Michael Arram







  They continued to have a very good time in Rothenia, which Justin privately concluded he liked even better than the Caribbean.  Matt and Andy did the great churches and castles.  Tim and Peter disappeared into the nightlife of the Strelzen scene and slept all day, emerging heavy eyed and staggering in the late afternoon.  ‘You been bit by Count Dracula here in Transylvania, ’ave you?’ Justin could not resist asking.


  Justin and Nathan for their part had a different sort of holiday, one that did more to gain them the approval of Matt and Andy.  Felip and Will took them waterskiing and diving in the blue waters of the great inland Lake Maresku, and climbing in the Rothenian Alps.  Nathan began picking up the language, in which he made hesitant small talk with Fritz, who sometimes went with them.  Oskar took them to his gym and on one weird day to the Spa in the hills west of Strelzen.


  ‘What, we have to get naked?  In public?’ shrieked Justin.


  ‘Are you shy, Justin?’ Oskar teased, standing like a Greek god of love in the changing room.  A sniggering Fritz, himself looking like an adolescent Cupid with feathery pubic hair dusting his crotch, peered round his brother.  ‘Justin … it didn’t bother you at home.’


  Nathan, who had shrugged off his clothes quite unselfconsciously, was doing his best not to smile.


  With a sigh Justin dropped his pants and snatched at a robe.  Nathan grabbed it away from him, making him chase naked round the changing room to recover it.  ‘Pervert!’ he hissed at Nathan, then reluctantly smiled.


  They wandered out into the sunny grounds.  Before long Justin felt reasonably at ease, though he noticed that he and Nathan were among the few to have a pale swimsuit line.  They splashed about in the outdoor spa pool for a while, then found a comfortable shelf where they could lie out in the shallow blue water and watch the naked world go by.


  Justin started commenting on the passing male butts, and finally saw a real classic in dark olive skin, belonging to a well-muscled man of about twenty.  ‘Ooh,’ he observed, a little too loudly, ‘makes your mouth water.’


  He flushed red when the butt’s owner shot an amused glance back over his shoulder and came towards them.  ‘You are English boys, yes?’


  ‘Er … yeah,’ admitted Justin.


  ‘You like my ass?’


  ‘Er …’


  ‘That is okay.  I think you are gay, is that right?’


  ‘Yeah, it is.’


  ‘I too.  You are quite something yourselves.  Are you eighteen yet?’


  ‘Just about, Nathan nearly is.’


  ‘You are beautiful, Nathan.  I wonder if you would be interested in modelling for my firm if you are staying for any time in Rothenia?  There’s good money in it, and we are very interested in adding Westerners to our list.’


  Nathan smiled a little uneasily.  ‘And what sort of modelling would that be?  Does it mean I take my clothes off?’


  ‘That is what male models usually do.’


  ‘What, all of them?’


  The man smiled.  ‘Only if you want.’


  Justin was beginning to enjoy Nathan’s embarrassment.  ‘Who’s shy now, Nate?’  Then he advised the stranger, ‘I’m his manager.  How much are we talking about here?’


  The man smiled again.  ‘The audition shoot is free and if we take it, then there is 300 US dollars.  After that we can talk further.  You like to come visit our offices, they are on Rodolferplaz, number 12 by the Leuwenpasacz, fourth floor.  We’re called Falkemodel, just turn up and ask for …’


  ‘Ahoi, Radik,’ interrupted Oskar, who had come up on them unexpectedly.


  ‘Oh!  It is you, Oskar.’


  ‘It certainly is.  Are you talent-spotting for Hendrik still?’


  ‘I am … are these friends of yours?’


  ‘Yes they are.’


  ‘Aah.  Well.  Nice meeting, you boys.  Remember the offer.’


  ‘Goodbye, Radik,’ said Oskar dismissively.


  Radik smiled to himself and strolled off.


  Justin looked fascinated.  ‘What was all that about?’


  Oskar sat down between them.  ‘Hm.  Radik’s a scout for Falkefilm, looking for gay porn actors.’


  Justin whooped.  ‘Fantastic!  What, really?’


  ‘I’m gonna be sick,’ groaned Nathan.


  Justin chortled.  ‘This is amazing.  I could have sold me Nathan into sex slavery!  Are they the bunch you worked for, Oskar?’


