Joseph awoke the next morning with a smile on his face. The odor of fresh brewed coffee filled the air. Mixed with this was the smell and sound of potatoes and eggs frying. It was like heaven.

“I see you decided to join the living.” Rich said, as he poured a fresh cup of Java for Joseph and brought it to him in bed. “I think you will find this coffee more to your liking. I just got a new coffee pot and I even think I learned how to make a decent cup for you.”

Taking a sip and smiling he said, “HEY THIS IS NOT BAD! In fact it is very good. Besides being one hell of a great bed partner, you are turning into a decent cook. You found the way to my heart. Nothing starts the day better than a good cup of coffee-well almost nothing. Come give me a kiss, but do it gently. I don’t want to spill this elixir.”

Rich leaned down and placed a soft kiss on his lips and said, “Your favorite breakfast will be ready soon. You go take a shower. By the time you are finished we should be ready to eat.”

“My favorite food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks is you.” Joseph said, getting out of bed and putting his cup on the table. “Come here and let me take a little bite out of you.” Gathering Rich into his arms he kissed him hard and deep. “Now my little hussy, tell me about this ‘Bed Partner’ that you almost had in OUR bed last night.”

“No! Not until after you shower and damn it, take a shave!” Rich said, as he rubbed his face where Joseph’s beard had scratched it. “I’ll fill you in on everything at the table.”

“Ok, that’s a deal. I have a lot to tell you also. Some of it you might even like!” the soldier said as he walked into the bathroom to perform his morning ablutions.

Rich prepared their food and set it in the oven to keep warm while he made the bed and cleaned up the mess they had made last night. The room was neat and orderly when Joseph came out of the bathroom dressed in a ‘T’ shirt and khaki pants.

“The first thing I’m going to buy when I graduate is some clothes that are not brown or Khaki and a pair of black shoes. Something that will make me forget about the army.” He said sitting down to eat.

Rich placed his food on the table before him and joined him. “Dad tells me you made a very sexy victim for that belly dancer the other night. You and I are going to have to go to that Cafe together sometime. Was she really as beautiful as dad said? Did she really give you her address and phone number? Not that I blame her for trying, but you are mine or have you forgotten that?”

“You know I haven’t forgotten it babe. Now tell me about this strange man you almost invited up for a bedtime romp last night.”

“Well he isn’t strange at all. You knew him before I did.” Rich said and told him all about Frank Gordon and what a good friend he had turned out to be. “He likes to put on this big act and there are times when it’s hard to tell if he is serious or not, but he always behaves himself. He says he still wants the two of us in his bed but if either of us were to say ‘yes’, I think he would run for the hills. Anyway he always says to give you a kiss on your ass for him.”

Laughing and then turning so serious that the words came out in a torrent the soldier started to babble, “Look Rich, I have something to tell you that you will not like. I seems that I have gotten myself into a bit of a problem and I can’t get out of it, at least not yet. I have always been honest with you, and you know that you are the only one that I love. I want you to keep that in mind when I tell you what has been going on.”

“Oh, oh! This sounds real serious. There is only one thing I want you to tell me first, Joseph. Do you want to split up with me-is that what this is all about? I can take the truth, really I can and I would rather have it. I don’t want to be lied to, not by you.”

Reaching over and taking Rich’s hand in his, he lifted it palm up to his lips and kissed it. “Darling, I never knew what love was or could be like until I met you. If I thought we would split up, I would be devastated. I will never stop loving you. You on the other hand, might not want me after what I have to tell you. I swore to you when I started this that I would keep you informed. Please remember that I did ask your permission to do this. However, it has now reached the point where I can no longer be 100% true to you. Well I am true to you but in order to get information ”

“Oh God, no!”

“Let me tell you everything before you speak.” Joseph said.

“Another question first.” Rich demanded.

“Yes anything.”

“Will it be just the two of us in the end?” Rich asked.

“That was, is and will be up to you. As far as I’m concerned, even if you threw me out, I would still love you. I love you and your family and what I have to do; I’m doing for you and them This thing is so important; that I feel it not only constitutes a direct threat against us, but also to everyone else in the country, if not the world. I cannot tell you more than that, but when I say all our lives and all our futures may depend on doing this, I am not exaggerating one iota. On that fact, I will take an oath. It may be too late for me to back out now without exposing the fact that the F.B.I. is on to this entire operation. A lot of hard work will go down the drain, but get out I will, if you insist. This will be our last chance! After this I will not be able to disengage myself without possibly getting kill ”

“There will be no backing out of anything.” Rich insisted. “I think it is too late for that. It’s no longer just you and me–but my father and mother are so worked up that I think they would be so disappointed that they would disown me.”

