Behind Door Number Two
"He's coming back." Drew put down the phone and looked at Bob. "How should we play this?"
"I feel a little awkward about rummaging through his wallet but we needed to verify that it was his."
"Don't feel guilty. We had to make sure it was Cray's before I called him. You didn't count on the two driver's licenses sliding out. The whole thing concerns me."
"It's not that strange for a young guy to be carrying two I.D.'s. I had a fake driver's license when I was in college," Bob replied with a shrug.
"That's the point. You used a fake to show you were 21 and legal to buy beer. What I don't like is Cray being 16 with a Utah license, and 18 with a Nevada one. And if you look very closely at the Nevada license in bright light and study it, you can tell it's not real. That's another thing: the forgery was really well-done."
"Then we should invite the guy in and have a little clarifying conversation." Bob stood and continued, "In the meantime, I'm going to give the kitchen a little spit and polish."
"You do that and I'll tidy up out here."
The guys were just finishing their cleanup chores when the doorbell rang. Drew walked to the door and Bob turned off the kitchen light. As Bob sat down on the couch, Drew opened the front door and greeted the teen. "Hey, bud. You made it back pretty fast."
"I didn't want to keep you up waiting on me. The wallet must have slipped out of my back pocket," Cray said as he stepped into the apartment. His expression was a mixture of embarrassment and relief.
"I can appreciate that. Having to replace all your I.D.'s and stuff is time consuming. Come on in and sit down." Drew gestured to the couch. 'This kid is definitely out of sorts about us finding his wallet and what's inside,' he thought.
"I really should be getting back and return the car." Cray walked into the room and his eyebrows momentarily furrowed. "You seniors probably need to get to bed," he nervously quipped with a small smile that suddenly disappeared when the front door clicked closed from behind him.
"Hey, wise guy, it'll be several years yet before we'll be seeing a Social Security check. There's just a few things Drew and I need to discuss with you, first," Bob said as he stood and held out the wallet. "Then you can be on your way."
"Um, yeah...okay." Cray walked over to Bob and took his wallet. Without looking, he put it back in his pants pocket before sitting down at the same time as Bob did.
"First, I want you to understand we weren't prying or purposely rummaging around in your wallet. Bob thought it best to check the I.D.'s to make sure it was yours. What was a surprise were the two driver's licenses. I must tell you, Cray, it's rather unusual for someone your age to carry a fake."
"It's not a fake," Cray shot back. I..."
"Whoa...slow down." Drew looked at the teen in a serious but non-threatening manner. "I didn't just fall off the proverbial turnip truck. Las Vegas, warts and all, has been part of me for ten years. I haven't seen it all, but I've observed some pretty goofy things. Being in the casino resort business has given me a keen perspective for what's on the level - your Nevada license is not legit." Drew decided to take a firm approach and shake the teen's thin veil of confidence. He noted Cray's look of defeat and added a little softly, "I'm 28 and Bob's 25. We're not that much older than you and would like to help...if you'll let us."
"We're assuming that 16 is your real age?" Bob asked. He reached over and placed his hand on the youth's shoulder.
"Um...yeah...16," Cray mumbled as he looked up - first at Bob, then Drew. "You goin' to turn me in?"
"First of all, being 16 isn't illegal. Just a pain in the butt," Drew said with a little laugh. "Second, consider this a safe place. Unless you've committed a crime, what is said here goes no further."
"You won't do nuthin'? Like making me go back to..."
"Why don't you tell us what's happening. First, I assume that Cray Gamble is your real name and your home prior to coming to Vegas was Provo?" Drew smiled and looked deep into Cray's eyes.
"Yep...that's me - 16 and scared shitless about what I did. But you two seem like good guys and maybe I should trust someone."
"Take your time. It's still pretty early," Bob added.
Cray took another deep breath and gave the two older guys a thumbnail history of the first years of his life. A few tears trickled down his cheeks when he got to the part of his real dad's disappearance when he was eight and how his mom re-married two years later. Slowly, the story of his stepdad and the unwanted sexual advances were revealed. Cray started shaking and crying as he told of the events leading up to his escape and eventual arrival in Las Vegas. Without mentioning names, he shared his good luck finding someone who could make the forged driver's license and the group of guys with whom he was staying. He made a special point to emphasize how well he had been treated. Cray shrugged, slumped back into the couch and stared blankly at the coffee table.
