by George Gauthier

Chapter 8

Mythology and Art

Just recently Ivan Pavlichenko the photographer whose camera had immortalized me as the Golden Boy of Concupiscence Whom All Desire offered me a new assignment.

"My idea is for a visual interpretation of Classical mythology as realized in famous sculptures of young males crafted in antiquity and featured in Greek and Roman mythology. My photos will contrast the sculptures with a living breathing youth in the very same poses. What better way to bring out the beauty of the youthful human male than to juxtapose a nude made of marble or bronze or paint with a living boy in the flesh."

"You want me to supply that flesh, to be that living breathing nude boy."

"Exactly. Even if the original work of art wears a silly fig leaf, you will not. The aesthetic which this series requires, is total nudity. It is what your public expects of you and what you want too if you were being honest with yourself, shameless showoff that we both know you to be. So what do you say, my boy. Are you in or out?"

"Not so fast, Ivan. Tell me more about those famous works of art."

"All right. There are ancient sculptures of youths like Narcissus the boy who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, Hyacinth the beloved of Apollo slain by misadventure, Hylas, the shield bearer and lover of Hercules, Eros the god of love and beloved of Psyche, and Leander the youth who drowned while swimming the Hellespont on his way to his nightly tryst with his lover Hero, who, sadly, despite the name, was a girl. You will also be familiar with the statue of the Dying Gaul and the statuary group depicting Laocoön and His Sons which is on display in the Vatican Museum."

"What? We're going to fly to Rome for a photo shoot in the Vatican Museum?"

"Hardly! No, what I have arranged is much more convenient and far better. Have you heard about that new sculpture garden which is set to open next month on the outskirts of the city? It's been funded by that tech billionaire Franklin Dyson."

"Yes I have read about it. His project is as much a landscaped garden as an art exhibit, though I read that all the sculptures destined for it are just copies of classical originals."

"Ah, but such copies as have never been seen before. You see after the originals were measured with high tech gear like lasers and such, exact copies were cast in a sculptural acrylic. Now none of the new statues are that pasty white we think of as characteristic of classical sculpture. No, the Greeks and Romans actually painted their statues in brilliant colors which sadly have not lasted down the ages, only traces of paint barely detectable with microscopes. The acrylic takes color much better than stone where the paint is only on the surface. With acrylic the color is baked in, as it were, and also lit from within since the acrylic can be treated to be translucent or even transparent."

"I can see the advantages of that, and, yes, I had thought to tour the sculpture garden when it is open for visitors, but after all, the statues are just copies touched up with color, aren't they?"

"Don't be such a Philistine, dear boy. Most of the classical statues which have survived till today are actually Roman copies anyway, not originals looted by Roman armies and taken back to the Eternal City, something which is true both of the Dying Gaul and the Laocoön group."

"I concede your point, Ivan, but that Dying Gaul is a grown man, a powerfully built warrior, not a boy at all. And the priest Laocoön is hugely muscular; he even sports a full beard. No way I'll wear a fake beard like some department store Santa Claus, and I don't have the muscles for it anyway."

"Who said I want you to pose for Laocoön? No, I want you for his sons, both glabrous ephebes like yourself. You would look delicious, a boy wrapped in the coils of a huge snake held captive as if in bondage. And your version of the death scene of the Gaul will be all the more poignant and tragic for your extreme youth."

"I suppose that could work."

"Trust me, it will. But the two youths I especially want you to portray are Ganymede, the boy praised by Homer as the loveliest of those born of mortals, and the young shepherd boy David who slew the giant Goliath of Gath with just a slung stone."

"But I don't look anything like the statue of David which Michelangelo famously sculpted. His David is a muscular young man and not a youth at all, not a bit like me."

"Exactly right and also exactly what is wrong about both Michelangelo and Bernini's Davids. The models for both were grown men rather than youths. Now Michelangelo's statue was technically more difficult because of flaws in the block of marble it was carved from. His David is standing upright while Bernini posed his David actually slinging the stone at Goliath, which is a more dramatic pose. Too bad Bernini's David is not entirely nude. It is another classical work of art almost spoiled by a silly bit of drapery floating over the loins to conceal the manly parts. You will mimic all sculptures fully nude, no drapery and no fig leaves regardless."

