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Travis's Anonymous Guest - Part 2

A simple act transforms a life
As soon as they were in the apartment again, Travis said “You called the doorman ‘Ralph’.”

“That’s his na… Oh.” Dale’s eyes widened. “Oh!”

“What’s the day man’s name?”

“Tom.”

“So you remembered both names.”

Dale’s face lit up. “Yeah!”

“Dale, you’re beginning to get your memory back.”

“I am!”

***********

In the master bedroom, they asked each other almost in unison: “Do you wear pajamas?”

“Not usually” Dale said, and Travis said. “No.”

They undressed, each with his gaze fixed on his companion. When Travis was naked, Dale declared, “Ralph’s comment was an understatement. You’re a hunk and then some.”

Travis grinned. “You sure know how to flatter a guy. You’re not trying to seduce me, are you?”

Dale feigned shock. “Heavens, no! (pause) I was hoping I had already accomplished that.”

“Then I have good news for you.”

“Terrific! When can we consummate it?”

“How about now?” Travis answered, grabbing Dale’s hand and jumping onto the billowy bed, pulling Dale with him. “It’s been a struggle to keep my hands off you.” he whispered, kneading Dale’s muscular shoulders.

“While I was giving you that sponge bath I was in heaven.” He began kissing his way down Dale’s chest as he ran his hands down Dale’s back. When his lips reached a rod-rigid penis, he kissed it. Meanwhile, his hands had reached Dale’s behind and he was caressing the shapely cheeks. “Oh how I wanted to do this while I was drying you the other night.” he said between kisses.

Dale was a vision of pure transport: His head was thrown back, his eyes were closed, and his mouth was open.

Still caressing Dale’s buttocks, Travis licked the purple crown of the erect penis, causing it to issue a little stream of precum. Then he plunged forward and engulfed the entire shaft. Dale’s ecstatic shout drove him onward; his tongue did a dance on the bottom of the shaft. Dale began babbling like an infant and Travis felt him approaching climax.

He pulled away.

Dale whimpered.

“Not yet,” Travis teased, and continued kissing his way downward, moving along Dale’s thigh and his leg, all the way to his foot. He took the foot in his hand and ran his tongue along the bottom.

That moved Dale closer to the brink. “Please Travis.” he begged.

Travis relented. He took Dale’s leaking erection back into his mouth and started to move.

In moments his throat was deluged by spurt after spurt of warm semen. He had to swallow in such rapid succession that he almost choked.

When it was over, Dale exhaled deeply and said “That was unbelievable!”

“For me too,” Travis responded. “Everything about you is appealing, including your cum.” He moved in until his mouth met Dale’s, and with a kiss he shared some of Dale’s semen. “Taste familiar?”

“What?”

“Do you know whether you’ve ever tasted cum?”

Dale considered. “I don’t know. If I did, it was probably only once. I didn’t much like what I just had.”

“Now I want to do something for you.” Dale said. “Your choice.”

Travis was thoughtful. “There are lots of possibilities. What would you like to do? You know what you prefer in food and wine, what about things you would want to do in bed? Does anything occur to you?”

“Yes. I want to have you inside me.”

“I’d like that very much. Do you think you’ve bottomed before?”

“Since it was my first thought, most likely I have.” He got out of bed and walked to the master bathroom, with Travis’s appreciative gaze following the retreat of his broad, smooth back and alluring bottom.

He returned with a tube of lubricant and some condoms. “I found these when I was looking around before.” He handed the lube and a condom to Travis.

Just the thought of making love to Dale had Travis almost painfully erect. He quickly pulled the condom on and slathered it with lubricant as Dale turned onto his stomach.

Travis spread Dale’s cheeks and applied a liberal coating of lubricant. Then he straddled Dale’s legs and, still holding the cheeks apart, he said “Let me know if you want me to stop,” before pressing the head of his rock-hard manhood against Dale’s pucker. Dale bore down like an experienced bottom; he opened, and Travis slipped inside.

After advancing a short way, Travis stopped. “How are you doing?”

“It feels good.”

