When Lance woke the next morning he didn't know where he was.  The room was dark thanks to the heavy curtains pulled tight across the window and the sheets were unfamiliar.  There was a warm body directly behind him, barely touching his back, and a soft breath gently disturbing the hair behind his ear.

            Jenna.  He thought silently to himself.  He was in Vegas with Jenna because they found Monica's killer.  They found the killer.  His mind registered everything all at once and his stomach did a flip-flop.

            Slowly he moved his arm out from under the covers to check the time without moving too much.  It was just after ten in the morning and his bladder gave a shout of warning as his leg moved slightly.  Jenna shifted under the covers and her hand brushed his back as it went up and under her pillow.

            Lance closed his eyes and tried to stop his body from reacting the only way it knew how.  He slowly slid his legs out from under the covers and moved in slow motion as he sat up and pushed the covers aside.  He hobbled to the bathroom, afraid of making any sudden movements that would cause more pain.

            When he came out a minute later his hands smelled of the flowery soap left by the sink and he was officially awake.  "Hmm."  He made a soft sound under his breath as he looked at Jenna sound asleep in the bed still, completely unaware that he had vacated his side.  Lance stood by the side of the bed and just looked down at her expressionless face and wild hair.  "So this is what my life might have looked like…"  He thought to himself.  "If Monica hadn't been killed."  He added with a slight frown.

            His mind must have still be mostly asleep because it began to wander and imagine what it would be like if he married Jenna instead.  What would he think about waking up to the image before him every morning?  He startled himself when he realized that he didn't think he'd mind it all that much.

            Lance blinked quickly and shook the thought from his head.  As much as he could daydream and wonder, he knew that they were friends and nothing more than that.  In fact, they were too close to ever be any more.  With Monica as the bond between them, that was all that they could be, for both of their sakes.

            With a deep sigh Lance reached for his wrinkled pants and pulled them on quietly.  He slid his bare feet into the dress shoes he had on the night before, then tucked the room key and his wallet into his back pocket.  If he remembered right, there was a large collection of stores down by the canals and he'd definitely be able to find casual clothes and shoes down there.  Besides, Jenna would sleep for at least another hour.  He smiled and made plans to also stop and pick up breakfast on his way back up.

            Lance shut the door softly behind him as he left, then made his way down the hall to the elevator.  He caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection on the glass of a hanging picture in the hall.  "Ugh, nice."  His undershirt was wrinkled and clinging maybe a little too tight, while his hair stood on end and his eyes drooped.  "Coffee." He nodded at the image of himself, then continued to the elevator.

 

            After more than an hour Lance was back in the elevator balancing a bag of clothes, a new pair of shoes, random toiletries he picked up in the gift shop and a bakers bag of chocolate filled croissants, fresh bananas and a cardboard holder with two cups of coffee in his other hand.  When he got to the room he discovered that he did not have a free hand to pull the card out of his pocket so he set all of his bags down and held tight to the coffees.

            Once in the room he held the door open with his foot and pulled the bags inside, then let the door close on its own.  It slammed louder than he expected and he winced as he looked quickly to the bed.  Jenna was still sleeping, but the sound didn't seem to disturb her at all.  Lance watched for another minute to make sure she was still asleep, then he took the bags into the bathroom and changed into his new jeans and a clean t-shirt.  He left his new shoes in the box and sat barefoot at the table by the bed.

            As soon as the croissant passed his lips, he knew he was in heaven.  His stomach grumbled in response and he finished the first one in record time.  The coffee burned his tongue but was just what he needed to consider himself ready for the day.  After taking two sips of the strong, black coffee, he pulled the top off and added creamer and sugar.  Lots of sugar.

            "Mmmmm."  Jenna made her first sound as her hands emerged from beneath the covers and reached for the high headboard.  "Is that coffee?"

            "Mm hm."  Lance hummed as he took a sip of his.  "And croissants."  He said once he swallowed.

            "Yum."  She closed her eyes and stretched again, all the way down to her toes that peeked out of the bottom of the blanket.  "What time is it?"

            "Um, it's almost noon."

            "Are you serious?"

            "Yep."

            "Oh man, I don't think I've slept this late in years."  She yawned, then sat up and ran her fingers through her hair.  "Did… you went shopping?"  Jenna asked after spotting the bags by the bathroom door.

            "Yeah, all I had was what I was wearing last night."  He reached into the bag and pulled another croissant out.  "Unlike some people, I didn't have time to pack."

            "Ah."  She nodded and yawned as she stood up and stretched yet again.  "Man, that smells good."  She eyed the coffee and breakfast on the table, but headed instead for the bathroom.

            When Jenna stepped out several minutes later her hair was brushed and she looked wide awake.  "Okay."  She sat down and reached for her coffee.  "So we're going to the station after this to find out more about what went on, right?"

            "Right."  Lance nodded and picked at the crust of the croissant in front of him.  Jenna tore hers in half and nibbled around the chocolate center.

            "Thank you for the coffee and croissant."  She licked flakes from her lips then took a long sip of the coffee.

            "You're welcome."

            "What do you think he's going to tell us?"  She jumped right back on track as though it was all she knew how to talk about.

            "I don't know."  Lance answered honestly.  "I mean… what more is there to tell?  They caught him."

            Jenna looked surprised for a moment, "I want to know what he said."

            "He confessed."

            "Right.  And I want to know exactly what he said."

            "They probably can't share that until the trial."

            "That's bullshit."  Jenna scowled as Lance just shrugged.  "But…"  She sighed.  "I guess if we have to wait, we have to wait… right?"

            "Right."  Lance tore a bite off and ate it slowly.  "But Crawley also said that he had some belongings for you to look at today.  So that's one thing we'll get to do."

            The blood left Jenna's face as she stopped chewing and dropped her eyes to the corner of the table.  "I…"

            "What?"

            "I forgot about that."  She placed her hand over her stomach and pushed what was left of her croissant away.

            Lance frowned and reached for her hand, "You don't have to.  I mean… he can keep them if you want.  You don't have to look at anything."

