by George Gauthier

Chapter 2


Looking quite pleased with himself, Will Laurier announced to me and our two lovers that he was now a licensed pilot, wings and all.

"Does this mean you are going to fly Dyson's helicopter or even his private jet." I asked.

"Neither. Dyson is selling the chopper. It's his personal autogyro that I will be flying. It's a two seater. "

"I guess I am showing my ignorance, but what is an autogyro?" Paolo asked.

"It's a cross between a helicopter and a winged aircraft. Like a helicopter it gets lift from a rotor spinning overhead but one which is not under power but spins freely. Additional lift comes from stubby wings while a pusher propeller in the rear provides motive power."

"So what makes the rotor spin if it isn't powered?" Paolo wondered.

"As the propeller pushes the autogyro forward, the air flowing past pushes against the blades and spins them, providing the same lift as with a helicopter. The rotation of the rotor blades soon reach a steady speed at which drag and thrust forces are in balance."

"In either case, if a chopper or autogyro loses power, it can autorotate safely to the ground so there is no need for parachutes."

"Oh, I get it now. It's like that gyrocopter which landed on the grounds of the US Capitol a few years ago. The pilot flew under the radar and got arrested for his trouble, but they really should have thanked him for the wake-up call about a weakness in the Capitol's security."

"Maybe so, but my point is that autogyro and gyrocopter are two names for the same thing."

"Why get rid of the helicopter?" Kyle wondered. "Is Dyson economizing?"

"Hardly. Autogyros are mechanically simpler and quicker to prep for takeoff and require far less maintenance. The controls are simpler, just a stick called the cyclic, rudder pedals, and a throttle but no collective which controls the power to the blades in a chopper."

"Though they cannot take off vertically their takeoff run is just a few yards and they roll to a landing is about one length of the aircraft. They don't need a runway only reasonably firm ground and enough clearance for the rotor. They fly pretty slow, like a hundred twenty MPH, but that is faster than a car and they never run into traffic. Also they are incredibly agile in the air and much quieter than a helicopter."

"Another plus is that by stepping down the masts we can just fit both autogyros in the cargo hold of Dyson's executive jet. So he will always have his own local transport wherever he goes, whatever the terrain. The only impediment to local travel would be the weather."

"Why two such aircraft?" I asked, though I had pretty much guessed.

"It's for his other bodyguards. Dyson never travels with fewer than three counting me. Especially not after those two strenuous attempts on his life last year."

"Are the autogyros armed" Paolo wondered.

"No, though both autogyros are equipped with modest countermeasures like flares and electronic jammers. It is the passengers who are armed, all of us. Now Dyson and I are normally satisfied with handguns, but if we have to, we can take out semi-automatic assault rifles from the arms locker aboard. Also, our flight jumpers are made of the same ballistic and fire retardant cloth as my suits."

"So this new assignment makes you Dyson's pilot as well as personal secretary, close-in bodyguard, and boyfriend. Does the new responsibility come with a bump in pay?"

"The privilege of flying an autogyro is all the compensation I need, believe me. Besides, Dyson already pays me very well indeed. Not to brag, but I am sure I earn more than the three of you put together. It is only my natural modesty which keeps me from mentioning the exact amount, but I can say that it is in the low six figures. Ahem!"

We did not know it at the time, but Dyson had set up a trust fund for Will in case he were injured and could no longer work especially if something happened to Dyson himself. (As a billionaire Dyson was entirely self-insured in his personal capacity.)

Will was not just Dyson's employee but his lover as well and what a lover Will was: still under twenty-five, beautifully blond, imperially slim, intelligent, well-read, courageous, loyal, and gangbusters in bed as I could well testify. I counted myself fortunate that Dyson was willing to share Will with me and Paolo. Quite a guy that Franklin Dyson.

"So can we get a demo flight?" Paolo asked.

"Oh, I think that can be arranged." Will said confidently.

As so it was. We boys were thrilled to go up in an aircraft that needed almost no takeoff run and hardly any landing roll. Its open cockpit made for a unique flying experience. You hardly felt you were inside a aircraft at all but were seated on a magic carpet. Will was careful to avoid fancy maneuvers which might make his passengers lose their lunch, but we still got to appreciate the agility of his new flying machine. It could take off or land almost anywhere; a driveway was as good as a runway.

Dyson actually owned three autogyros. The two which were transportable in his executive jet had open cockpits and seated two in a tandem configuration. The third one was larger, had an enclosed cockpit with seating side by side for two, with a six-bladed tractor propeller up front. It was permanently based at his estate for local use.

