The Heart of Oskar Prinz

IX

By Michael Arram

Sunday was a day of partings. Harry left for the airport in the morning, and Will was there at the hotel to say goodbye and explain that he was staying on. Harry looked a little miffed, but shrugged and agreed to go in and water the pot plants in Will's flat. He told him where he kept a spare key under a mat. Will checked himself out and moved his bags by taxi to Lindenstrasse, where an excited Oskar and Marietta were waiting for him.

In the afternoon, Terry and Ramon were leaving by Lufthansa for Washington via Berlin. Will drove out to the airport with them. Strelzen International Airport was brand new, walled with polished grey granite slabs and full of expensive shops selling things at prices that most local people could not dream of paying, as Oskar complained to him before they left.

They had a MacDonalds, much to Ramon's disgust, but Terry said he had an addiction problem. Looking at his physique, Will doubted it, but he chewed a chicken sandwich along with them.

It was as Ramon made a dash to the loos that Terry transformed in front of his eyes. He had been an easy-going and happy lad in all Will's contact with him so far, but suddenly all the cheeriness evaporated. He was looking into the calm and slightly grim face of a man who he guessed had seen some terrible things and had survived them, perhaps against the odds. Suddenly, Will realised that there was an awful lot he did not know about this man. He remembered Matt's words. He was about to meet the real Terry, and he did not really think he wanted to. Terry cocked an eyebrow and leaned towards him.

'Did I ever explain my job, Will?'

'You mentioned you were in security for Peacher Corp and minded Andy Peacher's back.'

'That's true, but perhaps I should have told you that I am senior security consultant for the Peacher and Roedenbeck Corporations, two of the biggest conglomerates in the western world.'

'Er, sounds like an important job.'

'It is... and I'm still only twenty-three. I'm telling you this because I want you to take what I'm going to tell you next very seriously. You must not trust Oskar.'

'What the hell!'

'You heard me.' The calmness of Terry's response quelled Will like a face full of cold water.

'Why did you say that? You know about the porn stuff?'

Terry gave him an appraising stare, which made Will feel very uncomfortable. 'So you did know then? Well that's interesting. I wasn't actually going to tell you. I recognised the boy as soon as I saw him, of course, being a bit of a perv on the quiet in me younger days and more than friends once with a mega-perv from Germany called Axel Friedrich. Your Oskar - or shall we say, Marc - does have a distinctive face doesn't he? I spotted him first two years ago, and I never forgot him. But it's not that which bothers me. Don't tell Ramon, but I actually was in a lower-end porn video meself once, so who am I to throw stones at your Oskar?'

Will was intrigued despite himself. 'Then what is it?'

'He's lying to you. I'm not sure what about, but there's something behind what he's telling you.'

'How can you tell?'

'I'm a human lie-detector: face, voice, eyes, pulse, perspiration; they give themselves away to me. You have to be real good to get past me. Twice he lied. He lied about the attempted mugging on you. He is also concealing something about Terlenehem. I don't know what exactly is going on, but I doubt that you found your way into his bed accidentally; he wanted you there.'

Will was deeply shocked, but he found the courage to ask the important question, 'And did he lie about his feelings for me?'

Terry gave a half smile, 'Perhaps, but I... no, I can't say. There is something there, maybe. But it was not intended. I can't say any more. But what I can do is give you this.' He handed Will a business card with the well-known Peacher logo embossed in one corner. It was very impressive. 'This is my special card, given to few. The number will reach me priority, toll free even from abroad, and it's my private e-mail account. If you are in trouble at any time, contact me. I can do things. For you I will do things.'

'Why me?'

'I like you Will, I like you a lot, and I won't have you harmed. And at the moment, it looks to me like you are in the grip of people who may not have the best of intentions towards you. Besides, you remind me so much of someone I knew and loved, but who...' he shook his curly head. 'Enough of my many tragedies. But it's not just that you're a friend and fellow-tenor. You've come into the orbit of Matthew White, and anyone whom Matt takes on is my responsibility too, because Matt is my boss's reason for living. I won't have either of them upset. It offends me. There are a number of people in prison now because they offended me.'

Will was cowed. This was no braggart. He had never met a man like this, so very cool and controlled, so much in the moment. It was a little awesome. And at the time he heard it he believed everything Terry was saying, even though his heart was crying out for love of Oskar.

Terry's eyes flicked over Will's shoulder, Will turned to see Ramon on the way back, and when he returned his gaze to him, the old grinning Terry was back. Nothing more was said, but it was a very troubled English boy who got on the shuttle train back to the city.

What was he to make of this? He found it difficult to dismiss what Terry had said. Yet he did not want to believe any ill of his Rothenian lover. He began to believe what was the most convenient thing to believe, that Terry was over-suspicious. But then it occurred to him that Terry did not expect to be believed, which was why he had left the card. Will took it out, looked at it, and shoved it firmly into the back of his wallet. His one concession to Terry's suspicions was not to throw the card away.

Will hopped on the tram to the Lindenstrasse from the Central Station, a passable copy of the Gare du Nord. As the tram clanged its way through the quiet Sunday streets, his mind continued to wrestle with what Terry had said. He found that he could not deny that his mind too had been troubled, there was something bugging him... but what was it? Whatever it was, it wouldn't come back to him at this point, but he wouldn't forget it.

Hendrik checked over the menu at the Koningen Flavia, 'Drink boys?' He noticed how both Felip and Oskar were moody. 'So how is it going?'

'I've persuaded him to stay on in Strelzen.'

'I can't imagine how,' smiled Hendrik and got a cool look by return.

'Not only that but we're going to work together on Matthew White's current project. He's paying me a lot more than you ever did.'

'Remember your contract with me, Oskar. But well done, well done indeed.'

Felip cut in, 'I don't think that much about the boy. He is thin and whey-faced, like all those English. How can you be so sure he will perform?'

'You only saw him in the club, late that night. I've slept with him. I've seen him naked in the morning sunlight. I have had him groaning beneath me with lust for my cock. He's crazy for it. And he took all of it in one go. I know how he will perform, believe me. He is a natural and he's an unmistakable westerner.'

Felip wasn't giving up. 'But he's English and we want an American.'

Oskar shrugged, 'He speaks English, and so do the Americans. Also he made the table laugh when he put on an American accent to amuse Dr White's party. They said it was brilliant and they all live in America. It's not a problem.'

Hendrik looked at them both appraisingly, 'I need to see him. Bring him to Ribaud's tonight, I'll be at my usual table.'

Oskar had given Will a key, but he encountered the surly concierge on the way in and he faced a barrage of incomprehensible questions in Rothenian. The man knew no English, or pretended he didn't. Will was almost in tears when Oskar came in behind him, and began laying into the man passionately. Eventually he went in, slamming his door, and Oskar took Will's arm and pulled him into the lift. They kissed as it clattered and groaned its way to the fifth floor.

'He's a surly bastard,' Oskar said, 'and homophobic too. He was a secret police informer in the old days, I think; most of the concierges made extra money that way. I bet he wishes he could put me in the labour camps like they did to people like us under Horvath.'

'I wish I knew Rothenian,' said Will plaintively, as he opened the door. Marietta danced round them both.

'We can start this afternoon, if you want.'

'I do want. Can we do the rude words first?'

Oskar laughed, 'Those you get as a reward if you work hard, men leblen Will.'

'Men leblen?'

'My darling, my love.'

Will flushed red with delight, 'that I will remember.'

They sat in the flat for a while over a rich dark coffee that Oskar made, then they took Marietta on a walk through the back streets to a small park, working on words and phrases as they walked. Oskar was a very good teacher, as Will easily recognised, being rather a good one himself. They took things slowly, with much repetition. Oskar reinforced his instruction with funny little jokes and surprise tests. Will just hoped his memory was up to the demands on it; however, the fact that the language was so heavily drenched with Germanic and Latin words helped a lot. But the common and highly irregular verbs were going to be a problem.

They returned but kept hard at it. At five, Oskar stretched and got up from his chair. He pulled Will up and kissed him, then looked down at Marietta.

'What is it with you, dog? Don't you want to defend me from Will?'

The terrier looked up at him and snuffled. Oskar shook his head, then went back to kissing Will. They adjourned to the bedroom and were soon naked together on the covers.

'You kiss me full on when you make love to me,' said Will.

'So?'

'In the films, you guys sort of flicker your tongues together, like this,' he demonstrated and Oskar co-operated.

'It's the way we do it for the cameras, porno-kissing. It's supposed to arouse the watcher. It tickles nicely.'

'Does nothing for me. Well, not entirely true. It is sort of sexy when you do it, it just looks weird.'

'You would be amazed how traditional is the porn business, my Will. Some of my colleagues would be offended if you criticised their age-old practices. Anyway, I know one place where you'll like it.' He got Will on all fours and demonstrated with enthusiasm, and then followed his tongue into the same place with a longer and more solid organ, sheathed dutifully in film. He took his time and beat leisurely into Will, on his knees panting in a high pitched moan when he wasn't licking and kissing the back of Will's neck.

'You are so sexy, leblen. You make the cutest noises. Ooo... you're going to drip on my bed; let me lick that off.' He pulled out of Will, leaving him a little distraught at being empty. He really was a bottom boy, he admitted to himself. Oskar pulled back his penis and suckled the precum off it. 'I love your juice,' he said, in a line that Will recognised from Rothenian Boys 7. He was deeply aroused by the words. Then Oskar reengaged with Will's anus, and picked up his speed. He came with a remarkably extended groan, five minutes later.

After a nap, Oskar checked his watch at the bedside. 'Let's go out and have a drink and a meal. I know this great place on Radhausplaz, away from the tourists. It's called Ribaud's, heard of it?'

'No. Is it expensive?'

'A bit, but Dr White will bail us out, hein?'

'I suppose, though I don't want to take advantage of him.'

'Of course not.'

'How many words for penis in Rothenian?' Will was impressed.

'I've counted twenty-four, but some of them aren't for ordinary use. We must be a very fixated nation, don't you think?'

'Strewth. Mind you, English has got quite a few, not that I've sat down and actually counted.' Will looked around the restaurant. They were eating inside, though most people were on the big array of tables on the pavement on the cobbled Town Hall square outside. Oskar said he occasionally got stared at by passers by and he didn't like it. Will saw his point. He had let Oskar order for him, and they were tucking into a meaty game stew with lots of mushrooms. Stews and casseroles seemed to be the Rothenian speciality.

Will had kept a menu card and was throwing out random questions about foodstuffs and eating. His initial enthusiam for Rothenian had not at all died down, and Oskar showed no boredom in answering and tutoring him either. 'No, Will,' he was saying, 'We always put the accent on the first syllable of every word. If you don't do that it sounds really weird to a Rothenian hearing you. Try again.'

Across the restaurant, a fuss began as waiters scurried round a new arrival, a tall and bearded charismatic man, who came in with two rather younger girls hanging on his arms. They were seated in state and the maitre d'hotel hung over them solicitously. Oskar caught Will's gaze.

'Don't stare, Will, it's rude in Rothenia.'

Will snapped out of it, 'Oops. Sorry. It's rude in Britain too.'

'Did you get a good look, then.'

'Who is he, a minister or something?'

'No but he is famous. He is Hendrik Wilemmin, and you have heard of him, I think.'

'Rings no bells...'

'Pardon me?'

'I don't recognise the name.'

'Oh. How about "Anton Aramis"?'

'That's familiar. But I can't work out why.'

'Falkefilm?' Now Will knew who it was. That was the name that adorned the boxes of his now forgotten porn collection, the producer and mastermind behind the Rothenian porn industry.

'That's your boss? He's younger and fitter than I thought.'

'You can rise fast if you're as clever, unscrupulous and energetic as he is.'

Will paused, and then launched into the question he had been longing to ask since before even he had met Oskar Prinz, and knew only Marc Bennett. 'Oskar, how did a man like you get into an industry like this?'

Oskar smiled slightly. He had been expecting the question, and was surprised it had taken so long to come out. 'Are you being judgemental, dearest Will, about what I do for a living?'

'I guess I am,' Will admitted.

'Hmm. The answer is really quite simple. When I was eighteen and doing my military service my parents were killed, crushed on the autoroute by a Serbian truck. It was terrible. I wasn't exempted to go home and help Helge, my big sister. I was in a very bad state. A friend in barracks helped me a lot, gave me love and attention and taught me how to be queer. When we were let out on weekends we used to go to King Henry.'

'What?'

'You know the big statue on Rodolferplaz, that's where young gay soldier boys sometimes go in the early evening looking for a pick up. He took me with him, and we began cruising. It was exciting, and sometimes I was not so proud that I did not take money for it, money I could send home to Helge. I am a real whore, as I have warned you too often now. One evening just before my eighteen-month term was up, Hendrik approached me in the Rodolferplaz, not for sex but with an offer of model work. By this time I was so screwed up I had no plans, so I knocked on his door for an audition. It was pretty soon clear that there was more than modelling involved, but I was a young gay full of himself, and pretty shameless, when it came down to it. It was not too difficult to go along with things, and the money is good, even if not as frequent as one would like.'

'How much does he pay?'

'Hendrik is a bit of a bastard, but he's not a cheap bastard. You can get three thousand dollars for a set with a guy, but the big ones, they're really worth it. A starring role in a special is more than treble that. That sort of money goes a long way in Rothenia. Some of Hendrik's earlier boys have already retired and opened their own businesses. Others of them do casual or full time work for Falkefilm, some are now cameramen. Felip, for instance...'

'Felip?'

'For a moment, Will, I forgot we are only recent friends. Felip you would know as Max Wolf.'

'Oh right... the guy who...'

'Yes the boy who I screwed and who screwed me in Rothenian Boys 7. He's the only boy at Falkefilm I'd consider to be a friend, although he can be irritating. We socialise sometimes. No, not like that, Will. We are not lovers, at least off camera. Anyway, Felip is one of Hendrik's scouts, he goes to swimming pools, clubs and gyms looking for talent and inviting them for an audition. He gets head money for it, a finder's fee. The gay boys home in on him, so half his work is done by his pretty face. He is pretty, is he not?'

'Not as handsome as you are, Oskar.'

'Thank you, but you will never convince him different. Most of Hendrik's boys come from that sort of approach, I was a bit of an exception to get a personal invitation.'

'Er... was he interested in you sexually, then?'

'Hendrik's sexuality is a bit of a mystery. Mostly he sleeps with women, but there are some stories about him and one or two of the boys. But not me. Me he is a little protective of.'

'I've heard that you get a lot of guys at Falkefilm who are straight, but will have gay sex for cash.'

'Certainly it happens. Sometimes boys are bisexual. Sometimes they thought they were straight but found out otherwise when they gave it a try. But many of us have long known we are gay. Sex is complicated isn't it? When did you know about yourself, Will?'

'Not till university for sure, and I only lost my virginity a month ago.'

'What!'

'It's true.'

'Jesus. But you're so hot in bed. You English are strange...'

'Even the queer ones.'

Will was so intent on the conversation that the sudden looming above him of a tall man took him quite by surprise. Oskar stood, and Will did too. It was Hendrik Wilemmin. They shook hands and there were formal introductions.

'This is Will, William Vincent, an English friend I have made,' he said to his boss.

'Good evening Will, do you like our city?' There was more than a trace of American in the accent of his English.

'Very much, Mr Wilemmin, I could very easily stay here for ever.'

'I expect sweet Oskar would be part of the attraction.'

Will smiled, but did not answer, he was not going to discuss his sex life with a porn king.

'Oskar, Rudi said to remind you that you're needed for a work out tomorrow at nine thirty.'

'Sure. I'll be there.'

'Have a good evening, boys.'

They thanked him and resumed their seats.

'Powerful character, that.' concluded Will. Oskar was quick to agree.

The next day Will was supposed to meet Matt at his hotel for lunch, and since he had the morning free, he readily agreed to go along with Oskar to his gym. He had a pair of shorts, trainers and a singlet, so he thought he'd work out too. It had been a while.

The World Class Fitness Center and Solarium was only three blocks away west on Lindenstrasse, and it was impressively well equipped.

'So this is where you get your physique,' Will observed.

'A bit, but I was always a keen swimmer, and that's where most of the muscles come from, but Rudi here tones me up.'

Rudi was a shaven headed muscle man who came up to them unsmiling. He took them into a glazed-off area with a table, and got Oskar down on it. He worked on what Oskar said was a recent muscle strain. Will sat and watched, and tried to pick up words from their conversation, but they talked far too fast for him. Eventually Oskar sat up and got some instructions. He looked at Will and grinned: 'Your turn.'

'What?'

'Get up here and take off everything except your shorts. Rudi's agreed to look you over and give you some advice.'

'Really? I never had a personal trainer before.'

'You're nice looking, my Will. But you could be better looking yet with a proper regime. Rudi's an expert. And it's free because he works for Hendrik, and we are here on Hendrik's bill.'

Will did as he was asked and lay on his back. Rudi at last gave a small smile, and began a systematic exploration of his muscles, poking here and pressing there. He stretched his arms and legs and rotated his neck, which gave a disconcerting click. His eyes were checked with a small torch, as also was his tongue and ears. Then he was shifted on to his front, and the same happened. Will almost leapt in the air when a hand reached under his shorts and his buttocks got the same treatment.

'OK. Will sit up,' said Oskar. Rudi said a few things to him, he translated. 'Rudi said that you're not in bad shape but you could be a lot better. Your legs and pecs are excellent. Your ass and shoulders could do with some work, but he is afraid he cannot compliment you on your abdomen, which is slack and needs some serious work.' There was some more Rothenian, 'Rudi will draw up a plan for you. We will be coming here regularly, as I too have to tone up, so we can exercise together, isn't that good? Oh, and he wants you to lie on your stomach.'

'Why?' said Will, as he complied. 'Ouch!' he yelped, as Rudi pulled down his shorts and injected his backside with a clear fluid.

Oskar laughed a little wickedly, 'Rudi says you have a bad vitamin B deficiency, which he has now corrected. If he remembers he will give you a booster next week.'

'Hey!' said Will, resentfully, 'He should ask first! You don't just jab people.'

'You got on his couch, Will, so as far as he is concerned you became his patient, he is a qualified physiotherapist. Say thank you to the nice man.'

Will was still a little resentful as he rubbed his bottom, but the sting soon faded. Rudi went to a desk in a back room, scribbled some Rothenian instructions and handed them on to Oskar, who led Will into the main gym, his singlet and trainers in his hand.

'OK my Will, thirty minutes with these weights, get down there. Good. Lift with your legs, that's fine. I'll be on the running machine.'

They exercised for two hours, and although it left him aching, he did feel a lot better for it. He also felt ravenous, and ready for lunch. They showered and returned to the flat to change. Running a little late, Will took them in a taxi to Matt's hotel, the Strelzen Hilton, a large new block north of the palace gardens, looking down on the New City. They found him already in the restaurant, a book propped up in front of him. He rose and handshakes were exchanged.

'OK, boys. First we order. Can you get egg and chips in Rothenia?'

'Egg and chips?' asked Oskar.

'It's England's great culinary contribution to the world.'

'I thought that was the fish and chips,' Oskar countered.

Matt sighed, 'Many people make that mistake. Somehow life is for me a conspiracy to deny me what I want most in the way of food. My trainers forbid it me, and I'm never in a place where you can get it off the menu. Oh well, it's eating Rothenian I suppose.' When that was out of the way, he got out a notepad. 'How long can you give me, Will and Oskar?'

Will pondered, 'I can go as far as four weeks, but then I gotta get back home...' he looked apologetically at Oskar, who looked mournfully back at him. Oskar said that, apart from some odd commitments, he could be with Will for most of the next four weeks.

'Four weeks is good,' Matt nodded, 'I'll need to be updated by e-mail every so often on what you discover. Remember, what I need is information that will assist me in writing the script. The focus will be on the royal Elphbergs, and I think we'll be concentrating of Osra and Flavia. The men come into it, but only as they touch on the women's story. Oskar, we need those folk tales you told us about Osra. Will, I need to know everything about the assassination of Rudolf V in 1862. The uniting theme will be the eighteenth-century zenith of the Elphbergs and the tragic end of the dynasty only a century later, and we focus on women in love. Got it?'

'Yes sir,' they said together, and grinned.

'Visual sources are a priority, of course... portraits, woodcuts, objects of art, but don't make the mistake that a lot of media documentaries do, and ignore the literature.'

The food began to arrive, and Will did it full justice. They busily exchanged ideas across the table, and both Will and Oskar got caught up in Matt's enthusiasm.

'So that's that,' Matt concluded. 'I'll be off tomorrow. I'd like to see you in London in a month's time, Will. This is my PA's e-mail address and telephone number. His name is Dave Evans. He's scarily efficient. He'll fix up the appointment. And if you ever change your mind about teaching, believe me, the job offer is always on the table. Finally, there is this.' He produced two fat envelopes, which the boys opened. 'I think that this should pay for all expenses and your labour.'

Oskar looked up in disbelief. 'Dr White, this is a quarter of a million krona.'

'Good, the bank got it right then. Will has got 100,000 more than you, as he has to get home afterwards, and he can go first class this way. But I've paid you both the London research assistant's rates.'

Oskar swallowed hard, 'You can count on us, sir,' he said meekly.

As they left the hotel together, Oskar said, 'This is very generous, 50,000 krona is two months' wage for a doctor or a teacher, and he's giving it to me for less than a week with books.'

'Even more generous than Hendrik, isn't he?'

'He is. I think we need to celebrate tonight with Tomaszu and the others. I shall ring around.'

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