Title: And He Sings, Too
Pairing: Squash Bernstein/Carroll Todd
Disclaimer: Blake Edwards owns these lovely men.
Series/Sequel: oh, no, not again!
Summary: The bodyguard of a Chicago ‘businessman’
finds more in Paris than he bargained for.
Warnings: m/m, spoilers for the play, and some for
Notes: #### denotes a change of POV, // thoughts.
Thanks go to both Silk and Gail for this one, and for bearing with me while I
produced it. The songs that Squash sings are Temptation, which was #3 on the
charts in 1934, and Moonglow, which hit #1 that same year.
And He Sings, Too
I was All-American center for Notre Dame.
My junior year in college I portrayed Oberon in A Midsummer
I bested a Russian chess master who had been traveling
through the States, trying to show how clever those Bolsheviks were.
So you’d think I had the world by the tail.
You’d think wrong.
I was sitting at the breakfast table. The pale light of a
Chicago winter morning filtered in through the kitchen window. In front of me
were the Sunday papers, my second cup of coffee, and the remains of a plate of
eggs Benedict. And my Colt revolver.
The door swung open, and a tall, ruggedly handsome man
walked in, rubbing his hair and yawning. He stood just inside the door for a
second, trying to determine the location of the stove, where a new pot of coffee
had just finished percolating.
“I’ll get that for you, boss.” I rose quickly and
managed to reach the pot before he did. Mornings like this, after a night spent
playing the two-backed beast, it was touch and go whether the coffee would wind
up in his cup or on the floor.
King Marchand grunted his thanks and sat across from me,
searching the deep pocket of his silk dressing gown for his smokes. Norma
Cassady, his current squeeze, called it a bathrobe, but geez, anything that cost
a hundred bucks and was made of silk deserved a classier name. He pulled out a
pack of cigarettes. By the time he placed one between his lips, I had a match
lit and was holding it ready for him.
He drew in a lungful of smoke. “Thanks, Squash,” my
boss muttered, leaning his chin on the heel of his hand and letting his eyes
“Want some breakfast, King?”
He grinned sleepily and took another drag on his cigarette.
“Scramble me up some eggs, oke?”
“Sure thing, boss.” Just once it would have been nice
if he’d asked for something different, crepes, maybe, or quiche. I was a good
cook, and I enjoyed it. I set a frying pan to heating, then cracked half a dozen
eggs in a bowl. After adding some milk and a pinch of salt, I began beating them
with a whisk.
“When do we
leave for Paris, Squash?”
“We catch the train to New York first thing in the
morning, boss, and the boat sails on Wednesday.”
“Tell me again why we’re going to France.”
“You need to secure your suppliers, King,” I replied
patiently, pouring the egg mixture into the frying pan and giving it a minute to
set before I started scrambling it. “If you intend to expand the business and
attract the upscale clientele, you’re going to need the best wines.” The
‘business’ was the most successful nightclub in Chicago.
“Yeah, right. California would be too close,” he
groused good-naturedly. It was Sal Andretti’s idea for him to get French
wines. Sal was his partner, and he’d been harping on it for the past month.
That kind of made me curious. Why did he want King Marchand
out of the country? “You going to take Norma with you, boss?” I slid the
eggs onto a plate I’d been warming and placed it in front of him, then put
some bread in the toaster.
“You think I should?” He cocked a questioning eyebrow
at me before he dug into his breakfast.
“She’ll help you relax. And it’ll keep her away from
“I know you don’t trust Sal, Squash, but come on, I
grew up with the guy! He’d never make a move on a doll I was seeing!”
I shrugged, but didn’t say anything. I thought it was
nice to be so sure about some things.
He waved aside the doubt and pushed his seat back.
“Wait’ll I tell Norma. She’ll be so thrilled she’ll throw me on the bed
and keep me there.”
“Hey, Boss.” He paused at the door. “What about your
King gave me a wide grin. “You have it, Squash.”
I stuck a corner in my mouth and chewed thoughtfully.
“Just tell her all the high class dames buy their clothes in Paris.”
“Good idea. Otherwise, she’ll want to hit every shop on
5th Avenue, and we’ll miss the boat!”
The door swung gently behind him, and I was alone in the
kitchen once more. I sat down and finished the toast, then rested my chin on my
stacked hands, gazing off into space. Paris. I wondered what
I’d find there.
By the time we arrived in France, King Marchand was
sincerely wondering what he had ever seen in his bleached blonde Rhodes’
scholar. And he wasn’t letting me forget that I had suggested she might help
“She’s never helped me relax!” he scowled.
After the wine selection business for his nightclub was
completed, King settled down to play some golf, and Norma Cassady hit every
fashion house in Paris, costing her sugar daddy a fortune. I rather had the
feeling that he was indulging her, because the gild was definitely wearing off
the lily. Every time she opened her mouth I flinched. I didn’t have the option
King had, of stuffing my dick in it to shut her up.
Not that I would have taken advantage of that. Norma left
me limp, as did all women.
Andre Cassell, the biggest agent in Paris, had sent King an
invitation to the opening night of his latest find, some Polish singer that
everyone seemed fascinated with.
Originally the boss hadn’t wanted to go, but Norma nagged
so much he finally caved in. She needed a new frock to wear, and because it was
an opening night the boss and I had to doll ourselves up in tuxedoes.
I sat drinking my coffee and keeping an eye on the patrons
of Cassell’s Nightclub.