Will added:

"What Dyson really would like if he had his druthers is an electrically powered autogyro, one he could recharge at any EV charging station. Ideally it would be equipped with ducted fans instead of a propeller. The combination of electric power and fan propulsion would make it far quieter than current autogyros which can be noisy though the crash helmets block much of the engine and prop noise. Unfortunately an electric ducted machine with any real range is still a few years away. Needless to say I would dearly love to fly one."

Fine Dining

Only hosts in French restaurants can match sommeliers at upscale restaurants for haughtiness and snobbishness, as we found out for ourselves the evening Dyson took us to all to dinner. By all of us I mean Will, myself, Paolo and Kyle.

The occasion was the third anniversary of Will's coming into Dyson's life initially as his lover and only later as bodyguard and personal secretary. Dyson had been so careful for years before then not to let anyone get too close to him. Having been burned in earlier relationships he had come to suspect everyone of ulterior motives.

With Will though it was soon apparent that he cared little for money save that he had enough for his comforts and modest needs. Mutual respect soon gave way to something more. Moved beyond measure by Will's beauty, courage, intelligence, and loyalty Dyson fell in love. For his part, Will responded to Dyson's masculinity in much the way I did to Zeus, with fervor. Their teaming up in the fight in the hedge maze against the assassins made them comrades in arms as well.

The reservations at the La Joconde were made in Will's name not Dyson's the better to gauge the level of service anyone might expect. Sure enough, as we entered and Dyson paused to chat with a friend he had spotted on the way in, the maitre d' frowned at the four obviously gay young males who stepped up to his station.

Our clothes alone marked us a being below the salt. Will wore a suit which buttoned almost up to the knot of his tie which would not have looked out of place in the Edwardian Age save that it was made of a tough ballistic fabric. Paolo was dressed in quite a decent suit -- for a cop. I too was no fashion plate nor was Kyle.

"The Laurier party". Will told him, only to draw a frown.

"Excuse me young sir, but slim as you are it is hard for even that well-tailored suit to conceal a hidden firearm. And I see that the Italian boy is carrying concealed as well. Please leave at once before I am forced to call the police."

"I am the police," Paolo told him flashing his badge. "As for Mr. Laurier, as both a bodyguard and a LEO, he is fully licensed to carry concealed."

"A policeman and a bodyguard, and what are you" he asked me.

"Oh me? I am a nude model and pole dancer." I told him mischievously. "And our friend here is a grad student."

"No offense but young gentlemen such as yourselves could hardly afford the prices at La Joconde which reflect not only the quality of the food and the sumptuous appointments but are set high enough to discourage riffraff and celebrity hounds. To confirm your reservation I would need your credit card. It had better not be Visa or MasterCard. Those are for peasants. We take only American Express."

Will looked over at us incredulous. Shaking his head he flashed the coveted American Express Centurion Card, familiarly known as the Black Card. Usually Will had only to display the black card to ensure prompt, courteous, or even obsequious service. Not this time.

"How do I know that you are really the person whose name is on that card?" he practically sneered. Just then, Dyson walked up.

"Is there a problem?"

"Not at all sir. It is just that I suspect that I am dealing with an imposter. Just let me get rid of these young bravos and..."

"You'll do no such thing. These four young men are with me. Seat us at once. "

"So are you the M. Laurier who made the reservation and not the blond boy?"

"No, he is indeed Will Laurier my personal secretary, and that really is a Black Card he is holding. My name is Dyson, Franklin Dyson. Perhaps you have heard the name? Or will you insist on ID-ing me as well?"

Just then a distinguished looking gentlemen stepped forward.

"I'll take it from here, Henri" he told the maitre d' in a severe tone. Henri skedaddled.

"Let me introduce myself. My name is Joseph Graves; I am the owner. I won't ask you to forgive my man Henri, who has let the exclusiveness of our establishment go to his head. Henri or Henry to use his real name is just a working stiff whom I have had occasion before to reprove for this very reason."

"He has now crossed the line in a most egregious manner. Even if someone cannot not afford our admittedly inflated prices, we should turn them away courteously not lord it over them much less sneer at them as peasants. This is America."

"Now is this a celebratory dinner, Mr. Dyson?"

"As a matter of fact it is."

"In that case let me offer your party two bottles of a fine champagne, on the house, for the trouble we caused you."

"That is very gracious of you. Thank you."

With that we sat down to one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The service was impeccable, aside from Henri of course.

The waiter's French accent was real not put on, something which we realized when Graves privately filled him in on what had happened with Henri. Graves spoke impeccable Parisian French while Michel responded in that same language but with an unmistakable flat Quebecois accent. Only Kyle did not catch on to what they said. He was limited to tourist French though his German was excellent, and his Chinese pretty good.

Handsome though he was, Michel was straight, but the cute busboy in the tight pants was definitely one of us. A visual delight even if we hardly exchanged a word with the boy.

The three of us, Kyle, Paolo, and I were happy for Will and Dyson, two souls who had been lucky to find each other in this topsy turvy world of ours. Each was supremely competent and confident in his own sphere which was why their collaboration had been so successful.

We kept our conversation at the table light, speaking about a variety of subjects, thankfully none of which was spectator sports which bore me to tears. If I am not a participant, I simply don't care for sports. It seems we were all fans of murder mysteries, both in books and on screen, but that conversation had barely got started before the dinner drew to a close. While looking at the desert menu, Kyle raised an interesting point.

"So why is this restaurant called La Joconde, which is French, but the menu features a reproduction of Leonardo's portrait of the Mona Lisa, and why is her name spelled here with two Ns as Monna Lisa?" Kyle asked.

That brought a naughty grin to Paolo's face.

"Because with a single N, the word is a vulgarity in the Italian language, a crude reference to the female genitalia. So be sure to pronounce both Ns. That makes it a polite contraction of Ma Donna, meaning my lady. Like the singer."

That surprised everyone else except myself. Dyson shook his head ruefully.

"I'll never be able to look at that picture again in quite the same way."

"In that case," I offered, why don't you just refer to the portrait as La Joconde. It's the usual name in French. Remember, Leonardo's patron King Francois I of France acquired the painting after Leonardo's death. It has the property of the French state ever since. La Joconde is cognate with the Italian version La Gioconda. Both mean 'jocund', a reference to her enigmatic smile and also a pun on the feminine form of the model's married name, Giocondo."

Paolo offered his own suggestion:

"Or you can simply pronounce both Ns in Monna Lisa, so Mon Na not Mo na. Got it? In Italian double consonants are always pronounced, otherwise you might say the wrong word entirely. For example, in Italian the word for year is anno, two Ns. With only one N, it is the word for the orifice at the nether end of the alimentary canal, the anus."

"Anyway, I think the subject of Troy's portrait sketch by a Leonardo wannabe is far more beautiful than any lady, however enigmatic her smile."

"Indeed," Dyson agreed. "How ever did you come by that sketch?"

I shrugged. "I got it in exactly the same way as your gift of the statue of a gladiator, from an admirer who was struck by its resemblance to yours truly. It was not anyone you would know, someone from another life."

"There he goes again," Kyle noted.

"All mysterious about his background. I am beginning to suspect that his air of mystery is just cover for utterly prosaic origins. It would not surprise me if our Troy had been born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of an insurance salesman."

"I am actually the son of an auto mechanic from Hackensack, New Jersey." I countered facetiously.

The sketch was one of the rare mementos I had managed to save over a lifetime filled with reversals of fortune. I still had it only because I had stored it in the vault of a Swiss bank during World War II when I fled gathering war clouds in Europe to a sanctuary in Argentina.

At La Joconde no server introduced himself with his preferred pronouns, a practice Dyson loathed. If woke people insisted on using the wrong pronouns to refer to themselves, that was largely their business, but they had to accept the consequences of confusing and annoying those spoken to. Insisting that their interlocutors follow suit was an intolerable imposition and infringement on the autonomy of everyone they came into contact with.

We had all heard Dyson grumble about this.

"That impertinent fellow can choose his own words all he wants, but he cannot force his choices on me. Only I choose the words which I speak, whether nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. And if I split an infinitive or dangle a participle, that is my business too and no one else's."

"Don't you realize that this is about civil rights?" some Woke jerk challenged him.

"Of course it is about civil rights, my civil right to speak freely without constraint. Besides, with you woke types it's really a power dynamic, one to which I will not yield. So get lost."

And with Franklin Dyson being who he was, genius, billionaire, and philanthropist if not quite a playboy, not to mention a man who was not above doing his own killing if he had to, that was that.


It was high summer so we boys went windsurfing on a recreational lake ten miles out of town, that is me, Paolo, and Kyle. Will was on a business trip to Mexico protecting his principal Franklin Dyson.

I much prefer natural lakes to water impoundments behind dams. Regardless of whether the water goes for domestic use, flood control, navigation, or irrigation, the water level of impoundments fluctuates far more that in natural bodies of water from intentional draw downs. Hence the sandy or rocky bathtub rings characteristic of such impoundments.

Although the name implies that windsurfing is a combination of sailing and surfing, the reality is that windsurfers avoid surf entirely and prefer flat water. That is why the alternate names of sailboarding or the reverse, boardsailing, are more descriptive. Now on water you cannot get going as fast as in ice sailing, but you can still move at a pretty good clip.

In windsurfing, the motive force is the wind which pushes a sail, not the push of a breaking wave aided by gravity. We stuck with regular windsurfing boards rather than exotic variations like surfboards equipped with hydrofoils. The triangular sail towers over the rider and is transparent so he can see where he is going. Battened sails provide greater stability in stronger winds, but we were using beginners' sails without battens.

I had only recently introduced Paolo and Kyle to the sport of windsurfing. As new as they were to sailing of any kind, they had quickly gotten the hang of it, a reflection of their natural athleticism. Windsurfing was also a chance to display and show off that athleticism. A board rider's whole body is taut and tense, the muscles of the arms and shoulders straining to hold on to and guide the sail, the legs slightly bent and flexing with the movement of the board.

Now as much as we three liked to show off our sexy bodies, windsurfing was not an occasion to indulge our exhibitionism. Kyle and I wore Speedos, solid brown and blue respectively. Our own Speedos, mine and Kyles', covered less of our physiques than board shorts though they provided sufficient coverage of the manly parts to preserve modesty.

Paolo wore a pair of form fitting tan-thru shorts looking much like boxer briefs the better to work on his tan. Tan-thru cloth is very thin and is as much perforations as fabric. It is only the colorful patterns printed on the cloth which fool the eye and conceals the nude youth beneath. Nevertheless, the way those shorts hugged Paolo's slender physique was flattering in the extreme. Not that Paolo flaunted himself. Not the way I like to do.

I should mention that the black and blue pattern on Paolo's shorts coincidentally matched the black and blue bruises on his chest, the result of a pair of recent gunshot wounds which fortunately had not penetrated his protective vest.

And thereby hangs a tale.


Pulling up in their police cruiser to the scene of a holdup at a jewelry store, Paolo and Sergeant Delaney deployed and covered the doorway thereby cornering the robber in the store. He must have been new to the game. A pro would have cleared out sooner, making sure to flee before the silent alarm could bring cops to the scene.

In desperation, the young hoodlum took a hostage, pointing a pistol at a customer, a pretty woman in her twenties.

"Don't come any closer." he yelled to the cops. "I am getting out of here. Clear a path to that blue SUV outside and let me drive off. I will let the girl go when I am in the clear."

This was not Delaney's first hostage situation.

"Sorry, but we cannot do that. You need to surrender. So far no one has really been hurt. If you give up now, you won't face a charge of kidnapping, only armed robbery. You gotta realize that if anything happens to your hostage like during a high speed chase, that will be on you. She dies in a crash and its felony murder at least, maybe even murder two."

"If you cops let me go and skip the high speed chase, there won't be any crash. Once I am in the clear, I will just let the girl go. She won't be of any use to me then anyway."

"High speed chase or not, you could never get into the clear. That SUV of yours can't outrun a police helicopter or a drone, can it? The smart move for you now is to surrender before anyone starts shooting, you or us."

"No way I am going to prison. If you try to take me, I will shoot my hostage then shoot my way into the clear. I don't really want to kill anyone; I am not a bad person, so don't force me to do it. You need to stand down and let me pass. In fact get rid of those guns so I know you won't shoot me in the back when I try to leave."

"Oh, I get it, "Delaney began facetiously. "It's like in the movies where the bad guy orders the cops to throw their guns down or the girl dies."

"That's exactly right," the scared robber shouted back excitedly.

"Throw your guns down or the girl dies."

Delaney's reply was something the robber never expected.

"So she dies. Better her than me...or rather us...Uh, nothing personal Miss."

That brought a squawk from the robber.

"What the hell? You're the cops. You're supposed to be the good guys."

"I am going to let my young partner explain it to you. He went through the academy only a few years ago so it should still be fresh in his mind. So Constable, what does the book say about hostage situations?"

That was Paolo's cue to recite:

"Policy is that that the Department never allows a perpetrator to leave the scene with a hostage. It would also be out of policy to surrender our own weapons much less allow ourselves to be taken hostage."

"Gangway! I'm getting outta here."

The robber headed out the door holding his hostage as a shield.

Delaney shook his head and told him:

"Seriously? You really think a big strapping fellow such as yourself can take cover behind a slip of a gal like that? Why you are head and shoulders taller."

Delaney's taunt panicked the robber who fired several poorly aimed shots in his direction. Fortunately the senior constable had taken cover behind the front of his police cruiser using its motor as a shield. Meanwhile his junior counterpart Constable Franco that is Paolo, had made his way to the side to set up a better angle of fire, though he had only a bollard for cover. The robber's panicky shots at Delaney gave Paolo an opportunity since it meant that the perp's gun momentarily pointed neither at the hostage nor at Paolo.

The young constable aimed for the legs rather than center of mass, lower than he normally would have absent a hostage. His first shot inflicted a flesh wound to the calf, the next shattered the gunman's shin, while the third missed entirely. Unable to stand the robber crumpled to the pavement, but even as he fell he emptied his pistol at Paolo who took two hits to his protective vest. Another bullet pinged off the bollard.

That left the robber both wounded and temporarily out of bullets. Before he could reload, Delaney rushed forward and cuffed him then called for an ambulance.

Now both law enforcement officers had risked their lives to attract the gunman's attention and draw fire toward themselves and away from his hostage. So you would think that the young lady would be properly grateful for the rescue.


"You bastards! You would have let me die rather than risk your own miserable lives. You're cowards, that's what you are, cowards, the both of you."

Delaney shook his head.

"No way!" he declared, then explained:

"Cowards would have let that gunman drive off with you in his car. If he had tried to run a roadblock you both likely would have died in a hail of bullets. Instead you are unharmed because we, my partner and I, made ourselves the targets for the gunman's fire. Now let me look after him. He is the one who got hurt, not you."

On the ride to the hospital, Delaney confided that he had always deplored hostage scenes in the movies. He hoped for the day when a script would have a movie cop respond exactly as he had. With a gleeful and self-congratulatory tone he added:

"The truth is Franco that I have always wanted to say that. And now I have."

"Don't make me laugh, Sarge," Paolo pleaded. "Those shots may not have penetrated my vest, but they hurt like hell."

Paolo likened the impact from the bullets to the kick of a mule though the young constable was just repeating a common phrase. He had never come close to a mule much less been kicked by one.

"Breathe slowly," Delaney advised, and laid a hand reassuringly on Paolo's shoulder.

Delaney's own bruises were long gone, but he knew exactly how Paolo felt.

All of the action was caught on their body cameras, which made the young woman look ungracious and ungrateful. No one who watched the video thought Delaney and Franco were cowards. Indeed their courage won them commendations. By then the hostage had had time to reflect and agreed that she had been quite wrong about her rescuers.

Meanwhile, several blocks downrange, a raccoon which had attacked the family cat and retreated up a tree to get away from a teen who charged it with a baseball bat, suddenly cried out in pain and fell to the ground dead. Forensics later matched the bullet which killed the animal to the gunman's pistol. It was the only fatality from the incident.

Watching the video, Mama and Papa Franco couldn't help but cry out as their son staggered from the impact of bullets which might easily have ended his life save for his vest. That said, they were also very proud of him and very glad that he had been teamed up with a veteran like Sergeant Delaney.

Paolo did indulge himself in a few moments of false modesty of the "Aw shucks, it wasn't much" variety. We all assured him that it very much was a big deal.

Paolo hoped that this was the last time he got into a firefight in the line of duty. Most cops never had to fire their weapons for real much less kill anyone. Still, officers never knew whether they might have to face someone intent on committing suicide by cop. Also a normal traffic stop might easily escalate into violence for any number of reasons.

It was all part of the job. Paolo folks could take some comfort from the fact the job of a police officer was a lot less risky than many occupations. The fatality rate for police officers is fully ten times less that for crews of fishing boats plying the oceans. The rates for loggers, roofers, and construction workers are lower than that but still several times those of cops . Even sanitation workers and delivery and truck workers have higher fatality rates. Naturally few deaths in those other occupations were intentional, but quite a few deaths of cops happened in car crashes during high speed chases or in falls when in pursuit on foot.

Regardless, police work is much more stressful psychologically, which is why cops can burn out. Police frequently deal with the worst sort of people and often with otherwise decent folks at the worst moment of their lives or the lives of their loved ones. I myself never had the least interest in such a career. I am glad that we have people like Paolo and Delaney to protect us.

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