Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 14

Posted: N/A

Dinner For Two Redux

by Jack Scribe

Wednesday afternoon

Gordy and Stan's thorough surveillance report had been submitted earlier than Oleg had expected. Names, photos, data and recordings - they were all logged and in sequence. He was able to review the information and send it on to Washington by late afternoon. In his cover email, he recommended that details concerning Chad's lunchtime tryst with the past-prime movie star in Bel Air be deleted before forwarding everything to the FBI. 'No reason to screw around with the life of a horny lady who's into young meat,' Oleg thought, 'especially since the esteemed Senator from Utah is the intended target.'

He knew that, when all the evidence was considered airtight, the FBI Director would brief both the White House and the Senate ethics committee chairman - as a courtesy - just before the Justice Department took legal action. 'Probably sometime next week,' he thought, 'after everything passes the smell test...which may include the Feebie's bugging the Senator's suite.' This 'SOP' was similar to what was going to happen the following day in regard to the Congressman's involvement in kiddie porn: morning meetings, followed by an afternoon press conference. The pedophilic crime, and the Colorado Springs mega-church's involvement, would be the lead story on the evening news. 'One down, one to go.'

But Senator Kirk was a bigger fish, and the Washingtonian 'good old boys' network was tougher to crack. To whet the public's appetite for salacious gossip, a few pictures and innuendos would find their way onto the Internet - placed by 'unnamed reliable sources'. This scandal would make the toe-tapping incident in the Minneapolis airport men's room seem very tame by comparison. However, the anonymous plants on the web wouldn't include the name or photos with a face of young Chad. 'That lad's physical assets alone will provide enough fuel to stoke everyone's imagination,' Oleg thought with a smile, 'and the queer blogs will have a field day...a real splash on the web.' He was sure the FBI would cut a deal with Chad; a stern slap on the wrist, community service and anonymity in exchange for incriminating testimony. 'The kid is bright and should figure out that it's time to retire.'

It was decompression time - a much-needed pause in Oleg's hectic schedule. A week ago, the infamous Harvey Fine was still alive, Thad was an ex-employee of Frat Loft and Rory was 'doing his thing'. This past Saturday, as a favor to Brad Williams, he'd investigated the odd case of Fine's murder and had 'hung on' over the past several days as events quickly mushroomed into the vortex of child pornography. He had more than earned his keep at AOI for a while: shoot-outs with the Russian mob, abused children, more murder, discovering the 'smoking gun' that solved Fine's murder and exposing the International kiddie-porn ring. The Senator's deviant behavior was a piece of cake by comparison.

Meat - steak, in this case - also meant that the Wednesday dinner with Giorgio Como was still on at the designated hour - 7:00 p.m. Only the location was changed. Giorgio had called a little earlier to say he was stranded in a late deposition and wouldn't have time to shop for food. The option, he said, was to go out to a restaurant, or re-schedule the date. "Or," Oleg replied, "come over to my place." He wanted to see his new friend again in a private setting where they could relax. He assured Giorgio that he had time to go to the store on his way home and pull together a simple dinner.

He stopped by Gelson's at the Century City Mall and used their valet service to save time. He quickly wheeled a cart around the wide aisles and in the process dodged older matronly women who still wore gloves, ladies dressed in their Barney's casuals, and Armani-clad men shopping after work. At the meat department, he selected a couple of aged, USDA Prime, boneless strip steaks. 'Kee-rist,' Oleg thought, 'for twelve bucks a pound, they should melt in your mouth like buttah. I'll crack open a bottle of Silver Oaks and let it breathe once I get home.' There were a couple of cases of Silver Oaks Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon in his small wine cellar and he hadn't had a proper occasion to drink it for a while. Silver Oaks Cellars wines were judiciously allocated to only a few retailers in Los Angeles.

Along the way, he picked up the fixings for salad, a blue rubber band-bundled asparagus and dessert. At the last minute, he added sushi appetizers, cold shrimp, rosemary focaccia and a handful of orange Calla Lilies. 'These should put some color on the coffee table,' he decided, as the clerk wrapped tissue around the flowers. At the last moment, Oleg remembered a few bottles of liquor he needed before checking out, and then continued on his way. A generous tip was a special 'thank you' for the valet guys who hadn't buried his vehicle in some out-of-the-way location.

