Lance sat at the table in the corner and flipped his cell phone open. He'd missed two calls while in the theater and he wanted to check to see who it was. As he leaned back, he saw the red light blinking on the room phone indicating that they had a message. Lance picked up the phone and followed the directions for checking messages, then listened at a bored sounding man informed them that another room was available and if they would like to see about reserving it, to please call the front desk on extension one.
Before he could stop himself, he erased the message and hung up the phone. "Did we have a message?" Jenna asked from behind him. Lance jumped in his seat and cleared his throat.
"Um. Yeah, Chris called. He tried my cell but we were in the movies so he uh, he called here."
"Is everything all right?"
"Yeah. He's just checking in, you know?" Lance forced a smile and tried to hide his blush. He couldn't believe he'd just lied to her, but at the same time, she hadn't remembered that she wanted to leave. Why would he say anything?
"That's nice of him." She smiled and headed for the bathroom. "Do you mind if I shower first? I'm beat."
"No, go ahead. I'm going to call everyone back and stuff." He held his phone up and kept his eyes down.
"Okay." She shut the door and he heard the shower turn on from far away.
Lance sighed and pressed the buttons on his phone to see who had called. His parents' number was the first to show up, and JC's was the second. It was too late to call his parents so he dialed JC's number and tugged on his lip as it rang.
"Hey man, where've you been?" JC answered the phone with a smile.
"We were out."
"You and Jenna?"
"And Lonnie, yeah."
"Dude. Johnny sent a team out for you?" JC snorted on the far end.
"No, not a team. Just Lonnie."
"Right on. Well hey, we haven't heard from you in a while so we were just wondering what was going on out there in Vegas."
"Ahh, not much."
"The case is..."
"Going fine." Lance nodded. "The arraignment is on Thursday and... oh I don't think I told you yet. He's planning on pleading guilty."
"What? Are you serious?"
"Yeah. He they've uh, his lawyer and the DA worked out a plea bargain."
JC was silent for a second, collecting his thoughts. "A plea bargain? Like what? I mean, he killed her. What are they going to give him?"
"I don't know. We won't find out until Thursday."
"That sucks man."
"Not really. I mean, kind of, but not really. It would have been a death penalty case so our detective said that they probably plea bargained it down to life in prison to avoid getting death row or whatever."
"Yeah, but still. Wouldn't you rather see him put to death?"
Lance paused and bit his lip; he'd thought about that since the moment he found out that the death penalty was a possibility. "I don't know."
"I know I would."
"It's easy to say that though. Six months ago I would have said the same thing, but now? I don't know."
"What does Jenna think?"
"She's stressing about the whole thing. She just doesn't want him to get off."
"Shit, no one wants him to get off."
"I know. I don't either. But I don't know what killing him would accomplish either. I mean, it won't bring Monica back, right? I'd rather have him rot in jail for the rest of his natural born life."
"Eh. I guess." JC wasn't going to press the issue; not when it struck so close to home for Lance. "So Thursday?"
"It'll be done?"
"As far as I know, yeah. From what I've been told it sounds like we'll just go into court and the defense lawyer and the DA will get up and tell the judge the agreement they came to then the judge will accept it or whatever, and that'll be that."
"Can the judge say no?"
"I think so." Lance shrugged. "I guess so."
"Yeah." He sighed then changed the subject, asking what JC was up to. They talked for a while longer until Jenna stepped out of the steam filled bathroom in her pajamas.
"Hey, tomorrow did you want to " She stopped when she saw that he was on the phone and covered her mouth.
"Hang on." Lance said to JC. "What?"
"I'm sorry; I didn't see that you were talking."
"It's okay. What were you saying?"
"We can talk when you're done." She waved at the phone and pulled her bag to the bed to dig through it and find her book.
"I've gotta go." Lance said into the phone. "I'll call you Thursday and let you know how everything went, okay?"
"Sure." JC smiled. "If you need us to come out or whatever ?"
"Nah, I'm cool. Thanks though."
"I'll talk to you later. Bye." Lance hung up and dropped his phone on the table.
"You didn't have to hang up." Jenna said as she positioned herself in the deep chair by the window. She reached over her head to click the lamp on and opened the book to her marker.
"We were done." Lance shrugged and stood up. "So tomorrow?"
"Oh, I was just seeing what you had planned. Or if you had anything planned?"
"No, not really. I'd like to get out though. I'm pretty much over hanging out here." He sighed and laced his fingers behind his head.
"Yeah, me too."
"Was there something you wanted to do?"
"Not really." She shrugged and dropped her eyes to the pages of her book.
"But...?" He knew that she wouldn't just come out and say what she wanted. For some reason he couldn't figure out, she'd turned almost shy.
"Well I've never been to the Hoover Dam and everyone talks about it." She pursed her lips. "But I was looking at the brochure thing and it looks like it's kind of far from here, so..."
"We can go."
"Have you been?"
"We don't have to."
"We can go tomorrow. It'll give us something to do. If we hang out here on the strip I think there's a better chance of me being recognized." Lance's mouth twitched into a small smile. "It'd be better to get out of here for a little bit. I'll talk to Lonnie in the morning and we'll go."
"If you'd rather "
"The dam is cool. You'll like it." He smiled and walked to the bathroom. "Did you leave me any hot water?"
"No." Jenna looked up from her book and smiled.
Lance shut the door behind him and turned the fan on to get rid of the fog she'd left on the mirrors. He showered quickly under the steaming hot water, then dried himself and pulled his pajama bottoms on over his still damp skin.
When he stepped into the main room Jenna was still reading in the corner, but the TV was on and "The Andy Griffith Show" was playing softly in the background. She looked up at him quickly as he sat on the bed. With a quick glance at the TV she blushed and said, "It was too quiet."
"Understood." Lance ran his hands through his hair and pulled the blankets back. He slept above the top sheet so the smooth satin of the comforter enveloped him from head to toe. Jenna always slept under the sheets, the thin bit of cotton somehow made her feel better about sharing the bed.
"Are you going to bed?"
"Do you want me to turn this off?" She held the clicker and pointed it toward the TV.
"No, I can sleep with it on."
"What about the lights?"
"I'm fine." Lance fluffed the pillow and tucked it under his head as he turned onto his side to face the wall. He was asleep in no time and didn't even notice when Jenna slid in beside him a few hours later.
When they awoke the next morning they shared a room service breakfast and lingered over chocolate chip muffins. At a decent hour, they called Lonnie and had him help arrange a day trip out to the Hoover Dam. There were several tour groups that took off at regular intervals from travel depots up and down the strip, so they decided to take the tour bus as opposed to driving themselves. It'd take a little longer, but it would be something new to try.
The left for the tour just before noon and spent the afternoon with a tour group of nine other tourists. Five of the others were from London in the states on vacation, and the other four were a family from Montana with two bored looking teenage sons.
By the time the group returned to the travel depot at the far end of the strip it was dinner time and Lance's stomach growled loudly as they hopped off of the bus. "I'm starving."
"You should have eaten lunch then." Jenna rolled her eyes as Lonnie laughed beside him.
"It looked like prison food." Lance crinkled his nose at the thought of the cafeteria food offered at the dam.
"The fruit was good." Jenna shook her head, but at the mention of food her stomach gave a soft rumble of its own. "We can stop and get something when we get back."
"Do you wanna hit a drive thru?" Lonnie asked as he fished the keys to their rental car out of his pocket.
"Actually, I think a deli sandwich from the little place in the hotel sounds good." Jenna smiled and shook her head. It had been a few days but she still wasn't too sure about having Lonnie around. She liked him just fine, but she wasn't used to the idea of a bodyguard and wasn't sure where the line was drawn. Watching Lance she saw that they were more like friends than like employee and employer, but she didn't even fit into that equation.
"No, yeah a deli sandwich actually sounds good. They had rice crispy treats there too." He licked his lips and placed his hand over his stomach. "But seriously, let's stop talking about food." He laughed and slid into the back seat, letting Jenna sit in the passenger seat.
Lonnie drove them to their hotel and let them out in the front. "You cool?" His deep voice echoed out of the car as lance and Jenna stepped out.
"I'm cool." Lance tapped on the hood and waved with a smile. "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Text me when you get to your room." Lonnie raised his eyebrow. "Don't make me hold your hand through the lobby."
"I'll text you." Lance rolled his eyes then jogged to catch up with Jenna. Lonnie watched them enter the lobby before pulling away. He'd be in his room watching a movie before Lance and Jenna even made it to theirs.
Jenna walked quickly so it was a few seconds before Lance fell into step beside her, slightly out of breath. "You in a hurry?"
"Well so am I, but "
"Hey." Jenna frowned and looked at the front desk. "We didn't, I mean, weren't they supposed to call if a room became available?"
"Hmm?" Lance blushed and pretended he didn't hear.
"We should go check and see so I can get my own room."
"Oh." Lance swallowed and put his hands in his pockets. "It's only for like, two more nights."
"Well yeah, but "
"You can stay in the room. I mean, why waste your money?"
"You know what I mean." He smiled.
"How about this? I've let you pay for the last couple nights, so what about if I pay for the next two?"
"Jenna, you "
"Good, settled." She pranced over to the front desk and waited for the next available agent. Rather than argue yet again over the cost of the room or the money spent, he let her put her card down for payment. "Thank you." She said as she tucked the printed receipt into her pocket.
"Now isn't that better than fighting about it?"
"Yes." He agreed softly.
"Now everyone's happy." Jenna laughed and craned her neck to look at the lighted map above their heads. "And it is a gorgeous room."
"Yeah, it is."
