“Yes, Ray? You sound,” a slight almost imperceptible pause, barely noticeable unless you’ve developed nano-second accurate Fraser-interpretation hearing, of course, Ray always had rhythm going for him, and there are times when he thinks Fraser talks like some old dance, not some country dance, like everyone would peg him, but maybe a courtly dance from back when men wore tights and were scared of Judi Dench, “Quite nervous,” no shit, Benton-buddy, and for your next amazing trick you’ll tell Ray Kowalski how you dance, you’ll sing it out, Ray Kowalski, not good cop or bad cop, more totally psycho crazy drop-of-the-hat tango strip-tease cop, will make you sing the right tune all the way into Sing-Sing.
The pain in Ray’s head reminded him that this wasn’t about dancing and sure as fuck wasn’t about strip-tease. And the secret trick is none of them are real, he just strips from one disguise to another and the screaming girls – and okay, boys – never even see flesh, never even see Ray Kowalski detective first-class kick-ass, instead all they see are his costumes, his set. All they see are the costumes, the dressing, and still they scream for more, yet they never see him, never see him at all. Fire-fighter (getting sucked into insurance scams to pay for his daughter’s operation) into pusher (never extending credit but making sure the poor shits got into a hostel somewhere) into door-to-door salesman (selling vacuums in crack houses) into divorced father of three (cracking prioderm to keep with it, more than his doc, his nice-nice private doc, will ever prescribe him, and really, you gotta help) into aging rent-boy (wearing last summer’s hot club look this winter out on the streets to pay his pimp and pay the ache in his arms.)
Arms. Ray’s arms ache real bad, really bad, like beyond the valley of bad bad, which sounds like some town in some German horror flick before Ray tunes the sound down and tries to sleep bathed in the beatific light of Hot-Nunnery-Virgin-Who-Does-It-With-The-Devil-And-Fellates-Schoolboys-While-Hacking-Slutly-Teen-Schoolgirls-Into-Sluty-Teen-Schoolgirl-Chunks, which probably sounds way cooler in German ‘cause it’s all one word and really funky. Ray’s always wished that he’d studied German at school, but his folks were looking at him like he’d grown a third head to keep his second one company and was going to get a swastika tattoo somewhere real prominent, and so it was extra math, because Stanley was going to be an accountant.
But numbers are dead, cut them, quarter them, divide them, they don’t bleed and words were alive because they were people really, people are only their words sometimes. And Ray so wanted to live, and not be Stanley with his numbers, that frankly he sucked at, and he was as dead as them and who ever heard of some hot girl fucking James Dean’s accountant? Or some hot guy, whatever. Maybe that’s why the car crashed, and the execs had to hush up the boy giving him head at the wheel and give super-size backhanders to the cops.
Now, Ray knew that was stupid, but he hadn’t found out until he’d met Benton Fraser, who’d said so much saying so little, “eh” had become his dictionary, and “ah” his primer and he could set his compass thing by them, which is better than Huey since he couldn’t do anything with the whale-bone compass thing Fraser bought him. And Fraser could say things with silence, and with action, and somehow Huey didn’t get that the sexy-aunt thing was a question, about his lack of direction since his partner Gardiano died, or maybe even before that, everyone reckoned that the guy was a flake-out and that so sucked. But what really amazed Ray was how Fraser could say two things at once. How he could say “thank you kindly” and mean “I hope your pizzle gets eaten by a horde of marauding ferrets”, so yeah, Ray had to stop getting movies with Judi with big orange hair in them, but they made him feel good, and so did knowing that those same three words also meant, “Ray, you have done a most astounding and amazing piece of detective work, let us adjourn to the stationery cupboard where I might worshipfully fellate you,” which actually sounded Fraser-ish (though the real sound was more like mumph-suck-suck-gasp-suck-ah), which proved that Ray really could get good at this language lark.
And that opened his eyes to the one thing that he hadn’t really got, how much people could lie and think they’re sincere. Every word of Stella’s as the world disintegrated around his ears suddenly became clear, and he wondered whether she would ever be able to hear the lies too, and whether they’d make her cry as much as they did him. Now he knew that, “Ray, I’m only visiting my mother, I just don’t know how long I’ll be…” translated into “Ray, you better not be here when I get back, because I’m paying ¾ of the mortgage and you will shortly be hearing from my lawyer regarding the other quarter in whatever hovel you find yourself, but I’m nice and still like you a bit so won’t pursue punitive alimony.” And don’t ever ever mention the words “trial separation” to him again, and ban “I need space” too.
People can lie when they think they mean things. They can also be vicious manipulative deliberate liars, like the ones they met this afternoon, or nearly every day in Interrogation One. Ray knew all about the second type of liar and could make them wish they’d never been born and had never been locked up in some small room with some psycho cop shouting and flicking his lighter and threatening to do some high impact plastic surgery on their face with his boot. And now, Benton Fraser, Angel of The Law, had opened his eyes to the other lies and all he could see was radiant glory.
Which was why he, Ray Kowalski, could see this coming, and Benton Perfect-In-Every-Way-Including-Wolf-Grooming-And-Blowjobs-And-A-Fine-Cop-With-It Fraser didn’t. It was also why he, Ray Kowalski, got fucking brained with something hard and heavy first.
And now he couldn’t see it, and was having to ask Ben, who for reasons that really did need exploring at this juncture because they weren’t the usual good reasons at all was tied to a chair, which was tied to another chair, which was tied to him, and it was pinching Ray’s chest and making him feel all light-headed. And, his head hurt, it was all thumpy-thumpy and in a totally scary not a migraine more likely a brain tumour place.
“Fraser, what’s going on?”
“Ah, you mean, why are we both shackled by a somewhat sturdier rope than is apposite for an escape attempt and covered in nuts and nut-by-products?”
See, here was the Fraser-recap, he had this feeling that Ben had spent a lot of time early on waiting for people to get run over by the clue-bus and was now in the regular habit of mowing down poor harmless pedestrians with mounds of exposition (what was weird was that they thanked him after, as if a little bit of Canada had rubbed off on them, the weird polite bit, not the snarky stealth-insult and blow-job at five-o-clock bit), and so Ray indulged it, most of the time, “Yeah, that Fraser, not why somebody felt the need to put peaches and ice-cream together and murder the stuff with sauce, yeah, so why are we tied up and why does my head fucking hurt so much?”
“Ray, it’s a Hornbill.”
“That answers so very much,” hey, he almost managed to sound like Fraser.
“It thinks your head is an exceptionally large nut.” He so had to get a new ‘do, maybe one with spikes to discourage birdies with the munchies. Time to get experimental with the wax on his head. Maybe, after this he could get experimental with wax on Fraser’s ass, if he asked nicely and formed the question with perfect grammar, and maybe he could bring Fraser an apple too.
“And Hornbills eat nuts?”
“Yes, Ray,” he could have just asked whether brown bears shit in the woods after their fresh salmon supper, Fraser would have sounded the same, “I suspect that it’s rather half-hearted however since a hornbill generally has the strength to crack brazil nuts, which are much trickier, on reflection, than the human skull.” And here’s another disturbing little Fraser-factoid, intended to reassure and hence a clear sign that if Fraser ever failed anything it was Human Interaction 101, the bits about white lies and sparing feelings and all those little falsehoods we tell ourselves so we ignore the ones pouring out of our mouths.
Not that Ray ever did that, of course, he was here with Fraser with the straight-dope thing, except with Fraser it was probably sans dope unless somebody slipped him a hash cookie at the little orphan Annie llamas for impoverished youngsters tea party. Except Ray was a professional liar, he did it whenever he pulled out his badge, and if that was him, what was Fraser really? Ray had his cause, and lied for it, but Fraser was out and out in love with Truth, Justice, And The Canadian Way all the way down to wearing scratchy wool in seventy degree heat in a high-humidity tropical birdhouse. So if Ray pulled shit, Fraser must be…
Ray didn’t want to think like this no more, wanting to go back about thinking ‘bout his arms, and his tweeting headache (okay, he hadn’t actually tweeted, but noise had to be in inverse proportion to the size of the thing, it had to be a law of the fucking universe) and most of all about hi-risk blowjobs with magic Mountie tongue action. So he said the first thing in his head, which wasn’t any of that shit, “Christ, this must be the fucking worst run zoo in the history of man, sure it’s a private one, but where the fuck is the security? Hello, two men tied up in the horrendously ball-quakingly big bird house with a bird trying to use its beak as a handy brain-case opener, and they’re eating Salisbury steak sandwiches and watching the late-night screening of Ring Of Bright Water?”
“Actually, Ray, I believe the worst zoo ever is that in Thimpu, Bhutan. The king, being Buddhist, decided it was wrong to keep animals captive, and let all the animals out. However, the takins proceeded into the city proper and began to eat everyone’s Rhododendrons and so were removed back to the zoo, where they are now the sole inhabitants. And Ray, I think the gentlemen with whom we just had this unfortunate altercation were indeed the security staff. For a reclusive millionaire with an avian obsession, Rolly Hibright really doesn’t seem to believe in proper interviewing and vetting procedures, which is indeed, most unusual for somebody of his obsessions.”
Yeah, that was it, Fraser, there was the stupid story, thankfully about something other than freaking Inuit, but still, if he ever found a takin, he’d give it all the rhododendrons he had, which is none, because there was no way on earth they existed. And then somehow, the fucking bird pecked his brain into gear, “Unless, it’s a front and he’s actually using his legal means to supply an illegal bird trafficking operation?”
“Ah, Ray, that is indeed an, ah, excellent hypothesis.”
“Fraser, what are you doing back there, and what has it to do with the way my horn-headed suitor is wobbling when he tries to give me a little peck ‘round the ear.” All he had to do was ignore it, ignore that Fraser never kissed him, ignore that in some ways Mr Horny Bill Bird was a heck of a lot more intimate than his partner, and Horny Bill only wanted him for his nuts. And Fraser had never touched Ray’s hair either, unless, Ray was “reciprocating the favour” and then it wasn’t the soft caresses he was expecting but strong firm hands. Don’t get him wrong, Fraser wasn’t the type to fuck his face, or at least not with out asking first with pleases and thank-you-kindlies and a thank-you letter the following day just like your mother told you to do whenever you got presents, but they were just there, they didn’t say anything. Nothing at all. They say nothing can exist in vacuum, but thinking about it that was it, with Fraser it was all vacuum.
There was nothing there, sure they connected great as partners, but the sex was without beginning or end, sure there was a beginning in that Fraser dragged him into a cupboard one day, but there was no real beginning, no spiritual beginning, it was as if it was divorced from real life, or maybe just semi-detached. It was like floating in space, the only connection Fraser’s mouth, or dick, or ass. A life cable out in the dark expanse of space, except, everything out there, in the real world, was really all light and shiny and everything was finally going well again. And here he was, in the vacuum, being sucked down in more ways than one. He was falling in a vacuum, falling in space, and he couldn’t even see the stars.
“Ah, Ray, I’m endeavouring to dislocate my shoulder in an attempt to expiate our escape from this unfortunate situation, as I have done previously when we found ourselves confined to an insane asylum, forgive me, but this is somewhat strenuous and will somewhat impact upon my loquacity.”
Fuck, Vecchio. Fraser’s talking about him as if he’s really Vecchio, does that mean that he thinks there’s some form of pick-up in this cage, or did he get bumped around the brain box even worse than Ray did. Ray knows Fraser, knows he’d put up a fight and won’t take kindly to some ice man with some rope to tie him up with. Or maybe he would, Fraser seemed to have no boundaries, but not like that, not like that. Now he thought about it, Ray didn’t want to think about Fraser like that again, maybe never again. Was this what it was like for Vecchio? Work with some Northlands enigma, who will suck your cock and everything but never say anything of meaning about it? Even his body-language, Ray’s favourite language ever, since he couldn’t muss up on the vocabulary with that and could out-do Constable Dictionary-Head any day, even his body language said nothing at all. Even Fraser’s orgasms were blank, and all he could see in those eyes was the darkness of space, as it sucked him, sucked him to take Vecchio’s place, sucked Vecchio in to take somebody else’s place, as his mouth, that amazing subtle mouth sucked him out and filled him with emptiness.
One more question, one more question and Ray will let Fraser dislocate all he likes, in fact, he’ll let him dislocate all the way back to Canada if he wants. Ray’s beginning to realise that all he’s found was more lies, more masks, when he was in fact looking for salvation. He’s losing himself again, losing the beginnings and endings of his story, losing him too far in the disguise, it’s like it’s over-large and he’s drowning in it. He’s a drowning man, he’s drowning for his sins, for Vecchio’s sins, for Fraser’s sins if there are any there beyond the void, that emptiness he can see in Fraser’s eyes right now, except he can’t, because they’re tied back to back and a bird’s trying to eat his head, having mistaken it for a brazil nut.
“Fraser, if the bird’s on your head, how do you know what it is?”
“Ah, Ray, the feet of this variety of hornbill are somewhat distinct and as I am not wearing my hat…”
One question, all he has to do now is hold it together long enough to get back on the road (rock star, porn star, druggie, con-man? Beats tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor for sure) and then he’s gone. All he has to do is hold this together and get out before his nut breaks. And it ain’t that dopey bird he’s worried about doing the breaking.
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