            "No I want to.  I just forgot that… that that's what we were going there for."  She licked her lips quickly and tried to smile.  The curve of her smile wavered though as she stood up and went to her backpack to pull clean clothes out.  "I'll just… I'm going to shower.  Then we can go."

            "Okay."

            "I'll only be a minute."

            "Take your time."  Lance said softly, he was in no hurry to get there.  Something inside told Lance that it wasn't going to be a good day.  There was no sense of impending doom or anything as dramatic as that, but he couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.  It wasn't going to be a good day, and the longer it took to get started, the better off he was.

 

            It was an hour later when they were finally on the road to the police station.  They stopped for gas at the corner, and then continued across town.  Lance let his mind wander as he drove.  He didn't have to pay close attention to the road, he knew when to turn.  Right at the castle hotel on the strip, left at the Taco Bell five or six blocks up, left again at the strip mall with the 24 Hour fitness on the corner, then another three lights to the station.  It would be on his right.  He could find it in his sleep.

            As they walked in Jenna went straight to the desk to let the young officer know that they were there to see Detective Crawley.  He nodded and waved them on, knowing that they knew where his office was.  He'd been there the night before, and recognized them from the weeks they spent there.

            "Hey guys."  Crawley greeted them when Lance tapped on the door frame.  "Come on in. Grab a seat." He casually waved to the two chairs across from his desk.  They sat in their usual seats and leaned forward.

            "So, what have you got?"

            "Not much."  Crawley looked at Jenna over the top of the papers in his hands.  "I gave you all the real news last night.  Nothing has changed.  The only thing new is the positive identification of the murder weapon.  The gun found in his car was the same one that killed your sister."  He shrugged as though that information was insignificant.  "But we knew that it would be."

            "Okay…?

            "Do you guys have any questions now that you've had a few hours to sleep and think about it?"

            "I uh… no."  Lance shook his head.  "What do we do now?"

            Crawley shrugged, completely indifferent.  "Whatever you want."  He held two pieces of paper out to them.  "Here you go.  This is a brief statement we've drafted to release to the local media and basically anyone who asks."  Lance and Jenna took the proffered pieces of paper.  "You can keep those.  Those are your copies."

            "I… do we need to do anything?"  Lance asked.

            "Not if you don't want to."

            "Okay."  He nodded slowly.  "What can, I mean, is there anything we can't say?"

            Crawley paused, "I'm not going to tell you that you can't say anything.  The judge is the one who will decide if there's a gag order.  I don't think it'll come to that though.  In fact, I doubt this will even require the statement."  He shrugged.  "Just use your heads.  You guys are smart enough to know what you should or shouldn't say."

            Jenna nodded and bit her lip.  Her stomach had been in knots all morning and she just wanted to get the important part.  "Do you guys have any questions?"  Crawley asked again as he began to stand up as though the meeting was over.

            "Well, yeah."  Lance frowned.  "We have about a hundred questions."  Crawley sat back down with a sigh and held his hands out for Lance to continue.  "When is the arraignment?"

            "Next Thursday."

            "Can we be there?"

            "Unless they close the hearing, yes."

            "How will we know if they close it?"

            "If you show up at the courts and they tell you it's closed, it's closed."

            "So we have to show up there?"

            "No.  You can stay home and play cards.  But going to the court will be how you know if it's closed."  Crawley took on the sarcastic attitude that Lance and Jenna knew all too well.

            "Do you think it will be closed?"  Jenna asked, opening her mouth for the first time.

            "I doubt it.  This isn't a high profile case."  He shrugged and laced his fingers together.

            "How long after that will the trial be?"

            "Depending on the outcome of the arraignment –"

            "Assuming it's going to trial."  Lance interrupted him.

            "The preliminary hearing will probably be within sixty days."  Crawley said.

            "When we will know for sure?"

            "At the arraignment."

            "And we can be there for the trial, right?"

            "Unless the judge closes the courtroom."  Crawley nodded.

            "Okay."  Lance sat back, satisfied with the answers he got.  "Jenna?"

            "I don't have any."  She shook her head and cleared her throat.  "But just… can I see her – the belongings you have?"

            "The belongings?"  Crawley narrowed his eyes at her and sat forward in his chair.  His elbows thumped on the desktop as his chair slid back a little too far.  "Oh." He righted his chair and coughed, "Monica's personal belongings."

            "Yes."

            "Right.  I'll go get them."  He stood up and cracked his fingers before ducking out the door.

            As soon as the door clicked shut Lance let out his breath, "Wow… I don't think we've seen him like this since the beginning."

            "He's definitely more alive than before."  Jenna nodded and anxiously licked her lips.  Lance could sense, rather than see, her pulse quicken and her palms sweat.

            "Do… do you want me to leave you alone for this?"  Lance asked softly.  Jenna shook her head 'no' and reached for his hand to hold.  "Are you going to be okay?"  She nodded, but blinked rapidly as the shimmery dots of tears appeared on her lower lashes.  "You don't have to do this you know.  Not right now.  We could come back later or next week or something."

            "No.  I want to."  Jenna said softly as her bottom lip quivered.

            "Okay." Lance laced his fingers through hers and gave her hand another little squeeze.

            "Don't you want to see what it is?"

            "I…"  Lance stopped and frowned. Part of him wanted to see just to get a feeling for who she really was, but another part of him was afraid of what it might be.  What if there were bloodstains on it?  Or something like that; that would be awful.  "I don't know.  I guess so."

            "Back at the beginning of all of this, they didn't have much to give me.  Her jewelry and everything was missing."

            "Oh yeah?"

            She nodded and licked her lips.  "So the wedding band might be in this stuff today."

            "Oh."  Lance blushed and took a deep breath.  He hadn't thought of that.  The ring that he woke up wearing that fateful day was at home in his medicine cabinet, tucked safely in an empty bottle of Rolaids with other bits of jewelry.

            "Then again…"  Jenna sighed and pursed her lips.  "It might be nothing.  It might not be hers."

            "True."

