[NOTE: This is the first draft of this section, which I decided to change about halfway through...the introduction of Jared caused me some problems, and I think you can see why when (if) you get to that section...RM]
Danny woke up when the phone rang, amazed that he'd slept for so long, that the shadows were all in a different position that when he'd lay down. He groggily reached over for the instrument and mumbled into it.
"Monsieur Vandervere? Mademoiselle Willard-Wilkes's manservant is here. May I send him up?"
"Mmmph," Danny didn't want to see the man, but knew that Marquesa would want his clothes and jewelry back, "Okay."
"Very good, m'sieu."
Sitting up in the bed, Danny wondered if he should just stay where he was and pretend to be asleep, or if he should hide in the bathroom; but by the time Danvers knocked, he realized he'd have to let the man into the suite. So he put on his dressing-gown, knotted the cord firmly, and opened the door.
"Good afternoon, sir," Danvers bowed slightly, though not as crisply as he had before, and his expression was softer, not so disapproving, "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"I was just going to take a shower," Danny walked out of the room with what he hoped was an air of unconcern, locking the bathroom door behind him. He turned on the water but didn't get in; instead, he sat on the little bathroom stool and listened to the manservant moving around in the bedroom, wishing he would leave so Danny could go back to bed.
After half an hour, there was a quiet knock on the bathroom door that startled Danny out of the trance of blank waiting he'd fallen into. The room had filled up with steam, and he couldn't see anything.
"Is there anything I can do for you, sir?" Danvers's voice came softly through the door.
"I can't hear you, I'm in the shower," Danny lied.
"Very good, sir," the servant said loudly, then dropped his voice to a low rumble that could barely be heard, "Though I can't help but notice your voice came from the opposite side of the room from the shower, and that water makes a different sound falling on a body than on an empty floor."
Danny blushed crimson, humiliated to be caught out in the lie, but didn't answer.
"I've put your clothes away, sir," Danvers resumed in his louder professional voice, "and laid out something suitable in case you choose to go to the lounge for tea, as well as your dinner clothes. Mr. Willard-Wilkes sent some cash for tips and incidentals, it's in an envelope on the table in the foyer. Good afternoon, sir."
"Thank you," Danny called out, getting hastily into the shower so that he wouldn't have to admit that he hadn't been there in the first place; he wanted to say something more articulate in gratitude for Danvers' thoughtfulness, but the words didn't come. When he did finally get out of the shower, he put on a good deal of body-lotion and combed his hair with undue thoroughness before returning to the bedroom, killing time to make sure the man was gone.
Danvers had laid out a very nice outfit on the bed, a snappy blue-and-white striped shirt with a dull red silk sweater and tan linen pants, with socks and underwear lying on top and a pair of cordovan loafers neatly placed on the floor. The dinner-suit was laid out with equal precision on the other side of the bed, with a navy blue satin tie and waistcoat.
Danny put on the afternoon clothes, for no reason other than that they were there, since he didn't intend to leave the suite any time soon. The dinner-suit he put back in the closet, not wanting to look at it... it had happy memories attached to it, and Danny didn't want to think happy thoughts.
The envelope of money gave him a sting of pain: it contained a stack of twenties and another stack of fifties, full inch-thick US Mint hundred-count packets with the denomination bands unbroken, more money than he could possibly hand out in tips if he stayed at the Queen Charlotte all summer. This was clearly the "walking-around money" or "cab-fare" or "pick out a present from me" that stood as a euphemism for the amateur prostitute's fee.
Seven thousand dollars was a pretty good fee for a weekend, even for a professional, and Danny had to smile at the generosity; but this unnecessarily large sum underlined for Danny the fact that this had been just a weekend fling for Marquesa. They could still be friends, as close as Danny usually was with his moneyed tricks; but considering the two packets of cash for "incidentals" along with the hotel bills and the new wardrobe from Saks, not to mention half of the million-dollar bail bond, there was simply too much expenditure involved for Danny to ever feel on equal footing with Marquesa. He was irrevocably cast in his usual role of Courtesan instead of his desired role of Lover.