"A gorgeous room that I can't wait to get to because I'm ready to drop." She fought a yawn and smiled.
"It's barely seven."
"You can't be tired."
"Oh, but I can be." Jenna yawned again. "See?"
"Absolutely." She bit her lower lip and headed to the left, away from the elevators.
"Where are we going?"
"To get something to eat." Jenna gave him a look. "Wow, your blood sugar must be nonexistent. You have no memory span at all."
"Sorry." Lance blushed and laughed. She was right though; his blood sugar level had to be near the floor, though he doubted that would affect his memory. "Yeah. Let's go get food."
"Rice crispy treats." He corrected her softly.
"Oh, of course. My mistake."
They walked to the other end of the shopping area to the little French café looking place where they ordered their sandwiches on baguettes, fresh fruit bowls and rice crispy treats to take to their room. Once upstairs Lance sent Lonnie a message on his phone then dove into the food.
Together, they spent the rest of the night in the hotel room with a movie playing on the TV, though neither of them watched it. Lance spent most of his time on the phone listening to his voicemails; he'd forgotten how they could all add up so quickly when he didn't check them every day. Jenna made a few calls from the room phone, then curled up in the chair to read the same magazine Lance had already seen her flip through four times.
They stayed locked in silence until the lights were turned off and their heads rested on their pillows. "Are you worried about tomorrow?" Jenna asked softly, not knowing if Lance was still awake.
Lance licked his lips and thought for a moment, "A little, yeah. But I have faith in the prosecution."
"Don't you?" He flipped onto his back so that he wasn't talking to the wall.
He saw Jenna's silhouette blink twice before she responded, "I guess." She sighed softly, and then turned away from him. "Good night, Lance."
Lance frowned gently and pursed his lips; he didn't want to see her so worried about something she really had no control over. But right then didn't seem the time or place to have that conversation. "Good night, Jenna." He said instead, then rolled back onto his side to face the wall again.
The morning was more awkward than almost any other they'd had. Spending so much time together in close quarters was nothing either of them expected or really planned for, and Lance wasn't sure if it was going to work out as well as he might have hoped. Jenna dressed in silence, then headed for the door. As an afterthought, she turned back and said, "I'm going out for a little bit."
"I okay. Do you want some company?" Lance asked as he looked down at his pajama bottoms.
"No." She said quickly. Her own tone startled her and she softened her expression noticeably, "I just need some time alone."
"I won't be long."
Lance nodded and tried to smile, understanding her need. "Okay."
"Okay." She whispered as she pulled the door opened and disappeared into the hall.
He spent the afternoon in the hotel, slipping easily back into his old routine of watching every movie the hotel pay-per-view had to offer. With snacks from the vending machine and all the lights off, he watched two movies and was halfway through the third when Jenna returned.
"Hey." She said softly as she turned the lights on. "What are you doing?"
"Watching " He paused and frowned. "Um, crap, this is the new Austin Powers thing."
"Ahh." She set her purse down and pulled a chair from the table closer to the bed.
"How was your day?"
"What'd you do?"
"I walked down to the MGM."
"That's pretty far." Lance said with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh huh." Jenna wiped her hand across her brow, it was a long walk and a good work out. "I feel better though."
"Well that's good then." Lance smiled and stood up to crack his back. He'd spent all afternoon in the same position and he was beginning to feel it.
Lance stretched his arms over his head and looked at her over his shoulder, "But ?"
"Well I'm " Jenna licked her lips uneasily. "I'm just nervous." She said as she put her hand over her stomach. "I mean, really. I don't know the last time I was this nervous. Probably in like, sixth grade when I had to do the school play or something."
"You were in a school play?"
"What play?" He asked, the movie on the TV forgotten.
"Lance." Jenna sighed.
"I'm just asking."
"Hmm." Lance smiled and tilted his head to the side, "So you're worried about tomorrow?"
"I not really, no." He shrugged. "We know he's going to plead guilty."
"Jenna, we know he is."
"They could change their mind." Jenna shook her head. "Haven't you ever watched Court TV or whatever?"
"No, but you've obviously seen enough for both of us." He put his hand on her shoulder and bent slightly to meet her eye. "He's going to plead guilty tomorrow and he's going to be sent to jail."
"But what if "
"No 'but what if's... you have to think positive."
"We have to hope for the best but expect the worst."
"And what would the worst case scenario be? Let's get it out of the way right now."
"I don't know."
"He changes his plea to innocent." Lance shrugged. "Okay let's say he changes his plea. It'll go to trial where a jury of his peers and our peers," he was careful to point that out, "will find him guilty."
"But what if he still pleads guilty and gets, like, nothing?"
Jenna sighed softly and shook her head as she dropped her eyes to her lap. "I'm just nervous Lance. I don't like not knowing. I just want it to be over."
"In twenty four hours we'll know. Good or bad, we'll know."
"If it's bad, I'll "
"We'll deal with it." He said quickly. "But it won't be."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I have to be." Lance shrugged and licked his lips. "It keeps me sane. If things don't go as planned then I'll deal with it then, but worrying about something that just might happen doesn't do anyone any good."
"I know. But will you please just let me freak out a little bit here?" She smiled up at him and tried not to laugh. "I need to have a little breakdown or something. You're ruining my freak out flow here."
"Oh, hey. Sorry." Lance laughed and held his hands up in resignation. "Freak out all you want."
"Do you should I leave?"
"No, it's okay." Jenna smiled and took a step back.
"Do I need to protect myself? Maybe break out the pepper spray or something?"
"Should I be prepared to run?"
"No. Jeez, you don't make freaking out very easy."
"I'm sorry." Lance shrugged. "I've been taught to diffuse freak outs before they happen. Chris used to have crowd issues."
"Yeah. I know he doesn't seem like the type, but he did. Big ones."
"I think I'm panicked enough inside."
"Then let's go do something so you're not thinking about it."
"I can't not think about it." Jenna shook her head.
"Well then let's at least get something different to look at." Lance picked up the phone and called across the street to Lonnie. They talked for a minute before Lonnie agreed to get them tickets for a show, any show, just so that they could leave the room.
Lonnie called back twenty minutes later and told Lance that they had tickets for the evening show of "O" and that if they wanted to go to dinner before the show, they'd have to be ready to go at four.
"We'll be ready." Lance nodded then hung up and smiled at Jenna. "We've got tickets for "O" and we're going to meet Lonnie for dinner before the show."
"I don't get a say in this?" Jenna smirked, but seriously looked like she didn't want to go.
"Not really, no."
"I can't afford shows and stuff like that. I'm not really here on vacation."
"Don't worry about it."
"I'm making you go. Don't worry about it." He grabbed her hand and pulled her out of her chair. "Go brush your hair or whatever you girls do before you head out."
"So I've been told." He nodded toward the bathroom. "Come on."
Jenna sighed and held an argument on the tip of her tongue, but the look he gave her told her it would be fruitless. She sulked into the bathroom and emerged a minute later with her hair brushed and a slick coating of gloss on her lips. "Okay. Let's go."
"Smile. This will be fun."
She forced a wide smile then actually laughed as they stepped into the hall. Lance had a way of getting her mind off of everything. The way he could help her focus on something else, even if it was just for a minute, was something she admired in him. Deep inside she knew that she was always too serious, too driven if that was possible. Before Las Vegas she always considered that to be one of her positive characteristics. The fact that she committed herself one hundred percent to whatever she was doing; that was always a good thing in her mind.
Lance helped her see, in his own weird way, that in doing so she was blocking out everything else going on in her life. That kind of tunnel vision had undoubtedly cost her much more than she had gained. With his unknowing help, she was learning how to get the job done, while still enjoying the life around her.
As they walked out of the hotel she knew that included her seeing "O" with Lance and Lonnie that evening. Experiencing a few hours away was what she needed, considering the next day they would be chin deep in everything they'd been working so hard on for the past few months. There would be no escaping it.
Jenna sighed softly and settled into the car as Lonnie pulled away from the entrance of the hotel and headed down the strip. They had a quiet dinner in a small restaurant on the strip, then headed for the theater. The show was better than any of them could have expected, and they left the theater with their jaws dropped in awe.
Lonnie drove Jenna and Lance back to their hotel as they relived their favorite parts of the performance, bouncing with excitement like teenagers at an Nsync show. When they got to their hotel, Lonnie walked them in to the elevators to make sure they arrived safely. Jenna shuffled her feet and kept a safe distance away as two young ladies approached Lance for autographs. She was surprised to see them keep their cool, when every other fan she'd seen practically came unglued at the sight of him. They looked Jenna over carefully, then ignored her as Lance happily signed their shopping bags and gave them hugs.
"Thank you so much." One of the girls gushed with a wobbly voice.
"Thank you." Lance smiled and waved casually as he stepped onto the elevator under Lonnie's careful eye.
"Call when you get there." Lonnie's eyebrow rose as he delivered the order, not a request.
"Will do." Lance laughed and the doors shut in front of him. He leaned against the wall and sighed with his eyes closed. "Man I can't wait for the day when I can get back to normal."
"You mean that wasn't normal?"
Lance cracked an eye open and looked at her, and then laughed, "Yeah. I guess that was kinda normal." He pulled his lower lip between his teeth and looked at the tile floor. "I just meant I guess I meant that I can't wait to get home where my life seems normal. Here, everything feels kind of surreal. Doesn't it?"
Jenna pondered that for a moment, "Yeah. I guess it does." She stepped off the elevator and lead the way down the hall to their room. "I know that I never thought I'd be in Vegas with a world famous pop star investigating a murder." She smiled almost sadly, "I guess it does kind of feel like we're living in a bad TV drama."
"Exactly." Lance chuckled softly and followed her into the room. "I'm going to go wash up though, I'm still all sticky."
Jenna cringed and tried not to smile, "I'm sorry about that."
"It's okay." Lance shook his head and pulled his t-shirt over his head as he stepped into the bathroom. She caught a glimpse of his bare back before the door shut and the shower started and a ripple passed through her stomach. It was more than just anxiety over the pending trial; it was something deeper that she wasn't going to let herself feel. She had Monica to think of, so she shook her head and went to her bag. Monica. Jenna wouldn't let herself forget that she was the reason they were there in the first place.
Lance's pajama bottoms clung to his still damp legs as he stepped into the room chilled by the air conditioner. "Are you an Eskimo?" He asked as he reached to turn it down. He didn't want to catch a chill and get sick before their big day in court.
"It was warm." Jenna mumbled as she pulled her knees up, resting her bare feet flat on the bedspread. She held a small frame in her hand as she sat with her back against the headboard.
As Lance watched, she traced the glass and smiled sadly at whoever it was looking back at her. Whats that? Lance asked as he sat beside her on the bed. It sunk under his weight and she leaned toward him.
Monica. Jenna said softly.
Yeah. She nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear, suddenly looking more vulnerable than Lance had ever seen her.
Can I see?
Uh, sure. She handed him the frame and Lance saw her for the first time. His breath caught in his throat as his heart skipped a beat. Until then hed only ever seen the blurry wedding photo of her which he kept in his wallet. Of course she was Jennas twin and looked a lot like her, but seeing Monica herself was something Lance wasnt prepared for.
Wow He whispered as he felt Jennas shoulder rest against his.
Shes Ive never really seen her before. I mean that night I was He stopped and sighed softly. And then you guys are twins so Lance shrugged and stared at the picture in front of him.
You didnt know what she looked like?
Not really. His voice dropped to just above a whisper. He was surprised that she heard him at all.
Lance nodded and brought the picture closer, taking in her wide grin and untamed hair. She had one hand behind her neck and under her hair and was looking directly at the camera. Whoever had taken it caught her in the middle of a laugh and he could plainly see the smile lines around her eyes.
Well ? Jenna asked softly.
Shes absolutely beautiful. Lance smiled. He handed the picture back and stood up as he cleared his throat.
"Mmm." She made a noncommittal sound and set the frame on top of her bag. With her book in her hand she crossed the room to sit in the comfortable chair under the lamp to read.
Lance watched her for a minute but she intentionally kept her eyes glued to the pages of the book in front of her. He sighed softly, then pulled the covers back and slid beneath them. When he reached to turn the light off, the room was cast into shadows made by the light behind Jenna's chair.
How long she sat in the half darkness of the room, Lance couldn't know. But when he awoke the next morning she was still curled up with her book fallen closed by her feet. He crawled from between the covers and made his way to the bathroom. His stomach clenched as he realized that it was court day. The clock by the bed showed that it was only a quarter after seven, the alarm wasn't due to go off for another forty five minutes.
Lance showered quickly, then dressed in the suit that he wore to the awards the previous week. It had been dry cleaned and pressed the day before, so it was ready and unwrinkled when he dressed himself in the bathroom. He left his coat and tie hanging on the hook behind the door, then went into the bedroom to button his shirt up.
The clock by the bed glowed seven forty seven, so he reached over to turn the alarm off then walked barefoot up the hall to the vending machine to get Hostess mini donuts and a few cans of soda. When he got back to the room he set the unhealthy breakfast on the table and carefully went to Jenna's chair.
"Jenna?" He whispered as he set his hand on her shoulder. He shook her lightly and repeated her name.
"Hmm?" Jenna's head jerked up and she winced. "Oh man." Her legs stretched out from their bent position and she groaned. "I'm sore."
"Well I didn't think you'd sleep in the chair " Lance laughed softly.
"I must have fallen asleep while I was reading." Jenna stretched her arms over her head and stood up. "What time is it?" She asked as the blood rushed from her face. "We have to be at the court by ten."
"It's only like, ."
"Okay." She paused and took a good look at him. "You're dressed already."
"Okay, I have to shower."
"Yeah you do." Lance smiled. "Make the water as hot as you can stand it and fill up the tub."
"I don't have time for a bath."
"Sure you do." Lance nodded. "Your back will feel better if you take a bath, trust me. You'll be stiff enough without it; I don't want you to be miserable."
"I'm going to be miserable anyway."
Lance sighed and shook his head, "You know what I mean."
"I know." She stepped around him and tried not to sniff at the scent of his aftershave. "Okay, I'm going to take a bath then."
"Here." Lance handed her a package of powdered donuts and a Diet Pepsi. "Breakfast."
"Oh this is healthy."
"I figured if we ate anything more, we'd be sick. I know I would."
"You're my hero." She mumbled as she took the breakfast and disappeared into the bathroom. She wasn't being sarcastic either, and her smile said she knew he didn't think she was either. Her stomach was already in knots and the thought of having real food for breakfast made her mouth taste metallic and unforgiving. After she turned the water on as hot as she could stand it she popped open the soda and ate two of the little donuts. They were just what she needed and she licked the last trace of powder from her fingers before sliding into the water with a heavy and relaxed sigh. "Oh. Man." She felt the tension leave through her shoulders and the sugar seep into her system.
By the time she got out of the water the donuts were gone, the soda was room temperature and her skin was bleached white and puckered. She dried off and slathered on lotion in her normal routine. The less she thought about the afternoon, the easier it was for her to focus.
She slid into the main room with a towel wrapped securely around her body, grabbed her clean clothes then disappeared into the bathroom again. The skirt was darker than she originally thought, but it was too late to take it back to the store. Jenna dried her hair, then dressed and applied her make up lightly.
When she opened the door again, Lance was standing in the small dressing area staring into the full length mirror. "Does this look okay?" Lance turned from his reflection and brushed his fingertips over his forehead.
"It looks fine." Jenna nodded with a quick glance to his feet. "Shoes?"
"They're on the bed." Lance crossed the room and sat down to put them on. "What time is it?"
"Um. Nine." She checked her watch and stepped into the dressing area, letting the bathroom air out. "We need to get going."
"Do you have the directions?" Jenna tilted her head to the side and fastened her earring onto her right ear lobe.
"They're by my keys."
"And the case number?"
"With the directions." Lance nodded, then stood up and ran his hands through his hair again. "Do we need anything else?"
"No. I don't think so."
"Okay, then we're ready. Are you ready?" Lance asked as she held her left ear with one hand and slid her shoe on with the other.
"Yeah." She stood up straight and took a deep breath, "You're sure this skirt is okay?"
"It's a little late to worry about that." Lance smiled and reached for the room key, car keys and directions. "Let's go."
Lonnie met them in the lobby and drove them to the courthouse in silence. They didn't want to make a scene when they got there, so Lonnie dropped them off in front then went to park the car around the side. Jenna and Lance walked into the entrance where the guards checked Jenna's purse and sent them through the metal detector.
Once on the other side they stood against the pale green wall and waited for Lonnie to show up. When the three of them were together again, Lance lead the way down the bright hall. They followed the signs to the courtroom they'd been assigned to, but just before they reached the door Jenna stopped walking and grabbed Lance's arm. "If I get sick, you have to swear to me that you won't just leave me in there."
"What?" Lance fought the urge to laugh.
"If I get sick in there "
"You mean if you throw up?"
"Jenna, if you throw up in there I'll be just as sick as you." He smiled and pried her fingers from around his bicep. "But I promise that if you get sick I won't just leave you in there."
"I swear." Lance laughed lightly and held her hand. "But you won't be sick, so don't worry about it."
"I might." She placed her free hand over her stomach and made a sour face. "I don't know if I can do this."
"You don't have to."
"Yeah I do."
"Jenna, if you can't then don't. If you get in there and it's too much we can leave. Or we can step into the hall or whatever we need to do."
"Lonnie will be with us."
"Lance, I'm serious. I've never been this nervous before."
"You'll be fine." He squeezed her hand and pushed the courtroom door open. The hearing wasn't scheduled to start for another fifteen minutes, but the court room was empty save for the bailiff near the front and a lady in a blue dress walking around looking important.
"Who is that?"
"I don't know." Lance shook his head.
"Court reporter." Lonnie explained softly as they stepped into the room. They went to the front and sat in the second row behind the prosecutors table.
"This is the right place?"
"Unless you want to sit behind
"Then this is the right place."
They sat alone, nervously checking out the court room as they tried to keep their thoughts going in one direction to maintain their sanity. What little of it they held on to. As the hour struck on a clock far away, the courtroom came alive with movement. Ten more people joined them in the seats behind the banister, then the lawyers took their seats and began to ready their paperwork.
Neither of them heard a word that was spoken as movement drew their eyes to a door
just to the right of the judge's bench.
"Do... does he look familiar?"
She stared at his dark blonde hair and leathery looking skin. His prison standard blue shirt clung to his wide shoulders and his lip was split in the corner closest to them. "No." Jenna took a deep breath and tore her eyes away from the man who admitted to killing her sister. Kleenex was offered to her from someone neither of them knew, and she took it gratefully.
Jenna dabbed at her eyes and stared at the floor for a few minutes. "He won't even look at us." She whispered angrily.
"Of course he won't." Lance squeezed her hand and took a deep breath as he set his jaw and held his head up straight.
"The court calls to order case number M3-409. The State of Nevada versus Marshall Craig Jeffers. The honorable Judge Ellen Majors presiding." Lance's heart beat erratically as the judge took her seat. At the first sight of the petite woman with salt and pepper hair cut short around her stern looking face, Lance had to smile. She didn't look like the kind to be messed with and deep inside he knew that whatever happened that day would be fair. She would see to it.
Judge Majors met eyes with everyone sitting before her. "Would counsel please identify themselves for
the record." She settled her glasses on
the edge of her nose and looked at the papers in front of her as the defense attorney
identified himself followed by the District Attorney.
Judge Majors looked up and met
"Yes." He answered softly.
"Do you read and understand English?"
"If you don't understand something I say, please tell me." Judge Majors flipped her paper over and cleared her
"Have you read the plea agreement?"
"Did your attorney explain it to you?
"Do you understand the terms of the plea agreement?"
"Do you have any questions about the plea agreement?"
"The plea agreement states that you are pleading guilty to the charge of murder in the first degree, is that correct."
"It also provides that the sentence of life without the chance of parole be carried out in a state detention facility. Is that correct?" The judge's eyes narrowed at Marshall as she waited for his response. Lance nodded slowly as he turned to look at Jenna; the plea was exactly what they thought it would be, but it felt good to hear it stated as fact.
Judge Majors paused and looked at
"Speak up, please."
"Does it contain everything that you agreed to?" She continued without missing a beat.
"The paragraph above your signature indicates that by entering into this plea agreement you are giving up your constitutional rights that are listed there. Do you understand?"
For the next few minutes Judge Majors spoke with Marshall about the charges against him and clarified that he knew exactly what he was pleading guilty to and that he understood everything that would entail.
Jenna swore under her breath, silently praying that it would all just be over already. They'd heard what they came there to hear, and she was done hearing Marshall's voice. As soon as the judge excused everyone present, Lance, Lonnie and Jenna stood up and slid out of the aisle in almost stunned silence. They made their way back through the maze to the front entrance where Jenna practically ran for the fresh air outside. Lance followed three steps after her and took an immense breath as the heavy door shut behind him. Lonnie continued toward the parking lot as Lance stopped beside Jenna on the top step.
"I can't believe it." Jenna said softly, without looking at Lance.
He let out the breath he'd been holding and smiled, "Neither can I."
"In less than an hour, everything is done. Completely." She shook her head and squinted though the sky was overcast. "There's nothing left for us to do."
"Well. There is one thing." Lance dropped his eyes to hers.
He smiled and cocked his head to the side, "We have to go see her." He was surprised that he had to be the one to say it.
Jenna blushed as she smiled, "Yes. We do." She took a deep and shaky breath, then hopped down the short steps to the car where Lonnie was waiting with the door open.
She gave directions to the cemetery, knowing that Lance had probably only been there that one time for the funeral. Lonnie parked at the bottom of the small incline, and then Lance and Jenna walked up to the marker alone. She slid his hand in his as the breeze picked up and blew her skirt tight across her legs.
Lance let her lead the way and only stopped when Jenna halted abruptly almost directly in front of him. He willed himself to look down to see the cold marble marker that had haunted his thoughts for so long. As soon as his eyes made contact a voice in his head said, "I'm sorry." He apologized silently to the woman he'd never known; for what, he could only guess. For leading her away from the hotel, for taking her back to his, for putting her in an awkward situation, for not being as involved in the investigation as he should have been at the beginning for any number of things. He was sorry; and he told her so.
Tears he hadn't expected rested on his lashes and he quickly whisked them away with his fingertips. Standing by his side, Jenna was silent as well, but he noticed that her lips moved ever so slightly. Lance waited until they stopped, then he spoke, "I'm sorry, Jenna."
"I don't know. I just I feel like I should apologize. I'm sorry."
"Don't be." She whispered, her voice lost in the sudden wind. "It feels weird to be here now that it's over, doesn't it?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded. He didn't want to admit that it would always feel weird for him.
"We don't have to stay."
"It's okay." He said out of habit. Her hand tightened around his and she smiled sweetly, knowing that he would stay until she was ready to leave. He would always leave it up to her.
"So " Jenna pursed her lips quickly and looked up at Lance as the cold wind whipped her hair across her cheek. "Are you going home tomorrow?"
Lance thought for a minute, then nodded slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so." He took a deep breath and shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. "I I think I've had enough Vegas to last me a year or two."
"Yeah." Jenna nodded. "I don't think I can take much more either. It just well now it's not the fun place that I used to think it was. There are too many I don't know bad feelings. With the whole city." She sighed and looked toward The Strip. From where they were standing it wasn't visible, but Lance knew what image she held in her head. He nodded in agreement as he kept his eyes on the marker with Monica's name etched below a single rose.
"Are you going home?"
"Yes." She blinked the image away and squinted up at Lance. "Tomorrow. The sooner I can leave the better."
"I agree." He forced a small smile and licked his lips. The wind picked up and blew her hair across her forehead again. Without thinking he reached up and tucked the stray lock behind her ear. "I " He paused. Nothing that he could say would convey what he really meant. Whatever that was. Lance's mind was full of conflicting thoughts and pieces that didn't fit with anything else.
"I uh." He stopped again and laughed softly. "I don't know what I was going to say. Nothing seems right."
"You dont have to say anything." Jenna shook her head slowly and looked down at the grave. "You know I'm glad that she picked you. Of all the men in the city she could have chosen to " She sighed softly and shook her head. "Well I'm glad she chose you."
Lance's head dipped forward in a subtle nod. Part of him wished she had chosen anyone but him, but another part was glad she'd picked him too. "Me too." He said finally.
Her laugh was short and unexpected, "Yeah right."
"I just mean " Lance began to explain that he was glad she chose him because he wouldn't have trusted anyone else with the investigation or with Jenna. But she stopped him before he could get any further.
"It's okay. I appreciate it." She nodded, understanding without hearing his reasoning. Jenna sighed and looked over her shoulder at the car they'd shared for the past week. Lonnie was standing beside it, respectfully looking down the small incline in the other direction. "We should leave."
"We don't have to." Lance shook his head. A rock settled in his stomach, leaving would mean that it was all officially over. He wasn't ready for that just yet.
"Did what's there left to do here?"
"I don't know." Lance admitted. "I just I'm not ready to leave yet. I feel like like we should do something. Or say something." His voice lowered and she leaned closer to hear.
"I don't know."
"Lance we did what we came here for."
She looked at him with an expression of surprise. "Yes."
"Because it doesn't feel complete yet."
"What else do we need to do?"
"I don't know." He frowned and wished the answer would drop into his hand.
"We've said goodbye."
"But I " Lance bit his lower lip. He'd never really said hello, so goodbye meant nothing.
Jenna tilted her head to the side, resting it on Lance's shoulder as her hand found its way into his. The answer fell into his hand and he smiled though she couldn't see it. "I don't think it'll ever feel complete Lance. Looking for the answer here it's just not where you're going to find it." She shook her head and her hair rustled against his shirt.
"I know." He sighed and laced his fingers through hers.
"This is as close to complete as we're going to get." Jenna whispered. He nodded, but didn't say a word.
"I'm glad it's over, but at the same time it's kind of sad." He blushed as the true words left his lips. "I just mean it's over. It's what we've been working toward for so long and it's over."
"Kind of anti-climactic, isn't it?"
"It really is." Lance agreed, but he meant more than that. He was sad that they wouldn't have a reason to stay in contact now that the case was done. Strangely enough, he didn't want to let that go. Whatever relationship they had, was important to him.
"I hope we can stay in touch." Jenna smiled, as though reading his thoughts.
"I'd like that."
"Anytime you're in
"Anytime you're in
They both spoke at the same time then laughed over each others offers. "It's been great getting to know you." Lance said after a moment of comfortable silence.
"You too." Jenna smiled down at the grave. "Maybe maybe in some weird way Monica maybe this " she couldn't finish her thought without sounding like a selfish teenager.
"Yeah. Maybe." Lance said softly; he knew exactly what she was getting at.
"I'm sorry. That's a horrible thought. Maybe Monica died so that we could meet? That's awful. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Lance smiled and released her hand to put his arm over her shoulder. "Weirder things have happened."
"She'd be happy to see us getting along."
"I think so."
"I just wish she was here." Jenna's voice cracked for the first time since they arrived.
"Me too." Lance kissed the top of her head before she turned to him and hugged him tight.
They stood locked in a comforting embrace for a few minutes, each thanking Monica in their own way. Each saying a final goodbye like only they knew how. "We should go." Jenna said a minute later as she took a step away and anxiously smoothed the front of her skirt. "It's getting late."
"Y-yeah." Lance cleared his throat. "Are you ready?"
"Yes." She tore her eyes from Monica's grave and reached for Lance for support. He offered his arm and lead her back to the car. "Wait." She stopped before they stepped off the grass. "Uh, wait." Jenna bit her lower lip nervously and looked down at her shoes.
"I just " She took a shallow breath then looked up and brushed her lips over his. They lingered there for a moment longer than necessary before she exhaled and said, "Thank you, Lance. For everything."
It took a moment for the kiss to sink in before Lance licked his lips and said, "Thank you."
The clouds above parted for the briefest of moments to let a sliver of sun shine through, lighting a path from the car and up the side of the small hill. Both Jenna and Lance turned to look at the same moment, then it was gone. The clouds returned and rushed the light away.
Jenna smiled up at Lance with tears in her eyes. Monica thanked them in her own way, just to let them know that she was there and she loved them both. The one who had loved her from the moment of conception, and the one who had only known her briefly and through her sister had grown to love them both.
She was the tie that would bind them together forever and neither of them would ever forget that.
Copyright © 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn