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Chapter 1: The Hired Man

Cover of "The Hired Man"

Chapter 1

Have you ever noticed that when people talk about “the oldest profession” they never seem to include, or even realize that there is, a sizeable male contingent of the group? Sexism, pure and simple, that’s what it is. Any gay male who lives in or has even visited a place with a halfway decently-sized gay community knows that hustlers are part of the landscape, like the Boston ferns in upscale bar/restaurants. Hustlers, like their female counterparts, are most often individual entrepreneurs who stand on street corners and wait for a car to pull up with an offer, or lounge around specific bars that always remind me of the shark tank in an aquarium. But just as there are considerable differences between “hookers” and “call girls” so there are differences between “hustlers” and “male escorts.” Not more than one straight guy in 10 can afford a “call girl” and few gays have the money (or, lets face it, the inclination) to indulge their whims on the pretty high-quality talent discreetly available through a growing number of businesses providing the services of a “male escort.”

But for those who can afford it, they can give a whole fun new meaning to the term “hired man.”

* * *

I was sitting at the bar at Napoleon—early as usual—waiting to have dinner with a brand-new client. Napoleon is a very nice, quiet gay restaurant in a former private home on the edge of The Central–the city’s rapidly growing gay business district in the heart of what some still called “the gay ghetto.” The client, Stuart Anderson, was from out of town—the C.E.O. of an expanding chain of trendy retail stores which was opening two new stores here. He’d called me from Buffalo the week before to set up an appointment. While I was dutifully impressed to think that my fame had spread beyond my local area code, he’d been really vague when I asked him how he had heard of me, or who had referred him. He’d just said “a business acquaintance” had made the referral, and I didn’t press it any further, though I was curious. Also, though the subject of sexual orientation never entered the conversation, I automatically assumed he was gay (hey, I automatically assume everyone is gay) since I have had very few straight clients.

Part of the mystery of his secretiveness was solved within two minutes of his walking into the office for his 4:30 appointment. Stuart Anderson, it turned out, was an average height, average looking, pleasant-enough man in his mid 40s, dressed casually but expensively, and carrying a slim briefcase. He had no sooner taken the seat in front of my desk when I noticed that though he had a healthy tan, the third finger of his left hand had a wide, untanned circle where he had obviously taken off a wedding ring. Oh, great, I thought, one of those.

Rather than just sit back and wait for the expected pass, I thought I’d nip in the bud any little game he might be intending to play.

“I appreciate your calling me, Mr. Anderson,” I said. “But I think we should clarify something before we proceed: I assume you know that I’m gay and generally specialize in gay clients?” His only response was a small smile and almost imperceptible nod, but since he said nothing, I continued. “I mention this only because it is an issue for some people, and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or awkwardness between my clients and me.”

He never lost the small smile, but I noticed that his right hand unconsciously found his left and his right thumb and index finger went to cover the telltale untanned circle. “Not a problem,” he said. “My business here has nothing whatever...directly...to do with...anyone’s ...sexual orientation. I was simply told you were very good at getting information.” His right thumb and forefinger slowly twisted the missing wedding ring. I wondered why in hell he’d bothered to take it off in the first place if he was going to make it so obvious he wore one.

It turned out that he merely wanted me to do a careful background check on the prospective managers and assistant managers for the new stores, which was apparently something he did routinely and was probably a good idea given that he himself wouldn’t be around every day to check on things. I estimated it would take only a couple of days to do the checking. Hardly the most exciting of assignments, and certainly not one that any other private investigator in the city couldn’t handle in his sleep, but I wasn’t in a position to turn away any source of income. I had a couple other minor assignments I was working on, but they could be put on hold for the few days it would take to complete this one.

I told him my rates and when he didn’t bat an eye, I reached into my desk and handed him a standard contract, which he signed without reading. I signed below his signature and, as I went to my new Xerox machine to make him a copy, he opened his briefcase. When I handed him his signed copy, he gave me the resumes of the four men and two women he was considering for the managerial positions I glanced at them briefly to be sure they had all the necessary information, and put them in the top drawer of my desk.

Business over.

Well, that was easy, I told myself.

