AURORA TAPESTRY is the third book in a series. It chronicles the lives and times of a group of men and teenage boys living in an age and an environment where being gay was to be despised, maligned and scorned. It is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, is purely coincidental.
My writing reflects the customs, mores, traditions, prejudices and attitudes of the times. The year is 1976 and it was a different world. Some of the attitudes will no doubt offend those who are so determinably politically correct that they are unable to conceive that others might have a different opinion or outlook. Others are so Liberal in their thinking that they make Hillary Clinton look like Attila the Hen! And then there are those that are into "causes". Please, do not write me hooting and hollering about your cause, prejudices, preferences or whatever. I am not into causes. I AM a grumpy old sailor and I do not suffer fools gladly. Be warned.
IN 1976 the AIDS pandemic was only just infecting North America. Condoms were used primarily to prevent pregnancy and gay men never gave a thought to having sex without a condom. Do not, I beg you, let what was common in 1976 influence your conduct today. Always practice safe sex.
As my writings detail scenarios of gay sex - tastefully, I hope - in sometimes graphic detail, I must warn that in some states, provinces, cities and towns reading, possessing, downloading, etc., is illegal, or if you are not of legal age to read, possess, download, etc., works of erotica, please move on.
Once again my thanks to Peter, whose editing skills continue to make my writings better.
You will notice that I have change the format of my submissions. Text does not lend the depth I think the story deserves, so I am trying HTML. Please let me know what you think. I enjoy hearing from my readers so please contact me at email@example.com
On a personal note, I am a voracious reader and much of what I read is downloaded from Nifty. There are some wonderful stories available and some very talented authors. However, it seems to me that far too many authors either do not have, or do not want editors. Every author has his or her own style, and that is commendable. However, again, nobody seems to understand that a well-written story is a well-edited story, with great attention paid to grammar, syntax and spelling. I find it most distracting, as a reader, when reading a story when my attention is drawn more to the errors than to the plot or characters. Too many seem to think that lower-case is great. WRONG! If you are writing use proper spelling and tenses. Another point, which I think is important, if you are writing about a certain period, or people, or custom or tradition or whatever, for heaven's sake research before you write! I have read far too many stories where the author comes up with such appalling clangers that I simply toss it aside. You do yourself a disservice, your readers a disservice, and Nifty a disservice if you simply scribble something down and send it off. Nifty offers the best service to its authors and is the only credible vehicle for publication for stories of our genre. Please think and do some work. Just to let all of you know how serious I believe our Nifty contributions to be my stories are drafted and then edited, as many a four or five times before they are posted. Even if you are simply writing a stroke piece, make it a GOOD stroke piece.
The final point is this: If you are going to write a story, FINISH it. There are at least a dozen stories posted on Nifty that are sitting in limbo because the author has never got around to finish it. A perfect example is a story called AGENAIS. It needed a little work, but the premise was excellent. The author posted 3 chapters on a rival archive and stopped! That was something like two years ago and I am still waiting for two little words "The End".
Aurora Tapestry - Chapter 3e
Gabe opened his eyes. He had no idea what time it was and did not care. It was dark in the room and he could see the first pale light of dawn struggling against the closed drapes. The fatigue he had felt, the exhaustion of his senses, were gone. For the first time since he had embarked on his crusade he felt at peace.
Feeling a soft hand reach down and lightly squeeze his soft genitals, Gabe raised his hips slightly. He did not have to look to know that the button of his pyjama bottoms had been popped, that the fly had been spread open, that the wide band of his white briefs had been tucked under his testicles. He felt the warm kiss of gentle lips against the head of penis and then the soft, sweet voice of the man who had made love to him. "Are you mad at me, Gabe?"
It had not been a dream. It had been real. For the first time in his life someone had made love to him and Gabe did not care about the morality of it, the legality of it. He did not care if he were condemned for it. The man whose arms entwined him, whose body warmed him, had made love to him, and that was what was important. He rolled on his side and looked into the soft, brown eyes staring back at him. "I am not angry with you."
"I love you, Gabe," whispered Darren.
"And I have always loved you, Darren," replied Gabe, his voice full of love. "From the first moment I saw you, I knew I was in love with you."
"I sucked on your stiff penis," whispered Darren, his eyes wide. "You squirted."
"And I sucked on your stiff penis. And you squirted."
Darren giggled. "Gosh, did I ever. I never knew that I could feel so good. Did you feel good?"
"God, yes!" returned Gabe. Impulsively, he kissed the tip of Darren's fine, straight nose. "I thought you said that touching your penis was nasty."
Darren's eyes clouded and then he snickered. "No, Mommy said that." He snuggled closer to Gabe. "I said that it felt ever so nice when I rubbed my stiff penis." He stifled a sob. "Mommy isn't coming home, is she Gabe?"
"No. She, uh, she had to go away for a long while."
A tear rolled down Darren's cheek. "She's not coming back. I know. I feel it," he said quietly.
For some reason Gabe began to recall the last conversation he and Louis had held with Doctor Vincent. The doctor, a tall, slimly aristocratic man with the thin, well-kept hands of the surgeon he was, had smiled at them when Louis had asked if Darren would ever approach something akin to normalcy.
"The brain is a marvellous, mysterious thing. Science has yet to uncover its secrets, and has yet to understand how it works. We only know that it does. We know that we doctors, foolish mortals that we are, have oft times given up, only to find that the great motor that drives us all, our brain, refuses to give up. I am constantly astounded that despite my fumbling efforts, the brain defies me! I am an educated man. I have trained and practiced for years and still I know little! My training tells me that when a part of the brain loses a particular function, it is lost forever. My experience is something entirely different!
"I have seen cases where my colleagues and I have basically given up hope that a patient will recover and then, without rhyme, without reason, the patient is responding to stimuli, awake, aware! The brain, the marvellous, mysterious brain, has found a way to heal itself, to find new ways to restore itself. I have seen patients whose memory should have been as empty as a blank page, suddenly recall in great detail events that happened years before, recalling memories of friends and others they knew as children. Sometimes these lucid periods last. Sadly, oft times they are of short duration."
"Then there is hope that Darren, that the boy will one day, perhaps, might recall who he is, know what he has been taught, know . . ." Louis had asked.
"There is hope, there is always hope," Doctor Vincent had replied as kindly as he could.
Gabe did not want to remember what the Doctor has said as a coda: "Until the final seizure, there is always hope."
"Last night I had a wonderful dream," Gabe said. "Last night I dreamed that the boy I loved came to me and held me, and made me feel as I have never felt before."
"Who did you dream about? Do I know him?" asked Darren, excited, for he loved a good story.
Laughing gently Gabe ran his finger down Darren's beautiful face, feeling the soft bristles of the man's overnight growth of beard. "He's with me now. I'm in his arms."
"Yes, Darren, you. You were my dream and this morning you are my reality."
Darren all but squealed in delight. "Then I can stay with you forever and ever?"
"Of course, why would you . . . Darren is that why you came in here last night, why you, why we did . . .?"
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Darren. "I wanted to be with you. I've always wanted to be with you. I love you Gabe. You take care of me, and you love me!"
"And I always will," said Gabe.
Darren kissed Gabe and then pulled away. "Gabe, why do you always put on clothes when you go to bed? Mommy used to make me do that, but sometimes I would take everything off because I was hot and then I . . ." He giggled delightfully. "I slept nekkid!"
Gabe looked down the length of Darren's naked body. "I guess it was hot last night, huh?"
Laughing, Darren shook his head. "I wanted to be with you, so I snuck into your room after you went to sleep. I wanted to touch your penis, so I did. I opened your jammers and pulled your undies down and you had a really stiff penis. Well, it was kinda hard to touch your stiff penis and touch your testicles - how come your testicles are bigger than mine - and anyway, your undies kept going back so I pulled them down and tucked them under your testicles. Then I tried to move around and get comfortable so I could kiss it and my jammers kept bunching up and my undies were so tight 'cause I did have a stiff penis too, and well, God Damn and Nelly Bly, I thought to hell with the fuckers and . . ."
"Darren! Wherever did you learn such language?" demanded Gabe, appalled.
"MacReady," replied Darren innocently. "He was baking a cake for me - chocolate cake, Gabe, 'causes he knows I looovvve chocolate and he burned himself and he swore. I guess he forgot that I was sitting at the table 'cause he sure did swear."
"Well, don't do it again."
"Okay. Anyway, it was really uncomfortable doing what I was doing with my clothes on, so I took them off."
Somehow that made sense, Gabe thought.
"Gabe, can you tell me something?" asked Darren as he returned to snuggling.
"It depends," replied Gabe, wary. He hesitated to say anything with Darren acting the way he was. He also hoped and prayed that Darren would remember his admonition and not swear in front of Uncle Louis, who would no doubt have a stroke.
"Well, it's very nice being nekkid so why do you sleep with all you clothes on? And can we do it again, only you have to be nekkid too."
"That's two somethings," replied Gabe with a small chuckle. He held Darren close and said quietly. "A long time ago a man did . . . he did to me what Mr. Tsapopoulas did to Stanley. You remember you told me about that?"
Gabe nodded. "That was very bad, wasn't it?"
"Yes, Darren it was. Anyway, I sleep this way because in the back of my mind a little voice tells me that so long as I have all my clothes on, my pyjamas, my undies, my T-shirt, no one can ever do that again. Do you understand, Darren?"
"I think so. So I was bad when I . . . when I opened your jammers and pulled down your undies?"
"No, no, Daren no!" replied Gabe forcefully. "You could not have known and besides, I still have my 'jammers' on, and my undies, even if they are a little out of place."
Darren reached down and grasped Gabe's soft penis. "I want to do it again, Gabe. I would never hurt you 'cause I know you would never hurt me. I'm sorry that a bad man hurt you. You don't have to get nekkid. I understand."
"Well, Darren, maybe, maybe I should try it," replied Gabe with a smile. "You know, see what it's like and maybe if I do like it I won't mind being nekkid with you!"
"Oh boy!" crowed Darren as he began tugging at the waistband of Gabe's briefs.
"Well, how was I?" asked Ace. He propped himself on one elbow and began rubbing The Gunner's left nipple, which immediately responded to the gentle stimulation and grew hard.
The Gunner moaned softly and said, "Versatile does not even begin to describe what you are!"
Ace chuckled. "And top does not begin to describe you!" He fell back onto his pillow and put his hands behind his head. "Don't get a swelled head but you are only the second guy I've bottomed for that made me blow my load while he was fucking me."
"Yeah. I told you, I only do it for very special guys and not all of them were what I thought they were cracked up to be. The first guy, boy, really, was my roommate in boarding school. At 14 you fall in love easily and damn it, was I in love. His name was Winston John Parmenter, and everybody called him Jack. I thought that he was beautiful and I did everything Jack wanted me to do. Unfortunately, he was a jock, all dick and balls - he was hung and no cracks, please - and basically all he was interested in was getting fucked. In the back of my mind I knew it but I went along with what Jack wanted, which was sex whenever the mood struck him, which was often." Ace smiled almost wistfully, remembering his first times with another boy. "Jack was a typical teenager, always horny and always ready to fuck."
"How well I know," said The Gunner dryly.
Ace thought it best not to enquire too closely as to how Steve knew about horny teenaged boys and continued. "I was the same, of course, and felt flattered that Jack would want me because back then I wasn't a buff stud like I am now . . ." The Gunner snorted loudly but Ace ignored him and continued on. "I was skinny, gangly I think is the word I want, and here was this absolutely gorgeous hunk lusting after me."
"Why wouldn't he?" asked The Gunner. "You were giving him all the sex he wanted."
Ace chuckled ruefully. "Yeah, I was," he said emotionlessly. "Trouble was, I thought that I was in love and because I was in love I knew that when I woke up in the morning there would be two sure things."
"What were they?"
"The sun was out and Jack would be standing by my bed with a hardon. I'd blow him and we'd go and shower. We'd go back to the room and Jack would fuck me silly. I also knew that at least once later in the day Jack would want me again. I never knew when, but I always knew he'd come looking for me. I'd be sitting in study hall and look up and there would be Jack, with a look on his face and I'd get up and we'd go to our room. Sometimes I'd go down on him - Steve, the guy had a beautiful dick, I mean a perfect dick, and I loved sucking on it. More often than not, though, I would drop my clothes and bend over."
"From the sound of it your affair with Jack was more about him than you."
Ace nodded. "Looking back, yes, it was, but I didn't care. Infatuation does strange things to you and I was infatuated. I even forgave him for not getting me off and I thought the moon had fallen when he'd give me a hand job, which was all he'd do." Ace snickered and reached out to grasp The Gunner's soft penis. "Unlike you, Jack never made me cum while he was fucking me."
The Gunner gave Ace a quick kiss on the lips. "I like to give my partner as much pleasure as he gives me," he said softly. "I'm not the type of guy who is into getting laid just for the sake of getting laid."
"It shows," responded Ace with a happy grin. "I get the feeling that your first time was wonderful. I envy you that, Steve because I now know that a boy's first time should be wonderful, a mutual sharing, if you will."
