Monday, March 9, 2009
The Butcher's Son excerpt by Dorien Grey
Dick Hardesty is pressed into service when someone starts burning down gay bars all over town and the police chief (nicknamed "the butcher") shrugs the whole thing off. Then drag queens and female impersonators get into the act and Dick is required to sleuth out who is hot and who is not. From the first of the Dick Hardesty series.
An additional excerpt posted 1/16/08.
The Butcher's Son
GLB Publishers (May, 2001)
It had turned rather cool by the time we reached the street. We made a circle around to the car to drop off the plastic grapes Chris had made me steal from the bar we'd just left, and then turned toward the Dog Collar. I didn't much care for the place. It was a big, cavernous dump that boasted 4 pool tables and a downstairs "dungeon" for those into group sex. Like a lot of older buildings, it had very high ceilings, which the management had recently tried to make appear lower by stretching some sort of black mesh fabric from wall to wall.
The clientele, as the bar's name might indicate, was supposedly ultra-butch. I've got nothing at all against being butch, mind you—if it's authentic. But the Dog Collar crowd was plastic grapes butch. Still, it always drew a good crowd, and was obviously packed tonight.
We were about two doors from the entrance, when we heard a muffled "Whoomp" which sounded like it came from the alley behind the bar, and a moment or two later, the double front doors burst opened and a tidal wave of men washed out into the street, running. Shouts of…"Fire!" could be heard from inside and from those in the river of men gushing through the door. Chris and I stood frozen in mid step, then moved away from the buildings with the crowd and into the street. A wide, flat ribbon of smoke unfurled slowly out the top of the door, over the heads of those scrambling to get out.
No dictionary could ever have described the word "chaos" more vividly. Men were running, pushing, tripping over one another as they emerged, turning around to shout for friends still inside. Two or three guys fought against the tide, trying to go back in, but they couldn't buck the crowd coming out, and the smoke was getting heavy now.
The single fact of that outward-opening, double-door entrance was all that prevented a human logjam forming there, and blessedly anyone who made it as far as the door was able to escape.
In the far distance, the sound of sirens could be heard. The street was a milling mass of men; leathermen, pseudo leathermen, male strippers in g-strings and loincloths, college types, hunks, average Joes, older, younger; a cross section of the male gay community. Ironically, music still blared from inside the bar.
Small clusters of guys gathered together, some holding each other, some holding others back. Others pushed their way back and forth through the crowd, trying to locate friends. There were obviously many people hurt—most were coughing uncontrollably as they ran out, and others collapsed just outside the door and were dragged away from the entrance and carried across the street to be laid out on the sidewalk, where others huddled over them, doing what they could to help. Some just stood staring wide-eyed at the door as a few snake-tongues of orange fire began to lick out over the top of the doorway, as if tasting the air. The cacophony of sounds, however, could not hide what were too obviously screams from inside. The music had stopped.
Chris and I were totally walled in by the crowd, many still coughing and smelling of smoke, on one side of the semi-circle of onlookers. We weren't close enough to the front to be able to do anything, and we were sick with the feeling of helplessness. Still they kept coming out—guys at the front of the crowd, which was being driven back by the increasing heat and billowing smoke, would rush forward to grab anyone who made it through the doors and lead them to safety, or run interference to prevent others from trying to reenter the building to save friends or lovers..
We stood there, pressed against those crowded around us, and looked around to see if there were anyone we knew. Chris stood on tip-toe, trying to see over the heads of those directly around us. Fewer were coming out, now. One guy—probably one of the strippers—stumbled through the doorway, totally naked, obviously badly burned, his hair smoldering. He appeared slowly, back-lit by an angry pulsating orange, and leaned against the door frame as though it were a part of his number. Then he pushed himself forward, made it just outside the door, and toppled like a fallen tree onto the sidewalk before those dashing in to help him could reach him. They picked him up and carried across the street, the crowd parting to allow them through. And an instant later, a form appeared, from the other side of the doorway, crawling on all fours, his shirt on fire. He was grabbed and pulled forward by several guys who slapped at his shirt with their hands to put out the fire. They got him to his feet, but he looked frantically around at the crowd, then broke away and ran back toward the door, from which no one else was emerging. Two of those who'd helped him ran after him and grabbed him just before he reached the door, which was by this time engulfed in flame. They dragged him backward as he fought to break free, straining forward and yelling something we could not make out over the incredible din. There were no more screams coming from inside the bar; just the triumphant roar of the flames.
The first squad car came racing down the street, siren wailing, lights flashing, horn blasting, followed by no fewer than three fire trucks, with the lights of others closing in from both directions. The crowd scattered before them.
And over all the sirens, and the yells, and the dull thrum of the fire, which was now pouring out of the door and had broken through the roof, I heard a voice:
"Dick! Dick!" I looked around and Chris pointed to the guy whose shirt had been on fire, still being held by his rescuers. It was our neighbor, Bob Allen.
Ambulances were beginning to arrive as the firemen rolled out their hoses and the police…several squads of them by this time, began moving the crowd back to allow the arriving ambulances to get through.
We shouldered our way through the mass of guys to Bob. He had blood running down his left temple from a gash somewhere just above the hairline. But his face! I hope I never see another expression on anyone's face like I saw on Bob's. The two guys holding him, seeing that we knew him, reluctantly released him. He grabbed us both, one with each hand, and his knees started to buckle. We grabbed him and held him up between us.
He tightened his grip on our arms. "You've got to help me go back in!" he pleaded, and suddenly my head jerked up to meet Chris's eyes, which mirrored my own shock in realizing why.
"Ramón!" Bob said, pointing to the inferno. "Ramón's still in there!"