It’s a discreet club on the outskirts of town, selective and fairly exclusive. Although the boss allows in youngsters – more or less handpicked youngsters- who crash about in the early, puppy stages of manhood, they are the right kind of kids who will grow up eventually into Sanctuary clients. It’s down to the management. Eight months ago when I came looking for work, I sat on the other side of the desk and watched Don Grant’s eyes take me in from head to foot and draw fairly accurate conclusions.
“You’re rather intelligent for this job.” He said courteously. An immaculate man, somewhat older than me in his mid thirties, very dark, built like an athlete. Very intelligent himself from his shrewd grey eyes. And from what I’d seen of his secretary, a gentle, grey eyed boy who had demanded Don gave me an interview in tones that informed me the two were lovers, Don liked intelligent people around him too.
“I’m looking for part time work.”
“May I ask what other employment you hold?” So polite. Real, old world courtesy. It was all in that cool, oh so civilised voice and I liked him.
“I’m a writer. Free lance. I’d like to spend more time on it, but I need a job that will reliably pay the bills.”
Near enough the truth. He surveyed me. His secretary brought in three mugs of coffee and leant against the windowsill, grey eyes much less demanding.
“Where do you come from?”
“Have you been in this line of work before?”
“Michael.” Don said mildly. His secretary glanced down at him and smiled.
“Once or twice.” I told them both. “I understand this club is rather different from the usual.”
“We employ several unusual bouncers.” Don said at last. “Most of our staff are unusual people. Perhaps exceptional is a better word. Might I ask if you have any formal training in self defence?”
I offered him my references. Three years as a body guard. Don’s eyebrows rose.
“Very well.” He said at last. “If you would come on duty tonight and shadow one of our working bouncers, you will gather an idea of your role and responsibilities.”
They cover a little more than the average bouncer’s. Sorting out clientele on the door. Turning away the ones who have stumbled in by mistake, the ones who aren’t the type Don encourages, the ones who tend to prey on the less experienced. Picking out the occasional genuine customer in the crowd of unsuitables. Watching out for the youngsters and keeping an eye on who they go home with; keeping an eye on how much they drink and when alcohol starts to affect experience and confidence. Watching out for the few in trouble. Don keeps quite an extensive first aid kit upstairs and most of the staff has a good basic medical knowledge. It was good work and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the close staff Don employed. There were six bouncers, apart from me, and I made several good friends including Don and his secretary partner.
I’d been there about six weeks when I found a note in the logbook from Brett, one of the duty bouncers from the previous night.
Kid, sandy hair, green eyes, slight build, early twenties, raving lunatic. Keep an eye out for him.
No word as to what he’d done or if Brett just thought he was worth eyeing up. Someone else was on the door that night: I was on duty in the hall and the main floor, and I picked out the kid in the first hour. He was the one in tight jeans with incredibly bright eyes like a kid from a smarties advert, trying to walk the gantry rail. He seemed to be part of a large group of boys, most of who were watching him with tolerant resignation. I got up the steps smartly enough to grab him before he fell and requested him, politely and firmly in tones that penetrate inebriate fogs, to get down. The bright eyes flashed at me. I realised with a sense of shock, that this kid was stone cold sober. He balanced delicately, arms outstretched like a dancer, and his smile was like being hit in the face with a mallet.
“That’s sweet of you, but I’m fine, I never fall.” He said engagingly. A lock of hair had slipped across his forehead and into his eyes, he looked about ten and a half. I found my voice softening rapidly.
“I’m sorry to drag you up here. You shouldn’t have worried.”
Another sweet smile and he went on strolling up the rail. I stood where I was, surrounded by looks of faint sympathy from his friends who weren’t even trying to intervene. Long legs, agile and ending in a tight, curved backside, made their way up a steep slope to where the rail protected customers from a ten foot drop to the dance floor- I woke up, jumped the last few steps to him and grabbed his wrist.
“Get down please.”
“I will in just a minute.” He promised.
“I’m just going to the end, I’ll be ever so careful.”
It seemed so logical, so sincere. Green eyes looked down at me, as trusting and innocent as Bambi.
“I want you to get down.” I said, trying to stick to my point.
“Why?” he asked curiously, arms outstretched as he wobbled.
“Because you’ll fall and there are a lot of people underneath you to get hurt.”
“Just to the end?” he asked, lost his balance, and fell. I still had hold of his wrist. He never quite went over the bar. I felt him start to go and pulled hard enough to break his fall towards me instead of the dance floor. He landed on his feet on the gantry. I heard the intake of breath from people around us, my heart was pounding. He looked up, eyes surprised for a minute, and then he laughed. Not derisive or gratuitous, just a simple child response to something funny. It broke the spell for me.
