Eleven – Ian
“What I’m hoping to bring to the fore is a wider expansion for the Polk Four controls systems, and so this is the newest research allotment we’ll need approved. So far, the processor models are showing good sun orbit and earth horizon readouts but I’d like to concentrate on the ICP Driver. If we can improve the speed of which it routes all satellite communication through the interface control panel, or the ICP, we can expect to see a marked increase in the sensor readout. We’re also looking to shift some money from marketing to research, to improve our current closed loop control system architecture.”
“Marketing is important, Ian,” Marcus Peals, my biggest stockholder and the man who had discreetly mentioned a club named Gems to me, reminded me. He did that at every stockholder meeting. “If we don’t market these amazing little propulsion units of yours, how will people know where to buy them?”
“Word of mouth?” I tossed out. I rubbed the bridge of my nose. Jesus, my damn head ached like a pulled groin muscle. The dull headache was worth it, though, for I’d been able to see the man who had wiggled into my heart really enjoying himself for the night. His smile had been natural, his laughter light and pure. So many men had hit on him, I’d lost count, but he never, not once, left my side or gave any of them a look that might suggest he was available. And he was. I had no claims on him. Yet he clung to me despite having to know he could have his pick of the horny men drooling over him.
Perhaps the most endearing thing about last night wasn’t the expensive food and drinks, it was the fact that he trusted me enough to tell me his name. That was huge. My heart tripped over itself, even now, thinking about what that meant. I’d read up about sex workers when I’d found myself falling for one. I understood the need to create a persona to help separate the real person from the stigma of being a prostitute. It also helped keep them and their families safer from stalking and helped to protect them from arrests. I knew nothing about his family yet, but, in time, I hoped he would share that story with me.
He had told me his real name. Shin Kuhn. It was lyrical and enchanting. It was wonderfully him. Someone cleared their throat. I snapped back to the stockholders sitting around my big cherry table waiting.
“Sorry, I had a date last night and we imbibed a bit more than I had planned.” A soft chorus of chuckles rose up from the twenty old men in attendance. Many were not happy with my being gay, which was tough shit for them. They’d come around some when I’d married Dante, although his being black had given them pause. Guess they figured a married fag was less likely to do something horribly gay and impact the company. When I announced my divorce, they’d given me those worried looks, but as long as Blue Moon was making them money – and it was making them a lot of money – they turned a blind eye to my dandyish ways. “Why don’t we wrap this up and we can hit Truman’s for a late lunch/early dinner?”
They all seemed to be in agreement, and the vote on funding for the new projects was ratified. I herded them all to Fiona, who expertly steered them to the elevator and their waiting drivers in the executive underground parking lot.
“Can you entertain them for a half hour until I make a few calls?” I asked Fiona as the last brittle old billionaire was led into the elevator.
“Why of course, Mr. McDougald,” her lips said, but her gaze said, “You fucker, I’ll make you pay for this!”. She would, I was sure, and I’d give her a nice two-week vacation and a raise to ease her anger. The doors shut. I exhaled and pulled my cell from my pocket. Shin had been sleeping when I left, peacefully so, splayed out over my bed. Waking in my bed with him next to me had made that funny flutter appear in my chest. The same one I got now thinking of seeing him tonight.
When he didn’t pick up again, I didn’t think much of it. He’d been incredibly drunk. Poor man was probably nursing a head like mine, only he could sleep the booze off. I had to schmooze with crotchety old men who didn’t know a cubesat from a coconut.
Butch appeared at my left. I gave him a quick look. “Did you just get here?”
“Yeah, your friend slept until noon, so I sat around your place watching shit TV and playing solitaire. You get the money for the IBM system?”
“ICP. And people wonder why I spend most of my time in the labs with the other space and tech geeks. How was Shin when you dropped him off?”
“Who?” Butch took a slug from his takeout coffee cup.
“Opal. His real name is Shin.”
“Oh, huh. He was looking pretty green around the gills.”
That made me smile a little. We both were suffering our excesses. “Was Kennedy understanding about him coming back late?” Butch shrugged. “What does that mean? Didn’t you accompany him inside and make our apologies to Kennedy like I had asked you to on the note?”
“Note? What note? I never seen a note. And no, I didn’t escort his ass in. He’s a big boy. I spend enough time in that whorehouse.”
“It was right on the kitchen counter, beside your stupid Yankees mug.”
“Okay, do not diss the Yanks because you’re hungover. Second, I got there after the cleaning service, so maybe they threw it away. Christ knows your handwriting resembles something a crack-fueled chimp would scribble down.”
“Well fuck,” I huffed, a tiny tickle of unease grabbing me by the neck.
“I’m sure he’s fine. You sound like some old woman fretting over her grandkids. What the hell is up with you?”
“I think I’m falling in love with him.” I pushed the G button and waited for the elevator to return and my best friend to spout off. The spouting occurred long before the elevator arrived. Thankfully, the lecture about my mental wellbeing and terrible choice in men was stalled when we stepped into the elevator with several other employees. I was tempted to invite them to the stockholders dinner just so Butch would keep his mouth closed. But they had to work and I had to face the music. Which I did in my best executive manner when we arrived in the underground parking lot.
“Ian, I know you think you got feelings for this kid but—”
I turned to look down on him. My 6’4” height normally would intimidate a man who stood at 5’9” but not Beauregard Lancaster “Butch” Hurley. He just bristled up like a plucky hedgehog.
“Shin is not a kid, he’s a man.” That got me an eye roll. “And yes, I have feelings for him, and so I worry about him dealing with that ferret of a boss of his.”
“Pimp. Kennedy Parks is a pimp. No point in trying to slap paint on a fucking turd. He’s a whoremonger who peddles flesh to lovesick gay idiots like you.”
“You’re right there under that rainbow flag with me, so don’t be so uppity about finding one of those young men attractive.”
“Sure, I swing both ways, but I’ve never lost my heart to a hooker.”
“She was an elite massage sexual therapist and we’re not talking about me.”
“Danny the beach bum?”
His hazel eyes snapped. “Again, this conversation ain’t about me, it’s about you and the way you hand your heart to any dude who bats his lashes and lets you diddle his butthole. It’s not healthy. And you need to think long and hard about saying you love the guy. It’s not been a month. I figure you’re in lust with him and your dick says it’s love, but come on, what do dicks know?”
“Judging by the conversation I’m having with one right now, not much.”
“Blow me, boss.”
“Get in the damn car.”
I flung open the door of my Mercedes and folded myself behind the wheel. Butch talked at me the whole way to Truman’s on 4th and Magnolia on the far west side. Thankfully, once inside the posh eatery, he had to shut his mouth. I loved the man, but sometimes that junkyard twang of his grated, especially when he was telling me things that my rational brain had been saying to me since the first time I suspected I had fallen for Shin. That miserable dinner took far too long to conclude but it did keep me from racing over to Gems.
That took place at ten p.m.. The man working the door barred me from entering the establishment. To say I was shocked was putting it mildly. When I began to argue, two big gorillas in black t-shirts with the Gems logo appeared and told me to remove myself from the premises, as I’d been banned for breaking the rules of the house by keeping one of the gems out too late. The thought of Shin being touched by some disgusting slob who wouldn’t care for him as I did made me slightly angry.
Actually, it made me fucking insanely furious.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Butch barked when I lunged at goon number one on the left. He wrestled me away from the doorway, arms tightly around my middle as I took a swing. “This is not how we want to have ourselves seen in the morning paper now it is? ‘Police called to gay brothel to arrest CEO and owner of Blue Moon Propulsion and Aerospace systems after he punches out doorman for barring him from his favorite whore’ does not sound like a headline the stockholders will like.”
“He’s not a whore!” I roared, breaking free of Butch’s iron band of an embrace. He danced around in front of me, arms out, keeping me from bulling back to the front door of Gems and taking out every man, woman, and child who dared to step between me and Shin.
“Okay, fine, he’s a fallen strumpet or whatever the hell you want to call him, but right now, you need to calm the fuck down. People are getting curious. And once that happens the cell phones come out. Just get back in the car. Get in the car!” He took me by the arm and pulled me to my Mercedes parked just down the street. “Get in the car. Give me the keys.”
He yanked the passenger door open. I glowered at him but tossed him the keys before throwing myself into the car.
“I need to see him,” I growled as Butch dropped behind the wheel with a hearty exhalation.
“No, what you need to do is go home and forget about him. It’s over, Ian. You had your fun, and he made himself some nice money, but now it’s over and you need to move on. Find someone who’s not selling his ass to the highest bidder. Get remarried, have some kids, build fucking rockets that will fly your grandkids to the moon. Just forget about this one.”
“I can’t. I love him.”
Butch beat my steering wheel with his brow for a long time until he was calm enough to drive. I watched the worn brick façade of Gems melting away in the side mirror. This was far from over. I just had to apply my brilliant mind to this problem as I would a glitch in a propulsion unit. I had to remove emotion from the equation and replace it with fact and science. Once I had the problem solved, then I could come back and beat the motherfucking shit out of Kennedy Parks.