For almost a week they pretended like they were working together, when really Lance was keeping in touch with the investigators he hired and Jenna was running around on her own and meeting with Crawley every couple of days to keep the heat on.

            By the time Wednesday rolled around Johnny was insisting that Lance return to Florida.  He felt that almost three weeks was more than enough time for Lance to get his shit together and head home.  "You've got work to do out here you know."  Johnny reminded him, as if Lance could forget.

            "I know."

            "You need to come back.  And I mean soon."

            "I know."

            "Now."

            Lance sighed and dropped his head into his hands.  He had spent the past two days feeling like he was a hamster just running in place on one of those plastic wheels and was honestly ready to go home himself.  "I'll be back this weekend."

            "I'll get your flight booked."

            "Okay."  Lance conceded rather than argue that he could book it himself.

            "Saturday morning."

            "Not too early."

            "I'm getting you out here as soon as possible."

            "Cut me some slack Johnny.  I'm in Vegas… I don't wanna be on a 5am flight."

            "Fine."  Johnny made a note and nodded.

            "Thanks."  Lance bit his lip as his phone beeped in his ear.  "I'm getting another call, but I'll call you later, okay?"

            "Okay kid.  Be safe."

            "I will."

            "See you Saturday."

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded.  "See ya."  He clicked over to the other line and pinched his brow with his thumb and forefinger, “Hello?"

            "Hey, what are you doing right now?"  Jenna launched into her conversation without identifying herself as usual.

            "I uh… I was on the phone with my manager and now I'm gonna go downstairs and get something to eat."

            "At the grill?"

            "Sure."  He shrugged.  "I'm just hungry; I don't care where I eat."

            "Okay, I'll meet you there in like, five minutes."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded.

            "Bye."  She said before she disconnected, at least she was getting better about that.

            Lance stood up and pulled a sweatshirt over his head before grabbing his room key and cash.  He rode in the elevator alone down to the main floor and crossed the casino to the International Grill back in the corner of the food court.  The hostess seated him in a booth near the back before asking for an autograph with a giddy smile.  He happily scrawled his name on her seating chart and dodged her questions about whether it was true that he was in town for a murder investigation.

            He waited ten minutes before he ordered his dinner then sipped his coke and examined the dessert menu that was left for him.  When his food arrived, he decided that Jenna had once again flaked on him and began eating in silence.

            Before he could take his second bite, he saw her hustle into the restaurant and scan the almost empty dining area.  Lance raised his fork as he chewed and waved her over to where he was sitting.  She smiled in recognition then wove her way through the tables.  "Hey.  I was at the station again today trying to get those cops to give me something to go on and Crawley let something slip."  Jenna said softly as she slid into the booth across from Lance.

            "He let something slip?  That doesn't sound like Crawley."  Lance raised his eyebrow and gave her an unsure look as he cut his chicken.

            "Well, okay maybe he didn't let it slip.  But look…"  She slid a piece of paper over to him.  There was a local Las Vegas number scrawled on it and a time.

            "What's this?"

            "That… is the number that Monica called from the payphone in the hotel lobby when she left that morning.  It doesn't match any of the numbers in her address book though... I checked."  Jenna sat back looking pleased.

            "And Crawley just let this slip?"  Lance's mouth turned up in a half smile.

            Jenna shrugged and took the paper back, meaning that Lance probably didn't want to know the answer to that question.  "Yeah, kinda."

            "Okay never mind."  Lance shook his head.  "So, you have a number how about a name?  Maybe we should give it to the investigators.  They've probably got connections all over the place like with the phone company and stuff."

            "I've got it taken care of.  That's my next step."  She sighed and tucked the paper into her purse.  "What's that?"  Jenna glanced at his plate.

            Lance examined his plate and wracked his brain to try to remember what he ordered.  "Chicken.  Um, honey garlic chicken."

            "Looks good."  Jenna picked up the menu as Lance shrugged and took another bite.  "Do you mind if I order something?"

            "Go ahead."  Lance shook his head and stretched his legs out in front of him, just missing her bare leg.  He let her examine the menu for a minute before he set his fork down and said, "You know, you can't just go taking stuff from Crawley's desk.  That's gotta be all different kinds of illegal."

            "I didn't take it."

            "It just flew into your purse on its own?"

            "I wrote it down.  Nothing left his desk.  Honestly, how stupid do you think I am?"  She set the menu to the side and waved a waitress over.

            "I - “ Lance started to say that he didn't think she was stupid, but stopped and shook his head instead.  "Well if you find anything out, let me know."

            "I will.  Sheesh."  She sighed as the waitress walked up and took her order for exactly what Lance had ordered.  "Is it good?"

            "This?"  Lance poked at his dinner.  "Yeah, it's pretty good."

            "Cool."  Jenna sat back in the booth and tapped her feet under the table.  "We're getting closer Lance, I can feel it.  I've still got some of her things in my room that you have to look at.  I can draw my own conclusions but that’s just because I know her.  Maybe you'd have a different take on them, you know?"

            “Sure.” He took another bite of his mean and chewed thoughtfully. “Do you want to do that tonight?”

            “What? Have you look at the things I brought from her apartment?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I…” She reached for his untouched glass of water.  “Are you going to drink this?” He shook his head ‘no’ and waited for her answer.  “I still have some things to go through.  How about later this week?”  She asked after she’d taken a few sips of water.

            “That’s fine.” Lance cut his chicken and frowned.  “When do you think you’ll know about that number?”