"Michelangelo's and Bernini's misconceptions contrast strongly with more realistic depictions of the shepherd boy, notably the nude sculpture by Donatello at the Bargello in Florence and the color lithograph by Osmar Schindler of the Dresden School. Both depict a David with a slender boyish physique more in keeping with the boy originally described in the Book of Samuel."

"Now Donatello's bronze statue depicts a beautiful youth totally nude except for a helmet and boots, neither of which a shepherd boy would have worn. Worse he has a soft and voluptuous body and not the hard body a shepherd boy would have had. Also Donatello's David is equipped with the undersized genitalia of so many sculptures of the era.

"Schindler's color lithograph is much more realistic, depicting a boy still skinny from his recent growth spurt, one whose proportions are clearly those of a youth not of a mere child, so he would be in his mid to late teens. Also, unlikely at it seems for a Jewish boy back then, Schindler's David is blond, no doubt like his German model. In fact you could easily be the twin of that model. Your proportions and hair color are alike."

It was no wonder that I looked so much like Schindler's David, for back in 1888 it was I who had posed for that well-known lithograph which depicts the young shepherd seen from behind so his facial features were not visible. Schindler had posed me naked, even taking black and white photographs of me from all angles, before finally and reluctantly finishing the cartoon (drawing) for the lithographic plate, covering the loins of the figure of David with a ragged breechcloth.

Ganymede was not just my stage name at the gay bar where I did my pole dance cum contortionist act. It was my real name, both my current legal surname and my original name, the one given me over three thousand years ago by my father King Troas of Troy. I was the original Ganymede, the immortal youth celebrated in song and story and with even a planetary-mass moon named for me, one of four orbiting Jupiter, the planet named indirectly for Zeus the Greek king of the gods identified by the Romans with their chief god Jupiter or Jove.

Depictions of Ganymede were common in art from the Renaissance onward, nearly as much as the theme of the four continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (conceived as a single continent) and represented by allegorical figures which fit into the four corners of large paintings or tapestries with the main subject in the center.

"There is just one thing." Ivan continued. "To get access to the sculptures for the two days I would need for the shoot I more or less had to promise the owner, the billionaire Franklin Dyson, that you would, well ... be his guest, overnight, if you take my meaning. He is a big fan of yours you see...and, er, that is ... I hoped you would accept his invitation in the spirit in which it was extended."

At least Ivan had the good grace to look embarrassed as he trailed off. I shook my head at the man's single-mindedness.

"What you really mean, Ivan, is that, without even asking, you pimped me out to some billionaire to get you access to his sculptures."

"I...I can see how you might feel that way, but...Oh hell, Troy. This was the chance of a lifetime, for me anyway, something that will make them remember me long after I am gone. So will you at least think it over?"

I sighed, knowing how artists can get intensely focussed on their art to the exclusion of other considerations. And the man did have a remarkable talent with the camera. I had to give him that. So I agreed. Ivan was relieved while his teenage assistant Billy was thrilled at the chance to explore the estate of a billionaire.


Came the day when we arrived at the Dyson mansion. A high wall topped with broken glass and surveillance cameras surrounded the place. No guard was at the gate, but we did have to announce ourselves, speaking via a video link to a guard stationed up a tower overlooking the grounds. Dyson was someone who took his security seriously.

The guard directed us around the back of the main house, to what we recognized as a service entrance, where we were met by a beautiful young man in his very early twenties, very blond, very slim, soft-spoken, and impeccably dressed in what looked like a close-fitting suit from the Edwardian Era. This vision of youthful male beauty greeted us politely and without condescension and explained the ground rules. Dyson himself was nowhere in sight, working, we were given to understand, in the office wing of the mansion.

"As to my name, it is William Laurier or just Will but please, never Bill." he said with an exaggerated shudder. I found myself liking him right away. He explained that as Dyson's private secretary he handled his employer's personal affairs rather than those of his various business interests.

"I am also Mr. Dyson's close-in bodyguard, and yes, I know I hardly look the part, slim as I am and standing no more than five seven, so I am not the hulking thug you might expect, but that is rather the point, that his enemies won't expect much of me, giving me the advantage of surprise. This old-fashioned suit which buttons up nearly to the knot of my necktie protects my torso with a ballistic fabric."

