Mid-February 2015. I’ve never before shared the first stirrings of a book with my readers. But in this new page, fairly hidden from sight up in the top, I think I’ll include my first scratchings; and then talk a little about the art of stick-fighting (cane fighting, canne, Bartitsu … there are several names for the art).
This is absolutely a rough draft, subject to change and even deletion as the days go by.
SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! What follows may give away the ending of the previous book, Thin as Smoke. Proceed with caution.
Number 3 Rolling Street
Dun Linden, Ireland
May 3, 1924
’Tis not possible. And yet, here I am. In Simon’s bed. With me prick lying all along his crack.
Michael hardly dared breathe, lest the man slumbering in his arms should stir, waken, and bolt from the room. He could control the air he took in slowly, sipping it like fine wine before allowing it to leave his deep gut and then his lungs … letting it escape without stirring even a dust mote, nor even a fine tendril of dark hair on the nape of this man’s neck.
But he could not control his unruly cock.
The intuitive part of his finely tuned investigator’s brain told him Simon had deeply needed to be here. He’d asked his flat-mate to lay him in this Victorian monstrosity of a bed. And at one point … Michael didn’t dare try to remember the details, for fear his cock would jolt his bedmate from sleep … some time during the night, Simon had begged him: Suck my ass. Then fuck me. Raw, urgent. Words of one syllable.
And afterward, they’d slept cocooned like this, belly to back, waiting for a new dawn.
The rational part of his analytic mind reminded Michael his business partner would no doubt reject last night altogether, as though they’d never kissed. As though his tongue had not awakened the secret love tunnel in Simon’s ear, and then inside his very ass. As though their thunderous climax had been only a madman’s dream.
But until his bed mate woke, Michael could still claim his prize. And so the brawny Irishman lay cursing the brick he’d laid into Simon’s soft buttocks, letting his smile move slightly between his shoulder blades.
The high-ceilinged chamber was lit by a sole gas lamp on the bedside table. Michael lay watching the burning wick cast shadows on the far wall and across the window casement. Outside the open second-story window he heard the rousing of feathers as the pigeon colony prepared for sunrise.
He knew the claw-footed bathtub in the flat’s tiny privy would be theirs for precious few minutes. The stringent landlady Mrs. McGregor seemed to stand over them with a pocket-watch while each tenant used his allotted quarter-hour each morning. Simon’s turn was first, five sharp, followed by his own.
Michael sighed, a hitch in the steady flow of his breath, pondering the implacable rules of Mrs. McGregor’s universe. It must be close to five now. Time for this dream to end.
If he was lucky, the camaraderie he and Simon had shared last night would linger in a quirk of the man’s sulky lip or a certain glint in his impossibly turquoise eyes. After one year of up-and-down, in-and-out, he was used to starting over again every goddamn bloody day with the man he’d chosen as his own.
And yet … and yet something different about their gossamer relationship, a kind of awakening, had begun a few days ago with the arrival of Samuel Dashiell Hammett. Forced to work apart in their investigations, he and Simon had lost each other for more than a day. His partner had been in peril of death, while he, Michael, had blundered about trying to find and help the man he desperately needed. Might as well face it—the man he loved, to the deepest core of his soul.
The presence of the skinny, brooding Hammett had somehow been the catalyst which changed everything. Working again with his former partner Sam, then remembering their old covert op work in America—both had landed crashing blows to his dull brain: ’Tis time to understand what the sodding hell friendship is, what love really is.
And Sam had changed Simon too, in a way. He suspected his partner had felt some kind of jealousy for the slender, secretive agent who called himself “Dashiell Hammett” to Simon, yet only “Sam” to his old friend Mike. And maybe that possessiveness had begun to change their elusive love life.
He recalled Simon’s masterful handling of the crooks who’d held him captive. His complicated lover had talents Michael had just begun to discover—or he’d finally decided to reveal. And maybe, just maybe, Simon was beginning to accept his midnight cravings in the harsh light of full day.
Aye, if only the last thirty-some hours, and especially last night, had truly signaled a new beginning.
His truant thought about midnight cravings awoke his heavy prick. Now, instead of lying in Simon’s butt crack, it had begun to hammer at the gates, demanding entrance.
Simon’s breathing changed, and he moved, fluid as water, in Michael’s arms. Still pretending sleep, his mouth sought Michael’s tongue before suckling, soft and slow.
“Love.” He let Simon’s mouth work its magic, cupping the man’s raspy cheeks, allowing his cock to bloom fully against his bed-mate’s iron groin.
“It’s almost five of the morning.” Simon pulled away a little, looked at his own bare legs and exposed groin, and actually smiled.
Michael, still thunderstruck, eyed Simon’s erection. The long prick seemed to rise like a granite outcropping against a dark sea of pubic hair. “Aye, lad. May Mrs. McGregor be buried in pigeon shit.” He bent to taste the cowled penis whose marbled veins his eyes could trace even in the lamplight.
Simon sat up all the way and fluidly swung his legs over the side of the bed. His clipped accent bore not a trace of the lust-torn syllables Michael had heard last night. “And yet, how could we function without her clockwork ruling of our bodily needs? I will see you in fifteen minutes.”
Simon stood and walked to the lumpy chair next to the bed. His buttocks, rounded yet defined by hard muscle, moved and shifted in the gaslight. Before Michael could react, his flat-mate slid his discarded silken robe over his slender muscled frame and seized a bath towel from a bureau drawer; then he left the bedroom door, and Michael’s mouth, gaping open.
Michael McCree was not a tidy man. Growing up with only a father and two hellion siblings, he never thought twice about wearing the same pair of trousers several days running, or discarding his stockings only when they began to rot from sweat and stink. But living with the fastidious Cambridge man had taught his sluggard brain one ironclad fact: Simon would not lie in a soiled bed. Period.
Sighing, Michael rose from the warm nest of muddled sheets and pulled the linens off Simon’s large bed. They were damp from sweat, and they smelled of spilled desire. To him, the aroma was as arousing as the taste of Simon’s puckered anus. For Simon, however, the odor of leftover sex was an affront to all delicate sensibilities.
He eyed the fresh sheets on the top shelf of his flat-mate’s wardrobe. Pulling them down, he set them on the puffy old chair to wait patiently while the mattress aired out in the breeze wafting from the open window. Then he left the room, padding back to his own bedchamber in the shrouded light of a too-young day, bare-ass naked and hard as Hercules.
His bedroom door was closed, as he’d left it yesterday. And still propped against it were two ivory-handled fighting sticks. Canes, actually, with a small hook at the tip of each handle. Unable to leave a written message, Simon had laid his cherished sticks there side by side as a bald statement to his friend and lover: Let us fight together, not apart.
Michael stood a moment looking at Simon’s treasured mementos. From the first day he’d met the handsome man in this flat, these same sticks had been mounted, crossed, near the marble fireplace. Almost a warning to one and all—do not fuck with me. But some time yesterday, when he and Simon were groping toward each other in the darkness of danger and ignorance, his flat-mate had laid them here against his door.
Almost loathe to move them, Michael bent a little and picked up the three-foot canes. He allowed one of them to rest between the pad of his thumb and his wrist. Flicking it back and forth a little, he marveled at the balance while appreciating the heft. Nimble without being flimsy. Quick as a flicker of moonlight.
He set both sticks deliberately parallel on the hardwood surface of the dining table before opening the door and entering his room to find a bath-towel.
* * *
The wily Irishman had learned to move quickly between five and quarter-five of the clock. On any given day if he were just a few minutes late, he’d miss Simon as he opened the privy door, sometimes clad only in a thin towel. And if Michael was a real slug-abed, Simon would already be barricaded in his own room before he’d staggered out into the hallway to seek his morning ablutions.
Living with a man so private had taught Michael the finer points of seduction. But it had taken him a full year to work out the subtleties. Even now, after last evening’s rousing fuck, he feared Simon would be closed as a clam, as usual, avoiding eye contact. Or any bloody contact at all.
But he kissed me. Not the other way around. He woke an’ kissed me. Didn’t try to cover his lap, or disguise his pleasure.
Michael grinned as he loped down the dim hallway to the tenants’ privy. His threadbare towel betrayed his excitement as he stood waiting outside the thin partition.
The door opened, and Simon met his steady gaze with his unique aqua eyes full of fire.
“McCree. I yield five minutes of my privy time to you.”
Michael thought his calculating flat-mate was emerging early on purpose, hoping to miss their routine hallway encounter. But he smiled anyway, wondering at the fact Simon had not averted his eyes from his own. True, Simon had not glanced downward, to the rising lump in Mrs. McGregor’s secondhand towel Michael had carelessly tied around his hips.
“We can use that five minutes together, lad. Step inside with me.” He bent a few millimeters closer to the moist curls clustered near Simon’s left ear.
Simon stood rock-still. Michael’s tongue was fast, flicking the lobe and then tasting the delicate cavity of his ear. Instead of ducking and running, Simon moved his head an inch or so to the side and let his own tongue speak the silent language of lust to Michael’s lower lip.
It was over before Michael could react. Simon was walking back to their flat, his broad shoulders and delicious buttocks swathed in a silken robe.
Michael entered the tiny bathing-room and bent to put the worn cork in the drain of a claw-footed tub which had seen its glory days fifty years ago. He ran the water slowly while hunched on the cast-iron toilet, cursing the adamant hallelujah his prick was shouting to Simon’s swift kiss.
Five minutes later, cock still stiff and bladder still full, he eased into the barely adequate heat of his tub water, not caring at all.
Once, a long time ago, Michael hadn’t given a crap whether some bit o’bone had escaped his randy eye or eased out of his bed, never to be seen again.
Aye. One year ago, I was free. An’ yet why is it I crave every flutter of this man’s eyelash? He stroked his swollen cock with a soapy hand and thought about his partner’s dark groin hair, his long prick and fine ass until his seed sputtered into the lukewarm water. Finally feeling relief, he lathered his underarms and chest, groin and asshole with the cake of vile soap. After, he stood in the tub with a scratchy wash-cloth, letting the fresh faucet water run over his body until he felt clean.
Michael stepped out of the chipped tub and smiled as he toweled himself dry, knowing he could still spit seed in a matter of moments if Simon would stand still for it.
An’ maybe he will. Me luck is changing…
Michael re-fastened the old towel, looking down at his flat stomach. I‘ve lost weight these last few days, not eating, frantic about Simon. I’ll be skinny as that fucker Sam Hammett.
He remembered with a jolt to his conscience that Sam was leaving today, bound for America on the cargo ship Hollyfern. The tubercular man had to leave before he coughed up his lungs. Besides, Michael thought sourly, his American friend and Simon had not exactly been friendly. Maybe because he himself had stood between them like a bloody Gaelic cairn stone. He was not always sensitive to interpersonal subtleties. Hell, almost never… unless they were private, between him and Simon. But he thought there might be some kind of hidden conflict between old friend and new.
Bloody hell. Sam was depending on him to stop by the gentleman’s club to take him shipside. He couldn’t exactly say no, since the same man had given him his own car, a late-model Morris Bullnose waiting at the club where Sam was staying.
He would not have refused Sam in any case. The man had been a friend, seven years ago, in Boston. And he still by-god was, in spite of his hardboiled nature and his reluctance to show what he called “chumminess.”
Damn. What if Simon didn’t want to see Sam again? How would he get there to load the man into his own tiny car and take him to the dock?
Michael had never liked personal confrontations, unless they were between two naked men, in a private room somewhere. He sighed. He’d have to ask Simon to take him to Sam. Feeling not quite as chipper as a few minutes before, Michael left the tiny privy, barely glancing at the dour tenant waiting his own turn in the hallway outside.
He nodded briefly and kept walking. I’ve left ye precious little hot water, mate. Blame it on Mrs. McGregor.
Simon had awakened surprised and was still astonished.
His heart was rattling like a toy drum, his throat was dry, his hands were shaking as he tried to unlock the door to his flat.
Of course he expected Michael to try to lure him back into the privy, or to touch him somewhere as they stood briefly in the gaslit hallway. He even wanted the slick intrusion into his ear, the husky promise of the man’s voice. No, not merely wanted those sensations. Craved them.
What flabbergasted him—now, and every moment since waking up this morning—was his own eager collaboration. He had always ducked and fled from the randy roustabout, one for whom the word “subtlety” had seemed to be some form of undecipherable ancient tongue.
Why now, after a full year, had he thrown aside the sham of disliking Michael’s frank interest?
He’d rushed through his daily toilet and bath, hoping to find the brawny, good looking Irishman outside the privy door. And as badly as he’d wanted to stroke his heavy penis until the pressure eased, he’d merely washed it gingerly until he was sure it would be acceptable to his flat-mate’s questing mouth. If, indeed, Michael began to look for the obvious.
Simon’s fingers finally found the keyhole, and he opened the door to number 3C, the large Victorian-era flat he shared with Michael McCree. His eyes took in every detail of the room immediately, noting the small change wrought by his flat-mate.
The room was spacious, with a high domed ceiling where his own shadow played, caught by the flickering gaslight. His eyes swept the marble fireplace whose mantel boasted his antique clock … his father’s handsome liquor cabinet next to it with stained-glass panels … a huge impressionist-style painting of the hills of Cambridge … the old wingback chair and the slick leather divan ten feet away, both hand-me-downs from his father … the thick oriental rug whose reds and golds shimmered like mysterious gems.
This was the environment where he felt both safe and in peril. The place where he could come to find privacy and forbidden pleasure too.
The canes. The ivory-handled fighting sticks. They’d been mounted near the fireplace for a few years, and yesterday he’d taken them down as a veiled message to his flat-mate. He’d carefully laid them next to each other, propped against his roomer’s door. Michael had to take them away to get inside. Where had he put them?
Simon saw them in his next glance, lying absolutely perpendicular on the heavy mahogany dining table. Uncrossed, open, the way he wanted Michael to see them also. He was inviting the talented man to be his stick-fighting partner. Even though the street-wise Michael relied mainly on his blunt fists, Simon thought no self-respecting Irishman should be without a rudimentary knowledge of cudgels in some form. And Michael was showing him he understood and agreed.
Lately his blustery room-mate had begun to show promise … a shade of delicacy, moments rife with actual nuance. It had taken Simon almost a year to teach the fellow, and the man’s sexual energies were now being channeled in a way that deeply excited him.
Standing at the table, he ran his fingers down the length of the canes. Their high polish and adamantine smoothness called to him, reminded him of the fighting master who’d awarded him these beauties. He felt almost an electric spark, letting the meat of one palm settle on the hard surface before lifting his hand again, loathe to disturb their static promise yet longing to release that promise once more, with a new partner.
As he crossed the large sitting room to his bedchamber, Simon reflected that he had not truly taught Michael. His business partner and companion—face it, Simon, your lover—had learned because he’d found every way conceivable to say “I want you.” And maybe Michael’s unspoken words were even deeper. His partner’s off-and-on subtlety was just a small part of a secret daily message Simon knew he was whispering sometimes soft, sometimes with a rasping insistence.
Once in his large bedchamber, Simon was again taken aback. The soiled linens were no longer crumpled on his bed but balled up on the floor next to an old lumpy chair. Fresh folded sheets were sitting on top, no doubt waiting for the fresh stains on the mattress to air-dry in the slight breeze wafting from the window.
Normally he would firmly close the door. He’d strip the silk robe and don a clean jock strap, then find some suitable summer-weight suit to wear the rest of the day. But today he walked directly to his large four-poster bed and sat heavily at its foot, his mind snagged by the fighting sticks, the clean sheets, the memory of a wet movement in his ear and his own eager tongue on Michael’s full lower lip. Flicking, then fleeing. But absolutely honest and direct, like Michael’s own.
His phallus began to swell, and for once he did not try to will “it” away. The erection. The hardness. My stiff cock.
Michael had taught him how to give his body to another person. He’d also showed him how to blurt out his needs in words of one syllable.
He’d gone from being a hermit with an attitude to a willing lover, all in the space of just one year. If he were to be honest with himself, Simon knew the “willing lover” part was somewhat scarce most of the time. Simon shook his head, still reeling from the change in himself … not in a year, but in just a few days. Hell, a few hours.
“Simon, lad. Let’s make this damned bed, or let it make us.”
He looked up into Michael’s brindled eyes, tawny as a cat, and found himself suddenly smiling. “Make us what, McCree?”
From the absolute beginning, Simon had avoided using the man’s first name. It was too much a reminder of the archangel Michael. And that he was. My angel, certainly, in every way. But his last name meant “my heart” in Irish-Gaelic. So he secretly liked hearing that particular sound, mah cree … and maybe Michael did too.
The interloper, still dressed only in a damp and very thin towel, leaned over him, the tented cloth only inches from his chin.
“Make us crazy again.”
Almost by rote, Simon slid away from the heat of Michael and managed to stand not quite touching him. But not exactly running away.
And again out of habit, he pushed his lower lip into its usual cynical droop.
“I heard no knock on the door.”
“Sure an’ ’twere a knock, lad. Something hard knocking against this bloody towel.”
And then Michael kissed him. A slow, wet kiss that started on his surly lower lip and moved inside, while his bear-paw hands gentled his cheeks and chin then moved to cup his breasts.
Simon felt his phallus become a bed post.
He began to suck Michael’s tongue. He relished the slick movement, allowed the man’s guttural moans to drive his body closer to the source of heat and hardness, began to gasp his own grunts of desire and denial.
Michael’s palms moved to knead his buttocks, and his mouth moved to his left ear. “Aye, lad. The day is young. Let us begin it wi’love.”
With an effort, Simon pulled out of Michael’s embrace and re-tied the sash of his robe.
“Exactly so. We have a lifetime before us. Why not give it time?”
Michael stood back, hands on hips, his still-wet russet-and-gold hair clustered around his ears. His usual smile had not escaped, held captive in his eyes.
“Time. Time is a thief, Simon. An’ if we’re not careful, he’ll steal our dreams along with our youth.”
“Yes. Well. Let’s make this bed, McCree, as you yourself suggested. My craziness … my dreams … can wait a while.”
Simon knew his voice was unsteady. He believed what he was saying, and yet he knew his words were a goddamn lie. For the love of all that’s holy, what is wrong with me? I need this man. I love this man. And yet I do my best to drive him away.
And then the smile in his companion’s eyes leapt to his mouth.
“I don’t believe ye for a second. But I can wait.”
They began in silence, pumping the open sheets to fluff them, smoothing them over the surface of the bed. Michael began to plump the large pillow, for once not looking at him.
“I need a favor of ye. Will ye take me to the club? Sam leaves today.”
Simon remembered with a start. Dashiell Hammett would be boarding the cargo ship sometime soon. He hadn’t asked the man when, selfishly wanting him to leave as soon as possible, willing him to be gone already.
“Ah. I quite forgot. Of course. What time?”
“The ship leaves tomorrow. But Sam wants to leave this happy place behind. So any time today, I think.”
“Um, what if we were to eat luncheon together at the club, then go to the docks? That way he can be sure of a decent meal.”
Michael flashed a brief smile. “Your club … decent food … alien worlds collide, Simon. But aye, that’s a good idea. We can at least be sure the fucker gets some nourishment into his skinny body.”
“And about a pint of whiskey.”
“O’course. That goes without saying, lad.”
And then Simon remembered the car. Dashiell had bought a late-model Morris Bullnose, a sleek black coupé bartered with Pinkerton’s money. Ironically, the op had used it for little more than a day before they’d all mopped up the Mafia mess and the vehicle was no longer necessary. Before he could ask about it, Michael spoke.
“An’ we have one motorcar to add to our zhoosy garage. Sam’s given me his.”
Simon felt an instant pang of jealousy. He’d gotten used to chauffering the two of them around Dun Linden. Michael had asked to drive his Vauxhall roadster only once, and in fact seemed to enjoy letting Simon drive them when they needed to go somewhere quickly.
He recognized his own selfishness and said nothing. Actually, he had no clue how to respond. Michael loved walking, and he seemed to relish bumping and clanging along on the dirty steam-powered tram lines which connected every seam of the city. But a man involved in deep-cover investigation and in the everyday world of the private-eye business needed his own way of getting around.
They had finished making the bed and were standing on opposite sides. He looked across at the tall muscular man whose presence always made him a little breathless.
“I have an idea.”
“Tell me, lad.”
“Let me dress first. Then instead of telling you, I’ll show you.”
Michael laughed outright. “I’ll look forward to it, love, except for the ‘getting dressed’ part. I’ll go find some clothes too.”
Simon looked longingly at his companion’s rock-hard nipples and at the gold-red hair which started at Michael’s navel and traveled to a point somewhere under the knotted towel. He could lick and suck those nipples in the skip of a heart. He could tear away that flimsy towel right now. All his, he knew, without having to say even a word.
Michael seemed to be on the verge of saying something but smiled instead, then turned and walked out the door. Simon watched the movement of his magnificent buttocks under the thin towel.
When he could no longer see his flat-mate, he finished his sentence.
“Give me five minutes … to explore your ass with my mouth, before you turn around and let me begin on your cock.”
Hearing the stark words in the stillness of the room, he felt his own deep flush. Would he ever be able to say words like that to Michael, except mumbled into his spit-soaked pillow? He doubted it. But a man could dream.
Except time, as Michael had said, was the thief of dreams.
Photos unless captioned are from Wikipedia or Yahoo! images.
Love both of these, found on Tumblr. The one with the dolmen brings back thoughts of my Iron Warriors and the art of bataireacht, or shillelagh fighting.
Here are a few images I’ve put together as preliminary promos.