Castle Roland

Shifting Sands

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 5

Published: 8 Apr 14

Spence got the idea of how Brad wanted the interview to go, took a deep breath and peeled off the varnish. The family situation, or lack of it, was the easiest to explain and he felt relieved that Brad seemed to have a sympathetic ear. In fact, Brad told Spence that a runaway boy had, two years earlier, lived in the house that he shared and became sort of a combination house mascot and little brother.

"I suppose we should start with your vital stats," Brad said, slowly scanning Spence's body. "Although I can tell that you seem to take care of yourself."

"Part of the program." Spence knew his tee and jeans fit just right... for the right effect.

"Let's be clear about exaggerating. My boss will expect a complete inspection at some point."

"My email address is '8inSeattle' and I'm cut with a set of low-hangers," Spence replied in a matter-of-fact manner. "Except for getting a new address, everything else is what it is." He decided not to add that he got no complaints. 'That would be a little snotty.'

"I like what I'm hearing and I can relate." Brad winked before adding, "In our business, what's inside the gift box needs to measure up to the wrapping."

Spence silently returned the comment with a nod. 'I guess we're both letting it hang out... in more ways than one.'

In sharing his professional experience, Spence gave Brad all the details of the Dining Out business operations as he understood them, from a worker bee's point of view, and described his rather vanilla techniques with clients. Most of the questions concerning fetishes were answered with a series of 'no's' and head shaking. 'This guy must think I'm a real square,' he thought as Brad was writing some notes on a legal pad, 'and from the sticks.'

"I guess that flexibility is not your strong point," Brad said with a shrug, "but I was never into much more than... you know... pretty ordinary stuff either. Still not, although I've pretty much retired."

"Retired?" Spence asked. He had assumed that this studly hunk - probably only a few years older - was still active in the business.

"Except for a few high-roller regulars, I pretty much handle the business operations. I was promoted last year and decided that it was time to save my ass for someone I love."

It didn't take prompting for Spence to mentally undress Brad. "He obviously hasn't found the right guy yet.' And although it was tempting to toss back a suggestive comment - like suggesting Brad's ass was USDA prime grade - he decided that a smile and silence was the best option.

Brad put away his pen, looked at his watch and continued, "If you have time, I'd like you to meet the boss man at our house. Have you got an hour or so? Right now, it's about quarter to three."

'Sounds like I passed the first phase of the interview,' Spence thought as he smiled with a nod. "As long as I get back by four. My kid brother is in the library and I promised him we'd meet then."

"He'll be okay 'til then?"

"Kevin is 14, going on 21. He loves books and thinks it's very grown up to read in a college library."

"I assume that you're not worried about leaving your brother at home by himself when you're out on an appointment?"

"He's absolutely trustworthy," Spence replied with a confident smile. "Doesn't mean I won't take necessary precautions here in Vegas. He has his own computer, but I clued him in about avoiding squirrelly adult chat rooms and not to put out too much personal info on his Facebook page. I'm fair, though, and he understands the rules."

"Cool. How do you two deal with your... job?"

"Fibs that he seems to buy," Spence said. "In Seattle, I told him I worked off-hours for an accounting firm."

"That works." Brad then gave Spence a rundown of the operation and the company's expectations. He touched on fees and mentioned that they'd been scaled back this past year to be more 'competitive' for the entertainment dollar. At the end of the informative 30 minutes, he asked Spence if there were any further questions.

"Nope, you've been very thorough and there's nothing that I can't live with." Spence was impressed that Brad had stressed drugs being a major no-no several times.

"Then, let's get going," Brad said as he got up. "You follow me... it'll be pretty easy to retrace the route so you can return to the library after you talk to Mario. Even in rush hour traffic, we're only about 10 minutes away."

'So Mario is the boss,' he thought as he followed Brad out of the student union. 'It seems that this operation is pretty well organized... much more so than Seattle.'

The two men separated in the parking lot and Spence positioned himself in his car until he saw Brad approaching in a beige Jeep Liberty. He waved to indicate he was ready to follow and eased his Bug into gear. As promised, about 10 minutes later they were winding their way through an upscale residential neighborhood. In the middle of the block, Brad turned his right signal on and pulled onto a driveway barricaded by wrought iron gates. The gates were affixed to large flagstone columns and high stucco walls hid the rest of the property. Because a dark green canvas backed the gates, Spence couldn't see the house until they were opened. It appeared to him that more than privacy was at issue.

'Nice digs,' was Spence's first reaction as they passed the entry and drove in. The house, surrounded by desert landscaping, was a rambling one-story structure in a Southwestern motif, and to the right was a large, unattached three-car garage. They drove behind the garage and eased into a small parking lot - only three of the ten spaces were occupied. Once he got out of the car, he noticed the house was in an 'L' shape layout and much larger than it first appeared from the front. Also, on the other side of a large pool, was a spacious casita with a trellis-shaded patio. Sitting at a shaded table was a dark-haired man with a couple of tattoos, dressed only in white tennis shorts, intently looking at a laptop screen through aviator sunglasses. As he got closer, Spence was able to study the tattoos - one on each upper arm. A Marine emblem was on one bicep, a ferocious bulldog with the words "Semper Fi" underneath on the other.

'Hey, Mario," Brad called out. "Have you got a few minutes to meet someone?"

"I'll make time," Mario replied with a wave. He stood up, removed his sunglasses and added, "I assume this is the famous Spence?"

Spence noticed Brad had communicated back with a silent 'thumbs-up' sign as they walked around the pool. He was impressed that the 'boss' not only was a handsome dude in incredible shape for someone over 30, but also had taken the time to know his name. Mario, he decided, was naturally 'macho' and didn't work at it. The abundant body hair seemed to be just enough in all the right places - his intriguing trail to the proverbial 'treasure' softly meandered down the defined six-pack, past an 'innie' and further to the band of the shorts before disappearing. From the definition of Mario's bulge, Spence assumed his interviewer was a 'commando' man.

"Welcome to our home." Mario reached out and shook Spence's hand. "Sit down and take a load off. You want some water or a Coke?"

"Water would be fine," Spence replied as he pulled back a chair and sat down. "If that's okay?"

"Water and the desert are synonymous in a perverse way." Mario got up, walked over to a grill area and opened a small refrigerator door. He retrieved two bottles of water and returned. "Brad, I know you have some business to finish. Anything you want to pass on before Spence and I talk?" He handed a bottle to Spence and sat down.

"Everything checks out," Brad replied, "and I think he'll fit in. The only possible negative is that Spence will be juggling a huge load - if you'll pardon the pun - being the guardian to his younger brother, attending UNLV and working for us."

"Always the joker." Mario shook his head and chuckled.

Brad shrugged with a grin and winked at Spence.

"However, that's a good point. See ya later." Mario nodded and Brad walked in the direction of the main house. Mario took the cap off the water bottle, took a sip and asked, "So, how do you see things in this 'juggling' act? How old's your brother?"

"14, but not a crazy 14," Spence said with a shrug. "Kevin had to spend a lot of time at home by himself this past year while I was... taking care of business. I'm very fortunate that he loves school, studying and reading; plus playing the big brother-slash-guardian role is a big deal for me. We love each other and Kev knows better than try to pull any shit on me."

"Spoken like a good dad."

"Honestly, I don't think continuing this schedule will present a problem if I work for you." Spence was slightly distracted for a moment when two hot-looking guys about his age walked out of the house wearing very brief swimsuits. As the two over to the pool Spence said, "If you don't mind me asking, is this some sort of apartment complex?" He wanted to add that the place looked like a stylish, gay variation of the Best Little Whorehouse in... Vegas but thought it best not to say it.

"More like a twisted frat house," Mario replied with a chuckle. "It sort of evolved due to some of our associates being from other cities, not having a decent home and living in cheesy hot-sheet motels. It seemed to be a good business decision... creates a safe, comfortable place for the guys, and so they're better workers as a result."

"What a great way of taking care of the troops," Spence remarked.

"Or that I'm a devoted capitalist. The criteria for living here include being a top revenue producer, compatible with the crew and not involved in drugs in any way. Presently, there are five bedrooms; four are shared and the fifth bedroom is a suite where Brad bunks. The suite was my place for quite a while before I built this casita a year or so ago. My job description was expanded and Brad was promoted to watch over our operations." He took a sip of water and continued, "And to answer your unasked question, absolutely nothing of a commercial nature takes place here. All of our services are booked and assigned to an associate. Mostly, the escort meets the client at their hotel."