            “I don’t know.” Jenna shrugged and looked around for the waitress who was supposed to be bringing her her drink. “I’m going to call tonight.”

            “Oh.”

            “I’ll let you know when I find out though.”

            “Thanks.”  Lance nodded as Jenna’s drink arrived. She downed half of it, then started in with the small talk that carried them through the rest of the meal.

 

            Lance walked Jenna back to the elevators when they were done, then headed for the high roller tables to entertain himself for the evening.  His hopes for killing a few hours were quickly dashed when he saw he had only fifty dollars in his pocket and that the high roller area was empty save for an old man at the Black Jack table.

            With a heavy sigh, he debated visiting the regular tables then decided against it.  Without proper security, he shouldn’t have even been in the city like he was. He didn’t want to press his luck so he stopped at the gift shop and picked up a deck of cards to play solitaire in his room alone.  Playing cards alone until the wee hours of the morning wasn’t what he planned to do, but when he finally stopped and looked at his watch it was after three in the morning. Lance yawned and tossed the cards onto the table where they scattered.

            He crawled into bed alone and as he shut the lights off he wondered if he’d sleep better once he got home.  The last thought he had before he shut his eyes was that however he slept when he got home had to be better than how he’d slept in Vegas.

 

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

 

            It was after ten in the morning when Lance woke up to the sound of his phone ringing, something he should have been used to.  Instead of it being Jenna or Johnny like he’d expected, he was surprised to be greeted with the deep and cheerful voice of his security guard, Lonnie. “Hey kid.  How’s Sin City?”

            “Weird.”  Lance smiled.  “Wish you were here.”

            “I can be there in a second, you know that.”

            “Yeah I know. Johnny’s wanted to send you.  How are things out there?”

            “The boys are holding together good.  They all want you home though.”

            “I know.  I’ll be home this weekend.  Johnny thinks I’m playing around out here and I’ve played around enough apparently.”

            “You’re not playing around.  We all know that.”

            “Yeah…”

            “We do, man.  We’re just worried.”

            “I know.”  Lance smiled again; it was nice to hear a new voice.

            “I was just calling to see what the scene was like out there though. I get all edgy when you’re out of town flying solo.”

            “It’s actually not that bad.  I think the news said I was home in Florida already because for the last week I’ve barely been noticed.”

            “You stayin’ inside?”

            “Pretty much.”

            “Good. Keep that up.”

            “I will.”

            “Cool.  Well you can’t come into Orlando solo so I’m gonna meet you at the gate.”

            “You don’t have to.”

            “The hell I don’t.  I don’t need you flying commercial and walking through the main terminal there with a teenie target on your ass.  I’ll meet you at the gate.”

            “Okay.” Lance laughed softly; there was no arguing with Lonnie and he was sure Johnny was the one truly insisting on it.  “Johnny will have my flight details soon.”

            “I’ll get them from him.”  Lonnie nodded and Lance could tell he was smiling as well.

            “Cool.”

            “Call me if you need me before. You don’t have to go through Johnny if you don’t want to let him know he’s right. “Thanks Lonnie.  I’ll see you this weekend, okay?”

            “Okay kid.  Take it easy.”

            “You too.” Lance hung up the phone and stretched under the covers.  He yawned then put his feet on the rough carpet of the floor and stood up.  After a quick shower he dressed and ordered up a late breakfast then ate it at the table where he resumed his game of solitaire.

 

            By the time his eyes blurred and he put the cards away, it was after noon and he was getting cabin fever again. Just as he reached for his cell phone to call one of the guys to help kill his boredom, his room phone rang on the table by his hand.

            “Hello?” He asked cautiously, still waiting for the press to track him downs.

            "The number is to a house owned by Curtis Martindale."  Jenna smiled when Lance picked up the phone.  "We've got a name and an address."

            "You got an address?"

            "I'm amazing, I know."

            "How?"

            "You don't want to know."  She shook her head and tried to take a deep breath.  Her heart was pounding in her chest and she felt like she'd just found a lost treasure.  "This is him.  It has to be."

            "Well now don't get ahead of yourself."

            "Who else could it be?  Don't rain on my parade."

            "I won't.  Sorry."  Lance smiled.  "So we've gotta call Crawley."

            "Yeah right."  She scoffed and he could practically hear her roll her eyes and shake her head.

            "Jenna… we have to.  This is information he needs."

            "We got the original information from -”

            "We?  No you stole it from him, not me."

            "Fine, I got the original information from him.  Chances are he knows about this guy already and has looked him over."

            "Then what are you going to do with the information?"

            "I don't know."  She answered, though Lance knew exactly what she was going to do.

            "Don't go over there."

            Jenna paused for a second.  "I'm not."  She said softly.

            "Dammit."  Lance said under his breath.  "I'm serious."

            "I know, I know."  She said quickly.  He was always serious.  "Anyway.  I wanted to let you know but I've gotta go."

            "Jenna…"

            "I'll call you later, okay?"

            "Jenna… don't go - “ He started to tell her not to go over there again, but she'd already hung up.

            Lance set the phone down hard and grumbled at the silent receiver.  He got up and paced the small room trying to decide if he should try to intercept her in the lobby.  "Dammit."  He cursed under his breath as he sat on the bed to tie his shoes.  "I swear I'm going to kill her myself."

            He was reaching for his windbreaker when someone knocked on his door.  Lance crossed the room in two broad steps and pulled the door open without checking who it was.  Jenna brushed past him in a flurry of words.  "Just so you don't freak out on me, I wanted to tell you I'm going to the house."

