Monday, March 25, 2013

Sold! excerpt by Etienne

In Sold! by Etienne, Winston Martsolf has just graduated from college. With Clancey, his boyfriend of several years, he is on his first Peace Corps mission in East Africa. He and two other blond men are captured at gunpoint and wind up in the hands of a slaver. In the process of getting him ready to be a sex slave, his body has been sexually nullified (his external genitalia have been removed), with but one exception. One of his testicles has been moved inside his body so that he will retain his secondary sexual characteristics. As his captor explains, ‘Many of the wealthy Arabs like to mount blond young men, but they don’t like to be reminded of the fact that they are men.”

In this excerpt, Winston is about to be sold on the block. He refers to his captor as Bwana, and to the man who has become his handler as Ahmed. Winston is remembering what happened to him in a series of dream sequences.



“Go sit in that chair,” Ahmed said, pointing at one of the two empty chairs, “and no talking or you’ll be beaten.”

A few minutes later, a wheelchair whose occupant was wearing a hood was wheeled into the room, and his caretaker removed the hood and gave him the same instructions that I’d just been given. We sat for quite a while under the watchful eyes of the guards until, finally, a man in robes entered the room, pointed to one of the victims and said, “Stand up and remove your robes.”

The guy did so, and a rope ending in a sort of noose was produced. The noose was placed around his neck, tightened, and he was led from the room as naked as the day he was born, albeit missing a few body parts. Eventually, the first guy was led back to his chair, the second guy was ordered to strip, and the process began again. Finally, Ahmed entered the room and it was my turn. I stood and removed my robes as instructed, and the noose, which based on its feel was woven from silk, was placed around my neck, then Ahmed led me from the room and down a corridor.

He stood for a minute outside of a door, and when the door opened, he said softly, “Remember to follow instructions and you will be fine.”

He led me into a fairly large room with a sort of raised dais in the center. There were several rows of chairs on risers circling the dais, and I couldn’t begin to count how many men were in that room, all of them leering at my ravaged body. I put on what I hoped was a stiff upper lip as Ahmed led me to the dais where Bwana was waiting. Ahmed handed the rope to Bwana, and Bwana said, “Step up onto the dais, arms at your sides and feet spread fairly wide apart.”

I did so and stood there looking straight ahead, eyes focused on nothing in particular. The auction was carried out in Arabic, so I understood nothing other than the fact that the interest in the room seemed rather intense. Eventually, a man came up to the dais, and Bwana said, “Open your mouth.”

I did so, and the man inspected my teeth using a very grubby looking finger. The finger withdrew and I was instructed to bend over, which I did. A pair of hands spread my cheeks painfully wide, and the same finger was inserted and began to probe. It found its target quickly, and I tried to resist a slight shudder. Looking up between my legs, I saw the finger withdraw, then I watched a small flashlight being turned on and pointed in the direction of my anus. What the fuck are they looking for, hemorrhoids? I wondered. After that, I was instructed to stand. This process was repeated so many times with different men that I lost count after the tenth such inspection. When I was instructed to stand after what turned out to be the last time, for some reason I looked at the top row of chairs, focused my eyes, and saw three familiar faces. A jolt of rage went through me, but I was determined not to let it show, so I stood ramrod straight but with my back arched just a bit, clasped my hands behind my head, and stared the three men down. Finally it was over, and I was led back to the room which I now thought of as a holding cell, and Ahmed said, “You may take a seat, but do not put your robes back on just yet. Now, we wait.”

Someone came for the fourth victim, and we waited until he was eventually led back into the room. After another long wait, Bwana entered the room accompanied by a man with several tools. The man proceeded to fasten what appeared to be silver collars around each of us. I watched as the first collar was put into place, and the process made my skin crawl.

Bwana said something unintelligible to the victim, then a heavy leather pad was placed between the collar and the back of the guy’s neck, a pencil thin torch was momentarily applied to the place where the two halves of the collar joined, then a drop of something (solder?) was placed on the clasp, and the two halves were snapped together with an audible click. A second later the back of his neck was doused with water, presumably to cool the solder, if that’s what it was. Then the second guy’s turn came, and this time I clearly heard Bwana’s instructions, “Hold very, very still, unless you want to be severely burned.”

When my turn came, he repeated the instructions and I froze in place. It was painfully hot, but not quite hot enough to scorch my skin, and the cold water felt damn good afterward. I couldn’t even bear to watch the fourth victim being dealt with.

What next? I wondered. I didn’t have to wait long to find out, because a gurney was wheeled into the room, and the first victim was ordered to lie face down on it while a man tattooed some script on his ass. After him, came victim number two and then me. The tattooing didn’t hurt nearly as much as I’d feared it would, and I endured it in silence. The tattoo artist left the room after the fourth victim had gotten his tattoo, and four men entered. The first victim was again ordered to lie face down on the table. One of the men stood by the gurney and actually laid his body across the victim’s back, while another man did the same thing to his legs. The victim couldn’t move a muscle if he wanted to, which was a good thing in light of what happened next.

The remaining two men took a small torch and several small tools with handles—they resembled small hand-held potato mashers, except that they ended in small, thin, oddly shaped, vertical strips of a very shiny metal which could have been stainless steel. Using the torch, one man heated one of the metal pieces until the edges of the metal was red-hot, and with a gloved hand the other man touched it to the victims flesh. I don’t know which was worse—the victim’s screams or the smell of burning human flesh. The process was repeated two more times with other strips of metal, and when it was over the two men who’d been holding the victim down stood up, one of them produced a large gauze pad, spread some sort of substance onto it from a tube and taped it expertly over the wounds. Then the sobbing and moaning victim was helped to his feet, into his robes, and was wheeled from the room in a wheelchair.

I couldn’t bear to watch the second victim receive the same treatment knowing that I was next, but I couldn’t bear not to watch either. To my surprise, after he was wheeled from the room, I was bypassed and the fourth victim was similarly treated—I felt doubly sorry for him, given that fear had caused him to lose control of his bladder, and his legs were streaked with urine.

When I was the only victim left in the room, Ahmed pointed to the gurney and started to say something, but Bwana interrupted him, saying, “Just a minute, Ahmed.”

Then he looked at me and said, “What did you see in that room that made you look so defiant at the end? It almost caused a serious problem.”

“Until that moment, I had deliberately not looked at the faces in the audience, but for some reason after the last time I was ‘inspected’, I looked up and saw three familiar faces in the last row. One of them was my father, and he was obviously gloating over my fate; one of them was my younger brother, and the silly grin on his face told me that he was stoned out of his mind, as usual; the other man was someone who’s been a guest in our home many times over the years, but his name escapes me at the moment.”

“I shouldn’t tell you this,” Bwana said, “but because you commanded the highest price ever recorded in this auction, I will do so. The man’s name is Foster Shepherd. He’s with your State Department, and helped your father pave the way for what has happened to you.”

“Now I remember the name. Thank you. Am I to know how much I brought and who purchased me?”

“Two million American dollars, and a wealthy prince purchased you for his twenty-year-old princeling. You were very lucky in that respect, Mr. Martsolf, as many of the young men in this region haven’t quite grown into their native cruelty as yet.”

“Thank you for telling me,” I said.

Bwana said something to Ahmed, Ahmed ordered me onto the gurney, and before I knew it the two men were on top of me—it was my turn. I braced myself for what was to come, but nothing can ever prepare you for that kind of searing pain and I screamed in agony, just as the others had done. When I was no longer held down I felt a compress against my now raw flesh. There must have been some sort of topical analgesic in the salve—and a very powerful one at that—because the pain immediately lessened quite a bit. Ahmed helped me into my robes before he rolled me out of the room and down the corridor to the service elevator. I watched the numbers climbing on the indicator and saw that the letter P was one level above the sixtieth floor. When the elevator door opened, I saw that we were in a lavishly decorated corridor down which I was rolled until Ahmed stopped at a door and inserted a key into the lock. “Inside,” he said.

I stepped somewhat shakily out of the chair and into a luxury suite with stunning views of an ocean, although I wasn’t sure which ocean.

“What now?” I said.

“Now, you shower again and get ready for your new master. First I will give you instructions in the care of your wounds.”

He pointed at a door, and when I opened it I found myself in a large bedroom with an open door at one side leading to a bathroom beyond. The bathroom would have delighted even the most decadent of sybarites. It was all marble and gold, and in addition to a huge bathtub, there was a separate glassed-in shower large enough to accommodate several people. There was also a Jacuzzi in one corner of the room.

“Hurry,” Ahmed said, “you must be ready when your owner arrives.”

I took a thoroughly soapy shower, using some of the scented soap provided, and when I’d toweled myself dry, Ahmed said, “Lean against the wall with your back to me, so I can replace your bandages.”

I did as instructed, and felt the tape being ripped away, followed shortly by more blessed relief from a fresh application of whatever salve it was. Then he said, “Bend over.”

I did so, and he used what my nose detected as a scented douche to clean my nether regions, followed by some lubricant. I stood up when instructed, and he spent several minutes telling me how to care for my wounds, stressing the importance of avoiding infection.

“That’s all well and good,” I said, “but will my owner allow me to take care of this?”

“Certainly. Two million dollars has been invested in you, and he will not take any risks with your health. Since you cannot easily change the bandages yourself, one of his other slaves will be instructed to see to your care.”

Then he took me into the bedroom, pulled back the covers, told me to get under the sheets, which felt like silk or perhaps satin, and recline on the pillows.

“Now, you wait for your master, and you do what he says. The boss told you that how well you please your master will determine your treatment and your fate. I will be on guard.”

I pulled the sheet up to my waist and lay back on the pillows, doing my best to relieve any pressure against my wounds, waiting. After a very long time, a rather young-looking man came into the room and walked up to the bed.

“I am Prince Omar,” he said, “but you must call me Master.”

“Yes, Master,” I said.

“Very good,” he said. Then he began to remove his clothing.

My new master stood beside the bed naked, revealing a slim body and an average but flaccid penis. “Suck it and make it hard,” he said, “then I will mount you.”

I moved around until I was sitting on the edge of the bed, then I bent down and did as I was ordered. It didn’t take long to get him hard as a rock, then he pushed me back down on the bed and said, “Get on your hands and knees, so I can mount you like a dog.”

“Yes, Master,” I said, and hurried to comply.

He knelt behind me and rammed his erection into me. I didn’t have to feign the expected yelps of pain, because he occasionally collided with my wounds when he thrust deeply and his body slammed into mine. Eventually, he bent down across my back and said in a whisper while he was thrusting in and out of me, “Scream some more. There are cameras and my father is watching and listening.”

I began to yell and beg him to stop hurting me. In fact, I got so carried away with my performance that I almost missed his climax. He pulled out of me, sat back on his haunches and said, “You may sit up now.”

“Thank you, Master. Would you like to mount me again?”

“Soon,” he said, “but first, I must visit the bathroom and wash your infidel smells from my body.”

I lay back on the pillows and waited. When he returned from the bathroom he was swaggering just a little. For my benefit or the cameras? I wondered. He walked back to the side of the bed and said, “Make it hard again.”

“Yes, Master,” I said. This time it took a bit longer, but he was young and randy enough that it didn’t take all that long.

“On your back, infidel,” he said, when he was once again hard.

“Yes, Master. Would you like a pillow under my ass?”

“Why would I want that?”

“It will make the entry easier for you.” Not to mention less pressure on my wounds, I thought.

"Then do it quickly.”

“Yes, Master.” I positioned one of the king-size pillows under my butt, carefully raised my legs into the air and grabbed my ankles. Then I said, “I am ready for you, Master.”

He knelt between my legs again, grabbed my ankles and went to work. It took a little bit longer for him to finish this time, and my cries of faux pain masked my feelings of pleasure—his erection was the perfect length and curved upward just a bit so that it managed to strike and rub across my prostate with every thrust. He grunted with pleasure and I once again felt his erection twitching inside me. Then I gave a little grunt of my own and some sticky white fluid spread between our bodies. When he felt the wetness he quickly pulled out of me, jumped back and said, “What is that?”

“Master is a real man,” I said, “even though he gave his slave pain, he also gave him pleasure.”

“That is disgusting,” he said, looking at the sticky white stuff on both our bodies.

“Shall I fill the bathtub for you, Master? Then you can soak all of this from your body.”

“Do it!” he said.

“Yes, Master,” I said, as I scrambled quickly off the bed and scurried into the bathroom, all the while cautioning myself not to ham it up too much.

When the tub was half full, I returned to the bedroom and said, “Would Master care to test the water temperature?”

“Yes.” He followed me into the bathroom, closing the door behind us. Then he stuck his hand in the tub, smiled and said, “This is good.”

He climbed into the huge tub and asked me to get in it with him. I did, even though I winced when the water soaked through my bandages, then I leaned forward and whispered, “No cameras in the bathroom, yes?”

“None. No microphones, either.”

“Would you like me to wash your body for you?”

“Yes, please.”

I soaped both of our bodies thoroughly, then opened the drain. After that, I closed the curtain, turned on the shower, and rinsed us off. While the water was still running, he stood belly to belly with me, kissed me and said softly, “I like you already, slave.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “but even I know how dangerous this must be for you in this part of the world.”

“Yes, it is,” he said. “But as long as my father lives, I can do as I like, provided I do it in private. And when we return to our province, we will be very private.”

Oh, God, I thought. Just what I need, a gay owner in a part of the world were people were beheaded for such things.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Belmundus (Book One of The FarnTrilogy) excerpt by Edward C Patterson

In Belmundus, Book One of The Farn Trilogy by Edward C Patterson, Harris Cartwright, a young A-list actor, is at the crossroads. His career’s on fire - in a good way, but a missed step on an evening romp with an alluring stalker brings him to the brink of a strange world. He finds he’s been drawn into a dystopian realm and is transformed into the new Gulliver.

Belmundus is the first book of The Farn Trilogy, an adventure into the realms of high society and tyranny — a place were the native cultures have been displaced by an elite force of magicians and a conqueror’s brutal hand. Harris Cartwright has been drawn into elite society, but soon discovers his sympathies for the underdog as he searches for an exit and his true-self. Along the way, he makes indelible friendships and encounters . . . love.

Belmundus, your passport into the Realms of Farn, introduces a tale of ancient history, lingering mystery, tantalizing promises and enduring prophecies. Harris Cartwright soon learns that this alternate reality is truer than any movie set he has ever graced. He’s up for the shoot, but is always on the lookout for exit - stage right.

Belmundus - Book One of The Farn Trilogy
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 5, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1482697238
ISBN-13: 978-1482697230


Chapter One

Astral Beauties1

“I’m a star,” he whispered to the young man in the mirror. “A star,” and then chuckled as he thought about a giant gas ball, ignorantly fixing planets in orbit for no other reason but gravity.

Harris Cartwright, born nineteen years earlier and christened Humphrey Kopfstutter, smiled dimly in the mirror. Dimly, because the hotel room shone amber with its upscale ambience — flattering light designed to be so. Still, in any light, this star of stage and screen was a Narcissus; although his reflection sometimes tamed him.

Harris moistened his bottom lip with his upper, and then winked. He shrugged, and then preened, coming closer to his reflection, nearly kissing the glass. Pucker he did; then laughed. His grin exposed a brilliant smile, a gap between his two front teeth — a chasm his mother meant to have corrected when he had landed his first role as a wee urchin in a Dickens remake. However, the gap and his alluring eyes kept the roles coming until . . . well, until the adolescent leaped the gulf between child actor and teen idol; done with ease and without scandal, drugs or an arrest record. Now Harris leaped the second gulf — youthful high school parts to the dashing hero. Still, he could hide his secrets safely from public view — although the public pried.

He winked again, and then turned around on the stool, which faced the dressing table. The hotel was accommodating — equipped for a range of actors from A-list to C, now that the Tribeca Film Festival had rolled in this town. The SoHo Grand, the classiest bed roll in this lower Manhattan neighborhood, had no vacancies this weekend.

Harris stood and stretched. He had slept the day away and, now as evening hugged the New York skyline, he was up for nocturnal festivities — a sneak preview of his new film The Magic Planet to be followed by a Q&A panel and light refreshments. Who knew what would come beyond that? These junkets were regulated to a point, but burst like fireworks when the rockets spent. Harris might take an evening romp with his co-star. The prospects loomed, so Harris stretched, chucked his underwear, and then headed for the shower.


The hotel room was small by luxury standards, but the Grand had arisen like morning cream. The warm rooms shimmered with golden walls and amber lighting. All that wasn’t silk, was satin. When not occupied by a nineteen-year old, the king size bed wore an olive satin spread, seagreen silk sheets, a princely counterpane and stately pillows. Now the bedding was tossed asunder as if cats had fought in the sack. Clothes were strewn on the floor in a trail from dresser to bed, from bed to shower. Books and scripts kiltered in piles on the dressing table, and the telephone directory sprawled beside a tray with last night’s room service caking in partnership with this morning’s breakfast. No lunch — evidently.

The shower room opened directly into the boudoir, a glass panel separating it from the minibar. To Harris, the steaming water would be his wake-up call. He wasn’t sure what time it was (and he didn’t worry, because Tony watched those details). However, a schedule would kick in eventually. It always did on publicity junkets. Soon, a flock of studio bullies, who, as well-meaning as they pretended to be, would erase his freedom. They were the paycheck, after all, and who was he?

“I’m a star,” he gurgled, spitting out a mouthful of amber water. He laughed again, the stream plastering his curly hair into black slick. He shook the cascades from his eyes and laughed again, and then ran a soapy cloth over his newfound biceps. His last flick demanded his body beef up from a teenage lanky noodle to a swashbuckling space pirate. He was unaccustomed to the added musculature, although the chicks dug it.

At the thought of chicks, Harris smiled, leaning against the glass wall and letting the shower permeate every pore — every crevice. He felt giddy, his hormones having run the gamut of sexual urges and experiences lately. Still, he refused to declare a preference in public. He couldn’t even admit his affinities in the shower stall, because he wasn’t sure he had a preference — a weather vane at times; at other times, as sure as the partner who shared his bed. One thing was positive. He hadn’t time to ponder the issue now or do more than scrub his groin in this shower-call.

“Maybe later,” he mused, and then hastened to finish, turning the taps and waiting for the steam to clear.

Harris reached for a towel — a preliminary dry, beginning with face and hair, and then creating a silly turban, which didn’t squat well on his noggin. He grabbed a second towel for his nether parts, marrying this more ample terry around his waist into something akin to Pharaoh’s kilt.

“A star,” he said again, and then slid open the glass door.

The room’s chill met him and he noticed something queer. On the shower door, written in the condensation, were letters. He squinted, thinking he might have accidentally etched these sigils, but he hadn’t. These were letters — clear and definite.


“What the fuck?” he said, pawing the initials. “See you later — CMJ?”

He turned, looking for uninvited company.

“Tony?” he called. “Are you here?”

Harris inspected the room, walking over his debris, pushing linen with his feet and picking up his clothes as he went. Opening the closet door cautiously, he expected to encounter Anthony Bentley-Jones, his co-star and best friend. A joke, perhaps. However, the closet, devoid of actors, contained only tonight’s wardrobe.

Harris threw off the turban, and then returned to the shower door, hunkering for another inspection before the initials faded. But they were still clear. He rubbed them. They remained. He pushed back, landing on his ass.

“They’re inside. Whoever wrote this was in the fucking shower with me.”

He crabbed back to the bed, took the room in again, and then laughed.

“You’re nuts, Humphrey. Scared by a little soap scum?”

He shook his damp hair, and then sought the dryer.


Again the mirror loomed while Harris dried his hair. He inspected his cheeks for blemishes and his chin for the scar remnant — a nick from a sword accident on the last film. It healed nicely — nothing makeup couldn’t hide, and was more pronounced two weeks ago, when he had walked the red carpet in L. A. Tony fussed over the scar so much, Harris thought Mom had tagged along. Mom wasn’t the stage door kind, but she had rules — good rules, which worked well for a child actor transitioning through this Thespian world. Mom’s rules guided Harris to regard acting as a job rather than a privilege. A good thing, because he loved his job. He hated these junkets and the crowd’s rush. The red carpet was his least favorite thing, although he was gracious to his fans and never withheld his autograph.

He mused on his last prance on the red carpet. Unlike tonight, a public preview at a festival, two weeks ago the event was an invitation-only première. He was tuxedoed and spotlighted — the press in full attendance — interviewers great and small, each with frivolous questions like did you find the battle scenes hard? Did you perform your own stunts? We hear talk about you and Romey (Romaine Rowan — the heroine). Any truth to it?

Drone. Drone. Drone.

Harris danced around these questions. He hugged Romaine and Tony and the director, McCann Phillips. He stood with them and posed and preened and bathed in a shower of flashbulbs and strobes behind the usual studio spoiler backdrop. It was a whirl until he saw . . . saw her.

She, a fan, cocked her head and grinned. She, dressed in black denim and a leather cap, was unlike other fans, who stretched arms forward, pens in one hand, books in the other — this girl in black denim stood patiently, smiling confidently, and then . . . winked.

“Do you see her?” Harris whispered to Tony.

“What ya talkin’ about, mate,” Tony replied. “All I see is a sea of screamin’ Mimis, and you know not one of ‘em’s me type.”

“I didn’t mean that,” Harris said. “I mean, focus your ass and look at that one over there — the one that’s casing me.”

“They’re all casing you. I mean, who wouldn’t, you damn cutie?”

“Stop it.”

But Tony wasn’t in the mood for sightseeing. The whirl distracted him. They were the attraction. The stars. The fans, white noise.

White noise.

Except that one, there. That one in black stillness. Then Harris, compelled to speak with her, broke ranks, despite the push to enter the theater.

“Where ya goin’, mate?”

“Nowhere,” Harris muttered, his eyes drifting to that wink in the crowd.

He went to the sidelines, suddenly accosted by hundreds of arms and pens and books and screaming women. They broke his reverie. He grasped one book, and then another, and yet another, signing and scribbling on demand. When he looked up, she was gone.

“Gone,” he said, now into the mirror, and then pouted.

But he had seen her again; last week near his mother’s house in Santa Monica. While heading to the Yatzy Club with his little sister, Harris wore his usual public disguise (thick glasses and a false nose). He encountered a gaggle of fans. Sarah, his sister, always a good shepherdess, tugged him across Santa Monica Boulevard to avoid detection. There were times for adulation, and times for anonymity. Harris liked the Yatzy Club because the DJ, although recognizing him, would never blow his cover.


Crossing the boulevard, he spotted a lone wolf coming in the opposite direction.

“It’s her,” he muttered.

“Her who?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, loosing himself from his sister’s arm.

The lady wore black denim — the same outfit she had at the première. She strolled with swagger, her head down, but she looked up when she passed him. She winked, her chalk-white skin amplifying her crimson lips. She had a green beauty mark on her right cheek. Harris gasped — his chest hitching. But even as he turned to follow her, she hastened to the curb.

“Wait,” he called.

She didn’t. She raised a departing hand — an alluring fist wrapped in a black fingerless glove — on her finger, a captivating jade ring. Then, as if the night had swallowed her, she disappeared. Harris reached the curb.

“Do you know her?” Sarah asked. “You look . . .”

“No.” he replied. “She’s . . . How do I look?”

“Smitten, Humph. Let me fix your nose.”

They had neared the gaggle of club girls. One latex slip and Harris would be a rooster fending for his life in the henhouse. He let his sister repair his nose and straighten his thick glasses. Still, he meant to pursue the phantom lady, only . . . where did she go?

“She’s a dream now,” he said into the mirror, the hairdryer aimed at emptiness.

The lady in black denim — the evasive girl of the night, no longer remained in reality. She stalked Harris’ dreams this last week. He spent the afternoon trying to escape her clutches. But she lingered — on the red carpet and at the curb, winking and waving, and then coming close to his ear, her crimson lips and chalky cheeks an arabesque to his quaking soul. These were good dreams, but fell short of The Magic Planet. Harris had spent so much time on bizarre sets, this shade had to be a remnant hallucination from a cut scene — a scripted snippet chastised by better reason, never to be seen in the projector’s flicker.

“You’re spoiling me,” he muttered, shutting the dryer and nodding his head before his image.

A knock at the door interrupted this reverie.

“It’s open,” he shouted.

“What d’ya mean, it’s open, mate?” came a voice from the hall. “‘ow can it be open?”

Harris set the dryer down and let the towel fall. He let his co-star in.

“Well, don’t cover your nuts for me,” Tony said, bouncing in as if it were his room. “And what d’ya mean, it’s open?”

“I was testing you,” Harris replied. “And you didn’t mind me butt naked last week.”

“Well, we’ve no time for that sort of thing now. We’re late, and King McCann’ll have those balls if there’s a repeat of . . .”

“Hush up,” Harris said, without malice.

“Is your minibar stocked?” Tony announced, aiming directly for it. “Or should I ask? You sip only fizzy drinks and water, unless there’s a bloody ‘eifer up ‘ere filling jugs with chocky milk.”

“You know we have to pay for that shit.”

“You’re payin’, thank ye. Me cooler’s gone empty some’ow.” He shrugged and grinned. “Get dressed and . . .” Tony raised his hand toward the bed. “What a toss we ‘ave ‘ere? Did you ‘ave some birds in? I’m green with envy.”

“No. Nothing like that,” Harris said, pulling on his briefs and heading for the closet. “I slept, mostly.”

“Looks like you wrestled the queen ‘ere.”

“No, you weren’t anywhere around,” Harris replied, chuckling. “Get your drink. I’ll be ready in a shake.”

Anthony Bentley-Jones, the draw of the East end and many a rear end, bowed first to the bed, and then the minibar. He was a good egg, as they said across the pond. He was four years older than Harris, but in the biz longer, having made his first cereal commercial at age two, his Mummy hell-bent on keeping herself in gin and marijuana. The Bentley-Jones franchise (which began as the Koslowsky enterprise) was not as smooth and carefree as the Cartwright-Kopfstutter dynasty. Little Antonin’s Mummy drove him from stage door to audition to rock video to TV commercial to rascal roles until, by age ten (just over a decade earlier) he was a bundle of talented nerves and molested by a string of equally talented directors. He still landed plum roles, but his decadence factor overshadowed many jaded actors three times his age. However, he had his good looks and came out of the closet three years ago, with much aplomb. The rumors that he had slept with every one of his co-stars (male and female) were true, or so he told the press.

They don’t call me Bentley-Jones for nothin’, dearies.

Tony pulled the minibar door ajar and perused the choice of little bottles.

“I see the munchies ‘ave gone missin’.” He glanced at the floor. “Your aim is bleedin’ off. I ‘ope you made it to the loo better’an you did the dustbin.” He rattled through the shot bottles, putting a few in his jacket pocket. “And what’ll grace your glorious body tonight?”

“Something simple.”

Harris alluded snidely to Tony’s over-the-top outfit — very Dorsetshire — a flowery shirt beneath a blue blazer, a pink hankie mushrooming from where the yacht insignia should have been — a fedora (duck feathered – green) and, of course, an Ascot.

“Simple? Jeans and shitekickers?” Tony drawled like a Dallas native just short of Yorkshire. He turned, and then glanced over his tinted glasses at the young American. “Now that’s bloody fetchin’. Turn ‘bout and let your Auntie Antonia assess.”

Harris had donned a green silk shirt and a white jacket with matching pants. He was stunning. He knew it, but dummied down this wardrobe choice. He was more comfortable in, as Tony had stated, jeans and shitekickers. He refused to do a runway twirl for Auntie Antonia, although he had seen the runway on many a fashion week.

“Listen,” he said sternly. “I told you the judge is still out on me and the coming-out ball.”

“I ‘ate when a man can’t make up ‘is own mind,” Tony said, pouting. He held a gin sample in one hand and a Post-it in the other. “You just want the best of both worlds — and I guarantee that you’ll never get anything better’an me.”

“Stop it.” Harris squinted. “What’s that?”

Tony lifted the bottle.


“No . . . that?”

“Oh. This was stuck inside ya minibar. Maybe a note from the mice that you ate their munchies. Stole their splif too, I bet.” He looked at the Post-it, and then frowned. “Not the mice. It’s from a secret admirer. It says,” he adjusted his glasses. “It says — I C U and C U l8r, CMJ.”

Harris shuddered. He rushed to Tony’s side, swiping the note, and then stared hard.

“You did ‘ave a bird up ‘ere in this cage today,” Tony said, fretfully. “You needn’t ‘ave lied. I mean, we’re not a couple or anything like that.”

“Nothing like that, and I didn’t have . . . a bird in this cage today.”

Tony shook his head knowingly.

“Ah, you said the door was open. So that’s ‘ow it’s done. You know in some cat ‘ouses an open door is a signal for . . .”

“Stop it. I had no one here. At least, no one that . . . Anyone could have stuck this in the fridge.”

Tony pocketed the gin and shut the minibar door with his foot.

“Keep your little secrets. Let’s just get a move on, mate. The limos’ll be lining the curb and we mustn’t keep a Rolls-Royce waitin’.”

Harris Cartwright, star of stage and screen, sighed. He glanced about his home away from home and wondered about the journey. This was the only life he knew, and now he must move along a professional course.

“You’re right,” he said. “We’re stars — giant balls of gas. Let’s go fill the galaxy with our stink.”

“Why, what’s crawled up your arse, mate?”

Harris grinned. He was the master of the moment in his green shirt and white duds. He had a Q&A to give and flashbulbs to embrace. It was illusion, but he knew no other life.

Chapter Two

Pursuit 1

Harris peered out the limousine window at the passing New York City lights — lights like none other on the planet. The Manhattan skyline fascinated him. He had lived here for a brief spell when he made his crime drama Bad Boys in the City. He had invested time exploring the museums, the clubs (those that let him in as a courtesy and not by proof of age), and the hustle-bustle of Greenwich Village at night. His destination tonight was the Village 7 Theater, a Tribeca Festival venue. The ride was short.

“There she be,” Tony said, pointing through the traffic. “Small, but at your service.”

“Are you shit canning your accent tonight?” Harris asked.

“What accent, mate?”

Harris laughed. Tony could slather the Yorkshire when he wanted the audience to lean forward and listen attentively. Gets their undivided attention, it does, Tony would say. However, he played Captain Joseph Baneworthy in The Magic Planet, a character as American as American could be — not a hint of the Yorkish tongue. He could have been cornbread Des Moines. Mr. Bentley-Jones was an actor, after all — a star and, as gas giants went, as seamless as the sky.

“Get ready for the crush,” Harris warned.

“This is a wee preview, laddie,” Tony replied, tipping his head backwards to empty a minibar special.

“You’ll need a breath mint,” Harris said, fishing in his pocket.

“Nothin’ doin’. I’m ‘ard drinkin’ Joe Baneworthy, the Commander of The Galaxy 12. The public should expect ‘ooch on me kisser.” He laughed. “Besides, a preview crowd’s shy of the première crowd with ‘alf the paparazzi.”

“I know. Still, the world’s watching us.”

“Not without a ticket, mate.” Tony yawned. “I could use a noddy ‘fore I get too pissed.”

“You can’t sleep through your own performance.”

“Why not? I was sleepwalkin’ on the set. I could ‘ardly watch the rushes. I mean, when we do the legitimate gig, we’re not in the audience enjoyin’ us. It’s bloody work, you know. We’ve no right to sit back and look in the looking glass.”

The looking glass. Harris knew the looking glass. Sometimes he winced at his own performances. In the beginning, it was fun, but he was a kid. Now, whenever he was in the audience, he was a critic. Always something — a misplaced inflection or a facial twitch. Directors were the ultimate critics, and if satisfied, actors could be happy. Still, Harris couldn’t imagine sleeping at either a première or a preview. Fun flickered seeing himself twenty-feet high, luminous in the dark and delivering art to a crowd of adoring strangers chomping popcorn and silencing cell phones.

“You don’t want to know if they liked your performance?” he asked Tony, who leaned forward preparing to exit onto the red carpet.

“I can tell without watchin’. I listen to the chairs.”

“The chairs?”

“Aye, me laddie. Silent chairs mean I’ve earned it. Creaky chairs means the lions are restless and owed a refund.”

Harris laughed, not because it was funny (which it was), but true.

“You’re not that rich,” he replied.

“But you are, mate.”

The limo door opened and the flashing commenced.


The crowd, large for the space — Eleventh Street being narrow, the red carpet had been shortened between a few silver stanchions. A modest festival security detail pressed the fans to the curb.

Harris popped a grin, radiating his famous tooth gap. Shouts of Harris cut the night air, with here and there an Anthony and a Romaine and an Audra and a Max and a Milton. The entire cast arrived in mixed fashion and different length limousines. There were some calls for McCann, but directors usually weren’t regaled from curbside. However, this was a prestigious festival, and a fan or three were here to admire the McCann Phillips’ screen craft. Generally known for television work and three romantic screen comedies, The Magic Planet was his first foray into epic fantasy. His chops rode on its success.

Flashes pumped like fireworks and interviewers massed at the theater’s glass doors, microphones at the ready. There, Harris groped for Tony, as the cast coagulated into a lineup — posing for the world. Harris trotted out his latent humility to assure the paying public their icon was human and, like the rest of the species, flushed the toilet.

Harris waved at the fan blur. If the cordons fell, the crowd would charge him like bulls at Pamplona, skewering him with adoration. But his mother had coached him well:

Humph, she had told him, never look upon their love as real. They have lives beyond you and when you’re bigger and older, they will embrace the image fixed within your work and not the one hidden from their view — the true you.

Mother Kopfstetter was right, of course. Harris was wise enough to keep his work life separated from his personal life. But Mama never said to ignore the sweet aroma when the two overlapped naturally.

Scanning the face blurs and following the interviewers with their lollipop mikes accosting Romaine with questions about a recent tumble she took over her pet poodle, Harris spotted one clear face in the crowd. He shook his head, because he didn’t trust what he saw.

“Tony,” he whispered. “Is she here again?”

Tony placed his chin on Harris’ shoulder to capture his sight line.

“That’s ‘er, all right, mate. You got yourself a class-A stalker.”

“No,” Harris replied. “I don’t think she’s stalking me. I think she wants to talk.”

“C U l8tr, mate and all that.”

Suddenly, Harris was beside himself. Could she be his mysterious scribbler? Only one way to find out. He broke ranks and retread the red carpet, Tony at his heels.

“You can’t do this, mate. Trust me. McCann’ll ‘ave your balls.”

“I don’t care. He’s not God.”

“Maybe not, but ‘e can blackball you all the same.”

Harris reached where the lady in black denim had stood. Again, gone. Fled. Immediately, the crowd crushed in, trying to tear off a souvenir — his white jacket perhaps. Perhaps his ear. A security guard pushed the fans back.

“Mr. Cartwright,” he said. “Mr. Bentley-Jones. It’s best you both go back to the press queue.”

“Listen to ‘im, mate.”

Harris ignored them. He saw his target on the other side of the street, and in motion, heading south on Third Avenue. He glanced at the guard, assuming command.

“I need to leave,” he snapped. “If you don’t want my body in a bag, you’ll corral these fans and clear a path.”

The guard blinked, but then waved two other guards to follow the order. When a gas giant speaks, who disobeyed? They pushed the adoring fans to form a narrow path.

“‘arris,” Tony shouted. “This’ll be on the Internet in less than an ‘our.”

“I don’t care. Enjoy your sleep.”

Harris didn’t wait. He scurried between outstretched arms and dashed along Third Avenue into the night.


Harris had lost the lady in black denim at once. But he felt her presence — a pheromone trail. He couldn’t tell why. He was like a lion stalking an antelope. But who stalked whom, and was Tony’s suggestion true? Could the lady be a stalker? Could she have planted those mysterious messages in his hotel room? Even so, why was she at a festival on the East Coast, when she was a West Coast denizen? Many questions more interesting to the police than a working actor loomed. But Harris didn’t need answers. He needed her and he couldn’t tell why.

The magnetic draw entranced him until the neighborhood changed. After marching through Cooper Square and passing Cooper Union, he now tramped in the Bowery, the homeless haven. In the past, these down on their luck indigents were called bums. Drunks and foul-smelling society weeds huddled in doorways, strewn to the curbside and confronting Harris. One staggered to a car stopped at a traffic signal and cleaned its windshield with a dirty rag. This returned Harris to reality. He stood at the corner of Second Street and the Bowery. He hung a right, not because he knew where he was going, but it felt correct.

His pace quickened. As he progressed, he had second thoughts. Tony could be right. By bolting from the Tribeca Festival’s press queue, Harris would be broadcasted on YouTube. The world would wonder what’s up with Harris Cartwright? Had this good conduct paragon finally tapped the drug fairy? Had he a secret longing to squeegee stalled cars in the dead of night? What’s up, mate? What would Mom think about her squeaky-clean little boy?

Then he heard the click of high heels — stilettos. Had he entered the realm of prostitutes and street-walkers? This was the East Village, after all — a neighborhood that never closed its doors to business. But no. Ahead he spotted his target and thought to run. But even in Santa Monica on that fateful night with his sister, the dark lady vanished when he stormed her. So, he too followed with caution when he crossed Second Avenue and then, a block later, First.

She turned left and crossed the street, halting in front of a landmark — one Harris knew, although he had never been inside. Happy Pings. A Chinese restaurant with a twist, because all the waitresses were drag queens — a vision of gay China. The fact this lady stopped here gave Harris pause — a pang of wonder. She didn’t enter, so Harris darted into an alleyway and peeked over the garbage cans.

He peered long and hard, but when a rat distracted him (or perhaps a cat prowling deep in the nightshades), it shook his focus. When he refocused on Happy Pings, the lady was gone.


She probably entered the restaurant. He slipped along the concrete wall, the cold bricks marring his white jacket. He heard the vermin stir again before sensing a presence behind him. He turned and, from the darkness, a shadow emerged.

“Fuck,” he yelped. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“You should be scared,” she said. “I do not take well to stalkers.”

“Stalker? Me, a stalker? I’m not the one who shows up everywhere I show up.”

She laughed. When he thought about it, he laughed too.

“So here you are again,” she said. “And you showed up just where you showed up.”

“It’s stupid, but you know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

He got a good look at her face. Bleach white — unnatural — a canvas for face paint. Her lips were crimson, and she still had a green beauty mark on her right cheek. She smelled of roses — a whole damned floral shop’s worth.

“I’m sorry if I’ve jumped to conclusions,” he said. “It’s just, I thought . . . I thought, since I keep seeing you, you might have . . . might have . . .”

“Been looking for you?”

“Well, you’ve crossed my path more than once — here and in L.A. What am I to think?”

She lit a cigarette, took one draw, puffed out smoke, and then crushed the butt on the alley’s foul pavement.

“At least you could buy me a drink.”

Harris regarded this change to Mae West with suspicion. Caution raised its head.

“Sure,” he said, affably. “You were heading into . . .”

“Happy Pings. Do you know Happy Pings?”

He clicked his tongue, scuffing his feet.

“Not personally,” he replied, and then decided on full disclosure. “Damron gives Happy Pings one-and-half to two stars for Szechuan cuisine and . . . drag queen waitresses — a gay hoot.”

“Good. It is one-off . . . like me.”

Red flag. Harris smelled a practical joke — a Bentley-Jones practical joke. Revenge. Harris pulled one on Tony on The Magic Planet set. Good, clean fun, but not taken in the spirit intended. McCann Phillip’s assistant, Pam, slipped script changes under the actors’ trailer doors — line alterations for the next day’s shoot. Harris jiggered these with devilishly inappropriate dialogue for his co-star. Tony dutifully memorized them and came swaggering onto his starship’s deck delivering (in his best American accent) the bogus lines.

Last night’s prawn makes me ill today. Who’s got the cuttlefish to cure me?

Everyone roared — Harris doubled-over. However, McCann was furious, and not at Harris, but at Tony, who flew off the handle in his best Yorkish — a word shower of fookin’ arse’oles and bloody mudder’umpers. He didn’t talk to ‘arris for a week.

Harris thought now: This is revenge. Hire a drag queen to allure him at the première, and then have her show up in New York (with mysterious Tony-planted messages). Then, when the sexually ambivalent Mr. Cartwright came to it in the end, he’d be up on YouTube in the arms of a dick-and-balls Amazon (shy the black denim). Kinky and mean. With these thoughts, he paused.

“Are you coming?” she asked, beckoning with her eyes. “Or are you afraid to be seen in public with me?”

“I’m coming. I’m surprised you’d want the drink at . . .”

“Oh, I get it.” She pressed him against the alley’s wall, smothering him in floral iniquity. “Go ahead. Explore if you must. Satisfy your curiosity.”

Her aroma overcame him, his heart beating wildly. But the invitation to feel her up would dispel doubt. He decided to accept, feeling her firm breasts as they engulfed him. If these were falsies, they were good falsies. They terrified him at first. As attractive as she was, Harris wasn’t into the bizarre.

Was this the answer to the prank script?

His hand crept down to her skirt buttons. Nervously, he explored, cautiously travelling toward her crotch. No bulge, thank God. Not Bruce in Black Knickers.

“Satisfied?” she asked, her eyebrows raised.

He withdrew his hand like the Dutch boy from the dike. She gave him a wet kiss, and then drew back, continuing her course toward the restaurant. He galloped after her.

“I’m sorry I doubted you,” he said. “I’m not a prig. I’m open to almost anything. But I think of you as a woman and if you turned out to be a man, I wouldn’t get violent or anything, but . . . but when I look for blueberry pie and discover steak tartar, it’s a letdown.”

She lit another cigarette, took a deep drag and blew smoke over his head.

“Shut up.”

He noticed that brilliant jade ring on her right hand — incised with a funny emblem — a shepherd’s crook or something like it. His eyes followed the ring as she smoked.

“You like my ring?”

“It’s bait to wear it on First Avenue. I’ve expensive bling, but I wouldn’t sport it in this neighborhood.”

“No. You are just sporting a completely white outfit, walking the streets like a lighthouse in a storm.” She turned him around. “Nice brown brick mark on the back.”

Harris slipped off his jacket and stared at the stain — brown as if he had changed a diaper on his new, Indochino dinner jacket. This outfit had been earmarked for fashion week. Now it was earmarked for the dumpster.

“I’ll leave it off.”

“You will not,” she snapped. “You look like the Green Hornet with it off.”

“Do I?” he laughed. “The Green Hornet?”

“I did not mean to flatter you.”

She tossed the cigarette aside, not bothering to stomp it. She grabbed the jacket, holding it high. Her black fingernails, the most prominent items free of her fingerless gloves, raked the stain. She turned the coat around, and then presented it back to him. Clean as the day it was bought, only two days ago.

“How did you do that?”

“Magic is my hobby. My daddy is a magician.”

Harris grinned, and then donned the jacket.

“You could open a dry-cleaning business.”

She didn’t seem amused. Instead, she retrieved her still-burning cigarette from the pavement, and took another drag, before extinguishing it on the restaurant’s stoop. Harris wondered if she just lit it up for effect. At any rate, he never would pick up anything from the pavement and shove it between his lips.


“So are you up for me?”

Harris chuckled. He was up and hoped he could keep his self-control in the restaurant, especially one served by flaming Chinese drag queens.

“I’ve come this far,” he said.

She gave him her arm. He escorted her beneath the chintz lanterns into Happy Pings.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Natural Predators excerpt by Neil Plakcy

In Natural Predators by Neil Plakcy, Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his police partner, Ray Donne, are investigating the murder of an island patrician, retired attorney Alexander Fields, which appears to be tied to another murder which took place in 1959, as the islands were poised on the brink of statehood. At the same time, he and his life partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi, are trying to become foster parents to Dakota Gianelli, a teenager whose single mother has been incarcerated.

Natural Predators
MLR Books (February, 2013)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-840-1 (print)

MLR-1-02013-0022 (ebook)


Back at Bernice Fong’s house, the safe was just where my father said it was. “Now all we need is the combination,” Ray said. “You think she kept it around somewhere?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” We put our rubber gloves on again and started going through everything in the desk drawers, pulling out any papers that we thought might relate to Alexander Fields, Richard Clark, Bennie Gomez, Emile Gardiner, or whatever they were up to at the dawn of statehood.

“Bingo,” Ray said, showing me an envelope from the safe’s manufacturer. Apparently after Judge Fong died, Bernice had written to them for the safe’s combination.

“You found it, you do the honors,” I said.

Ray twirled the dials back and forth and the safe’s door swung open. Mrs. Fong had kept her better jewelry in there: several strands of pearls, a diamond engagement ring and matching wedding band, as well as a tray of other pieces. A couple of gold coins rustled in fading paper bags below the deed to the house and her life insurance policy, as well as a lot of U.S. savings bonds.

And underneath it all was a manila folder with a couple of yellowed newspaper clippings. The headline on the first screamed, “Mainland Senator Found Dead in Chinatown Brothel.”

“My father mentioned this,” I said to Ray. We sat down next to each other at the Judge’s desk and read the articles together. They spanned three days in January of 1959. Senator James LeJeune of Tennessee had been a vocal opponent of statehood for the islands, based on the racial mix of residents, who he said, “weren’t real Americans because of their mixed blood.” He had come to Honolulu on a fact-finding mission, invited by civic leaders who wanted to convince him of the benefits of statehood.

The night before he was scheduled to return to Washington on the Matson Line’s Matsonia cruise ship, he was found dead in a Chinatown brothel. Both he and the Chinese prostitute he was with had been shot once in the forehead.

“Forehead,” Ray said, pointing.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m seeing a pattern.”

The Honolulu PD investigated, fingering a notorious pimp for the crimes. He protested his innocence, but was convicted anyway. He died in prison a few years later.

“Why would Judge Fong have kept these articles in his safe for all these years?” Ray asked.

I looked ahead, trying to think. But my eye kept going back to the painting of Chinatown that had covered the safe. “Come on, brah,” I said. “Let’s take a ride.”

We locked up the safe, but I took the painting with us and drove down to Chinatown. I found the address of the brothel where Senator LeJeune had been killed and pulled up across from it. I held up the painting.

“This is freaky,” Ray said. “It’s like a perfect match.”

A drunk woman in a red and white flowered muumuu sat on the curb in front of the building, talking on a cell phone. We couldn’t help overhearing her as we sat there, the engine idling.

“The police pulled me over and they ran my name and discovered I had two outstanding warrants. So the motherfuckers took me into jail for two days.”

I looked at Ray and we both smiled.

“Now? I’m back here on the street like always,” the woman continued. “My daughter don’t get off work until five. If she don’t kick me out I’ll stay with her.”

A car pulled up behind us and I had to start moving again. I drove over to a Kope Bean and parked. We left the painting in the Jeep and went inside.

“Let’s step back,” I said, when we were both sitting in comfy chairs with our macadamia nut lattes. “We’ve got two murders in 1959 and the MO matches two murders today. We know that Fields, Fong, Clark, Yamato and Gardiner used to meet together around that time.”

“Fields is dead, and so are the judge and his wife,” Ray said. “What about the others?”

While my netbook was warming up, and then connecting to the free wi-fi, I said, “I remember Terri’s grandfather was an opponent of statehood. He believed the islands should have been an independent nation. And my father said that he stopped coming to the meetings at Judge Fong’s house.”

“You think the rest of them came up with a plot to kill this senator? To eliminate opposition to statehood?”

“Seems like an idea,” I said. “Let’s see if any of the rest of these guys are still alive.”

Bennie Gomez was long since dead, as was Terri’s grandfather and Emile Gardiner. “Look at this,” I said, pointing at a line in Gardiner’s obituary. “Survived by his son Andre.”

“Andy Gardiner,” Ray said. “Friend of Shepard Fields.”

“Not surprising, I guess,” I said. “If their fathers were friends, they’d know each other, even though Gardiner has to be at least fifteen years older.”

“But all these guys are dead,” Ray said. “Fong, Yamato, and Gardiner. Matthew Clark, too, even if he pulled out of the group. Fields was the last man standing. Who would want to kill him now?”

“I don’t know, brah.” I looked at my watch. “But I’ve got to get over to the social worker’s office at four.”

“Drop me back at headquarters. I’ll keep on looking for stuff on those dead guys.”

I met Mike in the garage near Wilma Chow’s office, and when we got up there we found Terri, Levi and Dakota waiting. After a flurry of hugs and handshakes, we all sat down. “How was your day, Dakota?” I asked.

“Okay. Terri took me over to see this school, Punahou. She said it’s where you went.”

I looked at Terri. “Punahou? Really?”

“It was good enough for you and me and Harry,” she said.

“But it’s so expensive,” I said.

Levi laughed. “That’s not a problem for either of us.”

“Yeah, but it is for Mike and me. If Dakota eventually comes to live with us we can’t afford Punahou tuition.”

“Dakota took a placement test,” Terri said. “He’s smart enough to get in. And either he’ll get a scholarship, or I’ll take care of the tuition.”


Kimo. Let it go.” Terri nodded toward Dakota, who was watching us argue.

I took a deep breath and turned to him. “You see? This is what it’s like having an ohana around you.”

“Arguing?” he asked.

“Call it a difference of opinion,” I said. “But in the end, we all want what’s best for you. Did you like Punahou?”

He shrugged. “It’s a school.”

The door to Wilma’s office opened and she stepped out to the waiting room. “I guess we should do this in the conference room,” she said. “Follow me.”

She led us down a hallway to a bland room with a rectangular table and chairs around it. “Dakota, why don’t you sit across from me,” she said. “Kimo, you and Mike can sit with me, and Terri and Levi, you sit with Dakota.”

We followed her directions and sat down. “This is certainly an unusual case,” she began. “I see that Mrs. Gonsalves has already satisfied all the requirements for becoming a foster parent. But that was two years ago—and you didn’t follow up.”

“After my husband passed away, I looked at a lot of different ways to rebuild my life. Becoming a foster parent was one of those. For a variety of reasons I chose not to follow that path at the time.”

“But you’d like to do so now?” Wilma asked.

“Dakota wants to come and live with Mike and me,” I said. “I’m confident that we’ll qualify—but I know that’s going to take some time. Dakota has agreed to live with Terri and Levi until Mike and I can take full responsibility for him.”

Mike stepped in. “I own the house where Kimo and I live in Aiea, with a relatively small mortgage. The neighborhood is safe, and Dakota would have his own room. Each of us alone makes enough money to cover our basic expenses. We’ve both known Dakota for at least a year, and we’re committed to providing him a safe, loving environment.”

“We’ve both passed the FBI background clearance as part of our jobs,” I added. “And I’m confident we can pass any other tests you have.”

Wilma nodded. “I’m sure you can, Kimo. But I do have to consider what’s in Dakota’s best interest.”

“Don’t I have a say?” he asked.

She turned to him. “Legally? No, I’m afraid you don’t. But I will talk to you and take what you say into my decision.” She turned to us. “I think this would be a good time for the adults to head back to the waiting room so I can talk to Dakota.”

We stood up. Mike put his hand on Dakota’s shoulder, and I said, “I’ve worked with Mrs. Chow before, Dakota, and I know she’s going to do what’s best for you.”

He slumped in his chair. “Whatever.”

I reached under his shoulders and hoisted him upright. “Sit up straight and mind your manners. Everyone in this room wants to help you.”

Terri laughed. “I guess we can see who the disciplinarian is going to be.”

We walked back down the hall together. “Seriously, Terri,” I said. “Punahou? You think that’s the best place for him?”

“I was surprised at how well he did on the placement test,” she said, as we all sat down again. “He’s a lot smarter than he lets on. He’ll get the kind of individual attention he needs to get back on track, and the school won’t tolerate any bullying because of his sexual orientation.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the public school system,” Mike said. “I graduated from Farrington, remember? But if Dakota can get into Punahou, and Terri can swing the tuition, I’m all for it.”

“Levi?” I asked. “What do you think?”

He shook his head. “I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m just here for moral support.”

I gave up and turned to Terri. “You know anything about Alexander Fields?”

“The attorney? Just what I read in the paper. Why?”

“He used to go to meetings at Judge Fong’s house in the fifties, with your grandfather and a bunch of other men, to talk about statehood.”

Terri smoothed out her floral print skirt. I could tell she’d dressed for the part she was playing—the skirt, a white polo shirt and woven belt and a small white handbag made her look like a well-kept suburban mom. I’d seen her in other outfits—a chic black dress and pearls at society events; a well-tailored navy suit and expensive leather briefcase when she was attending board meetings of the Sandwich Trust.

“You already know my grandfather was against statehood,” she said. “If he was going to meetings with those men it was because he wanted to convince them it was the wrong move. He said many times that if we didn’t have a third option, then the vote shouldn’t even go forward.”

“A third option?” Mike asked.

Terri turned to him. “How much do you know about Hawaiian history?”

He shrugged. “Enough to get me a high school diploma.”

“Well, for Levi’s benefit, I’ll give you a quick recap. After the U.S. overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1898, the islands were governed under what was called an Organic Act, which made Hawai’i a territory, with a governor appointed by the president.”

She shifted in her chair, crossing one leg over the other and straightening her skirt. “Everything changed after World War II. The U.N. came into being, and they adopted a resolution which called for self-governance of territories under colonial-style conditions.”

“Did this relate to other countries? Or just the U.S.?” Mike asked.

“France, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are the countries I remember,” Terri said. “According to the rules, there were supposed to be three choices on the statehood ballot: become a state, remain a territory, or return to being an independent nation.”

“And the one to become independent never showed up on the ballot,” I said. “That was the missing third option.”

“Exactly,” Terri said. “My grandfather always believed that someone rigged that election. But what’s this all about? You think Alexander Fields was killed because of something that happened back then? Wouldn’t the statute of limitations have kicked in?”

“Not for murder,” I said.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Raining Men excerpt by Rick R Reed

Raining Men, by Rick R Reed and a sequel of sorts to CHASER, will be published by Dreamspinner Press in May 2013. This excerpt is a character study of sorts—revealing much about the man who is about to find the love of his life, shivering beside a Dumpster.

Raining Men
Dreamspinner Press (May, 2013)


At the back of the Dumpster, hidden from the street, he saw the source of the sound: a shivering (in spite of the warmth of the day) little brown Chihuahua, its ribs showing and the remains of fast food wrappers before it.

Huge brown eyes, looking even huger Bobby thought on account of the dog’s emaciated condition, stared up at him. The dog went quiet, yawned and rapidly licked its lips a couple times. It gazed up at Bobby almost defiantly, in spite of the poor shape the animal appeared to be in.

Bobby was transfixed and their eyes meeting seemed to erase the sounds of the day around them—isolating the pair, one two-legged, one four.

Bobby stood a couple feet away from the dog and didn’t want to spook it. He squatted down on his haunches, murmuring softly. “It’s okay. What happened to you, little fella? Or are you a little girl?” It was hard to tell, with the way the dog sat. “Did someone leave you back here? Are you some street-smart survivor?”

Bobby slowly reached out with his hand, just letting it float, steadily, in the space between them. The dog eyed the hand with what Bobby thought were alternating shades of suspicion and hunger. He wondered if other hands had ever held out a treat to the little dog, or if perhaps human hands appeared to it as weapons, as something that would strike its tiny and terrified body.

Bobby dropped his hand. “I won’t hurt you. I promise. You and me, we’re both alone today.” Bobby inched a little closer and the dog yapped at him in warning. He moved a couple more inches and the dog bared its teeth, a low growl issuing from deep in its belly.

“I would never hurt you. But I’ll let you come to me.” And even though it would ruin his expensive shorts and leave him smelling like the Dumpster before him, Bobby sat down on the bricks of the alley, leaning back against the Dumpster, legs splayed out before him.

“I have all the time in the world.”

But all the time in the world is not what it took for the dog to begin a slow, cautious, one-step-forward-two-back progression toward him. Bobby didn’t make eye contact, simply stared ahead, wondering just what the hell he was doing. You really should just get up and go. This little critter is not your problem. What’s the game plan here, anyway? In spite of the thoughts ricocheting through his brain, Bobby didn’t move, casting a glance every so often out of the corner of his eye to see that the dog had drawn a little closer, a little closer.

Finally, the little creature was at his hip, sniffing. Bobby did nothing but stare straight ahead.

Finally, Bobby deigned to move to put a gentle head on its tiny head. The dog darted back, yelping as if Bobby had struck it.

They regarded one another. “We’re never going to get anywhere without trust,” Bobby said softly. He thought he saw a glimmer of that emotion in the dog’s eyes. Or maybe he saw what he wanted to see. Regardless, the dog moved forward once more and allowed Bobby to hold his hand out close enough for it to sniff.

He petted him. In their little dance the dog revealed to Bobby that he was, indeed, a male. And, for a Chihuahua, quite a well-endowed one. “You little stud,” Bobby whispered, laughing.

The dog settled under Bobby’s sure strokes, moving closer, until he had placed one paw on Bobby’s thigh, as though he wanted Bobby to lean in, so he could tell him a secret. When Bobby stopped petting him to look down and regard him, the dog nudged Bobby’s hand with his head, as if to say, “More. More.”

“Can’t get enough, huh?” Bobby asked, resuming the petting and scratching behind the ears. He chuckled. “You and I have that in common.”

At last, the dog crawled on to his lap, curling up in the warmth of his crotch. He fell asleep. “Well, would you look at that,” Bobby wondered. Bobby stared down at the dog, not sure what to do next. “You’re gonna give me fleas—to add to the crabs I probably just got up yonder.” Bobby’s laughter, bordering on tears, startled the dog awake and he stared up at Bobby, head cocked.

“What am I gonna do with you?” Bobby whispered. He wished there was a collar with a tag on the dog. That way, he could at least do the logical thing and try to find his owner.

He couldn’t just leave him here. Not now. They had forged some sort of bond in a few quick minutes. Bobby sighed. “That’s the way it goes with me and well-endowed males. Can’t help it.” He laughed and again, the dog looked up at him, head cocked, as if he too wanted in on the joke.

Bobby thought he could take him to the pound. He looked down at the poor little creature—his bordering-on-starvation body, the slight underbite he had that made his lower teeth stick out. This was not a pretty boy.

“You’re just a streetwise thug, aren’t you?” Bobby scratched the dog behind the ears. “Rough trade.”

Bobby wondered what would happen if he took him to the pound. No, he didn’t really wonder. Who would want this little guy? Especially if there were puppies to compete with, as he was sure there would be; or if there were purebreds and cuter dogs, as Bobby knew there would be.

The most likely scenario, Bobby knew, is that the dog would be gassed after its however-many-days were up.

And, already, as he looked down at the brown-eyed face, so ugly it was cute, he knew he could never sentence this animal to a certain death.

“You son of a bitch,” Bobby said to the dog, noticing how he wagged his tail at the epithet, which made Bobby chuckle. “I guess that would be true of any male dog, wouldn’t it? But seriously, what am I gonna do with you?”

Bobby sighed; he already knew the answer. To leave the dog sitting there would break his heart, especially if he, as he did in Bobby’s imagination, followed him.

So he stood up, wiping the back of his shorts with his hands, feeling both grit and grease in a single swipe. The dog stared up at him, tail wagging, as if it knew not what was in Bobby’s mind, but his heart.

Part of him—the part that worked downtown, the part that ogled the Barney’s and Room and Board catalogs, the part that wondered how soon he could trade in his BMW for the latest model, the part that guzzled designer cocktails, the part that worked them off at a chic gym—did tell him he should just walk away. After all, the dog could belong to someone, a child maybe, and he had just darted out of an open door. Distraught owners were combing the north side for him right now.

Right. A dog in this neglected condition most likely belongs to no one and, if he does, that owner doesn’t deserve him.

So he squatted down next to the brown dog, holding out his hands in a little cradle. The dog hopped right into them. “Oh, so you’re easy. You and me, we’re two of a kind. You’ve probably waited your whole life behind that Dumpster, anticipating the moment I would walk by and hear your pitiful cries. Don’t worry—I know all the tricks to snare a man. You don’t fool me. The real trick is keeping one.”

Bobby stood, cradling the dog close to his chest. He looked out at life pulsing by on the street beyond the alley’s mouth and wondered how he had gotten here. The sun, he could tell from the quality of light, was beginning to set—the shadows were long and the air was cooler.

Bobby held the dog and the pair of them emerged from the alley as if they had been made for each other, both clinging to the other for dear life. Never had the cliché, Bobby thought, been more apropos.

Just before Bobby turned the corner to begin the long trek south again, he asked the dog, “Now what are we gonna call you?”

Bobby paused, thinking, and the name came to him all at once, brought on, not surprisingly, by the Chihuahua’s surprisingly large member. “Let’s call you Johnny, Johnny Wadd,” christening the pooch after porndom’s biggest, literally, star, John Holmes.

As Bobby headed south on Clark, holding on to Johnny, who really weighed so little he barely registered, Bobby had a bracing thought.

He felt more connection, more joy, more happiness with the few moments with this dog than in all the eleven times he had been fucked earlier in the day.

“What does that say about me?” he wondered to Johnny.

And Johnny’s large brown eyes regarded him, but he kept his own counsel.

Excerpt from Chaser: 9/10/12

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