Holding Out For a Hero

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There are fairy tales the super-famous tell each other. Even Action Heroes like Ash Kadiz sometimes wake in the night in a cold sweat thinking about the stories they’ve heard.
Poisoned box offices, cosmetic surgery beasts, wicked, wicked stalkers.

*

Ash Kadiz was taking a holiday. His idea of a holiday: solitude. His wife Pandora was away filming in Bali, and Ash had nothing to do except workout, pad idly around his multi-million dollar mansion and eat the smokey bacon flavour potato chips that he’d had flown in from England. He’d even given his personal trainer and both chefs the month off, explaining to a sceptical Pandora that he used to be perfectly capable of cooking and exercising all by himself.

So now, every morning – without a single interruption – he did his sit ups and made his own egg-white omelette with doubled-up quantities of spices. And after he’d eaten, he went over to the blue bedroom in the furthest part of the house and stayed there until lunchtime. Just him and a box. A box that he hadn’t looked inside in a long time.

One morning, passing the open door to the security hub on his way back from the blue bedroom, he stopped dead. Most of the bank of monitors were blanked, as if the cameras were out. But what could have taken out over three quarters of the cameras? Not something as simple as a power outage. The cameras had their own back up generator. Usually there would be a security guard in this room, and two more sitting out on the perimeter fence, but there was just the one guy, Keith, out there at the moment. Ash had scaled the security down, along with everything else.

Pandora had complained about that too. But she was far more of a psycho-magnet than he was. What with all the websites devoted to weird amateur-made fakes pornos of her. Any unhinged type could now find a superior video manip of her to jerk off to. Sometimes even Ash couldn’t tell which were real and which were fake.

He should have been down to one security guard. But the camera on the guard room out by the perimeter fence was still functioning and it showed a pair of empty chairs. Ash scanned the monitors for any other sign of life. Keith was the only other human being in the vast complex of his mansion. So who was the guy he could see racing across the front lawn – ridiculously rangy and thin, definitely not Keith.

In front of Ash was a large red panic button. It would alert the local police, along with his own private security firm. It would also lock down the house. He stared at the man on the screen. He didn’t press the button in time to stop the front door from crashing open and a voice calling out. ‘Hey! Anyone home?’

*

Ash looked over the balcony to his entrance hall and ran through a check-list of all the things the man standing on his Italian tiles wasn’t holding: no mace, no chloroform-soaked rag, no handcuffs, and – most important of all – no recording equipment. If this guy was planning to rape him and put the film on the web (the ultimate star frightener story) he’d come very unprepared.

‘This is private property,’ Ash heard himself say.

‘Fuck! You’re Ash Kadiz?’ Ash wasn’t surprised by this reaction. Even in his sweat-stained gym clothes, and with his hair pulled back, nearly 50% of the world’s population would know who he was – here in Los Angeles that figure must be more like 90%. ‘Oh my god, if I didn’t think what was going out there was surreal enough. God, Ash Kadiz. Man, I loved you in Payback and Revenge and…’ The man in the hall went on for several seconds then, listing about ten more of Ash’s one-word-title blockbusters.

But before he got to the end, Ash said, ‘What’s going on out there?’

‘What?’

‘You said it was surreal out there? It couldn’t get more surreal out there?’

‘Oh my god. Don’t you know…?’ But the man didn’t get any further. He stopped talking and swayed a bit, then his legs seemed to crumple underneath him, and he fell into a dead faint on the floor.

Ash looked at the unconscious man. He didn’t know whether to walk down the stairs and help him or not. It might be a trap. He wondered where the security he called were. The private firm he paid were meant to respond in three minutes or less – this dumbass unconscious in his hallway had spent longer than that listing his filmography.

Ash found the sight of the unconscious man strangely arousing in a fucked-up kind of a way, and thought that, if he hadn’t just spent three hours slowly jerking himself off to old pictures of Jake, he’d probably have a hard-on right now.

In the end, he did walk down the stairs.

As Ash approached the man, he opened his eyes. Ash jumped back defensively, but the man still looked so harmless – so pathetic – that eventually Ash stepped forward and knelt down next to him, vaguely aware that this was just what every minder who’d ever worked with him would tell him not to do.

And they would surely have been quite insistent that Ash shouldn’t pick the guy up and take him into the den.

*

Ash put the feather-light body down on his couch and ran a finger across the a pale, prominent cheek-bone. As well as being as tiny and fragile as a baby bird, the guy was also as pale as mist. His skin was almost translucent, his hair was over-bleached with mousey roots. Even his lips seemed a little paler than they should have been. Where Ash’s dark-skinned hand ran over the white forehead the contrast was so high; it was like there were no shades of grey.

‘What’s your name?’ Ash said.

The man looked at him as if deciding on an answer. ’Brutus,’ he said with a little swallow. ‘Brutus Cyanide.’

‘Ash made a scoffing noise. That’s your name? That’s your real name?’

‘Real as Ash Kadiz.’

‘What’s going on outside?’

‘Probably better if you just turn on the TV, man. You’d never believe me if I tried to explain.’

At first, all Ash got was a screen full of static. But he flipped the channels and eventually found something that looked like a news scene from a science fiction film. A familiar city-scape, but there were weird black clouds floating around. People screaming. Ash looked at Brutus, who nodded, as if to say, yeah, it’s real.

The TV cut to a newsroom. A newscaster saying, ‘And if you’ve just joined us those were live pictures from Dubai, where the mysterious elements are as prevalent as anywhere.’ Ash noticed that the newscaster wasn’t in a normal room; it was some kind of bunker?

‘What’s happening?’ Ash said, ‘this isn’t real.’

‘It is. There are these cloud things,’ Brutus said. ‘Black clouds of, I don’t know, particles? They’re everywhere. I saw it on the news this morning. We locked the door like they said, but this stuff came in through the window frames and the gaps under the door.’ Brutus dropped his gaze. ‘I got out. I ran. I don’t know what happened to my… I ended up here.’

‘You led those things in here?’

‘I don’t think they can get in here,’ Brutus said.

‘You said it came through gaps,’ Ash looked nervously up at the windows. The TV had gone dead.

‘I think,’ said Brutus slowly, ‘that we’re okay in here. I think it’s the fence. Your iron fence. They can’t get through metal. On the news before it said something about electromagnetic radiation. That’s what these things are made of. That’s why the TV and everything keeps going down all the time.’

*

A little later, the TV came back to life.

Ash noticed that there was a little graphic at the corner of the screen that hadn’t been there before.

It said, ‘Alien Attack’.

‘Fuck,’ he said, ‘Alien Attack, that was the name of my first big movie in the states. Weird.’

They had new footage too. The clouds of radiation – Murks, the newscasters were calling them – swallowed people up. The people died, suffocating, gasping for air, visible through the translucent blur of the Murks. Although, once in a while, the people didn’t die. Sometimes when the Murk retreated they got up and walked around, afterwards, dazed and disengaged, zombie-like.

‘It was one of those zombies things that killed your security guy,’ Brutus said.

‘How do I know it wasn’t you?’

‘You don’t. But I saved your life, because this zombie thing broke into the security box and your guy tried to shoot him, but news-flash, he was a zombie – already dead. Once your security guy croaked the zombie just sort of wandered off, but he left your security entrance open, which meant a gap in your fence that those things could have got through. When I saw that, I ran through and closed it up behind me.’

‘Sounds a bit unlikely to me,’ Ash said.

Brutus didn’t say anything.

Then Ash said, ‘You look familiar.’

‘Yeah. I think I just have that kind of face.’

‘No, no. I don’t think it’s that. Are you in the business?’

‘Not exactly. I’m in business. I’m a hustler.’

‘Rent? Fuck!’ Ash almost jumped away from Brutus. Their thighs had been touching a moment ago. Now Ash was on the far side of the couch. ‘You’ve got to go.’

‘What, out there? Fuck you, man. I’ll be killed.’

‘I can’t have a rent boy in my house.’

‘Why? I think National Enquirer is going to have bigger things to write about this week than Ash Kadiz and his sham marriage. It’s the end of the fucking world out there.’

Ash felt himself go cold. He walked over to the phone and picked up the receiver. ‘I’m calling security.’

‘Do it.’ Brutus shrugged.

Ash tried to get a line, first an internal one, then, when that failed, external, but it was all dead. His cell didn’t work either. Nor did the network on his laptop.

‘You cut the signal,’ Ash said, eyeing Brutus. ‘You cut the cables, killed my security guard, broke in here and then spun me this story to keep me here while you…’

‘Yeah, right.’ Brutus waved a hand towards the TV, ‘and those newscasters, they’re all my pals. I asked them to say all that stuff. Spliced a video of it into your cable signal.’

‘Well,’ said Ash, ‘yes.’

‘Fine. If that’s what you think, leave. Walk out. Find a call box and get the cops down here. Look at me?’ Brutus indicated his featherweight body, ‘You think I’m going to be able to stop a muscled-up-mother like you?’

Ash didn’t leave. He stood up and looked at Brutus for a while, before he sat back down on the couch and watched the TV with him. They watched it all night. At once point the newscasters said that, yes, for some reason the Murks couldn’t get through iron, even iron railings. They showed some footage of people holed out in parks and zoos. ‘If you are safe inside an iron perimeter,’ the newscaster informed them, ‘it is essential that you do not go within 50 yards of it.’

‘Why not?’ Ash asked Brutus.

‘I think they can zap you, or something.’

‘Oh very convenient. So I can’t even stroll down to the gate and take a look through it and see if I can see any evidence for what you’re saying.’

‘Evidence? You need evidence. Fuck, man, look at the TV!’

Later, Brutus went to the kitchen and found Ash’s potato chips. They ate them together, and fell asleep in front of the now dead TV’s hissing static.

There was one point in the night, where Ash woke up. Or, at least, half woke up. He forgot where he was, when he was, who he was. He found Brutus’s slender body cradled against him. He looked at the fragile bird-body, that badly dyed hair. For that one little moment he really thought it was Jake. Jake come back to him. Jake, alive.

*

In the morning Brutus tried to turn on the TV, but he couldn’t get it to work at all. Ash stood by the big window, watching the startling view of his own landscaped garden. Waiting. Nothing came. No dark clouds of strange black particles. No zombie-like humans. No one. After a while, Brutus came up to him, having finally given up on the TV.

When Brutus touched Ash lightly on the arm, Ash turned around and kissed him.

They didn’t make it to the bedroom. Ash was too desperate. Too fast. Hard, and rubbing his erection against Brutus leg. When Brutus slid down; slid professionally to his knees and applied his mouth lower down on Ash’s body, Ash bucked and came quickly, and with more conviction than even in his finest performances on the big screen.

And the next morning, after they had made it into bed, Ash said, ‘I wonder where my wife is?’

Brutus said, ‘Dead, probably.’

Ash almost laughed. Almost. ‘Dead? No, she’s in Bali.’

‘You think the Murks wouldn’t have made it to Bali?’

Ash didn’t reply.

Brutus said, ‘You know, I always wondered about you and your wife. Like, there were always all these rumours about you, and most gay guys I ever spoke to said they only needed to look at you to tell you were queer, so, like, I wondered. Pandora, is she, like, a dyke, or do you close your eyes and make yourself do her?’

‘Brutus,’ Ash said quietly, ‘just because I’ve just fucked you, doesn’t mean we’re lovers. And doesn’t mean I want to indulge in pillow talk with you. You’re a rent boy. It’s the end of the world. You have no right to talk to me about my relationship with my wife.’ And Ash climbed naked from the bed and walked away.

He was over the threshold when Brutus said, ‘Where’re you going, man?’

‘To workout.’

*

Pandora always used to say, ‘Why do you call it the blue bedroom? There’s nothing blue in there?’

There was plenty of blue.

Usually Ash’s secret box of pictures of his past life – his life before he became a star – was hidden inside the false back of the wardrobe. But Ash hadn’t been careful about putting it back now he was alone in the house and looking through it every day. Which was how Ash walked in to find Brutus, naked and hard, there with the photographs of Jake.

Brutus looked up, ‘Sorry man. Found your porn.’

Ash stood in the doorway. Staring at Brutus, picturing him how he must have been seconds ago, jerking off over the images of him and Jake. Jake, tied and gagged; a hundred different ways the same. Jake, lifting his shirt to show the mass of welts and bruises on his back; each one made by Ash with as much meaning and emotion as a kiss. Jake with his mouth taped, looking into the camera, pleading with his eyes. Jake, naked, tied to a chair, with a younger version of Ash, dressed in jeans and a tee, straddling him, clapping a hand over Jake’s nose and mouth, taunting Jake as he struggled to breathe; one of Ash’s long brown arms outstretched, holding the camera.

Ash wetted his lips. Even half way across the room and upside down that last picture still had the power to make him pulse and throb. Fuck, but Brutus looked so like Jake. So delicate, yet wanton. So sulliable.

Brutus stood up. He’d pulled his underpants on, but his erection was clearly visible. Walking over, he trailed a hand over Ash’s sweat burnished stomach. ‘Fucking hot stuff you got there, man. I could do with a bit of a workout now myself, after looking at those.’

Ash’s first instinct was to walk away. Get away from these images. Away from Brutus who now knew all his secrets. But he didn’t. It only took one more look at a photo of Jake’s eyes above his duct tape gag and he was hard too.

Brutus stroked Ash’s stomach again. ‘You like rough play, huh? You want to be rough with me? That guy in the pictures looks a lot like me, doesn’t he? How about you call me his name and fuck me up, real good?’

Afterwards Ash couldn’t remember ever making the decision. Brutus was still trailing a hand on Ash’s waist, when Ash punched him, hard, hitting his left cheek bone and sending him sprawling on the floor, flat on his back.

The expression on Brutus’s face could have been anything. Fear, shock, arousal. Whatever. Ash growled and dived on top of him, shoving him onto his stomach, twisting a fragile looking arm up behind his back. Yanking at the underpants until the seams gave. Fucking Brutus and pulling his bleached hair and biting his shoulder and just doing it all because maybe there was never going to be another chance. In the morning, everyone might be dead.

*

But the Murks still didn’t come. Death couldn’t breach the iron fence. And Brutus almost stopped wearing clothes all together after that day with the photographs – unless he was cooking or eating.

It meant that Ash could see the dark marks he’d left on Brutus’s pale skin.

They watched some of Ash’s films over the next few days, and then they fucked some more. The level of violence varied. In the films and in the fucking.

*

One morning, after another workout Ash found Brutus in the blue room again, looking at Jake’s pictures.

‘See something you like?’ Ash purred from the doorway. Brutus seemed to jump at the sound.

‘What happened to him?’

‘Who? Jake? Why do you think anything happened to him?’

‘He’s not here anymore. Not with you. In the pictures, you look like you love each other in a perverted kind of a way.’

Brutus was holding the picture of Ash covering Jake’s face while he was tied to the chair. Ash remembered how it felt to do that to Jake. How it felt to make those tiny calculations about how long he could hold him for. How long he could stop him breathing. And he remembered something else. Covering Jake’s nose and mouth another time, another day, when the calculations didn’t seem to work out the way he’d thought. When things had gone wrong.

Ash pushed the thought away. ‘Nothing happened to him. You know how it is. I moved to America when my career took off. We just drifted apart. I didn’t love him. He was… uh, he was for rent, like you. You know how those kind of people are? They just vanish.’

Brutus nodded as he got up and walked over to Ash. He went to leave the room, but Ash blocked the doorway with a big arm. ‘Hang on. How about I show you some more of the tricks I used to get up to with him?’

‘Nah, man, let’s watch a movie first. We haven’t watched them all yet.’

‘No. This is my house. Get on your knees, trade.’

Brutus had this trick of getting Ash’s cock out using only his mouth. Seemed it worked just as well on sweat pants as jeans. Ash held Brutus’s hair and tried to restrict his breathing as much as he could as he fucked his face. He noticed Brutus’s cock had sprung to life.

*

They watched the Alien Attack movie.

Whenever on-screen-Ash appeared shirtless, real-Ash reached over and stroked Brutus’s cock.

Brutus came three times during the 100 minutes.

*

Another day, Ash tied Brutus down on the bed and covered his nose and mouth with one hand while he lazily jerked off over Brutus’s face with the other. It turned Ash on to do this with an air of casual disdain, as if he was jerking himself off over some just-interesting-enough porno rather than Brutus letting Ash play with his life like it was a sex toy.

Afterwards Brutus didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day. But when they did speak, that evening, they talked about the outside world.

‘Do you think everyone is dead?’ said Brutus. A bruise on his cheek where Ash had hit him was stark on his skin. He still had some of Ash’s come on his face too. Ash liked the way he hardly ever wiped it away.

Ash said, ‘I don’t know. We should try to phone out again. We might be able to get a line now.’

‘Yeah. Probably won’t though.’

Ash looked at Brutus weirdly, ‘Yeah. But you would say that, wouldn’t you? You know I haven’t exactly seen any evidence that what you claim is true since the TV stopped working.’

‘Oh god, man, don’t start that again. What, I made this up so I could live here with you beating the crap out of me every night to get your fucked-up thrills?’

‘Well, it all seems very convenient that this should happen right when I’m here all alone and I’ve told everyone who would normally call in not to. And these things can’t come through my fence so I’m safe in here but I can’t get out. And the TV is broken and most of my security cameras are down. It’s just a bit too neat, don’t you think?’

‘Oh, whatever. I mean, even if it is a coincidence or convenient or whatever, how could I have even knows about your self-imposed jerk-off holiday? It’s a coincidence, man, I don’t know why you’re even complaining, you seem to be having a ball. Going out with a bang.’

*

They only went into the garden at night.

Brutus stood by the pool while Ash wandered around the dark garden, restlessly. Brutus looked down at the water. ‘Hey, can I have a swim, man?’ Ash wasn’t really paying attention and by the time he turned, Brutus had already slipped his pale body into the water.

Ash watched Brutus swim.

After a couple of moments, Ash said, ‘Those things definitely can’t get through the fence.’

‘They can’t, but maybe the zombies could climb over the fence,’ Brutus said, rolling on his back and sculling.

‘Did you kill him?’ Ash asked.

‘Who?’

‘Keith. Did you kill him when you broke in here?’

‘What, man?’

Ash dived into the water. He swam over to Brutus and dragged him under, holding him a while before bringing him, choking to the surface.

‘Don’t do that, man,’ spluttered Brutus, ‘I’m not a good swimmer.’

‘Just tell me the fucking truth, motherfucker.’ Ash pushed Brutus back under, holding him down until he thrashed like he really believed Ash would let him drown.

Ash pulled him up. ‘The truth.’

‘I didn’t do any-‘ Ash forced him down again before he could finish.

More thrashing. A pause. Then Ash pulled him up again, ‘Well?’
‘I didn-‘

Down.

And up again. ‘Well, did you kill him?’

‘If I say I did, will you stop?’ Brutus choked.

‘Maybe.’

‘Then yes, I killed him.’

‘And all this stuff about Murks, radiation, everyone being dead, you made all that up too?’

Brutus looked around the dark garden manically. His eyes were streaming and red, his white-blonde hair was stuck all over his face. He was shivering and naked. ‘If I say yes to that to will you take me out of this pool and hit me and fuck me?’

‘Bet on it.’

‘None of it is true. I set the whole thing up. I just wanted to feel your hard cock inside me, man.’

Ash dragged Brutus onto the lawn; fucked him in the dirt.

*

Ash started fucking Brutus a lot more after that. He liked it best in the bedroom, with Brutus face down on the bed so Ash could force Brutus’s head down into the lavender scented pillows. Hold him there until he bucked and fought. Ash always came inside Brutus while Brutus was desperate for air, fighting for his life.

One time Ash tied Brutus down on the bed, kept him like that all day, coming in and fucking him and then leaving again.

After a few hours, Brutus said, ‘Fuck, man, you got to let me go to the bathroom.’

Ash sniffed. ‘Yeah, maybe.’

‘And some water. I need some water.’

‘Whatever,’ Ash said, leaving the room and dismissing Brutus with a hand wave as if he’s a buzzing gnat of an autograph hunter.

‘Please, man.’

Ash wandered round the house for a bit. He liked having Brutus tied up. Just the thought of it had kept his cock hard all morning, although after four orgasms, it was softer now. It was lonely without Brutus round the house, though. Ash picked up a beer from the kitchen and went back to the bedroom.

As he straddled Brutus’s thin pale back, Brutus said, ‘Please, man, you got to untie me, just for a bit. You can tie me up again after. You know it. You’re stronger than me anyhow. I couldn’t stop you. But you got to let me take care of myself. I’m going to piss myself on your bed, man.’

Ash leant down and put his lips beside Brutus’s ear. He licked it then said, ‘Got another bed. Got another ten.’

‘Fuck, man. You can’t make me lie here in my own piss.’

Ash didn’t say anything. He finished the last of the beer and then reached for a condom.

Brutus groaned – it was impossible to tell if he was aroused or resigned. Ash didn’t slide the condom onto his cock – he was spent, anyway. He slid it onto the neck of the bottle.

Ash moved back, so he was straddling Brutus’s upper thighs and pushed the tip of the bottle’s neck against Brutus’s ass. Brutus flinched, only very, very slightly. Ash added a little more pressure.

Brutus was still lubed inside. The bottle slid in without a hitch. Ash moved the bottle in and out until Brutus started to groan and grind himself against the bed. Wanting. But the whole thing didn’t really hold Ash’s interest enough to make him want to fuck Brutus properly. So he pulled the bottle out, got off the bed and walked away.

When Ash came back half an hour later, the bed was wet. He didn’t say anything, just untied the ropes around Brutus’s wrists.

Brutus didn’t speak to Ash. As soon as he could, he got off the bed and walked into the kitchen, pulled open the fridge and took out an over-sized bottle of Evian. He drank about half of it in one pull.

Ash said, ‘You okay?’

‘You’re so fucked up, man.’

‘Yeah, whatever, I’m the fucked up one. Not you. Not you who will let me do anything to do. Is there anything you’ll say no to?’

‘I can’t say no, can I?’

‘Why not?’

‘Because then you might kick me out. I’ll die out there.’

‘Oh sure, so we’re just going to ignore the fact that this whole situation is a product of your twisted imagination.’

Brutus walked out and went into the bathroom.

Ash thought maybe he really had gone to far this time. But then he heard the sound of Brutus jerking off.

Ash tried the door and it wasn’t locked. In the bathroom, Brutus was sitting on the edge of the bath with his hard cock in his hands. Ash came up behind him and replaced Brutus hand on his cock with his own. Brutus turned his head and Ash kissed him. It was hard and sweet and far more tender than anything they’d done since the incident in the pool. Ash tugged and twisted at Brutus’s cock, finding new ways to make Brutus gasp.

‘You’re so beautiful,’ Ash whispered into Brutus’s ear. ‘You know, when this is over, maybe I’ll have a party. I know lots of guys in the industry who’d enjoy getting their hands on a piece of you. Course, in some ways I don’t want to share you, but I’d also love to see you tied over the coffee table, covered in twenty different flavours of come.’

Brutus shuddered and came in Ash’s hands.

‘Shame that isn’t really going to happen,’ Brutus said, a moment later. ‘All those people you’re talking about are dead.’

*

Ash was lying on the couch. It was raining outside and Brutus was off somewhere, cooking, Ash thought; Ash hoped. He remembered the first time he saw Brutus, that grainy image on the security camera of him running across the lawn. He remembered that Brutus had been carrying something. A backpack – some kind of bag.

Where was that bag now?

Ash went to his entrance hall and heaved open his imposing front door. The unfiltered daylight felt odd on his face, the rain unearthly and delicious.

And on Ash’s doorstep, right next to the front door sat Brutus’s backpack.

Ash emptied the contents onto the ground. There was a wallet and a bunch of paperwork, all kinds of things that Brutus surely wouldn’t have had with him if his story of having to bolt unprepared from his apartment was true. In amongst the papers was a photograph. A single black and white 10 by 8 print. A picture of Jake. Jake looking more like Brutus than Ash would have thought possible.

*

Ash went back to the living room and found Brutus sitting on the couch, drinking coffee. He walked in casually and straddled Brutus’s slim body. Brutus sighed and raised his arms, stretching them up above his head and then down over the back of the couch.

Brutus was already half-hard and panting. Ash realised that he hadn’t fucked Brutus yet today. Poor bastard must have been feeling unloved.

Ash reached up, took both of Brutus’s wrists in one big hand and said, ‘Take a deep breath, baby.’ He used his free hand to seal Brutus’s nose and mouth. A familiar move now and Brutus bucked.

Then Ash said, ‘How did you know about Jake?’

Brutus looked confused. He struggled, but he couldn’t free himself from Ash’s hold, tight on his hands and face.

‘I found your photo,’ Ash said then pulled his hand away from Brutus’s mouth.

Brutus gasped a big desperate breath. ‘My photo?’

‘I found your bag. Your stuff. Fuck it. What do you know about Jake? Was this all some twisted scheme to get me to confess to you? What are you, some kind of PI?’

‘What. Man, what is this?’

Ash reached out and sealed Brutus’s nose and mouth again. Brutus tried to resist, to pull away, but there was nowhere to go. ‘I killed him,’ Ash said quietly. ‘You know that don’t you? I killed Jake. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to.’

Brutus struggled harder; his eyes like big blue windows looking out on a summer sky.

‘He was in the way,’ Ash said again, ‘I mean, when I started getting calls from Hollywood. I never expected all this. But once it came knocking, how could I say no? But I couldn’t be gay – and I really couldn’t be some fucked up gay sicko with a taste for suffocating rent boys while I jerked over their faces. But I never meant to kill him. I thought I could read his signs. But maybe somehow…’ Ash wasn’t crying, but his voice was fading in an out like a bad radio signal.

‘I don’t know I got away with it,’ Ash said. ‘But Jake was just a rent boy… No one really cared what had happened… Covered up somehow… I never even checked it out. Well, until now. What do you know? Who sent you? Are you a cop? A journalist? What?’

Brutus wasn’t struggling anymore.

*

Ash was sitting on the couch. In the pocket of his sweatpants, his phone buzzed for the first time in weeks. It was an email, from Pan.

Listen honey,

All the phone lines have been down out here for a while. Bloody hurricanes or something like that. I meant to mail you about this before. Look, sweetie, I know you’ve been really stressed and – don’t hate me – but I was in the blue room looking for my passport and I found some photos.

You know the ones I mean, don’t you? And, oh honey, I always knew.

Anyway, don’t fret about that. About me knowing. But I was worried about you, honey. I didn’t like to think of you all alone. Brooding. Looking at those morbid pictures. So I found this company online. Called Ultimate Discretion. I thought that sounded up your street. And I called them up and asked them to send someone over to keep you company. I even sent them one of the photos from your box and they said they had a good match for the guy. Anyway, it turns out they had some kind of deal on a fantasy role play thing called – wait for it – ‘Alien Attack’. Only named after your movie. They said it was specially designed for guys who wanted to have one-on-one fun and had exclusive residences. So I booked you that.

Anyway, I hope this gets to you before he arrives. I told Keith about it though, and he’s going to let the guy in and out, make himself scarce and turn off the cameras etc, so it should work out.

Toodles
Pan xx

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