Thank you for coming back to read yet another episode of FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE. That's a real vote of confidence.
Please let me know if I'm succeeding in entertaining you at vichowel (that's one 'L') at aol.com.
One more chapter to set up the 'shotgun wedding' of Lord Molloy and Alan Dudding and, then, we're off to Berlin. Embarrassingly for Barry, Alan is a suspicious sort -- and no-one has his office telephone number except Lord Molloy...
The story is being told in rotation from London to Germany and back. The atmosphere of the story will be considerably darker in those parts of the story that has his Lordship in Germany.
The copyright to Flight belongs to me. It cannot be reprinted in any medium without my express permission. If you're under 16-18 yos, you shouldn't be reading stories from the Nifty archives -- however, this story will not lead you into orgasmic prurience (mum and dad can read it over your shoulder, in other words). If you enjoy reading stories stored at Nifty and are delirious that they are free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that those stories will continue to be free to you.
Barry gazed at the telephone for several moments after he and Alan Dudding had set their meeting for that afternoon at a Lyon's Corner House near the Admiralty. The man's accent had been so heavily Irish that Barry could have cut it with a knife.
He had heard enough of the Irish growing up in the city, before his family moved out to Rye. Every cop in New York city had seemed to be Irish, even down to keeping the accent through two or three generations. And this Alan Dudding's brogue was even thicker than those he'd heard in New York.
An Irishman, though? That didn't sound like Robbie, not the way Barry's mother had always looked down her nose at them. Now that he was thinking about it however, he realised he'd just sort of figured all English people were like his mother that way. But he'd learnt a lot of things about Baron Petersholme the last five months; things he'd never thought an English nobleman would do or think.
What was it that Alice Adshead had asked before she went upstairs for her nap? Was this Alan guy English? That was it. And she'd asked it twice. Barry was willing to bet she wouldn't be happy with foisting this guy off on Lord Molloy, no matter how beastly she thought the Englishman was. She was nowhere as open-minded as her nephew was.
Only, who else did they have to work with, if not Alan Dudding?
Maybe Miss Alice wouldn't mind too much. After all, she'd seemed to take a shine to him, and he was an American. Glumly, he told himself that he'd just have to put his head together with Elizabeth after he'd met this Dudding guy. They'd just have to find a way to sell him to the old woman. If he was even interested.
Barry glanced at his watch and saw that it was now a quarter past three. Alan had suggested they meet at four thirty. He sighed and stood up. He knew he should change but didn't want to risk being late. He telephoned for a cab and stepped out onto the porch to wait.
"Mr. Alexander?" the voice behind him in the queue asked, his name sounding strange distilled through the other man's brogue. Barry turned to face Alan Dudding.
He was immediately surprised. He was studying a guy who didn't look any older than him. A brown fringe fell into the man's eyes. There were freckles across his nose that continued out onto his cheeks. And those piercing green eyes! They held Barry. It was almost as if they were peering into his soul, studying each layer of him.
They were like Franklin Roosevelt's eyes that one time his father had taken him to the White House to meet the President. Holding a man until he surrendered every piece of knowledge about himself. Knowing -- all-knowing, almost like a god from the Greek legends.
Barry forced himself to close his eyes, breaking the other man's hold on him. "You're Alan Dudding?" he asked as he opened his eyes again and made sure he didn't face the man squarely.
"In the flesh. Shall we find a table?" He smiled and raised his arm slightly to catch the hostess' attention. Barry followed after the man through the Lyon's Corner House.
"Has his Lordship put you on an allowance?" Alan asked as they slid into a booth against the back wall.
Barry stopped, his leg under the table, his body bent to sit in the chair. He looked at the Irishman and forced himself to swallow the anger that had risen in his throat like bile. "In America, no gentleman would ask such a question," he answered and sat facing the other man. "In England too. Only the trashiest boys would..."
Alan held up his hand. "You're right and I'm sorry, Mr. Alexander. I'm no gentleman except by education but, if I could, I would take back those words. Will you forgive me? Can we start over again?"
"I'm not used to being thought of as someone's kept boy, Mr. Dudding."
"Of course, you're not. I didn't mean to imply that you were."
"Then, why did you suggest it?"
A smile began to form lopsidedly across Dudding's lips. He reached into his waistcoat, pulled out his pince-nez, and placed them on his nose. "It's been said that the Irish have to fight you before they can become your friend. They have to learn your strengths and weaknesses."
"And that's why you were so confrontational?" Barry demanded quietly. "You wanted to become my friend?" He stared at the man in disbelief.
"In a way, yes." Alan leant across the table, capturing Barry with his eyes. "Once -- after I was at university and knew I was Socratic in my tastes ... Well..." He broke their eye contact and looked around the uncrowded eatery. "I thought I was madly in love with Petersholme. He was my first, and I knew I couldn't wait to be with him again and again." He chuckled. "I must have seemed such a puppy to him -- tail wagging every time I saw him, tongue lolling every time he scratched my head."
He shook his head slowly. "You see, Mr. Alexander, at university, Robert Adshead, the future Baron Petersholme, assumed those in his circle were there to pleasure him -- and him them. I was in his circle because I was his chemistry tutor. He expected that I would want his body -- just as his two noble friends always wanted it." He laughed bitterly. "Just as his landlady where he had his digs wanted it."
"Of course, you don't, Mr. Alexander. The Lord Petersholme you know is a much changed man from the youth I knew." He smiled again. "You see, Robbie was gentle, even kind, and always aware of his responsibilities -- even as he expected adoration in a physical way from those of us who gravitated around him. That's why I threw myself at him, why I pursued him, why I loved him. Up to that point, no-one had ever been especially kind to the grocer's son from Belfast that I was."
"His -- he's never seemed overly caught up in class consciousness around me," Barry mumbled.
"And he wasn't at Oxford. Oh, Molloy and von Kys were. Molloy snubbed me unmercifully and von Kys wanted to put me on an allowance, as he thought a gentleman should with a lower class lad he was involved with. Robert just treated me like the man I was. If I needed something, he'd help me get it; but he never presumed. It was Petersholme who convinced me that the Monarchy and the peerage were all right. I left for university a Bolshie -- or nearly so -- when I met him, though I'd have denied it with my dying breath. He so epitomised everything the nobility was supposed to be, and I was in love with him."
He fixed Barry with his gaze. "I was quite shocked last week when he told me he was in love." He smiled. "With you, of course."
"He told you that?" Barry whispered, forgetting his earlier anger at this man.
Alan nodded. "You've got him in quite a state. He's even accepted that he's a homosexual because of you. I guess that was the biggest surprise of our conversation."
"You understand that perversion is a criminal offence here in the British Isles? Men of his class are expected to marry and father an heir. They'd seek to hide their sexual inversion even from themselves, or they'd find a lad in King's Cross for a pound when their needs became too strong to hide. Few homosexuals are willing to discard normality and be what they really are -- especially one of Petersholme's rank. Yet, he's reached that point for your sake."
Barry sat back against the seat. He felt his face flush as realisation at what he had forced on his lover began to sink in.
"He doesn't have to," he offered.
"No, he doesn't. But Petersholme never has hidden from himself. Oh, he's a creature of habit all right -- but, if you show him that something makes no sense, he's quick to change. Because of you, he's accepted himself and, because of that, he's accepting the changes it will make in his life -- so that he can be with you."
Alan's hand quickly gripped Barry's wrist. "I was quite pleased when you telephoned this afternoon. I suddenly found I had the opportunity to meet the man who had won our Lord Petersholme's heart. I could barely wait."
"I'm not much."
"Just tell me one thing, young Mr. Alexander. Do you love him?"
"As much as he loves you?"
Barry met Alan Dudding's gaze unflinchingly. "I think so."
The Irishman released the American's arm, leaned back in his seat, and laughed. "You are probably more complex than Petersholme ever dreamt, even if you are a bit naïve -- because of your age, of course. I think you two are evenly matched. Just remember, Yank, to use your head at least as much as you use the rest of your body."
"Welcome to Lyon's Corner House, gentlemen. May I help you?" a woman's voice asked. Both men looked up to see the uniformed nippy offering them menus.
Dudding turned to Barry and grinned. "Ever tried steak and kidney pudding?" The American frowned and shook his head. "Good. You need to learn to enjoy the best food England offers." He turned back to the nippy. "Two puddings..." He glanced over at Barry and grinned. "Let's start our young Yank here off with a taste of the Thames -- just water."
The young uniformed girl smiled at Barry. "Welcome to England, sir. Enjoy your stay with us."
"To a good friendship," Barry offered when the girl had brought them glasses of water.
"That is a given, Mr. Alexander -- even if we didn't have our fight first."
"Please, it's Barry."
"Then I must be Alan."
"To Alan then," Barry said, lifting his glass in a mock salute.
"To Barry and Alan -- our friendship." Alan joined him.
Barry noticed that the Irishman sat across from him with the rim of his glass at his mouth but wasn't drinking. Alan's lips twitched as he set his glass down. "You've satisfied one part of my curiosity, lad; but there's a greater part you've not addressed."
"Why did you telephone me this afternoon, Barry?"
The American blushed. "I -- I wanted to meet some of Robbie's oldest friends."
"Ah. And have you met Lord Molloy yet?"
"Yesterday. He called at the house."
"Yes, of course. He would ..." The pause was deafening. Barry felt the man's eyes on him but he wouldn't meet his gaze. "You know, only Lord Molloy amongst Petersholme's acquaintances has my telephone number at work. The truth is that it was only assigned to me a fortnight ago. Not even Petersholme has it. How did you come by it?"
Barry stared at him in shock. He fell back against his seat, his face white. "I..." he tried to think of an answer and couldn't.
"Either you're Jerry with the best Yank accent I could imagine one of them having or you really are Barry Alexander from Rye, New York -- and a bit less bright than I would like to think you were."
"How do you know I'm from Rye?" Barry mumbled.
"MI-6 had a field day looking you up, lad. I even had your photograph from high school in my hand this afternoon before I left the Admiralty. A bit formal, I might say. It was you, but nothing like as handsome as you are."
Barry stared at him. "MI-6? That's your intelligence people, isn't it?"
Alan nodded slightly.
"Then they know about Robbie? About Lord Molloy too?" Sweat beaded across his forehead and he felt clammy.
"Certainly not. If they knew about them, they'd know about me. My landlord quite likes me having a steady job working for His Majesty's Government. Their secrets are safe but yours isn't -- yet. I may have to suggest to my people that you be deported as an undesirable." He smiled at the American. "Why don't you tell me how you came by my office telephone number. Tell the truth, lad, and, if it sounds enough like what I already know, you may well be attending your first class at LSE next week rather than sitting in gaol."
Sweat beaded on Barry's forehead. "I got it from Lord Molloy yesterday when he came to visit," he told the man across from him and, realising his hands were beginning to shake, dropped them into his lap.
"Young Barry, that simply will not do. Lord Molloy has a higher security clearance than I do; I think he would know better than that."
Barry stared at Alan Dudding and wondered what he had managed to get himself into. Deported? If it happened, that could mean that the FBI would know about him. He'd never get into college back home if that got around. They could even make his father resign from the Securities and Exchange Commission. There'd be real hell to pay. Sweat began to run down his cheeks and Barry wiped his face with his napkin. "I made him do it."
"Oh?" Alan's eyes grew wider as he looked at the American boy, remembering his conversation with Molloy before he'd come to this meeting. "You held a pistol to his head then? Threatened to shoot him perhaps?"
Barry turned whiter. "No. Nothing like that!"
"How was it then, young Barry? Don't fudge now. Tell me all of it. Your future depends on you telling the truth."
"He came over to Rob -- to his Lordship's house yesterday." Barry nervously glanced around the dining room and saw that the families at the tables nearest them were involved in their own conversations. No-one was that close to them and no-one seemed to be trying to listen to them. "He made advances."
Alan grinned. This was what he had almost expected. Only, it was nothing like the story Molloy had concocted. "He made a lewd suggestion as to what the two of you could do, you say?"
"Do go on then."
"I got a little hot under the collar. I turned him down but told him he was a real butthole."
Alan laughed. "That's lovely. You may be the first Yank I've ever met, but we've recorded some of your navy lads with ours; seems your lads like to be buggered by the Royal Navy when given the opportunity. Interesting listening, I must say." He chuckled. "I've almost learnt how your language is different from ours from those recordings. But did Molloy understand you? Especially about him being a butthole?"
Barry relaxed slightly, enough to enjoy Alan's pleasure at Molloy's discomfort. "I think he understood. He wasn't very happy."
"I suppose he wasn't. But how did I and his giving you my number come up in your conversation?"
Barry looked down at his glass. "I thought I'd be -- that Robert would be safer from him if Molloy had another interest." He looked up and gazed at Alan pleadingly. "I remembered Robbie mentioning that he had a meeting with you last Thursday, that Molloy set it up. So, I thought..."
Alan almost didn't see the nippy coming towards them with their food. "We'll return to this conversation whilst we eat," he said quickly. "Silence now. Mind you, though, I'm not finished with you." He could see where this American boy's thoughts had taken him and they were naïve. To think that Alan Dudding would ever put up with someone as close-minded as Lord Molloy was almost insulting. But there was something intriguing about it as well.
Alan cut into the thick, almost porridge-looking food in the bowl before him. Barry watched the man's pleasure suspiciously as the first forkful entered his mouth.
"What's this stuff?" he asked, looking at the same thing in his bowl. "I thought you said something about some kind of pudding?"
"Steak and kidney pudding."
"Kidney?" The American made a face and Alan chuckled.
"You'll like it."
"Maybe with a lot of ketchup?"
"In a Lyon's Corner House in the centre of London?"
Barry glanced back at the meal in front of him. "I guess I can try it," he finally allowed.
"Finish your tale, lad."
"I'd like to invite you over to the house for dinner Wednesday night," Barry said as he spooned out a bite of the pastry with some meat and brought it close to his mouth.
"At Petersholme's house in Mayfair?" Alan asked.
Barry nodded and bit into the concoction.
"Who'll be there?"
"Robert's aunt and cousin, me -- and Lord Molloy," he answered slowly and slipped the morsel past his lips. He instantly tasted a thick, intense meaty flavour. He swallowed quickly and laid his spoon on his plate. He could still taste the stuff and tried to decide if he liked it.
Alan watched him, but his thoughts were not on whether the American liked the offal. This boy was trying to pair him off with Molloy. Somehow, though, he had brought the Petersholme women into his scheme. That surprised the Irishman; it didn't sound like the hidebound aristocracy at all. He wondered if Robert had exposed himself to his family. He guessed that he had as this young American was living with him in Mayfair. He had to admit that Robert had come much further than he'd supposed.
"What makes you think I'd be interested in Lord Molloy?" he asked.
"You don't like him?"
Alan sat back against his seat. "Not particularly. He is a pompous arse for one thing."
"He's also well connected and well off."
"You think I should become his kept boy then? As I was suggesting you were Petersholme's earlier?"
Barry snorted. "That would get old fast, wouldn't it?" He decided that he liked the meaty flavour and dug out a larger bite of pudding from his bowl. "This stuff is pretty good," he allowed.
"You would have Molloy keep me?" Alan asked again.
Barry met his gaze. "He is a pompous ass all right. A real butthole. But he isn't a bad looking guy. He has position and connections. And he's got money. Plus, it's probably no easier to find someone with similar tastes to your own here in London than it would be in New York -- unless you want a prostitute. I'm suggesting that you use him, Alan Dudding. If you find that you can care for him as well, that's a bonus."
Alan stared at the American. He certainly was blunt, but he did make sense. "Why don't you tell me what happened between you and Molloy yesterday? This should prove interesting."
Barry laid out the bare essentials of his encounter with Lord Molloy. "I'm pretty sure he's nellie all the way, Alan. His marriage isn't doing it for him. But he's afraid to find himself a lover."
"I suppose, if the rumours about his wedding are true." He grinned as he remembered them. "And he got up enough nerve to approach you?"
"I guess he just assumed that, if Robbie and I were doing it, I'd be available for anyone. Only, I'm not some kid off the street and I sure don't need his favours."
Alan smiled. "I noticed that your file mentioned that your father is the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission in your government."
"Yeah. It may be new money and the Vanderbilts might look down their noses at us -- but I'm not poor."
"And I am?"
"I don't know, Alan." Barry forced himself to meet the other man's gaze. "I have learned, though, that it always helps to have doors opened for you." He chuckled. "It took me the better part of six months to get accepted at the London School of Economics. It took Robbie's cousin maybe a week when he asked them to take her."
"So, I would use Lord Molloy to do what exactly?"
"Do you want to be promoted?"
"I do my work!"
"Didn't you say that Molloy is hidebound? I've sort of got the idea that a lot of the aristocracy is that way -- aren't they in charge at the Admiralty like they are most of the rest of the government?"
Alan sat back and gazed at the American. Even naïve, the boy had a grasp of how things worked. And he had a point. Molloy could be useful to his future in government. "What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"Come have dinner with his Lordship at the house on Wednesday. Be nice. If you hit it off, go out with him. Do whatever you want to do -- as long as he wants to do it too."
"That seems simple enough."
"Then you'll come?"
Alan grinned. "What time?"
"A bit before eight?"
"And this is on Wednesday?" Barry nodded. "I supposed it could be amusing. I'll be there."
* * *
Alice studied Barry closely. "You say that he's Irish?" The American nodded. "This certainly changes things."
"Why, Aunt Alice?" Elizabeth asked. "This Mr. Dudding's from Belfast, in Ulster -- not the Free State."
"They're still Irish."
"So was Oscar Wilde, and you've told me how much you liked his plays," Elizabeth retorted.
"He's employed with your Admiralty," Barry added. "He even said something about having a clearance, a security clearance I suppose."
"And he is educated," Elizabeth added.
"He's sharp as a tack," Barry added and smiled. "I liked him."
Alice looked from one to the other of the other young people seated at the table with her. She closed her eyes and sighed. "Isn't there anyone else?"
"Would you prefer that we bring in some boy from..." Barry paused, trying to remember the section of London everyone seemed to think was populated with prostitutes, "from King's Cross?"
Alice sighed. She understood she had been beaten. Besides, Maximillian had been a beast to approach Barry as he had. A cad even, in light of how little respect he'd shown Robert. Perhaps he did deserve an Irish commoner. "Very well then. Elizabeth, you and I shall have to meet with Mrs. Murray tomorrow morning and plan a menu for this -- this dinner."