by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 5


Lance had been seventeen when accused of murdering his headmaster and causing the death of another student. In the weeks until his final court appearance he'd had plenty of time to repent. Instead, he protested his innocence and got up the noses of more people than was wise with arrogant assertions that his father would get him off. His father, whose sole contribution had been to provide a lawyer, did not even attend the sentencing of his only offspring to life imprisonment in an adult facility.

On arrival at the jail, Lance watched in anger as his personal details were taken along with his property. Almost catatonic with embarrassment he stripped and endured a medical examination. After a shower, the prison issue clothes added insult to mental anguish. He scowled at the photographer, insulted the counsellor and couldn't think of anyone to phone. Screaming insistence that he wasn't guilty didn't prevent an identification badge being pinned to his chest. Exhausted and finally silent he was handed a small bundle of clothes and toiletries and escorted to a cell.

According to the Queensland Government website, almost all inmates in Queensland correctional centres are housed in single cells which contain a bed, shower and toilet, the cleanliness for which inmates are responsible. What no one had told Lance was that Queensland has a problem with overcrowding. At that time there were about 1400 more inmates in the eleven high-security prisons than there were cells to accommodate them.

Lance froze in the doorway.

The cell was narrow with off-white stuccoed concrete walls, a bed with a white pillow and green blanket against the right hand wall, a small, stainless steel wash-basin-toilet combination unit in the left corner against the window wall, a varnished set of open shelves containing a few clothes along the left hand wall and a small desk at the near end of the bed. Occupying almost all the floor space between the bed and the shelves was a narrow mattress with a white sheet and green blanket, the pillow hard up against the toilet bowl. On the main bed lay a solid looking man in his forties wearing the same uniform as Lance; arms under his head, expressionless eyes observing his new cellmate.

'I can't! You can't expect me to sleep on the floor. It's unhygienic! His piss will splash onto the bed.'

'Its only until we get a bunk bed screwed up.' The warder turned to the occupant. 'Greg, this is Lance. I'll leave you to show him the ropes.' He retreated, closed the door quietly and slid the bolt home.

Wide eyed in horror Lance stared at the man with whom he would be sharing this cell for the foreseeable future. Greg smiled and Lance's heart momentarily ceased pumping. It was the smile his father bestowed on customers. The smile of avarice, calculation and the certainty of profit. A smile Lance understood and imagined he knew how to deal with, so he didn't smile back.

Greg noted Lance's reaction with calm satisfaction. The scrawny kid wasn't a fool. Not the sort to make many friends. A shifty-eyed little murderer with zero bargaining power except for…

'Take my stuff out of the left hand shelves and put yours in.'

The pleasant, warm voice woke Lance from his stupor. He stared at the shelves.

'Where'll I put your gear?'

'Just stuff it on any other shelf.'

After placing his meagre possessions on the left side, Lance sank onto his hard mattress and leaned against the wall, staring at his feet.

'You're a bag of bones,' Greg said conversationally. 'Are you sick?'

'No. It's my metabolism.'

'What a big word. People don't like big words in here, they think you're trying to make them feel stupid and they'll take you down a peg.'

'I… I didn't mean anything. It's just that no matter how much I eat I don't put on weight.'

'Get any exercise?'


'Rumour has it you put your headmaster out of his misery.'

'I didn't! That was a slimy queer who set me up.'

'Yeah. Everyone's innocent in here. So you don't like queers?'

'I'd slowly slice every queer into small bits.'

'You'll fit in here then… unless…'

'Unless what?'

'Nothing. You're young and don't look very tough. So stay out of trouble.'

Lance was sweating profusely and desperately in need of the toilet. 'What sort of trouble? How?'

Greg's smile wasn't calculated to calm.

It fuelled Lance's fury. Never in his life had he been forced to take control of or responsibility for himself. His father had always been there to pick him up by the scruff of the neck, so to speak, and extricate him from the latest mess, in the process ensuring his son learned no tricks of survival other than abusing weaker people and throwing his father's money at problems. He used, abused and discarded; devoid of both fear and empathy. He shot a sudden, calculating look at the older man. 'I was told I'd be mentored. So I guess it's your job to keep me out of trouble.'

'Don't believe everything you hear.'

'I can make it worth your while.'


'My father's rich.'

'I don't need money.'

'You must need something.'

Greg's smile stirred something in Lance's guts.

'I need a shit. Don't look!'

Greg rolled onto his right elbow and gazed impassively at the toilet bowl. 'You'd better get used to doing it in front of me, not to mention guards who happen to look through the peephole.'

In agony, Lance fiddled with the unfamiliar trouser fastenings and was almost in time.

