Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 18

Published: 8 Apr 14

Spider And The Fly

by Jack Scribe

Saturday early evening - Palm Springs

There was no hemming and hawing about what wine to buy: Oleg had his favorite brands for every occasion. He picked up two bottles of his preferred vin ordinare for lazing around the house and pool - Kendall-Jackson chardonnay - and started back to the front of the small, now-empty shop. As he walked up the center aisle, he noticed that the hot guy in the tight black tank top and molded jeans was outside getting into the back seat of the big bucks coupe that was double-parked - now by itself. 'Maybe the stud's just an entertainment expense for the owner of the Bentley,' he thought as the passenger door closed and the vehicle drove away, 'high maintenance for services rendered.' Spotting boy toys with their benefactors was a common occurrence around Palm Springs - part of the American free enterprise and entrepreneurial system out in the desert...and the blurred shades of gray between the guy being an escort or a hooker.

His mind switched to imagine images of the Senator and his twink, hours earlier in the hotel suite as the FBI busted in on their tryst. 'Wonder how that kid, Chad, is faring? I hope he's got enough smarts to do the right thing and testify against his pimps.' Oleg shrugged as his attention was drawn to a large rack promoting a special sale of Riedel glassware - the same wine glasses he used. '15 bucks for this glass is a great deal,' he decided as he shifted the wine bottles to one hand. Oleg scooped up three of the all-purpose crystal glasses - as many as he could handle - and continued on to the checkout area. Oleg set down his purchases on the counter and said, "Evening, Sam." He liked this old Hungarian-American, who had been a sommelier in one of the snooty eateries in Manhattan and knew more about wine than most of the current experts.

"Good to see you, Mr. Petrov," Sam replied with a polite nod.

"I'm going to grab three more glasses." Oleg went back to the rack, retrieved the additional glassware and returned to the counter. "How goes it?"

"We've had a good season and I'm hoping that the summer won't be too hot. Speaking of hot, you might want to consider a fantastic Oregon pinot noir I just purchased. It's off the Richter scale with a veal or pork dish."

"That does sound interesting." Oleg had been thinking about grilling veal chops the next evening and dining by candlelight - nudging friendship with Giorgio to the next level.

"It's a 2006 Argyle from the Willamette Valley and I got it at a great..."

"Oh, fuck," Oleg blurted out, and his mouth stayed open. A red alarm was ringing inside his head - he now realized that the sexy guy in denim, who had just left with a bottle of Dom Perignon, was the evasive killer, Rory Reed.

Sam reacted by jerking his head as if someone had just slapped him. "Is there some..."

"Sorry, got an emergency," Oleg said loudly as he backed away, "I'll explain later." He dashed outside the shop to the parking area and looked each way. To the north on Palm Canyon Drive, he saw the taillights of various vehicles...but nothing identifiably as a Hummer or Bentley. 'I hope they're not in any hurry,' Oleg thought as he broke into a trot down the sloped driveway, 'so we'll have a chance to catch up.' He was curious about the group with whom Rory was traveling. 'Who are they? God only knows what this character is up to now.' Oleg knew he had just stepped into a pile of shit and it was time to play the role for which he'd been trained. 'But I gotta be careful about dragging Giorgio into this mess.'

"They run out of wine?" Giorgio asked with a puzzled expression when Oleg opened the passenger door and got in...empty handed.

"No. An urgent problem just came up that I need to address. Bear with me, cuz I need you to do some hard driving. We need to haul ass...if you don't mind."

"I don't mind," Giorgio replied as he started the Escape. "What's up?"

"Rory Reed - porn star, slash fugitive killer - just left the shop and drove away in that Bentley that was double-parked." Oleg buckled his seat belt and continued, "Make a right at the corner and let's see if we can find them." He grabbed the armrest firmly and leaned back into the seat. 'Wonder if that Hummer I saw earlier parked behind the Bentley is part of this group?'

"Is this going to be a bang-bang, shoot-'em-up scenario?" Giorgio asked as he drove forward to the corner and turned onto Palm Canyon Drive. "I'm not sure what my life insurance policy covers." He briefly looked over to Oleg. "Just joking."