I was suddenly and seriously annoyed. I gripped his wrist and pulled him round to face me, darkening my eyes and my voice. “Right. You do that again and I’ll throw you out. Understand me? While I’m on duty you stay on the floor.”
“Yes.” The eyes were amused, but still sincere on mine. “I’m sorry, I really do hardly ever fall.”
“Floor.” I repeated sharply. “What’s your name?”
I expected him to be more or less sane for the rest of the evening. Now I know him, I know it was a totally unrealistic expectation. It was my first evening with Jamie, I have had many since and I won’t bore you with examples beyond this typical night.
I’d asked him to stay on the floor. Jamie is always obliging. I hadn’t said anything about going under the floor. Twenty minutes later when the musicians were complaining, I found Jamie under the stage with one terrified friend who bolted at the sight of me.
“The hatch was open.” He explained when he saw me. “Do you know the electrics here are about to fuse? I’ve seen it flicker once or twice. I can fix it if you like?”
Thank God I said no. I returned him to the dance floor with a flea in his ear, called the duty manager to see to the electrics and began to realise I needed to keep this child within sight. I was therefore able to intervene quickly when his perfectly turned back flip led less agile men to attempt cartwheels and breakdancing guaranteed to end in ambulances being summoned, and to discourage his initiative in sliding on the highly polished dance floor. He always desisted the minute he was asked with innocent apology and willingness to please, and moved away to some new pastime, leaving chaos in his wake. It took me and three other members of staff to turn the evening back into a casual disco instead of a sliding competition. By which time the band were so fed up they were threatening to walk out. It took several drinks and a lot of persuasion to calm them down. When I looked for him, Jamie was sitting on the steps, drinking cola and playing scissors paper stone with a friend.
I was beginning to get the hang of him.
Part of it is genuine insanity. Jamie is not safe to be let out. The above is a standard evening if there is no one around to keep a determined hand on his activities. However I realised when I saw him checking out the wall bars which support the lighting rigs, that there was a little more to him than met the eye. The eyes were a little too carefully weighing up the pros and cons, his face was a little too thoughtful. I clicked my fingers from the gantry to attract his attention, and gestured him away. The grin was not the little-boy charm smile, it was genuine and warm amusement.
He came in about twice a week, usually on the weekends. Brett and I knew him well, kept him in sight when he was in, and I found that once you’d established that you meant what you said, you didn’t have to do more than catch his eye to nip the next disaster in the bud. He didn’t do anything actually wrong- Jamie never does. Its simply that he has a gift for starting off a little snow ball that rolls into an avalanche ten minutes after he’s forgotten all about it and wandered off to do something else. Some of that is natural talent, but there was something in that incredible charm and innocence that made me watch him. It’s amazing he was never banned from the club, but then he was very well liked. He always came in the middle of a crowd of friends but they appeared to be casual friends, and he rarely spent time with any one more than another. Brett was very fond of him; Jack and Gurad on the other shift liked him. Even Don who had yanked him out of the office at one point having found him peacefully playing golf on the office computer, liked him although he came the closest to actually disconcerting Jamie’s placid allure.
He was a bewitching boy, I got used to his sweet smiles when he caught my eye and to the brief chats when we passed on the nights he was in.
I was on the second shift one Friday night, arriving shortly before eleven PM. The club was full by then, the lights and music were full blast and it was hard work picking anyone out of the crowd. Brett gave me the brief hand over and the logbook, along with two or three descriptions to look out for. One kid who looked under age and was hanging around one or two men known to be chicken hawks, and another who was so drunk the bar had refused to serve him, much to his indignation. I had the initial scout round, memorising faces and clothes. It struck me then, that there was something not quite right about the group up on the gantry. Always a trouble spot.
I was gradually edging close enough to watch when it dawned on me why the group bothered me. People were coming and going too quickly, while the central group never changed. I fumbled for the walkie-talkie we all carry, intending to call Gurad and break this little party up when the main doors were flung open and police appeared on the run, between eight and ten of them, followed by Don who looked furious. The police knew exactly where they were headed, and so did I. Well, much as this would annoy Don, it might prove the best answer for us: I didn’t want a fight with this mob. I went up the gantry walkway to get out of their way, and I saw the bright green eyes from the crowd now fleeing in all directions at the sight of the uniforms.
Two youths broke and started to run, one jumped the gantry rail and disappeared under two police officers. Jamie was just standing there, hands in his pockets, oblivious to his impending arrest.
He was only a kid. I knew him well enough and long enough to know he wasn’t a user, or if he was it was a new habit- those were the reasons I gave myself. What I did was collar him- literally- and yank him into one of the recesses off the gallery that led into a boardroom and Mike’s office. Once in, I shut the door and let chaos go on behind me. Jamie opened his mouth, looking indignant. I grabbed him, propelled him into Mike’s office and shoved him against the nearest wall, his back to me while I searched him. Pockets, linings. I found nothing but a bus ticket and a handful of change in the back pocket of his jeans. I turned him round and looked hard at his eyes. He wasn’t using. It was a relief to know I’d been right. I let him go and breathed out, furious, particularly as I now realised how badly he’d scared me.
“Do you know any of those thugs?”
“Only from tonight.”
Innocent eyes. Wide, charming, very apologetic. I growled.
“Have you used any of that stuff? What was it? E?”
“Elite. No.” he looked faintly crestfallen, it was the most heartbreaking expression I’d ever seen in that little choirboy face. “I was only watching,”
“Watching them deal?” I demanded. “Occur to you to tell anyone? You know what Don’s like about drugs? Where’s the rest of your crowd?”
“They moved on.” I saw the change in his eyes, minute but there. “I didn’t fancy the club they wanted to try-“
“Moved on? They didn’t fancy the company you were keeping?” I put my hands on my hips, toughening my tone. “What were you doing up there?”
He flushed. I took a deep, slow breath. The little sod had done it to me again. It was a habit with him and he was damned good at it.
“Take that look off your face,” I said grimly, “and don’t lie to me, Jamie. You’re in enough trouble.”
His eyes rose to mine: wide, sweet and innocent. I glared at him.
His gaze faltered. “It was just- I was just watching. Thought it might be- I don’t know-“
“Try.” I advised him. He winced.
“Exciting? I haven’t seen them before, I didn’t buy from them, really.”
“Honest.” He risked looking me in the eyes again, “I wouldn’t lie to you, Ranger. I mean it.”
“Exciting?” I said in disbelief. He shrugged a little with kid awkwardness.
“I just wanted to see what they’d do. Listen to them.”
This kid had a hard time sorting his fantasy life from reality. And that was the least of my worries.
“You little horror.” I said eventually to the top of his fair head, somewhere between amusement and fury. “You crash around, twisting everyone around your fingers with that sweet and innocent face, looking as if you haven’t got two brain cells to rub together. You’d do it to the police, wouldn’t you? You’d be charming the socks off the duty sergeant by now if you’d been arrested, and they’d be slipping you out of a side door as a sweet little kid who doesn’t know any better.” He flushed darkly. I shook my head at him. “And you know exactly what you’re doing, don’t you? Pure mischief and wilfulness, that’s your only problem!”
That crestfallen look was back. It softened me for about ten seconds until I realised it was another of his get-out strategies.
“Don’t you dare pull that on me,” I told him, “I still might call the police up here. You could do with taking in hand. What would your family make of all this?”
He gave me a brief look from under his eyelashes and I caught the flicker of amusement. Of course, it was logical. To be this good at his tricks, he had to have perfected them on a willing audience at an early age. He’d been thoroughly spoilt. Which explained to me why he’d been standing, calmly waiting for the police to reach and arrest him. He’d known he could handle the consequences without difficulty; to him it was just another exciting experience. Brett’s diagnosis was right, the kid was a raving lunatic.
“You can handle just about anyone, can’t you?” I said sternly. “There’s no such thing as trouble for you, you just flash those big eyes and everyone gives you what you want. If I call the police now, you’ll have them at your feet by the time you reach the station.”
And he knew it. If any eyes could twinkle, his did, although he looked the picture of abject disgrace. A good little boy who was horrified at actually being in trouble. Well he was in trouble now, allright, I was annoyed. And more over, I wanted to take that look of self-satisfaction off his face more than anything else on this earth.
“Do you know who Nemesis was?” I inquired. His eyes lifted, faintly bemused. More than likely he’d drifted through school on charm and good looks. I took his wrist and drew him across to Mike’s chair at the desk. A good, solid chair which would take my weight and his. I leaned across to turn the desk lamp on, pulled him closer and unbuttoned his jeans. He didn’t argue. In fact he stood, hips canted in a way that told me he was used to using more adult strategies to get what he wanted when necessary. Or to coax around tougher nuts like me. The kid was beyond belief. I unzipped his flies, drew him closer and turned him over my knee. That got his attention.
For a second he was still with shock, then as I quietly pulled his jeans down to his knees, he began to struggle. “What are you doing? Let me go!”
“I’m doing what someone should have done for you- a lot- about ten years back.” I pinned him effortlessly with one arm across his back, and stroked his curved backside through his pants, before I slipped my thumb under the cotton waistband and slid the briefs over his buttocks and down his thighs. His skin was very white, very smooth, and as I lifted his t-shirt off his bare cheeks, I felt the extreme softness of his skin. I couldn’t resist stroking him, running my palm over his bottom a cheek at a time, running a finger along the undercurve of each buttock, palming each long and smooth thigh. He squirmed, wriggling like a kid but not enough to cause me any difficulties. I was a lot bigger and a lot stronger. I went on softly stroking his bare bottom as I talked, petting it, especially over the cleft where he was twitching nervously, partly soothing and partly warning him of what I was about to do.
“You may be having a nice time fooling the rest of the world and getting away with murder, but we all meet our own Nemesis, and I’m yours, kiddie. You’re not stupid, you’re not an exception from the law or from morality what ever you may be able to make people think, and you can’t play with people or places for your own amusement.”
He wasn’t talking, not protesting or pleading, although he went right on wriggling over my lap, trying to get his vulnerable, bare bottom away from my threatening hand. I stroked it in apology for what I was about to do to its delectable curves. From his back, he was panting, very apprehensive and not able to do much about his situation.
“The police may not give you much trouble,” I told him, “but I can. I can deal with wilfulness and sheer naughtiness without any difficulty Jamie. Keep that in mind before you screw about on my shift again. I can see right through you.”
His face and bottom winced as I lifted my hand. Unkindly, I waited until he began to twitch and to relax from sheer anticipation before I smacked his right cheek pretty hard. He reared and managed a fairly good yelp, twisting over my lap.
“Ouch! Ranger don’t! Get off!”
Some people are eternal optomists.
I pinned him firmly down and settled into a good, sound rhythm, letting my hand wander all over his bottom so he never got too used to the pattern. He twisted and bucked and squirmed in a way that told me he was totally unused to this sort of treatment: even his protests and cries said clearly he wasn’t accustomed to being subjugated to anyone’s will. He was also very sensitive. This was probably a very new experience to him, and within a few minutes, he was no longer struggling to get away. His mind was too fogged with response to the indignity and to the sheer pain of his bottom to organise any response: he was hanging over my lap, his hands biting into my leg, and his kicking was pure reaction to my steadily whacking hand. I shifted my legs, lifting his rump a little higher, took a firmer grip around him and set about the most sensitive lower curves of his bottom and the tops of his thighs. He stopped bellowing then and his voice began to crack with more sincerity than he’d probably managed in years.
“Ranger- OW- oh stop- please, please don’t- ahOWww-“
His hips were wriggling with an unstrategic effort to get his chastened bottom away from my hard hand. There was no way I was responding to those requests: apart from the fact I was furious with this little wretch, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The flat of my hand resounded against his plump, perfect curves just where his buttocks softened into his long, supple thighs, flushing them brightly and making them squirm with the smart.
“Oh God! Ranger stop it, please stop it! Ranger…”
He was particularly sensitive right at the base of his buttocks, almost between his thighs. I stopped his squirming with a firm hand and landed a few, careful, well aimed slaps right there. That was his breaking point. He reared up and howled, and as he realised that still wasn’t the end, he relaxed back down over my knee and the tears began to fall.
He was sobbing long before I was ready to stop, though I thought the tears were as likely to be from shock and outrage as discomfort, so I persisted for a while longer. He was reddened from the small of his back to his thighs when I finally let up, having given him a couple of good smacks on the back of his legs as well as the more focussed target of his bottom. I let him slide down to the floor and he clutched at himself, tearstained and utterly staggered. He was even more beautiful when he dropped the choirboy act. And there was no swearing, no threats or claims of assault. He just stared at me with wet eyes and no sign even of anger. That really did soften me, perhaps because it was the first genuine look I’d had from him.
“Get up.” I told him firmly. He obeyed unsteadily and scrubbed at his bottom with his hands, face twisting a little. I pulled his pants and jeans up, ignoring his flinch at the rough material against his tender skin.
“Wash your face, sit down and wait for me. I’m going to talk to Don, make sure the coast is clear, and then you’re coming home with me where I can make sure you don’t get into any more trouble.”
Leave him around here and either someone would recognise him as part of the dealer’s group, or he’d probably find another good reason for getting arrested.
I paused in the doorway of the office and Looked at him. “Move out of this office, or do anything other than I’ve said, and this time I’ll take my belt to you.”
He believed me.
When I came back up to him fifteen minutes later, he’d done as I said. His face was clean and he was curled up on the sofa. I clicked my fingers and held out my hand to him. “Move. The police are still on the front street, we’re going out through the kitchen.”
I’d just stripped down his pants and tanned him: I was the first person in years – possibly ever- who’d walked through his multiple, myriad defences and taken him in hand. He was very wary of me. And yet he trailed me like a puppy, eyes watching me from under his lashes but without the artfulness I knew. Once we reached the street I acquired a firm grasp on his hand and his fingers curled willingly around mine. The littlest con artist in the west.