A bird landed on a roof rafter in the deserted warehouse
and tilted its head as if it was interested in the scene playing out below.
Montecito's Pit Boss, Ezra Standish, stood by fellow employee and Blackjack
dealer, Miguel Rodriguez. In front of them were two men wearing ski masks,
oblivious to the summer heat. One of the men had his hand wrapped around
Miguel's wife's arm, keeping her by his side while she held their little
boy in her arms.
Licking his lips, Ezra held up his hands as he said in a controlled voice,
"Now Mr. Rodriguez has done everything you have asked and you have your money.
Please release his wife and son. . ."
"He hasn't done everything. . ." replied one of the masked men. "He brought
you." Pulling the gun that was tucked in the waist of his jeans; he aimed
and fired twice at the Pit Boss.
The two bullets hit Ezra directly in the chest and he crumbled to the ground
like a house of cards as Miguel screamed, "NOOOO!"
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Ten hours earlier. . .
"It's gonna be HOT HOT HOT today with temperatures over 100," said the
enthusiastic radio disc jockey, stating the obvious for a typical July day
in Vegas. "My suggestion would be to stay inside where it's air conditioned.
"Wise suggestion," murmured Ezra to the radio as he pulled his deep metallic
green BMW convertible into an end spot in the Montecito parking lot. Turning
the vehicle off, he got out, grabbing his suit coat with him. Because of
the heat, it was definitely too hot to wear it outside.
"Good morning, Ezra," said Josiah Sanchez as he greeted his friend as he
arrived to work.
"Mr. Sanchez," said Ezra as he nodded to his friend. "I assume you are taking
the necessary precautions for the insufferable high temperatures?"
"Don't worry about us," said Josiah. "We're taking all the preventive measures
to make sure no one suffers from heat stroke."
"Well, hopefully it will be a quiet day and you can relocate inside," commented
"You never know around here," said Josiah. "It seems surprises are always
just around the corner. . ."
"Indeed," said a grinning Ezra as he continued his path inside the double
automatic doors. Josiah watched, now regretting he didn't tell his friend
about who was waiting for him inside but he had promised not to reveal the
surprise to the Pit Boss.
As Ezra walked through the lobby he slipped on his suit coat, pausing in
his steps when he spotted a familiar figure at the Registration Desk . .
. his mother. So much for a quiet day, he thought, and he would definitely
need to have a little chat with Josiah later for not warning him. Clearly
the Head Valet purposely failed to disclosed this very important piece of
"Mother, what are you doing here?" asked Ezra quietly as he reached her side.
Maude looked over surprised at her son's sudden arrival. "Why I'm visiting
my baby boy."
"I see that but why now?" asked Ezra.
"Can't a Mother visit her son after he's had surgery?" responded Maude as
she patted his cheek softly, referring to Ezra's gallbladder surgery last
"How did you find out?" asked Ezra.
"You're not the only one who has contacts," stated Maude. "Now, be a dear,
and take my suitcases and escort me to my suite."
"Mother we have a valet staff for that," explained Ezra.
"Why do I need them when I have my son to carry my bags?" asked Maude as
she smiled sweetly at him.
Sighing softly, Ezra picked up her two suitcases and followed her to the
elevators. "I see you are still packing your rare masonry from ancient Rome,"
commented Ezra sarcastically about the weight of her suitcases.
Maude laughed softly as the elevator chimed and the doors slid open. "Ezra,
dear, you know appearances are everything."
"After you," said Ezra as he waited for his mother to enter the elevator
and then followed her. They held the chit chat until they were inside Maude's
"So why are you really here, Mother?" asked Ezra as he straightened his tie
while using the mirror over the dresser.
"I told you . . ." started Maude.
"I don't believe you," interrupted Ezra. "There must be another reason. .
." He knew his mother like the back of his hand and knew there was another
"Well, a recent business deal ended rather abruptly and I thought it was
wise if I changed my locale and since we hadn't seen each other in awhile
I thought I would come here," admitted Maude as she took a seat on the edge
of the bed.
"You mean you got caught in a scam and now you're hiding out in Vegas," countered
"That is another way to put it," replied Maude while inspecting her manicured
"You're not going to cause any trouble while you are here, are you?" asked
"No, I will not," stated Maude as she looked up, catching her son's gaze.
"I do remember the rules from my last visit . . . no cheating and no scams
while I'm at the Montecito. I wouldn't want to get
"Now if you don't mind I would like to rest some before I visit the casino
tonight," said Maude.
"Of course," said Ezra as he gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. "If you
need anything, just call the Main Desk and they will notify me."
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
"Ezra definitely doesn't look happy," commented JD as
they watched the security monitors.
"Well, he doesn't like surprises," replied Vin as he munched on a corn chip.
