Lance stayed a little while longer at the cemetery after Jenna left.  He sat on the only chair available and sighed deeply as he looked at the coffin, then he quietly began to speak to the woman he never really knew.  "Man, this sure had turned into a mess.  I uh... well I wish I could have known you.  Like really known you.  I wish I could remember something from that night, just a little memory or something.  Your smile, or your voice or… just something.  I feel so connected to you because of everything that's happened, but… "  He sighed and rested his chin in his hand.  "I just wish I could have known you."  He frowned for a moment then looked over his shoulder, he had the feeling he was being watched and it made him uncomfortable.  "You and I both know that I didn't have anything to do with what happened, and I'm going to do everything I can to find the guy… the person… who did this.  If there's a way to make your sister see… I really think that would help.  If we could work together, I'm sure we could get this solved."  Lance stood up, then reached out and carefully put his hand flat against the satiny smooth wood of the casket.  "God be with you."  He whispered softly before he turned and headed back down the walkway to where he left his car.

 

            The drive back to his hotel was silent, he'd shut the radio off when he was looking for the cemetery and he didn't bother to turn it on when he left.  Lance parked in the parking structure, then slowly made his way into the hotel with his head down and his hands in his pockets.  As he walked through the crowds of people to the elevators he pulled his bottom lip through his teeth and furrowed his brow.  He was cleared; he was free to go home.  He could walk upstairs to his hotel room, pack up his bags and never even think about Las Vegas again.  But something inside him fought that urge to run.  Leaving didn't feel right, as much as he wanted to be in his own house with his own things around him, his family, his clothes, his friends, his things.

            "Shit."  Lance mumbled under his breath as he stepped onto the elevator and rode up to his floor alone.  "Forget this.  I'm going home."  He thought to himself as he pushed his door open a minute later.

            He angrily threw open the closet doors and pulled his clothes out to toss them on the bed.  The clothes from the dresser soon followed as he worked fast to empty the drawers.  His suitcase remained zipped shut in the corner, just waiting for Lance to open it and pack the clothing.  If he could just pack he'd be halfway there.  He could be on a flight in a few short hours.

            "But you're not done here."  A voice inside his head said softly.  Lance sighed heavily and ran his hands through his hair as he sat on the corner of the bed with all of his clothes strewn around him.  He knew he couldn’t leave yet; not until he did everything he could to find the person responsible for Monica's death.

            The hotel phone on the table in front of him rang and startled Lance out of his trance-like realization.  He stood up quickly and pulled the handset off the cradle before it could ring for the third time.  "Hello?"  He said as he answered the phone.

            "Are you okay?"  Joey asked with a hint of panic in his voice.

            "Me?  Yeah, I'm okay."  Lance frowned slightly.  "What's wrong?"

            "You're not watching TV?"

            "No, there's nothing good on and I - "

            "You're on."  Joey interrupted him.

            "What?"  Lance's heart fell to his knees.  "What channel?  What's going on?"

            "The news."  Joey said quickly.  "Just find CNN and see if it's on there."

            "What are you watching?"

            "Some local news thing."

            "Shit."  Lance swore under his breath as he fought with the remote to turn the TV on.  The channels blurred as he hit the 'up' button repeatedly until he got to CNN.  "There's nothing on CNN.  What'd the news say?"

            "That you were being questioned in connection to a murder in Las Vegas."

            "Fuck."  Lance dropped his head into his hands.

            "But they also said that the Las Vegas police department stated that you were not a suspect and that you were cooperating fully with the police efforts.  They didn't mention that you were married to her.  Hrm."

            "Yeah well they didn't mention that I was cleared this afternoon either."

            "You were cleared?"

            "Yeah."

            "Like, completely?"

            "Yeah Joey.  I didn't do it… they cleared me completely.  They have video and stuff."

            "So you're completely off the hook?"

            "Yeah, I'm done here."

            "That's good."  Joey said softly.

            "Yeah, but what'd the news make it sound like?"  Lance asked, knowing that the media had a way of taking even positive sounding news and turning it around.

            Joey shrugged and sighed; "It doesn't look good.  Seriously, anytime your name is mentioned in the same breath as murder it's not gonna sound good."

            "No, I know."

            "I mean, even if they just said, 'Joey Fatone ate a burger at Wendy's where three months ago a murder took place.'  Somehow those bastards would make it look like I did it."

            "Yeah but…"  Lance sighed and wished for the millionth time that this would all just go away.  "Holy shit."  He said when he looked up.

            "What?"

            "I'm a fucking CNN news scroll!"  Lance exclaimed as he read it for Joey.  "Twenty-four year old Lance Bass (Nsync) is in Las Vegas for questioning in a homicide case.  LVPD Lieutenant Davidson states that the pop star is not a suspect and has been cooperative in the investigation."

