When he came out of his class on Wednesday afternoon, the third day of classes in the second summer term, Jesse headed toward the lot where he'd left his car. He was thinking about the Computer Science class he'd just left. The young instructor, Toby Taba, was a hot little item. And very pleasant. Jesse had admired his patience in dealing with the two or three people in the class who didn't even know how to turn on a computer. This was CS 100, an introductory course, but Jesse was surprised to know that there were still people around who knew zilch about using a PC.
The morning class wasn't looking too promising. Intro to Sociology was taught by a young woman who'd apparently just received her doctorate. Jesse suspected she had serious self-confidence issues, for she seemed intent mostly on cowing the class into submission. For one thing, she never smiled. She insisted the standards for summer session courses were just as high as those in the regular academic year. She stressed that they must do the assigned reading and that there would be pop quizzes. They were told to take careful notes, as the lecture material would be covered on the final. All of that was reasonable, Jesse supposed, but none of his other profs had made such a big deal of it. And with so little charm
He looked up to see a smiling Casey Shaw walking toward him.
"Hi, Casey! What's up?"
"Well, we made it through hump day. Wanna go celebrate with a beer?"
"Sounds great. Nellie's?"
"Just where I was headed, dude!"
Jesse had the impression that fewer people attended the second summer session than the first. Both of his classes were smaller, and there was hardly anyone in Nellie's. Of course, it was only 4:30, but still, he'd expected more people quenching their thirst on a hot late-July afternoon.
The bar was cool and dark. He and Casey found a table by the front window where they could watch passers-by. The waiter came. Jesse wondered if the waiters were chosen because they were cute and decided that must be the case. Nellie's was, after all, a gay bar. Sedate by New York standards, but a gay bar none the less.
He ordered Sam Adams Light.
"I haven't tried that," Casey said, "so I guess I'll have it, too."
They talked about diet and exercise, both accustomed to eating and working out so as to keep their bodies in the condition required by their former professions.
"God," Casey moaned, "I got so sick of salads!"
"Man, you know it!"
"But now I still feel guilty at the thought of ordering fries or a cheeseburger."
Jesse chuckled. "Same here."
They compared notes on their new classes, occasionally interrupting that conversation to comment on someone who'd walked past the window.
And Jesse was surprised to find that 45 minutes had passed.
"Want another round?" Casey asked.
"I don't think so. I'm driving back to Higgins."
"In a hurry?"
"It's early yet. I just don't think I'd better have another beer."
"Then before you go, can I ask a question?
"Uh, you and the hunky cop? Are you guys exclusive?"
Jesse, who had been admiring Casey's good looks, noticed that one of man's ears was thickened. What was that called? He'd heard about boxers having . . . cauliflower ears. Casey's wasn't really badly malformed, but there was definitely scar tissue or something of the sort making his left ear look fatter than the other one.
"Sorry, Casey. What was the question?"
"I asked if you and Stonesifer are a couple."
"Oh!" He had to think about that for a minute. "We, uh, that is, actually we haven't talked about it." Casey's smile made him continue. "But I've sort of assumed we're moving in that direction."
Casey's face fell. "Oh! So there's no chance you and I . . ." He left the sentence hanging.
Leaning forward, Jesse said, "Casey, you're a stud. And a nice guy. And I'm flattered that you'd ask. But I want to see where this thing with Ray goes."
"I was afraid it was something like that."
"I hope we can still be buds."
"Good! Then you want to go get supper somewhere? I owe you a meal."
"You don't owe me squat. You know I didn't pay for that lunch at Adrian's."
"Still, I wouldn't have had it if you hadn't invited me. And it was great. Loved the food, and loved being back stage, so to speak, at the restaurant."
Casey grinned. "Let's be really sinful and stay here. If we stretch it out long enough, you could have another beer and be safe to drive. I won't tell Ray." The grin grew wider. "And we could have burgers and fries." He made a big deal of looking left and right. Lowering his voice, he asked, "Who's gonna know?"
Jesse grinned back. "I'll never tell."
As they chomped their cheeseburgers, they exchanged experiences.
"What weight class did you fight in?" Jesse asked after chewing and swallowing a bite of greasy heaven.
"One fifty-five. Do you know about MMA?"
"A little. I've spent a lot of nights in hotel rooms. So I've watched the UFC and the WEC enough to know the rules and to be familiar with some of the fighters. I always liked your weight class and the WEC's one forty-five division best because you little guys really get in there and bang. The heavier the fighters are, the more they just tend to clinch up and lean on each other. And it seems to me they gas out before the smaller guys, too."
