He got back into bed. But he couldn’t sleep. He kept on imagining noises from the walkway—and the front door. Then he realised that there were noises. Somebody was tinkering with the lock. What the fuck!
He leaned over to Cody and whispered in his ear, “Wake up, love!”
Cody turned over and grumbled sleepily.
Luigi shook him. “Wake up!” he hissed.
“What?” said Cody, sudden alarm in his face.
“There’s someone trying to break in. At the front door.”
“It’s him!” Cody became instantly awake.
“Maybe,” said Luigi noncommittally.
“What shall we do?” asked Cody, his face white.
“Call the police.” Suiting action to words, Cody grabbed his mobile, and dialed triple-zero.
“Which service please? Police, Fire or Ambulance?” The very unruffled matter-of-fact voice answering his panicked dialing calmed him.
He was put through to the police and told the dispatcher what was happening.
“We’ll be there as soon as we can,” the dispatcher promised.
As he disconnected, he heard the front door open.
Too late, he remembered with shock that the key to the bedroom door was on the outside, not the inside of the door.
He grabbed his mobile and speed-dialed Jason. But Jason didn’t answer. Messagebank started. “Please leave your message after the tone”.
He managed to say, “Jason, it’s him! He’s in the flat!” before the bedroom door opened and the killer appeared.
He had a gun in his hand, pointed towards them both. The really weird thing was that he looked quite normal. Except for his eyes. They were cold and empty—and utterly terrifying.
“Get dressed,” he said quietly. But the soft way he spoke didn’t reassure. His voice carried soft menace.
In silence, they grabbed the clothes they’d dumped on the end of the bed the night before and started dressing. The killer’s eyes were fixed on Cody, not on Luigi. Luigi turned his back on the killer, and palmed his mobile into his undies. He didn’t want a suspicious square bulge in his pants pocket. He might just get a chance to use his mobile to let people know where they were.
The killer kept his gun trained on them. Luigi debated whether the killer was close enough to jump. Could he knock the man over before he pulled the trigger? Could he throw something at him, to distract him? Could he dress slowly, to give the police more time to get there? Feverish thoughts coursed through his mind while he dressed.
“Hurry up,” said the killer softly. His quietness was far more terrifying than yelling would have been. Luigi looked at him under his lashes. He’d been avoiding the killer’s eyes so far. But he noticed now that the killer was staring intently at him. Luigi could feel his heart pound, and sweat prickled on his face. Terror made his mouth dry.
Cody’s mind had emptied. He knew that this was it. The killer had found him again. This time he wouldn’t escape. This knowledge gave him an odd tranquillity. If he was going to die anyway, he would do what he could to save Luigi. Narrow-eyed, he calmly observed the killer, waiting for his chance.
Jason lay on the edge of the bed in Keith’s flat. Next to him, between him and Keith, Esmé snored with a cat-like purr.
After finishing the bottle of champagne at the restaurant, Keith had invited them both back to his flat for a nightcap. He’d poured them small glasses of Cointreau and offered them tea. No point in coffee: he didn’t have an espresso machine. Cafés made coffee so much better than he could.
They talked a little, but the real conversation was unspoken. Each of them could sense the electricity in the air, the joint attraction which drew them together and linked them with enchanted wires of desire. They were reluctant to end this suspended, magical interlude, where so much was promised, where the future seemed potentially so full, and the now so exciting.
Jason had always felt a little uneasy with women. He had been able to have sex with his girlfriends but it had never been simple, or fun. But Esmé had been a friend first. After what she had suffered at the hands of her father, he felt that she needed to be loved and cared for. He admired her prettiness, the way her eyes shone, the sweet curve of her neck and her breasts, her curly brown hair.
He looked across at Keith, whose face was solemn, and their eyes met and locked. Then he leaned over and kissed Esmé on her lips.
They didn’t speak. Taking her hand and reaching out for Keith’s, Jason tugged them through to the bedroom.
The orange light from the sodium street lamps was shining into the room through the gap between the curtains. Jason sat down on Keith’s bed, still holding Keith’s and Esmé’s hands. He patted the bed next to himself. Esmé sat down, and he put his arms round her. Keith lowered himself to the bed and kissed her on her cheek. Still they didn’t speak.