"And his Mother's sudden appearance is definitely a surprise. . ."
The TV screens flickered and JD's brow furrowed. "Why are they doing that?"
muttered the computer specialist out loud before turning to his keyboard
to run a scan on the security systems.
"They have been acting kind of weird all morning . . . flickering every so
often . . ." commented Vin. "Could a surge at the main power plant be causing
"Possibly but highly unlikely," stated JD. "The Montecito has precautions
in place to make sure that doesn't happen. . ."
Chris Larabee emerged from his office the same time the monitors flickered
again. "Why are they doing that?"
"I'm checking into it," said JD quickly as he looked up briefly from his
computer. "For some reason we have a weird feedback loop that's causing it
. . . it must be a technical glitch . . . I just need to find out where.
"Ok . . . well, let me know when you have it fixed," instructed Chris.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Ezra patrolled the casino area, his gaze focused on the
guests as well as employees as he monitored the area for any wrongdoings.
For the past two hours he was particularly interested in one of the blackjack
dealers, Miguel Rodriguez, who was acting extremely odd. He seemed very nervous,
sweating profusely as he frequently wiped his sweat drenched brow, and he
constantly glanced up at the security cameras as if he was worried about
being caught which he should be since he had currently skimmed over $25,000
from the casino.
Watching as the blackjack dealer took his required break and headed to the
men's room, Ezra decided to follow him.
When the Pit Boss entered the lavatory, Miguel, who was standing by one of
the sinks splashing cold water on his face, looked up surprised.
"Mr. Rodriguez," said Ezra as he stopped in front of one of the mirrors and
checked his reflection.
"Mr. Standish," said Miguel nervously. "How are you doing?"
"I am fine," said Ezra. "But the question is how are you doing?"
"Fine . . . I'm fine," said Miguel quickly.
"I would have to disagree with you, Mr. Rodriguez," replied the Pit Boss.
"You have been acting quite odd over the past couple hours . . . your body
language and mannerisms dictate that something is indeed wrong . . . not
to mention the money you have stolen. . ."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Well, it seems you have stolen approximately $25,000 from the casino this
afternoon," continued Ezra, catching the man's gaze in the mirror. "Maybe
we should continue this conversation in security?"
Miguel's eyes grew large as he realized he had been caught. "I can't go to
security . . . if I don't return to the table, they'll kill them."
"My wife and son," replied Miguel quickly. "They've been kidnapped and I
was told if I don't cooperate they'll kill 'em. . ."
"Do you know who abducted your family?" asked the Pit Boss.
Miguel shook his head 'no'. "I don't know who they are . . . They called
me this morning using my wife's cell phone and told me they wanted $100,000."
The sound of the blackjack dealer's cell phone ringing caused the man to
jump in surprise as he pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the display.
"It's them!" Miguel said in a worried voice.
"I suggest you answer it and see what they want," said Ezra.
Miguel nodded it as he flipped the phone open and said, "Hello."
"Why are you not back at your table?" said the male voice at the other end.
"I'm . . . I'm not feeling well," said a very nervous Miguel.
"Well, imagine how your wife and son will feel when they're killed," said
the man on the other end. "You have two minutes to get back to your table
or they're dead." The kidnapper disconnected the phone call leaving Miguel
to stare at it in horror.
"What did they say?" asked Ezra.
"They wanted to know why I wasn't back at my table and I have two minutes
to get there before they kill my wife and son," said Miguel.
"How did they know you're not at your duty station?" asked Ezra as his brow
furrowed in thought.
"They're somehow watching me through the security cameras," said Miguel.
Ezra did not like the sound of that latest information. Finally he said,
"Return to work . . . I will talk to security . . ."
"But they said no police. . ." reminded Miguel.
"Don't worry, we will be discreet," said Ezra. Then removing his security
earpiece, he handed it to Miguel. "Take this . . . so we can communicate
with you without additional trips to the lavatory."
Miguel nodded as he inserted the piece into his ear.
"Now return to your duty station and continue following the kidnapper's demands
. . ." instructed Ezra.
Miguel nodded as he headed out of the restroom and returned to work. Ezra
waited a couple minutes and then slipped out, heading directly to the security
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Ezra walked into the security bull pen area, pausing
briefing at the entranceway as his gaze immediately found the Security Chief.
Chris was deep in conversation with Buck, JD, and Vin and from the looks
of it, it was not good news. Unfortunately Ezra was just about to drop another
bomb on the group.
"Gentlemen, we have a problem," said Ezra as he approached the four men.
"What's wrong?" asked Chris as he turned his attention to the Pit Boss.
"It seems our blackjack dealer, Miguel Rodriguez is being blackmailed," replied
"Blackmailed!?" repeated a surprised JD as Vin hit a couple buttons on the
keyboard to bring the blackjack dealer in question on the main security screen
for all to see.