"Buddy, that's quite a story." Bob scooted closer and put his arm around the teen. At first, Cray instinctively tried to pull away but almost as abruptly leaned into Bob. "There ya go...just a little reassurance. That's all. You can trust Drew and me on all fronts."
"I guess I know that. It's just kinda tough to trust anyone, but I'm givin' it my best shot." Cray looked up at Bob and smiled weakly.
"Do you mind answering a few questions? I just want to understand things better." Drew pulled forward and rested his arms on his legs.
"As best I can," Cray replied as he wrinkled his nose and sniffed.
"I couldn't help but notice that you barely mentioned your mother. Where does she fit in the picture? Don't you think she's worried about your leaving?" Drew thought that Bob's arm draped around the teen was very touching.
"She couldn't care less about me. I thought when I was younger that she blamed me for my daddy vanishing. But I was a good kid and always minded him. Now, I'm pretty sure that I wasn't supposed to come along and I just cramped her style. The corker was telling her about what Gene was doing to me. She was more concerned about the rent being paid than confronting the guy. To my knowledge, she never did." Cray sighed and snuggled closer to Bob.
"Hey, pal, we're here for ya." Bob squeezed harder for emphasis. "I believe you."
"Me, too. But let's move forward to what's happening now." Drew thought it best to veer away from Cray's painful memories. "Who exactly introduced you to Galaxy Services and who are you living with?"
"They won't get into trouble?" Cray asked as his eyes widened. He sat up and added, "Mario and everybody's been really good to me."
"Not at all. In fact, it seems like you lucked out with the people you met. A kid - if you'll excuse the expression - like you would be lunchmeat in the wrong crowd. Now, if you don't mind, tell me about Mario. Let's start with his last name."
"Mario...Cirillo. He met me at the bus station." Cray paused for a moment, crossed one leg tightly over the other, hugged his knee and continued, "Mario originally asked me if I wanted to work for him as...an escort...for men." His eyes darted back and forth between the two adults. "I told him 'no thanks', I wasn't interested. When I mentioned that I was only 16 and needed a Nevada driver's license to find work, Mario said that he couldn't use me since I was still a minor."
"Valid point. Why a fake I.D.?" Bob asked.
"So I could get a real job - something not illegal. If I'm 18, I don't need any special work permits from a school. Mario told me he could help me get the license and that was that."
"Well, I don't necessarily approve of the way Mr. Cirillo makes his living but he gets two gold stars for having backed away from recruiting you once he knew how old you are. So he got you lined up with someone to make the I.D. and found you a job?" Drew made sure his body language communicated an open mind and acceptance. And he certainly didn't introduce the 'G' word or get into the exact nature of Cirillo's business at this moment.
"Actually, the guy who did the license has a cousin who runs Galaxy." Cray suddenly stopped and frowned. "I probably shouldn't mention any names."
"Relax, I don't want to know who the forger is and I'm sure you're talking about Manny...the manager of Galaxy. He and I speak almost on a daily basis."
"Oh, please don't let him know we talked...I don't want to get into trouble."
"Cray, Drew and I are not going to do anything to get you into trouble. I don't think Drew would mind me saying that the company we both work for also owns Galaxy. And Drew's pretty high in the organization." Bob smiled, got up and added, "I'm going to get a beer. How about you, babe?"
"A beer and another Coke for our friend," Drew replied with a wink and watched Bob walk away. "In the meantime, let me get this straight: you're living at Mario's house and there's an older guy who runs the household? Sounds pretty ritzy."
"I don't know what the deal is, exactly. It's a pretty big place and has a nice pool in the back. Mario's boss is a man by the name of Mighty Joe."
"Joe Strollo? He's, ah...involved in a lot of businesses," Drew said as he kept his eye contact and expressions steady. 'Holy crap, he thought, 'young Cray has tapped into some heavy-duty players. About two degrees of separation between Strollo and my boss.'
"One of the other guys who lives there said this Mighty Joe guy is pretty powerful around town. I've never met him. Mario told me that he's sort of an assistant for Mighty Joe."
"How many live in the house?" From the story, Drew judged this must be a pretty upscale callboy operation.
"Six young guys who...work, you know...are escorts for clients around town at the hotels. Then there's Mario and the man who supervises the house - Mr. Ed. He's a very cool, older gentleman who's really taken me under his wing. I earn my room and board by helping him three hours or so a day. It's real neat. I've got a room next to Mr. Ed's apartment on the back of the garage building and have all the privacy I want. No one tries to...you know...mess around with me. I think Mario made it clear to everyone that he thinks of me as a younger brother."
"I heard you from the kitchen," Bob said as he set down the drinks. "You really fell into quite a deal."
"It also sounds like you're becoming pretty wise at a young age living around those other guys." Drew's eyebrows arched as he took a sip of beer. "I'm not being judgmental. Just hope you continue to keep your distance from those guys' professional lives. It's certainly nothing you want to do. Do you?"
"I'm only a kid, as you said, but I certainly don't want to do that at any time...even after I'm really 18."
"You don't want to do that for pay...or you don't want to do that, period." Drew decided it was time to explore Cray's attitude towards homosexuality.
"Neither," Cray said defensively. "No way."
"No way? You're pretty sure you're not gay?" Drew asked softly.
"No...at least I don't think so. Christ, what do I know? I'm only...16." Cray looked at Drew and added, "I really haven't dated very much and the stuff Gene made me do was pretty gross. I dunno...I've been thinking that it was gross because of who he was. There were a couple of guys at school that I would have liked to..." Cray abruptly stopped and looked down at the floor. "I guess I not answering to your question very well. You think I'm gay?" he mumbled.
"From what you've said? Not really. There's always some natural curiosity guys have about other guys when puberty hits. And it's not unusual for guys to fool around with each other. For most it's a phase. For others, like Bob and me, it was an affirmation of our sexual orientation. As far as what happened with Gene, that's plain sexual abuse - period - and you were the victim. You understand what your stepdad did was criminal, right? You weren't to blame."
"Yeah. I need to keep reminding myself of that. Kinda like those priests, huh?" Cray looked up and blinked rapidly.
"That's a good analogy, buddy. If you ever want to talk about any of this, contact us."
"I've got a lot of thinking to do," Cray replied. He looked up and added, "This whole thing is between us...right? I'm trusting you not to tell anyone."
"The only person I'd tell is Bob and he's right here. Hear me out so we can think through the next step. Because, at 16, there is a next step," Drew said.
"You're ready to start your junior year of high school. Right? Somehow, we need to make that happen. Bob, don't you agree?"
"Absolutely. You need to finish high school and then figure out if you're material for college. College or finding a good trade is a must as you enter your adult years."
"Or a combination of both. As an example, if you want to be a chef, what better place than Vegas? UNLV has a great hospitality program and you know there's one hotel that would hire you," Drew said with a smile.
"Wait a minute...I can't go to school and also support myself. And I certainly don't know how I'm going to get my papers from Provo. Man, I knew I shouldn't have told you," Cray said with a touch of desperation in his voice. "I gotta go," he said as he rose.
"Trust me," Drew replied as he got out of the easy chair. "Cray, that's all I ask. Bob and I want to be your friends. You could probably survive until you're actually 18. But that's about it, bud. Just think of being 18 and with a tenth grade education. Unless you want to clean toilets for the rest of your life - or be a boy toy hooker to make a living - you need to let us help you." Drew walked over to the teen and continued, "It probably is best we end this conversation...but only for tonight. I've got some real ideas on how to help you stay in Vegas and get an education. You really don't want to walk away from school, do you?"
"No. I...I guess you're right. It's just been so confusing these past few weeks. I had to get away from all that crap back in Utah." Cray wiped his eyes and inhaled a final sniffle. "What do I do now?"
"You go home and we'll figure out a few things. Don't be alarmed but I do want you to know I'm going to call Mario and seek out his advice on how to help you better." Drew paused to observe Cray's reaction to this. Before he could utter a word, Drew added, "He's been a great friend for you and I want to meet this guy who's looked after you rather than throwing you to the wolves."
"Sh...should I say anything to him? Let him know you're going to call?" Cray licked his lips, shifted his weight and blinked rapidly.
"Probably a good idea. Just tell him we know of your home situation and want to help keep you in Vegas - legally. No reason to tell him that we know about his business or how you got that I.D. That's small potatoes in the big picture. Okay?" Drew walked up and pulled Cray into a close hug. "I know we're going to have to earn your trust. Let's take it one day at a time.
"Yes, Sir," Cray mumbled. He returned the hug and turned on a broad smile before pulling back. "I guess the only thing I can say is thanks, guys." He waved with a sweep of his hand, opened the front door and walked out into the dark, warm August evening.
"Shit, that was heavy," Bob said as he walked up to Drew. "What's up your sleeve?"
"I'll do a little research and find out if everything we've been told is kosher. But basically I want us to help Cray...if we can. Do you agree?"
"He's worth the effort and I'm with you on this."
"Give me a few days, then, to work up a detailed plan for you to consider. And if you don't like it, we'll come up with a plan 'B'."
"Okay. I'll let you do your thing. Now, do I get my good night hug, daddy?"
"Hug? That's just for openers." Drew wrapped his arms around Bob and planted a solid kiss on his partner's warm lips. He breathed deeply and forged an opening with his tongue. As they had done hundreds of times, the two lovers dueled and darted while they ground their stirring crotches together.
"Hon, I think that we should set the alarm, turn off the lights and head off to never-never land. I have an urge to get out of my clothes and attack you," Bob growled. He leaned over and gently chewed on Drew's earlobe before tongue-swabbing his ear.
"As long as 'never-never land' is the king bed back yonder." Drew reached behind and pinched Bob's behind.
"Definitely...the king bed. By the way, have I told you I love you recently?"
"Bob, baby, it's probably been at least eight hours. Love you, forever."
Personal thoughts - about the past, present and future - swarmed and swirled in Cray's mind while he drove back to Mario's house. Images of his real daddy seemed so distant and his mother was a non-issue. Cray had been aware as a little kid that she wasn't dependable. His memories of her as the anchor of his early life blurred when Gene entered the picture. The stepdad muddied the already troubled waters as he forced his demands on Cray to satisfy a twisted sexual appetite. 'What a friggin' asshole,' he thought as he sped down the quiet avenue eerily lit by pools of orange-amber overhead streetlights. 'I hope I never see his ugly face again.'
The more recent part of his life fast-forwarded to the experiences of a few hours earlier. A frown crept over his face as he replayed the night's confrontation with Drew and Bob. 'I don't have much choice in trusting them. Drew's a big deal and could really screw me over if I did something stupid. But something tells me that they really are what they appear to be - two honest guys who want to help. Well, two hot, honest guys,' Cray thought as he rubbed his awakening dick that was nestled behind his briefs and shorts.
He had never considered what it was like to be gay and to be with another guy as a...wife, partner, lover...what? 'Man, talk about confusing. And they butt-fuck plus everything else? Jeez,' he considered with a frown. 'But they are cute together.' His focus on Drew and Bob sent a series of 'I.M.'s' to his lower body. Within moments, the firmness of his erection struggled - pleaded - to be released. Cray cautiously proceeded along the vacant street and reached under his shorts. With a little more work, he pulled his cock loose from his briefs. 'Oh, yeah,' he thought with a sigh. He cautiously drove another couple of blocks while he rotated his thumb around the tender glans and the 'feel good' spot nearby. Slick secretions aided his efforts.
'This ain't working. Need to do it right.' He slowed down and the Honda came to a stop at a dark curb space between two streetlights. Cray looked around to be sure no one was nearby. Except for an occasional car, he was very alone. He smiled as he unbuttoned and unzipped his shorts. With a little adjustment, he pulled his briefs down to expose a very hard penis. 'Oh, yeah...much better.' He started the familiar hand motions that were now a part of his daily life...at least once a day. With one eye on the rearview mirror, his thoughts returned to images of men. Mario - with his smile and dark hair - came into focus. This was a replay of the morning they were together in his bedroom. Cray's breathing was rapid as he again saw Mario take off his dirty boxer shorts and let his manhood fall free.
The jacking intensity increased and Cray's mental image moved to a very buff and hung Spike. 'Whoa, what's that all about?' he wondered. His other friend was laughing and joined him in the jerk. Breathing became irregular and his pelvis started thrusting forward as his muscles tensed. 5% of Cray's brain knew that he was about to shoot a big one and needed to keep his imaginary jerk-off buddy's car clean. "Ahhh," he audibly groaned as bells and whistles mentally announced the electric charge that swept through his body. Cray cupped his free hand around the head of his agitated dick and let loose. One, two, three...by the time he had finished the several mini-orgasms that followed, a pool of warm semen had been captured. He looked around before extending his hand outside the open window to shake the excess spooge free. He pulled his hand back in, looked closely at his still-coated palm and licked off the remainder. After adjusting his deflating package, Cray zipped up his shorts, started the car and eased onto the empty street. 'A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do,' he decided. A small smile broke out into a full-fledged grin.
Two turns later and he pulled into the driveway of Mario's home. For the second time, he put the keys to the Honda in Spike's empty, unoccupied bedroom. Before he returned to his room for the evening, Cray stopped by the kitchen for a midnight raid of the fridge. He was sitting on the counter, chewing a cookie, when he heard the back door's lock unlatch. The guessing of who had come home ended when Mario walked in. Cray smiled as he eased off the counter.
"Cookies and milk time?" Mario said with a laugh. He made a fist and the two tapped each other.
"Even after a great meal...I couldn't resist." Cray looked at his host and admired the casual, masculine image before him. Mario was wearing a black pair of jeans and a white sleeveless tee - both as tight as could be worn. The ensemble was touched off by a silver and turquoise leather-tooled belt and black boots. 'Definitely a cool dude,' he thought, as his eyes briefly checked out the tightly packed crotch.
"How was dinner with this guy, Drew Reichardt, and his friend?"
"Bob Harrington is his boyfriend," Cray replied. "Pretty serious about each other. I really enjoyed getting to know them - like new friends. And they seemed to be interested in me as a friend, too."
"I don't know too much about those guys but I'm told they're both square-shooters. So they didn't try to get in your pants?" Mario asked with a chuckle as he walked over to the refrigerator.
"Come on...that's not funny. Drew and Bob really are a very tight couple. It really was like being with two married people. They're pretty neat." Cray couldn't help but briefly imagine the two men with sweat-glazed bodies going at each other like street dogs in heat.
"Relax, buddy. I was just pulling your chain. You've made a really good connection with the legit side of this town." Mario retrieved a bottle of water and closed the fridge door. He twisted the cap off and took a long swallow.
"I know. Um, I need to mention something to you." Cray felt his stomach muscles tighten as he carefully formulated his words. "They know about the problems with my stepdad and want to help clear the road for me to go to school." He looked at Mario and held his breath.
"Really? How exactly did that happen?" Mario asked without changing the inflection in his voice.
"I did a careless, dumb thing. My wallet fell out of my pants and I didn't realize it until after I left. I returned to their house to get it back. In the meantime, they found it and discovered the two I.D.'s. I swear I didn't mention how I got the fake I.D. - they weren't interested in that. Only that I was really only 16 and in Vegas."
"Mario, I'm so confused. You've been great to me. I told them how you helped me out and gave me a place to stay and all. Drew said he'd like to call you and figure out how he can get me into the school system. I guess I need all my high school records from Provo and that's a problem." Cray looked down at the floor and didn't know how to continue the conversation. He decided to let the chips fall and wait for Mario to speak. He looked up and watched his older friend take another swig from the water bottle.
"So, you gave him my number?"
"Naw...I forgot to. It just slipped my mind in all the confusion of what was going down. Should I give it to him tomorrow at work? I hope you're not pissed at me."
"Pissed? Never. This guy, Drew, is just accelerating things that probably need to be done. Actually, I think it's better if I call him. You know, kid, this could be a good thing for you. Let's face it...my life and business isn't exactly what you would call pristine," Mario said. "If we can get you set up with something that legally makes you a Nevada resident, so be it. Just remember that I'm not a friend who's here one day and gone the next. You understand that, right?" Mario walked up to Cray, placed his hand on the teen's shoulders and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"Never have had any doubts since we met. I just wanted to let you know what's happening. Part of me is relieved cuz I want to trust them - like I do you. There's just so much going on in my mind." Cray was unsuccessful in holding back his tears. He involuntarily grabbed Mario and started sobbing. "I just...oh shit...this isn't happening like I wanted it to. I'm just being a big sissy about this."
"Sissy, nothing. You're just showing the emotions of a strong guy who's had to deal with a lot of crap. Let it go...let it loose. Ole Mario's got a strong shoulder to lean on. And from what you've told me, it sounds like Drew and Bob are also going to cover your backside." Mario held Cray close until he calmed down.
"Thanks. I hate to say, 'I needed that', but I did. So you'll call Drew in the morning?"
"Don't hold me to making the call early, but I will call him before noon. Why don't you write down all of your old Provo contact numbers and info? You know, your mom and stepdad's full name, home address, telephone number and details from Provo High like the principal's name, home room teacher and anybody you can remember who works in the high school office. When you finish the list, slip it under the bedroom door before you go to bed. I've got a few ideas on how to expedite this. Anything else on your mind before I call it a night?"
"I'll do that right now. Whew. This has been quite a night. I hope you get to meet Drew and Bob in an unofficial way, you know? You're all becoming very special to me." Cray leaned in and kissed Mario lightly on the lips. He smiled and added, "That's called S.W.A.K. - 'Sealed With A Kiss'."
"I know the expression...and I accept. Now scoot. Tomorrow will be here soon enough." Mario patted Cray on the back and walked out of the kitchen.
Cray took a few blank sheets of writing paper and reconstructed all of the pertinent data concerning his recent life in Provo. As he wrote down the information, vivid pictures of the people back in Utah floated by in his mind. Fifteen minutes later, he walked down the hallway and slipped the paper under Mario's door.
A feeling of emotional re-birth swept through Cray's body as he walked outside and to his room. A sense of family - something that had eluded him for a long time - was shaping in his mind. To have three adults going to bat for him, without looking for something in return, was exhilarating. He slowly took off his clothes and went into the bathroom to take care of his pre-bedtime routine. As he brushed his teeth, Cray looked into the mirror and felt satisfied with himself for the first time in several years.
"Shit," Drew said to himself as he sat at his desk in the empty office. "How could my financial forecast be so far off?" He paged through the massive computer printout and read Nick Maggiano's marginal notations in red. Almost immediately he realized that he had used an old set of room rate averages and catering revenues. He turned to find the spreadsheets on his computer when the intercom telephone line rang.
"Yes?" He looked at the clock and noticed it was almost time for lunch.
"A Mr. Cirillo is here asking for you. Says he has an 11:30 appointment but I don't see anything in your log."
"My fault. I only spoke to the gentleman yesterday and forgot to mention it. Please send him right in." Drew turned off his computer screen and stood as the stranger with dark, slicked back hair walked into the office. He was immediately impressed with Mario's confident bearing and understated, casual clothing. Drew walked around the desk and extended his hand. A very firm grip matched his.
"Mr. Reichardt, thanks for making time to see me," Mario said with a smile.
"First, it's Drew, please." He gestured for his guest to take a seat at the small conference table. "May I call you Mario?" He reached into a small refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of water.
"That's what I'm usually called...or worse." Mario nodded when the water was placed in front of him. He sat down and loosened the bottle cap.
"Good...that's out of the way," Drew replied. He joined Mario at the table and also opened his bottle. He took a short sip and looked at Mario. "First, let me say I'm very impressed how you helped out young Cray when he arrived in Vegas. I guess I don't have to tell you that in someone else's hands it could have been a bad deal for him?"
"Meaning?" Mario raised an eyebrow and took a drink.
"Meaning I did a little research before our meeting. I'm aware, Mario, of your, ah...business activities and there's no offense intended. This is a crazy town and I don't judge what other people do for a living. I'm sure that the bible-thumpers would love to tar and feather me because of my involvement in a new casino." He paused for his statement to be digested by his guest. Mario's hand lightly tapped the table while his dark, green eyes gazed intently at Drew.
"Research, eh? So you're aware of..."
"That you're originally from New Jersey, honorably served in the U.S. Marines and now are a business associate of Joe Strollo."
"Yeah...Semper fuckin' Fi and proud of it. But I don't think Mr. Strollo would be too excited if he knew he was being investigated by anyone."
"Nothing personal. I needed to figure out who all the players were."
"Joe Strollo has nothing to do with Cray. I don't think he even knows the kid exists. Please keep his name out of this. My boss is very private."
"Mario, give me a little credit for knowing how it goes down in this town. Let's just acknowledge that we both know who the big guys are in Vegas and leave it at that." Drew decided to let that fact lie on the table for digestion. 'If this guy's as smart as I think,' he thought, 'he'll figure out that we might have a couple of things in common.'
"I get the picture and like your style, Drew. Subtle as a ton of bricks." Mario smiled and sipped more water.
"Thanks, I think." Drew shrugged and continued, "My reason for us talking is to get to know each other and figure out how to help Cray get on with his life. We really salute you and the way you've looked after the guy. The problem is that he needs to continue his education and at least get his high school degree."
"The 'we', being your boyfriend, Bob?" Mario asked with a slight smile. "Cray mentioned that you two entertained him at dinner the other evening."
"Yes. Bob Harrington...my life partner. That's when we found out that Cray is only 16. The challenge, as we see it, is to legally get him registered in Green Valley High School in two weeks so he can enter his junior year. Among other things, we need a transcript from the Provo school plus proof of various immunizations the county requires. I did a Google search for the particulars."
"Plus a permanent home address and guardians. I don't mind having the kid live at my place for a while but I can't risk having my name dragged into the process. As you're also aware, I wouldn't be judged to be proper parental material," Mario said with a chuckle.
"Understand. But from what I've been told, you would do a great job. Cray thinks you walk on water. Let me be frank: do you think you could come up with Cray's transcripts and files from Provo High School? If we can be a little creative with an address and get him in school, I've got some ideas about how to deal with a permanent home for the guy."
"Creativity, I'm good at. As far as the papers from Utah are concerned, I've already made a few phone calls and have a plan for getting those files from the school. Drew, I think that we can work together. Honestly, I've gotten very attached to the guy...as a brother, almost. But I also know that harboring an underage minor is something that I can't risk for the long haul."
"If you can help from that end, I'll see what I can accomplish on providing Cray with an official home." Drew was mindful not to ask too many questions of Mario. Among other things, he knew this man was results-driven...whatever the means. "You know, I'd like you to meet Bob. Maybe we can go over to Bellagio's Prime Steakhouse Thursday night? My shopping allowance could use a hit," Drew said.
"I never turn down free eats and would enjoy meeting Bob. Could we make it a little early? I've got some business to attend to after 8:30." Mario raised his eyebrow and grinned.
"That works well for both of us. I'm going to be packing all my office stuff tomorrow. Same with Bob. Everything will be moved to the new hotel tower over the weekend. How about we meet at the Prime around six on Thursday? That'll give us plenty of time to eat and get to know each other better," Drew said as he stood up. "I gotta get back to the paper shuffling. Once this situation is resolved, I have a feeling we could all be good friends."
"Ditto." Mario stood and extended his hand again. The men silently shook and Mario walked out of the office.
Drew felt that the initial meeting had been a success and decided it was time to call his personal lawyer to find out what needed to be done so that Cray could officially become a Nevada resident.