Part 2

Robert sat back in the luxurious leather seat of the limo that had been waiting for them at the pier. After the long flight, he was happy to be back on terra firma again. He noted that the bar was fully stocked, but there didn’t seem to be a phone here in the back.

After a short ride from the airport to the dock and the invigorating trip over the water in the Foundation’s launch, they had landed on the main island and were met by this top of the line limo. The driver had explained that the smaller island they were going to was far too rocky and the ocean too wild for any boat to get near enough to dock.  There was only one way to get to Druidean, and that was via a causeway from the larger island, Iona, that could only be traversed during low tide.

Mickey had taken the seat up in front next to the driver without a word. Robert was always surprised by how well Mickey could slip into an undercover role. He supposed that he, as Mickey’s teacher, should take some credit for his pupil’s aptitude, but Robert was well aware that he had found a bright talent in the young man who had prowled the jail cell in Leavenworth so wildly.

Robert wondered which way their plans for finding Walter Kohler would go. They were going to run two separate investigations and compare notes not more than once a day. They knew that there was a chance that their rooms would be bugged so Rupert would insist on a daily brisk walk with his bodyguard in attendance.

Mickey was going to be, in every way, the downstairs servant and Robert was going to play the multimillionaire, spoiled older man to the hilt. He would be rubbing elbows with the fabulously wealthy, and Robert knew that he was up to it.

He thought for a moment about how easily Mickey had slid into Mick, the role of insolent servant to his Rupert persona. Mickey had become resentful, with a thin amenable cover, as they had taken their seats on board the launch.  Robert had been a bit surprised at how well his friend had embraced the part until he had recognized that Mickey might have a streak of that personality within himself.

He suddenly wondered if Mickey felt that way, at all, about their relationship, but he rejected that idea almost immediately. Though, it was very possible that Mickey might have the basis for that type of personality within himself. Indeed, if Mickey had been made to stay in Leavenworth and serve his full sentence, he very well might have turned out to be that sort of man, resentful and angry at the society that had imprisoned him, innocent of the crime as he was. Mickey might have used his instinctual intelligence to bend and manipulate people around him.

Robert pushed that thought into the back of his mind, and forced it to stay there, until he needed to examine it again. He had saved Mickey from ten years hard labor and now, he reminded himself, he was proud to call him a friend.

He helped himself to two fingers of the fine whisky in the bar and looked at the passing scenery on the island. 

Interested in his surroundings, Robert watched as the driver, with the skill and assurance of much practice, eased the large car down onto the shore of the island and up onto the causeway that connected Druidean, the home of the Cymric Foundation, with Iona, the larger island.

From his vantage point in the back of the limo, Robert couldn’t see the land bridge. All he could see was the dark water on either side of the vehicle and the long poles that were stuck into the seabed to mark the path of the road.  It was almost as though they were driving on top of the water’s surface, and it gave him an eerie but gratifying feeling of immortality.  

Robert had been to Scotland before but, oddly, the small island was a still a vibrant green, even though it was at the end of October. A feeling of unease entered his bones as they traveled closer to their destination. As he looked at the passing landscape, the unease began to metamorphose into pleasure. It started to thrill through him like a thin wash of adrenaline combined with a hint of sexual desire. It was a satisfying emotion really, Robert admitted, rather stimulating, actually. He felt younger and quite full of himself.

When the limousine finally pulled up to the incredible looking castle Robert almost flung the car door open himself to spring out into the brisk air. But he remembered that he was supposed to be used to being waited upon and so, he sat back.

The driver opened his door and Robert emerged onto an astonishing sight. There were groups of young, beautiful men and women moving around the grounds. Some were escorting a few older men and others were moving throughout the green and manicured lawns tending to the flowers and shrubbery.

About a mile away, Robert could just make out a group of figures around a small fire.  It was difficult to be sure, his eyesight couldn’t quite make it out, but he thought they were dancing naked in the chill autumnal air.

He glanced at Mickey who was unloading their luggage from the trunk of the car and saw a look of interest on the younger man’s face as he stared in the direction of the dancers.  Robert knew then, that they were indeed dressed as they had been when born into the world.

He started to walk toward the main entrance where he saw Beltane Cymri waiting. Robert recognized him from the pictures, taken a few years ago, when Beltane was still known as Kevin McQueen, that Control had given him to study on the plane.

Kevin had been a nice enough looking young man with reddish blond good looks, a bit on the lanky side, with an over eager smile. The man standing with his hand extended to Robert, was a shimmering example of energy and personal charisma. His face had filled out into a true strong-jawed handsomeness. His body also had filled out robustly and now McQueen exuded health and strength.  A palpable aura of animal magnetism surrounded him.

Cymri caught Robert’s eyes and held them squarely in his gaze. When he took Robert’s hand in his to shake, there was a rush of energy that shot from the man’s hand straight into Robert’s chest and groin. Unbidden, Robert found himself charmed.

“Mr. Morant,” Cymri’s voice was bell clear and masculine, his grip was firm and dry. “Welcome to Druidean and may the joy of the land bring you health and rest.”

Robert had determined that Rupert Morant would have made a point to lose as much of his Australian accent as he could. “Hello Mr. Cymri,” he said smiling reservedly, barely a hint of the Down-under evident to the ear. “I hope that this place lives up to everything I’ve heard about it.”

“Call me, Beltane please, sir, and come, look around. Doesn’t Druidean revive you? Make you seem more alive?” He made an open handed gesture towards the exceptionally attractive young people that surrounded them. ”Make your blood circulate?” He smiled even more deeply, his strong white teeth bright against his healthy tanned face.

“Hey, Morant,” Mickey interrupted, his voice now thick with the combined Texas twang of his childhood, and the New York blue collar accent that had surrounded him during his teen years. “Whatcha want me to do with the suitcases?”

