Dangerous Obsession

by Richard Hunter






Chapter Five



Pulling into the parking lot of Mark’s, Chief Sterling radioed that he was out of service but reachable by cell phone, then pulled into a space that the valet attendant was pointing to. He could not turn his official vehicle over to a parking attendant and, after a couple of years of stopping in at Mark’s for dinner just about every other night, all of the attendants now knew it.

Mark’s was the Chief’s favorite place to eat. It was a formal, dignified kind of restaurant with linen table cloths and napkins, waiters dressed in white shirts and black slacks and little black bow ties. It had a very formal kind of menu that was far from the average fare that you would find in many restaurants in this beach community. Yet, the clientele was casual as befitting a beach community and the atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed while the service and fare was somewhat more formal and upscale. And, they had the best brands possible at the bar.

Sterling had been Chief of the Laguna Shores Police Department for two and a half years, the youngest Chief ever, and was roundly resented by many of the old timers on the force who felt that they, or their best buddy, should have gotten the top spot. Sterling had gotten the spot because of his degree in police sciences, his training in investigative techniques at the FBI Academy, and his two years as an FBI field agent. At thirty two years of age, Sterling had achieved a level of success that was desired by many and achieved by few. But, as the FBI had found out, he was very much his own man and followed his own set of rules.

The success, at least in financial terms, mattered little to Sterling. He was an enormously wealthy man in his own right as a result of an inheritance. He needn’t have ever worked, yet he enjoyed a challenge and found police work to be among the most rigorous challenges around. He had grown up in Carlsbad and was familiar with life in Southern California beach communities, so he felt immediately at home in Laguna Shores and had put down roots long before the prospect of the position of police chief was broached. His candidacy was not hurt by his wealth, his community standing as a strong supporter and contributor to important causes or his support of the Mayor’s re-election campaign. It was also not hurt by his appearance.

Laguna Shores was well known to be the beach version of West Hollywood, a population that was just over fifty percent gay, and a mecca for gay boys who love the beach life and the night life. The mayor was gay, three of the four council members were gay, and four of the eight city department heads were also gay. The mayor and council felt that because the city was a strong draw to gay men, it needed a police chief who was not holding on to any old prejudices or preconceived notions about gay men, as had the former chief. They didn’t particularly care whether the chief was himself gay as long as he had a gay sensibility and would not harass or intimidate the gay population or tourists from which fully seventy percent of the city’s revenues were derived. At last count, Sterling had been confirmed as the selection for the position on a vote of 4 to 1. The only contrary vote was from old lady Kerry who had wanted her nephew to be the new chief. Such was life in a small community.

Sterling walked in the front door of Mark’s and felt the rush of cool air from the air conditioning. It had been a warm day today, unusual for so early in the spring, and the cooler air was a welcome relief.

“Good evening, Marcel. I think I’ll just sit at a table in the bar for something quick, okay?”

“Sure, Chief. Anywhere you like.” Generally, Marcel affected a French accent and demeanor in attempting to keep up with the upscale theme of the restaurant, but with Sterling he just let his speech reflect his San Fernando Valley upbringing. He had been the maitre ‘d at Mark’s for the past eight years and he and Sterling had become reasonably good acquaintances during that time, reflecting the frequency with which Sterling ate his evening meal at the restaurant. The chef usually prepared something simple for Sterling, something not on the menu, rather than the rich, sumptuous and elegantly displayed meals that were listed on the ever changing list of fare. But Sterling also regularly sampled the luxurious meals on those occasions when he was in the mood for something special.

Sterling sat at a small, tall table in a corner of the bar, his back against the wall and facing the doorway, as was his custom. He looked over and nodded in friendly greeting to Tyler, the bartender. Tyler had been tending bar at Mark’s for the past six months, rumored to be the latest of the owner’s conquests. It was almost amusing, the way in which the bartenders were continually changing, each seemingly younger and better looking than the previous one, and each lasting about five to eight months until Mark became tired of them and looked for someone new to share his bed.

