Changes 7

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This is a work of fiction, and as such the characters are not bound by the usual dictates of modern society. Unsafe sexual practices can be undertaken with impunity only in the world of fantasy. In reality, it is your obligation and your right to play safely, sanely and healthily.

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The bugging device Michael had installed on Geoff's phone was an off-site machine which kicked in whenever a call was made to or from the number, and it was Michael's job, along with an assistant, to check the recordings and listen to any calls once a day. Geoff Carruthers wasn't so high up on the list of important investigations that he warranted a continual, live observation. It quickly became obvious that Geoff used his land-line only for the most mundane of matters, apart from regular calls to Ian Sterling. It was those calls which Michael hated listening to. Overhearing the easy conversation, the suggestive comments and plans for coming meetings which passed between the two men, Michael felt like some kind of voyeur. And what really got to him was the way Carruthers seemed to tell Sterling what to do. Michael often thought, as he sat and listened to the two men speaking, that if he were Ian's lover, he would never treat him in such a way. Of course, then he had to remind himself that he would never be Ian Sterling's lover - that was out of the question!

Michael knew very well that Carruthers had a mobile telephone, yet a search of the various carriers had failed to find any number listed under his name. Obviously Geoff had the phone connected in a false name, or perhaps one of his business names. That, plus the difficulty with tapping into the new digitally encrypted mobile services, had meant that Michael was stymied in his attempt to get any serious evidence. Geoff plainly did all of his business either by internet or on his mobile, and Michael did not have access to either. He was quickly reaching the point where he would have to cancel the phone tap as unproductive.


Neither Ian nor Geoff had mentioned again the expression of love that Ian had voiced that night just as he drifted into sleep. Geoff still felt uncomfortable every time he thought of it, but as Ian hadn't repeated it, he let things ride. He had begun to cool their relationship a little, seeing Ian less often during the week, although they were still spending weekends together. Geoff argued with himself in his solitary moments, telling himself that if he were to love anyone, it would be Ian, but that it was too early to know if this was love yet. He began to find it off-putting that Ian was more and more comfortable in the bars and clubs they visited, but then he tried to imagine what it would be like without Ian around, and didn't like the thought at all.

Ian had not forgotten what he had said. Although Geoff hadn't replied, the young solicitor convinced himself that Geoff was simply a more reserved person when it came to emotional issues. The lessening of their time together he ascribed to Geoff's business dealings. The fall-off in passionate, rough and tumble sex was because they were growing more comfortable with each other. After all, Geoff was still with him every weekend, so he must feel the same way as Ian! The young man happily convinced himself that he loved Geoff and that Geoff loved him, and that time would lead Geoff to be able to say the words out loud. Occasionally he thought about Nick and Tina when he imagined Geoff expressing his feelings. They had such an obvious and deep love for each other, and he hoped he and Geoff could find the same. He ached to call them, but the heat of their parting argument came back to him, and he steeled himself with the determination that it would have to be Nick who apologised for the things he had said about Geoff - one day he would see just how wrong he had been!

Despite the growing confusion of his private life, Geoff's businesses were doing well. He easily diverted money from both the brothel in Kings Cross and the sale of drugs through Neale into the cafe, where it was safely laundered into 'clean' funds which kept his accountant happy. And although Neale was still on edge about his supposedly being watched, the demand for fresh supplies to be sent out to Green Valley showed no sign of easing.

He was at home this Friday afternoon, carefully checking his records against the income from his different ventures, when the mobile phone chirped into life. Geoff glanced at the screen and recognised the number of the telephone he had given Neale Simpson to use as a contact for him. He hit the 'receive' button and spoke quickly into the handpiece.

"Neale, how's things?"

"Geoff, hi! I need ... pphhht ... or than usual thi ... sshhhkkk ... arty, and they wan ... zzzzkkk ... real fast ..."

"Neale, I can't hear you, the signal's breaking up! Neale? Neale?" There was nothing but silence now. He looked at the phone again, to find the screen completely blank. 'Shit!' he swore to himself. The battery had been drained. He plugged the machine into its recharger, but knew it would be a while before he could use it again, and he suspected Neale would be in panic mode if he thought Geoff had hung up on him. Against his better judgment, Geoff picked up the landline and dialled Neale's number.

Before the other man could speak, Geoff jumped in quickly as soon as the phone was answered.

"Don't say anything, just listen!" His voice was like steel. "My phone is out for an hour or so. I'll call you back then, just cool your heels until I can get back to you."

"But I need a big delivery of 'E's' in a hurry!" Neale began.

Geoff's words hissed down the line like an angry snake. "For fuck's sake, listen to me. I will call you back in an hour!" He slammed the phone down hard.


Michael and his deputy constable had been on the go all day, and didn't get time to go over the message logs from Carruthers' telephone until almost 7.30 that night. With a sense of frustration, the detective listened to Geoff politely refuse to attend a seminar for a new vacation club, order some groceries, and arrange with Ian Sterling to meet at the apartment at 6.30 p.m. Michael glanced at his watch and grimaced. The two men would probably be having sex at that very moment. Yet another outgoing call began as the tones sounded on the tape. But this time Detective Sciutta was all ears. Geoff's voice sounded like it could cut steel.

"Don't say anything, just listen! My phone is out for an hour or so. I'll call you back then, just cool your heels until I can get back to you."

"But I need a big delivery of 'E's' in a hurry!"

"For fuck's sake, listen to me. I will call you back in an hour!"

