A.K.A. - akablonded
*English slang for cock.
**Cockney for laugh.
***Cockney for man.
He’d been watching the other man for over an hour.
Watching how the impossibly blue eyes clouded miserably, stinging with tears that refused to fall.
Watching how the long, curly hair trapped stray shards of light in the dim bar, then sent them skittering in every direction.
Watching how the impossibly beautiful mouth wrapped around the half-empty Pilsner, making an imprint of a full, bowed upper lip and soft, sensuous lower.
Watching how they semaphored an implicit invitation: “Take the glass’s place."
Watching how their owner’s ripe body – small, compact, well muscled, unbelievably tense – echoed an unbeknownst challenge: “Take me.”
How would it be accomplished, the stranger wondered. Who should he be as he made the initial approach? Wouldn’t want to scare the prey off. Not if you wanted to get the prey off. As many times as possible, in the shortest amount of time.
Putting aside guardedly prurient thoughts of what kind of late afternoon/early evening adventure might evolve here in this undistinguished public house on God’s hind end, he returned his attention to the exotic young man - clean, smelling faintly of aloe, honeysuckle, and sorrow.
It didn’t credit discovering this particular target in a less-than-shining section of Cascade, Washington, (like finding a Bugatti Royale on a used car lot in West Bumfuck) here in the GREYHOUND, purported to be a “real English pub.” He laughed at the “ruddy Yanks” and their improbable notion of what a foreign drinking establishment looked like. Mansfield Brewery and Cask Ale signs on the wall, dart boards galore, and the men’s room absurdly dubbed for “Toffs.”
Horrible. And it was too bad, actually, because a house of the same name in Surrey had been a particular favorite of his the last time he’d ‘traversed the Pond.’ (Of course, that had been a lifetime ago.)
Back to the problem at hand.
Now, what would bring so pretty a distraction to a place like this, where said prettiness could immediately draw unwanted attention from what looked to be human detritus at the end of the bar? Perhaps it was something Mr. X couldn’t get in real life. Suppose the shining boy wanted to get a little … dirty?
Or more than just a little?
Of course, the sweet young thing might have already been “dusted up” and needed a place to lick his wounds -- both visible and invisible.
No matter. All would be made clear as their time together wore on.
So, who was this Mr. X exactly? By the casually shabby ensemble, and the bar’s proximity to the University campus, the boy might be a student. He certainly looked young enough.
No. Not quite right. There was a faint, yet distinctive, odor of musty books which pointed to academia, but of a higher order. (Who, in these days of Mac this and PC that, even touched books?) The air of quiet intelligence and -- what? -- independence, hummed a different tune.
Unless his watcher was mistaken, the ‘boy’ was an instructor of some sort.
A professor, more likely.
Romance languages? No. Something else, something different. One of the sciences? Well, there was neither the cloying smell of the chemistry lab nor the malodorous vapors of formaldehyde from an afternoon of dissecting creepy-crawlies in biology.
No matter. He would find out all about his mysterious companion, a gift from an unknown, libidinous god.
So how to ingratiate himself to said gift in the briefest expanse of time? Well, if any of his suppositions were correct, the boy might just need a broad shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear to listen, and maybe a sturdy cock to fellate his troubles away.
Now that was an intriguing scenario. There, there, boy. Let me make it all better. Whisper what you want in my ear, then suck my John Thomas* until you turn me inside out.
So, he’d start off innocuously. Wouldn’t do to waste all of the mental machinations.
“Excuse me. Can you please pass the peanuts over here?”
“What? Oh, sure.”
“Thanks. I was in the mood for one of those ‘blooming onions’ you people are so good with, but these will have to do, Mr. –“
“Sandburg. Blair Sandburg.”
“William Henry Pratt. Will.” The two shook hands over the bowl of stale Planters. “Nice to make your acquaintance, Blair Sandburg.”
“William Henry Pratt? Boris Karloff’s real name. Interesting.”
“Bit of a trivia buff, are you? Love old monster movies?”
“Well, yes, to both. I’m also a collector of busloads of useless information. Great icebreakers at parties.”
“Like most fish not being able to swim backwards. Except –“
“—members of the eel family.”
Hook’s in. “Give the smart man a bowl of unmixed nuts.” Pratt slid the container back in Sandburg’s direction. “Let me buy you another of whatever you’re having.”
“No, thanks. I’m near my limit. And that kind of stuff only breaks the ice at parties that suck.”
”I bow to your expertise. Here, let me drink one for you. I have no limits.”
More laughter. Hook’s deeper.
“So, who are you, Blair Sandburg. And why …” a remarkably good Bogey accent rumbled from his throat, “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world —“
“—did I end up here?” Sandburg sipped his beer. “Well, I’m a poor T.A. – teaching assistant – at Rainier University, it’s on my way home, the brew’s the cheapest in town, and I have just enough money in my pocket for a half-decent buzz. Plus which I’ve had a rough couple of days.”
“Well you know what they say … sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the poor schmuck on the anvil. Where the hell is the barman? A man could die of thirst in here if he’s not careful.” When no one materialized, Pratt started to light the last Marlboro from a crumpled pack when Blair touched his arm.
“Uh, you can’t do that in here.”
“Are you serious? In a bar?”
“Not in this one.”
“Since the residents of Cascade voted to ban smoking in all public buildings.”
“Bugger. How ... green of them.” Pratt shoved the unlit cigarette into his shirt pocket. Picking up his Guinness, he took a long swallow before returning his attention to the matter at hand.
“Teaching assistant, huh? Let me see if I can guess in what.” Will put his draught down on the damp cocktail napkin and, for several seconds, stared intently at Blair Sandburg. Finally, a smile curled the corners of his mouth. “Anthropology. Impressive.”
The look on Blair’s face was priceless. “How did you –“
“Not too hard to put two and two together.” Pratt gestured to the bag burgeoning with anthropological textbooks and journals. “But there’s something else. You’re involved with …the police department?” half-questioning as he nodded toward a well-thumbed P.D. Procedures Manual in the side pocket of Blair’s jacket. “ … Now, how that came about must be quite a tale. Care to share?” Pratt’s dark, penetrating eyes – disks the color of polished onyx – flashed in amusement. The accompanying laughter rippled the air around Blair Sandburg, enveloping him like a set of phantom arms. Reflexively, he leaned forward, and smiled back. It was the kind of intriguing smile that promised any number of possibilities. Each, more delicious than the one before.
Most people who’d found themselves the object of Pratt’s flirtations tumbled to his advances.
Most people were easy.
But easy was too … easy.
The challenging ones … they brought a special glow in the remembrance of details. A look … a tremble … the way a piece of clothing opened … the scream of passion, of pain …
Shifting in the leather pants made tighter by the now-throbbing erection, Will Pratt hoped “shining boy” would prove an Everest to be scaled and won.
In a gesture perfected over many years, Pratt smoothed the short, unnaturally blonde hair down with his long, elegant fingers. The manicured nails were trimmed short and varnished clear, no longer sporting black Goth lacquer. Pity. Long talons would make breathtakingly stunning streaks gouged across a naked back or round bum. Oh well, teeth would have to do. And maybe a few well-placed welts from the expensive leather belt around Pratt’s waist.
Just fun and games with the kiddies.
Not as much fun as the other might have been, but good enough. Will hated anything to slip through his fingers, especially a choice morsel like Dr. Robert Chase. The medico had been flying back to Australia for a few days to settle his late father’s estate. Pratt spied him in the bar at Honolulu International. There, he thought, was an angry, unhappy, unresolved mass of contradictions. A perfect storm of emotions ripe for plundering by someone like Pratt.
But fate and tiresome mundanities interfered. Lawyers, relatives, and the usual assortment of wankers got in the way. In the end, there had been little opportunity to launch an effective siege on the psyche, much less the loins, of Robert Chase. Worse, Pratt bollixed the last-minute advances at Sydney’s International Terminal. So, the git clumsily begged off a quick and dirty fuck in a men’s room stall.
But, Will was nothing, if not patient. Upon reflection (if that were possible), Pratt knew there was more than enough time to track, tree and tame the good sawbones. And even though he’d never harbored the desire to visit New Jersey or the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, it might do for a giraffe.** And a much needed one-on-one with prim and proper Dr. Robert Chase.
Great game. The one who slipped under his radar. The handsome medico who’d never been roughed up.
Never been hurt so bad it felt good.
Never been taken like a man, which meant he, too, was still a boy.
Just the way Will liked them.
Chase would learn at the hands – and tongue -- of a master.
Back to the here and now. This little detour might prove just the bleeding cherry on the top of a bleeding cake. Blair Sandburg’s bleeding cherry. Nice image, that.
Mindful of keeping his prominent canines hidden for the moment, Pratt inched in closer to the younger man.
“C’mon. Have another, mate.”
“Another mate – oh, beer, no, yes, no. Like I said, I’d better not.”
“The little woman waiting at home?”
“The little man?”
“What? No. Just our turn to have the guys over for basketball. ”
“Live in a sports arena, do you?”
Sandburg laughed good-naturedly. It was as though the Cascade clouds had parted, and the freaking angels sang.
How to separate the lamb from the flock of sheep in basketball jerseys?
“You’re a funny, guy, Will Pratt. You know what? I think I will take you up on your offer.”
“Which one?” Take the bait, puppy.
“What is there besides the beer?”Was that a nibble? This was getting more exciting by the minute. Pratt would not – could not – permit Blair the Blind to leave.
“Someone like you must have a closet full of them.” From nowhere, a non-descript bartender materialized with two drafts, placed them haphazardly on damp napkins, and promptly disappeared.
“Nah, man. Mine’s filled with artifacts. And test papers. And regrets. And one damned Sentinel.” As soon as the last word slipped from Blair Sandburg’s lips, guilt flooded his face.
“What was that? Did you say --”
“Nothing. Forget it. I’m just running off at the mouth. See, this is why I shouldn’t drink.”
“You call three beers drinking? You sure you’re at university?”
“I never could drink. When you start school really young, everyone else is out partying -- and you’re in the dorm studying.”
“Wunderkind, heh? Always the smallest, the smartest. The fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench. The curve breaker.”
“That’s me. The curve breaker.”
“Quite the heart breaker, too.” Pratt slithered forward, his voice a suggestive murmur. “Still are, for that matter.”
Suddenly, William Pratt felt a presence behind him. More like a wall of flesh, blood and singular determination. Looking over his shoulder, he saw a tall, incredibly handsome blue-eyed man standing by the door. Over six feet, nearly 14 stone. Military, by the look of him.
Interested in something --or someone -- in the bar, by the smell of him.
And, by everything Pratt knew in his soul, extremely dangerous to anyone who would get between him and that something or someone. (It was an internal alarm system that had never failed Will, always keeping him one step ahead of imminent, mortal danger.)
What Sandburg had let slip … the stranger was a sentinel, unless Pratt was very much mistaken.
So, sentinels weren’t mythical creatures, like unicorns, banshees, and 30-year-old virgins. Bloody hell, wasn’t that a pisser?
“Hey, Sandburg, I’ve been looking all over for you.” The Adonis spoke in a surprisingly mild voice, but one that shouted “Mine!” to anyone listening hard enough. Son of a bitch. Sandburg belonged to this large, lethal bloke, whether curly-topped knew it or not.
“What are you doing here, Jim?”
Jim. Big Jim. James. James the Greater. And James would certainly be great. Right up to the moment when G.I. Joe snapped the neck of anyone interfering with his personal property.
“I tracked you down from your office. Wasn’t all that hard, chief. Listen, Simon and I … we’re both sorry. The Stewart case, it was … well, you know. You were there. And, about the other thing … I guess it’s the ‘fear based reaction’ you’re always talking about …”
“Is it ever going to change?” The plaintive tone was surprisingly affecting. Platt found himself wondering what the hulking character had done or hadn’t done to make Blair Sandburg so miserable. Well, he hadn’t bedded him yet. Of that Pratt was certain. But not for lack of wanting to on the other man’s part.
“I want it to, chief. I want you …” ‘Jim’ suddenly stopped mid-sentence. His speech became brittle, wary. “ … to introduce me to your friend.”
“Oh, sorry. Will Pratt, this is Detective Jim Ellison.” Scratch G.I. Joe. He was Joe Bloody Friday.
“Good meeting you, Detective.”
Neither man extended a hand.
“Buy you a drink?”
“No, thanks. I’m technically still on the clock.”
“Well, you know what they say: ‘Never mind your happiness; do your duty.‘ So, how do you two know one another?”
The detective’s eyes turned from the color of glacier ice to the blue-white dancing in fire, right before the center swirled around and burnt you to a crisp. “Blair’s a consultant to the Cascade P.D. Been an observer -- my partner, really, for a couple of years now.” Jim’s voice filled with unguarded affection. “He’s my friend – my best friend. You teach at Rainier?”
“No. I just finished a little research at the library over there. And now, I’m going to be a tourist in your fair city. Take in the sights, you might say.” Gauntlet thrown.
“How long will you be with us?”Challenge accepted.
The Englishman smiled broadly over Blair’s head, marveling at just how unaware the prize he and this large human were sparring over was.
“Depends. I imagine there’s lots to interest a person, if you know where to look. Some, I could learn to love.” Let’s see what you’ve got, big pot and pan.***
“You should be careful where your travels take you. Cascade can be the most dangerous city in America. At least that’s what my captain says.”
“Have a lot of bad guys, do you?”
“Seems like more than our share. But we deal with them. Right, partner?” Ellison smiled warmly, intimately at Blair Sandburg.
“Right, Jim.” The glow on the smaller man’s face lit the four corners of the GREYHOUND.
Oh, bollocks. Love. The real deal. These two ponces did love one another. And if they hadn’t knocked heels yet, it was only a matter of time.
No way could Pratt win this round. Time to cut his losses.
Will Pratt exchanged his upper crust Eton accent for the Cockney dialect he preferred. “Well, as much as I like talking about crime as the next bloke …” He threw several bills onto the bar. “… must toddle. Have to make a connecting flight to the East Coast.”
“Too bad, man.” Sandburg sounded genuinely sad at his leave-taking.
And looked thoroughly edible. “If you’re ever back this way again …”
“I’ll be sure to look the two of you up. Been a pleasure, Blair. Detective Ellison, take care.”
Jim Ellison laid his hand on Blair Sandburg’s shoulder, fingers alternately caressing and gripping the flannel shirt. “Ready to go, chief? The Jags’ tip off is at eight.”
“And the troops?”
“They’ll be hitting the front door at 7:30. We have just enough time to stop off at Lamberti’s for wings and beer.”
“And an ATM, man. You’re going to need lots and lots of cash. I feel lucky tonight. But give me a minute. You know what they say about beer: you don’t own it, you just rent it. Will, great meeting you.”
Blair Sandburg lobbed the knapsack to his roommate, and disappeared around the corner to find the men’s room. A split second later, the tall detective leaned fully into Will Pratt’s space.
“I don’t know who – make that what you are – “ Jim Ellison sniffed the air around Pratt “but you need to leave. Now. Leave this bar. Leave my city. And, listen very, VERY carefully. Leave my … leave Blair alone. If I ever find you within breathing distance of Sandburg – not that that would be a fucking issue in your case – I’ll deal with you.”
“Think you’re up to it, ‘Detective’?” Will’s lips curled around the word, spitting it out like an epithet.
Muscles tensed, fists clenched, Jim Ellison raised himself to his full height. A magnificent specimen, Pratt acknowledged. A worthy combatant if it came to that.
“In a different life, I was a Captain in the U.S. Army. Special Forces. Black Ops.” The patrician face became a mask. “You know what that means?”
“I’m all ears, ‘copper’.”
“It means that I know at least a half-dozen ways to --”
“—shuffle my bleeding ass off this mortal coil?”
“Kill you so that you stay dead, Pratt. If that’s your real name.” Jim Ellison’s dangerous eyes punctuated the statement.
“No call for the nasties, tall, dark, and lethal. I was just trying to being sociable to that little bit of fluff of yours. Hands across the sea and all that.” Pratt quaffed the last of the Stout, threw on his black leather duster and headed toward the door. It was well past sundown and safe to go out.
A lot safer than staying here with Jim Ellison, Sentinel to the Great City of Cascade. And Protector to Blair Sandburg.
“Well, goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester bloody Square. About my name, ‘Jimbo’ … when your boy has half a mo,’ you can let him look up all of them. I’m betting young Mr. Sandburg’s … up to the challenge, if you catch my drift.” William Henry Pratt opened the door and let the night swallow him. “Have him start with ‘Spike.’”
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Acknowledgements: Thanks to the MME family … mad-cap, zany, talented and always there. And thanks to Jim and Blair for being two swell guys.