Castle Roland

Shifting Sands

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 4

Published: 8 Apr 14

During the morning family breakfast on Wednesday, Drew brought up - in vague terms - the need for household and entertainment expenses to be reduced wherever possible. Not eating out as often, less first-run movies, making do with their current wardrobes, fewer iPod downloads... things that, when lumped together, took a major hit on the household budget. He and Bob informed Cray that both of their salaries had been temporarily cut back and would remain so until the recession had run its course.

"But it's not like we're in the poorhouse." Drew spread strawberry preserves on his toast and added, "Bob and I take in enough to handle the household expenses and have a little left over for 'mad money'." He wanted to toss out this caveat so that their son wouldn't get unnecessarily alarmed.

"How does this affect college this fall?" Cray asked with a worried expression. "The scholarship only handles tuition and books."

"It's covered," Bob replied. "The money account we set up for your education should take care of everything else. And since you're not 21, you can't blow that much on beer."

Cray made a face and said, "Right, like I like the stuff anyway. Now, if you offered a neat red Burgundy."

"Our son and friend, the connoisseur." Drew smiled at Cray's comment. He and Bob had let Cray taste wine with dinner several times over the past year.

"Yikes... we've raised a wine snob," Bob exclaimed, with Macaulay Culkin's famous ''Home Alone'' expression.

"Eh... enough knowledge to be dangerous. Maybe being soooo sophisticated will help me find a new 'Mr. Right'." Cray took a sip of juice and continued, "Just joking. But back to the money stuff... I plan on keeping my job at Barcelona to build up my savings. Thank God the café is still busy and the tips are pretty good."

"If it's any comfort, we've got some pretty good marketing programs coming up to keep the casino and hotel hopping this summer." Bob patted himself on the back and shrugged. "At least that's the idea."

"The marketing guru speakith," Drew said. "Oh, I forgot to mention that Spike's coming over tonight. He and I have some business ideas to toss around concerning a different job at Barcelona. If you're going to be home, I know Spike would love to see you."

"Spike? Cool." Cray frowned with a mixture of curiosity and concern. "Don't tell me he's lost his job."

"As a matter of fact, the entire Finance department was 86'd. But I've got something in one of the restaurants that might appeal to him."

"I'm surprised that Spike would get axed with he and Lou being... "

"In business, there aren't too many sacred cows," Drew quickly replied. "But I'm covering his behind." He had decided, with Cray's love life awry, not to mention that Spike and Lou were also no longer a couple. 'I really shouldn't be gossiping, anyway,' he thought.

Cray nodded and finished his juice. "Spike and I haven't seen each other for a while, with me only working on weekends. I've got to ask him about his brother. Henry's coming here for school this fall."

"There you go," Bob said. "Another friend you'll know at UNLV."

"Here's to friends... new and old." Drew raised his coffee cup in an impromptu toast and sipped. He'd only met Henry once. 'I wonder if the two boys have been more than just friendly?'

The remainder of breakfast was upbeat and the trio agreed to only spend within reason - measured frugality was the theme of the day. Cray decided that his casual clothes would work well for the coming school year, and he didn't have reason to add to his more formal ensemble. 'Formal' included a special-occasion suit, an all-purpose blue blazer jacket, coordinating slacks, all-cotton dress shirts and 'real' leather shoes. Drew made a point of saying that he still had a little flexibility with the hotel expense account and that they were still on for dinner and the show on Friday night at Barcelona. What Drew and Bob didn't add was that their combined salaries - even after the reductions - gave them a substantial edge over most families.

Drew and Bob juggled living and working together without many tangles - the guys worked in different areas of Barcelona, and, until the previous day, didn't have 'direct report' conflicts. Like most days, today they commuted to work in Drew's car and parked in the executive underground garage. That they were a committed couple and had been foster parents to Cray was common knowledge to most of the several thousand employees. Although a case could be made for nepotism, no one made comments about the arrangement. In fact, several of the staff admired their solid family structure, however 'off the beaten path'.