"Don't worry...I wouldn't expose you to any danger. You're a civilian and I don't have a dog in this fight. However, we have an opportunity to be the eyes for my sheriff contact in L.A." Oleg picked up his cell phone, flipped it open and quickly scrolled down his address book. He punched the send button, quickly moved the cell phone closer to his mouth and when the call was voice-mail answered, said, "Detective Lamanna, this is Petrov. Just spotted Rory Reed here in Palm Springs. Call me back on my cell." Oleg hit the end button and paused for a moment.

"We're coming up on...Vista Chino," Giorgio said, "but I can't make out a specific car from this distance. Should we continue driving north or turn right?"

"If they continued north on the 111, it'd take them to the 10...but I don't think this crew would be heading to L.A. on a Saturday night. Let's assume that they're heading east on Vista Chino. Maybe they're going to a restaurant or a party in Rancho Mirage."

"Should you call the Palm Springs cops?"

"No, it's best if I first go through my contact with the LAPD. A 911 call out here would take too much time to check out and verify the case." Oleg scrolled further in his address book and found the Hollywood Division's telephone number. He pressed the send button and looked at Giorgio. "If my contact is available, it'll be easier to..." Oleg's attention changed when he heard a live voice on the other end. "Officer, this is an emergency call for Detective Lamanna. Is he in?"

"What is the nature of the call?" a flat, nasal female's voice asked in measured tones.

"This is Oleg Petrov, P.I. number 256743 alpha. I've been working with Lamanna on the Harvey Fine murder case. I've just spotted the fugitive suspect in Palm Springs."

"Yes, sir. I understand," the front desk officer replied with a sudden urgency. "Wait one while I page Detective Lamanna."

Oleg drummed his fingers on the armrest, keeping time to the Barry Manilow 'on-hold' music. 'How queer is that,' he thought as Manilow sang Mandy.

"Petrov, you dog...the duty officer says you've I.D.'d Rory Reed. Palm Springs?"

"Hi, Joe. Saw him just a few minutes ago in a wine shop, but he got out of my sight before I realized it was Rory."

"You're absolutely sure?"

"One hundred percent. Listen up; he's traveling with some pretty ritzy company...I've got the California vanity plate of a metallic gray Bentley coupe - late model. It's Charlie-Oscar-Lima-Hotel-Kilo. He's a passenger."

"That's 'Charlie-Oscar-Lima-Hotel-Kilo'?" Lamanna repeated. "Late model, metallic gray Bentley coupe. Location?"

"Affirmative. Palm Springs. Unfortunately, I've lost track of them visually, but I'm 95% sure they're going east on Vista Chino. Probably two miles east of the Palm Canyon intersection, down by Farrell Road as we speak. A black Hummer may be involved - probably security - but I couldn't get a plate I.D." Oleg looked ahead and only saw the anonymous blur of on-coming traffic and the taillights of cars they were passing. He glanced at the speedometer and noticed that they were traveling close to 65 miles per hour.

"I've got the DMV registration of the Bentley. It's owned by a company, MIE, Inc., in Long Beach at 4278 Carson Street."

"You going to be available? I'll call AOI and see if I can find out anything more."

"Absolutely...I'll keep my cell open and use a landline. Gotta go - I'll send an APB to Palm Springs P.D., Riverside sheriff and CHP. Later, buddy. And thanks...very much."

The disconnect signaled that Detective Lamanna was setting his plan into motion. Oleg looked ahead but still couldn't identify the vehicles. He turned to Giorgio and said, "Thanks for helping out. At least the net has been cast and we don't have to do the 'cops and robbers' thing...that you mentioned."

"Shall we turn off and let the pros do their job?"

"If you don't mind, let's continue at this speed for a while. My curiosity has gotten the best of me."

"Okay, but you get to pay any ticket I get," Giorgio replied with a grin. "Actually, this is the most excitement I've had since the disgruntled 'ex' of a client swung at me in the conference room. He missed, lost his balance and fell into a potted tree. His mouth hit the pot and I later found out he broke three teeth."

"Moral of the story: never screw with a lawyer."

"Or if you screw one, be sure it's on a horizontal plane...preferably in bed."

"I'll keep that in mind. 'Memo to self - no fucking on the kitchen counter'." Oleg winked, hit a pre-set button on his cell and the phone speed-dialed AOI operations. He wanted to pass on the information concerning the license plate, the company name of the Bentley's owner and find out about the personalities behind MIE, Inc. 'Who are these guys and how does Rory fit in?'

