Wednesday Evening, Last Week of September
Jake Cohen bundled up against the brisk autumn wind. It was his favorite time of the year. Too bad he had no one to share it with. All of his friends, one by one, had found their sub and Jake, although he looked at every new crop, hadn't. He decided to do the unthinkable--he was going to ask the sub club for help.
He didn't look forward to the flack he was going to catch from his friends, but damn it, he was lonely and they all had a sub of their own, except him. With the changes he was contemplating for his life, now was the time to find someone. The sub club had performed miracles with the other recalcitrant Doms; he should be easy. He actually wanted a sub to love and their help to find him.
Earlier that day, he called Reed and asked him if he could speak to Jim. Naturally, Reed wanted to know why.
"What earthly reason do you need to speak to my Jim outside of the club?" Reed's question left him stammering.
"I want Jim and the sub club's help to find me a sub I can love," Jake told Reed in a mumbled undertone, hoping Reed didn't quite hear him.
"You mean you actually want them to meddle in your affairs," Reed said, appalled. "You don't need their dubious brand of interference, trust me on this. And worse, if you fuck up, we'll be the ones that pay the price."
"I think I do, want them to meddle that is. Please, be a friend. Let me ask Jim and the rest of them to give it a shot. I can't be any worse off than I was before. After all it was all of you assholes, with the notable exception of Bear, that gave your subs such hard times before commitment. The sub club's interference had nothing to do with your troubles. I don't want to give anyone a hard time. I want to commit. I'm sick of being alone."
"How can you possibly say you're alone? You have all of us and there are new crops of subs that come into the club every month." He could hear Reed's incredulity over the phone.
"I play, you know I play. However, I haven't found someone that I want to come home to at night and I think that maybe I'm missing something or not doing something right. Anyway, their record is good, seven for seven love matches. Maybe a little of the other Doms' luck will rub off on me."
"If you do this, the other Doms may not forgive you. The subs will be so smug they'll be earning strokes for a month."
"It was okay when I still had Tom but now he's hitched. I never would have picked a homeless guy for an ex-cop, but the subs worked whatever voodoo they do and it all turned out hearts and flowers, or as much hearts and flowers as a Dom/sub arrangement can be. You all love your subs and they adore you. I want that for myself."
"Okay, buddy, you have my permission to try, but don't complain when you don't like the consequences. You're also going to have to get the other Doms to agree not to give out strokes to their subs for plotting, because this wasn't the subs' idea, it's yours." Reed chuckled.
* * *
As soon as Reed got off the phone, he speed dialed Bear. "You won't believe what Jake is going to do..."
* * *
Davey Howell didn't want to pick pockets for a living. A year ago he'd had a job, a good one. He had been a paralegal to Bill Danvers, senior partner at the law offices of Danvers, Blake, & Sampson. When Mr. Danvers went on a year's sabbatical, the other two partners had transferred their dislike for the senior partner to Davey. He hadn't been able to do anything right. He'd been at that office for five years, and they'd fired him, summarily. Now he was twenty-five and in competition with all the paralegals that just graduated from school.
The fact that Davey was fired didn't look good on his resume and his old boss, Bill Danvers, was gone with his wife for a cruise around the world for a year. He couldn't get a hold of him for another three months.
His unemployment insurance had run out, he'd depleted his 401K and he was out of options. His resume was papered across the ‘net, he'd called every recruiter in New York and no one would hire him without a reference. He went to the jobs counselor at the unemployment office.
"If you can't get a letter of reference from your old employer, you should write to the partner you worked for. He'll give you a reference, if what you say is true. I called Danvers, Blake and Sampson about you. They gave out a terrible reference. Until the other partner returns, you're out of luck." The jobs counselor looked bored and annoyed. "Come back when you have the letter, maybe then I can do something for you."
Davey thought, if he'd been smart, he would have gotten that letter the minute Bill announced his sabbatical, but he'd trusted that the firm would find another lawyer for him to work for. Instead, they had gotten rid of him.