"You mean it can stop a bullet?" I asked

"Yes and it can absorb some of the impact though not all of it. The main thing is that it will stop bullets fired from pistols and most rifles though a fifty caliber bullet from a sniper rifle like the Barrett would punch through. The fabric has many of the properties of Kevlar though much enhanced since it is interwoven with ultra-fine threads of titanium. It also resists stabs and slashes from combat knives and bayonets and is heat resistant too."

"I like how it's so flexible, molding itself to my slim physique yet allowing me to move freely and to fight effectively hand to hand, if it comes to that."

"OK, but if you were fighting hand to hand wouldn't that necktie give a foe something to grab and hold on to you with?" I asked.

For an answer, Will Laurier just unhooked the tie from the collar of his shirt showing that it was a clip on.

"Another surprise. Any foe who grabbed my tie would be caught flat footed, looking stupidly at the fake tie in his hand when I clocked him."

"I take it then that you are a master of the martial arts?"

"I can fairly claim expertise in both krav maga and boxing which, with my guns, throwing knife, and single sticks, are enough for my purpose. Plus I fight dirty."

"Anyway, another advantage of my disarming appearance is that many people immediately dismiss me as little more than my employer's kept boy, which I am, but also much more than that. I am telling you all this, because we three, you, I, and Mr. Dyson will be sharing a bed tonight and tomorrow. So when I disrobe and hang up my clothes, don't be too surprised at the hardware concealed in this suit of mine. It's all for my principal's protection."

"Thank you for being so forthright with us, Will. And I don't for a minute doubt your prowess as a bodyguard. I like to think that I too, small as I am, can give a good account of myself in ways which surprise my foes. You see if I have to fight, I too fight dirty which is an equalizer for us smaller guys."

"Meanwhile I don't mind admitting I am mightily impressed by what I have seen in you so far, Will. You are a devastatingly attractive, a combination of good looks, good manners, and useful skills. Also you have the most charming accent, mostly Middle American but with a touch of French, if I am not mistaken."

"More like Middle Canadian since I am originally from Winnipeg, but I did attend a lycée in France."

"Anyway today and tomorrow you and your friends have free run of the grounds, but try to keep out of the way of the workers getting things ready for opening day."

"Easy enough, as long as they aren't scandalized by our photographer taking pictures of a naked boy in poses identical to the sculptures installed on the grounds."

"There shouldn't be any problems. The groundskeepers and contractors have been told that you guys are here for a gay themed photo shoot. Mr. Dyson is a good employer. They know that. They also know that he does not tolerate troublemakers."

"Obviously the guards also know what to expect so you don't have to worry that a reaction force of armed men will suddenly surround you and take you into custody. You understand that they have a dual protective role, originally mostly to safeguard his private art collection, though these days security measures are more for his personal protection."

"I was not surprised at the tight security I have witnessed here so far." Ivan noted. "Dyson's collection of cameos is quite valuable, several millions at least to judge from the published catalog. And those small carvings are highly transportable and easily smuggled out of the country."

"Oh carvings is it?" Billy remarked. "I thought a cameo was a brief role in a movie."

"It's both. The tininess of the carvings suggested the word's later use in cinema." Ivan explained patiently to his young assistant.

"The collection of nineteenth and twentieth century water colors would also tempt thieves," Will added.

"No Old Masters then?" I asked. Will shook his head.

"Not a chance. Don't get him started, but Mr. Dyson dismisses painting in oils as a seriously flawed medium because of the craquelure, the cracks caused when the oil paint dries out which art experts actually celebrate but which he likens to the guide lines of a paint-by-numbers kit."

"Ouch! I can imagine how that attitude is received in artsy circles." I remarked. "The rich do so very much like to pose as grand patrons of the arts, don't they."

"A bunch of snobs and poseurs" to hear my boss tell it, but don't quote him or me on it."

So Will, if you're Dyson's close-in bodyguard, why are spending so much time with us and are nowhere near your principal?"

"A good question. The answer is that here on the grounds, behind high walls, guards, cameras, sensors, and alarms we are quite safe. It is only when we are outside the walls that I need to stay by Dyson's side and always within a cordon of outer guards, big bruisers who can shove their way through a crowd if necessary."

"So is Dyson so popular that he needs protection from rambunctious groupies?"

"Hardly. His heightened security is all about the hatred directed at him by political, ideological, and religious zealots, some at home but mostly from Russia and the Middle East. For starters Dyson is persona non-grata to the academy and in Hollywood.

"The leftist woke professors and administrators at the elite colleges and their hordes of indoctrinated students see him, rightly, as an enemy of their political tribalism, not to mention a threat to their failing business model which offers mostly useless degrees at inflated prices, and locks their customers into what is often lifelong debt peonage."

"And what their students get is not an education but indoctrination in an authoritarian cult of woke-inspired group-think. Sadly the elite colleges have abandoned their commitment to individuality, free inquiry and free speech, Nor does the academy have any use for old-fashioned excellence and meritocracy, viewing them as fundamentally racist constructs."

"What drives his domestic critics near to apoplexy is that Dyson's companies will have nothing to do with either the divisiveness of DEI [Diversity, Equity, or Inclusion] or the empty virtual signaling of ESG [Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance]. He considers both to be worse than useless. His example is starting to spread through the corporate sector."

"For more than ten years now Mr. Dyson has refused to contribute to college and university fundraising campaigns. He says that if a college needs money, let it fire the horde of administrators and bureaucrats who nowadays outnumber its faculty. And skip the fancy and expensive amenities too. Colleges are not supposed to be resorts. He went so far as to withdraw an informal pledge of a billion dollars in bequests he had planned to make in his will. In revenge two colleges wanted to change the name of buildings already named after him or rather after his late father, Dyson Senior. He told them he would not oppose the change but insisted on holding them to a contractual obligation to refund his donations totaling some forty-eight million dollars."

"Good for him!" I said then added:

"I am glad he has taken such a hard hitting stance against Wokeism and identity politics which threaten our republic.

"Still," I persisted, "though zealots make a lot of noise, often shouting down those they disagree with and trying to cancel speakers entirely or get folks fired, are they really a violent threat?"

"No, there are two really serious threats. The lesser one is from the Middle East, the major one from Russia."

Dyson's companies continue to operate in Israel despite demands from the left for disinvestment, but no way he is going to give up access to their vibrant tech sector. Like our own government, Dyson is opposed to the encroachment of settlements on the West Bank and he regrets the harsh security measures which the Israelis employ there, partly from fear of what the Arabs might get up to if left to their own devices, fears borne out just recently in Gaza. Overall though Dyson admires the secular Israelis, who have created the only democracy in the Middle East and turned their country into an economic power house and not just in tech. "

"After the attacks by Hamas last October, he continued to pay the salaries of reservists in his Israeli affiliate who were called to active duty for the emergency. And as a gay man himself Dyson was appalled by groups like Queers for Palestine, publicly branding them useful idiots in Lenin's famous phrase, who would get thrown off a rooftop if they ever marched behind the rainbow flag on the streets of Gaza."

"The more serious threat stems from the Russian nationalists, possibly acting on their own without direct government involvement, who have sent assassins after Dyson. Whereas Dyson's support for the Israelis in their struggle is passive, Dyson's support for Ukraine in its war for survival has been direct and active."

"He retooled a production line in his factory in Lviv in the western part of the country to convert commercial drones to military purposes licensing designs from Ukrainian inventors. He has also donated millions of dollars in tactical radios and tablets and other devices all of them Tempest-shielded to block stray emissions which might be picked up by the enemy.

[The Tempest Specification was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency.]

"In the main Dyson has little use for the chattering classes. He mostly gets his message out over social media including YouTube. He never goes on lame stream interview shows any more. Among the few talking heads he admires are Konstantin Kisin, Bill Mahr, and Thomas Sowell. Given his prominence, much of the public in what the coastal elites disparage as flyover country listen to him and support him, which is another reason why the woke crowd and anti-semites want to shut him up, preferably permanently."

"So those are the most serious threats. Already two attempts have been made on Dyson's life. The first was a bomb planted on his car, fortunately detected by a sniffer dog before it went off. The other was an ambush on the country road leading to his cabin in the woods. A close call all around. We were both of us injured, though only slightly by flying glass. Our big bruisers in the lead SUV got it worse than we did, but their body armor kept them alive and in the fight till I ended it."

"Right. I remember now reading about it last year, just before I moved to town. So that was you, the unnamed bodyguard whose well-timed shot turned the tide at a critical moment in the gun battle."

Will shook his head.

"It was a lucky shot on my part, which was why I didn't take credit for it but left the impression that it was mostly likely to have been the work of the heavy hitters in the SUV up front. Clamping down on my emotions as I had learned to do in several engagements abroad with the Canadian special forces, I turned as icy calm as if I were practicing at the firing range then aimed my pistol at a gunman training an RPG on our SUV. My aim was dead on, but one of the three bullets in my grouping must have drifted a tad to the left and struck the warhead of the rocket instead of the gunman's head. That set off the RPG which killed three of the bad guys and injured another. That is what turned the tide."

"Wow! Remind me never to get you mad at me!"


It was early afternoon when the great man himself came over to the gazebo where we were about to break for lunch. He was dressed casually in a pullover and slacks and though approaching fifty he looked more like a man in his thirties, reminding me of Clint Eastwood or Tom Selleck in their younger days.

Having posed all morning in the nude, I saw no reason to get dressed just lunch. Instead I started to apply SPF 15 sunscreen when a voice from behind said:

"Excuse me. I'm Franklin Dyson. You could only be the stunning young Ganymede who is posing with my statues. The local gay community is all buzz about you and your recent photo shoot the Golden Boy of Concupiscence Whom All Desire. I count myself among your most fervent admirers. You certainly inspire desire in me. I hope I am not being too forward in saying so."

"Not at all. A candid expression of admiration is never out of line. Without being vain about it, I know very well how gay males respond to my looks. It could hardly be otherwise, given the purpose of these photos, especially with me traipsing around all morning in a state of nature."

"Indeed. Now if I may be so bold, perhaps I can help you with that sunscreen."

"Why not?" I handed it to him, leaving young Billy disappointed that he would not be doing the honors.

"My turn, Billy," Dyson explained with a wink. "As I saw in the 'Making Of' video about the previous photo shoot, you had your hands all over young Ganymede here. I envied you then, so now I have no compunctions about pulling rank today. Anyway, Billy you look like you could use a touch up with this sunscreen yourself. So why don't you get out of those clothes and get naked, just as you were when you gilded our young friend."

Quick on the uptake and with a goofy grin on his face Billy quickly shed his garments.

"No one can get a pretty boy out of his clothes faster than my boss," Will confided in a stage whisper.

But Billy would have to wait his turn with the billionaire who was more than a little smitten by my beauty and wanted to make the most of what would be limited just to a brief stand. Dyson certainly had the touch, the kind which titillates and arouses while ostensibly spreading the sunscreen lotion, which was merely an excuse for feeling me up. It as if we were engaged in foreplay, which in a sense we were. Not that I complained. This was one male who knew what to do with a boy who had taken his fancy.

"Er sir, that should be enough for now." I finally told him. "I am sure that Ivan is pleased with how you have brought me to the brink, but his photos will look better if I am not sagging in post coital lassitude. Anyway it's Billy's turn for your attentions. He doesn't get as much sun on him as I do."

Dyson chuckled and drew Billy to him, embracing and kissing the boy whose excitement was unmistakable.

"Naughty boy!" Dyson told him, playfully slapping Billy's butt and then his erection before feeling the boy up while applying sunscreen with special attention to the nether regions. It wasn't long before Billy's teenage hormones brought him to climax, spurting his seed into Dyson's hand. When Dyson brought Billy's ejaculate to his mouth the boy obediently slurped and licked it up, looking very proud of himself too.

But that was the end of the fore play in the garden. Billy got dressed and joined Dyson and the rest of us for a delicious but light lunch lest I got drowsy after the meal. Our conversation ranged over the status of our project, what might be next for Ivan, Billy's coming enrollment in a course leading to a certificate in computer assisted photography, and the recent crime wave at the spooky old mansion where I lived.

"So two boyfriends at once. You have quite the active social life then Troy." Dyson noted.

"Some might think that having two at once is a bit much, but I don't. All three of us are compatible despite our different careers, a grad student in physical chemistry, a cop, and a boy-toy pole dancer and sometime bartender. To change the subject, I meant to ask about seeing your art collections. I know we would all like a look."

Dyson nodded. "I am sure that can be arranged tomorrow before you leave or even the next day if time is short, though I hope that both you and Billy will humor me and take the tour in the nude. Ivan can be your chaperone."