The Gunner nodded his head. "It was glorious, if the truth were told. And I wasn't a boy. I was a twenty-two year old virgin. My only experience had been with a neighbour boy back home, and nothing happened. We were in his bedroom and showed me his hard dick and I ran!" He laughed and shook his head. "I suppose my Catholic schoolboy guilt kicked in, or my fear that if we did anything he'd tell the other guys. Or maybe it was the fact that he had an ugly cock. All I do know is that I ran home and prayed and prayed for God to make me straight."
Ace found it hard to believe that The Gunner, a frankly sexual man, could remain a virgin for so long. The Gunner assured him that it was true. "I joined the Navy because I thought it would make me straight. I wanted, desperately needed, to be straight. I couldn't face the scorn, the abuse, and the jail time if I did something with another man and it got out." He thought a moment. "It didn't take me long to understand, to know, that the opportunity to have sex was there. I always refused." He shrugged expressively. "More guilt, I suppose."
"But you did lose your virginity," replied Ace.
"Yes. My first time was with my Term Lieutenant when I was on course in England. He was everything I wanted him to be, and more," replied The Gunner wistfully. "We didn't have sex, we made love. He was also a beautiful man, in every respect but one. I could have fallen in love with him, but I didn't. He was a selfish prick and had career goals that did not include me."
"I know the feeling," said Ace with a slight growl. "Jack was an only son, and had his whole life planned for him by a very domineering father. I'm sure you know the scenario: only son, lots of money, follows in daddy's footsteps in the firm, and so on. There wasn't room for a queer relationship." He shrugged. "I hope he's happy. I've haven't seen him in years. He lives in Montreal."
"You still sound . . . nostalgic about him," said The Gunner.
"I am," admitted Ace. "Jack may have only been interested in football and fucking but he was my first," he said quietly. "I remember him, yes, but I don't pine for him. Ari I miss, and Ari I could have loved."
"Ari Lowenstein. I met him through my roommate when I was at McGill. Now there was a guy who was all brag and bluster, in all departments! He also had no staying power, but that's another story."
"Ari wasn't all brag and bluster and had staying power?"
Nodding, Ace looked at The Gunner. "In many ways, you remind me of Ari, the same height, the same build, the same gentleness when you make love to me. I say, 'make love' because that's what you did. Ari never fucked me. He made love to me. Also, like you, he was sweet, and had a gentleness that few men have. I think I recognized that gentleness and that's what attracted me to you."
"And here I was thinking it was just my manly attributes and caboose," replied The Gunner with a laugh. "And by the way, you've been dethroned."
The Gunner explained, "Sophie managed to cop a feel. Then she announced, 'The King is dead, long live the King'!"
Ace snorted. "Sophie is a dirty old woman with too much time on her hands, too much money and too little brains! Did you see that stud she had with her?"
"I could hardly fail to notice," replied The Gunner, straight-faced. "She dragged him all over the house and introduced him to everybody. I might have been interested had he at least looked embarrassed."
"Ha!" exclaimed Ace as he struggled into a sitting position. "He was Euro Trash on the make. All he was interested in was getting his hands on some of Sophie's money. He'll make her happy and then he'll be gone, richer than he was when he came, and there will be another 'son of a dear friend who just happens to be visiting' to squire her around."
"My, the rice is bitter," observed The Gunner.
"Well, it pisses me off!" snarled Ace. "I'm a gay man and if I waltzed into a room with my male lover on my arm all hell would break loose. People are such hypocrites! Everybody knows that Sophie likes her men young, just as everybody knows that she's paying for what she gets. Yet everybody laughs and snickers and rolls their eyes and dismisses it as just another of Sophie's little peccadilloes! People are quick to label gays, but not so quick off the mark when it comes to women like Sophie. Don't get me wrong, I like the old bat, but damn it, why can't people be honest?"
The Gunner was not about to get into a discussion about being a gay man living in a straight world. "It's the way of it."
"Ari would have said something like that!" Ace moved from the bed and lit a cigarette. "He was so damned . . . accepting. But he was at least honest about his feelings for me and he never pretended that anything could come of our relationship. He was a Livadian Hassid and I was a goy."
"A what? I've never heard of a Livadian Hassid."
"They don't advertise, Steve," replied Ace easily. "They're one of those sub-sects that every religion seems to have. You know, they're Jews and all that, but their rabbis have a different take on the teachings of the Talmud. The Livadians are ultra-Orthodox, and I mean ultra. The clothes they wear, the tallith they wear, everything is in strict conformation to their rabbi's interpretation of the Talmud. No deviation, no exceptions."
"I still don't understand the problem. Ari was fucking you; you were no doubt fucking him. You both had feelings for each other."
"Yes, Steve, I did. Very deep feelings," said Ace. "But I was a goy. According to the Livadians I was unclean. All goys are unclean because they don't follow the Law of Abraham. It didn't matter that I was as 'clean' as Ari, or that every guy in the frat house but one was just as 'clean'. Hell, according to what Ari told me, the Livadians believed that if I so much as put a toe in one of their houses I would desecrate it, pollute it so much that it would have to be abandoned! He had to get a special dispensation from the rabbi just to live in the same house as the goyem. When he went home he had to go to the Temple and bathe in a special bath to cleanse himself."
"Yet he loved you, and made love to you. That must have been very . . . difficult for him."
"It was. Ari was the first man who fucked me and made me cum. He had remarkable staying power and always waited until I was ready. He adored it when we came together, or so close you couldn't tell the difference. Unfortunately, while he did love me, he just couldn't quite bring himself to think that what we were doing was wonderful and right! The influence of the Talmud was just too strong and he agonized for days after we'd have sex. You mentioned Catholic guilt. It has nothing on Jewish guilt! I would meet Ari, we'd go to his room, and we'd have sex. Afterward he'd go into a decline! I swear after every time we'd have sex he'd drape his tallith over his head, wrap his phylacteries around his arm and spend hours begging for forgiveness."
"But he always came back for more," The Gunner pointed out.
"Always," responded Ace, "and each time he was more loving, more responsive. Mind you, it was a real downer watching him crawl out of bed and cower in the corner weaving and bobbing, agonizing over the huge sin he'd just committed! Everything we'd just done was a huge taboo, and sticking his dick in me, sucking my dick, and having my dick in him were abominations, unforgivable, horrible transgressions against the Law of God! Unfortunately he had tasted forbidden fruit, and liked it. He couldn't help himself and when the guilt kicked in he had to beg forgiveness, to atone for what he'd just done." Ace sighed heavily. "I feel guilty, really, because I think that Ari is now probably spending the rest of his days atoning for it."
"It happens," replied The Gunner as kindly as he could. "Some men just cannot reconcile their true feelings with their religious beliefs." He rubbed Ace's back gently. "It must have been wearisome for you. I would have been tempted to break it off."
"I thought about doing just that," replied Ace honestly. "I didn't feel guilty and couldn't see why he did. But then I thought, no, I couldn't do that to him. He needed me, I think. I also like to think that he still does, and that whenever he thinks of me, of our time together, he's happy."
"Do you truly believe that?"
Ace had to be honest. "No. He's probably miserable. Not that I'd know. He went back home, to the Bronx the day he graduated. He's probably married with a dozen kids and unhappily toiling away in the family business. Which reminds me." Ace returned to the bed and lay down. "Ari's people are brokers in diamonds and precious gems. They only trade with other branches of the sect - there's a temple in Kensington Market - and other Jews. If you decide to sell the jewels your aunt left you, you might consider them. They're very discreet and wouldn't broadcast the purchase all over the morning papers."
"I'll think about what I want to do, Ace. Right now I can hardly absorb the fact that I have the things!"
"And if I thought that I had a cat's chance I'd move Heaven and Earth to help you decide what to do with your newfound wealth. But I haven't, have I?"
The Gunner's reply was brutally honest. "Ace, I like you, I like what we've done together. I want to be your friend, and yes, I want to be with you from time to time. But . . ."
"You're involved," sighed Ace. "The story of my life."
"Ace, I wish with all my heart that one day you will find the happiness I have. Back home, in Comox, there is a green-eyed, jug-eared little monster waiting for me. He loves me, and he's in love with me. He's a boy one minute, carefree, enjoying life. He's a man the next, serious, logical and determined to reach whatever goal he's set for himself. He loves me without regret, remorse or the slightest doubt. I am he, he is I. I will not have to make excuses for what I've done with you, just as he will not have to make excuses for being with one of the boys he loves so much. That is the way of it, that is what I am, that is what he is, Ace. I'm not sorry for the way I feel."
"Nor should you be," returned Ace. "I knocked on your door with my eyes wide open. I knew then, I know now, that come Monday or Tuesday, you'll be on a flight back west. That is the way of it in my world. All I ask is that you tell me if what we did was a one-off. I wouldn't be surprised, although I would be disappointed because . . ."
Ace did not have time to finish his sentence because The Gunner pulled him close and kissed Ace deeply while he fondled the smooth head of his dick. When their lips drew apart The Gunner told Ace, truthfully, "I told you that I only go with men I feel a special attraction to. Nothing that has happened between us has in any way diminished that attraction."
"You're staying, then?"
"I don't have to put my kilt back in the closet?"
A low, guttural snarl rose from The Gunner's throat. He could feel Ace's hard, smooth cock rubbing against his balls. "If you did that I wouldn't have a chance to show you how 'versatile' I can be," he said as he ground his loins into Ace's. "And I can be very versatile for the right man."
Patrick Tsang looked around the sitting room of Laurence's suite of rooms, his eyes wide. He was accustomed to Chinese ostentation, acres of gilt crown mouldings, red lacquer columns, richly carved teak furniture festooned with dragons and mythical beasts. He was also accustomed to squalor, to broken or missing windows, to beds with lumpy, mouldy mattresses propped up with bricks, to rat droppings in the corner and cockroaches in the sink. He had expected that Laurence, as a high official in the Serenity's Household, would be housed according to his station. The rooms were comfortable, of course, very neat and meticulously clean. Still, Patrick had expected something better.
Laurence saw Patrick's eyes darting about the room and smiled inwardly. If he knew his man, and he thought he did, Patrick no doubt was wondering why someone so important lived so simply. Patrick expected wealth and power to look like wealth and power. He was totally in the thrall of the idea of Majesty, and majesty, and its acolytes, always lived in splendour. He was sorry to disappoint the young Chinese man, but then, they were not here to discuss one's domestic arrangements.
While Laurence continued to doubt the Major's plans, he would do as he had been asked. The Major had explained what he wanted and emphasized that while Michael's happiness and well being was important to the Order and the future of the Order was vested in Michael as Grand Master, he would not order Laurence to participate in the scheme to find Michael as mate if Laurence in any way felt uncomfortable doing so. The Order, while hierarchal, was at no time demanding in the sense of domination or subservience according to status. Laurence was a Knight, and therefore would never be ordered to do something his conscience would not allow him to do.
Laurence doubted, but he understood the importance of what was being asked of him. He agreed to be Patrick Tsangs mentor, in a way, his Liege Lord. Under his tutelage Patrick would be assessed, evaluated and rated. Any gaps in his education would be filled. He would be given any dental or medical attention required - although Laurence did not think it necessary. If the Major was right, and he usually was, Patrick had passed the first hurdle, the physical examination of his body. He was, as Laurence was freely willing to admit, a fine specimen of young Chinese manhood. He was, when he was not busy being afraid of offending authority, articulate. He was intelligent and while he might be a tad rough around the edges he would do.
Laurence was willing to attend to all aspects of Patrick's education and training except one. He had made up his mind that he would not in any way educate the man in sexual matters and carefully avoided any hint of a sexual connotation as they chatted. Laurence felt that Patrick, after experiencing sex with two other men - one quite recently - had a fairly good idea of what to do. There was also the fact that while Laurence did find Patrick attractive in a sexual way he could not quite bring himself to think of the Chinese man in those terms. Laurence supposed that it was his inbred insularity and British contempt for "the lesser breeds", bigoted to be sure, but a part of his character nevertheless. Laurence also felt that while Michael just might forgive a man's past, he might not be of the same mind as the Major if he was informed that Laurence had taken Patrick to his bed. Laurence had no desire to incur the wrath of Michael Chan, or to sleep with the fishes.
The two men spent much of the evening just talking. Well, Patrick talked and Laurence listened and took notes. Patrick talked about his hopes and dreams, the way he felt, the love he had for the Serenity, and, as the hours past, waxed lyrical over the beauty of the porcelains of the different Dynasties. All in all, it was a pleasant evening and Laurence was pleased as he showed Patrick into the guestroom.
After bidding Patrick goodnight, Laurence went to his room where, much to his surprise, he found Noel, naked, and spread-eagled across the bed. "Whatever are you doing here," he asked. He began to undress. "I thought you'd been gifted with the night watch."
"Switched with one of the lads," replied Noel, a gap-toothed smile breaking his broad, square, ruddy face. He reached down and hefted his thick, heavy penis and heavier testicles. He nodded toward the door that led to the corridor outside. "Let myself in." He waved his penis at Laurence. "Thought you might like a bit of rumpy pumpy."
Laurence laughed and stepped out of his trousers. "Not too much, Noel. I'm that knackered."
Noel shrugged. "What's with the Chinaman, then?"
Laurence's reply did not really surprise Noel. His words said, "A project for the Major." His tone said, "None of your business and don't ask again."
Scowling, Noel shifted his genitals and scratched reflectively. Laurence had become quite the aristo since his promotion from the Staff Cafeteria, with its Formica tables, chrome chairs, and dodgy Shepherd's Pie, to the Household Dining Room, with its rosewood furniture, an under butler to serve, Harvey's sherry with the soup, a decent claret with the joint and vintage port and brandy afterwards. Laurence was flying high these days. Deputy Master of the Household, indeed!
Noel fiddled with the foreskin sheathing the bulbous head of his penis. "No matter. Come to bed. I'm that horny!"
They had just settled into their normal foreplay position, head to toe with genitals exposed for each to savour, when the door suddenly opened. Noel looked up and saw Patrick Tsang, naked, standing there. "Oi," exclaimed Noel with a grin, "all hands to the pumps. It would seem that we have a visitor!" He deliberately took Laurence's rapidly deflating erection into his mouth, sucked the pink, circumcised head, and then grinned at Patrick, who had remained stock still, his mouth open. "A threesome," Noel thought, "now that is something I would never had thought Laurence would . . ."
Laurence, shocked and embarrassed, was thinking no such thing. He turned crimson and sputtered, "Patrick, I have a guest."
"Guest!" snickered Noel. "And here I was thinking you fancied a bit of Chinese Take Away as a late night supper." He deliberately reached down and retracted his thick foreskin, revealing the glans of his penis, which was as dark, and large, as an overripe plum. "Could use a bit of Szechwan beef meself!"
"Leave that thing alone," snapped Laurence as he hurried to gently push the mute Patrick from the room. As he hastily picked up his bathrobe from the end of he bed and slipped it over his shoulders Laurence turned to Noel. "I must attend to this. Please, don't wait."
Noel scowled as the door closed with a soft click. "You didn't mind 'that thing' until you got mixed up with this lot," he thought angrily. He began to stroke his penis into hardness, thinking searingly, "Dinnae wait!" When angry Noel tended to return to his Gorbals' roots and dialect. "It's nae sicht a lang time when it was off wi' the pants!" He rolled on his back and slowly retracted the rubbery folds of his foreskin, playing peek-a-boo as the glans of his penis was hidden, then revealed. "Nae a shabby bit o' good Hi'lan' beef and Laurence me lad, there's plenty doon in the toon who would love a portion o' prime Scots Black Angus!" He squeezed the thick shaft of his erection and then ran his palm over the deep purple, unsheathed knob of his cock. "Besides, who needs you, Mr. Flipping Howard! Me old John Henry doesn't mind a bit of the old self-abuse!"
As he began to masturbate slowly, Noel began wondering if it might not be a good time to move on, to forget all about Knights and such. Mind, he'd be giving up a lot, a good position with a more than decent screw, not too onerous duties, and plenty of free time. Still . . .
As he stroked himself, Noel reassessed his position. He'd only agreed to being circumcised because it was something that had to be done if he wanted to get on in the Order. He was having second thoughts about that. Back home, in the tower block where he'd been raised and where his parents still lived, none of his mates, none of his school chums, had been circumcised. In the Royal Marines, none of the lads in his commando had been done, except one poor soul who'd had trouble down there, and some of the officers, who were poufs anyway. In England only the Royal Family circumcised its sons.
Noel might understand the tradition behind what was being asked of him, he could never understand the reason. Laurence had never objected to Noel's not being circumcised, so long as Noel had kept himself as clean as possible. To be honest, though, Laurence had never really been all that eager to suck Noel's cock, either. And lately had been even less eager.
Sniffing at Laurence's sudden fit of reluctance, Noel felt his orgasm building mightily. He rolled on his side and his hand became a whir as he pumped rapidly. There were some, Noel thought, who adored foreskins, like the man he had begun visiting on a regular basis. He'd met Aubrey on a pub-crawl and because he was short of readies had gone into the adjoining alley where, after money had changed hands, Noel had hauled out the old John Henry. Aubrey had almost fainted at the sight of it and had sunk to his knees, the look on his face so beatific that Noel half expected to hear the Gentlemen and Boys of the Westminster College Choir singing the fuckin' "Messiah" in the background! Aubrey had refused to let Noel leave and had invited Noel back to his house where there was plenty of booze, and all the sex Noel could handle.
Aubrey was plump, balding and a right prat. He was well off and completely in love with Noel's foreskin. He lived in a sprawling house in North Vancouver, affording a spectacular view of Burrard Inlet, Second Narrows and Burnaby beyond. Not that Noel ever saw the spectacular view. He could only visit at night and Aubrey always hustled him into the bedroom where he stripped Noel naked and then nibbled and purred over his cock, and prattled on about how "natural" Noel's penis was, how he adored the unsullied male penis, how beautiful Noel's appendage was. Noel put up with his twaddle because Aubrey knew the way around a lad's cock, gave a great blowjob, and screamed for more when Noel shoved John Henry up the not so forbidden highway.
Truth be told, Noel thought Aubrey a silly twat, to the point that Noel was tempted to go ahead with the procedure membership in the Order demanded of him, just to see Aubrey's face when presented with a bare knob! If Aubrey was so in love with that little extra piece of skin why didn't he do something about his own puny little offering, which was as bare as a little Jewish boy's? If they could make a bird's tits bigger, or smaller, or something in between, or tighten her cunt to near inviolability, why couldn't the doctors give Aubrey a replacement foreskin?
In the event, Noel was not about to antagonize his paramour. Aubrey was very generous, and always left a little something extra on the night table. The last time they'd been together there had been a set of gold cufflinks - he'd got $300 from "Uncle" in the pawnshop when he'd sold them the next day. The time before there had been a slim, very expensive wristwatch. That Noel had kept.
The Scotsman grunted loudly as his orgasm overwhelmed him. He ejaculated stream after stream of thick semen onto the crisp, clean sheet. "Let Laurence sleep in my muck!" he thought viciously as he wiped the last of his ejaculate across the sheet. When he regained his breath Noel left the bed and began dressing. He did not bother to wipe himself clean. Why bother? Then he thought that the night was still young and Aubrey never went to bed unless there was a warm male body in it. Noel decided that he would drive into town and give Aubrey a special treat, a big portion of Kipper foreskin with fresh, warm cum sauce. Good for a laugh, good for a little something extra on the night table.
"I am most humbly sorry," said Patrick as he sat on the edge of the bed. "I meant no offence. I thought that you would be alone and that you would want to continue my education."
Laurence shook his head and settled in the chair opposite the bed. He was not angry with Patrick. He was, in fact, relieved. Noel had become quite a bore of late. He had also been spending a great deal of time away from the estate - Michael had remarked on it - and Laurence wondered if there was something going on that should be looked into. However, that was neither here nor there. There were much more important matters to attend to.
"Patrick, while I admit that I find you attractive, and I suspect that you have the same feelings for me, it is not my place to instruct you in how to be a man, with a man."
"I do not understand," replied Patrick, his eyes expressive. He had thought a great deal about what had happened this evening and he believed that he had come to the correct answer to his question. "I am to be the Lord Chamberlain's concubine. It is expected that you, as his deputy and advisor would want to test me, to ensure that I will be satisfactory, that I will please him."
Laurence's jaw dropped, and then snapped shut. "Dear God!" he gasped, and then he began to laugh.
Patrick, hearing Laurence's laughed, snapped his head around, his face suffused with anger. He leapt to his feet and without warning flung himself on Laurence screaming imprecations in Mandarin. Laurence, startled at first, pushed Patrick away, pushed him so hard that the man landed on the carpeted floor with a loud thump. Patrick glared with hate filled eyes at Laurence. He pounded the floor with his clenched fist. "I am willing to do what is asked of me," he hissed. "Do not laugh at me! Do not treat me as a peasant, too stupid to understand what is wanted of him! You may be a Great Lord, but you do not have the right to laugh at me, to insult me!"
Laurence sank to the floor, his robe slipping down as he knelt in front of Patrick and pulled him to his knees. "Listen to me, Patrick," he began softly. "I am sorry I laughed and I do apologize most sincerely. I also want you to know that I in no way consider you a peasant." He pulled the kneeling man closer and his hands found their way to the round, firm globes of his buttocks. Their soft penises were touching and Laurence felt a stirring in his groin. "Just by being here, you are a man of rank." He could feel Patrick's penis rising slowly. Without thinking he leaned forward and kissed Patrick's warm, slim lips. "You are not to be anyone's concubine."
Patrick enjoyed the moment, enjoyed the feelings coursing through his body as the Great Lord's lips found his, as the Great Lord's penis rose slowly, caressing his own gently. He moaned despite his anger and pulled away. "I do not understand," he whispered. "I was examined . . ." he said. "Like a horse at market!" he could not help adding. "If I am not to please the Great Lord, why was I examined? Why am I here?" He looked quizzically at Laurence. "Or am I to please you? Was I examined by the Lord Chamberlain to ascertain if I was worthy of you?"
Laurence began laughing again and his hand moved down to grasp Patrick's erect penis and the old prejudices, the bigotry, drained from his body. He forgot about Noel as he slowly massaged the plump, sleek organ in his hand. He rolled the smooth, hairless scrotum and smiled. "You may please me, but only if you wish to. You must understand, however, that you were not brought here to please me, or the Maj . . . the Lord Chamberlain. You were not brought here to be a concubine."
Patrick felt Laurence's hands slowly manipulating him. He reached down to touch the warm, soft skinned, and very hard penis that brushed his. "I wish to please you . . ." he hesitated as he added, " . . . Laurence."
"And I wish to please you, Patrick," replied Laurence. "But you must understand that you are destined for a man greater than the Major, far greater than I. You will not be his concubine. You will be, if your gods are kind, his companion, and his refuge. You know him, for you were sealed to his service long ago. You already love him as only you, as a Tsang, can love him."
Patrick, stunned, pulled away from Laurence. "It cannot be! You wish me to believe that I am . . . that I am to be with the Serenity?" He shook his head firmly. "It is not possible. It cannot be. It would disturb the tranquility of the Celestial Kingdom and the Serenity's brothers across the Great Ocean and in the Golden Dragon. The Serenity cannot be as you and I are! Such a thing is not possible."
"Patrick, the Serenity has lived alone for many years. It is time he had a confidant and a companion. He does not follow the old ways. He does not believe in the old gods. He has long since disturbed the tranquility of the Celestial Kingdom! Michael Chan is a man. He lives, he breathes. He is not immortal and he has the same needs as you and I! He will not seek the companion he needs, so the Major, and I dare risk his displeasure by choosing one for him. We have chosen you, Patrick, to be the companion our leader, your Serenity, needs. The Major and I alone will feel his anger, suffer his wrath. This we risk out of our love for him. You will not be harmed. You will not be punished. You will not be asked to follow your fate, nor will it be demanded of you. And if the Serenity, if Michael refuses you, I pledge you my honour, you will be rewarded. You will be allowed to leave and to live your life in peace."
"You . . . you love the Serenity, Michael, that much?"
"Then I have much to think about."
"Yes, Patrick, you do." Laurence reached out and Patrick fell into his arms. "Understand and mark me well, Patrick. Nothing is promised to you, yet much is expected of you. If you are the man I think you are you will be a worthy companion to Michael. You will sit in the Councils, you will have a yellow dragon embroidered on your robe."
"When will I know?"
"I cannot answer that question because I am not the one you will be dedicating your life to. Only he can answer that question. Only he can ask if you wish it."
"I am to save myself for him?" asked Patrick.
"You have not been asked to. No one will ask you. You have not been asked the question that only you can answer. There will be no influence. You, and you alone must decide. If you decide that you wish it, then you must know that you will be in the service of one man only, the man you call the Serenity. It is not expected that you will love him as only a man can lover another man. But know this, you will never again be able to follow your heart."
"Then, until I am asked the question, I will follow my heart." He looked deeply into Laurence's eyes. "Tonight I wish to be a man, to know the love of a man. I wish to be with you, Laurence."
Nodding, Laurence rose to his feet. He held out his hand. "Come, only peasants copulate on the floor," he said as he led Patrick to the bed.
Gabe sighed happily and listened to Darren's heavy breathing. Actually, Darren was snoring away like a grampus. He was also snuggled closely against Gabe's body and every so often he would rub his still hard penis against Gabe's leg. Every time his body thrust slowly upward Darren's breathing stopped and he sighed. A sigh of happiness Gabe hoped, though how Darren could still maintain an erection, after what they had done through the night, amazed him. They had made love; sometimes so childlike in its innocence that Gabe could not believe how wonderful it was. Sometimes, they had made love as men, hard, manic, and desperate. Each time had been subtly different, and each time had been wonderful.
As he held Darren in his arms Gabe thought about what he would tell Uncle Louis. The old man was no fool and would know that Darren had spent the night, and there was enough evidence staining the sheets for MacReady to know what had gone on, as he did the laundry.
Slowly disentangling himself from Darren's embrace, Gabe went into the bathroom, showered, and changed into a pair of loose shorts and a T-shirt. He was not surprised to see Uncle Louis sitting at the kitchen table sipping his morning cup of tea and reading his paper. MacReady sat opposite, drinking coffee. When he saw Gabe in the kitchen doorway MacReady got up and poured the young man a cup of coffee. The look in MacReady's eyes said, "I know what you did last night, and so does the old man!" But, he said nothing as he set the cup onto the table and made to leave.
"Please stay, MacReady," Gabe asked quietly.
Louis Arundel put aside his paper and looked at his former ward, now protegé and, he hoped, someday, a much beloved son. But that was in the future, and Gabe had more pressing matters on his mind. Louis' eyes behind his reading spectacles were bright and not at all threatening. "Darren is still asleep?"
Gabe nodded. He took a sip of coffee and grimaced. How the RCN had ever won a war drinking such a potent, devil's brew, he would never know. But then, drinking the stuff might have been the reason they had won the war! "He spent the night with me," confessed Gabe. "He knows about his mother and I told him that we would look after him from now on."
Louis nodded his agreement. "Florence just couldn't handle it, Gabriel. You must not think ill of her. Oft times people have a breaking point and she, sadly, reached hers."
"I know." Gabe pushed his cup away. "I just hope that her leaving him doesn't impact badly on Darren. He's so sensitive and she's been his primary caregiver all his life."
There came a rattling of pots and pans from the far side of the kitchen. This was a sure signal to all concerned that MacReady was about to make a pronouncement. Louis looked at Gabe, and then at MacReady. "Right, then, Chief MacReady, out with it." MacReady always had a ready opinion on any and every subject.
"There are some who think that Flo should be pitied and forgiven. I don't."
"MacReady, she simply could not cope any longer," temporized Louis. "It happens."
"I know that," agreed MacReady as he plated a tray of cinnamon rolls. "Still, to just give up as she did. It goes against the grain."
"Not everyone has your sense of loyalty and duty, MacReady, or your strength," soothed Gabe as he reached for a roll.
MacReady, somewhat mollified, nodded. "I've put up with you two all these years. One more won't make a difference." He looked pointedly at Gabe. "Your turn to do the laundry, and you know why."
Blushing, Gabe ducked his head. "MacReady, Uncle Louis, I . . ."
Louis shook his head and held up his hand. "No soul-baring confessions. It's always been in the back of my mind that one day something like this would happen, although not necessarily with Darren."
"You, you know that I'm . . .?"
"Gay?" Louis shrugged. "The signs were there." He saw Gabe's enquiring look and continued. "While you were growing up you had no interest in girls. You're a handsome young man and we had thought, MacReady and I, that we would have to go out and purchase a shotgun."
"Doubled-barrelled," interjected MacReady as he settled himself once again at the table. "You were that handsome - we thought we'd be beating the lassies off with sticks."
Louis chuckled and said, "And then there was the intensity with which you applied yourself to just about everything, no everything, you did. There were no half measures and you always seemed so driven, as if you had to keep your mind busy on things other than your sexuality."
Gabe's face grew serious. "I knew what I was. I just couldn't bring myself to act on my feelings. I deliberately avoided sports, as you know, because I didn't want to be in a position where, well, I'd see the other guys naked. I should have known that you'd suspect something when I lived off campus when I was in university, alone."
Louis nodded and sipped his coffee. "That was another sign. You had every fraternity beating down the door wanting you to pledge, and you declined. You always seemed to avoid situations where you might have become involved with someone. You never went to any of the parties, and never went to Homecoming, where there was beer and willing young ladies."
"We also noticed that while you've just come back from a long trip where you basically lived with a very handsome man, you hadn't changed at all," said MacReady. "We had expected that something might happen and hoped that it would." He stirred his tea and looked sternly at Gabe. "But nothing happened. You were the same old Gloomy Gus when you came back as you were when you went away."
Gabe began tearing a cinnamon roll to shreds. "Poor Joe. He wanted so much to be with me and I couldn't let it happen. I can still see him sitting there on his bed, his sad, mournful eyes looking at me, and I knew that he wanted to be with me. I couldn't, you see. Not after . . ."
"Yet last night you and Darren were together," interjected MacReady. "I am not pointing fingers, mind. As the Commander says, we had thought that something like this might happen."
"You were snooping!" accused Gabe.
"Of course," replied MacReady without a hint of remorse. "I happened to be up and saw Darren sneaking along the corridor. He went into your room so I listened."
"And told Uncle Louis!" Gabe's roll was a minor disaster area. He glared at MacReady, then at Louis. "I'm not sorry it happened and just so you know, we didn't, uh, we didn't . . ." He squared his shoulders. "I wasn't ready for that, and neither was Darren."
"What wasn't I ready for?"
The three men turned to see Darren standing in the doorway. He'd just come from his morning shower and was dressed only in his underpants, a pair of very white briefs. He had a towel draped around his shoulders and his hair was tousled, as if he'd simply run his fingers through his wet hair. His eyes lit up when he saw the plate of rolls. "Oh, boy, cinnamon rolls. Can I have one?"
"You may have one," corrected Louis as Darren sat down at the table.
"And some coffee? Mommy never lets me have coffee. She says it makes me too hyper."
"You'll have milk, as always," replied MacReady, rising and going to the refrigerator. "Just because she's away for a bit doesn't mean you're going to run wild."
Darren's eyes watered a bit as he said. "She's not coming back. I know that 'cause I'm not stupid. She doesn't love me anymore!"
"Now, Darren, you know that isn't true," replied Louis kindly.
"It's true," insisted Darren. Suddenly he leaned over and kissed Gabe roundly on the cheek. "But that's okay, 'cause I have my Gabe." He grinned and lunged at Louis, who received a kiss. "And you, Uncle Louis." MacReady had chosen this moment to place Darren's glass of milk on the table. He grasped the cantankerous old man around the waist and crooned. "And I have MacReady. He's really nice and will you teach me some more swear words?"
"No he will not!" growled Louis.
"I burned myself when I was making that bloody cake!" said MacReady, his tone implying that he was not at all sorry that he had taught Darren some new swear words. "And can I help it if Darren enjoys sitting in the kitchen with me?"
Darren, seemingly oblivious to the minor contretemps going on around him, announced that he was hungry and could have some cake? MacReady told him that he would have bacon and eggs. When Darren finished eating he asked if he could go into the living room to watch cartoons, 'cause he looovvved cartoons!
As Darren left the kitchen Louis stared after him. "I sometimes wonder just how much he really understands."
Darren heard him and returned. "Maybe I understand more than you think I do," he said enigmatically and then went off to watch his cartoons.
When Gabe recovered from Darren's announcement he stared at Louis. "Do you really think that he's capable of understanding? I mean, he . . ."
Louis looked thoughtful a moment and then said, "What we seem to forget is that Darren was never retarded. He suffered brain damage, yes, but he was never retarded. From what his mother told us Darren was an intelligent, precocious child."
"Do you think that perhaps his brain is finding other ways to, you know, make him see things clearly? To understand things?"
"I have had, over the years, conversations with my colleagues at the medical school," replied Louis. "There are conflicting opinions, of course, but many seem to think that we have not yet begun to understand how the brain actually works. And Sir Joel did say that there was ample evidence in medicine to indicate that when one part of the brain is damaged, and shuts down, another part takes over its duties."
MacReady nodded. "Remember when Darren was young, when all the doctors said that he'd be little more than a vegetable? He fooled them then. Then they said he'd have to be put in a home, because he would never function outside of a hospital. He fooled them again. Why, the man is perfectly capable of looking after himself most of the time! He can dress and wash himself. He goes to the bathroom by himself and I don't have to remind him to wash his hands or wipe himself afterwards!"
"Oh, I agree," replied Louis. "But, and this is important, especially to you Gabe. Darren functions at the level he was at when he had the accident. A precocious nine-year-old, I believe, but nine nevertheless."
MacReady snorted loudly.
Louis' look said, "Here we go again!" The man had an opinion on just about everything and the subject of Darren was no exception. "You disagree?" Louis asked patiently.
"I do," growled MacReady. He looked at Gabe, and then at Louis. "You two aren't with him all of the time. Gabe is always off doing whatever it is he does and you," he pointed at Louis, "only see Darren when Gabe brings him around or when you dropped off Flo's allotment cheque. I've had the boy sitting in my kitchen. He talks to me, and I think you're blowing steam out your ass."
Louis' jaw dropped. "MacReady! Really!" he declared stiffly.
"Don't 'really' me, Louis," returned MacReady. "Every time I venture an opinion you get all huffy and the next thing I know it's 'MacReady! Really!' and you've been doing it since VE Day!"
"You wanted to go off and report in because of the riots!" returned Louis, his voice suddenly soft.
"And you wanted to . . ." For the first time MacReady seemed to remember that Gabe was sitting with them. He began sputtering and then swore loudly. "Dammit, Arundel, we should have told him!"
After he recovered from his initial shock Gabe started laughing. "I should have known!" He laughed so hard that he started coughing and MacReady had to slap him on the back. Gabe then sat back and looked at the old couple. "Since VE Day, huh?"
Neither Louis nor MacReady looked embarrassed. "We knew long before that," said Louis. "We knew that we wanted to be together as a couple but there was a war on and we thought it better to wait."
MacReady smiled fondly at Louis and said, "There I was standing on the quarterdeck of SNOWBERRY. We were alongside in Newfyjohn - we were under sailing orders to escort a troop convoy across the pond - when up the officers' gangway came this sweet-faced, pink cheeked freshly minted Midshipman. I was 18 and fresh from Fleet School. He was just out of HMCS King's College." He sighed happily.
"I think Angus is trying to tell you that he fell in love," observed Louis dryly. "I looked up and saw this strapping figure and I knew what I wanted. Of course, we couldn't do anything. Corvettes were not the roomiest vessels in the RCN."
"No, they were not!" MacReady shook his head. "Being homosexual, as I was, and being in love with your uncle, was frustrating because he was wardroom, I was Lower Deck. The only time I saw him was when we were on watch!"
"But we did decide that we both had feelings for each other and we did talk about those feelings." Louis chuckled. "We both agreed that we had to be discreet and wait. Of course, we didn't have too much choice in the matter, what with being on convoy duty constantly. We were always at sea and when we were in port it was only to store ship. We had very little free time."
"But you did, um, meet?" asked Gabe, a smile playing at the corner of his lips.
"Did we ever!" exclaimed MacReady.
Louis was about to retort, "MacReady! Really!" but thought better of it, although he did think that some things should be private. "We met in a suite at the Lord Nelson Hotel - and you don't want to know what I had to go through to get it!"
"Used your father's name and paid the manager triple the going rate," sniffed MacReady. He gave Gabe a wink. "Your uncle was upset with me when I insisted that we go down and help out. We ended up as part of the guard at the RCN Hospital."
"Where you threatened the Chief Tiffy with dismemberment if he didn't leave that rating alone!" returned Louis.
MacReady grimaced. "He was sleaze." He turned to explain to Gabe. "The rating was quite striking and the Tiffy wanted to 'examine' him in the surgery. I can just imagine what part of the rating the Tiffy wanted to examine!" He turned to Louis. "And you threatened to put your Webley where the monkey put the nuts!"
"Yes, well, so I did," replied Louis diffidently. He turned to Gabe and smiled. "We have been together ever since then. Until you came into our lives we slept in the same bed, in the same room."
"You could have told me," Gabe said gently. "I suspected for a long time, but I never saw anything!"
Louis reached out and took Gabe's hand. "It was not that we were ashamed of our relationship, Gabe. We just didn't want to influence you in any way. When you came to live with us we were, well, I suppose we were complete as a family. MacReady and I wanted you to find your own way and we felt it best that we be circumspect in our relationship and of course, we had to be very careful. We didn't want to lose our son."
Gabe coloured. "I wanted to be your son, Uncle Louis."
MacReady sniffed loudly, seeming on the verge of tears. "We talked about it, but you must understand, Gabriel, adopting you was impossible. We were, Louis and I, two men, living together. That alone made us suspect to the authorities."
"We had to be so careful," continued Louis. "Any hint that MacReady and I were lovers would have resulted in you being taken from us. We couldn't risk that so we presented the social workers with a scene that they could believe. MacReady had his room and I had mine. So far as they were concerned MacReady was an employee, a servant."
Gabe's eyes filled with tears. "You did all that for me?"
MacReady waved away Gabe's words. "It was a small price to pay. I'd do it again in a minute."
"As would I," said Louis.
Gabe sniffed away his tears. "Would you still adopt me, make me your son?"
Louis beamed. "Oh, Gabe, you know we would." Then his smile was replaced by a frown. "Unfortunately, that would be unfair to you, as you would have to choose between us. We cannot, as a couple adopt you. Only one of us can do it."
"Don't be daft," snapped MacReady. "He'll be your son. Don't you dare make him decide between us!"
"But MacReady, you helped raise me!" returned Gabe. "Hell, I remember when I was sick and how you took care of me. I remember when Uncle Louis was away you'd look after me; tuck me into bed at night. You are as much a part of my life, as much of a father, as Uncle Louis."
