."

"Except for you-know-what." Gordy rolled his eyes and added, "Oleg was very definite that the storeroom should be considered a crime scene and gave the keys to the detective. Go about your business and I'll just try to stay out of your way."

"Buddy, you're definitely not in my way." Andy was already calculating how he was going to get to know this Green Beret a little better. He was pretty sure that Gordy was subtly hitting on him, or maybe not so subtly, considering his 'jerking off' remark. Andy smiled to himself.

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