Toronto, April 1994

A Pink Dormouse Production

"Led Zeppelin," Sands said, uncurling himself from by Marianne's legs just enough to snag the joint from her. "'Gallows Pole' 'cause 'Stairway' is too much of a cliché even for you." He had become a frequent - if irregular - visitor to the apartment over the past two months. Marianne had mentioned her concerns about the boytoy to Dariel, who had seemed unconcerned for the most part. He had hinted at knowing more about Sands than he was letting on right now - and pointed out that if she wanted to give out advice, then she should take a greater interest in the business as a whole first.

At which point she had dropped her bombshell - that she was leaving for London, and not coming back - and somehow Dariel had talked her around 'at least until the summer'. So she had gone home to Europe long enough to check up on the houseboat on the Thames; and to visit Paris to convince herself that she was not ready to purchase one on the Seine just yet. Then she had returned to Toronto and found that Sands was still installed in Dariel's offices and living quarters - and still as irritating in that not-quite-definable way.

"I don't do requests." Marianne had already had her quiet evening in with her bass interrupted, when Sands had turned up on the doorstep half an hour earlier, and she was trying to ignore him as much as possible. He was looking particularly strung-out, but that was none of her concern; Dariel must know that the boytoy had seemingly switched from speed to coke by now, if only because speed was damnably hard to get hold of in this town right now. But then Sands was most likely getting his coke off Dariel too; why should he buy it elsewhere when the Big Guy would give it him at cost?

"I'll make coffee," Sands took a long draw, and then smiled up at her. At least she had not caught him cutting lines in her bathroom yet - a gal had to have limits - that would definitely be grounds for dropping him down the stairwell. Not that she was completely against doing the stuff - she would indulge occasionally at parties - but there were Rules about what a person did in mixed company, and what a person did when dropping in on another unannounced.

"Why do you come round here?" Marianne set the bass down on the floor, leaning it against the arm of the sofa. She had no idea what she could be doing that might encourage him. But she kept on letting him in because she was a sucker: in love with a guy she could never have, while his current lover trampled all over her and treated her flat like he owned it. Although Sands did have some endearing features, she had to admit.

"Dariel's out of town again and I happen to like your company." Somehow Sands managed to end up on the other end of the sofa before she had a chance to stretch out along it. Oh yes, she had been smoking before he turned up, that would explain the slower reactions on her part.

"I find that hard to believe." Marianne reached over and reclaimed the joint.

"Really? I could have sworn I heard him telling you he was going." Sands rolled onto his side, ending up with his head in Marianne's lap - as per bloody usual - she really should push him onto the floor, but just could not summon the energy.

"I meant the other half of your statement." Admittedly he was less trouble than an actual cat - most of the time - and she was doing Dariel a favour by keeping his pet out of trouble. But really, she would be just as happy without any pets, even those who knew to stay away when she had proper guests over.

"You know you love me really." Sands bounced to his feet. "Let me make you that coffee."

"Sure, coffee's good." 

Marianne thought about things some more while Sands was out of the room. He certainly seemed to make Dariel happy - happier than the Big Guy had been for some time - and he had stuck around longer than the average freeloading hustler. Plus he seemed interested in the Business, which kept Dariel off Marianne's back about her getting more involved in it.

On the minus side, Sands asked a few too many questions, was quite capable of letting himself into or out of the flat without a key, and seemed to be covering up the fact that he understood French perfectly. Which was annoying when she got calls from Paris while he was around. Still, she was going to catch him out one day, she was sure of it.

Sands set the coffee down on the table and settled back down on the sofa. Marianne leaned across him to grind out the last of the joint; then ran a hand down his back, expecting the usual purr. He winced.

"Been playing rough again?" She tried not to sound disapproving - being an entirely-vanilla gal herself - but she really wished Dariel would play a little more carefully with his toys.

"You could say that." Sands shifted to look up at her. "You know, before Dariel I never - well, not in the same way." He paused, seemed to think about what he was saying. Then he glared at her, daring her to make something out of what he had just let slip. "Going to make another joint then?"

"If you shift out of the way." Marianne suspected she had just been treated to the real Sands, whoever he was. She still had no idea whether he was genuinely interested in Dariel, or just another hustler, or some other breed of trouble entirely. Come to think of it, she had no idea whether Sands was a real name, a nickname he had gone by elsewhere or something he had come up with specially for Dariel. Ah, well, so long as the Big Guy had set up a good 'insurance package' for when things went pear-shaped. There was really nothing more she could do about it herself. Besides it would be summer soon enough and then she really might move on this time.

Sands sat up.

"You know," he said, "I think we should do something different tonight."

"What, instead of getting wrecked and you ending up sleeping on the sofa? Going to suggest something?"

"Mixed strip-club. There's one in town that Dariel's thinking of making a move on. What say we go check it out for him?"

"You know," Marianne said, deliberately echoing Sands, "you may have an idea there. Give me five minutes to change." And find offensive weaponry - if Dariel was planning a take-over of the club, then the owners might be hostile to his inner circle. Best to be prepared in case she or the boytoy landed themselves in hot water there.




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