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Marshall Frank novel excerpt


THE LATENT excerpt
Publish America | February 2006
ISBN 1-4137-9890-X


Sunday Morning  --  July 13th

     It was still dark when Lawrence Lee Lawson felt the rhythm of warm breath on his toes until a cold hand lifted his foot and gently shifted it onto the linens. Peering through a squinted eye under the glow of a blue lava lamp, he saw a hairy ankle slip past his face then alight from the edge causing a wave of motion in the waterbed. His mouth seemed filled with quicksand, the headache excruciating. Lying on his side, he pretended to be asleep ignoring the moans and grunts from...whoever he was. Lawrence felt just as bad, maybe worse.

     Remaining motionless, he opened his eye once more to the soft motion of the blue lava lamp and checked the clock radio where red digital numbers read 6:07 a.m. While the sink water ran in the bathroom, he could hear the poor sap in distress, coughing and bellowing into the bowl in a violent upheaval. My God, what'll I do if this guy dies on me? The ugly sounds ebbed, regressing into oohs and aahs, and then a very long piss into the commode. After the toilet flushed, he heard the shuffle of hard-soled footsteps. The fellow had put on his shoes. Then, the sounds of a zipper, jingling pocket change, a quick pace to the door, a chain unlatching and the soft click of the bolt as though to avoid any noise. He was gone.  Aaahh.

     Alone at last, Lawrence groaned, opened his eye, smacked his lips and pondered the arduous journey to the toilet lest he urinate in the bed. Along the way, he relatched the chain, still wondering who that was or where he had met him. Hot smack had dulled the basins of his short term memory, his brain mush and every motion agony, as if a poker had slammed into his head. He looked toward the dresser, annoyed to see his blonde pageboy wig sitting lopsided on the Styrofoam head. He would straighten it later.

     As he leaned with one hand against the wall draining his bladder, yearning for a glass of cool water, he was startled by a knock at the door, firm but not loud. He, whoever he was, probably had forgotten something. Lawrence certainly wasn't up to another session, if that's what he wanted, so he ignored it.  Hell, he couldn't remember if he was young or old, big or small, black or white. Who cared? He'd never see him again anyway. Just another sex conquest, one more faggot in an insatiable quest for a relationship that would never be.

     The knock was firmer this time. A baritone voice whispered from the other side of the door. "Baby doll, it's me. Open up."

     He figured he'd pretend to be asleep and maybe the visitor would go away. Still naked, he stepped into the kitchen, poured a glass of cool water and began guzzling. The visitor rapped again, harder. "Hey, come on, open up." 

     He didn't want any flack from neighbors, so he tiptoed over, hunkered and whispered, "Who is it?"

     "It's J.D. You invited me, remember?"

     The voice was unmistakable. In an instant, Lawrence felt flushed, his breathing accelerated and his chest seemed to boil over. I never thought he'd show up. It's him. J.D., the hunk. I don't believe this is happening. Right here at my door. HIM!

     What the hell. He wasn't going to pass this up. He'd take a couple Tylenols and a glass of whatever then spend a few seconds getting pretty. He'd feel up to snuff in no time.

     "Wait there, just a second." Lawrence rushed to the bath-room, gargled mouthwash, swallowed three pills, donned the blonde wig, checked the mirror and tiptoed back to the door. He'd blow J.D.'s mind opening the door naked.

     As it swung open, Lawrence raised one hand to the door frame and planted the other on his hip, as Nicole Kidman might make sultry eye contact with George Clooney. Arms crossed over his chest, the "hunk" lowered his eyes, raised his head and smiled.  "May I come in?"

     He was as gorgeous away from the bar as he was in, like some rugged, malodorous longshoreman just off the docks. "Do you always show up on doorsteps at six in the morning unannounced?"

     "Only for special queens like you, Baby."

     "I'm not feeling too well," Lawrence answered. "But...well, you can stay a while."

     Lawrence walked ahead of his lover-to-be, swaying with every step in hopes he was ogling. Lawrence turned, picked lint off J.D.'s black skin-tight tee shirt and asked, "Wanna drink?"

     "No thanks. Too early."

     "You? No drinks? Did you have a rough night?"

     "Get in the bed, baby doll."

     "My, my. Such a hurry. What's the matter, sweetie, can't you get it down?"

     "The bed, the bed. Let's not wait any longer, okay?"

     "Okay sweetie, but you have to, you know, the jeans, the shirt, the booties. Let me watch, okay?"

     "Yeah, sure."

     J.D. was tall and rugged and reeked of masculinity. Feeling better already, Lawrence sat on the sideboard while the "hunk" began his undressing routine. My God, he's gorgeous. First, the black leather boots with chrome chains dangling over the instep. "Here," J.D. said, leaning backwards against the dresser. "Help me." Lawrence tugged on the boots, one by one, until J.D. was in his stocking feet.