Henry watched the road ahead from the soft, leather-upholstered backseat as he rested his head on Ral's chest. Ricky Caldern was in the front passenger seat, talking on his cell phone, and the driver was one of the guys dressed in black. The glowing dashboard, sound system and GPS screen looked more like an aircraft cockpit than a car. The gift of a bottle of Dom Perignon had yielded the anticipated results: Ral had been delighted and was determined to ice down the champagne as soon as they were on the G550 and airborne.

"We can't be too far away," Henry said as he lifted his head and saw the green airport directional sign. Almost immediately, the coupe braked, eased over to the right lane and turned right.

"Not much further." Ral put his arm around Henry's shoulders and added, "The plane is parked at the general aviation hangar - that's on the opposite side of the runway from the main terminal. I sent the guys ahead with our luggage so we can get out of here as soon as we board the plane."

"Cool. We just drive up to the jet, climb aboard and fly away?"

"Basically," Ral replied with a chuckle. "The pilots were at the private aircraft ops center much earlier to file the flight plan and get everything ready for us - topping off the fuel, provisions, et cetera. They're very experienced and know how I like to travel...first class and fast."

" we can have breakfast in Bogot? I can hardly wait."

"S, and some good Colombian coffee." Ral smiled and squeezed Henry firmly for emphasis.

Henry looked over to his right and saw the perimeter of the airport, the runways and the tented architectural features of the Palm Springs passenger terminal off in the distance. They drove a little further and a series of small hangars appeared. 'This must be where we're going,' he thought as the car slowed down. The tarmac beyond the structures was crowded with various personal aircraft, but Henry could make out the black Hummer parked next to a sleek jet. He leaned into Ral when the car turned onto a road that would take them to the plane.

"Any reason we can't take off in five minutes?" Ral asked his brother in a louder voice. "I'm anxious to get home."

"Just spoke with the crew. It's all set," Ricky replied in flawless English. He looked at Henry with a smile and added, "You're going to like the ranch. In fact, we should ride around on our horses and take a tour...once you get settled."

"As long as you have a horse who doesn't mind an amateur dude on his back." Henry was impressed that Ricky always spoke in English when they were together - except for a few occasions. 'When that happens, I'm sure it's to everyone's advantage for me not to know what is being said.' He assumed that they talked about business issues when they changed to Spanish.

"The 'his' is a 'her'," Ral said with a laugh. "Rosita is a four year old mare and very gentle...although you may be walking 'bow-legged' for a while."

"If I can take what you slammed into me last night and not be sore," Henry said in a whisper, "I'll take my chances with the horse." He knew that a little ego stroking never hurt. 'Men always like to be complimented about their size,' he thought, 'and Ral is no exception.'

"Point taken." Ral leaned forward and looked out to see the jet. "The luggage must be stowed; our guys are securing the hatch. Very good."

"Got it," Oleg said into his cell mouthpiece to the AOI ops duty officer, "and thanks. I'll see you on Tuesday. Bye."

"We're coming up on Gene Autry Trail. Should we turn, or continue?"

"Turning right takes us around the airport," Oleg replied, "but I can't imagine them going there. Best bet is they're headed for Rancho Mirage or Palm Desert. Let's go straight...if you'll excuse the expression." He grinned at Giorgio and playfully swatted his knee.

"Apology accepted. And the only thing I want 'straight' actually has a cute little bend when it gets hard," Giorgio said with a chuckle.

"Glad you paid attention." Oleg watched the flow of traffic as they crossed the intersection and continued, "Seems our friends in the Bentley are part of a big deal financial empire. MEI, Inc., aka Medellin Export Import - a very secretive, curious Colombian company owned by the Caldern family."

"Caldern? Why do I know that name?"

"Long time coffee exporting business that is now operated out of Bogot. But coffee is just the tip of what is going on - they literally have their fingers into everything moving in and out of Colombia. And the Calderns' are always in the shadows of the politicians in control."

"Movers and shakers in Colombia...and their fingers are in everything?" Giorgio asked. "Including..."

"Cocaine? We think probably so, but nothing has ever been proven. AOI's read on this situation is that the Caldern family, led by an older man and his two sons, is the power behind the Colombian cartels that get all the ink in our press."

