By J. Hartman
1504, 1506, 1510 . . . Humphrey Milquer eased off the accelerator, peering at the dim building numbers under flickering streetlamps. There it was: 1592, at the corner of Addison and Huxley. A discreet wooden sign declared the grey concrete building to be The Secret Garden. A tough-looking motorcycle cop was parked on the broad sidewalk in front, facing the street.
Humphrey drove slowly past. The cop stared at the street, as if he’d been instructed to see nothing.
Humphrey parked a block away. His hands trembled as he set the parking brake. He shut off the engine, sat with his fingers on the keys for a long moment.
Finally he took a deep breath and yanked the keys from the ignition. He got out, locked the car door, and strode toward The Secret Garden.
A middle-aged man in a leather jacket, carrying a gym bag, emerged from the grey building as Humphrey approached. The man scurried around the corner and disappeared into the shadow of the tall wooden fence that extended from the grey wall.
The cop continued to stare dead ahead, still as a mannequin.
Humphrey pushed open the pneumatic door and found himself in a grimy, bare entranceway. A dim incandescent bulb dangled from the ceiling. Straight ahead was a window of thick glass, with a hole in the base for the exchange of money. A bored-looking young man, tall and thin and blond, stood behind the glass.
The man looked up as Humphrey stepped forward. Humphrey cleared his throat. “I’d like, uh, a one-time membership?” he croaked.
“Ever been here before?” asked the blond man. He pushed a form and a pen under the glass.
Humphrey shook his head. He wrote his name on the form, conscious of the blond man’s cool gaze.
“Over 18? Picture ID?”
Humphrey pried his wallet out of his tight jeans pocket and slid his driver’s license under the glass.
“All right. Here’s a key to locker number 82. Grab a towel from the stack just inside the door, then leave your clothes in the locker.”
Humphrey picked up the key. It was on an elastic cord, just big enough to fit a wrist. The young man pressed a button; a door to Humphrey’s right clicked. Humphrey pushed through it.
A locker room. A dozen men of assorted shapes, ages, and skin colors were showering or stripping. The room looked just like the one Humphrey had suffered through every day in high school.
. . . It was the bottom of the ninth down, in the final game of the World Series Cup. The Catalina Fighting Eels were trailing by a single goal. Star halfback Humphrey Milquer—“the most promising sophomore this game has ever seen,” according to CNN—faked left, faked right, and ran fifty yards with the ball before a dozen burly players from the other team converged on him. He chucked a wild pass up into the air, and only then noticed that everyone else on his team had already been tackled. Squaring his broad shoulders, he plowed through the initial assault, shrugging off opposing players like rain, and charged forward just in time to catch his own throw. He raced another hundred and twenty yards to make the game-winning touchdown.
The cheerleaders from both teams propositioned him en masse, but Humphrey, steely-eyed, square-jawed, turned them down. “My team awaits,” he said.
In the locker room, the players had stripped down to their towels and champagne was flowing freely. Tom Studds, a broad-shouldered senior, affectionately snapped a towel at Humphrey. Humphrey grabbed the end of the towel and reeled Tom in; before Tom could react, Humphrey’s lips were on his. Tom melted in his strong arms; Humphrey could feel Tom’s cock spring to attention against his belly. As the kiss ended, Tom moaned, “Oh, Humphrey—I always wanted you, but I thought you were too much of a man for me.”
Humphrey grinned. “I am. Good thing the rest of the team is here to help you out.”
A spontaneous cheer rang out. Several team members lifted Humphrey to their shoulders and pulled away his towel, revealing his thick fourteen-inch cock in all its standing glory. Jack Ace stepped forward and licked . . .
“’Scuse me, that’s my locker.”
Humphrey jumped, then moved aside to let the other man pass. Where—Oh, yes, locker 82. He stripped, eyes downcast, and wrapped the towel tight around his waist. Then he piled his clothing into the locker and locked it.
He padded through the locker room and through a swinging door into a wide lounge area. A big TV mounted high on the wall showed a tight closeup of an enormous cock sliding rhythmically into and out of an asshole. Grunts and moans issued from the TV’s speaker. Three or four older men sat near the TV on padded benches, wearing nothing but towels, half-watching the video action.
