ILLUSIONS is a non-formula romance, gay erotic, police procedural set in the UK. There is only one American in it and he's only the love interest, not the lead character. If you were addicted to the Idol Books romances, this was written to their guidelines.
This story is gay fiction. It is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any medium without my express permission. If you are a minor in your country of origin, don't read.
I have two other series running on Nifty: GLOBAL ENTERTAINMENT appearing in the Incest folder and TAYLOR MOUNTAIN in the scifi folder. If these two stories don't give you enough hot vampire and mortal men to drool for, Starbooks has just released my LOVERS WHO STAY WITH YOU, and that has 28 tales that'll have you offering your neck to the next guy who offers to lick it. <G> You can help Nifty by using its link to A Different Light bookstore when buying this book.
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I cursed the god who permitted telephones to be invented as I struggled up from sleep that night. I became aware of the body snuggled up to mine as I woke up and knew, happily, it belonged to Brett Chandler. I cursed the god even more devoutly but pulled away from the lad's hold so that I could twist and reach the receiver.
'Goodson,' I snarled into the instrument even as I felt the Yank pull away from me in his sleep.
A voice identified itself as belonging to the night duty sergeant at CID. I began to curse myself for allowing Trell to go off to Wales, leaving me to answer calls at ungodly hours of the night.
Moments later, I was back to cursing any and all of the various gods who allowed young men to die mysteriously at ungodly hours of the night. I cursed them, but I slipped out of the bed and began to dress. I had an appointment with a corpse at the morgue.
I felt a hand touch my back, its fingers spreading out towards my shoulders as I sat on the side of the bed and pulled on my shoes.
'What is it, Philip?' Brett asked, his voice still sleepy.
'They pulled a body out of the river a couple of hours ago. Young lad -- your age about -- and nude.'
'You get called to look at every body they find in London?' he asked incredulously.
'Just the young ones who seemed to have died mysteriously. It's this bloody drug case, Brett. Normally, I get to sleep the whole night, like any normal man.'
'I'll get dressed.'
'To go home, I guess.'
'Why? We were planning to leave for Selsey from here -- it still sounds like a good plan to me. You stay here and sleep. This shouldn't take me more than an hour or so.' I smiled over my shoulder at him, 'I'll be back in your arms again then.'
He chuckled, his voice thickening even as he lay back against the pillow and sleep began to reclaim him. 'You are so corny.'
I leant over and kissed him on the cheek.
'You'd better do a lot more than that when you come slinking back to bed, Philip Goodson,' he mumbled. 'I want to feel you inside me before I've got to go play with those Russians.'
'He was buggered before he died,' the attendant said quite matter-of-factually as he led me in amongst the metal drawers that held death in them.
I studied him. He was an older chap but had been a crime scene technician with CID before he retired. Now, he was a pensioner holding down a job at the morgue. His wife was dead and his daughter had married and moved off to South Africa.
I remembered him telling me once that he felt like he was helping the dead by guarding their privacy. He'd been with the coroner's office long enough to know what they looked for. That coupled with his years at CID made any comments he made especially useful.
'Buggered?' I asked.
He frowned and shook his head. 'Don't even think it, Inspector. The bloody bastard used a condom to do the nasty, he did. Not a trace of DNA, I'd wager. Not after the lad was dumped in the Thames, there won't be. Not even a hair left on his arse that isn't his. Pity, that.'
'Anything to indicate cause of death? Wounds perhaps?'
'Nothing. Not a mark on him. Just a pinprick in the crook of his elbow.'
'Pinprick?' My ears perked at the word.
'Just the one, Inspector. No tracks. Just a good-looking lad -- who's dead. And no obvious cause. He wasn't a drug user, that's for sure.'
'I suppose I should see him.' I was already thinking about climbing back into bed and feeling Brett's warm body against my own as I caught a few more hours of sleep. 'And, of course, I'm going to want the post mortem results on my desk Friday afternoon.'
The man stopped and fixed me with his gaze. 'Inspector, there isn't a one of the lads in my old unit that can complain. Don't you start. The medical examiner will have a note on top of his other notes first thing in the morning. You'll have your report on time.' His lips twitched. 'You think he's one of your gay lads what got too close to a needle?'
'You said he was buggered?'
'And that there were no marks on him?'
Again, he nodded.
'It sounds as if he didn't struggle then. Either he was already unconscious or he was enjoying himself.' We'd finished crossing the room and stood before the drawer that held the body I'd come to view.
The attendant nodded and studied the number on the front of the drawer. 'Probably a poofter then. Too bad that. He'd have made his dad strong grandsons.' He'd pulled open the drawer before I could even think to answer.
I decided not to defend gayness at two o'clock on a Friday morning with an old man who wasn't going to change his concepts of family responsibilities and life.
He pulled back the sheet and I gasped.
I was staring down at Aled.
He looked to have fallen asleep after a shower, his hair matted to his head. But his colour was the dull grey of death.
'You all right, Inspector?'
