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I had no idea where the Zee Bar was, but lucky for me that expert on all things Montrose, my best friend Dell, knew exactly where to find it. Montrose being Houston’s happening gay mecca, there wasn’t much about the neighborhood Dell didn’t know. When I told him I was meeting Todd at the Zee Bar, a look of considerable surprise came over Dell’s face. It seems the bar had quite a reputation for raunchiness, and Dell thought it passing strange that a cop would spend his free time hanging out there. But after I reminded Dell of Todd’s rep as a junkyard dog, he had to admit that maybe the Zee Bar wasn’t such a strange choice after all.
So just how raunchy was the place? Dell insisted he had never been there, but he did seem to know an awful lot about it. It was primarily a hangout for the leather and levi set, the type of guys into muscle cars and souped-up motorcycles, sporting bandannas and tattoos and lots of facial hair. And while it had plenty of the BDSM crowd and their hangers-on, it wasn’t exclusively a motorcycle bar, at least not on weekends according to Dell. It actually attracted a pretty wide-ranging group of guys, not in small part because it was also known as one of the easiest pick-up bars in town. And while I was careful not to mention my suspicions to Dell, I had to wonder if Todd had ever took my dad here, back during the time when they regularly went bar-hopping.
“Anything else?” I asked Dell who was on the speakerphone in the car, directing me to the place.
“Well, just so you know, the back bar/patio area of the Zee has been known for some pretty heavy-duty sex stuff.”
I balked. “When you say ‘heavy-duty,’ what are we talking about?”
“Let me put it this way, Charlie. If that sex hound starts steering you toward the back bar, run the other way.”
I had to laugh. Though I knew Dell was no prude, there were times when he definitely came off as way too protective. And while he and I had been to any number of clubs in Houston, this was my first time venturing into what could be called a rough trade bar, and I wasn’t about to run the other way if guys were actually putting on live sex shows inside this place.
“Listen,” said Dell, continuing, “I could be down there in twenty minutes. You really don’t have to face this guy alone.”
“For Pete’s sake, Dell, chill. It’s just supposed to be a nice friendly little date. But if he does start to rape me, I’ll call you.”
“Oh, you’re hilarious.”
“But seriously, Dell, think about it. I’m here to try and get some pretty intimate stuff out of this guy about my dad. He’s not likely to open up much if you’re hanging around like a bodyguard.”
“I know how to be discreet, Charlie. But fine, I can take a hint. You don’t want me there. But do me a favor. Keep your phone handy and if something weird does start to happen, call me.”
Thanks to Dell’s excellent directions I found the Zee without much trouble even though it was located in a pretty nondescript-looking, warehouse-type building on a side street off Richmond. There were lots of cars about and I was forced to park a full block away. And as Dell noted, the place was really hopping on a Saturday night with lots of people coming and going even before I made it to the entrance. And just as Dell had noted, there was a pretty impressive array of motorcycles congregated around the entrance, many quite large and decorated with elaborate and colorful designs and many tricked out with expensive amounts of chrome. I was pretty sure some of these bikes had to be worth twice what my lowly Toyota was worth.
Not entirely sure what to expect, I pushed through the large metallic door and stepped inside. Any apprehensions I had about being here were immediately dispelled by the crowd which seemed nothing if not tame. Oh sure, there was a plentiful supply of muscle shirts and black leather vests on display, but none of the guys wearing that stuff looked in the least intimidating. Most were older, and grayer, and clustered in little groups talking mainly to each other, while all around them swirled a much larger crowd of mostly men—and not a few women—laughing, drinking, socializing, cruising and in general looking like they were having a perfectly good time. I don’t know what I expected, but I was definitely feeling a little ping of disappointment at what I saw. Except for the absence of really loud music and a dance floor surging with mostly young, mostly twink-type guys, this place could have passed for any number of other clubs Dell and I frequented when I was in town. I heaved a sigh. Where’s the fun in that?
I wandered around looking the place over. It was actually quite large. The center part was occupied by a large enclosed bar which was spacious enough to accommodate four working bartenders and a barback, all without running into each other. Judging from the high cinderblock walls and wide concrete floor, I figured the building must have been a warehouse once upon a time, a look that complemented the crowd since many of the patrons were dressed as if they worked in warehouses. But whether casino şirketleri they were decked out in faded jeans and work boots, western shirts and cowboy boots, or leather vests and thick black boots, I had to admit there were an awful lot of very good-looking men here. And I wasn’t put off in the least by the fact that these guys were quite a bit older than the crowd Dell and I usually ran with. I quickly decided I had better leave off that little tidbit when I reported back to Dell about my impressions of the bar. He was already convinced I was nursing a secret yen for older guys.