MacReady shook his head. "I know that. I also know that Louis is the one to adopt you. I also know that even though my name won't be on the papers you will be my son as well."
"Then call Uncle Bertie," instructed Gabe. "He can draw up the papers." He reached out and took both men's hands in his. "I love you both and I want both of you to be my fathers."
They spent the next hour or so talking about the early days, when Gabe first came to live with them. Eventually their talk returned to Darren.
"Are you sure you're up to it?" asked Uncle Louis of MacReady. "You'll be the one who is here, the one who will be his primary caregiver."
MacReady puffed up, looking as if he were about to explode. "I did it with Gabriel, and I can do it with Darren," he growled firmly. "We didn't do such a bad job with Gabe. We were amateurs with Gabe, stumbling around, trying to decide what was best for him. At least with Darren we know what we have to work with!"
Gabe stared at MacReady. "What is that supposed to mean?"
MacReady sighed heavily. Could neither Louis nor Gabe understand about Darren? "When you were growing up, Gabe, we wanted you to grow, to learn, to develop. We never tried to keep you a little boy and that is what happened with Darren."
"I don't understand." Gabe looked at Louis, who shrugged.
"Flo never allowed Darren to develop! To her he was just a little boy. Oh, he had a man's body, but I don't think that she ever thought of him as a man, really. Most of the time she treated Darren as a little boy, never really teaching him how to develop, never really trying to help him reach his potential."
"You know, for an old sailor, you make a lot of sense," replied Louis reflectively. "Darren might not have been developing intellectual capacity since the accident, but I do think that he surely has been learning some things."
"Such as learning to accommodate his sexual sensations?" suggested MacReady.
Louis nodded. "He's been in group settings for 17 years, including the years when he was going through puberty."
"I recall when you were going through that," remarked MacReady as he looked at Gabe. "You'd be sitting at the dinner table and all of a sudden you'd be red all over, and squirming. You looked like Louis when he was passing a kidney stone!"
Gabe could have died. He remembered those embarrassing days when he'd pop a boner for no reason. He blushed but said nothing.
"See what you've done?" accused Louis. He gave MacReady a dirty look and then patted Gabe's hand. "Pay him no mind."
"I suppose mentioning the stains on the sheets and his underpants are also not to be spoken of?" asked MacReady with a dirty grin. Before Gabe could faint, MacReady laughed and said, "Gabriel, it was all part of growing up. During the war I spent most of my illustrious career in a mess deck. Most of my messmates were as young as I was, eighteen, nineteen or thereabouts. We had one lad who was barely seventeen. Morning erections and huffing and puffing in the night was the norm, believe me."
"And I slept in a gunroom with the midshipmen," said Louis. "One day they'd be squeaky-voiced little rodents, then they'd get up the next day and they'd all become baritones with dirty great lumps pushing out the front of their drawers."
"So it stands to reason," continued MacReady, "that Darren, who was in groups of boys his own age, more or less, saw their privates. They had no inhibitions, I think, because no one had taught them to have them, and chances were they would have forgotten what they were taught anyway. He's seen boys naked, before and after his accident. He's seen other boys excited, and no doubt there was a certain amount of inspecting. Later, as he grew older he no doubt learned that by doing certain things to his penis resulted in very nice feelings."
"Or having someone do it for him," replied Gabe angrily, a grim look on his face.
"Now, Gabe, if this is about last night," began Louis.
"It isn't," returned Gabe. He quickly related what Darren had told him of Mr. Tsapopoulas and what was going on at the centre.
"It never ends," murmured Louis with a sad look. "Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose." He looked at Gabe. "You'll be speaking with Bertie?"
"Yes," replied Gabe with a nod. "Today."
"Good." Louis shook his head. "And Darren insists that this . . . person . . . has not touched him?"
Shaking his head, Gabe replied. "Darren is incapable of lying. He may be holding back on some of the things he's done at the centre but I believe him when he says nobody touched him."
Louis gestured for MacReady to refill his cup. MacReady grumbled something about not being married to Louis, poured the tea and then went to check on Darren.
Ignoring MacReady's grumbling, Louis smiled thinly. "He just wants to watch the cartoons," he confided to Gabe. Louis tested the tea and then said, calmly, "Gabe, I know that last night something very special happened between you and Darren." He seemed embarrassed but continued on. "In a way I'm happy that it happened with you and I say this because I think that Darren is in many ways still a wondering and curious child. Being with you has been wonderful for him and he has learned, at least for a little while, that being with you is very nice and . . ."
"What do you mean by 'A little while'?'' asked Gabe.
Louis took a deep breath. "Darren is, I think, incapable of sustaining for very long a relationship. Oh, he loves you, but up until last night sex was not a part of your relationship. Remember, he has trouble remembering things. He may just slip back into his normal behaviour." Louis then looked into Gabe's deep brown eyes. "And there is also the fact that Darren might, without warning, have that final seizure."
"I know," whispered Gabe, "and I dread that day."
"As we all do," replied Louis as gently as he could. "My point is, however, that you be prepared for that eventuality, and for the possibility that Darren will not return to your bed."
"I understand that," said Gabe with a sad shake of his head. "Why he waited until now to, um, come visiting is puzzling, though."
"Not really," replied Louis. He stirred his tea, thinking, choosing his words carefully. "It is not at all uncommon in cases such as Darren's. He might not remember chasing the ducks yesterday, but he has responded to some stimuli - seeing Eddy going into the office, hearing Eddy talk about 'squirting' and so on."
"Darren did tell me that Eddy was always happy after one of his sessions with Tsapopoulas. And Darren told me that he's, well, for back of a better term, played with himself."
"Hearing, seeing, certain things stimulates Darren's memory," offered Louis. "Before his accident he was a normal schoolboy and associated with boys his own age. He also associated with older boys and that he might remember certain things is not surprising. Boys in a group talk about sports, girls, and they chatter about sex. They are all curious, and I would not be at all surprised if he did experiment a little."
"You show me yours, I'll show you mine?" asked Gabe.
"Of course. He may have touched another boy's penis, or even tasted another boy, and these little incidents from his past have come back and in the remembering he recalls the pleasure he felt and he wants to experience the pleasure again. Because he loves you, he wanted to share that pleasure with you."
"You don't seem very upset about it," returned Gabe. "Why is it you feel that what I did with Darren was all right, yet what that creature Tsapopoulas is doing at the centre is wrong?"
"I didn't say that," replied Louis grimly. "We are not talking about Tsapopoulas. He will be dealt with. We are, however, talking about you and Darren." Louis looked sternly at Gabe. "Darren might function at a level much higher than his chum Eddy, and sees nothing wrong in being with you, but the fact of the matter is the law says that Darren is incompetent. A case could be made that you took advantage of his mental status, his diminished capacity to know right from wrong."
Gabe slumped in his chair. "I have no excuse for what I did. Lord knows I was wide awake through most of it." He raised tear-stained eyes to Louis. "But it felt so . . . right, and Darren wanted to do it!"
"Consent is no defence," growled Louis. "Legally Darren is unable to give consent." He then smiled weakly. "However, in speaking to my medical colleagues of the university, I have learned that while Darren is mentally challenged, that does not mean that he is sexually ignorant, nor is he incapable of functioning sexually to the point of orgasm, whether alone or with another man. That is one of the problems the medical community is unable to solve."
Gabe knew what Louis was getting at. "With the new theories about the mentally challenged being allowed to live on their own there is no way to control their 'urges'?" he asked.
"Precisely. We no longer warehouse them. The mental hospitals have been emptied, the inmates placed in group homes, or in so-called supervised environments. Some live at home with their parents or a sibling. Many, sadly, are set loose to roam, as they will. The downtown streets are filled with these poor unfortunates and the Lord alone knows what they get up to. The doctors tell us that as long as they take their medication they should function well. Yet there is no one to remind them to take their medication. To be frank I would much rather have Darren here, where he can live as normal a life as possible. If being with you is a part of that normal life, then so be it."
"I would never allow Darren to be put in a home! He's my brother!" exclaimed Gabe, barely able to control his temper. "I love him, and he loves me."
"I am aware of that, Gabe, and when did I suggest that he be placed in a home?" asked Louis blandly, unruffled at his protegé's outburst. "Darren will stay with us."
"I'm sorry, Uncle Louis," whispered Gabe. "It's just . . . I don't trust those places. Darren needs us, needs to develop as much as he can. He wouldn't be allowed to in a place like that."
"No, he wouldn't," replied Louis as he finished his cup of tea. "But then, we all thought that until we learned what a supposedly civilized nation did to their 'useless mouths'." He stood up. "You, of all people should know that."
The voyage that would lead Gabriel Izard and Joseph Hobbes into a noxious cesspool of depravity and man's inhumanity to man began with a series of questions posed by Michael Chan to Major Meinertzhagen. What, Michael had asked, was Sporinfabrik GmbH? Why had so much of the Order's money been invested in the firm and why was there no return on the investment?
The Major perused the Order's financial statement, which had been provided by Miles Willoughby, the Keeper of the Common Treasure. The entries seemed straightforward: monies in, primarily from investments and rents on Order property; money out primarily on medical expenses and accommodation for the Grand Master, who was dying slowly of congestive heart failure, renal failure, and a host of other ailments. Dying too slowly in the Major's unspoken opinion.
The Order, which Michael placed such hopes in, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Saint John of the Cross of Acre, was as moribund as its Grand Master. The great priories of Europe had been swept away by war, or allowed to descend into ruin by indifference. England was gone. Germany was gone, France was gone, Austria as well. Only here, in Canada, did the Order exist, and that barely. Nothing was being done to recruit new members and save for Louis Arundel, the only Professed Candidates brought forward were frankly young men whose motives were suspect in the extreme, fey, vapid creatures who seemed more interested in doing their sponsors bidding than anything else. Michael had pithily lumped them all together by observing that while they all might have testicles, not a one of them had balls!
The Major knew that Michael was never one to be satisfied with the status quo. Any organization, whether it was a Tong, a business, or an Army company, had to contain a balance of motivated men, men of vision, and sadly, drones, in order to evolve, to function, to grow stronger. There would always be drones. Nothing was perfect but in every case the balance needed to be there. In the Order, there was no balance, and very little organization.
With the Grand Master unable to function, his duties had devolved on the Chancellor, Michael Chan, who applied to the workings of the Order the same energy and determination that he applied to all of his enterprises, legal and illegal. Michael was a man of vision and he would not allow anything he was connected with to wither and die.
The Major re-examined the balance sheet. There were investments in many gilt-edged stocks. There were investments in tax-free municipals. All paid steady dividends, all listed neatly. A small bell rang in the back of the Major's mind as he scanned the list of investments. The more he read the louder the bell clanged and he asked for the complete file. When he was finished he looked at Michael who smiled grimly. "You have noticed as well?" asked Major, knowing full well that Michael had noticed.
What Michael had noticed long before the Major did was that when one was comparing past balance sheets with current there were disturbing discrepancies. Strong, healthy investments that appeared on the books a month ago were no longer listed. The number of shares in Sporinfabrik, however, had increased. Which led to the question why would Willoughby sell shares in AT&T, which paid healthy dividends, to buy into something that so far as he could see, had not paid anything. Or why sell block after block of Coca-Cola, which had returned steady dividends for decades to conservative investors to buy . . . Sporinfabrik? It did not make sense! What did Willoughby know? What was he up to? Both Michael and the Major could see investment for long-term gain. Neither could see investment for no gain at all.
Someone was doing a fiddle, and the finger pointed directly at Willoughby.
Michael, cautious as always, directed that a quiet investigation be conducted. Perhaps there was a perfectly good reason for Willoughby to be transferring such large amounts. Sporinfabrik sounded like a drug manufacturer, and everyone knew that drug companies invested tens of millions in research and development with a view of reaping colossal dividends when the drugs they invested so much time and money in proved successful. Perhaps Willoughby had stumbled onto a good thing. Better to look into Sporinfabrik and see what they were up to before questioning the honour of a fellow - and high-ranking -Knight.
The Major, still firmly convinced that there was a fiddle going on, consulted the Globe & Mail, Canada's National Newspaper (as it billed itself). The publication would never win a prize for its news content but it did have a very good financial section. Nothing. He next consulted the salmon-coloured pages of the Financial Times. Nothing. This in and of itself meant nothing. Sporinfabrik sounded foreign, German, and would not necessarily be traded on the North American exchanges. The company could also be private, which meant that there would be no listing anywhere. There were the trade registers, of course, and the Major made a fruitless visit to the central library downtown. In none of the pharmaceutical registers was Sporinfabrik listed. Again, this meant nothing. The name sounded one thing, the firm could be quite another. The Major really had limited resources for such an investigation so he turned to the one man who did have them: Louis Arundel, Professor of Forensic Accounting at the University of British Columbia.
Louis consulted his registers, and a few colleagues in England, France and Germany. Nothing. He searched further and recalled his former ward, now all but surrogate son, Gabriel Izard, from his studies to assist him. He reassigned his assistant, Joseph Hobbes, to the search. Gabe and Joe descended to the depths of the School of Accounting and searched through dusty records going back years. What neither Gabe nor Joe knew at the time was that their shared discomfort was the beginning of what would ultimately be a bond so strong that nothing save death would ever break it.