"Shit...I just remembered why I know the name. Ferdinand Caldern - he's been a client of our law firm for years. Way before my time. Don't know anything about his company, but Caldern is obviously the 'old man' in this scenario. He's a major financer of movies - has been since the 60's and plays with big bucks."

"That's the father. His two sons are Ricardo and Ral." Oleg concluded that all three men were equally involved in the business.

"I remember being told that he's usually around L.A. at the big parties around Oscar time with the starlet du jour. But you're right...the old man is always in the background: I've never seen him on ET or Access Hollywood. Quite an anomaly for our ego-driven town."

"I think...excuse me," Oleg said as his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller I.D. and bit his lip as he answered it. "Hi, Joe...whazzup?"

"The police just spotted the Bentley and the Hummer pulling out from a road onto Gene Autry Trail near the airport," Detective Joe Lamanna said. "They should intercept the cars in a few minutes. You familiar with the area?"

"Passed Gene Autry a few minutes ago. I suggest that...Joe, hold it. I just thought of something. MEI is a company owned by Colombians and I think that the C-O-L on that license plate stands for Colombia - the country." Oleg turned briefly to Giorgio and said, "We gotta turn around. I have a funny feeling that the cars were dropping off passengers to the small general aviation terminal that's located on Gene Autry."

"You think that Rory may be at that terminal?" Lamanna asked abruptly.

"That's what I'm thinking. Or on board one of those fancy jets that are always parked around that place. Joe, here's what I suggest - have the police immediately contact the airport tower. Find out if there are any civilian aircraft taking off for Colombia. They would have filed a flight plan." Oleg grabbed the console between the seats as Giorgio slowed down and made a 'U' turn. "And my guess is that the tail number of the plane begins with H-K."

"I'm dialing Palm Springs on the other line. What's with the H-K?"

"Wouldn't be surprised if H-K is one of the aviation codes assigned to civilian Colombian aircraft. Just a guess." Oleg listened as he heard Joe make contact with the Palm Springs PD and relay all the information to their dispatch center. From the excitement in the detective's voice, he imagined that the police were taking immediate action.

"Everything seems to be in play," Lamanna said. "I'm told that the police have just pulled over the two cars and the duty officer in dispatch is contacting the tower. No I.D. yet on the passengers."

"Where did they stop the Bentley?" Oleg asked.

"On Ramon Road - just after the turnoff to the airport passenger terminal. What's your plan?"

"We're going to the general aviation hangar. But it'll just be low-key. I'm with a civilian and don't want to get officially involved...unless you need me to show the flag as your rep." Oleg noticed that they were coming up on Gene Autry Way and pointed left for Giorgio.

"Not necessary," Lamanna replied. "Let's talk when Rory is picked up wherever he is. Later, buddy."

They stopped in the left turn lane and Oleg's attention was momentarily drawn to the low-rise Honda in front of them. The booming bass from the super-charged speaker system was even vibrating inside Giorgio's Escape with loud Mexican music that he recognized as norteo-style. "You know where the hangars for private aircraft are located?" he asked in a tone loud enough to be heard.

"Just beyond the Air Museum...right?" Giorgio asked.

"Yes. Keep in the right lane and I'll show you the turnoff."

The green turn signal flashed and the Honda took off like it was at a NASCAR event. Giorgio followed at a more moderate speed until he completed the turn. Once he was in the far right lane, he said, "Give me a little advance notice so I can slow down. This ain't no Batmobile, but we can travel pretty fast on this road."

"Got it." Oleg silently smiled to himself at the thought of playing 'Robin' to Giorgio's 'Batman' when this adventure was concluded. 'There'll be fun in my batcave tonight.'

Henry looked across the field and runways to the small commercial airport: a simple, circular building with a striking faade of white canvas sails and, at this hour, void of any planes. The surrounding mountains provided a shadowy backdrop - the eerily lit glow from the Los Angeles city lights on the other side of the tall, rocky formation created an unusual theatrical effect he had not noticed before. The evening was warm and he felt even warmer - bordering on hot - as his mind ventured back to the previous weekend and to the finality he had inflicted on the late Harvey Fine. 'Tough shit,' he decided, 'cuz I can't change things.' He took a deep breath, wiped his brow of the clammy moistness that had formed and decided to focus on the immediate task at hand - flying off to Colombia with Ral.