He'd hired his own lawyer to sue for wrongful termination, but the lawyer he found was a hack and just sent a few letters which probably went directly into the circular file. Then, he'd run out of money.
He had no family, he was a foster kid. He had no friends; you didn't make friends in the foster system. He was completely on his own. Now, he was standing in the garage of a fancy office building waiting for someone well-heeled and working late to show up so he could pick his pocket.
He'd learned to pick pockets in one of his foster homes. He was eleven. His junkie mother hadn't visited in about three years and an older boy of sixteen thought it was a hoot to teach him.
"Davey, you want to learn how to do something useful?" Kyle was rolling a blue rubber ball in his hands. He called it training.
Since no one ever noticed Davey, to have Kyle's undivided attention now made him glow. Davey had a huge crush on the older teen. Davey didn't care what he was going to teach him, he was all in. Kyle spent the next three weeks teaching Davey how to pick pockets.
"You're pretty good, kid. I'll take you out on Friday night by the ball field, easy pickings."
"I don't want to go to jail. I thought you were teaching me for fun," Davey said, wide-eyed.
Kyle slapped him around some trying to get Davey to change his mind. He remembered a black eye, a broken nose and a broken arm. The foster family complained about the fighting and Davey's suitcase was packed and on the step before he left for the emergency room.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones had one word to say when he returned home from the hospital, "Leave."
He begged Mrs. Jones to let him stay. "But Mrs. Jones, he attacked me." Davey sat in the front seat of an old battered Ford Escort pleading for her to change her mind. He didn't tell her about learning to be a pickpocket. He was afraid of another beating.
Mrs. Jones shrugged her shoulders. "Kyle has been with us for three years. You've been here for three months. Kyle has never given us a problem. You are a bad influence." They got to the house where Mr. Jones was waiting.
He started to cry. "None of that, you sniveling little wimp. Your things are on the porch, go out and sit on the step."
He could still see Kyle's gloating face in the upstairs window as the social worker's car pulled away two hours later. It was the last time he cried.
There was some justice in the world, since he later read in the paper that Kyle was arrested and convicted of armed robbery and sent to Rahway for twenty years but that didn't help his current situation one iota.
Now it was either pick pockets or sell drugs and he wasn't getting involved with drugs and gangs. He saw what they did to other kids in foster care and the group home. Most of them wound up dead with a needle in their arm.
He knew that two-seventy-seven Park Avenue between Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth was one of the most expensive office rentals in New York. He was going to try his luck there. The office had a parking garage. He'd staked it out. The garage was minimally supervised by a man in the front of the entrance in a kiosk watching television. Davey hoped he wouldn't notice him. He trailed to the back by the elevator and hung out in the shadows. The elevator dinged. He spotted a tall, handsome man with black hair dressed in an expensive suit carrying a courier bag. The guy used a remote to start an Audi.
He decided to brush by him and grab his wallet, visible in the inside pocket of his suit. He would pretend to fall and when the guy helped him up, he would do it.
* * *
Jake had just started his car with his remote when he saw a young kid walking in the garage. The kid was a stunner. He had light sandy blond hair that hit his shoulders, even when tied in a queue and when he moved under the bright lighting, Jake could see teary red rims surrounding sapphire blue eyes. He seemed a little bit down on his luck. Jake wondered why his shoulders were slumped and as the kid came closer, he saw tears running down his cheeks.
As he approached Jake, he stumbled. Jake grabbed hold of him and the kid attempted to pick his inside pocket. In a lightning swift maneuver, Jake had the kid up against his car with his hands immobile behind his back. The kid was silently sobbing, his chest heaving, trying to keep it together. Jake took a pair of cuffs out of his raincoat pocket left over from his last visit to the club and cuffed him. Then he grabbed his phone to call the police.
