A Novel

Chapter 12: Jump Cut: Shill

He's a shill; he's a made guy: Harry Thomasson. . .

With the newest recruit, sitting on the aft deck floor of the Obvion, the largest in Todd Menocken's small fleet of river boats. Todd used his boats to run fenced property, drugs, illegal immigrants, prostitutes, Johns, money—all of it, really, just money in its many different forms—up and down the river, between La Salle and Peoria.

The "new recruit": Camden Brady, some unlucky son-of-a-bitch who had fallen in for a paltry nine grand. Sort of pathetic, Harry thought, the way some people would cry "uncle" under so little pressure. But Camden Brady had cried it, and by God he would by no means escape until the uttermost farthing had been paid, and much more besides.

Harry had actually begun to like Camden, but fondness for a person never curbed his raging anger, which raged on and on beneath a placid surface, rippled every now-and-then by a breezy irony. Even when he cut loose, he was mannered. He could never act natural. Which, he guessed, made him unnatural. He wouldn't dispute the charge; how could he? The anger alone—the anger so overpowered him as to make whoever he was, whatever he was, unnatural.

He and Camden had been smoking weed and shooting the breeze. Harry said, "We leave in half an hour. Crew and guests should be arriving shortly. You want a drink before we start?"

"What'll I be doing exactly?"

He hated it when people answered a question with another question. "For this cruise, mostly hanging around, doing whatever small jobs I need done. But mostly just talking to any passengers who come out onto the aft or fore decks. Most passengers won't—they usually stay in the salon, especially on cooler nights like tonight, but some will come out for the scenery. They come out here, you visit with them. Otherwise, just hang out until I need you. Only experienced crew are permitted in the salon with the passengers. We'll run a few tables in there—blackjack, craps, that sort of thing." Harry never could spin this yarn and keep a straight face—one of the reasons for sitting in the dark and smoking the weed. Anyone with half a brain would see the set-up, but the most important thing was that Camden wake up tomorrow believing he had never left the outer deck. "Keeping you out here will mean I know where to find you if I need you to do anything."

"Then why don't I just hang out in the wheelhouse with you?"

"Because I won't be in the wheelhouse."

"Then who pilots the ship?"

"The pilot pilots the ship. Captain's job is to oversee the entire cruise, make sure all the passengers are happy, and assist the pilot if something goes wrong on the bridge. Now, how about that drink?"


"What do you want? Make it anything; it's on the house."

"A Jack-and-Coke, I guess"

"You got it." Harry climbed to his feet, and walked into the salon. He turned on the deck lights, for the little show he was about to stage. The passengers would soon arrive, and after that everything would happen very quickly: he had fewer than twenty minutes to finish the set-up.

A sexy young blonde sat behind the bamboo bar. Harry made the drinks himself while she fixed her makeup in the backbar mirror.

He said, "You about ready?"

She nodded while blotting her lipstick.

Harry set the drinks on the bar and returned to the deck, slouching back down onto the floor next to Camden.

Camden asked "Why do we have to sit on the floor?"

Pointing to a bucket of cleaning supplies not far from where they sat, Harry said, "Because if boss sees us out here smoking weed and drinking cocktails while we're supposed to be cleaning, he'll throw your ass out faster than you can say 'Dick's your uncle'."

"But then why did you turn on the deck lights?"

Looking at the floor lights projecting upwards, almost like Hollywood searchlights, Harry said, "We need to start getting the ship ready for the passengers. Departure won't be long now—let's just enjoy a drink before we have to start working."

Flashback, waaaaaaay back (his flashback, not yours or mine, not a narrative device, not me moving us around inside this novel, but his flashback, which he told me about, which occurred at this moment in the story): dad crying, mom laughing; the wages of sin, the Lord shall laugh at them for he sees that their time is coming.

The salon door opened, and the sexy blonde walked out, carrying two drinks on a tray. The two drinks Harry had just made. She wore a black mini skirt, and a white button-up-but-mostly-buttoned-down blouse.

Such matchless beauty, Harry thought, a whited sepulchre, which indeed appears beautiful on the outside, but within is full of death and all uncleanness.

She approached with her tray of drinks, and said, "Boys, don't you two look like a couple roustabouts."

As she leaned over to serve Camden his drink, Harry saw Camden staring at her voluptuous breasts; Harry sensed the hunger in Camden's eyes. The light of the body is the eye, Harry thought, and Camden's eyes feasted on her: if therefore the light that is in him be darkness, how great is that darkness.

Camden could be very easy, Harry thought.

"Camden," Harry said, "meet the Blonde Bombshell, Ellen West. Ellen, remember that black Irish boy I told you about? Well here he is in the flesh: Camden Brady."

Ellen smiled, "So this is your black Irish boy. Would you look at that body: pure, creamy white skin, like Ivory soap. Christ. He's like smooth marble, better than a marble statue."

"Yes and the statue even speaks."

She laughed, "A pleasure to meet you Camden," and then, straddling Camden's left leg, she set her tray on the bulwark banister, her own left leg flush against Camden's chest, while she wrote a receipt. Harry saw Camden looking up her skirt, Camden's gaze following the beam of the deck lights up her legs. She wore nothing beneath her skirt.

Ellen then turned to Harry, her back to Camden, and leaned over, saying, "J&B on the rocks, just like you like it, I hope." As she leaned over, she kissed Harry, their tongues tasting each others' mouths. Watching Camden all the time, Harry could tell by Camden's expression that he was seeing nothing but Ellen's beautiful, velvety pussy.

When the kiss ended, Ellen said, "Mmm," like a sex-starved slut who needed more. She stepped back a little, and asked, "Can I get you boys anything else?"

Camden looked a little confused, and asked, "Are you two—?"

Harry said, "Are us two what?"

"—going steady?"

Ellen laughed, "No, silly. I just find Harry irresistibly cute, don't you? But I prefer somebody a little more masculine," and she stared meaningfully at Camden.

Camden awkwardly said, as if to change the subject, "Sorry, I just realized, I didn't give you a tip."

"There's only one tip I'd take from you," She replied, moving her foot up the inside of his thigh, "and I'll take that whenever you're ready to give it."

When her foot reached his crotch, he sat bolt upright, spilling his drink, and said, "Oh my God. Sorry. Sorry. I'm so sorry. I have a girlfriend—"

She giggled and, taking his emptied glass, said "Don't worry. Here, let me get you a new drink."

After she reentered the salon, Camden apologized profusely to Harry.

Harry said, "Don't worry about it," and then, standing up, he threw Camden a rag from the cleaning bucket, and said , "Just wipe up that mess and I'll get you a fresh drink."

Camden immediately started wiping up the Jack-and-Coke he had spilled, and Harry followed the Blonde Bombshell into the salon.

Inside the salon, Harry said to Ellen, who was standing behind the bar, "Excellent work. You never let me down," and grabbing her on the ass, he pulled her toward him for another deep kiss, letting his fingers play inside her pussy. "They really don't call you the 'Blonde Bombshell' for nothing."

He then said, "You got the drink?"

She handed it to him, laughing, "Ay ay, captain."

He removed a vial of ground Rohypnol from the inside pocket of his sport coat, and emptied the vial into Camden's Jack-and-Coke, remixing the drink with a cocktail straw. He carried it back out to Camden, who was standing nervously with the rag in his hand. Taking the rag from Camden, Harry handed him the drink. "You need to relax buddy. Here, drink this. We only got a few minutes before the crew will be boarding, and then the passengers."

Camden consumed the cocktail in a single long swig, and said, "She must think I'm the biggest dork."

"Nah. She likes you."

"Did she say so?"

"She did." Harry then took Camden's empty glass, saying, "Remember, you stay out here, greet passengers—just make yourself agreeable."

Harry had started back for the salon when Rado Millich appeared. Camden looked over at Rado, and seemed to recognize him.

Camden said, "Rado?"

Rado greeted Camden enthusiastically, "Hey, Camden, what're you doing here?"

Harry preempted: "Rado, good to see you. Camden is our newest deckhand. Do you two know each other?"

"Sure," Rado said, "we know each other at my favorite restaurant."

"I see. Well, Rado, get everything set for eleven o'clock departure. Camden, I'll be right back," and he returned to the salon.

By the time Harry came back outside, the crew had arrived. Harry brought Camden another drink, and it was apparent that the Rohypnol, the weed, and the alcohol were doing their work. Harry decided that he might spike another drink later, but for now he wanted to keep Camden on a slow boil until it was time for lights-camera-action.

The deckhands were all young men, like Camden, and like Camden, physically attractive. Observing them now, however, Harry admitted to himself that none was as attractive as Camden. Not by a long shot. Todd had hit the jackpot with Camden.

The passengers began to arrive next. They were, as usual, middle-aged or older. Some were disgusting looking queers—you could spot them from a mile off. Others, however, Harry would never have guessed, if he saw them on the street, that they were actually cock-sucking faggots. Some were probably married; all had secret reasons for needing to satisfy their degenerate lust on Todd's expensive river excursions. Maybe they were from small towns where their homosexuality could mean ostracism or worse. Maybe they feared a scandalous divorce. All homosexuals feared blackmail, and needed protection from it, which was what Todd really sold: guaranteed protection from blackmail. The passengers and the deckhands always came from opposite ends of the river, and any deckhand who tried even to contact a passenger was swiftly and permanently silenced.

The passengers and deckhands entered the salon, and the boat departed for the excursion. Camden remained outside. The deckhands socialized inside with the passengers, but also began their negotiations, long before the passengers even realized it.

