In the fourth of the Clint Folsom gay murder mysteries, the promiscuous gay male NYPD homicide detective goes West on an assignment that he’s one of a very few detectives specializing in. In a soon-to-be released book, prominent crime novel writer Jason Jenks has fingered, not by name, but by clear identification, Giacomo Arcardi, son of one prominent New York crime family, with the sex murder of Lorenzo Rapino, son of another prominent New York crime family. The details of the murder and case that he builds in the book make Jason Jenks appear to be the best living prosecution witness, and the NYPD is tagged with protecting him. At levels above the NYPD, the anxiety is palpable to prevent a gang war between the two crime families that would tear New York’s streets apart. The problem with protecting Jenks until he testifies is that Jenks doesn’t want to be protected and is heading off to an exclusive gay-male “pleasure” ranch in Colorado for a week of debauchery. Folsom is sent ahead, posing as one of the stable of pleasure givers at the ranch, to see, without his knowledge, that Jenks comes to no harm. The plot thickens—and disintegrates—as both Giacomo Arcardi and the murdered mobster’s brother, Mario Rapino, also show up in the wilds of Colorado and test Folsom to the limits in more ways than one.
The Ranchero was a bull-riding bar, complete with sawdust and peanut shells on the floor and a twangy country and western voice singing a “girl done gone up and left me” song assaulted a raucous crowd of men from the rafters. The basement club was set smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, but you’d never know it was there—unless you were a gay male, cruised, and liked both riding and talking the bull.
It was a place where guys could project themselves out of the canyons of skyscrapers by putting on their jeans and checked shirts, red bandanas, cowboy boots, and ten gallon hats and exchanging their workday martinis for mugs of Coors beer and a slug of chawin’ tabbaca. And it was a place where cowpokes could mill around and tease each other about riding, and horse hung, and free ranging and might even wind up hooked up for a personal little rodeo.
Those gathered around the bar and sitting in the straight-backed wooden chairs around the oak barrel-based tables wedged up to the edge of the show platform put up a cheer as a voice announced over the loudspeaker. “Time for the bull.” There were cat calls and yodels as the voice continued. “First up is our own Jake—just to show those of you just in off the range for the first time how it’s done. Then you can try your own hand at it if you want. $30 a ride, unless you do it with just chaps and a jock, in which case it’s $10 and any tips you get.” An even louder roar met this announcement. “And, oh by the way, if it’s Jake you want to ride rather than the bull, that will be $100.” The place went wild.
The house went dim and spots came up on the center platform, on which stood—dominating the entire club room—a mechanical bull.
Cheers were renewed as Jake came out from in back of the club and sauntered toward the mechanical bull. He was wearing just a red thong and reddish-brown chaps, a red bandana, a ten-gallon hat, and spurred boots.
The bull began to rock gently as Jake approached it, and he swung up easily into the saddle. Jake was a sandy-haired lad of no more than eighteen or nineteen. Lithe but hard muscled and smooth skinned. Not an ounce of baby fat and a sheepish “oh gosh” grin that made him look inviting and vulnerable all at the same time.
And could he ride a bull. It wasn’t long before the bull was tossing this way and that way, but Jake held the saddle and swung his ten-gallon hat above his head. He put on an awesome show, mesmerizing the guys gathered around him, jaws dropped to chests, as they followed the undulating of Jake’s bull-worked muscles and dreamed their little dreams.
Jake looked out over the crowd. Times like this he liked picking out the faces, liked looking for the best-looking guy in the crowd and of what he was thinking as he watched Jake ride the bull. Was Jake turning him on, making him think of how much he wanted to ride Jake? This is what Jake did this for—not for the money—but for the thoughts of turning these guys on, of having a room full of horny, good-looking guys, all wanting to fuck him.
One face out there arrested his attention. Not the youngest or best looking of the faces Jake had focused on during the ride. And not adoring and drooling. More intense, more possessive, harder. Jake shivered and pulled his gaze away from that face, looking for what he really liked. But he found he kept returning to that face, which remained immobile, staring him down, pulling him in from across the crowd. . . .
If there was more action for him after a bull ride, Ted would be waiting at the back area door with the john and the c-spot in his hand. Nothing like that tonight, though, so Jake pushed on through the beaded curtain separating the club room from the back area warren of corridors and rooms, some of the rooms outfitted with beds in a bunk room motif.
Jake took in a ragged breath as he was walking past the fuck rooms toward his own dressing room when he saw a figure emerge from the shadows. The face from the crowd. Three fifties in his hand.