Exclusive Excerpt from Murder in New York
by C.J. Baty
Thirty more minutes passed, and Stiles was ready to jump out of his skin. His hand was on the door knob and just as he twisted it, the club door opened. Michael appeared and there was no one with him. He stepped to the curb and looked up and down the street. As soon as he spotted the taxi, he waved for it. Stiles slumped down in the back seat and Martin turned the vehicle around and stopped in front of Michael. The street was deserted at this time of morning. He opened the door and slid into the back seat.
“Oh,” Michael said as he sat on Stiles shoulder where he was lying in the seat.
“What on earth?”
“Sorry,” Stiles answered as he sat up. Martin had pulled away from the curb and given him the all clear to do so.
“We just didn’t want anyone to see me already in here when you got in.” Stiles said reaching for Michael’s hand, not caring whether Martin saw them or not. Michael tried to pull his hand away, but Stiles wouldn’t let him.
He whispered, “I was getting worried.”
Through the dirty windows of the taxi enough light shown through for Stiles to see Michael’s face. His hand was ice cold and he was perspiring. He laid his head back on the seat and closed his eyes.
“How did it go?” Martin called from the front seat.
“Give him a moment Martin, he doesn’t look good,” Stiles said as he stroked Michael’s fingers to warm them.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Michael uttered as he sat up straight in his seat.
“They. . . he. . . didn’t hurt you. . .” Stiles couldn’t finish the sentence.
“No, I didn’t participate in anything,” Michael said with a small smile on his lips. “He just wanted to show me around. Have me witness some of the things going on and discuss them with him. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but I played along and told him what I thought he wanted to hear.”
“Who are you talking about?” Martin asked. “Gershon?”
“Yes of course,” Michael answered bewildered by Martin’s question. “Who else would it be?”
“We never saw him enter the building,” Stiles said releasing Michael’s hand. They had pulled up in front of the Pinkerton building and would be getting out.
“Let’s go in,” Stiles said. “I could use a drink.”
“Agreed.” Martin replied.
“He kept you waiting how long?” Martin asked as he poured them each another drink. Stiles noted this was his third and possibly Michael’s fourth.
“It was well over an hour,” Michael answered as he sipped his drink. “Another man, Justin, entertained me and brought me drinks while I waited in this tiny sitting room. I could hear voices coming from all directions in the building. Above me. Below me. Some were very muffled, and I came to realize later on, that was because the men in some of the rooms were gagged. They could do little more than moan, no matter their level of pain or pleasure.”
Martin shuddered as he asked, “You actually saw men being whipped?”
“Oh yes. I’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things in my life but nothing like this. There was a large man, as large as Gershon, with huge shoulders and long legs dressed only in his britches and boots. He had dark hair that curled around his neck and even more dark hair covered his back. Gershon, said it was a flogger. A long stick with leather strips on it tied in knots at the ends. The other man was flinging it repeatedly on a young man’s back and buttocks. It left red welts where ever it touched the man. He wasn’t gagged. He screamed each time the strips cut into his flesh.”
“Did you see Gershon doing any of these things?” Stiles asked.
“No. He was completely dressed as was I. He never said a word about me partaking of any of the things we observed. At one point, I ask him why he invited me to the club.”
“Did he give you an answer?” Stiles had a feeling he already knew what the answer was, but he had to ask.
Michael hesitated and held his glass out to Martin. After Martin poured the drink, he took a gulp before he answered Stiles.
“He said he wanted to be sure that you understood what his partners have participated in.” Michael’s eyes were huge, pupils dilated. He was afraid.
“What the hell?” Martin shouted. “He wants Stiles to do these things.”
“No,” Stiles answered, then finished his own drink. His hands were shaking when he sat the glass down on Martin’s desk. “He wanted me to know that he had participated in this before.”
Stiles looked back and forth between Martin and Michael before he spoke again. “He knows we are on to him and we don’t have one bit of evidence.”
“You aren’t going back there,” Stiles stated as he wrapped his arms around Michael.
They’d left Martin’s office at nearly four in the morning and returned to Michael’s small apartment. Only taking time to undress, they fell into bed. Stiles was exhausted, and he knew Michael was as well. He was determined that they get some sleep and refused to discuss the evenings events again.
“Don’t you think. . .” Michael started but Stiles stopped him.
“No,” Stiles rolled to his back and stared at the ceiling. “Please do this for me.”
Michael ran his fingers up and down Stile’s chest. Touching him gently and never going very far away. Stiles felt the same way. He needed Michael close.
“Then you can’t go either,” Michael insisted.
“He knows he can get to me through you. He won’t ask me to visit the club.” Stiles stilled Michael’s fingers with his hand.
“This is too dangerous. I don’t want you involved anymore.”
“Why?” Michael’s voiced quivered.
“Why?” Michael asked again.
“I don’t want to argue with you. It’s late, well early but both of us need to sleep. Just let it go Michael,” Stiles raised up on his elbow and bent over to kiss Michael.
“I can say it, you know?” Michael’s eyes twinkled as he spoke. “I love you Stiles. Why are you so afraid to say it?”
Stiles kissed Michael and twisted in the bed until he had Michael wrapped in his arms facing away from him. He heard the deep sad sigh that Michael released before he relaxed in Stiles embrace. He didn’t know why he couldn’t say the words aloud, but in his mind, they played over and over until he finally fell asleep.