"Definitely!" we chorused, shameless showoffs that we both were. Ivan just rolled his eyes.

Dyson explained that besides the cameos and water colors he had a modest collection of arms and armor, mostly swords, knives, and some long arms like spears and pikes almost all once turned to practical use though a few historic ceremonial swords were encrusted with precious gems.

"Less likely to attract thieves would be my collection of Japanese ink seals which everyone in that country still uses to the dismay of the government which is trying to get people to abandon paper documents and fax machines in favor of modern electronic communications. I spent several of my early years in that wonderful country."

"Sir, Will mentioned that you are you on the outs with mainstream Hollywood. How did that happen?" I asked, continuing with:

"Don't you count as a movie mogul yourself as owner of that new studio, Palimpsest Pictures? They put out good movies on decent budgets which are mostly shown on your own streaming service. No blockbusters or tentpole movies, but your studio has managed to avoid the boom and mostly bust cycle of the majors. I particularly like their biopics which offer us glimpses of America's heroes but in little known episodes of their careers or lives."

"Any picture you liked in particular, Tro?"

"The one about President Grant and how he persisted with his peace policy toward the Plains Indians despite the anger in the whole country after the news of Custer's Last Stand was announced on July 4, 1876, the centennial of Independence. Never having had much use for the flamboyant Boy General, Grant told the press that he regarded the massacre as a needless sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself."

"In the aftermath Grant appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, his former adjutant Ely Parker. A full-blooded Seneca Indian Parker was an engineer and Army Officer who was present at the Maclean home at Appomattox Court House for Lee's Surrender."

"Another episode in that movie showed that, despite desperate poverty during his lean years before the war, Grant immediately manumitted a slave whom his father in law had given him to help out at Grant's Hardscrabble Farm. Grant did not put the man to work, nor rent him out, nor sell him for cash. Instead he took him down to the county court house and set him free."

"Not that the picture did not have plenty of action showcasing Grant's personal heroics in the Mexican War in which he managed to take part in both thrusts into Mexico, first from the North lead by 'Old Rough and Ready' Zachary Taylor and the second the strike at the Mexican capital from Veracruz lead by 'Old Fuss and Feathers' Winfield Scott. There was a Grant anyone could admire."

"There speaks a satisfied customer", Dyson joked.

"Woke Hollywood is envious because all my pictures are money makers. They might not take in two or three hundred million at the box office, but they don't blow that much or more on colossal flops either. My audience is not the the coastal elites, the intelligentsia, and race grifters and those whom they have befuddled by identity politics. No, my audience lives in middle America, which the elites disdain as flyover country and which I celebrate as the American heartland."

"I also don't put up with so-called color-blind casting, which is no such thing at all. It is actually a form of cultural appropriation, a phony excuse for actors of a single ethnicity to take roles which were never intended for them and for which they are not suited, whether it's historical characters like the Queens of England or Egypt or mythological figures like the famously blond Achilles, portrayed in one execrable film by a bald black actor from Ghana."

"I could only shake my head when I heard that they wanted Denzel Washington to play Hannibal, the general not the cannibal. As great an actor as he is, Denzel would be all wrong for the role, especially at his age. There is no way a sixty-nine year old could convincingly portray a vigorous young general like Hannibal who crossed the Alps when he was only twenty-nine. Even worse the Carthaginians were transplanted Phoenicians, a colony of Tyre in modern Lebanon so they were light-skinned Asians and not at all ethnically like sub-Saharan Africans."

I had to agree with Dyson on that point though I could hardly mention that I had once actually seen Hannibal march through the streets of Tarentum when that city opened its gates to him and became his ally. His skin tone and features were definitely Semitic and not Black.

"On top of that", Dyson continued, "I have publicly denounced the racial quotas the Motion Picture Academy requires for nominations to the top Oscars. I am old-fashioned enough to think that the best pictures should get nominated, not just those which meet which racial quotas. You can imagine how that was received in Woke Hollywood."

"Anyway, I see that Ivan is ready to get back to work, so I will head back to my office till this evening. Sorry Ivan and Billy, but dinner is for just the three of us, myself, Will, and Troy. It's to be a romantic dinner, not a business affair."

Ivan simply nodded, but Billy grinned and remarked. "No surprise there."


Just as Dyson made to turn toward the main house, Will put a hand to his shoulder stopping him.