The sound of the receiver being crunched onto the holder echoed in Michael's head. Quickly he turned to the other cop. "What number did he call?" Michael spat.

As his assistant read it back, Michael dialled the digits for a mobile phone on a handset he knew was shielded so that the calling number would not appear on the other screen.

"Hello?" asked a voice at the other end. In the background, Michael could hear music and loud voices. The man was in a bar or club somewhere.

"Is this Neale Simpson?" Michael asked quickly.

"Uh, Yeah. Who's this, and how did you get this number?" Neale's voice sounded a little annoyed but not concerned.

Michael did not reply, but simply cut the line immediately. "Well," he said with a grim smile. "I think it's time I had a few words with Mr Carruthers!"


Ian was just reaching his peak, gasping with passionate abandon as Geoff thrust into him with driving, forceful strokes, at the very moment that the cops were listening to Geoff's earlier conversation. As his climax crashed through him, long ropes of creamy jizz erupted from his cock and spread all the way up his chest and stomach. A few minutes later, Geoff approached orgasm as well, pulling himself from Ian's body as he flailed at his prick with one hand. His own cum shot from him and added to the gooey mess accumulated on Ian's body, as Geoff huffed and groaned before collapsing onto the bed beside his young lover.

For several minutes they lay together, recovering, before Ian spoke.

"Mmmm," he said softly. "That was good. I should get cleaned up if we're going out."

Geoff rolled up onto one elbow. "Let's stay in tonight?" he asked.

With surprise on his face, Ian looked up into Geoff's eyes. "Umm, sure, if you want. But it's not like you to want to stay at home."

Geoff smiled, his expression masking the conflict in his head. He suddenly couldn't stand the thought of Ian laughing and joking around with some of the acquaintances they had made at the gay bars on Oxford Street. Why did he feel this way?

"I just want you all for myself!" he said, only partly joking.

Ian grinned up at him with a happy look. "Okay, stud, I'm all yours!" he declared.

"Why don't you dive into the shower and clean up?" Geoff said as he pointed at the slimy coating adorning Ian's body. "I'll order us some pizza." He slid off the bed, wiping himself quickly before pulling on a pair of jeans and a shirt.

Ian admired the fit of the denim on his man as he loped into the bathroom and started the shower running. As he hopped under the cascading steam he called out "No anchovies!"

Geoff dug out his wallet and the number for the pizza delivery place, smiling as he heard Ian's request for `no anchovies' shouted over the sound of running water. He called the number and placed an order, giving his credit card details, before hanging up and breaking out a couple of beers, setting them up on the balcony. He called downstairs to let the doorman know he was expecting the pizza, and went into the guest bedroom where he spun the combination for his hidden safe and tossed his wallet inside, nudging the door closed but leaving it unlocked.

He looked in on Ian, admiring the naked beauty of the young man. "You'll wash away soon!" he said with a laugh.

"I'm just enjoying this," Ian replied. "A long, hot shower is almost as good as sex!" he grinned.

Geoff threw a hand towel at him and chuckled. "Well, don't be too long or the pizza will be here!" he warned.

Just as Geoff was about to settle into the chair on the balcony, the intercom buzzed from the foyer. 'Strange,' thought Geoff, 'that pizza must have gotten here a hell of a lot faster than they told me'. He picked up the receiver in answer.

"Mr Carruthers? It's Raymond at the front desk, sir!"

"Yes? Is my pizza here already?" he said genially enough.

"Ahh, no sir, but I thought you should know, I've just had a policeman, a Detective Sciutta, demand to be allowed in. He insisted I validate the elevator for your floor, said he had to speak with you. I'm not allowed to refuse the police entry, sir, but I thought you'd like to know!"

"Shit!" Geoff muttered forcefully. "Thanks, Ray, I owe you!" He hung up and looked around quickly, grabbing a pair of runners and a jacket with his credit card and the cash he had left out. The phone call to Neale that afternoon came back with remembered force. He really didn't want to be answering questions for the police right now. Long years of experience told him to get out fast, and in a rising panic, he did just that. The shower had shut off, and he guessed that Ian was drying off, but he had no time to warn his friend. Besides, what Ian didn't know couldn't hurt him, and Geoff had no real explanation for the lawyer at this point in time.

He cracked the door open, and looked out. There was no one in sight and he quickly ran down the corridor, away from the lifts, and let himself out into the stairwell. The door clicked closed behind him just as he heard the ping of the elevator doors opening. The doors to the stairs were all one-way access, which meant that Geoff had no way of getting back into the building except to go all the way to the foyer. Thirty seven levels below him was the carpark, and he almost ran as he slid and jumped down the steps, leaving the cops and Ian and his home behind in his hurry.


Ian heard the ringing of the doorbell, and the persistent knocking, from the bedroom. He called out to Geoff, "Hey, you gonna get that pizza?" There was no answer. Wrapping a towel around his waist, and with another over his shoulder as he dabbed at his hair, he wandered out into the living room. There was another knock at the door, this time followed by a muffled shout.

"Mr Carruthers? Open up, please, it's the police!"

The young lawyer looked around the room in surprise. Geoff was nowhere to be seen. Once again, the knock and the call, and he hurried to the door, looking through the security hole to see a single man standing there, holding up a police identification badge. He stepped back quickly and pulled the door open.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

The man before him looked surprised at first, then Ian realised he was dressed in nothing but a towel. "Sorry," he blushed, "I just got out of the shower."