"Yes," continued the Pit Boss. "Kidnappers abducted his wife and son and
are requesting he steal $100,000 for their freedom."
"Are you sure this is not an elaborate scam on Miguel's part?" asked Chris
as he considered the various scenarios.
"I'm sure . . . judging from his mannerisms and reactions, he is telling
the truth," replied the former conman.
Chris nodded, knowing without a doubt that Ezra was reading the situation
"They have also been communicating with him using his wife's cell phone and
somehow they are able to watch him through our security cameras," continued
the Pit Boss.
The last bit of info caused Chris to look over to JD. He didn't have to say
"I'm on it," said JD as he turned to his computer, fingers flying over the
keyboard to find out how the kidnappers were infiltrating their system. "That
must be why the security cameras have been acting a little screwy today.
"I gave him my earpiece so we are able to communicate with him without looking
suspicious," alerted Ezra. "He was also adamant that we do not call the police."
"Let me guess, the kidnappers said they'd kill his wife and son if he did,"
"We need to keep a close eye on him while we try to figure out who's doing
this," said Chris.
"I agree and I have a suggestion," replied Ezra. "What if we position several
of our people at his table to gamble?"
"I'll do it," chimed Buck. "I don't have any whales at the moment and given
my background with the FBI. . ."
Chris studied Miguel on the security monitor for a moment and then replied,
"Problem is we don't know how familiar the kidnappers are with the Montecito
and our personnel. What if they recognize you, Buck, and realize we're on
"I could go in disguise. . ." suggested Buck.
"What did you have in mind?" asked Ezra.
"Well, I was thinking maybe it's time for the King of Rock and Roll to pay
another visit to the Montecito," said Buck. "There's always an Elvis convention
going on somewhere in Vegas so they shouldn't suspect. . ."
Chris nodded. "Ok, do it." Buck quickly headed out of the security office
to get his costume and get ready.
"What about Nathan?" suggested Vin. "If he's not busy, he would make another
good gambler. . ."
"Call him," instructed Chris. "But see if he can somehow disguise himself
. . ."
Vin nodded as he pulled out his cell phone and contacted the on-call physician
who was at home.
Meanwhile, Ezra said, "I have a suggestion for a possible third candidate
. . ."
"I hate to say it but my Mother," replied the Pit Boss.
"Ask her," said Chris.
"Nathan said he can do it," chimed Vin as he got off the phone with the doctor.
"He should be at the table within the hour."
"Good," replied Chris. "In the meantime, Vin, pull up Miguel's HR file and
also do a background check . . . I want to know everything about him, his
wife, and son . . . see if we can figure out why they targeted him.
"If his HR file has his and his wife's cell phone numbers, I can run a trace
the next time the kidnappers call and possibly find out where they are calling
from . . ." suggested JD.
"I need a new earpiece since I gave Mr. Rodriguez's mine," said Ezra.
"Wait here," said Chris as he went into his office and returned with a new
security earpiece for the Pit Boss.
"Thank you," said Ezra as he slipped it in his ear.
"Should we tell Miguel what's going on?" asked JD as he glanced up briefly
from his work.
Ezra looked to Chris and he nodded. Tapping the button on his communication
device, Ezra began to talk as he kept his eyes on Miguel's image on the security
monitor. "Miguel . . . this is Ezra Standish . . . continue with the kidnappers'
demands. Security is working to see if they can uncover who is behind this
and where they are located. In the meantime, you will see some familiar faces
arrive at your table to gamble. Needless to say, pretend you do not know
them. If you understand me, please scratch your nose."
They watched on the screen as Miguel did as Ezra directed and scratched his
"Good," continued Ezra. "Now we will get through this and you will get your
wife and son back . . . I guarantee it. . ."
After ending the communication, Chris said, "Good job, Ezra."
Ezra did not like the feeling of the fate of Miguel's wife and son resting
in the palms of their hands. One wrong move and they could be killed. Sensing
the Pit Boss was having second thoughts, Chris reassured, "We will get them
back. . ."
Ezra nodded. "I will go see if I can enlist my Mother's assistance."
"If we find out anything, we'll let you know," said Chris.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
The sound of two knocks on her door caused Maude to pause
in her solitaire game as she got up to answer it. Surprised to see her son,
she asked, "Ezra, dear, what are you doing back here?"
Ezra stepped inside the room as she closed the door. "I hate to say this
but I require your assistance in a matter," replied the Pit Boss.
"What's that?" asked Maude as she took a seat at the small table and began
to gather up the cards from her recent game.
"We need your skills at the blackjack table," stated Ezra.
"Blackjack? Ezra, you know I prefer poker . . ." replied Maude as she shuffled
"Yes, I do but this is a very sensitive matter," said Ezra.