It was surreal, standing up close to a sleek jet on the tarmac - two jet engines embracing the bottom of the tail, red lights flashing at the tips of the wings and tail, the oval windows emitting a warm golden glow - within reach of a touch. It was something that Henry had only seen in movies. His eyes moved to the stairs leading up to the cabin and he could see a member of the flight crew standing by the cockpit door talking to someone he couldn't see. 'This is it,' he decided as he imagined this slick plane cruising through the skies with white streams of contrails behind, 'it's a new adventure.'

The Bentley and Hummer had left and Ricky was already on board. Ral was inside the operations office to pay the refueling and service charges. Henry turned on a warm smile - the sincerest in his bag of expressions - when he saw Ral exit the small building attached to a hangar. "Are we all set to go?" he asked with a shout. He trotted over to the handsome Colombian and started walking in step with Ral. In the background, he heard the jet engines start with a whine.

"Business finished." Raul reached over and gently patted Henry's butt, "But we've just begun. Time to leave the desert."

In tandem the two men continued closer to the G550 - its twin Rolls Royce turbofan jets humming quietly. Henry impulsively grabbed Ral's hand and felt Ral take a firm grip. At the stairway, Henry was encouraged to board first. 'This dude probably wants to check out my butt up close,' Henry thought as Ral followed from behind. He ducked at the opening, looked into the dark cockpit and automatically turned to his right. Before him, standing in a wood-paneled bar area, was a smiling young man in dark pants and a polo shirt. Henry nodded and continued on into the cabin. In one of the four large, cushy tan leather club chairs Ricky was talking on his cell. Ricky winked and pointed for Henry to continue on back to another grouping of seats in the rear of the cabin.

Ral moved closer, put his hands on Henry's hips and said in a low seductive voice, "Let's sit in the rear section. Ricky likes the front."

"That's fine," Henry replied. The splendor of the soft walls, deep carpet, upholstered sofa and more over-sized chairs left him almost speechless. As he slowly strolled further into the cabin, memories of squeezing into the usually booked economy class - and hoping he wasn't assigned center seating - came to mind. As he slid into the roomy seat, Henry felt a peace of mind flood over his body.

"Although it's not required, I suggest you buckle up...just to be on the safe side," Ral said as he joined Henry in an adjoining seat. "Our steward is chilling down the Dom Perignon and it should be ready to drink once we get to our cruising altitude. And there are snacks available if you get hungry."

"I'm too excited to think about food right now...just give me a little while." Henry heard the subtle whine of the stairway being retracted and a bump when the door shut into the fuselage. The lights dimmed momentarily when the jet engines screamed a little louder - announcing they were on their way.

"There's very little traffic this time of night." Ral put his hand on Henry's leg and added, "We should be able to taxi onto the active runway and be off within moments."

The jet gently bounced over the concrete apron, slowly lumbered to the end of the runway and turned to hold for takeoff. Henry could see traffic on the streets beyond the airport perimeter and was a little surprised to see two vehicles approaching with emergency lights. At first, he thought it was some sort of runway safety procedure until the lights got closer. 'Oh, shit,' he thought as he gripped the arms of the seat, 'this can't be good.'

The steward approached the seats as the engines were throttled back and said to Ral, "Sir, the pilot has asked me to inform you that we're being denied takeoff. The police will be boarding momentarily to search for a Rory Reed." The man looked at Henry and shrugged slightly with a forgiving expression.

"Tell my brother what's going on and open the door." Ral waited for the steward to walk forward before he looked at Henry and continued with a deeply burrowed frown, "I have no idea how this happened, but there are no options. You understand?" There was urgency about his last words.

"Yeah...I get the picture." Henry felt his breathing speed increase as he unbuckled his safety belt. "I'm royally fucked...but how do I handle this so that Ricky and you aren't in any trouble?" His lip trembled a little as he held back a flood of tears. "I...I don't want to see you guys sucked into my problems." Like in the Marine Corps, he knew that his first responsibility was to minimize losses.

"I appreciate that...and regret that we won't be together," Ral replied as he patted Henry's back. "Here's how we play this: that I only know you as a nice guy - Henry...what's the last name?"

"Cummings," Henry replied as Ricky arrived in the back area. He heard a noise at the front of the jet and knew that the door was opening.

"Henry Cummings. have I.D. with that name, as I recall. Let's say that we met at a bar, became attracted to each other and were going down to Colombia for a week of fun. Period. Telling the truth as much as possible won't get anyone into trouble. We don't lie about anything other than Ricky and I not knowing your real identity."

"And omitting my guest last night," Ricky said. "That kid should be out of the picture...forgotten completely."

"Then that's it," Ral said with ominous finality. "I'm distressed that this has happened..."

"But it's out of your control. I understand." Henry looked into Ral's eyes and fleetingly thought about how it could have been. A shiver shot through his body.

Ral leaned over and kissed Henry gently on the cheek. "And don't worry about lawyers. Our family has ties with one of the best firms in L.A. - they can assign one of their hotshots to represent you. You take care of us and we'll take care of you." He unbuckled and stood up. "You stay in your seat while Ricky and I meet the police. One other thing; forget about that other name we discussed for your new identity."

After a silent nod, Henry mouthed a "thank you" and watched the brothers walk forward. The hopes and aspirations for a new life - as Henry Palma and lover of Ral Caldern - were permanently dashed. As he looked out the window, a chalky image of Harvey Fine came to mind.

The flashing lights of three police cars surrounded the stopped jet at the far end of the active runway. Oleg sat with Giorgio in the front seats of the Escape and watched the activity. "I think that's our guy," Oleg said when he saw two cops walk down the aircraft steps with a third man in tow. At that distance, it was hard to make out facial details; it looked like the man without a discernable uniform was wearing a tank top and jeans. "Yes," he said as the men stopped in front of one of the squad car's headlights, "that's definitely Rory."

"My super sleuth pal strikes again," Giorgio replied with a chuckle. He rubbed Oleg's brush cut and added, "Good work."

"Thanks go to my undying thirst for Kendall-Jackson chardonnay and wanting to be a good host to the hot stud sitting next to me." Oleg smiled and stole a quick kiss in the darkness of the shadowy parking lot. "Like a lot of my work, it was just some amazing luck. Speaking of which, I should check in with Lamanna so we can leave this place." He was also curious about the other passengers in the jet, who were walking down the stairway with more uniformed police.

"In my humble opinion," Giorgio said, "how someone recognizes and handles luck will usually determine his success."

"Sounds like some interesting pillow talk." Oleg called Lamanna's cell and it was picked up after the first ring. "Hi, Joe...I'm watching your man being frog walked to a black and white on the runway."

"That's great news," Detective Lamanna replied. "My last report from Palm Springs was that the aircraft had been ordered not to take off and that officers were going to board. I can confirm that it's the Calderns' business jet, and that Ricardo and Ral Caldern entered our country earlier in the week."

"Two adult males have just deplaned under escort of Palm Springs' finest. They're probably Ricardo and Ral." As Oleg spoke he heard muffled music coming from the center console and he recognized the digital opening chords of The William Tell Overture. Giorgio frowned, lifted up the console top and retrieved an iPhone.

"I'll find out in a few minutes. Should I call you back with the information?"

"Joe, unless there's some strange twist to things, I don't need to know all the gory details. Why don't we touch base sometime next week?" Oleg turned to Giorgio and watched him shake his head with a scowl before answering the call.

"Sounds good...and I'm buying. As you know, this was a big deal for me. Bye, Oleg."

Oleg turned to Giorgio and watched as the lawyer listened intently to the iPhone receiver. Giorgio's expression changed from a frown, to an arched eyebrow, and finally, a series of negative shakes of his head.

"Freddy," Giorgio said with a gruff tone, "tell me again why I should be doing this shit detail on my day off. I'm a divorce lawyer for Christ's sake." He continued to listen with obvious distaste as Freddy went on with a lengthy discourse. "Okay, owe me, big time. I'm donating one billable hour to the coffers of our firm. But you get one of your team out to the desert first thing tomorrow morning to handle further developments. This is a stop-gap only." Giorgio listened to one final comment and said, "I'll take care of it. Yeah, yeah...I love you, too." He turned off the iPhone and sighed, "They found me for you know what."

"The 'they' being your law firm?" Oleg asked.

"Yes...and 'you know what' is legal representation being requested by Ral Caldern...A.S.A.P. For him, his brother and their passenger." Giorgio shook his head and continued, "The phone I just answered is for emergencies only at the firm - that's how I was tracked down. My other cell was left in L.A. so you and I could have some quality time together. Some quality, huh?"