            "So basically that's all that’s gonna be out then."

            "That I'm here for questioning?  Dammit, have you talked to Johnny?"

            "Nope."  Joey sighed.

            "I've gotta call him."  Lance said as his cell phone rang on the bed three feet away, almost buried by his clothes.

            "That's probably him."

            "Yeah.  I'll call you later Joe."  Lance hung up and dove for his small phone.  "Hello?"  He pinched the bridge of his nose as he waited for the impending ass chewing from Johnny.

            "It's on the news."  Cody said.

            The sound of the younger mans voice surprised Lance and it took a moment to hear what he said.  "Yeah, I just saw it on CNN."  Lance nodded for his own benefit.

            "Has the press contacted you yet?"

            "No."

            "If they do, don't say anything."

            "What?!"  Lance's eyebrows shot up.  "I can't just not say anything."

            "Then say 'no comment'."

            "Hell no.  I didn't do anything.  I've been cleared and that's what I'll tell them."

            "I'll make a statement along with your management or PR team."  Cody said sharply.  "Until then, I don't want you commenting to the media."

            "Shit, why don't I just lock myself in my room and unplug the phones?"  Lance asked sarcastically.

            "That wouldn't be a bad idea."  Cody said with a frown.  "As soon as we hang up I'm going to contact your PR firm and give them a statement to release regarding your current status."

            "You really want me to lock myself in my room?"

            "That's your call.  You know how people react to you better than I do.  If you think going out will cause a media frenzy, then yeah, stay inside."

            "Dammit."  Lance grumbled under his breath.  "I don't know if it will.  I haven't been approached since like, last weekend so I don't think people know I'm here."

            "They know you're here alright."

            "Well I haven't seen any in the hotel or whatever."

            "Yet."  Cody pointed out.  "Listen.  I'm going to go work with you PR staff and management and get this squared away.  I'll give you a call back and let you know what the deal is so keep your phone handy, okay?"

            "Yeah."

            "And do not talk to the press."

            "Okay."  Lance sighed in reluctant agreement.

            "I'll call you in a few."

            "Okay, bye."

 

            When Lance hung up with Cody he knew he had to call Johnny and his parents.  "Fuck."  He sighed then dialed his parents number first to give them a heads up that their baby boys name was on a CNN News scroll, and not in a great way.  They weren't home so he left a softly spoken message on their machine telling them that he was okay and he'd be talking with Johnny in a matter of minutes.

            He hung up the phone after sending his love, then stared at the receiver in his hand.  "Fucking fuck."  He grumbled under his breath before he dialed Johnny's office number.  He didn't bother to look at the time, he knew that no matter what the hour was Johnny would be at his desk working his ass off to cover Lance's.

            "This is Johnny."  He answered the phone briskly, as though he'd been fielding calls all day, which he probably was.

            "Hey, so I guess you saw?"  Lance said.

            "Uh, no not first hand.  I have, however, talked to about sixty five million people who did." Johnny said as papers shuffled in the background.  "The call board out front has been lit up like a Christmas tree for about four hours now."

            "I'm sorry."

            "I know you are kid." Johnny sighed.  "So what's your flight number?  I'll have Ted and Lonnie meet you at the gate."

            "I… I'm not coming home today."  Lance stated, making his decision final.

            "The hell you're not."  Johnny dropped his papers and gave Lance his complete attention.

            "I need to stay for another couple days.  I was cleared, but I need to tie up some loose ends out here."  Lance explained quickly as he thought about Jenna.  He didn't want to leave until she knew he didn't hurt her sister.

            "How many days?"

            "I don't know."  Lance answered honestly. 

            "Then you're moving to the MGM."  Johnny thought quickly and began forming a plan 'B' in his head.

            "What?  Why?"

            "Because we know the security there, you know the in's and out's of the hotel and because I'd feel a hundred times better if you were somewhere safe."

            "The Venetian is safe."

            "You're moving to the MGM Lance, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't argue."

            "Johnny…"  Lance started to complain.

            "Listen, I wanted you in Florida a week ago.  If you're going to sit out there in Vegas for another week or so the least you can do is humor me and move to a safer location."

            "Fine, I'll move."  Lance gave in.  It was easier than arguing with Johnny and making life harder for everyone.  "I'll move over tonight."

            "I'm having Felicia call over and book you a suite on a secured floor."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded, that's where they always stayed.

            "What's the crowd look like over there?  Do I need to send Lonnie out?"  Johnny asked.  Then without waiting for a response he sighed,  "I'll send Lonnie out."

            "No, it's fine."  Lance said quickly.  "Just… when you make your statement or whatever, say that I'm back in Florida now or something.  No one will expect me at the MGM if you book it under Felicia's name or something.  I'll be fine."

            "Lance…"

            "It's just for a couple more days.  Come on, you know me, crowds freak me out."  Lance smiled slowly.  "If things get out of hand I'll call and you can send out whoever you want."

            "I'm serious Lance."

            "So am I."  Lance said softly.

            Another phone rang on Johnny's end of the phone line and the older man sighed,  "I've gotta get that.  Felicia will book you at the MGM, I want you there in an hour."

            "Okay."  Lance managed to agree before Johnny hung up to take his other call.  He dropped his phone on the floor and cast an angry glance at the pile of clothes on his bed.  Even though he was staying in town, he was still going to have to pack all of his things, and quickly.  His suitcase waited in the closet across the room so he fetched it and set it on the floor to begin packing.

            Just as he unzipped the luggage, his cell phone began to play its melody again from where he'd dropped it on the floor.  The last thing Lance wanted to do was talk to anyone and for a moment he thought of just ignoring the call, but instead he scowled and checked the caller ID.  His frown turned into a grin as he saw Chris' number flash on the screen.  "Hey."  He answered the phone with a giant feeling of relief.

            "Man, listen to you answering the phone all 'hey' like you just got back from vacation."  Chris laughed.  "Your week is just about in the shitter and you're answering the phone 'hey'?"

            "I knew it was you."  Lance continued to smile as he sat on the bed and began to fold his clothes again.  "So you've heard?"

            "Shit, I've had everyone from my mom to Brit calling me about it.  I swear, they must all think I sleep all day or something.  Every one of them started with 'Wake up. Turn your TV on.' they must think I'm JC or something."

            "Speaking of JC…"

            "He's at the compound with the PR team."  Chris answered without Lance having to ask.

            "How's he doing?"

            "Like it matters."  Chris rolled his eyes.  "How are you doing?  You holding up okay?"

            "Yeah."

            "Any news?"

            "I was cleared this morning.  So I uh… I can go home any time I want."

            "Sweet.  Let me know when you get in, I'll bring over some kabobs or something."

            "Ah I won't be home till later.  I'm staying here another couple days or so."

            "Yeah?  What for?  I mean, you're not a suspect, right?"

            "No.  I never really was, they just had to rule me out.  And they did."  Lance bit his lip quickly.  "I'm just… I want to wait and see if there's anything else I can do to find this guy."

            "Do they have any leads or anything?"

            "Not that I know of, but I'm not sure if they'd tell me."

            "Sure they would, you're her husband.  I mean, technically."  Chris sighed.  "What's going on with that anyway?"

            "I don't know.  I guess technically I'm a widower.  I'll have to ask my lawyer though, I didn't think of that."  Lance frowned and grabbed a pair of boxers from the pile, then folded them in his lap. 

            "Is Joey still there?"

            "No, he left on Monday."

            "Do you want me to grab the rascals and head out?"

            "To Vegas?  No, you guys don't need to come out."

            "Because seriously.  Justin's twenty-one now so it wouldn't take any kind of convincing to get him to go.  And if I told JC you needed some help or whatever, he'd be on the next plane too."

            "No, it's cool.  Really.  I've got it under control.  If you guys all showed up here it'd turn into a three ring circus."

            "That's what the team is for.  We can bring out Lonnie and Al and all them."  Chris said, and Lance could already tell he was making travel arrangements.

            "Really, it's cool.  I'm not going to be here much longer so it'd be a waste of time for you guys.  I'll call you as soon as I get back into town and we can all get together."

            "You're sure?"

            "I'm sure."  Lance insisted as he reached for a pair of jeans on the bed. He folded them in half and sighed,  "Listen, I've gotta get my shit packed up, Johnny's moving me to the MGM and if I'm not checked in in like, an hour or whatever he's gonna freak."

            "Alright.  Well hey, gimme a call if you need anything or… whatever."

            "Thanks, I will."

            "In fact, just gimme a call."

            "I will."  Lance smiled and promised himself that he would.  Chris had a way of making things seem okay without really saying anything.  They hung up and Lance set about packing all of his things into his suitcase again.  He changed into a pair of comfortable jeans and a non-descript t-shirt, hoping to blend into the crowd again when he left.  After a quick look through the room he assured himself that he hadn't forgotten anything, then proceeded to the elevators where he dropped his key in the check out box and walked quickly to the rental car.

 

            When Lance finally got to his suite at the MGM, he dropped his bags in the walk in closet and kicked his shoes into the corner by the dresser.  He ran his hands through his hair as he used his toes to get his socks off, then left them in the middle of the room as he sat on the couch and pulled the TV guide off the coffee table to see what he was missing.

            The MGM had a completely different set of movies on pay-per-view so Lance started to plan his days around what time certain movies started.  As he flipped through the movie listings, Lance remembered that it was Thursday.  "Oh crap."  He let a little smile escape as he remembered that Joey had an audition that afternoon.  With all of the excitement and mess surrounding his newsworthy weekend, Lance had forgotten and Joey hadn't said a word.

