the last chapter, check the previous entry.
Shea's second appointment: Carter Kingman..
I woke up suddenly. It was after 2:00 a.m.
Dennis turned over. "Where are you going?"
"I didn't realize it was so late."
He squinted at the clock on the nightstand. "Do you have another appointment?"
"Then there's no reason for you to leave. We can have breakfast in the morning."
I hesitated. "But... that's getting expensive."
Dennis sighed. "Shea, don't talk about money. It's fine. If I couldn't afford it I wouldn't belong to The Club. None of us would. You never have to ask about that or worry about it. So go to sleep."
So I went back to sleep.
But in Dennis's bed that night I dreamed about being in New York again. On the street. Walking along the Bowery, hugging myself to keep in the warmth, my sneakers full of slush.
And then I was in Aaron's little apartment, secure in his bed.
Secure. In bed.
I didn't have the New York dream very often, but when I did it always made me feel torn.
I'd hated being on the street, homeless and at the mercy of fate. But I'd also felt free there. Strong. Independent. For the only time in my life, I took care of myself.
I'd always been the good little gay boy. Sweet little Shea. Old ladies and teachers loved me. So polite. So tidy. so chipper. The perfect son.
But on the Lower East Side I was an outlaw. Feral. I was tough. I had to fight to survive. Fight to get food and dope. Fight for the best tricks. And I was good at it. A cocky little punk and not a whining mama's boy.
And then Aaron took me in. Saved me. And I reverted to the perfect little partner. Once again the good boy.
But sometimes I felt like a dog who'd been lost for days, or even weeks at a time. Fearful. Hungry. Furtive. Skulking in corners, never knowing what horror was coming next.
And then he's found. Returned to his owner. Or else adopted by a new, loving master. Fed and petted, with a secure place on the bed.
But that dog still stands at the window, looking out, longingly. Remembering when he was truly free. Hearing the coyote's howl in his domesticated head.
When I woke up I smelled bacon cooking. I put on one of Dennis's robes and went out to have some.
After eating breakfast and joining Dennis in the shower -- a first for him, I was surprised to find out -- I took my leave of my first official Club date.
In the car I hauled out the cellphone and called the number Russell Boyer had given me, leaving the time (10:04 a.m.), and date (Sunday, September 12), and the Club member (Dennis Marshall), as I'd been instructed. I didn't even have time to put the phone back in my pocket when it buzzed. It was Boyer.
"Everything go all right with Dennis?" came the flat, brown voice. He sounded like he was wearing brown pajamas, sitting in a brown apartment, eating a brown breakfast.
"Good morning to you, too!" I said, snarkily. "Everything was fine."
"And you're only leaving now?"
"He wanted me to stay. And we had breakfast. Is that a problem?"
"No. Don't forget that you're meeting Mr. Kingman tomorrow. Be there early so Darren can brief you."
"Darren Nye, Mr. Kingman's assistant."
"Be there early. Make nice with Darren. Do a good job fucking Mr. Kingman. Call in to headquarters. Got it."
I heard Boyer take a deep, disgusted breath. "Don't be an a smartass! Or else I'll tell Raj Kumar that this isn't such a great idea."
"Trying to get me fired, Russ?" I knew I was being a jerk, but I couldn't resist pulling Boyer's extremely short chain.
"Don't fuck up. Goodbye!" And the call was over.
When I got home my mother and Danny were just coming back from Mass. My usual great timing.
"Hi Uncle Shea!" Danny squealed and ran to me.
"Would you like some breakfast?" Mom asked me icily.
"No thanks, I already ate."
"Danny, take Gorcey and go out and play, honey." She waited, her face a blank, while Danny and the dog bailed to the backyard. "I'll only say this once, Shea: this is not a hotel."
"I know that, Mom. This is not a hotel."
She gave me an exasperated look and plowed ahead. "I haven't said anything when you come in at all hours of the night after being out with who knows who, but this is ridiculous! What kind of example does your behavior set for little Danny?"
"I don't know, Mom," I said. "What kind of example does it set for Danny when his mother dumps him off for days or even weeks at a time to go off and do God knows what?"
"John Shea Desmond! Don't take Our Lord's name in vain!" she huffed.
"What did I just say?"
"All right! That's enough of this shit!"
We both turned around to see the old man standing in the doorway of the kitchen, glowering. It's the first time I'd seen him moved to get out of his chair since I arrived from Indiana.
"Jack, I was just telling Shea that..."
"I said that's enough, Marie! Leave the kid alone!"
Mom put her hands on her hips. "Do you know what time it is? He just sailed in here, as pleased as can be. Do you know where he's been all night? Or who he's been with?"
The old man looked at her and then at me. And then he did something I never thought I'd live to see: he took my side against my mother. "He's a grown man, Marie. He's got a life. Who gives a shit what time he comes home or where he's been? It's none of your goddamn business! None of our business!"
"But he's living under my roof, Jack! I don't know what happened between him and poor Aaron, but if he's running around with a bunch of strange men at all hours, it's no wonder he's here and Aaron is in..." She stopped. "Wherever he is!"
"Indiana," I provided.
"Indiana," she repeated. "Thank you." My mother is nothing if not unfailingly polite.
"I said I don't give a shit! And neither should you! Let Shea and Aaron work out whatever they need to work out in their own time, okay? And this isn't 'your roof' -- this is our house! All of ours -- and that includes our son. If he wants to go out and have some fun, live a little, I say more power to him! So shut the hell up about this -- I don't want to hear another word!" My father turned around and headed back to his chair.
My mother stood there, staring after him. Then she went to the sink and began to wash the breakfast dishes. She didn't say another word to me for the rest of the day.
It was a very peaceful Sunday.
I arrived at the Kingman Building downtown forty-five minutes early for my 1:00 p.m. appointment. I wore something nondescript -- dark trousers, white shirt, and a light jacket. I didn't want to look like the friendly neighborhood male whore, even if that's what I felt like.
I parked in the Kingman Parking Garage, remembering to retain my ticket for validation, and took the elevator up to the 12th floor. I gave the receptionist my name and asked for Mr. Nye.
Almost immediately a grim little man appeared. I guess he was young -- probably my age -- but he dressed and acted like a man twenty years older, wearing a severely tailored gray suit with too narrow lapels and a too wide tie. I noted the Phi Beta Kappa tie clip. I wanted to mention that I, too, was a member of that exclusive academic order, but this didn't seem the right time or place.
"I'm Darren Nye, Mr. Kingman's administrative assistant." He didn't hold out his hand for me to shake. "Follow me, please."
To my surprise he walked out of the office suite and into the elevator. We went down to the lobby and outside onto the sidewalk.
"May I ask where we're going?"
Nye glanced at me, annoyed. "Mr. Kingman doesn't do... business in his office." He didn't add the words 'you idiot,' but they were implied.
Across the street from the Kingman Building is a new boutique hotel, the Carter Royale. It's the place visiting celebrities and Saudi sheiks in town for heart transplants at the Cleveland Clinic stash themselves and their entourages. It's discreet and extremely expensive. I followed Nye through the front door -- held open by a hunky doorman in a ludicrous operetta uniform -- and up to the front desk.
"Karl, this is Shea," Nye said to the desk clerk. I was automatically wary of the desk clerk. I remembered them as not very friendly from the last time I had this job. "He'll be using the company suite on Monday afternoons, as pre-arranged."
Karl regarded me closely and then smiled a very dirty smile. "Of course, Mr. Nye."
I couldn't resist. "Hey, there, Karl! How's tricks?"
Karl stifled a giggle, while Nye glared at me. "Will you please shut up?"
"Of course," I said. "I'm shutting up as I speak."
"Karl will give you the keycard and you will return it to him after your appointment concludes. Is that clear?"
"Clear as a bell."
"The keycard, please, Karl."
"Certainly, Mr. Nye." Karl grinned at me as he handed it over to me. Then he winked.
"You may arrive early if you wish, but not too early, and you may stay after 3:00, but not too much after," Nye continued as we walked to the elevator. "Do you understand?"
These guys all assume I'm brain-damaged. "Yes, I understand. I learned to tell time before I went to Kindergarten, actually."
Nye ignored the sarcasm. "You may also order from room service if you're hungry, but don't go overboard."
"I got it. No parties. No pizza for the gang."
"There's a well-stocked bar in the suite, but don't abuse the privilege."
"I'll try to contain my usual drunken impulses."
I could see the squirrels running on their wheels inside Darren Nye's head as he counted to ten.
We got off the elevator at the seventh floor.
"What do you know -- seven is my lucky number!"
"It's Suite 703." We stopped at the door and Nye indicated the lock. I swiped the keycard and we went in.
It was an impressive room, I admit. Very modern with a lot of blocky Abstract Expressionist art on the wall and Italian Moda furniture. It reminded me a little of Raj Kumar's condo and I wondered if they shared a decorator. That wasn't beyond the realm -- Raj and Mr. Kingman both belonged to The Club, after all.
"This is the bar. And the bedroom is in here," said Nye. "Although I'm sure you could have found it on your own."
"Very nice," I said. The guy was really bugging me. "Did you used to be a bellhop? Am I supposed to tip you?"
Nye turned his back on me and glanced at his watch. "Mr. Kingman should be here in a few minutes, unless he's running late. He's a busy man, so don't waste his time. There are... supplies in the top drawer of the nightstand. If they are not to your liking or if there's anything else you need, let me know before next week and it will be provided. Do you have any questions?"
I didn't have any questions. But now I was starting to get nervous and just wanted Darren to get lost so I could prepare myself mentally.
"Good. Then I'll see you next week -- that is if Mr. Kingman finds you satisfactory." Nye turned to leave.
"Oh, what about my parking?" I took out the ticket. "Do you validate?"
Nye stared at it like I had a cockroach in my hand. "You're kidding!" He snatched the ticket from my hand. "Pick it up from Karl when you give him back the keycard."
As soon as Nye was out of the room, I took out the cellphone and called in with the start time, the date, the place, and the client. After that I wasn't sure what to do. Get undressed? No, sometimes guys liked to watch you do that. I checked out the bedroom. King-sized bed. Deluxe bathroom. I opened the top drawer of the nightstand. A number of boxes of condoms, different brands and specialties, as well as an assortment of lubes. Either Mr. Kingman did this regularly or else Darren Nye had put a lot of thought into this first encounter.
I checked my watch. He was ten minutes late.
I decided to help myself to a drink.
When Nye said the bar was stocked, he wasn't kidding. There was every kind of booze imaginable and all the mixers you could hope for. And here I was, the first male Desmond in generations who wasn't a raging alcoholic! Fate is such a jokester!
I was pouring myself a Coke when the door opened.
"Ah, you're here," said Carter Kingman.
Kingman took off his jacket and tossed it over the back of a chair. "Can you make me a drink? Scotch on the rocks."
"Sure. Bartending isn't one of my skills, but I can pour liquid into a glass with the best if them."
"What's that you're having?" Kingman asked.
"Coca Cola, straight up."
"Help yourself to a real drink," said Kingman. "Feel free."
"Really, this is fine." I didn't want to admit that I was nervous. The last thing I needed was alcohol-based performance anxiety.
"An Irish boy who doesn't drink?" Kingman loosened his tie.
"I like to overturn stereotypical expectations." I poured the drink and handed it to him.
He smiled. I don't remember him smiling at Raj's party. That took away some of the awkwardness. But only some.
"Thanks." He took a sip. "Good Scotch. They always stock my favorite brands."
"Is this your personal suite?"
"It belongs to Kingman Associates. We keep it for clients and special occasions."
Now it was my turn to smile. "Is this a special occasion?"
"It is now," he said, setting down the glass and reaching for me.
He was a nice-looking man, even if he was old. Probably the oldest man I'd ever been to bed with. I tried to remember some of my tricks way back when. Most of them were in their thirties or forties, while Carter Kingman, although in good shape, had to be in his late-fifties -- or older. Don't get me wrong -- I have a thing for older guys and always have. But Kingman was old enough to be my father. That felt weird.
On the plus side, his body was in excellent shape for his age. He obviously worked out and took good care of himself. He probably had a team of personal trainers and a private gym for all of that. And he knew exactly what to do with that body in the sack. It made me wonder how he managed this uncomfortable double life -- and also how Raj managed it. When did they have time to fuck guys and also do their hetero business -- wife, family, whatever? I had a enough trouble keeping one life going, let alone two -- with one of them secret.
But I suddenly realized that from now on I also had two lives going, with one of them as secret as any Kingman or Raj was juggling.
When Kingman came he was so noisy I thought he was having a heart attack, but actually he was just having a very good time.
"Wonderful," he sighed, rolling over on his back. "That did me a world of good."
I wasn't sure what to say. "It was great." That sounded lame, but Kingman seemed pleased.
"Your body is so firm and smooth, Shea." He ran his hands over my chest. He was one of those guys who saved the foreplay until after he got his rocks off. "And you have a beautiful cock." He handled it, but didn't make any move to suck it. He also hadn't kissed me -- yet. Maybe he didn't do that. Maybe those things were too queer. Some men, especially ones who thought of themselves as mainly straight, have funny little rules about what they will and will not do. You see a lot of those guys when you're hustling.
"Thanks. You want to try again? We have plenty of time." I didn't want to push him, but he seemed capable of another round.
"Perhaps," he said. "The pill is usually good for a few hours."
"Pill?" I didn't know what he meant.
"My doctor prescribed these purple pills. They... help me."
"No. I have some prostate issues. But since I've been taking these pills, they've given me a new lease on life."
"That's... nice." I thought about my father and his prostate cancer. I hadn't thought much about his sex life lately -- I just assumed it was over long ago -- but he was certainly younger than Carter Kingman. But at this point I doubted a purple pill would give the old man a new lease on life.
"Of course, a young man like you doesn't need any help in that area." And he had the proof in his hand. No, I've never had trouble getting hard. "Such a beautiful cock."
"If you like it, you can... do more." I hesitated. "I mean, if you want to."
Kingman frowned. "Perhaps... another time. But if you want to get me started again..." He indicated his dick. I wondered how the pills worked exactly. But his well-seasoned cock was definitely showing signs of life.
"Sure," I said. "It's my pleasure."
Not to mention my job.