"Well, I will need more information than that if you want my help," countered
Maude as she glanced up at her son.
Sighing softly, Ezra explained, "We have a blackjack dealer, Miguel Rodriguez,
whose wife and son were kidnapped and he is being blackmailed to steal money
from the Montecito for their safe return. We want to position several
of our people at his table to watch him while we try to figure out who is
responsible. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wilmington have agreed to the assignment
and we are in need of a third. . ."
Standing, Maude picked up her purse, and headed for the door, pausing for
a moment to look back at her son. "Well, let's go," said the older woman.
Smiling, Ezra headed out of the room with his mother.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Because of her ability to mask her emotions, Maude restrained
from doing a double take when Buck Wilmington joined her at the blackjack
table and then fifteen minutes later Nathan Jackson. Buck was dressed up
as Elvis in a white jumpsuit, fake sideburns, and sunglasses. He even talked
and curled his lip like the King of Rock and Roll. Nathan was dressed up
in some type of space uniform complete with pointy ears. She thought he said
he was a Vulcan but had no idea what that was, figuring it was some type
of alien creature from one of those sci-fi shows.
Miguel had been warned that he would be getting company at his table but
was still surprised when Nathan Jackson and Buck Wilmington arrived in costume.
Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he dealt the cards to start a new
game. By his calculations he was half way there to collecting the money the
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Josiah Sanchez knew something was up when first Buck
arrived dressed as Elvis and then Nathan as a Vulcan. But when he got the
message from Chris to come to the security spaces, he figured it must be
As he entered the security spaces, he noticed the tension that hung in the
air. You could definitely cut it with a knife.
"Hey Chris, what's up?" asked Josiah as he walked into the bull pen area.
Chris looked up from Miguel Rodriguez's HR file he had been reading. "We've
got a situation." The Security Chief began to fill him in on everything that
had happened so far.
When he was finished, Josiah commented, "No wonder Buck and Nathan are in
costumes. . ."
Chris nodded. "We didn't want to risk the kidnappers recognizing either as
"Find anything in Miguel's file?" asked Josiah as he gestured to the huge
file Chris had been reading.
"Was able to confirm he does have a wife, Benita, and four year old son,
Felix," said Chris.
"What about going to his house . . . see if the kidnappers left any clues
there?" suggested Josiah.
"We thought about," chimed Vin. "But weren't sure if the kidnappers would
be watching the place and didn't want to tip them off if they were. . ."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Josiah.
"Right now, no, but when everything goes down, we'll need you," said Chris.
Josiah nodded. "You can count on me . . ."
"JD, whats the latest?" asked Chris.
"Do you want to know about tracing the phone calls or how they hacked into
our security cameras first?"
Chris gave a look that sent the computer specialist talking quickly. "Ok,
for the phone trace . . . Vin was able to pull both Miguel's and his wife's
cell phone numbers from his file. All we need is for the kidnappers to call
and we can start a trace. I did check with their cell phone provider and
unfortunately Benita's cell phone is currently turned off so they are not
able to track it."
Chris nodded and JD continued, "As for the security cameras, I think I figured
out how they hacked into them.
"How?" asked Chris who was quickly losing patience.
"Well, they used a decryption program to hack into our security cameras through
a back door access," replied JD. "Considering nowadays any security system
can be hacked into and that step-by-step instructions are posted on the internet
for hacking into similar security cameras, it's not a surprise. . ."
"You're not surprised they hacked into our security system?" repeated Chris.
"JD, that does not give me much faith. . ."
"No . . . I didn't mean it that way," replied JD quickly as he back pedaled
from his earlier remarks. "What I meant is technology is always evolving
and new programs are continually being created, it's bound to happen . .
. but I can set up a firewall as well as a notification system to alert us
to prevent this from happening again."
"So, should I disconnect them from our security system?" asked JD. "I can
if you want me to. . ."
"No . . . not just yet . . ." said Chris as he studied the monitor that had
Miguel's blackjack table on the screen. "If we do, then the kidnappers will
realize we're on to them . . . Let them continue to have access to our security
cameras but watch them closely. I don't want them going anywhere else."
"Will do," said the youngest team member. "I can see if I can trace back
their connection . . . it might lead us to them. . ."
"Do it. And when this is all over, I want those upgrades to the system done
ASAP," instructed Chris. "I don't want this to happen again. . ."
"Yes, sir," said JD.
"Chris, I pulled a credit report and background check on Miguel and Benita
Rodriguez," stated Vin.
"Find anything interesting?" asked Chris.
"You could say that," said Vin. "It looks like Benita Rodriguez recently
went into debt by $75,000. . ."
"That's an awful lot of money," commented Josiah.
"Hard to say what it is from . . . gambling, drugs . . ." commented Vin.