Ellen was busy at the bar. Most of the passengers would already have been drinking on the smaller boats that carried them to Rainbow Cove, but they almost always needed to get drunker before they could do what they had to do. Also, it was customary for the passengers to buy drinks for the deckhands, who pretended to drink more than they actually did. Each deckhand would want to keep his wits about him, so that he could drive the hardest bargain possible when it came to sealing the deal for his body. Deckhands were permitted to rent themselves for as much as they could negotiate, and they kept all the money they earned. Todd made his money solely from selling the excursion tickets and blackmail protection.

As each deckhand secured a client, he escorted his client to a cabin below deck, where he performed whatever acts he had contracted to perform. As the passengers descended the staircase, they always looked relieved to have the first part of the night behind them.

A passenger with silver hair and bleached white teeth approached Harry and asked, "What about that boy outside, on the deck?"

Harry contemptuously said, "What about him?"

"Is he available?"

"Well, if he were, why would you be asking me?"

"Because he looks like he's passed out."

Harry said, "We don't permit rape on these excusions, sir."

The man man prissily responded, "Well you don't have to be an ass about it."

After all the passengers had left the salon, there remained one deckhand who had failed to secure a fare. Harry called him over, and said, "Steve, I got a job that I think you won't find disagreeable. Three hundred dollars, no questions asked?"

"Sure, probably. What'd'you got?"

"Wait for me in the first stateroom. I'll be down with that guy you probably saw outside on the deck. Just do what I tell you, but you know the drill."

Steve left; Harry turned to Ellen and said, "Okay, Bombshell, you ready?"

Ellen demurred, "Do we have to go through with this Harry?"

"Why, what's the matter? It's just for fun. He's a friend of mine. It's a prank."

"Seems like they're all friends of yours. Seems like it's always a prank."

"I got a lotta friends. Now I'll go downstairs and get the camcorder rolling. You wake up our friend, and bring him down to the first stateroom."

Ellen went outside, and Harry quickly mixed another Jack and Coke before going below deck. When he entered the stateroom, Steve was sitting on the bed smoking a joint.

Harry said sharply, "Don't smoke too much of that. I need you in tip-top shape, same as if this were a real John."

About five minutes later, Ellen and Camden entered the room. Harry felt his soul flicker and then go silent, like a softly humming light bulb turned off by an old, badly-wired switch. Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. . .

"Camden, how's it going? This is Steve. A friend of mine and the Blonde Bombshell's too."


"How's it going?"

"Take it easy. You look tired. Lie down on the bed."


"But sit up so you can see Ellen. Don't you want to see her?"


. . .

"I like you both; I like Steve too."

"Me too. He seems pretty cool."

"You know what would really turn me on? If you took off your shirts."

"Yeah. Okay."

"Hey dude, come over here."

"Steve wants to tell you something."

"Just give Steve a little kiss."

"If you like that."

. . .

"Steve, take his shirt off."

"What're you doing?"

"It's just fun, man. Ellen likes it."

"What the fuck're you guys tryin'—?"

"Hey man, don't be uncool. Ellen likes it. Don't be uncool in front of a girl."

"Oh. Just she knows I'm no faggot."

"No way. Who is?"


"You like that?"

"Yes, it turns me on. Do you like it?"

"Sure. Keep more."

"Camden, here drink this buddy. You're driving Ellen wild."

"What if I spill again?"

"Don't worry if you spill this time. It's just good-and-sticky Coca-Cola. It's fun."

"We're all just having fun?"

"That's all. That's all it ever is; that's all it ever will be."

"This tastes good."

"You taste good."

"What? You a faggot?"

"No. Are you? I like it if the Blonde Bombshell likes it."

"Me too."

"You do got a nice body though."

"Thanks dude."

"Let's look at Ellen."

"Ellen, take your shirt off."

"God she's hot. Look at those tits. I'd love to get my mouth on those tits."

"I have a girlfriend."

"Everybody does. There's nothing wrong with looking. Don't tell me you never looked before? A porno? Not even a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?"

. . .

"So what's the difference. Just look and enjoy."


. . .

"Do you mind if I take my pants off? She's getting me wild."

"Me too."

"We could jerk each other off."

"What the—?"

"Chill out dude. Let's just see what's in there."

"Camden, that's so hot."

"Button fly."

"God, I love button flies."

"Don't pretend you never done this before. You can be cool with me. Ellen likes it."

"If you won't touch me, you can at least touch Steve. Let Steve touch you Camden. He's cool."

"Just be cool dude. Ah, that's good."


"You look so hot Camden. You and Steve."

"You like that?"

"I do. I want to see more of it."

. . .

"Steve, put it in his mouth."

"Be cool dude."


"There you go. That's good."


"Now I know you're lying. I don't believe you never done this before."

"Camden that's so hot."

"Take it deeper."

"Just relax your throat."

"You're really good. Let's go with this; let's do it. Just look at those nice tits. We both want those nice tits. There that's good; you're good at this."

. . .

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy upon us.