Lance’s phone rang twenty minutes after they left and he answered it before the first ring was through.  “You’re there?”

            “We’re here.”  Jenna said quickly and it almost sounded like she was laughing.  “I just dropped him off.”

            “Where are you?”

            “I’m turning onto Torrance.  I’m going to drive one huge circle and come back around.”  She said.

            “Where’d you drop him off?”

            “On Delray near Torrance.  Antonio was there with like, three other guys.”

            “Shit.”  Lance’s heart skipped a beat as he realized that right that moment Chris was standing on a shady street with three drug dealers who were probably armed to the teeth.

            “He’s cool.  He’s totally psyched to do this.”

            Lance ignored her and asked, “Are you going to park?”

            “Yeah, I’m going to go around and park kind of off Torrance though.  Since it’s the middle of the day I don’t want to look obvious.”

            “Okay.”  Lance bit his lip.  “Can you see him?”

            “No.”

            “Shit.”

            “He’s like three blocks up at the corner though.  When he’s done he’ll walk around the corner and I’ll drive by and get him.”

            “And you’ll come right back.”

            “Yes.”  She sighed.

            “How much longer?”  Lance asked under his breath, not really expecting an answer.

            “Maybe he’s getting something.”

            Lance sighed and pulled at his hair as he took a few deep breaths.  They sat in silence for a solid ten minutes with Lance counting off the seconds on his watch.  “How – “

            “There he is.”  Jenna said suddenly.  He heard her start the car and shift the phone against her ear.  “Hang on.”

            “Is he okay?”

            “Y-yeah.”  She drove up the street to where Chris was walking with his head down and his hands deep in his pockets.  “Hang on.”  Jenna said quickly.  Lance heard her grunt then the car door swing open, “Get in!”

            “Go!  Go!  Go!”  Chris shouted as the door slammed and the car took off.

            “We’re on our way.”  Jenna said into the phone before she clicked it off and dropped it in Chris’ lap.

            “Wait, Jenna - “  Lance started to demand an answer when he heard the line go dead.  “Shit.”  He dialed her number again and listened as it rang through to her voicemail.  Without leaving a message he hung up and tried again with his heart pounding in his chest.  Three more times it went to voicemail so he threw his phone onto the bed and tried not to think of the two of them lying in a ditch somewhere.

            Jenna and Chris were laughing too hard to hear the phone ringing on the floor by Chris’ feet.  “You should have seen your face when you opened that door.  Oh my God.” Jenna laughed and shook her head.  It seemed like years since she really let loose and laughed and she didn’t want to lose that.  She kept her mind on Chris and her eyes on the road, ignoring the slum like side streets and the bright lights ahead of her.  Vegas didn’t exist in her laugh and she was almost sad to see the huge green MGM hotel looming in front of her as she pulled onto the strip.

            They parked and chuckled all the way into the hotel and up to Lance’s room where they knew he was waiting to pounce like a wound up cat in a cage.

 

            Lance paced around the hotel room until he heard the key card slide into the lock from the outside.  For a moment his heart skipped a beat, if it was Lonnie he’d have to think quick.  “Hello?” He called from the bedroom.

            “Hey, it’s us.” Jenna said loudly and to Lance it sounded like she might have been laughing.

            “How’d it – “ Lance started to ask as he stepped into the main room, but he stopped when he saw Chris’s torn shirt.  “What happened?”  Lance demanded as he grabbed Chris’ shirt.

            “She couldn’t keep her hands off me.”  Chris laughed.

            “This isn’t funny.  What happened?  Are you hurt?”  He asked Chris.  He quickly turned to Jenna, “Are you?”

            “No, we’re not hurt.  He tore his shirt in the car.”

            “He… you tore your own shirt?” He turned to Chris with a look of disbelief.

            “Kind of.”  Chris shrugged out of Lance’s grasp.  “We, okay Jenna, thought it’d look more realistic if we had a fight.”

            “I… what?  I’m lost.”  Lance frowned and shook his head.

            “When we got down there I was just going to drop him off but there were like, a ton of people around so it would look shady if I dropped him off and he asked all these nosey questions and then got back in my car.”

            “Right, so you should have come back.”  Lance crossed his arms over his chest.

            Jenna shrugged and licked her lips, “Maybe.  But anyway, we thought it’d look better if he and I got into a fight about scoring the drugs and then he could get out and look all… bedraggled or something.  So when he went to ask he could be like, ‘my girl is pissed, can you just help me out?’ or whatever.  It was genius really.”  She smiled slowly.  “Chris is a good actor.”

            “Please.”  Lance rolled his eyes and looked at Chris.  “You’re an actor now?”

            “Dude.  I got all kind of information because I’m a pussy-whipped schmuck.”  Chris high fived Jenna and they both fell onto the couch against the wall.

            “What’d you get?”  Lance forgot about the story of acquisition and focused on the fact that they got information.

            “Turns out Marshall doesn’t work the row.  He used to before he went high class and stuck to the casino’s and the strip.”  Chris sighed and ran his hand over his hair.  “They didn’t know how but they could guess how he came into enough money to roll around in a nice car with nice clothes and everything.”

            “His sister’s.”  Lance’s eyes shot open.

            “Exactly.”  Jenna and Chris said in unison.

            “We knew that.”

            “Yeah but we didn’t know that Marshall wasn’t working Delray Street at the time.  We assumed that she went down there looking for drugs or something.”

            “Well we knew she wasn’t killed there.”

            “Right.”

            “So?”

            “So.”  Chris’ eyes danced as he tapped his feet.  “Guess where he worked?”

            “He didn’t have a job.”

