Looks Can Be Deceiving

by Lisa S.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'd like to thank Sarah for thinking up this great new AU, and allowing us to play in her sandbox. And a HUGE THANK YOU to Lisa O. for her invaluable help in brainstorming ideas for this story and for betaing.

DISCLAIMER: Mag7/Las Vegas alternate universe was created by Sarah (aka Midnight Profit) and is based on the "Las Vegas" TV series. This AU is not related to the Mag7/Las Vegas RPG created by Lisa O. and Ruby. Trilogy, MGM, and the Mirisch Corporation own "The Magnificent Seven" characters. NBC Studios, NBC Universal Television, DreamWorks Television, and Gary Scott Thompson Productions own "Las Vegas." They are not mine. The only purpose of this story is for entertainment. No money is being made.


"What do you think is taking so long?" asked JD in a hushed tone as he glanced back at the Security Chief's closed door and then at the clock. "They've been in there awhile now. . ."

"Your guess is as good as mine," replied Vin. "I know Chris was pretty mad. . ."

"Yeah, I never saw Ezra at a loss for words before," countered a worried JD as he vividly remembered how just a few minutes ago Chris stormed into Security with the Pit Boss trailing behind him. They headed straight to Chris' office where he promptly slammed the door so hard the sound seemed to vibrate through the spaces. Then there was the muffled, "What the hell do you think you're doing, Ezra?" that could be heard. This was definitely not good, thought JD.

"Don't worry about it," reassured Vin as he tried to play down the whole situation. "I'm sure they'll work it out."

The sound of Chris' door opening caused both men to quickly look in its direction. When the two men stepped out, JD and Vin hastily looked away, pretending to work on their computers.

Anyone could see with just one look that the meeting didn't go well between the two men. Chris was glaring and his jaw pulsed as if he was ready to spit bullets. Meanwhile, the normally relaxed Pit Boss looked pale and tense as he fidgeted with the sleeves of his tailored-made suit jacket.

"Vin, escort Ezra out of the Montecito," ordered Chris through clenched teeth as if he was trying to hold back his anger.

"Escort?" repeated JD who looked at Vin and then to Chris and Ezra.

"I believe I can find my way out of this establishment," replied Ezra. He removed his employee badge and then slapped it against Chris' chest. A look of hatred passed between the two men as Chris' fingers curled around Ezra's badge into a clenched fist to keep from hitting him.

Ezra blinked as he tried to conceal the pain of his friend's distrust. He turned towards Vin and JD and said in a forced voice, "Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure working with you and I wish you all the best."

"Ezra, where're you goin'?" asked JD who was clearly confused by the recent developments.

"I have decided it is time to resign my employment," explained Ezra.

"What?" asked JD.

"He quit," clarified Chris. "Get him out of my sight."

A shocked JD watched as Vin escorted Ezra out of Security's spaces while Chris turned and went back to his private office, closing the door behind him.

"Holy crap," commented the junior security officer, Spencer Rowley, who had watched everything from his desk in the corner. "I can't believe Ezra just quit! What do you think happened?"

"Don't know, but I'm gonna find out," replied JD as they watched the two men on the security monitors head for the exit.

Tanner and Standish were silent as they walked down Montecito's employee-only corridor. Finally, Vin asked as they stepped onto the elevator, "Care to tell me what this is all about?"

His question was followed by silence, which was rare for the Pit Boss who was usually a man of many words.

"I'd rather not," replied the aloof Standish as they exited the elevators. Ezra noted that word of his quitting must have spread like wildfire due to the reaction he was getting from his fellow Montecito employees. Conversations suddenly ended as all eyes watched him pass by.

As they walked through the main lobby doors, Josiah Sanchez was there to meet them.

"What's going on brother?" asked the Head Valet as he placed a reassuring hand on Ezra's shoulder. He had already heard the news from JD, but was hoping now to somehow fix this mess and bring Ezra back into the Montecito fold.

"I've severed my employment with the Montecito," replied Ezra coolly.

"Maybe you shouldn't make such a rash decision," suggested Josiah. "How about you sleep on it . . . I'm sure tomorrow you will this is all a big mistake and regret it."

"That . . . will not happen," replied Ezra.

"Come on, Ezra, I'm sure whatever Chris said, he didn't mean it," replied Vin.

