SS Manhunt
By William Maltese

Chapter One

Concern dilates my blue eyes as I glimpse snag-like treetops perilously close. Absentmindedly, I run my fingers through the unruly strands of my short-cropped, sweat-saturated blond hair. I swallow hard, and my mind flashes visions of horrendous disaster; no matter Jim Kenner has already proven his worth at the controls of this small single-engine plane. My stomach churns, giving rise to the nausea I've barely controlled throughout most of this wild roller-coaster-like ride through the turbulence percolating upward from the horizon-to-horizon South American jungle, and from the up-thrusts of ragged stone amongst all the greenery below us.

"Jim's landings here are always a bit hairy," Kurt Mann confesses, nervously chewing his lower lip. His violet eyes, purple against the mahogany tan of his face, are dark with concern, and the deep dimple in his right cheek isn't punched there by amusement. Anxiously, he runs his large and well-formed fingers through his thatch-short curly black hair and, in doing so, contributes to the tousle of interlocking strands.

Within the suffocating cramped and super-heated confinement of the small plane, I can still see much of the boy I remember within the man Kurt has become.

"There!" Kurt points through the bug-splattered windscreen. The clearing, thus identified amidst all those crags and flora, isn't reassuring. It looks too small for its intended purpose. If I were in a helicopter, or in any other aircraft capable of a vertical descent, I just might, give odds for a successful set down. Unfortunately, I spot Kurt's white knuckles instead.

"Jim hasn't skewered me on these treetops, or creamed me on these cliffs, yet," Kurt encourages, and he releases his death grip on his seat long enough to give me a playful punch to one biceps.

His brief and boyish body contact is spontaneous consolation from one nervous flier to someone ... moi ... who gives all outward appearance of being yet another. It is as spontaneous as our sex in Septiaola last night.

My mother would all-around disapprove, and not because I'm anywhere close to being a mama's boy. The specter of my mother's disapproval, all the while with me, was given birth the moment I even half-jokingly considered joining this expedition. Mom has already lost a husband, not only to this same jungle but to the father of this very same Kurt Mann, and she insists she won't survive losing me, her only son, in a similar manner.

Nevertheless, here I am, driven by my own demons and, as my mother sees it, consorting with the enemy. Though, until I better dissect the ramifications of Kurt and his boner even momentary back in my life (and vice versa), it's imperative I don't take too seriously any physicality between us.

The plane banks sharply, and the continuing precariousness of the landing-in-progress makes me wonder, and not for the first time, if my mother isn't right. Have Jim, Kurt and I deluded ourselves into believing we're going to make any kind of difference here, so many years after the disastrous fact?

Jim's blond, tanned, green-eyed, and coolly confident demeanor at the controls should reassure me of, at least, a safe touchdown; the plane's by-now familiarly erratic engine noises should do the same. However, like a drowning man, I occupy myself with segments from my past: my childhood in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sebastian, Elsa, and Kurt Mann next door; Sebastian, Kurt, my father and I, in the caves of Mesa Juanita; my father mailing postcards from cave explorations in France, Colorado, New Guinea, Tahiti, and finally, lastly, tragically, Brazil. Flashes of my more immediate past include last night's sex with Kurt in Septiaola.

Obviously, Kurt and I figured, from the get-go, to renew our sexual relationship. Why else bring a gross of condoms, each, into Septiaola, prepared to lug them every step of the way? Certainly, I never seriously contemplated fucking some local Indian, although that was always a viable alternative.

It was the "when" of Kurt and my sex that kept me guessing. So much mental baggage loaded on board our lives, since our last romps in the hay, I envisioned painful detours wherein we tried to talk "this" thorough, or "that" over, before we actually felt comfortable enough at least to ... if not get back to where we'd left off ... indulge some hot and heavy breathing and exchange of body fluids in prelude to reality rearing its ugly head. The odds very much against our having any kind of happy-ever-after ending.

Little did I imagine, though, that we, in that deteriorating hotel in Septiaola, would so simply and naturally, no-fuss quickly, jump-start our relationship. Bypassing all possibility of our getting bogged down in psycho-babble by shuffling such "stuff" to one side as if it didn't exist, or if it did exist as if neither of us had a clue.