"My name is Detective Sciutta," said the other man, flashing his badge for Ian's inspection. "I'd like to speak with Mr Geoff Carruthers."

"Ahhh, well, he doesn't seem to be here, right now," Ian answered. "I'm not sure where he's gone but he should be back shortly."

"May I come in and wait for him?"

Ian's legal instincts started to kick in, and he hesitated. "Do you have a warrant?" he asked.

"No, not at the moment. I simply want to ask some questions of him," Michael said smoothly.

"As I said, he's not here," Ian replied. "if you leave your name and number, I'll ask him to call you when he gets back ..."

The cop began to get more serious at that point. "May I ask who you are, sir, and what is your connection with Mr Carruthers?" He knew full well the answers to both, but that didn't stop him following procedure.

"My name is Ian Sterling, and I am Mr Carruthers' ... friend," Ian said hesitantly.

"I have reason to believe Mr Carruthers has information which would assist us with an investigation I am carrying out," said Michael dryly. "Perhaps you could help us too, Mr Sterling. Since he's not here, I wonder if I might ask you some questions?"

"Not here!" Ian declared.

"At the station, then?"

"What, now?" Ian looked shocked. What was going on? Why was this cop so insistent, and where in the fuck was Geoff?

"Yes, now," Michael said firmly.

"Am I under arrest?" Ian asked incredulously.

"No, sir, but I would certainly recommend that you co-operate with our inquiries," came the answer in a barely hidden warning.

"Very well. Give me a minute to change, and leave a note for Mr Carruthers, and I'll come with you," he said, closing the door firmly and deliberately in the policeman's face. He quickly dressed, and scribbled a note for Geoff to call him urgently on his mobile number, before opening the door again, to find that Detective Sciutta appeared to have not moved an inch. Ian pulled the door closed behind him and checked it was locked, before accompanying the cop down in the lift, and out into a waiting unmarked car, which whisked him off to the Surry Hills Police Centre.

Once there, he was led into a small interview room, and the Detective who had come to the apartment joined him, together with another officer. Michael Sciutta spoke first.

"Mr Sterling, you are not under arrest, so I am not required to issue you with any warning. Your presence here is completely voluntary and, at the moment, you are free to leave at any time, do you understand?"

Ian nodded dumbly, uneasy with the inference that he may not be free to leave at some time in the future.

"If you have no objection, I intend to record our conversation, simply for ease of recall in the future," Michael went on.

"I understand and agree," Ian responded, trying to overcome his confusion, and to think in legal terms.

"Could you give us your full name and address?" began the cop. Ian did so. He was well aware that this, together with a reasonable explanation for his being at Geoff's home, were all that he was legally obliged to do.

Where is Geoff Carruthers?" Michael asked.

"I don't know," Ian answered truthfully.

"Was he with you earlier this evening?"


"Then when did he leave, and where did he go?"

Ian looked at the cop with concern. "I don't know. He was there when I went to have a shower, and gone when I finished, just before you arrived."

"So he left without telling you he was going? Why would he do that?"

"I don't know."

Michael raised his eyebrows in exaggerated disbelief. "Do you honestly expect me to believe that he would leave a guest in the shower and disappear without explanation?"

Ian felt his temper begin to rise. "I don't care what you believe," he snapped. "That's what happened!"

"It's very strange behaviour, isn't it, to leave a stranger in one's home, alone?"

"I'm not a stranger," Ian said, calmer now. "I am his friend. In fact, I have my own key to get in and out of the apartment whenever I wish, whether he is there or not!"

Michael stopped for a second at that. Somehow, the revelation that Ian had his own key to Geoff's place caused a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, which he fought to ignore. He steeled his own nerves, and lowered his voice. "Are you and Mr Carruthers lovers?" he asked smoothly.

Ian gulped with shock at the question. His fears and terror of exposure surfaced all over again. With an effort, he regained some of his composure, and stared back at the officer. "That is none of your business!" he said.

"I believe you are," Michael replied evenly. "And if that is the case, then I find it extremely unlikely that you would not be aware of Mr Carruthers' whereabouts at the moment, or have some idea of why he did not wish to be interviewed by us."

"Firstly, I do not know whether he wanted to be interviewed by you or not!" said Ian, his anger rising again. "Secondly, I find your comments about my private life distasteful and unnecessary; and thirdly, as I have said before, I do not care what you choose to believe. Unless you intend to charge me with some offence, I am leaving, right now!" He stood to go, staring fiercely at Michael, who returned the look with one of disgust.

"Very well!" he replied. "But it might interest you to know that I believe Mr Carruthers, and probably by association yourself, is involved in an elaborate network for supplying and distributing illicit narcotics. I can't prove that, yet, but when I can, I will have no hesitation in prosecuting both he and you to the fullest extent of the law!"

Ian looked at him as the words registered, but he held his surprise in check. This couldn't possibly be happening! "You won't find any proof, because it's not true!" he spat. The pair shot daggers at each other with their eyes, as Michael barked orders at one of his subordinates to show Ian out of the station. As the lawyer left, the cop sat back heavily. He was convinced now that Sterling was involved, and that he was protecting Carruthers, and probably his own arse. Yet the certainty Michael felt didn't bring satisfaction. If anything, an overwhelming sense of disappointment pervaded his thoughts, that the young solicitor was caught up in Carruthers' world, and that it was going to fall to Michael to put him behind bars.


Ian left the police station in a daze. His head was full of a thousand conflicting thoughts. What had happened to Geoff? Why had he disappeared? Surely the police must be wrong, Geoff would never be into drugs! Ian had been with him long enough to be absolutely certain that Geoff never used anything stronger than alcohol. But the cops had said he was involved in supply and distribution. That could mean he didn't use them himself, couldn't it? But not Geoff, not the Geoff he knew, the Geoff he loved! His Geoff would never do anything like that. But then his Geoff would never disappear to leave Ian to fend for himself in the face of police questioning, either!

Without thinking about it, he made his way home. The more he thought, the more he convinced himself that there had been some terrible mistake, and that Geoff would sort it all out with a laugh and an explanation. Pouring himself a strong drink, Ian called Geoff's apartment.

No answer, just the drone of the machine. He hung up without a word, and dialled the number for Geoff's mobile. Again there was no response, as the phone diverted to voice mail. He left a message, pleading with Geoff to call him, blubbering out that the police had come and taken him in for questioning, that they had some crazy story about Geoff being involved in drugs and criminal activity, and suspected Ian was involved as well.

Sleep would not come to him that night, despite the late hour. He tossed and turned, alone in his bed, recalling the words of the Detective, and refusing to believe them. He fought with himself, certain that Geoff had never given any indication of being the type to get involved in illegal activities, but from way back in his memory came Nick's words - be careful, I don't trust him! - and the tiniest of doubts began to gnaw at his stomach as he recalled how Geoff never discussed any business, always managed to avoid any talk of finances, even seemed vague when Tina had asked him about his work. But it couldn't be true. Ian loved Geoff, and Geoff loved Ian, and he wouldn't do anything that could hurt their relationship!

Around 9.30 on Saturday morning, Ian was well into his fifth cup of coffee, bleary eyed and exhausted, but still unable to sleep, or even to make any sense of the events of the previous evening, when his phone rang, interrupting his contemplation.

"Hello?" he said slowly, dragging his mind back to the present, the pips of a long distance call surprising him.

"Ian? It's Geoff!"

"Geoff! Where are you? What happened? The police came to the flat and you weren't there! They accused you of being involved in drugs. They accused me of being involved as well, what's going on?" he blurted out in a combination of relief and concern.

"Calm down," Geoff soothed. "I'm sorry about that, but I couldn't hang around for the cops."

"Why not?"

"Call it old habits, a bad experience in the past."

"But Geoff?" Ian pleaded, "The things they said, about you, about me?"

"Relax, Ian, they can't prove a thing!" Geoff sounded so calm that it simply added to Ian's growing panic.

"I'm not asking if they can prove anything," he almost yelled into the phone. "I want to know if it's true!"

"Are you asking me as my lawyer?" Geoff chuckled.

Ian exploded. "Fuck your lawyer!"

"I do!" came the bitter rejoinder.

Ian's voice dropped to a whisper, the anger no longer heated, but cold as ice. "I thought I was your lover! No, I am not your lawyer, and I never will be again. Is it true what they said?"

"Maybe ..." was Geoff's non-committal answer.

"So what does that make me?"

Ian could not see the anguish on Geoff's face, the moisture gathering in his eyes as he bit his lip and regained control of his voice. "Ian," he said slowly. "I'm sorry that you got involved in all of this. I've had to go out of town for a while, until things calm down ..."

"Where are you?" Ian demanded.

"It's better if you don't know. And it's best if you forget about me, okay? Just drop the key to my place at the front desk. They'll keep it safe."

"What?" Ian could scarcely believe the emotionless way Geoff spoke. "What about us? I love you! And I thought you loved me."

"Love?" Geoff asked. His own emotions were dancing wildly around in his head, but he steeled himself. He wasn't going to let Ian Sterling get to him now, it was too late. "What would you know of love? I'll give you this - you're a great fuck! But you don't need my help anymore - you're a big boy now, and you can go out and play without me to hold your hand. God knows I've seen you smiling at the men in the bars. You don't need me to push you out there anymore!"

Ian was speechless for several seconds, his jaw hanging open. Finally he found his voice again. "Is that all I was to you? A handy fuck? A naive little innocent, and you were playing the world-wise teacher?"

"I guess so," Geoff shrugged. "Looks like I did a good job too."

"Fuck you!" Ian cried as he slammed the phone down. He collapsed onto the floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

A thousand kilometres away, in a seedy hotel in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda, Geoff hung up the public phone with a sigh. It's for the best, he assured himself.


Ian cried himself into a restless sleep, his mind and body completely exhausted, and woke an hour later, cramped and uncomfortable, on the sofa in his living room. His first thoughts were of Geoff, and the whole world crashed down on him again. He looked around desperately for someone or something to hold on to, anything that he could use as an anchor, a rock to steady himself. And of course his thoughts turned to Nick. Nick who had always been there for him, Nick who had seen in Geoff what Ian couldn't, Nick who hadn't spoken to him since the blow up over Geoff, and who probably wouldn't want to speak to him now.

He picked up the phone, started to dial the familiar number, then dropped it again. He looked at the machine as if it were to blame for his predicament. How could he go to Nick for help now, after everything that had happened? But he needed help and he knew it. He was a lawyer for heaven's sake, yet his lover - his male lover - had just skipped town, the police suspected him of being involved in supplying drugs, and there was no one else he could turn to. Ian felt another round of hysterics coming on and fought to control his own emotions. He had to do something, anything, to get some stability back or he would lose it, big time! Suddenly, with remarkable clarity, he knew what he had to do - go to Nick and Tina, cap in hand, and apologise, beg for their forgiveness and ask their assistance.

