The Saturday Morning Post #31: The Rêves, Part 9

You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here, or last week’s chapters here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles.

The inimitable Danny Winthorpe

The first thing that Danny could remember after staring at the mobile of pink and yellow stars spinning above his crib was screaming and slapping. Not much more than that, other than a blonde woman being thrown into a wall and leaving a big dent, then nothing more for a while because nothing stuck.

A vague memory of helping men in black uniforms march a man out of the house down the narrow hallway, red and blue lights flashing, but he was never sure later on whether this was his memory or someone else’s. It did stick, but he always doubted it later on.

Then, one day, sitting on the floor in his bedroom, playing with some Playmobil thing as the morning Sun shone down through the window blinds while dust motes danced in it, he suddenly became aware of having hands, arms, legs, and body parts in general.

It was like a switch got turned on in his head. He still didn’t know his name, but he pretty quickly learned that there was this really pretty blonde woman who loved him and took care of him and her name was Mom.

And then he lapsed into awareness and consciousness, went to pre-school, identified himself as Danny, didn’t grasp the concept of Winthorpe as a last name until he went on to grade school and had to awkwardly print it on forms, and then he began to grow from infant to adult.

Or, as he’d learned in first grade thanks to biology lessons, from tadpole to frog.

Danny thought of himself as a tadpole, hoping to become a frog, but only for a while. Or maybe a toad. Or maybe something else. But when he was about nine, he realized something else.

He had boy parts downstairs, but he was also interested in other people with boy parts, and had no interest in people with girl parts, which just confused him. This also happened to be the year that Will & Grace went off the air but still ran in syndication, and he found the show and realized, “Oh my god, I’m Jack!”

And so life went on until Danny got a lot more daring when chatrooms and webcams became a thing, and while his single mom was cutting people’s hair in the front of their double-wide in Emmett and he was still only thirteen, he was stuck in the back pretending to be older than he was, and figuring out that men would pay him money to show his shit and whatever.

At least their home had survived the flood near the end of that spring, right at the start of June, but the haircutting business got slow for a while, so Danny started upping his game and his prices to help her out. As a cover, he made up a story about selling digital are online and doing custom work, and since he actually did do digital art, it was at least plausible.

“You get a lot of custom work, hon?” his mother asked.

“Oh, yeah,” he explained. “I make stuff for my customers all the time, and I do it all by hand. Well, I mean on the computer, but… you know.”

He was rather proud at having made an absolutely true statement about how he earned the money without her being any the wiser.

Unfortunately, he never figured out the true blackmail potential of his naïve stupidity, and so missed out on actually nailing three Senators, two Congressmen, a Federal Judge, and a beloved children’s TV star big time. Oh well.

When he was sixteen, he finally came out to his mother and she was… not happy. In fact, she kicked him out of the house. He tried to find refuge with each set of grandparents (nope!) and a metric butt-ton of aunts and uncles (likewise nope) and so bought a bus ticket and headed right to L.A. He’d never even bothered to come out to his older sister.

That was after he’d spent a year homeless in Pocatello, of course, so that when he finally left for L.A. he was only four months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Once he’d landed, he hooked up with some porn producer who made him a deal: He could sleep on the couch until he was legal, and then he’d consider bringing him into the business.

What really surprised Danny was how business-like everything was, like he was signing up for a real job and everything. There were W-4s to fill out, and an application which was mostly just for contact info, especially since experience didn’t seem to be a requirement.

One of the running jokes he’d learn as he did get more experience was that “Everyone starts in porn in an entry-level position.”

There was also the government form requiring his proof of age, and he happened to have his birth certificate and fairly new California driver’s license, so that was covered.

And, so Danny Winthorpe did a jerk-off video a week after he turned eighteen for the Desperate Dudes channel, got a lot of hits, and then moved on into real porn.

That first time had been… interesting. The guy who ran the channel and who had let him sleep on the couch was kind of older, totally bald with a gray goatee, but the one thing Danny had always noticed about him was that he was actually totally respectful, which just made him feel really comfortable.

Meanwhile, once they came around to the shoot day, boss dude, who went by the name Winston Winters, introduced his photographer, Jason Blake, who looked to be about thirty, and, to Danny, also really hot, and he had the DSLR on the tripod as well as two other cams, and the first thing he said to Danny when he came into the room was, “Relax, dude. This is going to be the most fun you’ve ever had making money.”

It had seemed a little weird at first, as Winston interviewed him, all the while making it seem like Danny was straight (as if!) until he finally talked him into stripping off and lying down on the tacky mohair couch that looked like it had been stolen from a dorm room lobby.

But then Jason was squatting over him, camera aimed at his crotch, and the vision of easy money danced in his head, and he was suddenly hard as a rock, and he forgot everyone and everything he knew back in Pocatello. Honestly, fuck them all — and he yanked his crank hard and honest until he just looked up into Jason’s eyes, moaned, and shot a load all over the place.

“Cut!” Winston shouted. “Holy shit, boy. That was amazing. So… If you’re interested in doing more, all I need is a contract and a porn name. Any ideas?”

“Not yet,” Danny said. “But… can I get back to you?”

“You fucking well better,” Winston smiled at him.

Meanwhile, Jason leaned down and whispered in Danny’s ear. “You got no place to stay, my couch is open,” he said.

“Oh fuck yeah,” Danny muttered.

He wound up on Jason’s couch, although Jason was a total gentleman, and Danny was the one who had to get aggressive. However, Jason was also a great host, so he took Danny on the grand tour of touristy L.A., especially the cemeteries, because they were both into dead celebrities, and that was how Jason inadvertently led Danny to choosing his porn name.

Jason took him the LeCard Cenotaph, Danny took one look and nearly came in his pants, and then settled on it, the family, and his porn name: Preston LeCard. It just had a really nice ring to it, and sounded very classy. He said it out loud a couple of times to Jason.

“Preston LeCard,” Danny said. “What do you think?”

“I like it,” Jason replied, and that was that.

Meanwhile, nobody back home had any idea what had happened to Danny Winthorpe and the only ones in his family who cared were his cousins, who were his age, so… that identity died once he hit the coast, while his version of Preston LeCard became a Rêve. Easy peasy or, as they said out here, pan comido.

Preston proceeded to do a new video featuring him masturbating at the rate of about two a week at $250 a pop, and he couldn’t believe he was actually getting paid to do something that he already did two or three times a day anyway.

“If only my goddamn family could see me,” he thought, although he secretly suspected that at least two of his uncles probably would because they had been big, closeted hypocrites when they rejected him. He knew for a fact that at least three of his male cousins definitely would run across his work, although they would never rat him out.

In addition to doing the shoots — and every legit film term was naturally funny in porn — Preston also worked part time in the Desperate Dudes offices because he happened to be really good at social media and SEO.

Pretty soon, he was making enough to rent a very small studio apartment in a very old building in Hollywood, one that felt like it should have been haunted, and one that was a block from the Metro Line, which was great, because Preston didn’t have a car anyway. At least not yet, but he had dreams of owning something big, red, and sexy as fuck.

It was around Thanksgiving when Winston asked Preston if he was interested in doing any scenes yet, but Preston just looked confused. “I thought I was shooting scene,” he said.

That’s when Winston realized that Preston didn’t know the terminology. Basically, he’d been doing solos — one performer, one hand, one dick. The next step up didn’t really have any particular term, although Winston referred to them himself as handies — one performer, one dick, someone else’s hand, but only one money shot.

“Those sound interesting,” Preston said as Winston explained the premise. Generally, the ostensible stories were either some young college stud came to get a massage and it had a happy ending, or said young college stud went in for a doctor’s exam that became way more intimate than their insurance probably covered.

“A scene is when we get to the full-on fucking with another person,” Winston continued, “But it’s just that — one couple, one fuck, nothing fancy, everyone cums, the end.”

“That sounds even better,” Preston replied. “Anything after that?”

“That’s called a ‘movie,’” Winston said. “Multiple scenes, semblance of plot, god-awful dialogue, tons of fucking, but we really don’t make those as much anymore.”

“Why not?” Preston asked.

“The death of DVDs, streaming video, short attention spans, and most guys can blast off just from the last ninety seconds of watching a solo, so why get so elaborate?”

“Fascinating,” Preston said, a little disappointed that he wouldn’t become the Tom Hanks of fuck flicks. “But what about those handies?” he asked.

“Those are three hundred seventy-five each,” Winston replied, “Unless it involves tying you up in any way, in which case it’s five hundred. However, we don’t shoot those at the same rate with the same performer as we do the solos, so you’d maybe only do one a month.”

“Sounds fine to me,” Preston replied. “Sign me up, then tie me up.”

Winston just smiled. “You’re going to be a superstar in no time, kid. A viral sensation. Oh… but in the good, not sick way, you know. Not the old, bad one.”

“Got it,” Preston laughed.

A week later, they were shooting Preston’s first handie. Jason was on camera again, and it turned out that Winston was going to be the other performer. “Don’t worry, kid,” he explained. “My clothes are staying on. I don’t want to traumatize you.”

“That’s… people stay clothed in porn?” Preston asked.

“It’s all part of the thrill of the scene,” Winston explained. “One person fully clothed, the other completely naked and vulnerable, the viewers can project themselves into either role. Or both. This one is going to be a massage scene, but you said you wanted to be restrained, right?”

