The Montecito hotel lobby was bustling with guests checking
in and out, making their way to the casino, to the restaurant for lunch,
or heading out to see the Las Vegas sights. From that din of chatter and
excitement came a voice:
Hospitality Host Buck Wilmington stopped dead in his tracks, turning on his
heel as he smiled, his blue eyes finding the owner of the voice.
"Yes, Mrs. Gracey." Buck never forgot a lady's name. He knew Paula Gracey
was staying in room 214 and was there with her husband Harold for their
25th anniversary. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm afraid I've misplaced my husband," the 47-year-old bobbed, redheaded
Mrs. Gracey said.
"Well, let's see if we can find him," Buck said, taking Mrs. Gracey by the
arm and leading her to the restaurant. "Why don't you go inside and have
some lunch, on the hotel of course, and I'll have Mr. Gracey brought to you
as soon as we locate him."
Still looking worried, Mrs. Gracey allowed herself to be seated at a table
as Buck turned away, bringing his cell phone to his ear after pressing a
number on speed dial.
In the surveillance room, somewhere in the maze of gray corridors in the
gut of the hotel, the Head of Security's cell phone rang. The blond flipped
it open, said, "Larabee," and waited while Buck spoke to him. "I'll get on
it and call you back," he said and snapped the phone shut.
Beside Chris, sitting in swivel chairs, were Vin Tanner and JD Dunne, members
of his security team, who were watching some of the many monitors throughout
the security surveillance room. "That was Buck on the phone. Mrs. Gracey
has misplaced her husband and is asking for our help."
"He's probably just in the casino," offered JD. "Or bar," countered Vin.
"Well, let's see if we can confirm your suspicions. JD, check the cameras
and see if you can find him," replied Chris. "And, Vin, why don't you go
down on the floor and help Buck."
"Sure thing, boss," Vin said, cracking a smile at his friend as he stood,
slipping his navy blue suit jacket on over his white dress shirt. He straightened
his tie, which was the same color as the suit, as he left the room. He made
his way through the maze of gray halls until he came out onto the casino
floor. He remembered where he'd last seen Buck on the surveillance monitors
and headed that way, finding him in the lobby talking to Josiah Sanchez and
"If either of you see Mr. Gracey be sure and let Chris know." Buck finished
explaining the situation to the two men.
Josiah's position as the resort's head valet brought him in contact with
most of the resort's guests at some point during their stay, and that's just
the way he liked it. Having once been a preacher, he had grown accustomed
to being with people, and here it seemed that his services and those of the
valet staff that he managed were always in high demand. However, truth be
told, it was not always the valet services that the other people needed the
most after a bad run at the tables or where matters of the heart were concerned.
"Sure, Buck, but I haven't seen him since he and his wife checked in."
Nathan often got to see people at their worst in his job as the Casino's
Doctor on Call. He had seen just about everything since he accepted Chris'
offer to join the Montecito's team, and between that and his time as a military
doctor not much shocked him anymore. "I haven't seen him at all, but I did
see Mrs. Gracey yesterday evening. She'd over indulged at the dinner buffet,"
he said with a wink.
"That's easy enough to do. I'd hate to know for sure just how many time's
I've done that." Buck chuckled, laughter reaching his dark blue eyes.
"Hey fellas," said Vin as he interrupted the conversation. "Thought I would
help out in the search."
"The more the merrier. If we all split up we should be able to get this done
a lot quicker." Buck turned to head back into the main gaming room, while
the other three men prepared to fan out to search for the missing man.
"Jackpot!" exclaimed JD Dunne after finding the wayward husband in question.
"Got something?" asked Chris Larabee who had heard the young man's exclamation.
"Yep, Mr. Gracey is at craps table ten," replied JD as he turned in his chair
to face his boss. "And he's not alone." Chris glanced down at the surveillance
monitor and grimaced when he noticed Mr. Gracey was with a buxom redhead.
He keyed his microphone and called down to the pit boss who was also working
the craps table in question.
Ezra Standish heard the voice in his earpiece without reacting. "Ezra, it's
Chris," said the Head of Security on the other end.
"Make sure the bald headed gentleman at your table does not leave . . . his
wife is looking for him." Ezra raised an eyebrow at last bit of information
while his gaze landed on the female companion for the gentleman in question.
He reached up to scratch a fake itch on his temple to signal that he had
heard and understood the request.
