Castle Roland

Dessert Fantasies

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 21

Posted: N/A

The Fat Lady Sings

It was close to 11:00 p.m. before Spike was permitted to leave the condo. Gus, the appointed spokesmen for Gallant Security, focused on the activities related to the ground floor/garage area. He concocted a believable story for Spike to tell the police concerning his involvement. It was close to the truth...except Mario wasn't involved. Spike told a detective that a security detail had driven him back to the condo tower. And it was Gus who initially called the condo to contact Jack while they were driving back from the hospital.

The interview took place in the spare bedroom; the den, dining room and kitchen were all considered active crime scenes until CSI finished their work. The detective assured Spike that his name would not be leaked to the press; nor would the police divulge the names of the people who lived in the condo. Spike didn't know until the interview that the condo was registered as being owned by a Cayman Islands holding company. The official word to the press was that the condo, a corporate apartment, was the scene of an unsuccessful robbery.

The role of Gallant Security, accepted by the police because of their stellar reputation, was emphasized as being the proper procedure for a private security firm responding to an alarm. However, no specific names were used: the close relationship that Gallian Industries and Nick Maggiano had forged with the city was generally not known. Over the past three years, friendships had been created and nurtured to allow 'special consideration' when requested. This was such an occasion.

A public relations Las Vegas Metro police lieutenant told the press only about the fatality in the parking garage. The spokesman dutifully issued a statement that confirmed the death of a burglary suspect who had attempted to escape while being pursued by security. The suspect lost control of his getaway car and crashed into another parked car in the garage. Further, it was noted that police were unsure of the deceased's identity at this time. However, the lieutenant did say evidence suggested that the deceased was not a resident of Las Vegas. In response to a question concerning how such a secure building could be breeched, his answer was brief and believable: the suspect arranged entry through another resident who thought he was receiving a package. The unidentified resident had been tied up, but not injured.

The local television channels each had reporters placed at the entrance to the garage for live, 'breaking news' remotes for the late evening newscasts and their 'top of the hour' promos. Media reporters were not told about the other bagged bodies brought down earlier in the service elevator and placed in an unmarked morgue van parked at the back of the tower. By the time the reporters were readying themselves for their remote live broadcasts, three bodies were in the city morgue being examined by the medical team. There was also no mention made of the two injured security men. Once they were examined and cursorily treated for their wounds, EMS took them to a private clinic.

Because the original Gallant detail was still being interviewed, a new security man was assigned to drive Spike away from the scene and to Mario's home. Spike watched the activity of reporters, cameramen, police and bystanders from behind the dark, tinted windows when they left. He could make out part of a crumpled piece of white metal that had been part of his car's exterior skin.

"Pretty crazy, huh?" the driver asked as he skirted around the media circus. "Oh, Tom's the name. And I know you're Spike."

"Hey, Tom. Crazy isn't the half of it." Spike watched the condo tower as they drove out the gate exit and turned onto the street. "12 hours ago it was just another quiet Sunday. Lou and I were going to watch the Lakers game and call for some Chinese. Now, this." Spike looked at Tom and frowned. "Did you know Jack very well?"

"We've worked together on various jobs for a couple of years. He was a friend and I'll miss him. In fact, after I drop you off I'm going over to see his wife. We were all very tight."

"Is there...some sort of financial support that Gallant has for situations like this?" Spike hadn't thought about the different ramifications that a young man's death would have on those left behind.

"Yeah. Generous enough to make sure the family - he had two young girls - are well taken care of."

"Even though I just met him, please pass on my condolences." Spike made a mental note to send flowers on behalf of Lou and himself. "I'm relieved the cops let me grab some clothes, my backpack and dopp kit."

"I think the excitement is over...for now. The police will probably declassify the crime scene tomorrow. From what I understand, the three stiffs are the same characters who blew up Mr. Maggiano's house. With due diligence, we can all breathe a little easier now."

"Due diligence?" Spike wasn't sure what that meant and didn't like his home being referred to as a 'crime scene'. He studied the features of the new guard and compared Tom's military bearing with the other men. 'Another squared-away jarhead,' he thought. 'No wonder Gallant can fight their battles so well.'

