Castle Roland

Dessert Fantasies

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 5

Posted: N/A

Details, Details

Cray finished replacing the books on the shelves in the living room and stood back to judge his cleaning efforts. Mr. Ed had given him a detailed list of work to do around the house by priority over the next couple of days. But he was really more concerned about how the dinner meeting had gone between Mario and the guys at the Bellagio the previous evening. By the time Cray had gotten up, Mario had already gone somewhere. He had found a message that had been slid under his door. It was from Mario and it said, "Really like Drew and Bob. Out of town for a few days on business. See you when I return, M."

As he dwelled on his memories of meeting Drew and Bob earlier in the week, the more Cray was convinced that the two adults were in his corner. 'The dumbest and smartest thing I've ever done was to leave my wallet at their apartment,' he thought as he stripped the coffee table of its magazines and art objects. 'No way I'm not going back to school, if there's any way to do it.' Being an adult with a 10th grade education, implanted by his new mentors, wasn't acceptable. 'But what school would I go to in Vegas? I don't have a clue about anything in this town other than my job and this house. Well, also Drew and Bob's place...but I need to get around and see the city. Jeez, I haven't even been to check out the big mall on Las Vegas Boulevard.'

After Cray dusted the surface, he sprayed a light mist of furniture polish on the top of the coffee table and started hand buffing when he heard someone shuffling by in the hallway. He turned and saw Spike yawning as he scratched his bare belly. By now Cray was used to seeing the guys roaming around the house in various states of dress. But watching Spike, wearing only briefs - briefs Cray had probably washed...and maybe sniffed - was sexy, he decided. The bulging contours of Spike's crotch, covered by the stretched cotton, more than suggested he was well endowed. 'And probably good at what he does,' Cray guessed.

"Hey, dude, how they hangin'?" Spike said.

"Yours or mine?" Cray now felt very comfortable joking around with his friend. The others in the house always got a polite nod and hello from Cray - nothing more. He knew that the times Spike had given him a lift and talked was the reason for this growing closeness.

"No problem with least that's what the guy in Room 2507 at the Venetian said last night. Man, I need some coffee."

"I just made some - even if it is after one in the afternoon - sleepyhead." Cray had fallen into a routine of making a pot of coffee for the late risers after his first week at the house. Most were seldom back from 'work' until the early hours of the morning, if at all.

"You're a lifesaver. Be back in a few." Spike waved with a twist of his wrist and continued to the kitchen.

"I'll join you. It's time to take a break for some lunch anyway." Cray finished polishing the surface and rearranged all of the magazines into their original positions. He wiped off the two candlesticks and an antique Chinese bowl before leaving the room.

"Mr. Ed made the muffins early this morning. The blueberry ones are really great." Cray studied the perfection that was Spike's backside and the firm, round globes that were divided by the dark crevice as he stood by the counter, pouring coffee. He not so accidentally brushed against Spike's buns as he opened the door to the fridge. "Oh, sorry."

"A little touch is free...anything else will be a fee," Spike replied with a laugh.

"A friggin' poet, too." Cray retrieved a container of tuna salad, a tomato and a few lettuce leaves and set everything on the counter. He guessed that Spike would probably not want a sandwich. "Guess I'll settle for the touch cuz I certainly can't afford anything else."

"Buddy, for you...I'd never charge." Spike looked at him and added, "Seriously, if you ever want to ring your chimes with me, just say so. I think it'd be fun. However, you gotta clear it with Mario, first." He shrugged and took a sip of coffee. "Ahhh...a good brew."

"What does Mario have to do with it?" Cray asked with a frown.

"When you first came to live with us, Mario said you were off he was your big brother or something. He didn't want a young hottie like you being corrupted by us working stiffs."

"Stiffs or stiffies?" Cray asked with a snicker.

"Leave my professional tool out of the discussion." Spike winked, lightly slapped Cray's arm and suddenly turned serious. "By the way, I would appreciate this conversation not getting back to Mario, if ya get my drift."

