Thursday, 22 July 2010

Excerpt Day – Crook © Michael Gouda

Excerpt

The crack and tinkle of breaking and falling glass sounded alarmingly loud to Ned’s excitement-heightened hearing. He froze, expecting… what? He wasn’t sure. The barking of a protective Doberman, jaws slavering? The shrill cacophony of an alarm followed inevitably by the rising and falling wail of a police siren? The snarl of an enraged owner with a loaded and pointing double-barreled shotgun? The words “Make my day” flashed disconcertingly through his mind.

But instead there was nothing.

The night air was calm. There wasn’t even the sighing of the most gentle of breezes through the leaves of the beeches and oaks which surrounded and hid the house from the road. The location was partly the reason Ned had chosen it, secluded and away from any passers-by returning late either on foot from the pub, or more likely, by car from smart, middle-class celebrations.

One reason indeed, though the other, and more obvious, was that it was likely that the house contained—he had ticked them off in his mind: a. loose cash; b. jewelry; c. silver items of a portable nature; and d. perhaps even a porcelain figure that he could give to his mother for her birthday, which fell on the following Tuesday.

For Ned was a good son to his mother. He knew he was because she had told him so often enough. “You’re a good boy, Ned,” she’d say to him so that, even if she wasn’t all that good a mother, he began to feel a residual affection for her.

“My Ned’s a goo’ boy,” she’d repeat with an alcoholic slur in her voice to her neighbors and chums down the pub. And they’d nod, even while they were exchanging glances and raising their eyebrows at each other. For of course it wasn’t his fault that he’d skived off school so that he’d missed his GCSE exams, and had been unable to hold down a job for longer than a couple of weeks, and got into trouble with the police with a range of petty offenses from minor theft to causing a breach of the peace when he’d been in a scrap with another lad after the pub was shut.

“Not ’is fault a’ all,” slurred Mrs. Fickler, breathing alcohol fumes over her friends. “It’s just the way society has it in for him. He’s speshull,” she mumbled a little indistinctly, “and they don’ reckernise it.”

“He’s special, all right,” agreed Mrs. Harrison, and she smiled conspiratorially around the group as they sipped their gins.

Ned was careful not to get his hand anywhere near the shards of broken glass which stuck up from the wooden frame. Blood was identifiable, he knew. It was this DNA nowadays that could put you at the scene of a crime much more definitely than the old-fashioned fingerprints. Of course they had to have your DNA already on their files, but if by some unfortunate mishap he’d get copped in the future for something and they tested him, any past adventures could be laid at his door, and he certainly didn’t want that.

That was why he didn’t like doing a job with Colly, who was generally thought of as his best mate. Colly had a nasty habit of pissing (or worse) at the scene of a crime. Why he did it, Ned wasn’t sure, possibly Colly neither. Perhaps it was to show his utter contempt for the people he was robbing. Perhaps Colly was just a filthy bugger. Whatever it was, Ned didn’t want to be associated with stuff like that. He’d make his entrance and exit with as little fuss as possible, leaving, he hoped, no traces at all, a phantom, a shadow from out of the darkness, a real pro.

Ned wore a pair of his mother’s washing up gloves. They were rather small for him and therefore the rubber stretched tightly over his fingers, a bit like a condom, so that he could feel everything he touched and knew he wasn’t leaving any prints. He flicked open the window catch. Stupid sods, thought Ned. A lock cost very little and would have made his entry much more difficult.

The bottom sash window slid up with only the slightest sound, and Ned swung his leg over the sill, feeling with a trainered foot into the darkness. The floor was farther away than he expected, and he fell onto his right foot and staggered as he tried to get his balance. For a moment he was afraid he’d knock into furniture and reached for the torch in his jacket pocket. It was one he’d chosen on purpose with just a narrow intense beam of light and not one that spread a circle everywhere. It had been expensive but, he thought, worth the money, even though it went through batteries at a phenomenal speed.

Once in, Ned experienced the customary feeling of claustrophobia. He was in someone else’s house with the possibility of the owner finding him there and phoning the police, who would then cart him off to the nick to start the long and inexorable process of arrest, accusation, trial, and eventual punishment. Though this gave him a sense of fear, it also provided a feeling of excitement which was pleasurable.

He shone the torch around. He was in one of those rooms which people call by different names, depending on their social standing: sitting room, drawing room, living room, lounge, even parlor by the real oldies. In Ned’s house, they called it the front room. This one had a sofa, two easy chairs, which were pulled to face what Ned first thought to be a cupboard, but which he realized soon enough was a TV enclosed in a piece of ornate woodwork. Why, he wondered. You had to go to the bother of opening the doors when you wanted to watch. Perhaps the owners of this house were the sort of snobs who thought TV watching was a bit demeaning. Certainly there was a large music center against one of the other walls. Ned would have liked that. For one mad moment he contemplated switching it on and blasting sound through the house, but sanity prevailed.

Nothing of value to him so far. There was a desk with one of those pull-down flaps, and he opened this, pulling out the little drawers one at a time. In one, he found a roll of bank notes. It was a substantial one, fifties with a rubber band holding them together. He pocketed it. Well, whatever happened now, the expedition had been worthwhile.

Jewelry would probably be upstairs, but what about his mother’s porcelain figurine? He flashed the torch toward the fireplace. A heavy black clock stood on the shelf in the center, all columns and pediments. Probably an antique and valuable but too heavy for him to carry away. Shit! No figurines. Just some photographs in what looked like silver frames. They’d do. He’d take out the photos and put one of his mother in, or perhaps one of him. She’d like that. He swept them off and put them in the plastic bag he’d brought.

Right. Now for upstairs. He approached the door and froze. From somewhere upstairs came the sound of a flushing toilet. Someone was up and about. That stopped him. He wondered whether it was worthwhile waiting for whoever it was to go back to bed, but, he’d got enough. The evening had been a success. No point in tempting fate.

He switched off the torch and made for the rectangle of slightly lighter grayish color. Out through the window, and he even closed it behind him. Then away into the night. A tawny owl hooted from one of the trees as he passed, making him jump. “Sod you,” he said, realizing what it was. “I’ve caught my mouse.”

Back at home, Ned slept the sleep of the unjust who had no conscience and didn’t stir until his mother brought him a mug of tea at half past eleven the following morning. As usual she had a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth, and as usual, Ned checked the tea to see whether there was fag ash floating on the surface.

“Ooh, what’s that?” asked Mrs. Fickler. She picked up one of the photo frames.

“Oh Mam,” said Ned. “You weren’t supposed to see that. It’s for your birthday.” He was glad he’d kept the money in his jeans’ pocket and those were lying in a crumpled pile by the side of the bed.

“Where you get it from?” There was the tiniest note of suspicion in her tone.

“Bought it at the market,” said Ned. “Thought you’d like a picture of yourself in one.”

“You’re a good boy,” said Mrs. Fickler, standing and looking at him, a curl of smoke rising from the cigarette. “I’m a lucky mother. I’d prefer one of you, though. You’re a good-looking boy, y’know, and I haven’t had a photo of you since you was a kid.”

Ned waited for her to go. He was wearing only his underpants and didn’t want to get up while she was looking, and he did need to have a piss.

“I’ll be down in a minute, Mam,” he said pointedly.

“I’ll cook you a nice fry-up for breakfast,” she said, and she finally went.

After visiting the bathroom and having a wash, Ned counted the money. There were ten fifty pound notes—five hundred pounds. He could scarcely believe it. It was more money than he’d ever seen or possessed in his whole life at one time. Why on earth would anyone keep that amount of money around in cash, he wondered. Bloody stupid sods! They deserved to lose it. The fact that he now had that amount of money in cash didn’t occur to him. But he did wonder where to keep it safely. His mother was in and out of his bedroom every day, and she might well poke around while she was “doin’ the dustin’,” as she put it. Still, it was a pleasant enough problem, so for the time being he put the roll back into his jeans’ pocket, where it showed as a large bulge—like a big, fat cock, he thought—and he grinned. Not that he needed any artificial enhancement in that department.

He checked the photograph frames and was pleased to see the hallmarks impressed on the back of the silver metal. He’d give one to his mother and sell the other two. Should bring in a few quid, even from that skinflint of a fence who did his business from the back room of the legitimate “antiques” shop in the tiny side road off the High Street. Need to take out the photos, he thought, and for the first time he looked at them.

The first was of a middle-aged couple, standing against a background of trees in what was obviously the garden. They had glasses of wine in their hands and were toasting someone, presumably the person who had taken the picture. They looked happy and prosperous. A birthday perhaps or some anniversary celebration.

Another picture was of a baby, crawling on all fours on a woolly rug. It—the sex was difficult to work out—was frowning and holding out a hand as if it wanted to grab hold of the camera. Ned would get rid of them; he didn’t want any evidence to link him with the family.

The third was a picture of a young man photographed from the waist upward.

He was probably a bit older than Ned, who was eighteen. Perhaps this guy was in his early twenties, and he was spectacularly good-looking, for a white guy. A mop of jet black hair, artfully disarranged, gave him a casual look. His eyes were blue under black eyebrows, that pale blue which either makes the owner look shifty or stunningly sexy. In this case, certainly the latter. He was wearing a blue shirt, of a shade a little darker than his eyes, which was open, showing a tanned chest. He wasn’t smiling, but his lips looked as if they might break out into one at any moment. Unlike the others, he wasn’t looking at the camera but slightly off to his right with a fixed intensity.

For some unaccountable reason, Ned wished that the photo had showed the young man’s whole body. The open shirt revealed just the hint of some dark hair at the waist, leading down, and Ned wondered what the young man was wearing below, jeans, perhaps, or a tightly revealing swimming costume. And who or what was he looking at with such strong concentration?

“Yer brekkus ready, Ned,” came his mother’s shout from downstairs. “Don’ let it ge’ cold.”

He picked up the three photos and was about to tear them up, but he felt a strange reluctance to destroy the one of the young man, so he tore the other two into as many pieces as he could—he’d flush them down the toilet—and put the other one into his wallet.

Then he went down to his eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread, and beans, which would surely set him up for the day.

If they hadn’t met up during the day, Ned and Colly usually met in the Cabbage and Fiddle round about eight o’clock in the evening. The pub was an old one, its origins lost in the mists, as they say, of time. It hadn’t really progressed far out of the nineteenth century. The furniture was certainly the same, solid oak benches with tables in front, in alcoves divided from each other by rickety partitions. There wasn’t actually sawdust on the floor, but it felt as if there ought to be.

No brewery had so far tried to theme it up, and the regulars were mostly old men who had drunk there since they were young themselves. Colly and Ned, and some of their mates, drank there and complained about the place, the beer, and the company, but it was useful in that no one paid them any attention and the beer was in fact cheaper than that served in the other local pubs.

When Ned arrived he saw Colly sitting alone at a table. He had just a half-pint glass of bitter in front of him so Ned knew that Colly’s financial situation had fallen on hard times. When he was wealthier, he’d be drinking pints of lager or even shorts. Ned, of course, had plenty of money, but he was wary of cashing a fifty-pound note behind the bar. He was too well-known here, and the worrying thought had crossed his mind that the note numbers could conceivably have been recorded. They weren’t in sequence; he’d checked on that. But would a bank have issued that amount of cash without making some sort of record of the numbers? He would have to get change in some large anonymous place like a supermarket. So he’d cadged some money from his Mam and with that he bought another half for Colly and a pint for himself.

Colly hadn’t the most attractive of faces. Though not a fighter, he looked like one, with a nose that appeared broken without actually having been. His hair was greasy and rather long and his complexion more often than not had an efflorescence of zits. His teeth were nicotine stained. Most of the time he wore a frown. He was frowning now.

“Gotta get some money,” he said in greeting.

Ned nodded. He had plenty but he wasn’t about to tell Colly. Not that he was mean, but Colly would have been upset had Ned told him that he had done a job successfully on his own. Colly upset was not a pretty prospect. He had little or no control on his temper. In fact the “trouble” that Ned had got into with the police had been caused by Colly involving him in a punch-up outside a club when Ned would much have preferred to stay out of it.

“You got any?” asked Colly.

“A bit,” admitted Ned. He had the remains of the twenty pounds he had scrounged from his mother and was prepared to admit to one of the fifty-pound notes. “Sixty quid.”

“Let’s get out of this place,” said Colly. “Go somewhere which isn’t full of old farts.” He lunged out of the bar and Ned followed.

One of the “old farts” looked up from examining his hand of dominoes at their exit. “Couple of bad lads,” he said, and his friends nodded. “Come to no good.”

Ned heard them as he went out. Luckily Colly didn’t. He would have taken it further.

Colly decided on Scuffers and Ned agreed. The club wasn’t too far away, so they could get there by bus, neither having a car. The management also wasn’t too fussy about whom it let in, nor did it insist on a rigid dress code. Colly’s jeans and green jersey and Ned’s white top and trousers would be accepted with no trouble. It also wouldn’t object that Ned was black. The entry fee wasn’t cheap though. Ned paid.

Colly cheered up a bit once they were in. Ned bought a round of drinks. Passing a fifty here wouldn’t matter; no one would remember who had paid with it. The music was loud, as both lads liked it, and the lights low, which Colly had found, through embarrassing experience, suited him best. He put on what for him was a smile. “We’ll get us some money later,” he said.

The laser lights flashed. The music thudded with metronomic precision, and the atmosphere was filled with the heady scents of sweat, artificial pheromones and sexuality, both suppressed and overt.

Ned bought another round of drinks. He was acutely aware of the bundle of notes in his pocket. He had told Colly that he’d only some sixty pounds and that amount was now almost exhausted. He would have liked to be able to spend more but knew that Colly would suspect something was up if he spent too much, and Colly was getting restless. He’d already strutted up to one girl and asked, “Wanna dance?” without the obligatory first question, “Wanna drink?” Her reply obviously hadn’t met with his approval, and he’d wandered back to Ned with the comment, “Fucking lesbian.”

He drained the last of his beer and then announced, “I’m fed up of this. No fucking money. No fucking drink. Let’s go get us some cash.”

“How?” asked Ned. Colly on the loose wasn’t always a very good idea and often led to painful repercussions.

“Wait till someone goes out on their own,” said Colly. “Then we’ll mug ’im. I’ve gotta knife.” And he half drew out an unpleasant looking weapon from his pocket. Any self-respecting club bouncer would have searched people for just such a weapon on coming in, but Scuffers was Scuffers and had its own lack of rules.

There were scores of objections Ned could see to this plan. There’d be people outside; Scuffers was, after all, on the High Street and it was still comparatively early in the evening. Anyway, anyone who was leaving the club had presumably spent much of their money and certainly would be less well off than when they came in. But the main reason was that Ned didn’t trust Colly. He was more than likely to lose his temper if things went wrong, might even go berserk with his knife if the victim didn’t immediately capitulate. Ned had no wish to end up as an accessory to Grievous Bodily Harm or worse.

But he said nothing. Colly was and always had been the boss, the guiding force, and Ned had always meekly followed his lead whatever the consequences. It was only recently that he’d started doing things on his own, and so far at least, he hadn’t confessed this to Colly.

Colly looked around the place, obviously searching for a likely victim. Trouble was, most of the guys were in groups. He grumbled to himself and lit a fag, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs, then letting it out through his nostrils. “Sure you ain’t got enough for another round,” he asked.

Ned shook his head.

Colly grunted and went on smoking. At last his gaze focused on someone who had just got up from the bar and seemed to be making his way toward the exit.

“That’s the one,” he said, but Ned wasn’t listening. His own gaze was focused in another direction, on someone who had his back to the bar and who was looking out over the crowded room through light-blue eyes with an intensity of look which Ned found familiar.

“Hey, fuckwit,” said Colly, “What you lookin’ at?”

He followed Ned’s gaze and saw the guy, who was dressed casually but obviously expensively in a blue shirt and light gray trousers. He held the jacket of the suit through the tape over his shoulder. He looked casually elegant and very well off. But to Ned he looked exactly like the guy in the photograph, which he had in his wallet and was now in the back pocket of his jeans.

“Yeah,” said Colly, “you’re right. That’s the one.” His own quarry had veered off to the Gents rather than the exit. “If he goes, we’ll get him.”

The recognition had been a shock to Ned, though the coincidence of his being in Scuffers was not all that unlikely; his house, as Ned knew, wasn’t all that far away from the club. Perhaps it was his regular. He wished he hadn’t inadvertently drawn Colly’s attention to the guy. Not that he owed him anything, but there was something, some bond perhaps, that drew Ned toward him. “He looks as if he’s staying,” said Ned. And of course Sod’s Law ensured that at that moment, the guy got up, put on his jacket, and walked, long-legged, with an easy grace, toward the exit.

“C’mon,” said Colly, stubbing out his fag on the floor and making for the door. Ned followed him.

Outside, it had started to drizzle gently. As Ned suspected, there were quite a few people around. Bag snatching might have been conceivable, but a mugging which would involve stopping the guy, demanding his money, threatening, etcetera, was out of the question. The guy they were following hesitated on the curb. Perhaps he was looking for a taxi. But there wasn’t one about, and he turned down the High Street and set off at a fairly brisk pace. Colly and Ned followed, keeping fairly close.

“There’s an alley just down here on the left,” whispered Colly. “If we get close as we can to it, we can push him into it, and then I’ll show him the knife.”

“What if he shouts?” asked Ned.

“I’ll stick him,” said Colly, and Ned believed him. He didn’t know what to do.

“Here,” said Colly. “Pick up that brick. We can clobber him if he gets difficult.” He pointed to a half brick lying on the ground, and Ned obeyed.

The guy was still walking fast, the street lights making highlights in his black hair on which the rain drops glistened.

“Here we go,” said Colly, and quickened his pace. He was breathing hard. He’d never been much of an athlete.

As they reached the entrance to the alley, Colly caught up with the guy and shouldered him into it. The guy gave a startled shout but not loud enough to arouse any alarm. Anyway, there was no one around at that moment.

Ned heard Colly speak. “Shut your fucking mouth, if you don’t want this knife in yer guts.”

It sounded melodramatic to Ned, but he was sure Colly would do it if he thought it necessary.

“Give us yer wallet,” said Colly.

Ned paused at the entrance to the alley and looked at them.

The guy felt in his jacket breast pocket and took out a wallet. He made as if to give it but then pushed it into Colly’s face so that he drew back in surprise. The guy sidestepped around him and headed out toward the High Street, then paused, seeing Ned for the first time.

Colly aimed a stabbing gesture, and the guy grunted as if he was suddenly hurt. Ned could see his blue eyes open in pain. His mouth uttered a groan. Colly drew back his arm again.

Ned shouted, “No!” and Colly hesitated for a split second.

Without really thinking what he was doing, Ned moved closer and brought the brick down on the side of Colly’s head. He dropped to the ground and lay still. Jesus, thought Ned, what if I’ve killed him? But there was the other guy to think of. Had he been badly hurt? He was standing leaning against the brick wall, holding his side. What a fucking mess.

“Are you all right?” Ned asked, which was stupid because he obviously wasn’t.

The guy nodded. He looked pale but he smiled, and Ned noticed how beautiful he was. “Thanks for your help,” he said, and it wasn’t until then that Ned realized that he wasn’t associated with Colly, that the guy must think he was just a passer-by who had rescued him from Colly’s attack.

“You need some help,” said Ned. “I’ll give you a hand.”

“We should get the police, but I haven’t got my mobile with me.”

The police were the last thing that Ned wanted. What if Colly came round and involved him, as he surely would?

“Get you to the hospital first,” he said.

“But what about him?” he asked, pointing, but at that point Colly groaned and tried to get up.

Ned wanted to get away quickly, before Colly started to realize what Ned had done. “He looks as if he’ll be okay. Must have a hard head. Come on. Can you walk?”

The guy seemed reluctant and started a protest. “You don’t understand. I’m a—” but Ned cut him off, anxious to get away. He put his arm round the guy’s waist, who placed his own round Ned’s shoulder. The closeness gave Ned a momentary shock. He could smell the guy’s body lotion and a slight smell of healthy sweat. He felt the warmth of his body all down his left side.

“We should do something about that guy? Get the police.” His breath warmed the side of Ned’s face. It was like an intimate contact.

“He’ll be gone by the time they get here,” said Ned. He didn’t want anyone in authority talking to Colly, who would obviously involve Ned in any statement. “It’s you who needs attention.”

“My car is in the park over the road,” said the guy. “Can you drive?”

“Sure,” said Ned, who’d learned on his uncle’s old van, though he’d never had a car of his own.

“You drive me,” said the guy. “I think I need both hands to hold myself together.” He gave a twisted smile. “My name’s Jason.”

“Ned,” he said, and then he wondered whether it had been wise to give his own name. He also wondered what he was getting himself into. This was the guy whose picture he was carrying in his wallet, whose father’s money was in his trouser pocket. Deep waters! He’d get out and away as soon as possible.

Together they climbed the ramp into the multistory car park, the lights in their special protective glass shades showing the cars in their bays. Jason pointed to a sleek gray BMW with last year’s registration.

Ned almost gasped. It, like its owner, was beautiful. He’d never in his life been in a car like that, much less driven one. For a moment he was nervous. But Jason didn’t say anything like “Can you manage it?” so Ned helped Jason into the passenger seat and tried to look competent sitting behind the driving wheel. Thank God it had a gear lever. He didn’t think he’d have been able to cope with one of those automatic ones.

“I’ll drive you to the hospital,” he said. Dump him there and then scarper.

But Jason had other ideas. “Could you take me home?” he asked. “I don’t think it’s deep, just a scratch. All it wants is a bandage or something. If you could take me to Elm Grove. Do you know where it is?”

Ned knew. He even knew the house in Elm Grove but of course couldn’t say so. “Is that out Hornsey way?”

“Other direction,” said Jason. “I’ll show you.”

Ned started the car and with only a little bother managed to back out, turn and get out into the street. Jason switched on the radio, and the husky tones of J.J. Winnett sang out, sultry and sexy. Away from Colly and the alley, Ned began to enjoy himself. This was the life. The car purred along, the leather seat clasping his back and buttocks in an almost sensual way, the music close and intimate. He suddenly realized that he was getting an erection. He hoped it didn’t show. But Jason was looking forward and giving directions, not looking at him at all.

It wasn’t a long journey and soon they approached Elm Grove, Ned turning into it almost before Jason had given instructions. The houses were of course familiar to Ned, who had reconnoitered them before his break-in. Involuntarily, he slowed down as they approached Jason’s house, and Jason said, “Yes, that’s it. How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” said Ned. “Something ran out into the road, so I slowed down. It’s a marvelous car. I’ve loved driving it. Is this the drive?”

Jason nodded.

Ned brought the car to a stop in front of the front door, the gravel crunching under the tires. “Is there anyone in?” he asked.

“My parents are on holiday in Italy,” said Jason. “Useful actually. They’d make a terrific fuss if I turned up losing blood.”

“Come on, then,” said Ned, and he helped Jason out of the car, supporting him again.

“Can you get the key for me?” asked Jason. “It’s in my trouser pocket. I don’t want to let go until I see what the damage is.”

Ned was acutely conscious how near his hand must be to Jason’s cock as he felt into the depth of the pocket, feeling the warmth and the hard muscles of his leg. For one moment he wondered what would happen if he reached in too far and touched Jason’s prick. At the thought his own cock hardened slightly, and then he felt the key ring and produced it, laughing in an almost embarrassed way.

They went into the hall, and Jason motioned him into a room which Ned instantly recognized. He recognized the clock on the mantelpiece, now denuded of photographs, and the desk from which he had taken the five hundred pounds. But still the room was completely different from that which he had seen in the light of his torch. Now, lit by the room lights it had a richness, an opulence which impressed Ned. The carpet was a ruby red, matched by the velvet curtains which were drawn to hide the pane which Ned had smashed the night before. Had in fact the break-in actually been discovered? Perhaps Jason hadn’t even noticed the absence of the photographs or the window pane. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware of the missing money.