"Oh, but I meant everything I said," answered Ezra. Drawing himself to his full height, Ezra then added, "Good day gentlemen . . ."

Josiah and Vin watched as the Pit Boss walked away, both still surprised by his actions.

"It must be a full moon or something, 'cause both Ezra and Chris are acting loco," commented Vin as several clowns walked by who were attending a convention at the Montecito. Vin warily watched them as they entered into the hotel.

"You know they're only clowns . . . they're not gonna hurt you," said Josiah who had seen Vin's reaction. "In fact, clowning is a form of entertainment that has appeared in some manner in virtually every culture. In most cultures, the clown is a ritual character associated with festival or rites of passage and is often very different from the most popular western form."

"Never did like 'em . . . especially after I saw Stephen King's 'It'," replied Vin who had a feeling he was going to be miserable the next couple of days with the clowns in town. Hopefully he could stay in the Security Office and limit his time on the main floor to avoid them.

"Sounds like you have coulrophobia," said Josiah.

"Coulroph-what?" asked Vin as he looked over to the Head Valet like he just grew two heads.

"Coulrophobia," repeated Josiah. "It's the fear of clowns."

"Didn't say I fear 'em," replied Vin as he smiled. "Just don't like 'em. . ."

"You know the first step is admitting you have a problem," suggested Josiah as he lightly slapped Vin on the back. He then turned and headed back to work.

"Hello," said the sultry voice when the phone was answered on the second ring.

"Did you hear the news?" asked the individual on the other end.

"What's that?"

"Ezra quit today."

"You're joking me?!" Her mouth dropped open in surprise.

"Nope . . . I'm as serious as a heart attack . . . Chris and Ezra had some big blow out today and he got fed up and quit. Can't blame him . . . Chris can be such a hard ass at times. . ."

"Should we hold off on the plan?" asked the female voice as she pondered her question.

"Nahh . . . no one knows what we're doing . . . anyway, with Ezra gone we're in the clear," replied the cocky male.

"Ok, we'll continue, but if you get an inkling that they're on to us, give me a call," said the female.

"Roger that," said the male. "Gotta run . . . my break is almost over. . ."

Hospitality Host Buck Wilmington walked purposefully into the Montecito's security spaces and headed straight for Chris' office. It was obvious he had gotten word of Ezra's departure and wanted to get details from his good friend.

He knocked twice and waited.

"This better be good," said the Security Chief loudly on the other end, clearly not happy about being disturbed.

"It is," replied Buck as he opened the door, walked in, and closed it behind him. "Do you mind telling me what the hell happened between you and Ezra so that he would haul off and quit?"

"Buck, it's none of your business," replied Chris succinctly. "Just leave it alone."

"You know I can't do that," said Buck as he took a seat and stretched his legs out in front of him, his posture indicating he was going to stay until he got an answer.

Chris sighed realizing his friend wasn't going to let it go. "Let's just say a couple of issues came up regarding the casino, and Ezra and I had a difference of opinions. He figured it was best to leave."

"It must have been something big to get Ezra to quit like that," commented Buck as he tried to figure out what it could be.

"You'll have to ask him," replied Chris as he turned back to his monitor hoping his good friend would get the hint to leave.

"Does Travis know?" asked Buck.

"He does," replied Chris.

"You know, some folks around here are gonna have a hard time dealing with this," suggested Buck.

"Yeah, but you'll help JD through it," replied Chris. "Now, Buck, if you don't mind, I really need to get back to work."

Buck nodded as he stood knowing the subject was closed . . . for now.

"Hey Spence . . . we've got three guys running around the casino mooning people," alerted JD over his security communication device. "They're running right by the cashier's windows right now."

"Ok . . . I'm going after them," replied Spencer who had been on his security sweep.

"I'm sending back up," replied JD as he watched Vin head out the door to assist the junior security officer.

"Roger that," replied Spencer who was in hot pursuit.

JD watched from the security monitors as Spencer chased after the three obviously intoxicated mooners who weaved their way through the crowd.

"It looks like they're headin' to the convention room," stated JD into the mic to alert his fellow security officers.

"Roger that," said Spencer as he picked up the pace, hoping to cut off the mooners before they got into the convention room filled with clowns. Unfortunately, luck was not on his side. Just as he was catching up to them, three little old grandmothers suddenly walked out of the gift shop and right into his path. He made a quick diversion to avoid knocking them over, which unfortunately allowed the three men to escape into the large convention hall.

As Spencer got to the convention room door, Vin Tanner met him there. Both men stepped inside the large room that was now converted into a clown dealer and supply room, and filled with, of course, lots of clowns. The sight of so many clowns made Vin Tanner stop dead in his tracks.

"I don't see 'em, do you?" asked Spencer as he looked in all directions in hopes of finding the three culprits.

"Nope, I don't," said Vin as he tried to avoid looking at the clown that was carrying a super sized toothbrush. "JD, do you see 'em on the cameras?" he asked through the communication device.

"Nope, nothing here," said JD. "They must have escaped through one of the side entrances."

"Damn," said Spencer. "I'm gonna stay down here and keep looking, just in case. . ."

"Well, I'm gonna head back to the bull pen," replied Vin as he made a quick retreat out of the convention room. On his way back to the safety of the security office, Vin spotted another clown on the escalator that led to Wolfgang's restaurant as well as several specialty boutiques on the upper level. This clown was in trouble . . . her shoelace to one of her oversized shoes was caught in the moving escalator step and she was being dragged.

"HELP! HELP!" screamed the obviously distraught clown.

Vin took off in a full sprint towards the escalator, putting aside his "dislike" of clowns to help. "Hold on, Ma'am," said Vin as he removed the cover to the emergency stop button and pressed it. The escalators immediately came to a halt.

"Are you alright, Ms. . .?" asked a concerned Vin as he moved to the clown's side, helping to release her shoe from the escalator's metal grips.

"Twinkle Toes. . . my name's Twinkle Toes," replied the clown with the multi-colored wig and huge painted on smile.

The clown made a move to stand up and Vin moved to her side while cautioning, "Take it slow . . . maybe I should get Montecito's on-call physician to make sure you're alright. . ."

"No, I'm ok . . . just a little shaken up," reassured Twinkle Toes. "Thank you, Mr. . ."

"Tanner, Ma'am, Vin Tanner," replied the security officer who had noticed a crowd had gathered. "You're welcome . . . I was just doin' my job. . ."

"Well, if there is anything I can do for you, just let me know," said Twinkle Toes.

"Just be careful the next time you use the escalator," replied Vin smiling.

"Oh, I will," replied the clown. "Especially in these shoes!"

As Twinkle Toes walked away, Vin made a call to the maintenance department to report the escalator incident and asked that they check it out before starting the moving stairway. He then returned to the safety of the clown-free security offices.

Ezra Standish was listening to classical music while enjoying a glass of red wine when he heard a knock. Right on schedule, he thought as he glanced at his Rolex watch. He placed his glass on the coffee table and stood, making his way to his door.

When he opened his apartment door, there stood his three former coworkers - Nathan Jackson, Buck Wilmington, and JD Dunne, who was carrying a box in his hands.

"Gentlemen, to what do I owe this visit?" asked Ezra as he motioned for them to enter, already knowing why they were stopping by.

"Just wanted to drop off your stuff from your locker," said JD as he held up the box. "Thought you might want it."

"Thank you, Mr. Dunne," replied Ezra as he took the box from his hands and placed it on the foyer table. "That was very kind of you to gather my belongings and deliver them. I had expected Mr. Larabee to just toss them in the dumpster out back."

"Ahh come on, Ezra, you know Chris wouldn't do that," said Buck.

"We heard what happened at work today and wanted to stop by to see how you're doing," chimed Nathan taking a seat on Ezra's leather couch.

"I am doing quite well now that I am free of that establishment," said Ezra as he sat in the matching leather chair.

"Now Ezra, we know you better than that," said Buck. "We don't believe you."

"It is your decision what you choose to believe or not to believe," said a very aloof Ezra. "But it is the truth."

"Ezra, we're your friends . . . you don't have to do this . . ." interjected a very upset JD. This whole argument between Chris and Ezra was clearly not sitting well with the young man. "You don't have to lie to us. . ."

"Ahh . . . but this is not a lie," said Ezra. "Did you ever think that maybe all those years I spent at the Montecito were the lie . . . that, as the saying goes, 'once a cheat, always a cheat' is indeed true?"

"I don't believe it," replied JD firmly.

"And, dear boy, that is why you will always be the naïve one," replied Ezra coolly.

"Ok, Ezra, that was uncalled for," said Buck quickly. He stood while coming to JD's defense. "We're here because we were worried about you, but if you're gonna start calling us names, then we'll just leave."

"Fine, maybe you should leave," said Ezra standing as well. "Here, let me show you out." He walked over and opened the door.

The three men slowly stood. This obviously didn't go the way they expected. They had hoped they could talk the Pit Boss into coming back to the Montecito and talking to Chris, but it was very clear that would never happen.

"Ok, Ezra, when you want to talk, call us," said Nathan as the three men walked by on their way out.

Ezra responded by closing the door behind them.

"Hey JD, how about you come with me on the rounds?" suggested Vin Tanner who had noticed the young computer specialist had been rather quiet ever since his chat with Ezra two days earlier and thought he would try to cheer him up.

"Well, I don't know . . . I've got some stuff I need to work on," said JD keeping his eyes on his computer monitor.

"Ahh come on . . . I need someone to protect me from all those clowns," continued Vin with a smile. Word had gotten around of the Security Officer's 'fear' of clowns and he had been razzed ever since.

Vin could see JD was still undecided and he added, "Come on . . . you need a break from the computer . . . if you keep staring at it, you're bound to go cross-eyed."

"Ok," said JD reluctantly as he saved his work and clicked screen saver. He stood and followed Vin out of the security office.

"How about if we start off by the convention rooms?" suggested Vin as they walked down the back corridor. He was hoping to get the clowns over with first.

"Sure," said JD indifferently shrugging his shoulders.

When they reached the large convention room, Vin was pleased to see the doors were closed with a sign posted outside saying: "Clown of the Year Ceremony."

"Hey JD, why did Bubbles the clown put his cake in the freezer?" asked Vin as they walked down to check on some of the smaller conference rooms.

JD looked over at his coworker as if he had just gone crazy. "What?" he asked, not believing Vin was telling jokes right now.

"Why did Bubbles the clown put his cake in the freezer?" repeated Vin trying his best to get JD out of his lousy mood.

"Why?" finally asked JD as they continued their security sweep.

"He wanted icing on it," replied Vin before he started to chuckle. "Oh . . . how about this one . . . Patches the clown used to work in a candy factory, but they let him go. He kept throwing away all the M & M's that said W." Vin started to laugh immediately after his second joke.

A few moments later JD joined in. "You know, Vin, you really need to leave the jokes to me. . . you're horrible at it." .

JD's remark made Vin laugh even harder as he lightly slapped him on the back. "Come on . . . let's go check out the casino. . ."

They walked through the casino area and ran into the former Pit Boss, Ezra Standish, at the blackjack table. His sudden appearance caused JD to grow very silent.

"Hey Ezra, what you doin' here?" asked a surprised Vin who was hoping the ex-Pit Boss' unexpected presence meant he had returned to talk to Chris.

"Well, the last time I checked, it was a free country and since I am no longer employed at this establishment, I thought I would try my luck at the blackjack tables," commented Ezra.

"Chris isn't gonna like it that you're around," answered Vin.

"That's why I waited until Mr. Larabee left for his weekly meeting with Mr. Travis," replied Ezra as he placed some money on the table and gestured to the dealer, Carmelina, that he would like to be included in the game.

"Hey handsome," said Carmelina smiling seductively while placing chips in front of Ezra. "Glad to see you're back at the Montecito. . ."

"Well, thank you," replied Ezra grinning back at the sexy blackjack dealer. "I would say it is good to be back, but that is still debatable at the moment. . ."

"So are you here to have some fun?" asked Carmelina winking at Standish.

"That I am," replied Ezra giving her a cheeky grin. "Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I have a game of chance to enjoy," continued the ex-Pit Boss turning his attention to the two security officers.

It was at this time, three young men ran by revealing their posteriors to everyone. "Mooners have made an appearance in the casino," alerted Spencer through the security communication device. He was watching all the security monitors in the main office.

"Got 'em," replied Vin. "JD and I are goin' after 'em."

"Gentlemen, good luck in your pursuit," bid Ezra as Vin and JD took off after the three mooners.

"They're heading towards the gift shops," directed Spencer from Vin and JD's earpieces.

"Got it," replied JD. The two men took a shortcut through the slot machines to catch the three men. They rounded the corner just in time to see one of the young men press his bare bottom to the gift shop window, causing shrieks of surprise from the patrons inside. Unfortunately, the mooner got a surprise himself when the window shattered, raining glass on him.

"Spence, send back up, and get Nathan down here," ordered Vin through his security mic as customers shrieked in the background. "We'll also need an ambulance. . ."

"On it," replied Spence as he called the on-call physician first, and then alerted the Security Chief of the development.

Meanwhile, JD had grabbed the two uninjured mooners by the arms. "Just say no to crack, fellas . . . pull your pants up," he instructed while trying to keep a straight face. "You're just embarrassing yourselves. . ."

The third mooner lied on the ground moaning in pain from a bloody posterior. Vin knelt by him and said, "Help is on the way . . . stay still. . ." He was trying to decide if he should put pressure on the wounds – which he really didn't want to do considering their location – when Nathan showed up.

Nathan paused for a moment as he assessed the scene of the shattered window and the guy lying on the ground with his pants down at his ankles and bloody ass.

"Never a dull moment, huh?" asked Nathan as he carefully knelt by the groaning injured mooner who was surrounding by the broken gift shop window.

"Nope," replied Vin. "I had Spence call an ambulance, so they should be here shortly."

Nathan took a look at the hurt man. Since he was not sure if there was glass in any of the wounds, he didn't want to apply too much pressure. The injuries themselves didn't look too bad, so the man wasn't going to bleed to death, but he was definitely going to be in some discomfort.

Meanwhile, additional security personnel arrived with Security Chief Larabee. "Take those two bozos to interrogation room one," instructed Chris pointing to the two uninjured mooners with JD. The security personnel nodded and led the two pranksters out of the lobby.

At the same time, Josiah Sanchez arrived escorting the EMTs to the scene. "Whatta we got?" asked one of the EMTs.

"A young man . . . in his early twenties . . . who has cuts to his posterior. . ." explained Nathan. "I only applied minimal pressure, because I wasn't sure if any pieces of glass were in the wounds."

The two EMTs nodded and took over. Nathan stepped back and joined his fellow coworkers who were monitoring the scene.

"I've called maintenance," said JD. "They are on their way up to clean up this mess. . ."

"We'll probably need to temporarily close the gift shop," suggested Chris noticing there was a lot of glass inside the store as well.

"I'll let Gloria know," replied Josiah and headed off to talk to the shop owner.

"Stay here until the EMTs leave and maintenance arrives," instructed Chris. "While I have a little chat with the other two . . ."

As Chris walked away, Vin added, "More like put the fear of God into 'em. . ."

"Yeah, I definitely feel sorry for those two," replied JD. "When Chris is done with 'em, they'll wish they were in the hospital with their buddy. . ."

"So how did the interview go?" asked Vin as he walked into Chris' office. He shut the door behind him and then took a seat. The excitement from earlier in the evening had died down and it was now quiet in the office.

"The usual," replied Chris leaning back in his chair and stretched his back. "Never thought I would be interviewing a bunch of drunken idiots who get their jollies flashing their asses. . ."

Vin chuckled softly at the description and Chris continued, "The two fools didn't even realize they were doing anything wrong. You should have seen it when LVPD showed up. They just about peed their pants."

Vin nodded and replied, "Nathan got word that their buddy at the hospital will be fine . . . they said he just suffered some 'minor lacerations to his buttocks'. So, he'll be joining his buddies in jail shortly."

"That's good . . . maintenance has the clean up under control, although Gloria's store will probably be closed for a couple days," said Chris.

"Saw Ezra in the casino earlier," said Vin as he changed the subject.


"You know what I think?" continued Vin.

"What's that?" asked Chris keeping his expression indifferent.

"That this whole thing between the two of you is some big lie," said Vin firmly. "Something's up . . . and for some reason, you're not tell the rest of us . . ."

"You're wrong, Vin," replied Chris glancing down at the paperwork on his desk.

"To quote Ezra . . . both of you doth protest too much . . ." said Vin as a smile tugged at his lips. "Now I ain't leaving this room until you tell me. . ."

Chris sighed. He knew it was too good to be true that none of the men would suspect anything and put two and two together.

"Something is goin' on, but I can't tell you all the details," replied Chris trying to remain as vague as possible. "To make it believable, we decided not to tell you all . . . we needed to get genuine reactions from you . . ."

"Something going down in the casino?" asked Vin as he tried to put all the pieces together.

Chris nodded. "It was Ezra's idea and Travis agreed . . . we're the only three people who know . . . and now you. . ."

"What can I do to help?" asked Vin.

"Don't tell the others," replied Chris. "And when it comes time for the bust, I'll let you know."

Vin nodded. "It won't involve clowns will it?" asked Vin with a smile.

Chris started to laugh and replied, "No, you're safe . . . no clowns are involved . . ."

"Tiny bubbles," murmured Ezra softly relaxing in his bubble bath. His head was resting on the special bath pillow as his eyes remained closed. As much as he tried to enjoy the moment, his mind kept drifting back to the situation at the Montecito. Clearly, their prime suspect must have had an accomplice, he thought.

Who would I trust to run a con? His mother was his immediate response. Sure he always dreaded when she showed up unexpectedly for a visit, but if he needed help running a scam, she would be the first person he would ask. Could it be that simple? Could their suspect have a family member who also worked at the Montecito?

Ezra's eyes flashed open as he quickly stood, bubbles clinging to his muscular frame. Stepping out of the tub, he grabbed a plush white towel, drying himself quickly, and then wrapping it around his lean waist.

The soft thud of his bare feet against the wooden floors echoed down the hallway as Ezra entered his den and immediately turned on his laptop. Taking a seat in his chair, he waited patiently as the soft purr of the computer initialized the operating system.

A few clicks later he was online. Ignoring the stray bubbles that slowly slid down his chest and settled on his chiseled abs, he checked several genealogy websites to verify that his suspicions were indeed correct. An hour later, he got the proof he needed. Leaning back in his chair, a slow triumphant smile formed on his lips. He would verify the information with one of his sources and then go enjoy a celebratory meal at one of his favorite restaurants.

Two hours later, Ezra was enjoying a leisurely dinner at MGM Grand's FiAmma Trattoria when his cell phone began to ring. Checking first to see who was calling him, he answered on the third ring.

"Good Evening, Mr. Larabee," said the southerner.

"Ezra," said Chris on the other end. "Heard you were at the Montecito today."

"Yes I was," replied Ezra. "Had a very enjoyable and profitable afternoon at your establishment."

Chris chuckled softly and asked, "So, did you find out anything from your sources?"

"I did indeed," replied Ezra. "It seems our suspect has a cousin who is employed by the Montecito . . . Both of them also worked at a casino in Atlantic City four years ago, until they quit around the same time . . . I would wager that they are both in this together. . . "

"Who is this cousin?" asked Chris. He was very unsettled by the news of an accomplice working with the suspect. " I'll do some checking at this end . . . discreetly, of course. . ."

Ezra proceeded to fill in the Security Chief on the cousin. When he was finished, he said, "Well, I do believe I will get back to my meal now, before it gets cold . . ."

"Ok, Ezra," said Chris. "I'll call if I find out anything more."

The next day, Chris Larabee sat in his office not at all happy with the additional information he found out. It looked like the Montecito had not just one, but two employees who were involved in this elaborate scheme to cheat the casino. Today would be the day they would bust them.

Meanwhile, in the security's bull-pen area, the new shift was arriving. Vin Tanner, JD Dunne, and Spencer Rowley walked in with Spence giving a play-by-play description of what happened during the final seconds of last night's basketball game.

"Man . . . you should have seen it," said the excited security guard. "It was unbelievable. . ."

"You know, Spence, maybe you should switch to decaf," suggested Vin, joking about the man's hyperactive state.

Chris had heard the team arrive, and he stepped out of his office, "Spencer, I need to see you for a moment."

"Sure thing, boss," said the young man jumping out of his chair and heading to the Security Chief's office. Meanwhile, Vin and JD proceeded to sit down at their desks and log on to their computers.

It was only a few minutes later when Spencer returned, obviously no longer in a good mood.

"Someone must have pissed in his coffee," muttered Spencer taking his seat. "Cause he's in a bad mood today."

"Meeting didn't go well?" asked JD looking over sympathetically.

"To say the least," complained Spencer. "Larabee said I can't do any security sweeps today 'cause I've got a backlog on my reports . . . need to get them finished today . . ."

"Bummer," replied JD.

"Vin, I need to see you in my office," said Chris.

The quiet security officer nodded as he stood and headed to see the Security Chief.

"Hope he has better luck than I did," mumbled Spence as he logged onto his computer.

When Vin returned a few moments later, Spencer asked, "How'd it go?"

"Same as yours . . . got to finish some reports," replied an unhappy Vin.

"JD, you're with me. . ." said Chris as he exited his private office and walked down the steps.

"Sure thing," replied JD casting one last look at his two friends, before walking out.

"We're we going?" asked JD as they walked quickly down the corridor.

"Casino," replied Chris and they exited through the employee-only door into the area in question. Turning to JD, he said, "Follow my lead."

"Ok," replied JD as the two men wove their way through the slot machines and craps tables until they reached the blackjack tables.

JD immediately spotted Cheryl Tingle who was acting Pit Boss until they found a replacement for Ezra.

Chris nodded at Cheryl, before turning his attention to the blackjack dealer. "Ms. Wheeler, I need you to come with me."

The young woman looked up from the cards she was dealing. "But I'm in a middle of a game here. . . can it wait?"

"I'll take over," replied Cheryl moving to Carmelina's side and placing a hand on her arm. "Go with Mr. Larabee, Carmelina."

Carmelina stepped back from the table and nodded to her supervisor. She followed the two men out of the casino area and to the security interrogation room one.

Meanwhile, back in the security office, Spencer Rowley had spotted Chris and JD on the monitors escorting the Blackjack dealer, Carmelina Wheeler out of the casino.

Standing quickly, Spence said, "I think I'm gonna get some coffee. Anyone want anything?"

Unfortunately he didn't get too far. Vin Tanner had been alerted earlier by Chris about what was going to happen and was ready for him by blocking his path. "You're not going anywhere, Spence, except for interrogation room one."

The man's shoulders slumped as he realized they had been found out. Nodding reluctantly in acceptance, he was led out of the bull-pen area and to the interrogation room.

"Why am I here?" demanded Carmelina as she was led into the same interrogation room that held Spencer Rowley. When she saw Spencer seated at the table, she suddenly became very silent.

"Thought I would have a little chat with you and your cousin, Spencer," replied Larabee. He held out a chair for her and then said, "Here . . . take a seat . . . you're gonna be here awhile."

The young redhead sat next to her cousin, crossing her arms over her ample bosom. If they had figured out that she and Spencer were cousins, then chances were they also found out about their scam.

Chris moved to sit across from the couple. "You know, how about if we cut to the chase here . . . I'm really not in the mood for a long drawn out interrogation where I accuse you of stealing almost $300,000 from the Montecito and you both deny it."

"Stealing? I don't know what you're talking about," said Carmelina pretending to be surprised.

Chris rolled his eyes and turned to JD and Vin. "Didn't I just say I wasn't in the mood for this crap?"

"Yeah, you did," replied Vin nodding.

"At least once," added JD as he tried his best not to smile.

Chris turned back to the two cousins and said, "Ok, how about if I tell you where you screwed up in your scam . . . one, you came to the Montecito; two, you assumed we don't have backup copies of the casino security tapes that Spence 'accidentally' erased; three, you got cocky and tried to steal more money; and four, Spence, you were stupid enough to pay cash for your new 2008 Ford Mustang. Now, like I said, I'm not in the mood . . . LVPD has been called and they're on their way over right now . . . this little 'chat' is to just let you know you've been caught and we've got the evidence.

There was silence in the room for a moment. Then suddenly Carmelina said, "It was all Spence's idea . . . he forced me to do it. . ."

"What the hell?" asked Spence looking over in surprise at his lying cousin. "Can it, Carmelina . . . he's not gonna fall for your 'damsel in distress' act."

"For once Spence is right," replied Chris standing up. "You two can wait here . . . LVPD will be with you in a moment. . ."

As the three security officers walked out of the interrogation room, Chris said, "Vin, wait outside until LVPD arrives . . . just in case those two decide to try something stupid."

"Will do," replied Vin.

"JD, I've got some tapes I need you to copy for the PD," continued Chris as the two men walked down the hall to security's main office.

"Sure thing, Chris," replied JD.

"I need to call Ezra and let him know our plan worked," said Chris as he stopped in the hallway.

"Plan?" repeated JD who was surprised to hear Chris mention the ex-Pit Boss's name.

"Ezra was the one who originally suspected Carmelina, but we weren't sure who else was involved, explained Chris.

"So, you all came up with the plan for Ezra to 'quit'?" continued JD starting to put two and two together.

"Yep, we were hoping with Ezra leaving, the thieves would get greedy and try to steal more money, which is exactly what they did," said Chris.

"So everything Ezra said to us. . ." started JD.

"He didn't mean it," replied Chris who had heard that the Pit Boss said some harsh words to the young computer specialist. "It was all an act. . ."

"Why didn't you tell us?" asked JD. "You know you could have trusted all of us."

"We know we could've trusted all of you," replied Chris. "But we needed honest reactions from everyone . . . if the thieves suspected that this was all an act, it wouldn't have worked."

JD nodded and was silent for a moment. "So, Ezra really didn't quit . . . he still works here?"

"Yep," replied Chris lightly slapping JD on the shoulder and continued, "Now I need to call and tell him that his paid 'vacation' is over and that he needs to get his ass back to work. . ."

Ezra Standish returned to work the next day glad the whole charade was over. He really did hate having to lie to the others and knew he had to mend a few fences. When he stepped into the lobby, he removed his sunglasses and smiled when he noticed his six friends were waiting for him.

"Gentlemen," he said as he approached.

"Brother, it's good you're back," said Josiah as he lightly squeezed his shoulder. The other men had been filled in on everything that happened and were happy to hear Ezra did indeed still work at the Montecito.

"It's good to be back," replied Ezra who realized he really meant it.

"Can't believe your quitting was all an act," commented Buck enthusiastically shaking his hand.

"You had us all fooled," added Nathan.

"Well, not all," interjected Vin smiling. He was the only one who figured out that it was all a charade.

"I thought our performance was quite Oscar worthy," commented Ezra as he smiled.

"Well, I wouldn't go that far," replied Chris, a smile also tugging at his lips, "but it did get the job done. . ."

Noticing that the youngest member of their group was very quiet, Ezra said, "Although, I would be remiss if I did not apologize for what I said over the past couple days. . . I truly did not intend to hurt anyone with my remarks . . . it's just Mr. Larabee and I needed to ensure our 'act' was believable."

"It's ok, Ezra," said JD tentatively smiling. "Chris explained everything . . ."

Ezra glanced over at Chris and nodded, appreciating the Security Chief's help in smoothing over any hurt feelings.

"Well, Mr. Dunne," said Ezra as he shook his hand. "I consider myself very lucky to have you as a friend."

"Umm. . . Vin, are those friends of yours?" asked Nathan as several clowns approached the group of men.

Vin almost groaned out loud when he spotted the three clowns heading in their direction.

"How does the saying go . . . 'send in the clowns'?" asked Buck grinning.

"Mr. Tanner! Mr. Tanner!" said Twinkle Toes as stopping in front of the kind, young man who helped her on the escalator a few days earlier.

"Twinkle Toes," said Vin warily, wishing the ground would just open up and suck him in.

Buck turned away and mouthed, 'Twinkle Toes?' to Chris who was trying his best not to laugh.

"I just wanted to thank you for saving me from that pesky escalator the other day," said the clown. Twinkle Toes then turned towards her fellow clowns and declared, "He's my hero."

"Vin, these are my friends Blinky and Dimples," said Twinkle Toes.

"Nice to meet you," replied Vin who was obviously uncomfortable by all the attention . . . and the clowns.

"I also wanted to give you these," said Twinkle Toes. She pulled from her sleeve a bouquet of six fake flowers and then handed them to her 'hero'.

"Umm . . . thank you," said Vin who had never received flowers before, much less from a clown. "But I was just doin' my job. . ."

"Well, you deserve a raise," declared Twinkle Toes, causing Chris to cough in response, while the other men held back their laughter.

"Well, um. . . I should be getting back to work," said Vin itching to get away from all this attention.

"Oh, right! We have the closing ceremony to attend," declared Twinkle Toes. "So we better run, too . . . thanks again."

"No problem," said Vin waving goodbye to the three departing clowns. He stood there waiting for one of his six friends to make a wise ass remark about what just happened.

He didn't have to wait long. Chris said, "Ok, fellas, stop 'clowning' around and get back to work." The others began to laugh as Vin shook his head. Nope, they couldn't leave it alone. Life at the Montecito was back to normal.