            "No."  He shook his head and shut the door behind her.

            "Yes."  She crossed her arms over her chest.

            "Let's talk about it first."  He stared her down for a minute before she rolled her eyes and sat at the little table.  "You're going to the house?"

            "Yeah."

            "Are you crazy?"

            "I've got my gun."

            "Shit."

            "It's in the car, relax."  She sighed and flipped the back of her shirt up to show him.

            "At least let me go with you."

            "You don't have to."

            "Okay listen; this is the guy that you think killed your sister, your identical twin sister.  You want to go to this guy’s house looking like her and you expect him not to lose his mind?"  Lance looked at her with wide eyes.  "If I don't go with you I'll call Crawley and have him send a squad car over."

            "You would not."

            "Bet me."  Butterflies fluttered and bounced around in his stomach at the thought of going with her.  A tiny voice in his head asked if he was the crazy one, but he shut it up by clearing his throat and staring Jenna down.

            "That would ruin our investigation."

            "If it would keep you from ending up behind the water plant tomorrow morning, then it'd be worth it."  He grabbed his keys and baseball cap. “I’ll drive.”  Lance brushed past Jenna and stepped out into the hall where he looked back and raised his eyebrow in a silent question.

            Jenna sighed and bit her cheek to keep from rolling her eyes as she followed him out.  “If you fuck this up…”

            “I won’t.”  Lance grumbled as they waited for the elevator.  He kept his mouth shut on their way to the parking garage where they were stopped for an autograph.  Jenna continued to walk ahead as Lance paused and signed the young girls shopping bag before posing for a quick photo.  “I… I have to run.”  He flashed his Teen Beat smile and nodded after Jenna.  The young girl smiled and nodded, unable to find words.

            Lance took off in a trot and caught up with Jenna as she approached his rental car.  “Sorry.”  He mumbled as he slid the key in the lock.  He climbed in beside her and tapped his hands on the steering wheel. “Directions?”

            “Go out to the freeway and go north.”  Jenna scowled and folded the paper in her hand.

            “Ooookay.”  Lance pursed his lips and backed out of the parking space.

 

            Jenna navigated while Lance drove the fifteen miles to the address connected to the number they had.  They rode in silence while Lance half hoped that no one would be home, for their own safety.  When the house came into view both Lance and Jenna were surprised. The neighborhood was high class, to say the least and the house they were looking for was one of the nicest on the block.  Lance passed the house and parked along the curb three houses up at the corner.  “That’s it.  The Spanish style one back there.” He nodded back over his shoulder.

            “I know.”  Jenna followed his stare and licked her lips nervously.     "You have to wait in the car."

            "Um, no.”  Lance practically laughed.

            "If I show up there with a guy that could ruin everything."

            "Jenna, no."

            "What if they were seeing each other?  What then?  I show up with someone else?  That could piss him off even more."

            "What if he is the guy that killed her and he thinks you’re her?"

            "You can't go with me.  Listen, you can see the door from the street.  You can wait out here and watch the whole time."

            "Do you have your cell?"

            "My phone?"

            "Yeah."

            "Yeah, it's in my bag."

            "Okay, I'm going to call you on it so just leave the call going in your purse so I can hear."

            "You want to spy on me?"  Jenna asked.  Lance just looked at her and raised his eyebrow at her.  She sighed heavily and took her cell phone out, "Fine, okay whatever.  Call me and I'll leave it on."

            “I’m serious.”  Lance said softly.

            “I know you are. You always are.”  Jenna reached into her bag and waved her cell phone at him.  “Circle around and park across the street, then call me and I’ll be on my way.”

            Lance paused for almost a full minute as he stared at her.  Her dark eyes didn’t move as she held her ground and set her jaw firmly.  So many thoughts flew through Lance’s mind, none of which he wanted to entertain so he took a deep breath and turned the car around to park across from the house they were looking for.

            “Be careful.”  Lance reached over the emergency break and took her hand quickly.  “Just… just be careful Jenna.”

            For the first time she actually looked nervous, “I will.”  She nodded briskly as she squeezed his hand and smiled up at him, realizing for the first time that Lance was worried about her, and not just clearing his own name.

            Lance held her hand for another few seconds before releasing her to grab his cell phone and call her New York number. She answered, locked her keypad so it wouldn’t hang up when she dropped it into her purse.

            “Good luck.”  He smiled then placed the hands free earpiece over his ear and adjusted the volume.

            “Thanks.” Jenna took a deep breath and stepped out of the car.

            Lance watched as she crossed the street and walked delicately up to the front door.  Without wanting to, he found himself feeling more towards Jenna than he thought he should.  Since the beginning, he couldn’t explain why he cared so much about Monica, and finding out who killed her.  Not since the first day had it been solely about clearing his name.  It had been about more than that since Jenna presented herself, and Lance didn’t know how he felt about that.  It wasn’t attraction, he didn’t want to be involved with Jenna… but through her he could begin to really see why he had hooked up with Monica in the first place, and that was something he was desperate to know.

            A sound through the earpiece brought him back to the present and he shook his head to clear his mind and concentrate on the tiny voices coming through the phone line.

 

            "Hi… my name is - “ Jenna started.

            "I know who you are."  The woman said as she kept her tiny dog back with her foot.

            "I don't think - “ Jenna started again, knowing that the woman thought she was Monica.

            "Listen, he's not here anymore okay?  He split town like three weeks ago.  I haven't seen hide nor hair of him since then."

