Folsom was stunned and immobilized. He shook Tiho and looked into his eyes, willing him to be alive. But Tiho was already gone. His eyes, full of amazement and hurt, just stared back at Folsom in glassy emptiness.
There was no room to maneuver out from under what was now dead weight in the confessional booth. Folsom twisted around and eased Tiho’s body down on bench built into the back wall. He could see now that there was blood on the lattice of window in the confessional booth door. Tiho had been stabbed through the latticework. Someone had followed Tiho here and killed him to prevent him from passing on information to Folsom.
But that wasn’t necessarily so, Folsom reasoned. His mind was racing. He was wiping his hands on Tiho’s pants, trying to get rid of the blood on his hands. And his mind was racing on what had happened and what was happening and where he should go from here. He wanted this all just not to be happening.
Whoever killed Tiho could just as easily have been following Folsom himself. Who was to say that Tiho was the intended victim? Tiho had been in the confessional first and Folsom had followed him in. Anyone on the outside who had seen them go in could easily have assumed that it was Folsom who had his back to the door. The killer would have struck blind. He had no idea who he was stabbing in that confessional. Chances were good that either or both Tiho and Folsom were intended targets.
He had to get out of here. He had to make his way back to the Krebsgasse flat. His hands were as clean as they could get now. He had to leave the confessional and look in all directions for the assailant while still not sending up the alarm. He had to do something for Tiho, though. He couldn’t just leave him here. Of course he couldn’t do anything for Tiho. He was a fugitive. If he did anything for Tiho, he’d just be blamed for killing him and that wouldn’t get anyone anywhere.
Folsom slowly opened the confessional door and looked for one side to the other. Good. No one was looking at him, or at least it appeared that this was so. He slipped out and walked in a curved approach to the chapel door, trying not to seem either to be in an unusual hurry or to be too direct in his exit. He made it to the chapel door and was in the south aisle, scrutinizing the many people swirling around in the naive. There were several groups listening to tour guides through earphones. He was right next to one, a group of Americans that meandered around him, the bulk of the group between him and the main, west entrance. This gave him the ability to look through the group in that direction without really being seen well from there himself.
When his eyes became focused, he discerned that Fritz the bruiser was standing there, very near to the main entrance. It was obvious that the bruiser was looking for him. He must have followed Folsom. He must have decided that Folsom needed someone watching his back after all. In this he had been prescient.
Folsom waved his hand and started to move toward the front of the nave, seeking the safety of his new buddy.
“Sssstt. No, you don’t want to go over there,” an insistent voice intruded from behind Folsom’s left ear. And Folsom felt a strong hand on his arm, an arm that was pulling him back, toward the front of the nave to the left of the chancel, the sanctuary. Maybe toward sanctuary. Most likely not.
Folsom turned in surprise and fear, taking a defensive stance. The man who had hold of him was a solid, handsome young blond. A regular hunk.
“Who? What?” Folsom was confused, still in a daze over what was happening and how fast it was happening.
“It’s gaziantep escort me, Ralf. You have to leave here. No, no, you mustn’t go to that man. You were being betrayed. Roman was betraying you. That man wants to kill you. Here, come with me. Now. Hurry.”
Folsom turned toward Ralf, but as he did so, he thought that the bruiser had caught sight of them and was headed in their direction.
“Come, come. There’s another way out. I’ll take you to safety. Then I’ll explain it all.”
Ralf was safety. He hadn’t been one of the four. Roman hadn’t been either, but maybe Folsom just had been misled by Roman’s attention to him on the ship. There was no time to think. Folsom knew nothing about the bruiser. Not really—other than he was an amazing fuck, of course. And if Roman was evil, surely the bruiser was too. Ralf was safe.
Folsom stopped holding back and went with Ralf as they attached themselves to a tour group that was moving to a chapel at the side of the chancel for a short lecture on the oldest known wooden crucifixion still in existence.
“Here, over here,” hissed Ralf. “The gift shop. It has an exit to the plaza.”
They passed a sign for a WC that pointed down some stone stairs in the south transept. Folsom made an involuntary move in that direction, the washing of his hands of the remnants of Tiho’s blood flooding his mind.
