Journey to Mirage Ch. 16bysr71plt©
The bus trip was a good nine hours, with all the stops in small towns, between Albuquerque and Phoenix, and it had been a couple of hours after dark before Rick had gotten to the bus station and boarded one headed for Phoenix. The quiet hours of blackness, punctuated by the lights of cars and towns passed bouncing off the ceiling and seat tops of the nearly empty vehicle, gave him much time, between fitful snoozes, to contemplate where he was going.
He was going to Mirage, it would seem, on a much-interrupted trip there. And he was almost there. But what would be there when he reached it? Was it what he had seen off in the distance there when he'd started out from Baltimore? Was it the ultimate release and escape for him that he then had thought it would be, that it must be to give his life any purpose? No, certainly not. He was as much a prisoner now to other men as he had been to Tony and Pete—and then Douglas Groton—back in Baltimore.
The oasis out there in the desert, his destination, the Arizona town of Mirage, had changed in character and magnitude as he had approached it. If anything, it had become more hopeless and sinister the closer he got. And it had become smaller, less glorified and inviting.
And was it really there at all?
So, why was he on a bus headed for Phoenix and, ultimately, Mirage? So near, and yet it seemed as far away now as it had ever been.
There were only two things he knew how to do: fix cars and entertain men with sex. He wanted to do the first, but it would be hard to get a job at that in Phoenix. Worse than not having any references, it wouldn't take much effort to find that he'd worked at Miller's as close as Albuquerque. What would they say about him there when asked? That this Rick guy just didn't show up for work one day? Would Luis have something more damning to say to punish him? Or would Jess take the information and come for him—folding Rick right back into a prison, no matter how pleasant Jess's cocking was?
No, even to be able to be fixing cars now, Rick needed a new life—and time. Only money brought that. And the only way Rick could think of to get the money he'd need—to live, let alone follow any dream—was to use his other skills for a while.
Rick would see how much money Groton would actually give him and how soon he could get out of the business altogether. Not out of the lifestyle, because he couldn't deny his needs, but out of the business at least.
Beyond that, though, just as the mirage out there had reformed and not come significantly closer, Rick had grown and changed too. He would take more control. He wouldn't be a prisoner to anyone again like he had been before. And he had never been completely passive to begin with. He had escaped what was both the physical and mental pull of a series of dominant men: Tony, Pete, Groton, Bill Grimes, and Jess Miller. Rick would go back with Groton—and truth be known, that long, long cock of his was something that Rick looked forward to—but now the footing would be more equal.
Rick would make films with him, but if Groton thought it would be rough, leather films, he was sadly mistaken. Rick had already had that offer in Santa Fe, and had walked away from it.
It was nearly dawn when Rick's bus pulled into Phoenix. He found the nearest hotel that looked like he could afford it and wasn't a flop house—he was not in the mood for drama or being hit on—and slept into the afternoon. Then he found out which city bus would take him to Sky Harbor airport.
His trip to the airport was about as frustrating to him as anything he had experienced on the long road from Baltimore. He was trying to rent a car—a cheap one, if he could. He had no idea where Mirage was in relation to Phoenix. Just in the same state. But he figured he'd need a car to get there. There had been no destination under "M" on the board in the bus station other than Mesa.
He probably should have called instead of showing up in person, although, ultimately that was unlikely to work either. The attendants at the car rental kiosks were all smiles until they saw how young he looked—and that he had a Maryland driver's license that looked fake to them, even though it wasn't. The clincher, though, was that he didn't have a credit card. He wanted to pay in cash. Suddenly there were no rental cars available at Sky Harbor.
He could have slit his wrists right there until one hopeful rental associate said, "Hey, I heard you say you wanted to drop the car off in Mirage. It's really El Mirage, you know, and it's just twenty miles up highway 60 from here. Why don't you just go to the bus station and get a bus headed for Las Vegas? You can get a ticket for only as far as El Mirage."
Rick was grateful for the information and felt stupid that he already was almost standing on top of what Groton and everyone else had said was Mirage, but he didn't have the energy this afternoon to do more than get back to his hotel on the city bus. He had half a notion to call Groton and tell him to come pick him up—it could be the first test of the balance of control. But he was too tired and keyed up now to do that today.
He heard the buzzing from the hotel corridor. The walls were the thickness of tissue paper in this hotel. The buzzing continued as he unlocked and entered his room. The sound was coming from his duffel bag.
Rick fished through the duffel to the bottom and came up with the ringing cell phone—the one that Bill Grime's lawyer had given him.
"Who the hell would call me on this," he muttered as he looked for button that would put it on speaker. "I've never used this."
"Rick? Rick Hernandez? I've been trying to reach you for hours. Almost decided you'd ditched the phone."
Rick muttered something—enough for Kevin Morton, Grime's lawyer, to know someone had picked up.
"It's Kevin Morton, Bill Grimes's lawyer."
"How'd you know where I was?" Rick answered in confusion.
"It's my cell phone, remember? I gave it to you. I have the number. You haven't called."
"Uh, no, I'm doin' OK, thanks."
"I didn't call to find out how you were doing. I called to inform you that Bill Grimes is dead."
"Dead? I don't under . . . hey, wait. I had nothin' to do with anything like that. I left right away for Albuquerque. I've got people there who can say where I've—"
Rick went silent and was beginning to shake and sweat. Did he really have anyone in Albuquerque who could or would alibi him for anything? He couldn't go back to the Miller's auto dealers and the Hispanic families in his neighborhood probably never really saw him in the first place. But there was his landlord. Yes, there at least—
"No, no, you don't understand. Grimes committed suicide. Lots of us saw it coming and it was clear he did it himself. I'm calling because you are his heir. And there aren't any contenders."
"His heir? I don't understand. You said . . . the adoption papers."
"No, no. The first set of papers you signed made you his heir—everything he owned. And Bill Grimes was a very wealthy man. I saw his end coming—and, under the circumstances, although I couldn't do much about it while he was alive, I don't regret not trying to prevent him from crashing and burning nor do I regret helping him set up the paperwork to assign an heir before he did so. It was what he wanted anyway. He had the will drawn up before and separately from the adoption procedures. And if there are questions, I'll vouch that he wanted to adopt you. And I've kept his memos of intent. Anyone who sees you and knew his son can see how he would attach to you. And frankly, as long as he's gone, not many in his world will look too far into anything. We all saw it coming and saw the change in him. This is clearly what he wanted."
"Uh, I'm not sure what to say. Could I call you back tomorrow or something. This needs to sink in."
"Yes, yes, of course. I understand it's a shock. But there will be no irregularities. I was his lawyer and the paperwork is air tight and there are no contenders. I can handle this for you, if you like, or find a very good lawyer for you for your own, if you wish. You'll have to come to Santa Fe, of course—sometime soon. You can come anytime you want. There will be a house for you to stay in and a couple of cars to use—they are yours anyway."
"OK, thanks. Let me sleep on this. I'll call you tomorrow. Do I have your—?"
Morton laughed. "You really have been thrown off the beam, haven't you? When I gave you the cell phone, I told you my number was programmed in. Just hit the number one button in the address file."
Rick was shaking when he rang off. He needed to lie down. No, scratch that, he thought. He needed a stiff drink.
He left the hotel room and, impatient with the slowness of the elevator to respond, bounded down the four flights to the ground level. He stood out in front of the hotel momentarily, indecisive on which way to turn, and eventually, because he needed that drink now more than ever, just turned right and started walking down the store fronts of a strip mall. He was looking in the windows, at the displays, but not really seeing anything—just glancing long enough to think, "Nope, not a bar."
He stopped at the window of a photography shop. Phil looked up and stared back at him through the window, incredulous.
It was Phil, not knowing why Rick was acting like a zombie, who managed to guide Rick to a nearby bar and not press him with any questions until Rick had downed his first shot of Bourbon.
"I told you I was thinking of opening a photography shop in the Southwest somewhere," Phil said in answer to Rick's question. "This seemed as good a place as any. So, what are you doing here? Still with Groton? I saw that the movie was finished and won the grand prize at the festival. So, are you out here with Groton and working on another?"
"I left Groton in Amarillo, Texas, Phil. Billy Dan left him soon after that too. We weren't needed anymore. He had our parts in the can."
"And he hasn't paid you?"
"Not much yet."
"Not yet? You are in contact with him then?"
"And he's here in Phoenix?"
"In El Mirage."
"Ah." Phil knew how close El Mirage was to Phoenix. "You on your way there now? You going to hook up with him again?"
"Yes. Uh, no, maybe not. Oh, I don't know." Not until now had it dawned on Rick that this inheritance changed everything. Suddenly the playing field was opened to him. His options had expanded. But that meant once more that he had to choose between goals.
"So, have you reached your goals, Phil?" he said, turning on Phil to make up for his confused thoughts. "You own that camera shop, do you?" Phil had drawn blood, and Rick's defensive response was unmistakable.
"No, I just work in the camera shop," Phil answered. "But good goals don't usually come without pain and effort. And the one goal that became more important to me than my dream of my own shop turned out to be a mirage in itself. So, I guess you could say that so far I'm a loser."
Rick didn't respond to that. He was silent, the color rising in his face. Stung by the knowledge that Phil was talking about him as a goal that had vanished in the sands.
"It's your life, of course," Phil said, continuing when Rick had gone silent. "My view hasn't changed. I still think that Groton and those movies and where you think you are headed beyond Phoenix are all mirages. That they are empty goals that will vanish whenever you think you are achieving them. But I'll let you see the truth of that by yourself. The most I can say is that I think you are better than all of that." He laughed then and downed his own glass of bourbon and stood up from the stool. "One thing that wasn't a mirage, though. You were worth my tossing away that job for, even for the short time we had. You are undoubtedly the best lover I ever had. I haven't found anything to satisfy me in that way since."
Phil was on his feet and preparing to turn to the door. He had already thrown down the price of the drinks, assuming that Rick couldn't pay. But then Rick put out a hand and grabbed his arm.
"I have a hotel room just down the block," he said. That was all he had to say.
After they had spent themselves fucking, Rick on his back, legs wrapped around Phil's thighs, and Phil full length on top of him, trapping Rick's hands in his and his forehead plastered to Rick's and holding Rick's eyes captive of his to grasp and appreciate every nuance of Rick's expression during the taking, Phil rolled off to the side. They maintained their embrace though, and lay in each other's arms, panting as their breath came back under control and luxuriating in a fully satisfying experience for both of them—something wondrous they whispered to each other before Rick spoke more seriously.
"Is Phoenix where you really want to be? Sort of flat and too big, if you ask me. If you owned a shop, do you think you'd like to have it in Santa Fe?"
"Don't know. Santa Fe is a bit rich for my blood."
"So, you could charge more for your cameras and film and get away with it."
"I suppose. But it's not something I have to think about for the next twenty years or so. I'm pretty much done with chasing mirages."
"Maybe, maybe not. Did I tell you that I'm rich. Maybe even a millionaire?"
"Rich, but you don't know how rich?" Phil laughed. "Talkin' of mirages."
"Well, I haven't counted it yet."
"I'll bite. What will you be doing in Santa Fe?"
"I'll own a service garage—maybe even a dealership. I'm sort of partial to Toyotas."
"And where would we live?"
"Oh, I have a very nice house in Santa Fe—in the hills overlooking the old town. And a Mercedes and an SUV. A BMW, I think."
"You think? You've never seen it?"
"Just snatches as it was driving away. But it's just waiting for me there."
"Nice dream. I'm glad you can still see the humor in all of this. But you're only twenty miles from your goal—from El Mirage. What about that dream?"
"Not so interesting now," Rick answered. "Someone I really love told me once that it is only a mirage. There's no there there."
"I love the way you dream," Phil murmured. He was heated up again and was working Rick's cock with a hand.
"And I love the way you fuck. Dreams can wait. I can't wait much longer for more of you, please."