"Please, don't call the police. This is the first time I've tried something like this but I'm desperate. I'm so hungry." The kid was breathing fast on the verge of hyperventilation. Jake thought he looked as if he might be telling the truth. Dragging him by the cuffs, Jake opened the front door of his silver Audi and threw him inside on the passenger seat.
"Tell me why I shouldn't call the police right now." Jake had the phone in his hand.
The kid began to speak quickly between sobs. "Sir, I'm a paralegal. My boss was the managing partner of Danvers, Blake and Sampson. Mr. Danvers took a year's sabbatical to go on a cruise around the world with his wife. They left nine months ago. He said he'd find me a place with another one of the partners in the firm because he didn't want to lose me." He sobbed again. "As soon as Mr. Danvers left the firm, a lot of other people left too. I didn't have anywhere else to go. It wasn't too long before I found out that the other partners hated Mr. Danvers, so rather than laying me off, they fired me without cause. The others that gave notice all obtained a letter of reference from Mr. Danvers before he left. I never thought I'd need one. No one warned me." Davey straightened himself in the seat and gulped down another sob.
"You were a paralegal. Why didn't you sue for wrongful termination?" "I tried, but all I could afford for a lawyer was a hack, Milton Fried. He sent out a few letters, charged me five hundred dollars--and that was that. The letters probably wound up in the circular file. I paid Fried all the money I could afford. I cashed in my 401K, went through my savings and pawned my television, stereo equipment and my computer months ago." He paused. "I'm down to my last twenty bucks, which I'll need to pay subway fare in case I get an interview. I bought minutes for the phone for this month in case I got a call back, but on the first, I'm out of my apartment and I haven't eaten anything but Ramen for six weeks and there hasn't been any Ramen for two days."
"What about unemployment insurance?" Jake turned around to really look the kid in his eyes.
"It ran out a month ago and because I was fired, I had to wait six weeks before I was eligible and it wasn't much."
"If you're good enough to be the managing partner's paralegal--why can't you get a job?"
"Blake and Sampson won't give me a good reference and as I said, Mr. Danvers is on a trip around the world. I made all the bookings for him. He should be in Belgrade now. I can't call him. His wife swore if he heard from the office she'd divorce him and that woman is scary. Besides, I can barely afford a phone. It's a burner phone and doesn't make international calls. Mr. Danvers will be gone for another three months. All of the other members of Mr. Danvers' team got letters of recommendation before he left. They saw the writing on the wall. I was blind to it, too busy trying to do my job to get involved in office politics. I know he'd give me a good reference but now when you call the firm and ask about me, they say I was fired for cause. But I didn't do anything wrong." He broke into tears again.
* * *
"Why did you try to be a pickpocket? You're not a very good one." Jake asked with amusement, having already decided to let the kid go. After hearing his story, he was inclined to help him. He'd dealt with Danvers, Blake and Simpson and he knew Blake and Simpson were ethically challenged. Danvers was the one with the decent reputation. He could see the kid was telling the truth.
"It's the only other thing I know how to do." The kid hiccupped. He doesn't seem like a thief, there is a story there.
Jake picked him up off the front seat and took off the cuffs. "Sit up, kid." He started to shake. "Don't worry, I'm only going to buy you dinner and you can tell me how you learned to be the worst pickpocket in New York City." He seemed so grateful that Jake didn't call the police that he went with him quietly. They got into the Audi and drove uptown.
They wound up at Bobby Van's Steakhouse on Fifty-Fourth Street between Park Avenue and Lexington. The restaurant looked like an old fashioned gentleman's club with wooden panels on the bottom portion of the wall and the upper portion was painted gold. The tables were set with crisp white tablecloths. Off the dining room was an old-fashioned long bar with large backless bar stools. The waiter handed Jake the menu and he ordered appetizers and iced water with lemon slices for both of them. "We'll wait to order the entrees."
"Yes, Mr. Cohen." He came here often. They were used to his habits.
"Tell me your story, kid..."