"Very similar to my job with Dining Out."

"I should add that discretion is an absolute necessity," Mario said in a more serious tone. "Our clients trust us that their activities are not to be mentioned to anyone."

"As in, 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'?"

"Exactly... like the chamber of commerce says." Mario replied, and he turned an imaginary key on his lips. "And nothing is discussed with any of the other guys."

"It was the same policy in Seattle."

"Tell me about what you did up there." Mario lowered the laptop screen, leaned back in his chair and added, "I'm vaguely familiar with Dining Out and we're quite similar... although on a larger scale."

As he had done with Brad, Spence laid out his experience and emphasized the vanilla aspect of his services. Aside from a few blunt questions about technique, Mario listened with interest. When his 'curriculum vitae' had run its course, Mario discussed the fee splitting structure and booking procedures. Finally, he asked Spence if he had any further questions.

"Everything sounds pretty cool, although I'm a little puzzled about one thing. Is this your business?"

"Spence, everybody - well, most everybody - works for someone else. Even Bill Gates, with all his zillions, still is accountable to the stockholders. Let's just say that the company you'll be involved with is well funded. The only downside right now is that business has been a little off. This friggin' economy has put a dent in our revenue and I purposely didn't hire replacements when some of our associates moved on this past year. Like you, several were in college and ready to explore the real world of legitimate jobs, while others left town for greener pastures. Last year, one of my guys even 'married' the big boss's son." Mario chuckled, rolled his eyes and added, "But that's another story for another time. Point is, when Drew called, the timing was perfect. We needed to find someone who can provide your 'type' and 'style' and I respect his judgment."

"My type?" Spence asked. He was pretty sure of the answer but decided to play a little coy.

"Preppy, collegiate, vanilla... all those labels." Mario shrugged and added, "Versatile, of course, plus the 'goods' that completes the package... if you get the drift. Brad will give you the scoop concerning beefing up your wardrobe."

"Got it. By the way, who exactly is Drew?" Spence's curiosity had been piqued that morning when he had encountered Drew and questions about his mystery mentor were continually simmering.

"A friend who's one of the good guys. You were extremely fortunate to have run into him because, if you want it, I'm ready to offer you a job. We're the best at what we do in this town; you'll fit in well." Mario stood and asked, "Whatdaya think? Ready to sign on the dotted line?"

Spence got out of his seat and extended his hand for a shake. "Ready and willing. When do I start?" They shook hands and he felt Mario's strong but not brute strength in the shake.

"Very soon. The first appointment will be with one of our trusted clients who likes young, preppy dudes. It'll be complimentary because I want impartial feedback. However, you'll receive a gratuity for services rendered... if that's acceptable."

"I'm confident I'll pass with flying colors," Spence said with a grin. "What else?"

"Let's go for a quick dip in the pool, cool off and then get you on your way to pick up your brother." Mario winked and slipped off his tennis shorts.

"When in Rome." Spence tried not to register his admiration of Mario's unfurled package and knew he'd measure up to the unspoken visual challenge. He pulled off his tee, toed off his shoes and unbuttoned his 501's. He wiggled his pants down and stepped out of them. Out of the corner of his eye, Spence noticed the two guys in Speedos get up from their chaise lounge chairs, salute him with a smile and jump into the pool. At the same time, Brad walked out of the house with a towel wrapped around his waist. Spence put his hands on his hips, trying to be casual, being butt ass naked in front of strangers, and asked Mario, "Any buyer's remorse?"

"Absolutely none," Mario replied with an approving nod. "What God gave you is going to make you very popular. Now let's get wet and meet a few of your new colleagues."

In the distance, Spence noticed Brad grinning broadly as he gestured a thumbs-up with his free hand.

Spike's day had started off with the obligatory come-to-work-and-clear-out-your-desk routine. He was met by a security guard with a box and accomplished the task within minutes. At Drew's suggestion, he didn't go through the separation process with H.R., because of the 99% probability of transferring to the F & B department. 'I'll find out about that this evening,' he thought as he walked out of the Barcelona employee entrance. On the way home, after a fast detour through the car wash, he stopped by the food market and picked up several cardboard boxes for packing. Although Lou had given him a month to exit his condo at the Mondrian Tower - the term 'their' no longer applied - he had decided to start the weeding out process.

By the time he'd taken a break for lunch, polishing off the remnants of some aging-but-still-eatable Thai takeout, Spike had packed a variety of kitchen utensils and appliances he needed. Mr. Gallian, Senior, communicating through his administrative assistant, had given Spike the green light to take whatever he needed. As Lou mentioned, his father's household effects in storage from the New York estate would amply furnish two or three large condos. He was also told that Mr. Gallian planned on using the condo as a guest suite. With that in mind, Spike took the remainder of the day to inventory and tag what would fit into his more modest new home. 'Mr. G certainly won't be using all this contemporary shit,' he thought, 'and I might as well grab what'll fit in my place.'

The late afternoon sun was blinding when Spike drove out of the Mondrian garage - those last moments before that reddish-orange ball settled beyond the desert. When Spike arrived at Drew and Bob's house, the evening's dusky shadow was prevalent. There were no lights on, so rather than park in the driveway and risk blocking the garage if the guys hadn't returned, he opted for a curb spot. One of the reasons he'd had his car cleaned earlier was that dusty or dirty cars - even his small Lexus - weren't seen in this neighborhood. It was an unwritten law.

"Duh, duh, duh, duhhh," - the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth played chimes when Spike pushed the doorbell. "Duh, duh, duh, duhhh."

He was a few minutes early for his 7:00 p.m. meeting with Drew and, as he waited for someone to come to the door, thought the guys might be out on the patio. Just as he was ready to push the button one more time, the door opened and a grinning Cray appeared. In typical Vegas casual dress, he was wearing shorts, tee and flip-flops.

"Hey," Cray said as he stepped aside and swept his arm inward. "Welcome to our pad."

"Thanks, dude. This is the first time I've been here since you guys had the housewarming party." Spike walked in, embraced Cray and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. 'Whoa,' he thought as his hand lingered around Cray's waist and felt his solid back muscles, 'this guy ain't a kid anymore.' He studied Cray's chiseled face and remembered the nervous, scared teen he'd met two years earlier. "I'm here to see Drew on some business."

"He just called. A meeting with Nick ran a little longer than planned, but he's on his way. Maybe ten minutes away at the most." Cray squeezed Spike's arm and added, "Wanna grab a drink and hang at the pool?"

"Lead the way, bro." Spike replied. "Water's fine." He always liked being around his honorary brother and was just as proud of Cray's successful transition into manhood as his foster dads were.

They walked into the kitchen and Cray retrieved a bottle of Evian from the fridge. He gently tossed the bottle to Spike and they continued out to the pool. Dusk had taken the upper hand and the landscape now took on a creatively lit stage appearance.

"I was just out here daydreaming and thinking about things," Cray said as they sat down. "Michael and I split up the other day."

"Yikes, that is heavy. I'm sorry... really sorry." Spike decided to treat this as new news. Because there was no comment concerning his and Lou's situation, Spike was sure Cray knew nothing about it. "You doing okay?" He took Cray's hand and held it for a moment.

"Still feeling kinda crummy. This just happened a couple of days ago and I'm still figuring it out." Cray frowned, took a drink and said, "I got dumped... plain and simple... in the middle of the friggin' IN-N-OUT."

"I hear ya," Spike replied with a shrug. "Join the crowd, cuz I'm also a dumpee. Lou left me a 'Dear Spike' letter. He took off for New York on business and told me it was over via a friggin' note."

"No shit." Cray sat up and looked at Spike with a frown. "When did this happen?"

"Monday... not even a phone call... just something cranked out on the 'puter. Didn't have the balls... to do it in person."

"Wow, that is a bummer," Cray replied. "Like one step away from getting blown off by a text message. How long will Lou be back East?"

"He's going to work in their bank headquarters in Manhattan and isn't coming back to live here... period." Spike lifted his bottle and toasted, "Buddy, here's to two victims of the recently departed. Misery loves company... but I plan on getting over it ASAP."

"Departed... like splitting from the scene and not the other thing. I can dig it." Cray touched his bottle to Spike's and drank. "I won't ask you how you feel cuz I probably feel the same way. At least I did until Drew gave me the 'dad chat'. You know... lick your wounds and get on with life. I'm lucky to have Drew and Bob to lean on."