'Fuck, that sounded sloppy and sure stinks. Better check your under daks for skid marks.'

Wiping himself was even more embarrassing than doing it, and when Lance realised he'd smeared his buttocks he sagged back onto the seat, buried his head in his lap and silently cursed Greg, the prison, the world.

Greg stood over the angry young man and looked down. 'Your daks are shitty but the trousers are clean, better get them off.' He removed Lance's shoes and pulled the trousers from unresisting legs, then slipped the T-shirt over his head as if undressing a little boy.

'Come on, into the shower with you.' Greg pulled Lance to his feet, shoved him into the shower and turned on the taps.

Lance roused himself enough to adjust the temperature and had just finished washing his underpants and soaping and rinsing himself when he felt something behind him. He froze as a pair of muscled arms wrapped around his chest, trapping his arms.

'If that's what you want, tough luck,' Lance sneered, vainly attempting to extricate himself from a naked and immensely strong Greg. This needed careful thought.

'I have no intention of hurting you, or doing anything you don't want.'

'Then let me go.'

Greg released his captive and turned off the taps. 'You're a sensible bloke; I saw it the minute you walked in, so let's do a deal. I'll show you the ropes, stop people spitting in your food and knocking you around, get you fit and strong enough to take on all comers, and introduce you to useful people. In exchange…'

'You want to fuck me.'

'I've been here fifteen years with nothing but my hand for relief. Yeah, I want a body in my bed to screw, but only a willing one.'

'I'm not willing and I'm not queer.'

'Neither am I. Having sex with another man isn't queer—it's just sex—no more and no less. It's what men without women have done since the beginning of time. Queer is thinking and acting like a woman, or having sex with someone who behaves like that. If I thought you were queer I wouldn't touch you with a barge pole. I'm a man and proud of it and assumed you were too. Seems I misjudged.'

'Oh very funny. And how often do you want to shove your non-queer fat cock up my arse?'

'As often as I feel like. Think of it as a business proposition. You'll be protected, won't have to sleep on the floor at risk of being pissed on, you'll be under the guidance of an experienced fitness trainer who's respected, and in return all you have to do is willingly offer your scrawny body. Think about it.' He turned the hot tap on full, dried and dressed and left the cell to join his mates in the yard.

Lance narrowly avoided being scalded, dressed, sat on his mattress and thought about his last year at school when he'd got Mandy and another girl to prostitute themselves for drugs. He'd told them it was just sex and didn't mean anything. Nor did it mean anything when he had fucked them. Although he'd enjoyed it more when his mates were watching. Made him feel powerful. And, he admitted with a slight internal blush, he'd quite liked the feel of being held by Greg in the shower. It was the first time since… He couldn't remember how long, that he'd felt safe. Perhaps. No rush. He'd see what happened.

The exercise yard was the size of a small tennis court and precious little exercise was going on. He stood pressed against a wall watching Greg shooting goals through a sagging hoop with half a dozen tattooed, muscled, shirtless men. A variety of others were standing around, talking, doing nothing, squatting against the wall muttering, looking as depressed as he felt. It wasn't a pleasant atmosphere. Above, guards were silhouetted in their stations. The basketball suddenly slammed into his head and knocked him to the ground. He looked across and Greg was laughing with the others. At dinner he was jostled in the queue so lost most of his food onto the floor. What was left disappeared when he turned to see who was pushing him. When he went for more they'd run out. Greg was sitting with the men who'd caused him to go hungry.

Locked in their cell that night, Lance sat on his hard mattress in his underpants and stared up at Greg who was reading. 'Ok,' he said quietly.

'Ok what?'

'I'll do what you want.'

'You haven't understood, Lance, it isn't what I want. I'm perfectly happy as I am, apart from one small thing—it's what you want.'

'You can fuck me.'

'You're a disgusting whore and have understood nothing.' Greg turned on his side away from Lance and turned a page.

Wisely controlling an urge to hit the older man, Lance swallowed and said words he could never have imagined uttering only hours before. 'Greg, I want to sleep in your bed so you can have sex with me.'

'You want me to fuck you up the arse?'

'Yes please.'

'Mmm.' He pulled a face as if considering the request. 'Ok. On condition that if you ever give anyone, anywhere, in or out of this place the slightest indication that we're more than normal cellmates, then you'll wish you'd never been born.'

'What about condoms?'

'Queensland doesn't issue them because they reckon it encourages sodomy. But I'm as clean as a whistle, according to every medical report. What about you?'

Lance shook his head. 'I'm healthy, never had an STD, always wore condoms.'

Greg nodded and raised the sheet, exposing an impressive erection.