“Forget about them. While I do love them, it’s just you and me that I’m concerned about here. This has to be your choice not theirs. You say the word now and it’s over-now or never-once and for all!”

Rich moving close to him kissed his lips and said, “No Joseph, I will not ask you to stop. I want you to continue. I will never question your motives or your love for me again. Now and in the future you can either tell me everything that has been going on or not-either way-it’s your ‘Play’.”

So Joseph told him everything, including the part about Fazzi possibly asking Mary and Kassie to leave. “Is he going to do that so that he would be free to have you move in and be his lover full time?” Rich asked.

“Fazzi will never be ‘My Lover’, not in any sense of the word, not full time, not part time nor any time. That title is reserved for you. You and I will still be together on weekends and whenever I could get to see you,” the soldier assured him, “and then there is my army job at the school.”

“If I were to say no to this you would then tell the F.B.I. that you want out of this deal. That would leave the army free to use you as it sees fit.” Rich observed. “They could even send you off as a translator and put you up in the front lines, and you could get killed.”

“Nothing has changed there. Hey baby, that’s what I GET PAID FOR. Remember from the very first, I told you that I’m a paid killer. One way or the other, the government has the right to use me anyway it wants as long as my enlistment holds out. You knew this when we started seeing each other.

“Yes I knew it. And you keep telling me it, over and over. I want you here and in one piece. If you are going to get killed I want you killed here in the USA not on some street or back alley in a place whose name I cannot even pronounce. Just be careful and make sure you protect yourself. And that not only applies to using condoms. This is the last time I want to hear about this. I don’t want to hear the details of your bed escapades with Fazzi. When we are together: it will be our time. The other time is your ‘office work’. Understand?”

“I love you Rich for as long as you will put up with me.”

The rest of the day they spent the time doing what lovers always do. They made love countless times and when it was time for Rich to go to the theater, Joseph tagged along and watched the play from the wings. He discovered that Rich did have talent and that people liked his performance. When he appeared on stage, he lit up the stage. After the last act, the soldier went back to his dressing room to congratulate him. While waiting for him to get into street clothes there was a knock on the door. “Answer that, will you Joseph?” Rich shouted from the bathroom.

He went to the door and opened it and there stood Frank Gordon. “Well, look what the Army let out! It’s good to see you again.” Frank said as he embraced Joseph. “Maybe I better leave and let the two of you—do what you do together.”

“No Frank, please stay. I want to thank you for being here for Rich when he needs it. He has told me all about your kindnesses to him.” From the bathroom he heard Rich ask who it was. Over his shoulder, directing his voice to the bathroom Joseph called out, “Rich it is my ‘on duty’ replacement. I think he should join us for the evening.” Then to Frank he said, “you will join us, we were going out for a late night snack and a few drinks and then to bed. It is still true that you are still interested in taking the two of us to bed?”

Turning all shades of purple and fumfering so much that he almost had a heart attack. “You are kidding—I hope. Don’t do this to an old man!”

“Well at least join us for the snack and drinks,” said Rich coming out of the bathroom, walking up to Frank and kissing him on the cheek. Then placing Frank between them, they marched him out of the room while patting his ass and giving it little squeezes.

They went to a neighborhood Bar and Grill and ordered something to eat and drink. The three of them shared a circular booth together with Frank between them. The two young guys rubbing their legs against Frank and now and then leaning into him to place kisses on his reddening face. “Enough is enough.” He finally said. “I have learned my lesson. No more playing around when do I get to fuck your hot young asses?”

The three of them looked at each other and burst out in fits of laughter. “Both of you knew that I was just kidding all the time, didn’t you?”

“Yes we did, but we just thought we would call your bluff and have a little fun.”

“Yes but what if I had taken you two up on it, what would you have done then?”

“But you didn’t and now you will never really know, will you?”

“You two make me feel young again. I love the both of you. I am going to get the hell out of here before I decide to act like a fool and take you up on that bedtime fantasy.” Frank said, and then he offered to drive them home.