Robert glared at Mickey for a bit too long, and without moving his gaze, he addressed Beltane, “Will someone be showing me to my rooms?” Robert heard his voice dripping with disdain – and he wasn’t sure why. He forced himself to look away from Mickey.

Beltane looked back and forth between Mickey and Robert. A clearly knowing smile crept on his face as he moved to stand in-between them. He lifted his hand and waved at some young men who then gathered all the luggage together and disappeared up the front steps with it.

“My friends will take your belongings up.  Now please follow me Mr. Morant and I’ll show you personally to your rooms.” The three started to walk up the steps and into the large mansion. Cymri’s thick, red-gold hair shone in the fading afternoon light as he aimed a look of delight at Robert.  “I have to tell you I am quite honored that a man of your intellect and knowledge has deigned to take the time to visit with us here.”

“Well, well,” Robert made a show of being pleased at the compliments, “if this place is as good as I have heard rumors about…” Three very well endowed women passed by and looked, with studied and pleased interest, at Robert. He found himself genuinely smiling back at them, and he followed their progress as they walked slowly by.

Then he noticed that Mickey had also turned to stare and grin at the women, and a flare of anger pierced his chest. He lifted an eyebrow in rebuke at his assistant. “Take these!” he barked at Mickey, getting his attention, as he stripped his gloves off and threw the pair at him.

Mickey caught one, but the other glove fell at Robert’s feet and Mickey had to bend down to retrieve it. Robert became aware of a strange feeling of pleasure at seeing Mickey bow at his feet like an inferior, but he recognized it and was immediately ashamed of himself.

When Mickey straightened up, Robert caught the hooded eyes and a look of sullen anger on his friend’s face.

This island is imbued with something unusual, Robert thought, and he wasn’t at all happy that he and Mickey were both being affected by it. Whatever it was. He would have to watch himself closely. Things were definitely strange here. 

After their initial greeting, Beltane led them through the castle, pointing to various rooms as they passed.  Mickey paid careful attention but he figured that it would be the rooms that Beltane didn’t talk about that would be the most interesting to them.  In a building of this size he was sure there would be hidden rooms and secret passages.

Beltane told them about the re-building of the castle at length as they walked up the wide stone staircase that led to the rooms occupied by the special guests of the retreat.  He boasted proudly that the castle had been built to his own vision.

He seemed friendly and personable enough, but Mickey had caught a hint of something off behind the man’s beaming smile and too bright eyes.

Turning left at the top of the stairs, he led them down a luxuriously carpeted hallway and stopped at the last door on the left.  He threw open the solid oak door with a flourish and stood back to allow McCall and then Mickey into the room.

Mickey saw the look of undisguised astonishment on McCall’s face and knew that his own expression was identical.  He couldn’t recall ever seeing such unabashed luxury before. 

The room was huge and the walls were covered with finely carved paneling and tapestries similar to the ones he remembered seeing only a few days before in the Bronx. A fire burned merrily in a large stone fireplace. 

An enormous four-poster bed dominated the room.  Mickey looked around, all the furniture looked like genuine antiques to him. But then what did he know?  McCall was the expert on fine furnishings. 

The view from the windows overlooked the open sea and when Mickey looked closely, he could see a sheer drop from the window into the wild rolling water.  In the depths of winter, he was sure that the sea would look ferocious.

Light came from an open doorway and Mickey saw it was a bathroom.  Through another open door he could see a smaller room, which he knew had to be his.

His whole room was only a quarter the size of McCall’s suite, with none of the fancy furniture. And, although it was true that he had his own bathroom, there was only a simple shower, nothing like the white tiles and gleaming gold faucets in the huge Jacuzzi in McCall’s bathroom.

Dropping his bags on the floor in his room, Mickey got back into McCall’s suite just in time to hear him say, “My employee and I always take a brisk walk every afternoon after lunch.  I trust this will not inconvenience you at all?”

“No, not at all.  Lunch is usually served between midday and two o’clock. I am sure you will have time for your walk.”

When a knock came at the door, Robert waved Mickey over to answer it while he continued to talk to Beltane. 

There were three attractive women standing there and Mickey found himself studying them with lecherous thoughts in mind. He leered at them as he let them  in.

“We have come to unpack for the Lord guest.”

Beltane smiled at Robert, “Ah, I will leave you to get settled then.  Ask any of our staff,”  he patted one of the women on the shoulder, “for whatever you might want.”

Mickey watched Beltane leave and went into his own room. Typical, he cursed to himself, McCall even had servants to unpack his bags.  He had a very good idea what he would like to ask one of those females from the staff to do for him, or, he sniggered, for his staff.  Picking up his own bag he threw it on the bed. He bet the welcoming committee didn’t unpack for the hired help.  He snorted in disgust and wondered if McCall’s head would be swelled even bigger than usual by all this luxury.

Mickey found himself feeling more and more resentful at his treatment as a second-class citizen.  He was as good as McCall or Morant or whatever the hell he called himself. Rich guys like Morant always needed working class Joes like Mick to get their kicks.  It isn’t everyone that could get their hands on the kinds of entertainment that Morant demanded.

He had barely got his clothes away when Morant appeared in the doorway, “Mick, I’m hungry.  Get yourself downstairs and see about getting me a snack.”

Resentment flared again and more strongly. Mickey turned and walked out the door without a word. What the hell did Morant think he was? His slave? Mickey made sure that the spoiled bastard didn’t see that he was angry, but he promised himself that Mr. High and Mighty Morant was going to come down to earth with a bump if he had anything to do with it. 

Then abruptly, Mickey felt disoriented. He realized that he was slipping deeper into his cover story.

Stop it, Kostmayer! Mickey berated himself. Why the hell was he thinking that way? He knew that the orders McCall gave him were a diversion, a chance for him to look around the mansion freely.

Mickey took his time getting to the cafeteria. He used his errand as the cover story as he peeked into every room he passed.