"Either way I have a feeling that's the reason why this is all happening,"
stated Chris. "See if you can you get copies of bank and credit card statements
. . . let's try and trace that money . . . see where it went. . ."
"Roger," said Vin as he turned to his new duties.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
"I'm sorry everyone but we will be taking a five minute break," said Miguel
before excusing himself.
Ezra watched from a discreet distance as Miguel walked away from the blackjack
table. "JD, is the phone trace ready?"
"Yep," said the computer specialist. "We're all set."
"I have a feeling the kidnappers will be calling shortly," stated Ezra in
his security communication device.
"Got it," said JD as Miguel's cell phone began to ring.
A very nervous Miguel answered his cell phone as he entered the employee's
"Miguel . . . you're doing a great job so far. . ." said the man on the other
end. "How much have you collected?"
"$75,000," replied Miguel softly as he opened his personal locker. "How's
my wife and son? I want to talk to them?"
"They're fine," reassured the kidnapper.
"I don't believe you . . . my son has juvenile diabetes . . . he needs his
medicine . . . let me talk to my wife," said Miguel as he grew more distraught.
"Miguel. . ." said his wife at the other end after a moment of silence. "We're
fine . . . I'm so sorry . . ." Before she could say anything more, the phone
was taken from her.
"Now, you have two more hours to get the rest of the money . . . we will
contact you then and tell you where to meet," said the kidnapper and then
promptly hung up. Sighing Miguel removed the navy backpack from his locker,
slipped the money he had stolen so far into the bag, and then returned it
to the metal storage closet, closing and locking the door.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Down in the security spaces, Chris was leaning over JD's
shoulder, watching as he traced the phone call.
"Damn," swore the computer specialist. "The call was too short . . . I wasn't
able to get an exact address but a general area. It looks like they're in
the northeast part of Vegas. . .
"That's ok, JD, you tried," reassured Chris while placing a hand on his shoulder.
"If they call again, I might be able to pinpoint them," said JD. "Meanwhile,
I'll continue to work on back tracking their connection in our security cameras."
Back in the casino, Ezra approached the blackjack table where his mother,
Buck, and Nathan sat waiting for Miguel's return from his break.
"I'm sorry for the delay," said Ezra, pretending he did not know the three
individuals. "Your dealer will be back momentarily. In the meantime, can
we refresh your drinks?" Ezra motioned for the waitress who promptly left
to get refills for the three gamblers.
"Not a problem, young man," said Maude as she smiled.
"You know while we wait, you can finish that story of yours," suggested Buck.
"The one about your son and his pet dog, Elsie. . ."
"Oh, that's right . . ." said Maude. "Where was I . . ."
"I believe he put a skirt on the dog. . ." prompted a grinning Nathan.
Ezra held back a groan as he walked away from the table. He will need to
have a little chat with his mother later about these false childhood stories
she likes to tell.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
"Ezra, how's everything going down there?" asked Chris
through the security comm.
"As well as can be expected," replied the Pit Boss. "I estimate Mr. Rodriguez
will have the rest of his money in a half hour. . ."
"Roger that . . . we will meet you in the employee's locker room at that
time," stated Chris. "We have a couple security precautions we want to use
for the handoff."
"Understood," replied the Pit Boss.
Approximately 30 minutes later, Miguel nervously smiled as he said, "Sorry
ladies and gentlemen but this is the end of my shift . . . Alex will be replacing
me . . . hope you continue to have a lucky evening."
The two blackjack dealers switched places and Miguel hurried away, glancing
at his watch to see if he was on time. As he entered the employee locker
room he received a text message from the kidnappers that read "1429 Pierce
Way. 1 hour."
Rounding the corner, Miguel found the Pit Boss as well as members of Montecito's
elite security team already there waiting for him.
"Mr. Rodriguez, how are you doing?" asked Ezra.
"As well as can be expected I guess," replied the nervous blackjack dealer.
"Any word from the kidnappers?" asked Chris.
"They just text messaged me," replied Miguel as he flipped open his phone
and showed the message to the group. "I've got to meet them at Pierce Way
in one hour. . ."
"Alright . . . we'd like to attach a tracking device to the backpack," stated
"But what if they find it. . ." started the blackjack dealer.
"Don't worry, they won't," reassured JD. "It's very small. . ."
Nodding in agreement, Miguel inputted the security combination and opened
his locker. Removing the navy backpack, he said, "Here it is."
"Thanks," said JD as he unzipped one of the side pockets and attached the
very small tracking device underneath one of the seams. "That should do it
. . ." he continued as he handed the bag back.
Miguel unzipped the main compartment and added the rest of the money he collected
on his shift.
"Now we'd also like you to wear a mic so we can hear everything they say,"
"Maybe it would be best if I wore it?" suggested Ezra.
"You!?" replied Miguel. "Why you?"
"Because I'm coming with you," stated the Pit Boss.
"But they told me to come alone . . . no one else with me," stated a very
"Don't worry I believe I can convince them it was in your best interest that
I accompany you," said Ezra.
Chris studied the Pit Boss for a moment. Ezra had told him beforehand of
his plan to go with Miguel so he wasn't surprised. Although he wasn't sure
if he liked it, he knew Ezra could easily talk his way into or out of any
situation. Nodding he said, "Alright."
"Ok, Ezra, I'll need you to remove your cufflinks," said JD as he pulled
out a small box from his jacket. "I have some new ones for you to wear .
. . one of 'em has the mic in it so we will be able to hear everything that's
Ezra took one look at JD's cufflinks and grimaced. They were definitely not
his style. "Could you not have made them out of 14 karat gold?"
"Maybe next time," replied JD.
"Just put 'em on, Ezra," chimed Vin as he tried not to smile.
Sighing Ezra removed his two designer cufflinks and placed them in his pocket.
He then took JD's creations and slipped them on.
"Jack, let's run a test on the cufflinks," said JD through his security
communication device to the junior officer back in security's monitoring
"Ok . . . I'm ready," said Jack at the other end.
"Testing . . . one . . . two . . . three. . . can you hear us, Jack?" asked
"Read you crystal clear," replied Jack through the communication channel.
"Alright, I believe we are ready to leave," said Ezra.
"Not so fast," said Chris as he placed a hand on Ezra's arm to stop him.
"We have one other item for you both to wear." Seeing the Pit Boss was about
to protest, Chris said, "I insist. . ."
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
After the two men left for their rendezvous with the
kidnappers, Chris called Josiah on his cell phone. "Josiah, they're on their
way out . . ."
"Roger that . . . we see 'em," said Josiah who sat behind the wheel of his
Dodge Caravan with Nathan in the passenger seat. Chris had asked that the
two men discreetly trail Ezra and Miguel so they would be on hand if anything
"Be careful," stated Chris as they headed back to the security office.
"We will," said Josiah as he and Nathan cautiously followed Miguel out of
the Montecito parking lot.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
"Chris, they've arrived at Pierce Way," announced JD
as he followed Ezra and Miguel's progress on his computer monitor thanks
to the tracking device placed in the bag.
"Nate just called in," stated Vin. "They're waiting a block away. . ."
Chris nodded. JD had Ezra's mic on speaker so they could all hear what was
going on and had it set up so Josiah and Nathan could also hear.
Meanwhile back at the deserted warehouse, Miguel turned his vehicle off and
then reached behind him for the navy backpack.
"Let's go retrieve your wife and son, Mr. Rodriguez," said Ezra before the
two men got out of the vehicle and headed inside the worn down building.
Parked at the back, open entrance to the building was a white van strategically
parked so it could make a quick get away. Two masked men stood by the rear
of the vehicle waiting.
"Nice and slow," murmured Ezra in a low voice as the two men walked forward
towards the van.
When they got closer, one of the kidnappers said, "That's far enough . .
"I thought we said come alone . . . not to tell anyone," commented the other
"Gentleman did you really think Mr. Rodriguez's actions would go unnoticed
by the Montecito? I am here to ensure this was all not an elaborate ruse
by Mr. Rodriguez to abscond with the Montecito's money," explained Ezra.
"I don't like it," said the taller kidnapper.
"Well, it was either I accompany Mr. Rodriguez or we notify the local law
enforcement," stated Ezra. "And we decided that would not be wise."
"At least you all aren't totally stupid," commented the shorter masked man
who had a tattoo of a snake on his forearm.
"Where's my wife and son?" said Miguel who was getting impatient and wanted
his family back.
"Where's the money?"
"I have it right here," said Miguel as he unzipped the backpack and held
it up so they could see the money inside. "Just like you asked. Now I want
to see my wife and son."
The shorter masked man nodded to his friend who walked to the van and opened
the back door to reveal Benita and Felix sitting on the floor. The kidnapper
grabbed Benita's arm and tugged her out of the vehicle as he said, "Come
on." The little boy followed, his mother sweeping him up into her arms.
The shorter kidnapper said, "Ok, turn over the money and you'll get your
Miguel tossed the navy backpack to the man, the bag landing at his feet.
"Good boy," said the kidnapper as he picked up and checked out the contents.
Watching the men closely, Ezra was worried they would back out on their part
of the deal. Licking his lips, he said, "Now Mr. Rodriguez has done everything
you have asked and you have your money. Please release his wife and son.
"He hasn't done everything. . ." replied the shorter masked men. "He brought
you." Pulling the gun that was tucked in the waist of his jeans; he aimed
and fired twice at the Pit Boss.