"Just a minute sir. Something is off."

"Something is off? Like what?"

"Two of the contract workmen are heading toward the gate where they have no business going, not at this early hour."

"That's not your only problem," I added. "The body language of those three over by the power pylon is all wrong. I especially don't like the way they've been watching us these last few minutes, and what could they be carrying in those satchels?"

"Please get behind me, sir." Will told his boss. "On my own recognizance I am calling a yellow alert."

With that Will tapped a custom app on his smart watch to send a signal which would alert the guard stations, the guards patrolling the estate, and the local police. He summed up the situation saying:

"Five enemies on two different azimuths. The three you spotted Troy are now heading this way. The first two are still heading away from us toward the gate."

We looked at each other and came to the same conclusion at the same instant. "Trojan Horse!"

"What do you mean by Trojan Horse?" Billy wailed. "You guys are scaring me."

I let Will answer. As far as I was concerned he was in tactical command.

"Five men are not enough to control the estate or to hold off our guards much less the police once they muster to repel boarders. So the bad guys intend to open the gate for their main body. Who knows how many that will be."

"Can they force the gate guard to open the gate?" I asked.

"No, not while we are under a yellow alert. Only I, Mr. Dyson himself, or the guard captain can cancel the alert and he won't without knowing for sure that everything is under control."

"Damn it!" Dyson cursed. "Here I am caught out without a weapon and since I am in shirt sleeves I have no ballistic protection."

Will knelt and retrieved his ankle gun, a small .25 caliber automatic pocket pistol which he handed to Dyson.

"Sorry sir, it holds only seven rounds, no reloads, and its range is limited, but the bullets are hollow point, so if they hit anywhere they will tear a fearsome wound."

"What have you got for me, Will?" I asked.

"You want in, do you?"

"Yes, the bad guys might take Dyson and you alive, but we three are useless witnesses, more trouble than we are worth to keep under control."

"All right. I can offer you a throwing knife or my single sticks."

"I'll take both, the throwing knife as my ranged weapon and the sticks for close in work."

"Are you crazy, Troy?" Ivan asked. "You're just a little guy; you're stark naked; and all you have to fight with is that small blade and a couple of sticks! They have guns!"

"Needs must, Ivan. And better sticks than empty handed. If it helps you any to know, this is not my first rodeo. Far from it."

"Mine neither." Will affirmed. We nodded, two warriors facing unfavorable odds but confident in each other's grit. Make that three counting Dyson and the pocket pistol which he handled competently enough, but in weaponry we were badly outclassed.

Seeing us arm ourselves, the trio of assailants ran straight for us, openly displaying odd looking weapons.

"A compact submachine gun." Will judged. "About the biggest weapon they could smuggle past gate inspection and only if they were broken down into pieces. Not much range, which is why they haven't already opened fire."

Will sent Ivan and Billy running towards the woods, directly away from the approaching thugs, which would keep the gazebo between them. The three of us who were under arms ran toward a green maze nearby, its walls made of hedges nine feet tall.

"Stick with me," Will told us. "I know this maze and its secret ways. We'll ambush them when they follow us into it."

Dyson nodded and fell in behind Will. He was satisfied that his bodyguard was doing his professional best for him. I too had put my faith in young Will Laurier. I did have the advantage that I took a lot more killing than mere mortals, but I didn't want to lose anyone, decent sorts all of them.

Now Dyson was in pretty good shape for a man his age or any age really, but he was nowhere as quick and agile as the two of us younger guys. So the plan was to find the right spot for him to conceal himself within the shrubbery. Meanwhile the two of us would let ourselves be seen and lead the bad guys past Dyson's hide. His job was to fire at their legs, but just three times as quickly as he could manage with accuracy. That would leave him four shots to follow-up with.

Hopefully the ambush would cripple one and maybe two of our foes. Regardless, Dyson would distract them and reduce the odds. After which Will and I would pop out of concealment from behind a hidden door in the hedge, a short cut for the maintenance staff, and attack them head on. Not that great a plan. I really wished we all had AR-15s. Those would cut the bad guys down to size all right.

