Lord of the Manor, part 1
Chapter 1. Dallas, Texas
“What a disaster.” Gerwald thought as his computer locked up for a third time in an hour. After rebooting he opened the debugger and his compiler and began again to look for errors.
“All this grief for a computer game. So much for hiring programmers right out of college,” he muttered to himself as the highlighted areas on his screen began to show the problems in the code. He then picked up the phone and punched in three quick digits.
“Cathy, I need you!” he commanded, then hung up the phone.
His Administrative Assistant entered his office a few seconds later, then closed and locked the door behind her. She was a comely lass, About five and a half-foot tall, long dirty blond hair that today was held to the back of her head with a leather beret and dressed today in a gray business suite. She wore a tight leather choker about her neck and a slim digital watch on her left wrist.
Rather than stand in front of the desk she quickly moved to Gerwald’s side and looked at his computer screen. The highlighted text in the debugger told the story. She frowned as she took his mouse and began to scroll down the page. Line after line of code showed errors, invalid arguments, and other assorted problems.
Gerwald rose from his desk and began pacing in his office.
“Have you ever seen a mess like this?” he demanded of his assistant.
“No my Lord, not since another young programmer I knew wrote Space Command in college on an Apple II.”
That comment stopped him in his tracks and he looked hard at his assistant, “I was that bad?” he asked incredulously, “I never made that many mistakes.”
“I seem to remember, my Lord, lots of hours with you flying off into a rage about the lack of proper tools to debug, and how this humble slave calmed down her Master!” she replied as she knelt in front of his chair.
“Yes,” he sighed “I remember as well.” As he slipped back into his chair, it groaned under his weight. No sooner had he sat down then Cathy began to open his trousers and pulled out his cock and began to please him. He fixed his hand into her blonde hair and began to guide her head. He held her there for about ten minutes as he encouraged his lovely sub.
He let his mind drift as he remembered the night he met her at that frat party. He thought of her later compliance with his slightest suggestion. His mind came back to the present when he approached his climax. The skills of the slave at his feet were honed to perfection and he found himself gushing down her throat a minute later. The built up tension and anxiety he had felt earlier began to melt away as he stroked his slave’s hair. She put her Master's clothes back together and tucked in and zipped up things then looked up at her Master.
“May I repair, Master?” she asked. At a nod from Gerwald she opened a desk drawer. In it was a mirror and cosmetics and she began to put herself back together as well, touching up her make up and getting her hair just so. The beret that had held her hair back had come off while he had been holding her head. When she finished she looked every bit of the efficient executive that she was. Then she went back to look at the computer screen and looked at her master. “A meeting?” she asked as she scrolled down the page.
He gave another sigh but said “Yes, a meeting with Ron and his team, we need to get things back on track.” He killed his computer. “I really want a working demo by the convention in New Orleans in three weeks, I think I really need to kick some butt!” Gerwald raged as he began to load things in his computer bag.
“Forgive me, my Lord, but you are going to blow this. The last time you had a meeting in this kind of mood, you ended up losing half your programmers. Let me run the meeting and get things back on track for you. You really don’t want to have to go through the interview and hiring process again, do you?” she said softly.
Gerwald pulled his massive body up to his to his full height of six foot four and looked like he was about to say something but the last comment stopped him. At 220 pounds he could intimidate most people, but he had learned to listen to his lovely assistant, he let out a long slow sigh. “No my lovely Cathy, I don’t want to go through that again for a long time, keep me together and sane please,” he said after a few deep breaths.
Then he picked up his bag and shouldered it. “I’m going home and work off some of this aggression, I'll see you at home later. If there is one advantage to owning this company it’s I can leave when I want. Set the meeting up for tomorrow before lunch sometime, whenever they can fit it into their schedules. You run it and I promise not to interfere too much, my lovely pet.”
As he headed for the door he had one other thought. “Cathy, I seem to get their attention if I provide food, so whatever is good for this bunch, and if that means the Breakfast of Programmer’s, diet Coke and a Snickers candy bars, do it!” Then he unlocked the door and left.
Once in the car and away from his office he felt better. He would have things ready for the gamers convention in a few weeks or a least a demo that would work through the first couple of levels. He felt the pressure of a looming deadline lift off his shoulders.
This convention had launched his first computer game eight years ago and had made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. It was still of bit of superstition on his part that he always introduced his new games at this convention but he had a soft place in his heart for this place and meeting.
The fact that the convention was after Mardi Gras and he would leave a few days early so he could have a little fun had something to do with it. He began to smile as he headed out of a small industrial complex and headed for his home on the outskirts of Dallas.
“Superstition,” he muttered. “Programmers are not a superstitious lot. Just because I do my best work late at night and dressed in leather. Another of my other guys seems to do his best work nude and with the lights out in his office. Or Mike who just has to have his Mickey Mouse ears on top of his monitor doesn’t mean we are superstitious. It’s just a bunch of creative people who make their livings on computers. We all have our talismans, luck has nothing to do with it.”
With the workplace behind him and his thoughts clearing up he began to dictate notes into a small recorder. Things he needed to bring up at the meeting and things he needed to have accomplished by the convention. He would give it to Cathy later and she would turn his chaotic ramblings into a coherent agenda for tomorrow.
With that out of the way he began to enjoy the drive home. He often went to and from his office at odd hours and the fact that he had left early today meant that he was missing a lot of traffic. And missing most of the traffic, especially near DFW airport, let him drivehis little MG as the designers intended, with his foot near the floor. The drive to his huge house had never failed to relax him and today was no exception. By the time he has pulling off the freeways and was on the rural roads he was feeling relaxed.
At the driveway to his home he had a moment of self-satisfaction, it was all his, and all paid for. As he looked at the house on twenty acres of secluded ground he could not help but enjoy the feeling of pride it gave him.
From a starving computer science major, to owner of his own computer game software company in just a few years, things had sure changed. His world had turned around on him since that fateful day he had presented his prototype for a computer game to the people he worked for. Their later marketing of it, and not so much as a thank you later when it became a cash machine for them. No bonus or royalties, just go do it again, Gerry, and be quick about it! Being young and naive in the ways of the business world he had not realized he had given away the rights to his game with the intellectual property agreement he had signed. Only later to find out that he had no recourse and couldn’t take any legal action.
He quit and never looked back. He remembered with glee the day that outfit had been gobbled up by Computer Automation. The fight to prevent the merger had been funded largely by the proceeds from his game. Their other two products were mainframe and mini-computer related and had suffered from sagging sales, but the game software market in personal computers was just beginning to boom.
They had begged him to come back when they needed his expertise with the game to port it to other systems. No one else knew how yet. The other programmers had all been trained in a main frame world and they didn’t know how to work on something that didn’t have a VT100 terminal attached. They needed the cash to fund the battle and wanted other versions of his cash machine.
He had been able to tell them no. Instead he had gone to work at gas station to pay the rent and dusted off “Space Command”. After working it over for new systems that were now on the market, he then took a gigantic gamble. He borrowed two thousand dollars from friends and family for a booth at the gamers convention and drove to New Orleans and slept in the car by the waterfront. The day before he had printed out one copy of an information flyer on a borrowed daisy wheel printer, the best thing on the market at the time, and had it duplicated at a copy shop in Shreveport on the way to the convention.
It had been a hit from the moment he turned on his borrowed computers, a Commodore Pet, a Radio Shack TRS-80 and his old battered Apple II. The fact that he had covered all the major home systems at the same time had something to do with his success. He followed it with several other winners, all launched at the same convention.
Chapter 2. Central Texas
“Almost done, 400 acres of wheat and one load left for the truck. My last time of the shovel!” Gerwald thought as he kept shoveling the output from the combine and leveled out the just harvested wheat in the truck. It was the harvest time in the summer and the remaining few acres to be done would mark an end to working on his father’s farm.
He had done well enough academically in high school to stay on the honor roll. Well enough in football and baseball to get a jockstrap scholarship to Texas A&M. This was his last summer of harvesting with his father and brothers. He was working with grim determination now. Keeping the output from the combine as it was dumped into the truck as flat as he could so it would not spill the labor of a season.
He stood knee deep in wheat in the back of the dump truck in jeans and work boots. Bronzed and sweating from a summer spent under the Texas sun, he kept pace with the wheat that kept moving into the truck from the conveyer. Fresh mowed and threshed wheat and chaff stuck to his body as he did his mindless physical work. The combine worked its way around the field in an ever tightening square as it threshed the wheat. A dump truck followed the combine. A conveyer from the combine carried the threshed wheat to the truck. The truck driver's job was to follow the combine and keep the end of the conveyer centered over the open bed of the truck. The person who lost the toss of the coin was known as the 'shovel'.
The shovel's job was to keep the wheat from mounding up and spilling out. As soon as the truck was full it would signal the combine to stop its conveyer and would run as fast as it could to the silo and dump its load of grain and hurry back to the combine where the process would start again. The combine would keep working as it had a large hopper. The threshed wheat went in to the container and the cut wheat straw got spit out to one side. The combine got its name from the fact that it combined two jobs. Threshing or knocking the grain of its stem to be collected and actual cutting of the wheat stalk.
When the truck was full Gerwald pounded on the top of the cab and his brother in turn sounded two blast of the horn of the dump truck. The combine turned off his conveyer and he held on to the side of the truck as it bounded across the field to the silos.
The game between the brothers was to see who could dump who. If you didn’t get out of the truck quick enough, you would get dumped with the wheat in a landslide of golden grain. Gerwald clambered over the side of the truck and was down the side, and he hit the ground running before the truck lurched to the stop at silos. While the dumping was in progress, he would get a few minutes in the shade of the cab, a drink of water from a plastic gallon bottle and yet a few more minutes of relief from the sun as the truck ran back to the combine.
On larger, more prosperous farms, there would be several trucks and combines. Or you could hire traveling teams of contract cutters who had the equipment to do the job in a day or two. On this farm the family did the work. They had a love for the land and the never-ending miracle of the growing season. The harvest had to be done quickly, as there would only be a few days when the grain was perfect for harvesting. If it was too wet, it would mold in the silo, too dry and it could not be sold to the mills. Sixteen- percent moisture was considered perfect for harvesting and storage while eighteen-percent moisture was considered wet. Like all wheat farmers, Gerwald at fourteen years old could tell when it was perfect for harvesting by tasting a raw stalk of wheat.
An hour later the last of the harvest was completed. The combine headed for its storage in the barn and the truck made one more trip to the silo. Only the harvest was completed and next week would mark the beginning of harrowing the fields, leaving them fallow, then preparing the fields for another drilling of either winter wheat or milo for cattle feed. But for now this job was done.
For now all that was left for this season was tending to the horses, cattle and other stock and perhaps a little relaxation. Still, life on the farm gave you an appreciation of the natural order and progression of things. All life on the farm was a struggle for dominance, the outcome depended many random factors.
Watching the livestock had taught Gerwald many things. The foremost being the way the animals reacted with each other was not the way that people had to. Nature’s way was not the same as the complex set of rules that people had to work within. He learned this growing up. He was constantly in trouble when he got into school, and his father's taking him behind the woodshed (or in this case the barn) had taught him others. You simply didn’t trip a girl then kiss her.
Despite these hard lessons learned, he always came back to the simplicity of nature. Perhaps that why he had excelled in football and some of the other sports. A limited set of rules and his strength and size had a whole lot to do who won. He grew into a tall young man and between the work on the farm and time spent on the football field he had added mass to that tall gangly frame. Football, he had learned, was a whole lot more fun than stacking bales of straw.
His father encouraged his interest in sports, realizing that it might be a path to college. He put up with Gerwald’s time spent on the practice field even though it interfered with things that could be done on the farm. He was sure Gerwald would follow in footsteps and study agriculture and agronomy. He had not realized that his son had already been smitten by another love since his junior year, when a magical new box had shown up at his high school. It was called a computer.
Chapter 3. College Station, Texas
Gerwald stood in the top of the stands and overlooked Kyle field At TAMU. He looked across the field with some satisfaction “This year is gonna be great!” he thought. His sophomore year would be better than his freshman year. Last year he put up with the inevitable pressures and hazing attendant with freshman. Worked hard to maintain his GPA and hold his place on the football team and scholarship. It had left very little time for anything else except study and practice. They made it hard at this school on the freshman to see who had the stuff to go on to the next year.
Going back to his father’s farm for summer break and the harvest had actually been a vacation compared to the pressures of his freshman year. Between helping his father and working at a few odd jobs, he had made enough money to buy his first computer. An Apple II. This had only been introduced a few years ago at the first West Coast Computer Faire in April of 1977.
He had declared his major early and was now in computer science program, a new department at this university. He was deeply involved in all the computer language, math and science that he needed to finish that course of study. He was not your typical athletic scholarship student who took the easy “fluff” courses. Gerwald had plans on going places with this wonderful new genie that lived inside the little box.
All computer science majors at that time worked on a time-shared main frame that you talked to via terminals. He had discovered a few kindred souls who owned personal computers as well. They were actually few and far between. All the “real” computer science majors believed that there was only one way to do computing and that was via a terminal.
A computer club formed and the many like-minded people began to get together. The addition of disc drives to the computers of the time was a new phenomenon. Adding a disc drive to the personal computers of the time took hardware and software modifications. The old farm boy in Gerwald came out. You learned very quickly there that there were very few jobs you could not do. He had always been the jackleg electrician on the farm. Gerwald’s early interest in electricity and electronics had caused him to take the few courses in high school offered on that subject. The fact that one of his part time jobs had been in a little TV-radio repair shop began to pay dividends. He was one of the few comfortable with tools and a soldering iron. To him this was just part of the whole, rather than the specialization that many of his peers considered it to be.
He had always remembered his father’s stories of World War II. How someone with multiple skills was prized on the long push from France to Germany. How the German motorized columns came to a halt in places while waiting for a mechanic, while the farm boys from America with experience in keeping farm machines running from steam and gas to diesel engines kept things moving even if the proper replacement parts were not available. Capturing the mechanics did more harm to the German war effort than capturing the officers.
“Specialization kills,” his father would lecture. “A man must be able to grow and harvest his own crops, cook his own food, know how to hunt and shoot, scavenge scout and improvise, slaughter and butcher his own meat, sew wounds, deliver a baby and repair anything on the place.”
And so he had learned, and his skills in college had proved very handy. Besides doing hardware upgrades for his friends in the computer club he got to be known as someone who could repair a stereo or fix a music amplifier for a musician. Soon he was being asked to come to gatherings or parties to fix equipment that had failed. Having an on-campus repairman that would make house calls and would work for meal or a beer got him invited to lots of different places.
Soon he discovered that there were more groups and sub-cultures than were listed on the official rosters at school. He had stepped outside the tidy world that had been created for him. There were parties where drugs and been offered (he declined), wild parties where the fun and sex never stopped. He had not thought there were that many girls on campus until he went to a few of these places. And then came the night he got a call to help at an off-campus gathering.
Chapter 4. Repairs Off Campus
The weekend had started of normally with a trip to the basement laundry area in the dorm, eating something quick and then sitting down and jumping into a Fortran assignment for class. About the time the dryer was done he was glad to put down his book and head back to his room. Saturdays he usually reserved for catch up for his studies and if he had any thing that he was repairing he would usually give that an hour or two in the morning.
Saturday afternoon was reserved for a trip to the stadium and gym and the endless conditioning exercises his coach insisted on. Gerwald always got a chuckle when he entered the weight room. Several team members were there as well and doing the same thing. Using the various weight machines and barbells was easier than working out with straw bales on the farm.
The easy banter among friends in the gym made the time pass and two hours later found him feeling good and loose. The facilities in the gym were better than the dorm and there were always lots of hot water in the gym. At times this had made him feel like prized livestock. The equipment and facilities they used athletic complex were always the best in the area and as in most colleges the care they lavished on the athletes was what it took to keep a winning team.
Back at the dorm he spent the rest of the afternoon in his studies and working on the start of a computer game he was designing. Line after line of Basic were written as he tried to make that computer do exactly what he wanted.
About six that evening there was a knock on his door and a call to the floor phone. Gerwald seldom got calls and this left him puzzled. His first fear was an emergency or accident at home. “Hello?” he finally answered when he got to the phone. The caller was a friend and teammate. Gerwald had fixed an amplifier for him before, but this time the request sounded a little odd.
“Hey Gerry, do you think you could fix a tube type Harmon-Kardon amp/receiver?” asked the caller.
“Sure,” he replied, “just bring it by and I’ll see what I can do, it’s usually just a tube.” There was a pause on the other end of the line and then an odd request, “This is a built-in and you will need to come here, my mentor will provide the transportation if you can spare the time. Could you be out front of your dorm in say two hours?” This conversation was getting odder by the moment. Just the time was a consideration. It would be 8:30 before the car showed up and who was this 'mentor' character he spoke of?
The mystery intrigued him and he answered slowly, “Yes, I could do that, but I still have studying to do.”
After another long pause and a muted conversation in the background he heard, “You can study in the car and you might as well bring on overnight bag, this is a distance from campus, we will get you back Sunday morning. Just have your tools and stuff together and be out front two hours from now, you are a real lifesaver and my mentor will compensate you.”
Again the mention of a mentor, and an overnight stay somewhere. What had he just gotten himself into? But he smiled as he agreed. “Who will be picking me up?”
Again a pause, “There will be a blue Lincoln at the bicycle stand on the north side of the dorm in about two hours, the driver will want to see some ID, and that’s about all I can tell you right now. Please wear some decent clothes. I have to run, bye.”
And then the conversation terminated with a click. He stood there looking at that dead phone until the dial tone came back. Then he hung up and went to his room to pack. What had he just agreed to? The gym bag made a good overnight bag and he packed a change of clothes and his toiletries. His tool roll and books went in there as well and then he dug out his tube caddy from under papers and clothes.
That took ten minutes. As an afterthought he also put a folding hunting knife in his pocket. He had never had any trouble, as his size intimidated most, but no harm in this. He would need it to strip wires anyway. He then went back to his programming, but he did keep his eye on the time and when he hit a wall on how to make the program do what he wanted just stood up and raged at the screen. It was about time for the meeting and figured the walk and would do him good, so he picked up the bag and caddy and left the room.
At the bicycle stand he found a bench and began to read one of his books. His concentration was so great he was actually surprised when someone tapped him on the shoulder and spoke to him. “Excuse me, but are you Gerwald?” he heard a feminine voice ask. He found himself looking at a very lovely young woman in a black skirt and blouse and jacket. She was wearing a chauffeur’s hat, and her blond bangs just peaked out from under it.
“Yes,” he replied. “I’m Gerwald." He started to stand.
The driver looked at him as he stood to his full height then asked. “May I see your student ID please.” He produced this from a pocket, and she glanced at it briefly. She smiled as she returned it to him. “The description I got of you certainly fits.” she said. “May I put your luggage in the trunk?” She asked, pointing to the gym bag and the black tube caddy as she opened the rear door to the car.
“Just that box,” he replied as he began to grab his gym bag.
She stopped his hand as he started to reach. “Please Sir, that’s my job.” and put his bag in the car. “I would not want the master to find out I had not done as instructed.” Then she shut the door to the car door on a very confused Gerwald.
As the car began to move off the she spoke again. “Forgive my impertinence sir, but your name, Gerwald, is most unusual, what is and what does it mean?”
“It’s my fathers idea, most people call me Gerry. He was in France during WWII and he delivered a baby for a couple, and they named the baby after him. He was carrying a bazooka at the time, and to them it looked like a spear. The name loosely translates to spear holder. He told the couple that he would name one of his sons that same name someday.” No mater how many times he told that story, he always said it with a hint of pride.
Gerwald had missed the draft although his two older brothers had served. He was the baby of six children, three brothers and three sisters spaced roughly 4 years apart. Four of them had birthdays in late April and one of his brothers had commented that dad must have had a thing for Bastille Day.
The car quickly and quietly pulled away from the curb and began to make its way to the highway. The driver spoke again, “You may as well make yourself comfortable Sir, this ride will be about an hour and a half depending on traffic, and there are still no interstates to where we are going."
That caught Gerwald by surprise, “Where are we headed?”
The driver looked up at that but kept her eyes on the road. “Just north and east of Austin sir, the roads are pretty good and it took me about ninety minutes to get here after I got told to go and fetch you. I went to school here and know the campus well and that’s why I was chosen. Everyone else was getting ready for the ceremony tonight.”
“Just what is it they want me to do?”
The driver again glanced up to look at him in the rear view mirror. “Just what you were told sir, music is an integral part of the ceremony and the thing quit just a few hours ago. The man who usually works on the Master's equipment is out of town and he could not find another person on short notice. Squire John remembered you and vouched for you so that’s why you are here.”
After taking a few moments to digest the tidbits of information she was giving her Gerwald finally asked “This all sounds very mysterious, can you tell me any more of what this ceremony is?” Gerwald finally asked.
She again looked up at him in the rearview mirror and he thought he saw a smile on her face begin to form. “No sir, but I think you will approve if you can get the sound system fixed. Squire John believes that you will enjoy what will happen this evening. The Master will postpone the event tonight until next week if you can't make things work. As it is he has delayed things until midnight in the belief thay you may be able to help.”
Again more questions than answers as the car slipped through the night. The night hid everything but the occasional road sign and billboard as it made its way through the dark.
There was very little traffic and the car was very quite inside. So quiet that the driver looked up when she heard his stomach when it began to make rumbling noises. Again she looked up at him in the rearview mirror. “If you need to stop, sir, I have been instructed to provide you with whatever you need, but if you will look in the compartment in the back of this seat you will find soft drinks, glasses, ice and a few snacks. This trip was laid on so fast I did not have time to stock it except for the ice. The light switch is to your left on the armrest.”
He began to fumble about and did find the switch and a small reading light came on over his head. He then found the small compartment built into the seat. Just as she had said he found some canned drinks, packages of cookies and crackers, a small ice bucket and some plastic cups all neatly packed in that little compartment. Again he smiled as remembered his father words, and a saying from his army days “Never give up a chance to eat, sleep, or pee, you never know when the next chance may come.”
He quickly opened a package of crackers and a coke and had a little snack then got his book and opened it as well. As he began to study the snacks all disappeared but left him feeling less hungry. His large frame and the constant exercise he did left him needing a lot of food. Normally the school provided him what he needed by way of the cafeteria. Although not the best it was usually plentiful and the athletes had diets they had to stick to within reason.
Between that and his studies, the time and the miles quickly slipped by and when he next looked up he saw that they were indeed on the outskirts of Austin. The car now was speeding up and slowing down as it hit urban traffic and made its way to its destination. He had quit reading now to pay attention to the roads and signs and still his mind turned around the various snippets of conversation his drive had provided.
Chapter 5. Two Tubes for the Master.
Soon enough the car pulled into a fairly exclusive subdivision. Although unfamiliar with real estate of this caliber, he soon recognized that the house must cost a bundle. His farmer’s eye quickly put the lot size here at about ten to twenty acres per house. Each lot was fairly well defined by fence lines, tree lines and shrubbery boundaries. There would be a lot of privacy here.
Although he could not see a lot in the dark, the streetlights and other lights here and there gave him a good idea of size. Outbuildings could be seen here and there and he had noticed a stable or two. The two-story house whose driveway he was now on was huge by comparison to anything he had ever been in. And it kept getting bigger as the car continued to make its way to the entryway. Soon the car stopped by the front door. The driver got out once again and opened the door for Gerwald. Then she took out his bag then went to the trunk and retrieved his tube caddy.
She then the picked up his things and said, “Follow me please, I will take you inside.”
He did follow her and she led him through the front door into a large foyer. She put down his bags and she pointed to a chair “Please be seated a moment while I tell the Master you are here.” She disappeared into one of the side rooms.
While he was waiting he began to take in his surroundings, In front of him a hall and a very ornate set of stairs that led up to what he assumed were the bedrooms. To his left off of the foyer was a library and office room. There were bookshelves that covered nearly all the available wall space and filled top to bottom with books. In the center of the room he could see a long table with six chairs with reading lights. One corner of the room had a massive desk although it was neat it showed the signs of use with a few loose papers and open books.
To his right what appeared to be a music room with a baby grand piano taking one corner of the room and couches chairs and other assorted furniture. What caught his eye here was the stereo. It all seemed to be built-in to one wall. Either side of the stereo equipment, more bookshelves filled with records and boxes of reel-to-reel tapes.
Despite being told to stay put, he wandered over to it and began to admire. He had not seen a setup this complete since he had toured the local radio station back home while in one of his electronics classes. Someone had cleverly hid the mounting racks in the wall with ornate wood molding. The wall hid two racks of equipment and he could see turntables, tape recorders, the amplifier, and a matching AM/FM receiver and a switching center that was well labeled and seemed to feed several sets of speakers all over the house.
While he was digesting this a deep resonate voice spoke up behind him. “I see you have found the patient.” Gerwald turned at this point to find a man he would guess in his early fifties and nearly as tall as he was staring at him intently. He was dressed in black slacks and a loose black shirt, black Wellington boots, and a black leather vest. Black hair that just showed touches of gray was a medium length and parted and combed neatly back and he looked like he had just got out of the barber’s chair. Gerwald held out his hand and shook his host’s hand.
“I am Garret Steele,” said his host “and welcome to my home. Never meet a boy from Texas that wouldn’t offer his hand first, glad you could come. I am sorry for having to drag you out like this but Squire John did assure me you could help tonight. We are having a party here tonight, of sorts.”
Gerwald's opinion of the man changed as he felt his grip, strong, firm, and hands that were callused in places and had known hard work, and still did from what he could tell. His opinion went up yet another notch when he did not turn it into a contest, as some of his football friends would have. It was warm and full of welcome and yet he felt a knuckle busting strength there that would have been vicious if turned loose. Gerwald could not explain it but he felt strength and control in that brief handshake.
“What can I do to help you get started?” asked his host. Gerwald looked at his host and the wall, and puzzled over how to remove the wood. “How does the trim come off?” he asked.
“Ah, something I do know something about,” he reached over to the trim and simply flipped the trim away, the trim that was covering the racks was attached to the rack on some kind of clever cabinet hinge. With that out of the way Gerwald had to smile. “Clever, whoever did this woodwork knew his business."
Steele grinned himself this time. “Thank you, one of my many passions is woodworking. That’s about the extent of what I know about this.”
Gerwald looked at the maze of equipment and quickly broke it down in his head. “Can you tell me what you think it's not doing? Is one channel not playing? Do the tape and turntable inputs work? I often find that the problem I am chasing is not the one that you were concerned about.”
Steele nodded at that. “ Good questions and very insightful, I might add. Yes, one channel is definitely dead for any input I might feed it, regardless of the set of speakers I might be trying to drive. I had some problem in the switching setup a couple of times but I don’t think that’s the problem this time. An engineer friend of mine who works at Motorola designed this and keeps it working for me, but he is out of town on business this week.”
While he was saying this he began to turn on the various pieces of equipment, and when the amp seemed to be warmed up he cycled the system through its inputs. One side did seem to be dead. Gerwald nodded and got out his screwdriver and removed the amp from the rack. After he had the cover open the problem was obvious. Four large tubes were against the rear wall and one of the output tubes was not emitting the warm orange glow of a heated tube. After checking the paper sticker in the cover that gave the locations and tube type numbers, he pulled a pair of tubes from his caddy. “These are matched pair of 6L6Bs. Only an audiophile will appreciate the difference.”
He inserted the tubes and when they had warmed up he got out a voltmeter and plugged it into a test point, then used a small screwdriver to adjust the grid balance of the dead left side. When the meter read zero he removed the meter then did the same procedure to the right side and lightly placed the cover back on. After seating the amplifier back in the rack he selected the receiver input and when he got output to both channels he looked again at his host. “Try it this time with a piece of music you know well.”
Steele quickly pulled a record from one of the shelves and began to set it up on the turntable. When the tone arm started to track Gerwald selected the turntable input.
Steele spoke again. “I was in New York when this was recorded, I know this piece of Bach very well.” As one of the Brandenburg concertos filled the room he closed his eyes and just listened for a minute. A smile began to spread across his face as he slowly opened is eyes again. ”May I ask what you just did?”
It was Gerwald’s turn to smile. “You did have a bad tube but by replacing them in pairs and balancing the output the result is free of distortion. You struck me as a person who took real joy in listening to music. I have re-balanced the other side as well.”
When he saw the smile he knew his host was happy and had begun to tighten everything back up. When the amp was back in the rack and the clever wood pieces flipped back into place he began to look at his host again. “I hate to do this but those tubes come dear. The factory matched pairs run $16 and I can’t get them locally. I order them as I need them.”
Steele looked at Gerwald hard and made a gesture with his hand as if to say insignificant. “And your time? How will I compensate you for that?”
It was Gerwald’s turn to smile. “Well sir, I’m hungry so if you could get me a good meal, I’ll call it square, I should tell you though I already ate all the snacks in your car.”
His host chuckled with that comment. “Students! I sometimes forget how it is to be young and on your own and with limited funds. Even a pack of cookies becomes currency.” Then he picked up a phone and hit a button at the bottom of the phone and it lit up at his touch.
“Shirley, A T-bone steak, baked potato and a salad for our guest.” Then he looked at his Gerwald and smiled “Medium on the steak?”
Gerwald nodded his head yes. Steele then he spoke again into the phone, “Medium, and salad and bread and a pot of cheese as quick as you can in the dining room. And a Coke, I think.
Then he turned back to look at Gerwald again. “Join me in the dining room. There will a place set for you in a few moments.” As he said this he was pointing to the next room. This room had a very long table that with ten chairs placed around it. More chairs were around the sides of the room as well as china cabinets, servers and sideboards. Gerwald guessed this was what was called a formal dining room.
Almost as he spoke another lovely girl walked through another door to the room carrying a serving tray with dishes, a large salad, and assorted salad dressings. She set this at a place near the head of the table to the right hand side. The head of the table he quickly saw was for his host.
The girl in the brief period of time she was in the room caught Gerwald’s attention. He had halfway expected someone in a maid’s outfit, but she was wearing something similar to a toga, but in blue. It was very short and worn off one shoulder. Another lovely girl, she was a little less than six foot tall and sweetly proportioned. Her long dark hair had been elaborately arranged high on her head. She was also wearing some kind of wide metal necklace around her throat with a single metal loop at its center.
After she set his place she quickly left with a brilliant smile for Gerwald and his host then left without saying a word. “Lovely, isn’t she.” Steele said. “But I would like to talk to you, so eat and let’s talk, your steak will be here in just a few minutes.”
Steele sat at the head of the table and began to ask Gerwald questions about his life, his parents his schooling and the football team. Some where in there he once again related how he came by his name. His host seemed very pleased by this for some reason.
The steak appeared a few minutes later and his host continued his questions. Gerwald had the vague impression he was in court and on the witness stand, as some of the questions seemed to be identical a couple times but at the same time subtlety different. The web of interrogation he wove around Gerwald seemed to leave no gaps. Gerwald frowned a couple times as the questions got personal but he humored his host. He wanted to ask his own questions but Steele had taken the offensive and left little room to slack his own curiosity. Besides he had yet to get the sixteen dollars from Steele. But in the tradition of Texas hospitality, he was sure he would be paid after he had finished his meal.
About the time he had finished his steak, the girl he had seen earlier appeared again. She removed his dishes and silverware and a caused a very large piece of pecan pie to appear, along with a large glass of milk. ”You need to keep you strength up,” his host said, then turned the conversation to the football team and the season they were having.
It was pleasant this time to talk about these things. Evidently his host had made up his mind about something during their previous talk. After giving his host his opinion about the chances that Oklahoma had against TAMU this year he found himself opening up to this man about a number of things.
When he finished his pie his host looked pleased as well. “Business first!” then slid a sealed envelope across the table to Gerwald, “For the parts and your time. Now I'll bet you have a few questions of your own, young man!”
“Yes sir I do, but first could tell me where the restroom is?"
His host stood up at this point. “Where are my manners. Of course young man, it's been hours for you and here I am prattling on. Follow me.” He led Gerwald to a lavishly appointed bathroom complete with a huge sunken tub. “I'll be waiting for you in the music room.” then disappeared back down the hall.
While he was relieving himself Gerwald opened the envelope. In contained five crisp twenty-dollar bills. “This was a man who believes in paying for what he gets.” Gerwald muttered while he put himself back together. Gerwald went back to the music room and his host seated him in a one of a pair of very comfortable large leather chairs.
Chapter 6. The Old Guard
After Gerwald sat down he looked at his host. He seemed comfortable now and seemed to have reached a decision. He looked at Gerwald. “Feeling better?” he asked.
“Yes sir, and I do have a lot questions, I’m not sure how to begin.” Gerwald said. “This whole evening seems to be out of a suspense novel.”
His host nodded. “I'll answer your questions my young friend, but first I'll need something from you.” He offered his hand across the small space between the chairs and Gerwald reached again to take it.
When he felt that strong grip again his host did not let go. “What I’m about tell you, what you see and hear here must stay here. Do I have your word on that?”
This took Gerwald back a bit, but his curiosity was too strong. He had heard a variation of this only a few times and it was usually associated when his father was making a binding agreement of some kind on crops or a financial arrangement of some kind. In the world he was raised, breaking his word, welching on a bet or cheating a friend was just not done. A man's word was indeed his bond. Steele had for the first time in life had asked Gerwald for his word as a man, and Gerwald knew this was not to be taken lightly.
“You have my word, sir.” He finally said after several seconds of hesitation. He realized then that there must have been more to this than meet the eye. His host was about to take him to places he had not been before.
“Good, I knew you would understand what that meant. Ask your questions, young squire, I’ll help you find the questions if you don’t know what to ask.”
Gerwald felt his hand released at this point and for some reason he felt as though he had just been granted his manhood. “What is going on here tonight?”
His host smiled. “Two separate ceremonies will take place tonight. For one, your friend John has finished a course of study with me. This is not something you will find in a college course catalog but something he sought out. Tonight he becomes a Master. The second ceremony is for a young lady, she has asked me for something and tonight it will be granted.”
Gerwald’s mind only latched on one word, “Master”. Just what did that mean in this context? He shook his head as he tried to sort out his thoughts. “Could you explain what’s going to happen to John?”
His host stood up and Gerwald began to stand as well but he was waved back into his chair. He began to pace back and forth a bit then began ”Let me preface that with a bit of explanation. First as you have told me your father was in WWII; I was also. I have always known privilege, young squire. My father was in the Texas senate and was a lawyer, and I was in law school when the war began and after finishing law school I joined the service. After OCS and Military Law school I was assigned to the general staff in Europe as a JAG officer. During my time in the service in England, I dealt daily with other officers and men of station and privilege as I went about my duties. I discovered that there are still are organizations there dedicated to several precepts where men and women are concerned. They still exist. One of the cheeky Brits saw something in me while I there and was brought into the world I am about to tell you about.”
He stopped his pacing at this point and looked at Gerwald. “I see in you, as I did in John, the same qualities, and it’s only because of John that you are here tonight. Shall I continue?”
Gerwald was fascinated with this man's story and began to understand why he felt like he was on the witness stand earlier. Whatever he was about to explain, this man took it very seriously. “Yes sir, please go on.”
He again smiled at Gerwald, ”Good, I do want you to remember that at this time in my life we were all in the military. Duty, Honor, Country, Discipline, Courage, were all words in our vocabulary. The world was at war, no one was sure we would see tomorrow. Death rained from sky in the form of bombs, later it was the V1s and V2s. Diving for a foxhole was a way of life when you heard the buzz bombs. I was prosecuting soldiers for things like cowardice and dereliction of duty. It was both the best and worst time of my life. When you had a chance to take pleasure it was with wild abandon.”
“There was a loose organization in Europe at the time simply known as the “The Old Guard”. It spanned many nations and oddly enough was partly of German origin. It was dedicated to the belief that there were dominant men and women in the world just as there were submissive men and women. Both were cultivated and trained in a way that agreed with their nature. It was not that there was a Master Race or the other filth that the Germans were preaching at the time. Just that there was a natural order of things.”
He stopped at this point and looked at Gerwald hard, “You told me you have worked on a farm most of you life. You have worked with horses and cattle, what other animals have you helped care for or raise?”
Gerwald had to think about that. “Pigs both domestic and wild, rabbits, chickens, goats and once a trio of ostriches and I helped a neighbor once with some burros.”
Steele was nodding his head every time he mentioned a different animal. “Regardless of species what did you notice, was there ever a common theme in the way they behaved.”
Gerwald knew what his host was asking but had a hard time verbalizing what he had seen over the years, it suddenly crystallized for him in one statement. “Yes there was always a struggle for dominance, usually one male of the bunch won. But I have seen the female win especially when a baby was involved.”
Again his host was nodding his head in agreement. “Yes, if you are like me, you have seen stallions fight until only one was dominant. Then the dominant male would corner the fillies he desired. She would resist to the last but when she submitted and gave herself to the dominant stallion never did you see a more contented filly. The same thing happens with cattle. I’ll bet you have seen male burros fight for dominance, and if you didn’t separate them in time the dominant male would castrate the loser, denying the loser a chance to breed. And I'll bet you have seen a rooster breaking eggs because he didn’t want the one of those eggs to become his competition. Do you think homo sapiens, the most evolved species on the planet is really any different?”
Gerwald was slow in answering but finally said “No sir. I don’t really think so.”
Steele began to pace again. “OK, I digressed a little but you have seen examples in nature, I could continue and site other examples from deer to mountain goats to bear, but back to my explanation.”
He stopped his pacing a minute and looked Gerwald square in the eye, Gerwald returned this gaze evenly. “The Guard looked for people who had a tendency to be dominant or submissive. When they were found they were brought into the periphery of the organization and felt out. Those who passed muster were brought into things deeper. They were taught and trained in arts going back thousands of years. It has a name today brought to us by psychiatrists and it is at this point considered an aberration in the psyche. It is called domination, bondage, and sadomasochism or BDSM.”
When Gerwald did not flinch or break eye contact Steele smiled and nodded his head as if he was pleased with some inner decision. He began to pace again as he continued his story. “I have to admit that that I had a problem with this in the beginning. Bear in mind that I was a military lawyer at the time, and referring to some one as a slave bothered me. But also remember at this time the draft was in full force and was involuntary servitude of sorts. I had very hard time reconciling the two but I did come to terms with it after being brought in deeper. The major difference being that this was indeed a personal choice rather than an accepted institution. Every thing was consensual between people who decided to pursue this. At the time the Germans were on their scapegoat kick and were herding up Jews and killing them by the millions. It was so easy at the time to see things in terms of black and white, good and evil.”
He stopped again and looked at Gerwald. “Forgive me, but sometimes my passions sweep me away. You are at this point wanting to know why you are here and what I want with you.”
Gerwald nodded yes and his host continued. “I do in the tradition of the guard take on several young men a year to teach and train as I was. If you are interested in this I will continue. If not I will show you to a bedroom where you can study or watch TV, sleep or whatever amuses you. Time grows short. I'll leave you a few minutes now to attend to some preparations. When I come back I’ll need a decision from you.”
Gerwald had been up to this point so entranced by his host’s story that he had not said anything. “What decision is that, sir?” he finally asked. His host once again nodded understanding.
“At this point it’s to stay and learn more or leave and keep what I have revealed to you to yourself. An opportunity like this is rare so think carefully.” Steele finally said, then excused himself and left the room, leaving Gerwald to his thoughts.
Things were moving so fast that he had not had a chance to sort out things. But he would have to make up his mind and quickly. It seemed simple enough at first glance. He somehow felt he was at a major crossroads in his life and this decision would have far-reaching implications.
End of part 1