The two bullets hit Ezra directly in the chest and he fell to the ground
at the same time Miguel screamed, "NOOOO!" Meanwhile, the two kidnappers
ran to their van, jumped inside, and took off, leaving a trail of dust behind
Nathan and Josiah had heard everything that happened through the open
communication channel with the Montecito's security office. At the sound
of gunshots, Josiah threw the vehicle into drive and raced down the street.
They could see the white van racing away but neither cared. At the moment
all they were worried about was assuring themselves and those listening in
at the Montecito that Ezra was ok.
Arriving at the warehouse, the two men jumped out of the vehicle and headed
"Ezra!" said Josiah as they rushed over to their downed friend. "You ok?"
Ezra's eyelashes fluttered opened as he looked up at his friend. "I'm fine
considering how close I came to an excruciatingly painful death," he said
as he slowly sat up. His hands moved to his shirt as he pulled back the fabric
to reveal the bullet proof vest he was wearing underneath.
"Now aren't you glad Chris insisted you wear the vest?" asked Josiah.
"Indeed," said Ezra as he stood with the assistance of the Head Valet.
"Benita and Felix are ok. . ." stated Nathan. "Although I'd like to take
them to the hospital to be sure. . . especially considering Felix's diabetes.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Once they received confirmation that Ezra, Miguel and
his family were fine, Chris turned to getting the money back.
"Have they stopped yet?" asked Chris, referring to the van that drove away
with the money.
"They just did, boss," replied JD. "They're at Alden Street."
"Quite a few loan sharks are in that area," remarked Buck who had changed
out of his Elvis costume and joined them in the security office.
"Vin, call Lt. Perez . . . tell him what's happened and see if he could meet
us. . ." directed Chris.
"Will do," said the Texan as he turned away to place the phone call.
"Feel up for a little show of force?" asked Chris to Buck.
Buck grinned as he replied, "I think you know the answer to that one . .
. 'show of force' is my middle name. . ."
"I thought your middle name was 'animal magnetism'?" commented JD as a grin
tugged at his lips.
"HA HA HA . . . very funny," said Buck as he lightly slapped JD across the
Chris held back a chuckle as he turned the conversation back to the job at
hand. "JD, I want you to stay back . . . keep an eye on that tracking device
. . . if it moves, let me know."
"Will do, Chris."
"Lt. Perez will meet us there," announced Vin after he got off the phone.
"Ok, let's go . . ." said Chris as the three men headed out.
Twenty minutes later, Chris pulled up to the address on Alden Street and
turned off the vehicle.
"There's the white van," commented Vin as he pointed to the vehicle the
kidnappers used parked on the street. "I'm gonna go check it out."
The Texan got out of the SUV and jogged over, casually looking inside the
driver's side window and then returned a few minutes later. "Yep, it's them
. . . they left their black ski masks on the seats . . ."
It was at this time the LVPD arrived. When Lt. Luis Perez pulled up, they
got out of the vehicle to meet him.
"I guess I can't talk you guys into staying back and letting us go in first,"
commented Lt. Perez. He had worked with these men often enough to know how
they worked and they could be trusted.
"Nope," replied Chris as he headed up to entrance to 'EZ Money'. The bell
above the door chimed as Chris entered followed by Buck, Vin, and the LVPD.
The office was not too large . . . a small waiting area with plastic chairs
for clients was located in the front and towards the back was two desks and
a private office all decorated in furnishings that looked like they came
from the 1970s. The two men who were seated at the desks looked up when the
group entered. The kidnappers, thought Chris as he studied them.
"Hey . . . aren't you Elvis?" blurted Orlando out loud as he pointed to Buck.
He remembered seeing the man playing Blackjack on the casino video feeds.
"No . . . but I played him on TV. . ." replied the Hospitality Host as he
tried not to laugh at the man. It was obvious the man was not the sharpest
tool in the shed.
"Can I help you?" said Ruddy as he cast a glare at his buddy to keep quiet.
"I'd like to talk to the owner," said Chris.
"He's not here," replied the man nervously.
"I think you're lying . . . now you either get him or I will," replied Chris
as he stared down the man.
"One moment," said Ruddy as he jumped from his chair and knocked on the door
leading to a private office. Opening it slowly he said, "Boss . . . there's
some folks out here to see you . . ."
"What can I do for you, gentlemen," said the owner, Nigel Floyd, in between
puffs on his cigarette after emerging from his office.
"I think you have something that belongs to me," replied Chris.
"Oh, really? And what's that?" asked Nigel before blowing a ring of smoke.
"$100,000 that was in the blue backpack that's sitting on your desk," stated
Chris. The Security Chief had spotted the bag when the door to the private
office had opened.
"Maybe the three of you should come back with us and we can have a nice long
chat," stated Lt. Perez as he moved forward.
"Hey now . . . I didn't do anything wrong," said Nigel as he held up both
hands. "Just a business man trying to stay a float in these harsh economic
times. . ."
"By kidnapping women and children and forcing folks to steal?" replied Buck.
"Not to mention shooting our friend," continued Chris.
"She owed us money," chimed Orlando.
"SHUT UP!" said Nigel and Ruddy at the same time.
"Ok, you're coming with us," said Lt Perez as the police moved forward to
handcuff the three men and led them outside.
"We'll need Miguel and his wife to come down and give statements," said Lt
Perez after retrieving the backpack with money from the desk.
"Will do. We'll make sure they get down to the station," said Chris. "Guess
you won't let us hold on to the money until this is all resolved. . ."
Lt Perez smiled as he replied, "You guessed right . . . you'll get this back
when we're done. . ."
"Thanks for your help," said Chris as he shook the Lieutenant's hand.
"I'm sure I'll see you guys around. . ." replied Luis as he grinned.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
It was the next day and Ezra was at his command post
in the casino, monitoring the guests and dealers closely.
"I can't believe they didn't give you the day off," commented Maude Standish
as she reached her son's side. "Especially after nearly getting yourself
killed yesterday. . ."
"I'm fine, Mother," replied the Pit Boss as he kept his gaze fixed on the
roulette game in progress.
"Maybe I should go have a little chat with Mr. Travis," suggested Maude.
"These are inhuman conditions he is expecting you to work in. . ."
"Mother . . . you will not, repeat NOT, 'chat' with Mr. Travis," replied
Ezra as he stared her down. "Do you understand me?"
"Yes . . . I understand . . . I just worry about you," said Maude as she
adjusted his suit lapel. "You're my baby boy . . ." Her emotionless mask
slipped for a moment to reveal just how much she cared about him.
Sighing, "Mother, while you are here maybe we should have a little discussion
about the false stories you have been telling my coworkers. . ." started
Ezra as he changed the subject.
"False stories? What do you mean?" replied Maude as she looked innocent.
"My pet dog, Elsie. . ." reminded the Pit Boss. "I've never had a dog named
Elsie and I certainly never dressed her up."
"Oh, well, it's still an adorable story and they enjoyed hearing it. . ."
"But it's not true," chimed Ezra.
"Well, they don't know that. . ." countered Maude.
"Ma'am, did you drop this," interrupted the distinguished gentleman as he
handed Maude her handkerchief.
"The oldest ruse in the book," murmured Ezra softly only for his mother to
"Why, thank you kind sir," said Maude as she ignored her son's comment and
smiled coyly at the kind man. "And they say chivalry is dead . . . clearly
they were not talking about you . . ."
"Excuse me if I'm presumptuous in asking but would you by chance like to
join me at the poker table?" asked the grey haired gentleman.
"I would love to," replied Maude as she slipped her arm through his.
Ezra shook his head as he watched the couple walk away. Clearly his mother
had not lost her touch, he thought.
"Anything I need to be worried about?" asked Chris as he gestured with his
head to Maude who walking away. He had come down to check in on the Pit Boss
to see how he was doing.
"No . . . she has promised to conduct herself in a lawful and appropriate
manner while here," replied the Pit Boss.
"You doing ok?" asked the Security Chief, changing the subject.
"I'm fine. Thank you for asking," replied Ezra.
"You know you could have taken the day off. . ."
"Then who would watch my Mother to ensure she doesn't renege on her promise?"
asked Ezra as he cocked an eyebrow.
Chris smiled as he shook his head. "Have you heard from Miguel?"
"He called in earlier . . . they are doing well . . . he and his wife had
a long discussion about her gambling debt and they are getting assistance,"
replied Ezra. "I told Mr. Rodriguez to take the rest of the week off so he
could spend some time with his family. . . He asked that I pass along his
family's gratitude for our help in resolving this matter."
"They were pretty lucky. . ."
"That is an understatement," replied the Pit Boss. "Which reminds me . .
. I would like to submit this for processing. . ." Ezra pulled out a piece
of paper from his inside suit pocket and handed it to the Security Chief.
"What's this?" asked Chris as he opened it up.
"My claim for reimbursement for damages incurred to my suit coat and shirt,"
"They suffered two bullet holes when I was shot yesterday," stated Ezra.
"They were tailored made," continued Ezra.
"You volunteered for the job," countered a smiling Chris as he slapped the
document against the Pit Boss' chest and then walked away.
"Fine . . . just walk away. . ." said Ezra to Chris' retreating back. "No
worries . . . I will submit my claim with Mr. Travis. . ."
"Sure, give that a shot," Chris called back over his shoulder. "Of course,
that's never worked for you before."
"There's always a first time, Mr. Larabee. There's always a first time."