"Got a spare fiver?"
"Go on. Just a fiver. I'll make it worth your while."
I had already walked on a couple of paces, but now I slowed and stopped. There was something about that "please". It wasn't what you might expect;- what I had heard before by young boys, and girls, of similar age, who, when they finally realise they are not going to get a penny out of you by accosting you in the street, hurl a mouthful of abuse and epithets at you. This "please" was different. It had a note of real desperation in it. A note of hopelessness, of weariness, and of resignation too, a cry for help not from the twisted and devious mind of a youngster trying it on, but a cry because the mind that uttered the word was at its wits end;- a forlorn, pleading request for deliverance from something. I turned round.
The boy had also turned away and had begun to walk back in the other direction.
"Hey!" I called. He turned and stopped, then came towards me again. He was dressed in grubby jeans and jeans jacket, unzipped as it was a warm evening, with a pale yellow, and also grubby, T-shirt under the jacket which bore the logo "I'm good!" On his feet he wore the de rigeur trainers for a youngster of his age. They had obviously seen better days.
"Yes, Mister?" he queried eagerly. "You got a fiver for me?"
I regarded him for a moment. I am rather tall, and his head just about came up to my chest. He looked quite young, with dark hair and brown eyes which in turn were regarding me hopefully. He had long, dark, rather girlish eyelashes, which made his face look young and innocent. His teeth were even, white, and clean. He was slim, almost thin, and his skin had a faintly dusky look. What surprised me most, however, was the fact that his complexion was completely clear. I had fully expected to be faced with "a wretched, pimply-faced horror" which is what most of his ilk usually looked like. But not this boy. He looked different to the run-of-the-mill rent boys.
He glanced round and lowered his voice.
"I told you I'll make it worth your while. Whatever you want. Hand job, blow job, a fuck? Whatever you want."
I said nothing but continued to watch him while several different thoughts went through my mind.
"Come on, Mister," he pleaded again. "Only a fiver. You look as if you can afford that." He paused, and when I still didn't answer he said, "Okay. A couple of quid then. But no fucking for that price. Just a hand or blow job. Come on. I haven't eaten since yesterday morning and I'm starving hungry."
He turned his head to look at the hamburger bar across the road, and I followed his gaze.
He nodded. "That's right. And that was just a lump of cold chicken."
"I see," I said. "Come on then."
I led the way across the road and into the hamburger bar. I sensed him following me and as we entered the place I heard him sniffing appreciatively.
"Order what you want," I said.
He ordered a mountain of food -- two cheeseburgers, two hamburgers, a large fries and a drink. I settled for a hamburger and a coffee and we went to sit at a table away from anyone else. At that time of the evening there weren't that many customers anyway, but I didn't want to be near enough to anyone for them to overhear us.
The boy dived into his food and if I'd had any doubts about when he really had last eaten, they were dispelled by the way he attacked the food. He really was very, very hungry. I let him eat for a bit as I finished my own burger.
"So," I murmured eventually, "you're offering me any sex I want for a fiver."
He nodded, his mouth too full to speak.
"The bill for this was double that," I pointed out. "So what else are you offering? Anything else?"
He paused in his chewing and looked at me, then swallowed.
"I can only do what you want," he said. "But this is great! Thank you for this." And he attacked the next hamburger with equal gusto. I sipped my coffee as I watched him.
"How old are you?" I asked him.
"I'm eighteen," he replied through his mouthful.
"Of course you are," I said conversationally. With that clear, slightly dusky complexion, short dark hair and the slim body, and the fact that he was slightly on the short side, he looked to be about fourteen or fifteen.
The boy sighed, and without stopping his chewing he unzipped the top pocket in his jeans jacket. His none too clean fingers fished inside and he withdrew a folded piece of paper which he held out to me. I unfolded it and read it as he resumed his meal.
It was a birth certificate, in the name of one Kenneth Noble. Son of father so-and-so and mother thus-and-thus, and if it was to be believed and wasn't a forgery, which I had no way of knowing, then whoever Kenneth Noble was he was certainly eighteen years old. I refolded the paper, something that had obviously happened to it several times in its existence and offered it back to him.
"And who is Kenneth Noble?" I asked him.