A line from Shakespeare's play, All's Well That Ends Well, flashed through Oleg's mind while he prepared the salad: "It is like a barber's chair that fits all buttocks." He equated the quote with the balance of law as it applied to all people, rich or poor, powerful or common. Specifically, the image of Senator Kirk came to mind. 'How arrogant and stupid,' he thought, while he sliced the yellow pepper with efficient accuracy, 'playing to his Mormon Utah voter base while diddling the hunky, very-underage Chad.' He added the peppers to the baby romaine, cherry tomatoes, Crimini mushrooms and Persian cucumbers, then admired his quick work. 'Not bad,' Oleg thought as he covered the salad with a moist towel and stored the bowl in the refrigerator. He remembered Giorgio had mentioned he could make a 'wicked' oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar dressing. "I'll put that dawg to work when he gets here," Oleg said to himself, while thinking of 'other' work he had in mind for later in the evening.

By seven, everything was in place. Along with the flowers in a Baccarat vase on the coffee table, Oleg had placed a platter of shrimp with a Creole dipping sauce and a lacquered red bento box arranged with sushi and all the condiments. He looked around and was satisfied with the results of his fast fluff-up. Fortunately, the cleaning lady had been through earlier in the day so he only had to straighten the pictures. He often wondered if Rosie purposely left the small artwork askew so that he'd know she was doing her job. The CD player had a scrambled mix of Michael Bubl and Josh Groban selections, and the eastern view of the Century City skyline was dramatically enhanced by the setting sun. 'Perfect timing,' he thought, as his landline phone rang, 'and this had better be Giorgio.' Tonight was intended to be about romance...not AOI business. It was Giorgio at the gate.

"Looking good, Mr. Lawyer," Oleg said when he opened the door and greeted his handsome guest. His white pants and loose white shirt accented Giorgio's natural dark features. It was a perfect yin-yang contrast to Oleg's black polo and black slacks.

"Only had time to run home, take a quick shower and change. Thanks for offering to be host...I didn't want to go to a restaurant either." Giorgio leaned in and quickly kissed Oleg. "This afternoon was the deposition from hell."

"How so?" Oleg asked.

"My client's soon-to-be ex is very determined to squeeze every last nickel out of him. And I'm not too fond of her lawyer. Gives the term 'shyster' new meaning."

"Leave your worries at the door and come on in." Oleg stepped aside and bowed with a sweep of his arm. "It doesn't seem possible that it's only been three or four days since we met out in the desert."

"And at a clothing-optional resort, of all places. You caught me at a lonely, tacky moment." Giorgio came inside and offered Oleg a bag that obviously held a bottle of wine. "If you haven't selected vino for this evening, I brought a dago red," he added with a laugh.

"Dago red, my ass," Oleg replied as he closed the door and took the gift. He pulled out the 2001 Barolo and added, "This, we will drink on another occasion because I've already opened a ros...that was on sale at Sam's Club." He thought that two could play this game and gestured for Giorgio to walk ahead to the living room. Before Giorgio could speak, he added, "Speaking of drinks, as I recall, you like a Cosmo before dinner?"

"Do you perhaps have...?"

"Absolut Mandarin and Cointreau? I hope you haven't changed your choices."

"I'm impressed that you remembered," Giorgio replied with a chuckle.

"Sit down and nibble on the appetizers while I fix the cocktails. Let's just relax and enjoy the evening." Grabbing a few moments to shed the dynamics of the job and enjoy being a host was important to Oleg. 'I hope he doesn't have an early morning meeting,' Oleg thought as he walked into the kitchen and iced the shaker.

"These shrimp are really plump," Giorgio said in a voice that would carry into the open kitchen. "And what are the two sauces?"

"The pink stuff is a spicy remoulade and the red is basic cocktail sauce with a heavy dose of horseradish. Hope you're not allergic to anything."

"An Italian allergic to spices? Give me a break; bring it on."

"Tu mangi." Oleg poured in the vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice. He squeezed the juice of a lime into the stainless steel tumbler, put on the lid and shook the ingredients. Popping the cap, he poured the delicious pink nectar into two over-sized cocktail glasses. 'Not bad,' he thought as he garnished each glass with a lime wedge on the rim, 'just as good as at that restaurant in Palm Springs last weekend.' He grabbed the large glasses by their stems and returned to the living room. "Tah, tah," he said as he placed the glasses on the table.

"This is much better than going out," Giorgio said as he lifted his glass. "Here's to you."

"It's been crazy since we last saw each other...and I accept the toast." Oleg raised his glass and lightly touched the edge to Giorgio's glass. 'I'd love to toast this 'to us',' he thought as he brought the cocktail to his lips, 'but I don't want to rush anything.' He took a sip and smiled. "It's definitely time to wind-down..."

"And smell the roses?" Giorgio interrupted with a wink.

"Or the calla lilies for that matter. At this moment, I suggest we concentrate on the cocktails."

Giorgio studied the pinkish hue of the liquid, sipped and sighed after he swallowed. "This is ambrosia."

"Or, as the kids say, 'good shit'," Oleg replied.

"That, too." Giorgio rolled his eyes and took another sip. "If only half of what I've read in the Times is correct, you've had a busy few days. My divorce cases are mild in comparison to what you've been up to. Murder, kiddie porn and the fucking Russian mob. What can you tell me about your escapades?"

"Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," Oleg replied with a shrug before taking another sip of the Cosmo. 'I need to let him know that my involvement this past weekend is not public knowledge,' he thought as he sat down his glass. "I can't really say too much, and you can appreciate that what I do mention needs to be kept confidential. My effectiveness is, in part, based on keeping a very low profile. And with the Russians, being invisible is a must...for one's health."

"Say no more. Although my clients' adversaries - usually the pissed off other-half - can be a little mean, you're playing on an entirely different field. My lips are..."

"Gorgeous," Oleg quickly replied with a laugh. He had made his point and now wanted to move on to lighter subjects that included nourishment...of all kinds. "Let's just say that our efforts were very successful - thanks for understanding."

"And I get a compliment as a bonus." Giorgio smiled, picked up a piece of California roll and dipped it into the soy sauce.

Oleg joined him in attacking the sushi platter and selected the yellow fin tuna. "Here's what I've planned for the evening. I'm going to fire up the grill in the kitchen, turn on the oven and get the asparagus ready. Then next on the hit parade will be one more round of cocktails while we finish up the appetizers."

"Excellent course of action. Do you need any help?"

"As a matter of fact, I was hoping you'd make the salad dressing while I nuke the asparagus and heat the focaccia. I've already got the salad prepared and a bottle of wine is breathing."

"The ros with the screw-cap?" Giorgio tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

"I fudged a little bit on that," Oleg said with a grin. "I broke out a bottle of Silver Oaks Cab I had stashed away."

" I recall the vintner at Silver Oaks still uses cork."


"Then I'm forced to make the famous oil and vinegar dressing from the Como family secret recipe files," Giorgio replied with wide hand gestures.

"There you go, quid pro quo."

"One other suggestion. Let's enjoy the steaks and your fantastic wine first. We can have the salad later."

"I like your thinking - tres continental. And while you're preparing the dressing, I'll grill the steaks medium-rare, if you don't mind. For dessert, I thought about something simple. How do raspberries over lemon ice sound?" Oleg would have enjoyed this dinner, regardless of what was served...or, in what order.

"Looks like we're going to be eating quite well tonight."

"But nothing too heavy," Oleg replied. He was thinking of a second dessert in the bedroom...protein, low fat and calorie-free...but wasn't sure if he was up to it. 'These assignments over the past week,' he thought, 'have beaten me up...big time.'

The candles were still burning on the side buffet table, albeit at half their original height, when the two men finished the last bites of their steak. The wine bottle was drained - except for a few final drops that contained sediment - and the softly-lit living room framed the dramatic evening skyline beautifully.

Next came the salad, after the main course, in the European tradition. Oleg was pleased that Giorgio had suggested this timing: the vinegar in the salad dressing didn't have a chance to detour their tastebuds. By the time the dessert was finished, the two men had a chance to run the gamut of current affairs and political topics. 'Everything about dinner has been a success,' Oleg thought, 'including an opportunity to further develop our friendship.' He also knew he was ready for a second dessert.

Josh Groban was singing Now or Never.

I watch the morning dawn upon your skin A splinter in the light It's been hiding there inside for all this time How a sure thing winds up just like this Clockwork silence only knows

And it's no one's fault There's no black and white Only you and me On this endless night And as the hours run away With another life Oh, darling can't you see It's now or never It's now or never

"How about a nightcap?" Oleg asked as he touched Giorgio's arm. "A splash or two of Grand Marnier? I've got a bottle of Centenaire cuve."

"A splash would be just right...since I don't have a designated driver...then I've got to think about going," Giorgio replied. He put his hand over Oleg's lingering hand and squeezed.

"The operative word is 'think'. You don't actually have to run, do you?"

"No, I was just pulling your chain a little." Giorgio smiled and moved back his chair. "Let me help you clear the table first."

"No problem...I've got it. Go over to the couch and I'll be right out with my high-octane, aged orange nectar." He got up, winked and watched as Giorgio left the dining area.

Oleg collected the remaining plates and wine glasses, returned to the kitchen and set them aside. He retrieved two balloon snifters and poured a few ounces of the Centenaire into each glass. 'Just right to end the evening,' he decided as he slipped the snifters between his fingers and returned to the living room, 'so we can get mushy and romantic.' He smiled as he sat down next to Giorgio and offered him one of the snifters.

"Thanks," Giorgio said as he took the large balloon glass. He slowly swirled the amber-colored liqueur a couple of times and inhaled the bouquet. "Ummm, I think this needs to be drunk slowly...with one's shoes appreciate it properly."

"Be my guest." Oleg chuckled as he toed his black tassel loafers off. He moved closer to Giorgio and rested his feet on the coffee table. "Stretch out," he added as he duplicated the snifter swirl routine, "and enjoy."

Giorgio slipped out of his shoes and placed his feet on the table. He next raised the arm nearest Oleg and draped it across Oleg's shoulders. "This has been a perfect evening," he said as he brushed his toes across Oleg's feet.

"Ahhh, the old snuggling and toesies game." Oleg took a sip of the liqueur and placed his hand on Giorgio's thigh.

"And you have your hand close to my better half," Giorgio replied with a chuckle. He sipped the Centenaire and moved Oleg's hand up to his crotch.

"Your 'bigger is better' half is more like it. Damn right." Oleg felt the heat and formidable bulge as his fingers rested on Giorgio's crotch. He squeezed and added, "I suggest we get a little more comfortable. When two single guys are together and there's a discomfort in their pants, it only seems natural to resolve the situation."

"What are you, a lawyer on the side? That's a pretty good summation. However, I need a sidebar, counselor." Giorgio unzipped his fly and did the same with Oleg's pants.

"Sidebar?" Oleg asked as his hand snaked into Giorgio's open fly. He was delighted to discover there was no second layer of clothing with which to contend. He wrapped his fingers around Giorgio's hard cock and rubbed his thumb around the tip.

"Ummm," Giorgio sighed as he made himself more comfortable. "I think we both know what we want. However, I've got a very early morning tomorrow with a client from hell. Please don't consider this rude, but I need to be outta here in a half-hour."

"Works for me...I'm pretty sure that we can pace ourselves accordingly and get you home before the bewitching hour." He set down his snifter and pulled off his Polo shirt. "But we need to figure out when we can have some quality time together - and not have to worry about schedules. Why don't we think about a return trip to Palm Springs this weekend and camp out at my house?"

Giorgio stood up, removed his linen shirt and placed it next to Oleg's black Polo on the carpet. "Returning to the desert with you would be super," he said as he unfastened his pants and stepped out of them. He grabbed his growing erection and stroked it a few times - more to adjust it rather than to be provocative. "Let's talk about this after..."