Lance stripped and slid nervously in beside him.

Greg took care to prepare his bedmate properly, so it hurt much less than Lance expected, and then only for a short while.

Two days later a bunk bed was screwed above Greg's, which was useful for storing things, and left the floor free for press-ups and other fitness exercises that Lance hoped would turn him into someone to be feared.

Their contract was never spoken of, and never broken; both intuitively appreciating the mental/spiritual strength to be gained from having regular intimate contact with another human. Lance never found the act itself pleasant, but he did enjoy sharing his bed and body with no complications. Neither asked themselves whether they liked or disliked each other, the question was irrelevant. They'd discovered a mutually beneficial way to share a tiny cell without fighting, and that was all that mattered.

Thanks to Greg's training, Lance became lean instead of scrawny, visibly strong, lethally adept at irregular fighting, and utterly ruthless. The poverty of the other inmates caused by criminally low benefits and increasing cost of prison provender, enabled him to use his relative wealth to make several potentially useful contacts, as well as three cringing dependents prepared to do literally anything for a handout.

The week after their second anniversary Greg was transferred to another prison. Neither shed any tears. Lance was allocated a single cell, and his father made his first visit, bringing news of an appeal the lawyer was convinced would succeed. Despite being visibly proud of Lance's obvious fitness, health and mental adjustment, Mr. Osbairne left in some disquiet at the transformation of his gormless son into a hard, sharp, cunning, cold and self-contained individual who never let his guard down. Perhaps, he thought traitorously as he drove away, it might be better if he remains in prison.

Arnold bit the bullet and bravely faced his wife the morning after his second night in the arms of Fidel. The pair went early to the house before his wife left for work. She was in the kitchen when they walked in, gave them a cursory glance and returned to boiling an egg.

'I'm moving out and will get divorce papers this afternoon,' Arnold said as if he was going for a game of squash with friends.

She turned with a sneer. 'Who's this? Your boyfriend?'

'I'm not a boy, but I am a friend,' Fidel said coolly. 'Which is more than can be said of a wife who laughs with her friends at photos she'd stolen from her husband's phone.'

'Why you slimy little…' she was speaking to an empty room; the young men were busy removing everything personal that would fit into Arnold's little Mazda and the Karim's station wagon. Without another word to the wife, they left, Arnold to work, and Fidel home to garage the car before jogging to school, several hours late.

That evening Arnold was suitably impressed with the 3Vs fitness club, especially the second part when the participants expressed their creativity. Afterwards, Fidel and Bart gave him a tour of the old warehouse including the parts of the gym that were still in use. Arnold fell in love with the place.

'So much space, so many possibilities and in such a brilliant location only a block from the river. This building has huge potential,' he declared. 'You have to buy it, Bart.'

'I think they're asking about five million.'

'So much?'

'And that's only for the site. They'll knock the existing structure down, build luxury apartments and quadruple their money. This area's moving up market.'

'That will be a crime against historically significant architecture and quality construction. This place will last a thousand years it's so well built.'

Later, in Fidel's flat, the four friends shared fish and chips and discussed the immediate future. Robert had telephoned his parents and gained permission for Arnold to stay with Fidel until they returned. But then they'd prefer to have the place to themselves again. Fidel was welcome to stay if he had nowhere to go, 'But please be diplomatic, Robert', Monique had insisted. 'We love Fidel. Without him we'd never have been able to go away for so long, so...'

Robert had assured them of his diplomacy, but it wasn't necessary. Fidel was pleased they'd prefer to be alone because he'd decided to become independent as soon as school finished, and had worried that the Karims would want him to stay. Arnold sat speechless with astonishment at their generosity and trust, letting him stay with Fidel.

'I won't impose on their generosity for long; I'm looking for a cheap flat and handing in my resignation. I have to give a few weeks' notice.'

'What'll you do for money?'

'I've saved a fair bit, my ex and I have separate bank accounts and we've been renting, so no worries there.'

'Does she know about your savings?'


'Then I suggest you don't resign until after the divorce comes through and you've found alternative work—jobs are like hens' teeth. You never know what tricks your wife will play to get more out of you than she deserves. If you're still a cop she might think twice, whereas if you're unemployed and vulnerable she could get nasty, knowing you wouldn't have the cash to take on a court case.'

Arnold nodded agreement. 'You're right. Despite having a pre-nuptial agreement, a mate's wife sued him for twice as much as agreed on, and succeeded. He's totally gutted, sharing a crappy little flat with a bloke he hates.'

'Well I'm going to get a job the minute school's finished, Fidel declared, 'and find a flat so Monique and Sanjay can enjoy the peace here when they get home.'

'We can shack up together,' Arnold suggested.

'Till you get sick of me.'

'Or the other way round.'

'You're safe as long as you don't get fat.'

Robert was laughing. 'That should spur you on to continue with the gym. It's odd that there's no requirement for a certain level of fitness in the police force.'

'Cops on the front line are mostly poor white trash, bigoted, homophobic, racist and so full of their white supremacist crap they reckon they're the crème de la crème no matter what state their body's in.'

'That explains it; cream is ninety percent saturated fat.'

'Oh very good, Robert.' Arnold turned to Bart. 'Please Bart, take over the gym so I can join and become as young and slim and gorgeous as you.'

'Not possible, I'm afraid,' Bart laughed. 'I'm already two years older than you, but you're welcome to come until it's sold.'

The weeks zipped by. In their limited spare time the four young men went to the beach, to concerts and shows, dancing—which Arnold embraced as enthusiastically as Fidel, and on sunny weekends occasionally joined a group at a private rural property with bush walks, a stream and swimming pool.

Fidel's logo for the 3Vs club was both artistic and classy, and membership grew quicker than expected, mainly married men in their thirties and above who were finding it increasingly stressful to remain true to their masculine instincts while accommodating their wife's female imperatives. No one objected to contributing towards expenses, and a small group was formed to manage subscriptions and arrange the space. The four friends were the only men who identified as same-sex-oriented, but that meant little, apparently. According to Robert, a survey of male sexuality going the rounds at university showed large numbers of so-called straights enjoyed cuddles and more with their male friends. Bro-mates, they called themselves.

Sales of new apartments had taken a dive, especially those at the top of the range. Hundreds were lying empty, so demolishing another old building to build yet another tower for the wealthy had become less attractive to speculators looking for a quick profit. Thus, the gym continued as a gym, with Bart responsible for doing and arranging just about everything, Fidel part time cleaner, and several ageing occasional instructors.

Robert's university awarded him a degree without honours. Fidel scraped a pass in his final exam. Arnold's divorce came through and he handed in his resignation. To celebrate he bought himself a lottery ticket and found a cramped, somewhat insanitary apartment in Fortitude Valley.

When the Karims arrived home to a house and garden neater, cleaner and fresher than the one they left, they were so delighted they doubled Fidel's bonus and would not accept his refusal. It was timely because even though he had moved in with Arnold, renting was more expensive than he'd anticipated, and permanent jobs were proving elusive for both.

One evening Fidel arrived home determinedly cheerful, despite creeping despair, to be greeted by a grin that threatened to split Arnold's face. He shoved a piece of paper at his boyfriend, unable to speak.

Fidel read it and his face fell open in stupefaction. 'You've won fifty-five million dollars,' he whispered. 'Is it true? Not a hoax?'

'It's true. I phoned and we're to go and collect it tomorrow. I asked for privacy—don't want anyone knowing, so they promised no newspapers or other shit.'

'Thank goodness you're divorced, otherwise your wife would get at least half.'

'If not all! The legal system's so fucking biased towards women; she'd claim I'd bashed her or something and be granted the lot in compensation!'

By two o'clock the following afternoon, Arnold's bank balance was enviable and they were wondering what to do with it.

'I still don't really believe it. I'm frightened to move in case I wake up. What'll I do with all that filthy lucre?'

'Buy Bart's gym.'

'You wouldn't think I was stupid?'

'You'd be stupid not to. You've been regaling me with so many great ideas for it. Come on, lets go tell the others.'

To celebrate, Arnold shouted his three friends to dinner, and then because of rave reviews, took them to a club on the south side of the river. It was noisy and the dance floor crowded, but they were too excited to go home, so waited for the late floorshow that the management promised would be very, very special.

It was indeed a very special fifteen minutes.

Accompanied by a strong, sexual beat, a slim youth in a pair of faded jeans, long-sleeved white shirt, leather moccasins and a cute cap, suddenly appeared in front of them, smiled shyly and began a sinuous dance. If he'd left it there he'd have been a sensation, but slowly, sexily and sweetly he tossed off his shoes, then removed his shirt to expose a skin-hugging tank top. The dance became sultry as jeans disappeared revealing skimpy running shorts. When they were casually tossed aside, electric blue Speedos set the audience laughing and clapping along with the beat. The dance then entered a more overtly erotic phase and cheers erupted when the tank top followed the other garments to disclose a slim but powerfully muscled torso, neat belly button and tiny erect nipples.

Stamping and clapping greeted the expert jettisoning of the speedo that had concealed a pale blue, well-filled thong. Long, glossy, straight black hair tumbled to the youth's shoulders when the cap was tossed onto the heap of the other clothes as the dance continued, the music swelled and the sinuous body glistening with sweat continued it's breathtakingly energetic moves. Suddenly the thong disappeared and the dancer froze, arms rigidly aloft, stark naked, hairless, satiny smooth and magnificently erect on the tiny stage surrounded by one hundred and eighty-seven mesmerised strangers. A charmingly wicked grin accompanied the finale—a jaw-dropping ejaculation that reached his closest admirers and would be talked about for decades.

The cheers seemed as if they would never stop but Fidel was suddenly deaf. His heart hammered enough to burst. Without stopping to think he forced his way around to the rear of the stage only to find his way barred by a large man.

'I have to see the dancer,' he pleaded.


'I… I just have to he…'

His distress was so great the bouncer, if that's what he was, spoke kindly. 'Sorry, mate, but Mort's given strict instructions, no fans. He's probably already gone home. Hang on, I'll check.'

He returned almost immediately. 'Yeah, he's taken off.'

'When will he be here again?'

'Never, that's his last show for us.'

'Do you know how I can contact him?'

'No idea.'

The fellow returned backstage and Fidel returned to his friends, explaining that he thought he recognised the dancer and wanted to tell him how great he was. The others pretended they bought the lie, Fidel calmed, they danced a little, then returned to Bart and Robert's place for a nightcap.

'I'm not going to be able to sleep,' Arnold announced, 'until we've had a serious discussion about the money. I want to give you some.'

'Well, we don't want it, so forget that!' Bart snapped with what Fidel thought was unnecessary indignation.

Arnold looked at the other two who shook their heads in agreement with Bart. He shrugged. 'Ok, that's off the agenda. The point is, I want to buy that building and the gym and make something of it. I've been bending Fidel's ears, now I want to bend yours… unless you want to go to bed?'

Robert grinned. 'Actually, I do want to practice a few things with Bart that I thought of while watching that stripper. But you can have half an hour, is that Ok with you, Bart?'

'Twenty-nine minutes tops. Fire away oh multimillionaire.'

'I don't know anything about buying property, running a business. You name it I don't know about it, so I hoped you three would become partners in this venture. I've been running ideas through my head for weeks now, and got it all sorted. Robert, you know a bit about finance and that sort of stuff, so I'd like you to work out your salaries and contracts and things, and also handle the buying of the property and all the money stuff. Bart, you're a dab hand at teaching and fitness so I want you to choose gear, employ and manage the new gym. Fidel, you're the most artistically organised person I've ever met, so you can help me work out what we need, how the place should look, where to get stuff, how to advertise and so on. Sort of project manager, and I'll be…'

'The pasha with the whip.'

'Yeah, something like that. What do you say?'

'I'd say this is all a bit quick. Have you thought it through? You're not acting with undue haste and all that?'

Fidel laughed. 'Hardly, Robert! It's all he's talked about and planned for weeks, its always the same, nothing's going to change, it's what Arnold wants and he's going to do it, with or without us.'

'Thanks, Fidel.' Arnold turned a worried face to the others. 'He's right. I can't think of anything else I want to do with the money, so please take me seriously and think about it.'

'Arnold, you're a precious jewel. It sounds a fabulous idea. Fabulous in the original sense. So let's go to bed and lie awake in nervous excitement worrying that tomorrow morning at the gym when we can put in your offer to purchase, no one else has already signed the papers.'

'Don't frighten me Robert! Right. We're off then. See you first thing tomorrow.'

In bed that evening Arnold snuggled up to Fidel, nuzzled his neck and whispered, 'Ok, the truth please. Who was that stripper and why did you run after him in such a state?'

'You noticed then.' Fidel frowned, wondering what to say. When he looked up it was with a strangely sad expression. 'I didn't know the guy, but suddenly I was reminded of my brother. I've no idea why; they aren't that similar to look at. But there was something about his joy in living… his enthusiasm that almost stopped me breathing and I wanted to speak to him. Lucky I couldn't because I've no idea what I'd have said.'

'What's your brother's name?'

'Hylas. He's fourteen. I haven't seen him for three years. I write every month, but he never replies. I'm pretty sure my mother has something to do with that. She hates me.'

'What haven't you gone to see him?'

'I can't go back while she's there.'

'You love him, don't you?'

'Yeah. Yes, I do. He loves me too. I just…' he sniffed. 'Sorry, Arnold. I really can't talk about it. I feel so sick and helpless when I think about him… hoping he's Ok. But thanks for asking.'

A strange heaviness dragged at Arnold's heart as he hugged and consoled his lover, wondering how long he had.

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