an excerpt

Chapter One

By the time Cary Gaufield was home, it was a good hour after dawn. That it took him three tries to align his key with the lock invalidated how many times, during the course of the last few hours, to doctors, to the police, he'd insisted, "I'm okay. I'm fine. Really."

His apartment door finally open, he stepped into the room beyond, shut the door behind him, and tossed his tangled wig to the stand across the way. He missed; the hair made a splat against the hardwood floor and looked like a dead baby wookie.

He left it where it was, taking a position before the wall mirror in order to access damage done. Definitely, he didn't look okay. Really. Lipstick was a red smear, making his mouth appear askew. Mascara was streaked, giving him a panda-eyed look. His short blond hair, in conjunction with the red-sequin dress he wore, was more than a little "off", even disconcerting. His right cheek was scratched. His neck was bruised. He put his right hand to the back of his neck and felt the painful bump at his hairline. He'd been diagnosed as fit to go home, although cautioned to be aware, immediately, of any light-headedness, dizziness, instability, double-vision, or nausea. All symptoms of a concussion.

"So much for your first and last time in drag!" he told himself and headed to the bathroom for a badly needed shower.

He should have never been persuaded by John and Frank to dress like a lady. Easily said, in hindsight! Although, it wasn't as if he hadn't protested at the time of their "working their magic", their insisting there was no way that he wouldn't win Beauty Night at THE RAJ, hands-down. It was about time "Miss Thing" fell by the wayside, having won so many competitions that even she probably doubted she couldn't win them all. Cary couldn't help wondering if Miss Thing had won, again; since Cary, John, and Frank, hadn't even made it as far as the bar. Always hard to find parking on the weekends, they'd only been able to spot the telltale flashing neon THE RAJ marquee three blocks away, when they'd gotten out of Frank's car, Cary swearing he wasn't likely to survive the night without spraining an ankle in unfamiliar high heels. They'd gotten just half a block closer to the gay night club when the black van pulled up in the street beside them, its sliding side door yawning open, and three thugs were on them like flies on dog shit.

There had been a struggle, during which Cary had received a blow to the back of his head, muffled somewhat by his wig, but hard enough to render him at least partially unconscious as he was tossed, with his friends, into the van and driven away. He eventually came to his senses, though, to the sounds of one black-hooded homophobe slapping Frank around. Their assailants made the big mistake in not paying all that much attention to Cary, who, once fully aware, wasn't about to go anywhere passively. He and his parents had realized at an early age that someone as good-looking as he was wouldn't make it through life safely if he didn't know how to take care of himself. At that moment, in that van, he'd called up all of his many boxing and wrestling lessons to turn wild animal and wreak more than his fair share of havoc on his attackers before the van came to a screeching halt, its side door sliding open, and Cary was pushed unceremoniously onto the street as the vehicle sped off.

"So, where in the hell did John and Frank end up?" he asked the bathroom mirror, slipping off his clothes and putting his right hand to the bruises at his throat which weren't the result of his confrontation with the gay-bashers in the van but from quite another altogether different quarter.

His adrenalin and rough ejection had left him completely disoriented. He'd just managed to stand, where he'd been deposited on the street edge, when the car pulled up, stopped, and its passenger window went down.

"And, what's a nice girl like you, doing in this part of town?" the driver asked. He was hard to see within the inside dimness of the auto, but he looked harmless enough, at the time. Non-descript. Not ugly. Not handsome. A very welcomed normal: short-cut brown hair, brown v-neck sweater over a white unbuttoned-at-the-collar shirt, brown cargo pants.

"Exactly what part of town is this?" Cary asked. He didn't have a clue.

"Sixty-fifth and Trout."

"Jesus!" Cary had no idea he could have come so far. Likely, he'd been totally unconscious at least part of the trip. "Do you think you might give me a lift to my place?" He provided the address, wondering if the guy would find playing uber driver a major inconvenience.

"Sure," the guy replied, leaning across the seat to open the passenger door. "I've always seen myself as the gallant white knight, coming to the aid of some fair damsel in distress."

Cary climbed into the car that smelled of lime cologne, or, maybe, from one of those car fresheners; although, Cary didn't see anything hanging from the inside rear-view mirror.

"Much appreciated," Cary said and tried to make himself comfortable. He could tell he was due for some real hurt in the morning, because, his adrenalin in decline, he was already feeling sorer than he had but a few minutes before.

It crossed his mind that he really should call the police. Although his cell phone had been lost somewhere during the night, he was sure this guy, who had volunteered his car, would, likewise, be more than willing to volunteer the use of his phone.

He decided against the police, though. They never did much of anything with regards to gay-bashing. There had been complaints galore about how often such cases remained unsolved. There had even been a concentrated effort, at one brief moment in time, to admit more gay officers into the police force; mostly just window dressing at least as far as the beliefs of the much-assaulted gay community.

Could Cary, though, not call the cops, considering the possible fate of John and Frank, probably still in the hands of those homophobes? Not that any of the gay bashings had resulted in a homicide, but...

"There's a flask of bourbon in the glove compartment," the driver said. "If you think it'll help."

"Jesus, yes!" Cary said and retrieved the flattened and curved silver container, unscrewed its cap, and took a big swallow that burned all of the way down.

"So, do you want to talk about it?" the driver asked. "A punter get testy, as regards services rendered, and push you out his car?"

"I can't imagine any paying customer ever being disappointed by my services rendered," Cary insisted, although he'd only sold himself once in his life, having regretted it once sobered up enough to realize what he'd done. The flattered feeling he'd had, initially, when drunk, diminished to just feeling cheap as soon as the booze began to wear off. The guy had been genuinely nice, the sex even good, and Cary would have returned the money if the man had still been there in the morning, not just the folded bills that included Cary's asking price and a large tip.

Conversation, in the car, tapered off to nearly nothing. The driver became less inquisitive and paid attention to the road. Cary became more and more aware that his vision was blurring, street lights actually taking on a rainbow glow.

Fade to black, during which Cary wondered aloud whether the driver would mind taking a detour to the nearest medical facility.

The next thing Cary knew, he was laid out, flat on his back, on a hard surface -- a hospital gurney? --so much heavy pressure on top of him and around his throat that it was difficult for him to breathe.

Something, rat-like, was crawling up his dress, while something hard and truncheon-like was pressing vertically into his stomach.

His cock came suddenly un-tucked.

"Jesus, fuck!" someone said, so up close and personal that Cary could smell lime on the hot breath of -- definitely -- a man. "You're a fucking guy!"

Cary managed an intake of badly needed air that sounded just as loud and as desperately raspy as it was. The truncheon ceased its back-and-forth slide against his belly. The person to whom the voice and truncheon belonged lifted free. A car door slammed. A car drove off.

It took Cary a long while to figure out what in the hell had happened. Drugged, he suspected. He knew the feeling. He, John, and Frank, had once each taken a roofie just so they'd know the feeling if and when they were ever slipped one in a gay bar. Must have been in the bourbon. It had to have been the doing of the Good Samaritan who'd turned out to be not-so-good.

Cary managed to sit up, dizzy as hell, knowing he wouldn't be getting up and walking, under his own speed, for a while yet.

"What the fuck? What the fuck!" He couldn't believe what had happened during the course of one evening that wasn't even yet over. He was surer and surer he'd been drugged, and, in that state, had been jumped by the driver of the car who had seemed happy enough with merely some clothes-on frottage, and some supplemental fondling, instead of anal rape.

Eventually, he recognized he'd been laid out in a park; although, he didn't know which park. He could just make out the lights of passing cars, on a distant street. Seemed his attacker had driven onto the grounds via a narrow access road for service vehicles.

He tried to get up and failed. He tried again, making it to his knees. He crawled, not all that easy in his red-sequin gown that had been new that morning but now looked as if it had gone through a shredder.

Finally, he made it to the edge of the park and the sidewalk that bordered the street. From his downed position, he tried to hail a couple of passing cars, but no one stopped. He couldn't blame them. He wondered if even he would have stopped if confronted by someone in his condition.

Although someone did anonymously call the police.

Which left Cary with little alternative but to spill the beans about the van, the gay-bashers, his two missing friends, the Good Samaritan who hadn't been so good after all, the drugged bourbon, and the assault in the park. His input would all come to nothing, of course, Cary was sure, but he gave the cops all he could remember, just in case. In the end, after the police interrogation, the doctor's prognosis and concern, another go-around with yet another police officer and sketch artist, Cary had been driven home in a squad car, with assurances there would be a follow-up visit from some figure of authority within the next couple of days.