of the Wicked Boys
Rafael wasn’t completely certain where Brian Fenwick lived, but he knew it was an apartment complex near the campus of the University of Greensburg. Brian was from an affluent family—from “money,” as his mother would so crassly put it—and would certainly live in an expensive complex. There was one right across from the street from the UG Business College, certainly the school where a simple-minded party-boy would be enrolled, which would be the perfect place for a jerk like Brian Fenwick—and Brian Fenwick was a jerk. Rafael had run into Brian at parties and school functions where kids from the middle school and high school at Breckenridge mixed and his experiences with Jeremy’s big brother had never been very pleasant. He was not looking forward to talking with Brian that afternoon, but it would be necessary, and it would almost certainly be at the Southern Garden Apartments.
Rafael felt more at home as he walked through the Student Ghetto, the neighborhood between the University and Hampton Park, the neighborhood in which he had lived with his stepfather and after whose family the neighborhood had been named. It wasn’t that the shops and bars catering to the academic community or the small bungalows and craftsman houses or old, brick apartment buildings reminded him of the Upper West Side—they didn’t in the least. It was more that the people he passed on the sidewalk were more diverse, more Bohemian than the inbred aristocracy of Hampton Park. They seemed less unlike New York than the Daughters of the Confederacy across The Parkway.
It was less than a mile to the apartment complex and when he arrived he found three two-story buildings arranged around a central courtyard and swimming pool. He paused at the mailboxes by the offices and examined the names attached to each. As he was searching for Brian Fenwick’s, a college-age guy in only swimming trunks and flip-flops, his black hair cut in a burr and his chest covered in a thick mat the same color, walked past him with one arm around a blond in a bikini and the other hand holding a beer can and a cigarette.
“Faggot,” he heard the guy mutter as they passed him. Rafael made no response, but the girl chided him, “Beau, that wasn’t nice.”
“Look at him!” Beau replied. “He’s a God-damn fairy.”
Rafael smiled, knowing that in ten years, “Beau” was probably going to be drunkenly and incompetently running his daddy’s company into the ground as he, Rafael, was living in the grandest hotels and being hailed on the stages of New York, London, and Paris. He turned, having found Brian’s name on the mailbox for apartment 218, and entered the courtyard.
There were a dozen or so college-age men and women in the pool or lounging on the patio furniture across the courtyard and under the mimosa trees. Little tufts of pink blossoms from the trees lay across the concrete. He walked toward the stairs in the center that led up to the second-floor balcony which ran length-wise along the building and overlooking the courtyard. Several radios around the courtyard were playing rock music: Van Morrison, the Stones, the Beach Boys. All heads turned as he walked past.
“Hey, Pretty Boy!”
Rafael looked at a guy with an obnoxious grin sitting on a bench with another girl in a bikini.
“You looking for some fun?” the guy yelled.
“No, I’m looking for Brian Fenwick,” Rafael replied.
“Oh, well, he’s no fun,” the guy replied. “He’s the redhead over there passed out on the lounge with the Jax beer pouring all over his trunks.”
Rafael frowned as several people laughed. Someone tossed some ice from a cooler and awoke Brian as it landed on his stomach.
“Shit!” he cried as he suddenly sat up.
“Hey, Fenwick!” yelled the first guy. “You got company.”
The guy pointed to Rafael standing nearby. Brian looked at him with confusion as he tried to wake up.
“What the hell do you want?” he demanded.
Rafael took a deep breath, regretting his decision to visit Brian, and replied with as much strength as he could, “I’m Rafael Colon. I went to school with your brother.”
Rafael was surprised by the remark and added, “I was wondering if I could talk to you for a moment about him?”
“What’s to talk about?” Brian replied drinking what was left of the beer in his can. “Our parents died, he’s living with Uncle Jimmy. What’s to talk about?”
“Please, Brian. It’s important,” Rafael replied.
Brian looked at him with irritation and demanded, “You his boyfriend or something?”
Rafael took off his sunglasses and glared furiously at the drunk nineteen-year-old. Brian sighed and said, “Sorry. All right. Come on up with me to my apartment.. You wanna beer?”
“No thanks,” Rafael replied as Brian heaved himself to his feel. “I’m driving.”
Brian actually smiled at him as he passed and said, “Come on.”
