Chapter One

 

 

Friday, March 26, 2010

 

IT WASN’T a pretty sight. Neither was it a horrifically shocking sight. I had concluded a long time ago that death didn’t care about appearances.

I crouched next to the battered body, holding my umbrella tightly in both hands. The rain pattered in gushes and the wind blew heavily, almost jerking the umbrella from me. We wouldn’t find much evidence. The rain made sure of that.

“Guy was ugly even before he got his face smashed in,” Trenkins, my partner, said.

Physically disabled is the politically correct term.”

Trenkins snorted. “Did you look at his hands? They’re bent like claws. He looks like a distorted dwarf.”

Internally, I agreed with him. “Lower your voice. We don’t need anyone overhearing you spouting shit like that.”

“I’m only telling the truth.”

“Keep it to yourself. I’m not keen on an investigation into improper conduct. You know how bad those things can get.”

“Didn’t think you were such a pansy, Woods.”

Getting up from my crouch and straightening to my full height of six feet three, I said, “Excuse me?”

Trenkins was a few inches shorter than me. What he lacked in height he made up in width. He took a step backward, palms up in a placating manner. “Hey, take it easy, man. I’ll shut up now.”

“Good.” I nodded at him.

I squatted next to the dead man while Trenkins grumbled to himself. Trenkins wasn’t such a bad guy, just full of prejudices that he never passed a chance to proclaim loudly. I stared at the dead body, taking in the awkwardly bent limbs, the obviously shattered skull, and waited to feel something.

Nothing happened. He was just another dead guy found in a dark alley. It was unlikely we’d find out who did it. Though I wondered what someone like him had been doing here. His walker had been transformed into a deformed piece of steel lying a few feet away from him. At least that should make it easier for potential witnesses to remember him and whoever was with him.

The forensic team arrived as the sky proclaimed victory and opened its floodgates entirely. Despite clutching our umbrellas, we were soon drenched to the bones.

Pictures were taken, the dead guy roughly examined, then carried away. Not surprisingly we didn’t find a passport, driver’s license, or anything else that could give us a clue to the guy’s identity. Later, Trenkins and I drove back to the station, changed into dry clothes and filled out the paperwork. Trenkins went down to observe the autopsy around noon while I called every institution I could think of, asking if they were missing a forty-something guy. No one was.

Trenkins came back around two in the afternoon with a triumphant smile on his face. He dumped a folder on our joined desks and said, “Guy’s name is Phil Albridge. He was reported missing during the night by his mother.”

“How did you find out his identity?”

“Guy got a new hip last year. The serial number on the prosthesis led to his name.”

“Guess that leaves us to tell the mother now, huh?”

Trenkins grimaced. He usually had a quite handsome face, despite being on the chubby side of the spectrum. Right now he looked as ugly as the dead Mr. Albridge. I kept that thought a secret, though. Grabbing my still wet coat, I followed him.

“At least it has stopped raining,” I said.

“Yeah.” He fished a coin out of his pocket. “Heads or tails?”

“Heads.”

He flipped the coin and slapped it on the back of his left hand. I groaned when he lifted his hand, whereas Trenkins sighed in relief.

“Next time I do the flipping. You’re winning far too often.”

“Hey, it’s just luck. Well, luck for me and bad luck for you.”

I climbed into the passenger seat. “If I have to tell the mother, you’re going to drive us through the afternoon traffic.”

Trenkins rolled his eyes dramatically. “I don’t know what’s worse.”

 

 

HE CHANGED his mind after Mrs. Albridge broke down in her living room, weeping and lamenting the death of her beloved son.

When she was able to talk again in remotely coherent sentences, we learned that Phil had suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth. He was diagnosed with hemiplegia and later suffered from meningitis. As she put it, Phil wasn’t the brightest guy on earth but was a very lovable man. Trenkins looked as if he begged to differ. I shot him a scathing glare and thankfully he didn’t say a word.

Mrs. Albridge informed us that poor Phil had no enemies but also no real friends. He liked to wander around on his own and since Mrs. Albridge had to work she couldn’t supervise him all the time.

“Did he maybe mention if he was being followed or anything?” I asked.

“No,” Mrs. Albridge sniffled, “he didn’t say anything. He would have told me because he always wanted to be someone’s friend, you know?”

Or maybe he didn’t tell his mother because someone else told him to keep his mouth shut. On the other hand, what would anybody want with a guy like Phil? What was he useful for?

I rubbed my temples, listened to Trenkins ask some more of our standard questions, and then we bade our goodbyes. We drove back to the station where we filled out some more paperwork. No new info had shown up during our absence, so we decided to call it a day.

I climbed into my car and drove toward home. The thought of my cold and lonely apartment didn’t appeal to me. I stopped at a red light, wondering what to do with the evening. I was exhausted but also restless and somewhat unsettled.

I needed something to put my mind at ease, to just feel for a while instead of thinking. Hell, what I needed was a good fuck. The sudden desire racing through me took me by surprise. After a quick glance at my watch, I moved again.

The drive home was fast. The shower even faster. The prospect of sex was good, even spirit lifting.

Dinner consisted of a microwaved meal and a glass of water. Afterward, I went back to the bathroom to brush my teeth. There’s nothing worse than making out with a guy you don’t know and having bad breath. I checked myself in the reflection of the mirror. An angular face framed by boring brown hair that needed a haircut soon. I narrowed my eyes and stared at myself. My eyes were the same boring brown color as my hair. A bland, bit-over-thirty gay man stared back at me.

I sighed. At least I was in good shape; well-defined pecs and abs and all that. Otherwise it would be hard for me to pick someone up. After shaking my head over this silly train of thought, I rinsed my mouth and trotted over to my bedroom. I slipped into a tight black shirt, which showed my muscles nicely. Grabbing my jacket, I decided that a hand job or blowjob wouldn’t do for tonight. I needed more and I knew exactly where to get it.

 

 

I PARKED near Snake Alley, though not near enough to rouse suspicion if anyone saw my car. I was there early, especially for a Friday night. I hadn’t been to this particular club in a while. The Lion’s Den—whoever had named the club was nuts. But that’s just my humble opinion. Maybe the name was supposed to be a very clever wordplay. Or just a nice paraphrase for ‘meat market’. Because that’s what it was. Strangely enough, a lot of the men didn’t get that it was a meat market; they believed in finding their true love here. Damn fools.

I found a good place at the bar and ordered a beer. It wasn’t crowded and from my spot I could overlook the dance floor, most of the bar, and the entrance. Once a cop, always a cop.

For a while, I sipped my beer and let my gaze wander. Around ten the club was filling and I had narrowed down my options to three guys. All of them were tall, broad-shouldered men, able to take it a bit rough.

I fended off a few other guys, though it was a nice ego boost to be popular. None of the guys who advanced on me were my type: too small, too young, and way too cheerful. I had just finished my beer and decided to try my luck with my main prey, a dark-haired, beefy looking man, when a hand landed on my arm.

“Mind if I buy you another beer?”

I turned around with a frown in place. I was face-to-face—well, almost face-to-face, the guy was maybe two or three inches shorter than me—with a very young man. He smiled at me, showing off a line of white teeth, and I blinked. When I was done blinking, I pointedly looked at his hand on my arm, but he didn’t get the hint.

His hand stayed where it was as he ordered two beers. I found myself steered back onto the stool I had just vacated. He sat down on the stool next to me and finally withdrew his hand. Only to hold it out to me. “Hi, I’m Alex. Pleasure to meet you.”

I ignored his outstretched hand. “Thanks for the beer but I’m not interested.”

“You’re not?”

“No.” I wasn’t interested at all. This guy was way too young and absolutely not my type. Fair-haired and slender in build, almost delicate. I grimaced. He would find someone who’d appreciate his looks; there were a lot of men who’d be pleased with someone like him. It just wasn’t going to be me.

“No? Really? You don’t even know me.”

“I’m not here to get to know anyone.”

“Well, neither am I.”

I snorted. “Why did you sound so offended then?”

Alex answered with a shrug. “I’m not used to getting turned down, that’s all.”

Arrogant little prick. I patted his shoulder in a there-there gesture. “You’ll get used to it.”

“No, I won’t. I observed you for an hour and I want you. There’s no one with you, so I don’t get what the problem is.”

