Nobody does a thing in this city unless there’s an exchange of money.
Toby Colton learned this three years ago when he arrived in London at the age of eighteen with dreams of making it as a model. Here, people don’t have value, they have a price, and for the right price people will do anything.
A young fitness model with smooth skin and six solid feet of hard muscle would wear nothing but a tiny black G-string and pour wine for cash bearing men.
Tonight, that fitness model was Toby.
On meeting the client in the hotel lobby, Toby had figured he was in his sixties, probably married, stinking rich, and with a head full of dirtiness waiting to be exercised. But several hours later, the guy still hadn’t managed a climax.
He lay across the silk sheets, half passed out on his wine and false starts. The large mound of his gut eased up and down, his grey haired chest soaked with sweat, his throat wheezing and sighing.
Toby lit a cigarette and left the bed.
The hotel was expensive. They always were. With soft pile carpet, like cotton wool beneath his bare feet, he wandered silently towards the balcony doors.
The west facing room overlooked Hyde Park, only two floors up with not much to see apart from the Marble Arch lit up and looking as grand as gold at the end of Park Lane. The bare branches of trees swayed casually. Park lamps flickered like Christmas lights through the dark walkways over the ever busy road.
Turning away from the view, Toby gazed at the table littered with powder and rolled up twenties. He plucked carefully at the strap that was surely making his asshole red.
No, no more lines tonight, leave it for the maids; let them start their day with a zap.
He checked his phone. No news of the assignment his agent had pencilled in for next week. The one she spouted about for ten minutes this morning, telling him his torso and crotch could be on every box of XY underwear for the next two years. The one that would have him in magazines like MAN-Q, and on posters in those designer sports stores in Covent Garden. The one that meant he could stop meeting men in hotel rooms.
The man on the bed grunted. Those chest wheezes sounded like snores now, and from his age, and what he’d downed in wine, Toby figured he’d be out until morning.
Peeling the tight straps over his hips, he headed to the bathroom. G-strings were tough bastards to get off, and this one was a size too small. He managed to roll it down his thighs and, once free, kicked the black cotton thing under the sink.
What is it about the rich that they have to have hotel rooms bigger than most people’s homes? The bathroom, which was the only place to go to escape the snores of his client, was almost as big as the main room. It had its own balcony, a Jacuzzi, and a walk-in shower with space for at least four people.
He took a shower; towel dried his hair, and headed back to the main room. The client snored at full force. His stomach inflated like a hippo’s.
Figuring he’d get no sleep, Toby was about to grab his cigarettes, when…click!
His eyes shot to the door.
The handle – a golden curve with the head of a swan – twisted half way through its arc.
Toby held his breath. The handle sprang back.
He picked up his phone. No messages.
Stepping away from the bed, he gazed at the door.
Somebody must be drunk, or on the wrong floor.
He watched, mesmerised as the handle turned again. Past half way….fully!
The door opened.
With guts crawling he dashed into the bathroom. Who the fuck is it?
The door closed quietly. No footsteps.
Toby remained silent and kept back in the darkness while goose bumps swept down his arms.
He craned his neck forward and peered around the frame. Only the bedside lamp burned in the room. Someone could have entered, heard the snoring and left quietly. That could happen if the receptionist didn’t know how to program the card keys.
He listened. Nothing.
Thinking he should go and check, he reached for the door handle.
Like someone had taken a swipe at his chin, Toby’s head jerked back with a speed that would have made his father proud. His heartbeat thumped in his ears, puncturing the growling snores coming from the room.
The shadow swept across the carpet.
Taking a deep breath, he peered around the door.
The hair was short and blonde and stuck up in one of those messy styles, looking as if the owner had given up trying to fix it. He could only see a profile, but made out the moustache and goatee.
Fuck! It could be the client’s son.
The imposter crept around the bed, staring at the man who slept. Stopping by the bedside, he bent slightly and gazed at the sleeping face.
Toby exhaled slowly. Part of him wanted to confront the intruder; ask if he was in the wrong room. But as the man reached into his jacket, Toby noticed the short waistcoat and…
…black lined trousers.
Why would a member of staff be in the room? The client hadn’t ordered anything, and if he had, room service would have knocked.
A thief? The staff could have a racket going, preying on rich guests as they slept.
Whatever the case, Toby decided it was time to make his entrance. He reached again for the door handle, but what the man produced from his jacket froze the air in his lungs.
The gun was small, silver. The man flipped a switch over the handle as he leaned forward and aimed the nozzle at the client’s neck.
A trickle of sweat snaked from Toby’s armpit. Gritting his teeth, he pressed his lips together.
The man squeezed his finger around the trigger. Toby pressed his eyes shut…
Toby opened his eyes.
The man stood in the same position, gun held firmly at the client’s neck. The nozzle remained in place for several seconds before the man stood back.
A crazy thought entered Toby’s head. Perhaps the man had forgotten to load the gun. Or maybe the gun had gone off and deafened him.
The client grunted and snorted and made a flimsy attempt to brush away something at the side of his face.
The man stood and watched.
The client’s eyes opened wide, bulging like someone had stuck a high voltage rod up his ass.
His shoulders dug into the pillow. His back arched, mouth twisted in a way Toby didn’t think possible. A tight, rasping groan breathed out as one hand went to his shoulder and gripped. Cheeks flushed, teeth clenched.
He remained in this arched, repulsive state for what seemed an age. Eventually, his body flopped down.
The bed quivered.
Toby had never seen a man die before. He’d never seen a dead body, and try as he did, he couldn’t prevent the gasp.
Faster than that of a spinning ballerina, the man’s head turned to face the bathroom.
Throat suddenly blocked, as if treacle, as thick as tar, had formed inside his windpipe, Toby stared into the sharp green eyes that glared at him. Unable to move or make a decision, he could only look at those eyes. And the longer he stared, the thicker the air felt around him, as though the room had filled with the weight of ice, chiselling into his bare skin.
The door! Run for the door…
He couldn’t move, couldn’t tear his gaze away from the spring-green eyes. The man’s face was blank, but the eyes betrayed pure shock, or fear, or anger….
As though a great timekeeper had nodded the moment on, the man raced around the bed.
Toby slammed the bathroom door shut.
He fumbled for the small latch that was the lock. Twisting it fast…click!
The door rattled in its frame.
In the darkness he felt for the light switch; clammy hands slid up the tiles. As the bathroom lit up, he stumbled away from the door with lungs blowing out air faster than he could take in. The rattling stopped.
A bead of sweat, like a blade digging into his forehead, trickled from hairline to eyebrow.
The silence continued.
Toby grabbed the toilet brush. It was plastic and useless. The steel towel rail was screwed to the wall.
He gazed at the ceramic lid of the toilet. That would bash his head in.
A dull, murmuring creak pierced the silence.
Facing the door, Toby listened to the low pressured groan coming from the lock.
Seeing nothing of use around him, and having no time, he rushed to the balcony door. Hands trembled as he jerked it open.
Relief, like the blast of cool air, flooded over him. He looked down at his naked body.
His clothes, his wallet, the money from the client – it was all in the bedroom.
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