Lance's flight left early the next morning and by five o'clock Florida time, he was pulling into his driveway.  The rush of seeing his front door was greater than he ever expected and he couldn't get is key to work fast enough.  When he finally made it inside he dropped his luggage and went straight for his couch.  The red light on his answering machine blinked on and off in the corner of his eye but he managed to ignore it for a whole twenty minutes.

            The only thing that got him off of his soft leather couch was the growling in his stomach.  He hadn't eaten since the dried out steak he was served on the plane and even that was hours ago.  On his way through his kitchen he hit the message button and heard the electronic voice say, "You have sixty seven new messages.  Message one, received at 1:23pm on Monday - "  Lance hit the stop button and raked his fingers through his hair.  Sixty seven messages was too many for him to even think about answering right then.

            He pulled his refrigerator open and winced.  What food was in there had long since gone bad and headed to the great food heaven in the sky.  "Nasty."  He whispered as he pulled open his fruit drawer, glad to see that it was empty.  "Gross." He crinkled his nose and decided against opening any of the take out containers lined on the second shelf.

            "That's what I get for making my four day trip to Vegas last three weeks." Lance thought to himself as he picked up the phone and hit #4 to speed dial the pizza place up the street.  He ordered a large pepperoni with black olives, knowing that he couldn't finish it all for dinner, but that he'd need breakfast in the morning and cold pizza was better than whatever was growing in his fridge.

            He called JC while he waited for his dinner to arrive and was honestly glad to hear his voice.  "You're home?"  Was the first thing JC said when he picked up the phone.  Lance frowned for a moment, then realized he must have looked at his caller ID and recognized the number.

            "Yeah."  Lance smiled.  "Finally."

            "Right on man, perfect timing.  We've seriously gotta get down to work, so now that you're here we can."  JC smiled.  "I'm glad you're back."

            "Me too."  Lance said honestly as he opened his pantry and tore open the case of Mountain Dew he kept there.

            "Have you called Johnny yet?"

            "No, I just got in.  I'll see him on Monday."

            "Does he know you're back?"

            "Yeah, he made my flight arrangements."  Lance smiled and poured his soda over ice in a glass.  "I've got a shitload of messages to go through, so I'm sure he left our meeting details in one of them."

            "Yeah.  But if you show up on Monday at eight, you'll be covered."  JC laughed.

            "Okay."

            "So what are you up to tonight?" JC asked and Lance heard him thumping around on his end.

            "Um, staying home.  I should probably go through my mail and do all that catching up stuff."  Lance sighed and looked at the blinking light on his machine again.  If he had sixty-seven voicemails he didn't even want to think about what his email account would look like.  And the pile of mail in his mail drop by the gate was probably overflowing.

            "Yeah, that sounds good."

            "You?"

            "Um, yeah… I'm going out I think.  I don't have any voice mails or anything." JC laughed lightly.  "There's this new club thing opening at the beach so we… I might go to that.  We all got invites, I'm sure you did too."

            "Ahh, no thanks."  Lance shook his head.  "I've got pizza on the way and everything."

            "Sounds like fun.  I had a veggie burger and some tofu stir fry for dinner."

            "Yeah?"  Lance made a face.

            "Yeah, I'm trying this whole vegetarian thing.  It's uh… it's not too bad actually."

            "Okay."

            "But hey listen, I've gotta run.  Gimme a call tomorrow, we'll get together and hang out or something.  Before we have to get back to work."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded and walked over to his front door to wait anxiously for his pizza as his stomach growled again.

            "I'm glad you're back."  JC said again.

            "Yeah… thanks.  Me too."  Lance smiled then they both hung up.  He waited around for another ten minutes before his pizza arrived and he realized that he didn't have any cash.  "Shit.  Can you hang on a second?  I have to find my checkbook."  Lance set the pizza on the floor of his entry way and ran down the hall to his office.  Since he never got to actually write checks of his own, he had to look for another couple minutes to find the damn thing before he could write out the check.  "Sorry about that.  I uh… I just got home and…" He shrugged, as if the pizza delivery guy cared.

            "No problem." The kid smiled as he tucked the check in his pocket, having noticed the large tip Lance had added to the total.

            "See ya."  Lance shut the door and inhaled the thick, fattening scent of the pizza.  He carried it to the kitchen and ate it straight from the box, chasing every other bite with a swig of Mountain Dew.

            To his surprise, he finished more than a quarter of the pizza before he was stuffed and almost tired.  He placed the whole box in the fridge and decided that Sunday would be spent cleaning out the disgusting stuff, doing his voicemail, grocery shopping and possibly his mail.  But first he wanted to check in with the others, now that his stomach was full and no loner growling.

            Lance picked up his phone and collapsed into his deep couch then dialed Chris' number.  If anyone could entertain him for a minute, it would be Chris.  "Hey."  Lance said when he answered the phone.

            "Who's this?"

            "It's me."

            "Me who?"

            "Chris..."  Lance sighed softly.  After seven years the guys didn't even need to speak to know who was on the other end of the line with them.  There was a certain vibe each sent out into the silence that identified them, so Lance knew that Chris was just jerking his chain.

            "Hey listen, I don't just talk to anyone.  Who is this?  How did you get this number?"

            "I'm in town man, I was just calling to see if -”  Lance continued ignoring Chris.

            "Who is this?  What town are you in?  Are you stalking me now?  I'm gonna hang up."

            "Chris, seriously."

            "How do you know me?  Who is this?"

            Lance pinched the bridge of his nose and smiled, he was going to have to play along in order to get anywhere with Chris.  "This is Lance."

            "Lance?  Lance who?"

            "Lance Bass."

            "Lance Bass…"  Chris said under his breath.  "Bass… yeah that rings a bell.  Where do I know you from?"

            "I'm a friend of Joey's."

            "Joey huh?"

            "Yeah."

            "Joey's a crapweasle."

            "I know."  Lance laughed.

            "So you're in town huh?"  Chris asked finally.

            "Yep.  I landed like, three hours ago."

            "And you're already bored?"

            "I have sixty seven new messages on my voicemail that I don't want to answer and I haven't even turned on my computer to look at my email."

            "Ouch."

            "Yeah."

            "So…"

            "So anyway, yeah.  I'm back.  I'm just calling to check in with everyone and… and say hi."

            "Well hi."  Chris smiled and popped the top off of a bottle of beer.  "I'll have a beer in your honor."

            "What kind?"

            "Um."  Chris tilted the bottle away from him to read the label.  "Sam Adams.  Where'd I get this?"

            "Probably from the crapweasle."  Lance chuckled and rubbed his eyes.

            Chris shrugged and took a big gulp of the beer.  "Well it tastes like piss."

            "Most beer does."  Lance sighed.

            "I'll have to tell the crapweasle that his beer tastes like piss."

            "I'm sure he'll enjoy hearing that."

            "I've changed my mind; I'll have a swig of piss tasting beer in your honor.  And now I'll have a shot or two of this fine scotch in my honor."

            "Sounds like fun."

            "Eh.  Beats calling up random friends I've ignored for a week."  Chris smiled and actually finished the beer in his hand.  He'd rather choke it down than toss away perfectly good alcohol.

            "I've been busy."

            "Uh huh, I know."  Chris belched lightly.

            "Excuse you."

            "You too."

            "Don't go getting drunk alone."

            "Why not?  Wanna come over and get drunk with me?"

            "I dunno… last time I got drunk I got married."

            "I promise not to drag you to the nearest chapel."  Chris laughed which in turn made Lance laugh.  "Come on over.  Justin'll be here any minute and he's bringing the good stuff."

            "Good stuff?"

            "Guinness!"  Chris shouted into the phone.

            "Lovely.  Isn't it a bit early for Guinness?"

            "Is the sun down?"

            "Um..."  Lance looked out his window.  "Yeah."

            "Well okay then."  Chris rolled his eyes and hopped up onto his counter.  "Did you call the pretty one yet?  Because you know if you didn't call him the instant you set foot in your house and called me first, he'll have a coronary."

            "Yeah, I called him already.  He said he's glad I'm back so we can really get to work.  I kinda hoped you guys would have it all done by the time I got back."

            "Yeah right.  Jace has been goofing off since… well since before you and Joey went to Vegas and Justin is all gaga over his newest Miss Thang."

            "JC doesn't goof off."

            "The hell he doesn't."  Chris laughed out loud.  "Ask him who Niagara is and what they've been doing.  I can assure you man, he's goofing off."

            "Well he didn't sound too goofy when I called from Vegas to tell him I was married to a dead girl."

            "Yeah but see that's not funny.  That's nothing to goof around about.  Unless you're Joey, because I know he got a few good jabs in there."

            "You could say that, yeah."  Lance nodded; he was thankful that Joey was there at the beginning to ease the stress a little.

            "So when JC wasn't planning your courtroom defense or whatever, the boy was goofing off.  It's a good thing you came back though because we've got meetings up the ass next week."

            "Yeah."  Lance sighed.  "When do we start the promo stuff?"

            "We find out Monday."

            "What's the deal with the press over this?"

            "The new album?  Nothing man… I haven't heard anything other than we'll be working on it this month which is… well it's kinda true I guess."

            "I mean about me."

            "There's a rumor going around that you're dating Em again."

            "I never dated her to start with."

            "Nah, but the rumor's going around again.  Apparently she was in Vegas last weekend."

            "Really?"  Lance frowned; she hadn't called to say hi or anything.  "But nothing about the case?"

            "Believe it or not that died down about a week after it was first outted or whatever.  Once they heard you weren't involved in the murder, they left it alone.  Which is horse shit because you're fucking married.  If I went out and got married to some chick I didn't even know I'd be burned at the stake by rabid Nsync fans, and with you they're just like, 'oh Lance is so cuuuute!  Who cares!’ it's disgusting."

            "The fans haven't said anything?  Really?"

            "Honestly, from what I've heard most of them think that part is a rumor.  It hasn't been confirmed or anything I guess."

            "Wow."

            "Yeah.  Wow."  Chris rolled his eyes.  "So are you coming over or not?"

            Lance thought for a moment, "Nah.  I really need to get settled in here.  I haven't been home in forever and..." He sighed and sunk deeper into his couch.  "And I'm just gonna lay around here tonight."

            "Okay.  Your loss."

            "Eh."

            "I'll tell Justin you said hi."

            "Great."

            "Well go lay on your couch and Al Bundy the night away.  I'll catch up with you later."

            "All right.  Thanks Chris."

            Chris laughed and opened the cupboard to find his shot glasses.  "For what?"

            "Just... just being you I guess."

            "Oh don't go getting all sentimental and crap.  I'll see you Monday."  Chris rolled his eyes, though he was touched.  "Bye."

            "Bye." Lance hung up the phone and smiled.  He had missed the guys much more than he wanted to let on.

 

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

 

            Over the next week Lance got back into Nsync mode as they met up at the compound to talk about the new album and when they would start working on it.  JC and Chris surprised Johnny by presenting some songs they'd written as possible additions to the album, and were pleased to hear that they would definitely be in the running.

            After being home more than a week he still hadn't heard from Jenna, so on Monday morning he called the number she left with him in New York.  It rang through to her voice mail, so he listened to the outgoing message with a smile.  "This is Jenna, if you've reached this that means I'm out and about for the moment.  I am back in town though, so please leave a message here and I'll return your call as soon as I return."

            "Hey Jenna, this is uh... this is Lance.  I was just calling to see what you were up to and if you'd uh, heard anything.  Or whatever.  So give me a call when you get this and I'll talk to you later.  Bye." He hung up and ran his hand over his face, he hated the way he sounded on answering machines.

 

            Jenna didn't call back until Tuesday evening just as Lance settled into his couch after having another dinner of pizza and breadsticks.  He wasn't expecting his cell phone to ring, so when it rang and vibrated on his hip as he sat down he frowned at it and lifted it to his ear.  "Hello?"  Lance yawned and held his cell phone to his ear.

            "Hi."  Jenna said softly.

            "Jenna?"

            "Yeah, hi."

            "H-hi.  What... where are you?"

            "I'm in Vegas.  I had to come back Lance, I was going nuts."

            Lance sighed and ran his free hand over his face.  "You're in Vegas?  When did you get there?"

            "Just now."

            "Just now?"

            "Well I just got to the hotel, yeah."

            "Are you at the MGM?"

            "Yeah."  Jenna sighed, relieved that he wasn't mad at her.  "I had to come back."

            "Why?  What happened?"

            Jenna paused for a second as she bit her lip.  "Nothing.  I just... I went home and settled things there then I paced around my apartment for a couple days and all I could think about was getting back to work on this."

            "Okay listen, I'll be out there in like… shit…"  He looked over at his calendar.  "I can't leave here until Friday I think."

            "That's okay."

            "No, Jenna.  I don't want you to do anything until I get there."

            "I'm just -”

            "No, uh uh." Lance shook his head.  "Don't do anything until I get there.  If you go to Delray Street and get yourself in trouble no one will even know where to start looking for you.  You need to wait until I get there so I can keep an eye on you."

            "I don't need a babysitter."

            "I know you don't, but you need someone to know where you are to keep you safe."

            Jenna was silent for a second, “Okay."  She said softly.

            "I'm not convinced."  Lance pulled his lip between his teeth.  "I swear Jenna, don't make me call Crawley and tell him to have an officer watch you."

            "You wouldn't."

            "I would."  He smiled slowly.  "With Kelly and Skank out there he wouldn't think twice about having you watched."

            "They already talked to them."

            "What?"

            "An officer picked them up at Stateline.  Their car broke down there so they were given a ride into the city and to police headquarters. I guess Crawley had a talk with them and found out that they weren't there to find us in fact they wanted to talk to the police in person so they were glad to get picked up."

            "What?  Why?  Why didn't Crawley call?"

            "Because this all went down last weekend I guess and we weren't at our hotel.  Maybe he thought because it was nothing we didn't want to know.  I don't know."

            "What went down?"

            "Kelly and Skank wanted to give the police a picture that they had of Monica with this guy who they thought was shady and might be a suspect."

            "They have a picture?"

            "I guess."

            "Have you talked to Crawley?"

            "How do you think I know this?"

            "True."  Lance sighed and nodded as his heart rate picks up.  "Do you think it's Marshall?"

            "In the picture?  Who knows.  It could be anyone."

            "What's Crawley doing with it?"

            "I don't know. He said they took it in to look at it, but that's all.  I just talked to him for a minute yesterday before I got my ticket to come out."  Jenna explained.

            "Are you going to see him?"  Lance asked.

            "Yeah, probably.  Tomorrow I think.  Or Friday."  She pulled her knees up to her chest and pulled at the frayed cuffs of her jeans.  "I think Kelly and Skank are going to meet with him again tomorrow or something."

            "Well shit… they're still in town?"

            "Yeah.  They're down at Circus Circus for a few nights while their car gets fixed and they can pay for it.  Or something."

            "And you know this how…?"

            "Crawley told me."  She explained.  "But anyway.  I'm here."

            "I'll come out as soon as I can."

            "There's no hurry."

            Lance sighed and pinched his forehead, "I'll be there on Friday afternoon.  I'll call when I get there and we can get together and talk about what you've picked up from Crawley."

            "Okay."

            "What's your room number?"

            "12412."

            "Okay.  Call me if you hear anything else."

            "I will."

            "Be careful."

            "I will."  She sighed and he could tell she was rolling her eyes as well.

            "Okay… bye."  Lance bit his lip and waited as she hung up on her end.  He set clicked 'end' then took a deep breath and dialed Johnny's office number.  He knew he'd get voicemail and that’s just what he wanted, so when prompted he pressed two to leave a message and took a deep breath.  "Hey Johnny, this is Lance.  I know we're meeting tomorrow morning anyway, but I wanted to see if I could get on your calendar after that.  I uh... I need to run some things by you and stuff.  So anyway, call me in the morning and - oh no, you'll see me in the morning.  Anyway... let me know.  Thanks, bye." He hung up and sighed.  The last thing Johnny wanted to hear was that Lance had to leave again.  Actually, the last thing Johnny would want to hear was that one of his boys had married some girl he didn't know and she turned up dead the next day, but with that already out of the way, the last thing he'd want to hear was that that same boy had to go back to Vegas.

 

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

 

            Everyone met the next day in Johnny's office for yet another long day of discussions and scheduling.  When they broke at three in the afternoon, the boys were surprised, but happily left with the promise to be back the next day for the last meeting with the budget managers for the production they were planning.

            "Lance?"  Johnny said as they all stood up.  "You wanted to see me?"

            "Y-yeah."  He took his seat again as Chris stepped over his feet and followed the rest of the guys out of the office.  The door was shut, though not tight, behind them and Lance took a deep breath.

            "So."  Johnny put the papers away and turned to Lance with a smile.  "Are things all settled out in Nevada?"

            "I…"  Lance dropped his eyes to the apple in his lap and bit his lip in nervous anticipation.  "I'm actually… that's what I needed to run by you.  I need to go back for a little while."

            Johnny stared at Lance for a full minute.  "We have meetings tomorrow."

            "I know."

            "You can't leave until Friday."  He didn't need to look at his calendar before he spoke.

            "I know."

            Johnny pursed his lips and kept his eyes on Lance.  "You'll take security with you this time."

            "Johnny…”  Lance began to complain but stopped.  "That's fine.  Can I take Lonnie?"  He asked, knowing that Lonnie would keep him safe, but also keep his distance.

            "Sure."

            "Thanks."

            "How long will you be there this time?"

            "I don't know."  Lance answered honestly.  "Not long I hope."

            "We've got promo work starting in three weeks.  You need to be a part of that."  Johnny sighed and tapped into his keyboard.  "You need to be a part of that planning as well.  Either by conference call or here in person."

            "I will."  Lance smiled and stood up.  "Thanks."

            "No problem kid.  Be safe."

            "I will."  Lance mumbled quickly before he ducked out of the office and almost collided with Chris who was waiting in the hall.

            "You're going back to Vegas?"  Chris asked loudly as he grabbed Lance's elbow.

            "Yeah."  Lance shook his hand off with a smile over his shoulder and continued down the hall.

            "I thought you were done with that?"  Chris took a few quick steps to catch up then walked quickly beside Lance out to the cars.

            Lance just shrugged and took a bite of his apple.  He chewed for a minute then said, “Kind of.  I mean, I'm cleared and everything but we still don't know who did it."

            "But didn't you hire that investigator guy?"

            "Two of them, yeah."

            "So then why are you going back?"

            "Because Jenna's there and we're kind of working together on this.  We've got some good leads and stuff."

            "Good leads?  Are you a P.I. now?"

            "No."  Lance smiled and shook his head as he leaned against his car.  "It's just… she's hell-bent on catching this guy on her own and she's…"  He shrugged.  "We've done some kind of risky stuff and I don't want her out there doing it by herself because the last thing we need is for someone to think she's Monica and try to kill her."

            "Don't go getting yourself in trouble for this chick."

            "I'm not."

            "You've hired investigators; let them do the dangerous work."

            "We're not doing anything that bad actually."  Lance tried to counteract what he'd just said.  "Do you want to come?"

            "Me?"