            “On the contrary.  He worked valet at a hotel.”  Chris’ smile grew as Jenna fixed her ponytail.  “Guess where?”

            Lance stomach sank to his knees.  “I don’t know.” He whispered as he sat on the chair opposite the couch.  “Where?”

            “The Mirage."  Chris leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees.

            Lance choked on nothing, and then said, “Are you serious?”

            “According to Antonio.”  Chris nodded.

            “How… how did you get him to talk about Marshall?”

            “I told him I had been ‘away’ for a few years but that my girl and I used to go down there and get some help from Marshall.  So I asked where I’d find him and the guy said that Marshall hadn’t worked Delray in a long time, that he’d moved uptown to work at The Mirage.  So then I asked if he was still dealing up there and he said that he supposed he was doing that on the side because valet doesn’t pay that much.”

            “Okay?”

            “Well then I thanked him and turned to get the heck out thinking the guy had given me enough but then he said that some other guys were asking around about Marshall and that it didn’t look good, so maybe I should think twice about tracking him down.”

            “Yeah?”

            “So I agreed, then he offered me uh… what I was looking for.”

            “You didn’t buy it.”

            “I had to.”

            “Holy fucking shit.  You did not.”  Lance dropped his head into his hands.  “Please Chris; please tell me you did not buy drugs from this guy.”

            “I had to man.  I can’t go down there saying I was looking for crank and then not buy it when it’s offered.”

            “Chris… no.”

            “Well dude, it was a good deal.”

            “No.”  Lance shook his head.  “Just… just tell me you didn’t.  You can’t be that stupid.”

            “Hey.”  Chris frowned.  “I bought it and the guy was cool about it.  We chucked it out the window like three blocks away.”

            “You let him buy speed?”  Lance looked at Jenna.

            “Well yeah.  That was the plan.”

            “Since when was the plan to let Chris go to Delray at all? When did that become ‘the plan’?  And when did ‘the plan’ become letting Chris buy fucking speed from some scraggly looking dealer on Delray?  I don’t even care that it helped the case, do you know how dangerous that was?”  He used finger quote every time he said ‘the plan’, and Chris couldn’t help but snicker under his breath.

            “Hey.”  Jenna frowned and looked over at Chris, “Did you feel threatened at all?”

            “Nope.”  Chris shook his head.

            “Would you do it again?”

            “Ooo, can I?”

            “No!”  Lance jumped up.

            “He won’t, don’t worry.”  Jenna frowned up at Lance and sighed.  “I’m just saying, things went well.  We got some good information to work with.  Let’s let the end justify the means.”

            “Absolutely not.  Jesus, I’m going to have a heart attack before this is all done.”  Lance ran his hands through his hair and took a few deep breaths.  “Chris.  Go wash your hands.”

            “What?”

            “If you touched the crank you need to wash your hands.”

            “But – “

            “There’s that antibacterial stuff in there.  Use it.”  Lance closed his eyes and pointed toward the bathroom.  “Go.”

            Chris looked from Lance to Jenna, who just nodded slowly.  “Just in case.”  She whispered.

            Chris sighed heavily and stomped into the other room to wash his hands as he was told.  “So… what are you thinking?”  Lance asked a minute later.

            Jenna bit her lip and shrugged.  “I’m guessing that Marshall hadn’t seen Monica for a while, then when you guys went to The Mirage or when you left, he saw her.”

            “But how did they end up together the next morning?”

            “Maybe he said something as you guys were leaving?”

            “I don’t think so.”  Lance frowned.   He didn’t remember talking to anyone when they left, but he didn’t remember most of the night.

            “Well maybe he didn’t say anything, but maybe she saw him and realized he was back in town and called him to get a hook up or something?”

            “Maybe.”  Lance sighed.  “God, that’s just too weird though.  I mean… we know that she called his sisters house from the phone in my hotel the morning after.”

            “Right.”

            “So she must have known his sister’s number.”

            “Right.”

            “She just knew it from memory?”

            “Maybe.”

            “How many drug dealers do you know that give out their home numbers?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “That doesn’t make any sense.”  Lance shook his head.  “This doesn’t clear anything else up; it just gives us five dozen new questions.”

            “I know, but it’s more to look at.  More than we had before anyway.”  Jenna said softly.

            “Yeah.  You’re right.”  Lance nodded as Chris came back into the room wiping his damp hands on his pants.

            “Maybe he paged her?”  Chris said as both Jenna and Lance cast him confused looks.  “What?  I heard you guys from the bathroom.”  He sighed.

            “Did she have a pager?”  Lance looked at Jenna.

            “Not that I know of.”  She shrugged.

            “Did you find any bills or anything?  In her apartment I mean?”

            “No.”

            “Because see if she had a pager then maybe Marshall saw her at the hotel and realized that he hadn’t seen her for a while so he paged her when he got off the next morning and she called him back and they met up somewhere and that’s when everything went down.”  Chris licked his lips and looked from Lance to Jenna, then back again.

            “I…”  Lance couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “That’s a good idea.  How do we find out if she had a pager?”

            “I don’t know.”  Jenna shook her head.  “She didn’t have it on her when – “  She stopped short and bit her lip.  “They never found one anyway.”

            “Maybe he kept it.”

            “Or threw it away.”  Chris offered.

            “He could have done anything with it.”  Lance nodded.

            “If she even had one.”

            “It’s just an idea.”  Chris agreed softly.

            “We need to call Crawley.”  Lance said with a sigh.