Rafael followed him up the stairs and along the balcony to Apartment 218. When they entered, he was shocked by how cold and how filthy the apartment was, as well as by the stench of stale beer, tobacco, and something else. Pot? He wasn’t certain until he saw the bong on the coffee table amidst the Penthouse and Playboy magazines, the empty beer cans, and the overflowing ashtrays.
“Sorry about the mess,” Brian muttered as he staggered to the kitchen. “The maid hasn’t been in this week.”
He grabbed another beer from the refrigerator and returned to the living room. Rafael sat down on the edge of the chair beside the couch as Brian flopped down on the couch, took a swig from the can, and asked, “So, what do you want to know about The Jerm?”
Rafael smiled at Brian’s nickname for his younger brother and asked, “How’s he doing?”
“How do you think he’s doing?”
Rafael sighed and Brian added, “He’s in fucking hell, man. Our fucking crazy uncle won’t let him dance and he wants to kill himself. Dancing’s his life and now, not only has he lost our parents, he’s lost the only other thing that meant anything to him. He’s suicidal.”
Rafael paused and then asked, “And, you’re his brother. What are you doing about it?”
“Hey! Don’t jump my ass, man. I don’t need some pansy ass dancing fag coming in here and jumping my shit. Okay?”
Rafael held up his hands in supplication and said, “I wasn’t, Brian. I’m just trying to see if there’s something I can do for him.”
Brian shook his head in disgust and said, “What can you do for him?”
He looked at Rafael in confusion and asked, “What did you say your name was?”
“Fuck,” Brian responded, his eyes suddenly widening. “You’re him!”
Rafael sat back in confusion and concern.
“You’re him!” Brian repeated. “Jerm’s in love with you.”
Rafael flinched and said, “What?”
“He’s fucking in love with you.”
“Me?” Rafael responded doubtfully. “What do you mean?”
“You’re the reason he went into ballet. You’re all he talks about, man, how he’s wants to dance just like you, be just like you. You’re the reason he wanted to go to that ballet school in New York. What is it?”
“Ballet Academy of America,” Rafael replied weakly. “He’s in love with me?”
“I guess. I mean, he’s a fag and you look, well, I’m not a fag, but I can see why he would fall for you. Did you and him ever do it?”
“No!” Rafael declared fervently.
“Don’t worry, man. I’m not gonna like kick the shit out of you. I know he’s a fag. We all did. He swore up and down he wasn’t, but I mean, what guy goes into ballet if he isn’t a fag?”
“A lot of guys!” Rafael replied angrily. “I know a lot of straight guys in ballet. You people just don’t understand how much hard work, how much strength and stamina and endurance dancing demands of you.”
“Look, I know, man,” Brian replied placatingly. “Don’t get your panties all in a wad. I know how hard Jeremy worked. Dad was proud of him. Dad was damn proud of him, a lot prouder of Jerm than he was of me.”
“What?” Rafael replied. “I thought Jeremy thought his father was ashamed of him?”
“He did. Jeremy never realized that Dad never could understand why it was Jeremy who had all the backbone and motivation and drive and I was just the big fuck-up in the family. Man, Dad was so fucking proud of Jeremy. Yeah, he’d have been happier if he was playing football or baseball, but he could never stop bragging about how hard Jeremy worked, how motivated and determined he was. He said he’d do anything Jeremy wanted as long as the kid worked as hard as he did. Dad was proud as fuck of Jeremy.”
Rafael shook his head in confusion and asked, “Well, did he ever tell Jeremy?”
Brian sighed and said, “You gotta understand Dad. You know, southern fathers show their pride different than other fathers do. They don’t tell their sons they’re proud of them; they show them. You go huntin’ with your dad and you shoot your first deer and he bloods you and all. Then he brings you along again. That’s how you know your dad’s proud of you. Of course, with Jeremy, Dad didn’t know what he was supposed to do to show Jeremy he was proud of him. I mean, how do show your son you’re proud of the way he prances around the stage in his tights?”
Rafael felt sick and angry as he imagined his own relationship with the father-figures in his life.
“You show up for every one of his performances,” he declared in a voice quivering with emotion. “You stand up and cheer him. You brag to your friends. You hang pictures on the wall of him as Fritz in Nutcracker or as one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. You tell him. You... tell him.”
Rafael’s voice broke and he turned his head.
“Yeah,” Brian replied. “I guess. I never got that. I missed my buck and after two or three times, Dad quit taking me. I never played ball worth shit. I barely graduated from Breckenridge with a ‘C’ average, and that was only because I was the great Grant Fenwick’s son. Jeremy was the son Dad was proud of.”
Rafael swallowed and said, “You should tell him.”
Brian snorted bitterly and replied, “Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Jane don’t want me around him. They say I’m a bad influence. They’re right, of course. I mean, look at me. I’m a fuck up. I always have been. And, now, I don’t have Mom and Dad to bail my ass out of jail or pay my bills or...or...”
He looked up at the ceiling and said, “I won’t even be able to stop drinking and smoking weed and jacking off over centerfolds to go to class this fall.”
Rafael sat for a moment while Brian sniffed and drank his beer. When the older teen seemed to have regained control, Rafael asked, “So, if anyone offered to step in and take custody of Jeremy, would your uncle let them?”
“I don’t know. Anyone. I’m just asking.”
Brian shrugged and said, “They didn’t want him. They were actually kind of pissed off that they got stuck with him, but at the same time, they want to save his soul, so I don’t know what they would do.”
Rafael looked down and furrowed his forehead as he frowned. Brian looked at him and asked, “Why? You want your parents to take him?”
“My dad and my stepdad are both dead,” Rafael replied distractedly. “I don’t know if my mom would. I live with my Uncle Teddy in New York, but I don’t know if he could. I haven’t talked to him. I don’t know who.”
He looked up and asked, “But, if I find someone, anyone, who could take him and let him dance, let him train at Ballet Academy, would you mind? I mean, would you object?”
“Shit, no. I want the little dude to dance, man. I love my little brother, even if he is a fag. I just... yeah. If you can find someone to get him out of there and let him dance, then go for it, man.”
Brian struggled back up to his feet as he tossed his now empty beer can on the floor and walked to the refrigerator again for another can. Rafael said, “I talked with Grayson Harrison at Greensburg Country Club last night and he’s eager to do something for Jeremy. You mind if I work with him to find some way to get Jeremy out of there?”
“Go for it, man. Do whatever you want. I’ll go along with it.”
As Brian came back to the living room, Rafael rose and asked, “Well, can I use your phone?”
Brian nodded and pointed to the kitchen. As Rafael walked to the walk phone between the kitchen and the dining room, Brian sat down and loaded the bong. Rafael pulled Harrison’s business card from his wallet and punched the number into the new Touchtone phone. He frowned as he watched Brian taking a hit from the bong. When he was finally connected with Harrison, the man said, “Rafael! I’m so pleased to hear from you! I wasn’t expecting you to call so soon!”
“Yeah, well, I’m over at Brian Fenwick’s apartment and we’ve been talking about Jeremy and Brian doesn’t have a problem if we want to do something about Jeremy.”
“How wonderful! Excellent! So, perhaps the two of us, you and I, should get together and plot our strategy. How about dinner this evening. How does that sound? And, we can talk about what financial or... other arrangements we can make for my time.”
Rafael froze. He suddenly understood what the man meant. Grayson Harrison wasn’t going to work with Rafael out of the goodness of his heart or simply in his capacity as the representative of the Fenwick estate.
After Rafael said nothing, his mind whirling as he considered everything, Harrison added, “You know, of course, that I can’t spend much of the firm’s time on this. Most of what we do will have to be off the clock, so to speak.”
“Yes,” Rafael replied weakly. “I understand.”
“Where shall I pick you up and at what time?”
Rafael struggled to think of any possible way to escape an evening with Harrison, but, after several seconds, when the man said, “Rafael?” he finally gave up and replied, “I suppose it would be okay for you to come by the house.”
“Excellent. Knowing Gloria the way I do, I assume you can come up with a plausible explanation for your absence this evening?”
“Oh, yeah. No problem.”
“Excellent. Then I will pick you up at five-thirty on my way from the office. How’s that?”
“That’s...perfect. What should I wear?”
“Oh, just come as you are. So, five-thirty it is. I’m so happy we’ll be working together. Till then...”