            "Sure.  I wouldn't invite you to come if we were doing real dangerous stuff, would I?  It's not like I'm on CSI or whatever, we're just looking into some things."

            "Can't you look into them from here?"

            "No."  Lance said.

            Chris sighed, “Well shit, I can't let you have all the fun out there tracking down murderers and everything.  Do I get a gun?"

            "No."  Lance laughed and shook his head.  "Jenna's the only one with a gun and she won't let me touch it."

            "She has a gun?"

            "Yeah."

            "No wonder you say 'how high?' when she says 'jump'."  Chris smirked and kicked at Lance's tires.

            "Shut up."  Lance blushed slightly and looked up at Chris.  "I'm leaving Friday, so if you want to come let me know."

            "What would I have to do?"

            "Nothing."  He shrugged.  "You could just come out and gamble, or you can lend us a hand.  We have notes and stuff and maybe if you take a look at them you might see something different or something we missed."

            "Cool."  Chris nodded and shoved his hands in his pockets.  "Sure, yeah I'll come.  But I've gotta hit the craps table at least once.  JC keeps talking about how he won big there."

            "Yeah."  Lance cleared his throat.  "Just don't drink all those free drinks they bring you."  He laughed lightly then opened his car door.

            "Yeah, I'd hate to end up married and stuck with her."  Chris laughed, then disarmed his own car with a loud laugh.

            "Shut up."  Lance shook his head and smiled as he slid into the driver's seat and started his car.  It was good to be home, and this time Lance would miss it when he left.

 

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

 

            They spent the next day in meetings and left on a flight out to Vegas Friday afternoon.   Lonnie picked both Chris and Lance up at their homes and drove to the airport where they were escorted in through the side and allowed to wait in a private room until it was time to board.  Security always hated it when the boys flew commercial, but sometimes it just couldn't be avoided.

            They were lucky to not have a flight full of young fans and were only asked twice for autographs by the flight attendants.  By the time they did their layover in Chicago and made it to Las Vegas, it was after dark and they were more tired than anything.  "What hotel are we staying in?"  Chris asked as they dragged their gear to the car rental counter.

            "The MGM."  Lance said as he fought a yawn.

            "Again?  We always stay there."

            "It's nice."  Lance frowned.

            "Can't we stay at the Bellagio?"

            "No."

            "How about the Venetian?"

            "I stayed there last time.  It's nice, but really… the MGM is better."  Lance shrugged.  "And it's where Johnny wants us because he knows the security there and all that."

            "How come you stayed at the Venetian then?"

            "Joey and I did for the tournament thing."  Lance sighed and followed Lonnie out when he got their car keys.  "They paid for it, so it's not like we had any choice."

            "Man… I knew I shoulda taken up golf."  Chris pouted, then followed Lance and Lonnie.

            They drove to the hotel in silence with Chris gawking at all the lights as if he'd never seen them before.  Lonnie handed the keys to the valet then took the luggage out of the back and waited for the boys to grab their own and follow him inside.  The lobby wasn't that busy which was a good thing.  They were able to walk directly to the counter to check in and didn't have to worry about drawing a lot of attention to themselves.

            "I'm getting my own room."  Lonnie smirked as he leaned on the marble counter.

            "Me too."  Chris said as he jumped over his backpack to stand by Lonnie.

            "You can share a room with me."  Lance shook his head and picked up Chris' backpack to keep anyone else from tripping over it.

            "Hell no."

            "It won't kill you."  Lance frowned.

            "It might.  I mean… you're here for -”

            "Shut up Chris."  Lance kicked at Chris' shins to shut him up.

            "I'm just sayin'."  Chris laughed and put his hands flat on the counter to push himself up with his feet off the ground.

            "Stop playing around."  Lonnie said without even looking over at him, he knew Chris was goofing off.  "You've roomed with Lance before."

            "Yeah but now he's a suspected -”

            "Shut up Chris."  Lance smacked him again and lowered his voice, "I'm not suspected of anything."

            "Relax Dorothy; we're not in Kansas anymore.  I'm playing around."  Chris patted Lance's head.  "I'll room with you but if I walk in there and there's one king sized bed with flowers and shit, I'm gonna go sleep in Lonnie's tub."

            "Ha.  That's what you think."  Lonnie signed the receipts and took the cards for the rooms.  "Here you go kids.  Now stop fighting before I have to call your moms and fly them out here to keep you in line."

            "I forgot how he gets in Vegas."  Lance said to Lonnie over Chris' head.

            "Yeah well, you didn't ask."  Lonnie laughed and shrugged, then picked his bag up off the floor.

            "What's that supposed to mean?"  Chris asked, sounding as offended as he could while he tried to walk and tie his shoe at the same time.

            "Nothing."  Lance chuckled and stopped walking so Chris could stop and tie his shoe.

            "How do I get in Vegas?"

            "A lot like this."  Lance raised his eyebrow and continued to the bank of elevators where Lonnie was waiting.

            "How'm I being?"  Chris hit the 'up' button over and over as he leaned against the wall and tried to look casual.

            "Nevermind."  Lance shook his head as he noticed a pack of teenage girls standing at the opening to the elevator area gawking.  "Uh oh."  He leaned over and inconspicuously nudged Lonnie's back.

            "What?"  Lonnie asked without turning around.

            "Guard.  Do your duty."  Chris giggled under his breath.

            "They movin?"

            "Huh?"

            "The girls.  Are they moving towards you?"

            "No."  Lance creased his brow.

            "Do they look about ready to let loose a blood curdling scream?"

            "Uh, no."

            "Are they bouncing?"

            "No."

            "Then I am doing my duty."  Lonnie smiled as the elevator dinged and opened its doors in front of him.

            "Dude.  He's stealth like that."  Chris jumped onto the elevator with his luggage banging into the walls and knocking into his legs.

            "Yeah.  Stealth."  Lance rolled his eyes.  "Can you make a little more noise?"

            "I can try."  Chris shrugged and looked out to where the girls were still standing.  He took a deep breath and looked ready to shout a farewell to the girls when Lonnie’s hand came from behind and clamped over his mouth.  "Maagh!"  was the only sound Chris was able to make before the doors shut and Lance hit him.

            "Come on.  Be serious."  Lance frowned and leaned against the wall, pulling his bags closer to him.

            "Come on.  Don't be a bitch."  Chris mocked Lance's tone and stature.

            "Chris…"

            "What?  Sheesh, I'm just having fun in Vegas.  It's not like I'm out getting drunk and married or whatever."  He cast Lance a look, then laughed under his breath.  "Not like some people."

            "Shut up."

            "So when do I get to meet her?"

            "Her… Monica?"

            "The one that's not dead."

            "Chris."  Lance frowned at Chris and sighed.  "Jenna.  Jenna is the woman I've been working with.  We'll call when we get to the room and see if she's around."

            "Okay."

            "You can't be all hyper and weird around her though."

            "Me?"

            "I'm serious.  She's not like that."

            "She's not like that?  What's that mean?"

            "I just mean she's serious."  Lance said as the elevator stopped and let them off on their floor.  "She's really serious about this case and she doesn't want anything to mess it up and she… well she's serious.  She like JC when we're four days past deadline for the album and we're still recording.  She's that kinda serious."

            "Damn."

            "Yeah."

            "Was her sister like that?"

            "I…"  Lance shrugged.

            "Oh that's right, you wouldn't know."  Chris stopped in front of their room as Lonnie snickered and opened the door across the hall.

            "Gimme a call if you go out."  Lonnie waved over his shoulder.  "I've got my phone on and this is my room number." He tapped the plaque beside his door and then let it swing shut behind him.

            They watched his door shut, then Lance opened the door to their room.  "But I'm guessing that if she worked in a casino and got way drunk after, she probably wasn't as JC serious as this other girl."

            "Probably not."  Lance shook his head and dropped his luggage by the closet.

            "Yeah.  Probably not."  Chris dragged his bag into the bed room and kicked it between one of the beds and the wall.  "So this is Vegas huh?  It's nice." He looked around the room.  "Is this where you stayed before?"

            "Yeah.  But there was only one bed before."

            "Of course."

            "But yep, this is it.  I like the MGM."

            "Okay."  Chris shrugged.  "So.  Are we gonna go gamble now?"

            "I'm not.  But you can if you want to.  I have to call Jenna and let her know we're here."

            "You've gotta check in?"  Chris snickered.

            "I told her I'd call so we can get together and talk about the case.  Some things have gone on since we left and… and she's been kept up to date and stuff."

            "Fun."  Chris unzipped his bag and pulled his sweatshirt out.

            "Tons."  Lance sat at the little table and picked up the phone to call over to her room.  "Hey, it's me."  He said when she answered.

            "Hi."

            "I'm uh, I'm here.  Do you have some time?"

            "Time?"

            "Well I thought we could get together and kind of go over everything."

            "The cards you mean?" She asked softly.

            "Yeah.  The cards and all that."

            "Okay.  I can bring them over to your room.  What's your number?"

            "10107"

            "Okay.  I'll be there in a minute."  Jenna said before hanging up.

            Lance sighed and hung up, then stood up and went to the bedroom door.  "Jenna's on her way over.  Are you going to the casino?"

            "Me?"

            "Is there anyone else here?"  Lance looked around the vacant room.

            "No, I'm not going down right now.  I forgot that we’re not allowed out without our babysitter and besides, it'd probably be more fun at night anyway."

            "It is night."

            "It's barely night."  Chris nodded toward the window where the sky was already dark.  "It's not even midnight."

            "It's not even ten."  Lance laughed softly, then yawned.

            "Wimp."

            "Yeah… well."  He shrugged and stepped into the dressing area to run his hands through his hair.  "Jenna's on her way over."

            "You said that."

            "Be nice, okay?"

            "Be nice?  What's that mean?  I'm nice."

            "Just… just be nice, okay?  Don’t be all hyper and sarcastic."  Lance leaned in to the mirror and turned his head to the side to check out his stubble.  It was more than he usually had, and he remembered he hadn't shaved that morning before they left.

            "Yeah, whatever.  If you wanted a calm, cool and collected friend you should have brought JC or something."

            "Yeah.  Can you imagine JC here?"  Lance asked as Jenna knocked on the door in the other room.  "That's her."

            "I'll be normal."  Chris said as he crossed his eyes and walked like a hunchback through the door.

            "Oh man."  Lance sighed under his breath and stepped in front of Chris to open the door.  "Hey, hi." He smiled and for a moment wanted to hug her, as he would any other friend he hadn't seen in a while.

            "Hi."  She smiled, but it fell quickly as she saw Chris standing behind Lance.  "Your new private investigator?"  Jenna asked with a raised eyebrow.

            "No, this is my friend Chris. Chris, this is Jenna."  "Lance glanced over his shoulder to make sure Chris didn't have his tongue flopping out the side of his mouth or anything else embarrassing.

            "Hi."  Chris smiled and extended his hand to Jenna, who coldly refused it.

            Lance sighed and reached over to grab Jenna's hand.  He shoved it in Chris', shook it up and down then let it drop, “Have some manners."

            "This isn't a side show, Lance."  She frowned and stepped all the way into the room so that Lance could close the door.

            "I didn't bring him with me to see a side show.  I brought him because he wanted to come and because it can't hurt to have another pair of eyes looking at some of this stuff."

            "I'm standing right here."  Chris said softly.

            "Sorry."  Lance looked at Chris with an apologetic smile.

            "You guys spend half your time on MTV, you think the guys on Delray won't recognize you?"  Jenna asked.

            "You think the guys on Delray are into boybands?"  Lance raised his eyebrow and her and shook his head slowly.  "I'm thinking probably not."

            "Lance…"  She sighed.

            "Besides, it's not like I'm gonna send him down to Delray Street."  Lance looked over at Chris, “You don't wanna go there."

            "I can do whatever you need me to."

            "I need you to look over our cards."  Lance said.  "Do you have anything new to add to them?"  He asked Jenna as she handed over the plastic box that looked more worn than he remembered.

            "No."

            "Okay, see here's what we've done.  Jenna and I have done some investigating on our own, plus what the police and the investigators have found out.  Anyway, we took all that information and put them on index cards so we can keep all the facts straight."

            "Okay."

            "Well we've been staring at them for like… a month now, and I can't even tell if they're in order any more."

            "They're in order."  Jenna crossed her arms over her chest and looked offended that he would think that she would be that unorganized.

            Lance sighed, “Anyway, if you could just look them over and see if we've maybe missed something, or whatever."

            "Sure, like a puzzle?"

            "Kind of."

            "I'm good at puzzles."  Chris smiled.

            "Should I run down and get him that Tin Man one in the gift shop?"  Jenna asked sarcastically.

            Lance winced then looked at Chris, “You'll have to excuse her."

            Jenna rolled her eyes then turned and left the room as Chris tried to hold back his laughter.  When she was safely out of earshot he chuckled and asked, "Dude, what's her problem?"

            "She's… I don't know."  Lance shrugged.

            "Was she that nice when she met you?"

            "Well when she met me she thought I killed her sister."  Lance said softly as he sat at the table by the wall.  "So she was even nicer."

            "Ouch."

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded as Chris sat down.  "She's just leery of new people and I think our status or whatever you wanna call it makes her cranky."

            "Understood."  Chris nodded and played with the clasp on the plastic index cardholder.  "Is there anything I can do to get on her good side?"

            "Yeah.  Find the guy."  Lance smiled and leaned back in his chair.

            "Oh sure thing.  That won't be a problem at all."  Chris said sarcastically as he opened the box and leaned his elbows on the table.  "Okay… so what am I looking at here?"  He took out a stack of cards and looked at them blankly.

            "Those are the facts of the case that we know.  We've written them all down so we can try to piece it all together.  Jenna said they're in order so they should be chronological.  Or well… you know, as close as we can get."

            "Okay."  Chris pursed his lips and flipped back to the first card.  "Her name?"  He held it up for Lance to see.

            "Yep, Monica Ann Saylor.  Age 26.  Brown hair, brown eyes."  Lance nodded.

            "Isn't that chick her twin?"

            "Jenna, yeah."

            "So you wrote this down why?  I mean… you can look at Jenna and know what Monica looked like."

            "It's just the facts.  We wrote everything down."  Lance shrugged.

            "Well I've gotta tell you though, she's hot."

            "Chris."  Lane sighed and tried not to roll his eyes. He'd of course noticed the same thing.

            "I'm just sayin… I can see why you married her."

            "I didn't marry Jenna."

            "Eh, you know what I mean."  Chris set the first card face down on the table and read the second card.  "She's from LA huh?  She doesn’t look like a California girl."

            "They grew up on the East Coast.  Monica went to LA for school.  Jenna's still in New York."

            "Hmm."  Chris nodded.  "So when do these start getting good?"

            "I don't know."  Lance sighed and pinched his eyes closed.  "None of them are good."

            "You know what I mean."

            "I'm gonna go shower."  Lance said suddenly.  "Don't touch the mini bar."

            "Okay."  Chris didn't look up from the cards as Lance disappeared into the large bathroom.

 

            For a half hour Chris read over the cards and made little notes on a notepad he found in the drawer, while Lance took an extra long shower.  When he stepped out in his pajama bottoms and t-shirt a while later, he looked completely drained.

            "So…?"  Lance asked as he ran a towel over his still damp hair.

            "So… this rental car?"  Chris popped a cashew in his mouth from the pile on the table.  He'd obviously opened the mini bar and helped himself.

            "Those nuts cost like, twelve dollars."  Lance frowned.

            "I owe you."  Chris shrugged and ate another one.  "But check it out.  This rental here?

            "Mine?"  Lance leaned over to look at the note card Chris was holding while taking a few cashews for himself.

            "No, the Cavalier."  Chris waved the card in Lance's face.  "The black Cavalier found abandoned on… what's this, Sagebrush Avenue?  Off of Delray?"

            "Yeah?"

            "Well they said it was traced back to an invalid credit card number."  Chris frowned and pursed his lips.

            "Yeah.  I don't know why it's in there."  Lance shrugged and took the card.  "I think Jenna was just looking for anything that had to do with the Delray area around the time of the murder."

            "Ten bucks says that’s his car."  Chris took the card back and bent the corner on it.  "It was found on Sunday afternoon."

            "That's like two days after she was killed though."

            "Yeah, but it was rented on Thursday night.  I think."  Chris read the card and squinted at the sloppy black letters.  "Whoever wrote this has shitty handwriting."

            "It was almost three miles from the crime scene."

            "And conveniently next to a recycling depot thing."  Chris' eyes got wide.  "Dude, I'll bet you anything that's his car.  He took her there, dumped the body then went to the recycling place to ditch the plastic tarp stuff he had on the seats to keep them from getting bloody."

            "You watch too much TV."

            "No, come on.  It's circumstantial, but it makes sense."  Chris tapped the card on the table, almost afraid to let it go.  "These things say she wasn't killed there, right?"

            "Right."

            "So she had to get there somewhere, and I'm gonna say it was a car because it'd be really hard to get her to stay on a motorcycle."

            "You're disgusting."

            "You guys know this guy Marshall doesn't have a car, he'd been using Heather's car."  He used the names as though he was completely familiar with everyone involved.

            "Right."

            "So right.  See?  That's totally his car.  His rental car."  Chris shook the card at Lance again, "I'd bet on it.  Just wait and see."

            "It makes sense."  Lance nodded, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up again.

            "If this shit gets solved and that’s not his car?  I'll give you a hundred bucks."

            "Okay."  Lance laughed.  "But if it is his car, I'm not paying you."

            "You don't have to."  Chris shook his head quickly and dropped the card back in the front of the card holder.  "Just tell everyone that I cracked the case." He smirked up at Lance as his eyes danced.  "This is kinda fun."

            "Kinda."  Lance raised a corner of his mouth in a partial smile as he nodded.  "Kinda."  He sighed and looked at their box of 'clues'.  They were barely halfway through and Lance was already exhausted.  He could recite the facts of the case verbatim from the cards, with his eyes shut, but knowing that Chris was seeing them with fresh eyes made him feel a little better.  "I'm tired."

            "Okay."  Chris said softly as he flipped through two more cards.  "I'm just gonna… I'm gonna read through the rest of these."  He didn't look up as he cleared his throat and squinted at the card.  "Does this say 'done' or 'door'?" He held the card out for Lance to look at.

            "It says 'David'.  She didn’t capitalize it."  Lance read the card from five feet away.  "New contact David on Delray, lots of traffic on NOM."

            "NOM?"

            "Night of murder."  Lance dropped his eyes nervously to his feet, then went through the narrow doorway into the bedroom.  "Don't stay up too late."

            "You're going to bed?"

            "Uh huh."

            "Okay."  Chris raised the card in a half wave then scribbled a note on the hotel stationery he'd taken from the desk drawer.  "G'night."  He added softly.

            Lance paused in the doorway and sighed softly.  "G'night."  He let the door swing halfway shut behind him, then collapsed between the covers of the bed on the right.  He'd quiz Chris in the morning to find out what he learned, but in the meantime he had hours worth of sleep to catch up on.

 

 

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Copyright 2002, 2003  Amy Lynn