My name is Brant Colton. I'm a blackmailer -- a good one -- and I make no apologies for my chosen career.
One evening, at a very private club I belong to, I spotted a young man who piqued my interest. Why? Because he, Lorne Raynell, wasn't taking advantage of what the club had to offer. It took time, but I finally found out why. He was intent on finding out who murdered his brother.
The rest, as they say, is history. Our history.
After having relieved Saunders of a sizable amount of cash, I actually put in time on my 'day job' as a financial planner. It's a one-man business, if you don't count Dora, my part-time secretary. I work as much by phone as in person -- but I do have clients who want to speak one-on-one with me, so I make it a practice to be in the office four mornings a week to meet with them.
When Friday night rolled around, I decided to go to the club for my own enjoyment.
As far as I'm concerned there's generally only one real reason to go there -- and it's not for the drinks or the food, as good as they may be. So when I see someone who interests me, I move in to strike up a conversation.
That happened tonight -- with unexpected results.
I had my usual scotch in hand when I walked into the back room. The music was loud; the dance floor was filled with men of all sizes, shapes, and ages. Some of them I knew. Others I might want to, if they were available. I snagged a table when a couple vacated it, leaned back and scanned the other tables within view. From what I could see at first, I was the only man sitting alone. A situation I intended to rectify.
Then I saw the young man from a couple of weeks ago. The one Bill had told me was new and very shy -- if how he reacted to the men trying to talk to him was any indication. That idea intrigued me, especially after seeing him acting the same way tonight -- shaking his head when anyone approached him. He's cute, with fairly short blond hair and a nice smile, when he uses it. He looks as if he can't be more than twenty-one. I knew for a fact he had to be that old, or he couldn't be a member of the club.
"Bill's right," I murmured to myself. "Why come here if you don't want to make a connection? Are you looking for someone specific, or do you get off on watching and imagining, without acting on it?"
Only one way to find out. Yeah, maybe I'm being egotistical, but I think I can, at the very least, get him to acknowledge my presence with more than a gesture saying he's not interested. I got up, strolling over to the vicinity of his table. Then I waited until the men at the one next to his left. The moment they had, I took it over, pushing the empty glasses to one side before setting mine down.
I turned to look at the young man, smiling, but nothing more. Not unexpectedly, he ignored me. I took a drink, put the glass down, then smiled again. "I haven't seen you around before," I said. "No. Wait. I have. A couple of weeks ago."
He shot me a 'get lost' look before returning his attention to the dance floor.
"Not much of a talker, huh?" I said.
At least he acknowledged that -- with a sharp shake of his head.
"Let me guess. Your ..." I tapped my chin pensively. "Your uncle is a member and you decided to see what it's all about."
He didn't reply, but I saw his hands clench.
"Close?" I asked.
"You do speak."
That earned me a smile so brief I thought I might have imagined it. I took another drink then realized all he had in front of him was a glass of water. "Not a drinker?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but no."
"You don't drink. You shut down anyone who tries to get your attention. Why the hell do you bother coming here?"
He looked icily at me. "None of your business."
Curious -- okay, more curious than I was already, I cocked my head in question. "Are you even gay?"
"Would I be here if I wasn't?"
"You tell me."
He rolled his eyes. "Yes, I am."
"So, you pay a fairly hefty sum to become a member of the club, and don't take advantage of what it has to offer."
"Unlike you," he replied under his breath.
I heard him anyway, as the music stopped momentarily between songs. "You know this how?"
"I've seen you here. You seem to know a lot of the men."
That stopped me cold. How had he seen me -- more than once from what he implied -- and this was only the second time I'd noticed him?
"I'll be honest," I told him with a brief smile. "This is only twice that I've been aware of you."
"Am I supposed to clutch my chest in shock and say something like 'how could you have missed me'? If so, forget it."
That made me laugh.