My eyes narrowed again. He had observed me for an hour and I hadn’t sensed it? Either I was drunk, which was very unlikely, or I needed to pay better attention to my surroundings. I took great offense at having been spied on without my knowledge. “Kid, do yourself a favor and pick up someone else. I’m not interested, but I can point out at least two men who are.”

“I can point out at least four men who are interested in me, but I don’t care about them. I already made my decision.”

The kid was incredibly arrogant. It should have been annoying but instead I was amused. He had balls and I liked that. “You did? Tell you what, I made a decision myself and it didn’t include you.”

“That’s only because you didn’t see me before.”

I laughed. “I haven’t met someone that snotty in quite a while.”

He grinned at me. “At least it got your attention.”

The bartender placed our beers in front of us and we both reached for them. We clinked the glasses together before we both turned around to stare at the dance floor. From the corner of my eyes I inspected Alex more closely. The blondness of his hair bordered on white. He had it slicked back, though it was already starting to curl up on the nape of his neck. A loose strand repeatedly fell onto his forehead. Unsuccessfully, he tried to tame it.

He caught me glancing at him when he tried to tuck the stray hair behind his ear. A light flush crept up in his cheeks while he muttered, “It never stays where I put it.”

“That’s why you put a pound of gel into it?”

The light flush turned into a deep red. “It wasn’t a pound, only half of a bottle.”

I grinned at him and stretched out my hand. He took it immediately. “Hi, Alex, I’m Jeff.”

“Jeff,” he repeated.

His gaze wandered to our joined hands. His hand almost vanished in mine. There were no calluses on his and the skin was baby-soft. Usually, I would have turned and run away. Oddly enough, I found myself stroking my thumb over the knuckles of his hand.

After swallowing heavily several times, Alex looked at me. “You got big hands.”

“Yep.”

“I bet you know how to use them.”

“I do.”

“You need to show me. Really soon.”

I smirked. Even though he wasn’t my type, he was good for my ego. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at me with such open hunger. I said, “I might do that.”

“You might? Didn’t you listen when I told you that you’re it for me tonight?”

“Don’t push your luck. At the very least I’m reconsidering.”

“You like that I’m pushy.”

“No, I don’t. It’s amusing, though.”

“Oh.” He sounded vaguely embarrassed. Maybe now he’d shut up for a while.

He did, but never let go of my hand. Instead, he came to stand at my other side and looped his free arm loosely around my waist. I raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“So far you’re only reconsidering. I’m making the best of it.”

I shook my head in bemusement. We looked at the dance floor again. Alex’s hand on my waist traveled up and down, sometimes squeezing here and there. He was very unsubtly feeling me up. For a while I let him, then I’d had enough. Spinning around, I fastened my hands on his hipbones and pulled him between my thighs. Startled, he gazed at me. He didn’t recoil, though, for which I gave him credit. He simply looked at me with open curiosity, waiting for the next step.

I roamed my hands from his hips up his chest, proceeded over his shoulders along his back to finally settle on his ass. It was well shaped, firm, and fitted nicely in my hands. When I squeezed his flesh, he gasped and took a step closer to me. I had to look up at him and was greeted with a stare I could only describe as wanton. Another detail struck me. “Your eyes. They’re almost black.”

“Dark brown or chocolate brown if you want to get cheesy.”

“Being cheesy isn’t my métier.” I wasn’t comfortable in any métier, period.

“I figured.”

“I’ve never seen someone as blond as you with such dark eyes.” Did I really just say that? Had my drink been poisoned?

“I’m an anomaly, and before you ask, yes, it’s all natural.”

“I don’t care, it’s just unusual.”

“You like unusual?”

“Nope.”

He chuckled and took another step forward. Our groins pressed together and his hot breath tickled my throat before he placed a kiss there. “I want you. Please tell me you’re done considering.”

“I am.”

Alex nibbled at my throat and my hands squeezed the firm buttocks again. No, he usually wouldn’t be my type. Tonight was going to be an exception to the rule. It wouldn’t hurt.

“And? What did you decide?”

“You’re still not my type and this is just for once. No strings attached. Understood?”

He snorted. “What did you think? That I wanted a relationship?”

“Some people are that weird.”

“I’m not. Now, will you take me somewhere and fuck me senseless?”

“I can do that.”