Anderson made no move to get up from his chair. “I was wondering if you’d like to join me for dinner?” he asked.

Ta-Dah! I thought.

“That’s very nice of you, Mr. Anderson.,” I began, “but...”

“It’s Stuart, please,” he said with a smile. “And please don’t misunderstand—I’m not trying to come on to you. It’s just that we have a mutual...friend...whom I’m meeting for dinner this evening and I thought you might like to join us. I know he’s looking forward to seeing you.”

He had me. I still suspected there might be a hook in there somewhere, but decided I didn’t really have too much to lose...except a client, of course.

“Well, sure,” I said. “That would be nice.” I didn’t ask who the mystery “friend” might be, but got the distinct impression that Anderson was giving me a little test to see how curious this detective he’d just hired might be.

Anderson got up from his chair, still smiling, and reached across the desk as I got up to shake hands.

“Seven thirty, then? At Napoleon—you know it, don’t you?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll see you there. And thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said, and I somehow had a mental picture of a cat and a mouse.

And with that, he picked up his briefcase and left.

* * *

At exactly 7:25, Stuart Anderson walked in...alone. Uh huh. Here we go, I thought. He came over and took the stool next to me. Noticing my drink was still about 3/4 full, he nonetheless asked “Ready for another?”

I shook my head. “I’m fine, thanks,” I said as the bartender came over.

“Tanguerey with a twist,” he said, reaching into his pocket to extract a roll of bills large enough to choke a pony, if not a horse. He peeled a $20 off the top, laid it on the bar in front of him, and stuck the wad back in his pocket.

“And our friend?” I couldn’t resist asking.

Anderson smiled. “He’ll be along in a moment,” he said. “Actually, I made the reservations for eight o’clock, to give us a few minutes to get to know one another.”


“I don’t normally mix business with pleasure,” he continued, “but I so seldom have the chance to just relax it’s nice to be among kindred spirits when I can.”

Kindred spirits, I thought, listening for the imaginary sound of hairpins hitting the floor.

“Yes,” I said. “I noticed you’re married.”

He glanced quickly at his left hand, splayed his fingers, and grinned. “Yeah,” he said. “Fifteen years, three kids; a different world. And a totally separate world,” he added.

Indeed, I thought.

“Any problem juggling them?” I asked. Bisexuals have always been a puzzle to me. Like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I wasn’t really sure I believed in them, but what other people did or thought was none of my business.

The bartender came with his drink, took his money and went to the register to ring up the sale and make change.

“Not at all,” Anderson said, jump-starting me back to where the conversation had left off. “When I’m in the straight world, I’m straight. When I’m in the gay world I’m...not straight. Obviously, most of my life is strictly heterosexual, but I’ve always enjoyed the things gay men can do that women can’t.”

Well, that was certainly cryptic, I thought, but didn’t choose to follow up on it. If he expected me to ask “Such as...?” he’d just have to wait. I still wasn’t convinced that this wasn’t all part of some game he enjoyed playing; and if he thought for one minute I wasn’t aware that he was playing....

“Fortunately,” he said, “I get to travel quite a bit, and when I do, I like to indulge myself a little.” He took a sip of his drink, then turned to look at me, full face. “How about you?” he asked. “Totally gay?”

I took another drink from my manhattan before answering. “About as gay as they come,” I said.

“Hmm,” he said. “How old were you when you knew?” he asked.

I sat back on my stool. “I was really a late bloomer,” I said. “I think I was five before I was absolutely sure.”

Anderson looked a bit surprised. “And you’ve never...?”

I grinned and shook my head. “Never the slightest interest,” I said, rather hoping we could drop this whole line of conversation pretty soon.

Luckily, at that moment I noticed someone else coming into the small bar: tall—about six foot three—, black wavy hair, incredibly handsome. When he saw me he smiled, revealing about 72 of the whitest, most perfect teeth I’ve ever seen.

Phil?” I asked, turning around on my stool and getting up to greet him. I noticed Anderson smiling broadly as Phil came over and grabbed me in a huge bear hug, which I returned. When we released one another, Phil turned to Anderson and shook hands: “Stuart,” he said warmly. “Good to see you.”

I managed to sit back down and, while Phil and Anderson exchanged a few words and Phil gave the bartender his order, my mind went back to my first meeting with Phil...or, as I first knew him, “Tex/Phil”...at Hughie’s, a hustler bar not far from my office. He’d been in full Marlboro Man drag at the time—though I thought even then that he had the Marlboro Man beat by a mile. Seeing him now, looking like he’d just stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine, only underscored the fact that Phil was an amazingly handsome—and sexy—piece of work But clearly, there had been some dramatic changes in his life

Obviously it had been Phil who had recommended me to Anderson, and I was secretly very pleased to know he’d remembered not only me but what I did for a living, though I was pretty much in the dark as to the details. Anderson did not strike me as the kind of guy who would spend much time in Hughie’s (though I knew you could never tell), and Phil was certainly not the same readily-identifiable hustler I’d known. I was curious as all hell about what was going on, but decided to let discretion be the better part of valor and just see what I could pick up as the evening progressed.

Phil had ordered a Black Russian—again, quite a change from his beer-bottle-butch days, and he stood beside Anderson with his free hand casually on Anderson’s shoulder.

“So how long has it been, Dick?” Phil asked.

“Don’t ask,” I said. “Too damned long,” and realized I meant it. I realized too that until I knew exactly what was going on between Phil and Anderson—though it wouldn’t exactly require a caliper and slide rule to figure out—I had better watch what I said. “You’re looking spectacular, as always, “ I said; “and it looks like you’re doing well for yourself.” I immediately hoped Anderson wouldn’t take that last sentence the wrong way, but if he did, he didn’t let on.

“As a matter of fact, I am,” Phil said, giving Anderson’s shoulder a squeeze and exchanging grins with him. “I’ve been working through ModelMen for about six months now. A great outfit.”

ModelMen! I should have guessed! The ModelMen Agency, though less than a year old, was a hugely successful business venture which cleverly doubled as both a legitimate talent agency specializing in strictly male fashion models and an extremely discreet “male escort” service which provided...um... companionship ..to very, very wealthy men like Stuart Anderson. Well, that pretty much explained how Phil and Anderson had gotten together, but I was still intensely curious as to how Phil had made the transition from diamond-in-the-rough street/bar hustler to this highly-polished gem standing three feet away from me. I’d make it a point to find out when I could manage to talk to Phil alone, though I realized it probably wouldn’t be tonight..

“They were damned lucky to get you,” I said and again meant it wholeheartedly. “I guess I have you to thank for referring Stuart to me.”

“Guilty,” Phil said, grinning. “You’re kind of a hard guy to forget, and when Stuart mentioned he was going to hire an investigator to look into the backgrounds of his prospective management teams, I naturally suggested you.”

While trying (with only moderate success) to keep my crotch from reacting too strongly to that “hard to forget” line and stripping him naked on the spot, I was glad when Anderson entered the conversation.

“If any of the applicants for the managers’ job might be gay,” he said, “I didn’t want to risk his—or her--chances by putting the responsibility for checking them out in the hands of some potentially prejudiced straight investigator. Of course,” he said with a grin, “I’m taking the chance that you won’t go off in the opposite direction.”

“Guaranteed,” I said.

The maitre d’ came over to announce that out table was ready, and we followed him into the dining room.

I must admit that Phil really impressed the hell out of me at dinner. We hadn’t spent all that much talking in the couple times I’d seen him, actually, but I did know that Phil had come from a lower-middle-class background and had never gone to college. That wasn’t to say that he wasn’t a pretty intelligent and self-confident guy, but I never had the feeling that he was ever too concerned about which fork was for the oysters. But I had no doubt but that he knew now. How, when, and where he’d learned was added to my “things to find out” list. He talked easily with Anderson about stock trends and market shares and things about which I could barely venture an opinion. And it was all blended together so smoothly and effortlessly that it was as though he’d been that way all his life.

Dinner was very nice, actually. The food was, as always, excellent, and Anderson rather studiously avoided bringing up the wife and kids more than a couple times—and even then only peripherally. We didn’t talk all that much about gay things, either. Just general conversation on a wide range of subjects.

