Fleeing London, Thomas Newton reaches Paris full of hopes for a new life with Pierre Baptiste. The hopes are quickly shattered. There are unsettling rumors about Pierre’s past and very real threats in the present. Arrested on false charges, thrown into a dank prison, Thomas must decide whether he can trust Pierre’s help to winning back his freedom. But freedom will bring other risks, especially if it requires a return to London and all that he fled. The men from his past whom he betrayedand who might well want revenge. His avowed enemies, the bigots that chased him across the channel. And, worst of all, everything he doesn’t know about his family. To survive, he will have to play both sides of the lifeas a thief taker.
|Publisher:||Bold Strokes Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Originally from Detroit, William Holden now lives in Cambridge, MA, with his partner of eighteen years. He has a Master's in Library and Information Science from Florida State University. Over the past decade, he has focused his work on collecting, and preserving, GLBT history and is a volunteer archivist at Boston's History Project.
William has been writing fiction for over fifteen years, accumulating more than seventy published short stories in the genres of erotica, romance, fantasy, and horror. His titles include the Lambda Literary Award finalists A Twist of Grimm (Lethe Press), Secret Societies (Bold Strokes Books), and its sequel, The Thief Taker (Bold Strokes Books), as well as Words to Die By (Bold Strokes Books), a Finalist for the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award for Best Horror and 2nd place in the Rainbow Book Awards for Best Horror.
Crimson Souls, his forthcoming horror novel from Bold Strokes Books, is based on the 1920 purge of homosexual students at Harvard.
William has also written encyclopedia articles on the history of gay and lesbian fiction and has authored five bibliographies for the GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association.
Read an Excerpt
The Thief Taker
By William Holden, Greg Herren, Stacia Seaman
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.Copyright © 2014 William Holden
All rights reserved.
"Will you please state your name for the record?"
"My name is Thomas Newton," I answered. The questioning gaze of the commissaire led me to think that he did not believe me. His head dropped as he wrote in his blotter. I could see his eyes move upward toward me, then down again as the pen scratched the surface of the paper.
"What is your age?"
"I am twenty-one." I studied his face as he looked upon me. I trembled with the fear of not knowing the purpose of my presence in front of the Paris police. Mother Clap's comforting voice rose through my mind. Appearances are everything, my boy. If they see a weak, scared man, they will use that to their advantage. Stay strong and believe in yourself. Despite my current uncertain situation, I could not help but to smile at her memory. While moments like this gave me joy of our time together, I still wept every night from the grief of her death. The pain of missing her had settled into my heart and would not leave. I took a deep breath to calm myself so I would not give this man the satisfaction of knowing his effect upon me.
"Do you find levity in being here, Mr. Newton?"
"No, sir. I do not."
"Would you like to share with me what you find amusing?"
"No, sir, I would not. It is a very private matter."
"I see, so you are going to withhold information from me."
"I do not understand how something that happened before my arrival in Paris could be of any interest to you." I looked around his office. "May I inquire as to why I am here?"
"How long have you been in Paris?" He ignored my question.
"I arrived a month ago." I met his gaze, trying to hold my own. He waited with growing impatience as if expecting more of an answer from me. I gave him nothing else. I learned that valuable lesson during my time in Newgate. I decided to ask my question again. "Perhaps if you could enlighten me as to why I am being interrogated, I would be better able to assist you."
"Pleading ignorance will not assist either of us, Mr. Newton." He cleared his throat. "May I have the names of your parents?"
"I do not know them, sir." I could see the disbelief in his eyes. "I was found abandoned and taken to a local parish church where I was raised." I hesitated to control my anger at his wordless accusations of lying to him. "Request my birth documents if you do not believe me!" I stood up. The chair screeched as it slid across the floor. "I am answering your questions with complete honesty. Yet you refuse to believe a word I have spoken!"
"Sit down, Mr. Newton, before I have your ass arrested for any number of infractions."
"Arrested? I have done nothing wrong!" I took my seat and tried to push my growing anger aside.
"Thank you. Now, if you could tell me where are you from?" He continued his questioning without an answer.
"I am from London."
"Do you care to elaborate?"
"London, it is a city in England." I spoke a bit too sarcastically.
"Do not fuck with me, Mr. Newton." He slammed his fist against the desk that separated us. "It is apparent that you do not understand the serious consequences of your being here." He adjusted himself in his chair. "How did you come to Paris, and for what purpose?"
"How did I come?" I could not help but repeat his words. "I swam. How do you think I came to Paris?" I held my tongue before it could pose a bigger problem. "I came by ship, sir. I boarded a ship at the port of Dover in England."
"Did you steal aboard the ship?" He wrote something in his blotter.
"No, sir, I did not." I became annoyed with his assumptions about me. "I paid for the trip myself." I sat up in my chair with false pride before leaning forward. I placed my elbows upon his desk. I smiled at him, hoping for a better way of communicating with him. I peered downward to get a glance at his notes. "Mr. Ladue, is it?" I leaned back in my chair. "Now at least we can have a civilized conversation, from one gentleman to another."
"I doubt that, Mr. Newton." He lit his pipe and blew the smoke over his head. "For me to have a conversation with another gentleman, there would have to be one present." He laughed and smoke flew from his mouth and nostrils. "May I continue?"
"If you paid for your fare, then you must have a trade that pays quite well. What is it that you do?"
"I have worked several jobs over the years. I like to think of myself as versatile. I worked as a night soil man when I first became of age to work. Most recently I helped run a tavern."
"You expect me to believe that the wages of a bar keep allowed you to travel to Paris and live here without further trade for the past month?"
"The woman who owned the tavern died suddenly." Tears welled in my eyes before falling down my cheeks. "I am sorry for my display." I wiped the tears from my face. "She left me some money to live on."
"Is her death the reason you left London and came to Paris?"
"Yes, I needed to get away. On the invitation of a friend, I purchased a ticket and made the journey."
"And what is this friend's name?"
"Pierre Baptiste," I replied. Hearing his name brought me back to that cold winter night when he first entered Mother Clap's establishment—and me. The smell of his body's musk returned as if he stood beside me in this office. His strong, masculine chest covered in the blanket of black hair rushed into my mind. I remembered running my tongue through the curls searching for the erect nubs of his tits, his moans as I nibbled upon them, his chest heaving against my face, and the ever-quickening beat of his heart as his desire and lust for me grew in those first few moments.
"Mr. Newton?" the commissaire questioned, but my mind was lost in the memories.
I shifted in my seat, trying to give room to my growing prick, as the night with Pierre repeated itself in my mind. I remembered the gentleness with which he fucked me, a need for emotional connection rather than a vile and reprehensible need for release. My ass tightened as the memory of his initial thrust of insertion stung me. I could not help but lick my lips as the memory of his seed landed across them, still hot from his spouting prick. His salty flavor lingered on my tongue as the commissaire's voice brought me back to the present.
"I am sorry, I could not possibly have heard you correctly, for a moment I thought you said Pierre Baptiste was the man you came to see."
"That is correct. It was his invitation that brought me to Paris." Upon hearing the identity confirmed, Mr. Ladue's pen stopped. It fell from his grasp. He looked upon me with disdain. "Is there something the matter, sir?"
"You are delusional beyond belief, Mr. Newton." He intertwined his fingers and rested them on the desk. "You come to my city, flaunting your filthy, English ways, and if that is not enough, you have the audacity to sit here in front of me and lie about why you have come here?"
"I am sorry, Mr. Ladue. I do not understand why you think I am lying to you?"
"You expect me to believe that Mr. Baptiste invited you to come to Paris?"
"You know Mr. Baptiste?" I wondered why the commissaire of the Paris police would know Pierre, but at that moment it did not matter. "Send for him, he will confirm my story."
"You cannot be serious." Mr. Ladue laughed. "That statement alone tells me all I need to know about your dishonesty here today." He nodded. "But please, finish telling me how you came to know Mr. Baptiste."
"Mr. Baptiste and I met in London."
"When was this?"
"November past." I watched as Mr. Ladue went back to taking notes. "It was a cold evening. Mr. Baptiste came into the inn to warm himself before his journey back to Paris."
"What was your business there, Mr. Newton?"
"I lived with the owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Clap." I hesitated to keep my thoughts in line so I would not divulge more than necessary. "They gave me a room in exchange for tending to their customers and cleaning the tavern after close," I lied. "Mr. Baptiste kept me company while I cleaned up for the night. It was late, so he purchased a room for the night. The next morning, Mrs. Clap invited him to breakfast. He told me if I ever wanted to come to Paris for a visit that I should look him up and that he would give me a place to stay."
"That is an extraordinary tale, Mr. Newton. I commend you on getting your facts straight. Mr. Baptiste did in fact travel through London during the time you say the two of you met, but nothing you say can convince me that he would have anything to do with someone like you."
"What do you mean, like me?"
"You are a rogue, Mr. Newton. I have known Mr. Baptiste for many years. He is not the type of man who would lower himself to a conversation with someone so, shall we say, common. Mr. Baptiste would not have invited you to his home as you are claiming. He does have a reputation to uphold."
"I may be many things, but common is not one of them. The finest tutors in England have taught me. I attended Cheam Classical School, and while living in London, I was surrounded by some of the most respected members of society. Mine was not what one would call an easy life, and I may be a bit rough around the edges, but I will not sit here and be called a rogue." I lit my pipe and blew the smoke in Mr. Ladue's direction. "I came to Paris on the invitation of Mr. Baptiste, as I have already explained. When I arrived at his home, he did not answer. I spoke to an older woman who said he had gone away on business and that she did not know when he would return. She would not allow me entrance."
"Mrs. Bergone is a wise woman."
"How is it, Mr. Ladue, that you know everyone whom I have come into contact with since arriving? I demand that you tell me why I am here, or you will see just how roguish I can be!" I stood up. The chair groaned across the wooden floor. I looked down upon him as he sat unmoving in his chair.
"Mr. Newton." He looked up from his blotter. "At the charge of the King's prosecutor I was ordered to bring you before me to be questioned, and if deemed appropriate held at the hospital until such time as we feel you are fit to be released back into society."
"Hospital? I am not ill."
"The Bicêtre, Mr. Newton," he stood and walked around his desk, "is where we place the people arrested for crimes of such magnitude that they cannot be housed in our prison." He stood no more than a foot away from me.
"Have I been arrested?"
"Not as of yet."
"You cannot arrest me. I have not committed a crime." His words and accusations took me back to the trials in London and the uncertainty of life that came along with being of a certain persuasion. Guilt followed the growing fear as I knew my innocence, and yet how many of the men that I sent to their deaths held the same knowledge of their own innocence? "What crimes are you charging me with?" I asked without wanting to hear Mr. Ladue's response.
"Do you know one Mr. Nicholas Bergenoir?"
"The name means nothing to me, Mr. Ladue."
"The old woman you spoke with sent word that a stranger was asking questions about Mr. Baptiste's whereabouts."
"Are you telling me that making inquiries about someone is against the law in Paris?"
"Of course not, except that Mr. Baptiste is someone who demands a certain level of privacy. Several of our men tracked you down to an inn where you have been living. On several occasions these men followed you to Jardin des Tuileries. Since these are royal gardens, the police are not allowed to patrol and therefore have no authority. We use our flies to report to us on the uncivilized activities that men like you involve yourselves with."
"You cannot be serious."
"When did you first meet Mr. Bergenoir?"
"I have already told you that I do not know anyone by that name."
"Perhaps he did not tell you his name for fear of public knowledge, but you did meet, did you not?"
"I am speaking the truth. I have never met this Mr. Bergenoir, nor have I ever been involved with anyone in the way you are describing."
"Perhaps a night in Bicêtre will do you some good. Once you see just how horrible life within our dungeons can be, you will have a better understanding of your situation and be willing to cooperate with our questioning."
"How do you see my answering every question of yours as being uncooperative?" My voice trembled. I began to wonder if God decided to play a cruel trick on me, turning my life around in this strange city so that I might have a taste of what others back in London felt from my blasphemous tongue. "Please, contact Mr. Baptiste. He will attest to my good nature. You cannot do this to me." I charged Mr. Ladue, who stood facing me with arrogance. "You son of a bitch!" I shoved him with the full force of my weight. He stumbled backward and fell against his desk.
"Guards," Mr. Ladue shouted. He tried to move to his left to escape my attack. I was too quick. My fist connected with his jaw. Blood flew from his lower lip. He tried to right himself as I struck him in the back of the head. He fell to the floor.
Before I could release more anger upon his body, two guards charged into the room and held me back. I pulled and struggled against their hold, wanting nothing more than to beat the life out of this man who stood before me.
"You have made a very grave mistake, Mr. Newton." He wiped the blood from his mouth. "And you call yourself a gentleman, though I suppose I should not be surprised by your violent attacks. Londoners are nothing but barbarians."
"You fucking naff." I struggled against the guards. "All I have asked is that you contact Mr. Baptiste so he can clear this up, but you refuse to listen to reason."
"Get this fucking abomination out of my office." He spat blood. "Send him to the Bicêtre. One night in there and he should be more than willing to cooperate with us." He stood with his hands clasped behind his back as the guards turned me away and led me from the office down the hallway and to a waiting carriage.
The guards sat on either side of me as the coach made its way through the narrow streets of Paris. The drawn curtains covered the windows, keeping the carriage dark and the view hidden. I reached into my coat pocket, a difficult gesture with the shackles about my wrists. One of the guards grabbed my arm to stop me.
"I am reaching for my pipe, nothing more." The guard released me. I pulled out my pipe, packed it with tobacco, and lit it. The smoke drifted around us in the stale air.
"This Bicêtre, the commissaire called it a hospital."
"An asylum is a more appropriate term for it, for men who are sick in the mind." The guard on my right looked at me and smiled. "You shall fit in rather well there." They both laughed.
"I am not insane. I do not belong in a place such as that."
"If a man practices or participates in the carnal knowledge of other men, he is deemed disturbed, Mr. Newton, and therefore does not belong in our society. He must be placed where he can be controlled and managed."
"Wait, you cannot do this. What about a trial, or a hearing to prove my innocence? I am not guilty of any of these crimes."
The guard on my left turned toward me. "This may come as a surprise to you, Mr. Newton, but the people of Paris live a well-mannered and civilized life. We do things a little different here in Paris. Trials are for the uncivilized societies. They are used in vulgar ways to control the citizens through fear. No one who lives a proper life should have to endure the publicity, outrage, and scorn that trials bring about." He lifted the curtain to peer outside. The brightness of the midday sun stung my eyes. "The fine citizens of Paris deserve a better life than that. We do not worry them about the vagrants and criminals of this city. We find them as we did you and we interrogate them. If the commissaire determines that redemption is not possible, we dispose of them."
"Dispose?" A chill crawled over my skin despite the heat.
"You would be surprised at the numerous ways one can rid a city of the unwanted." The coach came to an abrupt stop. "I would like to say that it was a pleasure speaking with you, but lying is not part of my nature. Shall we?" He opened the door to the outside world.
I stepped out of the coach, raising my shackled hands to shield my eyes from the sun. I looked out over the vast rolling hills of barren land toward the hospital. Its pale-stone buildings connected end to end with one another, stretched out across the land, and disappeared into nothingness. Its immense size made Newgate Prison look like a young girl's dollhouse. As we approached, I could hear the hollow, desperate screams of the men from within, their torturous songs weeping out through the iron-gated windows.
"Please, I do not belong here. Just turn your backs and let me go. I'll leave Paris and..."
"Our lives are not worth risking in order to save yours." One of the guards opened the door while the other pushed me inside. My forced footing slipped on the smooth marbled floor of the foyer. The guards caught me before I could fall. The foyer opened up into a spacious and what could be described as a magnificent room if it had not been stripped bare of décor and housed within the walls of the asylum. "Doctor," the younger of the two guards shouted. A man in stark white clothing came from around the corner.
"We need to place Mr. Newton in a cell for the evening. We will collect him in the morning."
"Your full name, sir?" The doctor glared at me but came no closer.
"Come on." The guards shoved me forward as we followed the doctor around the corner and into a long corridor.
Excerpted from The Thief Taker by William Holden, Greg Herren, Stacia Seaman. Copyright © 2014 William Holden. Excerpted by permission of Bold Strokes Books, Inc..
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