By John Yager
In June, 2001, I submitted a story titled London Weekend to NIFTY. It was the first story I posted and was followed in November, 2001, by Lisbon Weekend, which was about the further adventures of the same characters. I recently posted revised versions of both stories and am now adding Marin, the third in the series.
Many readers have written since that first story was posted to ask to what degree it was autobiographical. I've admitted to many in private messages that it was, in fact, based on personal experiences and, more importantly, on a long relationship which has been a formative part of my life.
David and I met in London, as the first of these stories suggests. Much of the setting of that story, Lisbon Weekend and now Marin, are based on places we've visited over the intervening years. In the revised versions of the first two stories I changed the name of the narrator from Tom to John, an admission, of sorts, of the autobiographical nature of the stories. I've dropped any pretense of fiction in this newest story in the series.
So the secret, such as it was, is out.
The following story contains descriptions of sexual acts between consenting adult men in an ongoing relationship. If such stories are not to your liking or if you are not of legal age to read such stores in the area where you live, please exit now.
As always, I want to express special thinks to Andrew, who continues to be a faithful proof reader and editor and has become a valued friend.
This work is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
I maintain a notification list. If you would like to receive announcements of future postings, please contact me at the e-mail address shown below. I am always pleased to hear from readers and try to answer all correspondence promptly. If you don't get a prompt reply it is only due to my somewhat demanding work and travel schedule.
"John?" Ben Atwood said as he stood in the door of my office.
"Hey, Ben, come on in." I was trying get organized and out of there but I maintain a more or less open-door policy, especially with my senior staff, and always tried to be available. I also knew Ben wasn't inclined to waste time. When he comes by my office, rather than communicating by memos or e-mail, it's usually something important.
"Penny said you needed to get out of here to catch your flight, so I'll make this quick," he said as he put a manila envelope on my desk. "You might want to take this with you in case you have time to check it out."
I was due to leave in an hour for San Francisco where I'd be meeting with the representatives of Lawrence, Slater and Bell, a company which, until two years ago had been the third largest venture capital firm in the high-tech field. We had just completed the acquisition of LSB and I was off make arrangements for the transfer. In less than a week thirty of my top people would be descending on the Bay Area and I wanted to get the ground rules established first.
There was another pressing personal issue as well, but none of my staff were aware if it. I'd be arriving in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon, giving me the better part of two days to make arrangements for the transfer of authority which would begin the following week.
If our flights were both on time, David Winthrop would be arriving about half an hour before my own flight was due to touch down. Arriving on a direct flight from London, David would have to go through customs, of course, so by the time I reclaimed my bag, he should be exiting the international arrival hall.
As president of Shields, our principal European bank, it was perfectly understandable that David would be joining me in San Francisco for meetings of this magnitude. What none of my staff knew, of course, was that my relationship with David was far more personal than any business or financial connection. We had been lovers for over thirty years.
A suite had been reserved for us at the Mark Hopkins. It had two bedrooms but it was unlikely that more than one would be used. We planned to spend the first few nights in the city and then head out together for the weekend. We had no particular plans.
Perhaps we'd head south toward Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula or, if the mood struck us, we'd head for the wine country to the north, taking advantage of a short respite from our usual structured lives to spend a few days together as we tried to do two or three times each year.
If we were lucky and everything went smoothly, we'd be able to get our plans for the following week completed by Thursday afternoon and have three days to ourselves before we had to be back at the Mark Hopkins on Monday when my staff would begin to arrive. For two or three days and perhaps three or four wonderful nights, we'd be free to wander as we chose with no plans and no schedule.
"What is this, Ben?" I asked, looking down at the envelope he'd placed on my lap.
"You asked me to do an inventory of all the LSB properties in the Bay Area so our gang can check them out next week."
"Yes," I said, "I got your report."
"Well, there seems to be one more property I didn't know about."
"Is that what this envelope is about?"
"Yeah, and I must admit it's a little strange."
"Okay, tell me about it, but you'll have to make it quick."
"You'll me meeting Terry Good next week, John," Ben began. "He's the guy I've been working with on the LSB end and I'm going to recommend we keep him, offering him a job with our staff."
"Fine, if you say so," I said, still not getting the point.
"I've actually not met him yet, other than over the phone, but he's done an excellent job for us and I think we should keep him.
The point is, I just got this stuff from him today. He found it yesterday afternoon in Daniel Bell's personal papers and thought I'd want to see it before our gang hits there next week. He called me about it yesterday and then sent it by overnight express."
"What is it?"
"Well, that's what has Terry and me so curious. It's a deed to a property up in Marin County which was owned by LSB. The odd thing is that it only showed up in a list of assets controlled personally by Bell. There's a map and a couple of keys along with a copy of the deed and some other papers we weren't able to figure out."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Well, I thought if you have any extra time over the weekend, you might want to drive up there and check it out."
"Great, Ben, but I don't really need the overtime."
He just laughed and slid the envelope across my desk toward me.
The property, I thought, could be anything or nothing. I envisioned wasting valuable time with David wandering through back roads and tromping through fields of weeds to discover some long forgotten transmission station or an abandoned relay tower.
In any case, to satisfy Ben, I put the envelope in my brief case, said my good-byes and headed down to find my driver.
Three hours later I relaxed in the wide leather seat in the first class section as the plane winged its way west. I'd been served a decent lunch and was enjoying a second glass of a rather good wine when it occurred to me that I didn't actually know David's flight number. I envisioned his flight making the great polar arch and winding its way south over Canada. I reached for my brief case and laid the big manila envelope aside as I searched for David's itinerary. When I'd found the number and was putting things back in order, I looked at the envelope again and decided I should at least take a quick look. When Ben Atwood found something interesting, it usually proved to be significant.
Inside the large envelope I found two smaller envelopes. One, from the feel of it, contained the keys Ben had mentioned.