At the time both men spent more than a little of their investigative skills debating on the consequences they would suffer, and the dread diseases they might contract, thanks to decades of dust, rat droppings and God knew what else was lurking in corners and disintegrating mounds of paper. On the fourth day of their search Gabe was idly leafing through yet another dry PhD thesis, bitching that he would never get the grime out of his pores and that the dust was so heavy that it seeped through his clothes and that he was tired of having to condemn his underpants every night, so dirty did they become. Joe was idly leafing through a very old transcript of one of the very minor Nuremberg trials (involving officials of the Deutchesbank) and trying hard not to forget his professionalism and put the moves on his handsome new partner, when he happened to notice in one of the appendices a listing of German firms that had foreign investors, investors who had conveniently overlooked the fact that Germany was a belligerent and reregistered their holdings in Switzerland. He was so excited at what he read that he jumped up, knocked over the chair he'd been sitting it (and a pile of old papers as high as he was tall, papers representing the combined work of six professors and untold associate professors) and all but scared the shit out of Gabe with his shout of triumph. "I found it," he yelled. Then he grabbed Gabe and danced him around the limited space. "It's German, or at least it was! Look, look!"
Gabe, startled at Joe's dancing him about the room - Joe was a very serious young man and dancing about the room was completely out of character - and a little disturbed at the reaction of his body to Joe's body touching his, pushed Joe away and snatched the report from his hands. He scanned the contents and then pelted up the stairs with Joe in pursuit. It was 3:00 a.m. and Louis Arundel was not all pleased when two seeming madmen crashed into his bedroom and began bouncing on his bed.
While MacReady puttered about the kitchen making coffee and sandwiches, wearing a bathrobe that looked as if it had survived Dunkirk, Dieppe and D-Day (it had) and grumbling under his breath, Louis, Gabe and Joe read and reread the transcript, which turned out to be an appendix to a Parliamentary Report issued in 1947 on Canadian Nationals trading with Nazi Germany.
"According to this transcript, all these companies were either dissolved, or simply disappeared after the war," said Louis as he looked with distaste at the water-stained, rat-nibbled transcript.
"Which means Sporinfabrik does not exist. It was set up by the Nazis, for the Nazis, to funnel foreign exchange into Germany to help sustain the war effort," said Joe. "Look at the transcript. Nazi sympathizers, German nationals, could 'invest' through a Swiss bank and help the Nazi war effort."
"Some of whom were Canadians!" exclaimed Gabe. "Why else would a Parliamentary Committee be interested?"
Louis looked fondly at Gabe and smiled. "Which means you and Joe are going to do two things."
"What's that?" asked Joe around a huge yawn.
"Why you are going to Ottawa and make enquiries at the National Archives." He tapped the transcript. "This is part of an official Canadian government report. Where else would one find a copy of the report? That is the first thing."
"And the second?" asked Gabe.
"While Joe is in Ottawa you are going to find the money trail. Willoughby is buying shares in a non-existent foreign company."
"And how do I do that?" asked Gabe, who had no experience as an investigator.
"By asking yourself the age old, hackneyed questions of an investigator: Who? What? Why? When? Where? And How?" replied Louis with an innocent smile. "The answers are really quite obvious, up to a point."
Joe and Gabe looked at each other. "They are?" asked Gabe.
"Think on, lads," grumbled Louis impatiently. "Use those brains that someone paid small ransoms to instil a modicum of education in for something other than to rest your hats on."
"I don't wear a hat," observed Joe. He grinned at Louis and said. "The 'who' is obvious. Willoughby, in his position as trustee of the Order's accounts, and president of the Bank of Upper Canada, embezzled close on to 5 millions from said accounts." He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. "And that takes care of the 'what'."
Gabe, who had a quick and facile mind, thought a moment, and then a surprised look came over his face. "But he was not alone."
"Precisely," said Louis, clapping and nodding his congratulations at Gabe. "Two men have supported Willoughby in all the meetings of the Council. Hunter and Simpson's support of whatever Willoughby proposed has never wavered. Why?"
"Because they shared in the loot?" asked Joe, answering a question with a question.
Again Louis applauded. "Willoughby, as the Order's trustee, was legally entitled to withdraw funds for investment. This he did over the course of three years, purchasing increasingly larger blocks of stock in what we now know to be a non-existent company."
Joe scratched his nose, thinking fast. "Which only he, and his fellow thieves knew." He reached into his briefcase for a pad of yellow, legal sized paper and began making notes. "As the president of a publicly traded bank," Joe began, thinking aloud as he scratched away, "Willoughby knew that his bank was subject to auditors, bank inspectors, government inspectors, and so on."
Louis sensed where Joe was heading and nodded approvingly. "Go on."
Joe was on a roll as all the years spent listening to Louis and his other professors suddenly had meaning. "Under ordinary circumstances any new share issue, or bond issue, from a reputable company, Lehman Brothers or Morgan say, is offered as a prospectus to certain banks, investment houses, the general public, and so on, inviting investment."
Gabe picked up on Joe's line of thinking. "Willoughby, as a conservative banker, would read the prospectus and, in hopes of increasing his client's wealth, buy some stock. Not much, because one never knows."
"Exactly," exclaimed Joe. "He then pays out whatever monies are owed to the investment house that offered the stock issue, which in turn issues stock certificates to Willoughby and pays out the money, less their commissions, to the principals, through and to a bank nominated by them."
"Which adds a charge of uttering a forged document," advised Gabe. "Willoughby would have to have some proof on record that the stocks purchased actually existed. Since the company, Sporinfabrik, is spurious, any stocks on file are also spurious."
Louis agreed. "The certificates are no doubt mouldering away in one of the vaults of Willoughby's bank, gathering dust because they most certainly are not gathering dividends. Note, my sons, that there is not one mention of income from Sporinfabrik in any of the financial statements."
"As I see it," Joe began to recap, "We know who, we know when, we know how, we know where. We don't know why, and we don't know where the money eventually ended up. Willoughby is loaded, but even he couldn't explain 5 million in cash in his private accounts, assuming that he keeps his money in his own bank."
"Of course he would," said Louis. "And he would take great pains to be in a position to document the legality of every penny in his account. Remember that while he is the majority stockholder he still has to account to his Board of Directors, and his stockholders. The stock in his bank is publicly traded, which means that he is subject to regulatory scrutiny from here to Halifax." Louis shook his head firmly. "Willoughby is a thief, but a very smart thief. He has covered his tracks and made certain that no suspicion, no hint of irregularities in his accounts, personal or public, will come back to haunt him. The money he embezzled with Hunter's assistance is either tucked away in some obscure corner of the financial world, or it's gone."
"This whole case just gets murkier and murkier," observed Gabe.
Louis had noted Gabe's use of "case" and smiled inwardly. "Deliberately so," he opined. "When one is stealing millions of dollars one usually hopes to muddy the waters as much as possible." He looked sternly at Gabe and Joe. "Neither of you has mentioned Simpson. He is involved as well."
"His bank," muttered Joe, resisting the urge to slap himself. "He owns a private bank! A merchant bank!"
"And the glimmering light begins to shine a little brighter," said Louis with a chuckle. "Willoughby pays out of Order funds sums of money for stocks and or bonds purchased for investment to Hunter. Hunter, as the broker, remits the funds to the principal's bank, which I am willing to wager a year's income is Simpson's Private Bank LLC, which has on its books a great number of foreign accounts. Simpson then sends the money . . .?" He held out his hands. "Where?"
"That, Uncle Louis, is the five million dollar question," replied Gabe with a frown. "The money could have been sent anywhere. Hell, it could even still be held here, in Canada, although I doubt it."
"As do I." Louis leaned back in his chair and regarded each young man in turn. "We have made a start. There is a great deal of work to be done." He made a face and rose from his chair. "In some ways you two have the easy part of it. It falls to me to tell Michael Chan that its own members have diddled his beloved Order. He will not be pleased."
Gabe glowered after his mentor. "Easy for him some would say. He's not the one who has to go rummaging through dusty newspaper morgues risking silicosis, cuckdeosis, and God knows what else! God, if we could only gain access to their computers! All the big firms have them now!"
"True," agreed Joe. "I suppose we could fall back on time-honoured investigative techniques such as blackmail and bribery, but that would take too long. We would have to find out who worked, or works in computer rooms, who is susceptible, and so on. I have a feeling Michael might want to know a little sooner than we can give him the information he needs to stop this whole thing."
"I suppose one of us could go to Toronto and try to get a job in Willoughby's bank," offered Gabe. "But then, there's no guarantee that there's an opening, or that you or I would even be given access to the computers." He shrugged. "There is also the fact that I know bugger all about them."
"Join the club," said Joe. Then his eyes lit up. "But . . .!"
"Joel Chiang. I read about him in Maclean's Magazine. The focus of the article was that he was in the forefront of the new Gay Rights Movement here in Canada."
"The article also mentioned that he earns his living designing computer programs, that's so. Joel Chiang is supposed to be a whiz kid and is working on the next generation of computers," replied Joe with enthusiasm.
"What has that got to do with us? I don't know him, you don't know him . . ." Gabe countered.
"Maybe I don't. But Michael Chan does," replied Joe. "Joel Chiang just happens to be Michael Chan's cousin!" he announced triumphantly.
"You want me to do what?" asked Joel, relief written on his face. He had been happily playing house with his latest toy boy when he had received a peremptory summons to Michael's office. Joel had not dared refuse and he feared the worst. The boy was touch underage and an illegal into the bargain. Michael could be such a prude at times!
"I would like you to access certain computer systems, the purpose of which is to obtain information," replied Michael calmly. He gestured to Gabe, Joe and Louis, who were uncomfortably crammed onto the sofa. "These gentlemen are of the opinion that it is possible for a competent technician to perform such a function."
Somewhat miffed at being called a "competent technician" looked down his nose at Michael and complained, "I happen to be a computer programmer. I design operating systems! At the moment I am working on something that will revolutionize the communication systems of the world!"
"Really?" asked Michael, who was always interested in new technology. "You must tell me about it one day." He began tapping his fingers, a sure sign that he was growing impatient. "I should, however, like to know if you can, or cannot, access certain financial records contained in the computers maintained by certain financial institutions."
Joel, who judged that he had pushed Michael as far as he dared, and who was a little curious just what Michael was up to, nodded and said, "Of course. They're all networked, so all I need is a computer and a telephone modem."
"Networked?" asked Michael.
Joel barely avoided rolling his eyes at Michael's ignorance. "Each bank has its own network of computers, a branch bank's computer talking to the main bank's computer, and so on. The technology is old hat. Computers have been networking since 1969."
"Really?" interjected Louis, surprised at this snippet of information.
"Really," repeated Joel somewhat smugly. "After the universities, and the government, the banks were one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. Computers were designed to speed up the flow of information and store information. There are many things the banks use their computers for and the mainstream institutions are spending big bucks converting their old-fashioned, time-consuming way of doing business to computers."
Michael thought a moment. "All banks?"
Joel nodded. "They have to be. Banking is global, and they are all, in one form or another, inter-connected. They have to be."
"You are then saying that Bank A, an institution independent of Bank B, is able to correspond, via computer, with Bank B?"
"Of course." Joel's reply was sharp. He was becoming impatient with all this chatter about computers. He had more important things to do with his time that to give a crash course in computers.
Michael sensed Joel's impatience. He too, was growing impatient. Every minute they delayed meant another minute for Willoughby to dip into the accounts. "You are able then, via computer, to access these banks' records?"
"Not a problem," replied Joel easily. "It doesn't matter which operating system a bank uses, Honeywell, IBM, NCR, Apple or Microsoft, the systems are all based on the same mathematical equation. They will all 'talk' to each other, if they're given the right access codes." Then he smiled smugly. "Of course, there are ways."
"Joel," growled Michael, his patience at an end.
"Sorry," replied Joel hurriedly. "Every computer uses the same basic operating system. What varies is the program each user has to run his business, to store, collate, or whatever, the information he needs to conduct his business. The programs are written by computer programmers and uploaded to the operating system. Since every business does not want their business records tampered with, there are always security systems written into the programs. A user, or operator, has to know the proper access codes in order to access the system. You said that you were dealing with banks?"
"Yes. One is a private bank," said Michael.
Joel rubbed his chin. "Difficult, but not a problem." He looked around the room and then at Michael. "There would be several levels of security that would have to be accessed before you found the confidential files, if that is what you are looking for."
"We are," said Louis. "We are looking for client lists, depositor lists, wire transfers, any information on the machinations of certain individuals and corporations. I would deem it a personal favour if you could see your way to assist us in our inquiries."
"As would I," echoed Michael, his words full of meaning.
Joel smiled. "Well, then, if you put it that way, certainly I can help you."
"We have no idea of the access codes or even how to 'access' the computers," said Gabe.
"We go in the back door," replied Joel.
"I beg your pardon?" Michael looked searchingly at his cousin. "Are you telling me that using a 'back door' you can break into a secure computer program and access confidential information?"
"I can," replied Joel with confidence. "I can access accounts, transfer money, play silly beggars with the balance sheets."
Michael squirmed uncomfortably. This was very disturbing information indeed. If Joel, who was a friend and a relative could access bank accounts, who else could? "That seems somewhat far-fetched," he said carefully.
"It's true," insisted Joel. "Every programmer builds a back door into his program so that he can go back and see if the program - his baby if you will - is being used properly, if changes can be made without the client knowing, mistakes in the original program corrected, and so on. It's a vanity thing. I do it and every programmer I know does it. If you know who programmed a particular system you can usually figure out his back door and from there it's just a matter of searching the files." He leaned forward and placed his hands on Michael's desk, staring levelly at his cousin. "Give me a computer, two hours, and I'll tell you to the penny exactly how much money you have in your chequing account."
Michael squirmed even more. While much of his fortune was safely tucked away in banks in Hong Kong and Switzerland, he did maintain a healthy balance with one of the Canadian bedrock financial institutions. Like Jesus, Michael kept his money in the Bank of Montreal. "Any bank?" he asked.
"Any bank," confirmed Joel. "Not that I would. And only a few people know how to do it, so you needn't worry."
Michael breathed a short sigh of relief. "What would you need," he asked.
"A computer, obviously, a telephone modem, and time," replied Joel. Then he added, "Unless, of course, you want to make an investment, or have access to a computer?"
"UBC has a computer," offered Gabe. "But it's booked solid for months. It keeps breaking down because half the people who try to use it haven't a clue as to what they're doing."
Michael felt that he did not have the time. He reached for the telephone and dialled a number from memory. When the telephone at the other end was answered Michael began speaking in Cantonese. He did this quite deliberately because Louis, Gabe and Joe were in the room and none of them spoke the lingua franca of every Chinatown in North America.
Joel understood what Michael was saying. In a way, he had to agree with his cousin. Michael was ordering that his associates in Toronto and Montreal begin gathering information of Willoughby, Hunter and Simpson, their living habits, their work habits, their co-workers and servants. Anything, no matter how mundane or innocuous was to be reported to Michael personally.
When Michael finished his conversation he turned to Joel. "I am sorry to curb your enthusiasm, Elder Cousin, but there are times when human intelligence is the best that can be managed."
Joel shrugged his indifference. "I understand," he said diffidently. "Still, with the right mainframe I could probably have the information you need in half the time your chums in Toronto and Montreal would take. Hell, with the right computer I could probably access any computer in the world."
Michael felt his stomach drop. "There is such a machine?"
"Sure, the Cray-1 model. Of course, you'd need 8.8 million bucks - American - and have to claw it away from Los Alamos. But then . . ."
Michael heaved a sad sigh. "Joel, I tell you in the greatest confidence that the Order does not have anywhere near that kind of money."
Making a deprecating gesture, Joel smiled. He knew of the Order, of course, although not all the details. He also felt that he owed the Order, which had somehow used its influence when he had been arrested when the police, in a rare fit or public morality, had raided the bathhouse he'd been partying in. Not only had he and the young man he'd been partying with not been charged, no one was named in the subsequent newspaper reports of the incident. To Joel's way of thinking, he might be a fag, but he was a fag who always paid his debts. "I worked for Cray Research on a contract basis and I know Seymour Cray. He offered me a job, but can you see me in Wisconsin?"
Michael thought a moment. America's heartland, dairy country, white, conservative and while not quite the Bible Belt, close enough. No, he could not see Joel in Wisconsin. "The winters are rather harsh," he said blandly with a mischievous gleam in his eye.
Thinking that there was still hope for Michael, Joel returned his cousin's smile. "The model that Cray is installing in Los Alamos is top of the line, and one of a kind. However, they do have earlier models, not quite as good as the Cray-1 that they might be persuaded to lease to me."
"I thought you were working for Mr. Gates," said Michael. "Are you planning to leave his employ?"
"Hardly," drawled Joel. "I'm a programmer. I write programs. I develop new programs. All programmers play around. As far as Gates is concerned I'd being doing private research. So long as it doesn't interfere with what he's doing, and I offer to share what I develop, what I do in my free time is my business."
"Mr. Gates might see it differently," interjected Louis. "However, that is a bridge to be crossed if and when you come to it. What is important is that we need to utilize any method to obtain the information we need." He looked at Michael. "Bertie and I are not without funds. Uncle Henry was a great friend when we needed one." He pointed to a blank pad of writing paper on Michael's desk. "May I?"
At Michael's nod Louis retrieved the pad and wrote down a figure. He handed the pad to Joel. "You may go ten percent higher, if necessary. And there is a condition."
"The condition?" asked Joel, his face betraying his surprise at the amount written on the page.
Louis indicated Gabe and Joe. "You teach these two how to work the damned thing!"
Joel hesitated before agreeing because he felt, rightly, that he would be committing Michael to do something that he, Michael, might not want to do. Whatever Louis, Gabe, and Joe were up to involved Michael, and was so important to him that Louis Arundel had just offered a small ransom to aid Michael in his search. Joel also realized that while he and Michael had once been lovers, and were cousins, Michael was, in many ways, still his Sovereign. He offered the writing pad to Michael.
Michael glanced at the figure and while he showed no emotion, the neck bow he gave Louis expressed his gratitude. He looked at Joel. "We are not quite bankrupt and we still have funds. Whatever is necessary will be made available to you." He then looked at Louis. He said nothing, both his eyes told Louis that he, Gabe, Joe, Bertie, and all their people, would forever have the protection of the Emperor of Chinatown and, more importantly, Michael Chan.
While Joe was winging his way to Ottawa and Joel was fretting and driving crazy the transport company that would bring the computer from Wisconsin, Gabe began his part of the investigation. He returned to the School of Accounting at the University and concentrated his efforts on anything that might have anything to do with international banking and trading, concentrating on the pre-war years. While the archives were mouldy and covered in forty years of dust, they had been catalogued and cross-referenced. He found little of any use, although he did find two references to the Parliamentary Report on Trading with The Enemy that seemed intriguing. One item was a quote taken from the statement of a minor functionary of the Deutchesbank who maintained that any and all dealings with foreigners who had financial dealings with the Reich were handled through the Reich Main Security Office, the RHSA's AMT III D, which was administered by SS-Oberfuhrer von Niemen. Really, the functionary insisted, he had no dealings at all with foreigners.
In his attempt to identify von Niemen, Gabe found his second interesting bit of information. He had gone to the History Department and was shown to a room filled with documents, the life work of Julius Goldschmidt, Professor of European History, an acknowledged expert on Nazism. Unfortunately, the Professor was dead. His former docent, Frank Sheehan, however, was alive and well and living in London, Ontario, where he was teaching at the University of Western Ontario.
It was a simple matter of a long distance telephone call to Professor Sheehan. The professor was pleased that anyone remembered him or his work with Goldschmidt. Yes, he recalled much of what he was working on and had notes. He would call Gabe back.
Two days later Professor Sheehan called and told Gabe everything he knew about von Niemen, who had been a Graf, a count, a member of the Prussian nobility, who had early on hitched his star to Adolph Hitler. The Herr Graf von Niemen had been a true believer and had been rewarded accordingly, particularly when he joined the SS and became a confidant of Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer and, until September 1941, head of the RHSA.
"Niemen was almost as shifty as Heydrich," Sheehan said disdainfully. "They were both loathsome creatures but Niemen more so. He was a queer as well."
Gabe's eyes narrowed, but he said only, "Why would you say that?"
Snorting, Sheehan laid out his suspicions. "Niemen was a close friend of Ernst Roehm, Chief of Staff of the SA. Roehm was queer, and made no bones about it. He and Niemen served together in the First War. Through Roehm the Graf met Edmund Heines. Heines was even queerer than Roehm. He was an SA Obergruppenfuhrer and Chief of Police of Breslau. He surrounded himself with his boyfriends. One of them, Engels, used the SA and the Hitler Youth as happy hunting grounds. Another SA named Peter Granninger assisted him. He and Engels arranged little parties for the boys. Roehm attended the little debauches, as did Niemen when he was still in the SA. When the SS broke into Heines' room on the night they put paid to all the faggots he was in bed with a young man."
"Dear Lord," exclaimed Gabe. "But I was under the impression that most of Roehm's people were eliminated in 1934."
"They were," confirmed Sheehan. "But not Niemen. By then Heydrich had recruited him and was a part of the SS. Goldschmidt thought, and I thought, that Heydrich was using Niemen to provide special entertainments for foreign entrepreneurs, bankers, and so on. Niemen had this huge estate in East Prussia, which just happened to have a camp for Hitler Jugend attached to it. There is a file in Goldschmidt's archives of miscellaneous documents. In it you'll find a copy of a letter of reply from Heydrich to Balder von Shirach, who was head of the Jugend. Von Shirach had apparently written to Heydrich complaining about von Niemen scoping out his boys at the 1938 Party rally. Old Balder also complained about six of the Jugend from one of the Berlin truppen being seconded to von Niemen for some sort of special duties. He didn't know anything about it and apparently it had happened before. Heydrich basically told Balder to mind his own business and to do what he was told. Balder knew where the real power was, so he backed off."
"If, as you think, von Niemen was pimping for foreign men, providing them with young boys, there has to be a record. The Nazis recorded everything," said Gabe reflectively. "The potential for blackmail must have been tremendous."
"It was," agreed Sheehan. "We know that from 1933, when Hitler started to rebuild Germany, foreign investors flocked to Germany. They were wined and dined, provided every amenity. And everything they said or did was reported back to Heydrich. We know about Salon Kitty, which was a high-class brothel, stabled with beautiful women. All the ladies were on the Gestapo payroll, and they reported everything about their clients, from pillow talk to dick size. We know virtually nothing about von Niemen's operation."
"There must be records somewhere," protested Gabe. "The Nazis were notorious for keeping detailed records."
"If they survived," said Sheehan glumly. "They would make interesting reading I'm sure. But, and here is the rub, did they survive? When Heydrich was assassinated all his personal files were bundled up and stored in the basement of SS Headquarters in Berlin. During the Allied bombings a lot of records were lost. The Nazis deliberately destroyed tons of documents to keep them from falling into Allied hands. When the Russians stormed into Berlin they weren't interested in tons of paper documents. All they wanted to do was kill Germans. It was late winter and the troops burned tons of documents to keep warm. Later, when the initial rebuilding was begun more tons were simply tossed into the street. That's where they found Goebbels' personal diary. In addition, nobody had a clue what was in all the different archives. Also, everybody had a different agenda and everybody helped themselves to whatever they found. Which is why damned near every country in the West has archives filled with Nazi documents."
"Surely these documents have been catalogued."
"Yes they have." Sheehan thought a moment. "Goldschmidt was thorough and he had a grant from the Bronfmans so money was no object. He spent twenty-five years researching the Nazis. If Heydrich's records were in the West, he would have known about them. He was convinced that the Russians and the East Germans were sitting on goldmines of information and he was always complaining that they wouldn't give him access to their files. I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree. If the Russians sequestered Heydrich's records, there is no way you will ever be able to access them. The same holds true for the East Germans. God Himself, whom they don't believe in anyway, couldn't get them to open their files."
Joe was only gone overnight and when he returned to the compound in British Properties he noticed a subtle difference in Gabe. There was a new intensity in Gabe's eyes, a tightness around his lips. "Has something happened I should know about?" he asked seriously. Then he smiled. "Dare I hope that you missed me that much?" he said, trying to lighten the gloom.
Ignoring Joe's remark, and refusing to allow himself to give in to his suppressed instincts and desires, Gabe growled, "Really, Joe." He returned to the small pile of papers he was reading and straightened his back. "I've made some progress, although not as much as I'd hoped." Then, surprising himself, he turned to look at Joe. "And yes, I did miss you," he said with a smile. "Life would not be the same without you muttering away and grumbling like a Greek chorus."
Mollified, and not reading anything into Gabe's remarks, Joe shrugged and sat at the desk. "I'm glad somebody has made some progress. I hit a dead end."
Gabe looked surprised. "You couldn't find the report?"
Shaking his had Joe reached into his briefcase and pulled out a blue-bound book. "All you ever wanted to know about a lot of hot air expended for nothing."
"I don't understand."
Joe made a face and chuckled, his laughter edge with ice. "The committee spent six months 'investigating' companies that allegedly traded with Germany and Italy, via Switzerland, during the war. Every witness swore up hill and down dale that all trading stopped on the 3rd of September 1939. They all admitted that they were doing business up until that day. There is just one little problem I have with this whole crock of shit!"
Gabe reached over and took the report from Joe. He fanned the pages and asked, "I take it that you've read it?"
"From cover to cover and despite the bafflegab and bureaucratese, I had the impression that they were serious about what they were doing. I read some of the transcripts - they're coming later, by the way - and nothing seemed out of the ordinary until about halfway through their investigation. Then, all of a sudden, their questions were less probing, a little less insightful. Only one member kept up the pressure, and more often than not the Chairman gavelled him down. I might not be the brightest bulb in the box, but if you want my opinion, somebody got to the Chairman. I think he influenced the other members, except the one. When they couldn't shut him up the Prime Minister shut the whole thing down. He used the excuse that because the Swiss wouldn't turn over their records, and the German records were lost or in Russian hands, nothing could be determined."
"The fucking Russians again," snarled Gabe.
"I'll tell you in a minute. Did Percy testify?"
Joe shook his head. "He was on the witness list and was scheduled to testify the day after the PM shut everything down. Quite a coincidence, don't you think?" he finished, unable to keep the sarcasm form his voice.
"Too much of a coincidence," replied Gabe. "Somebody got to the Prime Minister! Somebody a hell of a lot more powerful than the fucking Prime Minister!"
Joe remained focused. "Not beyond the realm of possibility. He was a politician and he liked being Prime Minister. Also, remember he was dealing with some very well known companies, companies that contributed big bucks to the Liberal Party. No politician in his right mind would antagonize the people who provide the money they need to keep on in office."
"Maybe," agreed Gabe reluctantly, "but I really can't see it. If they were going to use their influence why would they let the committee get as far as it did? Why not just shut the thing down before it even got started. They all admitted that they had traded with Germany before the war. They all had ample proof that all business, all trading, stopped the minute the Krauts crossed the Polish border." He looked earnestly at Joe. "I think that the fix was in and somehow, thanks to one lone politician who didn't give a damn about money, and was only interested in the truth, the 'investigation' went too far, was on the verge of perhaps uncovering something so horrible, so reprehensible that it had to be shut down."
"But who?" asked Joe reasonably. "Who has that kind of power?" He looked inquisitively at Gabe and all but whispered, "You don't think it was the Order do you?"
Gabe shook his head vigorously. "Not a chance. Percy was a venal, greedy man who was out to make a buck. It had nothing to do with his being gay. The Order wouldn't have touched this with a ten-foot pole. Don't forget, the Nazis hauled the Grand Master of the German Priory off to Dachau, and were arresting homosexuals right, left and centre. They looted the French Priory and executed the Chancellor there. No, Joe, the Order wouldn't do it, and if I'm right, there's another reason."
"You know something," replied Joe.
"Joe, I think it all hinges on Simpson and his boys, the young boys he always has with him." Gabe quickly repeated everything Frank Sheehan had told him. "So, there you have it. I think that Percy was getting his rocks off with boys provided by this von Niemen, who was also supplying boys to any visiting fireman who wanted them."
"Hearsay, supposition and wishful thinking." Joe leaned forward and looked at Gabe. "I think I see where this is going. It could all be true but there is no proof. You need evidence that will stand up in court. I don't have it, and you don't have it and there's no way you can get it."
"Damn it, I know that!" Gabe flared.
"Hey, I'm on your side," responded Joe, taken aback. "I just don't want you to go off half-cocked, chasing something you'll never find."
"You're right, Joe," replied Gabe, his voice devoid of anger, his tone gentle. Impulsively he reached out and gently stroked Joe's face. "I'm sorry. I should not have yelled at you. It's not your fault."
"No, it's not," said Joe as he reached up to hold Gabe's hand. He hoped that perhaps Gabe might be . . . But then Gabe pulled his hand away. Joe sighed inwardly and said, "And I will help in any way." He could not understand Gabe's vehemence but he would help.
"I knew you would," said Gabe simply. "Uncle Louis says you're one of the best and that's good enough for me." He pushed the report Joe had brought back from Ottawa to one side. "Joe, I think that there's more to this whole sordid mess than we know."
Shrugging, Joe scratched his chin. "I have to agree with you there, Gabe. Somebody whispered in the right ears and a parliamentary committee was shut down. Why?"
"Boys," whispered Gabe. "Boys! Boys that somebody is supplying to Simpson, was or still is supplying boys to men who don't want their predilections known. If you were the Prime Minister and a little bird came up and told you that this Senator, that Member of Parliament, high-ranking members of the government bureaucracy, were all diddling boys, what would you do? Would you let a committee discover what was going on, and publish it?"
"No," said Joe, shaking his head. "If anything like that was going on - and I'm not saying that it was - and it got out, hell, the roof would be blown off the House of Commons. The government would fall and any chance of re-election, ever, would be lost. I'd bury everything so deep that it would never be found."
"Which I think is what happened." Gabe stood up and rummaged through a pile of books. He pulled out a red-jacketed tome. "The Almanach de Gotha," he explained as he held up the book. "It lists every European noble family. Von Niemen is listed, but the Russians shot him. His title went to a second cousin who lives in South Africa."
"Which only proves that pimping does not run in the family," said Joe lightly.
"Somebody is," returned Gabe. He resumed his seat and looked at Joe. "I grew up in the Order. Uncle Louis and Uncle Bertie used to talk about Order business and I listened. They used to shoo me out of the library but I'd discovered that the heating vent between it and the drawing room was connected. So I listened. I did not understand everything, of course, as I was only 12 or so, but I understood enough. I've thought about this, Joe, and if you think I'm 'barking up the wrong tree', tell me."
"At least tell me what you're thinking," responded Joe.
"Okay, here goes. Percy Simpson has always had young boys, young German boys with him. He developed a taste for them while he was screwing his country trading with Germany. The Germans, who needed his investment money, and his connections, were happy to supply them."
"Yes. Now, the war comes along and I'll just bet that Percy spent some time in Switzerland. He thinks his supply of boys has been cut off but very soon learns that the Nazis are still willing to send along some boys. There were travel restrictions, but if you're Reinhard Heydrich you can get around that. Remember, Percy can't go to Germany. The boys would have to be sent to him in Switzerland."
"Makes sense," agreed Joe. He began to develop thoughts that closely resembled Gabe's. "The war ends, but Percy still needs his fix, still needs the boys. However, he can now travel to France, the Netherlands, even Germany."
Gabe nodded. "So he contacts whoever still has access to von Niemen's network. Remember that this was 1945, 1946 and there were millions of displaced persons crowding Europe, especially most of the East Prussian population. Men, women, children, they all fled to the West when the Russians invaded. Those that stayed behind, and lived to regret it, were expelled. Germany was in ruins, with people starving. If I were a young boy in post-war Germany and somebody came along and offered me a warm bed for the night, or a week, with plenty to eat, all for a little sex play with a man, I think I'd take the offer."
Joe was still thinking. "And what about those members of the Jugend who had already been exposed, who had already serviced men, and been rewarded? If you're hungry, living in a bombed out shell, you'd go and try to find the man, or men, who sent you to the Adlon Hotel, or von Niemen's estate?"
Gabe was becoming enthusiastic. "And you learn that there's money to be made. Big money!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. "You make some money and then you recruit other boys, and share in their money. Percy Simpson isn't the only boy lover in this scenario. He has got to know men like him, and men who will supply boys for a price. Men who will take the boys who no longer satisfy Percy's fancy off his hands."
For a long while Joe remained stock still, too shocked at the implications of Gabe's suspicions. When he finally spoke his voice was filled with horror. "Now we know why Willoughby and Hunter worked with Percy. He supplied, or arranged to supply, young boys to them. And if we can prove that, Michael Chan will destroy them."
"He will destroy them utterly," said Gabe quietly.
"I don't understand."
"Joe, last year I went to my school's reunion. I attended St. George's College School, just as all the Arundels have. I met an alumnus, Spencer Bowes, who went to school with Michael Chan, and Michael's cousin Joel Chiang. In those days Chinese boys did not attend St. George's. I think Uncle Louis and Uncle Bertie arranged for Michael and Joel to go there. But that is not the point. Spencer told me that when Michael and Joel were at the school they had a minder, a huge Tsang whose job was to protect both boys from the white boys."
Nodding, Joe said, "I can see that. There was a lot of prejudice back then. And Michael was the heir to Uncle Henry Chan. I can see where he would need to be protected."
"The story goes that Joel put the moves on every guy in sight. Now, back then being queer was absolutely the worst thing you could be and the Chinese were and are just as prejudiced as the rest of the population. Joel screwing half the student body would not be taken lightly by Uncle Henry."
"I can understand that. But what has this Tsang got to do with anything."
"Joel seduced him. He didn't want Joey Tsang - that was his name - carrying tales back to Uncle Henry. According to Spencer one day Joey simply wasn't there. Patrick Tsang had taken his place. Nobody thought too much about it at the time but I know what happened to Joey."
Joe's eyes widened. "You do?"
"I know," repeated Gabe. "I heard Uncle Louis and Uncle Bertie talking after it happened. Uncle Louis wasn't all that happy with their involvement with Henry Chan. He was really upset because he'd found out that a body had washed ashore south of here, just over the border. It was a large, Chinese male. The body had been in the water for a long time but there was enough left to know that he'd been emasculated. The American authorities sent a bulletin to the Vancouver PD, because of the high Chinese population. Uncle Bertie heard about it and he knew who was lying in the Bellingham morgue. He couldn't say anything, of course, but he did tell Uncle Henry who told Uncle Bertie that sometimes it is best not to probe into things that did not concern him."
"A warning," whispered Joe.
Gabe suddenly turned pale and began sweating profusely. The memory of what had happened to him in the orphanage, the rape, the abuse, came flooding back and Gabe made a connection that had escaped him in his youth. Uncle Louis did not know that Gabe, looking for a book in the library had happened upon an old newspaper clipping hidden in one of the books. He knew what had happened to Brother Liam.
"Are you all right?" asked Joe, alarmed.
"Joe, if we do this thing, if we investigate and find the proof, we will indirectly cause the death of perhaps a great number of men. Willoughby, Hunter, Simpson, will be ruined and then they will die. Michael will never allow word that the Order harboured three pedophiles to get out."
Holding up his hand, Joe said forcefully. "Now, hold on, Gabe. We don't know that." He saw the anger flash in Gabe's eyes and shook his head. "Listen, for one minute, please?"
Gabe nodded reluctantly.
"We know about Simpson, Gabe," said Joe. "He's always got those boys around him, and they are all in their teens. Willoughby and Hunter, I can't say because I've never been around them. I do know that their secretaries are always young men."
Gabe drew in a deep breath. "Joe, what you say is true. But, and here is the rub: why the payments overseas, to Germany? Why spend that kind of money when you can pick up a teenaged boy on half the street corners in town?" He folded his arms and looked directly at Joe. "Well?"
"I can't answer the question," replied Joe reluctantly. "We don't know anything, really, and I won't label a man, or point a finger until I have some proof."
"I wouldn't want you to," returned Gabe, his anger draining away. "I understand how you feel but I believe, with all my heart, with every instinct I have, that Simpson may have ended up with teenaged boys but I'll bet the farm that he started out with young kids. And I'll bet next year's crop that Simpson still likes his boys very young and from time to time will have one delivered to him. As for Willoughby and Hunter, I'll reserve judgment until I know otherwise."
"You still think they're boy lovers, though," asked Joe.
"Yes. I think that Simpson knows the connections in Europe and that all three of them are buying, or renting boys from over there. Those boys don't speak our language, don't know our culture and don't know that they can go to any cop and be listened to. They also do not know just how important their 'protectors' are."
"You have a point," conceded Joe. "Which would explain why they couldn't risk using the home-grown variety. Too much risk of blackmail, too much risk of one of the street kids learning too much, or getting picked up by the cops and spilling his guts." He held up his hand. "I'll agree with you, Gabe, but we need proof and we need to be absolutely sure before we make an allegation."
"Fair enough," replied Gabe. "But you must know something else, Joe. We'll be showing everything we find to a man who is totally dedicated to the Order. He lives his life by the Rule of the Order. When he became a member he swore an oath and he will never break that oath. Michael Chan is a man of awesome power and when he gives his word, he gives his bond. You took the oath, Joe, when you became a Knight. You've read the Rule of the Order. You know what the Rule says about pedophiles."
Joe's face fell, and his eyes saddened. "Anathema," he whispered.
Gabe nodded. "Simpson, Willoughby and Hunter are Knights. They swore the same oath that Michael swore, that you swore. Michael, as a man, and as Grand Master, cannot and will not forgive any Knight for breaking the fundamental Rule of the Order: Boys cannot be touched. Never, ever, can they be touched. If any one of those three men betrayed their vows Michael will destroy them utterly!" He looked searchingly at Joe. "If you can't, or won't be a part of their eventual destruction, I'll understand."
"You're going to carry on," replied Joe.
"Yes. I think that there is a ring of men using boys supplied by someone in Germany. I will find this man, and I will see that he is destroyed."
"Gabe . . ."
"Boys cannot be touched. Never, ever, can they be touched," said Gabe, his voice so filled with hate that Joe shrank back. "I'm going to Germany. If you want to help, I will welcome it. If not, walk away and forget we ever had this conversation."
Joe stared at Gabe and then stood up. He knew nothing of Gabe's history, but he knew that Gabe would not back down, would not rest until he had ferreted out every scrap of information that would send Simpson, Willoughby, Hunter, and who knew how many more men, to their doom. Could his conscience allow him to be a part of Gabe's hunt? He pressed the back of the chair and then nodded. "I'll see of the Major can front some travel money."
To Be Continued In Chapter 3f