Infected: Revolution, Part 5
5 – Matador
Holden found himself slumped in a back booth of the Sheridan Hotel’s bar, looking down into his watered down scotch, and wondering why he ever thought he could go mainstream.
Seriously, he wasn’t cut out for this. Yeah, he was getting older, and he was past hustler prime (which was twenty three, if he was doing the math right – everything afterwards was all downhill), but he wasn’t exactly cut out for normal life. Whatever that was.
Maybe it was just the horrible day making everything worse, but he felt like finding an abandoned building and taking a pipe to everything he could possibly smash. He didn’t expect the stupid asshole protestors to affect him as much as they did, but somehow they got under his skin. They reminded him of his bastard hypocrite father and his followers, the parishioners in his bullshit church. The shit he used to go along with, just to get along, until the realization he was gay made him feel even worse about going along with the shit. Why should you believe in a church that didn’t believe in you?
So he kind of lost it. If Roan’s hockey friend – which one was he? He was either Richie or Jeff, as he always got those two mixed up – hadn’t held him back, Holden would have cracked that old fucker’s head open. How dare they come to a kid’s funeral and disrupt the day of people already in pain and grieving. The empathy free, motherfucking dickholes. He wanted to break all their skulls and throw them in the tiger cage at the zoo.
You’d think the fact that there was a drive-by would have broken Holden’s anger or at least channelled it elsewhere, but not at all. Roan took the shot like a superhero, like he was born to absorb the violence and abuse thrown at him by puny humans, and he probably was. He seemed to get stronger the more they tried to hurt him, which was instant karma if Holden had ever seen it. The haters deserved Roan, and Roan deserved to chew them all up and spit them out as the tiny piles of vomit they were.
No, he wasn’t bitter. Who would think that?
For fuck’s sake, he was a vigilante! How was he supposed to have a day job like a regular person who didn’t know where the bodies were buried? Sure, there was probably a way to do it, but it apparently wasn’t one of his gifts. It just added to the huge heap of self-loathing he seemed to be dealing with today.
The call from Doug came at just the right time. He could take out all his frustrations on Doug, as soon as he got in from Sea-Tac, and they’d both feel better. While Holden had technically quit working at Elite Escorts, and hung up his hustler hat, he still had two clients he saw on a personal basis. Doug, because he never had to fuck him, just beat the shit out of him and get paid for it, and how often did a gold mine like that just fall in your lap? And Graham, the upper class British bi, whom he simply liked as a person. Okay, yeah, he slept with him, but they had an oddly comfortable relationship, all business, but with a measure of mutual respect. Graham didn’t think of him as a stupid hooker, and Holden didn’t think of him as a repressed john, so it was an odd relationship right off the bat. Besides, he didn’t see Graham often, just whenever his business brought him to Seattle, about four times a year at most.Doug he saw quite a bit more, but then again, he was a pilot, and Sea-Tac was one of his semi-regular stops.
He sipped his scotch and tried to relax – Doug wasn’t into a full on bloody beating, and he didn’t want to do that to such a good client – but the scotch was cheap, and he found himself wishing for some gin. But he wasn’t going to allow himself any, because he’d just slam it down, and before too long he’d find himself hammered. He wasn’t going to become the boozy private dick, not only because it was such a cliche, but because Roan was the one with the substance abuse problem, and there should only be one per team up. At the very least, there should always be a designated driver available for a car chase.
“Hi, I’m sorry to bother you … I’ve seen you around here a lot, and I’ve never seen you in a suit, so I figure you’re not a businessman. So, umm … are you …”
Holden sat back, smiling at this guy’s stumbling attempt to ask a question that was really none of his business, and yet, part of him was curious where this could possibly be going. Didn’t he know? “Are you trying to ask me if I’m a hooker?”
Despite his dusky skin, Holden saw him pale somewhat, a bit of the color draining from his face, as his dark eyes widened in shock. “Um, no! Well, I mean … you don’t look like those guys by the bus station …”
“May I ask why you’d even ask such a thing, young man?”
His eyes appraised Holden warily, perhaps thrown by the fact that Holden was trying very hard not to laugh. But this was hilarious. Other people’s squeamishness and nervousness about sex work always amused him, whether it should have or not. For an astonishingly kinky country, America could be downright Puritan. “’Cause … umm …”
Oh, he enjoyed letting this boy just dangle on the line, like a fish you just didn’t want to land, but he knew he could only push the torture so far. “’Cause you want to hire one, or because you want to hire me specifically?”
The kid looked startled, then embarrassed, and Holden knew he had guessed right. “I, um …” the kid began, as nervously as he had started every sentence.
While his adorkability had a certain charm, it was getting quite old, so Holden decided to cut to the chase and spare him a tiny bit of agony. “Listen, kid, what’s your name?”
He continued to look as spooked as a bunny rabbit, but that did have a certain charm. “Hunter.”
God, one of those phony ass soap opera names people gave their children nowadays. He wasn’t sure if it was better or worse than those old fashioned Biblical names that made people sound Amish. “Hello, Hunter, I’m Fox. You aren’t a cop or working for the cops, by chance?”
“What? No!” The idea stunned him so much Holden knew he was telling the truth. It didn’t seem likely at any rate. “ Your name is actually Fox?”
“It’s one of my names. So, let me guess your story, and tell me if I’m right. You were raised in a really religious household, and you were really religious too, until you figured out you were gay, and then it all started falling apart. Am I close?”
Holden could almost see himself in the wide, reflective discs of his eyes, which told him all he needed to know. But Hunter said it anyways. “Yeah. Wow. Am I that much of a cliché?”
“A little bit, but don’t feel too bad. That’s my background too. Only, and this is my guess, you didn’t just decide fuck it and hook up with other closeted god botherers, huh?”
“Yeah. I mean, no, I didn’t.” His face scrunched in confusion, making him look like a teenager. “God botherers?”
“It’s what Brits call over-enthusiastic believers.” He learned that from Graham, but apparently Roan already knew it, thanks to his nerdy affection for British comedy. “But don’t let me interrupt.”
Hunter sat forward, resolutely clasping his hands together on the table, like he was afraid if he didn’t he might get up and leave. His knuckles were already turning white. “I tried really hard not to be gay, but I just couldn’t make it work with girls. And I’ve tried really hard to be celibate, but it’s just not working.”
Holden chuckled. “The Catholic Church could’ve told you how hard it is to be celibate, if they were honest with themselves for a single second. So have you tried the bars? You’re cute, you’ll score easily. E-dating?”
He shook his head. “The bars scare me, and so do those dating sites. The ones for gays seem to be more like hook up sites, and …” he leaned across the table, pitching his voice to a low whisper. “I have no idea what to do. At all. And I’ve heard these horror stories that make me want to avoid strangers all together.”
“I’m a stranger,” Holden pointed out.
“Yeah, but …”
“You’re a professional, right?”
Holden smiled at that, finding this whole conversation weirdly humorous. The funny thing was, he’d heard it before, although with some details tweaked. It was funny to think, even amongst the Grindr generation, there were guys too virginal and too socially awkward to dive in. “There’s guys on the boulevard, a lot cheaper than me.”
“And I’ve heard stories about them too.” He grimaced, trying to say something with his expression alone, but Holden chose to ignore it. It felt really good to be back in the Fox persona again. Fox didn’t care about much, except figuring out what people wanted to hear and telling them just that, while remaining above it all. It was nice. Holden was human, but Fox was a statue, all armour, impervious to everything.
“I won’t lie and say there aren’t guys out there who will just roll you, ’cause there are, but for the most part hustlers will treat you square if you treat them square. If you’re a complete dick, you’re losing your wallet.”
“I just …” Hunter seemed to run out of words, and instead shrugged with his hands. “I don’t want to get a disease, I don’t wanna get robbed … I want to know what I’m missing, and what I’m supposed to do. But I don’t know how to get from step A to step B.”
“Have you tried porn?”
He rolled his eyes, like it was the stupidest question imaginable. “Porn is just … it scares me more.”
Holden sat back, smiling, suddenly aware the kid was shaking oh so slightly, which was given away by a tremor in his hands. “I don’t scare you?”
“No.” He was so obviously lying Holden laughed, which made Hunter cringe a little. “Okay, yeah, you do, but I figure since you probably work for one of those agencies, you know, you’re probably adhering to a certain set of rules.”
“We all adhere to our own set of rules, but I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear right now.” He pushed his glass of watered down scotch towards him. “Have a sip. It’ll calm your nerves.”
Hunter eyed the glass warily. He did everything warily, like he was afraid of the world. Maybe he was., which was his whole problem. He didn’t need a whore, he needed therapy. “I don’t drink.”
“That’s so watered down I’d hardly call it booze. Go on. If you can’t establish a modicum of trust, there’s no point in going any further.”
Hunter took the glass gently, like he thought it might bite him, then sniffed and winced. But all too aware that Holden was watching his every move, he steeled himself and took a very dainty sip of the scotch. Hunter jerked his head back violently, as if shot, and dropped the glass, which landed with a thunk on the table, but didn’t tip over. Still, it sloshed a bit over the side. “That’s disgusting,” he gasped, coughing a little. “It tastes like sour cough syrup.”
“The better stuff tastes like smoky cough syrup.” Holden pulled the glass back over to his side of the table, and his watch beeped. He set it to go off ten minutes before Doug was scheduled to arrive, so he’d have time to finish his drink and go back to the room, so he could have the handcuffs and bindings ready to go. Holden pressed the button, shutting off the quaint, old fashioned alarm, and said, “Give me a number, kid, and I’ll see what we can arrange.”
Hunter looked a little bit scared, which was weird. Wasn’t this what he wanted? Oh hell, it was clear this kid had no idea what he wanted. He was going to need someone good with handling virgins. “Umm, I give you my number?
“What did I tell you about trust? Now come on, I have somewhere I’m supposed to be.” Holden searched his pockets until he found one of his old escort cards – he really needed to get new cards with his new profession on them – and a pen, and put them on the table in front of him, avoiding a small puddle of scotch. “Write it down. I’ll call you within a week.” Once Hunter started writing, Holden added, “We’re not a charity. You know this is gonna cost you, right?”
Again, a confused, startled look from Hunter, whom Holden had mentally dubbed Rabbit. “Of course, yes. I have the money. I was gonna buy a car, but … I still don’t have a driver’s license. No point in getting a car if I can’t drive it.”
Holden nodded, sure there was more to the story than that, but he didn’t really care enough to ask. He’d never ask, unless it became important for him to know. And how would that happen?
Rabbit held the card and pen out, which Holden took carefully, as he had a feeling that if he touched him even coincidentally, Rabbit might jolt. He was more than a little tempted to do it just to see what he’d do, and he might have if he wasn’t on a schedule. Rabbit glanced down at the table, and said, “Thank you. This was really hard for me.”
“I can tell. Now go do your job, and I’ll do mine.”
Rabbit swallowed hard, nodding convulsively as he slid out of the seat and left. Holden glanced at the number, not surprised to find Rabbit had tiny, precise handwriting, and tucked it in his coat pocket before getting up to leave.
As weird as it was, Holden was glad Rabbit had worked up the courage to see him today. Just as he was thinking he couldn’t hack the mainstream life, here came an example of why he was glad he didn’t have to deal with this bullshit anymore. He was sure Rabbit was a nice kid, if wildly neurotic, but the good thing about being a private detective was just accepting tasks you had to do. You never had to pretend to care about them. And he never had to suffer through another Viagra headache again, at least until he was old enough to need it, and even then, Holden figured he’d rather be dead.
The fact that hustlers got too old to do the job was undeniable, but he now realized he’d gotten the reason for it all wrong. Oh sure, most probably had to drop out due to being outside the age of attractive viability (the absolute ceiling was probably twenty nine/thirty) , but then there had to be some who dropped out because they couldn’t do it anymore. Not the fucking – the pretending to care. At a certain point, it just became tedious. Who knew even acting could get tiresome? Well, actors presumably, but Holden didn’t personally know enough of them to say.
The cliche was right. You did learn something new every day. Even a know it all like him.