            "Him?"

            "Marshall."

            "Marshall?"  Jenna's mind worked double-time; she was sure the guys name was Curtis.

            "Yeah Marshall."  The lady rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Listen... I know that's why you're here."  She carefully patted her perfectly styled hair into place.  "But like I said he's not here and no I don't have a forwarding address or number and I can't 'hook you up' or whatever it is you guys call it these days."

            "He left three weeks ago?"

            "Yep.  I swear he's as worthless as a pile of dog shit.  I let him move in here after getting out of prison because he swore he'd changed and found God and all that and because I'm the only family he has left.  I should have known that he wasn't gonna change though.  He's here a month before he starts dealing again, and two months later he's up and out of here."

            Jenna blinked rapidly for a minute; this woman was a wealth of information and sounded scorned.  If Jenna could choose her words wisely, this lady might be willing to part with crucial information.  "Well see, the thing is that Marshall owes me some money, a lot of it actually."

            "Yeah?  Take a number sweetie.  I've got a list of his debts a mile long.  You might as well try to get a shot of whiskey out of that cactus plant out there.  It's not going to happen."

            "He owes you money then too?"

            "Hell yeah he does.  Two months back rent and utilities.  I paid for all his shit while he was here.  I know he had the money too because there'd be all kinds of people here buying."

            "Well listen, I'm hiring an investigator to help find him." Jenna lied.  "He owes me a lot of money, but I don't know where to start looking.  If you could give me any kind of information I can name you as another claimant to try to get your money back too."  She lied through her teeth, but it sounded good.

            "Shit, right now I'll tell you anything you want to know about that asshole."  She laughed bitterly, “But it won't make a difference.  If there's one thing he's good at, it's not being found.  Know what he was in the pen for?  Grand theft auto.  That wouldn't have been such a terrible thing, but he took off after stealing the car and no one could find him for nineteen months.  Nineteen months he hid out like, four miles from where he stole the car, and no one could find him."  She shook her head and sighed.  "But hell, if you want to waste your money on an investigator, I'll help you out.  But if you find him, I want my cut back from him too."

            "You'll get it."  Jenna nodded.

            "Great, what do you need to know?"

            "Anything."  Jenna smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear.  "May I come in?"

            “Sure.  I suppose.” Heather slowly pulled the door open and held it as Jenna stepped inside.  Jenna carefully looked down into her purse to make sure her phone was still on and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the telltale green light on the top.

            She followed Heather through the wide front hall to the formal sitting room.  “You’ve got a nice place here.”

            “Thank you.” Heather smiled politely and sat down.  “It was my husbands place. I wanted to get a place of our own, but he insisted that we stay here.  I’ve made some personal touches to make it more like somewhere I’d want to live.”

            “Have you lived here long?”

            “Seven years.” Heather nodded.

            “Ahhh.”

            “So do you sell too?  Is that how he owes you money?”

            “No, I…I don’t sell.”  Jenna shook her head.  “But I lent him some money.”

            “Dumb move.”

            “I’m beginning to see that.”  She laughed lightly and sat in the chair across from Heather’s seat on the couch.  “So… where do you think me might be?”

            “Marshall?  Ha.  That’s anyone’s guess.”  Heather rolled her eyes, then grew more comfortable with Jenna and opened up completely.  They chatted for more than an hour before Heather checked her shiny gold watch and declared it time to workout. She escorted Jenna to the door and opened it with an almost happy sigh.

            “Thank you so much, Heather, I think this will really help.”

            “Anytime.” Heather smiled and leaned on the doorway.  “Let me know if you find anything.”

            “Oh, I will.” Jenna nodded quickly and trotted down the steps to the sidewalk. She cast a sideways glance back at the door.  She saw it close tightly so turned and walked up the street to where Lance was waiting in the car.

 

            As soon as Jenna climbed into the passenger seat, Lance had the engine going and was ready to leave.  "Marshall."  He said as they pulled away from the curb.

            "We've got a name."  Jenna beamed from the passenger seat.  "Holy shit."  She leaned down and switched her phone off as Lance pulled the hands free device from his ear.

            Lance smiled and shook his head.  "I swear, we'll never remember all these details."

            "Yeah.  Stop by the store on the way back to the hotel.  I have an idea."

            "Okay."  Lance maneuvered through the residential streets to the busy main road.  They drove in happy silence for a few miles before Lance licked his lips, "So who was she then?  I couldn't hear half of what she was saying."

            "His sister.  He was her baby brother.  Curtis was her husband, her significantly older husband who died late last year."

            "Ahhh."

            "Yeah."

            "So she married into the money then."

            "Ooooh yeah, big time."

            "Hm."  Lance bit his lip and turned into the parking lot for a drug store.  "Will this work?"

            "For what?"  Jenna looked up from her hands and out the window.

            "You wanted me to stop at the store on the way back because you had an idea."

            "Oh." Jenna said softly.  A light bulb went off in her head as the idea came back, "Yes!  Yeah, this will work fine.  I want to get note cards so we can write down everything we know."  She jumped out of the car then stood by the hood waiting for Lance.  "Come on."  She waved for him to follow.

            Lance pursed his lips, then killed the engine and got out to follow her.  "Note cards?"

            "Yeah.  I read this book once where the detective wrote all the facts on note cards and then kind of put them in order."

            "We don't have an order."

            "I know.  Well, we kind of do.  But anyway, maybe putting the facts into words will help us see something we missed before."  She pushed the door open and held it for him.  "It can't hurt, right?"

            "Right." Lance stepped into the air-conditioned store and followed her with his head down and his hands in his pockets.

            "This way I'll be able to write stuff down right away so that I don't forget it after an hour, you know?  Like all that stuff with Heather."

            "Well yeah, but you could always call her and ask."  Lance shrugged and zig zagged down the aisles with her in search of index cards.

            "No, she's leaving tomorrow for vacation.  She'll be gone for another three weeks."  Jenna shook her head and stopped abruptly.  Lance stopped an inch short of knocking into her, and put his hands on her shoulder to steady himself.

            He left them there while she studied the index cards with a look of intense concentration.  After a minute she shrugged out from under his hands and picked up a pack of one hundred plain white lined cards.  "One or two?"  She asked without looking up at Lance.

            "W-what?"

            "One or two?  Do you think we'll fill up more than a hundred cards?"

            "I… yeah.  Sure, probably."  Lance nodded and swallowed hard.

            "Okay."  Jenna picked up another pack and handed them to Lance as she looked at the little plastic card keepers.  She chose a blue one and a pack of ballpoint pens then headed for the front of the store, simply assuming that Lance would follow.

            When they got to the register she paid for everything and threw a pack of gum in for good measure.  "So you're going to fill those out tonight?"

            "We."  Jenna bit her lip and swung the bag at her side as Lance unlocked the car.  "We're going to fill these out tonight because we both have information."

            "We have the same information."  Lance tried to argue to get out of it; he didn't want to spend another night replaying the details in his mind.

            "Wrong.  I wasn't there the night you and Monica… you know.  And you weren't there the twenty years before that. We've got different information."  She ducked into the car and held the bag on her lap. They were silent for the rest of the ride to the hotel and on their walk into the lobby.

            "Okay I have to go to my room real quick and check my voice mail and stuff.  I'll meet you in your room then?  In like, twenty minutes?"  Lance asked as he hit the 'up' button for the elevator.

            "Yeah."  Jenna nodded and smiled at her reflection.  Seeing the image of herself looking back made her feel comforted, as if it was really Monica… and she wasn't gone after all.  When Lance's hand came into the reflection to touch her back and edge her onto the elevator, her smile fell and she exhaled deeply.

            "You okay?"  Lance asked softly as the doors shut. He hit the buttons for both of their floors and leaned against the far wall.

            "I'm fine."  She said softly, staring intently at the brightly colored carpet.

            "Are you -”

            "I'm fine."  She met his eye and forced a tight smile.

            "Okay." He mumbled softly as he tapped his fingers on his thigh and stared up to watch the numbers crawl to their floors.  Hers came first and she stepped off without a word.  "I'll see you in a few minutes."

            She nodded, then turned briefly, "Okay."  She forced another smile before she continued down the hall and the doors shut to block Lance's view.

 

            His room was cold and dark, just like he left it.  There was a red light blinking on the phone indicating that he had a message, so he dropped his cell on the mattress then followed it to lie diagonally across the bed.  Lance lifted the receiver and followed the directions to get his messages.  The first was from Johnny with his flight information and other important work news for Lance.  Lance wrote down the details and confirmation numbers then tucked the paper in his pocket and went to the next message.

            He listened through the second message all the way through, then replayed it to make sure he'd heard right.  Officer Montes was calling to let him know that Kelly and Skank, Monica's friends from LA, were en route to Las Vegas as of that afternoon.  "They should be here either late tonight or tomorrow sometime.  We're going to try to intercept them at the border just to see what they're here for, but we wanted to let you know in case they tried to reach you."

            The officer concluded the message as Lance's heart crept out of his stomach and back into place.  "Fuck." He whispered softly as he pressed two to save the message and immediately dialed Jenna's room.  "Have you listened to your messages?"  Lance asked when Jenna answered the phone.

            "Not yet, no.  Why?"

            "Officer Montes called.  Apparently those two kids from LA are on their way to Vegas."  Lance took two steps toward the balcony then turned around and stepped back to the bed in a nervous caged animal pacing motion.

            "Kelly and Skank?"  Jenna asked.

            "Uh huh."

            "Hmm, what else did he say?"

            "That's pretty much it."  Lance turned around again.

            "Okay.  Well I'll have to listen to my messages.  The lights been on for a couple days now, so…” She shrugged.

            "You ha - “ Lance started in on the 'you haven't checked your messages in days?!' speech, then stopped when he thought of the argument that would surely follow.  "I for one am glad to be leaving."

            "You're leaving?"

            "I told you I was leaving, didn't I?"

            "Not since… I mean, at the funeral…” Jenna seemed flustered.

            "Oh, no I'm leaving on Saturday."  Lance tugged on his lip.  "My manager called and I've got work I have to do… so yeah.  But it's probably good, you know, since those two are coming to town.  I don't know if I want to be here for that."

            "They're harmless."  Jenna shook her head.

            "So we think."

            "Lance… they're harmless.  If they wanted to hurt us or whatever, they would have done it by now." Jenna argued.

            Lance stopped pacing and ran his hand through his hair a few times.  "Either way, I'll feel better being in Florida until Crawley or whoever gets to talk to them."

            Jenna sighed, "Whatever.  Are you coming over or not?"

            "Yeah."  He sighed right back at her.  "I'll be there in a few minutes.  Do I need anything?"

            "Snacks."

            "Snacks?"

            "Yeah, hit the vending machines by the elevators and bring some sugar or something, this might take a while."

            "Okay."  Lance rattled the change in his pocket to make sure he had enough.  "Any requests?"

            "Chocolate."

            "Okay."  Lance smiled.  'I'll see you in a few."  He hung up then grabbed another couple dollars from his wallet and headed to Jenna's room with his cell phone tucked into his pocket, just in case.

 

            Three minutes later he was standing in front of the vending machine with four dollars to spend and no idea what to get.  He pursed his lips and hit A5 to get M&M's, then decided that he'd probably want some too.  With fifty cents in his pocket, he walked away with three bags of M&M's, two bags of Skittles and a package of Rolos to kill the caramel craving he'd had when he studied the vending machine.

            Jenna seemed pleased with his snack selection as she ushered him into her room where she had the cards and pens set up on the table.  "I've kind of started already.  This is going to work good I think… we can sit here and each do our own but share the idea so we don’t get too many duplicates."

            "Okay."  Lance bobbed his head in agreement.  "Sure, that sounds uh… good."

            "Cool."  She took a bag of M&M's and opened it.  "How much do I owe you?"   She waggled the open bag back and forth.

            "Oh, nothing.  Don't worry about it."

            "Are you sure?"

            "I'm sure."  He nodded.  "We can just share them all… I didn't get all of this for me."

            "Okay."  She shrugged and poured the bag in her hands into the center of the table.  "Easy access.  Do you want some water?"

            "Sure."  Lance shrugged out of his sweatshirt and sat at the table where the stack of cards hadn't been touched.  Jenna handed him a bottle of water and sat across from him.

            "So… just write anything."

            "Okay."  Lance picked up a pen and stared at the cards as she emptied the rest of the snack onto the center of the table and picked up a few M&M's.

            The ballpoint pen in his hand bounced against the stack of note cards in front of him.  Lance looked up slowly and saw Jenna writing furiously fast across the card in her hand then put it aside and reached for another one.  He watched her petite hands do five cards before she looked up and glanced at his first card that was still blank.  "Lance?"

            "Hmm?"  His eyes snapped up to hers.

            "Are you going to write?"

            "Yeah, I'm thinking."  He cleared his throat and moved the pen to a writing position.  "What kind of facts are we putting down here?  Just facts about the case?"

            "Well… yeah.  What were you thinking of?"

            "Well, I mean… did you want facts as far as what I know about the night before?  Like a timeline?"

            "Sure.  Anything that might help."  Jenna nodded, then bent over another card to write out something that popped in her head.

            "Okay."  Lance licked his lips and quickly swept the back of his hand under his nose.  He held the pen over the blank card in front of him and some irrational part of his mind thought, "These would catch at least a few bucks on e-bay."  He shook the thought from his mind and carefully wrote a fact on the card in front of him.  He examined it for a second, pursed his lips, then sighed and set it down to work on the next.  Jenna looked up as he began to write his second one, and smiled.

            As they wrote, their hands reached for the center of the table where the M&M's and skittles were strewn about haphazardly.  Occasionally their fingers would bump and they'd stop to look up and grin before taking a snack and popping it into their mouths.  When they were finally done they sat back and munched on what was left of the candy.  "I think my brain is going to melt out of my ears."  Lance said as he leaned back in the chair and chewed on a green skittle.

            "Same here.  But look, we've used almost all of the cards and none of the facts are repeated.  I don't think."  She frowned and reached for his stack.  "Now all we have to do is shuffle them up." Jenna covered her mouth as she yawned.

            Lance bent his elbow to look at his watch, "Oh man."

            "What time is it?"

            "It's almost one."  Lance brought his chair back to all four legs and stood up with a grunt.  He stretched his back, rolled his shoulders then yawned, and extended his arms out in front of him.  "I need to go to bed."

            "Oh.  Yeah."  Jenna nodded quickly and set the cards in the little plastic holder they bought.

            "We need to go see Crawley in the morning."  Lance bent to pick his sweatshirt off the floor and folded it over his arm.

            "Yeah."

            "Do you want to just call me when you get up… or…?"

            "Let’s go over at nine."

            "Nine in the morning?"  Lance tried not to groan as he stifled another yawn.

            "Yeah.  I'll swing by your room on the way out and we can go together."  Jenna stood up, then blushed and added, "So we don't have two cars down there."

            "Right.  Okay.  So you'll come get me at nine?"

            "Like eight thirty so we can be there by nine."  She shook her head.

            "It's almost one."  He said again, in case she missed it the first time.

            "Uh huh."  She yawned and tried to keep her eyes off of her bed.

            Lance bit his lip and shook his head, "Okay."  He sighed and gave up the argument.  "I'll see you in the morning then."

            "Okay."  Jenna smiled and watched as he stumbled for the door.  "Eight thirty."

            "Right.  Got it."  He raised his hand over his head in t partial wave without looking back.  Once in the hall he grumbled all the way back to his room about how late it was and how early he had to be up and how if he wanted to run on no sleep in Vegas he'd have told Joey to stay with him.  But in the end, even when he was curled up in bed, he lay awake for another hour thinking about the cards; trying to see how they could all fit together to show them the answer they'd been searching so hard for.

 

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

 

            As promised, Jenna was knocking on Lance's door just after eight thirty the next morning.  Lance chugged what was left of his room service coffee, choked for a minute on the bitterness, then opened the door with a bright red face.

            "You okay?"

            "Uh huh."  Lance squeaked, and then coughed again.  "Went down the wrong pipe."  He managed between coughs.  "I'm okay."