"No problem. I think Mario was just concerned about someone like me not in the 'business' fitting in when I first moved in. But I don't think that's a problem anymore. Um, lemme ask a question from what you just said. Do I act like I'm gay or something?" Cray looked nervously at Spike, paused for a brief moment and turned to make his sandwich. Facing his friend would reveal the beginnings of a woodie.

"You're eighteen and your hormones are in full gear. Being curious or joking around about sex with a gay man doesn't necessarily make you one. But I gotta tell you, Cray, I get some pretty strong vibes from you." Spike walked over and placed his hand on Cray's shoulder. "I'm only 20 but when I was younger I was always trying things with other guys. And they were mostly heteros."

"Mostly?" Cray turned and looked at Spike. He had decided that it was hopeless to hide his erection and decided to 'go with the flow'.

"Guys who enjoyed 'getting off' and didn't mind a little variety if their girl friends weren't available. Well, they didn't mind as long as everything was kept quiet. Is that where you fit in, ya think?""

"I...I think...I'm mostly...I don't know." Cray frowned and shook his head.

"You don't know..."

"Naw, that's not the way it is. Truth is, I figured out I'm mostly homo. Moving down here gave me a chance to sort things out in my life." He trembled a little and started to cry softly. "I'm all confused and it scares the hell out of me. You're always taught it's normal to like girls. If that's the case, I'm not normal."

"Bull shit. Normal is what you are - gay, straight or in between. I like guys and I'm pretty normal." Spike set down his coffee cup and pulled Cray into an embrace. "Kiddo, it's not like you're by yourself...especially with this group. If you wanna talk about it, we can figure out what the deal is. By the way, are you planning on having breakfast?"

"Whaduya mean?" Cray asked as he pulled back a little.

"Well, it feels like you got a banana in your front pocket." Spike snickered and added, "Sorry. I couldn't resist using a variation of that old joke." He reached down and rubbed Cray's tented crotch. "Hmmm, definitely not a banana. Should we take care of that? I wouldn't mind helping my friend, you know." He gently squeezed Cray's erection and then pulled his hand away. "Your call."

"This is...wild," Cray stammered before turning on a tentative grin. He wanted to let Spike know that what was happening didn't alarm him. "But I don't know about...ah, doing it right now." Cray took a deep breath, sighed and said, "Whatever I am, I think it's something I need to work out at my own pace. Does that make sense?" He also knew that he needed - at some point - to be truthful with Spike about his real age.

"Perfect sense. Coming out is a big deal, especially to you. Some guys have it all figured out very young. That's where I was. Others are in denial their whole life except for a few brief moments when they hire someone like me to get their rocks off. Let's put it this way: you're a cool stud and the offer will always be open. I don't do much sex just for the enjoyment of it."

"Rain check, then?" Cray felt he had taken a big positive step and might want to talk about things again in the near future. "Speaking of enjoyment, it looks like I'll need to do some laundry very soon." He raised his eyebrows, smiled and intentionally looked down at Spike's bulge masked behind a spreading wet spot. Hot hardly described the sight of Spike's flared, red dickhead pressed against the leaking precum stain on the now translucent cotton material of the briefs.

"Ha. As you've probably observed from my dirty clothes, this happens to me frequently." Spike immodestly reached in and adjusted himself. "Are you serious about laundry? If so, I can get cleaned up and gather all my clothes that need to be washed."

"Yeah. I've got some laundry to do and it might as well be today as any. Go ahead and take your shower - and anything else you need to do," Cray said as he rolled his eyes. "By the time you get back, I'll have finished lunch and have my dirty clothes ready to add to the load. And, if ya don't mind, maybe we could talk some more about being gay an' what that's about?" With sudden insight, he realized that girls had never turned him on...ever.

"Talking would be good. I might as well save my energy for this afternoon and get paid for it." Spike chuckled and continued, "Give me about a half hour and then we can talk a little. I'm going to take a muffin and a real banana with me for some nourishment. See ya in a bit."

Cray digested what had just happened and felt like a fifty-pound weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he made his sandwich. Thinking about Gene ignited a quick flash of temper but it soon dissipated to mild brooding. He sat down and thoroughly chewed each bite as he remembered his creepy stepdad and the fat, old man's methods of manipulating him. It was a revelation when he now recalled how he had mentally handled the oral part of his situation. Without exception, Cray would pretend that it was a hot, fellow male classmate - usually a jock - who was the other half - never Gene. And once the jock image was fixed in his mind, the oral sex hadn't really seemed gross. It was only afterwards, when he again saw Gene's evil leer, that Cray became repulsed and upset.

'What really sucked was Mom's reaction - or lack of it - when I tried to talk about it,' Cray thought as he tidied up the kitchen. 'I don't think she could give a rat's ass about me.' He shook his head and left the main house to go sort out his own dirty laundry. He smiled as he opened the door to 'his room' and went into the bathroom to get the laundry basket. 'No wonder Daddy bolted. He probably just couldn't stand her any more and I guess he couldn't take me with him.' Cray decided it was time to bury the anger he was carrying about his dad's disappearance. 'Or, maybe he's gay, too, and just needed to get out?' he wondered while he quickly sorted the whites from the colors. 'Man it's definitely time to find the Wal-Mart so I can buy some new briefs.'

"Good timing," Spike said as they met at the doorway to the laundry room and walked inside to the large Maytag. "I separated everything and bundled it all in the sheets."

"Cool. I'll do the whites first." After he poured in the detergent, Cray grabbed his briefs and tees out of the laundry basket. He shook his head with embarrassment at someone else seeing the sorry shape of his drawers as he tossed them in the washer. Right behind him, Spike added his whites. ' sniffing today,' Cray thought with a smile. "We're good. I'm planning on being around all afternoon so I'll return all your stuff to your room later on." He lowered the lid, set the time and hit the start switch.

"You want to talk a little right now? I've got some time before a 'matinee' I'm booked for at the Mandalay Bay," Spike replied. "Some dude from Omaha who likes sex in the afternoon so he can gamble all night. Go figure...but it pays the bills and he's a regular."

"How about we go to the living room? I've got to finish the house chores this afternoon." Cray was amazed at Spike's nonchalant attitude about his work. He smiled and walked out of the laundry room and into the kitchen.

"Multi-tasking is good. I'll grab an apple and join you."

Out of the corner of his eye, Cray saw Spike take a delicious apple from the bowl and wipe it on his tee shirt before following along. In the living room, Cray went directly to the fireplace and took all the dcor items and pictures off the mantle. He decided to dust and detail a small statue first. "So how and when did you know you...liked guys?"

"I'm 20 I guess it was about eight years ago when I started going through puberty. You know, some hair started sprouting and I had my first wet orgasm. Before long, some buddies decided we should play around. All the jerk off shit that boys do, ya know."

"As a matter of fact, I don't. For a variety of reasons, that didn't happen with me. It's a long story that I'll tell you sometime. Not now." Cray wanted to let Spike know more about what had happened but this wasn't the time. He went back to work cleaning another dcor object.

"No problem. I won't press you for any details. Anyway, there were a few of my buds who wanted to explore further. By the time I was 14 and got into...screwing, it had narrowed down to one guy and me. At the time, I did the dating thing for show but had absolutely no desire to do stuff with a girl. By 16, I was actively checking out older guys - well, older being 20 or so - at pick-up places in the 'Valley'. I finished high school and the rest, as they say, is history. I'm starting my junior year at UNLV this fall."

"Do your parents know about you...I mean about being gay?" Cray looked at Spike and continued dusting.

"Yeah. I lied about it for a few years by always having a girl friend to take to a party or school event. Finally, when I was 17, I got pissed at something my dad said about 'those queers in West Hollywood'. In the kitchen, I blurted out that I was one of those queers and asked him if he had any problems with a homo for a son. He huffed off and it was rather chilly between us for a while. Probably wasn't one of my finest moments growing up but the 'rents took it in stride once they got used to the idea. I'm the oldest and have two younger brothers. Maybe one of them will carry on the family name. However, if I had to guess, I think the youngest - he's 16 - is gay, too," Spike replied with a laugh.

"He told you?"

