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    Rigby Taylor
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Mortaumal - 22. Danger, Friendship, Exit, & Protectors

Curious about an email requesting his presence at “The Five of Diamonds”, one of the Clubs he’d worked at, Mort took the train to Adelaide Street, jogged up the hill to Boundary Road, found the narrow cul-de-sac at the end of which was the service door with five red diamonds painted on it, and knocked loudly. It was ten o’clock. The trip had taken just under an hour. A few seconds later the door opened a crack and Paco the barman peered out.

‘Mort!’ His voice was shocked. ‘What’re you doing here? Go away! This isn’t the same place any more. Go away, quickly!’

‘Is that Mortaumal, Paco? Bring him in.’

Paco’s fire was instantly quenched. ‘Don’t tell him what I said,’ he muttered. ‘Just be careful, OK?’

He stepped back to reveal a somewhat pompous, pale fellow of about forty in white trainers, jeans and a multi-coloured shirt from somewhere exotic. He gazed down at Mortaumal over a well-fed gut.

‘Hello, Mortaumal. I’m Wiley.’ He did not offer his hand.

Mort was relieved; pudgy white hands with long black hairs on the knuckles did not invite touching, especially after Paco’s warning. And he had a feeling he’d seen the fellow before.

‘We’ve met before, a couple of years ago,’ Wiley announced, making Mort worry he could read minds. ‘I was one of Perdita’s first clients on her return to the city. You answered the door. You’ve hardly changed, what’s your secret? Found the fountain of youth?’

Mort shook his head. ‘Just a slow developer I think. I thought I remembered your face from somewhere. What’re you doing here?’

‘I’ve bought the place,’ Wiley led the way inside and onto the tiny stage. The club looked less than inviting in the glare of ‘daylight’ fluorescent tubes. ‘Got sick of only owning straight clubs so added this one to my stable. That makes five.’

‘Congratulations. But it seems odd to have a straight guy running a gay club. Isn’t it very different?’

‘No. Sex is sex whatever the orientation; and men make up a hundred percent of the clientele at all venues. Gays seem quieter, less trouble so far, but the shows are pretty dull, that’s why I wanted to see you. Still available?’

As it would seem decidedly odd to say no, after responding to the email invitation, Mort said he was, but only for a week or so.

‘They told me you’re up for anything.’

‘As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.’

‘Right. What I want to do is bring in a wider clientele by ramping up the sex quotient in the shows. Full on lesbian sex is the current thing in the other clubs and very popular, so how do you feel about that?‘

‘Mucking around with a lizzie? No thanks.’

‘You know what I mean, the full works, with another guy.’

‘Not my scene, I’m a solo performer.’

‘Rap, come here!’ Wiley called.

Rap sauntered in, sweat pouring off chest and arms. ‘Been working out, boss,’ he said in the slow, hesitant tones of a mentally challenged child. Physically he was anything but challenged—lean and muscled, tanned to a deep yellowish brown. Nothing like the gym-toned bunnies usually associated with gay nightspots. No sleek layer of fat rendered his body smooth and godlike. He was all tightly corded muscles over strong bones. Craggy. That was the word. Craggy and primeval. And there was something distinctly feral in his face; lean with low, heavy eyebrows, eyes so dark they seemed black, prominent, slightly bent nose, sharp cheek bones above hollow cheeks, and a protruding mouth with full, defined lips. All supported on a columnar neck and powerful shoulders. Sexy but terrifying to someone whose tastes in sexual dalliance could best be described as pale vanilla.

Every one of Rap’s muscles looked useful; none were just for show, and that made him impressive—and scary. Tiny brown erect nipples on a smooth hard chest, flat taut belly, hairy legs and buttocks that could carry him and a couple of bags of cement up ten flights of stairs without tiring. Between the legs an impressive bulge that threatened to escape the tiny pouch of his thong.

No thank you, thought Mort.

‘Mortaumal, meet Raptor—Rap for short. What do you think?’

Mort smiled at Raptor. ‘You’re one of the most impressive, sexually charged guys I’ve seen for ages.’

Raptor’s eyes were amused, but his mouth hung loose.

‘What exactly d’you want us to do?’

‘Like I said... the works. The girls pull, stretch and turn their cunts inside out, fiddle and lick their partner’s every orifice. Kiss and cuddle, and shove their fingers, toes and bits of fruit in their slash, then put on huge dildos and screw each other. Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination.’

‘Some of those things sound painful. Rap’s a powerful fellow who might forget his strength in the heat of excitement.’

‘Nothing you couldn’t handle, a fit kid like you. And once you’ve had a couple of Hanoi tabs you won’t feel anything except euphoria. Rap can’t get enough of them, can you Rap?’

‘No Boss,’ Raptor drawled from the exit door where he had drifted to join a couple of overweight minders in suits who were trying not to look as if they were standing guard in case someone wanted to make a bolt for it.

‘When’s the performance?’ Mort’s trademark insouciance was under threat and he covered a slight tremble in his voice with a cough.

‘Tomorrow night.’

‘How much?’

‘Five hundred and as many tabs as you like.’

Mort pulled a face as if considering, then nodded seriously. ‘You’re on! We’d better have a rehearsal though. I’m meeting the fellow I’m boarding with for lunch and he doesn't have a mobile so I can’t contact him, so I’ll come back straight afterwards to prepare a few moves and sequences.’