Ian felt strangely calm as he accepted this revelation. His brain went into a kind of neutral as he showered and shaved quickly, dressed and headed out to flag down a taxi, dully reciting Nick's address to the driver as he settled into the back seat in a semi-daze. He tried not to think about the reception he faced from his one-time friend. Nick simply had to understand!

As the taxi pulled to a stop outside Nick and Tina's home, Ian's heart was in his mouth. Never before had he and Nick been so long apart, not talking or having any contact. The nervous Ian replayed their argument in his mind, wincing at just how accurate Nick's assessment of Geoff had been, and how quick Ian himself had been to dismiss his friend and cut him off. With the most tentative of actions, he stepped up to the door and knocked, almost apologetically in itself.

Tina opened the door and looked out, surprise written all over her face. "Ian! It's been so long!"

He stood, transfixed, at the sight of her. "I know," he all but whispered. "I'm sorry! Tina, I need help, badly."

Her concern was immediate and genuine. "What's happened? What's wrong?" she asked, opening the door fully and stepping aside. "Come in, come in and tell us what we can do."

"Shouldn't you check with Nick first?" he asked, almost pleading.

"Bugger Nick! Get yourself in here, Ian Sterling, right now!"

Ian stepped into the hallway apprehensively, his eyes down as he shuffled past a glowering Tina. "Nick?" she called out loudly, "Come here, it's Ian!"

"Ian who?" came the shouted reply, as the solicitor winced visibly. "Oh, that Ian," he added as he entered the room.

Ian summoned all of his courage to look Nick in the face, and took a deep breath. "Nick, I know I've been an idiot," he said softly, "but I'm sorry, so sorry. Please forgive me? Everything you said was right, and now I'm in real trouble!"

The anger and determination in Nick's eyes faded quickly, replaced by concern for his friend. "You're forgiven," he said straight away. "Now what kind of trouble?"

Ian quietly stammered out the whole story to the couple, hanging his head in embarrassed shame as he did, and fighting back the urge to cry yet again. Nick and Tina sat and listened intently, asking an occasional question, but for the most part simply letting him tell the tale. Finally he finished with a plaintive "I thought he loved me!" and sat back exhausted.

Tina was full of sympathy, immediately leaning into Ian and holding him tightly, promising him everything would be alright, rocking gently with him in her arms. Nick took a more pro-active approach as he thought the situation out carefully in his head.

"So, correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't owe this guy anything, right?"

"Yeah ..." nodded Ian uncertainly.

"And you aren't bound by any legal ethics about what he told you?"

"No! I made it very clear to him that I was NOT his lawyer!"

"Then I say, go to the cops. Tell them everything you know, show them that you're not part of it, or him!"

Ian looked up, thinking as he did. "But I don't really have anything. He didn't actually confirm that the accusations were true. He didn't tell me where he was, just 'out of town'. I know it was a long distance call, but that's all. It seems like I really do know nothing about him ..." With that, his voice trailed off as he realised the consequences of what he'd just admitted. His eyes misted again, but he fought to stay calm.

"Would there be anything in his flat which might incriminate him?" Nick asked, thinking out loud.

"I don't know. But I couldn't grant the cops access - it's not my property to do that with, and I can hardly go snooping around myself!"

"Why not? He gave you a key didn't he? Told you to come over whenever you liked?"

Ian smiled wanly. "Maybe, but it's not the same. It wouldn't be ethical."

"Forget 'ethics' for heaven's sake!" Nick exploded. "You're a lawyer, and you're facing a serious criminal investigation, possibly even charges. It's time to look out for number one, mate!"

Ian mulled this over as the three sat in silence. Even simply being charged, or being investigated for that matter, could quite easily destroy his career. He hated to imagine what would happen if his employer became aware of this, especially in the circumstances! With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, a sense that he was going against everything he knew was legally right, he looked at Nick again.

"I do need to go back and collect my stuff from Geoff's place. I suppose we could check his apartment - see if there's anything there ... and then let the police know?"

"Now you're with me!" Nick said quickly. "I know you're not happy about this, but you have to look after yourself - it's damned obvious that Geoff isn't looking out for you!"

Together, Nick and Ian drove to Geoff's building. As they entered the foyer using the key card that Geoff had given Ian, Raymond looked up from his place at the desk, recognising Ian, and nodded. Ian smiled back at him uncertainly and continued onto the elevators with Nick, and up to Geoff's floor. At the door of the apartment, he hesitated, knocking loudly twice, before finally using the card to gain access to the flat, ushering Nick inside quickly and closing the door behind them.

"Wow, you weren't joking!" said Nick as he took in the view from the panoramic windows in Geoff's loungeroom.

"No ..." Ian replied wistfully as he looked around himself. "I'll grab my clothes and things."

"Okay," Nick agreed. "I'll have a look around while you're doing that."

As Ian headed for the bedroom and began to gather up some shirts, jeans and other items he had left at Geoff's place, Nick began to randomly look through drawers in the kitchen and loungeroom, idly pulling out pieces of paper, glancing at them and putting them away again. Finding little of interest, he made his way into the guest bedroom as Ian rummaged through the bathroom cabinet for his toothbrush and other personal effects. Sliding open the doors of the wardrobe in the spare room, Nick suddenly gave a whistle.

"Hey, Ian," he called to his friend. "You said Geoff left in a hurry?"

