Michael Arram









  Fritz von Tarlenheim checked the Arrivals board for the tenth time.  BA6255 from London Heathrow was half an hour late.  He fretted at the Immigration gate.  He wanted Tommy.  With that smiling face gazing up at him, he knew all doubts would pass.


  Quite a lot of Rothenians were gathered at the exit from Immigration: families awaiting returning members, drivers with name cards awaiting foreign executives, boyfriends and girlfriends awaiting reunions.  Slowly Fritz became aware of the inevitable sidelong glances and whispers.  His was a well-known face in his native country.


  Finally it happened.  ‘Szeren Hochheit?  Would you mind …?’


  Fritz smiled tolerantly.  It was one of those things he couldn’t avoid.  He stood patiently while a variety of Rothenians had pictures taken with him on handij and digital cameras.  And, being Fritz, he chatted amiably with his fellow countrymen all the while, seriously shaking hands with them in the Rothenian way.  One old lady from Modenheim asked for a Pensk Prozechnen, a blessing, which it always moved Fritz to grant.  He hugged her warmly after he had done it.  She rejoined her husband with tears in her eyes.


  At last a surge came through the gate, and there was his Tommy, sunglasses up in his short bleached hair, an ecstatic grin plastered over his tanned and handsome face.  He was pushing a trolley precariously balanced with two cases filled to bursting.  Fritz beamed.  Tommy travelled with an extensive wardrobe to meet all eventualities.


  Yet when the two came together, what occurred next was not in Fritz’s internal script.  Tommy offered a kiss, but Fritz – the eyes of Rothenia upon him – just closed for a hug.  As they broke apart, he caught the trouble in Tommy’s eyes and suddenly felt ashamed.  He had betrayed something.








  ‘You okay, Lance?’


  Lance Atwood gave a small smile across his worktable to where his friend Reggie was painting a spectacular Ork general.  ‘Yeah.  Thanks, Reggie.  Have we got enough black for the undercoat?’


  ‘Not if we’re gonna start a new batch.  We’ll have to go downtown to the model shop.’


  ‘Nah, let’s just finish this bunch.  That’s a really cool piece of painting, Reggie.’


  Reggie’s pale face flushed with pleasure.  He looked back down to his detailed work, and then up again.  His eyes were always straying to Lance.  For over a year now he had been nursing a fixation on the boy, who had captivated him almost from the moment they first met.


  It was not just that Lance was spectacularly good-looking, or that his origins and true identity were mind-blowing in their implications.  Reggie found him entrancing to be with.  His happiness, consideration and affectionate nature were what really bound Reggie to him now, not his physical appearance, which you got used to.  He had fallen in love with Lance well before he realised what had happened to him.


  Reggie Mayer had known he was different very early, and had worked out he was gay before he was ten.  It helped that his mom was in a lesbian relationship, while his buddy Damien was the son of a gay man.  A gifted and cerebral boy, he was also precociously sensitive to others and generous with his affections.  This was what had secured him the staunch friendship of Damien Macavoy, leader of the Mendamero Men.


  Reggie had been coming to terms with his impossible situation for some time.  He was in love with a boy who he instinctively knew would not return that love, even if Lance was homosexually inclined, which Reggie did not yet have the experience to discern.  That was unimportant, however.  Reggie was one of those rare and remarkable people for whom the act of loving was itself fulfilling, and who did not need to own the object of his affection.  Simply being with Lance soothed his heart, and he received more care and kindness from his friend, as a friend, than many more attached partners were ever offered.  Reggie was therefore very happy just sitting at the table with Lance.


  Reggie knew Lance was abstracted in a way he had not seen before.  He had no idea what lay behind it, but he was bothered by his friend’s obvious distraction.  Being Reggie, he would wait and observe, hoping to work out what was going on.  He would not challenge Lance to account for it, as he knew that might just upset his friend.


  ‘Great party yesterday, Lance.’


  The boy looked up and grinned.  ‘You had a good time?’


  ‘The games Nathan did with the big floating ball were a laugh.  You and Helen Debies were so cool.  She swims on your team, doesn’t she?’


  ‘She’s top of her age group.’


  ‘Daimey wants her to have a membership card as a Mendamero Man.’


  Lance cocked an eyebrow.  ‘Is that a problem?  Queen Harry was the first lady in our gang, and Helen … well … she’s Daimey’s … er, sorta girlfriend.’


  Reggie caught the hesitation.  ‘You like Helen?’


  Lance blushed hard.  ‘She’s … um, okay.’


  And Reggie, in his sympathy for his friend, leaped perfectly logically but nonetheless totally erroneously to the wrong conclusion.








  Fritz rallied as they loaded up the Mercedes sports in the airport multi-storey car park.  Tommy took the wheel of the car he treated as an old friend.  For the moment, the false step at the barrier was forgotten, though it left an indelible question mark in both their heads.


  The car came off the airport feeder road and joined the afternoon traffic heading north into the city along the A33, the autoroute from Zenden, which eventually narrowed down to the tree-lined boulevard of Königstrasse before reaching the Kung-Rodolfs-Bahnhof, south of the Nuevemesten, the New City of Strelzen.  Tommy had to get used to long, red trams rumbling and clanging alongside them.


  Fritz navigated Tommy past the involved intersection at the station and on to the inner ring road, the Festungstrasse.  ‘This is where the city gets seriously quaint,’ Fritz commented.


  Tommy did not allow his attention to wander to the urban scenery, but concentrated on the narrowing streets.  He turned to the right up Postgasse, then barely managed the sharp junction on to Wenzelgasse.  The one-way route north opened on to a wide square filled, like the Piazza San Marco, with ornate Victorian lamp standards.  A towering baroque town hall reared up on the left side.  Facing them was the impressive stuccoed front of a grand urban palace, with rustications, tall windows, heavy cornices and a great arch towards which Fritz directed the car.  Armorial flags, white with red roses and a rampant lion, hung on either side of the opening.


  ‘This is my pad in the capital,’ Fritz declared with a lopsided smile.  He leaned over to hit the horn as Tommy slowed down.  In response, the doors swung slowly open, and Tommy drove through into an inner courtyard.  A porter gave a jerky bow when the car passed him.


  Tommy parked and emerged to look around.  The porter was already taking his cases out of the boot.  ‘Fritz, this is …’


  ‘Home.  Don’t let it overwhelm you, baby.’


  ‘How do you get used to living in a bloody palace?’


  Windows looked down into the light-well on all sides.  Fritz indicated a sculpted entryway rich with heraldry and classical orders.  They walked in through a door opened by a man in a striped green waistcoat who bowed low as they passed, murmuring, ‘Durchlaucht.’


  A stream of German followed from Fritz, which Tommy did not understand, although he thought the footman was called Aloysius.  ‘This way, darling.’


  A tall marble reception hall with two huge blue porcelain stoves dominating it led to stairs.  ‘Yes, Canalettos,’ Fritz observed, pointing to several large canvases on the flight up.  A landing led to a long gallery with tall windows looking down into a different courtyard from the one in which they had left the Mercedes.  Fritz indicated the portraits.  ‘These are the ancestors.  The one at the end over the door, that’s the first Prinz Franz, the general-field-marshal of the Empire, the one who defeated the armies of Louis XV of France.  But I can give you the tour some other time.  Through here, baby.’


  A double door led into a well-appointed lounge containing a number of sofas, tables, a desk and a very large wide-screen TV, which was still dwarfed by the dimensions of the room.  Tommy looked out of one of the several windows to the tourist-filled square below.  The tall tower of the Radhaus loomed improbably high on his right.  Little sound carried up from the street.


  Fritz took Tommy in his arms and made good the kiss he had omitted at the airport.  They broke off.  ‘So here we are in Strelzen.  And what’s the first thing we’re going to do?’


  Tommy undid his shorts, dropped them to his ankles, and grinned over his shoulder as his Rothenian lover pushed his tee shirt up to his armpits.


  ‘Lube’s in my back pocket.’  Tommy laughed, bracing himself on a sofa.  It was short but very sweet, with Tommy grunting beneath Fritz when each powerful thrust sank home.  Fritz stifled a cry as he came forcefully inside Tommy, then stayed leaning over him, his penis pushed into his lover up to its root, until his heart stopped hammering.  He pulled out as he began softening and found a handful of tissues in his jeans pocket, wiping Tommy’s exposed backside and then his own glistening cock.


  As Tommy was straightening his clothes Fritz observed, ‘I’m pretty sure we weren’t the first couple to do that in here.’


  ‘Why’s that?’


  ‘One of the nineteenth-century Tarlenheims, Oskar Maxim, brother of Prince Rudolf, was a notorious queer and libertine: quite up to Roger Casement standards of cruising.  Not a bad comparison either, considering that old Oskar was also a Rothenian intelligence agent.  No gardener’s boy or young footman was safe.  There’s a picture of him over there, amongst the framed photographs.  Go and have a look.’