"My name is Davey Howell. I worked directly for Mr. Danvers. I have a photographic memory which he found useful. I prepared all of his briefs." Two iced waters with lemon showed up at the table. Jake saw Davey furtively take a sip. watching him to see if he approved.
Jake leaned back in his chair thinking. "I remember sitting in court waiting for the judge. Danvers presented a brief that was so well-written and researched that I was impressed. He said his paralegal prepared it. I suppose that was you." Their appetizer arrived-- he had ordered calamari and clams oreganata.
"This is really good. I've never had clams or calamari before."
"Anything is going to taste good to you, kid, you're hungry."
Davey then answered Jake's question. "Yes, Sir, he wouldn't work with anyone else."
"I didn't introduce myself. I'm Jake Cohen of Cohen, Gilcrest and Sampson."
"Oh my God, you're the best contracts lawyer in the city."
Jake inclined his head. "How did you learn to pick pockets?"
Davey's eyes dimmed and got glassy again. "I was in a foster home. I was eleven and had a crush on an older boy, Kyle, who was sixteen. He thought it would be a kick to teach me to pick pockets. When he finished teaching me, I was pretty good, but I thought it was just a game--until he wanted me to do it for real. I objected. I was in that foster home for a few months and the people were okay. I didn't want to get in trouble. Kyle beat me up pretty bad. I had a broken arm, a broken nose and a black eye. Kyle had been with the family for three years. I tried to tell them what happened although I was afraid of telling them about being taught to be a pickpocket. I was afraid of another beating and I had already taken too many. Anyway, they sent me away, said I was a bad influence on Kyle."
The waiter came back over. Jake ordered their entrée. "I'd like two orders of Caesar Salad and an order of your porterhouse steak for two with mashed potatoes, gravy and a mixed vegetable plate. Make the meat medium rare." The waiter left the table and Jake resumed the conversation. "That wasn't fair, he was bigger than you, were they stupid?" The waiter brought bread to the table and Jake motioned for Davey to eat.
"No, just set in their ways and didn't want trouble, Sir. They were in it for the money and couldn't have a black mark on their record because it would be the third time they were investigated. Blaming me was the easiest thing all around. After that I went to a group home which was worse than all the foster homes put together. I used to get roughed up every day by the older and bigger boys." Davey sniffled a little bit.
"You have to be the worst pickpocket in New York, so I wouldn't try that again if I were you." Jake leaned into Davey. This kid is a submissive and he's gorgeous. The subs can't do better than this for me. Right now his back is against the wall. I've got leverage. Maybe I can get him to come to a short term agreement. "I have a proposition for you. I'm a Dominant, looking for a submissive. You have the right personality type. Come live with me and work in my office directly under me. I won't touch you unless you ask me to do so. I'll pay your rent until Mr. Danvers returns. If you want to go back to him, you can. In the meantime, you work for me. You are gay, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir, but that doesn't have anything to do with how good I am at my job. What I do in bed is my own business."
"Don't get on your high horse, I'm gay too."
"Why do you want me to live with you?" Davey asked with trepidation. "...you won't report me to the police for...you know."
"I won't report you. As far as why I want you to come and live with me, call it an audition, because you've got the personality of a submissive and I'm looking for one, secondly, because you have a stellar legal mind that I can use. We won't be at a loss at what to talk about in the evening." The waiter brought out the steaks and vegetables.
"If I do this, are you sure you won't report me, even if I don't work out?"
"I promise I won't." To Jake, Davey looked very small in the booth when he asked the next question.
"What's a submissive, sir?"
"Tell you what--I belong to a club in New Jersey. We'll get your clothing and essentials tonight and the rest tomorrow. You can move in with me for the next three months until Danvers comes back. I'll take you to my office tomorrow and get your paperwork done and on Friday night, you'll come to the club with me. You'll see what a submissive is there."
"You'll pay the rent so I won't lose the apartment? Harry would have my head. It's rent stabilized." Davey looked frightened as if he didn't know which way to turn.
"Where do you live?" Jake spoke in a soothing tone. "Eat."
To Jake's satisfaction, Davey followed the order and began to eat his steak. He answered Jake's question between bites.
"On Sixteenth Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, it's an old building, a walk up. I'm in the third floor front apartment. It has two bedrooms, a living area, a dining area and a kitchen. I sublet from Harry, a guy I met in school. Harry has another place but kept the one on Sixteenth Street in case his boyfriend threw him out. I sublet it from him. I pay one thousand dollars a month."
"What do you do if Harry's boyfriend throws him out?" Jake asked in a silken voice.
"I guess I live with Harry for six months until I find my own place. That was our agreement, if he honors it." Davey sighed. "If I don't go with you, I'll be out on my ear on the first. But what happens if I do go with you and can't be a submissive?"
"You'll still have a job with me at the law office and the opportunity to build up your savings again without having to worry about the rent. You'll also have your apartment to go back to as long as Harry's boyfriend keeps him." Jake finished his steak and asked for coffee. Davey was content with his water. "Danvers is all right, but I'm the best. A reference letter from me will outweigh anything negative said about you from Blake and Simpson and when Danvers comes back, you can choose where you want to be employed."
"Frankly, Mr. Cohen, I'm scared. I've never done anything like I did tonight in my entire life except when I thought I was playing with Kyle. The only thing I can do is go with you because I can't know if you'll report me once we leave here. I can't be a paralegal with a police record."
"I won't report you...but you're right, you can't be sure of that. What you can be sure of is that you'll have a roof over your head, a job, and a full stomach, plus an apartment to bolt to if you are unhappy that you threw your lot in with me. I'll draw up a contract that will guarantee the rent on your apartment, a job with my firm as long as you desire one and room and board at my uptown condominium for three months with all expenses paid. If you decide to become my submissive, we'll renegotiate the contract."
"Where do you live, sir?"
"One Beacon Court at one-fifty-one East Fifty-Eighth Street between Lexington and Third-- it's a nice building, I have a four bedroom apartment, so you would have your own room. The apartment has four thousand square feet and all the amenities. There is a doorman, a concierge, a fitness club and a pool. It doesn't have a balcony or views of the park but since I'm in New Jersey most weekends, it doesn't matter. Are you finished with your food, boy?" Jake asked him roughly.
"Yes, sir." Davey took a sip of water.
"Then I'm going to pay the bill and we'll get out of here." The waiter came over and Jake handed him a black American Express card. He noticed Davey's eyes pop when he saw it. "My law firm does a good business, but I come from family money. I'm the last in the line of Cohens and unless I adopt or do a surrogacy, the line will die out with me. I'm looking for a relationship, but since I'm a Dom, I need a sub. I think you'd do nicely. I can see you are attracted to me, aren't you?"
Davey blushed but didn't lie. "Yes, sir."
"Good, I'm physically attracted to you. I sense the submissive in you. I'm not in love with you and don't know if I can be yet, but I think we'd rub along fairly well together after we get to know one another and I'd like to give it a try. We have love of the law in common, that's more than most relationships have at the start." The waiter came back and Jake signed the credit slip.
They got up, left the restaurant and walked to the car, Jake holding on to Davey's arm.
"Why do you dismiss love, sir? I know it exists, I've seen it."
"So have I. The Doms and subs at my club have been incredibly lucky. All of my friends have found love. I've played for years and still haven't found the right one. I decided not to wait anymore and to settle for a sub that can be what I need and give me companionship and sex." Jake remotely opened the doors of the Audi.
"And that would be me, sir?"
"Let's just say you're auditioning for the part. Come on, get in. We haven't got all night. I'll take you downtown and you can get clothes for work tomorrow and your toiletries. I'll take some time off tomorrow afternoon and we can leave early on Friday for the club. We'll deal with the rest of your things then. I'll make a reservation at the Marriott in Princeton for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights while we're at the club."
Jake chuckled. "You'll do."
He looked at Davey who stared back at him like a deer caught in the headlights.