For once a plan survived contact with the main body of the enemy. It helped that our foes did not aim their weapons properly. Presumably lifelong members of the spray and pray school of ground combat, they fired wildly at us as we ran and jinxed as best we could within the confines of the maze. Will ran cover behind me. I caught a graze on my left side but with my adrenaline rush I had no trouble keeping going. It would have been a different story had Will's ballistic jacket not stopped a bullet that might well have hit me dead center.

Dyson's three shots were our cue to pop out of concealment and go on the offensive. Will fired away as we closed with the bad guys, one of whom was limping from a leg wound. Taking the two closest to us as his target Will double-tapped both of them to make sure that when they went down they stayed down. Will had almost gone down himself when two bullets impacted the ballistic fabric of his jacket. Neither penetrated but they did deliver a double wallop to his torso especially the one which hit a spare magazine and drove it hard into his chest. While Will struggled to get himself back into the fight I moved forward on his left to confront our third foe.

Fortunately for both of us, me especially, the third bad guy had stopped to change magazines for his submachine gun, so at that moment he essentially was holding an unloaded weapon. I threw the knife at him which he batted away with the empty magazine in his hand which he threw at my face. I dodged then stepped toward him. My jabs with the sticks failed to connect when he brought his submachine gun up to block both thrusts, frustrating my intent. I did at least make him drop the fresh magazine he had been trying to insert in the well of the submachine gun.

Dyson watched it all happen waiting for a clear shot. So when my foe backed away and reached for the final magazine in his jumpsuit. Dyson put two hollow point bullets into his belly, releasing the stench of destroyed bowels into the air.

Will then contacted the guards, told them where we were, and that we needed a medic. They reported back that they had captured the two assailants who were headed for the gate. With all the bad guys accounted for Will had the guard captain send men to search the woods where Ivan and Billy had run to hide.

Billy was fine, shaken up but physically OK. Not so Ivan who was in a bad way. It was obvious when we got to him that the poor man had only minutes to live. A stray bullet had hit a lung producing a nasty sucking chest wound. Billy had tried to staunch the wound, but never having had any training in first aid had not realized the need to hermetically seal the hole in the chest. Once we did that, Ivan was able to breathe more easily but only briefly, though long enough for him and his protege to share last words and say their farewells. Needless to say Billy was unconsolable.

Luckily Will's suit had stopped those three bullets, one in the back and two more in the chest leaving spectacular bruises as souvenirs of the fight including one in the shape of a spare magazine a bullet had impacted. Perhaps perversely, Will had photos taken of his souvenir bruises as they healed over the weeks which followed, forming a record of the colors changes from red and purple to yellow, green and brown.

The police investigation went nowhere. The two thugs captured at the gate knew nothing about who set things in motion. They were just muscle hired for the occasion. The rest of the thugs never showed up, presumably warned off by the police presence. Dyson was rightly proud of Will, of how professionally his bodyguard had handled the situation. He was grateful to me too and asked how he could repay me.

"Keep me out of it, lest your enemies look to me for vengeance. I don't have guards and guns and alarms to protect me. So let it be known that it was you two and you two alone who fought the three attackers and that I just went into hiding in the maze. Everyone will believe it. After all, what could I have done anyway, me a small naked unarmed photographer's model? Anyway of the three of us, only you and Will had guns, and all of three thugs we fought died of gunshot wounds and only gunshot wounds which you two inflicted. I never landed a hit with Will's single sticks. "

Dyson saw to Billy's needs right proper, from the dignified funeral arrangements to covering the boy's expenses at the certificate program he was due to start and beyond. As Dyson saw it, Ivan and Billy had been under his protection at his estate, but he and his guards had let them down. As a tribute to his mentor, Billy came back a month later to finish the photoshoot, ensuring that Ivan Pavlichenko's work would be remembered long after his passing. Ivan's will left his business to Billy, the kid from next door who had become his protege. Welcome as that was, photography at Ivan's level was more about reputation and contacts than physical assets like the studio building, computers, top-of-the line camera equipment, the cash in the company's accounts, and the company van. Still the bequest gave the boy a head start in his professional life.

I was put on Dyson's persona definitely grata list. If ever I got into trouble and needed a fancy lawyer or even a new identity, Dyson would arrange it and pay for everything. Will and I became good friends though we had to fit our trysts into his busy schedule which frequently took him and Dyson out of town. I was gratified that neither of my regular boyfriends, Kyle and Paolo, was the jealous type.

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