I nodded. 'I -- I knew him,' I mumbled, unable to continue looking at the dead Welshman. 'He was a medical student at University Hospital.' I shuddered. 'He was no drug user.'
The attendant covered the body and closed the drawer. 'I'll let the examiner know there's a real urgency to getting the report to you, sir. You'll have it by noon.'
I sat behind my desk in my office, my head in my hands, and gazed sightlessly at the darkened squad room beyond my open door. Dawn threatened the night sky beyond my window.
I had recorded the facts of the case as I knew them. I had even recorded my suspicions, including my growing doubt about Brett's Russians. By afternoon, the case folder would contain my every thought on the growing presence of heroin in London's gay clubs.
Anyone could follow my footsteps. The drug cartel that was invading London was more exposed than it had been before. Even if something were to happen to me in Selsey the coming weekend, there was enough information in the files now that the investigation could carry on. If I was right.
If I was wrong -- if Aled's death had somehow nudged me down a false path -- the information that would be in the file by afternoon was a red herring and nothing more.
I could not, however, rid myself of the suspicion that I was right. It was a gut feeling.
The Welsh boy was dead. I imagined that he had decided to play detective after I left. Now that I thought about it, it was the most natural thing in the world to imagine his curiosity getting the better of him. The only people we had discussed had been Brett Chandler and the Russians.
I did not suspect the American. He had made himself too obvious during his time in London. The Russians were another matter. They seemed to be a permanent fixture in the underworld of London's gay clubs, but were shadowy. They existed there, sampling the lads who frequented the clubs, but still kept themselves apart. Even without Brett's and Aled's doubts, I would still have come to suspect them when I found out about them.
I knew that I should call off our weekend at the shore. If I was right about our hosts, they had killed the Welsh lad sometime within the past twenty-four hours. They would know something about me. I could well be leading Brett and Richard into danger along with Patel and Yorston.
Still, the weekend offered me the best way to gauge the Russians and, perhaps, to confirm my suspicions. The presence of Brett and Richard was my ticket to do that. And, if young Aled had been killed because of questions I put in his mind, I owed it to him to find his killer.
I owed him, but I did not dare endanger either Brett or Richard. I couldn't pursue this weekend trek to the shore.
With a vengeance my thoughts turned back to the medical student. His impish grin as he reclaimed his chair at Illusions after sucking me off under the table. His squirming as we rubbed against each other kissing. His open pleasure as I shagged him amongst the clothes that littered his bedsit.
But the Welsh medical student had been far more than just another shag -- or even just another rentboy earning his tuition money. In the brief moment that I had known him, I had found he embraced life with abandon. With wide open curiosity.
I suspected that he would have made a formidable doctor. I guessed that he would have been an unequalled lover. Someone had stolen that from the world and made it a duller place.
I knew as dawn began to spread beyond my window that Aled's death would not remain a mystery. Even if it was unrelated to my case, I was going to make it my business to track down his killer. The lad deserved that much. I owed him that. It was all that I could do for him now.
* * *
Brett sat up in my bed as I entered the room. The light was on. He lay the book he'd been reading across his lap and looked up at me. 'An hour or two you said?'
'Remind me never to make plans with you where time is important.'
The tone of his voice said far more than his calm voice. He was angry. No, hurt was more the feeling I was hearing. He gazed at me unflinchingly. I quickly became uncomfortable in my own bedroom.
I knew then that I did not want to hurt Brett Chandler. His pain too easily affected me. I also knew I did not want him to go to Selsey.
I sat on the end of the bed and met his gaze. 'Brett, this is official police business,' I told him quietly. 'You're not supposed to know anything I tell you...'
Understanding began to dawn in his eyes. 'The corpse -- it had to do with this drug case?'
'Was he young?'
I nodded again and looked away.
'What?' I could feel his eyes on me. 'Philip, you didn't know him, did you?'
I sighed and turned back to face him. I reached towards him and he put each of his hands in one of mine. 'The body was Aled's, Brett.'
'Aled?' he gasped. 'He's dead?'
I nodded and tightened my grip on each of his hands. 'I don't think we should go to this thing this weekend, Brett.'
'Why not?' he asked in a small but firm voice.
'There were only three civilians who knew what I was working on. You, Richard, and Aled. The three of you also knew that suspicion was beginning to centre on the Russians, because two of you pointed me that way. Aled's dead and the two of you are scheduled to spend the weekend in Selsey with me, as guests of those same Russians. You'd be safer here in London.'
'Aled sure wasn't, Philip,' Brett said. 'He's dead.'
'And, in Selsey, you might be right up under the noses of his killers. You'd be right where they want you. On a quiet, secluded estate near the sea. It would take days before anyone missed you, and there wouldn't be a trace of you left. I can't put you or Richard in that kind of position.'
I didn't want Brett or Richard anywhere close to the Russians -- not until we knew much more about them. I didn't -- but I did. This weekend jaunt could well end up providing me that knowledge. With any luck, it would provide me with at least evidence enough to have the Home Office to have Ilyich and his lads shipped back to Moscow. I could conceivably get lucky and find enough evidence that the Foreign Office could put pressure on the Russian ambassador to lift their diplomatic immunity. My other option was to depend on M.I.5 for any information they could and would share -- declassified or not.
The first option required me to put Brett in danger. Brett and Richard both. Intellectually and from a distance, I could see that and had no problem with it. Emotionally and standing beside the Yank, there was no way that I wanted to put him in danger. The moment I was looking at him lying in my bed and gazing back at me, there was no possibility that I would take the first option.
'Philip, think for a minute, okay?' His gaze held me transfixed. I prayed that he would find a way that the police side of me could be reconciled with the man who was falling in love with him. 'If he was tortured or anything, Aled would...'
'There wasn't a mark on him -- except for one pinprick. I'll have the post mortem report by noon.'
'There are ways of torturing a person without whipping him or cutting him. Even I know that.'
'You're thinking that he was made to talk before he was killed.'
'Yeah. If he was, I'm not safe, no matter where I am.'
'Aled knew me as well as anybody ever has. Maybe we were pretty much alike, even if he didn't like doing drag.'
'He knew I would contact you.'
Brett chuckled. 'He could see that I had been taken with you that night in the club.'
I arched my brow theatrically.
'Yeah,' he smiled, 'I was going to make sure I saw you again. Besides that, though, he knew I knew that you were thinking about the Russians.'
'And you think that he would have told them?'
'If they somehow made him talk, yes.'
I could see the beginning of fear in his eyes now. The possibilities in his words were hitting him deeper than just the intellectual level. But I also saw much more fully grown determination there too. Brett Chandler, if there had still been a doubt in my mind, was proving himself to be anything but a scattered-brained transvestite.
'I'm in danger on this estate or in London. Just like you are, Philip Goodson..'
'Unfortunately, the danger goes with the job for me, love.'
'Yeah, but it's just as dangerous for me here.' He took a deep breath. 'So, we should go on this weekend thing Ilyich has planned, Philip. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. If we walk into the lion's den and check out his teeth -- just maybe we'll find something that lets us prove they murdered Aled. While we walk out of it without a scratch.'
I frowned. I was used to the Americans from their television programmes and films we imported -- stupid, loud, and petty, more often than not. Brett Chandler was not living up to my stereotype of his countrymen. He was thinking this through.
'What about Richard, though? We'd be marching him to the front of the firing squad if these Russians are our drug cartel -- and Aled's murderers.'
'He's dead meat anyway -- just like I am. He was as friendly with Aled as I was. Probably more. I think they managed to get into bed together at least once a week -- any time Aled took a day off.'
'Explain that, please.'
'You asked Richard questions about drugs. You asked Aled about them. Then me. He and Richard pillow talk between fucks. And I think they spent the night together night before last. Before you're telling me Aled ended up dead.'
'Could Richard have done him in?'
Brett stared at me as if I had suddenly grown a second head. 'Richard?' he finally croaked. 'Philip, that boy wouldn't hurt a fly. He's a little loud -- especially if you knock the Irish. He'll even get mad at you. But it's over in ten minutes and you're his best friend again -- as long as you feed him dick.'
'You can kill a man in ten minutes,' I offered.
'Yeah? With what? You said there wasn't a mark on Aled's body.' He shook his head. 'I guess Richard could get mad enough to hit you with a fist -- but you'd really have to be pushing him. If he were going to get pushed further like you're thinking, it'd be a frying pan or a knife. And I know Richard is drug-free.'
'You put them together and it's possible Richard was one of the last people to see the Welshman alive. I had to ask. I didn't think he did it, though.'
'He didn't. And he's in as much danger as me. The only way we're going to know if Ilyich and his Russians are safe to be around is for us to go out there this weekend.'
I studied him now. He was offering up a police strategy to our situation. A completely logical one that ignored any potential danger. He had offered his help as a fully informed adult. I had to accept his help if I was going to staunch the growing flood of heroin into the gay clubs and find Aled's murderer.
'What about Richard?' I mumbled, uncomfortable with the decision I was being forced to make -- even as I accepted it was the only plan that offered any possibility of success.
Brett studied his fingernails in the growing sunlight coming through the window. 'Richard can be -- giddy, Philip.'
'We're talking about his life here. He really should know that he could be putting his neck in a noose if he goes with us this weekend.'
Brett sighed. 'Yeah, there's always a catch to everything. I'll explain it all to him.'
'When? At Waterloo Station?'
'Yeah. I'll take him over to the side and tell him about Aled.'
'And that he may be walking into danger.'
He frowned. 'That too.'
His hesitancy was like a wall between us. I realised then that I really didn't know that much about Brett Chandler. 'I want your promise on this,' I told him.
He took a deep breath. 'You've got it, Philip. Now, come here and hold me. Better still, make love to me. I need to pretend that I don't know about Aled being dead and what that can mean.' He took my hands in his and looked into my eyes. 'Please?'