Luigi scrolled through the list of contacts on his phone until he found Colin’s number.
“Hi, Colin! How are you? It’s Luigi. Cody’s”—he hesitated for an instant—“lover.” That’s what I am, he thought, even if I am also his friend.
“I was wondering about how he was.”
“Things are tough, Colin.” Luigi didn’t want to go into details, not with Cody listening.
“Colin, Cody thinks he’s seen the killer. We took some photos of the car and we have the number plate.”
“Did a detective talk to Cody?”
“Yes,” said Luigi, “but, well, we don’t trust them. We trust you. And anyway, maybe Cody was wrong and then they wouldn’t listen to us if we were to see him again. So I thought we ought to let you know and maybe you can tell us who owns that car.”
“Well, I can’t really. That’s private information. But I tell you what I will do. I’ll look it up and see who it is and maybe go and have a shifty, see where he lives and works, that sort of thing.”
“We should come with you.”
“Not a good idea. This is a police matter. You’re … well, don’t want to be rude, but … you’re amateurs.”
“He’s going to do it again,” said Luigi quietly.
“I know. So I’m going to do some research and then come into the city. I’ll come and talk to you two about what you saw.”
“Thank you,” said Luigi, realising it would be useless to argue.
“Here’s what we’re going to do, Coads,” he said as he switched his mobile off. “You said that the Kombi van had St Joseph’s or St Michael’s written on it. So we’re going to go home and do some research on the internet. It’s probably a Catholic church charity of some kind. Maybe a boys’ home. Or a school. And prolly”—Luigi started getting excited—“in the inner city.”
“Well, you said the Kombi was rusty and the paint was worn. And the suburban parishes have money. All those middle class people. But the inner city is where the Housing Commission flats are and the reffos. And he’s around here. In these streets. This is his stamping ground.”
“But wouldn’t he find his victims away from his own area? Wouldn’t that be much safer? He’d be less likely to be recognised.”
“Maybe,” conceded Luigi. “And yet, if it was him you saw, then this is his stamping ground. He was doing shopping, here, not out in the suburbs. Anyway, even though Colin will help us, I think we need to do some of our own sleuthing. What harm could it do? We c’n go and look at each of the most likely places and see if the van is there. And if it is we can tell Colin when he comes into the city.” He was silent for a few heartbeats. Then he added, “We’re not helpless. We can fight back.”
There turned out to be millions of references to “St Joseph’s” and “St Michael’s” on Google.
“This isn’t going to work”, muttered Cody. He seemed more confident and sure of himself than he had since Luigi had collected him from Mount Macedon. “Lemme think.” He scratched his nose and twiddled with his ears and then said, “I know! We’ll try this.”
He opened Google Maps and searched. There were ten St Joseph’s and six St Michael’s, a couple of schools, a boys’ home, old age homes, some churches.
“Look!” Luigi, who was leaning over Cody’s shoulder, pointed to the map. “There are four in the inner suburbs. One just down the road on Smith Street; and one near Northcote. And then these two in Footscray and North Melbourne. Print off the maps and the details and we’ll go and investigate.”
They drove to the Smith Street location first. It was the one closest to them.
It was a Victorian church in redbrick and bluestone, with accretions in varying architectural styles from the succeeding century and a half since it had been built. There was a small Catholic primary school at one side, rather charming in Art-Deco redbrick and cream cement, with several giant trees shading its playground. Luigi parked on the opposite side of the street outside some shabby Victorian terrace houses and switched off the engine.
“Now what?” asked Luigi.
“Well, we have to go and look. In the car parking places.”
“But then he might see you. If he’s here.”
“Yeah. I should be in disguise.”
“You mean, like fake Marx brothers big nose and glasses?”
Cody grinned suddenly, spontaneously, for the first time in days. “Exactly. Seriously though, maybe sunnies and a cloth cap.”
“There’s an op shop on Smith Street. We could buy you a second-hand cap there. Hide your luscious curls.”
“Yuck. Someone else’s dandruff and grease.”
“Well it’s better than being seen. And caught. And buying a new one would take far too long. I mean, you’re going back to work tomorrow.”
“We’re not very good at this, are we?” But Cody had an amused glint in his eye.
They walked up the side road to Smith Street. There were three second-hand clothing shops in close proximity. In one, they found a subfusc olive-green cloth cap which fitted Cody. And wasn’t too icky.
He turned and twisted to try and see what he looked like from each side with it on.
“Suits you!” said Luigi. And it did. Cody looked even handsomer with the cap on. The colour enhanced the blue-grey of his eyes and perfectly matched the rich chestnut of his shoulder-length hair.
The op shop had a rack of second-hand leather motorcycle jackets. The worn ones were cheap. Cody tried one on, just to see how he looked.
“We’ll take that too!” decided Luigi.
Next door to the op shop there was a chemist with a rack of sunglasses.
“Aviator, for preference,” said Luigi, “with that jacket and the cap. And they have mirrored lenses…”
They chose a pair each.
“You look very sexy. And very different!” Luigi felt all at once an intense desire to fuck Cody. Then he remembered about the rapes and Cody’s tightness.
“You always look sexy,” replied Cody. “Even first thing in the morning with dog breath and bird’s-nest hair. Well you did this morning, at any rate.” It was after all the first time Cody had spent the night.
Luigi wanted to kiss him. Well. It was Smith Street. Counter-cultural. Different. Gay-shaded. So he did.
As their lips parted after a long kiss in which both had grown a little breathless and both had popped boners, he breathed to Cody, “I love you Coads. I’m so glad you’re safe.”
He could see himself mirrored in Cody’s aviator sunglasses. Without for one moment forgetting their mission, he felt that the two of them were a team. And things would be right.
They walked down to the church and its school again, and sauntered through the small church car park trying—and failing—to look inconspicuous. There was no Kombi there and they didn’t see the grey Corolla either.
“All right, the next place is where?” asked Luigi when they’d got back into the car.
Cody consulted the sheaf of papers he’d stashed on the back seat. “The nearest is about 5 k’s away. Near Northcote.”
When they got there, it was an old age home. And it looked very staid and institutional. There wasn’t a single person wandering its spacious but dreary grounds.
“Didn’t you say that the Kombi was kitted out for camping?” asked Luigi.
“Yeah. Looked like it. A little stove, cupboards, a bed.”
“So not really for old people. I mean, OK, there are some who might go camping, but wouldn’t they want more comfort? It sounds more like someone, an adult, with, let’s guess, a couple of youngsters along.”
“Yep.” Cody paused. “You know … a boy’s home or a school does sound more likely. A horrible thought. What does he do to the schoolboys?”
Luigi’s face hardened. “Yeah. But he’s a closeted homo, isn’t he? I mean, no straight guy would do that. Cut you and then rape you. So maybe, he’s …. Maybe he pretends with the boys. Maybe … not. There’ve been some horrible things in the church. Rapes of schoolboys and choirboys. The newspapers are full of it.”
“We have to nail him, Lou. I … I know about pretending and stuff. But …. Jeez, Lou, he was … he was evil. I didn’t use to believe in that, but … he was.”
“Yeah. We’ll get him.” Luigi’s face was grim and hard. “Come on. We have two more places to look at and then I want to take you somewhere.”
“You’ll see!” And Luigi’s smile transformed his face so that the grim anger was only a memory.
As they drove west across the city towards the next possible ‘St Joseph’s’, Cody asked, “What did you mean, ‘no straight guy would do that’, Lou?”
“W-e-l-l …. I don’t mean exactly that straight guys can’t be perverts and monsters. But … we have to hide what we are. We can’t walk hand-in-hand down the street ….”
“… we kissed in the chemist …”
“…But did you see how the assistant carefully avoided looking at us? And that was Smith Street, hardly Christian Fundi Central. Anyway, even if it’s changed now, for the previous generation it was always a problem. And the killer sounds to me like he was, he went to, a Catholic or one of those happy-clappy fundi schools. And they teach you to hate yourself if you’re a homo. I should know. But the thing is, if you hate yourself, it perverts you. Everybody’s different. With me …..”
Cody waited. At last, he said, as neutrally as possible, “Yeah?”
“It’s not ‘nothing’.”
Luigi didn’t want to say, because he was with an example of how he chose poorly: Cody. He had been going to say that he chose straight-acting men who would always treat him badly. Many of them had beaten him up. How big a step was it from enjoying in a perverted way the punishments inflicted on him to turning that outwards onto others? From turning your self-hatred outwards onto others? From trying to kill the thing you hated about yourself by killing others?
Instead of saying what he’d been thinking, Luigi said, “I think I still despise myself. No matter how many times I tell myself that I’m worthwhile and the Church and the bigots have it wrong, I still, somewhere deep down believe them.”
“Yeah.” Cody’s voice trembled a little. Yep, thought Luigi. We’ve all been down that road. Fuck them all. Fuck them!
Shaken by his insights, Luigi was silent until they got to their next destination. Jason isn’t like that, he mused. And Keith isn’t. They are glad to be what they are. Glad to be gay. Well, Keith was bi, but that wasn’t because he was ashamed of being gay. It was simply because he was attracted, well attracted to Esmé anyway. I mustn’t lose them. Both of us need them. Because we’re both … broken. A little, anyway.
Both the next two ‘St Joseph’s’ they visited seemed implausible. There was a grey Corolla at one, but it had a different number plate to the one they were searching for.
“The first place we went to is the still the best one we’ve seen. I think we should go back.”
“But before we do….”
“I’m taking you to a sex shop.”
“You want to be able to be fucked again, right?”
“Yeah.” Cody’s eyes were gleaming.
“So we’re going to buy some butt plugs and stuff. A small one, another a bit bigger. So you can get used to it again.”
Cody smiled suddenly, his eyes bright. “Good idea,” he said. He moved his hand down to Luigi’s package, and started caressing and squeezing it.
“Are you mad? I’m driving!” But Luigi was grinning.
The sex shop was in a suburb just off the freeway which would take them back to their side of the city. It was in a large prefab concrete warehouse. Inside it was like a supermarket—for sex toys.
Cody’s eyes were wide. “Jeez,” he whispered, “dya see that?” That was a foot long buttplug in black about 7 or 8 centimetres in diameter. “How dya get it up you?”
“Some guys are into fisting.”
“You don’t mean hitting each other, do you?”
“No, but some people are into that too.” Luigi grinned. “I mean putting your whole hand up someone’s arsehole. Or having it done to you.”
“Must hurt like buggery. So to speak,” he added after a second’s pause, with perfect timing.
Their eyes caught and they started giggling.
“Not this week,” said Luigi firmly.
“Not even for you?” asked Cody, his eyes glinting.
Luigi held his gaze. “Maybe. One day. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to be getting you a set. What about this one? ‘Anal trainer’. It’s got three, starting with small and working bigger.”
Cody wasn’t listening “Look at these, Lou.” It was a set of three buttplugs consisting of globes on a sucker base.
“Those won’t fall out easily. But, by the same token, they won’t go in easily either.”
They ended up buying the trainer kit, the set of globes and the monster. Plus some specially good lube, according to its label.
The checkout lady charged all the items up to Luigi’s credit card, blandly, bored.
In the car, Cody observed, “In that shop the most embarrassing thing which could happen to you would be that your credit card was declined. They’re used to everything.”
“Even us homos and our perversions.”
“Yeah. The Great God capitalism. As long as it makes money. As long as you can pay.”
As they drove down the freeway into the city, Cody spoke, carefully, in a tone calculated not to be aggressive or disagreeable. “Lou, love, I dunno how homo I am.”
Luigi sighed to himself. Not this again, he thought. “Yeah, I know,” he said aloud. Don’t I just!
“How do your mates Jason and Keith cope?” Cody asked, his voice and his whole demeanour humble.
I don’t want him to be grateful and humble, thought Luigi. I want him to be confident and strong. Jeez! I’m so mixed up. I liked him better when he was arrogant and charming. What a tool I am! Always looking for a man who’ll do me down and desert me in the end! Idiot!
“Why don’t we ask them?” he said out loud, trying not to show his disparate feelings.
“They’re nice blokes, Coads. They’re not afraid to talk about stuff. Both of them have been through very bad things … and it’s made them … I dunno …. Wiser. Kinder. Thing is, Coads love, I’m a homo through and through. There is no way I could get it up with a woman.” Cody put his hand on Luigi’s knee and muttered something. Luigi ploughed on. “But Jace and Key? Well, I think Key is maybe more straight than gay. He has sex with men because he likes sex. But also, I think he’s half in love with Jason. And Jason is still in love with his guy in England who killed himself …” Cody murmured something, but again Luigi overrode it. He wanted to say this. “… and I think he’s more gay than straight but he has had girlfriends, he said. He likes sex too, but what he wants is … love. What he had with his guy in England.”
“D’you think he’ll find it? Again, I mean.”
“I dunno. He’s very fond of me and Keith. I dunno that it’s love, though. What he had with his cricket player was. It was special.” Luigi was silent for a while, negotiating a difficult intersection with traffic lights and two tram routes. “Maybe there is just one or two great loves in your life, Cody. Maybe all the others are different. Not that you don’t love them but when you are in love it’s an obsession. Almost like a mania. A madness. A heavenly madness while it lasts, but definitely not completely sane.”
“Lou, love. I’m sorry.” Cody’s voice shook.
“For hurting you so much.”
Yeah, well, thought Luigi, with a bitterness which left a taste in his mouth and made him swallow, I’ve got to get past this. Somehow.
“Relationships—marriages—strengthen through crises. If you work at it,” he said, trying hard to conceal his cynical doubts. “So let’s work at it.”
“What about …. ?”
“Jason and Keith?”
“And what am I?”
“When you … when I found out about … that you were married … I was lonely. And sad. And … Jace and Key are kind and generous and loving. They’re my friends. They’ve got my back. We love each other. Not like I loved you. But like friends or, maybe”—Luigi didn’t have a brother so he didn’t know, in truth—“like brothers.”
“But you fuck them.”
“Yeah. Just like you were doing with me and other blokes while you were stillmarried,” Luigi reminded him tartly.
“I know,” mumbled Cody, his head turned away. “It’s just …. I’m afraid … I’m …”
Luigi was immediately ashamed of his anger. Cody had been abducted, raped, terrorised and had escaped murder by the tiniest margin. He needed compassion not to be shouted at.
“Look, I don’t have to have sex with them. But I do love them, Coads. And the way I see it, they are my friends, and they’re sexy, and why not? And they’re just so kind and generous. And you know what, I think they’ll be your friends too. They’re not a threat to you and me. More of a support. They won’t come between you and me. They’ll support me any way they can. They’re top blokes, Cody love. The best around.”
“I thought … they seemed …. I dunno. Withdrawn. From me. A little.”
“They’ve only just met you! And they knew about me and you before. I told them about us.”
Cody was silent.
“Cody, they won’t judge you.”
“Jason has already warned me not to break your heart again.”
Luigi didn’t know whether to furious or grateful for this evidence of his friends’ concern. He felt tears prick his eyes. Trying to keep his voice steady he said, “I think you need to get to know them. And then you’ll understand.”
“All right,” Cody conceded the point. After another couple of kilometres of their journey, he said, “Lou, just now I thought I was OK. But it just … it all seems so hard. I loved Philippa. And I love you. And I … I’m not gay. I … love you Lou.”
“I know,” replied Luigi. And he did. He remembered Cody’s reaction when he had cut him out of his life. The way he had sobbed as he walked away from the flat. “Thing is … how many women will be OK with you having a bloke in your life? A lover? Even if they know about it right from the beginning?”
“I know. It’s …. Yeah, I know. Thank you, Lou.”
“For what? I chucked you out and you went on to pick up the murderer. Thanks aren’t needed, mate.”
“I deserved it. I lied to you and to her. I lied and lied and lied. I pretended one thing and did another.”
Luigi didn’t know how to react to this bitter outburst. It was true. And it was that which had so hurt and angered him. The deceit. The lies. Would have been so angry if he’d known from the first that Cody was married? That his wife would come first? He tried to imagine whether he would have fallen in love if he’d known Cody was married.
“Cody, you can’t go back and change what you did. All you can do is try not to do it again.”
“No Try not. Do … or do not. There is no try.” Cody’s voice was solemn.
Luigi burst out laughing. Cody looked at him and then also started laughing. Luigi nearly drove off the side of the road he was laughing so much.
“Tool!” he said, still laughing. “I know, let’s get the video tonight. And a bottle of champers. ” Luigi said, still chuckling. “The Force is strong in you, Yody.”
The crisis was over. For now. But both knew it would return.
“He’s a handsome little fucker, isn’t he?” commented Luigi as they watched the film. “He looks gay, don’t you think?”
“Luke Skywalker? You think? I prefer Han Solo. I don’t know. I can’t tell. Anyway he’s married with kids.”
“Yeah well. That is Hollywood. And California. Anything’s possible. Anything’s possible here, too, actually. Key, when he was on the streets, used to have sex with lots of married blokes. He says that some of them were very kind and gentle with him, that what they wanted was more to be loved than just a fuck. It’s kind of hard isn’t it? We need both, don’t we, love and sex? I mean, we’ve both been out there cruising—whoring—and … well, what were we looking for? Just sex? Or love? Both? Or something in between? I know I told myself it was sex, but in my heart, it was love. Or somebody to cuddle, anyway.”
Cody thought about it. “Mmm,” he said. “At the time, I just thought of it as sex. It was … well … sex with men was … hot. I loved Philippa—I still love her—but I just needed to … no, that’s not true … I could have … anyway, the thing is that I realised with you that it was something more … that I needed to be loved. It’s a mess. I’m a mess, Lou.”
Luigi paused the DVD. He shifted sideways on the sofa to look directly at Cody. “When I first met Richard, my lover—my husband, really—he wanted me to fuck him because he couldn’t get it up. He was quite elderly. And he offered to pay. Which means that I was once a whore, Lou. He wanted me to be a regular, and in the end we became a couple. I don’t think I was ever ‘in love’ with him. But I did love him. A lot, as it happens. He was my friend, my lover, someone who was consistently kind and generous with me. He never asked if I was tricking with other men. And in the end I stopped. In the beginning I did. I felt I needed the sex, the excitement of the chase. You know how it goes. Will he, won’t he? Is he, isn’t he? Someone new. Someone exciting. But, in the end with Richard, yeah, the sex wasn’t stunning. But we were happy. It was so nice to be loved for myself, and it was …. beaut … to love him back. After he died, I went cruising again, and the sex was hot but it wasn’t enough. There was a missing ingredient. And that was mattering to someone. Having someone to cuddle. I matter to Jace and Keith. And I matter to you. And I need that.”
Cody thought for a bit. “I didn’t even know I was bi,” he said. “Gay. Whatever. I had girlfriends. I never had sex with a man. I used to get crushes on guys at school. I thought everybody did that. Felt that. That it was just an intense friendship. And then at uni, there was this bloke, Camden. We were friends. I dunno about best friends, but close. I was over at his place and we were stoned and drunk. Not drunk. Tipsy. Just the two of us. And then he said to me, ‘have you ever been with a bloke?’ and I said ‘no’ but it was exciting. I popped an instant rexie. And then he said, ‘do you wanna?’ and I said yes.”
“What happened?” Luigi was absurdly jealous of this man who had been Cody’s lover.
He had to struggle not to let his jealousy show.
“We fucked whenever we could. Well, I dunno. We just used to pull each other’s wires. And kiss. That was the best bit. It didn’t seem gay, you know. I know that sounds stupid, but, ‘gay’ to us was oral sex. Or anal.”
“And the kissing?”
“Yeah.” Cody grinned, a little sadly. “That should have alerted me. It was so … good.”
“Are you still friends?”
Cody shook his head. He looked away.
Luigi leaned over and kissed him his ear.
When Cody turned to look at him, his eyes were brimming.
“What?” Luigi asked, anxious, taking his hand.
“I dropped him when I got married. It …. It seemed the right thing to do. And he was a friend, Lou, and … more than a fuckbuddy. He liked me. It was like you and Keith and Jason. Not the great romance of the century. But love. Comradeship. Something more than just a casual fuck.”
Luigi kissed him again.
“But … well … before we got married and after, Phil and I had lots of sex and it was sensational. But then, after the kids, we didn’t have much sex. We more or less stopped. And then I found myself looking at handsome strangers and thinking. Remembering. And … one day I picked up someone. And then I started, once a month, once every two months, when … I’m not excusing myself. I should have kept my marriage vows. It wasn’t her fault. I should have been faithful to her.”
“And then I met you. And I fell in love.” He leant his head against Luigi’s shoulder. “I won’t ever regret that. Whatever else happened.”
His heart absurdly warm, Luigi kissed him. Cody kissed him back.
“Shall we try one of those plugs, now?”
Luigi reached over and snaffled the shopping bag with the sex toys and put it on the sofa. He opened the packet of the ‘starter kit’. He leaned in and kissed Cody again. He sat back and smiled.
Cody leaned forward and kissed him deeply. “I do love you, Lou. I do,” he murmured
“I know,” whispered Luigi. He lifted Cody’s T-shirt off his torso, and left a trail of charged kisses down his neck. He took a nipple into his mouth and bit gently. Cody groaned.
“Oh, God, Lou, that’s …. Don’t stop.”
Luigi moved his hands up to the other nipple and tweaked it. “Never!” he breathed.
Cody unzipped his jeans.
Luigi reached inside the zip and squeezed his package. “Hmm, is that a canoe, or are you glad to see me?”
“A canoe,” gasped Cody.
“Funny place to keep it.”
They started laughing. “It was too big for the hallway,” Cody choked out.
Luigi gave a shout of laughter.
“So is this,” he exclaimed, brandishing the large black monster dildo.
“I still don’t believe anybody could get that up himself,” said Cody eyeing it warily.
“You can try on me, one of these days,” promised Luigi. “Meanwhile, enough of this feeble repartee …. Time for fun.”
He pulled down Cody’s jeans to his ankles. He started to suck Cody’s cock through his undies, nibbling and biting gently. Cody arched his back, pressing his hands into the sofa. Luigi pulled down the other man’s trunks and took his cock into his mouth. It smelled of Cody, of stale piss and dried apricots, of precum and sex and pleasure.
Luigi sat back onto his haunches, and took the smallest butt plug in the ‘starter kit’ out of its holder. He lubed it up thoroughly with the new superlube.
“All right, as soon as this hurts, give us a hoy and we’ll stop.”
He pressed the tip of the plug against Cody’s ring, their eyes locked. He pushed the plug just a centimetre into the other man’s body. He felt Cody tense up, his ring and his body, but left the plug where it was and took Cody’s cock into his mouth. He tongued the other man’s cock and began to move his head up and down, his hand still holding the plug. He took the plug out and added more lube and with one hand slipped it again into Cody’s arse, his mouth still warm and keen on Cody’s cock. The plug went deeper this time, but still not past the bulge. Keeping his head moving up and down, Luigi began a rhythmic thrust with the plug, in time with his head movements, pushing it in a fraction deeper with each thrust. Cody groaned incoherently. Luigi felt no tightening, just Cody’s need to climax. Cody was close. Now! he thought.
“I’m cumming,” gasped Cody, “Oh God, it’s so good, don’t stop.”
As Cody orgasmed, Luigi pushed the plug deep into him, till its base was pressed against Cody’s body. His mouth filled with Cody’s jizz. Remembering that they hadn’t heard the results of Cody’s HIV test yet, he spat the stuff out and wiped his mouth on Cody’s trunks.
To take away the awkwardness of the moment, he said, “You’re going through undies at a great rate of knots, mate.”
Cody didn’t answer. His face was flushed, his eyes bright with happiness.