Tyler certainly looked the part of the ‘kept’ boy that typified the bartending position. He was a fraction short of six feet, very slim, well tanned and well toned with strong shoulders and arms and a very nicely shaped muscular torso tapering to a slim waist. He had small hips and longish legs and a penchant for wearing no shirt, a black bow tie around his neck, and tight wheat-colored slacks that magnificently displayed his well rounded ass. It seemed almost over the top for a respectable restaurant, a little too much like one of the several gay bars further down the street, but Mark knew that the majority of his customers were gay or gay friendly and few non-gay patrons actually went into the bar.

Tyler came over to the table, sashaying his hips in what he considered to be a seductive gait that emphasized the prominent bulge to the right of the center seam of his slacks. Sterling smiled blandly as he approached. Tyl;er had been attempting to get a reaction from him since day one, something that would open the door for the bartender to get more personal, and Sterling had not given him even the slightest encouragement. It had pretty much become a game they played. However, in spite of the game, they had spoken sufficiently that they had gotten to know one another better than Sterling would have ever intended.

“Evening, Chief.” Tyler set a glass of water on the table in front of Sterling, followed by some tableware and a linen napkin. “Would you like something from the bar to start with?”

Sterling paused, wondering whether he should drink before getting home. Being a police chief did have certain constraints and limitations and you never knew what you might come across. “I guess not. Let me have a Sprite for now.”

Tyler quickly retrieved the Sprite and placed it on the table. “Something from the menu tonight or....? Tyler always had a way of leaving the rest unsaid. He could easily say ‘something off the menu’ but it was Tyler’s way of suggesting that he was an off-menu item available for ordering.

“You know, Ty, I think I’ll have the Tournado of Salmon with the garlic mashed potatoes tonight. It’s been awhile since I’ve had them and as long as they’re back on the menu for awhile I think I’ll take advantage of the opportunity.”

“You got it, Chief. Sure there isn’t anything else you’d like?”

Sterling smiled inwardly. This kid was so obvious, it was almost laughable. Maybe by the time he turned twenty-two he would learn to tone it down but somehow that seemed doubtful. It seemed to be an integral part of his personality and a part of his charm. It wasn’t that Sterling wasn’t or couldn’t be interested. The kid was extremely cute and sexy with a smile that lit up a room. But Sterling was rigidly disciplined and wouldn’t allow himself to become interested in someone with whom a real and lasting relationship seemed unlikely. He just couldn’t imagine Tyler being a part of a genuine, loving and monogamous relationship.

“No, that’s all. I may have a slice of cheesecake later but I’ll wait and see what my appetite is like.”

Tyler actually looked a little disappointed, as he always did, his expression partly real and partly forced. It was all part of the game. You had to give the kid credit, though, he never stopped trying. As he moved back toward the bar and the order entry computer, Sterling watched the movement of the tight cheeks beneath the fabric of Tyler’s slacks and the slight sway of his hips. He knew that Tyler had a sad story and had a fairly tragic life in his youth and his flamboyance was more an act of defiance in being released from the oppressive nature of his homelife as a teenager than anything else. Except for his practiced movements, he was very masculine. Sterling suspected that Tyler actually cared for Mark, which was probably a new experience for the fifty-something restrauteur. But, the story was that Mark never allowed his emotions to determine his physical needs and only kept a boy around until the newness of the experience wore off, and then discarded them like yesterday’s newspaper. For that, Sterling genuinely felt sorry for Tyler. He was sure to get hurt. In the meantime, it was his job to flirt and act seductively with the male patrons in order to maintain the atmosphere. Even given the apparent genuineness of feelings which Tyler had for Mark, Sterling still questioned the boys ability to commit to a monogamous relationship. Not when he could be found at the gay bars every free night he had.

Tyler brought a refill of the Sprite over to the table and sat it in front of the Chief. He seemed to pause for a moment before making as though to turn back to the bar.

Sterling looked at him. “Is something wrong, Tyler? You seem a little...I don’t know...subdued tonight. Everything okay?”

Tyler blushed, obviously embarrassed. “I’m sorry Chief. I guess I’m just a little out of it tonight. Lots on my mind, I guess.”

“Hmm. Trouble at home?”

Tyler looked up, surprised. “Why would you say that?”

“Well, just that you’ve been here for about six months now.”

Tyler’s face sank and he blew out a long sigh. He spoke softly, almost dejectedly. “Oh, is that the limit?”

“Pretty much.” Sterling hated that he was adding to the boy’s stress but felt that Tyler really needed to know what the situation was, and his odds, so that he could begin making whatever preparations would be necessary. For his own sake.

Tyler was quiet for a moment, looked around the bar, deciding that since it was empty there was no real harm in remaining to talk with his only customer. “That’s kind of what I thought. A couple of the waiters have hinted lately that I should get prepared. I guess I should start scouting an apartment but when Mark tosses me away that will do it for my job, too, so having an apartment lined up probably won’t accomplish anything worthwhile.

“Maybe you should be looking for another job at the same time?” Sterling said it softly, encouragingly. “The Little Clam is always looking for attractive bartenders. I’m sure they would be delighted to have someone as cute as you.”

Tyler blushed again and Sterling reddened as well. That was an admission he hadn’t intended to make but it was true. Tyler was very cute and sexy and could probably have just about any guy he wanted. In fact, Sterling would have been happy to be the one he wanted were he only a monogamous individual and looking for a relationship rather than a one-nighter. Sterling had only wanted to buck up his confidence but it had almost seemed like a come on.

“I guess I’d do that in a real pinch but you know what that place is like? The bartenders are just part of the meat market. Here, I’m expected to look sexy and act flirtatious. I’m even required to go to the gay bars and clubs on my nights off and flirt with guys there and let it casually drop that I’m the bartender here so that they might come here for drinks or dinner. But at least this space is reasonably respectable even if it means acting like a bit of a whore. At least the acting is the end of it. But that place! Those guys are always touching the bartenders, grabbing things that they have no right to grab, and when they get a little drunk, they actually believe...no, expect... that you’ll go home with them for the night. I’m just not into that. I don’t have anonymous sex and if someone ever offered me money to have sex with them I think I’d pop them.”

The admission took Sterling by surprise and his expression probably betrayed his reaction. Tyler smiled sadly. “I know, Chief. Everyone thinks I’m just this little tramp that’s got a good thing going, that’s a kept boy who sells his ass to the highest bidder. I’m not. I have never cheated on Mark, though I can’t say the same about him. When I first met him, I really fell for him. He’s so different than anyone I’ve ever known before. I really wanted to be with him forever. But after I started here and people started letting me in on how it goes, I knew we wouldn’t last. Even so, I can’t bring myself to cheat on him as long as we’re together. I guess I just keep hoping he will realize he genuinely cares for me as I do him. But, that’s probably a fantasy. I don’t even know what I’m doing here. I have an Associates Degree in Business Administration. I should be working on building a real career.”

“Unfortunately, I think you’re right Tyler. Listen, it’s not my place and none of my business but you really need to find someone who will want you for you and not just you body. You’re a nice guy with a lot to offer and I think if you find someone that returns genuine feelings that you will blossom and grow beyond anything you could imagine. You need someone to love you, not just lust after you. Looks fade, true love doesn’t.”

Tyler grimaced, almost wickedly. “You know anyone like that?”

Sterling smiled, realizing he had put his foot in it again and Tyler was playing the game once more. “I’m sure there are a lot of guys out there that already think of you that way but are unable to make the advance. The really serious ones are usually a little less confident. All their lives the only thing they’ve heard about is sex, sex, sex so they’ve begun to believe that that’s what it’s all about and no one will want a real relationship. Feeling that way, they are afraid to approach anyone for fear of being shot down. But, maybe if you see someone you’d like to get to know, tone it down a bit and just be yourself - your real self - the way you’re being right now. Let them see you for who you are and maybe their unease will dissipate they’ll take a chance on letting you know that they’re interested. And you can take it from there.”

Tyler started to reply but was distracted by a customer walking up to the bar. He nodded to Sterling and went over to the bar. Sterling sat watching Tyler for several minutes as he spoke with the customer, mixed a cocktail and sat it on the bar and accepted the payment. He thought about the advice he had given Tyler and what Tyler had told him. Maybe there was more to the kid than he had given him credit for. If so, he certainly deserved something better than what he currently had. But Sterling would not make a move on Tyler while he was with Mark nor until he was a great deal more certain that Tyler was the more serious person he was representing himself to be.

Ten minutes later, Tyler was back with Sterling’s order. Sterling was feeling a little peckish and wasted no time devouring the peppered salmon and potatoes. Afterward, he had a slice of Mark’s famous cheesecake and, throwing caution to the wind, ended off with a small brandy. He wanted to talk further with Tyler and the brandy would give him a good excuse to stay put just a little longer.

Sitting, watching Tyler, Sterling sensed new feelings arising that he guessed he had unconsciously been suppressing. Or, may it was just that he was now learning that Tyler was not the frivolous little flit that he had thought but was actually someone more committed and wanting something better out of life. Regardless, as he watched Tyler, he was truly amazed at how attractive Tyler seemed. His tan seemed richer, his chest more clearly defined, the small nipples more inviting. Sterling had to close his eyes and shake his head to clear this line of thought from his conscious mind. When he opened his eyes once again, Tyler was standing in front of him.

“Will there be anything else, Chief?”

Sterling looked around. The bar was still empty, happy hour at Mark’s didn’t usually get started before about seven o’clock. “Sit down for a moment, Tyler.”

Tyler pulled out the chair and took a seat facing Sterling. His expression was one of hope mixed with curiosity.

“Listen. You’re a good guy. I know that there happens to be an opening down the street at the Laguna Pacifica Hospital for an Admissions Representative in the Emergency Room. I would think that you’d be perfect for it, given your business degree. You might take a shot at it. The Emergency Department is run by a man by the name of Ryan Schofield. Tell him that you’re a friend of mine and I highly recommend you. He’ll probably give you the job on the spot.”

Tyler was taken aback by the unexpected assistance. “Thanks, Chief.”

“Listen, Tyler. You deserve better. Mark’s a good guy for all intents and purposes but when it comes to boys, he’s got a blind spot. He must have been hurt badly in the past because he’s just not going to fall in love. Ever. You need to get ready and move on before he leaves you behind. Get the job at the hospital and try to get yourself a small apartment nearby. Use me as a reference if you don’t have credit established to get an apartment. But start to make your move now before you wake up some morning in the near future to find Mark has brought home another boy and is asking you to move out.”

Tyler was speechless. He sat looking at Sterling, his face blank but his eyes glistening with appreciation. Sterling pulled out his wallet and took one of his business cards out, quickly writing on the back, then held it out to Tyler.

“Here’s my card. Home and cell numbers are on the back. If things fall apart for you and you don’t know where to turn, give me a call. If you leave here, keep in touch and let me know you’re alright, okay?”

Tyler nodded mutely and Sterling saw a small tear starting to from at the edge. Before it could spill over, Tyler coughed nervously and rubbed at his eye as though something had flown in, and turned his head away in embarrassment. “Thanks a lot, Chief. I really appreciate this. I’ll go down to the hospital tomorrow morning. And I’ll wear something a little less revealing.” He looked up and smiled.

“Smart idea. Oh, and Tyler, if you’re going to refer to me as a friend, you need to start calling me Drew. Drew Sterling. Not Chief.”