I thought I was being perfectly subtle as I checked out the many interesting-looking men of the bar, but apparently I wasn’t being nearly as subtle as I thought. One dude with salt-and-pepper beard, black t-shirt and a brightly studded belt separated from his companions and walked right up to me.
“Hey, babe,” he said, looking me over like I was a tasty meal.
“You look like a little lost lamb.”
“No, that’s not true,” I said taking a step back. “I was looking for somebody.”
I turned and hurried away, and ran smack dab into another tall guy.
“Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, trying to avoid his gaze.
The guy laughed. It was Todd. “Are you looking for trouble or trying to run away from it?”
“I wasn’t doing anything, I swear. I was just standing there, minding my own business when this strange dude came up to me.”
“Relax, Charlie, I know. I saw the whole thing from across the bar. In fact, I saw you when you first came in.”
“Then why didn’t you come over?”
Todd shrugged and smiled. “I was getting around to it. You see, I got this habit which probably comes from being an undercover cop of hanging back and observing people—even people I know, like you—before I approach them. Now when you first came in, you had this really uptight expression on your face, sort of like ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into?’ But as you looked around and took in the scene, it relaxed and changed into something else—more like a kid in a candy store.”
“Well, I’m really glad you got a kick out of watching me squirm,” I said, more than a little miffed at his attitude. Todd was having way too much fun at my expense.
Just then three other guys came up to us, all about Todd’s age, and all with their eyes fixed squarely on me.
“Friends of yours?” I asked Todd.
“Unfortunately yes,” said Todd staring at the trio. “So, gentlemen, I thought we agreed you’d give me a little more time with Charlie before you came over.”
“We never agreed to that,” joked one of the three, a guy with a bright smile, a receding hairline and the most heavy-set of the group. He extended his hand to me. “Hi, I’m J.B.”
“Hey,” I said shaking his hand. The guy had such a pleasant face and infectious smile that it was impossible not to like him immediately.
“That, Charlie, is J.B. Barron,” said Todd indicating the guy, “and I don’t want you to believe a single thing he tells you.”
“Todd! Man, that hurts,” grinned J.B. broadly.
“And this one is Cliff Kramer,” Todd said, nodding toward the most clean-cut looking one of the three. And not just clean cut, but slim and trim and easily the most good-looking guy of the bunch. As I took his hand, I couldn’t help but admire his sparkling blue eyes and beaming blond smile.
“Pleasure,” Cliff said.
“And that one looming over everybody like a tree is Andy Tull.” Todd indicated the third guy, a very slender, very tall guy who must have been at least 6’5”. Not only did he loom over us, he seemed to loom over most everyone in the bar.
“Nice to meet ya, kid,” Andy said, studying me with keen interest. “You know, good ol’ Todd here failed to mention how young you were.”
“Well, I’m not that young,” I insisted. “So, Todd, you’ve been telling your friends about me?”
“No, not really. See, we went out to dinner earlier, and I happened to mention I was meeting this hot, smart, very good-looking dude later for a drink. As usual, they got all up in my business and started asking all kinds of nosey questions about you. Now if you three had social lives of your own, you wouldn’t need to go prying around in mine.”
“Hey, we’ve got social lives!” insisted Cliff.
“Yeah, but his is a hell of a lot more interesting,” shrugged J.B. with a smile. “Like, for instance, none of us has ever been out with the son of a cop.”
I shot Todd a look. “You told them that?”
Todd shook his head and groaned. “It may have come up in passing.” Obviously irked, Todd glared at J.B. “Are you trying to fuck this up for me, man?”
“Sorry,” J.B. said.
“Is it true, though?” queried Cliff.
“Yeah,” I admitted. “My dad works patrol out of the downtown division.” And then another thought hit me. “And unless I miss my guess, you guys are all law enforcement too—aren’t you?”
Cliff smiled. “Yeah, though we don’t play that up in here. What gave us away?”
“You mean besides the tendency to put somebody in the hot seat?” I joked. “I’m not exactly sure casino firmaları how I know that.”