“No, no, there’s no time for that,” Ralf said insistently. “We’ll stop somewhere where it’s safe and you can wash yourself and I’ll tell you of Roman’s treachery. Than I’ll take you to safety until the police can come.”
“The police?” Folsom said with alarm.
“Yes. You’re in the clear now. It’s all known. But you are in grave danger still. Come, we must hurry.”
Out the gift shop door they went and into the milling crowd in the Dom Platz between the cathedral and the main train station. Ralf hustled Folsom through the teaming station and out onto Sachsenhausen Strasse, and they headed away from the Rhine. After they had been briskly walking for several minutes, Ralf pulled Folsom into a door of a store at the corner of Tunis Strasse and then, just as quickly, through another door onto Tunis, and they were walking briskly parallel to the Rhine, back beyond the cathedral. Within another fifteen-minute walk they were in the Neuemarket Platz, and Ralf at last slowed down and took Folsom into a beergarten that had entrances on three separate blocks and allowed him to go to the men’s room and clean himself up as best he could.
When Folsom returned to their table, he saw that Ralf had ordered two large steins of beer, which were just arriving. He also realized for the first time that Ralf was carrying a briefcase with him.
“Here, this will refresh you and calm your nerves,” Ralf said, pointing to the glasses of pale ale. “This is Kölsch. It’s the best beer Germany has to offer and is, of course, brewed right here in Cologne.”
“Tell me what is happening. Why is someone trying to kill me and why aren’t the police still looking for me?” Folsom wanted direct answers to direct questions now.
“It’s quite straightforward, really,” Ralf said. “Roman hated Meister for what he was doing to Dieter and then he was enraged when Meister went too far in sex and accidentally killed Dieter in the ship’s exercise room. Roman went to Meister’s cabin and took out his revenge in the same manner Meister had killed Dieter. Then Roman decided to make a power grab for Meister’s sex enterprises.”
“That can’t be,” Folsom said. “Sten assaulted Roman in his cabin and said he was making such a move for control.”
“Sten?” Ralf said and laughed. “Sten, like me, is just a bartender, a lowly employee. Roman confessed that he and Sten staged that to throw you off the track and to win your confidence in him. Roman knew you were an American detective and were stalking Meister. He didn’t know for sure what you were up to, but he wanted you neutralized.”
“But Sten . . .”
“Sten works for Roman. And they’re lovers. Sten is the one you have to look out for. Roman has been arrested and has confessed all. But Sten is on the loose now. I don’t know who attacked you back there in the cathedral. It must have been either Sten or Fritz, that club bouncer friend of Roman we sent you to. Roman had me fooled as well. Tiho and I thought he was sending you to safety. I knew nothing until Roman confessed. But, you must be wounded. The blood. Is it bad? Do we need to go to a hospital?”
“Me? Wounded?” Folsom stammered. “No. That was Tiho. Dead. He asked me to meet him in the cathedral. So he could tell me something?”
“Tiho? Dead?” Ralf seemed stunned. “Ah, but that makes sense. Roman had said something about Sten looking for Tiho. They were afraid Tiho was on to them. That must be why he was killed. That detective, Sigmund Frist, said . . .”
“Yes. What about Frist? That’s what Tiho was trying to tell me. Something about the captain and Frist and another . . .”
“Ah, so Tiho did manage to tell you something. So, you aren’t safe now. If they killed Tiho, they surely will want to kill you too. Come, we’d better go . . .”
“Frist,” Folsom said, showing determination not to leave the beergarten until he had some more answers. “Has he been in the captain’s cabin all of this time?”
“Apparently yes,” Ralf answered. “He was in a difficult spot. He was a detective who had stumbled on to two murders in a place he should not have been. He has a reputation to preserve. Under those circumstances it would make sense that he retreated to the captain’s cabin and was doing what he could to help in the investigation, through the captain.”
“Oh,” Folsom said. “But, then, what was so important about Tiho telling me . . . ?”
“Come, we’ve stayed in one place—out in the open—for far too long. I know of a friendly hotel near here. We’ll go there and I’ll contact the police, and we’ll get you to safety.”
Folsom wasn’t finished with questions he wanted to ask, but Ralf was obviously finished with answers he wanted to provide out here in the open on Neuemarket Platz. He threw down some euros on the table and pulled Folsom out through an entrance that was on a different street than the one they had entered from.