Reassured, Travis pushed forward, and soon he felt those shapely cheeks against his belly. “I’m all the way in. Still ok?”

“Yeah. I like it. I’m sure I’ve done this before.”

Travis began slowly, accelerating just a little bit with each stroke, aiming for Dale’s prostate and generating a thrilled gasp each time he hit it. Dale’s penis, having risen to full hardness, was twitching under him in reaction to the stimulation.

Soon Travis was slamming in, swept by waves of pleasure as he felt the grip of Dale’s tight sphincter sliding up and down his shaft, tightest on each upstroke as if the ring of muscle were trying to keep him inside.

He held out as long as he could, trying to make it last, but finally, unable to withstand the urgency, he yelled “I’m cumming!” and sent such a deluge into the condom that he overfilled the reservoir and caused some semen to push up the sides.

When his climax was over he lay down on Dale’s back, panting, his penis still erect and buried in Dale’s hot rectum. Slowly, the penis deflated and he pulled out. As he withdrew, the slippery semen made him slide out of the condom, leaving it in place. He rose to his knees and grinned at the sight of the collapsed latex extending from inside Dale’s cleft and lying draped over one cheek. He pulled it out and settled down next to Dale.

“Well?” Dale asked, “Was I a good lay?”

“You were a glorious lay.” Travis said, putting his arms around him. “But you’re so much more. You’re wonderful.”

***********

The next morning, Travis was awakened by a kiss on the side of the head. He opened his eyes and found himself looking up into the smiling face of the man he had made love to the previous night. Dale continued just looking down at him for a few moments, and then said: “Good morning, gorgeous.”

Travis pulled him down and planted a big, sloppy kiss on his mouth. “Good morning.” Holding Dale, he rolled over so that he was on top, his morning erection rubbing against Dale’s. Looking amorously at the man who lay under him, he said: “If I didn’t have to go to work I’d ask you to spend the whole day in bed with me.” And he gave him another big, sloppy kiss.

As Travis was heading for the bathroom to take a shower, he said: “By the way, you’re right - it is like sleeping on a cloud.”

In the shower it occurred to him that he had been so distracted by looking after Dale these past few days that he had forgotten to take a handkerchief each morning – and being without it hadn’t bothered him. For that matter, his entire daily routine had been overturned and his world had not disintegrated.

As they were eating breakfast, Travis abruptly began: “While boyhood yet was young in me, I knew of cool and silent glens wherein there grew.”

“Bright ferns,” Dale added, taking up the recitation, “and hillsides where … I know that poem. What is it?”

“It’s by one of your countrymen, John Le Gay Brereton. It’s entitled…”

“Hill and Dale! Oh my god! That was my mother’s favorite poem, she said it’s why they named me … Travis, I know where I grew up. Fremantle. It’s near Perth. My parents were … were … ” His face fell. “That’s all I remember.”

He went into the living room and was gone for several minutes. When he returned, he said “I looked at all the pictures again. I thought that I might recognize someone. A lot of them look familiar now but I still don’t know who anybody is.” He sat back down, crestfallen.

Travis rose and walked in back of Dale’s chair. He leaned down, wrapped Dale in his arms, and said softly into Dale’s ear: “First the doormen’s names, and now the poem, and the pictures that didn’t look familiar before, do now. Your memories are coming back.” He kissed the ear. “You should be happy about it.”

“It isn’t much.”

“It’s the beginning. I told you that something might jog your memory, and now something has. Hang in there, be patient, there’ll be more.”

“I hope you’re right. How did you happen on the poem?”

“The fact that you kept thinking of ‘Hill and Dale’ intrigued me. Why Hill and Dale, why not just dale? So I did an Internet search yesterday while I was at work. It’s one of the few things I know how to do on a computer. When I came across the poem and saw that it was by an Australian, I hoped you would recognize it.”

“I keep having more and more to thank you for.”

***********

Half an hour later, as Travis was leaving for work he said: “You know, something puzzles me: The mugger took your wallet and your cell phone but not your watch. I know watches, and that one looks like it costs about as much as a midsize car. Why didn’t he take it?”