Ian followed the direction of Nick's voice. "I said I guessed he left in a hurry," he corrected. "I was in the shower. He was here when I got in, and gone when I finished."

"Well, I can tell you, he must have really been anxious to get out of here!" Nick stated as Ian stuck his head around the corner of the room. "Look at this!"

Ian gaped at the object of Nick's attention. Revealed by the now open closet door was a chest of drawers swung to one side, and behind it a smallish safe, the door slightly ajar. Geoff must have been really upset to have walked away and left this open as it was. Ian pulled the heavy steel door open and peered inside. A folder containing a number of sheets of paper rested on top of a stack of floppy disks and a laptop computer. He fished the sheaf of papers out and began to leaf through them.

The writing seemed to be in some form of code, and Ian could not make any sense of it. There was a list of names, about twenty in all, one under the other, each but the last crossed out. Another sheet contained a list of what appeared to be telephone numbers with initials only next to them, a third bore a series of letters and numbers along the lines of 'NS - 150 x E; 1 kg C; 24 Mar 1400', and similar. Both of the men looked at the writing uncomprehendingly.

Below these were bank statements from 3 or 4 different banks, addressed to a number of names, both companies and individuals.

"Hey," Ian commented to Nick, "These accounts are nice and healthy!"

Each of the statements showed balances of between $150,000 and $300,000, and there were at least ten of them. Nick whistled as he looked down the list of deposits. "Hey, almost every deposit is cash, and every one is for just under $10,000.00!" he remarked.

"Yeah," Ian grinned knowingly, "That keeps them under the limit for cash reporting - any cash deposit over $10,000.00 has to be recorded and notified to the authorities by the bank. It's a law that's supposed to keep track of suspicious money." Ian looked again at the names on the statements, then quickly reached for those Nick was holding, examining each one carefully.

"You notice anything else?" he finally asked his friend.

"No, why?"

"Look at the addresses! Every single account is sent to the same post office box address in Surry Hills!"

"Mmmm, interesting ..." commented Nick slowly.

"It's more than that!" Ian said, a grim smile of recognition on his face. "I know that address. It's Geoff's - that was the mailing address he gave us when we were doing the transfer of the restaurant for him."

"Shit!" Nick hissed. "Then all of these accounts are his - probably with fake names, some of them. Fuck Ian! The guy is worth over two million bucks on the basis of these bank accounts alone!"

"Uh huh," agreed the lawyer with a grimace. He continued to shuffle the papers in his hand, and as he did, a small business card slipped from between the documents and fell to the floor. Nick retrieved it, looking carefully at the two simple lines - a name and telephone number, printed in elegant gold lettering on a dark blue background. The card somehow suggested that it, and its owner, were very important.

"This name - 'Marcus El Habibi' - sounds vaguely familiar ..." he commented.

Ian almost collapsed on the spot with shock. "What?" he yelled, snatching the card from his puzzled mate. He stared at the lettering, reading the name over and over again, as if he thought it might suddenly disappear. "Nick, don't you know who this is?"

"Can't say I do," his friend replied, "although like I said, the name sounds familiar."

"Shit Nick, he's only the most notorious underworld figure in the whole fucking country! Rumours are that he runs gangs of hit-men out of an illegal casino in Paddington somewhere. He's supposed to have control of drugs and prostitution and gambling in four states, as well as owning half a dozen politicians. But he's never been convicted of so much as a parking ticket as far as I'm aware. His name seems to surface all the time, whenever there's talk of any major organised crime racket!" Ian was almost whispering now, as if he thought the infamous crime lord might hear him.

"And Geoff has his private phone number!" Nick concluded, in a similar whisper. "Jeez, Ian, we've got to get out of here, and go to the cops, now!"

Ian nodded in a daze, stunned at the ramifications. It wasn't exactly a waterproof case against Geoff, but it was enough to convince the young solicitor that his 'friend' was very much more than he'd imagined. As he gathered his own possessions together again, he sat down heavily in one of the large leather chairs in the loungeroom.

"Nick, we have to play this very carefully, or we'll end up being in some really deep shit," he said. "Did you put everything back exactly as it was in that spare room?"

"Yeah," Nick nodded, trying to think carefully about their situation.

"Okay," Ian continued. "Now, I'm gonna hand the key-card to the concierge, just like Geoff suggested," he said, thinking as he spoke. "And then we'll go to the cops. I'll tell them about the phone call with Geoff, but we have to let them find all this stuff themselves. We don't want to be involved in it at all!"

Nick understood, and agreed. He helped Ian collect the items of clothing and personal effects, and together they let themselves out and rode down in the lift. "Let me do the talking, okay?" Ian said as the doors opened at ground level.

"Okay," agreed Nick readily enough.

Ian walked up to the concierge desk, taking a deep breath as he fought to control his nerves. "Good afternoon, Raymond," he said lightly to the clerk.

"Good afternoon, Mr Sterling," the boy replied. "Mr Carruthers not with you this afternoon?"

"Ahh, no!" Ian said. "I'm afraid that Mr Carruthers and I have had a 'parting of the ways', Raymond. I've just been upstairs to collect some things, and he's asked me to leave my key with you until he gets back."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, sir," said the doorman, his face indicating his sorrow was genuine. "It's been a pleasure having you around, sir!"

"Thank you," Ian acknowledged, emotions boiling in his mind yet again. How easily he had come to accept that the staff in Geoff's building looked at the two of them together, and knew what was going on, without any hint of judgment. He fought to keep from shaking with sadness. "Well, here's his key. Good luck!"