A clarinet wailed, and the spotlight hit the woman on
center stage. She was billed as simply Victoria. The fringe that swung
gracefully from her arms was at least a yard long. It shivered and shimmied as
she undulated across the stage, snapping her fingers as she sang, “Oh, baby,
won’t you play me le jazz hot, maybe, and don’t ever let it end...”
King’s tongue was practically hanging out of his mouth,
and he watched those legs that seemed a mile long with hot eyes. Norma did a
slow burn, glaring at him periodically from the corner of her eyes.
I leaned toward the boss. “She’s a looker,” I said,
indicating the singer who was strutting up a set of stairs now. I spoke loudly
enough for Norma to overhear me. Her eyes threw daggers my way, and her lip
curled. She had actually tried to work her wiles on me on the trip over, to no
avail. And she hadn’t forgiven me for so casually turning her down.
That really broke my heart.
Victoria was finishing her number, rising from a crouch to
stand with her hands above her head, reaching for a G flat, hitting it, and
There were shouts of ‘Brava!’, as well as a lone,
‘Bravo’, which I dismissed as being from an ignorant Philistine. The
audience rose to its feet as of one accord, and the applause was thunderous.
Except for Norma, of course. She just sat there and sulked.
I happened to notice two men who stood on the sidelines, beaming,
and I wondered who they were. One was rather stout, with a florid complexion,
while the other was tall and … I swallowed hard. I wanted to study him
further, but I was distracted when Victoria stepped forward to accept a huge
bouquet of exotic flowers that surely had to be out of season in Paris.
Victoria appeared nervous, her eyes darting over the people
who applauded her. I saw her swallow, the choker she wore rippling over her
throat. I didn’t have to wonder long at her unusual behavior.
There was a drum roll. She reached upward, grasped her
headpiece securely, and removed it. To reveal that she was a he!
If the crowd had been riotous before, now they went wild,
stamping their feet and rending the air with shrill whistles. Those who hadn’t
been on their feet for ‘her’, were now for ‘him’.
Norma’s raucous cheers and triumphant glare were lost on
King Marchand. He looked like a man who had been poleaxed, unable to take his
eyes off the redhead on the stage, who was smoothing his hair, unsmiling,
accepting the accolades that swept over him like a tidal wave. He gave a brief,
final bow, and vanished behind the curtain.
I opened the program that had been placed on each table; I
should have done it earlier, but we’d been fashionably late to please Norma.
“Victor Grezhinski. He’s a Polish count,” I told my
“C’mon, King! I wanna go backstage and meet the
“He’s not a count!” King muttered. “He’s a
We both rose as Norma slid out of her seat and hurried on
ahead of us. “You’re just cheesed off because you were attracted to him!”
“I have to admit, he’s got my motor running!” I
murmured softly, so no one would hear.
“Tell me again why I brought her.” The sound of King
grinding his teeth together was audible.
“She has a mouth on her, boss.”
He sighed. “And she knows how to use it, in more ways
Cassell had a room backstage where his headliners could
meet with their adoring public. I stood to one side, keeping an eye on everyone
who approached King Marchand.
The Count came out of his dressing room, wearing a deep
green robe that was of watered silk, a pattern of oriental figures woven through
the material with gold threads. Either this count was extremely wealthy, to be
able to afford such luxurious clothing, or someone he was close to was.
And then I saw him, standing casually at the younger
man’s shoulder. He was somewhat older, his temples framed with wings of
silver. And he was so… I wanted him to put him in my pocket and take him home
Andre Cassell was making the introductions. “M. Marchand,
may I present Count Victor Grezhinski.”
“How do you do, M. Marchand?” The Count’s voice was
husky, with a slight accent I couldn’t place. “This is my very dear… friend,
So now I knew his name. Mr. Todd’s blue eyes tangled with
mine for just a second, and then Norma’s less than dulcet tones disrupted the
“King thinks you’re a woman!”
“This is Miss Cassady. Norma, I can tell her what I
Norma looked disgruntled. Then she angled herself toward
the man beside the count. “Would you care to mingle with me, Mr. Todd?”
“Toddy, please.” He raised her hand to his mouth and
pressed a kiss there with continental flair. “Miss Cassady, excluding
Victor’s performance, mingling with you will be the highlight of the
It was my turn to grit my teeth.
The blonde playfully slapped the older man’s arm. “Oh!
I love Frenchmen!”
Carroll Todd threw a laughing glance at the count. “So do
I! Let me get you a glass of champagne.”
She twittered and clung to him and flirted outrageously,
and I wondered how she could have missed Victor’s emphasis on ‘friend’.
And I sighed. Of course the most interesting man I had come
across in years was taken. Wasn’t that always the way?
Mr. Todd’s eyes kept going to the count, who stood beside
King Marchand, trying to make innocuous conversation. Every once in a while I would feel his gaze on me.
Was it possible that Mr. Todd was not as committed to the
count as he had first appeared?
We had returned to the Hotel Marceau and took an elevator
up to the fourth floor. While King and Norma waited outside, I carefully checked
all the rooms in our suite, made sure the connecting door in the bedroom was
secured, then came back down and nodded to let them know that they could enter.
Norma threw her fur piece onto a chair by the wet bar and paused on the stairs
that led up to the bedroom she shared with King.
“Can you believe that yummy Mr. Todd is a fairy? I told
him I was sure the right woman could change his mind, and he said he was sure
the right woman could change my mind! Can you imagine? Me? Give up
She continued up, the sound of her laughter making King
wince. He went to the bar and poured himself a stiff one.
“Pooky!” Her voice drifted down the stairs. “I’m
“Squash, tell me again why I brought her with me!”
I couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “Good night, boss.”
“Night, Squash. You have no idea how lucky you are not to
have a dame cluttering up your life!”
Yeah, that was me. Lucky. I went into my room and hung up
my tuxedo jacket, then undid the formal tie, leaving it hanging around my neck.
It had been a hell of a day. As I brushed my teeth and changed into my pajamas I
thought about the man I had seen with the young count. I couldn’t even say I
had met him, because I’d had to stay on the outskirts of the crowd, keeping a
sharp eye on everything.
How long had it been since I’d even had my dick sucked?
In my line of work, if it came to light you liked to fuck a guy up the ass, you
could wind up in Lake Michigan wearing cement overshoes.
Well, there was still my right hand.
I was about to lie down on my bed and jerk myself off, when
all of a sudden all hell broke loose, and I made a mad dash into the living area
of our suite.
King came tearing down the stairs with Norma in hot
pursuit, looking like a rabid Afghan hound. “You son of a bitch!” she
howled. “You washed my mouth out with soap!” She heaved a silver ice bucket
at him, just missing his head as he dashed past me into my room and slammed the
“Now, Norma,” I attempted to placate her.
“You!” she foamed. “You’re as bad as your boss! You
think I can’t see you got the hots for him?”
“Huh? Who?” Surely not my boss? Much as I liked King
Marchand, I had never once pictured him in my bed. Never! Um, he really wasn’t
She gave another shriek of rage and flung a bottle of
scotch at me, which I caught before it could christen the pristine wall.
Norma seized a nine iron from King’s golf bag. She
brandished it, then tried to break it unsuccessfully over her knee and finally
threw it to the floor. My boss was not going to be happy about that! The blonde
screamed in frustration and turned on her heel, bolting up the stairs, gagging
on the taste of the soap in her mouth.
I sighed and began to clean up the mess. I picked up the
ice bucket and stuck it on my head, then wrapped Norma’s fox fur around my
shoulders. In one hand I held the nine iron, while in the other was the bottle
of fine scotch, courtesy of the management.
The door to my room opened and King poked his head out.
“Is the coast clear, Squash?”
“Yes, boss.” I was about to replace the bucket and the
bottle when there was a knock on the door.
“Ah, hell,” King growled. “That’s probably the
management, telling us we’ll have to leave.” He nodded, giving me the
go-ahead to answer the knock.
I opened the door. Standing there, in a dressing gown that
was a hodgepodge of gypsy colors, was Carroll Todd. My vocal cords suddenly
forgot how to work, and I stood there stupidly, my mouth opening and closing.
“Who is it, Squash?” the boss asked.
“It’s Carroll Todd, Mr. Marchand,” he answered. His
hazel eyes examined me from head to toe and back again, and I could feel the
start of a blush. “And you are…?” He extended his hand, seemingly unable
to take his eyes off me.
It was only as I went to shake his hand that I realized I
was still holding a golf club and a liquor bottle, and my blush became almost
“This is Squash Bernstein, my bodyguard, Mr. Todd.”
“Oh, please, call me Toddy. Everyone does. Mr.
“Mr. Todd.” It came out gruffer than I intended, and he
“I hate to be a bother. By some amazing coincidence, the
count and I have the suite next door; we heard sounds indicating you were
still…up.” His eyes wandered back to me. “I just came by to pay my
respects. Perhaps borrow… a cup of sugar?”
“Sorry if things got a little noisy,” the boss
murmured, and I could see the wheels turning. The count was only a wall away?
“Miss Cassady was having a nightmare.”
“Oh, dear. You must tell her I wish her pleasant
dreams.” He turned to leave. “Good night, Mr. Bernstein.”
“Good night, Mr. Todd.”
He lingered for just a second longer, his eyes glinting
with merriment. “Love your ensemble!”
At least I had the good sense to wait until the door closed
before I groaned. King just
chuckled, but sobered quickly when he realized he had two choices: go up to face
Norma, or spend the night on the sofa in the living area.
Actually, he could have slept in the tub in the sybaritic
bathroom. Of some kind of marble, it was easily six feet wide and eight feet
long, huge enough to host a party of twenty of his most intimate friends.
As it turned out, he selected the third choice: he slept in
my room. And I spent the night scrunched up on the tiny sofa, getting a
crick in my back.
After paying a farewell visit to the count, in which she
assured him there were no hard feelings, Norma went home, spewing vitriol on the
whole ride to the train station. More than once she wheeled to swat me over the
head with her purse. Since King wasn’t available, I took the brunt of her ire.
Things settled to as normal as they could be for a
businessman who dealt with gangsters, and his bodyguard. Under King’s orders,
I kept changing the date of our departure, until the clerk at the shipping line
got to know me by name. I’d walk in, he’d sigh, “M. Bernstein,” and
reach for the newest schedule. It was a shame I didn’t find him to my taste.
He’d given every indication he wouldn’t have minded a tumble.
Every night we’d go to Cassell’s Nightclub and watch
Victor perform. Well, King watched Victor. I watched Toddy.
I studied my palms. I’d been jerking off so much I was
sure they’d be covered with hair by now.
I sat at the bar in Chez Louis. The boss sat at a table
with the count, Carroll Todd, and Andre Cassell, who was the count’s agent as
well as the owner of The Nightclub.
King was going to offer Victor a contract for ten thousand
a week, ten weeks guaranteed, to appear at King’s Castle, his nightclub in
Mr. Todd approached me, a snifter of brandy in his hand. “May I buy you a drink, Mr. Bernstein?”
I sent a quick glance around, but it seemed safe enough. My
field of vision, as well as field of fire, was secure. “I’m drinking coffee,
He signaled the bartender, and a cup and saucer appeared
before him. “Your boss is rather taken with Victor.”
“He insists the count is really a woman.”
“Because it’s unthinkable for King Marchand to be in
love with a man?”
I smiled tightly. “The Mob, Mr. Todd, does not think
kindly of homosexuality.”
“Kill him, but mustn’t kiss him?”
“Something like that.” I was thrilled to have him so
near to me. Surreptitiously I sniffed. He was wearing sandalwood, or a scent
similar to it. My prick was sitting up, extremely interested. I always loved
that scent on my lovers.
What was I thinking? How could someone as suave as the
debonair urbanite, Carroll Todd, want to become involved with a mook like me,
whose job was to stand between King Marchand and a bullet?
But he seemed very happy to sit beside me sipping coffee. I
searched my mind, looking for a neutral topic of conversation, but before I
could come up with anything, Henri LaBisse, the owner of Chez Louis, grabbed the
microphone and began to speak rapidly.
“Mesdames et messieurs, I am extremely happy and honored
to announce that we have with us tonight one of the truly great entertainers of
our time. Ladies and gentlemen, the toast of Paris, Victor! Perhaps she, I mean he
will honor us with a song.”
I saw the panicked look Victor threw to the man who sat
beside me. “If you’ll excuse me?” Mr. Todd murmured, and he went to the
The pair bowed to the audience. They began to sing, and
then gracefully dance, and I became depressed. Victor was such a very pretty
man. Toddy had met him in Warsaw, and they’d fallen in love at first glance,
or so the story went. The count’s parents had just discovered he was gay, and
had thrown him out, into Carroll Todd’s waiting arms.
As they strutted across the stage, trading quips, the door
to the supper club opened, and a party of two men and two women entered,
drunkenly demanding to be seated this instant. I’d seen them
occasionally, when King had wanted to sample the other nightspots in Paris,
picking up new ideas to bring back to the States. One of the couples was
married, but they both seemed more interested in the other man than in each
Unbidden, I had a vision of the younger man having his ass
fucked by the husband while he plunged his cock into the wife.
The second woman must have been considerably older than her
companions, if the layers of cosmetics that caked her face were anything to go
by. A naughty thought crossed my mind: did she watch the trio or participate?
“Merde!” I heard Toddy whisper to his lover. There, I
had said it, forced myself to accept the fact that he wasn’t free.
“What is it, Toddy?” the Count asked sotto voce, but I
managed to hear him, and his concern was clear even from where I sat.
“Richard, Simone Kallisto and her deviant bastard of a
husband, and Madame President!” Obviously he was familiar with the quartette.
“Toddy!” That was odd. Victor’s voice again
“Remember, you’re a man, Count!” Carroll Todd
squeezed his arm in reassurance. “And you looked much better in Richard’s
clothes than he did!”
The admonition and the gesture seemed to help the count
regain control of his distress. He gave a sputter of laughter. “Yes, but you
said he looked much better out of them!”
The one called Richard glared at Carroll Todd, his lip
curled in an elegant sneer. He did distain very well. “Toddy,” he spat.
“You pathetic, old queer!”
I was on my feet, swinging at him before he realized that
danger was about to ambush him from another direction. My fist landed with a
satisfying crunch on his nose, and he howled.
“By dose! By dose is broken! Again!”
The count stuck his foot out and the husband did a perler
into a table of partygoers. The older woman began to screech and whale at Mr.
Todd with her purse. The wife jumped on my back, clawing at my face, trying for
my eyes, and before I could free myself, Victor had come to Toddy’s rescue. He
seized the woman by her luxurious blonde locks, and gave a cry of disgust when
hair and head parted company.
Of course it was a wig, but from the count’s reaction,
you would have thought the woman had something alive and …disgusting on her
head: he threw it away from him with a shocked cry.
By this time things were getting really interesting, and
bottles were flung, chairs were used as clubs, and fists were flying. The shrill
whistle of the Paris police cut through the shouts and cries, and people began
to run blindly for the exits.
King and the count made it out ahead of me, but Mr. Todd
was still somewhere in the melee. I turned at the door and blocked it, giving my
boss time to make a clean getaway, while I searched for Toddy in the crowd.
The crush of the mob thrust a tall body against me, and
there he was. I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight. “Stay close,
Mr. Todd,” I shouted in his ear. “My boss wouldn’t be happy if you got
hurt!” It was an excuse to hold him, but he didn’t need to know that.
All of a sudden a hand seemed to come from out of nowhere
and wandered over my ass, tracing the crease between my cheeks and my thighs,
pressing into the crevice, seeking my hole. I jerked and turned, aroused in
spite of myself, and my cock nudged Mr. Todd’s hip.
I blushed and opened my mouth to apologize, but a gendarme
chose that moment to grab me by the shoulder and shove me out into the night,
and I dragged Toddy along with me. The French version of a paddy wagon stood
with its doors agape, a number of bloody combatants already inside, sitting on
its bench seats.
“Don’t worry,” Toddy had to raise his voice to be
heard over the din. “Andre will call his lawyer, and he’ll get us out!”
“Who was that cocksucker who called you a … a nasty
name?” I asked as the door slammed shut, and we were driven to the poste, the
He gave a huff of laughter. “A rather appropriate
epithet, as it turns out. That was Richard DiNardo, who lived with me, upon
“Before Victor?” The wagon came to a halt and we were
brusquely ordered out.
“Yes, as it chances, Richard was before Victor.” He
smiled, as if at some fond memory. “Victor was caught out in the rain, and his
clothes were ruined. He was forced to wear one of Richard’s suits. When
Richard came to collect his clothes, refusing to pay the money he owed me,
Victor punched him quite hard on the nose. Poor Richard,” he intoned piously.
“Ever destined to have his nose broken.”
“And you loved him?”
My tuxedo jacket hung open, and I looked down at my dress
shirt, fully expecting to see blood pouring from the wound he had unwittingly
“You’ve had quite a few lovers, I imagine.”
“Oh, more than some, less than others. Is something
wrong, Mr. Bernstein?”
“What makes you think something might be wrong, Mr.
“You just look a little pale.” I shook my head. “Ah,
well here is Etienne La Bonte, Andre’s lawyer.”
The small, round man must have been wakened from his sleep
and done this numerous times before, because his expression was quietly
resigned. He paid the fine, nodded to his client and left, ignoring us
We went out into the street and hailed a cab. The drive
back to the Marceau was a silent one.
“Mr. Bernstein?” He touched my arm as we entered the
I pressed the button for four. “It’s been a long night,
“Will Mr. Marchand and Victor be all right, do you
think?” He worried his lip.
“King Marchand was the toughest kid in his neighborhood.
He’s the toughest man in the South side of Chicago. The count will be safe
“Really? I rather doubt that.”
The elevator stopped on our floor. “Are you insinuating
that my boss would not be able to protect the count?”
He shook his head sadly. “Are you deliberately
misunderstanding me? Well, never mind. Good night, Mr. Bernstein.”
I was left in the hallway, alone. “Good night, Mr.
Todd.” I went to our suite and let myself in.
It was dim and cool inside. The glow of a streetlight
filtered in through the curtains. When the maid had come in to turn down the
beds, she had not closed them securely. I crossed to the window and parted them,
looking out into the light snow that was beginning to fall.
And then I heard a harsh cry from the upper level, as if
someone was in agony. I bolted across the room and took the stairs two at a
time, charging into King’s bedroom door, taking it down as I would a football
player that needed to be tackled if my team was to win.
The light was dim in here also, but not so dim that I
couldn’t see the red head my boss was trying to conceal with the bedspread.
King Marchand was in bed with Count Victor Grezhinski!
I stood there gawking at them. The count peeked over the
edge of the blanket, his eyes enormous. “Oh!” he gasped.
“Shit!” growled King.
“Um. Sorry. Guys.” I pulled the door shut behind me and
somehow managed to get down the stairs without falling and beaning myself. I
struggled to come to terms with what I had just seen. I drew in a deep breath,
my world suddenly, shockingly skewed. “Oke.”
I leaned against an arm of the sofa and concentrated on steadying my
breathing. In. Out. In. Out.
If the count was involved with King, then maybe I had a
chance with Toddy! He’d need consoling, wouldn’t he?
King came down the stairs, belting his robe. “Squash.
Look, Squash. I know what you’re thinking.”
“No, you don’t!” I ran a hand through my hair, came
to a decision, and stood upright. “If a guy like you has the guts to admit
he’s gay, then so can I!” I threw my arms around my boss and gave him a
fierce hug. I made sure to keep our groins apart. He might have accepted his
gayhood, but I knew better than anyone that it was new to him, and having
another guy rub up against him would be bound to make him uncomfortable. But I
couldn’t resist kissing his cheek. “I know you and the count will be very
I stepped back and smiled at him. It had been a long time
since I’d been willing to take a chance with my heart. I stroked King’s
cheek, then turned and hurried into my bedroom. Toddy was going to be all alone
in his suite, and when I turned up, I wanted to look my best.
I stood outside the next-door suite, gathering my courage
in two hands. //Go ahead// I told myself. //There’s the bell, press it!//
Somehow, my finger obeyed the garbled order of my brain. From within I could
hear Toddy singing, “There’s a fairy that hides in my garden…”
And then he opened the door. “Oh!” His face lit up.
“Mr. Bernstein, come in.”
“Good evening, Mr. Todd.” I stepped forward into the
living area. He stepped back to let me in.
“Champagne, Mr. Bernstein?”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
He crossed to the bar and took the bottle from the ice bucket. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”
"I have something to tell you.” My knees were
feeling a little weak. The sofa was in the same place as the sofa in our suite,
and I went to it and sat down.
“I’m all ears.” He was wrestling with the cork.
The champagne fizzed out of the opening, and Toddy froze
for a moment before he grabbed up a glass to catch the overflow.
I almost missed his whispered, “Be still my heart!” In a normal tone
of voice he asked, “Does your boss know?”
“I just told him!”
“How do you feel about that?”
Usually I hated open-ended questions, but this time...
“I feel scared. I know that’s silly, I’m a bodyguard for a man who
numbers some very nasty people among his acquaintances. They know more ways to
kill a man than… Well, never mind. It’s my job to get between them and him!
I’m not supposed to be afraid. But, you know something else?” He was
watching me with a soft smile on his face, and he shook his head. “I also feel
as if it’s my birthday.”
“That’s because, in a manner of speaking, it is.” He
was bending toward me, so close his breath feathered over my lips, and I wanted
to pull his mouth to mine and kiss him.
There was something I needed to tell him, though, something
he needed to know: Victor, his lover, was with King. Before I could say a word,
however, the doorbell rang. Slowly he pulled back from me and went to see who
was at the door.
“Well, speak of the devil!”
King walked in, looking upset. “Where is she?”
“She’s upstairs,” Toddy told him.
“It’s a long story.”
King saw me sitting on the sofa with the flute of champagne
in my hand. He approached slowly, as if expecting me to suddenly sprout another
head, one with fangs. “Squash, how long have you been… you know?”
The skin over my cheekbones felt tight. “I can’t
remember a time when I wasn’t… you know.”
“But I’ve known you for fifteen years! You were an
All-American center for Notre Dame, for chrissake!”
Toddy’s words, “A center!” were spoken in such a
reverent tone that I almost expected him to genuflect. Then I saw the expression
on his face, and changed that to ask for a cigarette. He actually looked as if
he were on the verge of coming.
King just looked from one to the other of us, then turned
and walked up the stairs to the bedroom that Toddy and Victor shared.
But Toddy was walking toward me, a smile on his face.
“Happy birthday, Mr. Bernstein.” He offered me a rose he had plucked from an
arrangement on the bar, and I rose to my feet as I accepted it.
“Call me Squash.”
“Must I?” He touched his glass to mine, and we drank.
Mr. Bernstein was younger than I, and this was his first
trip out of the United States. I was a jaded expatriate who had seen too much of
the shady side of the Continent.
My last paramour, who was not Victor, in spite of what
everyone in Paris thought, had proved to be a selfish and extremely immature
lover. He hadn’t hurt me, but he’d given me very little pleasure, indeed.
I wasn’t the right person to introduce the sturdy
bodyguard with the puppy dog eyes into the delights of the flesh. He needed
someone more his own age, someone fresh and vibrant. But this opportunity had
fallen into my lap, and I wasn’t about to fling it back at the gods.
“Toddy!” Victor… Victoria’s voice calling
down from our bedroom was husky with desire fulfilled.
“Hold all my calls, darling! I’m moving in with
Squash looked confused. “I just left him…her
“The connecting door between our suites, dear boy. It
must have been unlocked. I can’t imagine how that could have happened!” I
He smiled at me sweetly. “Victor really is a woman?”
“Yes, as ever was, I’m afraid!” I smiled into those
puppy dog eyes, took his hand and raised it to my lips. He’d seen me do the
same thing with Norma Cassady, but this time, instead of pressing my lips to the
back of his hand, I turned his hand over and ran my tongue across the pulse in
his wrist. He caught his breath.
“Then King isn’t gay.”
“Toddy. I’m still gay!”
So I let the dear boy sweep me off my feet and into bed.
I lay beneath that sturdy body, breathless, amazed and
delighted. My legs were sprawled wide, cradling him between them. I had fully
intended to be gentle with him, to let him discover his sexuality at his own
rate. Truly, I had.
Squash Bernstein had followed me up the stairs to my
bedroom, however, and competently stripped off his clothes, letting them fall
where they might. I removed mine at a slower rate, hoping I could distract him
long enough to slip into my nightshirt or at least get under the covers without
revealing my body.
Although it wasn’t my preference, I’d have to fuck him,
to show him how it was done. And then, perhaps, after I’d shown him how good
it could be with an experienced lover, then he would fuck me.
His body was a marvel. Strong, clean lines. Flat nipples a
dusky beige, a dusting of hair over his chest that arrowed down to his navel,
then flared to cover his groin. The cock that sprang from that thicket of hair
was thick and long, and stood proudly at attention.
I licked my lips and swallowed.
“Is something wrong, Toddy?”
I shook my head, unable to get a word out. The head of his
cock was flushed a deep rose, and drops of pre come beaded at the tip. I licked
my lips again.
“Do you have something we can use?” he asked.
“Use?” I repeated stupidly.
He crossed the floor to join me at the other side of the
bed. “Mr. Todd,” he smiled, “I like to be on top. Is that going to be a
I pulled his mouth to mine and kissed him. “Not at all,
Mr. Bernstein. I believe this hotel offers a number of toiletries in the
He nuzzled my lips, then turned and strode into the bath,
and I got my first glimpse of his naked ass. “Oh, my!” I murmured. “The
good fairy must have given himself a hernia when he made you come true!”
But I took that opportunity to strip out of the rest of my
clothes. By the time he was back, I was safely beneath the covers.
He wouldn’t allow me to conceal my body, however, and he
threw the bedspread aside and joined me on the bed. What a talented mouth! He
nibbled on my nipples, nipped his way down my torso, and swallowed my prick with
one swoop. I cried out and bucked under his ministrations, and while my
attention was elsewhere, he slicked his fingers and I was suddenly being
penetrated by them.
Squash curled them and found my sweet spot. He worked it
until I was readily accepting three fingers and pleading for more. My cock slid
out of his mouth, and he raised my hips and parted my ass cheeks, positioning
the tip of his shaft at my opening. With a smooth, steady motion he entered me,
adjusting his angle until we both had maximum pleasure. He rocked his hips,
pushing my thighs back and apart, and my cock was teased by the friction of his
It had been a long time since anyone had given me such
pleasure, such a very long time…
With a strangled cry, I began to come, spilling myself
between us. But Mr. Bernstein wasn’t done with me. He leaned forward and
captured my mouth in a series of hungry kisses, growling sex words between each
kiss, finally dragging his teeth over the tendon in my throat and biting down.
His movements speeded up and became erratic, and then heat
filled me as he came and his semen spurted into me. He sank down onto me, and I
tightened my arms around him. “You’re not a virgin,” I murmured into his
ear, wondering if I had enough energy left to explore it.
“I’m sorry.” Squash trembled as the moist tip of my
tongue dipped into the shell of his ear and gave minute, flicking licks.
I pulled my mouth free. “Tell me you can cook, and I’ll
forgive you,” I teased him.
“Actually, I’m a great cook. I’d like to cook for you
someday too, Toddy.”
Someday? Might there ever be a future for us? //Of course
not, Toddy!// I admonished myself. //Be thankful for whatever time he chooses to
give you!// “‘Ah me! for aught that ever I could read, could ever hear by
tale or history…’” I hadn’t realized that I was speaking aloud.
“‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’”
Squash slid out of me and rolled off the bed. “We did A Midsummer Night’s
Dream my junior year in college.” He padded into the bathroom and returned
with a warm washcloth.
“We did Hamlet,” I told him.
“I’ll bet you made a very romantic Hamlet.”
“No, I made a very clumsy Ophelia.”
His look told me he didn’t believe me. “Roll over,
please.” He cleaned me off, then tidied himself. “May I stay the night,
In answer, I patted the left side of the bed, and he
climbed in beside me. He stroked his hand over my hair and settled himself at my
side, his arm possessively over my chest. I waited until I was sure he was
asleep, then drew in a deep breath and whispered my prayers, “God bless
Mother, Grandmother Todd, Victoria, Victor. And Mr. Bernstein. Amen.”
His arm tightened around me, and he mumbled something. His
breath whispered warmly over my skin before he relaxed once more into sleep. I
pressed a kiss to his forehead and looked forward to very pleasant dreams.
He said he was a very clumsy Ophelia. I knew he was wrong.
He could never be clumsy at anything he did, and I eagerly anticipated
convincing him of that. I eagerly anticipated spending a very long time with
We only had a week.
For one week, after Victoria’s performance at The
Nightclub, we’d return to the Marceau. King and Victoria would retire to their
suite for a late supper. Toddy and I would have a supper of our own, sometimes
playing chess, sometimes quoting A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Hamlet to each
other, then retiring to bed to ravage each other.
And then Victoria mentioned to King that she’d love to go
She sobbed it out on Toddy’s shoulder. “He’s ashamed
to be seen with me!”
“Shame,” Toddy sighed, “is a second rate emotion
invented by the pious in order to exploit the human race.”
“Who said that?” I asked. “Freud?”
“No,” Toddy answered. “Me!”
“You don’t believe in shame, Toddy?” Victoria gave a
“I believe in happiness.” His eyes were on mine, and
there was deep sadness in them.
King would be wanting to leave Paris now. I’d be going
with him. My heart felt as if it was being torn from my chest. “I’d better
go check on the boss.” I opened the closet door. Almost as many of my suits
were in there as Toddy’s. I took out my bathrobe and shrugged into it. With a
last look at my lover, I went through the connecting doors and back into the
The boss wasn’t there.
I walked down the steps to the lower level, trying to think
what I should do.
On the one hand, I could go back to the States with King,
continue as his bodyguard, go back to my old life, with my sexuality concealed
in the shadows.
On the other hand, I could stay in Paris, tell Toddy he was
mine, and I had no intention of letting him go.
My considerations were interrupted when the doorbell rang.
Maybe the boss forgot his key?
I opened the door, and wished I’d had my gun in my hand
instead of in my pocket. Sal Andretti sauntered in, followed by a couple of his
torpedoes and… Norma? It seemed that this evening was going from bad to
“Squash. We was in the neighborhood and thought we’d
drop in and pay my old business partner a visit.”
“He isn’t here.”
“Oh, yeah?” Norma snarled. “Where is he? Shacked up
with the count?”
“He said something about the arctic circle.”
“Oh sure.” She was half way up the stairs and turned to
bear her teeth at me. “What do I look like, the Monet Lisa?” She disappeared
into the bedroom.
I liked my boss, but I couldn’t say much about his taste
in women. Well, except for Victoria. I really thought she was good for King.
“Now,” Sal sneered, “you going to tell me where your
boss is, or do I let Juke shoot you?”
The other mug leaned over and whispered, “Uh, Sal? It’s
Sal’s face froze, then he rolled his eyes and corrected
himself. “Or do I let Clam shoot you? Y’know, we’ve been so busy
lately, I forget who is supposed to shoot whom.”
Norma had come back down the stairs. “Who,” she
informed him. “You can’t say ‘whom’ because there ain’t no proposition
in front of it. Isn’t.”
“Huh?” Sal was starting to look as if he was as sorry
as King had been to bring Norma with him.
“Any,” I interjected. “Isn’t any.”
Clam had been thinking. I knew, because I could tell by the
constipated look on his face. “Preposition!” he exclaimed triumphantly.
Sal screamed, “*Shut up*!” The silence became so thick
you could have sliced it with a dull knife. “Now. Squash. Where’s. Your.
“Sal, I swear on my mother’s grave…”
“Your mother is still alive, Squash.”
The phone rang, but before I could pick it up, Norma got
it. “Hullo? Hullo, hullo? Who’s parlez-ing, please?” She snarled at the
receiver and slammed it down. “Fucking French.” She blushed, and my jaw
dropped. “Um, pardon my French? You’d think they understood their own
“How about it, Squash? Do I let Clam shoot you?”
I heard the key in the lock and raised my voice.
“Personally, I think it would be a big mistake to shoot me, Sal. Ah, fuck.”
King walked in anyway.
He was wearing an overcoat over his pajamas and tossed his
hat onto the bar. “Good to see you, Sal. What brings you to Paris?”
“I been hearing fairy tales, King.”
“Well, well, well!” Norma threw in her two cents. “If
it… isn’t high and mighty King Marchand, who maybe these days should
change it to ‘Queen’!”
“Did somebody call?” It was Toddy, strolling in with
his usual panache. Behind him came Victoria, wearing a brown, double-breasted
suit, her trademark ascot around her neck. Toddy crossed the room to stand
between the hoods and me, and I turned to conceal my worry. If bullets started
flying, he could very well be struck.
“This is the count, and Mr. Todd. He’s the count’s
former lover, before Pooky.” Norma did the introductions.
“Ha! A bunch of queers!” Sal chortled.
“A couple does not a bunch make!” Toddy murmured
Norma felt it incumbent to inform Sal, “They prefer
‘gay’. If you want the truth, ask the count. Ask him if he and King are
Victoria would have denied it, but King watched her with
his heart in his eyes. “Yes.”
King twined his fingers with Victoria’s and drew her
close to him. His lips moved, and only I was close enough to hear him say, “I
“Oh!” Victoria threw her arms around his neck, pulled
his head down to hers and kissed him.
“I’m gonna throw up! King, how could you?” Sal
demanded. “Never mind, sign this!”
King rubbed his cheek against Victoria’s soft face.
“Mind if I read it first?”
“Since the mob don’t like being in business with homos,
I’m buying you out, King!”
My boss took the papers and began to scan them. “My half
is worth ten times this much!”
“Just sign it, King!”
King took a pen.
“Darling, don’t do it!” Victoria pleaded.
He looked up and smiled at her. “It’s all right,
“Jesus, King, that is disgusting!”
Norma hovered over Sal, petting him. “Now, Nummy, watch
your blood pressure!”
We stared at Norma in disbelief. Nummy?
Sal just brushed it off, more concerned with other matters.
“We grew up together!”
The boss sat down next to his former friend and business
associate. “I’m sure that had something to do with it.” He placed his hand
on Sal’s knee and began massaging it, and Sal looked as if he wanted to crawl
out of his skin.
“That’s it! That is it!” Victoria stalked across the
room and grabbed Norma’s wrist. “You’re coming with me!”
Before Juke and Clam could move, I had my revolver out of
my bathrobe pocket and pointing right at them. They did a good impression of
deer caught in the headlights.
“Would anyone care for a drink?” my lover asked.
“Sal? Is that short for Sally?”
Sal’s face was flushed an unbecoming puce, and he would
have attacked Toddy, but the sound of the hammer being cocked brought him to a
shuddering standstill. He took care not to move a muscle. Time seemed to slow to
a crawl as we all wondered what was going on in the bedroom above us.
And then Norma’s outraged scream echoed through the
suite. She erupted from the bedroom and stumbled down the stairs. “You son of
a bitch!” she howled. “He’s a woman!”
And there you have it.
King took Victoria back to the States with him, and she
headlined at King’s Castle under the name, Victoria Grant, although now she
was Victoria Marchand. With the help of some of the money she had earned as
Count Victor Grezhinski, the world’s foremost female impersonator, King bought
out Sal’s share of the business, and began the process of disassociating
himself from the mob. It seemed Victoria didn’t want to be considered his
A Hollywood producer who had caught Norma’s act after she
returned from France the first time promised he’d make her a star and took her
to Los Angeles. Juke and Clam went along under Sal’s orders to make sure she
found someone else to practice her grammar on. They got a job as extras in The
Petrified Forest and left the rackets behind, working steadily in a string of B
Sal Andretti ran a floating crap game, before he took an
early retirement and decided to open a string of motels, catering to people who
needed a place to …stop for a couple of hours.
And me? I had the world by the tail! I stayed with Toddy.
He often teased me about my many accomplishments.
I was All-American center for Notre Dame.
My junior year in college I portrayed Oberon in A Midsummer
I’d bested a Russian chess master who had been traveling
through the States, trying to show how clever those Bolsheviks were.
And I cooked.
I was making cassoulet for my lover, a French dish that
consisted of white beans, sausages, and pork and duck confit. Toddy was
rehearsing a new show at Cassell’s Nightclub, and I wanted to have a special
meal ready for him when he got home.
Once the bread had been dried in the stove and removed, I
prepared the duck breast to be cooked, skin side up, and I began to sing.
//For you were born to be kissed,
//I can’t resist
//You are temptation and I am yours…// I reached easily
for that high note.
A sound behind me startled me, and I whirled, going for the
revolver that I no longer carried when I was in our apartment, but it was Toddy.
He stood in the doorway, a huge, proud grin on his face.
“My God! And he sings, too!”
I pulled him into my arms and began to fox-trot him around
the kitchen, singing in his ear as I held him close.
//It must have been moonglow, way up in the blue…
//It must have been moonglow that led me straight to you!//
I dipped him over my arm, my hard on prodding his hip.
“And I dance, too!”
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