The Heart of Oskar Prinz

XVII

By Michael Arram

One day in March, he found Matt already in his office when he came in for work, looking over the files.

'Morning, boss.'

He got that glorious smile back which always turned his legs to pink jelly. Without much lead in Matt began 'Progress has been pretty good, Will. And now I think we need to get into production with the Elphbergs. I've contracted a British production team and booked them for June and July. I will be presenter, and you and Melanie will be assistant producers. The director is going to be a former Channel 4 guy I've worked with before. Carol tells me that the screenplay and storyboards are nearly done.' Will nodded. 'OK then, the next thing is for you and Melanie to head out to Rothenia to set up locations, local contacts and interviews...' Matt looked anxiously at Will, '... are you OK with that?'

'Yes, boss. It's a big country. The odds of bumping into my former friends and acquaintances are pretty low, and I won't go looking for them.'

'As long as that's OK,' he gave a half-embarrassed laugh, 'I've no intention of going into partnership with Falkefilm over distribution.' Will laughed back dutifully. 'However, Carol has had a good idea about using Rothenian actors to dramatise scenes from the historical narrative. We need to link up with a Rothenian agency to hire suitable actors, contract a Rothenian second unit, and stage the whole theatricals. Carol has some contacts you can follow up. You will have authority to interview, audition and sign for the company, while Melanie can do the sums and the book work.'

'Cool.'

'So you're off next Monday.'

'That soon!'

Melanie and Will and a lot of excess baggage flew out of the London City Airport for Frankfurt on the Monday morning. They transferred to a Strelzen flight, and it was with a catch in his throat that Will set foot once again in Rothenia. His eyes clouded as he caught the distant view of the cathedral spires, and his nose filled with the familiar and seductive scents of the Rothenian countryside.

They were in the Hilton, which to Will's mind was just about distant enough from the Rodolferplaz for his comfort, although he could see it over the palace roof from his tenth floor bedroom. They had supper in the hotel, Will impressing the hell out of Melanie with his fluent Rothenian and knowledge of the menu. The waiters were very attentive. After the meal he said goodnight and walked out into the city.

He found his way south to Rodolferplaz around the walled palace grounds. He walked down the west side, looking up at Henrik's offices as he passed by on the opposite side. There were lights still on in the upstairs studios. He remembered Oskar telling him that Hendrik preferred late night filming, as it cut down on city noise. He turned down Mikhelstrasse before he got to Club Liberation. As he neared Flavienplaz, he remembered something. He revisited the marble plaque outside the former Gestapo HQ. There was enough light from the streetlamps to see near the bottom of the second column of names that of Hugo zu Terlenehem and the date 15-5-44, the date when Oskar's great uncle, aged seventeen, was executed by a pistol shot in that building's basement. Will wondered idly what young Hugo would have thought of Oskar's way of redeeming their family's fortune.

Will walked on, taking in the familiar noises and sights, and trying hard not to cry from sheer happiness. That was the bizarre thing. His heart was dancing with joy to be back. As he climbed the dark lanes up to the cathedral he came to the conclusion that it had been a lot more than Oskar that he had loved about this country. Oskar was gone, but his underlying affection for the place had survived. So he sat back on his favourite bench under the south wall and looked down fondly at the city lights. It was chillier in spring, but not unpleasant. The cathedral bell was ringing eleven when he finally got up and returned to the hotel.

As he re-entered the Rodolferplaz on the south east corner, he noticed it was relatively quiet around Club Liberation, although the Wejg was busy enough. Erotic Dream Video was still open. He dodged in, nodded to the till attendant and found the gay section. No Falkefilm products were visible at all, so it seemed that Hendrik did keep his promises about circulation. Very few Rothenians would ever see the face, dick and butt of Jason Williams.

The next morning, Will's first priority was to subcontract a suitable Rothenian production team. This was a tricky business for a novice like him and Melanie was no help at all. The contact that Carol, the producer, had given him proved to be a dud. In the end he remembered Bolslaw. He nervously rang the Falkefilm desk and – playing up the English accent – he obtained a contact number.

'Ahoi, Bolslaw?'

'Prosim?'

'It's me, Jason Williams.'

'Jason! My love. My favourite boy. You are in Strelzen.'

'Yes. Can we meet sometime soon?'

'Sure. Today if you like. It's quiet at Falkefilm and my other contractors. Is this business?'

'As it happens it is, yes. Oh, and my name is not Jason.'

Bolslaw chuckled, 'Of course, I knew that, silly boy. Will you meet me in the Koningen Flavia at midday?'

'Where is it?'

'On Rodolferplaz, the top bit, away from Liberation, next to the Salvatorskirch.'

'Lunch is on me,' Will said. He rang off, and put on shades and his new business suit. No one would recognise the expensively-dressed international executive as either Will Vincent or Jason Williams. At twelve he found Bolslaw occupying the largest part of a booth in the old inn. They embraced and shook hands. Bolslaw looked impressed at Will's turnout.

'The name's William Vincent, Bolslaw, and I work for a London production company. Here's my card.'

'Thank you. So how did a London media executive get involved with the likes of my friend Hendrik?'

'A very long and complicated story,' he answered.

'Hmph. A story which had a lot to do with that sweet boy Oskar Prinz, I think. Yes?'

'Yes. But that's in the past.'

'I'm sorry to hear it. I have never seen such passion as that between you two boys. It made me wish that I was young again. I suppose that is why Oskar and Hendrik have parted company.'

Almost against his will, he had to ask, 'You haven't seen him since last summer?'

'No. He has disappeared from Strelzen. Some say he has gone to America, others that he has moved to Prague. I miss him. So beautiful. So professional. Not like the new boys, stupid and cross-eyed.'

Will dragged his mind back to business. 'Bolslaw, I need some professional help. I'm here in Strelzen managing the production of a documentary on the Elphbergs. I have to assemble a Rothenian second unit crew, catering and support team, and make links with a local casting agency. There will be a fee for you.'

'Now you're talking... Will.' He smiled, 'That is definitely your real name, pretty boy?' Will grinned. 'I'm your director and lead cameraman if you will take me?'

'Sure Bolslaw, as long as you forget you ever heard the name of Jason Williams.'

'I understand. I have some good friends who I have worked with in the past on productions. I have a portfolio, if you can tell me where to send it.'

'I'm at the Hilton.'

'Only the best for you, I see, my pretty Willemu. Now, as far as casting goes, there is only one serious agency, it is the one that Hollywood uses when they come filming spy flicks in Strelzen. I'll give you their contact number and the name of a good friend there. He will look after you.'

Will filled Bolslaw in on the project, and the old man became quite enthused. 'So you know Matthew White? My boy, you seem to collect beautiful men like a horse collects ticks!' They enjoyed their meal and talked a lot about Falkefilm, and reluctantly Will had to hear how his shooting star of a career as a porn actor had gone down. 'It is already a sell out. They're on the third impression. You naughty boys tricked the director into including clever English dialogue, and it's taken the porn world by storm. And you could act! You were so funny and natural and oh-so-very passionate. No one has seen anything like it. I really believe Hendrik would give you and Oskar half his kingdom to do a second. Have you read what the gay press is saying?'

'No. And I don't want to know. It's already meant that there are parts of London I daren't go to.' They embraced as they parted on Rodolferplaz, with a second meeting arranged for a week's time with Melanie, who had taken responsibility for costing, which seemed fair to Will. Will would authorise a handsome finder's fee for Bolslaw's help so far.

He walked the great square and watched the guard change in front of the palace. He looked around, breathed deeply and hopped a tram to the University. He had an appointment with a possible talking head from the History Department. It was disappointing. The man was Germanic and boring and would never do. As he emerged on to a familiar street lined with cafés, Will saw the half-concealed door of what he called in his head 'Oskar's Bar.' The spring afternoon was already darkening towards dusk. His feet took him through the door.

His expensive suit was desperately out of place, and it wasn't until he took off his shades, grinned at the bar maid and gave the formal Rothenian greeting that the atmosphere relaxed. She remembered him as the English boy with Oskar, whom she much regretted. She still saw his student friends from time to time, but less and less. He chatted with her about tourism blight, the euro and the deficiencies of President Maritz for quite a while, before taking a friendly leave.

Suddenly out on the dark street, Will had a bad reaction to his recent euphoria. He felt lonely in a way he never had before in Strelzen. Oskar had left, and everything had darkened in the places he had once lit up with his smile and laughter. Melancholy, like a winter mist, now chilled the places where he had been. It had been silly to think that it might be otherwise. He spent a depressed evening in the hotel after supper with Melanie and an update. He told her he was taking three days off, but she was impressed at progress so far, so she didn't mind. He watched TV, drank too much beer and fell asleep in a chair.

The next day, mildly hung over, he dressed casually and hopped the bus to the Spa. He was going to spend a Rothenian day and forget Will Vincent. He paid his money and left his clothes in the locker. No one was outside on such a fresh morning, but people were in the gyms, the inner spa pool and the tepidarium. He got naked and found a corner of his own in the indoor pool of bubbling mineral water. Like many Rothenians, he had brought a book. He was beginning to embark on the rich stream of nineteenth-century Rothenian literature. He rested his head on a plastic pillow and enjoyed the stimulation of the warm and bubbling waters. Quite a few people were around now. He found it very easy just to lie there for ages and be a Strelsener. He felt a lot better than he had the day before. After a while he left his book and clothes and moved to the tepidarium. He grinned despite himself as he remembered Oskar's warning about towels. He lay on his stomach on a slab and absorbed the damp heat.

He found himself wondering, as he often did, when it was that Oskar had finally fallen in love with him, for he knew that at the end the boy had truly loved him even though he had betrayed him. He thought that by the time of the first session with Rudi, Oskar had been uncomfortable with the trickery, but it was at Terlenehem that there was no doubt of his real feelings. The sex was neither here nor there. Oskar was truly a whore, as he had always told him he was, and he could have sex without emotion being engaged.

And how did Oskar feel now? Had he got his way in the courts? Will had done nothing to find out. Had Oskar forgotten him? His pride made him think that he would not find it easy to forget Will, but how was he really to know that? He thought he had known the boy. He had trusted him with his life, and he had destroyed it. Will had been only a pawn to him in a far bigger game, and he had been sacrificed. You could not forgive callousness on that scale, but his treacherous heart wished you could.

He dozed in the heat and the steam and felt the perspiration trickle between his buttocks. No, that was no perspiration! It was a finger tracing lightly down his crack. He looked around in alarm. He saw a pretty, nervously grinning face behind him with a finger to its lips. Felip. He sat up and his heart swelled. He was genuinely delighted to see him. He had long forgiven this man, who had redeemed himself in his eyes in the same moment as he had dislodged the stone that had swept away his relationship with Oskar in an avalanche of revelations. And the man had tried to help him, desperately and selflessly. No, Felip had been a true friend, all unacknowledged.

He sat up and looked around to see if they were observed. He smiled in Felip's relieved face. Then he closed with and hugged the other man's sweaty body, catching a hint of that same odour that had triggered his suspicions. They took hands and left the steam room. Then they dived together into the cold pool, and chased each other out again. Felip kissed him in the empty locker room as they were dressing, and they took their time over it. Where on earth was this sudden erotic passion coming from? But he felt it as much as Felip plainly did.

'You were here on scouting duty, weren't you? Rascal.'

'Will, you sound more and more like him. You've even got the Husbrauener accent. They only say "Rascal" in Husbrau.'

'I didn't know that. So were you?'

'Yes.'

'Having any luck?'

'Now yes, but until you turned up, a dead loss. It's been weeks since I had any good prospects. Hendrik has lost interest in me.' The boy looked a bit down, and his clothes were definitely shabby. 'He hasn't forgiven me for driving Oskar and you away. He found out I warned you. I'll never get another role. I've seen it happen before. You get pushed out to the margins and forgotten. One guy, a star five years ago, is a janitor now, still hoping he'll be taken back into favour.'

'Then move on, Felip.'

'Easy to say, Will. But Rothenia has thirty per cent unemployment. How do you think we find so many pretty boys willing to shag in front of cameras?'

'Come on Felip, let's go have lunch in town.'

Strelzen came alive for Will again as he travelled back on the bus into town with a handsome, laughing boy once more next to him. Felip was not as clever or quick as Oskar, but he had realised on that final night with Oskar that there was far more to Felip than he had thought. For the boy had real heart. He had tried to warn Will what was going on at Falkefilm, and had come within an ace of revealing Oskar's plans. He had recognised Will's love for Oskar and he had stood aside in a generous way. Felip had been far less of a whore than Oskar was. And Will thought too that a boy who could share his passion for Oskar had a link with him and a claim on him.

'When was the last time you ate at Ribaud's?'

'Last September. Will, this is kind, and I don't know why you are being so nice to me.'

'It's because I was not fair to you when you tried to help me, and because you once loved Oskar as much as I did.'

'And you don't mind that?'

'Now that we've both lost him? No. It makes us more than brothers, Felip. It makes us sad bastards. Welcome to the Rothenian Brotherhood of Sad Bastards. I am chairman and you are secretary.'

Felip's green eyes sparkled with laughter and tears simultaneously, 'And you are so like him, but less scary, less aloof. I was never clever enough to attract him. I bored him, I felt it.'

They held hands for a while on the empty bus, and Will began to realise the truth. He saw the look in Felip's eyes. Felip had tried to help him and stood back that night, not because of Oskar, but because he had fallen for him, Will Vincent. It gave him a shock, followed by a very warm feeling in his stomach.

Ribaud's was full, but a small bribe secured an inside table, even though Felip's dirty jeans got a sidelong look. They had a long and very ample lunch, and Will found himself chattering and laughing with Felip as he had done with no one since he had been last in Strelzen. There was a fund of quiet humour in Felip that he was only now beginning to recognise, which his defensive arrogance had once masked. Will began the long explanation of himself, and found an interested listener. So Felip learned what had brought him to Rothenia the first time, and what had happened since he had left.

'Ah, the burden of fame, Will. Now you know what it's like being Max Wolf and Marc Bennett. But at least you can avoid it in London. Here you have to make the most of it.'

'What do you mean?'

'Escort work. It pays the expenses and American gays pay a lot for an evening with Max Wolf, although he is a declining asset.'

'How long have you been doing it?'

'The past two weeks, as the season starts gearing up. But the agent takes the lion's share.'

'This must stop.'

'I've got to live, Will. I owe two months' rent.'

'There may be better ways. It's time you went legit, Felip.'

Will paid the bill, and asked Felip to accompany him to the Hilton. He rang up to Melanie and asked her to come down to reception. 'I've found you a unit translator, Melanie.' She looked intrigued and interested. 'This is Felip... do you know, I don't know your surname?'

'Felip Ignacij'

'What he says. Melanie, I want you to get him a contract and give him a month's advance.'

Felip looked bewildered, as Melanie disappeared, he hissed, 'I've never done translation before.'

'You speak good English, so what? It can't be too hard. And you know about films and stuff, from the sharp end of the camera too.'

Melanie returned with a pro forma she had got from the British Embassy for the employment of Rothenian nationals. Felip sat down at a table and filled it in. While he was doing it, Melanie said that she was impressed with Will's dedication on his day off. He shrugged. Felip pocketed the thick wad of cash with a grin, after kissing it.

After a drink, Will came to a decision. 'Will you come up to my room with me?' he asked. A nod succeeded an intense stare.

Will led Felip to his suite, closed the door behind them and took him round the waist. 'Shall we try that last scene again, Felip?'

'What scene?'

'The one with the armpit,' Felip was laughing as Will pulled his top off.

So Will found happiness once again in the city of Strelzen. It was a different sort of happiness, one that was rooted in mutual affection, not danger and excitement. He fell asleep in the arms of a loving boy who was stroking his hair and singing to him gently and beautifully in Rothenian, as Oskar never had done, and he was once again a blissfully happy man. He knew himself to be unconditionally loved for what was the first time in his life. He awoke with his heart beating high, seeing the small globes of Felip's gorgeous naked rear as he leaned out the open window looking down on the city. Will leapt out of bed grabbing a condom on the way, and he knew Felip was waiting for him to do it, even before he reached him. It was a delicious standing fuck as they groaned out their passion to the early morning city below. They coupled twice more before lunchtime. 'Are you clean, Felip?' Will whispered to his dozing lover after the second time.

'Don't know, leblen,' was the reply. 'I can't afford the test. But I've not done anything wild since the last one, especially with the Yankees. So I should be OK.'

'Then let's find out,' Will said, 'and then we can really get to know each other.'

A taxi ride brought them to the same clinic he had used before, and they were both tested, although Will knew there was little to fear in his case. He had taken care in his brief London flings. They slept together again that night, and a phone call in the morning sent Felip plunging into Will without a sheath and with a loud whoop.

In the afterglow, Will said into Felip's smiling face, 'Hello, my boyfriend.'

'Hello back, leblen Willemu. This is it isn't it?'

'This is love between two sad bastards. I love you Felip.'

'I love you Will, I loved you even before I knew it. You're Oskar without the sarcasm.'

'Let's go find us an apartment. Then we gotta get to work again. This love stuff is great, but it does get in the way of earning a living.'

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