We dropped Jim off at his room and shut him safely away inside. We identified Kurt's assigned door as the next nearest, opened it, entered through it. Not even waiting for an invite, I slammed the door shut behind us. We proceeded blindly, with animal-in-rut haste, insensitivity and fury, to tear off each other's clothes and plunge into each other's sensuous nakedness with no other purpose than fucking and sucking our brains out for as long and as often as we could before morning.

Conversation focused entirely on the sexual or sensual: "God, you're handsome!" ... "God, your cock is bigger than I remember!" ... "Let me wrap my mouth around that sausage!" ... "Get down on your hands and knees and let me see that puckered asshole!" ... "Jesus, what a studly butt!" ... "Oh, hot damn, your asshole is tight. But then, I remember it always was just this tight, just this snug, just this fucking lovely ... lovely ... lovely!"

He came at me, missionary fashion, after I'd fucked him dog-style and blasted enough of my cummy deluge to scare Noah into building another Ark.

My legs lifted and parted. They parenthesized his torso, from his handsome face to his monstrously thick dick, including his well-delineated chest and stomach muscles, his body hair on chest, belly, and around his knotted navel. His balls, fuzzy-scrotum contained, impressively hung the base of his stiff dick.

The back of my knees locked his shoulders. His weight accordianed my legs, and he came down so close that I could lick his lips and did. His mouth was salty, more so as he touched it firmly to mine, opened, put his tongue to my tongue, put his cockhead to my small-puckered anus.

We weren't into slow and easy fucks. He speared my asshole no more nor less forcefully than I'd poked his when I'd driven my nine-plus inches up his rectum with a force that sent him to his forearms on the dirty rug.

His dick in me, from its head to its base, the forceful shove rammed his hard belly into my uplifted butt, and my back slid the floor.

I groaned long and loud into his mouth. He took full advantage to probe his tongue even deeper. It was easy to imagine the flick of his tongue making contact with the head of his cock, the latter powerfully fed through my deep-fucked body to meet it.

His chest hair tickled my chest. His belly hair tickled my belly. His cock tickled my prostate.

My penis, never soft since the beginning, went even harder. I reached for it, fisted it, let it fuck my hand. I enjoyed the steeliness of it, the steeliness of Kurt's erection as it proceeded into its rhythmic out and in ... out and in ... each bumping into, over, and against, to milk my sensitive prostate of viscous goo that all too quickly oozed the pouted mouth of my hand-pumped prick. My fingers grew sticky with my preseminal lubricant. The friction of my beating hand whipped my leakage into a frothy egg-white consistency that frosted the whole of my dick. I burned, inside and out. My body sweated an attractive gloss, all velvety.

A rill of perspiration ran the length of Kurt's pleasure-striated neck. Beads of wet clung to and among the whorls of hair matting his chest and belly. There were loud sounds each time his sopped stomach whacked my cock-accepting ass.

"Fucking ... sexy ... stud!" he said, his breath hot, wet, sweet, upon my face.

"Fuck me harder, bastard!" I commanded. "Fuck me deeper!" As if it were humanly possible for him to fuck any harder or deeper or faster, or ...

The momentum of the screw continued to move us along the floor. We left a seeming slug trail along the cheap carpet.

"I'm going to hump you until you squeal!" he said, his dick once again rammed inside me to his compacting balls. A torque of his hips, and his pestle-in-mortar boner pirouetted against my prostate.

I squealed. Long and hard. I begged for more of the same.

He gave me more of the same. He gave me variations thereof. He gave me more than I could have dreamed possible, proof-positive that he, like I, had come a long way, by way of accumulating sexual expertise, since our first naïve fumblings so many years before.

"I come!" he said and slotted his thick prick one final time deep ... deep ... deep.

His eyes went wide and then squeezed to little slits. Every last muscle within his exquisitely sculptured body went taut. His cock pulsed a staccato drumbeat against the Saran-wrapping walls of my anus.