     "What's that rattling in your boot?" Lawrence asked.

     "Don't look, it's a surprise."

     Next, J.D. peeled off his socks. With his back to Lawrence, he removed his tee shirt and unveiled a bear-like torso covered with dark hair. Lawrence caressed the fur on J.D.'s back while the man unbuckled his black leather belt. Aroused by anticipa-tion and pure lust, Lawrence moaned and gripped his own appendage but was abruptly stopped. "Wait," the bear-like man said softly.  "I gotta take a leak."

     He lifted his pile of clothing, entered the bathroom and urinated what seemed like forever. From the bed, Lawrence raised his voice in dire anticipation, "What's taking you so long? Come on."

     There was a strange silence before J.D. answered from the bathroom. "Hey, Baby?"


     "Listen to me. I want you to lay back and close your eyes.  I have a surprise for you. No peeking now, okay?"

     "Okay. I promise."

     Lawrence couldn't imagine what glorious erotic adventure lay ahead. He squeezed his eyes shut as he listened to J.D.'s breath draw nearer, growing louder, detecting a trace of musk after- shave. As the breathing sounds became heavier and deeper, Lawrence desperately yearned to open his eyes, but he was afraid of ruining the surprise. 

     "Keep them closed," the man whispered again, firmly.

     Squirming and grinning like a blind circus clown, heart pounding, Lawrence could barely resist holding himself, but wanted it more from him. He would wait. The "hunk" was beside the bed now. "Can I open them yet?"

     "Very soon. I'll tell you when."

     A contorted smile wrapped across Lawrence's face as he grabbed himself impulsively. "You're driving me crazy, you know that." The words barely passed his lips when a sharp powerful force suddenly rammed his body, depressing him down into the water mattress.


     The cold steel blade plunged below his rib cage so deep that its point penetrated his back. Lawrence wailed, writhing in pain as the bed roiled into a storm of undulating waves. Eyes bulging, mouth agape, helpless, Lawrence could not utter a sound as he watched the crazed expression on the killer's face hovering over, teeth clenched, muttering, "Have a nice time, little bastard?"  
     As the knife pulled from his gut, he watched it overhead, dripping with his own blood before it slammed down once more into his chest, tugging at his ribs while the madman yanked and twisted. Excruciating pain ravaged his torso as he felt his body being carved alive. Again, the man growled, "slimy little bastard," repeating it over again as Lawrence lay senseless, his mouth wide, gasping.

     Wracked with agony, Lawrence gurgled a paltry sound which might have been, "No more, please..." then felt the steel dagger tug from his rib cage. He knew he was about to die as he lay drowning in his own blood. The pain subsided now.  Once more, the knife channeled his numbed body. He could barely hear, see or feel anything, transformed into one hundred and forty pounds of human carcass, praying for death to arrive. The killer repeated a barrage of profanities until Lawrence's final sensation was another plunge somewhere into his flesh. Pain-free now, his mind drifted into the abyss, offering one last angelic image of his mother. 

     Then, darkness.

   The frenzied killer stabbed the lifeless corpse three, five, six, maybe nine times until bare organs protruded from open folds of his skin. Exhausted, he uttered not another word.

     Lawrence's eyes fixed into an empty gaze leaving J.D. unsatisfied. He reached down, opened the dead man's mouth with his fingers and thrust the bloody knife deep into his tonsils, a serrated phallic memento. Now, he was satisfied.

     Time to clean up. First, he unwrapped the small towel from around the knife handle. His clothes were safely unstained in the bathroom. He had to shower, dress, wipe the entire bathroom clean and walk out without being noticed. Before leaving, he pulled a cigarette from a half-empty pack of Benson & Hedges Menthol lying on the night stand, held it between his teeth, lit it with a Zippo, then gazed at the bloodied cadaver. Three long and satisfying drags introduced a pall of smoke to the room before he flipped the butt into the commode. He ambled to the bar cabinet and used a handkerchief to pour a small glass of cheap sour mash whiskey from a near-empty bottle. Standing over his victim, the killer stared admiringly and guzzled the entire glass in one hoist. "Fuckin' pervert," he whispered. He wiped the glass once more and laid it atop the dresser.

     Nearing the door, the phone rang. He stopped to monitor the answer machine. "Hey, it's Charles. It's after six. Call me, man."  

    He smiled, breathed deeply and softly closed the door behind him.

                         *         *         *         

© Marshall Frank, 2005


Praise for
The Latent: A Miami Novel

"The Latent" is a fast paced, exciting mystery with astonishing, unexpected twists of story that leave you turning the pages. Frank, with his police background, is a master of plot. A must read for mystery buffs. "

- Joan Medlicott,
author of The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love series