He nodded as if he had expected just such a question next. Once again the grubby fingertips fished inside his pocket and this time they withdrew a passport. Silently he held that out to me.
Whatever I had expected, it wasn't this. I opened the back page, and there, sure enough, was a photo of the boy sitting opposite me. A year or so younger, but unmistakably him. The passport had been issued fourteen months earlier, and still had almost nine years to run.
I handed the passport back to him and he pocketed it with a nod.
"I apologise, " I said. "Lucky you have the passport, but you don't look eighteen."
"I know. It's come in useful sometimes."
He used his fingers and thumb to collect the last remaining crumbs of French fries and ate them. Then he sat back with a contented sigh and started on his cold drink.
"Thank you," he said again. "You have no idea how good that was."
"And what happens now?" I asked. "Having eaten your fill free of charge, you make a beeline for the door and run off down the street?"
"No," he said to me. "I sit here until you either tell me to get lost, or we go somewhere and I repay you for the meal. And your kindness," he added.
A strange feeling went through me. My initial reaction on hearing that "please" from him had been right. There was something different about this rent boy, this youngster, this down-and-out. He was polite, he had manners, he looked and responded as if he had some intelligence, but more to the point, he had actually sat there and said, in his own way, that he was not going to rip me off.
"You don't have to repay me," I said at last. The thought of sex with this boy was turning me on, but, simply because of the way he seemed and the way he behaved, I couldn't bring myself to accept his offers.
"Well, I feel as if I should repay you in some way," said the boy. He leaned forward slightly in his seat and I felt his warm hand on my thigh. He squeezed it very gently and then stroked his fingers up towards my crotch. "People call me Kenny. What's your name?"
I considered whether to tell him for a few moments, but before I could reply he removed his hand, shrugged and said, "Whatever. Listen, Mister. I can tell you're not like my usual tricks. No-one has ever bought me a meal before I've given them what they want. And usually they just pay me and I buy something. What you just did for me means a lot to me. Thank you once again. But let me give you something in return, okay? Do you know somewhere we can go?"
"Yes I do," I said. While he had been talking, several things had chased themselves through my mind, and, depending on the next few minutes, I had decided what I was going to do.
"Take your jacket off and show me your arms," I told him.
He smiled. "Don't touch the stuff, Mister," he said, and proceeded to remove his jacket. He held out both arms and they were as clear as the rest of his skin. Not a bruise or a dot or a track or a puncture mark anywhere. Inwardly, I relaxed a bit.
"And I don't snort, either, but you'll have to take my word for that."
"Okay," I said. "That just leaves one problem."
He cocked an eyebrow. "What's that?"
"Despite the fact," I began, "that you look young, healthy, have a good complexion and are probably generally in good health, given your --calling--, one might say, you are probably riddled with Aids."
The boy shook his head decisively.
"Not me, Mister. At least, two weeks ago I wasn't."
It was my turn to raise an eyebrow.
Kenny sighed deeply and fished in another pocket of his jacket. Once again he presented me with a folded paper. "This was two weeks ago," he said. "And I've only scored a few tricks since then. And I am always very careful."
The letter, addressed to "whom it may concern", bore the crest and insignia of a major hospital. In a simple, single sentence it stated that as a result of a blood test taken on that day, Kenneth Noble's blood was found to be normal and showed no traces of the HIV virus or any other infectious or known sexually transmitted disease. There was a doctor's signature, an inked stamp from the hospital, and it was dated, as Kenny said, two weeks previously. He was putting his jacket on again as I handed the paper back to him. He refolded the letter and put it away again.
"Apart from the first two times, I've always made sure a trick used a condom if he wanted to fuck me. The other guys warned me I should. They told me I'd live longer that way. And I haven't swallowed any trick, either. So I'm pretty sure I am clean." He sat back and regarded me. "Happier now?"
I nodded. "Yes." I toyed with my empty coffee cup.
"Kenny, tell me about yourself. Why are you here, doing this? You seem to be intelligent, you speak well, and it seems you look after your body, or have done till now. Why are you a rent boy?"
Kenny sipped his drink.
"Very simple," he said. "My father is from Asia and my mum is English."
That, I thought, explained the slight duskiness of his skin.
"For a long time," he went on, "my father has always taken every opportunity he could to touch me. More to the point, he also took every opportunity to get me to toss him off. He told me if I told mum he would just deny it and call me a liar. He also tried to get me to give him a BJ several times, but I wouldn't."
Kenny paused and looked out of the window at the busy street, but his eyes were far away, seeing things that were locked in his mind, and only brought out for inspection on rare occasions.
"About four months ago," he continued in a soft voice, "my mum was visiting her sister and was away for a day or two. My father wouldn't leave me alone from the moment she said goodbye to us. I had to toss him off as often as he could get hard again. He kept on about a blow job, but I wouldn't. He came to my room the first night she was away and said if I wouldn't suck him off, he would fuck me instead."
Kenny paused and I knew he was reliving it all in his mind as he explained.
"In the end I agreed to suck him off because I didn't want him sticking his cock in my ass. He loved it. Half an hour later he wanted it again. In the end, that night, I must have sucked his cock at least half a dozen times. The man's stamina was amazing."
Kenny looked down at his drink and his words became very soft.
"He made me swallow his cum every time." He took a deep drink from his fruit juice, as if it would wash away the memory. There was a silence and I let him finish the torture in his mind. At last he looked up at me.
"The next day he said how good it had been and tonight we would do the same again, but tonight he would definitely want to fuck me as well." The boy sipped his drink and stared out of the window again. "I packed a few things in a bag and went to my mate's house. I wrote a letter to my mum explaining it all and then jumped on a train and came here. I had a little money."
He faced me squarely.
"Not a very nice story," he said. "But the truth. Now, of course, I do all those things without hardly thinking about it. But at the time.....and my own father...." He tailed off and his eyes took on that absent-minded gaze again.
I reached across and gave one of his hands a squeeze.
"I'm really sorry," I said. "You're right -- it's not a nice story. But I can understand you needing to get away."
"Far away," he agreed.
"Have you never been in contact with your mum since you left?"
"Only a birthday card with a note inside it telling her I was fine and I was okay and I'd got a job and she shouldn't worry." He finished his drink and gave a wry smile. "Not the sort of job she would be thinking about," he admitted, "and of course she will worry," he added. "I know that."
It was my turn to nod. "Yes, of course," I agreed. "Don't you miss your mum?" I asked gently.
"Yes, I do. Very much. I keep a photo of her." He patted a pocket. "I've thought about contacting her, but that would only lead to questions I don't want to answer and pleas for me to come home, but I'm never going back while he's around."
I leaned back and regarded this strange young lad for a while. He seemed content to sit there and watch the world go by outside.
"Where's your plot?" I asked him.
"Under the railway bridge," he replied absently. "As soon as I got off the train I put my bag in a left-luggage locker." He reached down the neck of his T-shirt and brought out a key dangling on a thin cord, then let it drop back out of sight. "Then I went into the station café for something to eat and I met -- I suppose you could say I was picked up, or recruited by, a young guy called Lee. He told me I could doss down with him if I didn't mind sleeping rough. I'm not stupid. I guessed what he was. He told me it was a good way to make quick money. He could make sixty or eighty pounds a night. He took me round the corner under the bridge and I've been there ever since. He's the only other person I've told the truth of what happened."
"I see," I said quietly. "And after your fa—after your experiences, I suppose it wasn't too difficult.....?"
"The first couple of times were not too easy," he admitted. "Kept seeing my father and not the trick. But after that......" he shrugged expressively and watched me for a few moments. "Why am I telling you these things?" he muttered uncomfortably.
I ignored that. "At that sort of money your mate can soon retire," I said.
He gave a short dry laugh. "Lee's habit costs him almost that much each day," he said.
He watched me silently for a while, then;-
"You said you knew somewhere to go," he reminded me.
"Yes," I agreed. "Shall we go?"
He collected the remains of our meals and dumped the rubbish in the bin on our way out.
"You were well brought up," I observed.
"Yes," he agreed. "I was. And I had quite a good education too."
"You're not my idea of a rent boy," I told him, and he chuckled.
"And I've told you," he said, "you're not my idea of a trick, either. Something different about you."
"More than you know," I answered. I felt him look up at me as we walked along. He was silent for a while, and then, "What does that mean? You're not into the rough stuff, are you?"
I shook my head. "Not at all."
I could feel the wave of relief that went through him.
"Good," he said. "I was a bit worried there for a moment. Look."
He stopped, pulled aside his unzipped jacket and pulled up his T-shirt. Across his ribs were two large, angry red weals. He let the T-shirt fall and resumed walking.
"Legacy of the wrong type of trick," he explained succinctly.
"An occupational hazard, I would think," I ventured.
He nodded. "Yes. Maybe I've been lucky up to now. Perhaps because after that I've tried to go for a trick who looked at least half-decent. I know some of the guys who've been beaten up really badly."
"What happened?" I enquired. "If you want to tell me," I added hastily.
Kenny shrugged. "The trick thought it would be fun to rough me up before he fucked me," he said simply. "After he hit me the second time I kicked him in the balls and ran. I went to the hospital because I wanted to be sure the guy hadn't cracked or broken a rib, because it hurt a lot. While I was there I asked if I could have an HIV test. They asked why and I just told them I had a few sexual partners. That letter is the result."
There was another silence for a while.
"Most of the guys carry a knife now," Kenny said suddenly. "I don't. Maybe I should start. One I know has a gun." He shook his head. "Stupid."
He stopped again suddenly and faced me. "Why am I telling you these things?" he said again earnestly. His brown eyes searched my face.
"Maybe you think I'm a good listener," I answered evasively.
"Hmmmm!" was his only rejoinder, and we continued walking.
"Have you never tried a girl?" I enquired.
He nodded. "Oh yes. I had a girlfriend for a short while, back home. But after sex with her a couple of times I realised I wasn't enjoying it that much. It didn't feel right, somehow." He fell silent and his face took on an introspective look. "I suppose I'd got so used to the feel of a man, the feel of a cock, that a girl did nothing for me."
Another pause, and then he said thoughtfully with a flash of quite adult reasoning, "I suppose you could say my father made me gay."
Silently, I agreed with him. In one way I thought of his father with disgust and revulsion because of the abuse to his own son, but in another way, as I glanced down at his young face and trim body, I was glad Kenny had turned out the way he had.
He didn't ask where we were going, and after about fifteen minutes we arrived at my place. I drew the key from my pocket and opened the front door, gesturing for him to go inside.
"Is this your place?" he asked.
He nodded and looked round. "Nice. Where do we go now?"
I pointed to one door. "You," I told him, "go in there. I,--" I pointed to another door, "--go in there. I'll see you in a while."
Kenny looked at me in puzzlement, and then hesitantly opened the door I had shown him.
"Wow! A shower!" He turned and looked at me. "Do you know how long it is since I had a shower?"
"A while, I imagine," I said dryly. "Help yourself. I'll see you when you're finished."
Even as I spoke Kenny was throwing his jacket on the floor, pulling the T-shirt over his head and unzipping his jeans.
"Oh, boy!" he exclaimed. "I am going to enjoy this!"
I shut the door and left him to it. I went to the living room and surveyed it. Sitting on the sofa I poured a small drink and sipped it as I thought. I really liked Kenny. I found him very easy to be with. There was something appealing about him and he was certainly sexually desirable. He was handsome, and no doubt given different circumstances, would have been a favourite with the girls. As it was, he could have a good life ahead of him. If he survived that long. If he didn't get beaten to death first. And if he stayed off the drugs. And the booze. And if he could get himself out of the life he was presently in. I looked around the room. There were lots of things that would fetch money if they were nicked and sold on. TV, video, movie camera in one of the drawers, a little jewellery which was good quality gold and which I never wore. Yes, if Kenny had a mind to lift something from me, he could make quite a bit of money out of my stuff if he knew where to take it -- and I presumed he did. His friends would have told him that.
I could hear the shower running. I imagined his body, completely undressed, smooth, young and his cock growing hard as I touched it. My cock stirred at the thought. Yes, I wanted Kenny very much, there was no doubt about that.
I let my thoughts ramble through my brain and then made a decision. While Kenny was enjoying himself in the shower, I made certain preparations and did certain things. Then I returned to the sofa and I was still sitting there when I heard the bathroom door open. Kenny came out, wearing just his underwear. I stared at him.