            Lance picked up his room phone and dialed Joey's cell phone.  When his voice mail picked up Lance took a deep breath and tried to hold his smile,  "Hey Joe, I completely forgot that you had your thing today.  Gimme a call on my cell when you get this, it doesn't matter what time it is.  I want to hear all about it.  See ya." He hung up then carried the TV Guide and the remote control to the couch and made himself comfortable in the corner.

            "John Q" was on pay-per-view so Lance ordered it and made himself a bag of microwave popcorn while he waited for the movie to start.  His new room included a little kitchenette, which would come in handy if he was going to be relegated to his room.

            With no one other than Johnny and the guys knowing his new hotel location, Lance was able to watch the movie in peace and quiet.  It wasn't until the final credits were rolling that his cell phone rang in his pocket and snapped Lance back to the real world.  He pulled the tiny phone out and turned it over to check the Caller ID before he answered it.  "Hey, how'd it go?"  Lance answered the phone when he saw it was Joey's cell number.

            "How'd what go?"

            "The audition, Mr. Movie Star."  Lance smiled and kicked his feet up on the little coffee table.

            Joey yawned in his ear,  "Oh yeah.  It went pretty good I think."

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah.  I've gotta go back like next week."

            "You got a call back?"

            "I don't know what to call it.  I read for the casting director, then Quentin came in and I about shit my pants and he had me read again.  But it was like, weird.  There were three other guys there reading for other parts and we all traded off parts when we read."

            "So there are three parts open?"

            "I guess."  Joey shrugged.  "But the casting dude said he wanted me to come back next week when they'd cast the leads to read these three parts again."

            "Weird."

            "Yeah.  So I'm just gonna hang out here for the week, hit the hometown, you know?"

            "Sounds like fun."

            "Uh huh."  Joey yawned again.  "So what'd Johnny say?"

            "He flipped and moved me to the MGM."

            "Did he put Lonnie on the next flight out?"

            "Not yet, no."  Lance closed his eyes and prayed that Johnny wouldn't.

            "Did JC call?"

            "No, but I talked to Chris today.  He's freaky man, he was all cool about it and everything."

            "The boy has nerves of steel."  Joey laughed.

            "Yeah, he said JC was pacing around the compound helping the PR team come up with statements and everything."

            "JC's helping the PR team?"  Joey laughed lightly.  "Is he going to put the statement to music or something?"

            "He just wants to help.  I had to talk Chris into not getting Justin and JC to fly out here."

            "Well you're going home now, right?  Since you were cleared and everything?"

            "I…" Lance paused for a minute.

            "Oh fuck you.  No way man, you have to get home.  You can't stay in Vegas, that's nuts."

            "I have to."

            "Why?  So the sister can rip you a new one every day?"

            "She's not that bad."

            Joey scoffed and rolled his eyes,  "I was there, remember?"

            "We just… we've got to find out who did this and I kind of feel like I need to stay until it's done."  Lance explained.

            "You've lost your marbles."

            "Maybe."  He nodded slowly as he ran his hand through his hair.  He was beginning to think the same thing, and for the millionth time that afternoon he thought of hopping a plane back to Orlando so he could try to forget about everything.  "But I've still got to stay."  He added softly.

            "Yeah… well…" Joey sighed and shrugged.  "If you need anything, just give me a call, okay?  I can be there in a few hours, you've just gotta say the word."

            "Thanks Joe."

            "No problem.  But hey listen, it's like… late out here."

            "Yeah, I'm sorry.  Get some beauty rest or something."

            "You know I need it."  Joey laughed.

            "Heck yeah you do."  Lance cracked a small smile and fell back on the bed to stare at the ceiling.  "Good night."  He mumbled, hating how sentimental it sounded.

            "G'night."  Joey smiled and it showed in his voice, then he hung up.

            Lance clicked his phone off and sighed.  That was a good way to end his night, and with the happy feeling in his chest he hoped he'd actually get some sleep.  He quietly undressed down to his boxers, then turned the lights off and climbed into the bed.  The TV was on and some random cartoon from the early 80's was playing as Lance closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.

 

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

 

            Late the next morning Lance's cell phone rang and woke him from the first restful sleep he'd had in days.  It took three cycles through the melody for him to realize that the chirping wasn't part of his dream and was in fact his phone.  "H'lo?"  He mumbled as he pulled the phone under the covers with him.  It rang in his ear and he cringed at the shrillness.  He pressed "talk" and mumbled his greeting again.

            "Mr. Bass?"  A deep masculine voice asked.

            "Whosis?"  Lance frowned with his eyes closed.

            "This is Detective Crawley with the Las Vegas Police Department.  I've been trying to reach you all morning."

            "What?"  Lance pried one eye open and rolled onto his back, sending half of his blanket to the floor.  "Who?  Oh.  Oh yeah, I moved hotels.  Sorry."

            "That's fine.  Listen, are you busy?"

            "Like… now?"  Lance yawned.  "No, no I'm not busy.  What's up?"

            "We have some new information and I'd like to see if you can help me out here."

            "Me?"

            "Yeah."

            "I'm cleared."

            "I'm aware of that.  I presented that information to you if you remember."  Lance could hear Crawley smirk through the phone line.  "If you'd like we can discuss this over the phone."

            "No.  That's cool, I'll come in.  Just uh… give me like, an hour.  I'm still kinda asleep."

            "An hour is fine."

            "Okay.  Just at the station?"

            "I'll meet you at the desk."

            "Okay."  Lance yawned again and forced himself to sit up.  "See you in an hour."  He clicked his phone off and stretched his arms over his head, dropping the phone behind his as he grunted loudly.

            Lance pushed himself off the bed and into the bathroom where he showered quickly and pulled on his jeans from the day before.  He brushed his hair and teeth as he stood shirtless in the bathroom.  "Damn."  He said softly as he leaned closer to the mirror.  The scratches on his shoulder were healing up and almost completely gone; tiny red streaks were all that remained.  For a fleeting moment Lance was sad that they were disappearing, as if he wanted something solid to remember her by.

            He sighed softly to himself, then dug a clean shirt out of the suitcase and pulled it over his still damp body.  It clung to the center of his chest as he tied his shoes and grabbed his keys.  With only a few minutes to spare he trotted downstairs and across the broad lobby then out to the parking lot.  The dark sunglasses on his eyes shielded him from the crowd on the street and the sun in the sky.

 

            When he pulled the door to the police station open, he was only six minutes late.  Lance walked up to the front desk where Crawley was casually leaning, talking to a young looking female officer in a form fitting uniform.  "Hey." Lance nodded as a greeting.

            Lance didn't miss the quick glance at his watch before Crawley said,  "Morning."  He turned back to the officer.  "So take those on upstairs and I'll have a look at them later."

            "Yes Detective."  She smiled sweetly and brushed her strawberry blonde hair out of her eyes.

            "And see Mason about getting a new uniform, looks like maybe you've grown a bit since training."  He coughed lightly as the officer blushed and scurried away.  "So.  You ready?"

            "Ready for what?"

            "For the sister."

            "She's here?"

            "She will be."

            "Damn."

            "Tension?"  Crawley asked with a small smile as he held the door open for Lance.

            "You could say that."  Lance mumbled as he followed the detective into the large room where he first found out about everything.  "So what do you have today?"

            "Just some more info.  I don't want to have to repeat it so we'll just wait."  Crawley sat behind the desk and let Lance choose one of the two chairs across from him.  He took the padded one and crossed his ankle over his knee as they waited in silence.

            After a few minutes Lance took to concentrating on the creases in his knuckles while Crawley shuffled the papers around on his desk.  The other officers in the room made enough noise for both of them, so the silence wasn't really uncomfortable.  Then Jenna walked through the front doors.  "I'm here for Detective Crawley and I'm late.  Where is he?"  She demanded in a tone that only she could pull off.

            "We're in here."  Crawley raised his voice as he half stood in his chair.

            Jenna crossed the room quickly and dropped her purse by the foot of the chair.  "I'm sorry I'm late."  She said as she shook the detective's hand.  "What are you doing here?"  She looked down at Lance before she sat beside him.  "I thought you had a big important life to get back to."

            "I'm staying."  Lance said softly, then turned his attention back to Crawley as Jenna pulled up a chair beside him.  "What happened to your office?"

            "They're spraying for bugs."  Crawley grumbled.  "I've called you both here today because more information has turned up and I think it might be relevant.  I don't know if either of you can help, but that's what I need to know."  Lance's pulse quickened, this could be the break they needed to find the person responsible.

            "Okay." Jenna and Lance said in unison.

            "Drugs were found in her system."  Crawley said as he folded his hands in front of him on the desk.  Lance dropped his chin to his chest as he sighed, that wasn't what he wanted to hear.  "She tested positive for morphine, heroin and alcohol."  Crawley flipped through the pages.  "There were also a half dozen or so street mixes in there that dealers cut with the straight stuff, but that doesn’t really make much of a difference.  None of the levels were high enough to be fatal in and of itself, but they were consistent with recent usage.  The drugs are not being considered a factor in her immediate cause of death but what I need to know is if either of you know of any contacts she may have had, if she mentioned any names or anything."

            "I... why was she given a drug test?"  Lance asked without looking up.

            "It's a routine tox screen.  All autopsy's around here get one."  Crawley looked up from the papers. 

            "What does her having drugs in her system have to do with anything?"  Jenna asked, suddenly speaking up.  "She was shot to death, who cares if she was on drugs or not?"

            "Considering she was found less than 50 yards from Delray Street, probably the hottest area for drug trafficking in the city, I think it's pretty damn relevant.  It answers one question for us, what the hell she was doing down there."

            "So because she was found there with drugs in her system, you assume she was a druggie going for her fix and she got killed there?"

            "We already know she was killed at the site where she was found."  Crawley said softly, without losing his edge.

            "She's not a filthy, lowlife druggie."  Jenna shook her head as she grasped the arms of her chair so hard her knuckles were white.

            "Listen, I don't care if she bought her drugs on Rodeo Drive and shot up with a platinum needle.  That doesn't change the fact that she was found in the armpit of the city with street drugs in her system.  So yeah, that's where I'm gonna start looking."

            Jenna opened her mouth as though she was going to reply, but clamped her mouth shut instead as she sighed and crossed her arms over her chest.  Lance bit the inside of his lip and frowned, this whole investigation was going to be harder than he expected.  "So."  Crawley stood up and placed his hands flat on his desk.  "What I brought you guys here for was to see if either of you knew if she had a drug history or if this was something new she found in Vegas."

            "Wh-"  Jenna started.

            "Because I wanna know if she would have frequented that area.  And I want to know if this problem might have followed her from California."  Crawley interrupted her.  "Any names you can give me, if she mentioned meeting anyone or a name that was brought up over and over."

            "No."  Lance shook his head.  Of course, she could have chanted someone else's name all night and he wouldn't have known.

            "Miss Saylor?"  Crawley cast his stare on Jenna.

            "What?"

            "Do you have anything to add?"

            "No."  Jenna voice wobbled as she shook her head and stood up to leave.

            She was through the door before Lance jumped up to follow her.   He trotted out into the hot desert air and called out after her.  "Jenna!"   She was already standing by her car on the far end of the lot with her keys in her hand.  "What's wrong?"

            "Nothing."  She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest.

            "Are you okay?"

            "I'm fine."  She unlocked the car doors, then jumped in and slammed the door.  Lance took a second to let this all sink in before he climbed in the passenger seat and stared at her.

            "What are you doing?"  She gasped as she held the steering wheel tight in her hands.

            "I'm going with you."

            "The hell you are, get out of my car."  Jenna crossed her arms over her chest and stared Lance down.

            "What happened back there?"

            "Nothing."

            "Nothing?  You were fine then out of nowhere you jump up and leave.  What are you hiding?  If you know something that can help the case you need to go back in there and tell him."  Lance pointed toward the entrance of the station.

            "That place gives me the creeps."  She kept her arms crossed as she stared out the side window, away from the station.  "This whole city gives me the creeps.  I'll never know why Monica moved here.  Here of all places."  Jenna shook her head and sighed.  "She told me she was clean.  She said moving to Vegas was her first step to getting and staying clean because she'd be away from all those people in her life.  I tried to tell her that Vegas was the city of sin and all of that… like there's anywhere that's safe from drugs."  She rolled her eyes.  "But here?  I mean, come on."

            Lance sat in silence for a few minutes, letting Jenna fume as she tried to hold back the tears that shone in the corners of her eyes.  "For more than a year she's been telling me she was clean and now…"  She took a deep breath and shook her head.  "And now look at her."

            "She was involved with drugs?"

            "She was, yeah… but she had been clean.  She told me she was clean."  Jenna insisted.

            "Well…"

            "I know Lance, shit.  You don't have to keep pointing out how much of a screw up my sister was."

            "I'm not trying to do that."  Lance said softly.  "I'm just saying that maybe she slipped.  Maybe that night she was too drunk to make a wise decision.  I don't know… but obviously she wasn't clean."

            "She's a good person."  Jenna said as her tears overflowed and she rested her head on the steering wheel.  "Was… she was a good person."

            "I know."  Lance said softly.  His hand reached out to touch her back, but stopped a few inches short.  The way she'd responded to him up till then said she'd probably pounce on him if he touched her.  "Do you uh, do you want me to drive you back to your hotel?"  He asked a minute later.

            "N-no, I c-can do it."  She sobbed as she sat up straight with her eyes squished closed.

            "Jenna, let me drive you back… you're not…"  He changed his mind and sighed.  "I want to make sure you're safe."

            "I'll b-be f-fine."  She hiccuped.  "Just get out."

            "Not until you calm down.  You shouldn't be driving like this."  Lance reached over and took the keys out of the ignition.

            "Give those b-back!"  Jenna demanded.

            "I'm not letting you drive while you're hysterical.  Hate me all you want, I'm sure you already do… but I'm not going to let you hurt yourself or someone else."

            "I'm not going to hurt myself!"  She shouted at the top of her lungs with her hands balled into fists against her thighs.  Her words filled the silence of the tiny car and rocked Lance's ear drums.  "Give me my keys!"  She screamed, then turned to Lance and began to hit his chest with her closed fists.  "Just let me go!"

            She got a few good hits in while Lance was stunned, then he dropped the keys on the floor and grabbed her wrists with both hands to stop her from striking him again.  His arms shook with the effort of holding her still as he tried to calm her down,  "It's all right, it's all right… listen to me - "

            "Let me go."  Her voice dropped as she sobbed uncontrollably.  She collapsed forward into Lance's chest and screamed into his chest a string of unintelligible words.

            Lance looked around for a second, completely caught unaware by this whole scenario.  He cautiously released her wrists and patted her back as she continued to sob against him.  "I… it's uh… its okay Jenna.  You're okay."  He could feel the warmth of her tears through his shirt while his mind raced wondering what to do.

            Lance rubbed her back in slow and uncertain circles just waiting for her to strike out again.  He let her cry for a few more minutes before the sighed heavily into his shoulder and sat up quickly.  Her hands flew to her face and she wiped the tears away as well as she could with the sleeve of her shirt.  "I'm sorry."  she whispered as her vanity got the best of her and she ran her hands over her hair.

            "It's okay."  Lance answered just as softly.  "Here, switch seats with me."

            "No.  I just want to go home.  I want to go to my hotel."

            "That's fine.  I'll take you."  Lance insisted.  He wasn't about to let her drive herself in that condition.  He may not like her and she definitely didn't like him, but he had a conscience and he wouldn't feel right letting her leave like that.

            "I don't want you to."

            "Too bad."  Lance said delicately as he reached for the keys on the floor, then stepped out of the small car.  He walked around to the driver's side and held her door open.  "I can either take you myself, or you can walk."

            "We're in front of a police station."  She frowned through her tears.  "This is kidnapping."

            "Fine.  I'll take your keys inside and let them decide if you're okay enough to drive."  Lance shrugged and began to shut the door.

            Jenna let out a loud and exasperated breath as she stuck her foot out of the door and stood up.  "I hate you."  She grumbled under her breath.  Her purse bounced from her shoulder as she stormed around the car and flung the passenger side door open.

            "I know you do."  Lance uttered softly before he slid into the driver's seat.  "Where are you staying?"  He asked as he started the car.  Jenna didn't respond, she just set her jaw and stared out the front window.  "Okay, we'll drive aimlessly.  I didn't know you wanted to spend so much time in the car with me."  Lance backed out of the parking space and headed for the exit, leaving his car in the parking lot.

            "The MGM."

            "You're staying at the MGM?"  Lance looked over at her and raised his eyebrows.

            "Yes."  She bit her lip and turned to look out the side window.

            "Okay."  He whispered as he drove in the direction of the hotel they shared.

 

            The car ride over was quiet; Jenna's sniffing was the only sound they heard aside from the traffic and noise outside the car.  Lance pulled up in front of the hotel and handed the keys off to the valet as another opened Jenna's door.  He circled the car and waited as she stepped out.

            "You don't need to walk me in."  Jenna frowned, though she had stopped crying.

            "Yes I do."  Lance left out the fact that he was staying there as well, and had to go in regardless of what she said.

            "I don't want you to."

            "I didn't ask."  Lance held the heavy lobby door open for her and she stared at him as she stood still.  "Jenna, you're a mess.  I just want to see you to your room then I'll leave you alone.  I'm not going to try anything; I'm not going to force you to go.  I'm trying to make sure you're all right.  You can sue me later for being a gentleman, but right now I'm gonna stand here with the door open until you go inside."

            "You're an ass."  She huffed as she walked by him and stormed across the wide lobby, her sandals making a slapping noise with each step she took.  Lance followed behind her, trying to keep up as she wove through part of the casino to the elevators.  Jenna hit the button then stood there glaring at the closed doors while Lance stood beside her.  "I cannot believe you."  She whispered softly as she shook her head.

            "Where's your key?"  Lance asked.  Jenna kept her eyes forward as she bit the inside of her cheek and remained silent.

            When the elevator doors opened Lance followed her on and watched as she hit the button for the 22nd floor.  They rode up in cold silence, then walked side by side down the long hall to her room.

            "Here.  I'm here, are you satisfied?"  She fumbled in her tiny purse for her room key.  "Dammit."  She grumbled as the contents spilled to the floor.  Lance kneeled beside her to help her pick up her things but she just sighed and said,  "I've got it."

            "Sorry."  He stood up straight and put his hands in his pockets as she chased after a chapstick tube that rolled away.