"Good," replied Chris succinctly and then hung up.
Mr. Gracey had control of the dice, and turned to the beauty standing next
to him. "Blow on them. You've been bringing me such good luck, and I believe
I am about to win a lot of money," said a very confident Mr. Gracey as the
buxom redhead began to giggle.
As Buck, Vin, Josiah, and Nathan began their search for the elusive Mr. Gracey,
Vin's cell phone rang. "Yeah," he answered, listened, hung up. He then announced
to the other men, who had stopped when they heard the phone ringing. "Craps
table ten and he's not alone."
"Bet you a c-note he's with some stacked blonde that goes by Bambi or Shakira,"
Vin cast a glance at his friend, but said nothing as they arrived at craps
table ten, for here was Mr. Gracey, and practically in his lap was a curvaceous
redhead okay, so Buck had gotten it half right.
"Mr. Gracey," Buck said softly after he stepped up next to the older gentleman,
"You have a phone call . . . if you could just come with me, I'll escort
you to a phone."
Mr. Gracey, looked to the woman with him and said, "I'll be right back Sharona,"
and Vin raised an eyebrow at the name, while Buck looked at him as if saying,
'I told you so.'
They led Mr. Gracey out of the casino and Buck said, "Sir, your wife is waiting
to have lunch with you."
Harold Gracey at least had the decency to look very ashamed, beads of sweat
popping up on his big forehead. "Uh, I. . .you won't tell Paula, will you?"
Buck, still smiling, said, "Mr. Gracey, might I suggest you surprise your
wife with a gift? Perhaps . . ." he paused, thinking. "Yes, perhaps a renewal
of your wedding vows?"
"You think?" Mr. Gracey said, but they could tell he had already taken the
bait and that he'd be presenting the idea to his wife as if he'd plucked
it from his own bald head.
"Enjoy your lunch," Buck said, giving a small wave. "And don't worry about
your chips. I'll have them cashed out for you. All you need to do is pick
up your cash when you're ready."
"How did you know?" asked Vin.
"What?" replied Buck as he tore his gaze from Mr. Gracey's retreating back.
"Who Mr. Gracey would be with," replied Vin as the two men began walking.
"Well, it happens quite frequently," replied Buck as he shook his head, clearly
disapproving of the older gentleman's actions. "Too frequently . . . you'd
think these men would appreciate what they have. . . but I guess its
hard to teach an old dog new tricks."
"Well, you know what they say, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas',"
"And there is also the line of, 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned',"
chimed Buck Wilmington. He paused at the craps table to instruct Ezra to
cash out Mr. Gracey's chips, and then continued on with Vin. The rest of
their conversation was interrupted when Buck's cell phone rang.
"Duty calls. The people from that big science fiction convention are starting
to arrive," said Buck as the two men parted and Buck disappeared into the
stream of people coming and going. Vin smiled as he watched Buck stop to
speak to a group of female twenty something's in bikinis who were clearly
heading out to the pool.
His cell phone rang and he answered it, "Tanner."
"Crisis diverted?" asked Chris.
"Yep, the happy couple has been reunited and all is well thanks to Buck.
He always knows just what to say to 'em," answered Vin.
Chris could not hold back the half smile that snuck its way to his lips.
His team worked well together, whether it was a small problem, or a major
crisis. He knew he owed a large part of the special cohesiveness to his oldest
friend, Buck Wilmington, and there was no doubt in his mind that Buck had
a lot to do with this happy ending. He always had a way of charming people
into doing what he wanted them to do, especially where a lady was concerned.
"If you don't need me there, I'm just gonna prowl around out here for a bit."
Vin felt the need to stretch his legs.
"Prowl away," Chris said and ended the call.
"He just can't stand being cooped up, can he?" JD kept his eyes on the monitors
in front of him while speaking to Chris.
Chris took to the role of head of security like a duck does to water. Based
on Chris' FBI background, Orin Travis, the casino's owner, had given him
carte blanche when it came to creating his security team. As a special agent
for the FBI, Chris was accustomed to the responsibility of heading up a team,
and his reputation with the agency had been impeccable. Only a family tragedy
could force him away from the profession he had devoted his life to.
"No, Vin is definitely not a four walls type of guy." There were times that
it still amazed him that Vin stayed on at the Montecito. He had hired Vin
before he had taken on anyone else for the team, other than Buck, recognizing
the potential the younger man had with the team.
His time with the Texas Rangers had left Vin used to being on the open road,
and Texas was one mighty big state to cover. After being charged with murder
and then having the charges dropped for lack of evidence, he had resigned
from the Rangers and set out to start over somewhere else. Not many law
enforcement agencies would have considered hiring him, but Chris knew a good
thing when he saw it, and he had hired Vin without hesitation when Vin responded
to the ad for security personnel for the Montecito.
The members of the team had been together for three years, with Ezra and
JD being the last two hired, and both of them had been hired against his
better judgment. The team was just about complete when Chris had been forced
to hire Ezra.
Ezra's criminal background still kept Chris on his toes. Trust was something
he didn't give lightly, and Ezra hadn't proven to him yet that he deserved
it. Until that day, he had enlisted Buck to help him keep an eye on their
head pit boss. Once a con man, always a con man as far as Chris was concerned.
If it had not been for Orin Travis' insistence, he never would have hired
the man, but Orin was convinced that it took a cheat to catch a cheat. There
was no doubt that Ezra was one of the best. He had succeeded in running the
tables at the Montecito on multiple occasions, but he just couldn't be caught
at it, until one day one tiny slip up had security descending on him like
flies on a dung heap. Chris could not believe it when Orin had cut Ezra a
deal. Teach the dealers how to recognize a cheat and he would make him head
He glanced at JD where he sat working the controls for the cameras that were
placed all over the casino. There was virtually no inch of the place that
wasn't caught on videotape, twenty-four hours a day, and that was partly
due to the young man sitting at the console. Where anything electronic was
concerned he was a true genius, but he was young and sometimes too smart
for his own good. He had finished high school early, zipped through his
Bachelor's degree, and then practically flew through his Master's degree,
to graduate years ahead of his contemporaries at the age of twenty-one. He
had applied to the Montecito fresh out of college. Chris had been afraid
that JD was too young and inexperienced to handle the job, but he needed
someone who could handle the technical end of surveillance. The previous
person had been caught one too many times using the cameras for his own
voyeuristic interests, and he needed to be replaced quickly, in order to
complete his new team. Buck had convinced him to give the kid a chance, and
Chris had not regretted bringing him on board. JD had proven his expertise
time and time again.
"Hey, check it out!" JD grinned at the sight on the screen.
Chris moved up behind him to stare at the view screen and nearly laughed,
as he watched Josiah open the doors for a group of aliens in full costume.
He wasn't really up on all the science fiction movies and TV shows, but he
did recognize at least one Klingon in the group, and the scantily clad woman
in the green body paint had to be an Orion Slave girl. He'd never admit it
to the others, but he had been sort of a closet Trekkie in his younger years.
"I got my ticket to get into the convention. Are you going?" JD asked.
"Not planning on it. I figure I'll get all I want of it just in doing my
"Yeah, but you can't buy stuff and go to the lectures if you don't buy a
ticket." JD pointed out what he was sure had been an oversight on his boss's
part. "I can't wait to see what they have in the dealers' room."
Chris just shook his head as he headed back to his office.
"Mr. Samuels?" Buck greeted the man in full Klingon regalia.
"Yes, but I prefer K'or for my time here." He shook Buck's outstretched hand.
"Certainly. Well then, K'or, let's get you and your entourage checked in,
and then I can walk through the convention center with you to be sure everything
is to you liking." He waited patiently while Jason Samuels, aka K'or, checked
his group in. Of course, he couldn't resist some not so subtle glances at
that outrageously gorgeous green woman.
"There we go. Mr. Wilmington, I'm ready when you are." He handed out key
cards to the remaining members of his group, reserving one for himself. "You
all go ahead up to the rooms and get settled. I'll be with you shortly."
"What would you like to check out first?"
"The dealers' room. I understand that you've had it open since early this
morning, for the dealers to start setting up." K'or towered over Buck, leaving
the six-foot four-inch Hospitality Host looking up at him.
"Yes, they've been at it since around six a.m. for some of them." Buck looked
the big man up and down. "If you'll excuse me for asking, are you really
that tall, or is there something about the costume
K'or grinned, showing fake Klingon teeth. "Nearly this tall, but there are
two extra inches from the boots."
"You must be at least six-feet eight-inches tall without the boots then.
I gotta say it isn't often that I find someone I have to look up to." Buck
fidgeted a little in the presence of someone so much taller than he was.
He usually found himself a few inches taller than most people around him.
Now, next to this man he felt average.
"Six-nine actually, plus two inches for the boots."
"Wow! That is impressive."
"And before you ask, yes I did play basketball in high school and college.
Never was quite good enough to go pro though."
"Ah, here we are." Buck stopped in front of a set of double doors and pulled
out his passkeys. " He unlocked one side of the door and the two slipped
The room was still in a bit of chaos, as boxes were emptied and tossed aside
to be carried to storage until time to pack back up and leave at the end
of the convention. People were busily arranging books, fanzines, crafts,
jewelry and a variety of other items on the rows and rows of tables. The
plan was to have the dealers' room open for the early arrivals that evening
for three hours, as sort of a sneak peek for getting there the night before
the main event started.
K'or seemed satisfied with the room, and greeted various vendors with a huge
bear hug or a handshake. "Things look good here. So, how's security for the
"When the stars are here, we'll have security posted at each entrance, and
there are always the cameras." He pointed to the bubbles on the ceiling that
housed the cameras. "They can be used to check 360 degrees around them. We
can zoom in, pull out, or enhance the images. Upstairs there are two walls
full of monitors, along with the main console that we can pull up any camera
we need to keep closer watch over. Plus, your group has this whole wing on
this floor as part of the convention center. No one is allowed into this
wing without their ID badge from the con, or security ID from the Montecito."
"Excellent! Now, before I have to go up and face my wife again, I want to
take a quick turn around the casino." K'or rubbed his hands in anticipation,
and apparently wasn't at all concerned that he would be out there gambling
dressed as a Klingon.
"I'll show you the way, and by the way, the Montecito has taken the liberty
of extending you a $10,000 credit line in the casino. Anything you need to
make your stay more enjoyable, just let me know." Buck oozed charm from every
pore. It was always a little harder to get the men to fall for it than it
was the ladies. "Is there anything I can do for you now?"
yes. You could take a little gift up to my wife to take
her mind off the fact that I haven't joined her yet." He handed Buck some
money for the gift, and extra for a tip. "Tell her I'll be up within the
"No problem. I can certainly do this for you, but
" he hesitated. He
knew Mr. Samuel's wife's name was Rita, but since all the members are in
full make up he had no idea which one was Mrs. Samuels. "Uh
K'or burst out laughing at Buck's dilemma. "The green woman you were drooling
over in the lobby."
"Oh! Yes, well
I apologize for that. I
"No need to apologize." K'or gave Buck a friendly slap on the shoulder. "I
think she's one of very few who are beautiful enough to pull off being an
Orion slave girl. It is a compliment when others agree with me, as long as
they just look and don't touch."
"You are definitely one lucky man," Buck agreed. "Anything specific that
you'd like sent up to her?"
"I'll leave that to you. You know best what you have available here. Now,
if you'll point me in the direction of the black jack tables."
Buck escorted K'or to the tables and informed Ezra of K'or's identity and
his credit limit, before making his way to the gift shop.
Nothing fazed Josiah any more. He'd seen some pretty strange things since
taking the job here at the Montecito. He'd just opened the door for Darth
Vader, a Vulcan, and another alien that he couldn't identify, but the make-up
job was amazing.
The next carload did take him a little off guard. The two men who got out
were dressed as two of the main characters from Firefly, complete with guns
and grenades. Josiah sighed, knowing that this was not going to go well.
He keyed his mic to alert security. "I could us some help down here. Take
a look at what just got out of that car."
"Awesome!" JD was way too caught up in the fun of the convention.
"On my way," Vin grabbed his jacket and headed back down to the front door.
"What? What's wrong?" JD was confused.
Chris had joined him and was looking over his shoulder to see what the commotion
was about. "Guns, JD."
"But they're just toy guns. Most likely carved from wood to look like the
guns in the show. They can't hurt anyone."
"No they can't hurt anyone, but if we let them carry them, what if someone
slips in with them with a real gun? Do you think we would notice it in time
to stop something bad from happening?" Chris tried to be patient with their
youngest team member. He knew that the technical aspects of surveillance
were the young man's strong points, not the security part of the job.
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that." JD was embarrassed that he had been that
naïve. "It's a shame though. They did a really great job on them."
"Gentlemen, welcome to the Montecito." Josiah opened the door for them just
as Vin reached the main lobby.
Vin allowed them to reach the check-in desk, before slipping up beside them.
"Gentlemen, I see you are here for the convention."
"Yes, and we are in a bit of a hurry." The one dressed as Malcolm Reynolds
tried to brush off Vin's attention.
"That's fine. I don't intend to delay you long, but I am with security here
at the Montecito, and I have to ask you to hand over the guns until you leave."
"You've got to be kidding?" The larger man posing as Jayne seemed incredulous.
"No, Sir. I'm not kidding. It is hotel policy."
"They aren't real, and they are part of the costumes." Mal was quickly becoming
upset. "There are costume contests and ours will be incomplete without the
"I'll tell you what. You turn them over for now, and we'll bring them back
to you for the contest, but then you have to give them up again until you
leave." Vin decided he could make that concession to the men. They would
be sure to have security available during the contest to be sure the men
didn't slip the guns away with them. "I'm sure you understand that these
look very real, and that they could pose a real security issue."
This played to the men's egos and seemed to appease them. After all, Vin
had just paid them the ultimate compliment on their work on the guns. They
looked too real. Reluctantly, the men handed over the fake guns and grenades,
and Vin wrote them out a claim ticket for them.
"When it is time for the costume contest, let us know and we'll have someone
bring them down just long enough for your entry. Have a nice stay at the
Montecito." He collected the confiscated props and headed back to the security
By six o'clock the hotel was crawling with all sorts of aliens, and humans
from nearly every sci-fi or fantasy movie ever made, and JD Dunne was waiting
in line for the dealers' room to open. As he stood there, he had counted
at least five Dr. Who's, a wide variety of Star Trek characters, and others
from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, just to name a few.
As soon as the doors opened, he made his way quickly inside and headed straight
for the table that seemed to have the most fanzines. He loved to read those.
They might be written by amateur writers, but the stories were often better
than the ones the pros did. These people weren't restricted by what a publisher
thought was acceptable, and they came up with some great stories, some of
them even along the adult lines.
He picked up 'zines from Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. Those he would
be sure the guys didn't see, because he knew they would tease him about Harry
Potter being for kids. He also got the Sentinel, some from Star Trek, Dr.
Who, Babylon 5, and Farscape. He was sure he would find more throughout the
weekend, but he was thrilled to get these before they had a chance to sell
Once he had gotten his initial 'zine fix, JD started working his way slowly
around the room. His wallet was going to be significantly lighter by Monday,
but he didn't care.
"Attention!" A voice came over the PA system. "We have an unadvertised surprise
for those of you who made it in tonight. We have a private dining room set
up and four lucky people are going to get to have dinner with Tim Russ from
Star Trek Voyager."
A clamber of excitement filled the convention center and then there was silence
as everyone waited to see who would be the lucky ones.
"Everyone check the numbers on your ID tags. The four numbers drawn at random
are, 116, 258, 414, and 497. If you have those four numbers please come to
the information booth near the main entrance to the convention center."
JD looked at his tag and nearly dropped his shopping bag. His number was
116. He was going to get to have dinner with one of his favorite Star Trek
actors, and he was too stunned to move.
"Hey, that's you!" A pretty young woman who had been standing near him, nudged
JD and snapped him back to reality.
"Yeah, I guess it is!" He smiled at the young lady, and noted that her name
tag said her name was Stacey. Maybe with some luck he would run into her
again over the weekend.
He hurried to the information booth where his tag number was verified against
the roster of those already signed in, and then he followed the con official
to the private dining room where Tim
Russ was already seated. The guys upstairs were never going to believe him
when he told them about this.
"Undoubtedly." Ezra tossed the bogus chip to Chris. "It's a damn good replica
"Are you sure?" Chris flipped the chip around in his fingers checking it
from all sides.
"Mr. Larabee, I would not have brought it to your attention if I were not
sure." He took the chip back and pointed out the small flaw. "It is a legitimate
chip, but it is a $1 chip not $100. As you know, the difference between the
two is that the $100 chip has glitter and the $1 chip doesn't. Look closely."
He handed the counterfeit chip back to his boss along with a real $100 chip.
"The glitter isn't quite the right shade of gold. The same company makes
all our chips and therefore they will all have the exact same shade of glitter.
The gold in this one is too dark. Someone has converted a dollar chip by
adding the glitter. Not an easy task either, to make it look right."
Chris took the two chips and held them under a magnifier. Enlarged the difference
was easy to see. "This is going to be a nightmare to find all of these, if
there are more."
"You can count on more. A counterfeit this good isn't likely to be one of
a kind." Ezra knew it was going to be a long night. Recently, the casino
had started getting chips that had a very tiny microchip embedded into them
to make it harder to counterfeit them, but there were still some of the old
chips out there that hadn't been pulled in and exchanged yet. They were switching
them out as the old ones got turned in. Also, they didn't have the microchip
detectors at all the game tables yet, only at the cashier's stations where
people would cash in their chips.
"We need to find out how widespread this is," Chris said. "You'll need to
let all of the cashiers know to be extra vigilant when people cash in, and
let us know any time there is a counterfeit. Any chip that doesn't have the
microchip will need to be verified authentic if it is worth $100 or more.
They should hold the money and delay the guests until one of us can get there
to question them." He looked around the room at his security team. "Don't
anyone expect an early night fellas. This is going to be a long one."
JD's beeper went off just as dessert was being served. 'No, they aren't going
to do this to me. I've waited for this convention for months.' Even as his
mind formed the thought he knew he would respond to the page, but he didn't
have to be nice about it. "Excuse me, Mr. Russ. I have to answer that."
"This had better be good," JD grumbled when the phone was picked up on the
other end. As he listened his frustration lifted to be replaced by total
disbelief. "You're joking, right? This is just your way of pulling one over
on me, because you know how much I have been waiting for this convention."
After a couple more minutes of listening, sometimes with the receiver held
six inches from his ear to save his eardrum, JD finally decided that this
probably wasn't a joke. "All right. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"Is everything all right?" Tim asked.
JD sighed and shook his head. "No, there is a problem in the casino, and
I have to go back to work."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe we can talk more later this weekend, since
you'll miss out on the gab session we usually have over coffee."
"That would be totally awesome! Thank you." He shook the star's hand, and
gathered up his bags of plunder. If he got there and found out that this
really was a joke, he was going to find a way to get even with every one
of those involved.
Five minutes later he stepped into the security control room and the level
of activity there told him instantly that this was definitely no prank. "Okay,
boss. I'm here. Want to bring me up to speed?"
Chris showed him the bogus chip and compared it to a real one under the
magnifier. "What we need to figure out is an easy way to spot these, without
having to take very $100 chip that doesn't have a microchip in it and magnify
and compare it. Any suggestions?"
"Not right off, but give me some time to work on it." JD took the chips to
his workstation to study them.
"You think you can come up with something?" Vin asked from his seat beside
the Montecito's gadget guru.
"Yeah. It might take me a little while, but there is bound to be something
I can work with." He started taking out all the high tech gadgets he had
and scanning the chips.
Buck turned at the sound of his name and saw Mrs. Gracey hurrying to catch
up with him.
"Mr. Wilmington, could I talk to you for a minute?"
"Absolutely, Mrs. Gracey. How may I help you?" Buck turned on the charm and
watched it do its magic, instantly putting the lady at ease with him.
"You'll never believe what that husband of mine was up to today when I couldn't
find him," she said breathlessly.
"And what would that be?"
"He was out making arrangements for us to renew our wedding vows. Have you
ever heard of anything so romantic?" She was grinning like a new bride, and
she looked absolutely radiant.
"I can't say that I have. That devil. He had to be pretty slick to get that
all planned without you finding out about it." Buck secretly patted himself
on the back for suggesting it to Mr. Gracey after his momentary lack of
"I'm on my way to buy a new dress for it, but I tried to get into the salon
to get my hair done, and they said they can't get me in. Can you tell me
any place else nearby that I could get into on the spur of the moment like
this?" She shifted from foot to foot as she waited for an answer, anxious
to get things ready for her big night.
"You leave that to me, Mrs. Gracey. I'm sure I can pull some strings to get
you in. Wait right here for a moment while I make some calls." He winked
at her and moved out of earshot before dialing the number for the salon.
"Tina? Hey, gorgeous, how you doing?" He listened politely to her reply before
jumping into the purpose of his call. "Darlin', I need to call in a favor.
I've got Mrs. Gracey down here, and she really needs to get in to get her
hair done. It's kind of a special occasion, and her husband is one of our
VIP guests." He paused to allow her time to check her books. "Great! I owe
"Mrs. Gracey," Buck said as he rejoined her. "If you can be at the salon
in forty-five minutes, Tina will squeeze you in."
"Oh, thank you. You really are such a dear man." She stood on tiptoes to
give him a kiss on the cheek before dashing off to the boutique.
"No problem, ma'am. That's what I'm here for." Buck grinned as he watched
her practically bouncing away. 'All's well that ends well', he thought to
"The best I can come up with at the moment is black light." JD explained.
"The real chips have glitter that is very light gold and does give off a
faint purplish glow under black light. The counterfeit doesn't."
"That won't be too hard to do at the cashier's stations, but on the floor
that is another thing." Chris frowned, and raked his fingers through his
hair in frustration. "How the hell are we going to pull that off on the floor?"
JD tossed him a special pair of glasses. "Try these."
Chris put on the glasses and waved the black light wand over the two chips.
A smile tugged at the corner of his lips when he saw the one chip develop
little purple freckles. "That'll do. How many pair of these do you have?"
"Only a couple. They were something I got on a whim, thinking that they might
come in handy some day." JD was pleased with himself and kicked back in his
seat with a smug look on his face.
"Okay, Ezra, you take one pair and start on the North side of the room, and
I'll take the second pair and start on the south, closest to the main door."
Chris handed the first pair to his pit boss and waited for JD to dig out
the second pair for him. "I want security at every door out of the casino.
Once we start checking chips, the counterfeiter might decide to try to bolt
and run, if he hasn't already."
The men fanned out over the casino floor and decided to start with the gaming
pits. It was less likely that the counterfeiter would be trying to pass the
bogus chips off in the slots.
"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen," Ezra interrupted the game as he stepped
up beside the dealer. "I apologize for the slight delay, and there is nothing
to be alarmed about, but I need to stop play for just a few moments." He
put the glasses on and turned on the black light and began shining it on
the piles of chips. The glitter was even on the edges so he wouldn't have
to have them spread them out flat. Once finished with the players, he scanned
over the dealer's chips. "Everything is fine here. Again, my apologies. Please
accept a drink on us for the inconvenience." He passed out special chips
that the players could turn in for a free drink at the bar or with one of
Slowly, and methodically, the two men worked from opposite ends of the room.
Ezra was beginning to think that the one bogus chip might actually be all
there was, when he finally got a hit, and it was a big one. Stacks of chips
all around the roulette table had chips that didn't glow, but one set of
chips stood out like a beacon. Over three fourths of the $100 chips stayed
dark under the light. Ezra keyed his mic but didn't say anything, so he wouldn't
spook the man across the table from him.
"Hey, looks like Ezra's got something." JD pulled up the camera shots from
that pit. He signaled the rest of the security detail. "Chris, Ezra's got
something in pit seven."
"Have Vin join me down here. He can come in from behind and I'll come in
from the side. Hopefully, Ezra can keep him there until we get there." Chris
left off checking the chips at pit sixteen and casually worked his way toward
The suspected counterfeiter started to fidget as he waited for the man to
stop checking the chips on the table. He couldn't see how they could be onto
him, and as long as he stayed cool, he felt sure things would be all right.
That feeling didn't last long when he saw men closing in on the pit from
different directions. His mind kept telling him not to move, but his body
reacted instinctively and he bolted.
Chris sprinted after him and tackled him to the floor, just as Vin caught
up with them from the other direction. Vin grabbed the man and pulled him
to his feet, while Chris stood up and brushed himself off. "I'm getting too
old for this," he muttered to himself and glared at the man that Vin kept
a firm hold on. "Bag up his chips and send them up to the office. Oh, and
check out the others on this table and exchange any that are bad."
"Get a bag for those chips please," Ezra instructed the dealer. He started
checking the other players' chips while the dealer bagged the evidence. He
found quite a few counterfeit chips in those stacks, but he felt certain
that they were the result of winning them after the counterfeiter had used
them in his own bets. He quickly exchanged those for real chips and took
the counterfeits with him to the security office. There would probably be
some more of the bogus chips show up in the final cash out that day, but
he felt like they had probably gotten the lion's share of them at that one
The men sat around the security control room, worn out now that the surge
of adrenaline from the hunt was gone, and their detainee had been turned
over to the local police.
"Don't know about you, but I'm ready to call it a night," Vin said around
a huge yawn.
"Me too. I want to get here bright and early for the convention tomorrow."
JD looked around for his bag of fanzines and groaned when he saw Buck searching
through them. "Buck, have you ever heard of privacy?"
"Privacy? You want privacy, you don't bring the stuff into the control room,"
he said with a grin.
"Harry Potter?" He held the 'zine up next to JD's face that had the picture
of Harry on the front. "What do you think? Give JD a pair of dark framed
glasses and they could be twins."
"Buck, give it back!" JD reached for the 'zine but Buck snatched it out of
. Whatcha going to do? Turn me into a toad?" Buck danced away
as JD made another lunge for the book.
JD stopped, a sly smile creeping over his face. "No, I think I'll just let
all the ladies know that you like to read slash."
"Slash? What the hell is that?" Buck wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"Male/Male couples. You know
Starskey and Hutch as lovers." JD was
rewarded with a stunned look from his friend.
"You wouldn't? That's a lie! I got nothing against guys who are into that,
but Buck isn't one of them."
JD didn't respond, he just held out his hand and waited for Buck to give
him back his 'zines. After only a moment's consideration, Buck laid the books
in his hand and JD quickly shoved them back into the shopping bag. "You ready
to go home?"
"Yeah. Let's go." The two men usually carpooled to work since they worked
the same shift and both lived in the same apartment complex.
"So, do they write this slash with ladies instead of men?" They heard Buck
ask as the door closed behind them, blocking off the answer.
Sunday afternoon, the convention was winding down, and an exhausted JD made
one last turn around the dealers' room. Sometimes the venders marked stuff
down on the last day. He picked up a couple more 'zines and a crystal dragon
that he had been eying all weekend.
It had been a great convention, even if he did miss out on part of it because
of the counterfeiter. Tim Russ had been good to his word, and had made time
for a private chat with him. It was even more awesome than the dinner had
been because he had the actor's full attention. He was sorry to see it all
coming to a close.
Buck was busy saying his farewells to some of the high-rollers that he'd
taken care of over the weekend, when he noticed the very tall dark haired
man, with a breathtaking blonde on his arm heading his way.
"Mr. Wilmington. My wife and I would like to thank you for all your help
this weekend. It was really one of the best hotel experiences we've ever
had." He held out his hand to the hospitality host.
"My pleasure. I'm glad I could make your stay more enjoyable." It was then
that he recognized the diamond tennis bracelet on the lady's wrist as the
one that he had taken to Rita Samuels. "I hope you and Mrs. Samuels can join
us again soon."
"You can count on it. Next time, just for vacation, not a convention." He
slipped his arm around his wife's waist and winked at the Montecito's Host.
Out front, Josiah was busy getting everyone into their cars an on their way.
It had been an eventful weekend, and he was looking forward to the slightly
slower Monday that was coming up.
JD, met up with Buck in the lobby as they prepared to head home. "It has
been some weekend."
"You can say that again. I'm looking forward to tomorrow off."
Josiah had just closed the door of the limo out front and went to get the
next guest loaded up, when his two friends walked out. Both men stopped when
they saw the window of the limo go down and a dark hand appear with the fingers
spread in a V.
"Who's that?" Buck asked
"Tim Russ," he responded as he flashed the same gesture back.
"So what does that mean," Buck asked as he tried to duplicate the gesture,
but couldn't quite get the V with two fingers to each side.
"Live Long and Prosper." He chuckled as he watched Buck struggle. "You'll
never get it. Come on race you to the car. Loser buys dinner."
"Don't you think we're a bit old to be playing those kinds of games?"
"Afraid you'll lose?" JD prodded Buck's vanity.
"In your dreams." Buck broke into a run with JD hot on his heels.
Josiah laughed as he watched the antics of his two younger friends. He glanced
at Chris, who had just stepped up beside him. "Care to bet on who wins."
"Two to one that it's JD."
"You're on for twenty. Buck had a head start." Josiah felt confident.
"Told you. Pay up."
Josiah shook his head and slapped forty dollars into Chris's palm, and Chris
started for his car.
"That's all right. I'll get it back next time." Josiah called after him.
#2 It's a Steele