            “We’ll call tomorrow.” Jenna pursed her lips and frowned.  “I want to think about this for a little bit first.  We’re missing something.  Or something.  I feel like if we can just stop and think about this new information something will come clear.”  She frowned and looked over her shoulder, “Where are the index cards?”

            “In the bedroom.”  Lance read her mind and turned to get the box.  They had writing to do and with Chris there to help they’d be sure to get all the facts straight.

 

            For an hour they worked on writing out what they knew and putting the cards in order where they thought they would fit.  The three of them stopped for lunch, then Lonnie and Chris took off to see the white tigers and some other local oddities while Jenna and Lance went back upstairs to look through some of the documentation Jenna brought with her.  She hadn’t noticed a pager bill the first time she looked, but Lance wanted to take a look as well.

            While sorting through the folder of paperwork that Jenna toted with her practically everywhere she went, the room phone rang.  “Hello?”  Jenna answered quickly, knowing that with Lance sitting at her table it could really only be Crawley.

            “Hi Jenna, this is Detective Crawley.”

            “Hi.”

            “Hey I was wondering if you and Lance could come by my office tomorrow morning.”

            “Um, tomorrow?”  Jenna looked at Lance who just shrugged and nodded.  “Sure of course.  Actually, do you have time tonight?”

            “I’m not at the office tonight.  I’m on a – we’ve got a scene to work.”

            “O-oh.”

            “So come on by around ten tomorrow, okay?”

            “Sure, ten is fine.”

            “Good.  You guys got anything new?”

            “Um, yeah a little actually.”  Jenna licked her lips nervously then filled him in on the little bit of information the collected from Delray street.  She left out any details that might tell Crawley how exactly they came about getting the information, but he wasn’t stupid.

            “Yeah, we heard that ourselves, but we weren’t able to locate employment records.  Of course, he probably used an alias to get a job at a casino.  With a background like his they probably wouldn’t have hired him.  We’re on it.”  Crawley grumbled.

            Jenna’s heart sank and she prayed that Crawley was right and that Antonio hadn’t been lying, or mistaken.  She thanked Crawley for calling and told him they’d be there at ten, then hung up.

            “So?”

            “So they already knew about Marshall’s job I guess.  Kind of.”  She sighed.  “He wants to see us in the morning.”

            “I heard.”

            “They’re stopping the investigation.”  She exhaled sharply.

            “Did he say that?”

            “No.  But why else would he need to see us?”

            “Maybe he has new information.”

            “Oh please.”  She sighed sadly and rolled her eyes.  “No.  No… this is it.”

            “Let’s just wait until tomorrow and see what he has to say.”  Lance tried to smile as he put a hand on her shoulder.  “It might not be that bad.”

            “You know as well as I do that there’s no way they are going to keep this up for much longer.”  She sighed and dropped her chin to her chest.  Lance slid his arm around to hold her in a one armed embrace as she continued.  “You and I are the only ones working on this.”

            “And Chris.”  Lance smiled.

            “Right.” She laughed lightly, then sniffed.  “But…”

            “Jenna, we can’t worry about this now.  Let’s just wait and see what Crawley has to say tomorrow.  Either way, you and I won’t stop until this is done… so it’s no problem.  Right?”

            “But what if – “

            “Right?”  He interrupted her and squeezed her shoulder.

            She sighed in resignation and said, “Right.”

            “Okay then.”  Lance fought the urge to kiss her temple as it was so close to his lips.  Instead he sighed and turned his head the other way.  “I’m gonna get out of here.  I don’t know about you but I’m drained.”

            “Y-yeah.”  Jenna said up straight as Lance’s arm dropped away.  She stood up slowly and ran her hand over her hair as his composure fell into place.  “Thanks.”

            A frown flashed across Lance’s forehead as the silent moment they shared slipped away.  “Sure thing.”  He nodded and bit his lip.  “So call me in the morning.  Or come down or whatever.”

            “Okay.”

            “And get some sleep.”  He smiled and headed for the door.

            “I will.”

            “Okay… well uh… good night.”  Lance paused with his hand on the door.

            “Good night.”  Jenna said from the other side of the room.

            “I – “  Lance started to say something then changed his mind.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He opened the door and stepped out before he could change his mind.

            Lance went back to his room where he sat alone and watched yet another movie on pay-per-view before he went to bed.  Chris was still out when he shut the lights off, and he barely heard the older man come in just before one in the morning.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            The wake up call he set up the night before woke him at eight thirty the next morning.  Lance rolled out of bed and into the shower to wake himself up a little more before they headed to the police station.  When he stepped out of the bathroom in his jeans and wet hair, Chris was sitting on the couch in his sweat pants and Mardi Gras t-shirt with “Show me your tits!” across the front.  “The cartoons here suck.” He grumbled.

            “It’s a casino.  How many kids you think they get here?”

            “True.  But still.”  Chris sighed and turned the TV off with a loud yawn.  “So why are you up so early?”

            “It’s after nine.  That’s not so early.”

            “Yeah huh.”  Chris scratched at his belly and yawned again.  “You got a hot date or something?”  He waggled his eyebrows but it just looked silly with his eyes drooping heavily beneath them.

            “We’re going to meet with Crawley this morning."  Lance said as he pulled a t-shirt over his head.

            "Right now?  I told Lonnie we'd go hit the buffet at the Palms."  Chris frowned and tugged at his almost bare chin.

            "You can go.  Jenna and I just have to meet with him."  Lance said softly.  "He called last night; I think they might be calling off the investigation."  He admitted softly. 

            "What?!"  Chris rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

            "It's been cold for weeks now."

            "Well yeah but they can't just stop can they?  That’s a crock man, seriously."  Chris asked as he left his chin alone and looked offended.  "They haven't found the guy.  Did you tell them about that rental car thing?  What about the other stuff that Antonio told me?"

            "We told him." Lance nodded.  "And I don't know if they can just stop.  But I don't get the feeling that this is a good meeting."

            "That's fucked up."

            "Yeah, well.  We'll see."  Lance bent to grab his shoes, then sat on the bed.

            "Do you want me to go?"

            "You can if you want, but there’s not much to see.”  Lance shrugged, “Go to the brunch with Lonnie."

            "You sure?"

            "I'm sure."  Lance tied his shoes then stood up.  "I've gotta go though."

            "Call Lonnie."

            "He’s probably sleeping.  Tell him I went when you see him."

            “You’re supposed to tell him if you leave the hotel.”

            “We’re going to the police station.  It’s not like we’re going out to a club.”

            "Okay, true."  Chris sighed and pursed his lips.  "You sure you don't want me to go?"

            "I'm sure.  Thanks though."  Lance forced a smile and stepped around Chris as Jenna knocked on the door.

            “Are you ready?”  She asked as a greeting when the door was opened.

            “Yeah.”

            “Hi Chris.”

            “Hi.”  Chris waved from the couch.

            “Are you coming with us?”

            “I wasn’t invited.”

            “You were too.”  Lance grumbled and reached for his card key.  “He as invited, but he’s going to brunch with Lonnie.”

            “It’s probably nothing anyway.”  Jenna sighed and crossed her arms over her chest.  “Are you ready?”  She asked again.

            “I’m ready.”  Lance nodded and stepped around her to the door.  “I’ll call you when we’re done, okay?”

            “Okay.”  Chris pursed his lips and scowled at the dark TV.

            “Go get some caffeine or something.  Call Lonnie.”

            “I will.”

            “Quit pouting.  You look like Justin when you do that.”  Lance smiled as the corner of Chris’ mouth turned up just slightly.

            “Go play Las Vegas Vice already.”  Chris waved them out the door and actually smiled as they left.

            “He can come if he wants.”  Jenna said softly as the door shut behind them.

            “I know.”  Lance nodded and put his hands in his pockets.  “But he wants to do the buffet thing and really, this is pretty much just for you and me.  I mean… its Crawley.”

            “True.”

            “We’ll call him when we’re done and fill him in if anything new comes up.”

            “He’s…”  Jenna paused as they stepped onto the elevator.  “He’s pretty cool.  I mean, he was really into it when we went down there.”

            “Yeah, he’s a kid at heart.  In his head he was playing cops and robbers.  I don’t think he got it that it was real.”

            “Yeah but that’s part of what helped, he was so gung ho.”

            Lance sighed, she was missing the point.  “Yeah.  I suppose.”

            “I’m glad you brought him.”  She mumbled quickly.

            Lance looked over at her with a cocked eyebrow and a half smile, “Really?”

            “Yes.”  She sighed in exasperation.  Yes, okay?  You were right, I was wrong.”

            “Wow.”  Lance tried not to laugh.  “I never in a million years thought I’d hear you say that.”

            “Well you won’t hear it again.”  She tried to keep a cold expression, but his little snickers under his breath made her smile just the slightest.  “You won’t.”  She insisted.

            “That’s fine.  I don’t need to.  Once is enough.”  He laughed as they stepped off the elevator and headed for the exit.  They were so used to this walk out to the car together that it was like riding on autopilot.  He walked on the right, opened the heavy glass door on the end, she’d take the lead on the narrow walkway out to the parking structure, he’d shake the keys as they walked up the stairs to the second level and then they’d open the doors almost in unison when they got to the car.

            It was like a well practiced dance, and Lance smiled as he noticed it for the first time.  Their choreography was so smooth, Wade would have been impressed.  He started the car and turned the radio on to have sound in the car as they drove the ever familiar streets to the station.  Their second home in Vegas.

 

            When they walked into the front office, they were greeted by a young officer that had already started to recognize them.  Crawley, right?”  He asked with a smile.

            “Yes.  He called us in.”  Jenna nodded, assuming her no-nonsense stance.

            “Right, you guys can go on up.  He’s expecting you.”

            “Thank you.”  Lance nodded and didn’t even pause as he went to the elevators.  They rode up in silence then walked down the hall to Crawley’s tiny office.  He knocked on the open door and waited for Crawley to look up and wave them in.

            They took their usual seats and sighed in unison, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Crawley who smiled as he looked from one to the other.  He stared at Lance and Jenna from across the table, but didn't say a word.  They sat in knowing silence for a few minutes before Crawley cracked his knuckles and sighed, "You guys doing okay?”

            "Uh huh."  Lance mumbled and kept his eyes on his hands in his lap.

            "You got anything new since last night?"  Crawley asked, though he knew they didn't.

            "No."  Lance shook his head.

            "Neither do we."  He said after a moment.  "Listen… you guys have put a lot of hard work into this investigation.  More than any other family I've worked with… but I think all you're doing now is putting yourself in danger for no good reason.  You've given us a lot of stuff to work with, and we are working on it.  But I think it's time for you guys to call it a day.  Let us do the rest of the work."  He chose his words carefully, knowing that one wrong suggestion could set Jenna off.

            "If…"  Jenna spoke up softly and raised her eyes to Crawley's.  "If we leave, I want to know that you're going to continue the investigation."

            "It will be investigated until we catch the guy responsible, or run out of even the thinnest leads."

            "No.  I want it continued until the guy is behind bars.  Even if it means making up leads to follow.  He's out there somewhere and I don't want to stop until he's caught.  I won't stop until then."  She clamped her mouth shut and set her jaw.

            "We will continue doing everything we can."  Crawley nodded.  "You have my word on that.  You guys have done a great job, but I can't have you out there putting yourselves in danger like this."

            Lance nodded and pursed his lips as he looked over at Jenna.  This was it, the moment she would have to give up and put it all in the hands of the police.  "Are you ready to go home?"

            Her mouth dropped open the slightest bit and a soft breath escaped, "Yeah."  She whispered at the end of the breath.  "Yes."  She said again, sounding more sure.

            Crawley nodded and reached for a pen.  "Make sure we have current contact numbers for you guys at home or wherever, and we'll keep in touch."

            "You will?"

            "I will.  Personally."  Crawley nodded and for the first time in a while, actually smiled.

            “Thank you.”  Lance mumbled as he scribbled every possible number he could be reached at.  Jenna did the same then sighed and stood up.

            She turned to leave without another word, but stopped at the door.  With two quick steps she backtracked to Crawley’s desk and extended her hand, “Thank you very much Detective Crawley.”  The words left her lips so quickly neither Lance nor Crawley could quite believe it.

            “You’re quite welcome Miss Saylor.”  Crawley shook her hand and smiled slowly.  “And thank you Mr. Bass.”

            “Thanks.”  Lance shook his hand, then he and Jenna left the familiar little office.

            She sighed heavily as they stepped out of the station and into the bright Vegas sun.  “I can’t believe this is it.”

            “This isn’t it.  This is just the next step.”  Lance squinted as the sun reflected off the cars in the lot.  They walked to the rental car in silence and headed back to the hotel.

            “I can’t believe we’ve done all we could.  I mean we could go back and talk to Heather again.”

            “I don’t think that’d be a good idea.”

            “But she might know more.  What if Marshall’s contacted her?”

            “Then I’m sure she would have contacted the police or you even.  She wasn’t happy with him, remember?”

            “Yeah but she’s his sister.  You never know.”

            “Jenna, you have to let Crawley and his crew do that.  They’re looking for Marshall, remember?”

            “I think they’re blowing smoke.”

            “We have to have faith.”

            Jenna sighed and rested her chin on her fist as she looked out the window at the passing Vegas skyline.  “I don’t know if I can.”

            “You can.”  He smiled and placed his hand on her shoulder.  “We’ve done a lot of work on this.  You’ve done a lot of work.  You should be proud of all the information you’ve found.”

            “I know.”

            “If this gets solved any time soon, it’ll be because of you.”

            Jenna sighed again and wiped at her suddenly tear filled eyes.  “I know.”

            “So see?  You’ve done well, but now it’s time for you to let them take it from here.”

            “I know.  I heard the speech just like you.”

            Lance removed his hand and put it back on the steering wheel.  “Okay then.”

            “Okay.”  She bit her lip and took a deep breath to push the emotion out of the way.

            “Are you hungry?”

            “A little.”

            “Chris and Lonnie were going to the buffet at the Palms, do you want me to call and see if they’re still there?  We could join them or something.”

            “Sure.  Whatever.”  She kept her eyes to the outside.

            “Okay.”  Lance said softly.  He pulled his phone from his pocket and called Chris to see where they were.  He and Lonnie had just been seated in a booth and Chris all but demanded that they come join them and fill him in on all of the police scoop.  “There’s not much.”  Lance said as he dropped his voice and turned the radio on.  “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”  He clicked his phone off and dropped it into the center console behind the emergency break.  His stomach twisted and any hunger he felt before was gone.  He just wanted to go home.

 

            When they got to the restaurant, Jenna took a plate while Lance went to find Chris and Lonnie.  He circled the restaurant twice before spotting Chris’ clean shaven face in a booth near the back.  “Hey.”  He mumbled as he walked up.

            Chris slid over to make more room as he chewed on a piece of bacon, “So what’s the good word?”

            “He's sending us home." Lance said as he slid into the booth beside Chris.

            "Today?"  Lonnie asked.

            "Whenever.  We don’t have to go home really, but he’s suggested it.  Either way, he wants us to back off the investigation."  Lance shrugged and leaned back into the glittery red cushions.

            "They've called it off?" Chris dropped his fork onto his plate and leaned forward.  "Are you serious?"

            "No, they aren't calling it off.  They're going to keep looking into it but he said we were going to end up getting ourselves hurt and that kind of thing."

            "Where's Jenna?"

            "Getting some food."  Lance nodded toward the buffet area, then leaned his head back and sighed.

            "She pissed?"

            "She's not happy."

            "Is she leaving?"

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded slightly.  "She knows it's what we have to do.  I guess we can make arrangements tonight or something."

            "Can we stay if we promise not to go snooping around?"  Chris asked.  "Because dude, Lonnie and I found this place called Little Darlin's."

            "The strip club?"

            "You know about it?"  Chris lowered his voice to a conspiring level.

            "Joey kept talking about it last time."  Lance shrugged and watched as Jenna scanned the room.  He raised his hand to get her attention, then turned back to Chris.  "You can stay here as long as you want, but I'm heading home as soon as I can.  I've honestly had enough Vegas to last me a lifetime."

            "So you won't be back?"

            "Eventually I'm sure I'll have to."  Lance sighed, then reached across the table and took one of Chris' onion rings.  Jenna sat beside Lonnie and looked up at Chris and Lance.  "Do you know when you're going home?"  He asked.

            "Nope."  Jenna shook her head and focused on her meal.

            "But you are going home, right?"

            "I told Crawley I was."

            "But does that mean you are?"

            "Yeah, I'm going home.  I just don't know when."

            "Jenna."

            "I have to call.  When have I had time to call and get a flight Lance?  You were with me in the car, did I call then?"

            "No."

            "Okay, then how would I know when I was leaving?"  She frowned and took a bite of her salad.  "Honestly."

            Lonnie and Chris chuckled to themselves as Lance rolled his eyes and shook his head.  "Fine.  Okay."

            "Why?  When are you going home?"  She asked as she chewed.

            "As soon as I can.  Tomorrow probably."

            "No come on.  Let's stay through the weekend at least."  Chris whined.

            "Lonnie…"  Lance looked to the bodyguard for support, but he just smiled and shrugged.

            "I go where you guys go."  Lonnie looked at Chris, "If you wanna stay I'll stick around with you.  You sure you wanna try to hit Vegas with a babysitter?"

            "Dude, you're the best babysitter ever.  You'd take me to a nudie bar, right?"  Chris asked.

            "Sure thing."

            "They have nudie bars in Florida."  Lance frowned.

            "So not the same."  Chris shook his head and stabbed at Lance's hand as he reached for another onion ring.  "Dude.  Get your own."

            "I'm not hungry."

            "Then quit eating off my plate man."  Chris scowled and looked at Jenna.  "Wanna hang out for the weekend?"

            "Actually, I should get home too.  I've got my job waiting and they won't hold it forever."  She said softly.  "I'll probably be heading back to New York tomorrow or the day after."

            "Damn."  Chris took a sip of his soda.  "Fine.  All you guys suck.  Lance, call Johnny when we get back and have him get us tickets home.  But you owe me a trip to a nudie bar in Florida."

            "Fine. We'll go."  Lance rolled his eyes and stole yet another onion ring.

            "Yay!"  Chris bounced in his seat then snatched his plate away from Lance's hand.  "But dude.  Get your own."

            Lance sighed, but then almost didn't want their time there to end.  If it weren't for all of the other stuff on his mind, he knew that Vegas with Chris would be fun.

 

            They finished their meal then headed upstairs to make their travel arrangements.  Johnny was glad to hear that they'd be coming home and by the time they hung up, he'd scheduled them three meetings.  "So much for a vacation."  Chris sighed.

            "What do you think you've been doing here the last couple days?"

            "Blah."  Chris made a face and fell back on the bed.  "So what's the plan?"

            "We leave tomorrow at nine thirty."

            "In the morning?!"

            "Yeah."

            "You suck."

            "I didn't pick the flight."

            "You didn't ask for anything later either."  Chris grumbled and held up his hand to flip Lance off.  "That means no partying tonight."

            "You can go party all you want.  It's a six hour flight or something crazy like that.  You can sleep the whole way home."

            Chris heaved a heavy sigh.  "That's not the same."

            "Stop complaining."  Lance sighed back at him and kicked at Chris' shoe.  Chris didn't stop complaining much, but Lance stopped listening.  He went into the other room to start packing his things up so they wouldn't have to do it early the next morning.

            After all of Chris' whining, he finally got up to help pack and convinced Lance to take him, Jenna and Lonnie out for a last dinner.  Lance finally agreed just to shut Chris up, silently vowing to never take Chris anywhere ever again without at least one other guy there to help distract him.

 

            They all went to the dinner theater show at the Excalibur hotel and cheered for the blue knight.  He lost after only the second round, but the rest of the night was fun as well.  It was great for Lance to see Jenna cut loose kind of, and have a good time.  He was glad that they could do something together that wasn't directly involved with the case, and he was sure they all needed it.

            After dinner they clanked their pewter plates and smacked they mugs on the wood plank tables in front of them.  The crowd around them cheered and booed and stomped their feet as the knights fought it out in the arena before them.  When it was all over they filed out with the crowd and headed back across the street to their hotel.

            "That was fun."  Jenna smiled as they waited for the light to change to cross.

            "Yeah it was.  I've never been to that show before."  Lance nodded.

            "Me either.  Not here anyway.  They have one like it in La or something, we went to that once."  Chris said.

            "I didn't go to that."

            "Eh, you were probably working or something."  Chris shrugged and stepped off the curb to cross with the crowd.

            They made it back to the hotel in one piece and were stopped in the lobby by a group of girls checking in.  Jenna stood back for a moment, then caught Lance's eye and signaled that she was going upstairs.  "Hang on."  He said quickly as he handed one of the girls her pen back.  He stepped over some of their luggage and stood in front of Jenna.  "Are you okay?"

            "I'm fine.  I'm just… I'm going upstairs.  I'm tired."  She yawned and smiled.

            "Okay.  Do you want Lonnie to go with you?"

            "And leave you guys unattended?  Never."  Jenna laughed and shook her head slowly.  "I'll be fine.  Give me a call in the morning or whatever and I'll drive you to the airport."

            "What time is your flight?"

            "Not till late tomorrow."

            "Really?"

            "Like, seven I think." She nodded.

            "Oh.  Okay."

            "So call me in the morning."

            "I will."  Lance nodded as Chris pulled on his shirt sleeve.  "Good night."

            "G'night."  She smiled, then quietly slipped through the crowd to the elevators, leaving Chris and Lance to do their jobs.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            The next morning Chris and Lance were up and ready to leave by eight o'clock.  With little complaining, they made it downstairs and loaded everything into the rental car.  Jenna went through the drive thru at Taco Bell to get breakfast for Chris who was sure he'd die if he had to eat plane food again, then they were off for the airport.

            Jenna stopped the car at the curb and popped the trunk as everyone got out.  Lonnie pulled the luggage from the back as Chris yawned and stretched his arms over his head.  "It's too early."

            "You can sleep on the plane."

            "I plan on it."

            "At least then I know it'll be a quiet flight."  Lance laughed and picked up his bags to move them closer together.

            "You make that sound like if I was awake it'd be loud."  Chris frowned.

            "You said it, not me."  Lance laughed.

            Jenna stood on the curb watching the exchange as she tried not to yawn herself.  It was earlier than she planned on being up, but she didn't mind doing it.  "Well guys… have a safe trip home."

            "Thank you."  Lonnie smiled and piled the last two pieces of luggage near Chris' feet.

            "Jenna, it was very nice to meet you."  Chris smiled and extended his hand.

            "You too.  Thank you for your help."  She shook his hand and was surprised when he pulled her in for a hug.

            "You're family now.  You get a hug."  Chris laughed.

            "Since when does that matter?" Lance asked with a smile.  He was glad to see them getting along better.

            "Have a safe flight home."  Jenna said to both boys as she took a step back.  "You too Lonnie.  Keep these guys out of trouble."

            "Ha.  Yeah right."  Lonnie smiled but crossed his arms over his chest.

            "Keep me up to date if you hear anything."  Lance said as he dropped his backpack over his shoulder and looked toward the airport entrance.

            "I will."

            "And just let me know what's going on, okay?  Call me every now and then."

            "You can call me too."

            "I know.  I will."  Lance nodded and shuffled his feet almost nervously.  "So anyway.  I'll talk to you later then."

            "Yeah, I'll talk to you later."

            Lance stepped over Chris' bag and gave her an almost awkward hug.  "Actually, call me when you get home so I know you made it."

            Jenna leaned back and gave him a weird look with only a partial smile.  "I... okay."

            "He's very dad-like when it comes to traveling."  Chris rolled his eyes and pulled his bag out from between Lance's legs.  "Come on dad.  Let's go before we miss the cocktail hour before our flight."  He hauled the bag onto his shoulder and walked into the terminal with Lonnie watching his every step.

            "Lance?  Let's go."  Lonnie took his eyes off Chris for only a second to get Lance's attention.

            "B-bye."  Lance stuttered as he gave Jenna one last smile before following Chris into the airport.

            Jenna sighed and shook her head with a small smile, "You guys are crazy."  She said softly to herself.  She watched until they made it in the wide automatic doors, then got back in the rental car to head back to the hotel to get her things packed.  Her flight wouldn't leave until that evening and she had some things she wanted to see before she left this time.

 

            Jenna spent the afternoon sightseeing her way through the different hotels on the strip.  She had never let herself enjoy the city before then, so everything was new and exciting.  Avoiding Caesar’s was difficult, but the images she associated with it were too much for her to think about, and walking in there looking exactly like Monica, could raise more questions than she was ready to deal with.  As it was, she was surprised that no one had mistaken her for her sister yet.  She’d been there a total of a month almost, been in and out of several hotels and casinos, yet no one had even given her a second look.  “It’s a big city though.”  She rationalized to herself.

            At seven thirty she was back at the airport to catch her red eye flight back to New York.  She would leave the city of lights at eight thirty, and arrive in the Big Apple just after six in the morning.  If she planned everything right, she’d be back in her apartment by eight, and asleep by eight oh two.

            As she boarded the plane she kept her mind on her bed at home and tried to block everything else out.  She’d spent so much time thinking about the case, her sister, and Lance… that she had almost completely lost touch with herself.  For the first time in a while she was glad to be going home to her own life; what little there was of it left.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Lance was back in Florida for more than a week before Jenna called to touch base.  "Have you heard anything from Crawley?"  She asked as soon as Lance answered his phone.

            "Hi.  No, I haven't talked to him.  You?"

            "No." Jenna sighed softly.

            "You okay?"  Lance frowned and pulled on his lip.

            "Yeah, I'm okay."

            "Are you in New York?"

            "Yes."  Jenna sighed again.  "I didn't go running back to Vegas."

            "Good."  Lance smiled.  "Because I don't have any more vacation time or whatever to go chasing you around the back streets."

            "You didn't have to in the first place."

            "Yeah I did."  Lance said softly.  He felt like it was his responsibility, regardless of whether or not she saw it the same way.

            "Well… I uh, I don't want to keep you so I'll let you go."

            "I'm not busy."

            "I know you've got lots of work to do."

            "Jenna… it's almost eleven at night.  I'm not working I'm just sitting around my house trying to decide what movie to fall asleep to."

            "Oh man, is it almost eleven already?  I'm sorry… I didn't realize it was so late."

            "It's okay."  Lance smiled.  "So how are things with you?"

            "With me?  Things… I'm fine."  She seemed almost taken aback that he would ask about her.

            "Yeah?  How's work?"

            "Work is fine."

            "Are you busy getting caught up from all the time you were gone?"

            "Well… I'm still at work at almost eleven at night, so yeah.  You could say that."  Jenna bit her lip and looked around the dark office.  "I might as well just crash here under my desk since I'll be back here in eight hours anyway."

            "You should go home."

            "Yeah, maybe."  Jenna sighed and thought of her lonely apartment across town.  She'd rather spend the night in her office than surrounded by the boxes of her sister's stuff that she couldn't bring herself to get rid of just yet.

            "Do you want me to call you a cab?"

            Jenna laughed lightly and rested her forehead in her hand.  "No thank you."

            "You sure?"

            "I'm sure."

            "Because New York is a big bad city and I'd hate for you to run into trouble."

            "If I can handle Delray Street, I can handle Manhattan."

            "Jenna…"

            "I have my gun."

            "Jenna!"

            "I'm kidding.  We have a guard at the desk downstairs.  He'll call a cab for me and make sure I get in safely."  Jenna smiled.  "But thank you for the offer."

            "Are you sure?"

            "I'm sure.  I do this all the time."

            "Do you want to call me on your cell and talk to me until you get home?"  Lance offered quickly.

            "Do you want me to?"  She asked after a moment's pause.

            "I…"  Lance paused. He did want her to. He wanted to keep tabs on her and to make sure she was okay; but from a thousand miles away that was hard.  And he knew she'd freak out if he showed up in New York to escort her home.  "If you want to."

            "You worry too much."

            "I know."

            "I'll call you tomorrow or something, okay?"

            Lance paused and took a deep breath.  "Okay."

            "Call me if you hear anything."

            "I will."

            "You have my numbers?"

            "Yep."

            "All of them?"  She asked.

            "Yeah, I have all of them and your fax number too.  But I don't know why I have that."  He frowned and looked at the piece of paper with all of her numbers on it tacked to his wall.

            "Okay… well I'm going home now."

            "Okay.  Be safe."

            "I always am."  He could hear her smile as she hung up the phone and left him smiling back into the handset.

            Lance chose a movie to watch at random and put it in as he made himself comfortable on his couch.  He'd slept there the last few nights for no other reason then he liked falling asleep to the sound and the only TV he owned was in his living room.  After the previews played and the opening credits started, Lance's stomach twisted with a rush of anxiety.  He tried to frown it away but the feeling wouldn't leave until he stood up and grabbed his phone from the kitchen.

            He dialed Jenna's cell phone number and licked his lower lip as he listened to it ring once.  "Damn." He hung up and shook his head.  She would think he was a nervous freak if he called her just to make sure she made it home.  "But I just want to make sure she’s safe." He rationalized to himself.  He dialed again and sighed heavily as it rang again.

            "Hello?"  Jenna answered the phone.

            "H-hey."

            "Lance?"

            "Yeah."

            "Did you just call?"

            "Yeah."

            "What's up?"

            "I just wanted to be sure you got home okay."  He said lamely.

            "I'm in the cab right now." Jenna laughed.  "You seriously worry too much."

            "I know."  Lance rested his head in his hands.

            "It's nice though."  She laughed then added, "In a very strange kind of way."

            "I've always been this way."

            "You must drive your friends' nuts."

            "Well I think my only saving grace with the guys is that JC is worse than me."

            "Is that possible?"

            "JC would be on the next flight to New York to come check on you."  Lance joked, knowing that he was only a few steps from doing exactly that.

            "Oh man."

            "I know."

            "I'm a grown woman.  I've been living here for years you know."

            "I know."  Lance laughed softly.  "But still.  It's the Southern gentleman in me."

            "Yeah I bet."

            "Down in Mississippi we didn't just let ladies go home alone in a cab."

            "This is hardly Mississippi."

            "Yeah, yeah, yeah."  He rolled his eyes and yawned.  "But anyway, I've got you on the phone now so I'll just wait till you get home."

            "I'll be there in three more blocks."

            "Good."

            "Is this something I should get used to?  And avoid?"

            "What?"

            "The phone escort home from work."

            "If you call me at eleven at night and tell me you're just now leaving work, yeah."

            "Okay."

            "Other than that, no."

            "Okay."  She laughed and shook her head as she watched her building come into view.

            "Unless you want to I mean."  Lance added quickly.  "Anytime you feel weird or whatever about going somewhere alone call me and I'll go with you on the cell phone."

            "You're strange Lance."

            "It's late."

            "I'm here."  She said as the cab pulled up along the curb.  She passed her cash to the driver and thanked him before stepping out onto the wet sidewalk.  "It must have rained."

            "You're home now?"

            "I'm standing in front of my building."

            "Well go in."

            "I am.  Sheesh."  She cradled the phone between her shoulder and ear and fumbled with her keys.  When she finally got in she took the steps to the third floor quickly and unlocked her door.  "Okay.  I'm in my apartment. Everything looks exactly how I left it only cleaner.  My housekeeper came this afternoon."

            "You have a housekeeper?"

            "Of course.  Don't you?"

            "Uhh… maybe I should."  He glanced over at the dishes in his sink.

            "Why don't you think about that and let me know later what you think?"

            "I'll do that."

            "Can I go now?  Or do you want to wait until I've changed into my sweats and crawled into my bed?"

            "No, I - " Lance stopped and tried not to visualize that.  "No that's fine, I was just -"

            "Worrying too much."

            "Yeah."

            Jenna paused and they sat there in silence for a moment.  "You know… I hope that Monica knew what kind of person you were when she… I mean, when you guys got married."

            Lance blushed and pursed his lips quickly, "I doubt this part of my personality came through.  When I'm drunk I uh, I don't think I'm the same."

            "Yeah but still.  You can't hide a good heart.  Not even behind alcohol."  She said softly.

            "Thank you."  Lance blushed even more as he smiled.

            Jenna took a deep breath and shook her head, "Anyway.  I'm going to bed.  I'll talk to you later.  Or something."

            "Okay.  Good night."  Lance lowered his voice.

            "Good night.  And thank you for calling; it did make me feel better."

            "Anytime."

            "Bye."

            "Bye."  Lance hung up the phone and dropped it on the chair by the couch.  The movie on the TV was well into the plot when he lay back down and pulled the blankets up to his shoulders.  Knowing that Jenna was home safe was enough for him to relax and enjoy what was left of the movie to get his mind off of everything else going on in his life.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn