The Lure, page 11
“Release a lot of tension?” Rick asked.
“I suppose so.”
“How do you like the club?”
“I’ve never been in anything like it.”
“There isn’t anything like it.”
“Not true,” Jimmy corrected. “There’s Clouds. That’s uptown.”
“Yeah, but we couldn’t fuck on the dance floor up at Clouds,” Rick said.
“We don’t fuck on the dance floor here.”
“But we could if we wanted to,” Rick insisted.
Jimmy made a grimace, then turned to Noel. “You see the dipshit I have to put up with? Men I like. It’s the male ego I can’t stand.”
“You have exactly the same ego,” Rick challenged.
“That’s the problem!”
“And the fun,” Rick came back, hugging Jimmy, eager to please him. They hesitated, then began to kiss. Noel watched them a minute, then turned around to the long bar, embarrassed. Somehow he never really believed Rick did this, though he had always assumed it. It was weird, seeing it. Weird.
He turned fully around, facing out toward the dance floor, past a mirrored portal like the one they’d come through into the Window Wall. Silhouettes of couples were pressed against the portal’s mirrored walls, holding each other close, kissing. Most of the couples were men: a few mixed. Unlike the Grip, this was the heart of Loomis’s metaphorical jungle. Mr. X’s turf. Enemy territory.
The attar of roses again.
Noel turned to see where it was coming from. There were no flowers nearby, only flowing Boston ferns hung everywhere over the bar.
“Hey, are you guys going to boogie?” Wendy asked.
“Not now,” Jimmy said, his words half smothered by necking.
The smell of roses, still. And now the hair, too, unmistakably the same hair passing by Noel. Her voice, too, although it took him a second or two to be certain, and he couldn’t hear what she was saying to the young man she was walking with.
Noel kept his place, but shifted his position until he could follow them around the curve of the bar, where they stopped, surrounded by dangling fronds of fern. The man merely leaned over the top of the bar, and a bartender was there, taking his order.
Meanwhile, the woman turned and gazed at Noel, and as she did one hand went up to brush the dark hair away from her face. Her dark eyes said, Go on, admire me, I know I’m beautiful, before she half turned away, toward her companion, showing Noel the high slim shoulders bared to a low V, emerging out of her high, small buttocks.
She was talking to the man, very close to him, but he looked at Noel instead, until their drinks were set in front of them. Noel stared back at the lucky man with the sultry, slim European beauty at his side. Just right, he thought to himself; visually, exactly the right companion for her, this sturdy, young strawberry blond with the tiny, well-cropped mustache, the cleancut features, the deep-set, almost Slavically angled eyes. The two of them might be models for an expensive brandy advertisement in some glossy, overpriced magazine.
Drawn to her, Noel couldn’t take his eyes off the pair, even though the man was now intensely glaring—as if to warn him off.
“You like that type?” someone asked behind Noel.
“What type?” he asked, turning enough to see the voice belonged to Miguel, Vega’s friend and sex partner from the Grip.
“The Decadent WASP Type. The sharecropper’s kid making good.”
“Is that what she is?” As he said it, Noel realized what a stupid slip it was. Miguel arched one eyebrow and pointedly said:
“That’s what he is. Or what he’d like to think he is.”
“You know him?” Noel asked, hoping to undo the damage.
“He’s on the scene,” Miguel said enigmatically, leaning against Noel in a way that made him take half a step back.
“Are they always together?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes he’s alone.” Miguel still didn’t seem convinced. He went on to say, “She’s Alana De Vijt. A big model. Several hundred bucks an hour. He’s Eric the Red. You’ve heard of Eric the Red, haven’t you?” A challenge.
“Can’t say I have. I’m from out of town, remember?”
“A lot of guys from Frisco know Eric. He’s one of the city’s hottest dominants. Probably the best-known sado in the country.”
“He looks like an insurance salesman,” Noel said.
“Very clean-cut,” Miguel agreed. “But hot. H.O.T.”
Several people came between Noel and the couple. He was sure Miguel was lying about them. The man had clearly not liked Noel looking at his woman. Where were Jimmy and Chaffee? Gone. Dancing probably.
“You really never heard of Eric the Red?” Miguel insisted.
Noel didn’t like Miguel, nor the nasty way the question was asked.
“Sure. His son, Leif, discovered New Foundland in the eleventh century.”
“I thought you was on the scene in Frisco?” Miguel went on.
“I thought you were. Buddy said you were. He said you worked in a hot, hot place out there. The Slot. On Sixteenth Street. Didn’t you work there? Huh? Huh?”
That sounded like a trap. Noel began to think fast.
“So what?” Noel challenged back, fighting down panic.
“Or maybe you had a lover out there?”
“Oh yeah! Who? What was his name?”
“You wouldn’t know him. He was very straight. At the university.”
“That’s in Berkeley. Across the bridge. Remember?”
Real insistent now, real obnoxious.
“And the Slot isn’t on Sixteenth Street, either,” Noel hazarded.
“Oh, yeah! Where is it? Who the fuck do you think you’re jiving, man? Not me!”
Miguel glared at him. The questioning, the threat, scared Noel. He knew it was from Vega, all his doing. But it wasn’t any the better for that. If Miguel weren’t the one Loomis had heard the “rumors” from, that person was probably nearby. Noel knew that if he left now, moved away, it would be interpreted as giving in, admitting he was a decoy.
“Well?” Miguel said, his face contorted now, only inches from Noel’s. “Well? What do you have to say about that, man?”
Noel slowly leaned back against the bar: “I say the Slot is not on Sixteenth Street. And I say you’re full of shit!”
Miguel stared at him as though unable to believe it.
“Full of downs, I’d say,” someone drawled nearby.
It was Little Larry Vitale, coming up between the two of them to the bar. He put one hand up on Noel’s shoulder, and winked at him.
Why did he do that? Unless…Jesus! Could Little Larry be the cover Loomis said would be watching Noel?
“You got any reds?” Miguel asked in a totally different tone of voice.
“Ate ’em all,” Larry said.
Miguel turned around and began asking other people for downs.
“You having a good time tonight?” Larry asked, still half holding on to Noel, talking in his exaggerated drawl.
“Watch out for that spic. He’s crazy as shit,” Larry whispered. “Hey Miguel! Come here and tell Noel why they call you Maria the Loca?”
If Larry was the cover what was he doing now?
“Hey, Little Larry. You know this guy?” Miguel asked.
“Sure I do.”
“Yeah. Well I don’t like him. He’s not straight.”
“Neither are you. Neither am I.”
“You know what I mean. Don’t go twist it up. Somethin’s not right about him.”
“How many Seconals you on?” Larry asked.
“Three. But I always take three to go dancing. You sure he’s all right? You two gettin’ it on?”
“Yeah. Why? You jealous?”
Noel felt the boy’s arm circle his waist, taking the belt in a loose grip. He had to be the cover Loomis had sent.
“No,” Miguel said, backin
“Good. Why don’t you just fuck off now,” Larry said, “and leave us be?”
Miguel didn’t like that. But he moved away, talking along the bar to some other people, asking for downs.
“That guy gives me the creeps,” Noel said.
“Me, too. We’d better get out of here, now.” So he was Loomis’s cover!
Noel took that as an order. A few minutes later they were trying to push through the crowd at the coat check counter.
“Hey! You leaving already?” Jimmy DiNadio asked.
He spotted Larry, gave a significant look at Noel, then got Rick’s attention, and nodded toward Noel and Larry.
This might be the best thing that happened tonight, Noel thought, his leaving with Loomis’s cover. They were certain to think he and Larry were going home to fuck. Let them.
Although it was three in the morning, there seemed to be people coming in all the time, all of them trying to check their clothes.
“We’ll be here an hour,” Noel groaned, as they looked over the mob in front of the counter.
“Give me your coat check,” Larry said. “I know one of the girls. I’ll get our things fast.”
Noel did as he was told, and leaned against one of the mirrored entranceways, watching the crowd of newcomers, among whom were several Grip patrons who recognized him with a nod or short greeting. Loomis had been right: coming here tonight had probably been the best all-around way of establishing his credentials with this group. But where was Larry with the jackets?
Noel wandered to the edge of the crowd again, failing to find his little companion. When he turned back to the entranceway where he’d been waiting, he was surprised to see Miguel going out and down the ramp fast, followed by someone larger and somewhat familiar. But they were gone in a flash, and the lighting was so dim and the changing colors so distorting, Noel wasn’t certain.
“Here we go,” Larry said, thrusting the bomber jacket at Noel. They swung on their outerwear and walked down the ramp.
“I thought I saw Miguel leave,” Noel said. “With another guy.”
“Yeah?” Larry asked, clearly displeased. “Who?”
“I couldn’t see.”
It was raining hard outside, the unexpected storm further blackening the darkness just beyond the bright glare of the club’s strong lights. No one else was waiting in the circular foyer. Noel and Larry turned up their collars and walked out.
Larry walked fast, silent, through the downpour. They crossed a side street and turned down a barely lit deserted street fronted by blank-walled warehouses on each side. Noel began to get nervous.
After another block and a turn onto an even darker street, he turned around and thought he saw two figures suddenly dart from the sidewalk into a doorway.
“Come on,” Larrry urged, waiting for him to catch up.
“How much farther?”
“A little more.”
The downpour worsened, and they hurried, leaning in close to the partially protecting building walls. But Noel couldn’t help but look around again. Again he saw the two figures, and this time he was certain who they were—Miguel and Buddy Vega.
He grabbed Larry by the shoulder and shouted in his ear. They both turned to look, water streaming over their heads and faces.
“I don’t see anyone,” Larry said, and looked at Noel strangely.
“I’m soaked. Let’s run for it,” Noel said, trying to hold back his fear.
They sprinted another block or so, then around a corner and into a deep entryway with a steel door. As Larry was opening the elevator door, Noel looked back at the street. It was empty. Not even a parked car. But he was certain they’d been followed.
At least with Larry he’d be safe.
He felt even safer when they arrived at the large, split-level loft and Little Larry carefully locked the elevator’s steel door behind them.
“You live alone?” Noel asked, trying to regain his poise.
“Me and some other guys.”
On either side of the dimly lighted living and dining areas, staircases led to other rooms. Larry dropped his jacket, got a towel for himself and Noel, and began to dry himself off, leading Noel up one stairway that rose above a very contemporary kitchen and breakfast nook.
“Come on,” Larry said, motioning Noel to follow.
“This is my space,” he said, closing the door.
It was a large room with no windows but a sizable skylight, decorated as Noel was beginning to think half the city was: sparse furniture, deep carpeting, pillows everywhere, a small table, a bedspring and mattresses dominating the room, with a tumbled rug throw covering it. A large closet with sliding wood doors held an elaborate stereo system—tuner, amplifier, turntable, and the ubiquitous reel-to-reel tape deck which Larry flicked on, moving to slide open another door to reveal a small bar.
“I’ve got vodka and wine,” Larry said. “Get comfortable. Sit down. Take off your shoes.”
Noel did, removing his work shoes and propping himself against the bed.
“How are you feeling now?” Larry asked, sitting down close to him.
“All right. Thanks for getting me out of there.”
“A pleasure,” Larry drawled. At the same time Noel felt the boy’s hand slide over his thigh and come to rest high up. What the hell?
“What’s wrong?” Larry’s hand had stopped with Noel’s involuntary flinch.
Then Larry wasn’t Loomis’s cover! Who was he? Not Mr. X? He couldn’t be!
“You all right?” The boy’s tone was even. “You can talk, can’t you? You aren’t dusted, are you? That new crystal going around is freaking a lot of people.” His hand didn’t move, radiating warmth from Noel’s inseam like a heated metal glove.
“No,” Noel managed. “I guess I got a little too high tonight.”
He began to get up, succeeding in getting the boy’s hand off him, but not in getting enough balance to stand. He slid back into the pillows.
Larry laughed the way a child would: with open delight.
“Where are you going, man?” He leaned forward and put both hands on Noel’s thighs. Before Noel could understand what was happening, the boy moved in and brushed his lips.
Larry pulled back and cocked his head to one side.
“Don’t tell me: you don’t like to kiss?”
He wasn’t Mr. X. He wasn’t. What a joke!
“Not really,” Noel admitted.
“Miguel was right. You are strange.”
Not Loomis’s cover, either. But almost as bad as either Mr. X or Miguel. The way Noel handled himself here, now, with Larry would determine his reputation at the Grip. That in turn would determine whether or not Noel would be discovered. And if he were discovered, no need for an abandoned warehouse. They could kill him in his own bed. Consequences. Lots of consequences out of this. Go easy.
“I’m a little weirded out,” Noel explained, fixing a look on the boy’s dark young eyes. “You know, with Miguel and all…”
“He’s got the hots for you. A lot of guys do. You know what they call you? The San Francisco Virgin. Funny, huh?”
“Because I don’t go to bed with someone every night?” Noel asked, pointing the remark as an accusation.
“No, man. Because you don’t go to bed with anyone! Not in a month. It’s unnatural. Probably unhygienic, too.” He began stroking Noel’s upper thigh. “Look at you! You don’t even like being touched, do you? What are you into? Kink? Fists? Scat? Tell me, man! If I haven’t done it, I’ll try it. I want to please you. What is it? S and M? Bondage? Come on. Tell me. It’s cool.”
He would, Noel knew, he would. “No, really. It’s just that I’m not up to it. I’ve had a hard week at the bar, and…”
“Why don’t you just relax?” the boy said softly. “That’s it, just lay back and relax a little, man. You don’t have to do a thing. All right? That what you want? It’s cool.”
Noel allowed himself to sink into
Words from gymnasium locker rooms. From sudden adolescent revelations, followed by an embarrassed silence. It had always excited him to think of, always excited any boy or man he’d ever known. And this kid was good at it, Jesus! What was that he was handing up? A popper. Glossary Number 156: Amyl Nitrite. Drug used for victims of angina pectoris. Discovered to be one of the grooviest of sudden highs. In one nostril, into the other. Here we go. Jesus! It really did get you high! And this kid is incredible! Jesus! Who would have thought?…
He climaxed so hard his body went rigid and he involuntarily sat up, trying to push the delirious boy’s head away, fell back again, and finally got Larry off him and rolled over.
When he looked up, Larry was breathing hard, smiling that shared, forbidden-fun, mischievous smile. “You like that a little? Huh?”
Noel felt the fur underneath him like a thousand caressing hands.
“I guess you did. Why don’t we take a rest? Have a little wine, some grass, and do it again?” He smiled. “Maybe a little something else, too?”
The boy stood and slowly stripped down, then lay down next to Noel: lithe, androgynous, waiting, smiling.
Noel awakened suddenly, sitting up in bed.
His first thought was that he was not in his own apartment. His second was that he had failed to do something.
Then he saw Larry stretched out next to him, an arm thrown over Noel’s pillow, the fingers seeming to twitch as the boy slept. Their movement had probably awakened Noel.
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