            Jenna finally stood up and slid her key in the card reader, then pushed the door open.  "I'm here, I'm fine… your mission is completed." 

            "Okay."   Lance nodded.  "I uh… I'm sorry Jenna.  For everything you're mad about, I'm sorry."  He licked his lips, then turned slowly to go.

            He was a few doors away when Jenna spoke up softly,  "You know… Monica really had a thing for blondes."  Her voice cracked and turned into a sob before she finished her sentence.

            Lance turned and walked quickly back to where she stood leaning against the doorjamb with her face in her hands.  The thin shoulders under her shirt shook as her knees started to give way and she began to sink to the floor.  "Whoa, hang on."  Lance reached for her and placed his arm around her back.  "Come on."  He said softly as he kicked the door open and guided her into the room.

            "Just leave me alone."  She said between sobs.

            "I will in a minute."  Lance nodded.  He pulled the padded chair out from the desk to sit her in it, then went to the mini fridge and got a cold bottle of water out.  As he twisted the top off Jenna dropped her head onto her arms and let all of the anger and sadness she'd kept bottled up explode.  The emotion that started at the police station was finally coming to a head and Lance had no idea what to do about it.  "Here…"  He tapped her elbow with the cool bottle to let her know it was there.

            "I'm s-sorry."  She sobbed with her head still hidden by her arms.

            "What?  Jenna, you don't have anything to be sorry for."  Lance said softly as he set the water aside and placed his hand on her back, half expecting her to lurch away from his touch.  "It's okay."

            "I sh-shouln't be g-g-getting all upset like this."  She stuttered.

            "It's okay."  He rubbed her back between her shoulder blades.  "She was your sister, and… and it's okay to be emotional about… her."

            "I j-just want to b-be alone."  She sniffled and turned her face towards the wall.

            Lance waited for a minute as she continued to cry.  He'd never seen anyone almost completely lose control like this before, and he didn't want to do or say the wrong thing.  "Why uh… why don't you tell me more about her?"  He offered softly, thinking that might be a way to calm her down

            "N-no."  The sleeve of her shirt muffled Jenna's voice.  "Y-you don't even c-care."  She managed before a whole new wave of sobs overcame her.

            "Yes I do…"  Lance pulled the chair from the other side of the desk and sat beside her.  "What was her favorite color?"

            Jenna sniffed and wiped at her eyes as her lower lip trembled.  "Blue."  She whispered softly.

            "What was something she was good at?"  Lance asked as his hand returned to her back.

            "Sh-she liked taking care of things."

            "Like what?"

            "A-animals, and plants."  Jenna took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "She was always finding strays and bringing them home.  Our parents used to get so mad."  Once she began talking the rest came easily and her voice became steadier.  She told Lance about growing up in Connecticut with their grandparents and how Monica went off to UCLA for college while she went to NYU and ended up staying in the city long after graduation.  She explained how she and Monica remained close through the college years and visited each other as often as they could, but when Jenna graduated at the top of her class and Monica had to repeat another quarter, things became strained between them.

            "When she missed her graduation, that's when things went downhill.  That's… I think that’s when she really became involved with drugs."  Jenna pursed her lips and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying.  "I was finding my foothold in corporate America while she was trying to find her next score."  Jenna dabbed at her eyes and sniffed quickly.  "You don't know how many times I flew out to LA to bail her out.  I put her in rehab twice and both times she checked herself out and disappeared for weeks at a time.  The last time I went out there we got into a huge fight because I wouldn't pay off her supplier or whoever.  That was almost two years ago."  Jenna nodded and kept her eyes from Lance's.  "We didn't speak for six months after that.  I never knew if I'd see her again, or if she was alive or what… then out of the blue she called me and said she was clean and moving here to Vegas to start over.  She's been here a year… and now…"  Her face crumbled but she didn't cry, she just wiped at her eyes again and took a deep breath.

            Lance carefully placed his hand on her back to try to comfort her as she continued to dab at her constantly tearing eyes.  "We need to work together on this."  He said gently.

            She sighed softly then sniffed and kept her eyes on the wall behind Lance.  "I just… I can't let this go.  You… I mean, you're the last person to see her alive and I can't get that out of my head."

            "I don't… I don't remember anything.  Nothing at all about that night."

            "I know."

            "I don't know who did this."

            "I know you don't."

            "It wasn't me."  Lance said, though he was afraid he was going to start sounding like a broken record.

            Jenna was silent for a minute as her bottom lip quivered.  Lance wondered if it were possible for her to have any more tears to cry, but she took a deep breath instead and let it out shakily.  "I know."  Her voice was barely a whisper but Lance heard her fine.  Those two little words were all Lance needed to hear, just to know that she didn't think he killed Monica… that she finally believed him.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn