Clint arrived at work the next morning as the lieutenant was gathering the squad around the case board, which had the photos of three similar-looking blond-headed men—the three victims of the case they were working on—pinned to the center of the board. Another photo of a similar-looking man was pinned off to one side. Clint recognized this one as the dead witness in the mobster trial case. And two more photos of blond-headed men were grouped off to another side of the board. Burton Kahn was still working on the board, writing notes in black marker under the photos. Clint could understand the photo of the witness being given a tentative identification, but who were the two on the other side of the centered photos, he wondered.
He'd been a few minutes late because he'd stopped at a Starbucks down the street and bought two coffees. Everyone in the squad thought the coffee in their own break room as well as that in the cafeteria downstairs was swill, even though that didn't stop them from inhaling it when they were too busy to send someone out to Starbucks.
He put one of the coffees down on the desk Danny Thompson was sitting at, gave him a tentative smile, and then moved, with his own coffee, to the other side of those gathered. One of the older and more senior detectives, Neil Paxton, was standing behind a lectern next to Kahn. He was the squad's lead investigator, and Clint presumed he was the one who would brief them on the case this morning.
The coffee for Danny was a peace offering, but what it—and the smile—did was put worry and a questioning look on Danny's face. Clint looked entirely too chipper. To Danny, that could only mean one thing. There had been three voicemail messages from Danny on Clint's cell phone when Clint had checked it at breakfast this morning. He'd had the phone turned off from the time he'd entered the Splash bar and when he'd dragged out of bed, showered, and reached the breakfast table. Danny would know that he didn't just go to a movie last night. And from the progressively high decibel ratings of the phone calls from Danny, he obviously had been pissed when Clint wasn't picking up.
Clint knew the coffee was no better than a stopgap peace offering—letting Danny know that Clint wasn't avoiding him because he was pissed with Danny. But Clint also knew that Danny would want a piece of him sooner than later and would assume that Clint would need the fuck too if he wasn't getting more than enough from somewhere else. The trouble with that was that the Sicilian and his driver were giving Clint more than enough—and Clint wasn't ready to stop seeing them.
Clint tried another smile for Danny from across the room and mouthed a "later." That seemed to bring Danny's "seethe" level down enough for him to visibly relax and turn his attention to the case board. Danny's change of perspective drew Clint also to look at the board. He gasped—loud enough for the two guys he was sitting next to to turn with questioning looks. He just shook his head, suggesting nothing was wrong. But something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Burton Kahn had just put up another head-shot photo next to that of the mobster case witness victim. It was a photo of the Sicilian who had been balling Clint.
Clint sat in a daze as Neil Paxton quieted the guys down.
"It's possible in the time we were pulled to search for the body of the mobster case witness, Will Trent, that our case has expanded," Paxton said in a booming voice. "As you can see, Lieutenant Kahn has put more photographs up on the case board, and as you can also see, most of these men share traits—all except for this photo of Marko Brunelli, the mobster, Burton has just put up beside that of Trent. Brunelli is the mobster in the case Trent was supposed to be testifying in. He's in court this afternoon again, where the judge will decide whether Trent's death means there's a mistrial."
"Yeah, but what does that have to do with our case?" asked one of the detectives. "They found the body, so we're off that gig."
"There are similarities in the Trent death and those in our case, it appears—beyond their appearances. The medical report shows he had bruises on his ankles and wrists, just as the victims in our cases did—and that he'd had anal sex before he died."
"So?" Danny asked. "He was found in a New Jersey dump, and there's every reason to believe he was killed as part of this mobster trial. The others were connected with the docks before they died."
Clint was still in a half daze. He was keeping his head down, not wanting to take another look at the photograph, not wanting to be sure that the man he'd been with the last two days was the mobster, Marko Brunelli. The reference to the bruised wrists and ankles cut through the haze, though, and he involuntarily pulled his sleeves down to cover the bruises on his wrists—the bruises that Marko Brunelli had caused the previous night by cuffing him to the sling in his basement and then doing things to him that made him writhe and pull at the bindings.
"We now know that the last place Trent was seen on the night he was murdered was a bar, The Dugout, on Christopher Street," Paxton answered. "That street runs down the center of Manhattan and into the docks area."
Clint winced again. The Dugout was the bar where he'd first hooked up with Brunelli.
"And beyond that," Paxton continued, "we'd really, really like to like Brunelli for all of these killings. We've been wanting to put him away permanently for more years than most of us have been on the force."
"At this time, and because of where we are in the briefing," Burton Kahn spoke up, "I'd like to introduce Assistant D.A. Henry Hodgkins. There in the back of the room."
All heads swiveled to the back of the room, where a tall man in his forties and wearing a well-cut pin-striped power suit was leaning against of the frame of the door leading out into the corridor. His arms were crossed on his barrel chest, and he was looking like he owned the room. He nodded toward the lectern to acknowledge the shout out, but Clint felt like the man was staring straight at him—just as if he knew everything about how Clint was unknowingly getting tangled up in this case.
"Because of the Brunelli angle, the D.A.'s office is taking a close interest in our case—and the Trent murder case has been turned over to us. Since Trent was last seen at a gay bar and since he had anal sex before he died—and the coroner indicates he was accustomed to having anal sex—it's natural for us to be included in the case. But there is interest beyond that in the possibility that Brunelli can now be connected to our serial killer case. They would really like that. So, Mr. Hodgkins is going to be consulting closely with us during the investigation."
"More like sticking his nose up our asses," a voice from among the cops muttered. Although muttered, everyone in the room heard it. Kahn glowered in the general direction the voice had come from, and Clint was sure that it was Danny who had said it. The assistant D.A. at the door, though, acted like nothing had been said.
"Yes, well, is that clear with everyone?" Paxton quickly interjected. "If there aren't any questions on that, we can move on to those two other photos on the board."
This successfully deflated the tension in the room, because nearly everyone had been curious about those other two photographs since they'd seen they'd been added to the board within the last day. Clint was still ruminating over the appearance of Brunelli's photograph, but he too was curious enough to half listen to Paxton.
"While you ladies were out strolling the city the other day, I was working the case here," Paxton said. "I did some tooling around on the Interpol site, and I came up with two more murder cases that look very familiar. That's the two guys in the photos. As you can see, pretty boys who are blond, one in his late twenties and the other in his early thirties. I found that they were gay too."
"Murdered where?" The voice from the crowd was Danny's.
"Bermuda," Paxton answered. "And you know the problem we'd seen in the pattern of these other killings—that they didn't follow what would be normal for the type of serial killer we were looking for?"
"That the periodicity was off?" another voice from the room asked.
"Yeah. The victims are so similar that we expected pretty even spacing in the murders," Paxton said. "Well, in my research with the help of the Bermuda police, these two deaths fill the holes we were seeing nicely—other than the Trent death. That still doesn't follow a pattern."
"Anything else tying them together?" Danny asked.
"Yes," Paxton answered. "Those two had last been seen at gay bars near the freighter docks in Hamilton, Bermuda. And with a little more research with the Hamilton authorities, we came up with a freighter that regularly plies between New York and Bermuda carrying foodstuffs Bermuda has to have shipped in. It's Greek registered, but we haven't tracked down who actually owns it yet. It was in the appropriate port during each of the murders. So, we have a job looking at the crew of that freighter, I think."
"That don't tie the murders in with Brunelli too good, though, does it?" Another unidentified voice from the crowd.
"No," Paxton said with an audible sigh. "Or maybe not. We don't know where Brunelli was on those dates yet—and we don't know who owns and operates the freighter yet. So, we have to pin that down. But we're not looking for dissimilarities between the cases right now. As long as we can keep the crimes as possibly linked, the more muscle the brass will let us apply to Brunelli. And we need all the support we can get to pin the witness murder on him."
"We need due diligence and every base covered here, team," Lieutenant Kahn broke in to say, doing what he could to water down what Paxton had said that his supervisors would prefer being left unsaid. "We don't want to make too many assumptions about anything or to do anything that artificially pushes this to one scenario rather than another. That's why we have the photos grouped as they are on this board rather than all together. Neil's already handed out some assignments while we were setting up. He'll connect with the rest of you. It's time now to go out and find out who the bad guy is—or guys."
In the raucous dance that followed as the detectives swirled around the room settling into their assignments or grabbing their gear and heading for the door, Danny descended on Clint, who was still sitting there, trying to recover from the shocking discovery that had landed him, unwittingly, in the shit. Kahn had told him on more than one occasion that he needed to rein in his cruising behavior—that someday it would come back to bite him in the ass if it didn't get him killed. And today appeared to be that day.
"Whatsa matter with you, Clint?" Danny was asking. "You look like your get up and go just got up and went."
"Uh, it's nothing, Danny. Maybe a bad egg or something for breakfast." Ha, he thought, he'd had no eggs for breakfast. He'd used them all the previous day to feed a black stud who had just disappeared on him without a word or anything before he'd eaten the eggs—just took a powder when he learned Clint was a cop. Clint hadn't even bothered to find out who he was. He could be a serial killer too, as far as Clint would have known.
"Paxton's told me to put in an appearance at Brunelli's trial this morning. You wanna come with? We need to know if the judge is going to call a mistrial and let Brunelli loose. Not that Brunelli's been in custody, I'll bet. With the fancy-dancy lawyer like he's probably got, I'm sure Brunelli's been out on bail and wasn't even told he shouldn't be popping off prosecution witnesses."
"No, he's not," Clint murmured.
"No, he's not what, Clint?"
Clint clenched his jaw. He couldn't confirm that Brunelli wasn't in custody without revealing why he knew that.
"You're lookin' needy to me," Danny continued. "You goin' with me or does Paxton have you doin' somethin' else? If you're goin' with me, maybe we need to take a side trip to the tombs first. You look like you're needing some."
"Yeah, I'll go with you, but we should talk first. You've got to know something first."
"I know that Brunelli guy. I just didn't know he was Brunelli. That last couple of nights—"
"You hooked up with that Brunelli guy, and you're lettin' him ball you, is that what you're gonna say? That's where you've been the last two nights?" Danny hadn't been quiet when he'd said this. Both Clint and Danny reflexively looked around the room to see if anyone heard that. Apparently they hadn't; the noise level was high and everyone was jabbering with someone else. After they'd checked, Danny grabbed Clint's shirt front in a fist and brought their faces close together. "Jesus H. Christ, Clint. You're gonna get yourself killed lookin' for it that rough."
"He didn't have an 'I am a mobster' button pinned to his shoulder, Danny. Maybe we'd better go to the tombs and discuss this." Clint pushed Danny's hand away.
The two had a room they used during the day when the manning level of the precinct offices was high. There were a series of interview rooms down in the basement. Some were better appointed than others, because the budget hadn't allowed for them all to be brought up to state of the art. So, there were a couple that never were used. The unused ones had just been locked up awaiting the day when a line item mysteriously appeared in the police budget to renovate them. Danny had the key to one of the unused rooms. There was a window in the door, of course, and a one-way glass permitting observation from another room, but both had been papered over, and no one had bothered to take the paper off. The only item of furniture in the room was a wooden table, and there were hooks on the wall for them to hang their clothes. And that was all that Danny and Clint needed. An emergency supply of Danny's favorite ribbed maxim condoms was kept in a drawer in the table.
Danny hustled Clint down the three flights to the tombs and down the corridor to "their" room. Once in and the door locked behind them, Danny propelled Clint to the table and pushed him down on his butt on the table top.
"Danny, we got to talk about this."
"Damn right we gotta talk this," Danny growled, pulling the drawer in the table open. "But you want it rough. You like a rough guy. OK, you got a rough guy."
He pushed his knees between Clint's thighs.
"Danny," Clint said, raising his torso from the table top.
Danny backhanded him across the cheek and Clint fell back onto the table, hitting his head, momentarily dazed. Danny had both of their cocks out and fisted together and he was pulling on them.
"Danny, Danny," Clint murmured. He made a weak attempt to rise again, but Danny just pushed his back down on the table again with the palm of the hand he wasn't stroking with palmed on Clint's sternum. Lost to the stroking, Clint lay there and moaned. Visions of that blond guy, Greg, in Brunelli's basement the previous night and how he'd gone docile when the mobster's driver palmed his belly floated into his mind. He'd told Brunelli that he had erogenous zones too. And Danny knew that. He knew that all anyone had to do was to get Clint's cock in their hand, and Clint wanted to be fucked.
He just lay there, moaning and saying, "We've got to talk this, we've got to talk this," as Danny stripped off his trousers and briefs, fished a small tube of lube out of the table drawer, and opened the condom packet with his teeth.
Clint's talk of the need to talk turned into murmurs of what he wanted more of, deeper and faster, as Danny buried his cock inside him and started to pump. Clint arched his back, hooked his ankles above Danny's buttocks, and panted as Danny fucked him to a mutual ejaculation.
"Now, do we need to go tell Lieutenant Kahn that you've been fucking our primary suspect?" Danny asked through his own breathing when they were done. He was still buried inside Clint and his chest was propped above Clint's torso by fists pressed into the table top on either side of Clint's biceps.
"He'll have me reassigned—best scenario—I won't be able to work the case. We won't be able to work it together. Is that what you want, Danny?"
Danny's expression turned to a more thoughtful one than he'd been exhibiting before he'd gotten Clint fucked.
"So, you won't be able to go to the court room with me?" Danny said, assuring Clint that he'd played a trump card. Danny couldn't give him up. "He'll see you."
"There are those rooms at the back with the one-way glass," Clint said. Danny was still in the saddle and Clint was unbuttoning his shirt and running his hands up Danny's massive chest. "I've got to go. I have to be sure it's him."
"He'd be turned to the front and might be too interested in the proceedings to do much looking around in the crowd. Maybe if you just sat slouched down in the back . . . stop that; you're making me hard again."
"I want you hard again. He's got a bodyguard and driver who would probably be sitting in the crowd," Clint answered.
"The bodyguard's been fucking you too?"
Clint didn't answer. He was thumbing Danny's nipples and Danny was breathing heavily, and they both could feel him going harder inside Clint.
"Christ almighty, Clint. You're a regular fuckin' bunny, aren't you?" He tried to make it sound gruff, but how Clint was was a turn on for Danny too. Whenever he could smell another man on Clint, he got harder and fucked longer.
"Danny!" Clint cried out and arched his back and grabbed Danny's waist with his hands. But Danny already was starting to pump hard and deep again.
* * * *
"OK, you've now seen him and confirmed it's Brunelli who's been balling you. You're going to just drop it now, right? You aren't going to see him again."
Clint could tell that Danny had been building up to saying something, and when it finally came out, he wasn't that surprised what Danny wanted to establish. But he didn't answer immediately. They were both still processing what they had just observed.
They were in the glassed-off room at the back of the courtroom, which was clearing. The judge in the case had surprised—and angered—everyone in the courtroom equally. On the one hand, He hadn't thrown the case out. He was allowing the prosecution to go on, even in its wounded condition from being down one key witness. That had set Brunelli off enough that he'd cursed the judge loudly and shaken his fist at him. The outburst had been such a surprise that everyone in the room was trying to remember if the curse contained a threat as well—but no one could be sure that it had.
Conversely, the prosecutor had almost done the same when the judge just ignored Brunelli's outburst and had failed to either revoke or stiffen his bail. Clint had seen that the assistant D.A. from the morning's squad briefing, Henry Hodgkins, was just sitting at the prosecution table, cool as a cucumber and looking relaxed through the commotion, but the D.A. himself had reddened right up at Brunelli being left free in the face of the murder of a key witness against him and had huffed and puffed until the judge had stared him down and banged his gavel before getting up and leaving the courtroom.
"He found me—both times—Danny. I didn't go looking for him."
"But he found you in the same bars the victims in our case disappeared from, didn't he? You've been cruising the bars near the docks—the rough trade bars."
"They aren't all rough trade, Danny."
"But it's rough trade you've been looking for, isn't it? And you are failing to connect the dots. I swear, Clint, that your 'gotta have it rough all the time' is a blind spot to your investigation abilities."
"You know me Danny. And we both know my 'gotta have it' plays right into your own interests."
"Well, you should just take your cruising up town for a while—until we nail this guy for something."
"You don't mean that, Danny. You don't want me cruising for it at all. Admit it."
Danny didn't admit. He just set his jaw and looked stubborn.
Seeing that this was going nowhere, Clint changed direction. "It could be a good thing that I might get close to him again, Danny. It's the perfect setup. I'd be on the inside and we wouldn't even have to plan a way for one of us to get on the inside."
Danny's stubbornness wasn't ready to let loose. "Him being a mobster—and murderer—excites you, doesn't it, Clint? If he comes for you again, you'll go, won't you?"
Clint didn't answer. Danny knew him too well. He knew that this all made the mobster more arousing to Clint, not less.
The courtroom had cleared and they were walking out to the lobby. Hodgkins was still there, loitering around, appearing to be waiting for someone. When Hodgkins saw Clint and Danny come into the lobby, Clint could have sworn that the man smiled at him and gave him a wink. The assistant D.A. turned and left the building then, but as he left, Clint was already imagining what he might look like undressed.
"Can you at least wear a wire or something—keep a cell phone open—let me know somehow where you are so that we can stay near and know if you need to be pulled out?"
"A wire wouldn't work. You know that, Danny," Clint answered. "You know I wouldn't be wearing anything and that anything on my clothes would be found. But, yes, I think I know that's why I needed to tell someone about Brunelli and me—that I had to tell you. I know that I need backup. But it may all just be spinning wheels. Maybe he's done with me. I don't get the impression that he sticks with one guy too long."
"Yeah. That may be the problem, Clint. Maybe he just fucks them and then beats them to death when he gets bored with them. That might be what our serial killings here are all about. You can only like that up to a point, no matter what greater high you think is out there. What good is a new high if you're too dead to remember it?"
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