Wiley raised an eyebrow. ‘It’s not even eleven o’clock, plenty of time to have a round with Rap. And I need to check the merchandise; make sure you haven’t got yourself covered in sores or tats. And take a couple of these.’ He handed Mort two dark blue tablets about the size of aspirins.

Mort accepted them cautiously. ‘What’re they for?’

‘They’re the one’s I told you about, euphoria. Cost heaps but my boys can have as many as they like.’

‘Generous,’ Mort said with the hint of sarcasm. ‘What’s the catch?’

‘No catch, I look after my staff.’

Mort nodded and accepted the pills. ‘Any chance of water?’

Paco, who had been hanging around pretending to work, went through a door and returned seconds layer with a plastic tumbler.

Mort appeared to toss back the pills and wash them down, then while removing his clothes he secreted the pills behind a set of shelves.

The three men watching saw only the old Mort... serene and slightly amused as always, unaware of the increasing fear that threatened to overtake him. At least Raptor’s instrument remained flaccid, while to his astonishment his own foolishly suggested he was keen for combat. Fear wasn’t supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

They stood, facing each other.

Wiley’s phone rang. He answered, told Mort and Raptor to get on with it, then took off for his office, followed by his minders.

Raptor quickly dumped Mort on the floor, landed on top, pinning him down, then whispered in his ear. ‘What the fuck are you doing? This guy’s poison. You’re too good for this. Get out. Don’t take any tabs, OK?’

‘You do.’

‘No, I toss them like you did.’

‘Why’re you here?’

‘I owe him—drugs and other shit. I live upstairs paying off my debts by letting every fat arsed faggot who can afford it fuck me night and day. And I’m not even queer!’

‘Why don’t you just walk out?’

Raptor’s laugh was sour. ‘It’s safer here. I’ve enemies outside, and the cops want me to help them with their enquiries, so this is preferable. How old are you!

‘Sevent….’

‘The truth, kid!’

‘Sixteen.’

‘You fuckwit! If Wiley learns that he’ll threaten you with juvenile detention for indulging in underage sex unless you become his whore. Right you hairless bastard,’ he suddenly snarled. ‘I’m gonna ram my rod so far up your arse you’ll be tasting the cum.’

Wiley had returned.

The two performers grappled, licked, played with bits and indulged in a little fellatio; Raptor doing all the things he intuitively realised Mort was reluctant to do. They finished, stood panting, and waited for a response.

Wiley’s vulpine smile was not designed to relax anyone, but his words were a relief. ‘Yeah, that’s the sort of thing. A bit rougher perhaps, and proper fucking, I’ve got some new rubbers with no cum-sack that look just like naked flesh. But don't bloody cum inside him, take it out, whip off the rubber and spray it everywhere—your specialty, Mort, I believe.’ His smile was patronising.

Mort nodded.

‘I like the contrast, brute and beauty.’ He turned to the most obese minder. ‘That’s how we’ll advertise it, Beauty and the Brute.’ Turning back to Mort. ‘How’re you feeling?’

‘Sweaty, a bit light-headed, and super cool, thanks. But Raptor’s tool’s a bit of a let down.’

‘That’s because he takes too many tabs. Don’t worry, an injection before the show and he’ll be an animal.’

Mort nodded earnestly like a true professional. ‘Excellent. Don’t want to make idiots of ourselves—and give the club a bad name. OK, I’ll be back in about three hours to finalise things with Raptor when he’s not... euphoric.’ He frowned and nodded. ‘I take my work seriously.’

‘Like your sister. She must have made a packet.’

Mort’s brain raced. Sister? What sis... Ah! Of course, Perdita. ‘Yeah, what a role model,’ he said with a laugh, hoping his lapse of attention hadn’t been noticed.

‘Ever thought of taking up the profession?’

‘Nah. Fucking’s just for fun, not for a job. And it’s easier for a girl, if she’s tired she can just lie there and pretend. You can’t pretend a hard on.’

‘There’s always injections. You’re an attractive lad and I could put you in touch with some very wealthy clients. All top drawer. No trash. You could even move in upstairs, I’ve renovated and there are several fine apartments. Cheap rents. What do you say?’

‘I say ask me again when this gig’s finished and I’m out of work.’ He grinned boyishly and headed for the door.

‘Haven’t you forgotten something?’

‘Eh?’

‘Clothes?’

‘Ah yeah. Felt so good I forgot.’ He dressed quickly, checked he had everything, then with a cheery, ‘See ya,’ accompanied by a cheeky salute, was out the door and sauntering through the sunlight and fresh air he had despaired of ever seeing again, terrified to look back in case… He wasn’t sure in case of what, he only knew he was very, very pleased to be out of there. The second he reached the end of the cul-de-sac and was round the corner on the busy road he took off like the wind, head plagued by worries. Had he ever told the previous nightclub owner where he lived? No, he’d been living in the flats. Could they trace him?

He phoned Raul, who had put him onto the Five Diamonds Club in the first place, told him what had happened and asked him not to give out his address. Raul was shocked, especially about the drugs and forced prostitution, and detecting Mort’s panic insisted he go straight to his place. His shift was about to finish, but if he wasn’t home, to wait; he wouldn’t be long.