"After I get out of my pants and we adjourn to the bedroom." As Oleg stood next to Giorgio, he removed his trousers and briefs - in one motion. He stood closer and pressed his lips against Giorgio's.

Within moments, tongues were dueling and crotches were grinding. Oleg pulled back, took Giorgio's hand and gently tugged him to follow. They walked through the condo and arrived at the master bedroom. Oleg pulled back the covers and silently invited his dinner guest to lie down. Once Giorgio was in place, Oleg joined him in a position that left no imagination as to what two men can accomplish when each is facing the other's crotch. No imagination...but plenty of opportunity to satisfy each other. And they did.

"This is something I'd never pass up with you," Giorgio whispered later - 20 minutes later, to be exact.

"Uncomplicated, not messy and very rewarding." Oleg leaned in and kissed Giorgio one more time. Each other's breath was still incriminating...not that it mattered. "Before you dress and leave, do you want to discuss this weekend? I was very serious about the invitation." He stopped there. 'Don't want to scare off this stud,' he thought, 'just when things are getting interesting.'

"I've got one small problem - I've accepted an invitation that I can't get out of for this Saturday afternoon." Giorgio moved his free hand over Oleg's chest and stopped at his stomach. "However, perhaps you could come with me - it's a cookout and you'll know many of the people - then we can drive out to Palm Springs afterwards."

"That's doable. Who's the host?"

"Hosts. Dave Swenson from my law firm and his partner, Mike Cole."

"I know Dave in a casual way and I've run into Mike at TJ's a few times. Cool guys."

"And I'm sure that Doug and Brad will also be there, plus some other associates from the firm and a few close friends. I think the party's called for around 1:00 p.m. We could pay our respects, pig out on burgers and be able to head out around five." Giorgio took Oleg's hand and kissed it.

"Works for me," Oleg replied with a grin, "and if you can take some time off from work on Monday, we could drive back to L.A. late that morning." He got up from the bed and took Giorgio's hand.

"I can swing that by rearranging my schedule," Giorgio said as he accepted a hand up, "but I must be back by noon. The firm expects those billable hours to keep on comin'." He wrapped his arms around Oleg and hugged him. Chest to chest, stomach to stomach, groin to groin - their sated bodies became one. "I hope this doesn't sound too forward," he continued in a whisper, his mouth next to Oleg's ear, "but I intend on figuring out where this friendship is going. You're a very interesting man - someone I would like to know more about."

"I've been thinking the same thing," Oleg whispered back. He hoped that Giorgio really meant what he had just said. 'The last thing I need,' he thought, 'is to get my hopes up for a relationship with this guy...and then see everything evaporate because we're on different pages.' He patted Giorgio's buns lightly and asked, "You sure you have to leave?"

"Yes, but maybe I should get dressed first." Giorgio snickered, and then added, "We'll make up for the brevity of this workout in Palm Springs. Why don't I pick you up Saturday? I've got a new Escape Hybrid...and it needs some break-in mileage." Giorgio moved back and kissed Oleg's nose before returning to the living room.

"Goodness, a handsome lawyer, a nice guy and a tree-hugger to boot," Oleg replied with a smile. "What a combo." He picked up his discarded briefs from the floor of the dimly lit living room and silently watched his guest retrieve his own strewn clothes. Oleg resisted the opportunity to toss out a few more affectionate and endearing phrases. 'This isn't the time for me to appear all needy,' he thought as he put on his underwear, 'and seem like a middle-aged schmuck who's watching life slip by.'

"Tree-hugger?" Giorgio laughed as he pulled up his pants. "Maybe a tad. But global warming aside, I don't see gas getting any cheaper. When my Benz's lease ended earlier this month, I decided to wave the flag and buy a Ford."

"That's major multi-tasking, old boy," Oleg said, "and I approve. I'm thinking about buying a hybrid to use around L.A. and leave the Boxster in Palm Springs for fun." He didn't add that the eight-miles-per-gallon GMC Denali, with all its armor-plating, was always a necessity when he was on special assignments.