“It’s instinct, Charlie,” said Todd coming to my rescue. “Cops give off a certain vibe. That’s no big secret. Generally speaking, the only people who pick it up on it are other cops—or, unfortunately, criminals.”
“And being the kid of a cop, I guess it’s only natural I’d pick it up too. So, I’ve got to ask: Do lots of cops out hang out in this bar?”
“I wouldn’t say lots,” said Andy, “but some do, especially the ones into bikes and leather.”
“Like, for instance, you,” laughed J.B. needling Andy. “Don’t let this guy fool you, Charlie. He’s a total bike freak. He pours more loving care into that big ol’ motorcycle of his than he does into his girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend?” I gasped, a little surprised.
“Oh, you probably assume that because we hang out in a bar like this we’re gay,” said Cliff. “It’s a common misconception. Actually we’re bi. The Zee isn’t strictly gay, you know. It’s more of a mixed bar.”
That actually made a lot of sense. I had noticed a number of women milling about the joint, plus a variety of couples—gay and straight. As I looked closer, I saw a lot of general mixing going on, men flirting with men who were flirting with women who in turn were flirting with other women, or men, as the case may be. It was a wild and fluid scene, unlike anything I had experienced before, and I had to admit I really liked it. It was as if anything was possible here.
“Actually, we all have girlfriends—except for good ol’ Todd, of course,” continued J.B.
“So true,” nodded Cliff, also obviously enjoying ribbing Todd. “Watch out for him, Charlie. This one here—he don’t like to be tied down.”
“Fuck you,” said Todd, smiling sheepishly. “Some friends you are. I’m actually beginning to think you guys are trying to fuck this up for me. Ignore ’em, Charlie. They’re just jealous—probably want to take a run at you for themselves.”
“Now there’s a thought,” joked J.B., turning to me. “Hey, kid, when you get tired of Mr. Smooth here, come find me.”
I laughed too, though in truth I wasn’t entirely sure he was joking. It seemed to me that girlfriends or no girlfriends, all these guys were pretty obviously on the make, cruising the crowd, for guys. It was at this point Todd took my arm and began gently guiding me away from his friends.
“Well on that note, I think it’s time for Charlie and me to circulate,” Todd said, leading me in the direction of the big central area of the club. “How about a drink, Charlie? Name your poison.”
“A Coke, I guess, though I’d much rather have a beer. But forget it. I didn’t think to bring my fake ID along.”
“It’ no problem. If you want a beer, Charlie, I can get you one.”
“You do know that I am under 21, don’t you, Todd, and technically it’s a crime to buy me a drink.”
“So I’ve heard, hot stuff, but don’t sweat it. I’m friendly with all the bartenders here and they’ll give you a drink if I ask them to. Look, Charlie, just for tonight, don’t think of me as a cop. I’m just a guy you met for a friendly drink. And as for you not being entirely legal, well, let’s just say I happen to find that a little bit of a turn-on.”
“Can I ask you something?” I said as Todd handed me the bottle of beer. “It’s about your friends over there: J.B. said they all had girlfriends, but it looked to me like they were cruising the bar—for guys. What’s up with that?”
Todd looked amused. “You’re still having trouble wrapping your head around the bi part—aren’t ya, Charlie? Let me explain it this way. Sure they like girls—in fact, in their case, I’d even say they primarily like girls—but they’re also into dudes, especially when it’s a Saturday night, and they’re out lookin’ to have a good time and maybe sow a few wild oats. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their girlfriends. It just means that there are times when a girl can’t always scratch their itch.”
“I get that, Todd. I’ve actually dated a bi guy. What I think I’m having the hardest time wrapping my head around is the fact that they’re cops. My dad’s a cop, my granpa was a cop. I’ve grown up around cops, and I have to tell you seeing a bunch of bi cops cruising around a gay bar is sorta blowing my mind.”
“OK, so let me ask you a question,” said Todd, a certain wicked glint in his eye. “You’re an out and proud young gay man. Can you honestly say you’ve never been to the station house or maybe visited the police gym, and laid eyes on some nicely put-together piece of manflesh, and not imagined yourself gettin’ busy with one of those cops?”
“Point taken,” I giggled, “but don’t tell my dad.”
“I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t tell him you’ve been cruising the police gym if you don’t mention anything to him about this date. I happen to know for a fact that he would not approve of a wolf like me putting the moves on his sweet innocent young son.”
“It’s a deal—not that I’m all that innocent,” I said, knowing full well I had no intention of telling my dad about this date. Todd was right: Dad would hit güvenilir casino the ceiling if he found out I was meeting his drinking buddy in a bar.