A short walk of a couple of blocks and they were in another small square, and Ralf guided Folsom into a hotel entrance with the name Marsil over the door. Ralf offered another wad of euro notes to a man at the reception desk, evidently enough to keep the man from asking for the requisite passports to be registered. The man handed Ralf and key and they were on their way up the elevator.
In the elevator, Ralf put an arm around Folsom and drew him close and kissed him on the ear. “I’ve been wanting to get close to this for some time, I’ll have to admit,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “I think I can find something for us to do while we’re waiting for the police escort.”
As soon as they entered the room, Ralf pushed Folsom up against the wall next to the door and covered his face and neck with kisses while he unbuttoned his shirt and fanned his palms on Folsom’s heaving pecs. He moved his lips down to Folsom’s nipples and his hands down Folsom’s belly and onto his basket. He was stroking Folsom’s prick to life through the material of his pants.
Folsom gasped and pushed Ralf away.
“You want it, I know you do. I can feel it in your body,” Ralf was saying in a soft, yet hard-edged voice. “You want me to do you as much as I want to do you.”
“Let me shower first,” Folsom pleaded. “Let me wash this death off of me first. Then we’ll fuck.”
“Fine. I’ll call the police while you’re showering,” Ralf said. “But I’ll tell them we won’t be here for another hour and a half. They should give us time to become well acquainted.”
Folsom moved into the bathroom and turned the shower on full blast and as hot as he could take it. He stripped and stood under the pulsating water for a long time, trying to wash the death of Tiho off him and to come to terms with what was happening in his life. He didn’t feel horny, which was a first for him—although he knew he would have no trouble accommodating Ralf and giving Ralf a good time. He just felt empty and dead. Is that what this came down too? He’d come to Germany to kill Meister for murdering his partner and lover, and Meister was dead. Big deal he hadn’t been the one to kill him. He’d gotten what he deserved. And Folsom bore no grudges against Roman for having killed Meister. Roman was under no threat from Folsom, and he damn well should know that. All of this manhunting business was unnecessary nonsense—just a meaningless misunderstanding. Life itself was meaningless. It had been meaningless since he had lost Brad Roberts.
At last Folsom left the shower and toweled off and padded out to the bedroom in the nude. Ralf had also stripped down to his shorts and both of them sucked in their breath, thrilled at the sight of the other. Folsom did feel a little horny now. Ralf was a real hunk. He’s been very satisfying the first time he had taken Folsom hard and rough, and he was just as desirable now.
“Called the police?” Folsom asked.
“Yes. They should be here in a bit over an hour now. You took your time in the shower.”
“But I’m here now.”
“Yes, you’re here now. And it was worth the wait. Come here. Come to me.”
Folsom did as Ralf directed. He liked to be dominated. He was ready to slip into that role. He wanted Ralf to take care of him. To take him hard. To make him forget—if at least only for a few moments of orgiastic death—if that was possible.
Ralf wrapped his arms around Folsom and rubbed skin against skin from pecs to thighs. He kissed Folsom deeply on the lips and then sat him down on the end of the bed, sank to his knees, and began giving Folsom head. Folsom sighed and moaned and ran his hands through Ralf’s blond hair for a short while. After a bit, he lay back and spread his legs and tilted his pelvis up to give Ralf ready access to his asshole with his fingers and mouth.
Ralf took advantage of Folsom’s gesture, but after giving him some intense attention, alternating between Folsom’s tool and his asshole, Ralf stood and pushed Folsom up on the bed. Folsom got the message and moved up until he was stretched full length on the bedspread. Ralf slipped off his briefs and came up onto the bed on his knees, straddling, Folsom’s calves. He bent down and took Folsom’s prick in his mouth again and sucked and pumped him there, taking time out to lick and pull at Folsom’s balls with his teeth.
Folsom was moaning and moving under Ralf, gently stroking up into his soft mouth, reaching release, exploding in a death by ejaculation. How often he had done this with Brad. Folsom was thinking of Brad as his hips jerked for a second time and he released a second spouting of cum. Ralf’s finger pushed into Folsom’s ass, finding the prostate, and Folsom died again. Never-ending ejaculation. Getting closer to death, closer to Brad. Heaven.
Maybe closer than he thought.