"Dude! You have watched! I never was good enough to make the UFC or the WEC. I was just in local stuff around the Ohio area. Furthest I ever got away from home was one fight in Hollywood, Florida. But you're right, us little guys have better cardio and we tend to get in there and trade strikes."
Casey's brown eyes flashed when he talked about his former trade, and Jesse had to admit he found Casey fun to be with and seriously good to look at.
"Why'd you quite fighting?"
Casey frowned and shook his head. "I wasn't good enough. Don't like getting beaten up. And it's not a good profession to be in if you're gay."
"Yeah, I can imagine."
Jesse felt a bit embarrassed when Casey turned the tables and began asking him questions about modeling. Somehow what he had done was effete by comparison. Still, Casey seemed interested.
They had goopy sundaes and coffee after their burgers. It was almost 9:00 when they left. On the way out they ran into Bernie Caldwell.
"Aww, you guys leaving? The place just lost its sizzle." He grinned at them.
"Fuck off, Caldwell," Casey said.
Jesse remembered what Ray had told him about Bernie's tendency to boast about his sexual encounters. He wondered if Casey and Bernie had ever fucked. From Casey's reply, he decided they probably had.
"Ooh, it's cold around here," Bernie said, going toward the bar without looking back.
On the sidewalk out front, Casey asked "You know that jerk?"
"If that was Bernie Caldwell, I've heard about him."
"He's the kind that gives gays a bad name."
When they got to the campus, the two friends went their separate ways.
As he drove back to Higgins, Jesse felt bloated. Beer, cheeseburgers, fries, and sundaes were a rare and dangerous indulgence. He resolved that, though he wouldn't mind getting together with Casey once in a while, he wasn't going to eat like that again for a long time. He'd worked hard to get the body he had, and just because he was "retired" was no reason to let it go.
Casey's question prompted him to think about Ray. As he'd told his friend, he and Ray hadn't talked about their relationship . . . such as it was. He'd just gone along, enjoying both the sex and the companionship Ray provided. But maybe it was time to bring up the topic? Or was it too soon to do that? He wouldn't want to scare Ray off. He'd have to think about that some more.
When he got back to the apartment, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and turned it on. He'd switched it off before class and had forgotten about it. There were both a voice mail and a text message. He smiled, thinking they were probably from Ray. He felt something in his gut clench when he discovered they were from Junior. And when he checked his email, there was one of those from Junior as well. In each, the sender had said something about seeing Jesse soon.
Jesse wondered if the bastard would actually come to Colby. He decided the next morning he'd have to call his agent in New York. And maybe he'd better tell Ray, too.
He called New York on his lunch break the next day.
"Sidney Silverman Agency, how can I help you?"
"Ruth, it's good to hear that sexy voice. This is Jesse."
"Jesse, how are you? How are things in Ohio? How do you like being a college student?"
He could hear the warmth in her voice.
"Ohio is . . . well, strange, but I like it. I love being out of the rat race, and the university's fun."
"Have you made friends?"
"Yes. A few. People are very friendly around here."
"Any special friends?"
"Maybe. I mean, he's a nice guy, and we've been spending a lot of time together, but we don't have any kind of understanding. Yet."
"Sounds as if you're hopeful."
"You know, I think I am."
"What's he like?"
"Sort of quiet. He's spent all his life in this area. He's really intelligent, just not very . . . sophisticated . . . I suppose."
"That's all very well, Jesse, but I meant what does he look like?"
"And they say gays are superficial!"
He and Ruth both laughed.
"He's about my height, more muscular, red hair, blue eyes."
"Mmmm. Sounds like a hunk. What does he do?"
"He's a detective sergeant in the local police."
"Better and better!" She paused a beat. "And to what do we owe the honor of this call? You haven't been in touch since you sent us your address and email and phone number."
"I'm sorry, Ruth. Guess I have no excuse."
"You should be sorry!"
"Uh, is Sid available?"
"Sorry, babe. He's doing lunch with a client. You know Sid."
Jesse chuckled. "Yeah, out hustling."
"I'm not sure he'd approve of your choice of words."
"If the shoe fits . . . . But, well, if I can't talk with him, could you give him a message?"
"That's what I do."
"Could you just tell him that Harry Sloane is at it again?"
"That slimy bastard! What's he up to now?"
"So far, just some flowers and a lot of messages. The usual thing. But he's said a couple of times that he'd see me soon. I wonder how the son of a bitch found out where I am."
"Not from us. But he has enough money to hire a detective or a bunch of detectives to track you down. Do you think he'd really come out there?"