"The security detail is still going to be tight but we think the worst is behind us."

"What can you tell me?" Spike asked with a furrowed brow. "I know about Mrs. Gallian in New York plus the stuff that went down in Vegas."

"Someone's pissed at the Gallian family and close relatives. All this corporate hocus pocus is something I don't get into. My M.O. is strictly security and doing the best job I can for Gallant's clients. Maybe Mr. Cirillo can shed some light on the situation after I drop you off."

"Maybe." Spike silently looked at the familiar buildings out of the corner of his eye as they made their way down Pecos Road. He knew Tom was being deliberately evasive but didn't fault him. 'It's part of his job...nothing more than that.' When the SUV turned onto Mario's street, Spike felt a little relief. He was back in familiar and secure surroundings.

"Here we are," Tom said as he drove into the driveway, stopped and turned off the headlights. He slid out of the Tahoe and smiled while Spike grabbed his meager possessions. Tom left the driver's door open and positioned himself by the front bumper.

"Thanks for the lift." Spike closed the passenger door and looked around. Across the street was an identical black SUV. "One of yours?"

"We've got all bases covered. You can rest assured that this will be a safe place." Tom turned at the sound of a door opening by the side of the house in the shadows. He waved when Mario came into view. "Mr. Jensen - Spike - good luck in all this."

Spike walked around to join him. "Thanks, Tom. Maybe when all this is over, Lou and I can have you and your associates over for a drink." He grimaced at the thought of the condo's current state.

"It would be an honor to get to know you and your friend 'off hours' after this is behind us." Tom backed away a little as Mario approached.

"Long time, no see." Mario wrapped his left arm around Spike's shoulders and squeezed. At the same time, he extended his right hand to shake Tom's hand. "I appreciate your help in this mess."

"And anxious to finish it successfully. Gallant's New York office is coordinating the other areas of concern." Tom shook Mario's hand and continued, "I've gotta go on some personal business and then file a few reports." He nodded, returned to the SUV and departed.

Mario lifted Spike's bag and they walked back into the kitchen. "How about a beer before we hit the sack?"

"Maybe something stronger like a double vodka and tonic? I need to mellow out a bit." Spike set down his backpack and frowned. "The personal business Tom mentioned is him going over to visit with Jack's widow."

"That's tough - he was a good man. I think I'll make that two drinks," Mario replied as he opened a cabinet and retrieved a full bottle of Absolut. "You grab the glasses and ice. I think there's some Schweppes in the fridge." He cracked the plastic seal on the bottle and turned the cap loose. While Spike held a glass under the ice dispenser, Mario fished out the tonic. He poured out a double shot of vodka in each glass and topped them off with tonic. "Let's sit down and talk." He motioned Spike to join him at the table.

They raised glasses and took a quick gulp. As if on cue, both released a loud rush of air, smiled and set down the glasses. Spike stuck his finger in the glass and silently stirred the liquid around for a moment. "Um, does Lou know what happened at our place?" He looked at Mario and licked the alcohol-laced finger.

"His security detail told him. He knows you're okay and the bad guys were eliminated. Lou was given a sedative and will be in Never-Neverland until the morning." Mario took a smaller sip of his drink and continued, "The plan is for you to get some rest and be taken over to the hospital early tomorrow - say eight-ish. That way you can spend some time together before he is discharged and driven to the airport. He and Nick are taking the Gallian jet to New York."

"Does he need clothes or anything?"

"Already handled. The guys back at the condo were permitted to remove some clothes for travel. Lou has enough stuff back at the house on Long Island. He's going to be gone through New Year's Day to help his dad with things."

"Yeah, I guess I expected that. We were going to celebrate New Year's Eve back here." Spike held up his glass and shrugged sadly before drinking a long sip.

"And now you're going to celebrate it in New York," Mario replied with a smile.

"Nouveau York? Moi?" Spike asked as his eyes opened wide. "You mean..."

"Exactly. You two can work things out when you see him. I'm told that he wants to fly you out after Christmas to spend some time with him and party back there. Apparently he wants you to meet his old man."

"Well, now. Except for Lou being released tomorrow, that's the first good thing I've heard." Spike felt happy that Lou would think - with all the shit flying around - of introducing him to Mr. Gallian. "Guess that kinda makes me a son-in-law."

"In the meantime, you can stay here." Mario reached over and squeezed Spike's arm. "You still going to have your brother visit from L.A. next week?"

"Oh, shit. I've forgotten all about it. He was looking forward to checking out the town again and getting together with Cray."

"I don't see that being a problem. Lou is going to be out of town and there doesn't appear to be any more of a threat to any members of the family. I understand that as soon as the police are finished, a crew has been assigned to your condo and will do a complete rehab: cleaning, painting, carpet...whatever's needed. When you return in a couple of days, it'll be good as new. Even better."

"Give me a chance to think about it. Everything is really spooky right now. But my bro is looking forward to visiting."

"The only other matter to settle is where you want to sleep tonight. You can either be alone or bunk with me." Mario shrugged and finished the rest of his drink.

"Bunk with you? The other choice isn't even an option." Spike looked at his former boss and expressed his 'thank you' with just a twitch of his facial muscles and shy smile. It didn't have to be said that this was a night for Spike to be with a trusted friend. "Damn, I'm asked to sleep with the hottest man in Vegas...and that's all we're going to do...sleep."

"There might have been a time when..." Mario grinned and rolled his eyes.

"Yeah. But those times are behind us." Spike stuck out his tongue and added, "Come on, Stud, let's get to bed. I got a busy day ahead of me." He stood up and sighed. "I'll settle for some serious snuggles. Fair warning."

"Warning noted."

The cookout with Bud Turner's new friend - still too early to upgrade to 'boyfriend' - was a success and the two teens were on their best behavior. Michael appeared delighted that his dad seemed to be dating a 'keeper', while Cray quietly observed the ritual played by the adults. 'Not that different than Michael and me,' he thought, 'except for bigger words and more patience.'

The group initially spoke in generalities around the patio table before the dinner topic centered on the explosive drama earlier in the day. Cray spoke with only vague knowledge derived from earlier prompts and the newscast. The boys promised to clean up so Mr. Turner and his friend could go elsewhere to 'see a few other friends'. After the men bid a proper but warm farewell, Cray and Michael adjourned to the bedroom for a study session and some video games...leading up to their 'main event'. They diligently got their homework out of the way and zeroed in on a game of "Lair" on Michael's Playstation.

Michael said with a snicker as he turned off the TV, "Dad and I will both be in a good mood after our cobwebs get cleaned out." He had won two of the three battles playing the game.

"Cobwebs? I think I do a pretty good job making sure that's being taken care of with you." Cray winked and pulled off his shirt. As soon as Michael did the same, he reached over and squeezed Michael's exposed nipple.

"Ouch," Michael squawked as he jerked back a little, smiled and wiggled out of his cargo shorts.

"No cobwebs there." Cray's shorts joined the other clothing on the floor. "And I assume that if I'm not around, you take things into your own hand." He licked his lips and made the universal jerking fist sign.

"A couple of times a day. Just so I can stay in practice."

"I wonder - if ya don't mind me asking - does your dad do the nasty by himself? I mean, he's kinda old to be jerkin'." Cray was naturally curious and knew Michael wouldn't be defensive. 'I suppose beating off is something just young guys do,' he thought.

"This isn't exactly the thing a father and son would talk about, doofus," Michael said with a frown-grin. "I dunno. Jeez, he's almost 40, but I suppose men his age still do it if they can't get laid."

"Do you think that's what he and the professor are up to?"

"God, let's pray that's true. It's time Dad had someone in his life."

They both had a good laugh and were ready to remove their tented briefs when Cray's cell phone chirped the Kelley Clarkson ring tone. He had promised he'd leave on his phone just in case Drew or Bob needed to reach him. Cray raised an eyebrow as he reached down to pick up his phone. He flipped it on, saw who was calling and brought it to his ear. "Hi, Drew, whazzup?"

"Lots. But I figured you should hear it from me, first. There's been another incident but I wanted you to know that none of our friends have been harmed."

"Where?" Cray asked after he let out a small gasp. "Michael and I haven't watched or heard any news since late this afternoon."

"Someone broke into Lou and Spike's condo. Fortunately, the intruder was spotted before Spike got home and is no longer a problem. The guy was killed when he tried to get away."

"Spike is okay?" Cray frowned and started breathing a little faster. 'This death stuff is getting too close to home,' he thought while he listened.

"Fine. He's staying at Mario's place for a few days. There was some...damage at the condo and it needs to be repaired. I'm rushing through this cuz I've got a few more calls to make. FYI, Lou will be released from the hospital tomorrow. He and Nick are traveling back East as soon as that happens. Spike's going to meet Lou at the hospital and accompany him to the airport. Then I'm told he plans on going to his classes and needs to take care of a few personal things. You might try calling him tomorrow afternoon; this whole thing has shaken him up a little."

"It shakes me up more than a little. You're sure there's nothing I can do?" Cray didn't know what that would be...but he wanted to support his good friend.

"Just give him a call tomorrow after you get out of school. By that point, Spike will have a better idea of what's happening. One thing is important. Except for Michael, don't mention to anyone that Lou or Spike's condo was involved. The police aren't releasing any names and as far as anyone knows, it's owned by a corporation." Drew stopped talking for a moment and then added, "Gotta run, buddy. Bob or I will talk with you tomorrow. Love ya."

"Back at you." Cray sat stunned for a moment as he mulled over the telephone call. He folded the phone and placed it back on the carpet.

"Looks like you need some cuddles," Michael said to break the silence. "Wanna talk about it?" He stretched out on the bed and held out his open arms.

"Yeah. Good idea." Cray reached over to turn off the lamp and crawled into Michael's arms. He placed his head on Michael's chest and lay back. "Drew wanted me to know that there had been a break-in at Lou and Spike's condo and the thief was killed when he tried to escape."

"Crap. That's heavy duty, man. Are the guys okay?"

"Fortunately, they weren't there." As much as he wanted to, Cray couldn't tell Michael about Lou Gallian's injuries from earlier in the day. "Guess Lou needs to fly back to New York tomorrow morning for his mom's funeral and Spike is going to stay over where he used to live, for a few days at least. There was some damage to their condo that needs to be repaired." Cray shivered a little at the news as he replayed it.

"Probably it's best that you're with me." Michael put his free hand on Cray's stomach and lightly stroked the hair below the navel. His fingers passed over Cray's flaccid cock, slipped under to the ball sac and then moved up to the abs.

"I think I've got a bad case of the 'wet noodle' down there. The last thing that's on my mind is messing around. Sorry, babe." Cray took the hand that Michael had resting on his stomach and squeezed it.

"Don't worry about it. There's a lot of weird shit going on and you're allowed to be concerned about your friends. I'll know when you're ready." Michael held Cray's hand tightly and twisted his head so he could kiss Cray's forehead. "So, you going to school in the morning?"

"No reason not to." Cray rolled over on his side and nuzzled up against Michael's chest. The slight underarm odor was comforting but not the usual turn-on. "Just so you know, the police didn't release exactly who lives in the condo that was broken into. For security's sake, they just said it was a condo owned by a corporation for entertaining without naming names. Drew said it was okay for you to know...but it goes no further."

"Loose lips sink ships. Wasn't that something we learned in history about World War Two?" Michael took Cray's hand again. "I'm not goin' to sink any ships."

"I know you aren't." Cray leaned in and licked Michael's chest. "I love ya, Mr. Turner. Everything about you." He moved up and nibbled Michael's lower lip. Without a prompt, he slowly slid his tongue into a willing, waiting mouth. 'Perfect,' he thought, 'just perfect.' He smiled to himself as he felt his groin respond. 'Not a wet noodle, anymore.' He pressed his growing cock against Michael's leg and started rubbing it. "Urghh," he groaned as Michael's tongue tangled with his. It just felt right as he became completely hard and started oozing his natural lubricant. He reached down and aggressively grabbed Michael's equally hard member. 'Gotta let him catch up.' He slowed down his pelvic thrusts and started jacking his lover. It felt so right to have Michael's erection in his hand.

School was no problem the next morning. The news of the violent ending to the condo break-in was accepted as just another day in Vegas. Most watched the activities around the Strip with detached amusement. Except for the possibility of Elvis re-appearing at the Hilton, no one paid much attention to that plastic-fantastic world.

During lunch hour, Cray was able to reach Spike on his cell. He was assured that his friend was fine and arranged to meet Spike after school. He also told Spike about his temporary living arrangements. Cray didn't understand why Spike was driving a rental car but decided to go with the flow. The plan was to look for a gray Pontiac Vibe out front when school was over. Michael understood that Cray needed to spend some time with Spike and didn't push the point. They agreed to see each other at Michael's home before 9:00 p.m. Then Cray called Bob and told him about the plans. The only concern was for Cray to keep his cell handy and be back at the Turner home on time.

The crowd in the front of the high school had thinned out by the time Cray got out of his last class. The car pickup lane was still populated with a few parents waiting for their offspring and some cliques were still mingling together. He spotted the Vibe across the street and waved as he carefully dodged traffic to reach his friend.

"Cool wheels," Cray said as he opened the passenger door.

"Yeah...if you're 50 years old." Spike winked and squeezed Cray's leg. "I'd give you a big smooch but..."

"You don't want to get arrested for molesting an innocent teen." Cray wiggled his eyebrows and closed the door. "All this shit yesterday had me going. Then, when I heard about what happened last night - whoa. You doing okay?" He looked into Spike's eyes and knew his friend had been through a lot. 'My pal looks very tired,' Cray thought as he closed the door and fastened the seat belt.

"I'm doing better. Fortunately, I wasn't directly involved with the violence. Lou is okay...under the circumstances." He turned on the ignition, placed the gear into Drive and slowly eased out into the street. "We had a long talk this morning on the way to the airport. He's invited me to come out to New York after Christmas to meet the in-laws."

"Cool. If you need a flower girl, I'm ready." Cray laughed and patted Spike's thigh.

"Like I'd need a flower girl with an eight-inch dick."

"Good point and accurate if you start the measurement at two-inches." Cray rolled his eyes and asked, "Where we going?"

"Buy a car. I'm sorta without one cuz the Honda was demolished last night. The asshole who broke into our place crashed into my car in his attempted escape. Did you see the late news on TV last night?"

"No. I went to bed after Drew called and gave me a rundown of what happened. Except for Michael, I was told to tell no one about the details."

"Just as well. My car was the star of the late news. As you are aware, however, the press wasn't given any names. I think that if I lie low for a few days, it'll blow over."

"Can't the press track you down from the plates?"

"The security detail conveniently removed them. Unless someone wants to crawl around the wreckage for a VIN, there's no problem." Spike turned east on Sunrise and continued, "Now you know why I want to buy a new car. Henry is still coming out for a visit and I need wheels. Didn't I meet a friend of yours whose dad owns the Lexus dealership? Lou bought his SUV from the guy."

"Benny Boren. At the pre-opening party." Cray decided to let the news about Spike's younger brother coming over for a visit take a pass for a few moments.

"Then let's head there. I was researching a neat smaller Lexus on the Internet that's really cool. Can you call Benny and ask him to tell his dad we're coming over? I love those cars and would feel better knowing who I'm dealing with."

"Sure. I just left him and he's probably on his way home." Cray opened his cell and ran through his address book. He highlighted Benny's name and hit "Dial".

"Yo, dude. Whazzup, buttercup?"

"Nothing you'd be interested in." Cray always cracked up at his friend's sense of humor. They had become tight in the last couple of months.

"Like anyone notices that little pecker of yours," Benny replied with a laugh. "What's going on? I just said 'goodbye' to you."

"Remember the guys you met at the Barcelona party? Lou and Spike?"

"Hell, yeah. Lou bought a bitchin' SUV from us."

"Well, Spike is in the market for a car and he wondered if you'd call your dad. We're on our way to the auto mall to cut a good deal." Cray thought this was a nice way to let Benny know he expected a special consideration from Mr. Boren.

"I'll call him right now. Dad's usually around during the week until they close up. I'll tell him to offer the same discounts as he did for Lou. I may not get my allowance this week, but old Spike will get a good car," Benny said with a laugh.

"Thanks, buddy. I'll pass the hat for you in the morning."

"Fuck you."

"I don't think so, but thanks for the offer. Tell him we're maybe 10 minutes away. Bye." Cray shifted his body around so he faced Spike. "You goin' to get a fancy SUV like Lou?" He decided not to ask from where the funding was coming.

"No. A fancy IS 350 series, for poor people," Spike replied with a laugh. "It's the smallest Lexus and just what I need...under the circumstances. If we make a deal this afternoon, they can prep it and I'll pick it up tomorrow. You up for another driving mission after school?"

"I'm your man. But I have Tai Chi later on, tomorrow night." He wanted to help out Spike but still have his personal time with Michael. "That okay?"

"More than okay." Spike smiled and continued down Sunrise.

"Now that's out of the way, give me the scoop on Henry's upcoming visit." Cray decided that this was a good time to find out more about his friend's return to Vegas.

"Sorry I didn't mention anything earlier." Spike turned to Cray for a moment and shrugged. "Henry's taking a bus over on Friday by himself. There was a boyfriend in the picture for a while...but that apparently is over. He'll stay for a long weekend and I'll take him back for Christmas. All he's been talking about is seeing you again and meeting Michael."

"Cool. We can all have fun together." Cray fondly remembered his first intimate experiences with a guy...Henry. 'We both learned a lot,' he thought, 'for future reference.'

"I know you will. And I don't think Lou would mind if Henry uses the SUV to get around." Spike cleared his throat and continued, "This is a dumb question but here goes. I'm supposed to move back into the condo on Thursday...after all the repairs are finished. It's just...I feel kinda strange going back there by myself after all the problems. Is there a possibility that you and Michael could come over, have dinner and stay over-night this coming Thursday? I know this sounds like I'm being a wuss but it would be a big thing for me if you'd do it."

"I'll give you a big tentative 'yes' right now. Tentative cuz there's parental permission involved. How about I let you know tomorrow afternoon? Bob and Drew will probably be cool with it and Michael's dad is very reasonable. In fact, Mr. Turner might enjoy the opportunity to entertain his new boyfriend without us around."

"There you go - a good deed pays forward. I'm planning on going in for work tomorrow. I'll make it a point to seek out one of your dads and let them know what's up." Spike made a final turn and entered the auto mall. At the middle of the loop road was the large Boren Lexus dealership. He pulled into the parking area and got out of the Pontiac.

"Whew. They have a large inventory." Cray got out and looked around. The late afternoon sun was losing its strength but had not quite tucked itself behind the mountains. He put on his sunglasses and looked around. "Nice rides."

"Come on over to the area where the IS series cars are parked. I'm sure some salesman has us scoped out and is ready to pounce." He led Cray over to a back row of smaller cars. "Here we are. If you kick a tire, I'll strangle you."

"Yes, Daddy." Cray smiled and rolled his eyes. "I see what you mean. Smaller but still classy."

"Here's a hot one. I love the color." He looked at the sticker and frowned. "Smoky Granite Mica and $43,000. That's a lot of bread."

"Speaking of bread," Cray replied. "That man walking up to us is Mr. Boren." He watched as the distinguished older man approached. Cray thought he looked pretty sharp in his Lexus golf shirt and slacks. "Hi, Mr. Boren. Guess Benny got hold of you?"

"Cray, good to see you anytime, and yes, he did. Please call me Ben." He shook Cray's hand and turned to Spike. "I understand you're in the market for a car?"

"Yes, sir, I am. I'm Spike Jensen. My old car finally crapped out and I need something new. Spike smiled, extended his hand and pressed firmly when Ben did the same. "I'm thinking of the smaller IS 350 series."

"Good choice. J.D. Power gives these cars the highest marks." Ben unlocked the car, opened the door and said, "Get in for a feel of it."

"Can we take this out? If you've got a few minutes, that is." Spike loved the smell of a new car interior and the feel of leather. He reached in and touched the driver's seat. "Or we could wait for a salesman."

"For a friend of my son's? No problem. You give me your license so I can take a picture of it. Just a's Nevada law. I'll be back with the keys so you can drive it."

"I understand." Spike retrieved his wallet and pulled out his driver's license. After Ben left, he turned to Cray and said, "This is exactly the car I want. Color, navigation package, satellite radio, premium surround sound system, moon roof...the whole enchilada."

"43 grand. That's a lot of enchiladas," Cray replied. The thought of his arrival in Vegas five months earlier with $153.00 in his pocket and no place to go flashed through his mind.

"Before a 'good guy' discount. I've got an idea of what these babies cost the dealer. And the money I received for replacement is like an insurance settlement."

"It is a sharp car." Cray watched as Mr. Boren returned. 'Spike obviously has things covered,' he thought. 'I wonder if I'll ever know the real story behind this?'

"Okay, gentlemen. Let's roll." Ben Boren handed Spike his license and the keys.

The three men got into the sedan. Cray sat up front with Spike and Mr. Boren slid into the rear seat. He patiently explained some of the features as they drove out of the lot and onto the busy street. Spike asked a few technical questions and turned down the suggestion of taking the IS 350 to the nearby freeway because he didn't want to deal with the rush hour traffic. 15 minutes later, they returned to the front of the dealership showroom and got out of the car.

"Spike, whatdaya think?" Ben asked. He was standing by the window that displayed the sticker with specifications and listed price.

"I think you should tell me what you want and see if we can deal. You did well with my friend, Lou, and I'm hoping for the same thing." Spike smiled with a 'we both know what kind of a deal I'm expecting' look.

"Fair enough. I can take four grand off the sticker price to my invoice cost. Your talking around $39,000, prep costs included."

"Make it 38-5 with the taxes thrown in and you've sold a car." Spike looked at Ben with intense innocence and stood still.

"I assume you'll need financing?" Ben looked at the two younger men and then at the car. "I can help you there. But I need 39 just to break even."

"No financing. 38-5 is a cash deal. All we need to do is call the manager at Gallant National Bank and he'll cut a check or wire the money. I need a new car tomorrow."

"This is the point where the manual says the salesman needs to call the sales manager to see if we can make a deal," Ben said with a laugh. "But, as the owner, I'm allowed to lose a little money every once in a while...even if it takes food off my family's dinner table."

"Hey, Ben, there's always McDonald's Happy Meals." Spike winked and extended his hand. "Deal?"

"Deal. Let's go to my office and call the bank. If they can transfer $38,500 to our account, you have a nice, new car." Ben shook Spike's hand and they all entered the gleaming showroom and continued to a large office in the rear.

"Here's the business card with the manager's name," Spike said as they all sat down. "He's expecting a call."

Ben punched in the telephone number on the speakerphone and was put through to the manager immediately. He smiled when the manager assured him the money would be transferred as soon as the sales documents were faxed to the bank. After a few pleasant remarks between Spike and the bank manager, Ben said everything would be faxed within the hour.

"Does that do it? I'd like the car prepped and ready for pickup tomorrow about this time." Spike smiled and turned to Cray, "You like the car?"

"Absolutely super." Cray was mesmerized at the way Ben Boren and Spike danced the steps of a successful negotiation.

"Mr. Jensen, we just need to fill out a few forms to complete the deal. And you can then go to your insurance man for coverage. I'll make sure you have your new Lexus ready in 24 hours."

"Let's get this over with, then." Spike turned to Cray and added, "Then I'll buy us a little dinner."

"I don't have to be back until 9:00. How about some steak?" Cray decided to be playfully pushy.

"Steak it is. Ben, let's fill out these forms so I can feed my young, hungry friend."

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