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by Stephen Shore


8. Buried Treasure

Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water

 —Keats’ epitaph

The end of the pool faced the beach and was all glass. The morning fog was still lingering into the early afternoon, so if you looked through the glass, which is what Skip was doing at the moment, you couldn’t really see much, mostly a foggy view that kinda looked like the ocean. But that’s only because you knew you were looking at the ocean. Guys that walked by were colorful blobs, not human really, but moved in a distorted bi-ped fashion. Breaking to the surface, Skip said flatly to Rusty, “Neat-o.” The ironic comment was a vanilla soft-swirl cone dipped in sarcasm, much like Skip himself.

On the other hand, from the beach looking into the pool, you could see both the pool’s occupants plain as day. If you were a passer-by you saw the flaming red hair of freckly Rusty and the sandy-haired Skip. Skip was the one you noticed, of course: high cheekbones, narrow, intelligent eyes, a quick and dimpled smile, rippled stomach, taught, smooth pecs and arms, his strong soccer legs scissoring to keep himself afloat, hanging out in the pool’s deep end.

Rusty plunged under, looked through the glass with cupped hands, and also saw the same hazy ocean. Coming back up and wiping his eyes, he tried to match Skips level of irony, said, “Yeah, bitchin’.” They were encouraged to say things like that at work, and the beach house was still part of work. They weren’t supposed to be sarcastic or ironic, though, that was just Skip and Rusty being Alastair and Aiden--which won’t make sense immediately but will in a second. The passé lingo was Cyrus Johnson’s, or “Whitey” as he chose to be called, remembrances of Santa Monica surfer culture when he was a teenager back in the early sixties. Hey, the Chelsea bar called Paradise was his, they just bartended there so he got to make the rules.

White-haired Whitey hung out under an umbrella on his deck talking to a handsome Mexican gentleman, who had long, black unwashed hair. The Mexican was an impressive man in his late thirties, maybe early forties, who’d shown up with some associates at noon. Skip eyeballed the dark visitor and speculated. Sexy even if he was a little intimidating, he moved stiffly, a buck ninety pounds of barrel-chested muscle. He’d taken off his shirt giving into the humidity even with a beach breeze blowing. His shoulders and back were covered in fur. A hulking daddy-type if ever there was one, Skip thought. He looked more interesting than any of Whitey’s usual investors who came around to snatch glimpses of the pool twinks Whitey always brought to Fire Island with him. Desperado, racketeer, mobster. Skip searched for the word best to describe the handsome visitor. Thug, gangster, cutthroat. Yeah, maybe cutthroat. The man was animated, pressuring Whitey about something, poking a finger into Whitey’s chest. His dark tanned body glistened with sweat. Suddenly, the deck’s potted palms rustled with a strong gust of wind, and his long black hair flew into his face. He struggled to keep strands of hair out of his mouth as he spoke. Frustrated, he pulled a long red kerchief from his back pocket and bound his wavy hair in a pirate bandana. That was it! Pirate. ”Yo ho,” Skip murmured.

Skip wasn’t Skip’s real name. Whitey had given all his bar boy’s nicknames he recalled from that bebop, doo wop, shama lama, pre-hippy era: Ace, Buzz, Mooch, Hoss, Slick, Bud, Moose. Getting a Paradise nickname did have advantages. Skip used variants emphasizing different traits for different customers. Name’s Skippy, Sir, when he wanted to highlight his youth for an older gent; in a lower register, he'd flirt, Howdy, I’m Skipper, intimating to a cutie across the bar that he was the boss, the young alpha dog of the bar crew; and Skip, well, just that he was Skip, informal, kinda butch, kinda rich, none of it untrue. His real name was Alastair Inge, well, even worse before his grandfather shortened it, Alastair von Ingerschleben--“from the village of Inge”--if you wanted to get technical. Alastair was pretentious enough so Inge sufficed. If you pressed him he actually didn’t mind Skip. In fact, he started introducing himself as that at Columbia U during his junior year, where no one there questioned it since he already had this Martha’s Vineyard air.

In the pool, Skip surveyed his latest conquest from work, Aiden Reilly, at Paradise a.k.a. red-headed “Rusty”--no one said Whitey was a creative genius. All Irish. All freckles. Rusty was cute, had a rather big nose, had a bit of an overbite that was more endearing than unsightly, was a little too fey in some of his mannerism--a little too overtly bottom, truth will out--not that Skip was a total butch top, but he did most of the pedaling when they fucked. The thing that really annoyed Skip about Rusty, though, was that he worshipped his lesbian twin sister who also attended Columbia. Not that Skip minded lesbians, he just never had much use socializing with them. But it was always Briana said this, Briana broke up with Janice, Briana did the funniest thing, Briana started going out with Gretchen, and on and on till Skip wanted to shoot himself. Or Rusty. Or Briana. Sometimes Skip believed Aiden would be happier to have a sex change just so that he, too, could be with other girls like his sister. A gay guy becoming a girl so they could be with other girls? That kind of thinking made Skip’s head hurt. But that’s what made the pirate king slapping his bottle of cerveza on the table and starling Whitey so attractive, despite, or maybe in addition to, the gorilla body coat he sported. He couldn’t imagine for one second the pirate had any desire to be anything other than a man. The pirate caught him staring, and raised his bottle and gave him a nod with his red kerchiefed head. Skip smiled back, thinking all he needs is a knife clutched between those white pearlies.

Rusty was busy scanning his associates. “Organized crime,” he pronounced.

Skip laughed at the thought. “Why do you think that?” he asked.

“You know what a gossip Slim is?” Skipped agreed. “Well, he chatted a couple of them up as soon as they got here. You know Whitey’s obsession with our stupid names? You should get a load of theirs. Tito, Khan...”

“That could be their names,” Skip pointed out.

“One of them is named Knuckles. Knuckles! How much more mobster can you get?”

“Which one’s Knuckles,” Skip asked. Rusty pointed to the largest guy on the deck, talking to a tall, skinny Black bartender, named--you guessed it--“Slim.” Knuckles had on a white tee shirt with large yellowed pit stains; also black jeans and a black leather vest.

“Like what you always wear, Mike!” Chris excitedly squeezed in.

“Yes,” Manetti answered. “Now no interrupting,” he said with a raise finger.

Anyway, Slim was pestering Knuckles about something under his vest. Knuckles permitted Slim to open his vest. Even from the far end of the pool, the snub nose .38 was easy to spot in its holster. Slim eased back cautiously in his deck chair, mouthed whoa, then came forward again, running a hand down Knuckles’ breast bone. Tito and Khan chuckled at the pair’s obvious deck flirtation, and Rusty returned to Skip, cocking a ginger eyebrow.

Skip swam down to the shallow end and raised himself out, flexing his triceps hoping the pirate would notice. He did. “Skippy,” Whitey shouted to the lad. “Get your cute little tail over here and meet my compadre, Bernardo.” Skip strutted over, confidently brushing his highlighted hair back with one hand, making sure it stood spikey. He greeted the man with his engaging smile, as Whitey made the introductions. “Bernardo de Sade, meet the best bartender in Paradise, Alistair von Ingerschleben.” Skip was impressed that Whitey knew how to spit out his whole name with full guttural Germanic accuracy. “But y’all can call him Skippy.”

“De Sade?” Tobias questioned ruefully, fanning himself.

Jacob gave Tobias a playful slap. “Yes. Bernardo de Sade. Don’t kibitz,” Jacob said.

An-y-how. Skip extended his hand, which was immediately engulfed by de Sade’s two large fists. He didn’t shake so much as grab. “What is Skippy? Is like jumping?” De Sade croaked at his joke. His bellicose laughter was a little disturbing. It wasn’t that funny, but Skip produced an enormous smile nonetheless.

Attempting to hide his nervousness, Whitey added a little too enthusiastically, “He runs the bar like the Skipper of a ship, Bernardo. The lad runs the crew ship-shape, don’t you, Skip?”

“I guess I do, Whitey. I guess I do,” Skip volunteered with a puffed chest. Seeing that de Sade wasn’t letting go anytime soon, he placed his other hand over the back of the man’s tight grip. He misread Whitey’s nervousness and reckoned this was one of the bar’s major money men that Whitey was always fretting about. He knew how to make a good impression on wealthy men born into wealth himself. Skip’s smile never faltered, his eyes never shied away. The man slowly released his hands with a middle finger tracing Skip’s palm. Bernardo’s cruise was hidden from view but blatant enough, and the edges of Skip’s lips curled and cruised him right back with squinting, amorous eyes.

He felt entitled, so Skip drew up a chair between the men. “Señor de Sade, I take it you’re one of Whitey’s silent partners.”

De Sade nibbled a flake on his chapped lip. It seemed there were things he preferred not to talk about, thought Skip. “I’d say I’m more a part of his supply chain,” de Sade replied mysteriously and sipped his beer. The man’s broad face and almond eyes were penetrating and enticing. He had a thinly trimmed mustache and a small soul patch below his lip, sideburns that ended in points on his cheekbones, and his pitch black chest hair flowed from his neck directly to his broad fleshy pecs. Skip quickly glance down and marveled at the pelt covering the man’s abdomen, and even more astonished by the amount of flesh buried in his khaki shorts. Down his right pant leg the outline of his big dick rose like a pipe; even the tip of some foreskin peeked out against his hairy kneecap. When Skip glanced back up he was met with the lewd, knowing leer of a confident, well-endowed, brazen buccaneer.

While Skip was checking out de Sade’s package, Whitey was desperately trying to send signals to get Skip’s attention. He pinched his nose several times, attempting to clue Skip into what supplies in the supply chain he meant. Once Skip caught on, Whitey gave the smallest of head shakes no, meaning Skip shouldn’t pursue this particular supplier. Skip wasn’t so easily swayed. More intrigued really. He himself dealt a bit of blow in the bar’s bathrooms from time to time so felt a bit of junior-level comradery. “This your first time to Fire Island, Señor de Sade? I’d love to show you around,” Skip offered.

“No. Many times I’ve been here. Your teas, your all-night partying, your meat rack--I love it here. Usually I am Señor Johnson’s guest, isn’t that right, mi amigo,” he replied patting Whitey’s hand. Whitey withdrew his hand unconsciously, then put on a fake smile to hide his discomfort. “But this time I drive a big boat. You want to my big boat?” Skip and de Sade rose simultaneously. De Sade cocked his head to tell his men it was time to leave.