            "Are you ready to go?"

            "Yeah."  Lance coughed once again for good measure and pulled his cap down over his still damp hair.

            "Do you always wear that?"

            "What?"  He looked down at his well-worn jeans.

            "The hat."

            "Oh."  Lance fingered the brim with a quick smile.  "No, not all the time."

            "Are you a big baseball fan?"

            "Not really."  He shook his head then pulled the cap off to see which hat he'd put on.  "Red Sox.  That's Boston, right?"

            "Yeah."  Jenna laughed lightly as she held the door open for him.  "Come on, you don't want to be late."

            "Late?"

            "I called ahead and actually got an appointment.  Crawley was getting all cranky because I'd keep showing up without an appointment.  Like he's all important or something."  She rolled her eyes and Lance realized that she was joking.

            "Are you joking?  Wow… I didn't think you had it in you."  He pulled his hat back into place as he passed her and stepped out into the hall.

            "I'm completely human you know.  I can be funny.  I have my moments."

            "Well, I'm glad you finally decided to let them show."  Lance raised an eyebrow at her as she fell into step beside him on their way down the hall.

            "Yeah… well…” She sighed and slipped partway back into her shell.  "My moments don't last long."

            "Aww, I bet they could."  Lance gave her his best photo smile and pushed the down button.  She smiled in response and he saw that the moment wasn't completely lost.  "See?"

            "Shut up."  She laughed and hit the button again before clearing her throat.  "So do you think they'll have any new information?"

            Lance sighed and stared up at the lights above the elevator.  "I don't know.  It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say about what we found.  I mean they might already know... but still."

            "Hrm.  They might not."  Jenna said softly as the elevator dinged and the doors opened in front of them.  Lance put his hand over the doors and let her step on first, then followed her on and rode down in silence.

            "Do you want me to drive?"  He asked when they made it to the parking garage.

            "Sure."  Jenna nodded and looked around at the cars.  "Where are you?"

            "Over here."  Lance pointed to the right and headed for his rental.  "Man, it's early."  He yawned as the car beeped beside him.  "Did you have breakfast?"

            "We're not stopping."  Jenna gave him a look over the top of the car.

            "I was just asking."

            "Yes, I had breakfast."

            "Okay."  Lance slid into the driver's seat and adjusted the rear view mirror for the five hundredth time.  "Then we won't have to stop anywhere.  I don't wanna be late you know."  He smirked at her as she fastened her seatbelt, and actually elicited another little laugh.

 

            They drove the familiar roads to the police station and parked between two squad cars by the door.  Jenna burst out of the car like a spring loaded jackrabbit and headed straight for the front doors.  Lance locked the car and trotted to keep up with her as the heavy glass doors swung shut behind Jenna.

            "We have an appointment with Crawley.  Can we go up?  Is he in his office?"  Jenna was asking when Lance leaned on the counter beside her.

            "Let me see."  The young officer picked up the phone and dialed a four digit extension.  "What's your name?"

            "Jenna Saylor."

            "Okay."  He mumbled as the phone rang.  "Yes hi, Detective Craw - Yes okay."  He paused for a second with a quick blush.  "Yes your nine o'clock appointment is here.  No sir.  No sir.  Jenna Saylor.  Okay.  Yes sir.  Thank you."  He hung up and nodded toward the elevators.  "He'll be waiting in his office, you can go on up."

            "Thanks."  Jenna said as she turned and walked toward the stairs.  Lance followed a few steps behind and bounded up the stairs, their footsteps echoing through the empty stairwell.  "Crawley's such a hard ass.  Ten bucks says he was giving that poor kid a hard time."

            "Yeah well… you've gotta be kind of tough when you're dealing with -”

            "He doesn't have to be an ass."  Jenna frowned over her shoulder as she pulled the door open on Crawley's floor.

            Lance sighed and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from arguing, "I guess not." He mumbled softly through half closed lips.  They walked down to Crawley's little hole in the wall office and Lance knocked once before Jenna pushed the door open.

            "Hey guys, come on in.  Mr. Bass, it's good to see you."  Crawley didn't stand up from his desk as he waved them in.  "Pull up a chair."

            "Thank you."  Lance said as he sat in the torn chair on the right.  Jenna reluctantly sat beside him and folded the hem of her shirt over and under nervously.

            "Okay, whatcha got?"  Crawley said quickly as he sipped at his cold coffee.  He made a face and poured what was left in his trashcan then looked at Lance and Jenna expectantly.

            "Well, I went and talked to Heather Martindale and -”

            "How did you hear about Heather Martindale?"

            "I…” Jenna blushed.  "I found her number in Monica's apartment?"  She tried feebly.

            "Fuck.  Yeah right."  Crawley rolled his eyes and scratched at his jaw.  "Well we've already questioned her and she doesn't know anything."

            "On the contrary."  Jenna shook her head and Lance sat back and watched with a half smile.  "I was able to talk to her and I found out that her brother is the guy we need to look for.  Marshall.  He was in prison for twenty-six months for stealing a car and evading arrest.  When he got out he came out here to Vegas and moved in with her for a couple months."

            "And he split three weeks ago, got it."  Crawley nodded.  "Do you have anything there I can use?"

            "Yeah, he split three weeks ago."  Jenna scowled.  "Three weeks ago my sister was killed.  He's the kind of guy who commits a crime then leaves or hides out.  I think he killed my sister then took off."

            "She said he left on a Tuesday."

            "So?"

            "So Monica was murdered on Friday morning."  Crawley gave her a look.  "We've looked into him already."

            "What if he was hiding out or staying with friends that week?"

            "What if he split on Tuesday and just doesn't have the balls to come back and face that woman again?"  Crawley pushed his chair back and faced Jenna.  "I can't build a case on 'what ifs.'  I need facts.  I've got my feelers out for this Marshall kid, but right now we're looking into some other trouble makers who were actually here at the time of the murder."

            "So you're going to completely write this guy off just because he wasn't at home that week?"  Jenna's jaw dropped slightly.

            "I told you I've got my feelers out for this guy.  I've seen his record, he doesn't have a history of violent crime and whatever he was dealin' here in town wasn't what she was lookin for.  Not to mention he catered to the casino crowd, not the Delray street crowd."

            "Oh for fucks sake." Jenna stood up and tossed her bag over her shoulder.  "I'll find this guy on my own and prove that he's the one that did it.  I know it."

            "I would not advise you to - “ Crawley started.

            "Thank you, goodbye." Jenna brushed past Lance and hurried out of the room.

            Lance looked over at Crawley and said, “She's just really determined to find this guy, you know…” He tried to explain.

            "She's gonna get herself hurt."  Crawley shook his head.  "But listen, we're doing what we can here."

            "I know."  Lance nodded then tapped on the edge of Crawley's desk before he followed Jenna out of the station.  He found her leaning against the side of his rental car practically fuming in the heat.  "Jenna…” He sighed.

            "I cannot believe that man."

            "He's doing all he can."

            "That's bullshit Lance and you know it.  He wouldn't even give me the time of day in there.  I've told you everything we found out about this guy.  You think we're right, don't you?  I mean, Marshall has to be the guy."

            "I…” Lance bit his lip and squinted into the sun.  "Yeah, I think he is."  He nodded.

            "So why won't he listen?  Who's his supervisor?  We need to escalate this."  Jenna began to pace between the two cars.

            "Right now we need to go back to the hotel and relax for a bit."

            "Lance…” She sighed.  "Listen, you're leaving tomorrow, you can go relax."

            "You need to leave too."  He said quickly.

            "What?"

            "You need to leave too."  Lance repeated.

            "No I don't."

            "Yes you do."

            "No I don't."  She frowned deeply and stared at him.

            Lance smiled, “Yes you do."

            "No I don't."

            "Yes you do, infinity."  Lance leaned against the car beside his and looked at her.  "You're getting too stressed and too… too into this.  And with those two guys coming from LA and not knowing what they're about I think… well it'd be safer if we weren't here.  Really.  We need to let the cops deal with that." He paused and looked at her to make sure he still had her attention.  When he was sure that he did he continued, "I know that you really want to nail this guy... and I do too.  But you're not going to do anyone any good if you're completely worn out, injured, broke or exhausted."

            "I'm not -”

            "All I'm asking is that you go home for two weeks."

            "Home?"

            "To New York.  I'm going to Florida for a couple weeks; you need to go to New York."

            "I can't just leave Lance.  Not in the middle of this.  We're getting so close."

            "This could go on for months."  He said softly.  "You know that.  Investigations like this take a lot of time.  You can't afford to stay out here indefinitely.  You have a life to get back to."

            Jenna just shook her head and dropped her chin to her chest, “But if we both leave they'll think we've given up, and I haven't yet."

            "Neither have I."

            "But…” She bit her lip and looked up at him with her head tilted to the side.  "Lance, we're getting so close to solving this."

            "I know we are."  Lance nodded.  "But you yourself said we can't go back to Delray Street any time soon because the people there are getting leery.  And Heather is gone for now too, so we can't get anything from her. I've got the private investigators looking out for Marshall.  They can hold down the fort for a couple weeks."

            "I just can't see leaving."

            "You can't do anything more here.  You and I can keep in touch with each other, and we can both keep in touch with the investigators here."  He put his hand on top of hers and sighed after a pause.  "Just for a few weeks or whatever.  I've got work I need to do and I'm sure you do too."

            "I -”

            "You have a job back in New York, Jenna.  You need to take care of that while you still have it.  Two weeks, that's all I'm asking for."

            She averted her eyes and stared out at the street as her eyes moistened.  "You won't forget?"

            "What?"

            "You won't forget?"  She repeated as she looked right at him.

            "To come back?  No, of course not."  Lance shook his head and looked down at his sneakers.  Over the past few days he was noticing the little things that made him see why he had been attracted to Monica.  If she was anything at all like her sister, he could even see why he married her.  "I… I'll be back."

            "Do you promise?"

            "I promise.  I'll be back in a few weeks.  I just… I have to go back.  That's not an option, I mean…” He bit his lip and let out his breath.  "I mean I have to go home for a bit, and so do you.  But we'll meet up back here when we're ready, okay?  I'll call you or you can call me or whatever.  We'll be in touch."

            "Okay."  She tried to sound sure, but the reluctance in her voice showed through clearly.  "I'll find a flight out tomorrow."

            "Okay." Lance said softly with a brief nod.  "You'll feel better about this when you get home to your own place."  She nodded in silence, then took a deep breath and opened the car door.  "I hope you're right."  She mumbled as she slid into the driver's seat.

            "I am."  Lance whispered as he reached for the handle on the passenger side.  He knew he was right.  Some time away from Las Vegas and everything the city represented was just what both of them needed.  A few weeks away from the city, and each other.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn