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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home

Circumstances - 22. Kev

Leo was doing some nearly volunteer college design work again, mainly advising a young lighting designer, Kevin – tall, thin, good-looking, young, and a bit unfocused, maybe because of all those easy assets. At six one morning, when Leo and Gus were staying at Leo’s parents’ house outside Dallas to celebrate Leo’s birthday, his phone woke him. It was Kevin.

The first thing Leo asked was, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Yeah – a bit after 8:00. Too early? Sorry. I know you stay up late.”

They’d talked about the hours of working in theater.

“It’s six o’clock.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“It is where I am.”

“Where are you?”


“Oh.” Kevin sounded embarrassed. “Sorry,” he added again.

“Are you OK?” Leo asked. He couldn’t figure why else Kevin would call him. And why him? They’d only worked together recently.

“I’m mostly OK,” Kevin replied. “I’ve just done something stupid.”

“Life threatening?” Leo was concerned.

“No... Just... dumb.” It seemed he’d been reaching for a better word.

“Can it wait a few hours? Or is there someone nearer you can ask?” Someone who knows you better, Leo thought.

“Well... not really.” Kevin stalled. “Can I just explain?”

Leo looked at Gus, who was awake and listening, though he could only hear one side of the conversation. Leo popped on the speaker.

“It’s like this,” Kevin began. “You know who Phil is?”

Leo had to think. “Yeah,” he finally said. “One of the actors.”

“The really snotty one.” Kevin quickly amended: “But don’t get me wrong – he’s a really good actor. And he’s not snotty about that.”

He faltered. Leo waited. Gus’s hand crept down Leo’s chest, and Gus was grinning.

“But he’s snotty about other things – like showing off, without even realizing it. Like he loses two-hundred dollar ballpoint pens, two or three a year, and doesn’t even blink. And he has this Gucci jacket...”

“Yeah?” Leo asked, when Kevin went silent. He was grinning back at Gus but shaking his head, “No.”

“He leaves the jacket all over the place – like it’s something he picked up at Wal-Mart – or worse – the Salvation Army. Though he wouldn’t knows what that is outside Guys and Dolls. And he wouldn’t know how to find – or shop in – a vintage store even if you led him to one.”

Kevin was very well dressed – a mix of new and vintage – though understated.

“Anyway, he was in the booth last night after the show, flirting with Jenny while I was trying to give notes. And she was more interested in him than in anything I was saying. You know how she is – terrifically dependable but only to a point. And the rest of the crew was getting impatient because a lot of the notes depended on their timing off her cues. When she finally asked, “Am I done?” I realized it was useless. So I let her go, gave notes to everyone else, and she scampered away with Phil – his hand slipping into her back, tight jeans’ pocket. But after everyone left, as I was making sure everything was turned off, I noticed Phil’s jacket on the floor. He must’ve flopped it somewhere, and it fell, and he didn’t even remember – or care – because that’s just like him. He was seconds away from getting Jenny into his car, and then up to his apartment, and then... well, you can imagine.

Leo could. Gus’s hand was figuratively on Leo’s tight jeans.

“Not even drinks first,” Leo joked, wriggling free of Gus.

“They’re way past drinks,” Kevin insisted. “They’re clawing at each other’s clothes like it’s been weeks, when it’s probably only been since last night.”

“You didn’t call just to talk about Phil and Jenny?” Leo asked.

“No.” Kevin laughed. “But doin’ it makes me feel better already. Thanks.”

Leo waited. Gus had temporarily switched over to listening, but he still looked coy. “Then what did you call about?”

Kevin hesitated but finally admitted: “The jacket. I stole it. Well, not really stole,” he corrected. “I always intended to give it back. But I figured I’d keep it for a couple of days first – maybe a week-or-two. Teach him a lesson.” He paused. “He’s so used to all of us finding it – or his bookbag – or his phone – or any one of his scripts – and giving them back. He doesn’t even think it’s irresponsible.”

Gus whispered into Leo’s ear, and Leo repeated to Kevin: “What kind of jacket is it?”

Kevin laughed again. “I told you – Gucci. A classic black leather bomber jacket – he looks great in it. But then so would Flem.”

Flem – who’s actual name was Keith Flemmings – played clown roles, partly because he looked so much like one

“Anyway, it cost three or four thousand dollars – even if his mother got it on sale. And I’m sure it was a present – Phil doesn’t shop for himself. And he never spends money like that, either – not on himself. He doesn't have to. Even the pens, he takes off his father’s desk – he’s told us as much. His dad doesn’t care. He’s probably got dozens.”

Leo whispered to Gus, “All the kids have money – well, most of them. It’s a wealthy school.” Gus simply nodded.

“Anyway, I took the jacket,” Kevin went on. “Took it back to my dorm – I have a single, so no one saw it. And I brushed it off and hung it way back in my closet – not that anyone’s ever in my room. And I left enough space, so it didn’t get crushed. And I figured it was safe there for a week – or at least a couple of days. Then I woke up this morning feeling like a thief.”

Leo laughed. “Phil probably doesn’t even know it’s gone. He’s probably still with Jenny.”

“No, he doesn’t like girls staying overnight – he’s almost proud of that. He’ll carefully drive them home – or ease out if they’re at her place. But he likes to wake up alone, in his own apartment.”

Gus laughed. It was too close to home. Then he reflexively put his hand over his mouth. Still, if Kevin heard, he probably thought it was Leo.

“So I’m sure he’s realized the jacket’s gone,” Kevin continued. “And he might even’ve stopped back to the theater – to try and pick it up. But, of course, that was locked.”

“It would be on a Sunday morning – very early Sunday...”

“Yeah, yeah – I got it. And I said I was sorry.”

“And you’re forgiven... But when can I go back to sleep?”

If Gus made that possible.

“So I’m sure he knows I have the jacket,” Kevin insisted. “Or thinks I do. Because I’m usually the last one out of the booth and sometimes out of the theater. And I’m sure he’s expecting me to give it to him – he knows I wouldn’t leave it in the booth because I’m not that kind of his friend. Besides, someone might grab it and sell it.”

“Would they really do that?”

“Oh yeah. There are kids who really envy Phil.”

“Well, give him back the jacket,” Leo reasoned.

“I can’t... I told you I feel like a thief. And I’m no good at hiding things – I’m not an actor, never have been He’ll take one look at me and see it all over my face.”

“You’re imagining things.”

“I’m not – really. I’ve known it all my life – that I can’t lie. And people’re always reminding me.”

Leo needed to think. “Then what do you want to do?” He wasn’t sure why Kevin had called – except to confess.

“I want to put the jacket back in the booth and just let him find it. It’s the best solution. But – like you said – the theater’s locked.”

“There must be someone around.”

“It’s Sunday. You know it’s almost law in the department – no one works. We can’t even have rehearsals.”

The school had a quasi-religious background. But Leo remembered this was more of a department thing.

“Besides, I don’t want anyone to know – and you know how they all talk. Even if I could find someone with a key – and I think a couple of the grad students have one to the shop – word would get around. Then I’d look like a fool and a thief.”

“Then sneak the coat back into the booth. Tell one of the grad students you forgot your laptop – or something small you could slip onto the floor – like your wallet or keys.”

“And how would I hide the coat?”

“I don’t know... Wear it under your raincoat. Or stick it in your backpack... a pillowcase... Something.”

“That would get it all smooshed.”

Gus cracked up, nearly taking Leo with him.

“Is that worse than being a thief?” Leo tried seriously to ask.

Kevin seemed to think. “I can’t take the risk,” he decided.

“Then go to the police,” Leo suggested. “The campus police. You could wear the jacket in front of them, and they wouldn’t even know... Tell them you need to work in the theater, but it’s locked, and no one’s around to let you in.”

“Yeah, well, I thought about that – I’m not a complete dummy.”

“I never said you were. I doubt anyone has.”

Gus raised his hand.

“The problem with going to the police is they’ll need someone’s approval – someone on the faculty – I’m only an undergrad. And you know I can’t get that from anyone here – not on a Sunday. And you know I don’t want anyone to know. But you’re a kind of faculty... And the police know you... And I know you won’t be around to talk... And you’re not the kind anyway...”


“So if you’d call the police and tell – ask – them to let me into the theater, I can do the rest.” He hesitated. “Well, they’ll have to let me into the shop first, and then the tech office. But I know the lockbox combo, so I can get to the keys.”

“Couldn’t they just let you into the booth?”

“Nah... it’s off limits ‘cause of all the equipment. Even the police aren’t allowed in.”

Leo remembered that from when Dan – the tech director – gave him a master key. “Now don’t you go losing this, or I’ll have to skin you,” he’d warned. Then he’d explained why.

“Do you know the phone number of the police?” Leo asked Kevin.

“I’ve got it right here. It’s the main campus number...”

“That’s in my phone.”

“Then extension 3130. Or you can simply drop the last four numbers of the main one and dial those directly.”

“Got it.”

“And you’ll do this for me?”

“Why else would I ask the numbers?”


“It’s the fastest way to get back to sleep.”

“I’m not gonna apologize again.”

And Gus made it clear they weren’t going right back to sleep.

“I really appreciate this,” Kevin went on. “I’m not sure how soon I’ll see you again... But I’ll make it up to you.”

“Just don’t send flowers.”

“What? Oh – yeah.”

After Kevin got the joke, Leo ended the call, phoned the police, made the arrangements, ended that call, and flopped onto Gus.

But almost as soon as he did, his phone rang. Gus waved it away, but Leo glanced at the number, and said, “It’s my father.”

Gus looked toward the wall – Leo’s parents were in the next room. Well, just on the other side of a bathroom.

“Hey, Dad,” Leo said. “What’s up?”

“Are you OK?” his father asked.

“Yeah. Sure. Why?”

“‘Cause you’re up very early.”

“Not on TV hours,” Leo kidded.

“You’re not doing TV. You’re home... on break... we’re celebrating. And we did that pretty late last night. But then we heard your phone ring.”

“I thought the walls were thicker.”

“Then maybe you have a loud ring. You have a loud voice.”

“And we heard you talking,” Leo’s mother added, letting Leo realize his dad’s phone was on speaker.

“Everything’s fine,” Leo assured them. “I was just helping a student.”

He quickly explained, they both laughed and praised Leo for being a good person and a patient teacher, and Gus laughing, too, acknowledged that he was also on the call.

“Well isn’t this a nice party?” Leo’s mother said.

“I’m going back to sleep,” his dad added.

“Us, too,” Gus told them, whispering to Leo, “If the walls are that thin.”

Leo tickled him.

“See you for breakfast,” Leo told his parents. “Though not before ten.”




Though almost immediately, Leo reconsidered. He kissed Gus, got out of bed, dressed, and went downstairs to his dad’s office, where no one would be bothered by his voice. He called Kevin back, to follow him through the return process.

Kevin said he appreciated that. “I’m with the police now, and they’re surprised their master won’t open the booth.”

“We’re supposed to be able to get everywhere in case of an emergency,” the officer told him.

“I think the booth is an off-limits area,” Kevin explained. “Like some of the labs, running experiments.

“No, we’re supposed to be able to get into them, too – some of the senior officers, with special masters. Let me just grab a handful of keys and see what we can do.”

Kevin reminded her that all he needed was to get in the tech office, in the shop, for “less than a minute.” But she was on a mission. So Leo stayed on the call while the officer got what she needed and then walked with Kevin the short distance from the station to the theater. Once there, she tried her collection of keys – Leo lost count of how many from just overhearing – before she gave up, muttering. Then she let Kevin in the tech office.

“Thanks – really, thanks,” he told her. “I just need to work for an hour-or-so. Should I stop by the station when everything’s locked up?”

“No, you’re good to go,” the officer said. “But I’ve got to see about this key.” And she took a number off the door plate before she left Kevin alone.

“She’s gone,” Kevin finally told Leo. “And the jacket’s back on the floor where Phil dropped it. And you were right – I just wore it here. No one noticed. Good suggestion.”

“No scrunching it in your backpack, huh?”.

“That was one of your dumber ideas.”

“You might’ve tried a pillowcase.”

“Why would I be carrying a pillow?”

“Your dirty laundry?”

“You need some sleep.”

“I’ve been saying that...”

“Anyway, thanks again.”

“Sure thing.”

“And thanks for calling me back – you saved my butt.”

“I doubt that. I’m sure you had a back-up plan.”

“Yeah – telling Phil I’m a schmuck and letting that get all over the place.”

Leo just laughed, Kevin repeated, “I owe you,”and they ended the call. Then Leo went back upstairs and gently tickled Gus awake.

Oddly, when Leo got back to New York, a week later, some old, infected trees along his property line had mysteriously disappeared. He asked his neighbor on that side about it. But she just said a tree service truck had pulled up one day, took out the maybe half-dozen trees, then chipped them.

“From the town?”

“No – it was one of those private companies – I can’t remember its name. But one of the ones that leaves cards in our mailboxes all the time.”

Leo made some calls – to the town and to a half-dozen tree services he had cards for or could find listings. They all knew nothing.

But he knew taking out the trees was expensive – three or four thousand dollars – he’d gotten estimates. So he was expecting a bill. He also remembered casually asking Dan, the tech director, for recommendations, when they were waiting for something that didn’t concern them to be worked out in a rehearsal. As Leo’s advisee, Kevin was nearby, but Leo didn’t think he’d overheard. And no bill came.

About a month later, when Leo was back on campus for a production meeting, he saw Kevin and Phil sparring down the hall. He couldn’t hear what they were saying because they were too far away. But he asked Dan what was going on.

“Oh, ignore them – they’re always doing that. Both of their families have money – big money – though Kev doesn’t like to admit it – he gets embarrassed. And they both really want to sleep with each other. But they’re not even close to admitting that.”

2019 by Richard Eisbrouch
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