Jason began to lift her T-shirt over her head. As he lifted it, Keith kissed her on her tummy, each kiss making her shiver with need. Jason pulled the T-shirt over her head, and then re-arranged her hair which had got mussed. He kissed her on her lips, while Keith kissed her the body, in an electric line up from waistband to her breasts. Jason went on kissing her lips, his mouth warm, lemony with Cointreau, and Keith moved round behind her, kissing her shoulders. She could feel his hands, caressing her skin, and then undoing her bra straps. Keith lifted the bra off her. Obediently, she raised her hands so that he could. Now it was Jason kissing her front. His mouth brushed against her left breast, his tongue tracing out the shape of her nipple. Keith moved round from her back and his mouth found her other nipple.
“Yes,” she breathed, and lay back on the sheets, with her arms spread.
Keith’s face was unsmiling, but his eyes were alight. He looked down at her, then bent down to kiss her nipple. Jason ran his tongue down her shoulder to her other nipple. Together, each man sucked on her nipples, and she felt the charged tangles reach down to her groin, to the tips of her legs. Just when it seemed it would be too intense, Jason moved to her mouth, and kissed her. This time he was passionate, insistent. It didn’t frighten her, as it once would have. Instead, she felt his desire and in turn it kindled her own. The tortured, pain-filled couplings her father had forced her to endure ebbed to a dim memory, like a film she’d once seen long ago. Here—now—she was desired, by two different men, one with brown hair and eyes, the other blue-eyed and blond; one a street kid, the other a millionaire with a title. Her father was just some distant evil goblin, vile and perverted and corrosive, like a toxic chemical. But far away. She was safe. Her heart and her body opened.
Keith, used to her jeans, undid the button and the zip and slid his hand inside to feel her pussy. He was warm, firm, kind. Nothing like her father. He started to stroke her through her thong, sending ripples of pleasure through her body.
The two men stopped and looked at each other. They leaned over her and kissed, and then just looked deep into each other’s eyes. Without a word, they moved down to the end of the bed and took off her trainers and her socks. Jason lifted her carefully, his strong body doing it easily, and Keith pulled her jeans off. On their knees, the two men turned and smiled at her with a palpable air of “aren’t we clever?” She couldn’t help it: she giggled.
“Laugh at us, would you?” growled Keith and he bent down to her. In a moment, the thong was pulled back, and his tongue was inside the folds of her body.
Jason kissed her on the lips, his breathing fast, his eyes blazing. She closed her eyes giving herself over to the sensations from her body, the shining flood of pleasure which filled her from head to toe. Keith moved his mouth slowly up from her cunt to her breast. Each moment’s delay from climax was unbearable. Jason took Keith’s place at her pussy. She was close to coming.
“Wait!” she said.
Keith lifted his mouth from her breast, and Jason from her groin.
“What?” asked Keith.
“I want you inside me,” she replied.
Keith smiled, a smile which flipped her heart over, and reached for the top drawer of bedside cabinet. He took out two condoms, handed one to Jason and tore the other one open. He slathered his jacketed cock with lube, and passed the bottle back to Jason, who was just behind him, his eyes rapt.
He inched into her, waiting for her to clamp tight, ready to withdraw if she did. He could feel the velvet silkiness of her insides. Jason turned Keith’s head to one side and kissed him intensely, then bent forward to kiss Esmé. Knowing now that he wouldn’t hurt her, Keith began to drive into her. Each thrust rubbed her already wet clitoris, jolting her into spasms of intense pleasure. Still she hadn’t climaxed. Keith’s eyes were closed, his head back, his mouth open in ecstasy, as he speeded up his hip movements.
“I’m—ah—oh God!—it’s ….” And Esmé came, great shuddering jolts to her body, her mind empty of everything except the white flame of her pleasure. Almost simultaneously, Keith gasped and arched his back as he came too.
Keith bent down and kissed her. Resting his body on his arms, he smiled at her, a smile of pleasure and companionship and love.
She reached out and took Jason’s hand.
“C’mon,” she whispered.
Jason had found the sight of Keith and Esmé making love intensely erotic. Up till this point he hadn’t been sure which of the other two he was going to fuck. And he was surprised to realise that it didn’t matter. Right then, he was equally attracted to both of them.
Keith rolled over to the other side of the bed. Jason took his place, and, never taking his eyes off Esmé’s he slid into her and began to move in and out. She was still trembling in the afterglow of her first orgasm, and Jason’s thrusts took her over the edge again, even before he had climaxed. He stopped in mid-thrust looking down at her.
“Don’t … stop … don’t … just …” she gasped.
She understood that he had been gentle with her up till then, for he began to pump her, fast and deep. He was bigger than Keith, and she was for a moment afraid that she would clamp tight, not because he was hurting her, but because just thinking about it might bring back the memories of her father. But it didn’t hurt. It felt just right.
She was building to another climax when he closed his eyes and flicked his head back and growled in pleasure. His final slow push into her was enough, with his thickness inside her, to make her climax again.
Jason smiled at her and then, moving her almost to tears, put his head against her neck and kissed her, before enveloping her in a tight hug. He moved over to her left, and lay down next to her, his arm over her torso. She was lying face up, with both men facing towards her and each other. Jason reached over and ruffled Keith’s hair. His beam at his friend and Keith’s glowing response might have made her jealous, before. All she could think of, though, was how she had found two someones to love. She didn’t know what would happen in the future, but she was ready to launch herself into the current, hoping, confident even, that it would take her to happiness.
Jason lay half asleep next to Esmé, needing to wee but very unwilling to get out of the snug warm bed and expose his unclothed body to the chill late autumn night air. He drifted back into sleep. He woke again, a bit later. The clock on Keith’s bedside table displayed the time in scarlet letters: 5.15. Far too early to get up. And maybe they could have a repeat of the night before. His morning wood hardened.
Reluctantly, he slid out of the bedclothes and stood up, yawning silently. He went through to the toilet, his thoughts far away. He started thinking about Brent, wondering what he would have thought about him and Keith and Esmé. He had the oddest feeling that Brent was near, and for the first time since Brent had killed himself, he didn’t think of the other man as unhappy. The images which came into his mind were happy ones: he and Brent swimming in the nude in a stream after a cricket game on a very hot and sticky afternoon and being startled by two teenage girls from the village who had teased them before making off. Or a freezing winter’s night, in a snug pub, the fire friendly in the hearth, the flickering flames reflected off the polished brass, with their connection so strong they didn’t need to touch, yet also desperately wanting to. But they were in public, so they just looked at each other. Their invisible connection had to suffice. Yet it was a happy memory. Brent leaning on his elbows, smiling at him on Sunday mornings, his eyes alight with love and desire and happiness.
But then the images shifted. Brent looked worried, and then, as clearly as if he’d spoken aloud, Jason heard the words, Look at your phone, love. Now.
Jason turned around, half expecting to see Brent behind him, but the door was empty. He went back into the hallway, and feeling all at once an unaccountable urgency, almost terror, he lifted his jeans from the floor and pulled his mobile out of the front pocket. It was blinking, informing him of a waiting message.
His heart pounding, Jason swiped his finger across the face of the mobile. There was a message from the phone company telling him that Luigi had phoned him. More than 20 minutes ago! Without any clear idea of how, he knew that something had happened. Don’t be silly, a part of him soothed, there are a hundred reasons why Luigi could have phoned. But another part of his brain queried that. Now? Why so early in the morning? He selected the message and unlocked the phone. His fingers trembled and his hand shook.
He listened to the voicemail, his heart beating so fast and hard it made him feel sick: “Jason, it’s him! He’s in the flat!”
Jason understood at once. His first response was to phone Luigi back. But even as he was about to press ‘reply’, he decided against it. What if the killer was still there? Wouldn’t it be better not to let the killer guess that Luigi had let someone know?
His skin prickling with fear he ran through to the bedroom and shook Keith’s shoulder.
“Keith, wake up! Lou’s in trouble.”
“Wha’? Go ‘way!”
Jason shook him again. “Wake up Keith! Wake up, damn you!” His upper-class English accent sharpened.
Keith raised his head from the pillow. “D’ya blaidin’ well knaow what toim it is?”
Jason simply repeated “Lou’s in trouble.” He pressed the message bank link and scrolled the volume of his phone up. Luigi’s voice filled the room.
“Jaysus!” Keith stood up abruptly. He leapt out of bed and dragged on his undies and his jeans. “We must do something!”
“I’m going to call the police,” said Jason, suiting action to words. “It’s triple zero here, isn’t it? Not triple 9, right?” He remembered seeing the number on the side of a police car. He was silent while he dialled and waited for the call to be answered. Then he added, “Get dressed. We don’t want them to think there’s been an orgy going on when they turn up.”
“None a’ their fuckin’ business,” growled Keith.
“Yes, but we need to convince them we’re serious!” Then to the phone, in answer to “Which service,” he said “police”, and waited to be connected.
Jason covered the phone and said to Keith, “Fuck! What’s Lou’s address?”
“I dunno. Didn’t you go there? When you hooked up?” Keith sounded panicked.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t help. Hang on.” Then, into the phone, “Yes, police? My friend … I wish to report …” He started again, stuttering in his eagerness to get help for Luigi and Cody. “I’ve just a received a phone call from someone who involved with the Mt Macedon murderer. No, he didn’t do it. He’s a friend … lover … of the latest victim. He’s just phoned to say that the killer is in his flat. I don’t know the address. It’s near Carlton Gardens. Yes, I’ve been there. Don’t come here that would waste time. You have my mobile number, yes? My name is Jason Armstrong-Beaufort. I’ll drive there now and phone in the address. It’ll be quicker. What’s your direct line?” He waved his fingers at Keith who was listening intently, and mouthed ‘pen’. He wrote the number on his hand. “Listen, it’s extremely serious. He’s killed at least five that we know of. And I only just got my friend’s message.”
By this time, Esmé had woken up. She yawned and stretched, but didn’t speak.
“Lou’s in trouble,” said Keith, his voice strained, but talking softly so he didn’t interrupt Jason. “He’s been taken by the Mount Macedon killer. Well, we think he has. He phoned Jason just now. Jason’s on the phone to the police.”
Jason ended his conversation with the police. “We’re going ’round to Luigi’s flat now, and then we’re going to phone the police and tell them where his flat is. Key, can we use your car?”
“Yeah. C’mon. Let’s go.”
In a whirl of activity, the three of them fled the flat.
The streets were empty. It was still dark and very chilly. There was a mist. The heater of Jason’s old Holden was erratic, alternating between frigid blasts and torrid plastic-smelling gusts. No one noticed. All of them leaned forward as if somehow they could by their very bodies urge the car faster through the streets.
It seemed for ever before they arrived at Luigi’s flat. Jason could only find his way from the road next to the park, and then he got lost, because when he had walked this route with Luigi all those months ago, they had walked through alleyways and along one-way streets which the car couldn’t use. Their fear and tension made it seem even longer. But in fact they were there within 15 minutes, and at last they were parked outside Luigi’s block of flats.
“How’d they get here so quickly?” asked Keith. There was a police wagon parked on the pavement, its blue and red lights flashing.
“Maybe they’re here for something else?” suggested Esmé.
“Let’s go up to the flat and see. But it’d be a miracle if they got here even before I told them where it was!”
Although it was only a five-story block of flats, there was a lift. A tiny one. They crammed into it.
“Fourth floor. I think. I’m certain.” Jason stabbed the button. The door closed too slowly. “C’mon! C’mon!”
Jason was right. It was the fourth floor. One of the flat’s doors was open. From inside there came the staccato bursts of talk and static from police radios. They walked up to the door. Inside the flat there were three officers, in uniform. “Who are you?” one asked, alert and faintly hostile.
By tacit consent, the three of them left it to Jason to speak.
“We’re friends of the two men who live here. Luigi and Cody. He phoned us … “ Jason turned to the others “… half an hour ago? I didn’t see the message at once.”
“Why not?” The hostility was stronger now.
“Well, duh! We were asleep.” Jason gestured at the darkness beyond the flat’s walkway.
“Wait here,” ordered the policeman.
“They’re not goin’ to be quick enough,” whispered Keith. “While they’re checkin’ up, Lou and Cody are getting further and further away.”
“What was the name of that policemen from Mt Macedon?” asked Esmé. “If we could get hold of him, he could help!”
“Yeah.” Keith frowned. “Fuck! What was his name?”
“Something beginning with an F? No, it wasn’t …. It was ….”
“Colin! That’s his name. But I don’t have his number.”
“Well, maybe the police here could get hold of him.”
“Fuck them!” growled Keith. “Arseholes! We’ll google the number.” His face became intent.
Jason looked at him and thought, God, I love him. And then thought, How can I think of that at a time like this? And that was immediately followed by What better time? What better time to think of love when someone you care for is in danger of his life?
The phone at the other end rang and rang, and Keith was afraid that it would divert to a standard contact line, but just as he began to despair of getting a reply, a grumpy voice said, “Macedon Police Station, Senior Constable de Graves speaking.”
In his distress, Keith’s accent strengthened as he spoke. “Colin, were ya the blaoke who picked up Cody on Mt Macedon a coupla waiks agao?”
The voice at the other end sounded more awake. “Yes.”
“The killer’s got him again.”
“Right. Do you know where they are?”
“Naow. But it’s possible, isn’t it, that they’re drivin’ to the mount? We’re here at his flat and the coppers here are bein’ difficult. I daon’t think they’re takin’ us seriously. Colin, he’s goin’ ta kill them.”
“Them?” Colin’s tone sharpened.
“Him an’ Luigi! If the police aren’t goin’ ta halp, then we’ll have ta do somethin’.”
“Lemme talk to them!” Keith was glad to hear the urgency in Colin’s voice.
Keith stood for a moment, holding the phone, shifting from leaning on the outside of one foot to the outside of the other, his expression as neutral as he could make it. He had plenty of experience with the police when he’d been hustling. And even when he’d been just cruising. The police hadn’t been on his side. Once, he’d been beaten up “resisting arrest.” Colin was different. Colin was a top bloke. But the policeman who’d brusquely ordered them to wait … Keith was afraid, even though it had been years since he’d whored. He turned to look at Jason, feeling ashamed, and angry that he was ashamed.
Jason flashed him a quick smile of understanding, and took Keith’s phone from him. Stepping forward, he spoke with the kind of assurance—arrogance even—that comes from thirty generations of privilege.
“Excuse me, sergeant Kaminski,” he said, his eyes flicking to the triple chevron on the man’s shoulder tab, and his name badge on his breast, his accent cut-glass, “The constable from Macedon would like to speak with you. He was the man who interviewed our friend who lives here. The one abducted by the Mt Macedon killer.”
The sergeant’s eyes darkened and his mouth tightened. But he took the phone.
“Yeah?” he said, turning away from the three on the walkway, his voice showing his irritation.
They watched him intently.
Because he’d turned away, they could only hear one side of the conversation. The sergeant’s shoulders relaxed as he listened. “Andy Kaminski. OK …. Yeah …. You think it’s serious? …. You’d better go up then …. How long? …. Right …. Yeah ….. I’ll call for backup …. Should I get the chopper out? ….. No? Why not? ….. right. No sirens? Think we’re idiots?” He grunted. “Right.” He handed the phone back to Jason. “He wants to talk to you.”
Jason took the phone.
“Hi, Colin, it’s Jason. I’m a friend of Cody and Luigi.”
“Hi Jason. Look, I’ve spoken to Sergeant Kaminski.” The slight emphasis he gave to sergeant made it official. Jason waited patiently for the warning. It duly came. “Don’t get involved. We—the police—are trained for this, and you are not. And if you get in the way, or give him another hostage, you’ll make things worse.”
“All right,” agreed Jason placidly.
“Promise!” ordered Colin de Graves, his voice gruff.
“I promise not to get involved.”
“OK, then. We’ve got him. Your friends will be safe.” It would have helped if Colin had sounded more certain.
“Do you think he’s making for Mt Macedon?”
“I dunno. But I’m here, fifteen minutes away. I’m going up to the camping site.”
“You’ll hide your van, so he doesn’t see it?”
“I’m not a complete idiot, you know!” Colin’s asperity embarrassed Jason a little. But …. They were his friends. And he wasn’t going to make a mistake again which cost a friend his life. Never again.
“They’re my friends,” he said calmly but with steel in his voice. “Luigi was the first person I met here. And he matters to me.” Jason turned to look at Keith and Esmé, both listening intently. “He matters to us. And Cody …” he faltered, “… Cody’s suffered enough.”
Colin sighed. “I know. But would you try to guide the hand of the surgeon who operates on you?”
“Fair point. OK. We’ll trust you. Please …. Don’t …”
“We’ll do our very best,” promised Colin.
Jason handed the phone over to Keith.
He turned to Kaminksi. “How did you get here before us, sergeant? We were supposed to phone you telling you the address?”
“What do you mean?” The policeman was somewhat warmer but still far from friendly.
“Luigi phoned us and then the killer broke through the door, so he cut the call. So we phoned triple zero and told them what Luigi had said. And said we’d phone them from here so we could tell them his address.”
“You mean you’d never been here?” Kaminski’s lips curled in disbelief.
“Of course we’ve been here. But we’ve never sent him a letter here. Why would we? We have his mobile number.”
“Have you phoned him?”
“Jesus, do I look that stupid? Of course not! What if he still somehow has his phone and the killer hears it ring?”
Kaminski’s lips tightened but he said nothing.
“I’d better phone them and tell them not to come,” Jason offered.
“Yeah.” Kaminski wasn’t giving anything away.
Keith leaned over to Esmé and whispered in her ear. “Do they become arseholes after they join the police or are they just that way naturally?”
Esmé didn’t think it would be a good idea to grin, so she just took his hand and squeezed it.