“Maybe he didn’t want to risk the delay.”

“How much time would it take to get it off you, maybe two seconds?”

“Yes. You’re right, that is puzzling.”

***********

After work, Travis stopped at his apartment to pick up his mail and the newspaper, as well as some clothes for the next day. When he got to Dale’s duplex they chatted briefly and then he said: “I’m going to get us some takeout for dinner, my treat. On my way here I saw a place called ‘Thai Palace’. What do you think?”

“Sure, that would be fine. It’s one of my favorites judging by the credit card bills I found in my search. I think I even saw their takeout menu. I’ll be right back.”

He returned with the menu, they agreed on what dishes to order, and Travis phoned the restaurant. When Dale heard him say “for pickup” he whispered “They deliver.”

Travis waved him away, completed his order, and hung up. “This will be a lot faster. A delivery man would have multiple stops.” With that, he left the apartment, saying “Back soon.”

As he was walking down the hall, two men in suits approached him. One of them flashed a badge and said in a low voice “Come along quietly unless you want us to use the handcuffs.”

He was startled. “Am I being arrested?”

“You’ll find out everything when we get to the precinct.”

They took him out a rear entrance. Walking to the unmarked car they indicated, Travis wondered whether this was some sort of Homeland Security operation gone awry and he had been mistaken for someone else. Some wanted man, maybe a terrorist. He took out his cell phone and began to dial a friend. They took the phone away. “You can call from the precinct.”

He was put in the back seat of the car, with a man who was already there. The two other men got into the front seat and he heard all the doors lock. No one spoke.

The car moved off. All at once the man sitting next to him pulled his arms behind his back, snapped on handcuffs, and yanked a hood over his head.

“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Travis yelled.

No one answered. Now he was sure he had been mistaken for a terrorist.

They drove for a while before the car turned onto what the sound of the tires told him was an unpaved road. After several minutes, it stopped and Travis was pulled out, still hooded. He was marched along, stumbling, for a few steps, then he heard a heavy door open and he was propelled ahead. His shoes made contact with a hard, unyielding floor.

After a few steps more he was spun around and pushed onto a chair. His wrists were released, his arms were pulled around the chair back, and he was handcuffed again. Then the hood was removed.

He was in a room with cinder block walls and a single, unshaded light bulb. A man he hadn’t seen before was standing at a small table on which was a laptop computer. The man looked annoyed. He closed the computer, held it aloft, and turned to Travis. Pointing to the computer, he said “Password” in a heavy Slavic accent.

Clearly, these people were not law enforcement. The badge had been fraudulent.

“Password” the man repeated.

“The password for that computer? I have no idea.”

The man held the computer a little higher and repeated more loudly “Password.”

Travis too raised his voice. “How the hell would I know the password? I’ve never seen that computer before.”

The man angrily pointed to the machine and shouted. “YOUR COMPUTER! PASSWORD!”

“THAT IS NOT MY COMPUTER AND I DON’T KNOW THE PASSWORD!”

The man gestured, and Travis screamed in pain as someone behind his chair forced something sharp under a fingernail.

“PASSWORD!” the man shouted again.

“I DON’T KNOW!” Travis shouted back, trying not to break down. “THAT IS NOT MY COMPUTER!”

Another scream as a second finger was added to his pain.

After a third denial he was yanked from the chair, forced roughly down a passage, and pushed so hard through an open doorway that he fell to the cold, concrete floor. Behind him he heard the door being pulled shut and locked, followed by retreating footsteps. He was alone in a room with no furniture.

At least they had removed the handcuffs. Grimacing, he yanked a needle from under each of two fingernails, and sucked on the bleeding fingers. Even in the absence of the needles there was considerable pain.

It seemed like hours before he was taken out and handcuffed again in the chair. The man held up the computer but didn’t speak. His demand was implicit.

Deciding that he had nothing to lose, Travis guessed a password at random.

The man put the computer down, opened the cover, and pushed a button. The screen came to life and a request for a password appeared. The man carefully entered the word Travis had given him.