Insanely relieved, but still somewhat paranoid, Mort hurried to the station.

 

Raul’s motorbike was in the carport of the Spanish-style duplex. He was sitting on the front steps waiting and hurried Mort inside, set him down at the table and presented two packets of fish and chips and two cans of coke.

Mort opened his mouth.

‘Shut up and eat.’

They munched in silence till the last chip was gone. Raul burped. Mort giggled. After stuffing the papers in the bin, they carried coffees up two flights of stairs onto the flat roof. It was surrounded by a metre high parapet, giving privacy as long as you lay down, which was preferable to standing as the view was less than exciting; acres of corrugated iron roofs, scattered trees, kilometres of power lines and a reddish haze marking the centre of the city. Taking a couple of padded groundsheets from a weatherproof box, Raul spread them and the two young men lay down.

‘OK, tell me all.’

Mort did, and afterwards lay on his back staring at the clouds scudding overhead.

‘You were safe only as long as he believed you were really interested and you were seventeen. Raptor was right about that. Every day kids go missing. Most are running away from their families, but a few are taken by crims.’

‘You’ve no idea how frightened I was, especially after Paco told me to get away but it was too late and.... and that Wiley is evil. I could sense it. Do you believe me?’

‘Oh yes. Evil is as easily recognised as goodness. Raptor saw your goodness and responded; that means he’s a decent sort.’

‘He is.’

‘Wiley didn’t, that means he’s morally blind, so don’t go anywhere near that area alone. Promise?’

‘Promise.’

The two friends chatted until Raul fell asleep, exhausted after a night shift. Mort went downstairs and phoned Lydia to see if he was needed. He wasn’t, so said he’d probably stay the night with friends.

Having noticed the place was a bit of a mess, dirty dishes, laundry basket full, dead flowers, dust under everything - not really dirty, but in need of a clean, he set to work and three hours later when he took the washing up to the roof to hang it on the line, the interior was spick and span.

Raul stretched, apologised for falling asleep, and came over all teary when confronted with his clean house and a light meal ready to be served.

‘Ah, Mort, marry me! Please! I need you.’

‘If I was your age, I probably would. I really like you. But there are so many things I want to do, places to go, things to see... and I’m sounding like a TV documentary. It’s not because you’re older, I actually like that, it’s because I’m so young I haven’t proved myself yet. If you’re still available in ten years, ask me again.’

‘I’ll do that. But now I’ve got you, will you stay the night?’

‘I thought you’d never ask.’

Sex with Raul was as far from that demanded by Wiley as it was possible to imagine, and deeply pleasurable and satisfying as a result.

 

They left the bed at eight the next morning after an hour of laughing, touching, kissing, petting and other equally enjoyable activities. Raul had to report at ten o’clock, so after a quick breakfast Mort suggested that as he’d be leaving town soon they ought to swap addresses and other contact details. That done, a saddened Raul zipped off on his bike and Mort jogged for an hour, arriving home to find Lydia standing in the lounge room. She looked up irritably when he entered.

‘Stefan’s decided it is time.’ It sounded like an accusation. ‘But he’s fine, I made him take his pills this morning and he didn’t object. He says he can feel a change coming and doesn’t want to be unable to take care of everything himself, but...’

An icy fountain seemed to rise inside Mort. It was happening. Up to now it had been like a fantasy, something in the future that might never happen. But it wasn’t. It was real. Stefan was really going to kill himself.

‘It was your absence all day and night that set Stefan on this path, Mortaumal,’ Lydia muttered as they approached his room. ‘He was worried he wouldn’t be able to do it properly without you to check things. You do realise that makes you responsible for his decision to kill himself?’

Mort stopped, shocked. ‘No way, Lydia! Never say or even think that. It was Stefan who found the address and asked me to get the stuff.’

‘Without you he’d not have been able to get it. So you are the one killing him. He’s just doing what you’ve virtually talked him into.’

Mort took her elbow and dragged her back to the lounge, thrust her onto a chair then kicked the door shut and stood glaring at her.

‘How dare you manhandle me like that! My elbow hurts.’

‘Tough luck. I realise you’re upset, Lydia, you are about to lose your husband, but you could try to be an adult and rational. I’ve made up pesticides for the nursery, but that doesn’t mean I want to drink them. You’ve a packet of sleeping pills beside your bed that I got for you last month from the local chemist shop, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to overdose and try to kill yourself. Stefan will decide what he does with his life, Lydia, not you, not me. It has nothing to do with us. It is his life to dispose of or not. And don’t ever think I have encouraged him, because I haven’t. Not even once. Furthermore, I’ve stated bluntly that I will not assist him in any way whatever to use the stuff I bought. If he leaves it too late, then that’s his problem, I will not lift a finger to assist him to do the deed. Clear?’ Mort’s voice was harsh and Lydia quailed.

‘I know. I know. I didn’t mean to suggest you had, I…’

‘You did mean to, because you’re a pathetic, weak minded woman, brainwashed by your insane religion to never think for yourself about important matters. I’m going to see him. Coming?’

‘No. No, I don’t want to. I’ll go and wait in the garden. I’m sorry. You are right. I am silly and weak and everything you say. But... I can’t help it. I…’ she ran out.

