“Rise and shine, Valentine!”  Chris cheered as he straddled Lance’s hips through the covers, carefully balancing a cup of coffee in each hand.

            “Get off me.”  Lance grumbled as he tried to roll over without tossing Chris to the floor.  “Chris, get off me. Come on man.”

            “I got you coffee.”

            “Get.  Off.  Me.”  Lance frowned with his eyes closed and waited as Chris removed himself.  “You’re high, I swear.  How do you go through life like this?”  Lance rolled over and sat up as he yawned.

            “It’s the sugar and caffeine I think.  Or maybe it’s because I’m young at heart.”  Chris laughed and handed Lance his coffee.

            “Maybe.”  Lance sipped at the drink and made a face.  The coffee tasted burnt and bitter but had just the right effect on him; he was definitely awake.

            “So what are the plans for today?”

            “Um… I’m not sure. I’ll have to call Jenna and see what’s up.”  Lance took another sip that went down a little easier.  “How’d it go last night?  Did you get through all the cards?”

            “Yeah.”  Chris jumped off the bed and went to the other room to grab the plastic box.  “Man, you guys are organized.  I mean, I knew that you were kinda like that, but seriously.  These are awesome.  I might want to do something like this at home.”

            “For what?”

            “I don’t know.  But this has every conversation you guys have had and the date and times and everything.  This would be good to use as evidence against like, Justin.  You know, ‘no dude, on Monday June tenth at three twenty seven you said you would do this for me,’ or whatever.”

            “Uh huh.”  Lance nodded.  “But… so what do you think?”

            “I think you guys are thorough.”  Chris smiled.  “And also, I think you’re on the right track as far as this Marshall guy goes.  He’s shady.  My guess is that if he didn’t do it, he knows more than he’s saying.”

            “He’s not saying anything, we can’t find him.”  Lance shook his head.

            “Really?  I thought one of the cards mentioned talking to him?”

            “We talked to his sister.  Jenna did anyway.”

            “Maybe that was it.”

            “Do you think she knows more than she’s saying?”

            “That’s hard to say.  Probably not, but…" Chris shrugged.

            “Anything else?”

            “This Antonio guy?  Jenna’s talked to him a few times and he apparently comes across as not too bright, but don’t write him off.  I get the feeling that even though his mind has seen better days, if you know what I mean, he’s still pretty good with it.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Well from the sounds of it he’s done a lot of drugs.”  He used the finger quotes around 'a lot' and made Lance smile.

            “Yeah?”

            “Well I’m just saying don’t, I mean, you shouldn’t discount him for that.  He may not be the quickest talker or whatever, but listen to him.  He seems like the kind who’s been around for a while and he's probably seen a lot.  You just need to ask him the right questions.”

            “Really?”  Lance took the card from him and frowned.  “I don’t think he’s down there very often though.”

            “Ha.  I bet he’s down there a lot more than you think.”  Chris smiled and imitated someone sucking the last bit of life out of a joint.  “He’d be my other guess.  Either him or Marshall.”

            “You think Antonio might have done it?”  Lance looked unsure as he continued to scowl at the card in his hand.

            Chris shrugged again; “I’m thinking that if those are the guys we have to choose from, the ones on those cards, I’d think that they were the two best suspects.”

            “Okay.”  Lance said softly.

            “Who do the cops have in their sights?”

            “No one as far as I know.”

            “No one?”

            “Well… no.  They haven’t told us anyway.  I know that they said they had their feelers out for Marshall, but he’s not their prime suspect or anything.  They aren’t on a manhunt.”

            “Because there’s nothing concrete?”

            “There’s nothing at all.  All we have are our assumptions and gut feelings.”

            “Which are usually pretty right on.”  Chris sighed.

            “Yeah… well… we’ll see.”  Lance stood up and took his coffee with him as he went to the other room.

            "Can we see while we go downstairs and get a buffet breakfast or something?  I'm starving."

            "Sure."  Lance sighed and rubbed at his eyes to try to wake himself up a bit more.

            "Cool.  I'll call Lonnie and see if he wants to go."

            "He'll have to go."  Lance yawned.

            "Yeah well…" Chris bounced over to the phone and punched in the guard’s room number.  He talked louder and faster than necessary just to piss Lonnie off and wake him up. Chris laughed as he hung up and chugged what was left of his coffee.

            "You get no more coffee."

            "Okay."  Chris shrugged.  "You want me to call Jenna and have her meet us?"

            "I'll call."  Lance reached for the phone and swatted Chris' hand away.  The last thing he needed was for Chris to call and wake Jenna the same way he woke Lonnie.  Lance dialed Jenna's room and was surprised when she answered, wide awake, on the second ring.

            "Hello?"  She asked quickly.

            "Hey Jenna, this is Lance."

            "Uh huh?"

            "I was… well Chris and I were going to go get some breakfast and I wanted to see if you wanted to join us to go over what - "

            "I'm actually heading down right now." Jenna interrupted him.  "I'm late."

            "Oh.  Okay… well can we meet you?"

            "Sure."  She sounded rushed as she moved around her room getting her sweatshirt and room key from the table.  "I'll be in the Coyote Café.  See you there."  She hung up and left Lance holding the silent phone.

            "So?"  Chris asked when Lance hung up the phone.

            "We're going to meet her at Coyote Café.  We need to get dressed."

            "Man I miss the days where we could go down the hall for breakfast in our pajamas."  Chris sighed and shook his head as he tugged on the drawstring waist on his pajama bottoms.  He set his coffee down on the table and walked slowly back into the bedroom to find himself clothes for the day.

            Lance followed a few minutes later and they each took turns in the bathroom getting dressed and prettied up.  By the time they were ready to head down, twenty minutes had passed and Lance was getting antsy.  "She's going to be waiting." He tapped his feet and waited for Chris to tie his shoes.

            "So?"

            "She doesn't like to wait."

            "Well then you should have told her that we weren't dressed when you called so she could have stalled or whatever."

            "Just hurry."  Lance grabbed the room keys and some cash then stood at the door holding it open.  "I'm gonna get Lonnie.  I'll meet you at the elevators."

            "Okay."  Chris sighed and retied his shoe to get it right.

 

            The three men walked into the restaurant a few minutes later and Lance scanned the crowd.  "There she is."  Lance pointed off to the right.  "Are you coming with us?"  He asked Lonnie who was still yawning every few seconds.

            "I'm gonna grab a seat by the door and keep an eye on things." He shook his head and took over a table against the wall with a view of Jenna's table and the exit.  "Gimme a holler if you need anything."  Lonnie yawned again and pulled the menu out of the holder at the end of the table.

            “Like if I need more hash browns?"  Chris laughed.

            "Like if you need me to break some kneecaps." Lonnie growled and smiled.  "It's too early for sarcasm. Come talk to me after I've had some coffee."

            "Deal."  Chris nodded and followed Lance across the restaurant.

            When they got to the table they saw that Jenna was there but she was not alone.  "Hey."  Lance said as he frowned at the girl sitting next to Jenna.  "What's uh... hi?"

            "Lance this is Kelly.  Kelly, Lance and his sidekick Chris."  Jenna said as she examined the menu.

            "Nice to meet you."  Chris mumbled as he slid into the seat across from her.

            "Hi."  Lance sat beside Chris and reached to move his silverware over.  "Wait.  Kelly?"  He looked up at Jenna who kept her eyes on the menu.  "This is Kelly?  Not the Kelly I'm thinking of, right?"  He asked quickly.  When she didn't respond Lance took the menu from her.  "Right?"

            "Yes Lance.  This is the Kelly you're thinking of."  Jenna snapped and took the menu back.  "She's trying to help."

            "Have you completely lost your mind?"  Lance lowered his voice as if maybe then Kelly couldn't hear.

            "What?  You brought in your Junior Detective guy here; I can't have someone helping me?"

            "Oh for crying out loud Jenna; that's not the same thing.  Crawley didn't warn us about my friend."

            "Well if he had known -”

            "Stop."  Lance held up his hand.  "You've just proven to me that you've lost your mind.  Honestly."  He sighed and stood up. "Come on." He said to Chris.

            "I'm hungry."

            "We'll eat in the room."  Lance gave him a look that said he'd better just stand up and follow.  Lance turned his attention back to Jenna, "When you decide to get back to normal, to how we were doing things before, just let me know."

            "And when you decide to do the same, you let me know."  She said through clenched teeth as she skimmed the menu in her hands.  She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of making eye contact.

            "I'm working on this.  Chris is working on this and may have given us a new lead, which is what I came here to tell you about.  What has your drugged out criminal of a friend done for the case?  Huh?"

            "Lance…" Chris put his hand on Lance's elbow.  "Come on."

            "Have you always been this judgmental?"  Jenna looked him square in the eye then looked at Chris.  "Does he always do this?"

            "I…" Chris half shrugged and choked on his words.

            "Because you don't know anything about Kelly.  She knew Monica pretty well back in LA and she's given me a lot of background information that might help. As for being drugged out and a criminal, Lance that's just rude and presumptuous of you and not what I would have expected from a grown up."

            Lance looked about ready to say something for a moment but instead closed his eyes and shook his head, then walked away.  "Hey."  Chris frowned and trotted after him.  "Hey, what's that about?"

            "Nothing."  Lance took a deep breath and quickened his pace.  As they left the restaurant, Lonnie stood up and followed them to the elevators.

            "What's the deal?"  Lonnie asked with a frown.

            "She's nuts."  Lance grumbled and shook his head without looking back.

            "I'm hungry man."  Chris whined.

            "We'll eat in the room."  Lance said again.  "Jesus, I can't believe her sometimes.  Honestly.  She's got a screw loose or something."  Lance tapped his head.

            "I'm lost."  Chris sighed as they stepped onto the elevator and rode up to their floor.

            "That was Kelly."

            "I got that much."

            "It was in the cards."  Lance gave Chris a look and sighed.  "Kelly and Skank are two people who knew Monica when she lived in LA.  The police here got the news that they were headed for Vegas and basically said it'd be a good idea for us to leave.  So we did."

            "That was when you came home this last time?"

            "Right."

            "So the police thought they were dangerous?"

            Lance shrugged and noticed that Lonnie's attention was on their conversation.  "They were an unknown.  No one knew who they were or what they were planning on doing here.  For all we know they could be in on the whole thing."

            "Would Jenna be sitting there with her if she had something to do with Monica's death though?"  Chris asked as they stepped off the elevator.  Lance walked quickly to their room and unlocked the door.

            "I just don't think she's thinking.  She's got it in her head that as long as someone can give her a shred of information, they're okay to listen to."

            "Do you think Kelly's dangerous though?"

            "I don't know."  Lance shook his head.  "But the fact that the police we were worried about it is enough for me."

            Chris bit his lip and shrugged as he followed Lance into the room.  "She didn't look that scary."

            Lance rolled his eyes and nodded for the phone.  "Order up some breakfast.  I'm going to go call Crawley and see what they found out about Kelly."

            "Okay.  What do you want?"

            "Anything.  Pancakes."  Lance mumbled as he walked into the bedroom to make his call in private.

 

            Fifteen minutes later the food arrived and Lance stepped out of the bedroom looking like something the cat dragged in.  "Did you get me pancakes?"  He asked as he sat in the soft chair beside the table.

            "Yes.  I follow directions well."  Chris lifted the silver dome off of the plates and handed Lance his breakfast.  "Check it out, I got you extra bacon too because I remember that you don't like sausage."

            "I like sausage."

            "You do?"

            "Yeah."

            "Really?"  Chris gave him an unsure look, as if maybe Lance might not be sure about what he liked.

            "Uh huh."

            "I thought you didn't like it."

            "I like it just fine."

            "Don't you always give me your sausage?"  Chris' brow furrowed into a frown.

            "Yeah, because you like it."

            "But if you like it why do you give it to me?"

            "Because I don't need it if I've got bacon."  Lance took a piece of crispy bacon and stuck it in his mouth.  "Pancakes stand alone in my book."

            "Weird."  Chris speared a piece of sausage and folded it into his mouth.  "So since this morning didn't go as planned, what are you doing today?"

            "Not much.  I want to look over the cards again and use your notes to kind of bash them against mine."

            "Seriously?"

            "Uh huh."  Lance covered his pancakes in syrup and took a large bite.  "You?"

            "I'm hitting the town man.  I've done my time with the cards so now its time to have some fun."  Chris smiled and rubbed his eye with the back of his hand; careful to keep his fork pointed the other way.

            "Does Lonnie know that?"

            "He will when I call him."  Chris nodded.  "You should come."

            "Nah."  Lance shook his head and covered is mouth as he yawned.  "I've seen it."

            "Whatever, man."  Chris rolled his eyes and shook his head.  "I'm gonna go see the sights and take in Vegas.  You wanna stay here holed up in your little cave or whatever, go for it."

            "Thank you for your permission."

            "You're welcome."  Chris scowled into his breakfast for a minute as they sat in silence.  "Remember last time we were in Vegas together?  All of us I mean."

            "Hmm?"

            "That was when we dared Joey and Dan to steal Anthony's headset before the show and they did and for like, an hour Anthony did nothing but yell swear words into his walkie talkie because he knew that anyone with a headset would hear it and he knew someone out there had his."  Chris laughed and licked salt from his lips.  "He was like, making up swear words.  Filthy flarn fuckity filth."  He imitated their tour director's tirade with accompanying faces and an invisible walkie talkie in his hand.

            "Oh yeah."  Lance smiled as he chewed.

            "And Joey and Dan were in the weight room with his headset listening to the whole thing and they were laughing so hard that Dan couldn't breathe and Joey almost wet himself."

            "Uh huh."

            "Then Anthony went into the weight room for something totally unrelated and found Joey and Dan falling all over themselves with his headset and he just kept on swearing only louder?"

            "That was funny."

            "Anthony didn't think so, but man I don't think I've ever seen Joey hurt from laughing so hard.  His face and stomach hurt for days after that.  Anthony was pissed though."

            They laughed at the memory and Lance was glad that Chris was there to remind him that there was more to Vegas than crime scenes and Delray Street.

 

            After breakfast Chris gave Lance one more opportunity to go out with him and Lonnie, but Lance insisted on staying in.  Chris gave in, but pulled the curtains open so Lance would get a little sunshine instead of sitting in the cavernous room in the dark all day.

            Lonnie arrived to get Chris, then Lance was left alone in the room.  He pulled out the box of note cards and rubbed his eyes.  He didn't want to look at them for the millionth time, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was missing something crucial.  The confrontation with Jenna that morning only kept his stomach in tighter knots so he ended up watching a lot of garbage on TV instead of staring at the note cards for hours on end.  The mindless TV shows helped clear his head and left him ample time to replay scenarios in his mind.

 

            Lance was happy being alone and almost forgot that Chris was in Vegas with him.  It wasn't until after dark when Chris let himself into the room while singing something Lance couldn't identify, that Lance remembered that he wasn't the only one in Vegas.

            "Hey."  Chris said as he walked into the room with a plastic bag swinging on his finger, weighted by the contents.

            "Hey."  Lance said without looking up from the pile of note cards fanned out on the bed in front of him.  He frowned and pinched his nose to hold back the sneeze he felt coming on.

            "If you want it to be good girl…" Chris sang loudly.

            "Stop."  Lance said with his fingers still on his nose.

            "Get yourself a… bad boy, bad boy."  Chris continued to sing and twirl the bag around while he shook his hips.

            "Stop."  Lance frowned up at Chris and dropped his hand.  "What's that?"

            "Soo."  Chris stopped swinging the bag and kicked off one of his shoes.  "Vuh."  He removed the other one and kicked it across the room.  "Neers."  He tossed the bag at Lance and collapsed into the deep and soft chair.

            "Souvenirs?  Chris… you've been here three dozen times."

            "They aren't for me, missy."  He ran his fingers through his hair and yawned as he pushed the chair back into its fully reclined position.

            “Where’d you go?”  Lance asked as he looked at the bag halfway falling off the corner of his bed.

            “Um..." Chris frowned and thought for a minute, then waved his hand in the air.  “Everywhere.  I found this cool place though and you’re coming out with me tonight.”

            “Out where?”

            “A bar.”

            “When?”

            Tonight.”  Chris sighed.  “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”  Chris wiggled his fingers above his lips as he stared at the ceiling.

            “I don’t feel like going out, but thanks.”

            “Um… I’m sorry; I don’t remember asking.  You’re going.”

            “I don’t want to go out Chris.”

            “I was out sightseeing and buying you presents all day.  You’re going to the fucking bar with me and you’re going to like it.”  Chris said from his prone position in the chair.

            “Chris..." Lance whined softly.

            “It’s called La Femme.  We’re ditching Lonnie.  You’re going.”

            “Can I – “

            “No.  Get yourself prettied up.  We’re leaving in ten minutes.”

            “I have to finish this.”  Lance shook his head and moved the gift bag to the floor before it fell. He put his note cards back in order and clasped the holder shut with one hand.

            "Have you been at that all day?"  Chris asked and was answered with the slow nod of Lance's head.  "You know the words on the cards won't change; no matter how long you stare at them."

            "I know."  Lance sighed again and sat up.

            "Did you have lunch?"

            "Yeah."

            "Dinner?"

            "Um, I had some crackers and a snickers bar about an hour ago."  He looked at his watch and frowned, "Two hours ago."

            "It's like, nine.  You need dinner."

            "Okay dad."

            "Come on.  We’ll go grab dinner then go to the bar."  Chris jumped off the bed in one swift movement.

            "We can order up."

            "And live like hermits in Vegas?  I think not."  Chris shook his head and reached for the bag.  "Come on; check out the souvenirs so we can go.  I’ll call Lonnie so he can take us to dinner, then we’ll ditch him.  This way he’ll feel like he’s doing his job."  He sat on the edge of his bed and picked up the phone as he waved and nodded for Lance to open the bag.  “Open ‘em.”  Chris talked for a minute to Lonnie and let him know of only their dinner plans while Lance reached into the plastic bag and took out the first thing his hand touched.

            “A bear?”  Lance held it up and gave Chris a half smile.

            “A bear with an orange M&M shirt on.”  Chris nodded as he hung up the phone and leaned back.  And it’s a key chain.”

            “Okay?”

            “Because you like orange.”

            “I do?”

            “Well you always wear that orange t-shirt.”  Chris shrugged and reached into the bag.  “And look!  They have M&M’s in every color.  Turquoise M&M’s and dark purple and white.  White M&M’s, how cool is that?”

            “That’s… pretty cool.”  Lance nodded then reached into the bag of M&M’s and popped a small handful into his mouth.

            “So keep going.”

            Lance chewed the crunchy candies in his mouth as he went through the rest of the gifts in the bag.  “Magnets?”

            “For your fridge at home.”  Chris explained.

            “Ahh, okay.”

            “See this one?  'Welcome to Las Vegas', and it’s a thermometer.  And then this one is from the Coke store thing.”

            “Cool.”

            “Have you been there?”

            “Yeah.”

            “It’s so cool.  Lonnie about had a fit when he saw that you could drink all the Coke you wanted there.  He was like –“ Chris tilted his head to the side and mimicked Lonnie hanging his head under the soda machine.  “- the whole time we were there man.  It was embarrassing.  He wouldn’t let me get you the leather Harley jacket though.”

            “Harley Davidson?”

            “Yeah.  We went to the Harley store thing.  It's huge.”

            “I already have one.”

            “That’s what he said, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear it.”

            “I wore it for like, half the tour last time.”  Lance gave Chris a look and pulled out a black Harley Davidson muscle shirt.

            “Hmm.  Okay.  But anyway, this’ll show off your muscles more than the jacket anyway.  You've buffed out and now that you're technically single again you can wear that and get all the chicks.  Which may sound counterproductive because they'll be staring at you instead of me, but see I have the charm and sense of humor and according to Glamour's latest poll, 87 percent of the women polled prefer a sense of humor to a rock hard body.  So I'm in.”  Chris grabbed the bag and shook out the last two gifts.  “Check it out.  It’s one of those pens that when you turn it upside down…" Chris tilted the pen and then laughed like a maniac, “Her clothes come off!  It’s a nudie pen!”

            “Nice.”

            “I got one for me too.”

            “Of course.”

            “And Joey.”

            “He’ll love it.”

            “And then last but not least…" Chris held up the last gift.

            “It’s a…?  What is that?”

            “It’s an Nsync magnet and when you press our heads it plays music.”  Chris pressed the magnet heads and a hollow and monotone version of “Bye bye bye” filled the room.  “Isn’t that great?”

            “Awesome.”  Lance nodded and knew that Chris had more fun picking out the gifts that he would have using them.

            “And it says Las Vegas in rhinestones.  So you won’t forget.”  Chris tossed all of the souvenirs into the bag and sighed.  “Let’s go get dinner now.”

            “Where are we going?”  Lance hauled himself off the bed and put his hands on his hips.

            “Just downstairs to that diner thingy with the overpriced sandwiches.”

            “If it’s overpriced why are we going?”

            “Because their Ruben on Rye is to die for.  You’ll thank me for it.”  Chris slapped Lance’s back and pushed him toward the door.

 

            They picked up Lonnie then went down to grab dinner at the little restaurant in the back.  On their way through the lobby they were stopped by a group of adults to sign autographs, but other than that they remained undisturbed. Chris ordered them all Ruben sandwiches and made all kinds of heavenly sounds as they ate.  "Oh come on.  Tell me this isn't the best damn Ruben you've ever had in your life."  Chris insisted with his mouth full.

            "It's good."  Lonnie nodded.

            "Good?  It's better than good."

            "This is the best Ruben sandwich I've ever had."  Lance said around the food in his mouth.

            "There ya go.  That's what I wanna hear."  Chris gave Lance a high five.

            "It's also the first Ruben sandwich I've ever had, so…"  Lance shrugged and smiled as he reached for his drink.

            "I don't know how you managed to live twenty some odd years without one."  Chris shook his head and took another bite.  He let them finish their meal in silence after that until the bill came and he made a joke about Lonnie taking his bitches out to dinner.

            “So where are you guys headed now?”  Lonnie asked, ignoring Chris' joke and paying for the bill on his own.

            “Back to our room.” Chris said as innocently as he could.

            “Yeah right.  Where are you headed?”   He asked again.

            Chris clucked his tongue and whined, “Come on Lonnie.”

            “Hey man, it’s my job to know.  You can either tell me and I’ll make an executive decision, or I can tail you like a babysitter.  Your call.”

            “Dammit.”  Chris grumbled and looked at Lance for assistance.

            “Tell him.”  Lance shrugged.

            “Okay there’s this bar.”

            “Where?”

            “By the casino.”

            “In this hotel?”

            “Yeah.” Chris nodded emphatically.  “La Femme.”

            “It’s just a bar?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Not a bar and grill type thing?  Only over 21?”  Lonnie asked.

            “No, yeah.  It’s a girlie bar.”  Chris smirked and rubbed his hands together.

            “Oh lordy.”  Lonnie laughed and shook his head.  “Okay, well you guys go on and have fun.  Don’t leave the hotel.  Stay in the bar.  When you’re done you go right back to your room.”  Lonnie stated the rules like he was reading them from a book.  “Call me if you go anywhere else.”

            “Got it.” Chris nodded.  “The dad has spoken.”

            “Damn right I have.”  Lonnie nodded.  “And I mean it.  You go to the bar then you go straight to your room.  Do not hit the tables, do not go to another casino, do not stop at the gift shop without calling me first.  Is that clear?”

            Crystal.”  Chris nodded and looked at Lance.

            “It's clear.”

            “Okay.  Have fun.”  Lonnie smiled and escorted them to the bar.  “G’night.”  He waved then left the boys and headed for the elevators.

            “Dude.  We’re on our own.”  Chris gave Lance a devilish smile.

            “Yay.”  Lance tried not to yawn.

            “Oh come on.  This’ll be fun.  When was the last time you had fun?  F-U-N.”

            “I – “ Lance started to talk but Chris interrupted him.

            “Exactly.  So let’s go get a drink and enjoy the show. Damn, look at her.  This is gonna be a good night man.  A good night.”  Chris practically danced his way up to the bar with Lance only a step behind.  “You got cash?”  Chris asked as he rested his elbow on the bar.  He glanced at Lance, and then looked past him to where the girls were dancing on a table a few feet away.

            “Nope.”

            Nope?  Are you serious?  I bought you a bag of presents and now I’ve gotta foot your bar tab?  Shit, keep this up and people will think I’m your sugar daddy or something.”  Chris rolled his eyes and tapped his fingers on the bar.  “Midori sour.”  He nodded at the bartender then looked at Lance.  “What’re you having?”

            “Just water.”  Lance shook his head.

            “Huh uh.”  Chris shook his head.  “We’re at a girlie bar.  Get a drink.”

            “I don’t have any cash.”  Lance slowly enunciated each word.

            “We’ll charge it to the –" He turned to the bartender.  “Can we charge drinks to the room?”

            “Sure thing.”  He nodded as he poured Chris’ drink.

            “We’ll charge them to the room.  Get something with some balls.”

            “I don’t want anything with balls.”

            Chris sighed and looked at the bartender with a sad expression, “Can you just bring him one of these?  Poor guy said he doesn’t want a drink.”

            “Water?”  The bartender asked Lance.

            “You guys are both fucking useless.”  Chris sighed as the bartender placed a bottle of water in front of Lance.

            “Thanks.”  Lance smiled and twisted the cap off.  He took a long sip and looked at Chris who was sulking on his barstool.  “Don’t pout.”

            “You suck.”

            “I’m here with you.  I’m doing what you asked me to do.”

            “Yeah well I had to practically force you to come out with me and now we’re at a girlie bar and you won’t even look at the girls or have a single solitary drink.”  Chris’ brow creased into a deeper frown as his bottom lip protruded in the slightest of boo-boo lips.

            “Stop it.  That doesn’t work any more.”

            “What?”

            “The Justin pout thing you’re trying to do.”

            Chris took a deep breath and stuck his lip out further, “Better?”

            “Listen… you remember what happened last time I drank?”

            “Umm…”  Chris thought for a second, “No, when was that?”

            “Let’s see…”  Lance exaggerated a thoughtful look.  “I was in Vegas… in a bar… very near here actually.”

            “Okay, okay.  I get the picture.”  Chris tilted his glass back and drank till the ice hit his teeth.  “But I’ve already told you I’m not gonna drag you to the nearest wedding chapel and I’m not gonna let you run off with a hot chick either.  You’ve got a chaperone with you this time.  One who won’t run off with the Playboy Bunnies while you go getting yourself into nine different versions of trouble.”

            “Showgirls.”

            “What?”

            “Joey was off with Vegas showgirls, not bunnies.”

            “Same difference.”  Chris shook his head.  “I’m not gonna let you get in trouble.  Have a drink.”

            Lance shook his head and sipped at his water.  “I’m fine.  But thanks.”

            “You’re gonna regret this one day.”

            “You think there’s anything about this place I’m not going to regret?”

            “I mean this.  You and me hanging out here.  One day you’re gonna look back and see that you’re stressing over nothing and that you shoulda just had a drink with me when you had the chance.  When I was buying.  Because really, how often does that happen?”

            “Almost never.”

            “So…?”

            “So you’re billing it to the room which I’ll probably end up paying for.”

            “Oh.”  Chris bit his lip.  “Okay, you’re right.  But you should still loosen up a bit.  This is Vegas.  You can’t let one bad trip kill the city for you.”

            “I know.  I’m not.”

            “So what’d the cop guy say about those two from LA?  Kelly… and her friend or whatever.”

            Lance shrugged and sighed, halfway wishing he had a drink to drown his worries in.  As the bartender set Chris’ second drink in front of him, Lance reached over and brought it to his lips.  He’d need the hint of alcohol to talk about the case with Chris.  “He said that they had a criminal history in LA that he didn’t know about until they got here.”

            “Criminal like how?”

            “He didn’t get into specifics.  But he said they’d both done time in jail and had been in a couple rehab centers, to no avail.”

            “So they’re druggies?”

            “Uh huh.”

            “And criminals?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Are they violent though?  Because that girl this afternoon didn’t look like she could do much harm.”  Chris frowned and took his drink back from Lance.

            Crawley didn’t say they were violent, but he said that the sooner they left town the sooner he could relax a bit.  He said they had nothing to offer on the investigation and that we shouldn’t count on them for any information.”

            “But that doesn’t make them dangerous.”

            Lance sighed and drank his water, still tasting the Midori on his lips.  “The Skank dude has about nine aliases and under two of them he was arrested for concealing a weapon.  Just because he doesn’t have a violent criminal history doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”

            “Damn.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “Does Jenna know that?”

            “I don’t know.  She didn’t return my call and she’s not answering her cell.”

            “She’s pissed probably.”  Chris raised his eyebrow and drank his bright green drink.

            “Not probably, she’s definitely pissed.”  Lance bit his lip and waved the bartender over.  “Can I have one of those please?”  He pointed to Chris’ glass as the older man raised it to his lips.

            “Sure thing.”  The bartender whipped the drink up behind the bar and set it in font of Lance.

            “Thanks.”  Lance mumbled before he brought it to his mouth and drank half of it.

            "So tomorrow you wanna go catch a show or something?"  Chris asked.  Lance replied with a shrug as he sighed and turned on the stool to watch the topless ladies behind the screen.  "Or we could just come back here and drink ourselves silly."

            Lance laughed softly and looked down at his glass, "No, not that."

"So can we do something other than stare at the note cards or read magazines or stay in the room?"

            "You can do anything you want."

            "Yeah but I want you to come too."

            Lance sighed and looked at Chris.  "We'll do something tomorrow, I promise."

            "Something outside?"

            "We'll leave the hotel."

            "Right on."  Chris slammed his empty glass on the bar and cheered.  "Right on, that's awesome.  You're leaving the hotel!  You rebel you."

            "But tonight we're staying in."

            "And watching the sights from in here."  Chris nodded as he and Lance both turned their attention to the dancers and ordered another round of drinks.

 

            They returned to their room before one in the morning and called to let Lonnie know that arrived safely.  With the alcohol in their system and the stress from the past few days sitting on their shoulders, they both fell to sleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillows.

            When Chris woke up the next morning Lance was already awake, dressed and reading a magazine in the front room.  "I had a really messed up dream last night."  Chris mumbled as he ran his hands over his head.

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah."  He yawned and scratched at his belly.  "I was in this suite room thing with a jacuzzi tub in the middle of the room and -”

            "Was I in it?"

            "Uh, no."  Chris frowned.  "Anyway, the jacuzzi.  And there were like, three girls in it and they didn't know I was there so they were all… you know."

            "Okay."

            "And then I was sitting there watching and all of a sudden these people come in with ski masks on and they start to attack the girls and then I jumped in and put the smack down on a couple of them.  And then one of them took off the ski mask and it was Jenna."

            "Weird."  Lance nodded.

            "But then the weird part is that the other people in ski masks couldn't get theirs off so they kept shouting at each other, then they attacked each other."

            "Definitely weird."

            "I guess that's what I get for going to bed drunk, huh?"

            "Yep."

            "Still… it was freaky.  Kinda wigged me out with all this stuff that's going on around here, you know?"

            Lance nodded and turned the page in his magazine.  "Hungry?"

            "Yeah."  Chris yawned again.  "Wanna order up?"

            "And live like a hermit?"  Lance looked up to meet Chris' eyes with a smile.

            "Uh huh.  So I can eat in my pajamas for once."  Chris gave him the finger then took the menu from the table and sat on the little couch.

            They ordered up breakfast and ate in silence, then took turns in the shower getting ready for their lazy day.  Lance called tails and ended up having to go second, so by the time he got out of the shower and got dressed, Chris was already entertained in the front room.  Lance could hear video game sounds coupled with whispered swear words and feet stomping.  Water dripped from his hair and down his forehead as he brushed his teeth in his bare feet.

            "Hey.  There's someone at the door."  Chris said suddenly as he poked his head into the bathroom.

            "Okay?"  Lance frowned at Chris in the mirror with a mouth full of toothpaste.

            "Well it's not Lonnie."  Chris looked worried as he held his cell phone up.  "I got him on the phone."  Lance gave Chris a blank stare and tried to piece together what Chris meant.  "Who is it?"

            "Well… I don't know.  Why don't you go look?"

            "What if it's thugs?"

            "What if it's not?"  Lance tossed back as he spit into the sink.  "It's probably Jenna."

            "You think?"  Chris asked as the person knocked again.

            Lance sighed and rolled his eyes as he stood up and brushed past Chris, "There's only one way to find out."

            "Yeah but you said that Kelly and that guy were bad news.  What if it's -” Chris argued as he brought the cell phone back up to his ear.  "Hang on Lonnie, let's see who it is.  If you hear screaming call 911."

            Lance shook his head and looked through the peephole.  "It's Jenna you freak."

            "Is she alone?"  Chris whispered.

            "Yes."

            "Good."  Chris sighed with relief and went back to Lonnie.  "It's cool Lonnie, call off the guards.  Okay… bye."  He hung up as Lance opened the door.

            "Took you long enough."  Jenna scowled as she walked in and passed Lance and Chris with her eyes drawn to the floor.  "Crawley called.  He said he couldn't reach your room so I had to pass the message along.  He wants to see us in his office the day after tomorrow."

            "What time?"

            "Eleven."

            "What for?  Did they find something?"

            "He didn't say.  But if they found something I'm guessing that they'd tell us right now instead of making us wait."  Jenna sighed and crossed her arms over her chest.  "Anyway.  That's all I came over for.  Oh, and your phone is off the hook."  She looked over at the desk.

            "Chris."  Lance frowned and reached over to hang it up.

            "Sorry."  Chris shrugged and tucked his cell phone into his front pocket.

            "Okay.  I'm heading out."  Jenna pursed her lips and turned for the door.

            "Wait, where are you going?"

            "I'm not sure yet."  She raised her eyes to his and breathed out through her nose.  "Not that it matters."

            "Wh -” Lance started to argue, but stopped himself.  "Are you still upset about yesterday?"

            Her eyebrows shot up and her face flushed red.  Chris' eyes flew open as he stepped in front of Lance, "Fix it.  Fix it man, say you're sorry."  He said softly.  "She's still pissed.  Fix it."

            "Am I still upset?"  She asked a little louder than necessary.

            "Fix it."  Chris repeated as his eyes pleaded with Lance.

            "You had absolutely no right to talk to me or Kelly like you did.  I can't believe you were raised like that.  A good old Southern gentleman talking that way?  You bet your ass I'm still upset.  I don't recall hearing an apology."  Jenna stopped talking and clamped her mouth shut.

            "Say you're sorry."  Chris whispered, though everyone present could hear him.

            "I'm sorry."  Lance said quickly.  "I… I was just worried about you and about… everything.  We didn't know anything about them other than the fact that Crawley and his team were worried about them showing up.  Can't you see how that would look?  What if you came into town and I was sitting there with Marshall?"

            "You wouldn't."

            "I'm just saying…"  Lance sighed.  "I'm sorry for saying all those things I said.  I'm sorry."

            Jenna stared at him for a second, not letting him off the hook that quickly.  She set her jaw then took a deep and forgiving breath, "We need to go back down to Delray.  Kelly told me a few things that I think might help a little.  It'll at least let us know what we can ask."

            "Okay."  Lance licked his lips and nervously stuck his hands in his pockets.

            "We?"  Chris asked, making his presence known again.

            "Not you."  Lance shook his head.

            "There's one small problem though."  Jenna bit her bottom lip and looked from Chris to Lance.  "Everyone down there knows us.  They recognize us already."  She frowned and leaned back against the wall.  "I think those guys, the ones on Fremont?  They're getting suspicious."

            "Yeah?"  Lance asked with obvious concern in his voice.

            "They took off last time I went down there."

            "Hmm."

            "Well what are you trying to get from them?"  Chris asked.

            Jenna rolled her eyes and looked over at him.  "Information about Marshall."

            "The guy you think killed your sister?"

            "You catch on quick."  Jenna sighed and crossed her arms over her chest.

            "I can go if you want."

            "No."  Lance and Jenna said in unison.

            "No."  Lance said again.  "Lonnie would have a fit and Johnny would kill me."

            "You go down there all the time."  Chris complained.

            "No I don't."

            "I go." Jenna offered.

            "But you've been down there, right?"  Chris asked Lance.

            "Yeah."

            "So?  Let me go.  We won't tell Lonnie and Johnny.  No one has to know."

            "So when you get shot down there, how'm I supposed to explain that?"

            "I'm not gonna get shot."  Chris rolled his eyes and looked at Jenna.  "Has anyone ever pulled a gun on you?"

            "No."  She shook her head and looked annoyed.

            "Chris, no.  I can't let you go."

            "I'm older than you and I say I'm going."  Chris tried to look defiant.

            "No."

            "Well Lance wait, maybe he can get the information.  With what Kelly gave me we need someone to ask, and since you and I can't do it…"  Jenna said softly.  "We can drop him off and he can tell the guys that he used to be a regular and just got out of lock up or something and he's looking for Marshall to get some drugs."

            "Are you crazy?"  Lance asked as he ran his hands through his hair.

            "Yeah!"  Chris smiled at Jenna, glad to finally be thought of as part of the team.

            "Both of you.  You're absolutely nuts.  Chris, I can't let you go down there.  Absolutely not.  Jenna, stop egging him on."

            "But Lance, this could work.  They don't know Chris yet."

            "He's not really inconspicuous you know.  MTV and all."  He reminded her.

            "You think those guys are into Nsync?"

            "Hey.  We're diverse.  We reach a wide spectrum of people."  Chris said with a frown.  "Okay no, you're right.  They probably wouldn't recognize me."

            "No."  Lance stood up to look down at Chris.

            "I could shave my goatee off and wear a hat or something."  Chris nodded and scooted his chair closer to Jenna's.  "You'll take me?"

            "No! Jesus, isn't anyone listening to me?"

            "No."  Chris chuckled lightly.

            "He can help."  Jenna looked up at Lance and sighed when she saw his genuine concern.  "He'll be fine.  We'll only do it once and if it doesn't work we'll forget about it."

            "Jenna."  Lance sighed.

            "Please?  He wants to."

            "I thought you didn't want him to?"

            "I changed my mind."

            "You know what?  You guys do what you want.  You want to go out and get yourself killed, go ahead." He said to Chris.  "But then you're responsible for him." He addressed Jenna.

            "Deal."  She stuck her hand out and Lance shook it.

            "I swear.  You guys are mental."  Lance stomped into the bedroom and sulked in his chair with the box of note cards.

            "I'll go shave."  Chris grinned and bounced into the bathroom, leaving Jenna against the wall in the entryway.

            She carefully stepped away from the wall and went to the doorway of the bedroom.  "He wants to do it Lance."  Jenna said softly when she saw him squinting at the cards in the chair.

            "He wants to be a fireman too."  Lance grumbled.

            "He'll be fine."  Jenna kept her voice low as Lance pursed his lips and breathed out through his nose.  "I won't let him get hurt.  I'll keep a close eye on him."

            "He's not a kid."

            "I… what?"

            "You don't need to baby sit him."

            "Why?  Is that your job?"

            Lance paused; an argument ready on his tongue.  "Yes."

            Jenna smiled and raised an eyebrow at him, "You can come too if you want."

            "No.  I don't want to go.  And I don't want you to go and I don't want Chris to go."  He frowned even deeper as he looked up at her.  "I swear, I'm gonna get an ulcer over this whole thing.  Can't you just let the police go down there and do their job?"

            "You know that doesn't work."  Jenna shook her head.  "If that worked we wouldn't have to do it."

            "You can tell them whatever Kelly told you and let them do it."

            "The guys down there are catching on."  Jenna shook her head.  "You and I are the only ones who even believe that Marshall is the guy.  The cops are humoring us by saying they're 'looking into it' or whatever, but they don’t think he's the one."  She shook her head slowly.  "He'll be fine Lance.  The guys down on Delray are druggies and thugs, but they aren't out to hurt anyone who doesn't threaten them."

            "What about Monica?"

            "She wasn't killed there." Jenna sighed softly.  "You know that."

            "But…"

            "Having a new set of eyes down there might help.  That was your argument from the start."

            "When I thought he'd just be looking at the cards and the facts."

            Jenna shrugged, "This is part of the case.  Going down to Delray is part of that."

            "I'm not even kidding though, Lonnie will kill us."

            "So don't tell him."

            "It's not that easy."

            "Sure it is."

            "Jenna, it's not.  He's responsible for us and we can't just take off like that."

            "You're an adult Lance.  And so is Chris… I think.  He's over twenty-one, right?"

            "Shit, he's over thirty."

            "Then let him make up his own mind.  Its one night.  An hour at the most."  She argued.  "You've been down there before; I've been down there a couple times… its fine."

            "I just think it's a bad idea."  Lance ran his hands through his hair.

            "I know you do.  And you're sweet to care so much.  Maybe that’s your problem though. Maybe you care too much about everyone else."

            "That's a problem?"

            "It can be."  Jenna nodded.

            "Should I shave clean or leave a little stubble?"  Chris asked from the bathroom.  "Nevermind.  I'll go clean. If I just got out of lock up then I'd probably want to make myself look all clean cut, right?"

            "Did you want to come with us?"  Jenna asked quietly.

            "No."

            "Are you going to tell Lonnie?"

            Lance paused for a minute, "No."  He sighed and looked up at her.  "I'll be his decoy or whatever in case he calls.  Just be careful.  And be back here in an hour."

            "We will." Jenna nodded.

            "And do not let him get hurt."

            "I won't."

            Lance licked his lips and dropped his eyes back to the cards in his hands.  "Don't let yourself get hurt either."  He added softly.

            Jenna smiled and stared at the top of his hear where his hair stood out at odd angles.  "I won't."

            "Hey Lance?  Can I borrow your baseball cap?"  Chris said as he walked out of the bathroom clean-shaven and smiling.

            "It's in the closet."  Lance sighed and bit his bottom lip.

            "How do I look?"

            "Um…" Jenna's brow furrowed as she took in his outfit.  "Lose the shirt.  Do you have anything darker?"

            "I have a dark blue t-shirt."  Chris looked down at his white Nike shirt.

            "Something without a logo?"

"Um… well it's a Fuman shirt but the logo thing is on the back I think.  You can't really see it."  Chris shrugged.

            "Fuman?"  Jenna looked from Chris to Lance.

            "It's his clothing line."  Lance explained.

            "Oh." Jenna's eyebrows shot up.  "Well um… okay yeah.  Put that on and grab a sweatshirt or something."

            "Okay."  Chris nodded and headed back into the bathroom.

            "I don't think I've seen him clean shaven in years."

            "Really?"

            "Really."  Lance laughed.  "Strange…"

            "Well hey; if you haven't seen him clean-shaven then no one else has either so maybe he won't be recognized at all."

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded slowly.  "Yeah maybe."

            Chris stepped back out into the room with his dark shirt on and Lance's ball cap pulled down to his ears.  His signature necklace was gone and his jeans didn't look like they fit quite right.  "Hey.  Are those my jeans?" Lance asked.

            "Yeah."

            "They don't fit you."

            "I put on a little weight in prison.  This is what I wore on the way in though."  Chris shrugged.

            "You know of course that you weren't in prison, right?"

            "I know."  Chris nodded and tugged at his shirt.  "But do I look like I might have been?"

            "Scarily enough, yeah." Jenna smiled and tossed an oversized zip up sweatshirt at Chris.  "Put that on and let's see."

            Chris put it on and zipped it halfway up.  He slouched a little and kept his hands in his pockets as he lowered his eyes and looked around the floor.  "Hmm…"  Lance tilted his head to the side.  As impossible as it seemed, he didn't look like Chris.  He didn't look like anyone he knew, but he did look like someone Lance wouldn't want to hang out with in a dark alley.

            "Yes?"  Chris asked carefully.

            "Yes."  Jenna and Lance said in unison.

            "So you're okay that I'm going?"  Chris asked with his usual smile.

            Lance paused and swallowed a few times, "No.  Not really.  But go.  And be careful."

            "We will."  Chris bounced a little.

            "No bouncing."  Jenna put her hand on his shoulder.

            "Okay." He stopped and headed for the door.

            "Call me as soon as you get there, before you let him out."  Lance said as Jenna followed Chris to the door.  "I'll keep you on the phone till Chris gets back in the car and you're on your way back."

            "Lance…"  Chris whined.

            "That's fine."  Jenna smiled and cut Chris off.  "We'll call you as soon as we get there."

            "Be careful."  Lance said for the hundredth time.

            Jenna stopped as Chris skipped out into the hall.  With a small smile she looked over her shoulder and met Lance's eye, "We will be."  She said softly.  "Bye."

            Lance waved his hand in a half wave before shoving it in his pocket, "Bye."  He waited until the door was closed before he let out his breath and reached for his cell phone.  Until they were back in the hotel his stomach would be in knots and concentrating on anything was out of the question.  He sat on the couch and turned on the movie channel.  "Miss Congeniality" didn't take concentration, and if he was going to be anxious for an hour he figured he might as well have Sandra Bullock to look at.

            He sighed and turned the volume down as he took his watch off and tossed it to the floor.  The last thing he wanted was to stare at the time for an hour, and he was sure that's exactly what he would do for the time they were gone.

 

 

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Copyright © 2002, 2003, Amy Lynn