  ‘They are indeed.  The modelling is just the first step.  Next thing you know, you would have been on all fours in front of a camera, with another guy working his dick into your lower bowel.’


  ‘You wouldn’t recommend it, then?’ asked Nathan.


  ‘No, I would not, although it has its upside, and Falkefilm is not the worst of employers.  But, as you have seen, I still live with the consequences.’


  Justin looked thoughtful for a moment.  ‘That DVD you did with Will wasn’t too bad.  You two were so into each other, it was amazing.’  Nathan reluctantly agreed.


  ‘Yes.  In some ways that day when I performed with Will was the best day of my life, but to get there I had to lie and cheat.  In doing so, I lost the one man I have ever truly loved.’


  ‘You love Will still?’


  ‘Yes I do, but it is too late now for me.  He found Felip, and they make a great couple.  I don’t even know why I am telling you this, but it may be because it was here in this very place that I  finally worked out how I felt about him.  I fooled myself that, when the whole episode with Falkefilm was over, I could still keep him, and that he would forgive me how I had tricked him into porn stardom.’


  ‘But Fritz said you had a new German boyfriend.’


  ‘Did he now?  I had a brief fling in Dresden with a German academic who was doing a study of the East European porn trade and had sought me out for an interview.  But I soon realised it was the idea of sex with a whore that he was in love with, not me.  You see, boys, that is the downside.  In the porn world, you become a commodity and not a human being.’


  Nathan looked moved.  ‘That’s sad, Oskar.  But we think you’re brilliant.  You’re cool and funny, and of course you have a butt to die for too.  You’re our friend, and we’re glad you are.’


  Justin gave an affirming nod.  ‘Yeah … you’re our mate, Oskar, and you’re an awesome brother to young Fritzy.’


  Oskar smiled and took them round their shoulders to kiss the tops of their heads.  ‘You are good boys.’  Then they separated and went in search of Fritz, who was running round with other boys in the play area, climbing up ladders and shooting down waterslides.




* * *




  That night in bed, Nathan and Justin discussed their conversation with Oskar.  Nathan had been deeply saddened by it.  ‘You want to think there’re happy endings in life, specially here in this country, so famous for romance.  But poor Oskar is on his own, and he’s so very beautiful.’


  ‘Well, you can see why a bit.’


  ‘How’s that?’


  ‘He’s a little scary as well as gorgeous.  He’s so bright and so witty and so together.  He puts off normal people.’


  ‘As well for him that we’re abnormal, then, isn’t it?’ decided Nathan.  ‘If only we could do something for him, but he’s too much above the likes of us.’


  ‘I dunno.  He seemed genuinely touched when we told him how much we liked him.  I think it’s all front with Oskar.  He’s not so superior.  He’s just lonely like the rest of us.’


  ‘You can’t be lonely, Justy.  You got me and Matt and Andy.  We all love you, and I’d die for you … really I would.  Just give me a chance.  But this is all about your dad again, isn’t it.’


  ‘You’re too damn clever for me, Nate.’


  When the boys finally emerged from under their bedclothes the next morning, they discovered that Terry and his Ramon had arrived at the Tarlenheim palace, though they were staying elsewhere in the city.  Matt and Andy were in a deep discussion over something with Terry in the hall.  Terry barely acknowledged Nathan and Justin when they turned up, which was unusual – they knew he was very fond of them.  They headed for the kitchen and a late breakfast.


  After half an hour Terry and Ramon appeared.  ‘Morning favourite teen babes, sorry I couldn’t greet you properly in the hall, but something’s come up and I had to talk to the guys about it.’  He kissed them both affectionately on the cheek, and they hugged him and then Ramon.  ‘Having a good time here in Never Never Land?’


  ‘S brilliant, Uncle Terry,’ enthused Justin.  ‘You won’t believe the things we been doing.  I love this place.  Oskar and Fritz are really cool.’


  ‘That’s great.  Look, babes, we need to have a serious word and that soon, before you go back to London.  There’s been a … situation, and it’s taking up all me time at the moment.  Shall we meet in Rodolferplaz this afternoon?  Do you know Liberation?  Yes?  Well there’s a place across the Wejg from Erotic Dream City called Café Manhattan.  See you there at five.  Okay?  Must dash.’


  And he was gone, leaving the boys confused.  Ramon looked unhappy and shrugged.  ‘He’s been like this for the past week.  Something’s got his goat and he won’t tell me what’s going on.  Matt said you’re going to wander the city today.  I suggest you take along your cell phones and keep your eyes peeled.  Terry’s been acting as though there was a spy behind every bush these past few days.  I thought he’d be less twitchy here, but he’s just as bad, worse in fact.  I’ve never seen him like this before.  He’s usually cool under pressure.’


  Justin was intrigued and faintly alarmed.  He deduced that, for something to rattle Terry, it must be very big indeed.  But then he realised Terry had brought no additional security with him to Strelzen, which hardly indicated an imminent threat.  So it must be something else.


  Justin and Nathan strolled into the city centre and very soon got bored.  In the end they cruised the Wejg, something they knew Matt and Andy would have disapproved of.  The hustlers closed in on them outside a strip bar, where Justin got into a bargaining session over admission.  Nathan was reluctant and nervous, especially as one Somali latched on to him and tried to get him interested in going fucky-fucky with the girls: ‘You big man.  They go two or three together with you.  You make them happy, maybe they not charge, eh?  Big man.’


  ‘Justy … please!!’ he pleaded.


  ‘Come on, Nate.  I got him down to 200 krone.  What each?  No, I meant together.  Jesus, what a bunch of criminals!’


  A big crowd of passing British drunks distracted the hustlers, allowing the boys to slip away.  In desperation, Nathan dragged Justin into a reasonably innocent-looking Irish sports bar, with shamrocks and Irish tricolours everywhere.  The barman gave them a sharp glance, but served them each a Czech beer.  They sat in a dark corner, looking at the big screen where a premier league game was playing.


  ‘Phew, Justy, what were you going to do if we’d got in?  It was girls not boys going to strip.  You straightening up on me or something?’


  ‘Nah, Nate.  I juss missed the sleaze.  Thought I could sink to me proper level for a bit.’


  Nathan downed his beer very quickly, he was so flustered, and went for another.  As he did he noticed something on the other side of the long bar.  When he got back he said, ‘Justy, I’d swear I saw Tim with some bloke down there.’


  ‘Nah.  He’s back at Fritzy’s place.  They’re still sleeping off last night, the shockin’ stop-outs.’


  ‘Go and look.’  Justin stood up and ostentatiously craned his head round.  ‘Nope.  No one that looks like Tim, although there’s a youngish guy you might have mistaken for him.’


  ‘Odd,’ said Nathan, ‘I could have sworn it was him, though now you mention it, he was with a hard-looking bloke you just couldn’t imagine Tim associating with.’


  ‘No hard-looking bloke down there either.  Terry’s got you spooked, Nate.’


  They spent two hours in the bar, beer following beer.  Eventually they sauntered out, weaving more than a little, to join the press of the Wejg, which they found hilarious this time rather than threatening.  They emerged into Rodolferplaz and carried on towards the palace.  About half way up the square, after Nathan had tripped over the tram lines and fallen flat on his face, Justin suggested they dip their heads in the big central fountain.


  ‘Oh fuck,’ Justin muttered as his head emerged dripping from the water, ‘it’s the cops!’


  Two blue-uniformed city policemen were heading purposefully in their direction from across the square.  Justin grabbed Nathan under the arm and they headed, supporting each other in a pantomime of casual sobriety, in the opposite direction.


  They crossed the street to the eastern face of the square, where they ducked into an arcade.  Peering round the corner Justin saw the police still following.  He dragged Nathan onwards and through some big glass doors.  There was a lift.  ‘Fuck, Nate, you know where this is?’


  ‘Wha …?’


  Justin pressed the fourth-floor button, and the doors closed behind them.  ‘Where we going?’ asked Nathan, coming round a little.


  ‘Escaping the cops, babe.  Oh … and looking for a new career for you.’


  ‘You what?’


  The doors opened and they found themselves in a plush waiting area.  A receptionist looked up and smiled.  It was obviously not unusual here for strange young men to appear out of nowhere.  ‘Ahoi?’ she greeted them.


  ‘This Falkemodel?’ Justin asked.


  She shifted effortlessly to English.  ‘Yes, do you have an appointment?’


  ‘Er … this guy called Radik said that me mate here would make a good model and suggested we come for a trial.’


  ‘A moment,’ she said.  ‘Please take a seat.’


  Nathan collapsed dazed into a deep leather chair.  Justin carefully examined a wall filled with stylish monochrome pictures of male models.  ‘Look Nate, iss Oskar.  Dun he look gorgeous, and fuck me, iss Will and Felip too, even gorgeouser!  Come on, me mate, we gotta get you on this wall of fame.  Half the family’s here already.’


  Nathan was coming round fully now.  ‘Justin,’ he hissed urgently, ‘this is not funny.  Matt’ll kill us.  If I wanted to model, I could do it through his contacts.  This is a hard-core porn factory, you insane dickhead!’


  The receptionist called them over and offered two forms to fill out.  ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘Mr Willemin is not in today, but we’ll be interviewing Thursday morning.  Fill in the forms and we’ll be back to you.  Okay?’


  ‘Phew,’ exhaled Nathan, ‘that was a close one.  Let’s fill these in and get the hell out of here as soon as we can.’


  They scribbled some reasonably imaginative personal details and were just about to take the lift down when a voice cracked out from down the corridor.  ‘Justin! Nathan!  What are you two doing here?’


  ‘Oh crap,’ groaned Justin, ‘Felip.’


  Felip had collared them both before they could enter the lift and escorted them past the bemused receptionist into a side room.  ‘This had better be good,’ he growled.


  They looked at each other, and Justin decided on the truth as the only way out.


  ‘Hmm,’ repeated Felip.  ‘So you were a little drunk on the Wejg, staggered on to Rodolferplaz, attracted the attention of the police and dodged into Leuwenpasacz and up here.  It is, as I think you say, a likely story.’


  ‘S the truth!’ affirmed Justin, outraged.


  ‘It really is,’ echoed Nathan.


  ‘But you knew what this place is, didn’t you?’


  ‘Well, yeah,’ allowed Justin.


  ‘And you couldn’t resist a look, could you?’


  ‘Well, no,’ Nathan admitted.  ‘Give us a break, Felip.’


  ‘No … but judging by the smell on you, I’d better give you a black coffee.  That much of your story seems to have been true at least.’


  He led them back through the waiting area and up some narrow stairs to a studio space.  Nathan stood open-mouthed as a naked, muscular and attractive young man carrying a dildo wandered past, with a curious look at the boys and casual wave at Felip, who waved back.


  ‘What sort of weird place is this?’ Nathan wondered out loud.


  ‘Some people’s idea of heaven, I think.  In here.’  Felip took them into a small kitchenette, where he poured out two coffees from an urn.


  Justin had to ask, ‘Whatchu doin’ here then, Felip?’


  ‘Camera work today.  There’re a number of training sessions going on, as you can see.  I was just taking a break.  It’s a lot of work holding a camera to record ninety minutes of oral sex.’


  ‘I’ll bet,’ agreed Justin virtuously.  ‘You movin on to anal now then?’


  ‘No, Justy, you cannot watch.’


  ‘Aw … come on.’


  ‘It would put the boys off, which would hardly be fair to them.  Adrien is only doing this for the first time.  He’s nervous enough without two teenagers coming in to stare at him while a guy who is almost a complete stranger puts a dick inside his ass.’


  ‘I wouldn’t mind,’ Justin wheedled.


  ‘That is what worries me about you, Justin.  I believe you.  But you are under the legal age here in Rothenia, so the case does not arise, does it?’


  ‘We’ll be off then, iss nearly time to meet Terry anyway.  Er … I don’t suppose there’s any need to mention this to Andy or Matt, is there?’


  ‘You have to be kidding!’








  Terry was waiting, tapping a pack of cigarettes on the table of the café.  There were several stubs already in the ashtray in front of him.  But he smiled warmly when he saw them.  ‘Good to see you, sweet babes.  Take a seat.  Now, I’ll bet you want to know what’s going on, and why I needed to see you two in particular.’


  ‘Sure do, Uncle Terry,’ said Nathan this time.


  Terry smiled a little at the adoption of the nickname by yet another of his teenage admirers.  ‘You remember, little ones, how I said last March that a man called Mike Anson was in prison because I put him there, and that he was about to be released?  You do?  Good.  Well he’s out.  Now that should be neither here nor there, but to date we’ve registered three attempts by him and his circle to penetrate Peacher security.  The bugging of Matt’s Highgate house was the first, but you two frustrated it.  That seems to have been the work of professionals in the security community who were hired by Anson.


  ‘I didn’t mention this at the time, but I immediately ordered a sweep of the house in Annandale, which turned up some new and very sophisticated bugs infesting the property.  So it seems from this that Anson was getting ready to boost his intelligence on Matt and Andy.  I think I know who did it for him, and although they weren’t Anson’s employees, they were certainly from elements sympathetic to him.


  ‘The second attempt we detected was the team sent to try to make trouble on St Kitts.  This was an odd one: again the agents did not belong to Anson’s own team.  Barry Antrobus – that was his real name – was a fringe figure on the edge of the London underworld, but with a record of freelance extortion and blackmail.  That may have been why he was so good with the camera.  I know his employer was Anson, though, because he mentioned contact with one Laurie or Lawrence Mattheson, Anson’s former SAS sergeant and right-hand man.  But you scotched the plot again, little Justy, like a professional.  I was so proud of you.’


  Justin beamed, then asked, ‘You said three attempts.  I doan’ remember frustrating a third one.’


  ‘No.  This is new.  It involves Anson himself.  He was let out of Doncaster high-security prison at the end of May.  I had him tailed, although it was a waste of time and money really.  He slipped my men within two hours of leaving the prison gate, almost as if he was expecting the attempt.  That in itself was disturbing.  By then, though, a pattern was emerging.  The git is after all of us: me, Matt, Andy and anyone we love.  He’s after vengeance, and nothing’s gonna stop him till he hurts us bad.  He’s gonna come at us from any and every direction till he tastes blood, preferably mine.  He hates me like poison.’


  ‘So is this why you’re on edge?’ asked Nathan.


  ‘Yes.  You’ve got to know quite how bad a man he is.  I told you how he tried to kill me and Ramon in France that time, and it was only luck that save me then.  He would have got away with it too.  He set it up to look like an accidental death during extreme sex, followed by a suicide.  But I didn’t tell you why he got cashiered from the marines and the SAS.  It’s not nice, and once you hear it, you’ll know exactly what sort of monster he is.


  ‘He was operating in Afghanistan, where he and Laurie captured the teenage sons of one of the warlords, sixteen and fourteen.  He tried to get the guy to surrender himself in return for their release.  The guy refused, despite what Anson threatened to do to the boys.  He tortured them steadily for days, broadcasting their screams and pleas for mercy on the mujahedeen frequency continuously.  When that did no good he let them go.’


  ‘Uh?  I thought you said he was merciless.’


  ‘Oh he was.  He first got the older boy to sodomise his brother, before leaving them tied to a tree naked, bleeding, with the video of their tortures hung round their necks.’


  ‘Oh my God.’  Nathan and Justin looked about ready to throw up.


  ‘Yes.  He should have been locked up then and the key thrown away, but the CIA protected him.  They were not too unhappy – the father shot himself when he saw what Anson had done to his boys.  They’d used Anson’s skills before and wanted him available for future use.’


  ‘And this sadistic psychopath is after us?  Oh crap!’  Justin had gone pale.


  ‘You want to know the worst?  He’s successfully penetrated our circle.  I don’t know how, but he’s got someone close to Matt and Andy working for him.  A lot of info’s been fed back to him about our movements and domestic set up.’


  ‘But how do you know?’


  ‘I bought Laurie Mattheson, of course.  If Anson can get a mole so can I.  Laurie was totally broke, and Anson’s a cruel bastard even to his supposed friends.  Gave him enough cash to prevent starvation, and treated him like shit.  You gotta remember that Anson is a total sadist.  He loves hurting and humiliating people, and he can kill without compunction.  Not a nice person to work for, especially if you’ve let him down, which Laurie did on more than one occasion.  Richard Peacher told me to dig deep, so I found Laurie through Antrobus and made him an offer he wasn’t going to refuse.’


  Nathan smiled.  ‘So now you have intelligence on Anson and his men, great!’


  ‘Well I did, for a while.’




  ‘Laurie was inept, and at one level you can understand Anson’s attitude towards him.  I had a few weeks access to him, during which he told me a good deal about Anson’s state of mind, his plans and some of the boasts he’d let slip regarding his agents in Peacherland.  Agents, plural, you notice.  He’s riddled the organisation with leaks, or so he claimed to Laurie, God rest his soul.’


  ‘You mean …’ Justin gasped.


  ‘Found floating in a reservoir in the Lea Valley last week.  Nasty eh?  He was missing several organs, removed before death unfortunately … quite horrible really.  Anson tried to make it look like a motorboat propeller accident.  It didn’t fool the police, though.’


  ‘Jesus wept!’


  ‘Serious, innit babes, so serious that I’ve gone to the police in the UK and the USA.  They’re taking it seriously too.  Anson is now a wanted man with an Interpol warrant for his arrest.  Unfortunately he’s not the sort of man who will be taken easily.  You’re heading back home to Britain after this Rothenian holiday, and Highgate’ll be under police surveillance and protection until Anson’s run to ground.  Andy and me will soon be back in the USA, where I’ve got the resources to protect him best.  Jenna’s finally back off holiday, which is good.  She’ll join us in London.  I have a feeling he’ll choose to follow us to the USA, although that may be vanity.  He hates me more than all the rest of you put together.’


  ‘But that’s not what’s bothering you most, is it,’ Nathan observed.


  ‘No,’ Terry admitted, ‘it’s the fact that one of our own is in with the monster, has sold out to him.  You see, Anson has a lot of money, millions of dollars, from his various enterprises, some legitimate and others not.  He has the means to do what he wants and to buy what he wants … but who has he bought, and how close to us is that someone?’


  ‘And you know it can’t be us.’


  ‘You came too late on the scene, my babes.  It can’t be you.  To be honest, I’m glad at least I’ve got you boys to talk to.  I can’t tell a lot of this particular thing even to Andy and Matt.’


  ‘How do you know he’s not here, Terry?’ Justin had to ask.


  ‘I don’t know, and maybe he is.  It worries me more than a bit, as I haven’t got my team here.  But on the other hand, he can’t have many Rothenian contacts.’


  ‘But he’s got his insider, and he may be with us, you thought of that?’


  ‘It keeps me awake at night, babes.’


  ‘I suppose you’ve got a checklist?’


  ‘About twenty-four possible people on it, including me old mate Jenna.  That bastard Anson’s even got me suspecting me closest aides.  He’s crippling me ability to do me job.  Anyway, babes, things are at such a pass that I’m recruiting you two as deputies.  You are now me two internal security agents in Highgate.  You have to keep your eyes open, and even snoop on my behalf.’


  Justin was on the verge of saying it was cool, until the look in Terry’s eyes persuaded him otherwise.  Nathan was so disturbed by this package of bad news that he said nothing when he noticed Justin take a cigarette from Terry and light up.








  When they got back to the palace, Felip had obviously been there before them, judging by the stern look in Andy’s eyes when they met him in the hall.  He delivered a surprisingly articulate and forceful tongue-lashing for such a quiet and kindly man, leaving Justin wilted and Nathan on the verge of tears.  They sat disconsolately in their room, with Justin, for the first time he could remember, feeling the pain of having disappointed someone he loved.  They were grounded for the three days they had left in Strelzen.


  Making the best of it, they hung round with Fritz, who seemed delighted with their punishment.  Since it meant he had them to amuse him non-stop, they spent a lot of time with his trains in the attic.  They missed the chance of a second club night at Liberation, and had to watch as everybody else went out – apart from Oskar, who had a deep-seated aversion to the club, for some reason.


  They ate dinner with Oskar and Fritz.  Although the dress was casual, Fritz still gave them a formal little speech at the beginning of the meal and proposed their health and the health of all guests.  Because he did it in English, they finally understood what he was saying.  Then they had a quietly enjoyable meal, with Oskar and Fritz very keen to hear their stories of London life.


  Oskar in turn gave them his.  He had spent several months working as a cleaner in North London and had not taken to the place at all, unsurprisingly, though there were other parts of England he seemed to know and like.


  ‘So were you learning English there?’  Justin was intrigued.


  ‘No … I was on the run,’ said Oskar.


  ‘Really, from the cops?’


  ‘No … from myself.’




  Nathan smiled.  ‘Leave him alone, Justy.  It’s personal to Oskar.’


  ‘No offence, Osk.’  Justin gave his number one grin, so Oskar knew he was being sincere.


  ‘Osk?  You called me, the former prince of Tarlenheim, Osk?’


  ‘Well, Oskar’s so formal.  Still … if you prefer Marc …’


  ‘Osk will do, I suppose.’  He gave them such a gorgeous smile that Justin would have fallen in love with him then and there if Oskar had not been such an old guy, as well as foreign.


  Fritz skipped off to bed at nine-thirty as usual.  Before he went he pronounced some formal Rothenian phrases, looking them straight in the eye while he did so.  Oddly, it gave Justin a strange feeling, almost as if the words had been spoken to him in a great cathedral in front of a huge congregation.  He shook his head.


  Oskar poured them some wine.  ‘It is not the good wine the palace cellars once had from our own vineyards at Terlenehem, or the famous vintage Tokay that my ancestors laid down.  The Communist apparatchiks of the old days had quite a taste for good wine.  But I’m slowly stocking the cellars up again, though it is mostly bulk-bought French Bordeaux.  However, Helge has gone into partnership with a local viticulturalist in Husbrau, and they have begun resetting the vineyards near our old castle at Terlenehem which we’ve finally recovered from the government.  In a few years we may have our own white wines flowing again, the famous Rothenian Tavelner.  Since I have made my pile from TV, she says she’s going to make hers from agriculture.’


  ‘Yay for Helge,’ Nathan approved.  ‘If we can come again, I’d really like to see the vineyards.’


  ‘Nothing I’d like better than to show you, Nathan,’ Oskar replied.  ‘I hope you both will be coming again soon.’


  ‘Sure will, I love this place,’ enthused Justin.  ‘Hey Osk!  How are you feeling now?’


  Oskar was touched at the concern from the boys, who were both looking seriously at him.  ‘Fine thank you, Justin.  I was low that day at the Spa when we talked, but life goes on, as it must.  It has been good having Matt and Andy and the rest of you around here in this big old house this summer.  It has taken my mind off things.  Maybe I will come to London again and give the city a fair chance this time.’


  They smiled, for in some ways Oskar did seem a lot cheerier that evening.  After a couple more glasses of wine, he even started reminiscing about his time at Falkefilm shooting porn movies.  He made it seem rather more fun and interesting than Andy would have liked, had he heard.


  They went to bed uncomplaining at eleven, and had no idea when the rest came in from the club.  However, the state of Peter and Tim at breakfast was woeful.  They had bags under their eyes and a headache so obvious it was like a personal, dark cloud over each of their heads.


  Justin and Nathan arrived in the breakfast room piously sober and offensively cheerful.  It was soon apparent that there had also been a row between the two American boys.  The silence between them was oppressive, and after eating a bite of toast Peter left abruptly, bumping into Oskar on his way out with no more than a mumbled apology.  Oskar looked at the younger boys, who shrugged.  Tim, staring moodily into his black coffee, had nothing to say.


  What had happened came out later in the morning.  Matt was the one who had the lowdown.  Peter had gone looking for Tim and found him in the loos with his lips round the penis of an older man.


  ‘Oh?’ Justin asked.  ‘Was he hard-looking, with his hair buzzed short?’


  ‘No idea.  I didn’t see him.  Why do you ask?’


  Nathan answered for him.  ‘I thought I saw Tim in a bar on the Wejg with a guy who looked like that.  It was a couple of days ago … y’know, the day of our binge.  Justy didn’t see him and didn’t believe me, but, well, maybe …’


  ‘God.  You think that this has been going on since we got here?’


  Justin shrugged.  ‘Tim is a bit insatiable, Matt.’


  ‘Has he come on to you and Nathan?’


  ‘Not to Nathan, but yes, he has tried it on with me a couple of times.’


  Matt looked very troubled.  ‘This is going to cause serious ructions.  I caught the tail end of it, when Pete was shouting into Tim’s face.  I gather that if they ever resume sex, it won’t be unprotected again.  “You lying SOB,” “You pox-ridden slut,” were just two of the choicer epithets Pete was employing.’


  ‘Epi … whats?’


  ‘Never mind.  Let’s hope it was just the drink talking, or whatever else they were using.  I’m afraid Tim may have been on more than just alcoholic stimulants last night.’  Matt smiled at them.  ‘D’you know?  Those two are turning out to be far more trouble than you, Justy.  And they don’t have your excuse.’








  Friday came, the day of departure.  Andy and Matt were in the palace courtyard hurrying Nathan and Justin along, leaving Tim sitting moodily on the step next to his bags.  Peter Peacher was nowhere to be seen.  Terry had turned up to mastermind the departure and hitch a lift back to London on the Peacher jet, while Ramon had already begun the long flight to Houston to see his mother.  Peter finally appeared with Oskar and went up to Andy to announce generally in a stilted sort of way that he would be staying on for a day or two and then flying directly to the States.  Everyone exchanged glances except Tim, who looked down between his legs.


  Oskar ushered them into the hall to take the traditional Rothenian farewell.  A footman appeared with small glasses of fruit wine on a silver tray, offering one to each person who was leaving.  Fritz, looking flushed and handsome, came tumbling down the stairs  He went up to each one, looked him in the eyes and said a few Rothenian words, before asking him to bend down to be kissed on the forehead in completion of the blessing.  Justin received not only the kiss on the forehead but also a hard embrace and a kiss on each cheek too.  Justin hugged Fritz back.


  The last in line was Tim, but when Fritz looked smiling into his eyes, he suddenly frowned and became momentarily pale, and did not kiss Tim’s forehead.  Although Tim seemed not to notice, Oskar stared at his brother, clearly very startled.








  Driving to the airport, nobody seemed to want to say much.  The flight to Britain was equally uneventful.  At Northolt, however, they were greeted by a veritable motorcade, including a van full of Peacher security and a police motorcycle escort.  Justin and Nathan rode in Terry’s car, in which Jenna was waiting with a stack of files and a lot of urgent whispers that the boys were not supposed to hear.  Justin stared out the car window as the police escort ran every set of lights and stopped the cross traffic so they could drive through, before sweeping past them to the head of the convoy again.


  ‘This is awesome,’ he hissed at Nathan.


  An armed and flak-jacketed police guard stood outside Matt’s house, while Jenna and Terry did the presidential thing of covering Andy and Matt as they left their car.  Both men walked with dignity to the front door, and Justin admired Andy’s restraint in not turning at the top of the steps to acknowledge the small, watching crowd.  Justin had no such reservations and did a passable imitation of a head of state entering a summit conference, before Terry collared him and hauled him inside.


  ‘Come on, Uncle Terry.  I was juss havin’ a laugh.’


  ‘Very amusing, Justy.’


  Back in their own room at last, Justin spread out on the bed while Nathan was checking his plants.  ‘There’s a definite humour deficiency in this house at the moment, Nate.’


  Nathan grunted.  ‘I don’t see how we’re going to get back to work at this rate.  I can’t have a copper with a machine gun frightening Mrs Westcott when we do her garden on Monday.’


  ‘Has anyone asked Terry how this is gonna affect our daily activities?’


  ‘I’m not going to fail my modules in my HND, or get fired by Mr Anderson, just because a psycho is out to kill us hideously with a blunt knife.  There are more important things in life than death, and one of them is living it.’


  ‘Let’s see what’s in the e-mail inbox.  Hey, iss something here from me dad.’


  ‘What’s he say?’


  ‘He says he thinks it’s time to get together and meet properly.  He suggests I go out to see him for Sunday lunch at this pub he knows just off Ealing Common.  He says the food’s good.  What do you think?’


  ‘Well, maybe it’s about time.  Am I invited?’


  ‘Sorry Nate, I think he means the first meeting just to be one-to-one.’


  ‘S’okay.  But you’d better tell Terry.  I’ll go and make Sunday lunch for the folks back in Winchmore Hill.  I worry that they’re not getting any square meals since I left home.’


  ‘So here we are again,’ declared Justin, patting the bed beside him, ‘back where we started.  Give you any ideas, does it, Nate?’


  ‘Ideas?  You only have dirty ones.  But I tell you what, you know that scene with Will in that DVD, where he rode Oskar’s cock?  I can’t get it out of my mind.  Wanna give it a go?’


 ‘Hang on … I’ll be naked in a sec.  Whoops, there you go.  Jesus, you stripped as fast as Superman.  So you sit on the sofa, yeah, and I get up here.  Christ, you’re stiff as a poker already, and they called me Animal.  Got the lube?  Iss by the side there.  You put it there when you poled me on the sofa before we left.’


  ‘Okay Justy.  I’ll hold you under your arms, and you put your feet on my lower thighs just above my knees.  Reach under and get my dick in your hand … wow … ooh … wow!  It’s in place, now lower yourself slowly.  Oops, slipped out.  Aw, that’s fantastic.  Okay chavvy babe, bounce, and squeal for daddy!’