Drew told Bob he was going to walk around the hotel and restaurant areas for a little while and they parted in the lobby. With all the turmoil, he wanted to be a visible leader to the managers and hourly staff - to show continuity while the slimmed down organization found new balance. He called his secretary to let her know he was on the property and that he'd be in the office within the next half-hour.

'But first a pit stop,' Drew decided as he walked into a nearby men's room. 'Too many cups of coffee this morning.' He passed the sinks and saw a stunning, six foot-ish blond guy - appearing to be just out of the teen 'lad' category - drying his face. The black T-shirt was molded over a tight body and his jeans-clad backside definitely fell well within the 'bubble butt' category. 'Make that ''yummy'' bubble butt.' He looked up and their eyes connected for a moment. 'This stud puppy is indeed pretty hot stuff,' Drew thought, 'but very off-limits... for several reasons - Bob... job... Bob... job.' He stopped at the first urinal and waited to 'go with the flow'.

He was thinking about his morning schedule, and aiming at the same time, when he noticed a shadow move to his left and stop at a position one urinal away. Since he hadn't heard the eye candy leave the room, Drew assumed the same guy was now almost next to him. In the time-honored tradition of copping a look at a urinal neighbor's equipment, Drew turned his head quickly and was taken aback by the sight. Within the nano-second glimpse, before bringing his face back to the marble wall, he had caught a very immodest, not-so-innocent glimpse of the guy's package. 'Bubble butt' - now fantasy christened as BB - stood at his urinal, fisted hands propped on his hips, with a very generous, not quite flaccid, cut endowment protruding from the unbuttoned fly of his 501's. BB's balls hanging out punctuated the scene. From the corner of his eye, Drew sensed that the guy was smiling.

'Did he catch me peeking?' Drew wondered as he finished his business. 'If this was Pictionary, I'd draw a Red Bull can, a large mushroom... and maybe a couple of large dumplings.' He shook a few times, zipped up and turned around - discretely checking the view once more. Nothing had changed in the anatomical display, including nothing in the 'whiz' department, except BB had ratcheted up the smile to a full blown grin while he looked down at the urinal, or what he was displaying.

'Maybe he's just pee-shy,' Drew decided as he walked over to the sink, 'but in a very happy sort of way. If I had that donkey dick and was single, I'd be happy, too.'

"Hi," BB said.

Drew looked into the mirror and saw the guy immodestly tucking himself in. He said nothing, turned on the water and tested the temperature. 'Damn, this guy is hot and he knows it.' It was obvious that 'commando' was the uniform of the day because all he saw behind the still unbuttoned fly was hair and skin. The preverbal light bulb flicked on in Drew's mind. 'Fuck, I think I'm being hustled in my own hotel.'

"I said 'hi'. I'm Spence." BB - now, Spence - stopped at the next sink while he affixed the top jeans button. He smiled at Drew in the mirror and asked, "Whazzup?"

"Obviously not a lot." Drew pumped soap into his palm and started washing his hands.

"We could change that."

At a different time and place a couple of years ago, he would have been tempted to joke about what was almost ready to go 'up'. However, Drew decided to play along for a few moments to get some basic answers. 'Why is a rent boy working to get a trick so early in the morning? This dude seems to be pretty prime material... several cuts above the usual street trade... so what's the deal with that?' But he decided to first get the most obvious concern out of the way. "I assume you're 18?"

"Turned 20 last month."

"Have you been in Vegas long?"

"What is this, twenty questions?" Spence replied with a snicker while he turned on the water. "As a matter of fact, I got in from Seattle a few days ago."

"Have a job, yet?" Drew knew he was being played and loved it. 'The guy is good,' he thought, 'and kinda sweet in an erotic way. Someone you'd bring home to mom... if mom wasn't home.'

"I do massage work... very creatively."

"Creative massage? Uh huh." Drew imagined how 'creative' this hunk could be, in that 'massage' was a Strip buzzword for sex - in whatever flavor. He reached for a towel and studied the young man in the mirror. It appeared that the long, wavy light blond hair was natural and his blue eyes didn't appear to be dilated. "And you're offering your services?"

"Thought maybe you needed a little relaxation." Spence raised an eyebrow and asked, "You're not a cop are you?"