Anderson, I decided, was one of those nice guys easy to talk with, but about whom I felt nothing in particular one way or the other. He was returning to Buffalo the next day, but was due back in town Sunday evening to set up personal interviews Monday with any of the prospective managers my research had not eliminated. I made sure I had his office address and phone number and told him I would have my report waiting at his hotel—the Montero—when he arrived.

But Anderson had other ideas, apparently.

“No,” he said, “why don’t you bring them around to the hotel first thing Monday morning—say around 7:15? I go for a 20 minute run every morning at 6:30, so that will give me time to get back and shower. We can have breakfast and go over your report—it will save me some time, especially if I have any questions.”

I really don’t like being jaded, but I immediately had the mental image of Anderson opening the door in his robe, which would conveniently manage to come open when I stepped inside the room....

Still, he hadn’t really even come close to making a pass, and it was unfair of me to think that just because his gay side was repressed most of the time, he wouldn’t be able to keep it under control. I was mildly embarrassed to realize I was using exactly the same kind of specious logic many straight men use against gays.

“Fine,” I said.

As we said goodbye outside the restaurant, I told Phil how good it was to see him again, and asked him to please give me a call. He said he would and, when we shook hands, I got the definite impression that he meant it.

Can crotches smile? I wondered.

* * *

I’d been lucky enough (if “lucky”’s the word), about six months before, to handle a case for Mollie Marino, a lesbian who worked in the Clerk of Courts office in the City Building. Mollie’s ex husband had threatened to expose her sexual orientation to her notoriously homophobic boss—which would, at the time, have put her job at risk or at least effectively ended any chances she may have had for advancement. When I was able to discover that the ex husband was dumb enough to be having a secret affair with his boss’s seventeen-year-old daughter, that pretty much resolved the case then and there. But Mollie was very grateful, and I’d been able to get priority treatment whenever I needed information on someone’s arrest record, which I made a standard part of most of my investigations.

After stopping briefly at the office to check for mail and phone messages, I wrote down the names and basic information from Anderson’s resumes on a single sheet of paper, folded it, put it in my shirt pocket, and headed for the City Building. Mollie was, I was glad to see, on duty, and she accepted the list without giving it more than a cursory glance.

“When do you need it?” she asked.

“As soon as you possibly can without going out of your way,” I said.

She smiled. “Give me a call around 3:00—I’ll see what I can do.”

As they say, it’s not what you know....

* * *

I was pleasantly—to put it mildly—surprised to find, on returning to the office, that I’d had a call from a Phil Stark. Though I don’t think I’d ever known Phil’s last name, I was sure it was him, and I hastened to return the call.

When the phone was answered, I didn’t recognize the voice.

“Phil?” I asked, wondering if I’d been wrong and this was another Phil.

“No, this is Billy. Phil should be back in about half an hour. Can I have him call you?”

Billy, huh? He sounded pretty young—and pretty sexy, if voices count.

“Yeah, if you would,” I said. “This is Dick Hardesty returning his call. I’ll be in the office for a couple hours.”

“I’ll give him the message,” Billy said. “Thanks for calling. ‘Bye.”

Billy, huh? My mind asked again.

Yes, ‘Billy, huh’, I answered. Why in hell couldn’t you have been born a Gemini instead of a Scorpio? There’s more to life than your fucking crotch.

Like, for instance...?

I reached for the phone and called downstairs to the coffee shop to order lunch—a chef’s salad, blue cheese dressing, and a large black coffee to go, then immediately got up from my chair, left the office, and took the elevator to the lobby. My order was waiting for me when I got to the cash register. Either Eudora or Evolla—the identical twin waitresses who, I was sure, had voted for Coolidge—handed me the bill and the white paper bag. After all these years, I still couldn’t tell them apart without their name tags, which they often did not bother to put on or, as I strongly suspected, frequently switched—the only oblique concession to humor (or any other emotion) I ever saw them display. They knew who they were: if nobody else did, tough.