"Guess we're both muddying the waters." Oleg took Giorgio's hand and squeezed hard. "So, what's the deal?"

"Freddy Fielder is our managing partner and, I now know, in charge of the Caldern account. He got a call from Ral moments ago and you can guess the rest - I just happen to be the partner who's in Palm Springs. All partners are required to identify their geographic location on weekends."

"Makes sense. It's the same with AOI," Oleg replied.

"I was about ready to tell Freddy to go fuck himself when he played the trump card: MEI, Inc. and the Caldern family are worth about three mil in fees per year. I may have been told that but forgot - I usually keep busy with pissed off spouses and the resulting divorce process. Long and the short of it: not even your humble barrister can refuse to be of service to protect this amount of business. Sorry."

"Don't worry." Oleg noticed that a caravan of police cars was driving away from the jet towards the public passenger terminal area. "The central police headquarters is almost across the street from the airport and I suggest we drive over there so you can do your thing. In fact, why don't you let me drive and I'll drop you off. This will give me a chance to get the house ready and I can return to pick you up in an hour. I'd also just as soon not be seen at their headquarters. There are too many detectives that I know and they may misread my presence."

"Fine with me. Makes it painless...and minimal. I do my 'one for the gipper' routine and show the flag."

"And later," Oleg replied with a seductive leer, "we can wave our own flags."

"Any time, any place. Or as Dubbya said, 'bring it on'." Oleg wanted to add 'love ya, babe' but decided to muffle the sentiments until a more proper moment and place.

Giorgio and Oleg disengaged their seatbelts and got out of the SUV at the same time. At the rear of the Escape, in the relative darkness of the parking area, the two men embraced and indulged in a let's fuck later kiss. Oleg playfully cupped Giorgio's growing bulge before they released, switched seats and re-buckled. Oleg started the Escape and began the short drive to the police station.

A drained wine bottle and two empty glasses sat on the coffee table in Oleg's home. 'My batcave,' he thought with satisfaction. The two men, wearing terry robes, snuggled next to each other with their backs resting on pillows in front of low-burning logs in the flagstone fireplace. The conclusion of a long day and unforeseen drama.

True to his word, Giorgio masterfully handled the details at the Palm Springs police headquarters: officially recording Korshak, Hoberman and Williams as the legal representation for Henry Wiedermeier, aka, Rory Reed; and steered the Caldern brothers through their denial of knowing anything about the prisoner's charged crimes or his real identity. Because of the brothers' status in the international business community, they were released to return to their local residence - pending further questioning. Freddy Fielder, himself, would be in Palm Springs the next morning to sort out any other legal details and be present for further police questioning of all parties. Gratefully, Ricky and Ral said goodbye to Giorgio as they all stood outside the sprawling brick police building. In the loading zone was a metallic gray Bentley and a beige Ford Escape waiting for their respective passengers.

"So, what do you think?" Oleg asked, "Are the brothers lying?"

"Hard to tell. They have their stories in synch and I doubt if the detectives will successfully find discrepancies. My brief time with that hunky sexpot, Henry, also didn't give me any discovery of details that could trap the brothers. Bottom line - I think that this was some sort of expensive escort thing. Henry had a roll of hundred dollar bills in his jeans pocket...almost five grand. Even if the brothers knew Henry was Rory, I don't think we're ever going to discover the real story. The one odd thing about this is that the Calderns are paying for the guy's defense. That'll be expensive."

"Maybe Henry has something he's holding over their heads? Though I doubt that we'll ever find out." Oleg smiled when he considered that Henry-Rory was the catalyst that had brought this gorgeous man into his life.

"Or care to find out. Fielder's got the case now and is indebted to me for applying my skills on a weekend." Giorgio sighed, slipped his hand under Oleg's robe and gently stroked Oleg's resting cock.

"Mmmm, I like the skills that you're applying now," Oleg purred. He pulled his robe open and watched as Giorgio's fingers rolled his balls around in his scrotum. "We've fucked, swum, had some wine and it's just after midnight. We're both too wound up to go to sleep...any suggestions?"

"Yeah, babe. Let's make love...real love." Giorgio's eyes were glistening as he moved in for a long, passionate kiss.

"Love ya, babe." Oleg knew that this was the right moment to voice his earlier thought.


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