"Well, guys, I've got everything pulled together. I definitely start dealer's school on Monday. When we're finished with coffee, I'm heading back to L.A.," Al said in a restrained, friendly manner. "I'll be back in a few days with my car loaded."
"Bring back whatever ya need. There's plenty of closet space so you can camp out in style until the end of the year." Drew left Bob and Al at the table as he took the dirty dishes to the kitchen. He returned with coffee and poured more for everyone.
"Thanks. This stuff should keep me wired on the trip back." Al savored the aroma before taking another sip. "Well, at least until I get to Barstow and the Mickey D's. By the way, I went over to Circuit City yesterday and bought a TV for my bedroom. Hope you don't mind? I kinda like to veg out in bed with the tube. I'll set it up when I return."
"Mi casa, su casa, Bro. This is your home until the end of the year," Bob said.
"And I appreciate that. Guys, you've really been great about this. Dad passes on his regards. I talked with him last night and he gave me the green light to give you guys a confidential rundown on what's happening with the new project and our family's involvement. The only thing I ask is that we keep this between ourselves. Trish really doesn't know much at this point." Al stared at his two friends with an expression that changed from a smile to intenseness.
"Bro, you've got my attention," Bob said, straightening up in his chair.
"We don't have to get to work for another half-hour. I must admit that I'm really curious." Drew looked at the wall clock and noticed it was 7:45 a.m. He considered the heavy Friday evening check-in that night and didn't feel guilty that he might be running a few minutes late getting in.
"We won't need that much time. Plus I gotta get on the I-15 and drive back. I plan on being back in L.A. by 1:00 p.m. at the latest." Al paused and took a sip of coffee. "Basically, here's the deal. Dad and investors from back east are planning on a mega-casino resort on land near the Bellagio."
"Mega?" Bob leaned closer, indicating his further interest.
"2,000 rooms and all the usual amenities on the first phase."
"Phew, that does sound ambitious," Drew said. "You're going to break ground soon? I haven't heard anything about this."
"We're going before the gaming commission next month. A holding corporation secured the land some time ago. The reason I'm telling you this now is I just found out from Dad that there are some relatives on Mom's side of the family that have, err, a past not quite pristine. The conversation Dad and I had last night was mind-blowing. He's not sure exactly what may come out in public and thought it best that I be brought up to speed. Apparently some investigative reporter has been asking questions."
"Not quite pristine?" Drew mentally was fitting square pegs into round holes. 'What the fuck is he talking about?' he wondered.
"You've heard of the Galliano family?"
"Jeez, as in the New York mob boss back in the 60's?" Drew asked with a raised eyebrow.
"The same. It appears my great uncle was a big deal in it."
"How big?" Bob asked.
"He was 'the' Galliano. I was told his brother - my grandfather - changed his name years earlier and just faded from the scene. Um, until last night I always thought Mom's maiden name was Gallian. French. Now I find out that I'm half-guinea," Al said with a nervous laugh.
'You mean Gallian Industries started as something else?" Drew had a pretty clear rundown of the senior Al Bromley's history. Forbes always gave Gallian Industries and its chairman and CEO, Al Bromley, Sr., high marks. 'So it's Mrs. Bromley who had the bucks originally,' he concluded.
"Well, buried in our gourmet foods division is the foundation of the company: Galliano Olive Oil. I guess it's something that everyone swept under the carpet. The reason I'm telling you guys this is that the reporter is sniffing around about the history of the company."
"You think that it'll be trouble for your dad and the casino plans?" Drew mentally processed the information and came up with a possible derailment for Bromley's project. The theme song of 'The Godfather' started playing in the back of his mind.
"Don't think so. The holding company is Spanish Gallion, Ltd. More a play on words than I originally thought. Dad thinks it's all bullshit and it'll go away. But just the same, we're going for 'bear' with this. Mom's brother, Uncle Louis, is the managing partner of a New York law firm. This writer will understand by Monday that he should very careful about what he says or writes."
"Al, you've got our loyalty and confidence. Our lips are definitely sealed." Bob reached over and slipped Al the timeworn SAE fraternity grip.
"I know I can trust both of ya. I can also tell you that Dad wants both of you to join the project when the time is right, probably next year. That's why he wanted me to tell you about this. He said for both of you to learn your jobs well." Al winked and stood up. "I probably shouldn't tell you, but ya gotta keep this buried deep. Nick Maggiano is going to the operations boss man."
"Wow, that is news. Don't worry; I'll definitely keep this one close to my chest. I like Nick a lot," Drew replied.
"Same for me. I've only been in Vegas a few months and you got me up for a job with another company?" Bob asked with a goofy grin.
"Buddy, not only are we best friends, you're going to be my brother-in-law and I trust you. Just keep learning about casino marketing and sales. You guys are kind of an extended branch of the family." Al reached over and squeezed Bob's hand.
"Hey, hands off my boyfriend," Drew said with a laugh. "Seriously, this project sounds exciting. I've got a great job and a fantastic boss at Nero's but what you say is very appealing." Drew couldn't help but wonder if Al really understood the unsaid impact of using the term 'family' in a different context? 'Naw, probably not.'
"Let's get over this hurdle of the potential gossip and approval by the gaming commission, first. Just consider, guys, you both will play prominent roles in this new project."
"Sweet. I'm honored." Drew sensed that his life would be taking a dramatic turn by the end of next year. 'Jeez, how will this affect my relationship with Nick?' he wondered.
"Guys, I'm going to hit the road. Knowing you, Drew, you're probably going to be doing lots of Google searches over the weekend," Al said with a friendly shrug.
"Oh, yeah, a little research is definitely in order. Especially from what my potential boss just told me." Drew stood and pulled Al into a brotherly hug. "Have a safe trip and we'll see you in a couple of days."
"Take care, Al. Give my love to Trish." Bob squeezed Al's arm before they bumped knuckles.
Al picked up his bag and they all walked out of the apartment to his SUV. As the Acura drove away Drew knew that he had to find out more about this deal and the infamous Galliano family.
Drew absentmindedly played with the salt and pepper shakers as he waited at a table in the Caf Bellagio. He wanted to speak privately to Wes and thought it best to get off property for lunch and avoid 'eyes'.
The searches on Google and Yahoo harvested a flood of minutiae in addition to important historical details concerning the Galliano family and their leader, Sam Galliano. There were vague references to a younger brother but any further family tree branches stopped cold with Sam. All Drew could gather was that the Galliano gang quietly merged into another New York crime family 30 years ago when Sam Galliano passed away.
A Gallian Industries search spewed out pages of references including the corporate directors. Drew did note that among the prestigious list of directors was Louis Gallian, managing partner of a large New York law firm. Digging further, Drew discovered that Mr. Gallian was a very prominent lay leader in the Archdiocese of New York. In addition he was very active in the Manhattan social circles and a major fundraiser for several Republican presidents. However, one tidbit literally slapped Drew in the face: Mrs. Louis Gallian was the former Julia Maggiano from Napa, California. 'Holy fuck,' Drew thought, 'is this Nick's sister? And if so, how does a grape grower's daughter from the wine country become a social leader in New York?'
Al Bromley, Sr., was at the core of all the stories about the company. On a separate search for Mrs. Bromley, her name popped up in conjunction with social and charity events. As with her brother, searching beyond the school years yielded nothing when he typed in her maiden name. It was as if the brother and sister hadn't existed before 1968.
"Hey, Drew, sorry I'm a few minutes late. Got hung up in some admin crap," Wes said while pulling out a chair from the table. "It's one of those office days."
"No problem. I haven't been here too long and it's good to get away from Nero's. Gotta check out the competition once in a while." Drew smiled and offered his hand as Wes was seated.
"This is a treat for me. Camping out at the Bellagio isn't something I do very often. Justin will be jealous when I meet him at the gym tonight and tell him about lunch," Wes replied as the server arrived at the table.
"I'm having iced tea but you wanna beer or something?" Drew asked.
"Tea will be fine," Wes said to the server. "No lemon."
"Gentlemen, I'll be back with the tea and take your lunch order."
The waiter left the table and the two young men automatically opened the menus. After a discussion about the choices available, Wes decided on the Kobe beef burger while Drew chose a designer pizza of bar-be-que chicken, tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella.
"We all had fun the other evening with Justin and you. You guys up for a movie next weekend? I'll be able to get out fairly early Friday." Drew was intent on developing the budding friendship further between the four of them.
"Let me run that by Justin. Maybe meet at the Sunset Station casino for a cheapo Mexican dinner and then go to one of their movie theaters?"
"Super. I'll check with my other-half and call you tomorrow. I know Bob would really like to do something with you two."
"Good. By the way, how's your friend Al Bromley doing?"
"Al's fine. He really enjoyed the evening. Um, Wes, could I ask you a question...confidentially?"
"It's 10 inches," Wes replied with a confident smile.
"In your dreams," Drew said after a pregnant pause.
"Naw, in Justin's dreams. Just joking." Wes winked with a smirk. "Seriously, whazzup?"
"I couldn't help but pick up some vibes between Justin and you when I introduced you guys to Al. Could I ask if you recognized his name from somewhere? Anything I should be aware of?" Drew stopped and pulled back when the server brought the lunch orders. He nodded to the server after she refreshed the iced tea.
"Jeez, there's really nothing much to say...nothing confidential, that is. Justin and I are on the crime detection task force when we're not rotating on S.W.A.T. We recognized the Bromley name because he's involved in a company that has been buying up a lot of real estate on the strip. The task force captain started getting cross-references on transactions of purchases last year. It all led to a company called Spanish Gallion something or other. Can't remember the company but Mr. Bromley's name is prominent on all the paperwork. We checked out the company and Bromley very thoroughly. We found nothing to be concerned about...only a very rich company that is ready to do something big." Wes turned his attention to the food and started eating.
"Wow, I'm relieved. Al's going to be Bob's brother-in-law, as you know. I just wanted to make sure there weren't any problems looming on the horizon." Drew nonchalantly took a sip of iced tea and picked up a slice of his pizza.
"No biggie. Haven't seen anything more happening on the property. As I recall, it must be a little over 200 acres that the company has acquired. My guess is that we'll be seeing an announcement about a new casino resort pretty soon. This town is booming and there's always room for another attraction. If I hear of anything happening that's not confidential, I'll give you a holler." Wes smiled and continued to attack the burger.
"Wes, I'd appreciate that." 'Hmmm,' Drew thought, 'it all checks out on the surface. But what is below the surface in Las Vegas often goes untold.'
"Tell the man that I'll have the funds in the account by Monday." Nick was behind his desk juggling several matters including a request by the treasurer of the 're-elect the governor' committee for Big Al to be generous. Big Al Bromley hadn't blinked an eye when Nick told him that the committee was counting on one hundred grand. 'Gotta get the casino launched,' he concluded.
"Thanks, I'll pass on your regards. Good luck on everything." On the telephone, verbal shorthand was understood. "Bye." 'Everything' was the 200 acres sitting two blocks away.
Nick turned to his PC and continued to review the previous night's revenues from each of his profit centers. It was only 9:00 a.m. and he was just completing his third hour in the office. Every morning he had a brief, electronically scrambled telephone conversation with New York to keep his brother-in-law current on all developments on the project. He smiled and shook his head when he thought of how his life had changed when his older sister married Louis ten years earlier. Nick's concentration was broken when the inter-com rang.
"Nick, your ten o'clock is here."
"Send him in and bring a fresh pot of coffee, please."
Nick clicked off his screen and rose from the desk just as Drew walked in. "Hey, Pal, good to see you. Coffee?"
"I'd love a cup, black." Drew smiled, shook Nick's hand and sat down. Silently, the secretary placed a cup of coffee in front of him. "Thanks."
"The numbers look very good. Although the sales department has really been putting 'heads on beds', I'm impressed at your productivity numbers. In all areas the man-hours per guest is down and the comment card ratings are up." Nick casually observed his new management super-star and felt positive about Drew's promotion.
"Well, certain things were no-brainers. Let's just say that I had some pretty obvious decisions to make."
"Drew, I like that you didn't say that your predecessor was a sorry sack of crap who spent more time screwing than doing his job." Nick laughed and added, "I'm sorry if I sound a little down on the guy but he really took advantage of me and the trust we placed in him. With you, however, I have every confidence that you'll do a terrific job. You have a great future. And I hope it will be with me...for a long time."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. However, the 'great future' seems to be your job," Drew replied with a chuckle. "I mean, you're not going any place, are you?"
"Let's talk about that." Nick stood, walked around the desk and closed the door. "What I'm going to say is in complete confidence, capiche?" He sat down on the couch and continued, "Come on over here and grab one of the easy chairs. It'll be more comfortable."
"Free coffee and an over-stuffed chair? Beats my office." Drew grabbed his cup and joined Nick in the sitting area.
"First, don't freak out when I tell you that I'm aware of the conversation you had with young Al Bromley last week." Nick paused and let this information soak in. Drew frowned a little and appeared to process the news.
"Um, I assume that you're in on this 'Spanish Gallion' deal?" Drew asked, guardedly.
"The deal, as you put it, will be a Spanish-themed replica of Barcelona old town as the core for a new casino resort on the vacant land just south of Bellagio. We go before the planning and gaming commissions next month."
"And you're going to be..."
"President and COO. Let me explain, Drew. The senior Bromley told me about the possibility of a reporter snooping around for a sensational angle for a story and told his son about all the ramifications of unrelated crap that might be dug up. He also wanted young Al to let you and Bob know what was happening because of your friendship and Bob's relationship through his sister."
"Yeah, Al told me about that and the Galliano family connection. Has the reporter taken any further steps with the story?"
"I can safely say that the reporter was persuaded to stay away from a story that would be libelous and financially damaging to all parties...including the reporter."
"So, the crisis has been solved?" Drew asked.
"Pretty much. What I wanted to do this morning was to bring you into the loop because I want you to be part of this exciting project. And, of course, Bob. In about six months - say, April 2007 - I will resign from this position to officially become the new casino president. I figure by that time we'll start moving dirt on the property."
"The resort will open in 2008?"
"Yep, about two years from now. What I want to do is to take you with me when I resign next spring to be my assistant VP and special assistant to run with the details of building, furnishing and opening this new place. Interested?" Nick asked with a confident, piercing stare.
"Uh, I'm completely dumbfounded,' Drew said with a shocked expression on his face. Within seconds, his emotions arced from surprise, to disbelief, to understanding and finally to joy. "Jeez, this sounds great. I know that Mr. Bromley's money isn't going to run dry. Err, is it crude of me to ask what kind of money will you pay?" He stared at his boss with a sheepish grin.
"For openers, about the same as you're making now. Plus, I'll throw in a company car - your choice, within reason - a gas card, and a generous expense account. I'm going to want you to check out all the other resorts. The organization will be structured a little differently. I figure that if you absorb everything I throw at you, the job of hotel operations VP will be yours. That, my friend, will earn you some gold." Nick smiled when he saw Drew's eyes light up. "I have no doubt that you'll excel, Mr. Reichardt."
"Well, you know how to really shock someone. Nick, with you to guide me, I'd love the challenge. You're sure I'm not too young?" Drew stuck out his hand and Nick grabbed it.
"You're young only in years. I've watched you finesse your way daily like a pro. A deal, then?"
"Deal." They shook hands and smiled. "Um, what about Bob? Al mentioned that there was something in the wind for him."
"Bob definitely is going to be part of the resort. He's got a lot to learn in marketing. I suspect that I would want him to stay here at Nero's for another year. It'll give him a chance to learn from a crack marketing team under Mike Diamond. Your buddy, Bob, has a very secure future."
"Is it alright to tell him about this conversation?"
"Al, Senior, and I have no objection. However, let young Al tell Bob's sister about the plans. It'll be easier that way. Other than you guys, only my buddy Rod knows what's going on. By the way, how about dinner this weekend?"
"Um, we're busy Friday. How about Saturday?"
"Saturday, it will be. I'll tell Rod to plan some fantastic menu and we'll serve the wine that you brought last time."
"Thanks, Nick. I'm really psyched about everything."
"Me, too. Welcome to the new team. This is going to be an exciting time in all of our lives."
Bob was totally mesmerized by the details of the story that Drew told him during dinner at the apartment. While the introduction of Nick as the boss of the Bromley's' new casino was news, the revelation of information gleaned from Drew's searches on the Internet blew his mind.
"You mean that Nick's older sister is married to Al's mother's brother? This really does give 'family' new meaning...at least for a guy from the valley," Bob said. 'And it's really odd about Nick's dad growing grapes in Napa, he thought. 'I wonder what that's all about? Witness protection? Hiding from the mob?'
'It's really odd if you think about it. Once Trish marries Al we're all going to be kinda related."
"We'll handle the gay branch of the family. And I think it wise if we keep the information about Al's uncle in New York and Nick's sister between us. Let them tell us if they want to." Bob stretched out and let out a muffled yawn.
"Bob, I couldn't agree more. We'll keep this quiet. Just you and me, babe. Speaking of 'you and me', why don't we continue this conversation in the bedroom. You're tired and I need a little snuggle time."
"That yawn isn't a signal that I'm ready to sleep. It is saying that I'm ready to jump in the sack with the future assistant VP of the Spanish whatever and fuck his brains out," Bob replied as he stood.
"My brains need a little exercise." Drew joined Bob and wrapped his arms around Bob's body. "No more business talk. It's personal time now." Drew brought his lips to Bob's and inhaled before attacking a willing mouth and tongue. Their routine of tongue-duels had now been well choreographed.
"Ummm," moaned Bob. He slowly slid his hand down to Drew's crotch and verified that his lover was definitely 'up' for the evening. Pulling away, he said, "Let's get you and that hard piece of meat back to the bedroom...now."
"Yes, Sir," Drew replied playfully. In an assertive manner he yanked on Bob's crotch bulge and added, "You mentioned something about my brains? Buddy, I'm ready."
"Whatever we do, it stays in Vegas." Bob took Drew's hand and led him back to the bedroom.
"And lover, we're definitely staying in Vegas."
Author's note: I'm sure that we'll revisit the guys when the new casino is built.
A very special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing.