The Lure, page 15
“What are you waiting for?” Randy asked.
“I’m not waiting,” Noel said, and leaned forward to begin the massage. As he worked over the man’s upper back, he felt the heat rise from Randy’s skin to his own. Every movement of his hands on Randy’s body brought a soft mutter, a groan, a twist of a limb, a flex of another muscle. Noel felt as though he were mounted bareback on some large animal. He began to perspire.
“That feels terrific. You really know how to do it, don’t you?” He inched up a little on the lounge. “Go a little lower down, man. It’s really tense there.”
Moving down, Noel found his legs suddenly wrapped up in Randy’s. “Hey, we’re caught,” he said.
“I know.” It was said with amusement.
“Well, let go.”
“Why? Does it bother you?” His legs tightened around Noel.
Noel tried to pick Randy’s hard-muscled legs off the backs of his thighs. “He’s watching.”
As he said it, Randy twisted almost to a sitting position. Noel lost his balance. His left arm was pulled in front, his right arm crossed over against Randy’s chest. Noel was now pinned arms and legs on top of Randy.
“I give up,” he said. “You’ve had your fun.”
“Not yet I haven’t,” Randy said.
Noel began to feel the warm flesh under him slowly begin to gyrate, and then to move forward and back under him. He was sweating now, burning up with the proximity. He felt his face flush with shame, tried to reason with Randy. “Hey! Don’t do that,” he said in Nerone’s ear, only an inch from his mouth. Noel was cursing himself for being duped.
“Why not?” Randy answered in a low, faraway voice. Then, “Why not, huh? Afraid of something? Afraid of a little fun?”
Noel struggled to free himself, but Nerone only held on tighter, still gyrating, still taunting him. When he finally couldn’t fight anymore, he collapsed against the big, hot, smooth-skinned body. The flesh that met his groin seemed to reach up and envelop him. In seconds he felt pulled into undulating softness.
“Jesus!” he gasped.
“It gets better, man,” Nerone said. “Believe me. I can either get you off this way, or I can let your arms and legs loose, and really let you take me. Which will it be, huh, man?”
Noel’s body began to answer for him. His kindling point had been hit, and he knew suddenly without willing it or wanting it, that there was no going back now. Randy would get what he wanted.
Noel closed his eyes, trying to fantasize he was with a woman. That worked for a while, then was unnecessary—all he could think of now was how to reach orgasm as fast as possible. His entire body seemed to be embedded in that point of him that was more tightly clasped than he could ever recall it being.
“Yeah!” Randy hissed, letting Noel’s arms loose. “Put it to me your way, man. Yeah!” He seemed to be vibrating from inside out.
Inside him, it was as if a dozen hands were opening and closing around Noel all at once.
“I hope that son of a bitch is still watching,” Noel mumbled as the mindlessness of climax swept over him.
“Who else was there?” Loomis said.
“Myself, Chaffee, Malchuck, Tim Matthews, Goldberg and his lover, Dorrance, Eric, and Alana. Oh, and a manservant. Okko, or Okku, Randy called him.”
“You didn’t mention Randy.”
“Sure I did. Earlier. He came upstairs with Dorrance. They’d had an argument, I said. Remember?”
“Now I remember,” Loomis admitted.
“Maybe it’s because I told you that over an hour ago.”
They had been on the loop at least that long, going over detail after detail. Noel felt finally that he was earning the money that had arrived in a long, pale blue envelope two days before: his salary from Whisper. Of course it was in the form of a stipend payment from a fictitious Social Work Research Agency in Albany, supposed to be helping to finance his thesis. Noel hadn’t minded depositing the check in his account. But this repetition was getting tedious.
“Let me get this straight,” Loomis asked. “Randy’s the one you said was the Mr. X type. Right? What happened to him?”
“Nothing. He’s leaving Le Pissoir. Going back to school, he said. Dorrance told him it was bad timing. He wanted Randy to stay on for another month.”
“He told you that?”
“Randy did. We talked.”
“At the pool? Where were the others?”
“I told you. On the second floor. Watching a movie.”
“Except for Dorrance. Who’d already left the house?”
“I assume. But I don’t know where he went. No one said. And, except for Eric. He was watching us outside the pool.”
“What did Nerone say about Dorrance?”
“Only that they’d argued, then reached some sort of agreement. I still don’t know why he invited us to his house for dinner.”
“It’s not his house,” Loomis said
“It’s not? Whose is it?”
“It belongs to a corporation called Raynita, an affiliate of the Hull-Redfern Electronics Corporation, Rye, New York. The tenant listed with the city tax register is Eric Hull Redfern.”
That was odd, Noel thought. Why hadn’t the Fisherman told him that before he went? Not that it made any real difference. Or did it? Wasn’t Noel supposed to be trying to find Mr. X based on his lifestyle? What was the sense of trying to psych Dorrance out through someone else’s home? Noel decided to let it slide for the moment. Instead, he said, “Well, that might explain Eric’s attitude toward me.
“Hostile. Suspicious. That is…he was sort of interested in me. He played around as though he was. But it wasn’t clear, either.”
“You rejected him and he got hostile? Did he talk to Randy, too?”
“During dinner, yes. You know, Fish, I couldn’t really figure this Eric out. He came on to me sexually, yet he lives with this beautiful woman.”
“This is the same guy who’s called ‘Eric the Red’? The well-known sadist?”
“Then he’s gay,” Loomis reasoned.
“But they’re lovers. I know it. You would know it.”
“Because he didn’t like me looking at her.”
Loomis was silent a long time.
“What’s wrong? Are you still there?” Noel asked.
“Noel,” Loomis said quietly. “Noel. Noel. Noel. Listen to me for a minute, will you? If you’re supposed to be homosexual, which you are supposed to be, you’re not supposed to look at another man’s woman, except if you’re crazy about her dress or something. And with someone that close to Dorrance, too! Don’t you care to live to be middle-aged?”
“It’s all right,” Noel said quickly. “I fixed it up.”
“How?” Loomis didn’t seem persuaded.
Noel was silent. Then he said, “While Eric was watching outside the pool, I sort of let someone…you know?”
“With whom, if you don’t mind telling me?”
“Jesus! You are crazy. I thought he was Mr. X’s boyfriend?”
“I was trapped into it. I had no choice. I didn’t want to do it, believe me.”
Silence. Then: “When do you see Dorrance again?”
“You have to see him again. You’ve already made contact and you’ve survived. So, it’s working, as I thought it would. You’re further than any of the previous p.c.’s. Didn’t I tell you that Mr. X could smell a cop? He hasn’t even really noticed you. We have a good thing going, let’s not have it slip away from us. I want you to see Dorrance again. In that town house, if possible. The offices are probably there.”
“I don’t know. Eric didn’t like me at all. And Dorrance hasn’t even nibbled yet.”
“He nibbled on Randy, didn’t he? Stick to him until Dorra
“But Randy’s leaving in a few weeks.”
“Get back into that town house,” Loomis said. “I don’t care what you have to do to get in there.”
Noel had never heard that tone of voice from Loomis before; he didn’t care for it at all. “Or whom I have to screw to do it?” he asked harshly.
“I didn’t say that, Lure.”
“But you meant it.”
“It couldn’t have been all that bad. What did you do? Tell me. You didn’t…?”
“I told you enough already,” Noel said as curtly as possible, hoping to discourage any further discussion on the subject. He’d been bothered by it, had badly felt the need to confide in someone about it, if only to confirm for himself that he really had been forced into it. Loomis was the only person he could confide in. But now that he had, Noel wished he hadn’t said a word.
“Guys do it all the time,” Loomis said airily.
“Evidently.” Couldn’t Loomis see that wasn’t the point?
“I mean you don’t have to be homosexual to do it. A lot of guys do it when there are no women. In prison. In the Navy.”
“I don’t care,” Noel said. The Fisherman hadn’t been there, with Eric looking in the little window, with Randy’s body wrapped around him like a python, what the hell could he know?
“I’m not kidding, Lure, I had a buddy who was in Japan after the war. Big blond guy. Swede or something. He goes into this geisha house where the people have never seen anything like him, right? So the girls are scared shitless, thinking he’s some sort of devil. And they send out one of their teenaged brothers, all got up to look like one of them. The Swede’s drunk on rice wine. So it wasn’t until he was done with the kid…”
“I don’t care,” Noel repeated, not hiding his annoyance now. “I’ll chalk it up to experience. You know, for the book. Empirical research. Going native. Big anthropological breakthrough, as Boyle would say. Can I hang up now?”
“Sure. Sure,” Loomis said, evidently perplexed by the tone of Noel’s voice. “But stay near Dorrance, hear?”
“And be careful, will you? If you want a piece of ass, do it quietly.”
“I just had a piece of ass,” Noel said.
“You know what I mean. Good night, Lure.”
“I’ll take all that stuff uptown, if you don’t have the time,” Noel offered.
He was with Chaffee in the downstairs office of the Grip. Rick was surrounded by paperwork connected with the opening of the new club: construction contracts, bills, estimates, letters of agreement.
“It would save time,” Rick said. Then: “You like going up there, don’t you?”
“Not really. Too fancy for me.”
“The last time I was there, I saw Beauty and the Beast, and listened to two Charlie Parker tapes that were never commercially released. Not to mention other amenities—Primo Acapulco Gold grass and the best coke in town, just begging to be snorted.”
He knew Chaffee was well aware of the good drugs and other fun available at Redfern’s place, but Noel still wanted to make sure Rick took it as the only reason for his going there.
“Bullshit, Cummings! I know why you’re really going there.”
Oh, oh, Noel thought. Here it comes. Vega’s told him I’m an agent for Whisper. This is it. Because if he knows, so does Mr. X.
“Well, don’t keep it from me.” His voice was light, joking, but he had to move closer to the desk to keep the sudden spasmodic jerking of his left knee out of Rick’s sight. The office seemed cramped as a grave. He broke out into a sweat. Rick kept smiling.
“Hey, I know.” Rick was offhanded about it.
“What do you know?” Noel asked, trying to be equally casual.
“I’ve got eyes. You’re looking for a rich husband. You and Eric are getting it on, aren’t you?”
Instant relief. “You’re kidding. You were there when we first met. He can’t stand me. It’s like fire and water.”
“Or oil and fire. One feeding the other.”
“Well, it’s not. I go up there because I like the amenities. Can you blame me?”
“I still think you’re bullshitting me. Here, go on. Get.” Chaffee handed him the envelope.
“These don’t have to go right away, do they?” Noel asked. “I’d like to stop at home. You know, clean up a little.”
“In case water and fire do start to mix?”
On his way to the apartment, Noel stopped at the newsstand three blocks from where he lived. As he entered, a woman was at the counter talking to the proprietor. Another customer—a man—was looking over the extensive shelf of paperback books. Noel glanced at them, then went up to the counter, set down the manila envelope he’d taken from Rick, nonchalantly covered it with his jacket, and went over to the book section.
The woman left a minute later, and the proprietor disappeared into the back room. As planned, the envelope was gone, taken by him into the rear of the store where Noel knew a Whisper operative would immediately photocopy it in preparation for putting it on microfilm later on. The whole process seldom took more than five minutes, but Loomis had insisted it be done extracautiously.
Noel glanced over the paperbacks, then selected some magazines and thumbed through them.
“Try this one,” the other customer said. He was holding out a body magazine. He must have been in his mid-thirties, with a ruddy, pleasant face, small blond mustache, long, curling reddish hair, dressed in an expensively cut French or Italian suit with one of those drop-dead forty-dollar silk ties seen only in shops on Madison Avenue.
“Thanks, I’ve already seen it.”
“You live around here?”
A Whisper operative—despite the expensive clothing—also waiting to have something photocopied? Or, one of X’s men who’d somehow discovered what was going on here? He hadn’t turned around when Noel had come in, nor when the manila envelope had been taken. But Noel decided to keep him occupied anyway, at least until the papers had been slipped back under his jacket.
“A few blocks away, why?”
“Haven’t I seen you before?”
“Probably. I come in here often.”
“No. I meant somewhere else. Downtown. In the Village.”
“I tend bar. The Grip.”
The man’s eyes narrowed as though he were picturing Noel behind the bar. “And you read Psychology Today, Human Nature, and Scientific American. ”
“I’m not illiterate. I went to school.”
“Fallen on hard times?”
“Sort of. It doesn’t bother me.”
“What did you study?”
“Psychology.” Noel held out the magazines. “The usual. I thought I’d become a clinical psychologist.”
“I have a friend at the Upstate Medical Center.” He named someone Noel had never heard of. “Maybe he could help you. You have your degree, don’t you?”
“Everyone has a degree,” Noel said, playing out the role he had just adopted.
“My friend could set you up with—something. And if that didn’t work maybe you could try something else. I know a lot of important people.”
“No kidding?” Noel said, all innocence, trying not to behave as though it were the oldest line in the history of mankind.
“Why don’t you come around the corner? We’ll have a smoke, a drink, talk this out.”
“I can’t right now. Someone’s expecting me in half an hour.”
He heard the storeowner return, the barely audible rustle of his jacket being lifted, the envelope placed under it again.
“Maybe another time,” the man said, handing Noel a business card.
Bill Clay Flanders III, it read. An address nearby: no apartment number. He must own a town house. So he wasn’t a fake.
Noel had a sudden floating feeling. Here was an attractive, well-heeled, totally inoffensive person offering to help him out after only
It was common enough among most of the gays Noel had met. Rick had suggested it was the reason Noel was going up to Redfern’s town house, not knowing that he was following orders, trying to see as much as he could of Dorrance, if only to placate an increasingly edgy and annoying Loomis.
But this business of being kept was an accepted part of gay life. Almost Socratic, the older, more established man helping his younger, less established lover. Noel had heard in the Grip of guys who’d been sent through medical school by older men, set up with trust funds by lovers needing tax rebates, made titular salaried heads of corporations, kept in style, often with nothing more than companionship required, then lavishly settled when the inevitable breakup occurred. Not wives. Not mistresses. And while often adopted, not quite sons either. Opportunities like this had never been open to Noel before; now they seemed to happen once a week.
Noel pocketed the business card.
“I will.” Noel flashed what he hoped was a significant look, though he was certain he never would call Flanders or see him again. For the briefest moment he had the terrible certainty that Flanders—and not Dorrance at all—was the man Loomis was looking for. Sheer paranoia, he told himself.
Flanders had put the magazines back on the rack and was at the door.
“I’ll take these,” Noel said to the proprietor, who never looked up at Noel as he made change for the magazines.
“See you later,” Flanders said cheerfully.
Noel half turned to acknowledge the good-bye. But Flanders had already stepped out.
By the time Noel reached the sidewalk, Flanders was already on the next corner. Noel thought to catch up with him, if only to convince himself that Flanders really had nothing to do with Whisper or Mr. X. He had broken into a trot when there was a shout behind him.
He spun around, saw the store owner waving what Noel immediately recognized as his jacket. Noel saw that Flanders had also stopped at the sound of the shout, perhaps waiting for Noel to catch up with him. Noel went back for the jacket.
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