His spunk let go, even as my sperm squirted my latest mess onto my belly, onto my chest, onto my neck, onto my face.

The lowering of wing flaps sends vibrations through the plane and through us, and I'm jarred back to the here and now. I prefer the escape of reverie. Our steep descent is into dangerous trees whose serrated edges extend in open invitation to impaling. Jagged, knifelike hunks of rock accompany with similar invitations, and I taste the danger.

"I loathe airplanes, especially small ones, particularly this one," Kurt says.

I'm reading his lips: the squealing, squeaking competition from straining metal makes normal conversation impossible. I do find his confession charming, if not at all calming.

A battering-ram branch comes so close to one window that I jerk back in fear of it coming through. I will myself to become part of the cracked and weathered cushions of my seat. I'm further jolted by landing gear that touches and then trips over rough ground. I manage a silent prayer and complete it as a wall of rock and shrubbery rears directly in front of us. At the moment before impact, the plane tilts nose-downward and converts the last of its momentum into a surprisingly graceful half-pirouette. I'm left breathless and with a dull headache

"Well, if we've the Jell-O out of our legs, shall we disembark?" Jim cheerfully suggests after the plane becomes silent. He's in an obviously good mood, the least affected of us. He isn't transplanted from Phoenix, where I now live, or from Portland, like Kurt; instead, he was born and raised here in Brazil, and he's acclimatized.

If I expect a reprieve from the heat and the humidity I endure in the aircraft, I'm disappointed upon stepping outside. Mugginess greets me with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The impact takes away what little breath I have left. At the same time, I smell a musty, rancid earthiness that's more reminiscent of dying vegetation than freshly plowed fields. The complete trapping of sunlight by bordering strands of towering trees and by rocky crags only magnifies the overall sepulchral effect.

My first impression is one of something out there: a thousand-beady-eyed enemy whose attention is focused entirely on me. At the same time, the already narrow perimeter of the clearing seems to close in: warrior plants on the march to refill the momentary gap in their ranks as quickly as air jealously rushes to fill a vacuum, or as totally as darkness greedily swallows any hint of light after a Kansas sunset.

I literally shiver, despite the surrounding, engulfing heat.

"What?" Kurt asks intuitively from close behind; I suspect his empathy is a holdover from our shared youth.

"Remember when I got stuck in that crawlway in the Mesa Juanita caves?" I reference something we long ago shared.

"Of course," Kurt mildly chides. "Possible flash floods from unexpected squalls in the desert; rangers bellowing for us to get the hell out or chance drowning like proverbial rats."

"I was scared shitless," I remind.

"We all were," Kurt is unwilling to grant me a monopoly on the emotion.

"Cold, pain, wet, fear," I reiterate. "Mainly the fear. A mile below ground, a girdle of solid stone anchoring me to the spot, and I never once imagined the walls and ceilings were closing in. All the caves I've been in since, all the tight spaces I've maneuvered, and I've never known an abnormal dread of confinement ... until now."

This bracketing of shadow-filled trees jails me. So what did I expect? A picnic? My mother warned me, not only of Kurt but also of the Amazon. In Mom's opinion, neither is a fit companion for man or beast.

"The claustrophobia will pass," Kurt promises and smiles encouragement and sympathy. It's a pleasant smile that further deepens the attractive dimple always evident in his right cheek, and it crinkles the laugh lines at the corners of his clear violet eyes. "You want to know my first impression of this place?" His smile converts to a self-mocking one. "Some thing, or somebody, out there watching me."

The invisible hair along my arms begins to stand on end. I want to ask Kurt if his initial paranoia has passed, tell him my first impression is exactly the same, but we're interrupted.

"Ah, here they come!" Jim says. He has just secured the plane with block and tackle. He points toward two young Indians, each in Khaki shorts and shirt, who materialize from the underbrush and head in our direction.

The encampment is off the runway, reached by a short path through towering trees whose continuing undefined menace enhances my sense of ill-being.

The main tent is straight out of The Arabian Nights. It's a white conglomeration of canvas with three graceful arches that branch off from a large central dome. "Man by the name of James Rommel designs and manufactures these in Israel," Jim says. "They look great, are easily set up, and are functional to boot."

The interior is spacious, the atrium a communal area, while the three smaller offshoots act as sleeping quarters. "Unfortunately," Jim reminds, during our short tour, "we've only a short time to enjoy these amenities before Captain Fortuna-Mata checks in with our final go-ahead from the Brazilian government. After that, it's the great outdoors and hammocks hung from trees. You are still up to it, Brad?" Thankfully, it doesn't sound like a dig. What it does sound like is an honest query from a man who figures I, city boy that I am, know my own capabilities; Jim willing to take my word for it.

"Ask me again later," I parry tiredly. After what I've gone through to get this far, I just want to enjoy the luxurious accommodations that, at least for the moment, shield me from jungle heat, jungle oppressiveness, and jungle eyes.

"A drink?" Jim suggests. "After which I'll lead the stampede to our bathing facilities."

Kurt collapses in one camp chair, I in another.

"Unfortunately, it's a very limited bar," Jim apologizes. "Gin and tonic; gin or tonic."

I find it inexplicably difficult to focus for long on what Jim says or does with Kurt around. Growing up, Kurt had been important in my life, and Jim is a new acquaintance. Now Kurt and I are going through the uncertainties of resuming a one-time relationship that went beyond friendship. Not that Jim hasn't always been part of the total picture that brings us all together in the Amazon for this hook-up. Jim's father, Daniel Kenner, was the initial impetus behind the first ill-fated Kenner-Mann-Lexly expedition, and Jim is the one to suggest this one of the heirs apparent. As the sons of the three missing men, we're undeniably interested in fitting together the pieces, old and new, that accompany the mysterious disappearances of our fathers. Almost everyone else has lost interest or is dead, except for the reporters who wrote the brief flurry of news articles to accompany the recent discovery of the ill-fated first expedition's assumed-final campsite, all of these years later.

My mother has little, good or bad, to say about Jim Kenner or about Jim's father. That's because my mother knows neither. Daniel Kenner left Brazil only infrequently. Although, he had been on hand for the opening of the Nitches Cave Complex in southeastern France, and he'd met and befriended Sebastian Mann while conducting an exploratory survey of the deTwip Cave Complex in New Zealand. That was all before the Manns met us Lexlys by becoming our neighbors in Santa Fe; before Sebastian Mann converted my father and me to cave exploration, or, as those in the know call it, "to spelunking".

Although Jim is Daniel Kenner's son, I would have guessed him of Teutonic heritage, Kurt of Brazilian, not the vice-versa reality. Jim's blond hair is only a few shades darker than mine. Its deep leftward-sweeping bangs keep it perpetually hanging boyishly over his green eyes. Jim's tan is the kind most blonds, in general, and I, in particular, would die for. There isn't a peeling strip of dead skin, a burn spot, or even a splotch of unsightly heat rash; I, if I follow true to form, will progress from lobster pinks to variegated reds, culminating in an unflattering peel. Jim's hands are as callused as expected on someone who spends long hours examining his extensive coffee and cacao holdings. Kurt chairs several space-technology conglomerates, and his hands are just beginning to heal and harden as a result of his recent time spent in helping to clear the jungle airstrip. I became acutely aware of Kurt's new calluses during our previous night of hot and heavy sex.

My attention, back on Kurt, is met by Kurt's smile in response. "Excuse my staring," I apologize. "I'm afraid I'm daydreaming."

"I was wondering if I'd sprouted a horrendous wart on the end of my nose," Kurt says with a good-natured grin. While I find him amusing, charming, and thoroughly attractive, I have to be extremely careful of my emotions for all the reasons my mother would all too willingly list for me.

"Whatever ails any of us can be cured by a nice, leisurely skinny-dip," Jim diagnoses after he's drained the last of his drink.

I locate a fresh change of clothing in my pack that has been brought from the plane by one of the two young Indians who'd been there to greet us. Jim is ready with towels.

The stream isn't all that far from camp, although I'd never have guessed, what with its extreme screening by thick greenery. Once reached, the running water holds out enticing invitation for welcome relief from the sticky heat by offering several deep pools, one at the base of each in a series of separate cascades.

"Piranha?" I ask, although already answered by the swiftness with which Jim strips to his tanned, muscled skin and to his large uncircumcised cock.

"Too many high leaps required from downstream for them to get this far," Jim says and pauses long enough to use both palms to squeegee rills of sweat from his impressive torso. His pectorals are square, pretty much hairless, and mirror one another across his ravine-like cleavage. His belly is a stereotypical washboarding. "Thank God, they're not salmon."

Despite Jim's admittedly Greco-Roman perfection, I can handle that, just as I've handled, on more than one occasion, showering with well-muscled jocks in any number of shower-room situations, never having been embarrassed by sprouting even the semblance of an I-like-men boner. There is, however, something about Kurt's turn-on strip, revealing his chest and belly fanned with attractive whorls of blue-black hair, that makes my cock swell, even before he drops his underpants to reveal his cock still far bigger than I remember from my teenager days of experimentation with it.

"Going down!" Jim informs. It sounds disturbingly sexual to my ears, but it only notifies he positions himself on the first available stone slide that provides swiftest access to the pool a few feet below.

No denying I'm relieved when Kurt quickly follows Jim, thereby leaving me momentarily to gather my senses and try to get my threatening-to-run-rampant libido under better control. Even though, some things Jim has said throughout the course of the day leads me to suspect he not only knows of Kurt and my attraction for one another but also knows we've already acted upon it.

"Shy Brad, are you going to join us?" Kurt calls, after a minute. His voice, above the sounds of cascading water, gives my cock additional incentive to bulk up even more. If I wait for my dick to go completely soft, I'll never join them.

"Coming down!" I announce, brought up short by sudden movement among a bit of greenery near the summit of the high elevation that rises on the far side of the stream.

My blue eyes dilate to discern the blacker black within black that better defines the contents of one particular shadow. Is it merely the way one tall bush combines with those of others to provide the semblance of a man?

My reflexes swirl me into a quick about-face, the result of sudden suspicions I've been set up for a surprise attack from the rear.

There's no denying the man who stands there, even if his short black hair and flawless olive-skin complexion make him look more boy than man.

"I startled you," he understates in beautifully articulated English.

"Yes." With a hurried glance over my shoulder, I check the cliff top and sense that whomever was there – if anyone ... is there no longer. I turn back to the possibly closer threat who says:

"I'm expected, no?" His slight build and short stature add to the illusion of youth.

How can he figure himself expected out here in the middle of nowhere?

"Captain Garcia Fortuna-Mata," he introduces. Has he actually clicked his heels? Yes. Heels on the pair of scuffed English riding boots that are but part of a uniform that comes complete with the gold captain collar insignias that add credence to his being who he says.

"Yes," I say, my mind blessedly coming out of its mad tumble. "You're the local government representative." My identification of him is verified by my vague recollection that Jim mentioned just such a captain being due.

"Exactly," he confirms. He reaches for my towel and extends it in my direction.

I take what he offers and use it to hide my not-quite erection (closing the barn door after the horse is gone). I shake the captain's hand with my free hand.

"I'm Brad Lexly," I say, hopeful that, what with the ongoing distractions, the still swollen state of my dick doesn't make the captain disconcerted.

"I know you're Brad Lexly," the captain says. Of course he knows. It's his business to know. Then again, not even he's privy to everything, because he asks: "Is there something the matter, Brad Lexly? Aside from the fact that you shouldn't be overly embarrassed by the state of your cock; this jungle heat keeps my prick in constant erection."

What do I say to that? I quickly run through my possibilities. As a city boy plopped down, quite literally, in the middle of a jungle, I have no real basis of comparison by which to tell whether or not anything I experience ... including my swollen cock ... is more than a result of alien territory.

My gut-instincts tells me I'd detected someone in the shadow, across the stream, as real as Captain Fortuna-Mata on this side.

"Yes, I'm afraid there might be something," I reluctantly admit. The captain, like Kurt, has a dimple even when he doesn't smile. "Something quite aside from the partial erection of my dick."