Stefan was sitting in an armchair beside the bed looking serene and calm. He smiled at Mort and held up a photograph album. I’ve been flicking through old photos. It’s a good life I’ve had and I regret nothing. I could have done different things, but then I wouldn’t have done what I have done, and that would be a shame. And I wouldn’t have met you.’ He placed the album on the bed and took up the cylinder of nitrogen to which he had connected the hose, and placed it on his lap. ‘It’s quite heavy. Lucky I didn’t wait much longer. Now for the essential.’ He connected the tube to the plastic bag, placed it on the top of his head like a hat, then squashed it down to exclude all the air. ‘Get me a mirror, Mort, this I have to see.’

Mort took a hand mirror from the dressing table and held it up. They both laughed. Mort replaced the mirror and stood, leaving it to Stefan to speak.

‘How’s Lydia?’

‘Upset in the garden. Doesn’t know how to cope. Refusing to think.’

‘Her parents sent her to a Catholic boarding school when she was eight. She had a terrible time with those mad nuns. Bonkers the lot of them. Married to Christ but fiddling with each other and their pupils in frustration. I’m pleased she’s not here, she’d just make me feel rotten as if I’m a piker; chickening out of a fight; running away. I don’t know why she married me. To escape her family I’ve always thought. With you I feel calm. You’re so rational and clear-headed. I know you’ll always either tell me the truth, or not speak. I seem to have spent my life among people who don’t know what they want, but never tire of telling others how they should live. At least I’m ending my life in the company of someone I like, admire and feel happy with.’

‘Thanks, Stefan. And I’m here because I like and admire you,’ Mort said, wondering why it didn’t feel mawkish.

Stefan took a painful breath, exhaled noisily and smiled. ‘Have you worked out how you’re going to dispose of the evidence?’

‘Yeah, all worked out. I’ve been jogging up Mount Coot-Tha several times a week to keep fit, and there’s a large commercial dumpster at a building site that’ll be ideal. I’ll just blend in with the other lunchtime joggers and no one’ll take any notice.’

‘Well, it’s getting on for midday, so you’d better go and change.’

‘You’ll be alone...’

‘Mort, we are alone all our lives, individuals trapped in separate bodies, constantly trying to make intimate contact with others, gathering as many friends and acquaintances as we can, always disappointed that they don’t understand us, dreaming of being able to somehow get inside another person for a while. At least that’s my experience. Why should dying be any different? I’m reconciled to my aloneness, not lonely, and do not want anyone to hold my hand as I walk through the portals of death, so to speak.’

‘Yeah. Makes sense.’

‘Thanks. So don’t worry. I’m happy. Leave me to my final thoughts and go and get ready.’

Mort leaned over and kissed Stefan lightly on the brow. ‘Cheerio, Stefan; you’ve been exactly the right friend, at the right time for me.’

After a quick shower he emptied the main pocket of his knapsack, zipped his wallet and phone into a waterproof pocket in the top, put a bottle of water in one side pocket, then in a sudden spasm of nostalgia for Angelo and their last run together, he replaced his usual running gear with his old cross-country gear—jock strap, pale blue flimsy shorts, and matching singlet bearing the number ‘5’.

‘Everything seems to have shrunk,’ he muttered. ‘Guess I’ve grown.’ A dark blue sweatband to hold his hair in place, and well-used trainers on his feet completed his preparations. Picking up the knapsack, he took a deep breath and returned to Stefan’s room.

Stefan was slumped sideways on his chair; the only sound the soft hiss of escaping nitrogen. Mort felt for a pulse. There was none. He held the mirror in front of his friend’s mouth. No misting. He turned off the gas, stretched the elastic round the dead man’s neck and carefully removed the plastic bag, tubing and cylinder, which he stuffed into his knapsack. After a thorough search to ensure there was nothing left behind that might seem odd or incriminating or suspicious, he straightened the body’s head and stepped back, trying to view the scene dispassionately.

After half a minute he decided it was too soon to feel anything except an urgent desire to escape. Stefan didn’t look as if he was asleep. His eyes were closed, but the body was lifeless and so thin his head already looked like a skull. He’d think about his feelings later when it was all over. Now, he had to go. Hoisting the knapsack onto his shoulders, he saluted Stefan and went out to the garden to find Lydia.

‘Has he gone?’

Mort nodded. ‘Wait five minutes to give me time to get well clear, then call triple O. Tell them you were out weeding or something and came in to ask if he wanted anything, and found him like this. That’s all. Say nothing else. Do not mention me! It is not their business that I lived here for a while. There’s nothing suspicious in Stefan’s death, so they won’t even ask questions. OK? Be brave.’ He pulled Lydia to him, pressed a kiss on her forehead, touched her lightly on the cheek and ran to the rear of the nursery where a small gate gave access to the lane that led to the main road to Toowong.

 

Taking the same back streets he always used, Mort was making good time down a deserted service lane behind bankrupt shops and deserted warehouses when he noticed a couple of guys he’d sometimes seen hanging around that area. There was something about their stance today that seemed different; they were waiting—perhaps for him because the last time he’d run through they’d made unpleasant comments about his long hair and baby-face.

A shifty looking fellow in his late twenties, slightly overweight, dressed in black shoes and trousers, white shirt and blue tie, hair combed with a parting on the right, stepped out and blocked Mort’s path, moving from side to side as Mort attempted to go past.

‘Where’re you going, faggot?’ he sneered. Then to his mate, ‘Check the shorts, Tiny. His fuckin’ bum’s hangin’ out.’

Tiny was very tall, blond, and handsome in a Nordic way, with long arms dangling from what appeared to be powerful shoulders. His clothes were identical to those of his friend, but suited him better. Both men, Mort noticed, had small gold crosses pinned to the pockets of their shirts.

Tiny barked a short laugh, ‘Good one, Ruff. I guess he’s looking for a fat cock to fill it. Do you know who we are?’ he asked Mort, stepping behind him to prevent his running back the way he’d come.’

‘No.’

‘We’re the Protectors.’

‘Who or what do you protect?’

‘You’ve heard of Oliver Cromwell?’

‘No.’

‘He cut off the King of England’s head and was made Protector, to protect that country from heathen depravity.’

‘And you think I’m depraved so you want to cut off my head.’

‘We think you’re a filthy little sodomite, defiling god’s kingdom and unworthy to live; so we’ll cut off your balls, the source of your foul desires.’

‘What makes you think I’m queer?’

‘You know Mr Wiley?’

‘Yes.’

‘He pinned a tracer to your bag yesterday, and we followed you to the queer cop’s place. Mr. Wiley now knows where you live and he doesn’t like people who don’t keep appointments. This morning we waited here because we guessed you’d be coming.’

Cold fingers were scrabbling inside Mort’s chest. He’d got Raul into danger. ‘Who are you?’

‘We’re the good guys, helping the State Premier to cleanse the city of sin. We’re doing God’s work.’

How do you know what god wants?’

‘If a man lies with a man as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed. That’s from the bible... Leviticus.’

‘Hang on! What about the no killing commandment?’

‘Whoever sacrifices to any god except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. That’s in Exodus.’

‘So only people of the same cult are safe.’

‘Yes indeed, because everyone who doesn’t seek the God of Israel, is also to be put to death. That’s in Chronicles. You see, we know what God wants.’

‘How did the men who wrote that stuff know what god wants?’

‘God told them.’

‘And you believe that?’

‘Of course! I have faith. God wouldn’t let me have faith in a lie, would he?’

‘Do you never doubt the rightness of what you’re doing?’

‘Never, it is God’s will.’

‘Isn’t it strange that the will of god always conforms to the desires of his follower?

‘Not at all! He uses our talents. We’re good enforcers so that’s our task. It would be stupid to ask us to build a bridge, wouldn’t it?’

Mort was silent for a few seconds. ‘Seventeen young men were found mutilated last month. Was that your work?’

‘That’d be telling.’

‘How many of them died praising your god for his beneficence I wonder. It’s always sex that angers religious bigots, isn’t it?’

Ruff’s smile was predatory. ‘Always. That’s why we thought you’d enjoy a little chat with us—after all we’re men, and that’s what turns you on, isn’t it?’

‘You’re not unattractive physically, but mentally you’re offensive.’

Stepping closer, Ruff pressed his belly against his victim, forcing him back against Tiny, who didn’t move.

Mort kept his face in neutral, looked Ruff in the eye and allowed a slight smile to flicker.

‘Think it’s a joke do ya, queer-boy?’ Tiny snarled, wrapping his arms around Mort’s, pinning them and the knapsack tightly, then lifting his victim’s feet clear of the ground and carrying him into a gloomy loading area about eight metres deep that served a disused loading dock. Concealed behind a pile of crates and other rubbish, they were hidden from anyone looking down the lane or walking past.

Ruff followed them in, grinning. Tiny squeezed tighter, causing Mort to grunt from pain as the valve of the cylinder dug into his back. Giggling obscenely, Ruff began to drag Mort’s shorts and jockstrap down. Mort instantly stopped struggling, let his feet hang loose, and made a wish. Seconds later the wish was granted as Ruff held both garments aloft in victory and Tiny let Mort’s feet rest on the ground once more.

Relief surged through him. He wasn’t going to be hobbled. Quietly filling his lungs as much as he could while still able to breathe normally, he increased the tension in his shoulders and chest to make his upper body as large as possible, not that it seemed to make any difference to Tiny, whose encircling arms remained tight and unbreakable. At least Mort’s weight was now on his own feet.

‘You won’t be needing these any more,’ Ruff jeered, producing a flick knife and slicing the jockstrap into pieces, ‘because when we’ve finished you won’t have any balls to put in them.’

His laugh had a slightly mad ring as he tossed the garments away and began a sort of predatory dance in a circle, knife held high stabbing at the air, all the time keeping his eyes fixed on Mort.

A sudden release of air, and relaxation of all the muscles in Mort’s upper body, loosened Tiny’s grip just enough for Mort to drop to his knees. Tiny stupidly grabbed at the knapsack and singlet, allowing Mort to slither out of both, then before he could react, Mort sprang up and slammed bony knuckles into Tiny’s windpipe. The soft crack of shattering larynx was followed by a sickening gurgle and collapse.

With a scream of fury, Ruff raced at Mort, knife high in a great swinging arc that would have buried the blade in the base of Mort’s neck if he hadn’t moved slightly, caught the wrist and accelerated it’s progress, forcing it down and slightly inwards. Ruff overbalanced, tumbled forward and landed on his belly, his free arm unable to prevent his face smashing into the metal edging of the concrete loading dock. The lifeless body dropped to the ground and rolled onto its back, hand still clenched around the knife. A large dent in his forehead gushed blood. Eyes wide in surprise; mouth foolishly agape.

Mort turned to the big guy. Judging by the gurgling sound, blood was trickling into his windpipe. He was going to drown. Tiny looked up imploringly at Mort, who nodded, fetched the knapsack, swung it twice round his head then smashed it into the side of Tiny’s head. The heavy gas cylinder inside did its work and the gurgling stopped.

Time was passing and the longer he remained the more likely it was that someone would come past. Homeless people sometimes lived in these old warehouses. Mort wiped the splashes of blood off his knapsack with the singlet, checked inside and discovered a tiny metal disc the size of a five cent piece that had been pinned to the lining so it hadn’t fallen out in his bedroom. He placed it under the roller door of the warehouse, then stuffed the singlet and pieces of jockstrap around the gas cylinder to protect his back. After putting on his shorts he removed the little crosses from the two would-be assassins’ shirt pockets and placed them in their mouths, checked there was nothing left to incriminate him, made sure the service lane was empty, whispered heartfelt thanks to Brawl and all the others at the Self Defence Club who had trained, taught and practised with him so patiently, then jogged on up the lane. He had an important job to do; any emotional reaction to the unpleasant experience would have to wait until he was somewhere safe.

He had only gone twenty metres when he felt the disadvantage of very short shorts; his penis was flopping around in full view. He paused at the junction of the lane with the main road, noticed an electronics shop, and keeping his hand in front of the offending appendage, jogged over, took one of their brochures and used it as a screen while continuing on his way.

It was hot. Much too hot to be jogging, yet the usual lunchtime sprinkling of fit young men looking vulnerable in trainers, skimpy shorts and tank tops had willingly swapped the air-conditioned stupor of offices for the acrid air of city streets and a sense of liberty. Ignored by jostling crowds of lesser mortals in sandwich bars, restaurants and pubs, they dodged between pedestrians, zigzagged through slow moving traffic, and converged on the busy highway that flanked the city’s most popular asset—Mt Coot-Tha wilderness park.

Anonymous among the runners, the slender youth with long black hair restrained by a dark blue sweatband, whose cheeky shorts and naked chest attracted complimentary glances and at least two wolf-whistles, kept his gaze firmly fixed on his feet until, with a slight tightening of lips he swung to the right and headed for a large commercial waste bin occupying two parking spaces in front of a partially demolished building.

He began to limp slightly and on reaching the bins placed his knapsack up on the edge of the nearest, steadying himself against the metal while removing a stone from his shoe. When he reached up to grab the pack, he accidentally knocked it into the bin. Clearly irritated at his own carelessness he pulled himself up and hung over the edge to peer in. It was about half full of rubbish from the building site, along with the usual detritus tossed in by passing shoppers; fast food wrappers, soft drink cans and plastic bags. Balancing on his belly he reached down, retrieved the empty pack, made sure it was properly closed, slung it over a shoulder and sprinted across the road, dodging between two large delivery vans before gaining the opposite pavement where he hurdled a low fence and raced up the rise into the forest.

Once concealed by the trees he stopped, checked in his bag, discovered he’d dumped his singlet along with the cylinder and other stuff, and would have laughed at his stupidity if the need to warn Raul hadn’t been so urgent. He phoned and Raul answered immediately. Mort told him he’d heard that Mr. Wiley might be sending heavies to look for him at Raul’s place, so if they came, say it was just a one night stand and he didn’t even know my name. ‘I’m going away for a bit,’ Mort told Raul, ‘and I’m dumping this phone as soon as I switch off. I’ll let you know when I get another number.’ After promising eternal friendship they disconnected, Mort wondering if he should have mentioned the Protectors.

Deliberately avoiding the usual paths and tracks, he charged up through increasingly dense forest until he was within sight of the lookout. Directly beneath it was the overgrown track that led where he wanted to go. A busload of sightseers were pointing cameras and chattering in excitement at the view of tower blocks, motorways, suburbs and the river. No one had bothered to wander even a few metres from the decking to experience the much more interesting mysteries of nature. With a contemptuous shake of his head Mort removed the sim card, smashed it and his phone between two rocks, wandered casually to one of the rubbish bins at the edge of the car park, dropped them in, then set off at a punishing pace along a track behind the souvenir and coffee shop, over a ridge and down a steep valley to a quiet spot where he sometimes went when he needed to be alone.

Stopping at the edge of a small clearing he stretched to loosen muscles and peer into the forest on the other side of an almost dry, stony stream. He was definitely alone. Unsurprising as it was no longer the lush green attractive spot he’d discovered the year before. Dead trees now spread their branches like talons; the small patch of grass was grey and although the water hole was full, if it didn’t rain within a week it’d be a stagnant puddle.

His heartbeat slowed but his brain continued to race, mulling over everything that had happened that morning. A good run usually cleared his head, but today he couldn’t shake the fuzziness... the feeling that something wasn’t ‘right’. That he'd made a mistake. He gazed up at the unrelenting, unforgiving sky that hadn't let a drop of rain fall for months. A crow’s melancholy caw reflected his uneasiness.

After a quick look around and a longer period of listening to ensure he was still alone, Mort removed his shoes and shorts, stuffing them into his pack, which he hung on a branch directly above the pool before slithering silently in, releasing a slow breath of relief as muscles relaxed, heat dissipated and his brain slowed.

The patch of indigo sky visible above the clearing threatened even more heat. A current of hot air too slow moving to be called a breeze, brought with it the stench of a rotting animal. Crows circling and cawing as if bewailing the death of their world increased the sense of despair. Mort shivered. He couldn’t think in such a benighted place, so scrambled out of the water, checked himself for leeches and ticks, snatched his pack off the branch, slipped his feet into his shoes and took off up the ridge to a smooth flat rock, protected from the sun by an overhanging ledge and invisible from below as it was accessible only by scrambling down from the rocks above.

He sat, leaning against the exposed root of an ancient tree, drained his water bottle then lay down, resting his head on his pack. He needed to think. He needed to review his life. He’d arrived at a hiatus. The encounter with the Protectors had changed everything. The bodies must already have been found so there’d be a manhunt. Someone must have seen him—there was always someone who sees things. He was not difficult to recognise or identify. Hundreds of people knew him from the nursery—clients and tradesmen. He’d stripped for hundreds. He hadn’t changed much since school.

Yesterday he could have chosen to return to the nursery and Lydia, to help her with the sale—could have even bought the place if he wanted. No, perhaps he couldn’t have. That look on Lydia’s face as he was leaving. She was still convinced Mort had talked Stefan into killing himself. He didn’t trust her to stick to the story when the doctor came, so he’d never dare return in case he was wanted for assisting someone to die. He’d had to get away even before his run in with the ‘protectors’; that only made it more urgent.

He had to disappear. He, Mortaumal Aywun, was a double murderer. In self defence, but that wouldn’t make any difference to a judge. Both victims were white, while he was beige. They had religion, but he only had reason. They won on both counts because white means superior and religion means moral.

He began to laugh silently, at first controlled but then hysterically, rocking silently back and forth for several long minutes, gasping for breath, desperately determined to make no noise. Suddenly it stopped and a violent chill enveloped him. He curled up, hugging himself, uttering great choking sobs that felt as if they were ripping out his lungs. Eventually tears streamed and breathing slowed until he sucked in a great lungful of air, held it as long as he could, then let it out slowly and lay still, not daring to move in case it triggered another crazy reaction.

Holding up his hand he was pleased to see it didn’t shake. ‘And here I thought I was a man of steel, able to do whatever it took without suffering a crisis of conscience.’ He sighed. ‘It seems I’m human after all. Not sure if that’s good or bad.’ Mort frequently talked softly to himself when alone because it made thinking easier—it was like hearing someone else make suggestions for him to consider.

Sitting up again he took a dozen deep breaths and felt a little dizzy with all that oxygen, but nothing worse. ‘OK. System cleaned of dross, now perhaps I can think.’

Within seconds he began to laugh again, this time at the absurdity of his position; setting off into the unknown wearing nothing but inadequate shorts and running shoes. At least he had his wallet and debit card. But he couldn’t use that if they were looking for him.

He lay back, hands behind his head and considered possibilities and consequences.

‘I have to disappear,’ he said softly. ‘I am probably being looked for, so can’t risk putting other people at risk. That means putting on hold my search for Papa. And I can’t go back to Marshall’s. The only solution is to take off and see what happens. I’m sixteen and not stupid, despite having no parents, no home, an incomplete education and no prospects for fame and fortune.’ As always he chose to forget that he was already the possessor of a small fortune, because that would have spoiled the sense of adventure.

‘At the moment I can’t see anything I could have done differently so there’s no use thinking about what might have been and beating myself up over it. I must accept the situation and work from there. And I have to remain independent, not tell anyone anything more than absolutely necessary about myself. With all the humans I’ve known, nothing is ever straightforward. Their priorities are not mine. Should I change my name? If so, what to? No, hardly any point. If I make sure I’m not on anyone’s books, pay cash, don’t confide in strangers, take on jobs that don’t need a tax file number… I’ll be fine. He sighed at the impossibility of his plans and let the warm air and peaceful isolation lull him to sleep.

A sharp gust of wind ten minutes later dropped a dry twig onto his face from the tree above and he sat up in alarm. A quick glance calmed him, but he was disappointed at how nervous he’d become. That was one more thing to take into account. Once more he told himself the Brisbane episode was over. He’d miss Steward, Brawl, and Raul... but they had their own lives and he could never be part of them. That was all in the past. Naked—more or less—he’d set forth to see what fate had in store. Not that he believed in fate, but it sounded more romantic than simply to see what happened.

But he couldn’t just jog along to the nearest shopping centre to buy clothes with his cock flapping around. What to do? A documentary about the Papuan Highlands sprang to mind. The men wore nothing but a penis sheath whose original purpose was the same as his, to stop it dangling and getting damaged. The fellow making the film, who had lived with them for a month, explained that they pull their foreskin out beyond the glans as far as possible, then tie a string around it. The foreskin swells a little beyond the string so it doesn’t pull off, the string is threaded through the sheath, and that’s attached to a string around their waist.

In a semi-secret internal pocket of his knapsack was a cache of essentials. Elbert’s ring, a box of matches, a folding multiple tool that included pliers, blades, files and scissors, a needle, some cotton and a small ball of string. He didn’t need a sheath, so massaged his foreskin out as far as it would go, prepared a loop of string, lassoed the loose skin and pulled it tight. Too tight, within seconds it began to hurt. After six attempts, he worked out a method of tightening it enough not to slip off, but not so tight as to cut off the blood. The pain had made his penis shrink, which made his job easier.

After tying the string around his waist he jumped up and down. His cock stayed up and it felt fine. Odd, but fine. Very sensible in fact. He wondered what the world would be like if humans had been rational and continued as they began, using clothing only for protection. But such thoughts he realised were pointless; humans have seldom, if ever, made sensible choices. He tied his long hair back in a pony tail secured with the headband, put on his shorts, repacked and put on the knapsack, and jogged away through the trees, eyes alert, brain telling him that his nervous excitement was dangerous; he should be calm and collected.

After crossing a narrow sealed road he ran through the vast old cemetery, occasionally losing his sense of direction because of the necessity of avoiding other people. Arriving at a narrow, tree-covered road separating the tombstones from a continuation of the main park, he stopped to catch his breath and think. He’d been running blind and had no idea where he was. Stupid. He frowned, and after checking for ants sat on the dry grass and leaned back against a stump. It was too ridiculous. He, the master planner who always thought of everything had failed to plan for the possibility that he might need a plan B.

‘Ah!’ he snapped irritably, ‘I'm trying too hard to be perfect.’

He regained control of his breathing, emptied his mind and relaxed, allowing his brain to organise its thoughts without conscious interference. He’d taken off from the nursery with nothing except the clothes he was wearing, his wallet, water bottle and phone. Not even food. Why? Because he had only focussed on safely getting rid of the evidence. Why hadn't he predicted other problems, or at least guarded against unforeseen happenings? Because he’d grown careless. Life had become too easy. It was his own fault.

He knew from experience that women reasoned and made decisions quite differently from men because their aims were different. He should have expected that Lydia might change her mind, even after agreeing with him. It had been utter stupidity to know this but not act on it. She might have done exactly as Mort had asked her to do. But that was a risk he shouldn’t have been prepared to take. Another stupidity was helping Stefan... doing more for someone else than they’d do for him. Rational humans simply couldn’t behave like that if they wanted to survive. If the police became involved his freedom was over—even if they decided he'd done nothing wrong he’d be on their radar forever.

As for the two Protectors, they’d already shouted foul things at him several times at that exact spot! He should have realised they were working up to something. He had to stop this mulling. What to do now? Get out of the city. He’d find a shopping centre, buy a pair of trousers and a shirt, get some food, take a bus to the end of the northern suburbs, then hitch a ride.

Copyright © 2018 Rigby Taylor; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Whew, I'm exhausted after all that! I'm looking for Mort to do more planning prior to getting too far into his next adventures, to exercise more control over what he allows to happen to himself; perhaps to not always rely on the goodness of strangers.  He has exhibited intelligence and craft, but has also allowed himself to be manipulated. Time to change, Mort!

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You're absolutely right. Impetuousness is seldom a blessing. But do you really think characters change? He is what he is but surely he will not leap into the first car that stops for him?:unsure:

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Mort needs to come live with me. He just cannot catch a break.  It’s time for him to learn that life can indeed be fun and enjoyable.  Poor boy, he’s certainly had more than his share of the other side of life. 

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Yes, one hell of an exhausting chapter. 

Our Mort does have a hell of a time catching a break, any break, anywhere, any time.... 

And rather than hitching, couldnt he use some of his hard earned money and spend 300 to 400 on an airfare? He may even meet a cute steward. ...?.

But he won't, will he? Just not in our heros make-up....

😆

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2 hours ago, Canuk said:

Yes, one hell of an exhausting chapter. 

Our Mort does have a hell of a time catching a break, any break, anywhere, any time.... 

And rather than hitching, couldnt he use some of his hard earned money and spend 300 to 400 on an airfare? He may even meet a cute steward. ...?.

But he won't, will he? Just not in our heros make-up....

😆

You want him to become yet another boring consumer? He's 16, a deliberate loner convinced of his personal invincibility. 

Edited by Rigby Taylor
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2 hours ago, Okiegrad said:

Mort needs to come live with me. He just cannot catch a break.  It’s time for him to learn that life can indeed be fun and enjoyable.  Poor boy, he’s certainly had more than his share of the other side of life. 

He enjoys most of the things he does - gardening, woodwork, self-defence, sex with Raul, stripping, being nice to people... it's just that in between, things keep cropping up that his character won't let him ignore. Without his problems he'd be bored! We often get the sort of  life we want, and he wants challenges. He certainly doesn't want the sort of life that most young people think is 'fun'. He doesn't like being with a lot of people, doesn't like alcohol or smoking or not getting enough sleep or not being healthy and fit... So he's never going to find more than one or two people who share his outlook. He's a real loner, and happy to be one. Certainly doesn't think he's missing out. 

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