The line went dead and Rafael felt he had, as well. He hung up the phone and said, “I’m having dinner with Harrison tonight and we’ll try to come up with something. You have any ideas for me to run by him?”
Brian had been sucking on the bong and looked quite out of it as Rafael walked before him. The younger teenager sighed and said, “Never mind. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what we’re doing for your brother.”
Brian smiled stupidly and Rafael felt a wave of disgust. He turned and walked out the door.
A boring Lincoln Town Car pulled up to the front door of Rafael’s house precisely at five-thirty. Freshly showered and dressed in red bellbottom slacks and a pink open-necked shirt with wide lapels, Rafael forced himself to smile flirtatiously as he watched Harrison’s eyes devour him. As the boy opened the passenger-side door and climbed into the car, Harrison remarked in his smarmy voice, “My, aren’t we fetching tonight?”
Rafael wanted to ask if that routine actually worked on other boys, but he decided that his goal was more important than protecting his pride or expressing his disgust. Instead, he replied in a voice he had used numerous times in New York, “Well, thank you, Grayson. That’s sweet of you to say that. I was hoping you’d like it.”
“I love these new styles,” Harrison remarked as he drove out to the street and turned right. “I like the more androgynous look that boys have now, instead of that boring, stifling conformity in the fifties and early sixties. The seventies are so much more open and free now, don’t you think?”
“Groovy,” Rafael replied, hoping Harrison didn’t detect the sarcasm in Rafael’s mind. He didn’t. In reply, the man said, “Exactly! You’re so delightful. It’s so exciting finding such a progressive and open-minded young man like you! Boys in Greensburg tend to be so... southern and... conformist.”
Rafael hated to admit that he actually agreed with Harrison on that point, but he nodded and replied, “Oh, I know what you mean!”
He rolled his sleeves up and Harrison remarked, “You got some sun today!”
Rafael nodded and said, “I walked over to Brian’s apartment and then home and then I spent some time in the pool.”
“You must not get much pool time in New York, do you?” Harrison asked.
“Depends. Alistair Mountjoy—he’s a Ballet Master at Ballet of America and the Director of Ballet Academy of America—he has a house in the Hamptons and when it’s warm I get to spend the weekend there sometimes. Of course, in London this summer, I got no time at the pool, so, I’m glad I have a few days to lay out.”
Harrison watched him for a moment and then asked, “So, are you very close to this Alistair person?”
“Oh, he’s a good friend. He likes to entertain the students at Ballet Academy and it helps with them adjust to their new lives.”
“Oh, so it’s not something... special or... exclusive?”
“Well, Alistair is a very sweet man,” Rafael replied, “and he’s paid a lot of attention to me. I’m... quite close to Alistair.”
Harrison did not seem pleased with that news, but if he got the impression from that response that something more intimate was occurring between Rafael and Alistair, the teenager wasn’t going to disabuse him of the impression. Perhaps that would save Rafael from being forced to do something more than he wanted to. To make the man feel better and hopefully save his mission that evening, he asked, “So, where are we eating?”
“Ah, a very intimate place,” Harrison replied. “Room 1218 at the Greensburg Plaza Hotel.”
“Oh, really?” Rafael asked warily.
Harrison nodded and said proudly, “I keep at a suite at the Greensburg Plaza. It makes my private life much more...”
Harrison giggled like a girl and Rafael felt a chill go through him.
“So much more convenient and it saves me from answering unpleasant questions.”
Rafael’s chest grew tight with concern. He was willing to do just about anything to help Jeremy, but being alone with Grayson Harrison for the entire evening was not on his agenda. He had expected to be alone at some point, he just hadn’t thought the entire evening was going to be spent that way. He felt a sinking feeling as he realized that this was going to be far more demanding of him than he had expected.
They parked in the garage beside the hotel and Harrison handed the room key to Rafael as they entered the side, saying, “Go on up to the room. I’ll be up shortly.”
Rafael nodded and took the elevator to the twelfth floor. When he entered the suite, he was impressed. He was not expecting something equal to a suite in a top hotel in New York, nor was he expecting simply another hotel room. The suite was quite luxurious for Greensburg and offered a view through the front room windows of the entire city to the south, from the university on the left, to Hampton Park in the center, to the west side of the river—where Jeremy was trapped—on the right. Rafael was careful to note where the telephones were located and then rolled his eyes. He was simply being silly. Grayson Harrison wasn’t going to do anything extreme. Of course, that was what Rafael had thought about Mario Lenti, the great dancer from Ballet of America who had taken him to dinner one night and, when they had entered the man’s apartment, proceeded to roughly remove the boy’s clothes and have his way. The entire episode was over in minutes and the man had been completely uncaring and dismissive as Rafael had, in utter humiliation, dressed and left. Yes, Grayson seemed unctuous and oily, but Rafael didn’t see him as a rapist.
He had been sitting on the couch considering his situation for several minutes when he heard a soft knock on the door. He rose and, opening the door, found Grayson smiling on the other side. As he entered, he asked, “Well, it’s not the Plaza in New York and the view doesn’t look out over Central Park, but how do you like it?”
“I like it,” Rafael replied with a diplomatic smile. “It’s very comfortable.”
Harrison smiled and said, “I took the liberty of ordering dinner for us.”
He smiled at the sudden look of alarm on Rafael’s face and quickly explained, “Relax. I’ve been around ballet enough to know that you can’t eat a medium rare rib eye and a baked potato.”
He chuckled as Rafael visibly relaxed. Sitting down at one end of the couch and giving Rafael plenty of room to sit where he wanted, the man said, “I ordered salmon and steamed vegetables for two with a tossed salad, oil and vinegar dressing, and a nice white Bordeaux.”
Rafael smiled and said, “That sounds perfect.”
Almost as if on cue, there was a knock on the door. When Harrison responded, the door opened and a young man in uniform entered with a cart holding an ice bucket, a bottle of wine, and two white wine glasses. Harrison smiled at the young man and asked, “How are you doing tonight, Tommy?”
“Very well, Mr. Harrison, thank you.”
“How’s Mikey doing?”
“Great. He’ll be bringing your salads when you’re ready.”
“Great. Tell him to give us a little time.”
Tommy gave Rafael a very thorough look-over and the boy blushed severely, something he was not accustomed to doing. However, when their eyes met, Rafael hoped he was sending out a message of fear. Tommy seemed to understand and gave a brief nod, as if to say, “Don’t worry. We’ll keep a watch out for you.”
Tommy opened the bottle, Harrison waved his hand when presented with the cork, and Tommy poured the wine. Harrison gave him a tip—a generous tip, Rafael assumed from the young man’s smile—and Tommy disappeared, with one final reassuring glance toward Rafael, none of which was missed by Harrison.
When the young man had left, Harrison raised his glass to Rafael and said, “To beautiful young men and to lonely old men who appreciate their beauty.”
Rafael smiled and said, “To sweet men who favor young men with their attention.”
Harrison smiled and the two sipped their wine. The man sighed and seemed to think for a moment before he finally said, “Rafael, I know you would not be having dinner with me tonight were it not for your wanting to help Jeremy. I know I made it sound on the telephone that my precondition for helping you in this crusade was your company and, I admit that more than that crossed my mind. However, I want you to understand that you will not be required tonight to do anything you wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m a realistic man and I know that a fifteen-year-old boy, especially one as beautiful and as talented as you, does not sleep with a fifty year-old man unless there is something in it for him. Oh, every once in a while, it happens that the boy truly finds the man attractive, but I know I’m not glamorously handsome or well-built. I know, also, that you had a love/hate relationship with Stephen and I know how...demanding he could be.”
Rafael looked at him with surprise. He wasn’t expecting this conversation at all!
Harrison looked away and continued, “I can only imagine how you feel about that night at Stephen’s party. I want you to know that I treasure the memory of that evening and our... time together. I know that the boys who come up here with me do so fully expecting something in return, a gift, help in some form, money. You came up here this evening for something selfless, to help a friend, to help another boy who desperately needs help. You’re different, but then I’ve always known you were different, Rafael. So, relax. I don’t want something hanging over our heads that needn’t be there. I’ll take you home after dinner and you’re honor—and your anus—will still be intact.”
They both grinned and Rafael softly said, “Thank you for telling me that, Grayson. I will relax. And, you are a nice man. I have to admit that I didn’t think so before, but I understand. It’s got to be hard in a place like Greensburg to find... companionship... of the kind you want.”
“And, what makes this dinner so special is that you’re smart and beautiful. Those qualities aren’t always found in the kind of boys who come up here with me,” Harrison remarked. “So... Jeremy Fenwick. What can we do?”
Rafael sat back, smiled, and took a bigger sip of his wine before replying, “Well, I visited Madame Pulchova this afternoon before I went over to see Brian and she says that Jeremy really is good. Maybe better than me, and I don’t mean to sound conceited...”
“I don’t take it that way. I see you being realistic. You’re not conceited, Rafael.”
“Thank you. She says McCoy didn’t want to take Jeremy, but he also wants to save Jeremy’s soul, so she isn’t sure how he would react if someone wanted to take him.”
“Yes, that’s the impression I’ve gotten,” Harrison replied.
“I went over to see Brian after that,” Rafael continued with a frown, “but, man, he is really a loser. He was already drunk when I got there and he also smokes pot. He was just wasted and he himself thinks he’s a loser.”
Harrison nodded and said, “My hope was that we could get Brian to take custody and then, perhaps, you could take Jeremy back to New York and he could either live with you or in the dorm at Ballet Academy.”
“Oh, not the dorm!” Rafael responded quickly. “It’s like Lord of the Flies in there! From what Madame Pulchova says, I don’t think sex is Jeremy’s thing, though he is only twelve. That might change next year.”
“Yes, I’ve seen that happen. So, what about your uncle. You didn’t seem to think last night that he would be a good candidate.”
Rafael shrugged and said, “Uncle Teddy would be great. He’s the sweetest man in the world and he’s been nothing but kind and generous and wonderful with me. But, he’s gay, flamboyantly gay, and I don’t know if he could get custody.”
“Is it well known that he is?”
Rafael shrugged and rolled his eyes before replying, “My uncle is Teddy Cochran.”
Rafael nodded and said, “The writer who parties with Truman Capote and Andy Warhol and Gore Vidal and...”
“I get the picture.”
“He’s never touched me, except to kiss and hug normally, but...”
“...there isn’t a judge in Greensburg who will give him custody.”
“Yeah, that was what I was afraid of.”
Harrison sighed and looked off toward the window and the view of the city beyond before finally commenting, “So, even if crazy Pastor Jimmy Dale does want to give up Jeremy, we don’t have anyone to take him... unless...”
He looked at Rafael and the boy met his gaze with his own before he suddenly recoiled.
“Mom? Are you kidding?”
“Well, I have to admit,” Harrison replied, “that your mother wouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s list as the best of mothers...”
“She’s a cynical, selfish, grasping bitch of a whore.”
“Well, I was going to say ‘difficult,’ but we’ll go with your description.”
Rafael smiled ruefully and shook his head as he replied, “There’s no way Mom would do it.”
“Unless she were paid enough?”
Rafael froze and thought for a moment, before responding, “It would have to be a lot, but... you know, it might work. We could always tell her that she doesn’t actually have to do anything except deposit the checks. I guess the Fenwick estate would pay her?”
Harrison nodded. “I’m sure an agreement could be reached. And, then he can fly off to New York. Is it too late for him to get into Ballet Academy or SAB?”
“It’s not too late for BAA,” Rafael replied. “They have a second audition the first of September after Labor Day. Besides, they’re desperate for boys, for talented boys and if Jeremy can show them how good he is, there won’t be any problems getting him in.”
“Of course, he hasn’t danced since May.”
Rafael nodded and after a moment of thought, replied, “I’ll work with him. We’ll get him ready.”
“Well, it looks like we’ve solved our problem and we haven’t even knocked off the first bottle of wine!” Harrison replied with a grin.
“Let’s eat, then!” Rafael replied with his own grin. “I’m starving!”
Harrison smiled and nodded and Rafael felt much more encouraged as he watched the man walk over to the telephone to tell Room Service they were ready for their salads. This was turning out to be much easier than he thought. He didn’t have to let Grayson Harrison fuck him and all he had to do now was convince his mother to take custody of a twelve year-old ballet boy, ask his Uncle Teddy to let said ballet boy live in his apartment, and get a crazy southern faith-healer to let his ballet boy nephew go live in Sodom-on-the-Hudson with a notorious homosexual writer.
What could possibly go wrong?