"And you got good advice," Spike said. "That's what I'm doing... or going through the motions. I'll be moving into the condo I bought for Henry to use when he comes here for school. The only dif is that we'll now be roommates." He took another sip and continued, "I always knew Lou was a player and it was naïve on my part to think I could reform him. But, I must say, we shared a couple of good years together."

"Michael wasn't a player but he met this guy at the mall and... POW... he flipped for the dude and went gaga. I'm thinking that maybe what we had was meant to be one of those first love deals - a way to get things put together right in our heads for the future. A future with other people... ya know what I mean?"

"That's what you've concluded?" Spike asked. 'Where the hell did this guy get his wisdom?'

"Like they say on CSI, 'Nothing conclusive, but evidence points in that direction'." Cray flashed a wistful smile and continued. "I was more than a little pissed - okay, I was fuckin' mad - but I'm now getting over it... the pissed off part. If I can get through the big party that Benny Boren is throwing on Friday night, then I'll do fine. Michael will be there but we've decided to play it cool. He's not bringing the new boyfriend and we promised not to air our dirty laundry. As far as everyone's concerned, it was one of those things that happens when high school's over and you go on to different schools."

"Different schools, as in... "

"Michael's new 'love forever'," Cray replied with more than a tinge of sarcasm, "is off to Reno and Michael is following along. Pre-med."

"Maybe there'll be a chance for my brother to get reacquainted with you this fall," Spike replied with a chuckle. "Henry's free and single."

"Sexy, too." Cray punched Spike's arm and winked. "But we've 'been there, done that,' if you know what I mean. Naw, Henry and I are friends and that's about it." He leaned over, smiled and added, "And we had a great teacher to help us figure things out. I should call you Professor Spike."

"Ha. You must have taken good notes cuz I didn't hear any complaints from Henry." Spike was amused that they were talking about successful sexual experiences based on techniques he had verbally taught each of them, separately, two years earlier. "Seriously, I'm glad you're going to be classmates and we'll all be friends. To hell with our ex's."

"Ex-boyfriends aside," Cray replied, "I understand you're looking for a new job. I should have said I was sorry about you getting caught up in the cutbacks. That sucks, but I guess Drew's got something up his sleeve for you to do?"

"Ergo the meeting. He was very vague on the phone, so I don't know if I'll like what he has in mind." Spike paused for a moment and continued, "But I've got an idea for another good-paying job."

"At the casino?"

"Naw... I was thinking about calling Mario and coming out of retirement." Spike turned up his palms and raised his eyebrows. "Whatdaya think."

Cray's mouth dropped open and he scowled.

"It's good money and the hours are short... depending on the client." Spike wiggled his eyebrows and smirked.

"Whaaaaat the 'eff' are you talking about?" Cray asked with alarm. He stood up and put his fists on his hips. "Man, that's so friggin' stupid and wrong. I don't think... "

"Whoa, slow down." Spike got up, moved over to Cray and hugged him tightly.

"Slow down? Bullshit," Cray said with anger and wiggled away. "You promised me. I mean... the memories of Brad getting beat up by that crazy leather dude makes my skin crawl. It's just... "

"Man, stop. You made your point and I agree with your sentiments. I was just pullin' your chain and it was probably a bad joke on my part." He extended his arms and Cray frowned for a moment. At the same time, Spike thought about Brad - the time when his friend had been kidnapped from a gay bar and taken to a creepy dungeon in that asshole's house. Brad fully recovered and was now running the escort service. "Forgive me?"

"Promise me that you won't be working ever, ever again for Mario. I love that guy, but... "

"Cross my heart." Spike smiled when Cray finally came into his arms. He felt Cray hug him back as he continued. "Trust me, I'm retired from that business... forever, and I know Drew wouldn't have called me if he didn't have a position that made sense for me."

"Well, isn't this a huggable Kodak moment," came Drew's voice from the edge of the patio. "Or are you two about to go into a wrestling match? If that's the case, I'll get Bob to come out and we can tag team." He walked forward, still wearing a white shirt and suit pants from work.

"Nothing so ambitious," Spike replied as he released Cray. "We were talking about our separate love lives - or lack of them - and I made a dumb comment."

"And I called him on it." Cray pointed his finger at Spike and added, "You just caught us in a friendly make-up hug."

"If you guys are finished, can I borrow Spike?"

"Yes, Daaaad." Cray quickly kissed Spike's cheek and stepped back.

Drew extended his hand to Spike and they shook hands. "Good to see you away from work."

"It has been too long," Spike replied and squeezed Drew's hand for emphasis. He was pleased Drew hadn't drawn out their separate boyfriend problems with any further questions.

"Let's go into the house. You ready for an adult beverage?" Drew put his hand on Spike's back and said to Cray, "Thanks for entertaining this guy. You going to stay out here?"

"For a little while. Probably swim a few laps before I go in." Cray nodded to Spike and added, "And that little talk did help. We'll have to discuss this more in detail, later."

"Maybe next week you could help me move some of the heavier stuff to my new place," Spike suggested. "If you've got the time, I'd appreciate it."

"After graduation this weekend, I'm pretty much relying on the café schedule to keep me busy until fall. Gimme a call and I'll be glad to give you a hand. Maybe I could round up a few of my buds for muscle power."

"Cool," Spike replied. "Maybe next Wednesday? I'll rent a truck and get pizzas for lunch."

"Good bribe. I'll get two other guys from our crew... maybe Benny and Tim. They know you from the hotel opening party and will be glad to help out."

"The old Tom Sawyer fence-painting routine?" Drew asked. "Listen, guys, I'm getting thirsty for some white wine and Spike needs to hear out my idea about the job. Later, Cray." He nodded with a smile and walked back to the house with Spike. "How about a glass of chardonnay? This isn't a formal interview and I hate to drink by myself."

"Then let's crack open a bottle. I'll even drink two-buck Chuck." Spike opened the door to the kitchen and waited for Drew to enter.

"Puleeze," Drew replied, "That wine isn't an option for guests." He went to the fridge, opened the door and studied the contents. "Ah, I've got one bottle of Rombauer, 2007 left."

"Helluva chardonnay," Spike replied approvingly. He remembered that a case of the Rombauer chardonnay had been a gift from Lou and him the previous Christmas. 'When times were normal,' he thought with a moment of regret.

Drew poured two glasses of wine and they walked into the living room, the remainder of the wine in tow. Spike recognized a few pieces of furniture from Drew and Bob's earlier home - he remembered Bob's decorator sister had helped create a comfortable, masculine look without going into trendy and expensive Ralph Lauren labels. After Spike sank into an overstuffed chair and Drew sprawled on the couch, they took a moment to savor the oaky chardonnay.

Drew laughed and shook his head.

"What's so funny?" Spike asked.

"Just remembering when we first met. You had brought an envelope from Mario over to the hotel. I thought, at the time, that your boss certainly knew where to find hot looking messengers."

"Little did you know." Spike grinned and added, "But that's ancient history. You and Nick - and Lou, too - gave me a chance in the real world and I'm very happy... well, except for my sudden single status and this 'oops' with the job."

"I'm fascinated that you'd refer to the casino business in Vegas as 'real'. By the way, I picked up that you and Cray were discussing your personal lives when I arrived. How you doing since we last talked?"

"I ran through my 'moving on' speech with Cray and that's what I'm doing...just like he is. I'm confident that we'll both land on our feet and, if you don't mind, I'll make it a point to be an additional anchor for Cray while he gets his shit together."

'That would be a help," Drew said with a nod. "He's always considered you one of the good guys."

"And I feel the same way. I think we'll end up covering each other's backs."

"Now, as far as the 'oops' is concerned, Barcelona's down but not out. The hotel is running a terrific occupancy, although we've had to take it in the shorts with lower room rates."

"And I know that the casino is taking in a decent 'drop'," Spike added, "from sitting in at last Friday's finance meeting." He thought about the group of 'numbers' guys he'd been with only six days ago in the weekly briefing - they were all gone. Most had wives, crumb-snatchers and mortgages to worry about. 'Thank God I have that condo to move into... all free and clear...and no car payment.'

"Our only challenge is keeping the food and beverage outlets filled, and making sure the concepts are appealing." Drew took another sip of wine and smiled. "Making sure the restaurants and bars are updated enough to draw in outside guests will be a challenge and that's where you could fit in and help out."

Spike looked at Drew with an inquisitive glance and sipped his wine.

"We've got the EyePod - the hottest nightclub on the Strip for a long time - sucking swamp water since Wynn's Encore hotel opened. With the 'Twins' fronting for XS, they've pulled away a lot of our regulars."

Spike knew the Twins: the blond, hot-looking twin brothers were in their late-20's, and major players on the Vegas club scene as entrepreneurial managers - now for Wynn's XS club. They limo'd around to the other clubs almost nightly, dragging for hot chicks and bringing the girls back to their club as window dressing for the rich guys. In the process, the Twins also got laid... a lot. "Yeah, but I'm not a hetero stud like those two dudes and I'd burn out pretty fast trolling for pussy."

"But you could hire and supervise a staff of hosts and hostesses to do the work," Drew replied. "I'm convinced personal marketing - one-on-one's between the hosts and our deep-pocketed clientele is a proven concept, and we need to be more savvy about it. You'd be the conductor and figure out how to draw out the most fun and money to our new space."

"That sounds doable. Whatdaya mean, 'new space'."

"EyePod will close after the July 4th weekend for a remodel and re-imaging. With the economy in the tank, 'flash' is out in Vegas and less is more. There's still plenty of people with money... they just don't want to be quite so obvious right now."

"They're still hedonistic but low key?"

"You got it," Drew replied. "I'd like you to monitor the re-do, head up the marketing efforts when we re-open the place as PDT on Labor Day... and run the joint."

"PDT? As in Pacific daylight saving time?" Spike asked.

"No, something that I picked up on the web. It stands for 'please don't tell.' We're going to copy the concept that has worked for our private casino. Market the club as an open secret... unmarked entrance, unlisted telephone... stuff like that. Something very exclusive with a few over-the-top twists to make it different."

"In this town, that'll be difficult." Spike was pretty sure he'd seen it all and felt a little skeptical about creating something new that would be considered 'twisted'.

"Hear me out. We're building a new entrance to the club space in an area adjacent to the current one."

"Oh, yeah, between EyePod and the baccarat room. I thought it was some sort of new restroom facilities for the 'whales' playing baccarat."

"That was the idea months ago. The new plan, however, is for the area to be completely bizarre and unmarked," Drew replied. "The concept is to have security and hosts at the entrance to an elaborate, fantasy men's room. Think about a series of spaces you'd typically see when you use one of the toilets located around the hotel and casino. Now, throw in very dramatically lit spaces, highlighting the latest granite, stone, mirrors, architectural design... all that stuff. After walking through the vanity area, you come to the traditional commode stall and urinal room. In this case, however, the urinals are all those whacko erotic designs you've seen on the Internet. We'll also have a little 'forest' of ceramic trees that guys pee on."

"I've seen that. I think it's called a Pee Tree." Spike laughed with an approving nod as he also recalled seeing various urinals, with exaggerated ceramic orifices and suggestive hardware - with gay and straight themes. "That's whacko alright... but it could be a hoot."

"And a novel draw. The gals will love the cheekiness of entering the club through a men's room, however outrageous, and the straight guys are always up for a good 'dick' joke."

"Plus, our gay boys will pick up on the 'camp' of the whole thing," Spike said. "I like the handle. Will the plumbing work?"

"Completely. And if someone wants to use one of the urinals... boy or girl... what the hell."

"As long as no one gets carried away and flashes someone?" Spike asked. "I assume someone exposing themselves or doing lewd stuff is a no-no."

"Exactly. Provocative but legal. We can review the décor and layout of the club itself at the office. Key to the success will be the selection of a D.J. That would be your responsibility as well." Drew finished his glass of wine and added, "The salary right away - like starting in a couple of weeks - would be about the same as you were making before. But I'll structure in a bonus based on revenue and profits. The only drawback is the goofy hours that you'd have after the club opens."

"Drew, you're forgetting that I know all about 'goofy hours' from before," Spike replied with a shrug. "And right now, I don't have a boyfriend to distract me. The two weeks will give me a chance to move into my own condo and say 'bu-bye' to the Mondrian Tower."

"And with Cray and his buddies, you can get the heavy stuff handled next week." Drew poured the remainder of the wine into their glasses and said, "This will be a good enterprise for you and I have no doubt you'll do a super job."

"Yeah, me and my colorful urinals." Spike grinned and sipped from his refreshed glass. "I won't let you down."

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