"Then you should try driving the Escape while we're out there." Giorgio slipped on his shirt and tried to smooth out the wrinkles.

"That would be super. Let's do it." Oleg grinned and thought, 'anything we do would be super.'

Giorgio balanced himself as he stepped back into his shoes and shrugged as he stuffed his socks into his pants pocket. "Let's talk Friday."

In the background, Michael Bubl was singing:

The best is yet to come Come the day you're mine Oh come the day you're mine I'm gonna teach you to fly We've only tasted the wine We're gonna drain that cup dry

Rory was feeling somewhat better about the success of his eluding departure from L.A. The Times and the television news broadcasts had moved on to the current stories 'du jour' and had dropped any mention of the previous weekend's events. The local Desert Sun and TV reporting focused on Coachella Valley crime; it seemed that the perpetrators and victims were primarily of Hispanic heritage.

His appearance had been professionally modified. A colorist he found in a strip shopping area had changed his hair - and eyebrows - to a more natural honey-blond color. He decided to grow a light beard and added a pair of eyeglasses with a tortoise-shell frame. 'Not bad,' he thought, as he stood before the motel bathroom mirror, 'gives me a preppy, college boy look.'

The plan was to avoid locations in the Palm Springs area that had a large concentration of gay men. He was worried that his Rory Reed fans might recognize him. As much as he loved attention, it was no longer advantageous to his survival. 'Time to blend in and lay back while I decide where to go.' That meant staying at the Motel 6 in Cathedral City for another week, to assure himself that he wasn't being actively pursued, before traveling east. His plan was to cut through the California desert on a less-traveled county road and hook up with I-40. In Flagstaff, Arizona, he planned on turning in the rental vehicle and going on by Amtrak to Kansas City. 'Establish some credibility and figure out how to use the K.C. school system,' he thought, 'and get a GED. With 'Henry Cummings' earning a high school equivalency degree, I could go on to a community college and fade into obscurity.'

However, by Friday night, he was getting a bad case of cabin fever. Except for trips to the nearby Trader Joe's for food, he'd kept inside the motel room. Eating, watching TV, reading, working out, jerking, sleeping - got rather old after three days. Around 11:00 p.m., he decided to be bold and check out a popular bar he'd seen advertised in one of the gay magazines. He put on a pair of baggy jeans, loose T-shirt and sneakers. For good measure, he added a cap to the ensemble and departed for Hunter's. 'By the time I get there,' he reasoned, 'it'll be hot and heavy with action. I'll just have a beer and cruise the guys for a while.'

The line at the door was short and Rory got into the bar without any hassle. He ordered a Bud Light and walked over to a separate room that contained a dance floor and a few pool tables. It was also the darkest area of the small complex. 'Not bad,' he thought as he caught an image of himself in the mirror, 'if not a little nerdy. The glasses and cap are just the right combo.'

He didn't recognize the music but had fun keeping the beat and watching the action on the dance floor. While there were a few old geezers lurking around - anyone over 60 he considered a geezer - most of the guys were in their 20's and 30's. A couple of times, one particular guy would stop by and suggest that they dance. Rory politely declined each time and replied that he was waiting for his partner.

It was after midnight when Rory decided to call it a night. He drank the remaining swallows of beer and licked his lips when he finished. He smiled after discharging a quiet belch and set down the empty bottle. But before he could take a step, he noticed the silhouette of a man in front of him. The guy's body blocked the lighting of the dance floor and caused Rory a moment of concern. 'Is this a cop?' he wondered as he focused on the man, 'Naw, I don't think so. He's not too old and kinda hot. Maybe Mexican?'

"Seor, it appears that you're dry. Can I buy you a drink? A Bud Light, perhaps?" the handsome thirty-something man smiled with a determined expression.

"Time to pull the plug," Rory replied, "and go home. Thanks, anyway." He could pick up on a slight accent but couldn't place it. He revised his guess and decided that the dude was either European or South American. 'Maybe Brazilian?'

"At least let me introduce myself." The man extended his hand and continued, "My name's Ral Caldern."

"Um...Henry. Hi." Part of Rory wanted to bolt to the nearest exit, but this well-mannered, handsome man intrigued the other part of him. He froze when Ral's free hand touched his shoulder and thought, 'This guy's really sure of himself. I think I'd better play along for a few minutes.'

"Well...Henry, let's get a beer." Ral waved to someone close to the bar. He pointed at the empty beer bottle, put up two fingers and nodded. "We'll have a couple of beers in just a moment."

"Okay, but just one more. I don't drink that much." Rory smiled and watched as a shorter man, dressed in an all-black ensemble, silently walked up and set down two bottles of Bud Light. He looked briefly at Ral and returned to the bar. Rory studied Ral closer and decided the white, embroidered linen shirt, tailored shorts and leather sandals were too expensive for a cop.

Another man dressed in black nodded and faded back into the crowd.

"These guys friends of yours?" Rory asked as he picked up the cold bottle. He took a small sip and watched Ral.

"More like associates." Ral took the other bottle, clinked the bottom to the bottom of Rory's bottle, and nodded before taking a long pull. He let out a satisfying sigh and continued, "So why is a good looking stud named Henry ready to go early. In my country, midnight is the time to finish dinner."

"And your country is..."

"Everywhere, actually, but my primary residence is Bogot. Where's your home...Henry?" Ral seemed to purposely emphasize the name, 'Henry'.

"I'm visiting from...Phoenix. Just in good old gay Palm Springs for the weekend." Rory didn't feel comfortable fabricating details about his life 'on the fly'.

"Henry, listen to me very carefully. When you came into the bar tonight, I thought I recognized you...even with your disguise. Word of advice, Mr. Reed, it's hard to hide someone who looks as good as you."

"But I..."

"I've seen the television news and L.A. Times accounts of your activities and couldn't give a flying fuck about what you did, or why." Ral moved closer and added, "Let's just say I'm not here to harm you, or turn you in. Trust me, I have nothing to gain by that."

Rory was speechless and immobile. In addition to Ral's close presence, he saw two men approaching. The one who originally brought the beers and the other man in black. "'re not cops?"

"Hardly," Ral replied with a hearty laugh. "If you are agreeable, I'd like to invite you back to my home to get to know each other...better." He didn't add what he had in mind. "My place is very secluded and private."

"Okay, Ral, what gives?" Rory decided he had nothing to lose and turned on the Rory Reed attitude.

"What gives is a way for you to have some fun, relax and earn some extra pesos...dollars. I assume that Rory Reed doesn't mind conducting a little business?"

"Such as?"

"A thousand dollars - U.S. - for your time? Nothing rough and you can decide the next move after we've had a few laughs."

"A few laughs?" Rory was trying to fit all the pieces together. 'Damn,' he thought, feeling less on edge, 'I think I've got a rich, good-looking groupie on my hands.' He frowned and added, "Just because I make videos doesn't mean I'm some sort of rent boy for hire. Not that I'd put anyone down for doing that."

"I understand what you're saying and I certainly didn't mean any disrespect. The fact is, I find you most appealing...always have. Let's just say I'm a big fan and was very excited when I spotted you. For the record, I am an importer...but your government isn't too thrilled about what they think I import."

"Just for the record, Ral, the sex part I can do very well, as long as it's not kinky S and M stuff," Rory replied, "and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt about the drugs; that's not my scene."

"Sounds like we have a deal. I'll make sure you get back to wherever you're staying before daybreak. And to show you I meant no offense by this arrangement, there might be an additional bonus when you leave."

Rory smiled and considered this chance meeting. "Fair enough, but I have one question. You know my your name really what you say it is?"

"No reason to lie. The authorities know both of us, but the police are less sure about my activities. You, on the other hand..."

"I get your point." Rory took another sip, put the bottle on the ledge and added, "Let's have a cold beer at your place." He smiled at this handsome stranger and thought, 'Another friggin' adventure. If a cat has nine lives, I wonder how many more I have?'

Ral smiled and gestured for Rory to walk out of the bar ahead of him. "My men will lead the way."

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