“Extra pay, right?”

“You got it,” Winston said. “I’ll make up some bullshit once I get you on the table about how… I don’t know…”

“Binding the limbs helps free the tantric energy in the chakras?” Justin offered.

“Perfect!” Winston replied. “Oh, don’t worry. These are soft cloth ropes, the other ends are not really going to be tied to anything, and the safe word is… pick a safe word, Pres.”

“Um… Idaho.”

“Got it,” Winston replied. “Ready?”

“Fuck yeah,” Preston told him.

If anything, this experience had been even better than his solo videos because it started out as a pretty legitimate massage with Preston not “restrained” at all, and Winston was clearly a professional at that. By the time Winston told him to roll over, Preston was no longer acting at all. He was just enjoying the moment.

Winston went through the whole chakra/binding spiel, the ropes were put in place fakely, and pretty soon Preston lost all sense of anything besides the crazy waves of pleasure that were wracking his entire body, head to toe.

Winston was clearly a professional at this, too, and it seemed like hours because he knew just when to stop and then start again until, finally, Preston couldn’t take it anymore, arched his entire body off of the table, fired a load that hit the wall two feet behind his head, and screamed in ecstasy like a banshee.

He could have sworn he heard Winston mutter, “Fuck,” under his breath, but then felt a warm, wet washcloth dropped on his crotch, a long moment of silence, and then Jason muttering, “Cut.”

Preston thought he heard a whispered conversation off to the side, but he was too spent to pay much attention until he suddenly started laughing before looking to his right to see Winston and Jason staring at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Winston was just telling me that you are a fucking goldmine, kid,” Jason said.

“No, what I said was, A Star is Porn!”

“Yeah, but I’d never put it like that, you old queen,” Jason laughed. He and Winston looked at each other, laughed, and hugged.

“What?” Preston demanded, thinking they were making fun of him.

“How would you like to start doing two scenes a week for us, minimum rate one grand per?”

“I… so… that’s fucking and stuff, right?” Preston asked.

“Right,” Winston said. “Only if you’re comfortable.”

“I guess it depends on who I start out fucking,” Preston said.

“Or who’s fucking you?” Jason replied.

Their eyes met and Jason smiled. Preston had a little involuntary aftergasm on that moment. “Or… that…” he said, staring right back at Jason. “So… minimum one grand, what ups that rate?”

“Bottoms make fifteen hundred, minimum,” Winston said.

“When do I start?” Preston asked.

He was beginning to realize that his biggest aphrodisiac was money but, on the other hand, if it meant that he’d actually get to get with Jason, there was a bonus involved. He wasn’t really sure about the whole bottoming thing, but everyone had already been so accommodating that he wasn’t worried.

So…when it came the day to film his scene with Jason, the conceit was that Preston’s character had come over to pick up Jason’s character’s little sister to take her to Prom, but Jason was very protective, insisted on giving Preston’s character a private interview and, of course, it eventually led to Jason’s character fucking Preston’s character. But, of course.

You know. Porn logic.

Preston wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work, and he still had Idaho as his safe word, but the instant they got to that point where Jason started rimming him, that was it.

“It feels this good, and they’re going to fucking pay me this much?” he wondered. “Sign me the fuck up fifteen ways from Tuesday.”

By the time Jason introduced Preston to his prostate, the kid was wondering why he wasn’t paying them to perform, but then did manage to restrain himself with the thought, “Nah. That would be totally stupid. You are the product here.”

And he went on to have a really amazing career for five years, winning all kinds of awards, making an additional fortune off of his OnlyFans once that became a thing near the end of his life, and making the name Preston LeCard go viral.

Then came that day in May 2020 when he got the ridiculously lucrative offer to come appear at a Memorial Day gay circuit party in Miami, with fan meet-ups, autograph sessions, and a live strip show. How ridiculous? A half a million dollars’ worth of ridiculous.

Jason tried desperately to talk him out of it. They’d sort of become lovers in a very open relationship ever since their first scene together, not to mention that Jason was also Preston’s agent and business manager, so the kid should have put some stock in someone making money off of him wanting to turn down such an offer.

“It’s not safe,” Jason said. “There’s no reason to expose yourself to this risk. And you are at risk, despite your age. Go read up what peer-reviewed studies are saying. Please!”

Meanwhile, Winston had a different take. “Oh, honey, you’re young, you’ll be fine. Plus it’s hot in Florida, it’s open air. Want to know a secret? I’m old as fuck. When I was your age, it was the height of the AIDS crisis, and I was sucking cock and riding dick left and right in back alleys and bathhouses, and look… Ta-da! In the words of the immortal Stephen Sondheim as sung by Elaine Stritch, I’m still here.”

Preston cringed a little as Winston belted out the notes, but he seemed to have a point.

“Yeah, Sondheim knew. Hell, that motherfucker still does, he’s still alive! You’re young. You’re strong. You’ll be fine.”

Preston wound up taking Winston’s advice, and four weeks later he wound up in an ICU in L.A. an induced coma, with a ventilator down his throat.

Since he hadn’t done anything in the way of power of attorney and there was no apparent family to be found, a doctor had to make the very sad decision to pull Preston out of ICU in order to make the bed available for a 30-year-old mother of three whose husband, a firefighter, had died fighting a brush fire the year before.

It was only because Jason somehow managed to learn about Preston’s location that he arrived fifteen minutes too late to see him die, but he had at least talked him getting married just in case right before it was clear that he’d have to go into the hospital.

They did the whole thing over Zoom, with Winston as the witness, so Jason was able to take custody of the body and arrange for a proper burial.

He had pondered burying Preston as Danny but, in his heart, knew that the kid would have hated that, so he made a compromise with the cemetery.

He bought a small triangular plot next to the LeCard cenotaph, arranged for Danny/Preston to be dropped in there in a standing coffin (to take up minimal space) and then leave it without a marker so that, for all time, Danny would kind of get to forever be associated with his assumed persona.

The Board was never aware of this, of course, but if they had been they probably would have bitch-slapped Jason fifteen ways from Tuesday. Talk about the ultimate travesty of dead-naming, although in a weird sort of reverse way.

Still… barring anyone but Jason and Danny knowing, Preston LeCard was buried a second time that day, and so Preston LeCard would wander the Earth, only as a porn star instead of a scion.

Such was life.

* * *

The Saturday Morning Post #30: The Rêves, Part 8

You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here, or last week’s chapters here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles.

Bette’s Bunch

Rather than congregate in one of the bigger and more popular cemeteries closer to Hollywood, the eight of them had come together in a small cemetery in Chatsworth, at what Bette immediately referred to as “The steaming ass-end of the Valley.”

They had chosen the location because it didn’t get a lot of visitors, didn’t really have anyone famous buried there, but did have a large mausoleum with an interior space where they could gather undisturbed.

They were all Class II, and rather prominent ones — besides Bette Davis, the gathering included Humphrey Bogart, Clara Bow, W.C. Fields, Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, and Rudolph Valentino.

Truth to tell, it was like a gathering of a bad Hollywood mural, or the poster art at any of the dozens of tourist trap shops on the Boulevard. What made it worse, of course, was that each of them looked and acted exactly like their most well-known public personas.

Ausmann had been onto something. The Rêves — well, the entities, because he didn’t know how they referred to themselves — were not the ghosts of the famous. They were manifestations of the memories of the living but had somehow become autonomous, sentient, and self-aware.

There were those only remembered by their friends and families, and they clung most strongly to who they really were, especially if those friends and families had a long tradition of passing down lore and memories of their ancestors.

There were also celebrities who had died more recently, so they still had a large number of people who knew them in real life, meaning they tended to alternate between their public and private personae, but were able to do it consciously.

As for the ones too long gone to really be in the living memory of very many people if any, they only showed up as the most famous roles they played. They were also the ones most strongly leaking into the living world of late.

As they entered the crypt, Bette couldn’t help but exclaim, “What a dump!” Meanwhile, Marilyn oohed and cooed at all the fixtures, white dress flapping up in a non-existent breeze. Ginger Rogers, elegant in her own white dress that stayed down at her ankles, twirled and tapped her way across the marble floor.

“Nothing like tapping on marble,” she exclaimed before capping it all with four really fast right buffalos and a flourish.

“Nice job, sister,” Humphrey Bogart said, tipping his fedora to her.

W.C. Fields, wearing his famous outfit from Poppy, complete with top hat, surveyed the place and remarked, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

Jimmy Stewart, looking as earnest as possible, surveyed the room and stuttered his way through, “Drafty old barn of a place. Wonder we don’t all catch pneumonia.”

This left Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino to have an animated conversation with each other, faces very expressive, but despite their mouths moving, all that came out was silence.

“All right,” Bette finally exclaimed. “Anybody have any brilliant ideas, or do I have to come up with everything myself as usual?”

“I don’t know why we’re so upset,” Marilyn exclaimed breathily. “I mean, it’s not like this Anabel person was really in charge of any of us, right? I mean, she was a nobody.”

“Some nobodies are real somebodies, sweetheart,” Bogart replied. “Depends all on whom you ask. And if you don’t ask the right people, you go home in a body bag.”