"I don't suppose the restraining order would have any validity here. Could you have Sid check with Leonard and find out? And maybe see what Len could do from that end?"
"I'll tell him as soon as he's back from his lunch."
"Thanks, Ruthie. You're a doll."
"Be careful, kiddo. And stay in touch!"
He didn't hear anything that afternoon. When he got home from his classes the next day, Friday, he had an email from Ruth the gist of which was that, according to his secretary, Harry Sloane was not in. He was going to be on vacation for the month of August. Leonard, who was Sid's legal counsel and who had gotten the restraining order against Harry in New York, suggested that Jesse might want to find himself a lawyer in Colby. And she'd encouraged him to save anything he'd received from Sloane to show the lawyer and the police.
"Take care of yourself, and keep us in the loop," she had urged in conclusion.
Ray scurried around Saturday morning to do his workout, buy groceries, run the washing machine – his usual Saturday chores. But that day he had to get them all done in the morning because he and Jesse were going to Cedar Point. Jesse mentioned one day that he'd never been on a roller coaster and had always wanted to. Ray had pointed out that only an hour away was what proclaimed itself "The Roller-Coaster Capital of the World," Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Jesse was almost like a kid. Ray lost count of how many roller coasters they had been on, but it was somewhere around ten or a dozen. Jesse had not seemed to mind the long waits in line. And he'd stuck his hands in the air and yelled like a kid when the various cars they were in plunged. For Ray it was old, stuff he had done as a teen. But Jesse had missed out on the experience, and Ray was happy to be with his friend, sharing the thrill. And he was secretly amused that Jesse Crofts, famous model, who had been all over the country and to several foreign countries, could be so excited by an amusement park ride.
Since it was a hot afternoon and they both wore tees and shorts, Jesse reminded Ray to keep slathering on the sunscreen. He used some himself from time to time, smiling as he remarked that the sun ages the skin.
They had hot dogs and beer for lunch, hamburgers and colas for supper.
Jesse said, "Man, I've got to quit eating hamburgers!"
"One a week won't hurt you."
"Well, um yeah. I suppose that's right."
Tired and hot, they left the park around 9:00.
Ray had driven to Cedar Point because Jesse's car had a low tire and they didn't want to take time to get it looked at. On the way back to Colby he asked, "You're spending the night with me, aren't you?"
"How will I get home tomorrow?"
"I'll take you, dufus."
"You could spend the night with me. I can't believe you've never been there."
"Well, I live in Colby now, you go to the university. You're always in Colby, so it just makes sense."
"My place is kind of a dump, but why don't you take me home and spend the night? Then you can leave whenever you need to tomorrow?"
Ray admitted to himself that he was curious to get a look at Jesse's place, the place he had gone to see the day the two first met.
"Okay." He had been meaning to ask Jesse about Casey. Maybe if they kicked back with another beer before going to bed, he could do that. It might help clarify their relationship. They'd been together every weekend except one when Ray had to work. Once they'd come to understand each other's sexual preferences, they'd had great times in bed. And Jesse was wonderful company. He tended to be on the quiet side, but he was even-tempered, pleasant, often funny, and, when prompted, would tell great stories about places he'd been, people he'd met, and things he'd done.
Jesse never talked about guys he'd been with, though he'd admitted there'd been several. Ray didn't worry too much about the casting-couch sex. He'd fantasized, however, about Jess having sex with another beautiful model. Then he'd always felt jealous. He knew he shouldn't. After all, there'd been guys in his own life before Jesse.
Ray realized he would probably be smart not to trouble the waters, but his tendency toward orderliness made him want to be sure the two of them were moving in the same direction. Jesse's friendship with Casey was okay, if that's all it was. But Ray needed to know.
Once inside Jesse's second-floor apartment, Ray knew he'd never have rented it, even if Jesse hadn't gotten there first. It was not much smaller than Ray's condo, but it was old, worn, and dumpy. Although it revealed an almost military neatness, it was shabbier than anything Ray would have tolerated. And he didn't think of himself as being into interior décor. He was wondering how to ask Jesse why he'd settled for such an austere place when he became aware of something else: the faint but unmistakable smell of pot.
This was his first inkling that Jesse used weed. He'd never smelled it on his body or clothing. It was something he'd have to discuss with his friend, more important than the apartment or Casey Shaw.
"There's no need for a grand tour. You can see the kitchen through there," Jesse said, pointing, "and the bedroom and bathroom are in there. You need to use the john?"
"No, thanks, I'm good."
Jesse went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and returned with two bottles of Corona. He handed one of them to Ray. "Take a load off."
Ray sat. Then he began, "Jesse . . . ," but simultaneously his friend began to speak.
"Ray, I've got a problem and I'd like to tell you about it."
"Sure. What is it?"
"I'm being stalked."
"Here? Now? I mean, in Colby? Why haven't you told me?"
"I don't know where he is at the moment. But if he's not in town, I'm pretty sure he's coming." Jesse held the sweating bottle against his forehead for a moment and then continued, "I guess I'd better tell you the whole story."
Ray took a swallow of his beer. Wanting to set the bottle down, he looked around for a coaster.
"Just put it on the table. You can't hurt it."
So he parked the bottle, leaned back, and waited for Jesse to begin.
"Guy's name is Harry Sloane. Junior. I met him at a party once. Went back to his place in Tribeca after. We had sex. So far as I was concerned, that was it. I was too wasted to leave afterward, but I said goodbye to him the next morning and took off. We didn't exchange numbers. I never told him where I lived, or anything."
Ray could guess what was coming, but he didn't say anything.
"So, a couple of days later he called. I had an unlisted number, but I suppose there are ways. Anyway, he said he was disappointed I hadn't called him and wanted to know when we were getting together again."
"I tried to gently tell him that as far as I was concerned, it was just a one-off. I couldn't really remember much about the sex, but I said it had been good." He paused a moment and continued. "He got a little more insistent. Said I'd seemed to like it a lot and that he'd be sure I liked a second time even more. By then I was getting a little pissed at his persistence so I said thanks but no thanks and hung up."
"But that wasn't the last of it, obviously."
"Not by a long shot. He began to send flowers and candy, and he'd call at strange times. He had my address, obviously, and he'd mail me stuff."
"What kind of stuff?"
"Oh, cards and notes that said we were meant to be together, that I was trying to suppress my real feelings, and so on."
"So what did you do?"
"My lawyer got a restraining order against him. He wasn't allowed within 100 feet of me and he was to desist from having any further contact with me in any form."
"That didn't take care of it?"
"No. First of all, Junior is the son of H. B. Sloane, the senior partner of Sloane, Winthrop, which is a big-ass brokerage in the financial district. He got his daddy's lawyers to fight the restraining order. Said it was a frivolous suit aimed at embarrassing the son of a prominent Connecticut/New York family. But we had the stuff he'd sent. He was stupid enough to use his own name on things, his voice on my voice mail."
"So you got the order."
"Yeah, and I thought this was over."
"Tell me a little more about him."
"Like I said, his old man's a big deal in financial circles. Harry went to Princeton and supposedly has a job as a junior account exec or something like that in the family business. Shows up in all the right places. So far as I can tell, he's what they used to call a playboy. I don't know when he works. He doesn't seem to spend much time at the office."
"I'd think the old man would have shortened his leash after you put in for the TRO."
"He must have. Because I didn't hear any more from Junior after that while I was in New York."
"Well, a couple of weeks ago I got flowers. I think I told you about that, didn't I?"
"Those were the flowers Brody delivered?" Ray asked. That, at least, solves one mystery.
Jesse nodded. "And since then, he's been sending the kinds of shit he sent in Manhattan. I've got emails, voice mail, stuff through surface mail. And in all of it, he says he'll see me soon."
"Is he still signing his name?"
"No. Now he just signs it `Me.'"
"That makes it a little more difficult. But you have saved it, right?"
"Yeah. But how did he find me?"
"Jess, with enough money, you can find anybody. I'm sure he put a detective on your case. And a persistent detective with a generous expense account can track down someone a lot harder to find than you."
"Well, here's the thing."
"Len, my lawyer, says the TRO isn't valid here. Especially if Junior actually comes here. And when he called Sloane, Winthrop, they said the bastard was on his annual vacation and wouldn't be back until after Labor Day." He huffed. "And they `weren't at liberty' to say where he'd be."
Jesse finished his beer, got up, went to the kitchen, and brought back two more bottles.
Ray finished the first bottle in time to take the second one from Jesse.
"Do you think this guy's a physical danger to you?"
"I wouldn't have thought so. He mostly just pisses me off. The harassment, the, well, the invasion of privacy. I mean, I've had fans. You know, people wanting my autograph or a picture and things like that. But this jerk keeps acting as if we were lovers who'd had a quarrel, as if we meant something to each other. And that's not the way it was!"
"Just the one night."
Jesse bridled. "Yeah, that's what I said. That's the way it was."
"Easy, guy. I'm not doubting you. Just want to get the facts straight. Can you show me the stuff he's sent?"
Jesse reached into the pocket of his shorts and pulled out his cell phone. He flipped it open, punched a couple of buttons, and played a message Harry had left a day or two earlier. It sounded friendly, as if one lover were talking to another.
"Play it again."
The second time through, Ray heard, or thought he heard, some menace in the voice. The words were innocuous enough, but, even though he'd never heard Sloane's voice before, if you wanted to take the call as a threat, you could. Nothing, however, that would be evident on a transcript of the call.
"Is that the only phone call?"
"No, there was another one a couple of days later. You wanna hear it?"
"Was it pretty much like the first one?"
"Well, I can listen to it later. Let's see the rest of the stuff."
"I don't have the card that came with the flowers. I threw them away and the card too as soon as I figured out who'd sent them."
"I'll check with Petal Pushers Monday and see what kind of records they have of that purchase. Probably nothing useful, but no harm in checking. Now, what about the emails and that shit?"
Jesse stood. "Computer's in here."
Taking his bottle along, he led Ray to the bedroom, where he turned on the PC and pulled up the emails. Junior was smart enough not to mention his own name. But Ray knew it might be possible to find out who the sender was by finding out who owned that email address. Especially if one was a cop.
"You haven't seen him here? No evidence that he's in town?"
"No. Not yet."
"Good. We'll have to be ready for him when he shows up."
Jesse sighed. "I thought all that shit was over. I'm not scared exactly. I'm furious with him, really pissed that he just won't let me alone."
"Yeah, you didn't give in to his charms, so now he's being vindictive. Guys like that are usually cowards. He gets his kicks knowing he's messing with your head. But some of them are dangerous, and we won't take any chances."
Ray wrapped Jesse in his arms. They stood there, cheeks against each other. He could feel the roughness of Jesse's beard and smell Jesse's unique scent along with the slight tang of sweat. They had, after all, been in the sun all afternoon, and he knew he needed a shower, too.
Right then, however, he was content just to be there as they held each other and swayed slightly.
"You gonna help me with this?" Jesse's warm breath tickled his ear.
"You betcha. Just let me think about it for a while. I'll probably have a plan by morning."
Jesse pushed away far enough to look Ray in the face and grin.
"I can think of some things we could do between now and then."
"Maybe starting with a shower? We both need it. And I like it when we do it together."
Jesse shook his head. "Not enough room in there. You go first. I'll get you a towel. You'll see the shower gel. And while you're doing that, I'll shut down the computer and make sure the door's locked."
Once in bed they made out very slowly, moving from kissing and stroking to a 69 position which started with cocks and ended with asses. Eventually they wound up with Jesse on his back, legs on Ray's shoulders. As he pumped slowly in and out of Jesse, Ray used his hand to masturbate Jesse's cock. They achieved something like simultaneous orgasms.
Ray woke up, looked at the bedside clock to discover it was 7:00 AM. The room was bright even though the window blind was pulled down as far as the air conditioner, which was still running on its low speed.
Disentangling himself from Jess, who had a leg thrown over his, Ray rolled onto his back, clasped his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
When Jesse woke up, they had sex again. This time Jesse, knowing what Ray liked, put him in doggie position and rimmed him, followed by a thorough fucking.
As they lay there gasping afterward, Jesse said, "Well, I definitely need another shower."
"You got anything for breakfast or are we going out?"
"I have stuff. Go get clean while I start in the kitchen."
"Wouldn't it make more sense for you to shower first and then make breakfast? I'd help, but I don't know my way around your kitchen yet."
"I like the `yet.'"
Later, as they were eating breakfast, which consisted of grapefruit halves followed by Kashi and chai tea for Jesse, coffee for Ray, Jesse put down his spoon, leaned forward, and said, "Last night I forgot to show you the letter Junior sent me." He stood and went back to his bedroom. When he returned he was carrying an envelope.
"I put it back inside. Can you get prints off of it?" He handed it to Ray.
"Yeah, depending on the paper. This is high quality stuff. Notice the surface."
Being careful to handle the envelope by its edges, he extracted the letter by pinching the edge between his forefinger and thumb. He opened it and read its contents. [See chapter 6 – TM]
"The message is pretty much like the other stuff. Do you have a baggie this will fit in?"
Jesse took a quart-size Ziploc bag from a drawer and handed it to him."
Again, being careful to touch the letter as little as possible, he put it and the envelope in the bag.
"This will do until I get it in a proper evidence bag."
"Any ideas about how to deal with Junior?"
"Yeah, a couple, depending on what he does next."
To Be Continued
Emails encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org Please put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim