Monday, May 5, 2008
The Hired Man excerpt by Dorien Grey
Since the beginning is always a good place to start, here is the opening of The Hired Man, book #4 of the 11 (soon to be 12) book Dick Hardesty Mystery series, in which enters the little known world of the male escort and their wealthy clients.
The Hired Man
GLB Publishers (June, 2002)
I was sitting at the bar at Napoleon—early as usual—waiting to have dinner with a brand-new client. Napoleon is a very nice, quiet gay restaurant in a former private home on the edge of The Central—the city’s rapidly growing gay business district in the heart of what some still called “the gay ghetto.” The client, Stuart Anderson, was from out of town—the C.E.O. of an expanding chain of trendy kitchen supply boutiques which was opening two new stores here. He’d called me from Buffalo the week before to set up an appointment. While I was dutifully impressed to think that my fame had spread beyond my local area code, he’d been really vague when I asked him how he had heard of me, or who had referred him. He’d just said “a business acquaintance” had made the referral, and I didn’t press it any further, though I was curious. Also, though the subject of sexual orientation never entered the conversation, I automatically assumed he was gay (hey, I automatically assume everyone is gay) since I have had very few straight clients.
Part of the mystery of his secretiveness was solved within two minutes of his walking into the office for his 4:30 appointment. Stuart Anderson, it turned out, was an average height, average looking, pleasant-enough man in his mid 40s, dressed casually but expensively, and carrying a slim briefcase. He had no sooner taken the seat in front of my desk when I noticed that though he had a healthy tan, the third finger of his left hand had a wide, untanned circle where he had obviously taken off a wedding ring. Oh, great, I thought, one of those.
Rather than just sit back and wait for the expected pass, I thought I’d nip in the bud any little game he might be intending to play.
“I appreciate your calling me, Mr. Anderson,” I said. “But I think we should clarify something before we proceed: I assume you know that I’m gay and generally specialize in gay clients?” His only response was a small smile and almost imperceptible nod, but since he said nothing, I continued. “I mention this only because it is an issue for some people, and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or awkwardness between my clients and me.”
He never lost the small smile, but I noticed that his right hand unconsciously found his left and his right thumb and index finger went to cover the telltale untanned circle. “Not a problem,” he said. “My business here has nothing whatever...directly...to do with...anyone’s ...sexual orientation. I was simply told you were very good at getting information.” His right thumb and forefinger slowly twisted the missing wedding ring. I wondered why in hell he’d bothered to take it off in the first place if he was going to make it so obvious he wore one.
It turned out that he merely wanted me to do a careful background check on the prospective managers and assistant managers for the new stores, which was apparently something he did routinely and was probably a good idea given that he himself wouldn’t be around every day to check on things. I estimated it would take only a couple of days to do the checking. Hardly the most exciting of assignments, and certainly not one that any other private investigator in the city couldn’t handle in his sleep, but I wasn’t in a position to turn away any source of income. I had a couple other minor assignments I was working on, but they could be put on hold for the few days it would take to complete this one.
I told him my rates and when he didn’t bat an eye, I reached into my desk and handed him a standard contract, which he signed without reading. I signed below his signature and, as I went to my new Xerox machine to make him a copy, he opened his briefcase. When I handed him his signed copy, he gave me the resumes of the four men and two women he was considering for the managerial positions I glanced at them briefly to be sure they had all the necessary information, and put them in the top drawer of my desk.
Well, that was easy, I told myself.
Anderson made no move to get up from his chair. “I was wondering if you’d like to join me for dinner?” he asked.
Ta-Dah! I thought.
“That’s very nice of you, Mr. Anderson,” I began, “but...”
“It’s Stuart, please,” he said with a smile. “And please don’t misunderstand—I’m not trying to come on to you. It’s just that we have a mutual...friend...whom I’m meeting for dinner this evening and I thought you might like to join us. I know he’s looking forward to seeing you.”
He had me. I still suspected there might be a hook in there somewhere, but decided I didn’t really have too much to lose...except a client, of course.
“Well, sure,” I said. “That would be nice.” I didn’t ask who the mystery “friend” might be, but got the distinct impression that Anderson was giving me a little test to see how curious this detective he’d just hired might be.
Anderson got up from his chair, still smiling, and reached across the desk as I got up to shake hands.
“Seven thirty, then? At Napoleon—you know it, don’t you?”
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll see you there. And thank you.”
“My pleasure,” he said, and I somehow had a mental picture of a cat and a mouse.
And with that, he picked up his briefcase and left.
* * *
At exactly 7:25, Stuart Anderson walked in...alone. Uh huh. Here we go, I thought. He came over and took the stool next to me. Noticing my drink was still about 3/4 full, he nonetheless asked “Ready for another?”
I shook my head. “I’m fine, thanks,” I said as the bartender came over.
“Tangueray with a twist,” he said, reaching into his pocket to extract a roll of bills large enough to choke a pony, if not a horse. He peeled a $20 off the top, laid it on the bar in front of him, and stuck the wad back in his pocket.
“And our friend?” I couldn’t resist asking.
Anderson smiled. “He’ll be along in a moment,” he said. “Actually, I made the reservations for eight o’clock, to give us a few minutes to get to know one another.”
“I don’t normally mix business with pleasure,” he continued, “but I so seldom have the chance to just relax it’s nice to be among kindred spirits when I can.”
Kindred spirits, I thought, listening for the sound of imaginary hairpins hitting the floor.
“Yes,” I said. “I noticed you’re married.”
He glanced quickly at his left hand, splayed his fingers, and grinned. “Yeah,” he said. “Fifteen years, three kids; a different world. And a totally separate world,” he added.
Indeed, I thought.
“Any problem juggling them?” I asked. Bisexuals have always been a puzzle to me. Like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I wasn’t really sure I believed in them, but what other people did or thought was none of my business.
The bartender came with his drink, took his money and went to the register to ring up the sale and make change.
“Not at all,” Anderson said, jump-starting me back to where the conversation had left off. “When I’m in the straight world, I’m straight. When I’m in the gay world I’m...not straight. Obviously, most of my life is strictly heterosexual, but I’ve always enjoyed the things gay men can do that women can’t.”
Well, that was certainly cryptic, I thought, but didn’t choose to follow up on it. If he expected me to ask “Such as...?” he’d just have to wait. I still wasn’t convinced that this wasn’t all part of some game he enjoyed playing; and if he thought for one minute I wasn’t aware that he was playing....
“Fortunately,” he said, “I get to travel quite a bit, and when I do, I like to indulge myself a little.” He took a sip of his drink, then turned to look at me, full face. “How about you?” he asked. “Totally gay?”
I took another drink from my Manhattan before answering. “About as gay as they come,” I said.
“Hmm,” he said. “How old were you when you knew?” he asked.
I sat back on my stool. “I was really a late bloomer,” I said. “I think I was five before I was absolutely sure.”
Anderson looked a bit surprised. “And you’ve never...?”
I grinned and shook my head. “Never the slightest interest,” I said, rather hoping we could drop this whole line of conversation pretty soon.
Luckily, at that moment I noticed someone else coming into the small bar: tall—about six foot three—, black wavy hair, incredibly handsome. When he saw me he smiled, revealing about 72 of the whitest, most perfect teeth I’ve ever seen.
“Phil?” I asked, turning around on my stool and getting up to greet him. I noticed Anderson smiling broadly as Phil came over and grabbed me in a huge bear hug, which I returned. When we released one another, Phil turned to Anderson and shook hands: “Stuart,” he said warmly. “Good to see you.”
I managed to sit back down and, while Phil and Anderson exchanged a few words and Phil gave the bartender his order, my mind went back to my first meeting with Phil...or, as I first knew him, “Tex/Phil”...at Hughie’s, a hustler bar not far from my office. He’d been in full Marlboro Man drag at the time—though I thought even then that he had the Marlboro Man beat by a mile. Seeing him now, looking like he’d just stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine, only underscored the fact that Phil was an amazingly handsome—and sexy—piece of work But clearly, there had been some dramatic changes in his life.