            "But if it's not hers then who -"  She was cut off as Crawley bounded back into the room with a small box in his hand.

            "Okay, here we go.  I'll go ahead and show you what we've got.  Let me know if it's Monica's."

            "What… what if it's not?" Jenna asked as she looked up at Crawley.

            "Then we'll keep it here as evidence."

            "Isn't this evidence?"  Lance asked.

            "It's been photographed and documented.  It's been released already, so you're free to take what's Monica's."

            "Okay."  Lance leaned forward to rest his free elbow on the table as he held Jenna's hand in his other hand.

            Crawley carefully took each piece out and set it on the table in front of them.  Jenna gasped audibly several times and ended up covering her eyes with her free hand after only the third item.  Her shoulders shook as she sobbed softly in the old chair.  Lance frowned and released her hand to drape his arm over her shoulders.  "Jenna?  Are you… do you want to take a break or something?"

            "No."  She whispered as tears fell from behind her hand and onto her lap.

            "Let's take a few minutes here."  Lance said to Crawley.  "Can you excuse us?"

            "Sure."  Crawley nodded in understanding and left quietly.

            Lance reached across the table and grabbed a kleenex for her.  "Here you go."  Jenna dabbed at her eyes and wiped her nose, but didn't stop crying.  "Are you okay?"

            "That's… those are her things." New tears started as she looked at the table.  "That's her watch and wallet and that was… that was my grandmothers’ necklace.  I forgot she had that."  Jenna hunched over again and sobbed into her hands.

            Lance hugged her with one arm and rested his other hand on her knee.  "It's okay… it's okay honey." He whispered words that he hoped were comforting as he kissed her temple.  "You have them back now."

            "They're hers."  She cried.

            "I know."

            "He…"  Jenna sobbed and removed her hands from her eyes as anger flashed in them.  "He killed her and he took her things.  Those are hers.  He took them."  Her hands shook again as rage took over her emotions.  "He took them from her."

            "Jenna…"

            "It wasn't enough that he killed her, he had to take her things.  He's a monster."  She practically growled as the words left her lips.  "He is a monster."

            "Yes. He is.  But he's behind bars, right where he should be."

            "He doesn't deserve to just be behind bars."

            "I know he doesn't, but it's in the courts hands now."  Lance patted her back then removed his hand.  "You don't have to look at the rest of the things right now.  We can do it some other time."

            "No.  I want to."  She pulled her back up straight and sucked a deep breath through her teeth.

            "Okay.  I'll go get Crawley."  Lance stood up and quickly opened the door to the hall.  He waved the investigator back in then took his seat beside Jenna as she composed herself.

            "I'm sorry."  She apologized as Crawley sat across from them.

            "It's okay."  Crawley nodded and actually looked compassionate.  "I'm almost certain all of these are Monica's.  If you'd like to take them with you to look at them in private, you can."

            "I… I don't want to take anything that wasn't hers."  Jenna shook her head.  "Please.  Please just show me what else is in there.  Then we can go."

            "Okay."  Crawley looked to Lance for approval, then opened the box again to remove the remaining items.  On the table beside the wallet he set a tube of lip balm, a single gold earring and an ATM card.  "That was out of the wallet, but Monica's name is on it.  Her license and other cards are in the wallet."

            Jenna choked on whatever she was going to say so Lance placed his hand on her back and spoke for her, "We can take these with us?"

            "Do they belong to Monica?"

            "Yes."  Lance said with certainty.  Though he himself didn't know for sure, Jenna's reaction was enough to prove that they were.

            Crawley didn't need any more confirmation; he slid the box toward them then tapped his feet nervously.  "How long are you kids in town for?"

            "I don't know."  Lance shook his head.  "I uh… at least through the arraignment."

            "Well if you need anything, let me know.  I'll keep you updated if anything new drops in.  But I think this'll be pretty cut and dry."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded and stood up, helping Jenna to her feet.  "Are you ready?"

            "Yeah."  She nodded quickly.  She took the box that Crawley offered and held it close to her body as they left the room.  As an afterthought she paused and turned toward the office, "Thank you."  She said softly.

            "You're welcome."  Crawley nodded and actually smiled.  "Take care."

            Lance and Jenna nodded in unison and headed for the elevator.  They didn't speak again until they pulled into the hotel parking lot.  There were no words that Lance could say that would sound right at the moment.  Jenna was emotional, more emotional than he'd seen her in a long time… and he again didn't know what to do about it.

            In the shaded parking structure, Lance turned off the engine and unlocked the doors, "Ready?"  He asked before he realized how stupid that sounded.

            "Is it okay if I stay here?"  Jenna asked as Lance opened the driver's side door.

            "Here?  In the car?"

            "Yeah."

            "Well… sure.  But why?"

            "So I can go through all of this."  She carefully lifted the box on her lap.

            Lance frowned and shut the door, "Wouldn't it be easier inside?  And more comfortable?"

            "I just…"  Jenna sighed as tears rose in her eyes again.  "I'd like to do it in private."  She whispered softly.

            "Oh."  Lance licked his lips.  "Well then go to the room.  You can do it there.  I'll take off and go for a walk or something."

            "No.  I can't kick you out."

            "I'm volunteering."

            "You shouldn't have to –"

            "I shouldn't be cooped up in the room all day either."  Lance smiled and resisted the urge to smooth down her hair.  "You can go on up and take all the time you want.  I'll cruise around the shops or sit by the pool or something.  I have to call everyone back home and let them know what's going on.  That could take a while."

            "Are you sure?"

            "I'm positive."  Lance nodded and opened the car door.  "Just call my cell when you're done and we can meet for dinner or something."

            "Okay."  Jenna took a slow breath then looked up to meet Lance's worried expression.  It was funny how in the short time they'd known each other, he'd become so easy to read.  His sideways glance and partial smile coupled with his worried brow and slight blush spoke volumes.  "I'll be okay."  She answered his unasked question.

            "Okay."  Lance's smile turned genuine in the blink of an eye, though his worry remained.  "Call me when you're ready and we'll go grab lunch.  Or dinner.  Whichever."

