IT WAS early Thursday afternoon. It had been a slow week, and I was bored. So bored, in fact, that I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for my two o’clock appointment. Why? You may well ask. As a licensed private investigator, my job is to do whatever my clients pay me to do, within legal constraints, of course—and my next visitor was going to get me involved in a divorce case. Yeah, I know, divorce work is my bread and butter, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I managed to stifle a yawn when the noise of a buzzer told me that someone had opened the front door of my office. The buzzer was a poor substitute for a receptionist, but it saved me a ton of money. In lieu of a receptionist, I left the door leading from the outer office to my inner office open to keep a watchful ear on the waiting area.
“Come on in and have a seat,” I said, just loudly enough for my new client to hear me over the hum of traffic noises coming from the busy street outside.
The guy who walked through the door was in his late thirties, sported the scruffy goatee that was the dernier cri in facial decoration amongst rednecks these days, and was dressed in coveralls displaying an elaborately embroidered logo that I couldn’t immediately identify. “Bill Hancock,” the man said, extending a hand.
“Quentin Quasar,” I said, as I shook it.
“Is that really your name?” he said. “I’ve never heard of anybody named Quasar before.”
“It’s not the surname I was born with, but I always hated my birth surname, which also began with ‘Q’, so I had it legally changed when I turned eighteen. If you look at the diplomas and certificates on the wall behind me, the surname ‘Quasar’ appears on all of them.”
“Yeah, I can see that from here.”
“So, Mr. Hancock, have a seat and tell me what can I do for you. In your telephone call you mentioned the possibility of an unfaithful wife.”
He settled down in a side chair and said without preamble, “I know that bitch is sleeping with somebody else, and I want you to catch her at it, or at least find me enough proof to use in court.”
“I can do that,” I said. “What’s your wife’s name, and where do you live?”
“Her name is Sybil Hancock.”
“With an S or a C?”
“S-Y-B-I-L,” he spelled.
“Got it. And the address?”
He gave me an address in Starke, the county seat of Bradford County, about forty-five miles to the south and somewhat to the west of where we sat. I groaned inwardly, because Starke is more or less tied with Lake City for the honor of being the most redneck town in northeast Florida. I asked him a number of pertinent questions, and his answers made it sound as though his wife just might be up to something.
“I’ll need a picture of her.”
“Here you go.”
He handed me a small studio-type portrait of a good-looking brunette and said, “You don’t look like a detective.”
“Really? What does a detective look like?”
“Geez, I dunno. Different, I guess.”
“Mr. Hancock, successful private investigators can’t afford to look different.”
“What do you mean?”
“One of my best assets is the fact that I’m sort of average in appearance—average height, average build, average looks. That gives me an advantage when I’m following someone, because I don’t stand out in a crowd, so to speak. Trust me when I tell you that a good investigator needs to blend in with any group of people.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. How much do you charge?”
“For divorce cases, I charge a daily rate plus expenses, and I require a retainer up front.”
“How much per day?”
I told him, and he said, “What kind of expenses?”
“My out-of-pocket expenses. For example, a mileage charge if I have to either go out of town or follow someone out of town, motel charges if I have to stay overnight, not to mention the costs of any bribes I might have to lay out.”
“What kind of bribes?”
“If I follow an adulterous couple to a motel, I can often gain the temporary use of a passkey by greasing the palm of whoever is behind the registration desk.”
“Okay, I get that. And the retainer?”
“The amount depends upon how many days you want me to devote to the case—generally speaking, three or four days paid in advance.”
“I can do that.”
He pulled out a wad of money, carefully counted out twelve one-hundred-dollar bills, placed them on the desk in front of me, and said, “I’d like a receipt.”
He glanced at his watch as I handed him the receipt. “I’ve gotta get to work,” he said. “I’m working the three-to-eleven shift out at the brewery.”
So the logo was Anheuser-Busch, then. Now that I knew that, I could read and understand the somewhat flowery initials “A.B.” on his coveralls.
I decided to lower my mental barriers for a moment and tune in on my new client, a decision I immediately regretted as I was overwhelmed by a wave of angry emotions….
“If that fucking cunt is screwing that fucking Jack Nelson, I’ll fucking kill both of them….”
There was more in that vein, but I slammed my barriers shut in disgust. Take it from me, now that you know one of my dirty little secrets—most people have minds like cesspools. If anybody ever says to you that they wish they knew what someone else was thinking, trust me when I tell you that their wish is so far beyond stupid that it’s off the charts—after all, who wants to go swimming in a cesspool? I’ve been afflicted with the curse of telepathy all of my life, and it isn’t a lot of fun. In fact, it very nearly drove me crazy for the first decade of my life, and it wasn’t until puberty set in that I finally figured out how to build a sort of barricade to shield myself from the thoughts of others. I’ve never told my secret to a living soul, although my Great-Aunt Ida guessed that there was something “different” about me. She was always the black sheep of the family because she claimed to be psychic and did indeed have occasional flashes of intuition about things—including bits of information that couldn’t be explained in a rational manner.
Aunt Ida had taken me aside when I was very young and explained to me that she knew that I was somehow different and that I would be better served if I never revealed that fact to a living soul. “Look at me,” she had said. “Everybody in the family thinks I’m crazy, and all because I made a few claims about being psychic. Take it from me, Quentin, being openly different is not a good thing.”
It was good advice, and some innate instinct of self-preservation enabled me to heed it. Which was why I kept my mouth shut, even as a child, and that’s a good thing, as I’d probably have been locked up in a loony bin by now had I told anybody.
I was so distracted by this train of thought that I missed something my client was saying. “Sorry,” I said, “could you repeat that?”
“I was asking when you could start on the job?”
“I’ll drive down to Starke this evening and have dinner at the restaurant where your wife works. Can you recommend an inexpensive motel?”
“The Starlight Motel is supposed to be cheap but clean—it’s right there on 301.”
“All right, then. I’ll have a full report ready for you in a couple of days. Meanwhile, I have your cell phone number if something urgent turns up.”
“Okay. I guess I’d better get to work then.”
We shook hands and I walked him to the door, after which I put the “Closed” sign in the front door, turned out the lights, and left by the back door after setting the alarm and securing the lock. I walked across the small backyard to the privacy fence, opened the gate, and entered the backyard of my house. My office is in a former residence situated on Blanding Boulevard in the Cedar Hills section of Jacksonville, and I live in a house located on the opposite side of the block facing a street running parallel to Blanding.
I had lavished a great deal of time, effort, and money on remodeling the house. The first thing I did was to enclose the double carport and turn it into an actual two-car garage. I also added a master suite upstairs over the garage, moved into it, and gutted the rest of the house right down to and including all of the non-load-bearing interior studs. Then I rebuilt the interior of the house, changing the room sizes and layout to suit myself. It had taken me almost five years to finish the job, and what had once been a small fifties tract house was now an extremely comfortable home.
Fresh from the shower, I pulled on a pair of khaki pants and a muscle tee and stepped into a pair of deck shoes. It wasn’t necessary to pack, as I kept an overnight bag ready at all times, and, with that in hand, I grabbed the case holding my laptop and cameras, retrieved my gun and shoulder holster, and went downstairs to the garage.
My one indulgence in life is a ten-year-old pony car—its outward appearance is as plain and nondescript as myself, but under the hood is another matter. The Ford Interceptor engine and drive train were virtually new, very powerful, and immaculately maintained. In a pinch, I could get away from anything in one hell of a hurry if necessary.
I made a side trip to the bank to deposit most of those wonderful hundred-dollar bills before I headed over to Normandy Boulevard and followed it to where it intersected US-301 in the tiny hamlet of Maxville. US-301 had once upon a time been a major north-south artery bringing tourists to sunny Florida, but all of that changed with the coming of the interstate highway system. Many of the mom-and-pop motels that had once lined the highway had succumbed from the lack of business, but the highway still carried a good flow of traffic, due mostly to the fact that tourists and truckers exited I-95 in Jacksonville, followed I-10 roughly fifteen miles west to Baldwin, and then picked up US-301, which took them to a connection with I-75 just north of Ocala.
It took me almost an hour to make the forty-five mile trip from Jacksonville to Starke, and I observed the speed limit religiously when I got to Lawtey, one of two notorious speed traps on that route. The Florida Department of Transportation recognized the problem and posted signs with yellow flags warning unwary travelers that speed limits were strictly enforced. Someone, I don’t know who, had even paid for billboards a few miles north and south of the little town, warning motorists of the speed trap ahead.
IT WAS a little after four when I checked into the Starlight Motel, left my bag and other equipment in my room, and got back in the car to cruise around the town a bit. Armed with a MapQuest printout, I located my client’s home on a side street. An elaborate swing set in the backyard confirmed the presence of children—he had told me that their ages were one, seven, and ten, and that the children’s paternal grandmother looked after them while he and his wife were at work.
Then I retraced my steps to US-301, pulled into the parking lot of Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant, and went inside. Sybil Hancock was on duty until closing time, and I wanted to get a look at her—if I could do so without being noticed. The hostess determined that I was alone, pulled a menu from a stack, and instructed me to follow her, but when I spotted my quarry working in the section to which I was being led, I expressed an urgent wish to sit in a booth in the adjacent section, and the hostess obligingly led me there instead. I settled down in my seat, pretended to study the menu, and immediately got lucky. Just a few feet on the other side of the low partition from where I sat, my quarry was talking to the customers sitting in a booth. I lowered my shields a bit and focused on Sybil’s thoughts, which were only peripherally devoted to her customers and were in sharp contrast to her table-side manner.
“I just can’t wait until tomorrow night.” … “No, Sir, take your time.” … “I wish these idiots would make up their minds and order. Bill’s working the graveyard shift, and Jack’s gonna get us a room at the Dixie Motel.” … “No, Ma’am, we don’t.” … “Do you see corn on the list of side dishes, you stupid old twat? It’s perfect… my bitch of a mother-in-law is keeping the kids at her house for the whole
My concentration on Sybil’s thoughts was interrupted by a much more powerful thought being broadcast nearby.
“Geez, look at the bulge in this guy’s pants. I wonder how big that thing is and what it would feel like inside me….”
Startled, I looked up to my immediate right and into the baby-blue eyes of my waiter. His eyes didn’t meet mine, however, as they seemed to be aimed directly at my crotch. He was of medium height, kind of skinny, and had a face full of freckles that made him look younger than he probably was, and his head was topped by an unruly thatch of red hair. In sum, kind of cute, but not really my type.
Okay, so now you know my other little secret—I’m gay. And, take it from me, being gay and telepathic isn’t a lot of fun. How would you like to be in the middle of having sex and be able to hear your partner of the moment thinking things like, “Geez, I wish it was bigger,” or, “Is he ever gonna cum?” or…. Trust me when I tell you that I usually, but not always, keep my shields firmly closed when I’m doing “it.”
He must have seen the movement of my head out of the corner of one eye, because he said, “Hi, I’m Jethro, and I’m going to be your server.”
“Hi, Jethro,” I said.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“Iced tea, please.”
“Sweet or unsweet?”
“I’ll be right back.”
He hurried away to get my iced tea, and I sat back, watching his retreating and very enticing bubble-butt. I was thinking, Okay, you know where your quarry’s going to be tomorrow night, you haven’t gotten yourself laid in a while, so why not flirt a little with good old Jethro and see what happens? The kid has an ass just made for fucking.
Having made my decision, I launched into flirtation mode every time Jethro returned to my table, and by the time he brought my check, I knew that he was nineteen, attended the local community college, and lived with his grandparents, who, and this was a vital piece of information, allowed him to pretty much come and go as he pleased. As he started to lay my check on the table, I grabbed his hand and held it for a minute.
“Jethro,” I said in a low voice, “what time do you get off work?”
Following my cue, he sort of whispered, “Nine.”
“I’m staying at the Starlight Motel. Wanta come over and watch a movie or something?
“You bet. Which room?”
I gave him my room number, and he moved to another table to wait on a customer, so I took the check up to the cashier and paid it, adding a generous tip to the credit card charge.
After I left the restaurant, I drove around for a bit, eventually locating the residence of Jack Nelson, which also had a swing set in the backyard. How depressing: two families about to be split because two people simply could not—or would not—keep their pants zipped.
Back in my room, I changed into shorts and a more comfortable T-shirt, opened the bottle of wine I’d brought with me, and settled down for a boring evening of television. A little after nine, there was a knock on my door, and I let Jethro into the room, carefully locking and chaining the door behind him.
“Hi, Jethro,” I said. “I wasn’t sure you would come, but I’m glad you did.”
He grabbed me and kissed me for a long minute. Then he said, “I spent the last thirty minutes of my shift helping out in the kitchen, so I’m hot and sweaty. Do you mind if I take a shower?”
“Not if I can join you.”
His clothes were off and tossed on a chair faster than I would have thought possible. Then he stood naked in the open bathroom door, watching as I undressed, carefully folded my clothes, and placed them neatly on the chest of drawers. “I knew you’d have a big one,” he said when I was naked.
“Yeah, but I’m a shower, not much of a grower, so it doesn’t get a whole lot bigger.”
“It looks mighty fine from here.”
“You’re no slouch yourself, kiddo. Let’s see if we can fit into that shower together.”
By the time we emerged from the shower and began toweling ourselves dry, we had thoroughly explored each other’s bodies, and needless to say, we were both sporting the hardest of wood. When he was dry, Jethro went straight to the bed, lay back on it, legs apart, and said, “I want that thing inside me now.”
I stood beside the bed long enough to retrieve a condom from the nightstand, open it, and roll it into place. Knowing that he was already lubricated with soap and well stretched from our foreplay in the shower (I had inserted more than one soapy finger into his willing ass), I knelt between his legs, hoisted his feet to my shoulders, and slowly entered him.
“Oh, my God,” he said, sighing. “You don’t know how good that feels.”
Actually, I do, I thought, as I tuned into what he was thinking and, more importantly, what he was feeling. I never get over the sensation of having sex with someone while simultaneously sharing what they’re feeling—provided they aren’t complaining about my performance, in which case I shut them out. With Jethro it was especially enjoyable, given that his mind was as uncomplicated as it was uncluttered. He was totally focused on three things: getting an education, earning the money to pay for it (his grandparents provided only room and board), and getting laid. There was no background clutter of distractions in his thoughts at all.
While I was pounding his ass, I bent down, took his erection into my mouth, and used the feedback I was getting from his brain to hold him on the edge until he quite literally couldn’t stand it any longer—and then I finished him off. When he was spent, I focused on my own needs, came, and collapsed on top of him after I lowered his legs to the bed. We kissed for a long time.
“You’re a really good kisser,” I said a few minutes later.
“You’re really good at everything. You kept me on the brink forever—how in the world did you do that?”
“Years and years of practice.”
“You’re not that old… are you?”
“Not really, but when I’m in bed with someone your age, I sometimes feel it.”
“Can we do it again?”
“As soon as my batteries are recharged.”
I felt a hand slip between our bodies and begin to grope and explore. I pulled back from him just enough that I could begin to kiss my way down his torso, starting with his nipples and working my way downward.
“Someone’s batteries are already recharged,” I said after a moment.
“I’m always ready.”
That’s because you’re only nineteen. Enjoy it while you can.
“Would you like to fuck me instead? I believe in reciprocity.”
“No—I get to fuck my friend Donny all the time. In fact, that’s all he ever wants to do.”
“Then your friend Donny would be known in gay circles as a bottom, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I don’t particularly like those kinds of labels,” I said. “And a little diversity in bed never hurt anyone.”
He leaned up on his elbows and looked at me. “Looks like you’re ready to go again.”
“So I am.”
I fumbled in the nightstand again and prepared my erection for duty. This time it took us quite a bit longer to finish, and by the time we did, we were both sweating like pigs. We lay side by side for a while afterward, talking, cuddling, and kissing.
“Do you mind if I take another shower?” he said.
“I’ll join you.”
“Cool. Then I need to get dressed and go home. I’ve got an early class in the morning.”
We took a quick shower, after which I lay back on the bed and watched him get dressed. Then I followed him to the door and kissed him before he opened it.
“I’m glad your room is on the back side of the motel,” he said.
“I guess you have to be really careful, living in such a redneck town.”
“You have no idea. Can I see you tomorrow night?”
“Only if you want to drive to Jacksonville. I’ll be completing my business in Starke and checking out tomorrow afternoon.” Actually, I planned to haul ass out of town just as soon as I took some incriminating photographs, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.
“Donny and I are going to Jacksonville Saturday afternoon.”
“To do what?”
“The plan was to go to the mall and then to the movies.”
“My office is on Blanding Boulevard in Cedar Hills, and my house is directly behind it facing a back street—it’s just a few miles north of the mall.”
“I know where Cedar Hills is.”
I handed him my business card and said, “Give me a call when you get to the mall—I don’t have anything scheduled for Saturday. On the other hand, I do get calls for rush jobs from time to time.”
“What’ll I do with Donny?”
“Bring him with you, of course. I’ve got a king-size bed.”
“Cool. We’ve never done a threesome.”
I kissed him one last time and stood behind the door as he left the room—no need for a passerby to see a naked man showing a teenage boy out of a motel room late at night, even if the boy in question was of legal age. I secured the door, poured myself a glass of wine, allowed the alcohol to help me come down off of my sexual high, and crawled into bed.
As I always did when I was in a smaller town, I lay back on the pillow, lowered my shields, cast a tendril of thought in all directions, and found nothing. The background noise of thoughts—think radio static magnified almost beyond endurance—in a city is too much for me, so I couldn’t attempt to do this at home—I’d tried, but it just doesn’t work. In a small town, with most of the population sleeping, it wasn’t a problem. Somehow, in the back of my mind, there was always a lingering hope that I would one day encounter someone else with my gift (curse?)—with wonderful results. I finally succumbed to sleep wondering yet again why I bothered.
I slept late the next morning, but I managed to pull myself together by nine. Then I called my client on his cell phone and asked him if he was free to talk.
“Yeah,” he said, “my wife took the kids over to my mom’s because they’re gonna be there all weekend, and because she had a hair appointment. Do you have some news?”
“Maybe, but I don’t want to talk about it over a cell phone. What time do you leave for work today?”
“Normally when I’m gonna work the graveyard shift I don’t leave the house until about nine thirty in the evening, but today’s different—I’m working a double shift for the extra money, so I’m out of here right after lunch.”
“Would your wife run into us if we met at McDonald’s before you go to work?”
“Shit, no. She don’t much like fast food.”
“Why don’t you meet me there a little before twelve? When you hear what I have to tell you, you might want to run an errand before you go to work.”
“What kind of errand?”
“Not on the cell phone. McDonald’s before twelve, okay?”