Todd and I had wandered into a corner of the Zee where we could idly watch the ebb and flow of the crowd. He reached out and lightly touched my hand and then entwined his fingers around mine. “I like you, Charlie.”
“I like you, too.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t always, did you?” he said with his pale blue eyes focused on me.
“I didn’t dislike you.”
“Are you sure about that, because for a long time I got the distinct impression you didn’t like me at all.”
I took a breath, not entirely knowing what to say. “OK, so maybe I didn’t like you all that much at first, but I really didn’t know you. You just seemed kind of shallow to me.”
“Is that all—because I thought maybe you’d heard some things about me around the station house, y’know, like some rumors and things. It’s no secret some of the older guys really don’t like me.”
“No, that’s not it,” I lied, not really wanting to tell Todd what I’d heard. “What you’re here and we’re having a good time.” And with that he leaned in and gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. The kiss was sweet and light and just right. It left me with a warm and cozy feeling. Maybe there was a time I didn’t like this guy, but that time had definitely passed.
“If you thought I didn’t like you, why did you ask me out last summer?”
“Because I thought you were cute, and sexy, and maybe because I happen to like a little bit of a challenge. Going after something I’m not supposed to get—now that’s catnip to me.”
It was now well past midnight and the surging crowd had swelled to a throng. Todd and I retreated to the fence-enclosed patio out back so we could continue talking. It wasn’t until we had pushed through the big double doors and emerged onto the wide area of the outdoor bar that I recalled Dell’s warning about all the raunchy stuff that supposedly took place on the patio. I began anxiously glancing about, looking for any signs of lewd behavior. And to my distinct disappointment, I saw none, though there were several couples huddling together in the dark corners of the patio, necking and kissing.
It felt good to be out of the stuffy air of the bar and into the cool fresh air of the open patio. And it also felt good to be out of the hectic noisiness of the bar, though there was some innocuous music wafting out of several second-rate speakers scattered about. A cluster of patio tables near the center of the area was occupied, but we managed to snag a couple of patio chairs from one table and position ourselves where we could get a good view of the couples milling about the patio.
“The best part of hanging out in a big bar like this is people-watching,” declared Todd. “Something about the atmosphere of a bar magnifies peoples’ character. Aggressive types become more aggressive, submissive types become more submissive, uptight types become even more uptight. Do I make you nervous, Charlie?”
“What? No!” I said, a little startled by the question. “What makes you ask that?”
“Well, you nearly jumped out of your shoes when I first came up to you tonight. You seem more relaxed now. I’m glad.”
“OK, so maybe I was a little uptight when I first got here. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been to this bar before, and besides it’s the first time I’ve gone out with you.”
“Good point. Listen, Charlie, the last thing I want to do is make you nervous.”
“Can I ask you a question? You and my dad used to do a lot of barhopping. Did you ever bring him here?”
“Sure, a couple of times. But he didn’t take to the place.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Well, that’s a big surprise,” I said facetiously. “Why would you bring him here?”
“It was his idea. When Matt and I first started hitting the bar circuit, he asked me to suggest some different kinds of bars to check out and since I hang out here, I suggested this place, among others.”
“But this place is so unlike Dad. I don’t understand why he’d want to come here.”
“You won’t get any argument from me, Charlie. I have no idea why he wanted to come here. I could’ve told him he wouldn’t like it. Your dad is a small bar type of guy. He belongs in one of those little local neighborhood taverns where everybody knows your name, or maybe one of those intimate little jazz clubs downtown. Big old impersonal bars like the Zee with tons of people shuffling around just irritated him.”
I had to laugh. “Yep, sounds like him. Dad’s not crazy about crowds.”
“But that’s not you, is it, Charlie? You’re not afraid of a big bar like this with a lot of stuff goin’ on. You actually get off on it, don’t ya? Matt could never get out of his head long enough to plug into the energy of a place like this. But you: you’re like me. You crave the heat, the excitement. The danger. It turns you on.”
Todd leaned over and kissed me, and when I responded he pulled me to my feet and wrapped me up in a hotter, deeper kiss, the kind that makes you feel funny and go all warm and mellow inside. By the time our lips parted I was feeling all kinds of things—lust, heat, confusion. I had to force myself to recall why I came here and what I wanted from this man, because in that moment my head was getting all turned around.
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