"Thank you, sir, and the same to you. Any idea when Mr Carruthers will be back?"

"None whatsoever, I'm afraid," said Ian, as he and Nick hurried outside, and made for Nick's car. As soon as he gained the relative safety of the vehicle, Ian broke down in sobs. Nick sat there, his own heart breaking for his friend, his arm around Ian's shoulders as he comforted him in silence.


Once Ian had calmed down again, Nick started the car and drove away from Kings Cross, unsure of where or what Ian wanted to do next. "You alright, mate?" he asked sympathetically.

"Yeah," Ian replied sadly. "I'll be okay. We should head straight over to the police station."

"You sure?"

"Yep! I need to do this straight away, I need to get it out of the way."

Nick grinned, and reached over, placing his hand firmly on Ian's forearm. "I'll be there for you, mate!" he said. Ian nodded and said nothing, but the look in his eyes was all the thanks Nick needed.

At the Police Centre in Surry Hills, Ian gave his name to the desk sergeant, and asked to speak to Detective Sciutta. He sat slowly into one of the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area and began to wonder what kind of reception he was likely to get from the cop this time around. He marshalled his thoughts, forcing himself to think professionally. Remarkable quickly, a door opened to one side of the foyer, and Michael Sciutta walked out, straight toward Ian.

"Mr Sterling? What can I do for you?" he said in a non-committal tone.

"I'd like to speak with you, in private," Ian said carefully. "Concerning the matter you were asking me about last night."

"Oh," said Michael, raising his eyebrows. "Remembered something else, have you?"

"No, but I have spoken to Mr Carruthers since then, and I have some information I'd like to pass on," replied Ian evenly, deciding that he still didn't like this cop.

"Then please come through." Michael led the way to the door from which he had just exited, holding it open for Ian and guiding him down a corridor to a small interview room.

As they settled into place, another officer joining them at Michael's request, Ian looked across at the tape recorder set up in the room. Michael began his usual spiel about recording the interview, but Ian stopped him.

"No," he said firmly. "Listen, there are a few things I'd like to tell you, 'off-the-record'." To the questioning look, he went on. "I'll make a formal statement after that if you like, but I just want you to listen to what I have to say first. And there are some things I am not prepared to include in my statement, but I think you might find them interesting."

The policeman agreed reluctantly to Ian's terms, his curiosity getting the better of him. He found it distasteful to be dictated to by Geoff Carruthers' lover, but he wanted whatever he could get to let him take Carruthers out of the picture. "Okay," he said scornfully, "Start talking!"

Ian sighed. This wasn't easy for him, but he forced himself to think about the way Geoff had used him. "After I left here last night, I tried to call Mr Carruthers on his mobile phone. I didn't speak to him, but I left several messages for him on voice mail, telling him what had happened, how you suspected him, and me, of being involved in drugs, and how outrageous it was. I begged him to call me and tell me it wasn't true, to explain why he had disappeared, to let me know what was going on. I had no idea what your questioning was about, and just couldn't believe that Geoff would be involved in that kind of thing."

Michael simply nodded, although something in Ian's voice told him that the solicitor wasn't lying, that he really was an innocent party caught up in Carruthers' web of deceit. "Go on," he said, a little less harshly than before.

"Geoff rang me at home this morning," Ian said, his voice thin but determined. "He told me that he 'couldn't hang around for the cops', that you couldn't prove a thing. When I told him that I didn't care whether or not you could prove anything, but that I wanted to know if what you said was true, he laughed at me, wanted to know if I was asking as his lawyer. I yelled at him, told him I was not his lawyer, and never would be. I asked him again if what you said was true, but all he would say was 'Maybe'. He said he had to get 'out of town' for a while, and that he was sorry I had been involved ..."

Ian began to struggle with his emotions again, fighting back tears and biting his lip. Michael's heart melted as he watched the handsome young man in such obvious turmoil and anguish. He wished he could reach out to him, tell him everything was okay, but that wasn't his job! His job was to catch Carruthers, and Ian Sterling was the best lead they had right now.

"Please, Mr Sterling," Michael said, his voice at least conveying some sympathy now, "Did he say where he was?"

"No," Ian spat bitterly. "He said it was better if I didn't know. He asked me to drop my key for his flat at his building. He made it very clear that he didn't want to see me again."

Michael's own head was a mixture of surprise and concern for Ian. "Aren't you and Mr Carruthers lovers?" he asked quietly.

"Not any more!" Ian declared with a vengeance. "Yes, I was his lover ..." he coughed a little at the admission of his sexuality to this stranger. "Or at least I thought I was. It seems he had a different view of our relationship. He was only interested in sex, and now I'm no longer required!" Once again, Ian went silent, battling his emotions and desperately trying to retain some control, to maintain some dignity. He lifted his eyes and looked defiantly at the cop, only to be surprised at the look of sadness on the detective's face.

As Michael realised Ian was watching him, he became businesslike once again. "So Mr Carruthers did not deny the allegations?" he asked.

"No, but he didn't confirm them either."

"Well, I don't know that this helps us very much ..." Michael began.

"Probably not," Ian interrupted, "but this afternoon I went back to his flat to collect my belongings, and found something you might be interested in."

Michael looked up again quickly. "What kind of things?" he asked, his interest obvious.

"Now, this is completely off the record," Ian warned. "I will not make a statement confirming it, you understand?"

"Okay, I understand," agreed the policeman. "Go on ..."

"Let's just say that Geo ... Mr Carruthers must have been in an extreme hurry to leave yesterday afternoon. He was fine when I went to take a shower - was going to order pizza in fact, but by the time I had finished, no more than fifteen minutes later, he was gone. I have no idea how he knew you were coming ..."

"I suspect the doorman tipped him off," interrupted Michael.

"Oh, maybe," said Ian. "I never thought of that. Anyway, today I found a safe; normally hidden inside a chest of drawers in a wardrobe in the second bedroom. I had no idea he even had such a thing. He left so quickly that he had not even closed the safe. It was still wide open. In it there are a number of documents which suggested to me that your comments from last night may be well founded. There were also some computer disks and a laptop. I'm sure that if you were to examine the contents of those documents and disks you would probably have quite a lot of material to work with in respect of Mr Carruthers' business dealings."

Michael smiled widely. He was so close, and Ian Sterling had come through at last, proven to be the key to the puzzle rather than one of it's components.

"And you'll let us in to the flat?" he said quickly, already chafing to move.

"No," said Ian quietly.

"But ...?" Michael was genuinely surprised this time.

"It's not my flat to grant you entry. Besides, I've given the key back to the doorman for return to Mr Carruthers. I told you, this is off the record. I suggest that you'll need a search warrant to get in there and 'find' this stuff yourself."

The detective looked at Ian with annoyance. "But if this is off the record as you say, then I don't have enough grounds to apply for a warrant yet."

"Not my problem," Ian sighed. "I have no intention of prolonging or increasing my association with this case, or with Geoff Carruthers," he said evenly but sadly.

The frustration Michael felt at being so close but unable to move was evident in his eyes. "Listen, Ian," he said calmly, using Ian's name for the first time, showing the first sign of friendship towards him. "We need your help with this ..."

"Sorry, but no," said Ian firmly.

"I could compel you to make a formal statement, get a subpoena?" Michael suggested half-heartedly. He was clutching at straws and he knew it.

"You haven't even laid any charges yet!" Ian snorted. "How are you going to issue a subpoena? And I can tell you that I would simply deny all knowledge of it anyway."

Michael sneered at the lawyer now. "And I was beginning to think you were one of the good guys after all," he said. "So much for the ethics of the legal profession!"

"Damn you!" Ian burst out. "Your life isn't on the line here, so don't go giving me lectures about ethics!"

The detective was silenced for a moment at the outburst. His mixed feelings for Ian as a person coming to the surface again. Why was the handsome young solicitor so vehement in his refusal to co-operate? "What do you mean, 'your life is on the line'? It's hardly as serious as that!"

"Oh yes it is," Ian rejoined. "If this all becomes public knowledge, what chance do you think my career as a lawyer has - involved in a homosexual affair with a major drug supplier - now there's a real bonus for my resume! And there's more! One of the other things I found in that safe was a business card with no more than a personal phone number and a name ..." he paused for breath before going on very quietly. "... the name on that card was 'Marcus El Habibi'."

"Jesus!" Michael whispered, his eyes widening in disbelief. If Carruthers was tied in with Habibi, this was far bigger than he had thought! Before he could begin to imagine the ramifications, a knock at the door interrupted them. Michael went to see who it was, engaging in a short but hurried and obviously urgent conversation with another officer. As the man spoke, Michael's smile broadened, and when he left the cop moved back into the room quickly, his face beaming.

"Ian," he said amicably, "Thank you. I've just gotten the link I needed to justify a search warrant without your involvement." He watched the look of relief spread across Ian's face, and his personal feelings nagged at him yet again. He could do something for this man without jeopardising the case at all. "I'll get back to you in a day or so about a formal statement, but I think I can promise you that we should be able to keep the details of your involvement in this whole matter to a bare minimum. Thanks for your time, and the information. I'll see you out now."

"Oh," said Ian, a little deflated, but extremely happy to be leaving. "What's happened?"

Michael ushered him to the door and began to lead him down the corridor again. "I'm not supposed to tell you much," he whispered conspiratorially, "but it turns out that one of the other people involved in Carruthers' business, a 'relay' man at Green Valley, has just confirmed to an undercover officer that Geoff Carruthers is his contact for his supplies. That gives us the evidence we need for a warrant! So, with a little luck, we may not need your evidence at all!"

They reached the end of the hallway, and Michael held open the door to the waiting room for Ian. Nick saw them emerging and jumped up.

"Ian, are you okay?" he asked.

"Uh yeah," Ian nodded, as Michael looked at Nick with surprise. The lawyer noticed the confusion and turned to the officer. "Detective Sciutta, this is my friend, Nick Leonidis; Nick, this is Detective Sciutta. He's in charge of the case."

The two men shook hands warily, and Michael turned to Ian again. "Thanks again for your assistance, Mr Sterling," he said. "And please, if Mr Carruthers tries to contact you again, let me know straight away."

Ian agreed, and he and Nick made their way out of the building, as Michael raced back in and set about arranging a raid on Geoff's flat, issuing orders for a number of cops to assist him, and telling his deputy to get the computer guys on notice that they may be needed to hack into a computer to find some evidence.

Read next part

This story is a fantasy, it is not real and only happened in my imagination. YOU MUST REMEMBER that in the real world, you can DIE from having unsafe sex. It is your right and your duty to make sure that condoms are always used, whether you are giving or receiving. It doesn't matter how good looking or how ugly he is, and it doesn't matter whether you are top or bottom, USE A CONDOM!