Three gay guys lead their own separate lives and have their own friends and colleagues. But these three soon become special friends and form their own relationships. However their way of life leads them down dangerous paths, leaving one of them for a time in a critical state in hospital. Luckily their combined efforts defeat their ruthless assailants though the actual victory comes from the unlikeliest of sources.
There were three young men in the twenty naughties, living in London, still with testosterone pumping through their bodies, anxious to bed someone, or form a relationship with someone. Proviso. It must be the same sex because all three are gay. That's not to say all gay men are only concerned with copping off with anyone available in trousers, (though many are, of course), they have other things to concern them. Just like heterosexual men, and lesbians, and bisexuals, and transexuals--and, of course, the largest section of humanity, heterosexual women.
But these three have been picked out not as it were at random, but because they all in some way or other, not only have their own lives to lead, but come together and interact, the one with each of the two others.
The first one is Alan Sutcliffe, aged twenty-eight, a freelance journalist who...but let him tell his own story--
I am Alan Sutcliffe, aged twenty-eight, a freelance journalist. Often I look for the quirky, way out stories, as well as, of course, covering the main ones, but I enjoy finding out the things about the 'little' people, who in fact are often, more interesting, more courageous than the 'the great and the good'.
For example I had found a little snippet in one of the local papers about a burglar 'seen off' by two pensioners which sparked my attention. At the time I was taking around with me a hopeful learner of the trade, let's call him James, a cheerful, eighteen-year-old with aspirations. Not my type at all; I prefer them older, more mature, probably more practiced in the art of love. I apologize if I dwell on sex a lot. It is rumored that the average man thinks of sex every seven seconds. I think, in my case, that's probably rather too conservative. However I'll control myself as much as I can until at least it's part of a story.
We drive out to Epping, that patch of woodland on the fringes of London. On the way I tell James about the story. Apparently the previous night an intruder forced his way into the home of a pair of ladies living together. In spite of his being armed with a knife, the two women managed to overpower him and he was arrested.
"The editor thinks it will make a good story,"
"Sounds a bit minor," says James.
"You wait. Spice up the characters, poor helpless pensioners. Insert a bit of drama and it could make front-page news. Especially in our little local paper." I pause then add, "And when written up by me."
The two women, I tell him are a Mrs. Bulstrode and a Miss Pinkerton. I wonder slightly about the relationship but don't say anything to James about this. Let him find it out for himself.
The house, when we arrive, is a tiny 'chocolate box' cottage, thatched roof and all, little windows peering out from under frowning eaves. They've even got a black and white cat sitting on the doorstep. The cat miaows as we walk towards the door.
A large, broad-shouldered woman with slightly more than an incipient mustache opens the door to my knock. She peers somewhat belligerently at us as if the presence of two young men on the doorstep has somehow sullied its appearance.
"Who wants to know?" demands this somewhat formidable creature.
I introduce myself as a reporter from the Hampstead and Highgate Journal, and include James in that category.
"We wondered if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions about what happened last night."
The woman turns to look back into the house. "Emily," she calls, "the paparazzi have arrived. Shall we let them in?"
A thin woman with fluffy grey hair and a fussed manner appears. She is made up with slightly inappropriate bright red lipstick and looks a bit worried. She surveys us but presumably thinking we don't look too dangerous, whispers, "You decide, dear."
We are let in and shown into a front room which would have been the equivalent of a Victorian parlor. There are lots of delicate ornaments placed precariously on all available horizontal surfaces. Must have been hell to dust is my immediate reaction.
'Emily' sits on the edge of an upright chair and looks uncomfortable.
I decide the rather more butch woman must be the driving force so I address her.
"Mrs. Bulstrode, If you could just tell me what happened last night."
"I'm not Bulstrode," she says. "I'm Miss Pinkerton. This is my friend, Emily Bulstrode."
Emily giggles. "Others have made the same mistake."
That's the trouble with stereotyping. It's so often completely wrong and I kick myself.
"I am so sorry. If you can tell us exactly what happened?"
"We were in bed, of course, when we heard a noise from downstairs. Thought it might have been the cat but then there were other sounds so we went down. Emily said it might be a burglar"
I imagine them creeping down the staircase, Mrs. Bulstrode in the lead--no, that's Miss Pinkerton--again I have them confused (what an inappropriate name for such a Valkyrie of a woman) with Mrs. Bulstrode fluttering ineffectually behind.
Then the actual encounter with the intruder, he with a knife, the sight of which would no doubt have produced a shriek from Mrs. Bulstrode.
"What happened then?"
"He made a jab at me with the weapon," says Miss Pinkerton.
"Using dreadful swearwords," adds Mrs. Bulstrode.
"But you managed to get it from him?" suggests James.
"Not in the least, Emily hit him with the cricket bat."
"Cricket bat?" we both echo.
"Yes," says Miss Pinkerton. "She's a brave little thing. She had it with her when we came downstairs, hidden under her dressing gown."
"How did you happen to have a cricket bat to hand?"
Miss Pinkerton answers. "You must have heard of Emily Bulstrode. Played cricket for the Women's Cricket Association England Squad in 1968. That bat hit the final boundary off the last ball of the game and beat New Zealand."
"I was afraid it might have damaged the bat but it seems the only damage was to the miscreant's head."
I smile. It is going to be a marvelous story. "Could we take a photograph?" I ask, producing a small digital camera.
"Certainly not," says Miss Pinkerton. "We don't want our faces all over the newspapers."
"I wouldn't mind," says Mrs. Bulstrode, but Miss Pinkerton is insistent.
"Can I ask your ages?"
"A lady never divulges her age," says Miss Pinkerton loftily. "See them out, Emily. I'll put the kettle on."
As Mrs. Bulstrode escorts us to the door, she whispers, "She's seventy-one and I'm sixty-eight." Then she shuts the door quickly.
"Do you think they're an item?" James asks on the way back into Camden Town.
"That's an area the Journal isn't likely to explore," I say, a little regretfully. "Though it might have added a certain piquancy to the story and I'm sure the Sun or the Mail would have hinted."
"But no headlines, 'PLUCKY LESBIAN PENSIONERS'?"
"Regretfully, not. Miss Pinkerton would have a fit, probably sue, and quite rightly so." Then a pause, "'DARING DYKE DAMES'"
So that's the first of our characters. What did you think of him? A little constructive criticism would help. Too easy to jump to conclusions perhaps but overall not a bad guy?
Now to the second. This is Shane Grant, another twenty-eight-year-old. He's a teacher at a London Secondary School (thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds). He has dark wavy hair, is tanned from holiday in Lanzarote. He feels he's been on the gay scene all his life and is a bit blasÃ© about the whole thing, if not a trifle disillusioned.
He shares a house with a longstanding friend, Keith Hatch, originally a somewhat tempestuous relationship, but now faded into an altogether more amicable one in which they both go their own ways. Keith is a policeman. We can eavesdrop on a conversation...
"...he just sits there looking at me," complained Shane, "with his wide, blue, innocent eyes while under the desk, where only I can see him his legs are spread and he's playing with himself."
Keith smiled across at his friend of some eight years. Even though Shane had had his hair cut short in order to give credence to his recently started career as an English teacher in an Inner London Comprehensive school, the dark, honey-colored curls still struggled to escape from regimentation. his eyes still sparkled with scarcely concealed mischief. Certainly he looked older than when they had first met--Shane was twenty-eight now--but Keith still saw him as not much more than an adolescent, slim, exuberant, and always sexy--and liked him for it.
"What's his name?" he asked. "This juvenile would-be seducer?"
"Dominic," said Shane. "Dominic Spencer. The school doesn't insist on a uniform and he wears a black polo-necked sweater. It's made of a fluffy, almost feminine wool and emphasizes the fairness of his skin. No other boy would get away without being teased unmercifully, bullied probably, called a 'poof'--but not Dominic. No one dares. A pair of clean, grey jeans covers his long legs stretched out under the desk, new, unscuffed trainers."
"Sounds a right little charmer," said Keith.
"Oh, he is. He always seems to have a slight smile on his face but not blatant enough to cause offense. His straight blond hair is slicked back to reveal a high, wide forehead. His intelligent brown eyes under their slightly hooded lids are anticipatory. The tip of his tongue, pink and pointed, peeps out between his lips and licks the top one--very gently."
"You know, you have developed quite a style since you became a teacher, almost literary. You're talking in paragraphs, darling."
They sipped at their cups of instant coffee, and Shane lit a cigarette.
"What's it really like, being a teacher?" Keith asked.
Shane hesitated. "Well, today for instance, Year 11 English, first period. Could be fifty minutes of unmitigated hell or a rewarding interchange of thoughts and opinions entirely depending, it always seems, on the whim or mood of Dominic Spencer. I can always tell from the way the boys crowd through the doorway into the classroom as the bell rings. If all is going well, they come in, in a vaguely civilized manner, chatting certainly but in a cheerful, companionable way. If it is to be a disaster period, the mood will be one of belligerence, pushing and shoving at each other, knocking chairs over, throwing books, demanding paper as they've forgotten their exercise books and looking outraged at the suggestion that their homework from last night be produced."
"Are you sure you did the right thing--becoming a teacher?"
"Oh, yes," Shane said confidently. "I love it--most of the time anyway, and I think most of the kids really quite like me. I'd hate to give it up. Well couldn't now, could I? Not start another real career, I mean."
"But this Dominic? Sounds like he's trying to seduce you."
"Not sure. Maybe it's subconscious. They try it on, you know, testing you, seeing how far they can go before it gets to you."
"You don't have to tell me," said Keith. "It's the same with the young criminals I get."
"And yet, mine are sometimes very innocent, very likable--even Dominic every so often."
"You be careful," said Keith. "Don't want to get caught with your hand in that particular till. That'd be the end of your teaching employment."
"No chance of that. Certainly I'd never touch a single pupil at the school. Not even an affectionate pat on the shoulder of my most favorite ones. All right I shouldn't have favorites, but I'm only human, and some are bloody attractive--not that I'd ever allow that to sway my opinion of their work, of course."