"Not yet. He's coming to visit over Labor Day weekend and I think he's looking to me for some advice. If that's the case, I'll give him a few pointers on how to play the folks. They don't hassle me too much and pay for all my school expenses. They love me but I think they're relieved that I don't come home very often. I'll make the annual pilgrimage to Woodland Hills at Thanksgiving and probably Christmas."

"At least you've got someone to go home to. My mom could care less about me and her husband is a piece of work." Cray stopped for a moment and felt a little envy at Spike's ties to a real family. "But the other stuff I can relate to. Thinking back on school the last couple of years, I'm starting to realize that I really had the hots for a few of the guys in my class."

"And girls never did it for you?" Spike asked.

"Never. Oh, a few gals I'd speak to at school...but that was all. Looks like I got a lot of things to consider."

"It's not the easiest road, being gay...but it really isn't a choice. The escort business I'm in is just to earn some good bucks for a few years while I go to school. I've already got a nice account at Merrill Lynch and working for Mario is pretty safe. He's fair and the clients aren't crazy types who get their kicks hurting someone. Ideally, I'll be a CPA in three years or so, find Mr. Right and settle down. If you decide that you are into guys, just take it slow and easy. A good-looking, bright guy like you can have a good life. Just be sure to get as much education as you can." Spike walked over to Cray and put his hand on the younger guy's shoulder. "I gotta get going to work. I hope you're not tired of acquiring brothers... I'm coming to think of you as a little bro, too." He pulled Cray closer and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"I'm honored. Um, does this mean that you won't show me how to do stuff if I want some personal instruction?" Cray asked with a smile.

"That's one of the many things older brothers are around for. If you decide you swing on my side of the fence, just let me know how I can help. It would, however, be a good idea not to advertise this. There are a few places we could meet away from here." Spike leaned in again and offered a long kiss on the lips before leaving.

Cray watched his friend walk away as he slowly licked his lips. He was ready to take some lessons on learning more about his sexuality. But he also had to be fair and let Spike know that he was only 16. 'Can't get a friend into trouble just because I'm all horned up and curious,' he decided.

The drive to Provo had been quick and boring. Mario picked up Johnny in North Las Vegas at the early morning hour of 3:00 and was determined to be in the not-too-distant city by 8:00 a.m. for their unscheduled meeting. The beige Ford van, borrowed for the trip, turned off I-15 at the Provo Center Street exit. Mario continued for a few blocks and pulled into the quiet parking lot of a Denny's he had located earlier on the Internet. He moved into a parking space in a secluded corner and turned off the engine.

"We made good time, Johnny. How are you doing?" Mario yawned and was happy that he had been able to take a good nap before they took off.

"This crummy van isn't the most comfortable in the world but I did zonk out for a while."

"I hear you. This isn't something I'd want to drive every day. But the V-8 really was great on the hills. Remind me to fill this guzzler up with gas before we return."

"Have we got time for some coffee after I change the plates and we get into our other clothes?" Johnny asked.

"Maybe that and a Grand Slam if they're not too busy. I figure we're about five minutes from the address and it's only quarter after seven. Let's do it."

The two men quickly got out of the three-year old cargo van and moved to the rear bumper. Within minutes, the Nevada plate had been removed and was replaced by one from Utah. Mario nodded his approval and patted his trip partner on the back. Johnny tossed the screwdriver into the glove compartment and in the van they quickly changed clothes for their meeting. They looked like countless other blue-collar workers inside Denny's, starting their day. The two men, now dressed in generic uniforms, seated themselves in a booth of the half-full restaurant and ordered breakfast. To the waitress and the other customers they appeared to be two repairmen. Over the next half-hour Mario reviewed the job and by 7:45 a.m., they were on their way.

After they parked the non-descript van on the street a few doors away from their target address, Mario and Johnny, now wearing caps and sunglasses, approached the front door of the modest, wood-frame home. Johnny, holding a clipboard, rang the doorbell while Mario stood next to him, carrying a leather bag. Shortly, the front door opened and an older woman in a robe looked at Mario through the screen door.

"Whaduya want?" The woman said as she squinted at the men. She inhaled deeply from her cigarette and blew the smoke through the screen.

"Provo Power, M'am. Are you Mrs. Gene Scarpino?" Mario asked. He looked at her craggy facial skin and decided that a few packs of cigarettes a day had taken its toll. The blurry, red eyes suggested that Cray's mother had enjoyed a few cocktails the previous evening.

"Electric, huh? Yeah, I'm Mrs. Scarpino. Well, come in and don't waste too much of my time. My husband is in the kitchen and I need to fix his breakfast." She unlatched the screen door and pushed it partially open.

"Thank you, M'am. We won't be long." Mario nodded and watched Johnny walk back to the kitchen. He then returned his gaze on the middle-aged woman - who probably had been quite a stunner in her early years - and shook his head. "We're actually friends of your son, Cray, and he needs your assistance, M'am."

"You're what...that little bastard...where is he? I thought he was out of our hair. What's he done now and who the hell are you?" Mrs. Scarpino snarled. "Oh, fuck it. Just get out of my house." She planted herself on the carpet and pointed to the front door. A long ash of the burning cigarette dislodged and fell to the floor as she glared back.

"We'll leave when you've helped us get what we need." Mario was interrupted by scuffling sounds coming from the rear of the house. 'Sounds like good old Gene doesn't appreciate our visit,' he thought.

"Uggh, oh..." groaned a deep voice.

"Why don't you join us in the living room," Johnny said in the background.

"Go fu...ahhgh."

"Get up, asswipe. I'm losing my patience."

"What are you doing to Gene?" Edith asked. Her contemptible sullenness was replaced by questioning fear.

"I'm sure that Gene just needed to understand he should come out to meet with us," Mario replied in a louder, measured voice. "I don't want any problems, lady. Please sit down. If you do as we say, no harm will come to either of you." He abruptly pointed to the couch.

"Edith, what is going on?" Gene asked as he walked in front of Johnny. He grimaced a little when Johnny pushed him forward more forcibly into the living room.

"Sit with your wife and listen up," Mario said. He looked at Gene, wearing only baggy boxers and an undershirt, and judged the man was probably around 50 years old. The thinning, gray and brown hair was still mussed up. And a beer gut protruded above the waistline.

"Okay, okay. I understand." Gene walked over and sat next to Edith. They looked at each other and shook their heads.

"Here's the deal. Your son, Mrs. Scarpino, needs to get on with his life and it certainly won't be here." Mario was purposely polite and even his dislike for the couple wouldn't change his tone or demeanor. The Marine Corps training had come in handy in civilian life for Mario's type of work.

"You're damn right it won't be here," Edith snapped back before she could stop herself from speaking. "I think Cray burned all his bridges here...period." She looked at Gene and visibly urged him to back her.

"Yeah, the kid isn't welcome in this house." Gene turned to Edith and continued, "But we want him to grow up nice and proper...just somewhere else." He shrugged and turned back to the two men.

"And that's what we want, too." Mario pulled up a chair and sat down. 'Good,' he thought, 'Gene has figured out that this isn't a friendly visit and is hedging his bets.' He ceremoniously opened his bag and brought out a few papers and a handgun. He made no comment and nonchalantly placed the gun on a side table next to him. 'That should give them something to think about.' He reached over and placed the papers in front of the woman. "I've got these forms that the Provo school system requires to be filled out by the parent when a student transfers out of state. You see, Mrs. Scarpino, your son will be attending high school in Las Vegas this fall and the new school will need his transcripts and immunization records. It's all very simple. Everything's filled out and just needs your signature. That and a quick trip to the school so you can pick up his files."

"What's in it for me? That kid has caused us a lot of trouble." Edith's defiance was coming back to a simmer and she sat up a little straighter. She took one final, deep drag on the nearly consumed cigarette and mashed the stub in the ashtray.

"Your health. How's that for openers?" Johnny growled.

"My associate is a little abrupt and frank...but he has a point. Here's the deal: you cooperate and I'll sweeten things for you." Mario reached into his pocket and pulled out a money clip with several folded 100-dollar bills. From the thick fold of paper currency, he retrieved two bills and placed them on the coffee table. "Here's a couple of hundred as a sign of good faith. Once Cray is in school and settled down, you'll get eight more 'Franklins'." He turned to Johnny and continued, "Why don't you give this couple a few 'what ifs' if they don't cooperate?" He looked at her and thought, 'Just as I suspected. This bitch is slimy and greedy.'

"You mean like maybe this lovely house burning down? Or perhaps Gene having an auto accident? Or the lady falling down and breaking her leg? Things like that?" Johnny, just like Mario, still hadn't removed his sunglasses but his stare was almost laser-like through the dark plastic.

Edith wilted and Gene took her hand. They looked at each other and nodded before Gene turned to the men and said, "I get the picture. We really don't want any trouble and, quite frankly, Cray isn't worth it to us."

"Very perceptive, Gene. Mrs. Scarpino, do you understand what might happen if you are foolish and don't cooperate?" Johnny asked with a menacing tone.

"Yeah...yes, I do. Neither of us want to get...hurt," she answered in a small voice.

"Just so you understand that we are serious about this. I should add that any mention of our meeting to anyone would be a very bad mistake on your part." Mario forced a smile and purposely put the handgun back in the bag. 'They're both creeps, big time,' he thought as he watched the mother thinking hard. Mario could almost read Mrs. Scarpino's mind so he decided to address her unasked question. "The answer to your question is, 'yes', there are several in our organization who are very capable of carrying out what we've discussed. And, 'two', Cray knows nothing of this. We are just helping him re-establish his life." Mario took the papers from the side table and gave them to her.

"What are these? The school forms?"

"Yes. They've all been filled out and only need your signature. The new address isn't important other than being a Las Vegas address that will remain filed away at Provo High School. If the woman at the school asks where Cray is, you can tell her that you're still in the middle of moves and he went ahead with your husband."

"Woman at the school?" Edith asked as she looked up from the forms. "And what do you mean, 'middle of moves'?"

"You and my associate are going over to the high school in a half-hour, present these forms and get all of Cray's files. The whole idea is to convince the office administrator that you are in the process of moving and your son is already in Las Vegas."

"I don't know if I can lie like that," Edith said.

"Cut the crap and try real hard," Mario snapped back. "That's your job today and there's no alternate plan. I'm sure you want this day to be a success. Oh, I also need you to sign these other rather legal-looking documents." He reached into his bag and pulled out two sets of cover-bound papers. He also placed those in front of Mrs. Gamble. Finally, he took a pen from his pocket and set it next to all the paperwork.

"And what are these?" Edith appeared confused and shook her head.

"Boiled down, it says that you are relinquishing parental custody of Cray to 'the powers that be' in Clark County." Mario decided to be vague and not mention Child Protective Services by name. "You need to sign where the yellow stickies are and Gene can be the witness. This will allow Cray to have a home. So that's it: new school, new home and we're out of here. You earn two-hundred bucks right now and there are eight more down the road once everything is set."

"If you and I get to the high school by 9:00 a.m., we should have everything we need and be out of your life by noon," Johnny said. "Oh, Gene. I think it would be a good idea to call in sick today. You can stay with my friend while we're at the school."

"I guess that won't be a problem. I've got sick days and..."

"Good. I'll keep Gene company while you two are gone. Mrs. Scarpino, you want to put something on after you sign the papers? I don't think the robe really works for traveling to the high school." Mario smiled and indicated that she should take care of the documents.

"Well, it's not like I want that troublemaker back. And I can use the dollars." Edith turned to Gene for reassurance. He silently nodded, picked up the pen and handed it to her. She first signed the school forms and pushed them aside.

Next were the documents concerning custody of Cray. She took a deep breath and quickly signed each space that had been flagged. When the signing process was completed, she handed the pen back to Gene and helpfully turned to the page that required a witness signature. Finally, she picked them up and handed everything to Mario.

He slowly reviewed all the signatures, page by page. 'Hope all this smoke and mirror stuff works,' he thought. The lawyer told him there was a slim chance that if she later on contested the custody documents in any way they would probably not hold up in court. By playing on their greed and fear, Mario was pretty sure that there would be no problems. 'Plus, they really don't give a shit about the kid.' He shook his head and looked at the mother.

"Anything wrong? I signed everywhere it was marked," Edith asked anxiously.

"It looks fine and this part is over. Take the money and use it however you want. There'll be the rest in a month or so. Oh, I should add that I'm authorized to tell you about a year-end bonus of another five hundred if everything goes well. Why don't you get dressed and Gene can call work. I dunno...maybe a little stomach flu is the problem." Mario stood up and put the legal documents in the bag.

"Ah, give me about 10 minutes," Edith said as she rose. "Funny, I've never been inside the high school." She picked up the two hundred-dollar bills, walked down the hallway and disappeared into the bedroom. Once she closed the door, Mario turned to Gene and asked, "Do you think she knows we're serious about everything? She's not going to be stupid, is she?"

"You saw her eyes light up with the money. That wasn't any act. And I'll make sure she understands who you guys are and what you do. Leave it to me. Cray's not worth the grief." Gene stood up and nervously looked around the room.

"That's going to be your job - handling her. The last thing you need is for your past catching up with you." Mario decided it was time to play the trump card.

"Past? What the hell you talking about?" Gene raised his eyebrows and studied Mario.

"You know...the little sex offender problem you had over in Idaho back in 1990. You were, ah, about 32 at the time? And the neighbor kid was 14 as I recall from the report. That's the 'past' I'm talking about, Gene." Mario looked at his prey and shook his head. "If anything goes 'south', your diddling that boy - on top of what Cray will testify about - will be interesting news in Provo. You're lucky that what happened in Boise occurred before Megan's Law was enacted. Hate to see you on one of those registered sex offender lists they post on the Internet."

"Okay. I understand and you won't have any problems." Gene slumped and looked down at the floor. "That was a long time ago."

"Maybe so. But making your underage stepson blow you was just a month or so ago." Mario paused for all of this to sink in. "Why don't you give your work place a call?" Mario said quietly. He was so pissed at Gene's attitude towards Cray that it was all he could do to keep his temper in check and not physically pulverize the stepdad. "I'll walk back with you while my associate waits for your wife to get dressed."

The morning played out as Mario had planned. For the next two hours, he watched "Regis" and then "The View" while Gene nervously worked a crossword puzzle. Around 10:30 a.m., Johnny and Mrs. Scarpino returned with all of Cray's school files. She was much more serious and concerned about her well being as she turned over all the paperwork. 'We must have done a very good job convincing her not to stray from the script,' he thought as they prepared to leave the house. He hoped the image of this 'mother of the year' and Gene sipping coffee in the kitchen would be the last he'd ever see of them. Mario turned and looked at the living room and the couch where Cray had been victimized. He shook his head and wiped his feet before walking outside.

Johnny drove over to the nearest busy truck stop by the Interstate and filled the tank. Mario cleaned the windshield while Johnny bought a couple of ham sandwiches and sodas. They next drove the van around a corner so the license plate could be switched more privately. The uniforms came off as they changed into more comfortable traveling clothes. Behind the truck stop restaurant, the license plate was tossed into a dumpster. The uniforms were tossed into the back of an open-bed truck and they were ready to return to their sparkling city in the desert. With no traffic delays, Mario figured they'd be back by 5:00 p.m.

He thought back over the past 24 hours as Johnny eased onto I-15. 'Had it only been last night when he dined with Drew and Bob at the Prime in the Bellagio? No wonder I'm tired,' he decided. The dinner had been a total success and he felt a bond with the guys. They were solidly on board to help Cray and promised to make time to keep the maturing teen on a positive path in his new life.

Drew was savvy and didn't ask for details concerning Mario's promise to get all of Cray's school documents. While Bob was cutting his steak, Drew had looked at Mario and subtly nodded just once - a gesture that communicated much between these two new friends. Mario planned on calling Drew the next morning to pass on the good news about being in possession of not only the transcripts, but also of the signed forms relinquishing parental custody of Cray. As he closed his eyes, the last conscious thought was how the mother, in effect, had sold her son for a measly $1,000.00, as she had made the deal before knowing about the additional $500.00 'signing bonus'.

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