“Ah, Anabel,” W.C. exclaimed. “Anabel, sweet Anabel. It’s a name that trips right off the tongue. My dear sainted grandmother was named Anabel. So sad that she died in that brewery accident. Beer all over her antimacassar.”

“So, so, so, let’s look at, at what we do know, then,” Jimmy said. “Somebody came and just took, took Anabel. We don’t know who, don’t know who, and so, so, she’s — ”

“Jimmy, honey, I loved you in It’s a Wonderful Life,” Bette snapped, “But can we maybe go Rear Window and get on with it?”

“Right,” he replied, suddenly seeming way more serious. “What we have to wonder is who would have taken her and why? What were they expecting to get out of it?”

Clara jumped forward with an eager opinion as Bette just gave her the side-eye before spitting out, “Nobody can hear a word you’re saying, bitch. And can you try to do something besides the black and white?”

Clara glared at her then looked to Valentino, who pointed to Jimmy, nodding frantically. Since he was dressed as The Sheikh, he had a velvet bag at his side. He took it off his belt, opened it, and poured gold coins onto the floor, although, being insubstantial, they hit and vanished without a sound.

“Money,” Ginger gasped.

“Yeah, but I didn’t see no ransom note, and that’s usually what happens in these situations,” Bogart explained. “You’d especially think so with a dame like Anabel.”

“Why do you act like she’s so goddamn important?” Bette suddenly shouted. “She’s not one of us, clearly.”

“A lot of us seem to think she is,” Ginger replied.

“No. A lot of little people act like she is. “But what do you think they’re going to do about it?”

“The little people are my biggest fans,” Marilyn cooed. “I love them.”

“So are we going to go rescue this dear Anabel or not?” W.C. drawled. “If so, I volunteer!”

“We don’t even know who took her,” Jimmy replied.

Clara started giving some impassioned speech but, again, without sound. Bette stared at her, looking to the others to express her disapproval, then finally said, “How the hell did they ever get your legs close enough together to put you in the coffin, you little whore?”

Clara visibly gasped, eyes going wide, but Valentino held her back. “Oh, right, like you’re going to protect her, you queer wop,” Bette spat.

“Do you have anyone besides Margo Channing you want to pull out of your bag of cheap tricks?” Jimmy asked her.

“Why?” Bette replied. “Margo gets shit done.”

“Does she?” Bogart said.

“I got this meeting together, didn’t I?” Bette spat back at him.

“And it’s accomplished about as much as a weather vane in the basement,” W.C. opined.

“Who asked you, you fucking lush?” Bette said.

“I believe your statement was a question, you harridan,” W.C. replied. “You did not limit the choice of respondents.”

“So then what do we do?” Ginger asked.

“If this Anabel is so important, then I think we need to go find her,” Marilyn stated confidently.

“You kind of need to know where she went first before you can do that, sweetheart,” Bogart drawled.

“So do any of you sons of bitches know where the hell they took her?” Bette shouted, both arms raised at her sides and bent up at the elbow, as if they held two full brandy snifters.

“I didn’t even know who she was before today,” Marilyn gushed.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Bette muttered under her breath.

Just outside of the mausoleum, in a place where they could spy through an upper window while not being observed, Richard and Holden watched the proceedings, and it was all they could do to not laugh their asses off.

They had had no problems at all tracking these celebs to their “secret” meeting because, well, Holden was Class 1, and Richard was one of those mixed cases leaning toward Class 1. Anything that pure Class IIs did leaked out into the Rêve world like crazy, although only the Class 1s noticed.

Holden had also known all of them personally during his life, and he kept giving Richard a running narrative. He had fond memories of Valentino, whom he’d fucked before his film career took off, and admiration for Clara Bow, who really had screwed the entire USC football team. He was less kind to Bette, loved W.C., admired Bogart, and regretted that Jimmy didn’t have a gay bone in his body.

Of course he was totally into Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe, the former more than the latter, though, as he quoted the oft-mentioned canard: She did everything that Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.

Really, Ginger had been an early feminist icon. She just never knew it.

But the more they listened to the meeting, the less they worried. Being mere shadows of the public images of themselves, it was doubtful that any of them would ever come up with any meaningful plan, much less figure out where Anabel was, who had taken her, or why.

Not that the Board and the Class 1s had done much better — but at least they didn’t have to worry about this little cabal. Or, as Holden quickly described it, “Bitchy Bette’s fucking clown show.”

* * *

Brent and Drew

There were really only two areas in their lives that Joshua and Simon considered to be their “oil and water” moments. One was in their respective diets. Each of them considered the other’s preferred food choices to be gross. Still, their love was strong enough that Simon easily forgave Joshua’s love of red meat, and Joshua loved Simon so much that he gave the abomination of pineapple on pizza a pass.

But only for him. Anyone else who tried that shit in his presence could just fuck right off.

The other “oil and water” moment centered on the subject of being a naturist, as in Joshua totally was, while Simon really wasn’t. Still, they managed to make it work, so that Simon would go with Joshua to nude beaches or resorts in Palm Springs or to various other nude meet-ups, and Joshua was free to just let it all hang out while Simon kept his shorts on.

Somewhere during all of that, they’d met Brent and Drew, a richer than fuck older gay couple who lived in the Mount Olympus part of L.A., and who’d taken a liking to the boys in a rather paternal way. They’d known the two a while but, by this point, Drew, the older member of the couple, was 97. Brent, meanwhile, was a spring chicken at 62.

Anyway, they had an amazing house, a really private backyard, and a very deep swimming pool and, during the summers, they’d given Joshua and Simon an open invitation to come swim.

Oh… that was possibly a third point of disagreement between Joshua and Simon. The former wanted to buy a house so they could have a secluded yard with a pool. The latter insisted that it would do too much damage to the carbon footprint. As much as he tried, though, Joshua could never prove Simon wrong on that point — although he was sure that one day that he would, and it would probably involve dogs somehow. Or cats. Whichever.

Anyway, they had “Uncle” Brent and Drew’s place to swim, and it was, finally, the one place where Joshua had convinced Simon to drop trou and just enjoy being nude outside. Well, clearly, Simon was really nervous and hesitant about it, and it didn’t help that one time that Drew had gone total perv and jiggled his dick, which Simon really didn’t appreciate.

But… this time around, Drew probably had valuable information. He had worked in the industry since forever, for one thing. Second, he had compiled gay history during that entire time. Third, well, it would probably involve Simon letting his dick get jiggled again, but Joshua didn’t mention that part.

They drove up Laurel Canyon, turned left on one of the streets named Doña something, and then wound up in Mount Olympus, the most pretentiously named development in the entire city, entered the gate code at the bottom of a steep driveway, then drove on up to park in front of a Mid-Century Modern pile of steel and glass that had a commanding view of Los Angeles.

Brent was standing in the doorway in a silk dressing gown that barely covered anything, sipping his coffee, and he shouted, “Hello!” as they approached, giving each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Neither Brent nor Drew were related to Joshua or Simon, although the older men insisted on calling themselves the younger men’s gay aunties. Brent escorted them into the house calling out loudly, “Drew, the boys are here!” before leading them on into the backyard.

It was a rarity for most of Mount Olympus to have a backyard since so much of the place was built on top of mountain ridges. If you’ve ever seen photos of those infamous L.A. homes that stick out from the side of mountains and are supported on stilts, this was one of about three neighborhoods that had them.

Of course, what people don’t realize is that those stilts aren’t really what’s holding the house up. Instead, they’re supported by huge steel beams that go back into the mountain and are usually at least twice as long as the whole house is deep. The dangling bit is all illusion.

But Brent and Drew’s place not only had a huge yard, it was surrounded by high walls, part of the mountain, and lots of tall trees, so it was basically completely secluded. The centerpiece was a huge pool that was ten feet at its deepest — unusual in itself, since most suburban built-in pools in the city maxed out at seven or eight feet.

That was probably because it had originally come with a diving board, but extra homeowner’s insurance costs had led to the removal of most all of those years ago.

“Soda? Beer? Wine? Tea?” Brent offered.

“Water, please,” Joshua and Simon said in unision.

“Well look at you good little boys,” Brent smiled at them, adding, “Get comfortable, get wet,” before going inside.

To outsiders, it might have looked creepy. After all, Brent was more than twenty years older than either of them while Drew was actually twenty years older than twice their ages. But nothing untoward had ever happened except for that one time that Drew had grabbed Simon’s dick, but that was very early on, Joshua had mentioned it to Brent because he knew how much it had creeped Simon out, and it never happened again.

So as Brent went in, Joshua put his towel down on a deck chair and was naked and in the water in about thirty seconds flat. Simon was always more deliberate about it — he carefully folded everything and placed it on a second lounge chair — so Joshua had already done a couple of laps by the time Simon dove in.

“We should really buy a house with a pool,” Joshua told Simon.

“Do you have any idea how much bigger the carbon footprint of a house is?” Simon replied.

“Not if you go completely self-sufficient,” Joshua reminded him. “All solar, sell power back to the grid, recycle everything, grow your own vegetables, 3D print things you need — ”

“Which takes plastic,” Simon said.

“They have a new kind of material that isn’t plastic and it composts,” Joshua answered. “Besides, we could have dogs if we had a house.”

It was a conversation they’d had a dozen times, although Joshua hoped to win the argument one day. Meanwhile, they swam to the side of the pool in the deep end and hung on the wall, enjoying the sun and the cool water.

That was when Drew wandered out, wearing a very bright Hawaiian shirt, blue shorts, and a huge floppy sun hat. Brent insisted on the hat because Drew was completely bald now and had several adventures with melanoma.

Still, he wasn’t doing bad for being 97, and other than a little hearing loss, he was sharp as a tack and virtually a walking encyclopedia. He had worked in the entertainment business for almost his entire life, starting when he was eight years old as a comedic tumbler with his uncle’s comedy act in a Burlesque show in Hollywood.

He had told them once, “Vaudeville was all about the comedy and music, but of course Burlesque was all about the tits and ass. Every show would be two comics and six strippers — they called them ‘coochie dancers,’ and that referred to exactly what you think it did.”

He’d actually worked with some really famous people at the time — this was the early 1930s — and it had been an eye-opening experience. “Back stage, it was nothing but knockers and twats all over the place, and that’s why I realized I was gay at that age. Because none of it did anything for me.”

“So Brent said you had some questions for me about some porn star,” Drew said.

“We do!” Simon called out as the two of them swam to the shallow end and stood facing the wall next to where Drew had taken a seat on a deck chair. In addition to everything he knew about all aspects of entertainment in Los Angeles in the 20th century, Drew had also always been a connoisseur of everything having to do with gay porn.

There was an entire addition to the house, as a matter of fact, that housed his extensive collection of magazines, films, videos, DVDs, clippings, photos, and memorabilia documenting absolutely everything. He had often threatened to write a book or two on the subject, but never did, although professional historians did from time-to-time come to take advantage of his archive.

So yes, Drew knew porn stars.

“What do you know about Preston LeCard?” Joshua asked.

“First, I didn’t know he was a porn star,” Drew replied.

“Why do you say that?” Simon asked.

“Because I knew him. We were born the same year, went to school together up through high school.”

“Wait… you knew Preston LeCard?” Joshua said, incredulous. “The one whose mother was Anabel?”

“Well, that was her name, but she died when he was born. I think that fucked him in the head a little. Probably always felt guilty about it. But no, he never did porn of any kind. Anyway, he was straight as a bone.”

“I think we’re talking about a different Preston,” Simon explained. “This one died about three years ago, when he was twenty-three.”

“AIDS?” Drew asked.

“Corona,” Joshua replied.

“Hm. Any other names?” Drew asked.

“Not that we know of, no,” Joshua said. “Hang on.” He got out of the pool and grabbed his phone, scrolling through it. Simon noticed where Drew’s eyes were pointed, and he kind of envied Joshua’s ability to just be so casual about being nude around other people. He was still trying to get used to it.

Joshua found something and brought his phone to Drew, showing him something. Drew held it at full arm’s length and looked, then tapped to zoom.

“Ah. This one looks familiar. Come up to the archive. I think I can help you.”

They headed upstairs. Simon grabbed his towel and wrapped it around his waist. Joshua did not.

Upstairs felt like a combination of a shrine and a library, carpeted in a thick burgundy plush that helped lend the silence of Importance to the room. Photos on the walls documented the state of the art of gay erotica from almost the beginning of photography up to the present day, and it was easy to see the dividing line in the late 1960s, when suddenly the posing straps or strategically placed hands went away and cocks were liberated in art.

The next dividing line came in the early 1990s, when all the bushes and body hair started going away, although this seemed like the next logical step that had started with the porn staches vanishing in the early 1980s and the mullets and big hair going away by the late 1980s.

Joshua remembered hearing a rumor that a massive outbreak of crabs in West Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York in 1992 was what ultimately led to everyone shaving and waxing everything, and then it stuck. It was still a thing just over thirty years later, although neither Simon nor Joshua were fans of it.

Meanwhile, Drew had taken position at his computer work station in the archive, and it was just another reason that Joshua admired him so much. Simon did too, reluctantly, but it was still going to take him a long time to get over that one dick-grab. Drew was clearly very conversant with computers.

Joshua had figured that out the first time he looked at his desktop to see that it wasn’t cluttered with five hundred icons and fifteen toolbars. The second impressive thing was that Drew had created an insane Excel workbook to track his collection, and he said that he had programmed everything himself.

But first, he had Joshua read off the URL of the video he’d found on his phone and entered it on his computer, then took down a few details. The actor was definitely credited under the name Preston LeCard.

“But you don’t know him?” Simon asked.

“I’ve been a little lax on updating the last few years, and since his career couldn’t have legally started before… 2015, I probably missed him.”

“Didn’t stop Brent Corrigan,” Joshua muttered.