The screen went blank; the machine had shut itself off.

The man uttered a few words in a foreign language. Travis didn’t know their meaning, but from the tone he knew it was a curse.

The man picked up a large handgun, walked to the chair, and put the gun to Travis’s head. “Lie again, I kill. Password.”

Travis knew this was his last chance. He hazarded another guess.

That one didn’t work either.

The gun was put against his head once more, and he heard the safety being released. He squeezed his eyes shut.

Just then there was a loud banging on the heavy entry door and shouts of “POLICE! Almost simultaneously, the door was slammed open under the force of a battering ram and men in riot gear swarmed in with weapons raised. The three men who had kidnapped Travis stood immobilized, but his interrogator darted to a rear door and flung it open.

Only to find more weapons pointing at him. He slowly lowered his gun to the floor and raised his hands.

One of Travis’s rescuers used a walkie-talkie to report: “Computer retrieved, suspects in custody.”

An ambulance was summoned, but Travis tried to decline medical help: “I’m ok, I just want to get out of here.” He was not given that choice; the handcuffs were taken off but he was kept in the chair until two paramedics arrived with a stretcher.

As he was carried from the building, drained by his ordeal, he saw Dale at the back of the reassembled entry team craning his head to get a better look. He smiled and managed a weak wave. Dale shouted “Travis!” and tried to run to him, but was held back. The next time Travis saw him was in the Emergency Room, when Dale ducked past a guard and ran to his side.

Dale stared at the bloody fingertips and the nails darkened by the blood underneath. “They tortured you. Oh Travis, this is my fault. I’m so sorry.”

Travis reached out with his uninjured hand and grasped Dale’s, but said nothing; he was too weak.

Meanwhile the guard had rushed in. He took Dale by the shoulders and began pulling him away.

“No” Travis croaked, summoning dregs of energy as he held tight to Dale’s hand. “Best friend. Stay.”

The guard looked at the attending physician, who said “Let him stay; it will help the patient.” Reluctantly, the guard let go and returned to his station at the door.

Travis breathed a sigh of relief when the damaged fingers were bathed in a topical anesthetic solution and the pain lessened, but he looked away when the physician brought out a hypodermic syringe and told him that the damaged fingernails were about to be removed.

As the doctor numbed the fingers and began his work, a man in a business suit entered, showed Travis government credentials, and asked him for an account of his ordeal.

Still holding tight to Dale’s hand, Travis began. As he spoke, he started to tremble. Dale put his other hand comfortingly on Travis’s shoulder. It stopped the trembling and Travis managed to conclude his account in spite of frequent interruptions by the government agent with requests for additional details.

When his fingers had been bandaged, he was given care instructions and lifted into a wheelchair.

Dale gasped. “My god, what did those thugs do to your legs?”

“His legs are fine” the attending physician assured Dale, “This is hospital policy.”

Travis squeezed Dale’s hand and managed a wan smile. “I guess they don’t want patients falling on their way out and suing the hospital.”

***********

During their taxi ride to Dale’s apartment, Travis’s trembling returned. Dale pulled him into a hug and said: “Travis, this is all my fault. I don’t know how I can ever make it up to you.”

“Why is it your fault? And how did the police find me?”

“I’ll explain everything after I get some whiskey into you; I want to see some color back in your face. Right now you look like death warmed over … sorry for the cliché, but it fits; you look terrible.”

“You sure know how to flatter a guy.” Travis said with a wink, making a feeble attempt at another smile.

In the apartment, Dale brought Travis the whiskey, which he sipped while Dale phoned for delivery from the restaurant where Travis had been headed when he was abducted. Dale was told that their delivery man had gone home for the nigh and the kitchen was closed, but an explanation to the manager, including a reminder of how good a customer he was, resulted in a commitment to prepare the food and make the delivery herself.

Turning down a second drink, Travis asked “Now will you tell me what’s going on? Who were those men they captured? And how did you find me?”

“The key was your comment this morning about my watch. You pointed out that the mugger could have gotten it off me in a few seconds but he hadn’t taken it. I thought about that after you went out for the food, and a vague recollection formed: I became sure that there was something else I had with me when I was mugged. I was still thinking about it when I noticed that you had been gone too long. I called the Thai Palace and they said you hadn’t shown up. That scared me. I tried to reach you on your cell phone but you didn’t answer. Now I was really scared. Maybe that was what triggered something: As I was about to go out searching for you I suddenly remembered what I had been carrying when I was attacked: It was my laptop computer.”

Travis broke in. “Ah! And the watch could be sold for a lot more than the computer so you knew it was the computer the mugger was after.”

“Right. And that’s not all; I remembered what was in the computer and what kind of consultant I am.”

“Dale, that’s terrific! More and more is coming back! Oh … what was in the computer?”

“A lot of information about the software and device designs I provide to the people who use my services. I’m an expert in cyber security, and I’m considered tops in the field. I’m the only one who puts firewall code in the BIOS, the boot sector, and the OS kernel. I also encrypt sensitive files using a 256-bit...” He stopped, noticing that Travis was looking at him blankly. “I’m sorry, I tend to lapse into technical jargon. Let’s just say that using my software and hardware is like having a belt, suspenders, gaiters, and a chastity belt.”

“Ok, I get the idea.”

“Good. Anyway, everyone who has a computer network knows their sensitive information is at risk from hacking by individuals, corporations, and foreign nations. They’re desperate for effective protection. If they can afford the best, I tell you without modesty, they come to me. My clients even include some agencies of our government, so anyone who gets their hands on my software and my device designs would have a huge leg up on gaining access to critical government information.”

“Therefore you concluded that the computer was taken for its content.”

“Exactly.”

“So who took it?”

“I don’t know yet. After the gang has been questioned, my contact will call me with the details.”

“You have a contact at the police department; that’s cool.”

“The police weren’t involved.”

“But they shouted…”

“Yes they shouted ‘Police’ at the door as a quick way to identify themselves, but that was a federal SWAT team.”

You can call in a federal SWAT team? Wow, you must have connections in high places.”

“In a way: When I remembered the computer, I phoned a government agency I’ve been working for and notified them that it had been stolen. I also told them I believed you had been kidnapped and it was probably related. Ordinarily they would have referred me to the FBI for those things, but I mentioned that the computer contains some of the agency’s highly classified information. That made it a matter of national security, so they took immediate action. Their focus was on the laptop computer, and of course I was worried about that too, but you were my main concern.”

Travis looked at him in surprise. “You care that much for me?”

“I care more than you know.”

“I’m beginning to see that.” Travis said. Then he snickered.

Dale frowned. “You think it’s funny that I care more about you than I even do about national security?”

“Oh Dale, no. I laughed because I thought of the SWAT team guy’s report back to headquarters. The first thing he said was that they had the computer, and the second thing was that they had the gang.”

“And you were only mentioned third.”

Travis slowly shook his head, smiling. “I wasn’t mentioned at all. As you said, I wasn’t their focus.”

They sat for a moment in silence before Travis asked: “How did you find out where I was?”

“I was getting to that. Turns out that I keep good records: I was able to find the Wi-Fi address of my computer and give it to my government contact. He had his electronics team set their monitoring equipment to listen for the signal. They kept picking it up, but it kept disappearing. The guy who had the computer must have been guessing one password after another. Any time a wrong password is entered, the machine switches itself off, so the machine was on for only about half a minute at a time. But accumulating the data from those half-minute intervals, the electronics people were able to get its location more and more accurately. When they had it down precisely enough, the SWAT team went in. Civilians aren’t allowed to go along, but I called in a favor. A big one. I was praying that you would be where the computer was.”

At this point they were interrupted by the doorbell; their food had arrived.

Dale kept an eye on Travis as they ate, and after dinner he said: “You look exhausted. I’m putting you to bed. In the morning, call your boss to tell him you’re taking some sick time.”

“What do you mean you’re putting me to bed, I’m not a toddler. And I’m not used to being ordered around.”

“Well get used to it, at least for the next few weeks; you took care of me, now I’m taking care of you. You’ll need help buttoning your shirt and tying your shoes and doing all the other things that require those sidelined fingers. I’m keeping you here until you’re fully recovered.”

Travis began to protest. Dale cut him off. “When you call your boss tomorrow, give him my phone number and tell him you’ll be staying with me.”

Dale again tried to object and again was interrupted. “Just shut up and do as you’re told, or I’ll have to smack you around.”

Travis chuckled. “Looks like I’d better not get on your bad side.”

“Damn right. Now get that cute ass of yours into the bathroom and brush your teeth, or whatever it is you do at bedtime.”

Travis had to admit to himself that a bit of pampering actually sounded good. He rose wearily and went to wash up.

Entering the bedroom after he had stripped, he found Dale already there. Dale ran his eyes over Travis’s nude body. “Damn it, you’re tantalizing. I’ll keep my distance though; you need sleep.” He pointed to a pair of pajamas he had placed on a chair. “Now put those on and then it’s into bed with you.”

“I’m much too tired to bother with pajamas.” Travis replied as he crawled under the covers. “I’ll sleep naked.”

Dale walked to the bed and adjusted the blankets around him. Travis grinned. “Tucking me in? You really are babying me.”

“Only in some ways,” Dale said with a smirk, starting to undress. “I’m about to join you.”

“Is this your typical bedtime?”

“If you’re in my bed, that’s where I want to be.” Dale opened a drawer and took out a pair of pajamas.

Travis was watching. “Please don’t wear those.”

Dale gave him an inquiring look.

“I don’t want anything between us.”

Dale’s penis, which had begun to harden and rise at the sight of Travis’s naked body, rose higher. “I’d love that.” He got in under the covers but made no move, waiting for Travis to decide what he should do, and when.

Travis had already decided. “Can I sleep in your arms?”

Dale beamed. “Nothing would make me happier.” He moved over and put his arms around Travis, who cuddled up and was soon asleep.

***********

Early in the morning, Dale awoke when he felt Travis move. He opened his eyes and saw his bed companion gazing at him. “Good morning” he said. “How long have you been awake?”

“Not long. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“It’s ok, this is more sleep than I usually get. And having you in my arms,” he added, hugging Travis more tightly and giving him a quick kiss, “was marvelous.”

Travis looked thoughtful; Dale’s mention of adequate sleep reminded him of something: “Have you had any seizures since that zone-out two days ago?”

“Come to think of it, no.”

Travis smiled. “Dale, that’s another sign of progress.”

“Yeah, it is. How about we celebrate with a big, fancy breakfast?”

“Sounds good. How about we make that the second part of the celebration … after I make love to you?”

“Are you up for that?”

“You have to ask if I’m up? Can’t you feel what’s pushing against you?”

Dale laughed. “I’ll have to try never to say anything you could take as a straight-line. I meant isn’t it too soon, after what you went through yesterday?”

“I knew what you meant. It will be therapy. And this time I want to be looking at your gorgeous face.”

Dale gave him a quick kiss. “If that’s what you want, that’s what you shall have.” He took the tube of lubricant and the condoms from a drawer in the bedside table, where he had put them two days earlier. He handed them to Travis and rolled onto his back. “Have you been tested?”

“Six months ago, two spaced tests for maximum confidence. And I haven’t been with anyone since my breakup two years ago.”

“Then forget the condom. I want you to have the full ride. I called my primary care doctor yesterday and told him about my current memory problem. I asked him whether I’ve been tested and he told me that whenever I’m seeing anyone I come in every three months to make sure I’m negative. My last test was a year ago.”

“You did that for me? You’re awesome!” Travis said, and moved downward. He was about to take Dale’s penis into his mouth when Dale said “Don’t. I’m close just from the thought of what we’re about to do.”

“In that case …” Travis got up on his knees, took Dale’s ankles and raised them high in the air. Looking down at the cheeks now made visible and soon to be parted, he commented: “Just as enticing from this angle” and pulled Dale’s legs over his shoulders.

Dale hooked his ankles together.

Travis greased two fingers, pushed them between those enticing cheeks, and smeared the lubrication around, forcing a glob into Dale’s puckered hole. Then he entered.

Dale opened to him and he quickly pushed all the way in, sighing blissfully. He paused for a few moments and then began to move with rapturous slowness, only gradually quickening his pace. When he had reached full speed and was pumping away, he leaned down and accompanied his thrusts with passionate kisses. He found Dale’s prostate and concentrated on making him squeal with pleasure.

As Travis approached climax, he put a hand on Dale’s quivering shaft. That light touch sent Dale over the brink: he came, powerfully and profusely. One of the spurts went all the way to his forehead.

After Travis too had climaxed, sending jets of his semen deep into Dale, he pulled out and they lay facing each other, getting their breath back.

Dale took gentle hold of Travis’s injured hand. “Your poor fingers.” he said, kissing each one. “Do they still hurt?”

“A little, but they’re getting better. The doctor said the nails will grow in again.”

“You know” Dale began, smirking craftily, “you’re not supposed to get these bandages wet so you shouldn’t try to wash yourself. It would be best if I give you sponge baths.”

“Ok, that would be…” Travis mumbled, grinning languidly as his eyes closed and he drifted back to sleep.

Dale had almost fallen asleep as well, when the bedside phone rang. He muttered an annoyed profanity and reached for the phone, hoping to stop the noise before it woke Travis.

After a fairly long conversation, he hung up and lay back down.

“Who was it?” Travis asked, his eyes still closed.

“It did wake you. I’m sorry. That was my contact at the agency. The leader of the gang has cracked. He gave up the rest, including the one who mugged me. The mugger wasn’t there when you were rescued, but the leader told them where he lives; they’re on their way to get him. And we have answers.”

Travis opened his eyes. “So they know who those guys are?”

“Yes. Everything was masterminded by the one who kept demanding the password from you, if the term ‘masterminded’ even applies here. He’s a cultural attaché at the Russian Embassy and his first name is Dimitri; I wouldn’t even attempt to pronounce his last name. When I heard his title I assumed it was a cover and that he was with the FSB, that’s the successor to the KGB. The Russians are not the only ones who do that kind of thing, everybody does including us. There are people in many of our own embassies who we claim are diplomatic functionaries but in reality they’re doing clandestine work. My contact said this guy is the real thing, though, and as an attaché he has diplomatic immunity, so all Washington can do is throw him out of the country and lodge a protest with the Russian government. Violence was involved here, so this protest won’t be a standard one.”

“Why did he think the computer was mine?”

“He thought you were me; that was only one of his many screw-ups: To begin with, this would-be super-spy’s idea of sophisticated espionage was to have my computer stolen, never thinking that a cyber-security expert’s machine would be protected by passwords, or that it would be trackable. When he couldn’t get it started he sent some goons to grab me. They only had my address, because Dimitri the Dimwit hadn’t bothered to get his one picture of me back from the mugger and give it to them. When they saw you come out of my apartment they assumed it was me.”

“Why didn’t Dimitri recognize that I wasn’t you?”

“The federal guys asked him that. He said he had never taken a good look at the picture before giving it to the mugger. It’s amazing how ineptly the whole thing was set up. My guess is that he was trying to make a name for himself by showing that he could get something their FSB couldn’t, and that he could do it on the cheap. He didn’t know that spying takes expertise and smarts. Obviously he has neither. I expect he won’t be treated very well when he gets back to the mother country.”

“If all he wanted was the computer, why were your wallet and cell phone taken?”

“Probably to make it seem like an ordinary mugging.” He looked at Travis’s bandaged fingers. “It’s too bad we don’t have eye-for-an-eye law in the United States. Those guys ought to suffer the same thing they put you through. I’d be happy to watch. Better yet I’d like to do it myself.”

They lay quietly for a while. Then Dale mused: “If they had gotten me, there would have been no one to figure out what happened and notify the right people. I’m sure I wouldn’t last long under torture; by now Dimitri would have all my software and my designs.”

“But you could come up with new ones, couldn’t you?”