Dropping the cash negligently into a drawer, Danny lay down on the couch and watched television for a few hours, changing channels when anything even remotely romantic came on, slipping occasionally into a deep sleep and waking with a start when something loud happened on the TV.
When he eventually got hungry, he ordered up a huge and random selection of hors-d'ouerves, along with a couple of bottles of wine, so that he wouldn't have to think about food for a while, he could just nibble whenever the mood took him.
The waiter set up some of the food on the coffee table between the couch and the television, and put one of the bottles of wine in an ice-bucket to chill, then took the rest into the little wet-bar/kitchen Danny didn't know was there, hidden beside the little foyer behind a folding wall-panel. As soon as the waiter left, with a nice crisp fifty tucked into his pocket, Danny resumed his vigil on the couch, flipping channels pointlessly, occasionally turning over to stare at the ceiling or the upholstery, dozing off every now and then as he'd been doing all day.
He felt (he decided after a long time looking for the right word) bleak. Bleak and empty, like a Nevada salt-flat in winter... he was no longer especially sad, the hurt of the morning had dulled to a dreary numbness, and he simply didn't want anything... didn't want to eat, didn't want to read, didn't want to talk, didn't want to move, didn't want to feel pleasure, didn't want to think.
But he did think: he thought about how stupid he'd been to believe that Marquesa was falling in love with him as he'd fallen in love with Marquesa; he thought about the matter-of-fact way Marquesa had recommended going after Valerien instead, and the cavalier attitude about the "tips and incidentals"; he thought even more about how that coldness had excited him in the first place; he thought about all the time he'd wanted to fall in love without having the tiniest idea how much it could hurt; he thought about what a fool he was.
Sometime in the very early hours of the next morning, however, Danny finally got bored with his inertia. His was a nature that was ill-suited for wallowing in unhappiness... he could be unhappy, but he was incapable of lying around with it for very long. He had to get up and do something to take his mind off it. He got up and peeled out of the stale wrinkled clothes he'd been wearing for over twelve hours, then opened the window and leaned out for some fresh air, feeling his skin come alive in the chilly damp.
Leafing through the little book of the hotel's amenities, and was pleased to discover the place had a small gymnasium and swimming pool in the basement that would open at 6 a.m. Checking the little clock on the desk, Danny was irritated to find that it was only 4... but then decided that a couple of fifties could probably get a helpful desk-clerk to open them up for him. Calling downstairs, he discovered that the night manager would be delighted to accomodate Monsieur Vandervere regardless of the hour (news of his increased tipping power must have already been circulated among the staff).
Rummaging through the dresser that had been arranged with a neatness that was almost pathological, Danny selected a scandalously brief white swimsuit, a pair of rather slutty red mesh gym-shorts, and a thin zip-up black hoodie that was two sizes too small and clung to his torso like paint. The sneakers Andrew had sent weren't the kind Danny liked, but they were sufficient, and the little white socks had cute Japanese anime penguins embroidered on them.
Running down the stairs to the basement, Danny felt a rush of physical well-being: his heart might be broken, but his body was still a beautiful perfect machine capable of all sorts of pleasures. The night-manager was clearly taken aback, both by Danny's pornographic attire and by the three bills Danny pressed into his hand (he was determined to blow through at least one of the stacks of money, and had perversely settled on the higher denomination), and led a brief tour of the small but luxurious facilities, pointing out the Art Deco mosaic murals imported from a bath-house in Paris, turning on all the lights, the televisions, and the stereo before taking his leave.
Danny stripped off his hoodie, grabbed the biggest bottle of water he could find in the cooler, and got up onto an elliptical machine, bopping his head to the beat of the generic Top-40 dance music that came pouring out of the hidden speakers, and lost himself in the rhythm of his own heartbeat and breathing. It was infinitely more worry-suppressing than watching television, and he wondered why he hadn't thought of this simple expedient sooner.
After forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise, he did a circuit of the weight machines, not pushing himself very hard since he was alone in the gym and didn't have a spotter; and once every muscle in his body had been worked at least once, he pulled off his gym-shorts and dove into the long narrow pool.
The water was deliciously cool and shocked his sweaty skin refreshingly. He swam laps, freestyle to one end and backstroke to the other, pushing himself until he was so tired that he had to get out of the pool for fear of drowning. He flopped face-first onto a towel-draped chaise-longue, completely exhausted and wonderfully free of nagging thoughts, and went right back to sleep.
"Hey, are you OK?" Danny felt a hand shaking his shoulder.
"Just sleeping," he replied quietly, peeking at the stranger through one eye; it was a rather pretty boy, Danny guessed him to be eighteen or nineteen, with straight black hair and pixieish blue eyes, spanked pink cheeks and a soft red mouth.
"Oh," the boy looked embarrassed, his smooth cheeks deepening to carmine, "You were kind of whimpering, I though you were sick."
"Whimpering?" Danny raised himself up on both elbows to take a better look at the boy, taking in his narrow frame in a pair of very baggy red boardshorts, his luminescent skin and charmingly awkward movements, "How mortifying."
"I'll leave you alone, then," the boy sounded disappointed and started to get up.
"Don't go away," Danny heard a note of begging in his voice and strove to master it with a more confident and seductive tone, "What's your name?"
"Jared," the boy happily sat cross-legged on the floor and put out his hand.
"I'm Danny. Pleased to meet you," he rolled over onto his side, displaying his half-hard cock taking up far too much room in the front of the tiny white bikini, and smiled as the boy's eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open, "Would you care to join me in the steam-room, Jared?"
Jared tore his gaze from Danny's crotch with some effort, gulped loudly, and nodded assent. Danny pulled him to his feet and led him by the hand through the empty locker-room and into the billowing steam of the wet sauna. Once the door was closed securely, he was on the boy with a passion, raping his mouth and plunging his hands into the boy's shorts. Jared put his hands on Danny's body, first on his arms, then his waist, then his shoulders, as if he weren't sure where they should be.
Since he didn't have any condoms, Danny kept their activities limited to oral and frottage...more the latter than the former, as Jared couldn't keep his teeth out of the way. Streaming with sweat, they slid around together on the sauna bench like eels; the boy shot off twice before Danny came, making an adorable squealing sound each time that made Danny laugh. Spent and sticky, they lolled in silence for a little while, Jared trying to catch his breath and Danny nearly falling asleep again.
"I really wish you'd fuck me," Jared finally broke the silence in a timid voice.
"I don't have any condoms here; we'd have to go up to my room," Danny replied, his face buried in the boy's neck.
"We don't need those," the boy reasoned, "I've never been with anyone before."
"Well, I have," Danny pulled back and looked the boy square in the eyes, "You shouldn't go around offering yourself for unsafe sex. You'll end up sick."
"Well, can we go up to your room, then?" the boy tried a different tack.
"In a minute. We'd better clean up, first. This is a classy hotel, you know," Danny sat up and ruffled the boy's hair, "So, you're a virgin?"
"I don't know, am I still?" Jared looked confused.
"I guess it depends on the definition," Danny thought about it for a minute, "But I wouldn't count you as one. I'm just surprised you've never been with anyone, as cute as you are."
"There aren't any other gay boys at my school," Jared told him sadly.
"Oh, I bet there are, you just haven't...wait a minute. School? How old are you?"
"Eighteen?" the boy said without much conviction, his eyes darting around in a comically guilty manner.
"You don't lie very well," Danny laughed, "How old are you really?"
"I'll be sixteen next month," he admitted after a long silence.
"Jesus Christ!" Danny yelled, practically leaping away from the boy, "As if I'm not in enough trouble already. You're fifteen?!"
"I'm sorry," Jared hung his head.
"Well, I guess it's not your fault," Danny conceded, looking the boy over, seeing where he'd made his mistake about the age, thinking the boy was just skinny and smooth rather than barely pubescent; he had more body-hair than Danny, a sparse black fur covering his legs and arms, but Danny frequently forgot that his own hairlessness was the exception rather than the rule; the features Danny had thought charmingly smooth were actually still unformed; and the boy's cock was a lot bigger than one would expect on anyone so young, bigger even than one might expect on most full-grown adults, "You're rather well developed for fifteen."
"Really?" the boy looked down at himself with a pleased smile, "It's not as big as yours."
"Yes, well... the Washington Monument's not as big as the Empire State Building, but it's still plenty big."
"Are you mad at me?" Jared asked.
"No, I guess not. When I was your age, I was fucking my math teacher and our gardener, so I don't have room to talk. But statutory rape isn't something I particularly want to go to jail over. I mean, fifteen's not even legal in Europe."
"I won't tell anyone," Jared promised.
"Be that as it may," Danny got up and moved towards the door, then turned back and smiled at the boy, "I think we'd better hit the showers and dispose of the evidence, don't you?"
"Can we still go to your room?" Jared tried to be seductive, sidling up to Danny and running a hand over his cock, "I mean, we already broke the law, doing it again can't hurt."
"I already broke the law, Baby-doll," Danny pushed the boy gently away, "You were just an innocent victim, as far as the police are concerned."
"Maybe if you don't take me to your room, I will tell," Jared ducked under the restraining hand and wrapped his arms around Danny's waist.
"You rotten little blackmailer!" Danny laughed, this time with genuine amusement, running his hands through the boy's hair and kissing him on the forehead, "I wish I'd thought of that when my math teacher quit his job to get away from me. Come on, let's get cleaned up, and we'll go have breakfast, OK?"
"Oh, all right," the boy pouted as he followed Danny into the shower room.
I just can't seem to stay out of trouble this week, Danny thought to himself as he stood under the hot water soaping himself thoroughly, I need to get this kid dressed and out of here before I forget he's fifteen and fuck him into next week.
"Hey, little boy," Danny called out after rinsing off.
"I'm not little!" Jared called back.
"No you're not. But I take it you're staying with your parents?"
"Just my Mom."
"On vacation, or what?"
"I bet you've seen nothing but tourist traps all the time you've been here. Chinatown, Pier 39, Union Square, like that?"
"Yeah," the boy sounded disgusted, "plus visiting my Aunt Justine in Atherton."
"Poor baby! Why don't I take you to the Castro, see what a gay ghetto looks like?"
"Really? That would be great!"
"But I have to go back to my room to get dressed, I can't go anywhere in my gym clothes," Danny stepped out of the shower and toweled off vigorously.
"I came down here with a t-shirt and my board-shorts. I can go anywhere in that. Including your room," Jared added slyly.
"Well, I can't be seen with someone so shabbily dressed," Danny looked down his noise at the boy, "So go back to your room and get dressed, and tell your mother you met a local staying here at the hotel who's going to show you around town. But for God's sake don't tell her that I'm twenty-two!"
"You're twenty-two?" Jared mock-sneered at him, "I didn't know you were so old!"
"Smartass," Danny threw his wet towel at the boy and stepped into his swimsuit, "Get on out of here, and I'll meet you in the lobby in about half an hour, OK?"
Taking Jared out to the Castro would serve a dual purpose: not only would he get the boy out of the hotel and into a public place where he could no longer chip away at Danny's resolve, but he would also be able to scout his neighborhood on the sly to see if he could go home yet. So, as he rummaged through the opulent clothes in his suite, he tried for a disguise, tried to make himself look as much like a suburban teenage boy as possible so that he would blend with Jared and therefore be less noticeable.
His excessively fashionable wardrobe did not really allow for this...everything was much too grown-up, cut to accentuate his fully-developed body, and terribly expensive-looking. After picking through the cashmeres and silks in frustration, Danny's eyes fell on the rumpled clothes he'd discarded earlier in the morning, the blue-and-white striped dress-shirt and tan linen pants, which the maid had put into a plastic laundry bag to be taken away later by the hotel valet. They were a mess, bearing the evidence that they'd been slept in, and were perfect for a teenager.
Danny put on the pants without a belt so that they hung a little too low, put the shirt on negligently over a white undershirt, half-buttoned and untucked to obscure his torso, and stepped back into his gym-shoes with no socks. He looked perfect, dressed exactly the way his brother used to dress; but he smelled a little stale, so he spritzed a cloud of cologne into the air and walked through it. His hair was as messy as it could get, uncombed since some time the day before, but he carefully washed and moisturized his face to look as young as possible.
I need a hat Danny decided after checking himself out in the full-length mirror, and some sunglasses. After a few moments of wondering what to do, he remembered Marquesa's orders about using services, phoned the concierge, and asked for a baseball hat, a beat up Abercrombie & Fitch if possible, and a pair of black Ray-Ban Wayfarers, to be picked up at the front desk.
Arriving in the lobby a few minutes later, Danny found Jared dancing from foot to foot, acutely embarrassed, dressed in a pair of baggy gray cargo shorts and deck shoes with a huge faded red hoodie over a black t-shirt advertising a band Danny had never heard of.
"My mother won't let me come unless she meets you, first," Jared complained, rolling his eyes in exasperation.
"I wouldn't let you out of my sight, if I was your mother," Danny laughed at Jared's discomfort and was glad that he'd dressed as a teenager; he didn't imagine the mother of such a boy would be pleased to see her son go off with a full-grown man, "But wait a minute, what's her name?"
"Her last name, dummy. I'm not going to call your mother Janet."
"Hayes, Mrs. Brian Hayes. You're not going to suck up to her and be all goody-goody, are you?" Jared curled his lip in disgust.
"Honey, I'm gonna kiss her ass so hard she won't be able to sit down comfortably for a week," Danny punched him playfully on the shoulder, making an effort to take on the character of a teenage boy, "And where do Mrs. Brian Hayes and her beautiful son Jared live?"
"Cincinnati," the boy blushed at the compliment, "Why?"
"Because I want your mother to think that we talked about more than the size of your cock when we met at the pool this morning."
Following the furiously blushing Jared into the small grill-room at the left of the lobby, facing the street, he was confronted with a tall brunette version of his own mother, a clench-jawed debutante in a rigid oversized coiffure and a cashmere twinset that was the wrong shade of green for her taut salon-tanned skin.
"Good morning, Mrs. Hayes, I'm Danny Willard," Danny lied extempore, suddenly realizing that his own name might be recognized and connected to the scandal, "I'm pleased to meet you."
"Good morning, Danny," Mrs. Hayes allowed him to shake her soft, bony hand, which she presented to display a ring that was clearly a family heirloom, dull rose-cut diamonds in gold filligree around a rather apologetic opal, "Would you care to join us for breakfast?"
"No thank you, ma'am," Danny smiled engagingly and launched into a portion of truth, "If you don't mind, I was going to take Jared to this cafe in my neighborhood, maybe introduce him to some of my friends."
"I'm sure that sounds very nice," the lady smiled primly, almost condescendingly, "My son tells me you live locally. Do you live here in the hotel?"
"Oh, no, ma'am. We live on Russian Hill," Danny chose a neighborhood that he was sure an outlander would recognize as posh, "Mom and I are just staying here while the decorators are painting the house."
"Painters are always such an inconvenience," Mrs. Hayes sympathized with a little tilt to her head that made Danny want to slap her.