When he delivered the sandwich, Morant made a big show about generously letting him have the rest of the evening off. Big deal, Mickey thought as he spent the rest of the time before dinner wandering around.

Later, as he sat in the cafeteria eating dinner, his anger began to gnaw at him again.  Morant was eating in the classy dining room while he had to eat with the other commoners. He shoved another mound of steak and potatoes into his mouth and chewed. The chow was okay – better than prison – but still it wasn’t fair. His resentment started growing again.

After a moment he regained control. What was he thinking? He hated all those fancy dishes and since when did he ever think about prison food? Why was he acting so screwy?

Calmer now, he let his eyes wander over the people in the room.  There might be some consolation to eating here after all. A little blonde a few seats away was looking very interested in him and he was sure that he could have a good time questioning her at length, later, in his room. Just as he was about to make his move, a busty redhead came over and dragged her away.  He overheard her say that they had some important duties for Beltane – yeah right, he could just guess what those duties were.

Mickey decided to take another cup of coffee and a big slab of the pie. He might as well be well fed if he was going to spend the rest of the night mingling with the other commoners.

Robert gently set his after dinner glass of single malt whiskey down.  It was a Glenmorangie malt with a sherry wood finish and, served with just a little spring water, it was exactly how he liked it.  Its rosy essence spread its warmth throughout his body. Beginning to suffer from jet lag and the late hour he was ill disposed to move away from the company and retire to his room.

The dining room was large and opulently furnished like all the other rooms he had seen. The room had started out fully lit, with the thick drapes not yet pulled over the windows. Even though they were a mile or so away, they were still able to hear the roar of the wild ocean that threw itself upon the rocks surrounding the island. 

As the evening progressed, the drapes had been pulled closed and hundreds of candles had been lit around the group of people dining with the lord of the manor.

Beltane requested that the rest of the world be left away from the island, so no one around the table shared their real identities. The people on the island addressed all the special male guests as Lord, but Robert knew who they were all right. He had made it his business to study the file Control had given him on Walter Kohler. It had also included profiles of all of the men most like him in the world - there had only been a dozen in all.

There was Ernst Dieter, sitting on Robert’s right. He had been made infamous over twenty years ago by his support of a neo Nazi organization based in Hamburg. He had kept himself out of the newspapers ever since, covering all his tracks with phony corporate names. According to Company information, he had been living life as if the Nazis had never lost the war.

Chuse Dodorol, a South American drug overlord, was at the end of the table. He looked thin and weak, as if he were on his last legs. Robert supposed that years of sampling his own product, combined with the violence and bloodshed common to the drug business, tended to suck the life out of the men who lived off other people’s misery.

The last guest sharing the table was Peter Oosthuizen of South Africa, a man known for his support of the old regime of white rule there. He had made millions available to the forces working toward a permanent apartheid. He was also whispered to have the ownership of a private torture chamber, where he brought women and girls to be used after a generous price had been paid to their impoverished families.

Robert sighed, a nastier group of thugs he never hoped to meet.

He glanced at the five young women that Beltane had invited to dine with them. They were all in their twenties and Robert had to admit, amazingly healthy looking and robust. As far as he could make out, the women wore no makeup at all and they wore their thick, shinning tresses in the simplest ways.  All of them looked well scrubbed and glowing with happiness.  They all swore allegiance to The Path, the religion Beltane had created to rule the island. Robert’s own designated companion was a charming soft-spoken girl. And much too terribly young for him. 

Robert, now remembering to answer only to Rupert in the rare times that first names were used, accepted one of the Cuban cigars that were being passed around. The woman who had been playing a lute as they were eating had been dismissed and the group of ten people had left the table and were now comfortably seated in the large cushions of the sitting area next to the dining room. 

Beltane was still trying to explain his religion to his visitors.

“We see each other here in Druidean as our family.” Beltane had changed into verdant green robes with trousers of royal purple. As he took short puffs from his large cigar, he looked like a royal head of state his ease and self-assurance were so complete. 

“We are as dear to each other as any blood or love relationship.” Beltane flashed his perfectly white teeth in a broad smile, “This emotion, and fidelity to it, is our true bond. We have no need of empty oaths or threats of punishment here in this life or the next. We know that loving each other must always be our own choice. This gives our love for one another true value.” He sat back and beamed at his male guests as the young women held on to his every word.

A petite woman, known by the name of Kerri, had been at Beltane’s side for the evening. She was only about only five feet two inches tall and she had a long mass of silken, curly red hair. Her skin was the kind that only true redheads have, pale and creamy, almost luminescent. Her green eyes and overall coloring hinted of Irish extraction. And, even though Robert tried to conduct himself with the utmost decorum, he couldn’t help but be awestruck by her curvaceous body.

How in heaven’s name did Beltane attract such women to his island and into his religion? Robert wondered, as his own companion sat down close by him on the couch.

To us,” Kerri said in a studied manner, her face shining with an inner light of its own, “the Being of which we are all a part, transcends any one ritual. Enjoying the love of nature, and all its bounty and gifts brings us closer to our true relationship with the Universe.”

Her smile graced every man in the room, but set upon Beltane for the longest time. “We know that we are neither more nor less important than anyone – or anything – else. That’s why we all get the chance to be the high Priestess at our important feast days. I have the honor for our upcoming festival of Samhain.”

Beltane smiled and held the young woman’s chin in the palm of his hand as he placed a chaste kiss upon her forehead.  Beltane then held her hand and spoke to them all, “Knowing that nature cannot lie to us allows us clarity in our affairs and in the choices we make.”

But Herr Cymri,” Ernst Dieter started to say.

No my friend, please. Call me by my taken name, Beltane.”

Dieter blustered, “I am a man of business. I do not believe the sales pitch you are giving to us.”

Beltane and the women laughed, the sound was free of all guile and lies, Robert thought. Their laughter sounded warm and welcoming.