“When? You think they would let me go? Not a chance. My body would eventually have washed up on some shore, if it were ever found at all.”

“Then it’s a good thing I was the one they grabbed.”

“What you went through was a good thing because it benefitted me? You would feel that way you wonderful, selfless man.”

After another period of quiet, Travis asked, “What if my boss wants to know why I’m taking sick time?”

“Tell him to read the newspaper.”

“It will be in the newspaper?” That possibility had not crossed Travis’s mind.

“Of course it will. The exposure of a foreign spy and the rescue of a hostage, that’s big news. It will be on front pages all over the country.”

“But the story won’t mention me specifically, will it?”

No reply. Travis had an unpleasant vision of being hounded by reporters. “Dale, will it identify me?”

“I couldn’t keep your name out even if I wanted to. Don’t look so horrified, they’ll be trampling each other to get an exclusive interview. Hold out for a good price, see if you can instigate a bidding war.”

Only now did Travis begin to grasp the importance of what had happened, and the fact that he was going to be a celebrity. “I’ll be famous. What a change that will be.” He was starting to like the idea.

Dale let him savor the thought for a while. Then he said: “Travis, look at me. There’s something I want to tell you.”

Travis turned to him.

“When I saw you carried out of that building tonight and you were so still, I was sure you were dead. I don’t know which was worse, thinking that I had lost you or knowing that your death was my fault. Then you waved. And you smiled at me! I never thought I could feel such joy. I tried to run to you, I wanted to scoop you up and never let go.”

Travis’s eyes began to fill with tears. “You really do...”

Dale stopped him with a kiss. “Yes, I really do love you. Why are you crying?”

“These are tears of happiness.”

Dale tenderly kissed the rivulets of tears. “I never believed in love at first sight; after all, it had never happened to me. But the moment I looked up that day to see who had spoken so kindly to me and my eyes met yours, it did happen. I tried to deny it, even though the more time I spent with you the more the feeling grew. Then, outside that building tonight, confronted by the thought that I had lost you, my denial evaporated. You said you don’t want any new entanglements, and I accept that. I just want you to know that I love you more than I can say. I can’t forgive myself for the fact that you almost lost your life because you stopped to help me. Maybe Dorothy Parker meant it when she wrote that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Travis seemed to ponder the matter. “Well, let’s see- Until a few days ago I was creeping through life, afraid of the slightest change and doing my best to avoid significant human contact. Then I stopped to help you. As a result, I went through some severe pain and what I fervently hope will turn out to be the worst scare I’ll ever have. That’s the negative side. On the positive side, I’m no longer a slave to a constricting daily routine, I’m going to be famous, I found that I could fall in love again, and best of all the man I’ve fallen in love with just told me that he’s in love with me. Some punishment.”

“That’s not what I was talking about.”

“I know. What I’m saying is that on balance it seems to me I’ve come out of this way ahead. And speaking of balance, you saved my life today. That more than cancels any debt you thought you owed me.”

“Au contraire, mon amour, you wouldn’t have been in such danger if not for me. I owe you more than … wait a minute, did you just say you’re in love with me?”

“Duh. If you didn’t know that, maybe your recovery isn’t as far along as I thought.” A sly smile crept across his face. “Tell you what: Since you’re convinced that you still owe me, how about paying off the debt by having me in your bed every night until it’s fully paid, would that be acceptable?”

Oh yeah.”

“I should warn you, there’s no telling how long it will take, maybe forever.”

“I can be very patient.” Dale said, running a loving hand lightly over Travis’s face.

Travis sighed happily. “That’s good. Patience is a virtue.”

Dale kissed him. “In fact, since I want you in my bed, it shouldn’t count against the debt at all.”

Travis reached around and smacked Dale on his bare bottom. “Oh, be quiet and kiss me again.”

End

Addenda

In case some readers have avoided all exposure to French:

‘Au contraire, mon amour’ means ‘On the contrary, my love’.

And for those unfamiliar with the work of Dorothy Parker:

Ms. Parker was a writer, most famous for her wit.


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