Clipped to the second envelope was
a handwritten note, which read:
Ben, Here are the documents I told you about.
As you know, I worked with Mr. Bell for seven years prior to his death six months ago. I'm sure the notes initials "D" are his handwriting. Mr. Bell's full name, in case you didn't know, was Daniel C. Bell. I can only assume that the notes initialed "K" were written by Mr. Lawrence.
As I told you, the property in question, whatever it is, doesn't show up on any of the LSB inventories. It was acquired in 1961 and it seems to have been controlled personally by Mr. Bell and Kit Lawrence. Since Mr. Lawrence's death three years ago, only Mr. Bell seems to have known about it.
I have no idea what it is and I don't know the part of Marin County where it is located, but the deed seems to indicate the property includes more than an acre of land and, as you probably know, any land in Marin can be worth a fortune.
In any case, it is a part of the LSB holdings and when Yates and Company purchased LSB, you got all its assets, so whatever this is, it is now yours. I'd suggest one of your people check it out.
I fingered the thicker envelope, removed the attached note and looked at the flap, which had been tucked in but not sealed.
Well, here goes nothing, I thought as I removed the enclosed papers.
There was a deed and the legal description of the property, which really didn't tell me much that hadn't been included in the cover note.
On a separate sheet of typing paper I found a hand drawn map which showed the route to follow to reach the mysterious site.
It seemed to be located on a beach not more than eight or ten miles to the north and west of the Marin County end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was the remaining papers which fired my interest.
They consisted of three handwritten
notes, the first of which read:
June 10, 1961 Tiger,
I just got back from Marin, were I met the realtor and gave him a check. The place is perfect, everything we wanted and more. Can we meet there next weekend?"
That oblique note was followed by
the only one of the three signed with the initial K.
August 6, 1998 D,
I won't be able to meet you next weekend as we planned. I got out of the hospital this morning but the tests don't look good.
I'm two worn out for anything more than bed rest, and unfortunately that won't be in bed with you.
Give me a week or two and I'll see what I'm able to do.
The third note was the last.
May 19, 1999 Jessie,
I lost Tiger this morning. It was a long, long ordeal and in the end, I could only pray for it to be over.
I will keep the place in Marin. There are too many memories for me to ever let it go.
I folded the three small pieces of paper and gently slipped them back into the envelope for safe keeping.
What did they mean? I felt as if I'd peered into some very private place.
The stewardess came by with coffee and I slipped the envelope back into my briefcase and leaned back, thinking about all the work that had to be done over the next few days.
The flight actually got in to San Francisco International a little early and I hurried off to baggage claim and then to the welcome area outside International Arrivals. Within five minutes David came through the doors, smiling, happy to see me.
We had a car waiting and were soon on our way into the city and our hotel.
"How was your flight," I asked, taking David's hand. The driver looked back at us from time to time in the rear view mirror and I decided it would be better to wait for proper greetings.
"Fine," David said. "I slept about three hours but my body is still trying to tell me it's the middle of the night."
"What time does you watch say?"
"Two AM. I guess I might just as well reset it."
"You know you'll be better off staying up."
"And I assume that's your mission," David smiled.
"Exactly. There's no way I'm letting you go to sleep until at least midnight Pacific Daylight Time."
He chuckled. "Sadist."
"Well, we'll see."
He squeezed my hand.
"Are we going to Tadich Grill for dinner?"
"You know they don't take reservations," I said.
"Yes, I remember, but that will be quite all right," David smiled. "I'm sure we can occupy ourselves at the hotel for a while and then go around for a late supper."
"A late meal and all that heavy food won't keep us up?"
"Um, I'm counting on it."
Tadich Grill had been in operation since 1849 and was far and away the oldest restaurant in San Francisco, and had been one of our favorites for years. It was more like a bar than a restaurant with tables crowded into one side of the narrow space and the long bar along the other. Seafood at Tadich was incredible but anything coming from the open grill, beef, pork, lamb, was unrivaled anyplace in the Bay Area.
When we reached the hotel we told the driver to pick us up later for dinner and then got settled in our suite. David took one of the bedrooms and I the other. I'd just finished hanging up the last of my clothes when he came into my room, dressed, if you could call it that, in a big white towel wrapped around his waist.
"I rather thought a shower was in order," he said, coming up behind me and putting his arms around me. "I always feel a little travel worn after a flight and scouring off the miles seems to help."
"Um," I said, turning in his embrace to give him a gentle kiss. This is the man I love most in all the world and I never tire of showing him or telling him how much he means to me.
We moved into the bathroom and David leaned against the door frame as I slowly removed my shirt. As I went about the business of stripping, I saw the tent in his towel was steadily growing.
In order to tease him as much as possible, I methodically removed each item from my trouser pockets and arranged them with exaggerated care on the dressing table.
I stooped with my ass toward him, loosened and removed one shoe and pulled off the sock. I made a point of folding my sock and slipping it into the shoe before starting on the other foot.
Eventually David's patience wore thin and he growled, "get your fucking clothes off, John!"
"What?" I said with feigned innocence.
"Get your clothes off now!"
"Oh," I said, slowly loosening my belt and opening the fly.
"Grrrrrrrr," he growled like an angry bear, and in the interests of domestic tranquility, I stepped out of my slacks. When I was down to my boxers he stepped across the space between us and grabbed them at the waist band and pulled them down.
The action, of course, placed him nearly on his knees and his head at the level of my now exposed crotch. With no hesitation he dove for my cock, burying his nose in my pubic hair.
I've been told by many of my contemporaries that as they've grown older they have experienced a gradual but steady decline in their sexual drives. While David and I are in excellent shape for our age, and we may have seen the processes slow down a bit, but the desire for physical love has not abated.
As David is inclined to say, "the process may take longer but the results are as spectacular as ever."
I would add that what we have lost in youthful urgency has been more than made up for by the slow, gradual mellowness of middle age. Sex for the two of us has become a sensual waltz, not the frantic tango of our youth.
David's mouth moved over my belly, kissing, nuzzling, licking every inch. If I hadn't been hard I was then within seconds.
"David," I moaned, trying to pull him back up gently to a standing position, "if you don't stop that we aren't going to make it to the shower."
He grudgingly got up and yanked off his towel. We got into the shower which, at first at least, was completely cold, which was a good thing. By the time the water had gotten warm we'd calmed down.
What was it I was saying about the slow, easy love-making of men our age?
Showering with David is an experience. I've done it so many times over the years that I more or less know the drill, but he is always full of surprises, variations on the general theme. I should explain that while getting clean is one objective of showering together, it is not the principal objective. The first objective is exploration leading to arousal. There really isn't a more delicate way to say it.
Having known one another for over thirty years we know each other well, in the physical, emotional and even in the spiritual sense. Our lives don't allow us to be together as often as we'd like so one of the first items on the agenda is a complete physical inventory. David is more conscientious about that particular process than I am, but I do make a point of checking out his body with some care.
He keeps careful note of my physical condition and calls even the smallest changes to my attention.
"Have you been spending adequate time on the stair climbers, John?" he asked as he squeezed my ass.
"Yes, David, the same routine I've been on for the last five years."
"Well, you may need to give it ten more minutes. We don't want our rears sagging."
Bit by bit he looked me over with a practiced eye, and I must admit I did the same to him. His body is important to me and mine to him. As we've gotten older he is my chief motivation to stay in prime physical shape and I in turn am his.
This may not sound romantic, or even erotic, but believe me, it is. By the time we were clean and dry and had both been gone over with loving care, we were ready to move to the bed.
In many ways David knew my body more completely than I knew it myself. I can say the same for my own knowledge of his.
We've been lovers for so long that every detail and any change is recognized immediately. We lolled on the bed, slowly kissing as my hands ran over David's chest and shoulders and arms and he in turn touched and teased me.
He knew my body like a map, and could find each spot which elicited some special response. He knew my nipples were especially sensitive and could practically bring me to orgasm just by his skillful attack on them. He started by touching them, then moved on to slow wet kisses. But soon his gentle kisses turned hard and rough. He sucked and bit, sending jolts of pain and pleasure from my nipples to my cock, each touch becoming more arousing until he'd driven me almost to the edge. He knew how to take me there and he knew when to stop.
Slowly his mouth moved down, exploring the rifts and valleys of my chest and stomach as my whole body pulsed at his touch.
When he finally reached my hard cock, he devoured it. It was his way of taking, claiming, possessing me, and I never ceased to be surprised by the suddenness of it. One moment his moist lips hovered over the pulsing tip of my cock and the next the full length of me was embedded in his throat.
I cried out in pleasure, knowing David would not let me slip over the edge. He held me in his powerful arms, calming me as he continued to suck me deep into his throat. When I'd settled down a little, his mouth abandoned my penis as suddenly as he had taken me and moved further down and back, lifting my legs and attacking my smooth balls. I writhed beneath him, knowing what was coming and wanting it, demanding it.
"Yes," I hissed.
With his powerful hands he spread my legs, making his way clear, rolling me back until my knees were forced against my shoulders and my ass was exposed to his attack.
David knows that all of me, every part of me, is his. No access was denied, no part of me withheld. His mouth moved over the Pilgrim's Path, as David called it, stopping to caress, to bite, and most of all, to reclaim each part of me as his own. His tongue flitted over my ass and then his mouth descended to engulf it.
"Yes," I moaned again as his tongue began the probing which would open me to him. I moaned in pleasure as my body shuddered and surrendered to him and he claimed me, took me, made me his. His tongue was joined by a finger and then two, I opened to him, longing for him to come in.
"Now, David, fuck me now."
"Not yet, lover," he whispered as a third finger entered me, opening me more fully.
"Fuck me, damn it, fuck me now. I want your cock, not just fingers. I need your cock."
David moved up over me, positioning his body over mine, his throbbing cock finding its goal, ready, pulsing against my ass. He supported himself over me, his muscular arms on either side of my chest. His cock pushed forward, the bulbous head pushing against me, slipping past the ring of my ass and he was in.
I sighed, feeling complete again, feeling him back in me where I knew he belonged. My body arched off the bed, impaling myself on him, forcing him deeper into me.
"Oh, yes," I moaned.
He pushed forward, slowly, inch by inch, until the entire length of his cock was in me and the full weight of his trim body was on mine.
Our lips met and we kissed deeply as his hands held my upper arms, squeezing my biceps as he loved to do. Our bodies merged, our tongues explored, beginning their old, familiar dance.
With David and me there has never an issue of dominance and submission, top or bottom. We were both comfortable with both roles and neither of us has ever understood why any man, straight, gay or bisexual, would not, sometimes at least, want to be submissive to his partner, especially if, as with David and me, there was a long pattern of love and affection and caring between us.
It's in such moments that I know David and I are one. We were one being as fully as two mortals can ever be. His cock throbbed deep in me and our tongues flitted and probed from one mouth. The entire length of our torsos was pressed together so that I could feel his heart beat and he could feel mine. I drew him to me, into me.
As the speed of David's thrusts gradually increased I moaned, reveling in the journey, knowing we'd reach our destination, but not before we were both near exhaustion and collapse.
We were driving our bodies to the limit. Both of us were wet with sweat and even though we'd just showered, the bedroom was filled with the heavy scent of male sex. The pungent odor of sweat was mixed with the unmistakable odor of anal sex, which served to arouse us still more.
"Yes, yes," I moaned as David increased the tempo of our lovemaking. He paced both himself and me, bringing us close to the edge, then slowing down, allowing us to stay just short of climax as our passion continued to build. With infinite slowness, thrusting then backing off, he prolonged our passion and conserved our energy until we were both nearly spent. It was only then that he let us slip over the edge. I felt my own climax building and knew he was with me. We crossed the line together, going off into that strange space where the sexual becomes so much more. It passes from a physical act into the realm of spirit and union and delight.
We had been apart for over four months but suddenly, at every level of our being, we were one. For a while we just lay together, dozing, recovering from the exertion of our lovemaking.
Much later, over dinner at Tadich
Grill , I showed David the two envelopes, the notes, the map, the keys.
Later still, lying in each other's arms, we thought about those two men
we'd never met, but felt somehow we were destined to know in some
almost mystical way.
On Wednesday morning at the LSB offices I met Terry Good and sensed that Ben Atwood's appraisal of him was accurate.
Terry seemed like a good man and one we'd be lucky to keep.
I was given a tour of the premises, ending in a handsome conference room. A vast mahogany table dominated the center of the room, surrounded by a dozen or more leather upholstered chairs. In the side wall a double portrait of two distinguished men was hung.
"Lawrence and Bell?" I asked.
"Yes, that's Lawrence on the left," Terry said.
"They were handsome men."
"Yes, they were really both good looking men. It wasn't just flattery on the part of the artist."
"Lawrence, Slater and Bell," I said, remembering the names behind LSB. "I haven't heard any mention of Slater."
"Robert Slater was Kip Lawrence's father-in-law," Terry said. "He was never really active in the firm but I think it was his money which got it going. He died in 1959, just four years after LSB was founded."
"So Lawrence was married?"
"Yes, Marjorie Slater Lawrence. I guess she was quite a social presence in San Francisco but of course I never knew her or her father."
"She was never around the firm after you came on board?"
"She'd also been dead for many years when I joined LSB."
"What about Bell?"
"Bell never married. He was the archetypal bachelor."
I asked Terry about the Marin property and said I'd try to take a personal look at it before going home.
"I hope you'll let me know what you find out," he said.
"I was wondering if you could check a couple of things for me," I said.
"See if you can find out the date of Christopher Lawrence's death and see if there's any record of anyone named Jessie working for or associated with Dan Bell or LSB."
"You're thinking Tiger is Bell's nickname for Lawrence, right?" Terry asked.
"It seems to make sense, and if it turns out that he died on May 19, 1999, it more or less clinches it."
"Yes, I'd agree. I'll have to check on that one but I think I can tell you who Jessie is."
"Really," I said, excited at the thought of one solid bit of information.
"I'd bet it was Jessie Stewart. I only met her once or twice; she was retiring when I first came on board with LSB, but I know she was Bell's personal assistant for over thirty years."
"Do you know what's become of her?"
"The last I heard she was living with a widowed sister out at Half Moon Bay."
"So she's still alive."
"I think so. I can check with the personnel office to be sure but I think I saw her name on the list of former employees we sent Christmas presents to last year."
"Check it out for me, Terry," I said. "See if you can get an address, or better still, a phone number."
My staff began arriving on Wednesday afternoon and, with their usual thoroughness, they moved through the mechanics of the transition. By late afternoon on Thursday the basis elements were in place for our administrative takeover of LSB. It began to look as if David and I might be able to get away by noon on Friday.
In the meantime, David and one of his key American contacts were getting the banking issues dealt with. Accounts were opened at his corresponding San Francisco bank and funds began to flow in from our European accounts.
On Thursday evening I hosted a dinner party for our own staff to thank them for their efforts, and for the members of the LSB staff who'd worked with us to make the transfer of authority so smooth.
By Friday afternoon most of my people would be heading home. Some would be going home with the expectation of returning to San Francisco as they were needed over the next few weeks. More than half them, however, had finished their work and would not leave our home offices until the next major acquisition came along. Then, like a small troop of militia, they'd be mobilized again.
On Friday morning Terry Good came by the office where I'd been camping.
"Do you have a minute, Mr. Yates?"
"Sure, Terry," I said, "but drop the Mr. Yates. Everybody just addresses me as John." He seemed a little uncomfortable with the informality but he got used to it quickly enough over the next few weeks as we worked closely together.
"We were right about Kip Lawrence's death," he said as he took a seat opposite me.
"May 19, 1999," I said, remembering the note we assumed had been written by Daniel Bell.
"Yes, the death certificate list the time of death as 5:35 AM. It all checks out."
"Any leads on Jessie Stewart?"
"Better than leads, I actually spoke to her about an hour ago."
"She confirmed that Bell had written
the note. She found it on her desk when she got to the office that morning.
It was the first word she'd received of Lawrence's death.
Bell had apparently come by the offices after he left the hospital. Jessie said he must have been exhausted. She said he'd not left Lawrence's side for more than a few minutes over the preceding week. He must have come by the office, left the note and a few instructions for other members of the staff and then gone home and collapsed. Nobody saw him again until the next day. She remembered how he'd come in the next morning and picked up the pieces. He personally made the plans for Lawrence's funeral."
"Did she know how the note got back in Bell's personal files?"
"Yes, she said he asked her for it."
"Did she say why?"
"She said so far as she knew, she was probably the only member of the LSB staff who had any knowledge of the Marin property, other than Bell and Lawrence, and Bell wanted to keep it that way. He'd mentioned the property in the note and he didn't want it to be seen by other staff who had access to Jessie's files."
"Did she know anything more about the property?"
"Nothing, other than that it existed. She paid the utility and insurance bills and filed the annual property tax reports, but she was never out there and, so far as she knows, no other LSB staff ever was either."
"When I re-read Bell's note it seemed odd to me that he'd mentioned the property at all. Did Jessie have any idea why he'd have said what he did?"
"Yes, there were some papers in a closed file stating that upon the death of either Lawrence or Bell, the surviving partner was to decide the fate of the property, whether it should be retained or sold.
"Lawrence died just a few days before Jessie would have had to file the tax assessment report and if Bell had decided to sell the Marin property, it would have been necessary for her to file the papers at all," Terry said. "So far as she knows, Bell took over those tasks himself when she retired. At least the paperwork on the property is current and I haven't found any other staff member who was doing it."
"Interesting, Terry, very interesting."
"Jessie said she'd be glad to talk with you but she didn't seem to know anything more."
"I'll probably not bother her."
"Do you intend to check out the property yourself?"
"Yes, maybe even this afternoon if we get things finished up here."
"Oh, I think you can get away whenever you want. We have everything in place for the transfer."
"Well, if so, it's because of all the help we've gotten from you and the remaining LSB staff."
"Your own crew have been great. I hope I have the opportunity to continue working with them."
"If you want a job with us, its yours, Terry," I said. "In fact, Ben Atwood would never forgive me if I let you get away."
About two that afternoon, David and I were driving north across the Golden Gate Bridge. We'd each packed a small bag and had all we'd need for a few days away from the city. We had no idea what we'd find at the end of our explorations into the mysterious property in Marin County, but from there we were prepared to head on north into the wine country of Sonoma or Napa County and find some quaint inn where we could spend a restful weekend together.
Just across the magnificent bridge, we pulled off to the right into a parking area from which a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline loomed across the bay. It was a familiar view but it always took my breath away.
"It is amazing," David whispered.
"Yes," I agreed.
"I've only seen half a dozen places which are as beautiful."
"So you have your own list of the seven wonders of the world."
"Well, seven most spectacular views, anyway."
"Care to share them with me?" I said, putting my arm around his shoulder as we stood at the edge of the stone bordered viewing area.
"Well, in no particular order, the view of Hong Kong, Victoria Island, from the Kowloon side; Buckingham Palace from the little footbridge in St. James Park; the New York skyline from Hoboken; Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio from the beach; Toledo from the river valley below; and looking off toward Windermere from the crest of the footpath along the Pennines."
"Yes," I agreed, giving David's firm shoulder an affectionate squeeze. They were all places we'd seen together.
We drove on a few miles further north, turned off Highway 101, onto the older Highway 1, and worked our way west and north through the hills. We passed the turn to Muir Woods and, following the hand drawn map, began the curving descent toward the sea.
I shifted the rented Jaguar into low gear as we headed down a steep slope and around a sudden curve. Suddenly before us lay the vast, sparkling expanse of the Pacific. The afternoon sun glistened off the waves as they worked their way across the ocean's width to crash against the California shore.
"Green Gulch," David said, pointing to a small road sign.
"Yes," I said, making the turn. A little further on was a sign for the Pelican Inn. "Maybe we could go there for the night."
We worked our way further down toward what appeared to be a thin sliver of golden beach, turning, as directed by the map, into a narrow lane and then coming to a halt where it ended in a diminutive cul de sac. There were three houses around the little circle, each almost hidden behind dense trees and shrubs. The map indicated our objective was the center of the three. The only visible part of the structure seemed to be a garage. The building was more than wide enough for two cars and opened almost directly off the circle. What little driveway there was consisted of a ten foot concrete apron. The roof seemed to be covered with old-fashioned cedar or cypress shingles but it was hardly visible because of the overhanging branches of a huge eucalyptus tree which overshadowed the entry area and, while it seemed to be well kept, the entire place had a rural, rustic appearance.
"Little more than a shed," David said, obviously disappointed.
"I have a feeling in Marin County, even a shed could be worth quite a lot."
I parked the car in front of the overhead doors and we got out to do some exploring. The garage was sided in some sort of dark wood planking and, on closer examination, seemed to have been stained recently and in good repair. Just to the left of the garage we found a wooden gate which seemed to be the only access point in an otherwise solid six-foot high wooden wall.
David tried to open it but it didn't move. As he turned I saw a brass lock set into the rough sawn planking of the gate. It looked like a lock you'd expect to find in an entry door rather than in a garden gate, but I got out the packet I'd brought from the car and handed David the keys. He tried the larger of the two and the gate swung smoothly open.
We both stood entranced by the view which confronted us. A flagstone path ran back along the side of the garage in the narrow alley way defined by the side of the garage on our right and the wooden wall on our left. The entire space couldn't have been more than eight feet wide but it ran back a long way. The flagstone walk was about three feet wide and on either side of it a profusion of flowers and shrubs created an almost enchanted path into the receding shadows. The area was so deeply shaded by the overhanging trees that even on a clear afternoon, it seemed dark and mysterious.
"Curiouser and curiouser," David said, his voice almost a whisper.
"Come on," I responded, excited to see what lay beyond the dark pathway.
As we went through the gate it was pulled shut by some sort of pulley and weight arrangement and the lock latched securely with a gentle click. We walked back the depth of the garage but the path went on. After another twenty feet we came to a JOG in the wall of the structure, in which a double door was set.
Having tried the larger key successfully in the lock of the gate, David tried the smaller key in the door, but to no avail.
"Try the larger key," I said.
"Do you think it fits both locks?"
"The locks look the same. Maybe the keys were coded to fit both the gate and the door." When David tried it, it fit and turned with ease.
We passed through the door into an small entry. Across from the door sat a table against a wood paneled wall. The passage ran off to a door on our right and opened into a small but beautifully furnished sitting room to our left. Heavy drapes were pulled across the far end of the room. I felt around and found a wall switch. When I flipped it, the room was illuminated by soft light which seemed to come from an indirect recess running around the high, sloping ceiling. The room was not more than twelve by sixteen feet but a small fireplace was set into the far wall and the entire space was furnished in dark, masculine furniture. There was a profusion of dark wood and leather. Three or four small paintings of coastal scenes hung on the walls.
I walked across the room, found the cords for the drapes, and pulled them open. The view beyond the glass wall took our breath away. The entire wall was made up of glass panels, the central pair of which were French windows which opened onto a small brick patio on which an iron table and chairs were arranged. Beyond the patio, the property sloped slightly to a low wall thirty or forty feet away. Beyond the wall, the land dropped steeply for thirty feet or more to a swath of golden beach and beyond the beach, to the pounding surf and the sea.
David and I were like kids who'd been given a new playhouse. We explored each corner and cranny of the little house, finding one snug bedroom with a huge bed and an attached bath. The bathroom, it turned out, was nearly as big as the bedroom, with a big tub and a large separate shower.
There was a small but extremely well equipped kitchen and, beyond it, a little workshop and from it a door leading back toward the front, into the garage.
"The odd thing," David said as we returned to the snug little living room, "is that everything is in such good order."
"I know, it looks and feels as if the occupants just walked out for a stroll on the beach." "When did you say Dan Bell died?" David asked.
"About six months ago, but he was quite ill for several months before that. I think the last few months of his life were spent in a nursing home so it must have been at least a year ago that he could have even possibly have been here."
"So who has been looking after the place?" David asked, giving voice to the question I'd been asking myself.
After our initial tour, and true to his national character, David insisted on a cup of tea. In the well stocked cupboards we found everything we needed except fresh milk, but made do with a tin, and with it, found an unopened tin of Cross and Blackwell brown bread. With a well laden tea tray we wandered outside, placed the tray on the cast iron table and found the matching lawn chairs surprisingly comfortable.
The little garden was well tended, the flower beds weeded and the shrubbery trimmed. We'd already noted that the inside of the house was dusted and clean. It really was as if the owners had just left, or for that matter, could walk in again at any moment.
Our questions were soon answered, however. As we sat in the garden under a spreading eucalyptus tree, we heard the noise of a truck in the cul de sac and then the sound of footsteps.
A few moments later there was an audible gasp and we looked back to see a man standing at the corner of the house.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God!" he murmured, his voice low, little more than a whisper, but still understandable from where we sat.
"Good afternoon," I said, rising from my chair. "Can we help you?"
The man looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, in good physical shape and dressed in well worn khakis and a long sleeved plaid shirt. He wore a battered straw hat on his head and he had the weathered, leathery face of a man who'd spent most of his life outdoors.
He approached us slowly, then reached into his back trouser pocket and withdrew a blue and white bandana which he used to wipe his face and hands.
"I'm Victor Braganca," he said. "May I ask, please, who you are?"
I told him my name and then introduced David.
"And you are the new owners of this house?"
"Yes," I said, "I suppose you could put it that way."
"Good," Victor said, "I have been expecting you."
"Despite expecting us, Victor, you seemed shocked to see us here."
"Yes, it was so like seeing the other gentlemen, just as they sat so often in the afternoon."
I gestured to a chair and asked him to join us. "So am I right in assuming that you're responsible for this place?"
"It is I who have cared for it since my father was no longer able."
"How long ago was that?"
"So you knew Mr. Bell?"
"Oh, yes, I knew Mr. Bell and Mr. Lawrence since I was a boy. They were great gentlemen and patrons of my family."
"May I ask, Victor, how have you been paid for your services since Mr. Bell's death?"
"By Mr. Delmont at the bank in Tamalpais. Mr. Bell took me to meet him three years ago. He said I was to continue to keep the house and grounds until told otherwise by the new owners."
"It looks as if you've done an excellent job," David said.
He smiled proudly and nodded slightly. "It has been my pleasure. It was always an honor to serve the two gentlemen."
"You said you'd known them for many years?"
"Yes, and my father before me. He served them since they bought this place over forty years ago. I continued to do so after my father had a stroke and could no longer perform his duties. With him, my mother came once a week to restock the kitchen, to do the cleaning and laundry and to change the bed. Since my father retired, my wife has come from time to time to see what was needed, but as you can understand, for the last year of so, it was unnecessary for her to come often, as there have been no visitors."
We talked a little longer and before ending our conversation we'd made arrangements with Victor to continue the services he'd performed for Lawrence and Bell. He was to continue caring for the garden and make any repairs needed on the house. We also agreed that whenever the house was used, a note would be left for him asking for his wife to come by to check on supplies and do whatever else was needed. I got the name and number of the banker in Tamalpais so I could continue the arrangements Daniel Bell had made.
Victor didn't stay long but at least one mystery was cleared up by his visit.
"So it seems this house was bought and maintained by Lawrence and Bell as their own private meeting place," David said when we were again alone.
"Seems so. I guess they bought it in 1961. I wonder why they insisted on such secrecy."
"Didn't you say Lawrence was married?"
"Yes, but you and I are married, too."
"We do try to be discreet, John."
"Well, yes, but not to these lengths."
"Perhaps there were other reasons why they needed to keep their relationship secret," David said. "They were of an older generation. I guess within their social and business circles a loving relationship between two men was not something their peers would have approved of."
"We're jumping to some conclusions, David."
"You mean you think they might not have been lovers?"
"Well, it sure seems likely that they were, but we don't have any real proof."
As we sat in the pleasant garden the sun moved slowly to the west, slanting under the old trees and gradually making a brilliant golden path across the sea.
Without any real discussion we seemed to decide that we were going to spend the night and carried in our bags from the car.
We got ourselves settled and then, about eight o'clock, went off in search of the Pelican Inn.
The place turned out to be what David called "Olde Worlde," a would-be English inn transplanted to the California coast.
Despite its mild pretensions, it was a very pleasant place and we had an excellent dinner of roast lamb accompanied by a bottle of Stag's Leap, Petite Syrah.
Despite the tempting deserts, I insisted we resist. I had other plans for later and didn't want us too full to enjoy them.
"You know, John," David admitted as we drove back down toward the house - our house, we were both beginning to think - "this really is a most pleasant corner of the world."
"Yes, I agree. Can you see yourself spending some time here on a regular basis?"
"Definitely, and I suspect this new business interest of yours is going to demand a good bit of our time."
I looked over at him and smiled. His handsome face was illuminated by the soft glow from the instrument panel. "I'd expected to turn more of it over to a few of my people but I definitely think it is going to need my personal attention, and as my primary advisor on EU financial issues, I will certainly need to be picking your brain."
"And other parts of my anatomy, I suspect."
"You can always read my mind, David," I laughed as I pulled the Jaguar into the attached garage. It really did feel as if we were home.
Over the next couple of days, before we had to head back into San Francisco on Monday morning, David and I made a series of discoveries.
The first came early the next morning when David went off alone on an a short walk. He returned a few minutes later to wake me, all in a buzz.
"John, get up, you have to see this."
I rolled over and looked at him. The night before had been amazing. Even after all the years we've been lovers, David is still a constant source of surprises.
We'd made love slowly in the big bed, gently touching and kissing, exploring well known territory, finally settling down to a long, leisurely fuck. I was in him for almost an hour before, by mutual consent, we finally slipped over the edge into blissful oblivion, and then, still in each other's arms, into equally blissful sleep.
"Come on," he urged, throwing the covers off my naked body and my morning wood. "You've got to see the beach."
"Let me pull on some shorts first, David."
"Actually," he laughed, "shorts aren't really necessary."
"What are you talking about?"
"The beach just below the house, it's populated by a bunch of happy nudists."
"I'm not," he said, pulling me from the bed.
"David, I'm not going down to the beach in my birthday suit."
"Why not? Everybody else down there is as naked as the day they were born."
"Well, you're not."
"Too true," he said, gleefully pulling off his shorts. "Now if you're happy, let's go."
I managed to delay him long enough to retrieve a pair of towels from the bathroom and then, looking like a pair of aging hippies, we walked out of the house, across the little garden, through a wicker gate and down a stony path to the beach.
Actually, even nude, we didn't really look like hippies, aging or otherwise. We had no body jewelry and no tattoos and our hair was not at all long. On the beach we did encounter several people our age who looked much more like middle aged flower children than we did. And sure enough, all the other bathers were as naked as we were.
We walked for some distance along the beach and everyone we passed smiled or nodded, greeting us as part of their happy culture. At one point a young fellow in his mid twenties came charging toward us and I thought we were going to be tackled by him until he dodged toward the surf and snatched up a Frisbee which had been tossed by one of his friends. He was well built and beautifully tanned and the flaccid cock which dangled dramatically between his legs was one of the biggest I'd ever seen.
"Did you see that?" David said when the guy had jogged off to the south to join his friends.
"Yeah, amazing," I said.
"Do you think it gets bigger when he's hard?"
"Well, you know what they say, some show and grow."
"I rather hope he's one of the former," David grinned. "Otherwise I'd really feel inadequate."
"You are more than adequate, David," I teased, knowing it was what he wanted to hear.
A little further on we passed two middle aged women who lay side by side on a large beach towel. Their overall tan had left their naked bodies and their pendulous breasts so dark and leathery that they had no appeal at all, but seemed like twin Earth Mothers, forces of nature, not objects of sexual desire.
Still further on we came across a family, all nude, all happy in their various pursuits. The father, a man in his early forties, lay back on towel with his legs spread and his genitalia on full display. There was an open book by his side and a medical journal across his lap.
To his right a woman, obviously his wife and the mother of his children, lay on her side, equally nude, reading a book on village level development in third world nations.
The parents and their children were all very blond, yet despite their golden hair, had the tawny bodies of habitual nudists. They all seemed completely comfortable with their nakedness.
Just beside her mother was a girl who was clearly the couple's daughter. She looked to be just on the verge of puberty and lay on her own towel, modestly turned on her stomach as she sunned herself.
Further down the beach toward the incoming tide, two boys, obviously brothers and obviously members of the same family, were building an elaborate sandcastle. The older of the two seemed to be fifteen or sixteen and had the beautifully defined body of a high school gymnast. His hair, golden and closely cut, still managed to form itself into waves and curls. His younger brother, a boy of twelve or thirteen, had longer hair which fell in golden ringlets to his shoulders.
The boys smiled at us as we paused to admire their creation.
"Quite an elaborate structure," David said, admiring the castle's towers and fortifications.
"Thanks," the older boy said. "It won't last long thought, the tide is coming in." We walked further on, passing the gang of Frisbee players, encountering a dozen or so single men arranged in a pattern which suggested some sort of prearranged order.
"I think we've found the gay cruising section," David whispered, nodding toward the way the men had positioned themselves so they could see and be seen.
A little further on we approached some huge boulders which stood in an almost sentry like row spanning the beach from the inland slope of the hills on our left to the water's edge on our right.
"Don't pass the boulders," an older man called to us. He was naked and portly and had a beard. A naked Santa Claus, I couldn't help thinking. "Beyond the rocks is suits."
"Pardon?" David called back.
"This side of the rocks bathing suits are optional, the other side, bathing suits are required."
"So are there bathing suit police on duty or what," I asked.
He laughed and said, "more or less."
"Or less is more," David chuckled as we walked over to where the old man seemed to have made camp. He had spread out a big blanket and planted an ice chest, a folding beach chair and a bag of books.
"Have a seat, gentlemen," the fellow said, "that is, a bit of blanket."
I sat down on one corner of the blanket four or five feet from where our new friend sat in his chair. I wasn't sure what the rules were so far as personal space went. Being nude and in closer proximity to a complete stranger was a new experience for me.
David was clearly uncomfortable as well. He stood just off the edge of the blanket, his arms folded over his chest. He looked like Rodin's statue of Balzac, slender and in fine physical shape, but the same pose. I couldn't help chuckle at his somehow defensive posture, considering he was completely naked.
"You men new here?"
"Yes," I said, not wanting to get into the issue of the house.
"I guess this end of the beach is a sort of community, then."
"Could say so. Some folks who come here have been coming for years. There are always a few new ones who need to learn the ropes."
"And you are one of the regulars, I suppose."
"Yes, been coming to Muir Beach for over twenty-five years."
"I don't suppose you know the houses at the end," I ventured.
"Some, a few of the older residents, but there aren't many of them left now."
"Do you by any chance know the house on the cul de sac off Green Gulch, the one with the big eucalyptus trees."
"Tiger and Dan's place? Sure I know it, I knew both of them for years."
"My name is John Yates," I said, standing again and holding out my hand. "This is David Winthrop."
"Bowlin," he said, "Stanley Bowlin, but my friends call me Skitter."
"Pleased to know you, Skitter," David and I both said, and I went on to explain that we were the new owners of Tiger and Dan's old house.
"Well," Skitter said, looking us over with new interest, "I'm pleased to hear the place will be used again."
"Did you say this is called Muir Beach?" David asked.
"Yes, named for John Muir, same as Muir Woods, up above us in the hills."
"We were thinking of going up there this afternoon," I put in.
"A beautiful place," Skitter said. "I guess you could say it is my cathedral."
"What do you do, Skitter?" David asked, "if you don't mind my asking."
"No, I don't mind you asking," Skitter said with a grin. There was a sparkle in his gray blue eyes. "Truth is, I do as little as possible."
"Sounds like a good life," David smiled.
"Well, I was an professor of English literature at CSU Hayward for almost thirty years. I'd been smart enough to buy a little place near Bolines back in 1967, so when I retired, I moved over here." He paused and then added, "speaking of English literature, David, don't I detect the accent of the angels on your tongue?"
"Angels or Angles?" David smiled.
"Well, take your pick."
"Yes, I guess you do."
"But you've given up the Queen's Realms in favor of the California coast?"
"Well, actually, I still live in the UK. I'm here because John just bought LSB and I handle his European banking interests."
"So when you bought their old company you acquired Tiger and Dan's house in the process."
"Yes, I guess you could say it was a hidden asset."
"Do you live in the Bay area, John?"
"Oh, so you'll not be here full time."
"No, but we do expect to make frequent visits."
"Just as Tiger and Dan used to do, God rest their souls." He paused a moment and then asked, "would it be presumptuous of me to ask if you two are a couple, in the same sense that they were a couple?"
"No, Skitter, it wouldn't be presumptuous at all," I said.
"John and I are both married men, Skitter," David said with a sly grin on his face.
"So," Skitter smiled, "what does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, nothing, actually," I said, "and, to answer your question, yes, we are a couple."
"Good, then. I'm glad to hear the traditions of the old house will be continued." We chuckled and said our good-byes with promises to look for him again.
"I'm here most Saturdays," Skitter said as we prepared to go. "From early spring until late fall."
"I guess that cleared up a few points," David said as we retraced our steps and went back up the stone path to the house.
After a meal which was more brunch than breakfast, we did drive up to Muir Woods. Skitter was right, it was an enchanted place, a sort of spiritual haven. The vast old trees rose from the banks of a babbling stream to form high Gothic arches which couldn't help but remind us of a cathedral. Even with other people on the paths we felt a wonderful sense of solitude.
That evening, after we'd fixed a simple meal and settled down by a glowing fire in the living room, David raised an interesting question.
"You know, John," he said, "there were two keys on that ring."
"Yes, I've been thinking about that," I admitted. The same key had opened both the gate and the front door and we'd seen no other lock which could account for the second, smaller key.
As I sipped my cognac and enjoyed the warm glow of the fire, David prowled the living room, looking for any cranny we might have missed. Eventually he wandered out of the living room into the kitchen and then back into the bedroom.
"Eureka!" I eventually heard him call. I rose and followed his voice and found him in the bedroom staring at a little cabinet hidden behind a framed painting, which was actually hinged and which David had swung out to reveal the gray metal door fitted into the plaster wall.
"Here, you do the honors," he said, tossing me the key chain.
The metal cabinet was not as secure as a real safe, really just a small locked cubby hole, but a good place for private papers. There was nothing of real value in the cabinet but what was there more than answered any remaining questions we'd had. We discovered a couple of photo albums which spanned almost forty years, along with a copy of the deed to the property and a few personal letters. The photographs began with a few faded black and white images dating back to the early 1960s, showing two handsome men in their early thirties. We recognized them as Lawrence and Bell.
Other photographs showed them and a few friends at picnics and dinners and a few of them naked on the beach. We recognized Skitter in a few of the photos, the earliest of which showed him younger and a good deal slimmer, the latest much as he looked today. There were other men, younger and older. It was as if we'd opened a personal history, the story of a relationship which had lasted for over forty years. There was something sad about it, but also something reassuring.
With the albums on the dresser, we later lay together in the warm bed, our naked bodies pressed together as we made slow, gentle love. "It's really quite nice, being old with you," David mused. "We're not old, David," I corrected him, "not yet."
"Well, getting there." "Yes," I agreed as my cock found his ass and slipped happily home. "So nice," he crooned, "so familiar and so very nice."
"I read once," I whispered in his ear as I established a slow, easy rhythm, "that the best lovemaking is between new lovers who are just discovering each other and old lovers who know each other very well."
"It was so nice to know you, John, as an innocent youth, but I really think I like this more. We know each other so very well."
"It's been over thirty years, David. We've known each other longer than we've known our wives."
"Bess sometimes points that out." "Joyce does the same." "But no recriminations."
"Oh, no, none, just a statement of fact." I smiled down at him and kissed his welcoming mouth. The journey was slow but we got there in style. When we reached our destination we both slipped happily into our shared bliss, and then, still joined, into happy sleep.
I woke in the night and padded off naked and barefoot to the bathroom, passing the albums, the top one open at a photo of two young men, Tiger and Dan who, in the dim light, were smiling happily at me.
The next morning, as we packed to go, I pointed the photo out to David. He smiled and stacked the albums with the old letters on top of the pile, then handed it all to me.
"I think we should leave it all here, John," David said, "and begin an album of our own on our next visit."