Oh no, Lord,” said the young woman who had been sitting with the German all through dinner and who had taken a place on the couch next to him. She smiled at him as an indulgent teacher might to an adored child. “We do not recruit or attempt to convert people to our religion. With all of our hearts, we believe that an individual must choose their religion on their own. No one can make the choice for them.” She had raised a hand and pressed her fingers to her bosom while gently touching his knee with her other hand.

Dieter responded more to the placement of her hands than to her words.

Robert had to remind himself that he was hearing a pre-rehearsed pack of lies. In his lifetime he had known people who practiced the Pagan and Wicca religions and he recognized that Beltane was parroting some of the tenets of those and bending it for his own use.

Morant and the other wealthy men were really invited to Druidean because Beltane let it be known that his island community was a place where there were no boundaries as to pleasures for men of wealth and power. It was also whispered to be a place of sanctuary from the world and, if necessary, from the legal authorities, for a rather steep price. That was one of the reasons that it took Control so long – six months – after Walter Kohler had disappeared, before he had even begun to wonder what had happened to him.

The woman who had been Robert’s own dinner companion, was now sitting next to him. Her name was Applewood, which she had explained was used in love spells and charms. She turned to Robert and asked quietly, “You look tired Lord, may I accompany you to your room?”

Robert looked into her deep brown eyes and almost nodded his agreement, but he stopped himself in time. He was here on business, he reminded himself, not to take advantage of young, impressionable women.

Robert put an embarrassed smile on his face. “Not tonight I’m afraid, my dear,” he said, “The plane ride over and the jet lag have both chipped away at my iron will.” He winked broadly. “I’m afraid my back is bothering me also, but…” He looked at the others quickly, “I expect that to be ancient history after a good night’s rest.” He climbed up off the cushions of the couch, took Applewood’s hand and kissed it, “As for tonight, my dear, I’m not going to be of much use to myself at all, much less to someone such as yourself, with your youth and beauty.”

With that pronouncement he nodded goodbye at the men in the room and at Applewood who smiled sweetly. Robert bid the room of people good night loudly and walked out the door to the staircase that led to his room.

As he walked up the steps, still puffing on his cigar, Robert thought that he had not spent as pleasant a night under any a roof in an extremely long time. He chuckled; there is something to be said for wealth and for being admired for possessing it.

He found his door and opened it onto a lit and welcoming room. The fire was still burning brightly, his night clothing had been laid out for him, and a bottle of Black Bush Irish whisky sat next to a crystal tumbler at his nightstand, just ready for him to indulge himself. He decided to hold off imbibing until after his shower.

Although he was tired, and yearned for the comfortable bed, he thought that he would first check with Mickey and see if he had unearthed anything of importance.

He went to the door that opened on Mickey’s room and was going to let himself in, but Robert stopped himself short, surprised that he would even think of violating his friend’s privacy.

He frowned at himself. The idea of barging in on Mickey should have been unthinkable. Why was it in his head that Mickey had no right to privacy? Where did he come up with the idea that he had every right to expect that Mickey be waiting for him?

Still frowning, he rapped lightly on the door. No answer and no sound. Robert knocked harder and listened. Still no reply. He tried the knob and the door opened onto a dark room. Robert found the light switch, flicked it on and saw that Mickey was nowhere inside.

A hot burst of anger flared inside his chest. Where the hell is that young ruffian? Is it too much to ask that, when on a mission, he be available to Robert in order to exchange information? Is it too much to hope that Mick might, for once, not have his mind in his pants, sniffing around at all the young willing women in this place? He couldn’t remember how many times in the past that Mick had been unavailable to him because he was swaggering around strutting his dubious prowess, trying to impress lowlife slatterns.

Disgusted, Robert slammed the door shut and locked it. “Let the blue-collar street trash sit in that small drab room until I call for him tomorrow morning!” Robert cursed out loud, letting the broad vowel sounds of an Australian accent elongate his words.

“And heaven help that grease monkey if he isn’t here in the morning waiting for my instructions! He’s supposed to be here to do my bidding, not get himself some,” Robert then grabbed his night clothing from the bed and started to walk into the bathroom, but was surprised to hear a firm knock at the door to his suite.

He looked around and threw his now wadded night clothing back onto the bed. What kind of getaway is this? Now he had to answer his own doors, he seethed. He stepped to the entry and flung it open.

In the hallway, two young women stood shyly with a folded up long table standing between them.  Unable to calm himself down totally, Robert barked a harsh “Yes, what is it?”

“Lord Beltane sent us to help relieve your aches,” one of the women said softly with a thick Scottish accent.

The other woman spoke up. “We’re both registered masseuses, with ten years experience between us. We can bring relief of back pain and restore reduced circulation that’s a byproduct of extended sitting, as you did on the airplane today sir.” This one had a broad London accent, one that fell like homecoming upon Robert’s ears. Scooping up the tall table, she brushed past him and in one quick movement had set it up next to his bed.

“I didn’t request a massage!” he bridled, a little overwhelmed as he watched the two women hustling around the room, darting into the bathroom, opening bottles of sweet smelling oils and setting up towels around the table.

“If you had asked for one, Lord, just as you arrived, suffering from the stress of the flight, you would be feeling quite a lot better by now. I can assure you!” The Londoner said, as she looked straight into his eyes, almost challenging him to refuse the massage. “Lord Beltane, in his wisdom and sweet nature asked us to come here and help you after he heard that your poor back was giving you discomfort.”

She turned her attention to the massage table and smoothed out the white sheet that covered it. “Take off your clothing and get yourself onto the table. Fianna and I are here to help you to feel right as rain. After we’re through with you, I guarantee you’ll feel one hundred percent better.” 

At first Robert was put off. He wasn’t the type of man to be comfortable having two women work their hands over him. Humph, not like that mongrel Mick that works for me; the thought came to mind unbidden, a threesome would be his idea of fun.

After a moment, he remembered that it wouldn’t be the first time that he had experienced a double massage. He had felt pure bliss at the hands of two professional therapists in the hospital after he had been badly wounded about ten years ago. Yet somehow Robert didn’t think these women were actual massage professionals, and he didn’t want Beltane to get him under his thumb so quickly.

“Well, take your clothing off man, we don’t do it for you!” the more boisterous woman smiled cheerily. She must have noticed Robert’s doubtful look. More gently she continued, “Fianna and I am well acquainted with Aromatherapy, Swedish Neuromuscular Therapy, Sports Massage, and Trigger Point Therapy. But for you tonight, I think we will use our knowledge of traditional Thai massage. You look like you need it. It is performed with a series of gentle rocking motions, which imitate the cranial rhythm. Fianna and I are also experts in Reiki massage where we use our hands to channel the natural healing power that surrounds all of life.”

She grinned broadly, her voice sinking into a lower, velvety register. “With our hands working over you, we will bring about the maximum healing within your body. Do not worry Lord, by the time this night is over, you’ll never imagine doing without the healing power of our talented hands.”

She was still grinning in an open and honest way, but something in her tone brought a wash of heat to Robert’s loins. So she was promising more than a straight massage? He sighed and then started to open his tie and undo the cuffs of his shirt.

After all he thought, who more than Rupert Morant deserved a relaxing and satisfying time?

After sitting in the cafeteria, drinking coffee and listening to all the conversations around him for most of the night, he made his way back to his small room.  Maybe a shower and good night’s sleep would stop him acting so weird and feeling so damned horny.

Dropping the damp towel on the floor beside the bed, after a fast shower, Mickey climbed between the rough cotton sheets.  Turning off the light he stretched out against the soft pillows of the comfortable double bed.

Aroused by visions of all the women he had seen that day, he let his hand slip down over his chest and lower still over his stomach. 

Distracted, it took some time for Mickey to realize that there were unusual noises coming from McCall’s quarters.  Getting out of bed, he crept over to the connecting door between their rooms.

He put his ear to the polished wood and he heard the sounds of voices, one higher and definitely female and the other, deeper –  most likely McCall’s.  Mickey couldn’t make out the words and he found he desperately wanted to know what was going on in there.

Getting back into his jeans, he carefully he tried the handle of the connecting door.  Nothing. The handle turned but the door wouldn’t open.  Putting his eye to the keyhole, Mickey could see that McCall’s room was dimly lit.  The voices were clearer now and Mickey could pick out two different feminine voices.  As hard as he tried squinting or listening through the crack in the door, he couldn’t make out what was going on in there.

Cursing the size of McCall’s room under his breath, Mickey backed away from the locked door and searched the closet until he found a wire coat hanger.  Bending it over and over he managed to break off a piece of wire about six inches long and from this he created a pick that he worked into the lock. 

In no time he had it opened.  Turning the handle slowly, he eased the door open a fraction.  His bare feet made no sound on the thick carpet as he crept into the room. 

He had only gone a few feet when he understood what was going on. 

On the other side of the huge bed, Mickey saw a professional massage table.  He could just make out McCall lying on his stomach with two very attractive looking women, one either side of the table, rhythmically working him into ecstasy – or so it looked by the expression on Rupert Morant’s face.

Mickey stayed low for a minute or two, taking in everything that was going on in the room.  He knew that Morant would be angry if he caught him spying on him so he slipped back to his own room.  Furious, he tried to re-lock the door only to find his hands were clenched in rage.  Why did the old man get to have all the fun?

He tossed the broken hanger out of the window and stuck the lock pick into the toilet tank before, almost wild with frustration, he threw himself back onto bed.

It only took a minute before he got himself under control and started thinking straight. What was going on here? The anger and rages were becoming more frequent. It was almost as though the character of the immoral go-fer was taking him over. He knew he had to tell Robert that something was very strange here.

When morning finally came Mickey was exhausted, his night had been anything but restful. The clock on his nightstand only read six-fifteen so he lay there for a few minutes hoping to be able to go back to sleep, but it eluded him.  Jet lag wasn’t something that usually caused him a problem; his normal travel schedule, for the Company, would be enough to make the people running any frequent flyer program throw up their hands in horror.  Add to that the military flights he took and he probably put in more airtime than most commercial pilots.

He thought about his sneaking into McCall’s room last night. Mickey wasn’t sure why he had felt so angry with the older man.  Both the women were young and attractive and if Mickey had been in McCall’s position, hell, he would have had a great time. So why shouldn’t McCall?

The more he thought about last night, the more Mickey realized that he was angry that the women had chosen McCall rather than him. He knew that McCall was supposed to have lots of money and was the honored guest, but it still stuck in his throat that he was considered to be nothing more than a servant, that his only reason for existence was serving McCall.

Wait a second, he thought to himself. He was confused. What the hell is wrong with you? McCall wasn’t like that; they were both playing a part, the same as on any undercover job. His mind in turmoil he gave in to the urgings of his stomach and headed for the shower.

He stood under the warm water for a long time, easing the kinks from yesterday’s travel out of his shoulders.  Then he turned the water to cold and stood under the freezing stream for as long as he could bear it.  He told himself that the cold shower wasn't a punishment it was to wake him up and get him back on track.  Mickey knew that an undercover agent had to be able to live and think as a different person but the trick was not to let yourself be swallowed up by that other persona. He had failed to do this so far, and it worried him a lot.

More in control of his feelings now, it still bothered him that he was losing sight of the mission’s objective so easily. He dressed, deciding to combine the search for food with a brief unsupervised exploration of the castle.  Without conscious thought he slipped his homemade lock pick in his pocket as he left the room.

The passageway outside was only dimly lit and Mickey wasted no time heading down to the first floor. He didn’t expect to see McCall anytime soon. It wouldn’t surprise him if he opted for breakfast in bed this morning so that he could recover from his exertions of last night.

It had just been a passing thought, but once again, Mickey was aware of feelings of growing anger towards his mentor. He stopped himself with some effort. There was something on this island that was really messing with his head.

He looked around the rooms on the first floor. Some were simple with chairs and pillows scattered around and some were fixed up to cater to the special guests. They were all unlocked and empty with nothing to be learned from them, except, he grinned, that the fancy rooms’ decor was too much for his simpler tastes. When he found the special dining room and recognized the scents of whisky and Cuban cigars that lingered along with the scent of candle wax, he sourly remembered the long crowded table where he ate his meal the night before, surrounded by the other common folk of the island.

He searched the room quickly and casually but there was nothing to interest him there. In case the surveillance cameras were activated, he slipped two crystal ashtrays into his pocket. After all, if he was supposed to be a small time thief, he had to act like one.

There wasn’t any evidence of any offices in the public part of the mansion so Mickey decided to try to get into the basement and see if there were any business rooms or storage spaces underground.  The first problem was actually finding a way to get to the lower level.  He was sure that there must be cellars, at least. Where else would they keep all the fine wine they used to entertain the wealthy guests?

After a frustrating fifteen minutes spent searching, Mickey gave up. If he tried anymore doors people would start noticing him. He’d have to look again later.

Mickey decided to leave a trip outside the castle walls until later. It was still dark and the last thing he needed was to fall into a bog. He would mingle with the crowd and take a good look after breakfast.

He headed to the cafeteria.  He got there before the place got too busy and he helped himself from the heaped dishes to a huge breakfast:  sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast, as well as fresh orange juice and strong black coffee. He looked at the plate of sliced haggis, the infamous Scottish delicacy, and shook his head.  If he had been very hungry, and if it was the only food served he would have eaten it but, given a choice, he decided to pass. Christ, the US had made it illegal to bring it into the country for a damn good reason. He figured that anything made with sheep’s liver, heart, lungs and stomach wasn’t the thing to eat for breakfast anyway.

The cafeteria filled with people slowly, and he recognized a couple of the faces, but he was left alone as he ate. As he pushed his empty plate away Mickey noticed the gorgeous redhead that he had seen briefly the night before. He had barely set eyes on her then, but he remembered that her hourglass figure had been a big feature in his fantasies the previous night. Yeah, she had been on his mind right up until the strange noises from McCall’s room had disturbed him, he remembered with a new wave of disgust.

Mickey watched her carefully. She was treated with a lot of respect and seemed to hold an important place in the life of the sect. She passed the food line and walked over to the table with the tea and coffeepots.  Realizing that getting more coffee would be a good opportunity to talk to her, he swallowed most of the boiling hot brew and headed in the same direction. 

They reached for the coffee at the same time and with a flourish Mickey took the pot and lifted it towards her in a silent offer to pour it. When she nodded, he filled her cup and then his own.

“Hi,” he said, smiling his most charming smile, “I’m Mick, we met last night briefly, but you had to go.”

She stared at him for a moment appraising him, and then she smiled, “I’m Kerri and that’s right. I remember. Lord Beltane expected me at dinner last night.”  Her smile was apologetic now, her large eyes shining with good will,  “I’m sorry but I still have masses to do to get ready for our special day tomorrow so I have to go.  It was nice to meet you, Mick, and I am sure I will see you again during your stay with us.”

With a last smile she took her cup and headed out of the cafeteria.

Back at his table, Mickey re-ran her abrupt departure in his mind. Her red velvet dress clung in all the right places.  Yep, she was definitely someone he would like to get to know better.

As Mickey looked around the cafeteria once more, a couple of the male members of the sect walked in to get their food.  He recognized the type at once; they were muscle, pure and simple.  Even though they smiled at everyone, the smiles never reached their eyes.  Put together with the surveillance that Mickey had seen, it meant that all was not on the level here in Beltane’s Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t much to tell McCall. But it was a start.

Figuring that now wouldn’t be the time to ask about the mysterious disappearance of Walter Kohler, Mickey finished his coffee. He was conscious of the stares from the two enforcers as he got up and left the room.

Three hours later, Mickey was standing on the raised walkway that ran around the inside of the castle walls looking out at the gray waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  Something had made Mickey seek out this vantage point; something that made him look for a possible escape route if the tide was high and the causeway was underwater. 

Looking across the mile of sea that separated the small island from the larger one and at the way the waves broke against the cliffs with bone crushing force, he concluded that swimming would be something he would only attempt as a last resort.

He walked a little further and looked out over the island.  He could see the entire landmass from here. To his right, he could just pick out the markers for the causeway, which was underwater now.  A large mound of earth that reared up about half a mile away from the castle interested Mickey. It stood out like a sore thumb on the island because the rest of the ground was gentle, undulating and very sensual.

Just like Kerri, the thought stuck him suddenly.

Wondering where the thought had come from he looked at his watch and saw that it was lunchtime. With a flash of annoyance, he remembered that he had a meeting planned with McCall.  

Heading for the stairs, Mickey found he couldn’t shake a feeling of foreboding.

Robert felt himself swim up, rising to consciousness from a deep, peaceful dream . He was so comfortable that he tried to remain in that lovely place between dreaming and wakefulness but he awoke anyway. The light of the room was bright against his closed lids, and when he finally opened his eyes he saw the sun streaming in from behind the light shades like corn silk, covering the whole room in a jovial cheer.

He felt so comfortable he didn’t want to budge, so he only moved his eyes to look at his bedside clock. To his amazement it was almost noon. He normally never slept this late – even considering jet lag – and furthermore, he never usually felt so good when he got up in the mornings.

As he pulled back the warm and heavy comforter he tried to put his finger on why he felt so wonderful. Pulling on his robe, he automatically steeled himself for the pain that always shot from his shoulder every morning, when it suddenly dawned on him – there was no pain! Not from his shoulder, not from his left leg, which had taken many a bullet itself, nor from any of the usual aches and discomforts that had begun to crop up as his birthdays went to the wrong side of fifty. Amazed, he realized that he was without pain for the first time in years. The double massage must have had actual therapeutic value.

Suddenly an avalanche of memories of what he did with the women and what he had permitted them to do to him the night before, came back to him and he was left almost breathless as the shame of it crashed down on him.

Setting the shower’s water temperature to the hottest that he could stand it. He scoured his body, hoping to cleanse his conscience at the same time.  To no avail, he still felt unclean when he exited the spray of water.

He was becoming more and more angry with himself. Why was he acting in such a way? Why did he welcome the ministrations of the two young women last night? He dressed and was just about to walk into Mickey’s room when another shame filled memory of the night before hit him.

He had been lying on the massage table for a time, enjoying as professional and competent a therapeutic massage as he had ever received from any masseuse. The two women had, on occasion, moved their hands too far afield, but all he had needed to do was quietly object and they then continued to work on a more proper part of his anatomy.

Then he remembered that at one point during the massage, he had sensed another presence in the room. He had opened his eyelids a fraction and had seen Mick, shrouded in the shadows. Watching.

The young man was bare-chested and Robert could see that he was breathing shallowly. He had looked feral, animal like. A hot rush of pride and power had flooded through his body. The women were serving him and that proved that he was the alpha male and that Mick was the inferior.

With mounting shame Robert remembered that he had closed his eyes again, showing his complete lack of concern about the other male in the room. A minute or two later, when asked to turn over onto his back, he did so without any hesitation, even though it clearly revealed his state of excitement to the women.

The next time that their hands wandered under the towel he had accepted their caresses and the unbridled use of their luxuriant bodies as his due.

He couldn’t remember ever having his own identity submerged beneath that of his cover persona so completely before. He had been under deeper cover than most people could imagine since the beginning of his career in the Company. He knew what it was like, how there was always a danger of losing sight of the agenda when it became too easy to enjoy the things that the fast life had to offer. Money and women and privilege were difficult to refuse, but he always had before. He had learned long ago to look inside himself and find the strength not to give into temptation.

With a heavy sense of remorse, he knocked on Mickey’s door. He knew that an apology was due to his friend for his lack of professionalism.

There was no answer. He waited patiently at first, but when he knocked once more, he realized that he was pounding on the door with a closed fist. He stopped himself. He was angry again. Very angry, and there was no reason on earth that he should be so.

Mickey was a damn competent agent, a good man who had saved his life many times. He knew that he couldn’t expect Mickey to wait around all hours until he woke up. They were there to do a job. In fact, he realized that he was the slacker that morning, and not Mickey.

Robert walked out of the room vowing to watch himself for these strange outbursts and to guard against acting upon them.

He decided to stop off at the communal dining room to get a cup of coffee. He might be able to find Mickey there.

As he passed by a wall of French doors, Robert flung them open. Never had he remembered such a marvelous day. The breeze was cool and brisk; the colors of nature seemed to spring out at him and the sound and smell of the tempestuous ocean filled his head with a kind of mad joy.

Breathing deeply of the salt scented air, he filled his chest to bursting and was pleasantly surprised that he didn’t start coughing, as he was apt to do lately, whenever he pushed his lungs beyond their capacity. He thought that his eyesight even seemed improved.

He hesitated to admit it but at that moment he felt that, if given half a chance, he would be able to better his fine performance with the two women last night. Of course he was shamed by his base behavior  – certainly he was – but nevertheless he found he was proud that a man of his age was capable of the showing he had made with the two ladies.

Humming quietly, he found himself jogging down the steps and he was not at all surprised to note that the leg that had been nicked by a passing bullet recently, gave him not one moment of discomfort.

Stopping one of the young men that worked in the mansion, he asked the way to the cafeteria. The smiling lad led him to the private sunroom that was reserved for the special guests of the island, and Robert found himself once again in the company of Ernst Dieter.

“Good morning!” the German shouted as Robert took a seat in one of the comfortable chairs in the warm glass walled room. Dieter smirked at him, “I see my friend, from your healthy and rested look, you have experienced some very good restorative hours here on our wonderful island!”

Robert smiled back at him, trying not to remember how brutishly he had spent most of the night. “Yes, I do feel rather good today,” he admitted to the other man, “the air here must agree with me.”

“So you see? Everything that Beltane says about this island is true!” Dieter looked around as if to see that they were alone. “I myself have been here two other times and each time – I begin to feel…” he winked, “...and act like a young man again.” He chuckled, sat back in his chair and nodded broadly, “This place is worth every mark that I donate.”

“You’ve been here before?” Robert asked, trying to be as casual as possible. Perhaps Dieter had met Wally.

“Yes and every visit has been a pleasure. Two weeks of heaven each time!  Along with the wonderful freethinking members of the sect to play with, this place offers the absolute best of food and drink and relaxation!  I have even learned to play tennis here, something that I never wanted to do before!  It is that way with all the guests.  We all regain our interest in living.  That may be the island’s best attraction.”

Robert took this in and ventured a question. “So you have met others that are as lucky as we are,” he interrupted his own sentence with a forced laugh, “to have been invited to stay here?”

The German nodded. “A few others, but never the same men twice. Beltane respects the privacy that we all need. I myself would have it no other way.” Dieter sneered, a look of profound disgust on his face.  “We do not want this wonderful place filled with the wrong kind of people! We both know that some of these low types would do anything, pay any kind of money, to get their grasping hands on what is truly rightfully ours to enjoy.” He shook his head angrily. “Yes secrecy and discretion is important to us all.”

“Yes, indeed,” Robert agreed out loud, but thought to himself that Beltane was the one who made privacy a big factor. Now he couldn’t ask the German about Wally, it would be looked on as bad form. By finding out and feeding on each of their fears Beltane found a way to stop any guest from asking questions.

Laughing deeply, Dieter pounded his fists on the arms of his chair.  “I feel strong this day. I am getting stronger more fast than the last time I was here!” The big man shook a finger at Robert. “My idiot doctor says that I am to stop how I eat and drink and enjoy my life. I say to him I will live forever as happily as I do. I have worked hard to get the means to enjoy my life, why now, just when I am getting ready to spend more time living life, should I not enjoy all that life has to offer? No! I come here to this island and become younger and stronger every year and I enjoy all pleasures. That is the way I want to live. And you too? Nicht so, sir?”

Robert tried to process the information quickly. Revitalization must the hook that brought rich men here. But how was the illusion of health brought about? Was it something in the food, or was it something else, something more elusive?

 “Yes,” Robert said, as a handsome young man served coffee while smiling at them.  “This is my first time here and it is quite delightful.” He looked at the young man who was smiling very warmly back at him.

“Thank you,” Robert said to the waiter, dismissing him as he lifted his cup to drink.

“Oh, thank you Lords,” the young man said, “It is my pleasure to serve you both.” He grinned at them for a beat too long, and then left the room

The German leered, staring after the retreating form of the waiter, “All the staff here are so cooperative and congenial, as if it really is their pleasure to serve.” He sighed, “It is so difficult to find good help, no one knows their place anymore. All the animals of the earth act as if they are too good to do a decent days work. But not here! And these are fine Aryan people, all willing to work and work hard.”

Dieter gazed out of a large window at the scenery and the people walking around the grounds of the mansion and spoke lightly, almost as if he was talking to himself. “Before I come here I never look at young men with desire, but in this place all the people are so, so …”

Robert frowned in concentration, “So appealing?” he said.

“Yes,” the German said as if he had just awakened from a dream. He then agreed wholeheartedly with Robert’s choice of word, “Yes, appealing!” he said loudly. “The waves of attraction from all pull you in toward them.” He shook his head, “Only on this island do I think this way and only here do I do anything with such desires.” He looked at his cup of coffee as if surprised to see it. He picked it up and sipped. “And I know that I can tell this to you because I have seen that your aide is more than just a valet to you.”

Robert tried not to choke on the coffee he had taken into his mouth. He was going to protest that he and Mick were indeed just employer and employee, but he decided that the idea that Mick knowing that the others thought of him as Robert’s plaything would be a nightmare of tremendous proportion to his young friend and cause him waves of humiliation.  Robert suddenly thought that Mick needed a bit of humbling to make him more compliant and behave better.

As Robert looked out toward the green lawn, a man walking by caught his eye. He looked just like Chuse Dodorol that Robert had met last night, but this man was energetic and spry and Chuse last night, looked a short sprint from the final finish line. He caught German’s attention and pointed to the man walking by. “Is that..?”

“Yes,” German laughed, “it looks like he is gaining the most strength from this place. He looks like a new man. Yes, every mark is this place worth. I myself feel good for months before the health I get wears off.”

The realization that more than a simple massage might be responsible for his own feelings of health this morning dawned on Robert. He felt, at the same time delight at his re-found vim and vigor, and uneasy about its source

“I have every intention of using this place as my retirement home when I am finished fighting with the world.” Dieter nodded smugly, “I have already signed the papers that give this island most of my assets in my Swiss accounts after I am ready to retire.”

So, the rich were encouraged to sign over assets, Robert mused, perhaps that’s why Wally dropped out of sight, he signed over assets and now he was… what? Robert thought with a start, dead? His monies stolen and his corpse hidden? Or could Wally be sitting in another part of the castle at this very moment, admiring the view and drinking his own coffee?

Robert continued to look out the window. “Tell me. Are there any private homes on the island that I might look at with an idea towards purchase?”

Dieter shook his head. “I believe Beltane makes a point that all the people of his religion live here together in this large castle. It is supposed to be very important that they all share together.” Dieter smiled to himself. “But not like Communists! No! Like a loving family where,” he sniggered, “the brothers and sisters share their beds with each other also.”

Robert remained quiet, studying the look of lust that covered Dieter’s face. “But if you’re not of the religion, can one still live on the island?” he finally asked.

Dieter shrugged. “There are no private homes here. I have been all over the island, except for one place, the sacred grove they call it. There are some small huts where the faithful meditate and do their religious teaching. But they are not more than sheds. No, there is no place to live on the island except the mansion.”

Robert took that in. “Does anyone live here year round already? I think this might be just the place for me to retire. But I am looking for a place right away. Things in the world are bearing hard on me now, and I wouldn’t want to decide live here permanently until I’ve spoken to others to see if the service is good if one takes residence here.”

Dieter thought for a moment. “I don’t think any outsider has set up residence yet.” He shook his head. “No, none of the sweet young people have mentioned that to me, and I’m sure that anyone who lived here would be known to the staff.”

“Lords?” the voice calling them was that of a young women who had tiptoed into the room. “Luncheon is being served in the dining room to any who might like to eat now. “

Then she smiled and blushed deeply, showing sweet and charming dimples. She looked down at the floor and blushed a deeper hue of red. “Lord Beltane told me to give you gentlemen anything you might desire.” She giggled, “He is so funny sometimes, as if I wouldn’t do anything for you, our honored guests!” She then scampered out of the room, giggling even harder. 

“All so attractive,” Dieter sighed and got out of his chair.

“And all so young,” Robert thought as he walked with the German to the dining room. He tried to remember the saying about joining a movement that has only young members in it.

 Ah, yes, that was it.  “Eschew groups whose followers are all young; such groups usually employ a thoroughly unpleasant retirement procedure.”

Part 3