“True. It doesn’t stop any of them. Ah, but… that might be the way in. Hang on.”

Drew got up and went to a locked cabinet, opened it and pulled out a DVD. He brought it over and put it into the computer where it booted up its own software apparently, with a main screen that read “18 U.S.C. § 2251 Database UD 20230415.”

“Why does that look familiar?” Joshua asked.

“Proof of age on file records,” Drew said. “If you want real names of porn stars, this is where to get them.”

“But how did you get that?” Simon asked.

“I have friends in low places,” Drew smiled. He tapped a few keys, searched for Preston LeCard, and the program said “NO RESULTS FOUND.”

“Well, merde,” Drew muttered.

“So… he doesn’t exist, or he wasn’t eighteen?” Joshua asked.

“Or… he only ever filed under a different name in the first place, and the studio just stuck with those records,” Drew said. “Hang on.”

He clicked around and tapped, went back to the original video, then dragged and dropped it into yet another program. This one was called VidViper, and it showed a simple dark green screen with a snake logo. Drew added the words “-Preston –LeCard” into the search field and clicked. A yellow progress bar slowly went from left to right.

“You know, we could really use you on our team,” Joshua said as Simon grabbed his ass and squeezed as if in warning. “What?” Joshua asked him.

“I believe the term is… um… ix-nay?”

“He’d understand that one,” Joshua whispered. “But the judges will accept ‘chill.’”

“Got it. Love you.”

“I know.”

“A-ha!” Drew announced as one result came up on the VidViper screen. “They doxed the kid on his audition film, which was the standard $250 jerk-off session. Since he only ever worked for the same studio, voilà, no need to update the records with his new name.”

“So what’s his name?” Simon asked.

“Patience,” Drew said. I still have to look up the jerk-off name against the official filing.”

“Jerk-off name?” Joshua asked.

“Danny,” Drew said. “Just Danny, but that’s pretty typical.” He went back to the 18 U.S.C. database program, entered the name Danny, the name of the studio, and the title of the video. It searched for a few seconds and then gave one result.

“Interesting,” Drew said. “The video was posted on August 30, 2015. Date of birth on the records, August 23, 1997. Kid couldn’t wait, I guess.”

“So who is he?” Joshua demanded.

“Well, the first name was accurate. Danny. Danny Augustus Winthorpe. Born in Pocatello, Idaho. Here…” Drew tapped a couple of keys, and the proof of age on file printed out in full color. It included a couple of forms and Danny/Preston’s ID, being his California Driver’s License, but under his birth name. Joshua and Simon both looked at it, then at each other.

“That’s him!” Simon announced.

“Definitely him,” Joshua agreed, “Oh, Drew, you big fucking beautiful detective genius!”

“You’re welcome,” Drew said. “Any time.”

“Now what?” Simon wondered.

“I guess we need to…” Simon shot him a warning glance. “You know.”

“Go talk to your little ghost friend?” Drew asked.

“Dude, what?” Simon exclaimed. “Did he tell — ”

Drew just laughed. “Boys, nobody told me shit. I’ve been on this planet damn near a century, I’ve been running all this Sherlock and Batman shit for… hell, I don’t know… I was probably your age when I started it. Only thing was I didn’t have all your cool steampunk drag and fancy field gadgets. I would love to help your team. Ooh… can I be Q? Or is it R now? So damn hard to keep up with which letter and which Bond.”

Joshua and Simon stared at each other for a long moment, then just smiled and laughed.

“Holy shit,” Joshua said. “And I think I speak for my future husband when I say that he says — ”

“Oh, fuck yes,” Simon chimed in.

“Future husband?” Drew perked up.

“Oh, yeah, right…” Joshua said.

“We hadn’t announced it officially yet, but — ”

“Brent!” Drew shouted about as loudly as he could. “Brent, get your happy ass upstairs!”

After a couple of moments, Brent came racing up the stairs looking like he was totally expecting to have to call an ambulance, and then looking totally relieved. “You rang?” he said sarcastically.

“Our boys are finally going to get married,” Drew said.

“Oh, clutch the pearls,” Brent replied. “Really? About goddamn time. And don’t you date object at all, but we are paying for the most fabulous, gayest goddamn wedding for you two ever, okay?”

Simon and Joshua just smiled at each other and agreed. That was another thing they had never revealed to their gay aunties — that they could have bought and sold them both fifteen ways from Friday.

Not that they ever would. Anyway, the information that Drew had provided them today would actually prove more valuable than all of the dollars and donuts in the world, at least as far as they were concerned.

Next up on their roster: the hunt for Danny Winthorpe, and his reunion with Preston LeCard.

Yeah, that was going to be interesting.

* * *