I didn’t want to tie up the phone while I waited for Phil’s call, so I spent the time looking through the phone book with one hand and eating with the other. I went through each applicant’s past work history and then checked for and wrote down the phone numbers of the companies/ organizations for which they had worked. A couple of the applicants had moved into the city from elsewhere, so that meant a little more work and some calls to Information. One of the women applicants had included phone numbers and extension numbers in her list, and she immediately moved to the top of the heap in my estimation—which admittedly probably wasn’t going to be much of a factor in Anderson’s final determination.

The phone rang just as I was wiping a dab of blue cheese dressing off one of the resumes.

I let it ring twice—which gave me time to move the salad safely out of the way—before answering.

“Hardesty Investigations,” I said.

“Dick, hi. This is Phil.” Of course it was. “Sorry about the phone tag. I had an appointment for a haircut and just got back.”

“No problem,” I said. “And before I forget, I want to thank you again for referring Stuart Anderson to me. I really appreciate it.”

“Well, like I said, I never really forgot our little get-togethers, and when Stuart said he needed some help, I thought of you immediately.”

“I owe you,” I said. “And speaking of get-togethers, I’d really like to see you whenever you have the chance—I want to hear all about what’s been happening with you since you sort of disappeared.”

“I’d like that,” he said, and sounded as though he meant it. He paused, and then said: “Tell you what; my evenings are pretty much tied up, but how about meeting me at Hughie’s Saturday afternoon around 4:30?”

“You still go to Hughie’s?” I asked, a little surprised at myself for being surprised to hear that he might.

“I haven’t in a long time,” he said, “but I always say, you should never forget where you came from—you never know when you might have to go back there.”

“Well, Phil,” I said. “I somehow suspect you’ve moved a bit beyond Hughie’s. But it will be fun to see you—there or anywhere. Until 4:30 Saturday, then.”

“Looking forward to it,” he said. “So long....”

* * *

When my crotch finally allowed me to tear my thoughts away from some very interesting fantasies involving Phil, I started calling the phone numbers I’d written down on the resumes.

As so often happens, one minute it was 1:45 and the next it was 3:00 and time to call Mollie at the Clerk of Courts office. The three resumes I’d managed to go through produced nothing but good-to-glowingly positive ratings, and I was rather hoping Mollie might have at least come up with an ax murder conviction to make it interesting. No such luck.

“A total of three speeding convictions,” Mollie said; “one destruction of property conviction—breaking a window at an abortion clinic during a protest rally—one assault and battery charge stemming from a mini-riot after a football game, and one violation of a restraining order issued by an ex wife filing for divorce. Kind of vanilla.”

I agreed, but noted the appropriate information on the appropriate resume and promised Mollie I’d take her and her new lover Barb out to dinner one night soon by way of thanks.

* * *

By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I had finished the background checks on all the resume’s Anderson had given me and typed up my report. Not a single ax murderer among them. While assignments like this paid the bills, they were hardly the kind of stuff of which impressive p.i.’s resumes—mine, in this case—are made.

And while I had resolved some time ago not to work on weekends, I stopped by the office Saturday morning just long enough to type up my bill, put it in the envelope with the resumes and my report, and bring it home so I wouldn’t have to take the time to go by to pick it up Monday morning.

While I was really looking forward to seeing Phil, I knew my tendency to always be early, so I deliberately took my time puttering around the apartment until I was sure that I had it timed perfectly to make it to Hughie’s by 4:30. And, of course, I arrived fifteen minutes early.

Hughie’s was a time warp. No matter when you went in—no matter the hour or the day or the month or the year—it never changed. Bud, the bartender, was behind the bar as he had been all but a handful of times I’d been there; the individual hustlers changed, of course, and so did the individual johns, but they were still cookie-cutter hustlers and still cookie-cutter johns

I ordered my usual dark beer on draft—actually, I never had to actually ask for it—Bud only needed to spot me out of the corner of his eye as I walked in the door for his hand immediately reached for the cooler where the iced mugs were kept. Something both a little comforting and a little disturbing about that, I thought.

I sat at a stool near the end of the bar as Bud brought the beer over, flourished a napkin onto the bar in front of me, and set the mug on it. As always, by the time I’d fished a bill out of my pocket to pay for it, the napkin had turned sopping wet from the condensation running down the sides of the mug. But it was part of the routine, as was Bud’s “How’s it going, Dick?” and my “Fine, Bud, how about you?”, his shrug, and his taking my money to the cash register.

“Got a match, buddy?” a voice behind me said, and I turned to see...Tex/Phil. Not the “new” Phil from dinner, but the original Tex/Phil I’d met in Hughie’s that afternoon what seemed now like an eternity ago. Full Marlboro Man drag—cowboy hat set sexily back on his wavy-black hair; Levi’s jacket open to the navel, no shirt, incredibly tight Levi’s jeans, a silver belt buckle the size of a small hubcap, scuffed cowboy boots.

I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. “My God, man!” I said, “You’re incredible. You did this just for me?”

He put one big hand easily on my shoulder while he pulled up the empty stool next to mine with the other.

“Mostly,” he said with a grin. “Actually, Billy’s meeting me here around 7:00; we’ve got a Double Shit-kicker Special on for tonight.”

Still grinning, I shook my head. “Lost me,” I admitted.

“I’m not surprised,” he said, motioning to get Bud’s attention. “I guess we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

“I’m all ears,” I said, and he grinned again.

“Like shit you are,” he said, giving a rather obvious eye-slide down my body to my crotch.

“Glad you remember,” I said.

Bud came over and Phil ordered a Millers. Bud nodded without a word and moved off to get it. Phil started to reach into the very small front pocket of his Levi’s, but I waved him off, taking another bill out of my pocket. “You hustler,” I said, putting it on the bar. “Me john. John pay.”

Phil gave me a quick, raised-eyebrow grin.

“So fill me in,” I said when Bud had put Phil’s beer in front of him and left.

Phil clicked the top of his bottle against my mug and took a long drink before beginning.

“Long story,” he said.

“I like ‘em long,” I replied, straight faced, which produced another of his raised-eyebrow grins.

“Well, about six months ago now...maybe seven..,” he began, “I was working Beech Street one night around eleven, when this Jag pulls up. Older guy, average looking, nice grey hair, obviously not worried where his next meal was coming from. We go through the usual, and I get in. But instead of taking me someplace, or even making a pass in the car, we just drove around for about half an hour, talking. That’s a little unusual, but not unheard of. He’s asking me all sorts of questions on all sorts of things. Mostly about me, but a whole bunch of other things too. Seemed like a pretty nice guy. Finally he says ‘How would you like to work for me?’ I told him I thought that’s what I was doing, but he smiled and said ‘No, a real job; same line of work, but it will pay a great deal more.’

“I was a little leery, but he asked me to hear him out, and I agreed. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘But first, I’d like you to meet my wife.’”

Now I was the one with the raised eyebrows, and Phil grinned and raised his hand. “Yeah, I know, that was my reaction too, but it wasn’t like that at all. I told him I didn’t do that kind of kinky stuff, and I sure as hell didn’t do anything with anybody who doesn’t have a cock. He just looked at me and smiled again. ‘My dear boy, you misunderstand,’ he said and then explained the whole thing.”

Phil looked at me, and then took another long drink from his beer, draining it. He set it on the bar and pushed it toward Bud’s side. I did the same.

“Am I telling you more about penguins than you care to know?” he asked.

“Hell no,” I said, and meant it. “Tell all.” I waved at Bud and took another bill from my pocket and put it on the bar. Phil shook his head, reached out and handed the bill back to me, and fished in his own pocket, coming up with a folded $100. Then he picked up his story where he’d left off.

“Well, his name’s Arnold Glick,” Phil said. “He’s bisexual and a retired stock market analyst from New York. If he’d been giving me this line in a bar, I’d probably have thought ‘uh-huh’ and dozed off; but when I’m driving around town in a brand new Jaguar with less than 1,000 miles on the odometer—I looked—I tended to give the whole thing a little more weight. Though why he chose me is still a mystery.”

Gee, I wonder? I thought. Six-three, a body and face to die for, a great personality...go figure.

Bud brought our drinks, took a look at the $100 bill and walked over to a small light by the cash register, where he carefully examined it before opening the till and counting out the change, which he brought back and laid in front of Phil.

“Business must be good,” he said.

“Oh, yeah,” Phil said, and left the change sitting on the bar.

When Phil walked off, Phil picked up his story. “Glick’s wife, Iris, is a lot younger than he is by about a third—she’s only about 40 now—and she started out as a showgirl in Vegas. Iris isn’t exactly what you’d call a shrinking violet: she’s got bigger balls than a lot of the guys who used to pick me up. Anyway, when she got too old to be in the shows, she decided to start a sort of finishing school for showgirl wannabe’s and some of the more enterprising hookers. She met Arnold in Vegas about five years ago, and they decided to get married. He’d just retired, and when they moved here, she was pretty unhappy about having to give up her school. So they took stock of the situation and somehow hatched the idea of opening a modeling agency and male escort service. Arnold had a lot of rich friends who dig guys, and Iris figured she could extend her finishing school talents to include guys. Their goal was to offer class without bullshit, and strictly legit in that everybody involved, on both sides of the fence, knows all the rules going in, and nobody...nobody... breaks them.”

I hadn’t taken my eyes off him for one second since he started talking, and I was totally absorbed in every word. Talk about a different world!

Suddenly Phil indicated my left arm with a head-lift nod. “What time is it?” he asked.

I looked at my watch. “Five fifteen,” I said. “You’ve got plenty of time, if you don’t have to meet Billy until seven.”

Phil gave me a big grin. “You don’t think I planned to sit around here for two and a half hours, did you?”

I hoped I was the only one who could hear my crotch shouting: Wheeeeeeeeee!

“Well,” I said, “we could always continue our talk at my office. As I recall, you do some of your best talking in offices.”

We looked at each other, still grinning, then in unison drained our drinks, set the empties on the bar, and walked out.

* * *

I had no idea what Phil’s professional rates were, but there was no question whatever that they were a steal no matter how much it cost! And though Phil had undoubtedly undergone some polishing of his social skills, in a horizontal position he was as natural and spontaneous as the first day I’d met him.

When the fireworks display was over and we’d regained our respective breath, I laid back against the arm of the office couch with Phil semi-on top of me, his head on my chest.

“And you have to go through this again tonight?” I asked, my chin on my chest so I could look down at Phil. “How in the hell do you do it?”

He smiled. “All part of the business,” he said. “And Billy and I know how to pace ourselves.”

I had been curious about Billy ever since he’d answered the phone. “If you don’t mind my asking,” I said, “just what is the ‘family relationship’ here? And what is a ‘Double Shit-Kicker Special’?”

Phil’s smile widened into a full grin. “We’ve got this one client, a businessman from Tokyo, who grew up watching American westerns. So whenever he comes to town, he arranges for me and Billy to come over in full cowboy drag and put on a little show for him. He never gets involved himself—he just pulls a chair up beside the bed and watches while we go through this little ‘bunkhouse buddies’ playlet we came up with the first time. We do it exactly the same every time; no variations—he wants it that way. Then when we’re done, we get dressed and leave, and he hands us each a $100 bill as a tip.”

“Jeezus, am I in the wrong business,” I said.

Phil grinned again. “Hey, if you’re interested...” he said.

I put my hand behind his head and pressed it quickly into my chest, then released it. “I appreciate that,” I said, “but I’m kind of used to what I’m doing now.”

“Well,” Phil said, “if you should ever change your mind....” Then his eyes fell on my watch, which was lying on top of my pants on the floor beside the couch. “Oh, oh,” he said..”I’d better get going; it’s six thirty.’

We untangled our arms and legs and got up, rummaging through our clothes to get dressed.

“Wish I had a shower here,” I said. “We both could use one.”

Phil, slipping his shorts up over his hips, shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “that’s fine —my being all sweaty just adds to the hard-riding cowboy image. The guy’ll love it.”

“So,” I said; “it’s none of my business, but are you and Billy...”

Phil reached for his Levi’s jacket. “Oh, no,” he said without looking at me. “Billy’s like my kid brother. I got to know him when he first came to town, and I sort of adopted him. We room together, and we trick...well, we work...together from time to time, but that’s about it.”

“Billy works for ModelMen too, then?” I asked, tucking in my shirttail and looking for my shoes.

“Yeah,” Phil replied. “I convinced the Glicks to hire him, too. They needed a type like Billy.”

I was going to ask what he meant by that but Phil, having sat back down on the couch to pull on his boots, stood up, adjusted himself, hooked his belt buckle, and said: “Why don’t you come back to Hughie’s with me? You can meet Billy before we head off. I think you’d like him—and I know damned well he’ll like you.”

This whole new world Phil was living in had me fascinated, and I very much wanted to get a look at Billy. “Sure,” I said.

Taking a last look around the office to be sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, we went out into the hall. I double-checked to be sure the door was locked, and we made our way to the elevator.

* * *

It was a warm evening, but fortunately not so warm that we would have needed the air conditioner in the office—which still didn’t work anyway. As we walked the two blocks to Hughie’s, I couldn’t help but ask Phil more about his new life.

“Are you seeing Anderson when he comes back into town tomorrow?” I asked.

Phil shook his head. “No, not tomorrow. Maybe Monday or Tuesday before he goes back to Buffalo on Wednesday, but I’m not sure. All those arrangements are handled by the Glicks.”

“So no freelancing?” I asked.

“Not with ModelMen clients,” he said. “Everything goes through the Glicks. We can still do whatever we want on our own time, but not with anyone we met through ModelMen. And they generally keep us pretty busy.”

“Makes sense,” I said. “So how many guys work through ModelMen’s escort service, if that’s not privileged information?”

“There’s only six of us in the escort end of it, actually. Each one a different physical type, each with his own...uh, specialties. But we’re all pretty...uh...versatile. And we all do modeling, too, to keep the whole thing legit. That gives ModelMen the widest range of flexibility when it comes to meeting a client’s specific needs.”

He sounded like some young business executive outlining the benefits of his company’s profit sharing plan. Which in a way is exactly what he was doing.

When we arrived at Hughie’s, the door was just opening to disgorge a mean-looking leather-clad hustler and a timid-looking suit-and-tie’d businessman. Shark and chum, I thought.

The place was about as busy as when we’d left it, and a couple of the same guys were still there. Bud, to my considerable surprise, was not. Another bartender I had seen once or twice before was holding sway with the usual total-lack-of-interest expression Bud usually wore.

As we entered, I had immediately spotted a little blond dressed in faded Levi’s pants with a hole in one knee and a matching Levi’s short jacket—and a cowboy hat. About 5'10", slim, an angelic teenager’s face....

Phil, of course, walked us right over to him. The kid looked up from his beer and, spotting Phil, his face broke into a wide grin that was totally disarming. Then he realized I was with Phil and, his eyes darting quickly from Phil to me and back again, his grin made just the slightest change from cherubic to innocently naughty.

“Dick,” Phil said, wrapping one arm around the younger guy’s waist, “this is Billy.”

Billy quickly set his beer down so we could shake hands. “Nice to meet you, Dick,” he said, and his voice, as it had been on the phone, was warm and sincere.

“You too, Billy,” I said, and really meant it. I could readily see how engaging in a little voyeurism involving the tall, dark Phil and the slight, boyish blond could well be worth whatever the Japanese businessman paid.

“We got a call from Mr. Glick just as I was leaving the apartment,” Billy said, looking up at Phil. “He wants us to be at the hotel a little early.”

“Like how early?” Phil asked.

Billy shrugged. “Like now,” he said.

Phil gave a long sigh, then turned to me. “I’m really sorry, Dick; I was hoping we could all have a drink and you and Billy could get a chance to know one another.”

You’re not the only one! I thought. “No problem,” I said. “Next time.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Billy said, smiling.

“So, partner,” Phil said, looking at Billy, “we’d better be moseying down the trail.”

Billy looked at him, his face taking on an expression of wide-eyed total innocence. “Whatever you say, Tex.” He then turned to me and gave me a wicked grin and a wink. “See ‘ya, Dick,” he said. I shook hands with both of them, and they turned to walk out of the bar, side by side.

Oh, to be a fly on that hotel bedroom wall!

Cover of The Hired Man


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