  Tommy went over to the indicated side table.  He had no difficulty working out which was Count Oskar Maxim.  The Victorian sepia plate and cavalry uniform could not obscure the beauty and sensuality of the young blond officer.  ‘Why Fritz!’


  ‘Quite a resemblance, isn’t there?’


  ‘He’s recognisably your relative.’


  ‘He looks even more like my elder brother, his namesake.  There are some very strange stories told about old Oskar Maxim.’


  ‘Does this place have ghosts, Fritzku?’


  ‘Like other houses have mice.  I’ve seen a few.’




  ‘As I live and breathe … and they didn’t.  But I believe my bedroom is spook-free.  Want to go and … er, freshen up?’


  Tommy laughed.  ‘Shower?’


  ‘Yes, baby, but before then … it’s time you fucked me.  I’ve too readily gone on top.  Now I want to try out your cock for size.  It’s a bit bigger than Henry Atwood’s, which is the only other one I’ve ever taken.  The size issue has made me a little nervous, but I need to confront my fears.’


  ‘I don’t mind going under, Fritzku.’


  ‘I know that, but my growing experience tends to make me think you’re not necessarily a dedicated bottom, Tomasczu, and I really do want you in me.  Here at home, I feel more secure about asking.’


  ‘On your own prostate be it then, Fritzku.’


  Fritz didn’t find the experience easy, as he predicted, but Tommy’s patient tenderness made up for all that.  Beginning a steady fucking of the big man beneath him, his hands clasping under Fritz’s armpits and his hanging balls flapping against Fritz’s as he pounded, Tommy couldn’t resist shouting out his triumph when orgasm gripped his body and his cock spurted copiously inside his lover.








  ‘Get a move on, baby!’


  ‘Coming, dad!’


  Lance shot past Henry, cramming a large piece of toast in his mouth while swinging his backpack on to his shoulder.  He was settled in the passenger seat of the car by the time Henry had locked the front door.  It was Henry’s turn for ferrying duty, and that day it was an early start.


  They pulled up outside Damien’s house, two blocks over.  Damien, already waiting at the gate, gave his second dad Nathan a quick kiss before climbing in the back of Henry’s car.  Henry and Nathan exchanged a few friendly observations and fixed up a possible dinner date, then Henry pulled out and threaded his way down to Modenehemstrasse to join the rush-hour traffic.


  Henry worked his way along Festungstrasse, junction by junction, until they reached the A33. From there it was clear driving till he arrived outside the Mayer house in its narrow Sudmesten street.  Two waiting boys squeezed into the back seat with Damien.


  Reggie’s mum waved them off as Henry did a three-point turn in a neighbouring drive to head back into the city and get on to the Spa road.  The four boys were going to spend the day in the pools and adventure playground of Strelzen’s famous Spa complex.


  ‘Okay, Reggie and Mattie?’


  ‘Thanks, yes, Mr Atwood.’  Mattie Oscott was the latest of the four Mendamero Men to settle in Strelzen, his father having moved to a chair in the English faculty of the Rodolfer Universität six months before.


  ‘You and Reggie get much sleep last night?’


  Reggie giggled.  ‘Mattie was flat out by ten, sir.  He likes sleeping.  I couldn’t wake him up.’


  ‘Do you like living in Strelzen, Mattie?’


  ‘You bet, Mr Atwood.  It’s much sunnier than Cranwell.  You just gotta work on the language.’


  ‘You guys are pretty good at Rothenian.’


  ‘Lance is the best,’ affirmed Damien loyally.  In fact, Lance’s abilities with human languages were so remarkable that he had to hide them from his teachers in the International School, along with a lot else.  But it amused all his friends – and secretly his dads – that he failed at Comparative Religion classes.  Lance was not himself so amused.


  Eventually Henry pulled up at the Spa entrance.  The resort was only just opening.  ‘Got your money?  Towels?  Handijs?  You know when you’re being picked up?’


  A chorus of agreements followed on his questions.  Henry kissed Lance, and the boys waved him off.  For a group of such street-savvy lads, the Spa was a safe environment.  Its management and security were well aware of the dangers of men with an interest in naked children.


  Henry headed back into the city and the Staramesten.  He had an interview at ten with Tomas Weiss, head of news services at the Eastnet offices near the cathedral.  It was the first time he had been in his old workplace for over a year.  It seemed strange to see all the busy goings-on without being a part of them.


  Oh, Christ!  ‘Henry!  It’s you!’  It was Magda, his former PA.  ‘I’d heard you were coming back.  Is it true?’  She hurried up and smothered Henry with unwanted affection and cheap perfume.  She had put on quite a bit of weight.


  ‘I’m thinking about it.’  Actually, he was suddenly having second thoughts.


  ‘I’m administrator for costume and sets at the moment.  It’s alright, but hardly challenging, not like the old days …’


  Henry was not going to rise to the unspoken suggestion.  ‘I’m sure you’re running the department like clockwork, Magda.  In fact, someone was telling me how the standard of service has shot up lately.’




  ‘Absolutely.  How’s your bloke, Lucacz?’


  Suddenly Magda was in tears, which was most unlike her and made Henry uneasy.  ‘He left me two months ago.  Some cheap tart he had been carrying on with behind my back.  He said I had been stifling him!  The swine!’


  ‘Oh … sorry.  Er … I think Tomas wants me.’


  Magda blew her nose, noisily.  ‘Nice to see you, Henry.’


  ‘You too.’  He was up and off.  Tomas was on the executive level, the second floor of the converted medieval hospital which was the Eastnet main offices.  Henry tapped at his door and was invited in.  But there were two men in the room.


  ‘Will?  I wasn’t expecting you.’


  William Vincent, founder and CEO of Eastnet, smiled up at Henry from one of Tomas’s armchairs.  ‘Thought I’d come along when Tomasczu mentioned you were popping in.’


  Henry shook his head.  ‘Try again, Will.’


  ‘Okay, you suspicious little Henry.  Tomasczu wants you as anchor, he says.  That’s fine, but you told me the other day you were sniffing around the edges of a story.’  Henry nodded.  ‘Well, we all know about you and stories.  You broke the Dressner scandal.  So is this another hunch of yours?’


  ‘Not really.  It’s just that wherever Hendrik Willemin goes, trouble follows.  I mean, it looks innocent, a new health resort on Maresku, but …’


  ‘But what?’








  Lance Atwood crouched in the dappled space under several thick bushes, into which only a young boy could have fitted himself.  He was a little pleased at his hiding place.  He paused to take a breather, resting his butt on the warm dust in the leafy cave in which he was concealed.  The Mendamero Men were not too old to enjoy hide-and-seek.  It was a game for which Lance had a particular affection, it being the first he had ever played as a boy.


  He heard low voices and tensed, then relaxed.  There were two guys in the clearing on the other side of the bushes from him, where there was a secluded and little-used pissoir.  Curious, he squirmed through the trunks of the bushes and peered out.  Two pairs of bare legs were facing him, but he couldn’t see much of the upper bodies.  However, judging by the timbre of the voices, the pair were older teenagers.


  They whispered, and Lance registered that the couple were a little close, face-to-face in fact.  He stiffened as he saw a hand reach down to clasp the less hairy and thinner boy’s buttock, caressing it and probing it deeply.  Then the butt’s owner turned away from the other, who moved close up to his back.


  Lance didn’t dare stir.  There was heavy breathing and a gasp from the pair, and then the hairier of the two began moving against his friend.  Lance squirmed farther forward.  He could now see the two up to waist level.  The browner, hairier one was humping vigorously, lifting his partner, who gasped and swore as he rose up with each thrust.


  Lance was watching two teenage boys having sex.  On his hands and knees, he was suddenly aware that his own developing cock was straining down from his groin, longer and harder than he could ever remember it.  Without even thinking about what he was doing he gripped it, feeling relief and excitement as he stroked away at it.


  A new sensation boiled and churned in his tight balls.  Staring wide-eyed back under his body, he watched his penis seem to swell further.  Something unstoppable was about to happen.  Giving a long groan, he saw his four erect inches spatter fluid in dark spots on to the dust beneath him.  His body was racked with a shuddering orgasm and he saw stars in front of his eyes.


  Had not the teenagers been making more noise than he, they might have heard Lance despite their preoccupation with each other.  When he looked back up he saw the pale boy almost hoisted off his feet by one final thrust from his lover, who must have been holding him under the thighs.  Their sex ended, they paused for a long space of heavy breathing, followed by a laugh.  The two then embraced, and hand-in-hand left the concealed clearing.


  Lance sat back down on his butt and studied his penis, still erect, its purple tip shining with a coating of filmy fluid that continued leaking out on to it.  He felt a sudden reaction and put his head down in despair.  He knew what he had just done.  Theoretically there was nothing he did not know about human sexuality.  What he’d had no idea about until that moment was what energised it: sexual attraction, passion, lust and the compulsive search for orgasm with another warm body.  After his own reaction to Damien’s nakedness and this piece of unplanned voyeurism, he also realised something else beyond any doubt: he was as homosexual as his parents.


  That bloody Tobias!  He must have known this would happen.