Albert Giordino trudged across the gangway leading from the top of the dry dock to the deck of the Deep Encounter, lugging an old-fashioned steamer trunk over a burly shoulder. The sides of his shoulder were covered with colorful labels advertising hotels and countries around the world. … He paused at the top of the gangway and dropped his load on the desk. My God, the contempt. And the hygiene.

Giordino’s shoulders were almost as wide as his body was tall. At five feet four inches and a hundred and seventy-five pounds, he was all muscle. His Italian ancestry was apparent in his olive skin, broad back covered with black curly hair and tattoos of The Madonna, walnut-colored eyes and appetite for systemic corruption. Gregarious, sarcastic and jovial, his cutting humor often made those in his presence either laugh or cringe. Right, so he’s “gregarious, sarcastic and jovial”, but not funny.

Here he is, the man Dirk Pitt® has been waiting for. He makes quite an entrance, and being all muscle as he is I’m sure you’ll agree, whether you want him to or not. For his part, Pitt® tries to show disdainful self-control when he finds his old pal has arrived – the coy minx. You may think that I’m jumping to conclusions here, but… really, it’s as plain as the nose on my face.

“Can you restrain yourself?” Pitt® said in mock seriousness. “We don’t take kindly to barbarians coming aboard an elegant vessel.” Pitt* felt the pulse throbbing in his throat and thought, You can come aboard my eleg-

“In that case, you’re in luck,” said Giordino with a timely interruption, flashing a vast smile. “You could use a vulgar rowdy to liven up the place.” Pitt* felt faint. But he liked it.

“Stay put,” Pitt® said, liberally splashing on the Old Spice. “I’ll come down.”

In a minute they were unashamedly embracing like the old friends they were. And that’s okay. There is no shame in this. Though Giordino was three times stronger smelling, Pitt® always delighted in lifting the shorter man off the ground. Oh, how sweet. A euphemism.

We should really let these two get reacquainted in privacy, you’d think, but Dirty Ol’ Clive insists on stalking them back first  to Giordino’s cabin, and then Pitt®‘s. Along the way they discuss the collapse of his engagement (or, to put it another way, his heterosexual cover story), then the newcomer is forced to give his friend “a look of genuine respect and admiration” for his continued selfless avoidance of reward and recognition (although Cussler shows admirable restraint by not telling us yet again what for – I feel this is a significant personal breakthrough for him).

Massively dating himself in the process Giordino says of Pitt®, “You always play Humble Herbert. That’s what I like about you.” But IS that what he likes about Pitt®? IS it? I think there’s something more. And I think it’s more than reciprocated. It’s there for all to see. You just have to read between the lines. Go on, try. Here, take this passage (if you’ll pardon my phrasing) in which our man and his man discuss the mysteriously empty briefcase of Doctor Egan. I think.

Giordino picked it up and ran his fingers over the leather of the CASE, Jesus. “Fine grain. Quite old. German made. Egan had good taste.”

“You want it? You can have it.” You just need to ask me for it. Ask me. Beg me. God, talk dirty.

Giordino sat back down again and set the leather case on his lap. “I have a thing about old luggage.”

“So I’ve noticed.” Said “the old luggage”. Cute pet name.

Maintaining the metaphor, Giordino unlatched the catches and lifted open the lid – and nearly two quarts of oil flowed out into his lap and onto the carpet covering the deck. This is clear, I hope: the previously empty old luggage has ejected an unexpected quantity of non-specific oily fluid into the lap of another man. I mean “of a man”. These are the true joys of literature, in which powerful, unspoken meaning can be communicated to the reader through even the most mundane of everyday descriptions. Magical. He sat there in mute surprise as it soaked his pants legs and pooled on the carpet. After the shock faded, he gave Pitt® a very acidic look indeed.

“Owh my Gawd, you complete bitch, look at me, owh, I’m a mess, mmm, let me just, mmm…”

No question, right? No doubts out there, right? Women In Love, right?