“I think we will make a night of it.” Joseph said. “I want to take Rich up to Central Park for a carriage ride. I feel in a real romantic mode and that would end a perfect day for me. What do you say lover? Do you feel in the mood for a little love making in a horse drawn carriage?”

“Yeahhhhh! You sure you don’t want to join us, Frank? I think we could squeeze you in between us?” Rich asked.

“I told you I learned my lesson. You two go on and have fun. I’ll just go home and play with myself. Good luck on your tests this coming week. Maybe we can get together for a little graduation party at ‘Reinzi’s’ some evening soon.” Frank said as he was leaving.

“That would be nice–Maybe in about two or three weeks, after I get settled into my new schedule, that is, unless the army has other plans for me.”

They left for Central Park and took a few turns around the park and then went home where they stayed up most of the night and just talked about the future.

The next day they took the car and rode out to visit Rich’s parents on the Island. The family sat in the library and Worthington and Joseph went over the outline of what Rich’s dad was going to propose to Fazzi and his partners. Joseph asked a lot of questions and took notes. He wrote in both Arabic and English. Rich observed this and questioned why the two languages.

“If I’m going to have to translate any or all of this, I better know the terms and processes in both languages as well as the ins and outs and all the details. Nothing looks more amateurish than having to stop and look up a phrase in a dictionary when you are trying to sell something to someone.” Joseph said.

“I knew you had what it takes Joseph,” Rich’s father said. “I can’t wait till you are free to go to school and learn the business. With your brains and my good looks we are going places . ‘Worthington & Benson Investments’, I can almost see it now . Say, we could even send you to school to learn a few belly dancing routines. That could be another tool in our arsenal.”

“Yes.” said Rich’s mother. “Richard told me about the belly dancing and I think some of his women clients would just love to see you hootch-y-kooch-ying half nude before them. They might even stuff stocks, bonds and cash in your “G” string.”

“Well it’s not a strip-tease act.” Richard said. “It is even more enticing than that. It is art-pure art. Nothing dirty about it Seductive yes Alluring definitely, but not dirty.”

They talked and planned the rest of the day. After lunch Rich and Joseph found the time to walk along the beach. It was real cold out there. The winter wind blowing off the ocean did little to prevent them from acting like it was a warm spring day. But, not for too long, as reality finally crept in and they had to leave for the city. Rich had an evening performance and Joseph wanted to get back to base and get ready for the big week. Joseph dropped Rich off at the theater. Rich’s parting words to Joseph were to be careful and do a good job on those tests. As he stood there watching the BMW move away, Rich kept wondering if maybe he should have told the soldier to drop the whole Fazzi thing. He had this sense of foreboding, which he kept trying to push out of his mind as he turned and went into the theater.

As Joseph drove away and headed for the bridge, in his mind he asked himself, should I stop at the estate or not? I better not. I don’t want to start anything this late. It’s best to wait until Kassie and Mary are gone. It’s best to just go back to the base. I have to be fresh and ready for the final exams.

The next week brought on the long awaited tests. What surprised Joseph and Ibrahim was the fact that for the most part the tests contained almost nothing of the material that they had studied and had reviewed over and over. The tests themselves were difficult. The fact that they had studied so hard and then found little if any of that stuff there, really pissed them off. In spite of it all Joseph thought he had done very well. His contact with the Arab community had paid off and he found himself doing fine. By Wednesday he had begun to relax. By Friday afternoon the marks were posted. At the top of the list was Private Joseph Benson Ibrahim was third and between them was a Christian of Lebanese extraction. Ibrahim jokingly said that the army was prejudiced against Muslims, but even he said that he had to admit that he had goofed up on one of the essay questions. However being third was not that bad. Only a few percentage points separated the three top students. Graduation was set for Monday. As soon as Joseph saw the posted schedule he went into the company office to arrange for Fazzi and the family’s permission to attend.

“No problem,” the company clerk said. “I will take care of it for you. Just fill out this security information form and I will see to it that a pass is waiting for them at the main gate. We are going to have a special bus to transport all of the guests to the school. So, are we are finally going to meet this girl of yours? Remember you were going to see if she had a sister for me.”

“I’m sorry but she does not have a sister. I’ll ask about a friend if you like.”

“Yes that would be nice. Make sure you introduce her to me. Williams said. “I can ask her myself. By the way let me offer you my congratulations on your passing out on top. The C.O. just asked me to have you paged. There is someone in with him and they both want to see you. Wait I’ll inform them that you’re here.” He pressed the inter-com button and announced, “Private Benson is here sir. Shall I send him in now?”

“Yes Williams, please do,” the Captain said.

Joseph entered and saluted and said, “Private Benson reporting, as ordered, Sir!”

“At ease and have a seat, Benson,” the C.O. said, “you know Mr. Barnes?”

Joseph nodded that he did.

“First let me congratulate you on the excellent record you have amassed here at the school.” The C.O. said smiling. “Is it really true that you never knew any Arabic before you started the school?”

“Yes Sir, that is the truth. Not one word.”

“Amazing! Look Private Benson, I have to admit that lots of us, including myself, never thought that this would work. Yet here we are with our first graduating class. You really are a great group and we could not be prouder of all of you. And to have as our top student someone who never even spoke a word of Arabic pass out on top When you consider the fact that we had quite a few students who were brought up in the language, who would have expected that the top student would not have come from that group. That was too much to hope for. Just how did you do it?”

“Sir, I really can’t explain it myself, the only language I ever spoke or heard was English and I barely graduated from High School. Ibrahim, my roommate, and some friends from the Paterson Arab community really deserve most of the credit.”

“I reiterate, Amazing!” The C.O. shaking his head said over and over. “Anyway, now down to business. Mr. Barns is here to tell you something, that while I’m sure you know something about this, it is really new to me. It would appear that you have been transferred to another government agency, the FBI and your cover will be teaching here at the school. You will be under Mr. Barns’ direct command. I will be the only person to know of your ‘double life’. You will be posted as a teacher in training. Someone who will fill-in for a sick teacher now and then. It will look like you are just a substitute instructor here at the school. Perhaps you could also find the time to give a special lecture on various subjects, but you will have no assigned regular duties. If you refuse this duty, I promise you that I will try to pull a few strings of my own to get you assigned here full time. I cannot guarantee it, but I really like the idea of having your services full time.”

“Sir, there is nothing I would like better than working full time for you at the school, but, there is a bigger job that Mr. Barns has assured me must be done first.” Joseph diplomatically told him. “However, once that job is done, I think I would welcome the opportunity of teaching here. There are a few subjects that I would love to add to the curriculum. One would be a lecture or two on modern Arab psychology.”

“You go and prepare that lecture, we will look forward to hearing it, Sgt. Benson.” The C.O. said, to the bewildered private, “Yes I did say Sergeant, it was no mistake. All of our teachers are either Noncoms or officers and since you are not a college graduate, a temporary Sergeant’s rating is the best, Mr. Barns and I could arrange for you at this time. In a year or so it will be made permanent. I am going to take particular pleasure in announcing this at graduation, when I present you with your graduation diploma and your promotion papers. However, if at anytime you should decide to make the army your main career, we would insist that you to enter Officers’ Training School or perhaps we can arrange an appointment to West Point. Now, I believe you and agent Barns have a few things to talk over, you are dismissed, Sergeant.”

“Yes Sir! Thank you sir.” He said saluting smartly and leaving the room with Bill.

“Congratulations Joseph, You did well. Come lets go for a ride.” Barns said leading Joseph to his car. Barns drove him to a secluded part of the base and parked the car. Turning to Joseph, he said, “Before we go any further, I have to ask you something. What the fuck is going on between you and Fazzi? Are you still with us or are you not?”

“Bill, how could you even ask me that? You know me and where I stand. I am right with you, I am an American and that comes first, last and always.” Joseph protested. “Why would you think otherwise?”

“Well what other concussion should I come too? It appears that my prize agent is sleeping with the enemy and I just can’t help it if I get that impression.” Bill said. “Tell me you’re not involved with him.”

“I can’t tell you that. Yes I’m involved with him-but not the way you think. What I’m doing is because I now know that this is the only way to gain his complete and unqualified confidence. Marrying his daughter would not have done it. Yes it might have worked if we had years to work on it, but in the end he would never fully trust me.”

“Why not? You would be his son-in-law, a member of his family.” Bill said. “He would have to trust you!”

Joseph, smiling and trying not to laugh in Bill’s face, explained, “First of all Bill, you like most westerners, do not understand Arab history or psychology. There is a long Arab tradition of not trusting anyone. For centuries there has always been this inter-family war between individuals as well as clans. Nobody trusts anyone. They don’t trust outsiders, least of all in-laws. Hell, even here in the U.S.A., in-laws are not close to each other. Then, add to that the most important fact of all . the fact that Kassie is not his daughter ” Seeing the look of shock on his face he continued by explaining, “Early in their marriage, Mary became lonely because of Fazzi’s perversions and she took a lover. She became pregnant by him. When Fazzi found out about it, he was furious about it. He knew it could not be his child. But, as an Arab he could never admit that his wife had willingly had sex with someone else. That would be an insult to his manhood. He had the man arrested on some trumped up charges and after personally torturing him, he raped him, cut off his genitalia and stuffed them in his mouth. He then killed him and fed him to the fish in the Mediterranean. If she were his real daughter, perhaps he would come to trust her husband. But not as the husband of his wife’s illegitimate daughter. No way. Marrying her off to anyone would give him the chance to get rid of both Mary and her bastard. So you see why I have to do it this way. There is no other way to gain his complete trust. I hate him and I want to throw up every minute I’m with him, but I will stop at nothing to get him, even if it means ”

“I understand now.” Barns said. “If she had married one of our paid informers, it would not have gotten us ‘in’ with him. We would have wasted our money and time for nothing.”

“It would appear that way.” Joseph said. “Just think about it, this way, poor Fazzi is paying for his own downfall. Richard Worthington gets a new account and a chance to get big bucks, Kassie gets her freedom, Mary gets to start a new life, the F.B.I. has an inside man it can trust and I get a BMW out of it and all I have to do is to keep my guts from boiling over and now and then let him suck my cock.”

“Be careful Joseph I do not have to tell you that–this man is a killer. I want you to carry a weapon. As a Sgt. you will be issued a side arm. I know you know how to use it. That weapon will be too big to carry off base.” The FBI agent said. “So as a little graduation gift, from me and the boys in the office, we decided to give you this .22 cal. pistol and issue you a permit to carry it. It is small enough to hide on your person. I want you to carry it and you better do some target practice with it. You can use the army firing range. I don’t want to have our best agent winding up as fish bate in the Atlantic.”

“Are you sure that’s necessary? I can take care of myself without having to carry a gun.”

“Better safe than sorry.” Barns said, and as he handed him a gift-wrapped box containing a gun and box of ammunition. “What are you going to do for the rest of the weekend?”

“Bill, I am really worn out. I really think that after I call the house and let Fazzi and the family know about the test results and the arrangements I have made for them to attend my graduation-I’m just going to crash and get a good night’s sleep. Maybe some of us will hit a local bar or the Enlisted Men’s club to celebrate a bit, but nothing big.”

“Ok relax a bit and have some fun, you have earned it. I’ll head back to the office now. I have to make a full report on all of this. I think the director will be very pleased. He will also be glad to know that we were wasting our time and money trying to hook-up that other guy with Kassie. Just knowing all of the money we saved from being flushed down the toilet should make him very happy. Before you hit the bars, I suggest you take the .22 cal. down to the range and familiarize yourself with it.”

“Thanks Bill, both for your help and the gift.” Joseph said. “I wish I could invite you to the graduation, but with Fazzi and the family there it might not be a good idea.”

“Thanks yourself and I understand. I better get going. Have fun this weekend. Good bye.”

After Bill left Joseph called the family and told them the good news, leaving out the parts about his promotion and the school appointment. Kassie told him she was very proud of him and that she had filled Mary in on all that was going on. She told him that Mary was walking on air. She could not believe it. After all these years the both of them were going to be able to live their own lives. To do what they wanted-when they wanted- without having to answer to anyone but themselves. The two of them were just sad that Joseph had to pay so high a price for their happiness.

“Tell her that she should enjoy her liberty and find a good loving husband. That goes for you too, Kassie.” Joseph told her. “That would make all of this worthwhile.”

“I love you Yussef, habibi.” Kassie said.

“And Kassie-I love you too!”

“Joseph is there any chance that you and I, one day, that we could ?”

“Habibi, let’s let the future take care of itself. Just be happy that both you and Mary can start to live, at last, in Freedom

-To be continued…-