Jason, though, had sunk down onto the sofa and had pulled up his shirt to reveal his injury, his head bent over to try to see it properly. Ned noticed the skin of his torso, smooth and not as tanned as it had been in the photo. The dusting of hair which started just beneath his umbilicus traveled down, growing thicker as it disappeared beneath the waistband of his trousers. The knife cut was thin, about nine centimeters long, and just above the band. It didn’t look all that severe and there wasn’t much blood.

“I can’t see properly,” said Jason. “Do you think it’s gone in deep?”

Ned went over to have a look. Blood didn’t bother him but he felt a little self-conscious peering so close to Jason’s body. “You’ll have to undo the top of your trousers,” he said. The cut’s too close.”

Jason tried to open the fastener but pulling the material caused some strain on the cut, and he winced.

“Hang on,” said Ned. “Let me do it.” Gently he undid the hook, took hold of the tab and pulled the zip down, revealing a pair of light blue underpants, soft, clinging to the cock and balls beneath, revealing their shape. Ned touched the skin either side of the cut, his lower hand perilously close to forbidden territory. The skin was white, untanned under the pants. Ned’s brown hands stood out against the other’s paleness.

“I’m just going to ease it apart,” he said. “I’ll try not to hurt.” He did, and the wound gaped slightly but only at the surface. A little blood oozed out. Jason jerked, and his cock under the underpants grazed the back of Ned’s hand. “I think it’s just a surface cut. Have you got a bandage or perhaps a large Elastoplast?”

“In the kitchen,” said Jason, pointing to a door in the wall next to the one they had entered by. “You’ll find a first aid kit in the cupboard over the sink.” Ned went through and found himself in a space-age kitchen, all silver chrome and clean surfaces. Mentally he compared it with the greasy kitchen of his own home and didn’t much like the comparison. The kit was in a green plastic box where Jason had said, and Ned took it back with him.

Jason was still lolling on the sofa, his shirt pulled up, trousers open and slightly pulled down. Ned opened the box and found the Elastoplast. It was the sort that came on a roll and could be cut off for the right size. He also noticed a bottle of antiseptic. “I think we should dab a bit of this on first,” he said. “It may sting a little.”

He put some on a wad of cotton wool and gently wiped the wound. At the touch, Jason reared up. “Christ,” he said.

Ned smiled. “You’ll have to be brave,” he said. He put his hands on Jason’s hips, turning him so that the wound faced upwards. Again Jason’s cock, under the covering material, brushed his wrist, but Ned felt in charge now. “Just keep still now,” he said, stripping the protective backing from the plaster. Then he positioned it over the cut and stuck it down, smoothing the edges. To do this he had to pull down the band of the underpants, revealing more of the pubic hair. He pressed his hand gently on the plaster, feeling the warmth and the smoothness of the skin where his fingers overlapped. His wrist and forearm pressed down on the cock, and for a moment, Ned thought there was a movement. He took his hand off quickly.

“All done,” he said.

“You’d make a good nurse,” said Jason. “I owe you. In fact that’s three I owe you. Rescued from an attacker, driven home, and patched up afterward. I don’t know what I can do in exchange. Would you like a drink?”

Ned would. Now that the excitement was over, he felt a little shaky. “Whisky?” he asked.

Jason made as if to get up, but Ned held him back. After the ministrations, he didn’t feel at all embarrassed about touching Jason. It was as if they were old friends, brothers perhaps, and casual contact was permitted.

“I’ll get it. Just tell me where.”

Jason pointed to a cabinet, and opening the doors, Ned found bottles of almost every drink he could think of. There was a full bottle of Bell’s, and he took it and two glasses. “I guess you’ll have one,” he said, “for medicinal reasons.”

They drank. The physical business was over and there was a slight embarrassed silence. “I guess I’d better be going soon,” Ned said. “It’s a long walk home.” It wasn’t all that far, and of course he’d done it the previous night, but there were secrets he wanted to keep from Jason.

“Nonsense,” said Jason. “If you have to get home, I’ll ring for a taxi. My treat. Part of what I owe you. But you don’t have to go unless it’s essential. There’s lots of spare bedrooms. I expect one or two will be made up. Stay until the morning; then I can drive you home. I’ll feel up to it by then.”

Ned felt a strange reluctance to leave. It was pleasant here. The whisky was flowing, the sofa he was sitting at the other end of was comfortable. Jason was good to look at, unlike Colly. Colly! Christ, he’d forgotten about Colly. Not that he was worried about Colly’s well-being. Colly was a survivor and Ned was sure he’d be all right. What worried him was what he was going to say to his “best friend” next time they met. What in fact would Colly remember of the episode?

Ned had another drink, putting the bottle on the table beside the arm of the sofa, within easy reach. Jason’s legs hung over the edge of the sofa. They looked uncomfortable. Ned picked them up and put them into his lap. It felt entirely natural. “My shoes may be dirty,” said Jason, so Ned took them off, undoing the laces, slipping them over his feet. Then, for good measure, he took off the socks. Now Jason’s bare feet rested in his lap. Ned lay back against the cushions. He felt supremely comfortable, the whisky warm in his stomach, his brain pleasantly fuzzy. Jason’s feet moved a little, exciting his cock, but he didn’t worry. It was all friendly.

Ned reached toward Jason’s empty glass. His hand landed on Jason’s thigh, high up near his groin. “Give us your glass,” he said, moving his fingers so that they rubbed against what was inside Jason’s trousers.

“Should I have any more?” asked Jason.

“Sure,” said Ned, his fingers reaching and feeling.

Jason stretched with his glass and his feet moved in Ned’s groin. Ned felt the warm glass in his hand and the feet gently probing. He knew he had an erection and wondered, without being bothered, whether Jason could feel it with his feet. He poured some whisky into the glass and handed it back, leaving his hand at the top of Jason’s thigh. Jason moved slightly so that the hand fell into the fork at the top of his legs, and Ned could feel Jason’s hardness under the underpants, where the zip of his trousers still lay open.

“What do you do?” asked Jason. For a moment Ned thought he had said, “What are you doing?” and his fingers stopped their movement, but then he realized he was asking about his work.

“I don’t have a job,” he said. “Not at the moment. What about you?”

“You’ll laugh,” said Jason.

“No I won’t.”

It was slightly uncomfortable stretched out over Jason’s legs, which were long, so Ned sat himself upright and took hold of Jason’s feet, rubbing them. The toes were cold.

“Your feet are cold,” he said.

“Warm them,” said Jason. “Put them somewhere warm.”

So Ned undid the zipper of his jeans and allowed Jason’s feet into the warmth of his crotch, where they nestled in his privates, playing with his cock and balls, the cold making his cock jerk. To warm them even more, he pulled down the waistband of his underpants and let them in where they could touch skin against skin.

Jason sighed.

Ned had no idea where all this was leading to, or what was going to happen next. He just felt a physical pleasure at what was happening to him. He would have liked to be doing something to Jason. Perhaps he would in a while. The drink had overcome all his inhibitions. He’d have another one and then explore again that swelling which was now so prominent in Jason’s blue underpants, blue to match his eyes. He’d like to see him naked, lie alongside him so that his blackness would contrast with Jason’s lighter color.

“So what is it?” asked Ned.

“What?”

“This job which is so funny.”

“You’ll never guess,” Jason said, and the toes wiggled in Ned’s crotch, rubbing the silky soft skin which covered the hardness underneath.

“Tell me,” said Ned.

“I’m a copper. Detective Constable Jason Truman.”

©Michael Gouda

Crook

Author: Michael Gouda

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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Young Ned Fickler's life is one of misadventure. The house he robs belongs to a policeman… a handsome one at that. The car he steals belongs to the boss of the neighborhood's shadiest operations… and carries a nasty surprise in the trunk. His best friend and partner-in-crime, Colly, tends to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation... and now he's got a gun. It isn't easy being young, poor, black, an aspiring criminal, and—Ned finally figures out—gay.
Soon Ned's juggling not just one, but two boyfriends: Jason, the cop whose house he robbed, and Mark, a university student he picked up hitchhiking... and neither knows about the other. Lies pile up on lies and the hits keep coming when the crime boss hires Ned as part of a crew to steal artwork and bullion. It's all a little much for poor Ned, especially when he's trying to spare his nosy mother, who desperately wants to believe her wayward son is still "a good boy."

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