The bar had enough of a blue haze of smoke hanging in the thick air to make Fouchon feel right at home. He sat in back. Between his hands stood an untouched glass of straight bourbon. Fouchon seldom drank, but he liked alcohol; it had won him a great many easy victories.
At the polished walnut bar, Pik was lighting the cigarette of a man who should have known better. About a lot of things, Fouchon thought with an inward smile. The man in question--a doctor, a forensic pathologist of all things--was a man who had yet to come to terms with his own mortality and who, consequently, believed that he would not so much die as simply fade away along with the rest of the universe at some unspecified time in the future.
Pik was going to be an awful surprise for him.
Fouchon watched the blunt courtship unfold. A joke, a smile, a tentative touch by way of testing Pik's receptivity. Pik moved into the touch with his usual animal grace and those dark, wanton eyes turned full on the doctor who must certainly have been wondering how this day, of all the tedious, corrupt days of his life, had brought him such a lucky catch.
You should have seen the one that got away, Fouchon thought as he stroked the cool surface of the glass before him.
The doctor coughed, moved in closer and Pik tilted his head like a leopard considering its prey. He murmured something and the doctor nodded too enthusiastically, stubbed out his cigarette and began to move through the crowd of bodies between the bar and the door. Pik followed. At the door, just before he followed the older man out onto the street, he turned and stared into his lover's eyes and smiled.
Fouchon stared after him, watching in his mind's eye as Pik followed the doctor down the street to where the man's car was parked. Watched Pik get into the car, watched...
Fouchon looked up. A bearded man of about thirty stood beside the table.
"Are you alone?"
"Yes and no. Sit down and let me buy you a drink."
"No, I'm fine, thanks. I thought I might buy you one, but you seem to be have everything you need." He smiled, a little shyly, and Fouchon was charmed. This wasn't going to be one of his victories-- these days he could tell this within a few seconds of meeting someone--but the man's presence was peaceful and oddly pleasant.
"I don't usually drink; mostly I order one as a prop."
The other man nodded. "I know what you mean. This is a good place to meet people, but you have to be holding a beer or something."
"Is that why you come here? To meet people?"
The man shrugged. "I suppose. I'm not very good at it, though."
"And why not?"
"I can't get excited about people I don't know. Not enough to... you know."
"Fuck a stranger?"
There was a beat of silence, then the other man nodded again. "Yeah. I don't like fucking strangers."
"That's wise. So I can assume you didn't come over here to make a move on me?"
Charmingly, the stranger blushed. "I didn't claim to be consistent."
"Had you done I would have disbelieved it anyway." He consulted his watch. "Alas, I don't have time even to be a stranger to you tonight."
"This is the brush-off?"
"Not at all. I really do have to be somewhere quite soon. For what it's worth, I find you rather attractive, but I do think you're better off not involving yourself with me. Much safer." He leaned forward and dropped his voice. "That is a rare display of generosity on my part. Believe it."
Whether the other man did believe, or whether he simply became nervous about having been so forward with what was obviously a dangerous lunatic was impossible to say, but he stood up and disappeared into the crowd without another word.
Fouchon left the bar and stepped into the warm, damp night. The streets were glazed with the light rain that had fallen on and off all evening, and a pervasive odor of liquor and piss seemed to rise like steam from dark places. There was something hellish about New Orleans which was why, Fouchon supposed, some people liked it so much. Walking the streets here was a little like toying with damnation.
No one bothered him as he strolled down the dark side streets of the quarter; there was something about Fouchon which tended to warn off all but the dullest or most desperate. His car was similarly untouched; something of a miracle for an expensive car like a Jaguar in this area, but then it had its own little protections.
Ten minutes to the doctor's house and the negotiations could commence. That was the part Fouchon liked best.
Predictably, the doctor was on his knees.
"Banal," was Fouchon's assessment. The doctor, in his surprise, came rather close to circumcising Pik.
"Who the hell are you?" Coming from a naked man with a half-erect cock bobbing in his face, the question lost some of its force.
Pik looked over his shoulder. "You do make a strong first impression."
"I'm Pik's lover. Who are you?" Fouchon asked.
The doctor looked up at Pik in horror and Pik made a "Gosh, what can I say?" gesture and went over to lie on the bed, leaving the older man kneeling on a rather expensive Kerman, testicles shrinking up further into his body with each new revelation.
"This is blackmail, isn't it? You're here to blackmail me." He coughed miserably.
"Oh... I don't think you can call it "blackmail." Do you think he can call it that, Pik?"
"I don't think so, Emil."
"No, it's not blackmail," Fouchon assured the doctor. "Why don't you get up? That can't be comfortable without a penis in your mouth."
"So often one orifice is very like another," Pik observed.
The non sequitur made Fouchon smile. "Now, doctor, I have a business proposition for you. Please sit down; I want to be certain you understand what it is you'll be agreeing to."
The man sat, like a good dog.
"You can't, of course, imagine that Pik's services come cheap," Fouchon admonished. "He's extremely well-versed in any number of arcane arts. In other words, he's the best fuck you'll ever have. And he's costly. Well, nothing you can't afford, " Emil added reassuringly. "And as I look out for his business interests, I feel it's time to negotiate this arrangement. Now, you've seen the merchandise...had a taste," he said with a smile that just wouldn't be suppressed, "and you should have a fairly good idea of what all that is worth, I think you should be ready to do business."
"You're a whore?" the doctor asked Pik, who managed to look offended.
"I don't think I like that word."
"He doesn't like that word," Emil cautioned. "I wouldn't use it again."
The older man's jaw set in a hard line. "I'm not paying for anything."
"Oh no, no, you misunderstand me. We're not expecting money. We're simply asking that from time-to-time you make yourself available to us for certain small favors."
"What would you call them, Pik?"
Emil nodded. "That's right, administrative favors. Occasionally we may ask you do something for us in your professional capacity. Simple, really."
It took a few moments to begin to sink in. "You're asking me to, what? To falsify police records?"
"I think we can say that we are, yes," Emil agreed.
Pik, who was lying back on the dark blue sheets with his arms crossed behind his head said, "Falsify is such an emotionally charged word. Possibly we should say that we'd like you to improve on literal truth enough to bring it in line with a higher truth." His skin was golden and glowing like wildflower honey against the dark material; he looked startlingly godlike.
"Pik is so metaphysical," Fouchon said with a conspiratorial little wink at the doctor. "Call it whatever you like, but we still need your help."
"Forget it. Get out of my house," he said, jumping to his feet. His bare, wilted cock flopped in emphatic punctuation and Pik chuckled softly.
"I don't think you understand," Fouchon told him. "You don't have a choice."
The man deflated. He slumped back onto the chair and coughed tightly. "So this is blackmail after all," he rasped.
Fouchon sighed. "I suppose so. It's such an unfortunate terminology, though. But you see, it's like this. We need your help and we're going to get it or we're going to make certain that the person who takes over your job will be someone more sympathetic to our needs. Do you see?" he asked with a curious tilt of his head. This man was ripe for the picking, but needed to assert that it was his choice to be peeled, cored and sliced into little bites.
"What is it you've done?"
"Oh nothing yet. But we'll get to that. Right now, though, as we've established that you're going to help us with our business dealings, I think we should consider your needs. Pik, of course. I think you'll be pleased with what he has to offer. And, of course, a financial consideration."
The man lifted his head. "You're going to pay me?"
"But of course. Didn't I mention that? Pik, didn't I mention that?"
"You did not."
"How stupid of me. Of course we're going to pay you. Fifty thousand, wasn't it Pik?"
"It was, indeed, Emil. Per job."
"Per job," Fouchon echoed.
"Fifty thousand? Dollars?"
"Unless you'd rather some other currency."
"Dollars are fine," the doctor said stupidly. "Fifty thousand..."
"Per job. Tax free."
"What exactly do I need to do?"
"Well, I'm not going to bother you with all the details at this point, since I know you're anxious to get back to whatever it was you and Pik were doing, but simply put, we require that you occasionally omit small details from autopsy results. As simple as that."
The doctor looked from Fouchon to Pik and back again. "As you said, I have no choice, do I?"
"I'd prefer to think of this as a mutually beneficial agreement. Now, to seal the bargain, all you have to do is repeat to me what it is you will do for us and what you wish in return."
The man seemed startled, as if the action was at once too formal and too casual.
"Words are bonds where I come from," Fouchon told him. "Speak."
And like a good dog the doctor said, "I'll change the autopsy results for fifty thousand each. And Pik."
"Just this one time, though. Pik is more precious to me than money; I only loan him out on special occasions."
"Okay, then this once. I'll do it for one night with Pik and fifty thousand a job."
"Done. Heavens did you think you'd have to sign in blood?" Emil joked.
The doctor made a half-hearted attempt to laugh, Pik began to giggle; he knew the blood part would come later.
Fouchon smoothed his hair with his hands. "And now I'm off. I'll be in touch. Dormez bien."
He left the bedroom and the house quickly, and drove back to the hotel where he and Pik had been staying since they'd arrived in New Orleans a few days earlier. Tomorrow morning he'd get in touch with the agent for the house they wanted. It would be a little bit of a wangle, but they'd get it, get the cool, white elegance of it for their pleasure.
It was nearly dawn when Pik crawled into bed beside his lover. He smelled fresh and clean and had obviously showered after his night with the doctor. He put his arms around Fouchon and snuggled close. "I had some fun tonight."
"I can tell you he'll never be comfortable with me in the room again."
Emil groaned. "Oh, Pik, what have you done?"
"I showed him some variations on a theme is all. He was anxious enough when we started."
Pik was an expert in sexual mayhem; almost, Fouchon could feel sorry for the hapless human being who fell prey to the lure of those eyes.
"What makes you think there's an "and"?"
"Because I know you."
Strong arms tightened around his chest and Pik's fingers toyed idly with the soft pucker of a nipple. "I left him with just a suggestion of sulfur," he admitted. Then he bit Fouchon's shoulder gently. "A tiny little whiff of brimstone. I thought it was a grace note."
Given the emotional intensity of the evening, it was more like coals to Newcastle, but Fouchon didn't point this out. Rather he turned in the circle of his lover's arms so that they rested together face-to-face. "Some of them are stubborn; they don't want to fall. And some simply wait for the right moment, the right hand."
Pik lifted Fouchon's hand to his lips and kissed the palm. "Some fall to the right hand and some to the left," he murmured. "I've been wondering if it makes a difference."
"No. It doesn't. Not really. They all pass through each set of gates more than once."
"But we do not."
"We have a job to do."
Pik kissed his hand again and then released it. He touched his lips to Fouchon's mouth, half kissing, half whispering, "Then let me be always at your right hand."
Some simply wait for the right hand.