Humphrey looked away, but stole a fascinated glance at the TV as he walked past. In, out, in, out . . . He fixed his gaze on the floor. From somewhere deeper in the building he could hear a Top 40 radio station playing; he walked through an open doorway toward the music.
On his second pass through the lounge, Humphrey sat down gingerly on a wooden bench to rest. He hadn’t sat still for more than a minute in any of the other half-dozen areas of the Secret Garden—the outdoor hot tub, the weight room, the other lounge (complete with a pair of pool tables and a fireplace), the steam room, the video room (with five different TVs showing five different videos at once), or the maze of narrow corridors blanketed with doors, each leading into a tiny spartan bedroom.
In each area, men wearing towels (or sometimes nothing at all) lounged against walls, or sat on benches, or conversed among themselves. Eyes darted back and forth. Some of the men had an air of forced casualness; others seemed genuinely at ease. They were a mix of whites, Latinos, and Asians, of all ages—one or two looked barely eighteen, and a few weren’t going to see sixty again. Skinny and fat, tall and short, balding and bearded, muscled and nerdy. Humphrey had never seen so many men without clothes in one place before. It was disconcerting—he couldn’t tell who was a businessman, who was a computer programmer, who was a waiter, or a bus driver, or a street person. All just men, and all there for the same reason.
But Humphrey couldn’t see how it was done. There were scattered couples here and there, but most of those not coupled were engaged in light conversation, or sat silent, watching the other men. Humphrey never saw the moment of contact, never figured out what two men said to each other to get things started. And he felt sure that if he sat down without some excuse—like this TV to watch—those who walked by would find him out, would see that he wasn’t a Cool Guy who knew what he was doing but just a scared virgin.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw someone looking at him. Giving up on pretending to watch the video, he stood, gathered his towel around him, and strode from the room as if he’d just remembered an appointment.
In the pool lounge, a gorgeous young angel with a halo of red curls bent provocatively over a table, contemplating a shot. He glanced over a shoulder and smiled as Humphrey entered the room. Humphrey stumbled to a padded seat by the fire and sat down to watch.
The man took a leisurely shot and sank a ball. He ambled to the other side of the table and sank another. Every sway of his hips declared that he knew he was being watched.
For his next shot, he positioned himself directly between Humphrey and the table, then bent forward until his tight ass stood out against the towel.
. . . “He said he wouldn’t surrender to anyone but you, Lieutenant.”
Police Lieutenant Sam Milquer stood at an alley entrance in his trenchcoat and battered fedora, a stump of cigar dangling from his lip. It had been a long night—three murders, a case of gay-bashing, and now this.
In the harsh glare of a police spotlight, a sneering pale-faced youth in a kilt stood defiantly, fists on hips. Behind him was a cherry-red Nissan sportscar. A ring of police officers surrounded him, but kept their distance, respectful or afraid.
“Are ye Lieutenant Milquer?” the youth challenged, flashing his steely grey eyes and tossing his mop of red hair.
“Yeah,” Milquer said. “And you’re Tom McStudds, right?”
“The same.” The boy’s thick Scottish brogue was unmistakable to anyone who’d watched a news broadcast that month. “Th’ leaderr of Caer Lomond.” The dreaded Scottish youth gang had instilled a reign of terror on the city for weeks now, ever since their leader’s 18th birthday. They were proud and dangerous, and nobody knew what they wore under those kilts.
Milquer squared his shoulders. “So you’ll only surrender to me?”
“Ye’re the only one o’ the police that’s man enough to take me.”
Milquer stepped forward, out of the shadows and into the actinic glare. “All right. Turn around. Hands on the roof of the car.”
With the air of a man going to a firing squad but haughty to the last, McStudds flicked the toothpick from his mouth. Then he turned languidly and put his hands on the car.
Milquer stepped forward and with practiced ease kicked the boy’s legs further apart and away from the car. McStudds was leaning forward now, but still stood firm and defiant.
Milquer bent and with one quick motion flipped the boy’s kilt up over his head. A gasp came up from the assembled officers as a perfect, rounded white ass glowed in the spotlight.
Milquer opened his trenchcoat. He wore nothing underneath—always ready for just such an occasion to arise. His fourteen-inch cock was already stiffening, seeking like a hungry arrow for its target. He stuck one hand in his coat pocket and squeezed out a gob from the tube of lubricant he always kept there, then quickly greased his cock with it.
He grasped the boy’s hips with both hands. The boy’s clenched lips let forth a stifled gasp; Milquer could see the shadow of McStudds’ narrow cock as it stiffened against the front of the kilt. With a firm thrust, Milquer was inside the boy’s tight little ass. McStudds couldn’t help himself; a full-throated moan emerged from his proud mouth. Milquer thrust deeper, his arousal swelling. He’d wanted McStudds since the first time he’d seen him, on a barricade two weeks before. And he was clearly the boy’s first; this asshole was too tight to have ever been entered before. Milquer thrust again, and again, harder and harder, barely stifling his own groans as . . .
“Hola, amigo!” A cheerful young Latino man slapped the pool player’s ass in a friendly way. The pool player turned, grinning, and rested his cue against the table; then, with a quick glance at Humphrey, he kissed the new arrival passionately. The two walked off entangled in each other’s arms.
Humphrey stepped up to the table and picked up the cue stick. He was terribly aware of the eyes of the men who walked by, glancing at him and at the table. He took aim and shot but the stick slipped; the cue ball spun out of control and into a corner pocket. Blushing, he set down the cue stick and escaped through the sliding glass door into the darkness outside.
He stood still for a moment as his eyes adjusted. Half a dozen men lounged in the big hot tub. Towels littered the nearby deck chairs. After a moment of hesitation, Humphrey whipped off his towel, dropped it in a heap, and darted into the water. Murmurs of conversation went on around him. There was no sign anyone had noticed his arrival.
. . . Captain Jacques Milquer—the French pronunciation, if you please—stroked through the warm Caribbean water. Coral reefs fanned out below him in rainbow colors; small sharks and eels dodged playfully in and out among vast schools of bright tropical fish. Catfish, dogfish, angelfish, devilfish—fish of every size, shape, and color. Milquer’s steely grey eyes glinted. He took a deep breath through his snorkel.
Ahead, a human form loomed in the dim water. It was Milquer’s first mate, Tom Studds—broad of shoulder, firm of thigh, with smooth skin the shade of Colombian coffee. The rest of the crew of the Nautilus were on shore leave, resting up from three long months of filming an underwater documentary for the Discovery Channel. Milquer and Studds alone had remained behind. It seemed Studds had taken advantage of his captain being off on an afternoon swim to go skinny-dipping. The mate’s hairy chest and firm stomach stood out against the murky water beyond him. Milquer grinned to himself and attached the special SCUBA rebreather that left his mouth free. He’d seen Studds’ covert glances at his ass during that documentary; he knew what his mate wanted.
As stealthily as if he were wearing water moccasins, Captain Milquer approached Studds with an effortless underwater crawling stroke. Studds was floating upright, relaxed, unaware of his captain’s approach. The mate’s cock, not long but thick, swelled above his balls. Milquer swam closer, eddies of water drifting from his moving hands, then reached out and gently brushed Studds’ hairy balls.
Studds stiffened at once but did not move. Perhaps he thinks I’m one of the dreaded Cock-hunting Eels of Madagascar, thought Milquer with a grin. He touched the mate’s cock, then moved closer still and licked at it from the side.
Studds’ hands, limp at his sides, flexed involuntarily. Through the water, Milquer heard the mate moan.
Captain Milquer licked the other man’s balls, then reached around with both hands and squeezed Studds’ ass hard, pulling his crotch closer. With one quick move, he engulfed the mate’s broad cock in his warm mouth, feeling it stiffen into full erection as he did so. He began to bob his head back and forth, pulling Studds’ warm body toward him with every stroke. The mate’s hands twitched again, then buried themselves deep in the Captain’s steely grey hair. . . .
A man who’d been sitting on the edge of the tub, near Humphrey, stood, scattering water, and left the courtyard. The tub had grown uncomfortably hot. Humphrey blushed ferociously at his own erection and glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody had. He crept from the tub and pulled the towel around him again, then went back inside through a different door, dripping.
The maze of hallways was dark, with one or two men lurking in nearly every corner. Doors stood open here and there, each with a man lounging on a cot inside. Nobody spoke. Rhythmic thumps came from behind one door, and a wet slap-slap from behind another. The idea of standing in a doorway and examining the merchandise inside was too much for Humphrey—he fled deeper into the maze.
. . . Errol Milquer, rapier at his side and cocked hat aslant his brow, slipped like an eel through the dank stone corridors of Doom Castle. From somewhere far off came the sound of water dripping, drop by slow drop, into a stagnant pool. Milquer stopped at an ironbound oaken door; a burly guard leaned snoring against the cold stone arch. Without waking the guard, Milquer used his rapier tip to lift the iron key ring from the man’s belt; then he twisted the key in the rusty lock and pushed on the door. With a squealing moan, it opened a few inches. Milquer held his breath, frozen in the flickering light of an ensconced torch, but the guard only paused in his snoring for a moment, mumbled to himself, and slipped back into the depths of slumber.
Milquer wriggled through the narrow opening and crept onward into the maze of passageways beyond. At last he came to another door. This one had a single barred window in it; a quick glance told him that he’d found his way aright. Within the moldering, fetid cell, Prince Tom, rightful ruler of the land, hung in exhausted sleep from chains and manacles bolted to the wall. Milquer unlocked the heavy door and entered the room.
Prince Tom awoke with a start, eyes wide with fear. “Who—” he gasped, but Milquer was beside him in a flash, and covered the boy’s mouth with his hand.
“Fear not—’tis I,” said the dashing young blade. His steely grey eyes flashed in the dim torchlight, and the Prince relaxed.
Milquer removed his hand. The Prince’s eyes shone. “Oh, Errol—I thought you’d never come!” he said.
“The Duke has harried me through the greenwood,” Milquer said. “But I’m here now. Once you’re free, the Duke will pay for his treachery.” He tried the keys on the Prince’s manacles as he spoke.
“With every stroke of the Duke’s whip I thought of you,” said Prince Tom.
A cold sneering voice, like a steel rasp, came from the doorway behind them. “How sweet. It seems my bait has captured a mouse!” Milquer whirled. Framed in the doorway stood the powerful form of Duke Doom, arms akimbo, studded leather gauntlets on his fists.
“You’re mine at last, Milquer!” continued the Duke. “And you shall be punished for your crimes against the State. Guards!” A pair of giant brutes stepped into the cell. “Chain him well. I shall return to whip him in a few moments. . . .”
Humphrey rounded a corner and stumbled into a brightly lit hallway. A bald man covered in tattoos caught him and helped him regain his balance, then smiled at him and moved on. Humphrey could still feel the man’s cool touch on his shoulders. Shivering, he walked past the mirrored weight room and into the video lounge. A wildly improbable scenario was being played out on screen, something about an airplane pilot and a handsome young hijacker. Humphrey moved on, into the steam room.
As he walked in, steam jets hissed to life. He could see no more than a couple of feet in any direction. Whispers and grunts from all around were the only sign that he was not alone. He groped his way to a bench and sat down, letting his towel shift to show more of his leg to the invisible room.
. . . Sherlock Milquer stalked through the narrow streets of the seaside town of Muddleton, magnifying glass in one hand and meerkat pipe in the other. His deerstalker cap was firmly settled on his handsome head.
In the distance, the muffled moan of a foghorn sounded. The fog was thick tonight in Muddleton; the Grey Eel would be out tonight. The Eel was a slippery devil who would approach innocent young men on foggy nights and do unspeakable things to them. Milquer had determined to bring the criminal to justice.
He stopped at the entrance to an alleyway. The fog was thicker in the alley, and darker, but he’d heard a faint sound, as of labored breathing. He stepped cautiously into the alley, and was enveloped in thick billows of fog.
Suddenly, Milquer’s plaid cape was plucked from his shoulders. He whirled—but there was nobody behind him. His jacket split down the middle of the back, cut by an invisible knife, and slipped in two halves down his arms.
Milquer spun again but there was no sign of the Eel. “I know you’re out there,” Milquer said. His suspenders parted, sliced through, and his trousers dropped to the ground. His shirt split the way his jacket had, and Sherlock Milquer, master detective, stood nude and defenseless in the fog.
And then the Grey Eel’s touch was all over Milquer’s body, like a thousand feathers brushing against his skin. Milquer gasped, eyes closed, mouth open, engulfed in sensation. Warm breath in one ear, then the flicker of a tongue, soft and warm, on the other. The briefest of sharp nips at the nape of Milquer’s neck; his breathing quickened. A light flickering touch, snake tongues and butterfly wings, down his spine, and across the tight-curled hair of his chest. Another tiny sharp bite on his left nipple; Milquer made a small sound, almost a whimper. His cock pulsed, hard and upright. The soft touch flickered across his firm stomach, almost touched his cock but then slipped past, down the front of his thighs. A momentary pause, and then a soft, warm exhalation made his balls shiver. He opened his eyes, reached forward, but all he could see or touch was mist. That teasing tongue again, flickering oh so briefly around his asshole, and then licking once hard along the undersurface of his balls before vanishing again. And then, when Milquer felt he could bear it no longer, the sudden shock of a warm wet mouth engulfing his anxious cock. Milquer felt dizzy at the rush of warmth. He kept his hands at his sides, afraid the mouth would vanish again if he reached out. Any idea of apprehending the Eel had vanished, along with all other rational thought. The master of rational deduction surrendered to pure sensation as the superbly controlled tongue, lips, and teeth worked their magic. Milquer’s cock fit perfectly into the other man’s mouth. He bucked against the invisible presence, and the Eel’s mouth and head shifted in response, sliding up and down along the shaft, swirling tongue around the head and glans and then down again swift and inevitable as a waterfall. Milquer came to the edge of orgasm and hung there, suspended in a world of mist that had narrowed to this single point of time. Then that amazing tongue flicked, once, precisely, against the eye of Milquer’s cock, and a flood tore through him, releasing his pent-up cum in a thick spray that . . .
“Hey, guy, watch where you’re pointing that thing,” a voice said from the steam next to Humphrey. The voice was friendly, but more amused than interested. Humphrey, mortified, his cock shrivelling in his hand, wiped up cum with his towel and beat a hasty retreat.
Humphrey pushed open the outer door of the Secret Garden, and wandered dejectedly to the curb, where he stood for a moment gazing unseeing at the dirty street.
Finally he glanced at his wrist, then remembered he’d left his watch at home. Damn. He looked up and saw the motorcycle cop still seated impassively in front of the Secret Garden doors. Humphrey took half a hesitant step forward. “Uh . . . Excuse me . . .”
The cop glanced up—not at all stern and angry as Humphrey had expected, but with a look of friendly interest.
“Excuse me, I was wondering, . . . that is, I left my watch at home. . . .” He gestured at his empty wrist, feeling his face flushing. “Um, could you tell me what time it is?”
“Sure.” The cop lifted a muscular arm and looked at his wrist. “It’s five ’til midnight.”
“Oh. Okay. Uh, thanks.” He’d stayed in there long enough, he’d given it a good shot, it just hadn’t worked out. Humphrey turned to walk back to his car.
“Hey, hold on a sec,” the cop said from behind him.
Humphrey stiffened. It wasn’t illegal to go in there, was it? Couldn’t be—the cop had been here all along. What had he done? Flushing, he looked back.
The cop was smiling. “Listen . . . I’m getting off shift soon, and I’m horny as hell from hearing all these guys go by all night. How about a drink?”
Humphrey swallowed, looked at his feet, glanced up at the officer’s broad friendly smile, looked at his feet again. “Uh . . . I . . . I guess so. Sure.” He started to smile as the words sank in. He looked up again, grinning now. “Yeah. That’d be great!”
“Great,” the officer said. “It’ll just be a couple minutes ’til my replacement comes. . . . By the way, my name’s Tom—what’s yours?”
This story was first published in Clean Sheets, October 18, 2000. Reprinted in the Clean Sheets print anthology, From Porn to Poetry: Clean Sheets Celebrates the Erotic Mind (Samba Mountain Press, 2001).
The story’s obviously a pastiche of Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Opinion is divided over whether the ending of my story works, but I like it.
The story is, among other things, in small part a reaction to Delany’s comment in his novel The Mad Man about “the camaraderie and good will that exists in so much of [the gay male community]—as well as the barriers to social communication that fall” in gay meeting places.