"No, just a business guy who knows his way around. Since we're asking, I assume you're not a cop, either?" The last thing he needed was to be involved, however innocently, in a LVPD sting. 'Although I'm sure that Metro would have given me a heads up if there was a case they were working.' Legally, police were obliged to reveal their status if verbally questioned.

"Hardly." Spence grinned again and dried his hands. "I'm in the business to make people feel good. And you know what they say about a guy helping out another guy?"

"Refresh my memory."

"That a guy knows how to... handle 'things' better with another guy."

"And you are ready to 'help' by working a tearoom at 8:30 in the morning... no offense." Drew turned to Spence and looked him straight in the eyes. "Seriously, whatever you do - as long as you're an adult - is no rub on me... if you'll excuse my pun."

"Goodlooking and a sense of humor," Spence retorted, "I like that."

"But my point is this: Vegas is a tough town for... someone who hustles."

"I don't... "

"What do you call your come-on... social engineering?" Drew asked in a brusque tone. "Please, cut the fake indignant attitude. You seem like a decent guy who's about to get your head handed to you - or much worse - if you continue down this path." He watched Spence's expression fade from amusement to worry and heard the outer door open. "Working by yourself, this way, is dangerous."

"Cool, cool. I understand. Sorry that I bothered you." Spence turned and started walking away. "Man, I can't figure out how to break into the business down here."

"Maybe I can help you. Hold up outside... there are some things we need to discuss." He nodded to Spence as a weary slot player, coin bucket in hand, came in and entered one of the stalls.

Outside the restroom area, Drew sidled up next to Spence and motioned for him to walk over to a corner of the foyer that separated several banks of slot machines from the buffet restaurant. 'At least he didn't make a run for it,' Drew thought as they arrived at the secluded area. He stopped at a spot he knew was not covered by security cameras and put his hand on the small of Spence's back. "Let's talk here." He took a step so he could face Spence - a very apprehensive Spence.

"There's nothing much to talk about... I need to get going."

"Just take a few minutes and hear me out... I'm not going to harm you. Then you can be on your way." Drew looked around and verified that no one was taking note of their presence. He was only concerned that this handsome guy might have a police record and being seen with someone 'with a past' at the hotel wasn't good.

"I'm listening." Spence's tone was more of being curious than arrogant.

"First, am I right to assume that you did 'massage' work in Seattle? I'm not judging or anything in case you think I'm a Jehovah's Witness, or something like that." Drew smiled to signal a level of understanding and trust. "Hear me out. Okay?"

"What the... yeah."

"I'm all ears," Drew answered with a nod.

"For the last couple of years. I met a guy in a class at the community college and we... well, after we got to know each other, he introduced me to someone who arranged dates for clients. You know?" Spence shrugged and added, "It's something I'm good at and the bread's great."

"Why are you here in Vegas if everything's hunky-dory up north?"

"I had a big fallout with the... booker. She wanted me to handle a repeat big spender who's a real cokehead. I don't do drugs, or want anything to do with a user. Period. Told her to 'fuck off.' Since I'd finished the second year of school, a few credits shy of an A.S. degree, I decided to move where I can 'work' and get into a four-year college. Vegas seemed to be the ideal place. But I burned bridges in Seattle and don't have anyone to contact here."

"Ergo, our meeting a few minutes ago." Drew was sure there was more to the story, but he didn't have the time or inclination to explore the complexities of this young man. However, he sensed Spence was grounded and worth the effort.

"Yeah. I scored with a... client late last night; it worked, so I decided to try it again."

"Sheer luck. Last night... it was here?" Drew wondered if there was a weak link in security that he needed to investigate.

"Naw... at the Hilton."

"Okay, let me lay it out for you... the way it works in this town. Unless you find a 'booker', Vegas can be pretty brutal. You keep working the hotels and you'll land on the official shit list in less than a week. Your name and photograph will be circulated everywhere, because all the top hotels and casinos have tough security forces to keep pandering and solicitation to a minimum. So, the next course of action is to pick up tricks downtown, in a few of the gay bars where hustlers work... stuff like that."

"Whoa. Not a pretty picture."

"And it gets worse," Drew replied. "This town eats people alive. Vegas uses and abuses people in your trade at a pretty alarming rate, and without a support system, no one survives very long. Guys have it bad but it's even worse for the women. They're usually the target for getting beat up by assholes who get their kicks that way." He studied Spence for a moment. 'Yeah,' he decided, 'I might as well do my Mother Teresa thing.'

"What's on your mind?" Spence scratched his stomach and added, "This silence is freakin' me out."

"Any police busts in your past?" Drew decided to get this out of the way.

"No, not even a speeding ticket."


"Only a little grass once in a while."

"Good." Drew looked around and decided to go to the final step. "I've got a friend who may be able to help you out. But he's very strict about drugs and doesn't want his escorts to have any sort of a rap sheet. Normally I wouldn't get involved... but you seem like a solid guy who needs a break. If you're intent on pursuing this line of 'work', what I'm suggesting will be reasonably safe. Just so you know, he does a background check."

"There's nothing in my past I'm ashamed of." Spence cocked his head and asked, "Are you involved in business with this guy?"

"No way." Drew shook his head and chuckled. He wanted to say that he was only guilty of providing beds but decided against it. "I'm just someone who knows the score and is offering a hand. A lifesaver, because that's what this is. Remember that movie with Kevin Spacey and the little kid, Haley Joel Osment... ''Pay It Forward''?"

"Yeah, I've seen it on TV."

"A close, young friend benefited from a good deed a few years ago... and I'm paying that gesture forward." Drew smiled for a moment as he thought about the way Cray had arrived in Vegas two years earlier.

"I... I appreciate what you're doing," Spence replied in a quiet tone. "Just so ya know, escorting is a way of supporting myself and having enough money for school. When I get a college degree, I'll retire."

"It's smart to stick to that plan." Drew took a deep breath and decided to go on. "Can you be at the UNLV student union at 2:00 p.m.? It's a new building on Maryland Parkway and an ideal neutral location to meet people."

"That sounds safe enough," Spence replied wearily. "Yeah, I could do that. It'll give me a chance to scope out the school anyway."

"I'll make a call. Wear what you're wearing and stand by the Jamba Juice counter - a good safe place and your preppy look will blend right in. Someone will approach you and take it from there. Think of it as a job interview."

"What's the guy's name?"

"I don't know who'll meet you. Just trust me that this is cool and not a dangerous situation. And for the record, I'm not judgmental about how you earn your living." Drew added with a shrug, "Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do."

"Ah, okay... what do I have to lose?"

"Exactly the point. The other part of the equation is knowing when to get out." Drew thought of Spike and hoped that this kid would turn out as well.

"By the way, I don't even know your name."

"Drew will do. I'm just trying to help a guy who seems to need a break." He extended his hand and Spence grabbed it. "Good luck."

"Thanks, Drew." Spence shook hands and asked, "Will we ever see each other again? If this works out, I'd like to thank you... if you know what I mean."

"Not necessary... I've got a wonderful life partner." Drew smiled and added, "In the meantime, please don't try to drum up business at any of the hotels. I was serious about getting tripped up with security."

"Got it. I'll be at Jamba Juice at two." Spence waved and walked away into the bright glitter of the slot machines.

Drew continued his tour and finally got up to the executive office a half-hour later. It was a little lonely with half the staff no longer employed, and he noticed Nick's door was closed as he entered his new 'old' office. In that the secretary was not at her desk, he assumed that she was in with Nick. It was 9:30 a.m. and probably a little early to make his call. 'But this may be the only chance I have before meetings start stacking up,' he decided as he hung up his suit coat and retrieved his iPhone from the coat pocket.

He thumbed through his address book and found the number. However, he decided to use the hotel landline. It was too easy to intercept cell phone calls and calling Mario did have its cautions. Drew sat down in his chair and punched in the number. The call was answered in the middle of the fourth ring.

''"What?"'' a voice answered gruffly.

"Hey, Dude. Did I disturb your beauty sleep?" He knew that Mario Cirillo was not a morning person.

''"I don't know about the beauty part,"'' Mario replied with a little chuckle, ''"but I was in the middle of a hot dream. Or that's what my body's telling me."''

"Dream, my ass. It's just a morning woodie that needs a little help." Drew laughed and added, "Long time, amigo. We haven't seen each other for a couple of months." By habit, neither man addressed the other by name on a telephone, no matter how secure the lines might be. And Drew knew Mario's personal telephone was clean.

''"I'll skip making any comment about your ass and my woodie."'' Mario yawned and cleared his throat''. "So why do I have the pleasure of a wake-up call from you?"''

"Got a situation that might prove beneficial to your organization." Drew proceeded to give Mario a rundown of the chance meeting and his observations concerning Spence. At no point did he specifically state details that could give the authorities ammunition to indicate that the two men were discussing less than legal activities.

''"We can always use talent and you certainly have a taste level I trust. I got a guy who's an associate. I could send him over to the student union. He's got that collegiate look and will blend in well." ''

"That'll work. I mentioned no names - except my first name - or anything specific about your business. Your man will have to check out his 'creds'... but I have a good feeling about the guy and hate to see him fall into that street abyss. In the meantime, we're all due for dinner somewhere. Maybe Ruth's Chris in a couple of weeks?"

''"And if it works out with the new-hire, dinner's on me as a referral fee,"'' Mario said with a laugh. ''"You should bring your son along, too. How's my favorite nephew doing?''"

"Between boyfriends but graduating with honors this coming weekend. Let me check with the guys and get back to you with a date for dinner. Later."

''"Be good, buddy. Bye."''

Drew, as well as Bob, enjoyed the relationship with Mario and they ignored the guy's profession. Mario had never pressured either of them to do anything beyond taking care of an occasional VIP visitor and he continued to be a good adult friend to Cray - the uncle with a dark side that everyone knew about but didn't acknowledge.

'If Spence doesn't have serious baggage,' Drew reasoned as he thought again about the earlier odd turn of events, 'that stud muffin could be a star in Mario's stable.' He couldn't wait to relate his 'good deed' to Bob and felt that he'd saved a guy from taking a dangerous path into the underbelly of the nation's entertainment capitol.

H. Spencer Trotter - but known as Spence since childhood - didn't quite know what to make of the meeting with the man in the restroom at Barcelona. 'But whoever the hell he is,' he thought, 'Drew seems to be a straight shooter and he gave me some good advice.' His original plan was to 'beat the bushes' for a few tricks before noon in this new city and earn some 'walking around money'. However, free-lancing was new to him; once Drew had told him about the pitfalls of working on his own, Spence knew that he would have been slipping into a black hole. And with a little brother to support - something he didn't want to mention to Drew - undue risks were not part of his plan.

He usually didn't shout to the nearest lamppost - or urinal - how he made money, but having a decent income suddenly became necessary after his mom died in a car accident almost two years earlier. She was a passenger in the car and wasn't wearing a safety belt. He had just started classes at Seattle Community College when, suddenly, he was thrust into the premature role of primary breadwinner. His dad had deserted them years earlier and the nearest relatives were in North Carolina. At 18, he had been awarded custody of his 12-year-old brother Kevin, and assumed responsibility for handling rent for their small two-bedroom apartment, car payments, clothing and making sure there was food for his small family of two.

When it was time for the 'birds and bees' talk, Spence had been very detailed about male and female anatomy, how everything worked, and how a pubescent male could take care of himself in privacy behind a closed door. He also briefly touched on sexuality, and officially came out to Kevin. He was, however, less forthcoming on how he earned enough money to support the two. Spence reluctantly lied that he had a part-time job for a large accounting firm that offered night computer work.

The classmate who'd cruised him in ''Intro To Accounting 101'', resulting in a few satisfying mindless safe fucks, led to an introduction that became Spence's financial salvation. The guy revealed that he had an unusual part-time job and thought Spence would be an ideal addition to the company.

''Dining Out'' was a front operation for an escort service that had a solid clientele of locals and executives visiting the rainy, high-tech Seattle area. It also looked innocuous on business credit card statements. The owner was a woman who had discreetly ran her service - providing young women and men on call - under the radar for years. The company slogan was 'never a nine': referring to the universal rating system ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 10. ''Dining Out'' guaranteed top quality in all categories. Spence went through a 'training' program and had been able to handle living expenses for two, build up a nice money account and still make decent grades. After the recent fallout with the boss woman, he decided it was time for a change. He still wanted to work, but realized it wouldn't be possible in Seattle.

The younger Trotter didn't pull the typical teen 'I know more than the parents' attitude because he always looked up to Spence and knew better. And he recently confirmed to Spence that he definitely liked girls. "Really, big time," was the exact quote. Kevin, now 14, was a little bummed about leaving his friends. But he relied on his big brother as the provider-father substitute and they were also best friends. The big selling point about moving was that Kevin would be starting high school in the fall as a ninth-grader and he agreed this was a good time for a clean break.

A Google search, a month earlier, had given Spence a feel for where to rent. Because of his concern for Kevin, a solid school district and a low crime rate had been factors in seeking a suitable rental. Fortunately, once he'd zeroed in on Henderson, there were several apartments available that didn't require a lengthy lease. Spence focused on a location near an Interstate off-ramp, for ease of commuting, and found a decent two-bedroom ground floor apartment off Pecos Road.

Spence looked at his watch and decided to get back to the apartment he'd rented the day before and help Kevin unload the rest of the U-Haul truck. They had taken three days to drive from Seattle with their possessions, with Spence's Volkswagen Beetle in tow. 'Something I don't want to do again,' he thought, 'but it was cheaper to do the self-move.'

The vast Barcelona garage was a little empty on that Wednesday morning and he had been able to find a space on one of the lower floors. He got into his Gecko Green Bug and decided he should get it washed after his interview. 'Wonder if I have to audition?' Spence thought with a smile as he drove out to Las Vegas Boulevard.

Ten minutes later, he arrived at the apartment complex and spotted Kevin struggling with a box in the rear of the U-Haul truck. He smiled at the close physical resemblance that was emerging as the teen sprouted into young manhood. Kevin -to friends, Kev - had grown in a vertical sprint the past school year and was now only three inches from Spence's six-foot height. The 14-year-old was starting to fill out about the same way as Spence had six years earlier - lithe muscles erasing the scrawniness. The main difference was hair. Whereas Spence liked his longish, flowing mane, Kevin preferred the jock buzz cut that his track teammates wore.

"Lemme help," Spence called out as he eased out of the car. He waved and asked, "How ya doing?"

Kevin wiped his brow and jumped off the truck. "Just in time. This is the box with my books." His tee shirt and gym shorts were damp with sweat and smeared with dirt. "Gimme a hand."

"Looks like you've got the rest of the small stuff moved," Spence replied as he grabbed one side of the box. He smiled at the way Kevin's vocal inflections now projected confidence, rather than ending almost ever sentence with a drifting question mark.

"Worked my butt off this morning. Now that you're back, we can move the other furniture."

"That's the plan. Speaking of butts, Kev, at some point we need to weed out some of your clothes that don't fit anymore. What you're wearing looks pretty tight."

"Maybe I can start wearing your stuff," Kevin replied, wiggling his eyebrows.

"Not yet, buddy...but someday. You figure out what you need... without breaking the bank... and we'll go shopping next week." Spence made a mental note to check out where the nearest Ross or Marshall's was located.

"Shopping is good... Obama sez we need to spend and help the economy."

"When did you become a political activist?" Spence asked with a chuckle.

"Oh, about two minutes ago."

The Trotter brothers slid the heavy box off the tail end of the truck and slowly carried it into the standard vanilla rental apartment - white walls and beige carpet - still empty in the living room except for stacked boxes and the typical 'odds and ends' of a household move. By the time all the papers had been signed the day before, there was barely enough daylight left to unload the two beds, the bedside tables, sheets, towels and assorted toiletries.

"I'm impressed with the progress you made while I was away," Spence remarked with an admiring nod as they set down the box of books in Kevin's room. "Let me strip down to some shorts... we can finish unloading before noon." He wanted to keep his shirt and jeans clean so he'd be recognizable at the student union.

"You got home early." Kevin peeled off his tee shirt and tossed it aside.

"Something came up. I accidentally ran into a job opportunity and have an interview at two. If everything works out, it'll bring in enough to keep us going... with no sweat." Spence casually looked at his brother and admired how he was growing. 'Maybe I'll fess up to the reality of the situation someday,' he thought, 'once he's a little older.'

"Cool. I wish I was old enough to get a summer job."

"Maybe next year. This is a good time to check out the surroundings. There are several rec centers, pools and good libraries in Henderson." Spence walked into his bedroom, stepped out of his flip-flops and carefully took off his tee and jeans. "Tell you what," he said, loud enough to carry into the next room, "I'm supposed to meet a guy at UNLV. After we finish moving everything in, I'll return the truck and cab it back while you get cleaned up. I'll pull myself together and we can grab lunch at the student union. You could explore while I have the interview." He figured that there was no downside in bringing Kevin. 'And I'll have a rough idea where he is.'

"Wow, I like that," Kevin replied with his usual enthusiasm. "Except for their basketball team, I don't know squat about UNLV. This is where you plan on enrolling?"

"One of the things to do this week. All of my credits should transfer so I can start this fall with no problems. I've got a good grade point average... so it's just a matter of becoming a resident of Nevada."

"Which I guess we're doing now. Right?"

"As soon as we get gas and electric service," Spence said. "My friggin' to-do list keeps getting longer and longer." 'Friggin' was as close as either approached the famous expletive. The self-censorship was a carryover from earlier years when their mom was still in the picture. Spence now held sway in the same tradition.

"Busy week, huh? We gonna get a chance to see my school? I'm really curious what that place is all about and the kids I'll be with."

"Maybe tomorrow. I need to start the paperwork anyway and you can come with me. However, we've got to do a little heavy lifting right now and empty the truck. Let's do it, buddy." Spence playfully swatted Kevin's shoulder as they walked back out to the truck.

As was usual in their teamwork approach to tasks, the brothers finished on time, cleaned up and arrived at the student union at 1:00 p.m. for a light lunch. Kevin had changed into another tee and cargo shorts; Spence had re-dressed in his earlier look. Afterwards, they checked out the university shop and Spence bought a Runnin' Rebels shirt for Kevin. With a campus map in hand, Kevin eagerly walked away to explore. Spence had suggested that they meet at the library at four. Spence figured that whatever happened with his appointment, it would be finished by then.

The student union crowd was thinning out - it was after lunch and before the first coffee breaks. Spence posted himself to the side of Jamba Juice and casually scanned people sitting at the tables and walking by. On more than one occasion, he picked up serious pings on his gaydar from passing men. Several would have been interesting to meet if he was just here on a casual visit. 'Plenty of time for that,' he decided, 'down the road.' Having a serious boyfriend was not high on his list.

"You must be Spence," came a voice from behind.

Spence turned and said with a smile, "Guilty as charged." He did a fast scan of the guy and was surprised at his appearance. He estimated the stranger - with short hair, wearing casual khaki pants, a polo shirt and boat shoes - to be only a few years older. 'Handsome dude,' he judged, 'but his nose looks like it's been worked on. Maybe it was broken in the past?'

"And I'm Brad. You wanna get a cup of coffee and sit?"

"Black and regular strength. Thanks."

"You find a table near Starbucks over there and I'll get the coffee," Brad replied with a smile.

Spence followed Brad to the opposite side of the food court and sat down. Within moments, Brad returned with two 'Grande' Starbucks coffees and joined him. Spence nodded and picked up his coffee. "Here's to Seattle's finest," Spence said as a toast.

"From what I hear, you're Seattle's finest." Brad winked and cautiously took a first sip. He licked his lips and added, "My boss said we should talk. Give me a rundown about what Spence is all about. And just between us boys, the unvarnished version will do just fine."

"How unvarnished?" Spence asked. He was a little taken back by the forwardness of Brad.

"When interviewing for a job in our business, the more raw the better... if you get my drift."

"Triple 'X', but tastefully choreographed." Spence smiled and slowly sipped his decaf Caffè Verona blend. 'There's something about this Brad dude that feels right,' he thought, 'and I might as well let it all hang out.'

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