Whitey was not unhappy to see them go so abruptly. By all means, Skip should see the boat, he told them, ushering them to the side gate. Knuckles led, carrying a paper bag with de Sade’s monthly cut. Slim looked sad seeing Knuckles go, and pouted his lower lip. De Sade’s other associates followed Knuckles. Skip and de Sade brought up the rear. His henchmen grinned like goons, familiar with how their boss weaved a web around a new victim. Whitey wiped his brow and waved, while Rusty stewed jealously floating in the pool aloft in his water wings. The gate shut with the loud clink of finality.

Roger and Boris looked at each other. Roger sneered and Boris rubbed his hands in anticipation.


It started innocent enough. A tour of de Sade’s big boat included a brief, teasing tour of the big leather sling, three feet wide, six feet long, swaying in the master cabin, then in the galley on the way to the wheelhouse de Sade pulled out a small brown bottle of coke. Would Skip like to do a hit? Skip would. Then topside in the wheelhouse, Khan, the yacht’s pilot, a slender, half-Mongolian, half-Peruvian guy with a wispy brown beard and long mustache, asked Skip if he wanted to skipper the boat into the bay? Skip did. Aloft, Tito came up and said de Sade wanted to know if Skip was up for Tequila shots and a couple more lines? Skip was.

Until they passed under the Robert Moses Causeway and were out to sea Skip hadn’t been worried. I mean, if things got too sketchy he’d just jump off the boat, right, and swim to shore? It would be a major pain in the ass getting back to The Pines, but he wasn’t going to be kidnapped, for Christ sake. In fact, it was a pretty awesome, coke-drenched, sun-drenched afternoon. Tito turned out to be a real clown. His tattoo tear at first scared Skip when recognized that it wasn’t a mole, but after a few shots of Tequila, Tito showed he was a real jokester, constantly fooling around, parodying Knuckles’ Neanderthal stance and calling de Sade Gomez Addams’ dirty, hippy cousin. Knuckles, too, wasn’t as brutish as he first seemed, more a big teddy bear if you want to know the truth. Skip saw that Knuckles bent over with his knuckles almost dragging because he tried to hide how absolutely huge he was if he stood fully upright. Also the gallery ceiling was pretty low. And de Sade. Well de Sade was still intense especially in the way he laughed, slapping the table, knocking the back of Tito’s head, launching into a volcanic eruption, saying HA-HA-HA-HA, with his face bent over the table, then looking side to side making sure every got the joke. His sense of humor was very aggressive you might say, one you didn’t ever want to turn sour. Skip kinda felt flattered that de Sade treated him like his crew so quickly, slapped him on the back, pinched a nipple, clipped his chin softly with his fist. De Sade was very open, in fact pretty provocative in his affection for his men. Yeah, he’d smack Tito’s head but he also would lay a kiss on it when he passed him bringing back cervezas from the mini-fridge for everyone, or shaking one of Knuckles sagging man boobs after Knuckles slammed back his fifth Tequila shot. Skip sensed how much affection flowed back, too, from his men to de Sade. He wondered exactly how close they all were. To be frank, he wondered if they had sex with each other--it sure seemed that way--and considered what it would be like to really be a part of that kind of crew. Would he drop out of school, reject his upper crust parents’ plans of him becoming an attorney, instead becoming a real modern-day, coked up, sex pirate?

Looking out the window, seeing land was quickly disappearing from the horizon, that part of himself that really wasn’t “Skip” realized how far out of sea he was. He mentioned to de Sade that he really should to get back soon, he had a paper for American History due on Monday, one he hadn’t even started yet, hadn’t even picked a topic. The coke was making him nervously monologue a bit: maybe he’d do Nixon’s trip to China or the release of the Iranian hostages, maybe arms for hostages that was lately in the news would be good. De Sade reassured him they’d be back before sunset, pushing a mirror with lines of white powder in front of Skip. Skip bent over the galley table and snorted. “Maybe Ford’s pardon of Nixon--no that was done to death. Wait, was that coke?” he asked Tito who’d been chopping white powder out of new bag since they’d finished the last bag a while ago.

“No, amigo. This is much better. This is T,” Tito said. “Más amoroso.” He wiggled his brows suggestively. The four men in the galley laughed, Skip just not as heartily. Still, Tito did look cute, gang tattoos and all. Sexy even. That broad smile displayed a slight space between his two front teeth. Skip hadn’t really noticed it before, but now that he was smiling all the time, he couldn’t help but stare at it. And Knuckles? Forget about it. As homely as they come, all acne scarred and pimply. But Knuckles had to be packing a good thirteen incher, swinging in those shorts. There were things you could overlook, and there were things you can’t.

Más amoroso, huh?” Skip repeated. “I’m amped but kinda tingly all over. I usually stick to blow, but this is something pretty trippy.” Skip got up to pace a bit in the cramped galley.

De Sade got up, too. “You want to really party, my friend? Sit, let me introduce you to something más excelente,” he said, going down to the master cabin.

Knuckles caught Skip as he paced and sat him back in the booth, pinning him between himself and Tito. “Muy beuno, sí? Do another. Twice as good,” said the big man looming over him.

“Fuck, I’m ready to crawl out of my skin as it is, Knuckles. I gotta lay off a bit.”

De Sade overheard Skip as he came back in and sat across from the three of them. “I have the perfect--cómo se dice, remedio,” he asked Tito. Tito shrugged his shoulders. “Remedy. I have the perfect remedy. You won’t want to crawl out of your skin--you will shed it.” He laid a tourniquet and a syringe with a cloudy brown liquid on the table.

Skip’s eyes widened. “Uh, not big into needles, Mister de Sade,” Skip said resolutely. Tito put a hand on Skip’s back and rubbed his shoulder to get him to relax. Knuckles too started kneading Skip’s other shoulder. “What’s in that?” Skip asked uneasy, feeling the room closing in on him. Under the table Tito rubbed Skip’s cock through his swimsuit. He was conflicted. Yes, he want to be with these guys, but rather not go down the whole needle in the arm and now I’m a junky scenario.

“Most people mix heroin with coke to make a speedball. But coke fades muy rápido long before the heroin does. Meth last so much longer and is muy amoroso, sí?” de Sade asked his boys. They both voiced deep, serious agreement. Skip searched de Sade’s face. He saw it no longer saw the sexy pirate he saw from the pool, his face no longer provided friendliness; the scowling man simply required obedience, for Skip henceforth to obey him completely.

“Ah, yeah, guys, I’m gonna take a rain check on this. So maybe we get this tub turned around, like, now?”

“Put out your arm,” de Sade stated flatly. Skip started to struggle, then realizing Tito and Knuckles weren’t going to let him go, made a violent attempt to climb out of the booth...and then what you ask? Jump off the yacht and swim back to shore that he couldn’t even see any more? Fuck yeah he would, but Knuckles and Tito had him pinned. Skip no longer had a plan, all he had were instincts. He fought until Knuckles pushed him forcefully into the booth. Tito wrapped the tourniquet tightly around Skip’s bicep and several veins revealed themselves on his forearms. Knuckles held his left wrist firmly against the table. “Don’t fight,” de Sade said quietly searching for the vein he’d use. “Making me miss your will be very bad for you.” Skip gave one last burst to get free, but Knuckles and Tito used their collected weight to stop him from making any more movement. He braced himself and felt the needle prick his skin. Within the vial his blood combined momentarily with the mixture before de Sade pushed the meth and heroin combination into his system.

It’s been said the rush of a speedball is like a handjob from God. In Skip’s cases it was a handjob from God and Tito. Skip repeated fuck, over and over, hoping the intensity of the rush wasn’t going to keep getting more intense. And yet that’s exactly what happened, like someone continuously polishing your nob after you’ve cum. The meth rush hit first. He fell fast from it, so much elation jammed into one second, five seconds, ten, he almost puked feeling the speed of this endless fall, but then the hammock of heroin caught him at the bottom, bounced him, rocked him, twirled him fast then slow, up then down, putting his brain in a blender. His head fell back. He saw de Sade bend in toward him and give him a strong, forceful kiss. He stuck his tongue right back as forcefully as he received. De Sade pulled back only a half inch to look in his eyes, whispering, “Ah, bueno. You love it, don’t you, puta?”

“Ah, fuck, yes. Fuck. Fuck me. Fuuuck.” The men released their tight grip. Skip tried to stand. The meth portion made him want to get up but the impulse was countered by the opiate portion; he lolled in a no-man’s land of pure bliss, hovering in his body, suspended in a feeling he was floating in a warm bath, wrapped in a cocoon of pleasure, orgasming constantly by the direct fingers of God. “Ah, fuck, what is this?” This had no relationship to the rest of his life. This was like trying to comprehend chocolate without ever having tasted it, to try to explain colors to a blind man, what a symphony was to the deaf. You have these concepts--bath, cocoon, orgasm, God--but to the uninitiated they remain concepts, eggs secreted inside their shell. Who knew just by looking at a white spheroid object that a yellow sun shone inside? But he was now inside this spheroid object called Skip, felt all of it, was all of it, was the orgasm, electrified pure feeling, inside the finger, was the sun, was gold, was God. He was captured by the rush, which wasn’t going anywhere--just like de Sade’s first grip on him: it wasn’t letting go of him anytime soon.

Tito and Knuckles rousted him out of the booth, carrying him, one arm draped over each of their broad shoulders, dragging him down, step by step, down into the master cabin. De Sade the whole time continued a monologue of coke-inebriated musings, mostly in Spanish, which meant nothing to Skip. In the master cabin Tito was now in his face, sticking his tongue in his mouth. Skip lived a second behind each action he was going through, making up for it by doubling down in return. He made out with Tito like a drunken sailor, flopping onto him, grabbing his crotch, pinching his growing pecker. Tito laughed at Skip wanton intensity. Tito ripped the kid’s swimsuit off.

Knuckles scooped Skip up like a sack of rice, and laid him in the sling, but not before Skip pulled close to Knuckles’ face and stuck his tongue down the Neanderthal’s throat. Knuckles was at first surprise, then aroused, then frightened by the force of Skip’s kiss, and pushed Skip’s face back in the sling. No one had ever kissed Knuckles so fiercely. Knuckles looked at the kid, wiped his mouth, was instantly smitten.

“You like this feeling, chico?” de Sade asked. Skip nodded his head slowly as he reach up to kiss Knuckles again. Knuckles actually pulled back a little leery of Skip’s passion. Skip ran his hands over his own torso. Felt his burning chest, his heart beating wildly under his breast bone, heard de Sade voice like the rolling disembodied voice of the ship itself. “You want to feel this way from now on, día y noche?” Skip tried to speak but just emitted a gasp of air. De Sade stripped off his shorts as did his men. All were rigid, dripping, ready to take turns raping this kid. De Sade at the bottom of the sling greased up Skip’s hole and lubed his own dark serpentine cock. Skip saw a long undulating eel, and spread his butt cheeks wide to receive it. Tito and Knuckles were on either side of the sling, each one offering their erections to get sucked. Skip alternated, ravishing them gratefully.

Skip couldn’t get enough. There was nothing he wouldn’t do in his present state, nothing too debauched. Tito put a leg on the bed the sling hung over so that his hairy asshole was available for Skip to chew on. A hairy cave was Tito cavern, full of smells of hell’s pit that Skip greedily ate from. The boy spat into it and mixed his saliva with the crust that engulfed Tito’s crack. Tito ran his own monologue full of pleasure and degradation, while Knuckles oiled and stroked Skip’s dick. De Sade aimed then plunged into the kid hard, plundering the rich boy’s treasure, stealing pleasured moans from the kid, stole his dignity, rob him of self-worth, pulled him off his perch and plunged him into a life of perversion. “Oh, the plans I have for you, chico,” he said. He went back into his Spanish tirade while he fucked the kid, turned every now and then to English. “And the seven days to Veracruz, we are all taking turns, stretching your pussy, giving you a real man-size cunt. Like Tito’s. You like Tito’s cunt.” Skip nodded within Tito’s cavern, going yeah, yeah, licking Tito’s sloppy, gaping hole.

“Then in Veracruz, I’ll get an excellent price for you at the dirtiest whore house. They’ll let you be the fuck junky you want to be. Sí? You want that?” The thought made de Sade harder. Made Skip harder too, his imagination being led into the gutter, then down to the sewer, by the man whose long uncut meat ignited pure dark passion. “They cage their boy whores’ little pitos, you know. Make them all whore to their culos.” De Sade was fucking him harder, more desperate now. “They even, for the wealthiest patrones, slice them off and cook them. Ah, mierda! The taste!” De Sade went over the edge, collapsed cumming, folded onto Skip, giving him long, stiff pumps, spewing all the deadly juice he possessed.

He laid there for a moment and enjoyed the first step in pure ruination of this rich kid, feeling the soft grip of the boy’s anus, letting the last of his cum drip inside as his slippery eel leached out. He snapped his fingers at Tito. “Crisco, por favor.” Tito went up to the galley, his butt dripping with saliva. “First fuck of a hundred fucks,” de Sade told the lad. “Next, your first fist, first of a hundred fists. You’ll have one destroyed hole by the time we get to Veracruz, be one worn out slag, ready for your life as the whore hole you always wanted to be.” Skip nodded and shoved his ass toward him. De Sade was too tempted to wait for Tito and the grease, and started playing with Skip’s slippery hole plunging three, then four fingers, then his entire fist into Skip’s parting lips. Ready or not.

“Which,” said Manetti to the group, particularly to Drax, “is the set up for the rest of the scenes: Fuck, fist, fuck, fist--make the kid an addict till they sell him as some drugged up junkie thrown into the whore house for the rest of his short, pathetic life. Roll credits. The end,” said Manetti.


“What?! No-no-no-no-no.” Tobias cried out appalled. “Michael, that’s your story? No one wants a story like that! What is wrong with you?” Tobias was livid. He looked over at the two mortician’s who wore sinister sneers on their faces. Jacob was smirking at Michael in that annoying professorial way he adopted when he was evaluating a student’s theory of the case. Drax was inscrutable. Only Jamal blinked in confusion like Jacob did at the end of Manetti’s recitation.

“What then, Tobias? How would you end it?” Manetti had been spending the last half hour improvising his ass off, trying to spin a tale of how Drax could buy a boat and make a porn film on it, throwing in tidbits he knew Drax would like. Yeah, this was the alibi he was doubling down on: He was out on the island to scout out buying Drax a boat. That’s why he didn’t come back to the apartment last night. Of course, he ad-libbed, he’d get Drax’s okay first--it was his money after all. Manetti was just being an entrepreneur. He’d just tentatively was out researching feasibility. Considering investment options. Unstated, though he knew Drax was aware, the angle of the money laundering of the recent haul. Yeah, this first movie, Skippy and the Pirate--just an idea, he emphasized--it was the type of film Drax could shoot, maybe a series. Okay, maybe not sell Skip to the whore house, then, if that would upset audiences. Maybe Knuckles, or Tito, or both, falls for Skippy and helps him escape.

“No, no” Roger insisted, “Skippy in the House of Whores, would be a wonderful sequel.” Boris chortled heartily in agreement.

The made Tobias even more incensed. “If I knew what a dark, twisted story you had in mind and the kind of films you wanted to make, I would never have introduced you to Boris and Roger! Gentlemen, I’m so sorry to have exposed you to this kind of sadistic mishegas. Not in my wildest...”

“Tobias, stop kvetching,” Boris interrupted Tobias’ rant. “Jacob, get her smelling salts. She’s about to faint. Tobias, bubbe, you don’t think I’ve watched much worse? You should only see the kind of collection we have at the funeral home.”

Roger interjected, “And in our line of work we see much worse come in the back door.” Both morticians nodded solemnly. “You can’t begin to imagine the real horror people inflict on each other.” That got an eyebrow raise from Drax.

“What?” Manetti was now feigning hurt, although secretly relieved his story caused as much outrage as it had. Perhaps it would be enough to distract Drax to ward off deeper suspicion. He began to take pride at cooking up a story convincing enough that buying Drax a boat with the illegal loot for a porn picture was potentially plausible. Manetti, under his ruse of hurt, was convinced his cover story was brilliant. “What!” he continued to provoke his host. “You’re pissed that I had the kid sold into the sex trade. It’s just a story, Tobias--not a documentary.” He only made eye contact with Jacob for a split second, but enough to see Jacob was scrutinizing him as he sipped his coffee.

“Look at Chris,” Tobias said pointing to the boy. They all looked at Chris whose dickhead was so hard it was purple. “You’ve totally corrupted him with your lurid tale.”

Manetti saw the kid was mesmerized. “You know I’m just pulling shit out of my ass, don’t ya kid?” Manetti was a little shock the kid sported such a massive hardon from an admittedly pretty downbeat story.

“I thought the pirate was going to make him part of his crew,” the boy said innocently.

“Yes, Michael, that would make a much better ending,” Jacob said, eyeing him through his thick glasses. Manetti quickly looked away. “I think your subconscious is showing, cowboy. If Chris is Skippy and the pirate is a stand-in for you, I think your ending betrays your conflicted sense of morality, or, I might argue, illustrates your fear of amorality.” Manetti refused to meet his gaze and studied the bottom of his coffee cup.

“Huh? I’m Skippy?” Chris asked startled.

“Okay, okay. The pirate made Skippy part of the crew, in fact, he makes him his cabin boy. Satisfied?” Manetti relented childishly. “No, Chris, you’re not Skippy. Jacob’s the one now pulling shit out of his ass.”

Boris turned to Roger. “Mmm, the pirate and the cabin boy. So Treasure Island.

“Oh, I like Treasure Island,” Chris admitted excitedly to the morticians, “You’d be a great Long John Silver, Mike.”

Tobias shook his head in dismay. “I know it only two o’clock but I’m parched. Anyone else care for a cocktail,” Tobias asked the room. “Sweetheart?” he asked Jacob.

“School night, Pumpkin. We need to get back to the city soon. I have papers to grade for Monday.”

“A short one,” Boris said, looking at Roger. Roger made a slight nod. “Make it two, but if you have any plastic cups from last night’s party, we should use those. I hate to say it, but we should be going.” Tobias nodded and swept out of the room.

“So, boychik,” Jacob said to Michael, getting off the couch, passing Drax with a wary eye. He opened the locked sliding door allowing a warm breeze to sweep through the room. “Alastair von Ingerschleben, really?” Although he didn’t like Drax around Michael, and certainly didn’t like him in his house, he couldn’t help being amused by Michael’s story, and even heartened by the notion Michael still possessed some conscience even if he wasn’t aware of it. The breeze made its way to Wallace who rose wagging his tail, sniffing the salty air drifting by. “How did you come by Alistair’s name?”

“He was this snooty kid on my wrestling team in high school,” Manetti said, shrugging his shoulders. “I never liked him.”

“Apparently,” Jacob observed with a chuckle. He sat back on the couch and lit a purple lilac-scented candle on the coffee table. The closed room, or perhaps it was Drax’s mere presence, left an lingering odor of mildew.

Manetti eyed Drax, still unsure he if he was off the hook, so he tested the waters. “You see,” he said to Drax, “I was telling these guy you wanted to make an outdoor film on the open sea.”

“And why on earth would I ever want to do that,” Drax laughed, getting up to explore the room. He picked up objects on the display case, a finely crafted Chinese vase, a few first edition books, finally he laid his hand on top of Chris’ blond head. “How was your night, Christian? Did you and Michael have fun at the party?”

“Yes, we did, Master Drax,” Chris said. The boy had changed, although he couldn’t tell if he’d become more simpleminded or more calculating. “There was all kinds of fireflies last night, but I learned they should really be called fire-beetles, ‘cause they’re beetles and not flies at all. And they wiggle their butts to attract mates. And that’s what I did all night. I attracted a lot of mates with my butt.”

“I’m sure you did, child,” Drax chortled, weighing Manetti in his gaze. “The things he’s learned since he’s been with you, Michael. What clever, clever boys I have,” he sniggered mawkishly. Drax’s mirthless laughter had a chilling effect. Although Chris seemed oblivious, the morticians and Jacob stiffened in their seats. Manetti gave no indication of his emotions, leery that he wasn’t out of the woods. “Child, I heard you were part of a reunification last night.” Chris looked up at the man with a questioning expression. “With big brother Ben, I hear. He came back home like a good boy and told me all about it.” Drax gave Manetti a sly wink.

Chris folded his hands in his lap and examined them silently. Manetti spoke with a dawning comprehension, “Which is how you knew we were here.” There was a slow an undercurrent of unease, even a trace of anger in Manetti’s voice, which spilled into the room and affect them all with the possible exception of Chris.

“Dear Professor Goodman,” Drax said to Jacob, with insipid friendliness, “we’ve been sitting here for so long listening to Michael’s tall tale of ships and pirates, we never got around to proper introduction. I don’t know these dapper gentlemen, but something about them tells me I should like to know them better. Would you be so kind?”

Jacob was displeased witnessing the sway Drax seemed to hold over Michael. There was a bitterness, though repressed, as he introduced Boris and Roger. Tobias came back with three gin and tonics for him and his two guests, immediately sensing his husband’s discomfort. Drax was commanding the stage apparently, and Tobias resenting anyone who usurped his spotlight, especially in his own house.

“And who is this fine strapping lad?” Drax inquired loudly, affecting a synthetic enthusiasm greeting the Great Dane. He placed a hand on the dog’s face. The animal slapped his tail against the sliding glass window several times as he scratched the dog’s ear.

“That’s our Wallace,” Roger admitted proudly. Boris fidgeted uncomfortably. Drax watched with curiosity both men.

“Dear monsieur Drax, where are my manners? May I offer you coffee, a cocktail perhaps,” Tobias voiced in his best Bette Davis voice. “A Bloody Mary?”

“So kind of you, Mr. Glass, but no,” Drax dismissed him coldly and sat on the coach staring at Manetti. “I’m still trying to fathom why Michael and Christian are out here and not back home in New York where they were supposed to be after...”

“We extended a last-minute invitation to Michael late yesterday,” Tobias interrupted. “Our special guest whom we knew would be a welcome addition to our party--a gracious tip forthcoming, of course--and he, in turn, introduced us to Chris.”

“Yes,” Jacob picked up from his husband, “a wonderful addition to our Towel Party. You are familiar with our annual event, certainly.”

“Most definitely. Legendary, I believe. I had hoped it was still going on. Jamal had eagerly pack the camera just in case.” Jamal, holding the silver camera case, had never spoken nor moved from behind Drax. “You can imagine my disappointment that all the guests had departed. Still, maybe we can improvise something. Michael, your, uh, story leaves a lot to be desired. In my many years I’ve never found anyone who wants porn to have stories, especially stories with silly names, and pirates and boats. There was a time when we tried to impose a narrative, but that artifice now seems extremely trite, embarrassing so. No, Michael, what we desire is nameless men to simply fuck and be fucked, or fist, or jerk off, suck, pee, bind each other, beat each other, and do the most astonishing things to one another. We want to enter a room, a lovely room like this one, and be shown something we want to see. Perhaps shock acting out something we’ve always wanted to do, or, at the very least, wanted to witness. The only satisfying ending in porn is a happy ending, gentlemen--someone needs to cum. That’s all one needs to get to the end credits. A demonstration.” As an aside to the morticians, Drax added, “No plot, simply a naked boy with an erection, sirs. And if I know our boy this shouldn’t take long.” To Christian, he suggested, “I wonder if you would show us what Michael has taught you recently, what special tricks you learned from him. Maybe start by sitting on his fist for us. Michael, take off your towel and lie on the floor with your arm up raised. I’m sure our guests would enjoy a little entertainment. Jamal, the camera. No plot, gentlemen. Just straightforward sex.” Jamal had the camera out of its case, resting on his shoulder, and began rolling.

Christian rose, again playing with himself, and started walking over in a trance to Manetti fingering his butthole, but Jacob quickly injected himself in front of the camera and grabbed Manetti’s shoulder before he could rise out of the chair. “I would not enjoy a little entertainment. And I’m sure our guests, Mister Drax, would not enjoy a little entertainment either.”

“Oh please, sir. After last night’s orgy--an orgy, from what I learned, culminated in an incestuous session of heavy S&M between brothers--I can’t see what objections you would have to a minor recap in the light of day.” Drax turned to the morticians as spoke sotto voce, the back of his hand up pretending to not let Manetti or the others hear, “Ben was most distraught in relating last night’s events in painful detail. The spanking and fisting of his baby brother. My, my, was he ever beside himself? I told him the only thing to be distraught about was that it wasn’t capture on video.” Drax’s conspiring with morticians succeeded in causing the two to snickering delightedly. Manetti managed to pull Chris to his chair and wrapped him with a towel.

Jacob broke in, “While our debauchery knows no bounds--we, every season after all, turn our house over to a night of depravity--but that is our private affair. I have no wish for our household to be the public setting for one of your demonstrations. I’m also unable to appreciate your lecture on lechery either. I grant you none of us know the subject better than you, but spare us your remonstration of licentiousness against Michael’s diverting story only for an excuse of using this young boy and our friend, Michael, simply to prove your capacity to corrupt. We most wholeheartedly believe you. You, sir, are corruption itself.” Jacob saw the morticians who were eagerly disposed for a show, were now looking crestfallen, sitting back drawing on their cocktail straws. Drax, on the other hand, continued to smile though his eyes shown with a sinister flicker. “In complete honesty, Mr. Drax, I would much appreciate that by the time it takes us to escort our guests back to their boat, it would very much be appreciated it if you’d wrapped up whatever business brought you to see Michael, and to be gone before return. Michael, Chris, I trust you’ll accept our invitation to remain as our guests for as long as you wish.”

“Oh, I’m afraid Big brother Ben desires his little brother in the worst possible way,” Drax injected suggestively. “We have big plans for our little Christian, haven’t we, Jamal?” Jamal nodded behind Drax, patting the camera on his shoulder.

Chris looked anguished and torn. Finally he blurted, “I should go, Mike. But you can stay.”

It was Mike’s turn to look conflicted. Jacob thought for a moment, considered an argument, then looked at Michael and exhaled attempting to give him cover. “Chris, If you choose to go back to see your brother, I fully understand. As I trust you, Michael,” he said, walking over to him, squeezing his shoulder, “that you’ll come to me if you find all the angles you’re sure of aren’t the right angles you thought they’d be.” He bent and kissed Michael’s head. “Chris, my young friend, it was an honor to have you with us. I hope you continue to be a good influence on my boy. He is not irredeemable you know.” He glanced briefly at Drax, then swept a hand through Michael’s hair, at the last second giving it a stern yet loving yank before messing his mane and walking away. “Gentlemen, Wallace, Sweetheart, after you.” With that Jacob opened the door for the disappointed mortician’s, their dog, and his suddenly misty-eyed husband.

Tobias stopped at Michael’s chair, kissed his cheek, and whispered, “We love having you with us.” He then went to the sliding door and planted a passionate kiss on Jacob’s mouth.

Drax said nothing, showed no emotion, but his scalp was flush with fury. “Of course, Professor Goodman,” he said from his chair, his back to the door. “We shall be done momentarily, and will leave, all of us, and remove ourselves from your grounds.”

“Thank you so much. You are the prince I suspected you were,” Jacob replied. He slid the screen door close behind him.

“Jamal, put the camera away.” Drax was seething though he remained expressionless. He rose and stood next to the display case. With the slightest tip of his finger he dislodged a blue and white porcelain vase from the shelf, which Manetti sprang up and caught before it hit the floor. The sudden movement dislodged Chris who stood holding his towel, looking confused. “How much the pity would be if this candled fell and lit this rug on fire and engulfed the entire complex,” Drax hissed, but immediately caught himself. “What do you think, pig?”

Manetti pushed the vase back far back on the display case. “I think if the complex went up, Jacob would put your company out of business.” Drax raised his brows furiously at Manetti, and narrowed his eyes. “Just being honest, Master Drax. Jacob no longer practices law, just teaches, but he’s still sits on his former firm’s board.”

“He could sue, yes, possibly, unless some unfortunate accident befell him,” Drax countered. “An ex-con, say, who held a grudge, a student he failed who wanted revenge, even a homeless derelict could, I suppose, attacked him on his way home from a late night lecture. Even a break-in in his apartment, a random bit of violence on an otherwise quiet... ”

“You’re not ever to lay a finger on him!” Manetti erupted, springing forward. Manetti faced off in front of Drax, the first time he dared stand up to him in a threatening manner. But Jamal simultaneously sprang forward, too, a knife unsheathed from his boot, ready to pounce with a word from Drax. “None of that,” Manetti said quietly but even more emphatic, “will ever happen.” Drax gave Manetti an icy stare, then smiled broadly as if he approved of this display of loyalty. Manetti, however, realized that smile meant he’d crossed a line he could not cross back. Their bond was forever broken. And maybe, witnessing Drax smile, Drax had wanted it that way. Even if that were the case, and possibly because it was most likely the case, he had to find a way to get the Prior brothers out from under Drax. He thought of one way he might. “Forget about it, Master Drax, just leave it. We got the money from the job and it was a lot more than you thought.” He felt--he hoped--the news might possibly pacify Drax, giving him time to figure out a way to extract Chris and Ben.

“How much more?” Drax inquired, still wearing his preternatural smile.

“Chris, go get it,” Manetti said. “It turned out that Chris came out with not one hundred thousand, but two...”

“Two hundred thousand dollars in the vent, Master Drax!” Chris interrupted excitedly, breaking through the tension between Mike and Master Drax. He jumped up dropping his towel, pulling on his penis, as if he could no longer contain himself. “I put the money in my gym bag just like you told me to, Master Drax, and I hid it right before the party.”

“I must say, Christian, you turned out to be so much more resourceful than I ever would have thought. Two hundred thousand, you say?” Drax asked observing the boy in a new light. Goodman’s rudeness and Manetti’s insubordination had its impact but the reality of an influx of two hundred thousand unreported dollar to his business began to abate his counterfeit grin and brought out a genuine anticipation that raised his brows. Between the prospect of the money and watching the boy jump up and down so excited, pulling delightfully on his semi-erect penis, he thought maybe there was a future for the boy, even if for Manetti there wasn't. It drew Drax into a much better humor. “Go. Fetch it, child,” he said, waving his hand impatiently but amused. He watched Chris scampered naked out the door, jump off the deck, and disappear underneath the cabana.

Chris quickly located his green bag. He dumped out the packets of wrapped one hundreds, each packet containing ten thousand dollars, onto the sand. He put twenty packets back in the gym bag. With his hands he scraped out a big hole and tossed in the remaining one hundred eighty packets. A big palm frond lay under the deck, which he grabbed and placed covering the cash. He then pushed the sand back over, burying the loot. He smiled realizing he really was an actual pirate now. He had his very own buried treasure. Crossing two sticks, he marked it with an X. Scurrying from under the cabana, he ran over and promptly placed his gym bag with the two hundred grand into Drax’s outstretched hands.

Drax couldn’t be more pleased.

Nor could Manetti.