            "Thanks Lance."

            "You're welcome."  He said softly as he pulled her close for an awkward hug over the parking break.  They walked silently into the hotel, Lance with his hands in his pockets and Jenna with the box held firmly in her grasp.  At the elevators they parted ways as Jenna went up to the privacy of the room and Lance headed for the pool area to make his calls without the noise of the casino as background noise.

 

            Without bothering to check his voicemail, Lance knew he had a dozen people he had to call.  First on his list were his parents. He was sure they had heard already, but he needed to talk to them himself.  He spent almost an hour on the phone explaining to them everything that they'd done in the investigation, leaving out the dangerous stuff.  They were happy for him, but naturally guarded.  It was an awkward situation for everyone on the call and Lance ended the conversation before anyone could feel overly uncomfortable.

            He called Johnny next to let him know where he was and what was going on.  Johnny had already heard the facts from JC and Chris, but Lance filled him in on his actual plans for staying in Vegas and what would probably be expected of him.

            "So you'll be there for the weekend?"

            "I… I'll probably be here for a week."

            "From today?"

            "What?"

            "A week from today?"

            "No… I – the arraignment isn't until next Thursday."  Lance bit his lip.

            "Will you be back between now and then?"

            Lance hadn't actually thought that far ahead, he took a minute to consider that.  "I… I don't know for sure.  I'll probably… maybe I'll just stay here."

            "I'm sending Lonnie out."

            "I don't –"

            Johnny interrupted him with a sigh and soft words, "Consider it done.  I can't have you out there for something like this and for that long and not have security.  Absolutely not.  If this goes to media you'll need more than just Lonnie."

            "I don't think it'll go to media."

            "A celebrity wife's murderer is caught and you don't think Extra is going to pick up on it?"

            Lance cringed and closed his eyes; Johnny was right no matter how badly he wanted to be wrong.  "Okay."  Lance agreed after a moment's pause.  "Send Lonnie out."

            "Until he gets there you stay in the hotel."

            "The only place I'd go is to the station."

            "Station?"

            "Police station."  Lance explained.

            "Oh.  Okay.  And you're at the MGM?"

            "No, they're booked.  We're at the Venetian."

            "The Venetian?" Johnny sounded concerned.

            "They're having some kind of Nascar race thing this weekend so everything else is booked.  In fact, I doubt you'll be able to get Lonnie a room till Monday."

            "I've got connections."  Johnny shook his head.  "He'll be out there as soon as possible. Keep your cell on."

            "It's on."

            "Okay."  Johnny scribbled notes then asked, "So everything else is okay?"

            "Yeah… yeah I guess so."

            "Is there anything I need to know?  Anything that might come out in the media?"

            "Nope.  You know everything I do."  Lance shook his head and prayed nothing new or embarrassing would come out in the media.

            "All right.  Well kid, if you need anything just give me a call."

            "I will Johnny, thanks."

            "No problem.  Call your mom."

            "I already did."  Lance smiled.  "The guys are next on my list."

            "Okay.  Take it easy Lance."

            "I will.  Bye."  Lance flipped his phone shut and took a deep breath.  For the millionth time he just wished everything would be over already.  He knew he was one step closer, but he still didn't feel completely prepared to deal with everything that would come next.

            After hanging up with Johnny, he called Chris and filled him in on the details.  Chris offered to call the other guys, but Lane wanted to do that himself.  It'd give him the chance to talk to all of them and it'd help kill time while he waited for Jenna to call.

            They were all understanding and inquisitive.  JC asked the most questions and Lance could tell he was itching to be included in the trial.  Courtroom dramas were JC's favorite stories, unless of course he was directly involved in the drama.  Lance talked to JC while he headed across the way to the poolside bar.  He ordered a sprite and sat in the shade to drink it as his stomach growled.  After more than a half hour he finally hung up with JC and sat back on the reclining sun chair.

            Lance checked the time on his phone as his stomach protested again, it was getting close to dinner time and Jenna still hadn't called.  He debated calling her just to see how she was doing, but a voice inside stopped him from dialing.  Jenna would call when she was ready and until then he was on his own for dinner.

            He headed back into the hotel and stared at a directory to find a restaurant to go to.  Nothing really sounded good but his stomach grumbled again to show that it wasn't going to be picky.  As he decided on the American style grill on the other end of the hotel, his phone rang.  "Hello?"

            "Hey.  Are you hungry?"  Jenna asked quickly.

            "Starving."

            "I'm done.  Do you want to meet for dinner?  Where are you?"

            "Yeah, sure.  I'm… well I'm down by the pool kinda.  Where did you want to go?"

            "I don't care."

            "How about that place right by the elevators?  Kinda behind them?"

            "That'll work.  I'll meet you there?"  She asked as her voice cut out.

            "I'll meet you there."  Lance nodded and slid his phone back into his pocket.

            Lance got lost twice in the cavernous hotel before he finally spotted the restaurant with Jenna standing outside.  She leaned against the wall and he could decide if she was supporting it, or if it was supporting her.  A look that bordered on both fatigue and determination was etched into her brow and Lance couldn't help but smile.

            "Here."  Jenna said as Lance walked up to where she was waiting.  Her hand was extended, but closed tightly around whatever it was she was offering.  Lance frowned at her hand then raised his eyes to hers.  "Here."  She said again as she waggled her hand back and forth.

            "What... what is it?" He asked, without making a move to accept it.

            "It's her ring."  Jenna said quickly.  "Her... the wedding ring.  It matches the one you have."

            "Oh."  Lance's breath caught in his throat.  He hadn't been prepared for that.

            "Do you want it?"  Jenna asked softly.

            "I..."  Lance stopped.  The answer to her question wasn't one he had considered and he had no idea what he should say.  Should he take it back?  Did it really belong to him?  He'd assumed that he had paid for it, but he didn't know and he wasn't sure if that mattered.  What would he do with it if he took it?  Was she offering because she thought she had to?  Or did she not want the ring at all?  Or did she just want him to want the ring, as a part of Monica?  Did she offer it to be polite though she wanted to keep it herself?

            "I don't know."  Lance said finally.

            "Well here."  She grabbed his wrist, turned his hand over and dropped the gold band in his palm.  "Go ahead and take it."

            "You... you don't want it?"  Lance asked as his brow creased into familiar deep lines.

            Jenna bit her bottom lip and sighed softly, she'd obviously thought about that for a while.  "No."  She shook her head finally.  "No I... it belongs with you I think.  And, I mean, if you don't want it or if it brings back bad memories or if you... you know... just don't want it then you can pawn it or sell it or just throw it away or something."

            "No I don't want to get rid of it."  Lance shook his head.  Though he didn't know what to do with it, he knew he couldn't just junk it.  "I just... I don't know what to do with it."

            "You don't have to do anything with it."  Jenna licked her lips and looked up at him with tired eyes.  "But that..."  She nodded at the ring in Lance's hand, "… was between the two of you."

            Lance smiled slowly, she had a point.  And while he knew he'd never have a use for the ring, he knew that it meant a lot more to him right then than it had at the beginning.  "Thank you."

            "You're welcome."  Jenna let out a heavy breath and put her hands on her hips.  "I'm starving, how about you?"

            "Me too."  He nodded and dropped the ring into his pocket so he wouldn't lose it.  "Let's go see what they've got here."  He reached for the door and held it open for her as the heavy and homey smells from the restaurant wafted around them.

            They ate at a small booth near the entrance and kept the conversation on casual topics.  The local weather, projects they were working on back home, how good the food was that they were eating.  Anything other than the case that had taken up so many of their conversations before.  It wasn't until they left the restaurant, after splitting the tab at Jenna's insistence, that they discussed the case.

            "Did you plan on staying?"  Jenna asked softly with her hands in her pockets.

            "Staying?  What, here?"  Lance looked around as they exited the restaurant with full bellies.

            "Yeah."

            "I guess.  I mean, I might move to a different hotel or something."

            "But you're staying in Vegas?  Until the hearing on Thursday?"

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded and scratched at the side of his neck.  "Yeah, I'm staying.  It wouldn't make sense to fly home for three days and come back."  He shrugged.

            "True."

            "You're staying?"

            "Yeah."  She sighed and worried what her work would say.  They'd be pleased to know that this was the end of her time off though.  Until the trial started at least.  She prayed that they would understand.  "I can't leave.  I mean… I'm here."

            "Same here."  Lance smiled and they headed toward the elevators.  Before they were in sight of the elevator doors Jenna veered to the left leading them back to the lobby.  "Where are you going?"

            "To the front desk."

            "Why?"

            "To see if they have rooms."

            "They said yesterday that they were booked for the weekend." Lance frowned.

            "Uh huh."

            "Well it's only Saturday."

            "We should still check though."  Jenna sighed and headed for the front desk.  Lance shook his head but followed anyway; if there were rooms available he'd need to be there to get his own.

            When asked, the hotel representative gave them the answer Lance had expected though.  "We're booked solid through the weekend.  We should have rooms available Monday evening though, if you'd like to check back then."

            "Okay."  Jenna pursed her lips and looked skyward.  "Would you be able to call us if another room becomes available?"

            "Yes ma'am, I can have someone ring your room should anything become available."

            "Thank you."  Jenna gave him a sarcastic smile, and then turned to head for the elevator.

            "Am I really that bad?"  Lance laughed as he jogged to catch up.

            "What?"

            "Am I really that bad?" He asked again.  "I mean, you're practically ready to slip that kid a twenty to get into a room of your own."

            "No, I just…"  She sighed and kept her eyes on a spot just behind Lance.  "I just don't want to put you out."

            "You aren't putting me out."

            "You shouldn't have to share –"

            "I don't mind sharing.  This is the only room available.  I have a sister, Jenna.  I live with five guys for like, ten months out of the year… I know how to share."

            "That's not what I meant."

            "Then what?  Do I snore?  Do I need a shower?"  He sniffed at his shirt as she hit the button for the elevator.  "Am I rude and belligerent?  Have I stepped on your toes?"

            "No.  No of course not."  Jenna let a little smile slip by.  "I just don't want to impose."

            "You're not."

            "And I don't want you to be stuck in a room with me.  I mean, we'll be here for a week. "

            "I don't consider myself stuck."  Lance shook his head.  "You can leave if you're uncomfortable or if you just want to be by yourself.  I don't want to keep you.  But don't leave just because you think I want you to.  I don't.  In fact, I kinda like the company."

            Jenna blushed and bowed her head so that her hair covered it.  "Lance…"

            "It sucks being alone all the time.  I'm used to having other people around.  It's nice to hear another voice in the morning instead of just the TV.  That's all I'm saying."

            "Then you have to let me pay you for half of the room."  Jenna shook her head and stepped onto the elevator.

            "I've already told you, you don't have to."  He saw her start to argue but stopped her before the first word left, "But if you're just going to argue about it, you can leave whatever you want to pay in an envelope on the bed before we leave."

            "A maid will pick it up."

            "It'll be a big tip."  He shrugged.

            "Lance."

            "I don't need it.  I can pay for the room.  Just let me do that."

            "I can't."

            "Then that's too bad."  He shrugged and stepped off.

            "Why can't you just let me pay?  Does your male ego really need that much stroking?"

            "Why can't you just let me pay?  Does your feminist ego really need that much stroking?"  He smiled back at her.  "Like I said.  If you really need to get rid of your money, fine.  Leave it for the maids.  They work their asses off for minimum wage.  They'd need it and appreciate it ten times more than I would."

            "On Monday I'm getting my own room."

            "That's fine."  Lance laughed lightly.  "And on Monday you can pay for your room on your own."

            "Good."

            "Good."  Lance smiled broadly and unlocked their shared room.  He was glad that she would be staying with him for the next two nights; having company in the room was a nice change.  "But leave it at that," a voice in his head said softly.  Lance shoved the voice from his mind with a quick frown, then shut the door behind him.

            Within a half hour they'd both changed into their pajamas and were laying on top of the covers watching one of the dozen films on pay-per-view.  "So this is what you do?"  Jenna asked with her chin resting on her hand.

            "Hmm?"

            "In Vegas?"

            Lance took his eyes from the TV and looked at her.  She had a playful look and was more casual than he'd ever seen her.  There must have been something calming about finally capturing Marshall that changed something deep inside her.  "When I'm not out getting married, yeah."

            Jenna raised a skeptical eyebrow at him then laughed, "Well this will probably get you in a lot less trouble."  She smiled and turned back to the TV.

            "You can say that again."  He agreed softly with a gentle sigh.  Throughout the movie he'd catch her smiling, or actually laughing at certain parts.  He wasn't sure, but he thought maybe there was no other sound he'd rather hear.

 

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

 

            When Lance awoke the next morning Jenna was already out of the bed and making noise a few feet from his head.  "Hey."  She smiled as she carried a forkful of pancake to her mouth.

            "Hey."  Lance grunted and rolled onto his side in the bed to face her at the table.

            "We need to go see her."  She said when she swallowed what was in her mouth.

            "Hmm?"

            "We need to go see her.  We uh... we need to go to the cemetery.  To see Monica."  Jenna kept her eyes on her plate as she set her fork down.

            "Oh... okay."

            "Because now that this is done I just... we need to finish it, you know?"

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded and sat up, though he wasn't sure he really knew what she meant.

            "But first we have to go back to the station and get the details for the trial."  Jenna looked up at Lance's still sleepy eyes.

            "First I need some breakfast."  He mumbled as he sat up and straightened his shirt.  "That smells good."

            "I would have ordered some for you but I wasn't sure when you'd be getting up."

            "S'okay."  Lance shuffled toward the bathroom to use it and wake himself up a little more.  When he came out he called down to room service to have food sent up for him as well.  "Did you call Crawley?"

            "Hmm?  No… why?"

            "If we're going to the station to talk to him, shouldn't we let him know?"

            "He told us to come."

            "Right.  So we should call and let him know what time we'll be there right?  I don't want to drive all the way there and find out he's gone home."

            "Crawley never goes home."  Jenna grumbled under her breath.

            "It'll take all of two minutes to call and let him know we're on our way." Lance sighed.  "I'll call."

            "I'll do it.  You go get dressed."  She shook her head and reached for the phone to call the station.  With a flick of her hand he was dismissed and shooed back into the bathroom.

            When he emerged dressed, they left the hotel and headed for the police station yet again.  "So we're going to the station then we're going to the cemetery?"  Lance licked his lips, then rolled then between his teeth.

            "Yes."  Jenna nodded.

            "You don't want to wait until after the trial?"  Lance asked softly.  The cemetery wasn't one of his favorite places and if he could avoid going, he would.

            "You don't have to go with me."  Jenna sighed with annoyance.

            The chance he needed to get out of going and he couldn't take it without looking like a schmuck.  "I'm just saying."

            "If you don't want to go, then don't."

            "It's not that I don't want to go."  Lance shook his head.  "I just… well… it's not really done yet."

            "We've caught the guy."

            "Well yeah, but…"

            "You don't have to go if you don't want to."  She said again as she looked out the window and set her jaw.

            Lance sighed heavily and bit the inside of his cheek; he wasn't going to be able to gallantly get out of this one.  "I don't mind going."  He said quietly.  He drove the rest of the way with only the radio on to fill the silence of the car.  When "It's gonna be me" came on Lance reached over and pressed a random button.  A soft and twangy country tune flowed from the speakers as Jenna cast him a sideways glance.

            "What was that?"

            "What?"

            "Why'd you change the station?"

            "I don't like that song."

            "You like this?"

            "I like this better than the other one."  He cleared his throat and looked over at her disbelieving look.

            "Or…?"

            "That was one of our songs and I'm not in the mood to hear it right now."

            "That was one of your songs?  What, like Nsync?"

            "Yeah."

            "Oh I want to hear it."  She smiled and hit the buttons again to find the station.  On the second try she found it and sat back in her seat.

            "Come on."  Lance reached for the buttons again.

            "Stop."  Jenna swatted at his hand and let the music move her.  "It's kinda catchy."

            "Jenna."

            "What?"  She was playing with him, and he wasn't used to it.

            "You're manic today.  I swear, you're going from moody to almost giddy."  He frowned and turned the volume down.

            "Well with such upbeat and happy music like this…"  She let her sentence trail into the song, but allowed him to change the station again, this time flooding the car with an 80's hit from Depeche Mode.  "Is this better?"  Sarcasm dripped from her words as Jenna smiled.

            "Yes."  Lance tried not to smile but the corners of his mouth twitched on his own.  He wasn't going to complain if she wanted to be happy, he just hoped that she wouldn't come down too hard when they got to the station.

 

            As they walked in, Jenna hummed the Depeche Mode song softly under her breath.  Lance checked in at the front desk and they headed for the elevator.  They made their way to Crawley's office where he was standing in the hall with a steaming cup of coffee, talking to another officer in full uniform.  "Thanks Steve.  I'll call you later, okay?  We'll hit a few this weekend."

            "See ya later."  The officer smiled and waved as he walked away.

            "Jenna.  Lance." He nodded a greeting then stepped into his office.  They knew enough to follow and take their seats.  "The door please."  Crawley nodded at the door and Lance leaned over to close it tight.  "Well kids.  We've got news."  News at this point in the game would either be very good, or very bad.  They weren't ready for either.

            "What?  What is it?" Lance asked as his heart beat double-time.

            "What happened?"

            "He's pleading guilty."  Crawley tapped his fingertips together.

            "What?"

            "At the arraignment."

            "Okay…?"  Lance's brow creased, "And…?"

            "The DA and the defense attorney met this morning and discussed a plea bargain."

            "Absolutely not!"  Jenna exploded.

            "I don't know the details."  Crawley continued as he ignored Jenna's outburst.  "But they've come to an agreement and they will present it to the court on Thursday."

            "That is bullshit.  He's going to get off?!" Jenna stood up and knocked her chair over.

            "He won't get off."  Crawley shook his head.

            "He'll be out in two years for good behavior?  No.  No Crawley.  This is unacceptable.  No!"  She slammed her fists onto the desk to emphasize her rage.

            "Calm down, missy."  Crawley stood and leaned forward on his desk to meet her eye to eye.  "He's being charged with three separate counts.  Kidnapping, theft of personal property and first degree murder.  He won't be getting off easy.  He won't be going home in two years.  Chances are that his lawyer was worried about the death penalty."

            "I… what?"

            "Death penalty?"

            "They most likely plea bargained for life in prison or for his terms to be run concurrently.  This isn't his first offense, not by a long shot."

            "Wait, he was up for the death penalty?"

            "Yes.  If he was found guilty of kidnapping and first degree murder, the death penalty was an option."

            "Wait."  Jenna took a deep breath as her face went from pale white to bright red.  "Wait.  You mean that if this went to trial and he was found guilty, they would kill him?"

            "There would be a possibility of him going on death row, yes."  Crawley nodded and tried to remain neutral.

            "But he's got a plea bargain."  Lance offered with a frown.

            "Yes."

            "So…"

            "So like I said; if he pleads guilty then they've probably worked out something where he'll get life in prison but not the death penalty."

            "Yeah but even when people get life in prison they could get out on parole in five years or whatever."  Jenna's hands shook as she lowered them to her lap.

            "We're getting way ahead of ourselves."

            "Just tell me if that’s possible."

            "Anything is possible."  Crawley met her eye and held her stare as his lips pressed into a thin line.  "I'm not going to get into what I would assume would happen.  We'll find out more at the arraignment."

            "We'll find out the terms of the sentencing?"  Jenna asked quickly.

            "Yes."

            "Well what if they suck?  What if it's a slap on the wrist?"

            "It won't be."  Crawley sighed.  "The DA is on our side here.  On your side.  They aren't going to let him get away with a slap on the wrist when the death penalty is another option."

            "And there wouldn't be anything we could do about it anyway, right?"

            "If you disagreed with the DA's offer, you could –" He stopped and shook his head.  "Listen.  Lets just get through the arraignment and if there's an issue after that we can talk about your options.  You're getting your panties all in a twist and nothings even happened yet.  Whatever they've agreed on has already been agreed to.  There's no changing that.  On Thursday the court will hear the offer and decide if it's agreeable.  If it is, it will be fair.  If it isn't, then it'll be re-worked or the kid will go to trial."  Crawley looked from Jenna to Lance.  "Until then, you're wasting time thinking about it."  He stood up and rolled his shoulders, showing the shoulder holster under his jacket.  "I'll see you in court.  If you need directions the officer at the front desk here can get them for you."  And with that, they were excused.

            Jenna stood up and took a breath as though she had more to say.  "Thank you."  Lance said quickly, cutting her off before the first words could leave her lips.  He took her hand and dragged her out to the hall.

            "Hey!"  She turned her cold stare on him.

            "Jenna… you were going to argue with him."

            "You're damn right I was.  He can't let that murderer plea bargain!  That's crazy!"  Jenna's hands flew as she spoke.

            "Crawley's not letting him do anything.  He doesn't have a say in any part of that.  That's all between the District Attorney and the defense lawyer.  He was just letting us know as a courtesy."

            "Bullshit."

            "Hey.  Don't be mad at me."  Lance frowned at her and punched the button to call the elevator.

            "I'm –"  She bit her lip and shook her head.  "This sucks."

            "And there's nothing we can do to change it."

            "I'm going to be there. In court I mean."

            "So will I."  Lance nodded.

            "We have to be there to give Monica a voice."

            "We will be there.  As long as we need to be."

            As they stepped off the elevator and into the lobby Jenna stopped and turned to him, "If he gets off with anything less than life in prison without the chance of parole, I'll kill him myself."

            "Shh."  Lance positioned himself between her and the officer behind the desk.  "You wanna be making death threats in a police station?" He whispered with a smile.  "Come on." He pulled her outside and took a deep breath.  "Okay, continue."

            "I'm serious Lance."

            "They won't let you in the court with your gun."

            "I'll beat him to death."  She fumed.

            "Look at you Jenna.  You're getting all worked up and nothing's even happened yet.  What if the judge says "No way" and doesn't accept the plea bargain?  Then you'll have spent the weekend getting an ulcer over nothing."

            "Can he do that?"

            Lance shrugged, "I don't see why not."

            "But Lance… he's getting off with less than he should.  That's why it's called a plea bargain." She sighed and pressed her hands over her eyes. "Ugh!  I hate this."

            "Well think of it this way.  What if it went to trial and the jury wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it?  What if they said they weren't convinced and let him go scott free?  Wouldn't you rather have him get what they bargained for instead of taking the risk of getting nothing?"

            "I hate this."  She repeated softly.

            "So do I."  Lance nodded and put his hand on her back to lead her to the car.  "But check it out.  On Thursday, this could all be over."

            "It's too soon."

            "Too soon?  It's been months."

            "I just mean…"  She sighed and climbed into the car.  "I just mean that this is all happening so fast.  Three days ago we were still looking for him and now in a week it'll all be over.  It's just… it's so soon.  So fast."

            "Yeah, it is."  Lance started the car and headed back to the hotel.  Jenna turned the radio on and frowned out the window as they passed streets they'd become all too familiar with.  "So… where to?"

            Jenna turned her frown on him, "Just take me to the hotel.  I don't want to go out."

            "Well before you said you wanted to go to –"

            "Just take me to the hotel.  If you want to go somewhere else that's fine.  Just drop me off please."

            "I don't want to go anywhere.  You were saying that you –"

            Jenna interrupted him again and he knew she was angrier than she was letting on.  "I just want to go to the hotel.  Just take me back there, okay?"

            "Ooookay."  Lance raised his eyebrow and diverted his attention to the road ahead of him.  They drove in complete silence back to the hotel where Jenna jumped out and hurried ahead of him into the lobby and up to their room.

            As Lance crossed the lobby alone his cell phone rang.  "Hello?"  He answered with an annoyed sigh.

            "Hey!  My main man!"  Lonnie laughed into the phone.  "Where are you, kid?"

            "I'm in the Venetian.  Where are you?"

            "I'm walking through the front door of your hotel right now."

            "You're in the lobby?"

            "I will be in another ten steps."  Lonnie smiled and waited a few seconds.  "Okay now I am."

            "Right on, I'll come find you."

            "You can't miss me kid.  I'm a big black man with a big black duffle and a little white cell phone."  Lonnie laughed and Lance heard the deep rumble in stereo.

            "Is that you in that spectacular Hawaiian print shirt?"   Lance grinned as he caught sight of his favorite guard leaning on the front desk.

            "That would be me.  Handsome son of a bitch, huh?"

            "You can say that again."  Lance flipped his phone shut and hugged Lonnie.  It had only been a matter of days since they'd seen each other, but it was nice to see a friendly and familiar face.  "Are you staying here?"

            "Nope.  I'm across the street.  This place is packed.  Not even Mr. Connections himself could get me a bed in this joint."  He looked up at the ceiling and whistled.  "Fancy digs Mr. Bass."

            "Yeah, I designed it myself."

            "I just bet you did."  Lonnie laughed again.  "I was just coming here to track you down and let you know you've got your backup here."

            "Thanks for coming."

            "Any time son, any time."  Lonnie's expression softened and Lance knew he meant it.  "But hey.  Now that I can truthfully report back to the boss man that you're all in one piece, I'm gonna go check in at that big pirate's ship deal across the street.  Gimme a holler if you head out or anything."

            "Okay, I will.  And hey, my cell is always on."

            "Same here."  He patted the tiny white phone in his pocket.  "Call me tonight; we'll grab dinner or something."

            "I'll do that."  Lance smiled; he hated to see Lonnie go so soon.  An irrational part of his mind wanted Lonnie to come share his room with Jenna and himself. He laughed softly and shook his head, mentally picturing the big bed with the three of them in it.

            "And I want a full update too."  Lonnie shook his finger at Lance as he headed for the exit.

            "You'll get one.  I promise."  Lance smiled and sighed.  He watched as the guard left through the enormous front doors, then he headed up the stairs to his room.  He hoped Jenna had had enough time to calm down a little bit, though he still dreaded opening the door.

            "Jenna?"  Lance asked cautiously as he poked his head into the room.

            "What?"

            "Are you okay?"

            "I'm fine."  She sighed and looked up from the book in her hands.  "I'm sorry I got upset."

            "It's okay."  Lance stepped into the room and shut the door behind him.  "Um, my security guard is here.  He's staying across the street at the Treasure Island hotel."

            "Okay?"

            "So, well just so you know… he'll be kinda, well he'll be hanging around with us for the week."

            "Are you serious?"

            "Yeah.  I have to."  He shrugged.

            "You have to?"

            "I have to have the security guard, yeah.  My manager is having a cow that I'm even out here so he sent Lonnie out. He's cool though, you'll like him."

            "A security guard?"  She smiled and shook her head.  "That's kinda crazy."

            "And kinda necessary."  Lance shrugged again and sat at the table, resting his feet on the bed beside her.  "Did you still want to go to the cemetery?"

            "Yes."  Jenna folded the corner of the page and set the book aside.  "But not yet.  I mean, not right now.  I think we should wait until Thursday.  When it's all over."  Lance cleared his throat and followed the pale paisley design on the comforter with his eyes.  "Or… you know, when we know more anyway."  She corrected herself.

            "Okay."

            "And you don't have to go."

            "I know."  Lance nodded and looked up.  "I want to though."

            "Okay."  Jenna pursed her lips and swung her feet over the side of the bed.  "So…?"

            "So."  Lance took a deep breath.  "Do you wanna get out of here?  We can go catch a movie up the street or something.  I just… we don't need to be cooped up here all week.  We're finally able to not think about catching Marshall, we should go see Vegas.  Or something."  He wiggled his feet back and forth on the bed.  "Because I don't know about you, but I haven't had any kind of fun here the last few times I was out."

            "Me neither.  But I don't really feel like having fun.  Not yet."

            "It's just a movie."  Lance lowered his voice and tried his hardest not to flirt with her.  Which was hard, since everything in Lance's mind told him to go for it.  He cooled his hormones with the memory of why they were there in the first place, then licked his lips.  "You can even buy."  He laughed and nodded for the door.  "Come on.  don't make me beg, I'm not that good at it."

            Jenna cracked a smile and tried to hide it behind her hand.  "What are you going to see?"

            "We'll find out when we get there."  He jumped up and ran to the door.

            "I don't want to see anything scary."

            "We can watch anything you want."  Lance waved his room key at her.  "Or nothing.  We can just walk down there and veto the idea and come back here.  Whatever you want."

            "What if I want to stay here?"

            "Then you suck."  Lance crossed the room and pulled her to her feet.  "Listen, I'm the biggest Vegas hermit ever to walk these halls.  If I'm willing to leave the hotel for a few hours, certainly you can find it in your heart to come along."

            "Fine."  Jenna sighed and shook her head, but her smile was plain to see.  "We'll go see what's playing."

            "Good enough."

            "Do we have to bring...?"

            "Lonnie?  Yeah.  He'll walk with us, it's no big deal."

            "Okay."

            "Come on.  We'll swing by Lonnie's hotel on the way and grab him.  If we're lucky, he'll even buy us dinner."  Lance held the door open and waited till she stepped into the hall to let the door shut behind them.

            They were getting out and getting their mind off the case and that was all that mattered to Lance.  He was just glad that Jenna had agreed to go with him; she needed it more than either of them.

 

 

 

 

 Next...

 

 

Copyright 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn