Church Chetwood, renowned motion picture director, is given an ultimatum by his studio: film a movie with romance or else. Since this is the height of the Depression, and since Church enjoys eating, he reluctantly agrees. He finds a beautiful woman who’s willing to sail on the August Moon to the uncharted island of Iwi Po’o. While there, he makes the discovery of a lifetime, guaranteed to make them all millionaires ...
Only it doesn’t exactly turn out like that. The “discovery of a lifetime,” a saber-toothed tiger the press dubs Chetwood’s Kitty, breaks free and runs amok in Manhattan, causing death and mayhem. Months later, Church is facing indictment and a long stretch up the river and has no choice but to lie low until he can get out of town. While nursing his troubles in a saloon, he spots a young man who’s even more down on his luck than Church.
Johnny Smith has been on his own since Black Tuesday, four years earlier, and he does what he has to in order to keep body and soul -- what’s left of it -- together, even if it isn’t what he ever expected to do. He enters the saloon, hoping for a little warmth and perhaps a meal. What he finds is Church Chetwood, the director whose documentaries have fascinated him for years. Mr. Chetwood buys him that meal, and Johnny willingly goes with him to his rooming house, ready to do whatever Mr. Chetwood wants, even if Mr. Chetwood claims he isn’t “like that.” Is Johnny’s luck about to take a turn for the better? After all, Mr. Chetwood has a plan to get out of town, and if Johnny’s really lucky, maybe Church will let him come along.
Mrs. Eastman was one smart cookie. When a very strange looking woman appeared at her door, she saw through the disguise right away and twigged it was her prized boarder. I was ushered in on his coattails -- skirts.
“My good deed for the day,” he announced easily when he caught his landlady’s gimlet eye on me.
“Now, Mr. C., you know I don’t abide by lady callers visiting my gentlemen after a certain hour.”
I spotted the mirror hanging on the wall in her foyer, and I couldn’t tear my gaze away from it. I didn’t have much facial hair, but when I had to shave, which I did with the shiv I still carried after all these years, all I had available was a small piece of silvered glass that I’d found by chance, so I couldn’t see my entire face.
Otto was right: in spite of my slightly swollen nose, I made a surprisingly pretty girl.
“Mrs. Eastman, God love you, this is not a young lady, but my very good friend, Johnny Smith!”
I flushed with pleasure at his words. I’d never been anyone’s very good friend, not even when I’d been at school.
With a flourish, he tipped up my chin and knocked back my hat. “And you haven’t seen us.” He hustled me toward the stairs.
“Indeed I haven’t, Mr. Chetwood.” Her chuckles followed us to the second floor. “Otto, you get your reedy little body out of my house.”
Mr. Chetwood led the way down the dimly lit vestibule to his room. “Home sweet home.” He unlocked the door and bowed. “After you, m’dear ... boy.”
I didn’t take more than two steps into the room before I came to a halt. It was dark, and since it was a moonless night, no light filtered into the room at all.
“Mrs. Eastman is a gem, but she’s having a hard time just like everyone else, and she hasn’t been able to replace the light bulb in this room.” Mr. Chetwood put his hands on my waist, and for the first time I didn’t shudder at a man touching me. He set me aside and went to the dresser. “I hope you don’t mind the lamp.”
“No.” It had been years since I’d had a room with any kind of light -- well, since I’d had a room. “This is the nicest place I’ve seen in a long time.”
I examined his room as I slowly stripped out of the long skirt and petticoats.
“It’s well enough.” There was a coat tree in a corner, and Mr. Chetwood hung up his overcoat before shucking off the ladies’ clothing and tossing it aside. Finally he hung up his suit coat and hat, and rubbed his hands together. “Let me get a fire started. It’s going to be a brutal winter, I think, and I’m not going to miss it.”
It wasn’t long before he had a fire going, and the room began to warm. The lovely heat gave me an almost orgasmic feeling, and I hummed softly.
I rolled down my trouser legs and hesitated. I didn’t know if he’d want me nude or just exposed enough for him to get at my hole.
I turned to find him staring at me.
“Do you know what a man would do if he had a housemaid as pretty as you?” he asked jokingly, and I flushed.
It was time to pay the piper.
“I do, and it’s already been done, Mr. Chetwood.”
The cocky smile fled his face. “What are you saying? You’ve been taken advantage of?”
“That’s a rather Victorian way of putting it.”