"I don't mind them, but Mom's allergic to paint fumes. We won't be able to go back home for at least a week," Danny was enjoying the lies he was spinning to lull this snobbish creature into letting him take her baby boy out on the town, "But she told my school we were going to Palm Springs to stay with my grandparents, so I get to play hookey."
"And where do you go to school, dear?" the woman was clearly fishing for information that she could look up in the Social Register. He wished he could see her face when she discovered that the only Willards in there were Marquesa's great aunts.
"I go to Winterhalter Academy," he'd already borrowed Marquesa's name, he figured he might as well borrow his alma mater as well.
"I hope I can meet your mother before we leave tomorrow," Mrs. Hayes put out another feeler.
"I'm sure she'd want to, ma'am, I'll ask her at dinner. She's at work today," Danny made up the excuse wanting to avoid having to produce a whole fake mother, but had to suppress a laugh when he saw the snobbish light go out in Mrs. Hayes's eyes; but if he wanted to get Jared out of this hotel, he'd have to keep laying on the WASP honey, "She's on the board of the Legion of Honor, and their meetings sometimes last all day."
"Committees can be so tiresome," Mrs. Hayes agreed, warming back up... she'd been to the Palace of the Legion of Honor just the day before and could finally relate Danny's story to a concrete credential, "I'll let you boys run along. Don't stay out too late."
"We'll be back before dinner, Mrs. Hayes, I promise," Danny rose and shook her hand again. Jared dismissed her with a bare nod and led the way out of the grill room.
"God, she's such a bitch," Jared moaned as they walked out onto Geary Street.
"Well, she's nicer than my mother," Danny shrugged, pulling on the pre-frayed baseball cap Phillipe had produced for him, "Though mine has nicer jewelry."
"That ring was her great-grandmother's," Jared agreed, delighted to dish his mother, "Mom acts like it's the Hope Diamond or something."
"And breakfasting with no pearls," Danny laughed, laying a hand on his own neck as if searching for a missing necklace, "the horror! Don't even get me started on that helmet-hair."
They made their way down to Market Street, joking about mothers in general and WASP mothers in particular; Danny couldn't help but notice that Jared's mother genuinely loved him despite all her stuffy airs. The very idea of loving mothers always made Danny just a little bit sad; but he shook it off and led Jared through the crowds to a bank where he could change one of his fifties into quarters and small bills.
It was a perfect day for showing someone San Francisco: invigoratingly sunny and clear, warm but with a refreshing cool wet breeze. There was a holiday atmosphere out on the streets, the businessmen had a spring to their steps, the shoppers had a swing to their bags, even the bums and crazies seemed to be happy. And Danny had never felt more at home in his adopted city as he did showing it to Jared, who drank it all in with enthusiasm.
Boarding an F Market streetcar to the Castro, Danny delighted in showing his young friend the landmarks along the way, telling him stories of events in history or his own life that had happened in various places, and describing the Gay Pride Parades he'd seen marching up that very avenue.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I'm going out of order here, because I've had this scene batting around in the back of my mind for a few weeks now, ever since I started work on Chapter 8. I first thought about making this scene the beginning of Chapter 9, but decided that the tone was all wrong, and introducing a new character after all the ups and downs that precede it would be unwise... the whole scene is too jarring to come immediately after the rather sad end of Chapter 8.
On the other hand, I didn't want to leave this bit hanging around until I finished the first part of Chapter 9, which I am working on now. So here, for your entertainment, is "Chapter 9 Part 2"... a preview, if you will.
"So, what exactly are you proposing?" Detective Varajian asked the young private investigator who'd invited him and his partner to lunch at the noisy local cop-filled diner.
"A pooling of resources, of course," R.J. Casterman, Jr., shrugged in a graceful palms-up gesture that showed off his long elegant hands. He was a strangely beautiful man, with his father's aquiline profile, wild auburn hair, and dramatically elongated figure, but his mother's strong pointed chin, wide voluptuous smile, and slanted amber eyes...his resemblance to a young wolf was startling, especially since he elected to leave his eyebrows unplucked so they met in the middle and crept down toward his nose; his unusually long canine teeth completed the picture of sly lupine menace.
"We know what we have," Detective Spevik mumbled around a mouthful of hamburger, his small eyes darting distrustfully over the young man across the table, hating him passionately, particularly hating his stainless-steel Rolex watch and his tan goatskin Gucci shoes and his brown superfine Cavalli suit and his dark orange Donna Karan cashmere sweater; Spevik didn't know any of those names, but was uncomfortably aware that the combined cost of the outfit nearly equaled his own annual salary, "But what can you offer us?"
"Let's put it this way," R.J. leaned forward onto the table eagerly, "You have the might of the law behind you, and you have one of the best forensic scientists in the world working for you. But you have limitations, checks on your activities, which do not bind me. You have to justify your budget, while I have access to nearly unlimited funds; you have to turn in full reports that become public record, and to comply with a lot of rules about harassment and brutality, under the scrutiny of your superiors and the press, while I have the freedom to bend those rules in complete anonymity, so long as I stay within the letter of the law. You have other cases on your desks, and only yourselves to rely on; but all I have in the world to do is work on this one case, and I have five investigators to do my footwork and three librarians to do my research. I have a lot to offer you."
"But why do you need us if you have all the money and freedom we don't?" Spevik wondered.
"Because you have an authority that I do not possess, witnesses are likely to spill information to a cop that they would hide from a PI. You also have access to information that I do not possess. Now, you have to disclose everything you find to the Defense, that's the law; but you don't have to do it gladly, or in as timely a manner as my father might wish. You don't have to devote as much attention to this case as Mr. Vandervere might require. What I'm proposing is cooperation instead of contest."
"What happens if you find something that implicates Vandervere?" Varajian smiled at young Casterman, enjoying the charisma and enthusiasm that radiated from him like an inner light.
"Ah, a very wise question, sir," R.J. smiled warmly at the older detective, "I am naturally duty-bound to report all of my findings to my father, who will of course have Attorney-Client Privilege with Mr. Vandervere, so I can't just give you anything non-exculpatory; but as a mere adjunct to my father's case, that Privilege becomes a very gray area: my information belongs to the client and is therefore confidential, but I am not exactly under the Seal of Confession, as it were. Between us, as a gentlemen's agreement, if I do learn something that you might have found out, if you'd only known where to look or whom to ask, I can drop a few five-pound hints over a friendly burger without compromising anybody's position."
"But what guarantee do we have?" Spevik insisted, his suspicious nature picking persistently at the offer, "Everything we find will eventually get to you; like you said, it's the law. But how will we know you've been giving us what you find out? You could keep quiet until the trial and we'd never know."
"Well, gentlemen, I really don't believe that's going to happen," R.J. leaned back against the banquette with a smirk that was somehow friendly and vicious at once, "My father didn't get where he is by not knowing whether or not his clients are guilty, and he is absolutely confident that Vandervere is innocent. However, if I did find evidence of Vandervere's guilt... well, I have a vindictive nature. My Dad believes in this kid; if it turns out that he's managed to pull the wool over Dad's eyes, I'll want revenge. Family honor, you know: nobody makes a fool of a Casterman and gets away with it. Does that comprise a satisfactory guarantee?"
"Honor!" Spevik snorted, "I don't believe in honor."
"Do you believe in trust? I'm going to trust you; you can trust me in return."
"I believe in facts. Give us something we can use."
"Naturally," R.J. pulled a thick sheaf of bound paper out of a Fendi leather messenger-bag that no messenger in the world could possibly afford, "Would you be interested in a complete breakdown of who was and wasn't in the apartment building the night Marshall was murdered? My team has already reviewed all of the security tapes, that's about two hundred and fifty hours of video, and can account for the exact population of the building for nearly a week before, and forty-eight hours after, Marshall's death. Plus a few transcript interviews with anybody in the building who might have had a motive, however dim."
"And what would you like in exchange?" Varajian asked, dumbfounded by such a valuable gift... the video analysis alone saved him a requisition of resources that would be impossible to get approved by a cash-strapped police administration.
"All of your evidence to date, including the complete forensic report, and some face-time with Dr. Griggs. Extra tissue samples, if they exist, the tapes of your interviews with Vandervere, and complete records of all criminal activity in and around that building, and the bar where Vandervere met Marshall for, say, six weeks before the murder?"
"Are you fucking nuts?" Spevik almost shouted, shocked by the sudden feral gleam in the young investigator's eyes, "We can't give you confidential police records!"
"Look," Casterman dropped all pretense at friendliness, "my father can subpoena those records, just as the DA can subpoena this dossier I'm giving you. But that will take weeks, and I don't think you want to wait through all the delaying tactics my father is capable of employing when he chooses. I could very easily mail this document to Kazakhstan instead of the Hall of Justice, 'oops, silly me', and none of us would be any farther forward than we are right now. I'm offering you cooperation in exchange for cooperation. You have nothing to lose."
"Except our badges," Spevik retorted.
"Nonsense!" R.J. resumed his engagingly casual facade, "While I would never suggest anything as filthy as blackmail, I do happen to have a taped conversation between my predecessor in the firm and your chief from her days as a detective, doing exactly what I am proposing you do. She will, I'm sure, applaud rather than censure your efforts in furthering this case. And if she doesn't, you can always gently remind her of her not-so-distant past: I happen to have a copy of that tape right here in my pocket, if you're interested."
"We have work to do," Spevik was so disgusted by this conversation, hurt by the revelation of corruption in his captain's past and sickened by the idea of blackmailing a fellow cop, that he only barely restrained himself from punching the contemptible young man in the mouth. He stood abruptly and started toward the door, "Come on, Varajian."
"I'll catch up with you, Spev, the bill hasn't come yet," Varajian answered smoothly.
"Your partner is a trifle hot-headed," R.J. smiled at the retreating Spevik before returning his attention to Varajian.
"I think you offended his sense of honor; he does believe in honor, but only ours. Lawyers and PIs are automatically dishonorable in his eyes; and I have to say, you are a very slippery young man," Varajian said with a certain note of admiration, "but I like the way you think. I believe we can arrange to have the records you request sent over. But let's keep this as above-board as possible: have your office draft a subpoena, and I'll make sure the records are ready for transport on its arrival, and on their way to you before anybody thinks to stop me. Fair enough?"
"A dream come true," R.J. arched an eyebrow in a manner that looked, to Varajian, like flirtation, "I'm very glad you don't share your partner's rather monochromatic views of right and wrong. Would you like the tape?"
"I'd love it," Varajian replied with a sly smile of his own, "I've been wanting something to hold over Captain Morris's head for years."
"I like the way you think," the young man dropped his voice and bit his lower lip gently; nobody could doubt that he was flirting with Varajian.
"But just so you know," Varajian pulled himself back, almost bodily, from the young man's furtive advances, "If you cross me, I will make it my life's mission to have your license revoked and your father brought under Bar review. Neither of you will be able to cross town without getting pulled over for speeding or suspicion of DUI, and bright lights will be shone into every corner of your lives. I know quite well how to avenge myself on someone 'within the letter of the law,' trust me. And if I find out that you've recorded this conversation for leverage against me when I'm captain, I will wring your pretty head off your skinny neck with my bare hands."
"My, but you really know how to sweet-talk a boy, don't you?" R.J. licked his teeth hungrily.
"I know how to watch my own ass," Varajian smiled sweetly as he stood up and buttoned his jacket, "Thanks for lunch."
"Woof," R.J. whispered to himself, watching Detective Varajian's nicely compact ass as he strutted manfully out of the diner with that peculiarly self-assured gait that all policemen share, "I could seriously fall for that one."